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aaaaaaaaabigotry32Bigotry is fueling the flames of the GOP primary. (Photo: Travis Wise)

It's appalling to watch so many of the GOP presidential candidates try to outdo each other in trolling for racist and xenophobic votes by using the low-hanging fruit of bigotry.

Their basic message is that if one is not white, one is part of that great "threatening" mass that so many whites fear: "the other." This morphs into Republican presidential aspirants throwing out molotov cocktail soundbites, announcing in thinly veiled language that "the other" - in whatever guise - is both an existential and lethal threat to whites in the US.

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One particular "off to the races" moment for the 2016 fusillade of vile appeals to whites - and particularly white Christians - who feel that their white privilege and religious "values" are under siege was Donald Trump's demagogic statement about Mexican-American refugees, unleashed during his candidacy announcement:

When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists....

But I speak to border guards and they tell us what we’re getting. And it only makes common sense. It only makes common sense. They’re sending us not the right people. 


2015.24.9 BF Koehler(Photo: Wally Gobetz)ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

“Native Americans have to concede that rain dances don’t work.”

Yeah, snort. How funny can you get? It’s the New Rules segment of “Real Time with Bill Maher” and the host has just tossed his gag tomahawk at the First People. A picture fills the screen: Indians in full regalia, dancing. The caption below it says “Tribal Thumpers.” He pauses, straight-faced, eyeballs rolling in sarcasm. There’s a trickle of laughter amid the awkward silence, then Maher turns away from the camera, presumably toward the crew back stage, and calls out in his fake shame-on-me voice, “Are you making fun of Indians, Bill?”

The moment lasts about 20 seconds, then he’s on to the next putdown joke.

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So why am I still thinking about it a week later? Indeed, it has a hold of me like a car alarm that won’t shut up. What’s reverberating in my head isn’t some moral offense at a politically incorrect joke, which I could, I think, shrug off. What I can’t let go of is the arrogant American ignorance fueling this gag. It wasn’t funny. It was just stupid — but stupid in a way that celebrates and perpetuates pretty much everything that’s wrong with who we are.


aaaCoalRemoval(Photo: JW Randolph)From the time I was a teenager, I’ve wrestled with the question of good and evil. The question led me to the study of philosophy and literature. When I was sixteen years old, I began reading the Russian authors, starting with Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment.   Naïve, I sided with Alyosha Karamazov, a saintly loving monk—a man who, despite the despicable things that humans do to one another, held faith in the goodness of God, and in the idea that humans are fundamentally good, but they do evil things in a state of ignorance.

This idea that evil is committed in a state of ignorance goes back to Plato’s definition of wrongdoing, a concept that St. Augustine accepted, only he referred to the Higher Good as God and that a person could do evil acts only in the absence of God’s Love, i.e., he/she lived in ignorance, a kind of dark void of the soul.

But what if you know what you’re doing is wrong and you do it anyway?

It wasn’t until I came across a profound statement, uttered by Alyosha’s brother, Ivan, an intellectual skeptic, that this inquiry of good and evil became far more confusing than initially conceived. At the time, I didn’t know that it was a famous hypothesis:

If God is dead, then everything is permitted.

I reasoned that if you took that statement to its final conclusion—it would most likely point to the end of humanity because without moral guidance, and enforced legal restrictions, men would push the limits of their greed and avarice to mass suicide.


aaaGlacierPeruEcowatch(Photo: Edubucher)While countries have dragged their feet for years on meaningful climate action, many cities around the world have forged ahead with sustainability efforts. In July, about 60 mayors pledged to fight climate change at a two-day conference hosted by Pope Francis.

Several cities have even made impressive strides to ditch fossil fuels in favor of renewables. Two recent reports have confirmed that 100 percent renewable energy is possible. Earlier this summer, professors out of Stanford and U.C. Berkeley laid out a plan for the U.S. to convert to 100 percent renewable energy in less than 40 years, and Monday Greenpeace published its Energy Revolution 2015 report, which proposes a pathway to a 100 percent sustainable energy supply by 2050.

A report issued last week by CDP, a a U.K.-based nonprofit, and AECOM shows that “96 cities—one third of cities participating in CDP—are already taking action to decarbonize their electricity supply. And 86 percent of these cities say taking action on climate change presents an economic opportunity.”

This year, 308 cities reported to CDP. Nearly half a billion people call these cities home—equivalent to the combined population of the U.S., UK and France. The report found that “currently over a third of cities get more than three quarters of their electricity from non-fossil fuel sources, showing that cities are actively using cleaner energy sources.”


aaaSerra(Photo: Olivier)During his July visit to Bolivia, Pope Francis “apologized for the ‘grave sins’ of colonialism against the native people of the Americas,” USA Today’s Bill Theobald recently reported. “I humbly ask forgiveness, not only for the offense of the church herself, but also for crimes committed against the native peoples during the so-called conquest of America,” the pope said. Why then is Pope Francis canonizing Junípero Serra, the embodiment of crimes committed against native peoples in California?

Why is Pope Francis conferring sainthood on a man whose actions led to the destruction of native peoples in California? Sainthood for Serra, a man who founded missions where native peoples were imprisoned and tortured, and where thousands died? At the time of the announcement, it seemed that Pope Francis, who seems to be a man with a great yearning for social justice, might be unfamiliar with the complete Serra story?

In January, when Pope Francis announced plans to canonize Serra, it opened deep and old wounds. On Wednesday, however, at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., Serra, who the pope called an “evangelizer of the West,” will become America’s first Hispanic saint.

Serra the “evangelizer,” was also an agent of colonialism, death and destruction.

Tuesday, 22 September 2015 06:13

Colorado Marijuana Tax Revenues Are Soaring


aaaaaaaaaaaacolorfulcol34Will the decriminalization of marijuana be the first small step toward ending the ruinous "war on drugs"? (Photo: Kent Kanouse)

September 21 article in the Guardian US reports that marijuana sales in Colorado are exceeding state tax-revenue expectations:

Legal marijuana tax revenues have been breaking records in Colorado this summer, nearly doubling monthly numbers from last year and on pace to exceed projections of legal sales that bring revenue back to the state.

Through the first seven months of this year, Colorado has brought in nearly $73.5m, putting the state on pace to collect over $125m for the year.

As the article notes, the new estimate of $125 million in state tax revenue far exceeds the previous projection of $70 million.

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Why are marijuana sales increasing at such a rapid rate in Colorado? The Guardian US offers a couple of possible explanations:

Tim Cullen, CEO of Colorado Harvest Company, said: "People who would never have considered pot before are now popping their heads in." His company has three dispensaries in the Denver area and plans for a fourth. He noted that in his stores, where customers are primarily Colorado residents purchasing recreational marijuana, sales have been averaging 8% to 12% growth month over month for much of this year.

2015.21.9 BF sirota(Photo: Elizabeth Bean)DAVID SIROTA FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Environmental groups and Democratic legislators are pressuring New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to say that General Electric must continue cleaning up the massive pollution the company dumped into the Hudson River from 1947 to 1977. Cuomo's own environmental officials say the pollution continues to cause "ongoing contamination," and federal officials warn that GE's plan to end its cleanup this fall could harm the effort to restore the river's ecosystem.

But the Democratic governor — who has benefited from GE's campaign cash — is declining to say whether he agrees.

In comments to reporters in Albany earlier this month, the governor said he thinks the company should "follow the law and the agreements that have been made." Under the 2002 agreement in question, GE is planning to shut down its cleanup operations at the end of 2015 — which, environmental groups claim, will leave behind at least 35 percent of the carcinogenic polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) the company dumped into the river during the mid-20th century.

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"I know there are claims for (GE) to do more above and beyond that," Cuomo said of the request by legislators and environmental groups. But, he added, "I haven't really looked into that."


Article reprinted with permission from EcoWatch

Thanks to a months-long investigation by the Pulitzer-prize winning InsideClimate News, we learned last week that ExxonMobil’s own scientists had secretly confirmed the science behind human-caused climate change as early as the late 1970s.

Yes—this is the same ExxonMobil that has funded efforts to attack the science of climate change for more than two decades. As I recount in The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars, I found myself at the center of those attacks because of the iconic Hockey Stick graph my co-authors and I published back in the late 1990s. The graph highlighted, in an easily understandable way, the unprecedented nature of modern global warming. As a result, it proved greatly inconvenient for vested interests, like ExxonMobil, who are opposed to regulation of carbon emissions—from the burning of fossil fuels—that are behind the warming of the globe and the associated changes in climate.

The parallels with the tobacco industry, which knew about—and hid from the public—the health dangers of cigarette smoking, are staggering. Indeed, the industry-funded climate change denial campaign, as I discuss in The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars, has its roots in the earlier tobacco industry disinformation campaign.


aaaForestFire(Photo: MGA73bot2)Headlines from newspapers across the Western U.S. are overwhelming and devastating; thousands of acres of forestland burning, rural communities evacuated, hundreds of homes destroyed. As huge swaths of land – 70,000 acres in California's Lake County alone -- are devoured by unprecedented wildfires, climate scientists and Forest Service officials are warning that recent megablazes, including those in the rainforest of the Olympic Peninsula, in Alaska, in eastern Oregon, and any of the ten currently raging in California, "is the present, and the future, of climate change," writes Rolling Stone's Tim Dickinson.

For the Forest Service, it's beyond an all hands-on-deck situation as large numbers of National Guard and active Army troops have been called on to fight the fires.

Despite incontrovertible evidence that climate change is magnifying and multiplying the damage caused by forest fires, climate change deniers push on.

The Republican Party's presidential candidates are standing firm with the deniers; some claiming that the debate over climate change has not yet been resolved, some suggesting that there is not enough evidence that climate change is man-made, and some maintaining that the costs of dealing with climate change is too high. And, it should be noted, with the Koch Brothers possibly pumping as much as $900 million into Election 2016, GOP candidates know very well where to turn to for there positions on climate change.

There is a searing political dimension to the issue of megablazes. Take Idaho for example, where, Jan Lee recently reported at Triple Pundit, that Gov. Butch Otter, a "stalwart against accepting any federal monies from the Obama administration," including "Medicaid allowances for the elderly and disabled, faced with increasing demand for firefighting resources, declared a state of emergency."


aaaaaaaaadetainA pro-immigration advocate holds a poster at a Washington DC rally that reads (in English): "No to Detention, Deportation and Family Separation" (Photo: Stephen Melkisethian)

The US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has granted a contract to a subsidiary of the private prison company GEO Group to manage the cases of refugee families after they are released from physical detention. In doing so, it is subjecting children and parents in crisis to the care of a company whose umbrella company profits from their prison-like confinement. 

"There, at every turn in the expansion of the immigration enforcement system, are the for-profit prison and detention corporations," Mary Small, policy director for the Detention Watch Network, told BuzzFlash at Truthout. "They encourage the expansion of the entire system, and the biggest expansion in the last year has been family detention and management." 

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In this case, the parent corporation of the contracted case management firm - GEO Care LLC - makes a profit off of high detention-center occupancy, meaning a steady influx of detainees, primarily from Mexico and Central America, is necessary. With a subsidiary of GEO Group, the fate of these refugees in crisis is not in neutral hands. One can speculate that it would be in the interest of the parent corporation for the case manager working for the subsidiary to find reasons to re-detain families - particularly should a detention facility run by GEO not be full.

Washington Post article from the spring of 2015 discusses the fact that for-profit incarceration companies often have agreements that guarantee a certain (high) level of prison occupancy. As for the immigration detention side of the business, the Washington Post notes,

There’s even a lockup quota at the federal level: The Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s detention budget includes a mandate from Congress that at least 34,000 immigrants remain detained on a daily basis, a quota that has steadily grown each year, even as the undocumented immigrant population in the United States has leveled off.

In 2013, Lee Fang wrote a lengthy article in The Nation detailing extensive lobbying efforts and financial contributions that the for-profit prison and detention industry uses to push "for enforcement-heavy" immigration laws.

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