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Archive for the ‘The Law’ Category



Bradley Manning: A Martyr of Truth to a Secretive Empire

Aug8

by: Omid Safi on August 8th, 2013 | 1 Comment »

Bradley Manning was found guilty of six espionage counts and five theft charges. Manning’s maximum sentence of 136 years was cut down to 90 years.

The word martyr is used too loosely these days. Manning is a martyr, one who heroically revealed crimes of the American military without trying to use that information for personal gain or fame. Now, Manning will pay for this act of conscience with years of life in prison.

Manning revealed to WikiLeaks evidence of American military brutality in Iraq, in Afghanistan, and in Guantanamo Bay. Perhaps most famous was the American helicopter attack on July 12, 2007, in Baghdad that made WikiLeaks significant.

You can watch the video here and here.

What a sad reflection on the moral state of our country, what a pathetic way to divert attention from the fact that the real criminals in this case are the war criminals in the U.S. government and U.S. military who have inflicted tens of thousands of casualties on civilian populations in Iraq, in Afghanistan, in Pakistan, in Yemen, and elsewhere.

We may never know the full extent of civilian loss of life. In Iraq alone, the documented civilian casualty is over 100,000. That of course is not including the crippling sanctions that spanned the two wars on Iraq, the ones that already had claimed over 500,000 Iraqi children’s lives by Madeline Albright’s own admission on 60 Minutes.

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Pelican Bay: Ending Long-Term Solitary Confinement and Racist Policies In California Prisons

Aug7

by: Danny Murillo on August 7th, 2013 | Comments Off

Solitary Confinement Recreation Yard

The prison hunger strike that has been taking place throughout various state prisons in California for 31 days now originated in the Security Housing Unit at Pelican Bay State Prison. The inmates at this facility are held in long-term solitary confinement, under conditions of extreme sensory deprivation. Some prisoners have been held under these conditions for over 20 years.

The hunger strike intends to bring an end to the torturous conditions that exist inside the SHU at Pelican Bay State Prison. Inmates in other prisons in California have participated in the hunger strike along with the hunger strikers in the SHU at Pelican Bay State Prison. These prisoners have also issued their own demands to bring change to the torturous conditions that exist within the prison system of California’s Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. Some of these demands are as simple as weekly phone calls or the ability to send a photo to their families once a year. All of the strikers’ needs are united by five core demands, which seek to bring fairness and human decency into the CDCR.

The protest is a follow-up to hunger strikes in 2011. At that time, the CDCR promised to reform their policies – and never followed through. This time many prisoners have vowed not to eat until they have a legally binding agreement from the CDCR.

I support the hunger strike because it is an act of resistance by those the system has cast off as less than human and unworthy of human dignity. The hunger strike/work stoppage is a call to action that crosses racial and geographical lines against the torture tactics the California Department of Corrections & Rehabilitation (CDCR) is inflicting on those it holds in Administrative Segregation (Ad-Seg) and in the Security Housing Unit (SHU). It is also a call to action against the validation process, a racist policy that is used to justify the placement of our brothers in the torture dungeons of Ad-Seg and the SHU.

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Cornel West: “Snowden is the John Brown of the national security state.”

Aug4

by: on August 4th, 2013 | 4 Comments »

Cornel West, a vocal advocate for the poor and a staunch critic of income inequality, views America’s expanding security state as an issue of critical importance, and one that needs to be addressed immediately.

While some in America view NSA surveillance, the Obama administration’s ‘War on Whistleblowing’ and the government’s Fourth Amendment violations as issues of privilege – issues of minor importance in a country full of citizens struggling to survive – West rejects this approach out of hand.

He made that patently clear by metaphorically comparing Edward Snowden to the abolitionist John Brown in a recent Tweet:


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How Solitary Confinement in Pelican Bay Prison Almost Drove Me Mad

Jul30

by: Michael Cabral on July 30th, 2013 | 1 Comment »

(Cross-posted from New America Media)

How can I make anyone understand what it’s like to cling desperately to the hope of someday being heard because that’s the only hope left? That’s one reason why the hunger strike going on across California’s prisons matters. It might just keep that hope alive for prisoners locked down in Pelican Bay State Prison’s Security Housing and Administrative Segregation Units (known as the SHU).

At the age of eighteen years, four months, and six days, I was cast into the SHU where I stayed for two and half years, alone, without a window, a television, or a radio. (Mail, when it came, was delayed for months at a time.)

My only real distractions were the terrifying and gut-wrenching sounds and smells of grown men reaching their breaking points: crying, screaming, banging; blood and feces being smeared on walls and bodies; Correctional Officers (C/Os) yelling, shooting pepper spray… and puking.

I found a small measure of comfort in books and in treasured conversations through the ventilation system, with older men whose faces I’d never see (conversing with anyone face-to-face was so rare as to be nonexistent). There was also the sound of my door being padlocked shut whenever there was a tsunami warning, meaning that if a tsunami did wash over us, the inmates’ only hope is that death comes quickly. Maybe that sound was the most dehumanizing of all, because to realize you matter so little to other human beings is not a feeling one gets used to, or ever forgets.

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Moral Mondays: Reuniting Our Spiritual Souls with Our Political Bodies

Jul30

by: on July 30th, 2013 | Comments Off

Moral Monday March and Interfaith Social Justice Rally, July 29th, 2013. Credit: Creative Commons.

Since state legislators were taken over by the Koch brothers, many progressive clergy have spent our entire discretionary accounts on travel to our state capitals. We attend on behalf of equal marriage or the living wage or campaign finance reform or fracking or low-wage workers. We epitomize that famous word for today’s progressives, “intersectionality.” While trying to be faithful, we are also, in the great words of Joseph Sittler, “macerated” by our citizen involvements.

An experiment is occurring in North Carolina to de-macerate and reunite our spiritual souls with our political bodies. Instead of episodic lobbying, on Moral Mondays, clergy visit with their representatives as chaplains. They change the language from the pragmatics of the political to the hope of our God. They pass through the wilderness of the secular and its optimism and arrive at the land of hope. They talk about the downtrodden in meaningful ways with state legislators and by doing so, take off some of their own boot. Instead of being “rentaclergies” for statewide organizations, they name their own agenda, in their own language, at their own time. They even develop relationships with state legislators over time so that when they have to sit in at the rep’s office they know him or her by name. Nonviolent civil disobedience is so much better that way.

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Cleaning the Smears Off PFC Manning

Jul23

by: Lynn Feinerman on July 23rd, 2013 | Comments Off

Depiction of PFC Manning. Credit: Creative Commons.

None other than a former chief prosecutor at Guantánamo, Col. Morris Davis, has cut us a stunning and revealing swath of reality during the military court martial of PFC Bradley Manning, after the prosecution and the mainstream media painted PFC Manning’s acts in hyperbole, pseudo-psychological gossip, and hysterical cries of “aiding the enemy.”

Yes, Col. Morris Davis, a former chief prosecutor at Guantánamo, testified strongly for Manning’s defense team. He also appeared on Democracy Now! to express his hope that the military judge presiding at the court martial will drop the more hyperbolic charges against PFC Manning.

Col. Davis testified that released Guantánamo Detainee Assessments included in the files sent to Wikileaks were not a threat to national security, and that they revealed much less than other documents already published by the Pentagon. Hello! As Manning stated in his chatlogs, he had taken great care not to release highly classified files to Wikileaks…

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Samantha Power and the Televangelization of Human Rights

Jul20

by: on July 20th, 2013 | 1 Comment »

Depiction of Edward Snowden. Credit: Creative Commons.

For the first time since Edward Snowden blew the whistle on the NSA’s mammoth, all-encompassing domestic and international surveillance programs, the U.S. House Judiciary Committee held a substantive hearing on the subject, which produced an unpredictable result: bipartisan outrage from legislators at the sheer scope of the surveillance. In a hearing exchange with the Deputy Attorney General of the United States, James Cole, Republican Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin, author of the now-notorious Section 215 of the Patriot Act, which the Executive branch has used to justify the collection of telephone records of every American, said of that branch’s sweeping interpretation of the section, “Doesn’t that make a mockery of the legal standard…”

Sensenbrenner went on to tell Deputy Attorney General Cole, “Section 215 expires at the end of 2015. Unless you realize you’ve got a problem, that is not going to be renewed. There are not the votes in the House of Representatives to renew Section 215. You have to change how you operate Section 215, otherwise in two and a half years you’re not going to have it any more.”

The dramatic turnabout of this powerful legislator’s position on a landmark U.S. law – a law that has defined the post-9/11 era – would never have come to pass but for the patriotic act of whistleblowing by one 30-year-old American man: Edward Joseph Snowden.

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Trayvon Martin: A Tragedy but Not a Crime (with Editor’s Note and Response)

Jul17

by: on July 17th, 2013 | 28 Comments »

Editor’s Note:

We have two policies that are in conflict in the case of the article below by Ralph Seliger. On the one hand, our desire for our blog is to encourage open debate and present a wide variety of positions, many of which we disagree with. I think we’ve done an admirable job of that – I can’t think of a week that has gone by without us publishing some article that I personally didn’t agree with. On the other hand, we have a policy against publishing hate speech, racism, sexism, homophobia, anti-Semitism, anti-Islam, etc.

So when several members of our staff found that Seliger’s article reflected racism and conflicted with Tikkun Daily’s goals of furthering dialogue about healing the world, we decided to momentarily postpone it until we could publish it with a response. In the meantime, Seliger reflected and decided to revise his blog somewhat. The editorial staff still felt that it needed a response, and asked Anna Stitt to go through Seliger’s article and explain some of our primary objections to both the original and the revised versions of the blog. We urge you to read the blog and then our corresponding response, below.

 

Trayvon Martin: A Tragedy But Not a Crime, by Ralph Seliger

Upon reflection, I can see that Tikkun Daily temporarily withdrew this piece from the homepage because it seemed to miss the painful impact this case has had on the African-American community, with the verdict compounding the sense of injustice and outrage felt by people already suffering the yoke of racial profiling and a criminal justice system all too often biased against them. It also may have appeared to place the victim, Trayvon Martin, on a similar moral plane as the killer, George Zimmerman, because it depicted both as acting in the wrong. I still believe that both made fatal missteps, but it’s clearly Zimmerman who initiated the confrontation, and in the end he walks away free while the young Martin is dead.

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How Does It Feel To Be Singled Out? Reflection on Trayvon Martin

Jul16

by: on July 16th, 2013 | 3 Comments »

Credit: Creative Commons.

You’re driving somewhere, in a perfectly normal state of mind, and suddenly, you see someone following you… after a few blocks, you see flashing lights behind you… police lights… how does it feel? Your heart races, even if you’ve done absolutely nothing wrong. You start to perspire. You pray that they’re not after you. You slow down and realize, with dread, that yes… for some reason it is you they want.

I have to suspect that a vast majority of adults in the United States know that feeling. White, Black, of Latino descent, Asian, Christian, Jewish, Muslim, male, female… we all know what it feels like in those moments before we find out why we’ve been singled out.

Now… imagine how it feels when that happens all the time. Imagine what it is like to drive while brown, walk while black, or in my case as a 17 year old, drive in a car that didn’t look like it belonged in the neighborhoods where I drove.

I haven’t fully processed the verdict in the case against George Zimmerman but one thing is clear to me, no one should have to live with the constant fear of being stopped, pulled over, followed, beaten up, or in the extreme, killed, just because of who they are or how they look. The question is, now that George Zimmerman has been found not guilty, and for an important moment the nation’s attention is on this issue, what do we do about it?


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Crying Out for What Our Courts Can’t Give

Jul10

by: on July 10th, 2013 | 4 Comments »

As I crossed the country on Friday, passing through three US airports, Sybrina Fulton, the mother of Trayvon Martin, was on every TV I saw. She took the stand to testify that it was in fact her son crying out on the 911 call that came in moments before his death. After reading the news, I also learned that George Zimmerman’s mother testified that it was her son and not Trayvon crying for help.

I’m not sure we’ll ever know who was crying out on the recording. But I’m certain that Ms. Fulton and millions of other mothers in this country are crying out for something that our current justice system cannot give: the assurance that their black and brown boys will not be suspect before we bother to learn their name or their story.

Unfortunately for all of us, the most important cry in the Trayvon Martin case is one that will not be heard in the courtroom. The only reason this case has gone to trial is because Mr. Zimmerman is not an officer of the law. It is on record that he called in his concern about a young African-American walking through his neighborhood and was instructed not to pursue him. If Trayvon were my son, the legal question of whether Mr. Zimmerman later acted in self-defense would feel like a moot point. What I would want to scream is that he had no right to chase Trayvon down, and he knew it. Whatever the details of their struggle, the confrontation should have never happened.

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