The Cliffhanger, March 5

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???

** The Korean War might be back on: It was often observed that the hit TV show “M*A*S*H” lasted much longer than the actual Korean War.  Third-generation despot Kim Jong Un aims to fix that, by threatening to cancel the 1953 cease-fire agreement, as part of its “stronger additional countermeasures” against U.N. sanctions and joint U.S. – South Korean military drills he finds provocative.  Actually, if you want to pick nits, the Korean War never really ended, since an armistice is not a peace treaty.  Shredding the armistice would be a new low in Nork saber-rattling, and probably more than just a symbolic gesture, since they haven’t really been shy about blowing away innocent people even when the cease-fire was in effect.  The revived Korean War would be a rather different affair, especially since the Norks’ patron China has lost patience with them, and supports the latest round of sanctions.  The balloon goes up this Monday, March 11, unless Dennis Rodman’s BFF changes his mind.

** Iran gets closer to the nuclear “red line”: Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told a meeting of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee via satellite that Iran is “running out the clock” on ineffectual efforts to delay their nuclear program with sanctions.  “It’s still not crossed the red line I drew with the United Nations last September, but Iran is getting closer to that red line, and it is putting itself in a position to cross that line very quickly once it decides to do so.”

Netanyahu has been having trouble pulling together a government, so he couldn’t attend AIPAC in person.  In a few weeks he’ll be hosting President Barack Obama, who has been having trouble pulling himself away from the campaign trail to govern.  Obama dispatched his Vice President, “Shotgun” Joe Biden, to assure AIPAC that his boss is “not bluffing” when he vows to “prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.”

If you’re not bluffing, you don’t send Joe Biden out to declare that you’re not bluffing.  Is Iran supposed to quail in terror from a high-strung President who loudly threatens to slash the American military in response to a 2.3 percent reduction in the growth of federal spending?  They know Obama wants to melt his military down into trillion-dollar platinum coins to finance politically rewarding social spending.  Just a little longer now, and they’ll be across that “red line,” and the world will change forever.

** “Austerity” watch: $127 million to regulate school lunches: As you may remember from Barack Obama’s remarkable string of temper tantrums over the past few weeks, cutting $44 billion out of a $3.8 trillion non-budgeted pile of federal spending means that America must make do without health inspectors, first responders, and the military power it would take to convince people like the ayatollahs of Iran that we’re not bluffing when we forbid them to have nuclear weapons.  But there’s still plenty of cash lying around for subsidizing the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, or hyper-regulating school lunches.  Actually, the new regulations against snacks and drinks analyzed by the American Action Forum take the form of an unfunded federal mandate, worth about $127 million and 926,000 hours of compliance paperwork.

This is described as the “second wave of regulations” from the Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, a regulation-generating machine whose primary result has been the creation of “food basketball,” a game where kids throw away the unappealing federally-mandated food they don’t like.  This will probably earn them another stern lecture from our unelected national food commissar, Michelle Obama, who has already hectored the kids for throwing away the food she understands better than their numbskull parents.  Mrs. Obama should threaten to march food basketball players off to her “Let’s Move!” seminars, which are exercises in exhaustion, starvation, and tedium that would get the U.S. government sued into oblivion, if it tried inflicting them on the terrorist prisoners of Guantanamo Bay.  She held a big online meeting on Google to promote her crusade against childhood obesity on Monday.  Then she went out for pizza.  No, really.

** TSA blows $50 million on new uniforms on the eve of sequestration: “Austerity” is brutal, isn’t it?  Shave two cents off the dollar at the Transportation Security Agency, and travelers will crumble to dust while trapped in endless security checkpoint lines.  But they can still spare $50 million clams for snappy new uniforms, a purchase finalized just two days before sequestration went into effect.  People should stop comparing Barack Obama’s out-of-control government to the spending habits of drunken sailors, because it’s brutally unfair to drunken sailors.  They certainly don’t blow their money on new uniforms.

** The Menendez saga takes another turn: Yesterday’s Cliffhanger remarked that nobody was really talking about Senator Menendez’ Dominican prostitution scandal any more, since various other aspects of his relationship with top donor and world-class party planner Dr. Salomon Melgen had captured the attention of both reporters and investigators.  This comment proved to be the sort of ironic prophecy that can only happen if you cram a dozen news items into a morning briefing five days a week.  That very day, it was revealed that one of the Dominican hookers who had named Menendez as a client recanted her testimony under oath.  According to CNN, she said she was paid to make these accusations by a lawyer looking to manipulate a divorce case, which doesn’t make much sense, but apparently the Dominican Republic is a confusing land of enchantment.

The media stampede to exonerate Menendez of all wrongdoing commenced immediately, even though the hookers were always a fairly small (but of course headline-grabbing) element of the saga.  (How he traveled to the Dominican Republic, for example, is of more interest to investigators than what he did when he got there, and the Senator has already coughed up $58k in hasty reimbursements to evade Senate ethics rules after his frequent flights on Melgen’s private jet came to light.)  The Washington Post promptly confused the recanting Dominican hooker with the entirely different Dominican hookers who were the sources for the Daily Caller’s original story about Senator Menendez’ misadventures.  Granted, it’s tough to keep them all straight, but the recanting hooker claims she was secretly recorded without her knowledge, while the hookers in the videotape described by the Daily Caller were wearing earpieces.  Their lawyer says the lawyer who said another lawyer paid him to pay a hooker to make false allegations against Bob Menendez is full of malarkey.  This would all make a great TV show, especially if the torrid lust for power, money, and sex were set against a backdrop of flesh-eating zombies looking to over-run the Dominican Republic.