The Republican Party’s Male Supremacy Problem

Republican tax cuts mostly benefit the very rich.  At the same time, Republicans claim that the inevitable reduction of revenue justifies cuts in social programs for the not-so-rich, and then they order American women to have more children.  When it is pointed out to them that families, and mothers in particular, perform a valuable service to the state and should be compensated rather than penalized, they legislate draconian anti-abortion bills.  We can only assume their behavior is not an oversight.  It is probably motivated by doctrines of male supremacy.

Male supremacy has always been one of the main components of fascism.  It has been argued that one of the triggers of fascism in the 1930s was the sudden inability of religion to control the female population.  Today, alt-right pundits claim great antiquity for their ideas, but they are no older than the early 20th century.  They would have to go back as far as the story of Abraham to understand the true parameters of male existence in this world–parameters including human sacrifice.  But it might be too late for us.

Abraham was spared the necessity of sacrificing his son, Isaac, but strictly speaking human sacrifice had not been necessary since the time of the covenant, which coincided with the circumcision of Abraham, Ishmael, and the other males of his household.  Circumcision is a substitute for human sacrifice.

Today, many non-believers are outraged that God would ask such a thing of Abraham.  Or it would be more correct to say they are outraged that anyone would believe in such a religion.  However the story of Abraham and Isaac was probably a reminder of the continuing indebtedness of the human race.

In ancient times women practiced small agriculture, or horticulture.  It was men who dug canals, changed the course of rivers, and ploughed large tracts of land.  And it was men who were sacrificed.  Human sacrifice was practiced by agricultural societies because agriculture was perceived to be an imposition on the earth.

The real problem that today’s alt-right men must address is the drastic mismatch between unrestrained male ambition and the natural world. They might say excess male ambition and energy indicates male ‘superiority’, but that claim can’t be justified in a time when we face the unavoidable consequences of this mismatch.    The precarious state of human existence on this earth indicates that the chief burden of being male is restraint.






No Country for Messiahs

After Ilhan Omar reported receiving a death threat, President Trump made a point of repeating the same types of remarks that encouraged previous threats against her life.  He may as well have gone after her himself.  Our president is a vicious bully and irredemable gutter brawler.  Congratulations establishment!  Congratulations for putting him there and congratulations for leaving him there.

Fortunatley, he may not be there much longer.  Last week I was given the following revelation: “I will show that he is not the messiah.”

I wasn’t given a name, but Donald Trump is the only person I know of whose supporters believe he is the messiah.  On the other hand, if it turns out that some other messiah is waiting in the wings, you can consider this an all-purpose not-a-messiah revelati0n. (This sentence was my own speculation, and I’ve decided that it goes too far. Hope in the coming of a messiah is an important part of three major religions.)












Roast AIPAC #3

You may have already seen these videos and articles, but because this week is Roast AIPAC week I’ll take the opportunity to list them here together. They make it clear that Ilhan Omar’s criticism of the Israel lobby was too mild. AIPAC’s reach goes further than we would like to think, and AIPAC is not the only organization that influences American opinion and policy in favor of Israel.

The Washington Post published an informative article as well. This seemed surprising at first, given the Post’s previous support of the lobby, but maybe it wasn’t so surprising after all. The article did not criticize AIPAC. It praised the Democratic Party for supporting a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict–a stand that had a negative impact on Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. Netanyahu’s ‘wedding’ together of Israel with the Republican Party has hurt the prospects of peace in the Middle East, the article claims. As for Reps. Ilhan Omar (Minn.) and Rashida Tlaib (Mich.), it identifies them merely as the new members of Congress who have attracted attention with ‘toxic tweets’ and support for boycott and insists that they represent a minority of Americans. Not only that, they have both endorsed the BDS movement. The Post argues that this behavior is not representative of the majority of Democrats who think the United States should support Israel.

I think the Post’s criticism of Netanyahu merits a place here, but US support for Israel was not the point of Omar’s tweet, was it? She was making a comment on the undue influence of AIPAC. She was right too. Shortly after Omar’s tweets, The Nation Magazine published an article outlining the extent to which AIPAC has been able to influence American politics.

We do, in fact, have a growing anti-Semitism problem in America. But Omar and Tlaib are not a part of it. They are allies of mine and of Jews across this country who are fighting for peace, racial justice, immigrants’ rights, and the defeat of fascism. The anti-Semites are the Nazis and white supremacists who marched and murdered in Charlottesville, whom Donald Trump called “very fine people,” and the MAGA supporter who massacred worshippers at a Pittsburgh synagogue.

The last video ends with Sam Seder wondering why it was left to the new Muslim members of Congress to call out AIPAC.

Seder’s point is appreciated, but by now we have a pretty good idea why the Democratic establishment keeps its collective mouth shut about AIPAC.


Rep. Illhan Omar (D-Minn) has been under pressure since she suggested that US support for Israel has something to do with money from the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). Although AIPAC’s influence in the United States is no secret, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi demanded that Omar apologize. Omar did apologize, but she remained firm on her criticism of the lobby. She has subsequently been harrassed by journalists and politicians alike. However, I’m not writing to join the ranks of her defenders. It is increasingly clear that she can handle the pressure. I’m writing because I was personally offended that so many people felt free to dole out this treatment on an elected member of the Congress of the United States.

Some assumed that Democrats were pressured by Republicans to discipline Omar, but it’s more likely they were pressured by AIPAC directly. Maybe the rumors of Israel’s influence in our elections are true. Is it possible that both Domocrats and Republicans know that if they offend AIPAC they could lose their next election?

I propose that we exact a cost for AIPAC’s arrogance. Progressives who object to the undue influence that AIPAC demonstrated this week should spend next week criticizing Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians. This would inform AIPAC that there are costs for bad behavior.

Do We Want to Overcome Our Fortress Mentality?

Evangelicals’ dream of an apocalypse in the Middle East. This dream is as dark as it gets. They insist it is based in the Bible, but it serves irreligious neoconservatives and oilmen who want to use religion as a battle axe, so how biblical can it be?

Unfortunately, the blame doesn’t belong entirely to religious leaders and politicians. The fact that this group of voters can be inspired by such a dark worldview reveals much about their own spiritual state, not to mention their understanding of religion in general.

While the Book of Isaiah does call King Cyrus the Lord’s annointed, it says many other things that can be understood to contradict the conservative agenda for Jerusalem. (Cyrus is the Persian king who allowed Israel to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple. Evangelicals believe Donald Trump is a modern-day Cyrus.) For example, the Book of Isaiah also tells us that states are unimportant to God.

Who hath directed the Spirit of the lord, or being his counsellor hath taught him?

With whom took he counsel, and who instructed him, and taught him in the path of judgment, and taught him knowledge, and shewed to him the way of understanding?

Behold, the nations are as a drop of a bucket, and are counted as the small dust of the balance: behold, he taketh up the isles as a very little thing.

And Lebanon is not sufficient to burn, nor the beasts thereof sufficient for a burnt offering.

All nations before him are as nothing; and they are counted to him less than nothing, and vanity. (Isaiah 40: 13-17)

The word Apocalypse means ‘an uncovering; a disclosure of knowledge or revelation’. The claim that it refers to physical destruction is a matter of interpretation. But in any case, if you really believe the Bible it shouldn’t matter if you agree on a particular meaning. We should be able to agree that God will reveal its meaning.

If we want to trace a new course as an alternative to the dark vision of the neocons, we would need to decide whether Isaiah’s words have meaning for us today.  I think it is reasonable to take Isaiah’s words as encouragement, not only for Western Civilization but, through Western civilization, for the entire world. However the concept of Western Civilization has become so muddled that it will require an effort to make it so. The important question then would be, do we choose to make it so?

In the last 70 years or so, we have lost the concept of Western Civilization and when we think we have recovered it, we discover it has become a partisan concept.

Western Civilization is a partisan concept in relation to countries and peoples that don’t consider themseves part of the West. It may also be a partisan concept in relation to the Jews. There is a quote from Eric Voegelin that illustrates this problem:

Western civilization, as it emerges from the Middle Ages, rests on the unique and precarious balance between the elements of ancient civilizations that were merged in it: Hellenic rationalism, Israelite spiritualism, and the Roman jurisdictional order governing the private wills and public offices.

This quote sounds straight forward until you remember the West’s long history of discrimination against the Jews. The following is a quote from SYLVIE COURTINE-DENAMY’s article in Voegelinview.  

One can see how Voegelin ends up in a somewhat paradoxical situation since while taking for his basis and point of departure the Revelation to Israel, nevertheless gives a negative appraisal of Isarel’s fate, supplanted as it is by the universal revelation of God in Christ…

But again, partisanship can be found everywhere, even within the Christian Church. Is it possible that we can build something new using this concept as a foundation? Our goal, if we decide that the concept of Western Civilization is helpful to what we are trying to accomplish in this conversation, would be to identify the mistaken thinking that brought us to this point. Our reward would be the ability to read the Book of Isaiah as the encouraging message that he intended it to be.

Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God.

Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned: for she hath received of the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.

The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. (Isaiah 40: 1-3)

It can be argued from our own tradition that Isaiah is not necessarily talking about a physical place or race of people. He is talking about a civilization. And the time has passed when it made sense to think of Western Civilization as simply the West.  We need alliances.  We need cooperation from everyone if we are going to survive into the next century. So the next task would be to work out the logic of including peoples that are not normally considered to be a part of Western civilization.  The United States may be the most logical place in the world for this understanding to arise, if we so choose.

Defending a Friend and Ally

I recently deleted two articles.  In the first one I condemned the Mormon Church for the way it handled a sex abuse scandal.  I realized later that this might seem to contradict my defense of the Catholic Church, so I wrote another article urging the Mormon Church to make amends.  However, I realize now that I wrote them the way I did because I don’t see the two scandals as the same.

Now it seems that the difference between the two churches is greater than I imagined.  The Mormon Church isn’t interested in making amends.  It is excommunicating members who demand new policies and procedures to guard against sex abuse.  And yet it’s the Catholic Church, the church who has tried and is trying to make amends, that is under attack.

Can Numerology Predict War in Syria?

It’s happening again. The United States and its allies have encircled Syria amidst warnings of a chemical attack by Assad, and the Russians and Syrians are frantically trying to ward off a possible false flag. The video at the end of this article in which the Permanent Representative of the Syrian Arab Republic carefully and thoroughly explains that Syria has no chemical weapons, should dispense with this excuse. Obviously, the actual presence or absence of chemical weapons is not the fundamental issue. The fundamental problem is the determination to follow a well-known agenda for the Middle East. That’s why this threat keeps coming back. Therefore, it might be helpful to look again at numerology to see if we can find an auspicious day for military action. From what I can tell, there are at least two such days in the coming week, August 31 and September 4. If we assume that the number seven is a crucial number for an American war, September 4 would be more likely. If we include the numbers 9 and 11, it could also be August 31.

The numerological value of September is 10 or 1 (1+0=1). Add 1+4+2018 (1+4+2+0+1+8) and you get 16, which reduces to 7 (1+6=7).

The numerological value of August is 12 or 3 (1+2=3). Add 3+3+1+2018 (3+3+1+2+0+1+8) and you get 18, which reduces to 9.

The nine is more meaningful because in Syria’s case there is an additional correspondence. Eleven is the numerical value for ‘Syria’, and eleven is also the numerical value for ‘war’. Robert Eisler mentions this type of correspondence in his book, Orpheus the Fisher, where he uses this system to identify the bishop at Hieropolis, Aberkios, as a ‘fish’ or baptized Christian.

“Indeed, first of all, the name Aberkios itself is an isopsêphon or numerical equivalent for ‘fish.’ ΙΧΘΥΣ=9+22+8+20+18=77=1+2+5+17+10+9+15+18=ΑΒΕΡΚΙΟΣ (In other words, the letters may be different but they add up to the same value), implying that—according to the expression of Tertullian…Aberkios himself is a ‘fish’ or baptized Christian after the image of the ‘great Fish’ Jesus.”

I don’t know if it would be necessary to carry the Syrian calculation further, but if we add eleven (the value of Syria) to the value of August 31, 2018 (9), we get eleven. Furthermore, August 31 is the 243rd day of the year (2+4+3=9).

If we add eleven to the value of September 4 (7), we get 18, which reduces to 9. September 4 is the 247th day of the year (2+4+7=13).

Of course these are not just the dates of national disasters. Numerology has a biblical basis. Theologians have recognized numerological meanings in the Bible—positive and negative. Augustine thought the number 11 represented transgression of the law because it exceeded the number of the decalogue. The Hebrews thought 11 was a bad number as well. There are no Hebrew names with eleven letters.

The fulfillment of the number 11 is 66, the number of evil (1+2+3+4+5+6+7+8+9+10+11=66). On the other hand, Joseph was the eleventh son of Jacob and Rachel and although he was betrayed by his brothers he was the rescuer of his tribe.

The number 9 is also said to derive its meaning from the Bible, but through a diabolical reversal which associates it with destruction. Jesus ‘gave up the ghost’ at the ninth hour.

Keep in mind, this article is not proof of anything. It is a pitiful attempt at mind reading for the purpose of heading off war. However, the numerological aspect makes it clear that this is not just a battle for worldly supremacy.

“For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” (Ephesians 6:12)


I seem to have implied in an earlier article that the story of Adam and Eve had ulterior motives. This is a big problem, and I don’t want to leave my readers with the wrong impression. Fortunately religion doesn’t work like a math problem or a history lesson where you can take one part of it and trace its cause and effect. Each part fits into the whole, and its meaning is not necessarily literal. And in light of the previous article, it didn’t really prove my point.

If religion were the cause of U.S. tax policy, Germany as a majority Christian nation should have similar policies to the United States. But Germany has generous social benefits. The problem seems to be unique to the United States. It would probably make more sense to blame Ayn Rand than Adam and Eve.

So although we still have the cruel tax bill things don’t seem quite as dark as they might have been. Good will and decency are alive in our religion. This will pass.

See also: The Reserve Currency and Globalization

Agribusiness versus Joseph in Egypt

One of the reasons I supported Bernie Sanders for president was his support of family farms against the abuses of agribusiness. He mentioned agribusiness again in a recent speech about health care in Iowa so I thought it would be a good time to discuss an article in the February 2016 issue of Harper’s entitled The Trouble With Iowa”. (Richard Manning, The Trouble with Iowa: Corn, corruption, and the presidential caucuses. Harpers, Feb. 2016) The article ends with these words:

The standoff that results from all of this plays out across our continent. Those endeavors that produce food and energy need scale and landscape and are of necessity rural and are of necessity unspeakably destructive. The industries involved must be free to operate on their own terms in the landscape in the nation’s midsection, where the states are red and square. As Stowe Says, all they have to do is to protect the status quo. To do that, they don’t need to play to checkmate; stalemate and gridlock are success enough. Iowa’s caucuses, and for that matter the whole presidential ritual, will do nothing to change this.

The man quoted in this paragraph is William Stowe, head of the Des Moines Water Works. Mr. Stowe has received death threats from the people he’s trying to serve and not because of a decrease in water quality. People are upset with him because Stowe’s department has sued county operators of drainage districts over the fertilizer and hog manure they’ve been dumping into Iowa’s waterways and drinking water.

This is just the tip of the iceberg in Iowa. Rolled up in that iceberg are other key issues of the 2016 election such as immigration, health care and obesity, poverty and income inequality, and the entrenchment of a corporate oligarchy. In other words, Iowa is a pint-sized version of the United States. And like the rest of the United States its pollution makes its other problems look like a cakewalk.

The author of this article was not lamenting the difficulty of getting a candidate elected. He was talking about how difficult it is to keep promises once a candidate takes office. One of Obama’s campaign promises was the reform of industrial agriculture, which is why he appointed Tom Vilsack as Agriculture Secretary. But even though Vilsack had been governor of Iowa and a supporter of reform, his appointment did not have the hoped-for effect.

Tyson responded to his efforts by joining with Smithfield and other meat producers to mount a multimillion-dollar lobbying campaign, complete with astroturf opposition and congressional arm-twisting. Big Ag outplayed Vilsack at nearly every turn, and he quickly backpedaled on the new rules. Finally, Congress killed the reform effort late in 2011. Two years later, with the fundamentals of its business plan intact, Smithfield sold itself to the Shuanghui Group, a Chinese company. What Smithfiel sold to the Chinese was less its pork production than its control of Iowa’s politics and its landscape. The irony of some of the world’s last remaining Communists taking over from Iowa’s swine capitalists is outdone only by Donald Trump, who spends whatever time he isn’t using to bash immigrants bashing the Chinese. He offers no hint of course, about how he might best the Shuanghui Group, which, through finely honed contracts, now controls the landscape of all that beautiful corn in the Midwest.

So what exactly is this business plan passed on to the Chinese by Smithfield? It is modern-day serfdom. Iowans say their state has been chickenized. Richard Manning thinks it’s more accurate to say it has been Tysonized. Tyson describes the process as vertical integration. Thanks to its efforts over the last 30 years the company owns every step of the process, from producing and delivering feed and hatchlings to slaughter, processing and distribution. During that time, Tyson has even managed to redesign the chicken by genetically selecting for animals that will eat high-energy corn and soy while crammed in windowless, climate-controlled factories.

The process depended on a networked system of growers and farmers, who became contractors. The network was organized as a tournament. Tyson delivered hatchlings, formulated and supplied the feed and antibiotics, and took away the birds when they were ready for slaughter…Growers in a given region were lumped in a pool and paid on the basis of a competitive scheme that ranked them according to the pounds of chicken produced per pound of feed. Everything was tightly monitored by a flow of data that measured corn and soy in, McNuggets out. A productivity gain of a few percentage points meant the difference between bankruptcy and a paycheck for many growers.

What a feat! Tyson not only reformulated chickens, it domesticated farmers. So naturally the pork processors wanted to get in on the deal. A large part of the pollution in Iowa comes from the manure produced by these operations. It is not regulated because unlike factory waste, farm waste is not considered pollution. Never mind that twenty-one million Hogs produce the waste of about 45 million people. (Iowa has a population of just 3 million.) The chickens likewise produce more manure than all the people in the state and almost none of it passes through a sewage treatment plant or septic tank before going into the public waterways and drinking water.

The financialization of food and farming has wreaked havoc on the natural world. The long list of the consequences of industrialized agriculture includes the polluting of lakes, rivers, streams, and marine ecosystems with agrochemicals, excess fertilizer, and animal waste. (Foodopoly, page 11. cited below)

It is possible to remove nitrates from water. However at this concentration Des Moines Water Works would need an equipment upgrade costing up to $180 million. And there are 260 cities and towns in Iowa with the same problem. And even if they all removed the nutrients from their drinking water it would not help the life of the rivers. Or the ocean. Nitrates traveling from the corn-belt down the Mississippi River have killed ‘a Connecticut-size stretch of the Gulf of Mexico.”

The cost-effective way of solving the problem would be to run the drainage pipes into wetlands, plant some permanent pastures, apply less fertilizer and replace much of the corn with other crops. Unfortunately the government would have to stop subsidizing the growing of corn and those who receive subsidies won’t allow it.

Meanwhile a diet of corn products and products from soybeans, a companion plant of corn, is changing America’s diet. Eighty-five percent of America’s farmable cropland is planted in corn, soybeans, wheat and hay. In Iowa, 23 million of 24 million acres is planted in corn and soybeans. This translates into higher consumption of high-fructose corn syrup as well as products containing soybean oil. From 1909 to 1999 the consumption of soybean oil increased a thousand fold. Linoleic acid found in soybean oil is a culprit in the obesity epidemic, and since livestock feed contains soybeans it is even found in the chicken and pork we eat. It may even be responsible for decreased brain development in the population since it supplants omega-3s in our diets.

The plight of the family farm raises fundamental questions about what kind of society we want to have. Back in 2014  I imagined a new kind of community centered around family farms. I said that one of the things this community would have to do is develop its own candidates for public office. Sadly, that wasn’t a new idea. That’s exactly what farm communities used to do. We’ve actually been moving away from that ideal. Now agribusiness’s gains of the last twenty years have made the rivers run so thick with animal waste and synthetic fertilizer everything the river touches dies.

This is all relevant to the election of 2016.  Farmers have been the vanguard of populism since the Civil War, fighting abuses by railroads, banks, grain merchants, and food processors, and government allies of agribusiness. And we can’t forget the speculators. Hedge funds, one of the main culprits behind the recent financial crisis, have become some of the largest investors in food companies, farmland, and agricultural products. Their speculation in food commodity markets has also contributed to price spikes in corn and soybeans. Hedge funds have been big proponents of grabbing land worldwide in order to capitalize on expectations of profitability from climate change on agriculture. (Foodopoly, Page 11)

These financial interests have worked together to decrease the number of family farms because farming communities are the biggest obstacles to their oligarchic pretensions. Farmers led the populist uprisings of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries when unfair economic policies threatened farm family livelihoods. Family farmers banded together to form organizations like the Grange, the Farm Alliance, and the National Farmers Union. They ran candidates and joined with progressive allies in labor and social justice movements.

If you’re wondering why you haven’t heard about this it’s because it’s been erased from history–especially the post-World War II part. (Foodopoly, page 13) In 1955, in response to Ezra Benson’s move to reduce crop prices, farmers formed The National Farmers Organization (NFO). Benson, who was simultaneously a Mormon apostle and President Eisenhower’s secretary of agriculture, was determined to destroy the New Deal program for agriculture that ensured fair farm prices. As a representative of the ‘captains of industry’, he saw farmers as excess labor. This cabal organized the Committee for Economic Development (CED) in 1942. (Foodopoly, page 13) However it wasn’t until the early 1960s that it released its report stating its intentions for this so-called excess labor. The corporate solution was to get farm boys off the farm and into vocational training for industrial skills, and relocated to where their labor was needed. So by the time of the August 1962 NFO convention in Des Moines, Iowa farmers were fighting mad.

At this time the CED was headed by representatives of Ford Motor Company and Sears, so the NFO organized catalogue marches in seven cities where protesters dumped Sears catalogs in front of their stores and drove Ford cars and trucks in circles around Ford establishments in several cities. Not long afterward both companies disavowed the report and the U.S. Senate and House agriculture committees held hearings to discredit the ‘solution’ pedaled by the CED. (Foodopoly, page 15) But unfortunately the enemies of the people have plenty of time and resources, and they never quit.

During the CED’s first fifteen years of existence, thirty-eight of its trustees held public office and two served as presidents of the Federal Reserve Bank. The organization maintained strong relationships with the Truman, Eisenhower, and Kennedy administrations, helping to direct government research dollars as well as to provide funding for academic research. The strong ties to academia resulted in policy prescriptions shrouded in sophisticated economic rhetoric and focused on weakening the reform-liberalism of the New Deal. They couched their proclamations on shrinking the farm population as moving ‘labor and capital where they will be most productive.’

In 1962 Kennedy was influenced to support a massive tax cut by a CED report that called for ‘a prompt, substantial and permanent reduction’. The CED helped organize the Business Committee for Tax Reduction, endorsed by Kennedy, which actively lobbied Congress, eventually resulting in the passage of legislation in 1964 cutting individual tax rates by 20 percent across the board and reducing corporate tax rates.

They were aided in these efforts by their propaganda arm. The CED’s information committee included members of several advertising agencies, the editors of the Atlanta Constitution and Look, the publisher of the Washington Post, the head of the Book-of-the-Month Club, the board chairman of Curtis Publishing, and the presidents of Time-Life and the Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS). The CED’s 1958 pamphlet, ‘Defense Against Inflation,’ was discussed in 354 papers and magazines, reaching 31 million people. Everything was done according to plan.  (Foodopoly, page 15)

Immediately after its formation in 1942 the CED began creating a postwar program to expand chemical-intensive agriculture and to grant industrial and financial interests more control over it. It worked to create a postwar economy built on massive and profitable industrial growth in the North, which would require an enormous pool of cheap labor.

But first they had to do away with those pesky programs created by the Agricultural Adjustment Act of 1933 which were intended to achieve parity for farmers. This is how the Adjustment Act worked:

The act provided for acreage reduction and land set-asides to reduce over-production. In addition, the Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) established a price floor by making loans to farmers when the food processors or grain corporations refused to pay farmers a price that covered the cost of production. Farmers pledged their crops to the government as collateral against the loans, effectively ensuring that they were paid a fair price. The loan rate, set by the CCC and based on parity, acted as a price floor, because a farmer could sell to a national grain reserve that was established as a last-resort market.(Foodopoly, page 15)

The grain reserve was filled when crops were abundant and prices were low; grain was released when crops were scarce. In this way the reserve prevented crop prices from skyrocketing during times of drought or low production. Since this policy stopped products from reaching the market if the price was not fair, prices inevitably returned to a normal level, and farmers could pay off their loans. Together these policies helped keep overproduction in check and reduced commodity price volatility. This meant farmers could make a living without subsidies.

The parity programs worked so well that there was real prosperity in rural areas during World War II and that postwar period. This was strikingly different from the post-World War I era when, without supply management, farm prices collapsed. The programs also worked for Main Street by reducing price volatility, and the grain reserve actually make a profit of $13 million over twenty years as the crops were sold on the commodity market.

But the food-processing and grain industries preferred overproduction because it led to cheap prices for the products they needed–a preference that still motivates their propaganda. And it’s important that they are also motivated by their fear of the political power of farmers.

The story of the destruction of parity reminds me of the biblical story of Joseph whom his brothers sold into slavery. He ended up in Egypt where he was given the job of telling the Pharaoh the meaning of his dream. Joseph told the pharaoh it was a warning that a famine was coming. Egypt prepared for this famine by storing grain. There was indeed a famine and Joseph’s brothers traveled to Egypt when their own supplies ran out, not knowing that they had been saved by their brother’s wise policies. Our situation is the reverse of the biblical story. Agribusiness is the anti-Joseph.

Today the representatives of agribusiness include the American Farm Bureau Federation, which works in concert with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. In the twenties this group worked with members of Congress, ‘the farm bloc’, who feared the Progressive movement. The farm bloc was made up of farm-state legislators who wanted to appear to address the concerns of their constituents without changing the overall economic structure. The 1921 Packers and Stockyards Act passed in spite of their efforts to defeat it but it was poorly designed. Although it did manage to curb excesses through the 70s it has not been seriously enforced since the 80s.

In 2008 Obama found he was unable to keep his campaign promise to correct this situation and in the Fall of 2011 the Republican-controlled House of Representatives denied funding for enforcing regulations at the Departments of Agriculture and Justice. A similar fate befell the post-World War I effort by populists to abolish futures trading. Commodity speculation continued to plague farmers right up to the 1929 stock market crash.

Today populists face the same powerful forces with a drastically reduced number of family farms and labor unions that are in a state of dysfunction. Our situation is as serious as it gets. For that reason I have serious doubts about pundits who criticized Senator Sanders during the campaign for not satisfying all of their criteria. I can understand if the younger voters lack perspective, but not the so-called experts.

Now at the risk of contradicting everything I’ve said so far, Bernie’s campaign is not your grandmother’s populism. My main piece of evidence is his invitation to Native Americans to take part in the primary. Most of us probably didn’t realize how unusual this was at the time—not for Bernie of course, it was consistent with his civil rights work–but it was at least a contradiction in terms. If I’m not mistaken, the first populist movements carry some responsibility for homestead policies that imposed on tribal lands, railroads on tribal lands, and residential schools that separated native children from their culture. So maybe we’re creating an opening for an entirely new political entity. This is an interesting development and it needs more thought.

The other side of this contradiction—the family farm side—is important for the reasons stated above. We need farmers if we’re going to survive but the environment can’t tolerate the agribusiness approach. Iowa’s extreme pollution only appeared in the last twenty years and it’s getting worse by the day. Family farms and the communities that grow up around them are one solution. On the other hand most of us would make sorry farmers at this point. This also supports my suggestion that something new is needed—new organizational structure, new ways of thinking. However there are principles in our populist past that might help us go forward.

Now I just had a terrible thought. What if the conflicts of the past were the result of a failure to think through problems like this? Now that I’ve learned how difficult this process is I think it’s possible. You think you’re on to something with the populist fight against the oligarchs and suddenly you remember the Native Americans and their struggle to protect our water. Was it like that in the nineteenth century I wonder? Maybe in their struggle against corporate interests people couldn’t see anyone else until they came face-to-face with the original inhabitants of their so-called homestead. Or maybe they were just used by the oligarchs to help clear the way for the railroads. I suppose it’s also possible that they were as pugnacious in their own way as the oligarchs. And maybe all of those things were factors.

I wonder, what might happen if this time we begin with the Native Americans and their unique culture and build from there? I already know what the oligarchs will say about this. Judging from the way they categorize these people, and corral and enslave them, they seem to hate and fear indigenous people most of all. We on the other hand have no obligation to the oligarchs’ agenda. Their ways are not our ways.

Bernie Sanders and Jonah

I realize now the false claim that Senator Sanders is an atheist has contributed to a major blind spot regarding the meaning of his campaign—at least for me. In fact, it could be argued that the Sanders campaign has been making a religious statement about the nature of our times—a statement that has not been articulated for two thousand years.

When he spoke at Liberty University Bernie quoted the prophet Amos:

“But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream.” (Amos 5: 24)

Perhaps this association between Sanders and Amos can explain how Sanders could wage such a devastating battle against his opponents and yet accept his losses with equanimity. Perhaps his desire to win is not mutually exclusive of the focus on getting his message out.

According to Robert Eisler, this verse in Amos refers to the Messianic water of life in its original spiritual sense. ((Orpheus the Fisher: Comparative studies in Orphic and early Christian cult symbolism. Rare Mystical Imprints, Kessinger Publishing)) However it has also been interpreted literally. Eisler says this tug-of-war between the mystical and the literal is a characteristic of religious experience.

Many of you will be aware that the last person to be influenced politically by verses like this one from Amos was John the Baptist, and this may not seem like the most encouraging of associations for Senator Sanders.  But I would argue that we are not re-enacting that old drama. While scriptural verses might give us clues about its nature and meaning, the phenomenon itself is fresh and new for our time.

Some might also be concerned that this view is in conflict with the views of one of our friends in this conversation, Pope Francis. But it is not at all. These ideas represent the meeting of all religions, especially Christianity and Judaism, but also Islam, Buddhism and Hinduism, among others.

Eisler speculates that Ezekiel 47: 9-10 is another passage that influenced the doctrine of the Baptist and he presents this passage as an example of the way in which literal interpretations compete with allegorical interpretations.

The Jewish exegesis of the scriptures haven’t been handed down to us, but Eisler thinks it’s possible to reconstruct them from the commentaries of the Christian Fathers by eliminating the specially Christian features of their symbolism and retaining those elements which clearly correspond to Jewish ideas. He begins with Theodoret’s Commentary on Ezekiel:

“The Church Father refers the prophecy about the mystic stream to the sacrament of baptism, by saying ‘all those that are washed in the redeeming waters will reach salvation’. He means of course the Christian baptism, but the words could quite as well be used by a disciple of John, since the latter’s baptism is intended to save the repentant and regenerate new Israel from the ‘wrath to come’.”

And he provides a direct quote from Theodoret:

Ezekiel says also that the water will be full of fish and frequented by many fishermen: for many are they who through these waters will be fished for redemption, and numerous are they to whom the catching of this booty is entrusted…And Ezekiel says also that the multitude of fish will not resemble the number contained in a river but in the largest ocean; for the new people will not be equal in number to the old, but similar to the ocean of the nations, and it will fill the habitable world.

Also, Jerome identified the mystic stream running down from the threshold of Ezekiel’s temple to the desert with the pure water of regeneration, which God Promises to sprinkle over Israel in Ezekiel 36:24.

This water signifies, as he says several times, the grace of God to be obtained through baptism. By the fishermen, however, that stand on the river’s banks the same fishers are meant, to whom the Lord Jesus said, “I will make you to become fishers of men,” of whom we also find written in Jeremiah [16:16] ‘Behold I shall send many fishers that shall fish you’.

Bernie Sanders and Pope Francis seem to be carrying on the tradition of John the Baptist with the content of their teachings as well. Jesus said of John that he came in the way of righteousness. (Matt. 21:32) And Josephus put it this way:  “[H]e taught the Jews to practice virtue both as to justice towards one another and piety to God.”

According to Eisler this means that John’s ideal was the old Jewish ṣedākah, the legal principle of justice, a religious ‘suum cuique’ involving faithfulness to our duties both towards God and our fellow-men. Eisler cites Luke for single examples of his moral teachings:

“The publicans shall exact no more than that which is due to them; the soldiers shall be content with their wages and not abuse their function as police by doing violence to people or bringing false denunciations against them; whoever has the least superabundance of clothing or meat, shall give of it to his brother in need.”

I think it is important in the context of this election, to also mention important differences of opinion that exist in Judaism regarding the proper approach of said fishermen. First, there is the conviction that men could accelerate the coming of the Kingdom and force it down immediately by certain actions, either of obedience or of disobedience to the commandments of God. John thought fervent repentance would be strong enough to bring the kingdom of heaven down by force, and Jesus indicated that he thought God approved of this when he said of John:

“But from the days of Jonah—the Baptist—until now the Kingdom of Heaven is being stormed and the violent appropriate it by force.” (Matt. 11:12 and Luke 16:16)

In the notes on page 158 Eisler explains the second approach.  Speaking of taking the kingdom by force he says:

“That such an apparent violation of the Divine plans of Providence was not always considered as sinful…may be seen from the repeated saying in the Talmud, that God loves to be conquered by a sinner through repentance. For the contrary view, cp. the Rabbinic comments on Canticles 2:7: ‘I conjure you…do not stir up, do not awake love, until He pleases.’ This double entreaty is said on the one hand to charge the Israelites not to cast off the yoke of the secular powers by force and not to return by means of a revolution into the promised land, on the other hand to warn the Gentiles against making the yoke of Israel unbearable. For in both cases the wrongdoers would be guilty of forcing the Messianic Day to dawn before its time.”

This is from the chapter in which Eisler compares John the Baptist to Jonah, who ‘quarrels with Jahvé because He defers again and again in His forbearance the foretold Day of Judgment’. We know Jonah was punished. In addition, Eisler cites Rabbi Oniah’s statement that ‘four generations have already perished, because they tried to invade the kingdom’. Rabbi Oniah specifically mentions the generation of Bar-Kokhba.

Speaking of literal interpretations, some of Sanders’ followers think he should have strong-armed his way to the presidency.   I would argue that this background suggest the importance of balance at the Democratic Convention.

I don’t know if Sanders would agree with the associations I’ve made in this article.  I think they are reasonable based on the evidence, but either way I’m content to let things unfold however they will.  I’m confidant that the ultimate meaning of this campaign will not be decided by the hard facts of this election.

Religion and Politics

When someone asked Pope Francis if a good Catholic could vote for a man who wants to build a wall between Mexico and the United States, he answered that a person who wants to build walls rather than bridges is not a Christian. Trump was outraged at this statement. However he claims he wasn’t mad at the pope. He was mad at the Mexicans for telling the pope lies about him.

Some might doubt my impartiality on this issue for the reason that I’m not only a supporter of Bernie Sanders, I’ve argued for the importance of dialogue with the pope. However this touches on an issue that I was having problems with before the presidential race began. I’ll list the main points in no particular order.

1. There is nothing more confusing to an observer than a secular system in which politicians are expected to prove themselves to religious voters.

2. Politicians insist the pope has no right to comment on their behavior in office, even Catholic politicians.

3. Religion has had an enormous influence in America’s secular system.

4. Politicians who claim to be religious also claim autonomy from religious authority.

5. It seems that politicians violate the principle of the separation of church and state when they use their religion to win votes.

6. The behavior that was said to be un-Christian was the plan to build a wall to keep out migrants. Trump defended this plan on grounds that the pope was unaware of its importance. However its importance hinges on the unproven assumption that migrants are dangerous and therefore not deserving of our help.

7. Even if we accept the claim that the pope has no authority in politics and that his role is limited to spiritual matters, wouldn’t the definition of Christian behavior fall within his purview?