The President on the Supreme Court Decision on Marriage Equality (Video/Transcript)

THE PRESIDENT:  Good morning.  Our nation was founded on a bedrock principle that we are all created equal.  The project of each generation is to bridge the meaning of those founding words with the realities of changing times -- a never-ending quest to ensure those words ring true for every single American.

Progress on this journey often comes in small increments, sometimes two steps forward, one step back, propelled by the persistent effort of dedicated citizens.  And then sometimes, there are days like this when that slow, steady effort is rewarded with justice that arrives like a thunderbolt.
This morning, the Supreme Court recognized that the Constitution guarantees marriage equality.  In doing so, they’ve reaffirmed that all Americans are entitled to the equal protection of the law.  That all people should be treated equally, regardless of who they are or who they love.

This decision will end the patchwork system we currently have.  It will end the uncertainty hundreds of thousands of same-sex couples face from not knowing whether their marriage, legitimate in the eyes of one state, will remain if they decide to move [to] or even visit another.  This ruling will strengthen all of our communities by offering to all loving same-sex couples the dignity of marriage across this great land.

In my second inaugural address, I said that if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well.  It is gratifying to see that principle enshrined into law by this decision.

This ruling is a victory for Jim Obergefell and the other plaintiffs in the case.  It's a victory for gay and lesbian couples who have fought so long for their basic civil rights.  It’s a victory for their children, whose families will now be recognized as equal to any other.  It’s a victory for the allies and friends and supporters who spent years, even decades, working and praying for change to come.

And this ruling is a victory for America.  This decision affirms what millions of Americans already believe in their hearts:  When all Americans are treated as equal we are all more free.

My administration has been guided by that idea.  It’s why we stopped defending the so-called Defense of Marriage Act, and why we were pleased when the Court finally struck down a central provision of that discriminatory law.  It’s why we ended “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”  From extending full marital benefits to federal employees and their spouses, to expanding hospital visitation rights for LGBT patients and their loved ones, we’ve made real progress in advancing equality for LGBT Americans in ways that were unimaginable not too long ago.
I know change for many of our LGBT brothers and sisters must have seemed so slow for so long.  But compared to so many other issues, America’s shift has been so quick.  I know that Americans of goodwill continue to hold a wide range of views on this issue. Opposition in some cases has been based on sincere and deeply held beliefs.  All of us who welcome today’s news should be mindful of that fact; recognize different viewpoints; revere our deep commitment to religious freedom.

But today should also give us hope that on the many issues with which we grapple, often painfully, real change is possible. Shifts in hearts and minds is possible.  And those who have come so far on their journey to equality have a responsibility to reach back and help others join them.  Because for all our differences, we are one people, stronger together than we could ever be alone.

 That’s always been our story.

We are big and vast and diverse; a nation of people with different backgrounds and beliefs, different experiences and stories, but bound by our shared ideal that no matter who you are or what you look like, how you started off, or how and who you love, America is a place where you can write your own destiny.

We are a people who believe that every single child is entitled to life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

There’s so much more work to be done to extend the full promise of America to every American.  But today, we can say in no uncertain terms that we’ve made our union a little more perfect.

That’s the consequence of a decision from the Supreme Court, but, more importantly, it is a consequence of the countless small acts of courage of millions of people across decades who stood up, who came out, who talked to parents -- parents who loved their children no matter what.  Folks who were willing to endure bullying and taunts, and stayed strong, and came to believe in themselves and who they were, and slowly made an entire country realize that love is love.

What an extraordinary achievement.  What a vindication of the belief that ordinary people can do extraordinary things.  What a reminder of what Bobby Kennedy once said about how small actions can be like pebbles being thrown into a still lake, and ripples of hope cascade outwards and change the world.
Those countless, often anonymous heroes -- they deserve our thanks.  They should be very proud.  America should be very proud.

Thank you.  (Applause.)

The President in Eulogy for the Honorable Reverend Clementa Pinckney (Video/Transcrip)

THE PRESIDENT:  Giving all praise and honor to God.  (Applause.)

The Bible calls us to hope.  To persevere, and have faith in things not seen.
“They were still living by faith when they died,” Scripture tells us. “They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on Earth.”

We are here today to remember a man of God who lived by faith.  A man who believed in things not seen.  A man who believed there were better days ahead, off in the distance.  A man of service who persevered, knowing full well he would not receive all those things he was promised, because he believed his efforts would deliver a better life for those who followed.

To Jennifer, his beloved wife; to Eliana and Malana, his beautiful, wonderful daughters; to the Mother Emanuel family and the people of Charleston, the people of South Carolina.

I cannot claim to have the good fortune to know Reverend Pinckney well.  But I did have the pleasure of knowing him and meeting him here in South Carolina, back when we were both a little bit younger.  (Laughter.)  Back when I didn’t have visible grey hair.  (Laughter.)  The first thing I noticed was his graciousness, his smile, his reassuring baritone, his deceptive sense of humor -- all qualities that helped him wear so effortlessly a heavy burden of expectation.

Friends of his remarked this week that when Clementa Pinckney entered a room, it was like the future arrived; that even from a young age, folks knew he was special.  Anointed.  He was the progeny of a long line of the faithful -- a family of preachers who spread God’s word, a family of protesters who sowed change to expand voting rights and desegregate the South.  Clem heard their instruction, and he did not forsake their teaching.

He was in the pulpit by 13, pastor by 18, public servant by 23.  He did not exhibit any of the cockiness of youth, nor youth’s insecurities; instead, he set an example worthy of his position, wise beyond his years, in his speech, in his conduct, in his love, faith, and purity.

As a senator, he represented a sprawling swath of the Lowcountry, a place that has long been one of the most neglected in America.  A place still wracked by poverty and inadequate schools; a place where children can still go hungry and the sick can go without treatment.  A place that needed somebody like Clem.  (Applause.)

His position in the minority party meant the odds of winning more resources for his constituents were often long.  His calls for greater equity were too often unheeded, the votes he cast were sometimes lonely.  But he never gave up.  He stayed true to his convictions.  He would not grow discouraged.  After a full day at the capitol, he’d climb into his car and head to the church to draw sustenance from his family, from his ministry, from the community that loved and needed him.  There he would fortify his faith, and imagine what might be.

Reverend Pinckney embodied a politics that was neither mean, nor small.  He conducted himself quietly, and kindly, and diligently.  He encouraged progress not by pushing his ideas alone, but by seeking out your ideas, partnering with you to make things happen.  He was full of empathy and fellow feeling, able to walk in somebody else’s shoes and see through their eyes.  No wonder one of his senate colleagues remembered Senator Pinckney as “the most gentle of the 46 of us -- the best of the 46 of us.”
Clem was often asked why he chose to be a pastor and a public servant.  But the person who asked probably didn’t know the history of the AME church.  (Applause.)  As our brothers and sisters in the AME church know, we don't make those distinctions. “Our calling,” Clem once said, “is not just within the walls of the congregation, but…the life and community in which our congregation resides.”  (Applause.)

He embodied the idea that our Christian faith demands deeds and not just words; that the “sweet hour of prayer” actually lasts the whole week long -- (applause) -- that to put our faith in action is more than individual salvation, it's about our collective salvation; that to feed the hungry and clothe the naked and house the homeless is not just a call for isolated charity but the imperative of a just society.

What a good man.  Sometimes I think that's the best thing to hope for when you're eulogized -- after all the words and recitations and resumes are read, to just say someone was a good man.  (Applause.)

You don’t have to be of high station to be a good man.  Preacher by 13.  Pastor by 18.  Public servant by 23.  What a life Clementa Pinckney lived.  What an example he set.  What a model for his faith.  And then to lose him at 41 -- slain in his sanctuary with eight wonderful members of his flock, each at different stages in life but bound together by a common commitment to God.

Cynthia Hurd.  Susie Jackson.  Ethel Lance.  DePayne Middleton-Doctor.

 Tywanza Sanders.  Daniel L. Simmons.  Sharonda Coleman-Singleton.  Myra Thompson.  Good people.  Decent people. God-fearing people.  (Applause.)  People so full of life and so full of kindness.  People who ran the race, who persevered.  People of great faith.

To the families of the fallen, the nation shares in your grief.  Our pain cuts that much deeper because it happened in a church.  The church is and always has been the center of African-American life -- (applause) -- a place to call our own in a too often hostile world, a sanctuary from so many hardships.

Over the course of centuries, black churches served as “hush harbors” where slaves could worship in safety; praise houses where their free descendants could gather and shout hallelujah -- (applause) -- rest stops for the weary along the Underground Railroad; bunkers for the foot soldiers of the Civil Rights Movement.  They have been, and continue to be, community centers where we organize for jobs and justice; places of scholarship and network; places where children are loved and fed and kept out of harm’s way, and told that they are beautiful and smart -- (applause) -- and taught that they matter.  (Applause.)  That’s what happens in church.

That’s what the black church means.  Our beating heart.  The place where our dignity as a people is inviolate.  When there’s no better example of this tradition than Mother Emanuel -- (applause) -- a church built by blacks seeking liberty, burned to the ground because its founder sought to end slavery, only to rise up again, a Phoenix from these ashes.  (Applause.)

When there were laws banning all-black church gatherings, services happened here anyway, in defiance of unjust laws.  When there was a righteous movement to dismantle Jim Crow, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. preached from its pulpit, and marches began from its steps.  A sacred place, this church.  Not just for blacks, not just for Christians, but for every American who cares about the steady expansion -- (applause) -- of human rights and human dignity in this country; a foundation stone for liberty and justice for all.  That’s what the church meant.  (Applause.)

We do not know whether the killer of Reverend Pinckney and eight others knew all of this history.  But he surely sensed the meaning of his violent act.  It was an act that drew on a long history of bombs and arson and shots fired at churches, not random, but as a means of control, a way to terrorize and oppress.  (Applause.)  An act that he imagined would incite fear and recrimination; violence and suspicion.  An act that he presumed would deepen divisions that trace back to our nation’s original sin.
Oh, but God works in mysterious ways.  (Applause.)  God has different ideas.  (Applause.)

He didn’t know he was being used by God.  (Applause.)  Blinded by hatred, the alleged killer could not see the grace surrounding Reverend Pinckney and that Bible study group -- the light of love that shone as they opened the church doors and invited a stranger to join in their prayer circle.  The alleged killer could have never anticipated the way the families of the fallen would respond when they saw him in court -- in the midst of unspeakable grief, with words of forgiveness.  He couldn’t imagine that.  (Applause.)

The alleged killer could not imagine how the city of Charleston, under the good and wise leadership of Mayor Riley -- (applause) -- how the state of South Carolina, how the United States of America would respond -- not merely with revulsion at his evil act, but with big-hearted generosity and, more importantly, with a thoughtful introspection and self-examination that we so rarely see in public life.

Blinded by hatred, he failed to comprehend what Reverend Pinckney so well understood -- the power of God’s grace.  (Applause.)

This whole week, I’ve been reflecting on this idea of grace. (Applause.)  The grace of the families who lost loved ones.  The grace that Reverend Pinckney would preach about in his sermons.  The grace described in one of my favorite hymnals -- the one we all know:  Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me.  (Applause.)  I once was lost, but now I’m found; was blind but now I see.  (Applause.)

According to the Christian tradition, grace is not earned.  Grace is not merited.  It’s not something we deserve.  Rather, grace is the free and benevolent favor of God -- (applause) -- as manifested in the salvation of sinners and the bestowal of blessings.  Grace.

As a nation, out of this terrible tragedy, God has visited grace upon us, for he has allowed us to see where we’ve been blind.  (Applause.)  He has given us the chance, where we’ve been lost, to find our best selves.  (Applause.)  We may not have earned it, this grace, with our rancor and complacency, and short-sightedness and fear of each other -- but we got it all the same.  He gave it to us anyway.  He’s once more given us grace.  But it is up to us now to make the most of it, to receive it with gratitude, and to prove ourselves worthy of this gift.
For too long, we were blind to the pain that the Confederate flag stirred in too many of our citizens.  (Applause.)  It’s true, a flag did not cause these murders.  But as people from all walks of life, Republicans and Democrats, now acknowledge -- including Governor Haley, whose recent eloquence on the subject is worthy of praise -- (applause) -- as we all have to acknowledge, the flag has always represented more than just ancestral pride.  (Applause.)  For many, black and white, that flag was a reminder of systemic oppression and racial subjugation.  We see that now.

Removing the flag from this state’s capitol would not be an act of political correctness; it would not be an insult to the valor of Confederate soldiers.  It would simply be an acknowledgment that the cause for which they fought -- the cause of slavery -- was wrong -- (applause) -- the imposition of Jim Crow after the Civil War, the resistance to civil rights for all people was wrong.  (Applause.) It would be one step in an honest accounting of America’s history; a modest but meaningful balm for so many unhealed wounds.  It would be an expression of the amazing changes that have transformed this state and this country for the better, because of the work of so many people of goodwill, people of all races striving to form a more perfect union.  By taking down that flag, we express God’s grace.  (Applause.)

But I don't think God wants us to stop there.  (Applause.)  For too long, we’ve been blind to the way past injustices continue to shape the present.  Perhaps we see that now.  Perhaps this tragedy causes us to ask some tough questions about how we can permit so many of our children to languish in poverty, or attend dilapidated schools, or grow up without prospects for a job or for a career.  (Applause.)

 Perhaps it causes us to examine what we’re doing to cause some of our children to hate.  (Applause.)  Perhaps it softens hearts towards those lost young men, tens and tens of thousands caught up in the criminal justice system -- (applause) -- and leads us to make sure that that system is not infected with bias; that we embrace changes in how we train and equip our police so that the bonds of trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve make us all safer and more secure.  (Applause.)  

Maybe we now realize the way racial bias can infect us even when we don't realize it, so that we're guarding against not just racial slurs, but we're also guarding against the subtle impulse to call Johnny back for a job interview but not Jamal.  (Applause.)  So that we search our hearts when we consider laws to make it harder for some of our fellow citizens to vote.  (Applause.)  By recognizing our common humanity by treating every child as important, regardless of the color of their skin or the station into which they were born, and to do what’s necessary to make opportunity real for every American -- by doing that, we express God’s grace.  (Applause.)

For too long --

AUDIENCE:  For too long!

THE PRESIDENT:  For too long, we’ve been blind to the unique mayhem that gun violence inflicts upon this nation.  (Applause.) Sporadically, our eyes are open:  When eight of our brothers and sisters are cut down in a church basement, 12 in a movie theater, 26 in an elementary school.  But I hope we also see the 30 precious lives cut short by gun violence in this country every single day; the countless more whose lives are forever changed -- the survivors crippled, the children traumatized and fearful every day as they walk to school, the husband who will never feel his wife’s warm touch, the entire communities whose grief overflows every time they have to watch what happened to them happen to some other place.

The vast majority of Americans -- the majority of gun owners -- want to do something about this.  We see that now.  (Applause.)  And I'm convinced that by acknowledging the pain and loss of others, even as we respect the traditions and ways of life that make up this beloved country -- by making the moral choice to change, we express God’s grace.  (Applause.)

We don’t earn grace.  We're all sinners.  We don't deserve it.  (Applause.)  But God gives it to us anyway.  (Applause.)  And we choose how to receive it.  It's our decision how to honor it.

None of us can or should expect a transformation in race relations overnight.  Every time something like this happens, somebody says we have to have a conversation about race.  We talk a lot about race.  There’s no shortcut.  And we don’t need more talk.  (Applause.)  None of us should believe that a handful of gun safety measures will prevent every tragedy.  It will not.  People of goodwill will continue to debate the merits of various policies, as our democracy requires -- this is a big, raucous place, America is.  And there are good people on both sides of these debates.  Whatever solutions we find will necessarily be incomplete.

But it would be a betrayal of everything Reverend Pinckney stood for, I believe, if we allowed ourselves to slip into a comfortable silence again.  (Applause.)  Once the eulogies have been delivered, once the TV cameras move on, to go back to business as usual -- that’s what we so often do to avoid uncomfortable truths about the prejudice that still infects our society.  (Applause.)  To settle for symbolic gestures without following up with the hard work of more lasting change -- that’s how we lose our way again.

It would be a refutation of the forgiveness expressed by those families if we merely slipped into old habits, whereby those who disagree with us are not merely wrong but bad; where we shout instead of listen; where we barricade ourselves behind preconceived notions or well-practiced cynicism.

Reverend Pinckney once said, “Across the South, we have a deep appreciation of history -- we haven’t always had a deep appreciation of each other’s history.”  (Applause.)  What is true in the South is true for America.  Clem understood that justice grows out of recognition of ourselves in each other.  That my liberty depends on you being free, too.  (Applause.)  That history can’t be a sword to justify injustice, or a shield against progress, but must be a manual for how to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past -- how to break the cycle.  A roadway toward a better world.  He knew that the path of grace involves an open mind -- but, more importantly, an open heart.

That’s what I’ve felt this week -- an open heart.  That, more than any particular policy or analysis, is what’s called upon right now, I think -- what a friend of mine, the writer Marilyn Robinson, calls “that reservoir of goodness, beyond, and of another kind, that we are able to do each other in the ordinary cause of things.”

That reservoir of goodness.  If we can find that grace, anything is possible.  (Applause.)  If we can tap that grace, everything can change.  (Applause.)
Amazing grace.  Amazing grace.

(Begins to sing) -- Amazing grace -- (applause) -- how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me; I once was lost, but now I’m found; was blind but now I see.  (Applause.)

Clementa Pinckney found that grace.

Cynthia Hurd found that grace.

Susie Jackson found that grace.

Ethel Lance found that grace.

DePayne Middleton-Doctor found that grace.

Tywanza Sanders found that grace.

Daniel L. Simmons, Sr. found that grace.

Sharonda Coleman-Singleton found that grace.

Myra Thompson found that grace.

Through the example of their lives, they’ve now passed it on to us.  May we find ourselves worthy of that precious and extraordinary gift, as long as our lives endure.  May grace now lead them home.  May God continue to shed His grace on the United States of America.  (Applause.)


Do the wealthy pay lower taxes than the middle class?


President Barack Obama Weekly Address June 20, 2015 (Video/Transcript)

President Barack Obama
Weekly Address
The White House
June 20, 2015

Hi, everybody.  As President, I spend most of my time focused on what we can do to grow the economy and grow new pathways of opportunity for Americans like you to get ahead.

And we’ve made progress.  More than 12 million new private sector jobs in the past five years.  More than 16 million Americans who’ve gained health insurance.  More jobs creating more clean energy.  More kids graduating from high school and college than ever before.

But in a relentlessly-changing economy, we’ve got more work to do.  And one of the things we should be doing, for example, is rewriting the rules of global trade to benefit American workers and American businesses.  I think we should write those rules before China does.  That’s why I’ve been working with Congress to pass new, 21st century trade agreements with standards that are higher and protections that are tougher than any past trade agreement.

I believe it’s the right thing to do for American workers and families, or I wouldn’t be doing it.

I believe it’s what will give us the competitive edge in a new economy, or I wouldn’t be doing it.

Now, several Members of Congress disagree.  That’s why it’s still tied up there, along with a lot of other good ideas that would create jobs.  And eventually, I’m optimistic we’ll get this done.

But America doesn’t stand still.  That’s why, on issue after issue where Congress has failed to act, my administration has partnered with mayors and governors across the country to advance economic priorities that most working families in America are in favor of right now.

And we’ve had success.  Over the past couple years, 17 states and six major cities have raised the minimum wage for their workers.  19 cities have enacted paid sick days, and five states have enacted paid sick days or paid family leave.  34 states have increased funding for quality Pre-K.  And 19 cities and states have signed up for our new TechHire initiative to train workers for the high-wage, high-skill jobs of tomorrow – the kind of jobs that new trade deals would help create.

Some of these victories have been small.  Some have been quiet.  But they’ve added up to a big difference for working families across America.  And that’s what matters to me.  Because it matters to you.  On Friday, I talked about these initiatives and more in a speech to the U.S. Conference of Mayors.  Check it out at  Some of it might matter to your city.

Thanks, and have a great weekend.


The Pope’s Memo on Climate Change Is a Mind-Blower

Source: The Wire 
Pope Francis already has a reputation for barnstorming. His positions on poverty, on gay priests, and liberation theology would have been shocking enough on their own, but in contrast to the more conservative positions of previous popes, they were downright lefty.

Sure, Francis has his more traditional moments. Abortion and assisted suicide are still no-go for the leader of the world’s Catholics. But Francis has been explicit about links between capitalism, materialism, and threats to the world’s poor. There’s a reason he named himself after St. Francis of Assisi—famously poor, famously eco-conscious—after all.

Now the Pope is taking on science. Specifically, in a new encyclical—that’s a letter laying out official Catholic doctrine—Francis describes Earth’s problem with an increasingly messed-up climate, why that’s the purview of religion, and who will suffer the most if people don’t do anything about it. The encyclical, “On Care for Our Common Home,” makes explicit the connection between climate change and oppression of the poorest and most vulnerable. It’s well-argued, clear, at times quite moving…and 42,000 words long. So here’s the good-parts version.

The thesis statement

It is no longer enough to speak only of the integrity of ecosystems. We have to dare to speak of the integrity of human life, of the need to promote and unify all the great values. Once we lose our humility, and become enthralled with the possibility of limitless mastery over everything, we inevitably end up harming society and the environment.

Nature isn’t a possession.

If we approach nature and the environment without this openness to awe and wonder, if we no longer speak the language of fraternity and beauty in our relationship with the world, our attitude will be that of masters, consumers, ruthless exploiters, unable to set limits on their immediate needs. By contrast, if we feel intimately united with all that exists, then sobriety and care will well up spontaneously. The poverty and austerity of Saint Francis were no mere veneer of asceticism, but something much more radical: a refusal to turn reality into an object simply to be used and controlled.
Rather than a problem to be solved, the world is a joyful mystery to be contemplated with gladness and praise.

The climate is messed up and people have to fix it.

The climate is a common good, belonging to all and meant for all. At the global level, it is a complex system linked to many of the essential conditions for human life. A very solid scientific consensus indicates that we are presently witnessing a disturbing warming of the climatic system. In recent decades this warming has been accompanied by a constant rise in the sea level and, it would appear, by an increase of extreme weather events, even if a scientifically determinable cause cannot be assigned to each particular phenomenon. Humanity is called to recognize the need for changes of lifestyle, production and consumption, in order to combat this warming or at least the human causes which produce or aggravate it.

The consequences of climate change are a social justice issue.

Even as the quality of available water is constantly diminishing, in some places there is a growing tendency, despite its scarcity, to privatize this resource, turning it into a commodity subject to the laws of the market. Yet access to safe drinkable water is a basic and universal human right, since it is essential to human survival and, as such, is a condition for the exercise of other human rights. Our world has a grave social debt towards the poor who lack access to drinking water, because they are denied the right to a life consistent with their inalienable dignity.
Each year sees the disappearance of thousands of plant and animal species which we will never know, which our children will never see, because they have been lost for ever. The great majority become extinct for reasons related to human activity. Because of us, thousands of species will no longer give glory to God by their very existence, nor convey their message to us. We have no such right.

Scientists are right, and this is about more than science.

We must be grateful for the praiseworthy efforts being made by scientists and engineers dedicated to finding solutions to man-made problems. But a sober look at our world shows that the degree of human intervention, often in the service of business interests and consumerism, is actually making our earth less rich and beautiful, ever more limited and grey, even as technological advances and consumer goods continue to abound limitlessly. We seem to think that we can substitute an irreplaceable and irretrievable beauty with something which we have created ourselves.

Blame the media.

Real relationships with others, with all the challenges they entail, now tend to be replaced by a type of internet communication which enables us to choose or eliminate relationships at whim, thus giving rise to a new type of contrived emotion which has more to do with devices and displays than with other people and with nature.
This lack of physical contact and encounter, encouraged at times by the disintegration of our cities, can lead to a numbing of conscience and to tendentious analyses which neglect parts of reality….We have to realize that a true ecological approach always becomes a social approach; it must integrate questions of justice in debates on the environment, so as to hear both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor.

But let’s not forget that technology is a wonderful thing.

Humanity has entered a new era in which our technical prowess has brought us to a crossroads. We are the beneficiaries of two centuries of enormous waves of change: steam engines, railways, the telegraph, electricity, automobiles, aeroplanes, chemical industries, modern medicine, information technology and, more recently, the digital revolution, robotics, biotechnologies and nanotechnologies. It is right to rejoice in these advances and to be excited by the immense possibilities which they continue to open up before us, for “science and technology are wonderful products of God-given human creativity.”

…until it takes over people’s lives.

Our freedom fades when it is handed over to the blind forces of the unconscious, of immediate needs, of self-interest, and of violence. In this sense, we stand naked and exposed in the face of our ever-increasing power, lacking the wherewithal to control it. We have certain superficial mechanisms, but we cannot claim to have a sound ethics, a culture and spirituality genuinely capable of setting limits and teaching clear-minded self-restraint.

Seriously, stop looking at your phone.

A constant flood of new consumer goods can baffle the heart and prevent us from cherishing each thing and each moment. To be serenely present to each reality, however small it may be, opens us to much greater horizons of understanding and personal fulfillment.

The richer are getting richer by screwing the world’s poor and the environment.

The foreign debt of poor countries has become a way of controlling them, yet this is not the case where ecological debt is concerned. In different ways, developing countries, where the most important reserves of the biosphere are found, continue to fuel the development of richer countries at the cost of their own present and future.

God did not say people could do whatever they wanted to Earth.

We are not God. The earth was here before us and it has been given to us. This allows us to respond to the charge that Judaeo-Christian thinking, on the basis of the Genesis account which grants man “dominion” over the earth (cf. Gen 1:28), has encouraged the unbridled exploita- tion of nature by painting him as domineering and destructive by nature. This is not a correct interpretation of the Bible as understood by the Church.
When nature is viewed solely as a source of profit and gain, this has serious consequences for society. This vision of “might is right” has engendered immense inequality, injustice and acts of violence against the majority of humanity, since resources end up in the hands of the first comer or the most powerful: the winner takes all.
The natural environment is a collective good, the patrimony of all humanity and the responsibility of everyone. If we make something our own, it is only to administer it for the good of all. If we do not, we burden our consciences with the weight of having denied the existence of others.

Mistreatment of the environment is as bad as a lot of really bad stuff, like child abuse and stem cells.

The culture of relativism is the same disorder which drives one person to take advantage of another, to treat others as mere objects, imposing forced labour on them or enslaving them to pay their debts. The same kind of thinking leads to the sexual exploitation of children and abandonment of the elderly who no longer serve our interests. It is also the mindset of those who say: Let us allow the invisible forces of the market to regulate the economy, and consider their impact on society and nature as collateral damage.

Seriously, lay off the embryonic stem cell research.

There is a tendency to justify transgressing all boundaries when experimentation is carried out on living human embryos. We forget that the inalienable worth of a human being transcends his or her degree of development.

And how about a little more open-mindedness for transgender people?

Learning to accept our body, to care for it and to respect its fullest meaning, is an essential element of any genuine human ecology. Also, valuing one’s own body in its femininity or masculinity is necessary if I am going to be able to recognize myself in an encounter with someone who is different. In this way we can joyfully accept the specific gifts of another man or woman, the work of God the Creator, and find mutual enrichment. It is not a healthy attitude which would seek “to cancel out sexual difference because it no longer knows how to confront it”.

The Pope wants to talk this out.

There are certain environmental issues where it is not easy to achieve a broad consensus. Here I would state once more that the Church does not presume to settle scientific questions or to replace politics. But I am concerned to encourage an honest and open debate so that particular interests or ideologies will not prejudice the common good.

Leak of Pope’s Encyclical on Climate Change Hints at Tensions in Vatican


President Barack Obama Weekly Address June 13, 2015 (Video/Transcript)

President Barack Obama
Weekly Address
The White House
June 13, 2015
Hi, everybody.  My top priority as President is to grow the economy and help more hardworking Americans get ahead.  And after the worst economic crisis in our lifetimes, our businesses have now created 12.6 million new jobs over the past 63 months.

That’s a record streak of job creation.  And it’s come as we’ve been working to reform our schools, revitalize manufacturing and the auto industry, revamp our job training programs – and rework our health care system, covering more than 16 million uninsured Americans so far.

We’ve done all of this to rebuild our economy on a new foundation, a foundation for growth that benefits not only us, but our kids, and their kids.  Because we do live in a new economy.  And we’ve got to adapt to make sure America leads the way in this new century, just like we did in the last.

Part of that means sparking new sources of growth and job creation that keep us on the cutting edge.  And one big way to do that is through smart new trade agreements that level the playing field for our workers, open new markets for our businesses, and hold other countries to the kinds of high standards that Americans are proud to hold ourselves to here at home.

Simply put, America has to write the rules of the 21st century economy in a way that benefits American workers.  If we don’t, countries like China will write those rules in a way that benefits their workers.

Now, on Friday, Republicans and Democrats in the House of Representatives voted to help the United States negotiate new trade deals that are both free and fair – deals that expand opportunity for our workers and our businesses alike.  And that’s good.  These kinds of trade deals say no to a race for the bottom, for lower wages and working conditions.  They’re about starting a race to the top, for higher wages, and better working conditions, stronger environmental protections, and a smarter way to crack down on countries that break the rules of the global economy.

But that’s not all we should be doing for our workers.  Right now, something called Trade Adjustment Assistance provides vital support, like job-training and community college education, to tens of thousands of American workers each year who were hurt by past trade deals – the kind we’re not going to repeat again.  Republicans and Democrats in the Senate have voted to renew this initiative, but so far, the House of Representatives has chosen to let it expire in just a few months, leaving as many as 100,000 American workers on their own.  For the sake of those workers, their families, and their communities, I urge those Members of Congress who voted against Trade Adjustment Assistance to reconsider, and stand up for American workers.

Because these smart new trade deals aren’t just about growing our economy and supporting good new American jobs.  This is about the kind of country we want to build for our kids and our grandkids.  And if I did not think that smart new trade deals were the right thing to do for working families, I wouldn’t be fighting for it.

This is the right thing to do.  Trade that’s fair and free and smart will grow opportunity for our middle class.  It will help us restore the dream we share, and make sure that every American who works hard has a chance to get ahead.  That’s a cause worth fighting for – today, and every day I have the honor of serving as your President.

Thanks everybody, and have a great weekend.


From Historic California Drought to Deadly Indian Heatwave, Global Warming is Wreaking Havoc (Video/Transcript)

 Source:Democracy Now
AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to go to break and when we come back, I want to talk about solutions, what is possible. Our guests or two climate scientists here at Stanford University, Noah Diffenbaugh and Mark Jacobson. And after we finish speaking to them, we’re going to Barcelona, Spain, for an exclusive broadcast interview with the mayor-elect of Barcelona, a leading anti-eviction housing activist who will be the first female mayor of that Spanish city. Stay with us.

AMY GOODMAN: We are broadcasting from Stanford University in California. California, a state that is now in its fourth straight year of drought. This week new mandatory water restrictions went into effect, with residents required to cut back water use by a net total of 25 percent. Just Thursday, the U.S. Drought Monitor said a wet May that led to greener pastures in some areas failed to bring any relief and "the sprouting of grasses will most likely provide extra fuel for early fall wildfires once the vegetation dies off this summer." Meanwhile, a new study by the University of California, Davis finds that in 2015 alone, the drought will cost the state’s farmers and agricultural industry $2.7 billion and more than 18,000 jobs. The study noted, "The socioeconomic impacts of an extended drought, in 2016 and beyond, could be much more severe." All this comes as the death toll from an ongoing heat wave in India has topped 2300, making it the fifth deadliest in recorded history. India’s earth sciences minister, Harsh Vardhan, said, "It’s not just an unusually hot summer, it is climate change."

Well, for more, we’re joined by two guests. Noah Diffenbaugh is a Senior Fellow at the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment and an Associate Professor here at Stanford University in Environmental Earth System Science. He recently published a study that found a link between global warming and California’s historic drought. Also joining us is Mark Jacobson, Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Stanford and the director of its Atmosphere/Energy Program. Mark Jacobson is also the co-founder of The Solutions Project, which combines science, business, and culture to develop and implement science based clean-energy plans for states and countries, and we’re going to talk about what those plans are for all 50 states. But first, Noah Diffenbaugh, the connection between the drought and climate change.

NOAH DIFFENBAUGH: So we know that climate change can influence drought in a number of ways, and drought — it’s important to keep in mind — is really the effective moisture that is available. So, a people may think of drought, they think of how much is it raining. But really it’s the effect of moisture. And heat in the atmosphere can really affect that; how much moisture is available for crops, how much is available for reservoirs and in snowpack. And it does so in a few ways. It draws water out of soils. The hotter it is, the more evaporation there will be, the more transpiration from plants. That’s what we’re seeing with the U.S. drought Monitor, is really the long-term effects over this drought of high temperatures. It also affects snow. In California, about a third of our water storage is reliant on snowpack as a natural reservoir. We don’t have the concrete reservoirs to store enough water that California needs. We rely on that snowpack. And the hotter it is, the more precipitation falls as rain rather than snow and the snow that does fall melts earlier in the year. And we are seeing those in California in this drought. When we look over the long-term history of California, we’re seeing increasing occurrence of years in which there is both low rainfall and high temperature. And that’s when we know we have an elevated risk of drought.

AMY GOODMAN: Have you ever seen anything like this before?

NOAH DIFFENBAUGH: Well I was born in 1974, so I was alive in the much remembered 1976-1977 drought. Something that is interesting, a lot of our climate indicators show that this drought is more severe than any drought that’s happened in California’s recorded history. One hundred and twenty years of recorded history, this is the most severe drought. And secondly, a lot of people talk about population growth and development in California and how these have been really large over the last 30 or 40 years, but interestingly, statewide, our water use is pretty similar now compared to in 1976-1977. So, we have actually become much more efficient at using water in California. So, we have a much larger population, but our total water usage is pretty similar. So it really is this is a more severe drought from a climate perspective.

AMY GOODMAN: Mark Jacobson, can you talk about the drought in California and this record number of deaths in India? 2300 people in the latest heatwave.

MARK JACOBSON: Well, there are a lot of impacts of climate change or what we also call global warming. And global warming is really the increase in average temperatures over the whole globe. Someplace you get lower temperatures on average, but in more places, you will get higher temperatures, you’ll get more extreme events, mostly because the average temperature is higher, the extremes are mostly in the Mormon direction. So you’re going to get some places where you’ll have much higher temperatures than you will normally get. And in some of these places, you will have greater heat waves and more deaths as a result. Or you’ll have more drought as well. In some places you do get cool temperatures and, sort of, as some people who don’t believe in global warming or climate change will say, why is it cold outside if there’s global warming occurring? 

That is because you’re looking at the average over the globe when you’re talking about global warming, and so you do get both lower temperatures and higher temperatures, but you’ll get more cases of higher temperatures. These higher temperatures will result in greater heat stress on people, and that is one source of mortality. Another source of mortality is enhanced air pollution. Higher temperatures on average increase air pollution, but particularly where the air pollution is already bad. And that is another source of mortality. Another source of mortality is greater extreme storminess. You’ll get greater extremes in severe weather such as more intense hurricanes, for example. And because you just — hurricanes are driven by warmer sea service temperatures and the ocean temperatures are warmer on average over the globe, and so you will get greater intensity of the hurricanes, although, not necessarily greater number.

AMY GOODMAN: So what do you say, either of you, to Senator Inhofe who takes a snowball and brings it onto the floor of the Senate and says, you call this global warming?

NOAH DIFFENBAUGH: Well I think this is really a question about risk. We are seeing that in California. So one example is our drought here. When we look at the 120 years of observed record in California, what we see is temperature goes up, temperature goes down, precipitation goes up precipitation goes down. Drought indicators go up, they go down. But what we see clearly is that there is a much higher risk of drought when temperatures are high. So it takes low precipitation, but if that low precipitation coincides with warm temperatures, the risk that that low precipitation produces drought is about twice as high compared to cooler temperatures. And what we have seen is California has gotten warmer and warmer and warmer. We have gone from a regime in which about half the years were warm and half the years we are cool, and half years were wet and half the years were dry to over the last two decades, 80 percent of the years have been warm. And what that means is we’ve seen twice as many drought years. We have seen double the percentage of low precipitation years that end up producing drought. So that is really risk. It’s really about the probabilities. And when we talk about the fingerprints of climate change, the finger prints of climate change on extreme events, we’re really talking about risk. What is the probability that these extreme events occur.

AMY GOODMAN: And do you see this as a one off event in California, the drought, if it can be dealt with now?

NOAH DIFFENBAUGH: Well our research shows very clearly that the conditions that are producing this drought are becoming much more probable. We see that in the historical record, the conditions are becoming more likely in the historical record. We also see it when we look at climate model experiments. We can talk about climate model experiments that if you want. We would love to put the earth in a lab and run all kinds of experiments on it like you can in a Petri dish. We’re not able to do that. We use climate models to run those experiments. But we very clearly that we are already on the cusp of really experiencing these kinds of conditions much more frequently. And in fact, even that United Nations’ target of two degrees Celsius that we have heard discussed in Copenhagen and since then in the run-up to Paris this fall, even at that two degrees level of global warming, California is likely to be in a regime where year after year we are experiencing very warm or severely hot conditions. What that means is we have a much higher risk that when there is low precipitation that it is also going to be hot. And that is exactly what we are experiencing in this drought.

AMY GOODMAN: And talk about, Mark Jacobson, in India. When we talk about hot. What are the temperatures we’re talking about?

MARK JACOBSON: Well, and we look at it in terms of — well degrees Celsius most of the world uses, but in Fahrenheit, the temperatures can get up to an extreme heat. You’re getting up to — over 100 degrees in Fahrenheit for a significant period time. And so it is sustained over a period of time that is a problem, because if you just have a short, one day of hot weather, it is not going to cause a problem, but many days in a row can really increase mortality. And people most affected are already weak; the elderly and those who are sick or otherwise are weak or have illness. So, the temperatures, though, have been sustained over periods of time and so this is the main problem with — that you’ll find in any place where you are impacted. And other places that are impacted would be like sub-Saharan Africa for example where, for example, you will have extreme heat events where people already are on the verge of severe weather and then you just increase the temperature just a little bit and that causes a huge mortality as a result.

AMY GOODMAN: A lot of politicians who are climate deniers say, this has been going on for a very longtime. Professor Diffenbaugh, in 2013, you published a report that found climate change is on pace to occur 10 times faster than any change recorded in, what, 65 million years?

NOAH DIFFENBAUGH: Well, so in that paper we were looking at global scale temperature change. So we were looking at global warming and the rate of global warming if we look at the two degree sea target that the United Nations is putting forward, if we look at four degrees sea which is really where we are likely to end up if we continue along the emissions trajectory that we have been on as a globe. So four degrees in 100 years, we can look back at the historical record —- when geologists look back at the sediments in the ocean and the rock record on land, look at fossils, what they find is that there certainly have been periods where there’s been four degrees of warming or 10 degrees of cooling, but these have happened over very long periods. So the most rapid warming that’s been seen since the extinction of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago was a period called the Eocene. It happened in the Eocene and it was about about 55 million years ago, long time ago. And there was four or five degrees forming, but it looked like it happened in about 10,000 years. So we’re talking about doing in a century what Earth has done in thousands of years. And that is really the big difference for the global scale. We know, looking back at that period in the Eocene, that it was a very different climate. The were alligators and palm trees inside the Arctic Circle. So the palm trees kept up because they had 10,000 years to do it. The alligators kept up, they had 10,000 years to do it. But we’re talking about an ice-free Arctic with the temperatures that look a lot like coastal Florida. So -—

AMY GOODMAN: Well wait. Say that again?

NOAH DIFFENBAUGH: So in that period — the last time that we saw this four degrees warming, it happened over thousands of years, and it created a very different climate. So if we look at the Arctic Ocean, we know that it was at least seasonally ice-free. No summer ice in the Arctic. And when geologists reconstruct those temperatures using the chemistry and looking at the fossils that were — of the plants that were there, they see it looks a lot like coastal Florida does now. So people who say Earth has been through this before, they are right in terms of the magnitude of change, but the big difference is how rapid that change was. And we know from looking at those periods in the past, that the climate was really, really different. So we are are not saying that Earth hasn’t experienced, change before. What we’re saying is that we have very strong evidence that what we’re seeing now is due primarily to human activities and that the pace of change is much more rapid than what ecosystems have been exposed to in recent geologic past.


President Barack Obama Weekly Address June 6, 2015 (Video/Trascript )

President Barack Obama
Weekly Address
The White House
June 6, 2015 
Hi everybody.  One of the remarkable things about America is that nearly all of our families originally came from someplace else.  We’re a nation of immigrants.  It’s a source of our strength and something we all can take pride in.  And this month – Immigrant Heritage Month – is a chance to share our American stories.
I think about my grandparents in Kansas – where they met and where my mom was born.  Their family tree reached back to England and Ireland and elsewhere.  They lived, and raised me, by basic values: working hard, giving back, and treating others the way you want to be treated.

I think of growing up in Hawaii, a place enriched by people of different backgrounds – native Hawaiian, Filipino, Japanese, Chinese, Portuguese and just about everything else.  Growing up in that vibrant mix helped shape who I am today.  And while my father was not an immigrant himself, my own life journey as an African-American – and the heritage shared by Michelle and our daughters, some of whose ancestors came here in chains – has made our family who we are.

This month, I’m inviting you to share your story, too.  Just visit  We want to hear how you or your family made it to America – whether you’re an immigrant yourself or your great-great-grandparents were.

Of course, we can’t just celebrate this heritage, we have to defend it – by fixing our broken immigration system.  Nearly two years ago, Democrats and Republicans in the Senate came together to do that.  They passed a commonsense bill to secure our border, get rid of backlogs, and give undocumented immigrants who are already living here a pathway to citizenship if they paid a fine, paid their taxes, and went to the back of the line.  But for nearly two years, Republican leaders in the House have refused to even allow a vote on it.

That’s why, in the meantime, I’m going to keep doing everything I can to make our immigration system more just and more fair.  Last fall, I took action to provide more resources for border security; focus enforcement on the real threats to our security; modernize the legal immigration system for workers, employers, and students; and bring more undocumented immigrants out of the shadows so they can get right with the law.  Some folks are still fighting against these actions.  I’m going to keep fighting for them.  Because the law is on our side.  It’s the right thing to do.  And it will make America stronger.

I want us to remember people like Ann Dermody from Alexandria, Virginia.  She’s originally from Ireland and has lived in America legally for years.  She worked hard, played by the rules and dreamed of becoming a citizen.  In March, her dream came true.  And before taking the oath, she wrote me a letter.  “The papers we receive…will not change our different accents [or] skin tones,” Ann said.  “But for that day, at least, we’ll feel like we have arrived.”

Well, to Ann and immigrants like her who have come to our shores seeking a better life – yes, you have arrived.  And by sharing our stories, and staying true to our heritage as a nation of immigrants, we can keep that dream alive for generations to come.

Thanks, and have a great weekend


Why the reviled FIFA leader is stepping down (Video)

Source: Time
Sepp Blatter, who proclaimed to the world that he was “president of everybody” after winning a fifth term as head of FIFA on Friday, will soon be nobody’s president.

In a stunning turn, Blatter, who seemed to hold so firm to the stance that he, and he alone, could clean up the corrupt organization that he presided over, announced on Tuesday that he would step down as FIFA’s leader, a position he has held since 1998. An extraordinary FIFA congress will meet to elect a new president: the head of FIFA’s audit committee said the timing of the election is “likely to be between December and March.”

Was it pending legal trouble that helped bring down Blatter? He painted his resignation as a selfless act, an attempt to give FIFA a fresh start. But his troubles could just be starting. A New York Times report said that Blatter’s top lieutenant made a $10 million bank transaction that puts the bribery trail that much closer to Blatter himself. The New York Daily News reported that Aaron Davidson, one of the sports marketing executives arrested in the U.S. probe into FIFA’s business practices, is trying to cut a plea deal. Will he, and other indicted officials, be singing about Blatter? “Let me be clear,” Kelly Currie, acting U.S. attorney for the eastern district of New York, said last week. “This indictment is not the final chapter of our investigation.” The president’s defiant words on Friday — “Why would I step down? That would mean I recognize that I did wrong” — may yet come back to haunt him.

But Blatter is nothing if not tenacious. “I am a mountain goat that keeps going and going and going,” he once said. “I cannot be stopped, I just keep going.”
Joseph S. Blatter was born in Visp, a remote Swiss Alpine town, and was sportswriter, PR rep, and reportedly a wedding singer before he rose up the ranks at FIFA, where he has worked since 1975. Since he took over as FIFA president in 1998, corruption has tainted his reign. During his first presidential election, there were allegations that some votes were bought. One month before his 2011 re-election, Blatter pledged $1 million in FIFA money at an assembly for CONCACAF, the regional soccer governing body for North America, Central America and the Caribbean at the center of the current scandal.

Almost immediately after FIFA decided in December 2010 to award World Cups to Russia in 2018 and Qatar in 2022, bribery allegations began surfacing. Last week, the Swiss government announced a criminal investigation specific to the bidding process for these events. The Qatar decision has also sparked a humanitarian crisis. Migrant workers have toiled in triple-digit heat building the stadiums and infrastructure needed for the tiny Gulf nation to host the world’s most popular sporting event. According to a 2014 report from International Trade Union Confederation, 1,200 migrant World Cup workers from India and Nepal have died.

Under Blatter, FIFA has operated with little real transparency. This is an organization that produced a $27 million propaganda film in which Blatter was the hero.

His few supporters will point to his achievements; he did disperse money to many poor countries, where amenities like soccer facilities provided real benefits. The women’s World Cup, and women’s soccer overall, grew in popularity, though Blatter was a clumsy steward. The self-proclaimed “godfather” of women’s soccer once suggested that women wear tighter outfits to attract more fans, and before this year’s women’s World Cup, which kicks off June 6, top players sued FIFA for gender discrimination.
FIFA’s revenues ballooned under Blatter: FIFA currently has $1.5 billion in cash reserves. But how much was the president himself responsible for this business success, given the entrenched popularity of the World Cup, and an environment where media outlets are paying record rights fees across many sports to broadcast big events?

Whoever FIFA elects as its next president will have to grapple with Qatar – can a World Cup conceivably be staged there, given the human toll? — and cleaning up the disgraced organization. Tough times are ahead. But Blatter’s resignation offers hope, for many soccer fans around the globe, that the game’s organizing body can start to reform itself.

“Have a nice day,” a FIFA flack said at the end of the stunning press conference that ended the Blatter era. For soccer fans around the globe, indeed, it was.


President Barack Obama Weekly Address May 30, 2015 (Video/Trascript )

President Barack Obama
Weekly Address
The White House
May 30, 2015 
Hi, everybody. As President and Commander in Chief, my greatest responsibility is the safety of the American people. And in our fight against terrorists, we need to use every effective tool at our disposal -- both to defend our security and to protect the freedoms and civil liberties enshrined in our Constitution.

But tomorrow -- Sunday, at midnight -- some important tools we use against terrorists will expire. That’s because Congress has not renewed them, and because legislation that would -- the USA Freedom Act -- is stuck in the Senate. I want to be very clear about what this means.

Today, when investigating terrorist networks, our national security professionals can seek a court order to obtain certain business records. Our law enforcement professionals can seek a roving wiretap to keep up with terrorists when they switch cell phones. We can seek a wiretap on so-called lone wolves -- suspected terrorists who may not be directly tied to a terrorist group. These tools are not controversial. Since 9/11, they have been renewed numerous times. FBI Director James Comey says they are “essential” and that losing them would “severely” impact terrorism investigations. But if Congress doesn’t act by tomorrow at midnight, these tools go away as well.

The USA Freedom Act also accomplishes something I called for a year and a half ago: it ends the bulk metadata program -- the bulk collection of phone records -- as it currently exists and puts in place new reforms. The government will no longer hold these records; telephone providers will. The Act also includes other changes to our surveillance laws -- including more transparency -- to help build confidence among the American people that your privacy and civil liberties are being protected. But if Congress doesn’t act by midnight tomorrow, these reforms will be in jeopardy, too.

It doesn’t have to be this way. The USA Freedom Act reflects ideas from privacy advocates, our private sector partners and our national security experts. It already passed the House of Representatives with overwhelming bipartisan support -- Republicans and Democrats. A majority of the Senate -- Republicans and Democrats -- have voted to move it forward.

So what’s the problem? A small group of senators is standing in the way. And, unfortunately, some folks are trying to use this debate to score political points. But this shouldn’t and can't be about politics. This is a matter of national security. Terrorists like al Qaeda and ISIL aren’t suddenly going to stop plotting against us at midnight tomorrow. And we shouldn’t surrender the tools that help keep us safe. It would be irresponsible. It would be reckless. And we shouldn’t allow it to happen.

So today, I’m calling on Americans to join me in speaking with one voice to the Senate. Put the politics aside. Put our national security first. Pass the USA Freedom Act -- now. And let’s protect the security and civil liberties of every American. Thanks very much.