Politics roundup: House votes to condemn anti-Semitism in resolution


The House approved an anti-hate resolution after Rep. Ilhan Omar stoked controversy with her comments about pro-Israel lobbies. How did this happen?

House votes to condemn anti-Semitism after Ilhan Omar’s comments

Identity politics makes for a good headline. Scandals within identity politics are, at least in terms of attention-grabbing titles, even better. Sometimes, whether it’s wording, timing, or the expression of long-simmering religious and racial tensions on all sides, those scandals eclipse almost anything else.

That must certainly be how some Democratic lawmakers feel, with the current scandal overwhelming what should have been a series of legislative blows against the White House. What do you know about legislators voting to end U.S. military presence in Yemen? Have you heard about some of the new gun control measures that passed the House of Representatives? What about the big progressive bill, the For the People Act, that’s now facing a delayed vote?

Yet, chances are good that you’ve heard about Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and her Twitter account. Specifically, you’ve heard all about her tweets and comments that linked Israel-friendly lobbies to undue influence in American politics. Intentionally or not, Omar’s statements connected with anti-Semitic stereotypes concerning Jewish people, finances, and political power.

Omar has apologized for her remarks, to an extent. Other lawmakers, including freshman Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York) came to her defense. Overall, younger politicians were more likely to support Omar, while established ones were more critical.

Prominent figures within the Democratic party, like House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi, were stuck in a difficult place. Omar’s remarks had generated controversy that then dominated news cycles and took attention away from other matters. Many Republicans, meanwhile, took the opportunity to square off against Omar and her supporters, leaning hard on the idea that she is genuinely anti-Semitic.

In response, the House has passed an anti-hate resolution as a sort of band-aid to the whole affair. It condemns not just anti-Semitism, but also Islamophobia, homophobia, and prejudice against a wide swath of other minorities. Omar, along with fellow Muslim lawmakers Rep. Rashida Tlaib and Rep. Andre Carson, issued a joint statement in support of the “historic” resolution.

U.S. deficit reaches all-time high. What does that really mean?

The United States deficit is at a historic high. So, should we celebrate or panic?

First, a reminder of what, exactly, constitutes a “trade deficit”. Broadly speaking, a deficit like this is a measure of the difference between how much a nation exports (that is, how much other countries are buying what we’re selling) and how much it imports. That gap between how much trade is moving in versus out of the United States has gone up to a record $891 billion.

According to the White House, this is bad. More specifically, it’s a sign that other countries are taking advantage of the United States and its weakened manufacturing industry. Yet, economics is a complicated matter. The trade deficit isn’t just a measure of one country’s relation to the rest of the world. The current difference is due to an international economic downturn combined with a relatively strong U.S. currency.

It also has quite a lot to do with the recent $1.5 trillion in tax cuts, which were partially financed by government borrowing. The trade war with China has also affected the situation, with both sides reluctant to do direct business with one another at relatively fair prices. For instance, U.S. tariffs on Chinese goods helped to slow down the Chinese economy, therefore making China less likely to buy American exports.

Whether or not this is good is also complicated. For many economists, a deficit is actually a sign of an active economy. It’s alarming in the short run, but could be good news in the long-term. However, it still speaks to difficult relations between the United States and the rest of the world. Given campaign promises made during the 2016 elections, the current situation does not reflect especially well on the President.

Concerns rising over Saudi Crown Prince MBS

What’s going on between Saudi Arabia and the United States? For some, it’s simply diplomatic business as usual. Then again, there is the matter of journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s October 2018 murder, which many have laid at the feet of Saudi officials. Khashoggi was a vocal detractor of many Saudi policies. One official in particular, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (often referred to as MBS), seems to bear the blame in most retellings.

That’s not without reason. MBS has risen to prominence in recent years, taking over the role of Crown Prince from an older uncle. He’s been hailed as a fresh, new force in Saudi politics, modernizing the nation and increasing its role in the international community. He has also been described as a power-hungry despot with a dark side that has already led to the murder of at least one prominent critic. Saudi Arabia has also played a significant role in the ongoing conflict in Yemen. Even then, the White House has proven to be surprisingly gentle with MBS.

If you lean more towards the second interpretation, then you may be worried to see presidential son-in-law and Jared Kushner meeting with MBS. Saudi Arabia is apparently very interested in developing a nuclear energy industry of its own. With help from the U.S., it doesn’t take much imaginative stretching to imagine them developing a nuclear weapon to use against Iran. Neither does it hurt some parties if they have a potential financial stake in the matter, like Kushner might.

Manafort faces sentencing, Cohen sues

On Thursday, Paul Manafort received a sentence of 47 months for charges related to tax evasion and bank fraud. His misdeeds came to light thanks in part to the still-ongoing Mueller investigation. Manafort is also on the hook for restitution, though it’s still not clear how much he really owes.

Manafort faces a second sentencing next week, which will focus on charges of conspiracy and witness tampering. There, Judge Amy Berman Jackson will determine whether or not this second sentence will run concurrently with his existing one, or simply add to Manafort’s time in prison.

Meanwhile, Michael Cohen, who made the news last week for his testimony in front of the House Oversight Committee, is suing the Trump Organization. The President resigned from this group of about 500 businesses in 2017. However, he still holds a significant, if undisclosed, financial stake in the organization. Cohen is suing it for $1.9 million, which he claims it owes him for legal costs incurred when he began working with federal investigators in 2018.

And, finally, your palate cleanser

Ruins are kind of relaxing, in a post-apocalyptic, long-sigh of humanity sort of way. Of course, if it’s too recent – like the now-derivative spate of ruin-worshiping photos from places like Detroit – then it’s no good. But we can take a step way further back into history and, in a weird way, relax a little bit.

There are plenty of places to go, but let’s narrow it down to one location that’s been a picturesque ruin for generations: Whitby Abbey.

Yes, it’s a tumbled collection of stone and carved columns in the Yorkshire landscape, but don’t let that dissuade you. Whitby Abbey has been around in one form or another for almost 1,500 years. Its founding abbess, Hilda of Whitby, was a fascinating woman who managed to make her mark in the seventh century, when women were barely given a voice to begin with. By the way, she’s also featured in Hild, the excellent historical novel by Nicola Griffith.

Hilda reportedly encouraged Cædmon, the earliest named poet in the English language. Cædmon, who worked at Whitby Abbey, was inspired to write a hymn of praise after a particularly groovy dream he had while sleeping in a barn.

Related Story. https://culturess.com/2019/03/06/the-complicated-history-of-female-flight-attendants-through-the-decades/. light

If that’s not your style, then you can jump forward in time, when Whitby Abbey inspired Bram Stoker. The ruins make an eerie appearance in Dracula, Stoker’s 1897 vampire novel.

With over a millennia of history, there isn’t enough space here to cover all that happened at the abbey. If you’re interested, check out its English Heritage page, along with a feature on Google Arts and Culture.