Thursday, November 30, 2017
Sunday, November 26, 2017
Obeying Authority: When It's Right and When It's Not
by pastor Paul J. Bern
Today we live in a world where the abuse of authority has gotten completely out of control. This is about so much more than merely being unhappy about Donald Trump's presidency or the way he is running the country. This abuse of authority dates all the way back to at least the early 1960's, when certain people in authority conspired to assassinate president John F. Kennedy on live TV. It was a bloody coup, and Kennedy's assassins and their compatriots have been running the country ever since. We were lied to about President Kennedy's assassination by the Warren Commission, and we were lied to again five years later concerning the Robert Kennedy assassination. We were lied to about Rev. Dr. King's assassination that same violent year of 1968. President Nixon lied to us about Watergate. We were lied to in 2003 as a pretext for invading Iraq for a second time when it was not necessary. And we were lied to by president Obama when he won the 2008 election while telling us all that he would bring us “change we can believe in”. We got some serious changes all right, resulting in the largest spy and unmanned drone network the world had ever seen. Under the Trump presidency, this drone war has not only been stepped up, it has been taken to the next level.
On the home front, the police have become thoroughly militarized, and they are having lots of fun on the job thanks to all their new toys and gadgets, not to mention fully automatic weapons, and even tanks! They can stop us and search us without cause and without the Constitutionally mandated search warrant. They are breaking our doors down in the middle of the night and murdering unarmed citizens. A 92-year-old woman was shot 19 times and killed by the police several years ago right here in Atlanta where I live and work, and people of color as well as the poor are being specifically targeted by the police, often on the flimsiest of pretexts. In the case of the elderly woman, it later turned out the police had the wrong house.
Speaking as a minister of the Gospel and as an ambassador for Jesus Christ, I have done a little research as to what the Bible says about governmental authority and the abuse of power. It turns out that there is ample argument for both sides of this coin. The first part has to do with submission to authority in the context of being a law-abiding citizen as the apostle Paul saw it when he wrote the Book of Romans approximately 1,950 years ago. At the time that this was written, all of what is now modern-day Israel was under the military occupation of the Roman empire. Similarly, much of the world today is occupied by the American Empire. Paul wrote these words in that context, so I will quote from the book of Romans, chapter 13 and verses 1-5.
“Everyone must submit himself 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. He is God's servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience.” (Romans 13: 1-5)
At the time that the apostle Paul wrote this, the death penalty was commonplace. Capital punishment existed as a means of absolute control through raw intimidation, and that punishment was carried out with utter ruthlessness and without mercy. Moreover, unlike the Jewish religious establishment of that era, Paul was a Roman citizen and as such he was given rights and privileges that were not shared equally with other non-citizens. But how does this compare with life in the early 21st century? Although the death penalty is still administered for capital crimes such as murder, it is carried out with relative infrequency compared to the days of the Roman empire. There were also debtors prisons in Paul's day. People who ran into financial trouble back in those days were routinely imprisoned until their debts were paid. In contrast, today if one gets into financial difficulty, bankruptcy laws exist that are much more fair and equitable than prison. Compared to the times in which the apostle Paul lived, we get a complete picture of a much more fair, equitable and comparatively lenient world in the present day. Let me now make some comparisons between Paul's world and ours using this passage of scripture as a backdrop to the picture that I will now paint for you with my words.
“The authorities that exist have been established by God”. This one solitary sentence, while being a biblical verse, has been more misused than any other in my opinion (It was reportedly Hitler's favorite Bible verse). Although Paul sincerely believed at the time that he wrote these words that he was absolutely correct, he was speaking more as a Roman citizen and a Hebrew religious scholar than he was as a minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ. In modern America, our rule of law is the Constitution of the United States and so I am writing today in this context as an American citizen. We have the right to free speech and freedom of religion today that did not exist in the apostle Paul's time. That right which is established under the 1st amendment to the US Constitution allows me to write these words without fear of punishment. As such I am within the law and I will remain so for as long as the law is fair and just. It's when it's unfair to the point of being oppressive that things can get a bit dicey. But hold that thought as I continue.
The apostle Paul continues his train of thought as he writes further: “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.” The same applies today. Take the patriot movement and so-called “preppers” of today as two examples. Organizing any armed revolt in modern-day America is an idea that I am very much against, since I preach and teach as a man of peace who tries his best to emulate Jesus, the Prince of Peace and the redeemer of my soul. Besides, the police have very well-armed SWAT teams, and there is always the National Guard that exists within any given state. So I think one would be foolhardy to try and take on authority in this manner. On the other hand, it is perfectly legal, and I would also say that it is even necessary, to engage in peaceful protests against laws and policies that we disagree with, particularly when they are unjust. The US Supreme Court's decision that money equals free speech – the so-called “Citizens United” ruling – is one good example of an unjust law. The counterproductive and sometimes downright stupid War on Drugs is another one, particularly when it comes to the topic of medical marijuana, which clearly needs to be legalized. For a Christian perspective on medical marijuana, get a copy of my book. “Cannabis Legalization and the Bible” by yours truly. The first amendment to our Constitution gives us the right to protest or uphold any and all of the above, something that did not exist during Paul's time all those centuries ago. In this regard, I think we can interpret this passage of scripture a little differently than what Paul wrote back then.
The apostle Paul then continues making his point, and so will I. “Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you.” It is sad to say that this is not always true in the modern world. Bad people vilify good people for doing good things for a lot of different reasons, most of which have to do with envy, malice or guilt. Trying as I do to do what is right, I often find myself looked down on by the many godless people I encounter when I'm out riding public transit around town. I put up with the occasional verbal attacks because I am openly Christian, but I do so knowing that God is watching everything I do and He is listening to everything I say. But still, it is wise to be “free from fear of the one in authority”. The best way to follow this principle is to obey the commandments and the teachings of Jesus Christ. We learn his commandments and what his will is by reading his Word daily, even if only for a few minutes (Try a chapter a day, particularly if you're just getting started; it only takes 5 minutes). Just by doing this, we can keep ourselves out of much trouble. Besides, the Bible says in the Old Testament to “obey the laws of the land, that it may go well with you in the place you are abiding”. Those words were written at least three thousand years ago, and they are still just as true today as they were back then.
By the same token, there are things happening and situations unfolding within the US government that are completely contrary to God's laws. Take the ten commandments as an example. The eighth commandment says, “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor”, which can be expanded to include this simple command: you shall not lie and gossip about people you dislike. Yet America found itself embroiled in a war in Iraq that was based on a lie. Specifically, that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq when Saddam Hussein was still in power. Of course, those WMD's turned out to be non-existent, and it took 4,400 US fatalities – and over 100,000 Iraqi civilian deaths, one third of whom were children – to find that out. The same applies to Afghanistan. Our troops have been there since 2001, first to find Osama Bin Laden even though everybody in Southern Asia and the Middle East knew he was in Pakistan. Now that he has been deceased for quite a few years, are our troops all back home yet? Absolutely not, effectively making Afghanistan a de facto US territory with an open ended US military presence. The US government has been spending $6 billion dollars a week on this occupation, a thoroughly obscene sum of money by any standard.
Yet all the while, there is unemployment here in the USA that is officially around 4%, but that doesn't count all the millions of long-term unemployed who have stopped looking for work, as well as those who are working part-time when full-time work is what is needed. If these facts were figured into this equation, the true unemployment rate is hovering at around 24 percent. There is no money to create over a million badly needed jobs in our country, but there is an unlimited supply of cash for multiple illegal military occupations and drone strikes all around the globe. This is a moral outrage, and anybody with even a little bit of a conscience should be out in the streets protesting against the US military-industrial complex. That may not be in the words of the Bible, but it most certainly is in the Spirit thereof.
Paul then writes in verse 5, “Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience.” This is just as true today as it was when it was first written. Being an outlaw will only get us into trouble, and jail is no place for anybody to be except for the worst criminals. For example, it is a bad idea to drive your car at 90 miles an hour because it is against the law for obvious reasons. On the other hand, I'm old enough to remember famed boxer Muhammad Ali who, back in the 1960's when he was known as Cassius Clay, had his career interrupted when he had to serve time in prison for refusing to report for the military draft. Going off to war for people who had enslaved his ancestors, he said, in order for him to go and kill even more, was too much to ask and he refused to go fight in the Vietnam war. He spent a year or two in prison, as I recall, for making that decision, and that's something I've always admired about Muhammad Ali. The fact that he converted to Islam makes no difference to me, because the same Almighty God made us both.
The ten commandments must be obeyed, to be sure, but let's be sure to obey the teachings of Christ all the more. We have been commanded not to steal, lie or commit adultery, nor should we have any false gods in our lives, such as money and all the 'things' it can buy. We are commanded to “love the Lord your God with all your strength, all your mind, all your soul and all your spirit”, and to “love our neighbor as we love ourselves” (Matthew 22, verses 34-40). We can and should worship the one true God and Him alone, who sent His only Son to die for our sins and then to rise from the dead on the third day after He was crucified. In the same way that we submit ourselves to God we should, as far as it is possible, submit to authority here on earth. But if that authority becomes abusive, especially to the point of being dangerous or menacing to its citizens, then our obedience to that authority should become more discerning. And we should do so not only “because of possible punishment but also because of conscience”. But here in the 21st century, we can and should oppose and protest against the government similarly because of matters of conscience. It is part of the laws of our land as they exist today, and we can and should exercise this right because our rule of law says we can. This is also in keeping with God's commands, and I hope and pray that it always remains so.
Saturday, November 25, 2017
Monday, November 20, 2017
Sunday, November 19, 2017
Black Friday Weekend, and the Bible
by pastor Paul J. Bern
The psychopathology of consumerism and the subtle brain washing of mind control – these are the insidious institutions that Americans find themselves subjected to on a daily basis, and all in the holy name of 'profit'. We have, like it or not, become programmed like robots to spend more than we can afford on things we don't really need. Like sheep headed to the trimmers – or to the slaughterhouse, depending on your point of view – we dutifully spend our meager little incomes at the bidding of the top 1% of business owners, the corporate elite and their stockholders while our highly vaunted capitalist economic system fleeces us all while rubbing our noses in it. Those who control America's shadow government – the real movers and shakers from behind the scenes, not their puppets in Congress, the White House, and the Supreme Court – have sold out our country to the competition and therefore have committed treason!
The reason most people don't care about or won't even consider these glaring realities is because they can “live so much cheaper” buying the very inexpensively made garbage that China and other Pacific Rim and South Asian countries have been dumping on America's shores since the 1980's. Cheaper at first, yes, but due to shoddy manufacturing and poor quality, Chinese products are notoriously short-lived and invariably cheap imitations of much better quality merchandise that used to be made here in the US. But that, of course, was before corporate America and Wall Street outsourced all those middle class American jobs overseas for pennies on the dollar. And so we fight and claw for the thriftiest deal at the various suburban big box stores, purchasing with our meager earnings from our multiple part time jobs – because there are no full time jobs available – as well as other chain stores, all of whom offer pathetic and similarly low wages and zero benefits to their staff. Just like your own employer, most likely.
So, as the 'pitch man' says, how much can we save on all these wonderful items (LOL)? That depends. If one uses plastic instead of paper, that “consumer” always ends up paying far more in interest, fees and hidden charges than they would have if they bought a similar higher quality item at the finest store in town and paid cash. Hmm..... maybe we should ask ourselves some more pertinent questions and explore some far more evident realities about this issue. For example, what about the Chinese workers slaving in dangerous non union factories for 10-12 hours a day? How much does the company pay them? It works out to between 1 and 2 dollars per day. Try living on that for just one week!! Yet Jesus clearly stated, “The workman is worth his wages” (Luke 10: 7). So it is clearly a sin for business owners to cheat or underpay their workers. Who benefits most from these kinds of arrangements? Is it really the mesmerized consumer, all teary-eyed with joy while giggling gleefully at 30, 40, and 50% off deals? Or could it be that the whole stinking thing is rigged from beginning to end? Of course it is!!
Just look at what is being sold and calculate how much it costs to make it. If I look at a 15 ounce can of generic or store brand pork and beans on the grocery shelf priced at 75 cents, it doesn't take a marketing genius to figure out that 75 cents is an outrageous markup. The cans are made by the millions, so they cost just a penny or so to manufacture. The contents of the can usually cost even less. The label costs between 5 and 7 cents at the most. So we're looking at no more than 2 cents for the can and the contents, and maybe an extra 5 or 6 cents for the label. Add another penny or two for shipping and we have 10 cents at the most. Ten darned cents, and the retail price is 75 cents? So the gross markup is more than seven times the cost, or in excess of 700%? Precisely. Or consider a far more expensive item such as the latest I-phone. They sell for about $700 dollars and up, plus taxes and “fees”, but there was a posting on the Internet just recently to the effect that it only costs Apple, Inc. about $120.00 to manufacture I-phones because they were being made in China, resulting in a profit margin exceeding 300%. So much for “God bless America”.
"Yeah, but," the politicians and talking heads say to us on TV, "it's the American workers. They don't want to work menial jobs like canning pork and beans. And we can't assemble I-phones in America because our workers aren't qualified." Never mind that there are many thousands of recent college graduates who are living with their parents because they are unable to support themselves. There simply are no jobs for these poor young adults, and yet they are expected to repay predatory and exorbitant student loans. The careers for which they have been training have already been out-sourced to the third world during the last 4+ years that these hapless individuals have spent earning their degrees. They have all been robbed of their educations, which have been rendered worthless by the multinational corporations and the US military-industrial complex who are running the whole show. The very companies these young graduates are looking forward to going to work for are the ones who have sold them out. As you can see, they don't have much to be thankful for except for being alive. But thanks be to God, who makes being thankful for being alive just enough to be happy about!
Yet we are expected to perform our patriotic duty as well as appropriately celebrate the “feast of capitalism” as we shop till we drop looking for that most fantastic bargain. We are in the process of being programmed to slave at multiple part time jobs working for starvation wages and with no health benefits while being expected to buy $300,000.00 houses, $70,000.00 cars and trucks plus big screen TV's and $1,000.00 I-phones. While all this is occurring, certain employees of multiple multinational corporations are being well paid to line the pockets of senators, congressmen and supreme-court justices in Washington D.C., while sitting on presidential cabinets making decisions regarding our planet's future, our own future, and our children's future. Is it any wonder that the entire world seems to be coming unglued? Meanwhile our consumerism is devouring the planet into something that might soon become more lifeless than the moon or a Wall Street tycoon's conscience. Yet, mesmerized by commercials with intelligence levels less than a jackass after having a lobotomy, we roll blindly into the gates of our hallowed shopping malls and venerated big box stores.
Lennon and McCartney of the Beatles wrote in the song "Revolution", "you say you want a revolution, well you know, we'd all love to change your head." Yes, it is about more than changing Wall Street or who resides in the White House. It is, ultimately, about changing ourselves. If we all really want some serious change, then change must start from within. Speak from your heart to your kids about consumerism, greed and how they are ruining the planet. Help them to understand that it's not about how much we have, but rather how much we contribute. Life is not about how much we own or the value of our possessions. A life well lived is all about making a stand for good things like faithfulness, showing mercy and kindness, and above all, expressing love. Instead of buying your wife a new car while going into debt, take her up on the highest place around where you live, or to some favorite romantic spot, and renew your vows to her. Instead of buying your husband a new bag of golf clubs, give him a night he will never forget. Enjoy each other and be loving to each other. To enjoy is to enjoin is to unite. And since we're going to unite in this regard, let's unite against greed and materialism while we're at it!
Consumerism, capitalism and the vain pursuit of worldly goods keeps us isolated by gimmicks of sensationalist advertising with strikingly beautiful women, absolutely perfect children and gorgeous, flaming hunks of men that are created off the corporate mold. To put it simply, the corporate mold and the Hollywood image are a load of BS. And who is being molded in all these advertising gimmicks? You are!! For what purpose? To make others rich at your expense!! The blue chip corporations have a very good reason for doing all this. As long as they can keep us isolated, we can never be united. Don't go there. Keep your money. Find richness in your heart, your spirit and your character and share that with everyone this year instead.
Sunday, November 12, 2017
Veterans Day: Honoring Our Veterans and
Their Families While Despising
the Government They Serve
by pastor Paul J. Bern
The United States of America, particularly its leadership (such as it is), hasn't been winning very many popularity contests as of late – either overseas or at home. The last two presidents have stepped up military drone strikes against Islamic extremists globally, but mostly those countries that have numerous oil fields. Countries such as Russia, Iran, Somalia, Libya, Egypt, Pakistan and Nigeria are currently in negotiations to collaborate using an alternative currency to the US dollar, such as the Euro, the Chinese Yuan or possibly the Russian ruble, but these oil-producing countries are also using gold as a form of currency. Resorting to such tactics by any of the above countries would be a direct threat to US interests both foreign and domestic, and it would provoke a strong US military response.
Here on the home front, our cities are deteriorating due to a glut of boarded up houses, long-dormant industrial sites and abandoned shopping centers. Much the same has happened to many small rural towns for mostly the same reasons. The least common denominator to why this is occurring is the lack of jobs, or jobs that pay a fair minimum wage of, say, $12-$15.00 an hour. And then there's our police forces, who are supposed to be protecting and serving the public. Instead, they have mutated into a militarized law enforcement apparatus equipped with military-grade weapons, and many if not most of them are more trigger-happy than they would care to admit. As of this writing, the FBI, BATFE, NSA, DEA and the DHS have ordered a total of over 3.5 billion rounds of hollow-point ammunition! That's enough to kill everyone in America 10 times over!
So why did law enforcement purchase such an enormous amount of ammunition knowing that it was more than they would ever use? If it was to prevent mass shootings, I would say they have failed miserably! It was, in large part, for the purpose of denying American gun owners access to ammunition by buying up the supply of ammo that would otherwise go to gun dealers and on to the retail and consumer markets. This enormous amount of ammunition has been purchased for the same reason the police departments are acquiring military grade assault weapons and armored vehicles. They are preparing for mass protests and possible rioting over food and fuel shortages that could even mushroom (no pun intended) into a civil war in a worst-case scenario. Although it is also intended to cut off the supply lines of weapons and ammo to criminals and the mentally ill, cutting off the entire ammo supply to every man, woman and child all across the country is a poor choice. It is also arguably unconstitutional as it likely violates the 2nd Amendment right to “keep and bear arms”, which by extension includes the ammunition required.
But, it has been my observation that there are far more clandestine reasons that are carefully hidden underneath the surface for this to be occurring. The forces and enforcers of the status quo are the same individuals who stand to lose everything when the US dollar loses up to 79% of its value and the capitalist debt-based economic bubble finally bursts for good, as it eventually will. (And maybe sooner than expected. Jesus said. “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth where it will rust or be eaten by moths, or that thieves break in and steal. But instead, store up for yourselves treasure in heaven, where moths don't eat up your clothes, where nothing ever rusts, and where thievery is nonexistent.” (Matt. 6: 19-21)) When that collapse finally does occur, it will bring the American, Canadian, European, Japanese, Chinese and Russian economies down along with it. Even here in the USA, there are presently numerous individuals, and even whole families, who are engaged in activities known as “prepping”. I have begun to do this very thing myself, mainly by storing nonperishable food and gallon jugs of water. What does this say about our country? It looks to me like there are many saying, 'We've had enough of all this crap. The entire American political and economic landscape is a disaster area, and the government is also broken beyond repair. So it's up to us to fix it ourselves.' It looks like the American people, urged on by Progressive writers like myself, have begun to undertake this very thing.
All I am saying for this week is that my country seems to be slowly dying, and that gives me great concern for my future as well as that of everyone else. One thing is certain; America is a hollowed out shell of what it used to be. The job market is absolutely decimated – never mind all of the propaganda that comes from the mainstream media about gaining 240,000 new jobs last month. They are almost entirely minimum wage jobs everywhere I look. It makes me glad I am retired from the work force and grateful for my small disability check. At first when I became disabled I complained about how small my monthly check was. But, having the time to sit back and watch the implosion of the American job market from 2011 up until now, I stopped complaining a long time ago. In fact, it was sinful of me to have done that, and so I confessed that sin to the Lord and begged His forgiveness and he fully restored me (hallelujah!). He wants to restore us all, so confess your sins and Jesus will forgive you too. It doesn't matter how bad you have been, or what you did and when, or what your past has been like. The blood of Jesus washes it all away.
So for the last few years my faith in the Lord has greatly multiplied while my faith in my country has suffered because of the atrocities I have seen when I view the news on the Internet (I don't watch TV). Since the Vietnam war there have been about 2,000,000 civilian casualties globally during all the wars America has fought, allegedly for the cause of “freedom”. In the latest US disaster Syria has descended into a 6-year civil war that is just now winding down. So I am seeing all these things going on over in the Middle East and I find that I'm not really very proud of my country any more, if I ever really was at all. Because these wars weren't for “freedom”. They were fought for the top 1% of the world's wealthiest families, the Four Horsemen “Big Oil” conglomerates, the multinational bankers and the US military-industrial-incarceration complex – all of whom are hiding behind the facade of “freedom and democracy”. That's why I honor our nation's veterans, who went and put themselves in harm's way on their country's behalf (nothing wrong with that at all!), while having contempt for their paymasters in Washington and on Wall Street.
Recently there came across the news wires here in Atlanta a short piece about a certain local state university, Kennesaw State (KSU). It seems a group of 5 cheerleaders for the football team “took a knee” during the national anthem as part of the ongoing protests at public events against excessive force being wielded by law enforcement, sometimes with deadly consequences. As could be expected, these Colin Kaepernick-inspired protests have generated feelings ranging from confusion to outright hatred. It also caused widespread concern and confusion among the college’s students, professors, alumni, supporters and, yes, donors - many of whom felt like playing the anthem compromised Christian values. Was this just another example of our traditional values being trampled by the unrelenting march of political correctness? All of this is a prelude to a time in the not too distant future when there will be persecution of Christians right here in the USA. Laugh at me if you want, but it's most definitely going to happen, and those who refuse to believe will have a rude awakening at some point in the fairly near future.
Being an authentic follower of Jesus Christ in the 21st century means having a living faith in Jesus while faithfully living the way of Jesus. Jesus called his disciples to love their enemies and he loved his enemies all the way to the cross and beyond. He never went to war one single time. Following Jesus and the martyrs before us, we testify with our lives that freedom is not a right that is granted or defended with rockets’ red glare and bombs bursting in air. True freedom is given by God, and it is indeed not free. It comes with a cost, and that cost looks just like a cross. How do we plug ourselves into the unlimited power of the cross of Calvary? First, it is imperative that we all believe that Jesus Christ was the Son of God. As such, he supersedes all authority here on earth.
Next, we must all repent of our sins and bad behavior, for the world cannot know of its brokenness and hopelessness without a Savior to show them a superlative way of life. There needs to be more people practicing the ways of peace while putting away their childish arguments. Nobody gets everything their way all the time. Life simply doesn't work that way. The world cannot know that there is an alternative to violence and war without a people of peace living peacefully. The world cannot know that the weak and the vulnerable are cared for by God without a people practicing an economy centered on sharing and mutual aid. Let us ask ourselves this basic question – if I die in my sleep tonight, what kind of legacy will I leave? However you ask yourself this question, let's all make sure the answer will be that which motivates us all to the propagation and proliferation of peace, which is only achieved by worshiping the Prince of Peace.
The world cannot know the immeasurable worth of human life without a people who consistently work to protect it – in the unborn, in the convict, in the immigrant, in the homeless, in the soldier, in the retirement homes, in the mental hospitals, and in the enemy. These convictions do not reflect ingratitude or hatred for our country. Rather, they reflect a deep love for Christ and a passionate desire for the people to be the Church and visa versa. In order for any people to be qualified as a nation in the sight of the Father, it is paramount that they first make themselves servants of Christ. After all, it is written: “Whoever wants to be called the greatest among you must first become the greatest servant”. I love my country and I do honor our veterans, but I sing my loyalty and pledge my allegiance to Jesus Christ alone. This is because, in the end, our souls and our Savior are all that's going to be left after everything else crumbles.
Monday, November 6, 2017
Of The Bullies, By The Bullies, and For The Bullies
(excerpt from chapter 5 of my book, "Occupying America: We Shall Overcome") © 2012 by Rev. Paul J. Bern all rights reserved
Perhaps the most ominous sign regarding the true nature of economic discrimination and class warfare against the middle class and the poor, which invariably includes people of color, is that of bullying, intimidation and similar forms of abuse directed at employees in the workplace. Although I'm certain that everybody who reads this can think of an example of having a really bad boss, the following alarming example of abusive management in the third world is the best (or worst) example I have found. The question is, could this “method” of management be coming to America's shores next? Worse yet, is it already here?
More than a decade ago, shoe giant Nike came under fire for its use of sweatshop labor in the production of its products. Most of the criticism focused on its Indonesian workforce, where workers, largely young women, were forced to labor under harsh conditions and abusive supervisors. In 1997, filmmaker Michael Moore made Nike abuses a subject of his film "The Big One", and met with Nike CEO Phil Knight. Knight explained that the reason his company was using low-wage labor in Indonesia is allegedly because "Americans don't want to make shoes".
At the Taiwanese-operated Pou Chen Group factory in Sukabumi, Indonesia, which makes Converse shoes for Nike, and PT Amara Footwear factory in Jakarta, workers alleged that they are paid ultra-low wages, regularly verbally and physically abused, and even fired for the act of taking sick leave (this has since become a fact of life in the American workplace as well). The 10,000 mostly female workers at the Taiwanese-operated Pou Chen plant make around 50 cents an hour. That’s enough, for food and bunkhouse-type lodging, but little else. Some workers interviewed by the AP in March and April described being hit or scratched in the arm ― one man until he bled.
An internal Nike report released to the AP found that 'nearly two-thirds of 168 factories making Converse products worldwide fail to meet Nike's own standards for contract manufacturers. Meanwhile, in 2010, Nike CEO Mark Parker received an 84 percent hike in his annual compensation, raking in $13.1 million, an amount many of the workers in Sukabumi and Jakarta can only dream of.
If the top 1% has their way, these kinds of workplace abuses and sweatshop conditions will be making their way to your workplace. Here in Georgia where I live (plus several other states, mostly in the Southeastern US) we have what are called “right to work” laws. Basically what it means is that anyone can be terminated for any reason, or sometimes for no reason at all. So no matter where you work, there is always this cloud of uncertainty hanging overhead, knowing that you can get canned without warning, even if you are doing everything right. Imagine what Jesus would say about this if He came back today! Would he be pleased? Absolutely not! So I would say that being forced to work in what amounts to a hostile work environment is just one more reason for us all to rise up against the top 1% and take back all that they have stolen from us. Our dignity, our human rights and our governmental, economic and political systems will be taken and confiscated from the rich no matter how long it takes!
The fact of the matter is that this type of brute-force management has lately spread from much of America's professional life over into our personal lives, with the most obvious examples being the militarization of our police departments combined with the lost cause known as the “war on drugs”. In so doing, those who used to be sworn to protect and to serve have become those who harass and intimidate. They have become the lackeys of the top 1%, with some in law enforcement chomping at the bit for an opportunity to lock up a few people and bloody a few heads, if not worse. However, I also believe that there is no small number in the law enforcement community who realize that they are actually part of the 99%. When they do, and especially when they realize that they are just pawns for the 1%, they will join us in droves, coming over to our side having realized that they were only being contemptuously used to guard what the 1% has hoarded at the expense of all the rest of us, including themselves.
The police arms race has very clearly spread well beyond the urban borders of the only cities to actually be targeted by foreign terrorists. Now, police officers routinely walk the beat armed with assault rifles and garbed in black full-battle uniforms. The extent of this weapon “inflation” does not stop with high-powered rifles, either. In recent years, police departments both large and small have acquired bazookas, machine guns, and even armored vehicles and tanks for use in domestic police work, as if such things were truly needed. They aren't.
The most serious consequence of the rapid militarization of American police forces, however, is the subtle evolution in the mentality of the "men in blue" from peace officer to urban soldier. This development is absolutely critical and represents a fundamental change in the nature of law enforcement. The primary mission of a police officer traditionally has been to keep the peace. Those whom an officer suspects to have committed a crime are treated as just that -- suspects. Police officers are expected, under the rule of law, to protect the civil liberties of all citizens, even the bad guys. For domestic law enforcement, a suspect in custody remains innocent until proven guilty. Moreover, police officers operate among a largely friendly population and have traditionally been trained to solve problems using a complex legal system; the deployment of lethal violence is supposed to be an absolute last resort.
Soldiers, on the other hand, are trained to identify and kill the enemy. This is a problem. Cops are increasingly seeing the citizens they're hired to protect as 'the enemy'. This is in part how nonviolent protesters end up tear-gassed and shot at. This is part of why violence is so often the first resort of cops dealing with any sort of tricky situation, rather than the last. The idea that we need our cops to be the heavily armed soldiers of the streets instead of, say, social workers and peacekeepers with the power to arrest leads to bad recruiting, bad training, unnecessary deaths, mass distrust of the police by vulnerable communities, and the contemptuous feeling of many cops that they themselves are above the law.
The trend toward a more militarized domestic police force began well before 9/11. It actually began in the early 1980s, as the Reagan administration added a new dimension of literalness to Richard Nixon's declaration of a "war on drugs." Reagan declared illicit drugs a threat to national security. In 1981 he and a compliant Congress passed the Military Cooperation with Law Enforcement Act, which allowed and encouraged the military to give local, state, and federal police access to military bases, research, and equipment. It authorized the military to train civilian police officers to use the newly available equipment, instructed the military to share drug-war-related information with civilian police and authorized the military to take an active role in preventing drugs from entering the country....
The September 11 attacks provided a new and seemingly urgent justification for further militarization of America's police departments: the need to protect the country from terrorism. Within months of the attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center, the Office of National Drug Control Policy began laying the groundwork with a series of ads tying recreational drug use to support for terrorism. Terrorism became the new reason to arm American cops as if they were soldiers, but drug offenders would still be their primary targets. In a particularly egregious example comparable to going duck hunting with a bazooka, the seven police officers who serve the town of Jasper, Florida -- which has all of 2,000 people and hadn’t had a murder in more than a decade -- were each given a military-grade M-16 machine gun from the Pentagon transfer program, leading one Florida paper to run the headline, “Three Stoplights, Seven M-16s.”
In 2006 alone, the Department of Defense distributed vehicles worth $15.4 million, aircraft worth $8.9 million, boats worth $6.7 million, weapons worth $1 million and “other” items worth $110.6 million to local police agencies. After 9/11, police departments in some cities, including Washington, D.C., also switched to battle dress uniforms (BDUs) instead the traditional police uniform. Critics say even subtle changes like a more militarized uniform can change both public perception of the police and how police see their own role in the community. One such critic, retired police sergeant Bill Donelly, wrote in a letter to the editor of the Washington Post, "One tends to throw caution to the wind when wearing ‘commando-chic’ regalia, a bulletproof vest with the word ‘POLICE’ emblazoned on both sides, and when one is armed with high tech weaponry." Departments in places like Indianapolis and some Chicago suburbs also began acquiring machine guns from the military in the name of fighting terror....
The total number of SWAT deployments per year in the U.S. may now top 60,000, or more than 160 per day. SWAT teams have been used to break up neighborhood poker games, sent into bars and fraternities suspected of allowing underage drinking, and even to enforce alcohol and occupational licensing regulations. Concern about such firepower in densely populated areas hitting innocent citizens has given way to an attitude that the police are fighting a war against drugs and crime and must be heavily armed. Never mind the collateral damage! Earlier this year, the Department of Education even sent its SWAT team to the home of someone suspected of defrauding the federal student loan program. In so doing, the inability to repay one's student loan has now become criminalized. This is why we are occupying and will continue to occupy America. Being poor and broke is not a crime. We the American people will not stand idly by while poverty becomes criminalized. Enough is enough!
Class warfare has been declared upon us all by the top 1%, and the main assault against the remainder of us has already commenced. Starting with the Occupy Movement in September 2011, and the 'We Are the 99%' Movement at about the same time, the counterattack by the 99% against the elitist 1% has begun in earnest. In so doing, although a second American Civil War has been started by the wealthy elitists, it is we the people – the 99% – who comprise the overwhelming majority of America, and it is we who will finish it. In fact, this counterattack has already begun, it's just that it wasn't that apparent at first. It wasn't supposed to be. In the next chapter I will shed as much light as I can on how this is occurring, and highlight a few methods about how this can be accomplished in as peaceful a manner as possible.
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Sunday, November 5, 2017
Hillary Clinton and Donna Brazile, the D.N.C., and the Bible
by Pastor Paul J. Bern
By now nearly everyone who gets their news from the Alternative Media has heard or read yesterday's news release about former Democratic National Committee chairman Donna Brazile's new book about her career in the Democrat party, and American politics in general. The following quote regarding this topic is from a posting on thehill.com from this past Friday, November 3rd, and the complete story can be found here:
“The broadcast evening newscasts on three major networks on Thursday didn't mention bombshell revelations by former Democratic National Committee interim Chairwoman Donna Brazile. Brazile has written in a new book that she discovered evidence that she said showed Hillary Clinton’s campaign "rigged" the Democratic presidential primary. "ABC's World News Tonight," "NBC Nightly News" and "CBS Evening News" all didn't report the allegations by Brazile on Thursday evening despite it receiving considerable coverage on cable news and in print and online media. Brazile was also trending as one of Twitter's top topics on Thursday. In excerpts released to Politico Thursday, Brazile writes in her new book, "Hacks: The Inside Story of the Break-ins and Breakdowns that Put Donald Trump in the White House," that it “broke [her] heart” upon discovering evidence that she said showed the Clinton campaign "rigged" the Democratic nomination system.”
“By September 7, the day I called Bernie, I had found my proof and it broke my heart,” Brazile wrote about a Sept. 7, 2016, call to Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who gave Clinton a far more serious challenge for the nomination than many had expected. Brazile also shares an arrangement between the DNC, the Clinton campaign and Clinton’s joint fundraising committee that indicated the campaign would “control the party’s finances, strategy, and all the money raised.” She wrote the arrangement was concocted in an effort to address the mounting debt of the party in the aftermath of President Obama's successful 2012 reelection campaign. “The campaign had the DNC on life support, giving it money every month to meet its basic expenses, while the campaign was using the party as a fund-raising clearing house,” Brazile wrote. “If the fight had been fair, one campaign would not have control of the party before the voters had decided which one they wanted to lead. This was not a criminal act, but as I saw it, it compromised the party’s integrity," Brazile added.....”
There are two things we can keep from all this as lessons for further down the road of life. The first is one we've all heard before, but apparently some highly placed and influential people seem to have forgotten this – it never pays to cheat! And even when it does, those ill-gotten gains will evaporate at some point down the road – and always at the worst possible moment. That's just the way life works. The second thing is something few people have yet realized – the Democratic party's very existence is threatened thanks to Hillary's apparent cheating in the 2016 primary election. Moreover, the Republicans also have their party's existence threatened by the way Donald Trump has handled his presidency up till this point, making America the laughingstock of the entire world! So, it's safe to say that Ms. Brazile and her new book have dealt a severe blow to the US Republican-Democrat political paradigm. That in and of itself may be the best news of all for regular folks like ourselves.
What does the Bible have to say about cheating? Did Hillary Clinton sin by rigging the Democratic primary? Well, Zacchaeus the tax collector knew cheating was wrong, and said as much when Jesus told him he needed a place to stay and to have dinner, as it is written: “But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, 'Look, Lord! Here and now I give half my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.'” (Luke 19: 8) The apostle Paul used cheating as an example regarding the filing of frivolous lawsuits that should have been settled within the Church instead of in a court of law, and I quote: “The very fact that you have lawsuits among you means you have been completely defeated already. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be cheated? Instead, you yourselves cheat and do wrong, and you do this to your brothers.” (1st Corinthians 6: 7-8)
Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump both have a debt to repay to the American people. They both tried to buy their way into the White House. They both tried to cheat their way into the Oval Office. As we know, only one of them succeeded, but that is besides the point. Whatever the amount of money each of them spent getting elected – or trying to – they should reimburse the American people for rigging the system. And then there's the fact that Russian intelligence tampered with both sides during our election trying to rig the outcome. As before, Russia has also been caught cheating. But for now, let's focus on Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump and the money they spent buying their way into the White House. According to CBS News, a total of $6.8 billion was spent on the 2016 presidential campaign. OK then, Jesus was evidently in agreement with Zacchaeus in Luke's gospel, the tax collector who had the bad reputation (see Luke 19: 1-10) among the people. As you read in the last paragraph, Zacchaeus told Jesus, “....if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount....”.
Jesus must have found those terms acceptable since he said nothing to the contrary, right? Then those terms are clearly also applicable to Trump and Clinton. What, they don't believe in Jesus the same way I do? They don't interpret the Bible word-for-word as I do? That makes no difference whatsoever since Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever!! All right, then, let's do the math here – $6.8 billion times 4 equals $27.2 billion – divided by 325 million people. My calculator tells me that works out to $8.3 million for every man, woman and child – right down to the sweet little babies. Eight million three hundred thousand bucks will buy a whole lot of groceries, that's for sure (guess I'd never run out of coffee, thank God!). Other than that, the best thing that could happen to America would be a third party candidate presiding in the Oval Office come January 2021. Until then, don't cheat. It never pays. Hillary Clinton has already had to relearn this lesson. Don't make the same mistake.