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Monday, September 22, 2014

David Brooks, "Snap Out of It": What About "The Murder of Klinghoffer"?

Over the course of recent weeks, we have witnessed an effusion of pseudo-philosophical trash by David Brooks on the op-ed page of the New York Times. The titles of some of these opinion pieces: "Startling Adult Friendships," "The Mental Virtues" and "Introspective or Narcissistic?." Today, however, Brooks's Times op-ed entitled "Snap Out of It," describing the wonders of New York City, takes the cake. Brooks writes:

"I’ve been living in and visiting New York for almost a half-century now. One thought occurs as I walk around these days: The city has never been better.

There has never been a time when there were so many interesting places to visit, shop and eat, when the rivers and the parks were so beautiful, when there were so many vibrant neighborhoods across all boroughs, with immigrants and hipsters and new businesses and experimental schools."

Regarding American cities and suburbs in general, Brooks continues:

"Of course there are the problems of inequality and poverty that we all know about, but there hasn’t been a time in American history when so many global cultures percolated in the mainstream, when there was so much tolerance for diverse ethnicities, lifestyles and the complex directions of the heart, when there was so little tolerance for disorder, domestic violence and prejudice."

And according to Brooks, the world has never been a better place:

"Widening the lens, we’re living in an era with the greatest reduction in global poverty ever — across Asia and Africa. We’re seeing a decline in civil wars and warfare generally."

Given this rosy outlook, it is no wonder that Brooks doesn't deign touch on yesterday's protest against the staging of "The Murder of Klinghoffer" by New York City's Metropolitan Opera. The opera depicts the 1985 murder of Leon Klinghoffer, a 69-year-old American Jew, confined to a wheelchair by a stroke, who was shot by Palestinian terrorists while celebrating his 36th wedding anniversary aboard the Italian cruise ship "The Achille Lauro." Mr. Klinghoffer's body and his wheelchair were thrown into the Mediterranean by the terrorists.

In an editorial on Friday entitled "The Met Opera Stands Firm," subtitled "‘The Death of Klinghoffer’ Must Go On," The New York Times went on record as saying:

"Music critics and opera lovers have found the opera, by John Adams, moving and nuanced in imagining a tragedy that gives voice to all sides, from the ruthless and aggrieved terrorists to Mr. Klinghoffer, an innocent Jewish-American who makes some of the opera’s most powerful points in denouncing violence as a political tool."

Ah yes, a "nuanced" opera giving "voice to all sides" regarding a grizzly murder. I understand that next season the Metropolitan Opera will be staging "The Deaths of Foley and Sotloff," so as to provide operagoers with a "nuanced" view of the decapitation of these journalists by ISIS, so as "to give voice to all sides."

Judea Pearl, the father of the American journalist Daniel Pearl who was kidnapped and decapitated in Pakistan in 2002, has responded to the Times editorial in admirably restrained words:

"In joining protesters of the New York Metropolitan Opera’s production of “The Death of Klinghoffer,” I echo the silenced voice of our son, Daniel Pearl, and the silenced voices of other victims of terror who were murdered, maimed or left heartbroken by the new menace of our generation, a savagery that the Met has decided to elevate to a normative, two-sided status worthy of artistic expression.

We are told that the composer tried to understand the hijackers, their motivations and their grievances.

I submit that there has never been a crime in human history lacking grievance and motivation. The 9/11 lunatics had profound motivations, and the murderers of our son, Daniel Pearl, had very compelling 'grievances.'

. . . .

What we are seeing in New York is not an artistic expression that challenges the limits of morality but a moral deformity that challenges the limits of the art.

This opera is not about the mentality of deranged terrorists, but about the judgment of our arts directors. The Metropolitan Opera has squandered humanity’s greatest treasure: our moral compass, our sense of right and wrong, and, most sadly, our reverence for music as a noble expression of the human spirit.

We might someday be able to forgive the Met for decriminalizing brutality, but we will never forgive it for poisoning our music, for turning our best violins and our iconic concert halls into megaphones for excusing evil."

Thank you, Mr. Pearl.

Of course, The New York Times is not finished demeaning those who are protesting this grotesquerie. In an article in today's Times entitled "At Met’s Opening Night, Protesting a Production," Michael Cooper informs us:

"On Monday morning, Rabbi Avi Weiss of the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale, in the Bronx, led a small group in prayers for Mr. Klinghoffer on Monday morning in a small park across from Lincoln Center. He said that he 'absolutely' hoped that the Met would cancel the production. Like many opponents, he said he had not heard 'Klinghoffer': 'I’ve not seen it, but I’ve heard enough about it and I don’t want to see it, frankly.'"

Or in other words, if you haven't seen it, you can't judge it. Fascinating. I suppose those of us who have not read "Mein Kamp" from cover to cover cannot judge its "merits."

Yes indeed, as David Brooks would have us know, it's just a wonderful, wonderful world.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Paul Krugman, "Those Lazy Jobless": Don't Use the "O" Word!

In his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Those Lazy Jobless," Paul Krugman tells us that the job market has "improved lately," but has not recovered from the recession. Observing "the urge to blame the victims of a depressed economy," Krugman asks:

"Why is there so much animus against the unemployed, such a strong conviction that they’re getting away with something, at a time when they’re actually being treated with unprecedented harshness?"

Krugman proceeds to answer his own question. After considering whether it is because of "race," Krugman concludes:

"My guess, however, is that it’s mainly about the closed information loop of the modern right. In a nation where the Republican base gets what it thinks are facts from Fox News and Rush Limbaugh, where the party’s elite gets what it imagines to be policy analysis from the American Enterprise Institute or the Heritage Foundation, the right lives in its own intellectual universe, aware of neither the reality of unemployment nor what life is like for the jobless."

Got it: Republicans, Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, the American Enterprise Institute and the Heritage Foundation are all to blame.

Me? There is still horrifying unemployment out there - try to get a job if you're over 50 - and I don't blame the victims. However, I do question how Krugman can write an op-ed concerning unemployment without once mentioning the name of the president after almost six years in office.

Yes, I know, we're nearing the midterm elections, and when discussing America's lame economy, one must never use the "O" word.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Ross Douthat, "Grand Illusion in Syria": Or Grand Illusion in Obama's White House?

Why can't America's message to ISIS be simple: "If you threaten me or murder my citizens in cold blood, I'm going to destroy you!" The mission should not entail building a risible coalition of antipathetic allies or creating a credible Arab army intended to go toe-to-toe with the Islamic State's monsters on the ground. Meanwhile, however, ISIS is hearing a different message: "If you threaten me or murder my citizens in cold blood, I am going to slowly round up some reluctant friends, but meanwhile, pardon me as I play another round of golf."

In his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Grand Illusion in Syria," Ross Douthat declares:

"Either the American military will have to intervene in force (including with substantial ground troops) or we’ll have to ally, in a very un-American display of machtpolitik, with Bashar al-Assad. Both options may have supporters within the Republican Party. Many hawks seem ready to send in ground forces, and John McCain has explicitly argued that we should be willing to go to war with both Assad and the Islamists at once. From Rand Paul, meanwhile, you hear what sounds like a version of the ally-with-Assad approach, albeit couched in somewhat ambiguous terms.

The White House would clearly prefer not to choose either path, either escalation. But its current approach seems likely to drift more in McCain’s direction, with a gradual ramping-up (today bombing, tomorrow special forces, the next day ... ?) in Syria that makes a clash with Assad and a multifront war steadily more plausible."

Rubbish! First, America already has friends on the ground willing to fight ISIS: some 30 million stateless Kurds, living in Syria, Iraq, Iran and Turkey. If the US was to assist the Kurds with coordinated air strikes, they would set the forces of ISIS reeling. On the other hand, this would be sure to displease Turkey, whose persecuted Kurdish minority (some 25 percent of Turkey's population) has long been seeking some measure of autonomy. In addition, the Turks apparently have a tacit agreement in place with ISIS, which enabled Ankara to obtain the release on Saturday of 49 Turkish hostages without a single beheading.

The White House is "likely to drift more in McCain's direction," or as Douthat describes it, toward "war with both Assad and the Islamists at once"? If so, why did John (Assad is "my dear friend") Kerry declare on Friday, "There is a role for nearly every country in the world to play, including Iran"? Think about it: This is the same Iran that has sent arms and Revolutionary Guard fighters to support Assad. This is the same Iran (together with Syria and Hezbollah) that was responsible for the bombing of the Jewish community center in Buenos Aires that killed 85 people and injured another 250. This is the same Iran that hangs homosexuals, stones to death women, and persecutes Kurds, Baha'is, Sunnis and Christians.

Iran is the partner that the Obama administration so desperately wants in its coalition? Unfortunately for Kerry, Iran's purportedly "moderate" president, Hassan Rouhani, has denounced the coalition as "ridiculous."

America's president still doesn't have a strategy to combat ISIS, and he appears willing to do anything, no matter how detached from reality or devoid of substance, to boost his approval ratings.

January 20, 2017 cannot come soon enough for Obama.

Maureen Dowd, "Two Redheaded Strangers ": All You Never Wanted to Know About Eating Marijuana

In her latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Two Redheaded Strangers," subtitled "Willie Nelson Feels Maureen Dowd’s Pain," Dowd describes a visit with 81-year-old Willie Nelson, which apparently was devoted to a discussion of how to use marijuana. Nelson told Dowd that he doesn't "do edibles." Fascinating.

Perhaps of more interest to me, Dowd concludes her opinion piece by observing:

"Given all the horrors in the world now, I said, maybe President Obama needs to chill out by reuniting the Choom Gang."

Given all the horrors in the world now, I say, maybe President Obama needs to do the United States a favor by replacing Biden, Kerry, Hagel and Holder with the Choom Gang.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

David Brooks, "Startling Adult Friendships": Do You Want to Go to Friendship Camp?

"Outside of a dog, a book is a man's best friend. Inside of a dog it's too dark to read."

- Groucho Marx

Care to spend next summer in a David Brooks friendship camp? I kid you not!

In his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Startling Adult Friendships," subtitled "There Are Social and Political Benefits to Having Friends," David Brooks contemplates "what I would do if I had $500 million to give away." Observing that friendships give rise to better judgment, better versions of ourselves and better behavior, Brooks "envision[s] a string of adult camps or retreat centers (my oldest friendships were formed at summer camp, so I think in those terms)." He concludes by explaining:

"The goal of these intensity retreats would be to spark bonds between disparate individuals who, in the outside world, would be completely unlikely to know each other. The benefits of that social bridging, while unplannable, would ripple out in ways long and far-reaching."

Great idea! Let's send President Obama to a friendship summer camp together with a member of the Tea Party and a knife-wielding ISIS killer. I wonder who would walk away sane? More to the point, who would walk away with his head?

Thanks, but I think I'll just read a book with (not inside) Arnold.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Dana Milbank, "Trey Gowdy’s unexpected Benghazi twist": Who Cares If Documents Were Culled by Clinton Loyalists?

In his latest Washington Post opinion piece entitled "Trey Gowdy’s unexpected Benghazi twist," Dana Milbank praises Republican Congressman Gowdy for the manner in which he chaired the first public hearing of the House’s new Benghazi select committee on Wednesday:

"There was no discussion of talking points or stand-down orders, and only one of the seven Republicans on the panel — Jim Jordan of Ohio — even mentioned Clinton. Instead, Gowdy adopted as the theme of his first hearing an idea suggested by one of the committee’s Democrats, Adam Schiff of California: How well the State Department has been implementing recommendations to prevent future attacks on U.S. diplomats like the one in Libya two years ago that killed four Americans.

This is exactly what congressional oversight should be: a bipartisan effort by legislators to make sure executive-branch officials don’t repeat past mistakes."

"This is exactly what congressional oversight should be"? Oh really? On Monday, over at The Daily Signal, Sharyl Attkisson wrote in an opinion piece entitled "Benghazi Bombshell: Clinton State Department Official Reveals Details of Alleged Document Review":

"As the House Select Committee on Benghazi prepares for its first hearing this week, a former State Department diplomat is coming forward with a startling allegation: Hillary Clinton confidants were part of an operation to 'separate' damaging documents before they were turned over to the Accountability Review Board investigating security lapses surrounding the Sept. 11, 2012, terrorist attacks on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya.

According to former Deputy Assistant Secretary Raymond Maxwell, the after-hours session took place over a weekend in a basement operations-type center at State Department headquarters in Washington, D.C. This is the first time Maxwell has publicly come forward with the story."

Although this could prove "untidy" for Dana Milbank, Mr. Maxwell's story demands a thorough examination by the select committee, extending far beyond "a bipartisan effort by legislators to make sure executive-branch officials don’t repeat past mistakes." At issue is the mere integrity of American democracy.

James Bamford, "Israel’s N.S.A. Scandal": The New York Times Continues to Wage War Against Israel

So, you're interested in having a guest opinion piece published in The New York Times? Unless you're Barack Obama, Vladimir Putin or Henry Kissinger, it's not an easy thing to do. On the other hand, if you write an opinion piece - no matter how vapid or inane - excoriating Israel, you're chances of being published improve immeasurably.

In a fatuous guest New York Times op-ed entitled "Israel’s N.S.A. Scandal," James Bamford tells us how he "had the rare opportunity to hang out for three days with Edward J. Snowden" in Moscow this past summer. And apparently during the time that Bamford "hung out" with this American traitor, he was told that "the N.S.A. was routinely passing along the private communications of Americans to a large and very secretive Israeli military organization known as Unit 8200." Bamford informs us:

"Mr. Snowden stressed that the transfer of intercepts to Israel contained the communications — email as well as phone calls — of countless Arab- and Palestinian-Americans whose relatives in Israel and the Palestinian territories could become targets based on the communications. 'I think that’s amazing,' he told me. 'It’s one of the biggest abuses we’ve seen.'

It appears that Mr. Snowden’s fears were warranted. Last week, 43 veterans of Unit 8200 — many still serving in the reserves — accused the organization of startling abuses. In a letter to their commanders, to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and to the head of the Israeli army, they charged that Israel used information collected against innocent Palestinians for 'political persecution.' In testimonies and interviews given to the media, they specified that data were gathered on Palestinians’ sexual orientations, infidelities, money problems, family medical conditions and other private matters that could be used to coerce Palestinians into becoming collaborators or create divisions in their society."

Oh my goodness, the NSA passes communications from Palestinians to Israeli intelligence. Apparently unbeknownst to Bamford, Israel also shares intelligence with the United States. That's what friendly intel agencies do. (Would Bamford have us believe that the US doesn't share such information with the UK's MI6?)

A violation of privacy? No question about it. However, as Bamford is surely aware, every time you make an overseas call, your conversation is recorded. Say a "magic" word, and your conversation gets "special attention." That's the price we pay in order to attempt to avoid another 9/11. Sure, it's a nasty trade-off, but I personally prefer not to see another 2,600 people incinerated in a skyscraper, and I am willing to sacrifice much of my personal privacy to ensure that this does not happen again.

The Mossad and the Shin Bet make use of information concerning sexual orientations, infidelities and money problems to coerce people into becoming collaborators? Tell me, are there espionage organizations which don't do this?

And if Hamas, which is designated a terrorist organization by the US, is raising money in the US to fund its terror activities, is this of no interest to Israel and the US?

Okay, 43 reservists and former reservists from Unit 8200, from among the thousands of Israelis who have served in this unit, published a letter criticizing Israeli intelligence gathering efforts. Am I supposed to be shocked? Doesn't this speak volumes about the tolerant nature of Israeli society, which allows citizens from a broad spectrum of political views to express their views without fear of imprisonment or corporal punishment? And are we to understand that the thousands of other Israelis who served in Unit 8200 didn't sign the letter because they are stupider than these 43 persons or less moral?

Bamford concludes his opinion piece by observing how Snowden informed him:

"It’s much like how the F.B.I. tried to use Martin Luther King’s infidelity to talk him into killing himself . . . We said those kinds of things were inappropriate back in the ’60s. Why are we doing that now? Why are we getting involved in this again?"

It never occurs to Bamford that unlike Hamas, Martin Luthor King never encouraged suicide bombings, indiscriminately fired thousands of missiles at Israeli population centers, or called for the murder of all Jews.

Only The New York Times would stoop so low as to publish this offensive tripe.