BR Blog

March 03, 2015 Netanyahu Is Right: U.S.-Israel Relations Are Here to Stay Simon Waxman

Israeli President Shimon Peres, President Barack Obama, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at Ben-Gurion Airport in March 2013 / Noam Moskowitz / The Israel Project

Today Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu makes his much-hyped speech to a joint session of Congress. He needn’t bother. After all, he held forth to as many U.S. lawmakers and other influential types as he needed at yesterday’s conference of the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee. The yearly AIPAC event typically receives at least half of Congress, plus White House officials, from both sides of the aisle. When I attended in 2006, Condoleezza Rice, Hilary Clinton, and Dick Cheney ascended the podium on the same weekend. John Kerry spoke to a delegation from Massachusetts, which he then represented in the Senate.

At yesterday’s conference, Netanyahu drew on a revered American, Mark Twain, for his headline-grabber: “Reports of the demise of Israeli-U.S. relations are not only premature, they’re just wrong.” It is hard to disagree.

Although Americans are a little grumbly about the congressional speech itself, where the...

February 26, 2015 Don't Defund, Just Dismantle the Department of Homeland Security Tom Barry

Photo: Steve Rhodes

The Republican majority has refused to approve new funding for the Department of Homeland Security. Following the lead of the party’s most conservative members, congressional Republicans will reject a new DHS budget unless President Obama reverses his November 2014 executive order to protect more than 4 million immigrants from deportation. Republicans are right to obstruct the routine annual funding of DHS—but they are doing it for the wrong reasons.

DHS would be an easy target of standard conservative critiques of big government. The third largest federal department is hugely wasteful, unaccountable, unmanageable, and emblematic of governmental mission creep. Yet President Obama has kept increasing the budget and expanding the reach of DHS—his most recent initiative is to increase the department’s role in cybersecurity through $6 billion in contracts with major military and intelligence contractors including Lockheed Martin and Booz Allen Hamilton.

The DHS funding debate lays bare the disjuncture between the department’s core mission and its actual operations; the political standard has largely ignored the DHS counterterrorism mission. Instead, the dispute over DHS has revolved around the traditional...

February 26, 2015 With Immigration Plan, Obama Invited Legal Scrutiny Louis Fisher

A rally against immigrant deportation in Chicago. Photo: sarah-ji.

U.S. District Court Judge Andrew Hanen didn’t put an end to the White House’s new immigration rules, but he did ensure that the road to implementation will be fraught with obstacles.

Under Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents, or DAPA, some 5 million immigrants could be safe from deportation for three years, gain work authorization during that period, obtain Social Security numbers and driver’s licenses, and take advantage of the earned income tax credit. But on February 16 Judge Hanen, ruling in a case brought by Texas and several other states, decided that the policy could not be put into practice because it was issued in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act, which requires that the administration publish its rules in the Federal Register. He thus issued a temporary injunction on procedural grounds. The states argued that the president lacked constitutional authority to issue DAPA and that the rule burdened them with extra expenses, giving them standing to sue.

Judge Hanen avoided ruling on the full merits of the states’ claim, but he didn’t merely punt on the...

February 16, 2015 Dressing Down Claude S. Fischer

A 1946 ad for Kreml Hair tonic. Image: Classic Film

Two scenes from twenty-first-century America.

Young friends cycle to church for Sunday services. They stash their bicycles by the side of the building, walk in sporting their aerodynamic spandex, and take their places in the pews. Later that day a waitress at a nearby restaurant approaches a silver-haired couple squinting at their menus. “So, what can I get you guys?” she asks the pair.

Across a range of behaviors, from dress to forms of address, Americans have become strikingly informal: we deviate from convention more than we used to, and the conventions we do observe entail less deference to institutions such as churches and statuses such as advanced age.

Scholars have traced the evolution of manners as described in etiquette manuals. For much of modern history, standard-setters pressed their aristocratic readers to discipline themselves: to control body functions such as passing wind and suppress emotional outbursts such as uproarious laughter, to stand with good posture and speak with proper deference and decorum. As a schoolboy, George Washington dutifully copied down such advice as, “If you have reason to be [angry] . . . Shew it not but [put] on a...

February 12, 2015 Still Missing: Etan Patz—and Others Judith Levine


Howard Belasco, the owner of Gem Lumber in Soho, was probably mistaken about the day he saw Etan Patz and another boy climbing around the dumpster, pulling out scraps of lumber, behind his store. The boys bought a couple of boxes of nails, grabbed some more scraps, and ran down the street, Belasco...