Tuesday, December 27, 2016
Obama's latest attempt to sabotage Trump
The Obama administration said Thursday it is officially scrapping a post-9/11 requirement for immigrant men from predominantly Muslim countries to register with the federal government. The U.S. hasn't used the program since 2011, but a top immigration adviser to President-elect Donald Trump has spoken of renewing it.
The decision to end the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System, or NSEERs, comes amid growing international terror fears and Trump's suggestions that he could ban Muslim immigrants from the United States. After a truck attack killed 12 in a Christmas market in Berlin this week, Trump told reporters, "You know my plans."
The program's elimination could make it more complicated for Trump's administration to launch its own registration system for Muslims.
Trump never publicly spoke about introducing such a program. But a close adviser, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, said last month he was in favor of launching an updated system for all foreigners from "high-risk" areas.
Meeting Trump in New York, Kobach carried a document labeled "Department of Homeland Security Kobach Strategic Plan for First 365 Days." It listed an NSEERS reboot as the top priority. Kobach helped draft the program while working at the Justice Department under President George W. Bush.
The registration system started about a year after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, requiring men and boys from a variety of mostly Middle Eastern countries to register with the federal government upon their arrival in the United States. Such people already in the country had to register with immigration authorities inside the U.S.
Registration, which also applied to immigrants from North Korea, included fingerprints and photographs. People also were required to notify the government if they changed addresses.
The administration will publish its decision in the Federal Register on Friday. It had been widely derided by civil libertarians as an effort to profile people based on race and religion.
The program is "not only obsolete," said Neema Hakim, spokeswoman for the Homeland Security Department, "its use would divert limited personnel and resources from more effective measures."
After violence abroad, Trump schedules a meeting with his national security adviser
The American Civil Liberties Union, which has opposed the program since its inception, described it as a "failed counterterrorism tool and massive profiling program that didn't yield a single terrorism conviction in nearly a decade."
"With this action, the U.S. is on the right path to protect Muslim and Arab immigrants from discrimination," said Joanne Lin, the organization's senior legislative counsel.
The program never prohibited travel for men and boys from the more than 20 affected countries, including Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.
When the Obama administration abandoned the system in April 2011, it said a newer data collection program would be sufficient to collect biometric information for all foreigners coming into the country. At the time, more than 80,000 foreigners were registered.
As socialism shattered Venezuela, the useful idiots applauded
WHEN THE COLD WAR ended 25 years ago, the Soviet Union vanished into the ash heap of history. That left the West's "useful idiots" — Lenin's term for the ideologues and toadies who could always be relied on to justify or praise whatever Moscow did — in search of other socialist thugs to fawn over. Many found a new heartthrob in Hugo Chavez, the anti-Yanqui rabble-rouser who was elected president of Venezuela in 1998, and in short order had transformed the country from a successful social democracy into a grim and corrupt autocracy.
An avowed Marxist and protégé of Fidel Castro, Chavez gradually seized control of every lever of state power in Venezuela. The constitution was rewritten to strip the legislature and judiciary of their independence, authorize censorship of the press, and allow Chavez to legislate by decree. Before long the government acquired a stranglehold over the economy, including the huge and profitable energy sector. (Venezuela has the largest oil reserves in the world.)
With petrodollars pouring in, Chavez had free rein to put his statist prescriptions into effect. The so-called "Bolivarian revolution" over which he — and later his handpicked successor, Nicolas Maduro — presided, was an unfettered, real-world example of anticapitalist socialism in action. Venezuela since at least the 1970s had been Latin America's most affluent nation. Now it was a showpiece for command-and-control economics: price and currency controls, wealth redistribution, ramped-up government spending, expropriation of farmland, and the nationalization of private banks, mines, and oil companies.
And the useful idiots ate it up.
In a Salon piece titled "Hugo Chavez's economic miracle," David Sirota declared that the Venezuelan ruler, with his "full-throated advocacy of socialism," had "racked up an economic record that . . . American president[s] could only dream of achieving." The Guardian offered "Three cheers for Chavez." Moviemaker Oliver Stone filmed a documentary gushing over "the positive changes that have happened economically in all of South America" because of Venezuela's socialist government. And when Chavez died in 2013, Jimmy Carter extolled the strongman for "improving the lives of millions of his fellow countrymen."
In the real world, however, socialism has transformed Venezuela into a Third World dystopia.
Venezuela this Christmas is sunk in misery, as it was last Christmas, and the Christmas before that. Venezuelans, their economy wrecked by statism, face crippling shortages of everything from food and medicine to toilet paper and electricity. Violent crime is out of control. Shoppers are forced to stand in lines for hours outside drugstores and supermarkets — lines that routinely lead to empty shelves, or break down in fistfights, muggings, and mob looting. Last week the government deployed 3,000 troops to restore order after frantic rioters rampaged through shops and homes in the southeastern state of Bolivar.
In the beautiful country that used to boast the highest standard of living in Latin America, patients now die in hospitals for lack of basic health-care staples: soap, gloves, oxygen, drugs. In some medical wards, there isn't even water to wash the blood from operating tables.
Between 2012 and 2015, "the rate of death among babies under a month old increased more than a hundredfold in public hospitals run by the Health Ministry", the New York Times reported in May. "The rate of death among new mothers in those hospitals increased by almost five times in the same period."
Socialism invariably kills and impoverishes. Gushing oil revenues amid a global energy boom could temporarily disguise the corrosion caused by a government takeover of market functions. But only temporarily. The Chavez/Maduro "Bolivarian revolution" has been economic poison, just like every other Marxist "revolution" from Lenin's Russia to Kim Il Sung's North Korea to the Castros' Cuba. By shredding property rights, dictating prices, and trying to control supply and demand, socialist regimes eventually make everything worse and virtually everyone poorer. Conversely, when governments protect free markets and allow buyers and sellers to interact freely, prosperity expands.
For three years in a row, Venezuela has ranked No. 1 on the Cato Institute's "misery index" which ranks each of the world's countries according to a formula that adds its unemployment, interest, and inflation rates, then subtracts its annual change in GDP per capita. With Venezuelan currency virtually worthless — hyperinflation this year is estimated at higher than 700 percent — residents have to resort to humiliating and pathetic workarounds. Reuters reported this month that Venezuelan women have been flocking across the border into Colombia and selling their hair in their desperation to earn some money with which to buy food, medicine, or diapers.
The government in Caracas, meanwhile, clings tightly to its socialist dogma, blaming the country's woes on Colombia's "mafia" or greedy businessmen. Ten days ago, government agents raided a toy distributor, confiscating nearly 4 million toys on the grounds that the company was planning to sell them at inflated prices. The regime says it will make the toys available at below-market prices to the poor — thereby ensuring that in Venezuela next Christmas, toys won't be available at any price. If nothing else, Venezuelan socialism has accomplished this much: It has transformed the Grinch from fiction into reality.
Congress should repeal ObamaCare using budget reconciliation
The recent election results reflect overwhelming unrest across the country, particularly about the broken state of healthcare. Americans have seen first-hand how ObamaCare fails to deliver on the lofty promises made by its namesake and his allies in Congress. Millions of Americans have faced canceled insurance plans, reduced access to health care providers, and double-digit premium increases over the course of its implementation.
Those lawmakers who vowed to oppose this failed health care law finally have an opportunity to put their campaign promises into action early next year. Working with President-elect Donald Trump, Republicans in the 115th Congress can finally repeal major parts of President Obama’s signature law using the budget reconciliation process, relieving Americans from its most burdensome mandates and costs.
Of course, few things are so simple in Washington. Despite the myriad positive provisions that will end up in any bill repealing elements of ObamaCare, some legislators on Capitol Hill may criticize the package for stopping short of full repeal, or for failing to include a replacement plan. Doing so risks passing up an unprecedented opportunity to protect millions of Americans from ObamaCare’s most onerous provisions.
In fact, the budget reconciliation process means lawmakers have their best chance yet at undoing negative elements of ObamaCare. The advantage to using the budget reconciliation process to repeal major provisions of the president’s health care law is that it will require only a simple majority in the Senate and House to move forward. It also cannot be filibustered, making it easier for Congress to send to the President's desk.
The disadvantage is that it may not be possible to repeal the law in its entirety. There’s difficulty in repealing the provisions in the law that do not have a direct budgetary impact, such as the insurance mandates requiring plans to offer a certain set of benefits dictated by bureaucrats in Washington.
Yet the opportunity to erase years of bad policy is too valuable to pass up. If complicated Senate precedents and procedure make repealing the entire healthcare law difficult, then lawmakers should aim to repeal what’s leftover through other legislative efforts. In tandem with pursuing reconciliation instructions that dismantle major provisions in ObamaCare, members of Congress should pursue standalone efforts to eradicate the health care law’s other failings. Passing legislation to stop the harmful insurance mandates and preventing the use of taxpayer dollars to bail out insurance companies are just some positive steps Congress can take to protect taxpayers and those in need of better health care options.
The reconciliation package put together by Congress nearly two years ago provides a commendable baseline for the legislative package currently coming together. The 2015 legislation, which passed both chambers of Congress before getting vetoed by President Obama, repealed many of the most burdensome provisions in the president’s healthcare law, including parts that are so terrible that even many Democrats supported repealing them. Major provisions subject to repeal included the mandates on individuals and employers, the medical device tax, the tax on high cost employer-sponsored health plans and the ObamaCare Slush Fund. Congress should repeal these parts at the very least.
The reforms included in the reconciliation package currently taking shape represent significant steps to relieving the American people of many of ObamaCare’s most significant burdens. As members of a new Congress work together and reach out to President Trump to bring about change, they should continue a long-term push for broader, free-market, patient-centered health care reforms. They must not squander this latest opportunity to improve well-being for all Americans.
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Posted by JR at 1:24 AM