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Thursday, May 28, 2015

Nicholas Kristof, "Polluted Political Games": Was Kristof Paid by the Clinton Foundation?

Acknowledging his involvement with the Clinton Foundation in a New York Times op-ed entitled "Polluted Political Games," Nicholas Kristof writes:

"I’ve admired the Clintons’ foundation for years for its fine work on AIDS and global poverty, and I’ve moderated many panels at the annual Clinton Global Initiative. Yet with each revelation of failed disclosures or the appearance of a conflict of interest from speaking fees of $500,000 for the former president, I have wondered: What were they thinking?"

Okay, Nick, you've admired the "fine work" of the Clinton Foundation, but now tell us if you were paid to "moderate" these many panels, and if so, how much were you paid? I'm not saying that there is anything wrong with moderating panels, but if you, a Times columnist, were paid by the Clinton Foundation, can we please know how much?

Kristof is quick to inform us that Republican presidential candidates have also benefited from "our entire disgraceful money-based political system." Specifically with regard to Marco Rubio, Kristof writes that "Senator Marco Rubio of Florida has received financial assistance from a billionaire, Norman Braman, and has channeled public money to Braman’s causes." Kristof provides a link to a New York Times article entitled "Billionaire Lifts Marco Rubio, Politically and Personally" by Michael Barbaro and Steve Eder, which informs us:

"A detailed review of their relationship shows that Mr. Braman, 82, has left few corners of Mr. Rubio’s world untouched. He hired Mr. Rubio, then a Senate candidate, as a lawyer; employed his wife to advise the Braman family’s philanthropic foundation; helped cover the cost of Mr. Rubio’s salary as an instructor at a Miami college; and gave Mr. Rubio access to his private plane.

The money has flowed both ways. Mr. Rubio has steered taxpayer funds to Mr. Braman’s favored causes, successfully pushing for an $80 million state grant to finance a genomics center at a private university and securing $5 million for cancer research at a Miami institute for which Mr. Braman is a major donor.

. . . .

The reliance on Mr. Braman is likely to put a spotlight on the finances of Mr. Rubio, who ranks among the least-wealthy candidates in the emerging Republican field. Mr. Rubio left the Florida House of Representatives in 2008 with a net worth of $8,351, multiple mortgages and $115,000 in student debt. In his latest financial disclosure form, for 2013, he reported at least $450,000 in liabilities, including two mortgages and a line of credit."

Oh my goodness, Mr. Braman once dared employ both Rubio and his wife! Worse still, Rubio helped secure funds for the cancer research of a Miami institute favored by Mr. Braman. Of course, we all know that government funding must never be used for cancer research . . . not.

Rubio  is considered one of the poorest Republican presidential candidates? Maybe Mr. Braman has not been helping him enough.

But now consider the millions of dollars received by the Clinton Foundation from Saudi Arabia, which whips gang rape victims and beheads persons accused of engaging in witchcraft. Also consider the millions of dollars in donations to the Clinton Foundation from banks which were recently convicted of rigging the value of world currencies.

And although Hillary claimed that she and Bill left the White House "dead broke" and whined that "we struggled to, you know, piece together the resources for mortgages for houses, for Chelsea’s education, you know, it was not easy,” Hillary's net worth in 2012 was estimated at between $5 million and $25 million, and Bill's net worth is estimated at some $55 million. Poor, Hillary! Poor, poor Hillary!

Compare  Rubio with the Hillary? I don't think so. Meanwhile, let's see if Kristof or the Times is willing to answer my question above.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Thomas Friedman, "Contain and Amplify": While Allowing Iran to Build Atomic Bombs?

And I thought the Times editorial entitled "Iran’s Secret Trial of a Journalist" was naive . . .

In his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Contain and Amplify," Thomas Friedman writes of the mounting muddle in the Muslim Middle East. Claiming that he has "never seen it this bad," Friedman tells us:

"For now, I see only two ways coherent self-government can re-emerge in Libya, Iraq, Yemen and Syria: If an outside power totally occupies them, snuffs out their sectarian wars, suppresses the extremists and spends the next 50 years trying to get Iraqis, Syrians, Yemenis and Libyans to share power as equal citizens. Even that might not work. Anyway, it’s not going to happen. The other is just wait for the fires to burn themselves out. The Lebanese civil war ended after 14 years by reconciliation-through-exhaustion. All sides accepted the principle of “no victor/no vanquished,” and everyone got a piece of the pie."

Unbeknownst to would-be Middle East expert Friedman, the fighting in Lebanon never ended, and it is only a matter of time until the Sunni/Shiite conflict in Syria spills across the border into Lebanon. Hezbollah chieftain Hassan Nasrallah is obviously concerned by this inevitability, which he now admits poses an "existential threat" to his terrorist organization.

Friedman's solution:

"U.S. policy now should be 'containment, plus amplification.' Let’s help those who manifest the will to contain ISIS, like Jordan, Lebanon, the United Arab Emirates and the Kurds in Iraq, and amplify any constructive things that groups in Yemen, Iraq, Libya, or Syria are ready to do with their power, but we must not substitute our power for theirs. This has to be their fight for their future. If the fight against ISIS is not worth it to them, it surely can’t be for us."

Or in other words, let's not do anything.

Unfortunately, however, Obama is doing something: In furtherance of his pursuit of a presidential legacy, he is determined to grant Iran the right to build a nuclear arsenal within a decade, which, as we have heard from the Saudis, is destined to trigger a nuclear arms race in the Middle East.

Should the US watch from the sidelines as the mullahs mount their new toys on ICBMs capable of reaching America's shores? Should the US stand idly by as Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Jordan and the UAE build their own bombs?

Yes, ISIS is a problem, but it is a Sunni response to Obama's unwillingness to stand in the way of aggressive Iranian efforts to achieve suzerainty over the region -  by way of Assad in Syria, Hezbollah in Lebanon, Islamic Jihad in Gaza, and the Houthis in Yemen.

Obama stuck his foot deep in the muck, and it won't be easy extricating it. More to the point, mindless declarations by Friedman that it is "their fight" are of no value whatsoever, given the threat of a future nuclear war which will likely span continents.

New York Times Editorial, "Iran’s Secret Trial of a Journalist": Khamenei Should Intervene?

In an editorial entitled "Iran’s Secret Trial of a Journalist," The New York Times protests the secret trial of Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian. The Times would have us know:

"It is not entirely surprising that judicial authorities in Iran are prosecuting the well-respected American-born journalist out of sight. Putting him on trial publicly would expose the case for the sham that it is.

. . . .

The best hope for a resolution might be the personal intervention of Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Surely he recognizes that the case against Mr. Rezaian and his wife has been a travesty from the start. He should step in to end the unjust prosecution and release Mr. Rezaian so that he can get back to work reporting on a pivotal moment for a complex country."

A "complex" country? A country which hangs homosexuals, stones to death women accused of adultery, brutally persecutes Baha'is, Christians, Kurds and Sunnis, and executes poets for "waging war on God" is "complex"?

Was Hitler's Germany also "complex"?

And call upon Iranian Supreme Leader Khamenei, who routinely calls for the annihilation of Israel, to intervene in the Rezaian case? A trial of this kind would not be undertaken in Iran without Khamenei's approval.

Who in blazes wrote this editorial, which brings new meaning to the word "naivete."

Monday, May 25, 2015

Paul Krugman, "The Big Meh": And the Currency Rigging Banks Which Donated to the Clinton Foundation?

In his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "The Big Meh," Paul Krugman writes about the effect of new technologies on the economy. Paul would have us know:

"So what do I think is going on with technology? The answer is that I don’t know — but neither does anyone else. Maybe my friends at Google are right, and Big Data will soon transform everything. Maybe 3-D printing will bring the information revolution into the material world. Or maybe we’re on track for another big meh.

What I’m pretty sure about, however, is that we ought to scale back the hype."

I don't agree with Paul. The three hi-tech companies with which I work (two as an outside consultant, one as chairman of the board) all have the potential to change our world: revolutionary new drug candidates, a chip capable of restoring vision to persons blinded by age-related macular degeneration following a 30-minute minimally invasive procedure, and a new generation of super-strong fibers for ultra-thin life-saving surgical sutures. I work hard and late every night, and if I didn't believe in these companies, I wouldn't waste the time. No need for hype. Let's wait and see the results.

However, something else is troubling me today: On Friday, in an editorial entitled "Banks as Felons, or Criminality Lite," The New York Times informed us:

"As of this week, Citicorp, JPMorgan Chase, Barclays and Royal Bank of Scotland are felons, having pleaded guilty on Wednesday to criminal charges of conspiring to rig the value of the world’s currencies. According to the Justice Department, the lengthy and lucrative conspiracy enabled the banks to pad their profits without regard to fairness, the law or the public good.

. . . .

In all, the banks will pay fines totaling about $9 billion, assessed by the Justice Department as well as state, federal and foreign regulators. That seems like a sweet deal for a scam that lasted for at least five years, from the end of 2007 to the beginning of 2013, during which the banks’ revenue from foreign exchange was some $85 billion."

However, what the Times didn't tell us was the connection of some of these banks (not Royal Bank of Scotland) to the Clinton Foundation and the Clinton Global Initiative ("CGI"). The Clinton Foundation lists Barclays Capital and the Citi Foundation as donors in the $1,000,001 to $5,000,000 range. It also lists JPMorgan Chase as a donor in the $100,001 to $250,000 range.

In addition, with regard to Barclays, a March 3, 2015 CNN article entitled "Base wary of Clinton Foundation's ties to troubled banks" by Alexandra Jaffe states:

"British banking giant Barclays emerged as a 'strategic partner' with CGI for its 2010 annual meeting, and gave the same level of support every year after that.

. . . .

In August of 2010, the Justice Department announced Barclays would pay nearly $300 million in fines for breaking sanctions against Iran, Cuba, Sudan and others.

. . . .

According to a Justice Department statement issued in June 2012, Barclays "admitted and accepted responsibility for its misconduct" at the center of a scheme to manipulate global interest rates, which in turn affected prices for consumer lending.

The bank agreed to pay $450 million in total to the Justice Department, the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission and the UK's Financial Services Authority to resolve the violations.

. . . .

In July 2014, the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations accused both Barclays and Deutsche Bank of helping hedge funds avoid paying more than $6 billion in taxes."

Isn't it a bit peculiar how Paul ("The Conscience of a Liberal") Krugman has nothing to say about the aforesaid abomination? Or is it really not so terrible in our brave new world? What do you think?

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Is Obama an Anti-Semite?

We all know that Obama sat silently in his pew while his spiritual mentor, the Reverend Wright, ranted against Jews and Israel over the course of some 20 years. We also know that The Los Angeles Times refuses to release the video of Obama speaking at a 2003 going-away party honoring Rashid Khalidi, at which virulent anti-Semitism was expressed by other speakers. But is Obama himself an anti-Semite?

Wearing a white kippah at the Adas Israel Congregation in Washington, D.C. on May 22, 2015, and identifying himself as an "honorary member of the tribe," Obama declared:

"And it is precisely because I care so deeply about the state of Israel -- it’s precisely because, yes, I have high expectations for Israel the same way I have high expectations for the United States of America -- that I feel a responsibility to speak out honestly about what I think will lead to long-term security and to the preservation of a true democracy in the Jewish homeland."

Or stated otherwise, Obama holds Israel to a different standard. Now where have we heard these words before? In an article entitled "Nicholas Kristof, Israel, and Double Standards" (http://www.jsantisemitism.org/essays/GrossmanJSA210(4).pdf) for The Journal for the Study of Antisemitism, I wrote that Kristof routinely rails against purported Israeli injustices, while ignoring the improprieties of other democracies (my emphasis in red):

"Ignorance, however, has never prevented Kristof from foisting twaddle upon the Times’s readership, particularly with respect to Israel. In an August 2011 op-ed, “Seeking Balance on the Mideast” (http://www.nytimes
.com/2011/08/04/opinion/seeking-balance-on-the-mideast.html?_r=1&hp), Kristof lambasted Israel at a time when Assad’s tanks were massacring the inhabitants of the Syrian city of Hama. Kristof sought to excuse himself by observing:

'Whenever I write about Israel, I get accused of double standards because I don’t spill as much ink denouncing worse abuses by, say, Syria. I plead guilty. I demand more of Israel partly because my tax dollars supply arms and aid to Israel. I hold democratic allies like Israel to a higher standard—just as I do the U.S.'

True, Syria has not been a recipient of U.S. aid. But whereas Egypt has received billions of dollars of American aid, Kristof doesn’t write about the persecution and murder of its Coptic Christian minority . . . And while Pakistan, a democracy of sorts, has also benefited from billions of dollars of U.S. aid while abetting the Taliban in Afghanistan, Kristof has been seeking a reduction of tariffs on Pakistani garment exports to the United States, purportedly in order to fight extremism.

. . . .

According to the 'working definition of antisemitism' of the European Forum on Antisemitism: 'Examples of the ways in which antisemitism manifests itself with regard to the State of Israel taking into account the overall context could include: . . . Applying double standards by requiring of it a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.'"

However, it is not only the European Forum on Antisemitism which cautions against applying a double standard to Israel. The US State Department also has determined that the application of such a double standard to Israel amounts to anti-Semitism:

"What is Anti-Semitism Relative to Israel?

EXAMPLES of the ways in which anti-Semitism manifests itself with regard to the state of Israel, taking into account the overall context could include:

. . . .

DOUBLE STANDARD FOR ISRAEL:
• Applying double standards by requiring of it a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation"

Obama went on to say in his speech before the Adas Israel Congregation:

"And that same sense of shared values also compel me to speak out -- compel all of us to speak out -- against the scourge of anti-Semitism wherever it exists.

. . . .

And in recent years, we’ve seen a deeply disturbing rise in anti-Semitism in parts of the world where it would have seemed unthinkable just a few years or decades ago."

Well, concerning that "scourge of anti-Semitism wherever it exists," I would observe that Obama did not speak out against the Reverend Wright in Chicago. Moreover, we are not being allowed to hear what Obama said at Rashid Khalidi's going-away party. In addition, we are witnessing today "unthinkable" incidents of anti-Semitism at American colleges and universities. What does President Obama have to say about this ugly phenomenon? In fact, nothing.

And then there is that "very small" matter of Obama agreeing to allow a viciously anti-Semitic Iran, which is committed to Israel's destruction, to build an arsenal of atomic weapons within a decade.

Obama stated to the Adas Israel Congregation that America has Israel's "back." I have no doubt that the American people, the American Congress, and the American military all have Israel's back. On the other hand, I have serious doubts concerning Obama, who last summer attempted to impose the mediation of the anti-Semitic regimes of Turkey and Qatar upon Israel with regard to Israel's conflict with Hamas.

Not only does Obama not "have Israel's back," I sometimes wonder if he is a closet anti-Semite. Care to make public the tape of the Khalidi going-away party, Mr. President?

New York Times Editorial, "Banks as Felons, or Criminality Lite": No Mention of the Clinton Foundation

In an editorial entitled "Banks as Felons, or Criminality Lite," The New York Times informs us:

"As of this week, Citicorp, JPMorgan Chase, Barclays and Royal Bank of Scotland are felons, having pleaded guilty on Wednesday to criminal charges of conspiring to rig the value of the world’s currencies. According to the Justice Department, the lengthy and lucrative conspiracy enabled the banks to pad their profits without regard to fairness, the law or the public good.

. . . .

In all, the banks will pay fines totaling about $9 billion, assessed by the Justice Department as well as state, federal and foreign regulators. That seems like a sweet deal for a scam that lasted for at least five years, from the end of 2007 to the beginning of 2013, during which the banks’ revenue from foreign exchange was some $85 billion."

Got it: These banks will pay fines of $9 billion on foreign exchange revenue of $85 billion. Sweet!

However, what the Times doesn't tell us is the connection of some of these banks (not Royal Bank of Scotland) to the Clinton Foundation and the Clinton Global Initiative ("CGI"). The Clinton Foundation lists Barclays Capital and the Citi Foundation as donors in the $1,000,001 to $5,000,000 range. It also lists JPMorgan Chase as a donor in the $100,001 to $250,000 range.

In addition, with regard to Barclays, a March 3, 2015 CNN article entitled "Base wary of Clinton Foundation's ties to troubled banks" by Alexandra Jaffe states:

"British banking giant Barclays emerged as a 'strategic partner' with CGI for its 2010 annual meeting, and gave the same level of support every year after that.

. . . .

In August of 2010, the Justice Department announced Barclays would pay nearly $300 million in fines for breaking sanctions against Iran, Cuba, Sudan and others.

. . . .

According to a Justice Department statement issued in June 2012, Barclays "admitted and accepted responsibility for its misconduct" at the center of a scheme to manipulate global interest rates, which in turn affected prices for consumer lending.

The bank agreed to pay $450 million in total to the Justice Department, the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission and the UK's Financial Services Authority to resolve the violations.

. . . .

In July 2014, the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations accused both Barclays and Deutsche Bank of helping hedge funds avoid paying more than $6 billion in taxes."

Can't wait for Hillary to field questions concerning her foundation's ties to the banking industry from a journalist who didn't donate to the foundation. Yes, I know, I shouldn't hold my breath.

Hezbollah Faces Disaster in Syria

As we were informed earlier this month by ynetnews in an article entitled "Report: Hezbollah leader being treated for heart attack" by Roi Kais, there were rumors throughout the Muslim Middle East that Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah suffered a heart attack or stroke. However, even if he did not suffer a heart attack, it is more than likely that Nasrallah was indeed admitted to the hospital with chest pains, owing to the stress he has been enduring.

Over the course of the past few days, Hezbollah has been trumpeting its "victory" over al-Nusra forces in the Qalamoun hills situated on the border between Lebanon and Syria (Hezbollah has not mentioned that it received combat intelligence during the battle from American drones). Nasrallah claimed that only 13 Hezbollah fighters were killed in the battle (the number is closer to 250). However, Hebollah's true casualties are a closely guarded secret: Many of its fighters are being buried in Syria, and their families are being told that they were involved in fatal automobile accidents. My "best guess" is that at least 1,500 Hezbollah fighters have died in Syria, and twice that number have been wounded. This represents an extraordinarily large percentage of Hezbollah's military wing and also places a significant financial burden upon the organization, which is obligated to support the families of its "martyrs."

Just how bad is the current situation for Hezbollah? As reported in an April 28, 2015 New York Times article entitled "An Eroding Syrian Army Points to Strain" by Anne Barnard, Hwaida Saad and Eric Schmitt:

"Hezbollah is not in a position to bail out Mr. Assad the way it did in 2013, when it sent hundreds of fighters to crush the insurgent hub of Qusayr, near the Lebanese border.

Hezbollah now has more fighters and advisers in Syria than ever, about 5,000, American intelligence officials said. But, said the Syrian with security connections, they “only interfere in areas that are in their own interests.”

The official sympathetic to Hezbollah said it has 'maybe thousands' of fighters along the Lebanese border [e.g., the Qalamoun Hills], hundreds in the south, bordering Israel, and only dozens around divided Aleppo, Syria’s largest city."

However, a better indication of the difficulties facing Hezbollah is to be found in the very recent pronouncements of Nasrallah, who earlier this week declared that Hezbollah is fighting an "existential battle" in Syria. Moreover, as reported by The Jerusalem Post in an article entitled "Nasrallah: Downfall of Assad would mean fall of Hezbollah":

"Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime must be preserved, as its collapse would mean the end of Hezbollah and the 'axis of resistance,' the Lebanese movement’s leader, Hassan Nasrallah, has said, according to a Lebanese paper close to the Islamic group.

He went on to assert that Assad would not be overthrown, but that it would not be possible for his forces to recover control over all of Syria.

Nasrallah was speaking on Thursday night during a meeting with Free Patriotic Movement party head Michel Aoun, a Christian leader and former Lebanese army chief allied with Hezbollah, Al-Akhbar reported on Tuesday."

Can Assad and Nasrallah survive? In fact, much depends upon whether Obama frees up some $50 billion of frozen Iranian bank accounts as a signing bonus to Khamenei for reaching a nuclear agreement with the P5+1 by the June 30 deadline. No small part of these funds will be used to support Iran's proxies in Syria, Lebanon and Yemen, i.e. Assad, Hezbollah and the Houthi rebels.

Obama, laboring to establish a presidential legacy by way of detente with Iran, is willfully ignoring Khamenei's duress to obtain these funds to finance Shiite dominion over the Middle East.

Stay tuned.