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aaaaaaaaaaaaastandyourgroundThe NRA is lobbying to make it easier to have a legal license to kill in Florida. (Photo: Daniel Oines)

The murder of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman in Sanford, Florida, was a lethal example of the racist and mortally flawed "stand your ground" laws. 

If you recall, a "stand your ground" law allows individuals to shoot and, in some cases, even kill other people based on the claim that the shooter "perceived" that their life was being threatened. Technically, the lawyers for Zimmerman (who has since his shooting of Trayvon Martin been involved in several acts of violence and repeatedly tweeted racist comments) argued his case on the basis of what might be called standard self-defense law.

However, the "stand your ground" law was lurking in the background of both the trial and, likely, also the minds of those sitting on the jury that acquitted Zimmerman in 2013. Furthermore, Zimmerman's murder of Martin - after stalking Martin because he was guilty of walking while being a teen Black male - became associated with the deadly and racially charged intent of the "stand your ground law," even if it was not technically at issue in Zimmerman's acquittal.

In an ironic tragedy, it was Trayvon Martin - to whom Zimmerman represented a bodily threat by trailing him and confronting him as an armed vigilante - who would have been able to invoke the "stand your ground" law, because he appropriately feared Zimmerman. However, Martin only had a package of Skittles in his hand, while Zimmerman had a handgun in his.  


Article reprinted with permission from EcoWatch.

I love our national parks. Writer and historian Wallace Stegner called them “the best idea we ever had.” And yet, like the rest of the planet, our parks are under siege from climate change. From bigger and bigger fires threatening Yosemite to rising seas disrupting the Everglades’ fragile ecosystem, the evidence is everywhere.


By now, most conscious beings know a little something about the Koch Brothers. In a recent interview on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” Charles Koch claimed that politically speaking, he and his brother David are “largely failures.” Thus far, despite the fact that the campaign of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker -- the brothers’ first choice for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination -- sunk like a stone, they have reportedly given $20 million to Super Pacs supporting GOP candidates. As the interview with MSNBC suggested, the brothers are no longer choosing to lead the semi-secret/semi-private lives they once professed to prefer. And, while it’s true that they are not involved in every nefarious anti-democratic initiative coming down the pike, they’ve sure got a lot of coals in the fire.

A few things about the Koch Brothers clearly stand out: Their incredible wealth derived from private oil, chemical and manufacturing conglomerate Koch Industries Inc.; their attempts to mold the politics of the country – read that free market über alles; their non-political charitable donations to medicine and the arts; and, their ability to draw myriad Republican Party politicians to their events. Perhaps most importantly, however, is their commitment to the long game.


Official vote counts in Ohio indicate a major defeat for the nation's first corporate-sponsored marijuana legalization referendum.

But it's complicated.

And the ultimate issue is far from settled, as cannabis supporters are looking to 2016 to finally make pot legal here.

Amidst the usual "glitches" in vote counting, the state election apparatus says Issue 3 was defeated by about 2:1. Ohio's electronic voting machines usually "break down" somewhere in the state during a major election, and the reporting of this year's results were subjected to the expected delays.

Issue 3 was supported by a commercial cartel that spent $25 million pushing a plan to profit from legal marijuana sales.

For a full pre-election discussion of the issue, listen here.

Issue 3 would have allowed private individuals to grow up to four plants at home.


aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaakochdefendThe American Dream of white privilege is a nightmare. A congressman at a Koch brothers summit. (Photo: Gage Skidmore)

On October 31, Marc Fisher of The Washington Post attempted to explore the appeal of the Donald Trump slogan "Make America Great Again." Of course, the notion of "Make America Great Again" is closely related to the shibboleth of "the American Dream."

The concept of a dream that can be realized in reality is fascinating. After all, dreams, in actuality, are a cauldron of images and broken narratives that occur during sleep. Dreams visit us and present suggestive visuals and stories that we - at least, our conscious selves - do not control.

So, when politicians appeal to our "dream" of "Making America Great Again," they are evoking something in us which is a hybrid of conscious desires and a foggy notion of of the subconscious to make the nation - and our lives - "better." That second aspect of the aspirational dream is often vague and visceral, difficult to articulate, something akin to the dreams we experience when we are asleep.


aaaaaaaaaaaatcruzTed Cruz drives around in his climate change denial clown car. (Photo: Visit W3Schools)

Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz told Glenn Beck in a new interview that climate change is a religion, not a scientific position. According to the Texas senator, “global warming alarmists” (or the people who believe in climate change) don’t have evidence to prove that the planet is warming.

The card-carrying climate-denier was referring to his recent grilling of Sierra Club President Aaron Mair during a Senate hearing, in which Cruz pushed Mair for nearly 10 minutes on climate change.

Mair was at the hearing to explain how communities of color are disproportionately affected by pollution and climate disruption. However, Cruz used this time to push Mair on climate change with classic denier arguments, saying satellite data shows the Earth isn’t warming and that there has been a “pause” or “hiatus” in global warming, which NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, has refuted. Mair has also posted a response to Cruz’s attack, refuting these claims.

During his interview with Beck, Cruz explained, “We had an exchange where I simply asked him about the data and he couldn’t answer the most basic questions … He couldn’t answer the most basic fact that for the last 18 years the satellite data showed no significant warming whatsoever.” 


aaaaaaaaaaaaclimatejusticeClimate Justice means holding big oil companies accountable for being duplicitous about global warming. (Photo: Rainforest Action Network)

I’m still trying to process recent revelations in the LA Times and the Pulitzer-winning Inside Climate News about the extent to which ExxonMobil has worked to deny climate change. It knew about the threat of a planet warmed by burning fossil fuels as far back as the 70’s, and while publicly denying these risks, built them into its business plans. Wait, what?!

To make matters worse, ExxonMobil‘s climate denialism isn’t just a thing of the past–it’s ongoing.

While deeply shocking, it’s sadly not surprising: Greenpeace has been exposing ExxonMobil’s climate denialism for more than a decade. Yes, it’s outrageous, but now we need to turn that outrage into action to get governments and citizens to hold ExxonMobil and other fossil fuel companies legally accountable for the damage their activities have caused.

How do we know ExxonMobil is still blocking climate action?

For one, ExxonMobil remains a member of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). This corporate “bill mill” pushes climate-denying legislation on lawmakers through closed-door meetings.

2015.2.11 BF Bwrkowitz"Davis conflates her responsibilities as an elected official with her self-aggrandizing and idiosyncratic religious notions," Author Frederick Clarkson said. (Photo: Chris Piascik)BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Elected official, check; multiple marriages, check; self-proclaimed apostolic Christian, check; Religious Right martyr, check; media star for a tad more than her 15 minutes, check; Pope meeting, check (sort of); Soldier for Christ, check. Kim Davis, the Kentucky county clerk who refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples after the U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage, defied United States District Judge David Bunning’s court order, and spent five days in jail because of it, is all of these things and even more, the symbol of the fight over religious liberty and individual conscience, a battle that has been brewing for quite some time.

It was undoubtedly the summer of Kim Davis’ life. For a short time, the Davis Affair even gave Donald Trump a run for media attention. The stakes were always much greater than Davis herself: religious liberty and individual conscience, and a new iteration of the religious right’s culture wars. While religious liberty can seem like little more than a fall fashion, or in this case, a summer fling, for Christian Right organizations and candidates it is a theme that has been decades in the making, and one that has gained momentum in recent years.

“The Christian Right has been steadily reframing their culture war agenda in terms of religious liberty since at least the 2009 manifesto, the Manhattan Declaration, which for the first time brought the leaders of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops together with top leaders of Protestant evangelicalism to forge a common platform -- comprising three interrelated themes, ‘sanctity of life,’ ‘dignity of marriage,’ and ‘freedom of religion,’ Frederick Clarkson, author of the invaluable Eternal Hostility: The Struggle Between Theocracy and Democracy (Common Courage Press, 1997) and one of the journalists that pioneered research and writing about the religious right, told Truthout in an email exchange.

Monday, 02 November 2015 06:48

Abuses That Wouldn't Exist in a Socialist US


We Americans have been deceived by the notion that individual desires preempt the needs of society; by the Ayn-Rand/Reagan/Thatcher aversion to government regulation; by the distorted image of 'freedom' as winner-take-all capitalism; by the assurance that the benefits of greed will spread downwards to everyone.

Our current capitalist-driven inequalities will only be rectified when people realize that a strong community makes successful individuals, not the other way around.

These are a few of the ways we would benefit with a social democracy.


aaaCopViolence(Photo: Colocho)So South Carolina has a special crime category called “disturbing schools,” which seems to be creating just that: disturbing schools. Very disturbing schools.

Not that I need to single out South Carolina. In my brief stint teaching writing as an outside consultant in several Chicago high schools, some 20 years ago, I was smacked broadside with the observation that the city’s educational system exhibited the behavior of an occupying army, at least in its low-income neighborhoods. Education was something imposed from above and force-fed to the students like bad-tasting medicine. It didn’t honor the students’ own culture.

What the kids needed was a generosity of understanding that the education system had no interest in giving them, preferring to help them along on their journey to adulthood with zero tolerance and metal detectors.

What has happened to our national intelligence, not to mention our national values? In the era of cellphone accountability, our lack thereof has a new poster boy: Officer Slam. Throw the insolent kid across the floor, break her arm if necessary, slap her in cuffs.

This is how we teach respect. This is how we teach math.

“I was screaming ‘What the f, what the f, is this really happening?’” These are the words of Niya Kenny, the brave young woman who stood up to Officer Ben Fields as he manhandled her classmate this past Monday at Spring Valley High School, in Columbia, S.C. “I was praying out loud for the girl. I just couldn’t believe this was happening.”

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