Former speaker of the House Dennis Hastert, a Republican, has been indicted. The indictment suggests Hastert was paying hush money to for "prior misconduct" to an unnamed person ("Individual A").
"During the 2010 meetings and subsequent discussions, defendant JOHN DENNIS HASTERT agreed to provide Individual A $3.5 million in order to compensate for and conceal his prior misconduct against Individual A," reads the indictment.
"Shortly thereafter, defendant began providing Individual A cash payments.
"From approximately 2010 to 2014, defendant JOHN DENNIS HASTERT withdrew a total of approximately $1.7 million in cash from various bank accounts he controlled and provided it to Individual A.
"From approximately June 2010 through April 2012, defendant JOHN DENNIS HASTERT made fifteen $50,000 withdrawals of cash from bank accounts he controlled at Old Second Bank, People’s State Bank and Castle Bank and provided that cash to Individual A approximately every six weeks."
On Friday, May 22, President Obama, calling himself “an honorary member of the tribe,” addressed you not just as the president of the United States but also as an explicit adherent of the “tikkun olam” tradition: a Jewish viewpoint for “repairing the world” that, in his reading, promotes universal progressive ideals like fighting bigotry and working for social justice everywhere. Thus, for him, the same “shared values” that underlay the civil-rights movement in the United States were what led him to identify himself with the cause of Israel—and also with the cause of Palestinian nationalism.
Although, as you may have noticed, the president never mentioned Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu by name, the heart of his speech was devoted to justifying his own role in their by now famous conflict. At the heart of that conflict, he suggested, was Netanyahu’s presumed hostility to recognizing the rights of the Palestinians. Making references to Ramallah in one breath and Selma in the next, and sketching an ethical map that made the civil-rights movement and Palestinian nationalism interchangeable, the president implied that support for Netanyahu’s policies was tantamount to rejecting the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr.
It was Chemi Shalev, the U.S. editor of Haaretz, who best captured the essence of Obama’s May 22 message to you: “I represent your core values far better than the elected leader of Israel.”
To judge by the enthusiastic applause, many of you accepted the president’s sincerity and strongly agreed with his message. May I ask you, however, to pause and consider an alternative view? I cannot claim, as Obama did, membership in the tribe, but I can say that I am well informed both about the Middle East and about United States policy toward that region. In addition, I am deeply concerned about the deterioration in Israeli-American relations.
Here’s my question. As Obama donned his yarmulke and embraced your community, did you also catch the hint of a warning? If you did, it was because the president was raising, very subtly, the specter of dual loyalty: the hoary allegation that Jews pursue their tribal interests to the detriment of the wider community or nation. Obama was certainly not engaging in anything so crude as that; nor is he an enemy of the Jewish people. But he did imply that many Jews—that is, Jews who support Benjamin Netanyahu—have indeed placed their narrow, ethnic interests above their commitment to universal humanistic values. In his view, they have betrayed those values. And so the warning was faint, but unmistakable: if Jews wish to avoid being branded as bigots, then they—you—must line up with him against Netanyahu.
Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina says the United States is "not making progress" in its fight against ISIS. In a recent interview with THE WEEKLY STANDARD, Fiorina said President Obama "understates the significance of the situation" with the terrorist group that has taken over large swaths of land in Syria and Iraq.
"It's more than a tactical setback," she said of Ramadi, a critical town in Iraq's Anbar province that fell to ISIS forces last week. "It demonstrates that we're not making enough progress in degrading and defeating ISIS."
Asked if the U.S. is losing the fight, Fiorina said she didn't know. "But I know we're not making progress, and so if you're not making progress, you're arguably falling back."
The former Hewlett-Packard CEO was campaigning in Columbia, South Carolina Wednesday, where she told MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell in an on-camera interview what the country ought to do to defeat ISIS.
"Instead of having a Camp David conference to talk our Arab allies into a bad deal with Iran, I would have a Camp David conference to talk with our Arab allies about how we can support them to fight ISIS," Fiorina said. "The Kurds have been asking us to arm them for three years. We still have not. The Jordanians have been asking us to provide them with bombs and materiel." Watch the video below:
"There are a whole set of things we've been asked to do by our allies, who know this is their fight, and we're not doing any of them," Fiorina said. "So I would hold a summit and talk about that."
Asked by TWS if part of the American strategy ought to be sending more troops to Iraq, Fiorina demurred.
"I think it's premature until we have a conversation with our allies," she said. "It's a little bit like saying, 'Okay there are all these alternatives in front of us that our allies who are there have told us will help, and we’re just going to leap over all of those and talk about boots on the ground.’ And I think President Obama has created this dichotomy where basically what he says is, if you don’t agree with me, the only option is to go to war. It’s just false. It’s a false choice. So we shouldn’t fall into that trap."
Florida press is knocking Hillary Clinton for hiding during her visit to the Sunshine State.
"South Florida's also getting a visit from presidential candidate Hillary Clinton today. She'll attend fundraisers in Coconut Grove and in Carol Gables as well. Tomorrow, off to Parkland for similar events. But you're not going to have a chance to see her because all these fundraisers, at least as we understand, they are all completely private," Miami's NBC affiliate reports.
Even before the launch of Obamacare, one of the few things that was clear about the program was that the Bush-appointed HHS inspector general, Daniel Levinson, placed self-preservation above his statutory duty to bring public attention to Obamacare’s waste, fraud and abuse. It is a point I have made before in these pages, but Levinson continues to stir only in a perfunctory manner when roused by complaints from Congress.
Despite spectacular incompetence at the federal level and federal criminal investigations in several states, Levinson has repeatedly looked away from Obamacare’s wreckage. Levinson has also looked away from the most massive violations of the Privacy Act by a domestic agency since its enactment, a failure that I have documented here and, more recently, in The Cleveland Plain Dealer. Moreover, he has allowed HHS to mislead Congress and the public about what happens to sensitive data supplied by people who apply for coverage through healthcare.gov. Extensive data on more than ten million Americans (soon to be tens of millions) have never magically disappeared in the so-called “data hub”—they reside with a large Beltway contractor called CACI in a massive and vulnerable data base unmonitored in any meaningful way by HHS as contractors rummage through it to create positive Obamacare news.
Ricardo Alonso-Zalvidar of the Associated Press reported last January in a series of articles that healthcare.gov regularly transferred personal details from applicants—including age, income, pregnancy status and tobacco use—to at least fifty outside entities embedded within the system, including advertising agencies and web analytics sites. The subsequent outcry caused HHS to reduce these embedded entities by less than half, but HHS continues to stonewall about who these entities are, what information they use and how they use it, and why it is so smugly confident that none of its partners is abusing their unprecedented access for commercial gain.
President Obama could help to strengthen the oversight of Obamacare by backing legislation to appoint a new inspector general, one with comprehensive jurisdiction over all the participating agencies, but he will never take that step for fear that these improvements would document the failures of his legacy program. Two of the most thoughtful Members of Congress, Senator Pat Roberts (R-Kansas) and Representative Peter Roskam (R-Ohio), seek to accomplish that goal by introducing introduced legislation (S.1368 and H.R. 2400) that addresses the reckless spending and legal violations that have marked Obamacare’s implementation.
Iraq forces have launched a major military operation to liberate Iraq's Anbar and Salaheddin provinces from ISIS, Iraqi state media and a key Shia militia group said Tuesday, a little more than a week after the militant group overran Anbar's provincial capital, Ramadi.
It is, of course, too soon to tell if the offensive will be successful. But not too soon to consider the consequences if it is not. What happens then? What if ISIS is not defeated by some combination of U.S. air power (which, so far, has not been decisive) and Iraqi ground units with an assist from Iran? What if ISIS wins?
Let’s think the unthinkable: Could the Islamic State win?
McLaughlin was deputy director and acting director of the CIA from 2000 to 2004 and answers the question—What would constitute a win for ISIS?—like this:
Essentially, it would amount to the group holding, for the foreseeable future, the core of what it has conquered — roughly half of Iraq and Syria — and exercising a rudimentary sort of governance there, in what it calls its “caliphate.” What is the foreseeable future? The group is almost certain to survive the Obama presidency. If two years into the next presidency, the Islamic State is still fitfully governing that area, it would be hard, in my view, to not call that a win.
McLaughlin goes on to list the four things necessary to bring about this outcome, none of which, he writes, "lies in the realm of fantasy.”
And if all this comes to pass?
… the Islamic State will have won, plain and simple, and from that point the challenges will get no easier. The demands of governing might force some compromises on the Islamic State, but — as terrorist states always do — it would eventually look toward external targets such as the United States while posing a continuous threat to its neighbors and clinging to some form of harsh sharia law.
McLaughlin does not sugarcoat it and you should read the whole thing.
Assuming the WNBA approves, Isiah Thomas will be part owner and coach of the New York Liberty, the women’s team owned by James Dolan, the man who brought the Knicks to their current position in the NBA. Thomas, general manager of the Knicks, was convicted of sexual harassment in 2007. Not to worry. Thomas assures us the press that he has a daughter, and always respected his mother (both women), while fighting racism. Isiah played the mother and race cards, one jaded reporter wrote. Thomas didn’t stop there. “I had the utmost respect for my mother when she was alive and” her comes the punch line, “I have great respect for humanity and also women.” That’s good news for both groups.
One unexplained death. So many negative images. So many pundits talking past real issues. So many obvious problems.
The storylines of Baltimore’s latest riots are heavy fodder for observers from all sides of the political spectrum.
On the left, it’s mostly about racism and bad cops and not enough social spending. The Ferguson-inspired slogan “Black Lives Matter” is renewed even though in the spate of highly publicized recent young black deaths there is no evidence that Michael Brown, who attacked a police officer, was deprived of any rights at all.
In Baltimore, the mayor turns to the feds in order to investigate her allegedly out-of-control police. A newly elected state’s attorney promises to answer the angry mob’s cries for justice. Yet, nobody asks the (indelicate) question of why the mayor and her chief prosecutor waited for FreddieGray’s death before asking for federal intervention. Another indelicate question: where was the street rage when 1/6 of the population of Baltimore was arrested in 2005?
On the right, it’s a more complex debate, including the facts and circumstances of Mr. Gray’s arrest and transport that fateful morning. Besides police process and procedure, I and so many others bemoan the considerable social ills that poison West Baltimore neighborhoods: too many pregnant teenagers, too many sick babies, too many fatherless children, too many single-income households, too many high school dropouts, too many welfare dependents, too few manufacturing jobs, too much drug culture, too little hope.
Our conclusion is familiar: Trillions of dollars directed into poor communities over the past 50 years has failed to produce better neighborhoods. Just too many left behind, with little hope. It seems a value-less culture trumps social welfare programs every time.
Going forward, it’s not nearly good enough to ritualisticallyrepeat the usual clichés regarding the importance of “healing” and “coming together.” Here, we truly need to define our terms.
Healing is not about demanding your unique definition of justice or threatening to burn the place down if your demands are not met. Neither is it about a not-so-secret war on African Americans in a police department where the mayor, police commissioner, and nearly 50% of the force is black. Real healing is respecting the criminal justice system’s search for truth and then working within the system for change if you disagree with the result. Kind of like Dr. King taught us to think and act.
Similarly, coming together is great if it means everybody working to bring about positive change. In this case, bringing the police closer to the community they are paid to protect and rooting out bad actors within the department along the way. There may be bad cops, but the Baltimore riots were not explained by a reaction to bad police work.
In a tweet Wednesday afternoon, Rubio's campaign asked supporters to wish the senator—who turns 44 today—a happy birthday. The tweet featured a graphic of an American flag, emblazoned with "44" instead of the stars and the names of U.S. states on the stripes. Standard campaign fare.
But a closer look shows that the image strongly resembles a cake given to then President Bill Clinton for his 50th birthday. According to press reports, Clinton's confection was a 300-pound, made to order cake presented at a Democratic fundraiser that brought in some $10 million.
Clinton's birthday bash took place on August 19, 1996, just ten weeks from the presidential election in which Clinton would face Senator Bob Dole. Perhaps more important, the party came less than a month after Dole celebrated a birthday, his 73rd. The Clinton celebration was, of course, an attempt to highlight that 23-year age difference in a subtle and indirect way.
Rubio, whose announcement speech emphasized the need for a "generational change" in American politics, is plainly trying to do the same thing - and doing it in a way that the Clintons can hardly criticize. That age gap? Also 23 years.
"I do feel pressure. I'm rooting for her, obviously," McKinnon said, adding that the maniacal portrayal of Clinton seen in recent episodes comes from the writers' room.
"It's a combination of the writers' take on her but also this contrast between a woman so driven and hardened by her experiences — She needs this! The country needs this! — and this sweetie granny from the Midwest," she said. "The juxtaposition."
Fellow comedian Amy Schumer jumped in to say that Clinton is a "laugher" and "the coolest."
"I'd be nervous to meet her," McKinnon said. "I find her so resplendent."
In a speech today in South Carolina, Hillary Clinton said that all the male presidents get white hair in the White House. But that won't be happening to her, since she colors her hair.
"All our presidents come into office looking so vigorous. Think about what they looked like on Inauguration Day, and then we watch them. They grow grayer and grayer, and by the time they leave, they are as white as the building they live in. Now, let me tell you. I am aware I may not be the youngest candidate in this race, but I have one big advantage: I've been coloring my hair for years," she said to laughter.
"So you are not going to see me turn white in the White House."
Over the last few years, the gay marriage movement has transformed from "equality for all" to "bake me a cake." As it picks up steam, the movement looks more and more totalitarian, both at home and abroad. Witness the latest news from the Great White North:
When Nicole White and Pam Renouf went looking for engagement rings a few months ago, the pair couldn't find anything they liked. The couple was eventually referred to Today's Jewelers in the Mount Pearl area because the store offers custom-made rings.
White and Renouf visited the store and later gave specifications and a price range for potential rings.
"They were great to work with. They seemed to have no issues. They knew the two of us were a same-sex couple," White said.
"I referred some of my friends to them, just because I did get some good customer service and they had good prices."
That was before one friend went in to purchase a ring for his girlfriend_and instead found a distressing sign.
It reads: "The sanctity of marriage is under attack. Let's keep marriage between a man and a woman.”
Oh no. I bet you can see where this is going:
The friend took a picture of the poster, which made its way back to White. "I had no idea about the sign up until that point," she said.
"It was really upsetting. Really sad, because we already had money down on [the rings], and they're displaying how much they are against gays, and how they think marriage should be between a man and a woman."
The couple went to the store the following day, and asked about the sign.
"They just said that that's their beliefs, and they think they can put up whatever they want. I just said it was very disrespectful, it's very unprofessional and I wanted a refund," White said.
"I have no issues with them believing in what they believe in. I think everyone's entitled to their own opinion. But I don't think they should put their personal beliefs inside their business."
White and Renouf hope to get a refund when the man who sold them the rings returns to town next month_but it's not guaranteed.
White said the rings were meant to be a symbol of love, but now the bands seem tainted.
"I think every time I look at that ring, I'll probably think of what we just went through," White said.
"How much they're against gays." "Disrespectful" and "unprofessional." "What we went through." What they went through? It's a testament to how bountiful and decadent Western civilization has become that people with such tender, delicate sensibilities are able to somehow make their way in the world.
Hillary Rodham Clinton, who was born in Illinois and represented New York in the U.S. Senate, has brought back her Southern accent for her speech today in South Carolina:
The twang today was unmistakable.
Clinton was first lady of Arkansas when her husband was governor. It was there she appears to have first developed a Southern accent. That accent, however, quickly faded when she became first lady of the United States.
After Chinese state media warned that war with the United States may be “inevitable,” Beijing has published a policy paper detailing how the military will shift its focus from land and coastlines to the open seas. China’s State Council released a white paper today that criticizes “external countries…busy meddling in South China Sea affairs” and sets out an “active defense” military strategy for the country.
Tensions are rising as:
The US has been calling on China to halt the construction of entire islands with ports, army barracks and at least one air strip near the Spratly Islands. The area—one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes and home to fertile fishing grounds as well as possibly oil and gas—is the focus of overlapping claims by China, the Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam, Taiwan, and Brunei.
So the Chinese policy paper asserts that:
"….the People’s Liberation Army Navy will expand its defense perimeter to include “open seas protection.” The air force will also expand its focus to include offensive as well as defensive military capabilities.
“We will not attack unless we are attacked, but we will surely counterattack if attacked,” the paper said.
Comforting to know, but meanwhile:
The US and other states are preparing for any potential confrontation. Southeast Asian countries are building up their navies and coastguards—defense spending in the region is expected to reach $52 billion by 2020, up from a projected $42 billion this year, IHS Janes Defence has said.