Thursday, March 23, 2017

Jewish Center Bomb Threat Suspect is Jewish - Is Arrested in Israel

The police on Thursday arrested an Israeli teenager who holds American citizenship in connection with scores of threats to Jewish institutions, including dozens of community centers in the United States, law enforcement officials said.

A spokesman for the police here, Micky Rosenfeld, said the suspect, from the Ashkelon area of southern Israel, had also made threats to institutions in Australia and New Zealand, as well as to at least one commercial airline flight, forcing an emergency landing.

“This is the guy we are talking about,” Mr. Rosenfeld said.

The authorities did not immediately identify the teenager, who they said was Jewish and 19. Other reports put his age at 18. He was expected to appear in court later Thursday.

The suspect’s motives were not immediately clear. He was being questioned by the international investigations unit of the Israeli police.

The arrest took place after a monthslong investigation in cooperation with the F.B.I. and other police and security agencies in the United States and Europe, the Israeli police said in a statement.

“The investigation began in several countries at the same time, in which dozens of threatening calls were received at public places, events, synagogues and community buildings that caused panic and disrupted events and activities in various organizations,” the statement said.

Representatives of the F.B.I. and police organizations from various other countries arrived in Israel to take part in the investigation, the statement said, adding that technology was used to track the suspect down. [...]

Vayakhel 75 - School as a community by Allan Katz

Guest post by Allan Katz

The word for community – ke'hilah comes from the word vayakhel- ויקהל , the opening word of our parasha. There are different types of communities , some positive and some negative depending on their goals and common purpose.  And Moses assembled – vayakhel = ויקהל the people  so he could share with the community God's commandments to observe the Sabbath and build a mishkan – a tabernacle which would come from the contributions offered by the people. The Sabbath had to observed especially by being careful to focus on bonding through learning and not kindling a fire -  including the fire of argument and conflict in the community.  The Midrash explains that while community is very important, Moses is setting a precedent, that  community   life  must be based on  learning. People should gather on the Sabbath and Moses would teach them about the Sabbath and other laws of the Torah. Houses of prayer, like the study halls should be places of learning as well as for  prayer. Community projects like the building of the mishkan- the tabernacle or any other projects that serve the community  must be  seen in the context of spiritual development and commitment to the Torah. This context is created by communal learning and observing the Torah laws. So community must be based on cooperative learning and projects  and be    guided by spiritual beliefs. The ideal situation is that people are drawn to a Rabbi and his place of learning and because they learn together, they pray together and participate in communal projects.

Schools are the perfect setting for building a community based on cooperative learning and social projects. Unfortunately many schools are more about instilling obedience and having control .It is for sure not a place that gives kids a voice and tries to  inspire them  to make their school a better and nurturing place for all. Teachers will use extrinsic motivation like prizes, grades and competition to motivate kids to behave and learn. Kids learn to ask themselves what will I get or what will be done to me. Kids are ranked according to their test scores and how well they behave ,  and the competitive ones see others as obstacles to their success. It does not help to talk about good character and caring , if the environment is competitive and problems are solved using punishment or bribes. The school has to create an environment which promotes cooperation between kids and pro-social behavior. If we go beyond discipline and grades and focus on community  and cooperative learning, kids will learn to  ask how do my actions impact on others , how can I make a contribution, what type of school or classroom would I like?  Kids will be intrinsically more motivated and develop a love for learning when they can participate in deciding on the curriculum. As one student remarked, my teachers always had the ability to give us the feeling that we decided on what we were going to study and learn.   Excellence is not measured by test scores but by taking responsibility for other kids and sharing your learning. Kids see each other as learning resources and look to each for support and friendship. There is the understanding that only a unity of purpose , cooperation and a caring atmosphere where every child is needed and valued,  can a community  and individuals meet  their goals.

Progressive schools see the importance of creating a community of caring learners and the best way children learn is when they are engaged in real-life situations that are important to them. Schools can implement a Jobs Program which allows kids to learn by doing.

Each School Group has a specific job to perform that helps the school community function smoothly. Some groups will tutor and become buddies for younger kids, other groups can run the school newspaper, the school store which supplies stationary and text books , the school garden , be involved in  sign making and running the  print shop. The children have ample opportunity to practice and expand their academic skills, including mathematics, reading and writing, while further developing leadership, critical thinking and problem-solving tools. Because they are performing real jobs that meet real needs, the children also develop a genuine sense of ownership and pride in their school community.
Anyone working with or watching these children soon realizes the deeper psychological aspect of this type of program. It gives a child a sense of dignity and responsibility to be entrusted with a job whose importance he fully recognizes...All his abilities are called into play. He learns self-control, patience, self-discipline. He accepts the need for drill and for special work in areas where he is weak, so he will be better able to serve his customers and his community.” 
—Jean Murray, former principal of City &Country

When community is based on communal and cooperative learning, there is more growth, bonding and commitment to values and to be of service to other kids.

Nunes makes bizarre claim that some Trump transition messages were intercepted

House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes declared Wednesday that members of Donald Trump’s transition team, possibly including Trump himself, were under inadvertent surveillance following November’s presidential election.

The White House and Trump’s allies immediately seized on the statement as vindication of the president’s much-maligned claim that former President Barack Obama wiretapped Trump Tower phones — even though Nunes himself said that’s not what his new information shows.

Democrats, meanwhile, cried foul.

Rep. Adam Schiff of California, the top Democrat on the intelligence panel, cast doubt on Nunes’ claims in a fiery statement and blasted the chairman for not first sharing the information with him or other committee members.

Schiff also slammed Nunes for briefing the White House on Wednesday afternoon given that the Intelligence Committee is in the middle of an investigation into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election, including possible collusion with the Trump team.

“The chairman will need to decide whether he is the chairman of an independent investigation into conduct which includes allegations of potential coordination between the Trump campaign and the Russians, or he is going to act as a surrogate of the White House, because he cannot do both,” Schiff said at a news conference Wednesday.

“And unfortunately,” he added, “I think the actions of today throw great doubt into the ability of both the chairman and the committee to conduct the investigation the way it ought to be conducted.”

Nunes set off the firestorm with a news conference earlier in the day in which he described the surveillance of Trump aides through what’s called “incidental collection,” something he noted was routine and legal. Such collection can occur when a person inside the United State communicates with a foreign target of U.S. surveillance. In such cases, the identities of U.S. citizens are supposed to be shielded — but can be “unmasked” by intelligence officials under certain circumstances.

Nunes, himself a Trump transition member, said a “source” had shown him evidence that members of the Trump transition team had been unmasked — and that their identities had been revealed in U.S. intelligence reports. Nunes had previously raised questions about the unmasking of former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, whose communications with Russia’s ambassador were intercepted by the U.S. government and whose identity was leaked to the news media.

Nunes suggested this unmasking might have been done for political reasons, saying the evidence he had seen had been widely disseminated across the intelligence community and had "little or no apparent intelligence value." He added that he was trying to get more information by Friday from the FBI, CIA and NSA.

“I have seen intelligence reports that clearly show that the president-elect and his team were, I guess, at least monitored,” the California Republican told reporters. “It looks to me like it was all legally collected, but it was essentially a lot of information on the president-elect and his transition team and what they were doing.” He said the information he had seen was not related to the FBI’s Russia investigation.[...]

Other Democrats also took issue with Nunes’ decision to go straight to Trump.
Rep. Jim Himes, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, said Nunes’ trip to the White House “raises all sorts of questions.”

“What if it’s one of the president’s people who is being investigated?” the Connecticut Democrat said in an interview. “Is he going to damage the investigation? It all feels very, very odd.”

Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.), another member of the intelligence panel, said he was “troubled.”

“The House Intelligence Committee is charged with investigating Russia's interference into our election and whether any U.S. persons were involved,” Swalwell said in a statement. “The chairman's actions and closeness to a president whose campaign is under federal investigation have gravely damaged the Investigation's credibility.”

At the White House, press secretary Sean Spicer read from Nunes' statement during a press briefing, showing how eager Trump's team was to amplify the remarks.

A political action committee associated with Trump, the Great America PAC, sent out a mass fundraising email claiming Trump’s wiretapping claims had proved accurate. Donald Trump Jr. also posted a message to Instagram crowing about Nunes’ comments.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

WSJ editorial: Most Americans may conclude Trump 'fake president'

President Donald Trump's repeated lack of "respect for the truth" puts him in jeopardy of being viewed as "a fake President," The Wall Street Journal editorial board says.

"Two months into his presidency, Gallup has Mr. Trump's approval rating at 39%. No doubt Mr. Trump considers that fake news, but if he doesn't show more respect for the truth, most Americans may conclude he's a fake President," reads the editorial, which appeared online Tuesday night.
"This week should be dominated by the smooth political sailing for Mr. Trump's Supreme Court nominee and the progress of health-care reform on Capitol Hill," the editorial said. "These are historic events, and success will show he can deliver on his promises. But instead, the week has been dominated by the news that he was repudiated by his own FBI director."
While the Journal's editorial board was no friend of Trump during much of the 2016 campaign, the strong language in the editorial is particularly notable given the board's typically conservative outlook and the fact that the Journal is owned by Rupert Murdoch, with whom Trump has had a long and complicated relationship. Murdoch harshly criticized Trump in the wake of his 2015 putdown of Sen. John McCain but has gradually warmed up to the businessman-turned-President.
The editorial also slammed Trump for refusing to back off his administration's unsubstantiated allegations that President Barack Obama ordered the wiretapping of Trump Tower. Multiple lawmakers, including Republicans, have called on Trump to apologize to Obama for making the claim without providing any evidence.
"He has offered no evidence for his claim, and a parade of intelligence officials, senior Republicans and Democrats have since said they have seen no such evidence," the editorial board wrote. "Yet the President clings to his assertion like a drunk to an empty gin bottle, rolling out his press spokesman to make more dubious claims."
Asked about the editorial on CNN's "New Day" Wednesday morning, Texas Rep. Pete Sessions said Trump's unverified allegations do hurt his credibility.
"It does hurt," he said. "It hurts a lot not only for my party but for people to have a sobering look at what others are saying."[...]

Study indicated that the women who are most at risk of being harmed by men are those who themselves engage in physical violence against men

Prof. Zeev Weinstock of the University of Haifa, one of the world's leading experts on violence between spouses, revealed this week the truth about violence between spouses, a truth hidden from the public.

Weinstock made an emotional speech at the first ever meeting of the Distributive Justice and Social Equality Committee, headed by MK Mickey Zohar (Likud). "For almost 50 years we have known that men's violence towards women takes place in similar proportions to the violence that women use against men in intimate relationships, in almost every culture and society that we know," said Weinstock, "from traditional societies to liberal Western societies.

"In addition, we know that in the motivations for violence, there is no difference between men and women. For the same reasons that men beat women, women beat men. The results are different, because of the differences between men and women, and men's physical endurance - they are injured less and therefore arrive less to the emergency rooms. So the visibility of the problem is very high in the case of women, but the motivations and the violent behavior are not a peculiarity of either particular gender."

The expert also told the committee about a study that determined that the women who are most at risk of being harmed by men are those who themselves engage in physical violence against men.

Automatic cataloging of men as violent

Despite these data, Professor Weinstock explained, systemic treatment in cases of violence between spouses refers to women automatically as victims of violence, while men are always labeled as perpetrators of violence - "Even in cases where this is not true at all. Even in cases where it is the opposite. Even in cases where it is mutual.

"The system today is structured to deal with the violence of men against women, and it does not intervene in cases where women are violent towards men. Even in cases where women are violent toward men, the women are always treated as if they are the victim, and the victim is treated as if he were the aggressor."

Being "crooked Trump" means never having to say you're sorry

President Donald Trump could invite former President Barack Obama back to the White House and apologize to him in person.

That would be nice.

A simple handshake.
“My bad.”

But that doesn’t seem to be his style.

FBI Director James Comey and Adm. Michael S. Rogers, the director of the National Security Agency, appeared before a congressional committee Monday and said there was, in fact, an investigation into possible Russian meddling in the presidential election and also into whether Trump surrogates were in contact with the Russians.

Lots of ways Trump could apologize

 This would indicate that an apology is in order.

So … flowers don’t really seem appropriate. Not really a guy thing.
Obama is said to enjoy chocolate-peanut butter protein bars. Maybe a box of those.

Or tickets to a basketball game. The former president loves basketball.

Or a round of golf at one of Trump’s resorts.

The White House could orchestrate a photo-op of two of them together on the links. Trump could even fly Obama down to Florida with him on Air Force One. It might take a little bit of the heat off Trump for the $2 million-plus it costs taxpayers every time he has the urge to head south. Which he does a lot. He's on track to spend more money in a year than Obama spent on vacations in eight years.

Plenty of people think Trump should apologize to voters for that.

Come to think of it, it would be nice for the president to apologize to voters for a few other things as well.

During the election campaign Trump promised he would not to cut Medicaid.

Looks like that’s going to happen under his health care bill.

He promised that his Obamacare replacement plan would provide “insurance for everybody.”[...]

When we were kids we were taught that when you break a promise to someone, or say something untrue about someone, you should apologize.

Trump doesn’t see the world that way.

He appears to consider broken promises and unproven accusations as “truthful hyperbole.”

In one of his books he described it this way, “I play to people’s fantasies. People may not always think big themselves, but they can still get very excited by those who do. That’s why a little hyperbole never hurts. People want to believe something is the biggest and the greatest and the most spectacular. I call it truthful hyperbole. It’s an innocent form of exaggeration — and a very effective form of promotion.”

It sure helped him get elected.

As for apologies, during a September 2015 appearance on "The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon," Trump was asked if he ever apologizes.

He answered, "I think apologizing's a great thing, but you have to be wrong. I will absolutely apologize, sometime in the hopefully distant future if I’m ever wrong.”

First, this is that future, and it wasn’t too distant.
Second … if you’re ever wrong?

Apparently, "Trump" means you never have to say you're sorry.

President Trump faces his hardest truth: The FBI has confirmed that he is a liar

On the 60th day of his presidency came the hardest truth for Donald Trump.

He was wrong.

James B. Comey — the FBI director whom Trump celebrated on the campaign trail as a gutsy and honorable “Crooked Hillary” truth-teller — testified under oath Monday what many Americans had already assumed: Trump had falsely accused his predecessor of wiretapping his headquarters during last year’s campaign.

Trump did not merely allege that former president Barack Obama ordered surveillance on Trump Tower, of course. He asserted it as fact, and then reasserted it, and then insisted that forthcoming evidence would prove him right.

But in Monday’s remarkable, marathon hearing of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, Comey said there was no such evidence. Trump’s claim, first made in a series of tweets on March 4 at a moment when associates said he was feeling under siege and stewing over the struggles of his young presidency, remains unfounded.

Comey did not stop there. He confirmed publicly that the FBI was investigating possible collusion between Trump campaign officials and associates with Russia, part of an extraordinary effort by an adversary to influence the outcome of the 2016 U.S. election in Trump’s favor.

Questions about Russia have hung over Trump for months, but the president always has dismissed them as “fake news.” That became much harder Monday after the FBI director proclaimed the Russia probe to be anything but fake.

“There’s a smell of treason in the air,” presidential historian Douglas Brinkley said. “Imagine if J. Edgar Hoover or any other FBI director would have testified against a sitting president? It would have been a mind-
boggling event.”

For Trump, Comey’s testimony punctuates what has been a troubling first two months as president. His approval ratings, which were historically low at his inauguration, have fallen even further. Gallup’s tracking poll as of Sunday showed that just 39 percent of Americans approve of Trump’s job performance, with 55 percent disapproving.

The Comey episode threatens to damage Trump’s credibility not only with voters, but also with lawmakers of his own party whose support he needs to pass the health-care bill this week in the House, the first legislative project of his presidency.

Furthermore, the FBI’s far-reaching Russia investigation shows no sign of concluding soon and is all but certain to remain a distraction for the White House, spurring moments of presidential fury and rash tweets and possibly inhibiting the administration’s ability to govern.[...]

Spicer’s defense strategy was in part to distance Trump from the figures under investigation by the FBI for their ties to Russia. In Spicer’s telling, Paul Manafort was a virtual nobody, someone who “played a very limited role for a very limited amount of time.”

Manafort was actually Trump’s campaign chairman and de facto manager for five months last year, from the end of the primaries through the summer convention and the start of the general election season.

Watching Sean Spicer twist himself into a pretzel yet again to try to pretend that Paul Manafort isn’t an influential figure is ludicrous,” Wehner said. “It’s like saying Aaron Rodgers isn’t a central figure for the Green Bay Packers.”

Brinkley, who has published biographies of such presidents as Gerald Ford, Franklin Roosevelt and Theodore Roosevelt, said of Trump’s start, “This is the most failed first 100 days of any president.”
“To be as low as he is in the polls, in the 30s, while the FBI director is on television saying they launched an investigation into your ties with Russia, I don’t know how it can get much worse,” Brinkley said.[...]

Trump’s biggest Obamacare lies

Washington Post   President Trump is like a broken record of Pinocchios, incessantly repeating false and misleading claims that have been debunked. As Congress debates the Republican replacement bill for the Affordable Care Act, Trump has been on a greatest-hits tour of his favorite, and questionable, claims about Obamacare. We compiled a round-up of his most notable claims from the past week.
“This is the worst year of all … 2017 is going to be the worst because he’s [former president Barack Obama] gone. He knew that was the year. Let him be out before it implodes.”
— March 15
“It’s a catastrophic situation, and there’s nothing to compare anything to because Obamacare won’t be around for a year or two. It’s gone.”
— March 15
“They also want people to know that Obamacare is dead; it’s a dead health-care plan. It’s not even a healthcare plan, frankly.”
— March 17
“I have to tell you that Obamacare is a disaster. It’s failing. … Obamacare will fail. It will fold. It will close up very, very soon if something isn’t done.”
— March 17
Trump’s claims that Obamacare “is failing,” “is dead,” “will close up very, very soon” and “is not even a health-care plan [?]” are simply false.

Credible estimates suggest the health-care law boosted the number of people with health insurance by 20 million. The Congressional Budget Office, in its report on the GOP replacement bill, said that the individual market would be stable in most markets at least for the next 10 years under the Affordable Care Act.[...]

Our friends at looked into this claim in depth and found “it is possible that some parts of the state will be without marketplace coverage next year.” But that’s not the same as Trump claiming half the state has no insurance company.
“I watched Bill Clinton saying, this is the craziest thing I’ve ever seen.”
— March 17
“The Governor of Minnesota said that Affordable Care Act — Obamacare — no longer affordable. That’s what he said.”
— March 17
Trump takes both comments out of context and twists their meaning.

Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton (D) on Oct. 12, 2016, faulted Republicans in Congress for refusing to adjust the law, which he said was the reason individual health insurance was “no longer affordable to increasing numbers of people.”

Dayton added that “the Affordable Care Act has many good features to it, it’s achieved great success in terms of insuring more people – 20 million people across the country – and providing access for people who have preexisting conditions and the like. But it’s got some serious blemishes and serious deficiencies. And we’re going to need both state and federal governments to step in and do what they need to do to remedy these problems.”

Bill Clinton’s remark on Oct. 3 about “the craziest thing I’ve ever seen” did not refer to the Affordable Care Act. Instead, he was talking about the fact that people who did not qualify for insurance subsidies did not have a way to buy into Medicare or Medicaid.

“The people that are getting killed in this deal are small business people and individuals who make just a little too much to get any of these subsidies. Why? Because they’re not organized, they don’t have any bargaining power with insurance companies, and they’re getting whacked,” Clinton said while campaigning in Flint, Mich. “So you’ve got this crazy system where all of a sudden, 25 million more people have health care and then the people that are out there busting it, sometimes 60 hours a week, wind up with their premiums doubled and their coverage cut in half. It’s the craziest thing in the world.”

Clinton noted that his wife, Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, had a proposal to deal with the problem by allowing affordable access into Medicare and Medicaid.
“Many of our best and brightest are leaving the medical profession entirely because of Obamacare.”
— March 20
There are anecdotes of some doctors, especially older ones, who are frustrated about adopting electronic health records under Obamacare. But physicians leave the industry for many reasons, mainly aging and burning out. As the baby boomer patient population gets older and has more complex conditions, there is greater demand on physicians and their services.

A 2016 survey of more than 17,000 physicians by Merritt Hawkins for the Physicians Foundation, a nonprofit for professional physicians, found low morale and burnout as key reasons physicians were leaving the industry. Less than one-quarter of physicians gave the Affordable Care Act a positive grade of A or B.

Recent data from the Association of American Medical Colleges shows physicians are actually retiring two years later, said Atul Grover, the group’s executive vice president. Grover said the group has not seen a significant number of physicians leaving the industry because of the law: “There is also no evidence of a declining interest in medicine since the ACA took effect. Applications to medical school are at an all-time high. The real challenge the physician workforce faces is the cap on federal support for graduate medical education established by Congress 20 years ago. As a result, there are not enough residency positions to fill demand.”
“People have been kicked off their plans, and their premiums have increased by double and triple digits. Arizona, up 116 percent.”
— March 20
Premiums increased overall in 2017 — but Trump cherry-picks data from Arizona, the state hit hardest by premium increases. The average increase for the second-lowest-cost silver plan (which is used as the benchmark to calculate government subsidies) is 25 percent. A few states, such as Indiana, will actually see a decrease.

But the majority of enrollees in the marketplace receive government premium subsidies and, in theory, are protected from such premium increases. So who is affected? The people who do not qualify for the tax subsidy. The GOP replacement plan would provide tax subsidies to a broader group of people but often provide less money per person to pay for insurance, so premiums may rise for many, especially the elderly, compared to current law, the CBO said.[...]

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

2 Months In, Trump May Already Own A First: Most Corrupt POTUS. Ever.

Imagine a foreign potentate who uses his official position to promote his private businesses. Who makes face time with visiting dignitaries a perk for his paying customers. Whose top aide urges the citizenry to embrace products sold by the sovereign’s daughter.

For two months now, Americans have not had to imagine any of this. They have been living it.
As President Donald Trump enters his third month in office, he has already established at least one record, however dubious: the president most open and willing to use the prestige of the White House to enrich himself and his family.
“I’m at a loss,” said Robert Maguire, an investigator with the Center for Responsive Politics, a group that advocates for more transparency in government and campaigns. “This idea that the presidency is something to enrich your private interest to the extent he’s doing, not by going on the speaking tour or getting a big book deal after he leaves office, but while he’s in office, sort of milking the office for all it’s worth ― it’s tacky.”

For years, Trump made sure to feature one of his properties and his name-emblazoned jetliner in each episode of his reality TV show “The Apprentice.” Just so, over the past seven weekends, Trump has visited his hotel in Washington, D.C., his golf courses in Palm Beach County and, most frequently, his Mar-a-Lago resort there. The weekend of March 11 – only the second in a month and a half that he did not travel to Florida – he had lunch with top aides at his golf course across the Potomac River from the White House. He did not play golf. He did not stay overnight. All he did was have lunch.
And with each of these visits have come the attendant media coverage, with photos and videos of his for-profit enterprises.
“He should not use his official position to promote his businesses. That doesn’t make him a good businessman. That makes him a bad president,” said Richard Painter, the former top ethics lawyer for President George W. Bush’s White House.[...]

rump’s behavior has no precedent, going back to at least the turn of the last century, ethics experts say. Even in the presidency most often associated with open corruption, it was Warren Harding’s Interior secretary, not Harding himself, who had taken bribes in the Teapot Dome oil lease scandal.
Presidents in recent years have taken care to place their assets in blind trusts, to eliminate possible perceptions of conflicts between their personal interests and those of the United States.
“I don’t think any president in modern history has had a serious conflict,” Painter said.[...]

Meanwhile, the family of his brother-in-law and top White House aide, Jared Kushner, is reportedly negotiating a deal with a Chinese firm that analysts are calling unusually favorable to the Kushners. It would allow them to dramatically reduce their liability on a nine-figure loan on a Manhattan high-rise. At the same time, Kushner has emerged as Trump’s informal but possibly most influential foreign policy negotiator and has already met with Chinese leaders among others.
Kushner’s wife, Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter, has been the beneficiary of a different top Trump aide. Kellyanne Conway, reacting to news that department store chain Nordstrom was dropping Ivanka Trump’s clothing line because of poor sales, in a TV interview from the White House briefing room urged viewers to take action.

“Go buy Ivanka’s stuff,” Conway told Fox News on Feb. 9. “I’m going to give a free commercial here. Go buy it today, everybody. You can find it online.”[...]

And during the visit of Japan’s prime minister to Mar-a-Lago last month, Trump introduced Shinzo Abe to club members hosting a wedding reception. “They’ve been members of this club for a long time,” Trump explained. “They’ve paid me a fortune.”
“This pay-to-play game has got to stop. He’s president of the United States. It’s corruption of government,” said Painter, now a law professor at the University of Minnesota and part of the legal team suing Trump over the payments his hotels are receiving from foreign entities, possibly in violation of the Constitution.
The Center for Responsive Politics’ Maguire said Trump’s behavior has disproven predictions by those who believed he would evolve to meet the decorum expected of the presidency. “The expectation was, once he gets into office, of course he won’t be like this,” Maguire said. “And, of course, he has.”

So far, Trump has been mercifully incompetent

“The world is laughing at us. They’re laughing at the stupidity of our president.”
Donald Trump, October 2016

Stupid is as stupid does. 

During the presidential campaign, Donald Trump remarked often on the stupidity of our leaders. He was under the impression that the rest of the planet was indulging in some sort of global guffaw at our expense. “How stupid are we? The world is laughing.” If so, what must the mirthful world think of our current state of affairs? This past week alone:

The House and Senate intelligence committees said they saw no evidence for President Trump’s wild claim that President Barack Obama wiretapped Trump Tower, and Britain protested that the White House falsely alleged that British intelligence was involved. White House press secretary Sean Spicer has been arguing that Trump didn’t mean wiretapping when he said Obama had Trump’s “wires tapped.” Trump counselor Kellyanne Conway suggested that eavesdropping could have been accomplished using microwave ovens

Trump’s fellow Republicans pronounced his budget dead on arrival in Congress — “draconian, careless and counterproductive” were the words used by Rep. Hal Rogers (R-Ky.), former House Appropriations Committee chairman — because it recklessly cuts (slashing the State Department by nearly a third and targeting Meals on Wheels for the elderly) yet still adds to the debt Trump promised to eliminate.

Legislation to replace Obamacare stalled in Congress and had to be rewritten because of a rebellion within Trump’s own party.

A judge halted Trump’s second attempt at a ban on travel from several Muslim countries.
And Republican lawmakers probing Trump’s ties to Russia threatened subpoenas over the executive branch’s stonewalling.

In one of the presidential debates, CNBC’s John Harwood asked Trump if he was running “a comic book version of a presidential campaign.” Now Trump seems to be running a cartoon version of a presidency, and he’s Elmer Fudd. His proposals could, if successfully implemented, be ruinous. But so far, at least, Trump has been mercifully incompetent. [...]

Trump’s first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, lasted just 24 days on the job after misrepresenting his contacts with Russia. Attorney General Jeff Sessions falsely testified that he’d had no contacts with the Russians, forcing his recusal from Russia investigations once the truth came out.

Trump’s nominee to be labor secretary withdrew in the face of broad opposition. His education secretary, who suggested that schools need guns to defend against grizzlies, was confirmed only when the vice president broke a tie vote

Trump blamed a “so-called” judge for striking down his first travel ban and proposed blaming the court system if there was a terrorist attack; his own Supreme Court nominee called such remarks disheartening.

Trump conducted sensitive diplomacy over a North Korean missile launch with the Japanese prime minister surrounded by diners at his Mar-a-Lago country club, one of whom posted online a photo of the man carrying the nuclear football.

Trump, after inflating the crowd size at his inauguration and embracing a conspiracy theory that 3 million to 5 million Americans voted illegally, falsely accused the media of not covering terrorist attacks. The White House then produced a badly spelled list of attacks, most of which had been covered. Conway invented one attack, the “Bowling Green massacre.”

Conway pitched Ivanka Trump’s fashion line on Fox News. Taxpayers have subsidized millions of dollars’ worth of expenses related to Mar-a-Lago and the Trump sons’ foreign travel.

Trump marked Black History Month with remarks suggesting he thought abolitionist Frederick Douglass was still alive.

Trump opened a rift with Australia in an angry phone call with that ally’s prime minister. He provoked the Mexican president to cancel a trip to Washington, and he baffled the Swedes by alluding to fictitious refugee-related violence “last night in Sweden.” Britain postponed a visit from Trump in hopes that anti-Trump protests would cool.[...]

This tragicomedy adds irony when you consider that the main character is the same one who campaigned by saying “they laugh at our stupidity” and “we are led by very, very stupid people” and “I have the best words, but there’s no better word than ‘stupid.’ ”

Now the world has reason to laugh at us — because we’re with stupid.

Chasam Sofer: Chiddushim used as a way to remember the gemora and not to understand it

Found an interesting comment of the Chasam Sofer (Shabbos 140b/Chullin 7a) regarding the use and abuse of chiddushim and sevaros.

חתם סופר (שבת קמ): ועל דרך הלצה, ע"פ מה שנראה לי שנולד לן זה מנהג לחדש חידושים יותר מדאי וכל אחד בונה במה לעצמו זה בכה וזה בכה, אפשר לחפש לן זכות שגזרו כן גאוני קדמונינו ז"ל שראו שכחה שגוברת בעו"ה בעולם וא"א לאוקמא גירסא אכן ע"י החידושים בכל דף ועמוד עי"ז זוכר הכל ומילתא דתמיה מידכר דכירא והנסיון מעיד לנו ע"ז ויודע אני בעצמי, וא"כ אף אם החידוש אינו נכון כל כך מ"מ מועיל לשכחה כנ"ל. ואפשר שזהו פי' הש"ס אנן כאצבע בבירא לשכחה, ומוסיף אידך ואנן כאצבע בקירא לסברא, שלכאורה אין זה מענין הראשון. אכן לפי הנ"ל א"ש שבתחלה היה כאצבע בבירא לשכחה מ"מ היה אפשר להועיל ע"י חידושים אבל עכשיו אנן כאצבע בקירא לסברא ג"כ ומה לעשות עוד. וידוע ששמן זית מחזיר תלמודו של עי"ן שנים כמבואר סוף הוריות, ע"ש, הא קאמר האי בר בי רב דלית ליה מישחא היינו זכרון הנקרא ע"ש שמן זית נימשי במים דחריצי בתורת החריצים הידועים בזה"ז חרוץ ושנון ודו"ק:

חתם סופר (חולין ז.): ופה מצאתי מקום להרחיב הדבור מה שאלצני הנה השל"ה וכל גדולי ישראל צווחי' כי כרוכי' על החילוקים הנוהגים בבעלי ישיבה ואומרים שהם מבלי עולם. והנה דבר זה נתפשט בתפוצות ישראל מאוד מאוד וכל רואיו ומביניו יכירו כי לכאורה שוא והבל הוא. וחלילה לנו לחשוב כן על צדיקים וטובים קדמונינו שהנחילו לנו ירחי שוא ומשאות מדיחים איך לא סקלום אנשי דורם אז כשהתחיל לקלקל. ואם תאמר הי' מה שהי'. אתה נותן מקום למינים לרדות דלמא גם תפילין וכיוצא בו התחיל בדור מן הדורות ולפנים לא הי'. חלילה לחשוב. אבל אומר אני החילוקים דרכם בקודש וממעיין הקודש יצאו אלא שנתקלקל באורך הזמן. וטרם כל נחקור על שם זה חילוק מה שמו מה תאמר אבל הוה יודע דעיקר שמוש התלמידים אצל רבם הוא לדמות מילתא למילתא. וז"ל הרא"ש הובא בב"י בבד"ה בי"ד סי' רמ"ב וי"ל דעכשיו נמי אין כל מעשה בא בגמ' אלא שמדמה מילתא למילתא ואיכא למיחש שמדמה מה דלא דמי עכ"ל שם. ועל זה נהגו כשאדם מחדש דבר אומרים בלשון אשכנז גלייך או אום גלייך פי' דומה או אינו דומה שהדמיון עולה יפה או אינו עולה יפה. והיות הסברות עמוקות ודקות בחוט השערה לחלק בין זה לזה ועי"ז יתרצו כמה קושי' שיודע לחלק ביניהם מה שהי' בעיני התלמידים דומין זה לזה יבוא רבו וחקרו שאין זה דומה ומורה להתלמידים הסדק שבין זה לזה וזה הוא חילוק שהי' רב מראה לתלמידים החילוק וההפרש בין הסברות שהי' נראה להם במושכל הראשון שהם דומים זה לזה ומזה ילמדו דרך האמת בהוראה. ואמנם בעו"ה נתקלקלו הדורות ואדרבא החליפו הנ"ל בפלפולים חריפים ומשוננים ואינם משגיחים אם דומה או לא רק שיהי' חריף וחדוד או לשיטתו אעפ"י שאם יעיין שפיר אין זה שיטתו שהחילוק רב ביניהם. עד שבעלי החריפים האלו הם המורים בחריפותם. והי לך לשון הריב"ש סי' רע"א אבל אין צריך לידע כל הוית התוספת וגליוניהם ולמירמי דוקלי ולזקוף להו. וכמה חכמים ראינו בעינינו מפולפלים וחריפים בהוית דמעיילי פילא בקופא דמחטא ועל כל קוץ וקוץ אומרים תילי תילים קושיות ותירוצים ולפום חורפא לא סלקא להו שמעתתא אליבא דהלכתא ואומרים על אסור מותר ועל מותר אסור עכ"ל הריב"ש שם:

והנה אחז"ל לעולם יעשה אדם עצמו כשור לעול וכחמור למשאוי בדברי תורה והענין כשור לרדיא המשדד עמקים וכרוב ותני ומעיין ודולה מים מבארות עמקים והוא החריפות. ואחר שברר שמועותיו וטחן וברר לסולת סולת נקי' יהי' כחמור למשא לישא אלומותיו כחמור נושא ספרים. ואם זה השור יחרוש וישדד במישור. אח"כ בעליו יבצור ויזמור. וישאהו על גביו כחמור. אך מאוד צריך להזהר שבין החרישה והאסיפה יברור ויזרה ברחת ומזרה אבל לא תחרוש בשור ובחמור יחדיו. ה' יודע כי כעין האמור למעלה הבנתי מקיצורי דברים ורמיזותן של רבותי הקדושים זצ"ל אלא הם שמו מחסום לפיהם ולא גילו אלא ברמז לצנועי תלמידהם. ואני עני וכואב מקום הניחו לי להתגדר בו וה' הטוב יכפר בעדי: