Enter the Brownshirts

With GOP presidential candidates amping up the xenophobia, it was only a matter of time until bigots with firearms began to organize. Saturday saw armed protestors assemble at a Mosque in Irving, Texas.

The Dallas Morning News spoke to organizer David Wright.

“They’re mostly for self-defense or protection,” Wright said, eyeing his 12-gauge. “But I’m not going to lie. We do want to show force. … It would be ridiculous to protest Islam without defending ourselves.”

A protester with a bandana over his face showed off his AR-15 to traffic. A 20-year-old who wants to join the Army and ban Islam in the United States carried a Remington hunting rifle…

Read the Report: Armed protesters gather outside Islamic Center of Irving | | Dallas Morning News

The Endless Spectacle of Militarism

I love America. Truly, I do. It is the land of great ideals, as well as the land of my birth.

I also respect and applaud self-sacrifice in service to others, and in service to those ideals.

So I was slow to understand the true nature of the constant prompts to “support our troops” and the endless parade of militaristic spectacle over the past couple decades. In the wake of the attacks of September 11th, the knee-jerk jingoism didn’t sit well with me, but I didn’t fully understand why.

Then comes the news this week of a joint oversight report released by Arizona Republican Senators John Flake and John McCain, documenting that over the past few years, the Pentagon spent $6.8 million to pay for patriotic displays during the games of professional sports teams. For me, this calls to mind the 1936 Summer Games.

Here are a couple of articles of interest on the subject.

No, thanks: Stop saying “support the troops” – A nation that continuously publicizes appeals to “support our troops” is explicitly asking its citizens not to think. It is the ideal slogan for suppressing the practice of democracy, presented to us in the guise of democratic preservation.

Military spectacle and American sport – Fifteen years after the beginning of the so-called “War on Terror,” no facet of life in the United States—political, legal or cultural—has escaped the dark shadow of the American military-intelligence apparatus. Everything is subordinated to the needs of the state. Personal communications are intercepted and stored, protests are monitored and school curricula are manipulated. Hollywood works with the CIA to produce films like “Zero Dark Thirty” to justify the government’s illegal torture program, and a worker can hardly take his or her family to the ballgame without being inundated with pro-war lies and propaganda.

Congratulations, America

Along with Latvia, Lithuania and Romania, you rank lowest for the material well-being of children in all of the developed world.

As Paul Buchheit reports, the callousness of America’s political and business leaders is shocking once you start looking at the numbers.

Read more: The Numbers Are Staggering: U.S. Is ‘World Leader’ in Child Poverty | Alternet.

Read the UNICEF Report on child well-being in rich countries.

Pentagon Research: Scarcity and Unrest

Nafeez Ahmed writes on Motherboard about the current research priorities of the U.S. Department of Defense.

A major factor for study is how “resource scarcity or imbalance, including food and water insecurity” can lead to state instability. This could cover availability of resources, who owns them, and who can access them; the way in which energy consumption is rising worldwide and how it relates to health and wealth in different countries.

The Pentagon also wants to see modeling of the interplay between demographic trends and population growth, as well as wider economic issues like “wealth distribution.” This raises questions about whether the US military anticipates a risk of civil unrest at home or in other Western countries allied to the US, where some economists are predicting another economic crash.

Read more: The Bleak Science Bankrolled by the Pentagon | Motherboard.

Christianity and America

Benjamin L. Corey writes about the early Christians, and how they might be viewed by American Fundies today.

“If those entrenched in American Christianity could transport back in time to experience Christianity as it originally was, they’d be uncomfortable at best, and at worst, would probably have declined the invitation to join Christianity at all.”

Read the full essay: 5 Reasons Why Many American Christians Wouldn’t Like The First Ones.

Constitutional Scholar Tramples Press Freedom

Glenn Greenwald reports: “Each year, Reporters Without Borders issues a worldwide ranking of nations based on the extent to which they protect or abridge press freedom. The group’s 2015 ranking was released this morning, and the United States is ranked 49th. That is the lowest ranking ever during the Obama presidency, and the second-lowest ranking for the U.S. since the rankings began in 2002 (in 2006, under Bush, the U.S. was ranked 53rd). The countries immediately ahead of the U.S. are Malta, Niger, Burkino Faso, El Salvador, Tonga, Chile and Botswana.”

Greenwald quotes former Washington Post executive editor Leonard Downie, Jr.

“The administration’s war on leaks and other efforts to control information are the most aggressive I’ve seen since the Nixon administration, when I was one of the editors involved in The Washington Post’s investigation of Watergate. The 30 experienced Washington journalists at a variety of news organizations whom I interviewed for this report could not remember any precedent.”

Read More: U.S. Drops to 49th in World Press Freedom Rankings, Worst Since Obama Became President – The Intercept.

We Have A Nice Cell Waiting For You

If you are poor, ill or addicted, don’t worry. We can warehouse you almost indefinitely and you’ll never have to worry.

From a new report by the Vera Institute of Justice:

“Local jails, which exist in nearly every town and city in America, are built to hold people deemed too dangerous to release pending trial or at high risk of flight. This, however, is no longer primarily what jails do or whom they hold, as people too poor to post bail languish there and racial disparities disproportionately impact communities of color. This report reviews existing research and data to take a deeper look at our nation’s misuse of local jails and to determine how we arrived at this point.”

Read More: Incarceration’s Front Door: The Misuse of Jails in America | Vera Institute of Justice.

American Reds

The folks at Red Wedge magazine have created a wonderful new series of posters called Inside Agitators.

The series “aims to reintroduce the notion that communism is an American tradition and a powerful, intersectional tradition at that. American communists have been women and men, black and white and red and brown, queer and straight, disabled and able-bodied. That the posters resemble wanted posters is no accident: communism has been and is a crime, for which our brave forebears were hunted, banished, jailed, and killed.”

Some of my personal heroes, including Helen Keller, Eugene Debs and Big Bill Haywood are among those depicted.

See the posters: Inside Agitators — Red Wedge.

FBI Expands Domestic Spy Role

In response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit by The New York Times, the Justice Department has partially declassified a report about the F.B.I.’s involvement in administering the warrantless surveillance program authorized by the FISA Amendments Act. When the report was completed in September 2012, it was entirely classified and the department announced only that it existed.

Read the report here: Justice Department Declassifies 2012 Inspector General Report on FBI Activities Under the FISA Amendments Act of 2008 – NYTimes.com.

You can also read the Times’ story concerning the report here: F.B.I. is Broadening Surveillance Role, Report Shows – NYTimes.com.

On American Soil

The United States had Marxists in the past, it is true, but they were a strange type of Marxist, or rather, three strange types. In the first place, there were the émigrés cast out of Europe, who did what they could but could not find any response; in the second place, isolated American groups, like the De Leonists, who in the course of events, and because of their own mistakes, turned themselves into sects; in the third place, dilettantes attracted by the October Revolution and sympathetic to Marxism as an exotic teaching that had little to do with the United States. Their day is over. Now dawns the new epoch of an independent class movement of the proletariat and at the same time of genuine Marxism. In this, too, America will in a few jumps catch up with Europe and outdistance it. Advanced technology and an advanced social structure will pave their own way in the sphere of doctrine. The best theoreticians of Marxism will appear on American soil. Marx will become the mentor of the advanced American workers. To them this abridged exposition of the first volume will become only an initial step toward the complete Marx.

– Leon Trotsky