- Tim Arango writes for The New York Times that Iran stepped into the void the U.S. created in Iraq:
When the United States invaded Iraq 14 years ago to topple Saddam Hussein, it saw Iraq as a potential cornerstone of a democratic and Western-facing Middle East, and vast amounts of blood and treasure — about 4,500 American lives lost, more than $1 trillion spent — were poured into the cause.
From Day 1, Iran saw something else: a chance to make a client state of Iraq, a former enemy against which it fought a war in the 1980s so brutal, with chemical weapons and trench warfare, that historians look to World War I for analogies. If it succeeded, Iraq would never again pose a threat, and it could serve as a jumping-off point to spread Iranian influence around the region.
In that contest, Iran won, and the United States lost.
Perhaps most crucial, Parliament passed a law last year that effectively made the constellation of Shiite militias a permanent fixture of Iraq’s security forces. This ensures Iraqi funding for the groups while effectively maintaining Iran’s control over some of the most powerful units.
Now, with new parliamentary elections on the horizon, Shiite militias have begun organizing themselves politically for a contest that could secure even more dominance for Iran over Iraq’s political system.
Israel’s government opposes the ceasefire the U.S. and Russia implemented in southern Syria because it empowers Iran.
Among this weekend’s shooting victims in Chicago: an anti-violence activist named William Cooper. A nine year old boy died in a shooting this weekend, too.
Four Pakistani soldiers died when Indian forces shelled their vehicle in Kashmir.
Two Chinese coast guard ships entered Japanese waters near two islands off Kyushu.
- A C–130 crashed in Mississippi, killing five people. It’s not clear if it was a U.S. Air Force plane or a National Guard plane.
- A U.S. Army soldier named Ikaika Kang was arrested and charged with providing material support to ISIS.
- The Trump administration is continuing an Obama administration policy of illegally routing ObamaCare tax revenues to insurance companies ahead of the Treasury:
In addition to paying insurers up to $20 billion—repeat, $20 billion—between 2014 and 2016, the law also required those assessments on employers to fund $5 billion in payments to the Treasury, offsetting the cost of another Obamacare program. For whatever reason, the employer assessments the past three years have not yielded the $25 billion needed to fund $20 billion in payments to insurers, plus the $5 billion in payments to the Treasury. In the event of such a circumstance, the law states that the Treasury should be paid before health insurers.
So what did the Obama administration do? You guessed it. They paid health insurers first, and gave the Treasury—taxpayers like you and me—the shaft.
So, it seems, has the new administration. The report on reinsurance included not a word about making payments to the Treasury Department, reimbursing taxpayers the billions they are owed under the law. Nor did the report mention potential actions to sue health insurers to reclaim funds they received that are rightly owed to the U.S. Treasury.
- Mitch McConnell plans to bring TrumpCare up for a vote in the Senate next week, and the bill will reportedly lack the Cruz-Lee Consumer Freedom Amendment that would allow insurance companies to sell policies that don’t comply with ObamaCare regulations.
- Mitch McConnell is using his super PAC and companion 501(c)4 group to defeat House Freedom Caucus member Mo Brooks in Alabama’s special election for U.S. Senate. McConnell favors Luther Strange, who was appointed to the seat but faces a contentious primary election to keep it.
- The Hill reported that James Comey’s memos about his conversations with Donald Trump are government property and half of them contain classified information. This implies that Comey may have leaked classified information, which could put him in the company of Hillary Clinton and David Petraeus.
- A new peer-reviewed study indicates that “‘nearly all’ of the warming shown in current temperature datasets from NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Met Office in the United Kingdom are the result of adjustments made to the datasets after temperatures were recorded.”
“The conclusive findings of this research are that the three GAST data sets are not a valid representation of reality,” the authors wrote. “In fact, the magnitude of their historical data adjustments, that removed their cyclical temperature patterns, are totally inconsistent with published and credible U.S. and other temperature data. Thus, it is impossible to conclude from the three published GAST data sets that recent years have been the warmest ever — despite current claims of record setting warming.”
“Nearly all of the warming they are now showing are in the adjustments,” meteorologist Joe D’Aleo, who co-authored the study, said to the Daily Caller News Foundation. “Each dataset pushed down the 1940s warming and pushed up the current warming.”
- Luma Simms writes that Islamic activist Linda Sarsour is “inciting sedition from Muslims in America”:
I am a Christian immigrant from Iraq. We know what Muslim agitation and radicalization looks like and where it leads. Sarsour knew full well how what she said would affect the particular community she was speaking to. This was no women’s march, this is a talk to the Muslim community, in which she chastises those who would accept our government peacefully.
Underlying this entire speech is a fundamental assumption: The American government is oppressive and it is our duty to resist and fight against it. Anyone inside and outside the Muslim community who assimilates, who sides with American government, is an oppressor and should be resisted. This is warfare mentality; it is agitation and incitement. But will the Muslim community heed Sarsour?
- Mike Newall wrote a fascinating account of Philadelphia’s shuttered Ascension of Our Lord cathedral, which is now a shooting gallery for heroin users:
So Father Murphy and Sister Raymond walked the few blocks to the church that long was the jewel of the neighborhood, until it wasn’t. They stepped through a window, glass crunching underneath their feet.
In the half-light, they could make out thin forms. Some shot heroin in the pews, some laid half-naked on mattresses. Others stumbled past in their stupor, not noticing the priest and nun in their presence.
Father Murphy did all he could think to do. He began to bless them.
- Illinois’ first budget in two years is full of holes:
To address the state’s nearly $15 billion in unpaid bills, Illinois depends heavily on borrowing. Lawmakers approved $6 billion of 12-year bonds to raise money for repayments. But State Representative Greg Harris, the House Democrats’ point person on the budget, has acknowledged there is only enough revenue to support half of that borrowing amount.
Illinois will also borrow up to $1.2 billion from various state accounts that have accumulated cash for specific purposes, while “sweeping” cash from other accounts –a government version of looking under couch cushions that is expected to yield $300 million.
Illinois’ $130 billion pension liability is one of the largest in the nation, and the new budget takes only small steps to address the structural underfunding of Illinois’ five retirement systems.
- Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared victory over ISIS in Mosul.
- Siemens said two of its electricity-generating gas turbines were moved “against its will” from Russia to Crimea. Siemens claims that it will “initiate criminal charges against the responsible individuals,” but it’s not clear how you do that in Russia.
- North Korea’s latest intercontinental ballistic missile can reach Australia, and they don’t have a missile defense system.
- Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Iraqi Kurds shouldn’t hold a referendum on independence.
- On Sunday, Turkey’s Republican People’s Party (CHP) staged a huge protest against Erdogan in a suburb of Istanbul.
- Israel’s head of military intelligence, Major General Herzi Halevi, confirmed that the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps is building advanced missile manufacturing facilities in Lebanon. Hezbollah would use these missiles in its next war with Israel, and if they have enough of them they could overwhelm Israel’s missile defense systems.
- The deputy head of China’s state asset manager, Zhang Xiwu, was arrested on corruption charges. China’s Assets Supervision and Administration Commission is the world’s largest controlling company.
There is more than meets the eye to the case of Zhang Xiwu, who once regulated more than 150 Chinese companies and their one trillion dollars in assets. Zhang is the latest crony of Zeng Qinghong, the former Chinese Communist Party vice-chair and number two member of an influential political faction, to run into trouble in recent months, and Zhang’s fall suggests that a case is being built against his political patron.
- Julie Borowski believes the “Fight for 15” will be a huge help to introverted consumers:
- Matthew Continetti liked the speech Donald Trump delivered in Poland:
Western civilization faces threats. Foremost among them is the heir to Nazism and communism. The “oppressive ideology” of radical Islam, Trump said, “seeks to export terrorism and extremism all around the globe.” There are also “powers that seek to test our will, undermine our confidence, and challenge our interests”—namely Russia but also, farther away, China and North Korea. Finally, there is “the steady creep of government bureaucracy that drains the vitality and wealth of the people” and overrides their sovereignty.
These are more than remarks to the Poles. They describe a world of sovereign nation-states, governed by peoples proud of their histories and confident in their futures, united in common cause against the enemies of civilization, of freedom and human dignity. And Trump presents a challenge in the form of a question: Are we still made of that stuff that populated a continent, became an industrial powerhouse, went to the moon, and defeated the Kaiser and the Führer and the Emperor and the Politburo? I hope the answer is yes.
- Kevin Williamson does not like Donald Trump’s North Korean policy:
The upside of having Donald Trump as commander in chief is that he is a coward, and the downside is that he is a fool. His instinct will be to pursue the least-risky course of action, which may be prudent, but he is so willfully ignorant that he cannot possibly understand the risks associated with the channels of action open to him, including the risks of inaction.
The ironic thing is that Trump is trying to outsource this work to China.
- A former prisoner at Club Gitmo who killed an American soldier in Afghanistan, Omar Khadr, will receive $8 million from the Canadian government:
Omar Khadr has been tremendously lucky, all things considered. In July 2002, he killed U.S. Army Sergeant First Class Christopher Speer, a medic, with a hand grenade. The grenade also injured Sergeant Layne Morris, costing him an eye. Luckily for Khadr, however, another American medic saved Khadr’s life — all while working next to the corpse of his slain comrade.
Now, just 15 years later, Khadr, a Canadian citizen, will be awarded roughly $8 million ($10.5 million in Canadian dollars) and an apology from the Canadian government in a settlement negotiated with Khadr’s lawyers. The money is in compensation for Canada’s cooperation with his American interrogators at Guantanamo Bay. Sergeant Layne and Sergeant Speer’s widow, Tabitha, have yet to receive a penny.
The head of the federal Office of Government Ethics, Walter Schaub, resigned. Schaub, a Democrat donor, publicly criticized Donald Trump, and even used Twitter as his channel for delivering that criticism.
The Illinois legislature overrode Governor Bruce Rauner’s veto of the state budget. The budget includes a 32% tax increase, yet it doesn’t balance.
- Mark Steyn writes that bollards are proliferating as a response to terrorist attacks, both in the physical world and in people’s minds:
So in what sense is Manchester “united”? Zamzam Ibrahim’s view of where she wants British society to wind up is no different in its essentials from the bomber’s. They’re both about the same age; the main difference is that Salman Abedi is in a zillion pieces being scraped off the pavement, and Zamzam Ibrahim will wind up in the House of Lords. And in a democratic age what matters is the disposition of the large number of people who stick around rather than the small number who self-detonate. If the issue is terrorism, Miss Ibrahaim is not a problem. If the issue is whether formerly cohesive societies can survive the mass importation of ever more people with a fundamentally different and incompatible vision of how that society should be run, she is in fact symptomatic of a much bigger problem than the occasional suicide-bomber or van-renter. As I put it the other day, after congratulating that Canadian sniper on his new world record for longest confirmed kill, what’s the point of picking off an ISIS barbarian at 3,450 meters halfway round the globe if back on the home front you keep importing thousands upon thousands who share his world view? Or at any rate incline more to his than to yours, at least when it comes to legal systems, the segregation of the sexes, etc.
- Donald Trump’s Twitter feed is a lost opportunity to advance his agenda:
In case you were distracted by something like the Senate health-care fight, the White House just finished a run of four policy-themed weeks (infrastructure, workforce development, tech and energy). This was designed to be the month the White House methodically forced the media and the public to reckon with its policy ideas, all focused on shaping the domestic policy of the future.
Axios’ Shane Savitsky counted every tweet on @realDonaldTrump during that month and found that of 121 tweets by Trump himself, three related to these policy topics. If you include tweets on his feed that are clearly by aides (include video, pics, hashtags, etc.), it’s 14 for 195.
- A federal district court judge issued an injunction blocking enforcement of California’s gun magazine confiscation law. California passed a law making it illegal to possess a gun magazine holding more than 10 rounds.
Illinois’ Department of Child and Family Services is requiring all people associated with the state’s child welfare system to enthusiastically buy into a kid’s self-proclaimed gender identity:
Appendix K is extensive, but the upshot is simple: anybody who comes into contact with a self-identified transgender youth via the child welfare system must support and affirm the child’s chosen gender identity, at all times and without reserve. These kids must be protected from any kind of scrutiny or skepticism regarding their gender identity, or any situation that might cause them discomfort over their gender expression.
Foster home or facility placements for children that don’t offer unconditional support for all gender identity claims shall be denied contracts. Any DCFS staff who are insufficiently enthusiastic about this approach must be re-educated and, if this is unsuccessful, dismissed.
- Nolan Peterson’s latest dispatch from Ukraine:
Prior to my arrival in 2014, I had watched a YouTube video of what had happened at this place during the revolution. The sky was gray in the video, and the trees were bare.
Snipers hidden in the surrounding rooftops gunned down the protesters one by one as they ascended the street. Some dropped dead in a flash. Others folded to the ground like in slow motion. Eventually, the dead clustered where they had collectively sought shelter in their final moments.
The protesters were unarmed. They wore motorcycle helmets and wielded shields fashioned out of the top of garbage bins and road signs for protection. As sniper fire cut down one wave of protesters at the top of the hill, their comrades would rush up to drag the dead and wounded away.
After depositing the casualties in the nearby Hotel Ukraine lobby, the survivors did something amazing. They turned around and went back.
- French President Emmanuel Macron summoned parliament to the Palace of Versailles and declared that he wants to reduce the number of seats in parliament by one-third. If parliament doesn’t quickly go along with his plan, Macron threatened a popular referendum.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party was clobbered in the Tokyo Metropolitan assembly election. The next election for the House of Representatives is scheduled for December 2018, so Abe and his party have time to stage a comeback, but they’re in a hole now.
There were 23 sexual assaults during a music festival in Norrkoping, Sweden, prompting organizers to cancel next year’s event.
A suicide bomber dressed as a veiled woman killed 14 people at a camp for displaced people west of Baghdad; thirteen people were injured. ISIS claimed responsibility.
Leaders of Afghanistan’s three largest ethnic minority political parties met in Turkey and issued a demand for reforms that Afghan President Ashraf Ghani must implement — if he doesn’t, they’re threatening mass protests. All of the leaders issuing these demands hold senior positions in Ghani’s government.
The group, calling itself the Coalition for the Salvation of Afghanistan, said their aim was to “prevent the collapse of the government, avoid chaos and restore public trust.” They demanded that Ghani devolve power to cabinet ministries and provinces, stop “overreaching” his authority for personal motives, schedule long-promised elections, and obey the constitution and the law. It also called for Dostom’s full authority to be restored and a government attack against him to be investigated.
A variety of political figures and observers reacted skeptically to the news, suggesting that the ethnic minority leaders, all of whom have had differences with Ghani while in office, may be less interested in government reforms than in using a period of public anger and unhappiness to press for political advantage. They also noted that Ghani, an ethnic Pashtun, has been criticized for concentrating power in the hands of his ethnic and tribal allies and marginalizing other ethnic groups.
- Russian intelligence agents working under diplomatic cover appear to be mapping America’s telecommunications infrastructure. It’s unlikely they’re planning to improve that infrastructure.
The Washington Post reports that there are 559 “key” executive branch positions requiring Senate confirmation, and the Trump administration has not nominated anyone for 442 of them. So far only 39 people have been confirmed for those 559 positions.
The New York Times outed the CIA’s top spy targeting Iran. Here’s what the Times wrote to justify this:
The C.I.A. declined to comment on Mr. D’Andrea’s role, saying it does not discuss the identities or work of clandestine officials. The officials spoke only on the condition of anonymity because Mr. D’Andrea remains undercover, as do many senior officials based at the agency’s headquarters in Langley, Va. Mr. Eatinger did not use his name. The New York Times is naming Mr. D’Andrea because his identity was previously published in news reports, and he is leading an important new administration initiative against Iran.
Bre Payton writes:
But the paper’s real reason for outing D’Andrea, who was depicted as a character known only as “The Wolf” in the film “Zero Dark Thirty,” is that he’s an Iran hawk likely to oppose the previous administration’s attempts to normalize the nation by giving it billions of dollars, trading it terrorists for hostages, and blessing its nuclear program.
- Keith Hennessey believes the Paris climate agreement is completely meaningless regardless of whether the U.S. has signed onto it.
Congressman Ed Royce asked the State Department to kill a weapons deal whereby Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s bodyguards would buy $1.2 million worth of pistols and ammunition. Royce is the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and he’s requesting this in response to Erdogan’s goons beating up protesters outside the Turkish embassy in Washington, D.C.
Turkey arrested the spokesman of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), Osman Baydemir, for insulting police. He was released after giving testimony at a local prosecutor’s office.
The father of NBA player Enes Kanter was arrested by Turkish authorities. Kanter publicly supports Erdogan opponent Fethullah Gulen, and his father is a university professor.
The danger in appointing a special counsel to lead an investigation is that he will go wandering off in other directions he considers interesting. Robert Mueller was hired to investigate possible ties between the Trump campaign and Russia, but now he’s reportedly investigating the relationship between Michael Flynn and Turkey.
The U.S. and Russia are reportedly discussing the creation of a safe zone in southern Syria. The U.S. wants to keep Iranian and pro-Assad militias away from Syria’s borders with Israel and Jordan.
Illinois still doesn’t have a state budget, so Moody’s and S&P downgraded the state’s bond rating to one step above junk, the lowest ever for a state. David Burge’s take on the situation in Illinois:
Any high income Illinois taxpayer who doesn't have plans to leave is either stupid or in on the scam.—
David Burge (@iowahawkblog) June 01, 2017
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said his department has submitted a formal request to Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jianhua to acquire Precision Guided Missiles (PGM), speed boats and drones to counter a rising terror threat in its volatile southern region, exemplified by the Marawi battle that has already claimed more than 100 lives.
An idiot tried to rob a casino in Manila, setting fires as a distraction. That fire killed 35 people, and the robber ended up committing suicide. ISIS claimed credit for the “attack.”
Venezuela’s President Nicholas Maduro announced a referendum on a plan to create a super-legislature that could re-write the country’s constitution.
- Today is San Jacinto Day, the day Texas won its independence from Mexico in 1836.
An American special forces raid in Syria killed Abdurakhmon Uzbeki, a close associate of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al Baghdadi. Uzbeki facilitated the attack on the Reina nightclub in Istanbul, among other exploits.
The U.S. Navy lost a F/A–18 off the USS Carl Vinson when a pilot ejected on approach to the carrier. The pilot was recovered by helicopter and is OK.
A federal appeals judge refused an IRS effort to quash discovery in True the Vote’s lawsuit against the agency. Depositions and document discovery could be interesting in this case.
Senator Ron Johnson wants to know why the FBI did nothing when they had an informant mere feet away from the two men who attacked the “draw Mohammad” event in Garland, Texas. The informant had been working with the shooters for some time, and the FBI failed to stop the attack.
The Food and Drug Administration has made approval of new medical equipment so difficult that people are dying for stupid reasons. This includes babies in neonatal intensive care units who would benefit from connecting oxygen monitors to respirators, an obvious thing to do.
The city of Chicago is spending $3 million to issue municipal IDs to illegal aliens and homeless people.
Nine people have died in the latest wave of protests in Venezuela. Another eight people managed to electrocute themselves when they tried to loot a bakery. A woman was recording soldiers shooting protesters when she was shot herself:
Yusnaby Pérez (@Yusnaby) April 20, 2017
Turkish opposition parties filed a lawsuit challenging election officials’ decision to accept ballot papers that did not bear the agency’s stamp during this week’s referendum. This would make it easy for someone to print as many ballot papers as they wanted to and stuff them into ballot boxes.
The Taliban launched a large assault on an Afghan Army headquarters facility in Balkh province. At least 50 Afghan soldiers were killed.
Roughly 10 Taliban fighters and suicide bombers, disguised as Afghan soldiers, opened fire on Afghan troops in the facility’s dining hall and inside the base’s mosque, with two of the bombers detonating their ordnance inside both facilities, Agence France-Presse reports.
Afghan special forces intervened and brought to an end the nearly seven-hour firefight at the base, Gen. John Nicholson, head of all U.S. forces in the country, said in a statement.
- Judicial Watch used a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit to prove that the FBI was surveilling Anwar al-Awlaki on the same day he spoke at a Department of Defense luncheon to promote post–9/11 outreach to Muslims.
Kori Ali Muhammad murdered three white men in Fresno, California and yelled “Allahu Akbar” when police tackled him.
[Fresno Police Chief Jerry] Dyer said at a news conference Muhammad has made posts against white people and the government on his Facebook page. All of the victims of the shooting rampage on Tuesday were white men, according to police.
Muhammad is suspected of killing a security guard at a Motel 6 last week.
U.S. Air Force F–22s intercepted two Russian Tu–95 bombers off Alaska’s coast.
Reports that the USS Carl Vinson is headed to South Korea were wrong — it’s headed toward the Indian Ocean.
Kevin Williamson writes about Donald Trump’s recent flip-flops:
Rush Limbaugh was right in his way: What Trump said during the campaign was, in fact, a load of nonsense deployed for the purposes of steamrolling the other side in difficult and delicate negotiations. What Limbaugh and the rest of Trump’s admirers missed is that it wasn’t NATO and the Chi-Coms and Enrique Peña Nieto on the other side of the negotiating table getting hornswoggled.
It was them.
- An effort to force California to secede via a ballot initiative died when the man responsible for it decided he wants to live permanently in Russia.
Building after building is vacant. Litter is everywhere. Businesses are shuttered. Modest homes are abandoned, and so are a couple of the housing projects.
The community’s connection with hope is fragile.
And the saddest thing is that none of this is new: Ford Heights, located 25 miles from Chicago, has been fighting this battle for decades. In 1987, it was named the poorest suburb in America. A study by the Great Cities Institute at the University of Illinois at Chicago showed that in 2014, Ford Heights’ jobless rate exceeded 60 percent for 20- to 24-year-olds.
- Jeanna Smialek writes “Young White America Is Haunted by a Crisis of Despair”:
[Princeton professors] Case and Deaton have a theory for why mortality has risen for less-educated whites. For all the debate over whether college is worthwhile, high school graduates who go straight into the workforce have higher unemployment, weaker wage growth, and less chance of marrying than their predecessors and educated peers. Community supports have broken down, and as disadvantage snowballs, premature deaths rise.
Those problems could intensify for the next generation that reaches middle age. Many millennials, born after 1980, joined the workforce during the Great Recession, so they faced low starting salaries and tough job prospects. And they’re saddled with student debt. Still, almost two-thirds lack a bachelor’s degree, which in today’s economy is a near-prerequisite for jobs that provide higher wages and benefits.
Charlottesville, Virginia’s city council decided to sell the city’s statue of Robert E. Lee rather than move it from a park near the center of town. The buyer will be responsible for moving the statue.
British Prime Minister Theresa May called an election on June 8 in the hope of getting a parliamentary majority that’s more favorable to Brexit.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan celebrated his referendum win by arresting more journalists.
Gunmen killed an Egyptian police officer and wounded four others near St. Catherine’s Monastery in the Sinai Peninsula. St. Catherine’s is a Christian monastery founded in the 6th century.
The salaries of the executives at China’s largest state-owned businesses will be set according to their ability to build up the Communist Party.