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Archive for the ‘The Law’ Category



In Praise of Botticelli

Apr23

by: Raanan Geberer on April 23rd, 2015 | No Comments »

Back in 1985, I started working as an editor at an energy-conservation trade magazine. Sure, it was a place of work and there were deadlines, no question about that. But we often took long lunches and often went out together as a group. Sometimes, during a lull in the work, we’d play a word game called “Botticelli,” whose rules I can’t remember for the life of me, but everybody seemed to enjoy.

I left that job in 1992. What a difference! We were putting out the same magazine with half the staff, we were busy almost every minute (one new worker observed that “everybody seems maxed out”), we were spending longer hours there, and as for lunch, half the time we just ate hurried meals at our desks. No Botticelli now!

After years of reading about the changing American workplace and thinking about my own experiences, I decided to ask some other people in my own age group and older, meaning people who’ve been working 25 or more years, about their experiences, about whether they’d seen similar changes in their own fields.

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Bad Journalism

Apr22

by: on April 22nd, 2015 | No Comments »

Thank God for C-SPAN.

Because of C-SPAN’s coverage of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s meeting where it voted on a manager’s amendment to S615-Iran Nuclear Agreement Act of 2015, we can know that the legislation basically gives Congress power that it already has. If not for C-SPAN that allows us to see the meeting unfiltered by bad journalism, we would think that the committee voted 19-0 to give Congress a seat at the negotiating table along with Secretary of State John Kerry on the Iranian nuclear program. We would think the opening paragraph of a New York Times article on the bill is true.

In an April 14, 2015 article, Jonathan Weisman and Peter Baker report:

“The Senate Foreign Relations Committee unanimously approved legislation granting Congress a voice in negotiations on the Iran nuclear accord, sending the once-controversial legislation to the full Senate after President Obama withdrew his opposition rather than face a bipartisan rebuke.”

There is nothing in the legislation that gives Congress “a voice in negotiations.” It only gives Congress the power of review and oversight. The Congress cannot stop an agreement from going forward. The bill as amended says specifically: “This section does not require a vote by Congress for the agreement to commence.” (32 lines 16-17) The bill says further:

“even though the agreement may commence because the sanctions regime was imposed by Congress and only Congress can permanently modify or eliminate that regime, it is critically important that Congress have the opportunity, in an orderly and deliberate manner, to consider and, as appropriate, take action affecting the statutory sanctions regime imposed by Congress.”

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The Environmental and Social Responsibility Amendment to the U.S. Constitution

Apr22

by: on April 22nd, 2015 | No Comments »

It’s time to sweep aside all the illusions:

*That the national environmental organizations have a secret plan to save the environment but just haven’t told us yet

*That local acts of environmental sanity in a few dozen urban areas will make a dent on the global degradation of the life-support-system of the planet

*That “new technologies” will solve the problem

*That individual acts of recycling and “conscious consumerism” will change what is being produced

*That good guy corporate leaders will eventually turn around the massive impact that global corporations have been having in undermining Nature’s balance

*That political sanity will prevail if only we get a new president (remember when you thought that about Obama? Are you now thinking it will happen with Hillary?)

Illusion after illusion after illusion.

We are up against a global economic and political system that has only gotten worse and worse over the course of the 45 years since Earth Day 1970. Consciousness has grown, small battles have been won, and the people who worked so hard on both fronts deserve our commendation. But don’t deceive yourself: the situation of the planet has gotten worse and worse, and it will continue to do so until we have a movement capable of fundamentally changing our economic and political system.

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On the way to Sinai (on racism and economic justice)

Apr20

by: Aryeh Cohen on April 20th, 2015 | 1 Comment »

We are on a journey. This period that we are now moving through, the seven weeks that start on the second day of Passover and end at Shavuot or Weeks,  the next holiday in the calendrical cycle, is a journey from Egypt to Sinai. It is deeply symbolic that as the first day of Passover was waning this year, we were marking the 47th anniversary of the assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. This year that anniversary was marked amidst the outcries of the #BlackLivesMatter movement, amidst the sounds of gunshots and the cries of unarmed black and brown men killed by officers of the law, of the state.

Police beating a black man.We are on a journey—but where are we going?

We know where we are coming from. We are coming from the Egypt of the three evils, as Dr. King described them, racism, poverty, and militarism. As the Yiddish proverb goes: any place can be your Egypt, any place can be your Promised Land. Today in the United States we are facing these same interrelated issues. Poverty overwhemingly impacts communities of color. Communities of color are impoverished by mass incarceration. The United States incarcerates more people than any country in the world. Those people are then barred from the right to vote, have a harder time getting housing, or a job. As Michelle Alexander has argued, this is the new method of social control, of racist social control. A new Jim Crow in impact even if not in explicit intention. The police and incarceration regime are more and more militarized. While there are exceptions, the pictures that the whole world saw of police officers in Ferguson, MO in camouflage uniforms pointing assault weapons at unarmed civilians, is more often than not the rule.

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The Spirit of the Torah Land Law Renewed

Apr20

by: David Giesen on April 20th, 2015 | 1 Comment »

Construction cranes towering above a skyscraper being built.

A modern day version of the Jubilee land law must address land value justice rather than simply endorse redistribution. Above, construction cranes work on the Infinity Towers in San Francisco. Credit: Wikimedia Commons / Hydrogen Iodide.

Please note: The following article is a response to Norman Solomon’s article in a series of web-only articles associated with Tikkun’s Winter 2015 issue: Jubilee and Debt Abolition.

The Jubilee land law of the Torah aimed to create and sustain a community of economically independent families free from social status differences. The society envisioned by the Torah was one where debt would never long plague any citizen, and a society in which full and equal standing as a free and dignified member was both the ideal and a possibility. The chief instrument in establishing such a remarkable community was the land law introduced in Chapter 25 of Leviticus. That law ensured that all Hebrews could make a livelihood directly from the soil. In short, at any time in history a family could turn its back on being employed and make a living on its own by direct application of labor to the land.

This essay aims to persuade you that the same intent of that land law is achievable today, with specific modern legislation. We can transform and heal society.

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Religious Justifications for Oppression: A Brief U.S. History

Apr15

by: on April 15th, 2015 | No Comments »

Throughout the ages, individuals and organizations have employed “religion” to justify the marginalization, harassment, denial of rights, persecution, and oppression of entire groups of people based on their social identities. At various historical periods, people have applied these texts, sometimes taken in tandem, and at other times used selectively, to establish and maintain hierarchical positions of power, domination, and privilege over individuals and groups targeted by these texts and tenets.

Proponents of the so-called “Religious Freedom Restoration Acts” (RFRA) recently passed in states like Indiana and Arkansas argue that these laws promote religious freedoms and freedom of speech – two tenets already covered by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The Supreme Court opened the flood gates for the enactment of new and enhanced RFRA laws in its 2014 decision Burwell v. Hobby Lobby. While human and civil rights anti-discrimination laws primarily have never covered bone fide religious institutions, the Hobby Lobby ruling extended such exemptions to “closely held” (where no ready market exists for the trading of stock shares) for-profit corporations when these owners claim that to follow anti-discrimination statutes would violate their religious beliefs.

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The Menzies Jacket: Why I Joined the Fight for a Living Wage

Apr14

by: Jan Bolerjack on April 14th, 2015 | No Comments »

April 15 Fightfor15

Credit: Fightfor15.org.

In anticipation of the national action day Fight for $15 this Wednesday, April 15, I offer this reflection from my recent work in SeaTac, Washington. I encourage us all to keep in mind that although the $15 living wage campaign is a good start for worker health and stability there are other actions that must go alongside this wage increase including shared power and influence by workers with management, sick leave, work place safety, medical/retirements benefits, etc. Let’s be sure we don’t think the fight is over when we get a living wage for all workers.

I saw the jacket several times on a man standing in the Food Pantry line in my church basement. A youngish man with a friendly face and an accented greeting, lined up waiting for a food basket. After several weeks of seeing him there, I finally learned his story. It was not a jacket that he got at a thrift shop, as I had first imagined, but the official jacket he wore to work every day as a ramp worker at SeaTac Airport, just two miles down the road. He worked the night shift and got off work just before our food pantry opened. Twice a month, he would come and stand in line to get supplemental food for his family. I learned that the full time wage he earned wasn’t enough to pay the utilities and rent for the two bedroom apartment he shared with his wife, three children, and mother-in-law.

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Strivers and Skivers? We’re All In This Together

Apr13

by: Elena Blackmore on April 13th, 2015 | 1 Comment »

Could society be rebuilt around understanding and compassion instead of shame? The effects would be revolutionary.

A black and white graphic that reads 'Shame on You' with a finger pointing at the reader.

Though it creates vicious cycles that stifle creativity, shame is piled onto those perceived as undeserving of social support programs while consumerist advertising bolsters a "not-enough" mentality. Credit: uldissprogis.com.

The binary rhetoric that currently surrounds the welfare state reflects a deep moral narrative with a crippling social impact. ‘Strivers’ and ‘skivers’ are two sides of the same coin. That coin is shame.

One side represents the deserving, and the other side the undeserving. Rachel Reeves, the UK Shadow Work & Pensions Secretary, recently said that: “We [the Labour Party] are not the party of people on benefits.” She faced some criticism for these words, but these are messages we hear daily, from government and opposition alike.

We’re here for hard-working families. We’re here for the taxpayer.

In this narrative, employment equals worth, while unemployment casts you into the world of the untouchables.

Economic policies are created around this notion of worth. Unemployment must be a choice — you’re shirking — so let’s coax you out of it. You don’t need benefits in your first week of unemployment since you should be looking for work. We’ll put sanctions on you if you’re unemployed for too long.

Shame on you for being unemployed.

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​​Mercy over Vengeance for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev

Apr13

by: on April 13th, 2015 | 4 Comments »

“I would like nothing better than to see you die, Mr. McKinney. However, this is the time to begin the healing process. To show mercy to someone who refused to show any mercy. Mr. McKinney, I am going to grant you life, as hard as it is for me to do so, because of Matthew.”

Thus, Dennis Shepard, speaking for himself and his wife Judy during a heart-wrenching and nearly unbearable emotional court-room speech to one of his son Matthew’s convicted murders, Aaron McKinney, 22, spared both McKinney and his accomplice, Russell Henderson, 21, of the death penalty. As he spoke, his voice often breaking as he wiped tears streaming down his face and falling to the floor, the sound of weeping throughout the courtroom including men and women in the jury box, Dennis Shepard called his 21-year old son his hero, and he talked of Matthew’s special gift for reaching out and helping others.

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And, STOP Calling Me a Non-Profit!

Apr11

by: Jerry Ashton on April 11th, 2015 | No Comments »

If the very compelling speakers at a recent industry workshop for the AFP (Association of Fundraising Professionals) have their way, not-for-profits would find themselves equal to — if not superior to — the “for-profits” with whom they compete for resources.

The keynote speaker and author, Lynne Twist, offers up a positive re-naming for this industry — “Social Profit.” Equally persuasive was guest speaker, Harvard grad Jennifer Craig, who offered “For Purpose” as a better description.

Let’s think about this.

Exactly why are “non-profits” considered second-tier? Why should a “corporate” business card trump one that reads “non-profit?” Why are (relatively speaking) so fewer dollars directed to social good than to commerce and industry?

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