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One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors. -- Plato (429-347 BC)

Friday, October 23, 2015

What We Learned About Hillary's War

Hillary Clinton / Benghazi Hearing
Screenshot Oct. 22, 2015
by Gary Bauer, Contributing Author: Contrary to the consensus media narrative that nothing new was learned at yesterday's Benghazi hearing, there were in fact a number of revelations. And before the media absolves Hillary completely, remember that there is still an active FBI investigation that could result in Mrs. Clinton facing charges under the Espionage Act.

Here's what I think deserves further attention. During a previous Senate hearing, Hillary was pressed about the administration's claim that a video was responsible for the attack. That's when we got her famous outburst, "What difference, at this point, does it make?"

Well, that is precisely the question she should be required to answer. It became even more apparent during her testimony yesterday that the Obama Administration thought it DID make a difference whether the attack was due to Islamophobia in a film or to terrorists "celebrating" 9/11. And that speaks volumes about character and judgment.

Obama's reelection campaign was running on several themes, including a foreign policy built on reaching out to the Islamic world, that the president had kept us safe and that terrorism isn't an Islamic problem but a criminal problem. The video theory fit the left-wing narrative that jihadists aren't the problem, but rather our Islamophobia.

Administration officials knew exactly what happened. And yet they lied, not only to the American people, but to the family members of those killed in Benghazi.

When the Libyan civil war began as part of the Arab Spring in March 2011, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton led the charge to intervene. In fact, the Washington Post dubbed the Libyan campaign, "Hillary's War."

When Muammar Qaddafi was killed in October, Hillary jokingly paraphrased Julius Caesar, saying, "We came, we saw, he died." It would be her "Mission Accomplished" moment.

Hillary Clinton wanted to make sure that everyone knew she drove our Libyan policy. She got this dictator, and it was all part of her "smart power" fundamental transformation of the Middle East.

But when Qaddafi's removal led to a failed state, resulting in the chaos that led to the loss of four Americans a year later, suddenly Hillary had nothing to do with it. No longer was it her Libyan policy.

Here's something else to consider. There were literally hundreds of requests for more security from Ambassador Stevens and other personnel stationed in Libya. Hillary Clinton claimed she never saw any of those requests. Clinton said she never even received a personal email from her friend, Ambassador Stevens.

But she was getting scores of emails, week after week, from Israel-hating Sid Blumenthal, who had financial interests in the overthrow of Qaddafi. What kind of State Department was she running when the pleas of our people on the ground never made it to her desk, but the self-interested messages of her crony capitalist friend demanded answers?

Former Reagan defense official K. T. McFarland writes of yesterday's hearings that there were no "gotcha" moments, but she added that we did see a glimpse of Hillary's soul, "and it was chilling."

It is hard to argue with reality. With Joe Biden out, a debate that looked like a coronation and with few moments in the hearing yesterday that really stood out, Hillary Clinton has had a couple of very good weeks.

The 2016 presidential election, just 13 months away, is going to be a donnybrook. The only way we are going to prevail is if party strategists figure out how to reassemble the Reagan coalition -- values conservatives, economic conservatives and defense conservatives -- which no one has improved upon as a governing majority.
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Gary Bauer is a conservative family values advocate and serves as president of American Values and chairman of the Campaign for Working Families

Tags: Gary Bauer, Campaign for Working Families, Hillary Clinton. Benghazi, House Select Hearing, Hillary's War, what we learned To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". Please mention / link to the ARRA News Service. and "Like" Facebook Page - Thanks!

Why Does America’s Oil Output Refuse to Collapse?

by Rod Martin, Contributing Author: U.S. oil output isn’t dropping. And that is…more than a little interesting.

Given the collapse in oil prices — very recently we were told that $250 oil would be the new normal — many predicted that U.S. frackers would be run out of business. That was certainly Saudi Arabia’s intent when it opened oil’s floodgates last year. The operative theory was that the frackers’ higher production costs would bankrupt them at $50 a barrel.

But it didn’t, even as prices dropped 50 percent, 25 percent of that just in the last quarter. And then we began to hear that the number might be $40. And then $30. Some are now saying $20.

U.S. rig count is indeed down by more than half. To that degree, the Saudi’s bet payed off. And yet, U.S. oil output is within 3 percent of its 40-year high, and a report out two weeks ago shows that U.S. production actually rose 1 percent in July to an incredible 9.4 million barrels a day. A more pessimistic writer frets that that OPEC is “crushing the U.S. oil boom,” and that production could drop as low as 8.86 million barrels per day next year, purely due to price, not supply.
As low as 8.86 million. It was 5 million in 2008. And everyone thought the oil was running out.

How is this happening? Innovation. Just as the fracking boom itself is a result of a technological breakthrough that left “peak oil” theory in shambles, America’s oil output stubbornly refuses to decline because its producers are getting twice as much out of each well.

This is principally due to a new technique: using more sand to increase production and profitability. Sand has always been part of fracking. Drillers pump water into the well, fracturing the shale. Those fractures are kept open with sand, allowing the oil to be extracted.

It turns out that upping the amount of sand produces fracking on steroids. According to one study, the injection of additional sand can increase output by as much as 300%. It’s no wonder, then, that sand usage has increased from less than 1,000 pounds per foot in 2012 to more than 1,500 pounds now.
After the selloff of crude oil, prices for sand plummeted by 30 percent. This left a lot of the early boom’s sand investors gasping, but it also made it that much easier to use more sand.

In an interview with Bloomberg Business, one oil man was candid about his limitations and goals: “I can’t control the price of the commodity… The only thing we can do is get better and faster and cheaper. There’s a general correlation that more sand equates to a better well.”

Hydraulic fracturing continues to revolutionize the oil industry, increase output, maximize profits, and make the United States the leader in energy exploration and extraction. Technology and innovation — not reduction in living standards and leftist lectures on “limits to growth” — continue to reduce our dependence on foreign oil and, more to the point, make life better for all of us.

This is a disaster for all the right people. OPEC in particular is broken: never again will it be able to arbitrarily raise global energy prices, not when American producers can flood the market just as easily (and with the Saudi government’s budget keyed to oil above $100, far more profitably). If the Saudi situation is difficult — its budget deficit is now 20% of GDP — even worse are the outlooks for Russia and Venezuela. And with Iran’s production coming back online, their trend lines only get worse.

Yes, individual U.S. producers and investors are hurting. They hurt in 1985 too. America as a whole did not: it was just beginning its longest-ever peacetime expansion, in no small part because of those same low oil prices. Energy is just one part of America’s highly diversified economy. A handful of majors with relatively few wells can keep Russia on the ropes for years to come.

The real point is, as I’ve said for many years, there is no long term shortage of oil. Since the 19th century, government estimates have consistently prophesied the imminent depletion of the planet’s second most abundant liquid. As far back as 1874, Pennsylvania’s state geologist fretted that America had only four years of oil remaining. 1878. He wasn’t the first to say it. He was far from the last.

When demand increases and prices rise, companies explore for more. As they do, they innovate: they find new ways to do more with what they find. But just as Malthus predicted imminent global starvation in 1798, and just as 230 years later Paul Erlich promised global famine by 1980 — words he wrote at the height of the Green Revolution — the left forever underestimates the power of human ingenuity to devise new technologies and expand supply.

They were wrong in 1798, they were wrong in 1968. And the Peak Oil crowd which was so very loud in 2008 is suddenly very, very quiet.
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Rod D. Martin, writes at RodMartn.org, and is founder and CEO of The Martin Organization, a technology entrepreneur, venture capitalist, author and conservative activist from Destin, Florida. He serves and has been an advisor to numerous organizations and is Past President of the National Federation Republican Assemblies and contributing author to the ARRA News Service.

Tags: Rod Martin, RodMartin.org, America, oil output, Peak Oil,  To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". Please mention / link to the ARRA News Service. and "Like" Facebook Page - Thanks!

Boehner Appoints GOP Members to New Select Investigative Panel On Abortion Providers

Speaker Boehner
WASHINGTON, DC – House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) issued the following statement today announcing the Republican appointments to the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s new Select Investigative Panel that will focus on the grisly practices of big abortion providers.“Recent videos exposing the abortion-for-baby parts business have shocked the nation, and demanded action. At my request, three House committees have been investigating the abortion business, but we still don’t have the full truth. Chairman Blackburn and our members will have the resources and the subpoena power to get to the bottom of these horrific practices, and build on our work to protect the sanctity of all human life.”

Following are the Republican members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s new Select Investigative Panel:
  • Rep. Marsha Blackburn, Chairman (R-TN)
  • Rep. Joe Pitts (R-PA)
  • Rep. Diane Black (R-TN)
  • Rep. Larry Bucshon (R-IN)
  • Rep. Sean Duffy (R-WI)
  • Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD)
  • Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-MO)
  • Rep. Mia Love (R-UT)
The Washington Times adds, "The new panel has been created in the wake of several undercover videos that revealed Planned Parenthood’s questionable practice of selling aborted fetal tissue, and possibly profiting from the sales.

"'Recent videos exposing the abortion-for-baby parts business have shocked the nation, and demanded action. At my request, three House committees have been investigating the abortion business, but we still don’t have the full truth. The new committee will have the resources and subpoena power to 'get to the bottom of these horrific practices, and build on our work to protect the sanctity of all human life,' Mr. Boehner said."

Tags: Speaker John Boehner, appoints Republicans, House Energy and Commerce Committee, Select Investigative Panel, abortion providers To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". Please mention / link to the ARRA News Service. and "Like" Facebook Page - Thanks!

Hillary’s Benghazi Hearing and Public Trust

by Newt Gingrich: For people who say there is nothing left for the public to learn about Hillary Clinton’s emails or her actions surrounding the Benghazi terror attacks, Democrats on the House select committee spent an awful lot of time Thursday attacking colleagues who asked reasonable questions. And Secretary Clinton spent an awful lot of time filibustering to run out the clock.

Little more than a week after Clinton said in a presidential debate that the enemy she was proudest of is “probably the Republicans”, she, the media, and allies in her party tried their hardest to portray the hearing as nothing more than a partisan Republican charade.

Evidently they did not see “partisan” motives in Democrats questioning the Secretary like they were her team of defense attorneys, or in their personal attacks on Republican committee members in place of questions for Hillary, or in the repeated complaints about the committee’s very existence. (The committee, of course, was created when Congress discovered that the Obama administration had failed to produce relevant documents in defiance of a Congressional request.)

Only one Democrat, Tammy Duckworth, even bothered to ask real questions about the attack that left four Americans dead or the administration’s response to it.

As Hillary grinned in agreement, Adam Smith, a leading Democrat on the committee, used one of his entire rounds of questioning to complain that the public had learned “nothing new” during the hearing. This was a quite a grievance from someone who spent the entire day trying to debunk the effort to learn anything new. And no doubt we would know even less if Congressman Smith and Secretary Clinton had their way.

If he had listened to the questions of his professional colleagues, Mr. Smith might have noticed that the public did learn some significant information Thursday.

Congressman Jim Jordan revealed in his questioning that Secretary Clinton knew the night of the attack that the violence was planned and carried out by a terrorist group. She wrote it in an email to her family.

Then we learned that the next day she told the Egyptian Prime Minister, “We know that the attack in Libya had nothing to do with the film…It was a planned attack – not a protest.”

In other words, Secretary Clinton’s email and phone records immediately after attack directly contradict the statements she made to victims’ family members days later, and the statements many members of the Obama administration continued to make for weeks.

Secretary Clinton has repeatedly blamed “the fog of war” for the false information she helped spread about the source of the attacks.

The documents we learned about yesterday prove that she (and very likely other senior administration officials) were not nearly as confused as they led the public to believe.

It is remarkable that the Democrats on the committee were so completely uninterested in the discrepancy between what the administration knew and what it said publicly that they neglected to ask even a single question about the subject.

It is even more remarkable that the news media shows every sign of cooperating in this effort to paper over this new information.

We have a presidential candidate who began her career working for a Congressional committee examining Watergate, and we have a generation of journalists who supposedly idolize the writers who inspired that investigation.

Now respectively the subject and the reporters of equally serious questions of public trust, both insist there is nothing important to see here. And who’s partisan, again?
----------------------
Newt Gingrich is a former Georgia Congressman and Speaker of the U.S. House. He co-authored and was the chief architect of the "Contract with America" and a major leader in the Republican victory in the 1994 congressional elections. He is noted speaker and writer. The above commentary was shared via Gingrich Productions.

Tags: Newt Gingrich, Hillary Clinton, Benghazi Hearing, Public Trust,   To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". Please mention / link to the ARRA News Service. and "Like" Facebook Page - Thanks!

Back to the Future of Planned Parenthood

by Tony Perkins: To most people, the word "reconciliation" means settling a fight. In Congress, it means starting one! This seldom-used budget process has become the center of attention for weeks, as GOP leaders try to tackle two of the most controversial uses of government money: Planned Parenthood and ObamaCare. Although reconciliation isn't used often, it is a powerful tool for the majority party to jump some of the procedural hurdles in the Senate on budgetary issues.

Unlike regular order, reconciliation fast-tracks the debate by setting a lower threshold for passing a measure in the Senate: 51 votes versus the 60 normally required. Since Republicans don't have enough votes to single-handedly topple the President's health care law or pull the plug on the half-billion taxpayer dollars for Planned Parenthood, reconciliation is the GOP's best shot. While reconciliation can't be used to repeal all of ObamaCare or completely end sever ties with Cecile Richards's group, it'll go a long way to accomplishing both. Even if President Obama vetoes the measure, a majority of Congress will have spoken. For once, the White House will stand alone in its extreme support of the health care law and Planned Parenthood.

As early as tomorrow morning, the House will be taking the first pass at this strategy when a floor vote is held on the "Restoring Americans' Health Care Freedom Reconciliation Act" (or H.R. 3762). Unfortunately, not everyone is on board with the plan, including some outside conservative groups. They argue that reconciliation doesn't go far enough. Letting the perfect be the enemy of the good, they claim that nothing but a full repeal of ObamaCare should even be considered. Polling shows that a majority of Americans dislike the government takeover of health and would like nothing more than to say good riddance. Right now, there aren't enough votes to make that happen -- which leaves reconciliation as the best and most viable option. Congressional Quarterly explains it this way:


"A Senate rule named for the late Robert Byrd (D-W. Va.) permits challenges to reconciliation bills on several grounds, including if they could add to the deficit in the years outside the 10-year budget window. A separate concern, Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.) said, is the parliamentarian's interpretation as to whether certain language in the reconciliation bill makes it lose its privileged status, which sets a simple majority vote threshold for consideration rather than the customary 60."Because reconciliation is an expedited process, the provisions are subject to very strict rules. One of them is that trying to tackle anything beyond the budgetary aspects of these two proposals jeopardize the entire effort. The fact that conservative Senators may wish the House bill did more -- like repealing the premium subsidies in Obamacare -- shouldn't be used as an excuse to vote "no." Instead, it should embolden conservative senators to offer amendments during the reconciliation debate to improve the bill's ObamaCare repeal.

In the end, it's important to get these two issues -- a partial dismantling of ObamaCare and a partial end to taxpayer-funding of Planned Parenthood through the House and Senate and onto the President's desk. If it succeeds, Congress can go back when the next President arrives and eliminate the rest.
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Tony Perkins is President of the Family Research Council. He shared this article on Tony Perkin's Washington Update.

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Congo Prez Prizes Service

by Paul Jacob, Contributing Author: Congo-Brazzaville’s president, Denis Sassou Nguesso, is quite the statesman.

He’s actually done what many an illustrious American pol with an obsession about “campaign finance” would merely like to do, but cannot (that darn First Amendment!): prohibited all talk about politics prior to the next election.

Indeed, the government has shut down the Internet and cellular SMS services, simply to prevent undue influence prior to the upcoming votes. Democracy requires a veil of ignorance, we’re told, and Nguesso’s taken that august philosophical scheme to its logical conclusion: no information running through the information superhighway of the modern age . . . at gunpoint.

And like many a long-term American insider, he’s balking at term limits, too. He has served his legally limited two terms. So he and his fellow statesmen put a referendum onto the upcoming ballot to overthrow them.

Just so he can serve longer.

Think of the sacrifice! He really must be looking out for his earnest and ardent supporters.

But he didn’t stop there. To fulfill his mandate, and continue in office, he has to entreat the people to overturn Congo’s mandated retirement age. At 71, he’s now too old to legally run, even if he were a first-termer.

Trifecta! — a pol so insistent at continuing his life of never-ending public service that he fights against ageism, term limits, and the corrupting influence of free speech!

I’m sure he has many, many secret sympathizers in our Congress, and in the legislatures of our several states.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.
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Paul Jacobs is author of Common Sense which provides daily commentary about the issues impacting America and about the citizens who are doing something about them. He is also President of the Liberty Initiative Fund (LIFe) as well as Citizens in Charge Foundation. Jacobs is a contributing author on the ARRA News Service.

Tags: Paul Jacob, Common Sense, Congo-Brazzaville, President, Denis Sassou Nguesso, stopping the Internet, abuse of power, lifetime election, To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". Please mention / link to the ARRA News Service. and "Like" Facebook Page - Thanks!

Open Season on the Police

Editorial Cartoon by Rick McKee
by Dr. Thomas Sowell: In recent months there have been a series of cases reported in the media, where some teenage thug — white, black or Hispanic in different cases — has been stopped by a policeman for some routine violation of the law and, instead of complying with lawful instructions, such as "show me your driver's license," chooses instead to defy the policeman, resist arrest and finally ends up physically assaulting the cop.

In the most recent case, the teenager happened to be white, but the story doesn't seem to change much, whatever the complexion of the guy who violated the law. Nor does the sad ending change, with the young wise guy shot dead. Nor do the reactions of the media and the parents vary much.

"He was only a kid" is an almost automatic reaction of the parents and the media. "He didn't deserve to be killed" over a traffic violation, or because he didn't drop a toy gun when ordered to, or some other minor infraction.

Are we so addicted to talking points and sound bites that we can't be bothered to use common sense? If you are killed by a teenager, you are just as dead as if you had been killed by the oldest man in the world.

It doesn't matter how minor the law violation was that caused the young guy to be stopped. He wasn't shot for the violation — which could have been jay-walking, for all the difference it makes. He was shot for attacking the police, after having foolishly escalated a routine encounter into a personal confrontation.

Irrational statements by the young man's parents may be understandable when they discover that their son is dead. But for media people to make such mindless statements to a nationwide audience is just grossly irresponsible.

In an atmosphere where second-guessing policemen has become a popular sport in the media, as well as among politicians, there is always someone to say that there must have been "some other way" for the policeman to handle the situation.

Utter ignorance of what it is like to be in such situations does not seem to make the second-guessers hesitate. On the contrary, ignorance seems to be liberating, so that "excessive force" has become an almost automatic comment from people who have no basis whatever for determining how much force is necessary in such situations. You can't measure out force with a teaspoon.

The truly tragic cases involve some really young kid — maybe ten years old or so — who has a very realistic-looking toy gun, and has removed the red plastic attachment that is supposed to show that it is not a real gun. When he turns his realistic-looking toy gun on a policeman, and refuses to drop it, that can turn out to be the last mistake of his young life.

Someone in the media recently complained that a policeman shot a boy who had a toy gun "within seconds" of arriving on the scene. When someone has a gun, and refuses to drop it, a policeman can be killed within seconds. A dialogue under these conditions can be a fatal luxury he cannot afford.

There is something grotesque about people sitting in safety and comfort, blithely second-guessing at their leisure what a policeman did when he had a split second to make a decision that could cost him his life, leaving behind a widow and orphans.

You cannot have law without law enforcement. If cops are supposed to back down whenever they are confronted by some brassy young thug, that may indeed save a few lives among the thugs. But that just means that a lot of other lives will be lost under "kinder, gentler" policing.

After this year's widespread indulgences in anti-police rhetoric by politicians, the media and race hustlers, how surprised should we be by the dramatic upsurge in murders after law enforcement had been undermined?

Laws without law enforcement are just suggestions. Imagine if highway speed signs are replaced by signs that say, "We suggest you not drive faster than 65 m.p.h., please." Do you doubt that many more lives will be lost on the highways?

Maybe the parents who are so bitter over the loss of a son in a wholly unnecessary confrontation with a policeman doing his job might ask themselves if they did their job, when they raised a child without teaching him either common sense or common decency.
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Thomas Sowell is an American economist, social commentator, and author of dozens of books. He has a Ph.D. in Economics from the University of Chicago and degrees from Columbia University and Harvard University. He is a retired professor of Economic and presently is a Rose and Milton Friedman Senior Fellow, The Hoover Institution, Stanford University. Visit his website: tsowell.com and view a list of other articles.

Tags: Thomas Sowell, commentary, open season, police, editorial cartoon, Rick McKee  To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". Please mention / link to the ARRA News Service. and "Like" Facebook Page - Thanks!

Who’s On Watch? . . .

. . . Obama Standing guard blinded by his worldview. Oh, and Hillary shares this same worldview.
Editorial Cartoon by AF "Tony" Branco

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Obama EPA Publishes Costly Power Plant Regs; Employers Take Obama EPA To Court

Congressional Gold Medal
collectively to the Monuments Men
Today in Washington, D.C. - Oct. 23, 2015:
The House reconvened at 9 AM today. Today they took up and passed H.R. 3762 (240-189) — "To provide for reconciliation pursuant to section 2002 of the concurrent resolution on the budget for fiscal year 2016."

This is the only legislation being considered today. The House will recess early this afternoon and will reconvened at Noon on Monday.

Yesterday the House debated and passed primarily along party lines, with 8 Democrats voting with the Republicans, H.R. 1937 (254 - 177) — "To require the Secretary of the Interior and the Secretary of Agriculture to more efficiently develop domestic sources of the minerals and mineral materials of strategic and critical importance to United States economic and national security and manufacturing competitiveness."

Yesterday, the House and Senate leaders presented a Congressional Gold Medal collectively to the Monuments Men, in recognition of their heroic role in the preservation, protection, and restitution of monuments, works of art, and artifacts of cultural importance during and following World War II. Editor's Note: "The Monuments Men and women helped locate famous works of art confiscated by the Nazis, and return them to their rightful owners. There are currently only five surviving members -– four men and one woman –- of the Monuments Men." The ceremony took place in Emancipation Hall of the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center.

The Senate is not in session today and will reconvene on Monday at 3 PM.

At 5:30 PM on Monday, the Senate will vote on confirmation of the nomination of Lawrence Joseph Vilardo to be United States District Judge for the Western District of New York.

On Tuesday, the Senate will vote on 7 amendments to S. 754, the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act and then on cloture on the bill.

Yesterday, the Senate voted 83-14 to invoke cloture on the Burr-Feinstein substitute amendment to S. 754, 32-65 to reject the Paul amendment to S. 754, and 93-0 to confirm Julie Furuta-Toy to be ambassador to Equatorial Guinea. Ambassadors to the Republic of Guinea, Zimbabwe, and Ghana were confirmed by voice vote.

In the News:
The Hill “President Obama’s landmark climate change regulation for power plants will be published on Friday, opening the door to challenges in Congress and the federal court system. The challenges are expected to begin shortly after the rule appears in the Federal Register.

“The publication of the rule comes nearly three months after Obama unveiled the regulation from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). . . . The rule, dubbed the Clean Power Plan, mandates a 32 percent cut in the power sector’s carbon dioxide emissions, through individual state targets that state regulators are responsible for meeting.

“In a notice posted Thursday morning, the Office of the Federal Register said the regulation would appear in Friday’s edition. The EPA’s opponents had cried foul when the regulation was not immediately published in the Register, claiming that the Obama administration was trying to delay challenges to it.”

The Wall Street Journal notes “In the works since 2013 and issued in early August, the regulations require a 32% cut in power-plant carbon emissions by 2030 based on emissions levels of 2005. Coal-fired electricity produced about 34% of the U.S.’s electricity in July and a much larger share in some Midwestern and Appalachian states. The coal industry is expected to be hit the hardest because coal emits the most carbon emissions of any power source.”

Today, another piece in The Hill points out, “Lawmakers are mobilizing quickly against the new climate change rule from President Obama, announcing they file formal congressional challenges on Monday.

“Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Friday said he and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) will introduce a Congressional Review Act (CRA) resolution to block the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) pollution standards for new power plants. Sens. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) and Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) will introduce a resolution opposing EPA’s existing power plant rule at the same time. McConnell’s office said he will schedule a vote on the resolutions shortly afterward.”

A resolution under the CRA provides Congress the ability to eliminate onerous regulations imposed by the executive branch through an expedited procedure for consideration in the Senate.

Once the resolutions are filed, Leader McConnell plans to schedule votes on the CRAs to stop these devastating EPA anti-coal rules. These regulations make it clearer than ever that the president and his administration have gone too far, and that Congress should act to stop this regulatory assault. If both CRAs are enacted into law, they would nullify both pillars of the costly power rule even if portions of the plan have already gone into effect.

Senator McConnell said, “Here’s what is lost in this Administration’s crusade for ideological purity: the livelihoods of our coal miners and their families. Folks who haven’t done anything to deserve a ‘war’ being declared upon them. These are Kentuckians who just want to work, provide for their families, and deliver the type of low-cost energy that attracts more jobs to Kentucky. And coal is what allows so many of them do all that. It provides well-paying jobs and keeps the lights on. I have vowed to do all I can to fight back against this Administration on behalf of the thousands of Kentucky coal miners and their families, and this CRA is another tool in that battle. The CRAs that we will file will allow Congress the ability to fight these anti-coal regulations.”

Of course, Leader McConnell and Sen. Capito aren’t the only ones who will be challenging these costly and burdensome regulations. The New York Times writes, “As many as 25 states will join some of the nation’s most influential business groups in legal action to block President Obama’s climate change regulations when they are formally published Friday, trying to stop his signature environmental policy. . . . Within hours of the rules’ official publication on Friday, a legal battle will begin, pitting the states against the federal government. It is widely expected to end up before the Supreme Court. . . .

“The official publication of the rules will also spur legislative pushback on Capitol Hill, where Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, will introduce two resolutions to block them. . . . [B]y introducing the resolutions, Mr. McConnell hopes to convey to the world that Congress does not support the Obama regulations — a message that could be amplified if the Senate votes on the resolutions before or during the Paris summit meeting.

“The Obama administration has sought to ensure that the rules will not come under question before that meeting. By delaying the official publication of the rules until nearly three months after they were announced, for example, the administration appeared to be trying to ensure that no major legal decisions to weaken them would be issued before the Paris meeting.”

The Times adds, “A broad and powerful coalition of governors, attorneys general, coal companies, electric utilities and business groups such as the United States Chamber of Commerce will file suits contending that the rules, put forth under the 1970 Clean Air Act, represent an illegal interpretation of the law. They will also petition to delay implementation of the rule until the case is argued in federal court.

“‘The president’s illegal rule will have devastating impacts on West Virginia families, and families across the country,’ Attorney General Patrick Morrisey of West Virginia said in a statement. Mr. Morrisey, whose home state’s economy is heavily dependent on coal mining, is expected to play a lead role in the multistate lawsuit.”

As Leader McConnell said when the regulations were finalized in August, “Not only will these massive regulations fail to meaningfully affect the global climate, but they could actually end up harming the environment by outsourcing energy production to countries with poor environmental records like India and China.

“They may also be illegal. That’s why I wrote to governors earlier this year, suggesting they take a responsible wait-and-see approach and allow the courts to weigh in before subjecting their citizens to such unnecessary pain. . . .

“[T]his White House seems to want good politics, not good policy.

“Officials in this Administration have said they want to make electricity rates ‘skyrocket,’ and that they want to ‘make examples out of people’ who get in their way."

“And they’re tired of having to work with the Congress the people elected.

“That’s why the Administration is now trying to impose these deeply regressive regulations — regulations that may be illegal, that won’t meaningfully impact the global environment, and that are likely to harm middle-and-lower class Americans most — by executive fiat.

“It represents a triumph of blind ideology over sound policy and honest compassion.”

Tags: President Obama, EPA, power plants, regulations, Congressional Gold Medal, Monuments Men To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". Please mention / link to the ARRA News Service. and "Like" Facebook Page - Thanks!

6 Key Exchanges From Hillary Clinton’s Benghazi Testimony

Screenshot: Full Video below in article.
by Melissa Quinn: In a much-anticipated hearing, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton appeared Thursday before a panel of lawmakers tasked with investigating the 2012 terrorist attacks in Benghazi, Libya.

Clinton, who was secretary of state at the time of the attacks and resigned five months after, testified before the House Select Committee on Benghazi in an 11-hour hearing—the fourth public hearing since the committee’s inception in May 2014.

For the last 17 months, the committee has been conducting an investigation into the Sept. 11, 2012, attacks on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, that left four Americans dead, including U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens.

The committee has conducted 54 interviews with a number of administration officials, as well as those who worked closely with Clinton, including Huma Abedin, her closest aide, and Cheryl Mills, Clinton’s former chief of staff.

In speaking with reporters after the marathon hearing, Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., who chairs the panel, said he wasn’t sure Clinton revealed information that hadn’t been volunteered in past hearings. However, in the months since the committee was formed, lawmakers have learned that the former secretary of state and senator from New York operated a private email server from her home and used a private email address to conduct official business.

Additionally, responding to a request from the Select Committee on Benghazi, the State Department released more than 7,000 pages of emails from Stevens this month. The committee’s request was the first time a congressional panel investigating the attacks has asked the State Department for his messages.

Still, Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., the committee’s ranking member, said the committee has not uncovered any new information that the Accountability Review Board hadn’t learned in its own independent review and criticized Republicans for spending $4.8 million on the committee’s efforts.

“It is time now for the Republicans to end this taxpayer-funded fishing expedition,” he said. “We need to come together and shift from politics to policy. That’s what the American people want, shifting from politics to policy.”

It was a point his Democratic colleagues agreed with.

“The reality is that we’ve had eight investigations, we’ve gone through this endlessly,” Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said. “The reality is that after 17 months, we have nothing new to tell the families. We have nothing new to tell the American people.”

Here are the top six moments from Clinton’s testimony.

1) As demonstrated by Rep. Susan Brooks, R-Ind., Clinton sent far fewer emails regarding events in Libya in 2012 than she did in 2011. According to Brooks, this demonstrated a diminished interest in the climate in Libya during the year Stevens was murdered.

In 2011, Clinton sent approximately 800 emails pertaining to Libya, compared to just 67 sent in 2012.

Clinton, in responding to Brooks’ line of questioning, said she conducted the bulk of her work offline, participating in meeting at the White House, taking phone calls to learn of events taking place in the country in 2012, and reading memos that contained classified information.

“There were a lot of things that happened that I was aware of and that I was reacting to,” Clinton said. “If you were to be in my office in the State Department, I didn’t have a computer, I did not do the vast majority of my work on email.”

2) Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Kan., analyzed the number of security requests Stevens made in 2012 and found there to be more than 600. However, as discussed in an exchange between Pompeo and Clinton, none of his requests landed on Clinton’s desk.

By contrast, Pompeo pointed out, more than 180 emails sent by Sidney Blumenthal, Clinton’s close personal friend, to the former secretary of state, were sent directly to Clinton’s personal email address.

Clinton previously told Rep. Lynn Westmoreland, R-Ga., that Stevens did not have her email address, though he, too, was a friend.

“With respect to security, [Stevens] took the requests where they belong,” Clinton said of Stevens’ security requests going to the appropriate people within the State Department.

3) In the same line of questioning, Pompeo questioned why no officials at the State Department involved in the decision-making in Libya were held accountable for the security failures there.

Though the Accountability Review Board, which conducted its own independent investigation into the attacks, identified State Department employees who did not “carry out their responsibilities adequately,” it also found that there was no “breach of duty,” Clinton said.

“It is my position that in the absence of finding dereliction or breach of duty, there could not be immediate action taken, but there was a process immediately instituted and which led to decisions being made,” Clinton said.

Pompeo, though, noted that State Department employees received back pay and were kept on the payroll.

“The folks in Kansas don’t think that is accountability,” he said.

4. In a tense exchange between Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, and Clinton, he displayed emails recovered from Clinton’s personal account showing she was aware that the attacks on both the consulate and CIA annex were, indeed, terrorist attacks.

In a message exchanged with her family, Clinton said those killed were murdered by members of al-Qaeda.

Clinton and other members of the Obama administration, though, initially said the attacks were in response to an anti-Islam YouTube video.

“You tell the American people one thing,” Jordan said. “You tell your family an entirely different story.”

Additionally, Jordan also read emails from Clinton that reveal she also told the Egyptian prime minister that the attacks were not a reaction to the YouTube video.

“We know the attack in Libya had nothing to do with the film,” Jordan read. “It was a planned attack. Not a protest.’”

In response, Clinton admitted that she was responding to others who tried to justify the attacks as a reaction to the video and noted that events were occurring very quickly.

“Well, Congressman, there was a lot of conflicting information that we were trying to make sense of,” Clinton said. “The situation was very fluid. It was fast-moving.”

5. During both his first and second rounds of questioning, Rep. Peter Roskam, R-Ill., discussed Clinton’s role in the U.S.’ decision to intervene in Libya.

Roskam read through a series of emails Clinton exchanged with Blumenthal, in which he encouraged Clinton to appear before cameras and in interviews to discuss Libya’s political transition.

Calling the plan the “Clinton Doctrine,” Roskam also cited a Washington Post article discussing Clinton’s role.

“Let me tell you what I think the Clinton doctrine is,” he said. “I think it’s where an opportunity is seized to turn progress in Libya into a political win for Hillary Rodham Clinton.”

Clinton, though, stressed repeatedly that it was ultimately President Obama who made the decision to intervene and wanted credit to be given to those who crafted the policy on Libya.

Responding to Roskam’s line of questioning, Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., chided his Republican colleague for addressing what he said was an irrelevant issue.

“Mr. Roskam’s questions, I found to be the most interesting, basically, I don’t know, it was like he was running for president,” Smith said. “He wanted to debate you on overall Libya policy and why we got in there in the first place. And that’s debatable, and I think you will argue that quite well, but it’s not about the attack on Benghazi.”

6. Responding to further questions from Jordan, Clinton said she still believes the anti-Muslim YouTube video did play some role in fueling the attacks.

“I believe to this day the video played a role,” the former secretary of state told the panel.

“I have been consistent about speaking out about the video from the very first day,” Clinton continued. “I think it is important to look at the totality of what is going on.”

Jordan, though, said statements Clinton made in private differ.

“Privately your story was much different than your public one,” he said. “The video may have impacted other places but in Benghazi it didn’t.”

Responding to Republicans’ questions, Democrats on the panel argued their colleagues across the aisle attempted to push an inaccurate narrative of the events leading up to and during the attacks.

“I think the core theory is this: that you deliberately interfered with security in Benghazi and that resulted in people dying,” Schiff told Clinton. “Notwithstanding how many investigations we’ve had that have found absolutely no merit to that, that is the impression they wish to give.”
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Melissa Quinn (@MelissaQuinn97) is a news reporter for The Daily Signal.

Tags: Hillary Clinton, Benghazi, Congressional hearing, testimony, 6 key exchanges, Melissa Quinn, The Daily Signal To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". Please mention / link to the ARRA News Service. and "Like" Facebook Page - Thanks!

Obamacare: A Lose-Lose Situation

President Obama 2 yrs ago on NBC News Apologized for People Losing Health Coverage: "I am sorry that they are finding themselves in this situation based on assurances they got from me. "We've got to work hard to make sure they know we hear them." (11/7/13) It hasn't happened!

"In 2016 American Workers Face A Choice: ‘Harsh’ Penalties Or ‘Obscene’ Premiums"

OPTION ONE: The $695 ‘Harsh, Stiff Penalties’

THEN-SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL): “…a mandate does not work unless you impose harsh, stiff penalties on those who don't purchase it.” (CNN’s “Newsroom,” 2/23/08)
2016: “The math is harsh: The federal penalty for having no health insurance is set to jump to $695, and the Obama administration is being urged to highlight that cold fact… in 2016, the penalty for being uninsured will rise to the greater of either — $695 or 2.5 percent of taxable income — for someone who goes without coverage for a full 12 months.” (“Bigger Bite For Health Law Penalty On Uninsured,” AP, 10/19/15)

2015: “This year the comparable numbers are $325 or 2 percent of income.” (“Bigger Bite For Health Law Penalty On Uninsured,” AP, 10/19/15)

2014: “It started at $95 or 1 percent of income in 2014. The fact that it's up to $695 may take consumers by surprise.” (“Bigger Bite For Health Law Penalty On Uninsured,” AP, 10/19/15)
OPTION TWO: A Plan With ‘Obscene’ Premiums

“Premiums are expected to go up next year by a bigger amount than this year. Surveys show that among the 10.5 million remaining uninsured who are eligible, many are young adults living on very tight budgets. They may not see the value in getting health insurance, even if it is now required by law and penalties for being uninsured are rising.” (“It's Getting Harder To Sign Up Uninsured,” AP, 10/15/15)

UTAH: ‘It’s obscene’ “Ana and Oswaldo Demoura got their letter last month: a notice from their health care provider that thousands will soon receive in the mail. ‘I thought that was a mistake. I think it’s obscene,’ said Oswaldo Demoura. Addressed to Mrs. Demoura, it outlines a new coverage plan from Arches Mutual Insurance, putting their monthly premium, with tax credits, at $416.59. The problem with that is they are currently paying $126.22. That means their insurance is going up about 300 percent. … ‘Nobody can afford that, absolutely,’ Oswaldo Demoura said.” (“Health Insurance Premiums Increase In Utah,” KTSU TV, 10/22/15)
IDAHO: “Larry Olmsted: I got my annual notice of changes to my health insurance plan for 2016. I opened it with great anticipation, since I had been guaranteed by President Obama that our family would save $2,500 per year. There must have been some misprints in the package of materials I received, because they said my monthly premium would increase by 8.4 percent, my maximum out-of pocket will increase by 100 percent, my hospital copay will increase by 77.1 percent, and prescription drugs will increase marginally. By my calculations, next year I will spend $2,704 more for insurance in 2016 than I did in 2015, if I don’t go to the hospital.” (Letter To The Editor, “Wasn’t Obamacare Supposed To Cut Costs?” Idaho Press-Tribune, 10/2/15)>

Tags: Obamacare, lose-lose Situation, Harsh, Stiff Penalties, Obscene Premiums empty promises, President Obama To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". Please mention / link to the ARRA News Service. and "Like" Facebook Page - Thanks!

Thursday, October 22, 2015

France's War Against The Jews

The attack on Israel's sovereignty over the Temple Mount is just the beginning.
Caroline Glick 
by Caroline Glick: France’s plan to use its position at the UN Security Council to bring about the deployment of international monitors to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem has been condemned by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his ministers as biased, unhelpful and detached from reality.

Certainly it is all those things. But France’s decision to use its diplomatic position to advance a plan which if implemented would end Israeli sovereignty over Judaism’s holiest site is first and foremost a French act of aggression against the Jewish state.

Contrary to what the French government would have us believe, France’s Temple Mount gambit is not an effort to quell the violence. French protestations of concern over the loss of life in the current tempest of Palestinian terrorism ring hollow.

France doesn’t really oppose Palestinian terrorism.

To the contrary, it facilitates it.

Every year, the French government pays millions of euros, dollars and shekels to Palestinian NGOs whose stated goal is to destroy Israel. Through its NGO agents, France finances the radicalization of Palestinian society. This French-financed radicalization makes Palestinian terrorism inevitable.

Much of the current rhetoric used by the Palestinians to reject Israel’s legitimacy and justify violence against Jews is found in strategic documents that France paid Palestinian NGOs to write.

According to NGO Monitor, between 2010 and 2013, France gave $6.5 million to a consortium of Palestinian NGOs called the NGO Development Center. It paid for the NDC to put together a strategic plan to advance its members’ goals. That French-initiated and financed document includes a list of activities not aimed at promoting peace, enhancing the daily lives of Palestinians, or expanding economic growth.

Rather, the French-financed strategic planning document provides a list of activities that the NGOs will undertake to delegitimize and criminalize Israel and ensure that Palestinians hate the Jewish state and view it as the cause of all their suffering.

The paper called for “Establish[ing] monitoring databases by relevant NGOs on sectoral issues and themes (expansion of colonies, [i.e. Israeli neighborhoods and towns beyond the 1949 armistice lines,] construction of Separation and Annexation Wall, Gaza siege, Jerusalem, house demolitions and evictions, water resources, environment, political prisoners, etc.)”; “Implement[ing] and disseminat[ing] in depth thematic studies about Israeli violations of human rights in the occupied territories”; “Development of a unified NGO strategy for international advocacy.”

A 2008 NDC document required all member groups to ban all “normalization activities with the occupier, [both] at the political-security [and] the cultural [and] developmental levels.”

The document went on to call for Israel to be destroyed. No action on the part of any Palestinian entity can be carried out it said, “if it undermines the inalienable Palestinian rights of establishing statehood and the return of refugees to their original homes,” that is, the immigration of millions of foreign-born Arabs to the ruins of Israel.

The “international advocacy” referred to in the document includes lobbying foreign governments and societies to wage economic war against Israel. To this end, for instance, the Palestinian Agricultural Relief Committee, which has received hundreds of thousands of dollars from the French government, uses racist language to demonize Jews and Israel by among other things assaulting the so-called “Judaization of Jerusalem” and attacking Palestinians who work with Israeli companies.

In 2011, PARC sabotaged a trade delegation in France comprised of Israeli and Gazan farmers organized by Agrexco, Israel’s main exporter of agricultural products. Rather than welcome Israel’s actions on behalf of Gaza farmers, PAR C organized a boycott of the delegation – causing direct harm to Gazan farmers.

In its press release following its action, the beneficiary of French government financing wrote, “PARC salutes all activists and international supporters for the BDS campaign and especially our French friends and partners who were able to frustrate the Agrexco attempt to conduct a joint press conference with a few exploited Palestinian producers.”

Not to put too fine a point on it, but these are not the actions that peaceful groups interested in a non-violent, peaceful resolution of the Palestinian conflict with Israel undertake. By paying these groups to carry out these sorts of activities, the French government has made clear that far from seeking to advance the cause of peace, its actual goal is to block all prospects of peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

These sorts of actions are the norm, rather than the exception in France’s treatment of Israel. And France makes no bones about its hostility toward the Jewish state.

On December 2, 2014, barely a week after two jihadists from Jerusalem butchered like sheep four rabbis in prayer at a synagogue in the city and murdered a policeman who tried to rescue them, the French parliament recognized the non-existent “State of Palestine.”

That Islamic State-styled massacre was part of a larger Islamic terrorism offensive against Jews in Jerusalem that was incited by the leaders of “Palestine.”

Just as it does today, last fall the Palestinian Authority, led by PA President Mahmoud Abbas, spread the lie that Israel was planning to destroy the mosques on the Temple Mount and called on the Palestinians to attack Jews.

The French government’s policies on the ground in Israel and the PA are a natural complement to its anti-Jewish policies at home.

Whereas France seek to reward Islamic terrorists on the international stage by helping them to weaken the Jewish state, back home the French government is willing to place its own Jewish community at risk in order to pretend that Islamic terrorism doesn’t exist.

Since Jews are among the top targets for French jihadists, the French government’s policy of refusing to acknowledge or combat Islamic extremism and violence in France is an anti-Jewish policy.

Last January, in the wake of the jihadist massacre at the Hyper Cacher kosher supermarket in Paris, which had followed the massacre at Charlie Hebdo magazine, French President Francois Hollande refused to acknowledge that the murderous violence was rooted in Islam. To the contrary, Hollande perversely insisted, “These terrorists and fanatics have nothing to do with the Islamic religion.”

In a further act of hostility toward the grieving Jewish community, two days after the massacres Hollande told Netanyahu to stay away from Paris and not participate in his solidarity march with the victims of the attacks.

When Netanyahu insisted on participating in the march anyway, Hollande invited Mahmoud Abbas to participate as well, despite his direct sponsorship of anti-Jewish terrorism.

French authorities tried to push Netanyahu to the second row of marchers to prevent anyone from seeing him. Ahead of the march, they left him exposed, in an unsafe area, where his life was in danger every second, as he waited for a bus to pick him up and take him to the event.

In the evening after the march, Hollande refused to appear with Netanyahu at the memorial ceremony for the victims of the Hyper Cacher massacre. In a tangible snub, Hollande left the synagogue where it was being held before Netanyahu arrived.

In the nine months since the attacks, rather than go after the Islamic communities of France that infect their members with Nazi-like Jew hatred marinated in Koranic dispensations for murder, French authorities have forced French Jewry to live under lock and key. Jewish communal institutions are required to shoulder astronomical security costs as their buildings have come to look more like military garrisons than elementary schools and synagogues.

As a French professor writing under the pen name Alain El-Mouchain explained this month in Mosaic Magazine, the French government’s “refusal to identify either the culprits [of anti-Semitic violence] or their [Jewish] victims by their proper names... has perversely combined with the swift posting of police and military guards at Jewish institutions to make Jews feel that at best they have become ‘protected citizens’ in their own country, reinforcing the idea that they are no longer at home in France but are rather a new kind of dhimmi [a minority group that lives at the pleasure of the ruling Muslims].”

In rejecting France’s bid to destroy Israel’s sovereignty over the Temple Mount, Netanyahu and his ministers have all noted that such a position will do nothing to protect the Temple Mount or guarantee freedom of religion. Only Israeli control of the holy site, Netanyahu explained, protects members of all faiths.

Again, while their statements are correct, they miss the point. It isn’t that France is doing nothing to ensure freedom of religion. Through its actions, France has shown that it isn’t even vaguely interested in promoting freedom and peace. The policy of the French government, revealed yet again by its bid to end Israeli control of the Temple Mount, is to delegitimize Israel and curry the favor of jihadists at the expense of the Jews of Israel and of France alike.
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Caroline Glick is the Director of the David Horowitz Freedom Center's Israel Security Project and the Senior Contributing Editor of The Jerusalem Post where this article was first published. For more information on Ms. Glick's work, visit carolineglick.com. David Horowitz is a Contributing Author of the ARRA News Service

Tags: France, Israel, Palestinians, temple mount, Terrorism, Caroline Glick, FrontPag Mag  To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". Please mention / link to the ARRA News Service. and "Like" Facebook Page - Thanks!

Biden His Time

by Paul Jacob, Contributing Author: Vice-President Joe Biden announced, yesterday, that he will not run for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination, ending many weeks of speculation.

The Veep’s exit from a race he never entered benefits Mrs. Clinton, who in those same polls has a larger lead head-to-head against Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).

Much of “Middle-Class” Joe’s speech was the usual laundry list of progressive pie-in-the-sky, money-can-too-buy-us-love shibboleths:
  • “President Obama has led this nation from crisis to recovery, and we’re now on the cusp of resurgence.”
  • The public schools fail to adequately educate kids — at stupendous cost. Rather than innovate, Biden demands we “commit to 16 years of free public education for all of our children.”
  • Biden’s biggest pitch was for “a moon shot to cure cancer.” (Cancer will be cured . . . but not by politicians.)
Still, Joe voiced something other candidates fail to emphasize:[W]e have to end the divisive partisan politics that is ripping this country apart. . . . I don’t think we should look at Republicans as our enemies. They are our opposition. They’re not our enemies. And for the sake of the country, we have to work together.That hasn’t been Hillary Clinton’s approach, having compared conservative Republicans to terrorist groups. Plus, to the question “Which enemy that you made during your political career are you most proud of?” she answered, “Republicans.” “Four more years of this kind of pitched battle may be more than this country can take,” Joe Biden added.

I guess Joe’s not for Hillary.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.
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Paul Jacobs is author of Common Sense which provides daily commentary about the issues impacting America and about the citizens who are doing something about them. He is also President of the Liberty Initiative Fund (LIFe) as well as Citizens in Charge Foundation. Jacobs is a contributing author on the ARRA News Service.

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Oil Market Showdown: Can Russia Outlast The Saudis?

"Two men enter, one man leaves, two men enter, one man leaves, two men enter..." ~ Max Max 3 Beyond the Thunderdome

by Dalan McEndree: November 27, oil consuming countries will celebrate the first anniversary of the Saudi decision to let market forces determine prices. This decision set crude prices on a downward path. Subsequently, to defend market share, the Saudis increased production, which exacerbated market oversupply and further pressured prices.

While the sharp decline in crude prices has saved crude consuming nations hundreds of billions of dollars, the loss in revenues has caused crude exporting countries intense economic and financial pain. Their suffering has led some to call for a change in strategy to “balance” the market and boost prices. Venezuela, an OPEC member, has even proposed an emergency summit meeting.

In practice, the call for a change is a call for Saudi Arabia and Russia, the two dominant global crude exporters, which each daily export over seven-plus mmbbls (including condensates and NGLs) and which each see the other as the key to any “balancing” moves, to bear the brunt of any production cuts.

Both, it would seem, have incentive to do so, as each has lost over $100 billion in crude revenues in 2015—and Russia bears the extra burden of U.S. and EU Ukraine-related economic and financial sanctions. Yet, while both publicly profess willingness to discuss market conditions, neither has shown any real inclination to reduce output—in fact, both countries seem committed to keeping their feet pressed to their crude output pedals. In the course of 2015, both have raised output and exports over 2014 levels—Saudi Arabia by ~500 and 550~ mbbls/day respectively and Russia by ~100 and ~150. The Saudis have repeatedly cut pricing to undercut competitors to maintain market share in the critical U.S. and China markets, while the Russian Finance Ministry recently backed away from a tax proposal which Russian crude producers said would reduce their output.

This apparent bravado notwithstanding, the two countries’ entry into the low-price Crudedome is ravaging their economies. Should crude prices decline from current levels, or even just stagnate, it is possible neither country will exit the CrudeDome under its own power.

IMF WEO Data: Recessions as far as the Eyes can See

Both Saudi Arabia and Russia paint positive portraits on current and future economic performance. At a conference in Moscow on October 14, President Putin said that Russia had reached if not passed the peak of its economic crisis and predicted economic growth in coming years. Arab News announced in the first paragraph of its report on Q2 Saudi economic performance that Q2 GDP grew 3.79 percent year-over-year, up from 2.3 percent growth in Q1.

Yet IMF October 2015 and April 2015 World Economic Outlook projections for the Russian and Saudi economies a paint pessimistic portrait, as the following three tables, forecasting GDP through 2020 in current prices/national currency, constant prices/national currency, and current prices/US$ show (all data in billions).

- In each of the data series, except the April and October ones, Russian current prices/national currency and the Saudi constant prices/national currency series, GDP declines from 2014 to 2015. (When adjusted for estimated inflation, however, the forecasts for Russian GDP current prices/national currency show GDP declining from 2014 levels—to 64,039 billion Rubles given inflation of 17.943 percent in the April series; in the October series, to 64,463 billion rubles, given inflation of 15.789 percent. The growth shown in the Saudi constant prices/national currency series results from the reduction in the deflator, which the Saudi National Statistical Office, Central Department of Statistics and Information uses to convert current national currency GDP into constant national currency. For example, decreasing the deflator from 115.073 to 94.234 in the October series and to 97.066 from 115.889 in the April series turns a decrease in GDP in current prices into an increase in GDP in constant prices).

- Between the April and the October forecasts in most of the data series, GDP deteriorates (blue font). Crude prices bear much of the responsibility: the April forecasts were based on $58.14 and $65.65 per barrel oil in 2015 and 2016 respectively, while the October projections are based $51.62 and $50.36 respectively.

- The year in which GDP exceeds 2014 GDP is noted in red font. As a result of the deterioration in GDP forecasts between April and October in the Saudi current prices/national currency series, GDP does not exceed 2014 GDP until 2018 instead of 2017; in the Russian current prices, US$ series, GDP exceeds 2014 level after 2020 instead of 2019; in the Saudi current prices/US$, the recovery is pushed to 2018 from 2017. (In inflation adjusted terms, Russian GDP in current prices, national currency would be below 2015 levels in 2020).
In Russia, the impact of low crude revenues on GDP has raised questions about Russia’s long term economic prospects. Some see Russia’s economic growth potential as 1 percent annually or less due to low energy prices, low productivity levels, and a shrinking population, while Alexei Kudrin, finance minister from 2001 to 2011, recently commented that Russia’s growth model for the last fifteen years—using income from energy exports to drive up wages, domestic demand and therefore growth—will no longer work. With the government strapped for funds, and energy income no longer supporting domestic demand, some see investment as the sole possible driver of growth.

IMF WEO Data: Budget Deficits as far as the Eyes can See

Both the Saudi and Russian governments depend on energy revenues to fund their budgets—oil funds ~90 percent of the Saudi budget and oil and natural gas ~52 percent of the Russian budget. With the decline in prices, the Saudi budget anticipates a deficit of 20 percent of GDP in 2015 and the Russian budget a deficit of 3.3 percent of GDP. The April and October WEO budget projections in national currencies (Rubles and Riyals) show the deficits decreasing, but continuing through 2020 for both countries:
The following table shows that as a percentage of GDP, the deficits decline steadily through 2020. However, as a percentage of GDP, the WEO October projections show the Saudi deficits remain double-digit through 2020—the potential impact of which will be discussed in the section on currencies.
As planning for the 2016 fiscal year proceeds, fiscal reality is forcing both governments to scramble for new sources of revenues and/or opportunities to cut spending to reduce their budget deficits. The Russian government suspended the budget rule using a long term average of crude prices to set spending, since the resulting $80 average price would have dictated unreasonable spending in 2016.

President Putin ordered a 10 percent cut in Interior Ministry personnel, imposed a one million headcount ceiling on this ministry, and planned cuts in Kremlin headcount. The Finance Ministry sought a change in the mineral extraction tax formula to generate an additional 609 billion rubles in 2015 and 1.6 trillion through 2018, but pressure from the Economic and Energy Ministries and Russian producers forced the Finance Ministry to consider alternatives with less negative impact on crude production. In addition, the government reportedly is taking some $13 billion from national pension funds, while the Russian Central Bank is preparing proposals on government pension guarantees that would shift some pension funding burden from the government budget to companies and individuals.

The Saudi government is also scrambling. After an eight year hiatus from issuing sovereign debt, the Saudi government announced a plan during the summer to borrow $28 billion in 2015 and launched the borrowing with a $5 billion offering in August. The Ministry of Finance has banned contracts for new projects, hiring and promotions, and purchase of vehicles or furniture in the fourth quarter, while the newly created Council for Economic and Development Affairs must now approve all government projects worth more than $27 million. The Saudi government also is preparing to privatize airports and contemplating seeking private financing for infrastructure projects.

The budget situation puts the Saudi government in a difficult situation. On the one hand, the size of the deficits requires drastic cuts in spending, but such drastic cuts would impact politically sensitive areas such as energy subsidies, government employment opportunities for Saudi citizens, education, and economic development projects. On the other hand, depleting Saudi government reserves to finance the deficits will put the Saudi sovereign credit rating at risk, which would raise the cost of borrowing as well as pressure the Saudi currency (the consequences of which are discussed below).

IMF WEO Data: Lagging Per Capita Income as far as the Eyes can See
In both Russia and Saudi Arabia, the governments have attempted to shield their citizens from job cuts. In Russia, the government has discouraged businesses from shedding employees, while the Saudi government has maintained headcount in the government and government-related bodies, where most Saudis nationals are employed.

In terms of income, however, the situation is different. IMF WEO projections show per capita income in 2015 declining from 2014 levels in both Russia and Saudi Arabia, and only slowly recovering (the year exceeding 2014 levels in red font). (The increases in per capita income in the Russia current prices, national currency and in the Saudi constant prices, national currency series results from the same factors discussed in the section on GDP).
Impact on Currencies

The steep decline in crude prices has pressured both currencies. The Ruble has suffered two curses. First, it has declined substantially relative to “hard” currencies, such as the US$, the Euro, British Pound, and the Swiss Franc. Against the U.S. dollar, it depreciated ~29 percent from November 27, 2014 to October 13, 2015 (48.58/US$, to 62.77). Second, it has been and continues to be highly volatile, its fate tied to moves in crude prices. The Ruble reached its post-November 27 low on June 27 (33.73/US$) and twice reached its high of ~70/US$ (January 30 69.47, August 24 70.89). A chart is available on Bloomberg.

The pressure on the Ruble forced the Russian Central Bank to take a series of emergency measures. At the end of last year, it spent ~$100 billion from its foreign currency reserves to defend the Ruble (it finally abandoned the defense when it proved futile and allowed the Ruble to float). In the same period, it extended emergency “hard” currency funding to major Russian banks and businesses with “hard” currency obligations that were coming due at the end of 2014. The Central Bank also sharply raised interest rates—to 17 percent at one point—and has kept the rates high to defend the Ruble (currently ~11 percent). Two examples illustrate the impact of Ruble devaluation:

- Transaero, until recently Russia’s second largest passenger airline, attributed being forced into bankruptcy to high interest rates and a devalued Ruble—the former raised the cost of financing, the latter pushed up prices in Rubles and therefore reduced demand in Russia for international flights and increased the cost, in Rubles, of repaying foreign currency denominated loans and interest.

- The Association of European Businesses in Russia recently announced that sales of new cars and light commercial vehicles contracted 29 percent in August year-over-year and forecast a 37 percent decline for all of 2015. It cited price increases that the car manufactures were forced to take to cover the increased cost of foreign parts and systems used in domestic auto manufacturing.

Volatility is equally pernicious. As another Bloomberg article points out, Russian businesses, unsure of what the value of the Ruble will be long term or even day-to-day, are deferring investment despite generating substantial (Ruble) profits—the very investment which some believe the Russian economy needs to grow and which has been contracting for 20 months.

The Saudis have avoided both Riyal depreciation and volatility. The government has insisted it will keep the Riyal pegged at 3.75/US$ and financial markets thus far have taken comfort from Saudi reserves (estimated to exceed $660 billion). However, as deficits deplete reserves and events occur that threaten the peg and Saudi oil-related export revenues, this comfort quickly could dissipate. After the Chinese Central Bank unexpectedly devalued the Yuan by ~2 percent against the US$, bets that the Saudis would be forced to abandon the peg spiked.

Breaking the peg would devastate the Saudi economy. It would drive up the cost of imports—and Saudi Arabia depends substantially on imports for a wide variety and high percentage of necessary consumer, business, and government goods and services—from food to oil, petrochemical, and other industrial equipment and services to military equipment, supplies, and training. It would also harm the Saudis who recently have been increasing their exposure to “hard” currency denominated loans.

Sovereign Wealth and Foreign Currency Reserves

Both the Saudis and the Russians are drawing down reserves they accumulated during the $100-plus/barrel crude price era to finance their spending. Over the nine months to July 2015, Saudi reserves declined $76 billion, from $737 billion to $661 billion, implying an annual rate of $100 to $130 billion. Should large withdrawals continue, or the amounts increase, confidence in the Riyal will sink.

Besides the $100 billion the Central Bank spent defending the Ruble, the Russian government has used funds from its sovereign wealth funds (the National Welfare Fund and the Reserve Fund) to reduce to fund priority projects, particularly in the energy industry—Rosneft sought one of the largest amounts. In June, Stratfor put the draw on the sovereign wealth funds at $44 billion.

China: The Sword of Damocles

In an era of low crude prices, modest economic growth, and modest crude demand growth, both Saudi Arabia and Russia (and other crude exporters) look to China as a source of incremental revenue to make up for the massive absolute declines in revenue and are prepared to compete intensely for market share.

One can imagine, then, the panic in Riyadh and Moscow when they contemplated the implications of the Chinese Central Bank’s decision to devalue the Yuan by ~2 percent against the U.S. dollar and the possibility this was the first salvo in a series of devaluations.

- For the Saudis, devaluation, if continued, will force the government to decide between volume and revenue. Pegged to the US$, Saudi crude, priced in US$ will become more expensive for the Chinese. It will reduce demand for Saudi crude and/or make the crude of other exporters—e.g. the Russians—whose currencies float. Yet reducing the US$ price to support volumes to China will reduce crude export revenues, which, if sufficiently substantial, could undermine confidence in the Saudi economy and therefore the Riyal peg to the US$.

- For the Russians, the Chinese Central Bank announcement possibly produced excitement at the prospect of competitive advantage over the Saudis in pricing. Quickly, however, excitement may have turned into anxiety. Neither side has made public critical details—including the currency or currencies in which sales will be settled and priced—of three bilateral energy megadeals: Rosneft’s $270 billion 2013 agreement to supply 300,000 mbbl/day annually to China for 25 years; the $400 billion, 30 year agreement signed in 2014 to supply natural gas to China from Eastern Siberia; and the negotiations underway to supply natural gas from Western Siberia.

Are prices set in US$, Rubles, Yuan, a basket of currencies (US$, Euro, Swiss Franc)? Are the Chinese expected to pay in Yuan at the Yuan/Ruble exchange rate? In Rubles at the Ruble/Yuan exchange rate? In Yuan at the Yuan/US$ exchange rate? Each alternative has different implications for Rosneft’s and Gazprom’s gross and net revenues from the sale of crude (Rosneft) and natural gas (Gazprom).

And the Winner is…

Despite the intense pain they are suffering in the low price Crudedome, both the Russian and Saudi governments profess for public consumption that they are committed to their volume and market share policies.

This observer believes the two countries cannot long withstand the pain they have brought upon themselves—and this article only scratches the surface of the negative impact of low crude prices on their economies. They have, in effect, turned no pain no gain into intense pain no gain and set in motion the possibility neither will exit the low price Crudedome under its own power.
-----------------
Dalan McEndree is the author of this article contributed by James Stafford the editor of OilPrice.com, the leading online energy news site, to the ARRA News Service.

Tags: Dalan McEndree James Stafford, Oilprice.com,  Oil Market Showdown, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Saudis, To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". Please mention / link to the ARRA News Service. and "Like" Facebook Page - Thanks!

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