Posted on May 21, 2013 in Countdown

Stopping Stop-and-Frisk

On Monday, Federal Judge Shira Scheindlin heard closing arguments in a lawsuit challenging New York City’s Stop-and-Frisk program, in which, as the name suggests, police stop pedestrians and search them for weapons and contraband. The program has come under increasing scrutiny in recent years, with studies showing that 87% of stops are of blacks and Latinos, and that 90% of the stops result in no arrest or summons. You’ll recall that Arab Americans and American Muslims in New York City have been the target of other NYPD profiling efforts, via its now infamous surveillance program. It appears that the NYPD has a troubling inability to distinguish between individual criminals and the communities they may come from, extrapolating that black/Latino must equal criminal, and Arab/Muslim must equal terrorist. A ruling is expected by mid-July, and we hope Judge Scheindlin’s decision will encourage the NYPD to repudiate racial profiling in all its forms.


Our effort to oppose rewarding Israel with Visa Waivers is gaining traction in the media, with more reports about Israel’s long history of discriminating against Arab Americans and American Muslims at its borders. Last week, the San Francisco Chronicle ran a piece about opposition to Senator Barbara Boxer’s (D-CA) Visa Waiver Bill, S. 462—significant, given that the paper is one of the largest in Boxer’s own state. Nationally, prominent blogs and newspapers have given voice to opponents of all four pieces of legislation currently under consideration. Despite receiving some positive press, we still have a lot more to do to raise awareness about the implications of granting Visa Waiver Status to Israel. AAI has created three action items that we need you to help distribute, including an Action Alert to tell your Senators to oppose visa waiver for Israel; a confidential Israel Border Harassment Form to collect personal stories of border harassment; and a twitter hashtag—#NoWaiver4Israel—to raise awareness of the issue. We hope you’ll use these — your stories and action are what will make the difference in defeating this proposal.

Slandering his Salad

You all know by now that Rep. Louis Gohmert (R-TX) is a Countdown favorite. He usually appears in this space due to his repugnant comments about Muslims, women, “terror babies” or whatever the far-Right conspiracy du jour happens to be. Check out his greatest hits here. This time around, however, Gohmert’s comments are less offensive than they are perplexing. Last week, Attorney General Eric Holder appeared in front of the House Judiciary Committee to answer questions about the Justice Department’s seizure of Associated Press phone records, among other topics. Gohmert, however, wanted to talk veggies. After a heated exchange with the Attorney General, Rep. Gohmert accused Holder of attacking his integrity and “...casting aspersions on my asparagus.” We can only assume that Gohmert is a backyard gardener, and a very protective one at that. Just keep this in mind the next time Gohmert says something idiotic - his mouth and brain seem to function independently of one another. 

Iraq is Coming Apart

While we’ve all been focused on Syria, a crisis has been continuing to unfold next door in Iraq. Iraq is experiencing the worst bout of sectarian violence since the civil war of 2005-2008, with Shia and Sunni groups exchanging bomb and gun attacks. Thirteen more people were killed Monday, after a bloody weekend that saw hundreds killed and injured in dozens of attacks across the country. This round of sectarian violence was ignited by a late April Iraqi military raid on a Sunni protest camp in Hawija, but tensions have been exacerbated both by the Syrian civil war, which has taken on an increasingly sectarian dimension, and the Maliki government’s heavy-handed treatment of Sunnis. The renewed support for violent insurgency among Iraq’s Sunnis is a sign of their disaffection from Maliki’s government, which is dominated by Shias and has close ties to Tehran. If some Iraqis feel they have no legitimate chance to meaningfully participate in the central government, violence is the sad but inevitable result. American policymakers should encourage Iraqi politicians to compromise in a spirit of inclusiveness, but they should also recognize the cautionary lessons the American experience in Iraq holds for the debate over intervention in Syria.  

The Everlasting Bachmann Saga

We love to bring you updates on one of Countdown’s more regularly featured members of congress, Michele Bachmann. This time, however, we won’t be bringing you news about something silly she said or some conspiracy theory she dreamed up and went public with. Oh, no. Today, we bring you news that Michele Bachmann’s congressional seat is yet again under siege. We’re not talking about the campaign finance scandal she’s currently battling (which the FBI is now investigating); we’re talking about a relentless opponent in Democrat Jim Graves, a hotel executive who came within 1.2 percentage points of beating Bachmann in 2012. Graves isn’t taking his foot off the gas. He’s made it clear that he intends to run —and win— in 2014, and according to a new poll put out by his campaign, he will. The poll, conducted by Public Policy Polling, shows Graves ahead of Bachmann 47% - 45%. Whether you’re a Democrat or a Republican, you have to admit that given the history of controversy, conspiracy theories, and ethics charges, it’s amazing that Bachmann isn’t losing by far more. If everything she’s done to deserve losing her seat isn’t enough, we don’t know what is.