Friday, December 23, 2016

Last Call For The No-State Solution, Con't

I've talked about David Friedman, Trump's odious ambassador to Israel pick before (a man whose literally single qualification for the job is the fact he's Trump's bankruptcy lawyer) but it's entirely another thing to hear just how frightening a departure Friedman is from diplomatic norms from somebody who's an expert on the situation like Emily L. Hauser.

It could be (and has been) argued that in choosing Friedman, Trump has merely removed the mask behind which U.S. policy and opinion have long hidden. Over the years American rhetoric has come to at least nominally acknowledge Palestinian rights and human dignity, with many beautiful words about peace and children who deserve to no longer live in fear, but U.S. policies have consistently belied these lovely words, unswervingly privileging (and facilitating) the official Israeli framing of the conflict as one in which Israel and Israel alone may determine the future of the region. 
Settlements are built and expanded, human rights abuses mount, and the occupation of what is internationally recognized as Palestinian land continues unrelentingly toward Israeli annexation of the West Bank, even as Israel insists that the Palestinians introduce no "preconditions" to peace negotiations. And then there's the Gaza Strip — which Israel maintains it no longer occupies, and yet the Israeli military is still somehow free to launch military incursions (and all-out wars) at will, as well as strictly controlling the comings and goings of Gaza's 1.8 million residents, along with much of their food and supplies
With the understanding that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a war, and that in war all sides commit unforgivable acts (I have reported on suicide bombings in which I could very well have been among the dead), we conveniently ignore the fact that one side of this conflict maintains one of the world's most powerful militaries, and the other lives under the daily control of the first in a U.S.-enabled military occupation. Stated baldly, the subtext of American actions and policies has always been that Palestinians just don't matter very much. 
This is what the Friedman pick makes manifest. Not that successive U.S. governments have lacked the political will to facilitate the establishment of a secure peace for the Israeli and Palestinian peoples — that's as apparent as the map on your wall — but rather that in the American zeitgeist, Palestinians are second-class humans.

And given Trump and who he has surrounded himself with, this toxic realpolitik that the world consists of either Trump friends or second-class humans should surprise exactly nobody. Friedman's selection clearly indicates that Palestinians and much of the Muslim world falls into that latter category.

There's a reason Netanyahu ignored Obama completely this week and went to Trump to help kill a UN resolution on Israeli settlements.  He considers the Palestinians to be less than human himself. Of course he's going to be much happier dealing with Trump.

Oh, and simply replace "Palestinians" here with "liberals" and this view neatly governs Trump's domestic policy as well.

Banana (No Longer A) Republic

Gerrymandering election districts is a way of life in America, and Republicans have all but perfected the art, drawing districts so complex and convoluted that the courts have slapped them down in a number of states.

But the worst example by far is my home state of North Carolina, where from a statistical and mathematical modeling standpoint, Republicans have so completely rigged state general assembly and US House congressional districts that UNC-Chapel Hill poly sci professor Andrew Reynolds finds that the state technically no longer qualifies as a representative democracy.

In 2005, in the midst of a career of traveling around the world to help set up elections in some of the most challenging places on earth – Afghanistan, Burma, Egypt, Lebanon, South Africa, Sudan and Yemen, among others – my Danish colleague, Jorgen Elklit, and I designed the first comprehensive method for evaluating the quality of elections around the world. Our system measured 50 moving parts of an election process and covered everything from the legal framework to the polling day and counting of ballots. 
In 2012 Elklit and I worked with Pippa Norris of Harvard University, who used the system as the cornerstone of the Electoral Integrity Project. Since then the EIP has measured 213 elections in 153 countries and is widely agreed to be the most accurate method for evaluating how free and fair and democratic elections are across time and place. 
When we evolved the project I could never imagine that as we enter 2017, my state, North Carolina, would perform so badly on this, and other, measures that we are no longer considered to be a fully functioning democracy. 
In the just released EIP report, North Carolina’s overall electoral integrity score of 58/100 for the 2016 election places us alongside authoritarian states and pseudo-democracies like Cuba, Indonesia and Sierra Leone. If it were a nation state, North Carolina would rank right in the middle of the global league table – a deeply flawed, partly free democracy that is only slightly ahead of the failed democracies that constitute much of the developing world. 
Indeed, North Carolina does so poorly on the measures of legal framework and voter registration, that on those indicators we rank alongside Iran and Venezuela. When it comes to the integrity of the voting district boundaries no country has ever received as low a score as the 7/100 North Carolina received. North Carolina is not only the worst state in the USA for unfair districting but the worst entity in the world ever analyzed by the Electoral Integrity Project
That North Carolina can no longer call its elections democratic is shocking enough, but our democratic decline goes beyond what happens at election time. The most respected measures of democracy — Freedom House, POLITY and the Varieties of Democracy project — all assess the degree to which the exercise of power depends on the will of the people: That is, governance is not arbitrary, it follows established rules and is based on popular legitimacy. 
The extent to which North Carolina now breaches these principles means our state government can no longer be classified as a full democracy.
That utter lack of integrity of the 2016 elections in the state are a large part of the reason why a federal judge is now forcing the state to redraw everything ahead of the 2018 elections.  But getting that fixed will require a Department of Justice that's actually intrested in fixing the problem, and there's precisely zero indication that the Trump administration will do anything in that regard under probable AG Jeff Sessions.

In fact, there's every indication that Republicans will try to do to the rest of the country what they've already done to NC, and very little reason to believe that they won't succeed in an impressive fashion.
Read more here:

Equal Opportunity To Hate

Republicans, now sensing that they can get away with pretty much anything they want to in the Trump Era, are swinging for the fences with new legislative priorities.  The big motif (as I've been warning about) is taking red state culture war and economic nonsense national in order to inflict them on blue states at the federal level, and our first contestant is none other than Ted Cruz.

Earlier this month, Senator Ted Cruz of Texas and Senator Mike Lee of Utah, through his spokesperson, told Buzzfeed they plan to reintroduce an embattled bill that barely gained a House hearing in 2015. But this time around, they said, the First Amendment Defense Act (FADA) was likely to succeed due to a Republican-controlled House and the backing of President-elect Donald Trump.

FADA would prohibit the federal government from taking "discriminatory action" against any business or person that discriminates against LGBTQ people. The act distinctly aims to protect the right of all entities to refuse service to LGBTQ people based on two sets of beliefs: "(1) marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman, or (2) sexual relations are properly reserved to such a marriage." 
Ironically, the language of the bill positions the right to discriminate against one class of Americans as a "first amendment" right, and bans the government from taking any form of action to curb such discrimination—including withholding federal funds from institutions that discriminate. FADA allows individuals and businesses to sue the federal government for interfering in their right to discriminate against LGBTQ people and would mandate the Attorney General defend the businesses. 
On December 9, Sen. Lee's spokesperson, Conn Carroll, told Buzzfeed the election of Trump had cleared a path for the passage of FADA. 
"Hopefully November's results will give us the momentum we need to get this done next year," Carroll said. "We do plan to reintroduce FADA next Congress and we welcome Trump's positive words about the bill."

The ridiculously broad bill would basically take Indiana's bill enshrining the right to discriminate as a federal law, specifically against LGBTQ folks, and take it national, forcing the government to take the side of the oppressor. It would turn the Justice Department's civil rights division into a weapon that would be used to allow people to openly discriminate against the LGBTQ community and most certainly would override all state-level protections in doing so.

It would be a nightmare.

It will almost certainly pass the House next year. The only question is how far it will get in the Senate.  Given Cruz's penchant for overplaying his hand, he's liable to piss off as many of his fellows in the Most August Deliberative Body as possible and the bill will die there.

We'll see.

But get used to this.  And should Democrats crumble in 2018 and the GOP get 60 seats, all civil rights and voting rights in this country will be subject to obliteration.


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