Is Warren Really a Wonk?

Democratic hopeful Elizabeth Warren’s motto is “I have a plan for that.” Her reputation as an endearingly detail-oriented policy wonk is contributing to her recent surge in the polls – but is this reputation earned?

Many of Warren’s backers cite her policy specifics and her ability to explain them. “She is better than most college professors,” said John Godfrey, an academic administrator in Ann Arbor, Mich. “She has managed to do it without being a wonk. She is able to craft a narrative.”

Elizabeth Warren is a radical wonk… Issued at regular intervals, covering everything from wealth taxes to child care to agriculture, her proposals are part of a smart strategy that has helped distinguish Warren in a crowded Democratic field. They are more than that, though. They embody a new and potentially transformational approach to politics

In nearly every case where Warren is credited with some innovation, the evidence shows that she didn’t build it. She just slapped her name on it.

Nevertheless, the myth has persisted.

Should Trump Be Proud of His Policy on Rainbow Flags?

Trump made history on Friday as the first Republican President to acknowledge Pride Month by voicing his support for the LGBTQ community in a series of tweets. So why is he now banning the display of rainbow flags at U.S. embassies? More at CBS News.

It’s unclear whether this order to embassies comes from Trump or from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, but it hardly matters. The Trump presidency has become a carnival of grotesqueries and ridiculous lies when it comes to transgender Americans, including those willing to die for their country by serving in the military. And his assaults have not affected only transgender people. He has eroded protections against gay federal employees, gay diplomats, and on and on and on. At the same time, and perhaps confusingly to some, Trump has made some high-profile statements in favor of gay rights.

When Hillary Clinton said half of all Trump supporters could be put into a “basket of deplorables” for being “racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic,” she was conceding that many Trump’s supporters detest many progressive values.

True, but in the era of Trump, why should her liberal values be the values America champions abroad?

Not all American ideals can be clearly communicated in a flag. But when we have one that works — and that’s been working for years — why not use it?

Is Alabama’s “Chemical Castration” Law Ethical?

A controversial new law in Alabama requires convicted sex offenders to be “chemically castrated” as a term of their parole if their victim was under the age of 13. Beyond questions of ethics, observers are unsure whether the new law should be considered a punishment or a treatment. More at Vox.

…this is a good thing. The message is: Children matter. And after all, don’t they — as the liberals always like to say, with their “it’s for the children” lines of legislative logic — count most?

There is a need for a meaningful collaboration between legislative bodies and the scientific-medical communities in order to establish public policies and treatment protocols that can better ensure community safety. In conjunction with that effort, it should be appreciated that people who are sexually attracted to children need and deserve access to appropriate mental health treatment. Unfortunately the Alabama legislation falls far short of achieving that goal.

If we could put ethical considerations about nonconsensual medical treatment aside, it still wouldn’t be clear whether this approach will have the desired effect on recidivism. Most research in the area puts sexual desire low on the list of reasons people assault children. The best predictor of sexual assault is not libido, research has shown, but “an early and persistent general propensity to act in an antisocial manner during childhood and adolescence.”

Will the Israeli Left Team Up with Arab Parties for the Upcoming Election?

Israel’s left suffered a major defeat in the last election – but with new elections already around the corner, the left has a chance for a do-over. Many think that a partnership between Arab parties and the Jewish left could be the answer.

The problem for those who imagine a fantasy new Arab-Jewish party or Arabs choosing to vote for Labor or Blue and White is that no one is even interested in listening to Arab voters. Have you ever read an article where someone suggests what Arabs “should” do or how their voice will be “amplified” and has actually spoken to Arabs in Israel, or had an Arab write the article about their own community? Can anyone imagine the paternalism of someone who isn’t Jewish lecturing American Jews about their “opportunities” to vote in the next US elections?

…one must remember that Arab citizens in Israel are a minority, and alongside their banding together – as strong as it may be – must come an initiative from those who claim to present an alternative to right-wing rule in Israel. If they continue to see the Arabs as the enemy and not partners, then even a renewed Joint List will not bring about a real change in the Israeli political system.

Besides the Likud and the Blue and White party (right and center), the national-religious ultra-right could explore further means of consolidation (the new, chastened, Naftali Bennett — like Lieberman a Netanyahu castaway — is already working in this direction). The Arab parties, severely punished by their voters for the split in the Joint List, are hoping to do the same. The remnants of the left (Labor and Meretz) know that a partnership is key to survival — perhaps including Arab parties: they must do more to make it happen.

Should Friedman Be Dismissed for Annexation Comments?

U.S. ambassador to Israel David Friedman shocked the world when he seemingly endorsed the annexation of the West Bank. Some voices, including those at the NGO Peace now (quoted below), believe that this is grounds for Friedman’s dismissal.

Ambassador Friedman is a Trojan horse sent by the settler right, which sabotages Israel’s interests and the chance for peace. The price will be paid by the residents of the area, not by Friedman or Trump. The U.S. president, if he means to serve as a fair mediator, ought to send Friedman packing this evening.

Friedman should not be fired for the way in which he serves his administration. He should be given a medal for constantly taking ill-deserved flak without flinching.

Either way though it is not Friedman who needs to decide what Israel should do. He is not the one holding the keys to the door. Israelis deserve to hear from their leadership about the vision it has for the thorny issue, not in the context of political posturing, but in the realm of a long-term solution that will be in the best interest of Israel.

Is a “Handmaid’s Tale” Party In Bad Taste?

Kylie Jenner is facing sharp backlash over her decision to throw a Handmaid’s Tale themed party last week. “The Handmaid’s Tale,” a dystopian HULU drama about a world in which women are forced to become reproductive slaves, has become a potent political symbol for the left. Does that mean that the show is beyond satire?

A celebrity threw a TV show-themed party last weekend, and the internet is mad that she didn’t treat the fictional story with respect. As if America’s “The Handmaid’s Tale” obsession hadn’t gone far enough… We don’t live in a theocratic society, women aren’t forced into ritual rape, and they’re not subjugated to men. It’s a good time to be a woman in America. So good that if you want to throw a birthday party based on a dystopian TV show, you can.

Unless the feminists get you first.

Depending on the context, the costume’s weighty associations can either be magnified for power — or undermined as parody. Let’s review: Can handmaid’s costumes be used to condemn the curtailing of women’s rights? Definitely. As a skimpy Halloween costume? Definitely not.

While I think we can agree that Jenner’s party was in poor taste, getting outraged about it seems hypocritical. Is dressing up as a handmaid for fun really so much worse than watching the TV adaptation, which seems to revel in violence against women and has been described as “torture porn”? I am not sure it is.

Roundtable Extra: Israel Election Handbook

From Rosner’s Domain:

Labor party head Avi Gabbai decided to let someone else take charge. His number two, General Russo, quit politics. MK’s Peretz, Shmuli, Shafir, expected to battle for the top job.

Meretz Party leader Tami Zandberg faces a challenger, former MK Nitzan Horovitz.

Legal cases against Benjamin and Sarah Netanyahu advance in the legal system.

First gay minister appointed by the PM to lead Justice Ministry (and signal that Likud does not dance to haredi tune).

Today’s Hot Issues

Is Warren Really a Wonk? Should Trump Be Proud of His Policy on Rainbow Flags? Is Alabama’s “Chemical Castration” Law Ethical? Will the Israeli Left Team Up with Arab Parties for the Upcoming Election? Should Friedman Be Dismissed for Annexation Comments? Is a “Handmaid’s Tale” Party In Bad Taste? Roundtable Extra: Israel Election Handbook