As a white, Jewish schlump who grew up in Atlanta and now lives in Pittsburgh, I’ve never been stopped by police based upon the blackness of my skin, never been bent over the hood of a sedan and detained based on my dark curls.
While many of my educated, more-sophisticated-than-me black friends have suffered such indignities, I’ve never been profiled, despite being a minority.
And so when I claim that the NSA’s apparent reach into the private lives of Americans is stop-and-frisk on the national level, I do so understanding a key distinction: while the former is being done invisibly, the latter is being done in broad daylight, often with force and harassment.
That said, the NSA’s vacuuming up of phone meta data for all Americans, as well PRISM’s infiltration into every major internet company’s servers, including Google, Facebook and Microsoft, share an important characteristic with stop-and-frisk: the potential violation of Americans’ Fourth Amendment rights, which protect against unlawful searches and seizures.
My husband and I own an independent bookstore and one of the things I’ve always prepared myself for is what I would do if I ever got handed one of those “National Security Letters,” demanding information about what products our customers bought. The PATRIOT Act allows the government to demand business records if their need for those records involves some kind of terrorist investigation and people receiving those letters not only have to obey them, but also have to remain silent about having received one.
Now that the news has broken that Verizon has been turning over ALL U.S. and international phone call records for at least seven years, and that U.S. and British intelligence agencies have also been mining Internet data, one question that always niggled at me came up to the surface the other night at dinner. As is often the case, Derrick is the one who asked “Someone’s got to be making money off of this. Who pays for all the work involved in compiling, storing, turning over, and sifting through those records?”
by: Jonathan Zimmerman on June 7th, 2013 | 2 Comments »
Participants at a Stand Up for Religious Freedom Rally on March 23, 2013 protest President Obama's HHS Mandate. Credit: Creative Commons/American Life League.
In 1907 Mark Twain published a scathing attack on Christian Science, which held that all illness lay in the mind. In his trademark satirical style, Twain congratulated the religion for providing “life-long immunity from imagination-manufactured disease.”
The other kinds of disease were real, Twain insisted, and their victims required medicine – not prayer – to get better. But Twain also condemned the growing movement to prosecute faith healers and parents for withholding medical care from children who died.
A century later, we know much more about what makes people sick and well. As Twain understood, though, we still need to balance the protection of children with the religious liberty of their parents. And that’s why we should retain narrowly crafted laws exempting parents from child-abuse charges if they resist medical care for religious reasons.
by: Rabbi Jack Bemporad, Professor Marshall Breger, and Suhail A. Khan on June 6th, 2013 | No Comments »
May 18-24 felt like a lifetime: emotional, exhausting, and exhilarating, as amid the horror of the Holocaust, we escorted a global delegation of influential Muslim leaders from nine countries on an historic journey to concentration camps in Germany and Poland.
In 2010 we had embarked on a similar journey with eight of America’s leading Imams, because falsehoods about the Holocaust remain a leading propaganda tool to foment deadly anti-Semitism and anti-Western sentiment. We sought to undercut that legacy with a journey that bore witness to the truth of the Holocaust.
Not everyone agreed with us. Jewish groups urged us not to undertake this trip, arguing that some of the invited American Imams had not been allies of the Jewish community in the past. We believe, however, that human beings grow and are transformed by their experiences and that it is our duty to engage with all those willing to openly engage with us. Further, we know the Holocaust is not taught in Islamic countries and so most have little to no knowledge base of the Holocaust. Therefore setting litmus tests for dialogue does little to increase knowledge or change hearts and minds.
As I prepared to enter the NC Legislature last Monday with hundreds of fellow citizens who are deeply concerned about how policies coming out of our General Assembly are harming our most vulnerable neighbors, I was glad to see Leigh Bordley, a member of our school board in Durham. I’m grateful for the work she’s doing for all kids in Durham (including mine). But I was moved by her testimony about why she, as a Christian, knew she had to go to Raleigh for Moral Monday.
When a friend of mine told me about her experience of being arrested on May 13th, it was the push I needed to do the same thing. I had read about the Moral Monday protests and intended to go – but in a general, amorphous way. Once I talked to my friend, I made a plan to go the following Monday. I was eager to go express my disappointment and outrage about the bills being proposed and passed in the General Assembly. I am blessed to have representatives there who represent my views; the only downside to this is that I have no one to complain to or try to sway when legislation I don’t agree with is being considered. Participating in the demonstration was one way to have my voice heard and at least be a warm body that could be put in jail.
by: Andrew Lam on June 4th, 2013 | No Comments »
There came a startling moment when everything shifted. A man carrying two plastic bags, one in each hand, stood directly in the path of a column of armored tanks, effectively preventing them from proceeding down the avenue toward Tiananmen Square in Beijing.
The day before, on June 4, 1989, hundreds of pro-democracy students and workers had been gunned down in and near the square. The image of “Tank Man,” as he’s now called, stays indelibly in the mind. Some have said his name is Wang Weilin, a 19-year-old student, whereabouts unknown. There is speculation that he either was executed or is living in exile in Taiwan. Whoever he is, wherever he is now, dead or alive, it is certain that for a brief moment he managed to stop the machines with just his body. This unknown rebel, unarmed, stood up against the awesome power of the state and, as the world watched, gained something priceless in return: He liberated his body from the collective, from being subservient to the ideological machine, and opened the floodgates to a next world.
Although direct political confrontation failed, a new sideways rebellion began in the cultural and economic sphere, one that has succeeded. If Mao launched the cultural revolution in 1966 to be rid of “liberal bourgeois” and to continue the revolutionary class struggle, the bourgeois liberals have struck back. The real cultural revolution, stoked by individual desires and ambitions, is happening now. “The level of societal openness and individual freedom now enjoyed by the people in China was unthinkable to the protesters at the Tiananmen Square,” says Ling-chi Wang, professor emeritus of Asian American Studies at Berkeley.
There is a silver lining in President Barack Obama’s refusal to do much of anything to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It is this: if Obama had any intentions of either bombing Iran’s nuclear installations or allowing Israel to do it, he would be laying the groundwork by pressuring Israel hard to end the occupation.
I woke this morning, happy to greet summer and looking forward to planting seeds.
Before, there was no time. No time. Never enough time.
This morning. I would make time.
I opened my door to greet the semi-quiet morning. Birds. Lots of birds. The humming of insects. The far away hum of cars.
First, I made coffee and planned to sit on my porch and read Edward Abbey’s Desert Solitaire.
by: Ngoc Nguyen on June 4th, 2013 | No Comments »
(Cross-posted from New America Media)
When Ian Kim imagines the world his 7-year-old daughter will be living in 20 years from now, he says, it keeps him up at night. Images of ever more frequent super storms like Sandy, along with rising seas, or drought and heat waves wreaking havoc with crops haunt his waking hours.
“It’s a huge worry for me,” said Kim, a self-described environmental and social justice activist. “On a scale of 1 to 10, it’s a 10.”
It’s a sentiment likely shared by parents the world over, though it’s especially pronounced among those working close to the issue. Kim described climate change as “a slow motion disaster that is already happening right now.”
It’s interesting to have opportunities to give advice to young artists. Each time, I learn something about myself, something about the way I may appear in others’ eyes – and something about the gap between them too.
I suppose the easiest way to explain that gap is that to those several decades my junior, my life – or at least its trail in print and online – evidently appears to follow a “career path.” They want to know who mentored me, or how I crafted my ambitions and what helped me actualize them. But it’s been more of a stumble than a blueprint. If you’re close to my age cohort, you know what I mean, because your life has already taught you the truth of that old saying: “We plan and God laughs.”
The thing is, I get asked variations on that question a lot: What needs doing now? What is most important, most effective? I want to do X but my (parent, professor, pastor, etc.) says I should do Y; what do you think?