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Sen. Chuck Grassley grabs his piece of Trump’s farm bailout pie

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Sen Chuck Grassley grabs his piece of Trumps farm bailout pie

One of the casualties in Trump’s trade war has been and continues to be American agriculture. That’s why the Deal-Maker-in-Chief manipulated the books a few months ago to find $12 billion of our money to “help” farmers and ranchers hurt by his tariff policies.

While clearly an admission that America is losing the “easy to win” trade war, this taxpayer-funded political payola was nothing more than a bribe to buy the votes of farmers and ranchers in November. It also doesn’t hurt that Iowa is the site of the first major contest of the presidential primary season which unofficially begins right after the midterm election.

Speaking of Iowa and the farm bailout, we recently learned about another beneficiary of Trump’s bribery scheme: Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA). Grassley, who garners a 68% (D) Liberty Score® from Conservative Review, was one of the first to remind Trump of how his trade war was hurting farmers and how it was his “responsibility to help.”

“If the Federal government takes action on trade that directly results in economic hardship for certain Americans, it has a responsibility to help those Americans and mitigate the damage it caused.”

Sounds noble, doesn’t he? Well, don’t be fooled.

Besides the fact that Congress could end the trade war today if they actually followed the Constitution — or at least passed Sen. Mike Lee’s Global Trade Accountability Act (S.177) — Grassley’s appeal for help was entirely self-interested.

Grassley and Democrat Senator Jon Tester (D-MT) — another “concerned” politician who called on Trump to rescue farmers and ranchers — are carving out their piece of the $12 billion pie to bail out their struggling farming and ranching operations back home.

And just how bad is their struggle? Well, in 2015 Grassley’s net worth was $3.3 million and Tester’s was $3.9 million. Man! Must be tough!

For the record, I have no problem with people being wealthy. But I do have a problem when politicians create policies and bend the rules to their benefit, such as we’ve seen from Trump’s use of his real estate properties for government business.

More than that, however, I have a problem when so-called conservatives scream bloody murder when Democrats violate our values, but hypocritically support Republicans when they do the same, such as we recently witnessed with the budget betrayal.

But that’s the political reality in Washington where the two-party #Unibrow is running the show. Regardless, I choose to persist in fighting for the Constitution and conservative values, and I will call out their hypocrisy whenever I find it.

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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Entertainment and Sports

Missouri poacher ordered to repeatedly watch ‘Bambi’

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Missouri poacher ordered to repeatedly watch Bambi

OZARKS, Mo. (AP) — A Missouri poacher has been ordered to repeatedly watch the movie “Bambi” as part of his sentence in a scheme to illegally kill hundreds of deer.

David Berry Jr. was ordered to watch the Disney classic at least once a month during his year-long jail sentence in what conservation agents have called one of the largest deer poaching cases in state history, the Springfield News-Leader reports .

“The deer were trophy bucks taken illegally, mostly at night, for their heads, leaving the bodies of the deer to waste,” said Don Trotter, the prosecuting attorney in Lawrence County.

Berry, his father, two brothers and another man who helped them had their hunting, fishing and trapping privileges revoked temporarily or permanently. The men have paid a combined $51,000 in fines and court costs — but the judge ordered a special addition to Berry’s sentence for illegally taking wildlife.

Court records show he was ordered by Lawrence County Judge Robert George to “view the Walt Disney movie Bambi, with the first viewing being on or before December 23, 2018, and at least one such viewing each month thereafter” while at the county jail.

Berry was also sentenced to 120 days in jail in nearby Barton County for a firearms probation violation.

His father, David Berry Sr., and his brother, Kyle Berry, were arrested in August after a nearly nine-month investigation that also involved cases in Kansas, Nebraska and Canada. The Missouri Department of Conservation said information from the investigation led to 14 Missouri residents facing more than 230 charges in 11 counties.

Investigators say David Berry Sr.’s other son, Eric Berry, was later caught with another person spotlighting deer, where poachers use light at night to make deer pause and easier to hunt.

The investigation into the Berrys began in late 2015, when the conservation agency received an anonymous tip about deer poaching in Lawrence County.

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Information from: Springfield News-Leader, http://www.news-leader.com

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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.

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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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