Menu Close

Tag: Joe Biden

Bruce’s Hot Takes for February 11, 2024

hot takes

The Forty-Niners will beat the Chiefs by three in the Super Bowl. Right-wingers will go nuts over Taylor Swift, and the halftime show will suck.

We need term limits based on age. Neither Biden nor Trump should be running for president. Both show signs of mental decline. I support an age seventy cutoff.

Biden isn’t the first president to be managed by his spouse, cabinet members, or trusted advisors. Ronald Reagan, by Nancy, and George W. Bush, by Dick Cheney/Donald Rumsfeld, come to mind.

Biden’s unwillingness to speak out against Israel’s slaughter of Palestinians may cost him the election in November. I suspect Biden is more worried about losing more Jewish votes than Arab votes. What should matter is the violence and bloodshed. That it doesn’t says a lot about the American people and their political leaders.

Evangelicalism is in an uproar over whether Christians should attend a same-sex/transgender wedding, revealing the hateful bigotry that lies underneath the surface in many churches. Jesus said, “It’s just a fucking wedding.” Alistair Begg said Christians should attend LGBTQ weddings. He was promptly deplatformed by John MacArthur and other notable Evangelical leaders.

Our NATO allies should pay their fair share of mutual defense costs — a minimum of two percent. The question is what do we do when they don’t? Let Russia attack them, as the orange Cheeto said?

If Texas wants to protect their border so bad, Biden should let them, removing all border patrol agents and federal national guard soldiers from the border.

I’m re-reading James Michener’s book, Chesapeake. I last read it forty-four years ago. I’m a Michener fan, but his books tend to voluminous. It will take me several weeks to read the book.,

Catchers and pitchers for the Cincinnati Reds begin spring training this week. I’m so ready for baseball. I predict the Reds will win the Central Division. Hope springs eternal. 🤣

Warning about using your cellphone number for two factor authentication. Change your phone number and you are screwed — as I’m learning firsthand.

Bonus: Corporations continue to make gaudy profits by gouging the American public — raising prices just because they can, regardless of whether costs have increased. Thieves, the lot of them. This is the primary reason most Americans think the economy is in bad shape. All they see is rising prices.

If Joe Biden Loses the 2024 Presidential Election, This Will Be One of The Reasons Why

genocide joe biden

Israel continues its genocidal slaughter of Palestinians in Gaza. Israeli armed forces and bombs have killed over 25, 000 Palestinians — most of whom are civilians. President Joe Biden, Secretary of State Andrew Blinken, and White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre continue to pretend that Israel’s murderous actions are justified; that Israel is just defending itself.

Now it seems that President Biden and his fellow warmongers want to expand the conflict in the Middle East to Yemen and the Houthis — both of whom are proxies for Iran. It would not surprise me to wake up one day and find out that the United States has dropped bombs not only on the Houthis, but Iran itself. This, of course, would spark a regional war that could result in thousands of casualties and horrific property and infrastructure destruction. Successive administrations had a hard-on for Iran, going back to the days when George H.W. Bush illegally invaded Iraq and Kuwait in the Gulf War. Biden’s approach to the Middle East is not that much different from that of the presidents who preceded him. Unwilling to stand up to Israel and its American supporters, Biden refuses to call out Israel’s treatment of the Palestinian people. From illegal settlements, apartheid practices, and violence against innocent civilians, Biden says not a word, thinking that doing so is in his political best interest. What Biden will learn on election day is that he grossly underestimated American anger towards his callous, indifferent response to the plight of the Palestinian people. These angry Americans, many of whom are younger adults, vote. Biden’s actions have also outraged Arab-Americans, leading some Arab leaders to suggest that Biden risks losing their votes if he doesn’t change course.

Over the weekend, Representative Nancy Pelosi only made matters worse by saying that pro-Palestinian demonstrators were working on behalf of Russia’s president, Vladamir Putin, and called for some of them to be “investigated” by the FBI:

For them to call for a cease-fire is Mr. Putin’s message. Make no mistake, this is directly connected to what he would like to see. Same thing with Ukraine. It’s about Putin’s message. I think some of these protesters are spontaneous and organic and sincere. Some, I think, are connected to Russia.

When asked if she believed the protesters were “Russian plants,” Pelosi replied:

Seeds or plants. I think some financing should be investigated. And I want to ask the F.B.I. to investigate that.

After being called out for her anti-American, anti-First Amendment sentiments, Pelosi, in classic Capitol Hill fashion tried to cover her ass by releasing the following statement:

Speaker Pelosi has always supported and defended the right of all Americans to make their views known through peaceful protest. Speaker Pelosi is acutely aware of how foreign adversaries meddle in American politics to sow division and impact our elections, and she wants to see further investigation ahead of the 2024 election.

I hate to tell the former speaker of the House, but her bare ass is still showing. Suggesting that protesters of any stripe should be investigated by the FBI is reminiscent of the days of Edgar Hoover and Donald Trump’s presidency from 2016-2020; days when law enforcement and the power of the state were used to stifle dissent and protest.

Nihad Awad, The Council on American-Islamic Relations national executive director, condemned Rep. Pelosi’s statement:

Her comments once again show the negative impact of decades of dehumanization of the Palestinian people by those supporting Israeli apartheid. Instead of baselessly smearing those Americans as Russian collaborators, former House Speaker Pelosi and other political leaders should respect the will of the American people by calling for an end to the Netanyahu government’s genocidal war on the people of Gaza.

While losing the Arab vote — less than one percent of Americans are Arab — alone won’t cost Biden the election, added to an increasing number of disaffected younger Americans, it could tip the election in favor of the Republican Party. Biden has time to course correct, but I have no confidence that he will do so, or if he does, it will be too little too late, much like Hillary Clinton did in the 2016 presidential election.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

Connect with me on social media:

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

Democrats Ignore the Separation of Church and State When Convenient

biden speech at church

Recently, Democratic President Joe Biden gave a political speech before a historically black congregation at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina. You may remember, that in 2015 White supremacist and neo-Nazi Dylann Roof murdered nine Mother Emanuel members while they were gathered for prayer. Democrats have often used Black churches to give political speeches — contravening the separation of church and state and the Johnson Amendment.

Democrats have long objected to Republican political candidates giving speeches at Evangelical churches. Republicans show no regard for the rule of law. How dare the government tell them who can or can’t give speeches in churches? However, religious sects, parachurch organizations (who increasingly claim they are churches), and churches are tax-supported institutions — exempt from most taxes. U.S. law requires tax-exempt religious institutions to refrain from endorsing political candidates (though they can endorse/support issues). Choosing to do so anyway can lead to religious institutions losing their tax-exempt status. Though to be honest with you, I can’t remember a time when the IRS revoked a church’s tax exemption. A cursory Google search showed that IRS tax revocations since the inception of the Johnson Amendment can be counted on one hand. The IRS has stopped enforcing the law, allowing Democrats and Republicans alike to use churches for political campaigning. Pastors freely endorse candidates, knowing that nothing will happen if they do. (Personally, I support revoking tax exemption for all religious institutions; that churches who claim to be tax-exempt charitable institutions must prove it.)

Liberals love to scream about Republicans giving political speeches at Evangelical churches, yet are silent when Democrats do the same at liberal, mainline Black churches. Democrats are hypocrites if they refuse to call out liberal Black churches for doing the very same things as Evangelical churches do. One liberal writer said “Yes, Biden shouldn’t have given a political speech at Mother Emanuel, but, hey, the Republicans are doing it, so, so should we.”

As long as churches are tax-supported to the tune of billions of dollars a year, the IRS MUST enforce the Johnson Amendment and laws governing the separation of church and state. If the government is no longer willing to enforce the law, then it is time for Congress to put an end to the tax-exemption scam, taxing churches as the businesses they most certainly are. If congregations want to be tax-exempt, they must justify and prove their exempt charitable status. If churches cannot show that the majority of their income is spent on genuine charitable activities — and not just on programs and ministries that primarily exist to make fat sheep fatter — then they must pay taxes just like other businesses do. This means they must file annual income tax returns. (Churches are not required to file tax returns, including informational forms.)

If President Biden wants to speak to the members of Mother Emanuel, he should stand on the public sidewalk in front of the church and do so. On the sidewalk, Biden is free to say whatever he wants. However, once the President walks in the church’s doors, he and the church must abide by the law. That they don’t is disheartening and discredits attempts to hold Republicans accountable for their own violations of the separation of church and state and the Johnson Amendment.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

Connect with me on social media:

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

I Refuse to Play the “Both Sides Do It” Game

trump and satan

Every time I write a political post that is critical of disgraced ex-president Donald Trump or the present iteration of the Republican Party one or more commenters will object, saying “both sides do it,” or they will attempt to distract by trying to play “whataboutism.” The goal is to ignore/dismiss what I have said or paint me as some sort of hypocrite. Anything except interacting with what I actually wrote.

I make no apologies for the fact that I am a liberal, socialist, and pacifist. I don’t often write about my political beliefs, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have strong opinions and beliefs about all sorts of political, social, and religious beliefs. I am aware of the fact that when I write about politics, it often causes controversies. I have lost numerous readers over this or that political issue. Some people love my atheism, but hate my politics.

Yesterday, I wrote Letter to the Editor: Do Republicans Really Believe in Freedom and Liberty? Here’s what I had to say:

If rural Ohio Republicans were surveyed and asked if they believed in freedom and liberty for everyone, to the person they would say YES! However, words are cheap, and when we take a close look at Republican behavior and practices, we learn that they only believe in freedom and liberty for some people.

Most rural Ohioans voted for and currently support Donald Trump. They overwhelmingly voted for the disgraced ex-president in 2016 and 2020, and plan to do so again in 2024. Does Trump believe in freedom and liberty for everyone? Of course not. He routinely threatens people like me, calls for my arrest, and says that I should expelled from the country of my birth. Why? I have political and religious beliefs different from Trump and his MAGA followers. Evidently, freedom and liberty only apply to people who agree with Trump and the rhetoric of white Evangelical Christians. Everyone else is an enemy of God and state.

When local Republicans talk glowingly about their commitment to freedom and liberty, I don’t believe them. These same people are working diligently to undo the express will of the people as they try to neuter recently passed initiatives that legalize abortion and recreational cannabis. If Republicans truly believe in freedom and liberty, then they would accept the will of the people. Instead, both at state and local levels, Republicans are intent on forcing their moral beliefs on others.

Republicans want public school students to have freedom to attend release time programs such as Lifewise Academy — an Evangelical organization — yet when The Satanic Temple wants to sponsor a release time program, all of a sudden freedom only applies to Evangelical Christians. Everywhere we look, we see right-wing Republicans prosecuting the latest iteration of the culture war. For all their talk about freedom and liberty, Republicans deny that same right for everyone. Not for LGBTQ people, nor socialists, atheists, or humanists. Not for women seeking abortion care, nor people with moral beliefs different from the Christian majority.

I am in the minority when it comes to my political and religious beliefs. Even local Democrats distance themselves from me because I am a Democratic socialist, too liberal, or a godless heathen. That’s the price I pay for living in rural Ohio. That said, I demand and expect the same freedom and liberty as my Republican neighbors.

After reading my letter, several people commented and sent me messages that said there is “no difference between Republicans and Democrats.” Others played the “whataboutism” game, suggesting that Biden and the Democrats have done things just as bad as indicted Donald Trump and MAGA Republicans. Really? Do otherwise thoughtful, rational people really believe there is no difference between the Democrats and Republicans; that President Biden is just a bad Donald Trump?

Donald Trump is a fascist and authoritarian. In 2020, he tried to overthrow the government and remain in power. He is currently facing numerous criminal charges in three jurisdictions. If re-elected in 2024, Trump has made it clear that he intends to upend the federal government and the rule of law. Invoking the Insurrection Act, Trump intends to use the military to advance his domestic cause, which includes rounding up and incarcerating people such as myself. One need only look at Project 2025 to find out Trump’s intentions. Does anyone seriously believe there is no difference between Trump and Biden; that Trump is not a direct threat to the future and health of our Republic?

The Republican Party has, for the most part, been taken over by Donald Trump and MAGA zealots. Centrist Republicans have either given up or left the party altogether. Trump IS the Republican Party. Are you okay with that? Are you okay with a Party that is racist, misogynistic, and anti-LGBTQ? Are you okay with a Party that doesn’t give a shit about immigrants, pregnant women, children, or the poor? Shall I go on? Explain to me how one can be a Republican and a humanist. The Republican platform is antithetical to the humanist ideal.

That is not to say that the Democratic Party is without its own problems. That’s why I am no longer a Democrat, I may vote Democratic, but I am not a Democrat. I am not a supporter of Joe Biden, but when forced to choose between the most unfit man to ever be president and Joe Biden, I am going to choose Biden every time. I am a pragmatist, not an idealist, when it comes to politics. If other Democratic presidential candidates show themselves to be viable candidates, then it is likely I will vote for one of them. Biden wasn’t my first, second, or third choice in 2020 (and neither was Clinton in 2016), and he is most certainly not my choice today. However, we have a two-party system, so that means I will likely have to vote for Biden in 2024. The United States can survive another Biden presidency (provided he doesn’t drag us into a world war). It cannot survive another Trump presidency.

The same goes for Republicans at the state level. MAGA zealots have taken over virtually every state Republican party. Here in Ohio, a supermajority of Republicans rule the roost without any regard for the will of the people. Last month, Ohio voters overwhelmingly voted to legalize abortion and recreational marijuana use. Did Republicans respect the will of the people? Of course not. They are doing everything they can to neuter the abortion amendment and recreational marijuana initiative. These Republicans are Christian nationalists and fascists who are hell-bent on shaping Ohio according to the teachings of the Bible.

So, enough of this idea that there is no difference between Democrats and Republicans and between Biden and Trump. Instead of playing the “whataboutism” game, how about actually justifying the policies of Trump and the MAGA-controlled Republican Party? How about justifying why ANYONE would vote for Donald Trump (or Ron DeSantis)? I don’t see it. Hate Joe Biden? Fine, don’t vote for him. However, if you care about the future of our country, for the love of Loki, please don’t vote for Trump. He is not the lesser of two evils, he is evil, period.

Bruce’s Ten Hot Takes for November 21, 2023

hot takes

Michigan head football coach Jim Harbaugh is a control freak. Suggesting that Harbaugh didn’t know anything about sign stealing by his staff is ludicrous. He knew, and that’s why he will be in the NFL next year at this time.

Joe Biden continues to remind me of why I didn’t want to vote for him in 2020 and don’t want to vote for him in 2024. His handling of the war between Israel and Palestine leaves a lot to be desired. His speeches border on incoherence, especially his recent speech after meeting with China’s president, Xi Jinping.

Is it a given that I will vote for Biden in 2024? No. I am hoping other credible candidates will challenge Biden for the Democratic nomination.

In 2016 and 2020, over 80 percent of voting white Evangelicals voted for fascist Donald Trump. Eight years of evidence that he is unfit to hold office has changed nothing. Most white Evangelicals plan to vote for Trump again in 2024. This should tell you everything you need to know about Evangelical Christianity.

Evangelicalism is now a hotbed of white nationalism and fascism. I say now, but truth be told, these “isms” have always been a part of Evangelical Christianity. The difference today is that the “cute” baby is now a full-grown monster.

Just remember, if you are a progressive, liberal, socialist, communist, atheist, agnostic, or liberal Christian, your Evangelical neighbors and friends support politicians who want to either throw you in jail or remove your U.S. citizenship. Some of them even want to put you in mental hospitals or kill you.

Polly and I, in our Luddite, environmentalist, back-to-nature days, thought about moving with our family to a Bruderhof — an Anabaptist movement where communities hold everything in common. We loved the “world” too much to do so, but there are days when I wish we had done so.

Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow was injured on Sunday and is done for the year. And all the Gerencsers wept, wondering why God hates them. 🙂

I have concluded that Evangelical leaders are incapable of being honest about why people are deconstructing (or deconverting) and leaving Evangelicalism.

I am preparing for six weeks of being asked if I am Santa Claus. Of course, I am, but then I say, “would Santa really live in Ohio?”

Bonus: Recently, I was diagnosed with exocrine pancreatic insufficiency (EPI) — a rare disease that affects food digestion. My pancreas does not produce the necessary enzymes to digest food and absorb minerals and vitamins. This has led to malabsorption and malnutrition. This is different from gastroparesis, another rare disease I have that affects how food is processed in my stomach and travels through my digestive tract. It is commonly called stomach paralysis. Neither of these diseases is curable. Left untreated, they will be the death of me (that is, if Polly doesn’t hit me with a Lodge cast iron skillet first). I am currently on Creon for EPI — a $ 3,000-a-month enzyme replacement therapy. I will have to take this drug for the rest of my life. I am hoping to have a surgical procedure (as soon as I can find a surgeon to do it) that will lessen my nausea, vomiting, and stomach pain. It is a specialized procedure, so few surgeons can do it.

How do I feel about this? After my gastroenterologist gave me the diagnosis of EPI, I turned to Polly and said, “It sucks to be me.” Over the weekend, I had dinner with several friends of mine. I told them about my latest diagnosis, and then I said, “Just another fucking thing to deal with.” That’s all I know to do — deal with it.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

Connect with me on social media:

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

Quote of the Day: Border Wall Joe Outspends Every Other Administration on Security and Immigration Enforcement

border wall

By Todd Miller, Tom Dispatch, The “Open Border” Farce

If you count all the contracts for private industry from U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) since Joe Biden took office — for, that is, 2021, 2022, and 2023 — the number comes to $23.5 billion. And though you’d never guess it, given what we normally hear, that already beats Donald Trump’s total for his full four years in office, $20.9 billion. Or, to put the matter in a more historical perspective, private contracts for the Biden years already top the cumulative $22.5 billion spent in border and immigration enforcement budgets from 1975 to 1997. That’s 22 years if you weren’t counting.

In other words, it’s essentially guaranteed that the Biden administration will break all records for paying border contractors. And, in truth, if it weren’t for the “open borders” political mania of the moment, this wouldn’t be a surprise at all. Remember, while running for president in 2020, Biden received three times more campaign contributions than Trump from members of the top companies in the border industry. (The Donald talked a good game, of course, and received his share of the industry pie over the years, but that same border-industrial complex was right if it thought Biden would all too literally pay off for them.)

And keep in mind as well that Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas represented some of the top border companies like Leidos and Northrop Grumman at a private law firm (where he earned $3.31 million) before joining the Biden administration. While the president has certainly traded in the hostile rhetoric associated with the bombastic Trump for a far more sterile and bureaucratic language, while adding in a healthy dose of the “humane,” budgets and private-sector contracts tell an all-too-familiar story in which the border-enforcement apparatus only continues to grow ever larger, regardless of who’s president.

As 2023 nears its end, there have simply never been as many opportunities to make a killing (figuratively as well as literally) by surveilling, arresting, caging, and expelling people from this country. In 2023, there were 8,033 such opportunities — and I’m speaking here about contracts in play — or about 22 contracts a day.

Among this year’s top border companies is Classic Air Charter, a former CIA contractor that is now getting $793 million to provide flights expelling people from the United States. Since Biden took office, deportation flights for Immigration and Customs Enforcement Air Operations have increased, as have the number of people detained, while private prison companies like CoreCivic and Geo Group continue to receive plenty of contracts to lock up migrants.

Among border contract stand-outs, Fisher Sand and Gravel was recently awarded $259.3 million for “border infrastructure,” presumably the same sort of border wall construction it did in the Trump years (for which it received $2 billion in contracts). That company also got one from the scandal-ridden, Steve-Bannon-led “We Build the Wall,” a private outfit that solicited donations to construct portions of Trump’s wall. And, mind you, that September contract for border infrastructure came just before the Biden administration announced that it would waive 26 laws protecting people and the planet, including the Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act, to put up a new section of border wall in Starr County, Texas.

In other words, just a glance at 2023 border contracts suggests that more walls, detention centers, and expulsion flights are coming. And don’t forget military monoliths like Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman that also command hefty contracts to maintain CBP’s fixed-wing aircraft; or San Diego-based General Atomics that continues to make money off the Predator B unmanned drones it began selling to CBP in the early 2000s. No wonder some people think our borderlands are under military occupation.

In short (or long), that list of contracts speaks to anything but a “radical open-border policy.” Funds are being handed out for “unaccompanied alien children and family units transportation,” data centers, medical staffing services, infrastructure construction (lots of it), “soft-sided facilities” (meaning tent detention camps), surveillance system upgrades, software support, “travelers processing vetting software,” a “low energy non-intrusive inspection system” (whatever that may mean), detention centers, radios, data and analytical support services, guard and transport services — the list only goes on and on and on. Reading through it, one gets the impression that the border and immigration enforcement regime is its own civilization, with its own infrastructure and ever more expensive rhyme and reason.

And that fortification process is only poised to become yet more intensive. In October, buried in an emergency supplemental funding request addressing “key national security priorities” (included military assistance to Ukraine and Israel), the Biden administration included a whopping $14 billion in supplemental funding for that border and immigration apparatus. Added to a 2024 budget, which, at $28.2 billion, represented a slight decrease from 2023, if passed by Congress, that addition will further “bolster our nation’s border enforcement,” paving the way for an even more profitable 2024 for those border companies and more suffering and death.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

Connect with me on social media:

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

The Rules of War

cartoon by phil hands
Cartoon by Phil Hands

U.S. President Joe Biden informed the American people that he personally contacted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu today, reminding him that Israel must play by the “rules of war” when they attack, level, and destroy Gaza.

The “rules of war?” Really? There are no rules of war. Oh, there are conventions, treaties, and agreements, but nation-states rarely abide by them. When it comes to war, there are no rules. States agree to abide by rules until they don’t.

In the present conflict between Hamas and Israel, both parties have already ignored the “rules of war” and committed horrific war crimes. It is certain that both Hamas and Israel will continue to commit war crimes in the days and months ahead. As of today, Israel turned off the electricity and water in Gaza. Palestinians in the Gaza Strip are under siege. Told to flee the rage bombing of Israel, Palestinians literally have no place to go.

Let’s stop with the talk about the “rules of war” and “war crimes.” Such rules may exist on paper, filed somewhere in the bowels of government, but practically speaking, these rules are ignored with nary a thought. War crimes? Let me be clear, “war” itself is a crime against humanity. The governments of the world have spent most of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries slaughtering one another. And to what end? Hostilities cease for a time, something will provoke a military response, and war returns with a vengeance, with no thought given to the rules of war or whether their actions are crimes.

To President Biden, I ask, “Israel has already committed war crimes and will continue to do so as God’s chosen people turn Gaza into a rubble-strewn parking lot. Will you commit to holding them accountable for their crimes against innocent men, women, and children?” No need to respond, I already know the answer. It’s no; it is always no. The United States has a long history of committing war crimes — both intentional and accidental. We have no moral high ground on this issue — or any other, for that matter. If President Biden wants to do something that will save lives in Palestine, how about ending U.S. military funding to Israel? Instead, the President plans to give Israel billions of dollars more in military aid. The United States is funding multiple wars across multiple fronts. According to Reuters, the U.S. is the largest arms exporter in the world — $206 billion in 2022. In 2021, that number was $138 billion. War is certainly good for business, with no thought about the war crimes men and women will commit with these weapons of mass destruction.

Rules of war? There are no rules of war, only carnage and death. There are no winners, only losers.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

Connect with me on social media:

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

Joe Biden’s Military Budget Prioritizes Bombs and Planes over Schools and the Poor

biden 2023 budget

By Jake Johnson, a staff writer for Common Dreams. Used by Permission

Progressive lawmakers on Thursday voiced dismay that President Joe Biden is requesting a nearly $30 billion increase in U.S. military spending just months after the Pentagon failed its fifth consecutive audit, admitting it could not properly account for more than half of its trillions of dollars in assets.

Biden’s budget framework for fiscal year 2024 calls for $886 billion in overall military spending—up from the current level of $858 billion—with $842 billion going to the Pentagon. More than half of the $1.7 trillion of discretionary spending in Biden’s proposal is reserved for the military, which would get $170 billion for weapons procurement and $38 billion for nuke modernization.

Defense Newsreported that the president’s budget would boost spending on “new drones, combat jets, hypersonic missiles, and submarines.”

Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said in a statement late Thursday that the president’s Pentagon blueprint requests “$26 billion more than Congress allocated in the previous budget—which itself was $63 billion more than the $773 billion the President requested for FY2023.”

“This is a never-ending cycle of increased funds without accountability,” said Jayapal. “There is simply no reason for taxpayers to continue to pay for outrageously high budgets rife with waste, fraud, and abuse. A recent CBO study confirmed that the Pentagon could cut $100 billion per year without compromising on national defense. This is long overdue. Progressives in Congress have been at the frontline of this fight for decades, and we will continue to push for sensible, targeted defense policy that prioritizes our national security over profit-hungry military contractors.”

Given that roughly half of the Pentagon’s annual budget has historically gone to military contractors such as Lockheed Martin and Raytheon, the National Priorities Project (NPP) noted Thursday that around 25% of Biden’s total discretionary budget would likely wind up in the coffers of private companies.

“This military budget represents a shameful status quo that the country can no longer afford,” said Lindsay Koshgarian, NPP’s program director. “Families are struggling to afford basics like housing, food, and medicine, and our last pandemic-era protections are ending, all while Pentagon contractors pay their CEOs millions straight from the public treasury.”

Led by Reps. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) and Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), progressive lawmakers have been working for years to enact modest cuts to the Pentagon budget and redirect the savings toward healthcare, education, and other social investments.

But those efforts have repeatedly fallen short in the face of bipartisan opposition.

In 2022, Lee’s proposal to cut $100 billion off the military budget’s top line was defeated by an overwhelming vote of 78-350, with 141 House Democrats joining nearly every Republican in voting no. (NPP points out that $100 billion would be enough to send every U.S. household a $700 check or hire a million elementary school teachers.)

In a statement Thursday, Lee said she is “disappointed” that the president’s new budget “continues the regressive trend of increasing our bloated, wasteful defense budget year after year with little oversight.” Last month, Lee and Pocan reintroduced legislation that would reduce the U.S. military budget by $100 billion.

Top Republicans, meanwhile, signaled Thursday that they will try to pile more money on top of Biden’s historically large military budget request as they simultaneously pursue cuts to Medicaid and food benefits.

Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.), chair of the House Armed Services Committee, lamented that Biden’s budget “proposes to increase non-defense spending at more than twice the rate of defense.”

“The president’s incredibly misplaced priorities send all the wrong messages to our adversaries,” said Rogers. “On the House Armed Services Committee, we are focused on building an NDAA that provides our warfighters with the capability and lethality to deter and, if necessary, defeat the grave threats facing our nation.”

Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) sent a similar message, calling Biden’s military budget request “woefully inadequate” and a “serious indication of President Biden’s failure to prioritize national security.”

But analysts argue that ballooning military spending does little to bolster U.S. national security. As William Hartung of the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft wrote Thursday, “We can make America and its allies safer for far less money if we adopt a more realistic, restrained strategy and drive a harder bargain with weapons contractors that too often engage in price gouging and cost overruns while delivering dysfunctional systems that aren’t appropriate for addressing the biggest threats to our security.”

“The Congressional Budget Office has crafted three illustrative options that could ensure our security while spending $1 trillion less over the next decade,” Hartung noted. “A strategy that incorporates aspects of these plans and streamlines the Pentagon budget in other areas could be sustained at roughly $150 billion per year less than current levels.”

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

Connect with me on social media:

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

Is Joe Biden the Pro-Labor President?

rail workers

By Jake Johnson, Common Dreams

Rank-and-file rail workers voiced frustration and anger late Monday after Joe Biden—a self-described “pro-labor president”—urged Congress to pass legislation forcing unions to accept a contract agreement without any paid sick days, a step that would avert a looming nationwide strike and deliver a win for the profitable railroad industry.

“By forcing workers into an agreement which doesn’t address basic needs like healthcare and sick time, President Joe Biden is choosing railroads over workers and the economy,” said Ross Grooters, an engineer and co-chair of Railroad Workers United, an inter-union alliance that supports public ownership of the national rail system.

Another worker was more blunt in a text message to labor reporter Jonah Furman: “Words cannot express how fucking livid I am at this administration… people in power, LIKE HIM, would rather screw workers than stand up to fucking robber barons.”

While Congress could put forth legislation that would improve the tentative White House-brokered contract deal announced in September, Biden made clear he wants lawmakers “to pass legislation immediately to adopt the tentative agreement between railroad workers and operators—without any modifications or delay—to avert a potentially crippling national rail shutdown.”

That agreement, which has been rejected by more than half of the country’s unionized rail workforce, does not include a single day of paid sick leave and would only allow three penalty-free days off per year for medical visits. But even that time off is heavily constrained: It’s unpaid; can only be taken on a Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday; and must be scheduled at least 30 days in advance.

“These agreements were rejected because the quality of life rail workers and their families have today is abysmal,” Ash Anderson, a member of the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes Division (BMWED)—one of the unions that voted against ratifying the tentative deal—wrote on Facebook. “There were no provisions to improve the quality of life for rail workers, who continue to be exploited by companies that are earning record-breaking profits while their service suffers and they cut their workforce to the bone.”

Anderson continued:

I just want Americans to see the stories of these men and women, the stories of their families. I want Americans to recognize that these workers are being driven out of their chosen profession by the continued harsh conditions, callous discipline, long hours far from home, and basic lack of respect and dignity in the work that President Biden just stated was too important to allow to stop, regardless the cost.

The railroads’ record profit margins are safe, their exorbitant stock buybacks and shareholder returns are secured. Americans will have all the conveniences available this busy shopping season. Rail workers will work sick to make sure it’s all done, because that’s what they have to do.

Shortly following Biden’s statement, outgoing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) announced her chamber will move this week to take up legislation requiring rail workers to accept the tentative deal and denying them their right to strike. Without a contract deal or congressional action, a strike could begin early next month.

Echoing Biden, Pelosi insisted that lawmakers are “reluctant to bypass the standard ratification process” and declared that “we must recognize that railroads have been selling out to Wall Street to boost their bottom lines, making obscene profits while demanding more and more from railroad workers.”

“But,” the Democratic leader added, “we must act to prevent a catastrophic nationwide rail strike, which would grind our economy to a halt.”

The White House’s intervention answers the call of rail giants and corporate lobbying groups—including the powerful U.S. Chamber of Commerce—that have been pushing for and banking on congressional action as contract talks remain at a standstill, with rail companies refusing to drop their opposition to workers’ basic sick leave demands.

Rail unions had originally pushed for 15 days of paid sick leave, a policy that rail companies estimated would cost around $688 million a year—less than what billionaire Warren Buffett, the CEO of BNSF Railway’s parent company, added to his net worth in a single day last week.

The unions have since moved down to asking for four paid sick days, but rail companies remain opposed even as they rake in huge profits and enrich their executives and shareholders. The Lever reported in September that “the CEOs of five of the largest railroad conglomerates have been paid more than $200 million in the last three years, and company shareholders have been boosted by nearly $200 billion in stock buybacks and dividends over the last dozen years.”

Matthew Weaver, a carpenter with BMWED, told The New York Times that Biden’s decision to step in and force workers to accept a contract agreement opposed by a majority of rail union members “seems to cater to the oligarchs.”

“All of rail labor is going to suffer because of this,” said Weaver.

Grooters of Railroad Workers United argued that Congress “should ignore White House shortsightedness and introduce the labor-friendly version of a railroad bill”—but it’s not yet clear whether progressive lawmakers in the House or Senate will attempt to force amendments to the tentative agreement.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), an outspoken supporter of rail workers, told reporters Monday that any legislation preventing a strike must guarantee workers sick leave.

Citing unnamed sources, CNN reported late Monday that “following House passage, Senate action could occur later this week or next.”

“The Senate is expected to have the votes to break a filibuster on the bill to avert a potential railway strike, according to those sources,” the outlet noted. “There are likely to be at least 10 Republicans who will vote with most Senate Democrats to overcome a 60-vote threshold. The only question is how quickly the bill can come to the floor since any senator can object, dragging out the process and delaying a quick vote.”

“Sources are watching Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders closely to see if he upends an effort to get a quick vote,” CNN added. “A Sanders spokesman declined to comment.”

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

Connect with me on social media:

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

Rural Northwest Ohio: Living in TrumpLand

Scores of Trump signs and flags permeate the landscape of rural northwest Ohio — almost six months after Donald Trump’s loss to Joe Biden. Nearly seven out of ten local voters voted for Trump in the 2016 and 2020 elections. President Biden is hated despite handing out thousands of stimulus dollars to local families and millions of welfare dollars to farmers. In the minds of most locals, socialists, commies, atheists, “illegals,” AOC, the Squad, Barack Obama, Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, Nancy Pelosi, and Chuck Schumer are pawns of Satan, evil people who must be repelled at all costs.

Ten or so miles north of where we live, a Trump worshiper planted the following signs on Highway 15:

trump supporter rural northwest ohio (1)
trump supporter rural northwest ohio (2)
trump supporter rural northwest ohio (4)
trump supporter rural northwest ohio (3)

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

Connect with me on social media:

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

Bruce Gerencser