By Alan Caruba
The resistance to Obamacare is writing a new chapter in U.S. history. It may well become the most unpopular law since Prohibition became an Amendment to the Constitution in 1919. By 1933, another Amendment repealed it.
Obamacare passed by a straight Democratic party vote on Christmas Eve in 2009. No Republican voted for it and, as one poll recently revealed, a third of Americans are still unaware it is the law of the land. A divided Supreme Court gave it a pass, calling it a tax, but it is a profoundly unconstitutional law insofar as the federal government may not pass a law that requires Americans to purchase something and to fine them if they do not. It is also playing havoc with the economy, delaying recovery as it deters hiring and encourages firing.
Nonetheless, a number of states have gone on record seeking to nullify its enforcement and some are doing the same as regards gun control. Arizona became famous when it passed its own immigration law in response to the federal government’s failure to protect its border with Mexico. The proposed “Gang of Eight” immigration law is facing stiff opposition for its various provisions, most of which do not address the central issue of security on the southern border.
How out of touch is the President? He went to Mexico and blamed the violence arising from its drug cartels on America, saying “Most of the guns used here to commit violence came from America.” He made no mention of the scandalous “Fast and Furious” scheme in which the ATF actually ran guns into Mexico, claiming they would track them. It took an executive order to throw a blanket of silence over it and a compliant media to ignore that scandal.
It is, however, Obamacare that poses the greatest threat to the nation, intruding on the patient-doctor relationship, robbing billions from Medicare to pay for it, requiring states to fund more Medicaid when many are strapped to meet other needs, and putting 16% of the nation’s economy under federal control.
A total of twenty-seven states have filed suit against Obamacare. Two federal judges have upheld its individual mandate to purchase health insurance and two others have ruled that it is unconstitutional.
Twelve states have introduced versions of the Federal Health Care Nullification Act that was drafted by the Tenth Amendment Center. They include Texas, Montana, Wyoming, Oregon, Alabama, and Maine. All declare that Obamacare is “hereby declared to be invalid, shall not be recognized, is specifically rejected, and shall be considered null and void and of no effect.”
In South Carolina, on May 1st, the state House passed a bill that declares the bill null and void and goes a step further, criminalizing its implementation. Earlier Governor Nikki Haley, in her state of the state address, said that South Carolina does not want and cannot afford Obamacare, saying of the President’s namesake, “not now, not ever.”
The following day, Kansas Governor Sam Brownback sent a letter in response to Attorney General Eric Holder’s opposition to its Second Amendment Protection Act, declaring it unconstitutional; essentially tell him to piss off. “The people of Kansas,” said the Governor, “have clearly expressed their sovereign will.” The same day, Missouri passed a comparable law protecting the Second Amendment.
Not since the years leading up to the Civil War was kicked off on December 20, 1860 when South Carolina voted for secession, has there been such open resistance to the mandates of the federal government by the states on a range of issues. Earlier, in 1832, President Andrew Jackson had threatened to send troops to South Carolina to enforce federal laws.
Nullification, however, will not succeed as a means to rid the nation of Obamacare. To Obama’s dismay, his gun control law failed in Congress when even members of his party joined in voting against it. The fate of immigration reform remains unknown but it will come to a vote soon enough.
The reason why nullification will fail is embedded in the Constitution. The Supremacy Clause states “This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the land; and the judges in every State shall be found thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary, notwithstanding.”
That has not discouraged the legislatures of many states from expressing their opposition to Obamacare, intrusions on the Second Amendment right of citizens to bear arms, and to demand the federal government enforce the laws regarding its borders.
There isn’t a constitutional scholar that does not support the Supremacy Clause. The Heritage Foundation has a policy paper on the subject of nullification that says “there is no clause or implied power in either the national or the various state constitutions that enables states to veto federal laws unilaterally.”
The states, though, can express their displeasure and their opposition to federal laws and that is what lies at the heart of the spate of nullification laws that have been passed. As sovereign republics, the states can and do express themselves and, through their elected Senators and Representatives, have the power in concert to repeal obnoxious and injurious federal laws.
That will be the fate of Obamacare.
© Alan Caruba, 2013
Royal Dutch Shell plc (Shell) today announces a final investment decision in the Stones ultra-deepwater project, a Gulf of Mexico oil and gas development expected to host the deepest production facility in the world.
This decision sets in motion the construction and fabrication of a floating production, storage, and offloading (FPSO) vessel and subsea infrastructure. The development will start with two subsea production wells tied back to the FPSO vessel, followed later by six additional production wells. This first phase of development is expected to have annual peak production of 50,000 boe/d from more than 250 million boe of recoverable resources. The Stones field has significant upside potential and is estimated to contain over 2 billion boe of oil in place.
“This important investment demonstrates our ongoing commitment to usher in the next generation of deepwater developments, which will deliver more production growth in the Americas,” said John Hollowell, Executive Vice President for Deepwater, Shell Upstream Americas. “We will continue our leadership in safe, innovative deepwater operations to help meet the growing demand for energy in the US.”
The Stones field is located in 9,500 feet (2,896 meters) of water, approximately 200 miles (320 kilometers) southwest of New Orleans, Louisiana, and was discovered in 2005. The project encompasses eight US Federal Outer Continental Shelf lease blocks in the Gulf of Mexico’s Lower Tertiary geologic trend. Shell has been one of the pioneers in the Lower Tertiary, establishing first production in the play from its Perdido Development.
An FPSO design was selected to safely develop and produce this ultra-deepwater discovery, while addressing the relative lack of infrastructure, seabed complexity, and unique reservoir properties. With an FPSO, tankers will transport oil from the Stones FPSO to US refineries, and gas will be transported by pipeline.
The launch of the Stones development is a key milestone as Shell continues to grow deepwater exploration and development in the Gulf of Mexico, having made significant progress recently on the Mars-B development project with the arrival of the Olympus tension leg platform. Shell is also in the concept selection phase for the Appomattox and Vito discoveries in the Gulf of Mexico.
Shell holds 100% interest and will operate the Stones development.
Exxon Mobil Corporation is commencing development of the Julia oil field in the Gulf of Mexico, the oil giant announced yesterday in a press release.
Capital cost for the project, which is expected to begin oil production in 2016, is estimated to be more than $4 billion. The field was discovered in 2007 and is estimated to have nearly six billion barrels of resource in place.
“The development of Julia will provide a new source of domestic energy and well-paying jobs over the next several years,” said Neil W. Duffin, president of ExxonMobil Development Company. “Access to resources such as Julia will contribute to U.S. energy security for many years to come.”
The initial development phase is being designed for daily production of 34,000 barrels of oil and includes six wells with subsea tie-backs to the Jack & St. Malo production facility operated by Chevron U.S.A. Inc. Julia project front end engineering design has been completed and the engineering, procurement and construction contracts have been placed.
“Julia is one of the first large oil discoveries in the ultra-deepwater frontier of the Gulf of Mexico,” said Duffin. “This resource is located more than 30,000 feet below the ocean’s surface. Enhanced technologies will be deployed to ensure the safe and environmentally responsible development of this important energy resource.”
The Julia field comprises five leases in the ultra-deepwater Walker Ridge area of the Gulf of Mexico, 265 miles southwest of New Orleans. The blocks are WR-584, WR-627, WR-628, WR-540 and WR-583.
ExxonMobil, the operator, and Statoil Gulf of Mexico LLC each hold a 50 percent interest in the Julia unit.
Over the past decade, ExxonMobil has drilled 36 deepwater wells in the Gulf of Mexico in water ranging from 4,000 feet to 8,700 feet.
Shell has started drilling at Cebus prospect (GM-ES-4), the third well of the current four well exploration programme in the Guyane Maritime Permit (French Guiana), Northern Petroleum, which holds a stake in the permit, has announced.
The drilling operations are being conducted with the Stena Ice Max drillship.
Northern through holding 50 per cent of Northpet Investments Limited, owns a net 1.25 per cent interest in the offshore exploration licence ‘Guyane Maritime’. Northern is in partnership with Shell (Operator, holding 45 per cent), Total (25 per cent), Tullow Oil (27.5 per cent) and Wessex Exploration (also holding 1.25 per cent through owning the remaining 50 per cent interest in Northpet Investment Limited).
Keith Bush, Chief Operating Officer of Northern stated:
“This is a new, exciting opportunity for the joint venture to further establish the oil production potential in French Guiana. We look forward to the results of this well with great interest.”
The U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE), Noble Energy, Inc. and the Helix Well Containment Group (HWCG) announced Tuesday the successful completion of a full-scale deployment of critical well control equipment to assess Noble Energy’s ability to respond to a potential subsea blowout in the deepwater Gulf of Mexico.
BSEE Director James Watson confirmed that the HWCG capping stack deployed for the exercise met the pressurization requirements of the drill scenario, marking successful completion of the exercise.
The unannounced deployment drill, undertaken at the direction of BSEE, began April 30 to test the HWCG capping stack system – a 20-feet tall, 146,000-pound piece of equipment similar to the one that stopped the flow of oil from the Macondo well following the Deepwater Horizon explosion and oil spill in 2010. During this exercise, the capping stack was deployed in more than 5,000 feet of water in the Gulf of Mexico. Once on site, the system was lowered to a simulated well head (a pre-set parking pile) on the ocean floor, connected to the well head, and pressurized to 8,400 pounds per square inch.
“Deployment drill exercises like this one are essential to supporting President Obama’s commitment to the safe and responsible development of offshore resources,” said Director Watson. “BSEE continually works to ensure that the oil and natural gas industry is prepared and ready to respond with the most effective equipment and response systems.”
BSEE engineers, inspectors and oil spill response specialists are evaluating the deployment operations and identifying lessons learned as the bureau continues efforts to improve safety and environmental protection across the offshore oil and natural gas industry.
“The quick and effective response to a deepwater well containment incident, demonstrated during the drill, was enabled by collaborative communication and planning between the industry and regulatory agencies with a focus on solutions-based outcomes,” said John Lewis, senior vice president of Noble Energy. “BSEE, the U.S. Coast Guard, Louisiana Offshore Coordinator’s Office and Noble Energy brought unique perspectives together in a Unified Command structure to achieve a shared goal. Through excellent coordination within the Incident Command System structure that included elevating the Source Control Chief to report directly to Unified Command, the dedication of hundreds of people and activation of the HWCG rapid response system, all objectives were met.”
“HWCG’s ability to quickly and effectively respond to a call from Noble Energy and every operator in our consortium is made possible by a combination of the mutual aid agreement committed to by each consortium member and the contracts we have in place for equipment that is staffed and working in the Gulf each day,” said Roger Scheuermann, HWCG Commercial Director. “Mutual aid enables members to draw upon the collective technical expertise, assets and resources of the group in the event of an incident. Utilizing staffed and working vessels, drilling and production equipment helps ensure there is no down time for staffing or testing equipment readiness in a crisis situation.”
In accordance with the plan, all 15 member companies were activated for this incident through the HWCG notification system.
For the safety of personnel and equipment, a Unified Command comprised of BSEE, the US Coast Guard, Louisiana Oil Spill Coordinators Office and Noble Energy decided to temporarily hold operations May 2 and 3 due to rough weather over the Gulf of Mexico. The safety of personnel remained a top priority throughout the exercise.
Since the Deepwater Horizon tragedy in 2010, BSEE has worked to implement the most aggressive and comprehensive offshore oil and gas regulatory reforms in the nation’s history. This deepwater containment drill tested one critical component of enhanced drilling safety requirements.
Press Release, May 8, 2013: Source
Fincantieri, one of the largest shipbuilding groups in the world, is showing its strong commitment in the offshore market, not only through its new subsidiary VARD (previously known as STX OSV), but also by providing the market with the next generation of drillship: the “OVERDRILL design” which will put the drilling contractors in condition to drill to an overall max depth of 50.000ft.
The OVERDRILL design, which has been developed by Fincantieri in cooperation with Aker Solutions, incorporates perfectly Fincantieri Offshore’s mission to offer vessels born and designed around the drilling system, maximizing its integration with the hull. Aker Solutions has supported the development of the new Fincantieri Offshore’s design based on its experience as a supplier of high quality drilling equipment and services.
Compared to other ships of this category, the ones of OVERDRILL design will also feature an increased variable deck load capacity despite reduced overall dimensions. This represent an opportunity for the drilling contractors to evolve their current fleet with a new class of vessels, featuring a higher level of performance and efficiency at the same time, which can be further adapted to their specific requirements and operational attitudes.
The number of offshore wells currently account for about 15% of the global total. Although offshore drilling activities have been successfully going on for several decades, the current phase, with its move into ultra-deep waters, might be the start of a new era.
Commenting on the new design Mr. Giuseppe Coronella, EVP of Fincantieri Offshore, said: “The offshore drilling market is driven, on the one hand, by demand for traditional standard systems and, on the other, by ultra-deepwater exploration demanding innovative solutions. With support from Aker Solutions, Fincantieri has produced a rig design that provides solutions to both these needs”.
Mr. Thor Arne Håverstad, Head of drilling technologies at Aker Solutions, said: “Fincantieri Offshore’s expertise in vessel design combined with Aker Solutions’ knowledge of drilling technologies created a very powerful partnership, which made it possible to create the OVERDRILL design.”
The drilling package is designed to meet new requirement related to water depth and drilling length with upgraded capacities, such as increased well pressure (20k) and hook load (1500st).
OVERDRILL design will be presented during the Houston OTC of May 6-10, 2013.
- Saudis developed intelligence separately from Russia, which also warned the U.S. about the accused Boston bomber
- A letter to the Department of Homeland Security allegedly named Tsarnaev and three Pakistanis as potential jihadis worthy of U.S. investigation
- Red flags from Saudi Arabia to have included Tsarnaev’s name and information about a planned explosive attack on a major U.S. city
- Saudi foreign minister, national security chief both met with Obama in the oval office in early 2013The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia sent a written warning about accused Boston Marathon bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in 2012, long before pressure-cooker blasts killed three and injured hundreds, according to a senior Saudi government official with direct knowledge of the document.The Saudi warning, the official told MailOnline, was separate from the multiple red flags raised by Russian intelligence in 2011, and was based on human intelligence developed independently in Yemen.
Citing security concerns, the Saudi government also denied an entry visa to the elder Tsarnaev brother in December 2011, when he hoped to make a pilgrimage to Mecca, the source said. Tsarnaev’s plans to visit Saudi Arabia have not been previously disclosed.
The Saudis’ warning to the U.S. government was also shared with the British government. ‘It was very specific’ and warned that ‘something was going to happen in a major U.S. city,’ the Saudi official said during an extensive interview.
It ‘did name Tamerlan specifically,’ he added. The ‘government-to-government’ letter, which he said was sent to the Department of Homeland Security at the highest level, did not name Boston or suggest a date for his planned attack.
If true, the account will produce added pressure on the Homeland Security department and the White House to explain their collective inaction after similar warnings were offered about Tsarnaev by the Russian government.
A DHS official denied, however, that the agency received any such warning from Saudi intelligence about Tamerlan Tsarnaev.
‘DHS has no knowledge of any communication from the Saudi government regarding information on the suspects in the Boston Marathon Bombing prior to the attack,’ MailOnline learned from one Homeland Security official who declined to be named in this report.
The White House took a similar view. ‘We and other relevant U.S. government agencies have no record of such a letter being received,’ said Caitlin Hayden, a spokesperson for the president’s National Security Council.
The letter likely came to DHS via the Saudi Ministry of Interior, the agency tasked with protecting the Saudi kingdom’s homeland.
A Homeland Security official confirmed Tuesday evening on the condition of anonymity that the 2012 letter exists, saying he had heard of the Saudi communication before MailOnline inquired about it.
An aide to a Republican member of the House Homeland Security Committee speculated Tuesday about why the Obama administration contradicted the knowledgeable Saudi official.
‘It is possible the Department of Homeland Security received the information from the Saudi government but never passed it on to the White House,’ the GOP staffer said. ‘Communication between DHS and the White House’s national security apparatus isn’t always what it should be.’
‘I can easily see it happening where one hand didn’t know what the other was doing because of a turf war.’
‘Just like the different agencies in the Boston JTTF [Joint Terrorism Task Force] want credit for breaking the Tsarnaev case,’ the aide added, ‘they sometimes jealously guard the very intel they should be sharing the most freely. Sometimes it makes no sense at all.’
House Homeland Security Committee chairman Mike McCaul plans to announce on Wednesday an investigative hearing to probe what U.S. intelligence knew prior to the Boston attacks, two senior Republican sources told MailOnline.
Separately, President Obama announced Tuesday that the U.S. government will launch a wide-ranging inquiry into the sharing of information among the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Department of Homeland Security and other intelligence and law-enforcement agencies of the federal government.
‘We want to leave no stone unturned,’ the president said in a rare White House press conference.
The internal review will be led by Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and several inspectors general.
‘This is not an investigation,’ Clapper’s spokesman Shawn Turner said in a prepared statement. ‘This is an independent review of information-sharing procedures. It is limited to the handling of information related to the suspects prior to the attack.’
It is not yet clear whether information from Saudi Arabia will be involved in Clapper’s inter-agency review.
Utah Republican Rep. Jason Chaffetz appeared on CNN Tuesday afternoon, upbraiding the Obama administration for presuming that the federal government’s handling of intelligence prior to the Boston bombings was appropriate and effective.
‘As soon as the bombing happened we had officials, locally and from the feds, saying, “Oh, this was an isolated case, there was just one person involved.” We didn’t know that,’ Chaffetz said.
The ‘starting point’ for a federal investigation, he said, must be, ‘This is unacceptable, we will not stand for it, we will get to the bottom of it, and we will not rest until we figure it out.’
‘Mr. President,’ he said, addressing Obama, ‘the starting point should be an intolerance that this thing happened.’
The high-ranking Saudi official whom MailOnlne interviewed at length provided a wealth of detail about the warning he says his government sent to the United States. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to talk publicly about foreign intelligence, or about Saudi Arabia’s diplomatic relationship with the United States.
He suggested that the Saudi Ministry of Interior sent the letter out of an abundance of caution in order to be helpful to the United States, even though its intelligence on Tsarnaev wasn’t yet fully developed.
‘With Saudi Arabia it’s always code red,’ he said. ‘There’s no code orange, or code yellow. Always red.’
The Saudi government, he added, alerted the U.S. in part because it believed American authorities should be inspecting packages that came to Tsarnaev in the mail in order to search for bomb-making components.
The written warning also allegedly named three Pakistanis who may be of interest to British authorities. The official declined to provide more details about the warning to the UK, but said the two governments received the same information.
The Ministry of Interior, he said, sent the letters in 2012, likely after Tsarnaev returned from Russia to the United States in July.
President Barack Obama’s published schedule indicates that he met in the Oval Office with Prince Mohammed bin Naif bin Abdulaziz, the Saudi Interior minister, on January 14, 2013.
The Saudis denied Tsarnaev entry to the kingdom when he sought to travel to Mecca in December 2011 for a pilgrimage known as an Umrah – one that is undertaken during months that don’t fall within the regular Hajj period of the year.
That rejected application came one month before he traveled to Russia, where U.S. intelligence sources believe he acquired training enabling him to construct and detonate the bombs that he and his younger brother placed hear the Boston Marathon’s finish line.
The younger brother, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, is in federal custody at a prison medical facility.
The Saudi official speculated that Tsarnaev’s residence in the United States might have made it more difficult for him to gain entry into the kingdom.
‘U.S.-based Muslims who become radicalized and want to visit Mecca create an unusual problem,’ he said, compelling the Saudi government ‘to carefully examine applications.’
In the wake of the April 15 Boston Marathon bombings, Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal met with Secretary of State John Kerry on April 16, and then had an unscheduled meeting with President Obama on April 17.
‘This is the DNA of the Saudi government,’ said the Saudi official, referring to officials in the royal court in Riyadh. ‘This is how they work. They sent the letter, but that wasn’t enough. They then sent the top guy to meet personally with the president.’
He dismissed the idea that Tamerlan Tsarnaev was likely trained by al Qaeda while he was outside the United States last year.
The Saudis’ Yemen-based sources, he explained, said militants referred to Tamerlan dismissively as ‘the volunteer.’
‘He was a gung-ho, self motivated jihadi who wasn’t tasked by a larger group,’ he said.
‘There is no reason for anyone in Afghanistan to have in his thinking a scenario like this,’ the official added, referring to pressure-cooker bombs at the Boston Marathon. ‘He took the initiative. That’s why they call him “the volunteer.”‘
‘The Boston thing is beneath them,’ he said of al Qaeda. ‘They don’t think like this. This is like a firecracker to them. They want something big.’
Tamerlan may have boasted about his plans online, the Saudi official said, offering an explanation for how Yemen-based sources first learned of him. Islamist militants have well-developed social networks that can enable news to migrate quickly across vast distances.
The Saudi government sometimes tracks such radicals by launching fake jihadi websites to attract extremists. The Ministry of Interior then tracks them electronically, often across the world, and shares information with governments it considers friendly, including the United States.
‘The Saudi Arabian government is doing everything it can to wipe out these people and treat America as a true friend,’ the official said.
The Saudi intelligence services have a long history of providing credible information to America and Great Britain about looming threats.
‘This is the fourth time the Saudi Arabian government has given the U.S. specific intel’ about a possible terror plot, the official said, citing prior warnings about Richard Reid, the so-called shoe bomber who repeatedly tried to light a fuse in his shoe to bring down American Airlines flight 63 bound for Miami in December 2001.
He also cited the 300-gram ‘ink-cartridge bombs’ planted on two cargo planes headed for the United States from Yemen in October 2010. Those explosives were intercepted in Dubai, and at an East Midlands airport in Great Britain.
Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s namesake was a 15-century Central Asian warlord who referred to himself as ‘the sword of Islam.’ Sometimes spelled ‘Tamerlane’ in English, he was known for his cruelty.
When he conquered Baghdad, he reportedly made a pyramid of human skulls from unfortunate residents of that city.
Although still revered in Chechnya and throughout Central Asia, the original Tamerlane is sometimes vilified in modern-day Saudi textbooks.