Category Archives: police brutality

Memorial Day and the National Anthem: Some Recent Conclusions

The ‘National Anthem’ and This Past Week’s Football Owners Meeting: Why I’ll Be Taking a Knee With “Kap” This Coming Football Season

by Pastor Paul J. Bern

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The United States of America hasn’t been winning very many popularity contests overseas as of late. The last two presidents – particularly Donald Trump – have stepped up military drone strikes against Islamic extremists, but also those countries that have numerous oil fields who are working to undermine the US dollar. Countries such as Iran, Yemen, Somalia, Libya, Egypt, Pakistan and Nigeria are currently in negotiations to collaborate using an alternative currency to the US dollar, such as the Euro, the Chinese Yuan or the Russian ruble, but these oil-producing countries are also using gold as a form of currency. Resorting to such tactics by any of the above countries constitutes a direct threat to US interests, which has provoked the strong military response we are seeing in today’s headlines.

 

 

Here on the home front, our cities are deteriorating due to a glut of boarded up houses, long-dormant industrial sites and abandoned shopping centers. Much the same has happened to many small rural towns for the same reasons. The least common denominator to why this is occurring is the lack of jobs that pay a fair minimum wage of, say, $15.00 an hour. And then there’s our police forces, who are supposed to be protecting and serving the public. Instead, they have mutated into a paramilitary apparatus equipped with military-grade weapons they don’t need, and many if not most of those police are a lot more trigger-happy than they would care to admit. As of this writing, the FBI, BATFE, NSA, DEA and the DHS have ordered a total of over 3.5 billion rounds of hollow-point ammunition. That’s enough to kill everyone in America 10 times over. So why did law enforcement purchase such an enormous amount of ammunition knowing that it was more than they would ever use? The purpose is evidently to deny American gun owners access to ammunition by buying up the entire supply. This enormous amount of ammunition has been purchased for the same reason the police departments are acquiring military grade assault weapons and armored vehicles. They are preparing for a mass assault on the American people as an anticipated reaction to the protests and possible rioting over food and fuel shortages that will occur when martial law is declared. This could even mushroom into another US civil war if things get out of hand.

 

It has been my observation that there are far more clandestine reasons that are carefully hidden underneath the surface for these things to be occurring. The forces and enforcers of the status quo are the same individuals who stand to lose everything when the US dollar inevitably crashes and the Western world’s capitalist debt-based economic bubble finally bursts for good, as it eventually must. For those who don’t already know, this may occur even sooner than expected. But it was Jesus who said. “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth where it will rust or be eaten by moths, or that thieves break in and steal. But instead, store up for yourselves treasure in heaven, where moths don’t eat up your clothes, where nothing ever rusts, and where thievery is nonexistent.” (Matthew 6: 19-21) When that collapse finally does occur, it will bring the American, Canadian, European, Japanese and Russian economies down along with it. Even China’s booming economy would come to a screeching halt in such a case as that!

 

Here in the USA, there are presently numerous individuals or entire families who are engaged in activities known as “prepping”. Prepping can generally be defined as making advance preparations for an expected disaster, or for the declaration of martial law. I have begun to do this very thing myself, mainly by storing plenty of nonperishable food and lots of extra 1-gallon milk jugs of water. In a worst-case scenario, I got a passport last winter, and it’s good for 10 years. What does this say about our country and the state of its people? It looks to me like there are many saying, “We’ve had enough of all this crap. The entire American political and economic systems are a disaster area, and the government is also broken beyond repair. So it’s up to us to fix it ourselves.”

 

For a long time now I have maintained that we need to reinvent government as we know it. One replacement idea would be a Web-based paperless government. Thanks to the global proliferation of the Internet, hierarchical governments and other similar organizations ruled from the top down will soon find themselves replaced with a Web-based democracy featuring a horizontally administered command and organizational structure. In effect, it would be a kind of laterally managed organization that runs peer-to-peer, similar to a beehive, or maybe like an ant colony, as the Bible describes it: “Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise! It has no commander, overseer or ruler, yet it stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest.” (Proverbs 6: 6-8). The main thing will be organizing the peer-to-peer economic system that would accompany such a lateral management structure. But this would not be difficult to achieve due to the decentralized nature of lateral management systems.

 

One thing is certain; America is a hollowed out shell of what it used to be. The job market is absolutely decimated – never mind all of the propaganda that comes from the mainstream media about gaining 200,000 new jobs every month. They are almost entirely part time jobs everywhere I look. It makes me glad I had to retire from the work force, and even grateful for my small disability check. At first when I became disabled I complained about how small my monthly check was. But, having the time to sit back and watch the implosion of the American job market from 2011 up until now, I stopped complaining a long time ago. In fact, it was sinful of me to have done that, and so I confessed that sin to the Lord and begged His forgiveness and he fully restored me (hallelujah!). He wants to restore us all, so confess your sins and Jesus will forgive you too. It doesn’t matter how bad you have been, or what you did and when,or what your past has been like. The blood of Jesus washes it all away.

 

This past week, the 32 billionaire owners, or their designated representatives, met right here in Atlanta to discuss what to do about players who ‘take a knee’ when the National Anthem is played just before games begin. Sports Illustrated had this to say about the meeting:

ATLANTA — The owners had been locked in discussion for almost three hours, and momentum was starting to build toward a resolution to be voted on. This, in certain circumstances, would be when NFL commissioner Roger Goodell would take command of the room. But not this time. The national anthem has been the most sensitive issue the league has dealt with over the past two years; so instead, Goodell stopped the open forum and called for the owners to go around the room and, one by one, make their points. This is where the league’s anthem policy was born, amid two common themes consistent among the 32 takes.

1) The NFL needed an enforceable policy on the anthem.

2) The NFL needed to respect players who weren’t comfortable standing for it.

Everything would have to fall around those two things, as the owners saw it. And as that consensus became clear, NFL EVP Jeff Pash was scribbling out a five-point plan, which Goodell read to the room after the “All 32” exercise was complete to cap the meeting. Another privileged session (primary owners and family only….)” You can read the entire article here.

 

Everyone knows by now the source of this entire controversy. Depending on who you believe, it was started by San Francisco quarterback Colin Kapernick as a public statement against police violence, or by law enforcement due to their seemingly indiscriminate killing of unarmed Black men. As could be expected, this form of public dissent has been met with a mix of confusion, consternation and contempt. Wasn’t this just another example of our traditional values being trampled by the unrelenting march of political correctness? What sort of ingrates object to our nation’s anthem, anyway? Fluffy-headed campus philosophers? Lazy latte-sipping liberals? It also caused widespread concern and confusion among the supporters and, yes, donors – many of whom felt like playing the anthem compromised Christian values.

 

Instead of compromising their core convictions about racism and violence at the hands of the police, I foresee hundreds or even thousands of conscientious men and women this coming football season who will choose to adhere to their conscience. Moreover, I have resolved to join “Kap” and other like-minded individuals, even though we may find ourselves mocked by ‘friends’ and neighbors, beaten down by angry mobs or waterboarded by rednecks. It is also entirely possible that all the high school kids who are fed up with gun violence will join Colin Kapernick and his contemporaries in ‘taking a knee’ this football season. Although there certainly are diverse viewpoints among equally diverse individuals today, all continue to advocate for an end to gun violence. That’s because we recognize only one nation that is bound together by a living Constitution and a faith in a living Savior rather than by man-made, blood-soaked prejudices of the past.

 

 

Jesus called his disciples to love their enemies and he loved his enemies all the way to the cross and beyond. Following Jesus and the martyrs before us, we testify with our lives that freedom is not a right that is granted or defended with rockets’ red glare and bombs bursting in air. True freedom is given by God, and it is indeed not free. It comes with a cost, and that cost looks just like a cross, not a flag. How do we plug ourselves into the unlimited power of the cross of Calvary? First, it is imperative that we all believe that Jesus Christ was the Son of God. For me at least, this is non-negotiable. Next, we must all repent of our evil ways and dispense with our bad habits, for the world cannot know of its brokenness and hopelessness without a Savior to show them a superlative way of life. There needs to be more people practicing the ways of peace while putting away their childish arguments. The world cannot know that there is an alternative to violence and war without a people of peace making peace. The world cannot know that the weak and the vulnerable are cared for by God without a people practicing an economy centered on sharing and mutual aid, not individual gain. Let us ask ourselves this basic question – if I die in my sleep tonight, what kind of legacy will I leave? However you ask yourself this question, let’s all make sure the answer will be a thoughtful one. The only way to peace is to worship the Prince of Peace.

 

The world cannot know the immeasurable worth of a human life without a people who consistently work to protect it – in the unborn, in the convict, in the immigrant, in the homeless, in the soldier, in the retirement homes, in the mental hospitals, and on the streets of America. These protests against police violence do not reflect ingratitude or hatred for our country, or toward those who enforce its laws. Rather, they reflect a deep love for justice and peace. After all, it is written: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the Sons of God.” I love my country, but I sing my loyalty and pledge my allegiance to the Prince of Peace and him alone. This is because our souls and our Savior are all that’s going to be left.

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Free book excerpt #21 from blogger and nonfiction author Rev. Paul J. Bern

Get the latest book offering from Rev. Paul J. Bern; “Cannabis Legalization and the Bible: Compatible Or Not?”

Today’s post includes an in-depth interview with Shane at the pro-legalization website and blog Cheap Home Grow (cheaphomegrow.com); check it out from right here

legalization cover 1

Chapter Five

This Is What A Police State Looks Like

For nearly half a century, America’s police forces have undergone a process of militarization. They’ve upped their cache of assault weapons and military defense gear, increasingly deployed SWAT teams to conduct ops-style missions on civilians, and cultivated a warrior attitude within their rank. While major metropolitan areas have maintained SWAT teams for decades, by the mid 2000s, 80 percent of small towns also had their own paramilitary forces. But, beyond deep reporting of individual journalists and scholars, little is known about the extent of police militarization across the country. The ACLU has attempted to bridge that knowledge gap with a fairly recent report called “War Comes Home: The Excessive Militarization of American Policing.” Below are some of its most significant findings:

1). The federal government’s war on drugs is the single greatest catalyst for local police militarization. Far from being used for emergencies such as hostage situations, the ACLU found that 62% of all SWAT deployments were for the purpose of drug searches, and 79% were to search a person’s home with or without a search warrant — usually for drugs. These deployments are invariably violent and feature bands of heavily armed officers ramming down doors or chucking ‘flash bang’ grenades into people’s homes. Innocent people are often caught up, and sometimes killed, in the ensuing chaos. Examples of this include Eurie Stamp, a Massachusetts grandfather who was shot dead by an officer as police attempted to locate Stamp’s girlfriend’s son for a drug offense. Other SWAT-induced tragedies abound: The ACLU has found that dozens of people were killed or injured as a result of paramilitary deployment. For decades, the federal government — in its quixotic quest to eliminate drug use — has abetted these aggressive tactics with programs that create incentives for militarization. One is called the 1033 program, which was launched in the 1980’s to create a pipeline for military equipment between the Department of Defense and local law enforcement. There are few limitations or requirements imposed on agencies that participate in the 1033 Program. In addition, equipment transferred under the 1033 Program is free to receiving agencies, though they are required to pay for transport and maintenance. The federal government requires agencies that receive 1033 equipment to use it within one year of receipt. Equally to blame is the federal Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) program, another 80’s artifact that gives local police forces incentives to seek out low-level drug offenders in exchange for grant money. US Attorney General Eric Holder has called for the need to ensure that the police have the trust of the community, and it has the potential to do some really good work. But I am concerned that if the Justice Department continues to grant money to local police departments, money they use to engage in paramilitary weapons and tactics, the Attorney Generals’ good work will be undermined.

2). Militarization is occurring with almost no oversight There is virtually no oversight for SWAT deployment at the state level, meaning no agency or governing body tracks how, and for what purposes, SWAT teams are dispatched. There are few exceptions. Maryland passed a law mandating the state to track SWAT deployment after the mayor of a small municipality had his home raided, but that law is unlikely to be renewed this year. The Utah state legislature recently agreed on a bill to track SWAT deployment and is currently going forward with implementing the law. Local agencies usually engaged in after-action reports of SWAT use, but the ACLU found these reports were “woefully incomplete.” The ACLU also discovered there are no uniform standards for deploying SWAT teams. Discretion ultimately rests with police officers themselves.

3). Non-whites are more likely to be targeted by SWAT deployments. It should come as no surprise that the people most persecuted by police in their communities are also more likely to have their front doors bashed down by a police battering ram. Many of the SWAT teams examined by the ACLU “either do not record race information or record it unsystematically.” Nevertheless, the report found that for all people affected by a SWAT deployment, 37 percent were Black, 12 percent were Latino, 19 were white, and race was unknown for the rest of the people impacted. Racial disparities were even more pronounced when examining the purpose for SWAT deployment. When SWAT was dispatched for drug raids, 68 percent of the time their targets were Blacks or Latinos, while targets were white only 38 percent of the time. Similarly, when SWAT was dispatched with warrants to search homes, non-whites were affected to a greater degree than whites. In contrast, nearly half of those affected when SWAT was deployed for emergency situations (hostage, barricade, or active shooter scenarios) were white, while only 23% were non-white. Basically, non-whites were not only more likely to come into contact with paramilitary police forces, but their contact was usually prompted by drug searches rather than the sort of emergencies where you may actually want police to show up.

4). Police are secretive about their use of SWAT Overall, the ACLU report lacks the sort of robustness you might expect for a definitive report on police militarization in America. This is largely the fault of police agencies themselves, who denied nearly half of the ACLU’s public records requests in part or in full, and who keep poor records of their own SWAT use. Those difficulties seem to inform much of the ACLU’s recommendations to local, state and federal officials. Above all, the organization calls for a streamlined system of record keeping for SWAT deployment and equipment procurement. No such system currently exists. The ACLU also asks that standards for deployment be bolstered and unified across precincts, and that federal programs incentivizing militarization be weakened or dismantled outright.

How did we allow our law enforcement apparatus to descend into militaristic chaos? Traditionally, the role of civilian police has been to maintain the peace and safety of the community while upholding the civil liberties of residents in their respective jurisdictions. In stark contrast, the military soldier is an agent of war, trained to kill the enemy. Clearly, the mission of the police officer is incompatible with that of a soldier, so why is it that local police departments are looking more and more like paramilitary units in a combat zone? The line between military and civilian law enforcement has been drawn for good reason, but following the drug war and more recently, the war on terror, that line is inconspicuously eroding, a trend that appears to be worsening by the year.

Originally called the Special Weapons Attack Team, the Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) units were inspired by an incident in 1966, when an armed man climbed to the top of the 32-story clock tower at the University of Texas in Austin and fired randomly for 90 minutes, shooting 46 people and killing 15, until two police officers got to the top of the tower and killed him. This episode is said to have “shattered the last myth of safety Americans enjoyed [and] was the final impetus the chiefs of police needed” to form their own SWAT teams. Use of these paramilitary units gradually increased throughout the 1970s, mostly in urban settings. The introduction of paramilitary units in America laid the foundation for the erosion of the barrier between police and military, a trend which accelerated in the 1980s under President Reagan. In 1981, Congress passed the Military Cooperation with Law Enforcement Act, which amended Posse Comitatus by directing the military to give local, state and federal law enforcement access to military equipment, research and training for use in the drug war. Following the authorization of domestic police and military cooperation, the 1980s saw a series of additional congressional and presidential maneuvers that blurred the line between soldier and police officer, ultimately culminating in the passage of the National Defense Authorization Security Act which created the Law Enforcement Support Program, an agency tasked with accelerating the transfer of military equipment to civilian police departments. Between 1995 and 1997 the Department of Defense gave 1.2 million pieces of military hardware, including 3,800 M-16s, 2,185 M-14s, 73 grenade launchers and 112 armored personnel carriers to civilian police agencies across the country. Between January 1997 and October 1999 alone, LEAP facilitated the distribution of 3.4 million orders of Pentagon equipment to over 11,000 domestic police agencies in all 50 states. By December 2005, that number increased to 17,000. The agreement authorized the transfer of federal military technology to local police forces, essentially flooding civilian law enforcement with surplus military gear previously reserved for use during wartime. But this was only the beginning.

In 1997, Congress, not yet satisfied with the flow of military hardware to local police, allocated $727 million worth of this equipment. Among the hand-me-downs were 253 aircraft (including six- and seven-passenger airplanes, and UH-60 Blackhawk and UH-1 Huey helicopters), 7,856 M-16 rifles, 181 grenade launchers, 8,131 bulletproof helmets, and 1,161 pairs of night-vision goggles. The military surplus program and paramilitary units feed off one another in a cyclical loop that has caused an explosive growth in militarized crime control techniques. With all the new high-tech military toys the federal government has been funneling into local police departments, SWAT teams have inevitably multiplied and spread across American cities and towns in both volume and deployment frequency. Criminologist Peter Kraska found that the frequency of SWAT operations soared from just 3,000 annual deployments in the early 1980s to an astonishing 40,000 raids per year by 2001, 75-80 percent of which were used to deliver search warrants.

Then there are the effects of the war on terror, which sparked the creation of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the introduction of DHS grants to local police departments. These grants are used to purchase policing equipment, although law enforcement is investing in more than just bullet-proof vests and walkie-talkies. DHS grants have led to a booming law enforcement industry that specifically markets military-style weaponry to local police departments. If this sounds familiar, that’s because it is law enforcement’s version of the military-industrial-complex. By instituting public policies that encouraged the collaboration of military and domestic policing, the US government handed a massive and highly profitable clientele to private suppliers of paramilitary gear. Following the breakdown of Posse Comitatus in the 1980s and ’90s, gun companies, perceiving a profitable trend, began aggressively marketing automatic weapons to local police departments, holding seminars, and sending out color brochures redolent with ninja-style imagery. Private suppliers of military equipment advertise a glorified version of military-style policing attire to local police departments and SWAT teams. One such defense manufacturing company, Heckler and Koch, epitomized this aggressive marketing tactic with its slogan for the MP5 submachine gun, “From the Gulf War to the Drug War — Battle Proven.”

The most widely used justification for the purchase of heavily armored war machines is that violence against police officers has increased exponentially, necessitating tanks for the protection of the men and women who serve our communities. But examination of the FBI’s annual Uniform Crime Report, a database that tracks the number of law enforcement officers killed and assaulted each year, reveals that this is simply not true. According to the UCR, since 2000 an average yearly toll of about 50 police officers have been killed in the line of duty, the highest reaching 70 in 2001. So the notion that militarization is a necessary reaction to a growth in violence against police officers is absurd, considering that violent crime is trending downward. Others argue these tanks are needed in case of a terrorist attack or a natural disaster. But on September 11, 2001, I do not recall the NYPD complaining that a lack of armored tanks was impeding its policing efforts. And during the catastrophic tornado that tore through Joplin, Missouri several years ago, heavily armored vehicles weren’t present nor were they needed to assist in the aftermath. The majority of paramilitary drug raid proponents maintain that military-style law enforcement is required to reduce the risk of potential violence, injury and death to both police officers and innocents. The reality is that SWAT team raids actually escalate provocation, usually resulting in senseless violence in what would otherwise be a routine, nonviolent police procedure. Just consider your reaction in the event of a SWAT team breaking down your door in the middle of night, possibly even blowing off the hinges with explosives, while you and your family are asleep. Imagine the terror of waking up to find complete strangers forcing their way into your home and detonating a flash-bang grenade, meant to disorient you. Assuming nobody is hurt, what thoughts might be raging in your mind while the police forcefully incapacitate you and your loved ones, most likely at gunpoint, while carrying out a search warrant of your home. Assuming you were able to contain the mix of fear and rage going through your body, consider how helpless you would feel to know that any perceived noncompliance would most certainly be met with lethal force.

We have created circumstances under which the American people are no longer individuals protected by the Bill of Rights, but rather “enemy combatants.” The consequences of such a mindset have proven time and again to be lethal, as we now rely on military ideology and practice to respond to crime and justice. For some insight into the implications, one needn’t look any further than minority communities, which have long been the victims of paramilitary forces posing as police officers. Black and Latino communities in the inner-cities of Washington DC, Detroit and Chicago have witnessed first-hand the deadly consequences of militarization on American soil. Military culture now permeates all aspects of our society. Does anyone really believe that heavily armed soldiers trained to kill are capable of maintaining an atmosphere of nonviolence?

Asset forfeiture, another means of enriching law enforcement at the expense of the very people the cops are paid to protect, is on the rise. Civil asset forfeiture is government seizure of property and cash, even when the owner isn’t charged with a crime. Innocent owners must go through a costly, time-consuming process to get their property back — and even then they may be denied. Police departments get to sell the seized property and keep most of the proceeds. This author predicts that because of the shaky US economy and budget crunches, police will continue to increase searches, raids, and seizures to generate more revenue. According to the Wall Street Journal, in 2010 alone, federal, state, and local government stole homes, cars, boats, and cash in more than 15,000 cases. The total take topped $2.5 billion, more than doubling in the next five years, the last year that these figures were available as of this writing. Top federal officials are also pushing for greater use of civil-forfeiture proceedings, in which assets can be taken without criminal charges being filed against the owner. Unlike in criminal cases, the poor are not entitled to free legal representation to help them get their property back. This means, to anyone with common sense, that an individual’s property could be seized without due process of law, a CLEAR violation of the Fifth Amendment…..

Watch the video https://youtu.be/o_UXdIsBuf8

Written by a pan-denominational Christian minister and blogger, this book uses the Bible to provide a simple explanation for why marijuana criminalization is a sin against God. Buy direct ($9.95, 200 pages) at http://www.pcmatl.org/#!books-and-donations/c17et

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Free book excerpt #16 from blogger and Author Rev. Paul J. Bern

Another free sample from the latest book offering from Rev. Paul J. Bern; “Cannabis Legalization and the Bible: Compatible Or Not?”

Watch the video https://youtu.be/o_UXdIsBuf8

legalization cover 1

The United States likes to portray itself as the “Land of the Free”, yet a 2013 study by the ACLU found that one out of three people in the United States are arrested by the time they are 23! 1 out 3 arrested by the time they are 23?!? You want some more shameful stats? Last year there were more than 1.6 million people arrested on drug charges and over half of those arrests were for marijuana possession alone. With so many of our citizens in prison compared with the rest of the world, there are only two possibilities: Either we are home to the most evil people on earth or we are doing something much different – and vastly counterproductive. Obviously, the answer is the latter. It is time to find an exit strategy from our 40 year old war on drugs that is unquestionably a failure. Here’s a few examples:

  • There are more African American adults under correctional control today – in prison or jail, on probation or parole – than were enslaved in 1850, a decade before the Civil War began.

  • As of 2004, more African American men were disenfranchised (due to felon disenfranchisement laws) than in 1870, the year the Fifteenth Amendment was ratified, prohibiting laws that explicitly deny the right to vote on the basis of race.

  • A black child born today is less likely to be raised by both parents than a black child born during slavery. The recent disintegration of the African American family is due in large part to the mass imprisonment of black fathers.

  • If you take into account prisoners, a large majority of African American men in some urban areas have been labeled felons for life. (In the Chicago area, the figure is nearly 80%.) These men are part of a growing under-caste – not class, caste – permanently relegated by law to a second-class status. They can be denied the right to vote, automatically excluded from juries, and legally discriminated against in employment, housing, access to education, and public benefits, much as their grandparents and great-grandparents were during the Jim Crow era.

The drug war has been brutal – complete with SWAT teams, tanks, bazookas, grenade launchers, and sweeps of entire neighborhoods – but those who live in white communities have little clue to the devastation wrought. This war has been waged almost exclusively in poor communities of color, even though studies consistently show that people of all colors use and sell illegal drugs at remarkably similar rates. In fact, some studies indicate that white youth are significantly more likely to engage in illegal drug dealing than black youth. Any notion that drug use among African Americans is more severe or dangerous is nullified by the data. White youth, for example, have about three times the number of drug-related visits to the emergency room as their African American counterparts. That is not what you would guess, though, when entering our nation’s prisons and jails, overflowing as they are with black and brown drug offenders. In some states, African Americans comprise 80%-90% of all drug offenders sent to prison. This is the point at which I am typically interrupted and reminded that black men have higher rates of violent crime. That’s why the drug war is waged in poor communities of color and not middle-class suburbs.

But what about all those violent criminals and drug kingpins? Isn’t the drug war waged in ghetto communities because that’s where the violent offenders can be found? The answer is yes – in made-for-TV movies. In real life, the answer is no. The drug war has never been focused on rooting out drug kingpins or violent offenders. Federal funding flows to those agencies that increase dramatically the volume of drug arrests, not the agencies most successful in bringing down the bosses. What gets rewarded in this war is sheer numbers of drug arrests. To make matters worse, federal drug forfeiture laws allow state and local law enforcement agencies to keep for their own use 80% of the cash, cars, and homes seized from drug suspects, thus granting law enforcement a direct monetary interest in the profitability of the drug market. The results have been predictable: people of color rounded up en masse for relatively minor, non-violent drug offenses. In 2005, four out of five drug arrests were for possession, only one out of five for sales. Most people in state prison have no history of violence or even of significant selling activity. In fact, during the 1990s – the period of the most dramatic expansion of the drug war – nearly 80% of the increase in drug arrests was for marijuana possession, a drug generally considered less harmful than alcohol or tobacco and at least as prevalent in middle-class white communities as in the inner city. In this way, a new racial under-caste has been created in an astonishingly short period of time – a new Jim Crow system. Millions of people of color are now saddled with criminal records and legally denied the very rights that their parents and grandparents fought for (and in some cases, died for). Affirmative action, though, has put a happy face on this racial reality. Seeing black people graduate from Harvard and Yale and become CEO’s or corporate lawyers – not to mention the current president of the United States – causes us all to marvel at what a long way we’ve come. Recent data shows, though, that much of black progress is a myth. In many respects, African Americans are doing no better than they were when Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated and uprisings swept inner cities across America. The black child poverty rate is actually higher now than it was then. Unemployment rates in black communities rival those in Third World countries. And that’s with affirmative action! When we pull back the curtain and take a look at what our “colorblind” society creates without affirmative action, we see a familiar social, political, and economic structure: the structure of racial caste. The entrance into this new caste system can be found at the prison gate. This is not Martin Luther King, Jr.’s dream. This is not the promised land. The cyclical rebirth of caste in America is a recurring racial nightmare.

In a report published by reporter Tom McCarthy in The Guardian on Wednesday March 4th, 2015, police have killed more than twice as many people as reported by US government. According to this report, an average of 545 people killed by local and state law enforcement officers in the US went uncounted in the country’s most authoritative crime statistics every year for almost a decade. The first-ever attempt by US record-keepers to estimate the number of uncounted “law enforcement homicides” exposed previous official tallies as capturing less than half of the real picture. The new estimate – an average of 928 people killed by police annually over eight recent years, compared to 383 in published FBI data for the same time period – amounted to a more glaring admission than ever before of the government’s failure to track how many people police kill.

The revelation called into particular question the FBI practice of publishing annual totals of “justifiable homicides by law enforcement” – tallies that are widely cited in the media and elsewhere as the most accurate official count of police homicides. This bureau of justice statistics (BJS) report, produced in collaboration with RTI International, the research institute, explodes the notion – if its findings are accurate – that the figures the FBI publishes annually are anything other than hugely misleading. The data underlying the FBI tally “is estimated to cover 46% of officer-involved homicides at best” for the years 2003-2009 and 2011, the BJS report concluded. But the published FBI tallies cover even fewer of the total deaths, closer to 41%, in part because the FBI publishes no data from Florida. A separate tally of “arrest-related deaths”, conducted by BJS itself, was slightly more accurate for the years in question, capturing 49% of law enforcement homicides, at best, the report found. The report estimated “an average of 928 law enforcement homicides per year” for the years in question, suggesting that the FBI’s published count of 414 such deaths in 2009, for example, might be 124% off, while its count of 347 such deaths in 2005 might be 167% off. The years under study saw several high-profile homicides by law enforcement of unarmed civilians, such as the 2009 shooting of Oscar Grant in a train station in Oakland, California – an episode that would become the subject of the award-winning film “Fruit vale Station” – and the 2006 killing of Sean Bell, who died in a hail of 50 bullets outside a nightclub in Queens, New York. But the majority of victims in law enforcement homicides for those years not only went unnamed – they went uncounted in any one tally. Even the two counting systems combined, as overseen by the FBI and BJS, missed an average of 263 homicides by law enforcement each year, BJS found.

Academics and specialists have long been aware of flaws in the FBI numbers, which are based on voluntary submissions by local law enforcement agencies of paperwork known as supplementary homicide reports. No law requires local agencies to fill out the reports, and some agencies do not, especially not for officer-involved homicides, according to experts who have studied the issue. But no accredited source had publicly ventured to claim that the numbers published by the FBI were more than 100% wrong. That’s notwithstanding an unusually public airing of doubts about the numbers by the FBI director, James Comey, in a 2015 speech at Georgetown University. “It’s ridiculous that I can’t tell you how many people were shot by the police in this country – last week, last year, the last decade – it’s ridiculous,” Comey said. While the FBI and other government tallies have long been criticized for under-reporting, an admission of the problem at the top levels of US government is swiftly emerging. Joining Comey and Obama this year has been the outgoing attorney general, Eric Holder, who in January 2016 called the government’s accounting for use of force “unacceptable”. In a highly anticipated investigation of its own, Holder’s Justice Department released a report the following Wednesday that African Americans were subject to a full 88% of use-of-force cases actually documented by the police in Ferguson, Mo., according to a law enforcement official familiar with the department’s findings.

I have presented everything in this book the way I have to reveal the government’s not-so-surprising rationale for America’s extremist drug laws – race. The first anti-drug law in our country was a local law in San Francisco passed in 1875. It outlawed the smoking of opium and was directed at the Chinese because opium smoking was a peculiarly Chinese habit. It was believed that Chinese men were luring white women to have sex in opium dens. In 1909 Congress made opium smoking a federal offense by enacting the Anti-Opium Act. It reinforced Chinese racism by carving out an exception for drinking and injecting tinctures of opiates that were popular among whites. Cocaine regulations also were triggered by racial prejudice. Cocaine use was associated with African-Americans just as opium use was associated with the Chinese. Newspaper articles bore racially charged headlines linking cocaine with violent, anti-social behavior by blacks. A 1914 New York Times article proclaimed: “Negro Cocaine ‘Fiends’ Are a New Southern Menace: Murder and Insanity Increasing Among Lower Class Blacks Because They Have Taken to ‘Sniffing.'” A Literary Digest article from the same year claimed that “most of the attacks upon women in the South are the direct result of the cocaine-crazed Negro brain.” It comes as no surprise that 1914 was also the year Congress passed the Harrison Tax Act, effectively outlawing opium and cocaine.

Marijuana prohibition also had racist underpinnings. This time it was the Mexicans. Just as cocaine was associated with black violence and irrational behavior, in the southwest border towns marijuana was viewed — beginning in the early 1920s — as a cause of Mexican lawlessness. A Texas police captain from that time period suggested that marijuana gave Mexicans superhuman strength to commit acts of violence: “Under marijuana Mexicans [become] very violent, especially when they become angry and will attack an officer even if a gun is drawn on him. They seem to have no fear. I have also noted that under the influence of this weed they have enormous strength and it will take several men to handle one man while, under ordinary circumstances, one man could handle him with ease.” The American Coalition – an anti-immigrant group – claimed as recently as 1980: “Marijuana, perhaps now the most insidious of narcotics, is a direct byproduct of unrestricted Mexican immigration.”

Since then Congress has enacted a spate of comprehensive anti-drug laws with strict penalties. For example, today one can be sentenced to life for distributing one kilogram of heroin; 40 years for distributing 100 grams, and 20 years for distributing any quantity at all. Nevertheless, this has not stemmed the country’s appetite for illicit drugs in spite of every administration’s continued “war on drugs” since President Nixon established the Drug Enforcement Agency in 1972, which has grown through the years to a staff of almost 10,000 employees and a budget of $2 billion annually. According to data from the 2010 National Household Survey on Drug Use and Health, almost 120 million Americans 12 or older – roughly 47 percent of that population – reported illicit drug use at least once in their lifetime; 15.3 percent admitted to using an illegal drug in the prior year; and 8.9 percent – roughly 23 million people – did it within the prior month. The New York Times recently reported that one out of every 15 high school students smokes marijuana on a nearly daily basis. When it comes to sentencing, the main culprit is drugs. About half of the roughly 220,000 criminals in the federal prisons have either brought them into our country, have distributed them here, or have otherwise associated themselves with this illicit activity. This means that probably half of the $6.8 billion of the Bureau of Prisons budget is eaten up by incarcerating the criminal druggies. Half of the prison population is there because of drugs, costing us billions of dollars a year to keep them in jail.

Buy direct (reduced to $9.95, 200 pages) at http://www.pcmatl.org/#!books-and-donations/c17et

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Book excerpt #5 from Pastor Paul J. Bern regarding his recent release, “Cannabis Legalization and the Bible: Compatible or Not?”

“Cannabis Legalization and the Bible: Compatible or Not?” written and published by Rev. Paul J. Bern

Now available in audio too, simply click here! 🙂

Watch the video at https://youtu.be/o_UXdIsBuf8

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The War On Drugs does more harm than good Here we are, well over four decades after Richard Nixon declared the war on drugs in 1971 and $1 trillion spent since then. What do we have to show for it? The U.S. has the largest prison population in the world, with about 2.3 million behind bars. Well over half a million of those people are incarcerated for a drug law violation. What a waste of space and human life! In business, if one of our companies is failing, we take steps to identify and solve the problem. What we don’t do is continue failing strategies that cost huge sums of money and exacerbate the problem. Rather than continuing on the disastrous path of the ‘war on drugs’, the world needs to look at what works and what doesn’t in terms of real evidence and data. The facts are overwhelming. If the global drug trade were a country, it would have one of the top 20 economies in the world. In 2005, the United Nations estimated the global illegal drug trade is worth more than $320 billion, and that was 11 years ago as of this writing. It also estimates there are 230 million illegal drug users in the world, yet 90% of them are not classified as problematic. In the United States, if illegal drugs were taxed at rates comparable to those on alcohol and tobacco, they would yield $49.7 billion in tax revenue. Moreover, the Cato study says legalizing drugs would save the U.S. an additional $41 billion a year in enforcing the drug laws.

Have U.S. drug laws reduced drug use? No, it’s exactly the opposite. The U.S. is the No. 1 nation in the world in illegal drug use. As with Prohibition, banning alcohol didn’t stop people drinking, it just stopped people from obeying the law. About 40,000 people were in U.S. jails and prisons for drug crimes in 1980, compared with more than 540,000 today. Excessively long prison sentences and locking up people for small drug offenses contribute greatly to this ballooning of the prison population. It also represents racial discrimination and targeting disguised as drug policy. People of color are no more likely to use or sell illegal drugs than white people – yet from 1980 to 2007, blacks were arrested for drug law violations at rates 2.8 to 5.5 times higher than white arrest rates. Prohibition failed when the American people spoke up and demanded its repeal. Today, the American people are showing their visceral dissatisfaction with the ‘war on drugs’ by voting for change, often in the face of federal law. Colorado and Washington recently became the first U.S. states to legalize recreational use of marijuana. Eighteen states and the District of Columbia allow the medical use of marijuana, and 74% of Americans support alternatives to locking people up for marijuana possession.

What does the Bible say about making a creation of Almighty God’s illegal or immoral? This book uncovers the ugly truth about America’s ‘Drug War’, while disproving all the myths and government propaganda about medical marijuana. In this book you will discover the following:

  • America’s drug war is based on racism and illegality on the part of government, and particularly law enforcement.

  • The private prison industry is raking in billions of US taxpayer money because of the ‘drug war’.

  • Alcohol, tobacco, prescription pain killers and codeine are all at least 5 times more dangerous than marijuana.

  • The pharmaceutical industry, as well as law enforcement, benefit financially from the drug war.

  • The federal government has been lying for decades about the addictive properties of medical marijuana. Cannabis has been repeatedly proven in study after study to be non-addictive.

This book blows the lid off the “War On Drugs” while proving conclusively that the ‘drug war’ is actually an all-out war on the American people. Our time to rise up has come.

To learn more, visit https://www.pcmatl.org/#!books-and-donations/c17et

Also available on Kindle, Nook, Apple and Smashwords.com

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If you’re poor or a person of color in America, you’re presumed to be a criminal

Criminalizing America’s Poor and People of Color

by Rev. Paul J. Bern

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The number of laws criminalizing poverty and race are increasing as police shootings and homelessness worsens in America. From 2006 to 2012 there was a 12 percent increase in laws prohibiting camping out in public places, a 14 percent increase in laws prohibiting loitering, a 9 percent increase in laws prohibiting begging and a 8 percent increase in laws prohibiting “aggressive panhandling” (I would call that ‘frantic begging by some really scared and desperate people’), according to a 2013 report by The National Coalition for the Homeless. At the same time, after a double-digit jump in 2008, homelessness increased by an average of 7 percent from 2009 to 2010, and an additional 7% increase from 2010 to 2012, according to the U.S. Conference of Mayors’ Task Force on Hunger and Homelessness.

Since 2012, America’s twin social diseases, poverty and racism, have increased even more. At the rate this problem is growing, somewhere between 1 in 3 to 1 in 4 people will be homeless in America in another 15 years or so. That’s how severe homelessness is becoming even as I write this. Among families with children, homelessness increased by 14 percent from 2012 to 2015, the last year for which figures are currently available. An average of 33 percent of homeless persons did not receive any assistance at all in 2015 because there weren’t enough beds in the shelters, or because homeless shelters would not accept women (or men) with children. So, if you have kids and you wind up homeless in America, too bad for you! You and your children will freeze together in the cold. If you die from exposure to the elements on some January night, at least you’ll all go out together. Gee, isn’t that nice! And do these shelters who routinely discriminate against single parents and their kids think that God doesn’t see what they are doing, or that He doesn’t care? You can be sure that God will eternally punish these goody-two-shoes, self appointed public servants most severely!!

In today’s economy, cities are facing really tight budgets, so they are often unable to build up or fund housing to meet this need. Many people are being forced to live out on the streets. The lucky ones get to sleep in their cars. The unlucky ones are found the following morning, beaten or frozen to death. In an essay published in 2012 in The Guardian, Barbara Ehrenreich, author of the New York Times bestselling book “Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America,” tells the story of a 62-year-old disabled veteran who was dragged from a homeless shelter to jail because he had an outstanding warrant for “criminal trespassing,” which is how Washington, D.C., defines sleeping on the streets. In some areas of the country, cities are even beginning to crack down on well-meaning individuals who want to hand out free food to the homeless. Las Vegas passed an ordinance forbidding the sharing of food with any “person whom a reasonable ordinary person would believe to be entitled to apply for or receive” public assistance. In Florida, Gainesville law limits the number of people soup kitchens may serve daily. In Phoenix, zoning officials actually stopped a local church from serving breakfast to homeless people.

Then, of course, there are the spate of police shootings. According to Minute News Press, Though Americans commonly believe law enforcement’s role in society is to protect them and ensure peace and stability within the community, the sad reality is that police departments are often more focused on enforcing laws, making arrests and issuing citations. As a result of this, as well as an increase in militarized policing techniques, Americans are eight times more likely to be killed by a police officer than by a terrorist, estimates a Washington’s Blog report based on official statistical data. Though the U.S. government does not have a database collecting information about the total number of police involved shootings each year, it’s estimated that between 600 and 1,000 Americans are killed by police officers each year. Since 9/11, over 5,000 Americans have been killed by U.S. police officers, which is equivalent to the number of U.S. soldiers who were killed in the line of duty in Iraq.” In an article from November 11, 2014, USA Today reported, “Police killings highest in two decades”, and I quote, “The number of felony suspects fatally shot by police last year — 461— was the most in two decades, according to a new FBI report. The justifiable homicide count, contained in the FBI’s annual Uniform Crime Report, has become increasingly scrutinized in recent months as questions continue to be raised about the use of lethal force by law enforcement. National attention has been drawn to cases from New York to Albuquerque, though much of the focus is on Ferguson, Mo., where the restive St. Louis suburb awaits the decision of a grand jury weighing the fatal shooting in August of a black teenager by a white police officer.” In the most egregious example to date that I know of, just this past week the police shot a six year old boy down in Florida. Six years old!!! Moreover, my black brothers and sisters are 2.5 times more likely to be shot by the police than whites. Considering that African-American people comprise about 15% of the US population, that number becomes even more disproportionate.

The phenomenon of criminalizing poverty isn’t limited to the homeless, though. Speaking from experience – having been homeless myself up until 7 years ago – I would compare applying for welfare and food benefits – which often entails mug shots, fingerprinting and lengthy interrogations about child paternity – to being booked by the police. In Florida, legislators recently passed a law requiring welfare recipients to undergo drug screenings, according to CNN. In response to criticism from the ACLU over his decision to approve drug testing for welfare beneficiaries, former Florida Gov. Rick Scott told CNN the law encourages “personal accountability.” People who can’t afford to pay court fees or traffic tickets in Michigan are made to sit in jail. Pay-or-stay sentences are no choice for the poor. They translate to rich people pulling out a credit card and going home and poor people going to jail. It’s a modern-day debtor’s prison. This two-tiered system of justice is shameful, it’s a waste of resources, it is unconstitutional, it is a gross violation of human rights and civil rights, and it urgently needs be changed.

As governments have cut funds to social welfare programs and passed laws that discriminate against the poor and people of color, the experience of America’s poor has come to resemble that of a rat in a cage scrambling to avoid erratically administered electric shocks. Officials argue, though, that making it illegal to sleep, sit or store personal belongings in public spaces is not discriminatory, according to USA Today. “If you’re lying on a sidewalk, whether you’re homeless or a millionaire, you’re in violation of the ordinance,” said Joseph Patner, a city attorney who represented St. Petersburg, Fla, in 2009 when six homeless people filed a lawsuit against the city. “It’s not right for taxpayer money to be paying for somebody’s drug addiction,” he said. “On top of that, this is going to increase personal responsibility, personal accountability. We shouldn’t be subsidizing people’s addiction.”

Here in Atlanta where I live, it’s just as bad if not worse. In the inner city neighborhood just west of downtown where I live and work, anywhere from one-third to one-half of the single-family homes are abandoned and/or boarded up. At least 10 to 20 percent of these orphaned homes are in such bad shape that a bulldozer is the only correct solution. But the majority of the other ones, though they are older dwellings, could be rehabilitated and lived in once again. But, since they are in an admittedly high-crime area, nobody wants them even though they are located only 5-10 minutes away from the mostly-revitalized downtown area. But since they are largely unwanted, many of these abandoned homes are inhabited by squatters who would otherwise be sleeping out in the weather. But as I wrote above, when the city of Atlanta police find people in these dwellings, they are immediately arrested for “criminal trespassing” and hauled off to jail. Few if any of these unlucky persons can bail themselves out of jail, so they languish behind bars until their court date, which can be anywhere from several weeks to several months. The fact that it costs the city an average of $65.00 per day to incarcerate these otherwise harmless individuals doesn’t matter to the entrenched powers down at Atlanta City Hall.

To make matters worse, if there are children involved, they are forcibly taken away from their parents and placed in foster homes at best, or even juvenile detention at worst. This exacerbates the cycle of homelessness and poverty while creating new caseloads for social workers, therapists, psychiatrists and probation officers, among others. In so doing, the seeds of rage, addiction and abuse are planted within these impressionable young minds until they wind up being institutionalized as teens or adults, one way or the other. And all this continues to occur because certain wealthy and influential property owners would rather board up these abandoned houses that (allegedly) nobody wants, rather than sell them at a hefty discount for less profit. It is these wealthy and incredibly greedy property owners who should be in jail, not the homeless squatters who have no where else to go!

Is there a solution that we can afford as conscientious Americans? You can bet your bottom dollar there is! I explained it the following way in my 2011 nonfiction book, “The Middle and Working Class Manifesto”. If the US government took all the money it spends in just one day on the military budget for its clandestine presence in Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Yemen, Libya and Pakistan – among other places such as Western Europe – and invested those funds in an interest-bearing account at a bank, credit union or money market fund, there would be enough money to build a new 2,500 square foot house for every homeless person and/or family currently in America, fully furnished and with a year’s supply of groceries for a family of four. That’s right everyone – just one day’s needless and pointless military expenditures would pay for all that! In closing, then, the fairness, compassion and equity of developed countries and their so-called “societies” can best be judged by how well they treat their least fortunate citizens. In that regard, I would say America has got a lot of work to do.

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Monthly partners needed for a good and worthy cause

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Banks are criminal enterprises. US government involved in dozens of wars globally. Police gone berserk. Children slaughtered in Syria. A world going insane. One man, one ministry confronting the madness, standing against war, social or economic injustice, crooked banks and every kind of corruption. Help us help America win this fight while standing up unashamedly for Jesus Christ. With a recurring monthly donation starting at only $10.00, you can help keep us on the Internet, fund some office expenses, help us buy a new or used van, and cover the monthly expenses of buying double cheese sandwiches and fries for the multitudes of homeless individuals and families in and around greater Atlanta. Please help Progressive Christian Ministries of Greater Atlanta, Inc. (State of Georgia control # 15066742) by becoming a monthly partner today! http://www.pcmatl.org/donations-and-partners

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United We Stand, Divided We Fall

The Bible and the State of

Political Dissent in America

by Rev. Paul J. Bern

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For the last few years I have been watching as political dissent has unfolded worldwide, first in form of the Arab Spring, then the Occupy and 99% Movements, and most recently the rage that has boiled over in Ferguson, Mo. and numerous other places, with the greatest of interest, maybe even fascination. I have written and published two books about these worldwide political and social movements, with more in the works (stay tuned). It is captivating to watch all of the demonstrators stand up and make their voices heard, and it is inspiring to see thousands of Davids going to battle with the government Goliaths, especially knowing that “we the people” will win again just like David did. One by one, the world’s dictators and America’s racial barriers are falling, and it all started with one man in Tunisia setting himself on fire. One guy! And now the civil unrest over what amounts to the extreme abuse of authority has spread all across the US, as I pointed out above. Today as I write this there are organized demonstrations or grassroots organizations in all 50 states and in Washington DC. All these protests highlight the need for authentic equality, more economic opportunity, the right to decent housing and to a living wage, the right to unqualified access to health care and higher education, and for the elimination of poverty, hunger, crime and disease. Lately this has also begun to include an end to all wars, and of the extreme abuse of power by a few firmly entrenched bigots and haters. This, my dear readers, is the stuff that really matters to real people, the ones who are caring and compassionate and who show empathy and mercy towards others by putting aside personal differences. What is needed today is more people who are focused on the needs of others, and a lot less on themselves.

In order for workers throughout the world to make the case for their right to organize without fear of reprisal, it is essential that they be completely unified. To live and work in unity means that relatively large groups can organize and demonstrate globally for the common good, particularly in matters regarding basic human rights. United we stand and divided we fall, so it is always in our best interests to stand united with a common purpose. Unity is what enabled the early thirteen colonies to throw Great Britain off the North American continent and back home to England. Unity is what repaired the United States after the American Civil War and paved the way for a reunited America that established the remainder of the 48 contiguous states by the turn of the twentieth century. Unity is what allowed America to win two world wars. We have since lost some of that unity, partly due to apathy, ignorance and fear, but largely due to being intimidated by abusive authoritarians of the US military-industrial-incarceration complex. People have become tired of getting pushed around and being told what to do by cold, uncaring political and economic systems whose sole purpose for existence is profit. Jesus himself made a timeless comment about this at the ‘sermon on the mount’ when He said, “No man can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money”. (Matt. Chapter 6, verse 24) Meaning, anyone who is devoted to the pursuit of profit despises God whether he or she realizes it or not.

In spite of all the raw greed in today’s world, I have observed that many other people everywhere are finally beginning to wake up, and they’re figuring out that we can get our country back from the crooked Wall Street bankers that robbed the US Treasury via the 2008 government bailout (but only after cleaning out the retirement savings of millions of innocent Americans beforehand). God has already given us the power to resist evil through the power of His Word, and so has the US Constitution and its predecessor, the Declaration of Independence. If we pray to God for this Holy Spirit power of resistance to evil, and do so believing that we will receive it while maintaining a thankful heart, He will give it to us freely. Remember what Jesus taught us? “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.” (Matt. Chapter 7, verses 7-8 NIV) When Jesus gives, that means without limits, people. By the same token, if one will not bother to seek, ask or knock, that person should not be surprised when they find themselves destitute, homeless and hungry. Just as surely as people have united in the Arab world against tyranny, as Labor Unions and affiliated workers in Wisconsin, Ohio and Indiana stood up against the attempted liquidation of their political and economic clout, and as surely as Ferguson Mo. burned last summer, so will there be massive civil unrest right here in the United States because of the tyranny of capitalism of, by and for the very rich, and because of the tyranny of consumerism and materialism that has us all completely infiltrated! Not to mention the fact that the police these days are shooting at anything that moves. But if we don’t start fighting back, we will wind up with zilch at best, or cooped up in some FEMA camp somewhere, or maybe even dead.

It is disturbing to see the apparent lack of unity that still remains in the US, particularly regarding the negative slant that the mainstream media is showing on cable TV. It makes me wonder what is happening to America? Why are we yelling and screaming at each other in town hall meetings? Why have television and radio talk shows degenerated into shouting matches? Why do hate-filled messages permeate the Internet on all sides? What has happened to us as a people? There is a poison flowing through the body politic of America, it will torpedo and sink our democracy unless the flow is shut off, and that poison’s name is corruption. Those on the far-left accuse the far-right of being fascist Neanderthals while those on the far-right accuse the far-left of being heathen Communists. This kind of immature stereotyping and deliberate polarization of America threatens to tear the fabric of our country apart. Actually, the far-left and the far-right have more in common then they would ever want to admit. Both sides are absolutist in their ideology and uncompromising in their politics. They see no shades of gray, only black and white. Each side believes that they possess absolute truth and each side refuses to compromise on its beliefs. That’s why I identify with neither, which is why I’m a political independent and always will be. I refuse to identify my Internet church with any church denominations for similar reasons.

What particularly troubles me in today’s political environment is the level of anger and even outright hatred that is being displayed. I have been trying to figure out the source of this anger and hatred for some time now. Some of today’s rabid emotionalism can be traced to old-fashioned racism but I think for many people it goes deeper than that. I would suggest that this anger and hatefulness is really a response to the fear of change. Fear is an emotion we don’t like in ourselves and anger is a way of covering up our fears with an emotion that makes us feel more powerful. Anger, then, is like a drug, and like a drug it can become habit-forming. The antidote, then, is to face our fears and see them for what they are: being afraid of negative outcomes that either never happen, or that get negated by some other positive force, person or event. We live in a world where society, technology, the economy and demographics are rapidly changing and this change is deeply threatening to many people. They are frightened that the world they have known is disappearing. This deep internal fear of change produces an angered response that is directed toward an outward target such as Wall Street bankers, the government or even immigrants. We repress our fear by directing our anger toward someone or something outside of ourselves. If we want American democracy to survive, some of us need to grow up. We need to stop yelling at each other and learn to start listening to each other. Everybody can’t be right about everything all of the time! We need to accept the reality of change and begin working together to find productive ways of dealing with a world that is constantly changing, and doing so for the mutual benefit of all. The needs of the many, Mr. Spock once said, outweigh the needs of the few. You see, the future in which this idyllic truism exists has already arrived.

The fact is that America has been and is built upon compromise. Our great experiment in democracy is founded upon the belief that each issue has many sides and that the most workable solution comes from a compromise that blends together many disparate views. Compromise is the glue that holds America together. Change is inevitable. It’s the way the universe is constructed. The fact that time exists means that change must occur. Rather than fear change, we need to make it work for our benefit. Rather than trying to go back and trying to fix the past (why bother?), we need to work together to create a better future, to literally manufacture an entirely new world. If the American experiment is going to grow and mature, ‘we the people’ have to grow and mature. We have to put our irrational fears behind us and start working together as mature adults in order to deal successfully with the challenges that change presents to us, such as saving our planet and getting ample food and clean water to the 2.5 billion human beings who currently have no access to either. Those who refuse to help the most vulnerable individuals make themselves accessories to manslaughter on a global scale. What am I talking about here? Fifty thousand per day. That’s how many children under the age of 12 starve to death each day globally. Fifty thousand. Those who refused to help them helped kill them all with not so much as a second thought.

It’s time to refocus and to stop the childish name-calling – from the presidential primaries all the way down to you and me – and to start having rational, thoughtful discussions about the issues before us. It’s time to turn away from those in the media and on the Internet who feed our fears and fuel our prejudices. It’s time to start respecting each other as fellow Americans regardless of our individual differences. It’s time for all of us to become part of the solution. Waiting on the government to act is pointless! Each of us must stand up for a fundamental American truth – united we stand, divided we fall. As Americans we absolutely must stand together. We must totally reject the anger and hatefulness that is dividing us and start using our God-given common sense to work together for the common good. Living in competition only grinds us down, but achieving through mutual cooperation lifts everyone up. Competition may be a good thing in the business world, but it is counterproductive for human relationships. We must either learn to live in harmony or perish. The choice is ours.

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America’s choice: stop the killing or have a revolution

Racism Has No Place in Law Enforcement or Anywhere Else

by Rev. Paul J. Bern

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take back your country

I once saw a one-hour documentary on cable TV that was all about neo-Nazi skinheads, their swastika tattoos, and how they are organized into gangs that operate outside the law. The extreme racial hatred of these people was chronicled by this cable channel in raw detail. It showed how these organizations recruit new members over the Internet, and how they support themselves by selling drugs and guns. I clearly remember how appalled I was as I watched this documentary at all the hate and violence perpetrated by these racist organizations. It made me think about the first book of John in the New Testament and what it says about this very topic.

Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates his brother is still in darkness. Whoever loves his brother lives in the light, and there is nothing in him to make him stumble. But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness; he does not know where he is going because the darkness has blinded him.” (I John 2, verses 9 through 11; NIV)

Fast forward to the present, and we had two very public examples this past week of institutionalized racism. First and foremost is the death this past week of Sandra Bland while in police custody in a Texas jail. The death, as of today, has been ruled a suicide – a dubious ruling considering the young lady was in there for a broken tail-light and for resisting being jailed for that charge. Both charges were misdemeanors, particularly the tail-light offense. Even if the charge of resisting arrest was made a felony by the arresting officer, it would surely have been reduced later in court. My point here is that that young woman had no reason to commit suicide. She had everything going for her, including an imminent start at a new job. So I regard the Texas coroner’s ruling her death a suicide to be rather suspect. But I think the real issue here is that the original reason she was pulled over by that Texas state trooper was racial profiling. Had she not been an African-American woman with out-of-state license plates, she would be working at her new job and loving it right about now.

The second example of racism came from none other than Hulk Hogan, the pro wrestler who was caught on tape making a racist rant at some Black person who had evidently made him angry. Hogan’s contract with the WWF has been terminated as a result, and it serves Mr. Hogan right. Hulk Hogan has been forced into retirement, at least for now, which is probably a good idea, and that’s all I’m going to say about that. Ask people if they love God or not and the vast majority will say yes, excluding the atheists. Yet how many of us harbor hate, intolerance and mistrust towards groups of people who are different from us for various reasons? Religious differences, race, nationality, age, gender, sexual orientation and economic status are some examples of what I mean. We can’t love God and at the same time hate that which He has created. This can range from laughing at a racial joke all the way up to mass murder in churches or movie theaters. The underlying message implied by these things is that there are some people who think that they are somehow better than everybody else. God created us all and He sees us as equals. It is time for these people to begin to see themselves as peers as God has commanded us to. Otherwise, things can go terribly wrong in a hurry. In this next quote the apostle John, the younger half-brother of Jesus, takes this a step further.

If anyone says,’I love God’, yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. And He has given us this command: whoever loves God must also love his brother.” (I John 4, verses 20-21; NIV)

If there is one thing we can say about this passage of Scripture, it is that John tells it like it really is. He minces no words with this last quote, “whoever loves God must also love his brother”. That was not just an idea or a suggestion. This is how we are to be conducting ourselves in everyday living. If we love God, then we are to love that which he has created. “For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen”. It’s hard to get any more blunt and direct than that. So, people who are racially prejudiced and hate-filled but still go to church, do so in vain! They are committing an injustice against others by their racism, which is why racism is an injustice in God’s eyes. Does the Bible have anything to say about injustice? In fact it has volumes of commentary and Godly commands that humankind is charged with the task of following. Isaiah 30, verse 18 says, “Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; He rises to show you compassion. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him!”. Zechariah chapter 7, verse 9 says, “Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another.” Here is one Bible verse that I can truly say that Texas state trooper violated when he racially profiled Sandra Bland, making himself indirectly responsible for her untimely demise. And Jesus said to the Pharisees in Luke’s gospel, “Woe to you, Pharisees, because you give God a tenth [of everything], but you neglect justice and the love of God. You should have practiced the latter without leaving the former undone.” (Luke chapter 11, verse 42, NIV) Aside from law enforcement, many contemporary American churches would also be wise to begin obeying Christ in this regard.

There are many varieties of bigotry, intolerance and prejudice. It can be racial. Do you hate black or white people? What about the Latino immigrants, who are in fact economic refugees from Mexico and Central America? It can be gender-based. Are you a guy who hates women or vice versa? There are people like that, more than one might think. Speaking of sex, do you hate gay people? We may not agree with their lifestyle but that doesn’t give us the right to hate them. Although we believe the Bible says homosexuality is a sin as the majority of Christians do, that give us no license to hate the sinner. Just because they are different than you doesn’t make them any worse or yourself any better. Sexual sin is still sexual sin, and questions about same-sex as opposed to opposite sex attraction are, to me, besides the point. The same goes for age discrimination. Ask any older worker who has been turned down for a job in favor of a younger candidate. I’ve walked a mile in those shoes myself. What about homeless people? Do you tend to not tolerate or to fear the homeless? Economic discrimination is the worst kind of prejudice because it affects the largest group of people, since 99% of America’s wealth is squarely in the hands of the top 1% of the US population. What is the antidote for this social sickness? How do we overcome all the artificial barriers that constitute hate, intolerance and prejudice? How can we put forth fundamental change in these areas? For the answer to this pressing question, let’s refer one last time to the apostle John.

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed His love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through Him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and His love is made complete in us…….There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. We love because He first loved us.” (I John 4; verses 7-12, 18-19; NIV)

Love is the perfect eraser for hate. Bigotry, intolerance and prejudice are based on fear – fear of what we don’t understand – and hate, which is pure evil. To overcome this, try volunteering in an inner city ministry where you live, or maybe at a food bank or in a homeless shelter. It will open your eyes to a whole different world. Hunger in America is real, and it is currently ever-present. The middle class is disappearing. The big multinational corporations have exported all the good middle class jobs for pennies on the dollar to emerging countries and economies worldwide. At this point, the only thing left that “we the people” can do about it is an outright revolt. In that event, our churches could be a very good place to start, whether it be for ministry, community outreach or revolution. But, if churches aren’t your first choice, there are lots of other nonprofits out there such as Goodwill, the Veterans Association and so on. Better yet, start a movement of your own. By volunteering or being a missionary in the poorest parts of your city or town, that is just one way we can combat racism as an entire nation. From this kind of a ministry we can gain understanding, from understanding tolerance, from tolerance compassion, and from compassion empathy. These are the antidotes for racism, bigotry, prejudice and intolerance. This is how we as a nation can stop hate in its tracks. This is how we as a united American people can ensure there are no more Sandra Blands. Hate is no longer OK, it isn’t even tolerable for those with a strong sense of conscience and a deep desire for justice. You will be surprised at what a positive effect this can have on your outlook on life. And the God of peace, a holy peace that is beyond normal human comprehension, will be with you all.

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Law enforcement misconduct has become a foul stench in God’s nostrils

Once Again, the Government Sins Against the People

by Rev. Paul J. Bern

There was a headline just a few days ago on the Internet mainstream media that was all over the national news on my old rabbit-eared TV and CNN’s website. The FBI, our nation’s top law enforcement agency (at least up to now), has been giving false testimony about forensic samples obtained from alleged crime scenes. Fully 95% or more of all federal criminal prosecutions in the last ten years – those we know about so far – were engineered by way of apparently bogus testimony! Allow me to quote a short excerpt from this article:

FBI admits it fudged forensic hair matches in nearly all criminal trials for decades

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Beforeitsnews.com

WASHINGTON — “The Justice Department and FBI have formally acknowledged that nearly every examiner in an elite FBI forensic unit gave flawed testimony in almost all trials in which they offered evidence against criminal defendants over more than a two-decade period before 2000. Of 28 examiners with the FBI Laboratory’s microscopic hair comparison unit, 26 overstated forensic matches in ways that favored prosecutors in more than 95 per cent of the 268 trials reviewed so far, according to the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) and the Innocence Project, which are assisting the government with the country’s largest post-conviction review of questioned forensic evidence. The cases include those of 32 defendants sentenced to death. Of those, 14 have been executed or died in prison, the groups said under an agreement with the government to release results after the review of the first 200 convictions. The FBI errors alone do not mean there was not other evidence of a convicts guilt. Defendants and federal and state prosecutors in 46 states and the District of Columbia are being notified to determine whether there are grounds for appeals. Four defendants were previously exonerated. The admissions mark a watershed in one of the country’s largest forensic scandals, highlighting the failure of the U.S. courts for decades to keep bogus scientific information from juries, legal analysts said. The question now, they said, is how state authorities and the courts will respond to findings that confirm long-suspected problems with subjective, pattern-based forensic techniques — like hair and bite-mark comparisons — that have contributed to wrongful convictions in more than one-quarter of 329 DNA-exoneration cases since 1989. In a statement, the FBI and Justice Department vowed to continue to devote resources to address all cases and said they “are committed to ensuring that affected defendants are notified of past errors and that justice is done in every instance. The Department and the FBI are also committed to ensuring the accuracy of future hair analysis, as well as the application of all disciplines of forensic science….”

In other words, there are thousands of criminal convictions that were falsely obtained, meaning there are literally hundreds of thousands of people in the federal prison system who aren’t supposed to be there in the first place. To call this outrageous would be a gross understatement, to call it a miscarriage of justice would in my view still be insufficient. The best description I can think of – and I can think of a few I can’t print here – is “completely over the top”!

Wikipedia has this to say about incarceration in America: “The United States has the largest prison population in the world, and the second-highest per-capita incarceration rate, behind Seychelles (which has a total prison population of 786 out of a population of 90,024). In 2012, there were 707 adults incarcerated per 100,000 population. According to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), 2,266,800 adults were incarcerated in U.S. federal and state prisons, and county jails at year-end 2011 – about 0.94% of adults in the U.S. resident population. Additionally, 4,814,200 adults at year-end 2011 were on probation or on parole. In total, 6,977,700 adults were under correctional supervision (probation, parole, jail, or prison) in 2011 – about 2.9% of adults in the U.S. resident population.” Of that 2.26 million incarcerated individuals in state and federal prisons, that number is pretty much divided down the middle between the two. So, if there are 1.13 million people in federal prison, and 95% of them are there due to what amounts to perjured testimony, the FBI just lost every ounce of its credibility. Plus, a crime of the highest order has been committed in America due to false imprisonment and perjury – both felony offenses – and, people’s civil rights have been violated because 3 out of 4 prisoners are black. The uproar over this should have been deafening, but the story came and went in 24 hours or less. Without a doubt the majority of people do not yet know about this report, which is why I am going to great lengths to bring this topic back up again.

What does the Bible say about this? Quite a lot, actually, so let me quote just a handful of verses, which should be sufficient for me to make my point. In Exodus chapter 20, verse 16 says, “You shall not bear false testimony against your neighbor.” No doubt you will recognize this as being one of the ten commandments. Exodus chapter 23 says in verse one, “Do not spread false reports. Do not help a wicked man by being a malicious witness.” Proverbs chapter nineteen, verse five says, “A false witness will not go unpunished, and he who pours out lies will not go free.” Psalm 119, verse 163 says, “I hate and abhor falsehood, but I love the law.” It says in Ephesians chapter 4 and verse 25, “Therefore each one of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body”. And finally, Jesus himself said in Luke chapter 3, verse 14, “Don’t extort money and don’t accuse people falsely – be content with your pay”. What’s the 21st century version of that truism? Don’t be greedy! Sorry, Gordon Gecko and Wall St., greed is most definitely not good, not even a little. Greed is counterproductive, it is self-centered and therefore childish, and often times it can be criminal in nature.

As our planet becomes more and more populated, working for the greater good instead of one’s personal needs and desires will become the preferable way of life. Fewer resources for more people seems to be the order of the day. As such, hoarding money, food, investments such as houses, or other commodities like gold and silver, is becoming the old way of doing things. People are finally starting to figure out that we can either coexist together peacefully, or we can annihilate each other in war. Which do we choose? As for me, since I worship the Prince of Peace, I choose to live in His peace, and harmoniously with those around me to the best of my ability. But when people are falsely imprisoned, that’s where I draw the line. When people are railroaded into prison after being nearly defenseless in court based on false testimony, that is where I draw the line. When people’s civil rights are being viciously violated up one side and down the other, that is where I draw the line! This grotesque miscarriage of justice has just over a million people falsely imprisoned, and that’s the federal system alone. The other 50 states are undoubtedly just as bad, if not worse.

What can we do about this? There can be no question that law enforcement and the criminal court system are utterly corrupt, all one has to do is watch the news on TV or the Web. The latest death of yet another unarmed black man in Baltimore, Maryland is the most current example as I write this. It seems this poor guy suffered a fatal spinal cord injury while in police custody. Naturally, nobody in the department knows anything about it, not one little bit. Evidently the police in Baltimore expect us to believe this gentleman broke his back accidentally. How ridiculous!! This was a case of cold-hearted murder, pure and simple. If a civilian did this to another, at the minimum they would be charged with second degree murder, or at least manslaughter, depending on the jury. But if it’s the police, they will almost always get off scott free. Why? Because the cops lie on the witness stand to convict people just like the FBI agents I wrote about at the beginning of this posting. And, as you have read, God hates false testimony and He hates liars.

Is it any wonder that more and more people are becoming afraid of the police? When I’m out in public and see a cop, I refuse to even so much as make eye contact with them. You see, a long time ago, back in the early ’90’s, I found myself convicted of a weapons charge over an altercation in traffic. Another driver was repeatedly cutting into my lane and slamming on his brakes right in front of me. After the altercation, I left the scene, nor do I make an apology for that because I regarded it as justifiable self-defense, and I still do. A year and a half later, when the case came up in court (I had posted bond and gotten out of jail), I found out that the man who started the whole thing was an off-duty cop. He was driving in his civilian car wearing civilian clothes, and I had no idea this guy was a police officer. The bottom line was that I was convicted of 2 felonies because the off-duty cop who started the whole thing got up on the witness stand and told one lie on top of another (naturally, this time he was in uniform). My only consolation was that I got probation and a fine instead of jail time. So I know what it’s like to be falsely convicted of a crime. And that’s exactly why I side with the protesters, and I always will. And I am convinced that this police and courtroom misconduct will eventually deteriorate into massive civil unrest, which is something I’ve been predicting in my books for years. The summer of 2015 could get very interesting. Only time will tell.

 

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