The Ideological Seeds of the Occuparty by Waris Husain

As the Occupy Wall Street protests slowly creep into every major city in the U.S., some have pointed to the futility of protesting, especially when the group is lacking a cohesive ideology. However, we know through the Tea Party that the energy generated from opposition protests can manifest into a new political force that can affect the American landscape. The entrance of the Tea Party has polarized the country’s decision-makers to a conservative angle, and it will take a focused effort by activists, lawyers, and writers alike as part of the OccuParty to challenge their effect. The formation of such a new party would require not only an attack on corporate domination, but also to force change in the government and require them to serve the interests of the “99%”, instead of the “1%”.

In this early stage it is dificult to surmise the ideology of Wall Street protesters, who range from labor union members to unemployed hipsters. However, there is a shared ideological message underlying demands by protestors for the government to increase taxes on corporations. This message controverts the Tea Party mantra, “Government can do no good” as the protestors are calling for more government to take more control over private actors. Such a demand is based on the belief that the government can indeed do “good”, but only when it is free from undue influences through lobbyists and corporate agents.

If one were only to focus on the financial institutions that have muted the voice of the 99%, this movement would have little effect on the decision-making in this country. It was democratic institutions, not companies, who passed laws that allowed for corporations to control the American landscape. It was the Supreme Court of this nation who created a legal fiction that gave corporations the same rights as an average citizen.  And thus, even if corporations are fostering corruption and buying favors, it is our democratic officials that are selling those favors.

While Tea Partiers point to this behavior as evidence that governments are inherently corrupt and can’t be trusted, their observation falls short. The central feature of a truly democratic government is that all decisions are based on the informed consent of the people. However, if there is a secret veil of corporate and lobbyist control over WashingtonD.C., then the public is no longer voting based on informed consent and is thus no longer engaged in a democratic process.

The secretive influence of corporations has further been set into law by the U.S. Supreme Court with the Citizen’s United decision that affirmed corporate personhood. This gives the same rights of political affiliation and free speech to corporations as average citizens receive under the Constitution. This means that Nike or McDonalds, worth billions of dollars, is considered a citizen just like you or I when it comes to campaign donations. Soon it will be impossible to run for elections without a corporate sponsor, and thus, it will also be impossible to serve the interests of voters when officials have corporate overlords.

Attacking these principles will serve the interests of the OccuParty by giving them a central unifying purpose: to restore our constitutional democracy by re-equipping citizens with informed consent. Such an action may be viewed as revolutionary by some, but is founded on the basic principle of the U.S. Constitution that requires the government to be subservient only to the people, not to secret interests. One should remember that eliminating corporate personhood would not violate the Constitution considering the document gave no rights or protections to corporations over common citizens.

Along with attacking the government for fostering corporate domination, the OccuParty will need to adopt an ideology concerning the rights of citizens. The protestors have by and large asserted that wealth must be redistributed, with greater access to social services like education and health care. The demands of theOccupy Wall Street protesters are diametrically opposed to the conservative world view that individual rights are supreme above all others. While some may assert that the demands are merely a fools hope, there is a political ideology that lies under the surface.

Germany’s constitution embodies a principle that may resonate with most of the protestors: as the State must respect the rights of the individual, but the individual must respect the rights of their community. From this basic idea, one can call for a redistribution of wealth because while one has the right to accumulate wealth, one does not have the right to do so without assisting their community. Under this perspective, one could advocate for individual rights like gay marriage because they do not negatively effect the rights of the community.

Though Tea Partiers tout Thomas Jefferson as a guardian for individual rights, they forget that Jefferson didn’t believe that the wealthy could accumulate wealth without owing a duty to assist their community. Rather, he purported that while the government cannot interfere with individual rights, people owe a duty to help their local communities. This means that the 1% elites should be required to assist their community by paying for programs like student loan forgiveness or universal health care, for example.

Liberals in America have long-complained about the lack of a viable leftist party that embodied the interests of Democrats and Independents alike, though the Green Party and Libertarians have tried in the past. In order to do this, the OccuParty should take actions both on the street and in court to challenge undue influence by elites on our democracy, and the subsequent lack of informed consent by the people. Further, the party should advocate for a hybrid individual-community rights system as an overarching ideology. Though politics in America has taken a conservative turn with the influence of the Tea Party, the OccuParty could serve as a bastion for liberal philosophy and restore democratic order to this nation at a critical time.

All Power to the 99%.

The Dehumanization of the Judiciary (via Wichaar.com)

By David Matthew and Waris Husain

The execution of Troy Davis this week was met with national uproar and protests in Washington D.C. Mr. Davis was to be executed for a crime he allegedly committed, even though most of the witnesses in the case recanted their testimony, indicating his potential innocence. The Supreme Court of the nation refused to stay the execution based on legal formalities that were not satisfied in this case. Instead of humanizing Troy Davis as a man about to lose his life to an unjust system, our courts employ a rigidly technical jurisprudence.

In America, the legal community has focused so greatly on upholding legal technicalities that judges and lawyers disregard the human impact of their decisions.  An undue reliance on legal formalism has pervaded in the Supreme Court, resulting in a mechanical application of the law that favors the law’s logical form over its ability to promote social well-being to the people it serves. A more pragmatic and humanistic approach to jurisprudence is needed to interpret law in its proper context, not as merely an end in itself but as a means to fulfill human needs and values.

The demand by the public for the judiciary to act even in the absence of precedent stems from two ideas: (1) the public’s discomfort with allowing a potentially biased system to take the lives of citizens, and (2) the lack of respect for human dignity implicit in the death penalty.  Either way, such contentions can only be addressed by a court that recognizes and upholds the principles of wisdom as much as it applies the rigid technicality of legal formalities, so as to value the human impact of the decisions made by the Courts.

I. THE CAPITAL PUNISHMENT

            The continual use of the death penalty in the U.S. seems draconian when compared to the rest of the developed world who has banned the practice. But fundamentally, the continuation of the death penalty relates to the technical nature of legal analysis amongst lawyers and judges in the U.S. With a technical perspective, the courts have worked to uphold their own decisions, and since executions were commonly upheld throughout America’s history, the status quo has remained etched in stone.  Indeed, a vital function of the Court is to adhere to precedent – and Justice after Justice has largely done so in mechanical fashion.

The Supreme Court’s legitimization of capital punishment has created a particular culture surrounding the state-sponsored murder of citizens. Not only does a technical upholding of a barbaric practice allow for its continued use, it also has inspired a blood-lust amongst the people. This was especially apparent when a crowd at a Republican Primary Debate cheered Rick Perry for announcing that he has presided over more executions as governor of Texas than any other American governor in the past decade.  It is ironic that the same crowd of people who distrust the government from competently delivering health care or education, can trust that same State entity with determining the fate of someone’s life.

 

III. INJUSTICE IN ADMINSTRATION

Some were angered by the Troy Davis case because there were suspicions of racial discrimination, as Mr. Davis was African American. This classification alone exposed Mr. Davis to the death penalty more likely than a white counterpart, as 89% of defendants subject to capital punishment in the U.S. are either African American or Mexican-American. Several advocates have presented cases before the Supreme Court that used social science data to explain that capital punishment was being used discriminatorily against the nation’s minorities. In such cases, the court relied on its legal formalism to reject social science data, and maintained the practice of capital punishment despite the existence of information suggesting that innocent people were being executed by the State.

However, legal formalists would argue that despite discrimination that might exist in society, we can trust the courts enough to adequately determine a person’s guilt and subject them to death as a penalty. The South African Supreme Court rejected this very idea, stating that no court in the world should be able to put a person to death when inequality or discrimination existed in that society. They stated that,

“the outcome (of a capital punishment case) may be dependent upon factors such

as the way the case is investigated by the police, the way the case is presented by

the prosecutor, how effectively the accused is defended, the personality and

particular attitude to capital punishment of the trial judge and, if the matter goes

on appeal, the particular judges who are selected to hear the case. Race and

poverty are also alleged to be factors. – S v. Makwanyane

Even though Europeans had slaughtered thousands of innocent black citizens using the death penalty in South Africa, the new Supreme Court chose not to exact revenge on their colonial masters. The Constitutional Court correctly raised concern over the very real possibility that circumstantial factors of societal inequality may lead to incorrect judicial rulings.Understanding the inherent fallibility and imperfections of the legal system, South Africa refused to accept capital punishment as being an appropriate solution that imperfect courts of law are capable of responsibly administering. The U.S. shares a similar history of discriminatory behavior towards certain minority groups, yet formalists argue that the U.S. system can somehow fairly administer the death penalty. Unlike South Africa, where the judges had the wisdom to understand the potential human cost of allowing the death penalty to continue in a discriminatory society, American judges have dehumanized our judiciary with their undying allegiance to formalism.

III. HUMAN DIGNITY AND THE DEATH PENALTY

There is another group of people who wish to repeal the death penalty based on the idea that executions violate the modern concept of “human dignity,” even if administered perfectly by the courts. This principle is acknowledged in several constitutions around the world and is a basic right in most international human rights treaties. In Germany, Article II of the Basic Law states that “every person shall have the right to life and physical integrity. Freedom of the person shall be inviolable.” This has been interpreted to prohibit the use of capital punishment against any citizen.

Germany’s constitution and courts draw on their scarred history of the Holocaust and World War 2 as inspiration for the abolishment of the death penalty.  During the reign of Nazi dictatorship an estimated 40,000 death sentences were handed down.  In response to this atrocious abuse of power, in 1949 German’s Parliamentary Council emphatically articulated its commitment to abolishing the death penalty:

“As the extent of Nazi atrocities and abuse of the death penalty became clear,

everyone was horrified, and the founders of the Federal Republic of Germany

decided the State could never again be allowed the power to kill.”

This acknowledgement of past atrocity empowered a modern Germany to learn from its grave mistakes and seek to never repeat them. They understood the real human impact of the loss of life, which is completely disregarded in the United States with its rigid maintenance of the death penalty. If one looks through the history books of the U.S., the nation was built on the genocide of a native population as well as the enslavement and abuse of African Americans. Yet, unlike the Germans, the American legal community had no such self-realization allowing the society to progress forward with the changing times. This is partially the reason why the execution of Troy Davis was so disheartening to so many across the world.  Once again, it reminded us of America’s arrogant refusal to correct past wrongs, and once again our poisoned judiciary shrunk at the opportunity to stand up to its moral obligations.

Predictably, few in the Supreme Court have acknowledged the importance of human dignity in their legal analysis.  Justice Brennan explained how the death penalty relates to the newly developing ideals of “human dignity”, when he stated “the country has debated whether a society for which the dignity of the individual is the supreme value can, without a fundamental inconsistency, follow the practice of deliberately putting some of its members to death…the struggle about this punishment has been one between ancient and deeply rooted beliefs in retribution…. on the one hand, and, on the other, beliefs in the personal value and dignity of the common man.”

IV. WISDOM IN THE COURT

            Thus, we can now come back to the situation of Troy Davis, whose appeal to the Supreme Court was denied even though many of the witnesses in his case recanted their story. The reasoning behind the court’s decision was lauded by some legal formalists, as the court upheld the prior decisions allowing for capital punishment in the face of abject discrimination. While legal formalists rely on case law, the ultimate law of any nation is its constitution and the basic feature of all constitutions, we argue, is that they protect human dignity and equality.

            In Furman v. Georgia, Justice Brennan argued that all capital punishment should be banned in the U.S. because the society no longer accepts it as an acceptable form of punishment (which is true today as 60% of Americans want to ban the death penalty). However, he explained through the Constitution, that the Eighth Amendment banned the use of cruel and unusual punishment, and that the definition of “cruel and unusual” would change over time.  Justice Brennan stated that Constitutional protections “must draw [their] meaning from the evolving standards of decency that mark the progress of a maturing society.” Therefore, the judges are tasked with the job of monitoring the “evolving standards of decency,” which cannot be done purely through a scientific legal rigidity and upholding past decisions.

            This requires that a judge display one characteristic: wisdom. A judge embodies wisdom when he/she recognizes the human impact of the decisions they make and understands the spirit of the laws. It is an obvious contention that laws and constitutions, at least nominally, were created to maximize human happiness and ensure equality, but a focus on legally formalistic arguments lends to decisions that result in injustice and misery.

Thus, a judge espousing higher law principles of wisdom possesses the ability to apply the law in a manner contextually related to the human experience.  A judge shouldn’t apply the law as if it is an infallible science, but rather should acknowledge imperfections in the law that have led to inequalities and socially manufactured economic and ethnic divisions. More generally, lawyers must possess the courage to pragmatically address such inequalities and divisions in restorative fashion, in an attempt to make society whole again by reconciling the past, not ignoring it.

V. CONCLUSION

While we train our lawyers and judges to be skilled in the technical facets of the law, we do not value an independently developed internal wisdom that a judge possesses by way of experience and inner-reflection, as opposed to external study and recitation of doctrine. This doctrinal formalism has dominated our Courts – and trickled down into our lower courts and judicial methodology in general. Thus, courts will continue to exact injustice and take the lives of innocent people if it does not adjust its decisions to the environment / characteristics of each specific case and value human dignity and life above all else.

If a wise judge were given the chance to examine capital punishment with regards to the gross racial disparity in execution rates, they would immediately work to ban the punishment all together. Alternatively, a wise judge could also assess the development of society’s values, which have redefined human dignity to include a protection against state-sponsored murder. The American legal system must catch up to progressive constitutional mandates that prohibit the death penalty.

BBC: New Protests in Hama after Syria’s Crackdown leaves hundreds dead

 

Tens of thousands of people have protested across Syria, days after the bloody crackdown on the city of Hama where the opposition had taken control. Video said to be of Damascus showed crowds in a central district chanting: “Hama, we are with you until death” and “[President] Bashar [al-Assad] leave”.

In a suburb of the city, at least four protesters were shot dead by security forces on Friday, reports say. In a broadcast from Hama, State TV said the city was under government control.  Hama residents and human rights groups accuse the army of killing more than 100 civilians in a bombardment of the city, a focus of the protests against Mr Assad’s rule.

As many as 2,000 people may have been killed by security forces since opponents of President Assad’s autocratic rule took to the streets in March. Protesters were inspired by the successful uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt. Mr Assad has promised reforms, but blames the violence on “armed criminal gangs” backed by unspecified foreign powers. Access to events in Syria has been severely restricted for international journalists and it is rarely possible to verify accounts by witnesses and opposition activists.

Marching in the heat

Activists had called for more protests after prayers on Friday, with one web user posting a message saying: “God is with us, are you?” Video posted by activists purports to show protesters marching through the Midan district of the Syrian capital, close to the Old City. Clapping their hands, they chanted, “We don’t want you Bashar”.

In another district of the capital, Qadam, protesters carried a banner reading: “Bashar is slaughtering the people and the international community is silent.”  Security forces opened fire with live ammunition and tear gas in several cities, activists said.  At least four people were reportedly killed in the Damascus suburb of Irbin, with a further 10 wounded.

Abdel Karim Rihawi, head of the Syrian League for the Defence of Human Rights, told AFP news agency that 30,000 people had marched in the city of Deir al-Zour despite extreme heat. Earlier, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton accused security forces of killing some 2,000 people since March. Residents of Hama, which has become a focal point of protests, told reporters that there had been more gunfire and shelling early on Friday.

Snipers and tanks have been firing on civilians and food and medicine supplies are running low, witnesses say. But the Syrian TV report showed pictures of armed men hiding behind cars and claimed the army had quelled a rebellion. The report showed deserted streets with flimsy barricades and piles of rubble. Later, the reporter went into buildings that appeared to have been destroyed in an explosion.

The UN Security Council issued a statement this week condemning the crackdown.  Russia, traditionally an ally of Syria, also joined the criticism, with President Dmitry Medvedev saying Mr Assad would “face a sad fate” unless he urgently carried out reforms and reconciled with the opposition.

The BBC’s Jim Muir in neighbouring Lebanon says Mr Medvedev’s statement may give the government pause for thought, but there has been no change in the attitude on the ground.

To All My Sovereigns: MY APOLOGIES!

So I am alive… I havnt been able to update as of late due to non-stop studying for the Maryland Bar Exam.  Thanks for all the Sovereigns who continue to check the site, and I promise you all I wll be back to normal postings after July 28th. WISH ME LUCK!

 

SEE YOU ALL SOON

- WARIS

Sufi Poetry Recognizing the Sacred Female

Edip Harabi, a Turkish Sufi-Poet of the 19th c., writes to reclaim the women’s voice in ‘man’s world’ (A Male Sufi writing from the prespective of a woman)

O’ Muhammad, they say we are inferior. Where is it men got this mistaken idea?
They disgrace the Prophet’s family with their false claims and blasphemy.

Our Mother Eve, is she not a woman? Beloved Khadija is she not a woman?
The Prophet’s daughter Fatima, is ehe not a woman? Is the Quran not full of praise of them?

These pure consorts of the pure heart can they be any less?
Whoever calls women inferior cannot reach the Truth.
You wouldn’t expect these ideas from one who knows.
Who is it that gave birth to all these Prophets of Truth?

God didn’t do anything absurd in creating us.
We don’t accept being seen as somehow less.
Women raised every saint that has walked the earth.
I dare you to accept this.

Don’t think this world can’t exist without men.
Think of Mother Mary just once: She gave birth to the glorious Christ, fatherless.
O’ mankind, we are more courageous than yourself because we show respect to you out of love.

We travel together with you on the Path, leave all these claims behind!
We may look different to you in your dresses.
In reality we are not trailing behind you.
And we warn you, we don’t consider it courageous to claim we are inferior.

Did Muhammad, the Chosen, come from a lesser being?
Did Ali, the Valiant, come from a lesser being?
Beware! Do not call your mother inferior.
What she prays at night might change your life forever.
Listen carefully to the speech of Zehra.
O’ men and knowers of Truth tell us:
Did we not give birth to all the masters who led you on God’s Way?

From Syed Ali Abbas Zaidi’s Blog which all of you should check out at http://plastictearz.wordpress.com/

Edip Harabi