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Archive for the ‘The Law’ Category

You Must Remember This, A Kiss Is Just A Kiss, An Executive Order Is NOT A Law


by: on January 18th, 2014 | 4 Comments »

Photo courtesy of WhiteHouse.gov

YesterdayPresident Obama spoke about much-needed reforms to how the NSA and other intelligence agencies target, gather, store, sift through, and disseminate “intelligence” information. As president, he can issue executive orders which must be obeyed by those within his chain of command, and that gives him significant power to change the way things are done.

That’s very nice, but those executive orders are NOT laws, and they can be set aside faster than the blink of an eye by this president or any president in the future.

The Constitution that President Obama mentions in his speech, which guarantees our freedoms, created three branches of government, a balance of powers, to protect those freedoms, and those branches have not been doing much since 2001. Meanwhile, the executive branch has been going wild.


Minimum Wage: Rare Case of Moral Consensus


by: on January 17th, 2014 | Comments Off

Picture a world where politics is not so polarized. Imagine that the American people are flat out in favor of a plan that could lift more than a million of their neighbors out of poverty. And they’re arriving at this position not out of narrow self-interests—most Americans aren’t poor—but for essentially moral reasons. Actually, not much imagination is required. At least not when it comes to public opinion on a perennial issue: the minimum wage.

For decades, polling has shown support for a higher minimum wage ranging somewhere between unambiguous and unbelievable. In November, a Gallup survey found that 76 percent of the people would vote for a hypothetical national referendum lifting the bottom wage to $9 an hour. That’s $1.75 more than the current federal minimum; it would also be more than any increase ever passed by Congress. Last summer, a less independent poll conducted by Democratic-leaning Hart Research Associates found eight in ten Americans flocking behind a $10.10 per-hour minimum wage.

Try to identify a considerable subgroup of American opinion that’s content with the $7.25 regime. You’d think, for example, that self-identified Republicans would want to either freeze the wage or tamp it down. You would be mistaken, according to the Gallup breakdown: Republicans favored the $1.75 hike by an unmistakable 58-39 percent margin. Meanwhile, in a previous Gallup poll, the support among self-identified “moderates” was rather immoderate (75 percent).


Q & A with Coleen Rowley, F.B.I. Whistleblower: Part One


by: on January 3rd, 2014 | 5 Comments »

In 2002, then-F.B.I. agent Coleen Rowley appeared on the cover of Time magazine, along with two corporate whistleblowers, as Time’s Persons of the Year.

Earlier in 2002, Rowley, then chief legal counsel in the F.B.I.’s Minneapolis bureau, gained headlines for writing a memo to F.B.I. Director Robert Mueller documenting the F.B.I. Headquarters’ series of failures in the weeks leading up to the 9/11 attacks. She later testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee, sharing with Congress and the American people what took place in the summer of 2001, and suggesting reforms to avoid repeats of the same mistakes.

Rowley retired from the F.B.I. in 2004. Since leaving the government, the tell-it-like-it-is Iowa native made a 2006 run for Congress on the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party ticket in Minnesota, and has become one of the most outspoken critics of America’s post-9/11 descent into militarism and the surveillance state.

In this first of a two part series, Rowley shares her philosophy on government employment, both in the civilian and military sectors.

Coleen Rowley, thank you for granting this interview. Before discussing issues of war and peace, and the ability of governments to bring about both, I would like to ask if you could share with Tikkun Daily readers your own thoughts about the word “heroism.”

Since 9/11, our national political discourse has been saturated in “hero-speak,” if you will. What strikes me about your own whistleblowing background, as well as that of others like Thomas Drake, Jesselyn Radack and Ed Snowden, is how calm and reflective all of you are. I certainly would not hesitate to describe the courses of action that flowed from those states of mind to be heroic. It would seem that it is these thought-centered actions which are ultimately going to save our American freedoms, not bombs, guns and war.

Can you share with me your thoughts about the concept of heroism, and whether you think the very concept has been manipulated by politicians in the post-9/11 era to nefarious ends. If you believe the word has been manipulated, what can we do as a citizenry to help reaffirm the basic principle that human thought and regard for individual rights will preserve and defend American democracy, not the instruments of violence, be they in private hands or in the hands of government actors?

Thanks for all you do too, Timothy.

I hold conflicted, paradoxical views about “heroism”. For me personally, I eventually came to see it as a mistake to even accept any award–as I explained in my 2005 speech “Awards: the good, the bad and the ugly” I don’t believe in calling any person “heroic” as we are all mixed bags (also called “sinners”) and I agree that the whole concept of putting someone on a pedestal has many downsides and can be used for manipulation of public opinion. Even the Nobel Peace Prize has been subverted over the years. However, I do think that human actions can be heroic. Ethical decision-making needs to be recognized, applauded and hopefully emulated by all citizens.


Why Mandela Forgave the Butchers


by: on December 6th, 2013 | 3 Comments »

Mandela with Desmond Tutu

Back in the early 1960s, black South African lawyer and activist Oliver Tambo was asked to describe a colleague who had just gone to prison for resisting white minority rule in that country. He replied that this man is “passionate, emotional, sensitive, quickly stung to bitterness and retaliation by insult and patronage.” Tambo was talking about his law-firm partner, Nelson Mandela – remembered today for his grace, humor, and empathy, as well as his remarkable courage and leadership.

What happened to Mandela in prison, what changed him so radically, is still a bit of mystery in my mind. He was often asked about a slice of this question – how he let go of the anger he felt specifically toward whites – and his responses were usually of a fairly standard therapeutic variety. Bill Clinton, in an interview aired last night by CBS Evening News, related one such exchange with Mandela.


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.