Leading from behind will lose us Iraq

April 30, 2013

This is potentially very bad:

After a week of violence in Iraq in which more than 170 Iraqis, including tribesmen, soldiers, and policemen have been killed in clashes during Sunni protests in Salahuddin province, the Awakening is preparing to take up arms against the Iraqi government. On April 24, Sheikh Ahmed Abu Risha, the head of the Awakening, said in an interview with Al Jazeera that “from Fallujah to Al Qaim” the tribes are coordinating and “united” to battle the government if need be.

For those who don’t recall, the “Anbar Awakening” was an alliance of mostly Sunni tribes in western Iraq, which aligned itself with the US military starting around 2006 after having had enough of the atrocities committed against them by al Qaeda in Iraq. (1) To say they were crucial to our victory during the surge would be no less than the truth.  Without the Awakening, we don’t benefit from pacified areas that allow us to concentrate against al Qaeda and the Shiite militias, and we don’t have the eyes and ears of locals who know the situation on the ground far better than we do.

In return, we acted as interlocutors between the local tribes and the new, mostly Shiite national government, mediating the frictions caused by, literally, centuries of bad blood between the two sects. In the politics of Iraq, our military was essential to keeping the peace the surge won, not just because of our military power, but because we were the only group both sides trusted. If an American officer said something would get done, it would get done — and done honestly. It is almost impossible to put a value on the worth of that trust.

But now, with the Americans gone after Obama’s half-hearted, bungling efforts to negotiate a status of forces agreement, all that is in danger of falling apart as the groups revert to old habits and the Syrian civil war draws them in:

Without military forces in country, the US has been unable to support the Iraqi government in its counterterrorism campaign against al Qaeda in Iraq, or to serve as a buffer and broker between Iraq’s ethnic groups. The US has also diplomatically abandoned the Sunni tribes in Anbar and other provinces, despite promises to remain engaged with the Awakening after the pivotal alliance that drastically improved Iraq’s security from 2006 to 2008.

(…)

Without US forces, al Qaeda in Iraq gained the time and space to regroup and rebuild, and has established a potent fighting force inside Syria as the Al Nusrah Front (al Qaeda’s affiliate there). Continued access to the tribes would have pressed the advantage against a previously decimated al Qaeda in Iraq and could have given the US a foothold to support non-Salafi jihadist rebels inside Syria as well (the tribes in western Iraq extend into Syria).

I said when we liberated Iraq that we had to be prepared to be there for 50 years, using our soldiers and our diplomacy as a shield while Iraq developed the habits of constitutional government and a healthy civil society, much like we did with South Korea. It wasn’t guaranteed to work, but I believe it had a good chance. Now we may never know, however, for if the tribes do revolt and the Syrian civil war does spread into Iraq –with inevitable Iranian involvement– then Barack Obama’s “Diffidence Doctrine” will have succeeded in taking all the blood and treasure we spent there and flushing it down a toilet.

Excuse me while I go find a wall to bang my head against.

Footnote:
(1) Such as killing their children, then hiding explosives under the bodies so the parents would be killed when they tried to recover their children’s corpses. If any group ever needed killing…

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Al Gore: “Forget war and rumors of war! What about Gaea???”

April 30, 2013
The Goracle, Chief Priest of the Cult of Anthropogenic Global Warming

“Thou blaspheme by omission!”

President Obama had a press conference yesterday (which is a story of its own) in which he talked about war, the prison at Guantanamo Bay, and gay NBA players, but the High Priest of the Church of Global Warming, the Goracle himself, was not amused:

Tisk, tisk. Obama failed to acknowledge the grave threat from the hideous Demon of Man-Caused Climate Change, and so suffered a proper rebuke.

Kind of amusing, really. A narcissistic, supremely cynical, unqualified-for-the-job president being called on the carpet by a narcissistic, hypocritical con-artist who’s desperately fighting his own increasing irrelevance by demanding solutions to a problem that does not exist, but which is more important than all the many real problems facing the world. (1)

Locking these two in a room with each other might make for a good reality series.

via Bridget Johnson

Footnote:
(1) Except for gay NBA players, of course.

PS: Actually, it’s more like Pope Al is criticizing the journalists, but I’m sure he’s miffed at Obama for not bringing it up himself, as he did Jason Collins.


This just in: Global Warming will turn women into prostitutes

April 29, 2013

Because there is nothing the Evil Demon of Climate Change cannot do! So speaketh Representative Barbara Lee, Democrat of (I’m sorry to say) California (1) :

Several House Democrats are calling on Congress to recognize that climate change is hurting women more than men, and could even drive poor women to “transactional sex” for survival.

The resolution, from Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) and a dozen other Democrats, says the results of climate change include drought and reduced agricultural output. It says these changes can be particularly harmful for women.

“[F]ood insecure women with limited socioeconomic resources may be vulnerable to situations such as sex work, transactional sex, and early marriage that put them at risk for HIV, STIs, unplanned pregnancy, and poor reproductive health,” it says.

Climate change could also add “workload and stresses” on female farmers, which the resolution says produce 60 to 80 percent of the food in developing countries.

The Demon Climate Change will also bring an increased risk of war and refugee migration, according to Lee’s resolution. Really, in the Church of Anthropogenic Global Warming, this thing is more powerful than the Four Horsemen combined. No wonder they’re screaming “DOOM!!” at the top of their lungs.

Well, that and the fact that they lust after the tax money and power all the new anti-global warming regulations and legislation will give them. A “crisis” like this is just made for a statism-on-steroids solution.

But I’m just a cynic.

And Barbara Lee is an idiot.

But take a look at what she’s pushing: fear, not facts. Coulds, maybes, mights, but no science. This is what you do when the science is increasingly not on your side –for example, the troublesome fact that there has been no statistically significant warming since the mid-90s– you have to resort to scare tactics and various forms of baiting and then plead a crisis. This is all the Left has (in this case, Watermelons, the environmental Left), whether it’s climate change, the right to bear arms, or economics.

“Facts are stubborn things,” said John Adams, which is why the Left tries desperately to ignore them.

via Moe Lane

Footnote:
(1) However she was duly elected, so she arguably represents the views of California CD-32, which, you’ll be shocked to read, includes Berkeley.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Russian Scientists say period of global cooling ahead due to changes in the sun

April 29, 2013

I’m not going to run out and buy a parka just yet, but the idea of extended cooling based on solar activity makes much more sense to me than a catastrophic heat rise based on CO2. At least for the sun’s effects, there is a demonstrable historical correlation. Not that it’s proven (yet), but there’s more evidence for solar-induced climate cycles than for anthropogenic global warming.

I’m not going to run out and buy a parka just yet, but the idea of extended cooling based on solar activity makes much more sense to me than a catastrophic heat rise based on CO2. At least for the sun’s effects, there is a demonstrable historical correlation. Not that it’s proven (yet), but there’s […]

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Boston Marathon bombing: third bomber suspected?

April 27, 2013

Fox News’ Catherine Herridge breaks the story:

Fox News chief intelligence correspondent Catherine Herridge reports that the bombs used in the Boston Marathon attack did not rely on cell phone detonators, using a “line of sight” speed controller from a remote control toy car as the trigger. It is not known what the range is on the specific controller that was used, but it is typically 250 yards or less.

The national security source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said it is believed one or both of the brothers used the controllers to detonate the bombs, but the involvement of a third person to trigger the devices still has not been ruled out.

An important fact mentioned is that the type of controller used is not described in al Qaeda’s “Inspire” magazine, which has articles educating terrorists on how to make bombs.

What’s even more interesting to me is the passing mention in the video that the Tsarnaev brothers had apparently made their bombs without experiencing failure or a “workplace accident.” I’d wondered before where they (or, at least, the older brother) had tested their devices without anyone noticing. This would suggest strongly that Tamerlan, the older brother, got his “education” outside the country, probably during his six-month trip to Dagestan.

It’s possible, perhaps probable that one of the Tsarnaevs worked the controller, then ditched it in the days before they were killed or caught. But the information in Herridge’s report about the possibility of a third party shows that we don’t yet know nearly enough about what happened.

RELATED: Speaking of “who else may have been involved or known,” Jester has a hunch. It also bears directly on the “where did they test the bombs” question. Worth reading. Also, at Hot Air, the bombs showed “training or expertise.”

via Pat Dollard by way of Melissa Clouthier

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Shock and surprise: Diane Feinstein’s husband’s company lands big high-speed rail contract

April 26, 2013
"Train wreck"

“Train wreck”

Because, at nearly $35,000,000 per mile, they surely had to be the cheapest:

Out of the entire universe of those who could have won the first phase construction contract for California’s high speed rail boondoggle, who would stand out as the last person who would win it if there were no political patronage.

Put another way, who is the most likely person to win it if there is political patronage?

Both questions have the same answer: Richard Blum, the husband of California senator Diane Feinstein.

So, who won the contract? Blum, of course, as the principle owner of Tutor Perini, the lead firm in the three-firm consortium selected by the California High Speed Rail Authority.

Yes, Diane, it really does look that bad to us little people.

The group lead by Tutor Perini bid $985,000,000 to build the initial 29-mile stretch, roughly from Fresno to Madera, which doesn’t include the costs for electrification and land purchase. And, as Laer points out at Crazifornia, they started with this section because it’s the cheapest. (I can’t wait to see what the bids are to lay track through the mountain passes…)

I’m sure it’s just a coincidence that the principle owner of the company is husband to a powerful United States senator, who happens to be from the state building said rail system. I mean, it’s not as if there have been any allegations of self-dealing before.

I’m about as shocked as Louis was in Casablanca:

via Katy Grimes

UPDATE 01/30/2014: It appears Blum divested himself of Tutor-Perini stock in 2005, calling into question much of the Crazifornia article. The rail deal still stinks like a fish left out in the sun, however.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Congress and their aides getting an Obamacare exception?? UPDATE: @Politico jumped the gun?

April 25, 2013

satire angry mob

If this Politico story is true, it’s pitchforks and torches time:

Congressional leaders in both parties are engaged in high-level, confidential talks about exempting lawmakers and Capitol Hill aides from the insurance exchanges they are mandated to join as part of President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul, sources in both parties said.

The talks — which involve Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), the Obama administration and other top lawmakers — are extraordinarily sensitive, with both sides acutely aware of the potential for political fallout from giving carve-outs from the hugely controversial law to 535 lawmakers and thousands of their aides. Discussions have stretched out for months, sources said.

A source close to the talks says: “Everyone has to hold hands on this and jump, or nothing is going to get done.”

Yet if Capitol Hill leaders move forward with the plan, they risk being dubbed hypocrites by their political rivals and the American public. By removing themselves from a key Obamacare component, lawmakers and aides would be held to a different standard than the people who put them in office.

Boehner couldn’t be this stupid, could he? I mean, forget Harry Reid; I wouldn’t put anything past that weasel. But Speaker Boehner has to know any deal carving out an exemption for Congress would tear the Republican coalition apart, doesn’t he? The nation overall hates Obamacare, but, to the conservative base this law is a constitutional obscenity, a legislative vampire that needs a stake driven through its heart and an anonymous burial at a crossroads at midnight. To make a deal exempting themselves from its provisions would be see as nothing less than a gross, vile betrayal, and it would cripple the Republican efforts in the 2014 elections before the campaign really got underway.

While reading the article, the cynical side of me wondered if this wasn’t a hit job by the liberal Politico, which isn’t exactly known for unbiased reporting. Throughout the article, they’re at pains to emphasize how much of a danger a deal would pose to Democrats. But, think about it: the Left will vote Democratic no matter what, because they know Obamacare is a Trojan Horse hiding within it their beloved single-payer system. They’ll let Reid cut a deal now, knowing they’ll eventually get what they want. But Boehner? What would he gain from this?Well, when I read this:

There is concern in some quarters that the provision requiring lawmakers and staffers to join the exchanges, if it isn’t revised, could lead to a “brain drain” on Capitol Hill, as several sources close to the talks put it.

The problem stems from whether members and aides set to enter the exchanges would have their health insurance premiums subsidized by their employer — in this case, the federal government. If not, aides and lawmakers in both parties fear that staffers — especially low-paid junior aides — could be hit with thousands of dollars in new health care costs, prompting them to seek jobs elsewhere. Older, more senior staffers could also retire or jump to the private sector rather than face a big financial penalty.

And this:

When asked about the high-level bipartisan talks, Michael Steel, a Boehner spokesman, said: “The speaker’s objective is to spare the entire country from the ravages of the president’s health care law. He is approached daily by American citizens, including members of Congress and staff, who want to be freed from its mandates. If the speaker has the opportunity to save anyone from Obamacare, he will.

…I fear it’s real.

Dear Speaker Boehner: You may feel real sympathy for aides who will take a severe hit from Obamacare, but so will the rest of us, and we won’t forgive self-dealing in this case. This is a terrible, terrible idea. Don’t just call it off, call a press conference for Thursday to denounce it in unmistakable terms. Harry Reid is playing you. State as clearly as you can that Congress and all who work in it will suffer under this bill the same as all Americans, until it is repealed.

Otherwise, you can kiss off your House majority.

via Salena Zito

UPDATE: Per Ezra Klein at The Washington Post, this may be much less than it seems:

If this sounds unbelievable, it’s because it is. There’s no effort to “exempt” Congress from Obamacare. No matter how this shakes out, Congress will have to follow the law, just like everyone else does.

Based on conversations I’ve had with a number of the staffs involved in these talks, the actual issue here is far less interesting, and far less explosive, than an exemption. Rather, a Republican amendment meant to embarrass Democrats and a too-clever-by-half Democratic response has possibly created a problem in which the federal government can’t make its normal contribution to the insurance premiums of congressional staffers.

Follow the link for the rest. Which is true? We’ll just have to wait and see. (h/t “ReallyNow” in the ST comments)

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Boston Marathon bombing: terrorism on the cheap, financed by us?

April 24, 2013

I wrote yesterday about questions regarding the Tsarnaev brothers’ financial resources and how they could afford what at first glance appeared to be a comfortable lifestyle and prepare their atrocities without some outside support.

Well, it appears they had some help: the taxpayers of Massachusetts.

Marathon bombings mastermind Tamerlan Tsarnaev was living on taxpayer-funded state welfare benefits even as he was delving deep into the world of radical anti-American Islamism, the Herald has learned.

State officials confirmed last night that Tsarnaev, slain in a raging gun battle with police last Friday, was receiving benefits along with his wife, Katherine Russell Tsarnaev, and their 3-year-old daughter. The state’s Executive Office of Health and Human Services said those benefits ended in 2012 when the couple stopped meeting income eligibility limits. Russell Tsarnaev’s attorney has claimed Katherine — who had converted to Islam — was working up to 80 hours a week as a home health aide while Tsarnaev stayed at home.

In addition, both of Tsarnaev’s parents received benefits, and accused brother bombers Dzhokhar and Tamerlan were recipients through their parents when they were younger, according to the state.

The news raises questions over whether Tsarnaev financed his radicalization on taxpayer money.

Gee, ya think?

Meanwhile, his younger brother financed his “lifestyle” not only through scholarships, but also, per The Globe, dealing drugs:

Tsarnaev’s younger brother never seemed strapped for cash, according to people who knew him at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth where he was a sophomore. But Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was a scholarship student who earned spending money by selling marijuana, say three people who bought drugs from the 19-year-old.

None of this was enough to finance the “lifestyles of the rich and terroristic,” but the globe goes on to point out just how little it would take to carry out the Marathon attacks:

If the brothers had outside financial or technical support for their deadly attack on the Marathon, it certainly isn’t reflected in their lifestyle or their weapons. The picture that is emerging is more like terrorism on a budget, consistent with reports that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev told interrogators from his hospital bed that he and his brother acted alone.

“There is no barrier here to two men doing this on their own,” said Brian Michael Jenkins, a Rand Corp. adviser who focuses on terrorism. “You could easily do this for under $100 per bomb. . . . This is an investment even someone with modest means can make.”

So, it looks more and more like these walking, talking pustules did this on their own… with help from the older brother’s exploited wife, sponging off family, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and the potheads of Cambridge.

I hope the younger brother remembers to thank them at his execution.

To paraphrase what Lenin said about capitalists, “We’re going to give them the money to build the bombs to kill us.” And it reminds me of Britain, though they’re much further down the path of subsidizing their own destroyers.

Way back in 1838, Abraham Lincoln made a speech at the Young Men’s Lyceum in which he made an observation I think fitting for this situation:

“At what point shall we expect the approach of danger? By what means shall we fortify against it?– Shall we expect some transatlantic military giant, to step the Ocean, and crush us at a blow? Never!–All the armies of Europe, Asia and Africa combined, with all the treasure of the earth (our own excepted) in their military chest; with a Buonaparte for a commander, could not by force, take a drink from the Ohio, or make a track on the Blue Ridge, in a trial of a thousand years.

At what point then is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer, if it ever reach us, it must spring up amongst us. It cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen, we must live through all time, or die by suicide.”

Only we seem to be paying for assisted suicide.

PS: Back to the question of outside assistance, the Tsarnaevs seemed to greatly admire a radical Lebanese-Australian imam, Sheik Feiz Mohammed, and the elder brother is reported to have met with another jihadist imam while visiting Dagestan. This makes me suspect their situation is similar to that of the traitorous Major Hassan and his al Qaeda imam, Anwar al-Awlaki: they received theological support and encouragement from these preachers, but were left to come up with their own attacks. Still, I’d like to know where they tested their bombs, if they did.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Canadian train plot: RCMP asserts an al-Qaeda connection

April 23, 2013

I mentioned this in yesterday’s post, but there’s a bit more information on the terrorists and their connection with al-Qaeda:

Canadian police officials have linked the plotting of two Muslim men to destroy a Toronto passenger train to al Qaeda’s network inside Iran. The two suspects, neither of whom are Canadian citizens, were taken into custody yesterday and are facing terrorism charges. One of the suspects had placed an image of al Qaeda’s banner in a social media site. The image has since been removed.

Royal Canadian Mounted Police Assistant Commissioner James Malizia said yesterday that the two suspects, identified as Chiheb Esseghaier, of Montreal, and Raed Jaser, of Toronto, received “support from al Qaeda elements located in Iran,” in the form of “direction and guidance.” The two men’s plot called for the destruction of a train bound from the US to Canada in an effort to sow terror and harm the economies of both countries.

Esseghaier, a doctoral student at the Institut National de la Recherche Scientifique, has a bachelors degree in Industrial Biology and a masters degree in Industrial Biotechnology, according to his Linkedin page. He lists Nanotechnology as one of his “Skills & Expertise.” He attended college in Tunis and is thought to be a Tunisian.

Before the image was taken down sometime last night, Esseghaier’s Linkedin page displayed in image of al Qaeda’s black flag. This flag was first used by al Qaeda in Iraq but has been adopted by other al Qaeda affiliates.

The remainder of the article is a good backgrounder on the Iran-al Qaeda relationship, including at least a couple of “secret agreements” that allow al-Qaeda transit through Iran.

While the above quote doesn’t claim a direct Iranian role in the plot, unlike the statement quoted in the Washington Examiner piece yesterday, I think it’s reasonable to assume the Iranians at some level knew and approved of what the two were planning and the encouragement al-Qaeda gave them.  Al-Qaeda is in the country on their sufferance, and there is no way Tehran is not going to keep tabs on what they’re doing, lest they unexpectedly find themselves the targets of retaliation after, say, another 9/11-style attack. So, while there’s no direct evidence of Iranian foreknowledge, it’s a safe bet they did.

Which should make the next meeting Canada and Iran’s diplomats quite… interesting.

Also, while there’s a coincidence in time, there’s no evidence I’ve seen of a connection between the train plot and the Boston Marathon attacks. What I do think it hints at, however, is just how many jihad plots there are “out there,” waiting to be put into action. Again, if Esseghaier and Jaser were a pair of “lone wolves” encouraged by al-Qaeda, similar to what may be the truth about the Tsarnaevs, how many others are out there?

Comforting thought, no?

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


The Boston Bombers’ finances and their bombs

April 23, 2013

Via Money Jihad, here’s what’s publicly known of their resources:

  • U.S. News reports that “The larger Tsarnaev family ended up living on public assistance in Cambridge, Mass,” which in context of the article was probably around 2010.
  • Dzhokhar Tsarnaev received a $2,500 scholarship from the city of Cambridge in May 2011 to pursue higher education.
  • Tamerlan Tsarnaev was unemployed, but his wife, Katherine Russell, was working long hours as a home health care aide.  During their last conversation, Tamerlan told his uncle that he fixes cars, but he did not say whether he was earning wages.
  • Patimat Suleimanova, the Tsarnaev brothers’ aunt, said that “the brothers had stumbled upon money problems” in 2012, and that their father Anzor Tsarnaev “would send money from here when he could.”
  • Dzhokhar Tsarnaev withdrew $800 from Bank of America an ATM card stolen from the Tsarnaev’s carjacking victim on the night of April 18.

Read the rest at Money Jihad.

This isn’t unbelievable to me: none of their bomb components were all that expensive (that I know of). It’s possible they were living off occasional work, the wife’s income, public assistance, and handouts from relatives, even for Tamerlan’s flight to Russia.

But one thing nagging at me are the bombs themselves. Here’s an explanation of how they work. They’re by no means expensive, so I’m willing to accept that the Tsarnaevs obtained the parts with their own resources, but… First-time bomb-builders making electronic triggers and doing everything right, including safely transporting them? Seems a stretch. It’s almost a given that they practiced making these and tested the devices somewhere.

But where? Was it on private land, concealed from prying eyes? If so, who gave them access? If not, how did no one notice?

It seems to me that, although the surviving brother has asserted they worked alone, they almost had to have help building and testing the devices, themselves.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


One reason I may never visit New York City

April 23, 2013

This is what happens when you live in such a cultural cocoon that there is no one to tell you what a stupid idea your stupid idea is:

File this under “EW!”:

When Jada Shapiro decided to raise her daughter from birth without diapers, for the most part, not everyone was amused. Ms. Shapiro scattered little bowls around the house to catch her daughter’s offerings, and her sister insisted that she use a big, dark marker to mark the bowls so that they could never find their way back to the kitchen.

“My sister wasn’t a huge fan,” she said on Thursday.

But “elimination communication,” as the diaper-free method of child-rearing is called, is finding an audience in the hipper precincts of New York City.

Ms. Shapiro, who is a doula, a birth and child-rearing coach, says it is practically now a job qualification to at least be able to offer diaper-free training as an option to clients. Caribou Baby, an “eco-friendly maternity, baby and lifestyle store” on the border of artsy Greenpoint and Williamsburg, has been drawing capacity crowds to its diaper-free “Meetups,” where parents exchange tips like how to get a baby to urinate on the street between parked cars.

Parents are drawn to the method as a way of preserving the environment from the ravages of disposable diapers, as well as reducing the laundering of cloth diapers and preventing diaper rash. Many of them like the thought that they are rediscovering an ancient practice used in other cultures, though they tend to gloss over the fact that many of those cultures had never heard of Pampers. But mostly, they say, they like feeling more in touch with their babies’ most intimate functions.

“I think for a lot of parents, the motivation is just to be more in tune with what their kids’ needs are,” Adriane Stare, proprietor of Caribou Baby and herself a diaper-free mother, said on Thursday, about a week after holding her most recent meetup. Another meeting was written about on Thursday on the news Web site dnainfo.com; the next is May 14.

This is one of those things that happened before Rome fell, right?

When I think of getting “in tune” with a child’s needs, I think about things like food, shelter, clothing, love, confidence-building, instill good values… Not teaching it the right way to take a whiz between parked cars.

(And what of the poor schmuck who later picks that route to get to his car?)

Nincompoopery like this makes me think of “Green warriors” who want to preserve rural villages from the ravages of technology, so they can continue to live in virtue, close to nature… and then you go ask someone in that same pesthole village if they’d like to have refrigerators, electric lights, air conditioning —and diapers!— and they’ll look at you like you’re nuts for asking and answer “Heck yes! When’s the delivery?”

Sometimes civilization is a good thing.

Even in Manhattan.

via Jonah Goldberg

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Breaking: Canadians foil Iranian/al Qaeda New York-Toronto train attack

April 22, 2013

They love hitting mass transportation. Breaking in The Washington Examiner:

Canadian security officials announced today that they thwarted a terrorist attack on a passenger train reportedly traveling from New York City to Toronto, planned by two men allegedly tied to al Qaeda.

“I commend our Canadian counterterrorism partners, particularly the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, for their efforts in stopping a major terrorist plot which was intended to cause significant loss of human life including New Yorkers,” Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., said in a statement today.

The attack had Iranian backing. “They are elements of al Qaeda in Iran,” a Canadian police official told reporters during the press conference while identifying the al Qaeda affiliate that was involved in the attack. “What the investigation has demonstrated is that the support being received was in the form of direction and guidance.”

Emphasis added. Say it after me, folks:

This is war, and they’re still trying to kill us.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


What’s going on with that Saudi “person of interest/no interest?”

April 22, 2013

I’m not the greatest fan of Glenn Beck (1), but I do think he’s asking some good questions about the Saudi national who, on the day of the Boston Marathon bombing, was held as a “person of interest,” but then declared a nobody but, hey, we’re going to deport him anyway:

Background points:

  • A Saudi national originally identified as a “person of interest” in the Boston Marathon bombing was set to be deported under section 212 3B — “Security and related grounds” — “Terrorist activities” after the bombing
  • As the story gained traction, TheBlaze’s Chief Content Officer Joel Cheatwood received word that the government may not deport the Saudi national, originally identified as Abdul Rahman Ali Alharbi
  • Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano refused to answer questions on the subject when confronted by Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-SC) on Capitol Hill.
  • An ICE official said a different Saudi national is in custody, but is “in no way” connected to the bombings.
  • A congressional source, however, says that the file on Alharbi was created, that he was “linked” in some way to the Boston bombings (though it is unclear how), and that documents showing all this have been sent to Congress.
  • Key congressmen of the Committee on Homeland Security request a classified briefing with Napolitano
  • Fox News’ Todd Starnes reports that Alharbi was allegedly flagged on a terrorist watch list and granted a student visa without being properly vetted.  Sources close to the investigation also told him the Saudi is still set for deportation.
  • New information provided to TheBlaze reveals Alharbi’s file was altered early Wednesday evening to disassociate him from the initial charges
  • Sources say the Saudi’s student visa specifically allows him to go to school in Findlay, Ohio, though he appears to have an apartment in Boston, Massachusetts
  • Sources tell us this will most likely now be kicked from the DHS to the DOJ and labeled an ongoing investigation that can no longer be discussed.

Beck also notes that the FBI started changing their story about Alharbi after a meeting between Secretary of State John Kerry and the Saudi Foreign Minister on Tuesday, the day after the bombing. Coincidence? Perhaps, but it still rates a raised eyebrow and a “hmmm…”

Read the rest of the article, but here’s something that especially intrigues me:

Beck proceeded to highlight the background of the Saudi national first identified as a “person of interest” in the Boston bombings, Abdul Rahman Ali Alharbi, noting that the the NTC issued an event file calling for his deportation using section 212, 3B which is proven terrorist activity.

“We are not sure who actually tagged him as a ’212 3B,’ but we know it is very difficult to charge someone with this — it has to be almost certain,” Beck explained.  “It is the equivalent in civil society of charging someone with premeditated murder and seeking the death penalty — it is not thrown around lightly.”

(…)

Then, on Wednesday, President Obama had a “chance” encounter with Saudi Foreign Minister Saud and Saudi Ambassador Adel al-Jubeir.

“Wednesday at 5:35 p.m. the file is altered,” Beck said.  “This is unheard of, this is impossible in the timeline due to the severity of the charge….You don’t one day put a 212 3B charge against somebody with deportation, and then the next day take it off.  It would require too much to do it.”

“There are only two people that could revoke the deportation order — the director of the NTC could do it after speaking with each department, the FBI, the ATC, etc. — which is impossible to do in such a short period of time, — or, somebody at the very highest levels of the State Department could do it.  We don’t have any evidence to tell you which one did it,” Beck said.

So we have reports of two high-level meetings, after which the FBI says they have no interest in the guy and they’re going to deport him, presumably back to Saudi, where the press will never find him.

I’d say yes, this does raise serious questions, and Republicans on the relevant committees are demanding answers. If the 3B charge is as serious as Beck indicates, then who put it on and on what grounds, and then who removed it and, again, on what grounds? And why is the guy being deported? Minor visa violation? Please.

There’s another reason why I take this Alharbi story more seriously than I might, normally. Saudi Arabia is well known as a source of funding for jihad-terror groups worldwide, including the Caucasus regions that Tamerlan Tsarnaev visited for over six months. Wealthy Saudis will fund jihad as a religious duty –as I recall, supporting it with money is second only to actually doing it– to further the spread of Islam. It’s one of the big problems in the relations between the Kingdom and the United States.

So here’s a speculation based on a hunch with no evidence to back it up, but which seems to fit with past behavior: What if Alharbi, whose background is unknown as of this writing, is a family member of some wealthy, connected Saudi? And what if Alharbi was funneling money to the Tsarnaev brothers? After all, they had no means of support that I know of, yet they were apparently well-trained for this operation and had all the hardware they needed. And just how did Tamerlan pay for that trip and six-month sojourn in Dagestan? Could it be then that an influential relative used his influence with the Saudi government to influence the US government to let their boy go, in the name of “good relations?”

Like I said, the Alharbi affair raises lots of good questions. There may be perfectly reasonable answers, but too much smells in this chain of events to just let it go. House Republicans should continue to press until they get the answers.

via Jihad Watch

Footnote:
(1) Beck’s done some good work in the past, but he too often runs off the emotional rails for my taste, making almost everything seem some sort of existential threat to the republic.  Still, in this case, he may be on to something.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Unexpected Praise for Australia’s Private Social Security System

April 21, 2013

Articles like this one are sometimes so frustrating; there are far better national pension systems than the one we have. In addition to Australia, discussed in Mitchell’s article, Chile has a very good, very effective set up. But the statists in this country fight tooth and nail against any sensible reform, as if allowing people to keep their own money, build wealth, and live independently is some sort of horrific crime.

International Liberty

As part of my “Question of the Week” series, I said that Australia probably would be the best option if the United States suffered some sort of Greek-style fiscal meltdown that led to a societal collapse.*

One reason I’m so bullish on Australia is that the nation has a privatized Social Security system called “Superannuation,” with workers setting aside 9 percent of their income in personal retirement accounts (rising to 12 percent by 2020).

Established almost 30 years ago, and made virtually universal about 20 years ago, this system is far superior to the actuarially bankrupt Social Security system in the United States.

Probably the most sobering comparison is to look at a chart of how much private wealth has been created in Superannuation accounts and then look at a chart of the debt that we face for Social Security.

To be blunt, the Aussies are kicking our butts. Their…

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Boston bombers: Lone wolves or part of a terrorist sleeper cell? UPDATE: “Sleeper cell” malarkey?

April 21, 2013

One of the questions outstanding in the wake of the terror-bombing of the Boston Marathon is whether the Tsarnaev brothers acted on their own, as “lone wolves,” or were they part of a terror cell that might well be planning other attacks. At the Daily Beast, authors Christopher Dickey, Eli Lake, and Daniel Klaidman lay out the problems posed by terrorists acting on their own:

These sorts of lone wolves—whether inspired by al Qaeda or a domestic agenda—are in many ways the toughest cases for law enforcement. “Mobile homegrown types are difficult to stop and to find,” says Rep. Michael McCaul, the Republican chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee. “There is not a conspiracy ring to penetrate. It’s very difficult to stop them and find them.”

“The toughest risk to address is the motivated individual with no known connection to groups, who takes it upon himself to do something,” says Roger Cressey, who worked on counterterrorism in both the Clinton and George W. Bush administrations. “The best example of that is Eric Rudolph.”

Compounding the problem is the ease with which the technical knowledge needed to carry out attacks is available online. As the article points out, al Qaeda even has an online magazine, “Inspire,” an article in which showed how to make a bomb similar to the pressure cooker bombs used in Boston. While published by jihadists , the information is there for anyone with a murderous grudge against the world to use.

The threat of the lone wolf jihadist, a Muslim inspired by religion (1) to wage holy war on his own, is one that has worried counterterrorism personnel for years, particularly since American and other nations’ efforts since 9/11 have severely hampered al Qaeda’s ability to carry off catastrophic attacks, such as the attack on New York. Instead, setting their sights lower, the fear is that al Qaeda and other jihad groups would simply educate and train prospective jihadis, and then send them out into the world to find their opportunities. Such is perhaps the case with Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the older of the marathon-bombing brothers, who traveled to Russia for six months a few years ago. Did he meet with jihad groups in the volatile Caucasus, his ancestral home?

But even that much “help” might not be necessary to the lone wolf: Major Nidal Hassan, the Army psychiatrist who turned on his comrades in an act of jihad and murdered over a dozen at Ft. Hood, was merely in email contact with an al Qaeda imam, Anwar al-Awlaki (2). The imam provided the ideology, Major Hassan provided the gun.

As the quote above points out, lone terrorists are hard to stop before they strike; warning signs that seem obvious in retrospect are hard to spot beforehand, and it become all to easy to make the wrong judgment call and say that someone isn’t likely a threat.

Until the bomb goes off.

But were the Tsarnaev brothers lone wolves? The UK Mirror reports that the FBI is looking for a “sleeper cell” of up to a dozen individuals:

The FBI was last night hunting a 12-strong terrorist “sleeper cell” linked to the Boston marathon bomb brothers.

Police believe Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev were specially trained to carry out the devastating attack.

More than 1,000 FBI operatives were last night working to track down the cell and arrested a man and two women 60 miles from Boston in the hours before Dzhokhar’s dramatic capture after a bloody shootout on Friday.

A source close to the investigation said: “We have no doubt the brothers were not acting alone. The devices used to detonate the two bombs were highly sophisticated and not the kind of thing people learn from Google.

“They were too advanced. Someone gave the brothers the skills and it is now our job to find out just who they were. Agents think the sleeper cell has up to a dozen members and has been waiting several years for their day to come.”

So, which is it? A couple of lone wolves, a clandestine commando unit from an overseas jihad group, or even a mix of both, a “pack” of lone wolves, trained and set loose?

To the police and intelligence agencies charged with protecting us, the answers matter, larger groups being easier to spot and stop than the loner hiding murder in his heart.

But for us, the potential victims, it doesn’t matter all that much. In an age when “soft targets” –marathons, pizza parlors, and book fairs, for example– are the targets of choice, whether the attack comes from the plot of a group or the sociopathic mind of a single person, it’s the act itself that matters.

They’re still trying to kill us.

RELATED: Some articles of interest.

At PJM, Rick Moran wonders what the Russians knew and when they knew it. His colleague Richard Fernandez notes Tamerlan Tsarnaev was a familiar face to the FBI, but our stubborn, foolish concentration on things rather than people makes it easy for him and others to be overlooked. I’ve said the same thing, myself.

Winning today’s “No, really?” award for telling us what we already knew, the LA Times alerts us that the elder Tsarnaev followed radical Islam. Meanwhile, Steve Emerson’s Investigative Project on Terrorism looks at the evidence that the brothers held Islamist beliefs. One has to ask, “how did the FBI miss all this?”

Via Will Antonin comes an article by an academic after my own heart, one who says we are ignoring the roots of the problem.

Footnotes:
(1) For example, Sura 9, verse 123 of the Qu’ran: “O ye who believe! Fight those of the disbelievers who are near to you, and let them find harshness in you, and know that Allah is with those who keep their duty (unto Him).”
(2) Now a satisfying grease spot somewhere in the Yemeni desert.

UPDATE: Veteran reporters on both sides of the Atlantic are calling BS on the Mirror’s story. R.S. McCain questions the sourcing, while Telegraph journalist Toby Harnden agrees.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


This just in: “Master bedroom” is now racist and sexist

April 18, 2013

But, of course:

The “master suite” is being phased out — not from our homes, but from our lexicon.

A survey of 10 major Washington, D.C.-area homebuilders found that six no longer use the term “master” in their floor plans to describe the largest bedroom in the house….Why? In large part for exactly the reason you would think: “Master” has connotation problems, in gender (it skews toward male) and race (the slave-master).

The new, politically correct phrase is “owner’s suite.”  Can’t see how that’s much better, as least from the point of view of the ridiculously hypersensitive.

Sigh.

via Salena Zito and Conservative Intelligence Briefing

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


North Korea planning war with nukes, cyber-attacks? Not likely, but…

April 18, 2013

It sounds insane, but is North Korea planning a lightning war to reunify the peninsula and present both Washington and Beijing with a fait accompli? Bill Gertz of the Washington Times (1) reports that US analysts are concerned:

U.S. intelligence officials assessing North Korea’s recent bellicose statements are increasingly concerned that Kim Jong-un could use his limited nuclear arsenal as part of offensive military attack that would be calculated to improve the prospects for reunifying the country rather suffering a collapse of his regime.

According to officials familiar with unclassified assessments, the North Korean leader and his military hampered by economic sanctions and a declining conventional military force remain paranoid about a U.S. military offensive.

Reportedly, the regime in Pyongyang is also worried that the Chinese might be willing to replace the Kim dynasty and its backers with more pliable minions, presumably to remove a problem for their foreign relations, since China wants to be seen as a stable power on the world stage,   not as the allies of a country that regularly threatens regional peace.

But, given the disparity of power between North Korea on the one hand, and the US and its South Korean allies on the other, how would this war be conducted? Gertz, again:

The North Koreans are calling their strategy “the spirit of the offensive.” It calls for decisive, surprise attacks carried out very rapidly.

The strategy also calls for a four-front war against South Korea and the United States involving strategic missiles with nuclear, chemical and biological weapons to destroy U.S. and allied military bases. It would launch conventional military strikes through the demilitarized zone and into South Korea. Special operations commandos would mount rear-guard attacks. Cyberwarfare would take down critical infrastructure.

A nuclear strike itself might involve missile strikes, or even special forces with small suitcase-sized “dirty bombs.”

It’s not a scenario I consider very likely, for a couple of reasons. First, as China analyst Gordon Chang points out, while the Chinese government isn’t all that thrilled with their “friends” in Beijing, the military, an increasingly dominant and assertive faction in Chinese politics. Noting reports of increased Chinese military activity near their border with North Korea, Chang argues that it is possible this is in support of the Kim regime, not a warning to it:

Why would Beijing back the world’s most ruthless regime? The answer lies in China’s fraying political system, which is allowing generals and admirals to cement control over policymaking.

Chinese flag officers gained influence last year as feuding civilians sought military support for their bids for promotion as the Communist Party retired Fourth Generation leaders, led by Hu Jintao, and replaced them with the Fifth, under the command of Xi Jinping. The People’s Liberation Army, which may now be the most powerful faction in the Party, has traditionally maintained its pro-Pyongyang views, and it is apparently using its enhanced standing to push Beijing closer to Pyongyang.

The rise of the military has had consequences. For instance, the PLA has sold the North Koreans at least six mobile launchers for their new KN-08 missile, which can hit the U.S. These launchers substantially increase Pyongyang’s ability to wage a nuclear war and are the primary reason the Obama administration decided last month to go ahead with the 14 missile interceptors in Alaska.

Today, in the Chinese capital there are many academics and Foreign Ministry professionals who know that supporting North Korea is not in China’s long-term interest. Yet where it counts — at the top of the political system — there is no consensus to change long-held policies supporting the Kim family regime.

So the “fear of a Chinese coup” theory looks less compelling. (2)

The other reason I don’t find the analysts’ concerns to be cause (yet) for alarm is that, to be blunt, a blitzkrieg-style assault using WMDs is a sure path to suicide for Kim and his cronies. Killing American troops with nuclear weapons, for example, or blowing off a bomb in Seoul, would generate unbearable pressure on Barack Obama to retaliate — there would simply be no way for him to resist. Likewise with the demand to take out the Pyongyang regime once and for all, though Chinese pressure might be enough to stave off conquest and reunification with Seoul, as opposed to regime change.

The problem, of course, is that the North Korean regime and the thinking of Kim Jong-Un is almost a black box to the outside world, its workings a mystery. What if they believe their own propaganda and think they can pull it off? Nations with far more extensive contact with the outside world have badly miscalculated before: just ask Hitler how his declaration of war on the US worked out.

So, while I don’t think the scenario Gertz outlined is anywhere near likely –I assume the North Koreans are obnoxious and obstreperous extortionists, but still rational actors when it comes to their own survival– it is illustrative of the worrisome possibilities that have to be kept in mind, because our window into Pyongyang is so small and opaque.

Footnotes:
(1) Bear in mind that, while Gertz is a solid reporter, the Times is owned by a faction of the virulently anti-North Korean Unification Church. If we’re going to acknowledge the biases of liberal papers like the New York Times, we should also stipulate those for publications generally on our side, too.
(2) It is possible that the Chinese moves are in support of a North Korean attack, but that would mean the most aggressive faction of the military has taken control, and I’ve seen no sign of that. So they may be showing support for Kim, but not that much.

via Real Clear Defense

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Quote of the Day: On #GunControl, Obama, and lameducks

April 18, 2013

Writing in the Telegraph, Tim Stanley makes a trenchant observation in the wake of the defeat the gun-control bill in the Senate yesterday and the President’s angry reaction:

4. Barack Obama is a lame-duck president. Nobody listens to what he says anymore, nobody is interested in winning his approval and nobody much cares if he thinks they have “let the country down”. This is typical for a second-term president who has lost all their leverage because they’re no longer running for office and everybody is patiently waiting for the day when he quits the White House. But Obama’s difficult personality has doubled the size of the challenge. Gloating in victory, adolescent in defeat – the Prez doesn’t make it easy to work with him. Why should conservative senators give him a legislative victory after he has spent four years painting them as knuckle-dragging rednecks who hate women and the poor?

Narcissists just can’t stand it when their carefully nurtured inflated sense of self-esteem is punctured. When it happens, they take it personally and we get petulant tantrums, as we saw yesterday.

But this is just one victory for civil liberties against Progressive usurpations. Obama may have been checked in Congress on this, he may have little “banked political capital” left to shove major legislation through, but the presidency still has immense regulatory power, and Obama has often expressed regret that he couldn’t just bypass Congress.

The fact is that he can, quite effectively. So, while we indulge in a little justified satisfaction in this win for reason and constitutionalism, let’s also remain wary.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Union that backed Obama calls for repeal of Obamacare

April 17, 2013

Because they’re finally realizing that it’s a crappy idea horribly implemented and that, no, fairies riding unicorns won’t bring you free healthcare after all:

Organized labor was instrumental in getting the Affordable Care Act passed in 2010, but more recently has voiced concerns that the law could lead members to lose their existing health plans. The United Union of Roofers, Waterproofers and Allied Workers is believed to be the first union to initially support the law and later call for its repeal.

“After the law was passed, I had great hope … that maybe the rough spots would be worked out and we’d have a great law,” said Kinsey Robinson, international president of the union, which represents 22,000 commercial and industrial roofers.

Like many unions, the roofers insure members through a so-called multiemployer health insurance plan that’s jointly managed by employers and the union. Mr. Robinson says the union’s concerns about the law began to pile up in recent months after speaking with employers.

The roofers’ union’s current insurance plan caps lifetime medical bill payouts at $2 million for active members and $50,000 for retirees. Next year, the plan has to remove those caps in order to comply with the health law. Other aspects of the retiree plan must become more generous in order to meet the law’s minimum essential coverage requirements next year. All that will increase the cost of insuring members, Mr. Robinson said, and has prompted the union to weigh eliminating the retiree plan.

It also finally dawned on these geniuses that they’re going to take another big hit when the tax on “Cadillac plans” kicks in in 2018. (You might recall that this delay was something the unions asked for, figuring it would be fixed by then. Suckers.)

I don’t know whether to laugh or cry — maybe a bit of both. Unions such as Robinson’s helped elect the worst president of the modern era, then moved heaven and earth to help pass Obamacare, a measure the majority of the nation never wanted and which the Democrats had to pass by anti-constitutional means. And now that it’s turning out to be the fiasco we all predicted it would be, he wants to say “never mind.”

You know what? I’ll be happy to work with the Carpenters or any union that wants to repeal this constitutional and economic monstrosity and replace it with a sensible plan, one based on real-world economics and that respects the liberty of the individual. Hands across the aisle, and all that.

But, I reserve one right: I get to look them in the eye, laugh out loud, and, to borrow a phrase from my good friend ST,  say “Toldjah so!!”

PS: Be sure to read the linked article. The last paragraph really will leave you laughing.

via Brian Faughnan

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Barack Obama is a petty, spiteful man-child unworthy of the title “Chief of State”

April 17, 2013

Okay, okay, Barack. You don’t like those ex-colonialist British and you have emotional issues with the way they may have treated your grandfather in Kenya. I get it, I really do. You just don’t have it in you to overcome your childish bigotry.

But the British are among our closest allies, you are President of the United States of America, charged with handling our foreign relations, and this shames your office and insults those same allies:

President Obama’s delegation to the funeral of former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher is drawing some flak in London.

Two former Republican secretaries of State — James Baker and George Shultz — will lead the U.S. delegation to the Thatcher funeral on Wednesday.

Some British press reports noted that the delegation does not include a former president or a member of the current Obama administration.

“Friends and allies of Baroness Thatcher expressed ‘surprise and disappointment’ last night as it emerged President Obama is not planning to send any serving member of his administration to her funeral,” reports the Daily Mail.

The Sun called it a “snub,” and said that “Downing Street is most angered by rejections from Obama, first lady Michelle and Vice President Joe Biden. And none of the four surviving ex-U.S. leaders — Jimmy Carter, George Bush Sr., Bill Clinton and George Bush Jr. — is coming either.

Give me a break. You mean you couldn’t ask George W. Bush and Bill Clinton to represent us? Seriously? What are ex-Presidents for?

Oh, and I just love the reason for not sending the First Lady or the Vice President (h/t Moe Lane):

‘This is a hugely significant week in terms of US domestic politics,’ a spokesman added.

He said that both the First Lady and the Vice President were ‘the President’s point people on gun control’, adding: ‘This is a week when there is a lot of movement on Capitol Hill on gun control issues.’

No. They didn’t. Why not just say “Michelle has to wash her hair and Joe’s already been to Britain this year?”

Margaret Thatcher was the second most important UK Head of Government in the 20th century. She saved Britain economically and stood side-by-side with us in the climactic phase of the Cold War and contributed mightily to the end of the Soviet Union. (1)  The British government has every right to be affronted. Mere decency and respect calls for a high-level delegation.

Instead they get the same level of official representation as was sent to the funeral of Hugo Chavez.

Some men grow into the office of President, rising to meet its challenges. Harry Truman, for example.

Barack Obama demeans and diminishes it.

via Legal Insurrection

Footnote:
(1) And maybe that’s another reason behind the slight: what she did would have upset Frank.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)