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Archive for the ‘The Law’ Category



Human Life is More Precious Than Rocks

May12

by: on May 12th, 2014 | 1 Comment »

Last month, as the world began the remembrance of the twentieth anniversary Rwandan genocide, in which 800,000 people were hacked to death over a 100 day period, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon plead with the international community to send more peacekeepers to another African nation on the brink of genocide: the Central African Republic. Speaking recently in that country, where some 640,000 people have fled their homes for fear of being slaughtered, the Secretary General said, “The international community failed the people of Rwanda 20 years ago…And we are at risk of not doing enough for the people of the C.A.R. today.”

Subsequently, the U.N. Security Council authorized more U.N. peacekeepers to the C.A.R., who are due to arrive by September. None of those peacekeepers are slated to be Americans.

The absence of any Americans on the U.N. peacekeeping force for the C.A.R. might be a good “gut check” moment for the nation, especially when weighed against the militaristic message that President Obama is sending to another part of the world: the Asia Pacific.

For example, on his recent visit to Japan the President said of the China-Japan territorial dispute over uninhabited rocky islands in the East China Sea – a dispute which may result in a China-Japan military confrontation – “What is a consistent part of the alliance (U.S. – Japan alliance) is that the treaty covers all territories administered by Japan.” Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who expressed relief that America will militarily defend those rocky islands, said of Obama’s military reassurance, “On this point, I fully trust President Obama.” Needless to say, not expressing relief over Obama’s promise to take America to war over those uninhabited, rocky islands was the Chinese government. Indeed, as mentioned today in a New York Times editorial, this week’s water cannon spat between the Chinese and Vietnamese navies over the deployment of a Chinese oil rig in the South China Sea may be a direct geopolitical consequence of President Obama’s assertive – and official – military posture of collective defense, his own editorializing about America’s war-weariness notwithstanding. According to the New York Times editorial board:

Some experts say the Chinese deployed the rig because oil and gas reserves were recently found nearby. But the move could also be pushback against President Obama and his increased focus on Asia. On a recent trip to Asia, Mr. Obama said America would defend disputed islands in the East China Sea under its security treaty with Japan and reinforced a treaty commitment to the Philippines.

So here we have the President of the United States – again, publicly telegraphing to the American people that he “feels their pain” about stupid wars – simultaneously telling China and Japan, explicitly, that he is prepared to take the United States of America to war over those uninhabited, rocky islands that are disputed by China and Japan, and those two respective nations responding accordingly: Prime Minister Abe of Japan with relief, and the Chinese military with an upping of their ante in other disputed waters of the region.

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Botched Oklahoma Execution Reveals Self-Deception

May9

by: on May 9th, 2014 | 3 Comments »

‪At 6:23pm yesterday, the state of Oklahoma initiated its effort to kill Clayton D. Lockett. Twenty minutes later, after being declared unconscious by a physician, Lockett cried out, “Oh man,” writhing in pain. Addled by this unexpected display of pain, one of the executioners said, “Something’s wrong.” Soon after, the window to the observation room was covered and media were escorted out of the room.

A state official later reported that Mr. Lockett died of a heart attack at 7:06pm.

The fact that this unexpected scene was preceded by months of arguments by lawyers about the constitutionality of resuming executions in Oklahoma guarantees that a debate about the death penalty will ensue. Those who have argued that this ultimate form of punishment is “cruel and unusual” will make last nights scene their case in point. The Governor of Oklahoma has already declared that a thorough investigation of what went wrong will take place before any other executions go forward. Privately, in conversations at home and on their computers, many will say, “Did he suffer? Sure. But why shouldn’t he after what he did.” Most national polls show that support for vs. opposition to the death penalty is about 50/50. Both sides will have plenty of people to argue.

But I think it would be the greatest of tragedies if we did not notice that what happened in Oklahoma last night reveals perhaps our deepest national self-deception-that, no matter what goes wrong, we will fix it because we are in control.

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Troy Davis: The Human Price of the Death Penalty

May5

by: Jen Marlowe on May 5th, 2014 | 1 Comment »

It was September 21, 2011. I stood on the grounds of the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification State Prison, holding Troy Davis’s younger sister on one side and his teen-aged nephew on the other, with other supporters wrapping us all in a tight circle of prayer, as we waited in agonizing tension to learn whether Troy Anthony Davis would be killed by the state of Georgia that night.

He was.

Troy Davis protest

Protesters take part in a day of action for Troy Davis. Credit: World Coalition Against the Death Penalty.

Troy Davis, an African American man, had been convicted and sentenced to death for the 1989 murder of white off-duty police officer Mark MacPhail in Savannah, GA. His conviction was based almost entirely on testimonies from eyewitnesses and jailhouse informants, the vast majority of whom later recanted or changed their testimony, many stating that police had coerced them to initially implicate Troy. Others stepped forward to identify another perpetrator. Yet, despite a growing mountain of evidence pointing to Troy’s innocence, and nearly a million people worldwide calling for clemency, Troy Davis was executed with a three-drug lethal injection cocktail. The time of death was 11:08pm.

Troy’s execution and the by-turns-heart-breaking, by-turns-inspiring journey that led to it are documented in my new book, I Am Troy Davis. I Am Troy Davis is Troy’s story, and that of the Davis family, primarily Troy’s older sister Martina Davis-Correia, who was Troy’s fiercest advocate and with whom I co-authored the book. From Troy’s childhood in racially charged Savannah; to the night of Officer MacPhail’s murder; to the man-hunt for Troy which ended when he turned himself in, believing if he told the truth that everything would be alright; to the subsequent two-decade fight waged by Martina to prove his innocence, who was simultaneously fighting to survive an aggressive form of breast cancer; I Am Troy Davis takes us inside a broken criminal justice system where life and death hang in the balance, and where finality is too often prioritized over fairness.

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Church and State in America: A Brief Primer

May5

by: on May 5th, 2014 | Comments Off

The Supreme Court has ruled, 5-4, that Greece, New York, can open its town meetings with a prayer, even though nearly all the prayers have contained distinctively Christian language. No doubt advocates and critics of the opinion are scouring American history, looking for proof that their view is correct.

If they look with an unjaundiced eye, they’ll quickly discover one basic principle: Whatever position you hold on this issue, you can find some support in our nation’s history. So history alone cannot resolve the ongoing debate. But it can help inform the debate.

To understand that history we have to begin in the European Middle Ages, when the Roman Catholic Church held sway over the religious life of almost all western Europeans.

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The Religious Left Launches Campaign for a Constitutional Amendment to Overturn McCutcheon Decision and Get Money Out of Politics

Apr2

by: Network of Spiritual Progressives Press Release on April 2nd, 2014 | 8 Comments »

Rabbi Michael Lerner and Rev. J. Alfred Smith Sr. of the Allen Temple Baptist Church announced today a new initiative emerging from the religious left in the U.S. in response to McCutcheon vs. FEC, the Supreme Court decision from April 2,2014, that banned limits set by the Federal Election Committee on the total that could be spent by any individual in an election. The previous limit was $123,200. Now there is no limit on the total a wealthy individual can donate in a given election cycle. In response to the decision, Rabbi Lerner said:

The Supreme Court is continuing its recent turn to give the super-rich and the richest corporations unlimited power to shape American elections and the government policies that will be enacted by these candidates once in office. This can only be reversed by an amendment to the Constitution, and we’ve designed it: the ESRA – Environmental and Social Responsibility Amendment. That amendment will ban all money from elections for the president, the Congress, the governors, and the legislatures of the several states except for money provided by public funding for elections.

MoveOn and other organizations have organized protests against this decision, and many ordinary citizens are outraged. But, Lerner pointed out, “this is not going to be changed by demonstrations, but only by a concerted campaign to pass a new amendment to the U.S. Constitution.” [Please read the ESRA at www.tikkun.org/ESRA]

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Debt Trial of the Century in the Hands of Supreme Court

Feb25

by: Andrew Hanauer on February 25th, 2014 | 1 Comment »

Credit: Creative Commons

Last Tuesday, Argentina appealed to the US Supreme Court in its landmark case against predatory hedge funds seeking to collect more than $1 billion in old debts. With phrases like “bondholder” and “sovereign debt restructuring” peppered throughout the news coverage of the filing, following this case may not be as easy as following some of the other high profile proceedings before the court. And that’s a shame. Because for millions of people living in extreme poverty, the implications of this case are enormous.

In 2001, Argentina defaulted on its obligations and reached agreement with around 92% of its creditors to restructure the country’s debts. Some creditors held out, however, including a number of hedge funds that had bought Argentine debt for pennies-on-the-dollar before the default, hoping to cash in later on. These funds were participating in a calculated global strategy of speculative profit seeking that threatens the ability of poor countries to emerge from the burden of high levels of debt – behavior that has earned them their colorful nickname: “vulture funds.”

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Why Are So Many White Men So Angry and What Can We Do About It

Feb21

by: on February 21st, 2014 | 6 Comments »

Michael Kimmel’s popular new book Angry White Men, describes the rage of American men who have been cast out of their dominant roles within the economy, the family and personal life. The book does not discuss mass murder, but the fact that men are killing large numbers of people in America indicates a level of rage with no socially constructive outlet. Kimmel correctly notes the way white men are demoted from the economic and social dominance they once had. He blames white men’s now lowered position on two developments. One is a vaguely referenced “neo-liberal agenda”. The second is the movements for economic, political and civil rights for women and minorities. The civil rights and the feminist movements permitted more minorities and women to compete for jobs formerly reserved for white males.

The book explores a wide range of white male attempts to recoup their lost hegemony. One is “hate radio” where voices like Rush Limbaugh’s channel men’s confusion over their changed roles into hatred for “feminazis” and minorities who take “their” jobs.

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“To remain in prison for the rest of my life would be the greatest gift you could give me.”

Feb19

by: on February 19th, 2014 | 1 Comment »

While speaking at a church about Afghanistan and the the lead-up to the Iraq war, one attendee asked us if we thought there was anything anyone could do to stop the war. I replied “I think that train has already left the station.” Later, when thinking about that answer, it struck me that we could have done a lot more than street protests, letters to the editor, phone calls to Congress, and faxes to the president. More of us could have, and should have, laid our bodies down on that track.

Sister Megan Rice, 84, was sentenced on February 18th to 35 months in prison for breaking into a nuclear facility, in her nonviolent act of civil disobedience, putting her body on the tracks, to bring an end to nuclear weapons.

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Glory, Fame, and Ambition: the Custer Model

Jan29

by: on January 29th, 2014 | 5 Comments »

George Armstrong Custer. "The last thing we need in our homes, workplaces, and national leadership is a Custer," Kurth writes. Credit: Creative Commons/National Archives and Records Administration.

When I was a girl, my father called me a “glory-hound,” and I was embarrassed and indignant, probably because it was so true. Most writers, it seems, long for glory, fame, acknowledgement. Some of that is a human need to be seen and valued, an experience we all deserve. But lately, I’ve been seeing a very real danger in the obsessive pursuit of fame and even the pursuit of achievement.

What could be wrong with “following your dream” or “being all you can be?”

In a radio interview, a spiritual author writing a book about a religious icon, mentioned a key moment when she was allowed to see the icon. At that moment, her companion and guide, an elderly man, was so affected, he collapsed to the floor. Her reaction was something very close to, Oh, that’s all I need: a dead guide on my hands.

Wow, I thought. Doesn’t a spiritual quest draw us closer to others, make us sympathetic to their suffering and possible death? That moment is undoubtedly not typical of the writer’s attitude overall, but it made me certainly made me ponder ambition, my own and others’, and where it stands in the way of humanity. Where do we find ourselves seeing others and even their suffering as mere obstacles to our goals?

Custer: A Far Scarier Example

Soon after hearing the radio program, I watched a PBS feature on Custer, a horrible and disturbing story. My mind kept flipping back and forth between two visions. One was a popular picture of Custer in his time, glamorous Custer, a “gallant” triumphant competitor, a rule-breaker and risk-taker, adventurous, courageous, confident, dashing, a man who dressed with flare and had a passionate romance with an equally high-voltage woman, his wife, Libby. This, I thought, is the archetype of success in our culture, the fireworks person, the Steve Jobs, the important one who drives himself beyond human limits and achieves fame, power, and money – and makes us feel bad about ourselves.

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An Old Voice, A Young Voice, On the Highly Unfashionable Word Called Evil

Jan22

by: on January 22nd, 2014 | 5 Comments »

Today, U.S. Secretary State John Kerry, age 70, had his voice heard during the Syria “peace” conference in Switzerland, in which he reiterated the State Department’s position that Bashar al-Assad must leave office by “mutual consent.” As reported by the New York Times:

Putting the best face on the meeting, Secretary of State John Kerry told reporters on Wednesday night that it was significant that senior diplomats from 40 countries and organizations had gathered in the lakeside Swiss city of Montreux, to initiate the conference. Mr. Kerry insisted that he had always known that the talks would be “tough” and described the conference as a “process,” which he implied could last for months or even years.

Since Secretary Kerry, age 70, has had his voice today on how to respond to the atrocities of the Assad regime, I would like to use this post at Tikkun Daily to give voice to Hamza Ali Al-Khateeb, who was arrested, tortured, mutilated and killed by the Assad regime in 2011.

Hamza was 13 years old.

We could not heal and repair the world in time for Hamza and so many others around the globe, or even implement already established, and basic, international law to spare his short life, and his indescribable suffering.

Thus, the only voice he has to give us is from his perch in heaven, and through his before and after photos of his torture and murder: