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Rosh Hashana, 2015

Sep26

by: JVP Rabbinic Council on September 26th, 2015 | 3 Comments »

Almost four years ago, the Rabbis of Jewish Voice for Peace called on President Obama to resist the call to go to war with Iran and choose instead a peaceful resolution. We said: “As Jewish leaders, we believe that the path of wisdom towards achieving peace and stability in the region is through dialog and engagement and not through acts of war.” Today, along with rest of the world, we congratulate President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry for bringing us the Iran nuclear deal. We believe that peace, not war, serves best the people of the United States, Iran, Israel and all the people of the region.

In the coming days, in synagogues and homes across the country, Jews welcome Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year. Jews greet each other with the blessing: “may you be inscribed in the Book of Life.” This year we extend our blessings to the 35,000 Jews in Iran, the millions of Iranians, our fellow Jews in Israel and the American people for whom this peace treaty offers the best hope for being inscribed in the Book of Life.

President Obama has given us hope this Rosh Hashana. Hope that international conflict can be resolved through diplomacy; hope that engaging in the highest self-interest of other nations can serve our own national self-interest; hope that peace, not war, be our first choice, not the choice of last resort; hope that Iranians can live and thrive in peace; hope that the Middle East can be a region of peace; hope that we can live in a world with less, not more, nuclear arms.


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A Proposal to Shrink the Supply of Firearms Available for Criminal Use

Sep18

by: Robert Cogan on September 18th, 2015 | 3 Comments »

Robert Heinlein, a Libertarian Science fiction writer, popularized the phrase “TANSTAAFL.” He was expressing colloquially, by the words “There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch,” a principle popularized in economics by Milton Friedman. The principle, somewhat oversimplified, is that whenever there is an exclusive choice whichever alternative is taken has an opportunity cost associated, the opportunity to choose another alternative. Reality is often a little less simple. There is no free lunch but there are many relatively governmentally highly subsidized lunches and many much lower or totally unsubsidized ones. That is the case with seeking to reduce harm from the presence in America of between its’ possibly 270 – 300 million firearms. A gun redemption program can only be successful under the motto “Go Big, or Go Home.”

The dialog over harm reduction from firearms is stagnant. The Liberal side says: “Guns facilitate crime! Pass Ban Laws!” and the Conservative one says: “Guns don’t commit crimes! Just enforce the laws that already exist!” The criminal use of guns not in proper custody leads to enormous medical and legal costs (recently estimated at $233 billion per year.) These costs are borne not just by the victim but also by non-firearms using taxpayers for medical and legal expenses including long incarceration. Neither side is willing to ask the questions “How, practically, can further harm reduction occur?” “What will further harm reduction cost?” and “Who will pay what amounts for it?” These debate positions amount to each side asking for a free lunch from the other. Enforcement would cost a lot either way. It is little noticed that to maintain this oversupply and too – great ease of access, further harm reduction requires much greater expense in detection and treatment of mental illness, control rather than freedom of persons, including surveillance and sometimes prolonged custodianship of the ill, as well as in hardening sites where potential masses of victims can be found (court houses, malls, theatres, schools.) Furthermore, it was recently revealed in a study that in addition to insane persons there are also a large number of persons who have access to firearms and admit to being quick to anger and impulsive and carry guns outside the home (1.5%, as many as 3.6 million people)[1]. Many of these persons may not have committable mental illnesses. Such would be the costs, unless there is a less costly, voluntary, market – based way of getting excess guns out of circulation.


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Donald Trump and the Ghost of Totalitarianism

Sep17

by: Henry A. Giroux on September 17th, 2015 | Comments Off

Editor’s note: As a non-profit, Tikkun does not take stances on candidates or political parties during election periods, but our authors and readers are welcome to do so! Henry Giroux is one of the most creative theorists on the Left these days, so it is an honor to publish him here.

Donald Trump and the Ghost of Totalitarianism

 

Henry A. Giroux

 

In the current historical moment in the United States, the emptying out of language is nourished by the assault on the civic imagination. One example of this can be found in the rise of Donald Trump on the political scene. Donald Trump’s popular appeal speaks to not just the boldness of what he says and the shock it provokes, but the inability to respond to shock with informed judgement rather than titillation. Marie Luise Knott is right in noting that “We live our lives with the help of the concepts we form of the world. They enable an author to make the transition from shock to observation to finally creating space for action – for writing and speaking. Just as laws guarantee a public space for political action, conceptual thought ensures the existence of the four walls within which judgment operates.”[i] The concepts that now guide our understanding of American society are dominated by a corporate induced linguistic and authoritarian model that brings ruin to language, politics and democracy itself.

Missing from the commentaries by most of the mainstream media regarding the current rise of Trumpism is any historical context that would offer a critical account of the ideological and political disorder plaguing American society – personified by Trump’s popularity. A resurrection of historical memory in this moment could provide important lessons regarding the present crisis, particularly the long tradition of racism, white supremacy, exceptionalism, war mongering, and the extended wars on youth, women, and immigrants. Calling Trump a fascist is not enough. What is necessary are analyses in which the seeds of totalitarianism are made visible in Trump’s discourse and policy measures. One example can be found in Steve Weissman’s commentary on Trump in which he draws a relationship between Trump’s casual racism and the rapidly growing neo-fascist movements across Europe that “are growing strong by hating others for their skin color, religious origin, or immigrant status.”[ii] Few journalists have acknowledged the presence of white militia and white supremacists groups at his rallies and almost none have acknowledged the chanting of “white power” at some of his political gatherings, which would surely signal not only Trump’s connections to a racist past but also to the formative Nazi culture that gave rise to the endgame of genocide.[iii] Another example can be found in Glenn Greenwald’s analysis of the mainstream media’s treatment of Trump’s attack on Jorge Ramos, an influential anchor of Univision.[iv] When Ramos stood up to question Trump’s views on immigration, Trump refused not only to call on him, but insulted him by telling him to go back to Univision. Instead of focusing on this particular lack of civility, Greenwald takes up the way many journalists scolded Ramos because he had a point of view and was committed to a political narrative. Greenwald saw this not just as a disingenuous act on the part of establishment journalists but as a weakness that furthers the march of an authoritarian regime that does not have to be accountable to the press. Trump may be bold in his willingness to flaunt his racism and make clear that money drives politics, but this is not new and should surprise no one who is historically and civically literate.

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Rosholushion

Sep17

by: Shari Motro on September 17th, 2015 | 1 Comment »

Rosholushion (ˌro-shə-ˈlü-shən) n. 1. Rosh Hashanah resolution 2. a resolution arising out of a restorative justice-type process that includes an intention to make amends, to forgive and be forgiven.

Why a new word? To distinguish it from the seemingly similar but actually quite different New Year’s resolution.

New Year’s Eve – fireworks, champagne, the requisite kiss or awkward lack of one – might be fun or it might be underwhelming, but the central idea is joy. Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and the ten days in between are a different animal.

As Rabbi Jessica Kate Meyer at the service I tune into put it, instead of dancing, Jews usher in the New Year by swimming in a river of tears. Yes, Rosh Hashanah includes celebration too, but from the start it weaves the sweet with the bitter. On the first day of the holiday, we read about a jealous wife who, after the miracle of her own late conception and childbirth, demands that another mother and son be banished to the desert, something that would result in their near certain death. On the second day, we read about a father who nearly kills his beloved son, even marshalling him to carry the wood for the altar on which he is to be slaughtered and burned.

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The Dyett Hunger Strike for Education Justice in Chicago

Sep16

by: Rethinking Schools on September 16th, 2015 | Comments Off

The hunger strike in Chicago by parents and their allies at Dyett High School in the Bronzeville neighborhood has passed Day 31.

Despite the recent announcement from Chicago Public Schools officials that Dyett will reopen as a school with a focus on the arts, parent and community hunger strikers there have vowed to continue the strike until the school district agrees to their demands. “I will continue to be on this hunger strike until we get the Dyett Global Leadership and Green Technology school,” said Irene Robinson. “This is not right.”

The hunger strike at Dyett is not an isolated incident of disgruntled parents and community members; it is part of a grassroots movement to challenge corporate school reform, which evaluates and punishes students, teachers, and schools based on standardized test scores. The efforts of Dyett parents and grandparents in Bronzeville are joined with other acts of defiance throughout the country: parents withholding their students from standardized tests, teachers burning their evaluations and refusing to administer tests that they deem harmful, students walking out of school to protest the test and punish regime, communities fighting against the privatization of their public schools.

The hunger strikers in Chicago join with other courageous hunger strikers throughout the world who have sought to dramatize injustice through self-sacrifice.

The Dyett hunger strikers led a silent march to President Obama's Chicago home followed by a vigil. Credit: Bob Simpson

What makes this struggle especially inspiring is that not only is the community opposing unjust treatment, it is working to effect an alternative that is the product of grassroots deliberations about the kind of school and the kind of education their community’s children deserve. We also note that at a time when the world urgently needs to abandon the use of fossil fuels, the revitalization of Dyett school that parents and the community is fighting for includes a commitment to green technology.

This struggle is about much more than the 12 parents and community leaders in Bronzeville. It is about the kind of schools we want our children to attend. And it is a fight for democracy: that the future of public education should be in the hands of the public – not controlled by wealthy corporations and their foundations.

The Coalition to Revitalize Dyett offers the following open letter to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan:


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Repentance & Reparations by Kate Poole

Sep16

by: Arif Qazi on September 16th, 2015 | Comments Off

With the High Holidays here. Kate Poole has published a new comic commenting on some of our concerns today regarding wealth, race and consumerism. Explore more of Kate’s work here.

We’re Mad as Hell – But That’s Not Enough

Sep15

by: James Vrettos on September 15th, 2015 | Comments Off

An intriguing, thoroughly readable, and timely new book has just been published by the Kairos Center/Poverty Initiative, containing a collection of the recent writings of Willie Baptist, their Scholar-in-Residence and Coordinator of Poverty Scholarship and Leadership Development.

Those unfamiliar with neither the center nor the initiative should know that the mission of Kairos: Center for Religion, Rights and Social Justice housed at Union Theological Seminary in New York is to contribute to transformative movements for social change that can draw on the power of both religious and human rights. The cornerstone program of the center is the Poverty Initiative whose mission is to raise up generations of religious and community leaders dedicated to building a social movement to end poverty, led by the poor.

And Willy Baptist certainly fits the bill for the center and this book – a formerly homeless father of three who came out of the Watts uprisings and the Black Student Movement, he has 50 years of experience educating and organizing among the poor and dispossessed, including working as a lead organizer with the United Steelworkers, the National Union of the Homeless, the Poor People’s Economic Human Rights campaign, as well as many other networks.


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Gulf Countries – Do Not Disturb!

Sep15

by: Lubna Qureshi on September 15th, 2015 | 1 Comment »

Painting of Syrian boy Alan Kurdi washed up on shore

Credit: Flickr / robertsharp

The horrific image of 3-year-old Alan Kurdi’s lifeless body is considered a wakeup call for humanity. Alan, his 5-year-old brother, and their mother were among at least a dozen who drowned crossing the Aegean Sea to reach Greece from Bodrum, Turkey. Though the crossing from Bodrum to the Greek island of Kos is only two miles long, the suffering associated with death on these waters is immeasurable. The Kurdi children and their mother are among thousands who have drowned in an attempt to flee Syria, according to a UN report, yet only a few make headlines.

Countless Syrians, among other refugees from Afghanistan and Iraq, have fled their war torn homes in hopes of rebuilding their lives abroad, mainly in Europe and other western countries. Alan’s unfortunate death shook the world and pressured some European countries, namely Germany, Austria, and Sweden, to open their doors to the refugees. Germany went so far as to suspend the Dublin Regulation, which requires EU countries to examine an asylum seeker’s claim in the country in which he or she first arrived. With widespread support from its citizens, Germany alone is expected to admit 800,000 refugees this year. Moreover, The European Union and its member states have mobilized a sizable amount of financial aid while Kuwait and Qatar are among the top donors from the Gulf countries providing aid to refugees.


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Why Are the Republicans Ignoring Bernie Sanders?

Sep10

by: Raanan Geberer on September 10th, 2015 | 5 Comments »

Why are the Republicans seemingly ignoring Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and his campaign for the Democratic nomination for president?

As an admitted socialist who believes in universal health care, requiring companies to provide maternity leave, sick leave and vacation time; taxing financial transactions, breaking up big banks and expanding Social Security benefits, Sanders seems like the perfect target for the almost-completely-right wing Republican Party.

Bernie Sanders speaks at campaign rally

Credit: Wikimedia Commons

It seems logical that given the upsurge in Sanders’ support, the Republicans would view him as a serious threat and act accordingly. In August, Sanders drew a record-breaking 27,000 people in Los Angeles and 28,000 people in Portland, Oregon — the largest turnout for any 2016 presidential candidate up to that time. A Politco poll in July of New Hampshire Democratic voters showed 47 percent favoring Hillary Clinton, but Sanders gaining on her with 34 percent.

Despite all that, Republicans don’t seem particularly interested in taking the bait.

During the Fox News-sponsored GOP candidates’ debates in early August, which featured 17 candidates, I didn’t notice any mention of Sanders at all. It was all Hillary, Hillary, Hillary as the anti-Republican- as the candidate to beat.


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Tikkun Wins Best Magazine of the Year Award

Sep9

by: Tikkun on September 9th, 2015 | Comments Off

Tikkun Wins Best Magazine of the Year Award from the mainstream media’s Religion Newswriters Association

This year’s meeting of the Religion Newswriters Association was held in Philadelphia and its major focus was on how best to cover the Pope’s forthcoming visit. Panels filled with members of the Catholic Church hierarchy, many of them people who strongly disagree with the Pope’s progressive politics, were chosen to give the mainstream media people who attended this gathering a way to think about the pope’s visit. Their problem was obvious: as leaders of the Catholic Church they are not supposed to oppose the Pope, but they also don’t want his message too widely spread to the world, and particularly not to the Catholic world. Their solution was the same that many (not all) of the mainstream media often use when dealing with US elections—rarely report on what the candidates are advocating, focus instead on the personalities of the candidates and their standing in the latest polls.

Translating that strategy into the Pope’s visit, many of the Church leaders urged the media to focus on what a nice guy the Pope is, how caring he is for the poor and down-trodden through personal visits to them, and to avoid politics altogether, including his recent encyclical which linked both global poverty and the accelerating destruction of the environment to the destructive materialism and selfishness and competitiveness that are rooted in the daily dynamics of global capitalism. “Not the point,” they insisted. “The Pope has no politics—he is a religious thinker and leader, he is not Left or Right, his only commitment is to Jesus.” Apparently none of these archbishops and bishops and priests seemed to know that Jesus had a revolutionary politics that was very much about ending the suffering of people on this planet, and it was precisely that message that had made it so easy to spread the religion that St. Paul created in Jesus’ name.

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