Mid-Day Digest

Jan. 5, 2018

IN TODAY’S EDITION

  • Obama never let a crisis go to waste, banning offshore drilling, but Trump counters.
  • December’s job creation was a bit disappointing, but we might blame the cold.
  • Jeff Sessions undoes Obama’s marijuana enforcement guidelines.
  • Social media tribalism and “fake news” go hand in hand.
  • Oregon allows self-serve gas, residents lose their minds in a hilarious kerfuffle.
  • Democrats keep crying “Armageddon” about tax cuts while Americans already benefit.
  • Planned Parenthood hemorrhages customers but keeps raking in the money.
  • Plus our Daily Features: Top Headlines, Memes, Cartoons, Columnists and Short Cuts.

THE FOUNDATION

“It is very imprudent to deprive America of any of her privileges. If her commerce and friendship are of any importance to you, they are to be had on no other terms than leaving her in the full enjoyment of her rights.” —Benjamin Franklin

IN BRIEF

Trump Drills Another Obama Regulation

By Thomas Gallatin

Acting to reverse yet another one of Barack Obama’s onerous policies, President Donald Trump’s Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke announced a new plan to open up more than 90% of the U.S.‘s Outer Continental Shelf to potential oil drilling and energy development. Recall back in 2010, following the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, Obama enacted severe restrictions on offshore drilling, essentially prohibiting energy extraction on 94% of the Outer Continental Shelf. It was classic Obama, never letting a crisis go to waste. He took advantage of an uncommon disaster as a pretext for aggressively pushing his leftist economic and climate agenda under the guise of needing to protect the environment. Obama’s decision negatively impacted the nation’s economy as well as the federal government’s coffers. From 2008 to 2016, the fed saw a drop from $18 billion down to $2.8 billion in offshore activities tax revenue.

In announcing the policy change, Zinke said, “We’re embarking on a new path for energy dominance in America, particularly on offshore. This is a clear difference between energy weakness and energy dominance. We are going to become the strongest energy superpower.” The Interior Department then announced that it would hold at least 47 lease sales between 2019 and 2024, the majority of which would be off the coast of Alaska and in the Gulf of Mexico. The proposal would also free up the waters off the California coast, which have been closed to drilling since 1969.

From a national security and economic stand point, Trump’s good move will benefit the country. It would significantly increase the U.S.’s move toward energy independence, stimulate more economic growth and increase government revenue. However, politically speaking, it will be met with some resistance. Already, two Florida Republicans, Gov. Rick Scott and Sen. Marco Rubio, have pushed back on the plan, requesting that Florida’s coastal waters remain under Obama’s moratorium. North Carolina has also responded coldly to the news. The reality is that both these states rely heavily on coastal tourism and fear the potential economic consequences from negative public perception of offshore energy drilling.

But the fact remains that reversing Obama’s extreme moratorium does not change the fact that the U.S. has the world’s most stringent regulations when it comes to offshore drilling. Trump is simply seeking to level the playing field for the energy industry, which Obama had gone out of his way to actively stack the deck against.

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December Economy Feeling Chilly Weather’s Effects?

By Jordan Candler

December’s jobs report was underwhelming, particularly when compared to recent months. For example, 252,000 jobs were generated in November, but December saw just 148,000 — a month-over-month reduction of 104,000 and about 42,000 fewer than economists’ expectations, according to CNBC. At 4.1%, the headline unemployment rate remained static, though the U-6 rate, a better measure, ticked up to 8.1% from 8%. Most of the jobs report blame is being pegged on the retail industry, which fell by roughly 20,000 jobs, and that certainly makes sense as brick and mortar stores are still grappling with Internet sales. But other factors may be at play.

While the jobs numbers failed to meet economists’ expectations, there was one person who anticipated the possibility of a lackluster report. On Nov. 30, meteorologist and Patriot Post contributor Joe Bastardi warned, “Caution: December Weather May Cause Skidding of the Economy.” Americans were accustomed to unseasonable warm Decembers in recent years, but Bastardi foresaw a major change this time around. He wrote, “The potential for more extreme cold between Dec. 10 and Jan. 10 has us very concerned.” In fact, his research revealed that the coming cold “would have a huge effect on the economy in almost all sectors from the Plains and areas east.”

Of course, climate change alarmists are tying the U.S. deep freeze to man-made global warming. Guys like Al Gore are proclaiming, “It’s bitter cold in parts of the US, but climate scientist Dr. Michael Mann explains that’s exactly what we should expect from the climate crisis.” Which is rubbish — analogs derived from Bastardi provide example after example of similar extreme patterns before global warming was even part of the discussion. And deep freezes like our current one add credence to the idea that cold weather hurts the economy far more than warm weather.

By the way, Bastardi expects milder temperatures later this month, but anomalous cold could return in February. So a similar jobs report could presumably be in the offing when February’s economic analysis is released. January’s buzzkill report is neither the fault of Donald Trump’s economic policies — in fact, investors appear mostly unbothered — nor the result of man-made global warming. But expect naysayers to portray it that way anyway.

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Top Headlines

  • Manufacturing in the U.S. just accelerated to its best year since 2004 (Bloomberg)

  • U.S. created 148,000 jobs in December, vs. 190,000 jobs expected (CNBC)

  • Trump administration plan would widely expand drilling in U.S. continental waters (The Washington Post)

  • Federal judge obliterates Fusion GPS’ attempt to hide info from investigators (The Federalist)

  • FBI launches new Clinton Foundation investigation over pay-to-play; Justice Department looks into her email server (The Hill)

  • Trump administration seeks $18 billion over decade to expand border wall (The Wall Street Journal)

  • U.S. suspends most security assistance to Pakistan (NPR)

  • Demo leader Keith Ellison endorses antifa (Powerline)

  • NFL’s TV ratings dropped 10% this season amid lower attendance (Fox News)

  • Humor: Mayor declares Chicago crime-free zone, criminals disperse (The Babylon Bee)

  • Policy: Global warming isn’t making weather more extreme (Investor’s Business Daily)

  • Policy: Cure for cold: more drilling, more pipelines (E21)

For more of today’s news, visit Patriot Headline Report.

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FEATURED ANALYSIS

Marijuana: When the Rule of Law Goes to Pot

By Michael Swartz

In the late 1930s, a film called “Reefer Madness” was released as a morality tale emphasizing the dangers of marijuana use. Since that era, and even when the film was used as a method of spoofing what advocates of legalization considered draconian laws and old-fashioned societal mores regarding pot, federal law has remained consistent in making it illegal, including for medical use. Even in Colorado and Washington where marijuana use is legal under state law, smoking it for any reason, medical or not, puts the user under a very slight risk of arrest and incarceration under federal statutes.

As marijuana laws have been liberalized and penalties reduced by local and state governments to a point where it’s no more of an issue than a speeding ticket, guidance from Barack Obama’s Justice Department gave local prosecutors the option to maintain a “hands-off” approach despite the fact that marijuana laws were unchanged at the federal level.

Thursday, however, Attorney General Jeff Sessions — who’s been known as a hardliner on drug laws — sent out a memorandum to all United States attorneys rescinding the Obama-era guidance. “Given the Department’s well-established general principles,” Sessions wrote, “previous nationwide guidance specific to marijuana enforcement is unnecessary and is rescinded, effective immediately.”

Proponents of legalization fret that this open season for prosecutors will kill the nascent marijuana industry in the crib. Reason’s Scott Shackford argues, “Whether or not a marijuana grower ends up in the crosshairs of a prosecutor depends on that prosecutor’s own goals and discretion, not a consistent, predictable application of law.” While this is true, we’ve known for some time that enforcement of law is not consistent or predictable in our hyper-political nation — not that it should be an excuse, but the genie appears to be pretty far out of the bottle now despite the belief by some that we are still a nation of laws.

This call by Sessions also rekindled the idea that maybe it’s time for Congress to act and allow states to have their say. “The Founders did not write the Constitution to impose uniformity on hemp,” notes Charles C.W. Cooke in National Review.

Cooke’s colleague Jim Geraghty concurs, convinced that Sessions is taking on “an unnecessary fight” with his memo. “We can argue whether the country would be a better or worse place with more marijuana users,” Geraghty continues. But the case of Colorado would seem to be a contention for returning to a more restrictive regimen, or at least slowing down the march toward state legalization. Currently, 29 states and the District of Columbia allow pot for at least medicinal use, with California the most recent to liberalize its laws.

Yet because we have no constitutional guidance on hemp (or any number of other things in which the federal government now asserts power), the state venue may be the proper place to have the argument. David French, also of National Review, makes a strong case for this by citing Colorado Senator Cory Gardner’s frustration with the Sessions memo. Gardner promises to hold up any Justice Department nominees until Sessions changes course and keeps a promise he made to the senator before his confirmation. Yet “Gardner is positioned exactly where he needs to be to reform America’s drug laws,” says French. “As a senator, he could introduce or co-sponsor legislation that explicitly decriminalizes marijuana at the federal level and leaves marijuana laws to the states. And there are multiple powerful arguments he could make in support of such a bill.” Instead, he’s blocking nominations — and he doesn’t even support legalization.

In reality, all Sessions did was shift policy to say that federal drug laws should be enforced, but it’s now largely up to the discretion of local U.S. attorneys. And the ones in Colorado announced they’ll make no effort to enforce the law.

In the end, it may be worth considering that “Reefer Madness” came out at a time when our nation’s moral compass still pointed more or less true north, but was allowing the expansion of the federal government at a rapid pace under FDR’s New Deal. We can’t agree that the compass is still pointing in the proper direction, but we can assert with confidence that this is an issue best left to the states, not the federal government — just as the Founders intended. Sessions is correct when he speaks of prosecutors managing the Justice Department’s “finite resources,” but he fails to advocate for how this issue can best be addressed.

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TODAY’S MEME

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For more of today’s memes, visit the Memesters Union.

TODAY’S CARTOON

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For more of today’s top cartoons, visit the Cartoons archive.

MORE ANALYSIS FROM THE PATRIOT POST

BEST OF RIGHT OPINION

For more of today’s columns, visit Right Opinion.

OPINION IN BRIEF

Erick Erickson: “Attorney General Jeff Sessions has declared that he will reverse an Obama administration position allowing states to decide on marijuana legalization. Now, local United States Attorneys will be empowered to decide. But neither the Obama administration nor Jeff Sessions should do anything other than enforce the law, and federal law criminalizes marijuana. The solution here is not to ignore the federal law but to repeal it. To do otherwise empowers individuals beyond the rule of law and puts the whims of officials ahead of the will of the people. … As long as a federal law is on the books making marijuana possession a criminal act, a bureaucrat in Washington can wipe out the market and a thriving industry. You can scream all you want that they should not do it, but they can and the only thing in life more certain than even death and taxes is that a bureaucrat will act arbitrarily and capriciously when the mood strikes. … Congress should scuttle most of the federal criminal law in an effort to restore the balance of power to the states. I am indifferent on marijuana legalization, but many states are not and Congress should let the system and rule of law work instead of undermining the rule of law by empowering the arbitrariness and capriciousness of men.”

SHORT CUTS

Insight: “Do you wish to be free? Then above all things, love God, love your neighbor, love one another, love the common weal; then you will have true liberty.” —Girolamo Savonarola (1452-1498)

For the record: “This is the crux of the matter: Bannon thinks he created Trump, and Trump thinks he created Bannon. They had a fundamental disagreement about who was using whom, and in any such conflict, the president of the United States is going to win. … Trump’s base is Trump’s. No one ever voted for Steve Bannon, and now he is on the wrong side of the president in whose name he has presumed to speak.” —Rich Lowry

Change: “Such respect for the people of Iran as they try to take back their corrupt government. You will see great support from the United States at the appropriate time!” —Donald Trump

Braying Jackass: “We are almost through a calendar year of the Trump presidency. President Trump can no longer be given the benefit of the doubt that comes with learning one of the toughest jobs in the world. And my Republican colleagues should no longer be given a pass by the American people if they fail to speak out — or take action — against this behavior. Their silence … is complicity in the degradation of the presidency and the power of this country.” —Chuck Schumer

The BIG Lie: “It’s bitter cold in parts of the US, but climate scientist Dr. Michael Mann explains that’s exactly what we should expect from the climate crisis.” —Al Gore


And last… “With government, politicians need the votes of poor people every few years — something that’s abstract and people don’t place much value on. Capitalists, on the other hand, are competing for their dollars every single day. A dollar is something like a vote with a direct consequence. And poor people collectively with their dollars have even more influence than collectively with their votes.” —Frank Fleming

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Semper Vigilans Fortis Paratus et Fidelis

Nate Jackson, Managing Editor
Mark Alexander, Publisher