The Cliffhanger, Jan. 29

Ever since the language of the ???fiscal cliff??? was appropriated to describe the political battle over a tax increase, it???s become increasingly clear that every issue is a ???cliff??? now.  Here are today???s snapshots from the edge???

** Obama goes sightseeing at the immigration cliff: President Obama will blow a couple million taxpayer dollars flying out to Las Vegas for his big “comprehensive immigration reform” speech today, possibly to symbolize what a crap shoot the latest round of amnesty will be.  Also, he couldn’t fully enjoy his last trip to Sin City, because people kept bugging him about the Benghazi terrorist attack and his Administration’s inability to discuss it honestly.  The White House is emitting signals of friendly bipartisanship at the moment, which makes everyone familiar with the usual Obama modus operandi deeply suspicious.  An Administration official told Fox News that the Gang of Eight bipartisan agreement “is on a trajectory that mirrors Obama’s immigration plan almost exactly, and that the White House is willing to let the group take the lead.”

Sure they are… for as long as the result is internal Republican squabbling between today’s comprehensive reformers, and those who dwell upon how the last few comprehensive reforms worked out.  Once the image of saintly bipartisan cooperation is firmly established and the amnesty process is well under way, Obama’s “trajectory” (what a curious choice of words!) will suddenly and sharply diverge from the Republican reformers’, and the latter will be called evil for refusing to go along with whatever unacceptable giveaway Obama inserts in the heat of the next election cycle.  There’s no way Obama is going to let this end with Marco Rubio taking a bow before cheering throngs of “provisional” citizens, folks.

** Egyptian defense minister warns the state could collapse: Well, it could.  And given the importance of the Egyptian military as a source of political stability, it’s not good when the top army official talks like this.  Riots continue unabated despite dictator Mohammed Morsi’s declaration of a month-long state of emergency in several cities.  The military refuses to enforce the curfew Morsi imposed.  The increasingly rebellious city of Port Said has its own flag now.

** Sequestration is happening: “Chances are growing that the automatic, across-the-board spending cuts that no one thought would ever happen may soon take effect,” says CNN, nicely capturing the sense of bemused wonder spreading across Washington as it realizes spending might actually be cut.  This is a shock roughly on par with the feeling Dr. Alan Grant experienced when he looked up from his study of a curious plant at John Hammond’s new theme park, and noticed a brontosaurus standing over him.  Sure, it’s only a paltry $1.2 trillion over 10 years, but on the bright side CNN reports “the White House budget office has instructed federal agencies to plan to operate at lower funding levels,” which is something they should get used to.  The White House has been telling the private sector to operate at lower funding levels for years.

** Iran imprisons another Christian pastor, disappointing the Obama Administration: The Iranian theocracy doesn’t feel good about itself unless it has a Christian pastor or two tucked away in its dungeons.  This time it’s Saeed Abedini, sentenced to eight years in the hellish Evin “University” political prison for the crime of threatening Iran’s national security by not being a Muslim any more.  Also, he was threatening to build an orphanage, where the children probably would not have received the recommended daily allowance of beatings.  In accordance with the highest traditions of the Iranian justice system, Pastor Abedini and his lawyer were allowed to attend some of his trial.  Abedini is an American citizen who lives in Idaho, so you would think his imprisonment would outrage that great champion of religious liberty, President Barack Obama.  But Obama has been completely silent, while spokespeople for the National Security Council and State Department said they were “deeply disappointed” and “deeply concerned,” respectively.

** Texas governor Rick Perry proposes refunding tax surplus to taxpayers: Governor Rick Perry has been able to protect Texas from the worst ravages of Obamanomics, and now the big showoff wants the state to “return tax money it collects but doesn’t spend back to its citizens.”  How absurd!  Everyone knows the government’s job is to spend money it doesn’t collect!

** Hurricane pork passes Senate: Our long national nightmare of fiscal restraint is over, as the Senate voted 62-36 on Monday night to pass a $50 billion Hurricane Sandy relief bill, $17 billion of which arguably had something to do with relief for Hurricane Sandy.  The rest was a pork-barrel shopping list.  Touchingly, there was even money for the federal government’s favorite useless nostalgic money sink, Head Start.  “It is not perfect, but it is a very sound bill.  Let’s not make the perfect the enemy of the good,” said Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), whose Party is never going to let common sense be the enemy of spending money.  Sure, this bill spends almost all of the money from President Obama’s tax hikes for the coming year, but fully a third of it will go toward the nominal purpose of the bill.  That’s close enough for government work.


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