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Quote of the Day: America’s Invisible Wars: Why Are We Blind to What is Right in Front of Us?

george w bush

The following is excerpted and adapted from David Barsamian’s recent interview with Norman Solomon at AlternativeRadio.org.

David Barsamian: American Justice Robert Jackson was the chief prosecutor at the Nuremberg trials. He made an opening statement to the Tribunal on November 21, 1945, because there was some concern at the time that it would be an example of victor’s justice. He said this: “If certain acts of violation of treaties are crimes, they are crimes whether the United States does them or whether Germany does them, and we are not prepared to lay down the rule of criminal conduct against others which we would not be willing to have invoked against us.”

Norman Solomon: It goes to the point that, unless we have a single standard of human rights, a single standard of international conduct and war, we end up with an Orwellian exercise at which government leaders are always quite adept but one that’s still intellectually, morally, and spiritually corrupt. Here we are, so long after the Nuremberg trials, and the supreme crime of aggression, the launching of a war, is not only widespread but has been sanitized, even glorified. We’ve had this experience in one decade after another in which the United States has attacked a country in violation of international law, committing (according to the Nuremberg Tribunal) “the supreme international crime,” and yet not only has there been a lack of remorse, but such acts have continued to be glorified.

The very first quote in my book War Made Invisible is from Aldous Huxley who, 10 years before the Nuremberg trials, said, “The propagandist’s purpose is to make one set of people forget that certain other sets of people are human.” Here we are in 2023 and it’s still a challenge to analyze, illuminate, and push back against that essential purpose of propagandists around the world and especially in our own country where, in an ostensible democracy, we should have the most capacity to change policy.

Right now, we’re in a situation where, unfortunately, across a lot of the political spectrum, including some of the left, folks think that you have to choose between aligning yourself with U.S. foreign policy and its acts of aggression or Russian foreign policy and its acts of aggression. Personally, I think it’s both appropriate and necessary to condemn war on Ukraine, and Washington’s hypocrisy doesn’t in any way let Russia off the hook. By the same token, Russia’s aggression shouldn’t let the United States off the hook for the tremendous carnage we’ve created in this century. I mean, if you add up the numbers, in the last nearly twenty-five years, the country by far the most responsible for slaughtering more people in more lands through wars of aggression is… yes, the United States of America.

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Barsamian: At the White House Correspondents’ dinner President Biden said, “Journalism is not a crime. The free press is a pillar, maybe the pillar of a free society.” Great words from the White House.

Solomon: President Biden, like his predecessors in the Oval Office, loves to speak about the glories of the free press and say that journalism is a wonderful aspect of our society — until the journalists do something he and the government he runs really don’t like. A prime example is Julian Assange. He’s a journalist, a publisher, an editor, and he’s sitting in prison in Great Britain being hot-wired for transportation to the United States. I sat through the two-week trial in the federal district of northern Virginia of CIA whistleblower Jeffrey Sterling and I can tell you it was a kangaroo court. That’s the court Julian Assange has a ticket to if his extradition continues.

And what’s his so-called crime? It’s journalism. WikiLeaks committed journalism. It exposed the war crimes of the United States in Iraq through documents it released, through the now-notorious video that came to be called “Collateral Murder,” showing the wanton killing of a number of people on the ground in Iraq by a U.S. military helicopter. It provided a compendium of evidence that the United States had systemically engaged in war crimes under the rubric of the so-called War on Terror. So, naturally, the stance of the U.S. government remains: this man Assange is dangerous; he must be imprisoned.

The attitude of the corporate media, Congress, and the White House has traditionally been and continues to be that the U.S. stance in the world can be: do as we say, not as we do. So, the USA is good at pointing fingers at Russia or countries that invade some other nation, but when the U.S. does it, it’s another thing entirely. Such dynamics, while pernicious, especially among a nuclear-armed set of nations, are reflexes people in power have had for a long time.

More than a century ago, William Dean Howells wrote a short story called “Editha.” Keep in mind that this was after the United States had been slaughtering hundreds of thousands of people in the Philippines. In it, a character says, “What a thing it is to have a country that can’t be wrong, but if it is, is right, anyway!”

Now, here we are in 2023 and it’s not that different, except when it comes to the scale of communications, of a media that’s so much more pervasive. If you read the op-ed pages and editorial sections of the New York Times, Washington Post, and other outlets of the liberal media, you’ll find such doublethink well in place. Vladimir Putin, of course, is a war criminal. Well, I happen to think he is a war criminal. I also happen to think that George W. Bush is a war criminal, and we could go on to all too many other examples of high U.S. government officials where that description applies no less than to Vladimir Putin.

Can you find a single major newspaper that’s been willing to editorialize that George W. Bush — having ordered the invasion of Iraq, costing hundreds of thousands of lives based on a set of lies — was a war criminal? It just ain’t gonna happen. In fact, one of the things I was particularly pleased (in a grim sort of way) to explore in my book was the rehabilitation of that war criminal, providing a paradigm for the presidents who followed him and letting them off the hook, too.

I quote, for instance, President Obama speaking to troops in Afghanistan. You could take one sentence after another from his speeches there and find almost identical ones that President Lyndon Johnson used in speaking to American troops in Vietnam in 1966. They both talked about how U.S. soldiers were so compassionate, cared so much about human life, and were trying to help the suffering people of Vietnam or Afghanistan. That pernicious theme seems to accompany almost any U.S. war: that, with the best of intentions, the U.S. is seeking to help those in other countries. It’s a way of making the victims at the other end of U.S. firepower — to use a word from my book title — invisible.

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Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 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:

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

The Banality of Evil in America

guest post

Guest Post by Larry

There are truly evil individuals in this world, people whose crimes cannot be explained as anything but the workings of an evil person. The mass shooter, the greedy financial criminal, and the sex abuser are just a few of the innumerable examples. However, these people and their acts tend to be visible and infrequent. Far less visible, but far more common, are the “ordinary” people who commit evil acts every day. Today we have a phrase for this: the “banality of evil.”

The phrase “banality of evil” was coined by philosopher Hanna Arendt. She was referring to the absolute indifference shown by Adolph Eichmann to the horror in which he was complicit when he organized the transport of tens of thousands of human beings to their deaths in the concentration camps. His only concern was being a good civil servant, getting ahead in the Nazi party, and pleasing his boss. Eichmann committed these acts of evil without the slightest thought or concern that he was doing something terrible. To him, it was just a civil service job and he was just following orders. To all outside appearances, he was an ordinary person, not a sadist or deranged monster and he did these horrible things with no apparent evil intention. The utter ordinariness of the man was astounding. This is the most frightening aspect of all. He seemed just like everyone else. And yet, he and thousands of other ordinary people committed these horrible acts without a second thought. Viewed in this context, the Banality of Evil may simply mean that evil occurs when ordinary individuals are put into corrupt situations that encourage their conformity. Is this all it is? Probably not.

We then say “wait a minute. This happens everywhere, all the time.” We see the same banality of evil in America, not just in individuals but in the institutions that are supposed to take care of us. America is becoming an uncaring and brutal bureaucracy that is more intent on keeping the wheels of the “machine” running than the welfare of the people that are caught and crushed in its gears. For the sake of expediency and maintaining the status quo people are sacrificed. We see it everywhere we look.
The current immigration policy at the southern border is broken and has become a symbol of the horrors of a mindless and evil bureaucracy. This is a bureaucracy more concerned with upholding a policy intended to “deter” immigration than minimizing the pain and suffering that it inflicts on its victims. This is evil of the worst kind, the evil of utter uncaring and stunning indifference. This evil allows children to die in custody awaiting medical attention. This system allows children as young as one year old to be separated from their families and put in cages where they have to sleep on foam mats with only aluminum emergency blankets. This system allows hundreds of children to be “lost” in the system, unable to be located or reunited with their parents. And finally, yes, this is the immigration system that, today, allowed children to be held in vans for up to 36 hours waiting to be reunited with their parents. This is the system that allowed 900 people to be crammed into a space intended to hold 125 people in an El Paso detention center. This is clearly a concentration camp mentality in present-day America.

There are three justice systems in this country. One if you are White, one if you are Black, one if you are rich and powerful. Examples of the third are everywhere: Jeffery Epstein, Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby, Bill Clinton, and, of course, Donald Trump. All these men got more than just the benefit of the doubt from our legal system. With armies of lawyers, they got special deals and preferential treatment at every turn. These lawyers are adept at gaming the system so that nothing gets done and their client walks. The regular guy gets jailed. About 1,000 people are killed by police in America every year. A disproportionately large portion of them are Black. Rarely, if ever, are police held to account for these deaths. The George Floyd killers are the rare exceptions. Most of the time, they go uninvestigated by any independent third party. The word of the cop is taken as the gospel truth, and the ultimate get-out-of-jail-free card, qualified immunity, is used to get away with murder. Injustice is everywhere.

Religion is supposed to save our souls and enrich our lives by teaching us a better way of living. Religion has given us many good things. It has given us a moral code from which our laws are derived. It is also the source of a huge amount of pain and suffering. Our Puritan history has left us with a legacy of guilt and shame that is perpetuated to this day in so many ways. Organized religion is at the center of all of it. Catholic, Protestant, and to an extent, some Jewish sects, all fill our lives with rules and demands that are impossible to meet. When they are not met, we are labeled as shameful, lazy, lewd, evil, sinful, and we are punished. All the while the real evil of the people running the “house” goes unchecked. They sweep their excesses under the rug and play the “I am more virtuous than you” game. When caught, they sing the “forgive me, I am a sinner” song. So we do as they have taught us and forgive. And they go back to doing it again because they know that the system they run will protect them. They force religion down our throats and behind closed doors they commit the worst evils while quoting Scripture. It continues to boggle my mind how these people can see “demonic/satanic” evil under every bed, around every corner, but at the same time be totally blind to their own everyday evil. They are willfully blind to the evil of their actions, decisions, and beliefs and will justify horrendous things in the name of God, religion, and protecting the church. Thus, the church becomes the center of much human evil.

These examples are, sadly, only three among many. The conservative Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, which will fill our country with unwanted children that they will be the last to support and protect. They block any and all gun legislation, and in effect value guns before the lives of children. They endanger the future of the planet itself and all of us by denying climate change, all for the benefit of the fossil fuel industry that funds their elections. They are more interested in keeping their jobs than saving the planet.

No man chooses evil because it is evil; he only mistakes it for happiness, the good that he seeks. – Mary Shelley

The most terrifying aspect of this is the fact that, once again, all of this is being implemented by ordinary people, not monsters. Evil need not exist only in evil individuals. No one wakes up in the morning and says “it’s a great day. I think that I’ll be extra evil today.” They are intelligent, educated, rational people with families and children of their own. You have to ask, “How does this happen? How can they do this?” They do this because they are part of a draconian system that, little by little, robs them of empathy, humanity, and capacity to feel. It robs them of the capacity to see their own evil. For the sake of conformity, the paycheck, and advancement, they repress and compartmentalize their basic goodness (whatever basic goodness they have left), normalize the atrocities, and become mindless bureaucrats. All compassion and sympathy are erased. They implement the worst horrors without apparent remorse or a second thought. Like Eichmann, they are civil servants just following orders. They are just doing their jobs. They are ordinary people committing atrocities in an evil broken system, doing horrible things in our name, not because it is patriotic or right, but because it is expedient and they are just following orders. Their worst crime is they are unthinking drones unable or unwilling to see their complicity in this evil, unthinking in that they are incapable of seeing past the superficial, seeing the true nature of their acts. Bestselling author, M. Scott Peck (The Road Less Traveled), wrote a book on personal evil titled “People of the Lie” where he shows that one of the hallmark characteristics of these people is their inability to see their own evil. They have completely rationalized any awareness out of consciousness. They have become blind, deaf, and dumb to the consequences of their own actions. They have, in short, become blinded by their beliefs, by their ideology. This is the lie they tell themselves.

Very few monsters exist – “More dangerous are the common man, the functionaries ready to believe and to act without asking questions,” – Primo Levi

One must remember above all that evil can and does exist in normal individuals when they buy into and are captive to evil ideologies. Christian nationalism is one such ideology. Militant Islam is another. Racism, bigotry, xenophobia, and homophobia are all evil beliefs bought into by ordinary people. As a cautionary note, we have to remember that the Holocaust was implemented by tens of thousands of ordinary Germans just “doing their job,” following the Fuhrer and being good Nazis. They believed they were right. They believed they were serving the greater good. False as it was, this was their ideology and they firmly believed it. This was their lie.

Americans are arrogant to think that we are somehow fundamentally different from or better than the Germans of the Nazi era. We are not. We are ordinary people just like they were. We are captives of our own “evil’ ideologies just as they were. Trickledown economics, Deep State conspiracies. Blacks are inferior. Jews control the world’s finances. America was founded as a Christian nation. Socialism is taking over America. All lies. All bought into by ordinary Americans.

The mob that stormed the Capital on January 6th was largely ordinary people who bought into the lie that the election was stolen and they were defending freedom in America. This was their belief, their ideology. It was a lie for sure, but a lie so deeply rooted that the truth was rendered irrelevant.

The consequences of this are catastrophic. We are a country of ordinary people spiraling down to some dark evil place, blinded by the lies we are told, and the ideologies being fed to us by our trusted messengers. The harm that we are inflicting on ourselves will last for generations. We are all ensnared by these lies, and at this moment, there is no way out of the trap. These lies are turning all of us into unthinking drones, trapped in partisan tribes, unwilling and unable to see the larger picture, unable to see our own evil. If anyone thinks that we are incapable of committing atrocities, they are wrong.

This is the “banality of evil” in America just as Hanna Arendt intended the phrase. This is what America really is.

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Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 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:

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

Quote of the Day: The American War Machine and the Complicity of the Democratic Party

chris hedges

By Chris Hedges, excerpted from a Salon article titled How the Democrats Became the Party of Endless War

The Democrats position themselves as the party of virtue, cloaking their support for the war industry in moral language stretching back to Korea and Vietnam, when President Ngo Dinh Diem was as lionized as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is now. All the wars they support and fund are “good” wars. All the enemies they fight, the latest being Russia’s Vladimir Putin and China’s Xi Jinping, are incarnations of evil. The photo of a beaming Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Vice President Kamala Harris holding up a signed Ukrainian battle flag behind Zelenskyy as he addressed Congress was another example of the Democratic Party’s abject subservience to the war machine.

The Democrats, especially with the presidency of Bill Clinton, became shills not only for corporate America but for the weapons manufacturers and the Pentagon. No weapons system is too costly. No war, no matter how disastrous, goes unfunded. No military budget is too big, including the $858 billion in military spending allocated for the current fiscal year, an increase of $45 billion above what the Biden administration requested.

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There once was a wing of the Democratic Party that questioned and stood up to the war industry: Senators like J. William Fulbright, George McGovern, Gene McCarthy, Mike Gravel and William Proxmire and House members like Dennis Kucinich. But that opposition evaporated along with the antiwar movement. When 30 members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus recently issued a call for Biden to negotiate with Putin, they were forced by the party leadership and a warmongering media to back down and rescind their letter. Not that any of them, with the exception of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, have voted against the billions of dollars in weaponry sent to Ukraine or the bloated military budget. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan voted present.

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This lust for war is dangerous, pushing us into a potential war with Russia and, perhaps later, with China — each a nuclear power. It is also economically ruinous. The monopolization of capital by the military has driven U.S. debt to over $30 trillion, $6 trillion more than the U.S. GDP of $24 trillion. Servicing this debt costs $300 billion a year. We spend more on the military than the next nine countries combined, including China and Russia. Congress is also on track to provide an extra $21.7 billion to the Pentagon — above the already expanded annual budget — to resupply Ukraine.

“But those contracts are just the leading edge of what is shaping up to be a big new defense buildup,” The New York Times reports. “Military spending next year is on track to reach its highest level in inflation-adjusted terms since the peaks in the costs of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars between 2008 and 2011, and the second highest in inflation-adjusted terms since World War II — a level that is more than the budgets for the next 10 largest cabinet agencies combined.”

The Democratic Party, which under the Clinton administration aggressively courted corporate donors, has surrendered its willingness to challenge, however tepidly, the war industry. 

“As soon as the Democratic Party made a determination, it could have been 35 or 40 years ago, that they were going to take corporate contributions, that wiped out any distinction between the two parties,” Dennis Kucinich said when I interviewed him on my show for The Real News Network. “Because in Washington, he or she who pays the piper plays the tune. That’s what’s happened. There isn’t that much of a difference in terms of the two parties when it comes to war.”

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In his 1970 book “The Pentagon Propaganda Machine,” Fulbright describes how the Pentagon and the arms industry pour millions into shaping public opinion through public relations campaigns, Defense Department films, control over Hollywood and domination of the commercial media. Military analysts on cable news are universally former military and intelligence officials who sit on boards or work as consultants to defense industries, a fact they rarely disclose to the public. Barry R. McCaffrey, a retired four-star army general and military analyst for NBC News, was also an employee of Defense Solutions, a military sales and project management firm. He, like most of these shills for war, personally profited from the sales of the weapons systems and expansion of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

On the eve of every congressional vote on the Pentagon budget, lobbyists from businesses tied to the war industry meet with Congress members and their staff to push them to vote for the budget to protect jobs in their district or state. This pressure, coupled with the mantra amplified by the media that opposition to profligate war funding is unpatriotic, keeps elected officials in bondage. These politicians also depend on the lavish donations from the weapons manufacturers to fund their campaigns.

Tech giants, including Amazon, which supplies surveillance and facial recognition software to the police and FBI, have been absorbed into the permanent war economy. Amazon, Google, Microsoft and Oracle were awarded multibillion-dollar cloud computing contracts for the Joint Warfighting Cloud Capability and are eligible to receive $9 billion in Pentagon contracts to provide the military with “globally available cloud services across all security domains and classification levels, from the strategic level to the tactical edge,” through mid-2028.

Foreign aid is given to countries such as Israel, with more than $150 billion in bilateral assistance since its founding in 1948, or Egypt, which has received over $80 billion since 1978 — aid that requires foreign governments to buy weapons systems from the U.S. The U.S. public funds the research, development and building of weapons systems and purchases them for foreign governments. Such a circular system mocks the idea of a free-market economy. These weapons soon become obsolete and are replaced by updated and usually more costly weapons systems. It is, in economic terms, a dead end. It sustains nothing but the permanent war economy.

“The truth of the matter is that we’re in a heavily militarized society driven by greed, lust for profit, and wars are being created just to keep fueling that,” Kucinich told me.

In 2014, the U.S. backed a coup in Ukraine that installed a government that included neo-Nazis and was antagonistic to Russia. The coup triggered a civil war when the ethnic Russians in eastern Ukraine, the Donbas region, sought to secede, resulting in over 14,000 people dead and nearly 150,000 displaced, before Russia invaded in February. The Russian invasion of Ukraine, according to Jacques Baud, a former NATO security adviser who also worked for Swiss intelligence, was instigated by the escalation of Ukraine’s war on the Donbas. It also followed the Biden administration’s rejection of proposals sent by the Kremlin in late 2021, which might have averted Russia’s invasion the following year. 

This invasion has led to widespread U.S. and EU sanctions on Russia, which have boomeranged onto Europe. Inflation ravages Europe with the sharp curtailment of shipments of Russian oil and gas. Industry, especially in Germany, is crippled. In most of Europe, it is a winter of shortages, spiraling prices and misery.

“This whole thing is blowing up in the face of the West,” Kucinich warned. “We forced Russia to pivot to Asia, as well as Brazil, India, China, South Africa and Saudi Arabia. There’s a whole new world being formed. The catalyst of it is the misjudgment that occurred about Ukraine and the effort to try to control Ukraine in 2014 that most people aren’t aware of.”

By not opposing a Democratic Party whose primary business is war, liberals become the sterile, defeated dreamers in Fyodor Dostoevsky’s “Notes from the Underground.” 

Note: It is evident, at least to me, that the United States is fighting a full-blown proxy war in Ukraine against Russia. It is also evident that most of our political leaders, Democrats and Republicans alike, fully support this proxy war, regardless of the issues Hedges raises in this article.

President Biden and the Democrats just passed and signed into law a $1.7 trillion budget. Almost $1 trillion will go to the military and security agencies. Billions more will go to Ukraine, Israel, and other foreign countries. No expense will be spared when it comes to maintaining and expanding our dying Empire. Too bad there isn’t any money left for the American people; for those who are living paycheck to paycheck; for those facing astronomical medical bills IF they have insurance at all; for our schools; for our roads and bridges — to name a few pressing needs. Our nation is dying from misplaced priorities.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 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:

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

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-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 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:

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

Did You Know I am a Traitor, Communist, Marxist, a Danger to America, and an Awful Writer Too?

adam stockford facebook

Last month, I wrote a post titled MAGA Mayor Adam Stockford Says Hillsdale, Michigan is a “Traditional Values” Community. Stockford is the mayor of Hillsdale, Michigan. Over the weekend, Stockford posted my article on his Facebook page. Of course, his MAGA-loving followers were quick to go for my jugular. One such neck-slitter was a retired soldier named Ronald Cook.

Cook made no attempt to interact with what I wrote, choosing instead to hurl invectives my way. I gave his comment and private messages the gravitas they so richly deserved. Enjoy! 🙂

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Here are several other comments left by Stockford’s devotees.

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All told, 90 people from Hillsdale read my post. Only three of them read more than one page. Not one of them clicked on the ABOUT page or the WHY? page. In fact, some of them couldn’t bear to finish reading my article. Yet, by reading one post about Adam Stockford and Hillsdale College, people such as Cook concluded I am a traitor, communist, Marxist, anti-American anti-Christ. And I am a bitter, piss-poor writer too. Let me give these fine folks a bit of the Bible: Answering before listening is both stupid and rude. (Proverbs 18:13)

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 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.

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Why Evangelical Culture Warriors Don’t Really Believe in Freedom of Religion

the bible rock of gibraltar

Uncritically listen to Evangelical culture warriors and you will wrongly think they are strong supporters of religious freedom. They talk a good line when it comes to the First Amendment: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. They may grudgingly admit that Article VI of the U.S. Constitution: no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States, forbids a religious test for political office. However, they also say that the United States is a Christian Nation; that its laws are based on the Bible. Their theological and political beliefs put them in direct opposition to the Constitution. Their goal is nothing short of anarchy; the overthrow of the established political and social order. Abandoning evangelization and piety as the means of social transformation, these culture warriors have turned to politics to “save” America, and in the twice-impeached Donald Trump, they found the Lord and Savior. In 2016 and 2020, the overwhelming majority of white Evangelical voters voted for Trump. And if he runs in 2024, they will most certainly vote for him again.

On January 6, 2021, a violent mob tried to overthrow the U.S. government. Many of these treasonous “patriots” were Evangelical Christians. Their failed attempt does not mean Evangelicals have stopped trying to bring down the government and establish Jesus as King and Ruler and the Bible as the law of the land. Trump has become a useful idiot. If he is indicted and imprisoned — and he most certainly should be — other MAGA candidates such as Ron DeSantis and Ted Cruz will arise as antichrists, hoping to reclaim America for the glory of God, and destroy what’s left of our democracy. Once they gain a firm grip on federal, state, and local governments, they will use their newfound power to advance their theocratic agenda. Once this happens, freedoms will be lost and people will die.

Reversing Roe v. Wade was never the end game. Next up is banning birth control and in vitro fertilization (IVF), abolishing same-sex marriage, criminalizing homosexuality, and legalizing teacher-led prayer and Bible reading in public schools. One need only to look at what’s going on in Texas with the allowing of donated “In God We Trust” posters to be hung in school classrooms to see what Evangelical culture warriors have in mind. Next it will be posters of the Ten Commandments. And then the Gideons will be let back in the doors to hand out Christian propaganda. From there, creationism will be taught in science classrooms, Biblical morality taught in health classes, and Christian rules of conduct required of all students. Currently, local schools here in rural northwest Ohio have given Lifewise Academy — an Evangelical “ministry” — unfettered access to elementary-aged students so they can indoctrinate them. Someone affiliated with Defiance City Schools said only seven students refused to attend the “voluntary” release-time classes.

Culture warriors are making noise about Critical Race Theory (CRT) being taught in schools — a bald-faced lie. They are calling for LGBTQ-friendly books to be removed from school libraries. Transgender people are also in their sights. No longer content to homeschool their children or send them to private schools, Evangelicals want to reclaim public schools for their God. How do they plan to do this? By electing like-minded candidates to school boards; by becoming missionary teachers and aides; by infecting every aspect of school life with their pernicious beliefs.

If people don’t wake up to their agenda, it will be too late. One need only look at the reversal of Roe v. Wade to see what can happen when Evangelical culture warriors get their way. Or look at what is going on in Florida where Governor Ron DeSantis is requiring teachers to teach alternative American History and civics. What’s next, a real-life portrayal of the Man in the High Castle or The Handmaid’s Tale?

The next time an Evangelical culture warrior tells you that they believe in “religious freedom,” don’t believe them. Their version of “freedom” is much like their idea of “love”; one rooted in the belief that the United States is a Christian nation; that Jesus is the sovereign Lord of all things; that the Bible is the inerrant, infallible Word of God and is the moral, ethical standard for everyone; that the world would be a better place if everyone worshipped their peculiar version of God.

Evangelical culture warriors may smile at you and be the friendliest people in town, but behind their “I Love Jesus” facade lurk dangerous fascist beliefs. Atheists, agnostics, liberal Christians, pagans, and other non-religious people are enemies of God. LGBTQ people are deviants, as are fornicators and adulterers. For the love of reason and freedom, read the Bible! Evangelical culture warriors really believe what it teaches. We should treat them as the threats they really are.

Unlike Evangelicals, I happen to actually believe in religious freedom. I also believe in a strict separation of church and state. People are free to worship whomsoever they want. Personally, I worship reason, skepticism, and Polly. However, when it comes to government, God and the Bible have no place. Certainly, people are free to have religious beliefs and hold political offices, but what they “believe” theologically and morally should play no part in governance. I mean none. I live in a small town of 356 people. The local council and mayor hold strong religious beliefs. I went to church with some of them back in the day. A medical marijuana dispensary enquired about establishing a business in town. The council and mayor quickly said no. Why? While no official statement was issued, I have no doubt their personal religious and moral beliefs played a big part in them saying no thanks. All that should have mattered is whether it was a legal business and how much tax revenue it would provide. Instead, the business was tentatively established down the road in a different community.

My eyes are wide open to what Evangelical culture warriors are doing. Are yours? They are hiding in plain sight, and I fear that many liberals and progressives are not paying attention or think Evangelical culture warriors are just a nuisance that will soon pass. They are not, they will not and our future depends on us identifying our enemy and fighting back.

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Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 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.

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Quote of the Day: Guns Now Have More Rights Than Women in Ohio

Wade Kapszukiewicz

We now live in a state where guns have more rights than women. Ohio doesn’t trust women to make smart decisions about their own bodies, but yet it does trust 18-year-olds to make smart decisions about their AR-15s. This is both hypocritical and unacceptable.

— Wade Kapszukiewicz, mayor of Toledo, Ohio, ABC-13

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Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 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.

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Christians Say the Darnedest Things: Women Shouldn’t be Allowed to Vote

Women come unglued when I try to convince them that giving women the right to vote has been so destructive to this nation. They try to convince me that they are Christian Conservatives, so it’s great for them to vote! Look at the big picture, women! Women overwhelmingly vote Democrat. There would have been few Democrat Presidents if any elected if women didn’t vote! Women vote for abortion and large government. These are both highly damaging to our nation. Men tend to see the big picture far better than women do. They see the damage that big government has done and is doing to this nation. THIS is the big picture!

— Lori Alexander, The Transformed Wife, Look at the Big Picture, Women, March 11, 2022

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Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 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.

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Quote of the Day: How Good Was the Federal February 2022 Employment Report

job numbers

By Frank Stricker, Democratic Socialists of America

The Labor Department’s Employment Situation report for February included pretty good numbers. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that job totals for the month of February were up significantly from the previous month—up 678,000 for non-farm businesses and government organizations The official unemployment rate dropped two-tenths of a percent to 3.8%. These numbers suggest that January’s fairly good job totals were not a freak of seasonal adjustments. Also, it is clear that the unemployment rate did not fall as a result of more people dropping out of the labor force. The labor force grew by 304,000, employment increased substantially and the ranks of the unemployed dropped by 243,000.

By Sector–Some Recoveries, Some Far From It

            The employment situation was a mixed bag. Restaurants and other leisure and hospitality businesses gained 179,000 positions. Open Table reported that reservations had surpassed pre-pandemic levels. Yet there were 824,000 fewer restaurant jobs than in February 2020. It is a plus that pay in leisure and hospitality jobs rose 14% in one pandemic year. But that brings it to just $17.12 an hour, the lowest average wage of any sector.

  The endangered retail sector regained enough jobs to surpass pre-pandemic levels. That is hard to believe. Health care employment is 306,000 jobs below its February 2020 level, and local government jobs, including education workers, are 598,000 jobs below the February 2020 level.

 Negatives also apply to other sections of the jobs report. As the National Jobs for All Network’s (NJFAN) Full Count shows, Black unemployment was, as usual, two times the white unemployment rate. Fuller employment with good jobs would help here but won’t solve the problem. Racism–institutional, structural, and personal–is deeply rooted, so Black unemployment is always much higher than white. And the official Black rate underestimates the problem. Hundreds of thousands of African Americans are in prison or have prison records—a red flag to employers. Many unemployed Black workers can’t find a reason to look for work. Only an all-out package of solutions will bring Black unemployment levels down to white rates.

 The government undercounts unemployed African Americans, and it undercounts total unemployment. Millions of job-wanters aren’t considered unemployed. While the official number of unemployed was 6.3 million, 4.1 million part-timers could not find full-time work, and 5.4 million people wanted a job but had not recently searched for one–at least not in ways the BLS accepts. When these groups are added to the total, NJFAN found that the number of unemployed in February was 15.8 million, not 6.3 million: The real unemployment rate was 9.3%—not the official 3.8%. Perhaps labor demand was not as high as employers claim. Effective demand would include more good jobs.

Nothing New: Too Many Lousy Jobs

 Wage levels are one index of job quality. We have heard a lot about worker shortages and employers lifting pay to attract people. It’s true that the dollar amounts an average employee sees in her pay packet have increased. But so has inflation. For most workers, after-inflation pay has not grown steadily during the pandemic. From January 2020 through January 2021, real hourly pay advanced 4%. From January 2021 through January 2022, real hourly pay fell 1.3%. There was a net gain in real pay, but not by much, especially if we widen our lens for a minute. The history of real pay is a dreadful tale. How much did the purchasing power of hourly pay increase from 1972 through February 2022?  The answer: 4%. That’s the total increase in the purchasing power of an hour of work for an average employee over half a century.

 Even prior to the pandemic, employers normally had an adequate supply of labor. And that is despite the fact that the U.S. has relatively low labor force participation rates (people working or looking for work). The aging of the population plays a role here. But more oldsters would work if compensation and conditions were better. And even if we focus on prime working ages (25-54), we find that the participating share of the population fell from 85% to 81% between 2000 and 2015. (It rose again and is currently at 82.2%.)

Some prime-age people are not participating due to sickness, disability, and child care issues. Many are staying out because there aren’t enough jobs with livable wages, good benefits, and supportive bosses. Conservatives like to think the reason is that government benefits are too rich for the working class (but never rich enough for the super-rich). But benefits can be very low. For example, if you have a long-term illness or disability and you receive a monthly disability benefit of $1200, you won’t be getting more than you’d earn working 30 hours a week in a low-wage state for $10 an hour. Why not raise pay instead of cutting benefits?

We do not precisely know what labor markets will look like if COVID becomes less consequential. We can expect that more people who are rejecting lousy jobs will have to go back to work. Fewer people will quit their jobs, and the number of job vacancies will fall at a rate of millions a month from their historic highs. Without a union surge, without higher minimum wages, without federal good-job programs, and without truly affirmative action, the lousy job situation will continue.  More people will be back at miserable jobs. We hope more will be organizing for collective action at the workplace. Some already are.

I am a member of the Democratic Socialists of America. Want to join your fellow comrades as they work towards a better tomorrow? Join here.

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Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 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.

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Your Questions, Please

i have a question

Greetings, earthlings and residents of other galaxies.

It’s been a while since I asked readers to submit questions for me to answer, so I thought I would, once again, open the call lines and ask readers to submit their questions, along with $66.66 donations to help me reach Evangelicals throughout the universe. Reason — praise be to Reason! — has called me to evangelize Evangelicals, and your donations will help me take the gospel of critical thinking and skepticism to infinity and beyond. Just kidding. While donations are always appreciated, what I really want are questions; your pithy, short, erudite questions. Please try to ask questions that you think I haven’t answered before.

If you have a question you would like me to answer, please ask it in the comment section of this post. I will answer questions in the order they are received; that is unless you are a bigly donor. Readers who shower me with cash, checks, gold bullion (ouch), Bitcoins, and restaurant gift cards just might be moved to the front of the line or be sent a 13×19 glossy photo of me pole dancing at the Big Bear Strip Club — “might” being the operative word. (Long-time readers who know and understand my humor, sarcasm, and snark know whether I am speaking factually. Everyone else? Keep on dreaming of Bruce Almighty swinging on a brass pole wearing only his shorts, suspenders, and wingtips.)

You can also email your questions to me via the contact form.

Please do not answer the questions. In the past, well-intentioned commenters have answered the questions, making my responses moot. Once I answer the questions, feel free to give your own answer.

Let the fun begin.

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Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 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:

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

Bruce Gerencser