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That old time religion isn’t good enough for anybody

by Ed Raymond | .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) | Gadfly | February 22nd, 2017

North Dakota bigotry, a national one-week strike, and plutocratic plundering

First, a rant about the Republican North Dakota Legislature. There’s no doubt there are about 70,000 North Dakotans you consider to be second-class citizens. They are your gay brothers and sisters, your aunts and uncles, your neighbors, your co-workers and your bosses, your sons and daughters, your nurses and rehab therapists, and the people sitting next to you in the pews of your church.

Because they are gay, transgender, intersex, nonbinary, genderqueer, and at least 55 other gender identities, you think they should be treated differently than “straight” people.

About ten percent of the 100 billion who have lived and died on this planet in recorded history were not “straight.” Odds are there are 14 gays sitting and voting next to you, among the 141 politicians in the Legislature.

If you believe that a boy at the age of two who “knows” he was born a girl is sure to go to hell, I don’t have much hope for you. Modern gender science is terribly hard on the Bible and old time religion.

That great old hymn line, “That old time religion is good enough for me,” often sung by congregations in old cowboy movies, has this message: (1) It makes me love everybody, (2) It was good for Hebrew children, (3) It was tried in the fiery furnace, (5) It will do when I’m dying, and (6) It can take us up to heaven. As a legislator, can you love your gay brother or sister and still vote against H.B. 1386 (prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation) that might give them first-class citizenship?

The true believers, the evangelical Bible thumpers, and the old grey men in the Vatican still insist every word in the Bible is either written or inspired by God. That’s why the Protestant churches and Catholic cathedrals in Europe are emptying and why young people in this country are joining the “nones” or “non-affiliated.”

I know of no religion in the United States that buys stones by the ton to kill gays, fornicators, and adulterers in a pit behind the church parking lot. Cherry-picking of Bible verses and hypocrisy reigns in religions.

You have lost the same-sex marriage battle. The 60 gender identities named so far can serve us in the military. Gays are elected by straights to Congress and state legislatures. Straights elect gay bishops.They are heart surgeons and taxi drivers. They are city mayors and garbage haulers. They serve others as ministers, priests, and bishops.

I bet at least a dozen Roman Catholic cardinals wear rainbow underwear. There have been 265 Roman Catholic popes since Peter. How many were gay? The Vatican continues to battle the pressures of social change, such as abortion, contraceptives, same-sex marriage, Catholic divorces and annulments, and women who want to be priests so they can lead from the pulpit.

The moral arc of history and science defeats Bible thumpers and the Vatican at every turn. End of rant.

What happens if women decide to join a national one-week strike with nannies and motel workers?

There’s some talk of a national general strike because of income inequality, immigration policies, and the treatment of women. When 4.5 million women after the inauguration of a president take to the streets to make a point about abortion, unequal pay, and lack of representation in Congress and state legislatures, the country had better listen.

A Moorhead reader reminded me of another successful pitchfork campaign besides the French Revolution. My parents managed to save our farm from the bankers and the sheriff’s gavel during the Great Depression, but many farmers were foreclosed on by bankers because they were unable to pay their mortgages.

Minnesota poet Bill Holm described how neighbors with pitchforks stopped many a farm auction forced by a bank: “The sheriff would ride out to the farm to auction off the farmer’s goods for the bank. All the neighbors would come with pitchforks and gather in the yard. “What am I bid for this cow?” “Three cents.” “Four cents.” If a stranger came in and bid a nickel, a circle of pitchforks gathered around him and the bidding and the sale stopped.” The sheriff and the bankers got the message and left. (The title of the poem is “A Circle of Pitchforks.”)

The creative use of fear

The Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) is currently creating fear on job sites and in homes of the undocumented. As Dan Rather recently wrote in a short paragraph: “Fear can be a great motivator, but also can be a great destroyer. Leadership decisions based on fear, among a people seized by fear can lead to the decline and fall of nations…Mr. Trump is using fear of terrorism and lawlessness to advocate hurried, massive, radical changes to our immigration policy.”

ICE detained 680 undocumented workers in the first few days of the administration and has arranged deportation under the law.

ICE continues to spread fear among the illegal and legal workers. Why not have them return the fear to Wall Street bankers, shareholders, and billionaires by having a one-week national strike by 7.2 million undocumented workers and their compatriots—and over 4.5 million working women? What would happen to certain industries that hire and depend on minimum-wage foreign workers? How many hotels and motels, resorts, factory farms, fast-food franchises, food processing plants, vegetable farms, convenience stores, retail outlets, auto factories, port facilities, airlines, warehouses, and railroads could continue to operate?

In the private construction business alone illegal immigrants install 20% of the carpets and tiles, put up 28% of the drywall and 36% of the insulation. In agriculture 247,000 illegal immigrants make up 29% of all farm crop workers. Over 50 years ago the United Farm Workers Union won a 40% increase in wages for California farm workers. It could be done again.

A national strike would create a real circle of pitchforks. Why not, using the imaginative words of President Trump, grab all these plutocrats by their gonads and wallets and put the fear of losing money in them? In his first inaugural address in 1933 during the Great Depression President Franklin Delano Roosevelt said: “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” If we are going to have fear today, let’s spread it around to everybody-- rich and poor.

Meanwhile, our plutocrats continue to plunder

Research by social scientists on the effects of wealth indicates that the more money you have the more selfish you are--and the less you care for your fellow humans.

When Toyotas and Mercedes meet at four-way stop signs, the drivers of the less expensive cars are four times less likely to cut off other drivers than those driving Mercedes. It’s been proven many times by psychology professors at the University of California. The Toyota drivers even respect the right-of-way of pedestrians in a crosswalk more than Mercedes drivers. That’s just the way it is, folks.

We hear all the time that U.S. corporations are over-taxed. Baloney. They take advantage of a tax code purchased from Congress that gives Wall Street unfair advantages over Main Street. The absolute worst tax dodgers are multi-national companies, particularly high-tech and pharmaceutical companies that hide money in tax havens and subsidiaries around the world.

While Bill Gates, the richest man in the world, complains that the Trump “global gag rule” could endanger millions of women and children around the world, his company Microsoft hides billions in tax havens to avoid U.S. income taxes. Legal but unethical.

As an example, a Microsoft facility in Puerto Rico which employs only 177 workers had $4 billion in earnings in one year! Give me a break. Just this operation alone cost the U.S. government $1.5 billion in income taxes. Microsoft is currently holding $109 billion overseas. Current tax policies cost the U.S. government over $100 billion in tax revenues.

How long does it take a U.S. billionaire to pay his Social Security taxes for the year?

The highest- paid 100 CEOs in the United States have the same retirement wealth as the bottom 41% of American families. They will divide $4.7 billion when they retire to their little cottages. That’s while 40% of workers between the ages of 56 to 61 have no retirement funds at all.

Ninety-four percent of American workers pay into Social Security from every paycheck they receive during the year. They pay 6.2% on the 2017 cap of $127,200.

A person making $10 million is finished paying his Social Security for the year by January 15. If you make $50 million a year you pay Social Security on your first five hours of work. A hedge fund manager making $1 billion a year pays his annual Social Security tax in his first 22 minutes.

The average monthly retirement income from Social Security last year was $1,341 for individuals and $2,212 for couples, or $26,544 per year. The median working-age couple has saved only $5,000 toward retirement.

Our new Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, formerly CEO of Exxon/Mobil, received a nice $180 million package on his retirement. The 17 persons picked by President Trump for cabinet positions have more money, a total of $9.5 bilion, than a third of all American households. The wealthiest is our new Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos at $5.1 billion.

Apocalyptic sets of luxury bunkers to save the rich

The latest Atlantic magazine has an article about “survival” bunkers being built for sale to plutocrats.

Trident Lakes is a large 700-acre development north of Dallas that is marketed as a “5-star playground equipped with DEFCON 1 preparedness.” If our military goes on DEFCON 1 it means we are in a major war.

Trident Lakes will have a hotel, polo fields (that’s a nice touch!), athletic centers, and a golf course. Over 600 condos are planned, listing from $500,000 to $1.5 million. All will be built on three large lakes with ten beaches dredged out of current farm land.

Helipads will be scattered around the development. About 90% of each unit will be underground and armed security personnel will patrol a “beautiful” wall that would make Trump proud.

Does all of this remind you of another period in human history when plutocrats built feudal castles to survive the irate passions of their poor peasant neighbors? The pitchfork crowd eventually won that battle, too.

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