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​Ideas for Going Forward by Some Progressive Activists

Apr6

by: Michael Albert on April 6th, 2016 | Comments Off

Around the world powerful and diverse possibilities are in struggle. We the signers of “Some Possible Ideas for Going Forward” think one high priority for progress is activists developing, discussing, and settling on priorities around which to organize multi issue activism in coming months and years. We hope this document can help inspire more conversations within groups and movements that, over time, come to a synthesis. We do this in the spirit of self organization – and as a rejection of preformed inflexible programs and agendas imposed on activists from above. We believe only program that is fully understood and owned by grassroots participants can win lasting change.

To try to help, we have assembled some familiar programmatic ideas rooted in diverse movements and projects. We signers do not each individually necessarily support every single programmatic suggestion given here. Indeed, perhaps none of us supports every single suggestion much less all the specific wording. Instead, we all support having a widespread discussion of these worthy ideas and of other ideas that emerge from the process, to arrive at widely supported program for left activists.
Some Possible Economic Programmatic Ideas

A left agenda might, for example, pursue four central economic goals – better quality of daily economic experience, more fairness, better production priorities, and increased mutual compassion.

For example, new economic program might seek: (1) a law forbidding capital export and relocation without community and worker agreement, and (2) a law delineating punishments for employers who impede nationally mandated economic reforms. Likewise, it could seek controls on work day and work week length – for example seeking 30 hours of work for 40 hours pay. It might demand that the maximum penalty for owners violating the spirit and intent of such laws would be nationalization of their businesses under the management of currently employed workers.

Similarly, new economic program might propose: (1) reducing inequality, (2) reorienting productive potentials to meet social needs, and (3) enlarging economic democracy.

For example, new economic program might propose sharply progressive property, asset, and income taxes, with no loopholes, as well as a dramatically-increased minimum wage, say $20 an hour, and perhaps a guaranteed income for all, coupled with a new profit tax that would be proportional to inequities in each firm’s pay scale. The more oppressive the pay scale, the higher the profit tax.

Due to a new minimum wage law, minimum pay would rise dramatically. Due to a new pay equity tax, industries with a more equitable pay scale would have more after-tax resources. Not only could more equitably structured firms use these extra funds to further improve work conditions and increase their social contribution, they could generally out-compete less socially responsible firms. New property and asset taxes would dramatically diminish differences in wealth.

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Fiddler on My Mind

Apr5

by: Roslyn Bernstein on April 5th, 2016 | 1 Comment »

Theatre Marquis. Photo: Shael Shapiro

Fiddler on the Roof has been on my mind these days, the plaintive strains of the violinist leading me uptown to the New York’s Yiddish Theater: From the Bowery to Broadway exhibit at the Museum of the City of New York (MCNY), then midtown to experience the current revival of the musical on Broadway starring Danny Burstein, and finally back to the MCNY on March 28th to hear a lively panel on Reimagining Fiddler.

The lights dimmed and the actors who play Tevye’s rebellious daughters, Chava, Tzeitel and Hudel, appeared on stage, belting out Matchmaker, as the warm-up act for a panel moderated by the exhibit’s guest curator, Edna Nahshon, a Professor of Jewish Theater and Drama at The Jewish Theological Seminary. The lyrics were perfect, Sheldon Harnick at his best, with clever rhymes—”I’ll bring the veil, you bring the groom, slender and pale”—and puns at the end. The audience smiled when the sisters delivered the line: “Playing with matches a girl can get hurt.”

My memory flashed back to 1965 when I saw the original musical, one year after it opened in 1964, with Zero Mostel commanding the stage. Fiddler broke records and ran for over 3,000 performances.

The big question of the evening: Why was Fiddler such a sensation?

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ISIS is America’s Bastard Child

Apr5

by: Bart Walters on April 5th, 2016 | 4 Comments »

On good authority I pass along to you a judgement of the people of the Middle East: America raped the Arab world, and the offspring is ISIS.

Barack Obama saw it coming.

Listen to his prescient 2002 speech, delivered months before the U.S. invasion of Iraq, when he was an Illinois state legislator:

“I suffer no illusions about Saddam Hussein.  He is a brutal man.  A ruthless man. …

“But I also know that Saddam poses no imminent and direct threat to the United States or to his neighbors. …

“I know that an invasion of Iraq without a clear rationale and without strong international support will only fan the flames of the Middle East, and encourage the worst, rather than the best, impulses of the Arab world, and strengthen the recruitment arm of al-Qaeda.”

I invite you to imagine yourself a small Iraqi child—say a boy of five or six years—as U.S. war planes first roar overhead, U.S. tanks clank and rumble through your village, and American troops hurry through on their way to Baghdad.

Now, fourteen years later, it is 2016, and you (as that former Iraqi child) have grown into young manhood while watching Americans kill and maim literally hundreds of thousands of your civilian countrymen—perhaps one or both of your parents, perhaps one or more of your sisters and brothers, perhaps members of your extended family tribe, almost certainly friends and other villagers you had known.

That scenario serves as one answer to a question you might have heard, and that I heard, again, just yesterday from an acquaintance who was reacting to last month’s bombing in Brussels:

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“Feel the Bern”: Reclaiming Democracy’s Future

Apr5

by: Gennady Shkliarevsky on April 5th, 2016 | 2 Comments »

Editor’s Note: Tikkun does not endorse candidates or political parties. We are actively seeking articles in support of any candidate for the US presidency and from any political party.

Several months still separate us from the November elections but the atmosphere in the country is getting increasingly tense. Americans are angry and they direct their anger against the political establishment. They blame both the Democratic and Republican elites for the continued malaise and political paralysis. While the growing number of American voters believes that the country needs new ideas, there is little new in what either the Democratic or the Republican establishment candidates propose. Neither Ted Cruz nor John Kasichventures in their imagination far beyond the defunct policies of cutting taxes. The agenda of Hillary Clinton is essentially a rehashed and scaled-down version of the New Deal. With their clear anti-establishment message Sanders and Trump, as different as they may be, are the two candidates who stand to benefit most from the current discontent.

Although the elites in both parties are deeply troubled by voters’ prevailing attitudes, they are reluctant to endorse the candidates who are riding at the crest of this discontent. They have displayed considerable uneasiness about nominating candidates who oppose business-as-usual. The Republican brass has gone out of its way in trying to prevent Donald Trump from becoming a nominee. The leaders of the Democratic Party have repeatedly sent strong messages to its rank-and-file that their preference lies with Hillary Clinton, and not Sanders.

After numerous attempts to derail Trump’s campaign, the Republican leadership is gradually warming up to the idea of nominating Trump as their party candidate form. In his turn, Trump has also made an effort to make peace with the party hierarchy. Now it seems increasingly likely that Trump will be the party’s nominee in November. Reince Priebus, Chairman of the Republican National Committee, has stated in a recent interview that Trump is definitely one of the three possible candidates for nomination in July.

On the Democratic side, the party establishment refuses to entertain any idea of nominating anyone other than Hillary Clinton. Despite the fact that Sanders has scored some remarkable victories over Clinton and has demonstrated his staying power and the ability to excite voters, Clinton remains a clear favorite of the party establishment and the pro-Democratic media. The possibility that Bernie Sanders will be the party nominee remains extremely distant, if at all real, even though many polls suggest that his chances of beating Trump are better than those of Hillary Clinton.

Thus the likely candidates in November will be Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. In this showdown, the general mood among the country voters will favor Trump and his anti-establishment rhetoric, while Hillary Clinton will emerge as an inside-the-Beltway candidate with deep connections to the establishment. Nobody will venture at this point to predict the winner in this face-off, but the dominant attitude among the voters will not be in Clinton’s favor. And it is unlikely that she will find the way to change this situation.

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Women who have Abortions should be Punished

Apr4

by: on April 4th, 2016 | 1 Comment »

IF.

IF abortion is murder, then women who choose abortions are murderers.

IF abortion is murder, it surely should be against the law.

People who break the law should be punished.

IF.

If I ask a third party to kill my wife, and pay them to do so, surely I have broken the law and should be punished.

If I take my wife to a place where she is sure to be killed, I have broken the law and should be punished.

Even if what I have done is not against the law, it should be. And I should be punished.

If.

If, that is, there really is no difference between my wife and a fetus. If morally they are exactly the same. If the fetus is morally just like all the people who, unlike the fetus, do not live in someone else’s body. No moral difference. The unborn the same as the born.

Then abortion is murder.

I do not understand why the pro-life folks can’t follow this simple argument; why they seek to avoid this compelling logic.

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What We Must Do Now, One Year after the Israeli Election

Mar21

by: Jeremy Sher on March 21st, 2016 | 5 Comments »

A Netanyahu Campaign Billboard for the 2015 Election

One year ago, Israeli voters reelected Benjamin Netanyahu as prime minister, backed by a new coalition from the hardest of the hard right, with the antidemocratic Ayelet Shaked at Justice, Naftali Bennett politicizing the Education Ministry, and Tzipi Hotovely, of “This land is ours, all of it is ours” fame, heading the day-to-day operations of the Foreign Ministry. How did the Israeli left lose so badly? And is there any hope now?

Yes, there is. Israeli democracy is in grave danger but it is not dead. We do not have to resign ourselves to a future that leads inexorably to a bloodbath in the Middle East. But we are close, and if we want to avoid that fate, Israeli politics must change. In this article, I write about one big opportunity to create that change, albeit at this time an opportunity mainly for political professionals to act. In future articles, I will share other, very specific ideas for individuals of conscience to become part of the solution.

If anyone’s going to change Israel’s trajectory right now, it will be Israeli voters. And the Israeli political situation certainly looks bleak. However, progressives do not need to buy hook, line and sinker into the propaganda of Netanyahu’s so-called landslide victory in 2015. Netanyahu eked out a 61-seat coalition, the thinnest possible margin in the 120-seat Knesset, on the very last legally allowable day before new elections would have had to be called. That’s not a landslide in my political experience. Netanyahu’s right-wing coalition rules with an iron fist, attacking democracy and installing ethnocracy and theocracy wherever possible. But they rule from a glass throne. A coalition with the thinnest allowable margin cobbled together on the last allowable day is a politically vulnerable coalition. The key is finding the right tools to break the right-wing status quo.

In this article, I argue that the Israeli left must improve its overall operational competence, and it must start now. Americans can and must help.

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Merrick Garland, a Good and Decent Man

Mar17

by: on March 17th, 2016 | 1 Comment »

He had me at tutoring elementary school children.

Before President Obama’s official announcement that he would nominate Hon. Merrick Garland to the United States Supreme Court, the news had leaked, and cable news networks were already giving information about him. His is an impressive Curriculum Vitae. So, when the president began to give Garland’s credentials for the court, I had heard much of it before. What I had not heard was that he tutored elementary school children in math and reading. This is when I learned forward and started to pay more attention.

Very often when searching for someone to fill a position, after a certain level of achievement, there are any number of people who are competent to do the actual job. This is where other factors enter into the decision-making process. That this man would take the time to tutor elementary school children is a testimony to his character. It would be a good thing if a news organization spoke to some of the students he tutored. Garland has been doing this for 20 years, so some of these children are adults now.

We have heard about his clerks who have gone on to clerk for other judges. We know that their time with him served as good preparation for their next career move as lawyers. What do the children he tutored have to say? I am impressed with this aspect of his life because it is something that he does not have to do. I know from my own experience that elementary school children can be challenging. It requires patience and skill that many adults, myself included, do not have. It is a challenge he chose that demonstrates a willingness to walk the extra mile to help another human being. It embodies the moral imperative: each one teach one. It is an example of the African-American saying that we all have an obligation to reach back and lift someone else as we climb the ladder of success.

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One God: Dr Larycia Hawkins, Wheaton College, and Presidential Politics

Mar11

by: on March 11th, 2016 | 3 Comments »

God is Love, the rest is commentary.

This is an a priori presupposition born of faith. When I contemplate the simple sentence – God is Love – I contemplate the power and the mystery of a life force that defies words. We give God, this Divine Love, anthropomorphic qualities so that we can make God thinkable and speakable. We make God father, mother, friend so that we can wrap our minds around the concept that we are in relationship with a Love that existed before the beginning and will exist after the end, a Love that is as vast as the still expanding universe and as finite as a single grain of sand or a single drop of water, a Love that contains within itself all the laws of physics and mathematics and biology, a Love that loves us personally, knows our names, who understands the language of our laughter and of our tears.

God is Love, the rest is commentary.

The Gospel of John tells us that: In the beginning was the Word. I say the Word is Love. The Word, the logos is at once a signifier pointing beyond itself to the stuff of creation and to a divine logic. It is the logic of love. When the Word becomes incarnate in humanity, when the Word becomes flesh, the is-ness of Divine Love becomes a statement, a sentence, a subject and a verb. It becomes Divine Love loving through nature and creation, through flesh and blood.

God is Love, the rest is commentary.

When we think of the oneness of God, we also ought to think about the question of theological reconciliation between religions that say God is one and Christianity that says that the one God contains three persons. One way to think about the Trinitarian God – Father, Son, Holy Spirit – is to think about God in three dimensions – the height, breadth and depth of God. Imagine walking into a beautiful room. We walk into a singular entity, but when we look at the ceiling, that is one perspective. When we notice the walls on either side, that is another perspective. When we notice the front and back of the room that is yet another view. No one would say that we are standing in at least three different rooms. It is one room with different aspects.

God is Love, the rest is commentary.

So it is with a Trinitarian idea of God. We can understand the Father God as our relationship with the creative transcendent aspect of God. Our relationship with God the Son is analogous to our divine connection to humanity, nature and creation. God the Holy Spirit can be understood as God the Mother, the Comforter, the wisdom, the fecundity of God.

Three aspects, three kinds of relationships three perspectives do not mean we are not in relationship with a divine unity. This is a unity with many names. Christians call God by many names, some of which originate in the Old Testament sources. Various names of God include: Jehovah-M’Kaddesh, the God who sanctifies; Jehovah-jireh, the God who provides; Jehovah-shalom, the God of peace; Jehovah-rophe, Jehovah heals; Jehovah-nissi, God our banner; El-Shaddai, God Almighty; Adonai, God is Master and Lord; Elohim, God is strength or power.

God is Love, the rest is commentary.

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The Antidote to Absurdity: Winona LaDuke and Mililani Trask

Mar7

by: on March 7th, 2016 | 1 Comment »

You have to tell the story of how it happened, how you didn’t ask permission and it was okay. Because we have become a people who almost have to ask permission to do anything. And that is folly, because the people you are asking permission from have no right to grant you permission.

Winona LaDuke

How do you feel?This past Saturday at services, the rabbi asked congregants to call out reasons why it was good to have Shabbat, an island in time that grants respite from the world of doing. “As a refuge from the madness,” I found myself saying, “as a reminder that something else exists.”

This country is enduring a long bout of existential whiplash. When my attention turns rightward, a wave of nausea mounts as I consider the crass vitriol that emanates from that man-sized carbuncle of ego, Donald Trump. People seem to be asking his permission to expose their most fearful and belligerent beliefs; and he radiates a serene confidence in his right to grant it.

I see all sorts of analyses trying to explain Trump’s popularity, but they don’t settle my stomach. Reading about the rise of authoritarianism – of a longing for top-down order, of the will to submit to a leader who promises safety from whatever threatens privilege – I appreciate a neat theory. But there’s a big gap between plausible theory and actual proof or even predictability. The desire to make sense overwhelms me, and so far, I’ve failed to bat away the looming questions careening through my mind.

Gazing leftward, I am inspired by the Sanders campaign and delighted by the progress it is making.But a very expensive horse race keeps getting in the way: tons of inside baseball chatter about electability, as if predictions were more than guesses in an election that has stumped even polling wizard Nate Silver. I keep meeting people who seem to be asking permission to support a candidate whose values and aims they endorse; without permission, they may hold their noses and vote for the candidate chosen by those who’ve arrogated the label “realist” – and the right to pronounce what’s “practical” – to themselves.

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Heads, Hearts, and Inverted Democratic Assumptions

Mar1

by: Jeremy Sher on March 1st, 2016 | 2 Comments »

Editor’s Note: Tikkun does not and cannot oppose or endorse any candidate.

Presidential Candidates Bernie Sanders & Hilary Clinton (Source: Youtube, World News Today)

By the time this article sees daylight, I will have cast my ballot in the Massachusetts Democratic presidential primary. I’ll be making my decision in the voting booth, and even then I won’t tell you who got my vote, because I’m so far unconvinced by either candidate. This election cycle, as the Republican Party has gone completely off its rocker, I’ve listened to Democratic friends make impassioned pleas for either Clinton or Sanders. The one common point of agreement has been the framing of the election as a heart-vs.-head issue, with Sanders as the progressive, inspiring heart and Clinton as the cool, compromising head. And that’s just where I see it differently.

I’m not a head-over-heart Democrat. I won’t agree with my old macroeconomics professor Paul Krugman that “transformational rhetoric isn’t how change happens.” Instead, Krugman argues, change is a matter of “accepting half loaves as being better than none.” That’s not an inspiring message at all. I was pleased to see Michael Lerner’s response piece, in which he agrees that “we will always need the legislators and the technocrats to work out the details . . . of a just and sustainable society,” but argues that real change requires “leadership . . . that can project and mobilize people around a vision that they believe to be worth struggling to attain.”

No question Lerner is right that Krugman – along with his many ideological allies within the Clinton camp – “wildly underestimates the importance of maximalist demands for peace, social justice, and environmental sanity.” Lerner points out that the right wing has achieved frightening gains at lightning speed by making and enforcing just such “maximalist demands” at the grassroots level. Progressives have achieved similar successes, too, for example during the New Deal, civil-rights and LGBTQ-rights eras.

Too often liberals today boil the left’s strategy down to pragmatism vs. radicalism, forgetting that our society’s progress has come in fits and starts resulting from the successful prosecution of what Lerner calls “maximalist demands,” from the grassroots on up. Martin Luther King, Jr., for example, who faced criticism from Malcolm X and others for his discomfort with revolutionary rhetoric, nevertheless based his whole career on just such “maximalist demands,” such as ending segregation and forcing the Voting Rights Act of 1965 through. The movement for same-sex marriage may be an even better example, inasmuch as we all remember the fear Washington, D.C., strategists expressed at moving too quickly, although the American people turned out indeed to be ready for just such rapid progress. I can’t think of a single episode when cautious compromise has resulted in progress. Contrary to Krugman’s account of the Obamacare win, I thought Obama gratuitously mortgaged the public option to his disastrous personal ideology of compromise. If he had fought for it, I believe we could have a working public option and could today be well on our way to the kind of single-payer healthcare every other industrialized democracy offers.

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