Thursday, September 27, 2018

Anger in my heart.

Anger. That's what's in my heart.

Dr. Ford's story of Brett Kavanaugh (ימח שמו) trying to rape her when he was 17 and she was 15.

The many stories of women who are speaking up now about how they were brutally raped, sexually assaulted, sexually harassed, catcalled, groped at parties or in school hallways, were forced to listen to sexual jokes at work, in class, were laughed at by boys or men who mocked them, who called them sexual slurs.

And now, the old white men of the Senate who just have to have one of their own in the Supreme Court.

I believe that every man who still supports Kavanaugh for Supreme Court has something wrong with him.

Maybe he behaved the same way when he was in high school and he's trying to repress the memory and justify his actions to himself.

Maybe he finally sees the chance to bring back the full patriarchy in the US.

So that women can't have abortions when they're raped or when having a child will kill them.

So that birth control is no longer considered a right, so that any act of sexual intercourse could lead a child being born.

Wanting women to go back home, back to the kitchen, back to the back-alley abortionist.

To get back to the time when men were completely in control.

They're still so angry that Hillary Clinton had the chutzpah to run for president, much less get so close.

That's why I'm so angry.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Where is the Street Theater of the Resistance?

My friend Shira Houghton gives her thoughts on what the resistance to Trump really needs:

During the campaign I wanted to dress protesters up in shackles and Trump colored orange shirts that said, "Did he grab me?" "Did he rape me" "Did he ruin me?" The crimes of Donald Trump are myriad, but somehow were ignored by a ridiculously large percentage of our population. We need more theater! I thought. However, I got no traction from my friends and fellow soccer Moms for this and stupidly assumed that other, better politically connected people, would pick up the ball.

Hillary adapted "Fight Song," which is cute and catchy, for her campaign. And she also had... what? People of good cheer trying to do the right thing? A few flash mobs showing how diverse and lovely her base is? I weep remembering our naïveté in thinking that a few chicks in pantsuits dancing with some of the wheelchair bound was going to be enough to Bring Down the Patriarchy .

It's become a cliché to say that we are in a national crisis; the list of what we are losing every single day seems endless and soul destroying. However, most of the personal atrocities we know about, the ones people connect to viscerally, happen without a camera's eye upon them. We occasionally hear the sounds of children in cages, but most of the visuals we see are of the bittersweet reunifications. We know sexual assault happen, but unless it's a gang rape there are rarely eyewitnesses other than the assailant and survivor.

There are notable exceptions. Therese Patricia Okoumou scampered up the Statue of Liberty to protest the separation of migrant families. Black people are training cameras on both horrific murders and life denying stories of barbequing-while-black. The sounds of children who had been ripped from their parents were smuggled out and disseminated to a horrified public. The Trump Baby Balloon and Rubber Chicken are cartoon gimmicks that help bring eyes, ears and humor to the Resistance.

I beg, nay implore, that we need more Handmaids. We need installations with barbed wire and teddy bears and babies bawling in their “iceboxes.” We need whirling dervish dances about assault and fear. We need Punch and Judy puppet shows where 45 smashes small businesses and is flushed down a sinkhole. We need subversive videos that cartoonishly lampoon these straight, white guys and their mushroom dicks. We need to illuminate in song and dance just how these rich guys want to make our country their personal piggy bank.

Vote? Of course Vote! Drag and drive friends and strangers to the booth! But we vote rarely. We must protest loudly, messily, beautifully and frequently. The news about KavaNos was filled with the visuals of Handmaids and the screams of Rage. We need more of that. They are stealing the American Dream from us one silenced woman and one traumatized person of color at a time. We are the Majority! We need to ridicule their evil, illustrate their vices, echo their obfuscations so loudly they must cover their ears from the roar. Theater is not easy, but neither is Democracy. W e stand to gain so much more than we lose by making our art and our hearts dramatically heard.

Monday, September 17, 2018

The academic boycott of Israel affects American students

John Cheney-Lippold, an associate professor Department of American Culture of the University of Michigan, refused to write a letter of recommendation for a student to study abroad in Israel. He initially had said he would write it for her, but when he realized she wanted to go to Israel he withdrew his offer. The BDS movement is opposed to study abroad programs in Israel. These are the guidelines from the PACBI website:
Study abroad schemes in Israel for international students.  These programs are usually housed at Israeli universities and are part of the Israeli propaganda effort, designed to give international students a “positive experience” of Israel, whitewashing its occupation and denial of Palestinian rights.  Publicity and recruitment for these schemes through students’ affairs offices or academic departments (such as Middle East and international studies centers) at universities abroad should come to an end.
Guideline 10 requires faculty supporting the academic boycott not to write recommendations for students who want to study in Israel:
Furthermore, international faculty should not accept to write recommendations for students hoping to pursue studies in Israel, as this facilitates the violation of guideline 11 below. 
This is guideline 11:
International students enrolling in or international faculty teaching or conducting research at degree or non-degree programs at an Israeli institution. If conducting research at Israeli facilities such as archives does not entail official affiliation with those facilities (e.g. in the form of a visiting position), then the activity is not subject to boycott. 
I've had a visiting research position at Hebrew University (in 2012), so I guess I've violated the academic boycott - proudly, I must say.

The University of Michigan Board of Trustees has rejected the academic boycott of Israel:
Six of the eight members of the board signed the letter, and criticized BDS as an assault on the institution’s values. 
“Our university has long been a community that seeks to study and improve the human condition through our research and scholarship,” the statement said. “We work together to better understand the most complex challenges we face on campus and beyond. We do this work through active engagement in the world around us. To boycott, divest or sanction Israel offends these bedrock values of our great university.”
The day after the student received the note from Cheney-Lippold, she wrote to the president of the University of Michigan:
“I firmly believe that any student’s abroad experience should not be impacted or dictated by any professor’s personal political beliefs,” they wrote. “I feel that his response is very disturbing, as he is allowing his personal beliefs (and apparently those of ‘many university departments’) to interfere with my dreams of studying abroad.” 
“All I asked for was an academic recommendation regarding my work habits, diligence, and aptitude as a student,” they continued.

They called this stance “unconscionable and hypocritical, as presumably he would have no problem in issuing a letter of recommendation” to students who seek to study abroad in “totalitarian” countries and territories as part of a formal U-M program, namely “China, Cuba, Russia, Jordan and the Palestinian Territories.” 
The student pointed out that Cheney-Lippold’s rejection did not appear to stem from any objection to their work ethic or other characteristics, but rather “his own political views.” 
The student further suggested that Cheney-Lippold’s conduct appears to be in violation of a 2017 statement by U-M’s Board of Regents rejecting the BDS campaign, as well as Public Acts 526 and 527, which were signed into law in Michigan in 2016. The bipartisan bills, similar to others that have been passed in nearly two dozen states, bar state agencies from contracting with an individual who is engaged in “the boycott of a person based in or doing business with a strategic partner,” namely Israel.
Will the university do anything to assist this student, perhaps by making sure that another professor write her a recommendation to study in Israel?

This is the university's official response thus far:
Rick Fitzgerald, a spokesperson for the University of Michigan, told The Algemeiner on Monday that the school “has consistently opposed any boycott of Israeli institutions of higher education.” 
“No academic department or any other unit at the University of Michigan has taken a position that departs from this long-held university position,” he confirmed. 
“The academic goals of our students are of paramount importance. It is the university’s position to take all steps necessary to make sure our students are supported,” Fitzgerald continued. “It is disappointing that a faculty member would allow their personal political beliefs to limit the support they are willing to otherwise provide for our students.” 
He said the school will engage its faculty colleagues “in deep discussions to clarify how the expression of our shared values plays out in support of all students.”
The Department of American Culture at the university says about itself that it is "the top American studies department in the world." What was the department's stance toward the ASA (American Studies Association) endorsement of the academic boycott in 2013? Do they support it? Have other professors in the department also refused to write recommendations for students who wish to study in Israel?

This is the continuation of the web statement: "Our students and faculty are uniquely committed to social justice and the highest standards of scholarship. We are proud, too, to be home to ethnic studies programs at Michigan: Asian/Pacific Islander American Studies, Arab and Muslim American Studies, Latina|o Studies, and Native American Studies." Jewish American Studies is nowhere to be seen in this list of programs, which is common - Jewish Studies is commonly excluded from participating in ethnic studies and/or multicultural studies.

One wonders if this "commitment" and being "home to ethnic studies" has led to the department's alignment with the BDS movement.

Thus, contrary to the claim of the BDS movement and its advocates, the academic boycott *does* have an effect upon individuals, not just institutions, including this undergraduate whose professor should have put his political commitments aside and just written her the recommendation.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

More Antisemitism in the Republican party

People obsess about whether Trump or his family members are anti-Jewish. I think it's more important to pay attention to the many other people in the Republican Party who are displaying their open antisemitism, about whom there's no question.

Jim Hagedorn, a Republican running for Congress in Minnesota, "once wrote that former Democratic Sen. Joe Lieberman supported the Iraq War because Lieberman is Jewish." (He's also a bigot against many other groups of people, including Native Americans, LGBT people, African Americans, and Irish Americans).

Two Republican members of Congress, Dana Rohrabacher of California (R-Kremlin) and Matt Gaetz of Florida, have once again shown up at a public event with a Holocaust denier, Charles C. Johnson,
"who wrote on Reddit last year that he did not believe that the Auschwitz gas chambers were real or that six million Jews died." Gaetz gave Johnson a ticket to the State of the Union address this year.

This is what Johnson said on Reddit:
During an “Ask Me Anything” session on Reddit’s alt-right section, Johnson had been queried, “what are your thoughts on the Holocaust, WW2, and the JQ in general?” (“JQ” is neo-Nazi shorthand for the Jewish Question.) Johnson replied, “I do not and never have believed the six million figure. I think the Red Cross numbers of 250,000 dead in the camps from typhus are more realistic. I think the Allied bombing of Germany was a ware [sic] crime. I agree…about Auschwitz and the gas chambers not being real.”
So why is it that antisemites and people who hang around with Holocaust deniers are so easy to find among Republican candidates or office-holders? While I think it's a good idea to keep an eye on the far left for antisemitism in the guise of anti-Zionism (as I often do on this blog), we have to be equally attentive to how certain people are trying to mainstream antisemitism in the Republican party (which is not to say that the party itself is antisemitic or that more Republicans than Democrats hold antisemitic views).

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

The Names, in remembrance of September 11, 2001

Today is September 11, 2018, seventeen years after the terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C. It was the second day of Rosh Hashanah, and our Rabbi, Rabbi Glass, interspersed remembrances of 9/11 with the normal prayers. One was a first-hand account by a flight attendant on Delta 15, one of the 53 airplanes that was diverted from flying into US to land in Gandar, Newfoundland. Another was a poem written by Billy Collins, called "The Names." It was published in the New York Times on September 6, 2002, and I must have read it then, but I don't remember it. He read it just before the recitation of the Kaddish at the end of the Musaf service.
Yesterday, I lay awake in the palm of the night.

A fine rain stole in, unhelped by any breeze,

And when I saw the silver glaze on the windows,

I started with A, with Ackerman, as it happened,

Then Baxter and Calabro,

Davis and Eberling, names falling into place

As droplets fell through the dark.

Names printed on the ceiling of the night.

Names slipping around a watery bend.

Twenty-six willows on the banks of a stream.

In the morning, I walked out barefoot

Among thousands of flowers

Heavy with dew like the eyes of tears,

And each had a name --

Fiori inscribed on a yellow petal

Then Gonzalez and Han, Ishikawa and Jenkins.

Names written in the air

And stitched into the cloth of the day.

A name under a photograph taped to a mailbox.

Monogram on a torn shirt,

I see you spelled out on storefront windows

And on the bright unfurled awnings of this city.

I say the syllables as I turn a corner --

Kelly and Lee,

Medina, Nardella, and O'Connor.

When I peer into the woods,

I see a thick tangle where letters are hidden

As in a puzzle concocted for children.

Parker and Quigley in the twigs of an ash,

Rizzo, Schubert, Torres, and Upton,

Secrets in the boughs of an ancient maple.

Names written in the pale sky.

Names rising in the updraft amid buildings.

Names silent in stone

Or cried out behind a door.

Names blown over the earth and out to sea.

In the evening -- weakening light, the last swallows.

A boy on a lake lifts his oars.

A woman by a window puts a match to a candle,

And the names are outlined on the rose clouds --

Vanacore and Wallace,

(let X stand, if it can, for the ones unfound)

Then Young and Ziminsky, the final jolt of Z.

Names etched on the head of a pin.

One name spanning a bridge, another undergoing a tunnel.

A blue name needled into the skin.

Names of citizens, workers, mothers and fathers,

The bright-eyed daughter, the quick son.

Alphabet of names in green rows in a field.

Names in the small tracks of birds.

Names lifted from a hat

Or balanced on the tip of the tongue.

Names wheeled into the dim warehouse of memory.

So many names, there is barely room on the walls of the heart.

Monday, September 03, 2018

White nationalists, racists, and antisemites in the Trump Administration

Discussion on "All in with Chris Hayes" on August 31, 2018, with Rosie Gray (Atlantic) and Michelle Goldberg (New York Times).
Chris Hayes: There have been a lot of stories about white supremacists and racists in this administration and I suspect it’s not a coincidence. The latest, Ian Smith, that's his real name, a former Homeland Security official whom the Atlantic reports was in e-mail contact with white nationalists. In one conversation about an upcoming dinner, one man wrote, quote, “so it’s settled, we know, my home shall remain Judenfrei.” Judenfrei is a German word meaning free of Jews, which the Nazis used to describe areas from which Jews had been expelled or killed. Smith responded to the group, “they don’t call it Freitag for nothing,” using the German word for Friday and added, “I was planning to hit the bar during the dinner hour and talk to people like Matt Parrot” (CH – “The prominent Neo-Nazi”). “I should have time to pop by though.”

This comes weeks after a White House speech writer was fired after revelations he spoke at a conference attended by white nationalists. Here to talk about what’s going on, Michelle Goldberg at the New York Times, and Rosie Gray who reported on those e-mails. There’s the spectrum of people, lots of people who have lost their job in this administration for things they have written or said, Facebook posts about the president or Michelle Obama or birth certificate.

I am still kind of catching my breath from the nature of these e-mails. Who was this guy hanging out with?

Rosie Gray: Well, what I reported is that, you know, basically Ian Smith was in e-mail contact and appears been involved in the planning of social events with a circle of younger white nationalists in Washington. people with ties to institutions like the National Policy Institute or American Renaissance and he appears to have known these people.

CH: Yeah, but I want to, like – I just feel like that language is maybe a little excessively polite. If someone is writing you an e-mail saying the party is going to be Judenfrei, that's a Nazi, even if it's tongue in cheek. 
Michelle Goldberg: It's a kind of ironic joke about their own antisemitism, right? And much the same way that some of the same people who are in this e-mail chain were videotaped doing the Hitler salute with Hail Trump after the election. So it's ironic but not ironic. The antisemitism is 100% sincere.
CH: What was Ian Smith doing in the Department of Homeland Security, and what was the chain of events that led to him being fired?

RG: He was a policy analyst at DHS working on immigration. The Washington Post had a story yesterday that explained more about what he was up to within DHS. As far as him leaving the department, you know, I reached out to DHS earlier this week and they – and the next day basically I learned that he had left and they sent me a statement condemning racism and condemning his radical ideology.

CH: Just to be clear, he's working there for a while, you reach out saying I have information about who he's hanging out with, who he's in correspondence with, they then fire him?

RG: What I learn is that he had tendered his resignation. it seems pretty obvious that it was connected to my reporting. 
CH: He is not the only one, of course, there's a guy named Carl Higbie who said all sorts of vile and racist things. He was fired and then sent to the Trump-aligned superPAC where he did a bunch of events with Mike Pence. [See note 1 below on Higbie].

MG: And this is the third uproar about administration connections to white nationalists this month. There was also the White House speech writer [Darren Beattie] who left after it was revealed he had spoken at a conference alongside white nationalist Peter Brimelow, who is one of the white nationalist speakers at that conference, was invited to a party at Larry Kudlow’s, the White House economic adviser's home. Larry Kudlow then said oh, I didn't know what his views were, everyone knows what his views were, everyone knows what this man's views are. [See note 2 below on Beattie, and note 3  below on Brimelow].
And I think that one conclusion we might want to draw from this is that this is a white nationalist administration. 
And I think that one conclusion we might want to draw from this is that this is a white nationalist administration. Not everyone in the administration is white nationalist, but it's certainly an administration that has white nationalist policies, white nationalist sympathies, the president regularly employs white nationalists and outright white supremacist rhetoric like when he tweeted the lie about a genocide of white farmers in South Africa and actually directed the state department to then investigate this white nationalist conspiracy theory. There are, I would wager, more outright white nationalists in this administration than there are black people.
CH: Ian Smith was a political appointee. This was not someone in the civil service, obviously?

RG: That's my understanding, yes.

CH: And so you've got a – you've got people - people think about who is in the white house but there are all kinds of people in the agencies and sort of at the top of the agencies that are the political folks. It's easy for them not – like if the Times hadn't broken this, who knows how long he would have been there, I guess is my question.

RG: Well, right. I mean, obviously he was not somebody who is particularly well known. I imagine that if I hadn't written the story he could have just continued to labor in obscurity.

CH: And again, labor in obscurity on immigration policy attending meetings that Stephen Miller was apparently running as an interagency process to craft the vision of how the united states will enforce its immigration laws as regards refugees, non-white people.

RG: Right. Well, that's why this is such a significant story because it appears that Ian Smith played a not-inconsequential role in shaping U.S. immigration policy.
CH: Stephen Miller is someone who is the one running those meetings, of course, knew Richard Spencer at Duke, though he says they had nothing to do with each other even though they ran in somewhat similar circles.

MG: And the speech writer who left wrote speeches for Richard Spencer. And the immigration policy that we have, the policy that we have towards refugees and increasingly towards American citizens at the border is exactly what you would expect if a bunch of white nationalists were running that part of the U.S. government.

CH: You've also got a president -­ remember, the President of the United States said that Africa – said Haiti and other African nations were s-hole countries.

MG: it's in front of our face and it's such a living nightmare we've become accustomed to and something happens that reminds us how horrific this is.

CH: Do you know anything more about who these folks were that he was e-mailing with, Rosie? The people setting up Judenfrei dinner parties?

RG: I do, yes. some of the people he was in contact with include activists such as Devin Saucier who has edited for American Renaissance under a pseudonym and others. I can give you the full list if you want. [See note 5 on Saucier].

CH: the names of obscure -­ hopefully- racists and white supremacists in Washington, D.C. It's interesting to me - to sum up, yes. It's interesting this kind of underground exists and is bumping up against the Trump white house which, as you say Michelle, is not that surprising. Michelle Goldberg and Rosie Gray, thanks for joining me.
Note 1: Carl Higbie. CNN reported in January, 2018, that Higbie was fired from his job as chief of external affairs for the federal Corporation for National and Community Service (which runs volunteer programs like Americorps), because of a multitude of racist, sexist, homophobic, and anti-Muslim comments that he had made over several years on his radio show. He also "derided members of the military suffering from severe PTSD as having 'a weak mind' and said 75% of those afflicted were either lying or milking it for federal money."

Note 2: Darren Beattie spoke at a conference in 2016 of the H. L. Mencken Club, as reported by CNN. This is who else spoke - luminaries of the racist right. If you'd like to read their speeches, they're available at
The Mencken Club, which is named for the early 20th century journalist and satirist whose posthumously published diaries revealed racist views, is a small annual conference started in 2008 and regularly attended by well-known white nationalists such as Richard Spencer. The schedule for the 2016 conference listed panels and speeches by white nationalist Peter Brimelow and two writers, John Derbyshire and Robert Weissberg, who were both fired in 2012 from the conservative magazine National Review for espousing racist views. 
Other speakers from the 2016 conference are regular contributors to the white nationalist website VDare. Jared Taylor, another leading white nationalist, can be heard at the conference in 2016 on Derbyshire's radio show along with Brimelow.
Note 3: Peter Brimelow. According to the Washington Post article, "Brimelow, 70, was once a well-connected figure in mainstream conservative circles, writing for Dow Jones and National Review. But over the past two decades, he has become a zealous promoter of white-identity politics on, the anti-immigration website that he founded in 1999."
Brimelow’s website is named in honor of Virginia Dare, the first English child born in what is now the United States. Dare has become a symbol for white nationalists who are alarmed by immigration. 
The British-born Brimelow has written that Dare, who was white, is a reminder of the “very specific cultural origins of America at a time when mass nontraditional immigration is threatening to swamp it.”
Note 4: More on Ian Smith's views from the Atlantic article.
According to sources with knowledge of Smith’s role at DHS, he was a policy analyst working on immigration. He used to work for the Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI), an anti-immigration legal organization associated with the right-wing Federation for American Immigration Reform (fair). From 2014 to 2017 he wrote a number of columns on immigration for National Review. (The editor Charles Cooke didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment).

Smith’s public writings showcased a right-wing perspective on immigration, such as opposing the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, which ended race-based restrictions on immigration, particularly from countries in Asia and Africa, and which Smith argued was responsible for the “barely governable system we have today,” opposing sanctuary cities, and applauding the controversial S.B. 1070 anti–illegal immigration law in Arizona.
Note 5: Devin Saucier "helps edit the online white nationalist magazine American Renaissance under the pseudonym Henry Wolff, and [...] wrote a story in June 2017 called “Why I Am (Among Other Things) a White Nationalist.” American Renaissance is right-wing racist organization and magazine run by Jared Taylor.