Category Archives: strike

America Is Running Out of Patience

How Much Longer Are We Going to Tolerate This?

By Pastor Paul J. Bern

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I have always strongly believed that it’s not possible to be an effective Christian without taking a stand against social and economic injustice, and against government corruption in all its forms (such as lobbyists at the federal and state levels who give out bribe money like Halloween candy). In fact, I have been a proponent for radical change for a number of years now, and I have written and published 3 books on this very topic. Where shall I begin? In God-blessed America, the land of the free where everyone is an economic slave, our Founding Fathers’ sacred idea of a government “of the people, by the people, for the people” has become but a cruel joke. Former president George W. Bush has notoriously (for both Christian and secular people) called our Constitution – our supreme law of the land – “that (uses God’s name in vain) piece of paper”. The federal government is currently spending at least $60 billion per month on military excursions in Afghanistan, the Middle East, and northern and western Africa – not including operating between 800 and 1,000 (depending on who you believe) foreign military bases all over the world. Our country’s over-used flying drone aircraft kills hundreds daily overseas, many of whom are only innocent bystanders.

 

Our political and court systems are openly rigged against the best interests of the American people, particularly those of color. A massive market mechanism is securely entrenched in our political system where political influence is openly bought and sold. Tens of thousands of highly-paid middlemen called “lobbyists” facilitate the legal transfer of billions between moneyed special interests and our so-called “representatives” in Congress. This very lucrative business of buying and selling political influence has become the driving engine of our government. Our so-called “representatives” in Congress vie for millions in legalized bribes in return for delivering billions of our tax dollars to moneyed special interests. It’s pure folly to think our current political system could possibly look out for the best interests of the American people.

 

Just ponder what our government has done, not for us but to us, in the last ten years alone. It’s utterly mind boggling! The installation of Donald Trump to the US presidency is only the latest insult. Not because it’s Trump, but because he promised to “drain the swamp”! Instead, Trump bought it and is now remaking it in his own best interest. The best interests of the American people have been sacrificed to moneyed special interests time and time again. Hopefully this time the American electorate has learned their lesson. The Wall Street bankers paid millions in bribes for a legal license to steal hundreds of billions of dollars from the American people. When greed got them in trouble, our so-called “representatives” gave them billions more of our money, American tax dollars, to bail them out in October of 2008. In the last ten years, our so-called “representatives” shared nearly a billion dollars in bribes from the “defense” industry alone. In return, they doubled our (2016) defense budget to $700 billion (equal to all other countries combined!) and lied us into unnecessary, endless, expanding wars that will ultimately cost us trillions.

This is aside from the extreme human costs of war with multiple consecutive deployments. For example, 1 in 5 returning veterans from US occupations overseas have permanent psychiatric disabilities so severe that they will never work again. Speaking as a minister and lifelong peace activist, I find this to be utterly reprehensible on the part of the US military! Be all you can be? Yeah, but it’s all for them and none for us except for some vague talk about ‘battlefield honor’. I’ve got some new information for all those people. There is no honor in killing other human beings, especially for religious or ideological reasons, and particularly for financial gain, which the US military is notorious for!

 

Our so-called “representatives” are slashing social spending for senior citizens and the poor just when far too many American people need it most. Yet they continue to spend hundreds of billions on weapons of mass destruction to protect us from our “enemies”. But most of our “enemies” are purposely created by our government’s blatantly unjust foreign policies (that openly support oppressive military regimes for the most rigid internal control possible), and by our violent military operations within their homelands. Without a perpetual supply of “enemies”, ‘defense industry’ profits would plummet, and Washington’s wealthy paymasters will never have any of that! If that weren’t enough, our so-called “representatives” have worked hard to keep America the number one weapons merchant on earth. Our so-called “representatives” continue to support the sale of billions in weapons to oppressive dictatorships around the world, which creates still more “enemies”, which creates more special interests profits, etc. So we can fight wars, but we can’t have a robust space program? We can fight wars, but we can’t update and upgrade America’s dilapidated power grid? We can fight wars, but America can’t replace its crumbling infrastructure? We can fight wars, but we can’t afford to make public colleges and universities free? America can’t forgive $1.3 trillion (as of the end of the 2017 school year) in student loan debt so those of the millennial generation can get on their feet and start families and buy cars and houses? We can fight wars, but middle and lower income families can’t afford school lunches for their kids? This is utter insanity!

 

Our current political system guarantees our so-called “representatives” will continue to pass and sustain legislation that transfers billions of our hard-earned tax dollars to moneyed special interests. That’s because members of Congress who oppose moneyed special interests are promptly punished, ostracized, or replaced (if their offense is great enough). President Kennedy paid the ultimate price for opposing the elitists, but he achieved martyrdom among the American people. Because of the assassinations of the Kennedy brothers and Rev. Dr. King, Jr., our current political system guarantees moneyed special interests and our “representatives” must participate in this influence-peddling scam against the American people. It’s mainly because they’re being coerced by the implied threat of assassination, but also because it’s so lucrative they’d be stupid not to.

Big corporations could be at a competitive disadvantage (and would likely resort to cheating their shareholders to replace lost profits) if they refused to buy political influence. Likewise, our so-called “representatives” would be at a competitive disadvantage getting elected or staying in office if they refused to broker political influence. Another “problem” as these elites as I see it is that, if corporate influence were to decline, it would open up windows of opportunity for start-up businesses and entrepreneurs, and there’s no way Wall Street will tolerate that. Anything that puts money into the hands of ordinary folks – such as owning a business no matter how small – is seen as a potential threat and gets treated as such. Just ask any of the American merchants who lost their businesses because they couldn’t compete with Wal Mart. I should know, I used to be one myself up until around the year 2000 or so.

 

The rigged national elections in 2016 were merely melodrama for the masses. Our ‘choices’ had all been chosen for us in advance by moneyed special interests pumping millions of dollars into the process. Besides, whoever “wins” will be forced to play by established political rules that guarantee moneyed special interests will always come ahead of the American people’s best interests. After all, the money special interests own the American electoral process outright, like a company owning an asset. For months before the elections, the complicit mainstream media, using colorful pundits who talk smart and know little, entertain us with political melodrama and often-intolerable rhetorical bull-crap. They arouse us by pitting one segment of the American people against another. They make millions bombarding us with empty, emotional, 15-to-30-second TV ads that are little more than name-calling or patriotic platitudes. Congressional elections have devolved into a herd of sheep fighting among themselves for their favorite wolves. Congressional elections merely determine which segment of the America people gets screwed the most by which moneyed special interests group.

 

Trying to reform our current political system using that same corrupt system is just an exercise in futility. It’s like trying to fix your broken arms using your broken arms. It’s like trying to start a car that is out of gas or has a dead battery. Our current political system is designed to be reform proof, although that’s not how it started out, as those who have read the US Constitution well know. The Constitution has well-established checks and balances to protect and maintain the country and the American people from tyranny from within and without. That’s why “campaign finance reform” and all other such efforts to “reform” our current political system from within are doomed to either fail outright or be so watered-down as to be nearly useless. All these outrageous government actions are exactly what we should expect from a government openly for sale to the highest bidder. “We the people” are just government-controlled fodder and political afterthoughts for the moneyed special interests. Moneyed special interests paid for these outrageous government actions, and they got what they paid for. How much longer are we going to tolerate this? We, the people, got screwed while corporate America and Wall St. received obscenely huge bonuses and golden parachutes! I have the solution to this problem, and it can be found in any English dictionary.

 

rev-o-lu-tion (Dictionary.com) 1. an overthrow or repudiation and the thorough replacement of an established government or political system by the people governed.

 

Our country’s elections amount to rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. We can’t vote our government back to us. It was deliberately taken away from us, so we will deliberately take it back. A peaceful, people’s revolution is the preferable way we can take back our government. But, like a now-deceased colleague of mine used to say, “Use your first amendment rights and protest! If that doesn’t work, use your second amendment rights!” The trillion dollar business of buying and selling political influence (currently the driving engine of our government) must be overthrown, repudiated and thoroughly replaced if democracy is to survive in America. This massive influence-peddling scam must become our number one political issue because it underlies and thus greatly affects all other issues. If we don’t get all the dirty money out of our politics, our democracy and our standard of living will continue to decline and surely America will take the rest of the world down with us. That doesn’t sound like the kind of legacy I’d like to leave at all. The prophet David’s son, King Solomon of Jerusalem, wrote near the end of the Book of Proverbs something which still holds true over 3,000 years later, and I quote: “Speak up for those who cannot speak up for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and the needy.” proverbs 31: 8-9) And again it is written, “He who oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God.” (Proverbs 14: 31)

 

We can’t afford to sit by like sheep or stand around like cattle meekly waiting to be slaughtered! We must find ways to hinder and harass the corporate state at every turn, and to control the violent tendencies of the police who protect them. Nothing will change unless we, the people, begin to organize radical acts of civil disobedience to disrupt our current political system, upping the ante until this massive influence-peddling scam is thoroughly exposed and eliminated (search: ‘overturn Citizens United’). For example, in Iceland in 2012 when the entire country went completely bust (you know, like the USA is about to) the people – not the government, but the PEOPLE!) – had arrested and jailed over 100 bankers after throwing the old government out of office – peacefully but evidently very effectively. The citizens stood in the streets and banged on pots and pans, and they didn’t stop until they got what they wanted. Nobody worked, and no children went to school for the first part of this national strike. Then they (the people, not the government!) wrote a new constitution and passed it into law. It was reported all over the European press but largely censored here in the US. Is it any wonder? If there were enough people inspired by what happened in Iceland, it could happen here next. Indeed, it well should! Well, what do the elite capitalists want? They can either allow what happened over there to happen here, in which case America will turn into another Greece, Spain, Ireland, Italy or Portugal. Or maybe even another Egypt, Yemen or Syria. Or they can declare martial law and simply seize absolute control. The only way to prevent this from occurring here in America is that “we the people” must take back our government by peaceful revolution because it will never be given back voluntarily. So get your pots and pans and your biggest serving spoon ready, and brush up on the US Constitution and all 27 of the amendments! Remember what President John F. Kennedy said: “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.”

One final thought. “Rich and poor have this in common: God is maker of them all.” (Proverbs 22: 2)

 

 

 

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These rigged elections are the last straw. Should we go on strike?

Should The American People Go On Strike?

By Rev. Paul J. Bern

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Osama bin Laden has been dead for about 4 years by now, maybe more. Meanwhile, ever greater numbers of our senior citizens are living into their 100’s. America evidently is having an obesity epidemic, while 50,000 children ages 5 and under die from starvation globally each year. Imagine your child, grandchild, niece or nephew, and then multiply that by 50,000, and you get an idea of the scope of the problem. There’s life and death, positive and negative, good and bad in all kinds of folks, circumstances and situations. One priest saves lepers, another abuses altar boys; one Nazi ran the ovens at Auschwitz while another hid the Jews, saving them from certain death (remember a movie called “Schindler’s List”?). And when we marvel at those contradictions we have a ready explanation. There’s good and bad everywhere, in all races, nations, and societies. We have yet to bridge our differences in race or culture or nationality or faith, but at least we can all agree on that simple truth while we continue to work on all the others.

We live in a ‘George Jetson’-like time of instant communication, jumbo jets, digital TV and all that goes with it, social media and even (thank God!) this blog, where I can pass on to everyone what God has put on my mind and heart in the hopes of helping someone, somewhere, somehow. Nations are beginning to blur; races, ethnicities and various nationalities are mixing, our globe has shrunk to an overheated marble, yet the world seems more fractured than ever. So much divides us. What unites us? Religion? It could, but having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ unites us all under his holy banner, meaning that Jesus, not religion, is the answer for me. The maximum number of plausible Gods is one (all you atheists may simply skip this sentence) as far as I’m concerned. Yet we’ve been waging wars for millennium over what to call Him and whether he wants his picture shown or not. But while religions can’t agree on God, they’re remarkably close when it comes to people. There is near universal agreement on what makes a good person.

Be kind to people, treat your neighbors well, be hospitable to strangers, love one another, live honestly, and a dozen other virtues seem to comprise some universal truth about humanity. And all societies agree on them. It’s as plain as daytime in the Bible. Humankind has been speaking those words since the first philosopher carved cuneiform into clay. We must have an instinctive sense of goodness instilled into us, because we are not born that way. We also agree on what makes a bad person: The murderer, the rapist, the traitor, the manipulator, the cheat, the bully, the taker, the liar, the thief. “Do for others what you would like them to do for you. This is a summary of all that is taught in the law and the prophets” (Matt. 6:12 NLT) We know who we are. We don’t like to hurt people. We try not to cheat, lie and steal and we’re ashamed of ourselves when life drives us to those ends because we have a conscience. We believe in peace on earth and goodwill towards men. And for ten thousand years we’ve let the bad people push us around and tell us what to do and to whom to do it. We’ve let them because they were bad enough to make us and we were too soft to stop them until they did terrible damage – until they simply had to be stopped, usually involuntarily.

Bad people are very hard to ignore. You can’t avoid a bad person if he or she happens to be your boss at work, for example. And that happens a lot, because bad people seem disproportionately to occupy corner offices. They’re the bosses, and they know how to play the cold-hearted, cynical game of office politics. That can be rough on you if you work with them (been there, done that). But bad people also know how to play the high-stakes game of national politics, and that’s rough on the entire population. Bad people hate, and they convince ordinary good people to hate the same things. Oh sure, there are always a few saints who rise above the evil that bad people do, and they usually die for it. We know about them posthumously from the Bible, starting with Jesus himself, and then with 11 of the 12 apostles, followed by the stoning of Steven in Acts chapters 6-7, plus part of chapter 8.

But those weren’t good people, they were great people, and we can’t count on them all the time because they don’t come along every day. But there are always plain old good people around, because there’s good and bad in all kinds. And so this is a call to arms for good people everywhere! We have to stop following the bad people immediately. Without us, bad people have little power, they’re merely annoying. Good people everywhere, I’m speaking to you even as you read this. We need to go on strike against the bad people! Let’s tell the bullies and haters to leave us alone, because we don’t want to have to kill any more of them. After all, that’s what it takes to stop one of them. Let’s laugh at their rigged economy and crooked government, reject their poisoning our environment and pumping up our kids with drugs they mostly don’t need, and refuse to be provoked by their aggression. Let’s tell them we won’t play their deadly games anymore; let’s tell them it’s over! We’re not sending our sons and daughters off to fight their wars anymore. We’re not going to tolerate any more FBI and CIA-instigated false flag terror attacks in our cities, such as what happened in Orlando last week (it turns out at least 4 or 5 of the Orlando shooting victims, up to as many as 10 or 12, were actually shot outside the club while the shooter was still inside. Hmmm…). Don’t forget, these are agent provocateurs for the same people that assassinated the Kennedy brothers and Rev. Dr. King. These are the same people who’ve been slowly poisoning us and our kids by fluoridating our nation’s water supply for the last 75 years. If the Dark Side, Satan and his forces of evil, will do this to our nation’s finest, what do you think they would do to you if you gave them the chance? Or if they took it upon themselves to come after you or your assets, such as a law enforcement or IRS operation? The average American stands a better than even chance of being killed by the police in such situations!

Maybe what we should do is give all these gun-toting, war-mongering (war mongrels?) maniacal psychopaths a large island or land mass somewhere so they can fight it out to their evil hearts’ content. Eventually they will all kill each other off, and die enjoying doing so. Let’s see, I’m thinking Siberia, Antarctica or maybe Greenland if it’s not too small. But you know, it would apply even there, that pet theory of mine, in this hypothetical land of the damned. Some evil SOB would do something nice for some other evil SOB, probably without even realizing it. Because there’s good and bad in all kinds of people. But when God made us he gave us all a free will – freedom to choose our own destinies. Why do I choose God when others don’t? Why do I place my complete faith and trust in Jesus Christ? Because, although I could just go my own way and take my own chances, although I could call my own shots and make my own way, I choose Christ. I’d rather believe in Jesus and take a chance on being wrong about it, then I would not believe and take a chance on being wrong about that. Because if I or any of us is wrong about that, if we refuse to believe only to discover our mistake later, there is redemption and salvation in the former choice, but neither in the latter. Please devote your week to thinking carefully about this ultimate choice we must make. Where we spend eternity after our physical lives end will surely depend upon it.

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Celebrate thanksgiving by doing and buying nothing

Celebrate Thanksgiving By Buying Nothing This Year

by Rev. Paul J. Bern

eat_the_richIs there a tradition any more primitive or disgusting practiced across America today than that of Black Friday? Hordes of consumers mob stores for great deals on useless “goods” like flat screen TVs that one must have a cable TV subscription to watch it, smart phones and tablet computers that break every time they’re dropped, video gaming “stations” that are addictive, or the latest clothes manufactured by Southeast Asian or Latino children in some God-forsaken sweatshop somewhere. Every single year I am further struck by the apparent lack of focus by Christmas shoppers on the original reason for the season. Thanksgiving is the holiday when we give thanks for what we have and count our blessings. It is a time to put things into perspective and realize that we are not so poor after all, economic hardship notwithstanding. St. Paul wrote, “I know what it means to have little and I know what it means to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content no matter what my circumstances.” We would all do well to learn to do the same.

The Christmas shopping season is the time when we are supposed to be celebrating the birth of our Lord. Instead, all I see each year are large crowds of people caught up in an orgy of consumerism and materialism. Hordes of people buying this and that, spending like there is no tomorrow in a feeding frenzy of capitalist consumerism. Think about how much good it would do if the birth of our Lord was celebrated with that much enthusiasm. What if we were to organize a National Buy Nothing Day to protest economic inequality? Or how about a $15.00 per hour minimum wage? Or maybe to protest the cost of higher education, we should boycott our student loans! What if everybody stopped sending in their payments until the loans were forgiven? Two thirds of the US economy is consumer spending. Think of what a shock wave it would send if any such national protest/boycott were to be organized!

We’re in a pretty messed up place politically and environmentally. Multinational corporations and financial firms pretty much own the government. Global warming is not only a real and present danger, but rapidly accelerating. There is a plastic “raft” in the Pacific Ocean bigger than Texas. And as people we’re constantly being taken advantage of to make this situation last longer so that corporate profits and bonuses can climb even higher than they are now. The strong link between these two things – our society’s consumerism and the terrible political, social, environmental, and economic situations we’re in – demands immediate and urgent action. By buying things from these corporations and feeding into this model of an economy, we only encourage and empower it. So I’m asking you: please join me in buying nothing this coming weekend.

So this Black Friday, I’m calling for a Wildcat General 3-day Strike. I’m asking tens of millions of people around the world to bring the capitalist consumption machine to a grinding – if only momentary – halt. I want you all to not only stop buying for 72 hours, but to shut off all but your most essential lights, all your televisions and other nonessential appliances. I’m asking you to park your car, turn off your phones and log off of your computer for the day. I’m calling for a three-day interlude of fasting and prayer. From sunrise to sunset we’ll abstain en masse, not only from holiday shopping, but from all the temptations of our greed-based and debt-funded lifestyles. Ideally, everyone will power down their electricity for the day and just enjoy some time with their family or friends or both. If you can’t do that, at least refrain from the Black Friday madness. Don’t go to a store for some kind of deal. Avoid the stress by not going out in the traffic. Don’t shop at the big box stores – in fact, don’t shop anywhere. Just take a break for Friday, Saturday and Sunday and do nothing at all.

You know the old truism: a journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step. Things are falling apart – the temperature rising, the oceans churning, the global economy heaving – so why not do something? Take just one small step toward a more just and sustainable future. Make a pact with yourself: go on a consumer fast. Lock up your credit cards, put away your cash and opt out of the capitalist spectacle. It may be harder than you think, that is, the impulse to buy is more ingrained in many of us than you may have ever realized. But you will persist and you will transcend – perhaps reaching the kind of epiphany that can change the world.

Some might criticize me for publicizing this idea during such a tough economic times. “We need people to consume in order to drive the economy!” To that I say this: it’s not good if we need people to buy useless crap in order to maintain our economy. That needs to shift fundamentally. And the only way to shift it is to stop buying useless crap. So will you join me? Will you take the plunge and break the chord from your normal consumerist ways? Let’s all stay at home Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, and have a time of prayer and fasting, and some quality time with each other. In this case, fasting doesn’t mean we must totally abstain from food. But you can go on a liquid diet (soup only, etc.) for 3 days without doing yourself any harm. I have done this before successfully, so if I can then so can you! If we’re going to give thanks, then let’s begin by giving thanks to God.

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Occupy 3rd anniversary commemorative edition now available

Occupy Wall Street 3rd anniversary commemorative edition, “Occupying America: We Shall Overcome” paperback 50% off with free shipping. http://www.pcmga.org/fundraising_and_donations

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Anonymous Million Mask March worldwide – Nov 5 2014

September 7, 2014. Everywhere. ONN The secretive underground hacker group Anonymous has come a long way since its beginning in 2003 in an online chat room. What started as a half dozen kids scattered around the world, all with the default online username ‘anonymous’ and unknown even to each other, has become the largest political movement on Earth. On November 5, 2014 the global army will step out of the internet and onto the streets in more than 500 cities around the world.

via Anonymous Million Mask March worldwide – Nov 5 2014.

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Those who try to marry religion and politics are setting themselves up for failure

Christian Hypocrisy In Washington DC

by Rev. Paul J. Bern

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Remember when we were kids in school? We used to recite the pledge of allegiance to the flag every day. Among other things, the pledge calls us “one nation under God”. Judging from how things are going in Washington these days we have become anything but that. We are faced with endless wars overseas with no end in sight, and these wars on multiple fronts threaten to bankrupt the country. Meanwhile here at home, it is the American people who are already faced with bankruptcy and even homelessness due to long-term unemployment, while citizens everywhere continue to lose their houses to foreclosure under circumstances that are questionable at best. The rapidly growing population of homeless people is already in the process of turning into a human tidal wave of misery and hopelessness. Here in Atlanta where I live, the homeless population on any given day averages around 7,000 or so, of which half are children. This is a gross social injustice considering that it is happening in the richest country in the world. Even the cave men lived in caves tens of thousands of years ago. So it is accurate to say that they had it better than the homeless folks do today. It is a basic human right to have a roof over your head. Shelter is not a privilege, and throwing children out into the elements is nothing short of barbaric. And yet some have the nerve to call America a Christian nation!

 

In the meantime, we have our nation’s leaders in Washington invoking the name of God as a justification for waging immoral and illegal wars all over the globe, with many being of the clandestine variety. Here at home, our nation’s lawmakers debate whether gay persons should serve openly in the military or not, and various individuals in our country’s leadership take a stand on whether they are pro-life or pro-choice. These side-issues are being debated while our country grapples with record deficits that threaten to swallow up what is left of the US economy, just as Nero fiddled while Rome burned. They pontificate about “family values” while the value of American real estate continues to stagnate, depriving millions of formerly middle class people of their chief source of wealth – their homes. They threaten to do away with the American social safety net at a time of record unemployment and rampant homelessness, just when it is needed the most. If these neo-conservatives succeed in taking away, or even reducing, the social safety net that millions are currently depending upon because they can’t find work (and often because they can’t even feed their kids), you can be sure there will be rioting in the streets similar to Ferguson, Mo., and let’s not forget the civil wars in Syria, Ukraine and elsewhere. These current events line up with much of what I have been saying on this web site since day one about what is wrong with the world in which we live, and what we should change to make it better. Anyone can be religious, but I choose to take it to the next level. I’m going to spend the rest of my life trying to make a real difference.

 

Being a blend of liberal Christian, Teddy-Roosevelt-style Populist and political progressive (hence the name Progressive Christian), I particularly enjoy going after big government and main-stream denominations at all levels, taking them all to task not just for the way in which they are running things, but challenging their thinking and their values. For example, many Republicans in Washington keep talking about God and politics as if they are interchangeable. They like to make it look like they are on the side of God, as if God were a political conservative. And they like to make it seem like the Democrats and “liberals” are a party of loose morality, favoring abortion, gay marriage, and hanging around with terrorists. They are experts at crafting and delivering their message – good enough to inspire many middle-class folks to vote against their own financial interests in the 2010 mid-term elections. Their message works because it appeals to people’s base emotions, not their intellects. And reacting is so much easier than critical thinking, especially when we’re so emotionally drained from these years of unemployment, or working multiple part time jobs, or home foreclosures. They are so effective with their message that they don’t think twice before selling the idea that God wanted George W. Bush to attack Iraq, God favors the Tea Party, and God wants Sarah Palin to be President. Or maybe Mike Huckabee.

 

They completely ignore the First Amendment’s separation of Church and State. The first amendment to the US Constitution begins by saying, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…….” To me, this means anyone who wishes to engineer a merger of government and organized religion either knows nothing about the Constitution or they openly wish to break it. Either way, that means they would be committing treason if the neo-cons were to actually pull off such a thing as that.

 

They publicly thump the bibles on which they were sworn into office. They brag about giving 10% of their incomes to the church, even though many don’t. And they make sure they’re seen praying, whether it be in church, in public, or on TV. Jesus had something to say about that, and those words of wisdom are just as relevant today as they were 2,000 years ago when they were first spoken. “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go to your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” (Matthew chapter 6, verses 5-6, NIV)

 

But if you set aside the hysteria and look at the facts, Jesus was part liberal and part socialist by today’s standards, and much of the New Testament condemns the attitude of the so-called religious right (which is neither as far as I am concerned). For example, Jesus condemned the greedy rich, saying, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” [Matthew 19:24] He denounced the moneychangers in the temple at Jerusalem as He threw them out, saying, “My house will be called a house of prayer, but you have made it a den of robbers.” [Matthew 21:13] And Jesus stood up for the poor and underprivileged, saying, “Inasmuch as you have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, you have done it unto me.” [Matthew 25:40] So then, how can the nation’s leadership, especially the conservative right-wingers, call themselves Christian – followers of Jesus Christ and He alone – as they hold the unemployed and retired pensioners hostage while fighting for tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires? They don’t care about us, and they don’t care if we know that or not. We the people, America’s middle and working classes, need not tolerate what amounts to being openly insulted. We can and should fight back! Who is with me today?

 

Jesus acknowledged the need for both government and tax-supported government services, saying, “Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s, and unto God that which is God’s.” [Matthew 22:21] So then how can the conservatives call themselves Christian as they rail against taxes and their definition of “big government”? Never mind the fact that it is the same bunch of people railing against big government who are voting in favor of the continued funding of the largest and most formidable military in world history. Last year the US government spent more money on military expenditures than all the rest of the world combined. Then again, there is the fact that the United States has more people in prison than all the rest of the world’s countries – again, combined. There is something very wrong with this picture, that’s for sure. When faced with these facts, I am forced to come to the conclusion that America isn’t the world’s greatest country anymore. It’s up to us, the American people, to turn this around.

 

Jesus healed the sick – even lepers – for free. He didn’t ask them for an insurance card first, he just healed them because it was the right thing to do, but more importantly because that’s what he was called to do. Jesus was the original “socialized medicine” machine. So then, how can the Republicans call themselves Christian (that is, followers of Jesus Christ in Spirit and in truth) as they condemn the much less socialistic (and woefully insufficient) “Obamacare”? The truth of the matter is that much of the effectiveness of any government is directly proportional to how well it cares for its people. (By the way, it was Thomas Jefferson who first said that.) The United States is the last developed country in the world that does not have national health insurance for its citizens. Every other developed country – and many developing ones – has national health insurance except for us. As I said above about shelter being a basic human right, so it is with health care. Proper medical care is not a privilege available only to those who can afford to pay. Good quality health care is a basic human right that must be available to everyone without qualification, including preexisting conditions. The money to implement such a plan as this is already available with plenty to spare. All the government has to do is call off all the wars and occupations overseas and bring the troops home. Whatever money is left over can be used for a giant public works project to put all the long-term unemployed back to work, or to send them back to school to learn a trade. Is there sufficient money to accomplish and finance this worthy goal? Absolutely, and all without adding to the federal deficit. Here’s an example: If the US military set aside one day’s expenses for the twin occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq (Again! Wasn’t twice enough?) and put those funds in an interest-bearing account, there would be enough money to send every single American school kid to four years of college education – fully paid for. We’d get all that from just one days military expenditures! So don’t tell me we can’t afford quality education without qualification! Oh yes we can!!

 

As he stood there on the Mount, Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of the living God.” [Matthew 5:9] Still, the conservatives call themselves Christian as they continue to call for endless war, be it legally and morally justified or not. At the same time, they expound on how pro-life or anti-abortion they are. So, let me get this straight. In order to be a good Christian, one must be pro-war and pro-life simultaneously? Sorry, Reverend, but you’re going have to explain that one to me. And then they try to justify torture. So I ask them, in the words of the popular button and bumper sticker: Who would Jesus torture?

 

In the end, I see many conservatives paying much homage to the Bible while ignoring what is inside it. As for myself, I could not stand to live like that, being a Washington hypocrite. Let’s vote these right wing-nuts out of office this November and start all over again on a clean sheet of paper. It’s the only way we can peacefully force things in Washington to change. But if things don’t start changing, and soon, the unrest of Egypt, Syria and Greece will be arriving on American shores with a vengeance. If governing power cannot be returned to the American people peacefully, then things will deteriorate to the point where we will simply have to retake it by force.

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What if Jesus came to Ferguson, Mo.? What do you think he would say and do?

What Would Jesus Protest?

By Rev. Paul J. Bern

It started in the fall of 2011 as most age-defining movements do, with some unrest and some recognition of what is right and wrong. It started with some people willing to take a stand against rampant injustice. And then some more people join. And then some more. Next time we look it is in another city, then another country. Sweeping across the globe, the civil unrest known as Occupy Wall Street or as “we are the 99%” continues to capture the attention of everyone, despite the attempts of the military-industrial complex and their media conglomeration to slander it, discredit it, and lie about it. It is in that same revolutionary spirit that those who are protesting in Ferguson Mo. and simultaneously around the world are on the evening news every night.

By now everyone realizes that there is a “la cosa nostra” of ultra-powerful people (sometimes called the Illuminati) that control the vast majority of wealth in this world, beginning with the US. They have spoon-fed us American Idol, pro wrestling and other sports, reality TV and Dancing With the Stars while sneaking around behind our backs tampering with our voting rights, stealing elections, repealing sensible regulations designed to protect us, and enacting laws totally in favor of the rich – and all this occurred as the 1% shipped all our jobs overseas for pennies on the dollar. There can be no question that their goal is the redistribution of wealth and consolidation of power to the 1% elite while squeezing the once proud middle class into the new working poor caste. You can already hear the screams of “class warfare!” The problem is we didn’t start the war, they did. The same ones screaming “class warfare” the loudest are the ones who are waging the war.

Apparently when the Occupy and 99% Movements first started it didn’t register with the power elite. They couldn’t possibly fathom America’s outrage. In their arrogance, they simply didn’t comprehend that people had caught on to the illegal Ponzi schemes, crooked midnight deals and winner-take-all financial piracy of the money-worshiping top 1%. But since OWS, “the 99%” and Ferguson have gone viral in the social and political fabric of America, the 1% have begun frantically looking for ways to neutralize this latest movement, but they are already too late. So the next thing they did was to criminalize it, orchestrating mass arrests for the entire world to see. They tried to intimidate the protesters and occupiers by sending in their police squads in full military gear but that backfired on them too as it only served to garner more sympathy for the people’s cause. Next up was an attempt to mock the group and pretend they were somehow uneducated and clueless about why they were protesting at all. That has backfired as well, as all these grassroots movements has generated considerable interest from some very smart people and astute observers.

Turns out that OWS, “the 99%” and the folks in Ferguson know exactly why they are protesting. People everywhere are arriving at the same conclusion – correctly, by the way – that it is financial suicide to go into hock for $100,000 to get a Bachelors Degree only to be offered jobs that require a paper hat or a $19.95 shirt and tie when they graduate. They become furious when they see billionaires with golden parachutes getting bailed out while their parents are getting evicted. They are vehemently opposed to an economic and educational system that is only available to those who have enough money to pay. They have already read the 2011 United Nations Resolution stating that Internet access is a basic human right, and that denying Web access to anyone due to their inability to pay is a human rights violation at best, and a criminal act at worst. They already see capitalism for what it is – an economy based on plunder and conquest at home and abroad. They see all the homeless people on the street while entire neighborhoods are littered with abandoned, boarded up houses that represent the shattered dreams of countless families, some of whom are now living in shelters or with relatives because there is no where else for them to go. They see all the school teachers, fire fighters and police officers who continue to get laid off so the country can have more for the top 1%, and so they can have more money for pointless foreign wars. They do not think that 1% of the population should control 99% of the wealth in this country — and they are absolutely right.

So what would Jesus protest? Would Jesus protest merciless treatment of the neediest people? He already has: “Then, with the crowds listening, he turned to his disciples and said, ‘Beware of these teachers of religious law! For they like to parade around in flowing robes and love to receive respectful greetings as they walk in the marketplaces. And how they love the seats of honor in the synagogues and the head table at banquets. Yet they shamelessly cheat widows out of their property and then pretend to be pious by making long prayers in public. Because of this, they will be severely punished.” (Luke 20: 45-47, NLT)

The Occupy and 99% Movements, and what happened in Ferguson and again the very next night in St. Louis are all about the least fortunate of us, and it is these very people who want their lives back. They have lost jobs, careers, homes (some of which had been paid on monthly for years or even decades), savings, pensions and even their health. Economic and racial inequality reigns supreme across our land, and the misery that it has spawned threatens to grow into revolution in American streets (cue “Revolution” by the Beatles).

Throughout the Bible the number one theme after Christ’s salvation is taking care of the least in society. Jesus said that if we want to be considered religious, then we are to look after the welfare of widows and orphans. “Whatsoever you do for the very least of my brethren, that you do for me”, and this nugget of wisdom holds as much meaning today as when those words were uttered by Jesus 2,000 years ago. The divine truth of human equality that He illustrated with that verse is something that has yet to be fulfilled, and it’s our fault. Human equality was a radical notion in the time of Christ, and many churches continue to leave out of the teaching of this revolutionary aspect of His ministry. So long as racial and ethnic hatred persist, equality cannot flourish. It’s up to ministers like myself to address this issue, and I encourage all who read this to join me in my efforts.

I am painfully aware that some conservative Christian writers, and a whole lot of 1%’ers, are apparently in love with the Old Testament verse that says, “If a man will not work, then neither shall he eat”, presumably in reference to strikers, protesters and “occupiers”, but they are forgetting the original context of that verse:

Even while we were with you, we gave you this command: “Those unwilling to work will not get to eat.” Yet we hear that some of you are living idle lives, refusing to work and meddling in other people’s business. We command such people and urge them in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and work to earn their own living. As for the rest of you, dear brothers and sisters, never get tired of doing good. Take note of those who refuse to obey what we say in this letter. Stay away from them so they will be ashamed. Don’t think of them as enemies, but warn them as you would a brother or sister.” (2Thessalonians 3: 10-15, NLT)

The context reveals that these verses do not apply to the OWS/99% or Ferguson people. These verses deal with lazy people who simply don’t want to work. The people protesting want to work and can’t find jobs, that is why they are protesting! You may be of the opinion that the protesters are “lazy” or somehow not trying hard enough but I have actually been through what these protesters are experiencing. I know what it’s like to see a 23-year career evaporate, and to not be able to find enough work to sustain oneself. I know what it’s like to wind up homeless through no fault of my own, and I have personally experienced how homelessness, even for relatively short periods of time as was in my case, can and will literally ruin one’s health. Like these multitudes of others, I too can attest to how brutal it is out there. The true unemployment rate is very likely double or triple what the government is telling us. The jobs being offered have absurdly low wages that are simply not enough to live on, come with no health insurance, and are often temporary or part time.

The other truth revealed from the context of these verses, however, is how we should be acting. The apostle Paul does not say that we should treat these people with contempt, lie about them, or sneer at them. He does not say they should only help those who can afford to pay. Instead, we should be doing for others what we would have them do for us. We must treat others the way we want to be treated. We must love our neighbor as ourselves. He says we should treat them not as enemies but to warn them as if they were a brother or sister.

Though you offer many prayers, I will not listen, for your hands are covered with the blood of innocent victims. Wash yourselves and be clean! Get your sins out of my sight. Give up your evil ways. Learn to do good. Seek justice. Help the oppressed. Defend the cause of orphans. Fight for the rights of widows. — Isaiah 1: 15-17 (NLT)

What God is saying here is to check your hands before raising them in praise to Him to see whose blood you have on them. Give up your sins. Learn to do good. And then what does the Lord say is doing good? Seeking justice. Helping the oppressed. Defending the cause and fighting for the rights of the needy. If you really and truly think that there is no injustice in our current system then you have no heart, never mind your soul. If you honestly do not believe that there is oppression for the lowest in our society today then I advise you to stop watching Fox News. There is a real world out there and it is really hurting.

The people at Ferguson, Mo. want social and economic justice. They want the same thing God speaks about throughout the entire Bible. They want the same thing Jesus taught about. Once Christ told a parable about the Good Samaritan. Most of us know the story. A man is mugged and essentially left for dead on the street. He is passed over by a Temple assistant and a priest. But a Samaritan stopped and helped him, bandaged him, and paid for him to recover at a nearby inn. But the context of this parable is the point. Jesus told it because He was asked the question — “who is my neighbor?” The Samaritan was chosen as the hero of this story by Jesus because there was much hatred towards them by the Jewish people then. Who is my neighbor? I think this is the question we need to ask ourselves every day. We need to ask it when we hear the hate merchants on TV and radio trying to stir up our darker side. We need to ask it when we think that we know the motives of people we never even met. We need to ask it when we start to use God to defend things He obviously would never defend. Jesus finishes the Parable of the Good Samaritan with these words:

“Now which of these three would you say was a neighbor to the man who was attacked by bandits?” Jesus asked. The man replied, “The one who showed him mercy.” Then Jesus said, “Yes, now go and do the same.” (Luke 10: 36-37, NLT)

As far as the teacher of law that asked the initial question here was concerned, only fellow Jews were his neighbor. Anyone else was not looked upon the same way. We have that same spirit infecting this country too. The other side is presented only for the purpose of blame and hatred. Those who find themselves on the right look upon the OWS crowd negatively because they are not their neighbors to them. They also looked down on the protesters in Ferguson as being just a mob of rioters and looters, when in fact only a small percentage of all those engaged in the street protests engaged in such illicit activities, as if they are all somehow unworthy of mercy. They are somehow to blame not only for their own plight, but supposedly for the plight of the country as a whole. God requires something from us and He spelled it out very plainly in the Old Testament: “No, O people, the Lord has told you what is good, and this is what he requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God. (Micah 6: 8, NLT)

The world sells various shades of gray to hide the truth, spinning it and disguising it as it goes. The truth is that if somehow anyone thinks Jesus would support a system where over 40 million people are homeless while the ultra rich clothe their dogs, then I suggest that maybe they do not understand what “doing what is right” truly means. If anyone thinks that Jesus would support a system where 16,000 children die every day from hunger while the world’s top 1% gets richer and fatter, then I am not so sure that they understand the concepts of loving and being merciful. Not just being merciful – really loving mercy and walking humbly with your God. I want you to think the next time someone is trying to sell you on the notion that the Ferguson, OWS and “the 99%” people are this or that. It makes me wonder what their motivation is for saying such things. If you have the snooty opinion that the Ferguson, OWS and 99% folks are lazy, then that is not my problem. If you have the political opinion that they should go home and find a job, fine, but have any of you tried to find a job lately? Brothers and sisters, those are nowhere near being Christian arguments. They are most definitely not Biblical arguments – and they are devoid of any compassion, any mercy, or any humility. What will we do to help all these people? What would happen if you lost your job tomorrow, or if a family member were to be killed by the police? What have we done lately to help each other? Because in the end, that’s all that really counts.

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What do God, Ferguson, Mo., and the Arab Spring have in common?

God, Ferguson, Mo., ‘Occupy’, ‘the 99%’, and the Arab Spring

I have been watching the evening news on wireless TV and on the Internet from the alternative media (with just a measured amount of CNN Internet; I don’t waste my time or money with cable TV) with much admiration lately as the political turmoil unfolds in Ferguson, Missouri over the death of local teenager Michael Brown. Just like the Arab Spring in 2011 in Egypt, Tunisia, Bahrain, Yemen and Libya, with a civil war raging in Syria and with two more threatening to break out in Iraq and Ukraine, all the people are taking to the streets for justice, and for their inalienable human rights and freedoms. It stirs my heart to see all those throngs of people united in one purpose, coming up against an overwhelming established authority, and all without any weapons, excluding Syria. It also bears a strong resemblance to the Occupy and “the 99%” Movements here in America and abroad, of which I have been a part and have self-published two books about these movements. All of these ongoing revolutions were accomplished without any more than minimal bloodshed (again excluding Syria and Gaza), and were at least partly peaceful. Of course, this is excluding all the looters and vandals in Ferguson, Mo. and elsewhere, whose activities I will never endorse. It is nonetheless very good that so many people were set free by rising up against established abusive authorities and taking charge of one’s own destiny. This is how real change is brought about and this is how (mostly) peaceful revolution is brought forth by those persons bold enough to step up and take the freedom that is rightfully theirs.

Watching those events unfolding on live TV caused me to compare what was happening in Ferguson and all those other places in North Africa and the Middle East beginning several years ago to what had happened during the American Revolution during the formation of the original colonies. The main difference between then and now is that modern-day Arab and American protesters didn’t have guns – and didn’t need them, as it turned out. This evokes the memory of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, the ultimate peaceful campaigner for civil rights. His advocacy of non-violent social change and the civil rights legacy that he left behind are irreplaceable. And I also believe that same legacy is based on that of Moses, who so famously told the Pharaoh to “let my people go”. Soon a time will be coming for the entire world, from the most developed countries on down to the poorest, when the shackles of debt will be forever broken, and when all the people of the world will be freed from the scourge of usurious interest that is charged on loans. Soon all of us will be free from a debt-based economy as capitalism dies of old age, as we begin to move toward a resource-based economy. But that is a separate topic for another time.

The same thing has since happened in America, as you all know, with the blossoming of the Occupy and 99% Movements. This loosely organized political federation is gradually congealing into something more, growing into something far more substantial. The economic state of the populations of Egypt and America are similar, with high unemployment, rampant homelessness and crime. The inordinate concentration of wealth, combined with its use as a weapon to pollute and corrupt government and politics, runs rampant in both countries. America is most certainly ripe for revolution, given the state of the middle and working classes in this country, the lack of decent jobs, the lack of affordable housing, and the rising cost of food and fuel. The Occupy and 99% Movements may well be the vehicle for this 2nd American Revolution. I also think this vehicle will be accelerated by the fact that America is rapidly headed for third world status as a country when it comes to the standard of living of the blue and white collar classes, otherwise known as “we the people” in the Preamble to the Constitution. When this is combined with the unfair, unethical concentration of wealth throughout the world then it becomes tantamount to an undeclared economic civil war. There can be no doubt that we are going to have to unite together as a people to stop this great robbery that is happening right up in our faces each and every day so we can take back our country. The longer we wait to do so, the more difficult it will become.

Actually, the far-left and the far-right have more in common then they would want to admit. Both sides are absolute in their ideology and uncompromising in their politics. This is like a poison flowing through the body politic of America and it will cripple our democracy unless each of us acts as an antidote. Otherwise this kind of childish selfishness and narrow-minded stereotyping threatens to tear the fabric of America apart.

What is particularly troubling in today’s political environment – with Ferguson, Missouri being just the tip of the iceberg – is the level of anger and even outright hatred that is being displayed by all sides. I have been trying to figure out the source of this anger and hatred for some time now. Some of today’s rabid emotionalism can be traced to old-fashioned racism, but I think for many people it goes much deeper than that. It would appear that this anger and hatefulness is really a response to fear. Fear is an emotion we don’t like in ourselves and anger is a way of covering up our fears with an emotion that makes us feel more powerful. We live in a world where society, technology, the economy and demographics are rapidly changing and this change is deeply threatening to many people. Such people have not yet discovered the simple key to letting go of their fear, which is to believe and have faith that God is in charge of everything, combined with understanding that if we will just let go and let God, He will cause all things to work out well, as it is written, “All things work to the glory of God for those who love Him”. God is always there for you, as it is written and was uttered by Jesus himself, “Never will I leave you, and never will I forsake you.” So He isn’t going to let anything happen to you, and it would be to the benefit of anyone reading these words to rest assured about this and stop worrying. (For additional perspective on what Jesus said about worrying, read Matthew chapter six.)

If we want American democracy to survive, we need to grow up and wise up. We need to stop projecting our fears onto our fellow citizens, and we need to let go of our own childhood fears and insecurities (Ferguson, Mo., are you listening?). We need to stop yelling at each other and learn to start listening to each other. We need to replace competition with cooperation, and we need to first learn self-respect as an important step toward acquiring mutual respect. Only when these things have been done can a new economic system truly be born, one based on resourcefulness and cooperation instead of outmoded concepts like competition and profit for the sake of financial gain. We need to accept the reality of change and begin working together to find productive ways of dealing with a world that is constantly changing. Besides, the fact is that America is built upon compromise. Our great experiment in democracy is founded upon the belief that each issue has many sides and that the most workable solution comes from a compromise that blends together many disparate views. Compromise is the glue that holds America together.

Change is inevitable. It’s the way the universe is constructed. The fact that time exists means that change must occur. Rather than fear change, we need to make it work for our benefit. Rather than trying to go back to the past, we need to work together to create a better future. In so doing we emulate God, because He too only cares about our future, not our past. If the American experiment that has been ongoing since the 18th century is going to grow and mature, we the people will also have to grow and mature. We have to put our irrational fears behind us and start working together as mature adults in order to deal successfully with the challenges that change presents to us. Besides, change is what keeps is on our toes. God allows change to happen to us to help grow us into something more than we were before. It’s time to stop the name-calling and to start having rational discussions about the issues before us. Most important of all, it’s time for the police to put all their military hardware in storage and go back to being officers of the peace and detectives of various kinds. It’s time to turn away from those in the media on cable TV, and on talk radio, and on the Internet who feed our fears and fuel our hatreds like pouring gasoline on a lighted backyard grill. It’s time to start respecting each other as fellow Americans. Each of us must stand up for a fundamental American truth – united we stand, divided we fall.

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Occupy Wall St. Is Growing Into a Grassroots Movement

How “Occupy” Is Evolving

(excerpt from, “Occupying America: We Shall Overcome”, by Rev. Paul J. Bern)

 

This weekend in Sacramento, Cal. the Occupy movement will celebrate its third anniversary from July 31st until August 3rd. At one time there were some people who said that the Occupy and “the 99%” Movements were headed for the dust bins of history. Time has proven these detractors to be completely wrong. In fact, it is an accurate statement to say they underestimated Occupy, the 99%, Anonymous and other similar movements like the world peace movement, et al. These movements of the people are continuing to grow due to a growing population of long-term unemployed workers, people working one or more part time jobs when a full time job with a middle class level of income are urgently needed, and growing numbers of people who have walked away from the traditional job market in exasperation. These college-educated vagabonds are living “off the grid” in shelters, tent cities, or squatting in abandoned, boarded-up houses in inner city neighborhoods.

 

 

There can be no doubt that working Americans from all kinds of backgrounds are becoming increasingly desperate about their economic situations and their future prospects. Is it any wonder that this is happening? Everywhere we look we see jobs disappearing by the millions, homes being stolen right out from under the owners through fraudulent loan and foreclosure practices, pension and retirement funds being wiped out by highly speculative investments of dubious origin by compulsive gamblers posing as financial advisers and stockbrokers, and the hijacking of our democracy through corporate “campaign donations” and “lobbying fees” that are little more than legalized bribery. Most alarming of all is the increasing lack of access to preventative health care and to higher education. I experienced this myself a number of years ago when I wanted to change careers, only to be told that I couldn’t get a student loan because my credit score was too low. If I wanted to go back to school and learn a new trade, they said, I would have to pay the tuition out of pocket. Since I was working as a “temp” IT contractor at the time, there was no way for me to come up with the tuition to pay for my retraining, and so I remained stuck in my situation, unable to improve myself even though I very much wanted to do so. What I have since learned is that what I went through when I tried to change careers to alleviate long-term unemployment is very commonplace, especially for older workers like myself (I won’t say how old). By now, multitudes of unemployed Americans who want retraining can’t get it for the same reasons that held me back, and nearly everybody else has figured out that they too are stuck as far as their professional lives are concerned. Like myself, they are furious at being backed into a corner by economic inequality, and they’re looking for ways to fight their way out of the corner they find themselves in.

 

 

To sum up our situation as America’s work force, we’re mad as hell – livid, actually – and we have collectively decided to take back from the top 1% what they took from us, since what was taken belonged to the American people to begin with. As things stand today, the elites who comprise the top 1%, and particularly the top tenth of a percent, are in very serious trouble indeed. From a political, economic or societal standpoint, I vigorously maintain that time is about to run out for the reign of the rich and powerful – especially when the US dollar is no longer the world’s reserve currency. Even now the elites continue to puzzle over what people want, mainly because the majority are clueless, and the rest just don’t care. Where is the list of demands? Why don’t they present us with specific goals? Why can’t they articulate an agenda? The goal can be articulated in one word – rebellion. These protesters have not come to work within the system. They are not pleading with Congress for electoral reform. They know electoral politics is a farce and have found another way to be heard and to exercise power. Like myself, they have no faith – nor should they – in the political system of the two major political parties. They know the press will not amplify their voices because the news and entertainment media are bought and paid for by the top 1%. So we are creating an alternative press of our own, such as Mother Jones, Alternet, OpEd News, and others. We know all too well that the economy serves the top 1% at the expense of the remaining 99%, so we are forming own communal, cooperative, nonprofit interdependent system. This movement is just one effort of many all across America to take our country back as best as it can be peacefully accomplished.

 

 

The problem is that this is a goal the power elite find to be incomprehensible. They cannot envision a day when they will not be in charge of our lives. The elites believe, and seek to make us believe, that globalization and full throttle capitalism are natural laws which are some kind of permanent and eternal states of being that can never be altered. What these delusional elites fail to realize is that our protest and rebellion (not just America’s, but the entire world’s) will not stop until the bonfire of the corporate state is extinguished. It will not stop until ownership of entire corporations is transferred from the stockholders and boards of directors directly to the workers where it belongs, most likely in the form of worker-owned businesses or cooperatives of all sizes. This Populist uprising will not stop until there is an end to the corporate abuse of the poor, the working classes of all colors, the elderly, the sick, children, the mentally ill, and those being slaughtered in our imperial wars overseas and tortured in the American military’s so-called “black sites”. ‘We The People’ will not stop until foreclosures and bank repossessions stop. We will not rest until students no longer have to go into debt for life just to obtain higher education, and families no longer have to plunge into bankruptcy to pay medical bills. The rebellion will not stop until the corporate destruction of the ecosystem stops, and our relationships with each other and the planet are radically reconfigured. And that is why the elites, and the rotted and degenerate system of corporate power they sustain, are in serious trouble. That’s also why the reason for the existence of the entire capitalist, debt-based economy is now falling into question. And that is why they keep asking what the demands are. They don’t understand what is happening.

 

 

The occupation of Wall Street, and the Occupy encampments elsewhere such as at Freedom Plaza in Washington, D.C. in which I took part in October 2011, has formed an alternative community that defies the profit-driven hierarchical structures of corporate capitalism. Even though the police have shut down the encampments in New York and elsewhere, the power elite will still lose their grip on society because this vision and structure have been imprinted into the minds of millions of protesters. The greatest gift the “occupation” has given us is a blueprint for how to fight back. And this blueprint has now been transferred to cities, parks and families facing foreclosure across the country.

 

 

The tactic of physical occupation in the case of Occupy Wall Street has been enormously successful already. We have, at least for a moment, proven that we can and will bring enormous public pressure on the top 1% in the form of these movements. We are significantly better positioned than before to make bold demands, as we can now credibly claim that our values are popular – even that they are common sense – and connected to a social base. “Occupy Wall Street” is the tactic that has launched a movement for social justice and real democracy onto center stage. It has served as the initial catalyzing symbol for what undoubtedly will become a rejuvenated civil rights movement. Hopefully ten years from now, when we look back at all we’ve accomplished together, Occupy Wall Street will be considered a critical moment that helped to spark and then build a lasting movement. “We are the 99%” has become a core message of this burgeoning movement. It emerged in tandem with the deployment of the captivating tactic of occupation. The framework of the 99% accomplishes a number of important feats:

 

[1] The 99% frames the consolidation of wealth and political power in our society – the central grievance of this movement and a central crisis of our times.

[2] The 99% frames a class struggle in a way that puts the 1% on the defensive, whereas the common accusation of “class warfare” has somehow tended to put a lot of people in the middle on the defensive.

[3] The 99% casts an extraordinarily broad net for those invited to join the movement. Most everyone is encouraged to see their hopes and dreams tied to a much bigger public issue. Thus it frames a nearly limitless growth trajectory for the movement.

[4] The 99% even leaves room for the 1% to redeem itself. There are many striking cases of “1%’ers” speaking out as defectors – such as former or current military and law enforcement personnel – who are as vocal as anyone that the system is broken and in dire need of replacement.

 

The 99% meme is a grand prize winner. It points the way toward a necessary expansion that is ongoing as I write this. It encourages us to not just act on behalf of, but alongside of, the 99%; to look beyond the forces already in motion, to activate potential energy, to articulate a moral political narrative, and to build up and strengthen our culture. The Wall Street protests must grow and spread across this country because they are the only realistic hope for change remaining for the 99% of Americans falling behind in this permanently broken economy. Sad to say, but democracy in the land of the free and home of the brave simply no longer works as it is currently being administered. Big corporations and the wealthy have hijacked the political system for decades now with their hefty donations to political campaigns and other pet projects. Their contributions guarantee that bought-off politicians pass laws and tax breaks to their benefit. It is no secret, everyone is aware of how the system works, and it must be called for what it is: legalized bribery.

 

 

 

With traditional democratic political methods useless, what recourse do ordinary Americans have left? We are now witnessing the only real avenue left: ordinary citizens taking to the streets and demanding change to the rigged political and economic systems that leaves 99% of us behind. It is only a start, but a vital one. Every day more people are awakening to the stark realization that the political and economic system in this country is stacked against them and getting worse. During the Vietnam era, because they were directly affected, young people took to the streets to protest the war. America’s young males were subject to a draft, and the prospect of being shipped off to die in a war they didn’t believe in angered them a great deal. And so the war planners wised up and did away with the draft, but look at what has replaced it. America now has perpetual wars for oil, using a “volunteer” military, many of whom have enlisted due to lack of other economic opportunities. Seemingly unaffected by post-Vietnam wars, students and other young people have been politically inactive since the early 1970s.

 

 

But that has finally come to an end, and I think it’s about freakin’ time! Young people are finding few jobs awaiting them when they get out of college (assuming they are fortunate enough to afford the high tuition). They graduate with no income coming in, but years of student loan debt to pay back. Those without a college or high school degree are even worse off. All of them see the sad reality, that the “American Dream” is only for the privileged few. “The reason they call it the America dream”, said the late George Carlin, “is because you have to be asleep to believe it”. If these demonstrations and protests continue to grow and expand, both here and abroad, the big banks, oil companies, billionaires and politicians will have to pay attention and give some ground. Either that, or face the prospect of violent revolution. As the late President John F. Kennedy once famously said, “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible make violent revolution inevitable”.

 

 

How all this will play out is still uncertain as I write this. The road to reversing several decades of unfair and corrupt politics and excessive greed promises to be a rocky and difficult one. Things could get a lot worse before (and if) they get better. But a revolution, preferably a bloodless one such as the Civil Rights, Occupy and 99% Movements, is necessary to restore democracy and economic fairness in America and around the world. With traditional methods of political change proving useless, mass protests, strikes, ‘occupations’ and other public demonstrations are the only realistic strategies left. Which is why the Wall Street occupiers and their brethren across the country (and the world!) cannot quit, and why we must all continue to grow and expand to a point that the powers-that-be realize they must give the rest of their fellow Americans a seat at the decision-making table. The occupiers and protesters cannot and will not quit, of that you can be sure. If the protests wither and die, so will what is left of America’s hopes and dreams, not to mention our freedoms. So we will not let this movement quietly fade away. On the contrary, we will continue to grow and consolidate in preparation for our next task, which is to take these Populist movements to the next level. As we do so, we will continue to remind one another of why we occupy, and why we’re not going away. The Occupy Movement and the 99% Movement, together with a host of other related social and political movements such as Anonymous, will continue to get larger and better organized over the rest of 2014 and well into 2015, using primarily the Internet and social media to accomplish their goals since it is the most cost-effective tools at our disposal right now.

 

 

Congress, the President, the Supreme Court, corporate America with their armies of lobbyists on K Street in Washington, and the military/prison/industrial complex are justifiably afraid of this global movement and what it represents. More importantly, they all remember where this movement got its start, which was in Egypt in January 2011, followed by the riots in Tunisia, Algiers, Britain and Spain in the spring and summer of 2011, plus the ongoing civil wars in Syria, Yemen, Libya and Sudan. Now it has arrived on American shores and firmly established a beachhead from which a worldwide movement has been launched that has captured the hearts, minds and imaginations of millions of Americans. And this movement of the people is only this – that we are sick and tired of working for bare subsistence wages that amounts to economic slavery while the stockholders and the boards of directors of these giant multinational corporations, not to mention all the cash-rich privately held companies, get to control much of America’s cash flow while paying themselves exorbitant bonuses. As I wrote in my previous book, “It’s steak for them and beans for the rest of us”, and since then the plight of the middle class has continued to slowly get worse just as I predicted it would. All these problems and issues are indicative of a broken system that is beyond fixing. The time has come to replace it. The only remaining question is, will the American people be able to accomplish this peacefully? That depends completely on how the 1% respond to the peaceful protests, public demonstrations and wildcat strikes of the 99%. If they respond with violence, there will be another American civil war, and the USA will turn into another Syria, Libya, Gaza or Greece. Let’s hope and pray that the solution will be a peaceful one.

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Should justice and the rights of workers be a Christian issue?

Progressive Christianity, Worker’s Rights and Social Justice

(excerpt from, “The Middle and Working Class Manifesto”, by Rev. Paul J. Bern)

The lack of employment and economic opportunities, the lack of access to health care and higher education, plus extreme economic inequality due to a very high concentration of American wealth being in the hands of far too few people has turned the majority of the American populace into a powder-keg. Like the Middle East and parts of Europe, America too has become a ticking time bomb of inequality and lack of opportunity. The rights of US workers have been trampled underfoot by the rich multinational corporations and the top 1% elite who are outsourcing all our jobs overseas as they leave us high and dry in minimum wage jobs with no future. The least common denominator of middle class loss of income due to mass layoffs, the loss of housing due to foreclosure and eviction and the excess of economic inequality due to a disproportional concentration of wealth, is that all three of these comprise the human rights of workers throughout the world, beginning here in America since our country is supposed to be the standard-bearer of the world for freedom and opportunity. If the American worker does not get what he or she is legally and rightfully entitled to, there will be strikes, protests, sit-ins, “occupying” and other peaceful forms of civil disobedience until we get what we want, up to and including the complete shutdown of the entire US economy for at least one day. And we will do all of this without firing a single shot, just as the protesters and public demonstrations overseas did before us, and just as the Rev. MLK, Jr. did during the civil rights movement. And then we do it again – and again.

There are also a growing number of employed people who, despite having a job, are still living in poverty. There are at least 15 million US workers who now fall into this rapidly growing category. The median US income of $33,000.00 a year is not going to get you far in today’s economy, and half of the country is making less than that. The reason we struggle with these things is because the Economic Elite have robbed us all through the systematic confiscation of middle class wealth, security and prosperity. This has caused tremendous suffering among workers throughout the world, it is no less than a criminal act, and it is the result of the largest single transfer of wealth in all of human history from the world’s middle class to the rich. And so I came up with what I call in my book “The 8 Fundamental Rights of Mankind”. But for now I will only focus on the first one because there is so much to be said on just the first one.

The first and foremost right is that of all workers and independent contractors. The basic rights of all workers can be broken down into six parts; the right to a livelihood and a living wage, rights of unemployed persons, right to free vocational re-training for life, right to organize, right to a flexible work week and right to health-related, family and maternity leave. The first thing on the list of worker’s rights is also the highest priority, that of a fair and realistic minimum wage, and more fundamentally, the basic human right to a livelihood. Unemployment as we have previously known it must now come to an end forever. This does not mean unemployment will be eliminated, but periods of unemployment can and should be converted to times of retraining to acquire new skills or even completely change careers. What gives any wealthy corporate 1%’er CEO the right to tell any given man or woman, “Sorry, you are not needed around here anymore. Your skills, experience, and your work ethic no longer matter here. Our company’s bottom line and the interests of our shareholders are far more important than that of our workers.” Who do these jerks think they are? They outsourced many of our jobs overseas so that corporate America could enrich themselves at the expense of their former employees, leaving middle and working class Americans with no way to earn a respectable living and be self-sufficient. The jobs that could not be outsourced were downsized out of existence. Then this same bunch of corporate “leaders” turned around and, with the cooperation of American academia, raised costs for higher education so high that many who wished to go back to school and train for a new career were unable to afford the expenses. In the end, numerous persons who urgently wish to improve themselves through education or vocational retraining have been and are continuing to be held back from doing so, and that is a social injustice and a civil rights violation worthy of the loudest protests in numerous public places throughout our country.

There is entirely too much imbalance and inequity in the distribution of wealth in the US today. Over 90% of all available liquid cash and assets are in the hands of less than 10% of the US population. And so every day it’s steak for them and beans for the rest of us. How much longer are we, the middle and working classes, going to allow this to go on? You know, it looks to me like our country is in dire need of some peaceful and orderly wealth redistribution, and I don’t mean collectivized economies such as Socialism or Communism either. One very good way to accomplish this would be to send everybody back to school who wants to go free of charge. Who would pick up the tab for the tuition for all those millions of people? Would it be the government? Absolutely not! The bill should instead be presented to corporate America, since it is corporate America who outsourced or downsized all of our jobs in the first place. Congress did just that at the end of World War 2 when they passed the G.I. Bill. If it could be done in the 1940’s, then it can be done today. Simply make the GI Bill available for everybody! Besides, if we can’t work for these companies anymore then they owe it to us to train us to work somewhere else instead of discarding us like so much trash. Any solution amounting to anything less is a social injustice and a civil rights issue worthy of a national chorus of protests, demonstrations and “occupations”.

This brings me to the point that I wish to make. In today’s world, if the net take-home pay of any given individual does not meet, or just barely meets, that same individuals daily cost of living, then that is tantamount to economic slavery. Let me say that again because this point simply cannot be overemphasized. If your take-home pay won’t even take you home, you are a slave. Oh, you are free to move around and to come and go as you choose and take care of business, that is true. But if after you go to the grocery store, pay the light bill (assuming you are fortunate enough to be able to do that), put gas in your tank (assuming you are lucky enough to still own a car) and set some money aside for next month’s rent or mortgage (if you’re not already on the street or living with relatives) – and then after all that you peek into your wallet and realize that you have $7.00 left to live on for the whole stinkin’ week, that’s when you know you are a slave. What happens to the people whose incomes are at or below minimum wage? They go hungry and are often homeless. Many of these newly homeless, formerly middle class people also have kids who have fallen into poverty along with their parents. And this is happening in the United States of America, supposedly the richest country in the world. This is a moral outrage, a social injustice, and it is economic discrimination of the worst kind. Since it is an issue of discrimination, by extension it also becomes a 21st century civil rights issue generating a demand for fundamental change in the way our economy works and the way our government works.

This too, then, is cause for protests, demonstrations, boycotts, occupations, general strikes and other forms of peaceful civil disobedience. On this point alone, there are enough issues on the collective dinner plate of the American people to foster open revolt throughout the land. Never mind everything else that I have written about. Think about it for a minute. How does it feel to be a slave? Makes you feel kind of angry, doesn’t it? Maybe even violated on a certain level, like we’ve been robbed. The time to rise up and say, “No more!” has arrived. It’s time for all of us to get out from in front of out TV’s and our computers and to get our backsides out in the street and start protesting. And that’s just for this issue alone. Now allow me to go over the rest of these rights.

The second basic issue under worker’s rights is the right to better and more comprehensive unemployment insurance, and to also allow some independent contractors to draw unemployment provided certain conditions are met (subject to future legislation or referendum). Any worker who has lost his or her job through no fault of their own will be entitled to up to 50 weeks of unemployment compensation instead of the current maximum of 26 weeks due to a continued over saturation in the job markets of most developed countries, starting with the US. Besides their job search, at any time during the worker’s period of unemployment he or she will have two other options available to them to assist in the development of their careers. The first will be the ability to sign up for a public works project to obtain immediate employment. (The worker’s second option will be reeducation, and I will touch on that one next so please bear with me). Workers will be required to choose one of the above to qualify for benefits. We have been needing a massive public works project to repair America’s crumbling infrastructure for decades. I would conservatively estimate that anywhere from 1-3 million people could be employed this way as contract laborers, salaried employees or subcontractors, depending on the need. The fact of the matter is that we need jobs, we need lots of them, and we need them right now! Since our government has failed to act in this regard in spite of an obvious critical need, we will have to do this ourselves. Let’s get this on the ballot for the next general election, and let’s also strike and protest for action on this matter until then. We might as well, because things are going to continue to get worse until we do.

The third human right listed is the right to free vocational retraining for life. Anybody can go back to school and get retrained at will, up to and including a 2 year degree (with a 4-year available for some additional cost). Large, wealthy corporations with robust cash flows, as well as millionaires and the super-rich, will supply the necessary funding through what I call in my book “the excess wealth tax” (you can buy the book on this site or on Amazon) to find out the details which include repealing the federal income tax). Since corporate America made the decision to send their factories and all the jobs those factories provided overseas to lower their labor costs, and since this action has caused the obliteration of millions of American careers, it will be corporate America who will shoulder the expense of retraining these people whose careers evaporated through no fault of their own. If they take your job away, or if they export or downsize your career out of existence like I experienced myself, then it is those same corporate henchmen who must pay for your reeducation. Higher education is a basic, fundamental human right. The day has come when higher education is no longer only for those who can “afford” the tuition. As of today, higher education, and the fundamental right to improve and enrich ourselves, is a fundamental human right that must be had by all without qualification.

Before I go on, let me add one more tasty ingredient into this mix. Students enrolled in reeducation or public works project workers who have children, will be given taxpayer-funded day care free of charge so they can get their education or go to work without having to worry about watching their kids. Now I know what at least some of you are thinking right now – “who’s gonna pay for that?” Let me put all this into perspective for you. If your US government took all the money that was spent in a single day on the twin occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan plus the clandestine and illegal wars and “black ops” in Pakistan, Libya, Yemen and elsewhere and set it aside in an enormous savings account, there would be enough money to send every American school age kid from the first grade through high school and upwards to any college, public or private, or any state university or vocational or technical school to earn their degree of choice with the tuition fully paid for, plus the cost of all their books and supplies, their meals, Internet access, new computers, and with access to public transportation covered as well. So, for those who say we can’t afford to send everyone to college with their expenses fully paid, or that the money to accomplish this just isn’t there, either doesn’t know what they are talking about, or they are elitists and bigots who can’t stand to see middle and working class and minority students getting ahead. Access to higher education, and looking after the children of those who are retraining, is an American civil right that should be equally available to all without qualification, not just to those who can afford it. Would you like to see test scores improve in our nation’s schools? Tell all those kids that they are all going to college, and watch their grades improve noticeably. Give them an incentive to do better and our kids will rise to the challenge every time.

The fourth worker’s right I’m writing about is simply the right to organize anytime, anywhere. Any American worker who wants to join a union must be allowed to do so, and any group of workers who decide to organize themselves for the purposes of collective bargaining and solidarity must be allowed to do so without interference or fear of retribution. This should include a provision making it illegal for companies to squash labor unions and from preventing unionization. If our country’s leadership is unwilling or unable to pass this and other basic rights of all workers that I have mentioned, then we as united American citizens must unite to get this issue on the next ballot by way of popular referendum, strikes and demonstrations, and other acts of civil disobedience. It’s already an established fact that American workers will get worse working conditions and pay, not better, if they do not organize. In the meantime, the short-term solution is to take this matter and all others like it into the streets as the Occupy and 99% Movements have done. You know, if you haven’t joined us yet you really should, it’s for your own good and for the future of your country.

The fifth human right is the right to a fair and reasonable workweek. All workers who work more than 40 hours in a week, and all salaried employees who work more than 50 hours per week, will be entitled to compensation at time and a half. Unlike certain companies today, it must become illegal for any given company to skirt around America’s labor laws. All companies with more than 1000 employees will be required to offer either a four day workweek with a ten hour workday, or a five day workweek with an eight hour workday to all its workers. This will save a lot of energy, lessen traffic volume at rush hour, and provide workers with more leisure time.

The right to family and sick leave, which must include maternity leave for women, is the final right I have listed for all workers and independent contractors. Every other country in the developed world from Europe to Canada to Japan has paid family and sick leave for its workers – all except for the US. It’s way past time for Congress and the President to bring our country up to speed with the rest of the world in this regard. Furthermore, medical, family and maternity leave should be allowed for up to 3 months per calendar year, and it must be made illegal to fire someone from his or her job because that employee needed to take family leave. The right of all individuals to have medical, family or maternity leave must be had by all, without interference or fear of retribution, for the strengthening of our families and the nurturing of our children.

The fundamental rights of workers must be honored and acknowledged by rule of law, and by a culture change that puts people before profits. The days of funneling any given company’s profits to its shareholders instead of its employees must come to an end forever as corporations gradually become replaced with employee-owned cooperatives, a proliferation of nonprofits, or sole proprietorship web-based “micro enterprises”. The workers who are the ones who keep things running for the rest of us, it is they who are the new business model for the 21st century. In the best of cases, it will be the workers, and not stockholders, who will be the new company owners and investors as the old ways of greed-based capitalism continue to die of old age. This is the new reality we must all embrace if we are to thrive in the 21st century.

justice_4_poor

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