Vol 14, No 5: Calling All Warm & Fuzzies

Posted on February 17, 2016 in Countdown

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White House Turns an AIPAC Win Into an Outright Loss

The year-plus long effort by AIPAC and some of their BFFs in Congress to officially change US policy on Israeli settlements has finally reached the President's desk. The so-called "Customs Bill" (H.R. 644) included a much-discussed provision that extends protection guarantees to Israel and "Israeli controlled territories." It is a thinly veiled - but stupidly successful - attempt to change longstanding US policy that holds the entire territory of the West Bank in clear distinction from Israel proper. Since the massive Customs Bill has been a major priority for the Obama Administration - it will inevitably be signed into law, green-line-erasing language and all. But props to the White House for not throwing the baby out with the bath water. The White House immediately issued a pretty solid press statement, and then State Department Spokesman John Kirby elaborated on it when he said the US would not "pursue policies or activities that would legitimize" settlements. But since the language is in the bill, and the bill will be passed, we are rooting for more than a press clip; we need a Presidential signing statement saying that the provision will not be implemented. This White House rebuke comes on the heels of yet another loss for the pro-settlement hawks. Earlier this month, the US Trade Authority found it incumbent upon them to "clarify" existing law that stipulates that goods made in the illegal Israeli settlements cannot by labelled "Made in Israel." Since the Obama Administration has been unsuccessful in stopping actual settlement growth, we'll applaud them for stopping the growth of settlement legitimization in the US. 

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Not A Year For the Warm and Fuzzy Feeling at the Polls

We're sorry....if this is the first time you or someone you love is casting a vote in a US presidential election, just know that we used to feel actual pride in carrying out our civic duty too. This year it looks like the mud slinging, lawsuit filing, name calling, and xenophobia will make every vote cast be more an act of fear than one of pride. Just in the last week we've seen ugly lawsuit threats between former best friends & candidates, giggles about waterboarding from other candidates, more anti-Muslim bigotry, and a very general sense that Republican candidates are in an all out war with one another. It hasn't been pretty, and that's only in the last week. With the South Carolina and Nevada primaries upon us, we're glad the debate stage has given way to town halls for more substantive conversations with each of the Republican candidates. Let's hope they find a way to inspire - not inflame and offend - the electorate. [Side note: that is even if 50% of Republican South Carolina voters apparently think creating a national database of Muslims is a good idea.]

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The Race for the Race Vote

Putting Clinton's confidence in her minority appeal to the test, Sanders is seriously challenging the Clinton campaign's assumed support from communities of color - even though he trails Clinton 74% to 17% with respect to African American voters in South Carolina. Senator Sanders' recent meeting with Al Sharpton and the somewhat begrudging but still important endorsement of his campaign by prominent African American luminary Ta-Neshisi Coates, are all signs that Sanders is not conceding an early defeat like the Clinton campaign did in New Hampshire; and a warning that Clinton shouldn't count her eggs before they're hatched. But Clinton is doing her best too, with a high profile trip to Flint, Michigan, last week's endorsement from the Congressional Black Caucus PAC (with a few recent detractions), and her own meeting with not only Al Sharpton - who is not by any means a gatekeeper to the black vote - but leaders from respected African American civil rights organizations as well. Clinton also went to Harlem earlier this week to deliver a long and substantive address on the concerns of African Americans. All in all, if both Democrats are going to continue pandering to the African American vote by elevating important issues and putting forward real policy solutions to some of the most systematic inequalities in our nation - pander on!

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The Awful Syrian Spiral Continues

Last week we got the years-overdue news that Russia and the US had reached a ceasefire agreement between warring Syrian factions. Whether it goes into effect tomorrow is still to be seen, especially with Turkey and Russia getting in some lethal parting shots that are highly incongruent with the larger picture. Once the parties get back to the negotiating table, they'll still be facing the same problems that ended talks last December - the extremely important technicalities are still not ironed out. Even Secretary Kerry (who still holds out hope for Israel-Palestine) admitted the plan was "ambitious." And now, talks are happening amidst the escalating participation of Saudi Arabia on the ground in close coordination with Turkey - which has Russia on edge and defiant in their continuation of air raids against Syrian rebels. Where this all goes nobody knows. But the 13.5 million displaced and traumatized Syrians are waiting. 

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AAI on the Scalia Debate: REALLY?

The New York Times is keeping track of how our Senators feel about the Constitution. As if the President's authority to nominate a Supreme Court Justice is dependent on their comments or unclear in any way. This isn't up for debate, but thanks for playing the game, NYT. Our un-sarcastic, real take on the matter is here.