OurWeek in Politics (March 12, 2019-March 19, 2019)

Here are the main events that occurred in Politics this week:

1. At Least 49 People Killed in Terrorist Attack At Two New Zealand Mosques

Two horrific terrorist attacks occurred at two New Zealand Mosques during friday prayers this week.

On March 15, at least 49 people were killed in mass shootings at two New Zealand mosques full of worshippers attending Friday prayers in a terrorist attack broadcast in a horrific, live video by an immigrant-hating, far-right, white supremacist wielding at least two rifles. One man was arrested and charged with murder, and two other armed suspects were taken into custody while police tried to determine what role they played. “It is clear that this can now only be described as a terrorist attack,” Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said, noting that many of the victims could be migrants or refugees. She pronounced it “one of New Zealand’s darkest days.” The attack shocked people across the nation of 5 million people, a country that has relatively loose gun laws but is so peaceful even police officers rarely carry firearms.

The gunman behind at least one of the mosque shootings left a 74-page manifesto (in which he cited US President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as inspirations for his hatred of Muslims) that he posted on social media under the name Brenton Tarrant, identifying himself as a 28-year-old Australian white supremacist who was out to avenge attacks in Europe. Using what may have been a Go-Pro helmet camera, he live-streamed to the world in graphic detail his assault on worshippers at Christchurch’s Masjid Al Noor (a predominantly Shi’a Mosque), where at least 41 people were killed. An attack on a second mosque in the city not long after killed several more. Police did not identify those taken into custody and gave no details except to say that none of them had been on any watch list. They did not immediately say whether the same person was responsible for both shootings. Prime Minister Ardern alluded to anti-immigrant sentiment as the possible motive, saying that immigrants and refugees “have chosen to make New Zealand their home, and it is their home. They are us.” As for the suspects, Ardern said, “these are people who I would describe as having extremist views that have absolutely no place in New Zealand.”

A Syrian refugee, a Pakistani academic, and their sons were among the 49 people killed. Syrian refugee Khaled Mustafa and his family moved to New Zealand in 2018 because they saw it as a safe haven, Syrian Solidarity New Zealand said on its Facebook page. His older son, Hamza Mustafa, was killed and his younger son was wounded. Victims hailed from around the world. Naeem Rashid and his son Talha Rashid, were among six Pakistanis who were killed in the mosques, according to Mohammad Faisal, spokesman for Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.”He used to teach at a university,” Dr. Khurshid Alam said of his brother. “My nephew (Talha) was a student.”Shah Mahmood Qureshi, foreign minister of Pakistan, confirmed the deaths and offered his sympathies to the families as well as a “promise to facilitate them to the best of our abilities.” Additionally, several worshippers from Iran, Palestine, and Jordan were among those killed as well.

The terrorist attack sparked much horror and revulsion throughout the world. Pope Francis denounced the “senseless acts of violence” and said he was praying for the Muslim community and all New Zealanders. Additionally, Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull similarly condemned the attack, stating that “Today our love, prayers and solidarity are with the people of New Zealand whose compassion, humanity and diversity will triumph over this hateful crime.” Perhaps the strongest criticism came from Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif, who correctly noted that bigotry and rotten ideologies such as white supremacy directly resulted in the attacks and called upon the New Zealand government to bring those who carried out the “racist, inhumane and barbaric” attack to justice. Zariff also pointed out that the same type of prejudice led to “Israeli thugs entering a mosque in Palestine to insult Muslims.”Additionally, the Iranian government called for an emergency session of the Organization for Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in response to the attacks.

On the other hand, US President Donald Trump has been criticized for his poor response to the terror attack. While President Trump did express his condolences for the attack in a Twitter post, he discounted the fact that the perpetrator of the attack cited him as an influence on his views and that white nationalism is a growing threat throughout the world. In contrast to President Trump’s implicit endorsement of white nationalism and discrimination against Muslims (mostly in the Shi’a sect), New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has called for a global fight to root out racist right-wing ideology in the wake of the attack.

What New Zealand experienced here was violence brought against us by someone who grew up and learned their ideology somewhere else. If we want to make sure globally that we are a safe and tolerant and inclusive world we cannot think about this in terms of boundaries,” said Ardern.

2. Enforcement of Consumer-Protection Laws Sinks Under the Trump Administration

A bombshell report released this week shows that enforcement of longstanding protection laws decreased dramatically under the Trump Administration.

President Donald Trump has long positioned himself as a “tough on crime” politician, who is in favor of a pure retributivist approach to crime prevention and allowing the death penalty for even the most minor crimes. Despite this public persona, a report by Public Citizen released on March 13 revealed that this stance does not extend to “lawbreaking corporations.” Over the first two years of Trump’s presidency, enforcement activity at the nation’s top three consumer protection agencies that resulted in fines of at least $5,000 plummeted 37 percent from the last two years under former President Barack Obama, according to Consumer Carnage, the watchdog group’s new report. “Trump, who once asserted that he was ‘not going to let Wall Street get away with murder,’ now is allowing industry after industry to get away with just about anything,” said Alan Zibel, the report’s lead author and research director for Public Citizen’s Corporate Presidency Project. “Trump’s appointees’ apparent belief that enforcement of consumer protection laws should be a last resort,” Zibel noted, “represents a dramatic about-face from Trump’s claim of populism during his campaign.”

The report shows that the drop at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) “has been especially egregious,” particularly under the reign of Mick Mulvaney, who is now the head of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). Kathy Kraninger, who previously served under Mulvaney at OMB, now runs the CFPB, and has continued Mulvaney’s efforts to gut the agency. The CFPB, as the report highlights, “completed 11 enforcement actions of $5,000 or more against corporations in 2018, down 54 percent from 24 in 2017, when the CFPB was still run by an Obama appointee.” “Under this president, federal agencies have slashed fines, declined to bring cases against corporate wrongdoers, and gutted enforcement programs,” said Public Citizen president Robert Weissman, summarizing the current conditions. “The result is a government that is eager to throw consumers under the bus.” Weissman specifically laid blame on the individuals President Trump has charged with overseeing the three top federal consumer protection agencies. As he put it, “Members of the Trump administration have made abundantly clear they perceive their function as serving and assisting corporations instead of holding them accountable for lawbreaking.”

3. California Governor Gavin Newsom Signs Executive Order Placing Moratorium on the Death Penalty

California Governor Gavin Newsom signed an executive order this week placing a moratorium on the death penalty in his state, citing the fact that the cost finality and racial imbalance among death penalty inmate makes the punishment “immoral”

On March 13, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed an executive order that will impose a moratorium on carrying out the death penalty, arguing that the cost, finality and racial imbalance among death-row inmates make the punishment immoral and a public policy “failure.” Newsom will suspend the practice through an executive order that will give a reprieve from execution, though not release, to California’s 737 death row inmates, about a quarter of the nation’s population awaiting capital punishment. The order will also overturn California’s lethal injection protocol and close the execution chamber at San Quentin State Prison, where the state’s most notorious criminals have been put to death. “I do not believe that a civilized society can claim to be a leader in the world as long as its government continues to sanction the premeditated and discriminatory execution of its people,” Newsom said. “In short, the death penalty is inconsistent with our bedrock values and strikes at the very heart of what it means to be a Californian.”

Despite California’s reputation as one of the most liberal states, it retains the countries largest death row population. Additionally, even as California has shifted left on several criminal justice issues, voters have chosen to retain capital punishment, rejecting a 2016 state ballot measure to abolish it. In that same election, state voters narrowly approved a proposal to speed up the pace of executions by limiting the time for appeals to five years. Given its size, any change to California’s death row carries immediate implications for the status of American capital punishment. Governor Newsom’s order comes as the punishment is on the decline nationwide, with executions less common and fewer states carrying them out. Last year, 25 people were executed, significantly down from the 98 executions nationwide in 1999. Despite the decline in the overall rate of executions, public support for the death penalty has drastically increased since President Donald Trump assumed office in 2017, with a solid 60% of the population favoring the death penalty according to recent polling.

Overall, Governor Gavin Newsom’s executive order placing a moratorium on the death penalty resulted in a mixed reaction. “A moratorium in California has enormous symbolic value,” said Robert Dunham, the executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center. “It’s part of the momentum we are seeing.” On the other hand, Michele Hanisee, the president of the Association of Deputy District Attorneys of Los Angeles said that reprieves for condemned inmates would be, “in effect, invalidating the law” that California voters have repeatedly affirmed, despite the liberal values that dominate the state. Newsom’s plan also promoted a sharp rebuke from President Donald Trump, who himself is a strong supporter of the death penalty for even the most minor crimes. “Defying voters, the Governor of California will halt all death penalty executions of 737 stone cold killers,” the president wrote in a Twitter post. “Friends and families of the always forgotten VICTIMS are not thrilled, and neither am I!”

4. Former Vice -President Joe Biden Beings Planning Presidential Run

Former Vice President Joe Biden began planning for a 2020 Presidential run this week by meeting with supporters, potential donors.

According to a Wall Street Journal report, former Vice President Joe Biden contacted a group of his supporters on March 19 to ask for help in raising several million dollars from major donors, making it known he is planning to enter the 2020 presidential election. Biden has been contemplating a White House run for some time and continues to lead in polls among Democrats as a favorite to take on President Donald Trump. Biden would enter a crowded field of close to 20 presidential candidates that have already declared, or are expected to announce that they will be joining the 2020 race. The report said Biden asked at least a half-dozen supporters for help in lining up major donors. Biden also reportedly expressed concern he may not have the same immediate success in raising political funds online as other Democrats, such as Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont and former Congressman Beto O’Rourke of Texas. O’Rourke, who formally entered the 2020 race on March 14, raised more than $6 million in the first 24 hours, trouncing the $5.9 million Bernie Sanders raised in the first 24 hours.

A day before the Wall Street Journal report, President Donald Trump criticized Biden’s indecision about running for President, calling him “another low I.Q. individual!” in a Twitter post. Despite some concern for his indecisiveness regsrding making the plunge into the Democatic primaries, Joe Biden still retains much support among Democratic Primary voters. A CNN Poll released on March 19 shows Joe Biden enjoys 28 percent support among the crowded field of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents. Bernie Sanders comes in second with 20 percent support followed by Kamala Harris, who is third with 12 percent.

Overall, the reaction to former Vice President Joe Biden’s candidacy is mixed. It can be argued that Joe Biden perhaps has the most comprehensive record of any of the candidates running, having served in the Senate for 36 years before becoming Vice President. During his time in the Senate, Biden emerged as a leader on both international and legal issues, having served as both the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Additionally, Biden developed a reputation as a dedicated, honest, and hard-working politician during his time in the Senate and earned the universal respect of his colleagues. Joe Biden also took an active role as Vice President, working closely with President Barack Obama on both foreign and domestic policy. Despite his strong resume and depth of experience, some liberal activists have expressed concern with Joe Biden’s record regarding criminal justice issues, foreign policy, and votes in favor of confirming conservative Supreme Court judges Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas in the 1986 and 1991 respectively. Despite these issues, Joe Biden is leading President Donald Trump by anywhere between 9-17% in most public opinion polls and might be able to win back several Midwestern states that the Democrats lost in the 2016 Election.

the author

Matt has been studying and analyzing politics at all levels since the 2004 Presidential Election. He writes about political trends and demographics, the role of the media in politics, comparative politics, political theory, and the domestic and international political economy. Matt is also interested in history, philosophy, comparative religion, and record collecting.

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