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BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaHalloween(Photo: Toby Ord)For around $300.00, you can purchase your own Halloween Hell House Kit. Back in the day when the Rev. Jerry Falwell was roaming the planet, he hit upon a fantabulous money-making/soul-saving scheme. Why give over Halloween to the hell raisers, candy scavengers and trick or treaters, he thought? Let's get in on the action. And that's precisely what he did.

Churches around the country would set up "Hell Houses," places that young people could visit and get the crap scared out of them.

According to psmag.com's Marc Herman, "New Destiny Christian Center, a Colorado-based evangelical ministry, is the specialist in the programs." Over the years, Hell Houses have become remarkably adaptable to current issues.

While $299.00 will get you the basic kit, a few more bucks will get you "plug-in 'modules,' allowing a particular hell house to address specific sins in one's own neighborhood. The online brochure starts off with a new 'domestic abuse' stage set, moving on to the 'rave scene,' 'drunk driving,' and the 'gay wedding.'"

Friday, 31 October 2014 07:03

Twelve Ways Jim Crow Is Winning in 2014

BOB FITRAKIS AND HARVEY WASSERMAN FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaJimCrow(Photo: Ben Shahn)Jim Crow is already the big winner in this year's election.

The corporate elite needs him to gouge the planet, wage perpetual imperial war and rule the rest of us.

So the voting rights of millions of student, elderly, black, Hispanic and other citizens are being lynched.

Which may now decide control of the US Senate, many state legislatures...and the White House in 2016.

The corporate-Christian right has long used the drug war to disenfranchise millions of citizens of youth and color. Gay and reproductive rights, feminism and the politics of hate have mobilized Christian crusaders to flood the polls for the GOP.

But we have turned the corner on the culture war. With the winding down of marijuana prohibition, widespread gay rights victories and more, Republicans now need the outright destruction of democracy itself to win an election...

ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaVotingBooth(Photo: Electiontechnology)Democracy! A word, a way of life, our highest ideal: Everyone is equal; no one is marginal.

I still feel the force of this word, though the middle syllable — "mock" — grows increasingly dominant when I hear it, especially now, as election season rolls around again. The enormity of my indifference to this election is balanced by something that feels like grief. The system we live under is . . .

Words fail me. Pardon me while I quote Nietzsche.

"God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him. How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers? What was holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet owned has bled to death under our knives: who will wipe this blood off us? What water is there for us to clean ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we have to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we ourselves not become gods simply to appear worthy of it?"

Writing is either an act of hope or an act of cynicism, and I have always committed myself to reaching for the former in my commentary on current events, no matter how disturbing the events may be. But in this moment, I feel myself walking the edge of cynicism: The system we live under is a joke, a farce, a calculated lie. I say this as someone who believed in it deeply, who embraced our history of expanding inclusiveness.

2014.10.29.Solar.BFThe first Women Barefoot Solar Engineers of Mauritania are installing solar panels in their villages. (Photo: Barefoot Photographers of Tilonia / Flickr)

ANASTASIA PANTSIOS OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

A popular narrative among climate deniers and green energy pooh-poohers is that addressing greenhouse gas emissions and climate change by promoting clean energy sources is a burden on the world’s poorer countries and prevents their citizens from having access to affordable energy. A new report, Climatescope 2014: Mapping the Global Frontier for Clean Energy Investment, undermines that contention, showing that some of the world’s poorest countries are already renewable energy leaders.

According to the report, which evaluated the ability of 55 countries to attract investments in clean energy based on their current and future policies and financing, developing nations are kicking the ass of established economies when it comes to building green economies. It found that emerging markets saw a 143 percent growth in clean energy capacity, compared to 84 percent for wealthier, established economies.

“Clean energy is the low-cost option in a lot of these countries,” said Ethan Zindler, an analyst for Bloomberg New Energy Finance, one of Climatescope’s developers, along with the Multilateral Investment Fund of the Inter-American Development Bank Group and the U.K. Government Department for International Development. “The technologies are cost-competitive right now. Not in the future, but right now.”

ANASTASIA PANTSIOS OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaSolarEcoWatch(Photo: EcoWatch)Renewable energy may currently make up only a small percentage of U.S. energy generation capacity, but it’s one of the fastest growing sectors.

Renewable energy generation—primarily wind and solar power—provided more than 40 percent of the new energy capacity in the U.S. in the first three quarters of this year, according to the latest U.S. Federation Energy Regulation Commission (FERC) Energy Infrastructure Update. Oil, nuclear and especially coal provided little new capacity, with renewables outstripping them more than 35 times. Only natural gas, driven by the growth of fracking, showed more growth, and many industry observers think its growth potential is finite.

The new installed capacity of natural gas declined compared to the first three quarters of 2013, from 6,643 megawatt (MW) to 5,153. Wind was the big winner, upping its installed capacity from 965 MW to 1,614 in that period. In September, new wind capacity led the way with 367 MW, followed by natural gas with 114. Coal showed no increase in existing capacity so far this year. Overall, new capacity from all forms of energy declined from 11,452 in the first three quarters of last year to 8,860 this year.

Among FERC’s project updates is that Kern County, California’s Techachapi Wind Energy Storage project is now up and running. The South California Edison Project, FERC says, “consists of an 8 MW-four-hour (32 MWh) lithium-ion battery and a smart inverter system, [and] will help store energy from the existing 5,000 wind turbines and any future additions in the Techachapi Wind Resource Area. Housed inside a 6,300 square foot facility, it is the largest battery energy storage in North America.” Such projects bode well for the continued growth of wind power.

DAVID SIROTA ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaBooze(Photo: Chris huh)When Colorado voters in 2012 approved a ballot measure legalizing marijuana, the state did not merely break new ground in the ongoing battle over narcotics policy. It also bolstered an innovative new political message that compares cannabis to alcohol.

Two years later, that comparison is being deployed in key marijuana-related elections throughout the country, and drug reform advocates are so sure marijuana is safer than alcohol, they are now challenging police to a "drug duel" to prove their point.

The proposal for the duel from David Boyer, an official with the Maine chapter of the Marijuana Policy Project, came after South Portland Police Chief Edward Googins announced his opposition to a municipal referendum to legalize marijuana possession.

"Claims that marijuana is safer than alcohol are so bogus it's not even funny," Googins told a local newspaper.

In response, Boyer has challenged the police chief to a "hit for shot" duel — for every shot of alcohol Googins takes, Boyer would take a toke of marijuana, and the public would be able to see who is in worse physical condition in the end.

2014.10.27.Jonas.BF(Photo: Lucky Rubi / Flickr)

STEVEN JONAS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

An epidemic is sweeping the country. Congress - especially the GOP - is outraged. The Republican propaganda machine, especially Fox - and increasingly CNN - is going full blast with an ongoing headline basically blaring, "The Increasingly Incompetent President's Responsibility to do Something, now!", claiming dilly-dallying, shilly-shallying on the part of the White House, the CDC and what have you.

After all, an epidemic can kill about 1,200 people per day in the US. But wait (as Paul Krugman is fond of saying), that's deaths due to cigarette smoking. It happens that the nation, principally various government agencies, is doing something about this epidemic, using a wide variety of interventions. Smoking rates among adults are down by over half since the publication of the first Surgeon General's Report on Smoking and Health in 1964. (The truth of the science in that report was of course denied with vigor by the tobacco industry until the late 1990s - sound familiar?) In fact, due to the various smoking prevention and quit-smoking programs, tobacco-related deaths should be down to about 600 per day in 30-40 years. But that will still be a lot of preventable deaths that will occur from ongoing peddling of cigarettes for massive profits.

There's another epidemic that kills at least 180 people per day. But wait. Those deaths are due to drinking alcoholic beverages. Not only is there not a national program to deal with the problem, there is an ongoing massive advertising campaign to use the substance. And the ads are usually accompanied by some version of the alcohol beverage companies' idiotic "know when to say when" slogan. Really? You mean when you get drunk, and, say, "I shouldn't drive," you should be capable of "knowing when to say when?"

2014.10.27.Buchheit.BF(Image: Lance Page / t r u t h o u t; Adapted: DSMexiCo / Flickr)PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Global inequality, like global warming, is a disease that may be too far along to ever be cured.

We seem helpless, both in the U.S. and around the world, to stop the incessant flow of wealth to an elitist group of people who are simply building on their existing riches. The increasing rate of their takeaway is the message derived from the Credit Suisse Global Wealth Databook (GWD).

It's already been made clear that the richest Americans have taken almost all the gains in U.S. wealth since the recession. But the unrelenting money grab is a global phenomenon. The GWD confirms just how bad it's getting for the great majority of us.

1. US - Even the Upper Middle Class Is Losing

In just three years, from 2011 to 2014, the bottom half of Americans lost almost half of their share of the nation's wealth, dropping from a 2.5% share to a 1.3% share (detail is here).

Most of the top half lost ground, too. The 36 million upper middle class households just above the median (6th, 7th, and 8th deciles) dropped from a 13.4% share to an 11.9% share. Much of their portion went to the richest one percent.

This is big money. With total U.S. wealth of $84 trillion, the three-year change represents a transfer of wealth of over a trillion dollars from the bottom half of America to the richest 1%, and another trillion dollars from the upper middle class to the 1%.

AKIRA WATTS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaBanksyReaper(Photo: Banksy)With a mere 11 days remaining until election day, the news appears grim for the Democratic Party. The general consensus seems to be that it is more likely than not that the Republicans will retake the Senate. And that, Democratic Party diehards argue, would pretty much be the end of the world. Fundraising emails from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee are growing increasingly shrill, frantic, and frequent. The post-electoral circular firing squad has begun to polish its weapons.

Clearly, we are all doomed, they tell us, unless a few Democratic candidates can somehow hold the line. Let’s take a look at some of those brave few, shall we? In Kentucky, we have Allison Grimes, who cannot bring herself to admit whether or not she cast a vote for our center-right president. In Alaska, we have Mark Begich, who can’t get enough of the Keystone Pipeline. In Arkansas we have Mark Pryor, who couldn’t quite bring himself to support limited gun control measures in the wake of Newtown. In Georgia we have Michelle Nunn, who appears to be deeply ambivalent about the Affordable Care Act.

Hmmm. It seems as though a common thread here is that these candidates, all of whom are in tight races, are running as far and as fast from many progressive positions as they can. Yet they want our money and our votes. Because - they tell us - the Republicans will literally bring about the apocalypse and, even if none of these candidates can bring themselves to act like Democrats, they’ve still got that D after their name. Which, of course, is all that matters.

Thursday, 23 October 2014 11:08

Fracking Threatens Millions of Californians

ANASTASIA PANTSIOS OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaDrillingEcoWatch(Photo: EcoWatch)A new report shows that 5.4 million Californians—more than 14 percent of its 38.3 million population—live within a mile of an oil or gas well, and almost four million of those, or nearly 70 percent, are Hispanic, Asian or African-American, according to a new Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) report Drilling in California: Who’s at Risk? Non-whites make up slightly more than 40 percent of California’s total population.

“California’s communities of color have long been dumping grounds for industrial pollution—and our analysis shows that fracking is poised to pile on more if the oil and gas industry has its way,” said NRDC senior scientist Miriam Rotkin-Ellman and one of the report’s authors. “From polluted skies to contaminated drinking water and hazardous waste, communities of color in California get way more than their fair share. If the oil and gas industry gets their way, drilling—and the environmental and health threats from fracking, acidizing and other technologies—will be piled onto communities already staggering under smoggy skies and unsafe water. From Los Angeles to the state’s farms and ranches, this industry must not be allowed to poison our people’s health.”

Unfortunately, it already is. Nearly two million of those people close to the wells already live in a community with a disproportionate amount of air, water and soil pollution, due to nearby industrial plants, hazardous waste facilities and toxic clean-up sites as well as transportation corridors. Nearly 92 percent of those residents are non-white, a group at outsized risk for respiratory conditions like asthma.

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