Through The Smog: December 18, 2016

The Weekly Windshield Wiper Clearing Through Media B.S.
President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference in the briefing room of the White House in Washington, Friday, Dec. 16, 2016. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference in the briefing room of the White House in Washington, Friday, Dec. 16, 2016. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

On Friday, President Barack Obama Held His Final Press Conference Of 2016

Here are the 5 most important takeaways:

Obama reminds us all how great he was as President. Just press play

“When I came into office, 44 million people were uninsured. Today, we have covered more than 20 million of them. For the first time in our history, more than 90% of Americans are insured.”

“As I was preparing to take office, the unemployment rate was on its way to 10%. Today it is at 4.6%, the lowest in nearly a decade.”

He calls out the false coverage and propaganda being pushed by the Russian and Syrian regime regarding Aleppo. Skip to 7:20 and then 46:20

“The Syrian regime and its Russian and Iranian allies are trying to obfuscate the truth. The world should not be fooled, and the world will not forget.”

Obama confirms what we already knew — Vladimir Putin was directly involved in the hacks. Skip to 56:12

“Not much happens in Russia without Vladimir Putin, this happened at the highest levels of the Russian government.”

Obama calls out the media for playing right into Russia and Trump’s hands. Skip to 16:48

“I do think it is worth reflecting how a presidential election of such importance, of such moment, with so many big issues at stake and such a contrast between the candidates, seemed to be dominated by a bunch of these leaks.”

Finally, our soon to be dearly missed President reassures us that America is still the shit and that Russia sucks. Skip to 51:16

“The Russians can’t change us or significantly weaken us. They are a smaller country, they are a weaker country, their economy doesn’t produce anything that anybody wants to buy except oil and gas and arms. They don’t innovate.”

FBI And CIA Agree Russia’s Motives Were To Help Trump

Whatever real or imagined difference existed between CIA and FBI positions has been resolved. All the agencies of the US intelligence community (IC) are now publicly in agreement that Russian hacking occurred during the election in an effort to help elect Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin must have had some knowledge of the efforts. The hacking was largely targeted at damaging Hilary Clinton’s campaign, but IC officials are not clear what ties, if any, exists to the Trump campaign.

CIA and FBI officials do not think Russia had a “single purpose” by intervening during the presidential campaign, officials said. In addition to the goal of helping elect Trump, Putin aimed to undermine confidence in the U.S. electoral system, intelligence officials have told lawmakers.

President Obama addressed Russian tampering in his press conference this week, revealing that he had called on Putin to “cut it out” or face “serious consequences” after the WikiLeaks released emails gained in a cyberattack on the Democratic National Committee, but had not released the information to the public due to a “hyper-partisan atmosphere”. President Elect Trump has expressed skepticism at the idea of Russian intervention in the election.

While President-Elect Trump may continue to deny the interference of Russian hackers in the election, many members of the Republican Party, The White House, and now FBI and CIA have all stated firmly that such interference did indeed occur. Acknowledging the growing consensus on the issue, Reince Priebus told Fox News that:

“I think he would accept the conclusion if they would get together, put out a report and show the American people they are on the same page.”

Of course, given President-Elect Trump’s demonstrated relationship to reality, all Mr. Priebus can do is “think” that his boss will accept Russian involvement.

North Carolina Republicans Move To Limit Incoming Governor’s Power

After refusing to concede the election results for almost a month, incumbent Republican North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory lost re-election to Democratic Governor-elect Roy Cooper, Republicans swiftly moved to reduce the incoming Governor’s power.

The Republican controlled state legislature passed two bills on Friday. One was signed into law by Governor McCrory right away. It strips future governors of their power to appoint a majority to the State Board of Election and changes the state court system, making it harder for the losers of some superior court cases to appeal directly to the Democratic-controlled Supreme Court.

The second bill, which hasn’t been signed yet, eliminates the Governor’s ability to select board members of state universities and limits the number of state employees the Governor can appoint from 1,500 to 425. This law also makes cabinet appointees of future Governors’ subject to approval by the state Senate. Republicans in North Carolina have a veto-proof majority, so you can bet that they will use it to block any appointee that runs counter to their interests.

These undemocratic moves would limit the Governor-elect’s power dramatically and have understandably led to protests. People are not happy about this lack of respect for the democratic process or transition of power.

Ohio Governor Kasich Signs 20 Week Abortion Ban

On Tuesday, Ohio Governor John Kasich signed a 20 week abortion ban into law. Kasich also vetoed the “Heartbeat Bill,” which would’ve banned abortion at around 6 weeks after conception (before most women even realize they’re pregnant).

The Supreme Court’s decision on Roe v. Wade protects a woman’s right to have an abortion up until the fetus is viable outside the womb, around 22 to 24 weeks of pregnancy. Kasich said the bill was clearly contrary to the Supreme Court’s decision and the 20 week approach “the best, most legally sound and sustainable approach to protecting the sanctity of human life.”

Reproductive rights advocates are not happy with the signing of the 20 week ban law. They say this has a higher likelihood of standing up in court and overturning Roe v. Wade. The Huffington Post reports:

Dawn Laguens, a spokeswoman for the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, said the 20-week ban is “just another shameful attempt by John Kasich to make abortion illegal.”

News // Barack Obama / Politics / Reproductive Rights / Russia / Underreported