Category Archives: workers rights

The Immigration Debate, president Trump and Jesus

The Progressive Christian Approach

to Immigration Reform

by Pastor Paul J. Bern

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My message for today revolves around what the media and our politicians are saying regarding the topic of immigration reform, as opposed to what the Bible says. We have all heard both sides of this issue from Republicans and Democrats, from conservative to progressive to liberal, as well as independent voters like myself. President Trump went on the record earlier this week to advocate for even tighter immigration requirements than those already in place. I myself was formerly on the conservative side of this issue due to the fact that had once lost a good job in the computer/IT profession due to my being replaced by foreign workers despite the fact that I was more qualified.

 

Then one day in the late spring of 2008, I took a contract job out in west Texas under very favorable terms for myself. So, I put most of my things in storage with the intention of coming back to Atlanta where I live after my contract job expired. I had never been to Texas before, and I found a completely different culture than what I was accustomed to back east. There were three things I noticed immediately soon after my arrival. The first was the oppressive heat and humidity, the second was that people ate burritos in place of burgers, and the third was that approximately one third of the population was Latino. The first thing I remember thinking when I saw that one third of the population spoke only Spanish was that this must be ground zero for ‘illegal immigration’, or so I thought at the time.

 

But I spent four months out there in Texas, and as my days turned into weeks I began to notice seemingly insignificant little things that began adding up to something much more. For example, I saw Latino men – and a few women as well – hanging around temp agencies, construction sites, and even at a U-haul truck rental company in the hopes of getting a job at least for that day. I remember being struck by the parallels between what those Latino folks were having to endure as they searched for work, and a piece of the so-called ‘American dream’, compared to my own previous job search experiences. Some of these workers lived at homeless shelters, others in campers or vans, and the more prosperous ones lived in rented mobile homes or apartments. I saw the same thing day after day, with hundreds of workers gathered around in groups of as few as eight or ten, and as many as several dozen. And so I found myself beginning to question my own intense dislike of these immigrant workers. I mean, all they really wanted was a chance at a new life in a safer and cleaner environment. What’s wrong with that?

 

Before I go any further with this message, I think I should point out that my basis for resenting many of these immigrant workers was economic rather than racial. Nevertheless, thanks to my “education”, my beliefs and opinions had been heavily slanted towards an American rather than a world view. So I found myself beginning to question my own motives for feeling the way I did. As I did some research on-line, what I found explained the cognitive dissonance between what I had been “taught” and what I saw. The average worker in Mexico earns the equivalent of about $50.00 per month USD. When these same workers come to the US they make minimum wage, more or less, which is currently still stuck at only $7.25 per hour here in Georgia. Since a sizable chunk of these workers make less than minimum wage while being paid in cash under the table, I’m going to use a rounded out number of $7.00 hourly for the whole country. A 40-hour work week at seven dollars an hour yields gross pretax earnings of $280.00 per week before taxes and Social Security. But since many of these workers don’t work full time their take home pay is even less. At any rate, this works out to gross earnings of $1,120.00 per month. If each worker pays a regular tax rate as we Americans do, and many don’t because their employers are cheating the tax man by paying in cash, they wind up with an average net take-home pay of approximately $740.00 per month. But when you compare that to making only $50.00 (USD) in Mexico, $740.00 must seem super-tantalizing to our Latino brothers and sisters.

 

I challenge anybody out there to try and live even for only a month on substandard pay such as this! The bottom line is that this is impossible while still meeting our monthly expenses in a timely manner. In order to better understand this, instead of Mexico and the US being the two countries involved, let’s use the US and Canada instead. If any given American working professional were offered a job in Canada, what would that be in relation to the US and Mexico? For any Mexican/Latino who emigrates to America, the jump from fifty bucks a month to 740 dollars equals a pay increase that is 11.4 times the going rate in Mexico or, for that matter, any Central or South American country. Now, let’s contrast that to an American jumping ship and leaving the US to go and work and live in Canada. With an average net earnings of $35,000.00 annually (before taxes) for American workers, if any of us were to be offered a job in Canada – or for that matter any other developed or emerging country worldwide – at 11.4 times the going rate here in the US, that would amount to an increase in take-home pay to $399,000.00 annually before taxes!

 

OK, so let’s ask ourselves a simple question: Would you or I be interested in a pay increase of 11.4 times the amount we have been earning previously? The obvious answer is, of course we would! So, now you know why the Latino folks are migrating – legally or not – to the US in search of work. It’s not because they are foreign invaders on an economic and social offensive to overrun America like certain people always say. It’s because they are economic refugees from the third world who are searching for a better life for themselves and their families! So, instead of resenting or even hating this influx of foreign workers, the Christian thing to do would be to reach out to the Latino communities in all fifty states and minister to them. I don’t mean giving them a handout, either. Like so many long-term unemployed here in America, they don’t want a handout, they simply want to go to work. But I felt convicted in the Holy Spirit for previously harboring such negative and bitter thoughts, and I have long since repented of this.

 

Showing compassion to foreigners and strangers is central to biblical teaching and morality. “Do not mistreat an alien or oppress him, for you were aliens in Egypt.” (Exodus 22: 21) Moreover, there are quite a few Christians who have started joining the fight to pass immigration reform, including myself. Congress needs to pass immigration reform into law because it is the morally right thing to do. Those whose position on reform is based on political fear, unacknowledged racial prejudice or worries about losing primaries to far-left ideologues are too often the same people who trumpet their religious convictions as guiding their decisions in public life – in violation of the First Amendment’s separation of church and state! Politicians who are professing Christians need to consider what their faith has to say about immigration. If they oppose reform and refuse to offer shelter or compassion to our immigrant brothers and sisters, they should (hopefully) begin asking themselves why. We must join with other faith communities in asking for a moral and religious conversation about immigration reform – not just a political one. God’s passionate, abiding concern for immigrants and foreigners, strangers and travelers – and for our neighbors – is obvious to anyone reading through Scripture.

 

It is the Biblical call to “welcome the stranger” and Jesus’ concern for “the least of these” that inspires and motivates us. “When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself.” (Leviticus 19:33-34). In the New Testament, the stranger, and all who are vulnerable, are at the very heart of the Gospel (Jesus’ parable of the good Samaritan is just one example of many). In the book of Matthew, Jesus offers a vision in which caring for them is the defining mark of God’s kingdom: “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.” (Matthew 25:35-36).

 

That evangelical as well as mainstream Christians would finally act to reform the immigration system should surprise no one, and not just for theological reasons. Undocumented immigrants have joined our congregations; we understand the problem firsthand. They are our brothers and sisters in the body of Christ. And we know that by reforming our immigration laws, we can create a system that also reflects the best values of our nation and the highest ideals of our faith. We act because, as the book of James reminds us, “faith without works is dead.”

 

For me, I think the biggest change hasn’t been in the pulpit, it’s been in the pews and out in the streets. It’s one thing when 11 million people are a statistic. But it’s other thing altogether when one of those 11 million is your friend, a human being who you now know as a father, as a husband, as a mother, as a co-worker, or as a worshiper. Our faith has always been about love, empathy and compassion. It compels us to do something, putting others before ourselves. If we take the principle of compassion out of the Bible, it wouldn’t be the Bible any more. Compassion is indeed all over the Bible, it’s written in between every line! I pray it will also be found in the White House, the House of Representatives and the Senate. It’s time for Christians in Congress to stand up in support of immigration reform, or to explain why they won’t — as Christians. If they follow their faith, we will see the miracle we need. And let’s remember that there is no such thing as an illegal human being. Everybody has the right to be here.

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More on last week’s message about taking our country back from those who have stolen it

A Follow-up to Last Week’s Commentary

Last week for the July fourth holiday break, I published a warning stating that unless the American people organize and begin a campaign of passive resistance against the twin evils of Oligarchic capitalism and the Deep State that has enslaved us all (yes, I mean past tense), both ourselves and our children, plus and their children will find ourselves permanently enslaved. We will not be enslaved by the government because the government is little more than an arm of law enforcement whose paymasters are the mega-rich elite. And it is this Bilderberger elite who controls all the banking, which in turn funds the world’s economies, who have hoarded 99% of the world’s wealth, leaving us to scrap and skirmish for the remaining 1% of the leftovers. It is the super-rich elites who are the government’s paymasters. It is with that thought in mind that I am posting this supplemental to last week’s message, which you can find here or here. As you can see, this is an excerpt from my first book, which I published back in 2011. It is now in its third edition, which you can get on Amazon by clicking here.

The Battle Cry of the American People

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

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When in the course of current events the constituency of the United States finds itself oppressed and hemmed in by that which governs us, and when the working people of this great country which I love so much finds itself with its backs against the wall due to circumstances and situations which are beyond our control, it naturally becomes the patriotic duty of every concerned American to stand up to and to oppose that which suppresses and restricts the God-given freedoms spelled out in our US Constitution. Moreover, we find ourselves forced to draw a line in the sand that guarantees the health, wealth and prosperity of us all against the ruling elites and their associates and family members, who are the real force behind all government funding including police, military and intelligence gathering. As peaceful and law-abiding citizens, we have been governed by the rule of law which is summarized in a document that working Americans continue to hold in highest esteem, the Constitution of the United States, in keeping with the time-honored traditions passed down to us by our founding fathers. But lately our sacred Constitution has been bastardized and prostituted not only by those in power within the federal government, but more directly by the armies of corporate lobbyists who have invaded Washington and seized control of our executive, legislative and judicial branches of government, for the sole express purpose of engineering a bloodless coup de etat that is being carried out not by bullets but by vast sums of money that are at once immoral, illegal, and a veritable avalanche of green and greedy corruption. The sole express purpose of this financial warfare is to forcibly liquidate the middle and working classes in this great country of ours. This is being done deliberately and with sinister calculation by the wealthiest Americans from Wall Street to a myriad of corporate boardrooms all across America, orchestrated by the unconstitutional Federal Reserve and its minions, for the sole express purpose of focusing and concentrating all available wealth into the top 1% of income earners and big business owners all across America. In fact, I further submit and assert that this is all being done at the expense of the US middle and working classes, the result of which is to force an ever-increasing number of working Americans from all walks of life into ever-increasing poverty from which there is no escape.

 

With mass unemployment, a veritable storm of foreclosures, increasingly unaffordable health care, and higher education rapidly becoming ever further out of reach for the US middle class and particularly for the poor and minorities, it is becoming increasingly apparent that the middle class and working people here in the good old USA finds themselves surrounded and besieged by an army of the usurpers of power in our country. As a direct result more and more working Americans, the people who are the backbone of the US economy, are forced into moving in with friends, family members and even strangers to stave off what would otherwise be a pandemic outbreak of homelessness and despair. And it’s all because people can’t find jobs.

 

In point of fact, the are now more college-educated people living in homeless shelters, under bridges or in their cars – if they are lucky enough to still own a vehicle – than at any other time since the Great Depression of the 1930’s. And that is a social injustice and a moral outrage tantamount to class warfare! Indeed, the circumstances and situations that the middle and working classes in the US find themselves today are a series of gross social and economic injustices that demands a sharply focused and well-coordinated response from the entire populace, a rebuttal and decisive counterattack designed and intended to right, correct and re-balance US political power back into the hands of the overwhelming majority of American citizens to whom it rightfully belongs. There can be no doubt that class warfare has been declared in the US, perpetrated by the wealthy against the middle and working classes, for the sole express purpose of eliminating from society the constitutional majority of working Americans, with the end result being the complete and merciless liquidation of middle and working class wealth, general prosperity, and even our health. This has been accomplished by the largest transfer of wealth in all of human history, and it has been manifested in four different ways.

 

First, the employment of American workers has been decimated by closing down manufacturing facilities and shipping jobs overseas to the third world for pennies on the dollar. The result of this has been mass unemployment of many millions of American workers, and those jobs in the American manufacturing sector which was once the world’s largest, and whose direct result was victory in World War Two, are very likely to never return. One direct effect this has had is the gradual elimination of labor unions in this country, and the US labor movement is now on life support as a result. All the wages of the blue collar sector of the US economy are now redirected into the pockets of the top 1% of the American populace in terms of net wealth, not to mention the benefits and retirement pensions of these same people who made these corporations into the mega-companies that they are today.

 

Second, the retirement savings of the middle and working classes have been severely compromised or even liquidated altogether by the crooked and devious manipulations of Wall Street bankers, the World Bank and the IMF, plus all the market speculators, hedge fund managers and corporate boards of directors who engineered the largest swindle in human history back in 2008. This criminal act resulted in the US government bailout known as TARP, an $850 billion bank robbery of the US Treasury conceived and carried out by the same Ponzi schemers who ran the US economy into the ground in the first place, with the Federal Reserve conveniently stepping up with a solution at just the right moment. The cost of this bailout has been put on the backs of the middle and working classes, their children and grandchildren, and has generated a federal government budget deficit that has exceeded $20 trillion dollars as I write this, a staggering sum that threatens to bankrupt the country and destroy the formerly good credit rating of the United States.

 

As a matter of fact, in only one generation our great country that I love so much has been transformed from the world’s greatest lender to its greatest borrower, with the majority of this debt being financed by China and Japan. One of these days China is going to get tired of lending us money and will at that point call in the debt, which America will likely not be able to repay, particularly if China refuses to accept US dollars as a form of repayment – which is entirely possible. If the value of the dollar were to collapse for any reason, that is exactly what would occur. I shudder to think of what would happen next, with China taking large chunks of American collateral to satisfy this crushing debt load. This could even lead to Chinese troops on our western shores occupying whole cities in a worst case scenario. The final collapse of the US economy would inevitably follow, descending into another American civil war that will make the current conflicts in Syria, Egypt, Yemen and Libya look like a day care center in comparison.

 

Third, the largest transfer of wealth in human history is being enforced by runaway prices for food, utilities, housing and transportation, not to mention tuition for higher education. These tuition increases are being deliberately engineered by wealthy elitists for the sole express purpose of putting higher education financially out of reach for an increasing majority of Americans. And those who do make it into colleges or universities are finding themselves buried under an overwhelming pile of student loans, some of which are so huge that they end up well into six figures, larger even than some home mortgages. Some of these student loans are so enormous that an increasing number of graduates find themselves moving back in with their parents, or sharing living quarters with friends and acquaintances, when they finally do graduate. These same hard-working graduates are now increasingly finding that they can’t find suitable employment upon graduation, or are winding up in menial jobs that pay so poorly they can’t repay their student loans. This ruins their credit ratings, making it even harder for them to find employment. What good is a four-year degree if you wind up flipping hamburgers, selling shoes or digging ditches? Meanwhile, the best jobs, the best educations, and the best incomes are reserved for the top 1% wealthy and their families.

 

Fourth, the largest transfer of wealth in human history is being further reinforced by a health care system that has become so outrageously expensive that over 24 million Americans can no longer afford health insurance as I write this. An increasing percentage of working Americans are one accident or catastrophic illness away from bankruptcy, and all without remedy, even with Obama-care in force. Worse still, the average cost of medical care for US senior citizens from the time they retire until their death is $260,000.00 based on a report published in Money magazine. As more and more US workers find themselves unable to afford long-term health coverage, an increasing number of people are putting off doctor and/or dental visits and not refilling needed prescriptions for purely financial reasons, and the physical and mental health of these hapless and impoverished individuals slowly erodes away as a direct consequence.

 

There are tens of millions of formerly middle class people just like me all across the country who find themselves in similar circumstances to varying degrees of severity. Many have not been as fortunate as me. They have lost jobs or entire careers like I have, been forced out into the street due to the ongoing epidemic of foreclosures throughout America, had their cars repossessed leaving them with no way to get to work assuming that they are lucky enough to still have jobs, and are hounded by collection agencies for debts great and small. Too many still have no access to health care except to show up at the local emergency room with no way to pay the bill, putting them even deeper into debt than they already are. They have watched their pensions and their retirement savings evaporate due to market manipulations by unscrupulous “financial managers” who earn obscene bonuses whether they succeed or fail, and all at the expense of their clients. Either that or they have spent their savings during interminably lengthy periods of unemployment after their jobs were downsized or out-sourced overseas to the third world, never to return again.

 

The same goes for the best health care, the nicest cars and boats and even airplanes, not to mention the best retirement plans. All of this and more are systematically being procured by the top 1% income bracket at the expense of everybody else. It’s steak for them and beans for the rest of us, and the portions for the remaining 99% are getting ever smaller each day. There is no question whatsoever that class warfare has been declared by the rich, powerful and well-connected, and all at the expense of over 99% of the rest of America. I think it’s time to fight back, and that is why I began researching this topic back in 2010. My books, blogs and website are the new voice of protest and dissent in middle America. It is not right-wing nor is it from the left, but rather it is written from from the standpoint of middle America and from the vantage point of the oppressed multitudes who are crying out for relief and rescue from the perilous circumstances and life-threatening situations that working Americans from all walks of life find themselves in.

 

This book is a wailing civil defense siren ringing out across the land that I love. It is a warning buzzer on the basketball court of life signifying that a new American team of endless depth is now taking the court, sending the wealthy and powerful to the showers so that the stench of corruption can be washed from them, since they so desperately need it! It is the national anthem of true American patriotism being played before the start of a baseball game signaling that the new expansion team from middle America is about to take the field. This book is an air raid siren sounding out across the land of the rich and powerful as a warning that the middle and working class counterattack is about to commence. (My next book, “Occupying America: We Shall Overcome”, takes up where the first one left off, and predicts mass civil unrest in America in the near future.)

 

No more will we stand and stare or sit and grumble about having our houses, jobs, cars, savings, health, higher education and our retirements forcibly taken away wholesale while an ever greater portion of American wealth is concentrated into the hands of a small minority of multimillionaires. It is time for the middle and working classes to put our collective foot down and say “no more”! The time has arrived for us to take back our country by any and all means necessary. It is time for political power to be taken out of the hands of corporate America and their invading hordes of lobbyists and Wall Street bankers who would presume to take over our country by means of economic warfare, and to place it back into the hands of “we the people”, the true owners of this great country of ours. And we will do so knowing that history and our founding fathers are on our side, because they left us with a sacred document known as the Constitution of the United States that guarantees us that right. Our free speech and freedom of expression that are guaranteed under the First Amendment, as well as our right to keep and bear arms and to form militias that are guaranteed under the Second Amendment, will not be compromised or trampled upon. We will demonstrate in the streets, we will besiege government buildings, we will bombard our congressmen and women with phone calls and emails, we will form new political parties, we will organize and build new labor unions and worker-owned cooperative businesses, we will blockade wealthy neighborhoods, we will organize peaceful public events and non-violent sit-ins, we will call general strikes and consumer boycotts, and we will not stop until the balance of power in this country undergoes a paradigm shift back into the hands of hard-working Americans, particularly those who want full time jobs and can’t find any.

 

We will fight from the highest mountains, from the lowest valleys, from the rooftops of buildings, we will fight in the cities and in the countryside, from the Jersey shore to the beaches of California, and from the Canadian border down south to the border with Mexico. We will not stop until we get our country back, and we shall never surrender. If the abusive government authoritarians label us as domestic terrorists, which we most certainly are not, then we will “remind” them that we are freedom fighters and American patriots. We shall fight with non-violent civil disobedience, we shall – so far as it is possible – demonstrate and march peacefully throughout the land, until we get our country restored to us, the workers of America, to whom it rightfully belongs!

Let there be no mistake – America is past being overdue for mass civil disobedience, and it is ripe for outright revolution if political and economic power are not restored to the people. If our First Amendment rights continue to be taken away, then we will fight back using our the Second Amendment rights instead. The conditions and circumstances in which the US middle and working classes find ourselves has become intolerable. President John Kennedy once said, “Those who make peaceful protest impossible will make violent revolution inevitable”. Those words will soon come true, and the American people to whom this country rightfully belongs will make them so!

 

Personally, I am a very patient and thoughtful man. I work hard each day to be slow to speak and quick to listen because I know from experience that there is much wisdom to be derived from living my life this way. But by the same token, I am a Christian man and an angry minister whose patience is at its end. Just as surely as Jesus preached against the political and religious establishment of His day, in like manner I will do the same in the present day in order to emulate the man I regard as my personal Savior. So, if you truly care about the deteriorating state of our nation, if you are really concerned about the issues that we are faced with collectively as a people, and if you want to make a stand against social and economic injustice and outrageous inequality, then you owe it to yourself to join this movement and to read these books. It is my sincere hope that you will be inspired to take decisive action against the rich and powerful who have nearly finished enslaving us all.

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My Deepening Concerns About the USA

One Step Closer to Armed Revolt: My Deepening Concerns

by Pastor Paul J. Bern

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The attempted assassinations of a handful of congressional representatives, senators and their staff members this past week confirms the suspicions of many, including myself, that the fabric of our country is coming undone. Senator Scalise remains in critical condition as I write this, and I understand senator Rand Paul narrowly missed getting shot in addition to quite a few others. Perhaps Rand Paul was the real target in yet another CIA/NSA engineered false flag operation – God only knows! If it was, their mission failed, the independent alternative media will share the news (since we already know the Main Stream Media would bury that story) with the whole world, and the blow-back from the American public will be nothing short of livid vehemence! The root cause of this will be the American public’s increasing exasperation with the fight between the Trump administration, the Washington establishment and the Deep State – which president Trump is in the process of trying to dismantle. That’s the real source of all the back-and-forth between Trump, the MSM, and the D.C. robber barons.

The American people – all but the top 1% – have found themselves caught in the crossfire with little to do except for ducking and dodging. But in the process we are finding more and better ways of fighting back, and up until this week that excluded arming ourselves against the government in general, and conservatism in particular since that ideology benefits fewer and fewer people at the expense of many, many more. Generally speaking, this is true for the way the whole country is being run. More and more people are being oppressed by the same government that was elected to serve them. Speaking as a Web pastor, I’d like to point out that the Bible has some things to say about those who are being oppressed and about oppressors as well. “Do not mistreat an alien or oppress him, for you were aliens in Egypt. Do not take advantage of a widow or an orphan. If you do and they cry out to me, I will certainly hear their cry. My anger will be aroused, and you will be killed with the sword; your wives will become widows and your children fatherless.” (Exodus 22, verses 21-24) I like to quote verse 22 to all those who gripe and complain about “illegal immigrants”. The same thing goes for those who get played by the rigged economic and court systems, but this runs far deeper than even that. For example, under so-called “Trump-care” the mega-rich top 1% will get very large tax breaks, and 24 million lower income Americans will be dropped from the Obama-care rolls like so many hot potatoes in order to fund president Trump’s AHCA, his version of national health care. You can be sure there will be retribution from the Lord for any who die as a result of losing their health insurance if “Trump-care” gets passed into law. For each of ours who die, one of theirs will die. On further thought, they will most likely die as crime victims from robberies of one kind or another. Although the word ‘Karma’ isn’t in the Bible, I believe it would apply here.

And the Word of the Lord came again to Zechariah; this is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the alien or the poor. In your hearts, do not think evil of each other’.” (Zechariah 7, verses 8-10) What do we have instead? A federal income tax that is unconstitutional, wars being fought without a formal declaration of war as the Constitution requires, and the world’s largest prison population!! Does this seem just, merciful or compassionate to any of you? It sure doesn’t to me, and you can literally bet your next paycheck that God is outraged and infuriated at America because of all of the above! Not to mention the institutionalized racism, global mass murders being committed by our military and intelligence communities, and all the rampant gambling and criminal profiteering on Wall St. and in Washington! Keep it up, all you people who are hell-bent on serving only yourselves, and see what it will get you!! Don’t you believe it will happen? ‘What’, you ask? ‘I have nearly unlimited resources, I can defend myself against anything! What can all those poor slobs do to me? I can crush them all like bugs!’

What these obscenely rich people fail to understand is that “we the people” have a singular resource that people with lots of money don’t understand and who refuse to see, as it is written: “He will judge the world in righteousness; he will govern the peoples with justice. The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. Those who know your name will trust in you, for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you.” (Psalm 9, verses 8-10) Not only will the Lord Jesus Christ uphold us during our times of trouble and turmoil, he will give us the means to throw off our oppressors and then deliver them into our hands (reference: the Book of Joshua, the American Revolution of the 1700’s, and the Israeli 6-day wars of 1967 and 1973). One more thing the Bible has to say about this topic (among many) comes from the Book of James, and I quote: “Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming upon you. Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes. Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your clothes like fire. You have hoarded wealth in the last days. Look! The wages you failed to pay the workmen who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty. You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter. You have condemned and murdered innocent men who were not opposing you.” (James 5, verses 1-5)

As you can clearly see from the above passage, the obscene amounts of wealth that has been hoarded “in the last days” – which is our current time frame – has been ‘acquired’ at the expense of everyone else. This closely resembles the “99% vs. 1%” paradigm that we find ourselves caught up in today. Moreover, there is much talk today about an impending economic collapse of one kind or another. As a result, there are many financial advisers today who are counseling people to cash in all their Wall St. investments and put it all in gold, silver, nonperishable food, weapons and ammunition. But the apostle James prophesied against that roughly 1,965 years or so ago when he prophesied against gold and silver in verse 3. The apostle James then prophesied yet again against the obsession of some people with wealth and financial gain when he wrote, “The wages you failed to pay the workmen who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty.” What modern parallel with this do we have here in modern times? Just think about it for a minute – the wages the rich withheld from the poor and then pocketed themselves – doesn’t this closely resemble the current battle for a livable minimum wage? Today in America, with only a few exceptions, the prevailing minimum wage is so low that wage earners must sign up for government benefits programs such as SNAP, Medicaid, child care benefits and Obama-care in order to have enough money for even the most basic expenses like food, shelter, clothing, transportation and medical care. For this to be happening in what is allegedly the “richest country in the world” is simply inexcusable! Here in Atlanta, GA where I reside, the minimum wage is still stuck at $7.25 an hour. In large parts of rural Georgia it is only $5.25 per hour. That works out to a net weekly paycheck of about $175.00 for a single individual. Try living on that, if you think you can! Does that not constitute theft, even if it’s “legal”? It’s tantamount to economic slavery and servitude, and the Bible condemns it!

You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter.” There is so much talk today about the obesity epidemic that is plaguing the entire developed world, along with much of the emerging one such as the BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa). There is no question in my mind that this single verse (and there are others throughout the Bible) predicted today’s obesity epidemic with perfect accuracy. There is one last thing predicted for the End Times that we are currently living in which is stated in verse 5. “You have condemned and murdered innocent men who were not opposing you.” There is an ongoing effort to prove the innocence of men and women with life sentences or very lengthy ones, and particularly those who have the death penalty. In all these cases the convictions of these individuals were done with bias against the defendants, often because they are people of color. People have been freed from death row by way of DNA testing as a result of these efforts. But for every one who is found to be innocent after the trial was over and their sentences vacated by the courts, there are untold countless others on whom the death penalty was imposed who were convicted on what amounts to false testimony.

But is that the end of the story? By no means!! What about the lynchings, and the slavery that came before all that, right here in America? What about the two million civilian casualties the US military and the Pentagon are responsible for from the Vietnam war to Afghanistan, Libya and Iraq, up until today? Although I’m no fan of president Donald Trump, at least he has the guts to come into Washington with a wrecking ball aimed directly at its corrupt core while attempting to replace what doesn’t work with what does. I don’t know whether he’s going to succeed or not, but at least he’s trying to buck the status quo. Whether Trump succeeds or not remains to be seen, but when things get heated to the point of US citizens attempting to execute an entire Republican baseball team, we are getting dangerously close to all-out revolt. Yet by the same token, it’s looking more and more like a revolution may not be such a bad idea after all. The overwhelming majority of Americans have little left to lose. The only remaining question is – will it be armed or peaceful? From my observation point, I’d say let’s pray that it will be peaceful but continue to prepare as if it will not.

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America is sick with greed, and I’m just plain sick of it

America’s Sick Culture of Greed – the 7 Warning Signs

by Rev. Paul J. Bern

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The apostle Paul, in his first letter to his deacon Timothy, admonished him to be wary of the pursuit of money and material wealth. About 1,950 years ago, Paul wrote, “But Godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” (1st Timothy chapter six, verses 6-10, NIV) The love of money for money’s sake, as in the days of the early Church, remains the social and societal disease of our time. We see it all around us; in the celebration of ill-gotten financial gain, public admiration for the heads of criminal banks, the lyrics to some popular songs, and in the commercialization of charity and spirituality. This adoration of wealth isn’t a new thing, of course. Back in elementary school I remember being sent to the principal’s office for being moody, unfocused and temperamental – in other words, for being either a rebellious revolutionary, a writer in the making, or a trouble-maker. I still remember my report cards from elementary school that said I “failed to concentrate on the task at hand”, and that I had “too casual an attitude”. In other words, I was a misfit deemed to be a failure in life. That, of course, depends on how one defines the words ‘misfit’ and ‘failure’.

In defense of my childhood self, the Beatles were famous for their Rolls-Royce’s at that time and the Beatles seemed happy. A group called the “Dave Clark Five” went out and bought five matching Jaguar XKE convertibles (anybody else remember that?). Like any good consumer in the making, I had internalized these images of wealth and had come to equate them with happiness. The United States of the 1960s was a nation filled with optimism. For many (though definitely not all) Americans, it was a time of unparalleled opportunity. Education was affordable, families could live comfortably on a single adult income, and the country seem to be on an endless upward trajectory of prosperity. We were expanding in every way, so rapidly that only the depths of space seemed able to contain the people we were about to become. The fantasy of wealth seemed somehow different in that context. Today, we’re a nation being preached to by “bipartisan” corporate politicians who lecture us on the impossibility of expecting a livable Social Security income in our old age. Or a living wage in our working years. Or an affordable education, so our children can live a better life economically than we did. Yet we’re more infatuated with the fruits of unproductive greed today, it seems, then we were back then. Here are seven signs that American culture is sick with greed.

1.) There’s still no public shame in profiting off Wall Street fraud.

Wall Street has been celebrating the investment opportunities created by the wave of criminality and fraud which has overtaken JP Morgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Bank of America and others. JP Morgan Chase’s epidemic of internal fraud has led to tens of billions in fines during the tenure of CEO Jamie Dimon. The investigation’s report goes on to describe how JP Morgan’s stock has risen despite the record fraud settlements against the bank and multiple ongoing civil and criminal investigations. What the report is saying is that banks are essential to the functioning of society, like a public utility. But unlike traditional public utilities, they’re entrusted to profit-driven executives with a long history of documented criminality. And yet there have been no indictments of senior Wall Street executives to date because senior government officials have made it clear they don’t want to endanger the banks by enforcing the law. Legal and political implications aside, what’s astonishing to me is the complete lack of shame associated with being a bank executive whose organization has committed so many crimes — or an investment analyst to openly celebrate those crimes as an opportunity to make money at society’s expense.

Even as the world was still learning of Wall Street’s extensive criminality, Dimon was the subject of a fawning profile several years ago in the New York Times Sunday magazine, which detailed at length Dimon’s hurt feelings and irritation toward those audacious enough to criticize him. Andrew Ross Sorkin did the same thing for the same newspaper three years later, dismissing as “blood lust” calls for Dimon’s resignation in the wake of yet more billion-dollar fraud revelations about his bank. Even now, after all the revelations of crimes which include investor fraud, shareholder fraud, perjury, forgery, violation of international sanctions laws and laws designed to protect members of the US Armed Forces — even now it’s possible to treat bank CEOs as victims in the pages of our country’s newspaper of record. Condemning that record isn’t blood lust. It’s morality.

2.) Greedy CEOs still have credibility in the media.

It’s not just Jamie Dimon, of course. Having shattered the middle class through their accumulation of wealth, the devastation they inflicted on the global economy, and their mistreatment of employee pension funds, Wall Street CEO’s apparently still have enough credibility in some quarters to be treated as experts in fiscal responsibility. They’re using that credibility to suggest that America’s middle-class accept cuts to Social Security and Medicare, two of the few programs left to protect them from the effects of runaway corporate greed. American news outlets accord these CEOs an extraordinary and unearned measure of respectability and authority. Very few articles about ‘Fix the Debt’ mention the massive fraud settlements and fines levied against these CEO’s institutions. Although CEO’s aren’t greedy by definition, most of the ones on ‘Fix the Debt’s’ list fit that description. Most of the ones who aren’t running Wall Street banks lead defense contracting firms that earn excessive profits from the US taxpayer, while lecturing those same taxpayers on the need for the middle class to cut back on its expectations of financial security when it reaches retirement age. ‘Fix the Debt’ is one of a number of interlocking organizations which are largely financed by right-wing billionaire Pete Peterson, who made his money in the hedge fund business and yet is treated by many journalists as if he were Mother Teresa.

3.) Corporate executives are now trained to rip people off.

This writer spent a number of years in the business world during the 1990s, as the owner of a small technology-based retail storefront operation. During this time, corporate America was transforming itself from a customer-driven set of industries to a greed-driven and conscience-less wealth extraction machine for the investor class. Let me use the Gillette Company as an example. As most bearded men know, the Gillette business model is a sneaky one. The company ropes customers in with low-cost razors and then charges an outrageous amount for replacement blades. This is obviously a deceptive business model. Another example from the 1990’s and (to a lesser degree) 2000’s is that of the pay phone industry, which wanted to increase turnover in the use of its phones. The allegedly ‘brilliant’ thinking of a junior executive taken directly from the minutes of board meetings (I will decline to name the company) proposed that bricks be put in the handsets of all their phones. In the same “brainstorming” session, which sometimes are innocuously called “meetings”, another executive suggested making the surfaces underneath the phones slanted, so that people couldn’t leave their things there while they spoke on the phone. The net result was that people paid a quarter to use a pay phone, but then grew uncomfortable and were unable to complete their calls. The beauty of it – from the company’s point of view – was that they didn’t even know why they were hanging up. They merely had an unsatisfying customer experience, while the phone company got to turn over customers more quickly and collect more quarters. Again, nobody back then objected that this was poor customer service, and an underhanded way to deal with customers. If you multiply those experiences ten thousandfold, you have an idea of the culture of corruption which is taking place every day in companies all across the country. That’s not to say there aren’t companies that still believe in customer service; there are, and I’m grateful every time I encounter one. But the corporate culture of America has become a culture of cheating, manipulation and greed. (The pay phone industry in this country is dead, by the way. Karma, as they say, is a bitch.)

4.) And then there’s the music recording industry.

Our idealization of greed isn’t confined to the business section of our newspapers. While white liberals decry the idealization of wealth, that’s not a new phenomenon either. In fact, it can be found in both lifestyles and the recordings of their own childhood musical heroes. “Money can’t buy everything it’s true, but what it can’t buy I can’t use…” There has always been a tension in popular music between the comfortable idealism of those who come from wealthy backgrounds and the aspiring materialism of pop musicians who were raised in poverty and/or financial insecurity. That latter list includes Elvis Presley, the Beatles, James Brown, and many of today’s hip-hop artists. As the seminal R&B producer, songwriter and performer Swamp Dogg put it in the 1970’s: “I’m not selling out, I’m buying in.” The best of those artists — the Beatles, Brown, and more recently Kanye West — have struggled to reconcile the drive which helped them escape poverty with the idealism that made them gifted artists. Kanye ran into some controversy with his track “New Slaves.” Many people were offended that he equated his own wealth with slavery and Jim Crow laws. It’s Kanye’s charm, as well as his curse, to speak everything that comes into his mind. But I think he was onto something with his line about “throwing back the Maybach keys” and his lyrics about the expectation that African-American celebrities will be excessive spenders.

Self-made celebrities often act as ritualized consumers on behalf of the general public. Their job is to swallow up the most excessive luxuries the wealthy lifestyle has to offer. They inadvertently use their power and influence to reinforce the corporate-driven, consumerist tropes that keep us enslaved to our own material desires. By naming the phenomenon and ritually “throwing the keys,” Kanye West is trying to break a pattern that has stretched from Tupelo in Mississippi to Compton in California, from Liverpool in England to Bed-Sty and Brownsville in New York.

5.) Insight and spirituality are being commercialized.

One of the most notorious examples of the commercialization of faith and spirituality is the “prosperity gospel”, which is being propagated primarily in Protestant, catholic, and non- or- interdenominational churches here in the US. As the late and well-known televangelist pioneer Oral Roberts once said, “If you have a need, you must plant a seed”. In order to obtain, we must first give, or so they say. But when we examine the Scriptures, we find this is quite the reverse of what Christ taught us in the Sermon on the Mount: “So do not worry, saying ‘What shall we eat?’, or ‘What shall we drink?’, or ‘What shall we wear’? For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6: 31-33, NIV) So, instead of “planting a seed” to get our needs met, if we have a need we should be on our knees in prayer, not giving some crooked televangelist all your grocery money. Even Eastern spiritual traditions like Buddhism are being co-mingled with idealized visions of what it means to be a billionaire. From TED talks to mindfulness conferences like the Wisdom 2.0 conference, the search for individual and collective insight is becoming increasingly identified with the desire to accumulate wealth. “You can have it all,” these events seem to say. “You can gain peace of mind, unlock the mysteries of human existence, and become a billionaire, all at the same time.” Some of these events even seem to argue that they are one and the same journey, which is a complete fallacy. It’s heaven and Nirvana, all in one ‘special’ package — with corporate sponsorship.

6.) Kindness and thoughtfulness toward our fellow human beings has become a commodity.

The Clinton Global Initiative has continued to promote misleading deficit-reduction materials in partnership with the hedge fund billionaires. It featured a leader from Morgan Stanley — one of the institutions which was instrumental in causing the 2008 financial crisis — talking about how to recover from the financial crisis. It’s not just Bill and Hillary. In the midst of negotiating yet another multi-billion dollar fraud settlement, JP Morgan Chase was given the honor (and the public relations coup) of sponsoring the fund raising concert for victims of Hurricane Sandy headlined by the Rolling Stones. But then, the Stones have a relationship with big banks that goes back to their sponsorship deal with AmeriQuest, the mortgage company which was slammed for deceitful practices and discriminatory lending toward minorities. That’s not to say corporate charity, or for that matter the charity of billionaires, is a bad thing. Everyone should incorporate charity into their way of life, and those who are most fortunate should give the most in return. Nobody argues with that. The sickness comes when we allow certain types of charity to glorify the giver, or when it’s considered impolite to mention any relationship between, say, the excessive wealth accumulation of the givers and the need for charity in the first place.

7.) America’s Soul Sickness

Today there are countless signs that our culture is sick with greed. You don’t need to be told that. Just look around. I never was able to afford the Rolls-Royce’s and Jaguar roadsters of my childhood fantasies. But then, those things were only an expression of pain. They reflected a deep yearning to be somewhere else, to be someone else, to escape the daily trials of everyday existence and replace them with a fantasy bubble that kept me at a glittering distance from the sufferings of the real world. Today’s national culture of greed is also an expression of pain and fear. It’s more terrifying than ever to try to survive on a middle-class income. Most people live one or two paychecks away from utter disaster. Very few of us feel that we have any real control over our own fate. The lives of reality show stars, the Hollywood tabloids and dangerous drugs like ‘meth’ and ‘spice’ are some of the most obvious of our escapist fantasies. But as long as we live in a fantasy world, we won’t be working to change the real one. True happiness is found in a life lived with meaning. It’s not just that I can’t afford that car. We can’t afford it. We can’t afford to live in a world where our only aspiration is to accumulate wealth, regardless of how it’s accumulated – while ignoring the flourishing of the human spirit in its artistic, idealistic and intellectual aspects. The love of possessions is a sickness. People are losing their lives in the pursuit of wealth and possessions. They’re dying from gunshot wounds and heart attacks, in gang battles and in solitary hospital beds. And it’s getting worse. The symptoms are appearing, not just in ourselves, but in the planet we call home. If we don’t cure it soon, it could prove fatal for all of us.

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The Stranglehold of the Rich

The Stranglehold of the Rich

by Rev. Paul J. Bern

Fight injustice

Fight injustice In the Name of Jesus

Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming upon you. Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes. Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded wealth in the last days. Look! The wages you failed to pay the workman who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty. You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter. You have condemned and murdered innocent men who were not opposing you.” (James chapter 5, verses 1-6, NIV)

We have now arrived at a point in our nation’s history where the US is still clinging to its former status as a superpower and refusing to move on. In the process, the United States has committed one of our history’s most colossal mistakes while basking in the glory of the act, and forgetting the political and financial consequences for doing so. I’m talking about America’s ill-advised and poorly thought out invasion and occupation of Iraq from 2003 until the end of 2011. This was, for all practical intents and purposes, a war manufactured for the financial benefit of the 1% right wing elitists who have been ruling over us with an increasingly violent iron fist (such as police officers shooting unarmed civilians). The 1% elites want glory today, tomorrow, and forever. They want to be worshiped like gods, which is absurd to put it mildly. They want credit for being the heroes, for saving civilization. The irony is that their narrow-mindedness, their embedded lack of perspective, and their superficial view on world events dooms them to be a curse upon their own land. Little or nothing has been getting done because of almost constant bickering between Congress and the President. And what are Congress and the President fighting to defend? One of the worst situations this country has ever been in; the triple combination of an unprecedented economic crisis, the complete collapse of manufacturing, and what can only be described as a student loan ‘bubble’. The first of these three is a solvency issue, the second is due to what turned out to be the horrifically short-sighted out-sourcing of middle class American jobs, while the last is due to issues of excessive debt due to predatory lending practices. All three exist with the active participation of the US government. None of this happened by accident.

America has spent itself into oblivion, and this series of events – of which the economic crisis of 2008 was only a part – was engineered by the crooks on Wall Street and at the Federal Reserve, their lobbyists in Washington and the corrupt politicians who do their bidding, and the ‘Fortune 100’ multinational corporations who peddle the top 1%’s products and services. Clearly some very serious measures must be taken ASAP. There must be criminal prosecution of those responsible (which hasn’t even started as I write this), and a total overhaul of America’s financial and monetary systems is similarly overdue. So what should be done? That’s the problem, progress in this regard has been nearly nonexistent on the part of those who are charged with the task of overseeing it. Want reform of the financial markets? Screw you, we’re filibustering in the Senate. Want single payer health care? Forget it, we’re going to ram ‘Obamacare’ down your throats instead. Want an improved health care system? Nope, America will continue to allow forty thousand people a year to die so the rest can be charged twice as much as the rest of the world for inferior care!! Want jobs? You might as well forget about that, too, they have all been shipped overseas for pennies on the dollar, and they’re not coming back. Still need a job? No problem! You may choose between restaurants, fast food outlets, big box stores of various types, or door-to-door sales. Wow, isn’t this variety stimulating?? Or how about this one: Ready to retire? Not! Wall St. gambled your retirement away on derivatives and other B.S. Ponzi schemes, and so far nobody on Wall Street or at the Fed has served one single day. They took the rest of the money and paid cash for every foreclosed or abandoned piece of real estate they could find. Meanwhile back at the ranch, the balances on your 401K and your IRA are hovering at, or they are near, or well below, zero!

Of course, resisting any or all this is being painted as resisting big government and the military-industrial complex. People who resist can get arrested and jailed, as we all know too well. People like myself, who dare to openly express dissenting political and religious views, can be arbitrarily labeled as “domestic terrorists” by law enforcement. When that happens people can get locked up without being charged with a crime, and they can be held indefinitely in flagrant violation of the US Constitution (see the US Constitution, amendments 5, 6 and 7, and search ‘NDAA’ for details). Never mind that America’s leaders conduct speaks poorly to their skills as fiscal guardians. The US political establishment needs their dark enemies to highlight their glorious crusades. The problem with that is, the whole darn world is sick and tired of endless wars, wars that we never wanted to begin with. On the other hand, single payer health care – which would essentially be putting everyone on Medicare and eliminating Medicaid – has to be this great evil, ‘socialist’ health care reform purported to be government taking decisions out of your doctor’s hands. All I can say about that is to quote Thomas Jefferson, who said, “The first and primary purpose of any good government should be the safety and the general welfare of its people”.

Never mind the facts. They did this all along during the latter Bush administration plus the entire Obama administration. Everything was about defending what the President and Congress were doing, everything was about justifying colossal mistakes. Whether turning a soldier’s request for more armor into another chapter in the epic of the mainstream media, lying about the death of Pat Tillman, using Jessica Lynch as a PR stunt, or blaming hurricane Katrina’s death toll and the subsequent humanitarian disaster on the victims themselves, or coming up with a million different justifications for outing former CIA asset Valerie Wilson, the 1% elite right wing nuts and their conservative/neocon lap dogs devoted themselves to the task of rationalizing failure and mass murder on an enormous scale.

If I seem angry here, it is a righteous anger, and it reflects the anger of much of the American public. This is what I’ve fought against and wrote about for the last five years. I don’t want to live in a country where the government exists in an alternate universe, where the politicians are so oblivious to reality. I refuse to live in a country where 99% of the wealth is in the hands of 1% of the population. And I’m not freaking done, not by a long shot! Since I don’t have plans to leave this country that I love, I am an unofficial part of the Occupy and 99% Movements, and I write and publish nonfiction books about these movements, US civil rights, human rights worldwide, about economic inequality and how to combat it, and about ending the wars overseas and the drug war here at home. Whether it’s me by myself, or millions answering the call around my nation, our goal must be to make the government that runs this country a part of the reality-based community, which is the rest of us. I’m in favor of a government that is lean, agile and flexible, and it’s also time to make government Web-based and paperless, which would result in a tremendous reduction in costs and overhead. If the current government is unwilling to consider any of this, it is ‘we the people’ who will have to forcibly replace that government. This means mass civil unrest at best, or civil war at its worst. I would choose the latter only as a last resort. But the thing is, it looks like we’re nearly there already.

I wish our current government would finally come to grips with the fact that America’s government is broken, and it has been for many years. They can keep their bogus two party system, keep on favoring only ultra-conservative ideas that trample everybody else underfoot, even keep on using the US Constitution for a door mat. But what gives Congress, the president, the Fed and Wall Street the right to let the whole country go straight to hell just to enrich themselves, or for political jockeying for position? These jokers are more out of touch with America than they’ve been in years, in no small part due to their failure to put politics aside and deal with a financial emergency America is faced with. The fortunes of the nation and its people come first, not the fortunes of political parties nor the needs of their political donors and their accompanying armies of lobbyists. This is what is meant by the term ‘people before profits’.

Failure is not an option for the American people. America’s future, and especially that of its children and grandchildren, is at stake. A government that allows things to fail just to score political points is guilty of willful dereliction of duty, and by extension criminal negligence. A government that justifies failure by scoring political points on the evening news is guilty of gross malfeasance in the course of their duties, a potentially impeachable offense. Such behavior is not worthy of governing this country in any capacity. For the last two decades since NAFTA was passed into law, America has been the victim of unwise policies, policies that naively presupposed a willingness for restraint from the financial sector, policies that assumed that perseverance in military campaigns whose very legality is dubious would somehow lead to success. These were people who looked at our economy in the summer of 2008 and said the economy was fundamentally sound, right up until the point where the economic and real estate crashes made the obvious truth unavoidable. Our government has proven itself to be incompetent, and so it must be taken out of the way and replaced.

I don’t want more government by people who are simply persisting in their policies until events overtake them and make it impossible for them to maintain the status quo. I want people who are adapting to our country’s problems in advance, and allowing the government that same flexibility. On the other hand, if the government continues to do nothing but public bickering while engaging in private deal-making in smoke filled rooms, the American populace will be forced to take matters into their own hands. How this situation turns out could depend on the reaction of authorities. The folks in charge need to know that our intentions are peaceful, and that we only wish to take up where Rev. Dr. King left off in April of ’68. We intend to maintain that peace even in the face of difficult odds or outside interference. The only exception would be if we were to be attacked by anyone, uniformed or otherwise. In that event we would be forced to fight back. Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that. We do not seek trouble, only justice and equality.

The last thing this country needs is another decade, or decades, worth of governance from political parties that cannot tell the difference between a defeat and a victory, and who resists all efforts to bring its attentions to the American people’s problems. There is at least a recognition among the rank and file that the current situation is not to be tolerated, or cannot be continued. The conservative ‘charge of the light brigade’ against the American people must end, and this country should be allowed to get back to deciding what the wise thing is for America’s 99%, not what is politically convenient and economically profitable to an undignified, money-and-power worshiping 1% minority.

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Been ‘feeling the Bern’ lately?

Have you been feeling the Bern (Bernie Sanders, that is)? Tired of feeling “burned” by the government? Get the book that started the Democratic Socialist movement back in 2011! The Middle and Working Class Manifestoby Rev. Paul J. Bern. Before the Sanders presidential campaign, before there was Occupy Wall St., before “the 99%” and Anonymous, before Ferguson, Mo. and Freddy Gray, before Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown and Eric Garner, before the ‘Arab Spring’, Syria and Palestine, there was this book, the book that helped start it all! Available in paperback on Amazon for $18.95, or get a leftover 1st edition for $9.95 with free shipping at www.pcmatl.org/books-and-donations Or, buy the E-book (350 pages) on Smashwords.com, Goodreads.com, Kindle or Nook for $3.00, or on Pay Hip at https://payhip.com/b/Tpw5 To watch the video before you buy, visit http://youtu.be/VZguRDJmCqc

DCIM100MEDIA

 

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In Honor of Rev. Dr. King

I Dare To Dream

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

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

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

I dare to dream of a new America with a robust and viable economy. That is why I have been insisting on a $15.00 per hour minimum wage since 2010 (earlier versions of my book were $10.00 and $14.00 per hour respectively). I dare to dream of a new America where education will be subsidized from the cradle to the grave so that the US develops the most formidable work force the world has ever seen. I dare to dream of an America where all workers have the right to organize, to a flexible work week and to paid family or maternity leave. Most other developed countries already do this. The US is the only exception and that has got to change. The only remaining question in my mind is whether we can accomplish this peacefully or otherwise, and it is looking more and more to me like it could be the latter, and that concerns me a great deal.

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

I dare to dream of a country with new public works programs that put an end to unemployment forever so the USA can have full employment all the time. America’s infrastructure needs to be rebuilt, and its inner cities are in dire need of an overhaul. What a better way to accomplish this! People by and large don’t want a handout, they want to earn a decent living!

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

I dare to dream of a new nation where unconditional equality is the law of the land for every citizen without exception, and this will include economic equality. I dare to dream of a new America where there is no more income tax, no capital gains tax, no alternative minimum tax, no estate tax, no self-employment tax, and where families and businesses can have a tax free income unless they are very wealthy. In its place would be a national sales tax, such as a Consumption Tax, where everyone pays proportionately the same tax rate on only what they consume, plus an “excess wealth tax” for persons with annual incomes exceeding $3 million, and for businesses with annual proceeds exceeding $700 million, so America’s budget can be balanced and fair.

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

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

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

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

I dare to dream of the end to America’s sinister war on drugs, where all convicted nonviolent drug offenders can qualify for alternative sentences for their offenses so they may obtain early release, and where all natural (i.e. cannabis, mushrooms, peyote, etc.) drugs are legalized, regulated and taxed by appropriate legislation for medical and recreational use.

Finally, I dare to dream of a world in which all this is financially easily achievable. That’s because all the money currently being wasted on the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, and to a lesser extent in Pakistan, Libya and elsewhere will be redirected towards all these dreams that I have just mentioned. The money is already there, its just being budgeted in all the wrong places. Let me tell you why. If the US military took all the money it spent occupying Afghanistan for just one day and put it into an interest-bearing account, there would be enough money available to send every American school kid from the first grade up to high school seniors through 4 years of college fully paid for, including tuition, dorms, books, food, access to the Internet and to public transportation. Here’s another example: If the US government took all that money set aside from one days worth of military expenditures in just Afghanistan alone, there would be enough money to build a 2,500 square feet house, fully furnished and stocked with a year’s worth of groceries, with all the utilities already turned on, for every homeless person in the US, beginning with all the kids. That’s how easily we can end homelessness in the richest country in the world. Since the political will to do these things currently isn’t there, and since it never will be so long as we wait on the government to fix all this stuff, it is up to “we the people” to do the job ourselves.

Just as surely as there was an Arab Spring beginning in 2011 that is still ongoing, so I am telling you that there will be an American Spring in 2015. Beginning in 2011 with the start-up of the “Occupy” and “99%” Movements, of which I am proud to be a part, this uprising of the American people against the top 1% has exploded like an atomic mushroom cloud over the American political and economic elite. Once this process is complete, the American people will take back what has been stolen from them without anyone having fired a single shot. Let the remaining 99% of us try first to peacefully take back what has been stolen from us over the last 100 years. But if peaceful revolution is stifled we will be left with no choice but to resort to force. We can only accomplish this by uniting together as one and acting as one body to break free from the shackles of oppression that have us all enslaved.

You have just read the last four pages of chapter 9 of my book, “The Middle and Working Class Manifesto” (3rd edition, Copyright 2011, 2016 by Rev. Paul J. Bern, Progressive Christian Ministries of Greater Atlanta, Inc., 470 pages, $18.95 on Amazon, or get the E-book on Pay-hip at https://payhip.com/b/CV5h [also on Kindle or Nook] for $3.50) To order your copy, go to http://www.pcmatl.org/books-and-donations. I also have a few leftover 1st editions in softback for $9.95 with free shipping, but quantities are very limited. Thanks so much! Shalom.

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Announcing: The perfect stocking stuffer for avid readers, political left wing nuts, pundits and patriots

The Middle and Working Class ManifestoDCIM100MEDIA Before there was Occupy Wall St., before “the 99%” and Anonymous, before Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown and Eric Garner, before the ‘Arab Spring’, Syria and Palestine, there was this book, the book that inspired it all. $9.95, free shipping, tax deductible. http://www.pcmga.org/books_and_donations

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Is The Revolution Really Beginning? If So, It’s About Time!

The Coming Revolution May Not Be Televised

by Pastor Paul J. Bern

I cant breathe

Thanks to the injustices against Trayvon Williams in Florida and Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri earlier this year, and more recently Eric Garner in New York City, it is abundantly clear to “we the people” that war has been declared on us by our government, with the police looking like poorly paid wannabe mercenaries. I write today about these repeated clashes that have grown into a kind of cultural resistance not seen since the civil rights protests and anti-war demonstrations of the 1950’s, ’60’s and the early ’70’s. This culture of resistance, which has been building up gradually ever since that time up until now is beginning to have a noticeable effect as it continues to grow slowly but steadily. There are cracks in the pillars of power, and they’re starting to get a little bigger. It’s up to us to shine the light on the lies, the spins and the ‘black ops’ and shadow government that has been operating smoothly behind the scenes ever since they killed President John Kennedy to seize power. It is up to us – ‘we the people’ – to uncover the systemic open corruption that has been stealing America’s future. I look back over the events of the past two years and feel cautiously optimistic, because I have seen this movement that is continuously building momentum.

Here in Atlanta’s inner city where I live and work as a freelance writer, Web pastor and itinerant missionary, I have perceived what I would describe as a strong sense of suspense in the air. Some people say that they weren’t feeling enough pain to warrant being angry about the Ferguson and New York decisions, and that we hadn’t reached the tipping point as of yet. They’re only interested in taking the safe way out. I have had still others tell me that, as a Christian minister, it’s my duty to follow the laws without question and pay my taxes unfailingly. They have told me that it is not right for a Web pastor to take sides in favor of the protesters, much less write and blog about it. But to them I quote the Book of James, where it is written about those in charge who abuse their authority: “Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming upon you. Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes. Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded wealth in the last days. Look! The wages you failed to pay your workman who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty. You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter. You have condemned and murdered innocent men, who were not opposing you.” (James chapter 5, verses 1-6 NIV) There are others, however, who are ready to strike, such as what just happened with the fast food and convenience store workers this past week all over the country. The folks who barricade themselves in their homes and apartments are gradually becoming outnumbered by those who insist on staying out in the streets and making their extreme displeasure known to those who still presume to be in charge. They have staked out a place in the heart of the monster and held it. Excitement and wonder are seemingly everywhere.

Could ‘we the people’ really take on Wall Street and the lobbyists on Capitol Hill? Obviously Wall Street and the offices on K Street in Washington, DC thought so because they ordered excessive and constant police protection. They must have seen something brewing because Wall Street firms had donated unprecedented millions to the NYPD over the previous year. It was police aggression towards peaceful protesters that grabbed public attention and sympathy. For example, a few weeks after the start of Occupy Wall Street in September of 2011, an amazing 43 percent of Americans supported Occupy, a figure that remains largely undiminished to this day.

Three years later, the physical encampments are gone, but the Occupy Movement remains, along with its cousins, the ‘99%’ and Anonymous Movements, worldwide. Occupying public space was a tactic, not an end in itself. It was a way to make the issues visible, a place for people to gather, a model for a new way of doing things based on respect, mutual aid and democracy and a demand to reclaim what has been ruthlessly taken. When the financial crisis hit in 2008, there was an expectation that the government would respond appropriately to stabilize the economy and that we simply had to weather the storm. What we saw instead were massive bailouts of the industry that caused the crash and greatly inadequate steps to secure jobs, housing and health care. This turned some already catastrophic financial crises caused by runaway private speculation into an immense source of private gain for the same very financiers responsible for the catastrophe to begin with. Even worse, it made those catastrophes so much more catastrophic than they really needed to be in the first place. And all this happened prior to the current epidemic of violence in America’s streets and the apparently casual shootings by police officers of unarmed men (in one of the worst cases, a 12-year-old boy was shot to death by the police in Cleveland, Ohio because he held a toy gun).

As a result of all this mess, we’re not heading toward greater income equality. We’re not opposing social and economic injustice like ‘the 1%’ do, but we’re not building up the middle class or supporting unionization either. We’re not eradicating poverty and hunger, they are getting worse. We’re not expanding educational opportunity, fewer and fewer people can afford it. We’re not rebuilding infrastructure, and it’s falling apart. We most certainly aren’t doing anywhere nearly enough to improve race relations. Nothing we’re doing looks anything like the society we built from the New Deal through the 1970s. We’re not doing any of the things that would lead to a more stable and just economy. In fact, we’re doing just the opposite, which means the billionaire bailout society will become even more firmly entrenched. This means that if left unchecked, the trends towards greater inequality and suffering will not only continue, it will accelerate as well. But the billionaire bailout society may have went too far in their exuberance for still more wealth. According to a Stanford study, “animosity toward the financial sector reached its highest level in 40 years in 2012” which undoubtedly fueled the Occupy and 99% Movements, and anger remains high (or higher, take your pick) to this very day. A majority of Americans believe that not nearly enough was done to prosecute the bankers.

When drowning in so many crises it is sometimes hard to see above the surface of the water, but the anti-globalization movement and its offspring, the Occupy and “the 99%” Movements, are having an effect. Since 2000, the World Trade Organization has been unable to advance its agenda and 14 free trade agreements have been stopped by public pressure. Like low-wage workers in the fast food and retail industries, workers must join together to let Congress know that the WTO is not the right path for the U.S.” Another broad coalition of groups has come together to stop the TPP. If they are successful, this will be a huge victory against transnational corporate power. And JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon admitted that the bank broke the law. Another important win that is inspiring many in the US took place in Colombia, where farmers went on a prolonged strike to win back the right to use their own seeds. The anti-Monsanto and anti-GMO movement is strong here. Thousands of people marched there this week for a law to protect themselves from pesticides. And, despite an outpouring of money, a vote to label GMO products in Washington State is still holding strong. In still another anti-1% effort by ‘we the people’, stopping the imminent attack on Syria earlier this year was a win for people everywhere and a loss for the military industrial complex. Raytheon and Lockheed Martin in particular were set to make hundreds of millions from it. We must be vigilant, though, because the current diplomatic path could be used to justify an attack in the future in either Syria or Iran.

It is important to recognize these victories and to build from them. It is also important to remember that we never know how close we are to achieving significant change. The Occupy movement spawned the “Idle No More”, “Workers’ Rights” and ‘Climate Change’ movements. Our eyes are open and we can’t ignore what we now see; we know that it is the plutocratic system, not individual inadequacy, that is causing poverty in America. We know that the $1 trillion given by the Federal Reserve to private banks could have created 20 million desperately-needed jobs. We know that the 400 richest people in the US have more wealth than the GDP of entire countries – like Canada and Mexico, for instance! And we know the names of those who control the wealth and exploit people and the planet for it. We no longer expect “leaders” to create the change we need. We are all leaders and change depends on our actions and ours alone. Since the system is too dysfunctional to attempt to repair it, the most logical and practical thing to do is replace it. Humankind already has a tool available off the shelf as a basis for launching such a project, and it’s called ‘the Internet’. The government of the future will be small, efficient and nearly paperless.

The culture of resistance necessary to create the kind of world we want to live in is already here. Actions are taking place daily in the US and around the world. You won’t hear about most of them in the mass media. This week alone, more than one hundred women, most of them undocumented, were arrested in Washington, DC to protest the ways that immigration policies harm their families. Dairy workers in New York protested their abusive working conditions. Protesters in Vermont, ages 65 to 94, chained themselves to the entrance of the Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power plant to demand its immediate closure and Marylanders protested outside an ‘arms bazaar.’ The Cascadia Forest Defenders scaled the capitol building in Oregon to drop a huge banner to protest clear-cutting.

Resistance is not all protesting, it also includes building alternative systems to meet our basic needs. Many who are active in OWS, ‘the 99%’ and Anonymous have been hard at work at this since the physical occupation was shut down. This week the Occupy Money Cooperative announced its launch with a fund raising campaign. They will provide low-cost financial services to the millions of Americans who are unbanked and under-banked and who are preyed upon by banks, check cashing services and payday lenders. It will be an opportunity for all to opt-out of big finance. Just as OWS created the infrastructure that was used to organize Occupy Sandy, and continued for months afterward to provide services to those affected by Superstorm Sandy, occupiers in Colorado responded to the needs of people in the Boulder area who were hit by massive flooding.

Hard work is being done every day to take on entrenched corporate power and create a new world based on principles such as mutual aid, community, equity, solidarity and democracy. Although we face an uncertain future, we embrace the chaos that defines our times. There is no alternative but to challenge the status quo of ever-increasing debt, shrinking job opportunities and disappearing civil rights. We can’t say what the outcome will be or whether we will live to see the world we hope to create. Can there even be an endpoint? Perhaps the most important piece of social transformation is not a goal but rather is the process of living in a way that is consistent with our values. We live in the culture of resistance which requires constant nurturing to bend the arc of time towards justice.

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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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