Saturday, January 31, 2015

Thursday, January 29, 2015

The Unicorn Eludes Trey Gowdy at Benghazi Hearing #3

I'm normally a 'plague on both your houses' guy when it comes to the U.S. Congress, but I have to say that the Democrat side won hands down at the third hearing of the House Select Committee on the 2012 attack in Benghazi.

There was not much reason for Chairman Trey Gowdy (Hysteric - SC) to call the hearing in the first place. He had only two witnesses, one of whom - the Congressional liaison from CIA - was asked almost nothing, and the other of whom - Congressional liaison from the State Department - served as Gowdy's whipping boy for Hillary Clinton.

Gowdy sang his usual aria of outrage for an opening statement, accusing Hillary State of stonewalling the Committee's requests for more and more documents and witnesses, but that fell flat very quickly when the Democratic senior member pointed out the Committee had waited from May to November before making its first request.

Elijah Cummings (D-MD):
Rather than blaming Federal agencies, we should acknowledge that the reason for the delay lies in the Committee's own actions. The committee waited six months before sending its first request for new documents. Six months. It took the Committee almost a month longer to request witness interviews from the State Department.

Who is stonewalling whom?

The hearing then devolved into accusations of Gowdy's one-sided management of the Committee's business. He has not convened an organizational meeting or created Committee rules, has given no notice to the minority side when the majority interviewed witnesses in private, and allegedly misrepresented to the minority what those witnesses said. He has ignored the Justice Department's concerns that witness testimony could effect its ongoing investigation and even denied, during his flaying of the whipping boy, that Justice has any such concerns. And, he has issued an open-ended request for "all" State Department documents without specifying particular topics, or dates, or facts in contention, or people other than Hillary "seventh floor principals", with the result that no number of documents State can produce will even be enough.

Representative Linda Sánchez (D-Cal) spanked Gowdy good and hard starting at the 54 minute mark of the video above. First, she produced a letter from Justice stating its concerns about witness testimony. Second, she credibly accused Gowdy of withholding witness statements that contradicted his narrative of State Department conspiracies to destroy evidence. Third, she summed up the inanity of holding yet another investigation of the Benghazi attack after eight previous Congressional investigations have found nothing.
Eight months later, our Committee still lacks that scope, transparency, and more than ever the credibility. Now, more than ever, I'm convinced that my colleagues on the other side of the aisle are in search of this mythical creature, this Unicorn, and the Unicorn being some kind of nefarious conspiracy and that nefarious conspiracy they're looking for does not in fact exist.

The Unicorn of conspiracy may be mythical, but the political reason for holding Committee hearings through 2015 is quite real, and obvious. Once Hillary announces - if in fact she does - she will have to overcome her disastrous 'what difference does it make' outburst at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing in 2013. Benghazi issues, both real and fictitious, will do major political damage to her campaign.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Most Eyebrow-Raising Headline of the Week

"Selfies on stolen iPad helps lead to suspects' arrests" - ABC Eyewitness News Houston

"They are not very bright crooks," said Harris County Pct 1 Constable Alan Rosen ... they "didn't know what iCloud is."

Friday, January 16, 2015

Most Eyebrow-Raising Headline of the Week

"Mother reports her son missing 20 YEARS after he left to follow the Grateful Dead" - UK Daily Mail

A Week That Began In Tragedy Ends In Farce

Ladies and Gentlemen, that actually happened, and we let it happen.

President Obama has said “I want the people of France to know that the United States stands with you today, stands with you tomorrow.”

“We” stand with the people of France but Obama, personally, did not. He said that during a speech in Tennessee.

So, today SecState Kerry went to Paris and did an apology tour (see his remarks here), which he began with some highly awkward hugging and ended by having an ancient hippie - “a good friend from Massachusetts” - sing three minutes of elevator music.

Just call out my name
And you know wherever I am
I'll come running
Unless I’m spending a relaxing day at home watching football on TV

Maybe Obama now wishes he had TIVO’d that game.

And maybe the French should now respond by sending us Taylor's contemporary, Carole King, to sing It’s Too Late.

But really, we don’t need to send any of our singers to France. The French people can sing just fine for themselves. This is what the Members of Parliament sang after they observed a minute of silence for the victims of the Charlie Hebdo massacre:

The Marseillaise ends with a line about making the impure blood of the invaders water the fields of France. That sentiment suits the occasion better than anything that ever came from James Taylor.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Fraudulent Document Training For Icelandic Airlines Pays Off

Iceland's catch of the day (State Dept. photo)

Here's a good-news story, and we can use one now, coming as it does after a week of news about returning jihad volunteers committing atrocities in France and their cleanskin accomplices crossing borders with the greatest of ease.

The U.S. government provides training in fraudulent document detection to foreign air carrier personnel, and this week it got an immediate return on that training. According to a State Department press release this afternoon, Embassy Training for Airline Personnel Yields Rapid Results in Reykjavik: Fraud Suspect Busted with Altered Passport:
Just one day after receiving U.S. Embassy-sponsored training in detecting fraudulent travel documents, an Icelandair ticket agent in Reykjavik, Iceland identified a suspicious traveler with an illicit passport and took action that prevented the imposter from flying to North America.

Elvar, the ticket agent, was among some two dozen staffers of airlines and security firms operating at Keflavik International Airport in Reykjavik who had received the training the previous day from Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Customs and Border Protection (CBP) personnel.

"Elvar." That's a good Viking name if I've ever heard one.
The CLP [Carrier Liaison Program, see this] session in Reykjavik came after months of planning by the U.S. Embassy’s regional security officer (RSO), a former U.S. Border Patrol agent himself. The RSO notes that there was good reason to bring the training to Keflavik.

“Iceland is fast becoming a significant transit point for travelers flying to Canada and the United States,” he says.

The number of passengers transiting Iceland grew by nearly 20 percent in the first eight months of 2014 compared to the same period last year. Airlines departing Keflavik International Airport currently serve nine U.S. cities. By the summer of 2015, those airlines will provide scheduled passenger service from Reykjavik to a total of 14 major U.S. cities.

-- snip --

Following the airline’s security protocol, the ticket agent allowed the passenger to check in, but alerted the Icelandic Border Police, who arrested the passenger at a departure checkpoint. Icelandic Border Police subsequently determined that the suspicious passenger was a Georgian national traveling on a bona fide Israeli passport, with an altered bio-page. The traveler’s intended destination was Edmonton, Canada.

Now, that was some tax money well spent.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Most Eyebrow-Raising Headline of the Week

"Reptile store owner hit employees with bearded dragon, deputies say" - Sun-Sentinel

Siegel is accused of placing a bearded dragon lizard in his mouth, throwing it, swinging it in the air and using it to strike the victims 

In October 2012, Siegel held a cockroach-eating contest at the store. The winner, 32-year-old Edward Archbold, died after choking to death on bug parts and his vomit.

Court records show that Siegel also faces a cocaine possession charge from a Dec. 24, 2014, arrest.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Design Contract Awarded for New Consulate General Matamoros

The river (creek? puddle?) separates Matamoros, Mexico, from Texas

Well, I'm happy to see that the press release about a new Consulate complex for Matamoros got released after all. Sure enough, U.S. Consulate General Matamoros will get a new office building around the same time that CG Nuevo Laredo does.
The Department of State’s Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations (OBO) has awarded a contract to Richärd+Bauer of Phoenix, Arizona as the design architect for the new U.S. Consulate General in Matamoros, Mexico. Richärd+Bauer will develop the schematic design for the new facility.

The multi-building complex will be situated on an eight-acre site in the central district neighborhood of Jardin, and will include an office building, U.S. Marine Security Guard residence, a support annex, utility building, and facilities for the Consulate community. A design/build construction award for the project, to complete the design and build the facility, is anticipated in fiscal year 2015.

The U.S. has had continuous consular operations in Matamoros since the 1830s. The city itself has a wild history, playing key roles in both the Mexican Revolution (1826) and the Texas Revolution (1836), after which it declared itself an international free trade zone, leading to boom years when it was the only open port serving the Confederate States of America during the American Civil War.

Matamoros, like Brownsville, is one of the most dangerous towns on the border, and the Consulate regularly sends out warnings about things like on-going gun battles. Check out CG Matamoros' twitter feed and marvel at the pace of gunfire and kidnappings going on just south of the border.

I don't know whether a new Fortress Embassy will help that security environment much, but it couldn't hurt.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

New Fortress Consulate (Consulates?) On the Mexican Border

It's all just across that borderline

My good friends at the Office of Overseas Buildings Operations announced yesterday that they have awarded a design / build contract for a new borderline diplomatic facility - I mean, a diplomatic facility to be built on the U.S.-Mexican border - in fact, right smack on the border at U.S. Consulate General Nuevo Laredo:
The Department of State’s Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations (OBO) announces the design/build construction award for a new U.S. Consulate General in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico to B.L. Harbert, International of Birmingham, Alabama.

The project will provide a new 5.6-acre Consulate campus just south of downtown Nuevo Laredo, on Paseo Colon. The campus will include a Consulate, a U.S. Marine Security Guard residence, a support annex, and facilities for the Consulate community. Ground breaking for the project is expected in early 2015, and completion of the project is anticipated in fiscal year 2017.

The Department sent out a second press release yesterday about yet another contract award, this one for a new Consulate General in Matamoros. However, by today that notice had disappeared from the page of January 2015 press releases. Presumably it was sent prematurely and then recalled (?). Anyway, I do hope the Department was not confused about which Mexican border post is which.

I always find the image of that borderline so haunting. The only song that does it justice is this one, performed here in a very nice Tejano style.

There are a few more verses to the song, but the last bits are rarely performed. The full lyrics are here, including the lines in Spanish ("en la triste oscuridad ...") and this one: "but hope remains when pride is gone, and it keeps you moving on ..." Written by a gringo, by the way.

That song is just plain one of the most moving ones I've ever heard.