Articles on the Palestinian Elections

News Israelis Scrambling to Harden Bush on Hamas by Ori Nir, February 3, 2006, Forward To Whom Will Hamas Listen?, February 2, 2006, The Economist Saudi Arabia, Palestinians to Discuss Aid Plug Deficit, February 2, 2006, Haaretz

Response to State of the Union

What newspapers has George Bush been reading lately? Here is how we see the state of the union: We see our civil liberties are being daily eroded as our government secretly spies on American citizens without a warrant and holds them prisoner as “enemy combatants” without providing access to the courts. Click here to see what Human Rights Watch has to say.

Act Now to Raise the Minimum Wage

Legislative action is expected in Harrisburg as early as next week on bills that would raise the minimum wage in two steps from its current $5.15 to $7.15 per hour. The Senate Bill would also index the minimum wage to the cost of living index so that the working poor would not perpetually fall behind. At JSPAN, we believe that raising the minimum wage is both an economic and moral imperative. Jewish tradition teaches that there are eight degrees of Tzedakah. Forcing people to rely on the public welfare system to get by is the lowest form because recipients are made to feel unworthy and aid is doled out grudgingly. By contrast, raising the minimum wage promotes the highest form of Tzedakah because it enables individuals to achieve human dignity by using the efforts of their own labor to provide for themselves and their families.

Impact of the Palestinian Elections

The surprise victory of Hamas in the Palestinian elections has provoked an immediate and enormous outpouring of comments by writers, scholars and activists. We have collected links to some of the leading opinion pieces that have appeared in the world press.

Is There Hope for Alito?

As sorry as we were to see Samuel Alito confirmed as a Supreme Court Justice, we were encouraged by his first recorded vote. Publicly disagreeing with Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Scalia and Thomas, Alito joined a 6-3 majority of the Court in refusing to allow Missouri to execute a prisoner by lethal injection. The prisoner challenged his death sentence claiming that the three-drug cocktail of lethal chemicals used in executions carries the risk of undue suffering, thus violating the U.S. Constitution's protection against cruel and unusual punishment. Last month the Court said it would use the case of a Florida death-row inmate to decide whether last-minute challenges can be brought under the federal civil rights law to the drugs used in lethal injection.

Budget Bill Cuts Programs to Aid Low-Income Families

On Wednesday evening, February 1st, the House passed the Deficit Reduction Act by an extremely slim margin, 216 to 214, sending the legislation to the President for signature. By cutting almost $40 billion from programs like Medicaid, student loans, child support enforcement, and disability assistance the bill will have profound effects on low income families. Much concern has focused on $6.4 billion of savings from changes in Medicare, which include higher premiums for all beneficiaries and a freeze in payments to home health care providers, and $4.8 billion in Medicaid savings to be achieved in part by increasing co-payments and reducing payments for prescription drugs. Click here for the response of Rabbi David Saperstein, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reformed Judaism.

JSPAN Opposes Alito Nomination

The Supreme Court is a very special tribunal, the court of last resort for the hopes and dreams of 300 million Americans and, at times, many millions of foreigners who are incidentally reached by our laws and policies. One of the most vital roles of this Court is to protect individuals and minorities from the tyranny of the majority, and the weak and needy from the power and avarice of the mighty. Our success and the progress of all minorities in this nation rest heavily on the Court’s interpretation of two key constitutional sources - the guarantees in the Bill of Rights, and the 14th Amendment Due Process clause. We need Justices who understand that the accommodation of religious practices under the Bill of Rights means protecting those who belong to minorities from being forced to participate in religious observances that are not their own, even if those observances are very common and very popular with the majority. We need Justices who believe in the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, and will not allow “faith based initiatives”’ - or any other political initiatives – to serve as a coverup for government funding of religious institutions.

The Constitution's message: Not all means are justified

by Erwin Chemerinsky Since 9/11, the Bush administration has engaged in unprecedented violations of liberties, including approving torture and suspending the Constitution through indefinite detentions without judicial review. Each time the violations of rights have come to light, the administration has defended its actions by saying they were essential for national security, they were technically legal, and those who revealed the misconduct and criticize it endanger the country. Predictably, this is exactly what the President has said since the New York Times revealed that he authorized the National Security Agency to monitor, without judicial warrants, some Americans' conversations with those in foreign countries. Not only do these arguments have no merit. They miss the crucial point: The Constitution is a reminder that the ends don't justify some means, and warrantless spying on Americans' conversations just isn't acceptable.

Un-Designing the Dover Curriculum: Kitzmiller Decided

Kitzmiller v. Dover, the much discussed “Intelligent Design” case, proved an overwhelming victory for scientific theory in the science classroom. Judge John E. Jones III ruled that the Dover School District’s policy to introduce Intelligent Design as an “alternative theory to evolution” was both unconstitutional and unscientific. In 2004, the Dover Area School District added a disclaimer to the beginning of the Biology curriculum telling students that Evolution is “just a theory” and proposing Intelligent Design as an alternative explanation. In Kitzmiller v. Dover, a group of parents from the school district challenged the policy as unconstitutional. JSPAN spearheaded an amicus brief on the case, on behalf of numerous Jewish organizations, arguing that the disclaimer was a serious infraction on First Amendment rights.

JSPAN Resolution on Iraq

In the pursuit of social justice, sometimes an issue arises that is so immense and daunting that we must not shirk from the effort to undertake our mission to "repair of the world." At these times our upraised voices may be most important and must be heard. The war in Iraq hangs over our nation, transcending individuals or political parties. It is a cloud that only gets heavier: with close to 2,100 American lives lost, several times that number maimed, and an estimated 30,000 Iraqi fatalities, the war demands our thought and action.
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