Category Archives: Social Justice

Israel & the Killing of Palestinian American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh

 

Opinion by Lina Abu Akleh
 — July 27, 2022

Lina Abu Akleh is Shireen Abu Akleh’s niece.
Earlier this year, I began planning a summer trip from Jerusalem to the United States with my aunt. I was excited for her to show me cities she knew well and loved, including Washington.
I am now in Washington, but without my aunt, the renowned Palestinian American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh. All evidence indicates she was killed by an Israeli soldier in the occupied West Bank town of Jenin on May 11, just after she arrived to report on an Israeli military incursion. Instead of visiting monuments and museums with my aunt, I am in D.C. calling for justice and accountability for her death.

An image of Palestinian American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh

Since that horrible day when Shireen was shot in the space between her protective helmet and bulletproof vest clearly marked as PRESS, my family has called on the U.S. government to conduct an independent, thorough and transparent investigation into the killing.

It is a testament to Shireen’s impact and inspiration as an iconic and groundbreaking journalist that dozens of members of Congress have asked for the same. Yet until now, the Biden administration has refused. After meeting with Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Tuesday, we hope President Biden will reconsider and finally act.

There have been multiple investigations by the United Nations, human rights organizations and major international news organizations, all concluding that Shireen was almost certainly killed by an Israeli sniper, and that the entrance of the Jenin refugee camp was quiet when she was shot.
Yet I read with bewilderment a statement that the Biden administration issued on July 4. Based on reviewing and summarizing the Israeli government and Palestinian Authority’s investigations, the United States concluded that Israel was likely responsible for my aunt’s killing, but that there was no reason to believe that it was intentional.
 Continue reading Israel & the Killing of Palestinian American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh

Quote of the Day: The True American Exceptionalism

Excerpts from,

New York Times: There’s a Reason We Can’t Have Nice Things
Bryce Covert — July 21, 2022

The United States is one of six countries in the world without a national guarantee of paid parental leave. Twenty-three other countries have universal child or family allowances. We spend just 0.2 percent of our gross domestic product on child care for our youngest children, compared with an average of 0.7 percent among countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

In other words, paid leave, child care systems and child allowances are so common as to be banal in much of the rest of the developed world. But the United States has none of these

 

Why is it so much harder — right now, seemingly impossible — for our country to enact new programs that are customary in much of the rest of the world? It’s easy to blame one or two senators, but the problem runs much deeper. More or less, it comes down to our long history of racism and how it’s wormed its way into every debate over government benefits.

In a seminal 2001 paper, the economists Alberto Alesina, Edward Glaeser and Bruce Sacerdote tried to answer this very question: Why doesn’t this country have a welfare system that looks like the ones in European countries, progressively taxing those with the most wealth to redistribute resources to those with the least? Economic differences, they concluded, don’t explain it. But they did find that “racial fragmentation” has played a “major role” in keeping us from these policies in a way it hasn’t elsewhere. Continue reading Quote of the Day: The True American Exceptionalism

This is Why they still call it Cape FEAR . . .

I have friends who are shocked that I drink bottled water, and have for years. This article explains why. I have lived in this “forever chemical-soaked” region for 20 years. Someday (maybe; not very likely) this toxic horror show will get fixed. In the meantime, I have to drink water every day. I choose stuff that’s been filtered a few times more than what comes from the top; so sue me.

The cast of villains here includes everybody’s favorites: for lefties, big corporations spew the poisons nonstop & laugh at regulations. For righties, “big government” has spent lots and failed miserably; so too have the “small” & supposedly “closer-to-the-people” units: cities, counties, the state. For nativists, foreigners (esp. China) are in on it too, owning the world’s biggest hog slaughterhouse nearby. Etc.  Maybe we should try that old standby, Thoughts and prayers.

I welcome the exposure this article delivers. But I’m more than a little jaded: in these twenty years, big journalistic exposés have floated by every few years. Usually they’re pretty good, now and then a reporter gets a prize. And nothing seems to change.   So take a look, while I go refill some plastic jugs at our community co-op superfilter water machine.

The Guardian —by Tom Perkins — July 12, 2022

Cancer and questions plague North Carolina residents of PFAS-polluted region

Exposure to harmful PFAS remains almost impossible to escape – particularly for the people of the Cape Fear River basin.

Cancer fears plague residents of US region polluted by ‘forever chemicals’ Continue reading This is Why they still call it Cape FEAR . . .

Supreme Court Dissents: Naming The Outrages, Painting A Better Future — Someday

Joan E Greve in Washington — Mon 11 Jul 2022

Opinions from Breyer, Kagan and Sotomayor send stark warning about increasingly radical court abandoning long-held principles

Taken together, the dissents written by the three liberal justices this term send a clear warning about an increasingly radical court that is abandoning long-held principles and even the facts of a case to enact an extreme conservative agenda in America.

While supreme court opinions can frequently become mired in legalese that is incomprehensible to the average reader, the wording of the liberals’ dissents is often simple and direct. The opinions can read like a desperate attempt to reach beyond the court’s standard audience of legal experts to speak to the millions of people who will feel the impact of these rulings.

“Today, the court leads us to a place where separation of church and state becomes a constitutional violation,” Sotomayor wrote in her dissenting opinion to conservatives’ decision in Carson v Makin. She concluded: “With growing concern for where this court will lead us next, I respectfully dissent.”

Paul Schiff Berman, a professor at George Washington University Law School, said dissenting opinions help foster “a culture of argument” around America’s laws. . . . Continue reading Supreme Court Dissents: Naming The Outrages, Painting A Better Future — Someday

The Other Name for June 24: Susan Collins . . .

“Susan Collins Was A Fool & A Sucker Day”

Washington Post, June 2, 2022:

“If this … is the final decision and this reporting is accurate, it would be completely inconsistent with what Justice Gorsuch and Justice Kavanaugh said in their hearings and in our meetings in my office,” said the statement the senator released after the story broke. “Obviously, we won’t know each Justice’s decision and reasoning until the Supreme Court officially announces its opinion in this case.”. . .
She explained that the judge  — in their two-hour face-to-face session followed by a one-hour telephone conversation — had assured her of his belief “that precedent provides stability, predictability, reliance and fairness.” The Supreme Court would overturn a precedent only in “rare and extraordinary times” — including, and here she borrowed Kavanaugh’s language, when a decision is “grievously wrong.”

Admittedly, Kavanaugh said plenty in his public hearings about the limits of precedent, and plenty more in his past that set off alarms for pro-choice activists. For Collins, these bells never tolled. The nominee’s “views on honoring precedent,” she proclaimed, “would preclude attempts to do by stealth that which one has committed not to do overtly.”

The year after Kavanaugh ascended to the high court, he dissented in a case setting aside a law that required abortion providers in Louisiana to obtain admitting privileges at a local hospital. This was ominous. The chief justice gave the liberals his vote — and a majority — because the law in question was almost identical to another struck down in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt.

Roberts had objected to that outcome, but precedent was precedent. Not so for Kavanaugh. How did Collins respond? “He said under oath many times, as well as to me personally many times, that he considers Roe to be ‘precedent upon precedent,’ because it had been reaffirmed in the Casey v. Planned Parenthood case.” She added, “To say that this case … tells you that he’s going to repeal Roe v. Wade, I think, is absurd.”

She believed him, because trusting in each other is how government always used to get things done. Susan Collins might soon have a different worry: After this, who’s going to trust her?

Which makes June 24:

“Susan Collins Was A Fool & A Sucker Day”

 

Supreme Court Takes Itself Hostage

As abortion ruling nears, U.S. Supreme Court erects barricades to the public

By Lawrence Hurley – June 17, 2022

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Encircled by an ominous security fence and off-limits to the public since March 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court is poised in the coming weeks to issue a major ruling that could dramatically curtail abortion rights from behind closed doors with not a single justice in sight.

FILE PHOTO: Abortion rights and anti-abortion protesters gather outside the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington

© Reuters/EVELYN HOCKSTEINFILE PHOTO: Abortion rights and anti-abortion protesters gather outside the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington

No members of the public have been allowed in the courthouse since COVID-19 pandemic precautions were implemented in March 2020. The scene at the court has become more tense following protests and threats against some of the nine justices prompted by the May leak of a draft opinion indicating they are set to overturn the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized abortion nationwide. The court has a 6-3 conservative majority.

FILE PHOTO: Protest near the Supreme Court over abortion rights in Washington

© Reuters/EVELYN HOCKSTEINFILE PHOTO: Protest near the Supreme Court over abortion rights in Washington

The 8-foot (2.4 meters) tall fencing was erected in the days after the leak as the court ramped up security measures.

While the rest of official Washington, including other government buildings including the White House and Capitol, has reopened its doors to the public at least partially as the pandemic ebbs, the top U.S. judicial body remains in a form of lockdown with what appears to be siege mentality even as it wields huge influence over public policy.

For Guido Reichstadter, an abortion-rights protester camped out in front of the courthouse since the beginning of June, the fencing is a sign of how out of touch the justices – or at least the six conservative ones – are with public sentiment.

“They are trying to insulate themselves from the effects of their actions. Why else would you put a fence up?” Reichstadter asked.

Reichstadter was arrested on June 6 for locking himself to the fence by the neck and spent a night in jail.

“To me it sends a message that they are weak, they are afraid, they are isolated,” Reichstadter said of the fence.

Up next? Federal fences around uteruses . . . Court-ordered chains and locks on clinic doors . . . Repro health workers in jail . . . .

Florida “Rabbi Rouser” Sues to Stop DeSantis Anti-Abortion Law

.AP News: Synagogue challenges Florida abortion law over religion

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — A new Florida law prohibiting abortion after 15 weeks with some exceptions violates religious freedom rights of Jews in addition to the state constitutions privacy protections, a synagogue claims in a lawsuit.

The lawsuit filed by the Congregation LDor VaDor of Boynton Beach contends the law that takes effect July 1 violates Jewish teachings, which state abortion “is required if necessary to protect the health, mental or physical wellbeing of the woman” and for other reasons.

The congregation’s logo

“As such, the act prohibits Jewish women from practicing their faith free of government intrusion and this violates their privacy rights and religious freedom,” says the lawsuit, filed Friday in Leon County Circuit Court.

The lawsuit adds that people who “do not share the religious views reflected in the act will suffer and that it “threatens the Jewish people by imposing the laws of other religions upon Jews.”

The lawsuit is the second challenge to the 15week abortion ban enacted earlier this year by the Legislature and signed into law by Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. Planned Parenthood and other reproductive health providers also sued earlier this month to block the law from taking effect.
Rabbi Barry Silver

In a previous statement, DeSantis office said it “is confident that this law will ultimately withstand all legal challenges.”

The two lawsuits are likely to be consolidated into a single case. A hearing on a proposed injunction to block the Florida abortion law is likely in the next two weeks.

The law mirrors a similar measure passed in Mississippi that is now before the U.S. Supreme Court, which may use it to overturn the Roe v. Wade abortion decision based on a leaked draft opinion. A final ruling on Roe is expected by the end of June.

In Florida, Rabbi Barry Silver of Congregation LDor VaDor — the name means “Generation to Generation— said it practices “cosmic Judaism,” which he defines on the synagogues website as “the Judaism of tomorrow today” that respects science, tradition and spirituality.

Silver is an attorney, social activist and former Democratic state legislator who styles himself as a “Rabbirouser” on his own website. In an interview Tuesday, Silver said when separation of religion and government crumbles, religious minorities such as Jews often suffer.

“Every time that wall starts to crack, bad things start to happen,” he said, noting that DeSantis signed the law at an evangelical Christian church.

The new Florida abortion law, contains exceptions if the abortion is necessary to save a mother’s life, prevent serious injury or if the fetus has a fatal abnormality. It does not allow for exemptions in cases where pregnancies were caused by rape, incest or human trafficking.

Under current law, Florida allows abortions up to 24 weeks.

No faith is monolithic on the abortion issue. Yet many followers of faiths that do not prohibit abortion are aghast that a view held by a minority of Americans could supersede their individual rights and religious beliefs such as the position of Judaism as outlined in the lawsuit.

“This ruling would be outlawing abortion in cases when our religion would permit us,” said Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg, scholar in residence at the National Council of Jewish Women, “and it is basing its concepts of when life begins on someone else’s philosophy or theology.”


On the synagogue’s website, Silver elaborated on the group’s religious approach:

“Cosmic Judaism began with his late father Samuel Silver, a Reform rabbi. “He believed in God, but not the God of the Bible, and preached and wrote in various books that he authored that every concept of Judaism, including God, should be rational and logical, and that God should be thought of as a hypothesis, not a fact,” he said.

“Thus, the hypothesis is modified and altered as new facts emerge, which is why the concept of God has been evolving in Judaism since the beginning, except for those who are stuck in the past and have altered Judaism by trying to stop its growth and fix its development in a rigid and dangerous Orthodoxy.”

“L’Dor Va-Dor means ‘generation to generation,’ and so our congregation derives its ideological roots from my father who preached a rational faith, which continues with me,” Silver said. “That progression of thought can be seen in my son Ari, who is 18 and has a similar but unique perspective.”

Silver said he also drew inspiration from scientists Albert Einstein and Carl Sagan for this approach.

The synagogue left Reform Judaism in 2016 and has been unaffiliated for four years.

“The Cosmic Jewish approach, which interprets Judaism through science and reason, was overwhelmingly voted on and approved twice by our congregants,” Silver said. “I do not know of any other congregation where the ideology was not just imposed upon the members or based on the rabbi, but where the members actually voted on two separate occasions to support the ideology, which is a unique approach to Judaism.”

Rabbi Silver with a scripture scroll.

Starbucks Union Organizing: 100 stores say YES; a Few (thousand) More To Go

From the blog, Naked Capitalism:

Organizers Herald 100th Win as Starbucks Unionization Wave Continues

Posted on May 30, 2022 by Jerri-Lynn Scofield
Nice to see that the Starbucks unionization wave continues. At the moment . . . there’s precious little good news to report. That workers are organizing`is one of the few positive developments. May the Starbucks wave continue, and spread to other parts of the economy. Maybe to Amazon? And perhaps beyond.

By Andrea Germanos. Originally published at Common Dreams

The tally of unionized Starbucks locations is continuing to swell, with the latest additions coming after pro-unionization votes late last week in Seattle and Birmingham, Alabama.

The coffee giant’s CEO “Howard Schultz and Starbucks are getting creamed in union vote after union vote,” labor journalist Steven Greenhouse tweeted Saturday, May 29. Continue reading Starbucks Union Organizing: 100 stores say YES; a Few (thousand) More To Go

Is This the “Pope Francis Alternative”? Ukraine and “Effective Nonviolent Resistance”

Pope Francis, Ukraine and “effective nonviolent resistance”

Ukraine – so many new graves

 

A bird sits on a cross amid newly made graves at a cemetery near Mariupol, Ukraine, May 15. (CNS/Reuters/Alexander Ermochenko)

So much energy is being expended to urge Pope Francis to justify violent resistance. The latest episode of this is the war in Ukraine. Journalists, scholars, politicians and some religious continue to press the pope to join the chorus of people perpetuating the violent dynamic.

My sense is that the pope is trying to shift our gaze. It is a shift that he senses Jesus models. A shift toward pastoral accompaniment and a focus on how we might break the violent dynamic. It is not about condemning or judging people in very difficult situations, like some Ukrainians who choose to take up arms in violent defense of their country. It affirms and admires their willingness to take a high-risk stand against injustice rather than to be passive. At that same time, it is also not about justifying methods of war and enabling the violent dynamic to perpetuate and spread.

Francis speaks of accompaniment as the way of God, as in his March 20 Angelus address: “God trusts us and accompanies us with patience. He does not get discouraged, but always instills hope in us. … He does not keep track of your shortcomings but encourages your potential. … In this way God accompanies us: with closeness, mercy, and tenderness.”

Such accompaniment is being done in a variety of creative, courageous, nonviolent ways by Francis as well as by Ukrainians and others. It also includes humanitarian resource provision, identifying credible messengers and persistent needs-based diplomacy, coalition building, consistent public statements, impacting Russian leaders’ sources of power, prayer and shared physical risk.

Examples of Ukrainian nonviolent action include them blocking convoys and tanks, and standing their ground even as warning shots were fired in multiple towns. In Berdyansk and Kulykіvka, people organized peace rallies and convinced the Russian military to get out. Hundreds protested the abduction of a mayor, and there have been protests and refusals to shift to the ruble in Kherson to resist becoming a breakaway state.

Ukrainians have fraternized with Russian soldiers to lower their morale and stimulate defections. Ukrainians have courageously evacuated many people from dangerous areas. The Ukrainian League of Mediators is helping address increasing polarization within Ukrainian families and communities, in order to minimize the violence.

Russians have participated in numerous anti-war protests, and around 15,000 people have been arrested. Journalists have interrupted and resigned from state TV. Nearly 100,000 Russians from a variety of sectors have signed petitions to end the war. Russians from all parts of society have spoken out against the war — from members of the military and connected to the foreign ministry to members of the Russian oil industry and billionaires, as well as nearly 300 Russian Orthodox clerics. Meanwhile, hundreds of soldiers have refused to take part.

There are additional ways we can support peacebuilders and nonviolent activists in Ukraine by creating coordination hubs with diplomatic, legal and material assistance; amplifying their stories; supporting unarmed civilian protection units already on the ground; sending waves of peacebuilder or religious leader delegations to Kyiv and perhaps other cities in Ukraine; and encouraging a focus on diplomatic solutions.

For Francis, accompaniment is about not perpetuating the violent dynamic as much as possible.

“There was a time, even in our churches, when people spoke of a holy war or a just war,” the pope told Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill in their March 16 video meeting. “Today we cannot speak in this manner. A Christian awareness of the importance of peace has developed. Wars are always unjust, since it is the people of God who pay. Our hearts cannot but weep before the children and women killed, along with all the victims of war. War is never the way.”

At the same time, the pope is not calling us to passivity or surrender in the face of aggression, as he made clear in his message for the 2017 World Day of Peace. As he told an Italian women’s group in March: “The real answer is not more weapons, more sanctions, or more political-military alliances,” but rather a different approach, “a different way of governing the world.” What is the way about? Francis points to the school of Jesus, of Gandhi and particularly of “women who have cultivated and cherished life.”

Francis invites us into recognizing conflict as a process with a long-term view, both forward and backward.

During a press conference in April as he flew back from Malta, Francis said: “They fought for the strategy of peace. … Not by chance, at the beginning of the Bible, there is this problem: the ‘Cainian’ spirit to kill instead of the spirit of peace.”

These schools and models illuminate how there may be other ways of defense or resistance to aggression that are more nonviolent, and also perhaps more effective at saving more lives.

In their 2011 volume, Why Civil Resistance Works, researchers Erica Chenoweth and Maria J. Stephan analyzed more than 300 contemporary cases and showed that nonviolent resistance is twice as effective as violent resistance and at least 10 times more likely to lead to durable democracy, including against authoritarians. Additional research has corroborated these patterns. This is notable in light of many claims that violent resistance is necessary to defend democracy. Francis invites us into recognizing conflict as a process with a long-term view, both forward and backward.

Such research shows why war not only makes it at minimum harder for a durable democracy but also is “the suicide of humanity” and a defeat for humanity, as Francis exclaims. War, therefore, is not consistent with a ‘humanitarian’ initiative or activity in accord with human dignity. Pope Francis explains that war is a “stinging defeat before the forces of evil,” rather than a necessity to confront evil.

Mariupol.

Local residents gather outside an apartment building damaged during Ukraine-Russia conflict in the southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine, May 15. (CNS/Reuters/Alexander Ermochenko)

Local residents gather outside an apartment building damaged during Ukraine-Russia conflict in the southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine, May 15. (CNS/Reuters/Alexander Ermochenko)

Yes, Russian leaders invaded Ukraine and bear principal responsibility for the war. Kirill is also enabling this violence and the traumatization of the Ukrainian people. All leaders involved in diplomatic negotiations will need to make significant alterations to end the war, save lives, and create space to build a new future. Francis is trying to influence these and other key stakeholders in the conflict, yet he will need our support, collaboration and, especially, shared focus.

In turn, it seems Francis invites our focus to center on accompaniment and breaking, interrupting the logic or dynamic of violence, rather than justifications for war. This is what will more likely prevent and limit war, as well as help us to prioritize abolishing war rather than regularly trying, futilely, to ‘humanize’ war.

As Francis explained in his March 27 Angelus address: “Before the danger of self-destruction, may humanity understand that the moment has come to abolish war, to erase it from human history before it erases human history!”

Pointing to statistics that show half of all Ukrainian children are now displaced, the pope said this is what it means to destroy the future, “causing dramatic trauma in the lives of the smallest and most innocent among us.”

Eli McCarthy

Eli McCarthy is a professor at Georgetown University in justice and peace studies, a steering committee member of the Catholic Nonviolence Initiative, a project of Pax Christi International, and the director of the DC Peace Team.

Quote of the Weekend: Rep. Hakeem Jeffries vs. Clarence Thomas

Democrat Hakeem Jeffries calls out Clarence Thomas

David Badash, The New Civil Rights Movement — May 12, 2022

Democratic House Caucus Chairman Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) delivered an impassioned speech Wednesday, telling Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas he should “have a conversation” with his spouse.

The far-right activist and lobbyist Ginni Thomas reportedly had a months-long text conversation with then-White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, vehemently urging him to have the 2020 presidential election overturned.

Last Friday Justice Thomas complained in a speech to a group of judges and attorneys from the 11th Circuit, “We can’t be an institution that can be bullied into giving you just the outcomes you want.” He was referring to the majority of Americans who want the Court to uphold the 49-year-old decision in Roe v. Wade, supporting a woman’s constitutional right to abortion.

“If Justice Thomas really wants to deal with bullying in America, or this problem of people supposedly unwilling to accept outcomes that they don’t like, I’ve got some advice for Justice Thomas: start in your own home, have a conversation with Ginni Thomas,” Congressman Jeffries said.

“She refused to accept the legitimacy of the 2020 presidential election. Why? Because she didn’t like the outcome,” Jeffries reminded the House. “So instead, she tried to steal the election, overthrow the United States government, and install a tyrant. That’s bullying. That’s being unwilling to accept an outcome because you don’t like the results, because the former twice impeached so-called President of the United States of America lost legitimately to Joe Biden.”

“How did she respond? Instead, she said, the Bidens should face a military tribunal in Guantanamo Bay, on trumped-up charges of sedition. You’ve got to be kidding me.”

 

When news broke in March of the text exchanges between Thomas and Meadows, Slate’s legal expert Mark Joseph Stern, said: “Ginni Thomas urged Mark Meadows to overturn the 2020 election by any means necessary—while her husband was ruling on cases attempting to overturn the election.”

Congressman Jeffries, considered by many to be Democrats’ next Speaker of the House after Nancy Pelosi, was far from done with the Supreme Court Justice.

“And lastly, let me ask this question of brother Thomas:

Why are you such a hater?

Hate on civil rights.

Hate on women’s rights.

Hate on reproductive rights.

Hate on voting rights.

Hate on marital rights.

Hate on equal protection under the law.

Hate on liberty and justice for all.

Hate on free and fair elections.

Why are you such a hater?”

“And you think you can get away with it – escape public scrutiny. Because you think that shamelessness is your superpower? Here’s a newsflash from the House Judiciary Committee,” he said while being interrupted. “Truth pressed to the ground will rise again. And truth will be your kryptonite.”

A video version of Jeffries’ speech is here.