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Pot Decriminalization Produces $9-million in Savings for Philadelphia

Lost Drug War


A vivid example of value from decriminalization of possessing small amounts of marijuana occurred at the Philadelphia airport recently, a few days after the release of a report from two prominent organizations that called for the national decriminalization of personal use/possession of marijuana and other illicit drugs.

This example, interestingly, occurred on the day of the second anniversary of Philadelphia’s implementation of decriminalization, the enforcement practice that replaces arrests for marijuana possession with issuance of traffic-ticket like citations. That enforcement change has saved the City of Philadelphia at least $9-million in costs related to arrests and adjudication for marijuana possession, according to calculations by local analysts.

The airport discovery of a small amount of marijuana in the luggage of three-time Philadelphia GOP mayoral candidate Sam Katz resulted in embarrassment for Katz but not his arrest and court proceedings. Authorities issued a $25 citation to Katz that allowed the nationally respected municipal-finance-expert-turned-award-winning-documentary-filmmaker to continue to Florida for a planned fishing trip.

Philly pot activist N.A. Poe (center) at decriminalization anniversary. LBW PhotoPhilly pot activist N.A. Poe (center) at decriminalization anniversary. LBW Photo

Before Philadelphia became the largest city in America to implement decriminalization of simple possession of marijuana on October 20, 2014, thousands endured arrest annually -- arrests that produced the stain of a life-altering criminal record. During the years 2012-2013 before decriminalization in Philadelphia police arrested 8,580 adults and juveniles. Philadelphia possession arrest figures for 2015 and part of 2016, after implementation of decriminalization, list around 1,500 Philadelphians arrested for marijuana possession – a marked decrease from pre-decriminalization days.

"Decriminalization has been a resounding success for the municipal government and for cannabis consumers in Philadelphia," PhillyNORML official Chris Goldstein said. Goldstein, an expert on cannabis policy, writes a weekly column on cannabis issue for, the news website for Philadelphia’s two daily newspapers.

Humanizing Our Militarized Border

History haunts the borderlands

The recent Encuentro (or Encounter) At the Border in the middle of Ambos Nogales -- the term used to consider Nogales, Arizona, and Nogales, Sonora, as one community -- was a wonderful distraction from the Donald and Hillary Show, which may be the most tiresome and preposterous encuentro in American political history.

Pablo Peregrina sings and an acrobat dances at the wall cutting through Ambos NogalesPablo Peregrina sings and an acrobat dances at the wall cutting through Ambos Nogales

For two days, from north and south, people trekked to the two Nogaleses to participate in the gatherings and demonstrations critical of the militarized US/Mexico border there. Hundreds of Mexicans and North Americans spoke out for a more humane, more sensible and more constructive border arrangement between the two nations. Citizens of both nations were fed up with the mistrust and paranoia, the growing array of weaponry and police-state surveillance with drones and other mysterious de-humanizing technology -- plus the not unusual grisly fact of Mexican corpses encountered in the Arizona desert. The timing for such an encuentro of citizens from both nations was good, given immigration along the border has become a major football in national political scrimmaging.

Donald Trump, of course, is going to build a wall to protect frightened North Americans from the scourge of “rapists” and other brown-skinned demons insinuating themselves from the south by hook or crook into our exceptional, Anglo culture. He’s going to make Mexico pay for this wall, he tells us, by fomenting a trade war with Mexico favorable to the US, thus making Mexico “pay” for his wall. Today, some 580 miles of barriers exist along the entire 1,989 miles of border. There’s currently a very tall and very ugly rusted steel wall running through Ambos Nogales.

A split rally was held for two days at this steel wall, with people coming from the south and from the north. It was sponsored by the School Of the Americas Watch, a group that had has for 25 years held annual demonstrations at the gate of Fort Benning in Georgia. The Friday before the weekend events at the wall, a large, boisterous rally and vigil was held at an immigration detention center in Eloy, north of Tucson. There were also workshops at a Nogales hotel, where all aspects of the militarization of our southern border were addressed.

Screwing With and Screwing the Elderly and Disabled

Social Security checks to rise just 0.3% in 2017


Social Security got short shrift in the presidential “debates” this year, meriting only a brief mention at the end of the third event, and even then, only by Hillary Clinton, who vowed not to cut benefits in any effort to bolster the system’s funding (a promise she was only grudgingly pushed into by Sen. Bernie Sanders’ primary campaign).*

But the truth is that benefits have been getting cut, are being cut in 2017, and unless something is done, will continue to be cut in the future. This is because the method used to calculate the annual adjustment for inflation each year is, to borrow a phrase popular with Donald Trump, “rigged.”

Just consider this. The Consumer Price Index or CPI, actually the CPI-U version of the index which is used by nearly all federal agencies, including the IRS (which uses it to recalibrate tax brackets each year), found inflation in the US running at 0.73% in 2015, and at 2.07% year-to-date through September 2016 (it was 1.46% for the 12-month period Oct. 2015 through Sept. 2016, suggesting that the rate has been actually accelerating through the latter part of this year. Yet the modified version of the CPI, called CPI-W, which Congress since 1983 has mandated that the Social Security Administration use to calculate cost-of-living adjustments in Social Security benefits, showed no inflation in 2015, and only 0.3% inflation for 2016.

That’s why Social Security beneficiaries -- the elderly, the disabled and dependent children of Social Security beneficiaries -- received no increase in their benefits during 2016 over the prior year, and why their benefit checks in 2017 will only increase by a paltry 0.3% (That would be an extra $4.50 a month or $54 for the year for someone receiving a typical Social Security benefit check of $1500 per month!).

Now reasonable people can argue whether the elderly and disabled spend more or less than other Americans on food, on entertainment, on transportation or on health care, but anyone who claims that the elderly have faced no higher costs during 2016 than in 2015, or that 2017 won’t cost them more than $54 extra than they had to pay to survive in 2016 is, to put it simply, lying.

Both parties in Congress have been stiffing seniors and the disabled for decades by insisting on Social Security using a lousy CBoth parties in Congress have been stiffing seniors and the disabled for decades by insisting on Social Security using a lousy CPI measure to calculate annual benefit inflation adjustments (courtesy the Union of Electrical workers)

Anyone but a rich person who doesn’t even look at what she or he is spending knows that groceries are more expensive, that bus and taxi fares are up, and that the cost of cars, car repairs and car insurance have risen. Health care costs are rising too, as well as health insurance costs. So are rents. Basically everything the elderly have to pay for has gone up in price each year, but their mainstay -- and for 33% of the elderly, Social Security is their only source of income, while for 61% it represents more than half their income -- has stayed essentially flat.

So long-- a cautionary tale (interpretation of Woody Guthrie's "Dusty old dust")

New poem:


So long
so long
I've got to be drifting
The dust storm blew
It hit
like thunder
In the month called Gray
I walked down
to the grocery store
it was crowded
One pound of butter
for two pounds of gold
Kind friend, kind friend,
I've got to be drifting
I'll sing it again
drifting along
so long, it's been good
so long
The old dust storm
So black
so black
The telephone rang
And rang and rang
and rang and rang
and rang
--Gary Lindorff

Debate #2 Lost by Hillary Clinton on Points

Sex, lies, videotape...and hacked emails


The “town-meeting”-formatted “debate” between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton Sunday night was, as could have been expected, a disappointing affair, with the two moderators generally avoiding any real challenge to the lies and distortions of the two candidates and declining to push them into critical areas that have been ignored throughout this fall’s presidential campaign -- like climate change, an increasingly dangerous conflict between nuclear powers that could trigger a likely nuclear world war, and the worsening income gap in the US which, let’s face it, neither candidate has a program or even a desire to combat.

On balance though, while both candidates were awful, I would say the night went worse for Clinton. Trump’s challenge in this second outing, coming right after the release of an 11-year-old video in which he boasted of assaulting women, was firstly to defuse that damaging revelation, and secondly to avoid losing his cool and making outrageous extemporaneous statements that would worsen his standing as a sober “leader.” He largely met both challenges, apologizing for his lewd boasting and his obnoxious and abusive behavior as described in the video, which he dismissed as “locker-room talk” that he wasn’t proud of, and sticking for the most part to criticisms of Clinton’s actual actions (and inaction) and to her words. His performance probably was adequate to at least staunch the stream of defections of Republican candidates and Republican voters from his campaign and support base.

Clinton meanwhile, had the challenge of trying to get the public to trust her. In this she failed miserably. Smirking frequently when she was being accused by Trump of serious crimes and of blatant and repeated lying, she clumsily tried to dodge some serious and valid charges he made against her. These on-screen actions and lame efforts to change the subject will only succeed in making her less trusted by those voters who have still not made up their minds about which candidate, if any, to back on November 8.

For example, when Trump hammered at Clinton for having deleted and then “bleached” from her hard drive over 30,000 emails -- actions taken after she had already received subpoenas for them -- she tried to dodge the issue by referring, in a complete non-sequitor, to the 50,000 emails that “I did provide.” It was hardly an adequate response, and effectively simply confirmed her crime of obstruction. The two moderators, CNN’s Anderson Cooper and ABC’s Martha Raddatz, did almost nothing to press her on this failure to respond.

Without Stein's perspective included, presidential 'debate' two was largely devoid of contentWithout Stein's perspective included, presidential 'debate' two was largely devoid of content

Pour One for Jan Bianchi (1944-2016), Author of World's Best Abortion Legislation

Co-author of Washington State's Intiative 120 Dead at 72


Women of color have long had a love-hate relationship with white feminists. While the two groups clearly have the united goal of dismantling the patriarchy, all too often the efforts are co-opted by white women. “Wins” are typically not “wins for women” but in fact, “wins for white women.” The pro-choice movement has been no different.

However, in that dark landscape of frustration is Jan Bianchi. And though she has recently passed away, like every other unsung hero, her legacy will live on. Unlike many white feminists, her work has greatly benefited women of color.
Jan BianchiJan Bianchi, 1944-2016

With an increasing number of TRAP laws and the recent battle against Texas’s HB2 legislation, the discussion around reproductive rights is largely focused on stemming the seemingly contagious spread of anti-woman legislation. One can’t help but wonder what it would look like if the opposite were true.

Jan Bianchi was one of the co-authors of the Washington State’s Initiative 120 that was passed in 1991 by popular vote and created the most liberal abortion legislation in the country. Washington is also the only state that legalized abortion through popular vote rather than through legislators.

As the US Surveillance Expands, Maybe the Best Way to Resist is to Bury It in Garbage

NSA surveillance keywords to sprinkle in all your electronic communications


Word that Yahoo! last year, at the urging of the National Security Agency, secretly developed a program that monitored the mail of all 280 million of its customers and turned over to the NSA all mail from those who used any of the agency's thousands of keywords, shows that the US has become a total police state in terms of trying to monitor every person in the country (and outside too).

With the courts, especially at the appellate and Supreme Court level, rolling over and supporting this massive evisceration of basic freedoms, including the First Amendment guarantee of freedom of speech and the Fourth Amendment protection against illegal search and seizure and invasion of privacy, perhaps the best way for us to fight back is to overload the spy system. How to do this? Just copy and paste random fragments of the following list (a bit dated, but useable), provided courtesy of the publication Business Insider, and include them in every communication -- email, social media, etc. -- that you send out.

The secret Yahoo! assault (reported on here by Alfredo Lopez in yesterday's lead article), works by searching users' emails for keywords on an NSA list of suspected words that might be used by alleged terrorists or anti-government activists, and then those suspect communications are forwarded to the NSA, where humans eventually have to separate the wheat from the chaff. Too much chaff (and they surely have too much chaff anyhow!) and they will be buried with work and unable to read anything.

In fact, critics of the government's metastasizing universal surveillance program, including former FBI agents and other experts, have long criticized the effort to turn the US into a replica of East Germany with its Stazi secret police, cannot work and is actually counter-productive, because with spy agencies' limited manpower looking at all the false leads provided by keyword monitoring, they are bound to miss the real dangerous messages. In fact, this was also the argument used against the FBI's program of monitoring mosques and suspecting every Muslim American who expressed criticism of the US. Most are just people saying what a lot of us say: that the US wars in the Middle East are wrong or even criminal, but they are just citizens or immigrants exercising their free speech when they do this, not terrorists, and spying on them is and has been a huge waste or time and resources.

So, to help destroy the continuing and expanding effort to monitor everything we do, here's a sample of the NSA's keyword list:

Yahoo Scanned All Users' Emails for Government!

A scandal that reveals more than it says


If you are one of the approximately 280 million people with Yahoo email accounts, your email was scanned for content and possibly turned over to the U.S. government. Yahoo, on Tuesday, admitted that fact.

Reuters revealed on Tuesday that the Internet mega-company (which is now being purchased by Verizon Communications) designed a special program last year to capture and scan all its users' incoming email after being ordered to do that by the either the NSA or FBI. It deployed the program over the last year, scanning every piece of email Yahoo accounts received and apparently turning over all email that contained any of the tens of thousands of "keywords" the NSA considers suspicious.

The decision, Reuters says, was made by President and Chief Executive Officer Marissa Mayer, in collaboration with people in her legal department. It wasn't without controversy: several Yahoo top staffers left the company including Chief Information Security Officer Alex Stamos (who left for a top job at Facebook).

Yahoh Chief Mayer -- She left out "scan all user email"Yahoh Chief Mayer -- She left out "scan all user email"

The news is startling for several reasons. It's also deceptive for some others.

President Barack Obama's Crappy Legacy

We got 8 years of change, but not much hope


Barack Obama came into the White House on a wave of passionate new voters, many of them black or young and white, becoming the nation's first black president and promising a new era of "hope and change."

Eight years later, as he is preparing to exit the White House, he leaves behind considerable wreckage, disappointment and a legacy of death and destruction, plenty of it physical, but also much of it in the legislative and political arena.

He did give us, over the last eight years, a lot of change, but not much hope, and most of the change has been negative.

Let's just run through at least some of the list:

* One of candidate Obama's big selling points in 2008 was that he promised to end the Bush/Cheney administration's disastrous war in Iraq, to close the horrific torture site and prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, so damaging to American principles and to the county's international reputation, and to restore the rule of law with regard to government behavior in areas like torture, extrajudicial killing and surveillance. Eight years later, the war in Iraq -- a country almost totally destroyed by the illegal US invasion in 2003 and by the subsequent occupation and deliberate encouragement of civil war between Sunni and Shia populations -- continues, with US forces being added even as our Nobel Peace Laureate president prepares to leave office. Guantanamo remains open and stocked with prisoners, many of them known to have been wrongly accused of terrorism, as the president has proved too gutless to do the right thing and just shut the place down, or order the captives released. Meanwhile, torture continues, the president has expanded and formalized a system of state-sanctioned and directed murder, even of US citizens abroad, and surveillance of Americans has reached appalling levels not even imagined by science fiction writers like George Orwell a generation or more ago. Indeed, the Obama administration had its lawyers actively and aggressively defend these Constitutional assaults, crimes and violations of international law in the nation's federal courts, even appealing when courageous federal judges made the right decisions.

* Race relations in the US, and the economic condition of people of color in America, have only deteriorated during President Obama's two terms. When a police officer arrested a distinguished middle-aged Harvard professor in his own house early in Obama's first term, falsely assuming the man, despite showing his faculty ID, was a burglar, the president had the two men to the White House for a "beer summit," instead of demanding an end to such racial profiling. As a result, racial profiling and the killing of unarmed blacks, including children, by mostly white police officers has become epidemic and an almost daily occurrance on this president's watch, along with a general militarization of police (encouraged by his administration's offer of free military surplus war armaments) to the point that it's hard to distinguish them from an army of occupation across the land. The president has had basically nothing to say about reversing this catastrophic assault on freedom and democracy.

 First hope and a legacy of hopelessnessObama 2008-2016: First hope and a legacy of hopelessness

Sioux Activists and Backers Prepare for Cold Winter of Resistance at Standing Rock ND

Native Peoples of the US and around the globe come ogether in support


UPDATE: Shortly after this program was aired, and after this article linking to the podcast was posted, a group of praying Lakota at the Standing Rock protest site were confronted by at least 40 deputies of the Monroe County ND Sheriff's office. They reported that the deputies -- in full riot gear -- aimed their guns at the unarmed men, women and children, and arrested 21 of them. One elderly Lakota woman in her 80s reported that in all her life living on the reservation "I never had a gun pointed at me until these sheriff's did it." She called the experience "terrifying."

A Vietnam-era veteran living abroad who is Lakota said he fears that the current Standing Rock resistance movement could end in another massacre. He says that a friend from the days of the '73 AIM occupation in Wounded Knee wrote him saying, "Standing Rock is not Wounded Knee 1973 –- they’re not armed, they have no cover, no security. This is more like the first Wounded Knee." That Wounded Knee was when US Army troops in 1890 raided a Lakota encampment and massacred some 300 Lakota men, women and children.

Hopefully such an atrocity will not happen again, but the Monroe County Sheriff's action is not a good sign. Increased support and solidarity, and demands for more media attention to this standoff, are the best defense in this latest struggle of America's indigenous people.

Sioux resistance continues at Standing  Rock, ND (L) and image of Keith Scott at the moment he was shot dead by Charlotte NC policeSioux resistance continues at Standing Rock, ND (L) and image of Keith Scott at the moment he was shot dead by Charlotte NC police

Levi Rickert, founder, publisher and editor of Native News Online, talks with "This Can't Be Happening!: radio host Dave Lindorff about the latest developments at Standing Rock, North Dakota, where the Sioux People are still taking a rock-solid stand against efforts by the federal government and the oil industry to run a crude oil pipeline from North Dakota's Bakkan oilfield south to St. Louis through Sioux lands and sacred sites. Rickert also talks about a meeting of tribal representatives from the 500 recognized Indian tribes in the US with Washington government agencies to hammer out a protocol for having "substantive" discussions between tribes and government agencies whenever a decision is going to impact them.

Rickert talks about how the whole indigenous community, including indigenous people in other parts of the world as remote as New Zealand and the Arctic, are sending support to Standing Rock to help Sioux activists and their supporters prepare for the long haul as cold weather starts to move into the prairie.

Lindorff also segues into a discussion of the worsening slaughter of unarmed people -- mostly people of color -- in the US by increasingly militarized and gratuitously violent state, county, local and federal police. To hear the whole hour-long program, please go to the Progressive Radio News' This Can't Be Happening! podcast of the show, which aired Wednesday.

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Here's the link to prairie radio radical Mike Caddell's Radio Free Kansas program, where you can hear the podcast of the whole group interview that was conducted on Saturday, May 8.

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