Thursday, December 26, 2013

Obama may be able to avoid environmental debate, Keystone pipeline decision

Concerns about conflict may force State to restart review

After five years of delays, it has become increasingly clear that President Obama doesn’t want to make a decision on the massive Keystone XL oil sands pipeline.

It turns out he may not have to.

House Democrats and other critics of the proposed project — which has put traditional White House allies such as labor unions and environmental activists on opposite sides of a heated debate — are hinting that the State Department may have to restart its environmental review of Keystone from scratch. Such a move, which would be motivated by suspected conflicts of interest surrounding a company hired by the State Department to work on the analysis, could push a decision on the pipeline down the road for another few years, possibly until Mr. Obama leaves office in 2017.

That scenario once seemed impossible. But now, analysts say, it could be emerging as the administration’s ultimate out, one that allows the president to satisfy the environmental community without being blamed for killing the project.

“I’ve been of the mind that there’s no way it makes any kind of sense [for the president to avoid a decision on Keystone]. But it’s been well over five years and yet he keeps proving me wrong,” said Dan Kish, senior vice president for policy at the conservative Institute for Energy Research. “In my experience, a lot of times what happens is the way that the environmental community works, and the political community aligned with them, they will put all kinds of speed bumps in the way [of a project] and when the car falls apart because it takes one more speed bump they say, ‘Look at that. The car couldn’t make it.’”

The latest “speed bump” for Keystone, which would transport Canadian oil sands south from Alberta through the U.S. heartland to refineries on the Gulf Coast, centers on what some have called conflicts of interest involving the State Department’s lengthy review of the project.

State must conduct analyses of the $7 billion pipeline because it crosses an international boundary.

To do that, the department contracted with leading environmental consulting firm Environmental Resources Management. A draft environmental study of Keystone largely was favorable, finding no significant uptick in greenhouse gas emissions as a result of the project while determining that the pipeline would create tens of thousands of jobs.

But since that draft was released in March, Environmental Resources Management and the State Department’s overall process have come under fire. Critics — led by environmental groups and key House Democrats such as Rep. Raul M. Grijalva of Arizona — point to the fact that Environmental Resources Management is a member company of groups, such as the American Petroleum Institute, that have publicly and aggressively lobbied for Keystone to be built.

The company also is a member of other trade groups and organizations that support the project. Environmental Resources Management did not respond to requests for comment, though it previously denied any conflicts of interest with respect to its work on Keystone.

An earlier investigation by the State Department found no conflicts, but the ordeal now is getting a second look.

A report from the department’s inspector general is due early next year, said Douglas Welty, congressional and public affairs officer at State’s Office of the Inspector General.

He added that the primary objective of the review is to determine whether State “was effective in assessing potential organizational conflicts of interest” when it chose Environmental Resources Management to perform the environmental review.

Until that investigation plays out, Mr. Grijalva and others want State to delay the release of its final environmental study. That report is a prerequisite for a decision by Mr. Obama, and until it is released the White House continues to defer all questions on Keystone to the State Department.

“It would be unwise and premature for State to release a study prepared by Environmental Resources Management while it remains under investigation for lying to federal officials about its business connections and practices,” Mr. Grijalva said in a letter to the president this month. The letter was co-signed by two dozen other House Democrats.

The company proposing the pipeline, TransCanada, largely has been tight-lipped about the investigation.

“Quite frankly, there is nothing new here and this is a matter for the U.S. Department of State and ERM to address,” TransCanada spokesman Shawn Howard said.

TransCanada — along with many in the Canadian government — has been frustrated by the Obama administration’s seemingly endless delays.

Environmental reviews of Keystone have dragged on for years. Indeed, supporters of the project, including a bipartisan coalition in Congress, have dubbed it “the most studied pipeline in history.”

If the inspector general’s review determines that the whole State Department process was marred by conflicts of interest, it likely would necessitate another round of studies and, potentially, years of further delay.

Meanwhile, Canada has begun looking for alternatives to get its valuable fuel to market.

On Dec. 19, a three-member review panel recommended that the Canadian government approve a pipeline west to the Pacific Coast, allowing oil to be shipped to burgeoning markets in Asia.

That development, among others, could make Keystone a less-attractive project from an economic perspective, Mr. Kish said.

For Mr. Obama, it also would carry clear political benefits.

“He could say, ‘Hey, I didn’t do that. It was a failure of the market system,’” Mr. Kish said. “I’ve seen this over several decades with these environmental battles. First they say you need to study it, to do this and to do that. It delays it, delays it, delays it. And all of a sudden the project becomes uneconomic or they have sent a political signal to the market that they ought to back out.”


On almost every left-right issue that divides Democrats and Republicans -- as well as Republicans themselves -- there is a neglected populist constituency. The result is that populist politics are largely caricatured as Tea Party extremism -- and a voice for the middle class is largely absent. 
The problem with Obamacare is that its well-connected and influential supporters -- pet businesses, unions and congressional insiders -- have already won exemption from it. The rich will always have their concierge doctors and Cadillac health plans. The poor can usually find low-cost care through Medicaid, federal clinics and emergency rooms.

In contrast, those who have lost their preferred individual plans, or will pay higher premiums and deductibles, are largely members of the self-employed middle-class. They are too poor to have their own exclusive health care coverage but too wealthy for most government subsidies. So far, Obamacare is falling hardest on the middle class.

Consider the trillion-dollar student loan mess. Millions of young people do not qualify for grants predicated on either income levels, ancestry or both. Nor are their parents wealthy enough to pay their tuition or room-and-board costs. The result is that the middle class -- parents and students alike -- has accrued a staggering level of student loan debt.

Universities are of no help. Their annual tuition costs have usually gone up faster than the rate of inflation. On too many campuses, vast increases in well-paid administrators, and lower teaching loads for tenured professors -- as well as snazzy new campus recreation facilities -- were all predicated on students obtaining more federal loans and going into astronomical debt to pay for those less accountable and far better off.

Illegal immigration also largely comes at the expense of the middle class. The supporters of amnesty tend to be poor foreign nationals who desire amnesty. Corporate employers and the elites of the identity-politics industry do not care under what legal circumstances foreign nationals enter the United States. Instead, the two kindred pressure groups seek cheap and plentiful labor and plenty of ethnic constituents.

Lost in the debate over "comprehensive immigration reform" are citizen entry-level job seekers of all different races who cannot leverage employers for higher wages when millions of foreign nationals, residing illegally in the U.S., will work for less money. Likewise, few worry about would-be legal immigrants without political clout who have played by the rules and are still waiting in line for a chance at U.S. citizenship.

Middle-class taxpayers are most responsible for providing parity in subsidized housing, legal costs, health care and education for those who entered the country illegally, especially once corporate employers have let their undocumented older or injured workers go.

There is a populist twist to new proposed federal gun-control legislation as well. The wealthy or politically influential, who often advocate stricter laws for others, usually take for granted their own expensive security details, many of them armed. In contrast, new gun control initiatives would mostly fall on the law-abiding who hunt and wish to defend their own families and homes with their own legal weapons.

Energy policy has become a boutique issue for the wealthy who push costly wind, solar and biofuels, subsidized mostly by the 53 percent of Americans who actually pay federal income taxes and are most pressed by the full costs of higher fuel, electricity and heating costs.

Yet the best friends of the middle class have been frackers and horizontal drillers taking their own risks on private lands. They -- not the government and not environmentalists that oppose such exploration -- are mostly responsible for the recent drops in gasoline, natural gas and propane costs to the consumer.

The Federal Reserve's policy of quantitative easing and de facto zero interest rates have stampeded investors desperate for even modest returns from the stock market -- to the delight of wealthy Wall Street grandees. The poor are eligible for both debt relief and cheap (and often subsidized) mortgage rates that remain near historic lows.

The real losers are frugal members of the middle class. For the last five years they have received almost no interest on their modest passbook savings accounts. In other words, we are punishing thrift and reminding modest savers that they might have been better off either borrowing or gambling on Wall Street.

In the last election, Republican Mitt Romney was caricatured as a voice of the wealthy pitted against Barack Obama, a redistributionist railing for more subsidies for the poor. But millions of Americans in between are not so worried about capital gains cuts on stock sales, or more food stamps and free phones. And no one is Washington seems to be listening to them.
Consider this: Taylor Swift wasn't even born yet when the fight over the Mount Soledad cross began. 
 
How much longer will it drag on? Disgruntled atheists first filed suit over the memorial at a veterans park in San Diego in the summer of 1989. The fringe grievance-mongers have clung bitterly to their litigious activities for nearly a quarter-century. It's time to let go and bring peace to the city. 

The historic 43-foot cross has stood atop Mount Soledad on public land since 1954. The Mount Soledad Memorial Association erected the monument to commemorate the sacrifice of American soldiers who died in the Korean War, World War I and World War II. The cross has long carried meaning for the city's residents far beyond religious symbolism. "It's a symbol of coming of age and of remembrance," Pastor Mark Slomka of the Mount Soledad Presbyterian Church said years ago when the case erupted. The San Diego Union-Tribune editorial board explained that the cross is "much like the Mission San Diego de Alcala and the cross at Presidio Park, both of which also are rooted in Christianity but have come to signify the birth of San Diego."

I first started covering the case as an editorial writer at the Los Angeles Daily News in the early 1990s. A federal judge initially ruled that the landmark cross's presence violated the California constitution's church-state separation principles. The city of San Diego put the issue before voters, who overwhelmingly approved a practical solution in 2005: Sell the cross and the park to the veterans group for use in a national war memorial.

A pragmatic, tolerant resolution with 76 percent of voters' support? Heavens, no! The extreme secularists couldn't have that. They sued and sued and sued and sued. By 2007, the state Supreme Court -- affirmed by a state appellate court -- had rejected the atheists' campaign. The courts affirmed the constitutionality of the San Diego referendum (Proposition A) and the sale of the cross to the Mount Soledad Memorial Association. The American Civil Liberties Union intervened to suppress and "de-publish" the ruling as a way to prevent its use in future litigation. They lost.

Lawyers for the Thomas More Law Center, which represented the memorial association, were relieved: "This decision protects the will of the people and their desire to preserve a historical veterans memorial for future generations." They've fought hard to remind America that the Founding Fathers fought for freedom of religion, not freedom from religion.

But still the cross-hunters press on. Fast-forward to Christmas week 2013. U.S. District Court Judge Larry Burns, who earlier had ruled in support of the cross, was forced to rule that it must come down in 90 days in the wake of a liberal 9th Circuit Court of Appeals decision overturning his prior decision. In anticipation of new appeals, Burns stayed the order. All eyes are on the U.S. Supreme Court, which refused to hear the case last summer.

Rabbi Ben Kamin, who lives in Southern California, responded sensibly to the hysteria of the Mount Soledad cross-hunters who claimed to be irreparably "hurt" by the monument: "After six decades, and hundreds of thousands of visitors, cyclists, hikers, thoughtful folks who simply admire the inspiring vista of land, sky and ocean, the Cross remains simply a beacon, a marker and a landmark." Kamin wrote that he "once lived adjacent to the site, and it did not bother me then, and it does not bother, offend or intimidate me now. I remain much more concerned about the glaring mercantilism that has by now drained all the fall/winter holidays, from Thanksgiving to Hanukkah to Christmas, of any dignity or theological poetry."

Amen to that. Militant atheists won't rest until every last expression of faith is eradicated from the public square. They don't stand for reason or religious liberty. They are vengeful purveyors of cruciphobia. The everlasting good news, of course, is that in the end, hope will triumph over hate. Faith will outlast fear. And God's love will prevail long after physical crosses have fallen.

The Reality Of Obamacare

by / Personal Liberty Digest


The Reality Of Obamacare
Guess what, kiddies? While most of the civilized world focused its attention on the seismic repercussions of someone on so-called “reality television” saying something someone else finds objectionable, something far more important occurred just outside the duck blind that is the average American’s attention span.

Now, I’m not dismissing the weird saga of Phil Robertson and A&E as being entirely devoid of interest. It’s just that I’m not really a fan of the whole “reality” genre — partially because I know most of those shows are almost as “real” as your average daytime soap opera, and partially because I believe that “reality” programming jumped the proverbial shark the day Bob Barker retired from the “Price is Right.”  Did you ever see some suburban housewife win the fabulous dinette set in a game of “Plinko” and then do everything short of the “Thriller” dance onstage? That was genuine emotion.

But Phil Robertson got fired after an outcry by people who think Bill Maher is highbrow entertainment. Call me when liberals do something that isn’t hypocritical and when reality television actually surpasses tyranny, domestic spying and war in importance.

Meanwhile, back in the Nation’s cesspool capitol, another nail was driven into Obamacare’s coffin.

Already exposed as the biggest fraud in human history, Obamacare suffered another crippling blow on Dec. 19, and this wound was self-inflicted. The Department of Health and Human Services announced a partial delay in the individual mandate portion of the massive government overreach.

This delay affects the millions of Americans whose policies were canceled by Obamacare’s ludicrous regulations. In granting it, Obama is re-acknowledging that his “if you like your health care plan, you can keep it” promise was an outright lie. And he’s acknowledging that Obamacare’s central promised tenet — that it guarantees immediately superior healthcare for all — is just as fraudulent.

Moreover, in granting the delay by fiat, Obama has once again violated the Constitutionally guaranteed separation of powers. Obama has developed a disturbing habit of forgetting that matters involving dispensation of the people’s dollars requires input from Congress. Of course, Obama has also been forgetful of involving Congress on matters involving selling guns to al-Qaida and mass executions by drones, so perhaps Congress should be thankful he doesn’t involve them more. People whom Obama views as opponents experience an oddly short life span. Nonetheless, in ordering the delay, Obama has acknowledged that he lied about the central tenets of Obamacare and that the delay was necessary at all.

Most interesting of all was Obama’s attempt at spinning his decision, accidentally repudiating his own signature achievement in the process. Obama claimed in a Friday presser that the exemptions — which already include Federal staffers, union thugs, Democratic cronies and the President himself — “don’t go to the core of the law.” I must admit: I admire his moxie. That kind of straight-faced mendacity is a virtual art form. Without the already — and unilaterally — suspended employer mandate, the only core of Obamacare that still existed was the individual mandate. In one ill-considered remark, Obama eliminated the only remaining reason for Obamacare to exist. Among the things Obama didn’t admit: The newest round of escapees from Obamacare’s healthcare gulag will add an even greater burden to the already-faltering taxpayers who can least afford to bear it.

But seriously, let’s keep losing our collective cookies every time some slice of the professional victim class gets a burr under their saddle over something someone said on reality television. The mere existence of “Duck Dynasty” proves that something about Robertson resonates with a great many people. In fact, the ratings would indicate more people like Robertson than every single cable newscast combined. But the entire cable lineup can’t touch the number of people who have been forced at gunpoint to play victim to Obamacare.
Hamas leader: "We are at the threshold of a global Islamic civilization era"
From Jihad Watch / Posted by Robert Spencer

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Fathi Hammad must be some kind of Islamophobe. "Hamas Minister: First Israel, then the World," by Dalit Halevy and Maayana Miskin for Israel National News, December 24:
The ultimate goal of the Hamas movement is to establish Islam worldwide, Hamas minister Fathi Hammad declared during a recent public address in Gaza. 
“We shall liberate our land, Allah willing. We shall liberate our Al-Aqsa Mosque, and our cities and villages, as a prelude to the establishment of the future Islamic Caliphate.
Therefore, brothers and sisters, we are at the threshold of a global Islamic civilization era,” Hammad proclaimed.
“The fuel and spearhead of this era will be Gaza, and its mujahideen and leaders will be from Gaza, Allah willing,” he added.
Hammad’s speech was translated by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI).
He then appealed to Fatah, which heads the Palestinian Authority in Judea and Samaria, to stop negotiating with Israel.
“We just sit and talk to the Jews. Enough with that! Come join us, the legions of the believers, which have translated the Koran into victory, the law of the Prophet's ancestors into glory, and Jihad into liberation,” he urged.
“We shall be coming with a third Intifada, an armed revolution, a Jihadi revolution, Allah willing," Hammad continued, adding that "Gaza and the West Bank will fuse together, along with our brothers within the 1948 borders, in a second Battle of Hattin, in order to uproot the Jews,” referencing the defeat of Christian Crusader forces by Saladin's Muslim army in 1187.
Other sources quoted Hammad as warning that Hamas will fire any member of its armed forces, including the Gaza police, who does not take part in morning prayers.
Hammad, Hamas’ Minister of the Interior, is known to support the institution of Islamic law (Sharia) in Gaza.
Op-ed:
ObamaCare...the law that changes with Obama's whims
By: Diane Sori

Christmas 2013 has now come and gone and 'We the People' got yet another lump of coal in our stockings courtesy of Barack HUSSEIN Obama.  This time it came in the form of a publicity stunt bar none, complete with much media fanfare. Just in time to slip in under his own yet again ILLEGALLY changed sign-up deadline to still receive health insurance starting on January 1st, our Constitutional trampling president had his staff sign him up for the ObamaCare 'Bronze Plan' via the DC Health Care Exchange.

But what's NOT being widely reported...guess I'll have to change that right here and now...is that the 'Bronze Plan' is the cheapest plan available for someone his age...as in less than $400 per month in premiums (pocket change for multi-millionaire Obama)...and is a plan Obama has absolutely NO intention of ever using for all US presidents in their capacity as Commander-in-Chief have military health coverage including physicians ready to provide free medical care at their beck and call...free for the president that is as it's paid for with our taxpayer dollars.

And lest we forget...Obama did NOT enroll Michelle and the kids in ObamaCare for his signing up was a token gesture at worst...a slap in the face to the American people at best..for his family's medical needs are also a perk of the job.

And the ludicrousness of Obama's statement claiming he's 'leading by example' has me laughing out loud for once again he's actually leading from behind as it was his staff who got their hands dirty signing him up while he's off golfing and sipping pina-coladas in Hawaii.  And, by the way, no one I know...politician or otherwise...can let others sign them up for this health care monstrosity.

But with Obama getting a free pass by both the media and Congress to do whatever he so pleases, truth be told this totally useless community organizer from Chicago NEVER intended to sign-up for ObamaCare...he only did this now because of pressure from the right after his BIG LIE...NO clarification needed on what LIE I speak of...NO matter his words to the contrary.  And so he left it to his staff to face the same harsh realities regular Americans are seeing when they log onto Healthcare.gov...if they can even log on that is...seeing and then running as fast as they could away from his anything but affordable 'Affordable Care Act.'

And so this entire sign-up is NOT only a sick joke at 'We the People's' expense, but so NOT above board for how can staff sign-up Obama...or anyone for that matter...when staff does NOT have privy to certain key personal information needed to complete the sign-up process...key personal info 'We the People' are asked for when merely perusing the site before the sticker shock hits one square in the face...key personal info that Obama dare NOT enter...NOT enter truthfully anyway...for the president’s personal information...health and otherwise...is NOT readily available in the government databases Healthcare.gov uses to verify that the identities and the information given is both truthful and real.

And why is that...for security reasons White House officials claim but we know otherwise now don't we...as in secrets to hide...LIES to cover-up...stories to make-up... and on and on it goes ad-nauseum.

So Barack HUSSEIN Obama can try and fool us by having his flunkies on staff say anything, claim anything, report anything, sign-up for anything, and there's NO way for any of us to verify if what's being reported is true or even if the actual sign-up went through.

And so all this bravado is NOTHING but a symbolic 'dog and pony show' so Obama can say he stood behind the product that has come to bear his name and that he did fulfill the commitment he made to the American people to personally participate when he signed the 'Affordable Care Act' into law back in 2010.

Yeah right...if Obama truly wants to fulfill that promise to the American people let him forfeit his military health coverage and live strictly by ObamaCare as he expects the rest of us to do.  But you know that will NEVER happen...LIAR that he is.

And if he for a moment thinks we can't see though this rouse he is sorrily mistaken for we know the coverage he bought was a mere token to NEVER be used...we know Michelle and the kids did NOT sign on..and we know he's sulking because there were NO photo-ops of him actually signing on for him to shove in our faces because he himself dared NOT sign on.  But let him be happy knowing that now he has hospitalization he already had, maternity care that for a man is a joke, mental health and substance abuse treatment...hmmm...now that maybe he can use, and preventative services which could come in handy for that bad case of 'foot-in-mouth' disease he most assuredly has.

But seriously, to add to his already growing list of Constitutional violations in regards to ObamaCare, Obama said that more time would be provided for people to complete their health insurance applications if they could show and prove that they missed the deadline because they had problems with the Healthcare.gov website...without telling us what constitutes said problems...and that they now might qualify for 'a special enrollment period'...a period of still unknown and unsaid duration.

Now isn't it interesting that 'We the People' have to prove that website problems prevented us from signing up, thus missing the newest deadline because of a knowingly from day one problem-plagued government website, but Barack HUSSEIN Obama is free to disavow the wording of our Constitution in regards to who can and cannot change a bill that has been passed and signed into law...and the media and Congress remains silent...deadly silent if you know what I mean.

And by the way, pray tell how do we prove any of what Obama wants proven... impossible to do and he knows it.  So now we'll have to pay a penalty for missing the deadline and still have to sign-up for the anything but affordable 'Affordable Care Act.'

What a scam...what a freakin' scam...and like I said before we just got another lump of coal in our Christmas stockings courtesy of our ever-loving Barack HUSSEIN Obama.

Hurry up November 2014...please hurry up.