Tuesday, August 7, 2018

The Shitty Politics of Ancient Rabbis and Mitch McConnell

Venditrici di Amorini
"The Roman government once issued a decree that Jews must not keep the Sabbath or circumcise their children, and that they must have intercourse with menstruant women.  Thereupon Reuven son of Istroboli cut his hair in the Roman fashion, and went and sat among them. He said to them: 'If a man has an enemy, what does he wish him to be, poor or rich? They said: That he be poor. He said to them: If so, let the Jews do no work on the Sabbath so that they grow poor. They said: ‘He speaketh rightly’, let this decree be annulled. It was indeed annulled. Then he continued: If one has an enemy, what does he wish him, to be weak or healthy? They answered: Weak. He said to them: Then let their children be circumcised at the age of eight days and they will be weak. They said: ‘Hespeaketh rightly’, and it was annulled.  Finally he said to them: If one has an enemy, what does he wish him, to multiply or to decrease? They said to him: That he decreases. If so, let them have no intercourse with menstruant women. They said: ‘He speaketh rightly’, and it was annulled." 

                                          --A rabbinic tall tale from the Talmud, Meilah 17a

Before emancipation and before there was a Jewish state, Jews thought about power and the state instrumentally, said Yehuda Kurtzer in a lecture at B'nai Jeshurun in New York City, May 30, 2018 (The Moral, the Political, and The Partisan). How can we manipulate the state to do what is good for us? When Rome ruled the world, Jews would never confuse the merely political with their Jewish values.

At the heart of his talk, Kurtzer has a criticism for us all: we are hyper polarized he suggests, in part because we are conflating the moral, the political, and the partisan. We have become our partisan political selves, and in the process we have lost sight of our values. "When politics and winning become your group identity," says Kurtzer, "the version of politics we are going to get is the crudest reflection and manifestation of politics." He sounded nostalgic for the Roman past "when Jews would never conflate the norms and values of what they do at home with what they do politically."*

But I'm not so sure that this charge is helpful: the problem in this political moment is not that some people (or all) are conflating the moral, the political, and the partisan; the problem, more simply, is some people have shitty politics! When I look at Mitch McConnell vowing to never grant a hearing to judge Merrick Garland, I see a man not sufficiently dedicated to the ideals of our constitution and liberal democracy. I have no reason to believe that Mitch McConnell is not a perfectly decent man in his private life. I would not question his morals, I do question his politics. I look at Mitch McConnell and I see a man who would never conflate the norms and values of what he does at home (lead a decent moral life) with what he does politically (a cut-throat partisan game devoid of values).  In other words, McConnell is conducting politics just like the rabbis in Kurtzer's story.  It's nothing to be nostalgic about.

The Sexual Transgressions of Bill Clinton and Donald Trump

Kurtzer challenges us to contrast our emotional reactions to the Bill Clinton impeachment proceedings and the revelation of Trump's Access Hollywood tape. He suggests this illustrates that our moral sensibilities--what moral transgressions of a president we might find to be disqualifying for the office of president--is dictated more by our politics than by any independent sense of morality. Our moral outrage is dictated by our partisan political commitments; it should be the other way round.

Articles of impeachment were filed against Bill Clinton on December 19, 1998 following seemingly  partisan investigations of the Clintons that spanned most of his presidency (1993-2001). In March 1992, during Bill Clinton's first presidential campaign, the New York Times reported that the Clintons' had invested with Jim McDougal (the owner of the failed Madison Savings & Loan) in a real estate deal in Arkansas (Whitewater). This piqued the interest of Savings and Loans investigator L. Jean Lewis. Between 1992 and 1994 Lewis sent several criminal referrals to the FBI relating to Whitewater--none of which were found to have sufficient merit  to proceed.

In 1994 an ex-Arkansas state employee, Paula Jones, sued Bill Clinton for sexual harassment. Clinton sought to delay the suit until after his presidency, but a unanimous Supreme Court ruled that a sitting president was not immune from civil suits relating to actions he took before assuming office and unrelated to his presidency. Clinton v. Jones (1997).  In the meantime (1995-1996) Clinton conducted an affair with Monica Lewinsky--a White House intern (22-23 years old at the time). In late 1997, Linda Tripp, a civil service employee in the Pentagon, secretly recorded her conversations with Monica Lewinsky and ultimately persuaded Lewinsky to "save the blue dress." The information was passed on to Paula Jones' lawyers, which led to Clinton lying under oath in deposition.

Clinton was a major moral transgressor. In addition to repeatedly cheating on his wife, using his positions of power for sexual exploits with young women in a way we can all relate to as horribly wrong in this post-#MeToo era, he lied under oath, and he lied to the American people. Republicans were outraged and pursued Clinton's impeachment with great sanctimony and vigor (even as some of them were guilty of conducting their own secret affairs). Republican outrage was not fake: but Kurtzer suggests it was driven by the politics. That much seems correct.

As Kurtzer points out, most Democrats were not similarly outraged by Clinton's conduct: Democrats were more offended by the partisan nature of the impeachment proceedings than by Clinton's transgressions. The country's perception of Republican partisanship--and game playing--about the Lewinsky affair lead to a loss of 5 Republican House seats in the 1998 mid-term election. The Republican Speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich, had expected to pick up 30 seats: a miscalculation that lead to his resignation as Speaker. If we did not have term limits for presidents, we would have re-elected Bill Clinton in 2000 (he ended his presidency with a 58% approval rating).

With Trump the situation is reversed. When the Access Hollywood tape came out Democrats were outraged by the behavior and thought it was disqualifying; Republicans stuck with their man. By now it's apparent that Trump is in Harvey Weinstein's league of sexual predation, yet his approval rating with Republicans stands at an astounding 89 percent this week.

Reflecting on this, Kurtzer concluded that our moral universe is constrained by our partisan politics:
"My partisan and my political commitments--which I come by honestly--driven by larger moral commitment of what I want for the world and what  I think is morally right--but those partisan and political commitments shape my moral horizon as much as the other way round.  We don't always fully interrogate what drives our moral convictions and we assume there is a continuity between our moral commitments and our partisan expressions of those commitments--but sometimes it happens that it comes the other way around: our political and partisan commitments perhaps (constrain) and dictate the shape of our moral universe--what we wand to see, what we don't want to see, what we can tolerate, and what we consider intolerable.... We become aware that our moral universe is constrained by our political and partisan commitments. And what I'm concerned about is that we are engaged in a massive conflation between the moral, the political, and the partisan..... (And) the more urgent (our) political views, the more likely (we) will do whatever is necessary to get (our) political objective achieved. This is the great morally compromising conflation of ends and means. The minute (we) say 'whatever means are necessary to achieve this moral outcome, we are not anymore holding ourselves accountable to our moral compass, we are simply willing to do whatever takes to produce the outcome that we want." 
But I don't think this ("we are conflating the moral, the political, and the partisan") is the right conclusion. What's wrong with a partisan commitment to what we want for the world, and what we think is morally right? What we think is morally right for the world should shape our partisan commitments and our moral horizons.

Extreme partisan gerrymandering and voter suppression to play for partisan advantage, or throwing out constitutional tradition as Mitch McConnell did with judge Garland (means to ends), is certainly wrong, but the values that are being sold down the drain with gerrymandering and abusing the confirmations process are political values. This has nothing to do with how anyone feels about Clinton's or Trump's sexual transgressions.

The political affiliations of sexual transgressors and how we feel about them is a Trolley Problem.
That is to say, how we feel about Trump and Clinton emotionally doesn't determine whether what they did was moral or not. Moreover it is beside the point since everyone agrees what they both did was wrong. Although Republicans support Trump today, they aren't doing so because they think what he said in the Access Hollywood tape is O.K. behavior; they are supporting him despite this improper behavior because they believe Trump is a partisan for the larger moral commitment of what Republicans want for the world. As best I can tell that commitment is less redistribution of social goods, fewer environmental protections, less support for education and the arts, and a more self-reliant, gun toting society, where women and minorities don't get to claim an equal stake at the table. Republicans are not selling out those value commitments by supporting Trump, they support Trump because they think these are the values he stands for, and his sexual transgressions have nothing to do with it.

Democrats did not support Clinton in 1997-2000 because they thought his affair with Monica Lewinsky and lying about it was O.K.; they did so because despite his failings because they believed Clinton was an effective partisan for the larger moral commitment of what Democrats want for the world: including redistribution of social goods to provide a decent life for the least among us, medical care and support in retirement as a right, access to education for all, sensible gun regulation to prevent mass shootings, an appreciation for knowledge and expertise, a commitment to equality of opportunity for all, and a commitment to government working to promote the common good.

The problem with Donald Trump's supporters and apologists is not that they are conflating their morals and partisan politics and selling out by accepting Trump's behavior, the problem is that they have shitty political values.

Follow me on Twitter @RolandNikles

*Kurtzer has written a book to explain how he thinks the Jewish past relates to the present. I intend to read his Shuva. 

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Is the Press hoping for a Perry Mason Moment?

Sarah Huckabee Sanders and Jim Acosta 
Perry Mason was an iconic detective series on American television (1957-1966) whose episodes were typically resolved with the introduction of dramatic new evidence,  unknown to most present, but determinative of the outcome of the case.

Is the press waiting for its Perry Mason moment with Trump? The Access Hollywood tape ("grab women by the pussy") whetted their appetite. Since Tump took office, the press has kept a close tally on the lies Trump tells: 4,229 as of two days ago. They appear to be waiting for the lie that breaks the camel's back. They may as well be waiting for Godot.

"Admit that the press is not the enemy of the people. . . . !" Jim Acosta of CNN challenged Sarah Huckabee Sanders (Trump's press Secretary) today. Yet Trump and Sanders (correctly) feel that the press is the enemy of this White House. The problem, of course, is Trump conflates “enemy of my White House” with “enemy of the people;” but one could imagine Sanders querying Acosta: “Admit that the press is the enemy of this White House….!” Acosta would not give a straight answer to this question anymore than Sanders will give a straight answer to his.

Acosta was fishing for his Perry Mason moment.

Dalton Delan, in an article at the Berkshire Eagle, laments the admixture of news and opinion that is inherent in the press keeping tabs on the number of lies told by Trump.

"The New York Times has undertaken a regular practice of noting in news articles and quote-unpacking sidebars when it finds — on a quotidian basis, it appears — that that the president 'falsely claimed,' a flavor of reportage some might see as a provocative layer of instant analysis. The problem with this new way of treating presidential assertions is that it may reinforce beliefs that the newspaper of record is stacking the deck against POTUS, rather than laying out the first draft of history for future dissection. One can almost hear author Emile Zola 120 years ago shouting 'J'accuse !' in his famous newspaper headline railing against the president of France."
Along these lines, a David Remnick article from a couple days ago struck me: he reports, in an omniscient voice, on what happened in the meeting between Trump, Sulzberger and Bennet from the New York Times. Presumably Remnick spoke with Sulzberger and/or Bennet, but he does not tell us with whom he spoke or what they said. Sulzberger and Bennet must have authorized Remnick to publish his (their) story without attribution. It seems a bit gutless on their part and a bit slipshod on Remnick’s part.

It is corrosive for the press to view its job as being the enemy of the White House. The Delan column speaks to this.

The press these days behave like an inexperienced lawyer hoping the witness will break down with “You are right, I’m terrible, I did it . . .” on cross-examination. The press is waiting for its Perry Mason moment. What we learn as attorneys, Perry Mason moments never come. 

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Friday, July 27, 2018

Judges Rakoff and Posner on Judicial Activism

A year ago, Slate magazine sponsored a conversation between two giants in the law, Judge Jed S. Rakoff (District Court judge Southern District of New York), and Richard A. Posner (Court of Appeals, 7th Circuit, and law professor at University of Chicago) about judicial activism.

Judge Rakoff recently made some adverse rulings against one of my former clients and I was making calls to find him a new lawyer. The prominence and great reputation of Rakoff for being smart and perceptive came up in conversations. Richard Posner is famous for his writings about the economic analysis of law.

The full Slate article can be found HERE.  Some highlights . . . .
Moderator (Joel Cohen): ... Some judges... use their judgeships ... to accomplish change through their rulings. That is, to move society in certain directions. Some call it “judicial activism.” Others, more boldly, call it a “usurpation” of legislative or executive power."  Is it appropriate for judges to use their status as judges on the bench to advance the ball in a way that would (or even should) traditionally be relegated to the executive or legislative branches?

Richard Posner: Basically what judges do is resolve disputes. The resolution will have implications for similar future disputes, and in that respect, make law. I’m not sure what else there is to say about the subject of your question.

Jed Rakoff: ... (Any) judge who takes her oath of office seriously will try to resolve disputes “without fear or favor,” i.e., without regard to political leanings or policy preferences. But there are a fair number of cases that don’t fit this model, cases where one can reasonably apply the law to the facts and come to opposite conclusions. In such cases, a judge’s policy leanings will often influence the judge’s decision, even though the language of the judge’s opinion may make no reference to policy.

Moreover, since... a decision in one case will have implications for similar future cases, the higher a court’s level—i.e., the greater its power to set precedent for large numbers of cases—the more likely it is to engage in policy-making. The Supreme Court, in particular, has been a policy-making body since its inception, a fact obvious to everyone. Nonetheless, because the judiciary is not expressly vested with a policy-making function under our state and federal constitutions, even those judges who frankly recognize that the judiciary has a policy-making function still usually recognize that they should exercise this function sparingly and only as a last resort.

The result is that the Supreme Court has been for most of its history a conservative institution that tends to justify its policy preferences in terms of not departing from past precedents and/or not interfering with the exercise of power by other branches of government. The notion, therefore, that judges routinely engage in “judicial activism” is a myth....

Moderator: (But) this ... seems to me to fly in the face of a widely held view that at least some judges... often look to change policy (as long as a proper case is brought to them).

Posner: ... I don’t think there’s more to say than Judge Rakoff has said. We judges resolve disputes. Because the resolution will have consequences for future similar cases, we have to be thinking of consequences when deciding how to resolve a dispute, and “desired consequences” and “policy” are interchangeable concepts. So yes, a judge’s policy preferences will influence judicial decisions....

Rakoff: I do not go looking for opportunities to change the law, and I doubt that any judge does. My job, like that of every judge, is to apply the law fairly and evenhandedly to the facts presented in the particular dispute before me—but when the facts change, the application of the law may change as well. The Supreme Court, as noted, has a more overt role to play in making policy than a lowly district court like mine, or even a court of appeals like Judge Posner’s, and the Supreme Court gets to pick its cases, which the other federal courts cannot but even at the Supreme Court level, the facts, and the perception of the underlying facts, still drive the law.

In Brown v. Board of Education, the key change of facts that underlay the decision was the evidence before the court that “separate” was not in fact “equal.” And it was a perception of what police practices were actually like that led to the Warren Court’s imposition of enhanced protections against police overreaching. Conversely, the antipathy of the current Supreme Court toward class actions is fueled by the perception that such actions do more to line the pockets of plaintiffs’ counsel than to compensate victims of misconduct. To be sure, ideology may influence how one perceives “the facts,” but reliance on changed facts to change legal precedents has been central to the common-law form of judging since time immemorial. ....

Posner: “Existing law” means ... views currently held by many judges, lawyers, and politicians. Those views are likely to be fluid, changeable—in accordance with new social needs, attitudes, and authority. Law means one thing to conservatives, another to liberals. It has no fixity.
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Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Herman Wouk and War Casualties in Yom Kippur War vs. U.S. WWII Casualties

A friend just returned from a sailing trip to the Gulf Islands. He got a prodigious amount of reading done. "A book a day."  I've heard of people reading at that pace.  I've never managed anything close.

On my friend's reading list was Herman Wouk's historical novel about the Yom Kippur war, The Glory (1994). Here is a friendly review that seems to capture the intended effect. In a retrospective on the occasion of Wouk's 100th birthday, David Frum called him "a conservative writer: conservative about religion, about gender roles, and above all about duty, service, country, and warfare." Wouk has the reputation as a Norman Rockwell of Jewish American Writers, as a Stephen Spielberg of war nostalgists. We should think better of him, suggests Frum. We should pull him off the dusty shelves in vacation homes and bed & breakfast lounges.

I'm not tempted. Wouk's historical writing, says Frum, was didactic. He appears to be no Hillary Mantel (Wolf Hall). Even at one day, the opportunity cost seems too high.

After reading The Glory my friend came away with the impression that Israel's casualty rate in the Yom Kippur war was greater than the U.S. casualty rate in World War II.  I don't know if this is what Wouk says in the book, or if the number came from exceeding the speed reading limit. But I thought I would double check the number this morning.

Here are the casualty rates for Israel in the Yom Kippur War, and the U.S. in World War II:

Per the numbers summarized in Wikipedia, the U.S. casualty rate in WWII was more than double Israel’s casualty rate in the Yom Kippur war.

Yom Kippur War
(Israeli Jewish population was about 3M in ’73)
  • 2,600 dead (87/100k)
  • 8,000 wounded (267/100k) 
  • 10,600 total (353/100k)
For perspective, to get similar numbers as U.S. casualties in World War II, look at Gaza in 2014. The  Palestinian casualty rate in Gaza in 2014 (population of 1.8 million) was twice that of Israel's during the Yom Kippur war:
  • 2,310 dead (127/100k)
  • 10,626 wounded (585/100k)  
  • 12,900 total (710/100k)
(U.S. population in 1941 was 133,000,000)
  • 405,399 dead (305/100k) 
  • 670,000 wounded (504/100k)
  • 1,075,400 total (809/100k)
For both the U.S. in WWII and Israel in the Yom Kippur war, the casualties were away from civilian population centers.  Except for Pearl Harbor, the U.S. was spared from this war; all the fighting occurred away from its shores. During the Yom Kippur war, the fighting occurred in the Sinai and in the Golan Heights, relatively unpopulated areas.  By contrast, the 2014 Gaza conflict inflicted great destruction on Palestinian population areas, civilians, housing, industry, and infrastructure. 

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Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Is Reihan Salam Trolling for Trump on the News Hour?

"When Trump realized (what he said in Helsinki) did not play well with the people he depends on to shield him from investigations...." (he changed would to wouldn't). 
                                                --Reihan Salam, PBS Newshour (7/20/18)

I can't quite tell whether Reihan Salam, the executive editor of National Review is trolling Judy Woodruff and Mark Shields in this PBS News Hour segment last Friday. But we have a clue: according to a WSJ/NBC News poll this past week, a still-shocking 88% of Republicans approve of Trump's job performance despite his non-stop bald faced lying, financial and political corruption in his administration, utter lack of consistency or forethought, cruel policies towards immigrants, wild trade sanctions, the torpedoing of long time allies in Europe and Canada, and flattery and apparent subservience to Putin. Republicans are sticking by their man, and Salam is doing his best to come up with a straight-faced justification (or excuse) for Trump's outlandish behavior.

Despite appearances, said Salam to an incredulous Mark Shields, Helsinki was a win for Trump.  Trump said flattering things to Putin to open possibilities even as he imposed increased sanctions on Russia. There are people in Trump's administration, said Salam, who are deeply skeptical about Trump's style and his desire to lift sanctions, but they don’t mind the substance they are getting from his administration. Trump does not have the power to reverse sanctions; Putin is less likely to get sanctions relief now, said Salam, and so this translates into a defeat for Putin.

Salam sounds like a troll because he presents this argument in a manner that suggests Trump's outlandish behavior (e.g. siding with Putin over the FBI, NSA, and CIA regarding Russian meddling in our election) is part of some grand scheme to fulfill campaign promises and getting positive results--and thus perhaps (in the final analysis) good. Trump's rhetoric may be regrettable, and it may have risky side-effects, but there is a plan and there are positive results, so chill out, suggests Salam.

All that juvenile talk of who has a bigger nuclear button with North Korea, suggests Salam, was a type of sober calculation meant to achieve results. He pointed out how Trump threatened nuclear annihilation of North Korea, only to flatter and admire Kim Jong Un at the summit in Singapore, followed by tough demands from his team--causing North Korea to say Trump was making "gangster demands" about denuclearization. And yet, the North Koreans are apparently dismantling some rocket testing facilities. Can North Korea yet be persuaded to drop its nuclear program and reform to integrate into the international community? Might Trump's style yet show some success that other presidents were not able to achieve. Might any success achieved outweigh the damage he is causing to the fabric of our body politic and national interest? The jury is out.

In the meantime, this last weekend Trump threatened nuclear annihilation of Iran, in capital letters. Strategy or not, at least it's consistent behavior. Are we heading for a flatter-fest summit with Iran? I'm skeptical. It seems more likely that the Iran tweet was a "shiny object" diversion tactic from the Russia story, as Chris Cillizza suggests at the Washington Post. Salam's analysis would invite us to credit Trump's Iran tweet as part of a grand strategy, instead of what it appears to be, a trolling diversionary tactic.

Is Salam simply playing devil's advocate, or is he, as I suspect, joining Trump's troll? Does it amount to the same thing? For some issues and some people, in some times, the only question that matters when the dust settles is "whose side were you on?" I suspect that will be the case with Trump when he's gone to the everlasting shame of today's GOP and, perhaps, Reihan Salam.

If we look at Salam's appearance on the News Hour a week earlier, July 13, 2018, we see the following: in a week where Mueller indicted 12 Russian nationals for interference in the U.S. 2016 election, all members of a Russian federation intelligence agency, Salam argued that the Mueller investigation is a misguided effort. Instead of pursuing a criminal investigation of what the Russians did--and how members of the Trump administration may have assisted and invited such actions--he argued we should have a bipartisan investigation in how to respond to attacks on our democracy and institutions generically. A criminal investigation has turned the investigation into a partisan circus, says Salam. Bad Mueller investigation!

Salam stretches credulity. As Mark Shields pointed out, Mueller was appointed by Republicans, he has great credibility for impartiality, and no one believes that Mueller is on a partisan witch-hunt.  No one, that is, except for Trump who makes that allegation non-stop. Salam's commentary appears designed to give credence to Trump's proposition: bad Mueller investigation!

A week after suggesting there should be no Mueller investigation, Salam acknowledges that Congressional Republicans are shielding Trump from investigation. But the problem, according to Salam on 7/13, is not Trump's transgressions (treasonous or not), or that the GOP leadership is shielding Trump from investigation, the main problem is that any investigation that points fingers at the Trump organization is bad because it turns the GOP into rabid partisan attack dogs, instead of patriots trying to protect our democracy and institutions. They just can't help themselves, it seems.

The main problem with Russian efforts to interfere in our election and institutions, however, is not the fact that the Russians did it. The United States has been interfering in democratic elections around the globe for a long time. The problem is that Trump and his campaign invited Russian interference, that they showed eagerness to cooperate with the Russians in order to elect Trump, and that--in the face of evidence this is what happened--the GOP in Congress thinks it's their duty to shield Trump from investigation. To address that problem we need the Mueller investigation.

Mueller is on the trail, Trump is trolling, and the executive editor of National Review seems to be trolling right along with him on the PBS Newshour.

Reihan Salam and Mark Shields, PBS News Hour


Salam was born in Brooklyn, NY (1979). He attended Stuyvesant High School, Cornell, and Harvard.   He co-authored Grand New Party: How Republicans Can Win the Working Class and Save the American Dream (2008) with Ross Douthat. The book, according to Norman Ornstein's review in the NYT, makes a pitch at how the GOP can grab non-college educated white voters as a constituency by tacking back to the middle with social programs aimed at creating stable families, lessen inequality, and provide economic support for this demographic. Obama won this demographic in both 2008 (breakdown by income only) and 2012. In 2016, as we know, the GOP broke through with this demographic, bigly, but with a racist nationalist, anti-immigrant message, not with back to the center policies actually designed to help that demographic that Salam advocated in 2008.  Salam seems to have tacked to the right along with the times. We'll see what happens in '20.

Follow me on Twitter @RolandNikles

Friday, July 20, 2018

The Primary Election in Port Townsend

Point Wilson lighthouse and Mt. Baker
Well . . . we're not in California anymore.  In San Francisco this June, the primary election included a regional measure, nine local initiatives, five state initiatives, and a host of positions to vote on. A dozen more initiatives await November. The voter guide is typically hundreds of pages long.

Yesterday I received the voter information packet for our new home in Port Townsend.  It is quaint. No measures or initiatives on my ballot, and just six offices to vote for (another four are unopposed). No voter pamphlet to wade through.

Here are the contested offices on my Port Townsend ballot for the August 7, 2018 primary.


Maria Cantwell, Washington's "junior" Senator, is up for re-election.  "Junior" is a relative term (Patty Murray was elected in '92): Cantwell has served as Washington's second senator for 18 years.  

Cantwell (59 years old) is a career politician. She was first elected to the Washington state legislature (1987-'93) at age 28. She represented Washington's 1st Congressional District in the House ('93-'95), and defeated Slade Gorton for her Senate seat in 2000. If re-elected this November, this will be her 4th Term.  

She is a solid liberal according to Govtrack.US

She seems forceful and knowledgeable about cyber security and privacy issues, something we sorely need in Congress right now.  See her recent questioning of Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg. There are 28 others seeking the nomination on this ballot.  The top two will run-off in November. 

I will vote for Cantwell in this primary election.  

United States Representative

Jefferson County is in the WA 6th Congressional District. Washington's delegation has 10 House members, six Democrats and four Republicans.  The incumbent for the 6th Congressional District is a Democrat: Derek Kilmer (age 44) . He has been representing the District since 2012. 

Kilmer was born to public school teachers in Port Angeles. He has a BA from Princeton and a PhD from University of Oxford (comparative social policy). In Congress as well as Olympia before that, he has garnered a reputation for being bi-partisan. He is considered pro-business. In 2016 Kilmer defeated Todd Bloom (R) by 23 points. 

Douglas Dightman (R) is the Republican vying for a slot in the November run-off. Dightman, a Tacoma native, is a family doctor in Shelton. He has no political experience, says he knows "very little" about Kilmer, and fancies that he wants to go to Washington for one term to "improve health care."  Perhaps he should start by switching party.  Has he been paying attention? 

The third person trying for the run-off is Tyler Myles Vega, from the Progressive Party. The Progressive Party is a small party founded in 2003. They are anti-corporations, pro-environment, and they don't seem to have well developed policy positions. They have a scant website. Vega has a website but doesn't care to say anything about himself.  

I am voting for Derek Kilmer in this primary. 

WA Legislative District 24 (Position 1)

The 24th legislative district (state) represents most of the Olympic Peninsula (excepting the population heavy Bermerton-Poulsbo-Silverdale area). There are two legislative positions in Olympia for this district.  

Two candidates are vying for Position 1. 

The incumbent is Mike Chapman (D) who serves as an assistant Majority Whip.  There is some information at Ballotpedia. The bio at his website indicates a law-enforcement background (local law enforcement and U.S. Customs inspector). 

His Republican challenger is Jodi Wilke, a nurse from Port Angeles. She spearheaded a drive against a Jefferson County affordable housing initiative last year. She is opposed to regulations on assault rifles, bump stocks, and against regulations that protect marbled murrelet habitat. Enough said. 

I will be voting for Chapman in this primary for Position 1. 

WA Legislative District 24 (Position 2)

There are two candidates for position two. 

Steve Tharinger (D) is the incumbent. You can see the bills he's sponsored at Ballotpedia

The challenger is Jim McEntire (R). His website states "he has never voted to increase the County’s general government tax levy, and voted to cut the County’s sales tax. This action directly helps working family budgets, and reduces the economic burden on our community." He is a member of the NRA. McEntire wants to "remove some of the regulatory stumbling blocks of capital formation," he wants landowners to be able to drill wells without permits, and he's a Trump supporter.  

I will be voting for Steve Tharinger for Position 2. 

Prosecuting Attorney

Two Democrats are vying for the job. 

Michael Haas (57 years old) is the incumbent. He has lived on the Olympic Peninsula for 22 years. He was interviewed by the Leader Here

James Kennedy (37 years old) is the challenger. He is an Iraq veteran and currently a deputy prosecutor in Port Angeles. Kennedy says "public service is my calling." He stopped by to say hello during our first month in town.  He strikes me as an earnest and competent young man.  

Kennedy worked under Haas for a year. The Leader reports that Kennedy left in a minor rebellion in the office: Kennedy exited about a year after Haas took office along with "former Jefferson County Chief Civil Deputy Prosecuting Attorney David Alvarez and ... Wendy Davis." These two are acting as Kennedy’s treasurer and campaign chair respectively. 

Kennedy says he would like to see child support enforcement back in the office. He wants to emphasize training. 

Haas has expressed (in same Leader article) ambivalence about continuing in the job.  

I plan to vote for Kennedy in this election based on his youthful energy, apparent dedication, and apparent support.  I am open to hear more of a case for Haas if anyone cares to chime in. 

Jefferson County Sheriff

There are two candidates. 

David Stanko (no party preference stated) is the incumbent.  At a forum recently, reports the Leader, he defended the taking of Department of Homeland Security Grants,  and advocated providing "aid (to DHS) in efforts against terrorism and human trafficking." He argued that "the sheriff's office provides some of the only 'eyes and ears' for spotting the latter two crimes in this area." In October '16 Stanko posted an inflammatory anti-Muslim video on his Facebook page. Stanko refuses to say for whom he voted for President in '16. 

Joe Nole (D) is running to unseat Stanko. The Leader reports that Stanko demoted Nole who has been with the sheriff's office for more than two decades. Stanko promoted Nole to undersheriff in 2014, but demoted him to detective in 2017. [I consider that a negative factor for Nole] In a forum, Nole said that it was a mistake to take DHS grant money. 

I don't know enough about these candidates to make an informed decision. Since we have to vote on something, I intend to vote for Nole based on their stated attitude towards DHS, and the fact that Stanko won't say whom he voted for for president.  I'm not voting for anyone who voted for Trump, and if they won't say, I'm going to assume they voted for Trump. I am open to hearing more. 

Please add your comments and any information you have about any of these candidates in the comments. 

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Israel Formally Abandons the Democratic Tenets of its Declaration of Independence

David Ben-Gurion reading Declaration of Independence
May 14, 1948
The Israeli Declaration of Independence, made on May 14, 1948, famously promised a liberal democratic state:
"(The state) will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture; it will safeguard the Holy Places of all religions; and it will be faithful to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations."
In 70 years the state of Israel has not delivered on this promise. This past week, the Knesset passed a "Nation State Law" amending the Basic Law--the closest thing Israel has to a constitution--and formally revoked the promise made in its Declaration of Independence.

Here is the full text of the law (from Jerusalem Post) with my annotations in brackets:

1. The State of Israel
a) Israel is the historical homeland of the Jewish people in which the state of Israel was established.
b) The state of Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish people, in which it actualizes its natural, religious, and historical right for self-determination.
c) The actualization of the right of national self-determination in the state of Israel is unique to the Jewish people. 
[By implication this denies that Israel is also the historical homeland of Palestinians, and it expressly denies the right of national self-determination in the state of Israel for Palestinians. And in order to fully appreciate this, it's important to keep in mind that Israel makes a distinction between "nationhood" (Jewish peoplehood) and citizenship. This bill asserts Jewish nationhood and denies Palestinian nationhood; it officially relegates Palestinans to second class status]

2. National symbols of the State of Israel
a) The name of the state is Israel.
b) The flag of the state is white, two blue stripes near the edges, and a blue Star of David in the center.
c) The symbol of the state is the Menorah with seven branches, olive leaves on each side, and the word Israel at the bottom.
d) The national anthem of the state is "Hatikvah"
e) [Further] details concerning the issue of state symbols will be determined by law. 
[The 20 percent Palestinian citizens of the state are specifically excluded from this symbology]

3. [The] unified and complete [city of] Jerusalem is the capital of Israel.

[The annexation of East Jerusalem--eliminating it as a possible capital of a future Palestinian state--is confirmed. It is another formal repudiation of a two-state solution]

4. The Language of the State of Israel
a) Hebrew is the language of the state.
b) The Arabic language has a special status in the state; the regulation of the Arab language in state institutions or when facing them will be regulated by law.
c) This clause does not change the status given to the Arabic language before the basic law was created.
5. The state will be open to Jewish immigration and to the gathering of the exiled.

[This, of course, just repeats what is enshrined in Israel's Law of Return; it was also in the Declaration. As Bernard Avisahi aks rhetorically: "Can a state for world Jewry be a republic of citizens, many of whom are not Jews?" The obvious answer is "no." The state of Israel needs to be a state of its citizens, not a state by and for world Jewry. Talking about "paradigm shifts," this is one that needs to happen]

6. The Diaspora
a) The state will labor to ensure the safety of sons of the Jewish people and its citizens who are in trouble and captivity due to their Jewishness or their citizenship.
b) The state will act to preserve the cultural, historical and religious legacy of the Jewish people among the Jewish diaspora. 
7. The state views Jewish settlement as a national value and will labor to encourage and promote its establishment and development.

[This commits Israel to an ongoing violation of International Law, i.e. transferring its population into an occupied territory. If ongoing Settlement of the West Bank, and its promotion and expansion, is a national value, that clearly is a commitment to Greater Israel---an assertion of continued occupation and eventual sovereignty of the Jewish State over all the land from the river to the sea. It eliminates the Jewish majority. It announces Israel as a non-democratic ethnocracy]

8. The Hebrew calendar is the official calendar of the state and alongside it the secular calendar will serve as an official calendar. The usage of the Hebrew calendar and of the secular calendar will be determined by law.

9. National Holidays
a) Independence Day is the official holiday of the state.
b) The Memorial Day for those who fell in the wars of Israel and the Memorial Day for the Holocaust and heroism are official memorial days of the state.
10. Saturday and the Jewish Holidays are the official days of rest in the state. Those who are not Jewish have the right to honor their days of rest and their holidays. Details concerning these matters will be determined by law.

11. This Basic Law may not be altered except by a Basic Law that gained the approval of the majority of the Knesset members.

[Israel has no constitution. All Basic Laws, which Israel thinks of as constitution like, can be amended in this way. In this case it's a potentially saving grace, although it is difficult to see how any Israeli political majority will rectify this law any time in the foreseeable future]

For context, we would all do well re-reading Bernard Avishai's article in the The Guardian on the occasion of this year's Shavuot.

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