Dem RIPS Kavanaugh for Dark Money Ties

In Sen. Whitehouse’s (D-RI) 7th speech on dark money and court capture, he exposes the dark money interests he says are tied to the FBI’s mishandling of the investigation on Justice Bret Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Fords claims that Whitehouse says ultimately led to Kavanaugh being sworn in.

Trump Sanctions Iran’s Supreme Leader, but to What End?

With the flourish of his pen on Monday, President Trump imposed sweeping sanctions on Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, as well as everyone in Khamenei’s office or appointed by him. It was a point of high drama in the escalating brinksmanship between the United States and the Islamic Republic. It was the closest that Trump has come to formally calling for a regime change. “The Supreme Leader of Iran is one who ultimately is responsible for the hostile conduct of the regime,” the President told reporters. “These measures represent a strong and proportionate response to Iran’s increasingly provocative actions.” Usually, the United States will sanction a head of state—such as Iraq’s Saddam Hussein, Libya’s Muammar Qaddafi, and Venezuela’s Nicolás Maduro—as a signal that the leader is no longer deemed legitimate. In other words, Washington believes that a leader has to go.

Trump was opaque, even puzzling, about his intentions, however. “America is a peace-loving nation,” he said. “We do not seek conflict with Iran or any other country. I look forward to the day when sanctions can be finally lifted and Iran can become a peaceful, prosperous, and productive nation. That can go very quickly; it can be tomorrow. It can also be in years from now. So, I look forward to discussing whatever I have to discuss with anybody that wants to speak. In the meantime, who knows what’s going to happen.”

The new executive order also targeted the Revolutionary Guard commanders involved in shooting down a sophisticated U.S. drone last week. The Trump Administration intends later this week to impose sanctions on the U.S.-educated Iranian Foreign Minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, who was the chief interlocutor during the two years of negotiations that led to the Iran nuclear deal, in 2015. Zarif once quipped that he and the former Secretary of State John Kerry spent more time with each other during that period than they spent with their wives. As Iran’s top diplomat, Zarif regularly travels to New York to attend U.N. sessions. He was here in April and had been expected to return next month.

At a White House press conference, the Treasury Secretary, Steven Mnuchin, vowed that the new sanctions will “lock up literally billions of dollars more of assets.” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who was visiting Saudi Arabia on Monday, charged that Khamenei’s office “has enriched itself at the expense of the Iranian people. It sits atop a vast network of tyranny and corruption.” The new sanctions, Pompeo said, will deprive the Iranian leadership of the resources it uses to “spread terror and oppress the Iranian people.”

Ironically, the punitive new measure may not have major economic impact—at least not to the degree that the Administration advertised. “It’s a lot of hype, but it doesn’t mean much economically. It’s unlikely to have a damaging effect” on Iran beyond the sanctions that have already been imposed, Elizabeth Rosenberg, a former Treasury sanctions specialist who is now at the Center for a New American Security, told me. “It’s in the realm of the symbolic.” The sanctions are “a sideshow to a threat of military escalation and all-out conflict,” she said. They fuel a narrative focussed on Iran rather than the United States—and the fact that Trump blinked when he called off a retaliatory military strike last Thursday.

Former Treasury officials also claim that Trump did not need to sign a new executive order—beyond the hype and media attention it produced. The authority to sanction either entities or officials affiliated with the Iranian government has existed since 2012, when the Obama Administration issued an executive order, Kate Bauer, a former Treasury official who is now at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, said. “It’s clear that this Administration wants to send a message,” Bauer said. “This is a response to the recent escalation and the shooting down of the drone.”

The main impact of the new sanctions may be political—diminishing rather than encouraging diplomacy or deëscalation. Pompeo said that Tehran “knows how to reach us,” if it decides to “meet our diplomacy with diplomacy.” But Tehran immediately rejected talks. At the United Nations, the Iranian Ambassador Majid Takht-Ravanchi told reporters that Tehran would not succumb to pressure. “Nobody in a clear mind can accept to have a dialogue with somebody that is threatening you with more sanctions. So, as long as this threat is there, there is no way that Iran and the U.S. can start a dialogue,” he told reporters, before a closed-door session on tensions in the energy-rich Gulf. In a tweet, Zarif said that Trump’s advisers and allies “despise diplomacy and thirst for war.” Other Iranian officials condemned the new sanctions as “economic terrorism.”

Trump’s decision, a year ago, to unilaterally reimpose other sanctions—splitting with the five major powers who also brokered the nuclear deal—has battered Iran’s economy. In April, Washington vowed to sanction five nations that remain major importers of Iranian oil if they didn’t cease all purchases; the move cut off Tehran’s main source of revenue. Iran’s oil sales today are about a sixth of what they were in 2016. Inflation has exceeded fifty per cent in some months, with the price of basic necessities skyrocketing. The I.M.F. projects a six-per-cent economic contraction for Iran in 2019. Yet the Iranian economy is still far from crippled. The Islamic Republic has not witnessed the kind of economic protests that erupted nationwide in late 2017 and early 2018, Western diplomats in Tehran have told me

Sanctioning Iran’s supreme leader and his entourage could even backfire, some experts suggest. The Trump Administration’s goal is to get Tehran to make concessions on its missile development, regional interventions, and human-rights record, as well as its nuclear program. But “these sanctions will make discussions toward a new treaty very, very difficult,” Adnan Mazarei, a former deputy director of the I.M.F.’s Middle East program who is now at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, told me. “They send a bad political signal. The recent events—especially shooting down a U.S. drone—make Iran feel more comfortable and self-confident from a domestic perspective. It could say, ‘We won the last round and maybe we can talk now.’ ” No longer, Mazarei said. Tehran has boasted that it shot down the Global Hawk drone, one of the most sophisticated surveillance aircraft in the U.S. arsenal, with a homemade rocket. On Monday, the chief of Iran’s navy, Rear Admiral Hossein Khanzadi, warned that his forces could shoot down more U.S. aircraft flying in the Gulf, “and the enemy knows it.”

Over all, sanctions are an imperfect tool, former Treasury specialists told me. They can work—but they may take years, even decades. North Korea has been sanctioned to the hilt, but Trump’s negotiations with Kim Jong Un have yet to reduce his nuclear program, which is far more sophisticated than Iran’s. Iran is still more than a year from the ability to produce a bomb, whereas Pyongyang is estimated to have between twenty and sixty bombs. Sanctions to get Rhodesia’s white minority government to the negotiating table to end the country’s civil war took almost fifteen years. Sanctions are also most effective when the world unites behind punitive economic measures, as the U.N. did in invoking sanctions on Iran four times between 2006 and 2010. Today, the deepest split in U.S. relations with its transatlantic allies is over Iran policy.

As prospects of diplomacy dimmed on Monday, Trump signaled his willingness to deploy military force. “I think a lot of restraint has been shown by us,” Trump told reporters in the Oval Office. “A lot of restraint. And that doesn’t mean we’re going to show it in the future.”

Analyzing Trump’s Tweets

A Data-Based Analysis of Trump’s Language on Twitter

All of these attacks can be placed into 6 main buckets. These include accusations of weakness, stupidity, failure, illegitimacy, corruption or fear-based attacks. Some examples are below.

1 — Weakness— ie. low, old, lightweight, losing, losers, ridiculous, poor, pathetic

eg. “The U.S. has pathetically weak and ineffective Immigration Laws that the Democrats refuse to help us fix.”

2 — Stupidity — ie. dopey, incompetent, clueless, moron

eg. “Paul Begala, the dopey @CNN flunky and head of the Pro-Hillary Clinton Super PAC, has knowingly committed fraud in his first ad against me.”

3 — Failure — ie. failing, failed, disaster

eg. “No wonder the @nytimes is failing — who can believe what they write after the false, malicious & libelous story they did on me.”

4 — Illegitimacy⁵ — ie. fake, false, biased, hoax, haters, unfair, a joke, rigged

eg. “Wow, sleepy eyes @chucktodd is at it again. He is do [sic] totally biased.”

5 — Corrupt — ie crooked

e.g “Big story out that the FBI ignored tens of thousands of Crooked Hillary Emails, many of which are REALLY BAD”

6 — Fear — ie. enemy, threat, radical

eg. “Many of the Syrian rebels are radical jihadi Islamists who are murdering Christians”

 

.. Looking at the dates of Trump’s tweets, we can see how much he has used the service over time. Believe it or not, Trump’s Twitter use has declined since he became president. It seems like it peaked in 2013 when he was A/B testing his Obama attacks and first dipping his toes in presidential politics.

.. We can also look at the times of day that Trump tweets the most. It seems that his Twitter use starts first thing in the morning and builds throughout the day, peaking around 3pm. A not-insignificant number of tweets are sent in the middle of the night too.

Interesting Takes on Trump and the NFL

“Are you criticizing Mike Tomlin?” No, no, no. I know what Mike Tomlin was trying to do by keeping the team in the locker room: Keep ’em away from the controversy. I totally understand that. Tomlin doesn’t want any part of this. It’s obvious. He doesn’t want some of his players going out there and doing whatever is fashionable to do now. He wanted to keep away from this. In fact, I kind of admire, “If this is what the pregame has become, we’re not gonna do the pregame.”

.. “I want to protect the players from having to make a choice.” Well, making a choice is what they’ve been doing. What he wanted to do was protect the Steelers organization from being part of this. That’s admirable.

I mean, he sees what’s going on; he sees it’s a distraction.

.. Lowry says, “He takes a commonly held sentiment — most people don’t like the NFL protests — and states it in an inflammatory way guaranteed to get everyone’s attention and generate outrage among his critics. When those critics lash back at him, Trump is put in the position of getting attacked for” defending America. There’s no way he loses. I don’t care what you all in the media think. I don’t care what Goodell thinks. You know, Goodell said, “I’ve never been prouder of our league than the way we handled this yesterday.”

.. the NFL, I actually think, is the useful idiots in the political battle that’s being waged with it, to it and against it. And I don’t know if they understand what’s happening, just like Hillary still doesn’t know what happened to her. I don’t know that the NFL understands what’s happening to it. I really don’t think they do.

.. When it starts to fade away, the first thing that happened to you if not careful is denial: “It’s temporary. We’ll get it back. It’s the hurricanes. It was the election.” But the numbers keep sliding. It wasn’t the hurricane. It wasn’t just the election. It’s something more basic. “Of course, NFL owners firing players on the spot for protesting isn’t necessarily common sense, but this is where ‘seriously, not literally’ comes in” with Trump.

..  “Trump’s statement registers for his supporters merely as forceful opposition to the protests, not as a specific plan of action.” Bingo. Bingo. Trump supporters to this day are not understood. They are still impugned and mocked and laughed at.

.. But they have grown tired of a country they love as being under assault as unjust or immoral or illegitimate. They’re fed up with it. Their president defends it, defends them. The specifics don’t matter. There is finally somebody speaking up for America. “But, Rush! But, Rush! The protesters are speaking up for America.” They may think so, but they’re not, in the eyes of most NFL fans. They’re not speaking up for America. This is not complicated, either.

..  “[W]hen Trump is criticized and doesn’t back down it is taken by his supporters as a sign of strength. If a political consultant came up with this strategy, he’d deserve a huge raise. But it’s just Trump himself operating on instinct.”

Rich Lowry, National Review: you don’t know what an admission, realization this is. This is essentially, I mean, why Donald Trump is president. Donald Trump instinctively knows where the heart of America is.

.. This is not player generated, player started. There are all kinds of activists behind this. And if their objective is to wound and weaken, diminish the NFL, the fastest away to do it is to encourage behavior that’s gonna drive the fan base away.

.. “I have friends who didn’t care for Trump at all who re-watched that rally in Alabama, and they’re laughing. They watch it over, they’re laughing each time. These people loved it, and they’re giving Trump amens and high fives, people that didn’t like Trump watched this rally.

.. The left is now out saying that if you don’t take the knee, you’re for Trump.

..

The average person knows this is silly, but now you’ve got minority voters who already realize that secular liberals are a bigger threat to them than Trump is. Trump never made ’em worry about taking their daughter into the bathroom at Target or any of this stuff. Now they just want to watch the game, and the entire left-wing complex is trying to tell ’em they have to pick a side. You have to pick the flag or you have to take a knee. You gotta pick a side, and all that’s gonna do is make people mad. They just want to watch football. They don’t want to pick a side. They don’t think this is where it should be.

Ted Lieu is out-tweeting Trump, and it’s making him a political star

Since the inauguration of Donald Trump, Lieu has become a tweeting demon, famous as the man, as the Los Angeles Times put it, “trolling the Tweeter in Chief.”

.. “He’s a very serious man. Very polite, very cordial. He doesn’t say any bad words,” says Betty Lieu, his wife of 15 years. “He was raised to be an obedient, dutiful Chinese immigrant son. He does what he’s supposed to do. He is very clean-cut with the perfect record, the perfect résumé. When he’s angry, he’s usually controlled. But Ted said there was no better way to say this.”

.. Lieu’s official website includes a “Cloud of Illegitimacy Clock,” tracking how long he believes Trump has been in violation of the Constitution’s emoluments clause, which prohibits government officials from accepting payments from foreign governments.

Americans have seen the last four presidents as illegitimate. Here’s why.

It’s tempting to see the entirety of Donald Trump’s story as unprecedented, but when he is sworn in today as the nation’s 45th president, he will be our fourth consecutive leader to assume the office with a segment of the electorate questioning his legitimacy. On that score, Trump doesn’t represent a new crisis for American democracy but rather an escalation of one that’s been building — one that we’ve all played a role in creating and that he has deftly exploited to his advantage.

After the 1992 election, Senate Minority Leader Bob Dole said President-elect Bill Clinton did not have a mandate to press ahead with any sweeping changes because he’d obtained only 43 percent of the popular vote in a three-way race.

.. There was no disputing the mandate conferred upon Barack Obama by his resounding 2008 win, so the questioning of our first African American president’s legitimacy swirled around the underhanded, racially motivated and absurd allegations — peddled by our current president-elect, among others — that Obama wasn’t a natural-born citizen. Newt Gingrich spoke for many in 2010 when he accused the president of being beyond the American mainstream, pursuing instead a “Kenyan, anti-colonial” worldview.

.. Clinton, Bush and Obama administrations, unlike those that came before them, had to navigate in a political environment shaped by

  • the close of the Cold War,
  • the rise of instantaneous, doomsday-style political fundraising,
  • the emergence of a highly balkanized and ubiquitous 24/7 media, and
  • the disruption of traditional politics by the Internet and social media.

.. It is much easier to get people to send you $20 if you accuse the president of being a threat to the American way of life instead of an honorable man with whom you happen to disagree on a certain topic.

.. Fox News launched in 1996 to challenge the cautious objectivity of CNN

The Cult of Sore Losers

Bernie Sanders isn’t losing. Just ask many of his backers or listen to some of his own complaints. He’s being robbed, a victim of antiquated rules, voter suppression, shady arithmetic and a corrupt Democratic establishment.

.. Donald Trump isn’t winning. Just ask Ted Cruz, by whose strange and self-serving logic it is “the will of the people” (his actual words) that he and John Kasich collude to prevent Trump from amassing a majority of delegates ..

.. Elections don’t settle disputes, not even for some fleeting honeymoon. They accelerate them, because there’s a pernicious insistence that they’re not referendums on the public mood but elaborate board games in which the triumphant player used the wickedest skulduggery.

When you honestly believe or disingenuously assert that you’ve been outmaneuvered rather than outvoted, why declare a truce, let alone cooperate, in the aftermath?

.. But all of the candidates knew about that patchwork going in, and Clinton’s successful navigation of it — she has a multi-million-vote lead over Sanders — is more persuasive than any dark claims of dastardly tricks.