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Henoko Takes on U.S. Imperialism

Nov5

by: Maya Evans on November 5th, 2015 | 1 Comment »

Okinawa– Around one hundred and fifty Japanese protesters gathered to stop construction trucks from entering the U.S. base ‘Camp Schwab’, after the Ministry of Land over-ruled the local Governors’ decision to revoke permission for construction plans, criticizing the “mainland-centric” Japanese Government of compromising the environmental, health and safety interests of the Islanders.

Riot police poured out of buses at six a.m., out-numbering protesters four to one, with road sitters systematically picked off in less than an hour to make way for construction vehicles.

All the mayors and government representatives of Okinawa have objected to the construction of the new coastal base, which will landfill one hundred and sixty acres of Oura Bay, for a two hundred and five hectare construction plan which will be part of a military runway.

Credit: Maya Evans

Marine biologists describe Oura Bay as a critical habitat for the endangered ‘dugong’ (a species of manatee), which feeds in the area, as well as sea turtles and unique large coral communities.

The bay is particularly special for its extreme rich ecosystem which has developed due to six inland rivers converging into the bay, making the sea levels deep, and ideal from various types of porites coral and dependent creatures.

‘Camp Schwab’ is just one of 32 U.S. bases which occupy 17% of the Island, using various areas for military exercises from jungle training to Osprey helicopter training exercises. There are on average 50 Osprey take off and landings every day, many next to housing and built up residential areas, causing disruption to everyday life with extreme noise levels, heat and diesel smell from the engines.


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The U.S. Ought to Un-Swivel Its China Pivot

Oct28

by: Buddy Bell on October 28th, 2015 | 3 Comments »

For the last week, I’ve been walking on a peace march organized by the Nipponzan Myohoji order of Buddhist monks. This march is similar in some ways to another: the Okinawa “Beggars’ March” of 1955-1956. At that time, farmers who had been forcefully removed from their fields by U.S. soldiers in the years following World War II acted peacefully to demand the return of their land, which was the source of their entire livelihood.

Some of the farmers had their land stolen at gunpoint. In other cases, U.S. soldiers posing as surveyors duped them into signing English land-transfer documents that were passed off as invoices for the false land surveys.

Although the marchers bravely challenged local stigma against announcing oneself as a beggar, and although it was true that except for the fact that their land was stolen, these people would not need to beg, the U.S. military commander deemed them Communists and dismissed their concerns outright. The military refused to consider the issue of its hostile occupation of otherwise productive land.

The 32 U.S. bases now operating in Okinawa share a foundation in that initial land grab. Together, they comprise 17% of Okinawa prefecture. Nowadays, the Japanese government’s habit has been to forcefully borrow people’s land at a set rental price; then they let the U.S. military use that land for free.

All of this land area could otherwise be used for the prosperity of local communities in Okinawa. To quote one example, after the return of some land to the Shintoshin district of Naha, Okinawa’s capital city, the district’s productivity went up by a factor of 32. This is according to the September 19 issue of a local newspaper, Ryukyu Shimpo.


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“Broken Window Policies” are Discriminatory and Should be Opposed in U.S., Israel

Oct24

by: M. Dove Kent, Donna Nevel, Rebecca Vilkomerson on October 24th, 2015 | 8 Comments »

Dear Mayor de Blasio:

 
We understand that, during your recent trip to Israel, you offered the New York Police Department’s “broken windows” approach to policing as a model for world leaders on how to stay alert to anti-Semitism. This advice took place against a backdrop of new legislation approved by the Israeli government enabling police to conduct “stop and frisk” searches without requiring proof of reasonable suspicion — a law that is being selectively enforced against Palestinians. We are deeply disturbed by this recent development, particularly since, as Mayor of New York City, you agreed to court-ordered reforms of the NYPD’s discriminatory “stop and frisk” practices.

“Broken windows” policing is no model for increased safety for Jews or any other community. In New York City, this discriminatory strategy aggressively targets low-income people of color, violates the fundamental rights of New Yorkers, leads to physical and sexual assault, and creates an atmosphere of intimidation, confrontation, and fear, rather than trust. The low-level arrests yielded from this aggressive policing trigger severe consequences for New Yorkers, including job loss, eviction, and even deportation of permanent residents who are not citizens. “Broken windows” policing is fundamentally built on a culture of fear; it must end in New York City and must not be exported elsewhere. It does not, and cannot, aid in the safety in any community, or in the struggle against racism and anti-Semitism.


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The American Disease of Mass Killing

Oct23

by: Zhiwa Woodbury on October 23rd, 2015 | 1 Comment »

You might not think that mass shootings and the climate crisis are related problems. In truth, they appear to be symptomatic of the same underlying disease that has rotted American culture from the inside out, and now threatens the future of all life on the planet.

By now, everyone is quite familiar with the nauseating cycle we repeat every time there is a new mass shooting. Shock and horror, sensationalized news coverage focused on “how could this happen here?” and “what could motivate such a despicable action?” Next, the focus turns to the victims and their families, with an expression of moral outrage. If it is horrific enough, the President himself voices his sympathy, and maybe visits the aggrieved. Then the media turns to the problem with easy access to guns and mental illness, prompting a predictably polarized debate about gun control. After a few days, the media moves on to the latest celebrity gossip, natural disaster, or intractable war news, and everyone goes quiet… until the next shooting.

If we are so familiar with this cycle that it has actually become as routine as it is ineffective in processing our felt grief, why do we repeat it every time? Is this not the very definition of mental illness – repeating ineffectual behavior over and over while expecting a different outcome? The better question is this: why does the introspective analysis stop at the expression of polarized views about firearms? Is there really no underlying issue here beside firearms and their easy availability to mentally disturbed individuals?


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Henry Giroux on the Assault on Youth in the US

Oct22

by: Tikkun on October 22nd, 2015 | Comments Off

Editor’s Note: This article appeared first in the wonderful daily website Truth Out and can be read there also.

Perhaps the most drastic element of the war on youth in the U.S. is the willingness of the powerful to continue to squander the resources of the planet earth and destroy the life-support system of the planet. Having abandoned hope in any real transformation of the world, the powerful are willing to continue to amass wealth and power and to ignore all the scientific data that shows that if we continue in the path that we’ve been on for the past several hundred years, the youth of today will be suffering an environmental catastrophe brought on by the selfishness, materialism, chauvinistic nationalism that together are the consequences of global capitalism. Yet the war on youth today has the consequence of making many of them less willing to embrace the kind of seemingly utopian transformations of our society without which the logic of the capitalist order will continue and may yet yield a fascistic outcome to protect the powerful from the righteous indignation of those who will be suffering through the decline of the earth in the next fifty years. That’s why the ESRA–Environmental and Social Responsibility Amendment is at once so important (read it please at www.tikkun.org/esra) and so frequently dismissed as “too visionary to be realistic.” Yet it is actually the most modest first step in the transition from a capitalist society to The Caring Society–Caring for Each Other and Caring for the Earth.

–Rabbi Michael Lerner

rabbilerner.tikkun@gmail.com

Henry Giroux on:

Youth in an Authoritarian Age: Challenging the politics of disposability:

Following the insight of Hannah Arendt, a leading political theorist of mid-20th century totalitarianism, a dark cloud of political and ethical ignorance has descended upon the United States.(1) Thoughtlessness, a primary condition of authoritarian rule, now occupies a privileged, if not celebrated, place in the political landscape and the mainstream cultural apparatuses. A new kind of infantilism now shapes daily life as adults gleefully take on the role of unthinking children, while children are pushed to be adults, stripped of their innocence and subject to a range of disciplinary pressures that saddle them with debt and cripple their ability to be imaginative.(2)

Under such circumstances, agency devolves into a mind-numbing anti-intellectualism evident in the banalities produced by Fox News infotainment and celebrity culture, and in the blinding rage produced by populist politicians who support creationism, argue against climate change and rail against immigration, the rights of women, public service workers, gay people and countless others. There is more at work here than a lethal form of intellectual, political and emotional infantilism. There is also a catastrophe of indifference and inattentiveness that breeds flirtations with irrationality, fuels the spectacle of violence, creates an embodied incapacity and promotes the withering of public life.


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Predators, Near and Far: The Afghan Health Crisis

Oct22

by: Kathy Kelly on October 22nd, 2015 | 1 Comment »

Editor’s Note: This piece was written September 21, 2015.

Kabul—Some days ago, at the Afghan Peace Volunteers’ Borderfree Center, I met Jamila, the mother of a little girl, Fatima, who comes to the Street Kids School, a program designed to help children working on the streets go to school.  Jamila, a young mother of seven, smiles and laughs easily, even though she faces dire circumstances here in Kabul.

Nine years ago, at age 19, she fled escalating conflict in Pul e Khumri, located in the northern province of Baghlan, and moved to Kabul.  Jamila had already been married for 12  years.

Her family, desperate for income, had sold her in marriage to an older man when she was seven years old. As a child, she lived in servitude to the family of her future husband, earning a small income for them through sewing and embroidering.

At age 13, She gave birth to her oldest daughter . With her when we met were two of her middle daughters, Fatima and Nozuko.  Her oldest daughter is no longer with her, as, at age 12, she was given away, six years ago now, in marriage. Jamila is determined not to give her remaining daughters away in marriage while they are still children.

One and a half years ago, Fatima, then aged 9, developed a fever which lasted for about a month. All four of her limbs became paralyzed.  In a hospital at Wazir Akbar Khan, doctors said she was 10 minutes away from death. They treated her for typhoid meningitis and hospitalized her. After a month, the doctors said she was not ready for discharge, but Jamila had other children to take care of and had already incurred huge debt. The doctors made her sign a form saying they were not responsible if Fatima died.  They said Jamila must continue with twice-a-day injections of strong antibiotics.

After being discharged from the hospital, Fatima continued receiving the injections for a year and a half until, one day, about three months ago, Jamila abruptly stopped giving Fatima the injections.  When Fatima developed a fever, Jamila became panicky again.


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Helen Diller Family Foundation Seeks Young Applicants

Oct22

by: Editor on October 22nd, 2015 | Comments Off

The Helen Diller Family Foundation is now accepting nominations for the 2016 Diller Teen Tikkun Olam Awards, a program that recognizes up to 15 Jewish teens annually with $36,000 each to be used in support of a social justice project or to further their education.  This Call for Nominations presents an opportunity for educators, civic leaders, and teen mentors in communities across the United States, to acknowledge Jewish teens whose thoughtful approach to making a difference is creating meaningful change in their communities and the world around them.

Up to five teens from California and ten from other communities nationwide will be acknowledged for demonstrating exceptional leadership and successfully working to make the world a better place. Anyone interested in nominating a teen, or any teen interested in self-nominating, should visit www.dillerteenawards.org to begin the nomination process. The deadline for nominations is December 13, 2015.

The Diller Teen Tikkun Olam Awards began as the vision of Bay Area philanthropist Helen Diller in 2007, as a way to recognize the next generation of socially committed leaders whose dedication to volunteerism exemplifies the spirit of tikkun olam, a central Jewish precept meaning to repair the world. In its nine-year history, the Diller Teen Tikkun Olam Awards has given more than $2.5 million to 70 teens from more than 20 U.S. communities.


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Meaning Well in a Tough Situation

Oct21

by: Jeff Green on October 21st, 2015 | Comments Off

Editor’s Note: Directly below is a prayer from Cat Zavis regarding the recent outbreak of violence in Israel and Palestine. The piece by Jeff Green follows immediately after.

As we watch in horror as violence in Israel and Palestine escalates and there continues to be needless and senseless killings, we offer a prayer of love, compassion and strength.

May Israelis and Palestinians find the love that resides deep in their hearts and pulses through all of us, the love that cries to us from the loving energy of the universe to love the “Other,” the “Stranger.” This is a love that can be hard to access and find and yet it is a never-ending, all pervasive love that encourages and calls us to stand-up for the well-being of each other, for the security of all, for justice for all, for peace. May the Israelis and Palestinians use this well-spring of love to overcome their fears and stand for a new future.

May the Israelis and Palestinians find the compassion that lives in each person but that is often suppressed in times of fear and anger and learn to ask the questions that so many seem afraid to ask. What would cause a young man or woman to kill a stranger? What fear, what sorrow, what pain lurks in the dark crevasses of their hearts? How can we begin to heal the pain, the sorrow, the loss? Where can we start?

May the Israelis and Palestinians access the strength that permeates the roots of Mother Earth and embolden them to demand a different future. To cross divides and build bridges that flow with human beings coming together opening their hearts to each other with generosity and love and work together towards peace and reconciliation.

We bow our heads in sorrow, in grief, in angst and even in rage that innocent lives are being lost on all sides and pray for a healing and reconciliation.


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A Very Convenient Truth

Oct19

by: Michael N. Nagler on October 19th, 2015 | 2 Comments »

“Modern scientists recognize the potency of thought…as a man thinks so does he become.”

-MK Gandhi

THERE ARE TIMES when you can see a familiar scene with fresh eyes.  I had just returned to the U.S. when I found myself in a definitely familiar scene: a local shopping center. The night before I had been on a transatlantic flight where I kept catching glimpses, despite myself, of four private viewing screens shimmering in front of my nearest fellow passengers on the long flight home. They sat there watching ten hours of uninterrupted violence: fights, machine guns, wild explosions – all four of them.  You have to wonder, what does that do to a person’s mind?  You have to wonder, exactly, because in the barrage of detail that floods over us in response to “the latest massacre” you will never hear it mentioned.

It’s sometimes difficult for me to contain my anger when people fail to see this obvious connection, but I try turning it into a kind of amazement: how can people of otherwise normal intelligence think that we can absorb images of violence but never act them out?  Is it because so many watch TV without going out to kill?  Perhaps, but consider this:

  • we’ve proven utterly incapable of predicting who will go over the edge, so we know we’re killing some people though we don’t know whom;
  • violent imagery adds to the general atmosphere of demoralization; they devalue life and normalize its wanton destruction – that is the main reason we have not been roused to do anything about gun control.  And finally,
  • these images hurt, whether you act them out or not.  They alienate.  They demoralize.  Psychologists have demonstrated this repeatedly (with no response from policy makers or the general public).


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Why Did the Pope Choose Francis as His Name?

Oct15

by: Stephen S. Bowman on October 15th, 2015 | Comments Off

Watching Pope Francis cast his spell over America last week I found myself recalling the words of Shakespeare’s Juliet asking “What is in a name?”, or more precisely, why did Pope choose Francis to be his new name upon his ascendancy?  The common answer is that he was told by a friend to remember the poor, but that seems too superficial.   And perhaps equally curious, why have no other pontiffs in the past 800 years taken the name before?  It seems that Francis of Assisi, though the most beloved of all Catholic saints, was seen as just too revolutionary in the past, but that zeal is precisely why this pope chose the name, and it is in that spirit that he is leading us today.

To understand our Pope’s mission, one must review the often overlooked facts of the life of St. Francis, which are often obscured by hagiography and superstition.   Today he is often only remembered for taming wild beasts with a blessing and preaching to larks and sparrows.  But this narrow view does both the saint and ourselves a great disservice and diminishes his radical vision.

Credit: Wikimedia Commons

To understand St. Francis, we must put him in his proper context of the 12th century.  In the Middle Ages, Europe was a highly structured feudal hierarchy, largely illiterate, and struggling in subsistence poverty.   And the Catholic Church, was dominated by a monastic system that kept many priests and brothers locked behind the walls of their monasteries serving their God thru prayer.  The church orthodoxy was colored by St. Augustine who offered a bleak view of both human nature, and the world in which we live.   It was an otherworldly institution.


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