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Monday, October 20, 2014

Obama Seeks to Lift Sanctions on Iran Without Congressional Approval: You Didn't See This Coming?

As reported by David Sanger in a New York Times article entitled "Obama Sees an Iran Deal That Could Avoid Congress";

"No one knows if the Obama administration will manage in the next five weeks to strike what many in the White House consider the most important foreign policy deal of his presidency: an accord with Iran that would forestall its ability to make a nuclear weapon. But the White House has made one significant decision: If agreement is reached, President Obama will do everything in his power to avoid letting Congress vote on it."

Surprise, surprise, surprise! Did anyone not see this coming?

Yet, notwithstanding the "red line" he fixed regarding use of chemical weapons against civilians by Syrian tyrant Bashar al-Assad, Obama chose to avoid having to take action against Assad by turning to Congress for approval.

Yes, I think I am going to be ill.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Frank Bruni, "The Virus of Cynicism": Or the Cancer of Hopelessness?

Should Americans be more afraid of the Ebola virus or the incompetence of the Obama administration?

In his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "The Virus of Cynicism," Frank Bruni observes:

"Ebola is his presidency in a petri dish. It’s an example already of his tendency to talk too loosely at the outset of things, so that his words come back to haunt him. There was the doctor you could keep under his health plan until, well, you couldn’t. There was the red line for Syria that he didn’t have to draw and later erased."

But is current unhappiness in the US only about cynicism, incompetence and a lack of confidence?

I remember how, when I was 15 and wandering the streets of Chinatown in San Francisco, I watched on a storefront television as Neil Armstrong became the first man to walk on the moon. Where has America traveled since then?

US national debt is fast approaching $18 trillion, but where are the achievements that can be attributed to this spending? In fact, hope and pride have flown the coop, and have been replaced by greed and narcissism.

Shh! Don't tell the Chinese! Who knows what will happen if they demand back their $1.3 trillion from the American government . . .

Thursday, October 16, 2014

David Brooks, "The Case for Low Ideals": In Praise of "Low Idealism"

In his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "The Case for Low Ideals," David Brooks tells us that he is not about to make the case for "high idealism," as exemplified by Obama's 2008 election campaign, "based in the idea of a heroic savior (remember those 'Hope' posters)." Rather, Brooks is "here to make the case for low idealism." David writes:

"The low idealist is more romantic about the past than about the future. Though governing is hard, there are some miracles of human creation that have been handed down to us. These include, first and foremost, the American Constitution, but also the institutions that function pretty well, like the Congressional Budget Office and the Federal Reserve. Her first job is to work with existing materials, magnify what’s best and incrementally reform what is worst."

Ah yes, the American Constitution and lest we forget, the Declaration of Independence and Bill of Rights (as opposed to today's Bill of Clinton). Who would believe that the United States is well on its way to abandoning the principle that "all men are created equal," and in its stead, new "royal" families are fast emerging, e.g., the House of Bush and the House of Clinton. Yes, the United States has gone full circle.

"Magnify what’s best and incrementally reform what is worst"? A noble aspiration, and certainly preferable to messianism. But abandon the high ideals that were responsible for the Constitution? Never. Without high ideals, as opposed to the messianism and personality worship fostered by the likes of Anita Dunn and David Axelrod, life would not be worth living.

Glorify "low ideals"? Sorry, but I'm not in the market. Liberty to dream of and live by high ideals or death!

New York Times Editorial, "A British Message to Israel ":

In an editorial entitled "A British Message to Israel," The New York Times declares:

"Israel and the United States have dismissed Monday’s vote in the House of Commons in Britain that endorsed diplomatic recognition of a Palestinian state as a symbolic gesture that won’t change British policy.

. . . .

Israel and its allies should not ignore the message. The vote is one more sign of the frustration many people in Europe feel about the failure to achieve an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement despite years of promises."

The Times doesn't bother to consider that it is difficult to reach a peace agreement with Hamas, whose charter calls for the murder of all Jews and rejects negotiation with Israel. It is also difficult to reach a peace agreement with Fatah, whose chairman, Abbas, demands that Palestine be free of "Israelis", but refuses to recognize Israel as a Jewish state.

Israel should listen to Europe's message? This is the same Europe that did nothing some 70 years ago when Hitler murdered some six million Jews, i.e. two-thirds of Europe's Jewish population.

More specifically, Israel should not ignore Monday's vote in the House of Commons? Oh really? Consider, how following an investigation by Britain's Crown Prosecution Service of an August speech by MP George Galloway, declaring his district, Bradford, an "Israel Free Zone," the CPS last night concluded:

"Given the context and setting in which the speech was made, including its overall content and the audience discussion which followed, we have determined that the speech did not indicate a desire to encourage others to hate a racial group.

“There is also insufficient evidence to show, in all the circumstances of this case, that it was likely that people would have been motivated to hate people of Israeli origin as a result."

Galloway's use of "Israel Free Zone" had no connection to the Nazi term "Judenfrei"? Fascinating.

What about anti-Semitism in the UK? In July 2014, it was at record levels. In August, a London branch of the Sainsbury supermarket chain removed all kosher food from its shelves for fear that the store would be attacked.

Consider also how in August of this year, as reported by Reuters in an article entitled "UK says to suspend some Israel arms exports if Gaza truce fails":

"Britain said on Tuesday it would suspend 12 licences to export military items to Israel, including tank, aircraft and radar parts, if hostilities with Hamas in Gaza resumed, citing concerns the exports may be used to breach international laws.

Britain said last week it was reviewing all arms export licences to Israel after fierce fighting which has resulted in heavy civilian casualties in the Palestinian enclave of Gaza.

That review concluded on Tuesday that 12 licences would be temporarily suspended pending further investigation if the current truce breaks down and heavy fighting resumes."

Of course, the UK didn't care that Hamas was responsible for repeatedly violating the ceasefires. Thousands of rockets fired at Israeli population centers? Also of no consequence.

The reality is that anti-Semitism has never lost its hold over Europe, and for Israel to do Europe's bidding is no less than a call for Jewish suicide.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Thomas Friedman, "A Pump War?": Not Really

In a New York Times op-ed entitled "A Pump War?," Thomas Friedman writes:

"Is it just my imagination or is there a global oil war underway pitting the United States and Saudi Arabia on one side against Russia and Iran on the other?

. . . .

Think about this: four oil producers — Libya, Iraq, Nigeria and Syria — are in turmoil today, and Iran is hobbled by sanctions. Ten years ago, such news would have sent oil prices soaring. But today, the opposite is happening. Global crude oil prices have been falling for weeks, now resting around $88 — after a long stretch at $105 to $110 a barrel."

So, oil prices are down by some 18 percent. Great, but Iranian oil exports are also growing significantly this year.

As reported in a June 12, 2014 Bloomberg article entitled "Growing Iran Oil Exports Challenge U.S. Nuclear Sanctions" by Indira A.R. Lakshmanan and Anthony DiPaola:

"Iran’s oil exports have risen this year, according to Bloomberg calculations, a trend that threatens to violate U.S. sanctions on the Islamic Republic’s main source of revenue.

Shipments of Iranian crude oil and condensate have increased about 28 percent on average this year, according to an analysis of customs data from importing nations and figures from the International Energy Agency in Paris. If crude sales are up by the end of July, that would break an international accord to hold Iran’s oil exports at the same level in the first half of this year that they were at in the previous six months."

See also what Clifford Krauss writes in an August 12, 2014 New York Times article entitled "With Natural Gas Byproduct, Iran Sidesteps Sanctions":

"Iran is finding a way around Western sanctions to export increasing amounts of an ultralight oil to China and other Asian markets, expanding the value of its trade by potentially billions of dollars a year.

The exports come during a slight thaw in Iran’s relations with the West as negotiations over its nuclear program continue, and energy experts say it is counting on the United States and Europe to tolerate an increasing export stream.

According to Iranian customs data, the country in recent months has exported 525,000 barrels a day of the ultralight oil, known as condensates, over two times more than it did a year ago. In the last three months, the sales have generated as much as $1.5 billion in extra trade — a rate of about $6 billion a year — based on Iranian trade figures and market prices, analysts said."

Iran is being "hobbled by sanctions" on its oil exports? No, not after Obama, in search of a deal to slow Iran's nuclear weapons development program, sought to appease Khamenei by easing trade sanctions pursuant to the November 2013 Geneva interim agreement.

Meanwhile, as reported today in a Times of Israel article entitled "Israel fumes at ‘post-sanctions’ Iran conference in London" by Raphael Ahren:

"An international conference to promote business ties between Europe and Iran is set to begin Wednesday in London, arousing the ire of local pro-Israel groups and senior government officials in Jerusalem.

The '1st Europe-Iran forum' seeks to prepare the ground for 'post-sanctions investment and trade,' according to its official website. Speakers at the conference, which has been endorsed by the office of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, include former foreign ministers from the United Kingdom and France, one British MP, and a senior official currently serving in the British Foreign Office."

A "global oil war" is underway against Iran? Apparently, the UK and France also don't know anything about it.

Monday, October 13, 2014

David Brooks, "The Sorting Election": I Don't Understand

Have a look today at the homepage of the The New York Times. The siege of Kobani by ISIS? This news item has been supplanted by panic over the Ebola virus, which has once again caught the Obama administration with its pants down.

Send Secretary of State John Kerry to Africa to discuss the spread of Ebola? Not a chance. Instead, Kerry was at a donors' conference for Gaza on Sunday to pledge more than $400 million in US aid for its reconstruction. Who cares if Gaza's infrastructure has been destroyed three times in the past six years? Who cares if the Hamas charter still calls for the murder of all Jews and rejects negotiation with Israel? Let's throw more American money at Hamas. No need for Hamas to change.

Which is not to say that Kerry is unaware of Kobani. On Monday, Kerry declared that Kobani is just "one community."

Obama in the midst of all these crises? Raising funds at the home of Gwyneth Paltrow and being told how handsome he is. Music to this narcissist's ears.

Which brings me to David Brooks's latest New York Times op-ed entitled "The Sorting Election." All about Kobani or Ebola? No way! Instead, Brooks concludes:

"People in San Francisco and Houston are achieving success while pursuing different economic models. It probably doesn’t make much sense to govern them intrusively from Washington as if they were engaged in the same project."

Huh?

Maybe it's old age creeping up on me, but I don't pretend to understand.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Thomas Friedman, "I.S. = Invasive Species ": What About Halabja and Hama?

Would-be Middle East expert Thomas Friedman has a penchant for word games. Do you remember his less than memorable New York Times opinion piece entitled "ISIS and SISI"? Perhaps not. In any event, Friedman is back with another humdinger of a title for his latest Times op-ed, "I.S. = Invasive Species," in which Tom claims that "ISIS operates just like an 'invasive species' in the world of plants and animals." Friedman writes:

"Today, ISIS — the foreigners and locals together — is putting pressure on all of Iraq’s and Syria’s native species with the avowed goal of reducing the diversity of these once polycultural societies and turning them into bleak, dark, jihadist, Sunni fundamentalist monocultures."

Ah yes, the good old days in Iraq and Syria, when tolerance permeated their respective ecosystems!

But heck, didn't Saddam Hussein murder 50,000 Kurds during the genocidal al-Anfal Campaign from 1986 to 1989? Surely you remember how some 5,000 Kurds died in the 1988 poison gas on the Kurdish city of Halabja in 1988.

Moreover, tens of thousands of Kurdish and Shiite civilians died when Saddam Hussein brutally suppressed the 1991 uprisings in northern and southern Iraq.

Syria? In 1982, Hafez al-Assad, father of Bashar al-Assad, put down a rebellion of the Sunni Muslim Brotherhood in Hama, killing somewhere between 20,000 and 40,000 innocent people.

The violence of ISIS is foreign to the "polycultural societies" of Iraq and Syria? Cut the bullshit, Tom! Violence is endemic to the Muslim Middle East.