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Saturday, April 30, 2016

Maureen Dowd, "Donald the Dove, Hillary the Hawk": Trashing American Exceptionalism

Maureen Dowd begins her latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Donald the Dove, Hillary the Hawk" by observing:

"IT seems odd, in this era of gender fluidity, that we are headed toward the most stark X versus Y battle since Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs."

An X versus Y battle? I don't think so. As far as I'm concerned, neither Donald nor Hillary is a human being. I am praying for a brokered convention and/or an indictment, but the truth of the matter is that you don't always get what you want. And you don't even get what you need.

C'est tout.

Friday, April 29, 2016

David Brooks, "If Not Trump, What?": Meet the Neighbors? Be Real!

"If you gaze long into an abyss, the abyss also gazes into you."

- Friedrich Nietzsche

Informing us in his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "If Not Trump, What?" that Donald "looks set to be the Republican presidential nominee," David Brooks would have us know that this phenomenon "has reminded us how much pain there is in this country." Observing that Trump is not the "right response" to this pain, Brooks concludes his opinion piece by suggesting:

"Trump will have his gruesome moment. The time is best spent elsewhere, meeting the neighbors who have become strangers, and listening to what they have to say."

Listen to what my neighbor has to say? The one who built the outhouse for his foreign laborers opposite my front door? I don't think so.

More to the point, Trump and Hillary comprise only a small portion of my pain, which is not limited to American politics. There's also the anti-Semitism emerging from the closet of Jeremy Corbyn's Labour Party. And let's not forget Obama's appeasement of Iran, which continues with its apocalyptic ballistic missile program, in open collaboration with North Korea, without opposition from the High Priest of Hope and Change.

Indeed, what does one do with this despair? In my case, I just returned from a chamber music concert given by young musicians at a nearby museum. There's also the spring promise of my vegetable garden; my dogs who know no pessimism; a screenplay in the works which keeps me distracted; and the three companies with which I work, all striving to revolutionize the fields of medicine and medical devices.

Yes, there is still "good" in this world, but forgive me if I retreat inward and attempt to recoup my faith in humanity.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

New York Times Editorial, "A Risky American Expansion in Syria": Obama's Dirty Little Secret

In an editorial entitled "A Risky American Expansion in Syria," The New York Times says of Obama's decision to send 250 more US soldiers to Syria, in addition to the existing 50 "Special Operations" forces currently deployed in a country that no longer exists:

"While American forces will not be leading the ground war in Syria, they will be involved in military operations and working without proper authorization from Congress. Unlike the American troops in Iraq, which are fighting the Islamic State at the request of the Iraqi government, the troops in Syria will be operating in another sovereign nation with no clear legal right."

But what the geniuses at the Times fail to observe is that these troops will primarily be assisting the Kurds, and were the Turks to hear of this dirty little secret (Remember, you didn't hear it from me!), Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan might cease to be one of Obama's best overseas friends.

Now imagine what happens if American troops are killed by ongoing Turkish shelling of Kurdish forces in Syria.

But wait! Just how stupid is this editorial? The Times editorial board goes on to say:

"It has long been obvious that the best way to defeat the Islamic State lies in ending the Syrian civil war between President Bashar al-Assad and opposition forces so that all sides can focus on the terrorists, which Mr. Obama told the Europeans is 'the most urgent threat to our nations.'"

Got it: Assad is not a terrorist, notwithstanding his use of chemical weapons and barrel bombs against Syrian civilians.

Yup, The New York Times is wearing its imbecility on its sleeve.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Paul Krugman, "The 8 A.M. Call": Hillary Is an Economic Genius!

In a New York Times op-ed entitled "The 8 A.M. Call," Paul Krugman informs us that "[b]arring the political equivalent of a meteor strike" (Is an FBI recommendation to indict Hillary the equivalent of a meteor strike?), Hillary will be the Democratic candidate, and she will run against either Trump or Cruz. Krugman says of each of these potential candidates (my emphasis in red):

  • Clinton: "Mrs. Clinton isn’t just the most knowledgeable, well-informed candidate in this election, she’s arguably the best-prepared candidate on matters economic ever to run for president."
  • Trump: "I doubt that anyone will be shocked if I say that Mr. Trump doesn’t know much about economic policy, or for that matter any kind of policy. He still seems to imagine, for example, that China is taking advantage of America by keeping its currency weak — which was true once upon a time, but bears no resemblance to current reality."
  • Cruz: "He chose, as his senior economic adviser, Phil Gramm — an architect of financial deregulation who helped set the stage for the 2008 crisis, then dismissed warnings of recession when that crisis came, calling America a 'nation of whiners.' Mr. Cruz is, in other words, a man of firm economic convictions — convictions that are utterly divorced from reality and impervious to evidence, to a degree that’s unusual even among Republicans.

Got it: Only Republicans are given to fanciful economic thinking. However, it was none other than Krugman who wrote in an October 6, 2011 New York Times op-ed entitled "Confronting the Malefactors":

"Occupy Wall Street is starting to look like an important event that might even eventually be seen as a turning point.

. . . .

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."

And then there was Krugman's trillion dollar coin proposal, which even Jon Stewart labeled a "stupid f#cking idea."

Or stated otherwise, there are those who might justifiably question Krugman's grip on economic reality.

But maybe Paul is correct in his claim that Hillary is the "best-prepared candidate on matters economic ever to run for president." After all, she has proven extraordinarily adept over the past few years at milking the system for millions of dollars by lecturing to multinational corporations anxious to gain the benefit of her economic acumen. (Of course, there was no possibility that her lectures amounted to one big influence peddling scheme.) And then there was the "expertise" she displayed by turning a $1,000 investment in commodities futures into a gain of nearly $100,000 within 10 months. (Here, too, there was no chance of foul play.) Hillary's just one heck of an economic wizard.

Cruz's economic adviser, Phil Gramm, helped set the stage for the 2008 crisis? Oh really? And all this while I thought that it was President Bill Clinton who repealed Glass-Steagall, thereby setting the stage for the 2008 economic debacle.

And so it goes: On Sunday, we were told by New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof that Hillary doesn't lie much given the records of other politicians, and today we have Paul Krugman telling us that Hillary is an economic genius. Spare me!

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Nicholas Kristof, "Is Hillary Clinton Dishonest?": Do You Need to Vomit?

You ate something unsavory and you need to vomit? Well, there is no need to stick a finger down your throat. Instead, you can read Nicholas Kristof's latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Is Hillary Clinton Dishonest?" in order to achieve the same emetic effect. In his opinion piece, Kristof informs us (my emphasis in red):

"One basic test of a politician’s honesty is whether that person tells the truth when on the campaign trail, and by that standard Clinton does well. PolitiFact, the Pulitzer Prize-winning fact-checking site, calculates that of the Clinton statements it has examined, 50 percent are either true or mostly true.

That compares to 49 percent for Bernie Sanders’s, 9 percent for Trump’s, 22 percent for Ted Cruz’s and 52 percent for John Kasich’s. Here we have a rare metric of integrity among candidates, and it suggests that contrary to popular impressions, Clinton is relatively honest — by politician standards."

How reassuring! Half of what Hillary tells us is true or mostly true! Needless to say, there is no mention by Kristof of Ed Morrissey's Fox Nation article entitled "Hillary Fired for Lies, Unethical Behavior from Congressional Job: Former Boss" from which we learned (my emphasis in red):

"Jerry Zeifman, a lifelong Democrat, supervised the work of 27-year-old Hillary Rodham on the [House Judiciary Committee which was investigating Watergate]. Hillary got a job working on the investigation at the behest of her former law professor, Burke Marshall, who was also Sen. Ted Kennedy’s chief counsel in the Chappaquiddick affair. When the investigation was over, Zeifman fired Hillary from the committee staff and refused to give her a letter of recommendation – one of only three people who earned that dubious distinction in Zeifman’s 17-year career.


'Because she was a liar,' Zeifman said in an interview last week. 'She was an unethical, dishonest lawyer. She conspired to violate the Constitution, the rules of the House, the rules of the committee and the rules of confidentiality.'"

A liar who "conspired to violate the Constitution"? That sounds kind of serious.

Kristof goes on to say:

"As for the fundamental question of whether Clinton risked American national security with her email server, I suspect the problem has been exaggerated. As President Obama put it, 'she has not jeopardized America’s national security.'"

And we all know that Obama never lies. What difference does it make that PolitiFact (cited by Kristof above) named "If you like your health care plan, you can keep it" the Lie of the Year for 2013. But more to the point, as observed by Myra Adams in a National Review article entitled "The Clinton E-mail Case Transcends Hillary’s Presidential Campaign":

"'I continue to believe that she has not jeopardized America’s national security,' Obama said recently on Fox News Sunday. However, Obama added, 'what I’ve also said is that — and she has acknowledged — that there’s a carelessness, in terms of managing e-mails, that she has owned, and she recognizes.' This leaves one to wonder whether 'carelessness' will become a new defense to be invoked when an elected official, intelligence-community member, government bureaucrat, contractor, or someone in the military is accused of mishandling classified information.

Obama neglected to add that Clinton’s 'carelessness' included 22 e-mails with the highest level of classification found on her private server. Worse, as the New York Post reported, these e-mails 'revealed names of CIA officers serving overseas and foreigners who are on the spy agency’s payroll – potentially endangering their lives.' Moreover, and with lasting consequences, President Obama in defending Clinton has set the bar very high for determining whether classified information 'jeopardizes America’s national security.'"

Yup, Kristof has outdone himself this time, surpassing even his classic, vomit inducing opinion piece entitled "In Iran, They Want Fun, Fun, Fun." Attaboy, Nick!

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Roger Cohen, "Bernie’s Israel Heresy": More Horse Manure From the Master

In a New York Times op-ed entitled "Bernie’s Israel Heresy," Roger (Iran is "not totalitarian") Cohen praises Bernie Sanders for his criticism of Israel during his recent debate with Hillary Clinton in Brooklyn. Cohen writes:

"In New York, no less, days before a primary, a candidate for the Democratic Party presidential nomination declares that Israel used 'disproportionate' force in Gaza in 2014, that 'we are going to have to treat the Palestinian people with respect and dignity,' that the United States has to play 'an evenhanded role' and that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel 'is not right all the time.'

Wow! Sensation! Hold the presses!."

Yup, the US needs to be more evenhanded, particularly as the Palestinians continue to fire rockets at Israeli towns and cities; continue to stab Israeli civilians, particularly women; and continue to blow up Israeli buses transporting civilians.

Moreover, the  US must treat Palestinians "with respect and dignity" as Palestinians engage in "honor killings" against their sisters and daughters, and oppress homosexuals, who flee to Israel for safety. And then there is the small matter of Palestinian Authority President Abbas,  now in the twelfth year of a four-year term of office. Correct me if I am wrong, but it appears that it is the Palestinians who need to be treating Palestinians "with respect and dignity."

Sanders's claim that the Israeli response to the more than 4,000 Hamas missiles fired at Israeli towns and cities in 2014 was "disproportionate"? Perhaps Bernie would care to explain how many missiles the US should fire back at Iran, if a single Iranian ballistic missile hits New York. Should it be tit for tat, i.e. one ballistic missile for one ballistic missile?

Cohen goes on to tell us in this gem of an opinion piece, "In most of the rest of the world, Sanders’s position would be uncontroversial." How reassuring! But isn't this the same world that turned away Jews seeking refuge before and during World War II, notwithstanding Hitler's abominations?

Cohen denounces "continued expansion of Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank." However, Cohen forgets to mention that Israeli settlements are built on less than two percent of the total territory of the West Bank, and that it has been agreed that most of these settlements will belong to Israel as part of any peace deal which will inevitably involve land swaps. More important, Cohen makes certain not to let his readers know that Netanyahu declared a 10-month settlement freeze in 2009 "to restart peace talks" at the request of Obama; however, Abbas delayed entering negotiations until the last moment and then walked away from the discussions. Yes, it's hard to negotiate peace when someone is not willing to talk peace with you.

And then there's Cohen recital of Netanyahu's "relentless attempt (even in extremis) to stop the Iran nuclear deal." Ah yes, that wonderful unsigned deal, which has allowed Iran to engage freely in ballistic missile tests. The deal purportedly extends Iran's nuclear "breakout time" from three months to one year (What a difference those nine months make . . . not!), but does not prevent Iran from perfecting its nuclear weapon delivery capabilities.

Yes, the ignorance (if only that) of Cohen and Sanders is sickening.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Paul Krugman, "Robber Baron Recessions": Ronald Reagan Is to Blame?

In a New York Times op-ed entitled "Robber Baron Recessions," Paul Krugman addresses the recent strike of Verizon workers and informs us  that "growing monopoly power is a big problem for the U.S. economy." Krugman proceeds to conclude that "we aren’t just living in a second Gilded Age, we’re also living in a second robber baron era." And who, according to Krugman, is to blame for the lack of competition? Ronald Reagan and the Republicans, of course. Krugman's explanation:

"For Reagan didn’t just cut taxes and deregulate banks; his administration also turned sharply away from the longstanding U.S. tradition of reining in companies that become too dominant in their industries. A new doctrine, emphasizing the supposed efficiency gains from corporate consolidation, led to what those who have studied the issue often describe as the virtual end of antitrust enforcement.

True, there was a limited revival of anti-monopoly efforts during the Clinton years, but these went away again under George W. Bush. The result was an economy with far too much concentration of economic power. And the Obama administration — preoccupied with the aftermath of financial crisis and the struggle with bitterly hostile Republicans — has only recently been in a position to grapple with competition policy."

Wrong. With regard to consolidation within the financial industry, for example, it was none other than Bill Clinton who was responsible for the repeal of Glass-Steagall, which in turn gave rise to giant financial institutions, whose rapacity ultimately threatened the collapse of the global economy.

And to whom did Hillary provide a speech in May 2013 for the sum of $225,000? None other than  Verizon. This seemingly relevant information is absent from Krugman's opinion piece.

And does Krugman mention the donation of Verizon to the Clinton Foundation in an amount between $100,001 and $250,000? Not a chance.

Let there be no mistake: I am a strong advocate of corporate competition, but pin all of the blame on Ronald Reagan and the Republicans? Get real!

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Maureen Dowd, "Hillary Is Not Sorry": Shedding Crocodile Tears Over Hillary's Sputtering Campaign

Beginning her latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Hillary Is Not Sorry" by observing "It’s hard not to feel sorry for Hillary Clinton," Dowd goes on to say:

"She has shown an unwillingness to be introspective and learn from her mistakes. From health care to Iraq to the email server, she only apologizes at the point of a gun. And even then, she leaves the impression that she is merely sorry to be facing criticism, not that she miscalculated in the first place."

Maureen feels sorry for Hillary? Yeah, right.

Concerning the debate in Brooklyn, Dowd tells us that "Clinton sowed suspicion again, refusing to cough up her Wall Street speech transcripts." More to the point, now that Sanders has made public his 2014 tax return (he and his wife made less in all of 2014 than what Hillary received for a single hour-long speech) and given that he will presumably release his 2015 return in the coming days, it becomes increasingly difficult for Hillary not to provide us with the transcripts.

As Seth Abramson observes in an insightful Huffington Post "The Blog" item entitled "Release of Clinton’s Wall Street Speeches Could End Her Candidacy for President":

"Release of the transcripts would therefore, it appears, have three immediate — and possibly fatal — consequences for Clinton’s presidential campaign:

  1. It would reveal that Clinton lied about the content of the speeches at a time when she suspected she would never have to release them, nor that their content would ever be known to voters.
  2. It would reveal that the massive campaign and super-PAC contributions Clinton has received from Wall Street did indeed, as Sanders has alleged, influence her ability to get tough on Wall Street malfeasance either in Congress or behind closed doors.
  3. It would reveal that Clinton’s policy positions on — for instance — breaking up 'too-big-to-fail' banks are almost certainly insincere, as they have been trotted out merely for the purposes of a presidential campaign.

. . . .

Coupled with the many states remaining that Senator Sanders is expected to win, this could leave Clinton in a situation in which she loses 22 of the final 25 states — enough of a collapse for unpledged super-delegates to abandon her in large numbers at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia."

Joe, where are you when we need you?

Dowd also declares in her opinion piece:

"But [Sanders] was gutsy, in a New York primary, to say he’d be more evenhanded with Israel and the Palestinians."

Yup, the US needs to be more evenhanded, particularly as the Palestinians continue to fire rockets at Israeli towns and cities; continue to stab Israeli civilians, particularly women; continue to engage in "honor killings" against their sisters and daughters; and overwhelmingly believe (89 percent) that homosexuality is "morally wrong." "Gutsy"? How about "obscene"?

Sanders's claim that the Israeli response to the more than 4,000 Hamas missiles fired at Israeli towns and cities in 2014 was "disproportionate"? Perhaps Bernie would care to explain how many missiles the US should fire back at Iran, if a single Iranian ballistic missile hits New York. After all, he wouldn't want the US response to be "disproportionate."

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

David Brooks, "How to Fix Politics": A Voice of Reason From Planet Zog

Observing that we are in the middle of a "depressing presidential campaign" and noting that "Trump voters don’t seem to realize how unelectable their man is because they hang out with people like themselves," David Brooks proposes a solution in his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "How to Fix Politics." Brooks writes:

"If we’re going to salvage our politics, we probably have to shrink politics, and nurture the thick local membership web that politics rests within. We probably have to scale back the culture of autonomy that was appropriate for the 1960s but that has since gone too far."

Fascinating. Now we know what will wean Republicans away from Trump, who, if nominated, is going to be "schlonged."

All that remains is to explain to those same Trump supporters "the thick local membership web that politics rests within" and America's exaggerated "culture of autonomy."

Good luck!

Monday, April 11, 2016

Lara Friedman, "Israel’s Unsung Protector: Obama": With Friends Like Lara, Who Needs Enemies?

"Only the daring of the Jews founded this country and not some Um-Shmum [stupid UN] resolution."

- David Ben-Gurion on the establishment of the State of Israel, March 29, 1955

With the Jewish holiday of Passover, a festival of freedom from slavery, just around the corner, The New York Times has "graced" us with a guest op-ed entitled "Israel’s Unsung Protector: Obama" by Lara Friedman. Friedman, the director of policy and government relations for Americans for Peace Now, would have us know that President Obama has "completely shielded" Israel from UN Security Council resolutions "specifically critical of Israel." Friedman's conclusion:

"The two-state solution is the only path to preserving Israel’s security and its character as a Jewish state and a democracy, while delivering freedom, dignity and sovereignty to the Palestinians. We can hope that President Obama may now recognize that preserving this solution for the future is the most important legacy he can leave in this arena. But to accomplish that, he must be willing to resist, rather than court, the anti-peace bullies in Israel and the United States; he must be willing to stand up for American interests in obtaining a Middle East peace, and to stand with America’s allies in the Security Council in supporting a two-state solution.

If he does that, President Obama will not be betraying Israel. He will be Israel’s true friend. And he will walk in the footsteps of all eight other presidents since 1967, Democrat and Republican alike."

Guess what? I also support a two-state solution, but what doesn't Friedman tell us? Back in 2008, Palestinian Authority President Abbas refused Israeli Prime Minister Olmert's peace offer, providing the Palestinians with an independent state along the 1967 lines together with agreed upon land swaps and Palestinian control of east Jerusalem. One year later, after Netanyahu declared a 10-month settlement freeze "to restart peace talks" at the request of Obama, Abbas delayed entering negotiations until the last moment and then walked away from the discussions.

Apparently unbeknownst to Friedman, it is hard to make peace with someone who doesn't want to make peace.

Obama has protected Israel from the United Nations? Perhaps Friedman would do well to read Yair Rosenberg's November 15, 2013 Tablet article entitled "Caught on Tape, a U.N. Interpreter Wonders Aloud at its Israel Bashing," which noted:

"Yesterday was 'bash Israel' day at the United Nations–which is to say, Thursday. The U.N. General Assembly, which last year passed 22 resolutions condemning Israel and only four against other individual countries, approved nine such resolutions lambasting the Jewish state. Naturally, it had nothing to say about violations in the rest of the world, though it did manage to lament the situation in Syria–that is, Israel’s occupation of the Golan Heights.

You don’t have to be a Zionist or a supporter of Israeli policy to recognize the profound injustice at work in the U.N.’s treatment of the Jewish state. In fact, as it turns out, even an official U.N. interpreter would be hard pressed not to notice it. Thus, during yesterday’s session, between the sixth and seventh resolution against Israel, the interpreter on the floor expressed her mystification with the body’s obsession with Israel at the expense of other global concerns, not realizing her microphone was still on:

I mean, I think when you have five statements, not five, like a total of ten resolutions on Israel and Palestine, there’s gotta be something, c’est un peu trop, non? [It’s a bit much, no?] I mean I know… There’s other really bad shit happening, but no one says anything, about the other stuff.

As you can see in the video below, the remark was greeted by laughter among the assembled delegates, after which the mortified interpreter apologized. The proceedings then continued, with Mauritania asking to retroactively add its voice to the sixth resolution condemning Israel’s human rights abuses. Mauritania, of course, boasts nearly a million people in chattel slavery. It is also the vice president of the U.N. Human Rights Council."

The UN Human Rights Council? Throughout its illustrious history, it has condemned Israel more times than all other countries combined.

Indeed, Um-Shmum.

But more to the point, what about Friedman's claim that Obama is Israel's "protector"? Friedman forgets to mention how, at the height of Israel's 2014 war with Hamas, which was busy firing missiles at Israel's towns and cities, Obama blocked arms shipments to Israel. Friedman also forgets how Obama attempted to force Israel to accept Turkey and Qatar, countries implacably hostile to Israel, as arbiters of that same conflict with Hamas. At the time, Obama remarked: "I trust Qatar and Turkey. Israel is not in the position that it can choose its mediators." Yup, Obama was one heckuva "protector."

More recently, as part of his unsigned nuclear deal with Iran, Obama bargained away the language prohibiting Iran from conducting ballistic missile tests. As a consequence, Iran has conducted ballistic missile tests in October, November and March, and one of the two missiles fired last month had "Israel should be wiped off the Earth" written on it. What did Obama do about this? Effectively nothing. After all, this narcissistic president's foreign policy "legacy" is at stake.

In short, with friends like Lara Friedman (and "protectors" like Obama), who needs enemies?

Sunday, April 10, 2016

President Obama, I Beg You, No Passover Seder This Year!

The Jewish holiday of Passover, a festival of freedom from slavery, is just around the corner, and President Obama has made it a White House custom to conduct a White House "Seder," i.e. ceremonial Passover dinner, since 2008.

During a Seder, the participants traditionally ask, "Why is this night different from all other nights?" Well, this time around, things are indeed different.

In 2015, Obama entered into an unsigned nuclear deal with Iran, which purportedly increased Iran's "breakout time" for nuclear weapons from three months to all of one year. In exchange for these additional nine months, Obama lifted economic sanctions against Iran and freed up more than $100 billion of Iranian funds, which, according to none other than Secretary of State Kerry, will be used to support terrorism.

But wait, there's more . . .

In order to enter the unsigned nuclear deal, Obama bargained away the language prohibiting Iran from conducting ballistic missile tests. As a consequence, Iran has conducted ballistic missile tests in October, November and March, and one of the two missiles fired last month had "Israel should be wiped off the Earth" written on it. What did Obama do about this? Effectively nothing.

Meanwhile, as reported by Iran's Fars News Agency, Iranian Defense Minister Brigadier General Hossein Dehqan announced last week at a ceremony to inaugurate a plant which will produce Octogen:

"Concurrently with its efforts to increase the precision-striking power of its weapons systems, the defense ministry has also paid attention to boosting the destructive and penetration power of different weapons' warheads and has put on its agenda the acquisition of the technical know-how to produce Octogen explosive materials and Octogen-based weapons."

Dehqan failed to mention that Octogen is used for nuclear detonators. Obama's response? Nada.

And then we had John Kerry telling us last week that Iran "absolutely" deserved access to US dollars, notwithstanding all of the above.

Among other things, what are these dollars going to be used for? The answer from Iran: top-of-the-line Russian Sukhoi-30 fighter jets and T-90 tanks.

Knowingly or not, President Obama, you have done more than any other US president to jeopardize the existence of Israel, and I respectfully ask that this year you do not conduct a White House Seder, which would be offensive and amount to rank hypocrisy.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Gail Collins, "Hillary and Bernie Meet New York": Truth Not Be Told

In a New York Times op-ed entitled "Hillary and Bernie Meet New York," Gail Collins pokes fun at Bernie Sander's claim that Hillary is not "qualified" to be president:

"Lately, Bernie Sanders seems to have been acting a little … off. There was the terrible interview with The Daily News. ('I don’t know … It’s something I have not studied … I haven’t thought about it a whole lot.') Then there was the strange series of claims that Clinton is not qualified to be president, the most improbable description he could pick short of 'lazy.'"

I'm no fan of Sanders, but I don't lackadaisically dismiss his rationale, including: receipt by Hillary of millions of dollars in donations from special interest groups, her support of the Second Gulf War, and her support of the Panama Free Trade Agreement.

And then there's Hillary's history of scandals, which goes unmentioned by Sanders and Collins.

The FBI investigation of her private email server? Hillary is now calling this a mere "security review."

Honesty from either Hillary or Gail? Don't be expecting it anytime soon.

Friday, April 8, 2016

David Brooks, "The Lincoln Caucus": Is the Kasich Candidacy As Dumb As It Seems?

Dissatisfied with the Trump and Cruz presidential candidacies and anticipating a brokered Republican convention, David Brooks calls for a "caucus made up of delegates who are not happy with the choices currently before them" in his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "The Lincoln Caucus." Brooks writes:

"First, the Lincoln Caucus would work with the rules committee to get rid of any party bylaws that inhibit delegate flexibility at the convention. Second, it would tell the Trump and Cruz campaigns this: After the second ballot, we will entertain offers for our support. You may offer us policy pledges, personnel positions or anything you think will win our favor."

Policy pledges, personnel positions or anything to win over these delegates? Heck, Trump and Cruz can promise them anything, but unless either of these gentlemen (in the case of Trump, I use the word loosely) is elected, these promises will be worthless.

More to the point, if Trump is the candidate, he is going to be "schlonged."

Remarkably, the only Republican candidate who currently emerges victorious over both Clinton and Sanders in recent polls is John Kasich.

Maybe the hapless John Kasich candidacy - he has only won his home state primary - is not as dumb as it seems.

Paul Krugman, "Sanders Over the Edge": Krugman Sinks into a Chasm of Hypocrisy

In a New York Times op-ed entitled "Sanders Over the Edge," Paul Krugman criticizes Bernie Sanders's hostility to big banks. Krugman writes:

"The easy slogan here is 'Break up the big banks.' It’s obvious why this slogan is appealing from a political point of view: Wall Street supplies an excellent cast of villains. But were big banks really at the heart of the financial crisis, and would breaking them up protect us from future crises?

Many analysts concluded years ago that the answers to both questions were no. Predatory lending was largely carried out by smaller, non-Wall Street institutions like Countrywide Financial; the crisis itself was centered not on big banks but on 'shadow banks' like Lehman Brothers that weren’t necessarily that big."

Wrong. As observed by Ron Hera in a May 11, 2010 Business Insider article entitled "Forget About Housing, The The Real Cause Of The Crisis Was OTC Derivatives" (my emphasis in red):

"The global financial crisis that began in 2008 has been attributed to sub-prime mortgage lending and mortgage backed securities (MBSs), such as collateralized debt obligations (CDOs), which were revealed as toxic assets. While the root cause of the financial crisis is assumed to have been the residential real estate asset price bubble, the underlying systemic risk, and the primary reason for the 'too big to fail' doctrine whereby governments were compelled to save financial institutions at any cost, lies in over the counter (OTC) derivatives. The suspension of the US Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) mark-to-market rule in 2009 preserved the value of bank balance sheets, i.e., of their mortgage portfolios, but what was of far greater importance was that it prevented triggering the conditions of thousands of OTC derivatives contracts, such as credit default swaps (CDS), that would have wiped out virtually all of the largest banking institutions in the world.

. . . .

In August 2007, central banks took emergency action to head off a global credit crisis, but their efforts were in vein. By June 2008, the notional value of OTC derivatives was more than $683 trillion, after more than doubling in the preceding two years. The event that Warren Buffett anticipated in 2002 occurred on Sunday, September 14th, 2008, when Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy, the largest corporate bankruptcy in US history. The failure of Lehman Brothers set off a derivatives chain reaction affecting Lehman’s counterparties and directly caused the credit crisis. Since it is impossible for market actors to know what risks or how much leverage their counterparties have, OTC derivatives render credit ratings meaningless. The flow of credit and lending activity halted on a worldwide basis, causing sharp contractions in economic activity and deflation."

The 2008 crisis was not centered on big banks? Apparently Krugman has forgotten what happened to Citigroup and Wachovia as a consequence of this disaster.

Krugman goes on to say in his opinion piece:

"It’s one thing for the Sanders campaign to point to Hillary Clinton’s Wall Street connections, which are real, although the question should be whether they have distorted her positions, a case the campaign has never even tried to make."

Well, if Clinton were to disclose the transcripts of her speeches to some of the world's largest financial institutions, maybe we would be better able to understand her positions, which, owing to her lack of transparency, remain unknown.

By the way, a pity Krugman does not relate in his opinion piece to the testimony two days ago of Gene L. Dodaro, Comptroller General of the United States, before the US Senate's Committee on the Budget:

"Over the long term, at the federal level, the imbalance between spending and revenue that is built into current law and policy is projected to lead to continued growth of debt held by the public as a share of GDP. This situation—in which debt grows faster than GDP—means the current federal fiscal path is unsustainable. Today, debt held by the public as a share of GDP remains well above the post-war historical average of 43 percent since 1946. At the end of fiscal year 2015, it reached about 74 percent of GDP—the second highest (after fiscal year 2014, when it was slightly higher) since 1950."

Needless to say, I have never been awarded a Nobel Prize in economics, but unless I am entirely mistaken, it seems that the Comptroller General is hinting that the US is headed for insolvency. But why should that worry Paul, who would only have the federal government continue its deficit spending spree.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Fred Hiatt, "Obama destroyed Syrians’ ‘glimmer of hope’ that America would intervene": A President's Cat in the Hat Diplomacy

"'Look at me! Look at me! Look at me NOW! it is fun to have fun but you have to know how."

- "The Cat in the Hat," Dr. Seuss

Responding to Obama's assertion that he is "very proud" of his Syrian policy, Fred Hiatt responds in a Washington Post opinion piece entitled "Obama destroyed Syrians’ ‘glimmer of hope’ that America would intervene":

"[N]o one knows for sure how many of Syria’s prewar population of 22 million have died. The United Nations and other groups kept tabs for a while, reaching 250,000, and then stopped counting — so for more than two years, we’ve been writing 'more than 250,000.' Certainly the number is far greater.

Meanwhile, at least half of all Syrians have been forced from their homes. More than 4 million have become refugees; thousands more are trapped at the Turkish border, unable to leave. Hundreds of thousands have fled to Europe. Together, those refugees and the terrorist attacks spawned by the Islamic State, which took root in the chaos of Syria’s civil war, have fueled a xenophobic politics in Europe unlike anything the continent has seen since World War II.

Given these consequences, you have to wonder whether Obama really takes pride in his policy, or is trying to convince himself."

Yup, the narcissism of a lame duck president gone wild. However, as the Cat in the Hat went on to say: "But that is not all. Oh no. That is not all."

By way of a series of ballistic missile tests, Iran is outrageously flouting its unsigned nuclear agreement with Obama, while at the same time demanding access to America's financial system. Obama's reaction? The Washington Post today observes in an editorial entitled "Iran should pay a price for its ballistic missile tests":

"Tehran’s behavior comes as no surprise to the many observers who predicted the deal would not alter its hostility to the West or its defiance of international norms. Unfortunately, the Obama administration’s response has also been much as critics predicted: It has done its best to play down Iran’s violations and avoid any conflict out of fear that the regime might walk away from a centerpiece of President Obama’s legacy.

. . . .

Another area of potential accommodation concerns dollar transactions linked to Iran. U.S. sanctions tied to terrorism and human rights still prohibit Iranian access to the U.S. financial system. Iranian officials are complaining that they have been unable to draw on newly unfrozen assets elsewhere in the world, or make trade deals, because international banks are afraid to conduct any transactions in U.S. dollars. The administration is considering issuing a clarification to foreign banks that they can conduct dollar exchanges linked to Iran’s assets or future trade deals under certain conditions."

Obama and friends plan to explain to foreign banks how to avoid American prohibitions on dealing with Iran? Maybe the IRS should explain to Americans how they can seize upon loopholes to avoid paying taxes.

Obama's refusal to intervene in Syria has cost at least a half million lives, and refugees from that war have effectively destabilized Europe. How many people will ultimately die as a consequence of Obama's accommodation of Iran's crazy mullahs? Again from "The Cat in the Hat":

"He came down with a bump
From up there on the ball.
And Sally and I,
We saw ALL the things fall!"

May the Lord have mercy on us.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Thomas Friedman, "Impossible Missions": Yes, Wisconsin (Not Virginia), There Is a Santa Claus

Yes, Virginia Wisconsin, there is a Santa Claus. Could it be that Donald and Hillary, i.e. Freddy Krueger and Jason Voorhees, will not be battling it out in November? Thank you, badgers! It had been pretty bleak until last night.

On the subject of bleak (and dull-witted), Thomas Friedman, in a New York Times op-ed entitled "Impossible Missions," discusses Professor Michael Mandelbaum's new book called “Mission Failure: America and the World in the Post-Cold War Era.” Warmly recommending the book, Friedman writes:

"In earlier historical epochs the world relied on imperial powers to come in and control zones of weak governance, as the Ottomans did for 500 years in the Middle East. Then it relied on colonial powers. Then it relied on homegrown kings, colonels and dictators to maintain order.

But what if we’re now in a post-imperial, post-colonial and post-authoritarian age? The kings, colonels and dictators of old did not have to deal with amplified citizens deeply connected to one another and the world with smartphones. The old autocrats also had vast oil resources or aid from superpowers in the Cold War to buy off their people. What if they now have bulging populations, dwindling oil revenues and can’t buy off their people or shut them up?

The only option is more consensual government and social contracts among equal citizens."

Ah yes, Arab Spring II and another Green Revolution in Iran! I can assure you that Morsi and Khamenei know of other options. Go back to sleep, Tom.

Meanwhile, on the subject of Iran, Congressman Ed Royce, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, expresses concern in a Washington Post opinion piece entitled "The United States must not aid and abet Iranian money laundering," that the Obama administration intends to provide Iran with access to the American financial system in exchange for . . . nothing. Royce writes:

"Last summer, in testimony to Congress, Lew vowed, 'Iranian banks will not be able to clear U.S. dollars through New York, hold correspondent account relationships with U.S. financial institutions, or enter into financing arrangements with U.S. banks.' As the secretary made clear, 'Iran, in other words, will continue to be denied access to the world’s largest financial and commercial market.'

Yet when I questioned Lew just two weeks ago about whether he stood by this testimony, he refused to give a direct answer. And so this appears to be just the latest in a long pattern of concessions to protect the president’s 'legacy' deal. In recent months, the administration gutted a new law to strengthen the visa waiver program to please the Iranians and has imposed only minimal sanctions on Iran’s missile program — even as Iran launches missiles stamped with the words 'Israel must be wiped off the face of the earth.'"

You mean to say that the Obama administration, which promised Americans that if they liked their doctors and healthcare plans, they could keep them, in order to sell Obama's "legacy" Affordable Care Act, also lied to Congress to sell his "legacy" nuclear deal with Iran? Yes, I know: Obama's omniscient ends justify his unscrupulous means.

And so we had John Kerry telling us that Iran "absolutely" deserved access to US dollars, although none other than Obama recently acknowledged that Iran is not abiding by the "spirit" of the nuclear deal, and notwithstanding Iran's test launches of ballistic missiles.

The ballistic missiles? As reported by Adam Kredo in a Washington Free Beacon article entitled "Congress Investigating Obama Admin Deception on Iran Nuke Deal":

"[C]ongressional leaders are concerned that the administration no longer considers recent Iranian ballistic missile tests a 'violation' of United Nations Security Council Resolution 2231, which codifies the nuclear deal.

Top administration officials including Secretary of State John Kerry vowed to Congress that Iran would be legally prohibited from carrying out ballistic missile tests under the resolution.

Samantha Power, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., shifted course last week, refusing to call recent Iranian launches a 'violation' in a letter she signed criticizing those launches."

Repercussions in the Middle East owing to Obama's duplicity? Read what Yousef Al Otaiba, the ambassador of the United Arab Emirates to the US, has to say in a Wall Street Journal opinion piece entitled "One Year After the Iran Nuclear Deal" about Obama's promise that the nuclear deal with Iran would "make the world safer":

"Sadly, behind all the talk of change, the Iran we have long known—hostile, expansionist, violent—is alive and well, and as dangerous as ever. We wish it were otherwise. In the United Arab Emirates, we are seeking ways to coexist with Iran. Perhaps no country has more to gain from normalized relations with Tehran. Reducing tensions across the less than 100-mile-wide Arabian Gulf could help restore full trade ties, energy cooperation and cultural exchanges, and start a process to resolve a 45-year territorial dispute.

Since the nuclear deal, however, Iran has only doubled down on its posturing and provocations. In October, November and again in early March, Iran conducted ballistic-missile tests in violation of United Nations Security Council resolutions.
In December, Iran fired rockets dangerously close to a U.S. aircraft carrier in the Strait of Hormuz, just weeks before it detained a group of American sailors. In February, Iranian Defense Minister Hossein Dehghan visited Moscow for talks to purchase more than $8 billion in Russian fighter jets, planes and helicopters.

In Yemen, where peace talks now hold some real promise, Iran’s disruptive interference only grows worse. Last week, the French navy seized a large cache of weapons on its way from Iran to support the Houthis in their rebellion against the U.N.-backed legitimate Yemeni government. In late February, the Australian navy intercepted a ship off the coast of Oman with thousands of AK-47s and rocket-propelled grenades. And last month, a senior Iranian military official said Tehran was ready to send military 'advisers' to assist the Houthis.

The interference doesn’t stop there. Since the beginning of the year, Tehran and its proxies have increased their efforts to provide armor-piercing explosive devices to Shiite cells in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. A former Iranian general and close adviser to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called for Iran to annex all of Bahrain. And in Syria, Iran continues to deploy Hezbollah militias and its own Iranian Revolutionary Guard to prop up Syria’s Bashar Assad.

. . . .

If the carrots of engagement aren’t working, we must not be afraid to bring back the sticks. Recent half measures against Iran’s violations of the ballistic-missile ban are not enough. If the aggression continues, the U.S. and the global community should make clear that Iran will face the full range of sanctions and other steps still available under U.N. resolutions and in the nuclear deal itself."

"Bring back the sticks"? Reinstate the sanctions? Sorry, but not if it means that a narcissistic Obama must acknowledge that he was dead wrong.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Maureen Dowd, "Trump Does It His Way": Narcissism Gone Wild

What a world! I am still astounded by Donald Trump's interview with The Washington Post's editorial board two weeks ago:

"Post publisher Fred Ryan asked Trump if he would consider using a tactical nuclear strike against the forces of the Islamic State, were he president. Trump responded that he didn't want to 'start the process of nuclear,' then reminding the editors that he was 'a counter-puncher.'

'Remember, one thing that everybody has said, I’m a counter-puncher,' Trump said. 'Rubio hit me. Bush hit me. When I said low energy, he’s a low-energy individual, he hit me first. He spent, by the way -- he spent 18 million dollars’ worth of negative ads on me. That’s putting...'

Ryan jumped in. 'This is about ISIS,' he reminded Trump. 'You would not use a tactical nuclear weapon against ISIS?'

'I’ll tell you one thing,' Trump replied. 'This is a very good looking group of people here. Could I just go around so I know who the hell I’m talking to?'

. . . . The editors introduced themselves, and the topic was dropped. (For good measure, on his way out of the meeting, Trump called digital editor Karen Attiah 'beautiful.')"

This is the man who could well be the Republican presidential candidate? Lord help us. But Trump's obsession with physical appearances should be the least of our concerns. In a fascinating New England Psychologist article entitled "Families of narcissists suffer most, psychologist says" by Catherine Robertson Souter, Dr. Richard Grossman (a distant relative?), who is a clinical psychologist who writes extensively on narcissistic personality disorders, informs us:

"In my experience, narcissists will rarely change in therapy because most are unable to accept or acknowledge that the problem is inside of them.

. . . .

[W]e have a presidential candidate, Donald Trump, who appears to be a textbook case of Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

. . . .

A person who has a finger over the button of a nuclear weapon as a narcissist is a huge danger. We see it in terms of the North Korean leader, who is clearly a Narcissistic Personality Disorder and who is threatening nuclear attacks.

Absolutely, people who have no empathy, no sense of other human beings’ worth, are a huge danger to the general population."

Today, in a New York Times op-ed entitled "Trump Does It His Way," Maureen Dowd tells us of her latest conversation with Trump. She asked the Donald if a woman with whom he had sexual relations ever had an abortion, but he refused to answer. God bless her soul, Dowd didn't let up:

"I pressed, how he could possibly win with 73 percent of women in this country turned off by him?

He chose another poll, murmuring, 'It was 68 percent, actually.'

Trump doesn’t have a plan to turn it around with women, except to use Ivanka as a character witness and to chant that 'nobody respects women more than I do.'

'I’m just going to be myself,' he said. 'That’s all I can do.'"

Indeed, that's all he can do - be his misogynist self. As observed by Dr. Grossman, narcissists are rarely capable of change. So who is to blame? The answer is obvious: Republicans who have foisted this national embarrassment upon a once great America.

Gail Collins, "Trump, Truth and Abortion": Golf Partners for Eternity

In a New York Times op-ed entitled "Trump, Truth and Abortion," Gail Collins tells us of Donald Trump's position on abortion:

"There’s no reason to imagine Trump ever gave a millisecond of thought to the details of abortion policy until he got trapped in that merciless interview with Chris Matthews on MSNBC."

Agreed. But more to the point, a self-absorbed Trump probably never gave a millisecond of thought to the details of any policy. Trumps suffers from a severe narcissistic personality disorder and is incapable of thinking about anything but himself.

Abortion? I am pro-choice, but I am more concerned with the danger Trump poses to all life on this planet. Can you imagine allowing him to press the launch buttons of America's nuclear arsenal with his little fingers? May the Lord have mercy on us.

Meanwhile, President Obama, another narcissist, yesterday criticized Donald's comments concerning the proliferation of atomic weapons. As reported by Stephanie Condon in a CBS News article entitled "Obama responds to Donald Trump's comments about nuclear weaponry":

"Speaking to reporters at the end of the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington, President Obama on Friday gave a critical response to Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump's recent remarks about nuclear weaponry.

Without referring to Trump by name, Mr. Obama said, 'The person who made the statements doesn't know much about foreign policy, or nuclear policy, or the Korean Peninsula, or the world generally.'

Trump this week said that Japan and South Korea might have to acquire their own nuclear weapons. In a separate incident this week, he refused to rule out using nuclear weapons in Europe if elected president."

Excuse me, but the person who referred to ISIS as the "jayvee team" knows more than Trump about foreign policy? Yes, I know, he thinks he does.

Trump's nightmarish suggestions concerning the proliferation and use of nuclear weapons are off the wall. But was it a rational decision on Obama's part to enter into an unsigned nuclear deal with Iran's mullahs, extending Tehran's "breakout time" from three months to all of one year (if it abides by the agreement, which it won't), while removing sanctions and effectively permitting these psychopaths to engage in ballistic missile testing, i.e. delivery of these weapons of mass destruction?

My fantasy: That many years hence (may they both live to 120), Trump and Obama will be golf partners for eternity in a netherworld of fire and brimstone.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Paul Krugman, "Learning From Obama": Everything That Guy Just Said Is Bullshit

"Everything that guy just said is bullshit."

- Vincent Gambini, opening statement, "My Cousin Vinny," 1992

In his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Learning From Obama," Paul Krugman would have us know that Trump could win the Republican nomination (yes, but his fate hinges on the Wisconsin primary where the polls place him far behind Ted Cruz), and that Sanders cannot win the Democratic nomination (no mention by Krugman of the FBI investigation of Hillary's email server, which hovers ominously over her campaign). Krugman then marvels at Obama's presidential achievements:

Okay, Krugman would have us examine the economy, health reform, financial reform and the environment. But what about foreign affairs? ISIS, Syria, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Russia, Ukraine, China, North Korea? I suppose we're not supposed to look in that direction.

Indeed, as Vincent Gambini declared in "My Cousin Vinny," "Everything that guy just said is bullshit."