Thursday, October 12, 2017

Hillary Clinton, "Sick," "Shocked" and "Appalled" by Allegations Against Weinstein: "Is It Safe?"

Are you crazy about movies? One of my favorite flicks is the 1976 thriller "Marathon Man," in which Babe (Dustin Hoffman) is repeatedly asked under dental torture by Nazi war criminal Dr. Christian Szell (Lawrence Olivier), "Is it safe?" What does this have to do with anything, you ask? Answer: Everything.

In a CNN interview with Fareed Zakaria to be shown on Sunday, Hillary Clinton informs the alleged serial plagiarist that she is "sick," "shocked" and "appalled" by the allegations of sexual abuse leveled against Harvey Weinstein.

Will I watch this interview on Sunday? Not a chance. I can think of many other ways to make myself ill. But perhaps someone capable of watching Hillary and Fareed will be kind enough to inform us whether Zakaria asked Hillary if she is "sick," "shocked" and "appalled" by the allegations of sexual abuse leveled against her husband.

My guess is that Zakaria did not ask Hillary this question. After all, it wouldn't be "safe," not if he ever wanted to interview Hillary or Bill again.

Which is why the allegations against Weinstein didn't arise earlier: It wasn't "safe," particularly when President Trump's "Grab ’em by the pussy" declaration barely elicited a yawn from his army of supporters. As Donald observed in that same discussion with Billy Bush:

"And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything."

And consider: A majority of Americans voted for Hillary for president, notwithstanding her long-standing marriage to a man alleged to have raped, groped and sexually harassed other women. Hillary herself has been accused of attempting to intimidate the women who complained about Bill's alleged conduct.

How many of us don't dare raise allegations of wrongdoing in the workplace, owing to fears that a given person or organization, with a war chest of tens of millions of dollars, will hire a Goliath law firm and attempt to squash you like a bug?

Which is why all of us must constantly ask ourselves, "Is it safe?"

In fact, it rarely is.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

New York Times Editorial, "Kurdistan’s Dangerous Vote on Independence": Dangerous for Whom?

In an editorial entitled “Kurdistan’s Dangerous Vote on Independence,” The New York Times expresses its empathy for Kurdish yearnings for independence in Iraq, but fails to note the horrifying oppression of Kurdish minorities living in Turkey, Syria and Iran over the course of many decades. The editorial also forgets to mention that the Middle East's 30 million Kurds comprise the world's largest stateless people, whose identity and rights were not accounted for when Britain and France carved out new Middle East nations with artificial borders after World War I.

The Times editorial tells us:

"Only Israel, with a history of close ties to Kurds and hopes for an ally against Iran, has declared support for a Kurdish state."

However, while Israel would certainly welcome an ally in the region, Israeli sympathy for Kurdish statehood has a historical basis. In the years immediately prior to Israeli independence, the US State Department and Department of Defense opposed granting the Jews their own country for the very same reason: Giving the Jews a homeland could endanger American strategic interests in the region.

Whereas the US has welcomed Kurdish friendship and support while battling ISIS and Saddam Hussein, it is now time for the US to reciprocate by recognizing the right of the Kurds to live in dignity and freedom. Dangerous? Sure, an independent Kurdish state carved out of Iraq is upsetting for the Turks (Kurds amount to some 20 percent of Turkey's population), but all change comes with uncertainty, and the Kurds deserve to live without fear of persecution and oppression.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

William Burns and Jake Sullivan, "The Smart Way to Get Tough With Iran": "Naivete" Gets New Meaning

In a guest New York Times op-ed entitled "The Smart Way to Get Tough With Iran," William Burns and Jake Sullivan write (my emphasis in red):

"As the two negotiators who initiated the secret talks that led to the 2015 Iran nuclear agreement, we are intimately familiar with the deal’s strengths, its inevitable imperfections and the wider challenge posed by Iran.

. . . .

[T]he nuclear deal achieved the best of the available alternatives. It cuts off Iran’s pathways to a bomb, sharply constrains its nuclear program for a long time, and provides for unprecedentedly strict monitoring and verification. Diplomacy avoided another war in the Middle East and averted the kind of crisis we now face with North Korea.

But today, after two years of repeated affirmations of Iran’s compliance by our intelligence community and the International Atomic Energy Agency, American policy is at a fork in the road.

The smart way to proceed would be to keep the world’s powers united and the burden of proof on Iran. That means working with partners on relentless enforcement; enhancing sanctions that punish Iran’s non-nuclear misbehavior, including its missile program and sponsorship of terrorism; working closely with Arab partners to deter Iran’s meddling in their internal affairs; and making plain our concerns with Iran’s domestic human rights abuses."

But now consider the following from a Haaretz article entitled "Sources: UN Watchdog Hiding Evidence on Iran Nuclear Program" by Barak Ravid, which was published on Tuesday (my emphasis in red):

"The world's nuclear weapons watchdog is hiding data on Iran's drive to obtain nuclear arms, senior Western diplomats and Israeli officials told Haaretz.

The officials and diplomats said that the International Atomic Energy Agency under Director General Mohamed ElBaradei was refraining from publishing evidence obtained by its inspectors over the past few months that indicate Iran was pursuing information about weaponization efforts and a military nuclear program.

ElBaradei, who will soon vacate his post, has said that the agency does not have any evidence that suggests Iran is developing a nuclear weapon.

But the sources told Haaretz that the new evidence was submitted to the IAEA in a classified annex written by its inspectors in the Islamic Republic. The report was said to have been signed by the head of the IAEA team in Iran.

The classified report, according to the sources, was not incorporated into the agency's published reports. The details, they said, were censored by senior officials of the IAEA in the organization's Vienna headquarters."

So, do you believe the reassurances being provided by Burns and Sullivan? I don't.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Maureen Dowd, "Cruella de Trump": A Self-Inflicted Wound

In her latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Cruella de Trump," Maureen Dowd writes of Donald Trump's recent tweet aimed at demeaning Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough:

"The 71-year-old president’s pathological inability to let go of slights; his strongman reflex to be the aggressor and bite back like a cornered animal, without regard for societal norms; his lack of self-awareness about the power he commands and the proportionality of his responses; his grotesque hunger for flattery and taste for Tony Soprano tactics; his Pravda partnership with David Pecker, the head honcho at The National Enquirer, which has been giving Trump the Il Duce treatment while sliming his political opponents, the 'Morning Joe' anchors and Megyn Kelly — these are all matters that should alarm men and women equally."

"[T]hese are all matters that should alarm men and women equally"? Excuse me, Maureen, Trump's narcissistic personality was on view for all to see for months prior to the US presidential election. The Republicans nominated him anyway. And the Democrats then gave Americans the choice between voting for a man frighteningly unqualified to sit in the Oval Office or for a woman and her nominal husband whose sense of entitlement and talent at equivocation were unpalatable to a broad cross-section of the electorate.

The alarm bell should have rung more than a year ago.

It's a little late to be railing against Trump, who is a self-inflicted wound, representing the depths to which the US has descended. As Pogo would have it, "We have met the enemy and he is us."

Monday, June 19, 2017

Paul Krugman, "Zombies, Vampires and Republicans": Incendiary Language at Precisely the Wrong Time

In his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Zombies, Vampires and Republicans," Paul Krugman begins:

"Zombies have long ruled the Republican Party. The good news is that they may finally be losing their grip — although they may still return and resume eating conservative brains. The bad news is that even if zombies are in retreat, vampires are taking their place."

Krugman concludes:

"So this isn’t a Trump story; it’s about the cynicism and corruption of the whole congressional G.O.P. Remember, it would take just a few conservatives with conscience — specifically, three Republican senators — to stop this outrage in its tracks. But right now, it looks as if those principled Republicans don’t exist."

Of course, it's perfectly legitimate to argue against Republican taxation and healthcare proposals, and even argue vehemently against them. Heck, I'm no fan of Donald Trump. But label all Republicans zombies, vampires, corrupt and unprincipled? You need to curb your language, Paul. Didn't you learn anything from the shooting of U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise last week?

Monday, June 12, 2017

David Sanger and Eric Schmitt,"U.S. Cyberweapons, Used Against Iran and North Korea, Are a Disappointment Against ISIS": The New York Times Exposes Israel's Cyber Hack

In a New York Times article entitled "U.S. Cyberweapons, Used Against Iran and North Korea, Are a Disappointment Against ISIS," David Sanger and Eric Schmitt write:

"Even one of the rare successes against the Islamic State belongs at least in part to Israel, which was America’s partner in the attacks against Iran’s nuclear facilities. Top Israeli cyberoperators penetrated a small cell of extremist bombmakers in Syria months ago, the officials said. That was how the United States learned that the terrorist group was working to make explosives that fooled airport X-ray machines and other screening by looking exactly like batteries for laptop computers.

The intelligence was so exquisite that it enabled the United States to understand how the weapons could be detonated, according to two American officials familiar with the operation. The information helped prompt a ban in March on large electronic devices in carry-on luggage on flights from 10 airports in eight Muslim-majority countries to the United States and Britain."

This was the intel that was leaked by Donald Trump to Russia's foreign minister and ambassador to the US during an Oval Office meeting last month. Israel tried to mitigate the damage by claiming that the intel was HUMINT and that the agent's life had been endangered, but ISIS now knows for certain that the intel was SIGINT, i.e. a cyber hack.

Has an important window into ISIS terror operations been hermetically shut? Have innocent lives been compromised as a consequence? I don't know the answer. I suggest you ask Donald Trump, the Times, or better still, the "officials" who leaked this info to Sanger and Schmitt.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

David Brooks, "The Politics of Clan: The Adventures of Jared Kushner": Things Get Unglued at the White House

In his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "The Politics of Clan: The Adventures of Jared Kushner," David Brooks relates to the controversy surrounding Donald Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who, according to Brooks, has "been thrust into roles he’s not ready for," and whose background "has ill prepared him for national government." Brooks writes:

"... Kushner has made some boneheaded blunders in the White House. He reportedly pushed for the firing of F.B.I. Director James Comey even though anybody with a blip of experience could have told you this move would backfire horribly. He’s allowed his feud with Steve Bannon to turn into a public soap opera.

We don’t know everything about his meetings with the Russians, but we know that they, like so much other clan-like behavior, went against the formal system. We also know that they betray rookie naïveté on several levels — apparently trusting the Russians not to betray him, apparently not understanding that these conversations would be surveyed by the American intelligence services, possibly not understanding how alarming they would look to outsiders."

Hey, David, it's a heck of a lot simpler than all this. Jared is only 36 years old. Think of yourself when you were 36: Were you sufficiently mature to advise the president of the United States? I sure as hell wasn't (not that anyone ever asked). On the other hand, today, when you turn 50 and finally have your wits about you, you're headed for the glue factory. Does it make sense? No way! As W.C. Fields once said:

"Horse sense is the thing a horse has which keeps it from betting on people."

Sic transit gloria mundi...