Friday, December 2, 2011

Government Doesn't Create Jobs?

"Government doesn't create jobs, business creates jobs!" is the boring mantra of the GOP these days, and worse than boring, it's just plain inaccurate, and, perhaps, even worse, malicious and ill-intended.

"Government doesn't create jobs!"

Tell that to tens-of-thousands of aero-space workers in Southern California and around the country who rely on GOVERNMENT contracts.

Tell that to tens-of-thousands of farmers and food-industry workers who rely upon farm-subsidies to sustain agricultural production and artificially lower the price of commodities such as corn, the staple of the meat-industry - every time we buy a hamburger at In-n-Out or Burger King, we're enjoying GOVERNMENT oversite and regulation.

Tell that to tens-of-thousands of steel- and auto-workers who are employed today because of the "bailouts," but more importantly, over the years, tariffs and other such forms of GOVERNMENT regulation and oversight to keep American products competitive on the world market. Every time a Great Lakes ore-boat docks in Chicago, Gary or Detroit, it's possible only because of state and federal GOVERNMENT regulation and oversight - from the earth-movers to the trucks to the processing plants to the ships and the Coast Guard patrol boats and ice-breakers, GOVERNMENT plays a positive and essential role.

Tell that to tens-of-thousands of truck-drivers who fuel their trucks with diesel at prices lower than the rest of the world and drive on highways built and maintained through government contract, regulation and oversight.

Tell this to thousands of railroad employees whose trains run on tracks laid down on land granted to the railroads by GOVERNMENT legislation - land that was handed to them, without cost, and to this very day, GOVERNMENT regulation and oversight sustains interstate commerce and continues to benefit the railroads.

Every time an airliner flies overhead, or lands at LAX, it's GOVERNMENT that makes it possible.

In the past few days, gas-company workers have been repairing a gas-line in the alley behind our condo - their jobs are the result of GOVERNMENT regulation and oversight so that gas production on government lands can proceed and the price of gas remains reasonable. Transmission lines across the country, storage and production facilities, and gas-lines running beneath our streets into our homes - all of this through GOVERNMENT.

Several days ago, an auto accident on our street - several vehicles involved, lots of damage, no injuries - but firefighters and police were there, to direct traffic, investigate and keep folks safe - GOVERNMENT at work.

A strong national defense is possible only with a highly-trained professional army - in a world so complex as ours, state and national militias would fall far short of what's needed. Only GOVERNMENT is big enough to sustain a strong national defense, provide research for the best in equipment, fund hospitals for the injured and pensions for the disabled.

Though the conservatives promote and support private schools and home-schooling, American education relies, and will continue to rely, if we know what's good for us, upon an American invention - Public Education - the level playing-field where children early-on play and learn with children of other cultures and economic status, with teachers trained in colleges supported with GOVERNMENT grants and tuition-support  through scholarships and loans, in buildings built by GOVERNMENT, salaries paid by GOVERNMENT and pensions maintained and guarded by GOVERNMENT.

President Jefferson, a man often quoted by the conservatives on "small government," was quick to realize that the physical growth of the United States needed a strong and aggressive federal GOVERNMENT to negotiate for the Louisiana Purchase, and then to fund the Lewis and Clark Expedition. And throughout the early 1800s, highways and canals to further trade between the states, bring produce to the coast for shipment to Europe and strengthen our sense of unity - only GOVERNMENT could make all of this happen.

"Private business" is a misnomer - nothing is private, and though Laissez-faire has been the by-word of conservatives, the reality has always been a partnership between business and government, most often to the benefit of business as well as to the consumer.

Millions of jobs throughout the nation are directly or indirectly connected to GOVERNMENT. That's the way it's always been - kings and queens and bishops have always played a major role in the management of land and production and the military.

Big business is big because of big government, and jobs are created when the two work in partnership. Clearly, historically, from George Washington and his interests in canals to virtually every aspect of our life, GOVERNMENT is the essential player and the senior partner.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Jesus, the Temple Cleansing and OWS

The Jerusalem Temple was Judah's central bank and financial institution.

It traded in commodities: sheep, lambs, goats, bulls, doves and grain - thousands of animals slaughtered, and while some of the meat was entirely consumed in the fires of sacrifice, most of the meat was sold in the market, and much of the grain was made into flour and bread for the Temple employees, along with some of the meat, cooked right there. It was a huge enterprise, and only got bigger on the Festivals, especially The Passover, when tens of thousands of pilgrims made their way to Jerusalem from all over the Roman Empire.

The Temple was where financial records were kept - loans and ownership, to which Jesus refers when he speaks of the "legal experts" (Matthew 20.45ff) who cheat widows out of their homes and then walk around in "suits" - long robes, and say long prayers.

It was no accident that when Bar Kochba led a revolt (132-36) against Rome, they stormed the Temple and burned all the financial records, which, in effect, brought about the Jubilee, or the Year of the Lord's Favor (noted by Jesus in his hometown sermon in Nazareth).

Debt was a huge issue for the people - so it's no accident that Jesus zeros in on the wealthy and says, "It's easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God."

It is no coincidence that Jesus uses "debts" in the Lord's Prayer, in spite of the fact that some English translations prefer the word "trespass," or "sins" - the word would have caught the ear of many a listener. Clearly, there's a double meaning here: the spiritual debts incurred to God by our many failures, the breaking of covenant with God; but for the people to whom Jesus was speaking, the burden of debt was always in mind, as it is for us. And the center phrase, "as we forgive our debtors" would surely have been the Jubilee dream of a fresh start for all, free of the crushing burden of debt - the moral and spiritual debt to God, and the burdens of financial debt - for both the debtor and the creditor.

When Jesus storms into the Temple upon his arrival in Jerusalem (the Synoptic Gospels; John places the Temple cleansing early in the story) and overturns the money-changing tables, he's going after the central financial system of Judah ... claiming that Judah had, in fact, made mammon it's god.

If Jesus were to do the same thing today, would he storm into a church somewhere?

Not likely.

He'd more likely storm into a bank lobby and break a few things.

Would he join the ranks of OWS?

The poor, the outcast, the debtors?

What do you think?

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Obscene in the Extreme

"Obscene in the Extreme: The Burning and Banning of John Steinbeck's 'The Grapes of Wrath'" by Rick Wartzman - detailing the response of the growers and Bakersfield, CA politicians to Steinbeck's book, and to union efforts to organize pickers - fascinating … 

The behavior of the growers with regard to "immigrants" (in this case, Okies) and their absolute resistance to unions (after all, we don't want anyone usurping our "right" to arbitrarily set wages) hasn't changed one iota. 

On the one hand, the Okies were "dirty and immoral and a drag on local resources;" on the other, they provided cheap labor, and the more of them that came, the more competitive grew the job market, to the benefit of the growers. 

The parallels to our current debates about "immigrants" and labor and unions and Capitalism are uncanny, until one realizes that these debates have been an integral part of the American story, indeed, the human story.

The only element lacking today is the easy way in which the far-right then characterized labor organizing as "communistic" and un-American. It's fun to read how the growers and politicians labeled themselves "true Americans" and that capitalism was, of course, the American way.

Also, worth noting - rather than directly going after Steinbeck's social message, the book was attacked as "immoral" - as one politician said, "I wouldn't want my daughter reading this filth."

Some politicians said to the immigrants, "Either work at the wages offered, or no welfare."

Not quite 50% through, I'll update frequently.

As with so many things, a little history sheds light on our current debates and conflicts.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

A Letter to the Presbyterian Layman

October 26, 2011

Editor, Layman,

Your newsletter has been a constant presence in my mail for many years, though I find most of what it offers offensive, dysfunctional and saturated with hubris.

With that said, blessings on the Fremont Church - they will continue on, as many have, with a slow drift into irrational fundamentalism, leaving behind the great Evangelical/Reformed Tradition. In place of faith, will be money, David Barton's/Rousas John Rushdoony's weird reconstructionist vision of America, private schools, creationism, anti-intellectualism, a diminished role for women, and an abiding James Dobson hatred of LGBTQ people (there is no such thing as hating the sin and loving the sinner - that's an example of pious muddled thinking that closes doors even as it prides itself on open doors).

I find it tragic that many Presbyterians have sold their Evangelical/Reformed soul for a mess of potage seasoned by Americanism, nationalistic illusions, a love of money and big buildings (even small conservative churches look to the big boys as if size mattered in the Kingdom of God), a world-denying version of "salvation," faith without exegesis, tradition without thought and a bitter dogmatism driven by the Westminster Catechism (a 17th Century example of mostly where not to go).

I've been following the Layman since 1973, when I was a pastor in Altoona, PA. I know well the contours of your soul, and it's a jumbled and sad landscape.

Though I've sometimes been sympathetic to your original theological intentions, I've watched the Layman drift all the more into bitterness and darkness of spirit, while claiming to have the greater share of light in the PCUSA and assigning itself the task of guarding and traveling the higher road of faith, feeding the demons of fear and anger, aiming for a new denomination all along.

And, frankly, as someone from the north, I'm no longer saddened by Southern Tier Churches leaving (formerly PCUS) - while the vision of reunion was worthy, and driven by some extraordinary leaders, too many of the Southern Churches brought very little to the health of the church, often requiring the Northern Church to walk on eggshells, cater to their theological sensibilities, parochial attitudes, the "spiritual nature of the church," and, yes, the remnants of racism which remain unresolved in the South, and, yes, in all parts of our country.

Meanwhile, the PCUSA will sharpen and expand the biblical vision of inclusivity and welcome. New congregations will be planted, folks brought to the Christ of the New Testament, and lives changed. Theologians like N.T. Wright are leading the way, along with Newbigin and his missional insights, and young-generation historians like John Fea and Darren Dochuk, not to mention Mark Noll. 

It will be a better day for the PCUSA when the dust settles, and perhaps you'll be happier, too, though the mindset of the Layman is always in need of an enemy, so it will be fascinating to watch who the next enemy will be. I doubt very much if you and gang will ever find happiness this side of heaven, and, frankly, if Matthew 25 has any bearing, it's likely that unhappiness will plague your house even then.

I realize that my note is headed for the trash bin, or, if published, will be edited and then heralded by the "righteous" as just another example of liberal insanity and progressive blindness.

Well, so be it, and baloney to you.

BTW, if you want to remove my name from your mailing list, go ahead.

But I bet you won't.

And as long as you send your nonsense to me, I'll send my comments to you.

Is that a deal?

Faithfully in Christ, and in always grateful for the Amazing Grace that saves, and looking for better days in the PCUSA, with windows and doors wide open to the gospel of faith, hope and love, because Christ is risen from the dead.

The Rev. Dr. Thomas P. Eggebeen, HR and Interim Pastor
Calvary Presbyterian Church
Hawthorne, CA

Kindness is always in season! And so is truth!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Church and Welfare

Some Christian churches have created a "golden age" for the church - some sort of happy village when everyone cared for everyone else. Baloney! That world has never existed. In the Middle Ages, when the church and the state overlapped and the church controlled huge amounts of land, and bishops reaped huge incomes for the diocese from taxation on trade and commerce, with wealthy princes contributing large sums to the church to pay for building, gain penance and purchase indulgences. The church then used money for welfare, not unlike gov't today. The corporate role of the church in the Middle Ages was huge, and, today, has been replaced by gov't. There never was the "happy village" imagined in some Christian circles.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Capital Punishment - a Thought or Two

I am an advocate of life-sentences, without parole. Since there are too many mistakes made in capital cases, and since many capital cases deal with people who can't afford top-notch attorneys, and since it's been demonstrated that prosecutor offices tend to "close" a case too quickly to get a conviction, I opt for prison, rather than the death penalty. Though I remain convinced that a "state" has the right to take a criminal's life - that law and Scripture allow for it. But as Paul noted, just because something is permissible doesn't mean we should do it. Wisdom, as least mine, indicates imprisonment as a safer means of punishment that accomplishes the same as capital punishment (remove the offender from society) without the chance of a mistake. I also believe that capital punishment stains the character of a nation, and all those who participate in it - police, judges and juries, defenders and prosecutors, and the people who finally have to pull the levers.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Applauding for Executions

When Gov. Perry of Texas was questioned about the 234 executions in his state at the September 7 GOP debate at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, the audience broke out into loud applause.

I am stunned by this.

As a Christian, I follow an executed man. 

As I read the story, God choose the worst way to die, the lowest of all means of public shame and abandonment, because Jesus came to all who are abandoned, to be with all who are shamed, with and for all who are lost. Only there on the cross could God's love for all the world be fully demonstrated. In the lowest of all places where a human being might be found, God is there.

I imagine Pilate reporting to Caesar about the number of executions carried out in Galilee under his watch, and I can imagine the Roman Senate breaking out into applause.

I can understand why some would applaud the death of 234 people; yes, there are some who love the smell of blood. But anyone who takes Jesus and his cross seriously, I can't imagine them joining in that applause. 

We must remember what justice means in the Bible - putting things back together again in the right way - restoring the lost - helping the fallen - giving life, offering the second chance and forgiving many times. 

Capital punishment is never justice - because it restores nothing. It might be legal, and I suppose one can make a legal case for it, but capital punishment is vengeance in its final form - there is no going back, life cannot be restored for either the victim or the perpetrator, and vengeance only stains the soul all the more - the soul of those who want it, who make the decisions, who carry out the executions, and the soul of a nation that uses it.

Life imprisonment is the only acceptable alternative of punishment for a capital offense.

I have long stood against capital punishment - I can't imagine Jesus ever approving of it, who himself was the innocent victim of capital punishment. In spite of all our safeguards, too many innocent people die at the hand of the state. 

As a Christian, I cannot support it, and even more, I must do what I can to rid the land of this foul practice.

And, please, don't quote the Bible at me on this one.

I know all the relevant verses, and all the related history.

If you want to live in an eye-for-an-eye, a tooth-for-a-tooth, kind of world, we'll all end up toothless and blind, and what good will that do?

Kindness is always in season!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

9/11 Commemoration - for Sunday at Calvary Presbyterian Church

The following statement will be read during a portion of the morning liturgy devoted to the memory of 9/11 ... at Calvary Presbyterian Church, Hawthorne, CA.

We are Christians, above all else.
Our greatest loyalty is to the kingdom of God.
Our highest hopes are anchored in Christ.
Our daily life is built upon the character of God - God at work in all things, in all things for good … because God is good all the time, and all the time, God is good.

September, 2001 … the church I served at the time, St. Paul’s Presbyterian Church, Livonia, MI, was geared up to celebrate it’s 50th anniversary on Sunday, September 16 - people, from far and wide, had planned to attend the festivities and give thanks to God Almighty. 

And then, Tuesday, September 11, a day of national sorrow.

Several former pastors and others were unable to attend because of airline shutdowns. What had been planned as a festival became, as well, a time of mourning and soul-searching. In some parts of the country, churches, synagogues and mosques were filled to overflowing, and for some weeks, and even months, thereafter, people sought hope and solace in God’s love.

Ten years later, our country has been shaken by the mortgage meltdown, massive banking failure, wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, political gridlock, high unemployment, world-wide financial distress, the Bernie Madoff scandal, the widening gap between the haves and the have-nots, and perplexing questions about our future.

History offers some guidance.

From the get-go, when Cain killed his brother Able, human beings have excelled in the ways of killing. Of all God’s creatures, we are tragically skilled in violence. From Japan’s pillaging of Nanking, Hitler’s Holocaust and the Allied bombing of Dresden - to tens of thousands of starving children around the world amidst the brutal wars of genocide we’ve witnessed in the last 25 years, it is not a pretty picture. We who claim the name of Christ must spend a lot of time on our knees, praying for humanity and praying for the nations, pledging ourselves to be “the children of God,” those who are peacemakers. 

As Christians in America, it’s vital that we remember September 11, but do so with grace and perspective, choosing to live out of our hope and our dreams for a better world.

Ten years after the World Trade Center buildings collapsed into the streets of Manhattan and nearly 3000 people lost their lives in the blink of an eye, we must do several things today:
  1. Honor the memory of that tragic day with prayers and hope.
  2. Pray for the families who lost loved ones.
  3. Pray for the ticket agents, air traffic controllers and air force pilots - the burdens of memory are great!
  4. Celebrate the power of human resilience - while the survivors all carry painful memories of that day, so many of them have worked their way through the tragedy to find new life. Their stories of victory and success are a testimony to human courage and an inspiration to us all to never, ever, give up!
  5. Recognize the dedication of the first responders - public servants devoted to the public good, who put themselves into harm’s way, because this is their calling, this is their duty, this is their life.
  6. Pray for our nation.
  7. Pray for all the nations of the world, because God’s love is for all the world, all the nations, and all the peoples.
  8. Pray for peace, and devote ourselves to the ideas and behaviors that contribute to peace on all levels of life - family, work, neighborhood, church and school.
  9. Remember that we’re a strong nation with deep resources, and we needn’t live in fear. Yes, bad things might happen; no one person, and no nation, is immune to such things. Better to live in courage and trust. Better to know that our lot on earth is far better than many, and that, truly, the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.
  10. Practice forgiveness … and if it has to be raw forgiveness, do it. Forgiveness is always the healing of the soul.
  11. Practice what Jesus meant when he said, “Love your enemy” - this is not a sentimental journey, but a decision to do what’s right - to seek reconciliation where possible; to avoid violence and vengeance; to admit wrongs and confess sins; to seek the high road to life.
  12. Promise to live for Christ all the more - growing up into the knowledge of God’s purpose and love revealed in Christ - the reconciliation of all the world.
  13. Link arms with women and men of faith all around the world - Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus - anyone who does kindness, loves justice, and walks humbly with their God.
  14. And with the love of Christ secure in our hearts, love our nation and guide it to the better future.
Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address ends with these stirring and noble words:
… that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Dear friends, dear Christian friends, walk in the footsteps of the Master - Go forth into the world in peace; Be of good courage; Hold fast to that which is good. Render to no one evil for evil. Strengthen the faint hearted. Support the weak. Help the afflicted. Honor everyone. Love and serve the Lord.
And to God be the glory. Amen and Amen!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Truth-Telling at Calvary Chapel???

In California, powerful right-wing congregations have a troubling history on truth-telling when it comes to social change.

As for me and my house, I happen to think that the church needs to tell the truth, no matter what, because our Lord is the Truth, as well as the Way and the Life.

Where truth is compromised or denied for political purposes, there is no Gospel, and Christ himself is denied.

That Calvary Chapel should use fear-inducing lies is not surprising, given the history of right-wing religious groups in SoCal - please see Darren Dochuk's monumental study:

From Bible Belt to Sunbelt: Plain-Folk Religion, Grassroots Politics, and the Rise of Evangelical Conservatism

Whatever one's persuasion may be on the questions of homosexuality, I think most folks can agree that truth-telling is a virtue, and spreading lies, especially fear-inducing lies, is reprehensible.

For years now, the LGBTQ Community has been the target of the far-right. Christians who stand against Gays and Lesbians always claim to have the Bible on their side and the weight of tradition behind them.

Yet even conservative scholars these days are inclined to admit that the Bible has been mistranslated in several key verses and poorly interpreted with other verses, mostly to suit certain social norms. The same was done, of course, to deny women ordination and to perpetuate slavery and post-emancipation Jim Crow laws - such as laws prohibiting bi-racial marriages.

Another example of fear-inducing lies regards the use of the short-handled hoe in CA agriculture - it's a fascinating story and highlights how fear-of-change grows into a monster that continues to harm. You can read about it HERE.

With regard to SB 48, it's a matter of honesty - honest history, honest teaching and honest recognition of people and causes that have contributed to the well-being of American society.

Is there anyone who doesn't want honesty in these matters?

Here's a letter from Courage Campaign.



"SB 48 will teach homosexuality to kindergarteners." That was the response my brother got this past Sunday when encountering a signature-gatherer at Calvary Chapel in Chino Hills.
We were shocked, because we know that SB 48, the FAIR Education Act, simply ensures that California schools include LGBT people and movements in our history books, and yet homophobes are collecting signatures to put the law on the ballot and repeal it. I don't know about you, but I'm not up for another Prop. 8-style campaign and loss, where the other side uses lies and scare tactics to hurt the LGBT community. We have to start NOW to frame this issue, to get the truth out.

We need your help to spread the word. Will you sign up to help make sure this measure stays off the ballot?

What we saw in church yesterday isn't the only example. Yesterday, the "Stop SB 48" campaign sent an email reinforcing the lies about teaching "homosexuality" to young children, on the heels of their video ad last week from Pastor Jack Hibbs at Calvary Chapel. Two choice quotes from Pastor Hibbs's ad:
"The indoctrination of our children regarding gay and lesbian, transgender lifestyles and practices as it relates to state history, as it relates to US history, and as it relates to our own economy...This new teaching, frankly, comes against the very ministry of Jesus Christ, the word of God, and you and I."
"If we don't stop it, this will be the indoctrination of our children, on our watch...There's no opting out for your student, they must take this course, there's no getting away from it."

All SB 48 does is to make sure that the role of LGBT people and the movement for justice are part of American history taught in schools. How many people know that gays and lesbians were jailed simply for being gays and lesbians? Who really knows that even now transgender people are beaten up for being transgender? Did you know that in his first days in office, Dwight Eisenhower signed an executive order that not only banned gays and lesbians from public service, but from working for government contractors? That's our history. If we don't know what happened, we are indeed doomed to repeat it, if not for LGBT people then for other minorities.

America is made stronger by telling the story of all Americans: black, Latino, gay, straight, Jewish, Christian, Muslim. We are all part of the powerful fabric that builds our nation. Pretending that some of us don't exist is not the American way. I'm a proud straight ally and I support making our history more inclusive of people who deserve respect.

Arisha Hatch, National Field Director, Courage Campaign

Chip in today to fight back against the Stop SB 48 campaign!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

The Truth about Texas???

LA Times, 8.11.11 - Letter to the Editor:

Texas, taxes and jobs

Re "Amazon stumps outside stores," Business, Aug. 6

I am a visitor to California and a lifelong Texan. Imagine my surprise to encounter an anti-tax signature collector in San Diego arguing that California will lose jobs to Texas if taxes increase.

We Texans have already got all the minimum-wage, no-benefit jobs we can handle, along with lousy roads, a 19th century school system, a high poverty rate, hunger, lack of medical care and the highest rate of uninsured people in the nation. Our education system is declining, and much of the new jobs pay minimum wage. Texas is becoming third-world.

California has so much of what Texas lacks. Be happy to pay your taxes because you are getting so much for them. Tighten your belt and preserve the California you have while you can. Don't destroy California; you will regret it later.

Kathleen Bombach

El Paso

I don't know who Ms. Bombach is, but I'm grateful for her letter, because from other sources, as well, we're learning that the Texas "success" story is more like "A Nightmare on Elm Street." Things are going down more quickly in Texas than the proverbial goose on a June Bug. The GOP strategy for prosperity is an illusion, if not a lie. The only prosperity they have in mind is the welfare of the Royalty. 
Kathleen Bombach, whoever you are, thank you!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Assigning Blame????

 I cannot in good conscience assign blame equally. The Bible doesn't either. When the prophets rail against Israel's sin, it's the Priests and the Kings who are faulted - folks with power, the power to change things for the better, but who choose to change things to suit their own interests and feed their own appetites. 

When Jesus over-turns a table or two, it's in the Temple, the bastion of religious power. Jesus clearly speaks to all, but his harshest words are directed, not to the people, but to the powerful. 

Jesus would not tell a poor single Mom living in South LA to spend a little less, and not put anything on a credit card. 

No. Jesus would speak to the system that keeps her unemployed or underemployed; a system that fails to provide public transportation; child-care; health-care; good schools; clean water and air; healthy food. A system designed and managed by the powerful during the last 50 years, for the sake of the powerful; a system sucking the life out of millions. 

To speak of an equality of responsibility is biblically impossible - Jesus said it well: "Those to whom much has been given, much is expected." Responsibility for building a just and life-inducing world belongs to the powerful. In their failure, they are condemned ("hard for a rich man to make it" - parable of rich man and Lazarus), and in their success (e.g.Zacchaeus), be blessed.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

102 Things NOT To Do If You Hate Taxes

102 Things NOT To Do If You Hate Taxes

May 18, 2011
By Stephen D. Foster Jr.
So, you're a Republican that hates taxes? Well, since you do not like taxes or government, please kindly do the following.
1. Do not use Medicare.
2. Do not use Social Security
3. Do not become a member of the US military, who are paid with tax dollars.
4. Do not ask the National Guard to help you after a disaster.
5. Do not call 911 when you get hurt.
6. Do not call the police to stop intruders in your home.
7. Do not summon the fire department to save your burning home.
8. Do not drive on any paved road, highway, and interstate or drive on any bridge.
9. Do not use public restrooms.
10. Do not send your kids to public schools.
11. Do not put your trash out for city garbage collectors.
12. Do not live in areas with clean air.
13. Do not drink clean water.
14. Do not visit National Parks.
15. Do not visit public museums, zoos, and monuments.
16. Do not eat or use FDA inspected food and medicines.
17. Do not bring your kids to public playgrounds.
18. Do not walk or run on sidewalks.
19. Do not use public recreational facilities such as basketball and tennis courts.
20. Do not seek shelter facilities or food in soup kitchens when you are homeless and hungry.
21. Do not apply for educational or job training assistance when you lose your job.
22. Do not apply for food stamps when you can't feed your children.
23. Do not use the judiciary system for any reason.
24. Do not ask for an attorney when you are arrested and do not ask for one to be assigned to you by the court.
25. Do not apply for any Pell Grants.
26. Do not use cures that were discovered by labs using federal dollars.
27. Do not fly on federally regulated airplanes.
28. Do not use any product that can trace its development back to NASA.
29. Do not watch the weather provided by the National Weather Service.
30. Do not listen to severe weather warnings from the National Weather Service.
31. Do not listen to tsunami, hurricane, or earthquake alert systems.
32. Do not apply for federal housing.
33. Do not use the internet, which was developed by the military.
34. Do not swim in clean rivers.
35. Do not allow your child to eat school lunches or breakfasts.
36. Do not ask for FEMA assistance when everything you own gets wiped out by disaster.
37. Do not ask the military to defend your life and home in the event of a foreign invasion.
38. Do not use your cell phone or home telephone.
39. Do not buy firearms that wouldn't have been developed without the support of the US Government and military. That includes most of them.
40. Do not eat USDA inspected produce and meat.
41. Do not apply for government grants to start your own business.
42. Do not apply to win a government contract.
43. Do not buy any vehicle that has been inspected by government safety agencies.
44. Do not buy any product that is protected from poisons, toxins, etc…by the Consumer Protection Agency.
45. Do not save your money in a bank that is FDIC insured.
46. Do not use Veterans benefits or military health care.
47. Do not use the G.I. Bill to go to college.
48. Do not apply for unemployment benefits.
49. Do not use any electricity from companies regulated by the Department of Energy.
50. Do not live in homes that are built to code.
51. Do not run for public office. Politicians are paid with taxpayer dollars.
52. Do not ask for help from the FBI, S.W.A.T, the bomb squad, Homeland Security, State troopers, etc…
53. Do not apply for any government job whatsoever as all state and federal employees are paid with tax dollars.
54. Do not use public libraries.
55. Do not use the US Postal Service.
56. Do not visit the National Archives.
57. Do not visit Presidential Libraries.
58. Do not use airports that are secured by the federal government.
59. Do not apply for loans from any bank that is FDIC insured.
60. Do not ask the government to help you clean up after a tornado.
61. Do not ask the Department of Agriculture to provide a subsidy to help you run your farm.
62. Do not take walks in National Forests.
63. Do not ask for taxpayer dollars for your oil company.
64. Do not ask the federal government to bail your company out during recessions.
65. Do not seek medical care from places that use federal dollars.
66. Do not use Medicaid.
67. Do not use WIC.
68. Do not use electricity generated by Hoover Dam.
69. Do not use electricity or any service provided by the Tennessee Valley Authority.
70. Do not ask the Army Corps of Engineers to rebuild levees when they break.
71. Do not let the Coast Guard save you from drowning when your boat capsizes at sea.
72. Do not ask the government to help evacuate you when all hell breaks loose in the country you are in.
73. Do not visit historic landmarks.
74. Do not visit fisheries.
75. Do not expect to see animals that are federally protected because of the Endangered Species List.
76. Do not expect plows to clear roads of snow and ice so your kids can go to school and so you can get to work.
77. Do not hunt or camp on federal land.
78. Do not work anywhere that has a safe workplace because of government regulations.
79. Do not use public transportation.
80. Do not drink water from public water fountains.
81. Do not whine when someone copies your work and sells it as their own. Government enforces copyright laws.
82. Do not expect to own your home, car, or boat. Government organizes and keeps all titles.
83. Do not expect convicted felons to remain off the streets.
84. Do not eat in restaurants that are regulated by food quality and safety standards.
85. Do not seek help from the US Embassy if you need assistance in a foreign nation.
86. Do not apply for a passport to travel outside of the United States.
87. Do not apply for a patent when you invent something.
88. Do not adopt a child through your local, state, or federal governments.
89.Do not use elevators that have been inspected by federal or state safety regulators.
90. Do not use any resource that was discovered by the USGS.
91. Do not ask for energy assistance from the government.
92. Do not move to any other developed nation, because the taxes are much higher.
93. Do not go to a beach that is kept clean by the state.
94. Do not use money printed by the US Treasury.
95. Do not complain when millions more illegal immigrants cross the border because there are no more border patrol agents.
96. Do not attend a state university.
97. Do not see any doctor that is licensed through the state.
98. Do not use any water from municipal water systems.
99. Do not complain when diseases and viruses, that were once fought around the globe by the US government and CDC, reach your house.
100. Do not work for any company that is required to pay its workers a livable wage, provide them sick days, vacation days, and benefits.
101. Do not expect to be able to vote on election days. Government provides voting booths, election day officials, and voting machines which are paid for with taxes.
102. Do not ride trains. The railroad was built with government financial assistance.
The fact is, we pay for the lifestyle we expect. Without taxes, our lifestyles would be totally different and much harder. America would be a third world country. The less we pay, the less we get in return. Americans pay less taxes today since 1958 and is ranked 32nd out of 34 of the top tax paying countries. Chile and Mexico are 33rd and 34th. The Republicans are lying when they say that we pay the highest taxes in the world and are only attacking taxes to reward corporations and the wealthy and to weaken our infrastructure and way of life. So next time you object to paying taxes or fight to abolish taxes for corporations and the wealthy, keep this quote in mind…
"I like to pay taxes. With them, I buy civilization." ~Oliver Wendell Holmes

Friday, July 22, 2011

The Wrong Side of History

Pharaoh instead of Moses.
Caesar rather than Christ.
   Wealth over God.
   Privilege and power.
   Grab the sword.
   Enslave others.
   Mistreat the poor.
   Pillage the earth.

The wrong side of history:
   Apartheid in South Africa.
   Hitler and his hatred.
   The Berlin wall.
   The smell of napalm in the morning.

The choices we make against the will of God … choices that diminish love rather than build it up … negative thoughts; bitter feelings … the darkness we welcome and the light we shun.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Iowa GOP Pledge - Some Thoughts

More children live today with their parents than at the end of the 19th century; many children, then, were orphaned when Mom died in childbirth or Dad was killed in a farm or industrial accident. Many children went to orphanages, or lived with grandparents, aunts and uncles or neighbors. Came across the stats on this a few years back.

The claim about broken families today has been a part of the culture war propaganda developed by the far-right and folks like James Dobson in the last 25 years.

Yes, we have problems today, but the real challenge is to describe them accurately and historically.

To blame this on some kind of a spiritual breakdown is just plain absurd, though it makes for good pulpit talk.

In reality, we can trace our current problems in the family to: 1) lack of decent jobs, 2) lack of affordable health-care, 3) the destruction of our schools by gutting the tax base and attacking teachers, 4) lack of adequate public transportation, 5) environmental degradation in our cities, 6) horrible diets loaded with Iowa Sugar for millions of poor families, 7) the draining away of our moneys from helping the poor and putting more and more resources into the pockets of the wealthy through tax-cuts and big subsidies for agri-biz and oil.

To even suggest, as Vander Platts does, that "slave children" might have been better off is such a horrible distortion of fact as to defy comprehension.

A sane person would never write anything like that, and decent people would never put their name to it like Bachmann and Santorum did.

Vander Platts' church, Cornerstone World Outreach in Sioux Center, IA is a hideous place full of falsehoods and fascism. Everything else in that Pledge is hideous beyond belief.

He's a sick, sex-obsessed man, and utterly hungry for power.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Differing Visions for America

Been reading "Undaunted Courage" as of late, about the Lewis & Clark expedition to the Pacific.

At the time of their adventure, 1803, the nation was already struggling with competing visions - the Federalist and the Republican, and how to read the Constitution.

The differing visions polarizing today's politics are not much different, though within each of these visions, there is always some degree of fluidity - e.g. Rick Perry's GOP and that of George W. Bush.

Jefferson, a Republican, a strict constructionist on matters of the Constitution, nonetheless played his hand big when it came to financing Lewis & Clark and making the Louisiana Purchase.

I find it encouraging to read, simply because it encourages me to stand firmly for my view of things, even as I consider other points of view. Yet the vision that energizes me has long been a part of our nation's conversation.

It doesn't help, as some conservatives suggest, that Obama is a Marxist. Not at all, for Obama's vision is very much rooted in the American Dream. No doubt, Rick Perry's vision is rooted there as well, or even that of Paul Ryan.

America's unique political climate has allowed these competing visions to grow and prosper at varying times in our history, enriching our national experience.

Pushing deeper, these competing visions seem to be rooted in human DNA.

And they are clearly reflected in the Bible as well - with it's competing visions: the expansive world of Isaiah and the narrower world of Kings and Chronicles - each asking the question: What is God's vision? For Kings and Chronicles, God's vision is "Israel First." For Isaiah, the whole wide world is God's objective, and Israel is a tool toward that end, and never the end itself.

When Jesus enters the scene, he clearly goes with Isaiah, and when Paul begins to write, he, as well, aligns himself with the larger picture, seeing the church, not as an end in and of itself, but rather as a tool, a means, toward the larger picture of God's love for the whole wide world and the eventual redemption of creation!

We'd all like to think that our view of things is the best, and if we're readers of Scripture, that our understanding of the Sacred Text is more accurate that someone else's.

Who knows ... but this much can and must be said: there are competing views of the world in the Bible, views similar to the current debates in our national and local politics. Not that there's a direct correspondance (there never is), but enough similarities that allow us to compare and contrast.

For most of my adult life, I've tried to read the Text fairly, and I've tried to learn something of American history, even as I've searched my own life-experience and story to discern how I've been shaped and why I value what I do.

In the long run, I think it's a mystery - as Paul puts it, "Now we see in a mirror darkly, but then, face-to-face."

In the meantime, it's incumbent upon all of us to stand where we stand and to affirm the values we hold dear, even as we try, with all our might, to hear what others have to offer, and to learn from them, modifying our own views as we go along, yet to sharpen our views, too.

It's a great debate, and much is at stake.

May God grant to all of us a certain generosity and kindness.

But courage as well. The undaunted courage of solid convictions founded upon the bedrock of knowledge acquired through the discipline of research, with reflection upon such knowledge in long hours of consideration and conversation.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Reflections on a Worker Action at Ralphs Headquarters, Compton, CA

For the third time in one day, several hundred grocery workers and clergy from CLUE presented a large-format letter to management, in this case, Ralphs. Other actions in the day, Albertsons and Vons.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011
10:00AM: Vons Headquarters, 618 Michillinda Ave., Arcadia, CA

12:00PM: Albertsons Headquarters, 1421 S. Manhattan Ave., Fullerton, CA 92831

: Ralphs Headquarters, 1100 W Artesia Blvd. Compton, CA 90220

I was at the third encounter.

We gathered in a Coco's parking lot, and with signs and water bottles, we walked several blocks beside the steel fences that walled in an entire section of Compton, the stronghold of Ralph's. At one of the gates, we were met by some officials, who guardedly "welcomed" us, but we could not enter the property beyond the gate. Plenty of guards were in appearance, although they waved at me when I waved at them (I think they understand that the fight for fare wages and decent benefits is their fight, too).

As I walked along the fence line, I thought: Corporate life is walled off from the world, like Fort Knox. When the VP of Marketing met us, a lady in her early 40s, I'd say, beautifully and expensively dressed, I asked if she had a religious tradition and she said, "Yes." I asked, "Which one?" and she said Baptist.

I looked at her expensive apparel and then I looked at the workers behind me - the women and men who cut and package our meat, who stock the shelves, who clean the floors, who check us out and bag our groceries - the gulf between the two worlds is huge, and I couldn't help but feel sorrow for the VP of Marketing - it's her job to sell groceries and make a profit. It's her job to "welcome" us and assure us that Ralph's is working hard to resolve this (hardly the case at all). It's her job, and I'm sure she's well-educated and grateful to be working. But did she see the workers standing at the gate, like Lazarus at the gate of the rich man? Does she ever feel the tension of the struggle between corporate profits and workers' right? Does she ever lose sleep over the ethical dilemmas of her work? She's in a position of power, but I wondered, "Who's her boss?" who gives the marching orders to her.

Ralph's is prepared to draw upon hundreds of millions of dollars, as needed, to stall the workers, and if Ralph's can't bust the union, at least try to cripple it. The company can afford to wait. The workers can't.

I was glad to be there. The People. That's what it's all about. And their right to work well, to earn a living wage, to have decent benefits. They're not asking for wealth, but health-care. They're not looking to live in a 6000 square-foot home, but they only want a roof over their heads, and maybe some assurance that there'll be enough income to provide for their children's future.

In America, the pie is big enough, if those in power are willing to settle for a smaller piece so that those on the lower tiers can have a piece slightly larger.

Is this too much to ask?

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Reflections on 9/11, Osama and World Economy

From my dear friend and colleague, an all-around good guy with a heart for Jesus and a better world, The Rev. Robert Dahl, of Holland, Michigan.


On Sept. 11, 2001 3,000 people died in the attacks on the twin towers of the World Trade Center and at the Pentagon. It was a tragedy. 

In the ten years hence, hundreds and hundreds of thousands of lives have been lost in Iraq and Afghanistan, thousands of lives of American soldiers have been lost and tens of thousands of American soldiers have been severely wounded (saved from death by modern medical technology and costing the US countless dollars for longterm care) and a trillion plus dollars have been spent with more lives and more money to come. 

All this and the US just killed the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks.  

Proportionately, was any of this response appropriate?  

Jesus said that we have heard that the law is an "eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth" but then Jesus tells us not to resist an evildoer.   Elsewhere (Matthew 18:21-22), Jesus, in response to St. Peter, admonishes him to forgive seventy times seven times not just the generosity of seven times  which was a vast improvement on the vengeance that preceded that law of the Hebrews originally taken from the Mesopotamians.  

How many times does our nation forgive?  What if we had just forgiven Osama bin Ladin while pragmatically beefing up protection against terrorist attacks?  We held 95% world support in the days following 9/11.  What if we had stood tall and simply had forgiven the evildoer?  Wouldn't we have retained 95% support instead of squandering all that in the years to come?  We have squandered lives and dollars out of fear and false machismo. 

This nation isn't even acting by ancient, humanitarian law.  This nation, by historical standards, is acting barbarically. This nation is light years away from living out the command of Jesus.  And yet, politicians are scrambling to outdo each other on who is the more conservative, bible believing Christian.  

I think that ignoring and violating the laws of God do have consequences. God's law of love, compassion, justice and peace revealed to us in Jesus will not be mocked. This is sort of reverse retaliation.  God's justice will be accomplished which I think means that "love wins."  If that means that we lose, so be it.  

Osama bin Ladin is dead (We all die.); but Osama bin Ladin won partially and almost won totally.  What do I mean?  Osama bin Ladin, for all his boredom and self-imposed house arrest and cache of porno, won.  He got the US to do what he knew would hurt us much more than that initial attack.  He was counting on our all out of proportion reaction to bring our economy to its knees.  The disastrous policy of the last US administration in reaction to 9/11 along with totally misguided tax cuts  and deregulation of the financial market almost took the world economy into chaos; that's the world economy.  That's the world economy.  

The United States, in part, because of the motivation of vengeance coupled with a misguided attempt to confiscate the oil reserves of Iraq for US energy needs, along with totally misguided economic theory of how to stimulate the economy, was on the brink of economic disaster and may yet suffer grievously because of an enormous budget deficit and gargantuan national debt.  

The ultra-wealthy have been enormously greedy, the politicians have been enormously selfish to think primarily of re-election and have pandered to the lobbyists hired by the ultra-wealthy, the elected officials are slaking their thirst for blood and oil in the Middle East and all of them have ignored the impending environmental disaster.

And God is not mocked.  And it isn't nice to try to fool Mother Nature.  

God and Mother Nature will prevail and we will reap what we sow.  

That's not a vengeful God and a reactionary Mother Nature.  That's just the way it is.  

Bob Dahl 


P.S. Be sure to check out Cost of War.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Scary Eyes

Nothing unnerves me more thoroughly than to be with a group of evangelical Christians for whom there are no questions, and every answer is pat. Not to mention that "other folks" like Muslims and Buddhists and Jews aren't even on the radar screen of faith, other than as "hostiles" needing to be converted.

The world "outside the walls," is a realm of darkness and wickedness, and within the walls, all is light and sweetness, because "we know Jesus."

I'm intrigued by their eyes. Not that everyone has the wild-eyed look of a hungry predator, but many of them do, or at least the pastors do. If eyes say anything, their eyes shoot out the message, "beware!"

I don't think they're a happy lot. Because it's hard to keep on pretending, and tough to keep up the requisite "gospel passio," because passion is no substitute for knowledge, and without knowledge, there can never be wisdom, but only slogans and bumper-stickers.

Yeah, I know - maybe I'm nuts, but that's how I "see" it.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Republicans promote Costa Mesa as a pension-slashing leader

Republicans promote Costa Mesa as a pension-slashing leader

In this morning's LA Times, a fine, though disturbing, article revealing the heart and soul of the GOP - or shall I say, "heartless and soulless" - as they continue their Grant-like "march to the sea," burning their way through our Middle Class. Be sure to check out the accompanying picture - "bowing for prayer."

Costa Mesa City Council
Pious Frauds at Work
I added my comment to the Times' thread, and here's what I wrote:

Nothing new in the latest GOP outbreak in Costa Mesa, but what stirred me deeply and made me sick was the accompanying picture - these pious yahoos, "bowing for prayers," beneath the hollowest motto ever coined, "In God We Trust." Baloney! These simple four words have been used, and mostly abused, to justify "high crimes and misdemeanors" of every sort.
The word "god" has no inherent meaning. For folks like these, it's the GOP god, a ruthless god without mercy, a god of wealth and power. Under the banner of such a god, the GOP god has overseen the largest transfer of wealth known to history - from the pockets of the many to the bank accounts of the few.
"Bowing for prayer" in this picture is beyond ludicrous; it's nothing less than illusion masking cruelty. I suspect most of these insipid politicos would call themselves "christian," likely "evangelical christians." Well, I'm a Christian, too, and a pastor for 44 years, and what these pretenders support is just plain wrong, deeply contrary to God's will expressed in both Testaments, contrary to Roman Catholic social teaching, and a contradiction of core Pauline economic theology - 2 Corinthians 8.15.
The GOP is bound (enslaved to its own ideology) and determined to undermine the foundations of Democracy and destroy the Middle Class. They are terrorists of the worst kind - RAVENOUS wolves in sheep's clothing (Matthew 7.15).

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Sad News Out of Washington Today (May 17, 2011)

The GOP today blocked Dem efforts to end tax breaks for the Big Five Oil Gang.

I can’t fully express my sorrow on this one. To me, it feels like a kick in the gut, a low blow, a blind-sided clipping … and there’s no one to penalize them, or red-card them, except the voter.

I’ve been saying now for years that the GOP, an extension of The 400, has been guarding and guiding the largest transfer of wealth ever seen – from the pockets of the many to the investment accounts of the few, draining our economy of working capital, creating fewer jobs in America and out-sourcing everything they can, taking it out even more cruelly on the working poor, our children, our schools and our cities.

Meanwhile, flooding the talk-show airwaves with a particularly cruel blarney – that if folks just hang a little, boot out the Dems, forcing the working stiffs to make “necessary sacrifices,” like pensions and wages and health care, one of these days, we’ll find glory-land and everyone will be happy.

I can’t believe how many good and decent folk believe this nonsense and continue to support the GOP. The magic words are “lower taxes, smaller government, cut spending and create jobs” – except we never quite get to jobs, while our public schools and roads and national parks and city and state services are falling apart, and if the GOP track record says anything at all, they’ve never cut the budget, but simply move it away from the social welfare of the nation to the corporate profits of The 400, supporting war, which, of course, is the largest welfare program in the world, moving billions of our dollars through the defense industry, the military-industrial complex of which Eisenhower so forcefully warned us.

Thousands of Christian churches have aided and abetted this hoax, but holding up wealth and happiness as a personal goal, if, of course, you do as the preacher says. And though wealth and happiness rarely come to the many, it does, of course, come to a few, who are the then paraded across the stage as role models, and publish books and get interviewed on FAUX news – keeping the illusion alive for the masses.

These churches have long ago left the gospel behind, reducing Jesus to some kind of personal trainer or spiritual guru who will make them wealthy, or at least get them to heaven.

I heard the news today of the GOP “victory,” and felt a darkness descend on my soul.

Only to be intensified by the news out of Sacramento, as the GOP in CA continues to hamstring our governor and further the disintegration of public services.

Sadly, for the GOP, creativity has died. But, then, when you’re working for the Koch Machine, who needs creativity? The sledge hammer approach works just fine to hasten the transfer of wealth, destroying unions, buying our legislative bodies through obscene campaign contributions, enlarging the corporate wealth-care of the rich, who then fatten the wallets of their political toadies.

I had to laugh today as Newt Gingrich actually seemed to have some sense in his criticism of Paul Ryan, and then quickly backtracked, like a stray sheep yanked back from the precipice of reason with a mighty yank from the shepherd’s staff.

McCain, as well, seems to have reclaimed some sense, but the t-bags are clearly strangling the life out of the party, choking off reason and commonsense, stripping the GOP of it’s conservative character, turning the GOP into a reactionary force serving the interests of The 400.

Erik Prince and His Killing Machine - a Prince of a Guy!

A good friend and colleague, The Rev. Dr. Robert Dahl, recently wrote a thoughtful and hard-hitting piece about Erik Prince, America's Dark Night, so to speak. Since my friend and I have spent a lot of time in West Michigan (my friend still lives there), we have a considerable interest in the religious goings-on in that part of the world. Erik Prince, in my sense of things, is the perfect example of the devolution of right-wing insanity - from humanity to bestiality, with blood dripping from tooth and claw. Anyway, when I read my friend's essay, I knew that I wanted to share it with as many as I could.

Read on and learn from my friend and colleague.


"What a Prince of a Guy"
The Prince of Darkness?

What a clever, enterprising boy that Erik Prince is. What a prince of a guy!

It is so hard finding work in this economy, so ever resourceful Erik found employment in somebody else's economy. He recast himself as a modern day Paladin: "Have Gun, Will Travel."

No doubt he will send some of his hard earned cash back to the states to help out his family members. That's what a lot of Mexicans have been doing for years for their families. With at least as much risk of harm to their person as what Mr. Prince faces, Mexicans have crossed the US border to find work so they can send money back to their financially strapped families. Apparently, we are just catching on to the selfless, sacrificial conduct of these despised illegal aliens.

Thank goodness Mr. Prince is setting an altruistic example for the rest of us. I’m sure he got the proper documentation to enter Abu Dhabi, the country he now calls home.

You know with the economy in the states being what it is, any good, red, white and blue blooded American should consider "Peace Corp" type work like Erik. We could all go to Abu Dhabi as ambassadors of good will like Mr. Prince and improve the image of the stereotypical "ugly American."

Besides, if any of us gets into legal trouble back home, we couldn't be extradited. What a fortunate side benefit! With all of Mr. Princes' surely bogus but bothersome legal issues that just don't seem to want to go away, I wonder if Mr. Princes' lawyers thought of that? Mr. Prince has gone away, and he can't be sent back.

A mercenary army of 800 soldiers employed by the Muslim country is owned by Erik Prince and hires all non-Muslims to fight for it because Muslim mercenaries couldn't be counted on to kill other Muslims. Imagine that -- religious people with a conscience. They have reservations about killing other religious people, well religious people like they are.

During the last century and now into this century, the same couldn't be said for Christians. Apparently Christians will kill anyone anytime regardless of religion. Christians killed millions of Christians not to mention millions of Jews in the 20th Century. The potential enemies the Muslim country employing Mr. Prince are concerned about, apparently for now, are other Muslims. So, the political leaders of the Muslim country don’t mind killing other Muslims; it’s just the everyday, ordinary Muslims who aren’t crazy about the idea.

Hiring non-Muslims to do the killing is not without its problems. According to the New York Times and the Grand Rapids Press in a May 15, 2011 article, Prince employs South African mercenaries who have been employed by African dictators and Columbian mercenaries who have previously done what? Protect drug cartels? Who knows? Maybe they were all, as children, good do bees and acolytes at mass. Of course, many of the Columbians have washed out of boot camp in the desert because of drug problems. Go figure. However, we can assume that the mercenaries from South Africa and Columbia are Christians hired to help Muslims kill Muslims. At least there is no problem there. You can bet on those Christians not having a conscience.

But what about the language barrier and awareness of cultural differences? South Africans speak Afrikaans and English; Columbians speak Spanish. Who speaks Gulf Arabic? Have the South Africans and Columbians, at least the ones who are left, been to cultural sensitivity training? On a cold night, you don’t want African and Columbian Christians burning Korans to keep warm. Just leave that to fundamentalist Christian preachers in the US.

Erik Prince, a child of the Christian Reformed Church and now a Roman Catholic, attributes his Christian faith, his high moral principles and patriotic loyalties to what he learned as a child growing up in the conservative West Michigan community of Holland. Bravo for the second happiest city in America! There goes one more happy kid to kill for Christ.

As you may well know, Mr. Prince spoke at Tulip Time a year ago at Hope College's DeVos Field House, named after Erik's sister's in-laws. He gave the Tulip Time Luncheon speech. Of course the event it was sold out. Everyone wanted to bask in the glory of the local boy who made good. The guests were probably popping their buttons with pride. I'm sure all the Hollanders were happier than ever except for a few old party poopers who gathered outside DeVos Fieldhouse to protest Mr. Prince’s appearance at Tulip Time and the use of Hope College property for his speech.

Eric Prince, now owner of a mercenary army hired by a Muslim country to kill enemies of that Muslim country, was hosted by Hope College, a Christian school, to give a speech on Hope property donated by Prince's sister's in-laws who happen to be super-rich evangelical Christians with right wing political views. At the time, mercenary employees of the company that Prince then owned, Blackwater, were killing civilian Muslims in Iraq.

He was contracted by the American state department to kill Muslims if need be. He got into a lot of trouble doing that. It seems a lot of innocent civilians got in the crosshairs. How could that be? Now he's contracted by Muslims to kill Muslims if need be. Perhaps in Abu Dhabi he needn’t be as concerned about civilians in the crosshairs.

I guess Erik's mercenary troops aren't exactly ready to get out there and do an efficient job of killing, so in the mean time, to hold up the guys' spirits they were taken from the secretive compound into town for a quick visit to a brothel. Hey, that's a good Old Testament practice.

Maybe Erik, who is known for his righteous, religious stance against homosexuality otherwise known to psychologists as homophobia, wanted to make sure the guys kept shooting straight. Let's see, in the general population anywhere from ten to fifteen percent if not higher are homosexual. So, out of 800 soldiers maybe a hundred of those macho boys are gay. Good grief! I hope Erik has a "Don't Ask, Don't Tell Policy" and someone to keep constant surveillance on the shower room.

Gee, where do Hope and Western stand with all this? Well, it's obvious where they stand regarding gays. Hope has its own version of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" and it comes with a big religious stigma and Old Testament type judgment. That, of course, fits right in with the opinions of some of the schools' major donors.

You know, I thought the schools' mission, in part, was to advance the cause of the Prince of Peace. How could they, in good conscience, accept money from those who advocate violence and killing, let alone killing for profit?

By now I am so confused. I thought evangelical, right wing Christians supported Israel against Muslims. Israel is part of the original covenant and they, along with true Christians, are part of the covenant community. Muslims are anti-Israel and anti-Christian according to right wing Christians. They are to be converted to Christianity or they will be lost. Now, a right wing Christian American patriot is working for Muslims. I'm having a hard time figuring out where Jesus is in all this.

Maybe the saving grace or rationale is that this patriotic American, conservative Christian makes his really big money running a mercenary army employed by a Muslim country to kill other Muslims who might threaten the country he works for.

Okay, I'm beginning to get it. Make a gazillion bucks working for Muslims to kill other Muslims, presumably all to the glory of God and Allah and perhaps, in a stretch, for the good old US of A. Muslims killing Muslims. That's okay. Americans getting money from Muslims to kill Muslims? Priceless.

But what if Christians and Jews get in the way somewhere along the way? Or what if, on down the line, his Muslim employers call on Erik, the super American patriot, to kill Americans for some reason? You know international politics and how fickle countries can be. However, you don't want to bite the hand that feeds you and that's not chicken feed Mr. Prince is getting. Even a super patriotic American has to champion the cause of market capitalism. That’s where religion comes in. Anybody knows that the Christian God endorses free market capitalism. The first Christians tried socialism and that was a total failure. The first apostles heard the Word from on high, “Now get out there and make some money!”

Can we all now all sing "Onward Christian Soldiers Making Mucho Money Marching for Muslims to Kill Muslims and then Anyone Else Who Might Happen to Get in the Way”?

Hey, this might even afford a fund raising opportunity for Hope College and Western Theological Seminary. The development offices could contact the Prince family, those family members who are still in the states, congratulating them on Erik's good luck and wishing them all the best. Actually no one short of the presidents is called for here. The personal touch helps during these tough economic times.

A lot of Americans are having a hard time keeping food on the table let alone a roof over their heads what with all the foreclosures. We just don't know how much the Princes have to share during these tough times. Yes, the personal touch is essential if donations are to be made.

Okay, now I get it. The money the schools might get will come from families that support Muslims killing Muslims. I guess that leaves the Christians and Jews safe to wait for the rapture. Let's hope the rapture comes before Erik is called on to kill Christians and Jews or just plain old American citizens for a Muslim country.

By the way, are there any new building projects on the campuses? If so, what names will adorn them?

In a play on words, perhaps one could be named "Piece of Prince."

Or even better, how about "Kingfish Hall," after Erik Prince's code name instead of "King of Kings Hall"?

In conclusion and on a somber note, what I hadn’t previously mentioned in this article, but which can safely be assumed given Prince is working for an undemocratic regime, is that the American patriot Erik Prince was hired, in part, to help put down any potential pro-democratic uprisings among the citizens of Abu Dhabi.

How ironic is that? Erik Prince may be called on to kill people simply seeking to be politically free and have a vote.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

What Really Built America?

In all regards, the greatest strides this nation has made for liberty and well-being have been crafted and driven by what we might call progressives or liberals.

The reactionary forces want to dismantle our freedoms and feed us to the corporate monster.

It was socialism, if you will, that built the Hoover Dam and the TVA and got us out of the Depression and built our interstate system; it's "socialism" that funds our military and safeguards our airways (before the Reagan deregulators took over) and our schools (no wonder the GOP fights against school-funding) and health-care system (what's left of it).

It was a liberal vision that fought the Revolution, that sought the abolition of slavery, that gave us the 8-hour workday and a living wage. Come on folks - it wasn't the wealthy who made this nation great. It was the working men and women working together, organizing, along with a strong government, that built this nation and made it great - so that a bozo like Trump might wear his hair oddly and prance around like he was actually a citizen of value.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Ignorance, Arrogance and Meanness.

There is a fatal and dangerous amalgam of factors in the far right represented in a FB comment found on a new friend's site where she posted a piece noting how the TX governor goes begging for Federal Funds for the wildfires, but otherwise condemns Federal Dollars as evil.

Anyway, here's the comment:

Unfortunately it is the poor and lazy who are draining our country dry. Why is it that I have to work for a living and some can chose to let the gov give them money. I started with nothing and have earned everything I have. The low life scum in America need to do the same. Texas isn't begging for money, but they have paid taxes unlike a large majority of Obama supports, and Texas deserves the support they requested long before these disasters happened in AL.

I haven't a clue where one could begin with a mind like this, seared, as it is, like a cheap piece of meat left on the grill far too long.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

GOP Shenanigans in Michigan

The Rev. Dr. Robert Dahl, a good friend since 1967, and a fine writer, offers the following observations on the GOP in Michigan, where Bob resides and ministers, and the state wherein I have spent the majority of my years. What's going on there is tragic, but I'll let my friend's words say it better than I can:


The Governor of Michigan and the Michigan Legislature through legislation granting new powers to "emergency managers" have nullified the democratic process and therefore the United States Constitution and have invoked absolute powers in two Michigan cities -- Detroit and Benton Harbor.

Granted the Detroit school system needs emergency surgery if it is to survive and Benton Harbor politics is allegedly as corrupt as it gets (I worked there eighteen months), but the solution is not to strip duly elected officials of their power and declare complete power in the office of the governor executed through non-elected emergency managers appointed by the State Treasurer's office.

Police in Detroit handcuffed and hauled off pregnant teens recently who had gathered at their alternative school in Detroit to write protest posters about the possible elimination of the school. Did you get that? Police handcuffed pregnant teens and hauled them off to jail.

I saw it on TV and thought I was watching a scene from a film version of a dystopian novel such as Nineteen Eighty-Four, Fahrenheit 451, Brave New World, Animal Farm or pessimistic existential works like The Trial and The Stranger.

I can only assume the powers that be justified the arrests on the grounds the young ladies were on school property on a day when school was not in session thereby constituting trespassing. That school has a 90% graduation rate and promises to get all of its graduates into college. The school is on the budget chopping block and, if I understand correctly, the duly elected school board has no power to stop any such action.

The democratically elected mayor and council members have been stripped of their executive and legislative power in Benton Harbor.

One member of my church, normally a pretty progressive fellow with credible credentials in the business world, told me during the campaign when it looked like the Democratic candidate would lose that Rick Snyder would be just fine because he was a social progressive and fiscal conservative.

The action coming from the governor's office since the election belies the campaign rhetoric. Budget proposals by the governor would negatively affected working people, public employees, the middle class and the poor. Only the rich and corporations would benefit. This doesn't sound like social progressivism or fiscally sound action. Tax breaks for the rich and corporations don't create jobs; they just enlarge the divide between the rich and the poor and the only thing that trickles down is the middle class.

And the actions by the emergency managers is aimed at predominately poor and minority populations. Action certainly is needed, and the governor may think this is the way to do it, but it is heavy handed, autocratic, undemocratic and smacks of bias and prejudice.

First Congregational Church, Benton Harbor where I served as a specialized interim minister turned over all buildings and its trust fund in 2007 to Trinity United Church of Christ, Chicago to take over and begin a new ministry in the community.

I hope and pray the congregation, the Southwest Association of the Michigan Conference of the United Church of Christ of which the congregation is a member, the Detroit Metropolitan Association of the Michigan Conference and the Michigan Conference itself stand up to Governor Snyder and the Legislature and oppose this unconstitutional and, therefore, illegal action.

I hope the Mayor of Detroit and the City Council stand up to the state government regarding the emergency manager's actions related to the Detroit school system.

Also, I hope the Department of Justice steps in to stop the unconstitutional legislative activity in my home state.

Robert E. Dahl,
Specialized Interim Minister
United Church of Christ, Retired
Holland, MI

Saturday, April 16, 2011

A letter from Big Biz to Obama - "You Scare Me"

Recently came across this letter penned by a former exec at Procter and Gamble - he claims to have sent it to the NY Times, but it was never published. According to SNOPES, it's a real letter that has now achieved some influence in the far-right hinterlands of cyberspace.

I share it with you simply because it reveals a cancer in the American business community, an overbearing arrogance that success in soap, or whatever, qualifies one to critique the President of the United States. But we all know that success is niche-oriented, and while one may climb to the top of the ladder in one arena of life, success rarely translates into another career-culture. But wealth feeds the ego a rich diet of pride, and that's why Jesus said, "It's easier for a camel to go through a needle's eye than for a person of wealth to enter the kingdom of heaven." A camel at least has a chance!

The cancer of arrogance seeps through big biz these days, fueled by the t-baggers who worship in Dagon's Temple, doing the bidding of their priests - company CEOs and their ethically-challenged MBAs who are still wearing diapers and sucking pacifiers - too young to know or care about the consequences of their cavalier machinations with our money!

As you will see, it's a note filled with the poisons of greed and arrogance, and the same old songs that the far right have sung for decades - they sang it during the Civil War when Lincoln rose to the challenge of slavery and the cotton empire, they sang it when Teddy Roosevelt busted the trusts, when FDR rescued the nation and built the world's best social safety net, when Eisenhower proposed a federal health-care system, when Nixon sought to include China in the UN, and even sang it with Reagan when he moved away from the JBS and the more extreme evangelical/christofascists of his era.

It's the same old song, and if you listen to the tune, it's poorly composed, and the words are a fog of meaningless images and emotions.

The man who wrote this letter is un-American to the core!

He's a high priest in Dagon's Temple.

Below, the "you scare me" letter:


By Lou Pritchett, Procter & Gamble

Lou Pritchett is one of corporate America's true living legends- an acclaimed author, dynamic teacher and one of the world's highest rated speakers. Successful corporate executives everywhere recognize him as the foremost leader in change management.

Lou changed the way America  does business by creating an audacious concept that came to be known as "partnering."

Pritchett rose from soap salesman to Vice-President, Sales and Customer Development for Procter and Gamble and over the course of 36 years, made corporate history.


Dear President Obama:

You are the thirteenth President under whom I have lived and unlike
any of the others, you truly scare me.

You scare me because after months of exposure, I know nothing about you.

You scare me because I do not know how you paid for your expensive
Ivy League education and your upscale lifestyle and housing with no
visible signs of support.

You scare me because you did not spend the formative years of youth
growing up in  America  and culturally you are not an American.

You scare me because you have never run a company or met a payroll.

You scare me because you have never had military experience, thus
don't understand it at its core.

You scare me because you lack humility and 'class', always blaming others.

You scare me because for over half your life you have aligned
yourself with radical extremists who hate America; and you refuse to
publicly denounce these radicals who wish to see America fail.

You scare me because you are a cheerleader for the 'blame America'
crowd and deliver this message abroad.

You scare me because you want to change America to a European style
country where the government sector dominates instead of the private sector.

You scare me because you want to replace our health care system
with a government controlled one.

You scare me because you prefer 'wind mills' to responsibly
capitalizing on our own vast oil, coal and shale reserves.

You scare me because you want to kill the American capitalist goose
that lays the golden egg which provides the highest standard of
living in the world.

You scare me because you have begun to use 'extortion' tactics
against certain banks and corporations.

You scare me because your own political party shrinks from
challenging you on your wild and irresponsible spending proposals.

You scare me because you will not openly listen to or even consider
opposing points of view from intelligent people.

You scare me because you falsely believe that you are both
omnipotent and omniscient.

You scare me because the media gives you a free pass on everything
you do.

You scare me because you demonize and want to silence the
Limbaugh's, Hannity's, O'Reillys and Becks who offer opposing,
conservative points of view.

You scare me because you prefer controlling over governing.

Finally, you scare me because if you serve a second term I will
probably not feel safe in writing a similar letter in 8 years.

Lou Pritchett
This letter was sent to the NY Times but they never acknowledged it.
Big surprise. Since it hit the internet, however, it has had over
500,000 hits. Keep it going. All that is necessary for evil to succeed
is that good men do nothing. It's happening right now.