by: David E. McLean on November 10th, 2011 | 2 Comments »
Among other things, I teach business ethics at the university level. I have also been a consultant to Wall Street firms for some 20 years, and have worked in various capacities on the Street since I graduated from high school, in 1979. I know a few things about what ought to be; I know a few things about what is.
I visited the Wall Street protest site in New York City, at Zuccotti Park, on Saturday, October 1. Subsequently, I read Nicholas Kristof’s New York Times column on the subject of the protests, known as “Occupy Wall Street” or, alternatively, the “99 Percenters” (the protests have in recent days and weeks spread across the country, taking on other names). I agree with almost all of what Kristof wrote, which both applauded the protesters and puzzled about their actual objectives.
Like Kristof, I think that the protests and demonstrations are healthy and important, but the absence of visible leadership and “authorized” spokespersons, and the lack of a plan or list of demands, may very well lead to the protest’s (movement’s) demise, giving comfort to those who wish to continue the plutocracy that exists in this country. Kristof was right to suggest a few concrete proposals that the protesters might run with.
by: Rick Staggenborg on November 5th, 2011 | 2 Comments »
Activists rally in Washington, D.C. in January of 2011 for an amendment overturning Citizens United. / Flickr, Public Citizen
When Adbusters Magazine called for an occupation of Wall Street, it recommended that occupiers have a specific political goal in mind. Their short list of suggestions included calling for a constitutional amendment to abolish corporate personhood, the Supreme Court doctrine that corporations are people with constitutional rights, among them the “right” to contribute unlimited sums to elect candidates of their choice.
The occupiers have been criticized from both the left and right for adopting an anarchical process that has led to no clear demands other than that all of the problems besetting 99 percent of Americans be addressed. The problem is that with members of Congress so beholden to corporate money to stay in office, none of the things that must be done to redress their grievances will occur when the interest of We the People conflict with those of the corporations that control the levers of power in the U.S. government.
by: Rick Staggenborg on October 27th, 2011 | 5 Comments »
Activists assemble outside the Supreme Court on January 21, 2011 to call for a constitutional amendment overturning the Citizens United decision. / Brendan Hoffman
Most discussions of how to pass a constitutional amendment to abolish corporate personhood dismiss what is likely to be the only possible solution. Instead of calling for a constitutional convention, we should be focusing our efforts on getting an amendment introduced into Congress. While a number of prominent amendment advocates regard this as impossible, the idea of calling for a constitutional convention is far less plausible and much more complicated. With the rapid expansion of corporate power in the politics of the United States, we simply do not have the time to spend focusing exclusively on the unlikely goal of getting a constitutional convention.
The assumption behind the skepticism of those who reject the idea of getting an amendment introduced into Congress is that it won’t pass because Congress as a body is too corrupt. This is clearly true, but what has not been widely recognized is that with Dennis Kucinich, Ron Paul, and many other members of Congress publicly challenging the power of corporations over government, the stage is set for interested members of Congress to introduce the amendment itself. As more come out in favor of such an amendment, the amendment can become a prominent campaign issue that will enable the public to easily discern between candidates wishing to be elected to serve corporate interests and those who intend to work for the citizens who actually elect them.
Creative Commons / Adrian Kinloch
This past weekend, Occupy Wall Street demonstrations were held in over 951 cities in 82 countries as people around the globe joined in an international day of solidarity against the greed and corruption of the 1%.
The media, trying to discredit all the demonstrators, say we don’t know what we are for, only what we are against. So I believe there is much to be gained were we to embrace the following 20 second sound bite for “what we are for.”
- We want to replace a society based on selfishness and materialism with a society based on caring for each other and caring for the planet.
- We want a new bottom line so that institutions, corporations, government policies, and even personal behavior are judged rational or productive or efficient not only by how much money or power gets generated, but also by how much love and kindness, generosity and caring, environmental and ethical behavior, and how much we are able to respond to the universe with awe, wonder and radical amazement the grandeur and mystery of all Being.
- To take the first steps, we want to ban all money from elections except that supplied by government on an equal basis to all major candidates, require free and equal time for the candidates and prohibit buying other time or space, and require corporations to get a new corporate charter once every five years which they can only get if they can prove a satisfactory history of environmental and social responsibility to a jury of ordinary citizens. We call this the Environmental and Social Responsibility Amendment to the US Constitution (ESRA).
- We want to replace the mistaken notion that homeland security can be achieve through a strategy of world domination by our corporations suppoted by the US military and intelligence services with a strategy of generosity and caring for others in the world that will start by launching a Global Marshall Plan that dedicates 1-2% of our GMP ever year for the next twenty to once and for all eliminate global poverty homelessnes, hunger, inadequate education and inadequate health care — knowing that this, not an expanded militarr, is what will give us security.
- And we want a NEW New Deal that provides a job for everyone who wants to work, jobs that rebuild our environment and our infrastructre, and jobs that allow us to take better care of educating our youth and caring for the aged. That’s what we are for! And you can read more about them at www.spiritualprogressives.org
Ok, it was two minutes instead of 20 seconds, but we deserve that amount of time.
Flickr / Mat DcDermott
The prophet Isaiah stood outside the ancient Israelite Temple and denounced those fasting on Yom Kippur who nevertheless were participating in an immoral society. Said Isaiah (in a statement that is now read in synagogues around the world on Yom Kippur morning though its message mostly ignored when it applies to some Jews’ participation in some of the most exploitative practices of Western capitalism or in support for the current right-wing government of Israel even as it engages in oppression of Palestinians):
Look! On the very day you fast you keep scrabbling for wealth; On the very day you fast you keep oppressing all your workers. Look! You fast in strife and contention. You strike with a wicked fist. You are not fasting today in such a way As to make your voices heard on high. Is that the kind of fast that I desire? Is that really a day for people to “press down their egos”? Am I commanding you to droop your heads like bulrushes And lie around in sackcloth and ashes? Is that what you call a fast day, The kind of day that the God of the Burning Bush would wish? No! This is the kind of fast that I desire: Unlock the hand-cuffs put on by wicked power! Untie the ropes of the yoke! Let the oppressed go free, And break off every yoke! Share your bread with the hungry. Bring the poor, the outcasts, to your house.When you see them naked, clothe them; They are your flesh and blood; Don’t hide yourself from them! Then your light will burst through like the dawn; Then when you need healing it will spring up quickly; Then your own righteousness will march ahead to guard you. And a radiance from YHWH will reach out behind to guard you. Then, when you cry out, YHWH will answer; Then, when you call, God will say: “Here I am!” If you banish the yoke from your midst, If you rid yourself of scornful finger-pointing And words of contempt; If you open up your life-experience to the hungry
Why is the left so weak in this country and the right so strong? There are many reasons for our sad situation, but one of the most important is the monetary advantage held by the right. This is a difficult problem to solve, but one vitally important piece of the solution has to be passing a constitutional amendment to undo the Citizens United decision. Corporations should not be able to pour unlimited money into elections and call it free speech. Corporations are not people, they should not have free speech rights, and money is not speech! That is just common sense.
by: Guest on August 9th, 2011 | Comments Off
by Dylan Kaufman-Obstler
“The Church traditionally in the past has been disconnected from the community,” Rev. David Kiteley with the Pastors of Oakland tells me. “We have been taking care of ‘spiritual matters’ and we need to broaden what spiritual matters means… If we isolate ourselves in our religious communities, we are really of no value to society.”
We are at the “We Are One” Workers Rights Rally that was held in Downtown Oakland on Friday, July 22, to demand the better treatment of workers and a more fair economy. I am witnessing the event through the lens of this question: how do we bring a sense of solidarity and mutual support to our activism? This question has been at the forefront of my mind since I started my internship at Tikkun, and I have since experienced first-hand obstacles that social justice organizations face in getting support for their initiatives.
Reverend Kiteley’s words raise an important insight into this question, as he speaks to how the Pastors of Oakland, through their expansion of the notion of “spiritual matters” have challenged this historical relationship and have used their faith as a tool for engagement rather than disconnection. This inclination to act on behalf of others, to stand in solidarity with a community, though not unique to the Pastors of Oakland, is surely an example to emulate.
Rabbi Lerner, in his recent post, alerted readers of Tikkun Daily to two pieces of policy legislation introduced in Congress this week: the Environmental and Social Responsibility Amendment and the Global Marshall Plan. Both aim at creating a more caring society.
In direct contrast to the humanitarian agenda of the interfaith Religious Left articulated in those initiatives stands the exclusionary and divisive agenda of the specifically Christian Right, as exemplified by the Manhattan Declaration (2009).
The attempted assassination of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and the murder of so many others in Arizona has elicited a number of policy suggestions, from gun control to private protection for elected officials, to banning incitement to violence on websites either directly or more subtly (e.g., Sarah Palin’s putting a bull’s-eye target on Giffords’ congressional district to indicate how important it would be to remove her from the Congress).
On the other hand, we hear endless pleas to recognize that the assassin was a lonely and disturbed person whose choice of Hitler’s Mein Kampf as one of his favorite books reflects his own troubled soul, not his affinity to the “hatred of the Other” that has manifested in anti-immigrant movements that have spread from Arizona to many other states and in the United States and has taken the form of anti-Islam, discrimination against Latinos, and the more extreme right-wing groups that preach hatred toward Jews.
The problem with this debate is that the explanatory frame is too superficial and seeks to discredit rather than to analyze. I fell into this myself in the immediate aftermath of the murders and attempted assassination. I wrote an op-ed pointing to the right wing’s tendency to use violent language and demean liberals and progressives, and its historical tie to anti-Semitism and anti-feminism. Once I heard that the arrested assassin had a connection to Hitler’s Mein Kampf, I reacted from my own childhood pain at realizing that most of my extended family had been murdered by the Nazis. So I pointed to the current violent language used by the right-wing radio hosts and some of the leaders and activists of the Tea Party, and how their discourse helps shape the consciousness of those in pain and provides them with a target.
But the problem really is much deeper, so I’m sorry I put forward an analysis that was so dominated by my own righteous indignation that it may have obscured a deeper analysis, and mistakenly insinuated that all Arizonans were responsible for the racism in the current policies toward immigrants and that all people on the Right embrace the hate rhetoric of some of their most extremely popular hate addicts like Glenn Beck, or the ignorance of history that led Sarah Palin to label as “blood libel” the criticisms directed at her. Some people even thought that in mentioning that Congresswoman Giffords is Jewish that I was somehow suggesting that I would care less if she were not — so I also apologize for being sloppy enough to allow that interpretation — very far from my intent, since I believe that all people are equally created in God’s image, and for that reason I’ve been an outspoken critic of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians (though also a critic of Hamas’ violence against Israeli civilians).
Because it involves a suggested electoral strategy for the liberal and progressive forces in the U.S., we at Tikkun cannot endorse Rabbi Lerner’s perspective – we are a 501 c-3 and do not engage in supporting or opposing candidates for office. Still, we thought you might find his perspective of considerable interest, as did the editors of the Washington Post. So we are calling it to your attention and will probably post it at Tikkun.org on Sunday.
You can read his views either in the Washington Post itself on Saturday, or by going here on their web site:
And needless to say, we are very interested in what your reactions are to his ideas, and may even in the Spring issue of Tikkun or on our www.tikkun.org conduct a discussion of it – we are allowed to discuss these things, just not to advocate. So send your reactions straight to him: rabbiLerner@tikkun.org (if you haven’t written him before, you may get a Spam Arrest notice, and all that means is that you have to click where it says to click, then copy some letters that they show you to prove that you are a person and not a machine, and then you’ll never have to do that again to write to him.)