Labeeb Ali worked as an interpreter for Americans in Iraq. That means he is a target for anti-American groups.
For that reason, lawmakers in the US made it possible for him to move here, providing the visa which allows him to leave the danger of Iraq, a danger magnified immensely by his association with Americans. So he has passed months of background checks, acquired that visa, has a current passport (not always easy in his part of the world), and he had a plane ticket on a flight from Qatar to Dallas. Once his visa application cleared and his plans solidified, he tied up loose ends in Iraq and sold virtually all of his property.
Thanks to the president’s indiscriminate, irrational, and quite possibly illegal executive order, Labeeb Ali was not allowed to board his flight.
Because the president couldn’t be bothered to consult with government agencies who know something about these issues or to take the time to develop immigration policy that has a chance to achieve his purported goals, his executive order blocks anyone — regardless of circumstance — from seven Muslim countries from entering the US. And that includes people like Labeeb Ali.
Never mind that if this man actually were a terrorist, he has already had ample opportunity to commit heinous attacks on large groups of Americans. And never mind that he faces a very real threat of violence from terrorists, tragically ironic considering he’s being prevented from entering the US because Trump and his supporters claim banning him is necessary to prevent acts of terrorism. Trump doesn’t care that this man is about as far from a terrorist as someone can be. Because he can’t be bothered to tell the difference between terrorists and all Muslims. They all look alike to him.
Trump picked seven Muslim countries where he doesn’t have business interests, and where we don’t have particularly deep diplomatic ties that could gum up the simple black-and-white of his plan. He banned immigration because his supporters are scared of “Islamic extremism,” though they aren’t concerned with how it might be a threat, nor do they want to be bothered with realistic solutions for preventing an attack on our soil. No… Trump just needed to show them that he’s keeping the Muslims out, as promised.
But here’s the thing: Our country made promises and commitments to folks like Labeeb Ali. It’s disgusting and dishonorable to leave them hanging — perhaps literally, it’s sad to say — because they’re in the way of Trump’s steam-roller of executive orders.
But it’s going to get worse. The word’s going to get around that America turned its back on commitments to people like Labeeb Ali. When Trump decides to send troops to fight ISIS, they’re going to have a hard time finding people willing to put their lives on the line to help Americans for a promise that they can resettle stateside. And that’s a reality that could very well cost American lives.
In the meantime, it’s a reality that is hurting people who deserve much better than the closed doors with which we’re greeting them.
“They have killed my dream,” Labeeb Ali told The Washington Post. “They took it all away from me, in the last minutes.”
Sometimes the president needs help signing his name, so he’s hired the ghost of George Harrison to help.
(I know. You didn’t think it was George Harrison at first. It’s confusing because at first glance it does look a lot like Eric Clapton in the picture. Common mistake. It’s definitely Harrison.)
Nice piece in Haaretz on Trump’s choice for ambassador to Israel. The author is a prolific and talented writer, capable of deftly wielding fact-based argument as an antidote to ignorance and extremism.
But in this case, he didn’t need much of his trademark intelligence or rhetorical flourish. Rather, he only needed his computer’s “copy” and “paste” commands. Because that’s all it takes to show that David Friedman is poorly qualified for the job to which he has been appointed and dangerous to the US and Israel due to his propensity to use both half-truths and slanderous lies as means to his partisan, extremist objectives.
(Friedman’s readers’ apparent inability to tell the difference between his falsehoods and the actual truth is troubling as well, though perhaps unsurprising.)
On Daily Kos, David Waldman suggests an outlandish way of getting Garland onto the Supreme Court in the brief period when outgoing Senators are gone and incoming Senators haven’t been sworn in. I initially blew it off as a silly fantasy. But…
Maybe the Vice-President and Senate minority leadership should be considering it. Why? Well. It’s been awhile since Dems didn’t at least have the presidency, but let’s do our best to try and remember the difference between the way Democrats and Republicans have behaved in recent memory when in the minority:
Under W, Democrats basically moped around, complained a lot, penned thoughtful and analytical op-eds, and in Congress they tried to be a thorn in the president’s side.
Under Obama, the GOP didn’t settle for being a thorn. They utilized every option, and stopped at absolutely nothing, to block the president and his agenda. Thorns? More like giant tire-popping spike-strips across the highway. They played the short game by blocking budgets whenever possible, and they played the long game by focusing on local and state elections, which allowed them to gerrymander themselves into a lasting majority in the House. (Indeed, as has been pointed out in a number of places1, the Republicans are numerically in the minority, with an ideology that’s less popular than ever, yet they have managed to win both houses and the presidency and they’re walking around saying they have a “mandate.”) They have played the game — short, long, and everything in between — better.
They utilized a strategic and disciplined approach, and it’s paid off. Nowhere is that clearer than with the Garland appointment. And that’s why I think that Dems in the Senate should consider not dismissing the suggestion that they use some complicated procedural maneuvering to get Garland onto the bench.
Trying to move any other agenda item using this technique ruins the purity and genius of it. Only the Garland appointment allows the Democratic leadership to shrug across the aisle and say, “Well, you failed to do your Constitutional duty so you left us no choice. We tried to play fair.” And let’s also not forget: Obama appointed an older, fairly moderate jurist because he was indeed trying to play fair, and to appeal to moderate Republicans to buck their party’s leadership in the interest of the greater good. (Turns out “moderate Republicans” are an extinct species inside the Beltway.) So the Garland appointment has the additional virtue of being less purely partisan.2 Dem lawmakers would be throwing a Hail Mary to get a moderate on the bench, not a hyper liberal.
And they can also say: “We just wanted to give Justice Ginsburg the opportunity to retire on her own terms without having to worry quite as much about the influence of the fascist bible-thumper who will replace her.”
GOP lawmakers’ actions in the past couple years certainly opens them to the accusation that they put party before country.3 Maybe Dems might not want to emulate that behavior. But here’s the thing: that stuff didn’t hurt Republicans at the polls. And more importantly: They now have both houses and the presidency, which places on them the burden of leadership. That burden, as the GOP proved when in the majority, is not incumbent on the minority, whose lack of power leaves them with no choice but to resort to extremes. (Unless the majority actually cares about partnership. Ha.)
Nonetheless, this won’t happen. Even after the Republicans had the chutzpah to sit on a Supreme Court nomination for the better part of a year, Senate Dems won’t have the chutzpah4 to beat them at their own game.
Anyway, I’ll stop pontificating and get to the point:
I can think of no better way for Biden to kick off his 2020 run — and to set the tone for standing up to Trump/Ryan/McConnel for the next four years — than to go out having had more influence as vice-president in his last few days than any who has ever held the office did in their entire terms.
If there’s anyone who can pull it off, it’s Joe.
While also being totally, completely, unambiguously partisan. It’s a Supreme Court justice who’d be a tie-breaking vote for chrissakes. This is about abortion, Citizens United, marriage equality, and tons more. Of course it’s partisan. (back to footnote in text)
See: the budget maneuvering that put the country’s credit rating at risk. (back to footnote in text)
Or the extremists. The Tea Party did the GOP a big favor by doing the dirty work and letting the main party establishment stay insulated. See: Ted Cruz. (back to footnote in text)
I’m very proud to announce that one of my photos is being shown as part of the 2016 PJCC Community Art Show at the Peninsula Jewish Community Center, 800 Foster City Blvd., Foster City, CA 94404.
To celebrate, I printed and framed three extra copies of the selected photo (below). It’s available for purchase for $80 (flat rate USPS shipping, if you’re not in the Bay Area). It’s an 8″ x 12″ matte-finish Lustre print on archival paper with an archival white linen matte and a black wood frame, 17″ x 13″ total. Each piece is numbered and signed. Email me if you’re interested.
The photo was taken on August 23, 2015 at Wavecrest Open Space in Half Moon Bay, California. (Coordinates are 37°26′57″ N 122°26′27″ W.)
Canon EOS 6D, Canon EF 24–70mm ƒ/2.8L II USM. Focal Length: 41mm, ISO 100, 15.0 sec at ƒ/16.
One hundred years ago (Jan. 28, 1916), President Wilson nominated Louis Brandeis to the US Supreme Court. What followed was one of the most contentious confirmation hearings in history, due to Brandeis' religious heritage and his unabashed liberalism (especially his record of fighting big Wall Street bankers).
One hundred years later, Merrick Garland is unlikely to face anti-Semitism on the Senate floor, and he's a far less polarizing pick than Brandeis was. Nonetheless, his confirmation hearings — if they even happen — are likely to be even more contentious.
Funny how much has changed. And how little.
… it’s hard to imagine President Obama conjuring up, from even the darkest, most devious underground lab, a new justice who would be half as fierce as the four-car train of whoop ass we saw today.
It’s hard to imagine anyone conjuring up a better commentator on the Supreme Court than Dahlia Lithwick.
Her writing on yesterday’s oral arguments in Whole Woman’s Health v Hellerstedt is a beautiful illustration of why I’d rather read her than pretty much any other journalist working today.
Today was the GOP primary in South Carolina. Jeb Bush just dropped out of the race because he failed to receive the support of primary voters in three states whose delegates — combined! — make up 3.5% (19/538) of the electoral college.
(In other words, these states are basically irrelevant in the national election, yet somehow someone gave their most extreme voters — the ones who show up for the primaries — the power to sink a viable candidate’s chances of getting the nomination in favor of a guy who is demonstrably loony toons.)
I’m by no means a fan of Jeb Bush, and a part of me wonders if it helps Dems’ chances in November if the Republicans end up letting extremist voters in small states nominate an openly racist candidate to the party’s ticket. But seriously… if this isn’t enough to give some legs to efforts to change the primary system, I don’t know what will.
Also, wondering: After the way Trump took every opportunity to publicly badmouth, embarrass, shame, and vilify him and his family, if Trump ends up being the candidate will Jeb even cast a ballot in November?
Max Steinberg grew up in the same part of Los Angeles where I did, and he graduated from my high school, though it was a decade after I was last there. So I never met him. But I’ve read a lot about him this week, after he died while serving in the IDF in Gaza and his story became the paradigmatic narrative about Americans who go to Israel to join the army.
The piece has come under fire because Benedikt seems to be claiming that Birthright killed Max Steinberg. Or at least that’s what the critics are saying.
I don’t think that’s what Benedikt was trying to say. As I read it, she’s answering a question that a lot of non-Jews (and non-engaged Jews) might be asking: What made this kid — who never seemed to be all that Jewy before — decide to pick up and join the Israeli army? That’s a legitimate question. How many American kids ship off to fight for the Dutch army or the Argentinian navy? (Not very many, I would think.)
Benedikt answers the question by explaining that (a) Steinberg’s parents credit Birthright, and (b) Birthright’s goal is to get American kids to care about Israel. Her assessment seems to be: Look! It worked.
And, “at some point during their all-expenses-paid ten-day trip to a land where, as they are constantly reminded, every mountain and valley is inscribed with 5,000 years of their people’s history,” there is “the moment”— the moment when participants realize just how important Israel is to them, to their fundamental identity, and how important they are to Israel.
According to Steinberg’s parents, that is exactly what happened to Max.
Birthright’s defenders should take her article as a compliment, not an attack.
Benedikt does make one important critical point:
People say Birthright is “just like camp,” and it sure sounds like a very condensed version of the Jewish camp I attended as a kid, whose purpose was, at the very least, to foster a connection to Israel in young Jews—and at best, to get us to move to the country and fight for it. My camp, filled with the children of liberal American Jews, did this by presenting a very simplistic picture of the political situation in Israel and the threat to Jews worldwide, all within the context of helping to fix the world while having the time of your life. Birthright does a form of the same.
Um… are people saying she’s off base here? It seems to me that it’s a fair criticism. Birthright is a ten-day trip, partly because the 6-week summer trips that existed before its inception weren’t attracting unengaged, disconnected Jews (like, um, Max Steinberg). Since it’s beginnings, I’ve heard lots of Jewish educators who are Birthright supporters (and I think I count myself in that group) admit that ten days is just a taste, and that it presents a “simplistic picture.” (And we usually say that if Birthright does its job, we’ll have lots of chances to add layers of complexity to that picture as the attendee engages post-trip.)
Is Benedikt’s attitude toward Birthright a little cynical? Sure. It should be. It’s a multi-million dollar PR campaign for Israel and Jewish identity. It deserves to be examined with some healthy cynicism.
Moral of the story: Chillax. Allison Benedikt said nothing wrong.
Details were announced Monday for a Father’s Day weekend (June 13–15) cast reunion and celebration of the film that will include star Kevin Costner and other cast members, as well as baseball players Bret Saberhagen, Glendon Rusch and Ryan Dempster. Bob Costas will emcee and Matt Lauer of NBC’s “Today” show, who will lead a Q & A with the film’s cast. This will, of course, take place in Dyersville, Iowa, where “Field of Dreams” was filmed.
As Abbott sees it, the need for reflection has never been greater. Spurred by technological advances, “civilization is on the cusp of a metamorphosis,” he says, that will lead either to societal collapse and chaos, or to a resurgence of liberty, community, and ethics. Either way, schools are stuck in the past: The emphasis has been on feeding children static information and rewarding them for doing only what they’re told, instead of helping them develop the transferable, higher-order skills they need to become life-long learners and thrive in an uncertain future.
Google’s decision to activate (and turn on by default) a “feature” that allows anyone to send you email via Google Plus has sparked some controversy.
The problem with the free email services most of us use is that virtually all of them are offered provided by companies whose main interests aren’t email. In other words, Google, Microsoft, and Apple all offer “free” email in order to get you into their ecosystems. Gmail exists so Google can sell your eyeballs to advertisers. Like all of Apple’s software, iCloud exists so Apple can control every aspect of an iOS or Mac user’s experience.1 Hotmail and Outlook.com (and whatever other crap Microsoft is doing these days) exist so that Microsoft can keep more people reliant on Office and Windows (and whatever other crap Microsoft is doing these days).
And that’s the thing: Their goal isn’t to create awesome email that meets users’ needs. Sure, insofar as creating awesome email helps get more people into their ecosystem, then I suppose creating an awesome email system is part of what they do. But don’t ever forget that they have a bigger goal in mind. When it comes right down to it, Google is obsessed with getting people into Google+, and they don’t even blink when prioritizing their needs (integration with their social network) over most users’ (the ability to receive messages only from those who’ve received my email address from me).2
We can bitch and complain all we want, but here’s the thing: As long as we use email that’s provided by someone who sees email as a means to achieving their own (non-email related) goals, then this is going to keep happening. That’s the cost of “free” email.
I want a service that provides email that’s clean, elegant, and easy-to-use. I want it to be private, secure, and safe. I want it to be standards-based, by which I mean I want it to work well with my existing devices and systems as well as with the ones that I don’t have or that don’t exist yet. And I want as much control as possible. I want control over my privacy settings, over the interface, over the implementation of new features, over… everything.
And for that, I’d gladly pay a few bucks a month. Or even ten.
Steve Jobs once said, “I’ve always wanted to own and control the primary technology in everything we do.” Over the years, Apple loosened up a little as Jobs and Co. realized that they could gain more by giving users a little bit more control. But it’s pretty clear that the brain trust in Cupertino is still pretty committed to the idea that the only way you can guarantee users a product that “just works” is to maintain as much control as possible over every aspect of both hardware and software (including cloud-based software and services). And since consumers seem to like products that “just work” (Lord knows I do), Apple makes a lot of money as a result of this formula. (back to footnote in text)
Marco Arment says it best:
Google’s leadership, threatened by the attention and advertising relevance of Facebook, is betting the company on Google+ at all costs.
Google+ adoption and usage is not meeting their expectations. Facebook continues to dominate. It’s not working. They’re desperate.
Google will continue to sell out and potentially ruin its other properties to juice Google+ usage. These efforts haven’t worked very well: they juice the numbers just enough that Google will keep doing this, yet will keep needing to do more.
I don’t like Google+ very much, and I have no interest in being dragged into using it. Gmail belongs to Google, and if Google wants to build Gmail and Google+ into each other, then that’s Google’s prerogative. And finding a new email provider is my prerogative. And honestly: As long as Google’s behavior doesn’t have a noticeable effect on how many people use Gmail (and/or how much they use it), then they have no reason to stop. (back to footnote in text)