Bad economics from the pulpit

Dan Mitchell won’t be preaching on Pentecost Sunday today, but maybe he should:

I almost feel guilty when I criticize the garbled economic thoughts of Pope Francis. After all, he was influenced by Peronist ideology as a youngster, so he was probably a lost cause from the beginning.

Moreover, Walter Williams and Thomas Sowell have already dissected his irrational ramblings on economics and explained that free markets are better for the poor. Especially when compared to government dependency.

But since Pope Francis just attacked tax havens, and I consider myself the world’s foremost defender of these low-tax jurisdictions, I can’t resist adding my two cents. Here’s what the Wall Street Journal just reported about the Pope’s ideological opposition to market-friendly tax systems.

The Vatican denounced the use of offshore tax havens… The document, which was released jointly by the Vatican’s offices for Catholic doctrine and social justice, echoed past warnings by Pope Francis over the dangers of unbridled capitalism. …The teaching document, which was personally approved by the pope, suggested that greater regulation of the world’s financial markets was necessary to contain “predatory and speculative” practices and economic inequality.

He even embraced global regulation, not understanding that this increases systemic risk.

“The supranational dimension of the economic system makes it easy to bypass the regulations established by individual countries,” the Vatican said. “The current globalization of the financial system requires a stable, clear and effective coordination among various national regulatory authorities.”

And he said that governments should have more money to spend.

A section of the document was dedicated to criticizing offshore tax havens, which it said contribute to the “creation of economic systems founded on inequality,” by depriving nations of legitimate revenue.

Wow, it’s like the Pope is applying for a job at the IMF or OECD. Or even with the scam charity Oxfam.

In any event, he’s definitely wrong on how to generate more prosperity. Maybe he should watch this video.

Or read Marian Tupy.

Or see what Nobel Prize winners have to say.

P.S. And if the all that doesn’t work, methinks Pope Francis should have a conversation with Libertarian Jesus. He could start here, here, and here.

Libertarian Jesus?

Some with leftist economic views would quote Acts 4:32, “And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common.” Those were, of course, voluntary associations. Jesus Christ never forced anyone to follow him. Using the Acts rationale, every family is socialist.

Theft and coveting are prohibited by two of the Ten Commandments.

 

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Another undone Obama bad idea

Facebook Friend Michael Smith explains why the Iran deal deserved to die:

1. The “deal” did not end their capability to build a bomb, it only slowed it down and postponed their “breakout” for a few years so some future administration would have to deal with a nuclear Iran.

2. The number of centrifuges necessary for enrichment of uranium were reduced – to a number too small for nuclear fuel for power reactors but more than adequate for producing a bomb.

3. The “deal” removed sanctions, allowing Iran open access to world markets.

4. The US repatriated billions of dollars held since the mullahs deposed the Shah, giving them immediate cash to fund their military and terrorist programs.

5. EU countries have violated sanctions for decades and continued to trade with Iran. France has been one of the worse offenders and one of Iran’s greatest defenders. Only the US has honored all prohibitions.

6. Israel has proven that Iran lied about their bomb making research and had continued even though the swore they had stopped.

7. Satellite photographs show continued construction of nuclear facilities in contravention to the “deal” and international inspectors were denied access to these sites.

In short, the US and other western parties gave up much for nothing but a temporary delay that wasn’t even a delay, got nothing but a bunch of lies in return and Iran basically got everything and had to change nothing (other than being a little more stealthy as they continued doing what they were doing).

It was a bad deal. Rescinding it didn’t increase the chance of war because that chance never went away. The Obama/Kerry ‘deal” only papered over the issues and made the contemporary Neville Chamberlian Democrats claim they had secured “peace in our time” as they waved the deal in the air.

The Weekly Standard posted this two years ago, but it applies because of the events of this week:

It’s hardly any wonder that Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes has a “mind meld” with his boss, the president. According to a David Samuels New York Times Magazine article to be published Sunday and already posted to the website, Rhodes, like Barack Obama, is contemptuous of “the American foreign-policy establishment.” What Obama calls the “Washington playbook” dictating the sorts of responses available to American policymakers, Rhodes calls the “Blob.”

The Blob includes “editors and reporters at The New York Times, The Washington Post, The New Yorker,” etc. It also encompasses, according to Rhodes, Obama’s former secretary of state Hillary Clinton, and the administration’s first defense secretary Robert Gates. Presumably Leon Panetta, former Pentagon chief and CIA director, who goes on the record to criticize Rhodes and the president, is also part of the Blob, alongside “other Iraq-war promoters from both parties who now whine incessantly about the collapse of the American security order in Europe and the Middle East.” In other words, the emotion driving the administration’s foreign policy is contempt—contempt for allies, colleagues, and the generations of American policymakers who built the post-WWII international order, ensuring relative global stability, and peace and prosperity at home.

Samuels’s profile is an amazing piece of writing about the Holden Caulfield of American foreign policy. He’s a sentimental adolescent with literary talent (Rhodes published one short story before his mother’s connections won him a job in the world of foreign policy), and high self regard, who thinks that everyone else is a phony. Those readers who found Jeffrey Goldberg’s picture of Obama in his March Atlantic profile refreshing for the president’s willingness to insult American allies publicly will be similarly cheered here by Rhodes’s boast of deceiving American citizens, lawmakers, and allies over the Iran deal. Conversely, those who believe Obama risked American interests to take a cheap shot at allies from the pedestal of the Oval Office will be appalled to see Rhodes dancing in the end zone to celebrate the well-packaged misdirections and even lies—what Rhodes and others call a “narrative”—that won Obama his signature foreign policy initiative.

“Like Obama,” writes Samuels:

Rhodes is a storyteller who uses a writer’s tools to advance an agenda that is packaged as politics but is often quite personal. He is adept at constructing overarching plotlines with heroes and villains, their conflicts and motivations supported by flurries of carefully chosen adjectives, quotations and leaks from named and unnamed senior officials. He is the master shaper and retailer of Obama’s foreign-policy narratives, at a time when the killer wave of social media has washed away the sand castles of the traditional press.

As Rhodes admits, it’s not that hard to shape the narrative. “All these newspapers used to have foreign bureaus,” Rhodes said. “Now they don’t. They call us to explain to them what’s happening in Moscow and Cairo. Most of the outlets are reporting on world events from Washington. The average reporter we talk to is 27 years old, and their only reporting experience consists of being around political campaigns. That’s a sea change. They literally know nothing.”

In Rhodes’s “narrative” about the Iran deal, negotiations started when the ostensibly moderate Hassan Rouhani was elected president, providing an opening for the administration to reach out in friendship. In reality, as Samuels gets administration officials to admit, negotiations began when “hardliner” Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was still president. It was Rhodes who framed the Iran deal as a choice between peace and war, and it was Rhodes who set up a messaging unit to sell the deal that created an “echo chamber” in the press. “[Al Monitor reporter] Laura Rozen was my RSS feed,” says Tanya Somanader, the 31-year-old who managed @TheIranDeal twitter feed. “She would just find everything and retweet it.”

“In the spring of last year,” Samuels writes:

legions of arms-control experts began popping up at think tanks and on social media, and then became key sources for hundreds of often-clueless reporters. “We created an echo chamber,” [Rhodes] admitted, when I asked him to explain the onslaught of freshly minted experts cheerleading for the deal. “They were saying things that validated what we had given them to say.” When I suggested that all this dark metafictional play seemed a bit removed from rational debate over America’s future role in the world, Rhodes nodded. “In the absence of rational discourse, we are going to discourse the [expletive] out of this,” he said. “We had test drives to know who was going to be able to carry our message effectively, and how to use outside groups like Ploughshares, the Iran Project and whomever else. So we knew the tactics that worked.” He is proud of the way he sold the Iran deal. “We drove them crazy,” he said of the deal’s opponents.

It’s not clear whether or not Panetta supported the deal, but he admits he was wrong about Obama’s willingness to take all measures to stop Iran from getting a bomb.

As secretary of defense, he tells me, one of his most important jobs was keeping Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel and his defense minister, Ehud Barak, from launching a pre-emptive attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities. “They were both interested in the answer to the question, ‘Is the president serious?’ ” Panetta recalls. “And you know my view, talking with the president, was: If brought to the point where we had evidence that they’re developing an atomic weapon, I think the president is serious that he is not going to allow that to happen.” Panetta stops. “But would you make that same assessment now?” I ask him. “Would I make that same assessment now?” he asks. “Probably not.”

Rhodes tells Samuels that Don DeLillo is his favorite novelist. “That’s the only person I can think of who has confronted these questions of, you know, the individual who finds himself negotiating both vast currents of history and a very specific kind of power dynamics,” he tells Samuels. “And that’s what it’s like to work in the U.S. foreign-policy apparatus in 2016.”

So that’s it. For the last seven years the American public has been living through a postmodern narrative crafted by an extremely gifted and unspeakably cynical political operative whose job is to wage digital information campaigns designed to dismantle a several-decade old security architecture while lying about the nature of the Iranian regime.

Regardless of what you think of Donald Trump, and there is plenty to criticize even for right-leaning voters, the fact Trump is president means that people like Rhodes are not in power. That is another Trump accomplishment.

Then there is this, from Investors.com:

Democrats went gaga over a little-known law they claimed an advisor to President Trump violated following the 2016 presidential campaign. Now, the shoe’s on the other foot, and both the Democrats and the media that supported them have grown strangely quiet.

The law in question is the 219-year-old Logan Act, which makes it a felony for Americans to negotiate with foreign powers in an effort to undermine the U.S. in a dispute.

The law is little-known for a reason: Just two people have ever been tried under the Logan Act, and neither was convicted.

But that didn’t stop Democrats and their Deep State allies when they wanted to use it to investigate Trump’s former national security advisor, Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn, in 2016. Democrats and the media laughably claimed that Flynn’s conversations with Russia’s U.S. ambassador, Sergey Kislyak, somehow was a violation of the Logan Act. Let’s be clear: Under no reasonable legal interpretation could one assume that Flynn violated the Logan Act.

But now a report in the Boston Globe asserts that former Secretary of State John Kerry may have stepped over the line when it comes to the Logan Act.

“With the Iran (nuclear) deal facing its gravest threat since it was signed in 2015, Kerry has been on an aggressive yet stealthy mission to preserve it, using his deep lists of contacts gleaned during his time as the top U.S. diplomat to try to apply pressure on the Trump administration from the outside,” the Globe wrote. “President Trump, who has consistently criticized the pact and campaigned in 2016 on scuttling it, faces a May 12 deadline to decide whether to continue abiding by its terms.”

Kerry met with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif at the U.N. about preserving the deal. He also has contacted German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, European Union official Federica Mogherini and French President Emmanuel Macron to interfere in President Trump’s possible decision to abrogate the Obama administration’s terrible nuclear deal with Iran.

If there ever was a violation of the Logan Act, this is it. Kerry is not an elected official. He’s a private citizen. He’s undermining the position of a sitting, elected U.S. president and his duly appointed representatives.

Surely the Democrats and the media, who made themselves such strong advocates of the Logan Act back in 2016 that they misapplied it against Lt. Gen. Flynn, will now respond to what looks like a clear violation now?

Of course not. Both the Democratic Party and the leftist media continue to make a mockery of the rule of law and the idea that both sides play by the same rules. The media and Democrats have downplayed any idea of the Logan Act being applicable in the case of leftist millionaire John Kerry, even though President Obama himself dragged out the Logan Act to threaten Republicans.

Former Democratic Sen. Joe Lieberman, once the Democrats’ vice presidential candidate, now a party pariah (because he dared to support President George W. Bush on Iraq and opposes the Iran deal), criticizes Kerry.

“In my opinion, what (Kerry’s) doing is inappropriate and he shouldn’t be doing it,” Lieberman said. “It’s a duly elected administration so I hope John Kerry stops.”

Using that party’s own standard, Kerry should be prosecuted for his freelance diplomacy, which will inevitably undermine President Trump’s efforts to undo the ill effects of Kerry’s failed diplomatic efforts while serving under the Obama administration.

We shouldn’t be surprised. This is part of a new trend among the progressive left, from campuses and entertainment to politics and sports: to criminalize political differences with your foes, while pretending anything your political opponents do somehow violate cultural norms, decency or the Constitution. President Obama used it too.

It’s clear Kerry broke the law here — just as one of his idols, Sen. Teddy Kennedy, may have done when he secretly held back-channel talks with Soviet leaders in 1984 to thwart President Reagan.

If Attorney General Jeff Sessions wants to do something constructive, he should prosecute Kerry. Then either Kerry will be punished (how about sending him to Guantanamo, since Obama administration foreign policy could be described as terrorism) or the law will be found unconstitutional in the legal system.

The Iranians’ crisis

In 1979, Jimmy Carter and Leonid Brezhnev signed the SALT II, resulting from the second round of the Strategic Arms Limitations Talks treaty.

Then the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan and the U.S. Senate declined to ratify SALT II. Carter lost the 1980 presidential election to Ronald Reagan, who, when asked what his strategy was to take on the Soviet Union, simply replied, “We win, they lose.”

That history came to the mind of a Facebook Friend of mine when he posted this story from the New York Times:

TEHRAN — The sense of crisis in Iran runs deep and wide. The economy is in free fall. The currency is plummeting. Rising prices are squeezing city dwellers. A five-year drought is devastating the countryside. The pitched battle between political moderates and hard-liners is so perilous that there is even talk of a military takeover.

Now, the lifeline offered by the 2015 nuclear deal, which was supposed to alleviate pressure on Iran’s economy and crack open the barriers to the West, is falling apart, too: President Trump announced Tuesday that he was withdrawing the United States from the agreement, which he called a “disastrous deal.”

The chief loser will be the country’s moderate president, Hassan Rouhani, who now looks weakened, foolish and burned for the risk he took in dealing with the Americans.

Addressing the nation on live television after Mr. Trump’s announcement, Mr. Rouhani said Iran would take no immediate action to restart uranium enrichment and that it would negotiate with the other parties to the agreement, Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia.

Rouhani is not a moderate, but he is a President In Name Only. The real power in Iran are the successors of Ayatollah Khomeini, who you might recall did this …

… the failed rescue of whom cost eight American lives.

But in the long term, the unraveling of the nuclear agreement could be bad news for the entire Iranian leadership, already buffeted by mounting popular dissatisfaction over the economy and a lack of freedoms and prospects. It could be bad news for average Iranians, too.

“We will see more migration, more unemployment, more bankruptcies, more impoverishment,” said Amirhossein Hasani, who once made kitchen equipment but now tries to make a living selling foreign exchange. “Some might think this will lead to regime change, but protests will be cracked down and the government will be able to run the country. We will just get poorer.”

Even before Mr. Trump’s decision, the nuclear deal had not lived up to its promise of economic salvation for Iranians. Mr. Rouhani sold it as the solution to many of the country’s problems. He promised that foreign companies would flood Iran with investment and know-how, bringing jobs and opportunity to millions of unemployed people.

He also said that the compromise would lift Iran out of its international isolation. Indeed, several airlines resumed connections to Tehran after the deal was struck.

But deeper-rooted problems such as uncompetitive investment laws, widespread corruption and arrests of dual nationals by hard-line security forces dampened the boom the president had promised. Foreign businesses showed up in sizable numbers but balked at the conditions that confronted them.

But what really diminished the potential benefits of the agreement were the American sanctions that remained in place despite the agreement, and which have continued to prevent any serious bank from working in Iran. They also prevent almost all normal financial transactions, depriving Iran of much-needed credit and foreign investments.

The return of even broader sanctions could put even more pressure on the economy.

“Someone, please change our fate, whoever, even Trump,” said Ali Shoja, a cleaner who said he can’t afford to support his three sons. “I used to be a driver, now I clean. What’s next? I cannot become a beggar.”

Hard-liners, who have long lost popular support but control security forces, the judiciary and state television, were set to declare victory, since they have always argued that the United States could never be trusted in any deal.

They will use the opportunity to undermine Mr. Rouhani and to try to seize power. But Mr. Rouhani came in after eight years with a hard-liner, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, at the helm. That both moderate and hard-line approaches have now failed has only deepened the sense of crisis.

Dissatisfaction over state policies is so widespread that many wonder if the Islamic Republic and its current ideology are even sustainable, fueling talk of bringing in a military strongman to set things straight.

The answer, of course, is for the Iranian people to get rid of their leaders.

“This is a big failure for Mr. Rouhani — America has cheated on him by not keeping its promises,” said Jalal Jalalizadeh, a former member of Parliament. “But in the end we are all losers. Now it is clear that only direct and open talks with the United States can ever solve this.”

In fact, the collapse of the nuclear deal doesn’t leave Iran with many options. Iran’s every move will be scrutinized by the United States and Israel, perhaps setting off a military confrontation the country can hardly afford.

Hard-liners say Iran should return to enriching uranium, as it was doing before the nuclear agreement.

“We will break the cement of Arak; we will reopen the heart of the nuclear plant,” Abolfazl Hassan Beigi, a hard-line member of Parliament, told local media, referring to a nuclear site Iran said it has disabled as part of the deal. “The Islamic Republic of Iran will start its nuclear activities again more powerfully than before, which will be a loss for America and its allies.”

But others point out that such moves could invite military action.

“I am for direct talks and transparent talks between Iran and America, the sooner the better,” said Abolghasem Golbaf, an analyst promoting change in the country. The talks should be open, for all to follow, he said. “When they talk secretly, they may make mistakes and nothing can be corrected. Iran and America should sit face to face at negotiation table.” …

Some say they are surprised to even hear people saying they support Mr. Trump, whom they see as someone willing to solve their problems.

“When I sit in the taxi or bus I sometimes overhear common people saying they adore Trump, he at least honors his promises in campaign, they say,” said Ali Sabzevari, a now-unemployed publisher. “Powerless people take resort to a hero, no matter who is the hero — Hitler or Trump, anyone can be their hero.”

There are leaders in the Middle East to which the U.S. should reach out — King Abdullah of Jordan and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia, to name two. And of course there is Israel, this country’s longest standing Middle Eastern ally, but now once again a target of Iran’s military. Iran is a country that needs regime change, from within if possible, but from the outside if necessary.

 

Dead deal

National Review reports:

President Trump announced Tuesday that he will withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal, defying European allies and escalating tensions with an Iranian regime that vowed not to return to the negotiating table should the U.S. abandon the Obama-era nonproliferation agreement.

“It is clear to me we cannot prevent an Iranian nuclear bomb, under the decaying and rotten structure of the current agreement..the Iran deal is defective at its core,” Trump said during his announcement from the White House.

“If the regime continues its nuclear aspirations it will have bigger problems than it has ever had before,” he added.

The announcement marks the beginning of a three to six month day delay period, after which the U.S. will reimpose the harsh economic sanctions that were lifted in 2015 in exchange for the regime’s commitment to cease developing its nuclear program for ten years. Trump has repeatedly maligned the 2015 deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, calling it “one of the worst and most one-sided transactions the United States has ever entered into.”

Trump and his newly-minted national security advisor John Bolton believe the agreement does not grant international inspectors enough access to verify Iranian compliance and serves only to provide Iran a temporary respite from crippling economic sanctions until the ten-year deadline is reached, at which point the regime will be free to continue building its nuclear program.

The decision to reimplement all of the sanctions lifted under the agreement, not just the ones that were set to expire in the coming days, represents the most aggressive approach on offer — one that will almost certainly scuttle the deal for its remaining five signatories: France, the United Kingdom, China, Russia and Germany.

The White House released a list of demands following the announcement that will serve as a prerequisite to renegotiation. In addition to requiring that Iran abandon all efforts to develop a nuclear weapon, they must also cease developing inter-continental ballistic missiles, end support for terrorist organizations, and refrain from further escalating the conflict in Yemen, among other requests.

European allies, including French president Emmanuel Macron, German chancellor Angela Merkel, and British foreign secretary Boris Johnson, had traveled to Washington in recent weeks to try and convince Trump to abandon his hostility to the deal, but their visits proved ineffective.

Macron has been particularly pessimistic about the geopolitical implications of U.S. withdrawal from the deal, to which France is also a signatory.

“That would mean opening Pandora’s box, it could mean war,” Macron told Der Spiegel over the weekend. “I don’t believe that Donald Trump wants war.”

Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov also predicted a bleak future should the U.S. withdraw, telling reporters Tuesday that such such a move would result in “inevitable harmful consequences.”

All I can conclude from the overwhelmingly negative reaction is that Russia, France and other European countries, and American Democrats are afraid of Iran. But Trump is not.

Matthew Continetti observes:

The deal, announced to such fanfare in July 2015, did not live to see its third birthday. And for that, I am grateful.

Why? Because the president said not only that America will be leaving the accord. He declared that the period of waxing Iranian influence in the Middle East is at an end. The deal financed several years of Iranian expansion through Shiite proxies in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Yemen. By reimposing sanctions, President Trump will weaken an already ailing Iranian economy. The Iranian currency, the rial, has plummeted in recent weeks. Inflation is rampant. The financial system is corrupted, dysfunctional. Strikes are proliferating, and often turn into displays against the government. This is a situation the United States should seek not to mitigate but to exacerbate.

Removing ourselves from the deal puts Iran on the defensive. Its people and government are divided and uncertain how to respond. Its leverage is minimal. Iranian citizens have seen their leaders use the money from the deal not to improve the economic lot of the average person but to fund the military, IRGC, and other instruments of foreign adventurism. Implicit in the deal was recognition of the Islamic regime as a legitimate member of the so-called “international community.” President Trump has rescinded that recognition and the standing that came with it. The issue is no longer Iranian compliance with an agreement that contained loopholes through which you could launch a Fateh-110 heavy missile. The issue is whether Iran chooses to become a responsible player or not, whether it curbs its imperial designs, cuts off its militias, abandons terrorism, opens its public square, and ceases its threats to and harassment of the United States and her allies. That choice is not Donald Trump’s to make. It is the Iranian regime’s.

Trump has made his choice. Like he did with the Supreme Court, the Paris Climate Accord, and the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem, Trump kept a promise made many times throughout the campaign. In truth, anyone who has listened to Trump over the last several years should not be surprised by his decision. From the beginning, he understood that any deal which gives the weaker party benefits up front in exchange for minimal temporary concessions is not a deal worth taking. And since he does not accept the worldview that inspired the deal, there is no reason for Trump to remain in it.

The worldview Trump opposes privileges therapy and dialogue over realism and hard decisions. It imagines that the Iranian theocracy is a reliable or trustworthy hedge against Sunni power and will liberalize gradually as the arc of justice progresses. These are the ideas that motivated the presidency of Barack Obama. The Iran deal was the signature achievement of Obama’s second term, and it is now gone. In truth, though, Obama’s legacy was disappearing long before Trump made his announcement. Obama’s legacy, like much of his self-presentation, was a mirage, a pleasing and attractive image that, upon closer inspection, loses coherence.

Because he governed so extensively through executive order and administrative fiat, because he was so contemptuous of criticism and had a “my way or the highway” approach to negotiations with Republicans (though not with Iranians), the longevity of Obama’s agenda depended heavily on his party winning a third consecutive term in the White House. As Tom Cotton warned the Iranians years ago, an agreement entered into by a president and not submitted to the Senate as a treaty can be abrogated by the next man who holds the office. Hillary Clinton’s failure doomed the Iran deal and the reputations it had established. It was Barack Obama and John Kerry who allowed Donald Trump to exit the deal by rejecting longstanding procedure. Perhaps it was knowledge of this fact that inspired Kerry in his desperate attempt to preserve the agreement.

Trump has spent much of his time in office reversing Obama policies that were made outside of, or in opposition to, America’s constitutional framework. He has had the hardest time repealing Obamacare, for the very reason that the Affordable Care Act was passed by the Congress and upheld by the Supreme Court. That is a lesson for any president: To have a long-lasting influence on American life, work within the system bequeathed to us by the Founders.

Because Republicans widely shared a negative attitude toward the Iran deal, many people assume that President Trump is doing what any other GOP president would do. But I am not sure. Another Republican president who had come up through the political system, or been enmeshed in the foreign policy establishment, or held elite opinion in esteem may well have given in to pressure to remain in the Paris accord, keep the U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv, and stay, at least partly, in the JCPOA. Trump’s outsider status and independence give him the freedom not only to flout political correctness but to repudiate the international and domestic consensus in ways his supporters love.

It took a small boy to say the emperor had no clothes. And it took Donald Trump to say that Barack Obama’s foreign policy legacy was a superficial and dangerous mirage.

Iran has been an enemy of this country ever since …

You do not negotiate with enemies. You defeat enemies.

 

A lawsuit guaranteed to last until November 2020

The Washington Post reports:

The Democratic National Committee filed a multimillion-dollar lawsuit Friday against the Russian government, the Trump campaign and the WikiLeaks organization alleging a far-reaching conspiracy to disrupt the 2016 campaign and tilt the election to Donald Trump.

The complaint, filed in federal district court in Manhattan, alleges that top Trump campaign officials conspired with the Russian government and its military spy agency to hurt Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and help Trump by hacking the computer networks of the Democratic Party and disseminating stolen material found there.

“During the 2016 presidential campaign, Russia launched an all-out assault on our democracy, and it found a willing and active partner in Donald Trump’s campaign,” DNC Chairman Tom Perez said in a statement.

“This constituted an act of unprecedented treachery: the campaign of a nominee for President of the United States in league with a hostile foreign power to bolster its own chance to win the presidency,” he said.

The case asserts that the Russian hacking campaign — combined with Trump associates’ contacts with Russia and the campaign’s public cheerleading of the hacks — amounted to an illegal conspiracy to interfere in the election that caused serious damage to the Democratic Party.

Senate investigators and prosecutors for special counsel Robert S. Mueller III are still investigating whether Trump associates coordinated with the Russian efforts. Last month, House Intelligence Committee Republicans said they found no evidence that President Trump and his affiliates colluded with Russian officials to sway the election or that the Kremlin sought to help him — a conclusion rejected by the panel’s Democrats.

The president has repeatedly rejected any collusion or improper activity by his campaign. This week, he referred again in a tweet to the “phony Russia investigation where, by the way, there was NO COLLUSION (except by the Dems).”

Suing a foreign country may present legal challenges for the Democrats, in part because other nations have immunity from most U.S. lawsuits. The DNC’s complaint argues Russia is not entitled to the protection because the hack constituted a trespass on the party’s private property.

The lawsuit argues that Russia is not entitled to sovereign immunity in this case because “the DNC claims arise out of Russia’s trespass on to the DNC’s private servers . . . in order to steal trade secrets and commit economic espionage.”

The lawsuit echoes a similar legal tactic that the Democratic Party used during the Watergate scandal. In 1972, the DNC filed suit against then-President Richard Nixon’s reelection committee seeking $1 million in damages for the break-in at Democratic headquarters in the Watergate building.

The suit was denounced at the time by Nixon’s attorney general, John Mitchell, who called it a case of “sheer demagoguery” by the DNC. But the civil action brought by the DNC’s then-chairman, Lawrence F. O’Brien, was ultimately successful, yielding a $750,000 settlement from the Nixon campaign that was reached on the day in 1974 that Nixon left office.

The suit filed Friday seeks millions of dollars in compensation to offset damage it claims the party suffered from the hacks. The DNC argues that the cyberattack undermined its ability to communicate with voters, collect donations and operate effectively as its employees faced personal harassment and, in some cases, death threats.

The suit also seeks an acknowledgment from the defendants that they conspired to infiltrate the Democrats’ computers, steal information and disseminate it to influence the election.

To support its case, the lawsuit offers a detailed narrative of the DNC hacks, as well as episodes in which key Trump aides are alleged to have been told Russia held damaging information about Clinton.

Russia engaged in a “brazen attack on U.S. soil” the party alleges, a campaign that began with the cyberhack of its computer networks in 2015 and 2016. Trump campaign officials received repeated outreach from Russia, the suit says.

“Rather than report these repeated messages and communications that Russia intended to interfere in the U.S. election, the Trump campaign and its agents gleefully welcomed Russia’s help,” the party argues

Ultimately, Trump’s associates entered into an agreement with Russian agents “to promote Donald Trump’s candidacy through illegal means,” the suit concludes.

The suit does not name Trump as a defendant. Instead, it targets various Trump aides who met with people believed to be affiliated with Russia during the campaign, including the president’s son, Donald Trump Jr., his son-in-law Jared Kushner, his campaign chairman Paul Manafort and Manafort’s deputy, Rick Gates.

Manafort and Gates were charged with money-laundering, fraud and tax evasion in a case brought by special prosecutors last year. In February, Gates pleaded guilty to conspiracy and lying to the FBI and is cooperating with investigators. Manafort has pleaded not guilty.

The DNC lawsuit also names as a defendant the Russian military intelligence service, the GRU, which has been accused by the U.S. government of orchestrating the hacks, as well as WikiLeaks, which published the DNC’s stolen emails, and the group’s founder Julian Assange.

The White House, the Russian Embassy, WikiLeaks and Assange had no immediate comment on Friday. A Manafort spokesman declined comment.

The lawsuit was also filed against Roger Stone, the longtime Trump confidante who claimed during the campaign that he was in contact with Assange.

The Trump advisers and associates have denied assisting Russia in its hacking campaign. Stone has denied any communication with Assange or advance knowledge of the document dumps by WikiLeaks, saying his comments about Assange were jokes or exaggerations.

The DNC lawsuit argues that the Russian government and the GRU violated a series of laws by orchestrating the secret intrusion into the Democrats’ computer systems, including statutes to protect trade secrets, prohibit wire tapping and prevent trespassing.

The party said the Trump defendants committed conspiracy through their interaction with Russian agents and their public encouragement of the hacking, with the campaign itself acting as a racketeering enterprise promoting illegal activity.

The complaint was filed on behalf of the party by the law firm of Cohen Milstein.

The suit contains previously undisclosed details, including that the specific date when it is believed theRussians breached the DNC computer system: July 27, 2015, according to forensic evidence cited in the filing.

The analysis shows the system was breached again on April 18, 2016. The first signs that hackers were siphoning documents and information from DNC systems on April 22. The suit notes that four days later, Trump foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos was informed by Josef Mifsud, a London-based professor, that the Russians were in possession of thousands of emails that could be damaging to Clinton.

The list of defendants in the suit includes Papadopoulos and Mifsud, as well as Aras and Emin Agalarov, the wealthy Russian father and son who hosted the Miss Universe Pageant in Moscow in 2013. Trump, who owned the pageant, attended the event.

The Agalarovs also played a role in arranging a meeting for a Russian lawyer at Trump Tower in New York in 2016, at which Donald Trump Jr. had expected to be given damaging information about Clinton.

Scott Balber, an attorney for the Agalarovs, said the allegations about his clients were “frivolous” and “a publicity stunt.”

“They had absolutely nothing to do with any alleged hacking of any Democratic computer system or any interference in the US election.”

The suit alleges that Trump’s personal and professional ties to Russia helped foster the conspiracy.

The DNC’s lawyers wrote that “long standing personal professional and financial ties to Russia and numerous individuals linked to the Russian government provided fertile ground for a conspiracy between the defendants to interfere in the 2016 elections.”

The lawsuit describes how the then-Soviet Union paid for Trump to travel Moscow in the 1980s.

It also details the history of Manafort and Gates, who worked for Russian-friendly factions in the Ukraine before joining the Trump campaign. Prosecutors have said they were in contact in 2016 with Konstantin Kilimnik, a former linguist in the Russian army who the FBI has alleged had ties to Russian intelligence.

The interesting historical side note is that Democrats Jimmy Carter and Ted “Do Oldsmobiles Float?” Kennedy each tried to get the late U.S.S.R. to intervene in consecutive presidential elections on their behalf.

The Donald in Davos

Facebook Friend Tim Nerenz:

A reasonable person would have withheld judgment about the policy prescriptions advocated by Donald Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign. I certainly did.

Anything sounds great in theory, where there is no consequence and no objective measure of an idea’s potency. In the abstract and theoretical world, the only measure of an idea is the pontifications of pundits, and the belief systems from which they view the world.

Unlike us common folk, the “learned” punditry believes themselves to be infallible; they assured us that skies would fall instantly should Donald Trump be miraculously elected. But we now have a year of real-world application to assess, and it is the learned punditry on both the right and left, not us common-rabble deplorables, who have to eat crow.

While the American corporate response to tax reform has been a bit surprising, the global response to the President’s tax reforms has been nothing short of stunning. At Davos this week, senior executives from Europe’s largest firms – Siemens, Nestles, Adidas, et al – praised the President’s reforms and announced significant expansions and investments in American operations – just exactly as the President and every economically literate person predicted. And just as every snake-oil peddling, media-pimp expert promised would NEVER happen.

It was a low-key affair, that Davos roundtable; serious people around a table discussing serious things in serious tones. Business leaders, not political hacks or attention whores – nobody dressed up as a genital organ or screaming obscenities or waving signs. None of them wearing a mask or making a fist or burning a flag or anything like that; serious people responsible for the well-being of hundreds of thousands of employees and millions of shareholders. Watch the video, and compare the demeanor of those serious-minded corporate leaders to the likes of Senator Cory Booker, who came unhinged at a female witness in a recent Senate hearing.

And watch the demeanor of our President. Completely different when he is in the company of persons of accomplishment, damn-near deferential, I would say. For anyone who wonders how a group of CEO’s interact, this is it. There is a reason these people have risen through the ranks and have been entrusted with great responsibility. They do not act the fool like CNN’s Jim Acosta, when given the opportunity. That is why they are entrusted with many billions of shareholders’ assets and Acosta is entrusted with a $248 microphone.

And the list of American firms who are redirecting money previously paid in taxes to the federal sink-hole into the pockets of employees is equally jaw-dropping. The first-responders drew a cynical mocking from the “smart people” who still occupy prominent positions of influence, for reasons which defy logic daily. Crumbs, empty symbolism, a stunt, saith the media seers who have never sold anything but themselves, and have never had to meet a payroll.

But now this week it’s Starbucks, Disney, Apple joining the nearly 100 American firms to announce bonuses, wage increases, investments here at home, and repatriation of funds from abroad. These are not Trump cronies – they funded his opponents, they mocked his supporters, they showed their contempt for his populist appeal.

And now each one of them is proving him right – not by their words, but by their actions. And I will give a shout-out to Paul Ryan – the tax reform was a legislative accomplishment, and although not nearly as bold as I would like, let’s give credit where it is due. Ryan took a lot of heat, and deservedly so, but he delivered the mail.

At the end of year one of Trump, the stock market is setting new highs weekly. Isis is nearly extinct. Black unemployment is at historic lows, the economy is growing at almost double the rate that we were told was the new-normal top end. The poverty rate for married black couples who work is at record lows; indistinguishable from their white counterparts. North Korea is making nice to South Korea; NATO has faced up to its chronic underfunding; the duplicity of the Muslim countries in regards to harboring and funding terrorism has been called out and there is a major re-alignment underway. The repeal of burdensome and unnecessary regulations has been breathtaking in scope – over 1,000 in just one year.

One year. The question begs: why did President Obama not do these things?

No, seriously – ask yourself why our previous President did not do these things with two terms to get them done? These things are not ideological – economics is economics, military strategies are the realm of military science, competence in government is not a Republican or a Democrat ideal. Even libertarians want a competent, albeit drastically reduced, government.

I honestly do not know the answer to that question. But is a question that should be put to former President Obama and he should respond. But it won’t and he won’t.

It is clear that our current President loves this country, whatever else you might think of him. “America First” is a perfectly rational ideal for all Americans to get behind, because “America Thirteenth” didn’t work for us. Not so long ago, Democrats, Republicans, libertarians, socialists, and every point along the bell curve would have agreed on America First. And we will again; time heals.

We could have had these increases in wages and bonuses and investments in American jobs years ago – nobody is doing this because they like The Donald’s hairstyle. None of those corporations are doing this for the PR value. A fair number of those CEOs hate Donald Trump – I would still not walk across the street to shake his hand if he called me by name.

But I also don’t care if my plumber can’t sing opera. Just fix the leaky pipes and get on out of my house, pal. That is what I want from government, and I could care less if it gives the posers and delicate flowers in the media the vapors to see a little butt crack now and then.

And President Trump, if you are listening … keep calling a shithole a shithole; those of us who have been to those shitholes have your back. And also, please send Jeff Sessions into retirement – you got a mountain of evidence of a corrupt coup attempt from our intel community in the swamp and he is out rousting Parkinson’s victims for hitting a doob to get a moment of relief. Keep being a boss – drain the swamp in year two – that is what you were hired to do.

Of s—holes

Three of my right-thinking Facebook Friends have the correct, though dissimilar, perspectives that don’t sink into virtue-signaling about the latest effort by Donald Trump to get the media to report four-letter words (assuming he said what is claimed he said).

First, Gary Probst:

Ya know, I’ve been trying very hard to stay out of this whole s-hole thing but I just can’t. When people blindly defend Trump’s every action, it is quite disgusting. I’m sorry if you want to unfriend me, but truth is truth and light is light. I prefer to speak truth and light.

Now, we’ll never know for sure if Trump said this or if its Durbin lying again. We won’t. Nobody will play it straight and be honest with us. This is politics, after all.

However, Trump’s mouth has been much more than just “plain speaking”. It has been rude, crude and vile—-quite a few times. When you act badly, people are going to find it much easier to believe it when accused a second time.

To shows photos of Haiti after an earthquake or hurricane and then say, “look, it IS a s-hole country” is just downright wrong and borderline despicable. The government there may be S— but are the people?? If you believe that, consider what Jesus would say. Would he agree? Would you agree with Jesus or Trump, or are they one and the same to you?

I never liked Trump but I appreciate the economic benefits he has helped to create. I have given him credit, when earned. However, do not think for one minute this man is anything like Reagan. I met Ronald Reagan. Ronald Reagan loved people. He had a warm and open heart. He believed in elevating people and expecting the best from them. Ronald Reagan, even in a secluded place, would never have said something of that nature. Do you truly believe Donald Trump would not?

Harry Truman was “plain spoken”. Reagan was “plain spoken”. Abe Lincoln was “plain spoken”. LBJ and Trump—vile in their profanity and attitudes. If Hillary Clinton had said this, we’d be all over her and refuting her. She has, in fact, degraded others in this fashion and conservatives have called her out on it. That’s good. That’s proper.

However, only a few decades have passed since people from places like Ireland and Italy were considered to have come from S-hole nations. Watch “Gangs of New York”. The Butcher was a real character in Five Points. The movie was based on truth.

So, when you allow the attitude that any nation is a S-hole nation, you are calling the people of that nation such. Really?

There are cultures I have spoken up against. I’m not impressed with the voodoo and satanic worship that goes on in Haiti. However, its not everybody there and much is based upon ignorance and centuries of suffering. I am not a fan of Islam, after actually taking the time to read their holy book. Yet, not all people in places like Iran are S–people. Again,, they are victims of ignorance, suffering and oppression.

When you rush to the defense of somebody of Trump’s ilk, you may want to think about what Jesus of Nazareth would have said or be saying, right now. WWJD? In his time, the Romans considered his land a S—hole nation, too.

Well … Truman apparently used that N-word considerably often as well, though Truman desegregated the military when it didn’t necessarily benefit his party. Johnson got the Civil Rights Act of 1964 passed and crowed that it would have blacks (and he didn’t use that word) voting Democratic for 200 years.

Next, Rick Esenberg:

Writing at American Greatness, Roger Kimball argues that Trump’s s***hole comments state a truth that our public sanctimony refuses to acknowledge. Some countries are awful places, America has no obligation to accept anyone and evertyone that wants to escape them and that immigrants from these countries – because of the ways in which these countries are broken – are less likely to do well here. He’s got a point. But while I’m all for exploring the limits of sanctimony, there is usually some reason that we’ve become sanctimonious. We don’t want to be indifferent to the problems of the rest of the world and we don’t want to slip into making easy judgments about others based on their race and nationality. And we want a President who takes care not to do these things. Words matter. Clarity and care in thinking matter. The “Trump is a racist threat to people of color” reaction to this is overblown and occasionally bordering on hysteria. But Trump did screw up. Again. And these screw-ups matter. He needs to understand that the first thing that comes to his mind often needs to be rethought. The Trumo administration has done some great things. The economy is booming, ISIS is in tatters and much (although not all) of the worst things that the Obama administration did are being reversed. We might actually be about to do something sensible about immigration. Yet his approval ratings are horrible. There’s a reason for that.

Finally, Michael Smith:

Let me state for the record that I am neither shocked or offended by a President – any President – who uses a profane word or phrase during a meeting. It’s done – I’ve done it – it may not be civil or appropriate but it happens. What also happens is that the same words are rarely used with the greater population of the office or company.

It is not unusual for a member of the meeting, one opposed to the discussion or decision, to continue to shop his or her grievances to the general population in search of sympathy and/or support.

Now, if Trump rolled such a phrase or word during a televised meeting with world leaders or at the SOTU address, that would be concerning to me.

Aside from the “hair on fire” reactions of the Democrats, their enablers in media and the NeverTrump factions, I’m nonplussed (can you actually be “plussed”?) and pretty sanguine about the whole deal. To the leaders of the UN, Mexico, the African states, the Middle Eastern regimes and Haiti, my responses to you all are:

1. Well? What part of “shithole” is wrong?
2. Why aren’t you upset your people are fleeing your country?
3. Have you ever asked yourself why refugees come FROM your country?
4. Fix your own damn problems before you start criticizing America – Americans aren’t flooding your shores and begging for asylum in your countries.

From a deeper perspective, the sum total of this ridiculous affray is the confirmation that Democrats believe every other people are better than Americans, and that American are the only humans on earth who should be criticized. Their words (and actions) clearly indicate a preference for any non-citizen over any citizen and they would never go the the lengths to protect an American citizen of any race, creed or color the way they do citizens of other countries.

Democrats are most assuredly the “Party of the People” – as long as “the people” are from another country.

Trump and Iran

Fred Fleitz:

President Trump will make some important decisions this month that could not only end the controversial 2015 nuclear agreement with Iran but also convey America’s support for Iranian protesters and hasten the overthrow of Iran’s ruling mullahs. By January 12, Mr. Trump must decide whether to renew a waiver of sanctions lifted by the Iran deal—i.e., the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA. The law requires him to make such a determination every 120 days. By January 15, the president must decide whether he will continue to “decertify” to Congress Iran’s compliance with the agreement.

When President Trump decertified the JCPOA to Congress in October, it looked like he was on track to withdraw from the deal if Congress did not use a 60-day window to pass legislation to toughen or “fix” it. However, even though Congress failed to act, Trump is now being pressured to extend the agreement, as its supporters claim that any action he might take to kill it would play into the hands of Iran’s ruling mullahs.

This approach is wrong. It would sustain a fraudulent agreement that has endangered global security and bolstered a brutal theocratic regime.

None of President Obama’s promises about the JCPOA — that it would keep Iran one year away from a nuclear weapon, improve U.S.–Iran relations, and bring Iran into the community of nations — have been borne out. Instead, the deal has emboldened Iran’s ruling mullahs to continue the nation’s international isolation, as Tehran spends billions of dollars on expensive belligerent activities, money that was made available to it through sanctions relief and that it could have spent to shore up the civilian economy.

There are many reports that the agreement did not appreciably slow Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons. Iran continues to make progress toward making nuclear-weapons fuel, as it is allowed under the deal to enrich uranium with over 5,000 centrifuges and to develop advanced centrifuges. The head of the Iranian Atomic Energy Organization said in August 2017 that Iran would be able to resume production of 20 percent enriched uranium, which can be quickly converted to weapons-grade uranium — within five days if the JCPOA is revoked.

There are credible reports, including several from German intelligence agencies, that Iran is cheating on the agreement. Senators Ted Cruz (R., Texas), Tom Cotton (R., Ark.), Marco Rubio (R., Fla.), and Tom Perdue (R., Ga.) raised concerns about Iranian noncompliance and cheating in a July 2017 letter to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. I also note that Tzvi Kahn, an analyst for Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, penned a brilliant op-ed for The Hill last October, debunking claims by JCPOA defenders that the IAEA has fully certified Iran’s compliance with the agreement.

The Iranian people were supposed to benefit from the Iran deal’s sanctions relief, but this didn’t happen. Instead, Iran’s ruling mullahs wasted billions of dollars in sanctions relief on the military and meddling in regional disputes. Iran’s 2016–17 military budget reportedly increased by 90 percent. In April 2017, Rouhani claimed that it had grown by 145 percent.

A week before the JCPOA was announced in July 2015, Iran offered the Syrian government a $1 billion line of credit. In September 2015, Iran sent troops to Syria. The Houthi rebels in Yemen are backed by the Iranian government and have attacked Saudi Arabia with missiles provided by Iran. In addition, some experts believe that Iran has used JCPOA sanction relief to help fund North Korea’s rapidly advancing nuclear-weapon and missile programs.

Iran probably has used sanctions relief to fund terrorism. In 2016, Tehran reportedly pledged $70 million to the Palestinian terrorist group Islamic Jihad to conduct “jihad” against the State of Israel. In 2017, the Iranian government quadrupled its annual support to Hezbollah, an Iranian terrorist proxy, to $830 million and resumed providing aid to the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas. Although the amount of Iranian payments to Hamas has not been released, it is known that Tehran provided it with $50 million a month before relations between them broke down in 2012.

The Iranian government’s squandering of billions of dollars, made available through sanctions relief, on its military harmed the country’s poor economy and led to the recent protests after a rise in prices of eggs and poultry. Food prices are a sensitive issue in Iran. The price of many basic foods increased by as much as 40 percent over the past year. The nation also suffers high inflation, about 10 percent in 2016. Youth unemployment is at about 40 percent. There are reports that some Iranians are selling their organs to raise cash.

But the country’s troubled economy was not the only reason for the recent protests. They have been driven also by a large youth population (60 percent of Iranians are under 30) who are linked to the rest of the world through smartphones and yearn for the freedom and culture of the West. They resent their country’s corrupt and repressive theocracy. The protests have included the burning of Shiite seminaries and chants of “Death to Khameni” (Iran’s supreme leader) and “Death to the dictator.” Some protesters have said they are ready to die for regime change.

Unfortunately, it appears that the mullahs will succeed in quelling the protests. But they are part of what Iran expert Michael Ledeen has long predicted: an irreversible movement toward the day when the Iranian people topple a regime they despise.

President Trump took exactly the right approach in his vocal support of the Iranian protesters. The Trump administration deserves credit for its efforts to pressure European leaders at the U.N. to speak out in support of the protesters and against the Iranian government’s crackdown.

President Trump should persist in his moral clarity on Iran’s brutal and corrupt regime and on how the Obama administration enabled it. He should withdraw from the deal, re-impose all sanctions lifted by it, and impose new sanctions, targeting Iran’s missile program, sponsorship of terrorism, and human-rights violations.

Trump critics and JCPOA supporters urging the president to stick with the nuclear agreement argue that killing it would play into the hands of the Iranian mullahs, who would blame Iran’s economic hardship on new U.S. sanctions. In truth, many are making this argument because they remain committed to President Obama’s “blame America” foreign policy, according to which Iran was treated as a victim of previous U.S. administrations and not as a state sponsor of terror.

As for the “fake” Republican JCPOA opponents, President Trump should ignore them when he makes his decision on the fate of the nuclear deal this month. This influential group, which includes a handful of conservative officials and experts and a few Republican House members as well as Senator Bob Corker, national-security adviser H. R. McMaster, and Tillerson, claim to be fervent opponents of the JCPOA but insist that the president not tear up the deal and instead try to fix it by improving its verification provisions and duration and by addressing Iran’s missile program. Some of them hold the preposterous position that new sanctions could force Iran to return to the negotiating table to discuss amendments of the nuclear deal.

These people are not actually opponents of the JCPOA; they are opponents of the agreement in its current form. This is the same group that last summer fought to prevent President Trump from decertifying the nuclear deal because they did not want to irritate European leaders and the U.S. foreign-policy establishment. Their fixes to the JCPOA are a ploy to prevent President Trump from tearing up the agreement. They have zero chance of being accepted by Iran, European states, China, or Russia. Despite recent claims by Secretary Tillerson that he is in negotiations with Congress to fix the nuclear deal, legislation to do this is unlikely to pass, because of bipartisan opposition.

Instead of following bad advice by JCPOA supporters and fake opponents, President Trump should listen to one of his strongest supporters, Ambassador John Bolton, who has argued persuasively that the Iran deal is dangerous and unfixable and that the United States should withdraw from it immediately. Bolton proposes that the U.S. do this through a clean withdrawal from the agreement, together with its allies, including Israel. He addresses the full range of threats posed by Iran.

In September, 45 national-security experts sent the president a letter urging him to implement the Bolton plan. I strongly urge President Trump to implement the plan quickly and to kill a fraudulent nuclear agreement that has severely harmed global security and the people of Iran.

The Tehran spring?

Stephen L. Miller asks an inconvenient question about this photo from London’s Daily Mail:

The most striking images coming out of the Iran human rights protests are not of men – they are of women. And while American media was slow and even hesitant to pick up that anything at all was actually happening – this, while protests ignited for what is now six full days around Iran, nine years after the Green Movement protests began – Twitter was flooded with videos and photos on the ground, in defiance of the Iranian regime’s social media policy.

Almost none was more striking than a young Iranian woman standing atop a container and shedding her hijab – a garment mandated and enforced upon her and all women in Iran – while simultaneously waving it as a flag. It was an act of defiance much like that of the Iranian chess champion Dorsa Derakhshani, who was expelled from competition in Iran for refusing to wear a headscarf in competition.

There were unconfirmed reports that the unidentified girl was taken into custody and the spot where she stood had become a makeshift shrine, but because of the scattering of information on the ground there’s no way to confirm that.

Nevertheless, she became an immediate symbol for the growing movement now in its fifth full day. Twitter avatars were changed to an illustration capturing the moment. The drawing was spread on Facebook. But she wasn’t the only one.

Another video spread on social media shows a woman confronting security forces and proclaiming “Death to Khamenei” while crowds around her join in.

Mind you, this wasn’t inauguration protests from January of last year with celebrity activists screaming freely into microphones about how much they’ve thought about blowing up the White House. This was a woman endangering her life and possibly the lives of her loved ones to stand up to government forces of a hardline Islamic theocracy. She was risking death. And yet, nevertheless, she persisted.

Another woman was seen on tape declaring “You raised your fists and ruined our lives. Now we raise our fists. Be men, join us. I as a woman will stand in front and protect you. Come represent your country.”

Another image that managed to make its way into some mainstream coverage shows a young woman – reported to be a student – covering her face as she runs from tear gas just outside the University of Tehran, her fist raised defiantly in the air. She was a symbol of a growing secular youth movement merging with thousands of others protesting the regime’s involvement with Hezbollah, Hamas and Syria.

And as the protests entered their fifth night, another striking video on Twitter shows a woman demanding fair wages and an end to regime attempts to silence them. Women reportedly led protests in the city of Isfahan.

Every one of these searing images are of women. Women are the predominant face of this blossoming revolution. Women are risking the most to speak out against the Iranian Mullahs. So the question must be asked: Where are the women’s movement supporters in the United States and Europe, which gathered en masse to protest a newly inaugurated American president last year?

More specifically, empowered by the cultural muscle of #MeToo celebrity leaders and Women’s March organizers such as Linda Sarsour: Why are you silent? If these nameless women can speak out in the face of true tyranny, risking actual imprisonment and death, why can’t you?

Iranian women are not adorning pink knitted hats, or costumes resembling female genitalia. They won’t be attending award shows. They aren’t wearing red cloaks and bonnets inspired by their favorite Netflix show. No, these brave women are caught on videotape and in photographs for the world to see, and the women’s movements have yet to barely offer so much as a tweet or a Facebook post of support. The official Women’s March Twitter account has tweeted exactly zero times in support of women protesting in Iran. Zero.

Among such “women’s” leaders as Tamika Mallory, Carmen Perez, Janaye Ingram and Linda Sarsour, only one tweet has been offered at all about the protests, and that came from Sarsour and had nothing to do with the women at all, but President Trump. “Is it just me or is Trump praising Iranian protesters AND at the same time also banned Iranians from entering the USA?”

What seems to be lost on Ms. Sarsour is that these women are currently risking their lives and protesting – not for the right to come to the United States – but for the rights to live and thrive in their own country.

I do sympathize with Sarsour and the women’s movement of the political left and their sudden predicament with supporting these brave women. Women in Iran are shedding their hijabs while progressive women’s movements in the United States try to hold them up as a symbol of empowerment and feminism – going so far as Shepard Fairey-esque illustrations attempting to mainstream the hijab into pop culture.

What’s empowering about the hijab is the choice to don one. Muslim women in the United States have that choice. Women in Iran do not. If these pro-women groups are all about choice for deprived women around the globe, now would be a good time to speak up on behalf of them.

Women in Iran are standing in defiance of the regime’s financial support of Hezbollah and Hamas rather than fair wages and human rights. But for progressive women’s groups to oppose Hamas in the face of these protests, it would mean abandoning months of pro-Palestinian support, capped off last week when pop singer Lorde cancelled her Tel Aviv show.

Sarsour, as a self-professed leading advocate for Muslim women in the United States and around the world, should be asked to clarify her position by journalists who are all too eager to present her with awards and speaking gigs: Does she support the women of Iran or the hardline theocracy that is currently brutalizing them?

Remaining silent in the face of this growing movement is another black eye for Sarsour in particular, who is facing charges of ignoring complaints of sexual abuse while she was director of the Arab American Association.

Of the prominent supporters for progressive women’s movements in Congress, only Bernie Sanders has offered measurable support for the protestors, tweeting, “It is the right of all people to speak out against their government. The government of Iran should respect this right and heed the voices of thousands of Iranians who are demonstrating across the country for better opportunities and a better future.”  Not hard stuff.

Chuck Schumer found time to tweet out support of the New York Giants football team keeping quarterback Eli Manning, but not for the women now splashed across news services worldwide.

Senators Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris and Kirsten Gillibrand – leading progressive women’s rights advocates all – have not only not released statements in support of these women, they’ve said nothing in support of the protests at all. Not a press release. Not a tweet. Nothing.

Hillary Clinton has not offered support of the women beyond a tweet stating she hopes “their government responds peacefully and supports their hopes.” Hate to break it to the onetime self-declared ceiling breaker, but the government is very much not responding peacefully nor are they supporting their hopes. They are, indeed, emboldened financially by an Iran Nuclear deal she herself claimed partial credit for.

Powerful women in entertainment have never been hesitant to raise their voices and organize in support of their personal beliefs. And today, because of the #MeToo wave, they have never been more influential in politics or culture. Yet they remain silent. First Lady Melania Trump and Ivanka Trump could also certainly publicly show support, but would the left then just simply write off joining them?

Political support for the women of Iran would of course contradict the careful echo chamber narrative Democrat politicians spent months crafting in support of President Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran – which is in fact a major reason for the uprising happening now. The Mullahs squandered most of their financial windfall from the Iran deal on support for terror groups such as the Assad regime, Hezbollah and Hamas after promising to invest it in the people at home. The people of Iran have had enough of these empty promises.

More importantly, the women of Iran have had enough and are leading the way, with or without public support from the self-declared women’s groups on the left around the world, who have decided they are the public voice of resistance for women – except in places where a collective voice of support could actually help women the most. Their ideas of empowerment apparently stop where their politics start.

Despite a world attempting to rationalize looking away, a solitary woman stood up in defiance of the rule of law, risked her life and removed her head scarf. She did this at the risk of arrest, or death. She did this without public support from women’s groups who claim their entire existence is to support this very act of defiance. While they remain silent, I’m with her.

One assumes that U.S. liberals think being on the side of Barack Obama and his disastrous Iran policy is more important than being on the side of oppressed Muslim women. And apparently we can also conclude that Iranian men are either cowards or perfectly fine with being less oppressed than Iranian women are.

TWTYTW 2017

For, let’s see, about the 18th year and the 11th consecutive year, it’s time for That Was the Year That Was 2017, patterned on …

In contrast to the ’60s British TV series “That Was the Week That Was,” rarely has been a year of so many things that defied rational description. Some of them had nothing to do with America’s First Tweeter, either.

Let’s start with the worst trend of 2017, a continuation of the last few years — tribalism and people’s stubborn refusal to judge things on their merits. That includes unthinking praise of everything Donald Trump does, and knee-jerk criticism of anything Donald Trump does.

Worst trend number 1B is also a continuation of the last few years — hypersensitivity and, on the left, unthinking accusations of racism, sexism, misogyny and every other -ism they hate, and on the right, unthinking accusations of disloyalty, particularly when confronted by ideas they don’t agree with but cannot say why or what’s wrong with those ideas.

I saw an example of that Sunday — the latest Star Wars movie, which some conservatives have been complaining about because of what they claim to be too much diversity. As if normal viewers should care one way or another about that.

I’m certainly fine with the self-demolition of Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, Al Franken, Garrison Keillor, Matt Lauer, U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore, etc., whose past bad acts ended their careers this year. Due process was completely ignored, of course, which will make for interesting days depending on which liberal icon is next claimed to be a sexual harasser like Bill Clinton. (Who skated, as did Hillary, because of their positions on abortion rights.)

How did The Donald do? Rob Saker posted this list …

… I expected Jeff Sessions to be beyond horrible. I think I am on the record as saying I believe him to be an authoritarian religious zealot who isn’t very bright. To date, I can’t think of anything he has done that I disagree with (Any suggestions on how to prepare crow would be appreciated).

My list of great accomplishments…

1. Signed an Executive Order demanding that two regulations be killed for every new one creates. He cut 16 regulations for every one created, saving $8.1 billion.

2. Gorsuch on the SCOTUS.

3. Tax cut bill.

4. Jerusalem announcement, ending a game of delaying tactics and signaling our firm support for Israel (after they were attacked by Obama’s administration).

5. Revoking the EPA’s navigable waters interpretation, which was an egregious seizure of property rights.

6. Nominated 73 federal judges. Trump is filling up lower courts with lifetime appointees.

7. Recognized opioids as a national epidemic and putting resources against it. This is possibly Obama’s greatest failure.

8. Removed the gloves on the fight with ISIS. What was believed a year ago to be a war that would last years is now in its last stages.

9. Eliminating the Obamacare individual mandate.

10. Generating such confidence in the economy that a mature market saw record gains (Yes, Obama saw large gains but on an artificially low market thanks to the crash).

11. Respect for law making process. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the Department of Justice will cease the practice initiated by President Obama of issuing “guidance memos” to enact new regulations that sometimes have had the effect of changing federal laws.

12. Diversity of opinions. EPA Director Scott Pruitt placed 66 new experts on three different EPA scientific committees who espouse more conservative views than their predecessors.

13. Manufacturing. During Trump’s first six months, the manufacturing index was the highest it had been since 1983 under President Reagan. Michigan’s ISM reported its June barometer of manufacturing rose to 57.8, the fastest pace in three years (50 is flat).

14. Withdrawal from a Paris climate treaty that would have required huge sums on the US with no appreciable beneficial impact on the climate.

15. Rescinded Title IX “dear colleague” letter that led to kangaroo courts and the denial of due process. There are numerous general benefits such as VA reform, reducing waste in government spending, and a healthy uptick in government job attrition.

… to which was added:

Arctic wildlife drilling, keystone pipeline, UN budget cut
Hiring freeze at State.
Placing a Secretary of HUD who has lived in public housing.
With respect to policy toward North Korea, no longer kicking the can down the road.

How did the stock market do?

Based on admittedly a small sample size, Trump could be said to be the most pro-business president in the nation’s history. The Dow Jones Industrial Average has gained one-third in the 14 months since Trump was elected president.

As someone who did not vote for Trump but has vowed to praise Trump when praise is due and condemn Trump when condemnation is due (see previous comment about tribalism), I find that to be a pretty good list of accomplishments, whether Trump actually accomplished them or regular old Republicans did. Trump’s various idiotic tweets and public statements make some people forget those actual accomplishments, while other question, with some validity, who deserves credit — Trump or “establishment” Republicans — for those accomplishments.

Meanwhile, how was Gov. Scott Walker’s year?

The project at the top made Kevin Binversie comment:

You know who I feel sorry for sometimes? The children of deeply-committed Scott Walker haters who due to their parents’ obsessions will never own either an iPhone, Nintendo Switch or 3DS.

All three products are assembled by Foxconn.

The MacIver Institute assembled its own top 10 list, which included:

#10 – WISDOT Audit

It was a bad sign when Wisconsin Department of Transportation Secretary Mark Gottlieb resigned just weeks before the Legislative Audit Bureau was set to release a report on the State Highway Program. When the report came out in January, it was in a word – devastating.

The auditors found the DOT regularly breaks state law in budgeting, negotiating, communicating, and managing contracts. Among these statutory violations: the department does not always solicit bids from more than one vendor, it does not spread out solicitations throughout the year, it does not post required information on its website, its cost estimates to the governor are incomplete, and it skips steps in the evaluation process for selecting projects. These practices manifest themselves through an inescapable reality: the cost of major projects tends to double after the DOT gets approval from the governor and Legislature to proceed. The auditors looked at 16 current highway projects and found they are over-budget by $3.1 billion.

Some public officials tried to spin the report, claiming it indicated the state is not spending enough on transportation. That didn’t fly. Instead the audit became an insurmountable obstacle for those seeking to raise the gas tax. It also sparked a series of reforms that aimed to make the DOT more transparent and accountable to the taxpayers of Wisconsin.

#8 – UW Regents Protect Free Speech

As protests and demonstrations gripped campuses across the country, the University of Wisconsin Board of Regents took a stand for free expression this year. In October, the Regents voted to allow any UW campus to expel students who repeatedly disrupt speakers or stifle speech.

The sole dissenting vote was that of Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Evers, who is running for governor.

Jose Delgado, a UW Regent who came to America from his native Cuba in 1961 at the age of 13, spoke to MacIver about his yes vote. Delgado’s family fled the oppressive Castro regime, which brutally struck down dissenting speech. Delgado said that back then, the Cuban government would simply arrest and murder anyone who disagreed with it. For that reason, the 70-year-old said, he has always been passionate about his freedom of speech as an American. He’s been deeply troubled by the decline of peaceful dialogue, especially on university campuses.

Summing up his reason for the vote, Delgado said “I cannot make you listen, but I can certainly prevent others from preventing you from listening. You have the right to listen.”

#7 – Gas Tax Battle Heats Up

Predictably, the forces behind a push to increase the state gas tax, vehicle registration fee, or other source of revenue for transportation saddled up in 2017.

Gov. Walker – insistent he would not sign a budget that raised the gas tax or registration fees – made the first move when he appointed Dave Ross to be secretary of the Department of Transportation after the resignation of Mark Gottlieb. Since he took over in January, Ross has been steadfast in insisting the department doesn’t need new revenue, it needs to find savings in the multibillion dollar budget it already has.

Members of the Legislature spent the summer sparring over the issue. A protracted public relations battle raged across the state – possibly manifesting itself in a series of phony letters to the editor that appeared in newspapers from Janesville to Rice Lake begging lawmakers to increase taxes. All along, MacIver was suspicious that more revenue was truly needed – and we found plenty of examples to back us up.

Proponents of an increased gas tax have advocated putting more money into a department with a record of wasting it. We, at MacIver, refuse to just go along with this ‘increase taxes first, ask questions later’ mentality. We’ve suggested instead that Secretary Ross should have the opportunity to scour the department for savings before Madison lawmakers foist a permanent tax increase on Wisconsinites.

#6 – Russia, Russia, Russia!

Unless you’ve been living under a rock with no human contact throughout all of 2017, you’ve likely heard the words “Russia” and “collusion” on a near-daily basis.

Ever since President Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton, liberals – still in shock that they lost – have been charging that the Trump campaign was working with Russian agents behind the scenes to hack the election, propagate fake news, and swing the election. Throughout 2017, a special investigation being run by former FBI Director Robert Mueller has produced nonstop daily headlines that might sound nefarious to the casual observer. But other than nabbing Michael Flynn for lying to the FBI (never do that, by the way) the probe has so far come up mostly empty-handed.

We saw the birth of this story all the way back in December 2016, when members of Wisconsin’s electoral college cast their ballots for Donald Trump at the state Capitol – the first time Wisconsin Republicans did so since Ronald Reagan’s 1984 landslide. While they voted, they were serenaded by protesters screaming about selling out the country to Russia and Putin and ushering in fascism. …

#4 – Foxconn

At the beginning of 2017, it’s likely the vast majority of Wisconsinites had never heard of Foxconn, but most had likely used their products.

Then earlier this year, President Trump hinted that the state would soon get good economic news when visiting a Snap-on plant in Kenosha in April. The mystery soon was lifted, and a months-long saga of negotiations, deal-making, and legislative action ended in a contract signing between the electronics manufacturing giant and the State of Wisconsin.

The deal that was inked is the largest development agreement of its kind in American history, offering Foxconn up to $3 billion in tax incentives if the company invests $10 billion in a massive manufacturing campus and creates 13,000 jobs. Foxconn’s Wisconsin operation — now on track to begin construction in 2018 — won’t just be a plant, it will be a small city unto itself in southern Racine County.

Emerging over the course of a few months in 2017, the Foxconn deal will surely be a transformational project for the entire state of Wisconsin. The company’s leaders have signaled their goal is to establish a high-tech manufacturing hub right here in Wisconsin to rival (and supply hardware to) Silicon Valley.

From groundbreaking ceremonies to other new announcements related to the massive new development, we expect 2018 to bring lots more news about Foxconn.

#3 – Wisconsin State Budget: Entire Taxes Eliminated, No Tax Increase

What would a list of the top stories of the year be without talking about the state budget? It might’ve crossed the finish line months late, but the 2017-19 budget included some historic reforms, including completely eliminating two taxes.

Under the new budget, the state Forestry Mill Tax and Alternative Minimum tax are both deleted from the books. The budget also holds the line on income taxes and continues the push to reduce the property tax burden, while increasing spending in classrooms.

It’s easy to forget the old days when Jim Doyle and the Democrats were raising every tax imaginable and increasing spending by leaps and bounds. It’s also easy to take today’s momentum for reducing taxes for granted.

It’s for exactly that reason that here at MacIver, we work hard to celebrate these conservative wins. It’s certainly not every day that entire taxes are eliminated, and it’s certainly not every state that is determined to walk down a path of lowering taxes and shrinking government. On, Wisconsin.

#2 – John Doe Returns

In last year’s annual roundups, we had hoped that 2017 would bring a new era of toleration for ideas from all sides of the debate, including for the victims of the John Doe probes. With the Supreme Court officially declaring the efforts illegal and ordering that they be shut down immediately, we hoped that those victims would see some justice.

After all, those individuals had their private information illegally seized, their homes searched in pre-dawn raids, their rights to free speech trampled, and their names dragged through the mud, all while an unsympathetic media continued to cover the story with an eye on Gov. Walker.

Unfortunately, in 2017, that new era did not come. Rather, we learned that government employees had continued their unconstitutional search through private records. The very watchdog meant to uphold the government’s standard of ethics seized even more personal records – including private text messages between a Senator and her daughter – and put them in a file labeled “opposition research.”

This all came to light after the state’s Department of Justice looked into leaks, suspecting that private records had been illegally handed off by members of the Ethics Commission – the old Government Accountability Board. In the end, the DOJ declined to press charges in the leak, saying that the wrongdoing was so widespread and the data so mishandled that they couldn’t determine who exactly was the source of the leak.

In many ways, John Doe returned to headlines this year…but in reality, we found out that it never went away at all. In its report, the DOJ itself refers to the new probe as “John Doe 3.” Just before Christmas, the Senate Committee on Organization voted to authorize the DOJ to dig deeper into the wrongdoing. While we hoped that the saga would come to an end, we now know that the last chapter of this story has not yet been written.

Without further adieu, the biggest story of 2017…

#1 – Time to Cut Taxes – the federal government’s first go at significant tax reform since ‘86

The last time they did this, Top Gun was the highest-grossing movie in America, the world met Ferris Bueller, and Whitney Houston’s self-titled album was at the top of the charts. That’s right — it was 1986 the last time the federal government took on tax reform. Boy, has the world changed.

This year, congress made good on its promise to pass a tax reform bill and get it signed into law by Christmas. Among many (many) other things, the bill cuts both individual and corporate rates, cleans the tax code, and nearly doubles the standard deduction. According to the Department of Revenue, the average Wisconsin family will see a tax cut of more than $2,500. That’s more than $200 every month that hard-working families won’t have to turn over to the IRS.

Not only will individuals be able to file their taxes on a form the size of a postcard, our economy will take notice, too. By lowering the tax burden on everyday Americans and unlocking the secret to economic success, the plan is undeniably pro-growth.

Sean Davis has a list of the top 10 undercovered stories, including …

2. The economy roared

The U.S. economy came roaring back in 2017. GDP growth is strong and steady, and the unemployment rate now approaches lows not seen since the early 2000s. The economy has added over 1.9 million payroll jobs this year. Consumer confidence is at a 17-year high. The 2017 economic recovery is nonetheless a major story widely ignored by the political press. …

4. Islamic State was crushed in Raqqah and Mosul

A year ago, the Islamic State wasn’t just on the rise in the Middle East, it was firmly in charge, with wide swaths of the region under its control. But in October, U.S.-backed forces completed the total liberation of Raqqah, the Islamic State’s Syrian capital. That followed the liberation of Mosul, a major Iraqi city captured by the Islamic State in 2014. In less than a year, Trump and his national security team accomplished what the previous administration suggested was impossible.

5. Thanks to James Comey, the FBI’s reputation is in tatters

This year we learned that the FBI’s top ranks were infested with political actors eager to use the agency to settle scores. Not only did former Director James Comey abscond with confidential documents, he leaked them to his friends and the press, then refused to give those documents to Congress. In addition, his top deputies — those responsible for investigating both Hillary Clinton and Trump — were sharing text messages about how important it was to defeat Trump. One of these Comey deputies even mused about deploying a secret “insurance policy” to keep Trump out of the White House. Comey’s biggest accomplishment wasn’t equitable enforcement of the law; it was the corrupt politicization of the agency’s leadership ranks and the destruction of its reputation.

6. We still know nothing about what motivated the Vegas shooter

Months after the deadliest mass shooting in American history, we don’t know why the gunman fired on a crowd of innocent concertgoers. If law enforcement authorities have any leads or theories, they’re not sharing them with citizens eager for answers. Perhaps the feds don’t have a clue, either. Either way, it’s shocking that, months later, the country is still in the dark about what happened.

7. The Iran deal’s facade collapsed

Despite the Obama administration’s assurances that Iran would be a reliable partner for peace, the opposite has proved true. By deliberately funding and fomenting terror against the U.S. and its allies in the region, Iran has shown that it cannot be trusted, and the Obama administration’s claims about the peaceful intentions of the top terror sponsor on Earth had no basis in reality.

8. Persecution of religious minorities continues across the globe

In the U.K., Jews were targeted in record numbers in 2017. Just weeks ago, a synagogue in Sweden was firebombed. Throughout India, Christians continue to be targeted by violent religious extremists. In North Korea and China, totalitarian atheist governments regularly imprison and torture those who openly worship and proselytize. And in the Middle East, Muslims remain the No. 1 target of radical jihadists hell-bent on purging from the Earth anyone who rejects the authority of the Islamic State’s caliphate. …

10. Due process and rule of law were restored to college campuses

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos finally restored the rule of law to college campuses and put an end to disastrous campus courts. Prior to her much-needed rule change, campuses across the country declared that secret proceedings, bereft of due process, were the best way to handle sexual assault allegations. That kangaroo system, justifiably gutted by DeVos, resulted in predators who were allowed to avoid law enforcement, victims who never received justice, and innocent people who were denied basic rights such as jury trials and access to attorneys.

As far as football was concerned, to quote Charles Dickens, it was the best of times, it was the worst of recent times. The Badgers had their best season that didn’t include a Rose Bowl berth, winning a record 13 games and their first Orange Bowl. With a young team, this season might not be the best season of the decade.

The Badgers’ season was particularly good because the Packers’ season was quite bad, thanks to the second broken collarbone of quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ career, which served to expose all the holes the Packers have on both offense (including backup quarterback) and defense (for which defensive coordinator Dom Capers will be sacrificed). Every football problem today can be traced back to the players, but the person responsible for getting those players, general manager Ted Thompson, hasn’t shown signs of departure, voluntarily (he could retire) or not.

As always, may your 2018 be better than your 2017. It can’t be stranger … can it?