Posted on June 08, 2018 in Countdown

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Another Blow to Free Speech and Civil Rights

Imagine someone who thinks holding pro-Palestine events on campus should count as “harassment” of Jewish students. Imagine someone who thinks extending hate crime protections to LGBTQ students is some nefarious “multicultural agenda.” Imagine this person becomes in charge of the Office of Civil Rights at the Department of Education. That’s Kenneth Marcus, and because handing a position charged with protecting students’ civil rights to someone who wants to undermine civil rights is extra kooky, we’ve advocated against his appointment for months. Sadly, the Senate confirmed his appointment yesterday down partisan lines (50-46). If you want to know more on why Marcus is bad news, watch our video. If you want to know how we’re handling this deeply troubling appointment, read our statement.


A Super Duper Tuesday

The 2018 ‘Super Tuesday’ of primaries on June 5th did not disappoint, as voters in eight states went to the polls to choose nominees for the November elections. And we, along with everyone else, have been talking about California’s “jungle primary” results. Ammar Campa-Najjar, an Arab American Democrat vying for California’s 50th Congressional District seat, advanced through the primary (despite a heavy smear campaign targeted at him). Campa-Najjar is now up against GOP Rep. Duncan Hunter for the runoff election in November. But many California voters considered themselves lucky to cast ballots on Tuesday at all, as over 118,000 voters in Los Angeles County were omitted from voter lists due to a printing error. Poll workers were instructed to offer provisional ballots to those omitted and the votes cast on these ballots would be counted once the voters’ registration was confirmed. It could be human error, it could be an evil plot, but, regardless, hopefully come November, all of those eligible voters will be able to easily exercise their right to vote.


Ramadan Charade at the White House

The White House hosted its first iftar under the Trump Administration on Wednesday. President Trump upended the longstanding tradition last year when he cancelled the annual dinner (or breakfast), choosing instead to recognize Ramadan with a characteristically offensive letter, in which he not only spoke excessively about “terrorists and their perverted ideology,” but also failed to address American Muslims directly. The letter reflected Trump’s biases—perspectives he championed on the campaign trail and has since thrust into policy as president—as he sees Islam as inherently violent and views Muslims as foreign, and as fundamentally “un-American.” This second point is crucial: while the president’s immigration policies exclude foreign-born Muslims from the country, the administration has also worked to exclude American Muslims from the national picture. Yes, the White House hosted an iftar this year, but it has withheld invitations from American Muslims, with most of the guests being foreign ambassadors representing specific Muslim-majority countries. The Trump Administration will say they’ve extended a hand, or more specifically, that holding this iftar shows they do not hold anti-Muslim animus, but they’ve only done so in a way consistent with their exclusionary vision of Americanness. Because, keep in mind, the real reason for this week’s White House iftar is the nine people who were not among the 40 guests invited or the 52 people in attendance.


Pardon Me

On Monday morning President Trump tweeted, “…I have the absolute right to PARDON myself…” in a tirade about the Mueller investigation. The day before, Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani implied that Trump couldn’t be indicted even if he had murdered James Comey. This assertion of unqualified presidential power is both wrong and dangerous. President Nixon once asked the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) whether the President could pardon himself. OLC said no. Four days later, President Nixon resigned from the presidency. We're doubtful that Trump would take that path, but by asserting the ability to pardon himself, Trump is claiming that he can violate federal law and face no legal consequences. Combined with his unwillingness to promise to accept the results of the 2016 election were he to have lost, there’s no reason to doubt that Trump might interfere with the next election, only to pardon himself if he were to win or refuse to accept the results if he were to lose. This “I’m above the law” stuff is potentially more damaging and dangerous than just about anything else Trump has said or done. In a bizarre twist, Trump even suggested NFL athletes who kneel for the anthem could recommend people they would like to see pardoned (what?!). Were we the only ones to think of that scene from Life of Brian with the Roman emperor?


The Price of Courage

You remember Ahed Tamimi, the Palestinian hero and teen who was sentenced to eight months in prison after she slapped an armed occupation soldier who had invaded her yard? Her request for early release was denied, according to Israeli security services, because she “has no remorse and thus remains dangerous.” Meanwhile, Israeli troops have just shot and killed a 21-year-old relative of Ahed’s in the same village (tell us who “remains dangerous” again?). The brutal and unjust occupation is exacting a heavy cost from the Tamimi family, but for the courage Ahed has shown throughout her ordeal, we can’t help admiring her spirit, and can’t wait until the day she’s free, not just from the jailing cell, but from the prison of occupation.