Love and the Law: An exerpt from Bulleh Shah (Required reading if you have studied the law)

Bulleh Shah (1680 – 1757) was a Punjabi Sufi poet, a humanist and philosopher from what is now considered Pakistan. As one of the leading figures in social thought and spiritualism, Bulleh Shah continually challenged the norms of society, be it materialism or hate for one’s fellow man.

While his work is expansive, the following passage was picked for a personal reason.  Throughout my career as a law school student I have felt an internal stuggle between what I would call my “Universal Self” (or innate sensibility of “fairness”) and the technical nature of the law as embraced by practioners and academics. Several justices over the years, the worst of which is Justice Scalia, have treated the cases that come before the US Supreme Court as a time to showcase thier talent of rationally explaing a inhuman or heartless decision by the court.

Most law school students in the first year, before they have been indoctrinated to accept the notion that injustice can/must be done in order to maintain the court’s precedent, always raise questions of a court not deciding the “right way” even though the Justices were maintained a high level of technical legal analysis. That is because we come into law school believing in our own internal moral compass, again what I would call a relationship to the Universal Self, and the process of learning the law forces one to take actions that may violate one’s own moral code becuase it is the “technically” correct thing to do.  

So I present Bulleh Shah’s verse which I will label as Love and Law. Though he presents teh argument as lambasting the laws created around religions by organizations and priests, but it easily translates to the abject focus on technical rationality in the modern legal forum.  This has been a more significant and epiphany inducing peice than anything I have read in law school- so for all the young lawyers, PLEASE READ THIS!

Love and Law are struggling in the human heart.
The doubt of the heart will I settle by relating questions of Law
And the answers of Love I will describe, holy Sir;

Law says go to the Mullah (priest) and learn the rules and regulations.
Love answers, “One letter is enough, shut up and put away other books.”
Law says: Perform the five baths and worship alone in the temple (reffering to the 5x daily prayer of Muslims) 
Love says: Your worship is false if you consider yourself seperate from the Universal Self.

Law says: Have shame and hide the enlightenment
Love says: What is this veil for? Let the vision be open
Law says: Go inside the mosque and perform the duty of prayer
Love says: Go to the wine-house and drinking the wine, read a prayer

Law says: Let us go to heaven; we will eat the fruits of heaven
Love says: There, we are custodians or rulers, and we ourselves will distribute the fruits of heaven
Law says: O faithful one, come perform the hajj (pilgrimage), you have to cross the bridge
Love says: The door of the Beloved (God/Allah) is in ka’baa; from there I will not stir 

Law says:  We placed Shah Mansur (a contraversial Sufi Saint) on the stake
Love says: You did well, you made him enter the door of the Beloved (God/Allah)
THE RANK OF LOVE IS THE HIGHEST HEAVEN, THE CROWN OF CREATION.
OUT OF LOVE, HE (Allah/ God) has created Bulleh, humble, and from dust.   

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Sovereign Of the Week: Anna Hazare (Fasting against corruption)

Hunger striking Indian activist Anna Hazare has called for mass protests by his supporters against corruption. The 72-year-old campaigner is on the fourth day of a fast to push for stringent new anti-corruption laws. He wants his followers to “fill India’s jails” in a mass campaign of non-violent civil disobedience on 13 April.

Thousands of people have joined Mr Hazare’s protest. In recent months India has been rocked by a string of corruption scandals. On Thursday, the government agreed to include civil society members in a new panel which Mr Hazare is demanding be set up to draft tighter anti-corruption legislation. But differences remain over who will lead the panel and whether it will have legal powers.

Mr Hazare has said he wants the “jail bharo” (fill the prison) movement to take place across India. “But you should participate in the agitation keeping in mind Mahatma Gandhi. There should be no violence anywhere,” he told his supporters.

India’s governing Congress party leader Sonia Gandhi has urged Mr Hazare to give up his fast. She said his views would receive the government’s “full attention” in the fight against corruption. Doctors are checking Mr Hazare twice a day to monitor his health. The 72-year-old says he will refuse food until the government accedes to his demands.

There has been widespread support for Mr Hazare with protests and hunger strikes reported across India. Some 2,000 people have joined the activist at the historic Jantar Mantar observatory in Delhi, where he is conducting his fast. Correspondents say Mr Hazare has rallied people across the country disillusioned with the recent spate of scandals – he is highly respected as a social activist with an untarnished reputation.

Some of the recent corruption scandals to have angered Indians include a multi-billion dollar alleged telecoms scam, alleged financial malpractices in connection with the 2010 Delhi Commonwealth Games and allegations that houses for war widows were diverted to civil servants.

Last month the head of the country’s anti-corruption watchdog was forced to resign by the Supreme Court on the grounds that he himself faced corruption charges.

Charles Kenny- Dont Mess With Taxes

Published in Foreign Policy

Every spring, the Tax Foundation, a Washington-based advocacy group, announces Tax Freedom Day: the date by which the average employed American will have earned enough income to pay off his or her taxes for the year. This year, that day will be April 12. The Adam Smith Institute, a London-based, free-market think tank that makes a similar calculation for Britain, suggests that British taxpayers will have to work until around May 30 to pay off their own dues.

Tax Freedom Day is a clever-enough gimmick if your aim is to stir up ire over the government stealing income that rightfully belongs to the good people who have earned it through the toil of their labors. In an environment where Joe “the Plumber” Wurzelbacher is considered an expert on fiscal policy, it might even work. But it is worth remembering that, from a global perspective, how much we earn is actually 95 percent luck and maybe 5 percent toil. And it isn’t heavy-taxing big government that affects your income — it’s bad government.

The idea that anyone who works hard enough can become rich is a powerful one; for Americans, it’s not just appealing but central to national identity. The problem is that this vision of social mobility doesn’t hold true within the United States — and on a global scale, it’s just plain silly. The reason you earned as much as you did last year has far less to do with how hard you worked than with where and to whom you were born. In the United States, of those children born to parents in the bottom 10 percent of incomes, around one-third remain at the bottom as adults, and over half remain in the bottom 20 percent. Only one out of 77 children born into the bottom 10 percent of incomes reaches the top 10 percent as an adult, according to Samuel Bowles and Herbert Gintis writing in the Journal of Economic Perspectives.

But the advantages of being born rich rather than poor in America — large though they are — pale in comparison with the advantages of being born in a wealthy country rather than a developing one. The average rural Zambian will enjoy a lifetime income of about $10,000, compared with a lifetime income of around $4.5 million for the average resident of New York City. That’s not because Zambians are all soulless and corrupt. It’s because a Zambian with the same skills, intelligence, and drive earns a lot less in Zambia than she would in the United States — as is made abundantly clear every time a Zambian moves to the United States and starts earning a lot. The same people doing exactly the same job earn much, much more if they move from a poor to a rich country to do that job. In 1995, a construction carpenter’s wage in India was $42 a month. In Mexico, it was $125 a month. A South Korean carpenter, by contrast, made almost 10 times what his Mexican counterpart did; an American one made almost 20 times more.

For those of us lucky enough to be living in a rich country, are taxes really holding us back from a life of ease? In a word, no. Over the (not very) long term, it isn’t tax rates that decide how much money you take home — it is rates of economic growth. If a British person in 1984 paid no taxes at all, receiving as manna from heaven infrastructure, health care, education, policing, pensions, welfare benefits, and all the other services that the state provides, his or her take-home income (adjusted for inflation) would still be below that of post-tax Britons today. The same would be true of an American in 1988. People in the West are lucky enough to have been born in — or nearly as lucky to have moved to — countries that have seen a lot of economic growth over the past two centuries. That’s the reason they’re rich.

 Of course, an anti-tax advocate would respond that low taxes and a correspondingly small government are the secret to a country’s riches — an idea that is appealing, widespread, and very wrong. The last 100 years or so have seen the fastest rates of global economic growth in history; they’ve also seen the biggest governments of all time. From William Easterly and Sergio Rebelo writing for the National Bureau of Economic Research to Ross Levine and David Renelt in the American Economic Review (as well as numerous other analyses), economists have consistently failed to find robust cross-country evidence that a government’s size — measured by tax take or spending as a percentage of GDP — has any bearing, positive or negative, on its economic growth. Want further proof? Many developing countries see personal income tax receipts that would make a Tea Partier tip his tri-cornered hat in admiration, amounting to less than 2 percent of GDP. If a small income tax burden really was the determining factor in driving growth, those countries would all be richer than Luxembourg.

But while there isn’t a proven link between government size and economic growth, there is an important relationship between the quality of government and growth. If a government can’t ensure a basic level of security, stability, fair dealing, and public goods like infrastructure and education, whether it’s large or small is irrelevant — that country will be poor. If the government is providing those basic requirements, it doesn’t matter if it’s also blowing 10 percent of its GDP on bridges to nowhere, high-tech bombers for the last war, or corporate subsidies for ethanol production — that country will be rich. Better government equals richer people — it is as simple as that.

So why do rich people think it is all about effort rather than the luck of the draw? For one thing, there’s the oft-repeated finding from social psychology that people blame their own failures on circumstances beyond their control (“I was fired because the boss never liked me”) and the failures of others on personal flaws (“He was fired because he never did any work”). The reverse also holds: People take far more credit than they should for successful performance as part of a group, particularly if they do not know other group members personally. All of us — not only the rich — are just incredibly narcissistic by nature.

The second factor is that when we make comparisons it is usually to our peers, not the world as a whole. And our peers tend to have gone to the same type of school, work in the same field, and live in the same part of the world. Within these narrow groups, income differences — however small on a national or global scale — are more likely to be about ability and hard work. The fact that you earn more than your colleague who joined the firm at the same time as you did probably does have something to do with your different personal characteristics. The fact that you earn more than a peasant farmer in Lesotho doesn’t. At the same time, you rarely stop to care about how much a peasant farmer in Lesotho earns — despite the fact that the income gap between you and the farmer is many multiples larger than the gap between you and your colleague. However powerful our psychological foibles and narrow frames of reference may be, though, they are beside the point when it comes to public policy.

There are lots of reasons to hate current tax codes — not least because they are ridiculously complex and stuffed with loopholes for groups that can afford the best lobbyists. And governments the world over remain wasteful and spendthrift — including America’s, of course. Especially in poor countries, people ought to be focused on making government more efficient, equitable, and transparent — an effort that will entail lower government revenues in some cases and less government regulation in lots of cases. But the focus should be on better government, not smaller government. And the idea that taxation takes money that is rightfully ours alone, or that if only we managed to reduce the tax burden by a few percentage points we’d all be rich, is laughable. If you are in a wealthy country and it is tax time, be thankful you live somewhere where government works — and pay up.

The Guardian: British Protestors plan to turn Trafalger Square into Tahrir Square


Campaigners against public service cuts are calling for a 24-hour occupation of Trafalgar Square – drawing inspiration from revolts in the Middle East – to coincide with Saturday’s trade union protest in London.
Student activists who organised last year’s demonstrations say there will be a rolling programme of sit-ins and protests on the day and have called on people to occupy the central London square turning “Trafalgar into Tahrir” – a reference to the gathering point in Cairo that was at the heart of the revolution in Egypt earlier this year.

“We want Trafalgar Square to become a focal point for the ongoing occupations, marches and sit-ins that will carry on throughout the weekend,” said Michael Chessum from the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts. “There are a lot of smaller scale demonstrations and actions planned and, just as we have seen in recent protests in the Middle East and north Africa, we want to create an ongoing organising hub.”

Saturday’s main demonstration has been organised by the TUC and is expected to see more than 200,000 people – including public sector workers, families and first-time protesters – take to the capital’s streets to oppose government cuts. This month the TUC general secretary, Brendan Barber, promised a barrage of protests against the cuts, ranging from industrial strikes and “peaceful civil disobedience” to petitions by Tory voters in the shires.

The plan to occupy Trafalgar Square is the latest in a wave of proposed sit-ins, occupations and “people’s assemblies” that activists have branded a “carnival of civil disobedience”.  “We have seen time and again that marches from A to B do not achieve their objectives,” said Chessum. “This is about creating an ongoing movement that will put pressure on the government. This is the start of what is going to be a hot summer of protest against the ideological nature of what this government is doing.”

The call for an occupation of the London landmark is backed by student groups, activists and two Labour MPs – John McDonnell and Jeremy Corbyn. In a joint statement they have called on people to “stay in Trafalgar Square for 24 hours to discuss how we can beat this government and to send a message across the globe that we stand with the people of Egypt, Libya, Wisconsin and with all those fighting for equality, freedom and justice.

“We want to turn Trafalgar Square into a place of people’s power where we assert our alternative to cuts and austerity and make it a day that this government won’t forget.” Alongside the main march, which will set off from the Embankment before making its way to Hyde Park for a rally, anti-cuts campaigners say they plan to occupy some of the capital’s “great buildings”, close down scores of high street stores and occupy Hyde Park.

UK Uncut, a peaceful direct action group set up five months ago to oppose government cuts and protest against corporate tax avoidance, is planning to occupy and force the temporary closure of scores of shops on Oxford Street on Saturday afternoon. Meanwhile, student groups will meet at the University of London student union building in Bloomsbury at 10am. Some are then expected to make their way to the main assembly point in a “feeder march”; others will peel off to take part in various “direct actions” .

“Since Christmas the movement has become much more autonomous,” one veteran of last year’s protests told the Guardian last week. “There are smaller, semi-independent groups planning small-scale direct action against a range of targets. It will be a bit of a disappointment if we get to the end of the day and one of London’s great buildings is not occupied. We have to make an impact.”

Online, other groups are calling for more widespread direct action on Saturday. An organisation calling itself Resist 26 claims it will stage a number of “people’s assemblies” along the route of the march. Under the banner “Battle of Britain” it is calling for a 24-hour occupation of Hyde Park and “after parties” at famous London landmarks including Piccadilly Circus and Buckingham Palace.

Paul Krugman: Wisconsin Power Play


Last week, in the face of protest demonstrations against Wisconsin’s new union-busting governor, Scott Walker — demonstrations that continued through the weekend, with huge crowds on Saturday — Representative Paul Ryan made an unintentionally apt comparison: “It’s like Cairo has moved to Madison.”

It wasn’t the smartest thing for Mr. Ryan to say, since he probably didn’t mean to compare Mr. Walker, a fellow Republican, to Hosni Mubarak. Or maybe he did — after all, quite a few prominent conservatives, including Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh and Rick Santorum, denounced the uprising in Egypt and insist that President Obama should have helped the Mubarak regime suppress it.

In any case, however, Mr. Ryan was more right than he knew. For what’s happening in Wisconsin isn’t about the state budget, despite Mr. Walker’s pretense that he’s just trying to be fiscally responsible. It is, instead, about power. What Mr. Walker and his backers are trying to do is to make Wisconsin — and eventually, America — less of a functioning democracy and more of a third-world-style oligarchy. And that’s why anyone who believes that we need some counterweight to the political power of big money should be on the demonstrators’ side.

Some background: Wisconsin is indeed facing a budget crunch, although its difficulties are less severe than those facing many other states. Revenue has fallen in the face of a weak economy, while stimulus funds, which helped close the gap in 2009 and 2010, have faded away. In this situation, it makes sense to call for shared sacrifice, including monetary concessions from state workers. And union leaders have signaled that they are, in fact, willing to make such concessions.

But Mr. Walker isn’t interested in making a deal. Partly that’s because he doesn’t want to share the sacrifice: even as he proclaims that Wisconsin faces a terrible fiscal crisis, he has been pushing through tax cuts that make the deficit worse. Mainly, however, he has made it clear that rather than bargaining with workers, he wants to end workers’ ability to bargain.

The bill that has inspired the demonstrations would strip away collective bargaining rights for many of the state’s workers, in effect busting public-employee unions. Tellingly, some workers — namely, those who tend to be Republican-leaning — are exempted from the ban; it’s as if Mr. Walker were flaunting the political nature of his actions.

Why bust the unions? As I said, it has nothing to do with helping Wisconsin deal with its current fiscal crisis. Nor is it likely to help the state’s budget prospects even in the long run: contrary to what you may have heard, public-sector workers in Wisconsin and elsewhere are paid somewhat less than private-sector workers with comparable qualifications, so there’s not much room for further pay squeezes.

So it’s not about the budget; it’s about the power. In principle, every American citizen has an equal say in our political process. In practice, of course, some of us are more equal than others. Billionaires can field armies of lobbyists; they can finance think tanks that put the desired spin on policy issues; they can funnel cash to politicians with sympathetic views (as the Koch brothers did in the case of Mr. Walker). On paper, we’re a one-person-one-vote nation; in reality, we’re more than a bit of an oligarchy, in which a handful of wealthy people dominate.

Given this reality, it’s important to have institutions that can act as counterweights to the power of big money. And unions are among the most important of these institutions. You don’t have to love unions, you don’t have to believe that their policy positions are always right, to recognize that they’re among the few influential players in our political system representing the interests of middle- and working-class Americans, as opposed to the wealthy. Indeed, if America has become more oligarchic and less democratic over the last 30 years — which it has — that’s to an important extent due to the decline of private-sector unions.

And now Mr. Walker and his backers are trying to get rid of public-sector unions, too.

There’s a bitter irony here. The fiscal crisis in Wisconsin, as in other states, was largely caused by the increasing power of America’s oligarchy. After all, it was superwealthy players, not the general public, who pushed for financial deregulation and thereby set the stage for the economic crisis of 2008-9, a crisis whose aftermath is the main reason for the current budget crunch. And now the political right is trying to exploit that very crisis, using it to remove one of the few remaining checks on oligarchic influence.

So will the attack on unions succeed? I don’t know. But anyone who cares about retaining government of the people by the people should hope that it doesn’t.

Day of Departure for Mubarak in Egypt- In Pictures

Egyptian anti-government protesters gathered at Cairo's Tahrir Square - 4 February 2011

Estimates of people at this hour now reach hundreds of thousands, with millions across the country coming out in the streets. Tahrir Square currently has a huge stream of thousands of protestors coming into the square with hundreds of thousands already assembled.

Anti-government protesters pray in Tahrir Square, Cairo - 4 February 2011

Friday prayer and the protests following have largely been peaceful as the military has taken a more active role, and the Pro-Dictatorship  thugs have not been seen as in the past few days.

An Egyptian woman sits among the debris littering Cairo's Tahrir Square - 4 February 2011

There has been running battles between the hired thugs, plain clothes security and police forces who shot at the peaceful protestors, beat them with sticks, knives, and molotov cocktails. These unruly mobs of “Mubarak supporters” have beaten up/ imprisoned/tortured Egyptian bloggers and human rights activists as well as media from around the globe.

Anti-government protesters sleeping in Tahrir Square - 4 February 2011

Many protestors have not left the square in the past 11 days of protests. These are the true champions of Democracy and order that we should be looking to- nothing more nothing less.

Mubarak Out. Power to the Egyptian People.

 

RIP Sovereign of the Week: David Kato- Ugandan Gay Rights Activist Slain

BBC.

The murdered gay Ugandan activist David Kato, 42, is remembered by friends and colleagues as loud and proud. “He used to say that he was the first ‘out’ gay Ugandan,” blogger GayUganda posted after he heard the news of his murder. A school teacher, he became a prominent campaigner in recent years, especially taking on the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, which called for the death sentence to be imposed for some homosexual acts.

“David was always proactive and also very authoritative. He seemed to want to be a leader in every way,” close friend Poline Kimani, from the Gay and Lesbian Coalition of Kenya, told the BBC. His colleague Julian Pepe said he came out to his family, particularly his twin brother, Waswa, just before he went to spend a few years in South Africa.

“But the brother was really not shocked, he was like: ‘Come on I could tell that you’re different, but I respect you,'” she told the BBC. On his return,David Kato felt galvanised by his time in South Africa, where until the end of apartheid homosexuality had been banned.  “In South Africa I fought for their liberation in Johannesburg, so when I came home that was in 1998 I had the same momentum – I tried to liberate my own community,” he said in an interview last year posted on YouTube. “I didn’t know anyone but I knew there were people there.”

Not long afterwards he spent a week in police custody for his activism – the start of a career that saw him become a leading member of the gay rights community in East Africa. Ms Kimani said he was one of the most visible gay campaigners in Uganda, serving as the litigation officer for the group Sexual Minorities Uganda (Smug).

This often caused him problems with his career in schools. “He was getting a lot of problems with people where he was employed – especially with the media visibility he had gained,” she said. He often faced accusations that he was trying to groom children, which Ms Pepe, who worked with him at Smug, blamed on “religious propaganda”. “These allegations were of course were false,” she said.

In the end he gave up teaching last year to concentrate on his work with Smug.  He then took on Uganda’s Rolling Stone newspaper, which last October began publishing photographs of people it said were gay – including Mr Kato – next to a headline reading “Hang them”.

His complaint was upheld and a judge ordered the paper to stop publishing the photographs, saying it contravened their right to privacy. Mr Kato, who was passionate and outspoken about his views, said that the life of a gay activist in Uganda was like playing “hide and seek”. Offices were often changed so they did not become targets.

Smug’s executive director Frank Mugisha said the threats against Kato had increased. One his colleagues, who asked to remain anonymous, remembered him as “a brave man”. “He wasn’t afraid to speak out and would always put himself out there,” he told the BBC. “He took a lead role in developing HIV/Aids policies for a number of organisations.”

Rebecca McDowall, a student in London who met Mr Kato at an event recently, said he was aware that what he was doing was dangerous. “He was so inspirational as a public speaker,” she told the BBC. “He looked like a small unassuming person but when he got up, you couldn’t help but sit up and listen.”

Ms Pepe said Mr Kato’s family and friends are still in shock. “We spoke to Waswa yesterday, he’s equally devastated – he’s trying to hold it together but he’s shattered because of course they were really close,” she said. She and Mr Kato were chatting on the phone about an hour before he was attacked – and he had been laughing and joking.  “I keep hearing his laughter in my head – it breaks my heart,” she said