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 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.
Attachments area

Saturday, February 18, 2017

More women get-refusers than men? Rabbinic courts distort the facts

Times of Israel by Nitzan Caspi Shiloni, Esq. is an attorney at the Center for Women's Justice, a legal advocacy organization  

[...] In case you missed it: on Tuesday, February 14, the rabbinic court announced its findings with great fanfare: More women withhold religious divorces than men! To understand this outrageous piece of PR, let’s take a look at some key facts that might come as a surprise to those unfamiliar with the world of rabbinic courts.

First, rabbinic court statistics are utterly meaningless when examined in context. They fail to provide an accurate representation of the actual numbers of women refused a get. Naama, the woman mentioned above, who has been waiting five and a half years for her get, is not counted. 60- and 70-year-old women, who, after waiting 20 or 30 years for a get that never materializes and have had their rabbinic court files closed due to lack of activity, are not counted. Women who filed for divorce, but could not cite halakhically adequate grounds for divorce (to illustrate, “occasional” domestic violence against women is not considered sufficient grounds for divorce according to many rabbinic courts in Israel), and whose divorce requests were subsequently rejected by the rabbinic court, are not counted. Women who sue their recalcitrant husbands for damages in civil court are labeled recalcitrant wives by the rabbinic court as “punishment” for turning to the civil system, doubly skewing the statistics by not factoring into the number of agunot, while also adding to the number of recalcitrant wives. And women who do not capitulate to financial extortion for their get are not counted either, since the rabbinic court will not obligate a man to give the get until the woman satisfies all of the husband’s demands.

In an especially blood-boiling incident I encountered a few months ago in the course of my work at the Center for Women’s Justice, the Haifa Rabbinic Court released the recalcitrant husband of one of my clients from prison because she would not pay hundreds of thousands of shekels for her get. The rabbinic court judges had the gall to admonish the woman (whose husband had been refusing her a get for six years), saying that it was her fault that she had no get — because she refused to meet the husband’s demand. Absurdly, in the rabbinic court’s statistics, the man is not counted as a get-refuser. [...]

But let’s put aside all these pesky facts for now, and take a fresh look at the story behind the story. If we pause and think about the rabbinic court’s data and their “boys versus girls” argument that they attempt to craft, one thing is glaringly obvious: the utter failure of the rabbinic court itself.

The rabbinic court can try and wage a defensive PR campaign against the barrage of criticism hurled its way every day by the media and others who are fed up with its shenanigans. But the fact remains that get-refusal — whether perpetrated by men or women (the numbers of whom the rabbinic court is all too happy to share) — is enabled by the rabbinic court system itself. Their own failing system is responsible for the proliferation of get-refusal and their ineptitude is what chains more and more Israeli men and women in marriages against their will. And the icing on the cake? By issuing this misleading report, the rabbinic court tries to place the responsibility for this tragic state of affairs on the very women who suffer at its hands. But there is no doubt that the responsibility for this predicament lies with the rabbinic courts themselves.

Friday, February 17, 2017

A Jewish Reporter Got to Ask Trump a Question. It Didn’t Go Well.

Jake Turx is a newly minted White House correspondent for a publication that has never before had a seat in the White House press corps: Ami Magazine, an Orthodox Jewish weekly based in Brooklyn. He is a singular presence in the briefing room: a young Hasidic Jew with side curls tucked behind his ears and a skullcap embroidered with his Twitter handle.[...]

When President Trump called on him at a news conference on Thursday, saying he was looking for a “friendly reporter,” Mr. Turx was prepared. He had spent an hour crafting a question about a recent surge of anti-Semitism, with a preamble that he hoped would convey his supportive disposition toward Mr. Trump.

But the exchange did not go the way he expected. A few hours later, with the clip replaying on social media and Jewish groups issuing news releases, Mr. Turx, 30, was still reeling. He said in a telephone interview, “Regretfully, today was a day I wish we could have done over.”

His editor, Rabbi Yitzchok Frankfurter, watched aghast from the magazine’s offices as his young correspondent received a tongue-lashing from the president: “It was a very disheartening moment for us, to watch him being berated.”

The exchange began with Mr. Turx standing up from his third-row seat and gesturing slightly toward his fellow reporters:

“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 zayde,” which is Yiddish for “grandfather” and often a word of great affection.

At that Mr. Trump nodded slightly, and said, “thank you.”

“However,” Mr. Turx continued, “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’s 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 committing anti-Semitic acts or threatening to——”

At that, Mr. Trump interrupted, saying it was “not a fair question.”

“Sit down,” the president commanded. “I understand the rest of your question.”

As Mr. Turx took his seat, Mr. Trump said, “So here’s the story, folks. No. 1, I am the least anti-Semitic person that you’ve ever seen in your entire life. No. 2, racism, the least racist person.”

Mr. Turx tried to interject, realizing how the encounter had turned. He said he had wanted to clarify that he in no way meant to accuse Mr. Trump of anti-Semitism but instead intended to ask what his administration could do to stop the anti-Semitic incidents.

But Mr. Trump would not let him speak again, saying, “Quiet, quiet, quiet.” As Mr. Turx shook his head with an incredulous look on his face, Mr. Trump accused him of having lied that his question would be straight and simple.

Mr. Trump said, “I find it repulsive. I hate even the question because people that know me. …”

He went on to say that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, during his visit to the United States on Wednesday, had vouched for Mr. Trump as a good friend of Israel and the Jewish people and no anti-Semite.

Mr. Trump concluded that Mr. Turx should have relied on Mr. Netanyahu’s endorsement, “instead of having to get up and ask a very insulting question like that.”

“Just shows you about the press, but that’s the way the press is,” Mr. Trump said.[...]

The Anti-Defamation League issued a statement on Thursday that said, “It is mind-boggling why President Trump prefers to shout down a reporter or brush this off as a political distraction.”

David Harris, chief executive of the American Jewish Committee, said, “Respectfully, Mr. President, please use your bully pulpit not to bully reporters asking questions potentially affecting millions of fellow Americans, but rather to help solve a problem that, for many, is real and menacing.”

Surveys show that Mr. Trump was not the choice of the majority of American Jews, who tend to vote for Democrats and came out in force for Hillary Clinton. Many Jews have been critical of Mr. Trump for not more forcefully denouncing anti-Semites and racists like David Duke, a former leader of the Ku Klux Klan who endorsed Mr. Trump during the campaign. Many Jewish leaders are also wary of Stephen K. Bannon, Mr. Trump’s White House strategist, because of the close affinity between Breitbart News, which he once ran, and the white supremacists in the movement known as the alt-right.

But Mr. Trump was popular among many Orthodox Jews. They were reassured to see the Orthodox Jews in his family and attracted to his hawkish line on Israel, his support of vouchers for religious schools and his promise to ban Muslim immigrants from entering the country.[...]

Yisro; A Friend & The Mizbeach Have Something In Common by Rabbi Shlomo Pollak

The last Pasuk in Parshas Yisro instructs us לא תעלה במעלות על מזבחי - do not use steps to on the Mizbeach... Rashi explains that this is where we learn to construct a ramp (כבש) leading up to the top of the Mizbeach. The reason for this prohibition, Rashi explains from the "Mechilta" is, that the Torah does not want us to make large steps, as that would be disrespectful to the Mizbeach...
Is this commandment exclusive to the Mizbeach, and includes nothing else? Or is this actually inclusive, and we are expected to extrapolate from this Halacha, to other people??  

Rashi teaches us (with a קל וחומר) that our friends are included, and yet we know that there were steps leading up to the Menorah?? So which is it??...

For questions and comments, please email us at


Message To Jared Kushner From This Week's Medrash

Rashi quotes this Mechiltah at the end of this week's Parshah. However, Rashi doesn't bring down the words about bringing peace between two nations and two governments... which can be referring to Israel and America!!

Let's hope Jared, Netanyahu, and Mr. Freedman are Matzliach in restoring the bond between the American Government and the Israeli Government!!

Good Shabbos. 

Fact-checking President Trump’s news conference lies

NY Times

At one point, Mr. Trump searched for a new face among the veteran White House reporters who were challenging him and settled on a journalist wearing a skullcap whom he clearly did not recognize, hoping for the best.

“Are you a friendly reporter?’’ Mr. Trump said. The response of the reporter, Jake Turx of Ami magazine, a Jewish publication, could not be heard in the room.

The president’s anger then flared when Mr. Turx asked about a rise in anti-Semitic incidents around the country.

Telling Mr. Turx to sit down and accusing him of lying about asking a “very straight, simple question,” Mr. Trump rejected the charge that he is personally anti-Semitic — something the reporter had explicitly said he was not asserting.

Washington Post

“I don’t think there’s ever been a president elected who in this short period of time has done what we’ve done.”
— President Trump, news conference, Feb. 16, 2016

We can’t quite fact check the statement above — it’s certainly open to debate what counts as achievements — but we can fact-check 15 dubious claims made by the president in his lengthy news conference. Some of these are from his greatest hits of falsehoods, which we have fact-checked many times before. The claims are addressed in the order in which Trump made them.

“A new Rasmussen poll just came out just a very short while ago, and it has our approval rating at 55 percent and going up.”

Trump has a tendency to focus only on polls that are good for him. Rasmussen has a right-leaning bias and earns a C+ grade from Other polls show Trump with significantly lower approval ratings, such as Gallup (40 percent) and Pew Research Center (39 percent).

“Trump’s overall job approval is much lower than those of prior presidents in their first weeks in office,” Pew said. “Nearly half (46%) strongly disapprove of his job performance, while 29% strongly approve.”

But Trump apparently dismisses such findings:

Donald J. Trump

Any negative polls are fake news, just like the CNN, ABC, NBC polls in the election. Sorry, people want border security and extreme vetting.

“Plants and factories are already starting to move back into the United States, and big league — Ford, General Motors, so many of them.”

Trump keeps giving himself credit for business decisions made before he became president. Ford’s decision has more to do with the company’s long-term goal — particularly its plans to invest in electric vehicles — than with the administration. Here’s what Ford chief executive Mark Fields said about the company’s decision to abandon plans to open a factory in Mexico: “The reason that we are not building the new plant, the primary reason, is just demand has gone down for small cars.”

“To be honest, I inherited a mess. It’s a mess. At home and abroad, a mess.”

Trump indicated he was backing up this statement by noting that “jobs are pouring out of the country…. The Middle East is a disaster. North Korea.”

The state of foreign policy is open to interpretation — Trump claimed he was developing “a plan for the defeat of ISIS,” the terrorist group in Iraq and Syria.

But the economy was in pretty good shape when Trump became president, especially compared to the economic crisis that Obama inherited in 2009. In January 2009, coinciding with the last labor report of the George W. Bush administration, nearly 800,000 jobs disappeared, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, compared to the nearly 230,000 jobs added in January 2017. (Trump has given himself credit for the January numbers, but the data was collected when Obama still held office.)

“We got 306 [electoral college votes] 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.”

This statement is wrong on several levels.

Trump ended up with 304 electoral votes, because two electors he earned voted for someone else.

Trump did get more raw votes than any other Republican candidate in history — but he also earned 2.9 million fewer votes than Hillary Clinton. Another 8 million people voted for third-party or write-in candidates. Moreover, turnout of the voting-age population (54.6 percent) was lower than in the elections of 2012, 2008 and 2004.

Finally, Trump was wrong on the size of his electoral college win. Of the nine presidential elections since 1984, Trump’s electoral college win ranks seventh. When a reporter pointed out his error, Trump first indicated that he was talking about Republican candidates. But George H.W. Bush received 426 electoral votes in 1988. Trump’s response: “I don’t know, I was given that information.”[...]

You [the media] have a lower approval rate than Congress. I think that’s right.”

Trump indicated that he wasn’t sure if this assertion is correct. It is not. The public’s trust in the media has certainly fallen over the years. But a 2016 Gallup poll shows that Congress is viewed positively by 9 percent of respondents, compared to 20 percent for newspapers and 21 percent for television.

That’s not a high confidence level — besides Congress, only “big business” ranks lower than the media — but it’s enough to make Trump’s claim incorrect.

“When WikiLeaks, which I had nothing to do with, comes out and happens to give, they’re not giving classified information.”

WikiLeaks actually released hundreds of thousands of classified State Department cables, in a significant blow to U.S. diplomacy.

“Nobody mentions that Hillary received the questions to the debates.”

Trump overstates the disclosure about Clinton reportedly getting a single debate question. During the Democratic primaries, a debate was held in Flint, Mich., to focus on the water crisis. Donna Brazile, then an analyst with CNN, sent an email to the Clinton campaign saying that a woman with a rash from lead poisoning was going to ask what Clinton as president could do the help the people of Flint.

There’s no indication Clinton was told this information, but in any case it’s a pretty obvious question for a debate being held in Flint. In her answer, Clinton committed to remove lead from water systems across the country within five years. Lee-Anne Waters, who asked the question, later said Clinton’s answer “made me vomit in my mouth” because that was too long to wait in Flint.

You know, they say I’m close to Russia. Hillary Clinton gave away 20 percent of the uranium in the United States. She’s close to Russia.”

Trump repeated this claim, worthy of Four Pinocchios, several times during the news conference.

An entire chapter is dedicated to this uranium deal in Peter Schweizer’s “Clinton Cash.” In the book, Schweizer reveals ties between the Clinton Foundation and investors who stood to gain from a deal that required State Department approval.

Trump’s claim suggests the State Department had sole approval authority, but the department is one of nine agencies in the Committee on Foreign Investments in the United States to vet and sign off on all U.S. transactions involving foreign governments. As we’ve noted before, there is no evidence Clinton herself got involved in the deal personally, and it is highly questionable that this deal even rose to the level of the secretary of state. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission also needed to approve, and did approve, the transfer.[...]

“Russia is a ruse. I have nothing to do with Russia. Haven’t made a phone call to Russia in years. Don’t speak to people from Russia.”

The Wall Street Journal reported during the campaign that before Trump gave a foreign-policy speech in April, he met with the Russian ambassador: “A few minutes before he made those remarks [calling for improved relations with Russia], Mr. Trump met at a VIP reception with Russia’s ambassador to the U.S., Sergey Ivanovich Kislyak. Mr. Trump warmly greeted Mr. Kislyak and three other foreign ambassadors who came to the reception.”

Trump also is being misleading when he says has “nothing to do with Russia.” Trump repeatedly sought deals in Russia. In 1987, he went to Moscow to find a site for a luxury hotel; no deal emerged. In 1996, he sought to build a condominium complex in Russia; that also did not succeed. In 2005, Trump signed a one-year deal with a New York development company to explore a Trump Tower in Moscow, but the effort fizzled.

In a 2008 speech, Donald Trump Jr. made it clear that the Trumps want to do business in Russia, but were finding it difficult. “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets,” Trump’s son said at a real estate conference in 2008, according to an account posted on the website of eTurboNews, a trade publication. “We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia.”

Alan Garten, general counsel of the Trump Organization, told The Washington Post in May: “I have no doubt, as a company, I know we’ve looked at deals in Russia. And many of the former Russian republics.” [...]

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Police seek public's aid in case against child molester

The police in Bnei Brak asked the public for help in determining what other cases a suspect in the violent assault on a six-year-old child may have been involved in.

Last Sunday, a couple came to the Bnei Brak police station and complained to police that their 6-year-old daughter was attacked by a stranger who took her to an apartment in the area while she was on the way to her kindergarten. The police initially arrested a 45 year old haredi lawyer on suspicion of having committed the attack, but he was later cleared of any suspicion and released.

The police also arrested another man, a 22-year old relative of the child. The suspect confessed to the attack and to having committed similar attacks during the interrogation.

The suspect's remand was extended by five days following his confession to having committed other assaults against minors. In addition, the police are seeking the aid of anyone who has information about the suspect's earlier attacks.

"Anyone who has information is asked to contact any police station or call the police hotline 100 and telephone 03-6104444," the police said.

ממה לאחר ששוחרר עורך הדין, בית משפט האריך את מעצרו של ברוך גנץ, בן 22 מבני ברק שנעצר במקביל לשחרורו.

ביום ראשון השבוע, הגיעו זוג הורים לתחנת המשטרה בבני ברק והתלוננו בפני השוטרים כי בתם בת ה-6 הותקפה על ידי אדם זר שלקח אותה לדירה באיזור, בעת שהייתה בדרכה לגן. בעקבות כך, המשטרה ביצעה פעולות חקירה ועצרה עורך דין חרדי מירושלים, ובית המשפט האריך את מעצרו. לאחר שהוכיח כי באותה העת שהה בבית דין הרבני ברחובות, הוא נוקה מכל חשד ושוחרר ללא תנאים.

במקביל לשחרורו, נעצר אדם אחר, קרוב משפחתו, בחשד שהוא זה שביצע את המעשה החמור בילדה. החשוד, בן 22 תושב בני ברק. בחקירתו, קשר את עצמו למעשה וסיפר על מעשים נוספים. ל'בחדרי חרדים' נודע, כי בדירה נמצא כובע עליו היה רשום שמו של החשוד ובעקבות כך הוא נעצר.

"בשלב זה מסר החשוד בחקירה פתוחה שורה של אירועים בהם על פי החשד ביצע עבירות בקטינים" אמרה השופטת רונית פוזננסקי-כץ מבית משפט השלום בתל אביב, "הוא פירט בהרחבה בפני החוקרים שורה של מעשים ופגיעות בקטינות" הוסיפה. בסיום הדיון האריכה את מעצרו בחמישה ימים, עד ליום שני הבא.

פרקליטו עו"ד עומר בללי אומר בתגובה ל'בחדרי חרדים' "אנחנו עדים למקרה מהחמורים ביותר של פגיעה בזכויותיו של חשוד בגיל צעיר מאוד, נורמטיבי שאינו מבין את מהות ההליך". לדבריו "המשטרה פגעה באופן קשה בזכויות שלו ולטעמנו באופן ששומט את הקרקע תחת הדברים שהוא אמר בחקירה" בה הודה בשורה של מעשים חמורים, כאמור. "אני סבור שתוכן הדברים שמסר בחקירה אינו קביל בשל הפגיעה בזכויותיו ואלה דברים שיתבררו בהמשך, גם בית המשפט נתן את דעתו עליהם".

Court files indictment against haredi yeshiva dean

The Central District Attorney filed on Tuesday an indictment against a haredi yeshiva dean who is suspected of criminal acts against minors.

According to Kikar News, the dean in question is a resident of a central haredi city. He left Israel after rumors about his behavior began to spread, and returned six weeks ago.

He was not arrested upon his return to Israel, and planned to accept position in a different yeshiva. However, he was arrested two weeks after his arrival and has since been interrogated many times. Several victims have come forward to complain, and there are other testimonies against him as well.

The suspect is now under house arrest for 32 days, after two former students filed claims against him, saying he attacked them. [...]

Yitro 75 - Honoring Parents and Abuse by Allan Katz

The Fifth Commandment, honoring parents is claimed by the psychologist Alice Miller to be the cause of more suffering for children who are victims of parental ' abuse ' and exacerbate their emotional distress and disability. After reading Dr Sorotzkin's article ( a must read )  Honoring Parents who are abusive  , the problem is not with the Torah and the commandment to honor parents , but ignorance on the part of many about the parameters and ' gedarim ' of the Mitzvah and the psychological issues involved. Kids who are emotionally abused have a natural tendency to deny or minimize the harmful nature of the parental abuse and blame themselves for being bad kids. This causes a variety of emotional and behavior problems. There is an  unconscious  need to believe that everything that our parents did for us, was really for our own good and was done out of love. It is too threatening for many kids to even entertain the possibility that our parents weren't well-meaning or even competent. In order to show what was done to them was not that bad and out of love, they do the same things to their own children that their parents did to them. So obligating abused children to unconditionally honor abusive parents not only causes more damage but will serve to perpetuate abuse. Successful treatment and genuine reconciliation with parents means that care givers have to overcome the child's resistance to acknowledging the abusive nature of parent's behavior and the role of their parents in their difficulties. When the child is encouraged to externalize and direct their anger to the appropriate people they don't repress the anger which can cause excessive guilt feelings, self -punishment and other psychological symptoms. This allows parents to take responsibility for their actions, admit their wrong doing, do teshuvah and ask for forgiveness. Unfortunately, children are encouraged to forgive their parents even when their parents have not apologized and done teshuvah. They claim that blaming parents for ones' difficulties is not a good place to be and one has to move on and take responsibility for one's life. This view suppresses and perpetuates the negativity and gets in the way of true reconciliation.

In most cases of abuse, parents are doing the best they can in difficult circumstances and often the advice they are getting makes things much worse. But being in a position of weakness, they are often motivated by unacknowledged, unhealthy and subconscious emotional needs, especially to be in control in their mistreatment of their children. Disrespect is the weapon of the weak and it becomes hard for them to convince others that they are acting out of good intentions for the child's good. In a nutshell, children are not obligated to honor abusive parents because   a) they don't have to sacrifice their emotional well-being in order to do the mitzvah of honoring parents, b) one may be lenient in a mitzvah of Love your neighbor as yourself –ואהבת את רעך כמוך   if there is a benefit c) children can defend themselves against abuse or false accusations and admonish – tochacha parents who violate Halacha, d) the abusive parent is called a wicked person - רשע and there is no obligation to honor a parent who is a ra'sha.

    Today the problem with abusive parents is less about hitting and being physical but more about emotional abuse. This includes persistent criticism, sarcasm, hostility, shaming and blaming and conditional parenting. Conditional parenting is making the level of care, love and acceptance you show to a child dependent and contingent on his behaviors, actions and how well he does at school or on the sports field. It loves them for what they do and not for what they are. It is using love and acceptance to try and leverage good behavior and test scores. When a parent's love depends on what children do, children come to disown parts of them that aren't valued and eventually regard themselves as worthy only when they act or think in specific ways. When kids receive affection with strings attached they accept themselves only with strings attached while kids who accepted unconditionally feel better about themselves as good people. Most parents say that they love their kids unconditionally, but what is important is how kids experience our 'love' and the way we treat them. Do kids feel that when my dad disagrees with me , I know that he still loves me and even during the worst conflicts with my mom she maintained a sense of  loving connection with me. The problem is not only with bad advice from experts – Baumrind - says that kids must earn what they get including love and loving kids unconditionally will encourage a kid to be selfish and demanding. Love and acceptance is a tool to help you modify your child's behavior and gain control.

Instead of our need to control children and get them to honor us, we should be asking ' what do they need from us'? We need to address their physical, emotional needs and needs for love, respect and acceptance. The Chazon Ish said that what children need more than love is respect and unconditional acceptance. The Steipler, explained to his daughter who asked him why he did not wake her up in the night when he was not feeling well. He deprived her of the mitzvah of honoring parents. The Steipler answered that his commandment – mitzvah was not to impose himself on her, while her mitzvah was honoring parents. In another story a parent complained to the Steipler about his uncompliant son who was not listening to him. The Steipler answered that the father could lower the rope, not make demands on the child and be ' mochel - forgive  ' him. If the father made demands on his son that he knows that the son won't comply with , the father in a way is responsible for the child's behavior and he transgresses the law of ' lifnei ever lo ti'tein michshol '- do not put a stumbling block in front of the blind. Instead of control and obedience we can promote cooperation and relationship and build trust by meeting children's needs including love and unconditional acceptance.

 Parents complained to the therapist Barbara Colorosa about their teenage son. Until recently he was a good boy who always listened to us. Now he is with his friends and he is listening to them. The therapist replied that nothing has changed – before he was listening to you, now he is listening to his friends. The purpose of parenting and education is to raise children who listen to their inner voices and values and do what is right, do what reflects who they are and what they believe in.