Tag Archives: peace

An Email From God. Seriously.

What If God Sent an Email To Organized Religion?

by Rev. Paul J. Bern

Donald Trump took my lunch money for his presidential campaign. My dad is gonna be pissed!!

Donald Trump took my lunch money for his presidential campaign. My dad is gonna be pissed!!

Given the state of affairs of organized religion throughout the world, and particularly here in the US with Johnny-come-lately “Christian” presidential candidates such as Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, I can’t help but wonder what God must be thinking about all this. As you likely recall, Mitt Romney stated during his 2012 presidential bid that, if elected president, his first act as chief executive would be to launch an airstrike on Iran. Keep in mind that this is the same guy who is opposed to abortion and who calls himself “pro-life”. He fights for the rights of the unborn, but if you’re already alive and living in Iran, you’re toast. That doesn’t seem quite right to me. On the other hand, if you live in Syria, where the government is slaughtering the governed, you’re on your own. Yet in Iraq, where there is plenty of oil, we occupied that country while killing over 100,000 Iraqi civilians, over half of whom were women and children. But that war was supposed to be different because we toppled a terrible dictator. Never mind that that same dictator, none other than Saddam Hussein himself, was a former CIA collaborator and “asset”. So much for loyalty among allies. Yes, that’s what our country has been doing in the Middle East since Gulf War 1 back in 1990-91. And it is the American military-industrial-incarceration complex that has been doing this same thing throughout the globe since the end of World War Two.

Meanwhile here at home, one person in five depends on food stamps to eat due to unemployment or inability to earn a living wage. People can’t afford to get sick or hurt in an accident because if they do, the medical bills they are about to incur will bankrupt them. Twenty four million Americans can’t find a job – but since they can’t afford to go back to school and get retrained because of the staggering cost of America’s for-profit higher education system, they remain stuck in their situation with no relief in sight. As I wrote in my first book, “The Middle and Working Class Manifesto”, our country has more than enough money to pay for lifetime medical care and higher education for every single American who wants either or both. All they have to do is call off all the wars and bring our troops home. As I explained in that same book, if the US government took all the money that is spent in just one day on the wars/occupations in the Middle East and Afghanistan and put it all into an interest-bearing bank account, there would be ample funding for 4-year college educations for every school kid in America from pre-K through high school, including tuition, books, housing, food and transportation. Yeah, just one day’s war expenditures would do that. Besides, there is sufficient legal precedent doing this very thing in the form of the GI Bill that was passed by Congress after the end of World War 2. If they could reeducate us then, they can do it now. All that Congress has to do is make the G.I. Bill available to everyone.

But what do we have instead? Overseas military adventures purely for the sake of economic domination by the US against any country regardless of cost. This is not just unsustainable, it is sheer madness. Our government has been taken over by a bunch of sociopaths. They operate from behind the scenes bent on world conquest at any cost, and they are an integral part of the so-called “new world order”. Unless they are stopped they will take the world over the brink of the abyss of World War 3. Yet these people are, by and large, religious conservatives of one church denomination or another. Their counterparts in the Muslim world are similarly conservative religious fundamentalists. Only their names for God are different. Yet, as far as I am concerned, there is only one true God who is undoubtedly far greater than the sum of all the world’s different religious faiths combined. If this very same almighty God, who is “The Great I Am” and who sacrificed his only Son so that we may all have eternal life, sent us an email about all this mess down here on earth, I think it would be worded something like this:

“My children, I appeal to you all to return to what you call the New Testament, the chronicles of the life of my only Son and the instructions he left behind. I offer this directly to the peoples of earth, without intermediary, cleric, or agent of any kind. Circumstances have compelled me to sever all ties, contracts and assignments with my representatives on this planet. You see, I have been completely dissatisfied with their performance of their duties for some time. Children get molested in some churches, adultery runs rampant in others, while still others have turned their churches into businesses and have enriched themselves with material possessions beyond all reason. You pastors and evangelists who drive around in cars with six-figure price tags while flying around in your own jets, you know who you are. There’s nothing wrong with having a nice car and a comfortable house, but a good bit of that other money should have been used to feed the poor and house the homeless. But the rape of Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan, crimes committed in my name by the USA, not counting the additional war plans they have made, has forced my hand. The perversion of my will displayed by these despicable acts, and so many others, has left me no choice. I hereby fire my earthly representatives, they no longer speak for me.”

“Humankind, however, remains in my affections and you always will. We need to start again with the New Testament (not to discount or devalue the old) and work towards better days. But it would be remiss of me not to explain why I have taken such drastic measures. To put it bluntly, war displeases me. Five thousand years of war among the humans over the right way to pronounce my name has exhausted my patience. I will no longer be responsible for any murders committed under color of my authority. I much prefer that you who claim to believe in me should put some legs on your faith. It’s good when you fast and pray, but it’s far better to go and find someone in need and doing whatever you can to help him or her.”

“Someone who goes to church every Sunday but does nothing more during the week is a Christian in name only in my eyes. Someone who donates for a good cause to charity, who volunteers their free time without expectation of compensation or who is a role model for the fatherless, that person will find favor with me. Those who visit the sick, the elderly and the prisoner, and someone who is a defender of the widow, the orphan, the homeless, the mentally ill, and other vulnerable individuals, it is they who are truly following in my Son’s footsteps. I created you with a divine Spirit in my image. But you persist in bastardizing that Spirit and ruining my image when those who don’t agree with you about whether or not it is permitted to draw my face find themselves bombed back to the stone age! Until you prove you can worship the divine Spirit I put in all of you, and desist from the mayhem and slaughter that you love more than me, I shall summarily reject and disallow all claims to my providence.”

“You have banded yourselves into tribes, nations and races and the results have not been pleasing to my eye. I take some responsibility for this distressing development; I should not have given you an earth so large. But had I started with a smaller Eden, you would have corrupted and polluted it until it became uninhabitable many thousands of years ago. You have proven yourselves incapable of understanding the panoply of laws and wisdom I laid down for you, when I set you upon the earth. I have been mistranslated by your spirit guides and abused by your leaders. Perhaps I was too complex. Let us try to simplify. Respect my creation and all the inhabitants thereof. Any so-called religious leader who tells you otherwise is a false prophet and does not represent me, my brethren or any part of my Kingdom which is soon to come.”

“Those of you who find comfort in organized religion may feel free to continue to do so. I understand – I created you as vessels for love and love rejoices in the presence of others. Keep your churches, mosques and synagogues, but cease your bickering. And remember, when you engage in bloodletting, you commit blasphemy. I realize that in severing my ties with so many of the sects, denominations and “holy men” that you rely upon for moral guidance, I have created confusion where there was once certainty in your souls. But that cannot be helped. Your certainties were almost certainly wrong and most certainly misapplied.”

“But do not despair, my children, for I have not abandoned you. There is a little piece of me inside all of you, a fail-safe guide to good and evil, a moral compass that never leaves you, a true voice you can hear amid the storms of fire that drive you mad with hatred and confusion. It is called your conscience and it always points towards my Son; follow it and you will be walking in my Light, ignore it and you’ll be lost in the darkness cast by your own shadow. So here is my ‘new’ first commandment to you: I have given you a conscience. Use it.”

Sort that out to my satisfaction and maybe in another decade or so we can talk about the dietary laws.”

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Ending the Violence by Ending Inequality

Is Human Equality Ordained By God?

Can It Stop the Violence?

By Pastor Paul J. Bern

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Since the dawn of time itself mankind has been plagued by violence. The first instance can be found in the Bible in the book of Genesis. Cain and Abel both offered sacrifices to God, and God accepted Abel’s offering but rejected Cain’s because Cain offered his sacrifice with an impure heart. So Cain became jealous of Abel and killed him in the first murder in recorded history. As time marched on and the earth’s population grew, tribes and nations rose up against each other and took prisoners who then became slaves, and the industry of human trafficking was born as master lorded it over slave, marking the advent of mass inequality. This social and societal scourge of inequality grew exponentially throughout the ages, with the beginning of the end of slavery marked by the end of the American civil war of the 1860’s, the war with more American casualties than any other. Today the institution of slavery, human sex trafficking and smuggling of illegal aliens continues to thrive, and all are a form of social injustice as far as I am concerned. As such they are absolutely immoral.

In the late 1700’s, the French revolution was happening in Europe at about the same time that the American Revolution was unfolding in colonial America. These two separate but related events in human history marked the beginning of the modern concept of human equality. The signing of the Emancipation Proclamation by Abraham Lincoln heralded the next significant step towards social equality as it criminalized slavery. But nothing more occurred for another 80 years, until the US military ended racial segregation within its ranks in 1948. At about the same time, Mahatma Gandhi initiated a new equality movement in India that resulted in India’s independence from Great Britain. By the 1950’s the US civil rights movement began gaining momentum, led by Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Rev. Dr. King was, first and foremost, a minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ. It was from the Bible that he obtained much of his inspiration for the American civil rights movement, although he also used the US Constitution and the Declaration of Independence as frames of reference to add justification to the American social upheaval that he thankfully instigated. And so this week’s sermon will highlight three passages from the Bible that Rev. Dr. King no doubt used for his own inspiration, and here is the first one.

Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality. At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. Then there will be equality, as it is written, ‘He who gathered much did not have too much, and he who gathered little did not have too little.’” (2 Corinthians 8: verses 13-15 NIV)

“…Your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. Then there will be equality…”. The apostle Paul, who wrote these words nearly 2,000 years ago, is saying that we are to be mutually beneficial to one another when it comes to our physical and/or material needs and wants. Under no circumstances is any one person or group to have significantly more necessities than any other person or group, nor may any one person or group acquire an excess of anything at the expense of any other. There is no reason other than pure selfishness for one person or group to have a surplus of food while another goes hungry. There is no reason for one to have plenty of clean clothes to wear while another is dressed in rags, or to have a warm coat while another has none, except that certain people find themselves excluded from any opportunity they could have to improve themselves, to aspire to be something or someone more than they currently are, just so others can have more. There is no reason other than pure selfishness for one person or group to have a roof over their head while another sleeps in their car, a tent or under a bridge. Even the cave men lived in caves!And in these examples I am only talking about basic necessities. When it comes to luxury items this line of reasoning applies even more so. With so much wealth in the world, especially with such a large percentage of wealth concentrated in the hands of relatively few people, I find it unconscionable to hoard too much wealth and material goods to ourselves while others less fortunate than ourselves go without. Remember what Jesus said, and it’s in all four gospels. Don’t take my word for it, go and read it for yourself. Jesus said, “It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than it is for a rich man (or woman) to enter the kingdom of heaven”.

Material wealth is a distraction that takes our eyes and our focus off God. The more earthly goods we accumulate, the less we think about our spiritual needs. The less we think about our spiritual needs, the less we think about God. Prosperity, while it can be a good thing when it is in the right hands, is most often that which alienates us from God and from our spiritual selves. When our lives are over and we die, it is our souls that live on while our physical bodies get left behind. The more spiritual we were during our lives on earth, the greater our faith is in Jesus. Our eternity in heaven is directly proportional to our spiritual existence on earth, but too much emphasis on material gain and possessions neutralizes our spirituality. Remember what Jesus said when He taught the crowds that followed after Him, “What does it matter if a man gains the whole world and loses his soul?” In the very next book in the New Testament Paul makes additional comments concerning equality.

You are all sons of God through your faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” (Galatians 3: verses 26-29 NIV)

But when the time had fully come, God sent His son, born of a woman, born under law to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons. Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of His son into our hearts, the Spirit that calls out, ‘Abba, Father’. So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has also made you an heir.” (Galatians 4: verses 4-7 NIV)

All of humankind, then, are equals under Jesus Christ because God has made it so according to Scripture. It is therefore immoral, unethical and sinful to discriminate, prejudge, or to hold in contempt any other human being regardless of their race, nationality or ethnic origin, or because of their religious background and their faith (or the lack thereof), or because of their gender, age, or their marital, social or economic status, or sexual orientation or political affiliation. Any person who does any of the above things that I have just written is guilty of holding in contempt that which God has made, and by extension holds God Himself in contempt. And that is blasphemy in its highest form. The Bible teaches that blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is the only sin that God can’t forgive. Any person who deliberately commits this sin will be eternally condemned when they die. I don’t know about you, but condemnation is not in any of my future plans. As the prophet Jeremiah wrote, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

Based on this Scriptural teaching which is the irrefutable Word of God, I know with certainty that any person who hates another for any reason is without excuse. The apostle John said, “Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life in Him.” (1st John chapter 3, verse 15) There can therefore be no racial hatred, nor can there be any hatred of one religion or religious denomination by another (Hey ISIS! Hey Taliban! Hey Christian right-wingers! Y’all go back and read that one more time!!), nor can there be any hatred of those who are economically disadvantaged such as the homeless, nor can there be any hatred of gay people just because one considers them ‘immoral’, nor can there be any hatred of liberals or conservatives, or any other form of intolerance (such as age and gender discrimination). This is the very essence of true Spiritual belief. God put diverse groups of people and cultures on this earth all together in order to teach us, among other things, tolerance of one another. Once tolerance takes root, it leads to communication. Communication in turn leads to understanding, understanding then leads to empathy and empathy to compassion. And when we have compassion for one another, that invariably leads to peace. Peace will inevitably lead to an end to war, poverty, crime and sickness, and with it inequality. What a wonderful world that would be, and it is all within our grasp if we will only embrace tolerance and renounce violence. Let us therefore join together in tolerance, communication, understanding, empathy, compassion and peace. Since the majority of us claim to be Christians, we proclaim ourselves to worship the Prince of Peace. That means we had better be emulating Jesus Christ by becoming peaceful people. And that is how we will all make the world a better place, starting with ourselves. Shalom!

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Endless War in an Allegedly Christian Nation — How Much Longer Do We Tolerate This?

The Hypocrisy Of War In A Nation That Professes Christianity

by Rev. Paul J. Bern

Donald Trump took my lunch money for his presidential campaign. My dad is gonna be pissed!!

Donald Trump took my lunch money for his presidential campaign. My dad is gonna be pissed!!

Being the proactive Christian and Jesus follower that I am, I make it my business to follow current events, particularly anything having to do with Israel and the Middle East (since the majority of Bible prophecy has to do with both). It’s in our best interest to do so due to America’s very serious financial situation, not to mention the dangerously overextended US military which has bases in over 100 countries while fighting two wars. Rev. Billy Graham has prophesied that these multiple wars, clandestine activities and other occupations “will end in disaster”. This brings me to the point I wish to comment on today, and that is the hypocrisy of war in a nation that calls itself Christian and proclaims its devotion to Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace. You can’t profess to worship Christ as a nation while waging war, they are diametrically opposed to one another. We can’t bemoan all the wars overseas and all the over-the-top violence going on in America’s streets while continuing to be the world’s largest arms manufacturer and exporter. We Americans are going to have to make up our minds what we want, because we can’t have it both ways as a nation. Either wage war or wage peace. As for me, I choose peace. Killing only begets more killing.

The latest chapter in Washington’s plan for global domination is the threat of war with Iran. The US incursions into Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Libya were really bad ideas no matter how you look at it. What is America doing over there? First, the 2nd war in Iraq was based on a series of lies about weapons of mass destruction. Second, we already got Osama Bin Laden, so why are we still in Afghanistan? Why is the US still conducting drone strikes inside Iraq and Syria? As for Libya, Italy and France were perfectly capable of managing the Libyan crisis from just across the Mediterranean Sea, they didn’t need the US to come all the way across the Atlantic to help them out. These two regional powers don’t need or want our help. Yet the US military continues to stick its nose into every situation it can find globally as if America is the world’s policeman. America can’t afford to continue to spend more money on military hardware than all the other countries of the world combined. This is clearly unsustainable. Our country’s aggressive actions are also infuriating a large number of people worldwide, and I believe it is the primary cause of much of the world’s terrorist activity.

What would Jesus say about this if he were here right now? God bless America? I think not! The US military entered and occupied Iraq and Afghanistan, not to mention the air war in Libya and the drone strikes in Pakistan and Yemen, without getting a formal declaration of war from Congress, a requirement of the US Constitution. Of course, the American public is being told that there are no US troops on the ground in Iraq and Syria, but US Special Forces and the CIA have been ‘in country’ right up to this very day. Not to mention the fact that the US military is lately beginning to set its digitized sights on China. Our country’s “leaders” have forgotten that Hitler lost the Second World War when he opened up three battle fronts against the USA, Great Britain and Russia within a year. Although they held their own at first after scoring significant battlefield victories, the Nazis ultimately found themselves overwhelmed. What do you think will happen if the US opens up just as many battle fronts at once? Apparently our nation’s “leaders” haven’t learned one stinking thing from history. America has charted a course towards disaster!

We are going to have to face up to the fact that we live in a very violent society, and that perpetual war for profit – not for victory, but for humongous amounts of money – is only a superficial symptom of a much more deep-seated problem. Violence surrounds us. Like it or not, it is ingrained into and embraced by U.S. Society. We are bombarded with violent imagery on a daily basis if we watch much TV or rent a lot of movies. The nightly news is full of it, and the followers of Christ are sick and tired of all of it. Come to think of it, so is nearly everybody else.

More than 50 years ago, President Dwight Eisenhower warned of the growth of the “military-industrial complex”. He cautioned us about the need to guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, “whether sought or unsought,” by this military industrial complex. “The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist,” he said. George Orwell once wrote of “perpetual war,” a situation in which war operates as a means of controlling the population by constantly rallying them against a common enemy. This is exactly the situation we are faced with in America today, with its military/industrial/incarceration complex running in overdrive. At the same time, the American people have figured out that if all the money spent on wars was spent on its people instead, we could give every American free health care, free higher education or free vocational retraining for life, with a minimum wage that is double its current rate. There are many people constantly, loudly lamenting their shortage of money. They fail to realize that vast portions of their incomes are being drained off by their country for war, death and destruction.

Obama administration officials said the United States decided to wage war on Libya because of the threat Moammar Qaddafi was to his own people. Why not attack Bahrain or Yemen? Tyrants in those countries are committing similarly repugnant acts against their citizens. Why not attack Syria since atrocities are being committed against the people there? I am very excited that ordinary people are rising up across the Middle East to cast off autocrats, tyrants, kings and dictators, not to mention the secret police who harass the citizenry daily. People want peace and justice, not war and violence. And they want it here in America too. That is why we will see very soon here in the US a similar political movement that we have seen previously in the Middle East. The Arab Spring of 2011 has evolved into the ‘Occupy’ and the ‘we are the 99%’ Movements here at home and other capitalist countries, and they are just the beginning of what is to come.

Given the near silence of our nation’s pulpits in the face of the violence and war that surrounds us, the exertions of our theologians in justifying war, and the propensity of religious people to condemn abortion while proudly sending their sons and daughters off to fight and kill “the enemy”, it is certain that future historians will view organized religion as a slave to the vast war machine that engulfs us. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. prophesied, “A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.” Will we rise up against the madness of violence or are we dead already? What’s it going to be, people?

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America’s wars overseas are unnecessary and obscene

The Ongoing Obscenity of Our War on Terrorism

by Rev. Paul J. Bern

stop_the_warThe war in Afghanistan lasted more than 11 years as of this year. The original reason for the US military invasion was to hunt down and capture or kill Osama Bin Laden as the chief perpetrator of the 9/11 attacks. The reason it took the US military more than a decade to find him was because they were looking in the wrong country. Oops, sorry Mr. or Mrs. taxpayer, we got the right guy but we had the wrong address. Oh well. At the height of its military operations, the United States was spending $60 billion per month on the twin wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. That is not counting all the other bases the US military now has in well over 100 countries around the world, such as Germany, Japan, Okinawa, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, to name a few of the major ones.

This leads to a fundamental question; why are our military forces still there after fighting the longest war the US military ever fought? Osama Bin Laden is long gone and we are still there, seemingly chasing our own tails. But that was before the truth came out about two things. First, Afghanistan is a country with vast untapped natural resources, including enormous copper deposits. Second, all the fuss about Afghanistan’s poppy seed crop being a target of the ‘drug war’ here in the US is just a bunch of bull. Upon closer examination of what has been happening there out of sight of the American public, it becomes apparent that it is none other than the CIA running the show. So when you see teenage gang members selling heroin on any given street corner in America, you can thank the CIA. This is a stark contrast to what I have been teaching about being a people of peace. It brings the US “war on terror” into sharp focus and sheds light on the hypocrisy of the American Empire’s military machine and its illegal incursions into third world countries where it does not belong. The truth of the matter is that the U.S. position with respect to the dictators in the Arab world has been one of pure hypocrisy. We have supported these tyrants in the name of “stability” and the “war on terrorism”, but it has been a policy that has contributed mightily to the oppression of the people in those countries (which is a betrayal of our own revolutionary past, not to mention our fight against tyranny, as well as exacerbating the Islamic terrorism being used against us).

It has been amazing that the people who are in revolt against the dictators and their regimes haven’t linked the U.S. with the tyranny they have been forced to live under. Contrary to what is being reported in the Lame Stream Media, their rebellions have been non sectarian, grass roots and non ideological in every country they have occurred and completely unrelated to Islamic fundamentalist or ‘jihadist’ terrorism. That last fact would seem to expose and make America’s policy in the “war on terrorism” while initiating wars in the Muslim world obsolete and absurd. The irony is there has been little if any mention in the media of our wars and the war on terrorism possibly because they have had nothing to do with these Arab rebellions. Yet it is a topic of urgent need. The closest form of mentioning anything in this regard came from “W’s” administration Secretary of Defense Robert Gates who said during Bush 43’s second term in office, “Any new secretary of defense who advises a president to engage in land wars with vast armies in foreign lands needs to have his head examined”.

The fact is our entire policy of pre-emptive war and occupation and the whole “war on terrorism” is a ruse, an unnecessary and a cruel invention concocted by neo-conservatives and cold war warriors who were itching to replace the defunct Soviet Union with an enemy we must oppose in a fight to the death (as we now see in our endless “war on terrorism”). Not only is the war on terror a reason for the American Empire to exist, it has become the only reason for its existence. It was and is a fantasy perpetrated by them and foisted on the American people. The terrorist attacks on 9/11 became their cause for that endless war and is the real, but unfortunate, legacy of that fateful day. But in light of the unfolding democratic “awakening” in much of the Arab world can there not be serious discussions deep in the bowels of the White House of the absurdity of our continuing to fight wars in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen as well as Iraq (not to mention the proxy war the CIA has been fighting against the Assad regime in Syria)? Gates’ comments allude to the insanity of fighting these wars (even if he put it in the context of new misadventures). From here it seems the U.S. resembles (in its ability to end its wars) a giant ship at sea that takes an excruciatingly long time to reverse course. Like the Viet Nam quagmire we seem stuck, committed to the un-winnable yet unwilling and unable to face reality. War is an ongoing obscenity.

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Malala and the Nobel Prize: Setting the standard for the entire world

Building on Malala’s foundation: Jesus and all God’s children

by Rev. Paul J. Bern

fuck_this_warAs I scrolled through the morning news on my computer Friday, it gave me pause when I saw who had won the Nobel Prize for Peace. The Web news said it all:

(provided courtesy of CNN) You have to love Malala. The 17-year-old Pakistani advocate for girls’ education who, on Friday, became the youngest winner of the Nobel Peace Prize told “The Daily Show’s” Jon Stewart last year what she would do if she were confronted again by a member of the Taliban. ‘I’ll tell him how important education is and that I even want education for your children as well,’ she said. ‘I’ll tell him, ‘That’s what I want to tell you; now do what you want.’ ‘ This from a girl who was shot in the head by the Taliban. For exercising her right to go to school. Malala Yousafzai was only 14 years old at the time — and just 11 when she started blogging anonymously for the BBC about the struggles of life in Pakistan’s Swat Valley. Stewart’s response was priceless as well: ‘I know your father is backstage and he’s very proud of you, but would he be mad if I adopted you?’ It’s not just him. The world has adopted Malala.”

We don’t just love Malala. She has captured our hearts and minds. A teenage girl who has the internal fortitude to say what we adults can’t – or won’t – “Why not just stop all the fighting? Why not just end all the killing?” The solution is so simple, and it’s been right in front of our faces all this time, but humankind has yet to successfully implement it. If a teenage girl from Pakistan can understand this without our assistance, having apparently weighed the significance of world peace and everything that it implies, then why can’t the rest of us? Of, sure, we maintain peace throughout the world by way of various treaties and demilitarized zones, but things would come unglued across the world if all that framework were to be destroyed somehow. Upon further contemplation, it occurs to me that there is ample Bible scripture to back up the achievements and winning spirit of Malala and others like her. (For example, the accolades of King David: “From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise”. Psalm 8, v2). By her words and deeds, Malala merits our praises as we praise God for her and what she is doing with her life. By the same token, she and others like her praise God by the way they live their lives, and by the example they set for others to follow. In another way, winning the Nobel peace prize puts many of the grown-ups of the world to shame. Malala wins the Nobel Prize while many of the rest of us are still shooting at each other. This is mostly occurring in large American cities like Chicago, Houston, Detroit and Atlanta, but this phenomenon has begun to work its way into rural communities in much the same way. Malala has put us all to shame by her example. Looks like we Americans have some catching up to do. Like how to live in peace with our neighbors, for instance.

“I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure.” (Matt 11, 25-26). How this eludes us! How do we get along with each other? By following Malala’s example, which is actually the example of Christ, since Malala was shot in the head and yet was brought back to life (“better love has no man, than to lay down his life for his friends”) which may very well involve the shedding away of our human pride, our egos and ambitions so we can all help to make the world a much better place without worrying about who gets the credit for the success. The Bible says it perfectly in Matthew’s gospel: “He called a little child and had him stand among them. And he said, ‘I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles themselves like this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me.” (Matt. 18: 2-5) Malala never sought attention or tried to be in the spotlight, and in so doing made her message that much more authentic. She was not expecting to get the prize, and when she was first told she had received it, she reportedly thanked those who brought her the news and then returned to her classes. Now that’s what I call a good example of staying focused, and knowing what is the most important! It’s all about priorities, people! This 17 year old young lady has a lot to teach us all, myself included.

Let the children of all ages, from infants on up to 50-something kids like myself, come to Jesus unhindered and withholding no reservations about it. “… Let the little children come unto me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it”. Mark 10: 14-15 If anyone calls themselves a Christian, and yet cannot approach God with the wide-eyed wonderment of a little child, they will never make it into heaven. This is a hard saying, it was even difficult to write, but it is the truth. And, for me to continue to call myself a Christian, and an ambassador for Christ, and a soldier in God’s army without making it a point to stand up for real truth and a genuine form of justice, that would make me a hypocrite. And I refuse to even consider becoming that. No way.

Education and equality are basic human rights. I would define education as being the complete and unhindered access to knowledge for the purpose of self-improvement, of wishing to become someone more than we currently are, or to progress or advance professionally. Equality is not only a basic human right, it is also Scriptural, as it is written by the apostle Paul: “Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality. At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn your plenty will supply what they need. Then there will be equality, as it is written: ‘He who gathered much did not have too much, and he that gathered little did not have too little’.” (2nd Corinthians 8, verses 13-15) In the same way education should be free, not reserved exclusively for those whose parents can afford the tuition, or for those unfortunate students who “qualify” for a series of usurious student loans to pay for their education, only to be strapped with debt for much of the rest of their lives. The same thing goes for health care. Just put everyone in the country from the highest echelons of government and the military all the way down to some poor disabled man or woman in a wheelchair on Medicare, then eliminate everything else.

Malala is a true pioneer. She has won the Nobel Prize for Peace at a time when American girls her age are looking forward to their senior proms and the end of high school. If this young lady is what the future of our youth looks like, the future will be very promising indeed.

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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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