Tag Archives: medical marijuana

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now available in audio too, simply click here! 🙂

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Six Ways That Cannabis Criminalization

Defies All Reason and Logic

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Free book excerpt #3 from the latest release from Pastor Paul J. Bern

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

Many cops favor legalization A Spring 2014 issue of Law Officer magazine provided a poll of its own showing an even more surprising finding: a majority of law enforcement officers also support marijuana policy reform. There is broad support for change among the readership of the publication as well, 97% of whom indicated they are or had been in law enforcement. Some of the most surprising results include 66% saying marijuana possession should be legalized, decriminalized, legalized for medical reasons or illegal but only punished with fines, with the largest plurality (37%) supporting legalization. Even more surprising, almost 27% supported legalizing “the sale of marijuana in large quantities” with 36% calling for some form of change from the current model. While support for decriminalizing possession of other drugs was significantly lower, 14% of this population (generally thought to be the most opposed to reform) supported changes in policy. Before president Nixon declared the war on drugs in the early 1970s, policing was a different creature altogether. Police were the “good guys” going after the “bad guys” – the rapists, the murderers, the child molesters – most people could agree society was better without. Since that time, the very nature of policing has changed. Today enforcing drug laws not only occupies a huge portion of police time, it forms much of the identity of the profession and of individual officers who dedicate their lives to serving the public. That’s why, to me, the finding that more officers support the legalization of marijuana possession than support the status quo is remarkable.

But in other ways, this finding is unsurprising. I have always believed that those in the trenches were those most privy to the injustice and the lack of logic to the war on drugs, and therefore the most dedicated to righting this wrong. Who better to question its results? That so many officers were brave enough to challenge the prohibition of marijuana – one of the pillars upon which their professional identity is founded – is an act of honor for the love of their profession. Although I commend Law Officer magazine for conducting this study, I find that the questions they didn’t ask are the ones most relevant to police officer and citizen alike: Will the legalization of marijuana and other drugs lead to a reduction in the power of street gangs and cartels that terrorize our citizens? Will it allow police officers to focus greater attention on violent crimes and restore good relations with the communities in which they operate? Ultimately, will it lead to less violence? I hope and believe that most officers brave enough to be honest with themselves about the answers can only answer in the affirmative to these questions. Cops on the street are the ones who see – every day – that the prohibition of drugs, just like the prohibition of alcohol from 90 years ago, is what provides the tremendous profits to the criminal organizations that provide the drugs on our streets. Picking up the petty drug dealer on the corner – the kinds of arrests that federal grants and asset forfeiture laws incentivize – does nothing to affect the long-term supply of drugs and only causes more violence as rival gangs battle to fill power vacuums. Moreover, all of this has caused society generally and our communities of color specifically to look upon the police as people to be feared rather than as public servants advancing public safety, and that that distrust, far from being merely an abstract concept, makes police officers jobs infinitely more difficult as community members shy away from cooperating in investigations.

Top 10 Reasons to Legalize Marijuana Now

10.) Hemp benefits are tremendous! Hemp can be made into paper, paneling, plastics, clothing and thousands of other useful products. The highly nutritious seeds can be used to make flour, cooking oil and cattle feed. This environmentally friendly plant grows without herbicides, nourishes the soil, matures quickly and provides high yields. It’s the number one biomass producer in the world – ten tons per acre in four months. It could be an excellent fuel-producing crop. Hemp, “nature’s perfect plant,” could bring a bonanza to hurting American farmers while greatly reducing America’s dependence on fossil fuels, which could significantly mitigate climate change.

9.) Prohibition diverts billions from the needy. More than 50 government agencies feed at the drug war trough. Food stamps and other social programs are being slashed while billions are spent trying to stop adults from using marijuana.

8.) Prohibition is clearly counterproductive. Guaranteeing massive profits to anyone on earth who can produce and deliver marijuana to our streets cannot do anything but assure that even more will be produced and delivered.

7.) Criminalizing marijuana lacks moral justification. A real crime implies a victim and a perpetrator. Can you imagine being jailed for robbing yourself? As insane as this sounds, our government has done the equivalent by making adult use of marijuana a crime. Only a depraved, corrupt government could invent a crime you commit against yourself.

6.) Marijuana users are not debased human beings. Cultures throughout history – and prehistory! – have altered their minds with a variety of drugs. Billions around the world derive positive benefits from mind-altering drugs (especially from alcohol, nicotine, caffeine and marijuana). Demonizing and criminalizing some drugs, while approving others without rational criteria, is clearly arbitrary and deceitful. Why are marijuana users criminals while alcohol and tobacco users are not? Why are marijuana dealers demonized, but alcohol and tobacco dealers are not?

5.) Marijuana is effective medicine. There’s overwhelming evidence that marijuana can safely relieve pain, nausea and vomiting caused by various illnesses. In fact, marijuana is patently safer than many commonly prescribed drugs.

4.) Promising medical research is thwarted. The discovery of naturally occurring marijuana-like substances in the human body that activate so-called cannabinoid receptors has opened up vast possibilities for new medicines derived from the 66 or so cannabinoids identified in marijuana. These receptors are not just in the brain, but also found in many other parts of the body including the immune, endocrine and reproductive systems.

3.) Billions in potential taxes go to drug cartels. Our cash-strapped states are being cheated out of billions that could be obtained by taxing and regulating marijuana like alcohol.

2.) Thousands of prohibition murders occur each year. Mexico is the world’s largest exporter of marijuana (most goes to the United States). There were at least 24,000 prohibition-related murders in Mexico since 2006. Thousands more died here, also a direct result of marijuana prohibition.

1.) Prohibition denies our most basic human right. Prohibition takes away our right of sovereignty over our own bodies and gives this power to government. Does any other human right make sense if we don’t have sovereignty over our own bodies? There’s a word for people who don’t have sovereignty over their own bodies: slaves.

Learn more at http://www.pcmatl.org/#!books-and-donations/c17et

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Free excerpt #2 from my recent book release “Cannabis Legalization and the Bible: Compatible or Not?” by Rev. Paul J. Bern

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“OK, so now let me go deeper. Approximately 100,000 Americans die accidentally each year from legally obtained prescription drugs — that’s 270 per day or more than twice as many as there are killed in car accidents each day. This shows you how dangerous prescription medications truly are. To make matters worse, we are the only developed country that doesn’t control prescription drug prices, meaning that the drug companies can charge whatever they want to – even for drugs that don’t work very well. The pharmaceutical industry’s unlimited hikes in their prices have helped make health insurance unaffordable for most Americans. This is also why wages of American workers have stagnated. When health premiums rise, employers must get the extra money from somewhere, and employee raises are one of the first things to go. Get the price of prescription drugs under control, and this problem goes away on its own.

But what if some of that money that we are spending on apparently dangerous but legal prescription drugs was redirected towards medical marijuana? Has modern medicine been able to document the positive effects of cannabis medication? Research into possible medical uses of cannabis is enjoying a renaissance. In recent years, studies have shown potential for treating nausea, vomiting, premenstrual syndrome, insomnia, migraines, multiple sclerosis, spinal cord injuries, alcohol abuse, collagen-induced arthritis, asthma, atherosclerosis, bipolar disorder, depression, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Huntington’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, sickle-cell anemia, sleep apnea, Alzheimer’s disease, glaucoma and anorexia nervosa. It is also documented to be very effective for patients undergoing chemotherapy for cancer. I sometimes use medical marijuana because it helps me manage bipolar disorder, post traumatic stress disorder and a permanent back injury. I can personally testify that, when used responsibly, medical cannabis can be surprisingly effective, and with zero side effects.

Portugal decriminalized the use of all drugs in a groundbreaking law passed in 2000. Just last year, Uruguay in South America did the same. Now, the United States, which has waged a 40+ year, $1 trillion war on drugs, is looking for answers in both countries, which is reaping the benefits of what once looked like a dangerous gamble. White House drug czar at the time Gil Kerlikowske visited Portugal in September 2010 to learn about its drug reforms, and other countries — including Norway, Denmark, Australia and Peru — have taken interest, too. The disasters that were predicted by critics didn’t happen. The answer can be summed up in two little words – provide treatment! Here’s what happened in Portugal between 2000 and 2010 as a result of decriminalization of formerly illegal drugs:

• There were small increases in illicit drug use among adults, but decreases for adolescents and problem users, such as drug addicts and prisoners.

• Drug-related court cases dropped 66 percent.

• Drug-related HIV cases dropped 75 percent. In 2002, 49 percent of people with AIDS were addicts; by 2010 that number fell to 27 percent.

• The number of regular users held steady at less than 3 percent of the population for marijuana and less than 0.3 percent for heroin and cocaine — figures which show decriminalization brought no surge in drug use.

• The number of people treated for drug addiction rose 20 percent from 2001 to 2008.

Officials have not yet worked out the cost of the program, but they expect no increase in spending, since most of the money was diverted from the justice system to the public health service. The U.S. is spending $74 billion this year on criminal and court proceedings for drug offenders, compared with $3.6 billion for treatment. The result of the prohibition of alcohol sales and consumption during the 1920’s was the gangster era of Al Capone, Bonnie and Clyde and scores of other lesser-known hoodlums and gangs that profited from the violent underground economy that Prohibition created. Today we have an identical situation since the drug trade is mostly in the hands of gangsters and thugs, with the criminals killing innocent bystanders and each other in fights over turf and cash flow. The fact that more people are being locked up while crime has decreased and our prisons are already bursting at the seams, particularly in minority communities, constitutes a 21st century civil rights issue of the highest order. It is time for the US government and law enforcement to ‘stand down red alert’ in the war on drugs. It’s time to end this madness and this stupidity.”

Written by a nondenominational minister, this book uses the Bible to provide a simple explanation for why marijuana criminalization is a sin against God. Order now on Kindle ($6.95) at https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B00J1X7802 or buy the softback direct ($14.95, tax deductible) at http://www.pcmatl.org/#!books-and-donations/c17et

One third of all proceeds will be donated to Progressive Christian Ministries of Greater Atlanta, Inc. to be used for our “Feed and Educate” program for the homeless, and for operating expenses associated with this ministry.

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Just released by Author Rev. Paul J. Bern…..

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Didn’t God Make That Plant to Begin With?

It’s finally here!! The latest offering from Rev. Paul J. Bern; “Cannabis Legalization and the Bible: Compatible Or Not?” Reveals the “war on drugs” for the race-based, legislated criminal enterprise that it really is, shatters the myths about the allegedly addictive properties of marijuana, exposes America’s prison-for-profit prison and court systems. Goes into great detail about the huge economic benefits of legalizing marijuana and its sister plant, hemp. Written by a nondenominational Christian minister and blogger, this book uses the Bible to provide a simple explanation for why marijuana criminalization is a sin against God. This book shoots the “War On Drugs” right out of the sky while proving conclusively that the ‘drug war’ is actually an all-out war on the American people. Our time to rise up has come!! Making its debut at only $19.95; buy it now at https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B00J1X7802 or at http://www.pcmatl.org/#!books-and-donations/c17et

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The Decline of the American Empire

 

Fall of the American Empire: Part One

This posting is the first in a series of three articles (or sermons on my virtual church website) on the current status of the United States as a country, and why our situation is so serious. The are based on my book, “The Middle and Working Class Manifesto” (Salt and Light Ministries, 472 pages, $14.95; $1.99 for e-book on Nook and Kindle). In my previous postings I have outlined the problems of the US middle class, and how it is slowly being obliterated by the top 1% of the financial pecking order. The end result of this is that the country is being ruined, literally from the inside out, and our only hope remaining is to protest, such as the Occupy Movement, the Coffee Party, Enough is Enough, just to name a few. Search those, plus ‘occupy wall street’, for more information.

 

The plight of 99%’ers like us is that we are experiencing what is tantamount to the confiscation of our wealth and prosperity, and with it our way of life. Many of our jobs, our savings and pensions, our housing and transportation, and our access to higher education and preventative health care, are evaporating before our eyes, and this social injustice will continue unabated until we as a united people rise up as one in a chorus of peaceful revolution. I am convinced that if we do not, the next battle front being entrenched by the top 1% will be against our very freedom. In fact, this latest round of class warfare being thrust against us has already begun, and it has become known as the ‘prison-industrial complex’. Record numbers of people, many of whom are either wrongfully convicted or are harmless substance abusers in need of professional help, are being locked up systematically, and the process is slowly getting worse.

 

Prisons for Profit

The United States, according to the New York Times, has 5% of the World’s population and 25% of all people incarcerated on the planet! In reality, in the United States, one in every hundred people are in some kind of incarceration. Incarceration is big business in the United States.

Private corrections companies such as Wackenhut and others charge either the States or the federal government from $30 to $60 a bed to warehouse all these people. In 2007, according to the National Association of State Budgeting Officers, states spent $44 billion in tax dollars on corrections. That is up from $10.6 billion in 1987, a 127 increase once adjusted for inflation. With money from bonds and the federal government included, total state spending on corrections last year was $49 billion. By the end of 2011, the report said, states are on track to spend an additional $25 billion.

The United States ranks first in prison population. Where did we get all of these criminals? Well the answer comes from the reckless and costly War on Drugs, the new prohibition that makes convicts and criminals of those who are classified in more enlightened countries such as Holland and the Netherlands as having a substance abuse problem. In 2000 there were 74,276 drug related prisoners. In 2008 it was 95,079. In 2010 it was 95,205. This amounts to 50.7% of the entire prison population (as of 2011 that number is estimated at 54%). It’s also an increase of 28.2% since 2000. We house those with substance abuse problems with professional criminals. What will we get when these people are released after serving an average 55 months in prison?

This is what capitalism has done. People are now profiting by locking up other human beings. And the longer people are are locked up, the more profitable the industry is. Should we be proud that we imprison more people than any nation on Earth? Have we outsourced so many industries along with their factories that we need a giant prison system to keep people employed? If we continue to allow such a disproportionate number of poor and minority citizens to be locked up, released without rehabilitation, and locked up again, modern slavery will continue to thrive. We are supporting a modern form of slavery if we do not, at the very least, lessen the punishment for drug offenses, do away with the unconstitutional “three strikes” laws and offer education and rehabilitation as an alternative to incarceration. If we retrain prisoners, we give them a trade. If we simply incarcerate them and release them, all we get are more prisoners.

Remember, this “prison-industrial complex” is bought and paid for, and brought to you by the same “government” that has brought you: The FBI, The DEA, The BATFE, The only Atomic Bombs ever used in War, Three mile Island, Area 51, The Bay of Pigs invasion, Vietnam, Watergate, Iran Contra, Ruby Ridge, ID. and Waco, TX., Grenada, Nicaragua, Somalia, FEMA disasters and the Patriot Act. and of course the war in Iraq I and II, and now Afghanistan, Pakistan and Libya. All of this has been and will be done in the name of National Security. When the American war machine finishes its conquests overseas to “acquire” Middle Eastern oil, the final step will be to bring the troops home so the “new world order” can turn their weapons on us. The final step, you see, will be the conquest of the Untied States. Only then will the domination and control over everything and everybody by the top 1% be secure. Allow me to document how this is being done and what the end result will be for our nation if we don’t turn this around in our favor. American citizens have a patriotic duty to dissent and to speak out when it is apparent their government is creating policies and taking actions that are in conflict with the best interests of the people and the laws of the land. The right of patriotic dissent has been a part of America since those days that brought us our independence. Yes, anyone can and should exercise the right to dissent, when the situation requires it.

 

We find ourselves living in a world where the next terrorist attack could kill everyone in your city or town, where the cost of fuel could skyrocket into the stratosphere with the next conflagration in the Middle East or the next natural disaster, and where you can become the next crime statistic on less than a moments notice. And as all these things are taking place, the solution being offered by your government, your political and economic system, your media outlets and even your churches are for more security by way of less individual freedom and personal liberty. I think it is high time that “we the people” rose up to challenge this erroneous notion that security is preferable to freedom. And I think it’s high damn time to correct the perception of the top 1%, making them understand that people are not expendable, nor are we a commodity to be exploited. We need to take matters into our own hands if we hope to get anything done, and we need to directly confront our terrible economic situation if hope to get things moving back in our favor. The system is broken, and it’s up to us to either fix it, bypass it, or replace it altogether.

The end result of the hijacking of our political and economic system by the top 1% is that the country has been run into the ground. In my opinion, and based on quite a bit of on-line research and a library of saved Internet postings and articles, it is severely damaged but it may be repairable. In the meantime, here is what America is faced with in the short term.

Seven Reasons Why Capitalism Can’t Recover Anytime Soon

  1. Central Banks are Dumbfounded. The usual tricks that U.S. and European central banks use to avoid recessions are long-exhausted. Interest rates cannot get any lower.

  2. Trade War. For a global economy to grow, global cooperation is needed. China’s economy will become the world’s largest by 2016, surpassing the US for the first time.

  3. Military War. Foreign war is a good symptom of economic decay. $57,000 a minute – that’s how much the United States spends on Iraq and Afghanistan

  4. U.S. Economy at a Standstill. The most important consumer market in the world, the U.S. is a nation of nearly bankrupt consumers. Nearly thirty million Americans are unemployed or underemployed, while further job losses are certain.

  5. Bailout Capitalism. First it was the banks and other corporations that needed bailing out, and now whole nations. Western nations bailed out their banks by falling into the massive debt that they are now drowning in.

  6. Bailout Repercussions. All western nations — including the U.S. and England — are grappling with their national debts. Rich bond investors are demanding that these countries drastically reduce their deficits, while also demanding that the deficits be reduced on the backs of working families, instead of rich investors.

  7. The Far Right Emerges. To deal with working people more ruthlessly, the radical right is being unleashed. In normal times these bigots yell furiously but no one listens. But in times of economic crisis they’re given endless airtime on all major media outlets.

 

Seven more facts about the decline of the USA.

 

1.In 2000, USA was ranked number one in average wealth per adult. In 2010, USA is seventh.

 

2. USA has lost approximately 42,400 factories and 32 percent of manufacturing jobs since 2000. In 1959, manufacturing represented 28 percent of economic output. In 2008, it represented 11.5 percent.

 

3. Manufacturing employment in the U.S. computer industry is lower in 2010 than it was in 1975.

 

4. In 1980, the United States imported 37 percent of its oil. Now its 60 percent.

 

5.America’s trade deficit with China increased 300 percent in last ten years,which could eventually cost half a million jobs this year alone. Half a trillion yearly leave America due to trade deficit.

 

6. US 15-year-olds do not rank in the top half of all advanced nations in math or science literacy.

 

7. The United States has the third worst poverty rate among all the advanced nations.

So where are US resources being directed? Towards war, of course.

QUICK FACTS ON WARS AND DEFENSE SPENDING

 

—The National Security Advisor says there are less than 100 Al Qaeda operatives in Afghanistan and we have over 100,000 troops and probably as many mercenaries chasing them.

 

—Maintaining one American soldier in Afghanistan for one year costs one million dollars. This expenditure could be for twenty jobs at home with a salary of $50,000 each.

—There are now over 90,000 battlefield casualties from the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars. Over 500,000 veterans patients from the two wars have flooded into VA hospitals and clinics. That’s one new war casualty walking into a VA medical facility every five minutes of every day—about 9,000 new patients every month with no end in sight. Also, one third of all returning veterans from these illegal wars wind up on psychiatric disability. They will never work again. That’s what war does to people, so why do we continue?

 

—The Iraqis still don’t have a government and Christians are being ethnically cleansed.

 

—The cost of the Iraq war alone is likely to be more than three trillion dollars. (Joseph Stiglitz, Nobel winning economist)

 

—190,000 AK-47s handed out by the US Army to Iraqi security force recruits vanished and wound up in the hands of militants.

Afghanistan soldiers have been shooting our troops!

—The total DOD budget for the current fiscal year is over $700 billion. It is an amount just under what the entire rest of the world spends for defense and most of them are allies.

—The Defense Department spends in a few hours more than al Qaeda spends in an entire year.

 

—According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 36 million Americans, including one out of every four children, are currently on food stamps. In the richest country in the world, this is inexcusable.

—Some people think the Federal Reserve banks are United States Government institutions. They are not Government institutions. They are private credit monopolies which prey upon the people of the United States for the benefit of themselves and their foreign customers; foreign and domestic speculators and swindlers; and rich and predatory money lenders.

In next Sunday’s message, I will continue my documentation on what I see as the imminent destruction of the United States as we have known it. But I don’t believe for one instant that it will be the end of the line for the USA. The country itself, the land and its people, its infrastructure, the commercial structures and all the houses, most of the businesses and everything related to them, will all still be here. It will be up to us, the working people of this country (employed or not) who keep things going, to change the system from the bottom up. More on this topic in the next two weeks.

 

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The 99% Part Two

We Are The 99%: The Focus of Our Rage (part 2)

 

The third fundamental human right that I want to write about is to be free from poverty and hunger, with an equal chance at prosperity, in a clean and peaceful environment. How do we do that? We clean up the environment that we already have, and for that you will need lots of people. That brings me to the topic of a huge public works program that this country urgently needs, and this is part of the solution that I see. Therefore, this is indeed a basic human right. This is something that should already have been done at the Presidential level, but unfortunately it is not as of yet. We need massive protests and demonstrations, petitions to the President, and a major effort through the social media to get this passed into law.

All the long-term unemployed people plus all the others I mentioned above will be put to work. Some will be doing environmental cleanup, others will assist with bridge and highway repairs, and still others will be repairing sewers and sidewalks. The homeless will be put to work revitalizing abandoned homes left over from the “great foreclosure robbery” (as I call it in my book). When they are finished with the first batch, they can go live in them as they begin repairs on others. We do have the capacity to have full employment at a living wage, and to end homelessness while ending the foreclosure crisis. This is one way to accomplish just that. I encourage anyone having additional ideas to publish them as I have, the more input the better. And what about all the households where both parents work, or single-parent households? Who is going to watch all those kids? I think we should have on-site daycare available for everybody free of charge. It would be yet another way to create jobs with a starting wage of $10.00 an hour, income tax free.

The fourth fundamental human right, and another way to articulate what we want, is to address the problem of health insurance and its ridiculous cost, pricing 54 million out of the health insurance market and forcing many of us to rely on the local emergency room for medical treatment. It is a fact that every developed country in the world has national health insurance except for the United States. From Europe to Canada to Japan, getting sick is never a problem unless the illness is terminal.

Not so in the USA, where health care is on a for-profit basis, and we are the only country in the developed world where this is so. We have the highest cost for health care and for prescription drugs of any country in the world by far. In other words, good health care in this country is only for those who can afford it. The rest of us are left stranded on the side of the road to health and wellness without remedy, eventually to die, but well before our time.

So what is the solution to this pressing problem? One thing is for sure, every human being on the face of the earth has the unconditional right to good health care. It’s as basic as access to clean water (another area where mankind has some work to do). I strongly maintain that it should be a crime for any patient to die because they lacked access to treatment due to having no money or health insurance. There is simply no excuse for that to be happening in the richest country in the world, and I for one am ashamed that it is occurring, and I doubt that I am the only one who has this opinion. Also, people with preexisting conditions or catastrophic illnesses should always have unconditional access to health care. In the same way, so should anyone seeking treatment for substance abuse, or who need psychiatric care, or who are in need of any organ transplants, or kidney dialysis, or any other serious illness requiring constant monitoring or ongoing therapy.

The question remains then, and it is this: how do we get caught up with the rest of the developed world when it comes to universal health care? Also, how do we do this within the framework of the existing US health care system(s) in order to conserve on start-up costs and minimize overhead? The plan I propose is simple: Take all currently available medical care and put it under one umbrella, so to speak. Merge private insurance, Medicare, Medicaid, government health insurance for civilian employees at the state and federal levels, the military and Congress’ (including the President’s) healthcare plans, plus the entire Veterans Administration hospital system into one single-payer system so that no one is left out. Next, streamline the new universal single-payer health care system by eliminating all the duplicate departments, and by making it an online, Internet-based and paperless system utilizing leading edge Information Technology in order to lower operating costs. And third, once this new online system gets rolled out and becomes available to everyone, we’ll simply eliminate Medicaid by putting everybody in the entire country on Medicare, and all persons will have unconditional access to the same level of care, from the President down to the dishwasher at your favorite restaurant. It’s already being funded with payroll deductions, so no new funding will be necessary, although the Medicare deduction could be raised in the future to cover any increase in costs. And now, before I move on, let me point out another equally big advantage to having a universal healthcare system such as this.

Having the government take over the administration of healthcare for the entire country is a solution that is long overdue. Don’t worry about what might happen to the existing insurance industry, it isn’t going anywhere and I will explain why in the next paragraph. Allowing a hypothetical universal healthcare system to work in this manner would take the burden of providing health insurance for its employees off the backs of businesses, enhancing the profit margins of all US companies both great and small. This will give the American economy – together with US businesses – a far greater shot in the arm than any government tax cut could ever hope to. In the process, making medical care IT-based as I mentioned above will bring American health and wellness into the 21st century with comparatively nominal operating costs.

So what happens to the existing insurance industry? These very companies will be the ones who will administer this new digitized healthcare system. They will do so by way of a competitive bidding process to ensure that costs are kept under control, effectively farming out the day-to-day operations of the healthcare program. The companies with the lowest bids will get the contracts, which will be brought up for renewal periodically – say, every 5 years. Running the new universal healthcare system this way will ensure that only the best insurance companies will be administering the program, and that the marginal or substandard insurance companies be ultimately either forced to improve or go out of business.

The fourth and final main thing I want to write a couple of paragraphs about is that of economic inequality, or what I call in my book “enforced inequality”. Class warfare has been declared by the top 1% against the rest of us, the 99% who are losing our jobs, our homes, our cars, our savings and eventually our health as the enforced liquidation of the US middle and working classes continues. What is needed is a peaceful and orderly redistribution of wealth that is done in a non-violent manner. So how do we accomplish this? I have a couple of ideas, but the first step for America would be to enact an all-new tax system, abolishing the federal income tax and replacing it with a national sales tax. This proposed new tax system will be a 2-tiered system, with the national sales tax – or consumption tax – set at 9% (excluding groceries, fuel, utilities, raw materials, and all government entities). Why 9%, you ask? Well, according to some data that I obtained from the IRS, as well as from the alternative media, the average personal income tax rate in 2011 is roughly 18%, so I am proposing cutting that rate in half. The second tier of this proposed new tax system will be what I call an “excess wealth tax” for the mega-rich, and for any financial transactions that are over a certain limit. For individuals, there is no income tax on the first $30 million, but anything above that gets taxed at a rate of 50%. So, a household or individual who made $50 million last year would pay no tax on the first $30 million and $10 million on the last $20 million. For businesses, the consumption tax rate is much more generous, with the first $700 million tax free, and a tax rate of one-third on anything over and above that. So, a $1 billion dollar company would pay no tax on the first $700 million, and they would pay $100 million on the last $300 million. All itemized deductions would come to an end.

Under this plan, there is ample incentive for the rich and big business to get enthused about this plan. First, the necessity of providing group health care would go away for US businesses, followed by the repeal of the income tax. All the money being spent on income taxes and group insurance could be put back into these businesses, making them more competitive than ever before. And second, the “excess wealth tax” that I just proposed would replace the capital gains tax and the estate tax, and still provide sufficient funding for costly government institutions like the military and the space program, not to mention the cost of public reeducation and the public works projects I mentioned.

Another way to redistribute wealth is by invoking the “fundamental right” I previously mentioned with regard to housing. One of the things that can and should be done with a national public works program that I wrote about previously is to get rid of all the empty, boarded-up houses that have been abandoned to foreclosure. Put all the homeless and jobless to work remodeling this otherwise worthless real estate. There are millions of unemployed construction workers who would love to get a chance to do something like this, so why not let them? And when they are finished rebuilding them, let them live in them and so revitalize America. This is how we can end unemployment and homelessness while turning around the US foreclosure crisis.

We can do the same with healthcare and with higher education. Make them both available to everyone unconditionally as a way to enforce economic equality and social parity. This is how we can redistribute American wealth in a peaceful and nonviolent manner, and in so doing set a good example for our kids and grand-kids. The days of making good healthcare and higher education available for only those who can afford it must come to an end. That is unfair, discriminatory, it is a social injustice and therefore a civil rights violation of the worst magnitude. To tell anyone that they can’t stay well or can’t improve themselves should be a crime.

In closing, everybody needs to have an income and a livelihood. It is cruel and mean-spirited to tell anyone that they are not needed nor wanted, or that they can’t be hired because there is allegedly no money to pay them while corporate America sits on trillions of dollars in excess cash. If unemployment is brought to an end using the methods and ideas that I have written about, poverty, hunger and crime will be brought to an end as well. We already have the means to do this, so it would be irresponsible for us not to act.

Some will say, yes, but employed at what? I’ve been looking for a job for over a year and I haven’t found squat. Brothers and sisters, this is not your fault. Your government, together with some of this country’s most well-known institutions such as the US educational system and the multinational corporations, have let you down. All the jobs that could be outsourced overseas were sent away, never to return. The ones that couldn’t be outsourced were mostly downsized out of existence. It is for these reasons that we are now protesting in the streets and occupying America in New York, Boston, Washington, DC and Atlanta, among others. Because the truth of the matter is that since these jobs aren’t coming back, we as a country should be making new ones, and this should have started years ago. We have a lot of catching up to do in the area of job creation. The good news is that there are new industries currently being born that can replace all those lost jobs that I wrote about. Green industries like solar power, windmill power generators, the construction of a low-voltage national electrical grid and of fusion reactors, not to mention biotechnology, stem cell research, nanotechnology, robotics, seashore desalination plants for an endless supply of clean water, and a greatly expanded and revitalized space industry.

Seriously, people! We first landed on the moon in 1969, took our last trip there in 1972, after which our country’s “leadership” mysteriously gave up and quit. This was alleged at the time to be due to insufficient funding, but if the US hadn’t been involved with the war in Vietnam, America could easily have afforded to continue NASA’s Apollo program. The immoral and strategically questionable wars in Iran and Afghanistan today are preventing our country from returning to space in much the same way as Vietnam did. It’s all a matter of the proper allocation of resources.

We are supposed to be in the space business already! Hello! Instead, we debate among ourselves whether or not women should have abortions, or whether gay marriage is acceptable or not. Speaking as an evangelical Internet preacher of the radical kind, if we are serious about wanting to lead good lives and to be productive contributors towards the common good, then we need to be creating jobs and helping to rebuild people’s lives. I also am appalled that the mainstream church is so against abortion while being in favor of the death penalty and of waging war. I am equally appalled at the mainstream denominations for their condemnation of gay marriage while the divorce rates for evangelicals are about the same as for the secular world. These are glaring contradictions to their faith, to say the least.

OK, so here’s how we fix our public schools and accelerate the start-up of all these new 21st century businesses, all at the same time. First, government and business should get together and find a way to give large grants to these fledgling companies that are already started up in one form or another. They need start-up capital, and they’re not going to find it at the bank branch down the street from them. Government can and must step in. Our only alternative is to become a second-rate country, a has-been of military and economic power.

The other thing that needs to be done is to start training future astronauts now. Update public school curriculum, and put it on-line. Turn the public schools into an Internet-based system that is paperless and that doesn’t need to buy expensive textbooks every year (save the trees!). Then, start teaching the kids skills that they will need for a technology-based world and a digital workplace, with an emphasis on science and math. Start teaching them to be astronauts when they’re 12 years old, because by the time they graduate from college there will be thousands of astronauts needed, not just a select lucky few like today.

Then do the same with the adults. Retrain everybody who can’t find work, or who is in need of a career change, and pick up the tab. Performing this service for America’s workforce will literally lift it all up to the next level and make it much more competitive. I have heard people complain over and over again that “we can’t compete” with some dude in China who does the same job we do for $2.00 a day. What America needs is new careers to replace those that have been eliminated. We not only have the capacity to do this already, but we are way behind and we have some catching up to do. But we are Americans. We can and will succeed if only we will unite together in this effort.

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The 99% Part One

We Are The 99%: The Focus of Our Rage

Having just gotten back from “Occupy DC” in Washington after a 3-day stay has given me a far clearer perspective and a more intense fervor for the mushrooming #occupy Movement. But first allow me to give my readers a little background on why the #occupy/OWS phenomenon is so personal a struggle for me. Not only am I a part of the 99%, I find myself at or near the bottom of that group as well. Like so many of those disenchanted and disenfranchised Americans who are participating in these worldwide protests, I too have fallen a long way. My story may be similar to others you have heard to one degree or another.

I am a computer/IT professional forced into early retirement due to long-term unemployment which ultimately made me homeless after I finally ran out of cash. After being homeless for a few weeks, my health simply collapsed from the stress and strain – and because of exposure to the weather – and I would up in the hospital for a lengthy stay. After leaving the hospital I would up on disability, and I’ve been living on this miniscule income for nearly a year now. I have tried repeatedly to reenter the workforce, but my age and my 3-year absence from the IT profession has made that impossible. So I wrote a book about my experiences after doing considerable research about long-term unemployment, homelessness, and the lack of access to regular healthcare and the ability to retrain oneself for a new profession, and how they are all related to one another. It was these barriers that prevented me from reentering the job market and forced me into early retirement, and I discovered that this was actually commonplace in 21st century America. That’s why I wrote my book, and I will mention it only at the end of this essay, because the purpose of this publication is to strengthen, empower and enhance the OWS protests, not to sell books. I already do that on my websites anyway, but I will mention them briefly at the end.

I have given a lot of thought and engaged in plenty of research regarding the plight of the 99%, and what should and should not be done to bring the top 1% in line with the rest of us. I will now attempt to spell out the basics of what we want, and why we 99%-‘ers are undertaking the various occupations that are springing up all over the world. We all want basically the same things. We want all the legalized bribery out of politics. This can be accomplished by simply outlawing the lobbyist profession, or at least in Washington specifically and in government overall. If Washington won’t do it then “we the people” will have to do it for them. We can accomplish this by, among other things, occupying K Street and the offices of the lobbyists, or by laying siege to their offices through human barricades (nobody comes and nobody goes). This issue stands alone and I think it should be treated separately from everything else. Take the rampant corruption out of politics and fully investigate Wall Street and prosecute those responsible for the 2008 financial meltdown.

From my vantage point, and based on my own experiences, the least common denominator to everything that we are protesting, marching and occupying for can be boiled down to 2 things: the rights of workers and independent contractors, and the right to economic equality including the restoration of the American middle class to its former economic and social position in American society. These rights, in turn, have a number of offshoots and related issues that, when organized into a clear and succinct set of ideas, become what I call the Eight Fundamental Rights of Mankind. Allow me to use the next few pages to explain exactly what I mean, and how we can go about accomplishing these goals in a manner that is legal, peaceful and orderly so we can set a good example for our nation’s kids and grand-kids. One very good way that we could go about accomplishing this is to emulate the peaceful and nonviolent tactics of Rev. Dr. King, Jr. that were utilized during the civil rights marches and protests of the 1950’s and 1960’s. In so doing, history will be on our side and victory against the top 1% will ultimately be ours.

Let me add one more thing before I get into this. You will notice as you read the rest of this essay that there are a lot of ideas in here about how to restore America and its middle class, and how to re-balance the distribution of wealth in a peaceful and orderly manner. Some of my ideas may be accepted because they are simple and practical solutions to certain big problems that America faces, and because my ideas can be easily implemented using our existing governmental framework and technology. There may be other ideas found here that you may totally disagree with. That is your prerogative and your opinion, and you are most definitely entitled to it. But that’s not the point of this essay, nor is it the point of the political manifesto that I wrote and recently published. The point of all this is to get the conversation started, and to name some good starting points from which this conversation can be initiated. If anyone reading this feels that they have some better ideas than what I propose, then by all means write a book of your own or start a blog about that topic and publish it as I have. There’s nothing stopping you. I would rather that all of us be part of the solution than anyone be part of the problem.

The first and foremost issue of what we 99%-‘ers want should be the rights of all workers and independent contractors. We want a $10.00 per hour minimum wage combined with the abolition of the federal income tax and an end to the withholding of US income tax from our paychecks. This would give everyone who makes less than $108.000.00 per year a pay raise amounting to an average of 20% immediately, pumping millions of fresh dollars into the US economy that generates billions in new tax revenue without raising any taxes. Full employment should become the new standard of the world, and that standard should be set by the USA. That’s why I’m advocating a huge public works program to end unemployment. I will write more about that topic further down in this document and treat it as a separate issue.

The second “fundamental right” I wish to mention is that right to re-education and/or retraining at will and without cost. This is what we should do for all the long-term unemployed, all the homeless who are healthy enough to work, all unemployed veterans, and for all newly released prisoners who are re-entering society. This is how we can end homelessness for good; simply give these people a trade. Every human being on the face of the earth has the unconditional right to a livelihood and to a living wage. Those unable to find work, or who are having difficulty locating suitable work, and those needing to learn new job skills in order to be self-sufficient have the right to professional retraining without cost. Let our colleges and universities remain as they are, except that they should obtain government grants or utilize other methods to fund education so that higher education is unconditionally accessible to everyone. The days of for-profit educational institutions must come to an end, because I am convinced that it is immoral to profit to financial excess from other people’s educations. The best part about this as far as I am concerned is that America can easily afford this, and I will use the occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan as an illustration.

If the US government took all the money spent in one single day on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and put it into a savings account, there would be enough money to put every school kid in America through 4 years of college fully paid for, including tuition, books, dorms, food, transportation and Internet access, plus miscellaneous expenses. This is what converting to a peacetime economy can do for America. And all on one day’s military expenditures.

There is one more important thing that I have yet to mention. The world is changing and developing so rapidly as scientific and technological advances are made that the job market has become very dynamic, and the pace of this advancement is accelerating. As that happens, different types of jobs will come and go in order to meet demand, and so higher education and vocational training will most definitely adjust their curriculum accordingly. As a result, some very traditional jobs are disappearing. Just ask anybody who used to be in the travel industry, or direct sales, or a factory worker, or a former computer repairman like I was for 23 years. When I went back and tried to get retraining I was told that my credit rating was bad and that I didn’t qualify for a student loan. Many of the courses taught in various vocational schools cost tens of thousands of dollars, and I was broke at the time (come to think about it I still am, but I digress). So, I found myself shut out from any chance at changing careers, and this is actually quite commonplace in today’s dreary job market. Therefore I insist that that this must come to an end, and that higher education be free for everybody. The days of a college education being only for those who can afford the tuition (or “qualify” for predatory and unethical student loans) must come to an end. Do you want to have a better educated country? Fine! Let everybody who wants to get educated go back to school, and let the government and corporate America foot the bill. The funds are definitely available.

Of course, I can hear my critics laughing already. Where, they will say, do we get the money to fund re-educating the whole country? We’re running a $14 trillion deficit as it is! You know what? You’re absolutely right, we do have a seemingly insurmountable federal deficit. How do we tackle both problems together? By creating new taxpayers who have found new careers and gotten their incomes restarted, and there is ample precedent for this very thing. At the end of World War 2, there were about 600,000 former GI’s who had just returned from the European and Pacific theaters in the wars against Germany and Japan. Many of them didn’t have any marketable job skills, so Congress passed the GI Bill and put all those soldiers through 4 years of college. It paid off handsomely, paving the way for the record economic expansion of the 1960’s. Well, if they could do that in the 1940’s, why can’t they do it in 2011? The answer is that the system most certainly can, and we of the #occupy Movement must count reeducation as one of the things that we occupy for. Either employ us or retrain us, and we’re not leaving until we get what we want.

One final thing about the basic right to higher education, and that is the volatility of the job market due to reasons I already mentioned above. According to data I obtained from the US Department of Labor, and some additional information I obtained from “CareerBuilder.com”, The average student graduate from college today will have to change careers anywhere from 5 to 8 times during the course of their lifetime employment. So, by today’s standards, and assuming career changes involve getting 2-year degrees, somebody going back to school a total of 8 times multiplied by the average cost of obtaining each of those degrees – roughly $30,000.00 times as much as eight – could be as much as a quarter of a million dollars, plus interest. Do our colleges and universities seriously believe that people will be willing to go into that much debt from student loans in their lifetimes, just so they can remain employable? How ridiculous! The cost of tuition for higher education in the early 21st century has reached a level that is so extremely high that getting a degree will be financially out of reach for all but the top few percent. Excluding all the others for purely financial reasons is a social injustice and a human rights violation. We must start demanding our right to higher education as part of our goals. And so we will continue to occupy our space until we get what we want.

Part 2 will be published later tonight

For more info on my book, “The Middle and Working Class Manifesto”, go to http://www.2ndar.org

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