Tuesday, February 28, 2017
Sunday, February 26, 2017
Trump's Demand for More Nukes, the Ongoing Obscenity of War, and Its Contradiction With Authentic Christianity
by Rev. Paul J. Bern
Just this past week, president Donald Trump stated that the US must be “top of the pack” in nuclear weapons capability. Trump has expressed concern that the United States has fallen behind in its nuclear weapons capacity and that he would like to “restore its supremacy”. In a Reuters interview conducted in the Oval Office this past Thursday, Trump said the US needed to revive its nuclear arsenal. "I am the first one that would like to see nobody have any nukes, but we're never going to fall behind any country even if it's a friendly country, we're never going to fall behind on nuclear power," Trump said. The comments were his first on the US nuclear arsenal since taking office last month. In December – hours after Russian President Vladimir Putin pledged to enhance his country's nuclear forces – Trump tweeted that the United States "must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes." In that event, I think the first two people who need to “come to their senses” are Presidents Trump and Putin, and especially Trump. It is not hard to see why.
The war in Afghanistan lasted more than 11 years. 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 140 countries around the world, such as Germany, Japan, Okinawa, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Diego Garcia and Kuwait, to name a few of the major ones. A stepped up nuclear arms program is the ultimate escalation. The main reason Hillary Clinton didn't get elected was because people were so concerned about her being such a war hawk. Many were afraid she would have gotten us into World War Three. Could it be that president Trump is going to turn around and do the same thing?
This leads to a fundamental question; why is our country's leadership (because it's not just president Trump) doing this? Why take a chance on a nuclear conflagration ever happening in the first place? Have we become collectively suicidal and homicidal? Look at the world from the standpoint of armaments. The USA is the world's #1 arms manufacturer by far. This leads me to the conclusion that most of the arms being manufactured by other countries, such as Russia (the #2 arms manufacturer), are in place to counter the American threat. Too many Americans do not realize how much our country has frightened and damaged much of the world. We have the military and our elected politicians to blame, this happened on their watch! And now president Trump wants to ramp up nuclear arms production? I rebuke that in the name of Jesus, who said, “He who lives by the sword will die by the sword”!!
The notion of America being a superpower is a 20th century notion whose retirement date has long since arrived. With over 7 billion people currently inhabiting the earth, waging war has become counter-productive. It creates more problems than it solves, both in terms of human lives and in damage to the environment, which is already severely damaged and in need of extensive rejuvenation. Moreover, wars are almost never being fought for the reasons stated to the public. Let's take Afghanistan as an example. The US military was allegedly there to find Osama Bin Laden, but the truth is that Afghanistan is a country with vast untapped natural resources, including enormous copper deposits. Meaning, all the fuss about Afghanistan's poppy seed crop being a target of the 'drug war' here in the US is just a whitewash job on the American public. Upon closer examination of what has been happening there out of sight of the American people, 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 for the last 6 years. It brings the US “war on terror” into sharp focus and sheds light on the criminality of the American Empire's military machine and its illegal incursions into 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" in exchange for easy access to their oil, but it has been a policy that has contributed mightily to the oppression of the people in those countries. This 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. Contrary to what is being reported in the Lame Stream Media, populist revolts in the Arab world have been non sectarian, grass roots and non ideological in every country they have occurred. That 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. Regarding this, former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said during Bush 43's second term in office, "Any secretary of defense who advises a president to engage in land wars with vast armies in foreign lands needs to have his head examined". So going nuclear is now the new way to wage war? Go to Japan and find a few of the survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and ask them whether nuclear war is a viable option, and see what they tell you!
The fact is Washington's entire strategy of preemptive nuclear war and the whole "war on terrorism" is a ruse, a cruel invention concocted by neoconservatives and cold war warriors who were itching to replace the defunct Soviet Union with another enemy – otherwise the purpose for their existence would have to be called into question. 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' perpetrated on 9/11 by rogue elements inside the US government has become the manufactured cause for endless war and is the real legacy of that fateful day. But in light of the unfolding "awakening" in much of the world, can there not be serious discussions in the White House and Pentagon of the absurdity of our continuing to fight wars in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and Libya (not to mention the proxy war the CIA has been fighting against the Assad regime in Syria)? Secretary 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 non-winnable 'endless war' yet unwilling and unable to face reality. War is an ongoing obscenity, and America is addicted to it. It's time for America, particularly those inside the Washington Beltway, to check it's collective self into rehab. No more wars, and especially no more nukes!
Friday, February 24, 2017
"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
Wednesday, February 22, 2017
Sunday, February 19, 2017
Congress and the President Had Better Learn to Work Together, or They Will Face the Wrath of the People
by Pastor Paul J. Bern
There is a well-known quote from the Book of Romans in the New Testament that says, “Everyone must submit themselves to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. For he is God's servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing.....” (Romans 13, verses 1-4). These four verses of scripture are still just as valid today, 20 centuries later. Unfortunately, these verses can be and have been used grossly out of context in the past, with Adolf Hitler being the most infamous example (Hitler was a Catholic).
I have known a few evangelical pastors and far more “Christian conservatives” in my 61 years on this great planet Earth (or at least what's left of it) who have similarly misused these verses. They were all sure they were right and that every other person not of their faith, or who dared to disagree, was going to burn in hell forever. For decades these “Christians” have taught their racist, homophobic, divisive and hate-based message that has driven away so many millions of souls they should have been winning over to Christ! Consequently, I have come to the conclusion that some of the “religious” people that I'm writing about need to find something else to do with their lives. Instead, maybe they could try selling cars, especially since some TV evangelists have about the same level of credibility. Or better yet, they could become truck drivers – you know, see America and all that jazz. Just hit the road, Jack, and don't you come back any more! Let the truly committed and dedicated followers of Jesus do the works of faith and perseverance in spreading the Gospel of Jesus, and may the pretenders have enough sense to step aside so the productive people can work!
One thing that has changed about those verses of scripture since they were first written down is the advent of representative democracy. Although I could argue that representative democracy, where a full time elected official goes to Washington on our behalf, is in the process of being replaced with direct voter participation democracy, where the voters and the government will be directly connected on the Web (congressional and senate representatives would be reduced to part time employees), I will set that aside for now. Suffice it to say that, thanks to the Bill of Rights, particularly the second, fourth, fifth and eight amendments, Romans 13: 1-4 has become a 2-way street! Although people should rightfully fear criminal prosecution (“he does not bear the sword for nothing”), the US Constitution – our supreme law of the land – is written in such a way that our elected government is responsible to the people. Since our right to “keep and bear arms” is spelled out in the Second Amendment, the American people do not bear their 'swords' for nothing, either! As Patrick Henry, one of the many heroes of the American Revolutionary War, famously said, “The Constitution is not an instrument for the government to restrain the people, it is an instrument for the people to restrain the government.”
As a result of all this, the conservative paradigm, where all of the power – political, economic, executive, legislative and judicial – is being concentrated in the hands of a few, is in the process of being replaced by a more populist agenda, particularly with respect to president Trump. The Internet is decentralizing everything. Moreover, the American people are arming themselves to the teeth in response to government bullying, including things like Standing Rock South Dakota, the epidemic of police shootings of unarmed Black men, the outsourcing of millions of American middle class jobs, the poisoning of our food and water, and I could go on and on! Then there is the ticking time bomb of inequality, with 99% of the wealth in the hands of 1% of the world's population. They are in the process of turning our country into one big minimum-wage sweatshop, and those who comprise this top 1% of America's economic pie are seeking to end the rule of the people here in the USA. When they are finished, they will own all the property that is left in the US and we will all be paupers. As a direct result of all these things and many more, people are beginning to take a noticeably more Progressive (but not necessarily “liberal”) stance on all of the above, and that includes our religious faith (nonreligious people excluded). Progressive Christianity means faith that is focused sharply on Jesus Christ without all the added dogmas of religious denominations, minus the spiritual pollution of conservative politics, and without condemning any faith or group of people whether Christ-based or not.
Curiously enough, the majority of those in the top 1% consider themselves 'Christian'. As such, they truly believe that those who have not been “saved” like they are (or as they see themselves), are not as enlightened as they are (LOL). Due to their own perceived 'superiority', they expect us to believe that we are incapable of knowing what is best for ourselves, and that because of this we are in need of supervision (a.k.a. centralized government). You should also know they do not believe that even centuries-old Christian communities (Catholics, Anglicans, Greek Orthodox, etc.) are “saved,” only those who are Christian political conservatives. I've seen this first hand, and it's not pretty.
You might be thinking that a minority fundamentalist group of zealots can’t really take over the direction of a country, right? Well, just look at the Bolshevik revolution in Russia in 1917, that's exactly what the Communists did. They pulled it off with just a few thousand soldiers and about as many mercenaries. In modern times, look at Iran or the countless other places (until recently, Hugo Chavez's Venezuela) where people have allowed this to happen. But thanks to the Second Amendment, I do not believe that could happen in America. Does anyone seriously think that all the US population is really going to sit back and watch a few thousand people pulling off an armed coup against the US government without wanting to jump up and do something about it? I should think not! They have already begun to attack all sources of accurate information. That's the reason former Minnesota governor Jesse Ventura fled the United States and now resides in Mexico. Public radio and network TV were first, then came cable TV, along with the museums and school textbooks. Just listen to them argue against the scientific facts about the environmental peril our planet is facing, just because it does not fit in with their ideas. The 1% elitists represent a clear and present danger to America and the world. The only way to stop them as I see it is to find a way to cut off their money supply, and that would involve a tax revolt of some kind or another. We had better do something very soon!
If I told you that the Amish in Pennsylvania were running for public office in record numbers with the intention of outlawing electricity and forcing others to act, dress and think like them, you would not believe it. Well, that is exactly what is happening in America, only it is not the Amish, it is the Christian fundamentalists and extreme right-wingers. It is not outlawing electricity, it’s placing limits on being a human with free will. Enjoying art and music, loving the person of your choice, dancing – the things that fundamentalists call “sins” – are a big part of what it means to be a human. Instead of funding education, technology development, research into advances in medicine and science, conversion to clean energy and a new low-voltage, digital power grid, and the development of space exploration, we are devoting all available revenues to war and killing. Waging war and profligate military spending are the first things that have to stop if we're going to improve life on this planet of ours. After all, it's the only one we have, and thanks to an emerging awakening people everywhere are figuring this out. As a result, a lot of personal growth is currently taking place, and that's always a good thing!
The good news is that we are witnessing the beginning of a new era in human existence. While we watch the demonstrations across the country against the US election results, we continue to witness the civil war in Syria, the human barrage of economic and wartime refugees in Europe and North America, the accelerating concentration of wealth into the hands of a few, and the growing exasperation and anger of the American people, we are seeing a great truth – that people have within them the natural desire to be free. It is so sad that as the people of the world are fighting for freedom, we here in the United States are going in the opposite direction. The far right, under the control of Christian fundamentalists, is declaring an all-out war on human progress. We must absolutely, positively fight back. After all, the consequences of not acting are very serious. We are not just fighting for ourselves. We are struggling to protect the future generations of Americans who will suffer from these ruthless actions of the far right. We are speaking out against the measures being taken against those in our community who can least afford to be marginalized. This system of enforced inequality is going to fall one way or the other because it is unsustainable. As the late President John F. Kennedy once said, “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible, will make violent revolution inevitable”.
Saturday, February 18, 2017
Monday, February 13, 2017
Sunday, February 12, 2017
The 7 Biggest Lies of the Conservatives and the G.O.P.
By Pastor Paul J. Bern
One of the Ten Commandments is, “You shall not lie”. (Exodus 20, verse 16) It says still more about dishonesty in government in chapter 23, verse 8 of that same book of the Bible: “Do not accept a bribe, for a bribe blinds those who see and twists the words of the righteous.” While I'm not about to accuse anyone in the new US presidential administration of accepting bribes, I am dismayed at the barrage of confusing signals coming from the Trump administration. First, we were going to have a travel ban on Muslims because president Trump made it a campaign promise. Predictably, the courts have shot it down. The travel ban was unconstitutional right from the start. President Trump should have known that. The US Constitution has a system of checks and balances written into it so that none of America's 3 branches of government will gain too much authority over the other two. I think it is highly commendable that our system of government still works so well, even after all these years.
The debacle of president Trump's travel ban, combined with the large public protests against his administration, is morphing into a new Occupy or “We are the 99%” movement. The beginning of the end of the American political machine, the Republican-Democrat paradigm, has already begun. The Occupiers on Wall Street, at Standing Rock, South Dakota and elsewhere, combined with the various anti-government and antiwar protesters, can’t become a national movement for a more equitable society unless more Americans know the truth about the economy. Everything revolves around the economy because we all need money to survive. America's trade imbalance, social, environmental and economic issues all revolve around a debt-based economy. This economic paradigm is coming to an end, and I'm going to list 7 reasons why.
1.) Tax cuts for the rich trickle down to everyone else. In actuality, quite the reverse is true. Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush both sliced taxes on the rich and what happened? Most Americans’ wages (measured by the real median wage) began flattening under Reagan and has been dropping since George W. Bush. Trickle-down economics is a cruel joke. In reality, “trickle down” means “piss on” the poor, minorities and people of color, the disabled and the elderly.
2.) Higher taxes on the rich would hurt the economy and slow job growth. False. From the end of World War II until 1981, the richest Americans faced a top marginal tax rate of 70 percent or above. Under Dwight Eisenhower it was 91 percent. Even after all deductions and credits, the top taxes on the very rich were far higher than they’ve been since. Yet the economy grew faster during those years than it has since. Why are the country's wealthiest families being allowed to skate on by the IRS while the rest of the country gets hammered by falling wages?
3.) Shrinking government generates more jobs. Wrong again. It means fewer government workers – everyone from teachers, fire fighters, police officers, and social workers at the state and local levels to safety inspectors and military personnel at the federal. And, fewer government contractors would employ fewer private-sector workers. On the contrary; to create more jobs and economic prosperity, raise the minimum wage to a realistic level! More money in people's pockets equals more spending, which generates more economic activity, which creates more jobs and business start-ups. Plus, the additional spending and jobs create more tax revenue that ultimately makes its way back into the communities it serves.
4.) Cutting the budget deficit now is more important than boosting the economy. Whose lame-brained idea was this? Probably someone from within the Federal Reserve, since the Federal Reserve owns America's budget deficit. Every time America makes a payment on our “national debt”, the money goes to the Federal Reserve! With so many Americans out of work or working part time instead of full time, additional budget cuts now will shrink the US economy even further. They’ll increase unemployment and reduce tax revenues. That will worsen the ratio of the debt to the total economy. The first priority must be getting jobs and growth back by boosting the economy. Only then, when jobs and growth are returning vigorously, should we turn to cutting the deficit.
5.) Medicare and Medicaid are the major drivers of budget deficits. Wrong. Medicare and Medicaid spending is rising quickly, to be sure. But that’s because the nation’s health-care costs are rising so fast. One of the best ways of slowing these costs is to use Medicare and Medicaid’s bargaining power over drug companies and hospitals to reduce costs, and to move from a fee-for-service system to a fee-for-healthy outcomes system. And since Medicare has far lower administrative costs than private health insurers, we should make Medicare available to everyone. All America has to do is take everyone who is signed up for Obama-care, Medicaid, the VA hospital system, plus all government employees, and roll them over into Medicare. Then we'll just eliminate Obama-care and Medicaid by de-funding them both, saving over $1 trillion in the first year alone.
6.) Social Security is a Ponzi scheme. No way! Social Security is solvent for the next 26 years just as it is. It could be solvent for the next century or more if we raised the ceiling on income subject to the Social Security payroll tax. That ceiling is now $106,800. Raising that amount to $250,000 will do the job very nicely! All it takes is a little common sense, something that seems to be in short supply inside the Beltway these days.
7.) It’s unfair that lower-income Americans don’t pay income tax. This is patently ridiculous. In a worst case, it criminalizes the poor. In truth, there’s nothing unfair about it. Lower-income Americans pay out a larger share of their paychecks in payroll taxes, sales taxes, user fees, and tolls than everyone else especially when compared to the top 1%.
Demagogues through history have known that big lies, repeated often enough, start being believed — unless they’re rebutted. These seven economic deceptions are just plain wrong. Make sure you know the truth – and spread it around to everyone you meet!
Thursday, February 9, 2017
Free excerpt #2 from my recent book release, "Cannabis Legalization and the Bible" by Rev. Paul J. Bern
"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.
Sunday, February 5, 2017
Immigration Issues, Muslim Refugees And The Golden Rule
by Pastor Paul J. Bern
After watching or hearing about all the back-and-forth from the Oval Office about president Trump's 90-day immigration ban and subsequent court order temporarily suspending it this past week, I would first like to say that I have had a belly full of those who are ranting and raving about the flood of Muslim refugees who are entering Europe and America. I don't talk, dress or worship as Muslims do either, but that does not give me license to hate them universally! In the first place, since I'm a Web minister and Christ follower it is impossible for me to hate, but I do not hesitate to voice strong disapproval of those who do. Those persons whose battle cry is, “GTHO” have forgotten – or chosen to ignore – that the United States is an entire nation of immigrants. Our country is a great melting pot for people of all nations, races, nationalities and faiths. It's not like we're being invaded by an army, although there are unquestionably some undesirable elements that must be rooted out. But we have law enforcement and intelligence agencies that take care of all that (plus a whole lot of vigilance on our part). So it's time to get over our fear. What we actually have is a humanitarian crisis of colossal proportions. If a family dressed in Muslim attire came to your door asking for food, would you give it to them? Let's not forget what it says on the Statue of Liberty in New York harbor: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free....”. Let's also not forget what has been taught by Jesus Christ, “Love your neighbor as yourself”. The entire concept of unconditional love and acceptance while living in peace and harmony escapes those who are hateful, bigoted, prejudiced and intolerant, but children understand it completely – just ask one. Better yet, go and ask one of the so-called “illegal” children and teens crossing America's borders. They come in search of peace and harmony because they have all escaped from the war zones down in southern Mexico and Central America.
The Bible has something to say about this, if only we will take a minute to look it up. “Do not mistreat an alien or oppress him, for you were aliens in Egypt”. (Exodus 22: 21) This verse of scripture dates back to when Moses was at Mt. Sinai, well over 3,000 years ago, and its meaning remains unchanged over the centuries. And the apostle Paul wrote, “For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile – the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call upon his name, for 'Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved'.” (Romans 10: 12-13) It looks to me like if there is no difference between Jew and Gentile, then by extension the same goes for Arabs and Americans or Arabs and Europeans. Granted, there have been terror attacks that have taken lives, a lot of lives, and these attacks demand a response that is even harder and meaner than the attacker(s). I'm all in favor of that, and if I were a younger man I might consider arming myself against the Islamic terrorists here on the home front and joining the fight. But we as Christians – and this goes for the nonreligious too, so all you secular readers please stay with me – can use the influx of Muslim refugees as an opportunity to sow the seeds of generational peace.
The majority of the Muslim refugees have a negative view of our country. The US military has bombed half of the Middle East back to the stone age, and they have enraged a multitude of people because of that. Well then, instead of killing them with our bullets and bombs, why not try killing them with kindness? We need to let these people know that there are many Americans who vehemently disagree with the New World Order and the Pentagon's global militarism. Let's be sure and remember what Jesus said about this: “You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy'. But I tell you: love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you....” (Matt. 5: 44). This commandment from Christ, in and of itself, is one that is completely contrary to what is considered “normal” human though processes. Only he, the Son of God, could consistently do this repeatedly throughout his life. No one can duplicate this on a consistent basis – absolutely nobody! That is, in large part, the entire point of Jesus' ministry, and it's why he sacrificed himself for each of us.
But the most famous and timely quote from Christ regarding this entire issue can be summed up in one short paragraph. “The King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.' Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothed you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?' The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me'.” (Matt. 25, verses 34-40) The righteous who did all these things during their physical lives will reap an eternal reward, but those who thought only of themselves will receive eternal condemnation.
We all know, or at least have heard of, the story of the Good Samaritan as told to us by Jesus Christ. I won't quote the entire parable verbatim because my posting today is about how it applies to the subject of so-called “illegal immigration”. If I put the story into modern terms I can cite two different examples, one of how this could work out and the other as it actually did. A certain traveler from a foreign country was making their way through the US seeking to find suitable work and re-establish themselves in their newly adopted country. While on their journey, this hapless foreign national gets jacked up, beat up, and left semi-conscious and bleeding on the side of the road. A short while later a religious leader and church pastor who are passing by see the beaten and now-penniless victim, pause for a moment and say a quick prayer, and continue on their way. A few minutes after that, a well-paid IRS agent passes by the man and doesn't even bother to stop and help even though he/she could have easily afforded to do so. An hour or two later, after this crime victim has been lying bleeding, severely injured and baking in the hot sun, a homeless man happens upon this person. This street person from the impoverished inner city (fill in the blank with the city of your choice) cleans up the victim's wounds as best as he can, dials 911 on his/her prepaid flip phone, summons medical assistance to that location, and waits for the ambulance to arrive while protecting this luckless individual from further injury and harm. Once the ambulance has picked the injured person up and taken them to the nearest ER, the homeless person who helped the injured traveler goes on their way, enjoying a quiet satisfaction within themselves at the good deed they have done. But they say nothing to anyone about it, not wanting accolades or applause from anyone, but only to do good and to be merciful towards all God's children. “Blessed are the merciful”, Jesus said, “for they will be shown mercy”. When the Last Trumpet sounds, guess who will be allowed in first?
We are, after all, a Christian nation, are we not? I know former president Obama said we weren't, but I have never agreed with that. If we're going to be a Christian or even a humanitarian nation, then I think it's high time we started acting as if it were true! Didn't Jesus heal the sick? Then we should be doing likewise, and the same goes for helping the less fortunate whenever and wherever we can. Anyone who disagrees with me on this point has forgotten their Christian heritage, lost touch with their humanity, or both. When I was a kid, I was taught that kindness wasn't a choice, it was a command. It wasn't something you considered doing; it was an automatic reaction that came straight from the heart. We just did it because that's what Jesus would have us do. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”. This includes all immigrants, whether they are here legally or not!
Let me be absolutely clear about what I regard as the crux of the immigration issue. Immigrants, whether they are here legally or not, are not invaders from another country. They are economic and war refugees! I will use Mexico as an illustration. As you may know, the southern part of Mexico is a war zone between the drug cartels. But it's worse than that. The average blue-collar worker in Mexico has a take-home pay in Pesos that is equal to about $50.00 a month in US dollars. When any given migrant worker comes to the US and takes a job at the minimum wage of $7.25 per hour, that works out to a net pay after taxes of about $740.00 per month for a single person, more than a fifteen-fold increase over what they used to make. Now, let us ask ourselves this basic question: if we were offered a job in our profession in Canada, for example, at fifteen times our current pay rate, any one of us would naturally be eager for the chance, is that not correct? Of course you would! Now you know why so many economic refugees from the third world are coming here, and it's not just from Mexico. They seek economic opportunity just like anyone else would, and it is a level of opportunity available in few places elsewhere. So if the American people want our government to do something about the influx of economic refugees from Mexico and Central America, we as a united people need to tell our leaders to change the economic conditions that is causing our borders (yes, it's both – the Canadian border is just as porous as it is down south) to be overrun in the first place! How do we do that? One way would be a global minimum wage. Another would be direct economic aid to those affected countries by the federal government.
So why does this issue upset so many people? America is and always has been a nation of immigrants. There has never been a time in American history when this was not so. Every time we welcome one more immigrant into America, we take on the role of the Good Samaritan all over again. And that is a role we should all continue to emulate everywhere we go. Because at the end of the day, if we fail to do these things, we are discriminating. Discrimination based on race, ethnicity or religion is banned in the Constitution as well as the laws of our land (see the 14th amendment section 1, our nation's civil rights legislation of the 1960's and 70's, et. al.). The apostle James also had something to say about this when he wrote: “Brothers, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against their brother or judges him speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it. There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you – who are you to judge your neighbor?”. (James 4, verses 11-12) Why does this still apply today? Because the world has shrunk to a tiny fraction of its seemingly enormous size back then. Our neighbors are not just down the street or in our town any more. The Internet has connected everyone who wants to be connected, and more new people continue to log on each day. Meaning, everybody is now our neighbor, even if they're on the other side of the world. Isn't it time we started acting like it?
Friday, February 3, 2017
Free excerpt from my recent book release, "Cannabis Legalization and the Bible: Compatible or Not?" by Rev. Paul J Bern
 Facts About the Drug War The $320 billion annual global drug industry now accounts for over 2 percent of all commerce on the planet. A full 12 percent of Mexico's economy is built on drug proceeds. For every drug dealer you put in jail or kill, a line forms to replace him/her because the money is just that good. Today it is clearer than ever that cannabis prohibition not only does not work when it comes to drug law enforcement, it actually exacerbates the drug “problem” overall. The February 12, 1996 issue of the National Review had the headline in bold letters, “THE WAR ON DRUGS IS LOST”. Of course that was 20 years ago. Never mind about all those illegal drugs for now. Let's start with one drug that has repeatedly demonstrated healing properties, and I'm talking about cannabis. That's right – medical marijuana. Consider a few facts about America's 'weed war':
 It diverts hundreds of thousands of police agents from serious crimes to the pursuit of harmless smokers, including agents from the local and state police, FBI, Drug Enforcement Agency, and U.S. Marshals, Secret Service, Border Patrol, Customs, and Postal Service.
 By even the most conservative estimate, the outlay from US taxpayers now tops $10 billion a year in direct spending just to catch, prosecute, and incarcerate marijuana users and sellers, not counting other illegal drugs and such indirect costs as militarizing our border with Mexico in a hopeless and pathetic effort to stop marijuana imports.
 Police agents at all levels trample our Bill of Rights in their eagerness to nab pot consumers by conducting illegal car searches, phone and email taps, garbage scrounging, stop-and-frisks out in public without just cause just because they can, and door-busting night raids, many of which are not accompanied by Constitutionally required search warrants.
 Even people who are merely suspected of marijuana violations and have had no charges filed against them can (and regularly do) have their cars, money, computers, and other property confiscated by police. In a reversal of America's fundamental legal principles, it is up to these suspects to prove that their property is "innocent" of any crime.
 People convicted of possessing even one ounce of marijuana can face mandatory minimum sentences of a year in jail, and having even one plant in your yard is a federal felony.
 At least 490,000 Americans are in federal or state prisons as I write this. All are being held on marijuana charges, not counting people in city and county jails, in which there are even more than the prison systems.
 89% of all marijuana arrests are for simple possession of the weed, not for producing or selling it. In short, marijuana prohibition is not, and will not, reduce demand. So then, it’s time to regulate the supply. It is time to remove the production and distribution of marijuana out of the hands of violent criminals and into the hands of licensed businesses, and the only practical way to do that is through legalization, regulation and taxation.
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!! Only $14.95; buy direct at http://www.pcmatl.org/#!books-and-donations/c17et (tax deductible)