Tag Archives: jewish

Rabbi Jack Moline’s Resistance Reading

Mother Jones

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We asked a range of authors, artists, and poets to name books that bring solace or understanding in this age of rancor. Two dozen or so responded. Here are picks from the Rabbi Jack Moline, president of the Interfaith Alliance.

Latest book: Growing Up Jewish
Reading recommendations: I can’t avoid including the Book of Psalms. Aside from the fact that it is the only book in the Jewish Bible that is of undisputed human authorship, it is a collection of essential yearnings and gratitudes that give me a sense that our current troubles, existential and political both, are neither new nor permanent. In addition, the melodies to which so many of the psalms have been set are inseparable from the words. And how can I not also hear Leonard Cohen in every “hallelujah.”

Rainer Maria Rilke’s Book of Hours probably makes me sound like a poetry buff, which, alas, I am not. But Rilke’s extraordinary talent for combining deep spiritual sensitivity with intuition about the human condition can rescue me from almost any funk. I feel the same way about Israeli poet Dan Pagis.

I remember reading Margaret Atwood‘s The Handmaid’s Tale when it first came out. I can remember where I was sitting as I read each chapter. The early chapters that almost breezily describe how quickly an inclusive society can collapse into a corrupt theocracy and, most impressively to me, the epilogue in which future academics look back with disdain and incredulity on the dark age of female servitude still inspire me never to give up resisting injustice and never to give up hope that the moral arc of the universe…well, you know. These two features, by the way, are what make this book a better choice right now than Philip Roth’s The Plot Against America.
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So far in this series: Kwame Alexander, Margaret Atwood, W. Kamau Bell, Jeff Chang, T Cooper, Dave Eggers, Reza Farazmand, Piper Kerman, Bill McKibben, Rabbi Jack Moline, Karen Russell, Tracy K. Smith. (New posts daily.)

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Rabbi Jack Moline’s Resistance Reading

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The Daily News Slams Sean Spicer’s Holocaust Remarks with Scathing Cover

Mother Jones

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White House press secretary Sean Spicer ignited a firestorm of controversy Tuesday, when he compared Adolf Hitler to Syrian dictator Bashar al Assad, and incorrectly claimed Hitler “didn’t even sink to using chemical weapons.” The false assertion, which was used to defend President Donald Trump’s military strike on a Syrian air base last week, quickly drew the ire of Democrats and prominent Jewish groups, including the Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect.

On Wednesday, the Daily News dedicated its front page to condemning Spicer for the remarks. The New York paper also featured a scathing editorial demanding he resign from his post over the latest gaffe:

Spicer apologized for the remarks, and said that he did not wish to become a “distraction” to Trump’s agenda.

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The Daily News Slams Sean Spicer’s Holocaust Remarks with Scathing Cover

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Holocaust Survivor Slams Top Immigration Official: "History Is Not on Your Side"

Mother Jones

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On Monday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions made a surprise appearance at a White House press briefing to announce that the Justice Department would begin cracking down on so-called sanctuary cities that fail to comply with federal immigration laws. If local governments refuse to cooperate with federal efforts to detain undocumented immigrants, Sessions said, as much as $4 billion in grants across the country could be withheld.

Despite the stark warning this week, many residents opposing Trump’s anti-immigration policies don’t appear to be deterred. In the case of Sacramento County, where Immigration and Customs Enforcement Acting Director Thomas Homan was invited to speak at a town-hall style meeting Tuesday, hundreds of people turned out to blast the ongoing sweeps targeting undocumented immigrants in the state. The most powerful moment arrived when an 87-year-old Holocaust survivor named Bernard Marks took to the mic to warn Homan and Sheriff Scott Jones that “history was not on their side.”

The remarks, as noted by CBS Sacramento, below:

When I was a little boy in Poland, for no other reason but for being Jewish, I was hauled off by the Nazis. And for no other reason I was picked up and separated from my family, who was exterminated in Auschwitz. And I am a survivor of Auschwitz and Dachau.

I spent five and a half years in concentration camps, for one reason and one reason only—because we picked on people, and you as the sheriff, who we elected as sheriff of this county—we did not elect you for sheriff of Washington, DC. It’s about time you side with the people here. And when this gentleman stands up there and says he doesn’t go after people, he should read today’s Bee. Because in today’s Bee, the Supreme Court Justice of California objected to ICE coming in and taking people away from the courts. Don’t tell me that this is a lie.

You stand up here Mr. Jones. Don’t forget—history is not on your side.

The remarks were met with loud cheers from the audience. Homan responded to the speech by saying his agency will continue to arrest undocumented immigrants inside courthouses.

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Holocaust Survivor Slams Top Immigration Official: "History Is Not on Your Side"

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Here Are Your Highlights of Today’s Trump Press Meltdown

Mother Jones

Donald Trump went full Sarah Palin today at his press conference. It was glorious. I think you have to watch it to really get the full effect, but here are a few highlights.

First off, the word of the day is mess:

To be honest, I inherited a mess. It’s a mess. At home and abroad, a mess….I just want to let you know, I inherited a mess….ISIS has spread like cancer — another mess I inherited….And you look at Schumer and the mess that he’s got over there and they have nothing going.

Fact check: Delusional. Trump inherited an economy in pretty good shape. Crime has steadily decreased over the past decade. ISIS is losing ground and close to defeat. Illegal immigration has been stable for many years. Test scores for schoolkids are up. Fewer than a dozen American soldiers have died in combat in the past year. Obamacare has cut the number of people without health insurance almost in half. The budget deficit is down to 3 percent of GDP. After years of stagnation, wages are finally starting to go up. Unemployment and inflation are both low.

I put it out before the American people, got 306 electoral college votes….270 which you need, that was laughable. We got 306 because people came out and voted like they’ve never seen before so that’s the way it goes. I guess it was the biggest electoral college win since Ronald Reagan.

Fact check: Also delusionial. He got 304 electoral votes, and Reagan, Bush Sr., Clinton, and Obama all did better.

We’ve begun preparing to repeal and replace Obamacare….I know you can say, oh, Obamacare. I mean, they fill up our rallies with people that you wonder how they get there, but they are not the Republican people our that representatives are representing.

Fact check: Plausible! Trump and the Republicans in Congress probably do think they represent only Republicans.

The leaks are real. You’re the one that wrote about them and reported them, I mean the leaks are real. You know what they said, you saw it and the leaks are absolutely real. The news is fake because so much of the news is fake.

Fact check: Huh?

If the information coming from those leaks is real, then how can the stories be fake?

The reporting is fake. Look, look…You know what it is? Here’s the thing. The public isn’t — you know, they read newspapers, they see television, they watch. They don’t know if it’s true or false because they’re not involved. I’m involved. I’ve been involved with this stuff all my life. But I’m involved. So I know when you’re telling the truth or when you’re not. I just see many, many untruthful things.

Fact check: True. Trump almost certainly does see many, many untruthful things.

I mean, I watch CNN, it’s so much anger and hatred and just the hatred. I don’t watch it any more….Well, you look at your show that goes on at 10 o’clock in the evening. You just take a look at that show. That is a constant hit….Now, I will say this. I watch it. I see it. I’m amazed by it.

Fact check: Schrödinger’s cat. Trump both watches and doesn’t watch CNN.

We had Hillary Clinton try and do a reset. We had Hillary Clinton give Russia 20 percent of the uranium in our country. You know what uranium is, right? This thing called nuclear weapons like lots of things are done with uranium including some bad things.

Fact check: Half true. No, Hillary Clinton didn’t give Russia any uranium. (She was one of many who approved a deal for the Russian atomic energy agency to buy a Canadian company that controls 20 percent of the US uranium reserves. But none of it can exported outside the US.) However, it is true that bad things can be done with uranium.

QUESTION: Let’s talk about some serious issues that have come up in the last week that you have had to deal with as president of the United States. You mentioned the vessel — the spy vessel off the coast of the United States.

TRUMP: Not good.

QUESTION: There was a ballistic missile test that many interpret as a violation of an agreement between the two countries; and a Russian plane buzzed a U.S. destroyer.

TRUMP: Not good.

….QUESTION: So when you say they’re not good, do you mean that they are…

TRUMP: Who did I say is not good?

QUESTION: No, I read off the three things that have recently happened. Each one of them you said they’re not good.

TRUMP: No, it’s not good, but they happened.

QUESTION: But do they damage the relationship? Do they undermine…

TRUMP: They all happened recently.

Fact check: True. These are all things that happened recently.

JAKE TURX, A REPORTER FOR A SMALL ULTRA-ORTHODOX JEWISH PUBLICATION: Despite what some of my colleagues may have been reporting, I haven’t seen anybody in my community accuse either yourself or anyone on your staff of being anti-Semitic. We understand that you have Jewish grandchildren. You are their zaidy. However, what we are concerned about, and what we haven’t really heard being addressed, is an uptick in anti-Semitism and how the government is planning to take care of it… There has been a report out that 48 bomb threats have been made against Jewish centers all across the country in the last couple of weeks. There are people who are committing anti-Semitic acts or threatening to…

TRUMP: he said he was gonna ask a very simple, easy question. And it’s not, its not, not — not a simple question, not a fair question. OK sit down, I understand the rest of your question.

So here’s the story, folks. Number one, I am the least anti- Semitic person that you’ve ever seen in your entire life. Number two, racism, the least racist person….See, he lied about — he was gonna get up and ask a very straight, simple question, so you know, welcome to the world of the media. But let me just tell you something, that I hate the charge, I find it repulsive.

I hate even the question because people that know me and you heard the prime minister, you heard Ben Netanyahu yesterday, did you hear him, Bibi? He said, I’ve known Donald Trump for a long time and then he said, forget it. So you should take that instead of having to get up and ask a very insulting question like that.

Fact check: Incoherent. Turx explicitly tried to assure Trump that nobody thought he was anti-Semitic, but Trump’s skin is so thin that he immediately decided Turx was calling him a racist and an anti-Semite. I wonder why?

By the way, the entire point of this press conference seemed to be directed at one thing: accusing the press of being horrible and dishonest. This came up in nearly every Trump answer. This is a great strategy for shoring up his base, of course. As near as I can tell, conservatives all thought this dumpster fire of a press conference was a terrific performance.

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Here Are Your Highlights of Today’s Trump Press Meltdown

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Trump’s ban puts a chill on science and cleantech

Samira Samimi knew she wanted to be a scientist the first time she saw a glacier. “This is what I want to do,” she remembers thinking on her trip to the mountains. “This is who I want to be.”

She was 16 years old, growing up in Iran, where glaciers are less than plentiful. She knew she would have to leave her home country to study them, so she applied to Canadian universities with an eye on the Arctic. Now 30, she’s in her first year of a glaciology PhD at the University of Calgary, and — dream come true — part of a NASA-funded team studying the Greenland ice sheet.

But on Friday, the Trump administration’s ban on travelers from seven predominantly Muslim countries threw her planned research trip to Greenland this spring into jeopardy. Her cargo plane flight takes off in April from a U.S. Air National Guard base in Albany.

In the days since President Trump signed the executive order, it has already disrupted science communities in the United States and around the globe. Students and researchers have found themselves trapped out of the country, seen field work plans scuttled, or had long-awaited visits canceled. For many scientists engaged in the work of understanding and addressing the world’s next great challenge — a changing climate and the transition to cleaner energy sources — it’s clear that you can’t stifle immigration without stifling innovation, too.

“Think of the STEM fields as the engine of the American economy. That engine has gotten so big and so powerful that it can’t be fueled by talent within the U.S. itself.”

Moh El-Naggar, biophysicist at the University of Southern California

“We live in an extremely competitive global environment,” says Andrew Rosenberg, director of the Center for Science and Democracy at the Union of Concerned Scientists. “Just because we want to do this ‘America First’ thing doesn’t mean the rest of the world is going to stop being entrepreneurial and get out of the way.”

Told one way, the story of America the superpower is the story of innovation. Our history books and homegrown myths are crowded with inventors and entrepreneurs, from Thomas Edison to Steve Jobs. In the 20th century, America earned its place in world events, more often than not, by MacGyvering one unlikely technological triumph after another: over disease, over German nuclear physicists and Cold War cosmonauts, over the pull of Earth’s gravity itself. And immigration played a critical role in that progress.

As The Hill pointed out last year, all six American Nobel laureates in 2016 were foreign-born. That’s not unusual: According to a 2014 study by Stanford scientists, the number of U.S. patent filings increased by 30 percent in the wake of Jewish immigrants fleeing Nazi Germany. So did the number of Nobel prizes.

In general, the less open a society is, the more likely its scientists and innovators are to go elsewhere — and for a long time, that “elsewhere” has been the United States.

One in six U.S. scientists is an immigrant, according to a 2013 National Science Foundation report. Of those, a majority are naturalized citizens, but many hold green cards or long-term visas to study and work in the United States. And those 5 million scientists have had a measurable effect on science in their adopted country.

“We’re at a point where changes in our technology are happening so quickly, we can either sit it out, or we can be full participants,” Rosenberg says. “We have some natural competitive advantages, but we could lose them simply by taking this nationalist line.”

A chart from 2011 shows Nobel Laureates by location of affiliation at the time of the win.Jon Bruner/Forbes

“Think of the STEM fields as the engine of the American economy,” says Moh El-Naggar, a biophysicist at the University of Southern California, where he studies the weird things microbes can do — including, potentially, playing a role in renewable energy technologies. “That engine has gotten so big and so powerful that it can’t be fueled by talent within the U.S. itself.”

El-Naggar was born in Libya, one of the seven countries placed under travel restrictions by Trump’s executive order. He’s now an American citizen and worries about the toll of a travel ban on the morale of his fellow foreign-born scientists — and the impact on their research.

“I look at my own work,” he says, “and I feel that almost every good thing that’s ever happened had its genesis in some unexpected conversation in some unexpected conference with some unexpected colleague. We are in a situation where we’ve put barriers on these unexpected conversations.”

Last week’s news came with a personal cost, too. His parents had been planning a trip to California in April to meet their grandchildren for the first time. Now those plans are on hold, indefinitely.

“A lot of people like me ended up in this country, doing what we love, because it was a better place to come to than where we grew up,” El-Naggar says. “So when I say that this looks bad to me right now, I hope that carries extra weight. This is coming from someone who has seen bad.”

U.S. scientific organizations have put out strong statements condemning the entry ban, including a letter sent by the AAAS and co-signed by more than 150 other institutions. Massachusetts Institute of Technology President L. Rafael Reif called the policy “a stunning violation of our deepest American values” in an email to students, while John Holdren, science advisor to the Obama administration, had even stronger words for the executive action, calling it “perverse,” an “abomination,” and a “terrible, terrible idea” in an interview with Nature.

An online petition to lift the restrictions has already been signed by tens of thousands of academics and researchers. Many tech companies — often sponsors of visas for foreign-born engineers, if not founded and led by immigrants themselves — have spoken out against the move, as well.

Their concern is amplified by additional anti-science moves by the Trump administration. In orders leaked last week, the Environmental Protection Agency was ordered to cease all external communication, including scientific releases, until they could be reviewed and approved by a member of the administration.

“You should never get to the point where someone in political power gets to decide what’s the good science and what’s the bad science,” the UCS’s Rosenberg says. “You have to worry about that.”

For Samimi, there’s very specific climate research at stake. She made a trip to Greenland last year, installing instruments in the ice sheet that need to be maintained and adjusted. If she can’t get back, she might have to abandon her PhD experiment.

“If I’m not able to work there …” she says. “I don’t even want to think about alternatives. This doesn’t make sense, you know?” Right now, a lot of the scientific community is reaching the same conclusion.

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Trump’s ban puts a chill on science and cleantech

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