Americans Should Be Dying in Ukraine: Random Notes from the Resistance Underground

Let’s face it. The United States is the world’s classic bully – a synonym for “coward.” It’s like the playground tough who fearful of a bloody nose has others do the dirty work for him. “Let’s you and him fight,” is the bully’s refrain.

When you think about it, that’s exactly what the United States and the gang of thugs called NATO are doing in Ukraine. They admit it’s a proxy war. But our cowardly “leaders” know that a direct battlefield confrontation with Russia would be monumentally unpopular at home. (Imagine having to explain to American wives, children, parents, and grandparents why it’s worth their loved one’s death or maiming to bring “freedom” to a country more than 7000 miles away and which most would have difficulty locating on a map! It would be worse than Vietnam.)

Instead, it’s better to have Ukrainian husbands, fathers, sons, and brothers die rather than Americans. Yes: Let’s you and him fight. Few of us would have it any other way.

What I’m saying is that in the final analysis, it’s our permission, apathetic disinterest, and empty virtue signaling that has transformed the “land of the free and the home of the brave” into the land of cowardly and powerless bullies. I’m talking about you and me.

In other words, if we really believe that we’re the ones at war in Ukraine and (as Joe Biden said) “Putin must go,” then we should be willing to send our brothers, husbands, fathers, and uncles to die there, not Ukrainians. If we’re young enough, we should be willing to enlist and put our own heads into the Russian meat grinder.

But would any of us do that? Why should we dirty our hands? Why should Americans die in the war planned for decades?

No: Let’s you and him fight.

***

In the prolonged conflict in Ukraine, I’ve found that virtually the only completely informed, honest and balanced analysis derives from interviews involving Scott Ritter – the former Marine intelligence officer, Russia expert, and U.N. weapons inspector. Most others (i.e., all the mainstream media) are nothing but U.S., NATO, and Ukraine cheerleaders. Even the few who dare to speak out against “our” country’s belligerent policies miss the big picture that Ritter sees. 

***

Here’s what he’s saying now:

  • Despite its undeniable battlefield successes, Russia is not winning in Ukraine.
  • Russia had three clear objectives in initiating its special operation: (1) Free Ukraine’s Russian-speaking populations in the country’s southeastern region from attacks by the Ukrainian army which over the last six years have cost the Donbass more than 14,000 lives. (2) De-Nazify Ukraine which has incorporated card carrying, swastika-tattooed Nazis into its government and military forces. (3) Force the Kyiv government to drop its ambitions to join NATO – instead adopting a position of neutrality like Sweden once did
  • Russia will surely achieve the first objective. Its forces have surrounded Ukrainian troops in the Donbass in ever-tightening pincers. There, Ukrainians will be compelled to surrender or be annihilated. They have no other options.
  • Russia success in Mariupol (a major Neo-Nazi center) has also removed from action many extreme right-wing cadres. It has achieved the same result in the Donbass where the Ukrainian army had been spearheaded by openly white supremacist, fascist troops. As already indicated, the latter are surrounded and trapped in what Russian military theory describes as an inescapable “cauldron.” In other words, Ukraine has been or will be significantly (though by no means completely) de-nazified.
  • However, the massive and unforeseen influx of U.S. funding and ordnance into Ukraine has rendered virtually impossible the achievement of Russia’s goal of demilitarizing the country and forcing it into political neutrality. (The $40 billion just authorized by Washington means that in just two months, Ukraine will have received dollar amounts exceeding Russian defense budgeting for an entire year!)
  • This unexpected development means that even if Russia declares “mission accomplished,” withdraws, and ends up controlling Donbass, Odessa, Crimea, and a few other cities and regions, it will always have to deal with a massively armed and NATO trained adversary threatening those gains.
  • Russia’s President Putin can counter such moves only by securing his Duma’s permission to move from special military operation to all-out war against Ukraine. That’s because his countermove would necessarily entail national mobilization including a military draft to increase Russian forces in Ukraine far beyond the 200,000 now deployed there.
  • In Ritter’s eyes, there’s no way anything short of the latter change in strategy might be called “victory.”
  • In other words, Russia will have won its battles but lost the war.

***

As he himself admits, Ritter makes the above analysis while wearing only his military glasses that allow him to perceive nothing but highly predictable battlefield realities. Such limited vision, he concedes, blinkers out crucial political factors whose effects are less foreseeable. For instance, how long will it take Ukraine’s mothers and wives to demand that Kyiv stop sending their sons, husbands, brothers, and uncles to certain death in that Russian meat grinder? How long will it take electorates in Europe and the States to rebel against food, petrol, home heating and cooling prices inflated by sanctions interdicting Russia’s supply of oil and natural gas? In other words, rebellion at the ballot box and/or in the streets could pressure NATO representatives to the negotiating table despite their desire to prolong the conflict. Ritter chooses not to highlight such factors.

***

Of course, the same holds true for Moscow. Though Russian casualties are fewer and though (contrary to the intentions of the sanctions) the ruble is now stronger than ever and even though Russia’s producers are successfully locating markets (in China, India, Iran, and by import substitution) and even though Putin’s approval ratings are over 80%, Russian wives and mothers find body bags just as repellant as their Ukrainian counterparts.  

***

I do too. So let’s change the subject.

***

They say that about a thousand Ukrainian Neo-Nazi soldiers have finally surrendered after months of de facto imprisonment in the bowels of Mariupol’s Azovstal steel plant. But our deceitful MSM has called the capitulation an “evacuation” (Where? To Siberia?). They’ve called it a “leaving,” a “withdrawal,” a recognition of “mission accomplished.”

***

Can you imagine the MSM reaction if the situation were reversed – if the Russians were the ones virtually imprisoned for weeks in that steel plant? That, after all, is the way they would have been described – helplessly imprisoned rather than heroically resisting. And their “evacuation” from their underground holes waving their underwear as white flags would have been described as a humiliating surrender.

***

Where’s the peace movement in all of this? Why are the most prominent voices for peace in Ukraine coming from the right — from Trumpists for God’s sake? Can’t figure that one out.

***

And where are the followers of the one who said “Put away your sword. Those who live by the sword will die by the sword” (MT 26:2) and “Love your enemies; do good to them that hate you” (MT 5:44) and “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (LK 23:34)? Catholic Joe Biden’s not saying that — even though Pope Francis lays much of the blame for Ukraine’s war at his feet.

***

Are you saying any of those things?

***

Can anyone say “Bully for you?”

Ukraine: We’re Falling for CIA Lies Again!

I just can’t believe what’s happening before our eyes. I’m talking about Ukraine.

My disbelief is not related to Vladimir Putin’s relatively restrained assault on his beleaguered neighbor. Yes . . .“relatively restrained.”

(I see no need here to obscure my point by joining the chorus of Putin haters – just as there was none to join haters of Castro, Milosevic, Noriega, Chavez, Ortega, Maduro, Gaddafi, or the other innumerable “Emmanuel Goldsteins” identified as objects deserving of our de rigueur, periodic two minutes of hate.)

No, my disbelief is more about the fact that after being fooled in Vietnam, Iraq and elsewhere, so many Americans have been roped into somehow thinking anyone in this country has the moral authority to criticize any “war crimes” or perceived violations of “democracy” — as directed by the CIA!

In fact, by despicable U.S. standards, Putin is absolutely justified in his assault on Ukraine. By those criminal canons, Russia deserves its own Monroe Doctrine, its own buffer zone against a hostile and Russia-phobic NATO, its own sphere of influence. And unless we’re out in the street denouncing what “our” government routinely does and is currently doing in the world, we have no right to utter a syllable of protest about Mr. Putin. Not a single syllable!

War crimes? Are you kidding me? Think about those our current government is committing and supporting in Yemen, Afghanistan, Palestine, Libya, Somalia, and who knows where else. Think about its use of the cluster bombs it now decries. Think about its shooting contaminating nuclear waste at enemies du jour. Think about its use of agent orange and white phosphorous – both chemical weapons. Think about its rejection of World Court jurisdiction when there’s all those questions about U.S. war crimes.

All of that makes Putin’s gambit in Ukraine look absolutely statesman like. That’s compared (to take just one example) to U.S.routine “shock and awe” devastations. Putin’s crimes are nothing like the levelling of Iraq’s Fallujah.” Civilian casualties in Ukraine don’t even approach the million Muslims the U.S. military has slaughtered in Iraq alone – not to mention the million children who will die this year because of U.S. sanctions now operative in Afghanistan.]

Face it: our troops and government are out-and-out butchers compared with Putin’s.

That can’t be said too strongly.

And as for democracy, Putin’s system is no less democratic than ours. Are you aware of our new Jim Crow laws (supported by a criminally cooperative Supreme Court)? Think about how the system rigs elections to disenfranchise the poorest among us.

And you’re telling me that given the corruption legendarily involved in American electoral politics (with its interminable campaigns, demonstrably mendacious ads, gerrymandering, voter suppression, hackable voting machines, dark money, bribes in the form of “campaign contributions,” and the absolutely silly “politicians” that emerge to represent their donors – you’re telling me that we want Russia or China to follow suit?)

Please!

Our ignorance is not only blind, but arrogant!

Of course, Putin, like other heads of state in the capitalist world (the only one we’ve got), represents the rich elite. For that reason, as I’ve tried to show elsewhere (here, here, here, here, and here) his authority is no more legitimate than Joe Biden’s. Yes, that’s the hard truth:  if Putin’s authority is somehow de-legitimized, so is Biden’s.

Neither of them nor U.S. clients in Europe and throughout what is laughably called the “free world” cares a wit about people like you and me – much less about those with darker skins and emptier wallets.

With all of this in mind, think again about our collective stupidity. . ..

When was the last time you believed someone who told you that he makes a living by telling lies? You think you’re too smart for that, I’m sure.

But that’s what’s happening relative to Ukraine.

You know that, right?

I’m referring to the words of former CIA head, Mike Pompeo. Remember how he joked and bragged about that. He actually said, “We lied, we cheated, we stole all the time. We take entire courses about. . .. Ha, ha, ha!”

Well, the joke’s on us if we believe a single word coming out of Langley. In view of Pompeo’s words and reams of evidence supporting their truth, why would we ever think otherwise? Why would we ever not draw the conclusion, “If the CIA (or our government!) says ‘black,’ it’s definitely got to be ‘white.’”

Who wouldn’t draw the conclusion, “If the CIA’s involved on Ukraine’s side, Putin can’t be all that bad?”

That’s a serious question, because, of course, the CIA is deeply involved with the Ukrainian situation.

What I’m saying is that we’ve got to wake up. Sadly, this is the way the world works. “Great powers” – including Russia, China, and (in spades) the United States always act just the way Putin does — just the way U.S. presidents always have. If we accept borders and sovereign states, great powers, lesser powers, imperialism, and client states, this is what we have. Great powers (especially the United States) only selectively respect international law.

That’s the system that needs identification, rejection, and overthrow.

So, what’s called for is not rending our garments over the crimes of Vladimir Putin, but over those of our own government – of the entire capitalist system for that matter. Those are the ones we can do something about.

So, it’s time to shut up about Ukraine. Correlatively, it’s well past time to get out into the streets over our own war crimes and assaults on democracy not in a single country, but throughout the world and especially here at home.

In Ukraine, “Gangsters of Capitalism” Have “Gone to the Mattresses” Again

I just finished reading Jonathan Katz’s Gangsters of Capitalism. It helped me understand what’s really going on in Ukraine, where they’re at it again. I mean they’re fighting yet another White People’s inter-capitalist war between Mafia dons. I’m talking about Vladimir Putin and Joe Biden.

Let me explain the connections by first identifying those involved as no better than blood thirsty mafiosi, then linking them to Katz’s book, and finally suggesting the shocking conclusion thoughtful people might draw after considering the gangland realities of the Ukraine fiasco.

White People’s Inter-capitalist War

To begin with, like everyone else, I’m appalled by the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Nothing can justify such blatant transgression of the UN Charter.  Putin’s a thug.

However,  I’m even more dismayed by our nation’s part in provoking the conflict, and its apparent reluctance to help bring it to conclusion. Biden’s a thug too.

[On that latter point about wanting to prolong the war, Hillary Clinton’s recent pronouncements are telling. She apparently wants to turn the Ukraine war into a decades-long disaster modeled on Afghanistan’s. Think about that. Clearly, from the safety of  her mansion in Chappaqua New York, her faux heroism provides courage to continue the fight (6000 miles away) to the very last Ukrainian.]

Most outrageous of all however, is both sides’ entertainment of the possibility of nuclear war — over Ukraine, a place most Americans can’t find on the map! Mr. Putin’s explicit threats and and Zelenskyy’s appeals for a suicidal “no fly zone” should scare the hell out of anyone.

All of that should also make us doubt the sanity and validity of “leadership” on both sides. That’s my main point here. These people are insane!

And I’m not just talking about Putin and Biden. The real powers in question are the deeper, darker forces that the two front men represent. In Russia we refer to the latter as “the oligarchs.” Over here, we call them the “deep state” – you know, the military industrial complex, fossil fuel magnates, bankers, financiers, the CIA, FBI, NSA — the whole disaster.  

Like the Mafia, those forces and the sock puppets just mentioned are accountable to no one – only to their own personal and class welfare including most prominently their bank accounts. They’re like Cosa Nostra bosses – willing to kill bystanders as they’ve “gone to the mattresses” fighting over protection money, gun running, “territory,” “credibility,” “reputation” and “respect” on behalf of conflicting “families.”  

Let me say it again: neither Putin nor Biden represent anyone resembling you or me or ordinary Ukrainians and Russians. For instance, Biden and his henchmen can find billions and billions for war, but nothing for infrastructure, universal health care, guaranteed incomes, or free university education.

No doubt, we should feel for these godfathers’ victims. But allegiance to either side and what they represent is entirely misplaced.

Gangsters of Capitalism

Such realizations have come home to me starkly as I finished reading Katz’s eye opening Gangsters of Capitalism: Smedley Butler, the Marines and the Making and Breaking of America’s Empire. It’s one of the saddest books I’ve ever read.

It has made me realize how despite my supposed sophistication, I’ve been completely duped over the last month of conflict in Ukraine into taking the sides of capitalist gangsters fighting over those traditional Mafia concerns I just mentioned.

The book’s title says it all. Gangsters of Capitalism is a biography of General Smedley Butler (1881-1940), the most famous military figure of his era who after devastating countries all over the world ended up authoring the famous book-length mea culpa, War Is a Racket.

There, towards the end of his life he famously confessed:

“I spent 33 years and four months in active military service and during that period I spent most of my time as a high class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism. I helped make Mexico and especially Tampico safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street. I helped purify Nicaragua for the International Banking House of Brown Brothers in 1902-1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for the American sugar interests in 1916. I helped make Honduras right for the American fruit companies in 1903. In China in 1927 I helped see to it that Standard Oil went on its way unmolested. Looking back on it, I might have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate his racket in three districts. I operated on three continents.”

The racket Butler described involved his Marines in massacres, looting, slavery, outright robbery of national treasuries, and support for dictators and tyrants. It all took a severe toll on Butler’s body and mind. But it also awakened him towards the end of his life to the criminality of the U.S. capitalist system itself. He came to understand that its overlords care nothing for the lives of workers lost as a result of their fights, especially if the laborers are not white.

Mafiosi in Ukraine

Now, think about Butler’s revelations in view of the current inter-capitalist conflict between the mafia bosses, Vlad “the Czar” Putin on the one hand, and  “Sleepy” Joe Biden on the other – with “Pretty Boy” Volodymyr Zelenskyy thrown in for good measure.

As noted earlier, these guys are thugs one an all. They care nothing for democracy, law, or even genocide. An overriding concern is “credibility” understood as instilling fear by a demonstrated willingness to kill the disobedient without a second thought.

In the current political climate, there’s no need to convince anyone that Vlad the Czar is a thug.

But Zelenskyy? And Biden ?

Think about “Pretty Boy” first. He’s head of the ninth most corrupt country in the world. Its leadership (including him) is deeply involved with self-identified Nazis. They’ve been incorporated into the army. Moreover, just last week, the Boy outlawed 11 opposition parties and forbade airing of any accounts of the Ukraine war that differ from the state’s official narrative. These, of course, are the very policies for which Zelenskyy’s (and our) press criticize Vlad the Czar.  

As for Sleepy Joe . . .. One minute in defense of “democracy” and “international law” he’s denouncing and sanctioning Vlad as a “war criminal.” Then the next minute the American godfather considers a trip to Saudi Arabia to “restore relationships” with another mafioso kingpin, Moe “the butcher” bin Salman.

The Butcher is the mafia boss who over the last seven years has been bombing a neighboring country (Yemen) into rubble. In the process he’s created what the UN calls the world’s greatest humanitarian crisis with an overwhelming number of its victims, children. As a Saudi royal, the Butcher is a sworn enemy of democracy.

He’s also the one who just this week beheaded 81 men in a single day – many of them for thought crimes. And by the way, the he got his nickname from instructing his hit men to use bone saws to dismember a Washington Post journalist. I mean, this man’s got real credibility; you better not cross him.

But he’s okay with the Sleeper who not only supports the Yemen slaughter, but wants to kiss the Butcher’s ring in order to persuade him (in the midst of climate catastrophe) to pump more oil. (That oil by the way, won’t go online till next winter. Think of the progress against climate change that would happen if instead of using the coming year to prepare for pumping more oil, the time were used to go all out to replace fossil fuels with renewable green energy.)

Say what?

I’m sure you see what I mean about criminality, insanity, and general disregard  of human welfare. That’s the Mafia for you.

Conclusion

I do not mean to make light of the war in Ukraine. No, I’m as serious about my characterization of Putin, Zelenskiyy, and Biden as Mafiosi as Smedley Butler was about his own war crimes. My point is that none of them – not Putin, not Biden, not Zelenskyy, not MBS – enjoy a scintilla of credibility in the sense of responsible statecraft.

None of them gives the slightest damn about the rest of us, our health care, education, debts, or jobs – and much less about democracy, freedom, justice, or the continuity of human life on a planet facing the imminent threats of climate change and nuclear war. The record speaks for itself. Simply put, every one of them is certifiably insane.  

And the certification?  Let me put it this way: Anyone, and I mean ANYONE, who talks about using nuclear weapons is ipso facto nuts.

No one has that right? Why do we give it to them? And why are we not outraged at the mere mention of employing nuclear weapons? 

And for what? To defend ultimately imaginary entities like “Ukraine,” “Russia,” “The United States,” and NATO.” That’s what they are, you know – imaginary constructs. History shows that like all such entities, they inevitably emerge and disappear and have no lasting reality.

So-called “leaders” who stand ready to commit collective suicide on behalf of such constructs either belong in an asylum at best or in a maximum security prison – simply for threatening the rest of us on behalf of their venality, stupidity, and incompetence.

So, let me say it even more starkly although it will offend many. Here it is: The Sandinistas were right. In their anthem, they identified the Yankee as “the enemy of humanity.” As Katz shows, “our” government roams the world stirring up trouble everywhere, exploiting differences, dividing and conquering. As Dr.King put it, we’re the world’s “greatest purveyor of violence.”

One can hardly resist endorsing such conclusions after reading Gangsters of Capitalism. It rehearses so well the planetary devastation brought on by the United States government and its military which allied so easily with mafias everywhere, as well as with dictators, fascists, Nazis, drug dealers, terrorists, and (it seems) with the devil himself.

It’s time to stop being “Good Americans” and to realize instead that our real enemy resides in DC.

What Yemen Tells U.S. Christians Blinded by Ukraine

Readings for the Third Sunday in Lent: Exodus 3: 1-8a, 13-15; Psalm 103: 1-11; 1st Corinthians 10: 1-6, 10-12; Matthew 4: 17 ; Luke 13: 1-9

Because the readings for this Third Sunday of Lent celebrate the identity of the biblical God as the champion of the poor and oppressed, they should offer encouragement to war victims in Ukraine but especially in Yemen where the United States is acting far more brutally than Putin.

Today’s selections should therefore give pause to American followers of Moses and Yeshua. Typically, we have no trouble lamenting what’s happening in Ukraine’s “white people’s war” involving middle class people who “look and live like us.”

Generally, however, we are less perceptive about the immeasurably greater slaughter of black and brown Muslims taking place at the hands of our own government in Yemen.

Ironically, in Ukraine our politicians and the media would have us believe we’re on principle against invasion of a sovereign state and indiscriminate slaughter by a cruel tyrant. In Ukraine, we present ourselves as champions of democracy and peace.

However, in Yemen the U.S. is supporting a vastly more deadly and indiscriminate invasion of a sovereign state by an ally (Saudi Arabia) that is specifically anti-democratic and led by a head of state more openly barbaric even than Vladimir Putin.

To get what I mean and its implications for adherents of the Judeo-Christian tradition as presented in this Sunday’s readings, please consider our day’s historical context in the light of today’s liturgy of the word. Then consider what people of faith should do about all of it.

Our Context

Of course, there is no need to rehearse the horrific scenes from Kiev and Mariupol. For the past four weeks they’ve assaulted our eyes and have broken our hearts on behalf of the victims of Russia’s merciless assaults.

Ironically, however, virtually no one in the mainstream media (MSM) connects those atrocities with what our own government has done and continues to sponsor in Yemen.

There, “we” have been supporting the country’s invasion by neighboring Saudi Arabia’s Mohammed bin Salman (MBS). He, of course, is a royal prince who (as I said) is specifically against democracy.

For instance, just last week, he had 81 men beheaded in just 12 hours. The executed had no legal representation. Many of the charges against them amounted to thought crimes.  

Additionally, a couple of years ago, MBS had his hitmen butcher with surgical bone saws the Washington Post journalist, Jamal Khashoggi.

More to my point here: for the past seven years, MBS, perhaps the richest man in the Middle East, has waged a genocidal war on Yemen, making it the poorest country in the world. In the process, (with full American support) he has created what the UN’s World Food Program has identified as genocide and the world’s greatest humanitarian crisis. — far greater than Ukraine.

Over those seven years, MBS has come to the aid of Yemeni oligarchs who have kept the country’s rich oil wealth for themselves. The Saudi crown prince thinks that’s a good idea. So, supplied and guided by the U.S., he’s been bombing, blockading, and starving the children of Yemen and their parents. The brutal process has claimed more than 100,000 lives. An additional 85,000 Yemenis are dead as the result of the famine and cholera epidemic produced by our war.

And what is it that the opponents of MBS and the United States are seeking? According to a Newsweek report, rebel groups (the Houthis) are fighting  “for things that all Yemenis crave: government accountability, the end to corruption, regular utilities, fair fuel prices, job opportunities for ordinary Yemenis and the end of Western influence.”  

Today’s Readings

As I mentioned at the outset, today’s liturgy of the word focuses on the character of Israel’s and Yeshua’s God as the protector of the poor and oppressed – the champion of those like the people in Ukraine and especially in Yemen.

In fact, as you’ll see below, the first reading recounts the vocation story of Israel’s great rebel leader, the prophet Moses. When Moses asks God’s name, the Source of Everything says, She is the liberator of the poor and oppressed. The second reading from St. Paul’s letter to a Christian community in Greece expands on that theme.

Then today’s final selection from the Christian Testament presents Yeshua as doing exactly what I’m attempting in this homily. He raises two “current events” connected with the hegemonic force of his own day, the Roman Empire. Of course, it was the invader of Yeshua’s homeland Israel.

In one event the infamous Pontius Pilate, the brutal Roman procurator in charge of Palestine had just slaughtered several Jewish insurgents in the act of offering sacrifice in Jerusalem’s temple. They were honoring the liberating God of Moses.

Meanwhile, another group of insurgents tunneling under a Roman armory (it seems with a plan to steal its arms cache) had caused the tower’s weak foundations crumble and fall not only on top of the tunnellers but people in nearby houses as well. According to Maria Lopez Vigil and her brother, Jose Ignacio, the armory was located in the Tower of Siloam.

In response, Yeshua expresses sympathy for its resisters. “They’re no more sinners than the rest of us,” he says. “All of us are ‘guilty’ of wanting to be rid of the Roman invaders. But actions like Pilate’s and the fate of those undermining the Tower of Siloam foreshadow a more general slaughter that will inevitably take place in response to such “direct action.”  

In effect, Yeshua says, “Those who resist the hated Romans by resorting to arms are (understandably) bloodthirsty too. And if we follow their example, we’ll all drown in a bloody deluge.” Or as Yeshua put it, “I tell you, if you do not change your minds, you will all perish as they did!”

And time is running short, he adds with today’s parable about a fig tree. The bloody deluge has been building for at least three years, he says. We have maybe another twelve months before the chickens of the deadly cycle of violence come home to roost. Without replacing violent resistance to Roman butchery with non-violent tactics, we’ll all be cut down like a barren fig tree.

(Jesus’ prediction of bloodbath, of course, eventually came true, but not as soon as he thought. The Romans would defeat the Zealot uprising in the year 70, and definitively squash all Jewish rebellion in 132. Jesus was right however about the extent of the slaughter. It was horrific resulting in the deaths of more than a million Jews. Such disaster is inevitable, Jesus teaches for all who “live by the sword.”)

His words, of course, have implications for our nation which like none other has lived by the sword ever since its foundation.

The Readings Translated

With all of that in mind, here are my “translations” of today’s powerful readings. Please check out the originals here to see if I got them right.

Exodus 3: 1-8a, 13-15
 
A stuttering shepherd 
Tending his father-in-law’s beasts 
In the barren desert 
Encounters a bush 
On fire 
But unconsumed. 
Fantastically, 
The stammering one 
Hears a voice 
From the raging flames 
Frightening him 
Out of his wits, 
Crumbling the man 
To the desert floor 
But calling on Moses 
In the name of 
The Great “I Am” 
To lead A motley horde 
Of slaves 
To freedom, prosperity 
And abundance. 

“This,” says the voice 
“Remains the unchanging 
Will and identity 
Of your people's God – 
The Liberator Of the poor 
And oppressed 
Everywhere.” 

Psalm 103: 1-11 

Yes, the Great “I Am”. 
Is the champion 
Of the downtrodden 
Throughout the world 
Hungering and thirsting 
For justice. 
Yahweh is 
Kind and merciful 
Gracious and loving 
Kinder than anyone 
Can even imagine 
The giver of abundance 
The physician 
Who cures, forgives 
And saves the enslaved 
From destruction. 

Who cannot love 
Such a One? 

1st Corinthians 10: 1-6, 10-12 

Certainly, Paul did
Whose God 
He recalls 
Protected His fugitive people 
With cloud, fire 
Desert and sea 
From pursuing 
Egyptian slave holders 
And then fed 
The liberated ones 
In the desert 
With manna 
And water 
Drawn from a rock 
(Foreshadowing Jesus himself.) 

While complainers 
(“What, manna again?”)
Perished 
Preferring instead 
The fleshpots and security 
Of Egyptian captivity. 

For your own good,
Paul warns, 
Don’t be like them! 

Matthew 4: 17 

I mean, 
Leave behind 
Enslavement 
With all its predictability 
And false security 
Choosing instead 
The insecure 
But imminent realm 
Of God’s New Future 
With all its promised 
Freedom, prosperity 
And abundance. 

Luke 13: 1-9 

That’s the realm 
Yeshua based 
His entire life upon. 
He contrasted it 
With Pilate’s Cruel slaughter 
Of insurgent Jews 
Simply trying 
To worship 
Their Great “I Am” 
And 18 other 
Revolutionaries 
Tunnelling under 
A Roman armory 
That collapsed upon them 
At Siloam. 

“No,” Jesus cautioned 
“Choose Yahweh’s 
Non-violent Order, 
Along with 
Complete abandonment 
Of (sinless) religious naivety 
And equally understandable 
And innocent 
Revolutionary derring do. 
Otherwise, 
You’ll have no future 
At all. 

And time’s running out,” 
He warned, 
“You’ve got maybe a year 
Before you’ll reach 
The point of no return.”

Conclusion

As you’ve just seen, the readings for this Third Sunday of Lent call us to repentance – to change of mind about empire, brutal invaders, occupiers, and what to do about all of it.

Followers of the biblical heroes, Moses and Yeshua, are summoned to examine their own consciences about how we see and respond to “current events.” We’re called to repentance.

Many would say that the tragic events unfolding in both Ukraine and in Yemen can be laid at the doorstep of the United States, the bloody successor of the Roman Empire that plagued Yeshua and his people.

Regardless of “the fog of war” that might impede such perception for many regarding Ukraine, the case of Yemen should be crystal clear. It should help us realize that our country’s leaders are not in the least interested in democracy, the deaths of innocents, preventing genocide, or opposing brutality of national leaders considered “friends.”

Instead, the guiding interests of U.S. “leadership” are money, oil, and maintaining hegemony, whatever the cost in human lives. History shows that to realize those interests they’ll ally with anyone – with butchers like MBS, with Nazis like Ukraine’s Azof Battalion, with the Mafia, drug dealers, ISIS, or the devil himself.

Events in Ukraine and Yemen should be forcing us to such shocking conclusions. They should be driving us all towards non-violent revolution — and towards publicizing and resisting U.S. aggression, warmongering and policy hypocrisies on every front.

That is, according to the teachings of Moses and Yeshua, the proper response for believers is unrelenting clarity of thought and analysis, along with non-violent resistance. And we’d better act quickly. As Yeshua warns, time is running out for us too..   

Biden’s Latest “Act of Cowardice”: The “Suicide” of Another ISIS Top Commander

I almost laughed out loud the other day when Joe Biden announced (see above) the killing of yet another top- level ISIS commander in an “American” operation that resulted in the deaths of innocent civilians including, in this case, the ISIS operative’s own children.

Here’s how the President explained away the “collateral damage” involved in the attack on Abu Ibrahim al-Hashmi al-Qurayshi and his family.

“As our troops approached to capture the terrorist, in a final act of desperate cowardice, with no regard to the lives of his own family or others the building, he chose to blow himself up.”

Apparently, the terrorist leader was wearing an explosive vest and at the last minute decided to detonate it killing himself and his family rather than allowing his wife and children to be taken alive by U.S. troops.

Our President implied that U.S. troops and/or gunship pilots would have carefully avoided the children’s deaths once they had dispatched their father. After all, the record shows the effectiveness of “our” precision operations. (Forget about all those “mistakes” around weddings and funerals.)

So, we’re asked to imagine the ISIS commander going to bed as usual with his suicide vest strapped on – just in case. Then he hears helicopters and the noise of firefight with approaching U.S. soldiers. Awakened from a sound sleep, with his wife beside him, his children in the next room, he calls them together and tells them something like, “Well, family, it looks like the jig’s up. No, there’s no use in trying to escape. Luckily, I always wear this vest. It allows me to blow us all up instead submitting to the Americans. Aren’t you glad? Remember, it’s best for everyone. Daddy loves you all. See ya.”

Alternatively, he says, “Here, honey, help me strap on with this suicide vest so I can kill you and the kids. You know what they say, “Better dead by my hand than theirs.”

What a barbarian!

(Okay, I know the President said the firefight went on for hours and that Mr. al-Qurayshi had plenty of time to strap on his vest when he saw that further resistance was futile. Still, something about Mr. Biden’s explanation doesn’t ring true — especially in the light of our military’s history, routine lies by presidents of both parties, and what parents instinctively do to protect their children and spouses.)  

That is, Biden’s words are at least highly questionable without undeniable supporting evidence. In fact, in the light of history, I’d go so far as to say that we have to assume the President’s lying. (Or as a great man once said, “Fool me once. . ..”)

That’s especially true after the U.S. was just caught in a series of outright lies about civilian casualties in Biden’s infamous and disastrous Afghanistan evacuation. In the aftermath, there’s all kinds of pressure on his administration to shift blame for any combat-related deaths of civilians especially children..

I mean, remember what we all witnessed on TV a few months ago during the disgraceful flight from Afghanistan? The New York Times and eventually our own eyes showed that those accused of terrorism were actually innocent. Nonetheless, the Pentagon insisted they weren’t blameless at all. Officials assured that it was a “righteous strike,” rigorously vetted and executed.

But it turned out that not a word of the military’s description was true. The “terrorist” killed (along with his children) was nothing like an ISIS operative. He was an aid worker loading his car with water for refugees. Nonetheless, the Pentagon continued to lie about the incident for days, even after the rest of us knew the truth. Their final response? “Oops. Just forget our false assurances. Pretend they didn’t happen.”

Those of us who insist on remembering such lies and coverups (along with those about non-existent “weapons of mass destruction” in Iraq) are rightly skeptical.

[BTW, we’re skeptical too about State Department claims that the Russians are busy preparing “false flag” operations in the Ukraine to justify their invasion of their innocent and peaceful neighbor. (When we’ve been carefully instructed that “false flags” are the stuff of Alex Jones and Q-Anon.) In response to questions about evidence for such wild allegations, the Pentagon spokesperson in effect said, “The evidence is classified. But trust me. It’s true because I say so.”]

What I’m lamenting here is that Mr. Biden is completely out-of-touch with the effects of the serial lies foisted upon the U.S. public from Democrat and Republican presidents alike. Embarrassingly and with a straight face he allows himself and his spokespersons to mouth entirely doubtful claims without offering a shred of evidence about their veracity.

The problem is that the mainstream media largely go along with the silly game.

One thing is certain though: the evidence shows unmistakably that the U.S. military doesn’t give a damn about civilian casualties including children – not in Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, Vietnam, Korea, Hiroshima, or Nagasaki.

Instead, we’re asked to forget all of that. Our government, our military have reformed, they tell us. They’re truth-tellers now — humanitarians actually.

“And, yes, all options (not discountring nukes) are on the table. You know what they say, ‘better killed by my hand than theirs’.”

About it all, I’m tempted to respond, “Don’t make me laugh — or cry.”

Episode 13, Lesson 5: I’m Angry at the Democrats But Not for the Reasons I Think

Welcome to Episode 12 of “A Course in Miracles for Social Justice Activists.” I’m your host, Mike Rivage-Seul. Today we’ll examine together Part 1, Lesson 5 of The Course’s Workbook for Students. It’s found on pages 8 and 9 of the text and its central thought reads: “I am never upset for the reason I think.”

In practice, the lesson invites students to search their minds three or four times during the day for “sources” of upset and the feelings that result. In the text’s words, we are to apply the day’s idea to “any person, situation or event you think is causing you pain. . . The upset may seem to be fear, worry, depression, anxiety, anger, hatred, jealousy, or any number of forms.” The lesson emphasizes however that the diversity of emotions is illusory. In the end, it is caused by something hidden. That something will be identified in later lessons.

Following the lesson’s instruction, you might say simply,

I am not angry at _____  for the reason I think.
I am not afraid of _____  for the reason I think
I am not worried about _____ for the reason I think.
I am not depressed about _____ for the reason I think. 

In attempting to follow those instructions and after last Tuesday’s shellacking of Democrats at the polls, it’s not difficult for a Course in Miracles social justice warrior like me to list my own current sources of upset and their corresponding emotions. They include

  • Anger when I realize that I seem to care more about getting Democrats elected than the Democrats themselves do! I mean, I can’t understand why they sit around idly while the Republicans in state after state draw gerrymandered maps that effectively deprive Blacks and Hispanics of their Constitutional rights to vote. Why have the Democrats not passed the John Lewis Voting Rights Act to protect their own constituents? They seem not to care. In response, I find myself caring less and less.
  • A sense of betrayal over Democrats’ expectations that constituents will vote for them even though the party hasn’t followed through on its campaign promises about immigration reform, a $15 minimum wage, paid family leave, and immediate control of pharmaceutical prices. Biden’s party surely hasn’t earned my vote.
  • Despair over Democrats’ refusal to act on the Green New Deal, college debt forgiveness, protection of those voting rights, and increased taxes on the rich despite the popularity of such measures.
  • Confusion when I realize that Democrats can’t pass those extremely popular pieces of legislation despite currently controlling the presidency and both houses of Congress.
  • Frustration when despite the pandemic, the Biden administration steadfastly refuses to implement Medicare for All.
  • Cognitive dissonance when I hear Joe Biden champion environmental protection at the Glasgow COP 26 meeting, while at the same time encouraging G7 countries to increase oil production and refusing to shut down the Enbridge Pipeline and similar Big Oil projects.   
  • Fear for my children and grandchildren when I perceive the implications of the White Fascist Party once again taking over our government in 2022 and 2024. I’m convinced that the White Party’s Donald Trump is coming back in some form.
  • A sense of being robbed when my so-called representatives without a second thought, can find billions for the money laundering scheme called “national defense,” and billions more in the form of tax benefits for the rich and subsidies for fossil fuel companies, but can’t find similar funding for popular programs like those I referenced earlier. That’s your money and mine that they’re laundering.   
  • Rage at the patriarchy’s insistence on controlling women’s bodies in so many ways not limited to contraception and abortion.
  • Sadness when I realize that all the issues just listed give the impression that the country I love is in the process of degenerating into a failed state before our very eyes.   

Yes, I (and perhaps you) may be feeling the disparate emotions like just listed – anger, betrayal, despair, confusion, frustration, cognitive dissonance, fear, a sense of being robbed, rage, and sadness. However, according to lesson 5 of A Course in Miracles, all those feelings are the same. As we’ll see in subsequent lessons, they all reduce to one as yet unnamed emotion caused by something also unnamed that is no more real than the shadows in Plato’s cave.

For today, however, it’s enough to take inventory of the sources of your own upset and the emotions they evoke. Try to do that for several brief periods during the day.

Then, we’ll get back together for further exploration of the illusions we experience in our culture’s version of Plato’s Cave. Remember, our guide here is Jesus the Christ. His purpose in these initial lessons is to free us from the illusions governing life here in the belly of the beast as empire justifies its destruction of the world reducing us all in the process to the level of the wretched of the earth.

A Course in Miracles will instruct us in how to resist that cruel reduction in Jesus’ spirit. Please join me tomorrow for more on that vital topic.     

Cuba: A Frank Response to the President of Berea College

A few days ago, I received a disturbing email blast from Lyle Roelofs, the president of Berea College (where I taught for 40 years). It was about recent “Events in Cuba.” The notice was upsetting because it reflected the one-sided narrative of the U.S. government and its subservient mass media.

This is not to vilify Berea’s president who is sincere and well-intentioned. It is however to demonstrate the effectiveness of U.S. anti-Cuban propaganda that would have even academicians think that “our” government has a leg to stand on in its denunciation of anti-democratic measures anywhere, of intolerance of any dissent, or of police attacks on peaceful protestors.

See for yourself. In his characteristic spirit of compassion, the president had written:

Dear Bereans

Many of you are aware of the ongoing unrest in Cuba as the country struggles with severe blackouts, a food shortage, high prices, lack of access to COVID-19 vaccinations as outbreaks increase, and an unstable economy.  Residents of the island nation have taken to the streets to protest, filming conditions to share with the world. In response, the repressive government shut down the internet.

While we all care about the people of Cuba as our fellow human beings, a number of members of our immediate community have family ties there, as well, so our concern extends particularly to them in this worrisome time.

President Biden addressed the situation on Monday urging Cuban leaders to hear the people and address their needs rather than enriching themselves or trying to repress their human rights.

At Berea College, where one of our eight Great Commitments calls for us to create a democratic society, we align ourselves with the people of Cuba and echo the President’s sentiments. In a democratic society, organizations and the government can cooperate to address the sorts of critical problems currently being faced by Cubans, but which are found to a lesser extent elsewhere as well.  For example, at Berea College our Grow Appalachia program combats food insecurity in Appalachia working to ensure community members have enough to eat and teaching them how to grow their own food.

Globally, the U.S. and Cuba are among the countries that signed the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, a list of 30 rights that every human being is entitled to. The right to free speech and health are most relevant to the current events in Cuba.  It is our hope that tensions will ease soon, the leadership there will work to provide food, access to vaccines, and make improvements to stabilize the country’s economy, and that this crisis will be an opportunity for improved relations with other countries, including our own, allowing urgently needed assistance to flow to the people of Cuba.

In solidarity with Cubans and Cuban-Americans,

Lyle Roelofs

What follows is my response in hopes that it might help Dr. Roelofs and the rest of us to be more cautious in accepting party lines about “official enemiessuch as Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua, China, Russia. . .

Dear Lyle,

It was with rather eager anticipation that I opened your recently emailed note entitled “Events in Cuba.” Because of Berea’s commitment black, brown and impoverished communities, I thought your notice would express solidarity with virtually the entire world in its yearly demand that the United States lift the Cuban embargo (Cubans call it a “blockade”) especially in view of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Instead, I found your comments quite incomplete and misleading. Together they gave the erroneous impression that:

  • All Cubans (“residents of the island nation”) endorse the anti-government street demonstrations
  • That Cuban leadership is ignoring the COVID-19 pandemic
  • That the same leadership is resisting improved relations with other countries including the United States
  • That Cuba should combat the island’s food insecurity by teaching people “how to grow their own food”
  • That Cuba is out-of-step with the United Nations and its “Declaration of Human Rights” by specifically depriving its people of health care
  • That President Biden has satisfactorily “addressed the situation on Monday urging Cuban leaders to hear the people and address their needs rather than enriching themselves or trying to repress their human rights.”

Such commentary appears to simply repeat the U.S. official story about Cuba without even once mentioning:

  • The U.S. economic embargo of more than 60 years
  • The blockade’s intensification under President Trump
  • That the Biden administration has kept all of the restrictions in place despite the pandemic and the president’s campaign promises
  • The resulting devastating effects of those measures
  • Cuba’s world-renowned health care system
  • Its development (unique in the former colonies) of several WHO-approved COVID-19 vaccines
  • The U.S. policy of blockading sale of syringes to Cuba thereby preventing the country from administering its own COVID-19 remedies
  • Cuba’s long-standing attempts to feed its own people by extensive, government sanctioned urban gardening projects and by environmental policies that make it arguably the greenest country in the hemisphere
  • The fact that similar demonstrations are happening all over the world including U.S. allies such as Brazil, South Africa, Haiti, Lebanon, Colombia, India, Ethiopia, Israel, Iraq, and Afghanistan (not to mention Black Lives Matter in the U.S. and the January 6th assault on the Capitol) — without comment on your part or emphasis in the mainstream media at large
  • The allied fact that “a number of members of our immediate community have family ties” in the countries just mentioned.

I am making these observations as a longtime friend of Cuba and (of course) Berea College. I have visited the island many times, never as a tourist, but always as an educator and researcher. In fact, the last course I taught at Berea (Summer 2014) had my wife Peggy and me leading another study tour of Cuba.

I have published many articles on Cuba including here and here about the country’s vaccine research and development. My daughter was treated for appendicitis while visiting Cuba two years ago. After spending five days in the hospital there, she was released virtually free of charge.

With Jose Gomariz (a Cubanist scholar, Jose Marti specialist, and former Berea College professor of Spanish) I once taught a Berea Short Term course at Havana’s Instituto de Historia de Cuba. The course was entitled “The African Diaspora in Cuba.” When I visited Cuba with the Greater Cincinnati Council of World Affairs, I was befriended by a family outspokenly and fearlessly critical of the Castro government. And in my many stints with the Latin American Studies Program of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities, we took students to Cuba each semester to meet government officials, opposition forces, and diplomats at the U.S. Interests Section in Havana. In all, I’ve been there around a dozen times.

During the Fidel Castro years, I vividly recall a U.S. Interests Section spokeswoman revealingly lamenting the fact that Cuba (as she put it) did not hold presidential elections (thereby demonstrating her misunderstanding of Cuba’s electoral system). “As everybody knows,” she admitted, “he’d win hands down.”

What I’m suggesting is that there is much more to the Cuban story than we’re led to believe by United States propaganda against that beleaguered country.

By simply rehearsing the U.S. official story, Lyle, I suggest that (uncharacteristically) you are not helping the Berea community understand Cuba, its history, and the role of the U.S. in creating misery there, or what our government could do this very day to relieve it – namely lift the embargo and allow the import of syringes into the country.

Respectfully, Mike Rivage-Seul

Abortion Obsessed Catholic Bishops Betray Pope Francis – and Jesus

It seems the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) can’t stop embarrassing itself.

No, I’m not referring this time to its incompetent mishandling and scandalous coverups of priest pedophiles. (By rights, those disgraces should themselves deprive the Conference of ALL claims to speak authoritatively on ANY matter having to do with sex.)

 instead, I’m talking about the latest manifestation of the USCCB’s obsession with abortion.

As if we needed a reminder, its fixation with the matter came under harsh spotlight on June 18th when an overwhelming majority of the Bishops’ Conference decided to proceed with drafting a document whose bottom line would have them refusing communion to Joe Biden (and by extension to other pro-choice Catholic politicians).

The whole affair made evident first of all that the bishops are pronouncing on an issue far beyond their ken. Secondly, their action flies in the face of position adopted by Pope Francis himself. Thirdly, it aligns the bishops with the most extreme faction of the Republican Party. And finally, it is quite unbiblical and contradicts the teachings of Jesus and his expression of the Judeo-Christian prophetic tradition.

For thinking Catholics, all four points should be quite embarrassing. For others, it’s just one more reason to write off the Church as completely irrelevant.   

Unsubstantiated Obsession with Abortion

The evident purpose of the Conference’s strategy is to advance repeal of Roe v Wade as if it were morally self-evident that (as they say) “abortion is murder.”

Of course, no such self-evidence exists. This is because the question of abortion’s morality turns on the issue of when specifically personal human life begins. And NO ONE knows for sure the answer to that question. Even the seminal Catholic theologian Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) thought that personal life (“ensoulment”) for males began 40 days after conception and for females 80 days after conception. The church operated on that assumption for centuries.

Moreover, other religions variously identify the beginnings of personal life with the moment of quickening (usually 17-20 weeks after conception), with viability outside the womb, with actual emergence from the womb, or even (as with some Native Americans) with the “painting” of the child to distinguish it from the animals. 

In view of such variation, to impose a single religion’s answer to the crucial question about the beginning of personal life disrespects those of other faiths and of no faith at all. It is therefore to violate the Constitution’s First Amendment which states that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. . .”

(And, by the way, the USCCB’s extreme position that specifically personal life begins when sperm fertilizes egg contradicts the “practice” of Nature itself. It ignores the fact that literally countless such fertilizations end in spontaneous abortions – suggesting that Nature itself (God?)  is unconcerned with the issue.)

A Rejection of Pope Francis

The Catholic Bishops’ ham-handed power play also flies in the face of gentle advice from Pope Francis. Instead of confrontation and effective excommunication, the Pope urged “extensive and serene dialogue.”

The Conference position also contrasted sharply with Francis’ allies like Chicago’s Cardinal Blase Cupich and San Diego Bishop Robert McElroy. Both urged adoption of the pope’s approach, which McElroy described as speaking to Mr. Biden “in his humanity” and as “a man of Catholic faith striving to serve his nation and his God.” McElroy recommended encouragement of “our new President: by entering into a relationship of dialogue, not judgment; collaboration, not isolation; truth in charity, not harshness.”

However, USCCB disagreement with Francis goes much further. It is not simply an internecine squabble about arcane Catholic issues. Identifying abortion as “the preeminent priority” of the bishops’ conference highlights disagreement at the highest level of the Catholic Church about the essence of the faith. For Francis, the Church’s preeminent priority is social justice and a radical concern for “the lives of the poor, those already born, the destitute, the abandoned and the underprivileged.”  His pro-life commitments extend far beyond abortion to climate justice, elimination of capital punishment, renunciation of war, and welcoming of immigrants.

Of course, all such concerns are rejected by Republican extremists with whom the USCCB ends up aligning itself.

Alignment with Extremists

Such alignment was noted recently by Washington Post opinion columnist E.J. Dionne Jr. Dionne pointed to a relevant Pew Research survey of last spring. It showed that even 44% of Republican Catholics agree with the 67% of American Catholics in general that Biden should be allowed to receive communion.

This means that in adopting their position on weaponizing communion, the U.S. bishops are identifying themselves with the most conservative elements of the Republican Party which, of course, has also made abortion a key culture wars issue.

This alignment means supporting election of Republicans whose climate change denial ends up favoring omnicide while claiming to prioritize unborn human life.

Moreover, Dionne correctly observes that the bishops’ position is an outlier in the Catholic world itself. Almost nowhere else is the abortion issue given the preeminence claimed by the USCCB. Its position would be unthinkable in most of Europe and Latin America.

Unbiblical Obsession with Abortion

Even though women have always practiced abortion, the Bible shows no concern for the issue; it is mentioned nowhere in its pages. Therefore, to make it the church’s “preeminent priority” over those articulated by the pope is questionable at the very least.

Moreover, seeking to remedy the practice of abortion by imposition of law flies in the face of the habitual antinomian postures of both Jesus and St. Paul. Neither was friendly towards legal statutes and their enforcers. Jesus routinely disobeyed Judaism’s most sacred (Sabbath) law. He famously asserted his indisputably humanist position that “The sabbath was made for human beings; human beings were not made for the sabbath” (Mark 2: 27).

For his part, Paul was so liberal in his interpretation of Jewish Testament law that he set it aside entirely – including dietary restrictions and even circumcision. It was futile, he said, to seek salvation in law – even in God’s law (e.g., Romans 7: 13-24).

By adopting such positions, both Jesus and Paul seemed to recognize that complicated issues of personal morality cannot be effectively imposed by law, force, or sanctions. Thus, the two most prominent foci of Christian Testament texts implicitly acknowledged the truism that human laws generally favor those who made them, viz., the wealthy and powerful – usually elderly males (and in our case, specifically white old men). Meanwhile, they militate against the interests of those without power or wealth and (in the case of abortion) seem to represent one more way of controlling women.

This is especially vexing for women, since the planet’s female citizens have had virtually no determining input regarding the content of laws that govern their reproductive processes.

The bottom line here is that law has no salvific power for friends of women or followers of Jesus.

Conclusion

Does any of this mean that church leaders should abandon the abortion issue? Not really.

It does however mean that leadership should recognize the fact that Roe v. Wade represents a reasonable resolution of the abortion question in a pluralistic society. It is an imperfect but even-handed compromise in a culture divided on fundamental questions concerning the beginnings of personal human life. It is reasonable that during the first trimester of pregnancy, the pregnant woman may herself decide about the termination of her pregnancy without legal consultation; that during the second trimester the state may regulate abortion to protect the health of its pregnant citizens, and that during the final three months of pregnancy, the state (in recognition of its obligation to protect the unborn) can accordingly forbid or otherwise condition pregnancy termination.

Meanwhile, the bishops and others seeking to lessen the number of abortions should use their influence to foster a welcoming atmosphere for all children. This would entail supporting measures that (among others) provide otherwise reluctant parents with:

  • The good example of Catholic practice
  • Preemptive sex education
  • Extensive prenatal care
  • Postpartum parental leave
  • Affordable childcare
  • Adequately paid jobs
  • Dignified housing
  • Safe abortion facilities

Only by adopting such pro-life positions can the USCCB hope to overcome the embarrassment that its patriarchal, legalistic and unbiblical alignment with the Republican Party has brought upon it and upon all Roman Catholics.

Mad as Hell!

Don’t get too excited about Joe Biden and his pretense at boldness in the model of FDR.

*

FDR? Don’t make me laugh. Biden doesn’t even measure up to Eisenhower’s liberalism!

*

The man and his party have already surrendered to the fascist Republicans who are busy passing new Jim Crow laws to insure their continued minority rule. The Democrats could prevent that by passing the “For the People” Act (HR1). But that would insure continued Democratic rule. It would also require suspension of the Senate filibuster. Uncle Joe and the Dems tremble at the very thought.

*

Unlike the Republicans, the Democrats just won’t play hard ball. Remember how the fascists refused to even consider Obama’s SCOTUS appointment, Merrick Garland? With the presidential election 11 months off, they said they wanted “the American People” to have a voice in the matter. Then the fascists turned around and rushed through the appointment of a right-wing fanatic Amy Coney Barrett – less than two weeks before the 2020 election!

*

That and the appointments of sexual predators, Thomas and Kavanaugh, have rendered the SCOTUS absolutely corrupt. None of us should recognize the validity of its decisions.  

*

Yes, Trump is gone for the moment. But enjoy the respite while you can. He’ll soon be back in one form or another – very likely worse than in his last incarnation. And the reason he’ll be back is because the Democrats are gutless wonders who don’t represent any of us. They represent only their rich donors.

*

Think about it: “The American People” overwhelmingly support Medicare for all, $15 an hour minimum wage, free college, tuition debt forgiveness, gun control, and higher corporate taxes. But can we expect “our” elected officials to follow suit? Of course not! They don’t care what we want — only what their donors demand.

*

Face it: we’re living in a failed state. Gridlock remains the order of the day. Nothing substantial is done for any of us ordinary people.

*

Compare “our” government’s gridlock with China’s efficiency – which enjoys (according to U.S polls) the approval of 90% of its population. That sounds like democracy to me.

*

Do you know how China solved its drunk driving problem? It decreed that a first offense would result in 2 weeks in jail. A second conviction leads to the permanent confiscation of one’s driver’s license! Problem solved.

*

Last week, there was an extremely rare school shooting in Russia. Immediately, President Putin introduced new restrictions on gun ownership. Our country has mass shootings every week. How do our legislators respond? “Thoughts and prayers.”

*

Biden’s foreign policy is virtually the same as Trump’s. Old Joe’s man, Tony Blinken says he’s worried about China, the Uyghurs, and the world’s “rules-based order.” But he won’t condemn Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestine, will he? He won’t even cut off funding of Saudi Arabia’s crown prince or call him the “killer” he is. Oh yes, “Putin’s a killer,” but not the man who had a Washington Post journalist murdered and dismembered.

*

What rules-based order?

*

And what about Cuba? And the Iran deal and old Joe’s continuance of the Donald’s crippling sanctions there? And Venezuela?

*

And the Pro Act? There’ll be no protection of workers under the Biden Administration. Why? See my note above on filibuster.

*

I hate to break the news, but it’s all smoke, mirrors, posturing and hypocrisy.

*

We’re living in a failed state. Yes, Trump will be back.

*

God help us!

Why the U.S. Will Never Compete Successfully with China

Readings for the 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time : Proverbs 31: 10-13, 19-20, 30-31; Psalms 128: 1-5; 1st Thessalonians 5: 1-6; Matthew 25: 14-30

Don’t get me wrong. I’m happy that Joe Biden won the presidency and that the reign of Donald Trump is more or less behind us. However, a Biden presidency is not going to cure what’s wrong with the U.S. economy.

That simple truth was underlined for me by Paul Jay’s interview of the brilliant economist and former Wall Street analyst, Michael Hudson who has written the insightful . . . And Forgive Them Their Debts about debt elimination and the biblical Jubilee Year.

Hudson and Jay discussed the de-industrialization of the United States whose economy has become dependent not on producing goods and services, but on the financial sector – on investments, banking, debt, stocks and bonds.

Industrialization vs. Financialization

Meanwhile, China, our country’s chief competitor, has a far healthier economic system that actually provides manufacturing jobs and a rising standard of living for its people. In our globalized economy, that’s possible, because industries are drawn to China by wages that are much lower than in the U.S.

Yet, even with low wages, the Chinese working class is prospering, because of the country’s centralized economy that provides health care gratis and free education for its people along with subsidized housing, food and transportation. Besides that, the nationalized Chinese banking system (absent the profit motive) can easily remedy any debt problems by simply writing down debts should that sector develop problems.

According to Hudson and Jay, catching up with China will be impossible for the United States as long as it continues embracing the neo-liberal capitalist model. For one thing, that arrangement finds it unthinkable to engage in long-term planning; it can’t see beyond projected returns on a quarterly basis. Among other liabilities, that makes it impossible, for example to cope with climate change, that demands anticipating weather events decades from now.

In fact, to actually compete with the centrally planned elements of China’s economy, the U.S. would have to follow systemic suit. However, its program of privatization, deregulation and tax reduction has America moving in the exact opposite direction.

Again, according to Michael Hudson, course correction would include the ideologically “impossible” steps of taming of wage spirals by:

  • Taking de facto central planning away from Wall Street and returning it into the hands of elected government officials
  • Raising taxes on the 1%
  • Nationalizing the banking system
  • Enacting a green new deal to provide productive, environment-saving jobs for the unemployed and under-employed
  • Providing free tuition for all post-secondary students
  • Forgiving the $1.5 trillion that students still owe for their educations, thus freeing them to actually buy homes, automobiles and other necessities
  • Nationalizing health care thus relieving both employers and employees from the burden of meeting the costs of medical treatment and pharmaceuticals

Both Jay and Hudson agreed that without some apocalyptic catastrophe and without transcending our hamstrung two-party system, the chances of taking such measures (even if Democrats had control of both houses of Congress) are nil. Consequently, China will continue to outstrip the United States economically and socially. Simply put, its system is more flexible than the neo-liberal model.

Today’s Readings

I bring all of that up because today’s readings contrast economies (like China’s) that prioritize the needs of people with those that primarily serve the already wealthy. The first type centralizes the role of women. The second is condemned in Jesus’ famous Parable of the Talents.

Here are my “translations” of the readings. You can find the originals here.

Proverbs 31: 10-13, 19-20, 30-31

Deeply centered women are the anchors of the world – far more than the superficially beautiful and apparently charming. The value of virtuous women is beyond precious jewels. They not only benefit their own families with food and clothing; they also recognize and share what they have with the marginalized and poor. In fact, homemakers should be paid for housework and given high positions in government.

Psalms 128: 1-5

Whether they know it or not, such women and those they care for are blessed. They are following the Divine Mother’s path. The gardens they cultivate (actual and metaphorical) overflow with rich foods. Face it: they are responsible for the very continuance and prosperity of the human race. The men in their lives should honor them accordingly.

I Thessalonians 5: 1-6

Women’s pregnancy processes provide an apt image for the Divine Mother’s New World that we all anticipate. The enlightened among us (as opposed to those living in darkness) can already feel that the labor pangs are about to begin. Alert and clear-headed, the light-bearers stand ready like midwives to assist in the birthing.  

Matthew 25: 14-30

Such assistance in service of our Mother’s New Reality calls for departure from business as usual – from a system that rewards the 1% who do no actual work, but who rely on investments that end up enriching the already affluent while further impoverishing and punishing the actually poor and exploited.

Parable of the Talents

As I was saying, the readings just reviewed are about economic systems – one that treats its beneficiaries like the family they are, the other that prioritizes money and profit. The first three readings from Proverbs, Psalms and 1st Thessalonians reflect the values of a tribal culture where women’s productive capacity was still highly valued.  

On the other hand, Jesus’ Parable of the Talents centers on the male world of investment and profit-taking without real work. The story celebrates dropping out and refusing to cooperate with the dynamics of finance, interest and exploitation of the working class. Taken together, the readings put one in mind of the contrast between China’s people-oriented economy over against the U.S. profit-oriented system.

More specifically, Jesus’ parable contrasts obedient conformists with a counter-cultural rebel. The former invest in an economic system embodied in their boss – “a demanding person” the parable laments, “harvesting where he did not plant and gathering where he did not scatter.” In other words, like neo-liberal capitalism itself, the boss is a hard-ass S.O.B. who lives off the work of poor women farmers like the one celebrated in the Proverbs selection. The conformists go along with that system to which they can imagine no acceptable alternative.

Accordingly, the servant who is entrusted with five talents (more than 2 million dollars!) gains 2 million more and the one given two talents doubles his money as well. 

Meanwhile, the non-conformist hero of the parable (like China) refuses to adopt a system where, as Jesus puts it, “everyone who has is given more so that they grow rich, while the have-nots are robbed even of what they have.” Because of his decision to drop out, the rebel suffers predictable consequences. Like Jesus and his mentor, John the Baptist, the non-conformist is marginalized into an exterior darkness which the rich see as bleak and tearful (a place of “weeping and grinding of teeth”). However, Jesus promises that exile from the system of oppression represents a first step towards the inauguration of the very kingdom of God. It is filled with light and joy.

Conclusion

In voting for Joe Biden on November 3rd, so many of us did so with a heavy heart. Yes, we understandably want our world rid of Donald Trump once and for all. And thank God he’ll soon be gone — at least temporarily.

But obviously, Trump is not the problem. As this reflection has suggested, the problem is a system that prioritizes the welfare of investors like the rich man in the Parable of the Talents. And we all know that Mr. Biden and his running mate have no intention of departing from that economic arrangement.

Biden and Harris can’t even imagine a mechanism that treats everyone like family members rather than as interchangeable clients.

Yet somehow, like Paul in the reading from Thessalonians, the enlightened among us can already feel that the labor pangs of the new world Jesus envisioned. Alert and clear-headed, we must commit ourselves to pushing the system in that direction – towards something reflective of Michael Hudson’s recommendations, towards the North Star Jesus called God’s Kingdom.

Hoping against hope, pushing the Biden administration down that path represents our challenge over the next four years.