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Monday Digest

Sep. 9, 2013

THE FOUNDATION

“A fondness for power is implanted, in most men, and it is natural to abuse it, when acquired.” –Alexander Hamilton

NATIONAL SECURITY

Spies Like Us

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The all-seeing eye

New revelations about the extent of the NSA’s surveillance program aren’t exactly shocking – now that we know they spy on everyone, the “how” is just details.

It came to light that the NSA can crack pretty much all standard encryption – bank systems, medical records, emails, chats and phone calls are all readily available. The NSA can easily hack smartphones, as well, revealing data usage and even location information on where the user was. To some extent, such code cracking is their job description, but according to The New York Times, “Beginning in 2000, as encryption tools were gradually blanketing the Web, the N.S.A. invested billions of dollars in a clandestine campaign to preserve its ability to eavesdrop. Having lost a public battle in the 1990s to insert its own ‘back door’ in all encryption, it set out to accomplish the same goal by stealth.” Forcing tech companies to cooperate is also part of the ball game.

Meanwhile, The Washington Post reports, “The Obama administration secretly won permission from a surveillance court in 2011 to reverse restrictions on the National Security Agency’s use of intercepted phone calls and e-mails, permitting the agency to search deliberately for Americans’ communications in its massive databases.”

Barack Obama told Jay Leno last month, “We don’t have a domestic spying program.” But the truth is, Obama has expanded the NSA’s enormous apparatus, which is being used to spy on everyone – including American citizens with no ties whatsoever to terrorism – and the agency is pulling in far more comprehensive data than at first thought. The ramifications for privacy and Liberty are numerous and extremely unsettling.

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GOVERNMENT AND POLITICS

Congress Returns to Budget Battle

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Congress is returning from recess today, and obviously the most pressing issue is Barack Obama’s misadventure in Syria. Once that’s settled (the vote is almost sure to go against the president), Congress will turn to the 2014 budget and the debt ceiling. House Republicans plan to vote this week on another continuing resolution to fund the government after Sept. 30, when the 2103 budget year ends. The GOP proposal delays $20 billion in sequester cuts, largely targeting the Pentagon, until January. The resolution would keep things running until Dec. 15 at current levels of funding while Republicans and Democrats work out their differences.

One of those differences could be funding the Unaffordable Care Act, a.k.a. ObamaCare. Republicans are considering defunding the unpopular health care law, which is, of course, risky given that Democrats control the Senate, and Obama would never defund his signature “achievement.” Such a move by Republicans would increase the odds of a government shutdown, which House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) doesn’t seem keen to do. It will be interesting to see how the GOP handles this budget and debt ceiling showdown at the same time that the president’s desired action in Syria requires their attention. Two big fights at one time could be problematic.

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ECONOMY

The Newest Energy Exporter

One wouldn’t know it by the philosophy of the current occupant of the White House and his efforts to put an end to the Keystone XL pipeline plans, but over the last three years America has quietly almost doubled its exports of petroleum products to more than 100 million barrels a month. That’s not Saudi Arabia territory yet, but our nation has been blessed with abundant reserves and now has the technology to tap into them.

This surge in production is now being credited for increasing the second quarter GDP estimate from an anemic 1.7% to a more palatable 2.5% annual clip. Naturally, the administration is falling all over itself to take credit, with economic advisers Jason Furman and Gene Sperling posting on the White House website, “This is yet another reminder that the President’s focus on increasing America’s energy independence is not just a critical national security strategy, it is also part of an economic plan to create jobs, expand growth, and cut the trade deficit.”

The truth, however, is that the American energy boom is being realized despite the best efforts of Barack Obama.

True kudos go to the ingenuity and entrepreneurship of American businessmen and the good fortune of having much of the oil shale suitable for exploitation via fracking on private and state land, where it’s beyond the reach of the long regulatory arm of the Obama administration. And there’s an even bigger export prize waiting with increased export of natural gas – nearly two dozen companies are seeking permission from the federal government to export to countries outside those with which we have free-trade agreements.

The potential is there to restore America to the economic powerhouse it was before OPEC brought us to our knees 40 years ago. The question is whether we have the political will to do it.

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CULTURE

Climate Change This Week: Of Dung Beetles and Ice Pack

Finally, a climate solution we’ve all been looking for. According to a report from National Geographic’s Jennifer S. Holland, “[T]he dung beetle, with its sordid habit of laying eggs in and eating cow poo, might just be a weapon in the battle against global warming.” We’ll spare the details of the dung-digger’s process, but a University of Helsinki study revealed that cow patties containing the insect “released nearly 40 percent less methane over a summer period than beetle-free cowpats did.” But the dung beetle is in decline – thanks, of course, to evil humans artificially spreading anti-parasitic chemicals in pastures. The article, naturally, fails to even mention the fact that global warming – conveniently changed to “climate change” to fit uniformly with recent natural trends – has plateaued.

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On that note, The Telegraph reports, “There has been a 60 per cent increase in the amount of [Arctic] ocean covered with ice compared to this time last year, the equivalent of almost a million square miles.” In response, many scientists are now arguing that a period of global cooling is forthcoming, which could continue until mid-century.

If this sounds hugely contrary to previous prognostications, that’s because it is. Consider this report by the BBC from December 2007: “Scientists in the US have presented one of the most dramatic forecasts yet for the disappearance of Arctic sea ice. Their latest modeling studies indicate northern polar waters could be ice-free in summers within just 5-6 years.” In other words, we should have had an ice-free Arctic by this summer. Yet, here we are, and environmentalists are left once again scratching their heads for an explanation of what went wrong with their manufactured crisis. Before you know it, they’ll be blaming the Syrian conflict on global warming. Oh, wait…

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BRIEF OPINION

Re: The Left

Columnist Charles Krauthammer: “We have a problem. The president proposes attacking Syria, and his top military officer cannot tell you the objective. Does the commander in chief know his own objective? Why, yes. ‘A shot across the bow,’ explained Barack Obama. Now, a shot across the bow is a warning. Its purpose is to say: Cease and desist, or the next shot will sink you. But Obama has already told the world – and Bashar al-Assad in particular – that there will be no next shot. … What then is the purpose? Dempsey hasn’t a clue, but Secretary of State John Kerry says it will uphold and proclaim a norm and thus deter future use of chemical weapons. With a few Tomahawk missiles? Hitting sites that, thanks to the administration having leaked the target list, have already been scrubbed of important military assets? This is risible. If anything, a pinprick from which Assad emerges unscathed would simply enhance his stature and vindicate his conduct. Deterrence depends entirely on perception and the perception in the Middle East is universal: Obama wants no part of Syria. … There’s no strategy, no purpose here other than helping Obama escape self-inflicted humiliation. This is deeply unserious.”

Political Futures

Columnist William Pauwels: “Paying people to be poor only produces more poverty. Paying people not to work only produces more non-workers. Clearly the proliferation of government entitlements is destroying the American work-ethic – which has underpinned American exceptionalism and prosperity. Perhaps the above are reasons Obama seems to be dragging out a decision on Syria. Ask yourself: What would he gain from that? It seems he is trying to use the gassing of Syrian citizens as a media distraction from his many failures – this under-employment crisis, the Egyptian crisis, the IRS scandal, the NSA scandal, the Benghazi massacre, the ObamaCare crisis, etc. The longer Obama can keep the journalists and commentators discussing his Syrian options and decision-making process, the better for him and his Democrat colleagues, politically. If you think Obama ‘never lets a crisis go to waste’ you haven’t been paying attention.”

For the Record

Columnist Arnold Ahlert: “Last February, a presentation by the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco revealed that while the vast majority of jobs lost during the recession were of the middle class variety, since 2010 they have been replaced by low-wage occupations paying less than $13.83 per hour. Forty percent of those replacement jobs have been in the food services, retail, and employment services (such as sales clerks and office workers) sectors of the economy. Furthermore, median incomes in the United States have fallen 4.4 percent, since the beginning of the recovery in 2009. … According to the records kept by the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, in the 10 recessions prior to this one, it took an average of 25 months to completely recover all the jobs lost from the peak employment that occurs just before a recession begins. Yet by April 2013, 64 months after the prior jobs peak in January 2008, the records revealed that the nation was still down more than 2 percent, or 2.6 million jobs from its 2008 peak. … [U]nless there is a radical change in the administration’s economic agenda, stagnation may be the best Americans can hope for.”

The Gipper

Ronald Reagan: “What does it mean whether you hold the deed … or the title to your business or property if the government holds the power of life and death over that business or property? … Our natural, unalienable rights are now considered to be a dispensation of government, and freedom has never been so fragile, so close to slipping from our grasp as it is at this moment.”

For more, visit The Right Opinion.

CHRONICLE QUOTES

Upright

Columnist Peggy Noonan: “There is the issue of U.S. credibility. We speak of this constantly and in public, which has the effect of reducing its power. If we bomb Syria, will the world say, ‘Oh, how credible America is!’ or will they say, ‘They just bombed people because they think they have to prove they’re credible’?”

Demo-gogues

Barack Obama: “I did not put this [Syria resolution] before Congress, you know, just as a political ploy or as symbolism.”

Which pretty much means that’s exactly the reason.

This Week’s ‘Braying Jackass’ Award

Barack Obama: “I think that I have a well well-deserved reputation for taking very seriously and soberly the idea of military engagement.”

BO: “I was elected to end wars, not start them.”

Dezinformatsia

Washington Post’s Glenn Kessler gives Obama’s “red line” remark a pass: “So is a bungled talking point worthy of Pinocchios? We don’t try to play gotcha here at The Fact Checker, so we are inclined to leave this question to our readers. Some may find the president’s apparent discomfort with his own words more meaningful than any potential misstatement.”

Village Idiots

Former State Department adviser William Polk: “Syria has been convulsed by civil war since climate change came to Syria with a vengeance. Drought devastated the country from 2006 to 2011. … Hundreds of thousands of Syria’s farmers gave up, abandoned their farms and fled to the cities and towns in search of almost non-existent jobs and severely short food supplies. … And in the desperation of the times, hostilities erupted among groups that were competing just to survive.”

Short Cuts

Columnist Geoffrey P. Hunt: “[The White House has] been mute as Coptic Christians have been massacred and their churches firebombed by the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. Here we have President Obama AWOL while the Benghazi consulate was bombed by terrorists. He then lied about its origin, and then consented to his administration’s stonewalling of the Congressional investigation. He now expects us to grant him sweeping authority to launch strikes against Damascus, whose consequences – most likely to be catastrophic for the region and unaffordable to us – will lead to unpredictable retaliation from Assad, assisted by his patrons Iran and Russia, that we cannot control. Why should anyone support a part-time president who will trigger a full-time war?”

Semper Vigilo, Fortis, Paratus et Fidelis!
Nate Jackson for The Patriot Post Editorial Team

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