Thursday, December 18, 2014

Cromnibus in review

Congressional passage of the $1.1 trillion CRomnibus (part omnibus, part continuing resolution) package last weekend may have prevented a government shutdown, but it created a variety of divisions between and among Republicans and Democrats that could flare up in grand style in the next Congress.

The package funds most of the government through fiscal year 2015, pulling together 11 appropriations bills that cover many areas, except the Department of Homeland Security, which is funded only until Feb. 27. Much of the spending adheres to budget caps put in place last year, with additional emergency spending that falls outside the caps – including $64 billion for overseas military operations such as the fight against ISIL and $5.4 billion to combat Ebola.

Republicans achieved their objectives in some areas. The Dodd-Frank financial regulation law was partially relaxed to allow banks to directly engage in derivatives trading. Some school nutrition standards pushed by First Lady Michelle Obama were also rolled back, in large part because school districts are having serious trouble complying with the new regulations – not to mention the near-mutiny among students. Another provision loosens contribution limits for national political parties. The Democrats balked at this provision, with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi calling it “egregious,” but they’ll be perfectly happy with it when leftist one-percenters pour out their money for the 2016 election.

Democrats also won some things in the bill as well. ObamaCare funding remains intact at current levels, despite the long history of GOP threats to defund it. The Hyde Amendment, which bans federal funding for abortions, was renewed, but since ObamaCare calls for funding of abortions that amendment remains pretty much moot.

One bright spot for free enterprise was in the extension of the Internet Tax Freedom Act, which puts off for another year a bureaucratic free-for-all that would blitz online retailers with new taxes, regulations and paperwork. If Congress has any sense at all, it will enact a clean, stand-alone extension of the act in January.

There was rancor among Democrats over passage of the bill because of its rollback of Dodd-Frank and the relaxed political party funding. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) led the charge against the CRomnibus from the liberal side, but she was swamped by the larger Democrat contingent eager to pass the bill. Her actions may not have amounted to much, but her popularity saw a boost. She is increasingly considered a viable alternative presidential candidate to Hillary Clinton, complicating the latter’s second White House run.

Warren found an unusual ally in her fight against the spending package in Republican Ted Cruz of Texas, if for an entirely different reason. Along with Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT), Cruz hoped to derail the package by introducing a symbolic point-of-order vote condemning the unconstitutionality of Barack Obama’s executive action on illegal aliens.

“If you believe President Obama’s executive order was unconstitutional, vote yes,” Cruz told his colleagues. “If you think the president’s executive order is constitutional, vote no.” Well, 74 senators believed the latter – or at least wouldn’t admit the former – among them the full Republican leadership.

As he did with his box-canyon shutdown strategy last year, Cruz managed to draw significant ire from his GOP colleagues. Sen. Susan Collins of Maine said, “Suffice it to say, I’m not happy with the strategy [Cruz] has come up with. I think it’s totally counterproductive.” Cruz has been accused of grandstanding for the sake of his own popularity before, but many conservatives also praised him for standing his ground.

Did Cruz’s actions cause more trouble than they were worth? The temporary funding of DHS means the immigration issue will be revisited early next year anyway. Cruz and Lee were faulted for outgoing Majority Leader Harry Reid’s pushing cloture on a series of stalled nominees because the procedural vote allowed Reid to turn to other matters. That’s a stretch, considering that executive and judicial nominations were going to be on the calendar anyway at some point between now and the end of the session. Remember, Reid didn’t trigger the nuclear option for nothing.

The real reason that Cruz’s actions caused such a stir is probably best encapsulated by the fact that senators' weekend holiday plans had to be put on hold. But as Hot Air’s Jazz Shaw wrote, “The fact that any of them had to show up on Saturday and couldn’t head home from work two weeks before Christmas and stay there until early January isn’t exactly tugging at my heartstrings.”

Republican and Democrat leaders in the House and Senate must be suffering tennis elbow after all the self-congratulatory pats on the back for passing the CRomnibus. Republican voters may be asking themselves, though, why the GOP went for a long-term budget deal when they could have just passed a 60-day continuing resolution and negotiated a full budget package from a position of strength in January.



Media Struggle to Save Obama, Not the Country

A story in Thursday's Washington Post about establishing Obama's "foreign policy legacy" goes a long way toward explaining why the Senate Democrats and the media have been trashing the Bush administration's very productive enhanced interrogation program as "torture."

Titled "Obama's foreign policy plans collide with wars abroad and politics at home [1]," the story by Greg Jaffe and Juliet Eilperin made it clear that CIA director John Brennan's defense of the agency had thwarted Obama's plan "to move the country beyond what he [Obama] has described as the fearful excesses of the post-9/11 era." While Obama has banned what he calls "torture," he has failed to close the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base (Gitmo), established by the Bush administration to house terrorist suspects. Other problems outlined in the Post article include the continuing war in Afghanistan and a new war in Iraq and Syria against ISIS.

What Obama calls "torture" is what the media call "torture." If you needed any more proof of a pro-Obama media bias, just look at how regularly the personalities on CNN, supposedly more moderate than MSNBC, have adopted his terms of the debate. This is the media's way of saying that Obama was right and that it's good he has banned this way of getting information from terrorists. Never mind that Obama's way of murder through drone strikes is decidedly more "harsh." Bush grilled them, Obama kills them.

Without a foreign policy "legacy" of some kind, Obama's two terms will look like a failure and the Democrats will be doomed in 2016.

Domestically, his only real "accomplishment" at this point looks like the Eric Holder policy of suspending enforcement of federal marijuana laws. This will be a "legacy" of interest to fellow pothead members of Obama's "Choom Gang" in Hawaii, and the emerging cannabis industry.  But it's doubtful most people will appreciate this historic development.

Obama's signature "accomplishment" in domestic affairs, Obamacare, has been exposed as a massive fraud and deception. According to a new CBS News poll, race relations have dramatically deteriorated under the first black president. It's true he is moving forward unconstitutionally with amnesty for illegal aliens. But House Republicans are promising to do something about that next year. The economy is still lackluster. So foreign policy is really his only hope of doing anything positive, and he's running into the facts of life there, too. The terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya, that killed four Americans is only one part of his legacy. The legacy of that attack hurts both Obama and Hillary Clinton, his former Secretary of State and likely 2016 Democratic candidate. And it's doubtful that an Iran with nuclear weapons would qualify as a positive foreign policy legacy for Obama, either.

One can suppose that Obama will try to claim he was the one who got Osama bin Laden. But Brennan made it clear on Thursday that the enhanced interrogation techniques (EITs) from the Bush-era played a role in killing the terrorist kingpin. Brennan said, "It is our considered view that the detainees who were subjected to enhanced interrogation techniques provided information that was useful and was used in the ultimate operation to go against bin Laden. Again, intelligence information from the individuals who were subjected to EITs provided information that was used in that. Again, I am not going to attribute that to the use of the EITs; just going to state as a matter of fact, the information that they provided was used."

What Brennan is saying is that he cannot pinpoint with any degree of accuracy that a particular form of interrogation led to the terrorists divulging certain information. That's because nobody was taking precise notes on when terrorist X or Y said one thing or another at any particular time in the interrogation process. But the record is clear that the EITs contributed to the terrorists getting to the point where they decided to spill their guts.

CNN, which is increasingly trying to sound like MSNBC, headlined the Brennan news conference as "Brennan: No Proof Harsh Tactics Led to Useful Info." How can his phrase that "intelligence information from the individuals who were subjected to EITs provided information that was used" to get bin Laden be interpreted as "proof" that it wasn't useful? CNN was lying. CNN gave the opposite impression of what he actually said.

Before he held his news conference, Brennan met with Obama and was probably instructed to finesse his language somewhat so that a certain amount of ambiguity could be left in some minds. CNN and other media tried to take advantage of that for Obama's sake. Still, Brennan's statement was a vindication of the Bush policy. That means that any attempt by Obama to claim credit for the death of bin Laden will ring hollow. There goes his foreign policy legacy.

These facts help explain the desperation of the media and why they have adopted Obama's rhetoric on "torture." They must figure that if they use the term often enough, many people will assume that the techniques were, in fact, torture. In order to drive that point home, Andrea Mitchell of NBC News used the Brennan news conference to mention some of the techniques. She referred to "waterboarding, near drowning, slamming people against the wall, hanging them in stress positions, confining them in small boxes or coffins, threatening them with drills, waving guns around their head as they are blindfolded..."

She could have mentioned the horrible deaths suffered by those in the World Trade Center or the Pentagon or Flight 93 on 9/11. She could have mentioned the 9/11 jumpers-the people who jumped from the towers rather than be burned to death.

But Mitchell didn't think it was worth mentioning any of that.

CNN's Wolf Blitzer and Jake Tapper have been fixated by a phrase in the Senate Democratic report on "rectal rehydration." Tapper called it a form of torture. In fact, it's a medical procedure to keep the terrorists alive when they resist sustenance. Would Tapper have preferred that the terrorists be allowed to die? Then the program would have come in for even stronger criticism. This goes to show that all of this discussion is just another attempt to tarnish the Bush presidency and make Obama look good by comparison. Tapper said he was dumbfounded by the talk of "rectal rehydration."

No, he was just dumb.

Obama, the Senate Democrats and the media look foolish and unpatriotic. It looks like they are deliberately playing into the hands of America's enemies in order to score partisan political points. Obama has abandoned proven techniques to get information from, and about, terrorists and has adopted in their place a policy of killing the terrorists and their families through drone strikes that don't yield any intelligence data at all. How on earth does this make any sense?

From an objective point of view, does a Hellfire missile hitting a human being look more or less "harsh" than waving a gun over someone's head, turning on a drill, or pouring water on a terrorist?

The answer should be obvious to anyone with half a brain. But most of our media are so determined to save Obama's presidency that they can't think clearly.

The Post and other media are desperate to construct a "legacy" for America's first black president. The real concern should be saving the country, not Obama's presidency.



Another example of the famous "fact-checking" that the MSM claim they do

Sixteen-year-old Mohammed Islam wants you to think he's a big shot. On his website, Ettaz Financial, he wears a pair of fogged-over glasses, expression serious, sporting a red tie on a snowy day. The New York high-school junior says he got interested in the financial industry "at the tender age of eight", quickly fell into the third-rate world of penny stocks before graduating to the futures market after finding "a love for risk and volatility". How much has he made? Millions, he said. His net worth has soared into the "high eight figures".

The world is filled with teenagers like Mo Islam, who now says he never made a dime on the stock market. They play fast and loose with facts. But they don't usually get the treatment Islam just got in Sunday's issue of New York Magazine.

The article, reported and written by staff writer Jessica Pressler, begins with a rumour. Someone - it's unspecified who - said Mo had pocketed $US72 million ($87.6 million) by trading penny stocks. "An unbelievable amount of money for anyone, not least a high school student, but as far as rumours go, this one seemed legit," Pressler wrote. The original headline: "A Stuyvesant Senior Made $US72M Trading Stocks on His Lunch Break."

Coming on the heels of Rolling Stone's disastrous story of a University of Virginia gang rape, though nowhere near as serious in its consequences, the story unravelled almost as quickly as it went viral. While the New York Post, the Daily Mail and the Guardian did their versions, New York Magazine's was getting pounded in its comments section: "How dumb do you have to [be] to believe that this kid made $US72 million trading stocks during lunch?"



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