Does Kavanaugh Pose a Threat to Abortion Rights?

Democrats are painting Brett Kavanaugh as a threat to Roe v. Wade as they gear up for a fight over his confirmation to the Supreme Court. Are Democrats’ fears overblown or is Kavanaugh really a threat to abortion rights? More at New York Times.

The looming threat to Roe is already galvanizing the political left… an outright reversal of Roe, which would allow the individual states to regulate abortion as their legislatures see fit, augurs blue wave after blue wave to wash away the effect of minority rule. That’s why I don’t expect it to happen. I expect the justices will understand what Susan Collins doesn’t — that Roe v. Wade is very popular and only the political fringe wants a return to the Bad Old Days that preceded it.

…while Kavanaugh’s record on women’s and LGBT rights is sparse, it gives good reason to suspect that he could be the swing vote to strike down Roe v. Wade, the abortion-rights case. This, after all, is what Trump promised in 2016: that Roe would be “automatically” be overturned should he be elected. And Kavanaugh has been praised by numerous right-wing organizations.

Last year, he attempted to block a young undocumented woman in U.S. custody from accessing the safe, legal abortion she wanted — even after she had cleared Texas’ numerous legal hurdles. If Kavanaugh had his way, the government would have delayed the young woman’s abortion by more than a month, pushing her into the second trimester. Fortunately, the full court on which he sits intervened and allowed the young woman to access the health care she needed. If he was willing to use his position of power to block this woman’s most basic human right to make her own personal health decision there can be little doubt that he’ll do the same to women across the country.

Is Israel on Its Own When It Comes to Iran?

While the world waits to see what will happen at Trump’s summit meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Israeli PM Netanyahu has jetted off to Russia himself in hopes of coming to an understanding about Iran’s presence in Syria. This is far from the first time the two leaders have discussed Iran, but as power dynamics shift again in Syria, the question of Iran’s presence is more pressing than ever.

While America’s closest allies in Europe viewed with a sense of dread Trump’s interest in partnering with Putin, three countries that enjoyed unparallelled influence with the incoming Administration—Israel, Saudi Arabia, and the U.A.E.—privately embraced the goal. Officials from the three countries have repeatedly encouraged their American counterparts to consider ending the Ukraine-related sanctions in return for Putin’s help in removing Iranian forces from Syria.

Israel is keeping its eyes on the Vladimir Putin-Donald Trump presidential summit scheduled for July 16 in Helsinki. Israel is hoping that the meeting will yield “understandings” by the two powers that will torpedo Iranian consolidation on Syrian soil. On the other hand, no one in the Israeli political or security systems harbors unnecessary illusions. “Ultimately, no one will volunteer to get the Iranians out of here, in our stead,” a senior Israeli military figure told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity.

There will be limits to how far Putin will press Iran, and his strategy is to find a middle ground between the conflicting interests of major players, said Andrei Kortunov, head of the Russian International Affairs Council, a research group that advises the Kremlin. The Russian leader may agree to keep letting Israel bomb Iranian convoys transporting advanced weapons to Hezbollah while allowing Iran to maintain a route for arms supplies to Hezbollah that would stretch from Iran through Syria to Lebanon, he said.

Is the Nationality Law a Threat to Israel’s Democracy?

The Nationality Law, if passed, would enshrine Israel’s status as a Jewish State. But it would also allow Jewish communities to reject non-Jewish residents. Israel’s president and deputy A.G. are concerned about the Nationality Law – is it really a threat to Israeli democracy?  More at YNET.

It’s hard to understand how a right-wing coalition that wages eternal war against BDS and its activists is undeterred by the proposed Nation-State Law clause that would allow Jewish local councils to legally exclude Arabs, given the probability that it will provide a justifiable pretext to accuse Israel of apartheid. Even the more moderate members of the coalition are capitulating to the ugly tide of nationalism that is sweeping some parts of the Israeli public and bowing their heads to Netanyahu’s cynical, rabble-rousing machinations.

“After seventy years it’s time to have such a law. There was a lot of noise around the law. I didn’t find a single one that had any justification. Basically, this is about the fact that the State of Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish People. It’s about the flag being such a flag, the language such a language, and Independence Day such a holiday, and so on,” says [Professor] Diskin. He explains that opponents of the Nationality Law oppose the State of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish People. “This law contains no violation of personal or collective rights of anyone else.”

The main problem with the Nationality Law is not that it is “racist” – striving to live separately is not necessarily racism. The main problem with the Nationality Law is not “international repercussions” – not in a world of Trump and Putin. That problem is that this law is unnecessary. Namely, that it violates the contract between a people and their politicians. The contract dictates: we elect you to identify problems and solve them. The Nationality Law is a move in the opposite direction: the legislators create a problem and then further complicate it.

Why Is Trump Suddenly So Concerned with Baby Formula?

The Trump administration went to great lengths to oppose an Ecuador-sponsored World Health Organization resolution promoting breastfeeding over formula. The debates about breastmilk versus formula amongst parents are known to get heated – but why is Trump so concerned?

According to a dozen sources from several countries who spoke to the New York times on the condition of anonymity, the Trump administration threatened to impose trade sanctions on Ecuador and withhold needed military aid. Ecuador folded right away… In the end, guess who came to the rescue of vulnerable infants? Russia. Yes, to protect the profits of baby formula industry, the United States ceded the moral high ground to Vladimir Putin. And, you guessed it, Trump’s people didn’t confront Russia, and the resolution passed overwhelmingly… That reduces our power and influence.

This latest tussle in Geneva follows a decades-long battle by infant-formula makers to promote themselves as essentially on par with breast milk. And while health experts instead say “breast is best,” as this incident shows, policymakers aren’t always willing to put legislation behind that message. Formula makers have responded to the cultural battle over breastfeeding in true corporate form: by lobbying for their interests and marketing their products.

Through his many actions, President Trump is supposedly disrupting the “free trade” consensus. But using trade as a hammer to obtain long-sought goals for corporate interests is as American as apple pie. That’s especially true when it comes to public health, which has perpetually taken a backseat to the desires of multinationals.

3D Printed Guns: A Second Amendment or a First Amendment Issue?

After winning a settlement in his case against the State Department, Cody Wilson, the crypto-anarchist who was once prohibited from publishing his 3D-printed gun designs online, is allowed once again to share his files. This turn of events is sure to upset gun control advocates, but Wilson insists it’s a First Amendment issue – not Second.

This is a timely but complex conflict because it touches on two themes that happen to be, for many, ethically contradictory. Arguments for tighter restrictions on firearms are, in this case, directly opposed to arguments for the unfettered exchange of information on the internet. It’s hard to advocate for both here: restricting firearms and restricting free speech are one and the same. That at least seems to be conclusion of the government lawyers, who settled Wilson’s lawsuit after years of court battles.

“If code is speech, the constitutional contradictions are evident,” Wilson explained to WIRED when he first launched the lawsuit in 2015. “So what if this code is a gun?” The Department of Justice’s surprising settlement, confirmed in court documents earlier this month, essentially surrenders to that argument. It promises to change the export control rules surrounding any firearm below .50 caliber—with a few exceptions like fully automatic weapons and rare gun designs that use caseless ammunition—and move their regulation to the Commerce Department, which won’t try to police technical data about the guns posted on the public internet.

For Wilson, this means that Defense Distributed can freely publish 3D files of guns under a .50 caliber threshold, i.e. the infamous Plastic Liberator handgun and other small arms. Luckily, automatic firearms, guns with silencers, and those that have magazines of 50 rounds are still regulated by ITAR permits, so proposals for a 3D printed AR-15 will not yet be going ahead…

Why Is 2018 the Year of Mr. Rogers?

Why is a 1970’s children’s television show suddenly capturing the imagination of adults in 2018? As a recent documentary makes clear, we need the message of Mr. Rogers now more than ever.

…something about Mr. Rogers speaks right to the heart of our moment. And thanks to Morgan Neville’s excellent documentary Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, people are spending the summer with a serious case of Fred Rogers Fever. Who else but the Man in the Goldenrod Sweater understands what we’re going through right now? And what could sum up 2018 better than full-grown strangers gathering in dark theaters to weep out loud together while a tiger hand puppet sings “Am I a Mistake?” It makes all the sense in the world that we gravitate to Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood and its cardigan-clad piano-man host. Now more than ever, Fred Rogers matters.

It’s the second-highest-earning doc of the year, coming in just behind “RBG,” another unlikely summer hit that centers on firecracker Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and has tallied $11.6 million since May. Both are part of a recent wave of movies that IndieWire critic David Ehrlich has coined “nicecore”: optimistic films such as “Paddington 2” and “Hearts Beat Loud” that preach radical kindness and acceptance, showcasing the best in humanity even when the pummeling news cycle reminds us of a grimmer reality.

According to Rogers, “Those who make you feel less than who you are is the worst evil.” That should be our guiding light. Our Judaism should be aspirational and invite children to feel loved and respected for who they are. It should not be watered down beyond recognition. Our politics should be aspirational, too. We should treat all children and adults in a way that makes them feel loved and respected for who they are — not degraded and manipulated for political points. Perhaps a better approach to our immigration conundrum would be to echo Mister Rogers and softly sing: “Won’t you be my neighbor?”

Today’s Hot Issues

Does Kavanaugh Pose a Threat to Abortion Rights? Is Israel on Its Own When It Comes to Iran? Is the Nationality Law a Threat to Israel’s Democracy? Why Is Trump Suddenly So Concerned with Baby Formula? 3D Printed Guns: A Second Amendment or a First Amendment Issue? Why Is 2018 the Year of Mr. Rogers?