The Cliffhanger, Feb. 6

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???

** What’s more agonizing: waterboarding, death by drone strike, or Senate confirmation hearings? John Brennan, the White House counter-terrorism adviser tapped by President Obama to become director of the CIA, will undergo Senate confirmation hearings on Thursday, but he might prefer a few minutes under the ol’ wet towel.  He’ll surely be asked about the secret drone-strike kill lists maintained by our Nobel Peace Prize-winning President, which among many other targets eliminated three Americans, including the 16-year-old boy who edited al-Qaeda’s newsletter.  It’s hard to see why everyone is so wee-wee’d up about the liquidation of young Samir Khan, since the Administration profusely apologized to the teen terrorist’s family at the time.  Maybe our journalistic priesthood is uncomfortable with the precedent of blowing away American magazine editors without a trial.

White House spokesman Jay Carney came forth to reassure the press that the President’s secret drone kills are “legal, they are ethical, and they are wise.”  He refused to elaborate on the “legal” part, but really, all we need to know for any government program is that our maximum leadership thinks it’s ethical and wise.  We could save ourselves a lot of hassle by replacing the Constitution with a postcard that says as much, perhaps accompanied by a photo of Grumpy Cat scowling his contempt at would-be dissidents.

Some wise guy in the press corps, perhaps momentarily forgetting the rules of etiquette for addressing Democrat administrations, asked Carney how “dropping a bomb on an American citizen without any judicial review, any trial” could possibly be less of a human-rights issue than waterboarding, which the President “strongly opposes.”  Carney’s reply, which took about two minutes to choke out, is that the President takes his responsibilities “very seriously.”  Also, he made a point of noting that terrorists are bad people, which does nothing to explain why putting a wet towel on their faces is the ultimate evil, but blowing them into bloody chunks with remote-controlled weapons is cool.

Maybe Brennan will do better when he gets his shot at answering these questions tomorrow.  Supposedly he’s always been opposed to waterboarding, but in his callow youth (circa 2008) he nursed his objections in bitter silence.  Meanwhile if the Nobel Prize committee had any sense of self-awareness, they’d nominate one of Obama’s Predator drones to receive this year’s Peace Prize.

** Charlottesville, Virginia bans drones: Perhaps concerned that the rest of the drones might not function any more reliably than Jay Carney, the city of Charlottesville, Virginia on Monday became the first city to ban its municipal agencies from buying, leasing, or borrowing drones.  But what about drones they receive as a gift, or self-aware drones that decide to become cybernetic vigilantes prowling the skies of the Old Dominion?  You’ve got to write this legislation more carefully, guys.  Lawyers will exploit any loophole.  Drone lawyers will be even more relentless about it.

Charlottesville also wants the U.S. Congress to consider a federal ban on using information collected by drones in court.  Numerous other state and local governments are contemplating similar prohibitions.  Now is the time to have this discussion, because the number of domestic drone permits is set to skyrocket beginning in 2015, and we’ll end up with tens of thousands of them buzzing overhead.  Rest assured that most of them won’t be armed… unless the President thinks arming them would be ethical and wise, of course.

** It’s just possible that this Obama fellow might not be serious about spending cuts: So says former Senator Jim DeMint, who is now poised to become president of the Heritage Foundation (in the real sense of the word “poised,” not the laughable “economy is poised for recovery” that-parrot’s-not-dead-it’s-just-pining-for-the-fjords sense Obama uses it.)  Among other clues to the President’s true attitude was his “press availability” yesterday, in which he said that cutting any federal spending would cause his robust, healthy, healing, poised economy to collapse in ruin.  The odd thing is that he offers such arguments in defense of the system he’s created.  The President is keen to delay the sequestration spending cuts, which would join the rest of the dismembered Budget Control Act of 2011 in the shallow grave of political history.  People are beginning to notice that Obama has no spending cut proposals to offset the sequester; his new vague euphemism is “smart spending cut,” which means the kind that happen in the “out years,” i.e. never.  He would love to replace the sequester with some more tax hikes, however, and you can bet your bottom dollar that those would happen immediately, but it would be a sucker bet, because Obama’s going to take your bottom dollar anyway.

** Goodbye, Saturday mail delivery: The Post Office on Wednesday morning announced that it would end Saturday mail delivery in a cost-cutting measure.  For young people unfamiliar with the concept, “mail” is like spam, except it’s printed on paper.  The Post Office lost about $16 billion delivering mail last year, hemmed in by weird quasi-government, quasi-private corporation rules that hinder its ability to compete with private delivery services.  But government-run quasi-private health care will be awesome!

** Ground Zero Mosque fraud: It turns out that concerns about the Ground Zero Mosque may have been unfounded; it’s more of a piggy bank than an Islamic victory memorial.  Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf has been hit with a $20 million lawsuit for misappropriating funds from the project.  The money was “meant to counter anti-Islamic sentiment but instead went to Raul’s private life,” according to the suit, which also alleges that Rauf is a tax cheat.  The Imam’s lifestyle reportedly included “lavish trips, luxury sports cars, and personal real estate.”  Well, doesn’t that all go a long way toward countering the anti-Islamic stereotype of enraged cave-dwelling suicide bombers?  This man clearly loves life.  I strongly suggest that Rauf contact Senator Bob Menendez immediately, because he’s in the market for a new best friend, and Rauf seems eminently qualified.

** Ahmadinejad visits Cairo, gets hit with shoes: Iran’s tiny terrorist leader swung by Cairo for a “historic trip” and found himself on the receiving end of a shoe shower, flung by Sunni Muslims who think Iran’s Shiite government “killed our brothers.”  Throwing shoes at people is considered a sign of contempt in the Muslim world, although the preferred Iranian gesture of contempt involves throwing nuclear warheads.

** Today is Ronald Reagan Day: Forty state governors, including both Republicans and Democrats, have declared February 6 to be “Ronald Reagan Day.”  The eight governors who refused are all Democrats: Mike Beebe of Arkansas, Jack Markell of Delaware, Neil Abercrombie of Hawaii, Steve Beshear of Kentucky, Deval Patrick of Massachusetts, Mark Dayton of Minnesota, John Kitzhaber of Oregon, and Peter Shumlin of Vermont.  Democrats Dannel Malloy of Connecticut and Jay Inslee of Washington State still had not made up their minds at the time of this writing.  Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform has some thoughts about Reagan’s birthday, and the sharp contrast between Reagan prosperity and whatever the heck Barack Obama is doing.