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Tuesday, June 30, 2015

David Brooks, "The Next Culture War": Why Should Only Heterosexuals Be Forced to Suffer?




First, allow me to go on record as stating that I support gay and lesbian marriage. Why should only heterosexuals be forced to suffer? However, in his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "The Next Culture War," David Brooks addresses the issue of gay and lesbian marriage from a different angle. Brooks writes:

"Most Christian commentary has opted for another strategy: fight on. Several contributors to a symposium in the journal First Things about the court’s Obergefell decision last week called the ruling the Roe v. Wade of marriage. It must be resisted and resisted again. Robert P. George, probably the most brilliant social conservative theorist in the country, argued that just as Lincoln persistently rejected the Dred Scott decision, so 'we must reject and resist an egregious act of judicial usurpation.'

These conservatives are enmeshed in a decades-long culture war that has been fought over issues arising from the sexual revolution. Most of the conservative commentators I’ve read over the past few days are resolved to keep fighting that war.

. . . .

I don’t expect social conservatives to change their positions on sex, and of course fights about the definition of marriage are meant as efforts to reweave society. But the sexual revolution will not be undone anytime soon. The more practical struggle is to repair a society rendered atomized, unforgiving and inhospitable. Social conservatives are well equipped to repair this fabric, and to serve as messengers of love, dignity, commitment, communion and grace."

Sorry, David, but I'm not big on proselytizing. Send a horde of social conservatives to Baltimore "to serve as messengers of love, dignity, commitment, communion and grace"? Why do I think this is not going to work? Instead, I think social conservatives should enjoy their love, dignity, commitment, communion and grace within their own homes and communities. If it works for them in these unsettling times, I am confident their values and lifestyles will be discovered and emulated by those outside their communities.

Monday, June 29, 2015

The Washington Post, "Israel intercepts Gaza-bound aid ship in Mediterranean": An Aid-Ship Carrying No Aid?




Currently on the Washington Post homepage under "More Headlines," there is a link "Israel intercepts Gaza-bound aid ship" which takes you to the article "Israel intercepts Gaza-bound aid ship in Mediterranean" by William Booth. Booth states in his article:

"The Swedish-registered Marianne of Gothenburg was attempting to enter Israeli-controlled waters in the Mediterranean Sea and deliver aid packages to Gaza."

Israeli Defense Minister Ya'alon, however, has declared there was no aid aboard the said ship.

In today's brave new world, are there "aid-ships" carrying no aid?

I asked WaPo to correct (I copied Martin Baron on the email), and let's see if they are willing to address this egregious blunder.

Obama Surrenders to Khamenei: What Happened to "No Deal Is Better Than a Bad Deal"?




Yesterday, we learned that Prime Minister Netanyahu had stated to an Israeli cabinet meeting:

"We see before our very eyes that the world powers are retreating from the red lines they set for themselves recently and publicly. There is no reason to rush to sign this bad deal, which becomes worse every day. It’s not too late to go back and make demands that will really prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons, and will prevent it from receiving funds that will sponsor its aggression, its expansion, and the terror attacks that it carries out all over the world."

What was the reason for Netanyahu's concern? It wasn't clear. Today, however, we know the answer. DEBKAfile now informs us of three horrifying concessions made by Obama to Iranian Supreme Leader Khamenei:

"1. After barring International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspections of suspect sites for years, Tehran will now be allowed to submit a paper with answers to queries about its past clandestine activities at those military sites, such as suspected tests of nuclear bomb detonators and explosives.

. . . .

2. Obama and Kerry have withdrawn the 'any time, anywhere' stipulation for snap inspections of suspect nuclear facilities, as mandated by the Additional Protocol signed by Iran. They now agree that international monitors must first submit a request to an 'Iranian Committee' (not even a joint US-Iranian committee) for advance permission to inspect nuclear facilities.

. . . .

3. Washington has backed down on its insistence on predicating sanctions relief on Iran’s compliance with its obligations under the final accord. After Tehran countered with a demand for the sanctions to be lifted immediately upon the signing of the accord, the Obama administration agreed to remove them in three stages:


a) Straight after the deal is signed.

b) After ratification of the accord by the US Congress and Iranian Majlis. This process is expected to take place by the end of 2015, and so Iran will win two multibillion windfalls this year without being required to meet any obligations beyond its signature. Obama counts on the support of 34 US senators. In any case, Congress is not empowered to reject or delay the deal.

c) All remaining sanctions will be lifted when implementation of the accord begins."

This amounts to little less than abject surrender on the part of Obama. Is there anyone willing to oppose America's president? Could it be that Obama is continuing to seek revenge against Netanyahu? You will recall how Obama and Kerry sought to impose Turkish and Qatari mediation upon Netanyahu during Israel's war with Hamas last summer. With a year and a half remaining of his presidency, Obama is revealing his true colors.

Paul Krugman, "Greece Over the Brink": Is America Next?




"The problem is, is that the way Bush has done it over the last eight years is to take out a credit card from the Bank of China in the name of our children, driving up our national debt from $5 trillion for the first 42 presidents - #43 added $4 trillion by his lonesome, so that we now have over $9 trillion of debt that we are going to have to pay back -- $30,000 for every man, woman and child. That's irresponsible. It's unpatriotic."

- Barack Obama, July 3, 2008


Well, US national debt has now reached an unsustainable $18.3 trillion, amounting to $57,000 for every American man, woman and child. Care to comment, Mr. President? And although today's headlines are all about the economic woes of Greece and Puerto Rico, the United States of America is not far behind, although no one dares say anything. You will recall the frightened silence of those observing the the emperor's parade in "The Emperor's New Clothes" . . .

In his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Greece Over the Brink," Paul Krugman declares that "the creation of the euro was a terrible mistake," which trapped Greece in an "economic straitjacket." Observing that "[c]ases of successful austerity, in which countries rein in deficits without bringing on a depression, typically involve large currency devaluations that make their exports more competitive" (something Greece cannot do to the euro), Krugman urges Greek voters to reject demands from creditors for harsher austerity:

"This isn’t about analysis, it’s about power — the power of the creditors to pull the plug on the Greek economy, which persists as long as euro exit is considered unthinkable.

So it’s time to put an end to this unthinkability. Otherwise Greece will face endless austerity, and a depression with no hint of an end."

Regrettably, Krugman does not bother mentioning Puerto Rico in his op-ed. As reported by Michael Fletcher in a Washington Post article entitled "Puerto Rico says it cannot pay its debt, setting off potential crisis in the U.S.":

"The governor of Puerto Rico has decided that the island cannot pay back more than $70 billion in debt, setting up an unprecedented financial crisis that could rock the municipal bond market and lead to higher borrowing costs for governments across the United States.

Puerto Rico’s move could roil financial markets already dealing with the turmoil of the renewed debt crisis in Greece. It also raises questions about the once-staid municipal bond market, which states and cities count on to pay upfront costs for public improvements such as roads, parks and hospitals.

For many years, those bonds were considered safe investments — but those assumptions have been shifting in recent years as a small but steady string of U.S. municipalities, including Detroit, as well as Stockton and Vallejo in California, have tumbled into bankruptcy."

Puerto Rico cannot file for bankruptcy, and no one, least of all Krugman, knows if this crisis, involving both Greece and Puerto Rico, could snowball. Pretty it won't be.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Ray Takeyh, "The payoff for Iran": Yes, There Will Be a Deal Paving the Way to Iranian Regional Hegemony




No need to hold your breath. Although the negotiations between the P5+1 and Iran will extend beyond the June 30 deadline, a deal will be reached several days thereafter. You see, Iran needs the $50 billion signing bonus to fund its international terror network, but it will first squeeze everything it can from a naive, indulgent Obama administration.

I can also promise that Iran will breach the agreement several days thereafter, paving the way to an Iranian nuclear arsenal years before the expiration of the 10-year sunset clause, although it may take the US months to catch on. And if Obama is still president, he will do nothing about it.

Ray Takeyh, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, concludes regarding the soon-to-be-finalized deal with Iran in a Washington Post opinion piece entitled "The payoff for Iran":

"The much-discussed terms of the impending agreement with Iran thus offer the theocracy all that it wants. The accord would concede a vast enrichment capacity, as well as accepting both a heavy water plant and a well-fortified underground enrichment facility that the United States once vowed to shutter. It would permit an elaborate research and development program and would likely rely on an inspection regime that falls short of indispensable 'anytime, anywhere' access. In the meantime, the sanctions architecture will be diminished, and the notion of ever 'snapping back' sanctions into place once they are lifted is delusional. And because the agreement itself would be term-limited, there would be no practical limits on Iran’s nuclear ambitions upon its expiration.

However, as disturbing as all this may be, the most important legacy of the prospective agreement many not even lie in the nuclear realm. The massive financial gains from the deal would enable the Islamic Republic’s imperial surge while allowing a repressive regime that was on the brink of collapse in 2009 to consolidate power. This would be no small achievement for Iran’s emboldened rulers."

No "anytime, anywhere" access, and no snapbacks of sanctions"? Indeed, "no small achievement for Iran’s emboldened rulers," and part and parcel of Obama's devastating legacy to boot.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Philip Gordon, "Bibi’s man in D.C., still spinning for the boss": A Hatchet Job of a Book Review



On Friday night, the White House was awash with the colors of the rainbow to celebrate the Supreme Court’s decision that marriage equality is a constitutional right. The light show came at a time when the Obama administration was seeking to finalize a nuclear agreement with the Islamic Republic of Iran, which hangs homosexuals. Of course, Obama has always voiced his opposition to the murder of gay men by Iran . . . or has he? As observed by Dr. Majid Rafizadeh, who serves on the board of the Harvard International Review at Harvard University, in a Front Page Magazine article entitled "An Execution Wave Against LGBT Iranians":

"President Barack Obama has long depicted himself as a defender of women’s and LGBT rights not only in the United States but across the world as well. Yet, where is his voice when it comes to the growing number of executions and the persecution of the gay and lesbian community as well as the repression of women in the Islamic Republic of Iran? In addition, why has the LGBT movement not criticized the Obama administration or made a movement over these injustices, egregious actions, and human rights violations committed in the Islamic Republic against the gays and lesbians?

As the Obama administration continues to communicate and diplomatically negotiate with Iranian officials in Vienna, New York, and elsewhere, President Obama has not even slightly expressed his concern about the unfair actions, executions, discriminations and prosecutions of LGBT individuals, as well as the increasing repressions of women under the Rouhani administration."

Also in the news on Friday, we learned that a Geocartography Institute poll has determined that a whopping 48.5 percent of Jewish Israeli respondents said that Obama's proposed nuclear deal with Iran was a threat to Israel’s existence. Moreover, 44.5 percent of the respondents said they did not trust Obama to maintain Israel’s security. But what could Israelis possibly know about their own survival?

Against the backdrop of the foregoing, today The Washington Post has published an opinion piece/book review entitled "Bibi’s man in D.C., still spinning for the boss" by Philip Gordon of Michael Oren's "Ally." As noted by the opinion piece/book review, Philip Gordon "is a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations" and "[f]rom 2013 until this spring he was the White House coordinator for the Middle East, North Africa and the Persian Gulf region." Michael Oren was the Israeli ambassador to the US from 2009 to 2013 and is now a member of the Israeli parliament, although he does not belong to Prime Minister Netanyahu's Likud Party.

Acknowledging that Obama's desire to reach a nuclear deal with Iran is "a signature foreign policy initiative of the U.S. president," Gordon writes of Oren's book, whose release was timed around the June 30 deadline for an agreement between the P5+1 and Iran:

"The value of the book is that it reflects a view genuinely held by many Israelis: that the Obama administration, naively seeking to repair U.S. ties to the Muslim world and failing to appreciate Israel’s value to the United States, broke with decades of U.S. policy toward the region by systematically siding with the Palestinians and seeking a reconciliation with Iran. The problem with the book is that Oren’s main argument is a caricature, bolstered by exaggerations and distortions that will probably contribute to the deterioration of the very relationship the author purports to cherish.

Take, for example, Oren’s contention that by publicly airing differences with Israel, Obama broke with a long-standing principle that there should never be 'daylight' in the relationship. Really? To take just a few examples, Dwight Eisenhower slammed Israel for the 1956 Suez operation and forced it into a humiliating retreat; Gerald Ford froze arms deliveries and announced a reassessment of the relationship as a way of pressing Israel to withdraw from the Sinai; Jimmy Carter clashed repeatedly with Prime Minister Menachem Begin before, during and after the 1978 Camp David summit. Ronald Reagan denounced Israel’s strike on the Osirak nuclear reactor in Iraq and enraged Jerusalem by selling surveillance planes to Saudi Arabia; George H.W. Bush blocked loan guarantees to Israel over settlements; Bill Clinton clashed publicly with Israel over the size of proposed West Bank withdrawals; George W. Bush called for a settlement freeze in the 2002 road map for peace and afterward repeatedly criticized Israel for construction in the West Bank. In other words, Oren has a point — except in the case of virtually every Republican and Democratic U.S. administration since Israel’s founding."

Or stated otherwise, Gordon would have us know that Obama's difficulties with Israel are no different from those of other US presidents (Jonathan Broder makes a similar argument in Newsweek) . . . or are they? You see, Obama declared in a December 2014 NPR interview:

"So, when I came into office, the world was divided and Iran was in the driver's seat. Now the world's united because of the actions we've taken, and Iran's the one that's isolated.

They have a path to break through that isolation and they should seize it. Because if they do, there's incredible talent and resources and sophistication inside of — inside of Iran, and it would be a very successful regional power that was also abiding by international norms and international rules, and that would be good for everybody. That would be good for the United States, that would be good for the region, and most of all, it would be good for the Iranian people."

Excuse me, Phil, but which other US president ever envisioned Iran as "a very successful regional power"? Iran is a country that hangs gays, stones to death women accused of adultery, brutally persecutes Baha'is, Christians, Kurds and Sunnis, executes poets for "waging war on God," supports the murderous Assad regime in Syria, exports terror via Hezbollah, and routinely threatens Israel with annihilation. Obama is apparently convinced that he can export "Change" to a savage Iranian theocracy, and is therefore willing to sign a deal whose sunset clause will allow the mullahs to build nuclear weapons within 10 years (if they don't cheat before that time - which they will). Who is being naive?

Gordon accuses Oren of "leveling the outlandish charge that Obama made 'deliberate mistakes' to damage U.S.-Israeli relations — a notion not just oxymoronic but inconsistent with the story and analysis in the book." Gordon, however, makes no reference to recent calls for "Death to America" from Iran's parliament (when people threaten to kill me, I believe them) or Iranian efforts to build ICBMs, which will bring the Iranian nuclear threat to American shores. Of course, all this and more (e.g., Iran's support of the Houthi insurgency in Yemen) should be ignored in order to realize Obama's "signature foreign policy initiative." Who is being moronic (as opposed to "oxymoronic")?

Gordon concludes his opinion piece/book review by accusing Oren of "peddl[ing] a false narrative of American abandonment of Israel." Sorry, Phil, but no one is talking about "American abandonment of Israel." Rather, we are talking about Obama's abandonment of Israel, and yes, I agree with Mike.

Judging from the panicky response of Obama's inner circle, Oren obviously touched a raw nerve.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Richard Kemp, "The U.N.’s Gaza Report Is Flawed and Dangerous": Exposing the Bias of Mary McGowan Davis and the Times Editorial Board



In a guest New York Times op-ed entitled "The U.N.’s Gaza Report Is Flawed and Dangerous," Colonel Richard Kemp, former Commander of British Forces in Afghanistan, exposes the United Nations Human Rights Council report on last summer’s conflict in Gaza for what it is: tendentious trash commissioned to vilify Israel. Colonel Kemp writes (my emphasis in blue):

"The report is characterized by a lack of understanding of warfare. That is hardly surprising. Judge [Mary McGowan] Davis admitted, when I testified before her in February, that the commission, though investigating a war, had no military expertise. Perhaps that is why no attempt has been made to judge Israeli military operations against the practices of other armies. Without such international benchmarks, the report’s findings are meaningless.

The commission could have listened to Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the United States Joint Chiefs of Staff, who said last November that the I.D.F. [Israel Defense Forces] had taken extraordinary measures to try to limit civilian casualties. Or to a group of 11 senior military officers from seven nations, including the United States, Germany, Spain and Australia, who also investigated the Gaza conflict recently. I was a member of that group, and our report, made available to Judge Davis, said: 'None of us is aware of any army that takes such extensive measures as did the I.D.F. last summer to protect the lives of the civilian population.'

The report acknowledges that Israel took steps to warn of imminent attacks but suggests more should have been done to minimize civilian casualties. Yet it offers no opinion about what additional measures Israel could have taken. It even criticizes Israel for using harmless explosive devices — the 'knock on the roof' — as a final warning to evacuate targeted buildings, suggesting that it created confusion. No other country uses roof-knocks, a munition developed by Israel as part of a series of I.D.F. warning procedures, including text messages, phone calls and leaflet drops, that are known to have saved many Palestinian lives.

Judge Davis suggests that the I.D.F.’s use of air, tank and artillery fire in populated areas may constitute a war crime and recommends further international legal restrictions on their use. Yet these same systems were used extensively by American and British forces in similar circumstances in Iraq and Afghanistan. They are often vital in saving the lives of our own soldiers, and their curtailment would jeopardize military effectiveness while handing an advantage to our enemies."

Now compare Colonel Kemp's conclusions with those of The New York Times in a June 23 editorial entitled "War Crimes and the Gaza War" (my emphasis in red):

"The report is expected to serve as the basis for a fuller investigation into possible war crimes by the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court. It is unrealistic to expect Hamas, which the United States and other countries consider a terrorist group, to comply with international law or police itself. But Israel has a duty, and should have the desire, to adjust its military policies to avoid civilian casualties and hold those who failed to do so accountable."

Yes, the New York Times is every bit as biased and ignorant as the panel responsible for preparing the United Nations Gaza report. Needless to say, the Times failed to mention how the UNHRC, ever since it came into being, has consistently singled out Israel for censure. As observed by UN Watch:

"In the nine years of its existence, the UN Human Rights Council has condemned Israel more times than the rest of the world combined, revealed UN Watch today, ahead of a new report to be released by the Geneva-based NGO that documents endemic selectivity and politicization at the world body.

The outcome resolution for the latest Gaza report, to be introduced at the UNHRC this week by the Palestinians together with the Arab and Islamic states, will condemn Israel exclusively, and will mark the 62nd resolution targeting Israel since the new and improved Council was created in 2006 -- while the total of all other UNHRC condemnatory resolutions for the rest of the world amounts to 55, with most of the worst violators given a free pass, if not a seat on the council itself."

One can only wonder why the Times allowed Colonel Kemp to rebut its vacuous editorial.