Posted on April 06, 2018 in Countdown

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We’ve told you in previous Countdowns about how terrible Mike Pompeo is, and how absurd it is to put someone in charge of world diplomacy who harbors hostility towards Muslims, associates with conspiracy theorists, and goes along with preposterous accusations that president Obama has an affinity for ISIS-like groups. Well, now we’ve made our case in a video you can watch and share on Facebook and Twitter. Better yet, there is now a coalition of organizations mobilizing to stop Pompeo’s nomination, from National Security Action to Win Without War, and they’re mobilizing under two hashtags: #StopPompeo and #WarCabinet. The latter hashtag, as you might imagine, refers to the fact that, with Pompeo, Bolton, and Haspel, we are far more likely to further erode American diplomacy (which 200 former ambassadors and top diplomats are raising the alarm about), and find ourselves pursuing another immoral and unnecessary war. Let’s not go down that path again, especially when the stakes are even higher this time around. Pompeo’s confirmation hearing is next week, and some senators have already gone on record in opposition based on him holding some of these very special views. During these difficult times, we are left reminiscing about Pompeo’s first congressional campaign when billboards went up proclaiming, “True Americans Vote Pompeo” and he didn’t condemn them, or when he shared a story as a “good read” that referred to his Indian American opponent as an “evil” “turban topper.” Yes, Pompeo has been consistent in his bigotry and, yes, things are this bad right now.


Flipping More Than Grilled Cheese in America’s Dairyland

Election news this week takes us to good ol’ Wisconsin, aka America’s Dairyland. On Tuesday, Rebecca Dallet won an election to the Wisconsin Supreme Court, defeating opponent Michael Screnock for the open seat. The race was technically nonpartisan, but garnered national attention when the candidates received big-name endorsements. In general, liberals backed Dallet, while conservatives backed Screnock. In Wisconsin, Dallet’s victory is seen as a rare success for a Democratic Party that hasn’t had a solid W in a while. Conservatives still hold the majority of the court, but Dallet’s win cuts the majority down from 5-2 to just 4-3. Similar to the Pennsylvania special election earlier this month, Republicans were expected to easily win this race given the state’s historically conservative leanings. Whether you’re excited, horrified or neutral about the “blue wave” Gov. Scott Walker warns about, it’s undeniable that Dallet scored a liberal win by a sizeable margin. Also, did we mention that Dallet’s addition to the Court makes six out of the seven justices women, meaning WI’s Supreme Court has the highest percentage of women state justices? Because that’s definitely worth mentioning, too.


Getting Away with Murder

Palestinians in Gaza marked Land Day with a peaceful march towards the border with Israel, dubbing it a “March for Return,” symbolically moving towards the original towns and villages they were expelled from in 1948. Israel responded to the peaceful march with live sniper fire, shooting hundreds of Palestinians and killing 17 of them. Video footage emerged showing that Palestinians who clearly posed absolutely no threat were also shot and killed. Israeli human rights organizations B’Tselem urged Israeli soldiers to refuse their commanders’ orders to open fire on unarmed civilians, and Human Rights Watch demanded investigation and accountability for the killings, but Israel has refused both. Here at home, there was deafening silence over the killings from both the White House and Congress, with few noteworthy exceptions: Senator Bernie Sanders affirmed Palestinians’ right to protest peacefully without a violent response, describing the killings as tragic.  Congresswoman Betty McCollum said she was horrified by the killings, and demanded that the US do more to resolve the conflict. Senator Patrick Leahy’s office said he will press for an explanation for the killings, and explore whether the incident merits applying his law, which bars aid from going to countries whose forces commit “gross violations of human rights.” While the Leahy Law is rarely applied, as the single largest recipient of U.S. military aid, Israel’s ongoing human rights abuses require greater scrutiny. While our own laws dictate it, we are not optimistic.  


Drawing a Line in the Sand for Democracy

We won’t get tired of saying it: ending gerrymandering is not a partisan issue. With midterms 214 days away, advocates of fair redistricting and elections are itching for a decision that could secure fair maps before November. Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court heard a second gerrymandering case from Maryland; they first heard a case from Wisconsin in October 2017. There are important distinctions between the cases that may explain why the Court accepted two cases addressing the same issue in the same session. Maryland’s case focuses on a single district which Republicans say was unfairly gerrymandered by Democrats to flip it, and they’re making a First Amendment argument. In contrast, Wisconsin’s case charges that Republicans unfairly gerrymandered the entire state in their favor, and their argument includes a mathematical solution for the problem. It hasn’t been easy to predict what the final decisions may be, but basic contentions exist over the role the Supreme Court should play in election processes with partisan implications and, if they do intervene, what standard they will create for measuring partisan gerrymandering. A supreme court decision that provides such a standard for redistricting would settle gerrymandering debates elsewhere, like in Pennsylvania where the arguments over the PA Supreme Court’s redistricting decision has jeopardized judiciary independence. In the meantime, fair election advocates are continuing to push for redistricting reforms, with many calling for non-partisan state redistricting commissions (like the one our allies at Voters Not Politicians in Michigan are pushing). A decision is expected by June, and we’ll be closely following the twists and turns of the national gerrymandering debate.


A Blow to Profiling

Years ago, we told you about investigative reporting that revealed the NYPD was profiling and spying on Arab Americans and American Muslims. There have been many iterations to the fallout of the revelations, but yesterday brought good news: led by Muslim Advocates and the Center for Constitutional Rights, advocates have won a major legal victory against NYPD. By agreeing to the settlement against its conduct, NYPD is agreeing to not use ethnic or religious basis for surveillance. Better yet, the agreement reached also “calls for the police department to permit the plaintiffs of the lawsuit, including Muslim residents, business owners, student groups and clergy, to provide input for a new policy guide that will govern the activities of the department’s intelligence bureau.” The entire dark episode only came to light because of the Associated Press’ Pulitzer Prize winning coverage of the program that actively spied on local communities, at tax-payer expense, without producing a single lead. This decision is a major victory. You didn’t see us ending a Countdown on a good note, did you?