Senate Intelligence Committee / CommonDreams.org Photo
The images that emerged from Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq sparked a movement against torture that has worked doggedly for many years now. Among those moved to action have been people of faith, religious people, who see torture as a moral issue. As one of those people who has written op-eds, letters to members of Congress and the administration in the White House, attended rallies/protests, and met with Congressional staffers, I wondered whether a group of committed religious people could have a real impact. Today, with the announcement by the Senate Intelligence Committee that they had voted to declassify their summary of what is being called a “CIA Torture Report,” the answer is finally “maybe.”
Today’s Supreme Court Ruling on McCutcheon vs. the Federal Elections Commission(FEC) is yet another nail in the coffin of U.S. democracy. The high court struck down the right of “We the People” to establish laws limiting overall campaign contributions by individuals. Such limits have been set in an attempt to create a level playing field in our democracy for rich and poor alike.
The political playing field was already unequal, since over the years the Supreme Court has increasingly granted civil rights and constitutional protections to corporations. This expansion of corporate rights culminated in the infamous 2010 ruling in Citizens United vs. the FEC, which prohibits our right to limit corporate spending on elections through political action committees (PACs). The Citizens United decision resulted in the overturning of campaign finance laws at the federal level and in states across the nation. Today’s McCutcheon ruling is also disastrous for democracy.
It is possible that the details of Secretary of State John Kerry’s peace proposal (as reported in the New York Times) are wrong. However, assuming the reports are correct, the Palestinians would be out of their minds to accept it. It is bad for Israelis and Palestinians and demeans the United States by reducing us to the role of Binyamin Netanyahu’s stenographer.
Here are the key points as reported in the Times.
Early Wednesday morning the University of Michigan’s student government voted down a resolution that would have begun the process of divesting from companies doing business with Israel. It was the latest defeat for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement which is dedicated to fighting Israel by isolating it, particularly in the cultural and economic sectors.
Other than Prime Minister Netanyahu’s decision to devote a full 25% of his recent speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) to condemning the BDS movement, it hasn’t got very much to show for its efforts. And I don’t expect it ever will.
The reason why BDS keeps failing despite the almost universal recognition that the occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and the blockade of Gaza, are illegal and immoral is that the BDS movement is not targeting the occupation per se. Its goal is the end of the State of Israel itself.
by: Ira Chernus on March 17th, 2014 | Comments Off
In America the news is big business. That’s not news. Everyone realizes that the corporate mass media make their money by delivering readers, viewers, and listeners to advertisers. The bigger the audience delivered, the bigger the profit. So corporate news editors have to know what good entertainers know: what the audience wants and how to give it to them.
In late winter, 2014, it seemed that American news audiences wanted one thing above all else: a U.S. – Russia showdown over Ukraine. Why? Plenty of theories might be offered.
But reading the headlines themselves, one explanation seemed most obvious: Americans understood that their nation’s global prestige was on the line. Russian president Vladimir Putin was using Ukraine to test the will and resolve of the Obama administration. So Americans turned to the news each day to see whether their government would demonstrate enough strength to go on leading the international community.
At least that was the story.
Lately I have been struck by the raw anti-semitism evinced on anti-Israel websites (most egregious example, Mondoweiss). http://mondoweiss.net/
There is nothing novel about it. It’s not “the new anti-semitism” that the Anti-Defamation League likes to talk about. But the old kind, masquerading as anti-Zionism but manifesting itself as support or, at least, sympathy for every group or individual hostile to Jews: from Pat Buchanan to Hizbullah.
The only difference between this anti-semitism and the old-fashioned kind is that it has no impact. If you don’t visit Mondoweiss or other websites like it, you won’t know it exists. It threatens no one. It is just ugly. But ugly and irrelevant.
As I have written before, I don’t much like the BDS movement for many of the same reasons Prime Minister Netanyahu doesn’t. It demonizes Israel, many of its leading proponents are anti-Semites, and its rage against Israel is entirely selective. I also believe (from reading its material) that the movement exists to eliminate the State of Israel by replacing it by “One State” in which Jews will be a minority. As one who supports the continued existence of a secure Jewish state, I have no choice but to oppose the BDS movement.
Last week the U.S. District Court dismissed a long-standing case against the NYPD for their secret surveillance of Muslims in New York and New Jersey in the years after 9/11. Yet few Americans outside of the American Muslim community spoke out against the judgment, and not all newspapers carried the news. For the average American of a different faith, this wasn’t really too newsworthy. Here’s why they are wrong.
A survey published this week by the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) confirmed what several other polls have shown: that a majority of Americans – 53 percent – now support marriage equality.
However, perhaps the most interesting finding in PRRI’s survey was this: a staggering 83 percent of Jewish Americans support marriage equality, more than any other religious group in the United States. (White Roman Catholics are next in line, at 58-percent support, while all Protestant denominations are below 50 percent.)
Why do Jews overwhelmingly support marriage equality, particularly given that most negative views on homosexuality in our culture originate from the Hebrew bible? On the surface, one could point to Pew’s recent survey of Jewish life in America, which reveals that 62 percent of Jews feel that “being Jewish” is more about culture/ancestry than religion.
One could also point to American Jews’ historic liberal leanings, with 70 percent of Jews today identifying as Democrats (versus 22 percent who identify as Republicans).
However, the truth on this issue goes much deeper, and is far more interesting than these relational figures. It has to do with how Judaism has radically reinterpreted the biblical view of gay sex, which on the surface seems unequivocal and cringe-worthy. Allow me to briefly explain.
A U.S. soldier oversees Haitian workers unloading relief supplies in Port-au-Prince, Haiti in 2009. Photo/Wikimedia Commons
Following the earthquake in Haiti and the invasion of Iraq, U.S. policymakers turned to America’s traditional sources of strength to reconstruct these countries. They deployed the private sector, the military and huge amounts of money. In both cases, relying on these strengths simply hasn’t worked.
The failures of U.S. efforts to reconstruct Iraq have been well documented, and the recent upsurge in violence speaks for itself. Despite areas of progress in Haiti since the earthquake, the U.S. recovery effort there has in many ways been a similar fiasco.
Last month, on the fourth anniversary of the devastating Haitian earthquake, roughly one out of every six people in Port-au-Prince still slept in a tent camp. The country remains poor; its place on the UN development index has fallen by 16 countries since the earthquake. Despite Bill Clinton’s call to “build Haiti back better,” both Haiti and Iraq show the limits of what the United States can accomplish with its customary methods.
The most overreaching application of American power in these two countries has been the unrestrained use of the U.S. private sector. In Haiti, 48 percent of USAID funds following the earthquake went to contracts for U.S. for-profit companies. Granted, many Haitians institutions were literally flattened by the quake, but a 2013 USAID study showed that Haitian NGOs had received less than 1 percent of aid.
As with the reconstruction in Iraq, the billions designated for recovery in Haiti haven’t been spent transparently. In December, the House of Representatives passed a bill authored by Congresswoman Barbara Lee that would require a comprehensive report on spending in Haiti. Barbara Lee’s role may sound familiar: she also fought to uncover murky spending in Iraq.