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Senator Jeff Flake goes out with DIShonor (updated)

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Senator Jeff Flake goes out with honor

UPDATE: Just when I finished giving Senator Jeff Flake kudos, he turns around and does something flaky. He’s now calling for a one-week delay on the floor vote so the FBI can investigate.

There is a slight chance he’s falling on his sword on behalf of the GOP to remove some of the taint when Kavanaugh is finally confirmed. Slight. More likely he’s still just being his moderate Democrat self.

Original story:

I don’t like Senator Jeff Flake. He attempted to carry the mantle of conservatism despite having a very moderate voting history. As a lame-duck essentially forced into retirement by President Trump, I expected him to go out with one final middle finger pointed towards his nemesis. I expected him to vote against Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation for the Supreme Court.

Now, it appears that he will vote for Kavanaugh in the Senate Judiciary Committee, which assures that he’ll also vote for his confirmation.

Flake Announces Yes for Kavanaugh, Nomination Likely Headed to Senate Floor

https://www.dailysignal.com/2018/09/28/flake-announces-yes-for-kavanaugh-nomination-likely-headed-to-senate-floor/Yesterday, we heard compelling testimony from Dr. Ford, as well as a persuasive response from Judge Kavanaugh. I wish that I could express the confidence that some of my colleagues have conveyed about what either did or did not happen in the early 1980s, but I left the hearing yesterday with as much doubt as certainty.

“Our system of justice affords a presumption of innocence to the accused, absent corroborating evidence. That is what binds us to the rule of law,” Flake added in his statement Friday.

My Take

Like Flake, I opposed Trump’s nomination by the GOP. Unlike Flake, I was able to put aside my anger over the choice by looking at one important factor in today’s partisan politics: the Supreme Court. I’m against at least half the things the President does because they don’t represent the conservative model of Republican government I expect from the GOP, but I will not let anger prevent me from supporting the things he gets right.

Senators Flake and Bob Corker have had opportunities to harm the agenda of the man who is forcing them out. I applaud them both for going out with class and dignity. Getting a conservative justice is too important for hurt feelings.

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Conspiracy Theory

Russia social media influence efforts ongoing, report says

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Russia’s sweeping political disinformation campaign on U.S. social media was more far-reaching than originally thought, with troll farms working to discourage black voters and “blur the lines between reality and fiction” to help elect Donald Trump in 2016, according to reports released Monday by the Senate intelligence committee.

And the campaign didn’t end with Trump’s ascent to the White House. Troll farms are still working to stoke racial and political passions in America at a time of high political discord.

The two studies are the most comprehensive picture yet of the Russian interference campaigns on American social media. They add to the portrait investigators have been building since 2017 on Russia’s influence — though Trump has equivocated on whether the interference actually happened.

Facebook, Google and Twitter declined to comment on the specifics of the reports.

The reports were compiled by the cybersecurity firm New Knowledge and by the Computational Propaganda Research Project, a study by researchers at the University of Oxford and Graphika, a social media analysis firm.

The Oxford report details how Russians broke down their messages to different groups, including discouraging black voters from going to the polls and stoking anger on the right.

“These campaigns pushed a message that the best way to advance the cause of the African-American community was to boycott the election and focus on other issues instead,” the researchers wrote.

At the same time, “Messaging to conservative and right-wing voters sought to do three things: repeat patriotic and anti-immigrant slogans; elicit outrage with posts about liberal appeasement of ‘others’ at the expense of US citizens, and encourage them to vote for Trump.”

The report from New Knowledge says there are still some live accounts tied to the original Internet Research Agency, which was named in an indictment from special counsel Robert Mueller in February for an expansive social media campaign intended to influence the 2016 presidential election. Some of the accounts have a presence on smaller platforms as the major companies have tried to clean up after the Russian activity was discovered.

“With at least some of the Russian government’s goals achieved in the face of little diplomatic or other pushback, it appears likely that the United States will continue to face Russian interference for the foreseeable future,” the researchers wrote.

The New Knowledge report says that none of the social media companies turned over complete data sets to Congress and some of them “may have misrepresented or evaded” in testimony about the interference by either intentionally or unintentionally downplaying the scope of the problem.

The Senate panel has been investigating Russian interference on social media and beyond for almost two years. Intelligence committee Chairman Richard Burr said in a statement that the data shows how aggressively Russia tried to divide Americans by race, religion and ideology and erode trust in institutions.

“Most troublingly, it shows that these activities have not stopped,” said Burr, a North Carolina Republican.

One major takeaway from both studies is the breadth of Russian interference that appeared on Instagram, which is owned by Facebook and was not frequently mentioned when its parent company testified on Capitol Hill. The study says that as attention was focused on Facebook and Twitter in 2017, the Russians shifted much of their activity to Instagram.

The New Knowledge study says that there were 187 million engagements with users on Instagram, while there were 77 million on Facebook.

“Instagram was a significant front in the IRA’s influence operation, something that Facebook executives appear to have avoided mentioning in congressional testimony,” the researchers wrote. They added that “our assessment is that Instagram is likely to be a key battleground on an ongoing basis.”

The Russian activity went far beyond the three tech companies that provided information, reaching many smaller sites as well. The New Knowledge report details sophisticated attempts to infiltrate internet games, browser extensions and music apps. The Russians even used social media to encourage users of the game Pokemon Go — which was at peak popularity in the months before the 2016 presidential election — to use politically divisive usernames, for example.

Russia Fake News

The report discusses even more unconventional ways that the Russian accounts attempted to connect with Americans and recruit assets, such as merchandise with certain messages, specific follower requests, job offers and even help lines that could encourage people to unknowingly disclose sensitive information to Russia that could later be used against them.

The Russians’ attempts to influence Americans on social media first became widely public in the fall of 2017. Several months later, Mueller’s indictment laid out a vast, organized Russian effort to sway political opinion. While the social media companies had already detailed some of the efforts, the indictment tied actual people to the operation and named 13 Russians responsible.

Also notable is the study’s finding that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was favorably treated in posts aimed at both left-leaning and right-leaning users. The New Knowledge report says there were a number of posts expressing support for Assange and Wikileaks, including several in October 2016 just before WikiLeaks released hacked emails from Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

The Oxford study notes that peaks in Internet Research Agency advertising and organic activity — or posts, shares and comments by users — often corresponded with important dates on the U.S. calendar, crises and international events.

The researchers from Oxford said that organic postings were much more far reaching than advertisements, despite Facebook’s sole focus on ads when the company first announced it had been compromised in 2017.

Other findings in the studies:

— During the week of the presidential election, posts directed to right-leaning users aimed to generate anger and suspicion and hinted at voter fraud, while posts targeted to African-Americans largely ignored mentions of the election until the last minute.

— Establishment figures of both parties, especially Clinton, were universally panned. Even a tag targeted to feminists criticized Clinton and promoted her primary opponent, independent Bernie Sanders;

— Several posts promoted the Russian agenda in Syria and Syrian President Bashar Assad.

— IRA’s posts focused on the United States started on Twitter as far back as 2013, and eventually evolved into the multi-platform strategy.

— Russian activity on Twitter was less organized around themes like race or partisanship but more driven by local and current events and made use of occasional pop culture references.

— Facebook posts linked to the IRA “reveal a nuanced and deep knowledge of American culture, media, and influencers in each community the IRA targeted.” Certain memes appeared on pages targeted to younger people but not older people. “The IRA was fluent in American trolling culture,” the researchers say.

___

Associated Press writer Matt O’Brien contributed to this report from Providence, Rhode Island.

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External pressure starts to lead to Iran infighting, tensions

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External pressure starts to lead to Iran infighting tensions

Domestic unrest—combined with an aggressive expansionist ideology in the region, and the increasing military threats to Israel and the West—could be an explosive combination.

 Internal Iranian political tensions have increased in recent weeks, perhaps signaling that supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is struggling to find a coherent strategy to deal with increasing domestic unrest.

Some analysts and much of the media, however, are misconstruing what is really going on in the country, playing up a conflict between hardliners and so-called moderates represented by President Hassan Rouhani.

It is mistaken to think that Iran has a real functioning parliament with opposing political parties as in Western democracies. In reality, the institutions of Iran are in name only with parliamentarians filtered before elections take place, guaranteeing that they are regime lackeys.

“The Islamist regime in Tehran is a theocratic mafiocracy,” Saeed Ghasseminejad, a senior adviser on Iran at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told JNS.

“Members of the mafia fight each other. They may have very different point of views on many important issues, and they may violently eliminate each other to have a larger share of the pie, but in the end, they are all members of a crime family,” said Ghasseminejad.

A former commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) and a current member of parliament accused half of the Iranian parliament as seeking to overthrow the Iranian regime.

Karimi Ghoddousi charged that leaders of the “sedition” were seeking the downfall of the Islamic Republic, and “today, 50 percent of the MPs use the parliament’s podium to defend the leaders of the ‘sedition,’ ” according to the report by Radio Farda on Monday.

Iranian hardliners are also looking to oust Foreign Minister Javad Zarif in the aftermath of impeaching the country’s labor, economic and education ministers.

Last month, the secretary of the influential Expediency Discernment Council and former chief commander of the IRGC, Maj.-Gen. Mohsen Rezaee, claimed that “U.S. elements have infiltrated President Hassan Rouhani’s ministries,” adding that these individuals are “more active against Iran than Trump.”

Tehran has always been the scene of rivalry between these different factions, explained Ghasseminejad, adding that Iran’s foreign policy is not in the hands of Zarif, Rouhani or other senior officials, but in the hands of supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

“If Zarif is removed, then the way the policy dictated by the supreme leader will be implemented may be different, or it may be a sign that the supreme leader has decided to change the policy,” according to the Iran expert.

“Currently, Iran is waiting to see what will happen in the upcoming 2020 U.S. presidential elections, and in the meantime, look into what the E.U. can do for them until then,” said Ghasseminejad.

The Iranian government is looking to preserve economic ties with Europe and the rest of the world despite U.S. sanctions in an effort to wait out Trump, hoping that he loses his re-election bid in 2020.

The Financial Times reported last month that Khamenei allegedly prevented hardliners from toppling Rouhani’s government in recent months—perhaps a sign that he sees continued value, for the time being, of having a “moderate” face for its dealings with Europe and Asian countries in an effort to play them off against the Trump administration.

The new U.S. sanctions and the Trump administration’s withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear deal have contributed to the collapse of the Iranian currency, the rial, and soaring inflation, which have triggered protests. In actuality, the domestic state of affairs had been unsettled fiscally for some time before the reimposition of sanctions in August and November, but that has exacerbated the situation.

A strategy of ‘divide and conquer’

Ronen A. Cohen, an Iran expert and the chair of the Department of Middle East Studies at Israel’s Ariel University, said he sees Iran’s parliament as trying to divert the public’s attention from bad economic conditions because of sanctions and other issues.

“The Majles [Iranian parliament] wants the people to believe that their problems are mainly due to the sanctions in order to deflect attention from themselves,” said Cohen.

“At the end of the day,” continued Cohen, “the hardliners’ effort to delegitimize Rouhani’s government is part of the regime’s effort to show the public that it is doing its best to give the people a kind of hope and the sense that the ‘bad guys’ are being pushed aside.”

Internal tensions could be a sign that Khamenei is looking to change tactics when dealing with the economic problems and growing domestic unrest.

Meanwhile, Iran has ratcheted up tensions as of late, confirming last week that it had carried out a ballistic-missile test earlier this month.

The domestic unrest—combined with its aggressive expansionist ideology in the region, and the increasing military threats to Israel and the West—could be an explosive combination.

If the regime perceives that its stability is at risk in the coming years, it’s bound to take drastic measures and move in a more radical direction.

But for now, the regime is betting on being bailed out economically by European and other countries.

On Monday, E.U. Foreign Affairs and Security Policy head Federica Mogherini told reporters that a sanctions workaround to assist firms doing business with Iran will be in place by the end of the year.

As long as this strategy of “divide and conquer” succeeds, Iran’s leader will likely not feel pressured to bring down the Rouhani government, preferring that he and Zarif continue to travel the world and attempt to charm world leaders.

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Guns and Crime

Social media and internet searches could cost you your gun rights

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Social media and internet searches could cost you your gun rights

If you look up the word “deviant” in the dictionary, you’ll find it defined as “straying or deviating especially from an accepted norm” or “someone or something that deviates from a norm.” It’s an accurate word to use when describing the behavior of people whose actions are markedly different from what is or has been considered normal or acceptable.

This is why I often use it to describe the LGBTQ-WXYZ movement. However, did you know that using it to describe homosexuals is considered “defamatory” hate speech? In fact, even the word “homosexual” has been labeled offensive by the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD).

If you’re wondering where I’m going in today’s article, here it is: Under a recently introduced bill, using the words “deviant” or “homosexual” on social media or in an internet search would cost me my Second Amendment gun rights if I resided in New York.

Specifically, the bill (SB9191) would give state and local police the green light to investigate for “commonly known profane slurs or biased language to describe race, national origin, ancestry, gender, religion, disability, or sexual orientation.”

Under the measure introduced by state Senator Kevin Parker (D-Brooklyn), gun-permit applicants would be required to provide user names and passwords to the state so that they can search 1-3 years of the applicant’s search histories and social media accounts.

The measure requires, “social media and search engine reviews prior to the approval of an application or renewal of a license to carry or possess a pistol or revolver; requires a person applying for a license to carry or possess a pistol or revolver or a renewal of such license to consent to having his or her social media accounts and search engine history reviewed and investigated for certain posts and/or searches over a period of 1-3 years prior to the approval of such application or renewal; defines terms.”

So, why should we care what the Democratic Socialists in New York are doing? Because every bad federal law was at one time a bad state law resulting in unintended consequences.

According to Assemblywoman-Elect Jamie Romero, this bill is an obvious extension of the “red flag” laws sweeping the country, where guns can be seized from citizens without due process. In other words, it’s an unintended consequence of so-called reasonable gun-control.

I’ve written in the past about how federal red-flag laws — aka Extreme Risk Protection Order (ERPO) — have been proposed in the Senate and how such laws enjoy the support of Donald “Take the guns first, go through due process second” Trump.

With ERPO laws already in the Washington bloodstream, it’s simply a matter of time before a bill like this latest one in New York becomes law, catches fire, spreads across the nation, and eventually becomes a national law.

One last thought.

Many will resist this assault on gun rights by claiming that social media and internet searches are protected by the First Amendment’s right to free speech. However, Trump once referred to free speech as “treason” and the GOP has proposed laws to restrict free speech they don’t approve of. I don’t think they’ll let one right they don’t respect get in the way of voiding another right they don’t respect.

Besides, thanks to renewing laws like FISA702, the federal government already has access to your computer records, so resistance is futile.

Originally posted on StridentConservative.com.

 


David Leach is the owner of The Strident Conservative. His daily radio commentary is distributed by the Salem Radio Network and is heard on stations across America.

Follow the Strident Conservative on Twitter and Facebook.

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