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Under Color of Law: February

By March 27, 2023November 29th, 2023News

Read Shan’s take on various political and cultural happenings (and Tweets!) below.

East Palestine: Real Costs of the Railroad Lobby

East Palestine residents have been told by EPA officials that they are not in any danger, but videos surfacing regularly showing plants and animals dying and complaints of chlorine smells in the rain have all contributed to alarming questions about the long term health concerns of exposure.

Over 200 citizens attended and voiced their concerns at a town hall in the small city of 5,00. So far, more than 2 million gallons of water and liquid waste have been removed along with 1400 tons of solid waste. The EPA has mandated Norfolk Southern do extensive testing as well as provide compensation to the lives disrupted, but this isn’t the first derailment to this capacity we’ve seen.

Regulations like higher safety standards for trains carrying hazardous materials, electronic braking systems for those trains, and a now-delayed deadline for instituting more durable rail cars for hazardous materials have been severely weakened by extensive lobbying by the railroad industry.

Tragically we don’t see the impact of these delays and weakened regulations until it upends the lives of thousands with potential long term ecological results lasting a generation…

Traffic Stops Or Cultural Stops?

In Memphis five officers were fired after making a traffic stop of Tyre Nichols and then beating him to death 60 yards from his mother’s home as he called out for her.. Shortly, after the termination of the five officers involved, it was discovered that they had texted photos of his battered body to at least five individuals – not only violating the confidentiality policy of police but also making it clear that this was a feat they found worthy of bragging about.

Their attitude evidences the culture of violence and abuse that has become tied to policing in this country. Tyre Nichols, Philando Castile, Samuel DuBose, and Daunte Wright, as well as countless other victims, were murdered during traffic stops where they were stopped for trivial infractions that do not make the community any safer. Stopping cars for such alleged violations like overly tinted windows, expired inspection stickers, and broken tail lights could be entirely done away thus eliminating pretextual stops to accomplish policing through intimidation..

A growing number of prosecutors, mayors, and public officials recognize this and are pushing to no longer accept cases relating to traffic stops and some laws prohibit the police from using recently expired license tags as a reason to stop a car. Over the past five years a New York Times investigation found police officers killed more than 400 unarmed drivers and passengers. We need to put a stop to these unnecessary highly dangerous police initiated encounters.

Read Tweet here

Chinese Spy Balloon, yet another litmus test for Sinophobia.

The downing of a Chinese surveillance balloon has revived a new wave of jingoistic and hawkish rhetoric by both Democrats and Republicans. This political theater can be traced as far back as the 1800s. From lynchings of Chinese and legislation like the Chinese Exclusion Act—the first and only U.S. law excluding immigration for a specific nationality-sinophobia has been a foundational marker of American politics.

Most recently, it has been used to boost the popularity of both political parties at the expense of the AAPI community, specifically the Chinese in a time of already increasing xenophobia and hate crimes. It is not just Donald Trump who has been vocal about China paranoia, it has also come from the DOJ with investigations like the China Initiative, the Pentagon with their mentions of China in budget justifications and politicians when looking for a common foe.

The Biden administration’s actions in response to the Chinese surveillance balloon were measured and completely consistent with protecting U.S. sovereign air space while resisting irresponsible calls to disregard dangers from debris by shooting it down over populated land areas. But history teaches us that words matter and the constant rhetoric about China’s role as an “adversary” in the service of political gain needs to be reined in.

Read the Article here

Republicans and Democrats aren’t all that different when it comes to Sinophobia.

​The House select committee on China provided a rare display of bipartisan unity in its concern over China with its chairman, Republican. Mike Gallagher of Wisconsin citing China as an existential threat looming over the 21st century, a fun revamp of Cold War style ideology of political bipolarity.

While there are valid human rights concerns taking place in China, similar issues can be found with key allies of the United States, including Saudi Arabia, India, and Israel, but fortunate for them, none of those countries can offer the boogeyman style antagonist that we are sure to see China become as we gear up for the 2024 presidential elections.

But politicians need to be reminded that pushing Cold War ideology and throwing around terms like “existential threat” is not harmless political rhetoric but has real world consequences.

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Pence Classified Documents

Attorney General Merrick Garland has painted himself into a corner with special counsel appointments. With both Former President Trump and President Biden, special counsel was appointed behind the rationale of both being presidential candidates. It follows that as the Mike Pence investigation powers on after finding a classified document in the Indiana home of the former VP, he clearly falls into the same category. Garland’s dilemma is one of his own making as efforts to depoliticize DOJ in these instances will have the exact opposite effect of making him consider politics constantly in these investigations.

Read the Article here

Removing qualified immunity and understanding police standards

The officers involved in Tyre Nichols’ death may have been removed from the police force, but they are still provided qualified immunity as members of the police force, a legal clause absolving them of personal civil liability.

One of the common arguments against removing qualified immunity is the idea that it will make public officials hesitate before taking action for fear of being sued. That, however, is exactly what it seems is needed to help change the culture of police violence.

Syria Sanctions

​Following the devastating 7.8 earthquake in Turkey, thousands are left wounded, homeless and hungry and 29,000 and more likely more are confirmed dead. Aid efforts cropped up immediately including monetarily and relief organizations hoping to rescue survivors from the rubble but there are a few critical questions to be asked.

Primarily, the extent of the devastation seems to be rooted in poor construction practices by builders with warrants out for 113 so far. Unfortunately, these shaky ethics are only regulated in the wake of catastrophe and principally impact the lower socio economic classes. Secondly, aid is being obstructed by the Assad regime who should open all border crossings it controls and give up on its official grip on the distribution of aid.

At the same time, the United States should reconsider sanctions issued to punish the Assad regime for vile human rights violations but which may hinder helping victims of the earthquake. The Biden Administration needs to think about temporarily lifting sanctions on Syria to not punish a population for the crimes of its government and further exacerbate this suffering.

Please do let me and the team know what topics you would like to hear more from me about – look forward to hearing your voices!

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