Left Coast Voices

"I would hurl words into the darkness and wait for an echo. If an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight." Richard Wright, American Hunger

Archive for the month “June, 2012”

Tomorrow – My Son The Man

They grow up so fast!  Why I remember when…

Tomorrow morning, my son will stand before our family, friends, and the Jewish community. He will fulfill a 700-year-old rite of passage, as he declares himself a man in G-d’s eyes and the eyes of the Jewish community. He will take on the responsibility to be counted as one of the 10 adults needed for community prayer, lead prayer and study, and will be accountable for his actions before G-d and the Jewish community. In fact, Ariela and I will actually renounce our responsibility for such actions as part of the ceremony.

Rites-of-passage mean a lot for me and I have enjoyed ceremonies at every junction of my life. Some are fictionalized in A Gardener’s Tale. But as Winston Churchill said after the Battle of Britain: “This is not the end. Neither is it the beginning of the end, but it is the end of the beginning.”

Changing diapers, making egg-in-a-nest and nursing scraped knees are behind us. Discussions on the fairer sex, fashion, image, values, and politics, have replaced them and I have learned to embrace the change. But the responsibilities relinquished are replaced with the responsibilities of cultivating a young man who will be a kind and generous person, an activist, a philanthropist, a world-changer.

I have tried to be a nurturing father, a supportive husband, a fair boss, and an inspiring leader. My son has seen me succeed and fail. He has seen me address crowds as an author, rap my annual speech to students, celebrate my friends and students successes, and cry at their failures and losses.

Tomorrow, I will offer words of wisdom, hugs of love, and nods and thumbs up of support. Tomorrow, I will relinquish my responsibilities as a father, and take up my responsibilities as a friend and companion. In a world where so many young men are denied the positive role model of a father walking alongside them, where masculinity is ensconced in the unforgiving rule of law, the scavenger economy, and the uncompromising street, I have nothing to offer but myself and my example.

I can only hope to be worthy of the task ahead.

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/ and on Twitter (@alonshalevsf).

The iPhone Does Not Exist – Roger Ingalls

Imagine you’re sitting in Starbucks holding an iPad, iPhone or iPod and someone walks up to you and says, “that thing in your hand does not exist”. You’d look at them, think they were off their rocker and quickly scurry away. When climate-deniers tell me increased levels of CO2 are not responsible for global warming, I believe they are either brainwashed (followship syndrome), have a political agenda so truth doesn’t matter or they’re just plain crazy.

You may be scratching your head and asking why I’m drawing parallels between Apple products and manmade climate change but the answer is simple. The same technology used to predict how CO2 impacts temperature change is also used in the manufacture of the advanced computer chips (integrated circuits) that go into cell phones, iPhones and all similar devices including computers. However there is one big difference, predicting CO2 related climate change is magnitudes simpler than controlling the manufacturing of integrated circuits.

Destructive SEM Photo of Chip, sciencedirect.com

Computer chips, which are about the size of a finger nail, have millions of components inside them (called gates or transistors) with dimensions smaller than 100 nanometers. For comparison sake, the width of a human hair is about 100,000 nanometers. These chip components are so small they cannot be seen through the lenses of the most advance optical microscopes and aren’t clearly visible with multi-million dollar scanning electron microscopes. The shape and dimensions of these super small parts can only be “inferred” or predicted by analyzing how light (similar to sunlight) reflects, absorbs and scatters off the parts. A special machine shines light onto the part and then captures the light coming off them. The light-data creates a “kind of” fingerprint that resembles an up and down squiggly line. The light-fingerprint is compared to millions upon millions of stored fingerprints, which were created by computer simulations, until a match is made. Once a match is detected, the shape and dimensions are provided.

Climatologist use the same technique as described above except the problem is much simpler. The sun is the source of light that is analyzed as it reflects, absorbs and scatters through and off the atmosphere as well as the Earth’s surface. Computer chips are more complex because they have forty or more material layers or atmospheres with varying chemistry while the Earth has just one atmosphere with a few elements such as oxygen, CO2, nitrogen and so on. The dimension that climatologist look for is temperature as it relates to CO2 concentration. Computer simulations are used to predict or “infer” temperature change as the chemistry of our atmosphere varies; computer simulations predict a rise in temperature as CO2 amounts go up. CO2 concentrations have increased from 175 ppm (parts per million) to 395 ppm since the start of the industrial revolution. This is the fastest increase in Earth’s history and we know this from another type of scientific analysis but I’ll save that explanation for another day.

If you believe iPhones, high-speed internet and similar products exist, you must also believe in manmade global warming because the computer simulations that allow the manufacture of these gadgets also predict an increase in temperature as CO2 concentrations rise.

You can’t believe in one and not the other, it’s illogical.

A Safeway Fairy Tale

Fairy tales never come true, right? You know: the ones where a hero tries to save a damsel in distress (from dragon/bad prince/abusive boyfriend), gets wrongly accused by the all-powerful (insert king/queen/corporate boss), punished by (insert thrown in dungeon/sent on dangerous quest/fired from job in middle of recession), and finally vanquishes his foes (insert with magic sword/unicorn/mass movement from the people) for a happy ending.

Doesn’t happen, right? Wrong.

Ryan Young was working his shift at the meat counter of a Safeway when he saw a man repeatedly push and kick a pregnant woman. Ryan didn’t hesitate and, without regard for his own safety, stepped in to protect the woman from being beaten.

A hero right? His corporate bosses probably gave him a promotion, a raise and, we can forgive them if they exploited this to show that Safeway cares about its customers, plastering pictures of the hero in every place possible.

But Corporate America never misses a chance to do the wrong thing. Claiming that Ryan should have called security instead of stepping in himself, the suspended him without pay and, pending the results of an investigation, might fire him. He should, they said have followed company procedure and called security.

Ryan can be forgiven for being such a good citizen because his wife is also pregnant. They are expecting their baby in a few months, so this is probably as good a time as ever for taking away his income, as he prepares for the financial (as well as emotional) changes.

A Safeway customer, Doug Castro, who is also a security guard, believes Ryan did the right thing by intervening.  Had he called security and held back, the victim could have sustained serious injuries and endangered the life of her baby.

So Mr. Castro turned to Change.orgasking Safeway to lift Ryan’s suspension and give him backpay for the income he lost during his involuntary time away from work.

Indeed, local Police Chief Ron Langford has reviewed the security footage and believes the man who beat his girlfriend could be charged. He also told reporters, “In my mind, in this case Ryan did the right thing.”

Enter the magic sword/wise Jedi master/fairy godmother/whatever – lets call it Change.org and the army of good people form all over the country. Over 180,000 people signed Douglas’ petition asking Safeway to reinstate Ryan with full back-pay, and Safeway has acquiesced.

Ryan’s case became news on CNN and other national media including CBS and Business Insider.

Ryan says he’s “deeply grateful” to everyone who signed the petition. “Knowing that I had all these people standing behind me and that I wasn’t alone really helped me through this difficult time,” said Ryan. “Thank you again to everyone who took the time to help me out.”

And everyone lived happily ever after.

When my boys were younger and we would read them fairy tales and ideologically stories about peace and friendship (I know, poor kids – they have never quite recovered – And To Think That We Thought We Could Never Be Friends should be required reading for every citizen in the world!)  – I would often ask them what we could learn from the story.

So here we go:

– Corporate America can and does get it wrong.

– We can stand up to them when we stand together.

– The Internet can be a powerful tool for change.

– The folks at Change.org are awesome.

– Those who signed the petition are awesome.

– Ryan Young is a hero and should be recognized as one.

– Safeway did the right thing in the end.

And now everyone can live happily ever after.

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/ and on Twitter (@alonshalevsf).

 

Do Republicans Hate the Unemployed? – Tom Rossi

Why are Republicans so intent (and finally successful) on limiting unemployment benefits? Are they unsatisfied with low crime rates? Is the misery level not high enough? Are not enough houses being foreclosed upon? Well, I’m kidding (mostly) about those, but they are side-effects of the real goal.

What most in the 1% want is to lower labor costs. That’s basically what this all boils down to. The general population is not seen by these people (or at least their corporate identities) as human beings, we are seen as the term in the production equation that we represent – “labor power.”

Labor costs (in other words, wages and salaries) fall as the number of applicants per job rises. Also, as alternatives disappear – other jobs or the prospect of survival on unemployment checks.

There is some confusion as to what “labor power” is. First of all, labor power is not labor. It is the labor of many people aggregated and commodified. Think of a cow vs. “beef.” This labor power could be picking fruit, or selling insurance, or anything where actual, human work is performed in order to accomplish a specific task.

Once a group (either an “enemy” or a group which is to be subordinated) is dehumanized, it becomes easier to simply think in terms of “problem – solution.” If leaders in another country oppose your economic hegemony, either bomb them, assassinate them, or at least work for their overthrow behind the scenes. If it’s a subordinate group such as laborers that’s acting up, threaten their well-being, make it clear to them how lucky they are to have a job at all, cut off all alternatives, make life a living hell until your terms are accepted.

Then, you will get what you want – compliance, acquiescence, capitulation, and conformity. This is not hatred nor even ill will. It’s simply “good” business and the prioritization of profit above all other values. They want workers to accept lower pay and fewer benefits, period.

The classes that contain America’s workers are seen simply as the providers of the commodity, labor power. As I said, this group is not made up of individual humans. It is simply, as a group, a factor in an equation. As a group they are dehumanized, which makes any sort of treatment acceptable.

-Tom Rossi

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Tom Rossi is a commentator on politics and social issues. He is a Ph.D. student in International Sustainable Development, concentrating in natural resource and economic policy. Tom greatly enjoys a hearty debate, especially over a hearty pint of Guinness.

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List of Shame: The 1%’ers Who Dodge Taxes

Let me be clear from the start: this post is not about all those who occupy (excuse the pun) the top 1% of our nation in terms of wealth. This is about those who pay taxes annually to the tune of $1. There are many who worked hard to amass their wealth and are incredibly philanthropic. As the director of a non-profit, I have been honored with many opportunities to meet and work with such people.

These generous people are propelled by a moral code and take a meaningful portion of their money and time to promote social justice issues, to support those in our society who need help – the elderly, the poor, the homeless etc., and provide cultural and educational opportunities that might not be business-viable without such support. This article is NOT about them. I am sure they pay their taxes, understanding that the services they receive – an army to defend them, a police force, fire and emergency response force, the roads they drive on, the street lights…do I need to go on?

But unfortunately there are those billionaires who seem to take pride out of not paying their taxes. These people manage to show a salary of $1. They include such individuals as Eric Schmidt and Larry Page (both Google), Steve Jobs (Apple) from 1997 until his death last year, Larry Ellison (Oracle) and Meg Whitman (Hewlett-Packard). And apparently, recently wed and start-up-turned-public Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook) is about to join this shameful club.

Ironically, these ‘poor’ folk might actually be eligible to receive the kind of government aid that is available for low-income populations. If they keep their personal income under $13,000 they would be able to apply for an Earned Income Tax Credit. While I am sure they won’t collect on this, I hope they appreciate that the taxpayers provide this safety net, but they probably won’t.

There are many ways to ensure that you can live the lifestyle of the super-rich, amass wealth, and not pay taxes. One of these, for example is to hold multiple home equity loans, which is (I think) borrowing money against the values of many of your homes and property. This is debt and therefore not taxable, but it is money for them to jet around and live the life they want. In a country where good folk are losing their homes (their only homes) to foreclosure, isn’t this ironic? There are many other ways and I am not the person to expound on them.

Let us assume that one day the Zukerbergs decide to purchase an island in the Caribbean. Most people who show an income of $1 might be more inclined to buy food, clothes, medical insurance etc., but someone with significant net worth need only cash in a few shares (Facebook anyone?) to make the purchase. For sure, he might have to pay 15% capital gains taxes, but ain’t life a bitch.

To be perfectly clear (once again), I do not resent these people their wealth. I have a deep respect for the philanthropists that I have a relationship with. But I believe in paying taxes and I want everyone who can afford it to pay their share and pay it with grace.

Those billionaires who take pride out of cheating (yes, cheating) our society out of their taxes are screwing not only those of us who pay taxes today, but also failing to help prevent the nation accumulate debt that our children will be saddled with.

For some reason, what hurts even more, is that these people are paying more money for financial advice that helps them avoid tax exposure than I earn in a year…before I pay my taxes.

I work hard for my salary and pay my taxes as I should. I have a right to be angry.

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/ and on Twitter (@alonshalevsf).

Ray Bradbury R.I.P

On Wednesday the book world received news of the passing of a master. Ray Bradbury,  author of The Martian Chronicles, Fahrenheit 451, Something Wicked This Way Comes, and many more literary classics — died  in Los Angeles, at the age of 91.

I had the honor to meet Ray at the Santa Barbara Writer’s Conference where, despite age and health challenges, he continued to be a guest speaker. From the podium he urged us to write because we loved to, to let nothing but our imagination limit us and to dream big.

Here is Ray in a 2-minute clip from then.

In the introduction to The Illustrated Man,  entitled “Dancing, So As Not to Be Dead,”  Ray wrote a poignant line about death.

“My tunes and numbers are here. They have filled my years, the years when I refused to die. And in order to do that I wrote, I wrote, I wrote, at noon or 3:00 A.M. So as not to be dead.”

I’m sure they have a keyboard and screen waiting for you in heaven, Ray. Keep on writing … here on earth, your work will never die.

Ray Bradbury R.I.P 2012

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/ and on Twitter (@alonshalevsf).

I Want a Space Suit – Roger Ingalls

Like many kids growing up in the 60s and 70s, I wanted to be an astronaut. Perched atop a metal tube filled with mega-amounts of explosives, blasting through space would have been an awesome experience. Putting on high-tech gear and floating around an Apollo capsule like Will Robinson hovering above the Jupiter 2 in Lost in Space was every boy’s dream.

My astronaut wishing days are well behind me but, in the coming years, there will be a terrestrial need for space-like attire. So, at least, I may finally get to dress like an astronaut.

MIT developed BioSuit

A few months ago I wrote a piece called Give Global Warming a Hug. This was written because we need to embrace the fact that a hotter world is here to stay for a long time and it’s going to get worse before it gets better. And the “better” will not come until humans are extinct. One of the closing lines in the hug piece was, “We need to spend our intellectual energy creating an economy that allows us to survive and prosper in the chaos of a warmer world.” Climate change will create new markets. One of the products introduced during the Warm World Economy will be a Terrestrial Environmental Suit or TES. Resembling a space suit, it will control temperature, humidity and have many other bells and whistle for comfort and entertainment.

The TES is a product of necessity for two primary reasons; sky-rocketing energy cost and the need for humans to navigate their daily existence in a hotter climate. We will soon be a world of 9,000,000,000 (nine billion) people on an already energy stressed planet. All fuels are expensive now and will exponentially increase in the future. The luxury of having cooled spaces in our cars, homes, stores and offices is energy intensive and will soon be economically unsustainable. There is no need to control the climate inside all these big spaces. We only need to manage the space immediately around our bodies and doing so will save tremendous amounts of energy.

So, wal-lah or Viola…expect a climate controlled Terrestrial Environmental Suit in stores near you soon!

Finally, after forty years I’ll get my space suit.

Proved Innocent Too Late

On Monday I wrote a post about those people wrongly incarcerated for crimes they never committed. Unfortunately it doesn’t end here. Last week, while researching that article, I came across this one.

Carlos DeLuna looked uncannily like the murdered. He had the same first name, was in the area where the victim was murdered at the time the crime took place, and in 1989 was executed for a crime he never committed in the great state of Texas. No, this is not the latest John Grisham plot, though I doubt the master of court case fiction could have designed a better plot.

Columbia School of Law professor James Liebman and five of his students spent nearly five years going over the most minute details of the case and have put together a study of almost 800 pages, called “Los Tocayos Carlos: Anatomy of a Wrongful Execution,” Their conclusion: an incomplete and flaw-ridden investigation and trial. The wrong man was put to death in what Liebman calls an “emblematic” legal system failure.

In February 1983, Wanda Lopez, a single mother working in a gas station in the Texas coastal city of Corpus Christi, was stabbed to death. Ms. Lopez had twice called the police that night claiming to be threatened by a man with a switchblade and Liebman questions whether the quick arrest and conviction might have been motivated by the police’s failure to investigate and protect the victim despite her calls for help.

Professor Liebman and his staff highlighted “numerous missteps, missed clues and missed opportunities that let authorities prosecute Carlos DeLuna for the crime of murder, despite evidence not only that he did not commit the crime but that another individual, Carlos Hernandez, did,”

The reason this is important to exposure is first to clear the name of Carlos DeLuna though I truly cannot conceive what this might give his family other than closure if even that is remotely possible.

But second, it highlight the finality of the death penalty, and begs the question whether we can ever be 100% sure that a person is guilty.

Critics will claim that the ‘facts’ of this case are uncanny. Even the relatives of both men misidentified them and this is critical in a case that depended heavily on eyewitness accounts. They are both called Carlos, though I am not sure why this so intrigues me, or has any bearing on the investigation and trial.

In fact there was only one eyewitness who reported a Hispanic male running from the gas station. Even then, the man was identified as wearing a grey flannel shirt and had a mustache. DeLuna was clean-shaven and wore a white dress shirt. The only part of the identity that was accurate was that he was a male and Hispanic.

Forty minutes after the murder, Carlos DeLuna was arrested east from the gas station. Eyewitnesses said the killer was fleeing north. DeLuna had run when the police approached. He was on parole and had been drinking.

He apparently told the police that he had been in the vicinity of the gas station and seen Carlos Hernandez there. “I didn’t do it, but I know who did,” DeLuna said at the time.

Hernandez, known for using a blade in his attacks, was later jailed for murdering another woman with the same knife. He later died in prison from cirrhosis of the liver, but while incarcerated repeatedly admitted to murdering Wanda Lopez,

During the trial, the prosecutor told the jury that Hernandez was nothing but a “phantom” of DeLuna’s imagination and DeLuna’s budget attorney even questioned Carlos Hernandez’s existence. But in 1986, a local newspaper published a photograph of Hernandez in an article on the DeLuna case,

Following a hasty trial DeLuna was executed by lethal injection in 1989 after what Liebman calls “a very incomplete investigation. No question that the investigation is a failure…everything went wrong in this case.”

But why bring it up today (family closure aside)? The following statement is attached to the report. “Unfortunately, the flaws in the system that wrongfully convicted and executed DeLuna — faulty eyewitness testimony, shoddy legal representation and prosecutorial misconduct — continue to send innocent men to their death today.”

Until such time as we are able to discover a flawless way to conduct our trials and investigations, putting a person to death is a finality we are simply not ready for.

Judaism Oral Law (Talmud, Sanhedrin 37a) says that when you save a person it is as though you have saved the whole world. Until we stop killing innocent people, our entire civilization is at risk.

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/ and on Twitter (@alonshalevsf).

Do Progressives Want to Punish Success? – Tom Rossi

If you denied a request by your ten year old son for permission to buy a CD or go to a rock concert with his older brother or something, and then he went and asked your spouse and he or she said yes, you would probably punish your son for gaming the system. Your son would probably say, “But Mom said it was okay!” But you would know what was really going on.

The argument against taxing the (very) rich is most often that it would be “punishing success.” Well, we do punish some kinds of success in this country. We punish successful (and unsuccessful) burglars, bank robbers, drug dealers, con artists, murderers, embezzlers, and many other criminals.

Some of today’s wealthiest people fit into one of those categories, certainly. But many more, often acting through corporations, fit into the “play one parent against the other” archetype. What corporations do is lobby our government, often in ways that closely resemble bribery, to change the law more to their liking.

Tax laws, for example, are a favorite target of corporations and the super-rich who run them. They left the official rate high, (so they could continue to bitch, whine, piss, and moan) but they created a wonderful set of loopholes that mean that practically no corporation actually pays that rate.

In fact, the whole purpose of a corporation is to absolve the executives of any responsibility for its actions. A corporation legally insulates its operators, as long as it doesn’t violate what’s left of the law. But there is no law against creating ridiculously risky financial instruments and artificially inflating their value, essentially riding updrafts of hot air while pretending it’s solid ground.

Why is this not illegal? Because corporations and associations of very rich investors spend millions to kill financial reform. This is why nothing has really changed since the crash of 2007. The people calling for the heads of bankers and hedge-fund managers are the powerless – people whose net worth is measured in hundreds of thousands of dollars or less.

So, do we want to “punish” success? We absolutely want to punish the con artists who sent America into this pit. We also want to punish the success of those who have bribed their way out of paying for the function and infrastructure of the very country that has allowed them to become rich in the first place.

The success that allowed these corporations to become big and rich enough to sell out our country cam during the decades when the taxes they and their investors paid much higher taxes. Those taxes allowed America to become what it is – a land full of healthy, well-educated (on average) people with the means to physically travel to the places they are needed.

A lot goes into these factors, especially the health part. But taxes aren’t really punishment. As I’ve said before, it’s simply a matter of paying for what you get. You want a great country? Pay for it. It doesn’t come free. Conservative dimwits are fond of saying, “Freedom isn’t free.” Well neither is greatness. And private enterprise just isn’t effective at providing certain things like public health and education – two keys to a successful society.

The other side of the “punishing success” hogwash is that progressives or liberals want to “reward losers.” Let’s compare these punishments and these rewards… The punishments we’re talking about might mean buying a smaller yacht. The reward might mean paying the rent for a couple more months on the two-bedroom apartment where your family of five now resides.

So, to paraphrase what I’ve said before, please stop whining. If you’ve lost your job, been foreclosed on, and have to eat dog food to survive, you’ve got lots of good reasons to whine. It’s your right. But if you whine because you only get to keep $35million after taxes, kindly do us all a favor and shut your ridiculous, spoiled cake hole.

-Tom Rossi

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Tom Rossi is a commentator on politics and social issues. He is a Ph.D. student in International Sustainable Development, concentrating in natural resource and economic policy. Tom greatly enjoys a hearty debate, especially over a hearty pint of Guinness.

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The Ones Not Executed

June is a special month for my family. In a few weeks, my eldest son will complete a rite-of-passage as he stands before our community and fulfills three obligations as he becomes an adult in the eyes of Judaism. He will lead the community in prayers, read from the Torah (Old Testament), and teach a lesson from the passage he had read.

The Torah portion deals with the death penalty as a man found gathering wood on the Sabbath is stoned by the entire community and the Israelites are condemned to die in the Wilderness and never enter the land of milk and honey.

As my son read this and we talked about the scenarios and lessons that could be gleaned, we discussed the death penalty and ways of punishing people when they do wrong.

What happens, however, when the wrong person is condemned? We are discovering, with the help of technology, that people who have been arrested, tried and convicted, are sometimes simply the wrong person in the wrong place at the wrong time. 

Last year, during my annual week of service on the Gulf Coast with students, we met two men who had each served over 20 years each in jail for crimes that neither had committed. One had been on death row. These two men were exonerated because of the use of DNA testing in post-conviction criminal cases. DNA testing has proved that more than 250 people had been innocent and had sat in prison for an average of 13 years – the age my son is as he reaches his bar mitzvah (his rite-of-passage).

It is hard to imagine. My eyes filled with tears when one told us of the son or daughter that he had never held. He was now in the process of getting to know his now grown up child. How can a person be compensated for this? Any aspiration he once had for a good education and career have long disappeared.

The Innocence Project is an advocacy group who would like every state to have an exoneree compensation law that reflects the guidelines set out on a federal level (23 states do not at the time of writing). Current federal guidelines provide the wrongly incarcerated up to $50,000 per year of wrongful incarceration, and $100,000 per year served on death row. “The beauty of a compensation statute is that it provides a formula that treats everyone equally,” says Rebecca Brown, policy advocate for The Innocence Project.

I believe it is important to financially compensate exonerees and ensure that they can live out the rest of their lives with dignity and meaning. There is an important place for an advocacy group such The Innocence Project.

But I can’t loose the image of the man in New Orleans, who never got to hold his child and now must pick up the pieces with his adult child. I will soon stand by my son in front of our community, a son that I have stood by for thirteen years and will for many more. There are some things that you cannot put a price on.

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/ and on Twitter (@alonshalevsf).

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