Saturday, May 16, 2015

Woe Is Us?

I posted, over the past few days and am sending the day we leave for our cross country drive.

Back at the post in early July.
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Brilliant : https://www.youtube.com/embed/h9ZQGiBubb0?feature=player_detailpage
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Israel remains, technologically speaking, on top.

A senior member of my father's law firm was in attendance at the latest Israeli  cyber security conference.  (See 1 and 1a below.)
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Fighting Media Anti-Semitism.  (See 2 below.)
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I have a lot of liberal friends who hate FOX and yet, have never really listened objectively  to their programming.  I even have one friend who seriously admits to missing Brian Williams yet,, distrusts O'Reilly.

Far too many  engage in a knee jerk response as if they have been drinking the standard Kool Aid dispensed by the liberal establishment.

Again, I am reminded of Dana Perino's Chapter Seven in her recent autobiography and her clear headed explanation of why she is a proud conservative and where she points out the many flaws in why liberals remain in total denial and supplant self-righteous smugness for objective reasoning.


Consequences of a fatherless society. (See 3 below.)
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A clear eyed Bolton versus a myopic Obama when it comes to seeing Iran for what it is - a terrorist state built on expanding its dangerous dominance and influence. (See 4, 4a and 4b below.)


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Obama's ambiguous and  squishy pledge should not make our supposed Middle East friends comfortable. (See 5 and 5a  below.)
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From a conservative friend on Hillar-ious (See 6 below.)
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Liberal media and print distortions continue. (See 6a below.)
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Personal commentary:

We have had some great, good not so good presidents but whether you agreed with their policies or not every one, until Obama, had the nation's best interest at heart, understood to lead meant to compromise with their opposition and believed America was exceptional.

This is not the case with Obama and/or his wife.  They came into office steeped in a background of radicalism, distrust and total conceptual isolation from what America is all about.

Obama's policies, both domestic and foreign, have failed because of his arrogance, ignorance, incompetence and defiance. Yes he wrought change but that must not be the measurement.

His period in office will soon end but America may never be the same because he has thrown salt in our social wounds, pitted citizen against citizen and spread mistrust all the while weakening our nation's ability to defend itself and be what we have always tried to be - a positive force for world decency, stability and open and generally fair commerce.

America has made mistakes, we have engaged in activities of which we cannot be proud but overall we have been a constructive and generous force for world peace.  No nation in history has done and sacrificed  more for more than America. Our legacy trumps any of Obama's supposed accomplishments.

Economically speaking, Capitalism, with all its warts and faults, has elevated the living standard of more than any other system. It has brought more benefits and freedom to more than any other system.  That is a measurable and empirical fact that Obama refuses to comprehend and Bernie Sanders is unwilling to admit.

In my humble opinion, the election of Hillar-ious will not right our floundering ship of state.  That is not to say any of the myriad of Republican aspirants have the answer or abilities to bail our listing ship but we do not need a repeat of what we have endured and her election will insure such because she too is an unmitigated liar and failure by any reasonable standard of leadership.

The 2016 campaign will test our nerves,, patience,  challenge our intellect and courage. Can we rise to the occasion?  Time will tell.  I am fearful we may not because our media and news sources have failed us with their bias, declining standards of integrity and objective reporting .  The Brian Williams and  George Stephanopoulos episodes probably just scratch the surface.

"Woe is us" must not become our self-imposed consequence. (See 7 below.)
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Dick
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1) Crowdfunding pioneer sees Israel’s best tech days ahead

Jon Medved, set to be honored for his contributions as an immigrant to Israel, is bullish on his adopted country


Crowdfunding guru Jon Medved (photo credit: Courtesy)Crowdfunding guru Jon Medve



New technologies in the areas of computers, medicine, environmental science, neuroscience, and a plethora of other areas aren’t the only things the Start-Up Nation has invented; it has also largely created a new way of investing, one that democratizes opportunity “and gives the average person with $25,000 or $50,000 to invest an opportunity to get in on the ground floor of the next MobileEye or Waze,” said Jon Medved, CEO of OurCrowd, now the largest crowdfunding platform in the world.
“Crowdfunding has not only opened up a whole new world of opportunity for investors, it’s given start-ups a new way of not only raising money, but of tapping into a community that can provide them a lot of help on their journey.” technologies in the areas of computers, medicine, environmental science, neuroscience, and a plethora of other areas aren’t the only things the Start-Up Nation has invented; it has also largely created a new way of investing, one that democratizes opportunity “and gives the average person with $25,000 or $50,000 to invest an opportunity to get in on the ground floor of the next MobileEye or Waze,” said Jon Medved, CEO of OurCrowd, now the largest crowdfunding platform in the world.

And the best is yet to come, adds Medved. “More multinationals are coming to Israel by the day looking for more technology, and that’s creating a virtual snowball effect — where more entrepreneurs are encouraged to build companies, which results in more tech development, and more innovation.”

Medved, one of the most important figures in Israeli high-tech, has been running OurCrowd since 2012 — but he’s been working in Israeli tech for decades, as a serial entrepreneur who has opened and closed numerous tech businesses. But with OurCrowd, Medved had taken Israeli tech to a new level — and it’s for that reason that he is to be awarded the Bonei Tzion (Builders of Zion) prize on Tuesday at the Knesset.
Medved — along with five other Anglo immigrants to Israel — is being honored by the immigrants organization Nefesh B’Nefesh. The six will each receive a prize of $10,000 for “exemplifying how olim are making historic advancements and contributing, each in his own field, to the success of the country and our nation,” said Nefesh B’Nefesh chairman Rabbi Yehoshua Fass.
For Medved, crowdfunding is a combination of three themes that have dominated his life, he told The Times of Israel in an exclusive interview. “I first came to Israel in 1980, after working as a campus organizer for the Jewish Agency at US colleges. I was a community organizer before Barack Obama, helping raise consciousness in Israel by speaking about the importance of aliya — eventually falling for my own ‘propaganda’ and making aliya myself.
“I was also always into technology — one of the first advocates of the Start-Up Nation,” recounted Medved. “I’m proud to say that I am the guy Saul Singer and Dan Senor consulted with long before they wrote their book of that name. And I’ve also been a serial entrepreneur, opening a number of businesses that were either bought out or are still operating.” Among these is the video-app firm Vringo, which, eight years after its founding in 2007, is still going strong. Intimately related to tech, said Medved, is his third passion — entrepreneurship.
All three of those interests coalesced into the idea of crowdfunding, a system under which accredited investors (with a specific minimum net worth) can join a fund that lets them invest relatively modest sums in promising tech companies, instead of the millions of dollars that angels or venture-capital funds invest in tech companies.
“I have made hundreds of speeches about Israel, about tech, and about entrepreneurship, all over the world, and inevitably I get dozens of business cards each time, with people asking me to ‘find them a deal.’ That was really the only way small investors could get in on the ‘next big thing.’ I realized there was a huge need here — a desire by average investors to tap into investing in Israel.”
Fortunately, the time was right for building a system for the small investor; the US had just implemented an investment rule change (part of the Jumpstart Our Business Startups, or JOBS, Act) that allowed start-ups to solicit investments publicly from “accredited investors” (individuals with over 1 million dollars in liquid net worth, or incomes of more than $200,000 per year) via social media, print materials, email and other means.
Medved, along with several partners, raised some money — “We used most of it for lawyers, because we wanted to make sure we were doing it right” — and eventually found some companies that were willing to go along with the new, unknown investment model.
“We started out with seven companies, and they actually thought we were joking,” continued Medved. “We were signing them up on term sheets and negotiating investment contracts, without having raised a shekel.” Soon enough, though, crowdfunding became not something “weird,” but a good — maybe even better — way to raise funds.
But crowdfunding doesn’t just help investors; it’s good for the start-ups as well, Medved explained. “Our investors are very active, and we encourage that. Last year, we held about 200 events and meetings around the world to keep our investors in touch with the start-ups. Investors in our companies have taken their role very seriously, and we filter down the good advice we get at these events to our entrepreneurs. For us, it’s about building a community, not just the money.”
In just two years, OurCrowd has invested over $110 million from accredited investors for its 68 — “Wait a minute, we just signed up a new one yesterday, so now it’s 69,” said Medved mid-sentence — companies, in the areas of cybersecurity, medtech, agritech, big data, robotics, financial technology, the Internet of Things, and more.
Currently, 80% of the companies in OurCrowd’s portfolio are Israeli, while most of the others are “Israeli affiliated” — located in the US with Israeli-American partners, etc.
But increasingly, companies that have nothing to do with Israel are contacting OurCrowd, seeking to enter the world’s biggest crowdfunding platform, and Medved is amenable to accepting them. “It’s good for us, of course, but it also helps cement relationships in the tech world with Israel. We’re proud to manage these companies’ funding from Jerusalem. That, to me, is a great example of Zionism.”
As is the great rush of multinationals to open up operations and make acquisitions in Israel. “We are in a golden age here, and there is no question that the multinationals have had a lot to do with Israel’s prominence as a tech power around the world.” While some complain that the multinationals “steal” Israeli talent and make the big bucks abroad, Medved sees it differently. “In the last two years, we have had 10 billion-dollar exits, half of them M&A deals and half of them IPOs on world stock exchanges. And in the past few months, we have something new: The private equity funds have discovered Israel, and they are scouring the country looking for opportunities.”
OurCrowd itself has extensive relationships with multinationals, most notably GE — and the growth of Israeli tech feeds on itself, attracting more and greater ties. An example, said Medved, is OurCrowd’s own new president, Anthony DeChellis, who previously served as CEO of Private Banking Americas at Credit Suisse, headed Private Wealth Management at UBS, and held a range of leadership positions at Merrill Lynch, including manager of the European Private Banking Business. “He’s a pretty high-profile guy who could go anywhere. But he wants to be here, with us in Israel, because he realizes our potential.”
A potential that is on the upswing — and has a long way to go before it crests, Medved added. “The deals are getting bigger — the average exit size in 2014 was eight times that of 2008 — and they will continue to get even bigger. That’s because the next big explosions — big data, machine vision, cybersecurity, the Internet of Things, and other hard-tech areas — are exactly the kinds of things Israel excels at. As successful as we have been, I believe we are just at the beginning of our tech journey.”


1a) Iran Rapidly Building Cyber Warfare Capabilities


Cyber attacks on banks, casino highlight growing threat

BY:  Bill Gertz  

Iran is rapidly building cyber warfare capabilities and recent reports suggest Tehran is set to conduct cyber attacks on global critical infrastructures, according to a State Department security report.
The internal report sent to U.S. businesses last week by the Overseas Security Advisory Council concludes that Iran’s offensive cyber capabilities have evolved in recent years, making the nation a sophisticated cyber adversary.
“Iranian hackers have been suspected in multiple incidents that inflicted damage on various entities in the private sector, including finance and energy firms,” according to the five-page report, “Pistachios and Saffron: Investigating the Iranian Cyber Threat.”
“Current analysis indicates Iran may intend to use its growing cyber force to attack global critical infrastructure,” the report added.
Once limited to website defacements and other less damaging attacks, Tehran’s hacker forces are now capable of using customized malicious software designed for use against specific victims.
Recent evidence of the large investment in offensive cyber warfare capabilities indicates “Iran is rapidly improving its cyber warfare capabilities,” the report said.
Iranian hackers were blamed for several serious cyber attacks in recent years following reports of the U.S.-Israeli Stuxnet virus attack against Tehran’s covert uranium centrifuge program at Natanz.
Among Iran’s recent cyber attacks are:
  • Cyber disruptions aimed at U.S. government officials involved in nuclear nonproliferation;
  • A 2012 cyber attack on the state oil producer Saudi Aramco that destroyed 30,000 computers;
  • Cyber attacks against Israeli communications during the conflict with Hamas in the summer of 2014;
  • Hacking that compromised the Marine Corps intranet in 2012;
  • Large-scale denial-of-service cyber attacks against U.S. banks in two waves in 2012, and;
  • The use of wiper malware against networks at the Las Vegas Sands casino in 2014.
The Las Vegas casino attack was confirmed by James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, during congressional testimony in February.
Clapper stated that Iran regards cyber attacks as one of many tools for conducting asymmetric, proportional retaliation against its enemies. The Iranians were behind the cyber attacks against U.S. banks and the Sands, Clapper said.
Adm. Mike Rogers, commander of the U.S. Cyber Command, told a Senate hearing in March that the government of Iran, along with those of China and Russia, have been using semi-official hackers in cyber attacks.
“Each of the three use a slightly different structure,” Rogers said March 19. “But in each case, the cyber activities we have seen to date display a strong and direct linkage between the individual actors doing the actual activity and the nation state directing it.”
Rogers said one future trend could be that nation states begin using techniques to “try to confuse our attribution ability by creating different relationships.”
“For example, using other partners, trying to distance themselves in a visible way so their activity is not as directly attributable,” he said. “I think that’s a trend that we’re going to be looking for.”
According to the State Department report, multiple reports linked Iran’s cyber attacks against the $14 billion Sands casino network attack to critical remarks on Iran from the casino’s chief executive Sheldon Adelson.
“In similar fashion, the multi-stage 2012 attacks against U.S. banks and financial institutions were assessed to be a response to economic sanctions” against Iran, the report said.
The report identified four trends in Iranian cyber activities: Retaliation, coordination between cyber and political strategy, increased technical sophistication, and a focus on attacking critical infrastructure.
Critical infrastructures include computer networks that control such sectors as finance, transportation, water, public health, security, telecommunications, and electrical grids. Electrical grid control networks are considered among the most critical infrastructure because electricity is common to all networks.
“Assessments continue to place critical infrastructure, supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) and transportation systems at the top of the list for potential targets of Iranian cyber operations,” the report says, adding that the cyber security firm Cylance reported that the Iranian government and its Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), “is backing numerous groups and front entities to attack the world’s critical infrastructure.”
The report, published May 8, was based on several recent studies of Iranian cyber attacks conducted by the American Enterprise Institute and three security firms: Cylance, iSight Partners and FireEye.
“We have seen Iranian cyber capabilities increase in scale and sophistication over the last few years,” said Frederick W. Kagan, co-author of the AEI report.
“As others have noted, Iranians have been trying to identify and compromise vulnerable industrial control systems,” Kagan told the Free Beacon. “Our report shows that the Iranians have not stopped their cyber activities while negotiations have been going on, and that, on the contrary, their cyber attack infrastructure continues to expand.”
The Cylance report concluded that Iran’s cyber attack capabilities have increased sharply since 2010. Cylance also said North Korean cyber attacks against South Korean infrastructure suggest Tehran and Pyongyang may be cooperating on cyber attack strategy.
State Department documents made public by Wikileaks bolster the unclassified report’s conclusions.
“Several Iranian institutions and organizations conduct [open source intelligence (OSINT)] against USG programs,” one 2009 State Department cable said. “Most of the Iranian universities involved in this activity maintain longstanding ties to the IRGC.”
One organization, Farhang Azma Communication Co., downloaded over 100 U.S. Navy websites in a hunt for data on Pentagon equipment, weapons systems, unmanned vehicle technologies, communications, and intelligence systems.
“Persistent OSINT efforts show the continued interest and knowledge of U.S. capabilities and operations by Iranian institutions, as well as the Government of Iran (GoI),” the classified 2009 cable said.
“Individuals from many Iranian universities, as well as a variety of commercial organizations, also routinely attempt to solicit information from cleared defense contractors and U.S. firms via socially engineered email messages in order to acquire information related to restricted U.S. operations and research. This information could then be used to develop similar programs for the GoI, shared with third-party entities (e.g., Islamic extremist groups), or exploited through additional Iranian computer network operations activities,” the report said.
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2)- Fighting Anti-Semitism in the Media















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As a long-time member of the Global Forum for Combating Anti-Semitism’s Working Group dealing with Anti-Semitism on the Internet and in the Media, HonestReporting Managing Editor Simon Plosker will be presenting at the 5th Global Forum for Combating Anti-Semitism that opens Tuesday evening in Jerusalem.
Prominent examples of recent anti-Semitism in the media that HR has dealt with include:
  • An anti-Semitic cartoon implying Jewish control over the U.S. government in The Economist.
  • Israel depicted as a demon by a German newspaper.
  • The Independent’s headline referring to a “Jewish lobby” and a description of this lobby being “multi-tentacled.”
  • The BBC’s Tim Willcox stating that “Palestinians suffer at Jewish hands” while covering the aftermath of a terrorist attack on a Jewish supermarket in Paris.

stopthedemonization


The GFCA is the premier biennial gathering for assessing the state of anti-Semitism globally, and formulating effective forms of societal and governmental response. The GFCA is an active coalition of public figures, political leaders, heads of civil society, clergy, journalists, diplomats, educators and concerned citizens dedicated to the advance of tolerance towards the other in public life and defeat of anti-Semitism and other forms of racial and ethnic hatred.
You can see more about the GFCA in the Jerusalem Post.
Unfortunately, many of the same issues are on the table as they were at the last GFCA in 2013 and before. It’s worth revisiting, therefore, an article penned by Simon Plosker for The Times of Israel in 2013 on the issue of anti-Semitism in the media:
HonestReporting‘s primary brief is to deal with anti-Israel media bias. Clearly not all criticism of Israel is illegitimate even if we sometimes may not like what our critics have to say.

As the criticism has moved into areas of delegitimization and demonization, so the boundaries of acceptable discourse have also shifted and, with it, we have increasingly witnessed the appearance of anti-Semitism in the mainstream media. …

Anti-Semitism is a serious charge and throwing that accusation against a media outlet or an individual journalist or cartoonist should not be taken lightly.

And herein lies the problem. In the past, the anti-Semitism of a hate sheet such as the Nazi Der Sturmer was clear-cut. In the present, the disgusting incitement and Jew hatred so common in so much of the Arab media is also blatant (yet still brushed under the carpet by Western politicians and media).

It goes without saying that no Western mainstream media outlet is going to openly declare itself to be proudly anti-Semitic and any newspaper or individual judged to hold such beliefs would find themselves out in the cold.

I would argue, however, that many media outlets are either unwilling or incapable of recognizing anti-Semitic tropes, particularly when it comes to the treatment of Israel.
You can read the full article here.
This year’s Global Forum is taking place in the background of a wave of anti-Semitism and attacks on Jews in Europe and elsewhere. Hatred of Israel has fueled this situation aided and abetted by biased and inaccurate media coverage, particularly of the 2014 Gaza conflict.
In 2013, HonestReporting launched a campaign calling on the mainstream media to adopt and endorse recognized definitions of anti-Semitism. This is something we will be advocating for at the Global Forum this week.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------3) Is fatherlessness feeding social unrest?
Bill Bumpas
According to a marriage and family researcher, fatherlessness and the influence of the media were major factors leading up to the eruption of the Baltimore riots.

Dr. Pat Fagan, who served in the George H.W. Bush administration, is director of the Marriage and Religion Research Institute at the Family Research Council. He says the major media has a lot to answer for regarding Baltimore's social unrest.
"This is an event made by TV," he insists. "The media knows the impact it has, and the media knows how to make a story, and they essentially evoked young black men to protest and gave them the camerawork time after time after time."

Digging deeper into why young black men were prime for this manipulation, Dr. Fagan says it is because of the massive breakdown of the family and self-control. He sums it up with one word: fatherlessness.
Fagan
"What you have here is a total breakdown of people, who ought to be belonging to each other, not belonging," he laments. "Instead you've got a mess of rejection, of depression, of anxiety, of frustration, and a community that doesn't work."

Using federal data, a report by Fagan's Marriage and Relation Research Institute finds that only 16 percent of 15- to 17-year-olds in Baltimore have been raised by both their married parents. Cleveland, Ohio is the only major U.S. city that has a lower family intactness rate (15 percent).

In a recent column, American Family Association president Tim Wildmon argued that until the issues of absentee fathers and personal responsibility are resolved, similar social unrest will happen in cities like Baltimore -- no matter how much tax money is sent.

4)Pittsburgh Tribune Review
Can a nuclear Iran be contained?It's an iffy proposition on President Obama's watch
By John Bolton

President Obama this week hosts six key Arab leaders at the White House and Camp David. They will have much to talk about, undoubtedly including the war in Yemen; ISIS, al-Qaida and international terrorism generally; and Israeli-Palestinian issues.

Unarguably, however, the predominant topic will be Iran's nuclear weapons program. All the participants, Obama most of all, will have reached the same conclusion, although none of them, Obama again most of all, will want to say it openly.

The conclusion is quite straightforward: America's diplomatic efforts to stop Iran, including economic sanctions, have failed; Iran is on track to get nuclear weapons at a time of its own choosing. The only issue remaining, therefore, is whether a nuclear Iran can be contained and deterred.

The monarchs meeting Obama (from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman and the United Arab Emirates) are just as worried about Iran becoming a nuclear-weapons state as Israel. Obama is deeply concerned that their public opposition to whatever agreement ultimately emerges from the current talks with Iran, coupled with Israel, could wreck his concession-laden efforts.

Comprising the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), these oil-producing states (facing Iran across what they call the Arabian Gulf) collectively retain an enormous influence on global petroleum markets, although not what it once was. Moreover, despite their cultural, religious and domestic political differences from America, they have, in varying degrees, effectively been U.S. allies for decades. The United States bases military forces in several of them and has teamed with them all during Persian Gulf conflicts for over three decades.

Recent news reports about this U.S.-GCC summit highlighted the possibility Washington might offer sophisticated weapons systems and related defense materials in an effort to reassure the Gulf Arabs. Such hardware might well be high on the agenda. But it is ultimately irrelevant to a larger geopolitical issue, which is whether Obama is prepared to make security guarantees to the GCC states and others threatened by a nuclear Iran, such as Egypt, Turkey and Jordan.

Enhanced conventional firepower is utterly insufficient to contain or deter a determined nuclear power. And as long as the ayatollahs run Tehran, determination will not be a scarce resource. Indeed, it is the very fanaticism of the mullahs and the Revolutionary Guards, undimmed after 35 years, that worries the other regional actors. Moreover, from America's perspective, once weapons leave our control, they can fall into the wrong hands either by regime change or covert transfer.

So while the U.S. arms souk might be open for business on Wednesday and Thursday, the real question is whether a nuclear Iran can be contained and deterred through a strategy of U.S. security guarantees, especially under Obama. The only “guarantee” that can truly deter a dangerous nuclear-weapons opponent is the threat of nuclear retaliation; conventional retribution alone, even by another nuclear power, is hardly likely to deter use of nuclear weapons in the hands of a regime like Iran's.

Unfortunately, the Islamic Revolution does not follow the same cost-benefit analysis that Soviet leaders did during the Cold War, largely because their apocalyptic religious views contrast markedly with the Communists' resolute secularism. For the mullahs, as Bernard Lewis astutely observed, the threat of retaliatory destruction is an incentive, not a deterrent.

Even in the extraordinarily unlikely event Obama promises U.S. nuclear guarantees against the possibility of an Iranian first strike, the credibility of such a pledge would instantly be at issue. American assurances, especially from Obama, simply will not be adequate. Even Washington's long-standing pledge during the Cold War to unleash “massive retaliation” in the event of a Soviet conventional attack against Western Europe became subject to enormous skepticism by our NATO allies and not a few Americans. Can Obama convince his fellow citizens to launch nuclear warfare to defend even friendly Arab states when no U.S. president has been willing to make such a commitment to Israel?

Whatever the outcome of this week's meetings, the GCC states are likely to pursue their own increasingly independent policy from Washington. Their leaders might not like it but the evidence from six years (and counting) of the Obama administration is unmistakably that America does not stand by its allies when their time of troubles comes.

The Arab monarchs are nothing if not realists and they will explore multiple options rather than relying solely on a weak, feckless president who cannot distinguish his country's interests from those of its adversaries.

That prospect is truly discouraging, highlighting that, in the precious little time remaining, America's real objective must be to do whatever is necessary to stop Iran from crossing the nuclear finish line (assuming it has not already done so undetected by us).

Obama, however, will most probably only give evidence of the continuing decline he has wrought in American influence throughout the critical Middle East and around the world.

John Bolton, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, was the U.S. permanent representative to the United Nations and, previously, the undersecretary of State for arms control and international security.



4a)

‘A Perverse Consequence’

Michael Makovsky and William Kristol


Let’s begin by doing something we don’t often do, and that is quoting the New York Times at some length. We do this because David Sanger’s report of Thursday, May 14, makes clear how mistaken are the premises underlying President Obama’s forthcoming Iran deal:
When President Obama began making the case for a deal with Iran that would delay its ability to assemble an atomic weapon, his first argument was that a nuclear-armed Iran would set off a “free-for-all” of proliferation in the Arab world. “It is almost certain that other players in the region would feel it necessary to get their own nuclear weapons,” he said in 2012.

Now, as he gathered Arab leaders over dinner at the White House on Wednesday and prepared to meet with them at Camp David on Thursday, he faced a perverse consequence: Saudi Arabia and many of the smaller Arab states are now vowing to match whatever nuclear enrichment capability Iran is permitted to retain.

“We can’t sit back and be nowhere as Iran is allowed to retain much of its capability and amass its research,” one of the Arab leaders preparing to meet Mr. Obama said on Monday, declining to be named until he made his case directly to the president. Prince Turki bin Faisal, the 70-year-old former Saudi intelligence chief, has been touring the world with the same message.
“Whatever the Iranians have, we will have, too,” he said at a recent conference in Seoul, South Korea. .  .  .

[B]y leaving 5,000 centrifuges and a growing research and development program in place​—​the features of the proposed deal that Israel and the Arab states oppose virulently—​Mr. Obama is essentially recognizing Iran’s right to continue enrichment of uranium, one of the two pathways to a nuclear weapon. .  .  .

Although “the small print of the deal is still unknown,” [Prince Turki] added, it “opens the door to nuclear proliferation, not closes it, as was the initial intention.”
So: One of the main justifications of the Iran deal was that it would slow down nuclear proliferation in the Middle East. But it turns out it will do the opposite. This is a “perverse consequence” of the deal only from President Obama’s point of view, as expressed by the New York Times. From the point of view of anyone familiar with the Middle East, it is in fact a predictable consequence. The Iran deal is making nuclear proliferation in an unbelievably unstable region of the world​—​one made more unstable, we would add, by President Obama’s policies of retreat in Iraq and inaction in Syria​—​more likely and more imminent.

Maybe this is an unfortunate price one has to pay if a deal could, as President Obama said this past week in an interview with the Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, “strengthen the hands of more moderate leaders in Iran.” But there’s no sign of that. Quite the contrary.

This past week Reuters reported that Iran tried just a few months ago​—​in violation of its 2013 interim agreement with the United States and our allies​—​to procure “a large shipment of sensitive technology usable for nuclear enrichment.” The Czech Republic blocked the attempted purchase. As Reuters explains, this is detailed by an expert U.N. panel, which reports that in January Iran attempted to buy compressors useful for extracting enriched uranium from cascades of the sort that Iran possesses​—​cascades that Iran will continue to possess under the agreement. Furthermore, according to the U.N., “the procurer and transport company involved in the deal had provided false documentation in order to hide the origins, movement and destination of the consignment with the intention of bypassing export controls and sanctions.” The U.N. panel also notes that Britain had discovered a further illicit Iranian nuclear procurement network linked to blacklisted firms.
Reuters concludes, in an understated way: “The incident could add to Western concerns about whether Tehran can be trusted to adhere to a nuclear deal being negotiated with world powers under which it would curb sensitive nuclear work in exchange for sanctions relief.”

In sum: Iran is cheating, as it always has, despite all the concessions and happy talk and group hugs from Western diplomats. Given the weak inspections and verification regime envisioned by the final deal, how likely is that to change?

Furthermore, given this evidence of very recent Iranian behavior, how likely is it that the deal will strengthen the forces of moderation in Iran? In fact, achieving a deal that amounts to a huge series of concessions by the West and that allows Iran to leave its nuclear infrastructure in place​—​a deal that legitimizes Iran as a nuclear threshold state​—​will have the opposite effect. It will leave the regime in Iran strengthened and emboldened. After all, to say nothing of other considerations, if there’s a deal, the regime will, thanks to the unfreezing of sanctioned assets, quickly receive a “signing bonus” of $30-50 billion from the deal, an immediate cash infusion equivalent to more than 10 percent of Iran’s GDP.

Indeed, when pressed, even the Obama administration acknowledges that enriching the Islamic Republic of Iran may only accelerate its mischief-making. White House spokesman Josh Earnest said on May 5 that the administration hopes “that the influx of resources will be devoted to meeting the needs of the population there and to strengthening the economy that has taken a terrible toll on the daily lives of millions of Iranians.” But he admitted that “even while these sanctions have been in place we have not seen Iran significantly scale back their support for terrorism or their destabilization activities in the region.” Ultimately, he said with resignation, Iran “is a sovereign country that will make their own decisions.”

So there are two fundamentally flawed assumptions—​really, hopes​—​underlying the Obama administration’s deal. The hope is that such a deal (a) would lead to improved Iranian behavior and (b) would slow down nuclear proliferation in the region. But based on current Iranian behavior and today’s reactions in the region, both hopes are false. In fact, they are the complete opposite of the dynamics we already see playing out. The nuclear deal with Iran would have the “perverse consequence” both of making the Iranian regime stronger and more apt to engage in bad behavior, and of contributing to instability and nuclear proliferation in the Middle East.

It’s up to Congress to kill the deal, and thereby to save us from the predictable consequences of the Obama administration’s perverse view of American interests and of how the real world works.


4b)

It’s time to give Israel the means to take out Iranian nukes

The negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program have engendered furious debate in Washington and in capitals across the world. But there are steps outside of the nuclear talks that President Obama can take to help ensure that the United States and its allies are stronger and more secure the day after a deal than they were the day before. One such step would be to provide Israel with GBU-57 30,000-pound bunker-buster bombs (known as the Massive Ordnance Penetrators, or MOPs) and the means to carry them, in a quantity sufficient to destroy Iran’s most deeply buried nuclear sites.

At present, Israel possesses US-supplied 5,000-pound bunker-buster bombs. But experts doubt these bombs could seriously impede Iran’s nuclear development. On the other hand, there is little doubt that MOPs, which Israel lacks, are capable of destroying Iran’s nuclear sites.
As Michael Makovsky and Lt. Gen. David Deptula noted in a 2014 Wall Street Journal op-ed, the Defense Department has MOPs to spare, aircraft in storage that could carry the MOP payload and legal authority to transfer such arms to the Israelis.

A longstanding component of America’s Iran policy has been a credible military threat to ensure that Iran does not obtain a nuclear weapon. Many contend that the credibility of this threat has waned, and that Iran is now more assured than ever that it will not be attacked. Providing Israel with a stronger capability to destroy Iran’s nuclear facilities would help deter Iran from ever trying to break any agreement it may sign.

Transferring MOPs to Israel would also help assuage the concerns of Congress and our Middle East allies, who are wary of the emerging deal. President Obama will need to take measures to strengthen the security of our allies and ensure Congress that he is negotiating from a position of strength. Transferring MOPs to Israel would help the president achieve these objectives.

Because the MOPs are outside the scope of the negotiations, Iran is in no position to object to transferring them to the Israelis. Iran continues to expand Hezbollah’s arsenal, placing all of Israel’s population centers within range of Hezbollah rockets. Iran supports the Assad regime in Syria and Hamas in the Gaza Strip. It supports the Houthi rebels in Yemen, who have violently overthrown a democratically elected government. It propagates violence and terrorism throughout the Middle East.
We are now in a period when more must be done for Israel to retain its Qualitative Military Edge (or “QME”), a legally binding American commitment to ensure that Israel can overcome any combination of credible conventional military threats against it. Last month, Russia lifted a ban on the sale of missiles to Iran and decided to deliver to Iran a sophisticated air-defense system. The United States needs to ensure that Israel’s conventional military capabilities become stronger relative to those of Iran, not weaker.

Additionally, the issue of QME relates to the American desire to boost the military capabilities of its Gulf allies; in order to do this while not violating QME law, the president may need to proportionally strengthen Israel. This in part explains why the administration recently announced that it would provide Israel with new F-35 fighter jets, and it further underscores the need for Israel to obtain MOPs.

Some may argue that regional instability and sensitive negotiations make this the wrong time to introduce new weapons into the Middle East. But those of us who trust in Israel and in the US-Israel alliance know that the MOPs would not create further instability. Israel already has significant offensive military capabilities, and it has always used them responsibly.

The transfer of MOPs would not by itself resolve the Iranian nuclear question. Nor would it lessen the need for any deal to ensure that Iran has no technical path to a nuclear weapon. But it would enable the United States to negotiate from a position of strength — and remain in a position of strength long after the negotiations.

It is one of several tools with which the president could pave the path to a strong, sustainable nuclear agreement with Iran, a more secure Israel and a more stable Middle East.
Reps. Grace Meng (D-Queens) and Lee Zeldin (R-LI) are members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee
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5)--


This was supposed to be the week when President Obama put on a show of his desire to reaffirm America’s support for its Arab allies. Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf states have spent the last year in the unusual position of agreeing more with Israel than the United States, as Obama pushes for d├ętente with Iran. Like the Israelis, the Arabs are pondering their future in a region dominated by an Iranian nuclear threshold state that appears to be the lynchpin of the president’s foreign policy legacy. So to demonstrate his good will, Obama invited these nations to a summit at which he would convince them they had nothing to fear. But with the U.S. putting nothing on the table of substance that would allay those concerns about the weak nuclear deal being negotiated with Iran,  the Saudi king and other leaders snubbed the event, turning it into a fiasco even before it began. But it turned out King Salman didn’t miss much. Though Obama offered what he called  an “ironclad guarantee’ of America’s support for the Arabs, it was phrased in the kind of ambiguous language that rendered it meaningless. The meeting and especially the statement epitomized an Obama administration foreign policy that puts a premium on appeasing foes and alienating friends.



The wording of the president’s “guarantee” is a marvel of lawyerly ambiguity that any connoisseur of diplomatic doubletalk must appreciate:

In the event of such aggression or the threat of such aggression, the United States stands ready to work with our GCC partners to determine urgently what action may be appropriate, using the means at our collective disposal, including the potential use of military force, for the defense of our GCC partners.
Let’s unpack this carefully so we’re clear about what the United States isn’t promising its Arab allies.  As even Obama’s cheerleaders at the New York Times noted, this “carefully worded pledge that was far less robust than the mutual defense treaty the Gulf nations had sought.” In the event of aggression, the U.S. isn’t going to spring into action to defend them. Instead it will “work” with them to “determine” what they might do. That falls quite a bit short of a hard promise of collective action, let alone the drawing of a line in the sand across which the Iranians may not cross. In other words, if something bad happens, Obama will talk with the threatened parties but he won’t say what he will do in advance or if he will do anything at all. If that is an “ironclad guarantee,” I’d hate to see what a less binding promise might sound like.

To understate the matter, this is not the sort of pledge that will deter an Iran that is emboldened by its diplomatic victory in the negotiations that let them their nuclear infrastructure and continuing working toward a bomb. Iran’s push for regional hegemony has also been boosted by the triumph of their Syrian ally Bashar Assad with the help of Tehran’s Hezbollah terrorist auxiliaries. With the Iran-backed Houthi rebels threatening to take over Yemen and Iran also resuming its alliance with Hamas in Gaza, the axis of Iranian allies has Arab states understandably worried about their future. Now that the nuclear deal makes an Iranian bomb only a matter of when rather than if, the Gulf nations were hoping for more than just a carefully worded expression of American indifference.

That’s why the statement at the end of the summit made no mention of America’s chief worry about the Gulf states: the possibility that the Saudis will, either acting alone or in concert with their neighbors, seek to match Iran’s nuclear potential. As critics of the Iran deal foretold, far from saving the Middle East from an Iranian bomb, it has set off an arms race that has will make the world a fare more dangerous place.
This omission will likely make the Iranians even more reluctant to give in to U.S. demands about sanctions, Tehran’s military research and the disposition of its stockpile of enriched uranium in the final stages of the nuclear talks. A better guarantee for the Arabs might have convinced the Islamist state that the president really meant business about strengthening the deal. In its absence, they have no reason to think Obama won’t fold as he has at every other stage of the negotiations.

Under the circumstances, it’s little wonder that Bahrain’s King Hamad preferred to go to a horse show London rather than confer with Obama. Just as Israel has learned that the United States is more interested in a new Iran-centric policy than it backing its traditional allies, so, too, must the Arabs come to grips with a new reality in which their Iranian foe is no longer restrained by the United States.


5a)

Much More Is Needed to Stop Iran From Getting the Bomb

Obama will reluctantly sign a bill giving Congress more say over a final deal. Here’s what we should be looking for.


By Lindsey Graham
The Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act is now on its way to the White House for a reluctant signature by President Obama. He was forced to accept, by overwhelming votes in both chambers, Congress’s constitutional role in reviewing any nuclear deal with Iran and the lifting of any congressionally imposed sanctions. Now the hardest work begins.

The president must either negotiate an agreement that will permanently prevent an untrustworthy Iranian regime from acquiring nuclear weapons—or walk away. If he instead commits to a plan that will lead to a nuclear Iran, Congress must stop it.
Iran is the greatest sponsor of terrorism in the Middle East and the world. It is openly committed to the destruction of Israel. It sits at the nexus of nearly every major global threat: the Syrian crisis, the rise of ISIS, the resurgence of al Qaeda, the crisis in Iraq that threatens gains won with U.S. blood, the chaos in Yemen that is adding to the threat of an all-out regional war, and renewed weapons trade with Russia’s Vladimir Putin.

To allow this pariah nation to acquire nuclear weapons and the ability to deploy them against us and our allies—and to share them with radical Islamic organizations—would constitute an incalculable threat to our national security and an existential threat to Israel. It would set off a nuclear-arms race that would virtually guarantee a regional war with global implications.

Alarmingly, our negotiators and the Iranians have offered wildly differing interpretations of the negotiated framework. On every principle, Iran insists it will never accept our terms. Serious questions remain about how this deal can prevent a nuclear Iran.

Will international sanctions be lifted before proof that Iran is in compliance? How and when would sanctions be restored if there are violations? Can we have a good faith agreement with a regime that for decades has lied and cheated, and still has never come clean about its past efforts to weaponize nuclear technology? Will Iran be required to demonstrate changed behavior—with respect to its nuclear ambitions and its sponsorship of terrorism?

I am proposing eight principles to ensure we get the right answers and achieve a sound, enforceable deal.
• Iran must not be allowed an enrichment capability greater than the practical needs to supply one commercial reactor. The Iranians should have access to peaceful nuclear power, but the infrastructure should be aligned to support the needs of a single nuclear reactor.

• Closure of all hardened and formerly secret sites. Iran must come clean on all outstanding issues raised by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), particularly concerning the possible military dimensions of Iran’s civilian nuclear program. The history of Iran’s nuclear program has been marked by deception. Sites like Fordow have no role in an Iranian civilian program. Iran must account for the full inventory of centrifuges, production facilities for components, the total number of components, assembly workshops and storage depots for centrifuges.

• Anytime, anywhere inspections of all Iranian military and nonmilitary facilities. Iran shouldn’t have veto power over when inspectors visit its facilities, including the ability of independent parties to monitor and report on Iran’s compliance.

• Sanctions relief and access to funds currently in escrow must be phased in and fully conditioned on IAEA certification that Iran is in full compliance and has demonstrated sustained compliance over time. Allowing Iran access to these tens of billions of dollars in funds before it has fulfilled its portion of the agreement is unacceptable.

• There must be an explicit process for the “snapback” re-imposition of sanctions if Iran violates the deal. It took years to impose the sanctions, which brought Iran to the negotiating table.
• Iran must not be allowed to conduct research and development on advanced centrifuges. Mastery of this technology will allow Iran to reduce its breakout time toward a nuclear weapon.

• Removal of all enriched uranium from Iran. There is no need for Iran to possess a large stockpile of low enriched uranium or any highly enriched uranium. With the exception of the small amounts enriched to 3.5% that will be created as part of Iran’s civilian enrichment process, all enriched uranium must be shipped out of Iran
.
• Certification by the president that, before any restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program are lifted, Iran has changed its aggressive behavior in the region and no longer meets the qualifications to be designated a state sponsor of terrorism.

These eight principles have bipartisan support and largely reflect President Obama’s negotiating position at the start of the process (demonstrating how far he has strayed from his original intentions). Adhering to these eight principles will ensure that Iran never acquires nuclear weapons or has the means to spread nuclear technology to radical Islamic groups.

Above all, they will reassert American leadership in the Middle East, and preserve our national security, and the security of Israel and other allies in the region. Any deal that does not adhere to them will fail, with dire consequences for global security.

Mr. Graham, a Republican, is a U.S. senator from South Carolina
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6)-



Mrs. Clinton
Many people who may vote in the Democratic primary election, if there is one, and the general election in 2016, have no real knowledge of Mrs. Clinton or her accomplishments.  As a public service, I thought I would provide some input regarding her triumphs for consideration.

When Bill Clinton was president, he allowed Hillary to assume authority over a health care reform.  Even after threats and intimidation, she couldn't even get a vote in a democratic controlled congress.  This fiasco cost the American taxpayers about $13 million in cost for studies, promotion, and other efforts.

Then President Clinton gave Hillary authority over selecting a female attorney general.  Her first two selections were Zoe Baird and Kimba Wood; both were forced to withdraw their names from consideration.  Next she chose Janet Reno. Her husband Bill described her selection as my worst mistake.  Some may not remember that Reno made the decision to gas David Koresh and the Branch Davidian religious sect in Waco, Texas, resulting in dozens of deaths of women and children.
 Husband Bill allowed Hillary to make recommendations for the head of the Civil Rights Commission. Lani Guanier was her selection. When a little probing led to the discovery of Ms. Guanier's radical views, her name had to be withdrawn from consideration.
Apparently a slow learner, husband Bill allowed Hillary to make some more recommendations. She chose former law partners Web Hubbel for the Justice

Department, Vince Foster for the White House staff and William Kennedy for the Treasury Department.  Her selections went well: Hubbel went to prison, Foster (presumably) committed suicide, and Kennedy was forced to resign.

Many younger votes will have no knowledge of Travelgate.  Hillary wanted to award unfettered travel contracts to Clinton friend Harry Thompson and the White House Travel Office refused to comply. She managed to have them reported to the FBI and fired. This ruined their reputations, cost them their jobs, and caused a thirty-six month investigation. Only one employee, Billy Dale was charged with a crime, and that of the enormous crime of mixing personal and White House funds. The jury acquitted him of any crime in less than two hours

Still not convinced of her ineptness, Hillary was allowed to recommend a close Clinton friend, Craig Livingstone, for the position of Director of White House security. When Livingstone was investigated for the improper access of about 900 FBI files of Clinton enemies (Filegate) and the widespread use of drugs by White House staff, suddenly Hillary and the president denied even knowing Livingstone, and of course, denied knowledge of drug use in the White House. Following this debacle, the FBI closed its White House Liaison Office after more than thirty years of service to seven presidents.  

Next, when women started coming forward with allegations of sexual harassment and rape by Bill Clinton, Hillary was put in charge of the bimbo eruptions and scandal defense.  Some of her more notable decisions in the debacle were:
 
  She urged her husband not to settle the Paula Jones lawsuit.  After the Starr investigation they settled with Ms. Jones.
 

She refused to release the Whitewater documents, which led to the appointment of Ken Starr as Special Prosecutor. After that $80 million dollars of taxpayer money was spent, Starr's investigation led to Monica Lewinsky, which led to Bill lying about and later admitting his affairs. 
 
Hillary's devious game plan resulted in Bill losing his license to practice law for lying under oath to a grand jury, and then his subsequent impeachment by the House of Representatives.
 
  
 Hillary avoided indictment for perjury and obstruction of justice during the Starr investigation by repeating “I do not recall, I have no recollection, and don't know” a total of 56 times while under oath.
   
After leaving the White House, Hillary was forced to return an estimated $200,000 in White House furniture, china and artwork that she had stolen.    
 
What a swell party, ready for another four or eight year of this type low-life mess?
 
Now we are exposed to: the destruction of possibly incriminating emails while Hillary was Secretary of State and the “pay to play” schemes of the Clinton Foundation. We have no idea what shoe will fall next.  But to her loyal fans “what difference does it make”?
 
Electing Hillary Clinton president would be like granting Satan absolution and giving him the keys to heaven!

6a)

Media Gets Pope’s Abbas Comments Wrong

If anyone needs further evidence of why the news agencies often can’t be trusted to report accurately on Israel and the Palestinians, and why major news outlets such as the New York Times and the BBC should stop repeating agency copy without verifying it, here is an important example from this weekend.

According to Italian and Spanish news outlets and according to the Vatican’s own website, Pope Francis told Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas that he could be an angel of peace. “May you be an angel of peace,” he urged Abbas, effectively saying that if Abbas would take the decision to accept one of the peace offers that various Israeli prime ministers have made to him, or at least make a serious counter-offer, he could be an angel of peace. The pope did not say that Abbas – infamous for ordering the Munich Olympic massacre, among many other atrocities – was “an angel of peace.”

And yet the BBC and New York Times were among dozens of prominent news outlets that claimed he did.

The New York Times reports today (Page A11 under the headline: “At Vatican, Abbas Is Praised as ‘Angel of Peace’”):
“Mr. Abbas’s meeting with the pope ended with an exchange of gifts. Presenting Mr. Abbas with a medallion, the pope said it depicted an angel of peace ‘destroying the bad spirit of war.’ It was an appropriate gift, the pope added, since “you are an angel of peace.” 
And here is NBCFox, and, the BBC saying the same thing.
***
Contrast the headlines in the New York Times with those in the Italian press. For example, the headline in the “Vatican Insider” section of Le Stampa is:
Pope embraces Abu Mazen and bids him to be an angel of peace
The original Italian is here
Or as Il Giornale reports, the pope met Abbas, “asking him to be ‘an angel of peace.’” 

Read almost any Italian news outlet and they say the same thing: “you could be an angel of peace” – “Lei possa essere un angelo della pace.”
As an astute Italian-speaking observer of the Middle East points out, all these English-speaking news media seem to have initially relied on the mistranslations of the world’s three biggest news agencies. 
AP:
Pope Francis praised Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas as an “angel of peace” during a meeting Saturday at the Vatican that underscored the Holy See’s warm relations with the Palestinians. Francis made the compliment during the traditional exchange of gifts at the end of an official audience in the Apostolic Palace. He presented Abbas with a medallion and explained that it represented the “angel of peace destroying the bad spirit of war.” Francis said he thought the gift was appropriate since “you are an angel of peace.” 
AFP: “I thought of you because you are an angel of peace,” [Pope Francis] told Abbas. 
Reuters: Pope Francis gave Abbas a medallion representing an angel of peace, telling the Palestinian leader he thought of him “as an angel of peace.”
***
Meanwhile the website of the official Radio Vatican doesn’t even report on the Pope’s angels comment at all, apparently judging it unimportant.
Former Middle East reporters such as myself (“The Case of Reuters”) and Matti Friedman (who used to work at AP’s Jerusalem bureau) have long warned about the impartiality of the major news agencies coverage of the Middle East. 

But then too often do reporters and editors at the New York Times, BBC, and elsewhere seem to be happy reporting on what they want to hear, rather than on what was actually said or done, when it comes to the Palestinians and Israel.
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7) Planet Obama: Where Self-Awareness Goes to Die

Life in the White House can be notoriously isolating. Harry Truman called the famous presidential residence, which boasts 132 rooms, “the great white jail.” Ronald Reagan labeled it a “gilded cage.” Bill Clinton, who liked the White House so much he sidled out with almost $190,000 worth of furniture, china, silverware, and decorative accessories when he left, called it both “the finest public housing in America” and “the crown jewel of the prison system.”

This federally funded Alcatraz-lite with servants, chefs, and a bowling alley isn’t all bad, of course. “To be sure,” as Kenneth T. Walsh wrote in “Prisoners of the White House,” his 2013 book on the subject, “the president deals with a particularly splendid form of isolation … [and] is pampered and privileged.” Also, unlike, say, Folsom Prison, where trapped inmates wistfully listen to passing trains, wishing they could join the rich folks eating in the fancy dining cars, the White House offers a pretty decent on-demand, taxpayer-funded private jet.

Unfortunately, recent events have left me wondering whether the endless list of White House amenities also includes a giant Anti-Self-Awareness Transmogrifier, conveniently located between the gluten-free flour garden and the ever-useful “Instantly Produce a Federally Employed Yes Man” call button. Speaking at commencement exercises at historically black Tuskegee University last Saturday, first lady Michelle Obama told a crowd of bright-eyed graduates the following: “The road ahead is not going to be easy. It never is, especially for folks like you and me.”

Let’s pause for a moment to remember that the speaker is an intelligent, attractive woman who went to Chicago’s prestigious Whitney Young magnet school, then to Princeton, then to Harvard, then on to a rather mysterious six-figure job at the University of Chicago, which I’m sure was totally unrelated to her husband’s political work. Next, she was off to the White House, proceeding to globe-hop to places like Cambodia, where, in March, she booked 85 hotel guest rooms at a cost of $242,500 for 33 minutes of public speaking. This was a drop in the bucket, of course, compared to the estimated $44 million in taxpayer-funded vacations she and her husband have racked up over the years.

Ahem. Moving on. “There will be times,” the first lady continued, “when you feel folks look right past you, or they see just a fraction of who you really are. … My husband and I [have] both felt the sting of those daily slights throughout our entire lives — the folks who crossed the street in fear of their safety; the clerks who kept a close eye on us in all those department stores; the people at formal events who assumed we were the ‘help’ — and all those who questioned our intelligence, our honesty, even our love of this country.”

Whatever you think of the first lady’s complaints — and a reasonable approach might involve acknowledging that racism exists and agreeing that we need to combat it, while questioning the strangeness of one of the most powerful, privileged, and admired women in America repeatedly obsessing over her own past “daily slights” — that last phrase is rather breathtaking. In one fell swoop, it groups “those who questioned our intelligence, our honesty, even our love of country” together with a giant bushel of supposed racism. It also reveals a lot about the mind of Michelle Obama, who apparently assumes that the only reason you could possibly criticize her or the president is simple: You’re probably a racist.

This would certainly be news to, say, George W. Bush, a white president whose intelligence, honesty, and love of country were not only questioned, but raked over the coals with relish for years. Burned in effigy? Check! Repeatedly caricatured as a chimpanzee, The Joker, and Hitler? Check! Nationally lampooned as a total dolt? Check! Compared to Satan, the dark lord of the underworld, without a hint of irony? Check! Was that racism? Or was it just America being its usual, vociferous, half-crazy self?

Alas, among the Obamas, self-awareness is not a strong suit, and this particular deficit isn’t limited to the first lady. This week, at Georgetown University, the president bemoaned the scourge of private schools, driven by “an anti-government ideology that disinvests from those common goods and those things that draw us together.”

One wonders: Did he feel that way as a teenager while in the bosom of the exclusive Punahou prep school in Honolulu?  The Obama children, of course, attend Sidwell Friends, a private institution that costs $37,750 a year. Before moving to Washington, D.C., Sasha and Malia studied at the University of Chicago’s elite Laboratory School, where middle school tuition runs at $29,328.

Ah, well, never mind. “All of us would agree,” said Robert Putnam, a writer and co-panelist with Obama at the Georgetown event, that D.C.’s power brokers need to “rise out of the Washington bubble.” The president and the first lady, sadly, appear to be deeply ensconced — not just in their White House bubble, but on their own, insular ideological planet. It’s a place where, in too many cases, self-awareness dissolves on contact.

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