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Archive for the ‘The Law’ Category

More Solid Arguments for Second Amendment Repeal


by: on November 20th, 2013 | Comments Off

Credit: Creative Commons

America magazine, the Jesuit-run magazine which recently published the widely-discussed interview with Pope Francis, has re-posted an excellent editorial calling for the repeal of the Second Amendment. The editorial is well worth reading for all who want strong arguments at their side when discussing the gun plague with those, like members of the establishment gun control lobby, who insist on advancing a demonstrably failed political strategy to stem gun violence.

Perhaps one of the more frustrating things to encounter in progressive politics, on any given issue, is when a fellow progressive says to your idea or proposal, “That’s just not politically realistic.” Oftentimes, one may find himself scratching his head and asking in reply, “Well, dear friend, if you’re so realistic and politically savvy, how come you’ve been spinning your wheels on your issue for the last thirty-plus years?”

Indeed, if one is going to claim the high mantle of political realism for themselves and their cause, one should try to back it up with, at the very least, a nod to reality.

Unfortunately, the establishment gun control lobby, whose representatives flood the TV airwaves in the wake of every mass shooting to assure gun owners that “No one is trying to take away their Second Amendment rights,” deliver no such nods to reality, even as they claim to be political pragmatists of the highest order. Even, that is, as they attempt to harness the public’s energy into supporting doomed-to-fail, utterly piecemeal gun control measures. To cite just one example of the latter: a piecemeal gun control measure that would prevent a mentally unstable 20-year-old from purchasing a gun, but would not prevent his own gun-obsessed mother from amassing an arsenal in her own home where, of course, the former resides. Think Newtown.


Rejoice: Openly Socialist Candidate Wins Seattle City Council Seat


by: on November 18th, 2013 | 1 Comment »

(Flyer for Sawant/ Credit: CC-BY-NC-SA by Natalie Woo)

It’s true. Seattle elected a socialist candidate to its City Council. Kshama Sawant, a 40-year-old community college instructor and immigrant, is the kind of socialist spiritual progressives can feel delighted about. She ran on an Occupy platform of raising the minimum wage a hefty $5 to $15/hour, instituting rent control, public ownership of utilities, expanding paid sick leave, increasing citizen oversight of police, and taxing millionaires. She even said, under prodding, that one could make a case for nationalizing Amazon and Boeing; it wouldn’t happen, and she wasn’t running on it, but one could make an argument. And she was still elected.

How did she do it?


Locked Up in America: Visualizing Mass Incarceration in the United States


by: John Kelle on October 18th, 2013 | 6 Comments »

With so many behind bars for drug charges at a time when the legalization of marijuana spreads across the country, Americans are paying more attention to the question, “Why do we have so many prisoners?” With 25 percent of the world’s prisoners being Americans in U.S. prisons, this question deserves the attention. This infographic explores and contextualizes the ins and outs of mass incarceration in the United States:


The Sacred Heart of Jesus is not an ATM Machine


by: on October 16th, 2013 | 5 Comments »

Today in the Roman Catholic church we celebrate the feast of St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, a 17th century French nun. Jesus not only appeared and spoke to St. Margaret Mary, a nun of the Visitation order, He let the nun, like St. John the Beloved at the Last Supper, rest her head on His heart. Some outside of the Catholic church mistakenly believe that we Catholics worship the saints. Nothing could be further from the truth: we venerate the saints. Indeed, every Christian, Catholic or not, whose Christian life has been enhanced by devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus has great reason to thank St. Margaret Mary Alacoque.

I’ve been thinking a great deal about St. Margaret Mary today, not only because it’s her feast day, but because I think if the nun lived in the world today, and in this particular money-obsessed country, the poor woman would have had to go on Xanax. The financial exploitation of Jesus Christ not only occurs in every region of the United States of America, it is has become entirely normative.

Equally devastating, American Catholic bishops, who otherwise never hesitate to inject themselves into any number of modern-day events and issues, remain largely mum about the galloping spread of the total lie that is called the “prosperity gospel.” For decades, as televangelists have reinvented, refocused, and altogether sharpened their tool of spiritual destruction known as the prosperity gospel, Catholic bishops have been out to lunch. Perhaps the reluctance to forcefully challenge the purveryors of this naked distortion of Christ’s teaching is rooted in fear: How can Roman Catholic bishops throw stones at prosperity gospel preachers when some of them are living in glass mansions themselves?

Yet I think it is important to emphasize to all spiritual progressives, regardless of faith tradition or no tradition, this particular point: When Roman Catholic clergy, and I would include Mainline Protestant clergy also, keep mum in the face of the spread of the so-called “prosperity gospel,” your lives are undoubtedly impacted as well. For if we, in the name of religious freedom, consent to living in a society where Jesus Christ can be turned into a personal ATM machine without anyone standing firmly against it – or at most just give a roll of our eyes at the practice – don’t be surprised when you find yourself living in a society that is simply brimming with people who are trying to turn you into an ATM machine as well.


Ideological Purity in a Time of Sarin Gas


by: on October 10th, 2013 | Comments Off

Credit: Creative Commons

When a head of state, Bashar al-Assad, whose regime has already used what amounts to mobile gas chambers on his own people, remains firmly in power – with no prospect of end to that power – there is nothing whatsoever about that circumstance that can be remotely characterized as a moral victory.

And yet, many on the Tea Party Right and what I’d call the Neo-Soviet Left are indeed crowing about the post-August 20th series of domestic and international political events vis-a-vis the Syria crisis; political events, like the deluge of Americans calling and writing to their members of Congress, which have averted what may or may not have been a pointless and merely “symbolic” cruise missile strike against the Assad regime, a mere “shot across the bow” as President Obama put it.


Finally, Herman Wallace is freed.


by: on October 3rd, 2013 | Comments Off

Herman Wallace and his legal team after his release

In so far as any good news can be attached to the case of a man who is dying of cancer after 40+ years in solitary, this is good news: Herman Wallace, of the Angola Three, who was framed decades ago, was cleared by a decent judge and allowed to go home. Amy Goodman had a piece on it yesterday.

I am no expert in this case, but I learned about it when a British magazine asked me to respond to a rather starry-eyed article by an English minister who liked the Christian approach of the warden of Angola Prison. Researching Angola became a critical piece of education for me as a white immigrant to this country who lived here for 30+ years without educating myself about the extent of racist injustice in the criminal legal system, the extent of torture (solitary is torture) and the fact that slavery continues legally (the 13th Amendment allowed it for convict labor) in American prisons. No excuses: just one big insight into how easy it is to be white and oblivious, which contributes in a big way to this society’s racism. If you are interested, I wrote a lot of what I learned in this article.

Burying the Aborted Dead: Can Pope Francis and Spiritual Progressives Find Common Ground?


by: on September 22nd, 2013 | 1 Comment »

Across the world, gay Catholics and allies have been rejoicing over the comments made by Pope Francis in his America magazine interview. Yet looking strictly at the pope’s comments on homosexuality, I see only a more clever iteration of the Catholic church’s “love the sinner, hate the sin” teaching. Frankly, as one who rejects sexual identity labels as nothing more than the social trauma-rooted intellectual residue of the twentieth century, and who embraces homosexuality as an extraordinary erotic gift from Almighty God that is available to all men and women of open mind and open heart, I think the pope’s ever-evolving cleverness on homosexuality is getting way too much attention.

Yet far more interesting and substantive are his remarks on abortion, given in his America magazine interview and subsequent sermon to a group of Catholic gynecologists.

Credit: Creative Commons

To the Catholic gynecologists, Francis said abortion was part of the “widespread mentality of profit, the ‘throwaway culture,’ which has today enslaved the hearts and minds of so many.” Just a day earlier, the pope caused a stir stemming from his America magazine interview when he said, “We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods. This is not possible.”

Reviewing the pope’s zigzaggery on this issue, at least in terms of his communication style, a legitimate question could be raised: Could Pope Francis be trying to turn a new page on the Catholic approach to abortion, specifically an approach that would uphold the fundamental sanctity of every human life from the moment of conception, while simultaneously steering conservative Catholics away from their decades-long effort to use the heavy club of state power to control the lives of women who seek elective abortions?


Miracles DO Happen: Low-Wage Service Workers on Strike


by: on September 1st, 2013 | Comments Off

Even a year ago, was anyone predicting that fast food workers would be on strike? Struggling, disrespected, mostly working in small franchises without the support of large numbers, they are among the hardest workers to unionize, and as a result, organized labor has, for the most part, ignored them. Each franchise requires a separate campaign but owners have access to the big-gun union-busting lawyers of giant corporations.

And many workers don’t know their rights. Where would they find out about them? One worker who acknowledged she wanted better conditions said, “If you walk out on your job, that’s grounds for dismissal.” Wal-Mart, for example, “illegally confiscated union literature, prohibited discussions of unions and retaliated against union supporters.” Supposedly, American workers have the right to form unions and go on strike. But Amy Traub pointed out on the website Demos that, “while many workers wish to join unions, they often change their minds after an intimidating one-on-one anti-union meeting with their direct supervisor once a week or more leading up to a union election (a tactic employers used in 66 percent of organizing campaigns), after their boss threatens to close down the workplace if workers decide to unionize (57 percent of organizing campaigns), or after those co-workers who most openly support the union are fired (34 percent of organizing campaigns).”

Photo Credit: L.A. Kurth.

It seemed impossible that they would even try.

But it happened and has been happening since last November. At McDonald’s, at Wendy’s, at Wal-Mart. And it wasn’t only in New York City. Far from it. Very far from it. Workers in Indianapolis and yes, the small town of Wausau, Wisconsin walked off the job in protest and picketed, while many coworkers supported them in their hearts without daring to go out themselves.


Was the March on Washington Really Part of a Violent Struggle?


by: on August 28th, 2013 | 3 Comments »

March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom

There have been many threads of coverage and commentary surrounding the March on Washington’s 50th anniversary, and one of them is naturally about nonviolence: the nation’s leadership had assumed that the march would turn violent, but August 28, 1963, turned out to be one of the most notably peaceful days in the history of the District of Columbia.

Still, the nonviolent character of the movement that the march defined is being questioned. There has been some interesting historical revisionism surrounding Rosa Parks and other civil rights figures who, unlike Martin Luther King, were less-than devoted to nonviolence as an abiding moral principle. (For my take on that, go here.) And now comes a book that, among other provocations, makes the case that King’s struggle was arguably a violent one.

The author is Benjamin Ginsberg, and his forthcoming title is The Value of Violence (Prometheus Books). This month, the Johns Hopkins University political science professor summarized his thesis in the Chronicle of Higher Education. Ginsberg declares in the article that the tactics used by proponents of nonviolence (he names King and Gandhi) “were far from nonviolent.” How so? Because they were “designed to provoke violent responses” from local authorities and thus elicit sympathy from the public.


New York City Mayoral Strategy — A Call to Action


by: James Vrettos and Douglas Thompkins on August 13th, 2013 | 2 Comments »

Two decisions on Monday August 12th have offered possible game-changing and historic opportunities to begin a swing away from the tough-on-crime policies that have dominated the American criminal justice system since at least the late 1960s. One was by a federal judge ruling that The New York City Police Department (NYPD) has been carrying on unconstitutional and systematic racial profiling in its stop and frisk policies and the other was Attorney General Holder’s unveiling that federal prosecutors would no longer invoke mandatory minimum sentence laws for low-level drug offenses.

But we should not expect these rulings and decisions to magically transform America’s political, economic and spiritual culture overnight to a non-racist world of caring, love and a society free of want and violence. For that to occur we need to sustain the momentum and begin a broad-based movement at least partly rooted in electoral politics led by the people most affected by the policies now being questioned. Our strategy begins with the realization that America’s political, economic and moral elites will be of limited use in this struggle and will have to be cajoled, pushed, educated and pressured to see and act beyond their privileged and entitled positions.

In a July 22, 2013 interview on Democracy Now, Cornel West responded to an Amy Goodman question concerning President Obama’s first public remarks following the George Zimmerman acquittal by acknowledging that they were moving, sentimental stories. Relating the case to his own life experience as an Afro-American male–”Trayvon Martin could have been me”–West commented that our president certainly made a beautiful identification with the fallen young man.