JSPAN Goes on Record

JSPAN Newsletter - April 22, 2011

Jewish Social Policy Action Network
In This Issue:
Newsletter: April 22, 2011
Ethical Choices When Medicine Can't Save Your Life
Dr. Arthur Caplan moderating a discussion panel on end-of-life choices. From left to right: Dr. Caplan, Dr. Michael Levy, Professor Barry Furrow, Dr. Susan Denman, and Rabbi Richard Address

Well over 100 listeners came to the program created by JSPAN on end-of-life choices at Main Line Reform Temple on April 14. In the audience were elderly people facing the prospect of end-of-life decisions, many medical professionals who encounter the problem among their patients, and also younger people who came out of caring concern that they be able to assist their parents, family members and older friends when the need arises.

The end-of-life choices discussion is one of the most difficult, yet one that should not be bypassed or short-changed. Law Professor Barry Furrow opened by noting that every mentally responsible patient has the right to accept or reject particular treatments. He explained the limitations on the effectiveness of written documents to achieve the wishes of the drafter. And he emphasized the need to have a trusted agent empowered to make medical decisions for you, and to have a clear understanding with that agent as to your wishes for medical treatment.

Dr. Susan Denman, specialist in geriatric medicine, and Dr. Michael Levy, oncologist, explored the medical aspects of decision making, knowing when and how to open the difficult discussion with a sick patient. The program included a video reenactment of a discussion of palliative care between a patient (convincingly presented by Steve Kuhn) and a chaplain (the experienced chaplain Sheila Segal). Dr. Levy suggested that whenever a new therapy is begun, the doctor and patient should discuss both its introduction and a plan for how it will end.

Rabbi Richard Address discussed Jewish law pertaining to death and dying. He suggested that all branches of Judaism share a common view, and that view favors life, including provision of sustenance and therapies that can lead to a recovery. But as Rabbi Address explained, Jewish law also disapproves of any steps to extend the process of dying.

The well-known bioethicist Dr. Arthur Caplan of the University of Pennsylvania moderated the program and handled questions from the floor. Prof. Caplan noted two questions that need to be addressed at a future program: the macro-economic effects on the health care system of the individual decisions and choices people make, and the subtle line between the end-of-life choices and assisted suicide.

The entire program is being professionally prepared as a video for future educational use.

JSPAN extends its thanks to Rabbi David Straus and Main Line Reform Temple Beth Elohim for hosting this event, to the panelists for their excellent efforts, and to the Jewish Policy Foundation of Pennsylvania for its financial support.

- Sue Myers


JSPAN Goes on Record
The Pennsylvania Bar Association is studying a number of different reforms of state government through its Constitutional Review Commission, launched by then PBA President Cliff Haines. Two of the topics are subjects which JSPAN has examined and on which it has adopted policies:


  • Redistricting, the process by which election districts are adjusted every 10 years to reflect shifts in population. Through an unfortunate application of computer science, Pennsylvania districts are gerrymandered to engineer the outcome of elections.
  • Filling appellate judgeships through political elections, forcing the candidates to raise large sums of money and to curry favor with interests that may appear before them when they serve as judges.
Hearings are being held by the Bar Association inviting comment on suggested on reforms and whether the PBA itself should be engaged in fighting for those reforms. JSPAN is scheduled to be represented at the May hearings in Philadelphia.

The Hon. Phyllis Beck, who served on the Pennsylvania Superior Court until her retirement in 2005, will appear on behalf of JSPAN in favor of merit selection of appellate court judges.

Jeffrey Albert, Esq., who litigated against the present method of establishing election districts in the last decennial reapportionment, will appear on behalf of JSPAN to present a paper drafted jointly with Board member Ken Myers, urging that the present method lacks checks and balances and requires better procedures and closer judicial supervision in order to achieve the goal of fairly drawn, compact and contiguous election districts.


Four Questions on Our Budget Debate
The Forward Opinion
By Mark Pelavin and Jonathan Backer
Published April 11, 2011, issue of April 22, 2011.

As American Jews prepare for Passover, Congress is in the midst of the most far-reaching budget debate in generations. At Seder, we tell an old story and attempt to draw new lessons from it. The budget debate is, similarly, both an old and a new story. So in the spirit of Passover, when we study the past in order to learn from it, we'd like to suggest that the American Jewish community ask Four Questions about the federal budget debate:

  • Why during past budget debates did we succeed in reducing poverty, but this year, proposed cuts would increase poverty? The deficit-reduction packages of the 1990s reduced poverty and inequality while restoring fiscal order. The 1990 and 1993 packages contained increases to the Earned Income Tax Credit, which allows low-income families to retain more of their income. The 1993 package contained increased funding for food stamps, a program that the Census Bureau estimates kept 3.6 million people out of poverty in 2009. Finally, the 1997 package created the Children's Health Insurance Program.
By contrast, House Budget Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan's budget proposal for 2012 would change the status of Medicaid, which could cause millions of low-income Americans to lose health coverage. In 2009, a record 43.6 million Americans lived in poverty. Allowing states to deny health care coverage to low-income families would undoubtedly increase that number.

Ryan's proposal would also convert the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps, into a block-grant program, giving states a lump sum of funds with which to administer the program. If the economy slows, states would not be able to respond to increased demand, negating the important role the program plays in automatically combating poverty during economically lean times.


[read more]


An Oyster on the Seder Plate?
New York Times OP-ED
Published: April 18, 2011

Last night I put an oyster on my Seder plate. While I didn't particularly want to put something traif atop that most kosher of dishes, this Passover falls on the first anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon blowout in the Gulf of Mexico. And since BP, the leaseholder of the failed well, seems intent with its new television ads on making us forget about the spill, I felt that something drastic was in order to help us remember. Combining the memorial powers of the Seder plate with the canary-in- the-coal-mine nature of the oyster seemed a good way to keep the disaster - and BP's promises to clean up its mess - in mind.

This past March I spent a week in Louisiana's bays and bayous. All over the region I encountered oyster dredges full of dead, empty shells and broken oystermen with equally empty pockets. Many of the oystermen I interviewed reported that 80 percent of their beds had been killed.

Ecologically speaking, this is huge: a single oyster can filter 40 gallons of water a day, and the millions of oysters in Louisiana's waters are one of the things that make the gulf work as an ecosystem.


[read more]


30 Years After the Reagan Shooting, Gun Violence Still Reigns
The Washington Post Opinions
By Sarah Brady
Tuesday, March 29

Sometimes I remember the early days of my life with Jim Brady, a man possessed of so much intelligence, wit and charm. There was the vivacious Washington life we shared, Jim’s rise to White House press secretary and the laughter of our toddler reverberating through our home.

Sometimes it's hard to believe that it's been 30 years since a mentally ill man tried to assassinate President Ronald Reagan because of a romantic figment of his imagination. On March 30, 1981, a gunman was able to fire six shots from a .22-caliber pistol, wounding the president, a Secret Service agent, a police officer — and seriously injuring my husband, with a gunshot to the head.

Our son is now married, and I am grateful that laughter still echoes in our home.

But so much of our future was wiped away by the Devastator bullet that pierced Jim's brain and exploded. It's achingly hard to believe how easy it was for a sick young man to get his hands on that gun.

It took seven years and an immeasurable number of hours of talking, walking and testifying for Congress to pass the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act. President Bill Clinton cradled and carried our cause in his heart all the way to the signing ceremony. The legislation requires federally licensed gun dealers to perform background checks on purchasers. Since enactment, 2 million gun purchases have been denied to people too dangerous and irresponsible to possess firearms. We'll never know how many lives have been saved.

It's hard to believe that despite this success, some conservatives who claim to revere Ronald Reagan still reject the common-sense gun reforms he backed. Reagan, a lifetime member of the National Rifle Association, believed in the Brady bill and the 1994 assault weapons ban, which helped stem the flow of those weapons of war to American streets. After the ban was allowed to expire in 2004, law enforcement reported a dramatic increase in seizures of guns using large-capacity assault magazines. It's hard to believe that people who worship Reagan's legacy would oppose policies he rightly understood would help save lives and dreams from the death and destruction of gun violence.


[read more]


Unions Make the Middle Class
Center for American Progress Action Fund
By David Madland, Karla Walter, Nick Bunker
April 4, 2011

Why should anyone-especially those who are not union members-care that union membership is at record lows and likely to fall even further? Because if you care about the middle class, you need to care about unions.

Critics of unions claim they are unimportant today or even harmful to the economy, but unions are essential for building a strong middle class. And rebuilding the middle class after decades of decline and stagnation is essential for restoring our economy.

Unions make the middle class strong by ensuring workers have a strong voice in both the market and in our democracy. When unions are strong they are able to ensure that workers are paid fair wages, receive the training they need to advance to the middle class, and are considered in corporate decision-making processes. Unions also promote political participation among all Americans, and help workers secure government policies that support the middle class, such as Social Security, family leave, and the minimum wage.


[read more]


150 Years Later, We're Still Fighting the Civil War
Does the United States political scene leading up to the Civil War offer lessons for today and conversely, does the political climate of today offer insight into the turmoil of 150 years ago? - Ed.

The Washington Post Opinions
By Harold Meyerson
Tuesday, April 12

The key to understanding the Civil War, which began 150 years ago this week, is to realize that it's still being fought. Indeed, it's being fought now more intensely than at any time since the 1960s.

Then, African Americans and white Northern liberals and moderates battled Southern white segregationists and Goldwater conservatives to establish equal racial access to the ballot, housing and public facilities. Today's battle more closely resembles the one that inaugurated the Civil War, which centered on the expansion of slavery to the lands west of the Mississippi. As in 1861, we are again divided over whether Southern or Northern labor systems, and Southern or Northern versions of government, shall become the national norm.

In the private-sector economy, the Southern labor system - in which workers are paid less and have fewer rights - has been winning for decades. Despite their huge growth in members during the 1930s and 1940s, unions never succeeded in penetrating the South, where white racial animosity toward blacks thwarted efforts to build working-class solidarity. The gap between Northern and Southern wages remained vast - so vast that many Northern companies began relocating facilities there, particularly after the civil rights revolution of the '60s made the South seem less culturally foreign.


[read more]


Wasserman Schultz Brings Jewish Identity to Top Party Role
JTA News analysis
By Ron Kampeas
April 12, 2011

Debbie Wasserman Schultz's first day as a sophomore in the U.S. House of Representatives, on Jan. 8, 2007, was marked by a number of extraordinary achievements for a woman barely out of her first term.

Named to the Democratic caucus leadership. Named to the all-powerful Appropriations Committee. Named as a major fundraiser -- $17 million -- for the party's breakthrough 2006 election. Named by a tabloid as one of the 50 most beautiful people on Capitol Hill.

Yet dominating her victory party were blow-ups of headlines from Jewish newspapers: Wasserman Schultz had led the passage of the act establishing Jewish American Heritage Month.

President Obama last week named Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), 44, to the most powerful party position, chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee. Even before she has formally assumed the job, the question of her Jewish identity has stirred speculation.

Jewish Democrats say Obama's choice of a successor to former Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine in the top party fundraising spot is a signal of Obama's commitment to a loyal constituency: the Jews.


[read more]


Support JSPAN

Remember that JSPAN welcomes your donations to help us continue our important and effective work in Tikkun Olam. You may send gifts via PayPal on www.jspan.org. or to JSPAN, 1735 Market Street, Suite #A417, Philadelphia, PA 19103




Want to Join?
To become a voting JSPAN member, please go to www.JSPAN.org. On the right side of your screen you will be able to start a secure transaction and become a voting member.


Make all checks payable to:
1735 Market Street, Suite #A417
Philadelphia, PA 19103


JSPAN Officers
Brian Gralnick

Kenneth Fox
Vice President

Judah Labovitz
Vice President

Ruth Laibson
Vice President

Kenneth Myers
Vice President

Stephen Applebaum

Stewart Weintraub
Secretary & General Counsel

Susan Myers
Policy Centers Chair


Jeffrey Pasek, Chair
Alex Urevick
Susan Bolno
Adam Bonin
David S. Broida
Deanne Comer
Hon. Ruth Damsker
Marshall Dayan
William Epstein
Sarita Gocial
Paula Green
Margot Horwitz
Rhoda Indictor
Lazar Kleit
Rabbi Robert Layman
Richard I. Malkin
Theodore Mann
Mark Newman
Maureen Pelta
Adena Potok
Audrey Ann Ross
Randy Schulz
J. Sanford Schwartz
Daniel Segal
Burt Siegel
Marc Stier
Rabbi David Straus
Mike Weilbacher
Deborah Weinstein
Lynn Zeitlin
Jill Katz Zipin

Judah Labovitz
Ken Myers
Mark Newman

Ira Goldberg




The newsletter contains articles and links to articles that we think will be of interest to JSPAN members. They are included for informational purposes, but unless otherwise stated, they do not necessarily reflect official JSPAN policy.

As an organization for change, JSPAN strives to advance progressive social policies on the critical issues of our time. Help spread the news about us by forwarding this email and the link to our website http://www.jspan.org to your family, friends, and colleagues who might have an interest in joining JSPAN or serving on any of JSPAN's projects. If you haven't joined JSPAN, please join now!


Click to view this email in a browser

If you no longer wish to receive these emails, please reply to this message with "Unsubscribe" in the subject line or simply click on the following link: Unsubscribe

Jewish Social Policy Action Network
1735 Market Street, Suite #A417
Philadelphia, PA 19103
United States

Read the VerticalResponse marketing policy.

Try Email Marketing with VerticalResponse!