Posted on June 17, 2016 in Countdown

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What We Can Do for Orlando

It’s yet another devastating week for the entire nation as we grieve for the victims and all of those effected by the mass murder in Orlando on Sunday. As our nation - and our community - comes to grips with the threat posed by perverted and deadly ideology, homophobia, assault weapons, domestic violence, mental illness, and the other factors that allowed a sick human to carry out the attack on Pulse Night Club, we urge you to stand in solidarity with the LGBTQ community and the victims of this act by donating to the Orlando community.


Trump’s Only Policy is to Push Bigotry

Businessman and presumptive GOP nominee Donald Trump has been on a fear-mongering media blitz in response to the tragic Orlando mass shooting. His teleprompter speech expanded his plans for the “Muslim Ban” policy he’s long endorsed, and he repeatedly condemned all American Muslims for supposedly knowing about the plans of the criminals who perpetrated the Orlando and San Bernardino mass shootings but not turning them in. Afterwards, Trump not once but twice insinuated that the President of the United States, Barack Obama, is on the side of the terrorists. Yesterday, Trump called for surveilling mosques, again. We thank the many voices (Republican leaders, LGBTQ allies, interfaith leaders, journalists, and many more) who refuse to use the Orlando shooting to justify this particular breed of bigotry and the many unconstitutional polices Trump is pushing. We do not thank those public personalities like Newt Gingrich who support these policies and even go so far as to propose resurrecting the “House Un-American Activities Committee” - - a committee that remains a scourge on the history of America. As Orlando made clear, bigotry is a threat to our security.


The President Is All Talk, But That’s All Good with Us

We usually take the time to point out that good-sounding speeches are not as important as the policy actions that follow, but we’ve got to say that the President’s post-Orlando speech in response to Trump’s bluster was pretty unassailable. POTUS’s forceful reiteration of his refusal to say the U.S. is at war with “Radical Islam” matters, especially when others are not holding the rhetoric line as strong. We definitely take issue with some of the policies in Obama’s speech; linking the Orlando shooting to ISIL recruiting in the U.S. is tenuous at best. But Trump has been winning on style over substance for a year now, so to see the President go in for the win in the style department is an overdue relief. And maybe, just maybe, the polls will start to reflect the hollowness and bigotry that Trump has made a prominent feature of his campaign.


Mixed Terrorist Watch Lists Make for Mixed Messaging

The many different yet overlapping “terrorist watch lists” are confusing to sort out, and the headlines and hashtags aren’t clarifying it for us (probably because they’re confused too). Momentum has built around the general idea that people on a terrorist watch list shouldn’t be able to buy guns. But which list? The #NoFlyNoBuy push purports to focus on what is called the “No Fly List,” a list of reportedly 10,000 U.S. persons. The No Fly List is a subset of the slightly larger “Selectee List” and both are a part of the much larger “Terrorist Screening Database” (which reports suggest is at 800,000 names and is what some people refer to as the “terrorist watch list”). Last year, a #NoFlyNoBuy bill was defeated because it used both the No Fly List and the larger Terrorist Screening Database to ban gun sales. Conflating these lists is concerning because there are so many known mistakes and lack of due process for correcting them, as the late Senator Edward M. Kennedy discovered. The bigger the list, the more frequent and severe deprivations of liberty become. Senator Kennedy pulled some strings to get his name removed from the No Fly List, but other people had to sue the government and after 5 years, they were awarded simply the chance to petition to be removed (not actually be removed, they had to sue to have their case considered). And that’s just the No Fly List; the larger Terrorist Screening Database shares the same woefully expensive, difficult, and secretive redress process. It’s easy to argue that none of the lists are a good basis for stripping away 2nd Amendment rights. Now, don’t misunderstand this as opposition to the rationale for these bills. Terrorists shouldn’t have guns – terrorists should be in jail. But since we’re talking about it, we need to bring due process into the watch list systems.


The Democratic Platform is Occupied with the Occupation, Not Substance

We can never pass up the opportunity to show how ludicrous and out of touch the political debate about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is in the United States. Last week, the Democratic Party’s Platform Committee (which, admittedly, we expect to be a little bit better on these issues), got into a mind-boggling disagreement about whether there is in fact an occupation happening in the Holy Land. It’s hard to believe, but there was in fact a repeated suggestion that calling it an occupation is just one way to look at the conflict, and a controversial way at that. This is just the latest occasion that the occupation has been put in quotes; don’t forget that we had to cover a very similar questioning of the occupation a few weeks ago when newspapers were doing it. The regressive exchange happened in the course of 2 days of expert testimony weighing in on the Democratic Platform. While this silly-but-sad exchange caused a stir, we hope folks were also paying attention to the moment when former Attorney General Eric Holder went on record for the first time (as far as we know) saying that the Department of Justice’s profiling guidelines could stand to be reformed again. The admission is important to moving the country forward, but instead of talking about that, we’re forced to point out that the occupation has been an occupation – both in American rhetoric and in Palestinian land – for a long bipartisan time.