National

Has the GOP Gone Insane?

From Salon:

Trump supporters first pepper spray, then yell “n****r lover” to 15-year-old protester in Paul Ryan’s hometown

pepper-spray

(Credit: Conservative Outfitters)

Police in Janesville, Wisconsin, are searching for two Donald Trump rally attendees who pepper sprayed and sexually assaulted a 15-year-old anti-Trump protester outside the Republican presidential frontrunner’s rally on Tuesday. Video of the incident shows other apparent Trump supporters shouting “bitch” and “nigger lover” to the teenager as she attempts to walk away with pepper spray in her eyes.

“Damn, Donald, back at it again with the white supremacy,” read 15-year-old Alex Drake’s topical protest sign, according to video that captured the incident. As another protester raised a sign that read, “Black Lives Matter,” the crowd of mostly older white Trump supporters began chanting “All lives matter,” attempting to drown out the Janesville teenager:

Law enforcement in Janesville, home of Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan, said that “a male in the crowd groped the 15 year girl, when she pushed him away; another person in the crowd sprayed her.” Video of the incident shows Drake confronting a man she says touched her breast before she reached out to strike him:

Another video shows one Trump supporter yelling to “get that bitch out of here,” after the teenage girl stumbles from being pepper sprayed

“Goddamn communist, nigger lover! Get out of here,” another Trump supporter can be heard shouting.


This is an open message to the Colorado GOP – some of your members have clearly gone completely off the rails and are attempting to incite riots.

I would hope that the few sensible people in your organization understand how incredibly awful and destructive such an event could be. Is this what your party has become? You want to cause a public melee?

Over the years FRL has been attacked repeatedly by extremists in your party howling for public condemnation when one of our stories upset them. Now something like this happens and you’re conspicuously silent.

Where is the condemnation of this act? Your failure to disavow this barbarity is telling.

Can I expect to see myself, family or friends attacked viciously for using our First Amendment right at political rallies?

I would strongly encourage you to caution your more extreme members not to commit violence against protesters – the backlash could be terrible and disgrace the CO GOP forever.

Donald Trump isn’t a candidate – he’s a symptom. Republicans in Colorado are well advised to distance themselves from him if they expect to maintain any semblance of respectability.

Donald Trump: A Litany of Lies

Photo courtesy of Newscorpse.com

Photo courtesy of Newscorpse.com

In just the last seven days Trump has lied nine times:

  1. Trump said his university had an ‘A’ rating by the Better Business Bureau.
    False: The BBB responded that Trump University had a D- rating.
  2. Trump said his steak and wine businesses are booming.
    False: He doesn’t own those companies at all… they just bought his name.
  3. Trump said Obama lied and that the real unemployment rate is up to 35%.
    False: The unemployment rate is 4.9% and Obama doesn’t generate the reports.
  4. Trump said Obama made the army weaker.
    False: Army generals said it’s the leanest, strongest and most powerful it has ever been.
  5. Insurance companies are hurting because of Obamacare.
    False: Health insurance industry stock has increased by 400% in the last seven years.
  6. Insurance companies have laid off millions of employees because of Obamacare.
    False: Insurance companies have hired in record numbers in the last four years.
  7. Obama is destroying the economy.
    False: Every sector of the economy has improved in the last seven years.
  8. Trump said he didn’t know who David Duke was.
    False: Trump has talked about David Duke many times in the past.
  9. Trump said Hillary is about to go to jail for using her email on her phone.
    False: It has been determined over and over again that she did nothing illegal.

The Big Red Scare

Joe Stalin, nothing like Bernie Sanders.

Joe Stalin, conservative boogieman

Beware! Be very afraid is the message George Will imparts in his commentary, “When history books make history,” published in the Opinion page Aug. 9. But to me the overriding theme is the hubris— excessive pride— Will attaches to the power of writers. He singles out Robert Conquest, who, according to Will almost single-handedly brought down the Soviet Union with his honest and truthful description of the evils of communism under Joseph Stalin.

Understand there has been no communism except in theory, especially under the brutal dictatorship of Joseph Stalin. Everyone was not equal but there was a level of thugs at the top who were “more equal.” Everyone else followed orders or got sent to gulags in Siberia, or were shot. No writers brought down the Soviet system, and neither did Ronald Reagan as has been claimed for him posthumously. No, the Soviet Union collapsed in utter failure with a corrupt government, a failed economy and by investing in an arms race resulting in total disregard of its people.

By some estimates, Stalin had more than 20 million citizens murdered in order to instill his brand of communism. Stalin was guilty of “moral obtuseness,” meaning he said one thing and always did what he wanted, which usually resulted in breaking treaties and murdering anyone who got out of line. Liar and hypocrite are the most polite words we can associate with Stalin.

Yet, in his meandering punditry of 700 words, Will brands U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders with moral obtuseness. That is one writer’s hubris run amok. It is also disgustingly false.

So just what has Bernie proposed that is so threatening it receives a label the writer also chooses for the worst killer dictator in human history? Here is a sampling: healthcare for all by extending Medicare; eliminating tax evasion techniques by large corporations that offshore profits and jobs; extending Social Security to all by applying the payroll tax to income more than $250,000; raising the minimum wage to $15/hour; paying for parental leave and vacations; and foremost, getting big money out of politics.

These are major issues for the 99 percent of us who are being squeezed out of the middle class by stalled wages and benefits. Yet somehow Will and conservatives in Congress interpret our issues and Bernie’s common sense solutions as “socialist threats.”

America is a social country. Our history is marked by communities coming together to deal with tough issues. Every farming community has a cooperative that allows members to save money through bulk purchasing of goods and services at lower prices. Foremost though are the many benefits derived by all of us by combining our taxes for the common good: setting up public utilities and services, public libraries, public education, highways and roads top the list. Consider too that we have a national military, Social Security and Medicare.

Realize that many hardline conservatives like George Will consider social services undeserved entitlements. What is scandalous is the association of Bernie Sanders’ stand on providing for the people first akin to the moral obtuseness of Joseph Stalin. Rather, I believe entitled is the No. 1 characteristic of large corporations avoiding taxes and offshoring jobs. Entitled describes a Congress that votes itself better health insurance benefits and a better pension system than it allows the people it is supposed to serve.

Where Bernie would extend Social Security, conservative pundits like Will would cut it, limit benefits and raise the eligibility age.

A final thought. My friend Hermine is from Germany, a democratic socialist country. In a recent discussion she was asked about health insurance there. Her answer: Everybody has it. What about unemployment insurance? It never runs out. What about the homeless? She says there isn’t any. Parental leave and vacation pay? Yep, Germany has those too. Other studies point out the happiest people live in Scandinavia, where democratic socialism also exists with the benefits found in Germany.

In the next 15 months, pundits and politicians will try to scare you with demagoguery tactics like Will’s. “The Big Red Scare” was a farce perpetrated by radical anti-communist demagogues like Joseph McCarthy in the 1950s. Don’t believe the ghosts of that era posing as pundits and candidates for the presidency.

Bill Ellis is a local author; reply to bill-ellis@comcast.net
Bill Ellis

St. Vrain Valley Voices

The Sacrifice and Final Words of Rev. Charles Moore

Reverend Charles Moore - Photo from The Washington Post

Reverend Charles Moore – Photo from The Washington Post

From The Washington Post

A Texas minister set himself on fire and died to ‘inspire’ justice

One Monday in June, 79-year-old Charles Moore, a retired United Methodist minister, drove to Grand Saline, Tex., his childhood home town some 70 miles east of Dallas. He pulled into a strip mall parking lot, knelt down on a small piece of foam and doused himself with gasoline.

Then, witnesses said, he set himself on fire.

read the rest at The Washington Post


The Reverend Charles Moore’s final words are included in the WaPo article as scanned images. I feel that they should live on in the Internet so I have transcribed them in their entirety. Strong language caution. Powerful sentiments backed up by a man’s life. I feel this should be transmitted as far as humanly possible. – M.D.Wray


O Grand Saline, Repent of Your Racism

I was born in Grand Saline, Texas almost 80 years ago. As I grew up, I heard the usual racial slurs, but they didn’t mean much to me. I don’t remember even meeting an African-American until I began driving a bus to Tyler Junior College and made friends with the mechanic who cared for the vehicles: I teased him about his skin-color, and he became very angry with me; that is one way that I learned about the pain of discrimination.

During my second year as a college student, I was serving a small church in the country near Tyler, when the United States Supreme Court declared racial discrimination in schools illegal in 1954; when I let it be known that I agreed with the Court’s ruling, I was cursed and rejected. When word about that got back to First Methodist Church in Grand Saline (which had joyfully recommended me for minsitry– the first ever from the congregation), I was condemned and called a Communist; during the 60 years since then, I have never once been invited to participate in any activity at First Methodist (except family funerals), let alone to speak from its pulpit.

When I was about 10-years-old, some friends and I were walking down the road toward the creek to catch some fish, when a man called “Uncle Billy” stopped us and called us into his house for a drink of water — but his real purpose was to cheerily tell us about helping to kill “niggers” and put their heads up on a pole. A section of Grand Saline was (maybe still is) called “pole town,” where the heads were displayed. It was years later before I knew what the name meant.

During World War II, when many soldiers came through town on the train, the citizens demanded that the shades in the passenger cars be pulled down if there were African-Americans aboard, so they wouldn’t have to look at them.

The Ku Klux Klan was once very active in Grand Saline, and it still probaby has sympathizers in the town. Although it is illegal to discriminate against any race relative to housing, employment, etc., African Americans who work in Grand Saline live elsewhere. It is sad to think that schools, churches, businesses, etc. have no racial diversity when it comes to blacks.

My sense is that most Grand Saline residents just don’t want black people among them, and so African-Americans don’t want to live there and face rejection. This is a shame that has bothered me wherever I went in the world, and did not want to be identified with the town written up in the newspaper in 1993, but I have never raised my voice or written a word to contest the situation. I have owned my old family home at 1212 N. Spring St. for the last 15 years, but have never discussed the issue with my tenants.

Since we are currently celebrating the 50th anniversary of Freedom Summer in 1964, when people started working in the South to atttain the right to vote for African-Americans along with other concerns. This past weekend was the anniversary of the murder of three young men (Goodman, Schwerner and Cheney) in Philadelphia, Mississippi, which gave great impetus to the Civil Rights Movement — since this historic time is being remembered, I find myself very concerned about the rise of racism across the country at the present time. Efforts are being made in many places to make voting more difficult for some people, especially African-Americans. Much of the opposition to President Obama is simply because he is black.

I will soon be eighty years old, and my heart is broken over this. America (and Grand Saline prominently) have never really repented for the atrocities of slavery and its aftermath. What my hometown needs to do is open its heart and its doors to black people as a sign of the rejection of past sins.

Many African Americans were lynched around here, probably some in Grand Saline: hanged, decapitated and burned, some while still alive. The vision of them haunts me greatly. So, at this late date, I have decided to join them by giving my body to be burned, with love in my heart not only for them but also for the perpetrators of such horror — but especially for the citizens of Grand Saline, many of whom have been very kind to me and others who may be moved to change the situation here.

Rev. Charles Moore
June 13, 2014

Disagreeable Me

Five ‘Truths’ You ‘Cannot Disagree With’
Conservative Propaganda Fact
1 You cannot legislate the poor into prosperity by legislating the wealthy out of prosperity. You cannot legislate the poor out of poverty by legislating the wealthy into prosperity.
2 What one person receives without working for, another person must work for without receiving. What a wealthy person received without working for probably came from what another person worked for without receiving.
3 The government cannot give to anybody anything that the government does not first take from somebody else. But banks can, through fractional reserve banking, in which the wealthy create wealth by putting the working class into debt.
4  You cannot multiply wealth by dividing it. But you can multiply wealth by inventing money, again through fractional reserve banking.
5  When half of the people get the idea that they do not have to work because the other half is going to take care of them; and when the other half gets the idea that it does no good to work because somebody else is going to get what they work for, that is the beginning of the end of any nation. But who is working, and who is living off of their labors? The wealthy lay around the pool, counting their dividends, while the working class pays for their largess in the form of bailouts and subsidies.
6 (Insert bullshit about trickle down, voodoo economics, etc.) A consumer economy cannot be prosperous if the consumers are impoverished.

A few more points about #3:

“The government cannot give to anybody anything that the government does not first take from someone else.”

If this doesn’t demonstrate that the author of this only cares about money, then I’m not sure what does. Let’s try this out with a few items that a few people might care about the government providing and see how this “truth” is borne out, shall we?

“The government cannot give someone a financial safety net to guard against economic and circumstantial events that are outside of that person’s control without taking away someone else’s financial safety net to guard against economic and circumstantial events that are outside of that person’s control.”

Weird. That didn’t turn out at all. In some magical way we actually *can* provide this kind of a safety net without taking away someone else’s safety net, for the reason that the needs of a safety net are amortized across the population as a whole.

Okay, let’s try it again:

“The government cannot give one individual access to clean water and unpolluted air without removing someone else’s access to clean water and unpolluted air.”

Damn. That turned out weird again. I wonder what’s going wrong? It’s as if there are material things that the government can provide that can be ensured for all people without having to take that very same thing away from anyone.

Alrighty, one more time. I’m sure it’ll be a “truth” that I can’t disagree with this time:

“The government cannot provide for the basic subsistence and shelter of one individual without denying someone else basic subsistence and shelter.”

What the …? How is it that we keep finding things that the government can provide that don’t result in the type of direct accounting of dollars that the “5 truths” above describe?

One last try:

“The government cannot provide an individual with a basic level of security from foreign threats without removing someone else’s basic level of security from foreign threats.”

Well, golly. How can it be that the military provides a benefit for everyone at the same time? That’s just impossible – except it’s not.

Thanks to all the folks that contributed to this.

jon-steward

Let’s Send Vic Meyers to Washington

Vic Meyers

Vic Meyers

This year the residents of Colorado’s 4th Congressional District can send a strong message to our nation’s capital.

The message is that we are fed up with the failure of Congress to do its job, and we’re sending back a man to help fix it.

That man is Vic Meyers. He’s running because he shares our frustration and wants to do something about it. Vic will represent us, not the wealthy individuals and corporations who believe that their money makes their opinions more important and valuable than ours.

Send a message this year. Vote for Vic Meyers for Congress. He’ll do us proud.

NRA Cynicism Leads to Murders

It always hits a little harder when tragedy strikes a familiar place, and so it is as we learn of the latest massacre, this time in Isla Vista where our son lived for several years before graduating from UC Santa Barbara. Three stabbed to death, three shot and killed, six wounded and unfortunately a seventh dead- the killer.

Unfortunate because had he lived we might have learned much more beyond his suicide video; much more of what in God’s name could drive a young man to exact such punishment on so many, most of whom were unknown to him.

The NRA will of course be blamed and they will of course place the blame squarely on the barren field of mental health in America, and they are correct. Had this boy received better treatment, had authorities been empowered to vigorously intervene; well yes, this might not have happened.  Instead, sheriff’s deputies were sent to interview him to determine if he posed a threat to society.  Since when were deputies trained in psychology and the nuances of mental health? These actions do  not suggest a broken system; they suggest there is no functional system to repair.

All of which avoids introspection, any sniff of analysis and no scintilla of NRA guilt. Because of watered-down  background checks and the lack of a meaningful data base to track weapon sales- all fostered by and paid for by the NRA, the boy had no difficulty in purchasing three high powered handguns, and off he went on his rampage.

It makes little difference how the guns were obtained, for if not legally purchased, guns are never far away.  A closet, a deal on a corner, a mail order unknown or a  gun show- it hardly matters. What does matter is that anyone in this country can somehow manage to get his (mostly “his”) hands on a weapon. Rifle, shotgun, pistol, military  caliber weapons- it matters not, and the NRA is almost solely responsible for this accessibility. “Almost” because without the assistance of a corrupt Congress they would have never achieved  their perverted goal of arming America.

Fear and slick TV commercials are the driving forces in today’s culture. Despite years of statistical evidence that a gun in the home is far more dangerous to the family than any intruder, the NRA continues to preach the lie that we are all threatened. Despite the utter stupidity of imagining a citizenry armed with handguns and AK-47’s defending against the US military, the NRA wraps itself in the flag and calls for even greater access to weapons. The rationale for  this philosophy beggars the imagination and can only be understood by understanding the NRA.

I have written before, and state it again: The NRA is a lobbying group put together and funded by arms manufacturers. The folks who make guns wanted access to our elected representatives and poured money into the trough to which so many of our honorable members of congress find nourishment. As time went by, the evidence of fear as a factor in successful campaigns became more evident and the NRA jumped in.

Suddenly fear, God, flag and country became synonymous with the NRA and today we see the result of their efforts. Three more beautiful innocents dead and several injured by bullets fired from an NRA approved weapon.

It’s difficult to imagine what might someday break our culture of guns. Yes, the state of mental health facilities in the US is shameful. So too is the acceptance of the NRA into our daily lives. Answers are not far away.

  1. Get  the gun(s) out of your home. Don’t sell it – hand it over to the police to dispose of and forget how much it cost you. Check the stats and you’ll discover the odds are you’ve saved at least one life which is far more valuable than any weapon.
  2. Let your reps at every level of elected office know that if they support the NRA in any way, they’ll lose your vote.
  3. Demand the improvement and quality of personnel in the mental health field and be prepared to pay a little more in taxes. Ask yourself if the NRA should not be required to help pay the bill- after all, they are singularly responsible for the continuing carnage of gun violence in America which now demands greater social services. If the NRA gave a damn for America it would by now have started funding mental health care. But it hasn’t of course and probably never will. Hope burns eternal  which I pray the grand kids will someday appreciate.
  4. Understand the cynicism of the NRA and the way in which the American public has been manipulated by these puppets of the gun industry. I’ll continue to write; let’s all quietly tell the NRA to go to hell.

In both the public and private sector, power is the power to hide

From SunlightFoundation

by Emily Shaw

In academic definitions of power, power is equated with influence over others. In Max Weber’s frequently-cited formulation, power is “the chance of a man or a number of men to realize their own will in a social action even against the resistance of others.”  Harold Lasswell similarly describes politics as the art of determining “who gets what, when and how” and examines how individuals influence others to achieve those outcomes.

In the 21st century, the power to influence runs up against the internet-enabled equality of informational arms. When regular people can see how influence is being exercised, that influence can be highlighted and discussed — and is counterbalanced by public recognition of its antidemocratic effects.

In order for power to preserve itself, it now uses its influence to hide.

Read the rest at SunlightFoundation.com


I’ve watched this exact phenomenon happening in Longmont, starting with the 2009 city council election; powerful forces were set in motion and secret deals were very obviously made.

The numbers are clear, the election was bought and paid for.

Gabe Santos

Longmont City Council member Gabe Santos

Under no circumstances should Gabe Santos be left on council – he’s tied directly to corruption and his own supporters admitted being in on the hidden attacks waged in his campaign’s name.

Funny how it all spins down and around to oil.

Watch Santos fight tooth and nail for fracking at all costs – that’s what his masters paid for years ago, likely when he was working for Tom Delay.

The “n-word” is offensive and reeks of disrespect

One day when I was 4 years old, I ran to answer the knock on our front door. My goal was to get there before Tessie, our black maid and my day-care provider. It was 1945 in my hometown of Martinsville, Va., close to the North Carolina state line.

What happened next is burned into my memory. I opened the door to face a snarly white man who towered above me. “Whar’s your folks, boy?” he growled. Tessie got there to save me and pushed me behind her.

“They’re not here,” she answered.

“Wasn’t talking to you, n-,” and out spilled that vile and vicious word, dripping with so much hate it scared me. Tessie slammed the door in his face and went into the living room, where she sat and cried.

I was shocked and completely confused about how that one word could so upset my best pal, the woman who cared for me, who loved me. So I asked her what it meant.

“Don’t ever say it,” she said. “It’s what mean people say when they want to hurt us colored folks.”

And so it remains. Over the last eight years or so, I have been reminded that angry, ignorant white people and even some African-Americans continue to toss that word around like a hand grenade. It is the ultimate degradation to a race of people. How do I know this? I saw it on Tessie’s face in 1945. I saw her reduced to miserable tears. And I get an occasional message from an old friend back in Virginia who just doesn’t think our African-American president is real — code for less than human.

I admit I used to feel superior to the typical bigots down South, those uneducated folks stereotyped as automatically prejudiced just because of their accent and useless arguments bemoaning the “lost cause” of the Civil War. But then I discovered an ancestor in North Carolina in the 1700s who had slaves. It was clearly there in his will that charged his son to sell some land to buy a slave to care for his wife after his death.

Yet here we are, 250 years later, still without a clue. As an almost fanatically religious country, too many of us do not live our values and follow the golden rule to treat people like we want to be treated. Shamefully, we don’t even see a connection between going to church and practicing brotherly love the other six days of the week.

My Latino friend, Dan, reminded me the other day that the Army teaches equal rights. All soldiers depend on everyone. There is no place for racial, religious, and sexual orientation prejudice in the military. So maybe the solution is to put everyone through basic training.

Better, though, is for everyone to stand up for speaking with respect. Next time somebody throws out that word, call time out. Correct them. Let them know it is offensive to all of us because the word reeks of disrespect. My friend Dan knows that today that word and the bigotry it holds disrespects African-Americans, the next day Latinos, and then on to women, gays and lesbians, and everyone else.

I must add this: The maddest I ever saw my mother was when President Clinton’s political nominees were being disqualified because they hadn’t paid Social Security taxes for their nannies. “Did you pay Tessie’s?” I stupidly inquired.

“I certainly did,” she answered in a huff, and gave me one of those withering looks that showed she doubted I had a grain of sense. I’d forgotten the day she took me to visit Tessie after I’d graduated from college. Mom’s reason: “She thinks you’re as much hers as I think you’re mine.”

Bill Ellis (contact@billelliswrites.com) lives in Longmont.

Coloradans eye rulings around country in favor of local fracking bans

sign_no_oilfield_traffic

John Tomasic – first published on The Colorado Independent December 23, 2013

BOULDER — Supporters of local bans on the oil-and-gas drilling process known as fracking celebrated a key legal victory in Pennsylvania last week, where the state supreme court ruled unconstitutional a law that sought to override local zoning initiatives in the state.

Colorado, like Pennsylvania — and states like California, New York and Ohio — is the site of a tug of war between state and local communities over drilling regulations. In the last two years, five Colorado towns on the heavily drilled northern Front Range have passed bans on fracking, drawing lawsuits from the Colorado Oil and Gas Association lobby group that have been either officially or tacitly supported by the state. The Association’s suit against the city of Longmont is scheduled to be heard this summer.

The news from Pennsylvania spread quickly over social networks in Colorado.

If the Colorado Oil and Gas Association cannot be persuaded to drop the lawsuits that seek to undo the results of fair elections, then we hope and expect Colorado courts to similarly recognize the rights of voters and respect the principle of local control,” said Our Broomfield, an anti-fracking group that passed a ban in that city in November.

“In Colorado, cities and towns should have the right to use zoning laws to protect the public from the toxic industrial process of drilling and fracking,” said Clean Water Action spokesman Gary Wockner. “We are optimistic that Colorado will follow Pennsylvania in allowing local control for local governments.”

Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, is a method of extraction where millions of gallons of water are mixed with chemicals and sand and blasted through drill holes deep into the earth to break up rock formations and loosen gas. Although the oil and gas industry has conducted fracking operations for 60 years, new horizontal methods have greatly increased the effectiveness of the process and have spurred a major drilling boom gas fields around the country.

Thousands of wells now dot the Wattenberg field in north-eastern Colorado. Bloomberg News reports oil-and-gas production has hit half-century record highs in Colorado. Trucks move equipment and frack fluid across great agricultural stretches north of Denver day and night but also increasingly through the region’s cities, towns and subdivisions, setting up drill pads in backyards and next to schools and apartment complexes. Site drilling goes on for months at a time, nonstop, filling neighborhoods with lights and noise twenty four hours a day. Residents have grown increasingly concerned over possible threats posed to health, safety and the environment and they have watched the value of their homes drop.

In Colorado, bans on fracking have so far passed in Boulder, Broomfield, Fort Collins and Lafayette in addition to the first ban passed in Longmont. The Colorado initiatives join a movement across the U.S., where more than 380 local bans have passed according to Food and Water Watch. Governor John Hickenlooper has opposed the bans. He says he’s sympathetic to residents but that it is the state’s responsibility to regulate the oil and gas industry, which he believes would be hobbled if drillers had to navigate a patchwork of varied local rules and regulations.

The ruling in Pennsylvania comes as the Ohio Supreme Court weighs a similar case. Two courts in New York have decided in favor of local regulations on drilling and the New York Supreme Court may soon take up the question.

It’s not a wonderful life for many

Girl Working in Box Factory, Tampa, FL - 1909

Girl Working in Box Factory, Tampa, FL – 1909

Charles Dickens’ “Christmas Carol” is relevant these days with many in Congress playing the role of Scrooge before he was visited by the Christmas spirits. Dickens was greatly concerned about the plight of children forced to work under dreadful conditions and about the lives of the poor.

Pope Francis recently echoed these ideas when he expressed concern about unfettered capitalism. The Pope also called on world leaders to address poverty and growing inequality. Specifically, he said:

“In this context, some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world. This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naive trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system. Meanwhile, the excluded are still waiting.

“To sustain a lifestyle which excludes others, or to sustain enthusiasm for that selfish ideal, a globalization of indifference has developed. Almost without being aware of it, we end up being incapable of feeling compassion at the outcry of the poor, weeping for other people’s pain, and feeling a need to help them, as though all this were someone else’s responsibility and not our own. …”

This description applies to many of us, particularly to many in Congress. For example, the recent budget compromise allows emergency unemployment benefits for 1.3 million to expire. Millions more will lose their federal or state unemployment benefits in 2014. Future pension benefits for federal workers and veterans will also be reduced.

In addition, in the new farm bill, Congress is likely to push for cuts in food stamps instead of reducing or eliminating tax subsidies to giant agricultural corporations.

Unsurprisingly, Congress is again targeting Social Security and Medicare for cuts. These successful programs have kept millions from falling into dire poverty. Perhaps surprising to some people, President Obama has expressed a willingness to accept cuts in these programs.

Congress has refused to raise the minimum wage, a wage that has failed to keep pace with inflation. Currently the national minimum wage is $7.25 per hour. Adjusted for inflation, this level is far below the minimum wage level of the late 1960s as well as being below the levels from 1956 to 1985. To be comparable to the level in the late 1960s, the minimum wage today would be close to $11 per hour.

Congress has also worked hard to restore the corporate welfare for the military-industrial complex. Congress throws money at this sector for weapons that are not needed or useful in dealing with non-state actors. Some of these tens to hundreds of billions in corporate welfare would be better spent by the badly under-funded Veterans Administration to help returning veterans prepare for reentry into society. Partly due to lack of extensive preparation, many veterans are, in effect, discarded by society. Many with PTSD and other problems are not adequately treated and join the ranks of the homeless and unemployed. We owe them so much more.

Note this budget compromise ignores the possibility of increasing revenue by closing corporate tax loopholes or by increasing the highest marginal tax rates. These higher rates would impact only the super wealthy, folks who would hardly notice these extra taxes. Instead, Congress chooses to cut incomes for the rest of us, incomes that are often already stretched beyond the breaking point for too many. Obama will likely go along with this mean and heartless approach.

Clearly, congressional and White House actions play a major role in increasing poverty and inequality. Contact your representatives and voice your opposition to cuts in these programs. I think Dickens and Pope Francis would say “bah, humbug” to these politicians.

Local Pastors, Boulder Church Choose Love Over Church Law

Rev. Frank Schaefer - 2013

Rev. Frank Schaefer – 2013

Between us we have over 70 years of ordained ministry within the United Methodist Church. We have faced our share of challenges but have known still more joys within our congregations and communities. Our social justice involvements have been as near as sleeping outdoors in support of homeless youth next door, as far away as fighting apartheid in South Africa, and in many, many struggles for justice and liberation in places in between. During the recent floods in Colorado, we personally felt the concrete blessing of being part of a connectional church that reaches out to support one another and the community. We treasure the power of compassion when 12 million United Methodists worldwide unite to carry the love of God into the world.

At the same time nothing has saddened, embarrassed and angered us more than witnessing United Methodist institutional leaders fall horribly short of implementing Jesus’ call to radical inclusion and love when it comes to our LGBTQ sisters and the brothers. A story recently printed in the Daily Camera (“Church defrocks Methodist pastor for officiating gay son’s wedding” December 19, 2013) provided an accurate account of the painful decades long internal struggle that deeply divides our international church. We are on the side that affirms God loves us all and that we love God best by loving others. Along with hundreds of other clergy and congregations in the United States, we have worked in many ways to help our denomination recognize and correct the sin of its institutional bigotry. We will continue that internal denominational campaign to move from excluding some on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identification to cherishing each and every one of us as beloved children of God. This is the work of reconciliation. It is important.

To us, and the members and friends of First United Methodist Church of Boulder, what is even more important than the internal institutional struggles of our denomination, is our commitment to continue living in faithful obedience to the Biblical story of God’s unconditional love for all. Together with our congregation we will do this within the Boulder community and beyond.

This means, first and foremost, that we will continue declaring God’s acceptance of and delight in all of God’s children. It means we hope and expect that the most recent commitment service between two loving women that our congregation blessed this fall will continue in the line of many such celebrations. It means we will continue to open our doors and arms, our hearts and communion table to LGBTQ individuals in just the same way we do to all others. You can count on it.

Undeniably, this is a challenging time for the United Methodist institution. But for First United Methodist Church of Boulder, and for hundreds of clergy and congregations across the United States, we feel anchored in following the path of Jesus, which informs and dictates our actions. Our commitment to living out God’s love in the world blazes as strong as ever.

Rev. Pat Bruns and Rev. Joe Agne
First United Methodist Church of Boulder

The Slow Motion Lynching of President Barack Obama

This article first appeared on Patheos.com

by Frank Schaeffer

President Obama

I’ve watched liberal and right wing commentators alike blame the president for being lynched. They say “he’s not reaching out enough” or “he’s too cold.” It’s the equivalent of assuming that the black man being beaten by a couple of thug cops must have “done something.”

I am a white privileged well off sixty-one-year-old former Republican religious right wing activist who changed his mind about religion and politics long ago.  The New York Times profiled my change of heart saying that to my former friends I’m considered a “traitorous prince” since my religious right family was once thought of as “evangelical royalty.”

I’ve just spent the last 7 years writing over 200,000 words in blogs and articles in support of President Obama. My blogs on the Huffington Post alone would add up to a book in support of the President of over 300 pages. Weirdly, I just realized that through all my writing, this has been the first time in my life I’ve personally gone to bat for a black man. It just happens that he’s a president. But my emotional stake in his life is now personal.

So I’ve changed from a white guy who used to read news about some black man getting shot or beaten by cops or stand-your-ground types who assumed that the black man must have “done something,” to a white guy who figures that the black man was probably getting lynched. I’ve changed ideology but I’ve also changed my gut intuitive reactions.

I’ve changed because if this country will lynch a brilliant, civil, kind, humble, compassionate, moderate, articulate, black intellectual we’re lucky enough to have in the White House, we’ll lynch anyone. What chance does an anonymous black man pulled over in a traffic stop have of fair treatment when the former editor of the Harvard Law Review is being lynched?

One famous liberal commentator wrote a book on how Ronald Reagan and Tip O’Neil could disagree and still be friends. Why, he asked on many a TV show promoting his book, couldn’t President Obama be like that? Because, I yelled at the screen, those two men were white Irish Americans and part of a ruling white oligarchy.

Because, I yelled, you might as well ask why Nelson Mandela didn’t talk his jailers in South Africa into seeing reason.

Because, I yelled, the President is black and anytime he’s reached out he’s pulled back a bloody stump.

Because, I yelled, liberal white commentators have been as bothered by a black man in the White House, who’s smarter than they are as much as right wing bigots have been bothered.

Because, I yelled, President Obama has been lied about, attacked, vilified, and disrespected since Day One.

Because, I yelled, this country may have passed laws so blacks can vote and eat in a white man’s world, but in our hearts are stuck in a place more like 1952 than 2013.

We’ve been watching a slow motion lynching of a moderate brilliant family man, a father, and faithful loving husband. The Republicans in Congress are so dedicated to lynching the President they’ve been willing to shut down our government and risk the future of our economy.

Evangelical “Christians” have been so stuck on putting a rope around this black man’s neck they have denied their faith and been the backbone of the lying Tea Party who spawned the so-called “birthers” and the rest of the white people driving our news cycle.

Roman Catholic bishops have denied their tradition of helping the poor and been so eager to destroy this president they aligned themselves with white Evangelical bigots and tried to stop health care reform, all because the President wants to give women a fair shake. The bishops even called him “anti-religious” because the president wants insurers to pay for contraception.

This is a slow motion lynching of a black man who is so moderate and centrist that he favored Wall Street enough so that the Left is all over his case. He’s so “radical” and “leftist” and “hates America” so much, and “coddles our enemies” so much, that he killed bin Laden and used drones to kill our enemies. He’s such a “socialist” that he presided over the revival of our economy from the worst recession since the Great Depression, and led us to the present day stock market boom. President Obama is such a “Marxist” that he tried to give insurance – not socialized medicine – to all Americans.

President Obama never answered back to the disgusting southern right wing rubes from the former slave states that have tried to belittle, mock and stymie his presidency shouting “You lie” in a million ways, while actually meaning “You lie, nigger!”

And did the “enlightened” Left have President Obama’s back? No. They carp about his “failure” because a website was slow to get running! The white privileged “progressive” few were too busy blaming him for getting lynched and telling him how to craft policy while a rope was put around his neck again and again and tightened with each filibuster, each lie told on the radio, each self-defeating scorched earth action to stop him from succeeding, even if it meant taking us all down too.

We don’t like to admit who we really are. So we make excuses and blame the victim. I’m ashamed for our country, a country my Marine son fought for in two stupid wars this president has been working to end. And I’m still rooting for the best, smartest and most decent man who has been president in my lifetime. I pray for his health care reform to succeed. I pray for his immigration reform to succeed. I’m amazed he’s gotten anything done, but he has, even while the lynch mob gathers again and again to laugh, lie and spit and claim he’s “failed” while “liberal” commentators nod sagely and talk about his “mistakes” as if President Obama has been playing on a level playing field.

We have a lot to do to heal this country of the damage done by the right wing Obama-haters and the Left wing know-it-all pundits who did not have his back because they don’t have the honesty to admit that we still live in a backward racist swamp of prejudice. Maybe in 50 years our country will be worthy of someone of President Obama’s forbearance again. For now we can just hope that the hatred of the Republican Party for our first black president doesn’t drive us to the brink of ruin again as they strip food from the mouths of the poor, and try to get people to not sign up for health care, just to get even with the black man they swore to destroy from the day that “uppity” black who is smarter than all of them put together took the oath of office.

God bless you Mr. President. I’m praying for you. I am so very sorry. But take heart, in the long reach of history the door you opened will stay open for the millions of Americans of all colors, genders and beliefs who will follow you. They will bless your name. So will history.

Follow Frank Schaeffer on Twitter: www.twitter.com/frank_schaeffer

Frank Schaeffer is a writer. His latest book — And God Said, “Billy! exploring the roots of American religious delusion, and offering another way to approach true spirituality, is on Kindle, iBook and NOOK for $3.99, and in paperback.

Give Peace a Chance


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The U.S. has often resorted to military means as a way of settling disputes with far weaker nations during the last fifty years. Frequently these attacks have been unwarranted as well as violations of international law. U.S. attacks on Vietnam, Grenada, Panama, Serbia and Iraq (2003) are a few examples of these illegal conflicts.

We are currently fighting in Afghanistan and illegally using drones to kill in Yemen, Somalia and Pakistan. After long years of fighting and losing wars in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. public is fed up with senseless conflicts. This point was made clear recently by the huge public outcry against illegally bombing Syria.

Besides the millions it killed and the incredible destruction it wreaked on far weaker nations, the U.S. has incurred costs as well. Tens of thousands of U.S, soldiers were killed and hundreds of thousands more were wounded. The families of these physically and/or mentally/emotionally wounded veterans continue to pay an enormous and incalculable  price. These unnecessary campaigns cost trillions of dollars, money that could have been far better used domestically to improve the real security of our people. The bottom line is that these wars have been counterproductive, increasing the hatred towards the U.S. and decreasing ours and the world’s security.

Thus it is not surprising at all that there was tremendous public relief here at home and worldwide about the interim agreement negotiated in Geneva and signed on November 24th between Iran and the P5+1 nations (the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany). This agreement essentially calls for a short-term freeze on some of Iran’s nuclear enrichment programs in exchange for some very limited relief from economic sanctions, including allowing Iran access to a pittance of its own money held in other countries. The goal is a permanent agreement that will greatly reduce the threat to world peace.

Despite widespread relief and praise for the deal, unsurprisingly, there are some hardliners in Iran, the U.S. and Israel who expressed opposition. Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu was particularly vociferous in his condemnation of the deal, and Israeli officials did not rule out an illegal Israeli attack on Iran during the next six months. Interestingly, Israeli President Peres had a somewhat different reaction. According to a CNN article, Peres said: “This is an interim deal. The success or failure of the deal will be judged by results, not by words.”

Netanyahu and his U.S. Congressional supporters continue to hammer on the disputed idea of an existential threat to Israel of an Iranian nuclear weapon. They somehow manage to ignore assessments by U.S., Israeli and British intelligence agencies that Iran currently does not have a nuclear weapons program. This has been the conclusion of the U.S. National Intelligence Estimate since 2007 and was reiterated in testimony to Congress in 2011 and 2012. The Estimate said that Iran stopped it nuclear weapons program in 2003.

The assessment added that Iran has the capacity to produce a nuclear weapon eventually, making the central issue the political will to do so. Regarding the political will, the Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has issued a fatwa saying the production, stockpiling and use of nuclear weapons was forbidden under Islam.

Numerous U.S. and Israeli military and political leaders think that a military attack on Iran would be unsuccessful and would drive Iran to build nuclear weapons to defend itself. The Friends Committee on National Legislation has compiled many quotes on this point and the insanity of an attack at http://fcnl.org.

One quote from the above site by Meir Dagan, former head of Israel’s Mossad, captures the sense of these officials. In a 2011 article he said: “[Attacking Iran is] ‘the stupidest thing I have ever heard…It will be followed by a war with Iran. It is the kind of thing where we know how it starts, but not how it will end.”

If we want to stop another insane, counterproductive, illegal, unwarranted and costly conflict, tell Congress that it must not enact more sanctions on Iran, sanctions that would suggest the U.S. is not negotiating in good faith. Continuing Congressional support of Netanyahu harms U.S. interests.

Giant corporations and democracy

The trickle that wasn't

Corporations stand for abuse

During the colonial period and on into the early days of the nation, Americans wisely didn’t trust corporations. In particular, people remembered the abuses by the British East India Company. They were also concerned by the corruption of government associated with the grants of special privileges awarded to corporations.

Hence there were few corporations here when this country was founded. However growth in corporations accelerated in the early 19th century, but these corporations were still subject to some control by the governments that granted their charters. As time passed, more money changed hands and, eventually, giant corporations with seemingly unlimited power were created.

Several presidents, including Franklin Roosevelt and Dwight Eisenhower have expressed great concern about corporations. In addition, Thomas Jefferson said: “I hope we shall take warning from the example and crush in it’s [sic] birth the aristocracy of our monied corporations which dare already to challenge our government to a trial of strength, and to bid defiance to the laws of their country.”

Today, it is hard to realize that there was a time when giant corporations didn’t exercise a large degree of control over our lives. Unfortunately, these large transnational corporations, particularly in the financial sector, have used trade agreements, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank to expand their power around the world.

The latest example is the little known Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement that includes eleven nations around the Pacific Rim. Japan has also recently applied to be included. It is called ‘NAFTA on steroids’ and represents the latest power grab by transnational corporations.

Secret discussions have been going on since March 2010 and the 17th negotiating session will take place later this month in Peru. The agreement contains 26 chapters with only five of them concerning traditional trade issues. The corporate sector is involved and well informed, but the public and Congress are being kept in the dark.

Some key concerns about the TPP include the lack of transparency; the expansion of intellectual property rights beyond previous agreements; the ‘investor-state’ settlement system that gives corporations the right to sue governments and to override democratically enacted laws; and the elimination of more banking regulations and allowing capital to move in and out of nations without restriction.

Please contact your representative and senators and voice your opposition to this challenge to democracy. For more info, visit http://www.citizen.org/tppinvestment.