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Sunday, January 31, 2016

Ban Ki-moon, "Don’t Shoot the Messenger, Israel": Ignorance Is Bliss for This Messenger

In a guest op-ed entitled "Don’t Shoot the Messenger, Israel," Secretary General of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon begins by asserting, "History proves that people will always resist occupation." But if that's the case, why isn't Ban Ki-moon raising his voice against China, which has occupied Tibet for the past 65 years? Needless to say, unlike the Palestinians who overwhelmingly reject Israel's right to exist, Tibetans have never denied China's right to exist. But I digress.

Ban Ki-moon declares in his opinion piece:

"Israeli settlements keep expanding. The government has approved plans for over 150 new homes in illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank. Last month, 370 acres in the West Bank were declared 'state land,' a status that typically leads to exclusive Israeli settler use."

My goodness, 150 new homes! However, Ban Ki-moon forgets to mention that Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat has acknowledged, as was reported in a Haaretz article entitled "Erekat: Olmert Offered Palestinians Territorial Equivalent of West Bank" by Jack Khoury, that Israeli settlements have been built on only "approximately 1.1% of the West Bank." In addition, Khoury wrote that former "Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert had offered a final peace settlement that would include territorial concession equivalent to the entire West Bank, the return of thousands of Palestinian refugees into the West Bank, and the division of Jerusalem." Palestinian Authority President Abbas, now in the twelfth year of a four-year term of office, rejected Olmert's proposal. Can you imagine? The chutzpah of those nasty Israelis!

Moreover, every peace proposal considered by the Israelis and the Palestinians has included land swaps, but Ban Ki-moon fails to indicate whether those 150 homes will be built on land that the Palestinians have agreed will be passed over to Israel as part of a future land swap.

I have often expressed my desire to see a prosperous, democratic Palestine living side-by-side with Israel in peace. On the other hand, there can also be no ignoring the refusal of Palestinians to accept Israel's right to exist. It is also hard to ignore that 24 percent of Palestinians support the Islamic State - more than anyplace else in the world. Where does that ultimately lead?

Ban Ki-moon concludes, "The status quo is untenable." However, as observed by Palestinian Authority President Abbas in a 2009 interview with Jackson Diehl:

"'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. So who is responsible for the perpetuation of the status quo? Ban Ki-moon has yet to figure it out.

Hillary Should Be Indicted, But Will Obama Permit It?

Transmission and storage of top secret government data by means of Hillary's home server was a violation of 18 U.S. Code § 793(f) - Gathering, Transmitting or Losing Defense Information, but will Obama allow her to be indicted?

In a must-read New York Post article entitled "‘This was all planned’: Former IG says Hillary, State Dept. are lying" by Paul Sperry, we are told of the opinion of Howard J. Krongard, who was the US State Department's inspector general from 2005 to 2008. Sperry writes:

"The State Department is lying when it says it didn’t know until it was too late that Hillary Clinton was improperly using personal e-mails and a private server to conduct official business — because it never set up an agency e-mail address for her in the first place, the department’s former top watchdog says.

. . . .

He says 'the key' to the FBI’s investigation of Emailgate is determining how highly sensitive state secrets in the classified network, known as SIPRNet, ended up in Clinton’s personal e-mails.

. . . .

FBI agents are focusing on three of Clinton’s top department aides. Most of the 1,340 Clinton e-mails deemed classified by intelligence agency reviewers were sent to her by her chief of staff, Cheryl Mills, or her deputy chiefs, Huma Abedin and Jake Sullivan, who now hold high positions in Clinton’s presidential campaign."

So of course, the emails in Hillary's servers were not marked "Confidential," because her aides, who allegedly removed the top secret data from SIPRNet and sent it to Hillary, did not mark it as such. However, Hillary's claim that the emails are not marked confidential is a red herring, given that criminal liability is not predicated upon such labeling.

Krongard says that Hillary will not be indicted:

"For one, he says, any criminal referral to the Justice Department from the FBI 'will have to go through four loyal Democrat women' — Assistant Attorney General Leslie Caldwell, who heads the department’s criminal division; Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates; Attorney General Loretta Lynch; and top White House adviser Valerie Jarrett.

Even if they accept the referral, he says, the case quickly and quietly will be plea-bargained down to misdemeanors punishable by fines in a deal similar to the one Clinton’s lawyer, David Kendall, secured for Gen. David Petraeus. In other words, a big slap on the wrist."

Indeed, criminal charges will not be filed against the IRS's Lois Lerner, so why shouldn't Hillary enjoy the same benefits?

However, there is another powerful reason why Hillary will not be touched: Her email correspondence with President Obama via her private email address. You will recall that Obama claimed on 60 Minutes that he had no knowledge of Hillary's private server.

Or stated otherwise, the United States is fast becoming a banana republic with one set of laws for those serving the president's interests, and another for the plebeians. This outrage, and not Obamacare or the unsigned nuclear agreement with Iran, could well be Obama's lasting legacy.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Maureen Dowd, "Here’s the Beauty of Trump": Krauthammer Is Stupid?

Mirror, mirror, on the wall . . .

In her latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Here’s the Beauty of Trump," Maureen Dowd tells us of a telephone interview with Donald Trump. The content of this conversation as reported by Dowd is so surreal, I find myself asking whether she is trying to pull the wool over our eyes. For example, Dowd tells us:

"The prolix plutocrat told me he tried to watch some of the debate after his event. 'Without Trump, the debate is boring,' he said. 'Everything became about Jeb.' And you know he thinks that’s boring. 'I fell asleep.'

I note that Fox’s Charles Krauthammer told the moderator Megyn Kelly that it was a relief to hear a palaver that was not full of ad hominem and insults.

'He’s a moron,' Trump says."

Krauthammer is stupid?

Dowd asks:

"So what would happen if Donald Trump, a clinical narcissist with a thin skin, touchy temperament and taste for flattery, got into the Oval Office?"

Nothing good, but we live in an age of narcissism. (Isn't Hillary, endorsed by the Times notwithstanding a pending possible indictment, a narcissist, too, with fantasies of unlimited success, power and brilliance, a need for excessive admiration, and a sense of entitlement?) I suppose that owing to its prevalence, it won't be long until narcissism is considered the norm.

When is the next flight to Antarctica.

New York Times Editorial, "Hillary Clinton for the Democratic Nomination": Have You No Shame?

Late yesterday, I wrote:

"Go to the homepage of The Washington Post where the lead story is still "The State Department: Hillary Clinton’s email correspondence contained ‘top secret’ material," which followed on the heels of last night's bombshell revelation by the US State Department that additional top secret mails were found on Hillary's home server, including email correspondence with Obama. Obama has claimed that he didn't know that Hillary was using a private server and that the home server didn't pose a national security threat. Yeah, right.

Now go to the homepage of The New York Times: Currently not a mention of the story. "All the News Fit to Print," or, 'What You Don't Know About Hillary Can't Hurt Her'?"

Something didn't make sense. Well, the cat is now out of the bag.

On the eve of the hotly contested Iowa presidential primary, The New York Times has published an editorial entitled "Hillary Clinton for the Democratic Nomination." The Times editorial board writes:

"Hillary Clinton would be the first woman nominated by a major party. She served as a senator from a major state (New York) and as secretary of state — not to mention her experience on the national stage as first lady with her brilliant and flawed husband, President Bill Clinton. The Times editorial board has endorsed her three times for federal office — twice for Senate and once in the 2008 Democratic presidential primary — and is doing so again with confidence and enthusiasm."

Mention of Hillary's explosive email scandal and the possibility of an indictment against her? Toward the end of the editorial, the Times deigns to say:

"Some of the campaign attacks are outrageous, like Donald Trump’s efforts to bring up Bill Clinton’s marital infidelity. Some, like those about Mrs. Clinton's use of a private email server, are legitimate and deserve forthright answers."

That's all? Don't you think that forthright answers should be forthcoming before you endorse a candidate?

The New York Times obviously knows no shame.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Gail Collins, "An Iowa To-Do List": Hillary R. Clinton Will You Please Go Now!

Marvin K. Mooney Hillary R. Clinton will you please go now!

Go to the homepage of The Washington Post where the lead story is still  "The State Department: Hillary Clinton’s email correspondence contained ‘top secret’ material," which followed on the heels of last night's bombshell revelation by the US State Department that additional top secret mails were found on Hillary's home server, including email correspondence with Obama. Obama has claimed that he didn't know that Hillary was using a private server and that the home server didn't pose a national security threat. Yeah, right.

Now go to the homepage of The New York Times: Currently not a mention of the story. "All the News Fit to Print," or, "What You Don't Know About Hillary Can't Hurt Her"? And so, perhaps you will be less than surprised to learn that Gail Collins, in her latest Times op-ed entitled "An Iowa To-Do List," also makes no mention of Hillary's email scandal, which is spiraling out of control. Instead, Collins lambastes the Republican presidential candidates and begins her opinion piece by observing:

"Iowa Republicans have a lot of choices on Monday, none of whom bear any resemblance to the second coming of Abraham Lincoln.

They’re not going to pick a paragon. But maybe they could at least get rid of somebody awful. Ted Cruz? Please, Iowa, if you could do anything to knock Ted Cruz out of the race, the country would be grateful. I know he has supporters. But the intensity of loathing among the rest of the population is very strong."

And America's "intensity of loathing" of Hillary? Long before yesterday's State Department disclosure, a Quinnipiac poll determined that the first words that come to mind when thinking of Hillary Clinton are "liar" and "dishonest." That sounds a bit like "loathing" to me."

Collins then calls for Iowa to eliminate Marco Rubio from the race, owing to his flip-flops on immigration:

"Cruz spent most of this week’s debate sniping at Marco Rubio — and Iowa, if you could get rid of both these guys, it’d be appreciated. I know that’s a lot to ask."

Mention by Collins of Hillary's flip-flops on the Iraq War, same sex marriage, free trade, gun control and immigration? None. I suppose this is because Hillary is granted space to allow her positions to "evolve."

Collins's conclusion:

"The truth, of course, is that someone awful will win, and nobody will go away. There’s still hope. And New Hampshire! Equally cold, but only 10 counties."

"Someone awful will win"? If only Hillary, The New York Times and Gail Collins could come to terms with the fact that Hillary, nearing indictment, must drop out of the race for the Democratic presidential nomination before doing additional damage to her party and to the United States.

And yes, Joe, it's time to toss your hat in the ring, before it's too late.

Obama on Hillary's Private Email Server: Didn't Pose a National Security Problem

Reporting that "The State Department has concluded there was 'top secret' material in Hillary Clinton's email correspondence from the time she was secretary of state," Rosalind S. Helderman and Carol Morello go on to say in a Washington Post article entitled "The State Department: Hillary Clinton’s email correspondence contained ‘top secret’ material":

"Kirby also said for the first time that some emails between Clinton and President Obama have been located and will also be withheld from public release. He said there were 18 emails between the two, comprising eight email chains. None will be released publicly."

Query: To which address did Obama send emails to Hillary?

Now consider the following interchange between President Obama and Steve Kroft on 60 Minutes on October 11, 2015:

"Steve Kroft: Did you know about Hillary Clinton's use of private email server--

President Barack Obama: No.

Steve Kroft: --while she was Secretary of State?

President Barack Obama: No.

Steve Kroft: Do you think it posed a national security problem?

President Barack Obama: I don't think it posed a national security problem."

Hillary must withdraw from the race for the Democratic presidential nomination. It only remains to be seen whether she can do this in a dignified manner.

On the other hand, President Obama's problems involving Hillary's home server have just begun.

Paul Krugman, "Plutocrats and Prejudice": Bill Clinton's Repeal of Glass-Steagall?

In his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Plutocrats and Prejudice," Paul Krugman tells us:

"Until recently you could argue that whatever the motivations of conservative voters, the oligarchs remained firmly in control. Racial dog whistles, demagogy on abortion and so on would be rolled out during election years, then put back into storage while the Republican Party focused on its real business of enabling shadow banking and cutting top tax rates."

Fascinating. "Shadow banking" is only the Republicans' fault. But consider what Robert B. Reich, Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley and Senior Fellow at the Blum Center for Developing Economies, has to say about the repeal of Glass-Steagall by Bill Clinton:

"Hillary Clinton won’t propose reinstating a bank break-up law known as the Glass-Steagall Act – at least according to Alan Blinder, an economist who has been advising Clinton’s campaign. 'You’re not going to see Glass-Steagall,' Blinder said after her economic speech Monday in which she failed to mention it. Blinder said he had spoken to Clinton directly about Glass-Steagall.

This is a big mistake.

It’s a mistake politically because people who believe Hillary Clinton is still too close to Wall Street will not be reassured by her position on Glass-Steagall. Many will recall that her husband led the way to repealing Glass Steagall in 1999 at the request of the big Wall Street banks.

It’s a big mistake economically because the repeal of Glass-Steagall led directly to the 2008 Wall Street crash, and without it we’re in danger of another one."

I agree with Reich.

Objectivity from Krugman? Not a chance.

Fareed Zakaria, "How the GOP’s dishonesty led to the rise of Donald Trump and Ted Cruz": From the Pen of a Plagiarizer

In a Washington Post opinion piece entitled "How the GOP’s dishonesty led to the rise of Donald Trump and Ted Cruz," Fareed Zakaria would have us know "that the [Republican] party is facing two separate but simultaneous revolts: one led by Ted Cruz, the other by Donald Trump." Zakaria's conclusion:

"Could these revolts have been prevented? Perhaps, if the Republican Party had been honest with its voters and explained that the welfare state was here to stay, that free markets need government regulation, and that the empowerment of minorities and women was inevitable and beneficial. Its role was to manage these changes so that they develop organically, are not excessive and preserve enduring American values. But that is the role for a party that is genuinely conservative, rather than radical."

Remarkable! A self-confessed plagiarizer is lecturing us on honesty.

But more to the point, is it GOP dishonesty or Obama's dishonesty that has led to the rise of Donald Trump and Ted Cruz? As observed by Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. in a National Review article entitled "The Many Lies Paving the Way to Obama’s Legacy":

"On the Iranian threat to Israel: 'The danger from Iran is grave, it is real, and my goal will be to eliminate this threat. . . . Finally, let there be no doubt: I will always keep the threat of military action on the table to defend our security and our ally Israel.'

On health care: 'If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor. If you like your health-care plan, you can keep your health-care plan.'

On Syria’s WMD: 'We have been very clear to the Assad regime — but also to other players on the ground — that a red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized.'

On capitalism: 'If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.'

On religious freedom: 'Let’s honor the conscience of those who disagree with abortion and draft a sensible conscience clause and make sure that all of our health-care policies are grounded not only in sound science, but also in clear ethics, as well as respect for the equality of women.'

On immigration: 'They’re going to say we need to quadruple the Border Patrol, or they’ll want a higher fence. Maybe they’ll need a moat. Maybe they’ll want alligators in the moat.'

On world public opinion: 'People don’t remember, but when I came into office, the United States in world opinion ranked below China and just barely above Russia, and today once again, the United States is the most respected country on earth.'

On Benghazi: 'Here’s what happened. . . . You had a video that was released by somebody who lives here, sort of a shadowy character who — who made an extremely offensive video directed at — at Mohammed and Islam . . . making fun of the Prophet Mohammed. And so, this caused great offense in much of the Muslim world. But what also happened, extremists and terrorists used this as an excuse to attack a variety of our embassies, including the one, the consulate in Libya.'

I don’t believe him."

Neither does much of the American electorate. (For several more pages of Obama's lies, have a look at PolitiFact's "All False statements involving Barack Obama.")

Sorry, Fareed, but any explanation of the rise of Trump and Cruz begins with Obama's chicanery.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Nicholas Kristof, "Compassionate Conservatives, Hello?": How Dare You!

Describing George W. Bush's "compassionate conservatism" in his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Compassionate Conservatives, Hello?," Nicholas Kristof writes:

"That instinct to show a little heart helped elect Bush but then largely disappeared from Republican playbooks and policy. Yet now, amid the Republican Party’s civil war, there are intriguing initiatives by the House speaker, Paul Ryan, and some other conservatives to revive an interest in the needy.

Liberals like myself may be tempted to dismiss these new efforts as mere marketing gestures, meant to whitewash what one of the initiatives acknowledges is 'the longstanding view of a meanspirited conservatism.'"

Yup, this comes from Kristof, a columnist who traveled across Iran with his children in June 2012 and regaled us with anecdotes from his chance meetings with Iranians in his opinion piece "In Iran, They Want Fun, Fun, Fun." Discussions with members of Iran's persecuted Baha'i minority? Kristof didn't mention any. Exchanges of views with Iran's oppressed Kurds? Again, no such thing. Dialogue with Iranian homosexuals? No way, given that homosexuals are hanged in Iran. A visit to Evin Prison to check the well-being of political dissidents languishing in its dungeons? Sorry, not on this road trip. Better still, an off-the-beaten-track side trip to witness the stoning to death of a woman accused of adultery? No, he wouldn't want his children to see such a spectacle.

Fun, fun, fun . . .

Sorry, but you're in no position to lecture us on compassion, Nicholas.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

David Ignatius, "Why is Israel so cautious on the Islamic State? A recent war game explains why.": Duh!

Whose op-ed is more doltish today, that of would-be Middle East expert Thomas Friedman (see my prior blog entry), or that of would-be Middle East expert David Ignatius?

Writing from Tel Aviv, Ignatius informs us in a Washington Post opinion piece entitled "Why is Israel so cautious on the Islamic State? A recent war game explains why.":

"Rather than attacking Islamic State forces along its northern and eastern borders, Israel pursues a policy of deterrence, containment and even quiet liaison, said a senior Israeli military official. He noted that if Israel wanted to mount an all-out ground attack on Islamic State forces in southern Syria and the Sinai Peninsula, it could wipe them out in three or four hours. 'But what would happen the day after?' asked this Israeli military official. 'Right now, we think it will be worse. So we try to deter them.'"

My goodness, who would have ever guessed? Islamic State forces have killed or wounded one-third of Hezbollah's fighters in Syria, thereby effectively preventing Hezbollah, which has more than 100,000 missiles in Lebanon pointed at Israel, from initiating a new round of fighting with the IDF. I ask you: Should Israel attack ISIS?

Or stated more simply, if Freddy Krueger and Jason Voorhees are busy battling it out, why interfere? You don't.

Thomas Friedman, "Friends and Refugees in Need": "Obama Did Not Cause This Syria Problem"? Yeah, Right!

Declaring in his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Friends and Refugees in Need" that Obama, in his last year as president, "has much to be proud of," Thomas Friedman proceeds to lament the refugee crisis affecting Europe, which could go "from a giant humanitarian problem to a giant geostrategic problem that shatters America’s most important ally: the European Union." Tom Terrific goes on to say:

"The meltdowns of Syria, Somalia, Eritrea, Mali, Chad and Yemen and our takedowns of Libya, Iraq and Afghanistan — without proper follow-up on our part, NATO’s part or by local elites — has uncorked the worst refugee crisis since World War II. This tidal wave of migrants and refugees is a human tragedy, and their outflow from Syria and Libya in particular is destabilizing all the neighboring islands of decency: Tunisia, Jordan, Lebanon, Kurdistan and Turkey. And now it is eating away at the fabric of the E.U. as well.

Why should Americans care? Because the E.U. is the United States of Europe — the world’s other great center of democracy and economic opportunity. It has its military shortcomings, but with its wealth and liberal values, the E.U. has become America’s primary partner in addressing climate change, managing Iran and Russia and containing disorder in the Middle East and Africa."

Yup, the EU sure as heck helped manage Russia when it annexed Crimea and invaded Ukraine . . . not.

European "liberal values"? Consider how naked statues were covered up when Iranian President Rouhani visited Rome on Monday in order to sign business deals worth $18 billion with Italian companies. Needless to say, these deals were all made possible by the removal of sanctions resulting from Obama's unsigned nuclear deal with Supreme Leader Khamenei. Additional billion dollar deals will also soon be signed by Rouhani, a leader of a country with the highest per capita rate of executions in the world, with "liberal" Germany and France.

Friedman's conclusion:

"Obama did not cause this Syria problem, and he can’t fix it alone — but it’s not going to get fixed without U.S. leadership. I have shared the president’s caution about getting involved on the ground in Syria. But I now believe we need to take another look at establishing some kind of U.S./E.U./NATO safe zone inside Syria and Libya to create space for refugees to remain in these countries. It’s not a panacea or cost-free, but letting this refugee disaster fracture the E.U. will be a lot more expensive."

"Obama did not cause this Syria problem"? Oh really? At an August 20, 2012 news conference, Obama declared with regard to potential American intervention in Syria:

"A red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized. That would change my calculus."

Well, Assad started "moving around" a "whole bunch" of chemical weapons, so Obama drew a new line in the sand. Speaking at the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction symposium in Washington on December 3, 2012, Obama stated:

"The use of chemical weapons is and would be totally unacceptable. And if you make the tragic mistake of using these weapons, there will be consequences, and you will be held accountable."

Obama further warned, “I want to make it absolutely clear to Assad and those under his command, the world is watching.” Well, Assad used chemical weapons against civilians, and Obama, who also likes to watch, did absolutely nothing, further exacerbating the Syrian refugee crisis.

Create a safe zone inside Syria, as suggested by Friedman? A "little" too late, especially with Russia now in control of the skies over that country. Herd nine million Syrian refugees into that safe zone? I don't think so.

Go back to sleep, Tom.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

David Brooks, "Stay Sane America, Please!": What About Hillary?

David Brooks begins his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Stay Sane America, Please!" by observing:

"In January of 2017 someone will stand at the U.S. Capitol and deliver an Inaugural Address. This is roughly the place where Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower and Ronald Reagan once stood. I am going to spend every single day between now and then believing that neither Donald Trump nor Ted Cruz nor Bernie Sanders will be standing on that podium. One of them could win the election, take the oath, give the speech and be riding down Pennsylvania Avenue. I will still refuse to believe it.

Yes, I know what the polling evidence is telling us about Trump, Sanders and Cruz, but there are good reasons to cling to my disbelief.

First, these primary campaigns will not be settled in February. They won’t be settled in March or April. Sometimes a candidate can sweep Iowa and New Hampshire and cruise to the nomination. But that candidate has to be broadly acceptable to all parts of the party. Trump, Cruz and Sanders are not."

Oddly enough, there is not a single mention of Hillary in Brooks's opinion piece.

Indeed, a candidate must be "broadly acceptable to all parts of the party," but shouldn't a candidate also be broadly acceptable to all parts of electorate? Americans' opinion of Hillary is horrifically unfavorable, and it stands to get much worse if she is indicted.

Brooks calls for America to "stay sane"? What about Mrs. Clinton? Consider the following from Edward Klein's October 10, 2015 New York Post article entitled "Clinton’s camp says she ‘could have a serious meltdown’":

"Hillary is furious — and while Clinton advisers think that may save her, it’s making the lives of those who work for her hell.

'Hillary’s been having screaming, child-like tantrums that have left staff members in tears and unable to work,' says a campaign aide. 'She thought the nomination was hers for the asking, but her mounting problems have been getting to her and she’s become shrill and, at times, even violent.'"

Brooks goes on to say in his opinion piece:

"America has never elected a candidate maximally extreme from the political center, the way Sanders and Cruz are. According to the FiveThirtyEight website, Cruz has the most conservative voting record in the entire Congress. That takes some doing."

Apparently Brooks has forgotten that Obama was elected president notwithstanding the fact that he was ranked the most liberal senator in 2007. Is it beyond the realm of imagination that Obama will be replaced by the most conservative senator given the president's poor job approval rating? I don't think so.

[Yesterday, I stated that Iran was behind the abduction by a Shiite militia of three Americans in Baghdad. Well, Iran has already initiated the bargaining with respect to their release.]

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Max Boot and Michael Pregent, "Appeasing Iran hurts us in Iraq, too": Trading Hostages for Airplanes?

One week ago, while Jason Rezaian and four other American prisoners were being released by Iran, Shiite militiamen abducted three Americans from the Dora neighborhood of southern Baghdad. As reported by Erin Cunningham and Mustafa Salim in a Washington Post article entitled "Iraqi official: 3 Americans missing in Baghdad were kidnapped by gunmen":

"The area from which they were taken is controlled by Shiite militias, including Iran-backed Asaib Ahl al-Haq, or League of the Righteous, [a Baghdad police colonel] said.

. . . .

The colonel said the group had been invited to the home of their Iraqi interpreter. But a resident of the apartment building where the Americans were reportedly seized said they were taken from a second-story apartment that he described as a well-known brothel.

. . . .

The resident said the apartment is subject to frequent raids by Asaib Ahl ­al-Haq, although typically the men found inside are simply told to leave."

The three Americans were taken from a well-known brothel? Oh really? One of the three abducted Americans is a woman.

More to the point, Tehran knows exactly where these Americans are being held.

Today, in a must-read Washington Post opinion piece entitled "Appeasing Iran hurts us in Iraq, too," Max Boot (author of "War Made New" on the bookshelf opposite me) and Michael Pregent say of this kidnapping:

"AAH [Asaib Ahl al-Haq] is a wholly owned subsidiary of Iran’s Quds Force. It is inconceivable that it could kidnap and hold Americans — a course of action with significant international repercussions — without at least the acquiescence, and probably the active support, of Tehran. Yet the Obama administration is doing all it can to obfuscate that reality. Reuters cited 'U.S. government sources' in reporting that 'Washington had no reason to believe Tehran was involved in the kidnapping and did not believe the trio were being held in Iran, which borders Iraq.'

. . . .

If another news report is to be believed, the administration is pretty sure who is responsible for the kidnapping but just won’t say so in public. CBS News reports: 'Officials in Washington had hoped the Iranian government would tell the militia group to hold off because of all the negotiations surrounding the prisoner swap that saw the release of five Americans. The State Department source said the fear was that one of the groups might have ‘gone off the reservation.’'"

The Shiite militiamen acted against the wishes of Tehran? Not a chance.

Meanwhile, Iranian Transport Minister Abbas Akhoundi suggested yesterday that Iran might be interested in acquiring aircraft from Boeing. Why not? After all, the Obama administration just paid $1.7 billion for the release of Rezaian and the other four Americans, so why not trade these new American captives for the cost of some new planes?

Do you remember how, just eight days ago, Obama declared that the release of Rezaian and the four other prisoners held by Iran resulted from "smart, patient and disciplined" diplomacy? Obama still doesn't understand that he is being played for a fool by Khamenei and friends.

Nicholas Kristof, "Clinton, Trump and Sexism": "Skirting the Issue" of Juanita Broaddrick

"I was 35 years old when Bill Clinton, Ark. Attorney General raped me and Hillary tried to silence me. I am now 73….it never goes away."

- Juanita Broaddrick, Tweet, January 6, 2016

In his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Clinton, Trump and Sexism," Nicholas Kristof writes:

"FOR most of her career, Hillary Clinton suffered for being a feminist.

. . . .

So it’s a measure of how much the country has changed that these days Clinton is running as a feminist, after decades of skirting the issue."

After decades of "skirting the issue"? Oh really? Excuse me, Nicholas, but how does one entertain the issue of Hillary's feminist credentials without reference to Juanita Broaddrick?

Moreover, how do you applaud Hillary's feminism without reference to the millions of dollars that her foundation received from Muslim countries guilty of abominations against women?

Bottom line, Kristof has successfully taken hypocrisy to the stratosphere.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Maureen Dowd, "Sarah Palin Saves Feminism": Sorry, Sarah Pales in Comparison With Hillary

In the grim aftermath of Sarah Palin's endorsement of Donald Trump on Tuesday, Maureen Dowd informs us in her latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Sarah Palin Saves Feminism":

"But Sarahcuda shows that we are truly the equals of men, capable of narcissistic explosions, brazen hypocrisy and unapologetic greed."

And all this while I thought that Hillary was the first to break that barrier. Narcissistic explosions? Consider the following from Edward Klein's October 10, 2015 New York Post article entitled "Clinton’s camp says she ‘could have a serious meltdown’":

"Hillary is furious — and while Clinton advisers think that may save her, it’s making the lives of those who work for her hell.

'Hillary’s been having screaming, child-like tantrums that have left staff members in tears and unable to work,' says a campaign aide. 'She thought the nomination was hers for the asking, but her mounting problems have been getting to her and she’s become shrill and, at times, even violent.'"

Brazen hypocrisy and unapologetic greed?  Honestly, can you think of a better example than Hillary allowing her foundation to accept millions of dollars from Muslim countries guilty of abominations against women and from banks guilty of conspiring to undertake currency manipulation?

Specifically with respect to Hillary, Maureen declares in her opinion piece:

"Women should support her because if she founders, it will be bad for women."

Sorry, Maureen, but I beg to differ. If Hillary is indicted for receiving top-secret emails via her home server, it will be good for everyone, inasmuch as failure to indict Hillary would amount to an indictment of the American criminal justice system.

Gail Collins, "Coming to Terms with Donald": Failure to Indict Hillary Would Be an Indictment of the US Criminal Justice System

Gail Collins concludes her latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Coming to Terms with Donald," by observing:

"In one way, Trump’s campaign pitch is a little like Hillary Clinton’s. She’s less about a new vision than about the ability to take care of the government, wring some long-awaited changes out of Congress and handle foreign affairs. His is about getting things done through the miracle of genius negotiating. ('We’ve got to get things done folks, O.K.? Believe me, don’t worry. We’re going to make such great deals.')

Really, they’re very similar in that sense. Except that she’s been a senator and secretary of state, and he’s got his name on a ton of golf courses.

We live in strange times, people. Strange times."

Indeed, I cannot bring myself to imagine Trump as the Republican presidential candidate. On the other hand, the thought of Hillary as the Democratic candidate is equally repulsive.

Yes, Hillary was a senator and a secretary of state. Care to tell us about her accomplishments, Gail?

She is also the "wife" of Bill (let's not inquire into the details of that marital arrangement), and earlier this month, Juanita Broaddrick tweeted:

"I was 35 years old when Bill Clinton, Ark. Attorney General raped me and Hillary tried to silence me. I am now 73….it never goes away."

Is Hillary indeed an "enabler" of a sexual predator?

In addition, there are all those millions of dollars that her foundation received from Muslim countries guilty of abominations against women and from banks guilty of conspiring to undertake currency manipulation.

And last but not least, I expect she will be indicted for the data received and stored in her home server. Failure to indict Hillary would amount to an indictment of the American criminal justice system.

Strange times indeed.

Friday, January 22, 2016

David Brooks, "The Anxieties of Impotence": US Foreign Policy in Need of Viagra

In his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "The Anxieties of Impotence," David Brooks bemoans the "anxiety of impotence" which is gripping America. Brooks writes:

"Americans are beset by complex, intractable problems that don’t have a clear villain: technological change displaces workers; globalization and the rapid movement of people destabilize communities; family structure dissolves; the political order in the Middle East teeters, the Chinese economy craters, inequality rises, the global order frays, etc."

His conclusion:

"If we’re to have any hope of addressing big systemic problems we’ll have to repair big institutions and have functioning parties and a functioning Congress. We have to discard the anti-political, anti-institutional mood that is prevalent and rebuild effective democratic power centers.

This requires less atomization and more collective action, fewer strongmen but greater citizenship. It requires the craft of political architecture, not the demagogy of destruction."

Fascinating! Who else would have ever hit upon "the craft of political architecture, not the demagogy of destruction"? (Peculiar, though, how this reminds me of Brooks's call, last week, for racial reconciliation by way of art.)

Never mind, David! Fix a meeting ASAP with Obama and present him with this novel notion! But don't expect too much from the president, who, still busy weaving "impotence" into American foreign policy, has just arranged to pay Supreme Leader Khamenei $1.7 billion for the freedom of four innocent Americans held hostage by Iran.

Do you remember how just five days ago Obama was claiming that the release of the prisoners resulted from "smart, patient and disciplined" diplomacy? What nonsense!

Charles Krauthammer, "The GOP gets the Iran prisoner swap wrong": "Millions for Defense, but Not One Cent for Tribute"

"Millions for Defense, but Not One Cent for Tribute."

- US Senator Robert Goodloe Harper, 1798

In a Washington Post opinion piece entitled "The GOP gets the Iran prisoner swap wrong," Charles Krauthammer labels the recent prisoner exchange with Iran as "asymmetric," yet reasonable:

"Republicans say: We shouldn’t negotiate with terror states. But we do and we should. How else do you get hostages back? And yes, of course negotiating encourages further hostage taking. But there is always something to be gained by kidnapping Americans. This swap does not affect that truth one way or the other.

And here, we didn’t give away much. The seven released Iranians, none of whom has blood on his hands, were sanctions busters (and a hacker), and sanctions are essentially over now. The slate is clean."

The US "didn't give much away"? Oh really? In an article entitled "Basij Commander: US Bought Freedom of Spies by Releasing $1.7 bln of Iran's Frozen Assets," Iran's Fars News Agency informs us:

"Commander of Iran's Basij (volunteer) Force Brigadier General Mohammad Reza Naqdi said the US agreed to release $1.7 of Iran's frozen funds in a bid to buy freedom of its spies held by Tehran.

The US agreed to repay Iran a $400 million debt and $1.3 billion in interest dating to the Islamic revolution.

'The annulment of sanctions against Iran's Bank Sepah and reclaiming of $1.7mln of Iran's frozen assets after 36 years showed that the US doesn’t understand anything but the language of force,' Naqdi said, addressing Basij forces in Tehran on Wednesday.

'This money was returned for the freedom of the US spy and it was not related to the (nuclear) negotiations,' he added."

Or stated otherwise, the release of the Americans involved more than a prisoner exchange. It also involved the payment of ransom.

Moreover, Naqdi's claim has been confirmed by the US government. As reported by Adam Kredo in a Washington Free Beacon article entitled "Obama Admin Paid Iran $1.7 Billion From Taxpayer Funds":

"Senior officials from the State Department and White House National Security Council confirmed to the Washington Free Beacon that to settle outstanding legal disputes with Iran, the administration tapped into the Treasury Department’s Judgment Fund, a federal account that has been used by the executive branch to settle international legal claims.

The settlement was reached independently from the recently implemented nuclear deal and is separate from the $150 billion in unfrozen cash assets the United States is obligated to give to the Islamic Republic under the agreement, administration officials explained to the Free Beacon."

Acceptable? US Senator Jerry Moran doesn't think so. As also reported by Adam Kredo in a Washington Free Beacon article entitled "Congress Moves to Block Payment to Iran of $1.7 Billion in Taxpayer Funds":

"The news has sparked outrage on Capitol Hill and prompted Sen. Jerry Moran (R., Kan.) to file legislation Thursday afternoon that would bar the administration from moving forward on the payment until Iran pays millions in judgments awarded to the U.S. victims of its global terrorist network, according to the bill.

'The United States should not be funding governments that openly violate human rights, proudly disregard U.N. Security Council resolutions, and call for the destruction of America and its allies,' Moran said in a statement. 'This bill directs the U.S. government to put justice for American victims of Iranian terrorism ahead of compensation for the Iranian regime.'

'Rather than incentivize state-sponsored kidnapping, the administration should remind the government of Iran that terror and hostage taking are not for-profit enterprises,' Moran said."

Or, as US Senator Robert Goodloe Harper declared more than 200 years ago, "Millions for defense, but not one cent for tribute."

Needless to say, I agree with Krauthammer's determination that implementation of Obama's unsigned nuclear deal with Iran is a disaster:

"The real story of Saturday, Jan. 16, 2016 — 'Implementation Day' of the Iran deal — was that it marked a historic inflection point in the geopolitics of the Middle East. In a stroke, Iran shed almost four decades of rogue-state status and was declared a citizen of good standing of the international community, open to trade, investment and diplomacy. This, without giving up, or even promising to change, its policy of subversion and aggression. This, without having forfeited its status as the world’s greatest purveyor of terrorism."

On the other hand, Obama's payment of an additional $1.7 billion to Iran amounts to a grotesque form of appeasement and will only encourage Tehran to incarcerate more innocent Americans.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Gail Collins, "Palin, Trump, Cruz and Corn": The Blame Game

Noting Sarah Palin's endorsement on Tuesday of Donald Trump in her latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Palin, Trump, Cruz and Corn," Gail Collins further observes:

"The next day, Palin spoke at another Trump rally, where she appeared to blame Barack Obama’s veterans policy for her son’s domestic violence arrest this week. Republicans seem currently O.K. with blaming the president for anything, including sunspots."

An endorsement from Sarah Palin? It almost sounds like an oxymoron. (No, Sarah, I'm not calling you a nasty name.)

But more to the point, how does Collins make mention of Palin blaming Obama for her son's arrest without noting how the Hillary Clinton campaign is blaming everyone under the sun for the top-secret material recently discovered in her home server? Hillary's campaign spokesperson Brian Fallon said of this latest revelation:

"This is the same interagency dispute that has been playing out for months, and it does not change the fact that these emails were not classified at the time they were sent or received. It is alarming that the intelligence community IG, working with Republicans in Congress, continues to selectively leak materials in order to resurface the same allegations and try to hurt Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign."

Yup, it's just one big conspiracy. Now if only Intelligence Community Inspector General I. Charles McCullough III was a Republican . . .

Hey, Joe, it's time to reconsider tossing your hat in the ring.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Hillary Violated 18 U.S.C Sec. 793(f): How Does She Avoid Indictment?

18 U.S. Code § 793(f) - Gathering, Transmitting or Losing Defense Information provides (my emphasis in red):

"Whoever, being entrusted with or having lawful possession or control of any document, writing, code book, signal book, sketch, photograph, photographic negative, blueprint, plan, map, model, instrument, appliance, note, or information, relating to the national defense, (1) through gross negligence permits the same to be removed from its proper place of custody or delivered to anyone in violation of his trust, or to be lost, stolen, abstracted, or destroyed, or (2) having knowledge that the same has been illegally removed from its proper place of custody or delivered to anyone in violation of its trust, or lost, or stolen, abstracted, or destroyed, and fails to make prompt report of such loss, theft, abstraction, or destruction to his superior officer—

Shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both."

Yesterday, as reported by NBC News in an articled entitled "Hillary Clinton Emails Held Info Beyond Top Secret: IG" by Ken Dilanian:

"Emails from Hillary Clinton's home server contained information classified at levels higher than previously known, including a level meant to protect some of the most sensitive U.S. intelligence, according to a document obtained by NBC News.

In a letter to lawmakers, the intelligence community's internal watchdog says some of Clinton's emails contained information classified Top Secret/Special Access Program, a secrecy designation that includes some of the most closely held U.S. intelligence matters.

Two American intelligence officials tell NBC News these are not the same two emails from Clinton's server that have long been reported as containing information deemed Top Secret."

How does Hillary avoid indictment? She doesn't.

David Brooks, "Time for a Republican Conspiracy!": If Hillary Is Indicted, Could Bernie Win in November?

"When you're young, you look at television and think, there's a conspiracy. The networks have conspired to dumb us down. But when you get a little older, you realize that's not true. The networks are in business to give people exactly what they want."

- Steve Jobs

In his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Time for a Republican Conspiracy!," David Brooks expresses his anguish over the possibility that Trump or Cruz could walk away with the Republican presidential nomination:

"Rarely has a party so passively accepted its own self-destruction. Sure, Donald Trump and Ted Cruz are now riding high in some meaningless head-to-head polls against Hillary Clinton, but the odds are the nomination of either would lead to a party-decimating general election.

. . . .

Worse is the prospect that one of them might somehow win. Very few presidents are so terrible that they genuinely endanger their own nation, but Trump and Cruz would go there and beyond. Trump is a solipsistic branding genius whose 'policies' have no contact with Planet Earth and who would be incapable of organizing a coalition, domestic or foreign.

Cruz would be as universally off-putting as he has been in all his workplaces. He’s always been good at tearing things down but incompetent when it comes to putting things together."

Brooks's solution:

"What’s needed is a grass-roots movement that stands for governing conservatism, built both online and through rallies, and gets behind a single candidate sometime in mid- to late February. In politics, if A (Trump) and B (Cruz) savage each other then the benefits often go to Candidate C. But there has to be a C, not a C, D, E, F and G."

The problem is that taken together, Trump and Cruz currently have the backing of some 54 percent of Republican voters. C, D, E, F and G collectively amount to less than a majority. Moreover, support of Trump and Cruz does not come from what Brooks labels the "Republican governing class." Rather, like it or not, their support is very much Republican "grass-roots," i.e. Trump and Cruz are giving Republicans exactly what they want.

All of which leads to the unthinkable: If Hillary is indicted, Bernie Sanders could walk away with the election in November. Why am I not amused?

Monday, January 18, 2016

New York Times Editorial, "A Safer World, Thanks to the Iran Deal ": Trash

In an editorial entitled "A Safer World, Thanks to the Iran Deal," The New York Times sings paeans to Obama's "visionary determination," which led to his unsigned nuclear deal with the Islamic Republic of Iran:

"This is a moment many thought would never come: Iran has delivered on its commitment under a 2015 agreement with the United States and other major powers to curb or eliminate the most dangerous elements of its nuclear program. The world is now safer for this.

The International Atomic Energy Agency verified on Saturday that Iran has shipped over 8.5 tons of enriched uranium to Russia so Iran can’t use that in bomb-making, disabled more than 12,000 centrifuges and poured concrete into the core of a reactor at Arak designed to produce plutonium."

Oh really? As I noted yesterday, it is less than clear whether concrete was indeed poured into the Arak reactor. In addition, as reported by DEBKAfile in article entitled "Progress of sanctions relief will quicken Iran’s power struggle, spur clash with Saudi Arabia":

"[The] deal provided for the number of centrifuges enriching uranium at the Natanz center to be reduced from 19,500 to 5,050. Our sources report that 9,000 are still in operation.

. . . .

There is no confirmation that the number of centrifuges operating at the underground facility of Fordo was cut down to one thousand, as agreed."

The Times editorial continues:

"Still, there are daunting challenges ahead, including ensuring the deal is strictly adhered to, an obligation for the United States, Russia, China and Europe."

A "daunting challenge" and "obligation" for Russia, which is partnering with Iran to keep Bashar al-Assad in power in Syria? Surely the Times is not serious.

The editorial goes on to say:

"Iran’s critics are incensed that in return for complying with the nuclear deal, the country will get access to $100 billion of its money that has been frozen in overseas banks and that lifting sanctions will enable it to integrate into the international economy. The critics fear Iran will use the money to destabilize the region further, but Mr. Rouhani’s greater imperative is to spend the funds on the many social and economic needs of Iranians."

Rouhani will of course act in accordance with his "greater imperative" and spend the $100 billion on "social and economic needs." After all, radical theocracies that hang homosexuals, stone to death women and bomb a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires are certain to act in the same rational humanitarian way as a North American or European democracy . . . not.

Who writes this trash?

Paul Krugman, "Health Reform Realities": Obamacare is a "Kludge"

Do you recall Paul Krugman's December 5, 2013 New York Times op-ed entitled "Obama Gets Real," in which he declared:

" is working much better, people are signing up in growing numbers, and the whole mess is already receding in the rear-view mirror."

Well, in his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Health Reform Realities," Krugman acknowledges that Obamacare is less than perfect:

"Health reform is the signature achievement of the Obama presidency. It was the biggest expansion of the social safety net since Medicare was established in the 1960s. It more or less achieves a goal — access to health insurance for all Americans — that progressives have been trying to reach for three generations. And it is already producing dramatic results, with the percentage of uninsured Americans falling to record lows.

Obamacare is, however, what engineers would call a kludge: a somewhat awkward, clumsy device with lots of moving parts. This makes it more expensive than it should be, and will probably always cause a significant number of people to fall through the cracks."

Recommending against a drastic overhaul of Obamacare, Krugman concludes:

"So progressives must set some priorities. And it’s really hard to see, given this picture, why it makes any sense to spend political capital on a quixotic attempt at a do-over, not of a political failure, but of health reform — their biggest victory in many years."

Got it: Progressives' "biggest victory in many years" is a "kludge." Congratulations to one and all.

But more to the point, how does one gloat that "the percentage of uninsured Americans [is] falling to record lows" without also acknowledging that Obamacare's high deductibles make it unaffordable for many Americans to go to a doctor, and that Obamacare premiums will rise by an average of some 13 percent in 2016?

How about just a little objectivity, Paul?

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Is Iran in Compliance With Obama's Unsigned Nuclear Deal? No Way, Jose!

To great fanfare, sanctions against Iran will be lifted after the International Atomic Energy Agency determined that Khamenei and friends have upheld their part of the unsigned nuclear deal with the P5+1. Is Iran actually in compliance? Not a chance.

VOA News informed us on Thursday, "Iran has poured concrete into the core of the Arak nuclear reactor, making it nearly impossible to produce weapons-grade plutonium at the facility." However, on Tuesday, as reported by Thomas Erdbrinkjan in a New York Times article entitled "Iranian Official Denies That Nuclear Reactor Was Sealed":

"An Iranian nuclear official on Tuesday denied a report that technicians had removed the core of the country’s only heavy-water reactor and poured concrete into the cavity, a final step toward the completion of the historic nuclear agreement in July and the lifting of sanctions on Iran.

The official, Ali Asghar Zarean, Iran’s deputy nuclear chief, told state television that a report about the Arak reactor by the semiofficial Fars News Agency on Monday was baseless. He said Iran planned to sign an agreement next week with China to modify the reactor, which is capable of producing the plutonium needed to build an atomic weapon."

So wherein lies the truth? Perhaps the IAEA would care to provide us with some pictures? Not likely.

Moreover, as reported by DEBKAfile in article entitled "Progress of sanctions relief will quicken Iran’s power struggle, spur clash with Saudi Arabia":

"[The] deal provided for the number of centrifuges enriching uranium at the Natanz center to be reduced from 19,500 to 5,050. Our sources report that 9,000 are still in operation.

. . . .

There is no confirmation that the number of centrifuges operating at the underground facility of Fordo was cut down to one thousand, as agreed."

Yup, we are witnessing a replay of Neville Chamberlain's 1938 declaration of "Peace for our time." The silver lining in the story is that in order for Iran to balance its budget, the price of a barrel of oil must be $130, whereas the current price is below $30, and with more Iranian oil on the market, the worldwide glut only stands to increase.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Maureen Dowd, "Reigning Cats and Dogs": Or Hailing Fire and Brimstone?

Telling us in her latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Reigning Cats and Dogs" that "AFTER running as a man last time around, Hillary Clinton is now running as a woman," Maureen Dowd proceeds to quote Hillary as saying:

"I just think women in general are better listeners, are more collegial, more open to new ideas and how to make things work in a way that looks for win-win outcomes."

Better listeners and more collegial? I wonder if Hillary ever took the time to listen to and befriend Juanita Broaddrick, who tweeted on January 6, 2016:

"I was 35 years old when Bill Clinton, Ark. Attorney General raped me and Hillary tried to silence me. I am now never goes away."

Novel ideas? Yup, that homebrew server, operating out of a bathroom closet while Hillary was secretary of state, was certainly a doozy. It was so newfangled that the FBI recently expanded its criminal examination of the use of the server to a possible nexus between Clinton Foundation activities and State Department work.

Win-win outcomes? I suppose that's what was being offered to parties donating millions to the Clinton Foundation.

However, after deciding that Hillary is now running as a woman, Dowd goes on to say:

"It may be more relevant to ask if someone is a cat or a dog."

I know very little about cats, but regarding dogs, Groucho Marx once declared:

"Outside of a dog, a book is a man's best friend. Inside of a dog it's too dark to read."

Groucho could never have imagined the pitch-black inner workings of Hillary, who, neither cat nor dog (let's not insult those cuddly animals), is her own best friend.

A possible presidential contest between Hillary and Donald? Surely we've arrived in hell.

Morton Schapiro, "I’m Northwestern’s president. Here’s why safe spaces for students are important.": Embarrassing

In a Washington Post opinion piece entitled "I’m Northwestern’s president. Here’s why safe spaces for students are important.," Northwestern University president Morton Schapiro provides us with two examples of why students should be able to segregate themselves. The first example:

"A group of black students were having lunch together in a campus dining hall. There were a couple of empty seats, and two white students asked if they could join them. One of the black students asked why, in light of empty tables nearby. The reply was that these students wanted to stretch themselves by engaging in the kind of uncomfortable learning the college encourages. The black students politely said no. Is this really so scandalous?

I find two aspects of this story to be of particular interest.

First, the familiar question is 'Why do the black students eat together in the cafeteria?' I think I have some insight on this based on 16 years of living on or near a college campus: Many groups eat together in the cafeteria, but people seem to notice only when the students are black. Athletes often eat with athletes; fraternity and sorority members with their Greek brothers and sisters; a cappella group members with fellow singers; actors with actors; marching band members with marching band members; and so on.

And that brings me to the second aspect: We all deserve safe spaces. Those black students had every right to enjoy their lunches in peace. There are plenty of times and places to engage in uncomfortable learning, but that wasn’t one of them. The white students, while well-meaning, didn’t have the right to unilaterally decide when uncomfortable learning would take place."

First, it is remarkable how there is nothing new under the sun. Back more than 40 years ago, I was attending the University of Chicago and working together with black students to pay for my books and sundry expenses. Sometimes, I chose to eat with those black students, who, with other black students, had set aside their own table in the college cafeteria. My decision to eat with them was a statement of friendship, and I was never asked to leave.

Regarding Schapiro's example, it is of course the prerogative of the black students to refuse to engage in sociological discussions with white students while eating their meals. On the other hand, it is not their right to refuse to allow non-black students to sit with them in a university dining hall, if the university receives government funding.

Now, let's turn this example around: Would Schapiro allow white students to set aside their own table from which black students are excluded, owing to the desire of the white students not to be troubled by stories of poverty, violence and injustice? After all, these white students just want to eat their meals "in peace." Sorry, Morton, but the thought is obscene.

Now I know why I didn't go to Northwestern.

Gail, Collins, "Hillary and Bernie, Punching": Hillary Is "Uber-Qualified"?

Labeling Hillary Clinton, in her latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Hillary and Bernie, Punching," "[t]he uber-qualified woman who believes she knows how to make the real world better," Gail Collins would have us know:

"Hillary is the former first lady who survived her husband’s impeachment, became a senator, then lost a presidential bid and then became secretary of state. We expect more in the way of can-do and less in the way of elevated campaign tactics from her."

Uber-qualified? Yes, she is a former first lady, senator and secretary of state, but what were her achievements? As David A. Graham wrote in an Atlantic article entitled "Is It Unfair to Ask About Hillary Clinton's Accomplishments?":

"The Clinton campaign hasn’t solved the problem of finding a way to communicate just what it is that Clinton has accomplished—particularly during her most recent role as secretary of state, but also in the earlier stages of her career.

The folks Politico canvassed had no shortage of answers, but some are rather thin. Bill Burton, a former Obama aide, cited her 'women’s rights are human rights speech,' given 20 years ago; 'her role in killing Osama bin Laden' (a nebulous answer, though it’s true she counseled in favor of the raid); and an even vaguer 'management of the State Department.'

The multiplicity of answers may reveal the trouble: No one or two accomplishments rise to the top. (The most commonly cited answer is marshaling sanctions against Iran, an essential prerequisite for the nuclear deal that followed, and for which John Kerry has claimed most credit.) Clinton herself has struggled with the question."

Hillary's involvement in cobbling together Obama's unsigned nuclear deal with Iran? More and more, this is becoming a dubious distinction. On the other hand, although Hillary may have trouble identifying her achievements, her disasters, which go unmentioned by Collins, are bountiful:

Clinton is "uber-qualified"? I don't think so. There is a reason why, given the paucity of Democratic contenders for the presidency, Bernie Sanders is rising in the polls. Depending upon the determinations of the FBI, Joe Biden, who is now questioning Hillary's "authenticity," might yet throw his hat in the ring.

Shame on you, Gail.

Friday, January 15, 2016

David Brooks, "When Beauty Strikes": From "Pagan Brutalism" to Artsy-Fartsy

David Brooks is indeed a renaissance man.

On the heels of his prior New York Times op-ed entitled "The Brutalism of Ted Cruz" in which Brooks savaged what he termed Cruz's "pagan brutalism," he now, in a 180 degree turnaround, brings us "When Beauty Strikes." Brooks informs us in his new Times opinion piece:

"If true racial reconciliation is achieved in this country, it will be through the kind of deep spiritual and emotional understanding that art can foster. You change the world by changing peoples’ hearts and imaginations."

Fascinating! Racial reconciliation by way of art! A pity it wasn't the focus of President Obama's State of the Union Address.

All of which reminds me of W.C. Fields' thoughts regarding aesthetics:

"I was in love with a beautiful blonde once, dear. She drove me to drink. That's the one thing I'm so indebted to her for."

Sorry, what's that you said, darling? No, of course the Fields quotation has nothing to do with you. Simply decided to break away from my bounded rationality and go with the flow of universal creativity. You know, change my heart and imagination.

That's all.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Did Obama Carpet-Bomb Ramadi?

In his 2016 State of the Union Address on Tuesday, President Obama declared (my emphasis in red):

"With nearly 10,000 air strikes, we’re taking out [ISIL's] leadership, their oil, their training camps, their weapons. We’re training, arming and supporting forces who are steadily reclaiming territory in Iraq and Syria.

. . . .

The world will look to us to help solve these problems, and our answer needs to be more than tough talk or calls to carpet-bomb civilians. That may work as a TV sound bite, but it doesn’t pass muster on the world stage."

First, a word about those "forces" being supported by the Obama administration. Claims have been made that the Sunni Iraqi city of Ramadi was "retaken" from ISIS by the Iraqi army. As stated in a Wall Street Journal article entitled "Victory Marks Turnaround for Iraq Army" by Ben Kesling and Matt Bradley:

"The recapture of Ramadi marks a major turnaround for Iraq’s U.S.-trained military, representing its first success against Islamic State as a mostly independent force.

. . . .

Sabah al-Numan, a spokesman for Iraq’s counterterrorism forces, said precise planning and constant coordination with the U.S.-led international coalition and local Sunni tribes tipped the balance on the battlefield.

Past defeats of Islamic State relied on either Iran-backed Shiite militias or Iraqi Kurdish forces known as the Peshmerga. Iraqi army spokesman Yahya Rasool acknowledged that the military had to depend on the powerful Shiite militias for a time, but he said that time has now passed.

. . . .

In Ramadi, U.S. and Iraqi officers excluded Kurdish and Shiite militias to avoid aggravating sectarian and ethnic tensions."

However, as was reported by Jeff Stein in a December 19, 2015 Newsweek article entitled "Ramadi's Dirty Little Secret in the War Against ISIS"

"American commanders have been hailing the advance of the retrained Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) on Ramadi, the key city where they were easily routed some 18 months ago by marauding fighters of the Islamic State militant group (ISIS).

But what they aren’t saying—and are loath to concede, according to well-informed military sources in Washington—is that the security forces of the Iran-backed regime in Baghdad largely consist of Shiite fighters in league with murderous militias that have slaughtered innocent Sunnis after ousting ISIS militants from Tikrit and other battlegrounds in the past year. Ramadi is the capital of the Sunni-dominated Anbar province, and the Shiites are ready to pounce."

But more to the point, some 80 percent of Ramadi was destroyed in the fighting, leaving the city largely uninhabitable. We are told by The New Arab (my emphasis in red):

"'This is what Daesh (IS) left behind in Ramadi,' said Ahmad al-Assafi, one of the Sunni tribal leaders who are fighting the extremist group.

'The attacking forces preferred to destroy everything over suffering casualities [sic] and Daesh booby-trapped everything, the houses, buildings, shops, even electricity poles and sewerage manholes.'

It would cost less to build a city from scratch somewhere else than to rebuild Ramadi, Assafi told The New Arab."

Moreover, as reported by AP in an article entitled "Gains in Iraqi city vindicate US-led strategy, at high cost" by Sinan Salaheddin and Susannah George (my emphasis in red):

"Over the past six months, the coalition has launched more than 600 airstrikes, hitting about 2,500 different targets, U.S. Army Col. Steve Warren, the Baghdad-based spokesman for the coalition, told reporters on Tuesday. He said at its peak there were up to 1,000 IS fighters in Ramadi, and that only 150-250 remain.

But while the airstrikes eventually helped flush out the militants, they smashed large parts of the city into rubble."

And as noted by Evelyn Gordon in a must-read Commentary article entitled "Ramadi, Gaza, and Western Hypocrisy":

"During the Hamas-Israel war of 2014, both Obama Administration officials and their European counterparts repeatedly accused Israel of excessive force over the 'massive' destruction of civilian property in Gaza. But if those officials retain even a shred of intellectual integrity, the recent devastation of Ramadi during a joint Western/Iraqi effort to retake the city leaves them only two options: either hand themselves over to the International Criminal Court as suspected war criminals, or publicly apologize to Israel for all the slurs they hurled at it over far less extensive damage."

Bottom line: Notwithstanding Obama's thinly veiled SOTU criticism of Ted Cruz and Donald Trump's calls to bomb ISIS out of existence, Ramadi was effectively "carpet-bombed" by US-led coalition forces with the assistance of Iranian-backed Shiite militias.