The family in front of me at Newark’s TSA security check was discombobulated.
An elderly Indian woman, wrapped in a stunning sari, blinked blindly at the looming metal detectors. Her husband, with an airport attendant behind him, sat still in his wheelchair. Their middle-aged daughter, struggling to simultaneously close a stroller, take her toddler’s shoes off, and explain to her parents what was occurring by shooing them forward, was in dire need of assistance.
I placed her stroller on the conveyer belt and fished out a bin for her laptop. She smiled weakly as if to say, Thank you for trying.
For a moment, it seemed as though I and my fellow travelers had lucked our way into the slowest moving security line in the history of security lines. For twenty minutes, little headway had been made. But at least nobody before us was being pulled aside for random checks.
Then, it happened. A TSA employee directed her face towards the line and said, ostensibly to the sari-clad woman before her, “You have been randomly selected for a check.”
Samantha Power is a Pulitzer Prize-winning writer and a veteran foreign policy analyst (with a human rights focus); she is now Pres. Obama’s nominee to succeed Susan Rice as US ambassador to the United Nations. This nomination will draw right-wing fire for her allegedly anti-Israel views, but she also has backing over the years, and now, from such consistent Israel defenders as Alan Dershowitz (a professor of hers at Harvard Law School) and Martin Peretz.
And the following is from an energetic defense of her record by Rabbi Shmuley Boteach (a recent Republican candidate for Congress):
… The principal comments attributed to her come from an interview she granted in 2002 in Berkeley, California while she was on her book tour. She was asked by an interviewer to respond to a “thought experiment” as to what she would advise an American president if it seemed that either party in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict were moving toward genocide. Any seasoned media professional would have known that rule number one – as Michael Dukakis famously discovered in 1988 after being asked by Bernard Shaw of CNN how he would respond if his wife Kitty were raped – is never to respond to a hypothetical. But Power, fresh on the national media scene, was baited by the question and answered that preventing such a genocide would entail America being prepared to alienate a powerful constituency – by which she meant the American-Jewish community – and sending in a protective force to prevent another situation like Rwanda. From these comments – putting Israel and the possibility of genocide against the Palestinians in a single sentence – Power has been lobbed together with other enemies of Israel.
In our conversation she rejected utterly the notion she had any animus toward Israel. She acknowledged that she had erred significantly in offering hypothetical comments that did not reflect how she felt. She said that opponents of President Obama had unfairly taken her disorganized comments further and characterized them as ‘invade Israel’ talk. She said that if she really believed that Israel could even be remotely accused of practicing genocide against the Palestinians then the correct forum for her to express that view would have been somewhere in the 664 pages of her book wherein she details all the genocides of the twentieth century. She never even hints at Israel being guilty of any such atrocity. …
As if on cue, Martin Kramer (a neocon intellectual who is currently associated with the conservative Shalem Center in Jerusalem) has pushed back against Power, with a post that reminds his readers of Power’s very same offhand suggestion in 2002 of introducing an international force in the West Bank. There’s also this swipe from Jerusalem by the right-wing columnist and blogger, Isi Liebler. (Still, this counterpoint in ForeignPolicy.com, recounts support for Power’s appointment among other neocons and advocates of humanitarian interventionism — Max Boot, John McCain and Joe Lieberman.)
I first got wind of it in Linda Essig’s post on Facebook (Linda, who writes the blog “Creative Infrastructure,” was also kind enough to post a “love letter” to The Culture of Possibility last week). Then I got a note from my friend David Francis in Edinburgh, a wonderful musician (he and Mairi Campbell make up “The Cast”) and leader of the Traditional Music Forum there.
David wrote that a recent speech by Fiona Hyslop, Scottish Culture Secretary, “seems to prefigure a change in cultural policy in Scotland and maybe the kind of paradigm shift you write about” in my new books.
He is right, and it is thrilling.
As a white, Jewish schlump who grew up in Atlanta and now lives in Pittsburgh, I’ve never been stopped by police based upon the blackness of my skin, never been bent over the hood of a sedan and detained based on my dark curls.
While many of my educated, more-sophisticated-than-me black friends have suffered such indignities, I’ve never been profiled, despite being a minority.
And so when I claim that the NSA’s apparent reach into the private lives of Americans is stop-and-frisk on the national level, I do so understanding a key distinction: while the former is being done invisibly, the latter is being done in broad daylight, often with force and harassment.
That said, the NSA’s vacuuming up of phone meta data for all Americans, as well PRISM’s infiltration into every major internet company’s servers, including Google, Facebook and Microsoft, share an important characteristic with stop-and-frisk: the potential violation of Americans’ Fourth Amendment rights, which protect against unlawful searches and seizures.
My husband and I own an independent bookstore and one of the things I’ve always prepared myself for is what I would do if I ever got handed one of those “National Security Letters,” demanding information about what products our customers bought. The PATRIOT Act allows the government to demand business records if their need for those records involves some kind of terrorist investigation and people receiving those letters not only have to obey them, but also have to remain silent about having received one.
Now that the news has broken that Verizon has been turning over ALL U.S. and international phone call records for at least seven years, and that U.S. and British intelligence agencies have also been mining Internet data, one question that always niggled at me came up to the surface the other night at dinner. As is often the case, Derrick is the one who asked “Someone’s got to be making money off of this. Who pays for all the work involved in compiling, storing, turning over, and sifting through those records?”
by: Jonathan Zimmerman on June 7th, 2013 | 2 Comments »
Participants at a Stand Up for Religious Freedom Rally on March 23, 2013 protest President Obama's HHS Mandate. Credit: Creative Commons/American Life League.
In 1907 Mark Twain published a scathing attack on Christian Science, which held that all illness lay in the mind. In his trademark satirical style, Twain congratulated the religion for providing “life-long immunity from imagination-manufactured disease.”
The other kinds of disease were real, Twain insisted, and their victims required medicine – not prayer – to get better. But Twain also condemned the growing movement to prosecute faith healers and parents for withholding medical care from children who died.
A century later, we know much more about what makes people sick and well. As Twain understood, though, we still need to balance the protection of children with the religious liberty of their parents. And that’s why we should retain narrowly crafted laws exempting parents from child-abuse charges if they resist medical care for religious reasons.
As challenging as saying “no” is to anyone in our lives, a topic I addressed a few weeks ago, it becomes exponentially more difficult when there is a power difference involved. The reason for it is that, by virtue of having power, the other person can deliver unpleasant consequences if we say “no.” A parent may do anything from frowning, removing privileges, sending a child to their room or grounding them, all the way to hitting the child or shaming them in significant ways. A boss may reprimand, put a note in an employee’s file, overlook the person when a promotion is coming up, all the way to firing the person. These consequences are far from trivial.
This is precisely the reason why people in power rarely hear a “no” unless they set up explicit structures of support for people to say “no” to them. The cost of having power, when not attended to, means that people in power don’t receive all the information they need to make decisions, because people are afraid to tell them the truth; it means they don’t have access to the full wisdom of the people who work with them, because people hold back; it also means operating in an environment of little trust. All of these can sometimes lead to compromised performance.
by: Rabbi Jack Bemporad, Professor Marshall Breger, and Suhail A. Khan on June 6th, 2013 | No Comments »
May 18-24 felt like a lifetime: emotional, exhausting, and exhilarating, as amid the horror of the Holocaust, we escorted a global delegation of influential Muslim leaders from nine countries on an historic journey to concentration camps in Germany and Poland.
In 2010 we had embarked on a similar journey with eight of America’s leading Imams, because falsehoods about the Holocaust remain a leading propaganda tool to foment deadly anti-Semitism and anti-Western sentiment. We sought to undercut that legacy with a journey that bore witness to the truth of the Holocaust.
Not everyone agreed with us. Jewish groups urged us not to undertake this trip, arguing that some of the invited American Imams had not been allies of the Jewish community in the past. We believe, however, that human beings grow and are transformed by their experiences and that it is our duty to engage with all those willing to openly engage with us. Further, we know the Holocaust is not taught in Islamic countries and so most have little to no knowledge base of the Holocaust. Therefore setting litmus tests for dialogue does little to increase knowledge or change hearts and minds.
In continuation of my series on First Amendment rights as they impact religious minority groups, I address current controversy over social media posts maligning religious groups. My previous post in this series entitled Does Freedom of Speech Allow Stereotyping discussed a greeting card that stereotyped Muslims as terrorists in an unusually offensive and glaringly inaccurate way. This week I have chosen another unfortunate event, a Facebook post that ignited debate over the possible classification of certain types of content as threats instead of free speech. Tennessee County Commissioner Barry West posted a picture on his Facebook page showing a cowboy aiming a shotgun at the camera with the caption “How to Wink at a Muslim”.
As I prepared to enter the NC Legislature last Monday with hundreds of fellow citizens who are deeply concerned about how policies coming out of our General Assembly are harming our most vulnerable neighbors, I was glad to see Leigh Bordley, a member of our school board in Durham. I’m grateful for the work she’s doing for all kids in Durham (including mine). But I was moved by her testimony about why she, as a Christian, knew she had to go to Raleigh for Moral Monday.
When a friend of mine told me about her experience of being arrested on May 13th, it was the push I needed to do the same thing. I had read about the Moral Monday protests and intended to go – but in a general, amorphous way. Once I talked to my friend, I made a plan to go the following Monday. I was eager to go express my disappointment and outrage about the bills being proposed and passed in the General Assembly. I am blessed to have representatives there who represent my views; the only downside to this is that I have no one to complain to or try to sway when legislation I don’t agree with is being considered. Participating in the demonstration was one way to have my voice heard and at least be a warm body that could be put in jail.