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Thursday, March 31, 2016

Gail Collins, "The Republican Gun-Free Zone": Is Trump "Mental"?

Gail Collins obviously knows little about terrorism and guns.

In a New York Times op-ed entitled "The Republican Gun-Free Zone," Collins writes:

"The theory is that once everybody is armed 24/7, no matter what bad thing occurs, there will always be good guys on hand to shoot the evildoer. In the real world very few people — including police officers — are skilled enough to aim accurately during a scary emergency. But if you want to win the Republican presidential nomination, it’s important to pretend otherwise."

However, in Israel, Collins has repeatedly been proven wrong.

On the other hand, should Trump supporters, packing heat, be allowed to attend the Republican National Convention, particularly if it should be "brokered"? After all, none other than Donald himself stated that if he is denied the nomination owing to a shortfall of 100 votes, "I wouldn’t lead it, but I think bad things would happen."

Yup, as even Ann Coulter, a Trump supporter, acknowledged on Monday, Donald is "mental" (her word, not mine):

"Drastic measures may have to be taken so he doesn’t send tweets like last night.

. . . .

I want to take him to a urologist and get electrodes inserted into what is apparently a very large ‘schlong,’ and whenever he does something like this, I want to have the button."

As long as we're on the topic of doctors and buttons, how about sending Trump to a psychiatrist to obtain medical assurances that this man should be allowed anywhere near America's nuclear arsenal launch button.

Sorry, Gail, small arms should be the least of your concerns.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Thomas Friedman, "When the Necessary Is Impossible": Thick as a Brick

Yes, would-be Middle East expert Thomas Friedman is thick as a brick.

In a New York Times op-ed entitled "When the Necessary Is Impossible," Thomas Friedman asks "What do you do when the necessary is impossible, but the impossible is impossible to ignore — and your key allies are also impossible?" Friedman writes in response to his own imbecilic question:

"Crushing the Islamic State, or ISIS, is necessary for stabilizing Iraq and Syria, but it is impossible as long as Shiites and Sunnis there refuse to truly share power, and yet ignoring the ISIS cancer and its ability to metastasize is impossible as well."

Unbeknownst to Friedman, Iraq and Syria were never nation-states, but rather entities randomly carved out of the Ottoman Empire by the 1916 Sykes-Picot Agreement between Britain and France. Today, they are more akin to Humpty Dumpty: There is no putting the pieces back together again. Rather, it is time to acknowledge that the Middle East's 30 million Kurds, long oppressed by Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria, deserve their own state.

True, Turkey opposes granting independence to the Kurds, and in 2012, Obama deemed Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan one of his best overseas friends; however, times have changed. As acknowledged by Friedman:

"And if all that isn’t impossible enough, our trying to make Iraq safe for democracy is requiring us to turn a blind eye to the fact that our most important NATO 'ally' in the region, Turkey, is being converted from a democracy into a dictatorship by its president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who should now be called 'Sultan Erdogan' for the way he is closing opposition newspapers and putting journalists on trial. But because we need Turkey’s air bases and cooperation to foster a modicum of democracy in Iraq tomorrow, we are silent on Erdogan destroying democracy in Turkey today. Go figure."

Yup, it's time to grant the Kurds their freedom. It's also time for Obama to honor his 2008 promise to recognize the Armenian Genocide if elected president.

But is a sycophantic Friedman capable of criticizing Obama? Not a chance:

"Obama is probably doing about the best one can with ISIS: Degrade it, contain it and downplay it, and keep nudging Sunnis and Shiites to come to their senses. But I have a bad feeling about the ISIS boys. They are networked and they have cast off all civilized norms. And we don’t have the answer for them."

Dancing the tango while Brussels burned is the best Obama can do? In fact, maybe it is the best a self-absorbed Obama can do. Others can do better.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

David Brooks, "The Sexual Politics of 2016": Obama Can Turn the Other Cheek but Can't Walk on Water

Remember Obama's Nowruz greetings to Iran earlier this month ("the fact that we are now talking to each other on a regular basis, for the first time in decades, gives us an opportunity, a window, to resolve other issues")? Well, if Obama thinks that Iran changed its tune as a consequence of his message (in February, tens of thousands of persons chanted "Death to America! in Tehran's Azadi Square to celebrate the 1979 Islamic Revolution)," he is mistaken. Supreme Leader Khamenei told Iranians on the first day of the Persian New Year that America is moving "in a bid to be able to reinstate their previous hegemony."

And then there was Obama's trip to Cuba and his clowning at a baseball game in Havana while Brussels burned. Did Obama's visit alter anything? Not a chance. As soon as Obama left the island, Fidel Castro wrote:

"[W]e don't need the empire to give us any presents.

. . . .

Obama gave a speech in which he used the most syrupy words.

. . . .

Nobody has any illusion that the people of this noble and selfless country will surrender glory and rights and the spiritual wealth that has come through the development of education, science and culture."

Ouch, that stings! Obama obviously can turn the other cheek, but he can't walk on water. Obviously, there will be no miracle of transformation, i.e. the turning of despots into humanitarians.

All of which brings me to David Brooks's latest New York Times op-ed entitled "The Sexual Politics of 2016" in which he tells us of a "great redefinition of masculinity" . . . until along came Donald Trump. Brooks writes:

"Today’s ideal man honors the women in his life in whatever they want to do. He treats them with respect in the workplace and romance in the bedroom. He is successful in the competitive world of the marketplace but enthusiastic in the kitchen and gentle during kids’ bath time.

. . . .

Donald Trump’s presidential campaign is a revolution in manners, a rejection of the civility codes of the educated class. As part of this, he rejects the new and balanced masculine/feminine ideal that has emerged over the past generation. Trump embraces a masculine identity — old in some ways, new in others — built upon unvarnished misogyny.

. . . .

Trump represents the spread of something brutal. He takes economic anxiety and turns it into sexual hostility. He effectively tells men: You may be struggling, but at least you’re better than women, Mexicans and Muslims."

I agree with David; however, I would go a step further: Trump represents the anti-Obama. Whereas Obama is quick to turn the other cheek, Trump refuses to apologize. Whereas Obama surrounded himself with female advisers and heads of department, Trump demeans women.

Brooks's conclusion:

"But in the realm of cultural politics, Trump voters do need to be held to account. They are participating in a descent into darkness. They are supporting a degrading wrong. This is the world your daughters are going to grow up in."

Again, I agree with David, but there can be no denying that the rise of Trump is a direct consequence of a "progressive," i.e. far-left, Obama presidency, which left middle-class white men in the lurch, with increasing numbers opting for suicide. Remember how Obama once said, back in 2007, that he could "bring the country together"? It didn't happen, and we are now observing the backlash.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Paul Krugman, "Trade, Labor, and Politics": No Mention of Child Labor by the Conscience of a Liberal

In a New York Times op-ed entitled "Trade, Labor, and Politics," Paul Krugman lectures us on international trade:

"It’s probably bad politics to talk right now about what a trade war would do to, say, Bangladesh. But any responsible future president would have to think hard about such matters.

. . . .

If you’re generally a supporter of open world markets — which you should be, mainly because market access is so important to poor countries — you need to know that whatever they may say, politicians who espouse rigid free-market ideology are not on your side."

Bangladesh? Fascinating! As reported in a February 6, 2014 Guardian article entitled "Bangladesh garment factories still exploiting child labour for UK products" by Miles Brignall and Sarah Butler:

"Bangladesh garment factories producing clothes for British retailers are forcing girls as young as 13 to work up to 11 hours a day in appalling conditions, according to an ITV documentary to be shown on Thursday night.

Undercover filming by the Exposure programme found clothes produced for Lee Cooper, BHS and other UK retailers in factories where workers were physically and verbally abused and fire safety ignored.

Despite promises made by retailers to improve conditions following last year's Rana Plaza factory collapse in Dhaka, where at least 1,130 people died and thousands more were injured, staff as young as 13 are filmed in factories being kicked, slapped and hit with a used fabric roll as well as abused with physical threats and insults.

Fire escapes at one factory, Vase Apparel, are shown padlocked, even though hundreds of garment workers have died in fires after being trapped in similar factories over the past few years."

Mention of child labor in Krugman's opinion piece? None.

Also no mention by Krugman of slave labor in, for example, China. As reported in a December 13, 2014 National Review article entitled "China's Slaves" by Josh Gelernter:

"China’s Communist dictators operate more than a thousand 1,000 slave-labor camps.

The camps are called “laogai,” a contraction of 'láodòng gǎizào,' which means 'reform through labor.' They were conceived under Mao; unlike Stalin’s gulags, they never closed — though the CCP has tried to abolish the name 'laogai.' In the Nineties, it redesignated the camps 'prisons.' The conditions, though, don’t seem to have changed.

Our picture of life in the laogai is murky, but here’s what has been reported: The prisoners are given uniforms and shoes. They have to purchase their own socks, underwear, and jackets. There are no showers, no baths, and no beds. Prisoners sleep on the floor, in spaces less than a foot wide. They work 15-hour days, followed by two hours of evening indoctrination; at night they’re not allowed to move from their sleeping-spots till 5:30 rolls around, when they’re woken for another day of hard labor. Fleas, bedbugs, and parasites are ubiquitous. The prisoners starve on meager supplies of bread, gruel, and vegetable soup. Once every two weeks they get a meal of pork broth."

I should be a supporter of open world markets "because market access is so important to poor countries"? Think again, Krugman.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Maureen Dowd, "Obama’s Last Tango": Obama Tangoed While Brussels Burned

Maureen Dowd and foreign affairs? They don't mix. I will never forget her sympathetic depictions of Saudi Arabia over the course of a 10-day visit to the Desert Kingdom, notwithstanding its abominations against women.

Telling us in a New York Times op-ed entitled "Obama’s Last Tango" that she accompanied Obama on his trip to Havana, Dowd says of his subsequent tango in Buenos Aires:

"Republicans are frothing and comics are tweaking about the baseball diplomacy in Cuba and the tango diplomacy in Argentina, juxtaposed with the terrorist attack and manhunt in Brussels.

Comedy Central’s Larry Wilmore mocked Obama’s 'spring break world tour.' He chided the president for doing the wave with Raúl Castro and remarked on Obama’s sinuous, take-charge tango partner. 'O.K., Republicans, now he’s leading from behind,' Wilmore said. Rush Limbaugh accused the president of flamenco dancing and 'doing the tango with women not even his wife.'

Yes, that outrageous sin of being polite to your foreign hosts at a state dinner."

Now compare Dowd's complacence with Piers Morgan's take on the trip from the other side of the Atlantic in a Daily Mail opinion piece entitled "Twinkle-toes Obama might be a demon at the tango but when it comes to reading the public mood he’s tone-deaf":

"Just imagine what Americans would have thought if within hours of 9/11, the then British Prime Minister Tony Blair had gone to a football match and been seen giggling and clowning around with some dodgy communist despot.

All hell would have broken loose, and rightly so.

It’s also vital in this situation for a U.S. president to let the perpetrators of such evil know America means business when it, or one of its allies, is attacked.

. . . .

Last night, to compound his ineptitude, Obama was seen awkwardly strutting the Tango in Buenos Aires with some hot female Argentinian dancer. He even looked like he’d been having lessons, so laboured and precise were his deliberate moves.

Once again, the optics were appalling.

. . . .

[H]istory will now forever remember that when Belgium was knocked to its knees, Barack Obama went to a ball game and danced the Tango.

Shame on you, Mr President."

Shame on you, too, Maureen Dowd.

Friday, March 25, 2016

David Brooks, "The Post-Trump Era": How Obama Tangoed While Brussels Burned

"The timing was awkward, coming right before the Brussels bombings, but Obama is roughly right on his facts: 464 people drowned in America in tubs, sometimes after falls, in 2013, while 17 were killed here by terrorists in 2014 (the most recent years for which I could get figures). Of course, that’s not an argument for relaxing vigilance, for at some point terrorists will graduate from explosives to nuclear, chemical or biological weapons that could be far more devastating than even 9/11. But it is an argument for addressing global challenges a little more rationally."

- Nicholas Kristof, "Overreacting to Terrorism?," March 24, 2016

In one of the most insensitive opinion pieces in the history of The New York Times, Nicholas Kristof yesterday explained away Obama's indifference to the horrors of the attacks in Brussels by telling us that "our brains sometimes mislead us." Or stated otherwise, it was perfectly okay for Obama to participate in a "wave" at a Havana baseball game and tango in Buenos Aires, i.e. fiddle while Rome burned, because only "17 were killed here by terrorists in 2014." Although Kristof makes mention of 9/11, he conveniently decides not to tell us of the 2,977 terror-linked deaths on that date, or that bridges and tunnels leading into Manhattan were closed, subways in New York City were shut down, and all flights over the US and Canada were cancelled. The cost to the US economy of 9/11: some $3.3 trillion. Needless to say, flights over the US and Canada are not cancelled when someone drowns in a bathtub, as tragic as such a mishap might be.

I am at a loss for words to condemn Kristof's coldhearted support of Obama's insouciance which derives from a narcissistic personality disorder.

Fast-forward 24 hours: In his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "The Post-Trump Era," David Brooks doesn't even mention Brussels. Rather, regarding "Reagan Orthodoxy," Brooks would have us know:

"Now along comes Donald Trump, an angel of destruction, to blow it all to smithereens."

Something bad? Heck no! Ever cheerful even about the onset of middle-age (you will recall his prior euphoric opinion piece), Brooks concludes:

"We’re going to have two parties in this country. One will be a Democratic Party that is moving left. The other will be a Republican Party. Nobody knows what it will be, but it’s exciting to be present at the re-creation."

Excuse me, David, if I skip the celebration.

Meanwhile, in a Times op-ed entitled "Crazy About Money," Paul Krugman today also avoids any mention of Brussels. Instead, Krugman tells us that Ted Cruz "has staked out positions on crucial issues that are, not to put too fine a point on it, crazy." Krugman's conclusion:

"The moral here is that we shouldn’t be surprised by the Republican establishment’s willingness to rally behind Mr. Cruz. Yes, Mr. Cruz portrays himself as an outsider, and has managed to make remarkably many personal enemies. But while his policy ideas are extreme, they reflect the same extremism that pervades the party’s elite.

There are no moderates, or for that matter, sensible people, anywhere in this story."

Hillary, a secretary of state who set up a porous email server in her home basement that could be hacked at will by all of America's enemies, and Bernie, who would slash the US defense budget in the face of threats from ISIS, Russia, China, North Korea and Iran, are more "sensible" than Ted? Yeah, right. And on the subject of "sensible," let us not forget Krugman's proposal for a trillion dollar platinum coin.

Moreover, who is Krugman, who once declared, "It’s clear what kinds of things the Occupy Wall Street demonstrators want, and it’s really the job of policy intellectuals and politicians to fill in the details," to school us on "moderation"?

These are noxious times in which we live.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Gail Collins, "The Republicans’ Sin of Endorsement": Salivating Over a Romney Nomination

In yet another vacuous New York Times op-ed entitled "The Republicans’ Sin of Endorsement," Gail Collins concludes by suggesting the possibility that Mitt Romney could walk away with the Republican nomination in a brokered convention:

"None of these new converts to the Cruz camp seem to have any actual arguments about Cruz being a good potential president. Bush, in his announcement, complained that 'Washington is broken' but made no attempt whatsoever to explain how things would be improved by the nomination of a senator whose sole achievement in office was an effort to shut down the government. Maybe they think if Cruz is the spoiler at the convention, it’ll be easier to shove him away to make room for a brand new superhero? (Looking at you, Mitt.)"

Can you imagine, Collins might again be able to pad her columns with her lame dog-on-the-roof "running joke." She must be salivating over the possibility.

Elsewhere in the news, probably unbeknownst to Gail, Iranian Navy Commander Rear Admiral Habibollah Sayyari announced that Tehran is planning to send warships to the Atlantic "to help improve international peace and security."

"International peace and security"? Iranian warships that can fire missiles at Manhattan and shake the foundations of Gail's Candy Crush Saga world? Oh my goodness!

More developments involving Iran? As reported by Reuters in an exclusive article entitled "U.S. to charge Iran in cyber attacks against banks, New York dam" by Dustin Volz, Nate Raymond and Jim Finkle:

"The Obama administration is expected to blame Iranian hackers as soon as Thursday for a coordinated campaign of cyber attacks in 2012 and 2013 on several U.S. banks and a New York dam, sources familiar with the matter have told Reuters.

The Justice Department has prepared an indictment against about a half-dozen Iranians, said the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter. It is one of the highest-profile U.S. indictments against a foreign nation on hacking charges."

This is the same Iran whose banks are being reconnected with the SWIFT network. And this is the same Iran which, a few days ago, was commended by Obama in his annual Nowruz address:

"Over the years, you've heard me say that the United States was prepared to engage with Iran in a spirit of mutual interest and mutual respect. Well, that's exactly what we did. In the last few years, our diplomats and nuclear scientists sat down together and negotiated face to face, and last summer, along with our international partners, we reached the historic deal on Iran's nuclear program.

. . . .

I firmly believe that we can continue to expand the connections between the American and Iranian people."

I don't know if Obama also plays Candy Crush Saga, but he is obviously also living in a fantasy world.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Thomas Friedman, "Does Obama Have This Right?": A Narcissistic Personality Disorder Threatens the West

A narcissistic personality disorder that threatens the West? No, I'm not talking about Donald Trump, who, even if he wins the Republican nomination, will lose in November. Rather, I am talking about President Barack Obama.

Notified of the massacre in Brussels, a jovial Obama attended a baseball game with Raul Castro in Cuba (even participating in a "wave"), and then boarded a flight for Argentina with his family. Return to Washington to coordinate with the EU? Not a chance. Why should this horrific attack by ISIS interfere with his fun?

Remind you so something? It should. It wasn't so long ago that Obama ran off to a Martha's Vineyard golf course within 20 minutes of delivering a speech decrying the beheading of James Foley by ISIS.

Yes, as I noted on Monday, Obama suffers from a narcissistic personality disorder characterized by a vehement rejection of all criticism, an excessive need for admiration, and a total lack of empathy for others.

Is Obama dangerous with less than a year left of his second term? You bet!

In his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Does Obama Have This Right?," Thomas Friedman, an Obama sycophant, cautiously criticizes the president:

"Obama’s primary goal seems to be to get out of office being able to say that he had shrunk America’s involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan, prevented our involvement on the ground in Syria and Libya, and taught Americans the limits of our ability to fix things we don’t understand, in countries whose leaders we don’t trust, whose fates do not impact us as much as they once did.

. . . .

That all sounds great on paper, until a terrorist attack like the one Tuesday in Brussels comes to our shores. Does the president have this right?

. . . .

[S]itting here [in Sulaimaniya, Iraq] also makes you wonder if Obama hasn’t gotten so obsessed with defending his hand’s-off approach to Syria that he underestimates both the dangers of his passivity and the opportunity for U.S. power to tilt this region our way — without having to invade anywhere. Initially, I thought Obama made the right call on Syria. But today the millions of refugees driven out of Syria — plus the economic migrants now flooding out of Africa through Libya after the utterly botched Obama-NATO operation there — is destabilizing the European Union."

Friedman's utterly inane solution to the problem:

"Kurdistan and Tunisia are just what we dreamed of: self-generated democracies that could be a model for others in the region to follow. But they need help. Unfortunately, Obama seems so obsessed with not being George W. Bush in the Middle East that he has stopped thinking about how to be Barack Obama here — how to leave a unique legacy and secure a foothold for democracy … without invading."

Assistance to Iraqi Kurdistan and Tunisia will curtail the threat from ISIS? Go back to sleep, Tom.

Like it or not, the United States and Europe are at war with ISIS, and refusal to take ISIS seriously, i.e. enjoying a baseball game in Havana after being notified of the calamity in Brussels, only encourages ISIS to perpetrate additional atrocities, which ultimately will find their way to American shores.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

David Brooks, "The Middle-Age Surge": Or Suicide Is Painless?

"Your face and body can now be fixed, of course. But it's very different out there now. Your finances won't last long. Your panel of observers are waiting for you to choose."

- Ventura, "Vanilla Sky," 2001

In his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "The Middle-Age Surge," David Brooks tackles the topic of middle-age. Brooks cheerfully writes:

"[A]nother profound but more hidden change is the altered shape of middle age. What could have been considered the beginning of a descent is now a potential turning point — the turning point you are most equipped to take full advantage of.

It is the moment when you can look back on your life so far and see it with different eyes. Hopefully you’ve built up some wisdom, which, as the psychologists define it, means seeing the world with more compassion, grasping opposing ideas at the same time, tolerating ambiguity and reacting with equanimity to the small setbacks of life.

By middle age you might begin to see, retrospectively, the dominant motifs that have been running through your various decisions. You might begin to see how all your different commitments can be integrated into one meaning and purpose. You might see the social problem your past has made you uniquely equipped to tackle. You might have enough clarity by now to orient your life around a true north on some ultimate horizon."

Meaning and purpose! A true north! How reassuring, particularly for someone like me . . . unless, nearing 62, I have already voyaged beyond the boundaries of middle-age and passed into the purgatory of  . . . gasp . . . old-age.

But wait! Is middle-age all that Brooks makes it out to be? As reported in a May 6, 2013 Psychology Today article entitled "White, Middle-Age Suicide In America Skyrockets" by Dale Archer M.D.:

"Suicide, once thought to be associated with troubled teens and the elderly, is quickly becoming an age-blind statistic. Middle aged Americans are turning to suicide in alarming numbers. The reasons include easily accessible prescription painkillers, the mortgage crisis and most importantly the challenge of a troubled economy. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention claims suicide rates now top the number of deaths due to automobile accidents."

A temporary blip owing to the economy? I don't think so. As more recently reported by Gina Kolata in a November 2, 2015 New York Times article entitled "Death Rates Rising for Middle-Aged White Americans, Study Finds" (my emphasis in red):

"Something startling is happening to middle-aged white Americans. Unlike every other age group, unlike every other racial and ethnic group, unlike their counterparts in other rich countries, death rates in this group have been rising, not falling.

That finding was reported Monday by two Princeton economists, Angus Deaton, who last month won the 2015 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Science, and Anne Case. Analyzing health and mortality data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and from other sources, they concluded that rising annual death rates among this group are being driven not by the big killers like heart disease and diabetes but by an epidemic of suicides and afflictions stemming from substance abuse: alcoholic liver disease and overdoses of heroin and prescription opioids."

The "middle-age surge" or "suicide is painless" Take your pick.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Paul Krugman, "On Invincible Ignorance": Is Increasing Taxes on the Wealthiest One Percent the Answer?

Worried by a "looming Trumpocalypse" (I am, too) and railing against Paul Ryan's feeble understanding of economics (too harsh), Paul Krugman writes in a New York Times op-ed entitled "On Invincible Ignorance":

"You might think that Republican thought leaders would be engaged in some soul-searching about their party’s obsession with cutting taxes on the wealthy. Why do candidates who inveigh against the evils of budget deficits and federal debt feel obliged to propose huge high-end tax cuts — much bigger than those of George W. Bush — that would eliminate trillions in revenue?."

Now don't misunderstand me. America's national debt of more than $19 trillion has reached unsustainable proportions under the Obama administration and indeed must be addressed. Moreover, this is hardly the time for high-end tax cuts, but would raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans go a long way toward reducing this debt and promoting income equality?

We learn from the Executive Summary of a September 2015 Brookings Institution article entitled "Would a significant increase in the top income tax rate substantially alter income inequality?" by William G. Gale, Melissa S. Kearney, and Peter R. Orszag (my emphasis in red):

"The high level of income inequality in the United States is at the forefront of policy attention. This paper focuses on one potential policy response: an increase in the top personal income tax rate. We conduct a simulation analysis using the Tax Policy Center (TPC) microsimulation model to determine how much of a reduction in income inequality would be achieved from increasing the top individual tax rate to as much as 50 percent. We calculate the resulting change in income inequality assuming an explicit redistribution of all new revenue to households in the bottom 20 percent of the income distribution. The resulting effects on overall income inequality are exceedingly modest."

The article goes on to explain (my emphasis in red):

"Increasing the top [income tax] rate to 45 percent would bring in an additional $49.4 billion in revenue. Dividing that evenly among the 36.1 million households in the bottom income quintile (defined over households) would give each of those households an additional $1,370 in post-tax income.

Increasing the top rate to 50 percent with the same redistribution scheme would bring in an additional $95.6 billion in revenue, leading to an additional $2,650 in post-tax income for the bottom fifth of households. Applying a new top rate of 50 percent to income above $1 million for married filers and above $750,000 for single filers would bring in an additional $63.5 billion in revenue, which would result in $1,760 in additional post-tax income for households in the lowest quintile."

In short, an increase of taxes on the wealthiest one percent of Americans is not without any benefit whatsoever. However, it is also far from a panacea and comes with the possibility that some affluent Americans will leave for greener pastures

Jackson Diehl, "The costs of Obama’s Syria policy are apparent to everyone but him": A Narcissistic President's Denial of Reality

In a must-read Washington Post opinion piece entitled "The costs of Obama’s Syria policy are apparent to everyone but him," Jackson Diehl excoriates Obama's hapless policy shifts in Syria. Declaring that Obama is "fundamentally clueless — or in denial — about the consequences of what historians will surely regard as one of his most fateful errors," i.e. his decision not to respond militarily in 2013 to Assad's use of chemical weapons, Diehl observes:

"Japanese, South Koreans, Singaporeans and even Indians confided that they were convinced that Obama’s failure to use force against the regime of Bashar al-Assad was directly responsible for China’s subsequent burst of aggression in territorial disputes in the East China Sea and South China Sea.

Poles, Lithuanians and French drew a line between the backdown and Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. As for the Sunni Arabs, Turks and Israelis, it is an article of faith that Obama’s decision accelerated the catastrophe that Syria, and much of the rest of the Middle East, has become. They have an obvious point: Hundreds of thousands are dead, the European Union is in danger of crumbling under an onslaught of refugees, and the Islamic State and Assad remain unvanquished."

Diehl goes on to observe that Obama is alone in dismissing this criticism. Referring to Jeffrey Goldberg's recent Atlantic article entitled "The Obama Doctrine," Diehl continues:

"As Goldberg describes it, the president now regards August 2013 as his 'liberation' from a U.S. foreign policy establishment he holds in contempt, along with a 'Washington playbook' that demands military action to uphold American 'credibility.'

. . . .

In fact, despite his protestations, Obama seems to be haunted by his Syrian retreat — so much so that he has concocted a kind of negative doctrine around it. It is, says Goldberg, that the Middle East 'is no longer terribly important to American interests'; that even if it is, there is little the United States can do 'to make it a better place'; and that any attempt to do so leads only to war and 'the eventual hemorrhaging of U.S. credibility and power.'"

Diehl's devastating conclusion:

"Obama is now obliged to fight the Islamic State’s multiplying iterations across the region without any prospect of viable states to replace it. He has few allies and no exit strategy. The 'liberation' from the Middle East that he now celebrates has created a quagmire that the next president will inherit."

However, Diehl fails to provide the reason for Obama's vehement rejection of all this criticism. In fact, the reason is simple: Persons suffering from narcissistic personality disorders are entirely incapable of accepting criticism, and although Obama's problem is not nearly as severe as that of Donald Trump, it is nevertheless unmistakable. As observed by Matthew Continetti in a National Review article entitled "President Obama Is a Political Narcissist":

"Russia announces the withdrawal of its forces from Syria. The decision is a surprise — President Obama is shocked. This is a feeling he experiences often.

He was astonished when Vladimir Putin intervened in the Syrian conflict in 2015. He was startled when ISIS conquered a fair portion of Mesopotamia in 2014. He was jarred when Putin invaded Crimea, and launched a proxy war in eastern Ukraine that same year. Rogue states pursue policies contrary to what Obama the Wise sees as their self-interest, and the presidential response never varies. He is stunned. He is saddened. He is filled with sangfroid.

Bewilderment happens when reality dispels illusions. I used to think President Obama’s illusions were simply the product of his ideology, of his faith in the universality of human reason, in the idea of historical progress, of his ambivalence toward American power. But after reading Jeffrey Goldberg’s epic, absorbing, revealing interview with the president in The Atlantic, I have come to a different conclusion. It’s not just ideology that drives Obama’s cluelessness. It’s narcissism."

Yes, Obama was completely taken by surprise by Putin's announcement of Russia's withdrawal from Syria. But more to the point, unbeknownst to Washington, there is a well-reasoned rationale for Putin's decision. Syria and Iraq no longer exist as nations. Moreover, 30 million stateless Kurds, long persecuted in Syria, Iraq, Iran and Turkey, are aching for freedom. It would appear that Putin, unlike Obama, is aware that the Kurds are destined to gain their independence and is seeking an alliance with the Kurds against Turkey, Russia's longtime enemy.

In short, blinded by his would-be omniscience, Obama is driving his golf cart across the rough and into a sand trap. It remains to be seen who inherits this ugly wreck.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Obama's Nowruz Greetings to Iran: Abject Surrender to Khamenei

In case anyone was wondering how Obama would respond to Iran's test-firing earlier this month of two ballistic missiles, one with "Israel should be wiped off the Earth" written on it, we now have the answer. In his annual Nowruz (Persian New Year) message to Iran, Obama declared yesterday (my emphasis in red):

"Every year as president I've taken this opportunity, the hope of spring, to speak directly to the people of Iran about how we might open a new window and begin a new relationship between our countries.

Now, for the first time in decades, there's a chance for a different future.

Over the years, you've heard me say that the United States was prepared to engage with Iran in a spirit of mutual interest and mutual respect. Well, that's exactly what we did. In the last few years, our diplomats and nuclear scientists sat down together and negotiated face to face, and last summer, along with our international partners, we reached the historic deal on Iran's nuclear program. Two months ago, Iran fulfilled key commitments under that deal. Iran has now rolled back key parts of its nuclear program and agreed to verification measures to assure the world that its nuclear program is, and will remain, for peaceful purposes.

In return the international community lifted certain sanctions on Iran, and Iran gained access to money that had been frozen overseas. At the same time, we recognized Iran's right to peaceful nuclear energy consistent with Iran's nuclear obligations.

It make time for you, the Iranian people, to feel the full benefits of the lifting of these sanctions in your daily lives, but the benefits are undeniable.

. . . .

And I know that Americans are eager to buy more of your beautiful Persian carpets, caviar, pistachios and saffron. More tourists will visit historic sites like Shiraz, Tabriz and Isfahan, and spend their money in your shops and restaurants.

. . . .

The nuclear deal was never intended to resolve all the disputes between our two nations, and the United States continues to have profound differences with the Iranian government.

But even as our two governments continue to have serious disagreements, the fact that we are now talking to each other on a regular basis, for the first time in decades, gives us an opportunity, a window, to resolve other issues.

As we do, I firmly believe that we can continue to expand the connections between the American and Iranian people."

"Profound differences"? Obama made sure not to identify any of them.

Mention by Obama that Iran is the per capita world leader in executions? Not a chance.

Mention by Obama that Iran hangs gays and stones to death women accused of adultery? No way.

Mention by Obama that Iran brutally persecutes Kurds, Baha'is, Christians and Sunni Muslims? Heck no.

Mention of the Americans still being held hostage by Iran? Forget it.

Mention of direct Iranian military involvement in support of Assad in Syria? No reason to care.

And certainly no mention of the recent test-firing of ballistic missiles by Iran. After all, Obama wouldn't want to undermine his unsigned nuclear deal with Supreme Leader Khamenei, i.e. his crowning foreign affairs "achievement," even if Israel is again being threatened with extermination.

Never mind any of this, Obama tells us. Visit Iran (unless you happen to be gay) and buy caviar and pistachios.

Obama, a narcissist who believes in his own omniscience, knows no shame and proceeds along his merry way like a horse with blinders. Sickening.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Maureen Dowd, "Will Trump Be Dumped?": No, There Are Too Many Chumps

I have to admit that Maureen Dowd is a brave woman. Her fellow New York Times columnist Gail Collins once received from Donald Trump a copy of her column with "The Face of a Dog!" written over her picture. Currently, Trump appears to be obsessed with Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly, and is busy labeling her "sick" and calling upon his minions of angry white men to "boycott" her in yet another of his tweets. Is Dowd afraid of being on the receiving end of this demented treatment? Apparently not. Today, in a New York Times op-ed entitled "Will Trump Be Dumped?," Maureen Dowd tells us of a Friday morning conversation with DDT (Donald Drumpf Trump). Inter alia, Trump informed Maureen:

  • "We have weak leadership. Hillary is pathetically weak."

  • "I’m with the people. The people like Trump."

  • "[Elizabeth Warren's] whole life was based on a fraud."

  • "[Mitt Romney is] a jealous fool and not a bright person. He’s good looking. Other than that, he’s got nothing."

  • "I want to get rid of the leftovers [Trump's Republican rivals] first."

Yup, DDT sure knows how to win friends and influence people. If he wins the nomination but loses in November (which he will), I wonder whom he will blame. Will he warn of riots?

Dowd goes on to inform us regarding their talk:

"Joe Scarborough said that just as F.D.R. was the master of radio and J.F.K. of television, D.J.T. is the titan of Twitter. The titan agreed, gloating about how his tweets to his seven million followers, sometimes penned in his jammies, become cable news bulletins. 'Yeah,' he said, 'I’ll do them sometimes lying in bed.'"

Heck, I think Trump lies equally well when dressed in a suit at a podium, but then what do I know.

Friday, March 18, 2016

David Brooks, "No, Not Trump, Not Ever": Compare Charles Krauthammer's "Menace in the political air: Donald Trump and the intolerant left are a toxic combination"

It seems that David Brooks is not partial to Donald Trump.

In his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "No, Not Trump, Not Ever," Brooks informs us of Trump's predisposition toward prevarication:

"Trump is perhaps the most dishonest person to run for high office in our lifetimes. All politicians stretch the truth, but Trump has a steady obliviousness to accuracy.

This week, the Politico reporters Daniel Lippman, Darren Samuelsohn and Isaac Arnsdorf fact-checked 4.6 hours of Trump speeches and press conferences. They found more than five dozen untrue statements, or one every five minutes.

. . . .

Donald Trump is an affront to basic standards of honesty, virtue and citizenship."


But is Hillary a paragon of honesty, virtue and citizenship? Hardly. Consider what she told the nation concerning Bosnia, Benghazi and her home email server. Ugh!

Moreover, Hillary is also a self-serving narcissist, yet they do differ in one important respect. As Charles Krauthammer writes in a Daily News opinion piece entitled "Menace in the political air: Donald Trump and the intolerant left are a toxic combination":

"[T]here’s a second, quite separate form of thuggery threatening the 2016 campaign — a leading candidate who, with a wink and a nod (and sometimes less subtlety), is stoking anger and encouraging violence."

Krauthammer refers us to several of Trump's recent pronouncements:

  • "I love the old days. You know what they used to do to guys like that . . .? They’d be carried out on a stretcher, folks."
  • "knock the crap out of them . . . I promise you I will pay for the legal fees."
  • "maybe he should have been roughed up."
  • "I’d like to punch him in the face."
  • "I think you’d have riots" . . . "I wouldn’t lead it but I think bad things would happen."

Krauthammer concludes, "What is so disturbing today is that suffusing our politics is not just an air of division but an air of menace." Indeed.

As I observed yesterday, Trump's reference to riots if he falls short of the mandatory delegate count and is not nominated reminds me of how Hitler threatened to let his Brownshirts run amok in August 1932 when, after the Nazis won 230 seats in the Reichstag and became the dominant political party in Germany, he was denied the chancellorship.

Trump cannot win against Hillary - if she is not indicted. On the other hand, he can certainly drag the United States into a gutter of divisiveness and politically inspired violence from which it might never emerge.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Gail Collins, "Take the Trump Quiz": "I Think You'd Have Riots"? Frightening, Not Droll

"I think we’ll win before getting to the convention, but I can tell you, if we didn’t and if we’re 20 votes short or if we’re, you know, 100 short and we’re at 1,100 and somebody else is at 500 or 400, cause we're way ahead of everybody. I don’t think you can say that we don’t get it automatically. I think it would be — I think you’d have riots. I think you'd have riots. You know, I'm representing a tremendous many, many millions of people."

- Donald Trump, CNN's "New Day," March 16, 2016

In a New York Times op-ed entitled "Take the Trump Quiz," Gail Collins presents us with a droll multiple choice quiz highlighting the horrors underlying the Donald Trump candidacy. Yes, Gail, Trump is despicable, but there is nothing amusing about this man, particularly after his warning, this week, of riots if he falls short of the mandatory delegate count and is not nominated.

Riots if he is not nominated? Some hear Trump's warning and remember the Democratic Convention in Chicago in 1968.

Me? I think of how Hitler threatened to let his Brownshirts run amok in August 1932 when, after the Nazis won 230 seats in the Reichstag and became the dominant political party in Germany, he was denied the chancellorship.

Sorry, Donald, but there won't be "riots" if you tell your supporters to respect the law and that you won't pay their legal fees if they are arrested. Moreover, God willing, should you not be nominated, there is nothing to prevent your marvelous self from mounting a third party candidacy, thereby making absolutely 100% certain that Hillary - barring an indictment - enters the White House.

Frightening, not droll.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Gail Collins, "Kasich, the Boulder Between the G.O.P. and Trump": Boulder or Pebble in Trump's Shoe?

Agree with Gail Collins? Me? Never! At least not until this loathsome morning . . .

In a terse New York Times op-ed entitled "Kasich, the Boulder Between the G.O.P. and Trump," Collins writes of the Republican debates and Ohio Governor John Kasich:

"At times it was like a bunch of gladiators smashing into one another at the coliseum while one chipper combatant wandered around shaking his head and urging everybody to get along."

Gladiators? You're being too kind, Ms. Collins. How about professional wrestlers? You will recall how Trump pinned Vince McMahon at the WrestleMania Battle of the Billionaires and then shaved McMahon's head, demonstrating to the world that he has what it takes to be the next American commander in chief.

Labeling Kasich "the only non-appalling option the Republicans have," Collins holds out a laser-thin ray of hope:

"Can Kasich go all the way? Doesn’t seem likely. But then Ohio does like to call itself the Mother of Presidents. Eight came from Ohio in one way or another. True, that included Warren Harding and William Henry Harrison, who lasted for only a month. But on the plus side there’s … William McKinley."

Also worth noting that in recent polls, Kasich destroys Hillary. Gail also ignores another possible outcome: A brokered Republican convention resulting in Mitt Romney as the Republican candidate. Wow! Gail could again bore us with her running dog-on-the-roof "joke."

Kasich the Republican nominee? From your lips to God's ears, Gail. Now if only the FBI recommends indicting Hillary, and Biden throws his hat in the ring, wrestling or otherwise. But don't be expecting too many miracles: God is also getting tired of America's electoral shenanigans.

David Brooks, "The Shame Culture": Or Groupthink? Either Way, Count Me Out!

In an interesting New York Times op-ed entitled "The Shame Culture," David Brooks tells us of an essay in Christianity Today by Andy Crouch, in which, according to Brooks, Crouch argues:

"[T]he omnipresence of social media has created a new sort of shame culture. The world of Facebook, Instagram and the rest is a world of constant display and observation. The desire to be embraced and praised by the community is intense. People dread being exiled and condemned. Moral life is not built on the continuum of right and wrong; it’s built on the continuum of inclusion and exclusion."

Brooks goes on to say:

"[E]verybody is perpetually insecure in a moral system based on inclusion and exclusion. There are no permanent standards, just the shifting judgment of the crowd. It is a culture of oversensitivity, overreaction and frequent moral panics, during which everybody feels compelled to go along.

If we’re going to avoid a constant state of anxiety, people’s identities have to be based on standards of justice and virtue that are deeper and more permanent than the shifting fancy of the crowd. In an era of omnipresent social media, it’s probably doubly important to discover and name your own personal True North, vision of an ultimate good, which is worth defending even at the cost of unpopularity and exclusion."

All of which is why I maintain my Facebook account in a permanent state of suspended animation, available only for purposes of identification. Regarding "True North," if you visit my Facebook account (please don't), you will learn that I currently live in Greenland. However, I am now considering a move with my dogs to the North Pole and taking up residence in an igloo next to Santa's workshop.

But more to the point, these are indeed dark times, when Hillary can tell her apostles to rapturous applause that she will provide transcripts of her speeches to Wall Street investment houses only when everyone else does. And it is even more dismaying when Donald tells his legions of angry white men that if they hurt a protester, "I’ll defend you in court."

A "shame culture" or "groupthink"? According to social psychologist Irving Janis:

"The more amiability and esprit de corps there is among the members of a policy-making ingroup, the greater the danger that independent critical thinking will be replaced by groupthink, which is likely to result in irrational and dehumanizing actions directed against outgroups."

Either way, count me out!

Monday, March 14, 2016

New York Times Editorial, "Mr. Netanyahu’s Lost Opportunities": A Photo-Op?

Informing us in an editorial entitled "Mr. Netanyahu’s Lost Opportunities" that Netanyahu cancelled a meeting with Obama in Washington later this week, The New York Times goes on to say:

"It’s unfortunate that this strange squabble is overshadowing two pressing issues. One involves the new 10-year defense agreement the two governments are negotiating, an anchor of their alliance. The existing agreement, which expires in 2018, provides $3.1 billion a year to Israel, , [sic] making it the top recipient of American aid. The even larger issue involves the slow but inexorable death of the two-state solution for peace with the Palestinians.

. . . .

Military aid alone will never guarantee Israel’s security. For that, there needs to be progress toward a Middle East peace deal."

Remarkably, the Times editorial makes no mention of the fact that The Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps last week test-fired two additional ballistic missiles in violation of UN Security Council resolutions, and that one missile had a message written on it in Hebrew: "Israel should be wiped off the Earth." Obama's response? Nada, unless anyone took Samantha Power seriously when she declared at the UN that the test-firing "merits a [Security] Council response." After all, Obama wouldn't want to do anything that might jeopardize his unsigned, legacy-building, nuclear deal with Khamenei.

Bottom line: No opportunity - other than a photo-op - was lost by the cancellation of this meeting with a president, who has dedicated his two terms in office to creating daylight between Israel and America.

Obama's successor? The editorial concludes:

"With less than a year left in office and many other international crises to manage, it is unlikely that Mr. Obama will make another push for negotiations. But his successor must look for new ways help Israel and the Palestinians make peace happen."

However, as reported in a Times of Israel article entitled "Abbas reportedly turns down visiting Biden’s peace plan" by Sue Surkes:

"Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas reportedly turned down a peace initiative put forward by US Vice President Joe Biden in Ramallah on Wednesday.

The deal offered a settlement construction freeze and a Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem in exchange for recognition of Israel as a Jewish state and the relinquishment of Palestinian rights to return to live in Israel, Palestinian newspaper Al Quds reported."

Unbeknownst to the editorial board of the Times, it is difficult to reach a reach a peace agreement when one side categorically rejects such a fair-minded proposal.

More concerning the relationship between Obama's successor and Israel? In a Times op-ed entitled "Can Israel Handle a President Trump?," Shmuel Rosner writes:

"Israel’s government hoped a new president would restore a more traditional definition of friendship — one based on mutual trust and support. But if the choice comes down to Mrs. Clinton or Mr. Trump, that’s unlikely. From a President Clinton, Israel’s hawkish government would come under more of the same pressure it received from the Obama administration. From a President Trump … anything is possible."

Indeed, both Hillary and Donald would be disastrous for Israel. We can only hope that Hillary's candidacy will be derailed by an FBI recommendation favoring indictment, and that Trump will be beaten by a nose by Kasich in Ohio. Stay tuned.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Maureen Dowd, "The Sultan and the Salad": More "Wicked Fun"?

Do you remember how progressives in 2008 couldn't care less about the racist diatribes of Obama's pastor? And how progressives decided to ignore Obama's stinky real estate deal with Tony Rezko? Well, it's now 2016, and angry white men don't care if Donald Trump allegedly defrauded persons who paid for Trump University seminars. And they don't give a damn what happened to Trump Steaks or Trump Vodka. After all, he's their "I'd like to punch him in the face" candidate.

Last week, Maureen Dowd told us that watching the Trump campaign is "wicked fun." Today, in a New York Times op-ed entitled "The Sultan and the Salad," Dowd tells us of a different kind of "wicked fun": Dinner with her friend Max Mutchnick "of 'Will & Grace' fame" and his husband, Erik Hyman, at "the Polo Lounge, the minky dining room and bar off the [Beverly Hills Hotel's] main lobby." Dowd writes:

"In 2014, Jeffrey Katzenberg, Jay Leno, Elton John, Ellen DeGeneres and others called for a boycott of the hotel after its owner, the sultan of Brunei, implemented Shariah law in his small oily kingdom in the South China Sea, making homosexuality and adultery punishable by stoning."

However, as Mutchnick, who chose the restaurant, explained to Dowd:

"'I was proud to stand with my community and boycott an institution that represented repression and exclusion. But now the foundation of my political correctness is starting to show cracks. I grappled with my inner voice: ‘Maybe fluffy pancakes and warm maple syrup are more important than gay rights.’ But in truth, something deeper was gnawing at me: If I’m going to shun this hotel, does that mean that anything I don’t actively boycott, I tacitly endorse? I loved the television show ‘Glee.’ Should I not have watched because it aired on Fox, a company that gives Roger Ailes the parking space closest to the front door?'"

Never having experienced "Glee," I suppose I just don't have an answer for Mr. Mutchnik. But given that Obama entered into an unsigned nuclear deal with the Islamic Republic of Iran, which stones to death women accused of adultery and hangs homosexuals, I suppose breaking boycotts - except the BDS movement against Israel - is very much in vogue.

Perhaps I'm just not a "fun" person, wicked or otherwise.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Gail Collins, "Trump Clarifies, and It’s Worse": Welcome Back the Brownshirts?

In yet another vacuous New York Times op-ed entitled "Trump Clarifies, and It’s Worse," Gail Collins concludes by referring to Donald Trump's decision in Miami to double down on his declaration that "Islam hates us":

"Imagine a president coming out with a statement like that. Rubio pointed to Muslim Americans serving in the military, and the Arab countries that were currently cooperating in the war on terror. 'Marco talks about consequences. Well, we’ve had a lot of consequences, including airplanes flying into the World Trade Center …,' rejoined Trump.

That’s it. He’s going all the way. Running for president on an anti-Muslim platform. Good God."

Actually, there's more to Trump's platform. He's also telling us that all of America's economic ills can be remedied by negotiating better deals. That, and it's perfectly okay to say, "I'd like to punch him in the face," which was followed by a supporter sucker punching a protester in the face and subsequently declaring "The next time we see him, we might have to kill him."

Trump's Chicago rally cancelled after fights erupted? Who would have ever imagined ...

Reminiscent of Hitler's Brownshirts terrorizing political opponents? Decide for yourself.

More to the point, when, if ever, does this nightmare end? In a must-read Washington Post opinion piece entitled "Are we finally reaching ‘peak Trump’?," George Will writes:

"'Peak Trump' — the apogee before the dwindling — might be approaching for the perhaps bogus billionaire (would a real one bother with fleecing those who matriculate at Trump University?) who purports to prove his business wizardry, colossal wealth and stupendous generosity not by releasing his tax returns but by displaying a pile of steaks. The eventual end of our long national embarrassment might be foreshadowed by Donald Trump’s pattern of doing better among early voters than among 'late deciders': He firmly has those he entranced early; others are more elusive.

. . . .

Mitt Romney’s denunciations and ridicules, reciprocating Trump’s, are not designed to dissuade Trump voters. It is axiomatic that you cannot reason a person out of a position that the person has not been reasoned into. The adhesive that binds Trumpkins to their messiah can be dissolved by neither facts nor eloquence. Romney and other defenders of Republican traditions are trying to prevent a stampede to Trump of 'Vichy Republicans,' collaborationists coming to terms with the occupation of their party."

So what could dissuade Republicans from making Trump their nominee? If they can't be persuaded by logic, might they ultimately be nauseated by the violence plaguing his campaign stops? Don't hold your breath. The Grand Old Party is beginning to look like the Angry White Man's Party, which is willing to steal defeat from the jaws of victory, if Hillary, also a narcissistic self-serving politician willing to trash the mother of a Benghazi victim, goes unindicted.

David Brooks, "Dogs, Cats and Leadership": Trump Is a Dog? My Dogs Take Offense.


Referring us to Jeffrey Goldberg's recent Atlantic article entitled "The Obama Doctrine," David Brooks writes in his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Dogs, Cats and Leadership":

"But it’s also fascinating to read in the midst of a presidential campaign. It shows how insanely far removed campaign bloviation is from the reality of actually governing. It also reveals that the performance of presidents, especially on foreign policy, is shaped by how leaders attach to problems. Some leaders are like dogs: They want to bound right in and make things happen. Some are more like cats: They want to detach and maybe look for a pressure point here or there.

. . . .

Personally, I don’t think there is one correct answer to whether we want a dog or a cat as leader. Depends on the situation; there are successful examples of both types. But I’m struck by how catlike Obama is. And it’s striking how many Americans have responded by going for Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders, who are bad versions of the bounding in/we-can-change-everything doggy type."

Well, I have just finished discussing Brooks's opinion piece with my two canine friends Arnold and Munchkin, and they were both offended by David's metaphor. "Heck," Arnold said to me, "Trump praised the Tiananmen Square massacre. Even Munchkin, who is little more than a puppy, is smarter than that."

I told Arnold that Trump had backtracked a bit last night during the Miami debate and had referred to Tiananmen Square as a "riot." "You see," Arnold replied, "he has the brains of a hamster."

Brooks's comparison of Obama with a cat? Munchkin had a few choice words: "Looking for a pressure point here or there? I don't think so. But backing away from a red line involving the use of chemical weapons by Assad was akin to drawing a line in a sand trap and then relieving yourself there instead." I didn't quite follow the analogy, but I cautioned Munchkin not to get vulgar.

Goldberg's article? Jeffrey writes:

"Obama believes that the Manichaeanism, and eloquently rendered bellicosity, commonly associated with Churchill were justified by Hitler’s rise, and were at times defensible in the struggle against the Soviet Union. But he also thinks rhetoric should be weaponized sparingly, if at all, in today’s more ambiguous and complicated international arena. The president believes that Churchillian rhetoric and, more to the point, Churchillian habits of thought, helped bring his predecessor, George W. Bush, to ruinous war in Iraq. Obama entered the White House bent on getting out of Iraq and Afghanistan; he was not seeking new dragons to slay."

Ted Cruz declared, "One of the very first acts President Obama did upon being elected was sending Churchill’s bust back to the UK, and I think that foreshadowed everything that was to come the next six years." Cruz may have been right.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Gail Collins, "Hillary! Bernie! Debate!": Hillary's Pompom Girl

Commenting upon Wednesday’s Democratic debate in a New York Times op-ed entitled "Hillary! Bernie! Debate!," Gail Collins dismisses Bernie Sanders:

"Nobody hates Bernie Sanders. But he’s a maverick legislator, a man without a party. That’s a way, way different kind of life than being the person who has to run the country."

She then absolves Hillary from all her sins:

"Clinton is a stupendous debater, and she’s developed smooth and sensible-sounding answers to sticky matters like the State Department emails and Benghazi. But she still hasn’t been able to handle Sanders’s attacks on her $225,000 speeches to finance industry insiders. She shrugs and says she’ll release the transcripts when 'everybody else does,' which generally involves mentioning that President Obama 'took a lot of money from Wall Street.'

'I don’t have any comment,' she said when she was questioned earlier in the week about campaign donations. 'I don’t know that. I don’t believe that there is any reason to be concerned about it.'

This is the stuff that makes Democrats want to send a message. Hillary Clinton is by far the best qualified candidate for president. But at this point in the campaign, you can understand why some people feel that voting for her against Bernie Sanders is like rewarding Washington for its worst behavior."

Got it: As observed by Marc Thiessen in a January 25, 2016 Washington Post opinion piece entitled "Clinton’s email excuses are falling apart," changing her explanation regarding the emails from "there was 'no classified material' on her private server" to "none of the intelligence on her server was 'classified at the time'" to "there was no information that was 'marked classified'" was smooth as silk.

And telling the parents of the Benghazi victims that the attack resulted from a silly video was even more "sensible-sounding."

Collins concludes:

"In the end, Clinton is the one who knows how to make the system work. But she’s just got to be clearer on how she can work against the system."

Indeed, Hillary knows how to make the system work . . . for herself (the Clintons' combined net worth is some $111 million). She is almost as disgusting as Donald Trump.

Siemens Signs $3.5 Billion Deal With Iran as Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps Conducts New Ballistic Missile Tests Threatening Israel

As reported by Iran's Fars News Agency in an article entitled "Iran Fires 2 Ballistic Missiles at Targets 1400km in Distance," the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps today test-fired two additional ballistic missiles in violation of UN Security Council resolutions (my emphasis in red):

"The Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) on Wednesday fired 2 home-made 'Qadr H' ballistic missiles from the Eastern Alborz Mountains at a target in Iran's Southeastern Makran seashore some 1400km away.

The missiles were fired on the sidelines of the main stage of the ongoing IRGC drills in Central Iran and various parts of the country.

One missile had a message written on it that said in Hebrew: "Israel should be wiped off the Earth".

Qadr is a 2000km-range, liquid-fuel and ballistic missile which can reach territories as far as Israel.

The missile can carry different types of ‘Blast’ and ‘MRV’ (Multiple Reentry Vehicle) payloads to destroy a range of targets. The new version of Qadr H can be launched from mobile platforms or silos in different positions and can escape missile defense shields due to their radar-evading capability.

A Multiple Reentry Vehicle payload for a ballistic missile deploys multiple warheads in a pattern against a single target. (As opposed to Multiple independently targetable reentry vehicle, which deploys multiple warheads against multiple targets.) The advantage of an MRV over a single warhead is that the damage produced in the center of the pattern is far greater than the damage possible from any single warhead in the MRV cluster, this makes for an efficient area attack weapon. Also, the sheer number of Warheads make interception by Anti-ballistic missiles unlikely.

Improved warhead designs allow smaller warheads for a given yield, while better electronics and guidance systems allowed greater accuracy. As a result MIRV technology has proven more attractive than MRV for advanced nations. Because of the larger amount of nuclear material consumed by MRVs and MIRVs, single warhead missiles are more attractive for nations with less advanced technology. The United States deployed an MRV payload on the Polaris A-3. The Soviet Union deployed MRVs on the SS-9 Mod 4 ICBM.

The IRGC began the main stage of its ballistic missile exercises on Tuesday."

And Obama responding by declaring . . . ?

On the other hand, Joe Biden, who is currently visiting Israel and reconsidering a run for the presidency after Hillary's embarrassing loss to Bernie in the Michigan primary, stated, "I want to reiterate, as I know people still doubt, if in fact they break the [nuclear] deal, we will act." Yup, seeing is believing.

Meanwhile, as reported in a separate Fars news item, "The Iranian industrial group MAPNA and the German equipment manufacturer, Siemens, signed a contract worth $3.5bln, a trade official announced on Wednesday." Siemens, of course, made extensive use of Jewish slave labor during World War II, but that was ages ago, and why should ongoing Iranian threats to eradicate Israel now trouble the consciences of Siemen's top management? Disgusting.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Thomas Friedman, "Only Trump Can Trump Trump": What About Hillary in Michigan?

In a New York Times op-ed entitled "Only Trump Can Trump Trump," Thomas Friedman tells us that the rise of Trump is all about the "gut feeling" of the Republican rank and file, and about "sticking it to all the people who exploited their pain but left them behind, particularly traditional Republican elites." Friedman writes:

"Those G.O.P. elites sold their own souls and their party so many times to charlatans and plutocrats that you wonder when it’s going to show up on closeout on eBay: 'For sale: The G.O.P. soul. Almost empty. This soul was previously sold to Sarah Palin, the Tea Party anarchists, Rush Limbaugh, Grover Norquist, the gun lobby, the oil industry, the Koch brothers, Sheldon Adelson and Fox News. Will bargain. No offer too low.'"

Okay, but what about Hillary and Wall Street? Is it so different? There's a reason she is not willing to release those transcripts, which is why Sanders won in Michigan.

Marco Rubio took a lot of flack for rolling in the gutter with Trump, but quite honestly, perhaps the only way to stop this narcissist is to elicit an onstage meltdown. Have him talking about his short fingers again. Cause him to show how consumed he is with himself. Let the drool dribble from the corners of his mouth.

But let's be honest: If Rubio can't win in Florida, and Kasich can't win in Ohio, it's all over, and to stop Trump in Florida and Ohio, it's going to mandate a deal involving Cruz, Rubio and Kasich - something, given their own egos, they're probably incapable of doing.

David Brooks, "It’s Not Too Late!": You Should Be Scared. Very Scared.

"I’ve never done this before. Can I have a pledge? A swearing? Raise your right hand. I do solemnly swear that I, no matter how I feel, no matter what the conditions, if there's hurricanes or whatever - that's good enough - will vote on or before the 12th for Donald J. Trump for president."

- Donald Trump, rally, Orlando, Florida, March 5, 2016

"I swear: I will be faithful and obedient to the leader of the German empire and people, Adolf Hitler, to observe the law, and to conscientiously fulfil my official duties, so help me God!"

- Nazi Germany civil servant oath, 1934-1945

Yes, you should be scared. Very scared. But not only by Trump.

In an editorial entitled "Democracy’s Disintegration in Turkey," The New York Times would have us know:

"If there was any doubt about why the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan seized the newspaper Zaman last week, consider this: Within 48 hours after the takeover, the paper began publishing pro-Erdogan propaganda.

. . . .

This crackdown is merely the latest of Mr. Erdogan’s increasingly authoritarian moves, which have included imprisoning critics, sidelining the military and reigniting war on Kurdish separatists. He now controls much of the media and has made Turkey a leader among countries that jail journalists. Along with his campaign to wipe out a free press, his government’s prosecutors have opened nearly 2,000 cases against Turks in the last 18 months for insulting Mr. Erdogan, which is a crime.

. . . .

It is unsettling that the United States and Europe have responded so meekly to Mr. Erdogan’s trampling of a free press. The Obama administration said the move against Zaman was 'troubling.' "

"Unsettling"? "Troubling"? It goes without saying that the Times fails to mention how Obama named Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan as one of his best overseas friends in 2012.

And then there was the news out of Oberlin College. As reported by Perry Chiaramontein in a Fox News article entitled "Oberlin trustees fire back at school, crackpot prof":

"Trustees and alumni at a prestigious Ohio college are turning up the heat on the school administration, which has so far taken no action against a nutty professor who believes Jews were behind 9/11 and the Charlie Hebdo terror attack in France.

The Board of Trustees at Oberlin College demanded answers in a statement posted on the school's own website, with Chairman Clyde McGregor blasting 'rhetoric and composition' Professor Joy Karega for anti-Semitic online postings.

'These postings are anti-Semitic and abhorrent,' McGregor said in the statement. 'We deplore anti-Semitism and all other forms of bigotry. They have no place at Oberlin."

Oberlin's president, Marvin Krislov, had previously defended Karega's right to publish such trash:

"I am a practicing Jew, grandson of an Orthodox rabbi. Members of our family were murdered in the Holocaust. As someone who has studied history, I cannot comprehend how any person could or would question its existence, its horrors, and the evil which caused it. I feel the same way about anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. Regardless of the reason for spreading these materials, they cause pain for many people—members of our community and beyond.

I am also the son of a tenured faculty member at a large research university. My father instilled in me a strong belief in academic freedom. I believe, as the American Association of University Professors says, that academic freedom is 'the indispensable quality of institutions of higher education' because it encourages free inquiry, promotes the expansion of knowledge, and creates an environment in which learning and research can flourish."

You see, bigotry, at least against Jews, allows learning and research to flourish. How very "progressive" of you, Krislov! However, even Roger (Iran is "not totalitarian") Cohen yesterday acknowledged in a Times op-ed entitled "An Anti-Semitism of the Left" that "nothing can justify the odious 'anti-Semitic anti-Zionism' . . . seeping into British and American campuses."

All of which brings me to David Brooks's latest New York Times op-ed entitled "It’s Not Too Late!" Praying for a "Marco Rubio miracle in Florida" and asking that the field be cleared for John Kasich in Ohio, Brooks writes:

"If the G.O.P. is going to survive as a decent and viable national party, it can’t cling to the fading orthodoxy Cruz represents. But it can’t shift to ugly Trumpian nationalism, either. It has to find a third alternative: limited but energetic use of government to expand mobility and widen openness and opportunity. That is what Kasich, Rubio, Paul Ryan and others are stumbling toward."

But can Rubio and Kasich behave like big boys and strike a deal? I doubt it.

The situation is grim, but not only on the right, and those in the center are being squeezed like never before. Does it remind you of the Weimar Republic before Hitler came to power? It darn well should.