Category Archives: rigged system

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

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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.

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Free book excerpt #15 from author, blogger and Web pastor Paul J. Bern

Of The Bullies, By The Bullies, and For The Bullies

(excerpt from chapter 5 of my book, “Occupying America: We Shall Overcome“) © 2012 by Rev. Paul J. Bern all rights reserved

 

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Perhaps the most ominous sign regarding the true nature of economic discrimination and class warfare against the middle class and the poor, which invariably includes people of color, is that of bullying, intimidation and similar forms of abuse directed at employees in the workplace. Although I’m certain that everybody who reads this can think of an example of having a really bad boss, the following alarming example of abusive management in the third world is the best (or worst) example I have found. The question is, could this “method” of management be coming to America’s shores next? Worse yet, is it already here?

More than a decade ago, shoe giant Nike came under fire for its use of sweatshop labor in the production of its products. Most of the criticism focused on its Indonesian workforce, where workers, largely young women, were forced to labor under harsh conditions and abusive supervisors. In 1997, filmmaker Michael Moore made Nike abuses a subject of his film “The Big One”, and met with Nike CEO Phil Knight. Knight explained that the reason his company was using low-wage labor in Indonesia is allegedly because “Americans don’t want to make shoes”.

At the Taiwanese-operated Pou Chen Group factory in Sukabumi, Indonesia, which makes Converse shoes for Nike, and PT Amara Footwear factory in Jakarta, workers alleged that they are paid ultra-low wages, regularly verbally and physically abused, and even fired for the act of taking sick leave (this has since become a fact of life in the American workplace as well). The 10,000 mostly female workers at the Taiwanese-operated Pou Chen plant make around 50 cents an hour. That’s enough, for food and bunkhouse-type lodging, but little else. Some workers interviewed by the AP in March and April described being hit or scratched in the arm ― one man until he bled.

An internal Nike report released to the AP found that ‘nearly two-thirds of 168 factories making Converse products worldwide fail to meet Nike’s own standards for contract manufacturers. Meanwhile, in 2010, Nike CEO Mark Parker received an 84 percent hike in his annual compensation, raking in $13.1 million, an amount many of the workers in Sukabumi and Jakarta can only dream of.

If the top 1% has their way, these kinds of workplace abuses and sweatshop conditions will be making their way to your workplace. Here in Georgia where I live (plus several other states, mostly in the Southeastern US) we have what are called “right to work” laws. Basically what it means is that anyone can be terminated for any reason, or sometimes for no reason at all. So no matter where you work, there is always this cloud of uncertainty hanging overhead, knowing that you can get canned without warning, even if you are doing everything right. Imagine what Jesus would say about this if He came back today! Would he be pleased? Absolutely not! So I would say that being forced to work in what amounts to a hostile work environment is just one more reason for us all to rise up against the top 1% and take back all that they have stolen from us. Our dignity, our human rights and our governmental, economic and political systems will be taken and confiscated from the rich no matter how long it takes!

The fact of the matter is that this type of brute-force management has lately spread from much of America’s professional life over into our personal lives, with the most obvious examples being the militarization of our police departments combined with the lost cause known as the “war on drugs”. In so doing, those who used to be sworn to protect and to serve have become those who harass and intimidate. They have become the lackeys of the top 1%, with some in law enforcement chomping at the bit for an opportunity to lock up a few people and bloody a few heads, if not worse. However, I also believe that there is no small number in the law enforcement community who realize that they are actually part of the 99%. When they do, and especially when they realize that they are just pawns for the 1%, they will join us in droves, coming over to our side having realized that they were only being contemptuously used to guard what the 1% has hoarded at the expense of all the rest of us, including themselves.

The police arms race has very clearly spread well beyond the urban borders of the only cities to actually be targeted by foreign terrorists. Now, police officers routinely walk the beat armed with assault rifles and garbed in black full-battle uniforms. The extent of this weapon “inflation” does not stop with high-powered rifles, either. In recent years, police departments both large and small have acquired bazookas, machine guns, and even armored vehicles and tanks for use in domestic police work, as if such things were truly needed. They aren’t.

The most serious consequence of the rapid militarization of American police forces, however, is the subtle evolution in the mentality of the “men in blue” from peace officer to urban soldier. This development is absolutely critical and represents a fundamental change in the nature of law enforcement. The primary mission of a police officer traditionally has been to keep the peace. Those whom an officer suspects to have committed a crime are treated as just that — suspects. Police officers are expected, under the rule of law, to protect the civil liberties of all citizens, even the bad guys. For domestic law enforcement, a suspect in custody remains innocent until proven guilty. Moreover, police officers operate among a largely friendly population and have traditionally been trained to solve problems using a complex legal system; the deployment of lethal violence is supposed to be an absolute last resort.

Soldiers, on the other hand, are trained to identify and kill the enemy. This is a problem. Cops are increasingly seeing the citizens they’re hired to protect as ‘the enemy’. This is in part how nonviolent protesters end up tear-gassed and shot at. This is part of why violence is so often the first resort of cops dealing with any sort of tricky situation, rather than the last. The idea that we need our cops to be the heavily armed soldiers of the streets instead of, say, social workers and peacekeepers with the power to arrest leads to bad recruiting, bad training, unnecessary deaths, mass distrust of the police by vulnerable communities, and the contemptuous feeling of many cops that they themselves are above the law.

The trend toward a more militarized domestic police force began well before 9/11. It actually began in the early 1980s, as the Reagan administration added a new dimension of literalness to Richard Nixon’s declaration of a “war on drugs.” Reagan declared illicit drugs a threat to national security. In 1981 he and a compliant Congress passed the Military Cooperation with Law Enforcement Act, which allowed and encouraged the military to give local, state, and federal police access to military bases, research, and equipment. It authorized the military to train civilian police officers to use the newly available equipment, instructed the military to share drug-war-related information with civilian police and authorized the military to take an active role in preventing drugs from entering the country….

The September 11 attacks provided a new and seemingly urgent justification for further militarization of America’s police departments: the need to protect the country from terrorism. Within months of the attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center, the Office of National Drug Control Policy began laying the groundwork with a series of ads tying recreational drug use to support for terrorism. Terrorism became the new reason to arm American cops as if they were soldiers, but drug offenders would still be their primary targets. In a particularly egregious example comparable to going duck hunting with a bazooka, the seven police officers who serve the town of Jasper, Florida — which has all of 2,000 people and hadn’t had a murder in more than a decade — were each given a military-grade M-16 machine gun from the Pentagon transfer program, leading one Florida paper to run the headline, “Three Stoplights, Seven M-16s.”

In 2006 alone, the Department of Defense distributed vehicles worth $15.4 million, aircraft worth $8.9 million, boats worth $6.7 million, weapons worth $1 million and “other” items worth $110.6 million to local police agencies. After 9/11, police departments in some cities, including Washington, D.C., also switched to battle dress uniforms (BDUs) instead the traditional police uniform. Critics say even subtle changes like a more militarized uniform can change both public perception of the police and how police see their own role in the community. One such critic, retired police sergeant Bill Donelly, wrote in a letter to the editor of the Washington Post, “One tends to throw caution to the wind when wearing ‘commando-chic’ regalia, a bulletproof vest with the word ‘POLICE’ emblazoned on both sides, and when one is armed with high tech weaponry.” Departments in places like Indianapolis and some Chicago suburbs also began acquiring machine guns from the military in the name of fighting terror….

The total number of SWAT deployments per year in the U.S. may now top 60,000, or more than 160 per day. SWAT teams have been used to break up neighborhood poker games, sent into bars and fraternities suspected of allowing underage drinking, and even to enforce alcohol and occupational licensing regulations. Concern about such firepower in densely populated areas hitting innocent citizens has given way to an attitude that the police are fighting a war against drugs and crime and must be heavily armed. Never mind the collateral damage! Earlier this year, the Department of Education even sent its SWAT team to the home of someone suspected of defrauding the federal student loan program. In so doing, the inability to repay one’s student loan has now become criminalized. This is why we are occupying and will continue to occupy America. Being poor and broke is not a crime. We the American people will not stand idly by while poverty becomes criminalized. Enough is enough!

Class warfare has been declared upon us all by the top 1%, and the main assault against the remainder of us has already commenced. Starting with the Occupy Movement in September 2011, and the ‘We Are the 99%’ Movement at about the same time, the counterattack by the 99% against the elitist 1% has begun in earnest. In so doing, although a second American Civil War has been started by the wealthy elitists, it is we the people – the 99% – who comprise the overwhelming majority of America, and it is we who will finish it. In fact, this counterattack has already begun, it’s just that it wasn’t that apparent at first. It wasn’t supposed to be. In the next chapter I will shed as much light as I can on how this is occurring, and highlight a few methods about how this can be accomplished in as peaceful a manner as possible.

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Life lessons on cheating, and what happens to cheaters

Hillary Clinton and Donna Brazile, the D.N.C., and the Bible

by Pastor Paul J. Bern

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By now nearly everyone who gets their news from the Alternative Media has heard or read yesterday’s news release about former Democratic National Committee chairman Donna Brazile’s new book about her career in the Democrat party, and American politics in general. The following quote regarding this topic is from a posting on thehill.com from this past Friday, November 3rd, and the complete story can be found here:

The broadcast evening newscasts on three major networks on Thursday didn’t mention bombshell revelations by former Democratic National Committee interim Chairwoman Donna Brazile. Brazile has written in a new book that she discovered evidence that she said showed Hillary Clinton’s campaign “rigged” the Democratic presidential primary. “ABC’s World News Tonight,” “NBC Nightly News” and “CBS Evening News” all didn’t report the allegations by Brazile on Thursday evening despite it receiving considerable coverage on cable news and in print and online media. Brazile was also trending as one of Twitter’s top topics on Thursday. In excerpts released to Politico Thursday, Brazile writes in her new book, “Hacks: The Inside Story of the Break-ins and Breakdowns that Put Donald Trump in the White House,” that it “broke [her] heart” upon discovering evidence that she said showed the Clinton campaign “rigged” the Democratic nomination system.”

By September 7, the day I called Bernie, I had found my proof and it broke my heart,” Brazile wrote about a Sept. 7, 2016, call to Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who gave Clinton a far more serious challenge for the nomination than many had expected. Brazile also shares an arrangement between the DNC, the Clinton campaign and Clinton’s joint fundraising committee that indicated the campaign would “control the party’s finances, strategy, and all the money raised.” She wrote the arrangement was concocted in an effort to address the mounting debt of the party in the aftermath of President Obama’s successful 2012 reelection campaign. “The campaign had the DNC on life support, giving it money every month to meet its basic expenses, while the campaign was using the party as a fund-raising clearing house,” Brazile wrote. “If the fight had been fair, one campaign would not have control of the party before the voters had decided which one they wanted to lead. This was not a criminal act, but as I saw it, it compromised the party’s integrity,” Brazile added…..”

There are two things we can keep from all this as lessons for further down the road of life. The first is one we’ve all heard before, but apparently some highly placed and influential people seem to have forgotten this – it never pays to cheat! And even when it does, those ill-gotten gains will evaporate at some point down the road – and always at the worst possible moment. That’s just the way life works. The second thing is something few people have yet realized – the Democratic party’s very existence is threatened thanks to Hillary’s apparent cheating in the 2016 primary election. Moreover, the Republicans also have their party’s existence threatened by the way Donald Trump has handled his presidency up till this point, making America the laughingstock of the entire world! So, it’s safe to say that Ms. Brazile and her new book have dealt a severe blow to the US Republican-Democrat political paradigm. That in and of itself may be the best news of all for regular folks like ourselves.
What does the Bible have to say about cheating? Did Hillary Clinton sin by rigging the Democratic primary? Well, Zacchaeus the tax collector knew cheating was wrong, and said as much when Jesus told him he needed a place to stay and to have dinner, as it is written: “But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, ‘Look, Lord! Here and now I give half my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.’” (Luke 19: 8) The apostle Paul used cheating as an example regarding the filing of frivolous lawsuits that should have been settled within the Church instead of in a court of law, and I quote: “The very fact that you have lawsuits among you means you have been completely defeated already. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be cheated? Instead, you yourselves cheat and do wrong, and you do this to your brothers.” (1st Corinthians 6: 7-8)
Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump both have a debt to repay to the American people. They both tried to buy their way into the White House. They both tried to cheat their way into the Oval Office. As we know, only one of them succeeded, but that is besides the point. Whatever the amount of money each of them spent getting elected – or trying to – they should reimburse the American people for rigging the system. And then there’s the fact that Russian intelligence tampered with both sides during our election trying to rig the outcome. As before, Russia has also been caught cheating. But for now, let’s focus on Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump and the money they spent buying their way into the White House. According to CBS News, a total of $6.8 billion was spent on the 2016 presidential campaign. OK then, Jesus was evidently in agreement with Zacchaeus in Luke’s gospel, the tax collector who had the bad reputation (see Luke 19: 1-10) among the people. As you read in the last paragraph, Zacchaeus told Jesus, “….if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount….”.
Jesus must have found those terms acceptable since he said nothing to the contrary, right? Then those terms are clearly also applicable to Trump and Clinton. What, they don’t believe in Jesus the same way I do? They don’t interpret the Bible word-for-word as I do? That makes no difference whatsoever since Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever!! All right, then, let’s do the math here – $6.8 billion times 4 equals $27.2 billion – divided by 325 million people. My calculator tells me that works out to $8.3 million for every man, woman and child – right down to the sweet little babies. Eight million three hundred thousand bucks will buy a whole lot of groceries, that’s for sure (guess I’d never run out of coffee, thank God!). Other than that, the best thing that could happen to America would be a third party candidate presiding in the Oval Office come January 2021. Until then, don’t cheat. It never pays. Hillary Clinton has already had to relearn this lesson. Don’t make the same mistake.

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Free book excerpt #14 from author, on-line pastor and blogger Rev. Paul J. Bern

The Middle and Working Class Manifesto” by Rev. Paul J. Bern.

Watch the video at http://youtu.be/VZguRDJmCqc

Chapter Eight; Apocalypse Soon?

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This chapter will be the conclusion of the first half of this book, “Explaining the Manifesto Part One: Stating the Problems”. In the first half of this book, I have explained and documented certain basic facts regarding the fate that awaits the entire US middle class if we don’t stand up as a united people and do something about our situation. I have shown my dear readers that the US middle and working classes are gradually being liquidated by the ultra-rich through a systematic confiscation of wealth. It is the top 1% of those who hold somewhere between 95% and 99% of all the wealth in this formerly great country, and much of this wealth used to be squarely in the hip pocket of the middle class. It is they who have out-sourced a large portion of middle class jobs to the third world while leaving good hard-working Americans out in the cold. It is the wealthy who are foreclosing on our homes and throwing everything America owns into a pile sitting at the curb. It is the wealthy who have looted our pension funds, who are driving our health insurance costs through the roof, who have been pillaging the Social Security coffers in Washington, and who are the paymasters for all the lobbyists in Washington. It is the wealthy who have turned war into a stalemate for profit as the infrastructure back home in America crumbles to dust while our schools deteriorate. It is the wealthy who have turned America into the world’s largest arms merchant and flooded the global market with every imaginable kind of gun that one could ever hope to have, and often with no questions asked. It is the wealthy elite who have more people behind bars than any other country in the world, due in large part to the fiasco known as the “war on drugs” that has been ongoing since the 1970’s.

There can be no doubt that American society is coming apart at the seams as a direct result of all the financial shenanigans that is going on in Washington or on Wall Street. Here is a list of those signs as posted on the Internet a couple of years ago. Since then, things have only gotten worse. How much longer are we going to put up with this?

15 Signs American Society Is Coming Apart at the Seams

1) The inequality of wealth in the United States is soaring to an unprecedented level. The U.S. already had the highest inequality of wealth in the industrialized world prior to the financial crisis. Since the crisis, which has hit the middle class and poor much harder than the top 1 percent, the gap between the top 1 percent and the remaining 99 percent of the U.S. population has grown to a record high.

2) As the stock market recently went over the 23,000 mark, surging to an all-time high, the three big banks that took taxpayer money and benefited the most from the government bailout have just set a new global economic record by issuing $70 billion in annual bonuses last year. Bloomberg reported: “Goldman Sachs, the most profitable securities firm in Wall Street history, had a record profit in the first nine months of this year and set aside $16.7 billion for compensation expenses.” Goldman Sachs is on pace for the best year in the firm’s history, and it is also benefiting by only paying 1 percent in taxes.

3) The profits of the economic elite are “now underwritten by taxpayers with $23.7 trillion worth of national wealth.” As the looting is occurring at the top, the U.S. middle class is just beginning to collapse.

4) Workers between the ages of 55 to 60, who have worked for 20 to 29 years, have lost an average of 25 percent off their 401k. During the same time period, the wealth of the 400 richest Americans went up by $30 billion, bringing their total combined wealth to $1.57 trillion.

5) Home foreclosure filings “hit a record high in the third quarter (of 2012)… They were the worst three months of all time… 937,840 homes received a foreclosure letter” in this three-month period; “3.4 million homes are expected to enter foreclosure by year’s end, with some experts estimating that next year will be even worse.” President Obama has enacted a $75 billion taxpayer funded program that has been a spectacular failure in stemming the foreclosure crisis and has proven to be another massive waste of billions of taxpayer dollars.

6) 25 million people are unemployed or underemployed. This means we have 25 million people who urgently need to increase their income, and they’re quickly running out of options. The unemployment rate is expected to rise further and remain high for several years. “The president’s chief economic adviser warned that the nation’s unemployment rate could stay ‘unacceptably high’ for years to come.”

The New York Times reports: “Americans now confront a job market that is bleaker than ever in the current recession, and employment prospects are still getting worse. Job seekers now outnumber openings six to one, the worst ratio since the government began tracking….” As this ratio continues to grow, it will lead to a further reduction in wages — average worker wages have seen a sharp decline over the past year.

Economist Nouriel Roubini, a man who accurately predicted our current crisis, just reported on unemployment stating: “Think the worst is over? Wrong. Conditions in the U.S. labor markets are awful and worsening…. So we can expect that job losses will continue until the end of 2010 at the earliest. In other words, if you are unemployed and looking for work and just waiting for the economy to turn the corner, you had better hunker down. All the economic numbers suggest this will take a while. The jobs just are not coming back.”

7) As the few elite banks thrive, there have been 123 U.S. bank failures thus far this year. Recently, three banks that the government declared “healthy” and gave taxpayer money, have folded. The Wall Street Journal reports: “U.S. regulators have seized or threatened at least 27 banks that got capital infusions from the Troubled Asset Relief Program, including some lenders government officials knew were troubled when they awarded the money. The troubles put taxpayers at risk of losing as much as $5.1 billion invested in the banks since TARP was launched in October 2008.”

8) As bankruptcies surge across the board, 10 U.S. states are on the verge of bankruptcy, with several ready to declare a financial state of emergency. California, Arizona, Florida, Illinois, Michigan, Nevada, New Jersey, Oregon, Rhode Island and Wisconsin are all “barreling toward economic disaster, raising the likelihood of higher taxes, more government layoffs and deep cuts in services.”

9) This is occurring at a time when the “federal budget deficit for the fiscal year that just ended was $1.4 trillion, nearly a trillion dollars greater than the year before.” In total, “U.S. public debt topped $12 trillion for the first time in history… The public debt topped $10 trillion back in September 2008. The debt is quickly approaching the statutory limit of $21 trillion, meaning Congress would have to raise the ceiling to prevent a shutdown of government operations.”

Economist Dean Baker explains the risk of running such a large deficit: “The debt limit must be increased at regular intervals in order to allow the government to function normally because the government is currently operating at a deficit. If the debt limit is not passed, then at some point the government will not be able to pay workers and contractors. It won’t be able to send out Social Security checks or make payments for Medicaid and unemployment insurance to state governments. And, it will not be able to make interest payments on government bonds, effectively defaulting on the national debt.” Needless to say, all of this will make life drastically more difficult for American citizens. As the middle class continues on the path of economic decline, the number of citizens living in poverty has already hit an all-time high.

10) Although the government’s official figure tries to low-ball the number, 47.4 million U.S. citizens live in poverty, and the U.S. poverty rate is the highest in the industrialized world. Predictably, homelessness is rising at an increased rate as well. The U.S. government does not tally the numbers but interested organizations say that more than 3 million people were homeless at some point over the past year. The fastest growing segment of the homeless population is families with children. Children have been hit especially hard by the economic crisis.

11) 50 percent of U.S. children, one out of every two children, will need to use food stamps to eat. One out of every two children in the United States of America will need to use food stamps… to EAT!

If you didn’t think starvation was a serious threat in the U.S., just read this new Washington Post report: “The nation’s economic crisis has catapulted the number of Americans who lack enough food to the highest level since the government has been keeping track, according to a new federal report, which shows that nearly 50 million people — including almost one child in four — struggled last year to get enough to eat…” Several independent advocates and policy experts on hunger said that they had been bracing for the latest report to show deepening shortages, but that they were nevertheless astonished by how much the problem has worsened. ‘This is unthinkable. It’s like we are living in a Third World country,’ said Vicki Escarra, president of Feeding America.”

The United States Department of Agriculture released these findings in a study that was completed back in December 2008, which means these numbers don’t take into account the millions more unemployed throughout 2009-2012. The numbers of people living in poverty and struggling to eat has seen a significant increase since then. This a national tragedy. But it gets much worse.

12) In 2008, according to the Census Bureau, the number of U.S. citizens without health care grew to a record 46.3 million. “The new figures, however, understate the severity of the economic downturn because a large portion of the nation’s job losses and unemployment rate increases occurred after the Census survey data was collected in March as part of the annual Current Population Survey.” And now President Trump and his conservative friends want to end Obama-care too? This is completely nuts!

13) Lack of health insurance has caused 45,000 preventable U.S. citizen deaths in the past year. The American Journal of Medicine recently released a study that stated, “Nearly two out of three bankruptcies stem from medical bills, and even people with health insurance face financial disaster if they experience a serious illness.”

A 3-year-old Johns Hopkins Children’s Center study reported that 17,000 children have died due to lack of health care. You can also add in a recent report that revealed that 2,266 U.S. veterans have died in 2008 due to lack of insurance. The 30 million now uninsured and the 45,000 preventable deaths per year statistics are expected to drastically rise over the next few years. As the Senate continues to strip meaningful amendments from a health care bill that wouldn’t even take effect until 2018, it has become clear that, despite the media hype, the health care bill is going to fall far short of meaningful reform and continue to rig the game in favor of large insurance company profits at the expense of the U.S. population. With the highest cost healthcare in the world, current trends will continue and much needed change is not on the horizon.

Never before has the United States had so many citizens with so little means, little to no income and heavy debt. Debt and costs of living have now shackled U.S. citizens just as they have shackled people throughout the world. The economic hit men have now hit the United States as well and millions of American citizens are now effectively sentenced to a slow death. Economic Imperial blow-back has hit the mainland. And the clock is ticking louder by the day…

And here’s two more facts for you:

14) The gun and ammunition manufacturing industry in the United States has over 200 companies producing billions of dollars in annual revenues. This huge manufacturing base cannot fulfill demand quickly enough. The demand for guns and ammunition has hit a record high and the gun industry cannot produce enough bullets to keep up with orders. Americans are arming themselves to the teeth!

15) In the past year, 100 new armed militia groups have been formed, as militia members have doubled in numbers. Federal authorities are gravely concerned about the “uptick in militia activities.” One federal authority recently said, “All it’s lacking is a spark. I think it’s only a matter of time before you see threats and violence.” So let’s break down these numbers.

You have a population of 50 million people who are in desperate need of money, they most likely have no health insurance and can’t afford to get health care or help of any kind. Part of this population probably also has loved ones who can’t get life sustaining medical treatments, or loved ones who have already died due to lack of costly medical treatment. The clock is ticking loud for these people and they are running out of options fast, and time delayed is time closer to death. While the richest 1 percent have never had it so good, a significant percentage of the U.S. population now has firsthand experience in this. Millions upon millions of Americans are poor, broke, struggling, starving, desperate… and armed. We are sitting on a powder keg! We are now witnessing the critical unraveling of U.S. society.

The unraveling of American society is not the only thing that’s going on. The US dollar has been the standard world currency since the end of World War Two. However, there are increasing signs that the dollar’s status as the world’s chief form of currency is being challenged….

Get the print edition ($9.95) at www.pcmatl.org/books-and-donations

Or, get it on Kindle ($3.95) at https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=node%3D154606011&field-keywords=the+middle+and+working+class+manifesto

Watch the video at http://youtu.be/VZguRDJmCqc

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Book excerpt #11 from Progressive Christian blogger and published author Rev. Paul J. Bern

Free sample from “Cannabis Legalization and the Bible” by Rev. Paul J. Bern

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

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Imagine if America’s incarcerated population were its own country. If you look at local, state and federal prison and jail populations, the United States currently incarcerates more than three million people, a figure that constitutes roughly 25 percent of the total incarcerated population of the entire world. A population of 3 million is a lot – enough, in fact, to fill up a good-sized country. If the incarcerated population of the United States constituted a nation-state, what kind of country would it be?

[1] Population size: As a country – as opposed to a prison system – Incarceration Nation is on the small side. Nonetheless, a population of 2.4 million is perfectly respectable: Incarceration Nation has a larger population than about 50 other countries, including Namibia, Qatar, Gambia, Bahrain and Iceland.

[2] Geographic area: There are more than 4,500 prisons in the United States. Let’s assume that each of those prisons takes up about half a square mile of land – a reasonable (and probably quite low) estimate given that most prisons are, for security reasons, surrounded by some empty space. That gives Incarceration Nation an estimated land area of about 2,250 square miles: small, but still larger than Brunei, Bahrain and Singapore.

[3] Population density: No matter how you look at it, Incarceration Nation is a crowded place. If we assume a land area of 2,250 square miles, it has a population density of roughly 1,067 people per square mile, a little higher than that of India. In 2011, federal prisons were operating 39 percent above capacity; in many state systems, overcrowding was much worse. This figure remains largely unchanged.

[4] A nation of immigrants: Like many of the smaller Gulf States, Incarceration Nation relies almost entirely on immigration to maintain its population. You might even say that Incarceration Nation is a nation of displaced persons: most of its residents were born far away from Incarceration Nation, which has a nasty habit of involuntarily transporting people hundreds and sometimes thousands of miles away from their home communities, making it extraordinarily difficult for residents to maintain ties with their families.

[5] Birthright citizenship: An estimated 10,000 babies are born each year in Incarceration Nation. Most are “deported” within months, generally landing with foster families. But Incarceration Nation does have its own form of birthright citizenship, if you can call it that: as many as 70 percent of children with an incarcerated parent end up incarcerated themselves at some point.

[6] Gender balance: International attention to gender imbalances has tended to focus on China, India and other states, but Incarceration Nation has the most skewed gender ratio of any country on Earth: men outnumber women by a ratio of about 12 to 1.

[7] Racial and ethnic makeup: If Incarceration Nation were located in a geographical region matching its racial and ethnic makeup, it would probably be somewhere in the Southern Hemisphere, perhaps near Brazil. Roughly 40 percent of the incarcerated population is of African descent, another 20 percent is of Hispanic descent, and the remaining 40 percent are Caucasian or mixed. For the average American, this means that one’s odds of spending time in Incarceration Nation depend greatly on gender and race: a white woman has only a one in 111 lifetime chance of ending up incarcerated, while a black man has a whopping one in three chance.

[8] Health: One study found that the incarcerated are “more likely to be afflicted with infectious disease and other illnesses associated with stress.” More than half of Incarceration Nation’s citizens are mentally ill, with depression rates roughly on a par with those experienced by citizens of Afghanistan.

[9] Per Capita Spending: Judged by per capita government spending, Incarceration Nation is a rich country: its government spends an average of about $31,000 per year on each incarcerated citizen. Internationally, only little Luxembourg spends as much on its citizens as Incarceration. Some people make a lot of money from Incarceration Nation. Incarceration Nation employs about 800,000 people as prison guards, administrators and the like – almost as many people as are employed in the entire U.S. automobile industry. But the real money goes to the operators of private prisons and the companies that make use of prison labor. Large private prison companies (such as CCA, the Geo Group, and Cornell Companies) boast impressive annual revenues. In 2015, for instance, CCA had annual revenues of about $1.79 billion.

[10] Labor Standards: If you think low labor costs in countries such as China and Bangladesh are a threat to U.S. workers and businesses, labor conditions in Incarceration Nation will dangerously raise your blood pressure. UNICOR, a.k.a. Federal Prison Industries, employs 8 percent of “work eligible” federal prisoners. Hourly wages range from 23 cents an hour – about on a par with garment workers in Bangladesh – to a princely $1.35 for “premium” prisoners, comparable to the hourly wage of Chinese garment workers. Who benefits from these low wages? The U.S. Department of Defense, for one. The DOD is UNICOR’s largest customer; in fiscal year 2011 it accounted for $357 million of UNICOR’s annual sales. UNICOR makes everything from Patriot missile components to body armor for the DOD. No one likes to talk about this, of course: “We sell products made by prison labor” isn’t the kind of slogan likely to generate consumer enthusiasm. But to those in the know – as an online video promoting UNICOR’s call-center services boasts – prison labor is “the best-kept secret in outsourcing.”

The U.S. Civil War, which was fought to abolish slavery, was not really that long ago. Having grown up in Cincinnati, I clearly recall the Ohio River was a dividing line between North and South, and so when the war was finally over, many families had veterans – and casualties – on both sides. It is a vivid reminder of the close links that bind this country to its history of slavery, which still haunts our national conscience. We maintain what can be only be called legalized slavery today – the utilization of prison labor for public and private profit. Many, if not most, of these inmates are themselves the descendants of slaves. And they are making fewer license plates and more defense electronics and oil spill cleanups. Today prison labor is a multibillion dollar business in the U.S. We also have the highest prison population in the world. Are economic incentives at the heart of our sky-high incarceration rates? Today, the U.S. prison system delivers profits to both government corporations and private enterprises in several ways:

  1. Through the use of inmate labor to produce goods and services in federal and state prisons.

  2. Through the contracting of this labor to private companies at below-market wages.

  3. By privatization of the prisons and detainment centers themselves. Given these perverse incentives to maintain a high inmate population, is it any wonder that the number of prisoners and the length of their sentences – Americans comprise 5 percent of the world’s total population but 25 percent of the world’s prison population – have skyrocketed since privatization began in 1984?

  4. Number of inmates. From 1920 to 2006, the general U.S. population grew only 2.8 times in the same period, but the number of inmates increased more than 20 times.

One might ask if this population surge could be due to a sudden increase in violent crime in America. A much smaller percentage of prisoners than one would imagine have histories of violence. Just three percent of those in Federal prisons, and a third of those in state prisons, have been convicted of violent crimes. A majority of those in city and county prisons are merely awaiting trial and cannot make bail. As any policeman will tell you, much criminality would be eliminated if drug laws were changed. Mass incarceration on a scale almost unexampled in human history is a fundamental fact of the US today – perhaps the fundamental fact, as slavery was the fundamental fact of 1850. In truth, there are more African-American men in the grip of the criminal-justice system – in prison, on probation, or on parole – than were in slavery then. Over all, there are now more people under ‘correctional supervision’ in America – more than six million – than were in the Gulags of Siberia under Stalin at its height. America has now created its own series of Gulags and it makes much more than just license plates. Of the 2.3 million prisoners now being held, more than 100,000 work in federal and state prison industry programs. This doesn’t mean the usual cooking, cleaning or peeling of potatoes, but work that produces products for sale – about $2.4 billion dollars annually. This industry even has its own trade shows! The government, particularly the Department of Defense, is the biggest customer for the federal prison labor. Most military clothing, furniture, and helmets are made by Federal inmates. It is very likely that they made the furniture at your local post office. Calling directory assistance? You might well be talking to a felon. Federal prison workers, however, are the envy of state inmates, some of whom earn nothing for 60-plus-hour weeks. Texas and Georgia offer no compensation at all. (It is no surprise that these states have highly privatized prison industries as well.)

Buy direct in print format ($14.95, 200 pages) at http://www.pcmatl.org/#!books-and-donations/c17et Available in audio format at https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daudible&field-keywords=cannabis+legalization+and+the+Bible&rh=i%3Aaudible%2Ck%3Acannabis+legalization+and+the+Bible Get it on Kindle ($4.95) at https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=node%3D154606011&field-keywords=cannabis+legalization+and+the+Bible&rh=n%3A133140011%2Cn%3A154606011%2Ck%3Acannabis+legalization+and+the+Bible

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

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Free Book excerpt #10 from Author and Pastor Paul J. Bern

Although I meant to publish this yesterday afternoon, a series of computer software problems on my desktop workstation have been keeping me from posting this until now. Monday was the 54th anniversary of Rev. Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. Allow me to share a little something about that historic event from my first book title. The rest is self-explanatory….

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I Dare To Dream

(excerpt from “The Middle and Working Class Manifesto 3rd Edition” by Pastor Paul J. Bern)

The march of economic inequality, from which springs the source of racism, poverty, crime, violence, and lack of access to healthcare and higher education, has become the new civil rights issue of the 21st century. (I like to call it Rev. Dr. MLK, Jr. 2.0.) King’s dream of unconditional equality throughout the country can finish becoming a reality when the economic barriers that we all face on a daily basis finally come down for good, like an economic Berlin Wall circa 1989. Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke to the masses during the 1963 civil rights march on Washington and said, “I have a dream…”. By writing and publishing these words it is my intent to help take up where King’s Dream left off, and to do anything I can to help finish the job that he started. And so let me slightly change that to, “I dare to dream”.

I dare to dream of a world in which the gap between rich and poor is gone forever. We all deserve to live in a world where wealth has been redistributed in a peaceful and orderly manner and not by the barrel of a gun. I dare to dream of a country where wealth has been redistributed in 4 ways. First, every worker earns a living wage so poverty can be eliminated. Second, free higher education and vocational retraining must be available to every worker for life, including daycare available to all, that would be based on the worker’s or student’s ability to pay on a sliding scale, because everyone has the right to better themselves at will. Third, I envision an America where quality health care is available to every worker at nominal cost for life. Single-payer healthcare based on the current Medicare model must not be reserved only for those who can afford it, but it must be a fundamental human right for all ages. I dare to dream of an America where there will be no such thing as someone without health insurance, where every citizen will have lifetime healthcare and prescription drug coverage without qualification, and where there will be the fewest sick days for American workers and their children of any country in the developed world. Fourth, “we the people” demand the abolition of the federal tax code, including elimination of the despised federal withholding tax, which would give every American worker or business owner an immediate 18% pay raise.

I dare to dream of a new America with a robust and viable economy. That is why I have been insisting on a $14.00 per hour minimum wage since 2010. I dare to dream of a new America where education will be subsidized from the cradle to the grave so that the US develops the most formidable work force the world has ever seen. I dare to dream of an America where all workers have the right to organize, to a flexible work week and to paid family or maternity leave. Most other developed countries already do this. The US is the only exception and that has got to change. The only remaining question in my mind is whether we can accomplish this peacefully or otherwise, and it looks more and more to me like it will be the latter.

I dare to dream of an America where affordable housing is the law of the land, where home ownership becomes a right and not a privilege so we can wipe out homelessness, and where the price of a house is limited to the sum total of ten years income of any given individual or household purchasers. I insist on a country where home ownership isn’t part of an exclusive club with the highest “credit scores”. It is, and must become, a basic human right. Even the cave men lived in caves of their own!

I dare to dream of a country with new public works programs that put an end to unemployment forever so the USA can have full employment all the time. America’s infrastructure needs to be rebuilt, and its inner cities are in dire need of an overhaul. What a better way to accomplish this!

I dare to dream of a new America with an all-new public school and university system that has an Internet-based curriculum that can be updated at will, and that is second to none in the developed world, with a new and more intensive school year, and that has viable replacements for standardized testing, and where class size is limited by law. I dare to dream of a country where teachers make what their Congressional representatives make, and vice verse.

I dare to dream of a new nation where unconditional equality is the law of the land for every citizen without exception, and this will include economic equality. I dare to dream of a new America where there is no more income tax, no capital gains tax, no alternative minimum tax, no estate tax, no self-employment tax, and where families and businesses can have a tax free income unless they are very wealthy. In its place would be a national sales tax, such as a Consumption Tax, where everyone pays proportionately the same tax rate on only what they consume, plus an “excess wealth tax” for persons with annual incomes exceeding $3 million, and for businesses with annual proceeds exceeding $300 million, so America’s budget can be balanced and fair.

I dare to dream of a better USA where personal privacy is the law of the land, where identity theft is a thing of the past, and where it will be illegal for employers to obtain the credit files or credit scores of any job applicant.

I dare to dream of a more compassionate America where children have the right to a challenging and progressive learning environment, and where kids will be legally guaranteed freedom from hunger, sickness and violence, and where all God’s children will have the right to safe adoption, foster care and day care.

I dare to dream of an all-new voting system, including the abolition of the elitist Electoral College, that is Internet-based, paperless, and that can be accessed from any location using any computer or wireless device, instead of wasting our time and fuel and losing work time going to polling stations, and instead of using unreliable and unsecured voting machines.

I dare to dream of an America of integrity where all of the dirty corporate money and all the filthy lucre is abolished from our political process. I dare to dream of an America where the Wall Street shysters who crashed the US economy are brought to justice, and where the keys to all of the fraudulently foreclosed homes are returned to their rightful owners.

I dare to dream of the end to America’s sinister war on drugs, where all convicted nonviolent drug offenders can qualify for alternative sentences for their offenses so they may obtain early release, and where all the currently illegal drugs are legalized, regulated and taxed by appropriate legislation.

Finally, I dare to dream of a world in which all this is easily financially achievable because all the money that is being wasted currently on the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, and to a lesser extent in Pakistan, Libya and elsewhere will be redirected towards all these dreams that I have just mentioned. The money is already there, its just being budgeted in all the wrong places. Let me tell you why.

If the US military took all the money it spends occupying Afghanistan for just one day and put it into an interest-bearing account, there would be enough money available to send every American school kid from the first grade up to senior year in high school through 4 years of college fully paid for, including tuition, dorms, books, food, access to the Internet and to public transportation. Here’s another example: If the US government took all that money set aside from one days worth of military expenditures in Afghanistan alone, there would be enough money to build a 2,500 square feet house, fully furnished and stocked with groceries, with all the utilities already turned on, for every homeless person in the US including all the homeless kids. That’s how easily we can end homelessness in the richest country in the world.

Just as surely as there was an Arab Spring beginning in 2011 that is still ongoing in Egypt, Algeria, Tunisia and Somalia, to name a few, so I am telling you that there will be an American Spring in her near future. In fact, I’m surprised it hasn’t already begun. Beginning in 2011 with the start-up of the “Occupy” and “99%” Movements, of which I am proud to be a part, this uprising of the American people against the top 1% will explode like an atomic mushroom cloud over the American political and economic elite, obliterating them all in a bloodless coup without anyone having fired a single shot – so that the remaining 99% of us can peacefully take back what has been stolen from us over the last 100 years. We can only accomplish this by uniting together as one and acting as one body to break free from the shackles of oppression that have us all enslaved. Who is with me today?

You have just read the end of chapter 9 of my book, “The Middle and Working Class Manifesto” (Copyright 2011 by Paul J. Bern, 470 pages, print edition $18.95) To view a short video about the book recorded by the author, click here. To order your copy, go to pcmatl.org click the book link on the right and scroll to bottom! To order the Kindle edition, click here. Also available on B&N Nook. Thanks so much!

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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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The Media, Jesus, and the Truth

Twenty-Four Gross Injustices That The

Mainstream Media Still Won’t Discuss

by Pastor Paul J. Bern

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During the days of Nazi Germany from the early 1930’s up to the mid-’40’s, there was a branch of the government called “The Ministry of Propaganda” that dished out a torrent of profane distortions about Jewish people, and later the outcome of the war itself. It was headed by a guy named Joseph Goebbels, who committed suicide at the end of the war rather than face capture, which would surely have been followed by a death sentence at the Nuremberg Trials. Today in America, we have a similar position within the White House staff that we call the Press Secretary, who can be seen regularly on the evening news. He serves the same function, and his/her job is to spoon-feed the media the information du joir of the day. Everybody knows that the media is told what to say and how to say it, and yet there a few protests about it, giving me a feeling of dismay at times. Today’s message, in light of the recent events involving still more police shootings of unarmed Americans, is my small contribution towards demanding some truth from our news sources. No more US Government propaganda please, uncle Sam, we have all had a belly-full already!

 

For decades, the mainstream media in the United States has been accustomed to being able to tell the American people what to think and how to think it. Unfortunately for them, a whole lot of Americans are starting to break free from that paradigm and think for themselves, and the reason can be summed up in two words – information technology. A Gallup survey from 2014 found that over 60 percent of all Americans “have little or no trust” in the mainstream media. That number now exceeds 80%. More people than ever are realizing that the mainstream media is giving them a very distorted version of the truth (“Truth? You can’t handle the truth!!”). But now thanks to the Internet, the “alternative media” has exploded in popularity. People want to hear about the things that the mainstream media doesn’t really want to talk about. They want to hear news that is not filtered by corporate bosses and government censors. They are hungry and thirsty for some real truth, and they know that they are not getting it from the mainstream media. If only they knew Jesus as I do! They wouldn’t be hungry and thirsty any more, because he said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” (Matthew 5: 7) This is one of the primary reasons why people are doing away with cable TV! It’s not just the money saved when they unsubscribe, it’s the fact that everybody knows everything we are watching is a load of B.S., and we’re sick and tired of all the lies and distortions!

 

We are watching a media revolution happen, and many in the mainstream media today are totally freaking out about it. In fact, some in the mainstream media have even begun publishing articles that mock the American people for not trusting them. For example, a recent CNN article entitled “Still ‘Paranoid’ After All These Years” portrayed Americans that don’t trust the media as paranoid conspiracy theorists that have left rationality behind. Welcome to 21st-century America. Look around. Trust is hitting historic lows. Less than 15% of Americans have a favorable view of the federal government, a decline of 31% since 2002, according to the Pew Center for People and the Press. Gallup has Congress’ approval rating down in the low teens, after nearing single digits in 2013 and staying there for over a year. And the news media aren’t much better off. “Negative opinions about the performance of news organizations now equal or surpass all-time highs on nine of 12 core measures the Pew Research Center has been tracking since 1985,” a Pew report said last summer. The article goes on to make it sound like it is very irrational to not trust the media, but in this day and age that mistrust has become mandatory! Blindly trusting someone else to do our thinking for us is very dangerous and very dumb!

 

Anyone that does not acknowledge that the mainstream media has an agenda is either not being honest with themselves, or they are complicit with the powers that control it. The mainstream media presents a view of the world that is very favorable to their big corporate owners and the big corporations that spend billions of dollars to advertise on their networks. The mainstream media is the mouthpiece of the establishment, and the world view being promoted on the big networks is going to be consistent with the economic, financial, political and social goals of the establishment. The mainstream media loves to talk about things that fit with that agenda, and they don’t like to talk about things that suggest that there is something wrong with that agenda. And so here are 24 facts that the mainstream media really doesn’t want to talk about – period, and in no particular order of importance (because they’re ALL important!):

 

#1) The mainstream media doesn’t really want to talk about the fact that gun sales are absolutely skyrocketing all over America. Is it any wonder?

#2) They also don’t really want to talk about the fact that disarming the population has resulted in some of the most horrific massacres in human history.

  • 1911 – Turkey disarmed it’s citizens, and between 1915 – 1917 they murdered 1.5 million Armenians.
  • 1929 – Russia disarmed it’s citizens, and between 1929 – 1953 they murdered 20 million Russians.
  • 1935 – China disarmed it’s citizens, and between 1948 – 1952 they murdered 20 million Chinese.
  • 1938 – Germany disarmed it’s citizens, and between 1939 – 1945 they murdered 16 million Jews.
  • 1956 – Cambodia disarmed it’s citizens, and between 1975 – 1977 they murdered 1 million educated people.
  • 1964 – Guatemala disarmed it’s citizens, and between 1964 – 1981 they murdered 100,000 Mayan Indians.
  • 1970 – Uganda disarmed it’s citizens, and between 1971 – 1979 they murdered 300,000 Christians.

#3) They don’t really want to talk about the fact that a bill allowing for the “indefinite military detention of US citizens on American soil” has already been passed by the U.S. Senate and signed into law by president Obama. Never mind that it’s completely unconstitutional (see US Constitution, Bill of Rights, 4th Amendment).

#4) They don’t really want to talk about the fact that volcanoes all along the Pacific ocean’s Ring of Fire are roaring to life. It seems like a new eruption is being reported every few days now. In fact, a red alert has been issued by the USGS for a massive volcano that sits along the border between Chile and Argentina, as well as for the super-volcano at Yellowstone National Park. An eruption there could devastate much of North America, killing millions.

#5) They don’t really want to talk about the fact that the use of genetically engineered seeds has caused on explosion of new “super weeds” that are incredibly difficult for farmers to kill.

#6) They don’t really want to talk about the fact that renowned trends forecaster Gerald Celente has been predicting a “financial disaster” somewhere between September 2017 to as late as May 2018, but no later and more likely sooner.

#7) They don’t really want to talk about the fact that it is easier to get into Harvard than it is to get a job as a flight attendant in America today.

#8) They don’t really want to talk about the fact that nearly 400 TSA employees have been fired for stealing from travelers since 2003. Our tax dollars hard at work. Nice.

#9) They don’t really want to talk about the fact that giant corporations such as Facebook, Google and Microsoft are funneling gigantic amounts of money through offshore banking havens such as the Cayman Islands in an effort to avoid taxes.

#10) They don’t really want to talk about the fact that the U.S. dollar is in real danger of losing its status as the primary reserve currency of the world. It’s no longer a question of if this might occur, but when. China and Russia are buying up all the world’s gold and silver reserves. What does that tell you about their view of the US dollar?

#11) They don’t really want to talk about the fact that the mainstream media always complains about what the president does or doesn’t, when in actuality they should be doing a much better job keeping track of Washington lobbyists, Wall Street speculators, their bankers, and all their filthy lucre.

#12) They don’t really want to talk about the fact that there are government websites that give immigrants instructions about how to come over to our country illegally and then apply for SNAP benefits while formerly middle class American workers and their children starve for lack of work. Yes, America has always been a nation of immigrants, but never before at the expense of any of its citizens. Something is very wrong here (BTW, I don’t blame the immigrants. They are economic refugees from the third world).

#13) They don’t really want to talk about the fact that the U.S. economy has lost millions of jobs to nations where it is legal to pay workers slave labor wages. The mainstream media is totally married to the one world economic agenda that their corporate owners make so much money from, and so they say nothing as a steady stream of businesses and jobs continue to leave America.

#14) They don’t really want to talk about the fact that hunger and poverty are absolutely exploding in the United States at the same time that they are telling us about the “economic recovery”.

#15) They don’t really want to talk about the fact that North Korea now has a three-stage rocket with enough range to potentially hit the western United States.

#16) They don’t really want to talk about the fact that the United States Postal Service is losing 25 million dollars a day and is on the verge of financial collapse.

#17) They don’t really want to talk about the fact that our biggest oil supplier in the Middle East, Saudi Arabia, still kills people for changing religions. They also continue to ignore the fact that all but 2 of the 9/11 hijackers were Saudi nationals.

#18) They don’t really want to talk about the fact that political correctness has taken over America. The truth is that the media does not see any problem with that at all.

#19) They don’t really want to talk about the fact that nearly half a million employees of the federal government are making more than $100,000 a year.

#20) They don’t really want to talk about the fact that the birth rate in the United States has fallen to an all-time low. The elite are absolutely thrilled that fewer babies are being born. Fewer of us means less competition for them.

#21) They don’t really want to talk about the fact that many major U.S. cities are seeing violent crime totally spiral out of control.

#22) They don’t really want to talk about the fact that America’s election system is rigged from top to bottom.

#23) They don’t really want to talk about the fact that during the first four years of the Obama administration, the U.S. national debt grew by about as much as it did from the time that George Washington took office to the time that George W. Bush took office.

#24) They don’t really want to talk about the fact that the Federal Reserve created the conditions for every financial crisis since our country’s inception, and their mismanagement of the economy has now brought America to the verge of another horrible economic downturn. Maybe the Federal Reserve should be nationalized so that printing and coining money returns to the auspices of the US Treasury like our Constitution specifies. All the US top-tier leadership needs to do is return to the original Constitution. It’s the perfect way to wipe out the so-called national debt. Because America’s so-called “national debt” has been manufactured by the same entities who are its lenders. Our “national debt” is fake news.

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Yet another book excerpt from Pastor Paul J. Bern; “Cannabis Legalization and the Bible: Compatible or Not?”

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Six Ways That Cannabis Criminalization

Defies All Reason and Logic

[1. Pot smokers punished more than sex offenders] Drugs are so reviled in the US and many other parts of the world that using them is considered worse than any other crime. If you commit violent crimes – arson or rape, for instance – a judge will determine all the facts of the case and consider your criminal record, if any, in sentencing you to prison or not. But if you are caught selling or growing marijuana, there are mandatory minimum sentences involved at the federal and most state levels that take the power of sentencing out of a judge’s hands and turns it into a Chinese take-out menu – a marijuana plant from Column A, within 1000 feet of a school from Column B, that will be 10 years with no parole. Next!

Still don’t believe drug use is considered worse than violent crime? Then why does our federal government pay a bounty for drug arrests, but no other arrests? These monies are called Byrne Grants and they are awarded to local police department for the express purpose of fighting drug crime. In actuality, they incentivize police to go after low-level drug offenders for the easy stat-padding drug arrest, rather than the tougher-to-catch-and-prosecute drug kingpins or the actual violent criminals out there. Still not convinced? Then explain how the Supreme Court could find the death penalty unconstitutional to punish the raping of a child, but there still exists on the books a federal death penalty for growing 60,000 marijuana plants? Or how a serial raping arsonist in Montana gets less time than a guy who merely rented space to a medical marijuana dispensary? Or how a guy who pleads no contest to sodomizing a four-year-old in Oklahoma gets a year behind bars but a college student with a dorm room stash could get life in prison? Or why there are more arrests for marijuana possession almost every year than for all violent crimes combined?

[2. The separation of church and weed.] Even an American educated in one of our fine public schools knows our Constitution recognizes freedom of religious expression. You can be Catholic, Baptist, Mormon, or have no religion at all, and that right is so important our Founding Fathers made it part of our First Amendment. You may practice your religion any way you choose, so long as you don’t violate other laws. But even then, our courts have given believers some latitude to violate laws in the name of religion. Nowhere is this more evident than in the use of drugs as a sacramental rite. A parent allowing their seven-year-old child a gulp of wine at the Olive Garden might earn a visit from Child Protective Services, but the same gulp at the cathedral is acceptable for children when it symbolizes the Blood of Christ. Our Supreme Court ruled several years ago that the use of an illegal Schedule I drug can be allowed for adherents of a South American religion using ayahuasca tea, a powerful hallucinogen that is considered a sacrament by their believers. Our Congress even went so far as to pass a Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) to protect such use when the Supreme Court allowed the State of Oregon to deny unemployment benefits to two Native Americans who were fired over sacramental peyote use. So it seems in the case of drug laws, the compelling state interest is preventing you from using drugs. Very few people use ayahuasca tea or peyote, it doesn’t grow everywhere, the religions that find them sacred are well-established in historical tradition, and the sincere adherents are easily identifiable. So allowing a few native religious believers their powerful psychedelic sacraments isn’t going to seriously hinder any efforts to prevent you from using those drugs. But your herb stash? That’s different, because there are 26 million Americans who are toking at least once a year and pot grows like a weed. In that event, trying to stop anyone from using, buying, growing, or selling pot would become nearly impossible.

[3. A patient on one of side of the border and a criminal on the other.] It is easy enough to find examples where differing state laws make you a criminal on one side of an imaginary line but not on the other. That applies to the numerous states that have passed medical marijuana laws and their non-medical marijuana neighbors. But what people don’t realize about medical marijuana states is that most don’t recognize each other. Only Arizona, Delaware, Maine, Michigan, and Rhode Island of the currently 17 states that recognize medical marijuana will accept the cards/recommendations from other medical marijuana states. So California and New Mexico patients who cross the border into Arizona would be safe, but Arizona patients who cross into California or New Mexico could be arrested for marijuana possession. Nowhere is it more absurd than the case of the Pacific Northwest medical marijuana states, Oregon and Washington. Both states have virtually the same list of qualifying conditions for medical marijuana. Both states allow patients to cultivate more than a dozen cannabis plants. Both states allow patients to possess up to a pound and a half (680 grams) of usable medicine. But if a Portland patient crosses the Columbia River into Vancouver with 40 grams of pot, he’s a felon. If the Vancouver patient crosses into Portland with 28 grams of pot, she’s a felon. Lesser amounts get you a 24-hour mandatory minimum jail stay in Washington but only a ticket and loss of driver’s license (even if you weren’t driving) in Oregon. Can you imagine if getting your driver’s license was something you had to do for each state you wanted to drive through? Now imagine that instead of a driving license, we were talking about licensing whether or not you would be able to eat today and not suffer bone-wracking pain and spasms, and you had to renew this license at full cost every year.

[4. Fine line between legal gardening and a felony.] In those 17 medical marijuana states, trying to determine which pot smokers are healthy enough to deserve a cage and which ones are sick enough to protect from arrest is bound to lead to logical absurdities. Fourteen of the states allow patients or their caregivers to tend a garden to grow their own medicine. To deter large-scale growing operations, some states have implemented limits on the number of marijuana plants a patient may grow. In a state like Washington, this is simple enough, as the state has specified fifteen as the total number of plants allowed. But in Oregon and some other medical marijuana states, a distinction has been made between “mature” and “immature” marijuana plants. Oregon’s limit is the most generous, allowing six “mature” and eighteen “immature” plants, to accommodate the fact that patients have to keep a continuous cycle of plants coming into maturity in order to maintain a steady supply of medicine. However, the law completely abandons horticultural science in defining what a “mature” marijuana plant is. In nature, a mature plant is one that is producing flowers, or in the case of cannabis, the buds that patients are putting into bongs, vaporizers, and brownies. But in the Oregon Revised Statutes, a “mature” plant is one that is greater than 12 inches in any direction or is producing buds. So your thirteen-inch pot plant vegetating in the closet is “mature”, even though it is weeks from being mature. It would be like setting the limits of sexual consent based on how tall a child is. This has led to situations where growers are diligently following the law, tending six flowering mature plants and the next three sets of six plants in three stages, only to have one set shoot up from ten inches to fourteen inches over a weekend growth spurt. Now the grower has twelve “mature” plants, even though only the six mature plants can produce any marijuana, and he’s no longer a patient, he’s a felon.

[5. Feds denying that marijuana is medicine at all costs.] The government’s intransigence on the medical utility of cannabis is the most stubborn and hypocritical federal policy ever. The feds will tell you, with a straight face, that marijuana is a Schedule I substance and as such has no recognized medical value within the United States, even as seventeen states expressly recognize its medical value. Now if you complain about the 17,000 peer-reviewed research papers sitting in the federal ‘PubMed’ database that demonstrate medical use of cannabis, you’re barking up the wrong tree. This is a federal government that itself has patented the medical utility of cannabis and still tells you it is not medicine. As if that weren’t hypocritical enough, the US government maintains a pot farm at the University of Mississippi. This is the one legal weed grow in America, expressly allowed under the 1961 UN Convention on Narcotic Drugs for the production of cannabis for research purposes. In 1975, a glaucoma sufferer named Robert Randall sued for the right to use marijuana, lest he go blind, and won. This decision led to the development of the compassionate, investigative new drug program that produced and delivered medical marijuana for Randall.

Shortly thereafter, more patients sued to get access to medical marijuana, expanding to a few more federal medical marijuana patients. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, AIDS activists began marshaling thousands of applications for HIV+ gay men who found marijuana to help combat the symptoms of their disease. So rather than expand the compassion to thousands who would have benefited, the Bush Administration in 1992 closed the program to new applicants and the Clinton Administration in 1999 declared it would not be reopened. However, the program was not closed to the patients who had already been approved. Today there are four remaining federal medical marijuana patients who receive a tin of eight or more ounces of pre-rolled federal medical marijuana from the federal medical marijuana farm every month. But, federally speaking, there is no such thing as medical marijuana.

[6. The Drug Enforcement Administration forbids cultivation of a non-drug.] Nothing is more absurd in the war on marijuana than the ban on industrial hemp. If you don’t know, hemp is also cannabis, but cultivated differently as to produce a seed and fiber crop that is exceptionally low in any drug value. It takes anywhere from 2% to 4% THC content (tetrahydrocannabinol, the “high” ingredient in pot) for someone to cop a buzz off weed. Some of the finer medical marijuana varieties may top 15% THC content. By law and international agreements, industrial hemp must be produced at less than 0.3% THC content. It’s safe to say that there is a greater alcohol concentration allowed in a “near-beer” than THC concentration in hemp. There’s more THC in my bloodstream as I write this than is found in a field of industrial hemp plants. But even though there is absolutely no way one can use hemp as a drug, its cultivation is banned by the Drug Enforcement Administration, because it contains any amount of THC. If this standard were applied to other drugs, you’d never have another legal poppy seed bagel, because they contain trace amounts of opium. SWAT teams would be raiding your grandma’s house for the decorative poppies in her backyard garden, as they could actually be processed into heroin. This is even more maddening when you realize how keeping hemp illegal works against the DEA’s stated goal of reducing outdoor marijuana cultivation. Though some cops seem to think hemp would allow pot growers to hide their illegal crop, cross-pollination of hemp into marijuana makes both crops worse. The marijuana becomes less “druggy” and the hemp becomes less “industrial”. The last thing a marijuana grower wants next to his prized plants is a hemp farm.

What is the most dangerous activity you can engage in? If you guessed doing illegal drugs, you would be wrong. Extreme sports like big wave surfing, base or bunjey jumping, cave diving, white-water rafting and mountain climbing all have a higher rate of risk to life and limb. Yet the question of a ban on these behaviors beloved by “adrenaline addicts” is viewed as ludicrous, even when the risk of death, say, in climbing Mount Everest once (until recently, about 1 in 3) is greater than the annual risk of dying from heroin addiction (around 1% to 4%). Or consider mundane activities like driving: Car accidents are responsible for 1% of annual deaths nationwide. Cigarettes and alcohol do at least as much, if not more, harm to each user than heroin or cocaine. Alcohol, cocaine and heroin have a 3% to 15% rate of addiction, depending on how it is measured—and tobacco’s rate is much higher. Yet the risks don’t align well with their legal and social status, especially when you consider that marijuana is safer than any of the legal drugs. The reasons for this inconsistency around risk are complicated. Driving has huge personal and economic benefits. Risky sports are seen as noble challenges that foster the human will toward exploration, adventure and growth. When it comes to non-medical drug use, however, discussion of benefits tends to be either dismissed as delusional or simply stifled.

I don’t mention these facts to promote drug use – not at all! That I feel compelled to immediately include such a disclaimer underlines my point: Our values shape our perception of risk and the way we make drug policy. If we recognize only the risks and ignore the benefits, we fail to understand that the real problems are addiction and harm — not the substances themselves and the people who use them. For instance, when we talk about the “epidemics” of Oxycontin, methamphetamine or heroin, we rarely acknowledge that the majority of users never become addicted. Over the course of a lifetime, only about 10% to 15% of regular users ever get hooked for an entire lifetime. That risk is not insignificant: Few people would fly on a plane that crashed every tenth flight. But focusing on use as the main factor in addiction obscures what is actually at stake. There are, decade after decade, headlines about the fall of one drug and the rise of another. Yet the overall rate of people with addictions remains fairly constant. Although population differences and other variables make the numbers hard to compare exactly, a large national survey in 1990 found a 3.6% rate of illegal drug problems (such as abuse or dependence) in people ages 15 to 54 during the previous 12 months. The most recent National Survey on Drug Use and Health, which includes people from age 12 to those in their 80s or older, found a 3.5% rate of abuse or dependence in 2014, the latest year such stats are available. While that rate may not seem much lower, the difference is probably due to the later survey’s inclusion of people over 55, who are numerous and had a 2011 addiction or drug misuse rate of a mere 0.8% or less. It is worth noting that 1990 was the peak of fears about a non-ending crack epidemic; by contrast, today, while there are concerns about growing prescription opioid addiction, the actual rates have been steady since 2006.

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Biblical history mirrors current events

History Repeats Itself, Even in the Bible

by Pastor Paul J. Bern

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One of the hot-button issues facing the entire world, and particularly in the US, is that of economic inequality. We find ourselves in an intractable and intolerable situation where 99% of the country’s wealth is concentrated into the hands of an elite few. As this situation is ongoing, the American people find themselves compelled to pay for the most expensive health care, higher education, and housing prices on the entire planet! Plus, we find ourselves taxed to death by a federal income tax whose legality is open to question, and hemmed in both politically and economically by an unconstitutional curtailment of our rights, all while having the world’s largest prison population! This would be ridiculous if it weren’t so serious. For this week’s message, then, I want to share a passage of scripture that closely resembles our current situation, so go to your Bible app or open your Bible to the Book of Nehemiah chapter 5, verses 1-13, and I quote:

Now the men and their wives raised a great outcry against their Jewish brothers. Some were saying, ‘We and our sons and daughters are numerous; in order for us to eat and stay alive, we must get grain.’ Others were saying, we are mortgaging our fields, our vineyards and our homes to get grain during the famine.’ Still others were saying, ‘We have had to borrow money to pay the king’s tax on our fields and vineyards. Although we are of the same flesh and blood as our countrymen and though our sons are as good as theirs, yet we have to subject our sons and daughters to slavery. Some of our daughters have already been enslaved, but we are powerless, because our fields and vineyards belong to others.’” (Nehemiah 5, verses 1-5)

To put all this in its proper context, the Old Testament Israelites had been conquered by the ancient Assyrians and had been in exile for many years. With Israel’s first period of exile ending, they had begun to return from Assyria where they had been enslaved, and a great rebuilding process had begun in and around Jerusalem. There was, unfortunately, also a great famine going on at that time because there had not yet been a harvest, and this was creating a lot of problems. The above passage of scripture has striking similarities to what is happening throughout much of the world today. People don’t have enough to eat. They have trouble meeting their financial obligations because prices are impossibly high. Back then they had to give away their sons and daughters as slaves – presumably sex slaves – because they had no other way to pay their debts. Today, some of our sons and daughters are still taken as sex slaves. It’s just that they are taken by force and not by barter. The rest of us are slaves, too. It’s just that the world is a lot more subtle about it than back then. We work our jobs – if we’re lucky enough to have one of those – for pay that is oftentimes pathetic. Many younger workers don’t realize how drastically wages have been cut in the last 15 years or so. So, there are striking parallels between the time of Nehemiah and today. Now, let me go on with the second half of today’s scripture, beginning at verse 6.

When I heard their outcry and these charges, I was very angry. I pondered them in my mind and then accused the nobles and officials. I told them, ‘You are exacting usury from your own countrymen!’ So I called together a large meeting to deal with them and said, ‘As far as possible, we have brought back our Jewish brothers who were sold to the Gentiles. Now you are selling your brothers, only for them to be sold back to us!’ They kept quiet, because they could find nothing to say. So I continued, ‘What you are doing is not right. Shouldn’t you walk in the fear of our God to avoid the reproach of your Gentile enemies? I and my brothers and my men are also lending the people money and grain. But let the exacting of usury stop! Give back to them immediately their fields, vineyards, olive groves and houses, and also the usury you are charging them – the hundredth part of the money, grain, new wine and oil.’ ‘We will give it back’, they said. ‘And we will not demand anything more from them. We will do as you say.’ Then I summoned the priests and made the nobles and officials take an oath to do what they had promised. I also shook out the folds of my robe and said, ‘In this way may God shake out of his house and possessions every man who does not keep this promise. So may such a man be shaken out and emptied!’ And the whole assembly said, ‘Amen!’ and praised the Lord. And the people did as they had promised.” (Nehemiah 5, verse 6-13)

There are striking similarities between what was going on in Israel during the time of the first rebuilding of the wall around Jerusalem and what is occurring in America today. Everything is financed. Nobody pays cash for their cars much anymore, and everybody uses credit cards to make purchases from a flat screen TV all the way down to a week’s worth of groceries. We are forced to pay interest on everything we need – even the food we eat. This situation has gotten completely out of hand, and unless the government steps in and stops it the American people will find themselves forced into conflict with the government, the outcome of which could lead to another American civil war. In the first civil war, it was fought over ending the slavery of Black people. The second one will be a fight to end the enslavement of us all, and there are going to be casualties, so you may as well start getting used to that idea. This is what was occurring during the time of the prophet Nehemiah.

Nehemiah then told the authorities, “What you are doing is not right. Shouldn’t you walk in the fear of our God to avoid the reproach of your Gentile enemies? I and my brothers and my men are also lending the people money and grain. But let the exacting of usury stop!” Nehemiah and his brothers and enlisted men were helping those in need as best they could, but they were charging no interest for their services. They did it for free because they realized they were in a crisis situation that called for emergency measures to make sure everyone got their basic needs met. Their compatriots, on the other hand, were guilty of price gouging and criminal exploitation against their own countrymen, and in some cases even their own families. So Nehemiah told the nobles and officials to give it all back, very similar to an executive order issued by the President. Notice too, in verse 11, they were charging 1% interest, far less than what is being charged today (on the best of terms, 30 year mortgages are currently at just over 2.5%).

Imagine the uproar if such an executive order were issued today! I can almost see it now – president Trump giving a direct order to the banking and financial industries that all single family home loans were to be canceled immediately – would that be fun to watch or what? One thing is for sure – the American people are overburdened with excessive housing costs, combined with stagnant wages in the face of other rising living expenses like groceries. “We will give it back’, they said. ‘And we will not demand anything more from them. We will do as you say.’ Then I summoned the priests and made the nobles and officials take an oath to do what they had promised.” Wouldn’t it be awesome if we could do that today? Actually, we could, it’s just that there is still insufficient political willpower among the American people. A national strike could be called – a mortgage strike. Everybody stopping their mortgage payments all at once would be the same as slaughtering the beast by starvation! But first, we should do a dry run using student loans as the pariah that this debt crisis has become. Then we call a meeting via social media, and make the powers that be promise to give us all some badly needed financial relief! Either that or we take to the streets and shut down entire cities.

I also shook out the folds of my robe and said, ‘In this way may God shake out of his house and possessions every man who does not keep this promise. So may such a man be shaken out and emptied!’ And the whole assembly said, ‘Amen!’ and praised the Lord. And the people did as they had promised.” The above example is what it looked like to issue a law that had some teeth to it back in those days. I can practically visualize president Trump calling his senior leaders into a conference room and telling everybody that everyone’s mortgage, their student loans plus all unpaid medical bills will be canceled immediately and without preconditions. All the Wall Street bankers would have heart attacks, and debt collectors would have to go and find a new profession – just like myself. I was once a well-paid senior IT professional, but my career evaporated after the dot-com crash and I wound up working as a courier contractor for a local delivery company. I survived the changes I went through, and so will they because actually we are not so different after all. In closing let me also say those noblemen and government officials repaid those people they had exploited out of fear of the consequences from God. That fear of the Lord is largely absent here in modern times, but soon it will return, and then everyone will know exactly who God is.

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