Friday, February 29, 2008

Shabbat Ideas - February 29, 2008

It is Leap Day and also Shabbat so here are my Shabbat Thoughts for February 29, 2008:
Taking a leap of (basketball) faith: Muslim community stands up for Jewish HS b-ball champs
It is about time (from Mixed Multitudes)
The Daily e-Forverts
So we all are on the same page here…Torture is bad, right?
Obama on the Gays…perhaps now the rightwing will attack for something he actually said.

Yesterday the New York Times reported that 1 in 100 American adults are incarcerated. Ten percent of the men and women who should be active parts of society are in jail. The emotionally charged, statistic-laden headline forces many questions to forefront of a national conversation.

Clearly we are still the #1 country in the industrialized and modern world for per-capital captives, but where does these numbers come from. Pew, an organization that has a lot of great studies coming out in the last few days, explained that these numbers are so different because they use the number of adults in the US as the denominator as apposed to the entire population, as the Justice Department does…I would pad my numbers too if I was the Justice Department. But outside of the methodology differences, it seems that the reading of these numbers also comes down to political padding.

Susan Urahn, managing director of the Pew Center feels as if “we aren’t really getting the return in public safety from this level of incarceration.” But Paul Cassell, a former federal judge and University of Utah law prof, sites the face that violent crime rates are down by 25% in 20 years and points out that “one out of every 100 adults is behind bars because one out of every 100 adults has committed a serious criminal offense.”

Now, we all know there is bias in the mandatory minimums delivered to drug charges and “simple drug possession convictions make up about 5% of the federal prison population and about 27% of the state prison population, according to the federal government’s own figures.” (Megan McArdle of The Atlantic Monthly via Tuccille’s Blog) While I can’t do the math without the exact figures it is fair to say that a statistically significant portion of the 10% of incarcerated Americans are serving time for non-violent drug charges.

Does shooting up, snorting or smoking constitute a serious criminal offense? Does selling drugs—a crime that should be punished—really necessitate a 15 to life punishment? The answer is no. The drug problem in this country will not be solved with the clank of cage, but with the healing of rehabilitation.

A major aspect of incarceration is rehabilitation, however it is often overlooked by US prisons and rent-a-prisons looking to save a few bucks. Addiction is an illness that must be treated. Could you even imagine the outrage if we put all the people with some sort of STI or STD in jail for possibly endangering the lives of others? Fine them, mandate treatment, but incarceration for engaging in sexual activities is unconstitutional. There is an argument that drug use is the same.

Let me be clear: I am not calling for the legalization of drugs. I am calling for the de-criminalization of drug use. We have laws to protect lives and property. (ok perhaps some values too.) With so many people in jail, perhaps it is time to look at the problem we are creating by solving another.

Shabbat Shalom

Thursday, February 28, 2008

RJC: Bunch of Racists

And Back-up for the titled claim.
"The Republican Jewish Coalition is responsible for a mailing received by Reform rabbis and other Jews that included a DVD of the controversial anti-Muslim film Obsession, has learned. At least part of the mailing was sent under the postal permit of Christians United for Israel, a leading Christian Zionist organization." Isrealenews via Jews on First


Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Taking a Chance Standing Up for Jews in NY

Sen Hillary Clinton said that she "took a chance" in her "rejection" of wacko right and left wing folks who discredited the Jewish community and Israel during her Senatorial campaign.

Big.Risk.Taker. Wow standing up to for a major voting group in a state with the largest number of said voting group is really courageous.

Too bad this baiting allowed Sen Barack Obama to make fun of her and say "If Sen Clinton believes reject to be stronger than denounce I will concede that point. [couple of laughs and baiting from Clinton] And I will reject and denounce Minister Farakan's opinions." (More or less...)

Ach. I thought Sen Clinton was supposed to be the better debater...please she is just fighting to hold on.

Now I remember why I don't watch these things.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Pew on Religion

The Pew Forum on Religious and Public Life held a press conference today about trends in American religious affiliation. The call was interesting to say the least but the findings aren't that surprising.

Here are some of the highlights in my opinion:
1. Even the largest religious groups are relatively small.
2. 2/5 of American adults have changed religious affiliation in their lifetime.
3. 40% of married respondents have a spouse of a different faith.
4. The Midwest has the most diverse religious make up of any region in the the US.

From my limited reading of this here are some Jewish highlights:
1. Jews make the most and have the second highest post-college education level. (Second place and First place to Hindus respectively)
2. Affiliation is lowest among young people who also make the least amount of money (cause and effect)
3. Jews make up 1.7% of the US population.

Read the report here.

The Times on the topic.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Shabbat Ideas - February 22, 2008

It is snowing really hard and it is Friday so here are my Shabbat Thoughts for February 22, 2008:
McCain's Daughter needs a publicist and to take off her Hipster Kaffiyeh
Putin's successor Jewish heritage has Russians upset...Just like the people are scared of Obama being born of a Muslim father? Thanks Dan good call.
See! The Democratic Party is for the Jews (and Jewish Asses...really)(thanks JTA)
Darfur News: And it is good.
UCI isn't the place it place it used to be...(God Blog)
Turkey on Rye, good; Turkey on Iraqi Soil, bad

Barack Obama is an American citizen and a well established supporter of diplomacy within an American context. He has supported Israel and will continue to do so when elected President. Jews: STOP THE HATE SPEECH.

Malcolm Hoenlein, leader useless Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Orgs and rightwing wack, said he was scared of the excitement and hope talk because it leads to "zeitgeist." Using a very scary German word to describe a man being accused of being a Muslim terrorist by smear campaigns is wrapping up a prefect present that for the fearful Jews in this country.

Real community leaders have denounced this over and over again. Now it is time for a meaningless blogger to stand up (or type in caps lock) about it too. I support Barack Obama because he has a sound idea of what needs to be done about International Relations. He does not believe our country sits above the rest anymore but that we must work our way back to the top. His ideals will lead to policies that will help the dollar against the Euro, create jobs both at home and abroad and all while supporting Israel.

Perhaps we missed something when he voted time and time again to support Israel, denounce Hezbollah and continue to be accepted into the Jewish community in Chicago. That said, it is also pretty stupid that we are still talking about this issue.

So here is my plea: Stop talking about Israel as if it was the only thing Jews in this country care about. It is important; it is not the most important. We have a war going on that makes Israel more vulnerable, we have a slumping economy that hurts the sheckel, we have no health care which drains our social services, we have a lack of civil liberties which may lead to a lack of religious freedom (and has).

BUT a community of active voters such as the Jewish community is stuck on one issue that hasn't changed for nearly a generation. We vote in greater numbers than almost any other ethnic group, we have a more organized lobby on many issues than any other group. So why can't we expand our issue base?

Israel is Social Security, Immigration and Iraq combined for politicians wooing the Jewish vote. US support of Israel is not in question right now. So dearest rightwing racists in our community: STOP IT. You are going to vote for McCain anyway, to bad his daughter wears a keffiyeh.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Shabbat Ideas - February 15, 2008

It is Friday, it is nice in the City, so here are my Shabbat Ideas for February 15, 2008:

Lantos: Remembered
More fun with the RA and its hypocritical policy
And some from Rabbi Jacobs at the RA
Really, I don't get time off? (Very worthwhile reading)

As a lifelong Red Sox fan living in New York, it gives me unending joy to see traitors suffer at the hands of others. While the sight of Wade Boggs cantering around Yankee Stadium on a NYPD horse is forever burned upon my consciousness, it is nice to see Johnny Damon warm the bench due to a slumping batting average. However I find no pleasure in the Rocket being publicly flogged during congressional hearings.

Newspapers around the country are filled with stories exploring the detailed testimony and possible perjury of Rodger Clemens. Leaving the details for the sports page, he said he didn’t take Human Growth Hormone and his trainer Brian McNamee said he did. Even if he did take these supplements and lied about doing so, the US House of Representatives should spend its time elsewhere.

The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform is investigating sports icons for reasons that are outside my comprehension. Athletes occupy a unique place in American society and perhaps should be held to a higher standard. But Congress has more important things to do than collect pictures of used syringes and empty pill bottles from the club house trash can.

There is the oversight of a ridiculously lopsided budget proposal, a two-front war, a lack-luster economy and a diminishing social security system that this committee should be discussing. Instead the committee is spending time talking to what Representative Elijah Cummings calls personal “heroes.” The 47 million Americans without healthcare would much rather know if Clemens is telling the truth than be able to pay for a doctors visit.

Priorities in American culture are not inline with our values. Is it too much to ask that those who sit on a congressional committee on oversight and reform set their priorities based on the values of the American people?

These hearings may uncover a shockingly under-reported wrath of supplement and steroid use among professional athletes in the same way the $20 million Mitchell report did just a few months ago.

Thankfully Spring Training is less than a month away and there will be something worthy of day time ESPN coverage. Until then it seems that Congress is out to get some headlines. It isn’t very often that the giants of Capital Hill share a time slot on Sports Center with the New York Football Giants. Clemens should be held accountable but Congress should be ashamed of itself.

Shabbat Shalom

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Ever Gawker Agrees

Now that the WGA strike is over, we are going to see a whole bunch of "solidarity" folks saying this labor action was a bad idea. Even Gawker, the snarky, very pissed off NYC cult(ure) and entertainment blog, thinks this was a mistake. If the WGA leadership must preempt the stupid victory speech with a we screwed up statement you know this was a wash:
Patric Verrone, the WGA's West Coast president, acknowledged yesterday that the deal is "not all we hoped for and it is not all we deserved." Calling the walkout "the most successful strike in American labor in the past decade," Mr. Verrone went on to highlight the guild's accomplishments in creating a collective system, rather than the deal terms. WSJ via Gawker

That said where are our stories about Felipe Garcia?

Monday, February 11, 2008

Z"L Tom Lantos

May Your Memory Be For a Blessing.

Tom Lantos died today. He fought the bad guys for years on the floor of the United States House of Representatives. He died of cancer this morning.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Shabbat Ideas - February 8, 2008

It is Friday and I am not as lazy as I was last week, so here are my Shabbat Thoughts for February 8, 2008:
Hoffa: Zionist and Union Leader
Rabbis with no opinion or just hoping to keep their 501c3 status?
Jewcy Guide to Israel Apartheid Week (I came up with the Palestine is for Lovers shirt, so I want some credit for that)
Killed by the Bomb, not the Bullet … but still dead

As news of the WGA strike possibly coming to an end is on the front page of many papers throughout the country, I read about a very interesting and meaningful organization movement that is relegated to the third page of a free daily paper in New York City. Today the Metro covered the termination of Felipe Garcia due to his request to unionize his kitchen at the Citigroup Center in Manhattan.

Mr. Garcia, a legal immigrant worker, worked for years in the kitchen for less than $11 a hour for the Aramark food-service company. After a few months of working towards organizing with UNITE HERE and letting the Citigroup leadership know about this desire, Garcia and some of his kitchen co-workers were fired. They were offered jobs else were, but only in places where they would have to cross a picket line.

If you have ever read a post on Unions from the POLJ site, you know I am not a blind fan of Unions. Many are just as bad as the companies they are working against. However, when low wage workers, employed by execs bringing home seven figure bonuses as the company is losing money, I tend to side with the Unionization efforts. UNITE HERE has been fighting the good fight now as Manufacturing Unions refuse to modernize and the WGA pretends that they are in a battle for what is right.

The coverage of the writers strike is simply because so many of the people writing the news are personally connected to it. Just this week the Forward published an article about the Jews in LA feeling the pain in the pocketbook, but the following lines really brings it all home:
At Hanukkah time, one month into the Hollywood writer’s strike, Rabbi Sharon Brous, founding rabbi of IKAR, a spiritual community on Los Angeles’s West Side, sent out an e-mail to her congregants, expressing support for members of the Writers Guild of America. Her position was a no-brainer, in some respects. Brous, who framed the cause as one of workers’ rights, is known for her views on social justice. Plus, the political was also personal: Her husband, David Light, is a screenwriter.

To conflate the issue of paying thousands of dollars for synagogue dues with knocking out rent is an unfair and unethical argument. The writers have a real gripe and hopefully both sides will figure out how to act like grownups so I can watch something besides reality TV. However for Mr. Garcia and his colleagues, the Unionization effort will lead to real change in their lives. The difference between fair wages and distribution of profits is as great as night and day. The kitchen workers at Citi aren’t asking for dividends; they are asking for a living wage and benefits.

This issue should be on the front page for concerned citizens and the allies of the writers strike. But I have yet to see this fight anywhere but the Morning Metro.

Shabbat Shalom

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Super Tuesday Posts

Some interesting stuff this morning:
Cole on Jewish Youth Vote
Shockingly bland piece from Jewschool
JTA: “Jewish” States up for grabs…
Election Central: Ben and Ami talk politics
Super Cool Super Tuesday Jewish Graphic from JTA
Supper Tuesday

Monday, February 4, 2008

Vote for Hope

Obama for President

Really Strange Bedfellows

Over the past few months the leftwing Jewish community has started embracing some strange bedfellows. Namely Jspot has been publishing briefs about the power of the Evangelical preacher Rick Warren. Granted what he is doing is wonderful; Warren has made thousands of people extremely excited about religion and acting piously. However what makes me uncomfortable is his less than progressive views on LGBT issues and reproductive rights.

We have a lot to learn from this man and his style of religious observance. But just like we must be careful with our "friends of Israel" we should be careful in selecting our teachers of creating community.