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Department of Justice Again Allows Megabanks to Continue Business as Usual

May28

by: Mark Karlin on May 28th, 2015 | No Comments »

This piece, by Buzzflash at Truthout editor Mark Karlin, was originally published at Buzzflash by Truthout.

 A sign that says 'Break Up Big Banks.'

Credit: sharonkubo.

One of the key strategies of power that perpetuates economic and social injustice is the numbing of all opposition by sanctioning the status quo. This is the technique the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) wield in allowing mega-banks to continue to engage in illegal, deceptive and exploitative practices.

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Re-making the Jericho Road: Martin Luther King and Economic Justice

May28

by: Reverend Andrew Wilkes on May 28th, 2015 | 2 Comments »

On the forty-seventh anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., Andrew Wilkes offered these remarks at a workshop sponsored by New York DSA. They have been adapted for publication.

For Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, racial justice and economic justice are inseparable. The conventional narrative is that King became radical after the 1966 Chicago campaign that addressed fair housing, equal employment opportunities, and restrictive covenants. Alternatively, some claim his radicalism originated with his Riverside Church speech against the Vietnam War in 1967. But the historical record says otherwise. In July 1952, King wrote to his sweetheart, Coretta Scott. In that letter, the twenty-three year old, reflecting on Edward Bellamy’s socialist classic Looking Backward, which Coretta had given him, says “I imagine you already know that I am much more socialistic in economic theory than capitalistic. . . . [Bellamy] says that today capitalism has outlived its usefulness, it has brought about a system that takes necessities from the masses to give luxuries to the classes.” What this means is that three years before the 1955 Montgomery Bus Boycott, for virtually his entire public career, King had a specific commitment to democratic socialism.

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Markets of the Mind

May27

by: Tony Curzon Price on May 27th, 2015 | No Comments »

A graphic of a golden head silouhetted with currency signs.

"A sense of sin, of having to redeem yourself through deeds, is the banker in the head." Credit: http://www.indiainfoline.com.

Debt and guilt have much in common. It’s time we found better ways of organising both ourselves and the economy.

Feeling guilty and being over-indebted have much in common. You’ve done something wrong and now you’re paying for it. The feeling of guilt is a flow of pain due to you from past recklessness, maybe from your original sin. The flow might abate if only you could redeem yourself. You’re all set up to beg forgiveness. A payment is due, and if only you’d do your duty, you’d pay your dues, the pain might just abate. The language of guilt and debt seem inseparable: redeem, forgive, bondage, dues…

George Gilder, onetime business guru, evangelical Christian and speechwriter to Richard Nixon, was a prophet of the virtues of massive debt for companies. His logic would have appealed to the protestant theologian and autocrat John Calvin. When you pile a company high with debt — up to the maximum that its financial projections will allow — the chief executive will have just one purpose to his day: to fulfill his promises; to meet the monthly installment. And if he doesn’t (it usually is a ‘he’), he’ll have to confront a stern and wrathful investor. That investor is, in Goldamn Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein’s entirely non-ironic formulation, “Just doing God’s work.” To make the payment or else … that’s exactly the motivational structure of the guilty mind: there’ll be hell to pay if I don’t perform.

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Educated Hope and the Promise of Democracy

May26

by: Henry A. Giroux on May 26th, 2015 | No Comments »

The following is a commencement speech given by Professor Henry A. Giroux at Chapman University to the class of 2015 at Chapman University on May 24th, 2015.

I am very moved and humbled to accept an honorary degree on this important occasion today, and to be with all of you in sharing this wonderful achievement of graduating from Chapman University. As a father who struggled to put three boys through higher education, I think it is appropriate that I should begin by first acknowledging those parents and family members, whose support throughout the years helped to make it possible for you to achieve this tremendous milestone in your life. And as Stephen Colbert said to a graduating class at Northwestern University, “If you don’t thank them now, you’ll have plenty of time to thank them tomorrow when you move back in with them.” Just kidding, I hope.

I am especially honored to be in the presence of so many of you who have chosen education as a field of study. I can think of no generation for whom education is more important than it is for yours at this particular time in history. At a time when the public good is under attack and there seems to be a growing apathy toward the social contract, or any other civic minded investment in public values and the larger common good, education has to be seen as more than a credential or a pathway to a job. It has to be viewed as crucial to understanding and overcoming the current crisis of agency, politics, and democracy faced by many young people today. One of the challenges your generation faces is the need to reclaim the role that education has historically played in developing critical literacies and civic capacities. At the heart of such a challenge is the question of what education should accomplish in a democracy. What work does your generation have to do to create the economic, political, and ethical conditions necessary to endow young people with the capacities to think, question, doubt, imagine the unimaginable, and defend education as essential for inspiring and energizing the citizens necessary for the existence of a robust democracy?

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Zero-tolerance for BDS in Canada

May26

by: Donald Mcgrath on May 26th, 2015 | 2 Comments »

On May 11 of this year, CBC News published an article in which its senior Washington correspondent, Neil Macdonald, wrote that Canada’s Harper government “is signalling its intention to use hate crime laws against Canadian advocacy groups that encourage boycotts of Israel.” Macdonald drew this conclusion after an e-mail exchange with Josée Sirois, an aide to federal Public Security Minister Steven Blaney. Macdonald asked Sirois to clarify a comment that Minister Blaney made in a speech delivered at the United Nations General Assembly Session on Anti-Semitism on January 22 of this year. In this speech, Blaney stated that “Canada has taken a zero-tolerance approach to anti-Semitism and all forms of discrimination including in rhetoric towards Israel, and attempts to delegitimize Israel such as the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement.”

Macdonald asked Sirois to clarify what “zero tolerance” meant in this context. He also referred to a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between Canada and Israel that was signed by Canada’s former Foreign Affairs Minister, John Baird, in January of this year prior to Blaney’s UN address. The MOU commits Canada to the fight against anti-Semitism and describes the BDS movement as “the new face of anti-Semitism.” Macdonald wanted to know if this agreement has any force in Canadian law and if the authorities who answer to Blaney are doing anything about the BDS movement here.

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I Arrived At The White House… And Didn’t Go Inside.

May25

by: Katie Loncke on May 25th, 2015 | No Comments »

1. Black Excellence and Achievement

Mama’s antidote to being born a black boy on parole in Central Mississippi is not for us to seek freedom; it’s to insist on excellence at all times.

Kiese Laymon, How to Slowly Kill Yourself
and Others in America: A Remembrance

[Some people burdened by racism] achieve themselves to death trying to dodge the build up of erasure.

Claudia Rankine, Citizen: An American Lyric

Buddhist Peace Fellowship outside the White House.

One of three Buddhist Peace Fellowship banners outside the White House, above, following the closing of the U.S. Buddhist Leadership Conference, May 14, 2015.

When my father was a boy in the early 1950s, he was selected for a scholarship, plucking him out of the black projects of New Haven, Connecticut, and shipping him off to an elite prep school, where he became a proverbial fly in the buttermilk of white students, white teachers, and white ideas.

As he tried to settle in, my father was startled to learn that students’ academic rankings were posted publicly, following periodic exams, with the highest achiever’s name at the top of the list.

Determined to see his name rise, my father began to break school rules. Nighttimes, after lights-out, he would smuggle his coursework into his bunk, along with a flashlight. Clandestine study under the covers.

And sure enough, his name ascended. All the way to the top.

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Art Gallery Feature: The Journey of the Ethiopian Community Is Not Over Yet

May23

by: Galit Govezensky on May 23rd, 2015 | 1 Comment »

Upon their arrival to the Promised Land, the Ethiopian community has experienced ongoing sorrow caused by discrimination. Above: Jerusalem Day, May 17th: Ethiopian Israelis protest the unprovoked beating of an Ethiopian soldier by police officers. Credit: Author.

To see more photographs by Galit Govezensky of the Ethiopian Israeli protests on Memorial Day, visit the Tikkun Daily Art Gallery.

It is highly symbolic that Memorial Day for the Ethiopian victims who died as they made the long, hazardous journey on foot through Sudan during the late ’70s and in the ’80s is combined with Jerusalem Day that is celebrated on the 28th of Iyar.

Today, there are over 120,000 members of the Beta Israel and the Falashmura community living in Israel. The Beta Israel immigrated to Israel under the Law of Return, mostly in secret mass airlifts known as Operation Moses (1984-1985) and Operation Solomon (1991).

A national ceremony was observed this week at the cemetery on Mount Herzl, which served to commemorate the Ethiopians who never finished the journey. Thousands of community members, including religious leaders (keisim), IDF soldiers, women and the elderly, gather annually to attend this event. Memorial Day for them is meant to honor those who perished along the way, during their exodus on foot through Sudan, on what later turned into “Operation Moses” — a mission in which thousands of members of the community fled oppression and life-threatening predicaments. Since the Ethiopian government banned Jews from leaving its borders to immigrate to Israel, they were able to rapidly depart from Sudan in a covert evacuation organized by the Israeli Defense Forces. To do this, they had to sell all their possessions and embark on a journey of hundreds of miles through Sudan on foot.In that journey, many were murdered and others died of thirst and starvation. It is estimated that 4,000 people, about one-fifth of those who undertook the journey through Sudan, lost their lives in their courageous attempt to fulfill their dream and to reach Israel.

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Turning Again: Been Down in the South

May22

by: Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove on May 22nd, 2015 | 2 Comments »

In 1961, when the Congress for Racial Equality planned a ‘freedom ride’ through the South to test the integration of interstate transit, they were experimenting in nonviolent direct action — a radical commitment to do what is right whether others deem it convenient, timely, or even legal.

As Black Lives Matter campaigns have arisen in the wake of Mike Brown, Eric Garner and Freddie Gray’s deaths, many who are unsettled by their militancy have pointed to the nonviolence of the Freedom Riders and others in America’s Civil Rights Movement. Nonviolence sounds like a favorable alternative when Baltimore is burning.

But nonviolent direct action is never convenient; Mother’s Day 1961 was interrupted by images of a bus burning in Anniston, Alabama, when Freedom Riders were attacked by the Ku Klux Klan with the permission (if not collusion) of local authorities. For all of their commitment to nonviolence, the Freedom Rider’s direct action still unleashed a storm of fire.

When we pay attention, there’s a fire at the heart of our shared life in America. The question Baltimore is forcing us to consider is whether we will be consumed by these flames or saved from them?

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The Navy’s Great Alaskan ‘War’

May22

by: Dahr Jamail on May 22nd, 2015 | 1 Comment »

This essay is a joint TomDispatch/ Truthout report.

I lived in Anchorage for 10 years and spent much of that time climbing in and on the spine of the state, the Alaska Range. Three times I stood atop the mountain the Athabaskans call Denali, “the great one.” During that decade, I mountaineered for more than half a year on that magnificent state’s highest peaks. It was there that I took in my own insignificance while living amid rock and ice, sleeping atop glaciers that creaked and moaned as they slowly ground their way toward lower elevations.

A picture of the harbor at Cordova, Alaska.

The Navy's "Northern Edge" war games planned for the Gulf of Alaska present an unignorable problem for indigenous and fishing communities like Cordova. Credit: Kevan Dee.

Alaska contains the largest coastal mountain range in the world and the highest peak in North America. It has more coastline than the entire contiguous forty-eight states combined and is big enough to hold the state of Texas two and a half times over. It has the largest population of bald eagles in the country. It has 430 kinds of birds along with the brown bear, the largest carnivorous land mammal in the world, and other species ranging from the pygmy shrew that weighs less than a penny to gray whales that come in at 45 tons. Species that are classified as “endangered” in other places are often found in abundance in Alaska.

Now, a dozen years after I left my home state and landed in Baghdad to begin life as a journalist and nine years after definitively abandoning Alaska, I find myself back. I wish it was to climb another mountain, but this time, unfortunately, it’s because I seem increasingly incapable of escaping the long and destructive reach of the U.S. military.

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Urban Grassroots Mobilization in central-Eastern European Cities

May21

by: Kerstin Jacobsson on May 21st, 2015 | No Comments »

This article is part of the openMovements series on Open Democracy inviting leading social scientists to share their research results and perspectives on contemporary social struggles.

In recent years, we have seen the rise of mass protests in central and eastern Europe and most notably in south eastern Europe. In Bulgaria, Romania, Slovenia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, for instance, people have taken to the streets to manifest their disappointments with corrupt and unresponsive political elites and a societal development benefiting the few rather than the many. The protests have contained a mix of transnationally inspired anti-neoliberal and anti-austerity critiques and disillusion with domestic political leaders and parties.

A building facade in Metelkova, Slovenia.

Collective action mobilized without the involvement of an organization, is the most frequent kind of civic activism in former Soviet countries. One product of these is Metelkova, an autonomous social center in Slovenia. Credit: Demotix/ Ferdinando Piezzi.

Other forms of grassroots mobilization, however, tend to go unnoticed. An equally important sign of the transformation of post-socialist civil societies as the street protests is the rise and development of urban grassroots activism in the cities across the eastern European region. This type of local, often small-scale and low-key form of activism, related mostly to everyday life problem-solving, easily escapes the attention of the media as well as the lens of social movement researchers who tend to focus either on NGOs and advocacy-organizations capable of the effective lobbying of policy-makers or on more traditional protest events, such as mass demonstrations.

Even so, the protest-event analysis carried out by Ondrej Cisar in the Czech Republic and Slovakia suggest that local ‘self-organized’ civic activism, i.e. collective action mobilized without the involvement of an organization, is the most frequent kind of civic activism in these countries. This form of activism is based on ‘many events, no organizations, and few participants’.

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