Assad to use (Saddam’s?) chemical weapons in desperation?

June 29, 2015
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Yet another Baathist murderer

But… But… But wait! Obama said Syria didn’t have any chemical munitions anymore!

Well… About that.

U.S. intelligence agencies believe there is a strong possibility the Assad regime will use chemical weapons on a large scale as part of a last-ditch effort to protect key Syrian government strongholds if Islamist fighters and other rebels try to overrun them, U.S. officials said.

Analysts and policy makers have been poring over all available intelligence hoping to determine what types of chemical weapons the regime might be able to deploy and what event or events might trigger their use, according to officials briefed on the matter.

Last year, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad let international inspectors oversee the removal of what President Barack Obama called the regime’s most deadly chemical weapons. The deal averted U.S. airstrikes that would have come in retaliation for an Aug. 21, 2013, sarin-gas attack that killed more than 1,400 people.

Since then, the U.S. officials said, the Assad regime has developed and deployed a new type of chemical bomb filled with chlorine, which Mr. Assad could now decide to use on a larger scale in key areas. U.S. officials also suspect the regime may have squirreled away at least a small reserve of the chemical precursors needed to make nerve agents sarin or VX. Use of those chemicals would raise greater international concerns because they are more deadly than chlorine and were supposed to have been eliminated.

As a reminder, this is what the president said:

Assad gave up his chemical weapons. And that’s not speculation on our part. That, in fact, has been confirmed by the organization internationally that is charged with eliminating chemical weapons.

I guess no one told our fourth-greatest president ever “not quite.”

Regardless, the WSJ article mentioned Syria “developed” new weapons in the time since the inspections and removal. And  perhaps they did; with Iranian money and logistical help it wouldn’t be at all surprising. But, later in the article, there is this interesting snippet:

More worrying, U.S. officials said, would be the possibility that Mr. Assad could tap into a secret supply of sarin and VX. He might also be trying to reconstitute elements of his chemical-weapons program.

Hmmm… Where could this secret supply have come from? Sure, Assad could have squirreled it away to hide it from the original inspectors, but there’s another possibility: it’s stock that Saddam shipped to Syria before we took him out in 2003:

“There are weapons of mass destruction gone out from Iraq to Syria, and they must be found and returned to safe hands,” [former Iraq General George] Sada said. “I am confident they were taken over.”

(…)

Mr. Sada, 65, told the Sun that the pilots of the two airliners that transported the weapons of mass destruction to Syria from Iraq approached him in the middle of 2004, after Saddam was captured by American troops.

“I know them very well. They are very good friends of mine. We trust each other. We are friends as pilots,” Mr. Sada said of the two pilots. He declined to disclose their names, saying they are concerned for their safety. But he said they are now employed by other airlines outside Iraq.

The pilots told Mr. Sada that two Iraqi Airways Boeings were converted to cargo planes by removing the seats, Mr. Sada said. Then Special Republican Guard brigades loaded materials onto the planes, he said, including “yellow barrels with skull and crossbones on each barrel.” The pilots said there was also a ground convoy of trucks.

The flights – 56 in total, Mr. Sada said – attracted little notice because they were thought to be civilian flights providing relief from Iraq to Syria, which had suffered a flood after a dam collapse in June of 2002.

“Saddam realized, this time, the Americans are coming,” Mr. Sada said. “They handed over the weapons of mass destruction to the Syrians.”

There were rumors of this at the time of the invasion and for years afterward, never substantiated, but never wholly dismissed, either. One speculation had it that the WMDs were secreted in Lebanon’s Bekaa valley, an area control by Iran and Syria’s client, Hizbullah. Could Iran have authorized Hizbullah to give some of the old Iraqi stock to Assad? Strategically, they need to gain/keep control of Syria to funnel aid to Hizbullah, so that the latter can keep threatening Israel. So, if such weapons exist, and if Assad’s situation is as desperate as the Journal article makes it out to be, then it’s not beyond the pale to imagine.

Saddam’s great legacy is murder, after all.

via Jim Geraghty’s Morning Jolt newsletter


Obamacare and the Odious Anti-Constitutionalism of Chief Justice John Roberts

June 28, 2015

Phineas Fahrquar:

I was going to write a long post about the three rotten Supreme Court decisions in two days at the end of this last week –Obamacare, “Disparate impact,” and gay marriage (I support SSM, but Kennedy’s opinion is a judicial farrago.), but Dan sums it all up quite nicely for me, even though he’s only talking about Obamacare.

Originally posted on International Liberty:

I feel compelled to comment on the Supreme Court’s latest Obamacare decision, though I could sum up my reaction with one word: disgust.

  • I’m disgusted that we had politicians who decided in 2009 and 2010 to further screw up the healthcare system with Obamacare.
  • I’m disgusted the IRS then decided to arbitrarily change the law in order to provide subsidies to people getting insurance through the federal exchange, even though the law explicitly says those handouts were only supposed to go to those getting policies through state exchanges (as the oily Jonathan Gruber openly admitted).
  • I’m disgusted that the lawyers at the Justice Department and the Office of White House Counsel didn’t have the integrity to say that handouts could only be given to people using state exchanges.
  • But most of all, I’m disgusted that the Supreme Court once again has decided to put politics above the Constitution.

In…

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#Obamacare: the only candidate to answer my question

June 26, 2015

ted_cruz

Yesterday, in the wake of the Court’s abominable decision in King v. Burwell, I posted a question to some of the leading contenders for the Republican presidential nomination:

I then pointed out that I would be interested to see not which candidate (1), if any, answered me, but which would give me the most direct, unequivocal answer. Nearly 24 hours later, only one has replied:

Senator Cruz wins for not only being the first and only candidate to answer me, but for giving me the direct, no-bull answer I was seeking. The senator isn’t my first choice for the nomination, but he’s gained quite a few points for quickly answering a stranger’s question.

2016 will turn on three key issues: national security, the economy, and Obamacare. The candidate who has the best positions for all three will get my vote.

Footnote:
(1) Or their staff, let’s be realistic, though I’ve read that Cruz and Rubio handle their own Twitter accounts. Regardless, Cruz’s was the only campaign to give an answer.


King v Burwell: The SCOTUS saves #Obamacare, again.

June 25, 2015
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These guys would probably do a better job.

Sigh.

The Supreme Court decision most everyone was waiting for, a ruling in King v. Burwell about the legality of Obamacare subsidies for insurance purchasers on federal exchanges, has just come out (PDF).

Spoiler: the administration won. The anti-constitutional monstrosity lives on.

I haven’t much to add to a legal analysis of this decision. For that, I recommend you read William Jacobson at Legal Insurrection, whose post on the decision will be updated as the day goes by.

I will say, however, that this is the second time a majority lead by Chief Justice Roberts has twisted and tortured the plain meaning of words and the processes of reason in order to achieve a desired result –preserving the Affordable Care Act. In the first,  he beat the square peg of the Obamacare penalties for not having insurance into the round hole of constitutional logic by declaring them simultaneously a tax and a fine. The goddess Reason wept.

Now, however, he and his colleagues on the majority have magically decided that the obvious meaning of the plain language of the law, that subsidies are only available through an exchange established by a state, is somehow ambiguous. To top it off, they ignored the unambiguous evidence offered by Jonathan Gruber, one of the key architects of the ACA, that the intent was to use the lack of federal subsidies to coerce states into establishing exchanges. Law and legal reasoning be damned, the Court’s role was to save Obamacare:

Given that the text is ambiguous, we must turn to the broader structure of the Act to determine the meaning of Section 36B. “A provision that may seem ambiguous in isolation is often clarified by the remainder of the statutory scheme . . . because only one of the permissible meanings produces a substantive effect that is compatible with the rest of the law.” United Sav. Assn. of Tex. v. Timbers
of Inwood Forest Associates, Ltd., 484 U. S. 365, 371 (1988). Here, the statutory scheme compels us to reject petitioners’ interpretation because it would destabilize the individual insurance market in any State with a Federal Exchange, and likely create the very “death spirals” that Congress designed the Act to avoid. [at 15]

In fact, we know this is not true. The text is not ambiguous, and the Democrats knew the “death spiral” was in there. Reasoning from Gruber’s own words, they designed things so it would be a Sword of Damocles hanging over the head of opponents of the ACA. “Nice insurance industry you have there. Be a shame if you didn’t agree to set up an exchange and the whole thing crashed for a lack of subsidies.” Trouble is, more states than expected refused to set up an exchange, so it was the Fed that had to illegally provide subsidies to prevent a death spiral. As Professor Jacobson said on Twitter:

This is disgusting and disheartening, but not wholly unexpected. After the last Obamacare decision, it wasn’t likely a Court majority would cut the legs out from under the ACA, no matter what. That is left for us to do in 2017, when a Republican Congress has a Republican president — and us ready to hold their feet to the fire to repeal this damned thing.

I’ll leave you with a quote from Justice Scalia’s flaming dissent, per Legal Insurrection:

“We should start calling this law SCOTUScare.”

Indeed.


Obama to Islamic terrorists: hostage-taking season is now open!

June 24, 2015
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Not to put it *too* strongly…

One of the worst things one can do with people engaged in bad behavior is to give in to it in the hope that a concession will satisfy them. Instead, concessions just tell them that bad behavior works and gets rewards, encouraging them to do it again.

This is exactly what our president has done, putting in danger every American traveling overseas:

The White House is set to release the results of its hostage policy review, which will make clear the U.S. will not stop American families who are willing to negotiate with or pay ransoms to terror groups holding their loved ones hostage.

The administration will create a new office that will work with the American families of hostage victims, but will not change the law regarding the U.S. ransom policies, administration officials said today. A senior official said the hostage interagency fusion cell will be physically housed at FBI headquarters and initially will be run by a senior FBI official. Officials from other agencies and departments may rotate in to run the program in the future.

President Obama is set to meet on Wednesday with the families of hostages held overseas and make a statement on the review.

Though the excerpt doesn’t say so, the “terror groups” alluded to are ISIS and other Islamic jihadist organizations.

Look, I understand and sympathize with the families’ position here: having loved ones held hostage by maniacal, murderous terrorists must be a living Hell. If I were in that boat, I’d want the law to get out of my way, too, as I try to arrange their release.

I even get Obama’s position: he’s had a hostage rescue go bad in the past, resulting in the deaths of the hostages. The victims’ families are terribly sympathetic, and it’s a natural human urge to want to do something to help. So, if action on our part does no good –or even harm– then why not clear the way (1) by not enforcing the law against negotiating with terrorists?

Because the president, any president, has much more to worry about than the peril of one or a few individuals. His responsibility is to the nation as a whole, including the safety of Americans not yet taken hostage. By telling these families it’s okay to pay ransom, he has also told the jihad organizations that hostage-taking works. Kidnap an American, get some money, US won’t interfere… rinse and repeat. Robert Spencer explains why this will only encourage jihadists:

I would be very happy if this were true [that hostage-taking is against Islamic law. –PF], but I have to ask: if it is only an “extreme radical fundamentalist element” that believes this, why does it show up in Islamic legal manuals? Why does Al-Azhar University, the most respected institution in Sunni Islam, endorse ‘Umdat al-Salik, a manual of Islamic law that says this: “When a child or a woman is taken captive, they become slaves by the fact of capture, and the woman’s previous marriage is immediately annulled” (o9.13)? If the capture of non-combatants is forbidden by Islam, are we to believe that these captured women and children were acting as soldiers? If the vast majority of Muslims reject this sort of thing, why does Al-Azhar say that ‘Umdat al-Salik “conforms to the practice and faith of the orthodox Sunni community (ahl al-Sunna wa al-Juma’a)”?

If the killing of these hostages is likewise forbidden, why does the same manual stipulate that prisoners can be killed, exchanged for ransom (why exchanged for ransom, if they are not hostages?), enslaved, or released, depending on what is best for the Muslim community (o9.14)?

I have the Umdat al-Salik on my bookshelf and can attest the above quotes are accurate. Jihad-terror groups know this, too. It can reasonably be argued that their religion endorses hostage-taking.

It’s said the road to Hell is paved with good intentions; this is an on-ramp. By making this decision, I fear Obama has declared it open season on Americans all through the Middle East and across the globe.

And yes, I know Reagan negotiated for the release of hostages in Lebanon back in the 80s. We’ve done it since, too. It was a mistake then and a mistake ever after. Harsh as it may be to say “no ransom” knowing full well the possible consequences, it is still a decision that has to be made for the safety of others.

The proper course is to let hostage takers know two things: first, that they will never be paid ransom. Second, that if they harm our people, we will hunt them down and kill them, no matter how long it takes. Let them know there is no reward, but instead a terrible price to pay for kidnapping Americans.

They’ll learn.

via Biased Girl

Footnote:
(1) By unilaterally deciding to not enforce a law passed by the legislature, in defiance of his constitutional duties. Again.


Lacking enough ships of our own, US Marines will serve aboard foreign ships

June 23, 2015
"You're not welcome."

“Good thing we could catch a ride here!”

This is embarrassing:

Faced with a shortage of U.S. Navy ships, the Marine Corps is exploring a plan to deploy its forces aboard foreign vessels to ensure they can respond quickly to global crises around Europe and western Africa.

The initiative is a stopgap way to deploy Marines aboard ships overseas until more American vessels are available, said Brig. Gen. Norman Cooling, deputy commander, U.S. Marine Corps Forces Europe and Africa.

The Marines will be able to respond quickly to evacuate embassies or protect U.S. property and citizens, a need highlighted by the 2012 attack in Benghazi, Libya, that killed four Americans, including the U.S. ambassador.

“There’s no substitute for U.S. amphibious” vessels, Cooling said. “We’re looking at other options” in the meantime, he added.

The Marines have been working with Spain, Italy, the United Kingdom and other close allies to determine the suitability of the foreign ships for U.S. personnel and aircraft.

Hey, at least these are allies. What’s left of our space program has to hitch a ride with the Russians.

I can just see it now: an emergency somewhere in the Middle East, and US Marines have to run onto some boat in Sicily asking “Hey, buddy! Can you give us a lift?”

This is what happens when you have a Socialist (1) president and his party is dominated by progressives: through budget cuts and initiated by the White House and a budget process in Congress so screwed up by the then-majority Democrats under Harry Reid that the sequestration meat-ax was inevitable, our military has been starved of funds to the point that it’s having an effect on operational capabilities. And that, in turn, will further affect stability around the globe, which has relied since 1945 on US power.

None of this has to be, of course, but it’s the tragic consequence of electing a government more interested in fundamentally transforming America at home than in protecting her interests abroad. A government that, in fact, views American interests and American power as a problem and views our decline as a positive choice for the world.

I hope they’ve at least budgeted for cab fare for our Marines.

via Tammy Bruce

Footnote:
(1) This is beyond doubt. The only question is what kind and to what degree.


(Video) Should government bail out the big banks?

June 22, 2015

"It's on"

Remember the financial panic of 2008? That was the time when, with the big investment banks teetering on the brink of bankruptcy and a worldwide credit crisis underway, the federal government stepped in to bail out the banks and restore stability to the system.

But was it the right thing to do? For Prager University, economist Nicole Gelinas of the Manhattan Institute argue the case for “no.” In her view, the practice of saving banks “too big to fail,” something begun under the Reagan administration, buys short term peace at the cost of creating a long-term monster: banks that engage in riskier and riskier practices leading to greater instability, secure in the knowledge that Uncle Sam (read: the taxpayer) will bail them out. Like giving an alcoholic a drink to steady his nerves, bailouts only enable bad behavior, they don’t cure it.

Here’s the video. See what you think:

The right thing to do, in my opinion, is to let wayward banks go bankrupt, but handle as the Savings and Loan crisis of the 1980s was handled: federal regulators take over, shareholders and bondholders are wiped out, management is fired, the bank’s assets are redistributed through the normal bankruptcy process, but individual depositor’s funds are protected. This would provide a brake against ever-riskier behavior, instead of shielding bankers from the consequences of their actions.

Of course, this wasn’t the whole cause of the financial crisis: government intervention in the housing market, in the form of encouraging bad lending practices and selling risky mortgages as government-backed securities played a huge role, too.

Hmmm…. Government intervention causes a problem. I’m detecting a pattern here. smiley idea

PS: A good book on the crisis is “Reckless Endangerment,” by Morgenson and Rosner.


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