Tuesday's Watercooler (Open Thread): Visa Waivers, Border Wars, and Missile Trains.

Fact or Fiction? 

Some say facts are stranger than fiction but I say politics is stranger than fiction. The new $1.1T spending bill just signed into law made changes to the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) that restricts people from traveling to the U.S. without a visa if they have traveled to Iran, Iraq, Syria or Sudan in the past five years. They can still travel here but they must obtain a visa to enter the U.S. now. But laws don’t mean anything to this administration and can just be waived.

Iran claims this new policy violates the unsigned JCPOA (the nuclear deal) since it might effect our trade and economic relations with them (and that it’s Israel’s fault). Don’t worry though, Sec. Kerry is doing everything he can to calm Iran’s fears in a Dec 19th letter to them and show them our commitment by extending 90 days to say, 10 years. Dear Santa Dear Mullahs:

To this end, we have a number of potential tools available to us, including multiple entry ten-year business visas, programs for expediting business visas, and the waiver authority provided under the new legislation,” Kerry wrote. “I am happy to discuss this further and provide any additional clarification.

Fact: The House just passed a bill 425-0!

By a vote of 425 to 0, the House of Representatives on Wednesday passed legislation strengthening sanctions against Iran’s terrorist proxy in Lebanon, Hezbollah, signaling to Tehran that it will remain a target of Congressional action despite looming sanctions relief under the Iran nuclear agreement.

The bipartisan legislation now goes to President Obama’s desk for signature, the Senate having passed it last month.

In Case You Missed It (ICYMI)

It’s said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Not satisfied with a big, beautiful wall, Trump declared the U.S. should put a temporary pause to the entry of all non-American Muslims abroad. During the ensuing firestorm, a Twitter war broke out and Saudi Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal tweeted:

“.@realDonaldTrump You are a disgrace not only to the GOP but to all America. Withdraw from the U.S presidential race as you will never win,” Prince Alwaleed tweeted.

What the Prince failed to mention was that Saudi Arabia is building their own fabulous great wall that will put Trump’s wall to shame. Try 600 miles with a ditch, watch towers and helipads along it’s border with Iraq…. to keep ISIS out. Click on link above to see pictures and here. It’s a big ditch!

Speaking of border wars and visas, it’s been over a month since 4,000 Cuban immigrants have been stranded in Costa Rica because Nicaragua closed its border to U.S.-bound Cubans. Cubans have been flying to Ecuador (no visa required until they changed that on Dec. 1) then traveling through Central America to our border where they are automatically allowed to enter. Costa Rica suspended granting visas to Cubans until they can find a solution:

President Solis also announced that Costa Rica has officially suspended the granting of temporary visas to Cubans, stressing that any Cubans attempting to enter Costa Rica illegally would be immediately deported to Cuba. As such, he urged “irregular Cuban migrants” not to attempt entry into Costa Rican territory.  [snip]

In other Cuban news, last week U.S. [mc_name name=’Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL)’ chamber=’house’ mcid=’C001107′ ], from Florida’s 26th District, introduced the “Cuban Immigrant Work Opportunity Act“, H.R. 4247. The bill would distinguish Cubans fleeing political persecution from ordinary Cuban immigrants for purposes of welfare eligibility, thus preventing the non-refugees from collecting welfare under the more-generous rules that apply to refugees. It would also seek to limit U.S. welfare payments to people actually living in Cuba, a problem exposed by the South Florida Sun-Sentinel earlier this year.

Cuba blames the U.S. Cuban policy of Wet Food, Dry Foot but on Dec. 21st, the Obama administration told Cuba that it will not alter our policy. So much for a new beginning and not doing what we’ve been doing for 50 years because it didn’t work.

This Is Not Good

China is testing ICBM’s from railroad cars, as if launching them by traditional methods wasn’t sufficient to destroy their target.

And while China is beefing up it’s military might and landmass, one of our B-52’s got within two miles to one of their faux islands. If you were hoping that the U.S. was showing some much needed bluster to deter their island building in international waters, think again: “The Pentagon’s Groveling Apology to China for Flying Near a Contested Island”.

On a Lighter Note

This will go down as a Christmas classic, well at least for this year and maybe beyond depending on the election. Enjoy and please opine away on any topic you wish to talk about here at the Watercooler where threadjacks don’t apply.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e3hB3iOQKjY&feature=youtu.be[/youtube]