The Totalitarians Among Us

Herschel Smith · 03 Mar 2014 · 15 Comments

Victor Davis Hanson observes: In short, Obama will always poll around 45 percent. That core support is his lasting legacy. In a mere five years, by the vast expansion of federal spending, by the demonizing rhetoric of his partisan bully pulpit, and by executive orders and bizarre appointments, Obama has so divided the nation that he has created a permanent constituency that will never care as much about what he does as it cares about what he says and represents. For elite rich liberals…… [read more]

Battle Rages in D.C. Over Debt Ceiling: Time for Usual G.O.P. Surrender

BY Glen Tschirgi
2 years, 8 months ago

If this post in Reuters is to be believed, roughly 46% of Americans are not paying attention to the debt ceiling war raging in D.C.   Given, however, that TCJ readers tend to be well informed and attentive to what is happening in the country and the world at large, I would guess that many of you have been paying attention.   I will confess here and now that I have been following it almost obsessively and things are reaching a fever pitch as the proverbial clock counts down to the fictional “zero hour” of August 2nd, the date where, supposedly, the federal government will run out of money.

Given that fever pitch, it is only right that I should throw some gas on the fire and go on record with some analysis and predictions.

Something profound happened in November 2010.   Whether you are a Democrat, Republican, Independent or something else, a veritable, electoral tsunami swept the country in November with voters throwing out politicians who had been complicit with the Obama spending spree of 2009 and 2010.    One message, extremely clear and simple, rang out:  stop!  Stop the spending and the borrowing that fuels the spending.   Republicans campaigned across the country on the message of reining in spending and tackling the exploding federal debt.   And they got elected largely on that basis.  There should be no reason, therefore, that politicians and pundits in Washington, D.C. voice such shock and disbelief that the Republican-controlled House, for seemingly the first time in history, is seriously concerned about spending and, in particular, enabling another mountain of spending by raising the debt ceiling.

Consider, too, that what we are seeing in the debt ceiling battle is the direct result and culmination of the battle over the 2011 Budget (or lack thereof).  Recall that the prior Congress had not passed any sort of budget (as required by law) in 2011 but had, instead been functioning according to “continuing resolutions” that avoided a government shutdown.   When Republicans took the House in January 2011, they let it be known that the continuing resolutions had to end.  Unfortunately for all of us, the deal brokered by Rep. John Boehner that allowed a 2011 Budget to pass did little or nothing to cut actual, 2011 spending and it was clear to everyone that the real opportunity to effect spending reforms and budget reductions would occur when the debt ceiling was reached.   As James Pethokoukis observed in July, the crisis is not a government “default” but just another, looming shutdown based on a lack of funds to keep all parts of government operating.   The chart attached to his article convincingly lays out the revenues coming in to the federal government versus the outlays that come due in August 2011:

That is the context in which we find ourselves.

As I study the news and opinion articles, I have been impressed with a few politicians who seem to get it.   One of them, elected in the 2010 Wave, is Senator Marco Rubio from Florida.   Here is the link to a July 30th speech he gave in the Senate that is stellar (Warning– it is a 14-minute clip, but is well worth the time):

Sen Rubio re debt ceiling on YouTube

Rubio gets it.

He understands that the issue confronting Congress is so much bigger than a so-called “government default.”   Rubio gives a very good, initial summary of the actual problem:  the Federal government takes in roughly $180 Billion each month but spends roughly $300 Billion each month, forcing the U.S. to borrow something like 40 cents of every dollar it spends.    This is not difficult to understand for anyone who has had to manage their own finances, let alone run a business.   The attitude in the Capitol that such an imbalance between income and expenditures is in any way tolerable (and there are many in D.C. who think the U.S. is not spending enough) tells us everything we need to know about the sick culture of our national leadership.

But Rubio goes beyond just the summary of the problem writ large.   He precisely points out the deliberate inaction of the Senate and White House in refusing to propose any plan of any kind that would address the collision with the $14.2 Trillion debt ceiling, a collision that has been clearly anticipated since at least January 2011.   Rubio, in fact, accuses the Senate majority and the White House of manufacturing the “debt crisis”  by sheer political calculation that the American people will hold Republicans responsible if the debt ceiling is not raised.   This “crisis,” in other words, is only a crisis because Obama and Reid wanted a crisis.

Contrast Rubio’s remarks with the question posed by Senator John Kerry at about the 7:40 mark in the video.   Kerry was apparently miffed that Rubio would dare to quote then Senators Obama and Biden in 2006 and Sen. Harry Reid in 2007, all of whom spoke against and voted against raising the debt ceiling then.   Kerry sought to distinguish those embarrassing votes in 2006 and 2007 by pointing out that their votes did not really matter because the debt ceiling increase was being approved by large margins at the time.

Does everyone catch the implication here?  Kerry is giving away the game.  In essence, Kerry is saying that you cannot take anything said by Obama, Biden or Reid seriously in 2006 and 2007 because, afterall, everyone knew that the debt ceiling was going to be raised so there was no harm done by them voting against it or railing against it.   All that talk in 2006 and 2007 was so much puffery, no one took it seriously.   Now, it’s serious.   So anyone who speaks out against raising the debt ceiling must really mean it and that means, ipso facto, that such a person is a “terrorist” or a “suicide bomber.”   Kerry even went so far as to call those, prior votes and speeches “truly symbolic.”

At the end, Rubio makes the most important point of all, that the real crisis facing the U.S. is its apparent inability to reduce spending to a point that the bond rating agencies consider sustainable.   This is the real threat to Americans, not the manufactured crisis of hitting the predetermined debt ceiling.   The debt ceiling could be raised $2.4 Trillion dollars tomorrow (as the President has demanded) but that does not solve anything.   Until there is a plan in place that fundamentally alters the spending trajectory of the U.S., the rating agencies have made it clear that the U.S. is on the brink of losing its AAA rating which will inevitably lead to higher interest on the Federal debt and have a ripple effect throughout the U.S. economy as states and lenders are forced to pay more for borrowing.  Rubio likens the situation to a house on fire and the calls by Senator Kerry and others to compromise make no sense when the compromises do nothing to extinguish the flames burning down the house.

Now comes the thoroughly disheartening news via Hot Air.   Apparently the professional politicians are on the verge of letting the American House burn down.

According to Ed Morrisey, citing an ABC News report:

ABC reports this morning that Congressional leaders have already begun briefing their caucuses on the eleventh-hour deal that emerged from the White House last night.  Jonathan Karl notes that the deal is contingent on getting enough support from each House caucus to form a majority, and in the Senate to avoid a filibuster.  We’ll come back to that in a moment, but Karl also updates the story on the deal.  The topline numbers are apparently $2.4 trillion in matching spending cuts and debt-ceiling raises instead of $2.8 trillion, but now both are split into two parts:

The current framework would give the president the authority to raise the debt ceiling in two parts: roughly half of it now and the balance at the end of the year.

Each increase would be subject to a Congressional resolution of disapproval.

If Congress voted to disapprove that increase, however, the President could veto their disapproval.

The AP reported earlier on the $2.4 trillion number, too, although they say the cuts will be “slightly more” than the debt-ceiling boost.  That’s still enough to get Barack Obama past the 2012 election, but not by much. It guarantees that the debt ceiling will be a 2012 election issue, although by now that was a given anyway.

However, the added McConnell wrinkle is interesting — and potentially a big win for Republicans.  Essentially, Republicans get to claim credit for the cuts while laying blame for the debt increases on Obama.  If they “disapprove,” Obama will veto the disapproval and end up owning all of the political baggage for the debt-ceiling increases.  That’s a steep price to pay for Obama just to protect himself through the next election, although he could turn it on its ear and refuse to veto the second increase disapproval and force this fight all over again.  That would, however, put the country back in “crisis” mode, and that would still be all on Obama.

Despite the triumphant tone of Morrisey’s post, the reality is that Obama gets to borrow at least $2.4 TRILLION more dollars (although it remains to be seen whether there will be enough investors willing to toss another gigantic load of money into the U.S. black hole without higher interest rates or whether the Treasury will be forced, yet again, to buy up some portion of the offered bonds itself) while the so-called “cuts” seem to be the same, phony 10-year reductions in spending that will never materialize.

Morrisey provides more details on the pending deal here:

  • 2.8 trillion in deficit reduction with $1 trillion locked in through discretionary spending caps over 10 years and the remainder determined by a so-called super committee.
  • The Super Committee must report precise deficit-reduction proposals by Thanksgiving.
  • The Super Committee would have to propose $1.8 trillion spending cuts to achieve that amount of deficit reduction over 10 years.
  • If the Super Committee fails, Congress must send a balanced-budget amendment to the states for ratification. If that doesn’t happen, across-the-board spending cuts would go into effect and could touch Medicare and defense spending.
  • No net new tax revenue would be part of the special committee’s deliberations.
  • Note too that the second round of cuts appears to be guaranteed; if the Super Commission can’t agree on specific and precise reductions, then an across-the-board cut goes into place.

I expect plenty of hyperventilating at the term “Super Committee,” but it’s basically the kind of ad hoc committee that Congress can authorize at any time.  It sounds a lot like the BRAC process used by Congress to identify military bases for closure.  The prohibition on net tax revenue gains is a big, big win for Republicans if it holds.  I should note that Jimmie Bise in his post believes that the second round of cuts might be actual cuts; if so, then this is an even bigger win.

Again, the celebrating is way too premature.  Once again, legislation is being considered without any public debate or open discussion.  It is all being hashed out in private, back-room deals and then presented, at the last minute, under a pressure cooker of phony, Media-inspired hysteria, for a take-it-or-leave-it vote— yeah, the kind of vote where you are burned at the stake as a heretic if you vote “no.”   Will anyone have read this deal by the time for voting, or will this be another Obamacare monstrosity that has to be passed, as Pelosi put it, “to know what is in it.”  We all know how these surprises turn out.

But wait, Ed Morrisey says that there may be a requirement in the deal that if the spending cuts recommended by the Super-Duper Committee are not adopted by the end of December 2011, then the House and Senate have to at least vote on a balanced budget amendment (or perhaps actually pass a balanced budget amendment to send to the States to approve) or automatic cuts will be made to Defense spending and Medicaid (among other things).   The details are slim, but the cuts to Defense have been rumored to be draconian and far worse than the cuts to Medicaid which would only affect care providers and not the beneficiaries.   How’s that for a deal?   Republicans get to choose which poison they most prefer.  Hooray!

There is no way that the Democrat-controlled Senate is going to approve a balanced-budget amendment to the Constitution.   Why should they?  The only penalty is the terrible, awful “cuts” to Medicaid that come out of the hide of the evil doctors, insurance companies and drug companies.   I can hear the Democrats whining to the gullible Republicans in Bre’r Rabbit fashion, “Oh please, please don’t throw me in that briar patch!”

Just to show that I can do more than complain about the bad deals the GOP is considering, I will offer at least a partial, near-term solution here.

If the Republicans cannot bear to stick to the three, different bills they have passed (the 2012 Budget, the Cut, Cap and  Balance Bill and the last version passed in the House, dubbed “Boehner 3.0″), at the very least, the Republicans should pass a short-term (read here 60-day) increase in the debt ceiling that will get the government through the rest of the 2011 Fiscal year that ends on September 30th.    Use that additional time to keep hammering away for real, immediate, tangible, meaningful cuts to the 2012 Budget.  If the Senate and White House will not agree to substantial and immediate cuts in the 2012 Budget, the House should start passing individual appropriation bills, starting with the most politically volatile items first:  Defense, Social Security, Medicare/Medicaid and, perhaps, unemployment benefits.   At the same time, the House can pass small, incremental debt ceiling increases that will require some level of immediate cuts to government spending— enough, in other words to pay the debt service and, say, 90% of the government expenses for the next 60 days, but not 100%.   It will be up to the Senate and Obama to ignore or vote these bills down, but at least the House will have taken concrete steps to provide spending reductions.  The House can continue to pass these bills with actual spending reductions that will reduce the need for future debt ceiling increases.   It will also short-circuit the inevitable “crisis” of a government shutdown when the Democrats refuse to pass a 2012 Budget in the Senate and then demand another continuing resolution.

This, by the way, is in stark contrast to the approach taken by Obama, Reid and Boehner that calls for spending reductions over 10 years.   Forget these 10 year plans! This is not the Soviet Union.  Even the Politburo was not delusional enough to think that they could come up with ten year plans.  Five years of fantasy at a time was enough for them.

To conclude this nice, little rant, it is just pathetic to consider that the GOP is on the verge of caving in, yet again, to panic legislation.   If this happens, it is time for fiscally conservative Americans to seriously consider ditching the Republican party in favor of a third party.  Or, rather, a second party since the GOP is, for all legislative purposes, no different than the Democrats.

Iran Aids Al Qaeda

BY Herschel Smith
2 years, 8 months ago

Little more than one week ago, Admiral Mullen said the following concerning Iran’s aid to Shi’ite fighters in Iraq.

“Iran is very directly supporting extremist Shiite groups which are killing our troops,” said Adm. Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. “There is no question they are shipping high-tech weapons in there…that are killing our people. And the forensics prove that.”

Around the same time, Major General John Toolan, the top Marine in Afghanistan, observed that the Marines in RC South are dealing with Iranian (and Iranian-trained) snipers.  Now comes a report directly from the Treasury Department.

Shiite-dominated Iran is allowing Al Qaeda, a predominately Sunni group, to funnel funds and operatives through its territory, the Treasury Department said Thursday.

In announcing sanctions on six alleged Al Qaeda operatives, a Treasury official said the terrorist group had entered into a “secret deal” with Iran, despite their differences.

Treasury sanctioned Ezedin Abdel Aziz Khalil, whom it described as a prominent Iran-based Al Qaeda facilitator, and five other members of an alleged Al Qaeda network that spans the Middle East and South Asia.

Thursday’s announcement marked the second time Treasury has drawn a link between Tehran and Al Qaeda. In 2009, Treasury sanctioned an alleged Al Qaeda associate, Mustafa Hamid, whom officials said acted as an interlocutor to the group and Tehran. At the time, Treasury sanctioned three other alleged Al Qaeda operatives, including Osama Bin Laden’s son, Sa’ad bin Laden, who had been detained in Iran.

Thursday’s sanctions, however, asserted a deeper connection. Treasury said Iranian authorities have permitted Khalil to operate within the country’s borders since 2005. He moves money and terrorist recruits from the Middle East into Iran, and then on to Pakistan, Treasury said.

Two alleged Al Qaeda members in Qatar, Salim Hasan Khalifa Rashid al-Kuwari, Abdallah Ghanim Mafuz Muslim al-Khawar, were sanctioned for allegedly providing financial and logistical support to the terrorist group through operatives in Iran.

“By exposing Iran’s secret deal with Al Qaeda allowing it to funnel funds and operatives through its territory, we are illuminating yet another aspect of Iran’s unmatched support for terrorism,” David Cohen, undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, said in a statement.

 Note the strong wording: “Iran’s unmatched support for terrorism.”  True enough, but this shocks no one.  It simply highlights what the top generals are willing to say, regardless of what the official policy is for Iran.

And speaking of “official policy,” is there any?  Jennifer Rubin sees none.

I spoke to Mark Dubowitz of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies yesterday about the state of the administration’s Iran policy. He was blunt:

I’d start with asking these questions:
1. Apart from sanctions, is anything else happening? What is the comprehensive strategy?
2. Who is driving Iran policy at the interagency level? Dennis Ross, Gary Samore, David Cohen, Bob Einhorn, Michele Flournoy, Tom Donilon, anyone else?

His conclusion on the first item is that nothing is happening, and we have no comprehensive approach. On the second, he says, “No one.”

It wouldn’t matter.  With the likes of Michele Flournoy and Tom Donilon advising Obama (and his willingness to listen and heed their counsel), even if there was an Iran policy, there wouldn’t be.  Sadly, it looks as if many of my predictions are coming to pass.

Expansion of Mexican Drug Cartel’s Area of Influence

BY Herschel Smith
2 years, 8 months ago

So do you think that the insurgency in Mexico, and not coincidentally, in the border states of the U.S., is related only to drugs and the war on drugs, rather than to insurgents, warlords and criminals?  Think again.

The Salvadoran single mother was hoping to support her children in the United States. Instead, gunmen from the Zeta drug cartel kidnapped her in Mexico and forced her to cook, clean and endure rapes by multiple men.

Now the survivor of this terrifying three-month ordeal is a witness for a growing group of legislators, political leaders and advocates who are calling for action against the trafficking of women in Mexico for sexual exploitation.

As organized crime and globalization have increased, Mexico has become a major destination for sex traffic, as well as a transit point and supplier of victims to the United States. Drug cartels are moving into the trade, preying on immigrant women, sometimes with the complicity of corrupt regional officials, according to diplomats and activists.

“If narcotics traffickers are caught, they go to high-security prisons, but with the trafficking of women, they have found absolute impunity,” said Rosi Orozco, a congresswoman in Mexico and sponsor of a proposed law against human trafficking.

In Mexico, thousands of women and children are forced into sex traffic every year, Orozco said, most of it involving lucrative prostitution rings.

“It is growing because of poverty, because the cartels have gotten involved and because no one tells them no,” said Teresa Ulloa, the regional director of the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women and Girls in Latin America and the Caribbean. “We are fighting so that their lives and their bodies are not merchandise.”

“This is an inferno of sexual exploitation for thousands and thousands of women,” President Felipe Calderon told officials in mid-July after they heard the testimony of a young survivor. “With this new law, we will all be obliged to act, and no authority can say it’s not my responsibility or turn a blind eye to the terrible crime of human trafficking.”

More laws.  The ultimate, always-ready progressive answer to crime and sin.  Except it won’t work.  Not with warlords who routinely behead their enemies and gun down women and children without so much as a blink.

And do you believe that they aren’t in central, everyman’s-town, U.S.A.?  Think again.

Many of the nation’s top lawmen have been in Idaho this week. More than 150 federal and state prosecutors are wrapping up a convention of the National District Attorneys Association in Sun Valley. And while the DAs heard from a number of speakers this week, a bit of a bombshell was dropped in an address from El Paso District Attorney Jaime Esparaza.

In today’s Idaho Mountain Express, officials are quoted as saying that one of the most dangerous gangs in the Western world has made its way to Idaho. The so-called Barrio Azteca, which works with Mexican drug cartels primarily at the U.S.-Mexico border, is now present in Idaho, according to Esparaza.

And in spite of the legalization of Marijuana in California and other states, cartel business is booming.  That’s because this isn’t about the legalization of drugs.  That’s a tangential issue, and you can take whatever position you wish on that.  This is about warlord-ism South of the border, and it will ultimately affect every man, woman and child in the U.S.  No amount of silly gun tracking programs will end the insurgency.

Councilman Alan Schulman’s Anti-Gun Rant

BY Herschel Smith
2 years, 8 months ago

Remember the Canton, Ohio, police officer who went berserk over a concealed carry issue, threatening to “blast” a guy “in the mouth” and caving in his “Goddamn head?”  Remember the background?  Bigmouth police officer (Daniel Harless) wouldn’t allow the citizen to get the words out that he had a concealed carry weapon.

Well, the president of the Canton city council recently went on a rant over concealed carry.  Listen below.

Oh my.  Guns.  In high crime areas.  Sounds like a recipe for disaster as Councilman Schulman says.  We can’t have armed citizens running around in high crime areas.  To be sure, Councilman Schulman supports hunters, but that idea of an armed population (you know, as found in the constitution) is to blame for the danger we face.  Guns cannot possibly help any of us to be safer.

I’ll give the Councilman one thing though.  He has a special dislike for Rugers at 0130 hours.  Okay, I’ll compromise.  I promise to never carry a Ruger at 0130 hours.  I’ll carry something else if I happen to be out at that time (not likely), but it’ll never be a Ruger.  Maybe that will help assuage the Councilman’s anger over this.

Naming Names in Operation Fast and Furious

BY Herschel Smith
2 years, 8 months ago

The Daily Caller has a report that seems to be evidence that holes are showing in the DoJ story on Operation Fast and Furious.  With these holes is coming new light, and now, names.

House oversight committee chairman Rep. Darrell Issa, California Republican, will soon air a different side of Operation Fast and Furious: what Mexico-based U.S. law enforcement officials dealt with. Senior Justice Department leadership in Washington ignored concerns Mexico-based Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) officials raised about the program, according to assertions made as part of the congressional investigation.

A House oversight committee hearing on Tuesday morning at 10 a.m. will examine effects Operation Fast and Furious had on “The Other Side of the Border.”

Former ATF attaché to Mexico, Darren Gil told Congressional investigators that, when he became aware of an “abnormal number of [Fast and Furious weapons] recoveries” in Mexico, he called Phoenix-based ATF officials with his concerns. Gil said they told him they were “working on it” and he was “satisfied” with that first response.

“Unfortunately, my chief analyst and my deputy would come back and say, Darren, these are – we’re getting more and more of these seizures,” Gil said. “And I would make inquiries with the Phoenix field division and I wasn’t getting any responses back.” Gil said he “may have gotten two more phone calls” saying the same thing: “Yeah, we’re working on it, we’re working on it.”

Gil said his analyst and deputy would enter E-Trace data from the weapons they seized in Mexico, but were not granted access to the information about the specific guns. So, because Gil’s colleagues in Phoenix shut him out and wouldn’t answer any specific questions, Gil reached out to Washington-based officials.

He called Dan Kumor, ATF’s chief of international affairs, only to get a similar answer. Gil told Congressional investigators that Kumor said it was “an on-going investigation.” (Issa, Grassley blast Holder in letter after secret meeting with ATF’s Ken Melson)

“They’re looking at straw purchasers, they have cooperative Federal Firearms Licensees and it sounds like a significant investigation,” Gil said Kumor told him, adding that “he didn’t have access to the trace information either.” But, Gil said Kumor told him every official “on the chain” up to Kumor from Phoenix was “aware of the investigation.”

Gil said he wasn’t satisfied with the lack of answers from Washington-based officials, and got into “screaming matches” with Kumor. “Hey, when are they going to shut this, to put it bluntly, damn investigation down, we’re getting hurt down here,” Gil told Congressional investigators he’d scream at Kumor.

Assuming the accuracy of this testimony, “every official on the chain up to [chief] Kumor from Phoenix” was aware of the investigation.  It’s apparent that “the investigation” refers not to some larger program into which Operation Fast and Furious fit as a puzzle piece, but the illegal gun running itself.  Otherwise, there is no need to stonewall and hide information.  The Mexican government already knew about broad-based efforts to interdict weapons transfers.  More evidence emerges.

Gil also told Congressional investigators that Obama administration officials worried he’d tell the Mexican ambassador or brief the Mexican government on the operation. He said that’s why he wasn’t given specifics or details about Operation Fast and Furious. “I can tell you what I was told and they were afraid I was going to either brief the ambassador on it or brief the Government of Mexico officials on it,” Gil said, adding that, “They were just worried about somebody leaking whatever was unique about this investigation.”

Gil said his bosses promised him Operation Fast and Furious would be shut down in the summer of 2010. It did not officially end, though, until the end of 2010, after Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry’s death.

Gil and now-acting ATF attaché to Mexico Carlos Canino also told Congressional investigators high-ranking ATF and Justice Department officials bragged about what they considered successes of Operation Fast and Furious. Officials they said included Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer, who oversees the DOJ’s criminal division, and acting ATF director Ken Melson.

“Lanny Breuer says, yeah, there is a good case, there is a good case out of Phoenix,” Canino said of a meeting he and Gil had with Breuer and the U.S. ambassador to Mexico, Carlos Pascual.

Lanny Breuer.  This Lanny Breuer, Assistant Attorney General.  And here is my bet.  Lanny Breuer is no rougue attorney with the DoJ.  He conspired and acted in concert with others in the administration to violate the arms exports control act.  We need a special prosecutor to expose the truth and full extent of the illegalities.

The Great Decline of 2011

BY Glen Tschirgi
2 years, 8 months ago

After tracking the news swirling around the debt ceiling debate, it has been a challenge to remain upbeat about the prospects for America’s future.  But when I saw the Powerline blog write-up on a Wall Street Journal Online opinion piece (subscribers only) by Fred Fleitz about the CIA’s latest thinking about Iranian nuclear ambitions, the camel’s back officially broke.

If Fleitz is to be believed, the CIA and other intelligence agencies are prepared to issue another National Intelligence Estimate on Iran that, essentially, reaffirms the ridiculous (and politically motivated) finding that Iran suspended its nuclear weapons activities in 2003.

According to Fleitz, who has read the estimate, the American intelligence community stands by its collective assessment, first made in 2007, that Iran halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003 and has not restarted it since:

In February, the 17 agencies of the U.S. intelligence community issued a highly classified National Intelligence Estimate updating their 2007 assessment. That estimate had been politicized by several officials who feared how President George W. Bush might respond to a true account of the Iranian threat. It also was affected by the wave of risk aversion that has afflicted U.S. intelligence analysis since the 2003 Iraq War. Intelligence managers since then have discouraged provocative analytic conclusions, and any analysis that could be used to justify military action against rogue states like Iran.

I read the February 2011 Iran NIE while on the staff of the House Intelligence Committee. I believe it was poorly written and little improvement over the 2007 version.

Fleitz baldly states that, in pre-publication review of his column, the intelligence agencies censored his criticisms of the NIE analysis, including his serious concern that it manipulated intelligence evidence.

It is so patently ludicrous to conclude that Iran halted its nuclear weapons work in 2003 and has not resumed that work that I can only wonder whether Tehran is making deposits in the bank accounts of the intelligence officers.  No one who has paid any attention to the progress of the Iranian nuclear program can have any doubts about their intentions and substantial efforts to have a working nuclear weapon in short order.

Surveying the American landscape in 2011, we are a nation beset by “enemies without, enemies within.”   And we render ourselves defenseless to both.

We have a political party that refuses to stop spending hundreds of billions of dollars that we do not have regardless of the certain fiscal collapse approaching.   And we have an intelligence community that has completely lost its sense of direction, seeking to manipulate policy choices by elected leaders rather than giving an honest assessment of the threats facing our nation.

This cannot continue.   And it won’t for much longer.

Christianity And Self Examination In Light Of the Norway Killings

BY Herschel Smith
2 years, 8 months ago

My regular readers may be wondering why I haven’t weighed in on the horrific killing spree perpetrated by Anders Behring Breivik in Norway.  In fact, I think that it’s important for Christians to engage in honest, open self-examination in light of events such as this, as suggested by one reader at National Review Online’s Corner (in reponse to thoughts by Mark Steyn).  This sort of thing is extremely serious, and for those on the left believe that there is a sense of unease among right-leaning Christians, you are correct whether we admit it or not.  So I may as well engage in open confessions and admit what we all know to be true.

I have made my position clear on personal ownership and carryng of weapons, and Christian scholars far better than I have already made a case against gun controlBut … evil actions like those in Norway, that cause so many people, so young, to perish in such a violent way, should cause soul searching for every sane individual, and especially so for those of us who claim to carry the name of Christ.

So Mr. Breivik was apparently shooting a rifle (perhaps a Ruger Mini-14?).  He was apparently good with it.  I’m good with my rifle too, and I can put a tight group on target at 100 yards, but I don’t engage in open carry of my rifle.  I don’t engage in concealed or open carry all of the time, only when I consider the situation as warranting such security.  But this event goes to remind us that only God knows the future, and thus, my predilections on personal security and when I might need a weapon are not only foolish, but self-deceiving.

After serious reflection, I hereby vow to carry my handguns more often (both concealed and open, depending upon the circumstances).  But he was shooting a rifle, you say.  Yes, and that means that my moderate targeting skills with my handguns (in contrast to my finely-tuned skills with my rifle) need to get much better.  I hereby vow to buy more ammunition and get to the range even more often than I do.  And, I vow to continue my workouts at the gym and practice my tactics and techniques so that when the awful day comes that I need to perform tactical maneuvers against a shooter in order to defend myself or my family or friends, I am capable of doing so.  If I die defending loved ones, then I die.

As for the Mr. Breivik’s prose, I find it so inconsistent, incoherent, incomprehensible and ridiculous that it has no meaning for me at all.  With a short review of Mr. Breivik and after having sworn an oath to shoot better and more often, I think I have done my Christian duty regarding this event.  Oh, and I will pray for the families of the victims too.

Cops Behaving Badly

BY Herschel Smith
2 years, 9 months ago

On July 20 Glenn Reynolds linked a report about a respectful police officer conducting a stop to investigate an instance of open carry.  I won’t link the video, but you should stop by and view it.  Everyone is lauding the respectfulness and professionalism with which the cop conducted himself.  Even http://www.reddit.com/r/guns/ had good things to say.

Very well.  I’m willing to accept this, but there is something I want to highlight, something that still bothers me about this good stop, and compare it to this bad stop.  In both instances there is one commonality.  Both officers stated that they needed identification because, in their own words, “I don’t know who you are.”

I have been open carrying during walking my dog in the afternoons now for several months.  Police officers drive right by without so much as slowing down.  No one runs for cover, no one panics, and everyone wants to come up and chat and pet my dog (interesting, because she is a 74 pound Doberman).  I haven’t been asked about carrying by any officers.  Frankly, I can’t seem to get anyone very interested in the fact that I am openly carrying a weapon.  I’m okay with that.  I’d just as soon they not care.

But when I do get asked, my speech is ready.  If I am asked, the officer doesn’t need to know who I am.  That’s irrelevant.  I am not engaged in any illegality or criminal behavior, so my name doesn’t matter.  Said another way, the legitimacy of the exercise of my constitutional rights isn’t contingent upon a law enforcement officer knowing my name or other personal information.  I’ll be happy to show them my CHP, but only after I get agreement to my proposition.  That’s the point that the open carrier in the video was pressing home.  Fortunately, the officer accepted the proposition, but still, the notion that the officer needs to identify the carrier is ubiquitous among law enforcement officers.  And it’s wrong.

Next, to cops behaving badly.

A police officer’s dash cam in Canton, OH caught a disturbing exchange last month between a cop and a driver during a traffic stop. In it, the cop can be heard (and seen) berating a man for not telling the officer immediately that he had a concealed carry permit and thus a concealed weapon, even saying that he should have killed him. But there’s just one problem: the man tried several times but the officer cut him off.

That’s a problem. In Ohio (as in many states), the law requires concealed carry gun owners to immediately inform law enforcement if they have a weapon when they are pulled over. So when the man, named William, was not allowed to do so immediately, and the cop eventually found out, that created an issue.

“I could blast you in the mouth right now!” the officer says in the video after finding out about the man’s gun. “I’m so close to caving in your Godda**ed head,” he adds. “You fu** with me! You’re just a stupid human being!”

He continues: “Fu**ing talking to me with a Godd***ed gun! You want me to pull mine and stick it to your head? … I tell you what I should have done. As soon as I saw your gun I should have taken two steps back, pulled my Glock 40 and put ten bullets in your ass and let you drop.”

“And I wouldn’t have lost any sleep!” he screams.

Here is the video if you’re interested.  This is the other end of the spectrum.  The instance that Glenn cites is a respectful and professional officer, albeit still caught up in the notion that he needs to identify people behaving legally.  The officer in Canton is an uneducated jerk and a menace to society.  The police department would do well to cut ties with this asshole as soon as possible, before he gets himself and the department into legal trouble.

As a final note, it should be pointed out that it’s cops like this who give credence to the notion (some people preach) that the police are simply another gang we cut loose to terrorize the gangs we don’t like.  I would observe that frankly, we don’t need any gangs at all.  They can all go home.

Dakota Meyer to Receive Congressional Medal of Honor

BY Herschel Smith
2 years, 9 months ago

It’s now official.

A Marine who braved intense enemy gunfire in Afghanistan to recover the bodies of four fallen comrades will receive the Medal of Honor for his heroism, defense officials said Wednesday.

Dakota Meyer, who left the service last year, will be the third living recipient of the award for actions in Afghanistan and the tenth man recognized for exceptional bravery in the current wars. He’ll also be the first living Marine to receive the honor since the Vietnam War.

White House and defense officials have not released details of the award or the timing of its presentation.

The 22-year-old’s heroics came while serving with an embedded training team from the II Marine Expeditionary Force out of Okinawa, Japan. In September 2009, his team was ambushed in controversial battle of Ganjgal, which claimed the lives of five Marines and nine Afghan allies.

A Defense Department investigation released five months later said that negligent leadership and a command refusal for artillery support directly contributed to the deaths of Meyer’s fellow fighters, and reprimanded three Army officers.

Contrary to the statement above, the warriors who perished included three Marines, a Navy Corpsman and a Soldier.  Readers might remember this as the engagement where a team was repeatedly refused airtillery support because it violated the rules of engagement.  Dakota fought his way through enemy fire, on foot, multiple times, to retrive his brothers from the field of battle.  The real delay in this had to do with the Marine Corps, which is notoriously exacting in things like this.

There are some loved ones who still grieve, and one particular article I wrote on the reprimands of field grade and staff officers who refused them support gathered their attention.

I have felt from the beginning that General McChrystal is ultimately responsible for the death of my son, his unit and SFC Ken Westbrook in Gangjal. I have written to President Obama for answers, as one father to another, to no avail. Seventeen months and 10 days later, we still greive for the loss of our sons. We feel the pain, and are engulfed in waves of grief with each each new casualty (and various other emotional triggers).

Our sons suffered Death by Incompetence, knowing at the end that those they considered brothers-in-arms abandoned them on the battlefield.

I have no wish to meet General McChrystal or hear his apology or condolences. I only hope that he lives a long life and is always tormented by the ghosts of those he called his brothers-in-arms.

Nothing will bring our boys back, so we move forward in life to honor thier (sic) sacrifice and cherish thier memory. To that end, I would like to voice support (and hope that others will too) for awarding the Medal of Honor to Dakota Meyer for the exceptional bravery that brought our boys home to rest. Thank you Dakota.  Semper Fi

I am Charlene Westbrook, widow of a United States Army Combat Veteran, SFC Kenneth Westbrook. My husband, Sergeant First Class Kenneth Westbrook, was grievously injured and later passed away from what was explained to me as graft vs host disease associated with whole blood, a rare blood disorder which doctors say he contracted while at the battlefield hospital in Afghanistan.

I was afforded the opportunity to review the redacted Investigating Officer’s Report. The eyewitness accounts of the unbelievable horror our American Warriors endured that day is unimaginable, unbearable and should have been avoided by all costs. The Investigating Officer’s findings and recommendations state that the officers appointed over those men were found to be negligent and derelict in the performance of their duties. The Investigator further recommended that the officers receive an administrative reprimand or a General Officer Memorandum of Reprimand (GOMOR), however, no further information on whether those actions have been initiated and/or completed have not been provided.

My husband dedicated 22 years of his life proudly serving in the US Army with complete trust and honor to the very institution that in the end abandoned him and the other men who died that fateful day, September 8, 2009. I do, too hold McChrystal as the coward who has the blood of my husband on his hands.

“The American soldier is a brave one and he demands professional competence in his leaders. In battle, he wants to know that the job is going to be done right, with no unnecessary casualties. The non-commissioned officer wearing the chevron is supposed to know how to perform the duties expected of him. The American soldier expects his sergeant to be able to teach him how to do his job. And he expects more from his officers.” – General Omar N. Bradley.

I am Susan Price, the Mother of Fallen Hero Gunnery Sgt Aaron M Kenefick, USMC, killed that day on Sept 8th 2009. Like the Westbrook, Johnsons & Layton families, there are no words yet invented to share with you our sense of loss and void from our families lives!!!!!! Loosing a child or a spouse to WAR is one thing, loosing that special someone because of the deriliction and negligence of another, ESPECIALLY a “BROTHER IN ARMS” is something else.

We the families of the fallen five, have read the 15-6, Investigation report over and over and over again….It is unbelievable to read how many times my “BELOVED SON” called for help, and it is Beyond Human comprehension to read on further some smart ass remarks by some of these officers who discounted American Human Life, Special American Human life, front line Valor, not some back office cant get ahold of white gloved officer!!!

You cannot equate a piece of paper to the loss of human life, word has it that nothing came of this supposed reprimand!!!!! The word is that an order from a higher source told them not to answer the call for air support and artillery back up….The question is? Who gave the order and why?

So many unanswered questions this day. The actual mission was not even suppose to take place this day. Intel saids they were told that this would be a day filled with Taliban activity on the 8th. Who wanted my Son and the other Fallen Heroes put into this position? Why? So many unanswered questions!!!!!!!!!!!

McChrystal is responsible as well as the contributing 3 Officers who got off and those others who were a party to this knowledge. These men had families, they had a place in society besides the battlefield, they made differences in the lives of so many and for so many, who would want to scapegoat them out??????

Another comment made while my son called for 2 hours was “is this for Marines or is this for Army” I dont understand when you are at war what difference does it make what uniform you wear, all blood is the same color, and all I know is that my family and the other families of the fallen live in emotional pain every day of our lives due to this neglence. Where is Justice, does anyone really care about our men, really!!!!!!!!!!

As the father of James Ray “Doc” Layton, killed that day in Ganjgal, Afghanistan I will say this: This was the greatest loss a parent could endure. We all know the inherent risks our men and women take and to a point, we prepare for the worst. Knowing that our men were put into a situation in which they relied on help and were denied repeatedly, this is in-excusable. I have said before as a retired law inforcement officer, we rely on each other for back-up and know that when that call goes out our “backs” are covered. To know James, Aaron, Mike, Edwin and Ken lost their lives due to “inadequate” leadership in the operation center among several other cited incidents of “Negligence” on Sept 8th is sickening and unfortunately nothing new.

The post comments in the 15-6 investigation clearly states one of the Army officers in charge believed the Marines to be under “light, harrassing fire.” At 0530 hrs, the first shots rang out and the team said that they had been ambushed and were facing approx 150+ insurgents calling for help. At what point was this “light harrassing fire?” The 15-6 also states that what intelligence they gathered via intercepted radio traffic the day before from Ganjgal that they knew the team were going to be ambushed but thought by only approx 30 and yet knowing this they were sent into a “kill zone” a four man team including my son who were killed approximately two hours into the ambush still calling for air and artillery along with the rest of the unit, TWO HOURS!!!!!! The entire ambush lasted for hours.

It took 1,800 rounds of 50 Cal and two Hellfires to just get our son’s bodies, hours into the battle. The report clearly says the mission was compromised, the insurgents were well placed, even had recoilless rifles. The insurgents were well trained by military, wore uniforms similar to the ANA, even were mistaken as our counterparts by our own at one point, A clear setup. The mission was to take place the day before but was changed to the 8th “Oddly?” I think not. This whole ambush stinks of corruption and ass covering but by the enemy only, I also think not.

Brent Layton, proud father of fallen hero HM3 James Ray “Doc” Layton “Corpsman to the Core.” KIA 09/08/09 Ganjgal, Afghanistan

 There is no way to assuage the anguish of the loss of a son or husband.  But maybe with the CMH being awarded to Dakota, some small sense of righteousness may be brought to bear on a horrible, awful engagement where our warriors were abandoned.

Justice Department Trying To Shield Officials in Gun Scandal

BY Herschel Smith
2 years, 9 months ago

From The LA Times:

The Justice Department is trying to protect its political appointees from the Fast and Furious scandal by concealing an internal “smoking gun” report and other documents that acknowledge the role top officials played in the program that allowed firearms to flow illegally into Mexico, according to the head of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Kenneth E. Melson, the ATF’s acting director, also told congressional investigators this month that the affidavits prepared to obtain wiretaps used in the ill-fated operation were inconsistent with Justice Department officials’ public statements about the program. Justice Department officials advised him not to raise his concerns with Congress about “institutional problems” with the Fast and Furious operation, Melson said.

“It was very frustrating to all of us,” Melson told congressional investigators in a private meeting over the Fourth of July holiday, “and it appears thoroughly to us that the department is really trying to figure out a way to push the information away from their political appointees at the department.”

Not only was the department slow to react, Melson said, but Justice Department officials indicated they did not want him to cooperate with Congress.

A transcript of his comments was released Monday by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Vista), chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, and Sen. Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Melson said he wasn’t attempting to shield his agency from its share of the blame. He acknowledged an instance in which his agents failed to intercept high-powered weapons when they could have.

“The deputy attorney general’s office wasn’t very happy with us” at the ATF, Melson said, “because they thought this was an admission that there were mistakes made. Well, there were some mistakes made.”

No one is surprised by this information.  As I’ve said before, it isn’t in the DNA of this administration to be forthcoming or accountable in its actions.  It appears that Melson made the decision to “turn state’s evidence,” so to speak.  But I do disagree with one thing.  He admitted to “mistakes.”  The trafficking of weapons in violation of the National Firearms Act and Export Control Act isn’t a “mistake.”  It’s an illegality.

The combination of illegalities and coverups by the administration is why we need a special prosecutor.

UPDATE #1: Media Matters accuses the LA Times of misfiring on this story.  But it appears that perhaps Media Matters is the one who misfired.  Government Accountability Project reports thusly:

Operation Fast and Furious (F&F) – a program run by the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) that allowed thousands of lethal weapons to cross the Mexican border – was apparently no secret among high-level political authorities at the Department of Justice (DOJ). Among those in the know? Newly-confirmed Deputy Attorney General James Cole.

Prior:

Interpreting and Analyzing Project Gunrunner

Congressman Bilirakis Questions Holder On Tampa ATF Office Gunwalker Allegations

Gunrunner Comment of the Day

Tampa ATF Officer Gunrunner Coverup

Project Gunrunner Category


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