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JIM HIGHTOWER ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaJesusRedPope(Photo: Andreas Wahra)Aah, 'tis the season for family, friends, eggnog, chipmunks singing Christmas carols — and all-out, no-mercy, blow-'em-all-to-hell war.

Not war like in Afghanistan. No, no — this is the far right's God-awful "War on Christmas." In this season of Peace on Earth, a delusional faction of rightists has cooked up a hokey "cultural crisis" to rally their own followers by fomenting hatred of ... well, of whom? "Blasphemous-liberal-Democrat-atheist-humanists," they shout!

The infidels are not accused of lobbing actual bombs in this "war," but Words of Mass Destruction. Specifically, wail the purists, unholy left-wingers go around saying "happy holidays," rather than "merry Christmas," as Jesus taught us to say. Or was it Constantine the Great in the fourth century who came up with that?

Never mind, the rightists' point is that diabolical lefties (i.e., Marxists) are out to ban Christmas entirely. Heroic defender of the faith Sarah Palin has even written a thin book about this devious plot, revealing that "happy holidays" is merely "the tip of the spear in a larger battle to ... make true religious freedom a thing of America's past."

Luckily, note the Merry Christmas crusaders, there are such bright lights as Indiana State Sen. Jim Smith. Smith hopes to join Texas, Alabama, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Tennessee in the "Merry Christmas Club" — in pushing state laws to allow Christian icons and ceremonies into our schools. Then there's U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn from Colorado. He and 35 of his fellow Republican congress critters have proposed a House resolution to protect Christmas. "A creche in every public space," is their cry, "a cross on every city hall." To hell with Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, the winter solstice, etc.: This is war!

Actually, no, this is hokum, flimflammery, hoodoo, camel dung. It's also insulting that they would attempt to try to generate a major social conflict over the fiction that the phrase "happy holidays" constitutes religious discrimination, whine that they are a repressed minority and equate it with war. First: Jews, Muslims and others don't get to brand public spaces as their religious property. Second: Nearly three-fourths of Americans are Christian, so drop the put-upon martyr pose. And third: War really is hell, with blood, lifelong trauma and death, so stop pretending you're in one.

PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaBrain(Photo: Gaetan Lee)1. Accept that Poverty Causes Marital Problems, Not the Other Way Around

In his condescending way, libertarian Charles Murray wrote: "There remains a core of civic virtue and involvement in working-class America...Married, educated people who work hard and conscientiously raise their kids shouldn't hesitate to voice their disapproval of those who defy these norms." Senator Marco Rubio agrees, calling marriage the "greatest tool" for lifting families out of poverty.

Marriage, to such people, spreads magic anti-poverty dust over newly-wedded couples.

Here are the facts: Upper-class and lower-class divorce rates rose and fell in similar fashion until the late 1980s, around the time inequality began to rip apart the fabric of American society, and to break down low-income family life. Evidence keeps piling up. Studies show that children whose families receive housing vouchers end up with higher marriage rates. On the other hand, two-thirds of single mothers who heed conservative advice and get married end up divorced. And despite what Murray's followers might think, race isn't a factor. A Pennsylvania study concluded that "over time, it has become evident that poor economic circumstances would produce comparable effects on whites just as they did for blacks." Pew Research Center found little difference between white and black fathers, and the Center for Disease Control found that black fathers are in many ways more involved with their kids than fathers in other racial groups.

2. Learn that Democratic Socialism Does Not Mean Government Control

Social democracy is 100 percent American. Our nation instituted a public education system, a long-successful retirement program, and a national park system. Gar Alperovitz describes the modern form of socialism, which is "about decentralizing power, changing the flow of power to localities rather than to the center." The Evergreen Cooperative in Cleveland, the public Bank of North Dakota, the Tennessee Valley Authority, and the Chattanooga Internet service are all examples of the distributed popular control of essential services. The approach works.

The most socialist program in the U.S. is probably the Alaska Permanent Fund, which has received bipartisan support for 40 years, even from staunch Republicans such as Sarah Palin.

COLE MELLINO OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaaaaaweatherchristA record warm Christmas is likely on its way. (Photo: Twitter)

If you’re dreaming of a white Christmas in the eastern and central U.S., you can probably keep dreaming. As EcoWatch reported last week, the unseasonably warm weather has set a number of December records.

Many cities in the eastern and central U.S. will see temperatures 10-20 degrees above average this week. If you live in the Eastern or Central U.S., Friday could be “one of the warmest Christmas Days of your lifetime,” The Weather Channel reported Sunday.

“Several cities in the East will likely see their warmest Christmas Eve or Christmas Day on record, adding to the more than 2,600 daily record high temperatures that have been tied or broken across the Lower 48 in the first 19 days of the month. This mild forecast means the prospect for a white Christmas is highly unlikely for many east of the Rockies.”

“Due to the warming effects of the strong El Niño climate pattern, many places that often have a good chance of seeing snow Christmas Day will miss out this year,” explained AccuWeather. “El Niño has helped to strengthen a west-to-east jet stream that delivers mild Pacific air across the U.S.”

Tuesday, 22 December 2015 00:00

Mark Ruffalo: The Renewable Energy Race Is On

MARK RUFFALO OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaParisCOP21(Photo: "A message of freedom and 100% renewable energy from Paris. Photo credit: Yann Arthus-Bertrand / Spectral Q")The climate agreement reached in Paris is provoking a flurry of caveats, criticisms and cautions. Many of those criticisms are warranted and there’s a lot of work ahead to make sure countries live up to their promises. But we should not miss a chance to celebrate a historic turning point.

World leaders finally made commitments to clean, renewable energy that will help to ensure a safer, healthier and more prosperous future for us all. The agreement signals that the age of fossil fuels is coming to a close and the age of renewable energy is dawning.

In many ways, the Paris deal is the mother of all market signals. To deliver on the promises world leaders made, we will need to leave coal and oil in the ground and move toward a complete reliance on clean energy. Let’s not miss the writing on the wall: fossil fuels are a losing bet, while renewables offer economic opportunity.

This is true for all segments of society—from energy investors to individual households that can save money on their energy bills by switching to rooftop solar power.

The Paris pact ratifies an ongoing renewable energy revolution spreading across the globe. Each year since 2013, the world has added more power-generating capacity fueled by renewable sources than from coal, natural gas and oil combined. Global investment in renewable energy hit $310bn last year, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance. And major companies are pledging to go 100 percent renewable, too.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaatrumphairBeware of fascism in a pinstripe suit. (Photo: DonkeyHotey)

Revisiting Donald Trump's flirtation with the "birther" movement that goes back many years is worthwhile in understanding his current incarnation as the bellowing, vulgarian "king of the whites who feel displaced."

As reported in Talking Points Memo, 

Maricopa County, Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio introduced Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump Wednesday at a rally by reminding everyone that they were both vocal members of the "birther" movement that questioned President Barack Obama's birth certificate.

Arpaio's comment came less than a day after the real estate mogul evaded a question about whether he thought Obama was a legitimate President....

Both Arpaio and Trump have been vocal members of the "birther" movement which claims Obama was born in Kenya.

In a September BuzzFlash commentary, we noted that Trumpism is really about coded white privilege. Trump may have started his campaign with scurrilous descriptions of Mexicans who seek refuge in the United States. However, in just a short period of time, he has fluidly moved from defaming Mexicans to denigrating Black Lives Matter protesters to slandering Muslims to once again evoking his "birther" movement credentials.

The "birther" movement is no small part of Trump's bombastic, demagogic appeal.

ERIN BROCKOVICH OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaPorterleak750(Photo: An infrared, time-lapse video of the natural gas leak in Porter Ranch, California. Photo credit: MSNBC / YouTube screenshot)Since October, residents of Porter Ranch, California, have been exposed to dangerous contaminants from a massive natural gas leak that continues to seep into the air, causing a catastrophe the scale of which has not been seen since the 2010 BP oil spill.

After only a week of visiting families in Porter Ranch, I am already experiencing the headaches, nausea and congestion that have plagued this community living at the center of one of the most significant environmental disasters in recent history.

Southern California Gas Co. or SoCalGas, has essentially ignored the impact to victims and its actions have instead added to their suffering. The company has refused to release air quality data that could be used to protect its residents, it has made relocation very difficult and it has forged ahead with plans to expand its facility before the leak has even been contained.

The enormity of the Aliso Canyon gas leak cannot be overstated. Gas is escaping through a ruptured pipe more than 8,000 feet underground and it shows no sign of stopping. As the pressure from weight on top of the pipe causes the gas to diffuse, it only continues to dissipate across a wider and wider area. According to tests conducted in November by the California Air Resources Board, the leak is spewing 50,000 kilograms of gas per hour—the equivalent to the strength of a volcanic eruption.

At this rate, in just one month, the leak will have accounted for one-quarter of the total estimated methane emissions in the state of California.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaadelson32Sheldon Adelson's oligarchal tale of two newspapers: in Israel and Nevada. (Image: DonkeyHotey)

There was a lot of media attention paid last week to billionaire Sheldon Adelson's purchase of the largest newspaper in Nevada, the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

Speculation abounded as to the motives of Adelson - a casino magnate who currently is positioned 15th in Forbes' US billionaire rankings - in buying the largest newspaper in Nevada.

Was Adelson trying to influence the 2016 political race, particularly by staking out a favorite GOP candidate in the Nevada primary, which is the fourth GOP primary contest next year? Is he also counting on using the paper as a platform to try to swing Nevada Republican in the presidential election? After all, this is a man who spent $150 million trying to defeat Barack Obama in 2012, according to U.S. News & World Report....

After all, Adelson owns another newspaper that most Americans know little about. It is called Yisrael Hayom, and it has the largest circulation of any newspaper in Israel.  That may be due to the fact that is distributed for free: Adelson subsidizes it to the tune of some $40 million a year. The pages of Yisrael Hayom may be used by many Israelis for wrapping fish; nevertheless, it is a serious shaper of right-wing public opinion, due to its consistently extremist pro-Netanyahu positions.

The Economist, in an April 25 article, described the relationship between Yisrael Hayom and Netanyahu: "Yisrael Hayom is a freesheet owned by Sheldon Adelson, a casino mogul and supporter of Binyamin Netanyahu, Israel's prime minister. Its headlines are routinely approved by the prime minister's office."

2015.21.12 BF Berkowitz(Photo: Jason Tester Guerrilla Futures)BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

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Frank Gaffney has been around conservative politics longer than the Star Wars franchise. In fact, before the premier of the first Star Wars movie, Gaffney was already working as an aide under Richard Perle -- who later earned the nickname "The Prince of Darkness” -- in the office of the hawkish Democratic Senator Henry M. Jackson. These days he’s spewing anti-Muslim stories, selling fear, attacking comrades, and opponents’ alike, and promoting conspiracy theories galore. And, according to excellent reporting by veteran journalist David Neiwert, Gaffney’s Center for Security Policy “has been riding high on the tidal wave of Islamophobia he and similar anti-Muslim organizations have created, with the help of right-wing political candidates who have legitimized their dubious and often outrageous claims.”

The Southern Poverty Law Center has branded Gaffney -- who served in the Reagan administration, is a radio talk show host and contributor to the Washington Times -- “one of America’s most notorious Islamophobes.” Too hot to handle even for some conservatives, in recent years Gaffney has found himself banned from affairs organized by the Conservative Political Action Committee (CPAC).

Being banished by conservative comrades didn’t stop Gaffney from organizing such conferences as “Homeland Threats” -- co-sponsored by Brietbart News -- and another Brietbart co-sponsored event called “Uninvited,” which featured panels with a number of well-known anti-Muslim talking heads including Pamela Geller, Robert Spencer and Gaffney himself.  

2015.21.12 BF BUCHHEIT(Photo: Ano Lobb)PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

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No one form of government can solve all our problems, especially with a contrarian and confrontational Congress. But greed, poverty, and inequality are some of the main targets of a socialist platform, and the matter of terrorism is put in better perspective by a people committed to social responsibility.

Here are some of the numbers that should shock us into rejecting non-socialist candidates:

1. Terrorism: You're About as Likely to be Killed by a Toddler as a Terrorist

The candidates and the news outlets have driven us into a frenzy of fear, even though the number of Americans killed by toddlers is about the same per year as the number of violent jihadist attacks in the U.S. since 9/11. There are more terrorist attacks if the actions of white supremacists and non-Muslim extremists are included. But there are also more toddler killings that go unreported.

Bernie Sanders noted that "the disastrous invasion of Iraq...has unraveled the region completely and led to the rise of al-Qaeda and to ISIS." And that the United States should be "trying to use diplomacy before war."

ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaPrisoners2(Photo: Bart Everson)“The question now is how to change our institutions so that they promote human values rather than destroy them.”

Philip Zimbardo, who posed this question in the wake of the famous — or infamous — Stanford Prison Experiment 44 years ago, might have added: If we fail to do so, we guarantee our own social collapse.

The collapse is underway, one broken soul at a time:

“But the basic story the men told was the same: (Leonard) Strickland was pushed down a flight of stairs, and then beaten nearly to death by a large group of guards.”

This is from a recent New York Times investigative piece about inmate abuse at Clinton Correctional Facility, in upstate New York — a particularly boiling cauldron of racism in America’s prison-industrial complex. Almost all of the nearly 1,000 guards who work at the rural prison are white; the inmates, mostly from New York City, are black. Not surprisingly, the prisoners say “they face a constant barrage of racial slurs.”

And racial slurs have a way of escalating, especially under conditions in which one group of people has enormous, unchecked power over another group. Zimbardo called it the Lucifer Effect: the transformation of ordinary, decent people into . . . well, monsters. His 1971 study, in which two dozen college-student volunteers were randomly designated either guards or prisoners in a makeshift “penitentiary” in the basement of Stanford’s psych department, was meant to last two weeks but was called off after six days because the situation had gotten out of control.

Zimbardo said that he came to his senses after an outside observer, who was brought in to conduct interviews, reacted with utter shock “when she saw our prisoners being marched on a toilet run, bags over their heads, legs chained together, hands on each other’s shoulders. Filled with outrage, she said, ‘It’s terrible what you are doing to these boys!’”

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