Can Trump Survive the Political Hurricane?

As Hurricane Florence batters the coast with rain, President Trump is busy defending his administration’s performance during Hurricane Maria. If he can’t own up to the shortcomings of the Maria response, will he be able to respond properly to Florence? More at NBC News.

Hurricane Florence again decreased in speed late Thursday and was downgraded to a Category 1 hurricane, but the storm has already wreaked havoc and meteorologists warn that it will do considerable damage. One forecaster says the harm done by a 90 mph wind would be comparable to that suffered from a 110 mph wind. “I would not read too much into the categories,” said Howard Silverman, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service. Hurricane categories only consider the wind speed, Silverman said, and “a hurricane is so much more than just the wind. You have the rain, you have the storm surge.”

For most presidents, thousands of dead Americans would be a cause for grief. For Mr. Trump, they are evidence only of his own victimhood… Mr. Trump seems incapable of processing new information or learning from mistakes. Instead, he did what he always does: reject inconvenient data in favor of a story in which he is the hero. In the president’s view, increases in the official death toll cannot possibly stem from a more comprehensive analysis. They must stem from yet another conspiracy by his political enemies. The 3,000 lives lost, in other words, are all about him.

If history is a guide, it won’t be long after Hurricane Florence’s winds ease and floods ebb that President Donald Trump will award himself high marks for his handling of the latest natural disaster. Given his previous grade inflation, reflected in a new controversy he unleashed over the human toll of a hurricane in Puerto Rico last year, his assessments may not carry the unquestioned authority that those of a commander in chief should.

Who Won and Who Lost in the New York Primaries?

Yesterday’s Primary Elections in New York brought an end to the bitter battle between NY Gubernatorial candidates Andrew Cuomo and Cynthia Nixon. Despite a number of gaffes at the end of his campaign, Cuomo secured an easy win over Nixon and will now begin his third term as governor of New York. Another victor was Julia Salazar, who despite a bevy of scandals, won her bid for NY State Senate. Less successful were the members of the IDC, a band of incumbent Democrats who allied themselves with Republicans in the State Senate.

Well that was fun. Did we all have fun? Two-term incumbent governor Andrew Cuomo has, as every poll ever predicted, trounced actor and activist Cynthia Nixon in the New York gubernatorial primary, with 66 percent of the vote at the time the AP called it. He will now go on to face the Republican nominee, whose name is… let’s see here… it doesn’t really matter. Marc Molinaro, that’s the name. He’ll lose.

The latest win for the insurgent progressive movement within the Democratic Party is in a New York State Senate district: Julia Salazar… It’s rare for a state Senate race, even one in a section of Brooklyn home to many reporters, to get much notice. But Salazar’s campaign was unusual, featuring national media attention, comparisons to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and a high degree of scrutiny of her background — her brother publicly said that she was lying about her past, claiming to be from a working-class family when her mother made a middle-class salary and claiming to be an immigrant when she and her mother were both born in the US.

It is the end of an era because the core of the Independent Democratic Conference, that Albany power-sharing mechanism between renegade Democrats and State Republicans, was completly shattered. Chief among the victors was 32-year-old lawyer and Hillary Clinton campaign veteran Alessandra Biaggi, who took down the leader of the IDC, longtime Bronx State Sen. Jeff Klein. She was just one of the Democrats, along with Jessica Ramos of Queens, Robert Jackson of Manhattan and Zellnor Myrie of Brooklyn, who defeated one-time IDC members. Their collective victory is noteworthy because of the great power that the IDC had amassed before it was disbanded in April.

Criticizing Israel: A Free Speech Issue or an Antisemitism Issue?

The new head of Civil Rights at the Education Department wants to tackle anti-Semitism on American campuses. Some critics say that his initiatives will harm free speech rights for critics of Israel. More at YNET.

Marcus wrote in the letter that the Education Department, in its investigations into discrimination, would use the “working definition” of anti-Semitism that is “widely used by governmental agencies” including the State Department. That definition includes examples in which delegitimizing Israel, or holding it to a double standard not expected of other democratic nations, are deemed anti-Semitic… some civil liberties organizations and advocates for Palestinian rights believe that the definition is so broad that it would label criticism of Israel as anti-Semitic.

The Education Department’s new policy is part of a broader crackdown on dissent against Israel on college campuses. These efforts appear to be inspired by the very impulse that the right’s free-speech warriors claim to revile — the urge to suppress an argument out of fear that one’s position isn’t strong enough to withstand debate.

The ACLJ is directly engaged in fighting anti-Semitism all over the world and inside the United Nations. Now we’re fighting for Jewish students at universities right here at home… Rather than protect the beliefs and safety of all its students, a major university has just agreed to let a vehemently anti-Israel group hold a conference on its campus. The group, Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) is notorious for disrupting Jewish student activities and instilling hatred and intolerance toward Israel.

Is Trump Trying to Dismantle the Palestinian Authority?

He’s recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, cut U.S. funding for UNRWA, and shut down the PLO’s offices in Washington D.C. Is Trump’s endgame the dismantling of the Palestinian Authority?

The American administration’s offensive against the Palestinian Authority is at its height. Israel enthusiastically backs up the American political maneuvers. The strategy is to pin the Palestinians to the wall to extract the best possible deal for the Israeli side. The problem is that this strategy could boomerang. The Palestinians have already threatened to “return the keys” many times. An Israeli source with expertise on the current goings-on told Al-Monitor this week on condition of anonymity: “They will return the keys on the day that the Israeli right will annex the West Bank.” In other words — never.

We need to take seriously the lesson of the last 25 years. It is because the peace process negated the principle of moral judgment, that it enabled the Palestinian movement to subjugate, indoctrinate, and impoverish its people while continuing to attack Israel. And, over time, it empowered the jihadists within the Palestinian movement. The peace process did usher in a “new era in the Middle East,” but one that only dictators and jihadists have reason to celebrate. Going forward, we need new, clear-eyed thinking about what justice demands and America’s actual stake in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

With the closure of the PLO office, the U.S. may well have exhausted the diplomatic and financial pressure tools at its disposal. And while the Palestinians may have so far withstood American pressure, they are back in a situation similar to the pre-Oslo days: despite enjoying the support of many in the international community, they are unable to advance their cause because of the lack of U.S. support.

Does “Due Process” Have a Place in Campus Sexual Assault Proceedings?

Betsy DeVos wants to bring Due Process to campus Title IX proceedings. This would make Title IX proceedings function more like actual court proceedings in the American Criminal Justice System. But would this make them more fair?

Universities now play cop, prosecutor, judge and jury in campus sexual-assault cases, often without allowing due process rights to the accused. The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals last week issued an important rebuke to these Title IX proceedings that ought to become a national standard… an accused student’s fate can dangle on a thread when universities employ a “preponderance of evidence” standard that requires a mere 50.01% likelihood of guilt.

If the goal of your policy is to get more convictions, it’s fine, too. But if you want a fair process — one whose outcome could decide someone’s educational or occupational future, and whether they will forever be branded a rapist — it’s woefully inadequate. One odd quirk of the Obama-era guidance was that it mandated the lower standard of proof only in sexual assault cases, not in other college discipline matters. As a result, it was, at least in theory, easier for a campus judicial body to find that someone was guilty of rape than that he violated the school’s open-container rules by walking outside carrying a beer.

While DeVos’s proposed reforms more closely align Title IX procedures with the criminal justice system, that system is not one to emulate. Current legal procedures dealing with sexual misconduct are inadequate, and there is insufficient justification for such an alignment. Because the criminal justice system requires proof beyond reasonable doubt for a conviction, accusers are forced into long trials where all aspects of their personal history can be examined, resulting in less than 6 percent of rapes even being prosecuted. Title IX presents a less invasive chance for victims to obtain justice — it should not be tinkered with at the expense of student safety.

What’s Going on in Sunspot, New Mexico?

A solar observatory in New Mexico has been mysteriously shut down by the FBI. No one is allowed inside the observatory or in the area, and reports have been heard of Black Hawk helicopters circling the area. Aliens? A solar flare? Without any information, the conspiracy theories are practically writing themselves. More at CNET.

The sun is the only astronomical body capable of doing major damage to planet earth without actually hitting us. A coronal mass ejection aimed at the earth could have a devastating impact on satellites, radio transmission, and the electrical grid, possibly causing massive power outages that could last for weeks, even months. (It would also produce spectacular auroras. During the Carrington Event of 1859, the northern lights were seen as far south as the Caribbean and people in New England could read newspapers by the light.)

Something strange is happening at the Sunspot Solar Observatory in New Mexico, and there’s only one thing we know for certain: It’s not not an alien. The solar observatory and a nearby post office have both been evacuated and closed until further notice “due to unforeseen circumstances.” But the reasons why the facility was vacated — and exactly when it was vacated — still remain a mystery to the public… The story gets even more mysterious. Otero County Sheriff Benny House told the Alamogordo Daily News that his department has no idea what’s going on and has been asked to remain on standby during the facility’s evacuation. He also said the FBI is involved.

However, another theory which has arisen is that a foreign agent hacked one of the antennae at the NSO in order to monitor the military in the US. Theoretically, this would make sense to hack the NSO as it is near the White Sands Missile Range, also in New Mexico.The US Army base is the largest and one of the most secretive military installations in the US. White Sands has primarily been used to test newly developed weapons and is infamous as the world’s first testing ground for the atomic bomb. As such, some people believe China or Russia whats to know what is going on there.

Roundtable Extra: Commentary on Yom Kippur & Vayelech

This week at the Jewish Journal, Parashat Vayelech and the holiday of Yom Kippur are under discussion.

Vayelech recounts the events of Moses’ last day. “I am one hundred and twenty years old today,” he tells the people.” He transfers the leadership to Joshua, and concludes writing the Torah in a scroll which he entrusts to the Levites for safekeeping.

Click here to listen to Shmuel Rosner’s Torah Talk with Rabbi Eric Solomon on the parashah.

At the Jewish Journal’s Table for Five we ask: How do we make an atonement that lasts? Click here for the full discussion.

  • Miriam Yerushalmi: To be at peace with this process of becoming our truest self is the best aid to successful positive change.
  • David Sacks: The problem is, when we focus only on our actions, it often doesn’t work. Maybe it does in the short term, but usually not over the long haul. Why? Because before I examine my deeds, the first thing I need to decide is who it is I want to be.
  • Shaindy Jacobson: It is said, to err is human, to forgive is divine. Each of us has the capacity to fuse the human with the divine.
  • Rabbanit Alissa Thomas-Newborn: If we are busy with the holy work of creating peace, wholeness, warmth and awareness of God, our atonement will not only be lasting, but expansive, constructive and worthwhile.
  • Rabbi Tzvi Freeman: If I could make every moment of my life into a mitzvah moment, I would always be at-onement. But even if I fall away and disconnect from that eternal source — may God protect me from myself — that moment of my life remains my everlasting moment of at-onement.

Today’s Hot Issues

Can Trump Survive the Political Hurricane? Who Won and Who Lost in the New York Primaries? Criticizing Israel: A Free Speech Issue or an Antisemitism Issue? Is Trump Trying to Dismantle the Palestinian Authority? Does “Due Process” Have a Place in Campus Sexual Assault Proceedings? What’s Going on in Sunspot, New Mexico? Roundtable Extra: Commentary on Yom Kippur & Vayelech