Mid-Day Digest

Aug. 2, 2017


  • Unmasking Clapper’s rules change sheds light on Obama’s political practices.
  • Did a “man” just give birth? No, a woman dressed as a man did.
  • Venezuela’s recent “elections” provide a window into the terminus of socialism.
  • Daily Features: Top Headlines, Cartoons, Columnists and Short Cuts.


“The republican is the only form of government which is not eternally at open or secret war with the rights of mankind.” —Thomas Jefferson (1790)


Unpacking the Unmasking Scandal

Almost immediately after Donald Trump won the election, Democrats and their cohorts in the mainstream media began pushing the narrative of a Trump/Russia collusion conspiracy. The Leftmedia ran story after story of leaked information from various government sources, spun in such a way as to imply that it was only a matter of time before Trump was found guilty of colluding with Vladimir Putin. Some of the leaked information contained the names of Trump campaign personnel, with the biggest and most damaging being that of former National Security Advisor Mike Flynn. He was forced to resign, but questions emerged about the intelligence community and “unmasking” after Trump tweeted that Barack Obama had “wiretapped” his phones.

Suddenly, questions were being asked about this unfamiliar practice. What was it, and who had the authority to do it? It was learned that the names of Americans who had been incidentally caught in intelligence surveillance of a foreign individual were to be redacted in order to protect their Fourth Amendment rights. Unmasking was the practice where special authorization was given by the appropriate authority to un-redact the name of an American caught up in surveillance. The rules for unmasking were created in 1992 and stipulated that only the director of the CIA could authorize an unmasking after providing a written reason for doing so.

Fast forward to 2013, when James Clapper, head of the National Security Agency at the time, issued a revision to the procedures for unmasking. The updated procedures effectively made it easier for executive branch officials to unmask the names of lawmakers or congressional staffers who had been caught up in intelligence intercepts overseas. On the surface, it may appear that Clapper’s reasoning for the revision was politically motivated, but there’s far more to the story that is not nearly so nefarious. To put it simply, Clapper seems to have been primarily motivated by a desire to bring the official unmasking guidelines up to date with the current practice. Over the years, unmasking procedures had unofficially evolved — significantly so since 9/11. Clapper’s revision did little to change the widely accepted and practiced unmasking procedures; it simply made those practices official.

Yet while Clapper’s motives may not have been politically calculated, it is clear that the Obama administration took advantage of the rule changes as the number of unmaskings increased significantly following the revisions. As an intelligence official familiar with the rule changes stated, “We understood we were more than doubling the universe of those who could make special requests outside the normal de-minimization process and that language was added to ensure we did not accidentally create downstream leaking of information.” And this is where the scandal lies. Who within the Obama administration was responsible for leaking the information “downstream”?

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Did a ‘Man’ Just Give Birth?

“A transgender man and his husband recently welcomed a healthy baby boy into their family in Portland, Oregon,” reports The Blaze. You might need to read that sentence again. Or, we can translate: A woman with gender dysphoria has been dressing like a man and taking hormones for years, but gave up the hormones for a time during pregnancy. Because what woman who wants to be a man doesn’t still want to be pregnant like a woman? And that’s after adopting two children. Makes perfect nonsense to us.

“I think my body is awesome,” says the woman who worked to change what God created. “I feel like it’s a gift to have been born with the body that I did, and I made the necessary changes so that I could keep living in it, both through hormones and through other body modifications.”

We thought the whole point of being transgender was because a person didn’t feel like he or she was in fact the sex biology determined at formation in the womb. We suppose we’re just not fully in line with the new way of “thinking.” In truth, this is a tragic story that isn’t worth celebrating. Both of these adults are in serious need of help, and that’s not to mention the strange world their children are growing up in. Yet we live in a world where even some supposedly conservative news sites like The Blaze accept the Left’s bizarre premise in their reporting.

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Top Headlines

  • “Affordable health care”? Some insurers seek ACA premium increases of 30% and higher. (Paywall — The Wall Street Journal)

  • Senate confirms Christopher Wray as FBI director in 92-5 vote. (The Washington Times)

  • Congressional investigation into Wasserman Schultz IT scandal moves forward. (The Washington Free Beacon)

  • Justice Dept. may look into universities’ affirmative action policies. (The Hill)

  • Attorney general set to block millions in funding to sanctuary cities. (The Daily Signal)

  • Retired generals, admirals thank Trump for announcing ban on transgender troops. (The Washington Times)

  • Tillerson and Graham play good cop, bad cop with North Korea. (Washington Examiner)

  • Apple appeasing Communist Chinese regulators as CEO Tim Cook hits Trump. (The Washington Free Beacon)

  • South Carolina nuclear plants scrapped, billions invested and lost. (Associated Press)

  • YouTube announces “limited state” for videos that include “controversial” content. (Hot Air)

  • Policy: Climate change isn’t the end of the world. (Paywall — The Wall Street Journal)

  • Policy: There really is no “gender wage gap”; there’s a “gender earnings gap.” (American Enterprise Institute)

For more, visit Patriot Headline Report.

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Fallout From Venezuela’s Sham Elections

By Lewis Morris

Recent events in that train wreck of a nation known as Venezuela prove indisputably that we’re headed back to the bad old days of Latin American dictatorship. Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has been running the tyrant’s playbook step by step, complete with bogus elections to solidify his power and midnight arrests of opposition leaders. All this against the backdrop of widespread unrest in a country that is rapidly joining the ranks of the world’s most economically devastated nations.

The sad, slow unraveling of this socialist state has been taking place for years. Venezuela modeled itself as a socialist paradise during the days of self-anointed revolutionary hero Hugo Chavez. Aligning his nation with Cuba, China and the other tyrannical regimes of the world, the ace that Chavez held was that the nation he ruled sat on top of a sea of oil.

By the time Chavez died in 2013, his country was already starting to come apart. Widespread corruption, tumbling oil prices and a mismanaged economy sent the nation into a tailspin. Chavez’s appointed successor, Maduro, has presided over a nation in chaos. Rising through the ranks of the thug class, Maduro hasn’t proved to possess the intelligence or charisma to save his country.

As the opposition grew, Maduro tightened his grip. He brutally squelched protests, jailed opposition leaders and seized control of the Supreme Court. Last Sunday, he pulled the ultimate power move by holding elections to nullify the National Assembly and replace it with a new body that would answer directly to him.

The elections held on Sunday were by all accounts, except those of the Venezuelan government, a complete sham. In fact, “sham” is the word UN Ambassador Nikki Haley used.

The government claimed there were eight million voters, a 41.5% turnout. But independent and opposition monitors reported throughout the country that polling stations remained quiet much of the day. Independent estimates by a variety of sources claim that turnout was somewhere between 9-18%, and the high number is a generous one.

The true vote count stands at closer to three million. This is considered a realistic estimate because the government’s two million-plus workers were threatened with losing their jobs if they didn’t go to the polls. Many of the country’s poor were also compelled to vote or risk losing their government aid.

Maduro’s claiming victory in his bogus election didn’t quiet the opposition. They took to the streets Monday, in some cases supported by the old guard Chavezistas, supporters of the late Chavez. If these people are lamenting the days of Chavez, that’s as sure a sign as any that darkness has settled upon this land.

On Tuesday, two leaders of the opposition were snatched up by masked gunman in the middle of the night. Leopoldo Lopez was Venezuela’s most prominent political prisoner before being released just a month ago after serving three and a half years of a 13-year sentence for inciting riots. His declining health drew international pressure for his release, and until Tuesday he was living under house arrest. Now he and Antonio Ledezma are likely headed back to prison.

American condemnation of Maduro’s actions and the election has been swift. Backed by Mexico, Canada, Argentina, Colombia, Panama, Paraguay, Spain and Great Britain, the U.S. is calling for heavy sanctions on the regime. The Trump administration plans to go one step further by placing sanctions directly on Maduro and top members of his government.

Strongmen like Maduro don’t generally leave all their stolen treasure out there to be swept up by the law. He is likely to have some help from Cuba, China and Russia in his efforts to stymy American attempts to bring him to justice. However, swift U.S. action is a good start in finding a way to contain the unrest and bring an end to the carnage.

History offers many examples indicating things will likely get worse in Venezuela before they get better. The real lessons of what has happened there should not be lost on the American people. Venezuela is an oil-rich country with some of the most fertile land in South America, and yet people are starving to death and the economy is a complete shambles. Why? Because the state controls everything. It promised to give the people everything they needed and wanted. Instead, it took everything they had. Yet one more example of the “virtues” of socialism.

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For more, visit Right Opinion.


Star Parker: “Let’s recognize that it’s not an option to stop working on health care reform. The problem is real and it’s not going away. Maybe we should dial down the volume and stop trying to solve this huge, complicated problem in one piece of legislation. Maybe we should take on each of these five systems that Tom Price singled out and address their unique problems separately. Government got involved in health care in big way to deal with the challenges of providing health care to the elderly and the poor. When Medicare and Medicaid became law of the land in the 1960s, government spending on health care was less than one half of 1 percent of our GDP. Today it is 5.5 percent of our GDP and the Congressional Budget Office projects that in 30 years it will be up to 9.2 percent. Around 130 million Americans are now covered by Medicare and Medicaid, not much less than the number of Americans with private insurance. Meanwhile, as government spending grows, CBO projects are widening budget deficits and increasing national debt, which CBO says will reach 150 percent of our GDP in 30 years. CBO says this ‘poses substantial risks.’ How can we pretend that this can continue? … We got Obamacare because Republicans didn’t take care of the health care problems we already had. Let’s not make the same mistake.”


Insight: “To the size of the state there is a limit, as there is to plants, animals and implements, for none of these retain their facility when they are too large.” —Aristotle (384-322 BC)

Upright: “Global warming is not even the obvious top environmental threat. Dirty water, dirty air and insect-borne diseases are a far greater problem today for most people world-wide. Habitat loss and human predation are a far greater problem for most animals. Elephants won’t make it to see a warmer climate. Ask them how they would prefer to spend $1 trillion — subsidizing high-speed trains or a human-free park the size of Montana.” —David R. Henderson and John H. Cochrane

A blind squirrel finds a nut: “Hillary Clinton has ridden her husband’s coattails her entire life. … She’s never accomplished a thing. … She was a terrible secretary of state who destabilized North Africa and caused that refugee influx into Italy.” —Camille Paglia

Belly laugh of the week: “We stopped the moral monstrosity of Trumpcare. Our resistance is working.” —Nancy Pelosi

Non Compos Mentis: “Who ate Republicans’ brains? … The stark dishonesty of the Republican jihad against Obamacare itself demands an explanation. … The Obama administration was, when all is said and done, remarkably clearheaded and honest about its policies. In particular, it was always clear what the A.C.A. was supposed to do and how it was supposed to do it — and it has, for the most part, worked as advertised.” —NY Times columnist Paul Krugman

Showdown: “There is not a litmus test for Democratic candidates.” —DCCC chairman Ben Ray Luján

Alpha Jackass: “Trump is a f— joke. This is all a sham. I wish someone would just shoot him outright.” —Montclair State University’s Kevin Allred

Late-night humor: “President Trump officially removed Anthony Scaramucci as his communications director. And this was a little awkward — when Scaramucci called an Uber to pick him up at the White House, Sean Spicer was driving.” —Jimmy Fallon

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Managing Editor Nate Jackson

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