Hamas’s big plan disrupted

In an update providing the necessary context to Israel’s rejection of a ceasefire at this stage of its offensive in Gaza, The Israel Project‘s Omri Ceren writes:

Leaks have begun to trickle out on what Israeli interogators are learning from captured Hamas fighters. One plot in particular is getting overwhelming attention.

Hamas was apparently a few months away from conducting a mass attack on Israeli civilians during the upcoming Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashana, on September 24. The raid would have been like something out of a movie: hundreds of heavily-armed Hamas fighters would have emerged from over a dozen underground tunnels in the dead of night, jogged 10 minutes to their targets, and then infiltrated a set of lightly-populated and lightly-guarded Israeli communities. Casualties could have reached the thousands, and some of the victims would have been taken back alive as hostages.

The offensive attack tunnels seem to quite literally have been built for this kind of purpose. The IDF recently published a map of how they were dug to spill out on both sides of nearby communities (https://pbs.twimg.com/media/BtYjL4mCAAAI6c6.png). Israeli soldiers have been reporting that just inside some of the tunnels were storage units filled with tranquilizers, handcuffs, ropes, and so on.

The reports on this are mostly in Hebrew right now (the original one is here if you want it: http://www.nrg.co.il/online/1/ART2/600/825.html?hp=1&cat=875&loc=1). There are bits and pieces are getting translated on blogs and in think tank bulletins. The Gatestone Institute’s Lawrence Franklin has the best English-language I’ve seen so far, and I’ve pasted it below.

If the reports are confirmed, there are some immediate adjustments that analysts, journalists, and diplomats will all but certainly make:

(1) A ceasefire without at least the destruction of Hamas’s tunnel network would likely becomes a non-starter. It would be militarily untenable – and probably politically impossible – for Israeli leaders to accept anything less.

(2) The inevitable Israeli investigation into pre-conflict failures – and the Israelis always hold these, no matter how well things go – will have to take into account both how so many tunnels got built and why Israeli intelligence failed to crack the tunnel plot earlier. There’s a lot of focus right now on the former, but a lot of the digging and earth moving happened underground. It’s the latter debate, about sigint and humint, that has the potential to cost people careers.

(3) Confirmation of the plot would raise the stakes in the growing controversy over how human rights groups and diplomatic bodies pressured the Israelis into liberalizing restrictions on cement imports. Kilometers and kilometers of reinforced tunnels were being built deep into Israeli territory while Gaza-based offiicals railed against cement shortages. Some critics have already begun to name names, and the debate is already become very granular: TIP held a conference call yesterday in which one expert described how Hamas filled emptied UNRWA relief bags with dirt and then drove them away in UN-painted trucks, so that drones overhead saw what looked like a UN-sanctioned aid convoy.

(4) The public debate over the degree to which Operation Protective Edge was a “war of choice” for the Israelis would become constrained. A full-blown war would be seen as in some sense inevitable, with the only difference being whether it came before or after the Jewish High Holidays this fall.

More here. I thought that readers trying to understand the course of the war would find this information useful.

JOHN adds: Israel’s refusal to enter into a week-long cease-fire agreement also likely had something to do with this: REPORT: HAMAS MORALE COLLAPSING, TERRORISTS FLEE IDF:

The source added that in recent days, a recognizable wave of demoralization has washed over Hamas’s combat battalions. “They simply escape, leaving behind weapons and suicide bomb vests that were laid out for battle. This morning we stormed a position, and they just weren’t there. I don’t see a determined enemy. We have encountered stronger pockets of fighting in the past. But now, I would not give them a high grade for fighting spirit.”

Also this:

“The spirit of Hamas terrorists is weakening,” Southern Region Commander Maj. Gen. Sami Turgeman says. “I see terrorists in distress, abandoned by their commanders who deserted them at the front and stayed behind…and facing them, our reserve and standing army units led by commanders leading the force.”

Leading from behind! It doesn’t work for Hamas any better than it does for President Obama.

Ron Dermer does CNN

Israeli Ambassador to the United States Ron Dermer is of course working overtime to speak up for Israel during its present hostilities with Hamas. He went above and beyond the call of duty yesterday, listening to its coverage for two hours. Now that hurts.

Dermer noted that something was missing as CNN ran stories depicting the incident in which 16 people were allegedly killed in an airstrike on a Gaza school. Check this out.

The Washington Free Beacon posted the video along with this explanation:

Dermer reminded Burnett Hamas has been using schools, hospitals and other non-military installations as weapon depots.

“It would be a disservice to your viewers for a reporter from Gaza not to mention that in the last week we had two different UNRWA schools where we had actually rockets found in the schools and handed over to Hamas,” he said.

Dermer grew angrier when he mentioned he’d watched two hours of CNN and not heard a single reporter tell the viewers of this practice.

“I have not heard a single person say what I just said to you now, and I think that that does a disservice to your viewers to not give them the context they need to make these judgments,” he said. “Hamas is placing missile batteries in schools, in hospitals, in mosques, and there must be outrage by the world at Hamas to end this.”

The news without the context that Dermer supplied is something more akin to propaganda than news. In disseminating the propaganda CNN is a willing tool, which is a role that CNN has played before and has not yet tired of playing.

Hilarious Fail of the Week: Gruber Claims It Was a “Speak-O!”

As all the world now knows, Obamacare architect Jonathan Gruber is on video explaining that under the ACA, tax subsidies will only be available to individuals who enroll in state-created exchanges, and will not be available to those who participate in the federal exchange. In other words, the limitation of subsidies to state exchanges was a deliberate policy, intended to give states a major incentive to create exchanges, and not a “typo” as liberals are now claiming. Which, in turn, means that the Halbig majority was right.

So Jonathan Cohn contacted Gruber to ask him for a reaction to the now-famous video. Ed Morrissey quotes Gruber’s response:

I honestly don’t remember why I said that. I was speaking off-the-cuff. It was just a mistake. People make mistakes. Congress made a mistake drafting the law and I made a mistake talking about it.

During this era, at this time, the federal government was trying to encourage as many states as possible to set up their exchanges. …

At this time, there was also substantial uncertainty about whether the federal backstop would be ready on time for 2014. I might have been thinking that if the federal backstop wasn’t ready by 2014, and states hadn’t set up their own exchange, there was a risk that citizens couldn’t get the tax credits right away. …

But there was never any intention to literally withhold money, to withhold tax credits, from the states that didn’t take that step. That’s clear in the intent of the law and if you talk to anybody who worked on the law. My subsequent statement was just a speak-o—you know, like a typo.

If you have watched the video, this is ludicrous. Ed comments:

In order to believe that, though, you’d have to ignore the plain meaning of the question Gruber was asked, and the plain meaning of the answer he gave. Gruber explicitly identifies states balking at running exchanges as one of the three main threats to the success of ObamaCare, at the 28-minute mark in the full video…

Yes. Gruber’s comments are not exactly ambiguous:

Q: You mentioned the health implementation exchanges in the states, and it’s my understanding that if states don’t provide them, then the federal government will provide them. What do you say to that?

GRUBER: Yeah, so these health-insurance Exchanges, you can go on ma.healthconnector.org and see ours in Massachusetts, will be these new shopping places and they’ll be the place that people go to get their subsidies for health insurance. In the law, it says if the states don’t provide them, the federal backstop will. The federal government has been sort of slow in putting out its backstop, I think partly because they want to sort of squeeze the states to do it. I think what’s important to remember politically about this, is if you’re a state and you don’t set up an Exchange, that means your citizens don’t get their tax credits. But your citizens still pay the taxes that support this bill. So you’re essentially saying to your citizens, you’re going to pay all the taxes to help all the other states in the country. I hope that’s a blatant enough political reality that states will get their act together and realize there are billions of dollars at stake here in setting up these Exchanges, and that they’ll do it. But you know, once again, the politics can get ugly around this.

Also, per Glenn Reynolds, a second recording has emerged of Gruber saying the same thing o different occasion. Another speak-o!

Like so many things that liberals say, Gruber’s denial is not intended to persuade the intelligent, but rather to fool the ignorant.

But I want to make a broader point about the claim, advanced by large numbers of Democrats, that the operative language of the ACA–”established by the State under section 1311″–was a “typo.” This assertion is ridiculous on its face. If the statute was printed and came out looking like this–”established by the Stat under section 1311″–that would be a typo, and a court would read “state” for “stat.” But the absence of any reference to a federally-established exchange, while it could be a mistake, is not a typo.

The Democrats’ willingness to add language to a statute that is plainly not there is one more manifestation of their general lawlessness. If the rule of law means anything, it means that we are governed by what the law says. If bureaucrats (here, the IRS) decide that the law would be better if it said something different, and judges defer to the bureaucrats’ “interpretation” of the statute, we are no longer living under the rule of law. Instead, we are living under a regime of arbitrary decree by the political party in power. Sadly, it appears that almost all Democrats, and a very large number of Democratic judges, want exactly that sort of regime to prevail.

Obamacare architect explained intent behind allowing subsidies only on state exchanges

Jonathan Gruber, a professor at MIT, is widely is regarded as the architect of both Romneycare and Obamacare. Following the D.C. Circuit’s decision in Halbig, he asserted that the provision of Obamacare limiting subsidies to the state exchanges was a “typo.” Indeed, he found it “criminal” to suggest that Obamacare was intended to work this way.

But William Jacobson (via one of his readers) has unearthed video from 2012 in which Gruber explains why Obamacare limits subsidies to participants in state exchanges — the view of the statute he now finds “criminal.”

Gruber stated: “I think what’s important to remember politically about this is if you’re a state and you don’t set up an exchange, that means your citizens don’t get their tax credits.”

This, of course, is precisely what the D.C. Circuit concluded in Halbig.

Gruber’s use of the word “politically” is the key to understanding why Obamacare limits subsidies to state exchanges. As Gruber went on to explain in the 2012 talk, by limiting the subsidies, Congress put pressure on states to open exchanges so that their citizens will receive the subsidy benefit.

Are Gruber’s 2012 remarks legally significant? They should be because, as Jacobson says, they confirm that there is a solid rationale, of which Obamacare’s architects were well aware, that explains why Obamcare, by its unambiguous terms, limits subsidies to participants in state exchanges.

It is now quite untenable to argue that interpreting Obamacare in accordance with its plain language defeats the purpose of the law, much less that this interpretation renders the law absurd. To the contrary, as Gruber said, such an interpretation is entirely consistent with the “political” purpose of the law

As a practical matter, though, Gruber’s 2012 remarks may not be of much consequence. Liberal judges will not be moved by it; presumably, their determination not to sink Obamacare is absolute.

As for the judges who matter most — Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Kennedy — they already had all the information they would need to uphold the Halbig result. For them, I suspect, the question would be whether it is politic to pull the trigger.

JOHN adds: Lest anyone doubt Gruber’s role as a principal architect of Obamacare, check out this adoring profile in the New York Times of March 28, 2012, right around the time of the video:

After Mr. Gruber helped the administration put together the basic principles of the proposal, the White House lent him to Capitol Hill to help Congressional staff members draft the specifics of the legislation.

Explicating exchanges

Following up on Paul Mirengoff’s series of posts on the DC Circuit’s Halbig decision, I want to draw attention to Kim Strassel’s weekly Wall Street Journal column exploring “The Obamacare-IRS nexus” (behind the Journal’s subscription paywall but accessible via Google). Strassel exposes the role played by the IRS at the behest of the White House in promulgating regulations ignoring the limitation of Obamacare subsidies to exchanges established by states. Democrats had assumed that the limitation would be sufficient to coerce states into establishing Obamacare exchanges, but that the calculation behind the assumption failed. What happened next? Strassel writes:

[T]he White House was faced with the prospect that citizens in 36 states—two-thirds of the country—would be exposed to the full cost of ObamaCare’s overpriced insurance. The backlash would have been horrific, potentially forcing Democrats to reopen the law, or even costing President Obama re-election.

The White House viewed it as imperative, therefore, that IRS bureaucrats ignore the law’s text and come up with a politically helpful rule. The evidence shows that career officials at the IRS did indeed do as Treasury Department and Health and Human Services Department officials told them. This, despite the fact that the IRS is supposed to be insulated from political meddling.

We know this thanks to a largely overlooked joint investigation and February report by the House Oversight and Ways and Means committees into the history of the IRS subsidy rule. We know that in the late summer of 2010, after ObamaCare was signed into law, the IRS assembled a working group—made up of career IRS and Treasury employees—to develop regulations around ObamaCare subsidies. And we know that this working group initially decided to follow the text of the law. An early draft of its rule about subsidies explained that they were for “Exchanges established by the State.”

Yet in March 2011, Emily McMahon, the acting assistant secretary for tax policy at the Treasury Department (a political hire), saw a news article that noted a growing legal focus on the meaning of that text. She forwarded it to the working group, which in turn decided to elevate the issue—according to Congress’s report—to “senior IRS and Treasury officials.” The office of the IRS chief counsel—one of two positions appointed by the president—drafted a memo telling the group that it should read the text to mean that everyone, in every exchange, got subsidies. At some point between March 10 and March 15, 2011, the reference to “Exchanges established by the State” disappeared from the draft rule.

The February report cited by Strassel is accessible online here; Strassel’s column is must reading in its entirety.

Peter Suderman explores the same question in a post with the explanatory heading “Watch Obamacare architect Jonathan Gruber admit in 2012 that subsidies were limited to state-run exchanges.” Suderman includes a just-unearthed video of Gruber speaking to a technical management support organization as the law was being implemented. The relevant passage deep in the video shows Gruber explaining (emphasis added):

What’s important to remember politically about this is if you’re a state and you don’t set up an exchange, that means your citizens don’t get their tax credits—but your citizens still pay the taxes that support this bill. So you’re essentially saying [to] your citizens you’re going to pay all the taxes to help all the other states in the country. I hope that that’s a blatant enough political reality that states will get their act together and realize there are billions of dollars at stake here in setting up these exchanges. But, you know, once again the politics can get ugly around this.

In an update to his post — also must reading in its entirety — Suderman adds that Gruber was on MNSBC earlier this week to address the Halbig ruling. He was asked if the language limiting subsidies to state-run exchanges was a typo. His response: “It is unambiguous this is a typo. Literally every single person involved in the crafting of this law has said that it`s a typo, that they had no intention of excluding the federal states.”

The video below, forwarded by a reader this morning, usefully contrasts Gruber then and now. Lest there be any misunderstanding, Gruber was explaining the plain meaning of the statute then and he is lying now.

Thoughts from the ammo line

Our friend Ammo Grrrll is not out of ammo. Ammo Grrrll checks in this morning with THE CASE FOR MANDATORY NAMETAGS. She writes:

If you live long enough, eventually you will have difficulty remembering the names of anyone you haven’t known since grade school or aren’t currently married to. This usually begins about the time you get your first mailing from AARP (the Addled Attempting to Recognize People).

Babe Ruth just called everybody “Kid,” which is one approach. I often call people “Hon,” and, if you should land a PR job with the Obama Administration, you could call news anchors “Dude.”

Another approach is to just up and move to a new state, hypothetically, Arizona, and try hard not to meet any new people.

What you should NOT do is attempt to fake it. For one thing, people are stubbornly resistant to throwing you a life preserver. How many times have you been talking to someone you kinda sorta recognize but whose name you do not know and your wife or co-worker comes up to stand beside you, expecting an introduction? If she is a GOOD wife who knows you can only remember the names of ancient baseball players or obscure cowboy action actors from your childhood, she will put out her hand and say, “I’m Ammo Grrrll, nice to meet you.” And do you think the doofus will say his or her name back? Oh no, that would be too helpful.

Continuing the theme of faking it: It will also not behoove you to try to fish around for some clue. Sample scenario at a party:

Vaguely Familiar Person Who Seems to Know YOU: “Hey, Arnie, great to see you!”
You (Arnie): “Wow, yeah, how you been?”
VFP: “Fine.”
You (madly searching for clues): “How’s work?”
VFP: “Oh you know, same old, same old.”
You: “The family good?”
VFP: “You bet.”
You: “Well, I’ve got to get to the Post Office before the price of stamps changes. Whoa! Look at that hottie over there!”
VFP: “That’s my wife.”
You: “Sure, I knew that.”

It has long been my contention that it’s not what you don’t know in Life that hurts you the most, but what you know for sure that isn’t true. If you are doing a crossword puzzle and the clue is “an intrusive govt agency” in 4 letters, and you’re sure it’s OSHA, when it’s NLRB, you are going to be heading down the wrong path at full speed.

This happened to my mother several years ago. She was in her hometown mall with her adult grandson, Marc, a very proper, easily-embarrassed young man, when she ran into a woman she hadn’t seen for some time, who she was absolutely certain was a lady named Betty. The following conversation took place that has become legend in our family:

Lady: “Well, goodness gracious, you’re looking wonderful, Dorothy!”
Mom: “How sweet of you to say that! How’s your husband?”
Lady: (long pause) “He died three years ago. You were at the funeral.”
Mom: “Oh my goodness, I’m so sorry. I thought you were Betty B.”
Lady: “No, I’m Shirley S.”
Mom: (waiting for floor to open up) “Well, for Pete’s sake. I could have sworn…”
Marc: (sprinting away, blending into crowd. Grandma? What Grandma? I’ve never seen this woman in my life.)

I realize that in Minnesota you can’t even convince the electorate that an ID should be required to vote. One man, one vote is so yesterday. New motto: one felon, one illegal, 300 votes for Franken! But, I think with our aging Boomers, it would be very helpful to have mandatory nametags. Give us a sporting chance to avoid humiliation.

Earth to House Republicans: Don’t Blow It Now!

As long as Congress remains in session, there is a risk that Republicans may turn victory into defeat by making an ill-advised deal on immigration. In the House, a group of Republicans led by Kay Granger has produced a report that looks alarmingly like the Gang of Eight proposal. At National Review, the tireless Jeff Sessions explains why Republicans should avoid that course like the plague:

The border crisis is the direct and predictable result of the President’s sustained policies undermining America’s immigration laws. The President’s continued determination to carry out this nullification remains the singular obstacle in the way of restoring lawfulness. It is therefore odd that the House working group did not mention President Obama even once in their released findings. Indeed, they made no mention of the President’s threat of sweeping new executive actions. Multiple reports indicate that these imminent actions are likely to take the form of administrative amnesty and work permits for 5-6 million illegal immigrants. Any attempt at improving the border situation would be rendered utterly void if the President follows through on his dramatic nullification acts. How can Congress ignore this brewing constitutional crisis? In fact, granting the President new funds without tackling these orders would be an institutional surrender to the planned illegality.

Substantively, the group’s report represents a step backward:

The border security measures also raise concerns. The document calls for President Obama’s Department of Homeland Security to develop a ‘strategy’ and ‘plan’ to secure the border, which is less than what is actually required to do under current law. Meanwhile, it omits any discussion of restoring collapsed interior enforcement.

But it is Sessions’ ringing conclusion that should be read by every American:

Finally, it is curious that the proposal makes no mention of the needs of Americans. Yes, this is a humanitarian crisis. But it is also a legal crisis. And so too is it a crisis for the American people who have begged and pleaded for a lawful system of immigration that serves their interests, protects their jobs, and increases their wages. Republicans should not be timid or apologetic, but present a bold defense of the American people. The House GOP has so far been the last bulwark protecting working Americans; it would be tragic for that defense to buckle in the closing days of this Congress.

The great danger, of course, is that the House might pass something that would lead to a conference committee with the Senate that would revive the Gang of Eight’s bill. I don’t think that will happen, but with Congressional Republicans, you never know.