The Cliffhanger, Feb. 26

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???

** How to not get invited to CPAC: It’s difficult, but here’s an apparently effective strategy: (1) embrace the most far-Left president in modern history at a crucial moment during the election, joining him for long walks on the beach; (2) insult your own party for its reluctance to pass a pork-heavy “disaster relief bill” with no questions asked; (3) refer to an important element of your own party as “reprehensible” during a gun-control debate in which the other side feels free to use children as stage props; (4) declare that you agree with a far-Left Democrat control-freak governor, often touted as a 2016 presidential hopeful, on 98 percent of the issues; (5) schmooze with Michelle Obama right before she invades the Academy Awards.  This formula looks to have gotten New Jersey governor Chris Christie non-invited to the Conservative Political Action Conference this year, even though he has stratospheric approval ratings in his own state, and just about every other 2016 hopeful is a confirmed speaker.  The CPAC schedule is still a “work in progress,” so maybe Christie’s invitation will still turn up under someone’s desk blotter, possibly following a discussion about the contents of the Governor’s prospective speech.

** Farewell to C. Everett Koop: The former Surgeon General, who held the office during the Reagan and Bush years, passed away on Monday at the age of 96.  He was perhaps the most influential Surgeon General ever, noted particularly for his warnings about AIDS and second-hand smoke.  Prior to that, he was a pioneering pediatric surgeon; the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia said it would be “forever indebted to Dr. Koop for the imprint he left upon the institution, and upon all of pediatric health care.”  He was also deeply religious and a pro-lifer, at one point predicting a decline in the respect for life that would lead from “liberalized abortion, to infanticide, to passive euthanasia, to active euthanasia, indeed to the very beginnings of the political climate that led to Auschwitz, Dachau and Belsen.”  But he promised to keep his pro-life views muted when he slogged through perhaps the most contentious confirmation hearings leveled at a Surgeon General, and was true to his word.  He also felt that science did not support the designation of abortion as an essentially unsafe procedure, a decision that angered some fellow pro-lifers but won Koop respect from his critics.  He kept busy late into his life, expressing concerns about health-care rationing for seniors as a result of ObamaCare as recently as 2010.  He proved to be a tough act to follow.

** Italy seizes up: If you haven’t placed your bets on which country’s political antics would trigger the collapse of the Eurozone yet, the odds that it will be Italy are going up.  Italy just had an election resulting in political deadlock, because a comedian (literally, although he was also once convicted of manslaughter, which makes him an edgy comedian) managed to rally a big protest vote against the “austerity” measures demanded by the European Union.  “The non-party has become the largest party in the country,” declared one Italian editorialist.  Markets across Europe and the world tumbled, Italian centrists wailed “the worst is yet to come,” Spain worried that aftershocks from the Italian election could fracture its fragile political and economic structure, and economists predicted the political logjam would reduce economic growth by a full percentage point.  Those who believed rational government spending policies could save the Euro may need to re-examine their beliefs, as might those who think it’s possible to break out of a socialist death spiral right before impact with the rocky ground of reality.

** Weather report from Gaza: partly murky with chance of rocket showers: The latest Israeli-Palestinian truce grew unsteady when Palestinian militants fired a rocket from the Gaza Strip into Israel on Tuesday.  (You might think a rocket attack would “break” a truce, but those are not the standards by which these things are judged in the Middle East.)  The alleged cause of this attack was the death of a Palestinian named Arafat Jaradat in the custody of Israeli intelligence, under circumstances which officially remain murky, although the Palestinians insist he was tortured to death.  Curiously, few media accounts explain why Jaradat was in custody: he was arrested for throwing rocks at Israelis (a charge he admitted to) and, according to some reports, was struck by rubber bullets and a tear gas canister during his arrest.  The official cause of death was heart failure, while the body had bruises and abrasions (and, according to other disputed reports, broken ribs) that could have been consistent with either injuries sustained during his arrest, or efforts to revive him after his heart failure.  Let’s see how many news outlets reduce the story to an uncritical “died under interrogation” in Tweets before the confusion gets sorted out.

** John Kerry’s tenure as Secretary of State off to a wonderful start: After inventing an entire nation out of thin air, our new Secretary of State suddenly got rather vague about more than just geography, waffling on what the United States might do to aid the Syrian opposition on the eve of a big summit in Rome.  This alienated the Syrian opposition, which announced that it might boycott the meeting.  The U.S. ambassador to Syria was sent in to clean up after Kerry, and by Monday night the meeting in Rome was back on track, with a Syrian opposition leader saying he had been given promises of additional assistance to “alleviate the suffering of our people.”

** Return of the Buffett Rule: It’s baaaaaack!  Among the tax hikes proposed by Democrats to add to the other huge tax hikes imposed by Democrats as part of a “balanced approach” to deficit reduction that appears to consist of nothing but tax hikes is the “Buffett Rule,” a surtax on people who make over a million dollars a year and take too many of the deductions they are legally entitled to.  It’s projected to squeeze another $67,000 a year in taxes out of the average affected taxpayer, which will blow even more jobs out of Barack Obama’s high-unemployment New Normal economy, but that seems like a small price to pay for giving class warriors a little temporary peace of mind.  It’ll last until they decide the 30 percent minimum tax rate is too low, which will happen right about the same time American voters notice the national debt is still increasing at a staggering pace, and the government is still wasting billions of dollars on silly garbage.

** Soros-backed group faces funding loss over partisan political memo: One of the many tax-exempt advocacy groups bankrolled by noted financier Ernst Stavro Soros is in big trouble after the discovery of a memo outlining the kind of shady hyper-partisan activities that non-profit non-partisan groups are not supposed to engage in, with the overall goal of “eviscerating” and “crippling” the North Carolina Republican Party.  Oddly enough, the memo also includes talking points virtually identical to the Democrats’ response to Governor Pat McCrory’s State of the State address.  The group in question, Blueprint North Carolina, claims the whole thing is a disinformation campaign.  Other Blueprint donors worry that the group exercised “bad judgment,” to say the least.