Religion

Neutralization vs Annihilation

The frustration and futility of Israel ever finding a lasting peace with their Palestinian neighbors is once again on display. Eleven cease-fires, eleven failures. Just why intelligent Palestinians would support Hamas- a militant group with but one strategy – blindly firing rockets into (mostly) Israel dung piles and fields, is a wonderment indeed. Regardless, Hamas fires rockets, Israel’s “Dome” brings the majority down and gives Israel an excuse to once again  bomb and blow up that sorry place called The Gaza Strip.

Given that Hamas appears to be led by a collection of intellectual anvils and given that Israel PM Netanyahu‘s approach to diplomacy is hardball writ large, there should be no argument that this war is a loss-loss for all parties. If the loss of Palestinian children is not sufficient reason to wonder at Israel’s strategy, add to the carnage the generations of hatred now seeded in the souls of the survivors.

One answer to this mess might lie in an effort to neutralize Hamas – not by force but by their abandonment by Palestinians who see a better way – one which offers opportunity, security  and room to once again dream. I have been pushing a concept for at least 20 years without success, mainly because I’ve never managed to reach anyone with the clout to bring the concept to anyone with political clout. So here it is- one more time; hold onto your seat and before you say “It will never work”, at least read to the end.

If you want to step outside the box you might start thinking about the reality of Gaza – too many people, too little land and zero hope for a better life. There’s a Nobel Peace Prize just waiting to be shared by PM Netanyahu and Egyptian President Sisi if they are willing to break through generations of hatred and begin to think outside the boxes they are in. Here’s the idea: Egypt cedes Sinai land south of the existing Gaza border (say- 200 kilometers) with an eastern border continuing Gaza’s present border.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia-The Free Encyclopedia

Occupied Palestinian Territories

Imagine;  the desert would bloom along a coastline of resorts and commercial development, seaports and desalination facilities. Thousands of jobs would be created, the economies of the region (particularly Egypt’s) would take off and a “New Gaza” would be born. A declaration of a Swiss-style neutrality would further geld Hamas and with time and demographic shifts it would become a bad memory.

What would it take to bring this about? Guts and dreams. Political courage. The recognition that neither side will ever prevail and live in peaceful harmony. Egypt’s President  Sisi would see the disintegration of the despised Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood in Gaza and  just possibly stand beside Mr. Netanyahu in Oslo.

Crazy? Got a better idea? Please pass this along to anyone who might have some clout. Give hope a chance.

Defrocked United Methodist Minister Rev. Frank Schaefer to Preach at First United Methodist Church of Boulder on March 23rd

First United Methodist Church of Boulder (FUMC) is honored to have Rev. Frank Schaefer as their guest preacher on Sunday March 23rd. His sermon is titled “Of Sacred Worth and Human Dignity “ based on John 4:5-29. Schaefer is a former ordained minister of the United Methodist Church who was tried by a United Methodist court for officiating his son’s same-sex marriage in December 2013. He was defrocked after his refusal to uphold the Book of Discipline, which requires him to denounce gay marriage rights. Now a United Methodist lay person, speaker and activist, he continues to advocate for human rights across the country.

FUMC is a part of a network of congregations and pastors who have vowed a higher loyalty to “Biblical obedience” which mandates embracing the marginalized and affirming the value of all of God’s children rather than following discriminatory rules of the institutional church. While they began somewhat underground, many of these United Methodists, particularly in the western part of the United States, have become more and more emboldened to act as their consciences demand. FUMC Boulder pastors, Joe Agne and Pat Bruns, are leaders in this movement, organizing other progressives, stating clearly our congregation’s positions to the public and to our own Bishop, and taking actions such as inviting Rev. Frank Schaefer to preach from our pulpit and experience the support of our congregation and community.

“It is a special privilege to welcome Frank Schaefer and his spouse Brigette to First United Methodist Church of Boulder. Last December the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference of the United Methodist Church withdrew Frank’s ordination. This happened right before Christmas, that special season where we celebrate God’s presence coming into the world in ways that embraces all people everywhere. Our denomination needs to work harder at understanding the story of God’s acceptance and love of everyone”, Bruns said about Schaefer’s visit.

Schaefer’s trial and the divide over gay marriage within the United Methodist Church made national headlines. Jean Hodges, a longtime member of FUMC and Regional Director for PFLAG made this comment about the controversy, “I actually am glad to see the media expose the hypocrisy of the UMC with the story of Schaefer, the pastor who presided at his gay son’s ceremony. Just as Jesus instructed his followers to non-violently but cleverly unmask the abusive actions of the power-holders of his day, this publicity may awaken more UM General Conference delegates to acknowledge how atrocious these policies are and how destructive they will be to the future growth of our denomination. Like the extremes of the political parties fighting endlessly in the United States or a family in conflict over differing values, conflict and struggle may be inevitable but speaking the truth to each other and acknowledging the pain we are inflicting is one necessary step if reconciliation is ever to occur.”

Rev. Schaefer will speak with FUMC’s Adult Forum at 9:00 am, preach during worship at 10:30am and lead an open conversation with area clergy and lay leaders in the afternoon from 3:00 pm – 5:00 pm. A wine and cheese reception will be hosted by Out Boulder beginning at 5:00pm.

ABOUT FIRST UNITED METHODIST CHURCH OF BOULDER
First United Methodist Church of Boulder is a welcoming and affirming faith community that compassionately advocates for social justice and equality for all. We joyfully welcome all people of any race, gender, sexual orientation, and faith traditions. Visit us online at fumcboulder.org and at Facebook.com/fumcboulder.

Christians Must Embrace Truth

clark_aricby Aric Clark

This opinion column first appeared at The Fort Morgan Times.

On Tuesday evening there was a public debate held on the subject of evolution vs. creationism. Ken Ham, founder of Answers in Genesis an organization dedicated to promoting the idea that the Earth is 6,000 years old, faced off against an icon from my childhood: Bill Nye “the Science Guy”. It was billed as Religion vs. Science, Bible vs. Evolution, Christians vs. Atheists, but it was really a publicity stunt for Ken Ham’s business that Bill Nye unfortunately fell into. We have been baited into the trap as well if we accept that Ken Ham represents the Biblical or Christian perspective on this subject.

Millions of Christians like myself do not subscribe to a forced literal reading of scripture that supposes the earth to be very young, flying in the face of overwhelming evidence from every field of science. In fact, the perspective Ham proposes is a relatively modern innovation born out of Fundamentalist-Modernist controversies of the 19th and 20th centuries that needlessly set religion and science up as enemies. Early Christians read the Bible allegorically. The 2nd century Church Father Origen of Alexandria famously wrote:

“For who that has understanding will suppose that the first, and second, and third day, and the evening and the morning, existed without a sun, and moon, and stars? And that the first day was, as it were, also without a sky? And who is so foolish as to suppose that God, after the manner of a husbandman, planted a paradise in Eden, towards the east, and placed in it a tree of life, visible and palpable, so that one tasting of the fruit by the bodily teeth obtained life?… I do not suppose that anyone doubts that these things figuratively indicate certain mysteries, the history having taken place in appearance, and not literally.”

The creation narratives of the book of Genesis are works of poetry. Even when they were written they were not understood in the literal way that Ham wants us to read them. They were composed partly as a challenge to similar Babylonian myths that portray humanity as slaves to powerful but uncaring gods. By contrast the Hebrew story of creation portrays God as caring, creating us in God’s own image to hold a special place of esteem. The point of the story is not whether it took six days, but that the God of Israel is powerful and compassionate.

To take allegorical and poetic works of ancient priests and turn them into a forensic laboratory for theories of human origin unsupported by a single shred of corresponding evidence from the natural world is extremely ham-handed. The biblical city of Jericho is over 11,000 years old for goodness sakes.

Christians do not need to believe that humans and dinosaurs coexisted in order to be faithful to scripture, but we do need to be lovers of the truth to be faithful followers of Jesus of Nazareth. When Ken Ham and Bill Nye were asked what it would take to persuade them to change their minds they responded, “nothing,” and “evidence,” respectively. Nye’s answer is the more Christian answer. It requires humility to be willing to listen to the evidence and accept where it leads rather than to cling dogmatically to unfounded opinions.

Rev. Aric Clark is the pastor of United Presbyterian Church of Fort Morgan. Read more of his writing on his blog at http://twofriarsandafool.com

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

So You Say You Want a Revolution?

Social Change Workshop is Modeled After Jesus’ Ministry

First United Methodist Church of Boulder (FUMC) is thrilled to welcome their newest Theologian-in-Residence, Dr. Dorothee Benz, who is offering two FREE workshops to the public on making social change on Saturday July 20th and 27th. The workshops, titled, Power, Protest, Progress: How to Change the World in Two Easy Lessons explore the characteristics of successful social movements and analyze what gives ordinary people the power to make real change happen. “Jesus was all about making social change happen, but following him can be a little daunting – few of us can walk on water or feed 5,000 people. In this class we’ll take a fresh look at Jesus’ ministry and uncover ways in which his most humble acts, like talking to the woman at the well or touching lepers, were more transformative than the flashy fish type miracles and how we can be agents of change in our world today in the same ways”, explains Benz.

Participants will gain an understanding of power based on the writings of scholar-activist Frances Fox Piven, and will draw on examples from the labor movement, the civil rights movement and the Bible.

Reverend Joe Agne, pastor at FUMC says “Benz will help all of us who want to move beyond charity to creating social change – she teaches ways that work. Persons working on fracking, hunger, racism, marriage equality, gun control etc. will find these workshops to be extremely beneficial to their work.”

Dr. Benz is a lifelong activist and organizer. Professionally, she has 25 years experience in social justice communications, and her work as a labor journalist has won numerous awards. She is currently the director of communications at the Center for Constitutional Rights. Benz has a Ph.D. from the City University of New York and her scholarly expertise is in social movements. She is a founding member and chair of Methodists in New Directions (MIND) and one of the architects of the current strategy to transcend the crisis caused by the United Methodist Church’s discrimination against LGBTQ people by organizing networks of clergy and laity to extend their ministries to all couples, gay and straight, on an equal basis in defiance of the rules. She is the winner of the 2012 Gwen and C. Dale White Award from the NY Chapter of the Methodist Federation for Social Action.

Visit fumcboulder.org for more details.

Celebrating Colorado Civil Unions!

First United Methodist Church of Boulder (FUMC) applauds Colorado’s new Civil Unions Act and alongside our longtime community partner, Out Boulder, will participate in the celebration, at midnight on May 1st. As part of the festivities, happening at the Boulder County Clerk’s office at 1750 33rd Street, FUMC will be offering blessings for interested couples and their families.

FUMC is a welcoming faith community dedicated to “honoring the sacred worth of every human being in a way that creates and sustains a Beloved Community.” Both the appointed pastors and the lay members of the congregation affirm that they are among the people following the path of Jesus and of Methodist founder John Wesley by welcoming everyone into their midst, stating that they are enriched, as individuals and as a community, when diversity is honored, welcomed and celebrated.

In the spring of 2012 Reverend Pat Bruns made news by declaring that he and the other pastors at First United Methodist Church of Boulder were prepared to offer church ceremonies for committed and consenting adult life partners, regardless of their gender. Referring to a broadly supported “Fuller Marriage Ministry” that offers ceremonies and holy unions for same-sex couples, the pastors and congregation notified their local Bishop of their intention to move forward in this ministry regardless of church policies to the contrary.

“I am simply delighted that our Colorado Legislature has approved Civil Unions,” say Bruns. “This is an important next step to full marriage equality in our beloved state. We have enough ways to kill, hurt and terrify people in our nation and in our world. Right now we need ways to love one another, to embrace each and every one of us as beloved children of God. All relationships anchored in love, loyalty and commitment need to be celebrated! Loving relationships are a gift to us all and to all creation.”

FUMC member, Melissa Preston Vaughn made this statement when asked what the new Civil Unions Act means to her and what it might mean to others:

“For the LGBT community, the idea of ‘marriage’ or anything that resembles a publicly and legally recognized affirmation of our love is something that is so foreign to us. Standing together, family and friends close by, hands held tightly, hearts pounding, lumps in the throat forming, and then signing both names to a piece of paper that will forever mark time and change lives is something we’ve only dreamed about. The emotion and experience will be nothing short of sacred. God, I’m sure, is pleased that we are finally figuring this out… that love is love.”

Boulder County couples are invited to contact FUMC Boulder prior to April 30th or simply introduce themselves during the festivities, if they feel inspired to have their union blessed.

Pastor Bruns is thrilled about the Out Boulder event saying, “I can hardly wait for midnight May 1st. The opportunity to bless Civil Unions and to consecrate these wonderful partnerships will be a marvelous privilege. I am certain that God smiles when we surround loving relationships with our own love, support, affirmation and welcome.”

Historic Roosevelt Organ Undergoes Restoration

Boulder, Colorado – First United Methodist Church of Boulder (FUMC) is the proud home to a unique pipe organ, built in 1888 by Frank Roosevelt at the Roosevelt Organ Company in New York City. This year this special instrument, which is cited on the Organ Historical Society’s list, celebrates its 125th anniversary, and at the same time will undergo a major restoration and renovation that will take 18 months, beginning on Monday, February 25th.

The restoration work, which will be performed off site by Denver organ builders, Morel and Associates, includes cleaning and inspecting the 2114 pipes and replacing thousands of small leather and wooden parts and 1,860 pneumatic motors, requires disassembling the organ. Full renovation will take 18 months and is made possible by a generous gift from the Hoover family in honor of their mother Virginia Anderson.

The FUMC organ (Roosevelt‘s Opus 382) was originally built for Grace Methodist Episcopal Church in Denver. It was reinstalled in the First United Methodist Church of Boulder in 1960, having spent some years in storage. Grace’s was one of two Roosevelt organs installed in 1888, the other at Trinity United Methodist in Denver where it is still in use. Pre-electricity, the innovative Roosevelt design utilized electro-pneumatic action with a water wheel providing power to a generator connected to the console. Slightly different from a tracker organ design, when one presses a note on the Roosevelt keyboard, a wooden pin moves upward contacting a rocker arm which opens a valve allowing air to escape from a small pneumatic bellows which pulls open the valve under the pipe, allowing wind to enter and causing it to speak.  
Very few of Roosevelt’s instruments remain intact today, and almost none of those that survive are in original condition. The beautifully maintained Boulder Roosevelt still uses the original console and, besides updating to electric power, has had little other modernization. It even maintains its 19th-century pitch, just under modern day A=440 Hz, adding to its historic value but bringing challenges when accompanying brass or hand bells. It is a valuable example of American Victorian organ building: elegant, full-voiced, and constructed of the finest materials available. In choice of stops and overall tonal design, the organ is an assimilation of American, English, and French Romantic styles as well as more traditional, classic German influences. FUMC’s Roosevelt has 39 ranks, 34 stops, and 2114 pipes.

FUMC’s Director of Music, Evanne Browne, says, “Hearing this fabulous pipe organ played is an inspiring part of our weekly worship. It will be very missed for the next 18 months, but we will adjust to congregational singing accompanied by piano. Doing without the organ will only increase our appreciation of the instrument when it returns.”

The church is planning celebratory organ recitals when the work is completed. 

To learn more about the history of the Frank Roosevelt organ and see photos go to the FUMC website: http://fumcboulder.org/worship-and-music/music/organ.

First United Methodist Church of Boulder is an affirming and welcoming, vibrant church family that truly loves God by loving others. We affirm that the most profound life-changing realities are characterized by words like these: kindness, acceptance, justice, compassion, forgiveness, purpose, generosity and love. We joyfully welcome all people of any race, gender, sexual orientation, and faith traditions

What does it mean to ‘rethink church’? Come and see for yourself.

Local church forges ahead with LGBTQ marriage ceremonies

Boulder, Colorado – In spite of the rejection of revised policies regarding inclusion of LGBTQ individuals voted on last week by the international gathering of United Methodists in Tampa, Florida, a local congregation is vowing to move forward on its own path of inclusion and social justice.

 First United Methodist Church of Boulder is a welcoming faith community dedicated to “honoring the sacred worth of every human being in a way that creates and sustains a Beloved Community.”   Both the appointed pastors and the lay members of the congregation affirm that they are among the people following the path of Jesus and of Methodist founder John Wesley by welcoming everyone into their midst, stating that they are enriched, as individuals and as a community, when diversity is honored, welcomed and celebrated.

“It’s heart-breaking what happened – or more accurately, didn’t happen – in Tampa this week,” senior pastor Dr. Patrick Bruns stated following several votes which rejected efforts to open up institutional church policies to include lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals in full acceptance and participation in the church.  “But I am reassuring our congregation and the Boulder community that those votes were far from the final word.  Our commitment to following Jesus’ Path has been called out even stronger and we plan even more energetically to pursue bold action, non-violent resistance, and courageous commitment to love, justice and peacemaking.”

Rev. Bruns made news recently by declaring that he and the other pastors at First United Methodist Church of Boulder were prepared to offer church ceremonies for committed and consenting adult life partners, regardless of their gender.  Referring to a broadly supported “Fuller Marriage Ministry” that offers ceremonies and holy unions for same-sex couples, the pastors and congregation recently notified their local Bishop of their intention to move forward in this ministry regardless of church policies to the contrary.

“It has been a unifying and energizing experience in our congregation to have leaders who are so committed to social justice and inclusivity,” noted Becca Tice, chairperson of the Affirming and Welcoming Committee which promotes the full inclusion of the LGBTQ community within the church.  “We won’t pretend that this week’s votes weren’t enormously disappointing but we don’t intend to be defined, defeated or deterred by those votes.”

United Methodists from around the globe gather every four years to consider changes to their Book of Discipline which serves as both “Constitution” and more specific, practical guidebook for how the church is to be run.  Policies detrimental and discriminatory to lesbian and gay individuals have been included in the Book of Discipline since the early 1970s but the actual implementation of policies, in practice, has varied from state to state and country to country.

Closer to home, United Methodists in Colorado, Utah and Wyoming (known as the Rocky Mountain Conference) will gather for their annual conference in Denver about six weeks from now.  Decisions made by the international conference likely will be fodder for both formal and informal discussion at that conference.  Many local individuals already are contemplating actions to express their grave disappointment and disapproval of the votes by the international body and considering ways to bring about future changes.

“We honor and respect the tremendous good work which the United Methodist Church has accomplished in so many ways since its beginning in the 18th century,” said Justin Livingston, Chair of Church Council. “We believe our world needs more instruments of God’s love, grace, and justice, not fewer, and that’s why we will continue to embrace everyone as welcomed participants in God’s family as we experience it at First United Methodist Church of Boulder.”

International Hero For Peace and Healing, Father Michael Lapsley, to Speak in Boulder

Boulder, Colorado – First United Methodist Church of Boulder, in partnership with the Mountain Forum for Peace and the Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center, is thrilled to present a public lecture by international hero for peace and healing, Father Michael Lapsley, on Friday, October 19th at 7:30pm. FUMC Boulder is also hosting an introductory workshop led by Father Lapsley on Saturday, October 20th.

Journey from Freedom Fighter to Healer

In 1990 Father Lapsley, an Anglican priest active in the struggle against apartheid in South Africa, opened a letter bomb that nearly killed him. Father Lapsley’s life has taken him on an inspiring journey that led to the development of a process for healing from trauma of all kinds. His work at the Institute for Healing of Memories teaches victims how to let go of a painful past event and no longer give it the power to define them.

Joe Agne, pastor at FUMC Boulder, who has worked with, Father Lapsley made this comment about the event, “We live in such a violent world these days and even so-called redemptive violence is a huge part of our psyche. Mahatma Gandhi said ‘an eye for an eye ends up making the whole world blind’ and this is at the heart of Father Lapsley’s message. Healing is so important right now. We’ve all been impacted by violence, either as victim or perpetrator in some form, at some level. Father Lapsley teaches the importance of letting go of the power of the past so we can heal our world and ourselves. We need this to move away from vengeance and toward peace.”

In the context of a post-9/11 world, Father Lapsley will share his story and take questions and comments from the audience. A reception honoring Father Lapsley will follow immediately after the lecture.

Tickets are available online at fumcboulder.org

Healing of Memories: An Introductory Workshop

On Saturday October 20th a workshop will be held at First United Methodist Church of Boulder from 9:30am to 3:00pm, with an hour for lunch. The workshop introduces participants to the teachings of the Institute for the Healing of Memories, which facilitates the healing process of individuals, communities, and nations. Presented by founder Father Michael Lapsley and trained facilitators, this is an incredible opportunity for survivors, healers, therapists, victim’s advocates, law enforcement, veterans, and anyone in need of healing or longing to promote healing, to gain insight into the healing process as experienced and developed by Father Lapsley. “Today, my own work lies in the field of healing of memories – creating safe and sacred spaces where people can begin the journey of acknowledging and letting go of that which is destructive inside them and taking from the past that which is life-giving.”

Visit fumcboulder.org for more information and to sign up.

First United Methodist Church of Boulder is a welcoming and affirming place of inclusion and acceptance. We joyfully welcome all people of any race, gender, sexual orientation, and faith traditions.

 

Staying the course for marriage

Rethink Church - First United Methodist Church

Boulder, Colorado – In spite of the rejection of revised policies regarding inclusion of LGBTQ individuals voted on last week by the international gathering of United Methodists in Tampa, Florida, a local congregation is vowing to move forward on its own path of inclusion and social justice.

First United Methodist Church of Boulder is a welcoming faith community dedicated to “honoring the sacred worth of every human being in a way that creates and sustains a Beloved Community.”   Both the appointed pastors and the lay members of the congregation affirm that they are among the people following the path of Jesus and of Methodist founder John Wesley by welcoming everyone into their midst, stating that they are enriched, as individuals and as a community, when diversity is honored, welcomed and celebrated.

“It’s heart-breaking what happened – or more accurately, didn’t happen – in Tampa this week,” senior pastor Dr. Patrick Bruns stated following several votes which rejected efforts to open up institutional church policies to include lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals in full acceptance and participation in the church.  “But I am reassuring our congregation and the Boulder community that those votes were far from the final word.  Our commitment to following Jesus’ Path has been called out even stronger and we plan even more energetically to pursue bold action, non-violent resistance, and courageous commitment to love, justice and peacemaking.”

Rev. Bruns made news recently by declaring that he and the other pastors at First United Methodist Church of Boulder were prepared to offer church ceremonies for committed and consenting adult life partners, regardless of their gender.  Referring to a broadly supported “Fuller Marriage Ministry” that offers ceremonies and holy unions for same-sex couples, the pastors and congregation recently notified their local Bishop of their intention to move forward in this ministry regardless of church policies to the contrary.

“It has been a unifying and energizing experience in our congregation to have leaders who are so committed to social justice and inclusivity,” noted Becca Tice, chairperson of the Affirming and Welcoming Committee which promotes the full inclusion of the LGBTQ community within the church.  “We won’t pretend that this week’s votes weren’t enormously disappointing but we don’t intend to be defined, defeated or deterred by those votes.”

United Methodists from around the globe gather every four years to consider changes to their Book of Discipline which serves as both “Constitution” and more specific, practical guidebook for how the church is to be run.  Policies detrimental and discriminatory to lesbian and gay individuals have been included in the Book of Discipline since the early 1970s but the actual implementation of policies, in practice, has varied from state to state and country to country.

Closer to home, United Methodists in Colorado, Utah and Wyoming (known as the Rocky Mountain Conference) will gather for their annual conference in Denver about six weeks from now.  Decisions made by the international conference likely will be fodder for both formal and informal discussion at that conference.  Many local individuals already are contemplating actions to express their grave disappointment and disapproval of the votes by the international body and considering ways to bring about future changes.

“We honor and respect the tremendous good work which the United Methodist Church has accomplished in so many ways since its beginning in the 18th century,” said Justin Livingston, Chair of Church Council. “We believe our world needs more instruments of God’s love, grace, and justice, not fewer, and that’s why we will continue to embrace everyone as welcomed participants in God’s family as we experience it at First United Methodist Church of Boulder.”

What does it mean to ‘rethink church’?  Come and see for yourself.

Astronomer to the Vatican to Speak in Boulder

Astronomer to the Vatican, Brother Guy Consolmagno, to speak on –God’s Mechanics: How Scientists and Engineers Make Sense of Religion

First United Methodist Church of Boulder invites the community to enjoy a presentation by Brother Guy Consolmagno, Wednesday February 29th at 7:30pm.  This event is free. Parking is free.

 Brother Guy Consolmagno believes in the need for science and religion to work alongside one another rather than as competing ideologies. In 2006, he said, “Religion needs science to keep it away from superstition and keep it close to reality, to protect it from creationism, which at the end of the day is a kind of paganism– it’s turning God into a nature God.”

Consolmagno was born in Detroit, Michigan. He earned undergraduate and masters’ degrees from MIT, and a Ph. D. in Planetary Science from the University of Arizona, was a researcher at Harvard and MIT, served in the US Peace Corps (Kenya), and taught university physics at Lafayette College, Pennsylvania, before entering the Jesuits in 1989.

At the Vatican Observatory since 1993, his research explores connections between meteorites, asteroids, and the evolution of small solar system bodies. He observes asteroids, moons, and Kuiper Belt comets with the Vatican’s 1.8 meter telescope in Arizona, and curates the Vatican meteorite collection in Castel Gandolfo. Along with more than 100 scientific publications, he is the author of a number of popular books including Turn Left at Orion (with Dan Davis), Worlds Apart (with Martha Schaefer), Brother Astronomer, and God’s Mechanics, and for the International Year of Astronomy he edited The Heavens Proclaim.

Dr. Consolmagno has served on the governing board of a number of international scientific organizations, including the International Astronomical Union, the Meteoritical Society and the Division for Planetary Sciences of the American Astronomical Society. He served as chair of the DPS in 2006-2007, is past president of IAU Commission 16 (Planets and Satellites) and past secretary of IAU Division III (Planetary Systems Sciences) as currently serves on the IAU Working Group on Planetary System Nomenclature. He has held chairs as a visiting Jesuit scholar at St. Joseph’s University (Philadelphia), Fordham University (New York), and LeMoyne College (New York).

 First United Methodist Church of Boulder is a welcoming and affirming place of inclusion and acceptance. We joyfully welcome all people of any race, gender, sexual orientation, and faith tradition.  Pat Bruns and Joe Agne are the pastors of First United Methodist Church of Boulder.

 

You Will Comply or Else

First published Feb 18, 2012 at CounterCurrents.org republished by author.

18 February, 2012 Countercurrents.org

Wheels of war, once made, want to be turned.

Wheels of war, once made, want to be turned.

Madeleine Albright, former U.S. ambassador to the UN and former Secretary of State in the Clinton administration, once asked General Colin Powell, then chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff: “What’s the point of having this superb military you’re always talking about if we can’t use it?”

Albright’s statement nicely captures the U.S. approach to dealing with troublesome leaders. By troublesome, I mean those who have the temerity to oppose U.S. positions and who, at the same time, are far too weak to pose a real military threat to the U.S. Examples of nations that had such troublesome leaders include Panama, Serbia, Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya. The leaders of Syria and Iran are also currently in the crosshairs.

Note the contrast between Albright’s words and those of President Eisenhower in his “Cross of Iron” speech in 1953. Eisenhower addressed the idea of regime change when he said: “Any nation’s right to a form of government and an economic system of its own choosing is inalienable.” He added: “Any nation’s attempt to dictate to other nations their form of government is indefensible.” Unfortunately the U.S., even under Eisenhower, did not base its actions on these words.

A pattern also emerges from examining the above one-sided conflicts that led to regime changes. The U.S. clearly feels no need for real diplomacy in these cases. For example, the U.S. often even refuses to talk with the other side. Instead, what passes for U.S. negotiation is the making of demands that the other side cannot accept. When the other side fails to accept all the U.S. demands, it faces U.S. action.

In general, the actions begin with a campaign by a compliant media here to frighten the U.S. population into supporting steps against the crazy leader who is a threat to his own people or to the U.S., covert acts including assassinations, creating and/or building up opposition leaders, threats of an attack against the enemy, the use of economic sanctions, and a military attack if the other steps haven’t worked. Sometime the U.S. attacks without going through most of the other steps. In the case of Iraq, even acceptance of U.S. demands was not enough to prevent the illegal and unwarranted U.S.-led attack.

The U.S. sometimes seeks to enlist the UN to provide a legal cover for its actions. For example, the U.S. often seeks the UN’s support for the sanctions. However, if the UN doesn’t accept the U.S. position, the U.S. and/or some of its allies apply the sanctions anyway. The U.S. also often attempts to gain the UN Security Council’s support for a military attack. However, if the UN doesn’t go along with an attack, the U.S. then turns to NATO or forms an ad hoc coalition of nations willing to join in military action.

Unsurprisingly, the compliant corporate-dominated U.S. media seldom, if ever, address the morality or legality of this approach that usually leads to a U.S. military attack on a far weaker nation. For example, the threat or use of force, except in self-defense against an armed attack or, unless taken by the UN Security Council, is prohibited under the UN Charter.

Sanctions have been in vogue for the last twenty years or so. However, more and more people today realize that harsh economic sanctions are, in effect, collective punishment of innocent populations. The devastation sanctions cause, particularly those wreaked on Haitians and Iraqis, has led to more frequent discussions about their appropriateness and legality. Some in-depth articles dealing with the legality of sanctions include:

The legality and morality of the U.S. approach should be discussed, especially given the U.S. campaigns regarding Syria and Iran. However, in the U.S. today, it seems to be outside the realm of polite discussion to point out that the threats to attack Iran by the U.S. and Israel are violations of the UN Charter. Few in the corporate-dominated U.S. media also challenge the idea of preemptive self-defense.

President Eisenhower also had some strong opinions on preventive war. He said: “I don’t believe there is such a thing; and, frankly, I wouldn’t even listen to anyone seriously that came in and talked about such a thing. …It seems to me that when, by definition, a term is just ridiculous in itself, there is no use in going any further.” Mary Ellen O’Connell’s article, The Myth of Preemptive Self-Defense, goes into much more detail about this issue.

When the US says that no options are off the table, it raises the awful possibility of the use of nuclear weapons. The threat of the use of nuclear weapons against a non-nuclear weapon state that has signed the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty clearly is an extreme violation of the UN Charter.

Instead of the U.S. approach that relies heavily on the threat of the use of its military, real negotiations without preconditions are the key to resolving conflicts, including those with Syria and Iran.

Ron Forthofer Ph.D. is retired Professor of Biostatistics at the University of Texas School of Public Health, Houston, Texas; former Green Party candidate for Congress and for Governor of Colorado rforthofer@comcast.net

Which Party is This?

  • Which party prides itself in being the party of business? The party that pushes for deregulation, the easing of wage costs, and environmental and safety concerns in the interest of profits?
  • Which party has as it’s cheerleader, their own 24/7 news channel that pushes propaganda, while resorting to demagoguery of the opposition?
  • Which party is openly hostile to organized labor, even going so far as to trying to eliminate collective bargaining contracts in the name of fiscal conservatism?
  • Which party has made it integral to their platform, the rounding up and deportation of “illegal foreigners?”
  • Which party has stood steadfast, for so-called “values issues,” demanding recognition of only traditional marriage, while declaring enmity for homosexuals?
  • Which party insists on closer alliances between church and state, even declaring the country as a “Christian nation?”
  • Which party is circumspect of “the others” amongst us, challenging their patriotism, their loyalty, their right to build places of worship where they choose, and even their God?
  • Which party hypes the fear of communism, and accuses anybody to the left of them of treason?
  • Which party disdains intellectualism, and mocks any scientific research that contradicts official party dogma as folly?

Give up?

If you said the Republican party, congratulations, you get 1 point.

But if you said the Nazi party, you get 10 points. They were after all, the ones who crafted this platform. All the Republicans did, was co-opt it and wrap it in Old Glory.

Fascism. Sinclair Lewis was dead right.

Neo-Liberal Economics and the decline that followed

Strider Benston : Neoliberal Economics and the decline that followed (mp3, 91.9 Mb)

The following is the text of a compelling and informative presentation given before the membership and guests of the Longmont Area Democrats January 4, 2012 meeting.

What is NeoLiberal Economics?
How did it take over the World?
What Must/Can we do about it? Now!

Strider Benston, civil rights activist

What I intend to do here tonight is to initiate a dialogue.  For the many-headed Hydra we face, wherever we turn if we actually WORK for a living, does have an historical core, which, if we do not understand, we shall continue merely tilting at windmills.

If you came for CONCLUSIONS you should go back to FOX news.  For everything they say is a conclusion, designed precisely to Prevent thinking.   And it serves that purpose very well.

They ask us: Why do we Occupy Wall Street?

The implied answer is that we are a motley crew of ungrateful, lazy sluts and hippies who want to take the rightful earnings of our BETTERS, those bankers and investors, and their political and media hacks who EARN their $ Billions, because they are SMART.

I could see about 20 different approaches to this topic, the Monster is too big to floor with one pin, but I hope this initial stab will draw some blood. Our civilization and our planet is at stake.

You can probably see why I have never been allowed to work in this country other than heavy labor.

Overheard conversation among top businessmen in the mid-1950s:

$ is the Oil of the economy, the grease in the gears that lets them turn and not grind or freeze up. It is also an inevitable by-product of a successful economy. In a thriving economy such as we now enjoy at mid-century, how do we both MAKE more $, and TAKE more $$$? For now, under Ike, with 91% tax off the top, too much of the oil is being plowed back into the economy. Why, $5,000,000 is quite a good salary nowadays: at 91%, my next $5,000,000 is only worth about $490,000 to ME. What’s the point? I might as well let it stay there and grow the company, else the Government will take it and grow their bureaucracy and regulations!!; and those fat cat Postal workers, even Black ones, making up to $3000, even $4000 a year if they stay in there for a couple decades – and look how UPPITY they’re getting!! Some of ’em here in the North even VOTE – even put in City Councilmen. Why they even put Adam Clayton Powell in OUR Congress! “an inch – a mile” – You know. What’ll They do next ?!?

We already SOLVED the cyclical crisis syndrome with Military Keynesianism. To drain off any overheating of the economy and HOOK in the workers to line up, wave the FLAG, and march off to WAR as told. But IKE wants to put a cap on “Defense” spending! We’re crippled even THERE!

And, GOD! The Natives are getting restless – look at India. They just took over their own country And CHINA!! Them Coolies just went and took the biggest damn country on earth, and they beat us back in Korea, and we can’t get it back – for now.  What is this world coming to??

We’d better get us a plan – build a TEAM. Take it BACK! That Commie cripple Franklin Roosevelt’s been dead for YEARS now and he’s still running the show!

Now even the biggest lie ever told has a kernel of truth in it, which can, if exploited properly, become the entire justification for the lie itself (at least to the gullible and the ignorant). True Believers can be hooked in so deep into the web till they can NEVER find their way out – even if they HAD moral compass enough to want to.

That radical Commie, William Jennings Bryan said, “We shan’t crucify Mankind upon a cross of GOLD!” Maybe he had a point, But! Tell you what – No One has EVER escaped from a Golden prison. So – how do we sweeten the pot? Look at Chicago, Gary, Youngstown, Akron, Toledo, Pittsburgh, Detroit. Look at all that damn STUFF we make! Look at all those houses they’re building – and roads!

What if we just stick a big Spigot right into the Heart Valve, and suck out as much lucre as we want? We could do ANYTHING with the take – but first we gotta BLOCK off that feedback pipeline that’s pumping it back into the machine.

TAXES ! That’s it! Everybody hates Taxes!

 

And so – the WAR to TAKE BACK AMERICA began in the mid 1950’s

And it was launched on EVERY front – especially on your TV, in your schools, churches, civic clubs, sports fields, music scene, battlefields, and the Red-Hot Mustang.

DRIVE! DRIVE! DRIVE! SPEED, POWER, GROWTH!
“WE’RE #1” WE CAN DO (take) ANYTHING WE WANT!
So what’s the grease?? $$$$$ IS the GREASE. LET’S take the Money!!

Our legal system extols the sanctity of CONTRACTS. If you actually work for a living and make your boss rich by doing so, and he (usually he) wants to throw your family into the street, he merely punches a keystroke and sends your factory to Mexico, or Vietnam, or China, or perhaps merely changes the name of his company to steal your pension, or just fires you. If the Bankster runs into trouble because they suckered you into a lavish home based on the income you thought you were earning, and you cannot pay the interest, and their shareholders, they merely order their government to give them a $ Trillion or so of your taxes, and they give themselves $tens$ of $Billions in BONUSES, because they were SMART enough to set it up this way.  Then WE who have actually WORKED all our lives, are castigated as lazy, scruffy BUMS who want to live on the DOLE. SS anyone?

See how it works?

Public servants, like teachers, fire fighters, water cleaners, forest rangers – you know the type. Those bums who make lots of YOUR money by sitting on their fat can twiddling their thumbs. THEY threaten the solvency of this GREAT nation by living in luxury. So we can surely get rid of tens of millions of them. That will save us from the monster of out of control Government debt.

And the Unemployed. They just drink beer, smoke dope, watch TV,and make stupid babies. They are UN American, UN Christian, UN white, UN worthy, and really should be in Jail.

Why do we OCCUPY???

OK Here is my disclaimer. I really intended to articulate a tight presentation/thesis tonight, like those polished folks on the TV or in the colleges. I really did. But I couldn’t afford 5 or 6 more books I wanted to read. I stress out, and can’t quite find the INTERNET. I keep trying to learn how to get my website to work. I get intruded by homeless folks and fear losing my trailer home, because of THE RULES, and sometimes my bicycle breaks down. So what you get is what you get. We all got circumstances.

Well, I discovered a book on the shelf of Longmont Library, and it says:

“A week or so later Arkansas spoke at a mass meeting.   A 14-year old girl–whom he named–had died under the July sun, “choppin’ cotton” for a wage of $2.50 a day. Teenagers and mothers came and went to the plantations around Demopolis, from dawn to about sunset, in trucks the contractors brought. The girl’s death seemed to me to be just a part of the way of things, but Arkansas was enraged. “There’s a SYSTEM at work against us,” he preached. “It’s not enough to stop this abuse or that. We have to get rid of the System that puts people to work for $2.50 a day.” His little speech had drawn Amens from Henry and the crowd, but it fretted me a bit: I wondered if Arkansas was a Communist, like little Red.”

A couple weeks later: “I surveyed the crowd inside Morning Star Church, 200 strong and still growing …. Some had come from Linden, and some from the countryside. By 3: a whole army of lawmen were already mustered. We heard the clink and saw the glint of tear gas containers as they were passed around. Apparently the cops didn’t intend to let us get very far from the church. Demopolis was fixing to blow. On TV.

An hour later I conferred with Linda: no Henry, no march. But Arkansas had showed up, and he and some of the Demopolis Youth Kids wouldn’t give in. While a knot of us argued, everybody else was singing Freedom Songs, but now in a different way. The kids were singing even the mournful songs in voices of challenge. They went to the open windows and shouted out lines like, “Ain’t gonna let no tear gas turn me round!” They were daring the cops, whose mere presence was a dare to us ….

At the door almost everyone fell in line behind Arkansas, still singing. I reached the steps–about the time that the billy clubs began to flail. The attack didn’t come in waves. Instead it was like propellers on an airplane. A continuous flurry. A half dozen lawmen had encircled Arkansas, and it seemed that they were intent on killing him.”

Oh, my name was, “Arkansas” – just a snippet, 47 years ago, of one of millions of incidents in ten thousand communities in the Struggle for human rights and dignity – here – in America.

Now, there are, maybe 20 different approaches I could bring. But they ARE commensurate. I hope others will take up the cudgel to deepen our understanding, for if you do not comprehend your circumstance, you will become the slave of those who do.

The Capitalist Revolution

Much of the language of resentment exploited by thugs like Grover Norquist, was launched during the English Civil War of the 1640s, Europe’s first Capitalist revolution. Oppressive taxation, regulative stifling of entrepreneurship, bureaucratic cronyism, arbitrary government, paternalism – all became terms of opprobrium used by London merchants against the King and his retainers. Unproductive lands were confiscated or enclosed, fostering a more technologically advanced and productive system of agriculture. Mercantileism was crippled, allowing the introduction of the factory system which employed the displaced peasants. Modern society was born in conflict between Royalists and the capitalist Bourgeoisie.

Further decades of conflict led to the Glorious Revolution of 1688 which reconciled the contradictions and the persons of Nobility and Capitalist. England thus never experienced the French Revolution of 1789, nor the class rebellions of 1848, which led to European Social Democracy, now being viciously undermined by the American mortgage debt crisis, the austerity fiat, and the WTO. But, such forms which were worked out for two centuries under English law did not necessarily apply to the new, and thus lawless United States.

The Capitalist world economy, fueled by slavery, colonialism, the scientific revolution, the bourgeois and democratic revolutions, and Constitutionalism was thus co-extensive with, and largely parent to, the Industrial Revolution. Even with tragic Dickensian immiseration and oppression of the new working class, 14-hour days, child labor, pollutive poisoning and destruction of land and forests, with democratic rebellion and social legislation we in the West have experienced two centuries of a rising standard of living.

Here in America you got Food to eat, won’t have to run through the jungle and scuff up your feet. You’ll be as happy as a monkey up a monkey tree; Y’all oughta BE an American.

Sail Away! Sail Away! Across th’ Mighty Ocean into Charleston Bay.

Our present Behemoth, the CORPORATION as such, invented itself in this process. The lawless United States took the lead, freed from the shackles of tradition, Church, existing property relations, demographic, geographic, cultural, legal, and natural restraints, American corporations, especially the railroads out in the wild West, and South, used bribery, legal impunity, systemic violence, private armies, the courts and especially the United States Supreme Court to establish their supremacy, including the insane doctrine of Corporate personhood which required another 125 years to be codified.

Formal democratic institutions, and their substructure of human rights have been employed by the population through fierce, bloody, protracted, wise, and courageous struggles over two centuries in an effort to keep up with our Oppressors, earn a decent standard of living for our children, and lately to try to save our living planet Earth.

The Rise of Neo-Liberal economic power

With the rise of Neo-Liberal economic power, the export of industrial capital, explicitly anti-democratic International Institutions, scapegoating of immigrant and minority populations, perverted religious ideology and power structures, massive imprisonment, indentured servitude of the entire student class, we have experienced 30 years of roll-back of our democratic standing, our earning power, and our human and democratic rights. The traditional once per decade Capitalist Crises were solved in America by military Keynesianism, which employed millions of workers and scientists in the production of WASTE {military hardware}, and which corrupted the democratic working class into nationalism, racist warfare, and a convenient ideology of mindless and divisive patriotism.

The very successes of the working class and oppressed minorities have been masterfully used against them by the ideology of Middle Classism, wherein, the victories gained in intense struggle over centuries have trapped our children into the “Consumerist” class and anti-working class ideology of dollar-worship. This new religion of money, power, and racism, has been installed by the right-wing Anti-Christian mega-churches who teach hatred and fear as their primary mission; Greed is the underpinning corollary.

For four centuries the devouring, oppressive monster of industrial capitalism did, in fact, stimulate a phenomenal increase of goods and services which have entirely transformed our world, with its concomitant vast increase in our material standard of living. Yet the tools used by the working class, which brought about this “sharing” of the feast, have concomitantly increased the democratic footprint within the System itself. Mature Capitalism of a half century ago was evolving into a quite stable, and comfortable social democracy.

Some of the wealthy were fine with this, as long as the super-profits of imperialism extraction and expansion continued to roll in the excess wealth. Its inner contradictions were not yet insurmountable.

The Soviet threat was always useful to justify exploitation at home and proxy wars abroad. But anti-colonial movements threatened abroad; and home movements for human rights and a share of the pie threatened to disturb the rulers’ complacency. AND, as in the person of Malcolm X, these insurrections were beginning to communicate with one another. Even our “Indians” were getting restless. They even took over Alcatraz!

Now, I know that most of you know most of this quite well, and I don’t mean to bore you with pedantry, or stuff you with a plethora of details.

BUT, how did this three-century dynamic morph itself and reverse field so quickly, and WHY?  And what does our consequent world look like NOW?

The Modus Operandi of Industrial Capitalism has always been permanent expansion, and control of the surplus value thus brought about.  Exploitation of labor, resources, Nature, technology, foreign territories, political Power, and financial instruments have always been intrinsic to the process. Countervailing, regulating, democratizing and balancing political forces and structures have tended to mitigate the damage, and to spread the benefits of this complex social system.

In the long run Capitalism will necessarily eat itself, or eat all its necessary resources on a finite planet.  But the Earth is large, and strong, and resilient, so with intelligent employment of mitigating factors, and general acceptance of modest increase, such as a 4% to 10% profit rate in most industries, and an overall 3% expansion of the system, we had lots of time to address the problem with scientific research, less-intrusive technologies, substitution, recycling, a rational taxing system, education, moral constraint on extreme greed, and other creative modalities.

All this changes with NEO-Liberal Economics

Few of these mitigating, humanizing factors are still in the game, and even those are corrupted.
The Mount Pelerin Society was launched in 1938 with keynote speaker Friedrich A. von Hayek, who thought Hitler to be too far to the left, although he was financed by Krupp and Farben, and had imprisoned or killed many thousands of unionists, Socialists, and Communists, liberals and Christians.  Von Hayek thought that workers organizing a democratic union was tantamount to slavery.  This explicit ploy is presently being used by the Governors of Ohio, Wisconsin, and Michigan. I doubt that the German Aristocrat, von Hayek, ever worked in a factory.

Seven Hayekian Ideas launched the new movement:

1. Collective bargaining leads the worker into slavery
2. Full employment and low inflation are mutually incompatible
3. Free Trade is beneficent
4. A secure livelihood for those who work is incompatible with FREEDOM
5. Laws guaranteeing effective competition can be made and enforced
6. Free markets guarantee the separation of political power from economic power
7. Markets are “efficient” and have intrinsic conscience and wisdom

This new Neo-Liberalism was launched in the the United States in the 1940s and 50s at the University of Chicago by Friedrich von Hayek and his protege Milton Friedman. It is hard to fault von Hayek’s treatise on individual rights, and of the tendencies toward gridlock in Parliamentary government, which often frustrated the citizens toward the acceptance, and later the worship of, Dictatorship, and further, of Totalitarian structures.

BUT! Pay attention! This gridlock which froze the Weimar Republic leading to Dictatorship and subsequent massacre of 50,000,000 people, is being intentionally reproduced TODAY, in America.  For an even more profound analysis read Carl Schmitt, The Crisis of Parliamentary Democracy, 1923.

Hayek’s philosophical individualism came straight out of Enlightenment thinking with no accounting or concern for the democratic rights of the working and lower classes. They were simply not human, like our teachers now.  One tendency of such thought was Scientism, a worship of data and logic, especially mathematical logic.  This wholesale transfer of physics and math into the social sciences became a religion in the mid 19th Century.  Stanley Jevons in England and later Alfred Marshall in America refined this mathematicism into the dominant ideology which still holds sway.   Most disciplines had recovered from this infantile delusion during the next century, beginning with history and psychology.   But Capitalistic economics saw the quantification of value structures as a way to justify their increasing exploitation of man and Nature, consolidation of wealth for themselves, and the mystifying of the population thus to be used as tools toward a consolidation of political power. The Great God of automatic “Efficiency” was born, and is worshiped today in all departments of economics.

The problem then was the Labor movement, and the Social Gospel movement, an independent free press, and the beginnings of public education, which arose as countervailing powers to alleviate the extreme and increasing brutality of exploitation and political corruption, and began to inspire the voting public. As a century of incremental victories were won, the churches forgot their Christianity and were marshaled into becoming the front line troops, and educative prisons for the money machine.

Von Hayek did recognize in horror the herd instinct, with it’s attendant leaning toward collectivist structures, even among the Liberals of the 30s and 40s. Without notable opposition from his mentor, Milton Friedman, and his political colleague, Leo Strauss, gathered a group of ambitious political proselytes including Donald Rumsfield, Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz and Richard Pearle. Already the Neo-Libs were taking over the leading economics schools of the Western world: Harvard, London, Oxford, Berkeley, Sorbonne, and actively suppressed any other way of thinking, and any concern for empirical corroboration of their ideology. The Chicago Boys’ economic team worked to create many “financial instruments” which could corrupt and destroy the otherwise stabilizing world economic system.

The mechanisms of Hedge Funds and Derivatives opened the door for later Credit Default Swaps, tranches, toxic bundling, and a plethora of forms of fraudulent dispersal and securitization of financial assets.  Friedman, with Arnold Harberger, trained the Chicago Boys, who prepared and joined the military dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet in their American-facilitated overthrow of Chilean democracy, and repeated that effort in Brazil. By the mid 70s they began taking over the entire world to eliminate socially responsible democracies and prepare the way for the Uruguay round of GATT, the IMF and World Bank, and the eventual creation of the WTO as private dictator of the terms, bylaws, and procedures of the World economy.  Only extreme violence and foreign military and economic support were able to accomplish this devastation.

The United States is the spearpoint of this rollback of Civilization. That is why we have the Military.

The details of how this has been accomplished is portrayed in tragic detail by John Perkins, Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, and Naomi Klein, Shock Doctrine.

The Friedmanesque ideology of NeoLiberalism is both a philosophy and a technique. That motive for it arises from the Hayekian fear of collectivism, the fear of anti-colonial struggles, fear of democratization in the home countries by the economic rise of the Unionized working class, and awakened minorities into middle class economic status, and the resentment of the wealthy (mostly white and male) toward being taxed to facilitate this empowerment and perceived affluence of their traditional lessers and enemies.

This not to claim that there were no substantive justifications for their fears, but their traditional racial and class arrogance overrode any serious effort to work out a democratic solution of the problem of humanity, with all our varied historical baggage, cultural distinctions, resources, attitudes and agendas.  They could not see that South Africa was different from Zimbabwe; that Martin Luther King was different from Bigger Thomas; that Allende was different from Stalin; and that an angry, yet humane and sensible, Sukarno was a far better partner to build a humane world than our corrupt and genocidally brutal dictator, Suharto.

The three-century project of Liberal Democracy, paralleled and underpinned by industrial Capitalism, with all it’s obvious flaws and evils, had evolved and matured into a relatively stable, relatively prosperous, relatively humane system, and had created institutions like the UN Human Rights Commission, and the IGY, International Geophysical Year, 1961, which might find a way to democratically address the remaining contradictions.

We really had a chance from about 1955 to 1975. This was the very period during which NeoLiberalism honed it’s skills and grabbed the reins of power, precisely to prevent our human evolution toward a livable and thriving world.

It is true that after Martin Luther King was assassinated, we lost the wise, compassionate, and humanizing focus on the Left, and degenerated into sectarian petty wars for ideological purity, identity politics, and the focus on grabbing a bigger share of the finite pie. This left us gapingly vulnerable to the mystifying racist, machoist, nationalist, anti-workerist, anti-tax purity of the Neo-Liberal ideology.  This ideology, and the secret, treasonable arms deal with Iran, led to the Reagan Revolution, the results of which we see today.  The most obvious results, aside from the world economic crisis and the insane inflicted “austerity solution” which are imposed to destroy the generations of mitigating social programs that democracy had created, are seen in a couple stark graphs. Productivity vs compensation; wealth of 1% vs the median or average income; and union membership vs middle income share of national wealth.

Let’s go back to the foundations of Neo-Liberal economics. In the mid 19th Century the fetish of “scientific” materialism ran rampant, along with the ideology of Individualism and the practice of Imperialism.  The basic idea was that EVERYTHING could be quantified and thus valued in terms of exchange value.  That Mankind was a super-rational maximizing agent of self-interest. Whatever we might choose to value, “purchase,” was, of course, in our best interest, and in the aggregate led to the “Best of all possible worlds.” Thorsten Veblin was the only prominent American economist who disputed such a claim a century past.

A leading modern Neo-Liberal, Hernando de Soto, from Peru, The Mystery of Capital, 2000, explained in great particular, how the codification of property title creates fungible assets which transfer into capital, as such. He articulates how in the wild American West, such forms facilitated the motion and unprecedented growth of such capital, and therefore the Power which follows. He shouts that “If only the poor people of the earth would codify and exchange their intrinsic potential capital in their slum dwellings and crude inventions, they would realize $9 Trillion in real estate, and would thus become rich.”

The only problem is, perhaps Mr. de Soto is wearing blinders and doesn’t know how the System operates, once ANY “property” enters the System, it becomes accessible to the extraction of much of its value by the World trade and banking system, and consequently becomes a hook, liable to indebtedness of the proprietor, who will spend the remainder of his/her days servicing this debt to the masters in New York, or Brussels, or Geneva.

Globalization

A primary function of NeoLiberalism was to “Globalize” the economy.  Now, just what might this mean?  We have had a globalized economy ever since the triangle Slave trade, which traded human beings for rum, tobacco, and sugar, and for guns with which to capture more slaves. Mono-crop agriculture was developed then by stealing the intellectual property of Africa, whose denizens knew how to grow indigo, and rice, and sugar in large quantities. Well, globalization now means the “race to the bottom,” and the elusion of all potential democratic encumbrances imposed by “sovereign” nations. “tree-hugging” liberals might damage the great American economy by opposing slavery, or 16 hour/day sweatshops, or the killing of union organizers, or the poisoning of rivers.

All this can be blocked by the WTO which makes it “illegal” to hamper “Free” trade. The explicitly anti-democratic governing body of the WTO, the IMF, the World Bank, and other such institutions can impose crippling sanctions on the “sovereign” country, or merely pull the plug on investment, thus rendering the object country incapable of refurbishing its factories, unable to sell its produce, buy supplies, or food, or energy products, and liable to military invasion, or assassination of presidents, or overthrow of their government, which Naomi Klein and John Perkins, among many others demonstrate in detail.

Alan Greenspan instituted decades of a policy of slow growth by the Federal Reserve Bank. This mandate included the requirement of high Unemployment, as a disciplining mechanism over the working class. To create such high Unemployment the capitalists and their government enticed in millions of “illegal” immigrants – exactly as they did in the C19 to work their mines and railroads and factories. This policy coincided with Congressional “perks” for export of capital – lower taxes, incentives, protection, “foreign aid” which is mandated to hire American contractors to build infrastructure, and charge the local government in perpetuity for repayment of the “loans,” etc. Earlier racist movements to scapegoat the immigrants like the Know Nothings, the 100%ers, and the Ku Klux Klan, took over a number of states including Colorado, and came near to overthrowing the government in 1925.

Unknown to American citizens, Timothy Geithner was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in 1997. In such capacity he personally delivered the mandate to the WTO meeting in Geneva, regarding its Financial Services Agreement and any “instruments” the capitalist world wishes to dump on vulnerable or unsuspecting countries, like Ireland, or Greece. Almost every country complied. U.S. Treasury Secretary Summers provided Brazil with a $41 Billion bailout loan to keep President Cardoso in office, then pulled the plug. Within 15 days Brazil’s economy went up in flames requiring them to sell state assets, especially oil leases and their national electric system. They were also ordered to sell off their five state banks. After the first bank was sold, costing the Brazilian economy some $44 Billion, 2/3rds of the entire country’s reserve, the President, Cardoso, was un-elected, and the Socialist Workers Party candidate Luis Ignacio Lula de Silva came to office. President Lula refused to sell the remaining four state banks, and Brazil has since recovered, recently growing its economy by 70% and joining China and India as a world powerhouse.  It is interesting that the United States did not then invade Brazil, as is our tradition.  Maybe that is not so easy to do anymore.

Why do we Occupy?

In 1864 President Abraham Lincoln wrote to his friend: We may congratulate ourselves that this cruel war is nearing its end.  It has cost a vast amount of treasure and blood … It has been a trying hour for the Republic; but I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country. As a result of the war, corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money power of this country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until all wealth in aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed.  I feel at this moment more anxiety for the safety of my country than ever before, even in the midst of War, God grant that my suspicions may prove groundless.”

In 1870, the historian, Henry Adams, Grandson and great grandson of Presidents, wrote: “The belief is common in America that the day is at hand when corporations … after having created a system of quite but irresistible corruption — will ultimately succeed in directing the government itself. Under the American form of society there is no authority capable of effective resistance … Nor is the danger to America alone. The corporation is in its nature a threat against the popular institutions which are so rapidly spreading over the whole world …. and unless some satisfactory solution of the problem can be reached, popular institutions may yet find their very existence endangered.”

—Strider 1/4/2012

Rely on facts, not feelings

Could we please rely on facts, not uninformed feelings, when we talk about Israel? Israel does not face any military danger. It has one of the 10 strongest armies in the world. All of Israel’s neighbors are weaker militarily. The Palestinians have no army at all. Israel is not “protecting itself,” because it faces no threat to its existence, as its own Defense Minister recently said.

There are no “radical” governments ruling in any of Israel’s neighboring countries. Both Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza have moderated their views after coming to power (as most political parties do). Hamas and Fatah leaders have been saying for years that they are prepared to have a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza, living in peace alongside Israel. A majority of Palestinians share that view. They recognize Israel as a nation that will continue to exist, because no one seriously threatens its existence.

Yes, Palestinians are angry. We would be angry too if another nation’s soldiers ruled our streets and our lives. Yes, there are some radicals and anti-Semites among Arab people, just as there are some among Americans and in most other nations. But anyone who takes that minority to represent all Arab people merely helps to prevent what most Arabs and Israelis want: peace. It’s the false stereotypes, like “Israel is protecting itself against radicals and anti-Semites” that block the path to peace.

The real danger to Israel (as many Israelis will tell you) is diplomatic isolation. Countries around the world reject Israel because its right-wing government betrays Israel’s democratic ideals to expand settlements in the West Bank and perpetuate military occupation there, rather than respond to the Palestinians’ compromises for the sake of peace.