Posted on June 18, 2015 in Countdown

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America had always been at war with Al Qaeda…

Our alliances in the battle against ISIL are rather puzzling: we like the Kurds, and possibly Iran, and maybe even al-Nusra, but not Assad. The war has been quite the erratic ride: we  – if you can call the complex force against ISIL “we” – lost Tikrit, took back Tikrit, lost Ramadi, took back al-Baghdadi, lost Palmyra, and apparently just retook Tel Abyad. Is anyone else getting the frightening feeling that we are living through the “perpetual war” outlined in Orwell’s spine-chilling 1984? There are bizarre parallels between our fight against ISIL and the constant wars between the nations in Orwell’s disturbing classic. If one can remember, no real gains are made, or losses suffered, in the battles of 1984; the war simply continues on. And it certainly appears – despite daily and extensive coverage on war developments – that nothing has really… changed. We’ll silently cheer to ourselves after reading the latest story declaring that ISIL is “on the retreat,” but despair the next day upon seeing those black flags waving in yet another fallen city. What’s more, the groups we are aligned with seem ever-changing; the U.S. has found de facto allies in hitherto bitter adversaries. Both Iran and even the (former?) Al Qaeda affiliate, the Nusra Front, are fighting ISIL as well (recall: Oceania had always been at war with Eurasia). It would hardly be a shock if the U.S. cozies up to Bashar Assad as well. Pile onto this the fact that American civilians are largely detached from what’s going on; few have any idea what the fight against ISIL actually looks like. Oh, and it doesn’t help that we are reminded almost daily that the U.S. government (or the Party) can keep a close watch on us, if they’d like.

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As for the charges against me, I am unconcerned

With nearly half a century of occupation of a territory acquired through military conquest, Israel is no stranger to abuses of international legal norms. Despite the overwhelming evidence, Israel has consistently claimed that it breaks no laws…in its opinion. In what was one of the most egregious and clearly evidenced cases of gross misconduct in recent memory, the Israeli military unleashed a deadly missile salvo at four Palestinian children that were kicking around a soccer ball on a Gaza beach during last summer's "Operation Protective Edge." Late last week, the Israeli Military Advocate General said that the attack "accorded with Israeli domestic law and international law requirements." The claim was that the Israel military was targeting a "compound belonging to Hamas's Naval Police and Naval Force." In the heart-rending accounts by journalists that watched the events unfold, the compound was nothing more than a small fisherman's shack on the seawall of a beach frequented by western press. The famed New York Times photographer Tyler Hicks, a witness to the attacks, said that the Israeli military is sophisticated and knows "what they're hitting" and that it would be pretty hard "to mistake grown men, and you know, Hamas militants, at that, for children no more than four feet high wearing beach clothes." It damages the international mechanisms designed to protect against breaches of human rights and humanitarian law when Israel is allowed to continuously violate basic norms of behavior for contemporary sovereign states with complete impunity. Enough is enough.

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Twelve and Counting

Jeb Bush, the former Governor of Florida, son of President George H. W. Bush, and brother of former President George W. Bush, formally launched one of the most anticipated campaigns for the Oval Office in 2016. It has been no secret that Jeb would run for President but in the long run-up to the formal announcement, his campaign has stumbled mightily. The combination of uninspiring speeches and an inability to handle questions such as whether or not he would have invaded Iraq in 2003, as his brother did, has caused Jeb’s popularity to decline. Jeb was initially considered the frontrunner to earn the Republican nomination in 2016 but his early campaign mistakes have placed him back in the middle of the fray. Candidates such as Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) are likely to use Jeb’s age and last name against him, painting him as a product of a bygone political era whose family is seeking to continue a political dynasty. Jeb may not be as charismatic as Sen. Rubio, or as boisterous as Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) or as youthful as Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, but he may just be the most likely GOP candidate to emerge triumphant on Election Day. 

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Hillary's Game Changer?

How does Hillary plan to get into the Oval office?  Following Obama’s voter base. As her approval ratings go down and the rallies heat up, Hillary has a secret weapon in her back pocket, and the Dems in congress are following suit. David Cicilline (D-RI) has proposed a bill to automatically register Americans to vote. This proposal comes on the heels of Hillary’s fiercest partisan speech yet last Thursday at Texas Southern University, where she called for sweeping changes to national voter access laws. Although the proposal had been in the works for months before Hillary’s announcement, it reflects the bipartisan struggle over voter restrictions which could possibly determine the 2016 elections. Hillary blasted Republicans in her speech for “systematically and deliberately trying to stop millions of citizens from voting.” Republicans are hitting back, retaining their usual, and baseless, position that voting restrictions help limit voter fraud. This effort can be seen as Hillary’s push to pick up any and all issues impacting those in minority communities, those same minority communities that got Obama in office. The two step process of registering and voting alienates many from participating in the process that is the cornerstone of our democracy. Although the bill will see an uphill battle—with Hillary’s support making its path even more steep—Dems are also turning to the courts with litigation cases in prime presidential fighting grounds. Hillary's attempt at assuring minority voters she is on their side could be a game-changer. However we must remember, voting is a sacrosanct right and both camps should stop treating it as a political tool.

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Again, really?

The recent anti-BDS (Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions) bill introduced to the New York State Legislature, echoing similar laws passed in South Carolina and Illinois, seeks to dissuade companies from economically responding to Israeli policies, by barring the state’s pension fund from investing in companies that boycott Israeli goods. This measure recalls a similar bill introduced to the New York Legislature last year that would have suspended funding to educational institutions that funded BDS student organizations—a bill which was ultimately tossed out by the assembly on the grounds that it violated the First Amendment. Bills like these in New York and South Carolina establish a dangerous precedent: essentially, these laws enforce a pro-Israeli policy at an institutional level and give states the ability to translate this policy into punitive action. Such laws stifle free enterprise and undermine free speech, opening the door to a kind of “red scare” where any company or organization that takes a stance on the Palestinian issue can be subject to economic penalties imposed by the state. It is completely alright to, as a private citizen, speak out against or refuse to support the BDS movement. It is not, however, acceptable for a government authority to institutionalize a restriction on free speech.

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