Posted on August 29, 2019 in Countdown

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Missing: Pompeo’s Sense of Irony

Remember when we struck a deal that prevented Iran from developing nuclear weapons, and we had just a little bit less tension in the Middle East? Those were the days, weren’t they? Judging by Trump’s reckless decision to blow up the deal at the first opportunity possible, we’re guessing he didn’t think those were the days. But the Trump administration wasn’t content with unilaterally withdrawing from the nuclear deal, they insisted that they will punish anyone who doesn’t go along with the new sanctions the U.S. has imposed. As Mike Pompeo put it, “We’ve made clear, anyone who touches [Iranian crude oil], anyone who supports it, anyone who allows a ship to dock is at risk of receiving sanctions from the United States.” Wow, it sounds like the Trump administration has gone all-in on a campaign of extortion diplomacy to frustrate global efforts to peacefully resolve the issue with Iran, doesn’t it? Pompeo sees it differently: He thinks Iran “has gone all in on a campaign of extortion diplomacy” to frustrate his administration’s efforts to cripple Iran economically. Yes, can you believe the Iranians have the audacity to try and get around our decision to abandon our agreement obligations and survive our economic warfare against them? What extortionist monsters!

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Dropping Discrimination Off at Departures

Last week, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report, “Airline Consumer Protections: Information on Selected Airlines’ Non-Discrimination Training Programs” which was required by an amendment to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Reauthorization Act of 2018 that we successfully advocated for. AAI has long worked with Congressional partners to address airline discrimination and has held events on Capitol Hill highlighting the issue. The report found (sorry, this numbers sucks, so you may want to sit down)...  828 total complaints from airline passengers of discrimination from 2009 - 2018. Of those, 249, or about 30%, were complaints on discrimination based on ethnicity, ancestry, or national origin. So, now we know. The next step? Ensuring that airlines have proper non-discrimination training for their employees. The work continues!

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Election Season Is… Wait, We Got a Glitch

Matthew Petersen announced his resignation from the Federal Election Commission (FEC), effective at the end of August. A George Bush-appointee, Petersen has served on the FEC since 2008. He didn’t indicate a reason for his departure. You may be asking, “what is the FEC, and why should I care?” Great question. The FEC is the agency that administers and enforces the federal campaign finance law, giving it jurisdiction over campaign finance for the U.S. House, Senate, Presidency, and the Vice Presidency. It’s supposed to be a 6-member panel, with no more than three members from each party. With Petersen leaving, there are now only three total, so there is no quorum. Republican Commissioner Hunter said that, without a quorum, the Commission can’t “hold meetings, initiate audits, vote on enforcement matters, issue advisory opinions, or engage in rulemakings.” Cool, so now it can’t do, like, all the fun and legit campaign finance stuff. Hmmm. Apparently this won’t mean we’re entering a ‘legal free zone’ and we shouldn’t expect a “Wild West.” But this definitely isn’t ideal as the 2020 presidential campaigns really rev up. Come on, Executive and Legislative branches of our government, do us a solid and nominate and confirm some new commissioners!

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The rollback continues

While you were on vacation (at least we hope you were), the Trump Administration continued its effort to keep more Americans out of work. In the latest round of deplorable rollbacks to LGBTQ rights, the administration filed two briefs before the Supreme Court arguing for a restrictive interpretation of employee protections under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The briefs were filed in advance of oral arguments for three cases scheduled this October. Those cases revolve around whether Title VII, which prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, and national origin, covers sexual orientation and gender identity under the definition of sex. The administration’s briefs argue that it does not, contradicting decades of federal rulings and the policies of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). They didn't stop there. The Department of Labor recently announced a notice of proposed rule-making that would gut discrimination protections for women, religious minorities, and LGBTQ people. We must do all we can to counteract the administration’s attack on civil rights protections. Don’t know where to start? Support the Equality Act.

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Missing: Brett Stephens’s Self-Awareness

“The right to offend is the most precious right. Without it, free speech is meaningless.” Those are the words of NYT columnist Bret Stephens, a man who has offended many with ugly, distasteful commentary, but who recently demonstrated the hollowness of his principles. Bret believes in the right to offend so much that he complained about “the disease of the Arab mind” (totally not racist), and claimed the campus rape epidemic was “imaginary” (totally concerned about the wellbeing of women). He’s not a fan of Black Lives Matter, responding to it with the cliché that “all lives matter,” disputing the problem of discrimination faced by African Americans at the hands of police, and suggesting it’s due to “criminality… [occurring] in African-American communities. And police go to where criminality occurs.” (yup, definitely not racist). But this free speech warrior draws the line somewhere: When a New York Times employee complained that there were bedbugs in the building, GWU professor David Karpf tweeted a humorous jab, suggesting “the bedbugs are a metaphor,” and adding: “The bedbugs are Bret Stephens.” Forget bigotry, this personal joke at his expense is where the line has to be drawn! Stephens wrote the professor an email “inviting” (read: challenging) him to come over and repeat the joke to his face, and cc-ed the university provost in an obvious effort to get Karpf in professional trouble. After being trashed on Twitter for his shameless hypocrisy, Stephens deactivated his account. Clearly, he can handle being offended so well, for offending him is “the most precious right” people can exercise after all.

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The War on Palestinian Existence Continues

Considering Trump’s immigration policies throughout his time in office, it should be not be surprising to anyone that Ismail Ajjawi, a Palestinian refugee moving to the US to start his undergraduate career at Harvard University from Lebanon was deported upon arrival to the United States. By cancelling his student visa and allowing his peers to enter, Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) are imposing orders from higher up. Ajjawi explained that CBP officers took his phone, looked through all his social media and found that OTHER people on his feed were posting things that were critical of the United States. Hmmm, something about this common practice of searching a Palestinian’s phone and denying them entry and access to education seems familiar, doesn’t it? Ajjawi is currently working with the Harvard administration and legal experts to get his student visa back and begin classes in the coming weeks. In the meantime, the State Department removed the ‘Palestinian Territories’ as one of the areas under the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs. You know, just another day in the erasure of Palestinian existence.

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