J Street, the left-leaning, pro-peace Israel lobbying/political group that came onto the scene in 2008 as a counterweight to the conservative Israel lobby, is up on the air with its second TV ad ever, defending Rep. Joe Sestak from claims of anti-Israel ties in his Pennsylvania Senate race against former Club for Growth President Pat Toomey.
The ad will air in major Pennsylvania media markets over the next two weeks, and it counters an attack ad by a new conservative group headed by William Kristol and Gary Bauer, called the Emergency Committee for Israel, which points out that Sestak "raised money for" CAIR (the Council on American Islamic Relations) and that the group has been referred to as having ties with Hamas.
Here the ad from J Street's political action committee 501(c)(4) arm, pointing out Sestak's support for Israel aid and for a two-state solution, which J Street backs:
And here's the ad from ECI. The group launched last Monday; so far, the Sestak ad is all it has done. ECI is organized as a 501(c)(4), which means it doesn't have to disclose its funding and will be limited on its paid-media campaigns closer to Election Day.
The messy bits of fact and intrigue: Sestak's campaign counsel sent a letter to Comcast asking that it stop airing ECI's ad, on the grounds that the ad was misleading. Sestak didn't help raise money for CAIR, the campaign said: he merely spoke at a banquet that didn't involve fundraising, and he's never solicited donations for the group. CAIR wasn't referred to as a "front group for Hamas" by the FBI writ large, Sestak's counsel said, just by one FBI agent testifying in one court case. ECI then penned a reply, backing up the factualities and noting that Sestak keynoted a "banquet and fundraiser" event for CAIR.
(Interesting note: Toomey is a fiscal conservative, and fiscal conservatives don't like foreign aid. So he actually voted against billions in foreign aid to Israel while a member of the House, when it came up in several appropriations bills covering all foreign aid for separate fiscal years. Sestak, as the J Street ad points out, has voted for foreign aid appropriations bills.)
This exchange between ECI and J Street may be a blueprint for campaign battles over Israel policy in the coming midterms. J Street has said that part of its mission is to defend political candidates from pressure to take a hard line on Israel policy. They've begun raising money, donating, and spending it on behalf of candidates. The traditional Israel lobbying powerhouse, AIPAC, which J Street confronts on ideological grounds, doesn't raise, donate, and spend money like J Street does, so the rightward (or perhaps just less conditional) pro-Israel crowd will likely get involved in campaigns through other groups, like ECI. ECI says it plans to get involved in other races, but it won't discuss future activity beyond that; J Street, if it lives up to its stated goals, will be there to meet them.
It will be had to tell who's winning the campaign-year Israel battle. As a 501(c)(4), ECI doesn't have to disclose how much money it has or where it comes from. While J Street's PAC does, J Street's other arms (a 501(c)(4) and a 501(c)(3)) don't, and the group doesn't say how much it's spending on its ad campaigns.* We'll have to find out through Federal Election Commission reports.
Nonetheless, campaign skirmishes over stances on Israel are something to watch this election season, as J Street looks to make a move and cement the momentum it's gained in the last two years, and as groups like ECI look to maintain Congress's traditionally staunch, unconditional backing of Israel and its government.
*As noted above in a strikethrough correction, J Street's ad was purchased through its 501(c)(4) arm.
How a strange face in a random 19th-century newspaper ad became a portal to a forgotten moment in ASCII art history
One of the joys of modern technology is how easy it is to immerse yourself in the past. Every day, more libraries and archives are pushing pieces of their collections online in easily browsable interfaces.
For some, meditation has become more curse than cure. Willoughby Britton wants to know why.
Set back on quiet College Hill in Providence, Rhode Island, sits a dignified, four story, 19th-century house that belongs to Dr. Willoughby Britton. Inside, it is warm, spacious, and organized. The shelves are stocked with organic foods. A solid wood dining room table seats up to 12. Plants are ubiquitous. Comfortable pillows are never far from reach. The basement—with its own bed, living space, and private bathroom—often hosts a rotating cast of yogis and meditation teachers. Britton’s own living space and office are on the second floor. The real sanctuary, however, is on the third floor, where people come from all over to rent rooms, work with Britton, and rest. But they're not there to restore themselves with meditation—they're recovering from it.
For centuries, philosophers and theologians have almost unanimously held that civilization as we know it depends on a widespread belief in free will—and that losing this belief could be calamitous. Our codes of ethics, for example, assume that we can freely choose between right and wrong. In the Christian tradition, this is known as “moral liberty”—the capacity to discern and pursue the good, instead of merely being compelled by appetites and desires. The great Enlightenment philosopher Immanuel Kant reaffirmed this link between freedom and goodness. If we are not free to choose, he argued, then it would make no sense to say we ought to choose the path of righteousness.
Today, the assumption of free will runs through every aspect of American politics, from welfare provision to criminal law. It permeates the popular culture and underpins the American dream—the belief that anyone can make something of themselves no matter what their start in life. As Barack Obama wrote in The Audacity of Hope, American “values are rooted in a basic optimism about life and a faith in free will.”
Three Atlantic staffers discuss “The Door,” the fifth episode of the sixth season.
Every week for the sixth season of Game of Thrones, Christopher Orr, Spencer Kornhaber, and Lenika Cruz will be discussing new episodes of the HBO drama. Because no screeners are being made available to critics in advance this year, we'll be posting our thoughts in installments.
Narcissism, disagreeableness, grandiosity—a psychologist investigates how Trump’s extraordinary personality might shape his possible presidency.
In 2006, Donald Trump made plans to purchase the Menie Estate, near Aberdeen, Scotland, aiming to convert the dunes and grassland into a luxury golf resort. He and the estate’s owner, Tom Griffin, sat down to discuss the transaction at the Cock & Bull restaurant. Griffin recalls that Trump was a hard-nosed negotiator, reluctant to give in on even the tiniest details. But, as Michael D’Antonio writes in his recent biography of Trump, Never Enough, Griffin’s most vivid recollection of the evening pertains to the theatrics. It was as if the golden-haired guest sitting across the table were an actor playing a part on the London stage.
“It was Donald Trump playing Donald Trump,” Griffin observed. There was something unreal about it.
Why aren’t the critics comparing Donald Trump to a fascist acknowledging that the office he seeks is too powerful?
Wake up, establishment centrists: Donald Trump is coming!
After the Vietnam War and Watergate and the spying scandals uncovered by the Church Committee and the Nixon Administration cronies who nearly firebombed the Brookings Institution, Americans were briefly inclined to rein in executive power—a rebuke to Richard Nixon’s claim that “if the president does it, that means it’s not illegal.” Powerful committees were created to oversee misconduct-prone spy agencies. The War Powers Resolution revived a legislative check on warmaking. “In 34 years,” Vice President Dick Cheney would lament to ABC News in a January 2002 interview, “I have repeatedly seen an erosion of the powers and the ability of the president of the United States to do his job. I feel an obligation... to pass on our offices in better shape than we found them to our successors."
Many animated series in the U.S. are hand-drawn in South Korea, but the country’s recent transition to digital tools could spur a transformation in American television.
Animated sitcoms have long offered sharp insight into American culture. The Simpsons is so astute that, 16 years ago, the show predicted Donald Trump’s run for president. A running joke on Bob’s Burgers revolves around the “Burger of the Day,” with past entries including the “Sweet Home Avocado Burger” and “Mission A-Corn-Plished Burger.” The Boondocks follows a black family as they adjust to life in a mostly white suburb. Family Guy—a subversive spin on a family with 2.5 children and a dog living in Rhode Island—has lampooned everything from the legalization of marijuana to summer camp.
Although these primetime series appear as American as apple pie, and are conceptualized and written in the U.S., the bulk of their animation is done in South Korea. Animation requires 12 frames for every second of airtime. Korean studios take the voice recordings and the storyboards, and their artists draw out each frame—on paper. They start with characters’ key poses, then do the “in-betweening,” or the painstaking process of crafting incremental micro-movements so the motion looks smooth. Korean animators can draw 240 pages for a single 20-second scene, and around 7,000 drawings per half-hour episode.
The refugee crisis in the Dominican Republic and Haiti shows the human consequences of extreme anti-immigration policies—and how voters get used to them.
An unprecedented refugee crisis, economic inequality, and fears of terrorism are helping stoke the rise of extreme anti-immigrant politicians across Europe and the United States. Hungary’s Viktor Orban, France’s Marine Le Pen, Austria’s Norbert Hofer, and yes, Donald Trump, are riding a much-remarkedsurge in popular support, with Hofer just losing his presidential bid by a razor-thin margin. All have embraced extreme nativist rhetoric, but meanwhile a different nationalist experiment is already running its course, and uprooting thousands on the basis of their ancestry, under a leader who is by most accounts a moderate technocrat. And the Dominican Republic’s President Danilo Medina just claimed a landslide reelection victory.
FindFace's technology may one day allow anyone to identify you with their phone.
Imagine you’re sitting in a coffee shop. Out of the corner of your eye, you see a stranger pointing his phone in your direction. The next day, you get an email from someone claiming to have seen you at the coffee shop. He’s asking you on a date. You have no idea how he got your contact information, let alone how he identified you.
The power to identify total strangers on the street is the advertising pitch for a new wave of startups hoping to capitalize on rapidly advancing facial recognition technology. But in Russia, it’s already a reality.
FindFace, an app launched by a Russian startup two months ago, lets its users identify strangers from pictures of their faces. It does so by matching the photos against profile pictures from VK—also known as VKontakte—a Russian social networking website similar to Facebook. Its founders have touted the app as great for building friendships or starting relationships with strangers. But the privacy risks are enormous.