Why We MUST Prosecute Trump the Saboteur

The New York Times ran an editorial December 3,  making the argument that we shouldn’t prosecute Donald Trump. Law professor Eric Posner wrote that the problem with prosecuting Trump is “there is little evidence that Mr. Trump did commit crimes as president.”

The fact is, we MUST prosecute Trump. First, Trump is sabotaging America, and failing to punish him will leave him free to continue doing damage. Second, failing to do so sets a horrible precedent that we will pay a big price for in the crimes of future Presidents. Third, he is a long-time criminal who deserves to be punished.

TRUMP IS A SABOTEUR

The most important reason why we must prosecute Trump is that he is a saboteur. He is a bomb thrower who thrives on creating chaos and discord.

He is undermining faith in our democracy. Though he lost the election by seven million votes, he continues to scream the election was rigged. His crazy rants have convinced millions that the election results are fake. He did the same thing in the 2016 general election that he “won.” He claimed that Hillary Clinton’s margin of victory in the popular vote was due to 3 million illegal immigrants voting for her.

Just as seriously, he has obstructed the transition process, at a time of crisis. Instead of doing all he can to ensure a smooth transition, Trump issued orders to his underlings to refused to cooperate with the man who won the election.

But this is just in the last few weeks. Trump has been busy sabotaging America for many years.

Pandemic Response
The most obvious example is the pandemic. While many say Trump’s pandemic response is merely stupid and incompetent, his actions are so outrageously destructive that it is difficult to explain them as anything but deliberate sabotage of the nation. Trump and his Republican sycophants have undermined the pandemic response every step of the way, leading to nearly 300,000 deaths–and counting.

  • Trump dismantled the pandemic response office created by Obama and tossed their detailed plans in the trash.
  • The Bob Woodward interview on February 7, 2020 shows Trump fully aware of how contagious and deadly the Coronavirus is, yet he politicized the response, calling the virus a “hoax” perpetrated by Democrats. Even days before the November election, with hundreds of thousands dead and hospitals filled to capacity, Trump repeatedly claimed COVID would go away the day after the election.
  • Instead of helping America’s struggling poor and middle class and giving them financial wherewithal to stay home and stay safe, Trump insisted on a large part of the stimulus funds going into an account with no oversight.
  • His administration sold government personal protective equipment to private companies, which then sold them back to the states at a huge markup. New York Governor Cuomo complained that it was like the states were bidding on E-bay to get desperately-needed supplies.
  • To this day, there is no coordinated national response.
  • Trump called for the “liberation” of Minnesota, Michigan and Virginia, undermining Democratic governors struggling to do their jobs and control the pandemic. When his rhetoric quite possibly inspired a plot to kidnap and even execute Governor Whitmer of Michigan, Trump showed no remorse. He continues to egg these people on, and has resisted all opportunities to condemn the violent right wing.
  • Trump has ignored the advice of medical experts, proposed wacky COVID remedies, and stirred up hostility toward experts to the point that many have received death threats.
  • Trump’s people stifled the Center for Disease Control, as revealed by Trump’s appointees at the agency in the NY Times.
  • A study at Cornell University showed Donald Trump to be the number one driver of misinformation about the virus.

Think of most any area of the government, and Trump has aggressively created disaster.

Trump quickly alienated leaders of allied nations with aggressive handshakes and other obnoxious interpersonal behavior and policies like withdrawing from the Paris Climate Accord. Meanwhile, he has never met a murderous dictator with whom he doesn’t want to climb in bed.

He made a mockery of national security by overruling those challenging security clearance for his unqualified and shady children and son-in-law, Jared Kushner. Kushner, incidentally, had to revise his clearance forms several times due to “omissions.” Trump himself would never get a security clearance were he not President, given his huge debt. Who knows what this crooked family has done with state secrets.

Trump has attacked on our intelligence agencies, and purged Russia experts from the FBI.

Harassment of competent government professionals and mismanagement and undermining the mission of government agencies by Trump appointees have led to a crisis-level brain drain, as professionals with years of experience and knowledge have resigned in droves.

Trump will continue to create chaos, tell lies, and stir up trouble after the leaves office–if we allow him.

TRUMP UNPUNISHED WILL EMBODEN FUTURE PRESIDENTS.

Wouldn’t America be a better place if we had sent Presidents to jail? Nixon got off scot-free for Watergate crimes. George Bush Sr. escaped punishment for Iran-Contra. GW Bush/Cheney never had to answer for the war crimes involved with the fraud committed to get us into a war with Iraq and the torture chambers set up there. Unpunished Presidents and henchmen breed even worse behavior. Accomplices to Presidential crimes (think Elliott Abrams, Henry Kissinger, Bill Barr and Roger Stone) have a way of coming back again and again to commit crimes and undermine our democracy.

Eric Posner’s NY Times editorial nonsensically compares the clamors for prosecution of Trump to Trump’s maniacal efforts to prosecute Hillary and Biden. He says it would be difficult to prove that Trump obstructed justice by interfering with, and possibly lying to, Robert Mueller and his investigators or that he his threat to withhold military aid to Ukraine was illegal. It would be hard, Posner claims, to show that Trump corruptly mixed his financial affairs with government business. This is nonsense.

TRUMP IS A BIG-TIME CRIMINAL

Trump’s crimes are legion and have been documented many times: Trump University, theft from charities, violation of the emoluments clause, tax evasion, charity rip-offs, his dealings with with Deutsche Bank, the Stormy Daniels (and other) campaign finance violations, misuse of inaugural funds, and Donald’s many sexual assaults are just a few. Might not his recent effort to bilk his followers by raising over $200M for his legal defense be determined to be fraud, since so much of the money is being diverted elsewhere?

PICK A CRIME. ANY CRIME
Prosecutors should pick a crime and make it stick. Mobster Al Capone was notoriously difficult to convict, but prosecutors finally nailed him for income tax evasion (a crime Donald Trump knows a thing or two about, according to revelations in the NY Times). Prosecute him for that or for Stormy Daniels or for treason or … or … or.

Lock him up and take away his damn phone. Otherwise, he will continue to sow the seeds of chaos and hatred, disrupt the pandemic response, and move us closer to civil war.

Lock him up--and take away his damn phone!
Lock him up! And take away his damn phone!

A Question for Amy Coney Barrett

Judge Barrett, we can’t expect every judge to agree with us ideologically, but we can—and must–demand judges be honest. The acid test of an honest judge is this: if the positions of the parties in a case were reversed, would you make the same decision?

Your mentor, Anton Scalia, and his Republican colleagues were rightly and harshly criticized for their decision in Bush v. Gore, an obvious partisan decision that was not fair.  As you will recall, George Bush had a slight, but dwindling, lead in Florida. As the 2000 recount progressed, it looked like Al Gore might overtake Bush to win Florida and the Presidency.  Five Republican Justices voted to order that the counting of the votes be stopped. They said that allowing it to continue would do irreparable harm to George Bush.  Obviously, if it had been Al Gore who enjoyed a slight lead, these five Republicans would not have voted to stop the vote count. Their decision was definitely not fair to Al Gore, since they expressed no concern for harm done to him.

This is just one example of how in recent years, the Republican Party has shown itself willing to change the rules at the drop of a hat to benefit Republicans and, of course, their wealthy donors. For example, the state of Wisconsin had a Republican Governor for eight years from 2011 to 2019. After his defeat, the Republicans, who had gerrymandered their way to a majority in the Legislature, voted to limit the power of the new Governor, a Democrat. Constantly changing the rules to benefit Republicans has become the name of the game.

More relevant to our hearing today is the fact that the man we affectionately call Moscow Mitch McConnell has changed the rules when it comes to judicial nominations. In 2015, McConnell changed the rules, saying he would no longer allow hearings for the judicial appointments of the democratically-elected President, despite the fact that the Constitution says Congress shall consider and vote to confirm or reject appointments of the President. McConnell’s new rule was that when it is close to an election, we should let the people decide who should appoint judges. When Donald Trump became President, McConnell then gleefully rushed through over 100 judicial nominations that had been left vacant by McConnell’s power grab. This included putting Justice Gorsuch on the Supreme Court.

Now, four years later, we are in a similar situation. There is a vacancy on the Supreme Court, but there is much more reason to let the people decide.

  1. The election is less than three weeks away, and millions have already voted.
  2. The man in the White House has been impeached and his loyalty to the United States repeatedly questioned.
  3. Many in Trump’s inner circle say he is incompetent, including former Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, who said Trump is a “moron.”
  4. Trump’s sanity is also questionable. More than once, there has been talk of invoking the 25th Amendment to remove him from office. White House chief of staff John Kelly called Trump “an idiot” and said he thought the president was “unhinged.” Kelly is far from being alone in this assessment.

You yourself, Judge Barrett, applauded when Mitch McConnell declined to give Judge Garland a fair hearing. You said the will of the people should be heard in the election. But today, your very presence in this hearing says loudly that you don’t really believe what you said in 2016. Just like your mentor, Justice Scalia, you are more than willing to toss principle to the wind to win partisan advantage.

So why should we believe you will be fair if allowed on the Supreme Court?

Thunderbolt

Big Health Insurance’s Ugly Secret

Big health insurance is hiding an ugly secret. As Medicare for All gains popularity, they and their allies in healthcare profiteering are launching another media blitzkrieg to hide that secret. Their secret is that for-profit insurance is far more expensive than Medicare for All. We don’t need them at all. The level of waste in for-profit insurance is staggering.  It’s much worse than you might think.

The insurance companies hope to scare us with hand wringing about the expense of a government-run system. They hope we won’t figure out that the money we all pay to these insurance companies supports a vast insurance bureaucracy that only incidentally buys us health care. Insurance companies are parasitic middlemen who siphon off vast sums of money that should be paying for our health care.

The proponents of for-profit health care admit that their system is a “little” inefficient. According to a report by the pro-insurance company Council for Affordable Health Insurance,* Medicare administrative costs are 5.2% (this report disputes the frequently-cited figure of 2%), while the insurance industry’s administrative costs are around 17%. This report goes on to make some rather dubious claims about the value the insurance companies provide for this extra money. Read them, if you like.

But it is oh so much worse than that.

EXPENSIVE REDUNDANCY
For starters, there is expensive redundancy of many insurance companies having their own competing bureaucracies.  That’s bad. But the ugliest part of this is that MOST of the functions of these insurance companies are utterly unnecessary to provide healthcare. They serve only to feed the insurance profit machine. These companies have outlived their usefulness and maintain their positions only by disinformation and sheer political power–that is, lots of thinly-veiled bribes that go by the euphemism “campaign contributions.”

For-profit health insurance companies can’t even begin to compete with government programs like Medicare and Medicaid which exist to provide health care, rather than to produce profits.

Let’s look at some of the players in the insurance companies.

STOCKHOLDERS
Our Founding Fathers distrusted corporations and said corporations should only exist to serve the public interest.

Portrait elderly man Happy to have money, white background
Milton Friedman told us that corporations exist solely to make money for stockholders.

Over the years, powerful business interests and their intellectual apologists like Milton Friedman have twisted that around. We’re now told that corporations exist solely to make money for stockholders. Not to provide great jobs. Not to provide outstanding goods and services. Not to be good community citizens. Just to make money for stockholders. They’re like plantation owners in the old South, sipping lemonade on the shaded porches of their mansions, while their slaves toiled in the hot sun.

Stockholders are doing quite well for their non-contributions. Companies like Humana and Anthem have A+ ratings on their stock; others like CIGNA, Aetna, and Magellan Health get A’s and B’s. This translates into a lot of cash flowing from our wallets into the pockets of shareholders–instead of buying health care.

Medicare For All: You don’t pay to support insurance co. stockholders 

EXECUTIVE COMPENSATION
Like little Jack Horner, top insurance executives say, “What a good boy am I,” as they stick in their thumbs and pull out fat plums from our health care pie. With the complicity of their corporate boards of directors, executives help themselves to many millions of dollars of our health care premiums.

Things are very good for insurance executives. According to Fierce Healthcare, CEOs at the nation’s largest insurance companies collectively earned $342.6 million in 2017, with the highest-paid executive bringing home $83.2 million.  In 2017, nearly every health insurance CEO got a pay raise—in most cases, bringing home more than 300 times the amount their average employee earned.

Things were REALLY good for the executives at Aetna. CVS acquired Aetna, in a move we were assured would benefit consumers. One of the great benefits for us consumers was they would save money by cutting duplicative senior roles. But of course, you can’t just send obscenely-overpaid executives packing without giving them a little something on the way out the door. Top execs were awarded severance packages totaling $400 to $600 million!  You could buy a lot of doctor visits with that kind of money.

 

abundance bank banking banknotes
Obscenely-overpaid executives at Aetna were paid between $400 and $600M in severance.

But it gets worse.

CEO’s “earn” these whopping compensation packages for making stockholders rich, not for giving us great health care. In fact, one way that they “earn” their money is by denying claims. In an article in the Huffington Post, Wendall Potter states there is a link between high executive pay and high rates of denying claims. Think about that. Executives are rewarded for putting you and me, their customers, through hell–and maybe into bankruptcy–by denying claims.

Medicare for all: No wasted health care dollars on obscene executive compensation packages 

LOBBYING

The insurance industry pays over 800 lobbyists and spends more than $78 million on lobbying for THEIR interests; not ours. With the effort to defeat Medicare for All heating up, the insurance industry will dig deep into our wallets to fund these lobbying efforts.

Medicare For All:  No money wasted to pay for lobbying against our interests

CAMPAIGN CONTRIBUTIONS
In the 2012 election cycle, the insurance industry (including health, life, property and car insurance companies, agents and brokers)  contributed a record $58.7 million to federal parties and candidates as well as outside spending groups. Of the nearly $55 million that went to parties and candidates, 68 percent went to Republicans, who have long been the recipients of most of this category’s giving. These Republicans are hell-bent on repealing the Affordable Care Act, leaving many millions of people without insurance.

Of course, Democrats get a good share of the loot. Recently, California’s legislature was moving toward enacting a state single payer system–until House Speaker Anthony Rendon stopped it in its tracks. The dirty deed is discussed in the article, “Corporate Democrats Sabotage Single Payer Bill in California for Wealthy Donors

In 2015, the Sacramento Bee reported that Rendon received over $36,000 from drug makers. In April 2017, IBTimes reported that House Speaker Anthony Rendon, Senate President Kevin De Leon and Gov. Jerry Brown—all Democrats—have received a combined $370,000 from groups opposing single-payer health care legislation. Since 2010, these lawmakers have received $3.4 million in campaign donations from the health insurance industry. While California voters and progressive groups demand single-payer health care in the state, the Democratic establishment in California has been bought and paid for by the pharmaceutical and health care industries to prevent it from becoming a reality.

Medicare for All:  our health care dollars won’t be used to corrupt the government. 

UNDERWRITING–Insurance underwriters determine whether insuring a given group (the place you work, for example) will be an acceptable risk so the insurance company will make money. They determine how much risk the insurance company would take on (the health of a given group), how much insurance the group should get, and how much to charge. They help decide whether the insurance company should offer a policy at all.

In Medicare for all, everyone is covered, so there is no need to scrutinize the groups for each policy.

Medicare for All:  No Need for Insurance Co. Underwriters 

Insurance companies spend a fortune to pull our heartstrings and assure us that Insurance Company X cares about us so much more than Insurance Companies Y and Z.  Advertising in the accident and health insurance industry totaled over $213M in 2018, down from $562M in 2011.

Nuff said. With a single payer system, there is no need for any of this nonsense.

Medicare for All Won’t Waste Your Health Care Dollars on Marketing and Advertising of Insurance Companies. 

DEVISING AND EXPLAINING PLANS
Armies of insurance bureaucrats busy themselves devising the many different plans these companies offer.  Each plan specifies which doctors we may visit, which treatments we may receive, and the deductibles and co-pays we’ll have to shoulder. Then, other bureaucrats create brochures describing their offerings and still others are dispatched to workplaces to explain the various options employees may have.

Medicare for All: Eliminates the Need to Devise & Explain Plans

DOCTOR & HOSPITAL ADMINISTRATIVE COSTS–  Who can possibly count the waste from the unfathomable hours spent in administrative time by the offices of the people who actually provide health care. They must wade through the idiosyncrasies of each company with their own forms, regulations, plans, etc. etc. and spend hours fighting with insurance bureaucrats to get them to pay up.

Administrative Costs: Radically reduced in Medicare For All 

This just scratches the surface of the money we flush down the toilet to support health insurance companies, instead of getting health care.

How strange that a nation that worships efficiency would tolerate an industry that is so inefficient, ineffective and that so often rips off its customers. It’s time for a change.

THUNDERBOLT

* According to Sourcewatch.org, The Council for Affordable Health Coverage (CAHC) is a coalition of pro-corporate organizations, trade associations, front groups, and insurance companies that actively oppose legislation such as the Affordable Care Act, specifically the ACA’s employer mandate.

 

 

 

A Christian Response To Religious Gay Bashing

When we were kids, we called each other “homos” and “faggots.” Though we didn’t know what the words meant, they were clearly vile insults, far worse than any name we’d ever called each other.

In the years since then, I’ve come to know or hear about decent human beings who have been ostracized by family and friends, mocked, insulted, discriminated against, beaten up and even killed, simply because they are gay.

gay 1

Religious leaders persist in demonizing gays

But instead of trying to put a stop to this nonsense, many religious leaders persist in demonizing gays. They persist in preaching that homosexuality is a sin people choose to commit. They equate the choice of our love/sexual partners with other sins. Today, we might choose to tell a lie and tomorrow, repent and tell the truth. Today, we might steal some money and tomorrow, repent and give it back.

But if it were that easy, why are millions of Americans gay?  Why would anyone in their right mind choose to endure that kind of abuse—if they really had a choice in the matter?

I believe it’s all part of God’s divine plan: some are attracted to the opposite sex, others to the same sex, and some are attracted to both. Regardless, we are all God’s children. I say it is about time that we Americans, especially people of faith, started to treat gays with the respect and dignity God’s children deserve.

gay 2

Does The Bible Really Condemn Gays?

While some say the Bible condemns homosexuality, there is considerable controversy among Bible scholars about the meaning of the few scripture passages that refer to homosexuality or just appear to do so.    Depending on how certain words are translated, these passages can take on radically different meanings.  It’s not necessarily the case that the Bible condemns homosexuality.

Some scholars suggest that the intention of these passages is not to condemn homosexuality itself, but rather, other actions of the people involved.  This is like when the Bible condemns King David for marrying Bathsheba, it isn’t rejecting heterosexual marriage, but King David himself, who had Bathsheba’s husband killed and then took her as his own wife.

Similarly, the story of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah in the book of Genesis is often cited as “proof” that God hates gays. But if we take the time to read the story, it’s hard to support that conclusion.  This story, in the book of Genesis, tells of  a good man named Lot, who lives in the city of Sodom. Lot was visited by angels in the form of men.  While these angel-men were guests at his house, a mob of men from the Sodom surrounded his house, demanding that the men be brought out so that they could have sex with them.

Sodom and Gomorrah: Rape, not Homosexuality

What do we call it when someone forces himself sexually on another? We call that “rape,” do we not? This story is about an ugly mob contemplating a gang rape, an act of violence and humiliation. It has nothing to do with loving, consensual gay sex.

006-sodom-gomorrah

                                 The story of Sodom is a story of a mob & gang rape.

Had these men instead been clamoring to have women brought out to them so they could rape them, no one would claim that the story proves that God hates heterosexuals.

The story goes on to say that God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah by raining down fire and brimstone.  But nowhere does the Bible make a link between homosexuality and the destruction of the cities. The Book of Genesis says God destroyed the cities because the people did wicked things. This obviously could mean a lot of things.

But later, the book of Ezekiel sheds more light on the subject. It says Sodom’s sin was that people were “arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. They were haughty and did detestable things before me” (Ezekiel 16:49-50).

Isn’t that exactly what’s happening in America today? At a time when hundreds of thousands are homeless and many millions of working families are sinking deeper into poverty every year, we have a President and a Congress whose number one priority is giving whopping tax cuts to some of the wealthiest people on the planet.

It may well be that the United States is on the road to becoming another Sodom and Gomorrah, but for a different reason than is suggested by those who constantly wring their hands over the evils of homosexuality.

The Bible Condemns Many Things We Choose to Ignore

But suppose it’s true that the Bible condemns homosexuality.  It is also true that the Bible condemns many things that we choose to ignore.  The Bible says people who work on the Sabbath should be put to death (Exodus 31:14).  Yet today, many businesses are open seven days a week, and we say that’s OK.

The Bible says women are unclean during their menstrual period, and anyone who even touches a woman during this time is also unclean (Lev.15: 19-24).  Today, this is utterly ignored.

The Bible also prohibits eating pork, and even touching part of a dead pig makes a person unclean (Lev. 11:6-8).  Today, America’s pork industry is booming, and many American men have spent countless hours throwing around a pigskin.

The Bible prohibits eating pork, yet America’s pork industry is booming.

Since our society is obviously in agreement that we aren’t required—and actually should not–follow everything the Bible says, it seems reasonable to ask why it is acceptable to ignore some things, but not others.

Tremendous Advances Since The Bible Was Written

One reason is the tremendous advances we’ve made in the thousands of years since the Bible was written.  Perhaps, way back when, men were mystified, even terrified, when women bled during their periods.  Today, science gives us an understanding of how a woman’s body works and culturally, women command much more respect.  Consequently, we find the idea that women are unclean during their periods to be utterly ridiculous.

Shouldn’t We Have Learned SOMETHING About Homosexuality?

Likewise, haven’t we, or shouldn’t we have, learned something about homosexuality over the last few thousand years?  Today, most experts in human sexuality agree that we are born with our sexual preferences, and cannot change them.  Biological research even suggests there may be a link between brain structure and homosexuality.

Most importantly, if we take the time to listen, we might hear the torment and anguish many gays feel over not fitting in and being outright rejected. Shouldn’t we take the time to listen to:

  • The teenage boy growing up in a small town who is terrified that he feels attracted to other boys, and has no one to confide in about his “terrible” secret.
  • The lesbian, who even after all the years she’s been with the woman she calls the light of her life, is still told that any public display of affection is “nauseating.”
  • The scout leader, who has done nothing wrong, but is expelled and publicly humiliated simply because some parents believe no gay man can be trusted around children.

If we just take the time to listen, just maybe we might give gays the benefit of the doubt when they tell us that homosexuality is not a sin they chose to commit.

If gays don’t choose to be gay, why are people of faith persecuting them?

Some Bible Passages Overrule Others

Another reason we ignore certain Bible passages is that other passages overrule them.  For example, Christians tend to ignore the teaching about pork, shellfish, and other foods prohibited by the Bible because St. Peter’s vision in the Acts of the Apostles declared all foods to be clean. Jesus told us that it’s not what goes into our mouths that makes us unclean, but what comes out of it.

Likewise, even if we believe that a few Bible passages condemn homosexuality, doesn’t the overall message of the Bible override those passages?  Jesus teaches “do not judge,” and “love your neighbor” and even “love your enemies.”

Nowhere does Jesus commission anyone to be sex police or instruct us to make life difficult for people who commit sexual “sins.”  When an angry mob approached Jesus, dragging a woman caught in adultery, Jesus does not approve of their intention to stone her to death.  Instead, He said, “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone at her.”

God, The Loving Father, Created Loving Partners

Another theme that runs through the Bible is that God is a loving father.  Officiates at weddings often quote from the story of the creation of Adam and Eve in the book of Genesis, where God says, “It is not good for man to be alone (Genesis 2:18).”  They go on to wax eloquent about this in this beautiful relationship that is like no other, partners experience such intense joy and love that they get a glimpse of the glory of God.  Are we to believe that a loving father would create such relationships only for heterosexuals?  Would a loving father tell gays to choose to:

1) Go through life alone without a partner; or
2) Marry someone of the opposite sex, in which there is no love or attraction, and live in a marriage that is a lie; or
3) Find a same-sex partner with whom there is love and attraction, knowing the relationship will be an “abomination” before God.

Does a loving father act that way?

Gay Marriage: Destroying the Sanctity of Marriage?

Some say that allowing gays to marry would destroy the sanctity of marriage.  That gives gays an awful lot of power, since the source of the sacred in marriage is the inexhaustible fountain of God’s love.

Certainly, many heterosexuals haven’t exactly brought honor and glory to the institution of marriage.  Some have married and divorced umpteen times.  Others have married to get their partner’s money. Still others have verbally and physically brutalized their spouses—and even murdered them. And yet, the sanctity of marriage has survived.  If the sanctity of marriage can withstand heterosexuals murdering their spouses, just what exactly could gays do to destroy it?

God Is Love

The Bible says, “God is love” (1 John 4:8).

Back of two girls together in nature

If two men or two women deeply love each other, and want to stand before God and everyone else to promise “till death do us part,” who are we to stand in judgment and say that God is not in the middle of that relationship?

Let’s remember the early Christians. Even their persecutors would say to one another in amazement, Look at these Christians.  See how they love one another.

More recently, Mother Theresa’s devotion to the poorest of the poor often inspired people around her. One man was so moved that he said, “All my life, I’ve been an atheist, but watching you today, I felt the presence of God for the first time.”

If no one has said that about our church and our own personal faith in a while, perhaps we should focus our efforts on doing something about that, rather than on condemning others for their sexual “sins.”

The choice is ours.  Will our faith promote love and acceptance—or hatred and intolerance?  The decision that each one of us makes will resonate throughout America and the world.

Thunderbolt

One Nation Under God? The Abuse of Workers

We Americans think of ourselves as a godly nation. Our money says, “In God we trust.” We sing “God bless America.” Our Pledge of Allegiance proclaims we are “one nation under God.”

USA flag inside dollar symbol

The Bible demands justice
Though we constantly proclaim our godliness, our nation ignores the Bible’s  demand for justice. In hundreds of passages, the Bible speaks of our duty to help the poor and its pages practically scream out loud in outrage, denouncing those who oppress the poor and don’t pay workers a fair wage.

Incredibly, many religious leaders have absolutely nothing to say as a tiny group of elites grab more and more and still more of the nation’s wealth and power. They are silent as they watch millions of people being crushed in a political and economic system run amok.

If “one nation under God” is to be more than just hollow words in the Pledge of Allegiance, we need to address some serious issues.

WORK AND THE SPIRIT
In a nation under God, companies would respect the spirituality of work. The Buddhists speak eloquently of the doctrine of “right livelihood,” a concept that is certainly very compatible with America’s Judeo-Christian heritage. The idea of right livelihood is that through our work we should express our souls and provide meaningful service to others.

Woman rolling eyes
Corporations subject people to stultifying, soul-killing work.

Yet, American corporations have demeaned and trivialized work. They have invented and propagated the assembly line, the fast food restaurant and the data entry job in which people work hour after stultifying, soul-deadening hour, performing mindless, repetitive tasks.

Corporate executives are continually busy, dumbing down and de-skilling more and more jobs so that their fellow human beings become just like tiny parts in a colossal machine: cheap, interchangeable and expendable.

PAYING FAIR WAGES
In a nation under God, businesses would surely respect the most obvious need of their workers: to earn a living and support their families.

In a nation under God, the minimum wage would not be frozen at $5.15 an hour for seven years and then frozen again at 7.25 an hour.

In a nation under God, people working full-time jobs would not live in homeless shelters because their pathetic wages aren’t enough to even pay for a roof over their heads.Capitalist

In a nation under God, people would not accept the lame excuses of multi-billionaires who claim market forces compel them to pay poverty-level wages here a home and look for even cheaper wages overseas. They would like us to believe they have nothing to do with creating those market forces.

Idolizing corporate leaders–A nation under God would not idolize people like former Disney CEO Michael Eisner, who paid himself $4 million a week, while denying his minimum wage employees health insurance; or Neutron Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electric, who threw 100,000 employees out on the street in order to pay huge dividends to wealthy stockholders and create his own obscene compensation package. Welch’s severance alone amounted to $417 Million.

In a nation under God, our leaders would not give a damn about repealing the so-called “death tax,” which actually is a tax on wealthy estates, but they would be outraged that struggling working families are paying more tax than many millionaires and some of our most profitable corporations.

THE VALUE OF HUMAN LIFE
In a nation under God, companies would value the lives and health of their workers. But this nation still bears the scars and the shame of the slave trade, in which many Americans treated human beings worse than cattle. Mark Twain captured the callous, inhumane attitudes many Americans of the time held toward the slaves in a passage from Huckleberry Finn.

Huck, who had just been on a trip on a steamboat, told a woman there had been an explosion on board the boat.

HUCK FINN
Huck told her a slave had been killed.

The woman said, “Good gracious! Was anyone hurt?”

“No, Ma’am. Slave got killed though.”

“Well, that’s lucky. Lots of times a person will get hurt when something like that happens.”

Though slavery was abolished 150 years ago, the same callous, inhuman attitudes that allowed the slave trade to flourish are alive and well in our corporate boardrooms.

It took over 100 years from the time our government recognized that people have a right to be free from slavery to the time our government also recognized that people have the right to work in safe jobs, in which they can reasonably expect that they will not be crippled or dead at day’s end. It may take another 100 years until that right is respected and adequately enforced.

A few years ago, a respected medical journal published a study that estimated that 67,000 workers die from their jobs each year. To put that in perspective, this estimate says that jobs are the number three killer of working age Americans, behind only heart disease and cancer.

Yet, most people have no idea of the magnitude of this problem because our corporate media is far too obsessed with transgenders in the girls’ bathroom, the latest pearls from the lips of Donald Trump, and Tom Brady’s Deflategate scandal. The media is too obsessed to notice that America’s workers are dying in droves.

Meanwhile, our government, even in the face of such a staggering estimate, has never bothered to even attempt a comprehensive workplace body count. In business, they say what gets counted counts. Clearly, the lives of American workers don’t count.

“Good gracious! Was anyone hurt?”

“No, ma’am. Slave got killed though.”

“Well, that’s lucky!”

Corporate war on OSHA  The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is the government agency created to enforce the right to safe work. Our corporations have hated OSHA since day one. They have viciously attacked it and used their considerable clout to slash OSHA’s budget, staff, and enforcement power. They’ve demanded that OSHA be a cooperative friend of business, rather than an agency that strictly enforces the law and slaps violators with hefty fines. Over and over again, we’ve seen how well that works.

The crippling of a Chicago worker A few years back, a Mexican immigrant named Rodrigo Mina was working in a Chicago tortilla plant when he slipped and fell. He stretched out his hand to break his fall, but instead, got it caught in between two conveyor belts. This only happened because his employer ignored OSHA regulations that require a protective machine guard. Then, for ten long minutes, Mina screamed in agony as the machine made hamburger out of his arm and his frantic co-workers scrambled, trying to figure out how to turn off the machine. They didn’t know because again, their employer had violated OSHA regulations that require proper training.

In the end, Mina may never get much use out of his arm and may never be able to hold a decent job again. The ever-cooperative OSHA decided that these violations warranted a fine of only $2,000, even though this company had been repeatedly cited for the same violations that caused this accident.

“Good gracious! Was anyone hurt?” “No, ma’am. Slave got killed though.”

“Well, that’s lucky.”

After 9/11, when terrorists killed 2700 people one time, our government wasted no time in creating a cabinet-level office of Homeland Security, and we have spent trillions chasing real and imaginary terrorists across the globe. Yet, the same Congress and the same President actually cut the meager $500 Million budget of OSHA, despite the fact that workplace deaths amount to the equivalent of two 9/11 attacks every single month.

“Good gracious! Was anyone hurt?” “No, ma’am. Slave got killed though.”

“Well, that’s lucky.”

Work longer–for less! Whether we have good jobs or lousy jobs, many people are forced to neglect their families as their employers demand that they work longer, harder, faster, producing more with fewer people under more stress–until people drop dead of heart attacks.

Meanwhile, millions of others pound the pavement, week after week, month after month, desperately searching for a decent full-time job, until they become so angry and so frustrated that they lash out and hurt someone—or sometimes, take their own lives.

“Good gracious! Was anyone hurt?” “No, ma’am. Slave got killed though.”

“Well, that’s lucky!”

One nation under the almighty dollar
In short, we live in a nation run by greedy elites who have no respect for our spirituality, our need to support and spend time with our families—not even for our very lives. We are one nation under the almighty dollar, governed by the policies of godless greed. So quite frankly, it’s hard to understand why so many people of faith think it is so critical that we say the words, “one nation under God.”

THUNDERBOLT

 

 

 

To my NRA Friends

I’m not an NRA member. I don’t own a gun. I never have–though I confess my brother and I executed my sister’s Barbie doll with a pellet gun when we were kids. But I have family and friends who are NRA members.   

We disagree on many issues, including gun control. Still, I suspect that we agree on many more things.

We all want the wealth of our country to produce good jobs, quality education, reliable health care, decent housing, and a clean environment.  We want to be safe and we want to live healthy and prosperous lives. And we want the same for our kids.

 

NRA or not, most of us agree that something is deeply wrong in America.

Many good jobs have disappeared. Kids run up six-figure debt just to get a college degree. Our health insurance is expensive and doesn’t cover much. Too many of us have seen our family finances savaged by whopping medical bills. Our roads, bridges, and other infrastructure are falling apart.

Our elected officials don’t seem to give a damn about us.

Yet, despite all we have in common, we are deeply divided. 

This divide is no accident. The rich and powerful have spent a fortune to get us to hate our fellow Americans. They’ve bought up media outlets and put rabid attack dogs on the air. They’ve created think tanks that produce “learned” studies about how up is down, black is white, and giving massive tax cuts to the rich will magically benefit all of us.

But remember what happened during the last election? We were on the point of coming together. People on the right and the left both came to realize that the 1% control way too much of America’s wealth.

Portrait elderly man Happy to have money, white background
Most Americans came to realize that the richest 1% controlled far too much of America’s wealth

Most of us saw that the rich had rigged the system.  Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump agreed. The nation’s fat cats must have been getting nervous.

Or maybe not. They play the divide and conquer game so well. They know how to manipulate us, distract us, and infuriate us. They make sure that you and I direct our anger at each other, not them.

Guns are an important part of the game, but not the only part. They get us riled up about abortion, gay marriage, immigrants, Planned Parenthood, and transgenders in the bathroom.

It’s not that these issues aren’t important. But we need to realize the rich don’t care about these issues. They care about wealth and power–and they use these issues to keep us from paying attention to how they control America. 

They must laugh at us as they lounge on their yachts and tee off at the country club. They’ve stuffed their pockets with our money, yet you and I are at each other’s throats over these culture war issues–instead of being angry with them.

The rich and powerful have always done this. They whisper in our ears that all our problems are caused by the guy who doesn’t look like us, dress like us, or talk like us. It’s the black guy’s fault! The Mexican! That woman on welfare! The Chinese guy! Those awful Muslims! We take the bait and get distracted from the crimes of the rich.

Now, about the gun debate. What are we really fighting about?   gun with man

I know there are some who want to confiscate all guns. Yet the vast majority of us don’t. If you want to hunt, go for it. If you have a gun to protect your home, fine. But no civilian needs AR-15s–any more than a civilian needs bazookas, tanks, or atom bombs.

The NRA would like you to believe it’s a slippery slope. Once we allow the government to regulate most anything about guns, all guns will be confiscated. They even make the false claim that the Holocaust only happened because Hitler took guns from the Jews. 

The gun lobby gets very rich off guns, and they play the gun control debate like fiddlers. — President Lyndon Johnson

Think how many regulations affect cars and driving. You need a license to drive, you can’t go over the speed limit, you need insurance, you can’t drive on the sidewalk, you can’t drive while intoxicated or while texting, and you’re required to stop at red lights. It’s the nanny state run wild, right?

Though we hate getting tickets, deep down, we’re glad for this regulation. Just imagine how dangerous it would be if drivers were drinking, texting and ignoring stoplights. This strict regulation has been going on for many years, but no one has shown up to confiscate your car.

The NRA USED to be about gun safety. Today, they are about whipping us into a hysteria.   Watch this video of NRA spokesperson Dana Loesch and decide whether this is about the 2nd Amendment–or if it’s trying to stir up hatred of Americans who aren’t like you. 

Then, there’s NRA board member Ted Nugent, who compared multiple groups he opposes to “rabid coyotes.” He urged people to “keep your gun handy” to shoot them on sight. Really, Ted? Has it come to that? You want your allies to shoot anyone who disagrees?

We are all Americans, are we not? 

So we find ourselves screaming at each other–not about our lousy schools, decrepit infrastructure, or the lack of decent jobs–but over guns. Very convenient for the 1%.

I confess to spending too much time on social media where people speak with extreme hatred toward each other. 

Many are downright gleeful when their political opponents are upset–even if they’re upset about something that negatively affects us all. One person quipped that some conservatives would be gleeful watching their own house burn down if the smoke annoyed their liberal neighbors. 

I’ve seen conservatives taunt their liberal adversaries by pointing out that conservatives have the guns, and will win a civil war. Civil war? Didn’t 600,000 die last time we did that? Are they serious?

The NRA puts Dana Loesch in front of the cameras. But behind the scenes, isn’t the NRA really run by gun pushing CEO’s who make many millions off gun sales, but are afraid to show their faces? They lurk in the shadows, sending a gorgeous young woman to speak for them. They play us for fools.

Guys like Smith & Wesson Ceo James Debney, rake in the cash. In 2016, Debney brought home $5.3 million in total compensation. Plus, he realized an additional $16.5 million in value from past stock and option awards.

This isn’t about freedom. This is about dollars. We all walk in fear of getting gunned down by a lunatic with an assault rifle because selling weapons is so very profitable.

The NRA has radically changed from the days when it was about gun safety. Years ago, George Bush Sr., a man no one would call a liberal, resigned from the NRA in disgust. How about you? Is it time you resigned too? 

Thunderbolt

 

Rescuing MLK From the Burger King Coloring Book

Ladies and gentlemen, get your Martin Luther King here! He’s new and improved, tastes great, less filling, defanged, declawed, whitewashed, sanitized, perfumed, trivialized and diluted. He’s dishwasher safe, and will not give your children bad liberal ideas. No controversy! No relevance!

It was Martin Luther King Day, and I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.

The local McDonald’s had hung a huge picture of King on the wall and the Burger King was giving away MLK coloring books.

[Note: It’s been 14 years since I wrote this post. A different President … different faces in Congress … but same old, same old]

I think King would have hated that, since those corporations have come to symbolize the low-wage, dead-end job, and they’ve lobbied hard against increasing the minimum wage.

 

John Kass wrote a column in the Chicago Tribune, praising King, but saying that King’s followers dishonor his memory by advocating for affirmative action. Oh really?

 

Fight over Kings corpse

Then, it got really weird. George Bush and the Republicans were having a tug of war with the Democrats. Each party claimed that if he were alive today, King would surely belong to their party.

Bush proclaimed the Republicans were once again the party of Abraham Lincoln—at least for a couple of days. I guess he was hoping we would forget the Republicans had mothballed old Abe and declared Ronald Reagan to be their god. Reagan had earned the honor for eight years of vicious class warfare that left a few people very rich—and many very miserable.

For their part, the Democrats seemed to hope we would forget they had long ago abandoned the New Deal and the Great Society to become the party of the spineless. They barely whimper as the Republicans commit one atrocity after another against the middle class and the poor.

I doubt King would have changed his mind about what he once said: “Both political parties have betrayed the cause of justice.”

The kind of people now trying to snuggle up with King the dead man didn’t have nice things to say about him when he was alive. He was called a “troublemaker,” a “Communist,” and “the most dangerous Negro in America.” How could anyone believe that King would be palling around with people like George Bush and Joe Lieberman?

Of course, they aren’t talking about the real King. They have tampered with history to recreate King as a bland, passionless man that will neither challenge nor offend them. You might call him MLK Light.

But there are some not-so-subtle differences between MLK Light and the real man.

SEGREGATION
MLK Light is happy as a clam that segregation laws have been repealed and America has conquered its race problems.

The real King knew that segregation was only the tip of a vast iceberg of racism and oppression. King once said of the lunch-counter sit-ins in Greensboro, North Carolina:

… had the demonstrators been served, some of them could not have paid for the meal. Of what advantage is it to the Negro to establish that he can be served in integrated restaurants, or accommodated in integrated hotels, if he is bound to the kind of financial servitude which will not allow him to take a vacation or even to take his wife out to dine? Negroes …must also be absorbed into our economic system in such a manner that they can afford to exercise that right.

WAR

MLK Light is a freedom-loving guy who supports our commander in chief as he sends in the troops to bring freedom to Afghanistan and Iraq, Syria and Iran, Liberia and Siberia, and if need be, to Australia and Canada and New Mexico.

The real King was an early and vocal opponent of the Vietnam war, despite the heavy consequences. President Johnson was furious. The nation’s press crucified him. He lost support within his own movement. But King continued to say, the war is wrong—in words that ring true today.

I speak for those whose land is being laid waste, whose homes are being destroyed, whose culture is being subverted. I speak for the poor of America who are paying the double price of smashed hopes at home and dealt death and corruption in Vietnam. I speak as a citizen of the world, for the world as it stands aghast at the path we have taken. I speak as one who loves America, to the leaders of our own nation.

A nation that continues to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.

 

UNIONS
Poor MLK Light is so confused that he can’t even remember what he was doing in Memphis when he was assassinated.

That’s important to know in times like these when corporate executives rake in the cash while their workers struggle to keep a roof over their heads. In times like these when politicians never miss the chance to give organized labor a kidney punch, it is important to remind them—and ourselves—that King was in Memphis to support the support a strike by the city sanitation workers. King gave them dignity, saying,

One day our society will come to respect the sanitation worker, if it is to survive. For the person who picks up our garbage is as significant as the physician, for if he doesn’t do his job, diseases are rampant … It is criminal to have people working full-time jobs for part-time income.

AFFIRMATIVE ACTION

MLK Light only said one memorable sentence, “I have a dream my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” He carries a banner with those words whenever he makes public appearances as the poster boy for the forces attacking affirmative action.

The real King believed that African Americans have contributed a lot more than they have gotten out of this country, and it was time to settle the account. This was especially true since the government had so often assisted others.

At the very same time that America refused to give the Negro any land, our government was giving away millions of acres of land in the West and the Midwest to white peasants from Europe.

But not only did they give them land, they built land grant colleges with government money to teach them to farm.

Not only that, they provided county agents to further their expertise in farming.

Not only that, they provided low interest rates in order that they could mechanize their farms.

Not only that, today many of these people are receiving millions of dollars in federal subsidies not to farm, and they are the very people telling the black man that he ought to lift himself by his own bootstraps.

KING THE REVOLUTIONARY

King proposed a massive government program to lift up the poor: black, white, Latinos, and others. King demanded change, in the spirit of an outraged Jesus, whip in hand, overturning the tables of the money changers in the temple. He proposed a revolution of values, a radical restructuring of our institutions, and a redistribution of the nation’s wealth.

No wonder they killed him

It is time to rescue Martin Luther King from the Burger King comic book and the wall of McDonald’s. and the conservative politicians trying to remake him in their own image.

As we try to find our way out of the many problems facing our nation, we could hardly do better than to study the life and the words and the mission of this remarkable man who challenged us to live up to our Declaration of Independence, our Constitution, and the Bill of Rights…and to truly make ourselves One Nation Under God.

This man saw the promised land from the mountaintop and wasn’t afraid to die to help us get there.

Does DNC prefer Trump to voting rights?

Can we ever forgive the Democratic leadership for getting us into this hellish state?

A man who is OK with using nuclear weapons now resides in the White House. A 5-4 Corporatist Supreme Court can twist and turn the Constitution to say whatever the Koch Brothers, Exxon and the GOP want it to say. Both houses of Congress are dominated by rabid Republicans eager to dismantle everything good in our government, while ramping up the military, destroying our health care, and dishing out more tax breaks to crazy billionaires.

EPA—gut it! Home heat for the poor—nope! Meals on Wheels—Nyet! Massive new spending on the bloated war machine–yes!

Where was Democrats’ outrage over uncounted votes? While Trump screamed about a rigged election; Hillary, who had reason to scream, was silent.

   

 Journalist Greg Palast, who has been investigating US vote fraud for many years, alleged that many thousands of votes were uncounted in key states like Wisconsin, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. Why uncounted? Because the old, decrepit voting machines that are sent to minority neighborhoods (read Democrat) don’t work so well. But human beings usually can discern the intent of the voter. A hand count of the votes might have turned the election around.

This didn’t happen. WHY? Hillary wasn’t interested in a recount. REALLY. After campaigning for many months…after she told us repeatedly that Donald Trump is a despicable man…after she took our hard-earned cash and countless hours of volunteer time…after promising she would fight for us…Hillary and the Democrats just walked away without a fight.

 In my former home state of Wisconsin, Republicans scurried around like cockroaches, prepared to battle to keep those ballots from seeing the light of day. But they needn’t have worried. The Dems just shrugged and went home.

Senate races in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania were also tossups. The Republican candidate received 51% in both states. Might a couple of Senate seats have swung the other way if the Democrats had demanded a hand count? We’ll never know.

It wasn’t just 2016 either.

Remember Al Gore, the guy who won the popular vote in 2000?  Well, it turns out that Florida Governor Jeb Bush and his Secretary of State, Kathryn Harris, stole the election in that key state. They illegally purged the voter lists, first of people who were convicted felons (that much is technically legal), but then continued by purging those with names similar to convicted felons. Since John Brown is a convicted felon, why not remove Jon Brown, John Braun, and Jack Brown? Probably, they are the same person. So they said. And it isn’t just nutjob conspiracy theorists who say the election was stolen. The US Commission on Civil Rights says so too.

Inexcusable conflict of interest  At the same time Ms. Harris was Secretary of State, entrusted with ensuring a free and fair election, she was also the state chair of the Bush campaign. Was there ever more reason to scream “election fraud” than this inexcusable conflict of interest? How is this allowed to happen?

One of Most Disgraceful Scenes In US History     Fast forward to the floor of the Congress. In this excerpt from Michael Moore’s movie, Farenheit 911, you can relive one of the most disgraceful scenes in US history.  A joint session of Congress is about to vote to certify the election for George Bush. The Congressional Black Caucus, hopping mad over the election fraud committed in Florida, tried to object. However, the rules require an objection have the support of a member of both houses. But no Democrat in the Senate was willing to stand with their African American House colleagues. NOT ONE. One after another, members of the Black Caucus went to the podium to object, only to be gavelled down by Vice President Al Gore, acting in his dual role of Vice President and President of the Senate.

Had the Democrats not rolled over and played dead, one or both Bush brothers might have been sent to prison, Al Gore could have been President, and the Democrats could have sent a strong signal that voting rights are sacred. We might have avoided 9/11, the Iraq War, the Bush tax cuts, and the rightward turn of the Supreme Court that came with the appointments of John Roberts and Samuel Alito. No Citizens United and no attacks on the Voting Rights Act.

Did the Democrats learn anything from the 2000 election? Apparently not. In 2004, another close Presidential race hinged on the results of one key state. This time it was Ohio, where a man named Ken Blackwell was the Secretary of State. Again, the official entrusted with overseeing the voting in his state was also the head of the state campaign to re-elect George W. Bush.

Excuse me whilst I scream. AGAIN? How is this allowed to happen?

According to Democracynow.org, odd things happened in Ohio in that election.  There were widespread reports of voter intimidation; suspiciously long lines in heavily-Democratic areas; faulty voting machines; mishandled absentee and provisional ballots; election results that contradicted exit polls, and there were major issues with the electronic voting machines.

Who could blame the Democrats for screaming and demanding an investigation – maybe even prosecution of key members of the Republican Party? Instead, John Kerry and the Democrats meekly walked away, allowing Bush/Cheney another four years in the White House–and two Supreme Court appointments.

Why did this happen? Could it be that people at the highest levels of the Democratic Party prefer to let utterly incompetent and despicable men like Bush/Cheney and Donald Trump into the White House, rather than stand up for minority voting rights?

Have you another explanation?

Thunderbolt

[TOPIC FOR ANOTHER DAY: VOTING RIGHTS OF PRISONERS: A number of states have lifetime bans on voting for convicted felons. Why deny people their rights AFTER they’ve served their time? What is the rationale for denying any prisoners the right to vote?  Some nations allow and even encourage prisoners to vote. After all, as Mother Jones once said about prisons, “Many that are in should be out; many that are out should be in.” A man comes to mind who defrauded students at his sham university, then “contributed” to the election campaign of the woman who should have prosecuted him.]

I’m Taking a Knee With Kaepernick

Mike Ditka, the former Chicago Bears coach, lashed out at 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick and other NFL players for their much-publicized behavior during the National Anthem. Ditka blustered, “I think it’s a problem … anybody who disrespects this country and the flag. If they don’t like the country, they don’t like our flag … get the hell out.”flag-kaepernick

I hope you will excuse us, Coach, if we don’t feel all warm and fuzzy singing the National Anthem, swell with pride when we see the flag, or if the song “God Bless America” leaves us cold.

You see, it’s not that we hate America, as you seem to think. We love our country very much. It’s just that these symbols of America have been co-opted and desecrated by some despicable people.

Ever hear someone say, “Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel?” Samuel Johnson wrote that many years ago, but it could’ve been written yesterday by anyone observing America’s self-described patriots.

Who was more patriotic than Ronald Reagan? He loved the flag and sang the Star Spangled Banner with gusto. He also ran the most corrupt administration in American history. By the time he left office, 138 appointees had been convicted, indicted or been under official investigation for misconduct and/or criminal violations.

Making America Great Again   While Reagan inspired the gullible with his talk of making America great again (yes, Donald Trump stole that one), he waged war on America’s working people, shifting the tax burden onto our shoulders, busting unions, and cutting the heart out of OSHA, the agency entrusted with keeping workers alive. He also compared the murderous, drug-dealing Nicaraguan Contras he supported to our Founding Fathers. Ben Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison would not be pleased.

Patriotism runs deep at the NRA, which professes reverence for the Bill of Rights. They love the Second Amendment, especially since it was reinterpreted by their lackey, Antonin Scalia. An article in Business Insiders tells us that gun companies like Smith & Wesson and Cabala’s contribute tens of millions to the NRA. These corporate gifts have transformed the NRA from an organization devoted to gun safety into a mighty political force that beheads politicians who dare advocate for sane gun laws. Even George H.W. Bush got disgusted and publicly resigned from the organization in 1995. Carnage in our streets and hordes of gun owners terrified that “the govmint gonna take way yer guns” add up to big profits for the gun pushers.

“God Bless America” has never sounded the same since the Bush administration used the song to whip us into a war frenzy following 9/11. GW Bush’s face is indelibly etched in my brain after it appeared, Big Brother-like, on the scoreboard of a nationally-televised baseball game during the seventh inning stretch. For quite a while, the usual “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” was replaced with “God Bless America.”

Bush becomes the War President    Bush relished his overnight transformation from an inept, ridiculed leader suspected of stealing the 2000 election into the wildly-popular “War President” who took us to war in Iraq. Who cares if Iraq had nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks? USA was avenged, Bush’s poll numbers skyrocketed, and Dick Cheney’s former firm, Halliburton, reaped big profits.

Richard Nixon waved the flag as lovingly as Reagan, especially when covering up the crimes that eventually led to him being driven from office. A Nixon aide recently revealed that the War on Drugs Nixon launched was just a veiled attack on Nixon’s enemies: anti-war protesters and African Americans. This war, with the enthusiastic participation of subsequent Administrations, has led to the incarceration of hundreds of thousands and destruction of families and neighborhoods. More recently, this war has served as an excuse to militarize America’s police forces, with disastrous results.

Flag lapel pins mandatory      GOP patriots viciously attacked Barack Obama and questioned his love for America because he wasn’t wearing a flag lapel pin. All true patriots wear them, most notably the puppets of the Koch Brothers who cut taxes for the rich to the point that government at all levels can scarcely function, except to borrow money and wage never-ending war. These patriotic flag pin wearers also shut down the government and have refused to fill vacancies in our courts, including, of course, the Supreme Court.

Let’s not give Obama a pass either.   He let bygones be bygones with war criminals like G.W. Bush, Cheney, and John Yoo, but brought down the wrath of God on whistleblowers such as Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning for exposing crimes. Likewise, the Wall Street banksters, who stole billions of dollars and destabilized our economy, were left to blissfully continue their crimes, while police in riot gear beat and maced peaceful protesters of the Occupy movement.

You see, Coach, some of us have come to realize that these flag waving, National- Anthem-singing patriots aren’t on our side. So excuse me while I take a knee with Kaepernick and exercise my Constitutional right to speak up in dissent. It’s what our Founding Fathers would have done.

By the way, Coach, how dare you suggest that we leave the country just because we disagree with you.

Thunderbolt

Cowardice of the Christian Right

Crooked preacher

The Christian Right loves obsessing over sex.

Transgenders will molest little girls in the bathroom!

Teaching sex education gets girls pregnant!

Gays will destroy the sanctity of the institution of marriage! Of course, it’s unclear just what gays could do to marriage that Donald Trump, Newt Gingrich, and OJ Simpson haven’t already.

Presto! People are all riled up over nothing.

Back when President Obama first supported gay marriage, the Christian right erupted. Julaine Appling, president of Wisconsin Family Action, said: “America needs to continue to support and strengthen and preserve the traditional family model of a mom and dad.”

Likewise, African American pastor, Dwight McKissic, a Southern Baptist and former Obama supporter, berated Obama for betraying the black church and Christianity.  He warned, “America is now a candidate for the same judgment received by Sodom and Gomorrah.”

They have READ the Bible, haven’t they? This might be excusable if McKissic and his ilk had never read the Bible and spoke from ignorance.  But since McKissic has presumably read the Bible many, many times, he must know the Sodom and Gomorrah story says nothing about loving, consensual gay sex. It tells of a mob contemplating gang rape, an act of violence and humiliation.

McKissic must also know that the Book of Ezekiel says the sin of  Sodom’s people was that they were “overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy.” Sodom was a rich city that was not interested in sharing and was inhospitable to immigrants. Sound familiar?

Obsessed about sex; not love of neighbor    While obsessing over sex, the Christian Right ignores hundreds of Bible passages about love for one another and social justice. Preachers are very quiet indeed about:

  • Wealthy corporations like McDonald’s and Walmart that pay poverty-level wages while reaping billions in profit.
  • Politicians who froze the minimum wage at $5.15 an hour for ten years, then froze it again at $7.25.
  • Companies whose utter disregard for worker safety kills tens of thousands and injures millions every year.
  • Elected officials who essentially dismantled the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Surely, an agency that helps ensure that parents come home from work alive should enjoy the enthusiastic support of those who want to preserve “the traditional family model of a mom and a dad.”

Surely, an agency that helps ensure that parents come home from work alive should enjoyr the enthusiastic support of those who want to preserve “the traditional family model of a mom and a dad.”

Whatever became of the courage of the Prophet Nathan?
The Bible tells us of the courage that Nathan demonstrated in confronting a mighty King.  King David lusted after another man’s wife, slept with her, arranged for her husband’s death, and then added her to his extensive harem. God instructed Nathan to confront the king on his sin.

Though the Bible doesn’t say so, Nathan probably dreaded this task. King David could have had Nathan tortured, thrown into prison, and even executed. Many prophets, including the beheaded John the Baptist, died grizzly deaths for teachings that offended the rich and powerful. Yet, Nathan went.

Nathan set a trap for King David by telling him a story about a rich man, with many sheep and cattle, and a poor man, who had but one beloved lamb.  When the rich man had a visitor one day and wanted to prepare a meal, he took the poor man’s lamb and cooked it.

The story so outraged King David that he exclaimed, “That man deserves to die!”

Nathan dared to point a finger at the mighty king and said, “You are that man!”

Cheering for the Military Industrial Complex
But instead of pointing a finger at America’s rich and powerful for grinding the poor beneath their heels, the Christian Right is busy waving the flag and cheering on the Military Industrial Complex. Their insatiable appetite for our tax dollars generates massive unemployment and leaves many children hungry, homeless and poorly-educated.

One notable Christian minister who did demonstrate the courage of Nathan was Martin Luther King. He bravely opposed the war in Vietnam and walked a very lonely path–until he paid the ultimate price. King spoke out unflinchingly against the evil before him:

I speak for those whose land is being laid waste, whose homes are being destroyed, whose culture is being subverted.  I speak for the poor of America who are paying the double price of smashed hopes at home and dealt death and corruption in Vietnam.  I speak as a citizen of the world, as it stands aghast at the path we have taken.  I speak as one who loves America … A nation that continues to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.

King has been dead for nearly half a century, yet America’s wild, out-of-control military spending goes on and on. The American war machine never tires of killing and terrorizing people in other nations and sending our young people to fight and die. Yet, the Christian Right sees no evil at the Pentagon or Bechtel or Halliburton.

And what of the sin of usury? Who even knows what usury is these days? Despite attending thousands of religious services in my lifetime (Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish), I have yet to hear a message from the pulpit denouncing usury.

Usury is sometimes defined as lending money at exorbitant interest rates. However, as Thomas Storck points out in his essay, “Is Usury Still a Sin?”

Usury as it was understood for centuries meant the charging of any interest on a loan simply by virtue of the loan contract, that is, without any other justifying cause except that money is being loaned….

Pope Benedict XIV’s encyclical of 1745, Vix pervenit stated:  The nature of the sin called usury has its proper place and origin in a loan contract . . . [which] demands, by its very nature, that one return to another only as much as he has received. The sin rests on the fact that sometimes the creditor desires more than he has given . . .

Even if we agree that “reasonable” rates of interest are justified, I can’t help but notice that my Visa statement is not reasonable. Balance transfers are charged at a rate of 19.49%—and the wrath of the great God, JP Morgan, will rain down upon my head if I dare to miss a payment–or even send it late.

Money trapped in a mousetrap. Financial concept.
Missouri allows payday loan companies to charge 1950%!!

Predatory lenders, just one of which are the payday loan companies, rape underpaid working people desperate for a little cash to tide them over to their next paycheck. Missouri allows such companies to charge an APR of 1950% for a 14-day $100 loan! That’s not a typo– 1950%!

But the religious right is silent.

Five Non-negotiable issues for Catholics   A few years ago, I encountered a pamphlet at the local Catholic Church, instructing Catholics to vote for candidates who supported the Church’s position on five non-negotiable issues. Opposition to gay marriage, euthanasia, and even stem cell research made the non-negotiable list; usury, slashing social programs, unnecessary war, paying poverty-level wages, and torture did not.

Are loving, same-sex relationships REALLY more offensive than an unprovoked war that kills hundreds of thousands of innocent people? Is stem cell research really worse than applying electric shocks to the testicles of prisoners? Are they kidding?

 

Back of two girls together in nature
Are loving, same-sex relationships REALLY more offensive than unprovoked war? Are they kidding?

Fortunately, Pope Francis is talking sense on some of these issues, but real change lags far behind him. Religious leaders with the courage of Nathan and MLK are scarce on the Christian Right–and much of the left.  It is far easier to condemn the so-called sins of a despised minority like the LGBT community than to point an accusing finger at the likes of Visa/MasterCard, Walmart, and Bank of America.

But who can blame these for-profit ministries?
There is so much to be gained by preaching the word of the ruling class, instead of the “archaic” teachings of Jesus and the prophets. The Kingdom of Heaven is indeed right here on Earth for those who betray their faith and help the rich exploit the poor and exterminate the middle class. Influential ministers can have it all: mansions; limousines and sports cars; private jets; their own television programs; and the prestige that comes with mingling with the rich and powerful.

Pat Robertson’s personal wealth alone is estimated at a whopping $100 Million. Not bad. To think that Judas settled for a mere thirty pieces of silver.

THUNDERBOLT