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Pew Report on Religion and Education Around the World

Dec16

by: Pew Research Center on December 16th, 2016 | No Comments »

Large gaps in education levels persist, but all faiths are making gains – particularly among women

Religious figures/people painted on a wall.WASHINGTON, D.C. (Dec. 13, 2016) – Jews are more highly educated than any other major religious group around the world, while Muslims and Hindus tend to have the fewest years of formal schooling, according to a Pew Research Center global demographic study that shows wide disparities in average educational levels among religious groups.

At present, Jewish adults (ages 25 and older) have a global average of 13 years of formal schooling, compared with approximately nine years among Christians, eight years among Buddhists and six years among Muslims and Hindus. Religiously unaffiliated adults – those who describe their religion as atheist, agnostic or “nothing in particular” – have spent an average of nine years in school, a little less than Christian adults worldwide, the study finds.

These gaps in educational attainment are partly a function of where religious groups are concentrated throughout the world. For instance, the vast majority of the world’s Jews live in the United States and Israel – two economically developed countries with high levels of education overall. And low levels of attainment among Hindus reflect the fact that 98% of Hindu adults live in the developing countries of India, Nepal and Bangladesh.


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Drowning the World in Oil : Trump’s Carbon-Obsessed Energy Policy and the Planetary Nightmare to Come

Dec16

by: Michael T. Klare on December 16th, 2016 | 1 Comment »

Editor’s note: here is another important article from our media ally tomdispatch.com and the introduction is written by its editor Tom Engelhardt. Sadly, the Left can point out the problems, but has no serious strategy to change the consciousness of Americans so that they might not go further down the road toward a self-destructive society. We at Tikkun have that strategy–a plan that could split the Right, because not all of those who moved in that direction in 2016 are actually racists, sexists, homophobes, Islamophobes, anti-Semites, or otherwise deranged. Many, in fact, are not any of these things. But to reach them, we need a significant change in the culture and consciousness of the Left. We have the strategy for how to do that. What we don’t have is the financial backing to make it happen. The strategy is outlined in the Winter 2017 issue of Tikkun magazine. But we need your help right now to keep Tikkun alive as a visionary voice in times of growing despair. Please stretch beyond your normal giving to help us–make a tax-deductible contribution at www.tikkun.org/donate or send a check to Tikkun, 2342 Shattuck Ave, #1200, Berkeley, CA 94704 or call and give your credit card info and donation to Staci at 510-644 1200 (between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Pacific Standard Time (3 hours earlier than Eastern Standard Time). We can change this world–but only if we have strategies that go beyond “resisting” Trump–because although that is important, it won’t change the minds of people whose minds need to be changed if our world is to be saved from environmental destruction. –Rabbi Michael Lerner, Editor, Tikkun rabbilerner.tikkun@gmail.com

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The Trump administration-in-formation is a stew of generalsbillionaires, and multimillionaires – and as in the case of retired Marine General James “Mad Dog” Mattis, the likely new secretary of defense, even the military men seem to have made more than a few bucks in these last years. In retirement, Mattis, for instance, joined the board of military-industrial giant General Dynamics as one of 13 “independent directors,” reportedly amassing at least $900,000 in company stock and another $600,000 in cold cash.

Oh yes, and there’s one other requirement for admission to the Trump administration: your basic civilian appointee must be ready to demolish the system he or she is to head. Betsy DeVos, the president-elect’s pick for education secretary, wants to take apart public education; Tom Price, the future secretary of health and human services, is eager to dismantle Obamacare and Medicare; Scott Pruitt, the proposed new head of the Environmental Protection Agency, seems to want to tear that agency limb from limb; and the announced new “labor” secretary (and you really do have to put that in scare quotes), fast food CEO Andy Puzder, is against raising the minimum wage and thinks the automation of the workplace is a total plus, since machines can’t take vacations or arrive late.

Let’s face it, the most extreme government of our lifetime is going to be a demolition derby. Think of it as the Reagan administration of the 1980s on steroids — and keep in mind that Donald Trump will be the president of a far more fragile country than the one Ronald Reagan and his cronies presided over. Things could begin to fall apart fast for ordinary Americans. For instance, the new Republican Congress is expected to swiftly pass a promised “repeal and delay” version of the obliteration of Obamacare, officially wiping that program off the books and yet postponing its departure and the arrival of whatever is to replace it until after the 2018 elections. In the interim, however, the result is likely to be a “zombie” health care marketplace from which insurance companies are expected to begin to jump ship, potentially leaving significant numbers of those 20 million Americans who got medical coverage for the first time via Obamacare with nothing. And after EPA chief Pruitt has helped let Donald Trump’s “energy revolution” of extreme fossil fuel exploitation loose to do its damnedest and, as TomDispatch regular Michael Klare makes clear today, America’s skies are once again veritable smog-fests, there will be plenty more health needs on whatever’s left of the horizon.

Donald Trump, as Politico points out, is already at war with labor, and prospectively with those “failing government schools,” and the American safety net, and the environment, not to mention the planet – and that’s before we even get to actual war, which will be overseen by a crew of Islamo- and Irano-phobes. If, as Klare points out today, Trump himself has a serious case of nostalgia for the America of his youth (and mine), with its untrammeled growth and its fossil-fueled wonders, don’t think that nostalgia doesn’t reign in military affairs, too. In that case, however, it wouldn’t be for the oily vistas of the mid-twentieth century, but perhaps for the age of the Crusades. Tom

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Drowning the World in Oil 
Trump’s Carbon-Obsessed Energy Policy and the Planetary Nightmare to Come 
By Michael T. Klare

Fracking oilScroll through Donald Trump’s campaign promises or listen to his speeches and you could easily conclude that his energy policy consists of little more than a wish list drawn up by the major fossil fuel companies: lift environmental restrictions on oil and natural gas extraction, build the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines, open more federal lands to drilling, withdraw from the Paris climate agreement, kill Obama’s Clean Power Plan, revive the coal mining industry, and so on and so forth ad infinitum. In fact, many of his proposals have simply been lifted straight from the talking points of top energy industry officials and their lavishly financed allies in Congress.


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Taking On Trump

Dec15

by: Ted Glick on December 15th, 2016 | 3 Comments »

Editor’s Note: Our views on the strategy for progressives in the Trump years ahead are put forward in the Winter 2017 issue of Tikkun. But it is our practice to share other views in these columns, some of which we agree with and some of which we do not, because it is only through considering a range of ideas that challenge each other that we can arrive at the deepest understanding of how best to heal and transform (tikkun) our world.

~Rabbi Michael Lerner

 

There is only one way that I can see Trump succeeding with his outrageous efforts—such as his Cabinet nominations–to turn back the clock to the 50’s, or further: if most of us who supported the Bernie movement of 2015-2016 shut up, take no action, and allow this pathological liar to do what he wants to do without any serious resistance.

I can’t see that happening, I really can’t. There are too many of us. 15 million voted for Bernie in the primaries, and there are hundreds of thousands of us, at least, probably more like millions, who, irrespective of Bernie, see ourselves as activists for a better society, a new world, a more just, peaceful and environmentally sustainable future.

I know that Bernie isn’t shutting up. He has made it clear that he will continue giving leadership on the major issues. And as the most popular national politician in the country, with about 60% positive in a recent poll, compared to Trump’s 40% approval rating, his voice will be a powerful one.


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Kenneth Stern’s Letter to the House on the Antisemitism Awareness Act

Dec14

by: Kenneth Stern on December 14th, 2016 | No Comments »

December 6, 2016

RE: Oppose H.R. 6421/S. 10 “The Anti-Semitism Awareness Act of 2016.”

Dear Member of Congress:

I write as the lead author of the EUMC’s “Working Definition on Antisemitism,” to encourage you not to move “The Anti-Semitism Awareness Act of 2016,” which essentially incorporates that definition into law for a purpose that is both unconstitutional and unwise. If the definition is so enshrined, it will actually harm Jewish students and have a toxic effect on the academy.

I remain a proponent of the inclusion of Jews as a group afforded protection under Title VI. I was the complainant in the Vestal School District case where a hostile environment for Jewish students was found. As this case underscores, Jewish students are already protected by Title VI and the Department of Education’s enforcement policies.

Antisemitism – like all forms of bigotry – has an impact on some campuses. The worst way to address it is to create a de facto hate speech code, which is what this bill proposes to do.

In years past various Title VI cases were brought asserting that a hostile environment was created in substantial part by anti-Israel speech. All of them lost. In 2011 Cary Nelson, then President of the American Association of University Professors and I (on behalf of the American Jewish Committee, where I was employed for nearly 25 years as its antisemitism expert) co-wrote an open letter outlining how the “Working Definition” was being abused in Title VI cases in an attempt to restrict academic freedom and punish political speech. While the AJC subsequently withdrew its endorsement from this letter, I remain convinced that the arguments advanced in it were correct. Unlike the Vestal case, where Jewish students were directly bullied, intimidated, and even kicked, these cases complained about educational programs regarding the occupation of the West Bank, films that promoted BDS, classroom texts that proponents thought one-sided and anti-Israel, and a program called “Arabs and the Holocaust,” which claimed the creation of Israel was a “tragedy” for Palestinian Arabs. It was even alleged that it was a Title VI violation to host a campus speaker critical of Israel.

Last year, when the University of California was considering adoption of the Department of State definition (which is even broader than the EUMC definition), I wrote an op-ed advising against such a step. The definition was never intended to be used to limit speech on a college campus; it was written for European data collectors to have a guideline for what to include and what to exclude in reports.

Some who urged the University of California to adopt the definition were clear that they saw it as a vehicle to stop anti-Israel speech, including promotion of the Boycott/Divestment/Sanctions movement. I disagree with BDS, and have written extensively about it (most recently here), but it is wrong to say that BDS is inherently a form of antisemitism, and even if it were it would be improper to try and censor pro-BDS campus activity, which is political speech and should be answered by more speech and education, not suppression.

If this bill is passed, its proponents will have the ability to threaten federal funding at colleges and universities where political speech against Israel occurs, and where administrators then don’t try to stop it, or fail to put the university on record calling such speech antisemitic.

Think of the precedent this would set.

If denying the right of Israel to exist is enshrined as antisemitism by law, would Congress then pass parallel legislation defining opposition to a Palestinian state as anti-Palestinianism? Would it adopt a definition of racism, perhaps including opposition to affirmative action? Would it pass laws defining Islamophobia, anti-LGBT animus, anti-immigrant bias, anti-white bias, etc.? And if campus political speech cannot employ “double standards,” as the Department of State definition rejects regarding Israel, does this mean that political speech against China or Russia or the U.S. which doesn’t employ parallels against other countries might someday be legally suspect too?

Students should not be harassed and intimidated and threatened. But a campus must be a place where students are challenged by difficult – and yes, disturbing and even hateful – ideas.

I have been writing about how to address campus bigotry for over twenty-five years, and trained more than two hundred college and university presidents on how to engage this issue on their campuses.

In my view, this legislation – which is a direct affront to academic freedom – will make the situation on campus worse. Tellingly one organization supporting the legislation claimed “Jewish students do not receive the same protections that other demographic groups receive,” and cited examples of a professor being suspended over a blog post on gay marriage and the canceling of a campus screening of the film “American Sniper.” Clearly this legislation is intended to have a similar negative impact on academic freedom and free speech. Pro-Israel activists will suffer in the aftermath, because they will be seen as trying to suppress speech with which they disagree.

As I and Justus Rosenberg – the president of the Foundation I am honored to direct, and the last surviving member of the group which rescued hundreds of artists and intellectuals from the Nazis – wrote, there are many things a university can and should do to address antisemitism and other forms of hatred. Imposing a definition of antisemitism makes those steps (surveys of students, curriculum review, increased classes on antisemitism, on hatred, on how to discuss difficult issues, on how to engage the conflicting narratives about Israel and Palestine, etc.) less likely to be taken, because administrators will default to discouraging and suppressing speech, fearful if they don’t outside groups will pressure them to do so, using Title VI as a threat or a weapon.

If I can be helpful to you as you consider how to address this legislation, I’d be honored to do so.

With best regards,

Kenneth S. Stern

Executive Director

Justus & Karin Rosenberg Foundation Jkrfoundation.org

718-503-4441

__

Kenneth Stern is a defense attorney, author, and executive director of the Justus & Karin Rosenberg Foundation. From 1989 to 2014, he was director on antisemitism, hate studies, and extremism for the American Jewish Committee. 

Oh Canada! Our Friends Need Help

Dec12

by: on December 12th, 2016 | 3 Comments »

With mind-boggling Cabinet appoints clogging the headlines, there’s barely been time to consider what impact a Trump administration might have on arts and culture in the U.S. But something is brewing to the north that suggests that regardless of who heads the government, the well-being of artists who work for positive social change is at risk. Our friends in Canada need help. Please read on and respond.

Last spring, Canadian arts groups were optimistic if cautious about newly elected Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s promise to invest nearly $1.9 CAD in arts and culture funding, doubling the budget of the Canada Council for the Arts (the equivalent of the U.S. National Endowment for the Arts, but much larger). The Council’s current budget is about $139 million USD, and by 2021, it will double. Though Canada’s population is one-ninth of the U.S.’s, with an NEA budget currently at $148 million USDC, the Canada Council’s per capita funding today is eight times the NEA’s.

Good news for Canadians, right?

Well, it depends how they spend the money. And the way they are planning to spend it is alarming to Canadians involved in community-engaged arts practice – the rich, collaborative work of artists committed to social and environmental justice who place their gifts at the service of community.


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Can a New Form of Midrash Help Bridge our National Divides?

Dec7

by: Jeffrey Lubell on December 7th, 2016 | 2 Comments »

“What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground!” (Gen. 3:10).

Trump and Clinton. As the 2016 Presidential Election reminds us, we are a deeply divided country. Consider the razor thin margin of the election. A shift of fewer than 55,000 votes across three states (PA, MI, and WI) would have flipped the outcome, and a shift to Clinton of only one out of every 100 Trump voters would have given her an Electoral College victory similar in size to that experienced by Trump. As Nate Silver reminds us, these shifts would have led to a different narrative, but the deep divisions within this country would of course have remained fundamentally the same.

We saw these divisions over the summer when we mourned the heartbreaking deaths in July of African-American men, killed by police officers in Minnesota and Louisiana, and police officers, killed by African-American men in Dallas and Baton Rouge. We’ve seen them in the competing narratives around Black Lives Matter, the Occupy Wall Street movement, Obamacare, abortion and so many other issues.

Many are viewing the election as a call to arms – to fight for what we believe to be right. This is consistent with the long and honorable history of Jewish activism in support of civil and economic rights and our fundamental commitment to making the world a better place. This is surely part of the solution.

But while activism may help address the symptoms of our divisions, it will not help us transcend them. So it is not a complete solution.

There is no magic elixir that can quickly heal our fault lines of race, ethnicity, class, and political party, and our urban/rural and north/south divides. But I do believe there are lessons we can we draw from our Jewish tradition and heritage that may help us make progress in improving our understanding of one another, which is a critical first step in bridging our many divides. My suggestion is to repurpose tools from the Jewish tradition of midrash to increase our understanding of the diverse perspectives held by Americans across the U.S.


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Eight Steps Obama Should Take Immediately

Dec7

by: Cat J. Zavis on December 7th, 2016 | 4 Comments »

Pensive Obama. President Obama swept into office eight years ago on a promise of hope and change founded on the importance of empathy, i.e., understanding the experience of the Other. Many people were inspired and deeply moved by his vision of hope, stated desire for change, and his seeming care for the well-being of all. And now many are deeply disappointed. We believe he has lost his way and has failed to stand for the values he articulated eight years ago. This is my call to President Obama to return to his highest values, values that are hard to hold when the weight of the world is on your shoulders, but values that we need even more now than we did eight years ago.

If what I share below resonates with you, please do two things: (1) copy it and send it to President Obama; (2) sign the Move-On petition I started here.

Dear President Obama,

You have less than two months in office and the incoming President-elect has, both through his statements and appointments thus far, indicated that many of the rights and issues you and those that elected support will very likely be dismantled in the next four years. In fact, the prospects for the next four years look rather bleak, if not downright terrifying.

You have an opportunity to show strong leadership and take decisive and immediate action on a number of significant issues.

I call upon you to take the following actions in your last month in office:


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If Life Wins There Will Be No Losers

Dec5

by: Martin Winiecki on December 5th, 2016 | No Comments »

The Dakota Access Pipeline approaching the lake.

A message of solidarity from Tamera Peace Research Center to Standing Rock:

In the name of humaneness, we express our gratitude to the courageous water and land protectors at Standing Rock. This camp of Sioux and many other First Nation people, accompanied by activists from across all camps is a true light of hope in a world that has lost any prospect for the future. They are not fighting against anyone; they are defending the sacred. They are protecting what needs to be protected for us to live. We call out to say thank you for your perseverance in spite of the brutal attacks; thank you for taking such a clear stand for life in this worldwide struggle between the powers of life and those of capital. Thank you as well to the spirits of the buffaloes and eagles for their visible support and presence. Through Tamera and the global Healing Biotopes Project, we seek to support this stance by all means.


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Fidel Castro 1926-2016

Nov30

by: Martha Sonnenberg on November 30th, 2016 | 2 Comments »

Castro in a green uniform, a flag in the background.There can be no doubt that Fidel Castro was one of the greatest figures of the 20th century, whether one idolized or despised him.  For me, and many on the left, feelings toward Castro often left one dizzy with conflicting emotions of admiration, disappointment and frustration. Here is what he did: In 1959 he successfully challenged and struck a mortal blow to the social and economic remnants of slavery and colonialism in the tiny island of Cuba; he thrust off the iron grip of the United States’ control of the Cuban economy codified by the Platt Amendment, in place since 1904. Cuba, 89 times smaller than its northern neighbor, prevailed against the Goliath United States in establishing its sovereignty. In this regard, Castro continued the movement toward self-determination of a West Indian people that had begun with the Santo Domingo revolution led by Toussaint L’Ouverture.

Castro was able to lead the Cuban revolution by galvanizing and articulating the desires for freedom on the part of the Cuban people, from rural peasant to urban worker, professional and intellectual. This was particularly evident in the peasant support of the guerilla fighters of the Sierra Maestra, as well as in the support of the urban trade union movement. That ability to engage the masses of Cubans did not diminish. In 1981, I visited Cuba with my mother—the day we arrived in Havana, we attended a speech by Castro in the Plaza de Revolution, a short walk from our hotel. There were hundreds of thousands of people in that square, and when Fidel spoke there was total silence and rapt attention. I had never witnessed anything quite like it, nor have I since.


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Bravo Hamilton

Nov30

by: on November 30th, 2016 | No Comments »

I stand in solidarity with Lin-Manuel Miranda and the cast of Hamilton who made a statement to soon-to-be Electoral College-elect vice-president Mike Pence when he attended a performance of the play.

Bravo Hamilton.

The statement was respectful, and, all things considered, restrained. It was civil. According to the New York Times, the statement said:

“We-sir-are the diverse America who are alarmed and anxious that your new administration will not protect us, our planet, our children, our parents, or defend us and uphold our inalienable rights. We truly hope that this show has inspired you to uphold our American values and to work on behalf of all of us.”

Full disclosure: I have not seen the play, but I am a fan. I ride around listening to the sound-track in my car.

The beauty of the production is that it uses Hip Hop, an art form invented by America’s non-white citizens, to present an interpretation of the early history of America with a multi-racial cast. It does what all good art ought to do, make us see the ordinary with extraordinary sight and thus help us know our own humanity better.

There is good reason for a diverse America to feel alarmed and anxious after a divisive campaign of fear and lies that Donald Trump and Mike Pence inflicted upon the nation to win the Electoral College and thus to win the presidency and the vice-presidency. Let us be clear: Trump and Pence are minority winners. Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by more than two million votes. More than seven million people voted for a third-party candidate. Nearly half of Americans who could have voted did not. Most citizens of the United States do not want Donald Trump to be president, yet, he will take the oath of office in January, becoming both head of state and head of government, representing the United States in his person to history and to the world.

Since his campaign that emboldened white supremacists, violence against people of color, immigrants, and Muslims have risen. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, there were 867 incidents of harassment in the first ten days after the election. (https://www.splcenter.org/) The Trump/Pence response to such hate has been tepid at best. Trump has made Stephen K. Bannon, executive chairman of Breitbart News Network, a news organization that caters to white supremacists, his chief White House strategist. His other choices for cabinet positions, including Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions and his choice for the person to head the transition of the Environmental Protection Agency indicate that he will not protect voting rights or the planet.

Since we value a peaceful transition of power, what is the majority of citizens of the United States to do? We ought to resist in every peaceful way imaginable. We ought to stand up and boldly state what the shared values and beliefs of our society are.

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