H/T Right Scoop
Around this time two years ago, Barack Obama delivered a prime time speech in which he told viewers waiting for him to shut up and make way for American Idol, “We have spent a trillion dollars on war, at a time of rising debt and hard economic times… America, it is time to focus on nation-building here at home.”
Even while he was delivering a speech promising to begin nation-building at home, the warplanes he had dispatched to Libya were bombing government targets in support of the Islamist uprising.
A month earlier, Obama had told Americans that he had a duty to protect “Benghazi, a city nearly the size of Charlotte”. Given a choice between nation-building in Charlotte and Benghazi; Obama chose Benghazi.
In September 2012, Obama gave yet another speech calling for a withdrawal from Afghanistan and nation-building at home. Ten days later, the diplomatic mission in Benghazi came under attack by militias and terrorists who had been allowed to take over the city by Obama’s Libyan intervention.
At the presidential debate, despite the broken promises on Libya, Obama once again brought out his “nation-building at home” card.
In response to a question about the challenges of the Middle East and the terrorist attack in Benghazi, Obama speechified, “The other thing that we have to do is recognize that we can’t continue to do nation building in these regions. Part of American leadership is making sure that we’re doing nation building here at home.”
The response should have come with a laugh track. Eight months later, the Nobel Peace Prize winner is preparing to lead America into his second Arab Spring war.
The script has already been written and it’s the same script that saw airtime in Libya. Claim an imminent threat to civilians that is actually a threat to the terrorists. Carve out a No Fly Zone. Arm the terrorists. And then sit back and wait for the next Benghazi.
To invade Libya, Obama lied and told the American people that the residents of Benghazi were about to suffer a massacre that would stain “the conscience of the world.” No such massacre had taken place or was ever going to take place. The only innocent people who wound up massacred in Benghazi were the Americans sent there by Hillary Clinton.
This time, swap out Aleppo or Homs for Benghazi as the cities badly in need of American protection. Never mind that the Christians of Aleppo and Homs, the only innocent parties in a religious war between a Shiite government and Sunni terrorist groups, are in far more danger from the Islamist Sunni terrorists that Obama is proposing to arm.
The Free Syrian Army’s Farouq Brigades went door to door expelling Christians in Homs. Of the 160,000 Christians in the city, there are now barely a 1,000. Christians in Aleppo have faced kidnappings and car bombings. Some have chosen to arm themselves against the rebels.
“We see on TV armed young men with beards shouting, ‘Allah is great!’ and calling for jihad. We have the right to defend ourselves,” one Christian in Aleppo said. But Obama won’t be supplying the Christians with any weapons. Those are reserved for the bearded young Allah-shouters.
In Qseir, the city recently recaptured by the Syrian Army from the Sunni militias, whose loss partly triggered the rush to war by the Western allies of the Muslim Brotherhood, most of the Christians had fled a place where they were once 10 percent of the population following Sunni Muslim persecution.
The 10,000 Christians of Qseir were ordered to leave the city by loudspeakers on mosques. If Obama’s intervention helps the Islamist militias retake Qseir; there will soon be no Christians left in the city at all. And the same goes for Homs and Aleppo.
Intervention in support of the Islamist militias in Syria is nothing more than a Christian ethnic cleansing project. And those supporting it should be treated like any other advocates of ethnic cleansing.
Obama’s intervention in Libya turned Benghazi over to Islamist militias who have persecuted Christians. His intervention in Syria will ethnically cleanse Christians while rewarding the Muslim Brotherhood with another building block for their caliphate plans.
The Syrian War, like the Libyan War, is built on a pyramid of lies. There are no good options in Syria and nothing we do will help anyone there.
Despite the belated declaration that the Syrian government had breached a Red Line by using chemical weapons, the evidence points to chemical weapons use by both sides.
Obama is choosing to hold only one side accountable for actions that both sides have taken. While the Sunni rebels who used chemical weapons will be armed and aided, the Shiite government which used chemical weapons will get bombed. That’s not human rights; it’s cynical hypocrisy.
The vaunted “Red Line” was and is irrelevant. The White House delayed taking a position when the evidence of a breach first came in and dispatched its media allies to make excuses for not taking an immediate stand because the line was never the issue. The determining factor was whether the Sunni rebels could win on their own or not.
The Libyan intervention had nothing to do with protecting the people of Benghazi and everything to do with protecting the Islamist militias in Benghazi which were in danger of losing the city. The Syrian intervention has nothing to do with whether Assad used chemical weapons, but the worry that the Sunni militias will lose Aleppo and Homs the way that they appear to have lost Qseir.
It was only when it became clear that the Sunni rebels were being rolled back by government forces, that the Red Line began flashing in the White House. And if there is any doubt of that, Politico quoted an administration official as saying, “The decision was ultimately driven by the discovery Assad used [chemical weapons], but there were a number of other factors in place that were also important… “Would we have made [the determination Assad had breached the red line] even if we didn’t have the evidence? Probably.”
Had an official of the previous administration made such a statement around the Iraq War, there would have been talk of impeachment, but the media has long since gotten used to swallowing the bizarre lies put out by an administration that ended the Iraq War twice and kept insisting that Al Qaeda was on the run even as it was expanding across North Africa.
Obama lied the country into war in Libya. Now no one even blinks as an official admits that he was prepared to lie the country into war in Syria.
Before the campaign, Obama yammered about nation-building at home. Libya isn’t home. Neither is Syria.
While Obama botched Afghanistan, he has insisted on committing the United States to intervening in every nation-building war that the Arab Spring can throw up. Despite slashing the military to the bone, he hasn’t slaked his appetite for new wars. Even though he has dismantled the ability of the FBI to track Islamic terrorists at home, he has busily devoted government resources to helping them win abroad.
Syria is not America’s war. It is the Muslim Brotherhood’s war. Instead of nation-building at home, Obama is caliphate-building abroad.
The Supreme Court ruled Monday that states cannot on their own require would-be voters to prove they are U.S. citizens before using a federal registration system designed to make signing up easier.
The justices voted 7-2 to throw out Arizona’s voter-approved requirement that prospective voters document their U.S. citizenship in order to use a registration form produced under the federal “Motor Voter” voter registration law.
Federal law “precludes Arizona from requiring a federal form applicant to submit information beyond that required by the form itself,” Justice Antonia Scalia wrote for the court’s majority.
The court was considering the legality of Arizona’s requirement that prospective voters document their U.S. citizenship in order to use a registration form produced under the federal “motor voter” registration law. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said that the National Voter Registration Act of 1993, which doesn’t require such documentation, trumps Arizona’s Proposition 200 passed in 2004.
Arizona appealed that decision to the Supreme Court.
“Today’s decision sends a strong message that states cannot block their citizens from registering to vote by superimposing burdensome paperwork requirements on top of federal law,” said Nina Perales, vice president of litigation for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund and lead counsel for the voters who challenged Proposition 200.
“The Supreme Court has affirmed that all U.S. citizens have the right to register to vote using the national postcard, regardless of the state in which they live,” she said.
The case focuses on Arizona, which has tangled frequently with the federal government over immigration issues involving the Mexican border. But it has broader implications because four other states — Alabama, Georgia, Kansas and Tennessee — have similar requirements, and 12 other states are contemplating such legislation.
Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito dissented from the court’s ruling.
The Constitution “authorizes states to determine the qualifications of voters in federal elections, which necessarily includes the related power to determine whether those qualifications are satisfied,” Thomas said in his dissent.
Opponents of Arizona’s law see it as an attack on vulnerable voter groups such as minorities, immigrants and the elderly. They say they’ve counted more than 31,000 potentially legal voters in Arizona who easily could have registered before Proposition 200 but were blocked initially by the law in the 20 months after it passed in 2004. They say about 20 percent of those thwarted were Latino.
Barbara Arnwine, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, called the decision a victory. “The court has reaffirmed the essential American right to register to vote for federal election without the burdens of state voter suppression measures,” she said.
But Arizona officials say they should be able to pass laws to stop illegal immigrants and other noncitizens from getting on their voting rolls. The Arizona voting law was part of a package that also denied some government benefits to illegal immigrants and required Arizonans to show identification before voting.
The federal “motor voter” law, enacted in 1993 to expand voter registration, requires states to offer voter registration when a resident applies for a driver’s license or certain benefits. Another provision of that law — the one at issue before the court — requires states to allow would-be voters to fill out mail-in registration cards and swear they are citizens under penalty of perjury, but it doesn’t require them to show proof. Under Proposition 200, Arizona officials require an Arizona driver’s license issued after 1996, a U.S. birth certificate, a passport or other similar document, or the state will reject the federal registration application form.
While the court was clear in stating that states cannot add additional identification requirements to the federal forms on their own, it was also clear that the same actions can be taken by state governments if they get the approval of the federal government and the federal courts.
Arizona can ask the federal government to include the extra documents as a state-specific requirement, Scalia said, and take any decision made by the government on that request back to court. Other states have already done so, Scalia said.
The Election Assistance Commission “recently approved a state-specific instruction for Louisiana requiring applicants who lack a Louisiana driver’s license, ID card or Social Security number to attach additional documentation to the completed federal form,” Scalia said.
The case is 12-71, Arizona v. Inter Tribal Council of Arizona, Inc.
Dozens of lawmakers and aides are so afraid that their health insurance premiums will skyrocket next year thanks to Obamacare that they are thinking about retiring early or just quitting.
The fear: Government-subsidized premiums will disappear at the end of the year under a provision in the health care law that nudges aides and lawmakers onto the government health care exchanges, which could make their benefits exorbitantly expensive.
Democratic and Republican leaders are taking the issue seriously, but first they need more specifics from the Office of Personnel Management on how the new rule should take effect – a decision that Capitol Hill sources expect by fall, at the latest. The administration has clammed up in advance of a ruling, sources on both sides of the aisle said.
If the issue isn’t resolved, and massive numbers of lawmakers and aides bolt, many on Capitol Hill fear it could lead to a brain drain just as Congress tackles a slew of weighty issues – like fights over the Tax Code and immigration reform.
The problem is far more acute in the House, where lawmakers and aides are generally younger and less wealthy. Sources said several aides have already given lawmakers notice that they’ll be leaving over concerns about Obamacare. Republican and Democratic lawmakers said the chatter about retiring now, to remain on the current health care plan, is constant.
Rep. John Larson, a Connecticut Democrat in leadership when the law passed, said he thinks the problem will be resolved.
“If not, I think we should begin an immediate amicus brief to say, ‘Listen this is simply not fair to these employees,’” Larson told POLITICO. “They are federal employees.”
Republicans, never a fan of Democratic health care reform, are more vocal about the potential adverse effects of the provision.
“It’s a reality,” said Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Texas). “This is the law… It’s going to hinder our ability with retention of members, it’s going to hinder our ability for members to take care of their families.” He said his fellow lawmakers are having “quiet conversations” about the threat.
Alabama Rep. Jo Bonner said the threat is already real, especially for veteran lawmakers and staff. If they leave this year, they think they can continue to be covered under the current health care plan.
“I’ve lost one staffer who told me in confidence that he had been here for a number of years and the thought of losing the opportunity to keep his health insurance on Dec. 31 [forced him to leave]. He could keep what he had and on Jan. 1 he would go into that big black hole,” said Bonner, who had already planned his resignation from Congress. “And then I’ve got another staff member that I think it will be a factor as she’s contemplating her future.”
Lawmakers and aides on both sides of the aisle are acutely aware of the problems with the provision. Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) have discussed fixes to the provision. Boehner, according to House GOP sources, believes that Reid must take the lead on crafting a solution. Since Republicans opposed the bill, Boehner does not feel responsible to lead the effort to make changes.
The Affordable Care Act – signed into law in 2010 – contained a provision known as the Grassley Amendment, which said the government can only offer members of Congress and their staff plans that are “created” in the bill or “offered through an exchange” – unless the bill is amended.
Currently, aides and lawmakers receive their health care under the generous Federal Employee Health Benefits Program. The government subsidizes upward of 75 percent of the premiums for the health insurance plans. In 2014, most Capitol Hill aides and lawmakers are expected to be put onto the exchanges, and there has been no guidance whether the government will subsidize those premiums. This is expected to cause a steep spike in health insurance costs.
There have been many options for fixing the problem discussed throughout the year, including administrative fixes and legislative tweaks. One scenario seen as likely on Capitol Hill would have OPM simply decide that the government could still subsidize insurance on the exchanges.
House Democratic leadership says the issue must be resolved.
“The leadership has assured members that fixing this issue is a top priority,” said one Democratic leadership aide. “This issue must be fixed by administrative action in order that the flawed Grassley Amendment’s spirit is honored and all staff and members are treated the same.”
It could be politically difficult to change this provision. The provision was put in the bill in the first place on the theory that if Congress was going to make the country live under the provisions of Obamacare, the members and staff should have to as well.
The uncertainty has created a growing furor on Capitol Hill with aides young and old worried about skyrocketing health care premiums cutting deeply into their already small paychecks. Some longtime aides and members of Congress, who previously had government subsidized health care for life, are concerned that their premiums will now come out of their pension.
If their fears are borne out, the results could be twofold. Some junior staff will head for the private sector early while more seasoned aides and lawmakers could leave before the end of the year so they can continue under the old plan.
Several lawmakers said departures could run the gamut from low-level staff to legislative aides, to senior aides and lawmakers. Capitol Hill is an attractive workplace for politically ambitious college graduates, but a core of Capitol Hill aides stick around for decades, serving as institutional knowledge, and earning prized retirement packages.
OPM, which administers benefits for federal employees, is expected to rule in the coming months on how congressional health care is to be administered.
OPM did not respond to a request for comment.
More than a dozen senior aides interviewed by POLITICO about the issue declined to be named out of fear for future job prospects. The problem is most acutely felt at the staff level, where aides make between $35,000 and roughly $170,000 and budgetary problems have all but stopped pay increases and bonuses. Lawmakers have questioned leadership aides about the future of their health care.
“Between the constant uncertainty surrounding sequestration, and the likelihood aides will soon be paying for the subsidy portion of their health care coverage, congressional office budgets are being squeezed once again, and it’s causing a lot of concern amongst chiefs of staff regarding how to best handle the situation,” said one chief of staff to a senior Democratic member of the House. “Do we give raises to junior level aides so they can afford to pay for their higher health care costs, and if so, where do we find the funds to do so? Additionally, leadership has been relatively silent in terms of providing guidance to offices, which is frustrating.”
There are other ways that aides can fully avoid this problem. If they’re married, they can join their spouse’s health care plan. If they are 65, they can go on Medicare.
But the focus right now is centered on lawmakers trying to figure out how to offset potential increases in premiums.
“I know other members are doing the same thing in terms of what we can do to offset [premiums],” Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) said. “You are particularly limited now because of course we’ve had the cuts in the [member office allowances] on top of this. You just don’t have a lot of options.”
Cole added, “A lot of the staff stays on largely because of the benefit levels and particularly if you’ve got people with families and it’s extraordinarily important to them… it’s just not right.”