Welcome to Thursday, September 21, 2023, and National Pecan Cookie Day (I had pecan halva). Tomorrow is my last full day in NZ, as I have to head to the airport tomorrow for a 12-hour flight from Tel Aviv to Chicago that departs shortly after midnight. (Oy!) Posting may be light, though I have a long post to write about my visit to the Israel Museum, a fascinating and must-see part of any trip to Jerusalem.
It’s also Miniature Golf Day, National Chai Day (cultural appropriation), World Alzheimer’s Day, Free Queso Day at Moe’s Southwest Grill, World Gratitude Day, International Day of Peace, and, in Russia, Victory over the Golden Horde in the Battle of Kulikovo.
Readers are welcome to mark notable events, births, or deaths on this by consulting the September 21 Wikipedia page.
*The NYT has two pieces of news about immigrants. First, Biden and the Democrats have decided to allow nearly half a million Venezuelan immigrants to live and work legally in the U.S. This is supposed to be temporary, but do you buy that?
The Biden administration said late Wednesday that it would allow hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans already in the United States to live and work legally in the country for 18 months.
The decision followed intense advocacy by top New York Democrats, including Gov. Kathy Hochul, Mayor Eric Adams and party leaders in Congress. It will affect about 472,000 Venezuelans who arrived in the country before July 31, temporarily protecting them from removal and waiving a monthslong waiting period for them to seek employment authorization.
In an unusual break with a president of their party, the New York Democrats had argued that the city’s social safety net would tear under the weight of more than 110,000 recently arrived migrants unless they were allowed to work and support themselves more quickly.
Alejandro Mayorkas, the homeland security secretary, said that he made the decision because conditions in Venezuela “prevent their safe return” but stressed that immigrants who had entered the country since August were not protected and would be “removed when they are found to not have a legal basis to stay.”
As I said, I don’t buy that last sentence. And I’m worried that this kind of action will only help Trump in the next election. Congress really needs a humane but firm reform of our immigration laws, but they’re too cowardly (especially the Democrats) to do this.
*Second, in a move to stem the tide of immigrants entering through Mexico, the Biden administration wants to “move the border south” by putting processing centers in countries further south.
As the Biden administration struggles to tackle a humanitarian and political crisis at America’s doorstep, it is focusing increasingly on keeping migrants far from the U.S.-Mexico border by establishing migration processing centers in Central and South America.
But the program is off to a rocky start, with demand for appointments far outstripping supply, leading to periodic shutdowns of the online portal and some countries’ limiting applicants over concerns that the centers will cause migrants to overwhelm their own borders.
The centers, in Colombia, Costa Rica and others planned in Guatemala, have become a primary focus of the president’s migration strategy, U.S. officials said, and the administration is already exploring expanding the program to other nations in the region, including opening a similar office in Mexico.
The program, known as the safe mobility initiative, is “the most ambitious plan I’ve seen,” said Sean Garcia, the deputy refugee coordinator for the U.S. Embassy in Colombia, who has worked on migration for over a decade.
But even some officials involved in the initiative acknowledge that it is a modest response to an enormous challenge.
More people — 360,000 through the beginning of the month — have already crossed the Darién Gap this year than in all of last year. And in August, roughly 91,000 families at the U.S. southern border were arrested after crossing illegally, a monthly record.
“The effect on migration through the Darién will be minimal or none at all,” Francisco Coy, Colombia’s vice minister of foreign affairs, said about the U.S. program. “Let’s be frank.”
Coy is right; this is not going to work. Families rejected by the southern centers will simply continue to trek north, trying to cross the U.S./Mexico border. I wish there was a way to make Congress enact some legislation about Americans. Americans still think that, on the whole, immigration is beneficial to the country (and it), but a recent Gallup poll showed that there are limits:
Given the major increase in the number of migrants seeking to enter the U.S. at the Southern border in recent years, Americans’ desire for less immigration has ticked upward, now reaching 41%. This exceeds the 26% who now want more immigration and is the highest since 2014.
There is, of course, a huge partisan support in these figures.
*Donald Trump has faced strong pushback after apparently attacking a six-week abortion ban as being too early, and saying he would want to work with both Democrats and Republicans to enact a ban that would likely take effect later. (I have always favored no ban at all.)
The former president returned to Iowa on Wednesday, the first GOP nominating state — and one where abortion is a potent issue for many social conservatives expected to participate in January’s caucuses. During remarks in Dubuque, he touted his role in overturning Roe.
. . .He also warned against Republicans taking positions such as banning abortion even in the case of rape, incest or health of the mother. “Without the exceptions, it is very difficult to win elections,” he said. “We would probably lose the majorities in 2024 without the exceptions and perhaps the presidency itself.”
The frictions have cast a renewed spotlight on Trump’s long shifting posture on the issue of abortion. Even as he faces criticism from some in his party, Democrats are seeking to remind voters of the steps he took to curtail abortion rights as president. And many Republicans have been quiet about his posture, in part a reflection of his strength in the party and the belief by many that he will be the nominee. Over the years, Trump’s publicly stated positions have spanned from his support of abortion rights as a private citizen, to his Supreme Court nominees who helped overturn Roe, to his more recent efforts to appear less extreme on a divisive topic.
Really, is this anything more than the Washington Post grasping at straws? No position Trump takes on abortion, save perhaps an endorsement of Roe or of unrestricted abortion, can hurt him in next year’s election? Perhaps some legal convictions could hurt him, but they won’t come in time for the election.
*Surprisingly, Israel’s continuing initiative to forge genial deplomatic ties with Saudi Arabia has involved the countries in a three-way deal that would put enriched uranium (supposedly for peaceful use) in Saudia territory.
Israeli officials are quietly working with the Biden administration on a polarizing proposal to set up a U.S.-run, uranium-enrichment operation in Saudi Arabia as part of a complex three-way deal to establish official diplomatic relations between the two Middle Eastern countries, according to U.S. and Israeli officials.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu directed top Israeli nuclear and security specialists to cooperate with U.S. negotiators as they try to reach a compromise that could allow Saudi Arabia to become the second country in the Middle East, after Iran, to openly enrich uranium, the officials said.
The U.S. and Saudi Arabia have been negotiating the contours of a deal for Saudi Arabia to recognize Israel in exchange for helping the kingdom develop a civilian nuclear program with uranium enrichment on Saudi soil, among other concessions. Other aspects of the evolving deal are expected to include concessions for the Palestinians and U.S. security guarantees.
If Saudi Arabia agrees to establish diplomatic relations with Israel, it would pave the way for other Arab and Muslim nations to follow suit, effectively ending decades of ostracism for the Jewish state founded in 1948.
Of course I favor this, though Palestine will never go along and would itself become ostracized. But then there’s this:
Saudi Arabia’s push to enrich uranium has emerged as one of the thorniest issues facing U.S. and Israeli leaders as they try to forge an agreement that could reshape the Middle East.
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman described negotiations over normalization with Israel as serious and getting closer to a deal every day, while stipulating that his country would seek a nuclear weapon if Iran obtained one.
“If they get one, we have to get one,” he said in an interview aired Wednesday on Fox News. “For security reason and for balancing power in Middle East. But we don’t want to see that.”
Iran will of course eventually get nuclear weapons, and that means that the Saudis would want one too. After all, they’ll already have the fuel.
*The AP’s latest oddity column concerns a woman too much enamored of technology. Here it is in full:
A woman was rescued Tuesday from an outhouse toilet in northern Michigan after she climbed in to retrieve her Apple Watch and became trapped.
The woman, whose name was not released, lowered herself inside the toilet after dropping the watch at the Department of Natural Resources boat launch at Dixon Lake in Otsego County’s Bagley Township, state police said Wednesday in a release.
First responders were called when the woman was heard yelling for help. The toilet was removed and a strap was used to haul the woman out.
“If you lose an item in an outhouse toilet, do not attempt to venture inside the containment area. Serious injury may occur,” state police said in the release.
The state police did not say Wednesday if the woman was injured or if the watch was recovered.
Bagley Township is about 240 miles (386 kilometers) northwest of Detroit.
Oy vey again!
Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Andrzej can’t deal with Hili’s question
Hili: Where is the world heading?A: Next question, please.(Photo: Sarah Lawson)
Hili: Dokąd zmierza świat?Ja: Następne pytanie poproszę. (Zdjęcie S.L.)
From A Cat Named Fluff:
From Michae, a cartoon by John Deering:
From Birds New Zealand, the adorable but endangered and destructive Kea:
From Masih: a new anti-hijab law in Iran. Fortunately, the fine is only about eleven US dollars.
Under the new hijab law in the Islamic Republic, female drivers not adhering to proper hijab face fines of 500,000 Iranian Tooman. This stark legislation passed in Iran's parliament has one clear meaning: gender apartheid is now authorized. #WomanLifeFreedom pic.twitter.com/CjZPBMzDV0
— Masih Alinejad 🏳️ (@AlinejadMasih) September 20, 2023
From Titania; this could be the Mantra of Wokeness:
If you think something isn’t offensive, you’re just not working hard enough.
— Titania McGrath (@TitaniaMcGrath) September 20, 2023
From Luana: a bad miscarriage of justice at Yale, a woke school that ranks near the bottom in FIRE’s college free-speech rankings. Read the whole tweet:
Imagine a young boy comes to America as an Afghan refugee. He finds his way to the UAE, where he attends high school. Somehow, against all odds, due to the miracle that is standardized testing being able to identify talent no matter where it is in the world, he gets into Yale. He… pic.twitter.com/n89TUiU3vN
— Richard Hanania (@RichardHanania) September 19, 2023
From Barry: a capybara enjoying the spa service of ducks (second tweet):
Enjoying Spa services 😂
Look at the expression 😁😂 pic.twitter.com/fWXUNuPk67
— Money Bhai Academy (@mba_bhai) September 19, 2023
From the Auschwitz Memorial. A brother and sister gassed on arrival. So many kids who didn’t even get a chance at life!
20 September 1939 | Dutch Jewish boy, Joseph Jacob Pinto, was born in Amsterdam.
— Auschwitz Memorial (@AuschwitzMuseum) September 20, 2023
Tweets from Professor Cobb. The first came from Ziya Tong:
Oh Jesus how am I only learning this now?! https://t.co/tJv4I7Le7J
— Earthling / 🦣: journa.host/@ziya (@ziyatong) September 20, 2023
Re #1: don’t step in the poodles!
8. Cats and dogs (English)
7. Old ladies and sticks (Welsh)
6. Like a pissing cow (French)
5. As from Esteri’s ass (Finnish)
4. Penguins headfirst (Uruguayan Spanish)
3. Pilot whales (Faroese)
2. Wheelbarrows (Czech)
1. Men (hallelujah)
— Adam Sharp (@AdamCSharp) September 20, 2023
Life can be tenacious, and I’ve added an Instagram post from the Daily Beast piece:
The 150-year-old, 60-foot-tall banyan tree that was burned during the Maui wildfires in Lahaina last month has begun to sprout new green leaves. https://t.co/5kmdKoTEG9
— The Daily Beast (@thedailybeast) September 19, 2023