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Ruth King

Haley: Russian Nerve Agent in UK Harbinger of ‘Frightening New Reality’ By Bridget Johnson

UN Ambassador Nikki Haley warned at a UN Security Council briefing on the nerve agent attack in the UK that “we are rapidly confronting a frightening new reality — if chemical weapons can appear in a small English town, where might they start appearing next?”

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) Report on the Attack in Salisbury confirmed the British conclusion that the “high purity” nerve agent used in the attack was Russian Novichok. The UK says it was delivered in liquid form; one of the highest concentrations investigators has found was on Sergei Skripal’s front door handle.

Skripal, a former Russian spy who fed intelligence to the Brits from 1995 to 2004 and was sent to the UK in a spy exchange in 2010, and his daughter Yulia collapsed March 4 at a shopping center in Salisbury. The first police officer on scene, Nick Bailey, was hospitalized in serious condition and later released. A restaurant and a pub in the center tested positive for traces of the nerve agent.

“Last week, the Council met five times to discuss the chemical weapons attack in Douma. Today, we are here yet again talking about chemical weapons. This time, it’s about a military grade nerve agent used against two people on British soil. In the constant push of meeting after meeting here in this chamber, it’s easy to lose track of what this means,” Haley said at the UNSC meeting.

About That IRS Computer Crash The Obama tax man blames you because his e-filing system failed.

Someone at the Internal Revenue Service seems to have kicked a plug out of the wall on Tuesday: The agency’s computer system tanked on, of all days, tax filing deadline day. Thus arrived an irresistible metaphor for government incompetence, albeit with the perennial calls for more funding.

Many taxpayers arrived at the IRS website on Tuesday prepared to sign away significant portions of their income. According to news stories, a message greeted them that the IRS website had a “planned outage” from April 17, 2018 to “December 31, 9999.” Should we check back in the morning or afternoon?

The agency said it “encountered system issues” and extended the filing deadline by a day, which is nice. But collecting revenue is the purpose of this bureaucracy. This debacle is like having an aircraft carrier that can’t move off the docks when a war starts.

On cue came the armada blaming budget cuts. Former IRS Commissioner John Koskinen lectured that he knew a system failure was coming without more money. It seems lost on Mr. Koskinen that this failure is an indictment of his leadership. The IRS budget has decreased by about 9% in nominal terms since 2010. But the IRS has $11 billion to play with in 2018, which is presumably enough to keep the computers working on the most important day of the year.

But the agency hasn’t addressed some of its own manifold problems, and the House has held hearings detailing the dysfunction. One problem, surprise, has been updating information technology.

A Treasury Department Inspector General last fall told Congress: “The IRS’s reliance on legacy (i.e., older) systems, aged hardware, and outdated programming languages pose significant risks to the IRS’s ability to deliver its mission. Modernizing the IRS’s computer systems has been a persistent challenge for several decades and will likely remain a challenge for the foreseeable future.”

Congress and the Special Counsel Trump shouldn’t fire Mueller, but a Senate bill to shield him is unconstitutional.

While Donald Trump’s allies hope he won’t fire special counsel Robert Mueller and his opponents pray he will, each side recognizes it would jeopardize his Presidency. But Congress would compound the damage if it passes legislation aimed at curtailing Mr. Trump’s right as head of the executive branch to do so.

Last week a bipartisan group of Senators including Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.), Thom Tillis (R., N.C.), Christopher Coons (D., Del.) and Cory Booker (D., N.J.) introduced the Special Counsel Independence and Integrity Act. The bill would codify that the special counsel can be fired only by a senior Justice Department official for cause. If Mr. Mueller were fired, he would have 10 days to appeal to a panel of three judges.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday he won’t bring the bill up for a vote, and Democrats are howling. But the bill is bad government and unconstitutional. As the late Justice Antonin Scalia noted in his famous dissent in Morrison v. Olson, giving another branch a say in a decision about what is properly an executive branch power threatens the separation of powers that is at the heart of American liberty.

Scalia was writing about the independent counsel law, which Congress has since let expire. The special counsel provisions that took its place are more modest and technically under Justice Department supervision. But to the degree he is insulated from accountability to the leader of the executive branch, a special counsel still often leads to mischief and excess.

Who Needs a Secretary of State? Democrats are now trying to block even Trump’s security cabinet.

Senate Democrats have stalled nearly every Trump nominee in government, but their growing opposition to Mike Pompeo as Secretary of State suggests they don’t want the President to have even his top national security officials. Their new standard seems to be that any nominee who agrees with the elected President is disqualified.

“I don’t want a Secretary of State who is going to exacerbate the [sic] President Trump’s tendencies to oppose diplomacy,” Democratic Senator Tim Kaine (D., Va.) told CBS’s Face the Nation on Sunday. He cited Mr. Pompeo’s opposition to Barack Obama’s nuclear deal with Tehran and his support for “regime change,” although moderator Margaret Brennan didn’t let him finish that thought.

Mr. Kaine may recall that Donald Trump campaigned and won while opposing the Iran nuclear deal, and if Mr. Kaine is still sore about the outcome he should have told his running mate to campaign in Wisconsin. As for regime change, that isn’t Mr. Trump’s policy as far as we can tell, though does Mr. Kaine think the world is better with a regime in Iran that spreads terror around the world?

California Democrat Dianne Feinstein attributes her come-lately opposition to Mr. Pompeo’s allegedly undiplomatic statements about “Muslims and the LGBT community.” She doesn’t like that Mr. Pompeo supports traditional marriage. This has nothing to do with rallying allies to support a containment strategy for Iran, though it might relate to her Senate primary challenge from the left this year.

Sens. Feinstein and Kaine and 12 other Democrats voted to confirm Mr. Pompeo as CIA director—he was confirmed 66-32—perhaps because he’s so well qualified. Mr. Pompeo is a West Point and Harvard Law graduate who served three terms in Congress, and along with fellow Republican Tom Cotton unearthed the Obama Administration’s secret side deals with Tehran. He has invigorated the CIA clandestine service, tried to give Mr. Trump options on North Korea, and has gained the President’s trust. With Rex Tillerson out at State, Mr. Trump said Wednesday he had already dispatched Mr. Pompeo to conduct diplomacy with Kim Jong Un in Pyongyang.

After The Inspector General Report, Questions Grow Over The Lack Of A Criminal Referral For McCabe :Jonathan Turley

Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz has released his watchdog report on the conduct of former Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe and it is scathing. As I discussed in an earlier column, McCabe took the unprecedented step of a top former FBI officer of asking for donations on GoFundMe and racked in more than half a million dollars. He notably raised the money and then closed the site not long before the release of the report showing that he repeatedly made false statements to investigators as well as Comey. It was like creating a victim fund before police concludes whether you were attacked or the attacker. Horowitz did not convey any doubt as to McCabe being the culprit. He and his career staff found that McCabe not only lied but did so to advance his personal — the public’s — interest. If that is the case, it only magnifies the concerns over the treatment of McCabe as opposed to the Trump officials (like Michael Flynn) who he once investigated. The fact that he had the audacity to raise a half million dollars before the facts were made public only heightens these concerns.

At issue is the leak to The Wall Street Journal about an FBI probe of the Clinton Foundation.

Notably, the report itself belies the allegation of McCabe that he was victim of a witch hunt loyalists. Not only was Horowitz an Obama appointee but his staff were all career officials. More importantly, the report confirms that opened this review a week before Trump was sworn in. It preceded and had no connection to Mueller.

The report takes apart McCabe’s spin with clinical precision. It found that McCabe, 50, lied or misled investigators on not one but four occasions. It also found that these lies were clearly meant to help McCabe alone. McCabe said that he had full authority to make the disclosures. The IG found no evidence to support those claims. It also found that there was no evidence that then FBI Director James Comey was informed by McCabe. The IG states:

New Polls Undermine Forecast Of Blue Wave In Midterms A trove of new polling shows the once-formidable lead Democrats had in the generic congressional ballot is nearly gone. By Julie Kelly

Since Jon Ossoff nearly snatched away a safe Republican congressional seat in suburban Atlanta last summer, Democrats have been certain a “Blue Wave” midterm election is coming.

Democrats are hyping every electoral pickup—an Alabama Senate seat, a close Pennsylvania congressional race, a Wisconsin supreme court justice—as proof that American voters are repelled by President Trump and will return them to power this November. A special counsel, an onscreen prostitute, and a rabid niche of anti-Trump Republicans are helping boost those prospects.

The tide seems even more favorable for Democrats as a record number of incumbent Republicans, including the speaker of the House, will not run for re-election. But less than seven months out, a strong undercurrent is pulling the Blue Wave out to political sea. A trove of new polling shows the once-formidable lead Democrats had in the generic congressional ballot is nearly gone.

Wedge issues, such as gun control and immigration, are not working in Democrats’ favor. In fact, thanks to Trump even independent voters believe Democrats are using the children of illegal immigrants for political purposes rather than legitimately protecting their welfare. Although Trump’s job approval ratings remain underwater among Democrats and Independents, voters give him props for a number of achievements, not the least of which is a strong economy, proving it is politically possible to dislike a man but like what he does.
Let’s Look at Those Polls in Greater Depth

Hillary Clinton’s Judges Destroy Attorney Client Privilege What are a few civil rights violations between friends? Daniel Greenfield

Hillary Clinton picked Judge Kimba Wood to be her husband’s Attorney General. According to various accounts from the period, Hillary was looking for someone “loyal” who would allow her to stack the Justice Department with her own political allies. It was still early in the game, but Hillary had always been Bill’s main plumber and she was anticipating all of the Clinton scandals that were yet to come.

Hillary had interviewed Kimba Wood for twice as long as her husband did. But the Clintons had also been allegedly encouraged to pick Wood by Michael Kramer who had been Time’s chief political correspondent and the judge’s husband. After interviewing Bill for Time’s fawning Man of the Year piece, he allegedly suggested that the President of the United States make his wife his Attorney General.

But even though Kramer had compared Bill Clinton to Lincoln and FDR, it was not to be. Between Wood’s employment of an illegal alien and her past as a Playboy bunny, it was all over. Kimba Wood, whose “rectitude” the media never stopped praising, went on to be involved in a sleazy scandal. She became known as the “Love Judge” for her role in her current husband’s affair. She filed for divorce accusing her former husband of withholding sex. Rectitude doesn’t get more old-fashioned than this.

“Wood is universally described as a woman of almost old-fashioned rectitude” (New York Magazine) and “Kimba Wood’s rectitude is something between a legend” (Detroit Free Press).

How to Rein In Student Mobs By Kyle Smith

At NYU, administrators threatened the protesters’ financial aid, and the woke warriors went back to their rooms.

Spare a thought for those knights of social justice, the student protesters. Motivated by the yearning for a better world, they sacrifice their time and energy in service to their ideals. They display courage, stamina, determination, and creativity in coming up with rhymes in their chants.

Except if you tell them they’re jeopardizing their financial aid or their housing. Then they fold immediately.

The extent of student fortitude was mapped out in a natural experiment conducted at New York University last week, when students vowed to occupy a student center around the clock (it normally closes at 11 p.m.) until their demands for a meeting with the board of trustees were met. A photo in the Village Voice showed seated students blocking access by taking up most of the space on a stairway. The underlying ideals appeared to be the usual dog’s breakfast of progressive fancies — something about divesting from fossil fuels, and also allegations of unfair labor practices.

NYU administrators showed little patience for the activists disrupting the proceedings at the Kimmel Center for University Life. But how to dissolve the protest? It turned out that there was no need to bring in the police. Ringing up the students’ parents was all it took. The phone calls advised parents that students who interfered with campus functions could be suspended, and that suspensions can carry penalties of revoked financial aid or housing. The students “initially planned to stay indefinitely,” notes the Voice’s report. “Instead, the students departed within forty hours.”

So the intended public display of solidarity with the oppressed classes and the besieged earth itself ended meekly. It was like the thrilling climax of Spartacus as reimagined by the writers of Veep: “I’M SPARTA — wait, what? Do I like my one-bedroom with eat-in-kitchen in Greenwich Village? Why do you ask?”

Hamas “Press Office”: Truth Finishes Last by Bassam Tawil

Finally, the Hamas “Press Office” instructed Palestinian journalists to focus on the “humanization” of the stories of the Palestinians who are killed or injured during the mass demonstrations. Translation: If the “victim” is a Hamas terrorist, the journalists are to avoid mentioning that and instead report about his having been a beloved husband, father and community member.

Aren’t Fatah and Abbas receiving financial aid from the US and EU because of their presumed support for a peace process with Israel? Why should the Americans and Europeans be supporting a Palestinian faction whose journalists openly incite against their Israeli colleagues?

Three weeks after the beginning of the mass demonstrations along the border between the Gaza Strip and Israel, which are being held as part of the so-called “March of Return,” Hamas is trying to intimidate journalists into covering the events in a way that distorts the truth and reality.

Hamas, one of several Palestinian groups responsible for the anti-Israel demonstrations, does not want the world to see pictures of Palestinians throwing stones, firebombs and explosive devices at Israeli soldiers.

Hamas does not want journalists to use the words “clashes” and “confrontations” when reporting about the demonstrations.

Hamas does not want journalists to report the fact that some of the demonstrators killed during the “March of Return” were actually members of its armed group, Izaddin Al-Qassam.

In other words, Hamas wants journalists to report as if they were working for its propaganda machine. Any journalist who dares to challenge the Hamas narrative is denounced as a “traitor” and punished.

To ensure that Palestinian journalists comply with its wishes, Hamas’s “Press Office” earlier this week issued directives to reporters as to how they should cover the “March of Return.”

Let Turkish Scholars Speak: See What Islamism Is About by Burak Bekdil

In a 2016 fatwa, the Directorate of Religious Affairs (Diyanet), Turkey’s highest religious authority, ruled that it was not forbidden in Islam if a father felt lust for his own daughter “on condition that the daughter is older than nine.”

According to celebrity Islamist scholar Nureddin Yıldız, Allah allows men to beat their wives not to torture them or hurt them but only to relax.

Yıldız’s sermon on “what would the ummah lose if women work” is a must-read piece to understand the typical Islamist thinking on gender equality, family and tribal ambitions to grow still more numerous.

The word ulama in its Arabic context denotes scholars of almost all disciplines. In the context of Sunni Islam, however, ulama are regarded as “the guardians, transmitters and interpreters of religious knowledge.” With the rise of Islamism as the dominant, state-sponsored ideology, the Turkish ulama have gained prominence: talk shows, books, newspaper columns, sermons and fatwas come in abundance. Devout Turks take them seriously. Secular Turks often mock them. Yet the Turkish ulama provide a rich context for those who want to understand Islamic piety as interpreted by religious scholars.

Now, according to the Global Gender Gap Report published by the World Economic Forum, Turkey ranks 130th among 144 countries measured. This embarrassing score does not go without good reason. Ironically, women’s rights marchers in Ankara were met with tear gas and arrests on March 5 as they gathered for a protest ahead of International Women’s Day (March 8). After the marchers ignored calls to disperse, Turkish riot police fired tear gas and detained about 15 women. That was how Turkish women “celebrated” Women’s Day.

Child abuse is also increasingly visible in Muslim Turkey. According to the Turkish Statistical Institute, the number of child sexual abuse cases–- just those actually reported to law enforcement — rose from over 11,000 in 2014 to nearly 17,000 in 2016. Experts say of course that many more cases are not reported.