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.
The president’s unique approach to the White House Correspondents’ Dinner will surely be missed.
No U.S. President has been a better comedian than Barack Obama. It’s really that simple.
Now that doesn’t mean that some modern-day presidents couldn’t tell a joke. John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, and Bill Clinton excelled at it. But Obama has transformed the way presidents use comedy—not just engaging in self-deprecation or playfully teasing his rivals, but turning his barbed wit on his opponents.
He puts that approach on display every year at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner. This annual tradition, which began in 1921 when 50 journalists (all men) gathered in Washington D.C., has become a showcase for each president’s comedy chops. Some presidents have been bad, some have been good. Obama has been the best. He’s truly the killer comedian in chief.
Two scholars discuss the ups and downs of life as a right-leaning professor.
“I don’t think I can say it too strongly, but literally it just changed my life,” said a scholar, about reading the work of Ayn Rand. “It was like this awakening for me.”
Different versions of this comment appear throughout Jon A. Shields and Joshua M. Dunn Sr.’s book on conservative professors, Passing on the Right, usually about people like Milton Friedman and John Stuart Mill and Friedrich Hayek. The scholars they interviewed speak in a dreamy way about these nerdy celebrities, perhaps imagining an alternate academic universe—one where social scientists can be freely conservative.
The assumption that most college campuses lean left is so widespread in American culture that it has almost become a caricature: intellectuals in thick-rimmed glasses preaching Marxism on idyllic grassy quads; students protesting minor infractions against political correctness; raging professors trying to prove that God is, in fact, dead. Studies about professors’ political beliefs and voting behavior suggest this assumption is at least somewhat correct. But Shields and Dunn set out to investigate a more nuanced question: For the minority of professors who are cultural and political conservatives, what’s life actually like?
“A typical person is more than five times as likely to die in an extinction event as in a car crash,” says a new report.
Nuclear war. Climate change. Pandemics that kill tens of millions.
These are the most viable threats to globally organized civilization. They’re the stuff of nightmares and blockbusters—but unlike sea monsters or zombie viruses, they’re real, part of the calculus that political leaders consider everyday. And according to a new report from the U.K.-based Global Challenges Foundation, they’re much more likely than we might think.
In its annual report on “global catastrophic risk,” the nonprofit debuted a startling statistic: Across the span of their lives, the average American is more than five times likelier to die during a human-extinction event than in a car crash.
Partly that’s because the average person will probably not die in an automobile accident. Every year, one in 9,395 people die in a crash; that translates to about a 0.01 percent chance per year. But that chance compounds over the course of a lifetime. At life-long scales, one in 120 Americans die in an accident.
It’s a paradox: Shouldn’t the most accomplished be well equipped to make choices that maximize life satisfaction?
There are three things, once one’s basic needs are satisfied, that academic literature points to as the ingredients for happiness: having meaningful social relationships, being good at whatever it is one spends one’s days doing, and having the freedom to make life decisions independently.
But research into happiness has also yielded something a little less obvious: Being better educated, richer, or more accomplished doesn’t do much to predict whether someone will be happy. In fact, it might mean someone is less likely to be satisfied with life.
That second finding is the puzzle that Raj Raghunathan, a professor of marketing at The University of Texas at Austin’s McCombs School of Business, tries to make sense of in his recent book, If You’re So Smart, Why Aren’t You Happy?Raghunathan’s writing does fall under the category of self-help (with all of the pep talks and progress worksheets that that entails), but his commitment to scientific research serves as ballast for the genre’s more glib tendencies.
Nearly half of Americans would have trouble finding $400 to pay for an emergency. I’m one of them.
Since 2013,the Federal Reserve Board has conducted a survey to “monitor the financial and economic status of American consumers.” Most of the data in the latest survey, frankly, are less than earth-shattering: 49 percent of part-time workers would prefer to work more hours at their current wage; 29 percent of Americans expect to earn a higher income in the coming year; 43 percent of homeowners who have owned their home for at least a year believe its value has increased. But the answer to one question was astonishing. The Fed asked respondents how they would pay for a $400 emergency. The answer: 47 percent of respondents said that either they would cover the expense by borrowing or selling something, or they would not be able to come up with the $400 at all. Four hundred dollars! Who knew?
A professor of cognitive science argues that the world is nothing like the one we experience through our senses.
As we go about our daily lives, we tend to assume that our perceptions—sights, sounds, textures, tastes—are an accurate portrayal of the real world. Sure, when we stop and think about it—or when we find ourselves fooled by a perceptual illusion—we realize with a jolt that what we perceive is never the world directly, but rather our brain’s best guess at what that world is like, a kind of internal simulation of an external reality. Still, we bank on the fact that our simulation is a reasonably decent one. If it wasn’t, wouldn’t evolution have weeded us out by now? The true reality might be forever beyond our reach, but surely our senses give us at least an inkling of what it’s really like.
The U.S. president talks through his hardest decisions about America’s role in the world.
Friday, August 30, 2013, the day the feckless Barack Obama brought to a premature end America’s reign as the world’s sole indispensable superpower—or, alternatively, the day the sagacious Barack Obama peered into the Middle Eastern abyss and stepped back from the consuming void—began with a thundering speech given on Obama’s behalf by his secretary of state, John Kerry, in Washington, D.C. The subject of Kerry’s uncharacteristically Churchillian remarks, delivered in the Treaty Room at the State Department, was the gassing of civilians by the president of Syria, Bashar al-Assad.
The highlights from seven days of reading about entertainment
Lemonade, Love, and Being a Black Girl Who Becomes a Black Woman
Amani Bin Shikhan | Noisey
“Lemonade is an ode to the movement of mountains, to the crack of hips. The birth of a black woman. In all her top tier, five-star, backseat lovin’ goodness. In her hair grown out to her feet, hands fused in prayer. During her menses and during the height of her orgasm. Your perfect girl. Your eeriest of dreams, draped in fur and bathed in blue-tinted garage lighting.”
Lemonade Is About Black Women Healing Themselves and Each Other
Morgan Jerkins | Elle
“Lemonade is more than a showcase of just one black woman’s humanity. It is a narrative of how black women’s healing is a communal art, not an individualistic act. Healing might arrive through singing as Beyoncé does while others dance around her, cooking food with one another, holding hands in solidarity, or simply standing in the presence of those who are sharing in the pain.”
By speaking to the discontents of neglected groups of voters, the two men—who share little else in common—have both found political success.
The most important message from this year’s tumultuous presidential primaries may be that millions of voters in both parties have grown sufficiently disenchanted with conventional political options to vote for candidates who not long ago would have been considered beyond the pale of viable choices.
20 or even 10 years ago, both Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders might have struggled to advance beyond the margins of their parties. Yet after this week’s five primaries, Trump has drawn just over 10 million votes and Sanders 9.3 million. Both have built followings that are not only large but also more impassioned than those attracted by their more traditional rivals, from Ted Cruz to Hillary Clinton.