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Inside the Beltway: 12/12/12 cliffhanger

- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 11, 2012

If President Obama and House Speaker John A. Boehner really hurry, they can tie the "fiscal cliff" to 12/12/12 — as in Dec. 12, 2012, a Wednesday filled with "once in a lifetime" buzz, and the final alliteration date of the century.

Herman Cain, after all, got much publicity mileage with his handy-dandy "9-9-9" tax-plan slogan. Besides, preliminary groundwork for a convenient 12/12/12 tie-in already has been laid by none other than Newt Gingrich, who repeatedly has suggested that the fiscal cliff is not a single looming cliff, but rather a series of foothills.

"This whole fiscal cliff language is designed to maximize a sense of fear. That's nonsense. The very same people, the Congress and the president, who invented the fiscal cliff — this is all an invention — could break it down into 12 foothills, or 15 foothills or 20 foothills. They could tackle one problem at the time," Mr. Gingrich recently told Fox News.

Well then, let's make it 12 foothills, each defining a specific fiscal woe. Next, we need 12 smart people to come up with the solutions, rather than two lone guys glaring at one another under the media microscope. And last but not least, the 12 experts have 12 days to reach a compromise, which means they step forward with an announcement on Christmas Eve, well within the prescribed deadline. Voila, 12/12/12, the solution, or at least, the motto du jour.

KEEPING THE FAITH

Concerned Catholics and evangelicals have company. Conestoga Wood Specialties, a Mennonite-owned, Pennsylvania-based cabinetmaker employing 950 people, has filed a federal lawsuit charging that the mandate on contraception coverage contained in the Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional. The suit states, "It's sinful and immoral for the company to participate in, pay for, facilitate or otherwise support any contraception." There are 43 similar cases brought against the federal government for violation of First Amendment rights.

"The issue of conscience rights has always been a bipartisan issue. The mandate shatters this consensus and undermines religious liberty for people of all faiths. It is absolutely no surprise that we see people of so many different faiths challenging this unjust law," says Maureen Ferguson, senior policy adviser with The Catholic Association.

"Americans should take note of this administration's systematic erosion of our freedom of religion as well as the wide range of individuals and groups whose rights have been trampled by the mandate. They recognize that the anti-religious-liberty trend will only continue if the government is left unchecked. And that means any individual or group is vulnerable," adds Ashley McGuire, senior fellow with the organization.

CHRISTMAS WARS

"Yes Virginia, there is no God."

(New sign aboard public buses in Anchorage, Alaska, as of Monday, from the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation)

FOOD STAMP WARS

"They are on a determined effort to expand the number of people who get on welfare — on food stamps — even if they don't want to be on food stamps. They have a brochure telling people what to say when people say, 'I don't need food stamps,' to get them to sign up for food stamps."

(Sen. Jeff Sessions, Alabama Republican, commenting on U.S. Department of Agriculture policy before the Senate floor on Tuesday.)

SAID AND DONE

Could the big winners be MSNBC's Chris Matthews or New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd? Maybe. About this time each year, the erudite analysts at Media Research Center pore over dozens of biased, outrageous or humorous items from the belly of liberal journalism, seeking, well, the worst of the worst.

The watchdog group also has a public poll for those who would like to weigh in on such things, open online through Thursday. Find the "You Get to Choose" public ballot here: www.mrc.org/notablequotables. And yes, it was Mr. Matthews who said of President Obama on July 18, "He's never done anything wrong. He's the perfect father, the perfect husband, the perfect American."

FUN WITH TAXONOMY

Former President George W. Bush has a beetle named after him. Theodore Roosevelt has a deer, an elk and a lion named for him. Abraham Lincoln has a wasp and a rose in his name. Now, thanks to Yale University's Department of Geology and Geophysics, there is an ancient lizard named for President Obama. While studying species that became extinct following an asteroid strike an estimated 65 million years ago, postdoctoral paleontologist Nicholas Longrich came upon one lizard with no designation. So he named it "Obamadon gracilis."

Mr. Longrich explains, "It is a small polyglyphanodontian distinguished by tall, slender teeth with large central cusps separated from small accessory cusps by lingual grooves," adding that no one should "impute any political significance to the decision to name the extinct lizard after the recently re-elected U.S. president. We're just having fun with taxonomy."

Wait. Taxonomy? Does this have something to do with the "fiscal cliff"? No. Taxonomy is an academic discipline that defines and names biological organisms based on their shared characteristics. Mr. Longrich's research was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

POLL DU JOUR

• 75 percent of Americans say increases in federal income and Social Security payroll taxes for most taxpayers would have a negative impact on the U.S. "as a whole."

• 84 percent of Republicans and 76 percent of Democrats agree.

• 69 percent say major cuts in U.S. domestic spending would have a negative impact on the nation.

• 60 percent of Republicans and 77 percent of Democrats agree.

• 64 percent say major cuts in U.S. defense spending would have a negative impact.

• 78 percent of Republicans and 56 percent of Democrats agree.

• 64 percent overall say "fiscal cliff" tax increases and spending cuts would have a negative impact on their personal financial situation.

• 75 percent of Republicans and 58 percent of Democrats agree.

Source: A Gallup poll of 1,069 U.S. adults conducted Dec. 8-9.

Big speeches, little comments to jharper@washingtontimes.com.

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