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 –

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

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

The Assassination of Fred Hampton

Today marks the 45th anniversary of the assassination of Fred Hampton by the Chicago Police. Five years ago, on the fortieth anniversary, Democracy Now aired a retrospective.

On December 4th, 1969, Chicago police raided Fred Hampton’s apartment, shot and killed him in his bed. He was just twenty-one years old. Black Panther leader Mark Clark was also killed in the raid.

While authorities claimed the Panthers had opened fire on the police who were there to serve a search warrant for weapons, evidence later emerged that told a very different story: that the FBI, the Cook County state’s attorney’s office and the Chicago police conspired to assassinate Fred Hampton. Noam Chomsky has called Hampton’s killing “the gravest domestic crime of the Nixon administration.”

See the full report: “The Assassination of Fred Hampton: How the FBI and the Chicago Police Murdered a Black Panther” | Democracy Now!.

One Night In Ferguson

Editor’s Note: What follows is a first hand report from the streets of Ferguson from my son, Thomas, who went there on the night that the Grand Jury decision was announced. Pictures to follow.

On November 24th, 2014 shortly before 8PM CST I was out for dinner at our local Buffalo Wild Wings with my brother and friends.

One of them noted “all of these TVs and only one of them is showing the news.” It was true, out of at least 15 screens mounted on the wall it appeared all anyone cared about was Monday Night Football and other various sportscasts.

A few minutes after eight an Anonymous Twitter account tweeted that there would be no indictment in the Darren Wilson case. I felt uneasy.  I wasn’t exactly surprised by the decision, but I had hoped for the best – and this wasn’t it.

My friend Luke said “I think we should go to Ferguson to take pictures of whatever happens tonight.”

We headed home still contemplating.  I turned on a St. Louis County police scanner (via a Ustream channel link on my timeline) and saw the number of channel viewers increase nearly 1000 people per minute from 7000 to almost 10,000.

8:33 – First report of shots fired.

9:02 – Police car being destroyed.

9:03 – Shots fired at the police department.

We got in the car and headed to Ferguson, about 130 miles away. I turned on my 5-0 Radio app so we could continue listening in the car.

9:26 – Reports of a journalist hit in the head with a brick.

9:26 – Shots fired in front of the fire department.

It took about two hours to get to Ferguson, but the anxiety from not knowing what we would encounter was enough to make it seem much longer. When we got off the Interstate, right away we saw a group of 4 or 5 police cars, lights on, flying past us.

Upon our arrival we first noticed the local businesses that had been damaged – the broken windows and evidence of looting.

As we drove another block, I noticed the “Seasons Greetings” banner displayed over the street.

“Holy Shit!” We had seen the banner in online videos earlier that evening, but had no idea that’s where we would end up until we got there. We were a little awestruck.

We pulled into the now infamous Boost Mobile parking lot. There were newscasters, protestors, and cars full of people. It was hard to draw the line between activists and spectators. It was even harder to spot the other individuals, present only to take advantage of the situation.

However, it was not especially hard to identify the unmarked police car and officers positioned in the parking lot to spy on everyone.

On the sidewalk, protestors stood in solidarity as they watched the police officers, who were dressed in full riot gear across the street in front of the Ferguson Fire Station. They held shields and batons, and wore helmets with masks.

I watched as multiple officers pulled down their masks. I wasn’t sure if we should expect smoke next, or maybe they just needed to feel the warmth of their breath. It was a cold night, and no one would be leaving soon.

We walked down the street to begin taking pictures. As we were walking more police vehicles had come to establish a roadblock. “No more traffic in,” was their plan. We approached the roadblock because we had to cross in order to move about the area. One officer asked me “Where do you think you’re going? What are you guys doing?”

After that encounter we believed that if we crossed their line, we might not be able to make it back to our vehicle and that wasn’t a risk we were willing to take, so we hurriedly headed back to the parking lot across from the fire department.

While we waited to see what the night would come to, we talked to some of the individuals. It appeared that because I was holding a camera, people wanted to tell us how they felt about the matter. Some even asked me what my views were. I knew how I felt, but I wasn’t sure what to say.

“Mike Brown had a right to live, and it was taken from him.”

“I think people should let the world know what happened here.”

Things were relatively calm where we were. We had turned off our police scanners, so we were unaware of most other on-going incidents.

A man and his friend approached Luke and I and asked if I would take a photo of them. I agreed, but then was attacked by this man. He forcibly tried to take the camera. I held on, to it and to him. He stumbled to the ground. I think it was clear he couldn’t take the camera so he began to back away. I was shocked. At least 30 of the many police officers in the area witnessed this occurrence, and they did nothing.  They saw us all the same. I felt as if I had entered a foreign country, the presence of police in combat and riot gear was nearly overwhelming.

It was getting late, and we made the decision to leave. Once we got on the road I returned to listening to the police scanner. Cars and buildings had been set on fire, and more would follow.

More than a week after the announcement that there would be no indictment in the case, the barrage of opinions being posted to social media continues. The number of individuals condemning Mike Brown, and the protestors, is bewildering to me.

Of course there is a difference between a protest and a riot.  There is a difference between those who protest and those who take advantage of the situation for personal or even political gain.

But my time spent in Ferguson, as short as it was, allowed me to see more than just a glimpse of the chaos that had erupted. It also allowed me to see and meet dozens of peaceful individuals holding signs and raising their voices in a simple plea for justice.

1% Rake In More Than Cost of All U.S. Social Programs

According to a report highlighted on Alternet, each year since the recession, America’s richest 1% have made more than the cost of all U.S. social programs.

The numbers are nearly unfathomable. Depending on the estimate, the 1% took in anywhere from $2.3 trillion to $5.7 trillion per year.

Even the smaller estimate is more than the combined total budgets for Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and the entire safety net for SNAP, WIC, Child Nutrition, Earned Income Tax Credit, Supplemental Security Income, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, and Housing.

Read more: 5 Facts About How America Is Rigged for a Massive Wealth Transfer to the Rich | Alternet.

Detroit Up For Grabs

Jerry White of the Social Equality Party describes how Detroit is currently being carved up by the bankers in what will become a model for other American cities in decline.

Detroit, the former auto capital of the world, is in the final stages of a bankruptcy process that has from the start been a conspiracy of the banks against the city’s working class population. Closing arguments in federal bankruptcy court are scheduled to begin next week, a legal formality before the city’s brutal restructuring plan is approved by the judge.

The so-called “Plan of Adjustment” will gut the pensions and health benefits of more than 30,000 current and retired city workers, sanction the sell-off of public assets, and provide a legal fig leaf for the termination of water and other vital services to entire working class neighborhoods.

Last week, some 200 investment bankers from throughout the US gathered at the Center for Venture Capital and Private Equity Finance at the University of Michigan to discuss the business opportunities emerging from the carve-up of Detroit.

Read more: The carve-up of Detroit – World Socialist Web Site.