Posted on September 08, 2017 in Countdown

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While We Were Gone

We took a short break from writing Countdowns last month, but boy did we miss a lot! First up was Bannon. Yes, Darth Vader finally departed the White House, returning to the evil troll-pire at Breitbart. And what happened to Sebastian Gorka shortly after? You guessed it: Chewbacca’s evil twin was also banished from the administration, but he gave us one final insightful thought right before we stopped caring about what he had to say: He said that National Security Adviser General McMaster’s understanding of Islamic terrorism was “limited” because he had worked with Muslims in Iraq. That, of course, makes total sense. Direct, real-life experience can be very limiting compared to the limitless source of wisdom Gorka relies on, located somewhere on his ... Any who, having these people a little farther away from the levers of power is important. But before you breathe a sigh of relief, there is still a guy at the White House who thinks “Islam hates us,” and that there are two sides to a neo-nazi hate rally. He’s also the man in charge.

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Unwelcome In Your Own Home

Imagine coming to the US as a small child, and building an entire life here (job, taxes, family...etc.), then being told you’re going to be deported to a country whose language you may not speak, and whose culture you may not know. If that sounds cruel and unreasonable, you should find the Trump administration’s rescinding of DACA (Obama’s temporary protection order of some 800,000 people who are American in every way but their papers), exactly that: cruel and unreasonable. The president who pardoned a sheriff who’s guilty of horrific abuse, primarily directed at Latinos, appears to be insistent on getting Congress to fund the border wall with Mexico, and seems to have no qualms about putting the most vulnerable among us at risk to get his way. But DREAMers are real people with real lives, and they cannot be held hostage for any political demands. DACA was a response to a broken political system that failed to pass comprehensive immigration reform. With this decision, a cruel, dysfunctional White House punted to a dysfunctional Congress to do what it had previously failed to accomplish—fix our immigration system. The legislative fix for the DREAMers is the Dream Act and a clean version of it must pass. You can do something about this by telling your representatives to pass the DREAM Act, and you can do it here.

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Put the Grenade Down and Step Away from the Tank

You know how they say that, to a person holding a hammer, everything looks like a nail? Now imagine if hammers were advanced weaponry, and imagine if the people wielding them had considerable power in our society, and a history of mistaking some communities for nails? Well, the Trump administration just lifted President Obama’s restrictions on police acquisition of military-grade hardware from the Pentagon. This means police departments are now free to acquire armored vehicles, grenade launchers, large-caliber weapons, and even armed aircrafts, with very little oversight. Attorney General Jeff Sessions justified the lifting of the restrictions by saying this was about putting safety above “superficial concerns,” and claiming Obama’s restrictions had prevented police departments from acquiring life-saving equipment, like kevlar vests and helmets. This claim just happens to be made up and not true at all, but that is just the second most objectionable falsehood in Sessions’ statement. In a political climate of frequent protests and a president who urges police to be “rough,” the concern over putting cool new “toys” in the hands of police without adequate explanation or oversight is hardly “superficial.”

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The Sin of Common Sense

You may be familiar with ongoing efforts in Congress to defund the Palestinian Authority (PA), on the grounds that it sponsors terrorism against Israel. Yes, these allegations are against the very same PA heavily criticized by Palestinians for its tight security cooperation with Israel, and the very one heavily praised by the US State Department for its efforts to combat incitement and terrorism. We can’t recount all the falsehoods and logical contradictions in these terrorism allegations here, but you can fully understand how wrong they are by reading this. New Jersey’s Cory Booker was one of few senators with enough common sense to vote against efforts to defund the PA on these grounds, and he’s now on the receiving end of a hysterical smear campaign, claiming he “betrayed vulnerable Jews” and “threw Israel under the bus”. A video ad from the Committee for Israel encourages its supporters to call Booker and “tell him we noticed” this imaginary betrayal. Well, um, we’ve noticed too that Booker is capable of elementary common sense on this issue. But wait, scratch that – BREAKING NEWS – Booker will now support the Taylor Force Act after an amendment was agreed to just sever aid that “directly benefits the Palestinian Authority.” In practice, we don’t think the bill or the amendment make much sense. Now how much the ad played into this we can only guess. But thankfully there is actually more common sense floating around the Senate, with rising Democratic Party stars like Kirsten Gillibrand and Elizabeth Warren coming out against efforts to criminalize boycotts of Israel, because they see how obviously they violate First Amendment rights. Expect the crime of common sense to continue to elicit the manufactured outrage so commonplace in this day and age.

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Between a Rock and a Hard Place

While Palestinians struggle against a brutal Israeli occupation in the West Bank, and a suffocating blockade in Gaza, they also have to struggle against another level of injustice, coming from the Palestinian Authority (PA) itself. Not only does the Ramallah leadership engage in political fights with Hamas at the expense of ordinary Palestinians in Gaza, they also restrict free speech and the right to dissent in the territories they control. The latest example was the arrest of prominent Palestinian human rights activist Issa Amro, long hounded by Israeli forces, because he criticized the arrests of journalists by the Palestinian Authority. Congressman Mark Pocan (D-WI) slammed the detention, saying the PA was moving in an “unfortunate direction” by cracking down on free speech, and we couldn’t agree more with Pocan. If this is the leadership that’s supposed to be leading the Palestinian struggle for freedom, they should really start by valuing freedom a little more.