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February 2017

Linda Sarsour Rekindles the Left’s Love Affair with Radical Extremism Progressives seem untroubled by their new favorite activist’s history of illiberal rhetoric and views. By Ian Tuttle

In 2015, the New York Times wrote, fawningly:

Linda Sarsour is, in every sense of the phrase, a woman in a hurry. Only 35, she has already helped to partly dismantle the New York Police Department’s program of spying on the city’s Muslims and has worked with officials in City Hall to close public schools for the observance of two of Islam’s most important holy days, Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha. From her base at the Arab American Association of New York, the nonprofit group in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, where she is the executive director, Ms. Sarsour has taken on such issues as immigration policy, voter registration, mass incarceration, Islamophobia and the Police Department’s stop-and-frisk tactic. She has emerged in the last few years not only as one of the city’s, and the country’s, most vocal young Muslim-American advocates, but also as a potential — and rare Arab-American — candidate for office.

The profile was titled “Linda Sarsour Is a Brooklyn Homegirl in a Hijab,” but Sarsour is much more than that. Designated a “champion of change” by the Obama White House, she was a delegate to the 2016 Democratic National Convention and a Bernie Sanders surrogate. In January, she served as one of the four national co-chairs of the Women’s March on Washington. Currently, she is the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit filed against Donald Trump’s executive order on refugees.

The Times did not err in portraying Sarsour as a new left-wing champion, but like others who have lauded her, it omitted some details.

For starters, Sarsour has a number of curious opinions. In 2012, she suggested that the would-be bombing of a Detroit-bound flight (the so-called underwear bombing) was “the CIA all along.” In 2015, she told Rachel Maddow that Muslim “kids [are] being executed” in the United States. At December’s annual convention of the Muslim American Society and Islamic Circle of North America (MAS-ICNA), she told an audience that “the sacrifice the black Muslim slaves went through in this country is nothing compared to Islamophobia today.”

About “Islamophobia,” Sarsour’s quick to jump to conclusions — or make up incidents from whole cloth. In 2014, she penned an op-ed for CNN — “My Take: My Hijab Is My Hoodie” — in which she tied Trayvon Martin’s death to the 2012 death of Shaima Alawadi, a 32-year-old Iraqi Muslim woman fatally beaten at her home in El Cajon, California. Citing a note reportedly left at the scene that read, “Go back to your country, you terrorist,” Sarsour wrote that “bigotry against Muslims is quite acceptable,” and that Alawadi’s death was further indication of “the anti-Muslim environment we live in.” In fact, Alawadi was murdered by her husband, who was convicted in 2014 and sentenced to 26 years to life in prison.

It was also in 2014 that Sarsour fabricated a “hate crime” against herself. In September, Sarsour alleged that a man in her Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, neighborhood threatened to “cut off your head and see how your people will feel, you Arab b****” before throwing a garbage can at her. National media picked up the story, with ABC calling it “a violent act of hate” and Sarsour herself appearing for an interview on Melissa Harris-Perry’s MSNBC show. New York City mayor Bill de Blasio tweeted a reminder that the City “will never condone such glaring acts of bigotry and intolerance.”

In fact, Sarsour’s attacker was Brian Boshell, a mentally ill homeless man well-known in the Bay Ridge area for public outbursts. As National Review reported at the time, Boshell, a regular presence in the neighborhood for more than two decades, had been arrested nearly 60 times before accosting Sarsour, and even Muslim residents of Bay Ridge expressed skepticism that she didn’t know who he was.

Yet Another Misguided Jewish Voice By Alex Grobman,

The election of Donald J. Trump has thrust a number of self-righteous Jews on the left into a state of apoplexy. They lash out at his family, policies and anyone who associates with him.

Jared Kushner, his wife and extended family are relentlessly maligned. Other Jews connected or involved in any way with the Trump administration are fair game for verbal abuse, for having violated some alleged Jewish value.

Among those who have joined this assault is Jonathan Freedland, a columnist for English newspaper the Guardian. In an article in The Jewish Chronicle, the London-based Jewish weekly, entitled “Jews Must Oppose Trump’s New Order,” Freedland attacked Rabbi Marvin Hier, founder and dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, for blessing President Trump at his inauguration.

Freedland quotes Rabbi Jason Miller, an American Conservative rabbi, who claims Simon “Wiesenthal must be rolling in his grave knowing that the dean… of the center that bears his name will be bestowing a blessing on a man who bolstered his presidential campaign by genuflecting to the alt-right—a group that includes neo-Nazis and Holocaust-deniers. That Rabbi Hier would stand on such a public stage in front of the world and offer a blessing for a man who refused to distance himself from David Duke, a former Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, is completely anathema to his life’s work.”

Having served as director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center and having worked closely with Rabbi Hier and Simon Wiesenthal, I find Freeland’s assault on Rabbi Hier to be absurd, irresponsible and scurrilous.

Rabbi Marvin Hier’s participation in the inauguration was a true Kiddush Hashem, and not an act of “unprincipled opportunism,” as Freedland suggested. Rabbi Hier was selected because he is an internationally admired and respected independent moral voice.

For Rabbi Miller to claim that Wiesenthal would be “rolling in his grave” is ludicrous. I have no doubt that Simon Wiesenthal would have been extremely proud of Rabbi Hier’s participation and message. Inexplicably, Freedland did not mention that Rabbi Hier unequivocally protested when candidate Trump proposed a Muslim registry and the deportation of 12 million illegals. Nor, in contradistinction, is there a record of Freedland’s disapproval of the overt anti-Semitism of Rev. Wright and his longstanding relationship with Barack Obama.

Populist Presidents and ‘Demoralized’ Judges Hyperventilating critics hope Trump’s swipes at the courts don’t reach Jacksonian heights. By Andrew C. McCarthy

Rich Lowry has a great column on our “overly sanctified” view of the judiciary. It comes amid the hysteria over President Trump’s rather mild rebuke of federal judges — particularly, James Robart, the district judge who imperiously issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) against Trump’s temporary travel ban excluding refugees and other aliens from seven countries. To a lesser extent, Trump has also groused about the three-judge panel from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals that on Thursday refused to overrule Robart’s TRO. (Note: This column was written before the Ninth Circuit’s decision was announced.)

Over the weekend, Trump notoriously tweeted that Robart is a “so-called judge.” On Wednesday, he conveyed exasperation over the previous evening’s Ninth Circuit oral argument, which the president saw as straying far afield of the clear statute that he argues — persuasively — authorizes the ban he has ordered.

I thought Trump’s comment about Robart was childish (and said so on Twitter). It was not the end of the world. After all, Robart’s order is appalling. It neither explains key conclusions nor addresses the clear statutory authority on which Trump relied. But Trump is the president of the United States now, not a celebrity commentator, and his dig was aimed at the judge personally, not at the poor quality of Robart’s work.

That said, can we dial back the hyperventilation over how Trump has purportedly called into question Robart’s legitimacy as a judge, or the legitimacy of the judiciary in general? “So-called” is something of a verbal tic with Trump when he is agitated — kind of like me muttering “jackass” (which I try to do under my breath rather than on Twitter). I wouldn’t read much into it.

I wouldn’t read much into it . . . but apparently Senator Richard Blumenthal (D., Conn.) would. With Judge Neil Gorsuch, Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, making the Senate rounds, Blumenthal took the opportunity to chat him up on the president’s remarks. There is now dispute between the Blumenthal and Gorsuch camps over whether the judge actually said he found Trump’s meanderings “demoralizing” and “disheartening.” Natch, it was enough to have the president burning up his keyboard with tweets about the senator’s misrepresentations — years back — about his military service during the Vietnam War. Sigh . . .

In any event, my objection to Trump’s tweet-burst had nothing to do with my tender sensibilities. It was tactical. As someone who used to do this sort of work for a living, I know taking a gratuitous swipe at a judge is never a smart move, especially when (a) it’s going to rub other judges the wrong way, and (b) the judge you’ve scorned is going to continue presiding over your case.

The Ninth Circuit is a tough enough slog for law enforcement on a good day; there was no need to give those guys reason to be more hostile. Plus, no matter what the Ninth Circuit decided to do there was a high likelihood the case would be sent back to Judge Robart for further proceedings. And as any litigator will tell you, a lot of things a judge decides in a case are not black-and-white. They are shades of gray as to which the judge has mounds of discretion. A judge holding a grudge can hurt you a million ways without triggering an actionable bias claim.

The Ninth Circuit Just Issued a Dangerous Ruling against Donald Trump’s Immigration Order David French

It’s often said that bad facts make bad law. In the case of the Ninth Circuit’s just-issued ruling continuing the nationwide injunction against Donald Trump’s executive order pausing immigration from seven jihadist or jihad-torn countries, it’s necessary to amend that saying. Bad facts combined with superheated politics can make terrible law.

Before addressing the court’s ruling, let’s refer back to some of the bad facts that made it more likely. Critically, the Trump administration issued a significant executive order (and then defended it in court) without laying any real factual foundation for its finding. Next, the administration enforced the order in a haphazard and unnecessarily cruel manner, initially including even green-card holders in its scope. By slamming the door (at least temporarily) in their faces, it created a crisis atmosphere that not only ramped up the political stakes, it told the court that the administration didn’t exactly know how to interpret its own order. This invites judicial meddling.

What does the opinion actually say? It made four critical rulings and one dangerous implication.

First, the court ruled that the states of Washington and Minnesota had standing to assert legal claims against the Trump administration — mainly on behalf of their state universities and the scholars and students impacted by the order. Here’s the court:

We therefore conclude that the States have alleged harms to their proprietary interests traceable to the Executive Order. The necessary connection can be drawn in at most two logical steps: (1) the Executive Order prevents nationals of seven countries from entering Washington and Minnesota; (2) as a result, some of these people will not enter state universities, some will not join those universities as faculty, some will be prevented from performing research, and some will not be permitted to return if they leave.

Applied more generally, this ruling would give state attorneys general extraordinarily broad powers to act essentially as lawyers for actual or potential immigrants — merely by pointing to the alleged costs incurred by key state institutions if they are even temporarily deprived of the immigrant’s presence. While the standing ruling might be more credible if applied to individual immigrants whose exclusion from the country causes specific and identifiable harm to the state, here the court used the possibility of specific harm to confer general standing on states to act on behalf of immigrants as a class. This is extraordinary.

Second, the court held that it had the constitutional authority to review and determine the legality of the order. This is the least problematic aspect of the court’s ruling. I don’t agree with the administration’s assertion that it has “unreviewable authority to suspend the admission of any class of aliens.” The order should receive judicial deference, but it is still subject to judicial review. And that’s what the court said:

In short, although courts owe considerable deference to the President’s policy determinations with respect to immigration and national security, it is beyond question that the federal judiciary retains the authority to adjudicate constitutional challenges to executive action.

Meet Avi Avital, Israeli Mandolin Virtuoso About to embark on a limited tour, the charming musician uses an unusual instrument to lend welcome new textures to familiar classical music. By David Mermelstein

At a time when many classical musicians are scrambling to book trendy alternative venues (mostly bars and clubs), the Israeli mandolin virtuoso Avi Avital is doing exactly the opposite—taking his folk instrument to concert halls around the world to perform with musicians more typically at home in such places.

Last September, Mr. Avital, age 38 and based in Berlin, made his debut with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, performing Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons” for an audience of around 10,000 at the Hollywood Bowl. In December, he appeared with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, performing both a concerto he commissioned from Avner Dorman in 2006 and one by Vivaldi. Later that month, he joined the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center for two concerts of Baroque music at Alice Tully Hall in New York.

On Thursday, he and the harpsichordist Kenneth Weiss perform a nearly all-Baroque program at the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth, Texas, right before Mr. Avital and the Dover Quartet resume a tour that sandwiches three appearances on the West Coast between dates in Toronto on Saturday and Vancouver on Feb. 19. The programs include arrangements of six miniatures by the Georgian composer Sulkhan Tsintsadze, a favorite of Mr. Avital’s, and a 23-minute piece from 2013 written for mandolin and string quartet by David Bruce, which Mr. Avital and the Dover plan to record. In addition, Mr. Avital will perform a transcription of the Chaconne from Bach’s Second Partita for Solo Violin.

Mr. Avital first gained wide attention in 2012, when Deutsche Grammophon, with whom he now has an exclusive contract, released an album of Bach transcriptions he produced himself. His arrangement there of Bach’s First Violin Concerto makes a compelling case for his instrument’s ability to lend welcome new textures to familiar music without compromising the score’s integrity. That principle received ideal expression on his second album: the aptly titled “Between Worlds,” a gratifying compendium of folk-inflected music by composers as diverse as Béla Bartók, Heitor Villa-Lobos, Manuel de Falla, Astor Piazzolla and Ernest Bloch. His third and most recent CD, an all-Vivaldi record, returned him to the classical mainstream, albeit in music largely adapted for his instrument—the fecund composer having written just two works expressly for mandolin. (Mr. Avital’s next album, “Avital Meets Avital,” arriving this spring, pivots in another direction, pairing him with the jazz bassist and composer Omer Avital, no relation, in music that pays homage to their shared Moroccan heritage.)

Trump’s Judicial Debacle The botched immigration order has given judges a chance to restrict executive power over national security.

President Trump’s immigration executive order has been a fiasco from the start, but the damage is spreading as a federal appeals court on Thursday declined to lift a legal blockade. Now the White House order has become an opening for judges to restrict the power of the political branches to conduct foreign policy.

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a Seattle judge’s nationwide temporary restraining order against the refugee pause and travel suspension from seven countries with heightened terrorism risks. The court ruled that the government wasn’t likely to prevail on the merits in a suit brought by Washington state and Minnesota.

The liberals and never-Trump conservatives who’ve spent months predicting the arrival of American fascism are suddenly breast-beating about U.S. checks and balances. Apparently they lack confidence in American institutions unless they’re running them. But while we opposed Mr. Trump’s order on policy grounds, there is reason to worry now about judicial overreach.


Remarkably, the three-judge panel’s 29-page decision doesn’t discuss the Supreme Court’s Youngstown doctrine, which teaches that the President’s actions are most legitimate under the Constitution when the executive works in concert with Congress. The plain text of the 1952 Immigration and Nationality Act gives the executive exclusive authority to suspend “the entry of any class of alien” that “would be detrimental to the interests of the United States.”

The Ninth Circuit also made a hash of the important limit on the judicial power called standing. The courts are only supposed to hear cases with specific and concrete injuries that they can resolve. Washington and Minnesota asserted vague and speculative harms to their public university systems, like being deprived of hypothetical talented immigrant students in the future. That’s not good enough under traditional Supreme Court standing doctrine.

Instead, the Ninth Circuit panel held that Mr. Trump’s order violated due process, such as ample notice of the new policy and a hearing for those affected. That might be true for lawful permanent residents travelling abroad, who were first included in the order and then excised under a memo from White House Counsel Don McGahn. (Then they, and not the states, should sue.)

But the Ninth Circuit’s due-process claims even apply to some categories of foreign nationals overseas who have yet to enter the country. The opinion repeatedly cites the Boumediene v. Bush decision of 2008, when the Supreme Court held that the enemy combatants at Guantanamo Bay have a right to challenge their detention by the government. CONTINUE AT SITE

Merkel on the Ropes She could lose, but Germany needs a competitive election.

One of Europe’s last great political certainties is evaporating as it becomes clearer that Angela Merkel could lose the autumn election in Germany. For the first time since 2010 her party fell to a close second place in a poll released this week, and not a moment too soon.

We say that not out of enthusiasm for the opponent who’s upstaging Mrs. Merkel’s center-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU). The center-left Social Democratic Party (SPD) got a boost when it selected former European Parliament President Martin Schulz as its leader. Mr. Schulz is an orthodox tax-and-spend, pro-European Union social democrat, but he has the advantage of not being tarred by the previous leadership’s 2013 decision to form a grand coalition with Mrs. Merkel.

Mrs. Merkel needs some serious political competition. Absent a vibrant center-left, Mrs. Merkel positioned herself as a pragmatic centrist of the European status quo. Most controversially, the lack of a challenger for centrist votes led Mrs. Merkel to assume she could count on that part of the electorate to support her open-door migration policy despite opposition from her right within the CDU. This fueled the popularity of the far-right, euroskeptic Alternative for Germany (AfD) party.

Now voters inclined to vote for a social democrat appear to be returning home to Mr. Schulz because he really is one. Polls show the CDU and its Bavarian sister party, the CSU, together virtually tied with the SPD at around 30% support. This is forcing Mrs. Merkel back toward the right. Witness the tougher new policy to deport some migrants—and to step up security surveillance while migrants are in Germany—she unveiled Thursday. This is a sign she’s no longer taking for granted the support of the CDU faithful.

It’s significant that Mrs. Merkel is being harried not by a euroskeptic but by another “good European.” Perhaps the message is that voters have turned to fringe parties such as AfD not out of dislike for the EU but out of frustration with mainstream parties that don’t compete against each other vigorously enough.

In which case, here’s hoping Mrs. Merkel continues her rightward drift. Maybe she can even embrace economic-reform ideas such as the tax cuts for which some members of her party are agitating, while Mr. Schulz pushes his proposals for more government spending. The result would be a genuine mainstream choice for German voters—something too many of their European peers have been denied in recent elections.

Senate Confirms Tom Price as Health and Human Services Secretary Georgia congressman will be point person on dismantling of Affordable Care Act By Michelle Hackman

WASHINGTON—The U.S. Senate confirmed House Budget Chairman Tom Price (R., Ga.), President Donald Trump’s nominee to lead the Department of Health and Human Services, in a 52-47 party-line vote early Friday morning, placing him atop a sprawling agency tasked with dismantling the Affordable Care Act.

Mr. Price’s nomination served as the first major proxy fight in Congress over the fate of former President Barack Obama’s signature health law, which Republicans have vowed to repeal and replace. The 62-year-old former orthopedic surgeon has earned a reputation in Congress as a leader in pushing his party’s health-policy plans—especially an alternative to the ACA.

His confirmation boosts Republican efforts to rewrite the law sometimes called “Obamacare,” as well as overhaul Medicaid, a push that has been bogged down in recent weeks as the GOP struggles to unify behind a health law of its own. Democrats, beyond hoping to salvage the ACA, have criticized Mr. Price as an industry insider who they say will favor the medical industry at the expense of patients.
Mr. Price is also expected to follow through on an executive order, issued by Mr. Trump on the first day of his administration, directing federal agencies to pare back regulatory elements of the ACA in ways that don’t require congressional action. There is little evidence of action on that front so far, but Mr. Price’s installation could change that. One rule he could overturn, for example, is the Obama administration’s mandate that health plans include contraceptive coverage at no cost to the patient, a protection that isn’t explicitly written into the law. As a congressman, Mr. Price voted regularly against federal funding for abortion and expressed skepticism about federal contraception requirements.

The Senate vote on Mr. Price’s confirmation came just after 2 a.m., after Democrats used the full 30 hours of debate allotted to them to delay the proceedings.
Mr. Price’s confirmation process, like that of other high-profile Trump nominees, has been contentious and at times angry. Prominent Democrats, including Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Al Franken of Minnesota, grilled Mr. Price about his views on central ACA provisions—including an expansion of Medicaid, which analysts estimate has provided 12 million Americans coverage and which Mr. Price, who criticizes the Medicaid program as inefficient, has voted to repeal. CONTINUE AT SITE