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Credit for the Cromnibus

Both houses of Congress have voted to send the $1.1 trillion “Cromnibus” spending bill to President BarackObama, and the president has promised to sign the measure, though it’s not an easy creature to like. The massive bill represents a last-minute, must-pass caricature of the deliberative process by which Congress is supposed to approve appropriations. It comes studded with special-interest giveaways, including relaxations of Wall Street and campaign finance regulations that would have been unlikely to pass as stand-alone measures. For the District of Columbia, there’s an especially wounding abrogation of a marijuana legalization referendum.

Obama’s Boehner bailout

WASHINGTON — How often will President Barack Obama come to House Speaker John Boehner’s rescue even when Republican leaders aren’t willing to give much in return? And does the president want to preside over a split in his party?

War authorization against Islamic State should be one of Congress’ first acts

Among the business that Congress will leave unfinished this month is legal authorization of the war against the Islamic State. Though the war has been underway for five months, President Barack Obama has said he would welcome legislation, and congressional leaders have denounced the president’s unilateral actions in other spheres, neither the White House nor Congress has made a passage of an Authorization for Use of Military Force a priority. That puts the ongoing military operations on shaky legal ground and deprives them of the political mandate they ought to have.

The arrogance of liberal elites

WASHINGTON — Jonathan Gruber — the source of more smoking guns than the battle of Gettysburg — recently appeared before a hostile House committee. The good professor, you might recall, is an MIT economist who played a significant (and paid) role in producing and defending the Affordable Care Act. He also later admitted, in an astonishing variety of settings, that the law was written in a “tortured way” to hide tax increases and other flaws. “Lack of transparency,” he cheerfully conceded, “is a huge political advantage. And basically, call it the stupidity of the American voter or whatever, but basically that was really, really critical to getting the thing to pass.”

Dystopia on the Caspian

The work of Khadija Ismayilova would be vital in any country but has been particularly courageous in Azerbaijan, the oil-rich sultanate ruled both before and after the Soviet collapse by Heydar Aliyev, who died in 2003, and now by his son, President Ilham Aliyev. In recent years, Ismayilova investigated the ruling family’s hidden wealth and unearthed evidence of how they acquired it through secret deals. Now, the potentates have struck back and moved to silence her, the latest example of how Azerbaijan has become a bleak dystopia for human rights and democracy.

The cheerfulness of tax reform

“Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen nineteen and six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery.” — Mr. Micawber in “David Copperfield”

Hollywood gets hacked

To get a taste for the havoc possible in today’s digital world, consider the recent cyberattack on Sony Pictures Entertainment. Intruders calling themselves “Guardians of Peace” claim to have broken into Sony’s networks and stolen around 100 terabytes — that’s 100,000 gigabytes — of financial information, budgets, payroll data, internal emails and feature films, and they have been slowly leaking excerpts to the public through file-sharing services. The materials have caused a sensation — revealing embarrassing details about executive salaries and secret movie negotiations — but the hack is also a worrisome moment in cybersecurity.

The good and the bad in Congress’ gargantuan spending bill

Let’s begin by thanking Congress for small favors: Top lawmakers from both parties have agreed on a $1.01 trillion spending bill that will fund all but one federal department through September, thereby averting a shutdown like the one that entangled Washington for 16 days last year. (The Department of Homeland Security will get enough cash to last only through February, as a sop to Republicans outraged by President Barack Obama’s unilateral decision to change immigration policy.) In addition to agency appropriations, the bill would provide billions in funding for such emergencies as the Ebola outbreak in West Africa and the war against the Islamic State.

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Government for the strongest

WASHINGTON — Intellectually undemanding progressives, excited by the likes of Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass. — advocate of the downtrodden and the Export-Import Bank — have at last noticed something obvious: Big government, which has become gargantuan in response to progressives’ promptings, serves the strong. It is responsive to factions sufficiently sophisticated and moneyed to understand and manipulate its complexity.

Ferguson and the media circus

WASHINGTON — As the curtain closes on the latest episode of “Ferguson,” the media series, it is fair to wonder whether events might not have spiraled out of control to the extent they did had the media settled on another topic.

Stabilizing Syria must be done

Under pressure from allies, the Obama administration appears to be creeping toward a correction of its strategy in Syria. If so — and officials stress that President Barack Obama has made no decisions and none is imminent — the change would be welcome. The president has been counting on moderate Syrian forces to fight the Islamic State while refusing to address the threat those forces face from the regime of Bashar Assad. That policy has prompted Turkey to withhold vital cooperation and, more seriously, has risked the destruction of U.S. allies, who have been losing territory to both the Assad regime and Islamic extremist groups.

Obama has already won the immigration fight

WASHINGTON — Among the many ways Republican members of Congress are contemplating to punish President Barack Obama for his executive actions on immigration is a proposal of elegant simplicity: They would refuse to invite him to the Capitol to give his State of the Union address.

The spy inside

Dangers are growing in cyberspace. Not only are thieves learning to siphon off millions of credit card numbers and email addresses but elaborate pieces of malware are capable of spying on whole organizations for long periods of time, capturing computer screens, keystrokes and data, transmitting it all to distant servers without being detected.

A monument to idleness

Mere days before a scheduled Dec. 11 deadline, the ever-fractious Republican House may be arriving at a consensus, of sorts, on immigration, taxes and spending. The speaker of the House, John A. Boehner, R-Ohio,, has said his GOP majority would be willing to fund the government through the end of the fiscal year in September, except for the Department of Homeland Security, which would be funded only through February — as a protest against what Republicans consider President Barack Obama’s unconstitutional order to defer deportation of millions of undocumented immigrants. Meanwhile, Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., the probable next chairman of the House tax-policy committee, has offered a one-year, backward-looking reauthorization of more than 50 mostly corporate tax breaks — a “tax extender” bill — to cover the 2014 filing year.