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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!

Diana Buttu, "Why the Palestinian Authority Should Be Shuttered": A Call to Rehabilitate Hamas



"A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on."

- Winston Churchill


The New York Times today published an op-ed entitled "Why the Palestinian Authority Should Be Shuttered" by Diana Buttu, who asserted in a 2012 Harvard lecture that Qassam rockets fired from Gaza at Israeli civilians "don't have explosive heads" (yeah, right). She also claimed at that same lecture that "between the period of 1997 until the year 2000, there wasn't a single Israeli who died of a suicide bombing inside Israel," yet, when confronted with the 1997 Café Apropo bombing, Butto resorted to another lie: "All of the people you are talking about were settlers." In fact, one of the women was from Tel Aviv, one from Herzliya, and one from Neve Monosson. (To learn more about Butto's prevarication at the Harvard lecture, have a gander at CAMERA's article "Diana Buttu is at it Again, Harvard Edition.") But back now to Butto's op-ed, which is no less "imaginative" than her Harvard talk. Butto begins by questioning "whether the Palestinian Authority plays any positive role or is simply a tool of control for Israel and the international community," and declares that "it’s time for the authority to go." Buttu continues:

"[Palestinian Authority] security forces do not provide a normal police service to Palestinians, but instead aid the Israeli Army in maintaining the occupation and Israel’s ever-expanding settlements.

. . . .

The raison d’être of the Palestinian Authority today is not to liberate Palestine; it is to keep Palestinians silent and quash dissent while Israel steals land, demolishes Palestinian homes, and builds and expands settlements."

Ah yes, the "ever-expanding" settlements. However, as observed in a December 29, 2016 Washington Post editorial entitled "On Israel, we’re right back where Obama started" (my emphasis in red):

"In fact, the two-state solution remains entirely viable, as even the settlement statistics cited by Mr. Kerry demonstrate. The administration asserts that the Jewish population in the West Bank has increased by 100,000 since 2009 — but by Mr. Kerry’s account, 80 percent of that growth was in areas Israel would likely annex in any settlement. In eight years, 20,000 people have been added to communities in territory likely to become part of Palestine — an area where 2.75 million Arabs now live. That growth of about 3 percent per annum, the product of a restraint for which Mr. Netanyahu received no White House credit, means that the Jewish population outside Israel’s West Bank fence may have decreased as a percentage of the overall population even as Mr. Obama and Mr. Kerry have made it the focal point of U.S. policy."

Similarly, Rick Richman wrote in a December 28, 2016 Commentary article entitled "It’s Not the Settlements, Stupid":

"The figure of 100,000 sounds significant until you realize that 80 percent of it has been in the settlement blocs 'everyone knows' Israel will retain in any conceivable peace agreement. The 20,000 person increase east of the separation barrier, established to stop the wave of Palestinian mass murders against Israelis, translates into less than one percent of the population in the disputed territories, over a period of eight years."

Buttu also fails to take into account what was acknowledged by Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat: Israeli settlements have been built on only some 1.1% of the West Bank. Additionally, she does not make mention of past Israeli evacuations of Sinai and Gaza, other than to assert that Israel maintains "overall control" of the Gaza Strip. Needless to say, Buttu avoids mention of Israel's evacuation of Gaza in 2005 and fails to observe that Gaza shares a border with Egypt.

And then there is the "small matter" of Hamas. Buttu writes:

"To remove this noose that has been choking Palestinians, the authority must be replaced with the sort of community-based decision making that predated the body’s establishment. And we must reform our main political body, the Palestine Liberation Organization, which Mr. Abbas also heads, to make it more representative of the Palestinian people and their political parties, including Hamas. Hamas has long indicated that it wants to be part of the P.L.O., and its revised charter, recently released in Doha, Qatar, affirms this aspiration."

Ah yes, the "new" Hamas, whose 2017 charter reads in relevant part:

14. The Zionist project is a racist, aggressive, colonial and expansionist project based on seizing the properties of others; it is hostile to the Palestinian people and to their aspiration for freedom, liberation, return and self-determination. The Israeli entity is the plaything of the Zionist project and its base of aggression.

15. The Zionist project does not target the Palestinian people alone; it is the enemy of the Arab and Islamic Ummah posing a grave threat to its security and interests. It is also hostile to the Ummah’s aspirations for unity, renaissance and liberation and has been the major source of its troubles. The Zionist project also poses a danger to international security and peace and to mankind and its interests and stability.

. . . .

19. There shall be no recognition of the legitimacy of the Zionist entity. Whatever has befallen the land of Palestine in terms of occupation, settlement building, judaisation or changes to its features or falsification of facts is illegitimate. Rights never lapse.

20. Hamas believes that no part of the land of Palestine shall be compromised or conceded, irrespective of the causes, the circumstances and the pressures and no matter how long the occupation lasts. Hamas rejects any alternative to the full and complete liberation of Palestine, from the river to the sea.

Rehabilitate Hamas, which earlier this week executed three men accused of killing one of its senior commanders - the executions were partially streamed live via Facebook? I don't think so.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Mohammad Javad Zarif,"‘Beautiful Military Equipment’ Can’t Buy Middle East Peace": Quintessential Horse Manure



In a guest New York Times op-ed entitled "‘Beautiful Military Equipment’ Can’t Buy Middle East Peace," Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif begins:

"As President Trump was being feted in the palaces of the Saudi royal family after concluding a historic arms deal, Iranians were celebrating the outcome of a hard-fought election. The vote manifested the determination of Iran’s electorate to continue on the path of moderation and constructive engagement based on mutual respect that brought the world the nuclear deal in 2015."

Ah yes, "moderation and constructive engagement based on mutual respect" from a nation that savagely persecutes Baha'is, Kurds, Sunni Muslims and Christians, regularly threatens Israel with annihilation, hangs gay men, stones to death women accused of adultery, and executes more persons per capita each year than any other country in the world. And if that isn't enough to cause your hair to stand on end, consider President Rouhani's statement earlier this week to an Iranian cabinet meeting:

"The remarks by the enemies of the Iranian nation against Iran's missile power are out of ignorance. We need missiles and the enemy should know that we make everything we need and we don’t pay an iota of attention to your words."

More? As reported by Reuters yesterday in an article entitled "Iran says it has built third underground ballistic missile factory" by Parisa Hafezi:

"'Iran's third underground factory has been built by the Guards in recent years ... We will continue to further develop our missile capabilities forcefully,' Fars quoted Amirali Hajizadeh, head of the Guard’s airspace division, as saying."

Still more? In a Foreign Policy article entitled "Are the U.S. and Iran on a Collision Course in Syria?" published on Wednesday, Dan De Luce and Paul McLeary informed us:

"Iran has grown alarmed over the growing presence of U.S. special operations forces in southern Syria, and the progress of Syrian Kurdish and Arab troops on the battlefield. Iran is keen to secure a corridor linking Tehran and Baghdad to Syria and Lebanon, and Tehran state-run media have claimed the U.S. forces are in the border area to block any supply routes for Iran.

In response, Tehran has deployed thousands of Afghan and Iraqi Shiite fighters, and in recent weeks has sent 3,000 Lebanese Hezbollah troops to the southeastern region between al-Tanf and Deir Ezzor, according to reports from Fars news agency, affiliated with Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps.

The Hezbollah troops were sent to the al-Tanf area 'to prepare the Syrian army and its allies for thwarting the US plots in the region and establish security at the Palmyra-Baghdad road,' Fars wrote, just hours before the U.S. air raid [against a Hezbollah convoy approaching the al-Tanf base used by the US to train militias fighting ISIS]. They could also serve as a blocking force to keep U.S.-backed fighters from moving north out of al-Tanf."

Bottom line: Only Obama and Kerry could ever place their faith in Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif.