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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...

Monday, May 29, 2017

Charles Blow, "Donald Trump: The Gateway Degenerate": Closer to Home, What About Linda Sarsour?

Don't get me wrong - I believe that Donald Trump is not qualified to be president. I don't hate the man. I "merely" believe that he suffers from a severe narcissistic personality disorder that interferes with his decision making. His fingers should be nowhere near the launch buttons of America's nuclear arsenal.

Now back to business: In his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Donald Trump: The Gateway Degenerate," Charles Blow writes:

"This is all an outgrowth of Trump’s degradation of common decency. Trump was the gateway candidate. When Republicans allowed themselves to accept and support him in spite of his glaring flaws and his life lived in opposition to the values they once professed and insisted upon, they moved themselves into another moral realm in which literally nothing was beyond the pale.

It is a sort of by-any-means-necessary, no-sin-is-too-grave, all-facts-are-fungible space in the moral universe where the rules of basic human decency warp.

The moment that they allowed themselves to vote for a man who bragged on tape about assaulting women, appeared in at least two pornos, and once joked about dating his own daughter, they surrendered the mantle of morality."

Got it! The Republicans have a monopoly on immorality ... or is there more to the story?

On Friday, Linda Sarsour is to be the commencement speaker at the City University of New York School of Public Health. Despite heated protests, CUNY chancellor, James B. Milliken, is defending her appearance as a matter of free speech:

"The decision to invite Ms. Sarsour was made by the School of Public Health. The commencement speakers are selected at the college level. The School of Public Health made a decision to focus on women leaders for its commencement this year and invited Ms. Sarsour because of her involvement in public health issues in New York City and her position as a leader on women’s issues, including her role as co-chair of the recent Women’s March in Washington. Ms. Sarsour has been recognized by President Obama at the White House as a 'Champion of Change' and was recently named one of Time magazine’s 100 leaders and Fortune magazine’s 50 global leaders.

CUNY’s administration, its Board of Trustees and political leaders are being asked to overrule the college and cancel Ms. Sarsour’s speech because critics object to things she has reportedly said or written. While one might disagree with the School of Public Health’s decision to invite Ms. Sarsour to speak at commencement, that difference of opinion provides no basis for action now. Taking action because critics object to the content of speech would conflict with the First Amendment and the principles of academic freedom."

Fascinating! But perhaps you recall that Sarsour tweeted in 2011:

"Brigitte Gabriel= Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Shes asking 4 an a$$ whippin. I wish I could take their vaginas away - they dont deserve to be women."

Yup, Sarsour, according to Obama, is a "Champion of Change" who would take away the vaginas of women who disagree with her (indeed, removing vaginas certainly results in "Change"). And a woman who would remove vaginas is now the commencement speaker at a school of public health. That makes perfect sense in today's world.

Sorry, it's not just the Republicans who have monopolized immorality. Rather, we live in an age of intolerance. Moreover, as regards the title of Blow's op-ed, I have a serious issue as to whether he should be labeling the jackass man who holds the highest office in the United States a "degenerate." A little respect for the office, Charles!

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Maureen Dowd, "Trump’s Hand-to-Hand Combat": Welcome to Donaldland!

In her latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Trump’s Hand-to-Hand Combat," Maureen Dowd concludes:

"Donald Trump is not a tough guy. He’s a faux tough guy. That is not even in the American tradition. All of our famously tough icons, on screen and in life, were able to exude strength without using brute force. And they did it while standing up for people, not smacking them down."

Not a tough guy? A faux tough guy? Heck, Maureen, you must never have seen the video of Trump bodyslamming Vince McMahon at Wrestlemania XXIII. Presidents don't come any realer or tougher than Donald.

Concerning brute force, do you remember how Trump was going to build a wall to keep foreigners out of the US? Instead, we have armed Turkish presidential guards kicking the sh*t out of American citizens legally exercising their First Amendment rights, then flying away scot-free, owing to diplomatic immunity.

What has become of the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave? Answer: Welcome to Donaldland!