Countdown Vol 18 No 1: Criminal Records

Posted on June 01, 2018 in Countdown

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DREAMers Countdown: It’s been 268 days since President Trump moved to end DACA. The courts did step in to block the move, but Congress has yet to provide a permanent fix. TWEET THIS

Crisis fatigue

Are we really surprised that National Security Adviser John Bolton has appointed someone from an SPLC-designated anti-Muslim hate group as his chief of staff? No, we’re not. When it comes to the White House, nothing surprises us anymore—nothing alarms us—and that’s because a state of constant alarm is the status quo. This, of course, is all by design. Shortly before he set off the chain reaction of firings and hirings that gave us NSA Bolton, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and CIA Director Gina Haspel, President Trump shared his justification for personalistic chaos with reporters: “I like conflict…. I like watching it.” Apart from disturbing, this statement is revealing, in that it demonstrates how the president thrives on chaos in pursuit of his goals. While he foments discord for his own personal gain, whether in the West Wing, in the media, or on the international stage, we suffer reverberant whiplash. The administration then exploits this disorientation to advance despicable policies and potential military conflict. Given his anti-Muslim policy background and general tendencies to see conspiracies everywhere, Fred Fleitz is an alarming, and therefore not surprising, appointee to the National Security Council. The question on our minds is how we’ll respond to a crisis when we’re all suffering from crisis fatigue. Stay tuned.  

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A Tale of Two Stories

Reporter Ron Nixon woke up one morning this week to find that a story he had written over a month ago was trending. The article discussed how the Department of Health and Human Services had “lost track” of nearly 1,500 children placed with sponsors after showing up alone at the border. In other words, the government called to check in and no one picked up the phone. Given the incredible metabolic rate of our news cycle, you can expect few stories to resurface. So what happened? As Nixon discovered, “[his] story had been conflated” with the Trump Administration’s new policy that results in separating children from migrant parents crossing the border without authorization. Unsurprisingly, this draconian policy raised alarm across the media, and unexpectedly, Nixon’s story got caught up in the frenzy. The resulting narrative mistakenly attributed the 1,500 unaccounted children to the administration’s new policy, and soon #Wherearethechildren was trending on Twitter. To make things more confusing, President Trump chimed in, saying Democrats should “end the horrible law that separates children from there (sic) parents.” But wait, it’s not because of a law, but rather a policy advanced under his watch that results in such egregious circumstances, and while 1,500 is the wrong number, such separations are still likely occurring. Stay focused: the Trump Administration sows and exploits confusion.

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Desperate Smears Target Arab American Candidate

On Tuesday, June 5th, voters in California, Alabama, Iowa, Mississippi, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, and South Dakota are casting their votes in several important primaries. One contentious race in particular has caught our eye: that of California’s 50th Congressional District. Battling it out are frontrunners Ammar Campa-Najjar, an "Arabtino" American former Obama Administration official, and school board member Josh Butner. This race drew national attention for a couple reasons: the possibility of a Democrat unseating Republican Duncan Hunter and the unusual attacks against Campa-Najjar. Recently, Campa-Najjar found himself the target of flyers claiming he is willing to work with Trump, leading to a fake tweet made to look like it was from Trump stating his support for the young candidate, on the grounds of the Muslim Ban of all things. It’s not unusual for candidates to campaign using Twitter, but publishing a fake tweet associated with Trump is a new level of determined (or desperate, you decide). Perhaps the most distasteful of all the attacks was an attempt to smear Campa-Najjar based on the alleged actions of his grandfather, who was killed 16 years before Campa-Najjar was even born. Apparently, when you’re an Arab American candidate, having a clear and consistent record as an exemplary public servant still causes some to speculate about your views on violence. Yes, we said something ridiculous and it is equally ridiculous to suggest that Campa-Najjar must also run on the intergenerational record of his deceased relative. Campa-Najjar has rebuffed the smear campaign and focused instead on the core issues he believes matter most to his district. Good.

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Roll Away, Tide

In a quixotic move, the state of Alabama has sued the Census Bureau in an attempt to prevent undocumented immigrants from being counted in the U.S. Census. The suit contains some interesting, albeit dangerous, legal gymnastics. As you probably know, the census counts people to, in part, determine how voting districts are drawn. Added to the Constitution after the Civil War, the 14th Amendment requires that Congressional districts are divided “according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of persons in each State…” After the abolition of slavery and the Three-Fifths Compromise, the “whole number of persons” instruction sounds pretty clear, right? To get around that, Alabama is arguing that “illegal aliens” are not “persons” for the purposes of the 14th Amendment. If you recall from the first century or so of American history, this isn’t the first time Alabama has argued that certain classes of humans are not legally considered “persons.” Let’s not repeat that mistake.

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It’s Not a Crime, & There Are No Witnesses

Outraged by Israel’s killing of countless unarmed protesters, Israeli human rights groups went to the Supreme Court calling for a ban on the killing of unarmed civilians. The Israeli Supreme Court, being in the Middle East’s “only democracy” and a nation of laws and all, ruled against the human rights organizations, insisting that it can be legal for the Israeli military to kill Palestinian civilians. But just because soldiers won’t get in legal trouble doesn’t mean Israel won’t face public backlash from around the world. After all, we’ve all seen the videos of soldiers shooting down civilians, and what does the release of these videos and the outrage that follows do to the spirit of Israeli soldiers? Don’t worry too much, the Israeli Knesset has a fix for that too: They’re considering a bill that would punish anyone filming on-duty Israeli soldiers “with the intention of undermining the spirit of IDF soldiers” with up to 5 years in prison. But there is one easy and simple solution they have yet to consider: Stop committing crimes against civilians.