A Weekly Roundup of Politics: Salute America, the 2020 Census, and a Privileged Rapist

07.05.2019 Arts & Culture
Ann Lewis
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Back to Back Earthquakes

Parts of Southern California, Nevada, and Mexico felt back to back earthquakes over the holiday weekend, with both being centered near Ridgecrest (about 150 miles northeast of Los Angeles). Thursday’s logged in at a 6.4 magnitude at 10:33am, and Friday’s was a 7.1 at 8:20pm. These are the largest earthquakes in Southern California in 20 years. Since Friday night’s rumble, there have been over 100 aftershocks and the Ridgecrest police chief is advising locals to take things off their walls and stock up on emergency supplies. Other than multiple minor injuries and a few fires and rockslides, Ridgecrest has went unharmed, however California has long been known to be sitting along the San Andreas Fault Line, and back to back earthquakes has Californians wondering if the “big one” is coming soon.

In a world where more and more natural disasters are happening every day, let’s use the emotions that come along with these moments to prepare ourselves for any and every type of emergency. We’re filling our survival kits with food from Patagonia Provisions (a cleaner meal option that is shelf stable and easy to make), and also purchasing Sustain Supply Kits, because they cover absolutely everything.

Salute America Was an Expensive Flop

Washington D.C., our nation’s capital, has held 4th of July celebrations for years but never of the likes that we saw this year. Several tanks and other armored vehicles were on display for Trump’s Salute America parade, which many claimed to be more of a divisive and partisan rally than a unifying national celebration of our independence from England over 200 years ago.

The Salute America parade diverted $2.5 million from the National Parks Department which would have otherwise been used to improve or upkeep several smaller parks that typically don’t bring in enough revenue for their own maintenance. We are now bracing for significant damage to the Lincoln Memorial grounds where the celebration was held. This contribution from the Parks Department is just a drop in the bucket compared to the cost of moving a significant number of army vehicles up from Fort Stewart in Georgia and amassing the air force in such numbers. 

The $2.5 million diverted from the Parks Department is a small fraction of the overall cost, a number that the White House hasn’t disclosed but is already getting attention from the chairwoman of the House Appropriations subcommittee on Environment Appropriations Representative Betty McCollum (D-MN) who plans to review the accounting for the event. 

Trump’s speech was laced with innuendos referencing Betsy Ross, I.C.E., and the Customs and Border Patrol agency. He paid tribute to every branch of the armed forces, the Army band played their respective anthems while planes, stealth bombers, and helicopters flew over above the rally.

All of the pomp and circumstance was very 1950’s Americana, which felt forced and outdated.

Much of what Trump said fell flat with the crowd. The cheering felt meek and uninspired aside from the few moments where people burst out chanting U-S-A. Trump kept (mostly) to his script reading directly from teleprompters, so any chance of him actually speaking his mind to incite the crowd was squelched. If he had made any partisan statements, his campaign could’ve been charged with the whole bill. 

Trump’s Not Done With the 2020 Census 

Last week the Supreme Court ruled that the Trump administration’s attempt to put a question on the 2020 census regarding one’s citizenship status was “contrived” based on the evidence provided. Justice Roberts offered the possibility for the administration to present a more adequate rationale, so Trump jumped at the chance. The president implored lawyers at the Department of Justice to figure out a way around the ruling only after the census department committed fully to leave the citizenship question off the census. Trump’s urging of the Justice Department to work a way around the ruling was via Twitter, naturally: “The News Reports about the Department of Commerce dropping its quest to put the Citizenship Question on the Census is incorrect or, to state it differently, FAKE!” Mr. Trump tweeted Wednesday. “We are absolutely moving forward, as we must, because of the importance of the answer to this question.”

This tweet left the White House staff, the Department of Justice, and the Census Bureau scrambling and holding emergency meetings just hours before the long holiday. U.S. District Judge George J. Hazel who heard the case before it went to the Supreme Court demanded that by Friday the Trump Administration must offer a schedule for which the lawsuit can proceed or confirm that they are not adding the citizenship question to the census. 

If the question is eventually added, many believe that areas with large immigrant communities will be drastically underrepresented as many fear answering the question would target them for deportation under the current administration.

An undercount of immigrants will drastically affect Democratic areas as the majority of immigrants live in major cities which predominantly lean left. Much of the “contrived” verdict out of the Supreme Court stems from recently recovered documents from Thomas Hoeffler, a deceased political strategist whose 2015 study showed that adding the question would benefit “non-Hispanic whites and Republicans.”

New Jersey Judge Wants Leniency for Teen Rapist

Judge James Troiano was rebuked this week after making several egregious comments regarding the victim and perpetrator in a high school rape case. Both were minors when the event occurred. “Mary” was visibly intoxicated and stumbling when brought into a room and barred from leaving with a foosball table shoved in front of the door at a high school party in New Jersey. The perpetrator only known as G.M.C. documented the rape on his cell phone and sent the video to friends with the text “When your first time having sex was rape.”

Judge Troiano, who is retired but fills in when there are vacancies on the family court, felt that G.M.C. should not be charged as an adult as argued by the prosecutors because: “This young man comes from a good family who put him into an excellent school where he was doing extremely well… He is clearly a candidate for not just college but probably for a good college. Do I believe that it shows in any way a calculation or cruelty on his part or sophistication or a predatory nature? No, I do not.” 

He did not comment on whether or not Mary had a bright future, came from a good family, or was enrolled at an excellent school. 

The Judge also questioned whether or not G.M.C.’s actions were actually rape and not just sexual assault because, in his opinion, rape is reserved for sexual assault at gunpoint by strangers. As per the U.S. Department of Justice, only 11% of rapes include a weapon. As if this weren’t enough, he also stated that he thought the prosecutors should have told Mary that pressing charges would likely destroy the boy’s life. 

An appeals court rebuked Troiano’s ruling and statements in a 14-page ruling that opens the door for G.M.C. to be judged by a grand jury instead of in family court. This grand jury could charge him as an adult as per New Jersey’s law that 15-17-year-olds can be charged as adults if they are accused of serious crimes. 

Ann Lewis is an artist, activist, and writer based in Detroit. Her artwork reflects upon social and environmental justice issues.

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