Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Trump finally declares that Antisemitism and Racism must stop - but mentions no plan of action

President Donald Trump pledged Tuesday to combat bigotry and unite what he called a "divided country" after wrapping up his first visit to the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

"Today and every day of my presidency I pledge to do everything I can to continue that promise of freedom for African-Americans and for every American," Trump said, calling his tour "a meaningful reminder of why we have to fight bigotry and hatred and intolerance."

"We're going to bring this country together. We have a divided country that's been divided for many, many years, but we're going to bring it together," he added.

Trump also took the opportunity to address the recent spate of anti-Semitic incidents, heeding calls from Jewish leaders and Democrats to speak out.

He called the recent threats against Jewish community centers "horrible and painful and a very sad reminder of the work that must still be one to root out hate and prejudice."

He was joined at the museum by daughter, Ivanka Trump, Housing and Urban Development nominee Ben Carson and his wife, Candy Carson, Sen. Tim Scott, R-South Carolina, and presidential aide and former "Apprentice" contestant Omarosa Manigault, among others. [...]

Last week, Trump again drew questions as he touted his outreach efforts, claiming that Rep. Elijah Cummings, a Democratic member of the Congressional Black Caucus, canceled a meeting with Trump because it would be "bad politics."

Cummings said the story was completely false and that the Congressional Black Caucus had tried to set up a meeting with Trump through the White House without success.

Trump also drew criticism when during his news conference last week asked April Ryan, a veteran White House reporter who is black, if she would help set up a meeting with the black caucus, which Ryan is not affiliated with.[...]

But Trump's black outreach often came under fierce criticism during the campaign.

With the exception of two visits to predominantly black churches -- one in Michigan and one in Ohio -- Trump largely delivered his message of outreach to African-Americans before overwhelmingly white audiences at political rallies around the country.

His description of African-American life was also often exceedingly dark and broad-brushed, as he equated the lives of poor African-Americans living in inner cities with those of all African-Americans, most of whom do not live in dire straits.

In a frequent refrain, Trump argued that African-Americans lived in conditions worse than those in many foreign war zones and pointedly called on those in the typically Democratic voting bloc to take a risk and support him.

"What the hell do you have to lose?" Trump often asked.

Greenblatt-Kaminetsky Heter: Does Aharon Friedman need Heter Meah Rabbonim to remarry?

This saga has continued for way too long. At this point Tamar has claimed to have successfully annulled her marriage to Aharon Friedman and remarried without obtaining a Get. Her major supporters in this perverse and ignorant operation - the Kaminetskys have official declared that the heter to remarry without a Get is invalid. So have the many gedolim and poskim who have been consulted - except for Rabbi Nota Greenblatt who bizarrely clings to the heter he gave without investigating any of the facts - solely because Rabbi Kaminetsky asked him to give the heter. And now even though Rabbi Kaminetsky acknowledges he was wrong - Rabbi Greenblatt refuses to retract the heter.

The Baltimore Beis Din - the only one authorized by Aharon and Tamar  - has consistently said that Aharon has no need to give a Get to Tamar. They also have stated that Aharon has faithfully obeyed all their requests as opposed to Tamar who left the BBD and went to civil court to obtain what she wanted. She clearly became a moredes by deserting Aharon and taking their child without his permission to her parents in Philadelphia. She is clearly in violation of halacha by going to secular court without the permission of the Baltimore Beis Din. 

She and her family and supporters have waged a nasty publicity battle against Aharon - in the media, with public protests outside Aharon's home as well as his relatives. They put a large ad in the Washington subway.They tried getting him fired from his job with a congressman. They succeeded in getting him and his daughter ostracized by the community - including preventing from going to shul. They even went so far as hiring goons to beat up Aharon. All of this pressure is against the clear statement of the Baltimore Beis Din - the one Tamar agreed would be in charge of the divorce proceedings.. If in fact Aharon had been bullied into submission and given a Get - it would have posul as a Get Me'usa.

Given the above - is there any halachic reason that Aharon Friedman is not free to remarry? Does he need a heter meah rabbonim? [to be continued]

Rabbi Yakov Horowitz: Mr. Trump; Please Find Your Voice

Dear President Trump:

Your silence in the face of rising anti-Semitism is deafening. As the leader of our great country, and the free world, you do not have the luxury of sitting this one out.

There are those who will say that actions speak louder than words and that your full-throated support of Israel, for which I have publicly expressed my gratitude more than once, is more important than anything you may or may not say. I beg to differ.

Silence is open to interpretation. And words matter.

When you change the subject or are offended by questions about rising anti-Semitism in back-to-back press conferences, there are those who will understand that to be a wink and a nod to that behavior.

When you say offensive and hurtful things about your opponents on the campaign trail and especially when you say negative things about specific groups of people at your rallies and on your twitter feed, that creates a culture of divisiveness and, indeed, hate.

I won't join those who attribute sinister motives to your silence on anti-semitism. That would be unfair.

But I do respectfully ask you to please speak up clearly and forcefully against anti-Semitism and hate of any kind.

(Rabbi) Yakov Horowitz

Adam viewed Eve as his equal and that led to eating from the Tree of Knowledge

Meshvas Nefesh (Bereishis 3:16): And now it remains for me to explain the original thought of creation that man and women were created equal, on the same level and with two faces. Similarly we see that the sun and the moon go through the same window and the moon claimed that it wanted to go into another doman that it wasn’t fit for. Consequently the moon was reduced in size to be subordinate to the sun so that it can only shine when facing the sun. As our Sages note that the sun has never seen the diminishing of the moon because the part which appears to be diminishing is because it is not receiving the light of the sun. So also originally the male and female were created to work the Garden of Eden and to guard it. The job of working it was given to Adam and the guarding was given to Eve. Thus anything to do with the garden was Adam’s responsiblity and anything related to guarding it was Eve’s responsibility. Thus they were equal in level as two friends. And it is well known that two friends who have a close relationship and are equal in level – if they want to have a peaceful relationship it is necessary for each to nullify his own view for that of his fellow. Thus we see that Eve violated two aspects of their agreement. First of all she violated her responsibility to guard the Garden when she allowed the Serpent to enter it. Second not only did she not guard the Garden she also violated the Divine command not to eat from the Tree of Knowledge and furthermore she pressured her husband to also eat from it because if he resisted her request he was afraid that it would reduce the peace between them. And this is exactly how Adam defended himself against G-d’s accusations. He replied, The woman which You gave me... i.e., “who is equal to me” as I explained before. We see this from the fact that the gematria of “the woman” is the same as “man”. Furthermore Adam said “who You gave with me” i.e., she is equal to me and he didn’t says “who You gave to me”. In other words since You have given her to me to be my companion and that we are both equal in level, I listened to her and nullified my wishes before hers for the sake of peace. We know that G-d Himself allows His name to be erased for the sake of peace in the case of the Sotah. And because of this perception of Eve brought about destruction since she in fact thought she was equal to Adam - she was punished measure for measure that the man should rule over the woman. This is why the man acquires the woman in marriage as it says, “When a man acquires a woman” and it doesn’t say when a woman acquires a man. As is know that whoever acquires something is in control of the purchase. Similarly by divorce, the man is in full control as it says, “And he writes the documents of divorce...” and it doesn’t say that she writes a document of divorce for him.

Tzaror Hamor (Bereishis 3:12): And then Adam replied with an answer that was worse than the first. And he said, The woman which You gave to be with me. Adam was thus equating the slave to the master. Is this the reply of a wise person for whom the King decreed upon him not to eat something specific and he ate it and was now justifying his actions by saying that another slave commanded me to eat it?! Furthermore he is continuing his rebellion and his not showing any regret that he will no longer sin. Instead he is saying I am now eating it and not I ate it – but I am continuing to eat what is left. Therefore he received a double punishment. In contrast the woman replied honestly that the Serpent seduced me to sin because of my weak mind.

Rav S. R. Hirsch (Bereishis 2:18): In the same way as Creation tarried and waited its completions before Man was created and G-d had announced to it this crown of His creation, so was the case here before the creation of Woman. Man was there and all about him all the beauties of paradise blossomed, and still G-d did not pronounce His טוב . It does not say לא טוב לאדם היותו לבודו but it was not good for man to be alone but לא טוב היות האדם לבדו this is not good, Man being alone as long as Man stands alone it is altogether not yet good, the goal of perfection which the world is to attain through him will never be reached as long as he stands alone. The completion of the “good” was not Man but Woman and it was only brought to mankind and the world by Woman. And this fact has been so deeply appreciated by those “orientals” the “rabbis” that they teach in the Talmud only through his wife does a man become a “Man” only husband and wife together are Adam. A task which is too great for one person must be dibvided and just for the accomplishment of the whole of Man’s mission, G-d created woman for Man. And this Woman is to be עזר כנגדו Even looked at quite superficially this designation expresses the whole dignity of Woman, It contains not the slightest reference to any sexual relationship she is placed purely in the realm of Man’s work, it ws there that she was missing; she is to be עזר כנגדו And עזר כנגדו certainly expresses no idea of subordination but rather compelte equality and on a footing of equal independence. Woman stands to Man כנגדו on one line at his side.

Rav S. R. Hirsch (Bereishis 3:12): The woman which You gave to be with me. You wanted that she be equal with me and You commanded that we are to form not only one heart and one soul but also “one flesh”. As one body to fulfill the spiritual desires and wants and that they should be united in will and deed. And this woman – she gave it to me to and her will was decisive for me. Notice that Adam is not claiming that his lust overcame him or that the woman had led him astray. His defense was very simple that he did what his wife wanted.; So here is revealed the equality and harmony which was originally supposed to be between man and his wife.

Scores of headstones vandalized at St. Louis Jewish cemetery. Jewish centers threatened across country.- Don't worry! Trump has reassured us saying he had the biggest electoral win since Reagan

The gravesites of more than 170 Jews were vandalized at a cemetery in University City, Mo., sometime over the weekend.

A groundskeeper arrived Sunday morning to find gravestones overturned across a wide section of the cemetery, the oldest section as it happens, bearing the remains of Jews who died between the late 1800s and the mid-20th century, Anita Feigenbaum, director of the Chesed Shel Emeth Society, told The Washington Post in a phone interview.

She called it a “horrific act of cowardice,” beyond anything the cemetery had experienced in the past.

University City, a section of St. Louis, is named for its proximity to Washington University.

The cemetery was founded by the Russian Jewish community in St. Louis “to aid all Jews who needed burial whether they had the money or not. To this day that’s what we do. We are not for profit. We help in this horrible time in a person’s life.”

Feigenbaum had not completed counting the number of damaged stones Monday evening but during the day said she had found more than 170. The cemetery holds the remains of more than 20,000, she estimated.

She said she was getting an “outpouring of support from across the United States” with people volunteering to help with repairs and was deeply appreciative. University City police said they were investigating.

On Monday, the Anti-Defamation League reported a wave of bomb threats directed against Jewish Community Centers in multiple states, the fourth series of such threats since the beginning of the year, it said.

“While ADL does not have any information at this time to indicate the presence of any actual bombs at the institutions threatened, the threats themselves are alarming, disruptive and must always be taken seriously.”

Responding to an inquiry from NBC News about the threats, the White House issued a statement saying “Hatred and hate-motivated violence of any kind have no place in a country founded on the promise of individual freedom. The President has made it abundantly clear that these actions are unacceptable.”[...]

The exchanges were noteworthy in part because of President Trump’s unusual response at a news conference Friday to a question about the rise in anti-Semitic incidents around the country. Rather than condemning them, Trump responded by talking about his electoral college victory, describing the question as unfair.

Breitbart news editor and conservative provocateur - Milo Yiannopoulos Is Disinvited From Conservative Conference

The organizers of the Conservative Political Action Conference bowed to intense pressure on Monday and rescinded their invitation to Milo Yiannopoulos, the provocateur and Breitbart News editor, after the publication of a video in which he condones sexual relations with boys as young as 13 and laughs off the seriousness of pedophilia by Roman Catholic priests.

The episode, which unraveled quickly online over the weekend, put many conservatives in a deeply uncomfortable position. They have long defended Mr. Yiannopoulos’s attention-seeking stunts and racially charged antics on the grounds that the left had tried to hypocritically censor his right to free speech.

But endorsing pedophilia, it seemed, was more than they could tolerate. The board of the American Conservative Union, which includes veterans of the conservative movement like Grover Norquist and Morton Blackwell, made the decision to revoke Mr. Yiannopoulos’s speaking slot and condemn his comments on Monday.

“We initially extended the invitation knowing that the free speech issue on college campuses is a battlefield where we need brave, conservative standard-bearers,” Matt Schlapp, the chairman of the American Conservative Union, said in a written statement.

Regarding Mr. Yiannopoulos’ comments, Mr. Schlapp called them “disturbing” and said his explanation of them was insufficient.

fter the video leaked on Twitter from a conservative group called the Reagan Battalion, Mr. Yiannopoulos denied that he had ever condoned child sexual abuse, noting that he was a victim himself as he blamed his “British sarcasm” and “deceptive editing” for leading to a misunderstanding.

But in the tape, the fast-talking polemicist is clear that he has no problem with older men abusing children as young as 13, which he then conflates with relationships between older and younger gay men who are of consenting age.

“No no no. You’re misunderstanding what pedophilia means,” Mr. Yiannopoulos says on the tape, in which he is talking to radio hosts in a video chat. “Pedophilia is not a sexual attraction to somebody 13 years old who is sexually mature. Pedophilia is attraction to children who have not reached puberty,” he adds, dismissing the fact that 13 year olds are children.

The notion of consent, he says, is “arbitrary and oppressive.” [...]

Monday, February 20, 2017

Trump Pursues His Attack on Sweden, With Scant Evidence as usual

President Trump escalated his attack on Sweden’s migration policies on Monday, doubling down on his suggestion — based on a Fox News report — that refugees in the Scandinavian country were behind a surge in crime and terrorism.

Mr. Trump set off consternation and ridicule on Saturday when he seemed to falsely imply to an adoring throng at a rally in Florida that a terrorist attack had occurred in Sweden, which has admitted tens of thousands of refugees in recent years.

On Sunday, as questions swirled, a White House spokeswoman, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, said that “he was talking about rising crime and recent incidents in general, not referring to a specific issue.”

Mr. Trump then said on Twitter that he was referring to a Fox News segment about an American filmmaker who argues that the police in Sweden were covering up a migrant-driven crime wave.

Officials in both countries expressed alarm and dismay on Monday at Mr. Trump’s remarks. Senator Bob Casey, a Pennsylvania Democrat, said the president should get his information from intelligence agencies and not from television. The Swedish Embassy in Washington offered the Trump administration a briefing on its immigration policies. Sweden’s prime minister, Stefan Lofven, said he was surprised by Mr. Trump’s comments, and noted that Sweden ranks highly on international comparisons of economic competitiveness, human development and income inequality.

“We have challenges, no doubt about that,” he allowed, adding: “We must all take responsibility for using facts correctly and for verifying anything we spread.”

Yet even before the prime minister spoke, Mr. Trump pursued his attack. On Twitter, he suggested that the news media was covering up problems related to migration in Sweden.

Follow Donald J. Trump Donald J. Trump ✔ @realDonaldTrump
Give the public a break - The FAKE NEWS media is trying to say that large scale immigration in Sweden is working out just beautifully. NOT!

Immigration is, in fact, a hotly debated issue in Sweden, Germany and many other European countries, and a subject of frequent news coverage.

Moreover, statistics in Sweden do not back Mr. Trump’s claims. Preliminary data released last month by Sweden’s crime prevention council found no appreciable increase in crimes from 2015, when the country processed a record 163,000 asylum applications, to 2016. The council did note an increase in assaults and rapes last year, but also recorded a drop in thefts, robberies and drug offenses.

Officials say they have not seen any evidence for the claim, prevalent in right-wing media like Breitbart and Infowars, that migration has driven a surge in crime. The government has not provided a breakdown of crime statistics according to the ethnic or national background of suspects since 2005, though one right-wing party has called on the government to provide updated statistics.

“The general crime rate in Sweden is below the U.S. national average,” the State Department noted last May.

Although terrorism is a concern for Sweden — an Iraqi-born Swede carried out a suicide bombing in central Stockholm in 2010 — the authorities say they are equally worried about racist hate crimes, including attacks on migrants.

Carl Bildt, a former prime minister and foreign minister of Sweden, made a jab at Mr. Trump on Twitter: “Just a piece of friendly advice: when you are in a hole, stop digging.”

A terrorism expert, Magnus Ranstorp, research director of the Center for Asymmetric Threat Studies at the Swedish Defense University in Stockholm, said that Mr. Trump was trying to shift the focus of his comments from asylum seekers and crime to immigration in general. [...]

Another lawmaker, Pernilla Stalhammar, the foreign policy spokeswoman for the Green Party, expressed surprise that Mr. Trump had relied on Fox News for information about Sweden.

“The problem is that the segment had a lot of incorrect information in it,” she said. “There aren’t any no-go zones in Sweden and the number of crimes against individuals is at about the same level as it was.”

She added: “This incident demonstrates the importance of thoroughly critiquing sources to prevent spreading incorrect images that risk fomenting xenophobic sentiments in society. That Sweden is portrayed incorrectly is very serious. We cannot allow reality to be kidnapped by untruths that become true just because they are repeated enough times.” [...]

Critics of Sweden’s migration policies have pointed to a Facebook post on Feb. 3 by a police officer, Peter Springare, who said that migrants were taxing Sweden’s pension, education and health care systems and that migrants were the principal culprits in assaults. Some of them are without papers and cannot be properly prosecuted, he said.

“Half of the suspects we cannot even be sure of because they don’t have any valid papers,” he wrote. “Most often this means they are lying about their country of origin and identity.”

However, other police officers disagree. The Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter on Monday quoted two police officers interviewed by Mr. Horowitz, Anders Goranzon and Jacob Ekstrom, saying that the filmmaker had selectively edited and distorted their comments to prove his thesis in a video he posted on YouTube. They said Mr. Horowitz had asked them about high-crime neighborhoods, and that they did not agree with his argument about the link between migration and crime.

“This is bad journalism,” Mr. Goranzon said. Mr. Horowitz did not respond to a request for comment.

Mr. Lofven, the prime minister, told the newspaper Expressen on Feb. 7 that Mr. Springare was exaggerating. “I have a hard time seeing that 100 percent of the police’s investigative capacity is occupied with crimes perpetrated by immigrants,” he said.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

The Fox News anchor Chris Wallace warns viewers: Trump crossed the line in latest attack on media

Fox News anchor Chris Wallace cautioned his colleagues and the network's viewers Sunday that President Trump's latest attack on the media had gone too far.
“Look, we're big boys. We criticize presidents. They want to criticize us back, that's fine,” Wallace said Sunday morning on “Fox & Friends.” “But when he said that the fake news media is not my enemy, it's the enemy of the American people, I believe that crosses an important line.”
The “Fox and Friends” anchors had shown a clip of Trump recounting that past presidents, including Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln, had fought with the press. They then asked Wallace whether Trump's fraught relationship with the media was a big deal.
In response, Wallace told his colleagues that Jefferson had also once written the following: “And were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.”
Context was important, Wallace said. All presidents fight with the media, but Trump had taken it a step further in making them out to be “the enemy,” he added.
“Yes, presidents have always had — and politicians have always had — problems with the press. They want good press. The press doesn't always give it to them,” Wallace said. “But what Jefferson [was saying] is, despite all of our disputes, that to the functioning of a free and fair democracy, you must have an independent press.”
Trump's contentious relationship with the press has again been in the spotlight in recent days after the president repeatedly attacked the media as “fake news” in several tweets. In one widely shared tweet on Friday, Trump said the media was “not my enemy” but “the enemy of the American People!”[...]
“We can take criticism, but to say we're the enemy of the American people, it really crosses an important line,” Wallace said.
On “Fox & Friends,” host Pete Hegseth countered that perhaps Trump was “taking on the hidden bias” of news outlets that “tell you they're unbiased.”
“Is there something there?” Hegseth asked Wallace. “It’s not about the independent press; it’s about the bias of the press.”
Wallace replied: “I think there's absolutely something there, and if he had said that, you wouldn’t have heard a peep out of me. Lord knows, Barack Obama criticized Fox News. If Donald Trump wants to criticize the New York Times, that’s fine. But it’s different from saying that we are an enemy of the American people. That’s a different thing.”
Wallace finished with a word of warning to those watching who might agree with Trump because he happened to be a president who shared their views.
“And I know there are a lot of [Fox News] listeners out there who are going to reflexively take Donald Trump’s side on this,” he added. “It’s a different thing when it’s a president — because if it’s a president you like trying to talk about the press being the enemy of the people, then it’s going to be a president you don’t like saying the same thing. And that’s very dangerous.” [...]
Wallace pressed Priebus and argued that the president was not referring to individual stories.
“You don’t get to tell us what to do any more than Barack Obama did,” Wallace said after continued arguments with Priebus. “Barack Obama whined about Fox News all the time, but I got to say, he never said that we were an enemy of the people.”
Wallace is not the only high-profile figure to disagree with Trump's declaration about the media. On Sunday, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said he did not have any issues with the press and did not see the media as the enemy.
In an interview on NBC's “Meet the Press” that aired Sunday, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said making moves to shut down a free press was “how dictators get started.”
“In other words, a consolidation of power,” McCain told “Meet the Press” host Chuck Todd from Munich. “When you look at history, the first thing that dictators do is shut down the press. And I'm not saying that President Trump is trying to be a dictator. I'm just saying we need to learn the lessons of history.”
The 80-year-old senator told Todd that a free press was central to a functional democracy, even if news organizations' stories challenged those being held accountable.
“I hate the press. I hate you, especially,” he said to Todd, who laughed. “But the fact is, we need you. We need a free press. We must have it. It's vital.”
“If you want to preserve democracy as we know it, you have to have a free and, many times, adversarial press,” McCain added. “And without it, I am afraid that we would lose so much of our individual liberties over time. That's how dictators get started.”[...]

A new Trump lie: ‘Last Night in Sweden’? Trump’s Remark Baffles a Nation

Swedes reacted with confusion, anger and ridicule on Sunday to a vague remark by President Trump that suggested that something terrible had occurred in their country.

During a campaign-style rally on Saturday in Florida, Mr. Trump issued a sharp if discursive attack on refugee policies in Europe, ticking off a list of places that have been hit by terrorists.

“You look at what’s happening,” he told his supporters. “We’ve got to keep our country safe. You look at what’s happening in Germany, you look at what’s happening last night in Sweden. Sweden, who would believe this?”

Not the Swedes.

Nothing particularly nefarious happened in Sweden on Friday — or Saturday, for that matter — and Swedes were left baffled.

“Sweden? Terror attack? What has he been smoking? Questions abound,” Carl Bildt, a former prime minister and foreign minister, wrote on Twitter.

Mr. Trump did not state, per se, that a terrorist attack had taken place in Sweden.

But the context of his remarks — he mentioned Sweden right after he chastised Germany, a destination for refugees and asylum seekers fleeing war and deprivation — suggested that he thought it might have.

“Sweden,” he said. “They took in large numbers. They’re having problems like they never thought possible. You look at what’s happening in Brussels. You look at what’s happening all over the world. Take a look at Nice. Take a look at Paris. We’ve allowed thousands and thousands of people into our country and there was no way to vet those people. There was no documentation. There was no nothing. So we’re going to keep our country safe.”

Contrary to Mr. Trump’s allegations, nearly all of the men involved in terrorist assaults in Paris on Nov. 13, 2015, in Brussels on March 22 last year, and in Nice, France, on July 14, were citizens of France or Belgium.

As the Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet noted, Twitter users were quick to ridicule Mr. Trump’s remark, with joking references to the Swedish Chef, the “Muppets” character; Swedish meatballs; and Ikea, the furniture giant.

Others speculated that Mr. Trump might have been influenced by a Fox News interview of Ami Horowitz, a filmmaker who asserts that migrants in Sweden have been associated with a crime wave, by the correspondent Tucker Carlson. “They often times try to cover up some of these crimes,” Mr. Horowitz said, arguing that those who try to tell the truth about the situation are shouted down as racists and xenophobes.(Mr. Carlson interjected, “The masochism of the West knows no bounds at all.”)

Mr. Horowitz said, “Sweden had its first terrorist Islamic attack not that long ago, so they’re now getting a taste of what we’ve been seeing across Europe already.”

It was not clear what he was referring to. In 2010, a suicide bomber struck central Stockholm, injuring two people. The bomber, Taimour Abdulwahab al-Abdaly, 28, was an Iraqi-born Swede who had developed an affinity for Al Qaeda. But that attack occurred long before the current wave of migrants fleeing war and deprivation.[...]

John McCain just systematically dismantled Donald Trump’s entire worldview

Washintong Post

John McCain is increasingly mad as hell about President Trump. And on Friday, he went after Trump — hard.
During a speech at the Munich Security Conference in Germany, the Republican senator from Arizona delivered a pointed and striking point-by-point takedown of Trump's worldview and brand of nationalism. McCain didn't mention Trump's name once, but he didn't have to.
And even considering the two men's up-and-down history and the terrible things Trump has said about McCain, it was a striking display from a senior leader of a party when it comes to a president of the same party.
In his speech, McCain suggested the Western world is uniquely imperiled this year — even more so than when Barack Obama was president — and proceeded to question whether it will even survive.
“In recent years, this question would invite accusations of hyperbole and alarmism; not this year,” McCain said. “If ever there were a time to treat this question with a deadly seriousness, it is now.”
In case there was any doubt that this was about Trump. Here's what followed:
  • "[The founders of the Munich conference] would be alarmed by an increasing turn away from universal values and toward old ties of blood and race and sectarianism.”
  • “They would be alarmed by the hardening resentment we see towards immigrants and refugees and minority groups -- especially Muslims.”
  • “They would be alarmed by the growing inability -- and even unwillingness -- to separate truth from lies.”
  • "They would be alarmed that more and more of our fellow citizens seem to be flirting with authoritarianism and romanticizing it as our moral equivalent."
That's Trump, Trump, Trump and Trump.

McCain continued: “But what would alarm them most, I think, is a sense that many of our peoples, including in my own country, are giving up on the West, that they see it as a bad deal that we may be better off without, and that while Western nations still have the power to maintain our world order, it's unclear whether we have the will.”
Trump has repeatedly suggested a desire to pull out of or scale back on international involvement and agreements. His slogan is “America first,” after all. And it's not just on free trade: It's also when it comes to things like NATO, the transatlantic military alliance that Trump has suggested the United States is getting a bad deal on and has flirted with not enforcing.
Then McCain invoked some of those close to Trump and emphasized that his message won't square with theirs:
I know there is profound concern across Europe and the world that America is laying down the mantle of global leadership. I can only speak for myself, but I do not believe that that is the message you will hear from all of the American leaders who cared enough to travel here to Munich this weekend. That's not the message you heard today from Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis. That is not the message you will hear from Vice President Mike Pence. That's not the message you will hear from Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly. And that is certainly not the message you will hear tomorrow from our bipartisan congressional delegation.
McCain then concluded with another direct shot at Trump.
“I refuse to accept that our values are morally equivalent to those of our adversaries,” he said. “I am a proud, unapologetic believer in the West, and I believe we must always, always stand up for it. For if we do not, who will? [...]

The culture war regarding same sex marriage

Guest Post

Barukh Dayan Emes: American civil freedom, a"h -

The Supreme Court dissenters on the same sex marriage decision -- all four of them, in fact -- cautioned us ominously regarding the culture war that their five colleagues' travesty of justice would fuel.  I excerpt them below, with parts highlighted germane to religious liberty.  (The dissents in their entirety can be found here, as can the Majority Opinion to which they reply.)

Justice ALITO gave an interview only a few months after the decision in which he spelled out the confusion wrought upon society when its laws are adjudicated without clear parameters - see last 7min of this interview.

In his own dissent to the same-sex marriage decision, Alito writes,

[This] decision will [...] be used to vilify Americans who are unwilling to assent to the new orthodoxy. In the course of its opinion, the majority compares traditional marriage laws to laws that denied equal treatment for African-Americans and women.  The implications of this analogy will be exploited by those who are determined to stamp out every vestige of dissent.  Perhaps recognizing how its reasoning may be used, the majority attempts, toward the end of its opinion, to reassure those who oppose same-sex marriage that their rights of conscience will be protected.  We will soon see whether this proves to be true.  I assume that those who cling to old beliefs will be able to whisper their thoughts in the recesses of their homes, but if they repeat those views in public, they will risk being labeled as bigots and treated as such by governments, employers, and schools. 

The system of federalism established by our Constitution provides a way for people with different beliefs to live together in a single nation. If the issue of same-sex marriage had been left to the people of the States, it is likely that some States would recognize same-sex marriage and others would not.  It is also possible that some States would tie recognition to protection for conscience rights.  The majority today makes that impossible.  By imposing its own views on the entire country, the majority facilitates the marginalization of the many Americans who have traditional ideas.  Recalling the harsh treatment of gays and lesbians in the past, some may think that turn-about is fair play. But if that sentiment prevails, the Nation will experience bitter and lasting wounds.

[...] Most Americans--understandably--will cheer or lament today’s decision because of their views on the issue of same-sex marriage. But all Americans, whatever their thinking on that issue, should worry about what the majority’s claim of power portends.

Justice THOMAS' dissent notes this issue of religious strife in pretty much the same terms:

Numerous amici--even some not supporting the States--have cautioned the Court that its decision here will “have unavoidable and wide-ranging implications for religious liberty.”  In our society, marriage is not simply a governmental institution; it is a religious institution as well.  Today’s decision might change the former, but it cannot change the latter.  It appears all but inevitable that the two will come into conflict, particularly as individuals and churches are confronted with demands to participate in and endorse civil marriages between same-sex couples.  The majority appears unmoved by that inevitability.  It makes only a weak gesture toward religious liberty in a single paragraph.  And even that gesture indicates a misunderstanding of religious liberty in our Nation’s tradition. Religious liberty is about more than just the protection for “religious organizations and persons...as they seek to teach the principles that are so fulfilling and so central to their lives and faiths.”  Religious liberty is about freedom of action in matters of religion generally, and the scope of that liberty is directly correlated to the civil restraints placed upon religious practice.

Although our Constitution provides some protection against such governmental restrictions on religious practices, the People have long elected to afford broader protections than this Court’s constitutional precedents mandate. Had the majority allowed the definition of marriage to be left to the political process--as the Constitution requires--the People could have considered the religious liberty implications of deviating from the traditional definition as part of their deliberative process.  Instead, the majority’s decision short-circuits that process, with potentially ruinous consequences for religious liberty

Chief Justice ROBERTS, in his plurality dissent speaks for all four (i.e., they all joined with his dissent (also the longest), which accordingly follows the Majority Opinion first in the Court filing) when he writes as follows:

Today [...] the Court takes the extraordinary step of ordering every State to license and recognize same-sex marriage.  Many people will rejoice at this decision, and I begrudge none their celebration.  But for those who believe in a government of laws, not of men, the majority’s approach is deeply disheartening.

[...] It can be tempting for judges to confuse our own preferences with the requirements of the law.  But as this Court has been reminded throughout our history, the Constitution “is made for people of fundamentally differing views.”  The majority today [...] seizes for itself a question the Constitution leaves to the people, at a time when the people are engaged in a vibrant debate on that question.  And it answers that question based not on neutral principles of constitutional law, but on its own “understanding of what freedom is and must become.”  I have no choice but to dissent.  Understand well what this dissent is about: It is not about whether, in my judgment, the institution of marriage should be changed to include same-sex couples. It is instead about whether, in our democratic republic, that decision should rest with the people acting through their elected representatives, or with five lawyers who happen to hold commissions authorizing them to resolve legal disputes according to law. The Constitution leaves no doubt about the answer.  

[...] Nowhere is the majority’s extravagant conception of judicial supremacy more evident than in its description--and dismissal--of the public debate regarding same-sex marriage. Yes, the majority concedes, on one side are thousands of years of human history in every society known to have populated the planet. But on the other side, there has been “extensive litigation,” “many thoughtful District Court decisions,” “countless studies, papers, books, and other popular and scholarly writings,” and “more than 100” amicus briefs in these cases alone.  What would be the point of allowing the democratic process to go on?  It is high time for the Court to decide the meaning of marriage, based on five lawyers’ “better informed understanding” of “a liberty that remains urgent in our own era.”  The answer is surely there in one of those amicus briefs or studies.  

Those who founded our country would not recognize the majority’s conception of the judicial role.  They, after all, risked their lives and fortunes for the precious right to govern themselves. They would never have imagined yielding that right on a question of social policy to unaccountable and unelected judges.  And they certainly would not have been satisfied by a system empowering judges to override policy judgments so long as they do so after “a quite extensive discussion.”

The Court’s accumulation of power does not occur in a vacuum.  It comes at the expense of the people.  And they know it.  Here and abroad, people are in the midst of a serious and thoughtful public debate on the issue of same-sex marriage.  They see voters carefully considering same-sex marriage, casting ballots in favor or opposed, and sometimes changing their minds. They see political leaders similarly reexamining their positions, and either reversing course or explaining adherence to old convictions confirmed anew.  They see governments and businesses modifying policies and practices with respect to same-sex couples, and participating actively in the civic discourse.  They see countries overseas democratically accepting profound social change, or declining to do so.  This deliberative process is making people take seriously questions that they may not have even regarded as questions before.  When decisions are reached through democratic means, some people will inevitably be disappointed with the results.  But those whose views do not prevail at least know that they have had their say, and accordingly are--in the tradition of our political culture--reconciled to the result of a fair and honest debate.  In addition, they can gear up to raise the issue later, hoping to persuade enough on the winning side to think again.  But today the Court puts a stop to all that.  By deciding this question under the Constitution, the Court removes it from the realm of democratic decision.  
There will be consequences to shutting down the political process on an issue of such profound public significance. Closing debate tends to close minds. People denied a voice are less likely to accept the ruling of a court on an issue that does not seem to be the sort of thing courts usually decide.  [...] Today’s decision creates serious questions about religious liberty. Many good and decent people oppose same-sex marriage as a tenet of faith, and their freedom to exercise religion is--unlike the right imagined by the majority--actually spelled out in the Constitution.  Respect for sincere religious conviction has led voters and legislators in every State that has adopted same-sex marriage democratically to include accommodations for religious practice.  The majority’s decision imposing same- sex marriage cannot, of course, create any such accommodations.  The majority graciously suggests that religious believers may continue to “advocate” and “teach” their views of marriage.  The First Amendment guarantees, however, the freedom to “exercise” religion.  Ominously, that is not a word the majority uses.  

Hard questions arise when people of faith exercise religion in ways that may be seen to conflict with the new right to same-sex marriage--when, for example, a religious college provides married student housing only to opposite-sex married couples, or a religious adoption agency declines to place children with same-sex married couples.  Indeed, the Solicitor General candidly acknowledged that the tax exemptions of some religious institutions would be in question if they opposed same-sex marriage.  There is little doubt that these and similar questions will soon be before this Court. Unfortunately, people of faith can take no comfort in the treatment they receive from the majority today.
Perhaps the most discouraging aspect of today’s decision is the extent to which the majority feels compelled to sully those on the other side of the debate.  The majority offers a cursory assurance that it does not intend to disparage people who, as a matter of conscience, cannot accept same-sex marriage.  That disclaimer is hard to square with the very next sentence, in which the majority explains that “the necessary consequence” of laws codifying the traditional definition of marriage is to “demean or stigmatize” same-sex couples.  The majority reiterates such characterizations over and over. By the majority’s account, Americans who did nothing more than follow the understanding of marriage that has existed for our entire history--in particular, the tens of millions of people who voted to reaffirm their States’ enduring definition of marriage--have acted to “lock out,” “disparage,” “disrespect and subordinate,” and inflict “dignitary wounds” upon their gay and lesbian neighbors.  These apparent assaults on the character of fairminded people will have an effect, in society and in court.  Moreover, they are entirely gratuitous. It is one thing for the majority to conclude that the Constitution protects a right to same-sex marriage; it is something else to portray everyone who does not share the majority’s “better informed understanding” as bigoted.

The recently departed Justice SCALIA, who expressly joined all three other dissenters, in his personally authored dissent was, as usual, the most scathing.  But his appendixed dissent focuses less on the issue of the Court participating in or fueling culture warfare.  It does, however, warn as follows:

[...W]hat really astounds is the hubris reflected in today’s judicial Putsch. The five Justices who compose today’s majority are entirely comfortable concluding that every State violated the Constitution for all of the 135 years between the Fourteenth Amendment’s ratification and Massachusetts’ permitting of same-sex marriages in 2003.  They have discovered in the Fourteenth Amendment a “fundamental right” overlooked by every person alive at the time of ratification, and almost everyone else in the time since.  They see what lesser legal minds--minds like Thomas Cooley, John Marshall Harlan, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., Learned Hand, Louis Brandeis, William Howard Taft, Benjamin Cardozo, Hugo Black, Felix Frankfurter, Robert Jackson, and Henry Friendly--could not.  They are certain that the People ratified the Fourteenth Amendment to bestow on them the power to remove questions from the democratic process when that is called for by their “reasoned judgment.”  These Justices know that limiting marriage to one man and one woman is contrary to reason; they know that an institution as old as government itself, and accepted by every nation in history until fifteen years ago, cannot possibly be supported by anything other than ignorance or bigotry.  And they are willing to say that any citizen who does not agree with that, who adheres to what was, until fifteen years ago, the unanimous judgment of all generations and all societies, stands against the Constitution.

[...] Hubris is sometimes defined as o’erweening pride; and pride, we know, goeth before a fall.  The Judiciary is the “least dangerous” of the federal branches because it has “neither Force nor Will, but merely judgment; and must ultimately depend upon the aid of the executive arm” and the States, “even for the efficacy of its judgments” (Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 78).  With each decision of ours that takes from the People a question properly left to them--with each decision that is unabashedly based not on law, but on the “reasoned judgment” [their words] of a bare majority of this Court--we move one step closer to being reminded of our impotence.
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