Israel’s Perilous Position

At the present time, Israel is in the most perilous position it has ever been. That includes 1948 when it first came into statehood. Like now, in 1948 it was surrounded by enemies who wanted to destroy it. However, in 1948 it had at least one strong supporter, the United States. Now, Israel is still surrounded by enemies who want to destroy it. The difference is that its one strong, unwavering ally, the US, has not been so dependable. I firmly believe that this change in attitude, after over 60 years of staunch support, has occurred either at the direction of or with the concurrence of President Obama. No other explanation makes any sense.

Consider:

1. President Obama has allowed his personal dislike for Benjamin Netanyahu to impact his foreign policy toward Israel. Seasoned politicians and diplomats know that regardless of your personal feelings toward the other person, you conduct your business with him in a professional manner without insults or snide remarks. Apparently, Mr. Obama doesn’t subscribe to that tenant. Over the past six years he has repeatedly ignored, “dissed” and criticized Mr. Netanyahu. For example, he was “too busy” to meet with Mr. Netanyahu at the White House or in NY when Mr. Netanyahu addressed the UN a few years ago. (As I recall, he was either playing golf or attending a fund raiser.) In addition, he overreacted, like a petulant child, when Mr. Netanyahu accepted an invitation to address Congress on the Iran nuke negotiations recently.
2. While treating Israel in this manner, the US has been placating Arab terrorists and militant leaders at every turn. To quote the “Wall Street Journal” in a recent article, Mr. Obama has the “capacity to ‘wish away’ some terrible realities, not the least of which is the Islamist intention to destroy America and enslave the West.” Mr. Obama famously apologized to the Egyptians for past actions, whatever they might have been; during a visit to Saudi Arabia, he bowed down to the King; he declared a “red line” to Syrian President Assad, which he then ignored when Assad failed to comply; he first ignored, then soft peddled the (“JV”) ISIS terrorists, which have proceeded to take over much of Iraq and Syria and have demonstrated an unlimited capacity for terror and savagery; and he has entered into negotiations with Iran, an untrustworthy, unrepentant sponsor of terrorism, which will likely result in the US’s tacit or explicit concurrence with Iran’s possessing nuclear weapons with the capacity to deliver them.
3. Last, but not least, he has strongly hinted that the US will support a two-state solution to the Palestinian situation. The proposed two-state solution would place a Hamas-controlled entity just a few miles from Israel, which would threaten the very viability of the country.

There have been many other examples, but I think you get the point.

CONCLUSION

In 1948 President Truman took all of eleven hours after the UN vote to recognize Israel, which set the tone for the rest of the Western world. Whatever you may have thought of Truman, he was decisive, and he invariably did the right thing. Can you just imagine the scenario if Obama would have been President back then? Probably, there would be no State of Israel today.

The US and Israel have had their minor differences through the years, but the US has always been there to support it, and Israel knew it would do so when “the chips were down.” Now, things are not so certain. Make no mistake about it, Obama’s actions and inactions toward aggressive, terrorist-sponsoring countries and his attitude toward Israel and its leader, Mr. Netanyahu, have provided loud and clear signals to the Arab states and the rest of the world as well. In diplomatic circles even subtleties carry significant meaning, and Mr. Obama has been anything but subtle.

His diplomatic policy in the Middle East purports to be even-handed. Many people doubt that, but even if one were to accept that as the case, what is the rationale and justification. On the one hand, we have a staunch, loyal ally for over 60 years and the only democracy in the region; on the other hand, we have countries that finance, support and harbor terrorism against the US and the rest of the Western world. It seems pretty clear what our policy should be and where our support should lie.

Compounding this situation is the fact that formerly outspoken supporters, such as Chuck Schumer and Steve Israel, have been strangely silent. (Perhaps, Schumer is lying low because he has designs on replacing Harry Reid as minority leader, and he feels that if he speaks out he will lose Obama’s and Reid’s support. Many people subscribe to that analysis.) I urge supporters of Israel to lobby their Congressmen or women to put pressure on the Administration. If not, I fear that (1) the US will agree to a “sweetheart” nuke deal with Iran the result of which will threaten not just Israel, but the whole Western world, and (2) the two-state solution will pass in the UN, which will destabilize the Middle East further and threaten Israel’s very viability as a nation.

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Iwo Jima

This month marks the 70th anniversary of the capture of the atoll of Iwo Jima during WWII. Dozens of surviving veterans of that campaign marked the occasion by travelling halfway around the world to the remote atoll, not an easy trip for a person in his 80s or 90s, where they visited the sandy beaches and the famous (or infamous) Mt. Suribachi, (more on that later). For many, it was undoubtedly an occasion to recall one of the most hellacious and frightening experiences of their lives and to remember their fallen comrades. Interestingly, a delegation of Cabinet members of the Japanese government attended the annual ceremonies for the first time.

The Pacific War with the Japanese was uncommonly arduous and bloody. The Americans virtually had to “crawl” across the Central and Western Pacific island by island for over three years to finally win it. The Japanese always fought to the death, so each island was only captured at a very high cost in men and materials. What made the battle for Iwo Jima so special? Read on.

By late 1944 the Americans were close enough to mainland Japan to bomb it on a regular basis using B-29 so-called “Superfortresses.” There were, however, two issues: (1) They needed a safe place to land on the return flight, particularly if they had mechanical or fuel issues; and (2) Japanese fighters, based at Iwo Jima, were hindering the bombing operation by attacking the B-29s. Therefore, the High Command decreed that Iwo Jima had to be captured, especially its three airfields.

“Operation Detachment” began on February 19, 1945 with heavy, sustained bombardment to “soften up” the Japanese positions. The battle was to last five brutal weeks. Unbeknownst to us, the Japanese were heavily dug in in a dense network of caves and underground tunnels, so the bombing did not have the deleterious effect desired or anticipated. When the marines finally landed they were surprised to find little or no resistance on the beaches. As it turned out, the Japanese strategy was to lure the Americans in and then launch a brutal series of surprise counter-attacks, which they did. As previously mentioned, the Japanese fought to the death. Of the approximately 22,000 Japanese troops on the island only 200 or so were taken prisoner. The rest were either killed, committed suicide, or missing in action. Some were even found years later still hidden underground in caves or tunnels.

Eventually, the American superiority in manpower, airpower and supplies proved decisive. In a war replete with bloody battles, Iwo Jima was probably the worst. It was certainly the only one in which American casualties exceeded those of Japan.

The symbol of victory was the raising of the flag on Mt. Suribachi. The famous photo was taken by Joe Rosenthal and won him a Pulitzer Prize. Some interesting facts about the photo:

1. It was actually a re-enactment. The original flag-raising was photographed by one Louis Lowery. The ceremony was re-enacted for the benefit of Secretary of the Navy, James Forrestal, who had landed on the beach just after the real one had been taken. It was the re-enactment, with a larger flag and a longer pole, that was photographed by Rosenthal and became famous.
2. Of the six men depicted in the picture (five Marines and one Navy corpsman), three died on Iwo. The remaining three became celebrities as the fame of the photo captured the imagination of the American public.
3. The scene is depicted in a sculpture at the Marine Corps Memorial, which is adjacent to Arlington National Cemetery.
4. The scene has been re-enacted in several movies about the battle, most notably “The Sands of Iwo Jima” (1949) starring (who else) John Wayne.

CONCLUSION

Following the battle, because of the significant number of casualties there was some controversy as to the necessity of having fought it in the first place. Many, such as Chief of Naval Operations, William Pratt, questioned the strategic importance of Iwo as an air and naval base and opined that other atolls could have served the same purpose at a far lesser cost of men and material. Perhaps, Pratt was unaware of the Manhattan Project. In August, 1945, Iwo certainly was to become useful in carrying out the successful missions of dropping the two atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Those missions were also very controversial, but they did shorten the war. In addition, they obviated the necessity of invading Japan, which likely saved a million or more American lives. The Japanese would never have surrendered. They would have fought to the proverbial “last man.” However, that is the subject of another blog for another day.

NETANYAHU AND OBAMA

Clearly, Mr. Netanyahu and Mr. Obama have a problem with each other. They disagree on most political issues, which is not surprising. After all, Netanyahu has a military background and is a staunch conservative. Also, his country is surrounded, in close proximity, by States that despise it and have sworn to “wipe [it] off the face of the earth.” On the other hand, Obama is strongly liberal and more pacifist, in nature. Furthermore, his country is further removed from the violence of the Middle East. The issues in the Middle East are serious to the US, but, for Israel, they are literally a matter of life and death. That said, there is much evidence that they also dislike each other personally. This is more problematic, because it has hindered their ability to work in concert to resolve issues of mutual importance.

For example, recently, they quarreled over Netanyahu’s addressing Congress regarding the US-Iran nuclear negotiations. Obama retaliated by delaying congratulating Netanyahu on his re-election for a couple of days. Additionally, he appointed Rob Malley, a reputed Hamas sympathizer, to a key post as special assistant to the President on Middle East affairs. Now, Obama has threatened to withdraw its support of Israel in the Security Council over the two-state Palestinian issue, which would be devastating. Presumably, this is just a bluff, but the way Obama has been acting since his re-election, you never know. Since his re-election Obama has demonstrated time and again that he’ll say and do anything. It’s like he is not afraid of any consequences or thinks he is immune to them. One thing for sure is that without the US’s veto the measure would likely pass in the Security Council and the UN. These retaliatory actions seem spiteful and petty, if not downright childish, but they are merely the latest manifestations of this mutual antipathy. This has been going on for years. Jennifer Rubin, writing in the Washington Post, has opined that the “gross pettiness and rudeness [regarding Obama’s latest actions] are there for all to see.”

In my opinion, whether or not Obama agrees with Netanyahu’s reservations regarding Iran’s nuclear program or the establishment of a Palestinian state, it would be mutually advantageous for them to discuss it, not in the press but privately and respectfully. The fact of the matter is that Netanyahu has voiced valid concerns regarding Iran, which need to be addressed. Furthermore, regarding a Palestinian state on his border, he has denoted that the geopolitical situation has changed significantly since it was first proposed and agreed to, in principal. The Palestinians have now aligned themselves with Hamas. Therefore, Netanyahu feels a Palestinian state on Israel’s border would, in reality, mean a state controlled by Hamas. This, he feels, would be intolerable for Israel’s security and would threaten its very viability as a nation.

CONCLUSION

Netanyahu and Obama are trading insults and “dissing” each other like they are in the first grade. “He started it. No, he did. No, it was him.” Someone has to be the proverbial adult in the room. They both need to take a breath. It’s time they both grew up and realized the harsh reality of the current situation, which is that Israel and the US have a symbiotic relationship. They need each other’s support. Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East and is our staunchest ally in that extremely volatile region. Conversely, the US has always supported Israel. It is Israel’s only friend in the world, and Israel needs its continued support to continue to exist.

Let’s not lose site of the greater picture. It should not be Obama vs. Netanyahu. It should be Israel and the US working in concert as they always have. The issues facing the two countries are much bigger than any individual person. Netanyahu and Obama will be gone from the political scene soon enough. Iran, with its extremist and unstable leadership, must not be allowed to obtain nuclear capability. It’s as simple as that. At stake is not just the survival of Israel and peace in the Middle East, but the safety and security of the entire world.

STEPHEN FLATOW AND IRAN

What do a Jewish attorney from New Jersey and a totalitarian, terrorist-sponsoring, vehemently anti-Semitic State, such as Iran, have in common? Their connection is so far-fetched that if it were the subject of a movie no one would believe it. This story chronicles one man’s determination to obtain justice for his murdered daughter and, in doing so, triumphing over the judicial system, the State Department, the Justice Department, several multi-national banks, and the State of Iran, itself. Read on, and be inspired.

In 1995 Stephen Flatow was an ordinary real estate attorney living in New Jersey. His daughter, Alisa, was studying in Israel for the semester. One day, on her way to the beach she became the victim of a horrendous terrorist attack when her bus was struck intentionally by a van filled with explosives. The Palestinian Islamic Jihad (“PIJ”) took responsibility for the act. Alisa was mortally wounded in the attack and died some days later in an Israeli hospital. As a side issue to the main story, the Flatows wanted to donate various of Alisa’s organs. Organ donation is frowned upon among some Jewish groups, especially in Israel, who maintain that the body should be buried whole and unaltered. But Jewish law does provide an exception if the purpose of the donation is to save a life. The Flatows were practicing Orthodox Jews and believed organ donation would be acceptable in order to save a life. They verified this with their rabbi, and they proceeded. They donated Alisa’s heart, lungs, kidneys, liver, pancreas and corneas, saving six lives in the process. As inspiring as that was, it is not the main point of this story.

It was well-known that Iran was the sponsor of the PIJ. Flatow was determined that they be held accountable. Below, in summary form, is how he achieved his objective:

1. At that time, US law did not permit private citizens to sue foreign governments, so Flatow worked to change the law. As you can imagine, that was a daunting task.
2. Flatow, with the assistance of Senator Frank J. Lautenberg and President Clinton, lobbied Congress to pass the Anti-Terrorism Act of 1996, which allowed US citizens to sue foreign nations for damages in Federal court under certain circumstances.
3. The courts rejected the law, but Flatow did not give up. He got Congress to pass another law, which the courts ratified.
4. The court awarded Flatow a judgement of nearly $250 million. Now, came the task of collecting it from a country that, due to sanctions, officially, had no assets or business interests in the US.
5. Flatow got very inventive. First, he attempted to take possession of the former Iranian embassy, which was lying dormant. The State Department thwarted that idea. It wanted to save it for when and if relations with Iran might be normalized.
6. Reasoning that Iran was likely funneling money through the major US financial markets illicitly, especially NY, in order to fund its terrorist activities, Flatow began hunting for hidden Iranian assets. Eventually, the trail led to the Alavi Foundation. The Alavi Foundation had been established in the days of the Shah to promote Iranian culture in the US. It owned a huge skyscraper in Manhattan near Rockefeller Center, prime real estate. Flatow suspected that Alavi was a “front” for Bank Melli, Iran’s government-owned national bank.
7. The Manhattan District Attorney’s office got wind of Flatow’s activities and got involved. By fortunate happenstance, one of the attorneys in the DA’s office was Eitan Arusy, a former Israeli soldier who had actually been one of the soldiers that had responded to the terror attack back in 1995. He took a special interest in the case. Eventually, it was determined that Alavi was not a charity but, rather, an instrument of the Iranian government.
8. The Feds, led by the Treasury Department and the FBI, took over the prosecution of the case.
9. Several multi-national banks were found to be complicit in moving Iranian funds into and out of the US illegally on behalf of Bank Melli. In order to disguise the transactions the banks had been deleting the Iranian clients’ identifying information from the wire transfers.
10. Alavi was forced to sell the building. In addition, the complicit banks – BNP, Credit Suisse, Lloyds, and Barclays, among others, were forced to settle with the Feds and pay huge fines ($8.9 billion in the case of BNP alone). The proceeds will be distributed to the victims of terrorism.

CONCLUSION

This story is a testament to persistence and determination. It is a tribute to a grieving father who wanted justice for his daughter and never gave up his quest regardless of the roadblocks. Sue a foreign government, no problem. Against the law, change the law. Struck down by the courts, pass another law. Opposition by the State Department, bring it on. Fight various powerful, multi-national banks, no sweat. This story should be an inspiration to us all.

MOVIE QUOTES

Enough bad news, already. I thought we could all benefit from a break from all the serious news in the world today from the economy, to Hillary’s emails, to ISIS beheadings, to Iran’s push to become a nuclear power, to Russia’s and North Korea’s sabre rattling..

So, below please find my latest quiz. This time it is quotes from the movies. Test your knowledge below. Have fun! As always, no peeking at the answers.

1. “Heeeere’s Johnny!”
a. The Johnny Carson Story
b. The Shining
c. Home Alone
d. Scary Movie

2. “There’s no crying in baseball.”
a. The Natural
b. Eight Men Out
c. Moneyball
d. A League of Their Own

3. “No, Mr. Bond. I expect you to die.”
a. Dr. No
b. Goldfinger
c. Thunderball
d. From Russia with Love

4. “You can’t handle the truth!”
a. A Few Good Men
b. Five Easy Pieces
c. Chinatown
d. Terminator II

5. “Is it safe?”
a. Mission Impossible
b. War of the Worlds
c. The Boys from Brazil
d. Marathon Man

6. “You had me at ‘hello.’ ”
a. Risky Business
b. Jerry Maguire
c. Princess Bride
d. It Happened One Night

7. “Surely, you can’t be serious. I am serious, and don’t call me Shirley.”
a. Groundhog Day
b. Fletch
c. Airplane
d. Naked Gun

8. “Say hello to my little friend.”
a. Scarface
b. The Godfather
c. Pulp Fiction
d. Goodfellas

9. “If you build it, he will come.”
a. Major League
b. Hoop Dreams
c. Field of Dreams
d. Rudy

10. “I’ll have what she’s having.”
a. Sleepless in Seattle
b. American Pie
c. 22 Jump Street
d. When Harry Met Sally

11. “Plastics.”
a. The Graduate
b. School Ties
c. Night at the Museum
d. All the Kings Men

12. Round up the usual suspects.
a. High Noon
b. The Maltese Falcon
c. Casablanca
d. Rear Window

13. “Rosebud”
a. The Hunger Games
b. Princess Bride
c. Citizen Kane
d. Gone with the Wind

14. “I coulda been a contenda. I coulda been somebody…”
a. Rocky
b. The Karate Kid
c. Raging Bull
d. On the Waterfront

15. “…You’ve got to ask yourself one question. Do I feel lucky? Well, do ya, punk?”
a. Gran Torino
b. Dirty Harry
c. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
d. Sudden Impact

16. Thank you, sir. May I have another?
a. 21 Jump Street
b. Animal House
c. Dumb and Dumber
d. The Hangover

17. “Do I amuse you? Do you think I’m a clown?”
a. The Public Enemy
b. A Bronx Tale
c. The French Connection
d. Goodfellas

18. “I like you. I’ll kill you last.”
a. Commando
b. Kindergarten Cop
c. Dirty Harry
d. Gran Torino

19. “This is your tent, Aunt Edna.”
a. Goonies
b. Ace Ventura, Pet Detective
c. Fletch Lives
d. Vacation

20. “So let it be written; so let it be done.”
a. The Ten Commandments
b. The Firm
c. Exodus
d. Ben Hur

Answers: 1) b, 2) d, 3) b, 4) a, 5) d, 6) b, 7) c, 8) a, 9) c, 10) d, 11) a, 12) c, 13) c, 14) d, 15) b, 16) b, 17) d, 18) a, 19) d, 20) a

Well, what were your favorites? Did I omit any you like? Let me know.

HILLARY’S EMAILS

Hillary Clinton continues to be a polarizing figure. She has been in the public’s eye for over 20 years, as First Lady, Senator, Secretary of State and Presidential candidate. Love her or hate her; you can’t ignore her. She can always be counted upon to stir up controversy. As Gilda Radnor used to say: “It’s always something.”

The latest Hillary issue is with respect to her emails during the period in which she was Secretary of State. As reported by the “New York Times,” Associated Press and various other news sources, she used a private server for all her emails, and, as a result, they were not retained on the official government server, were not archived properly and were not available for scrutiny by Congress and other authorized parties. (On the other hand, hackers and other unauthorized persons would have had easier access, which, among other issues,constituted a national security threat.) As part of the Congress’ Benghazi investigation Clinton eventually submitted 55,000 pages of these emails, but no one can be certain of whether or not there are more that have not been disclosed. There are legitimate doubts as it was Clinton’s staff that reviewed the emails before determining which ones would be disclosed.

There is no doubt that Clinton did not comply with the Obama Administration’s policy regarding emails, which, quite properly, requires officials to conduct their government business primarily on an official government server. Any business emails on a private server are required to be forwarded to their government account. The obvious reasons for this policy are national security and public disclosure and access to authorized persons.

The more serious question is whether or not she also broke the law. The law’s definition of a federal record is broad and open to interpretation, but, in my experience it is extremely difficult for a public official to claim a separation between public and private communications. For example, in my experience dealing with the SEC it always maintained that any communication had at least a partially public element. Following that logic, as long as Clinton was serving as Secretary of State virtually any email she would have sent or received could be construed as pertaining to government business. For example, an email pertaining to the Clinton Foundation might seem, at first glance, to be a private email. But, it has been disclosed that some donors to the foundation, especially foreign governments and multi-national corporations that do business with the federal government, may have likely donated expecting a “quid pro quo.” This would have major ramifications not only for a Secretary of State, but also for a President, should she be elected. Therefore, foundation or not, these emails should be treated as government business. In summary, in the interest of full disclosure and common sense, all emails should have been run through and maintained in her public email account.

CONCLUSION

Supporters and critics are already weighing in. Supporters include, David Axelrod and Senators Schumer and Pelosi. Critics include Senators Darrell Issa, Ted Cruz and Trey Gowdy, who have called for an investigation and the hiring of an independent agent to examine the emails. In addition, Gowdy has expressed suspicions that the disclosed emails did not include any from the time period that Clinton had traveled to Libya despite the fact that she was photographed using her handheld device. Furthermore, Jason Baron, former director of litigation at the National Archives and Records Administration, cites the significance of timing. He opines that all emails should have been handed over no later than on the date Clinton left office.

It’s true that Clinton is hardly the only public figure to have utilized a private email account. Others include, Jeb Bush, Scott Walker and Chris Christie, all of whom may also be running for President. Be that as it may, at the very least, Clinton has created an unnecessary issue and distraction that she doesn’t need as she seeks to become the first female president. In addition, to paraphrase Mike Huckabee, former politician turned news commentator, it re-enforces her image problem as one who skates right on the edge of right and wrong and, perhaps, over it.

Many prominent Democrats, such as Senator Barbara Boxer, while not exactly critical of Clinton in this matter, have nevertheless urged her to resolve the matter before it lingers too long and causes serious damage to her campaign. In this regard, Clinton has leaked the fact that she will be holding a news conference shortly at which time she will address the matter fully. If you’re a Clinton supporter, you’d best hope that the news conference puts the matter to bed once and for all. Personally, I have my doubts.

TELLING IT LIKE IT IS

Yesterday, Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu gave a speech before a joint session of Congress about the growing crisis in the Middle East…. and, what do you know, contrary to what some critics had predicted, the world didn’t end! I woke up today, and found that the earth is still spinning on its axis; the sun is still in the sky.

My friends, I am not writing this blog to debate the merits and demerits of Mr. Netanyahu’s addressing Congress without President Obama’s permission. People have their opinions on it, and that’s that. Whether you agree or disagree with what he said or his right to speak in the first place is not the important issue, and to focus on it obscures the much broader and much more serious point, which, plainly and simply is IRAN CANNOT BE ALLOWED TO DEVELOP NUCLEAR CAPABILITY.

Common sense and past experience tell me that a nuclear-capable Iran cannot be good for the Middle East, for Israel or for the US. This is a country whose leadership continually lies, cheats and obfuscates. They have been fomenting terrorism directed toward the US. They have vowed to wipe Israel which, last time I checked, is our only dependable ally in the region, off the face of the earth. The leadership is unstable and dangerous. Give me a scenario in which it would be acceptable for Iran to have nuclear capability. There isn’t one.

To paraphrase Secretary of State John Kerry, this is the 21st century, not the 19th. We cannot rely on two vast oceans insulating us from the rest of the world. What happens in the Middle East or elsewhere affects us as well. It affects us militarily, economically, politically and socially.

Even worse, the agreement currently under discussion, the one we are hoping Iran will accept, is a bad deal for the US. As I understand it, (1) Iran would retain a sizeable portion of its nuclear arsenal, and (2) there would a “sunset” provision by which after ten years any restrictions would expire. Talk about “kicking the can down the road!” How does that protect us? How is that acceptable? Furthermore, does anyone believe that Iran will live up to its end of the deal in the first place? If we insist in negotiating a deal at least make it a good deal. Negotiating 101 says negotiate from strength. Don’t be afraid to walk away from a bad deal. Iran needs a deal as much as we do, particularly if they know we are willing to re-impose sanctions. Effective sanctions might even bring down the current regime. The mullahs are cognizant of this, and, therefore, if we push them they may be more flexible than we think.

It does not take a geopolitical genius to figure out that Israel will not stand by and watch Iran develop nuclear capability. It has no choice. It simply cannot afford to do so. At some point it would feel compelled to take pre-emptive military action. Many Israelis feel that their very continued viability as a nation depends on preventing Iran from achieving nuclear capability, and they will do whatever is necessary to prevent it. Such action would destabilize the region further, and a destabilized Middle East could easily spill over to the rest of the world politically, militarily and economically.

CONCLUSION

I view the current situation with Iran as an example of that old adage “an of ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Simply put, our government should have dealt with this situation years ago when it was a much smaller and more manageable problem. If you have a small fire in your kitchen, put it out immediately. Don’t ignore it until it becomes a conflagration. Now that, by most accounts, Iran is on the very threshold of becoming a nuclear power what was a small, manageable problem has become a huge problem with no easy solutions.

Our choices are limited. No one is advocating boots on the ground, and even if we wanted to bomb the nuclear facilities, they are well disseminated and buried deeply underground. The way I see it, the best approach would be to re-impose economic sanctions. They were working before. Their effectiveness was what brought Iran to the negotiating table in the first place. Now, as a result of the precipitous decline in the price of oil worldwide, Iran’s economy is in dire straits, and the sanctions should be even more effective. Don’t wait for the talks to breakdown months from now when it might be too late. Iran has been stalling us while they work feverishly toward their objective. Do it now! Then, continue to negotiate, but from strength.

GOODBYE MR. SPOCK

On February 27 we lost the entertainer who is closely identified with one of the most iconic and influential characters in TV and film history. Of course, I am referring to Leonard Nimoy, who is best known for his portrayal of “Mr. Spock” on Star Trek. He passed away at age 83 of end stage chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Although Nimoy had a long and varied career, he will forever be identified as the half-vulcan Mr. Spock. In fact, many casual fans are probably unaware that he ever performed in any other roles or even that he spent 60 years in the entertainment business as an actor, director and writer. To his fans, he didn’t just play Spock; he was Spock. The role and he became one and the same. Spock was calm, unflappable and omniscient. He continually used logic and reason to extricate the Star Trek crew from tight situations. He created the “V” shaped “Vulcan salute (which was, in fact, based on the Hebrew letter “Shin,” which signifies the word “Shaddai” or God). In addition, he coined several famous expressions on the show, such as “Live long and prosper” and “highly illogical.”

“Trekkie” lore says that he became so absorbed in the role that he took the persona home with him on off days. He morphed into Spock around the house. I can imagine how tough that was on his family. Nimoy often said that the role “affected [him] personally, socially, psychologically [and] emotionally.” He credited it with “giving” [him] a career. Nimoy received three Emmy Award nominations as Spock. Furthermore, “TV Guide” magazine has identified “Spock” as one of the 50 top TV characters of all time.

Looking back, it is hard to believe that Star Trek’s original run only lasted three seasons, a victim of sub par ratings. Puzzling, since at the time, most everyone I knew loved the show. In any event, after the show was cancelled it and the major characters became even more popular in reruns, movies and memorabilia. It even spawned a fan club called “Trekkies. Its popularity has lasted to this day, over 40 years after its cancellation.

Leonard Nimoy was born in Boston in 1931 to Orthodox Jewish parents who had emigrated from Russia. His father owned a barbershop. He briefly attended Boston College but dropped out to pursue an acting career in Hollywood. After serving in the army, he worked at various odd jobs, such as movie theatre usher, taxi driver and vacuum cleaner salesman while looking for his big break. Beginning in 1951 he found work mostly as a “heavy” in several small parts. In his words, he became proficient in the use of a “switchblade and a gun” and would often “kick people, hit people, choke ‘em, threaten ‘em, torture ‘em – all the nice things heavies do.” He appeared in dozens of such small, forgettable roles in “B” movies. (One of those was as an Army sergeant in a horror flick called “Them,” which I actually saw in the movies as a 9 or 10-year-old, although I don’t remember him specifically.) He also “guested” on dozens of TV shows, such as “The Twilight Zone,” “Wagon Train,” and “Perry Mason.” Basically, he was earning a living while waiting for his big break, just like countless other actors.

Finally, in 1966 he got his big break. In a classic “Road Not Taken” moment, Nimoy had to choose between the role of Spock and one on “Peyton Place.” He chose Spock and became an overnight success after bouncing around for 15 years.

CONCLUSION

Nimoy’s career did not end after “Star Trek” was cancelled. He appeared in dozens of other roles, most notably as “Paris” in “Mission Impossible.” He also achieved notoriety as a director, writer and photographer.

But, he will forever be remembered as Spock. After all, it is only logical.