Friday, March 29, 2013

Why is an alleged child molester still the voice of Elmo on PBS?

Megan McCardle on Horace Mann School's Pedophile Allegations

From The Daily Beast:

When sex scandals erupted in the Catholic Church and Penn State's football programs, we heard a lot about how the sick culture and institutions of religion and football created a safe space for pedophiles. Why no similarly harsh words for private school?...
...This is troubling.  And what's troubling is that one imagines it wasn't limited to Horace Mann; pedophiles tend to go where they have access to children, and a school is one excellent place to gain that access.  The incentives to hush up such incidents are obvious, particularly in a private school, where it's easy to imagine all the parents pulling their children out, and the school actually collapsing.  
Here's what's really interesting about these two articles: we haven't heard any calls to re-examine the institution of private school in light of these revelations.  
When the Catholic Church scandals erupted, there was a lot of discussion of what factors specific to the church had allowed them to continue.  Priestly celibacy, obviously: you'll naturally attract people who can't act on their sexual desires in public.  Hierarchy and tradition clearly played a role; victims deferred to authority, and so did many of the people who tried to bring these crimes to Authority's attention.  The Catholic Church's repressed attitude towards sex was referenced, as were its retrograde views on the role of women.  Surely such a thing could not have happened anywhere except an all-male patriarchy?
Similarly, when Jerry Sandusky's crimes were exposed, the commentary focused on the flaws of Penn State as an institution--and also on the macho culture of football. Yet as the Horace Mann revelations continue, I haven't seen anyone question whether Horace Mann deserves to exist, much less suggest that private school presents an unusually ripe field for pedophiles--a field that should be sown with salt.  The authors of the two bombshell articles (both Horace Mann graduates) certainly don't make any such suggestion; they are plainly bewildered that this was allowed to continue as long as it did.
What explains the difference?  The obvious candidate is the demographics of columnists and academics who write about these things.  Few of them are football players.  Few of them are practicing Catholics (or social conservatives).  But a fair number of them went to private school, or send their children there.  Even if they are prone to question the institution as an institution, doing so would be awfully uncomfortable.  And it might not do much for little Emily's chances at Brearley.  

Thursday, March 28, 2013

More US State Department "Smart Diplomacy" News from Peter Van Buren...

America’s favorite Diplomatic Security “special” agent Chris Deedy is engaged in what promises to be one of Hawaii’s longest trial processes.
For those just joining us, recap here. For those too multi-tasked to click on the link, the real short now version is that in November 2011 while in Hawaii protecting then-SecState Hillary Clinton from the APEC conference, Deedy shot and killed an unarmed man in a Waikiki McDonalds. Deedy was arrested by the Honolulu Police Department and charged with Murder in the Second Degree and Use of a Firearm in the Commission of a Separate Felony, punishable by a term of life in prison. Despite the whole thing being on both a surveillance videotape and on someone’s iPhone video, along with multiple eye witnesses, the case has not yet come to full trial. Deedy maintained that he acted legally in his capacity as a law enforcement official.
Until now.
On March 11 Deedy changed his story, with his lawyer withdrawing the request to dismiss the case on the basis that he was acting as a federal agent at the time of the incident. The new rationale for the killing is self-defense. Withdrawing the motion relieves Deedy of having to testify during a pretrial hearing. It also cancels his desire to have the case transferred to federal court. The change also, finally, clears the way for the actual trial to begin on/about April 2 in Honolulu unless some new delay is introduced.
There has been no clear explanation/reason as to why the case has taken so long to (almost) reach trial. Deedy has been out on bail since the shooting, working a desk job at the State Department on full salary.
Deedy also now has a “support” group on the web raising money for him (they’re up to $12k), as well as to providehis side of the story.
According to the local Honolulu newspaper, in pretrial documents, city prosecutors say Deedy appeared “intoxicated” after a night of drinking and bar hopping and became the aggressor who started an altercation. According to prosecutors, Deedy kicked the deceased Elderts and repeatedly told him he was going to shoot him “in the face.”
The defense’s position outlined in court documents contends it was Elderts who was the aggressor. Hart’s filings said an intoxicated Elderts called Deedy a “fucking haole” and challenged him to a fight. Hart said Deedy identified himself as a law enforcement officer, but Elderts attacked Deedy, who felt compelled to fire in self-defense.
Deedy’s self-defense argument will need to convince a local jury that as a trained law enforcement officer from the State Department temporarily in Hawaii for wholly unrelated reasons, after a night on the town with friends, he was required to fire multiple shots at near point-blank range into an unarmed inebriated local man inside a crowded McDonalds at 2:30 am.

The History of The Onion by Eliyho Matz


Dedicated to Eric Montalvo and the Workers at La Tasa de Oro Restaurant in Manhattan, Who Prepare for me Daily an Onion Sandwich So I Can Start My Daily Search on the Internet for Information on the Mighty Onion

            Ancient civilizations’ rise and fall have been the focus of research from Herodotus to modern historians whose names are not yet known.  During the last few months, I have been researching the mysteries of ancient civilizations.  In the past few years, I have focused my attention on the historical role of potatoes over the last 350 years, and I published an article on the Internet that encapsulates my thoughts on potatoes.  Now I am busy researching the role of onions in the history of civilizations.

            The onion played a wide role in ancient Egyptian civilization.  The pyramid-builders were paid for their labor in onions and radishes.  The onion’s origin is believed to be from the Far East, close to China.  The ancient Chinese have used onions for food and for medicine.  How the onion arrived in Egypt we do not know.  We can assume it came via ancient traders through Mesopotamia and its civilizations.  The ancient Greeks adopted onions for all sorts of ritualistic festivities, including those relating to wars.  The Romans brought the onion from the East and introduced it into their diet, as well as into their cultural activities.  The Russians adopted the onion as a church symbol.  In the United States, the “Onion” has become a symbol (representation/emblem) of humor and sometimes comic reporting. 

            In one way or another, people all over the world have succumbed to the belief that onions have in them real benefits, including properties that contribute to the well functioning of the brain, and cancer-preventing agents.  Thus, when Jews celebrate the coming holiday of Passover, we have to recall the Biblical story of the Hebrews leaving Egypt and wandering into the desert, or course missing the onions they had been used to eating in Pharoanic Egypt.  Nutritionally and otherwise, onions were ubiquitous in Egypt to support the Hebrews’ physical and mental strength.

            In East Europe’s poor Jewish communities, onions have been consumed for more than 1000 years.  These Jews were poor, but they ate onions with every dish, and their minds evolved.  Thus we cannot take lightly the onion concept they came up with: “You should grow like an onion, with your head in the ground and with your feet up.”  This philosophy represented sort of an early exercise for tranquility and body health. 

Dear Reader, if you have any thoughts to share on the role onions have played in civilization over the past 5000 years, please write back and let me know.  I would be grateful and pleased to acknowledge your input in my upcoming article.

Thank you,
Eliyho Matz

Bernie Sanders on "Too Big to Jail"

From the Huffington Post:

The attorney general's view seems to be that if you are just a regular person and you commit a crime, you go to jail. But if you are the head of a Wall Street company, your power is so great that a prosecution could have destabilizing consequences with national or even worldwide implications.
In other words, we have a situation now where Wall Street banks are not only too big to fail, they are too big to jail. That view is unacceptable.
The attorney general's troubling acknowledgement has revived interest in an idea that is drawing more and more support. It is time to break up too big to fail financial institutions.
The 10 largest banks in the United States are bigger today than they were before a taxpayer bailout following the 2008 financial crisis.
U.S. banks have become so big that the six largest financial institutions in this country (J.P. Morgan Chase, Bank of America, Citigroup, Wells Fargo, Goldman Sachs, and Morgan Stanley) today have assets of nearly $9.6 trillion, a figure equal to about two-thirds of the nation's gross domestic product. These six financial institutions issue more than two-thirds of all credit cards, over half of all mortgages, control 95 percent of all derivatives held in financial institutions and hold more than 40 percent of all bank deposits in the United States.
I will soon introduce legislation that would give the Treasury secretary 90 days to compile a list of commercial banks, investment banks, hedge funds and insurance companies that the Treasury Department determines are too big to fail. The affected financial institutions would include "any entity that has grown so large that its failure would have a catastrophic effect on the stability of either the financial system or the United States economy without substantial government assistance." Within one year after the legislation becomes law, the Treasury Department would be required to break up those banks, insurance companies and other financial institutions identified by the secretary.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

RubinReports on Obama in Israel


Also, Obama now faces the situation of previous American presidents, a dilemma that he has long ridiculed. The Saudis and Jordanians, along with some other countries, don't care but the Iranian, Turkish, and a number of Arab regimes (including the Palestinian Authority) are going to be outraged by what Obama did and said. The Islamists will see this as a declaration of war, though of course they already viewed themselves as in a state of war with America. The Cairo speech will be spit upon; all the efforts to distance himself from Israel and create a new orientation for U.S. policy have failed.

Obama is now--on matters directly regarding Israel--a typical American president. The idea that Obama made policy out of raw hatred against Israel should be put to rest.

Nevertheless, the incompetence and the deluded strategy toward Islamists still remain, as does the dangerous situation for U.S. interests that Obama has helped create. Fireworks will no doubt take place during Obama's second term.

PS:  Palestinian anti-Obama demonstrations showed the "gratitude" amassed for Obama's previous support by branding him as a Zionist, imperialist running dog. But one detail drew my close attention. The demonstrators sang a song called "America is the head of the snake." That's the song that then PLO leader Yasir Arafat led in singing at the Palestine National Council meeting almost 45 years ago. In other words, after 45 years of effort and especially the last 23 years in which America tried to help create a Palestinian Arab state, it has made zero progress toward winning Palestinian support or recognition of America's aid and efforts. The same story, of course, will be reproduced regarding Obama's efforts to show his respect for Islam and his empathy for Islamism.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Rafael Medoff on Obama, FDR & Israel

British officials claimed any wartime expression of support for Zionism by the Allies would drive the Arab world into the arms of the Nazis. Rabbi Wise countered that the Arabs already supported the Nazis anyway.

“The [pro-Nazi] rebellion in Iraq, the presence of the Mufti in Berlin and Rome, [and] the failure of Egypt to live up to her treaty of alliance [with England]” show that “the sacrifice of friends in the interest of appeasing the unfriendly has repeatedly been proven to be in vain,” Wise argued. Nonetheless, FDR sided with the British view, as another newly discovered document makes plain.

The second document, from October 1941, records Nahum Goldmann, co-chairman of the World Jewish Congress, briefing American Zionist leaders on worrisome rumors that the British were holding secret negotiations with the Arabs over the future of Palestine.

Goldmann said his request to the State Department for information about the talks had been ignored because State “is very much influenced by the British Colonial Office.”

To make matters worse (Goldmann continued), “There are reasons also to believe that even in higher quarters” – a reference to the Roosevelt White House – “there are certain prejudices that have to be overcome in order to get effective support from the administration for a Jewish Palestine.” (In a similar vein, Rabbi Wise wrote to a colleague that FDR was “hopelessly and completely under the domination of the English Foreign Office [and] the Colonial Office.”) By 1942, FDR was so averse to being seen as pro- Zionist that he rejected even a request to permit the Palestine (Jewish) Symphony Orchestra to name one of its theaters the “Roosevelt Amphitheatre.”

Monday, March 18, 2013

Jarvik v CIA cited in ACLU CIA FOIA Case Decision

Interestingly,the court said the decision in my case was unusual, yet it was a precedent for denial on appeal of an ACLU FOIA request for information on drone strikes by DC Circuit Court of Appeals Chief Judge Merrick B. Garland. Stay tuned...

Story here:

Ruling here:$file/11-5320-1425559.pdf

In the New York litigation, the CIA said that it did not want to file a Vaughn index at all, but instead submit what it called a “no number, no list” response -- acknowledging that it had responsive documents, but declining to “further describe or even enumerate on the public record the number, types, dates, or other descriptive information about these responsive records.” Bennett Decl. ¶ 28. Although the CIA’s New York filings speak as if the notion of a “no number, no list” response is well- established, it has not previously been considered by this court. Indeed, at the time of those filings, there were only two previously reported instances of such a response: it was briefly mentioned in one district court case in this circuit, Jarvik v. CIA,741 F. Supp. 2d 106, 123 (D.D.C. 2010), and was litigated once before the Seventh Circuit, Bassiouni v. CIA, 392 F.3d 244, 246-47 (7th Cir. 2004). There are now two more reported instances: another brief mention by a district court in this circuit, Nat’l Sec. Counselors v. CIA, No. 11-443, 2012 WL 4903377, at *38(D.D.C. Oct. 17, 2012), and the district court’s recent grant of summary judgment in favor of the CIA in the New York litigation, New York Times Co. v. U.S. Dep’t of Justice, No. 11-cv-9336, 2013 WL 50209 (S.D.N.Y. Jan. 3, 2013). [Editor's note: This last ruling declares the importance of my case to FOIA law: "Neither Bassiouni nor Jarvik, the two cases upon which the Government principally relies..."]
Citing the Seventh Circuit’s view that a “no number, no list” response is “legally identical” to a Glomar response, Bassiouni, 392 F.3d at 247, the plaintiffs argue that, if the CIA is not entitled to make a Glomar response in this case, it is also not entitled to make a “no number, no list” response. Pls.- Appellants’ Opp’n to Remand Mot. 4-5. At least in a case like this, however, there is a material difference between a “no number, no list” response and a Glomar response. A Glomar response requires the agency to argue, and the court to accept, that the very fact of the existence or nonexistence of responsive records is protected from disclosure. That is conceptually different from conceding (or being compelled by the court to concede) that the agency has some documents, but nonetheless arguing that any description of those documents would effectively disclose validly exempt information. There may be cases where the agency cannot plausibly make the former (Glomar) argument with a straight face, but where it can legitimately make the latter. 
Indeed, a “no number, no list” response might be viewed as a kind of Vaughn index, albeit a radically minimalist one. Such a response would only be justified in unusual circumstances, and only by a particularly persuasive affidavit. Nor is there any reason to regard this approach as subject to an on/off switch. As we have just noted, once an agency acknowledges that it has some responsive documents, there are a variety of forms that subsequent filings in the district court may take. A pure “no number, no list” response is at one end of that continuum; a traditional Vaughn index is at the other. Not quite as minimalist as a pure “no number, no list” response might be a “no number, no list” response (or even a Glomar response) with respect to a limited category of documents, coupled with a Vaughn index for the remainder.
But we are getting ahead of ourselves. None of these issues has been litigated in this case, either in this court or in the district court, because summary judgment was granted in the face of an unqualified, across-the-board Glomar response.13 No government affidavit has yet been filed in this case that even attempts to justify a “no number, no list” response. And neither a traditional Vaughn index nor affidavits justifying an alternative submission have been filed. Accordingly, all such issues remain open for the district court’s determination upon remand.
For the foregoing reasons, we reverse the judgment of the district court and remand the case for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.
So ordered

Sunday, March 17, 2013


RubinReports on Pres. Obama's Israel trip:

The idea that Israel needs to persuade its neighbors to accept its existence is a line we have heard almost daily since the 1980s or even 1970s. Yet curiously the Arab street pays no attention to the scores of such Israeli gestures and the West soon forgets each one. And indeed Obama has forgotten those that took place during his first term, for example the nine-month-long settlement construction freeze, just as before that were forgotten the Oslo agreement, Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, the 2000 Camp David offer (including the offer to redivide Jerusalem!) and many more. [See Footnote, below]

Guess what? If today Israel were to make a huge new concession, six months from now that would be forgotten in the West, which would also forget that there was no considerable Arab response. Israelis know this and so saying this kind of thing about Israel proving its decent intentions can only fall with a cynical thud. Such statements remind Israelis why they are NOT rushing to make new concessions or take new risks.

Note, too, that Western and European promises to give Israel a big reward if Israel takes a big risk or makes a big concession and the Arab side doesn't respond have also been repeatedly broken.

What Obama is in effect saying is “Mr. Netanyahu, tear down that [security, counterterrorist] wall.” When he should be saying to the other side: “Mr. Abbas, Mursi, et. al., tear down that wall of hatred against Israel!”

Of course, he won’t do so because that would make the Arab leaders and publics mad, not because they want Israel to move faster on peace or seek a better deal but because they don't want peace at all. And the Islamists coming into power have no intention of tearing down the wall. In fact, they are building it higher than ever. And there's nothing--absolutely nothing--Israel can do to change the course of events in that respect.

Moreover, in a context where the same point is not made loudly, clearly, and publicly to the Palestinian Authority, the idea that the burden is on Israel to prove its peace credentials is a veiled way of Obama saying--and signaling to his supporters--that Israel is responsible for the failure to achieve peace.

A friend from Vermont just shared this Gallup Poll...

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Is Eric Holder Too Big To Jail?

From ZeroHedge:

Our justice department has been sold out. They are now the enemy of the people.

If any person is too big to prosecute then your justice system is a sham, a lie, a farce, a joke, a bastardization of all that America used to stand for. Ultimately, it becomes a tool to enforce the will of fascists.

My grandfather, W. H. Mantor was a sheriff, a lawyer, and a judge in Crow Wing County, MN.

My father worked in the City Attorney’s office and had a private practice in St. Paul. Several of my friends have worked in law enforcement. I used to have respect for an institution that existed to make certain that the rights of every citizen would be protected.

I can only describe what I am witnessing as personally heartbreaking. I had such respect for the institution of law and its ideals.

And all the while, the erosion of basic legal equity has been brought about by a lap dog media that hides the truth and takes its cut of the illegal profits.

Pat Caddell Say Corrupt GOP Criminals Like Romney & Rove Should BeProsecuted Under RICO

At CPAC, according to this story:

Participating in a panel — “Should We Shoot All the Consultants Now?” — Caddell accused the GOP consulting class of being only “in the business of lining their pockets and preserving power.”
“When you have the Chief of Staff of the Republican National Committee and the political director of the Romney campaign, and their two companies get $150 million at the end of the campaign for the “fantastic” get-out-the-vote program… some of this borders on RICO [the 1970 Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act] violations,” Caddell told attendees.
“The Republican Party is in the grips of what I call the CLEC — the consultant, lobbyist, and establishment complex,” Caddell said.
In what was described by Breitbart as a blistering attack on “racketeering” Republican consultants who play wealthy donors like “marks,” Caddell added:
“I blame the donors who allow themselves to be played for marks. I blame the people in the grassroots for allowing themselves to be played for suckers….It’s time to stop being marks. It’s time to stop being suckers. It’s time for you people to get real.”
In comparing Republicans unfavorably to Democrats, Caddell said: “In my party we play to win. We play for life and death. You people play for a different kind of agenda… Your party has no problem playing the Washington Generals to the Harlem Globetrotters.”

Friday, March 15, 2013

Daniel Pipes on US Denial

The military leadership willfully ignores what stares them in the face, namely Hasan's clear and evident Islamist inspiration; Protecting the Force mentions "Muslim" and "jihad" not a single time, and "Islam" only once, in a footnote.[4] The massacre officially still remains unconnected to terrorism or Islam.

This example fits in a larger pattern: The establishment denies that Islamism—a form of Islam that seeks to make Muslims dominant through an extreme, totalistic, and rigid application of Islamic law, the Shari'a—represents the leading global cause of terrorism when it so clearly does. Islamism reverts to medieval norms in its aspiration to create a caliphate that rules humanity. "Islam is the solution" summarizes its doctrine. Islam's public law can be summarized as elevating Muslim over non-Muslim, male over female, and endorsing the use of force to spread Muslim rule. In recent decades, Islamists (the adherents of this vision of Islam) have established an unparalleled record of terrorism. To cite one tabulation: counts 20,000 assaults in the name of Islam since 9/11,[5] or about five a day. In the West, terrorist acts inspired by motives other than Islam hardly register.

It is important to document and explain this denial and explore its implications. The examples come predominantly from the United States, though they could come from virtually any Western country—except Israel.

The DiploMad 2.0: The New Pope

The DiploMad 2.0: The New Pope: Disclaimer: I am not Catholic. I comment with trepidation. The Cardinals have picked an Italian Pope without picking an Italian Pope. It...

Thursday, March 14, 2013

RubinReports on Obama's Muslim Brotherhood Strategy

RubinReports on Obama's Muslim Brotherhood strategy during the Arab Spring:

But let’s look at precisely how the White House described the U.S. policy it wanted:

" the administration could push for political change in countries with autocratic rulers who are also valuable allies of the United States,"

In other words, a popular revolt was going to happen (I’ve seen the cables from the U.S. embassy in Tunisia that accurately predicted an upheaval) but would it succeed or fail? The Obama Administration concluded that the revolt should succeed and set out to help make sure that it did so. As for who won, it favored not just moderate Islamic forces--which hardly existed as such--but moderate Islamist forces, which didn't exist at all.

Anyone who says that the United States did not have a lot of influence in these crises doesn’t know what they are talking about. Of course, the U.S. government didn’t control the outcome, its leverage was limited. But there’s a big difference between telling the Egyptian army to stay in control, dump Mubarak, and make a mild transition—and we, the United States, will back you—or telling them that Washington wanted the generals to stand aside, let Mubarak be overthrown, and have a thoroughgoing regime change, a fundamental transformation, to coin a phrase.
So the Obama Administration did not stand beside friendly regimes or help to manage a limited transition with more democracy and reforms. No, it actively pushed to bring down at least four governments—Bahrain, Egypt, Tunisia, and Yemen.

It did not push for the overthrow of two anti-American regimes—Iran and Syria—but on the contrary was still striving for good relations with those two dictatorships. Equally, it did not push for the fall of radical anti-American governments in Lebanon and the Gaza Strip. No, it only pushed for the fall of “valuable allies.” There was no increase in support for dissidents in Iran despite, as we will see in a moment, internal administration predictions of unrest there, too. As for Syria, strong administration support for the dictatorship there continued for months until it was clear that the regime was in serious trouble. It seems reasonable to say that the paper did not predict the Syrian civil war.

Want more evidence about the internal administration document? Here's another article from the time which explains:

"The White House had been debating the likelihood of a domino effect since youth-driven revolts had toppled President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali in Tunisia, even though the American intelligence community and Israel’s intelligence services had estimated that the risk to President Mubarak was low — less than 20 percent, some officials said. 

"According to senior officials who participated in Mr. Obama’s policy debates, the president took a different view. He made the point early on, a senior official said, that `this was a trend' that could spread to other authoritarian governments in the region, including in Iran. By the end of the 18-day uprising, by a White House count, there were 38 meetings with the president about Egypt. Mr. Obama said that this was a chance to create an alternative to “the Al Qaeda narrative” of Western interference."

Notice that while this suggests the debate began after the unrest started, full credit is given to Obama personally, not to U.S. intelligence agencies, for grasping the truth. This is like the appropriation by the White House of all the credit for getting Usama bin Ladin, sort of a cult of personality thing. We know for a fact that the State Department predicted significant problems arising in Tunisia (from the Wikileaks documents) and perhaps that is true for other countries as well. But if Obama wants to take personal credit for the new U.S. policy that means he also has to take personal blame for the damage it does.

Now I assume what I'm about to say isn't going to be too popular but I'll also bet that history will prove it correct: The revolution in Egypt was not inevitable and Obama's position was a self-fulfilling prophecy. And judging from what happened at the time, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton agrees with me. The idea of an "alternative to `the al-Qaida narrative"'of Western interference is straight Brennan. What Obama was really saying was: Ha! So al-Qaida claims we interfere to put reactionary pro-Western dictators in power just because they're siding with us? We'll show them that we can put popular Islamist dictators in power even though they are against us!
If I'm writing this somewhat facetiously I mean it very seriously. 

And here's more proof from the Washington Post in March 2011 which seems to report on the implementation of the White House paper's recommendations:

"The administration is already taking steps to distinguish between various movements in the region that promote Islamic law in government. An internal assessment, ordered by the White House last month, identified large ideological differences between such movements as the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and al-Qaeda that will guide the U.S. approach to the region." That says it all, doesn't it? The implication is that the U.S. government knew that the Brotherhood would take power and thought this was a good thing.

It continued:

"`If our policy can't distinguish between al-Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood, we won't be able to adapt to this change,'" the senior administration official said. "`We're also not going to allow ourselves to be driven by fear."'
Might that be then counterterrorism advisor and now CIA director John Brennan? I'd bet on it.

What did Obama and his advisors think would happen? Why that out of gratitude for America stopping its (alleged) bullying and imperialistic ways and getting on the (alleged) side of history the new regimes would be friendly. The Muslim Brotherhood in particular would conclude that America was not its enemy. You know, one Brotherhood leader would supposedly say to another, all of these years we thought the United States was against us but now we see that they are really our friends. Remember Obama's Cairo speech? He really gets us!

More likely he'd be saying: We don't understand precisely what the Americans are up to but they are obviously weak, cowardly, and in decline! In fact, that's what they did say. Remember that President Jimmy Carter's attempts to make friends with the new Islamist regime in Iran in 1979 fed a combination of Iranian suspicion and arrogance which led to the hostage crisis and Tehran daring to take on the United States single-handed. America, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini at the time, can't do a damned thing against us.

Incidentally, everyone except the American public—which means people in the Middle East—knows that Obama cut the funding for real democratic groups. His Cairo speech was important not for the points so often discussed (Israel, for example) but because it heralded the age of political Islamism being dominant in the region. Indeed, Obama practically told those people that they should identify not as Arabs but as Muslims.

In broader terms, what does Obama’s behavior remind me of? President Jimmy Carter pushing Iran’s shah for human rights and other reforms in 1977 and then standing aloof as the revolution unrolled—and went increasingly in the direction of radical Islamists—in 1978.

As noted above, that didn’t work out too well.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Why I Don't Believe Sheryl Sandberg, Either...

Three years ago, I wrote a blog post called "Why I Don't Believe Thomas Friedman" which recounted his poor track record as an equity analyst of Anyone investing according to Friedman would have lost money. But I didn't believe him, and am still a satisfied Amazon stockholder as I write today...

Which brings me to media promotion for Sheryl Sandberg's new book, Lean In. Quite simply, the amount of hype surrounding this launch appears surreal. Sandberg seems like she's being positioned for something big in the future by the powers that be. No question about that.

However, one bullet point missing from media discussion of her putatively new approach to feminist theory is any analysis of her role in the Facebook IPO--for which she shares responsibility as Facebook's COO.  Here's what Wikipedia has to say about the fateful May 18, 2012 market offer:

Facebook's long-anticipated initial public offering was ultimately plagued by a series of problems. Its exchange, Nasdaq, suffered a computer malfunction during the first hours of the IPO, leading to tens of millions of dollars in trades being wrongly placed. Its underwriter, Morgan Stanley, faced claims that the intial price was too high and that they had issued too many shares. With some Facebook executives, were accused of alerting industry insiders to Facebook's earnings before they were public. Facebook, Morgan Stanley, and Nasdaq are facing litigation over the matters. The stock lost over a quarter of its value in less than a month and went on to less than half its IPO value in three months.
For me, Sheryl Sandberg lost whatever credibility she may have had on May 18, 2012, in her botched handling of Facebook's IPO.

Why don't some of her interviewers ask her about that?

UPDATE: Apparently, because Sandberg refuses to talk about the IPO, as this post at the Huffington Post explainsNYC 123
10:01 AM on 03/10/2013
I'd like Ms. Sandberg to start answering the tough but fair questions surrounding the Facebook IPO that she has refused to discuss with reporters as millions of small retail investors, including many women lost thosands of dollars while Ms. Sandberg and her boss received millions. 

What exactly was your role Ms. Sandebrg in the Facebook IPO - the biggest debacle in the history of Wall St. Did you agree with the valuation and $38 share price set by Morgan Stanley? If not, did you "lean in" and express your concerns to the bankers on Wall St about the way it was being handled? If so, to whom and what if anything was done about it? 

What do you say to the thousands of small investors, including working class women who trusted you and bought into the IPO only to lose big time while you personally reaped tens of millions off the deal? This and marny more questions about your direct role in the Facebook IPO must be answered. 

Ms. Sandberg and her boss should be investigated by the SEC over their direct involvement and actions in the Facebook IPO and they both need to start answering the tough questions that CNBC and others have put to them and stop hiding behind their corporate lawyers.

Sheryl Sandberg Ducks Questions At Harvard About Facebook IPO Debacle--noted:

 Sandberg, who visited her alma mater with her parents and two children, only once made reference to the IPO in her speech. After urging the graduates to use Facebook to stay in touch, she said: "We're public now, so could you please click on an ad or two while you're there."
Asked before and after the speech to comment on the IPO, Sandberg said she was not speaking to the media.

IMHO a more appropriate title for Sheryl Sandberg's new book might have been:  DUCK! How to use a gender smokescreen to divert media attention from alleged securities fraud.

And yes, Sheryl K. Sandberg is named as a defendant along with Mark Zuckerberg in multiple cases alleging securities fraud over the Facebook IPO, according to a Justitia docket search--a fact not mentioned in most of the mindless and embarrassing media hype surrounding the launch of her self-serving book (which might possibly be seen by some as an attempt at jury tampering).

Or--is billionaire corporate executive Sheryl K. Sandberg "too big to jail?"

UPDATE 3: Apparently the markets don't believe Sheryl Sandberg, either, according to this CNN report:

Facebook's (FB) stock fell more than 2%, continuing a slide since the social network reported fourth-quarter earnings back in January. Shares are now down 10% since that report.
It's an understatement to say that this is not what the company probably had in mind following its ballyhooed initial public offering last year. Making matters worse, the Facebook dip comes at a time when the overall market is surging and tech stocks not named Apple (AAPL) are on fire.

UPDATE 4: Blogger Thierry Hubert had accused Sandberg of advocating click fraud, here

More Insights from Peter Van Buren...

In Anwar Al-Awlaki’s case, the Government has not made much of a case (never mind for the passport, remember he was murdered by a drone). In fact, officially, we do not know why al-Awlaki was killed at all, or under what laws or by what decision process. Some reports tie him to the failed idiot underwear bomber, but being part of a failed plot seems not to rise to the usual standard for capital punishment. It is all secret.
The Government of the United States executed one of its own citizens abroad without any form of due process. This is generally seen as a no-no as far as the Bill of Rights goes. The silly old Fifth Amendment to the Constitution guarantees “no person shall be deprived of life without due process of law” and includes no exceptions for war, terrorism, or being a really bad human being.
Could the passport revocation have been simply a ruse, a bureaucratic CYA attempt at providing some sort of illusion of “due process?” Could al-Awlaki’s not dropping by the U.S. Embassy to chat about his passport have been a veiled attempt to justify his killing in that he was thus not able to be arrested? Or was the passport revocation just a simple act of dehumanizing someone to make killing him that much more palatable?
We’ll never know.
The Back Channel tells us that McGurk will likely be tapped as the next State Department Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Iraq and Iran. The State Department plans to combine the two offices because, well, McGurk likely can’t tell the difference between the two countries anyway, damn foreigners, and because there isn’t anything really that important going on in either place to justify its own DAS. The blog calls the appointment a “done deal.”
Where to Begin?
McGurk spent a good portion of the last ten years working for the U.S. Government in Iraq, advising several ambassadors and leading the failed negotiations to secure permanent U.S. bases there. You’d kinda think having that on your resume– I am partially responsible for everything that happened in Iraq for the last ten years, including America’s tail-between-its-legs retreat– might make it hard to get another job running Iraq policy. Who goes out of their way to hire the coach that lost most of his games?
The other side of McGurk’s failed attempt at being ambassador was his questionable personal life, which in turn raised issues of judgement, decorum, discretion, and class. Like with Petraeus, it was sexual misconduct that brought the real questions of competence and ability to light.
Six members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee at the time called on Obama to withdraw McGurk’s nomination, meaning that as DAS McGurk already enjoys a warm relationship with his key committee on the Hill. His appointment after the Senate nixed him will also no doubt enhance the State Department’s overall reputation during the budget process. And of course being the DAS and having everyone in your office know your sleazy backstory ensures you will be taken seriously.
As well-documented across the internet, in addition to emails trading sex for access (a two way deal between McGurk and the then-Wall Street Journal’s Gina Chon [she resigned), we add another item, accusations of a McGurk sex tape from Iraq. The giver of the taped sex was a State Department Foreign Service Officer, gratefully female, inevitably Public Diplomacy.
Elsewhere, the Washington Post reported that McGurk invited his then-mistress Gina Chon to be a guest lecturer at a Harvard course he taught in 2009. Harvard students attending the class had no idea that their teacher was romantically involved with Chon, who spoke to them about her experience
reporting getting inside info by sleeping with her sources in Iraq, according to a student who attended.
State Department at Work
Only the Department of State today stands proudly alone declaring that no one else in the entire U.S. government, or the entire United States for that matter, is qualified to serve as
ambassador to Iraq Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for both Iraq and Iran but a guy who has done nothing in his 39 years of life but be politically appointed to Iraq jobs (none earned, elected or competitively chosen, just appointed), making a selfish hash out of even that.
McGurk is Not the Exception But the Rule
McGurk’s supporters cite his years of experience in Iraq. But would you choose a heart surgeon who lost most of his patients on the operating table simply because he had been doing it for ten years? Experience is merely time served; competence requires judgement to be exercised.
The issue of McGurk, however, is sadly not one in isolation at Foggy Bottom. While it is clear, ten years after, that the U.S. efforts in Iraq in general and the State Department-led reconstruction in the specific were almost complete failures, let’s look at (as an example) the chain of command that oversaw my own Provincial Reconstruction Teams’ efforts and see what happened to them all since:
Me: Blacklisted by State
My Boss: Now an Army contractor advising on reconstruction in Afghanistan
His Boss (Not McGurk): A Deputy Assistant Secretary of State
That Guy’s Boss: Appointed an Ambassador
Her Boss: Appointed an Ambassador
Ambassador to Iraq at the Time: Dean of the Korbel School of Diplomacy in Colorado
His boss, Secretary Clinton: Waiting to become president in 2016.

And that’s the saddest news of all: while the McGurk saga is perhaps a more extreme instance, and certainly more fun with its tawdry sex aspect than mere bureaucratic failure, the upward movement of failed people at the State Department exists almost as a policy. That policy, spelled out in a few words, is simple: people are rewarded for longevity at best, for keeping their mouths shut at worst, and competence is never really part of the calculus. While there are certainly competent people in senior positions within the State Department, they all had to primarily pass the tests of loyalty and time-served first.