Thursday, January 14, 2016

COP CRIMES IN AMERICA: ANOTHER CHILD MURDERED! - Pennsylvania constable shoots dead 12-year-old girl during home eviction - CONSTABLE CLARKE STEELE KIILS 12 YEAR OLD CIARA MEYER

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Pennsylvania constable shoots dead 12-year-old girl during home eviction

Pennsylvania constable shoots dead 12-year-old girl during home eviction

By Tom Eley
14 January 2016
On Monday morning a Pennsylvania state constable shot dead a 12-year-old girl while enforcing an eviction order on her family in rural Duncannon, near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. The county coroner ruled the killing a homicide on Wednesday.

Constable Clarke Steele fired on the girl’s father, Donald Bartho Meyer Jr., 57, who police claim had aimed a rifle at Steele. The bullet passed through the man’s upper arm, shattering his bone, before striking the girl, Ciara Meyer, who was standing behind her father in the doorway. She was pronounced dead at the scene.

Donald Meyer was flown to Hershey Medical Center for his wound and is being held on charges of “making terroristic threats” as well as aggravated assault, simple assault and reckless endangerment. Steele, who was joined at the eviction by employees of the rental firm, has not been charged, and authorities have made no apology for the girl’s death.

“Unfortunately, the constable was put into a situation where he had to defend himself,” said State Police Trooper Robert T. Hicks. “Unfortunately, that little girl just happened to be behind her father at the time.”

A web site set up in Meyer’s memory describes her as having been “a loving vibrant 12 year old.” She attended public school in the Susquenita School District. The school’s superintendent said that counselors would be available to help children and staff deal with the loss.

“Very kind, sweet kid,” a neighbor told ABC 27 News. “Here’s a little girl that doesn’t even have a chance to grow up and live her life, and all because of this senseless act. It’s horrible, absolutely heartbreaking.”

According to court documents, Donald Meyer owed $1,780.85 to his landlord, Pfautz Rental, on a monthly $660 in rent.

The family was first delivered a court complaint on December 3. The court issued an order for possession on December 28, three days after Christmas, and this was served to Meyer at his home on December 30, two days before New Year’s Day.

Constable Steele arrived on Monday morning with the intention of physically removing Meyer and his daughter, who was home sick from school on Monday. He had been sent “numerous times” to warn Meyer, Hicks said.

In his last visit, Steel had given the family a 10 a.m., January 11 move-out deadline. Steele’s “lawful job, because he had a valid court order, was to remove them from the property if they had not already moved,” Hicks added.

According to the police version of events, Steele approached the house in the morning. Donald Meyer closed the door on him and refused to talk. Steele, however, remained at the door of the house until Meyer returned and “engaged Constable Steele in a brief exchange of words.”

Police claim that Meyer then “leveled a loaded .223 caliber rifle, which had been slung and concealed along his body, directly at Constable Steele with a point of aim at his chest.” At this moment Steele fired at Meyer, police say, grazing his arm but striking directly the small child that stood behind him.
A search warrant issued after Ciara’s killing found Donald Meyer’s gun with a loaded chamber and a magazine clip holding 30 rounds. Police have not yet claimed that Meyer fired on Steele.

Constables are a low-level police force in Pennsylvania, technically under the governor. They receive no salary, but earn money by serving papers and other functions for district courts. Constables are required to take only 80 hours of police training and supply their own equipment, including guns.
The tragedy in rural Pennsylvania combined at least two features of the American social crisis: police killings and home evictions.

Ciara is the 21st person and the first child to be killed by police in the US in 2016, according to a count kept by The Guardian. At least 1,200 Americans, the vast majority working class and poor, were killed by cops in 2015.

Evictions of poor and working class families are commonplace in “one of the worst affordable housing crises in generations,” according to Harvard University sociologist Matthew Desmond. In 2013, nearly 60 percent of all renter households spent more than 30 percent of their income on rent alone, and 30 percent of renters spent more than half of their income on rent. One in eight low-income families who rent could not afford to pay their landlords, and a similar number faced the possibility of eviction.

More recent data by real estate information firm Zillow found that the average renter now pays 30 percent or more of their income on rent—the threshold at which housing is considered unaffordable. While real wages continued to stagnate, rents rose by approximately 7 percent in 2014.

Courts dealing with eviction orders tend to show less mercy to families with children, such as the Meyers.

“Children do not shield families from eviction, but rather they often expose them to it,” Desmond wrote for the November 2015 issue of the Institute for Research on Poverty at the University of Wisconsin. “If a tenant in eviction court lives with children, her or his odds of receiving an eviction judgment almost triple, even after taking into account how much is owed to the landlord, household income and several other key factors.”

"The result: 95 percent of all income gains during the Obama presidency going to the richest 1 percent of households!"

Obama’s State of the Union address and the breakdown of American democracy

Obama’s State of the Union address and the breakdown of American democracy

14 January 2016
In our time, political speech and writing are largely the defense of the indefensible. Things like the continuance of British rule in India, the Russian purges and deportations, the dropping of the atom bombs on Japan can indeed be defended, but only by arguments which are too brutal for most people to face, and which do not square with the professed aims of the political parties. Thus political language has to consist largely of euphemism…A mass of Latin words falls upon the facts like soft snow, blurring the outline and covering up all the details.”

George Orwell in “Politics and the English Language,” 1946
The final State of the Union address given by President Barack Obama on Tuesday night was a litany of lies, banalities and military threats. The speech underscored the inability of the American political establishment to honestly address a single social question facing the broad masses of the population.
The address was generally praised by the media as a statement of confidence in America’s future. In fact, it combined bluster about the strength of the US economy absurdly at odds with economic and social reality with self-praise for “taking out” the enemies of American imperialism and assurances of more military havoc to come.

To the extent that Obama touched in passing on the growth of social inequality, the ever greater domination of the corporate-financial elite, falling wages and rising poverty, these pervasive features of social life in America were ascribed to cosmic forces of “change” entirely disconnected from government policies in general and those pursued by his administration in particular over the past seven years.

There is an objective significance to the reduction of the State of the Union address, an American political tradition that goes back to George Washington, to an empty and cynical media spectacle. This process did not begin with Obama. It has been underway for decades, in parallel with the ever further turn of the ruling elite and both big business parties to the right and the widening chasm between the entire political system and the broad mass of working people.

While there was never a golden age of American bourgeois politics, the annual State of the Union address before a joint session of Congress once had a certain democratic content. There was a time when the president in the form of this speech sought to make a sober assessment of the actual state of the nation’s economic, political and social life and the condition of its relations with other nations. It was both a means of internal communication within ruling circles and a report to the broader population.

In Abraham Lincoln’s December 1862 message to Congress, the Great Emancipator spoke in favor of abolition. “Fellow-citizens,” he declared, “we cannot escape history… In giving freedom to the slave we assure freedom to the free and honorable alike in what we give and what we preserve. We shall nobly save or meanly lose the last best hope of earth.”

In a later period, Franklin D. Roosevelt pledged a “Second Bill of Rights” that would include provisions ensuring “freedom from want.” (The proposal was a dead letter almost as soon as it was made.) In 1963, John F. Kennedy cautioned that “the mere absence of war is not peace.”

Even some of the more reactionary presidents of an earlier period could seriously acknowledge the existence of social problems. In 1922, Warren G. Harding began his State of the Union address by declaring, “So many problems are calling for solution that a recital of all of them, in the face of the known limitations of a short session of Congress, would seem to lack sincerity of purpose.”

The immense growth of social inequality in parallel with the dismantling of much of US industry, the decline in the global economic position of American capitalism and the increasing domination of a parasitic and quasi-criminal financial elite have made any objective accounting of the real “state of the union” a political impossibility. All those in attendance Tuesday night were well aware that the important policy decisions on both the domestic and international front are made neither by the president nor Congress, but rather by the military brass, the intelligence establishment and Wall Street. The same conviction is growing within broad layers of the population who are increasingly alienated from and disgusted by the entire political and economic set-up.

Having come to power by posing as an opponent of the war in Iraq and the militarism of the Bush years, Obama could hardly make an honest assessment of his foreign policy, which has added to the war in Afghanistan new wars in Libya, Syria and Iraq, an expansion of drone assassinations and a policy of military provocation against Russia and China that has brought the world closer to world war than at any time since 1945.

A major part of his address Tuesday was given over to boasting of America’s destructive military power and his readiness to use it. Responding to his critics among the Republican right, he proclaimed: “The United States of America is the most powerful nation on Earth. Period. Period. It’s not even close. It’s not even close. It’s not even close. We spend more on our military than the next eight nations combined. Our troops are the finest fighting force in the history of the world. No nation attacks us directly, or our allies, because they know that’s the path to ruin.”

Having posed as a critic of Bush’s anti-democratic buildup of the police powers of the state in order to get elected, Obama was in no position to discuss his expansion and institutionalization of police state measures such as pervasive government spying; the jailing and persecution of whistleblowers like Julian Assange, Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden; the shielding of the authors and organizers of torture programs; the militarization of the police and defense of killer cops.

Among the most blatant lies in Obama’s speech was the assertion, “For the past seven years, our goal has been a growing economy that works better for everybody.” Had Obama added “who counts” to the end of this sentence he would have been closer to the truth.

Trillions of dollars for the banks and speculators whose recklessness, lawlessness and greed triggered the Wall Street crash and ensuing depression, not a single “bankster” prosecuted in seven years—that on one side. On the other, sweeping wage reductions for autoworkers imposed by Obama’s “Auto Task Force,” and austerity, school closures, pension cuts and attacks on health benefits for millions of working people under “Obamacare.”

The result: 95 percent of all income gains during the Obama presidency going to the richest 1 percent of households!

In what has become a hallmark of American political rhetoric, Obama concluded his speech with sheer bathos: “I see [the voice of America] in the worker on the assembly line who clocked extra shifts to keep his company open, and the boss who pays him higher wages instead of laying him off… The protester determined to prove that justice matters—and the young cop walking the beat, treating everybody with respect, doing the brave, quiet work of keeping us safe.”

A political system that must resort to such stupid and transparent posturing is a political system in terminal crisis. The mounting indignation and militancy of the masses will seek new avenues of struggle outside of and in opposition to the entire rotten edifice of official politics.

Eric London and Barry Grey

Obama’s final State of the Union: Lies, evasions and threats

According to a report by the National Association of Counties issued on the eve of the State of the Union address, of the 3,069 counties in the United States, 93 percent are worse off than before the 2008 financial crash according to at least one of four economic indicators: total employment, the unemployment rate, the size of the economy and home values.

Obama’s final State of the Union: Lies, evasions and threats

By Patrick Martin
13 January 2016
The final State of the Union speech delivered Tuesday night by President Barack Obama was a demonstration of the incapacity of the American political system to deal honestly or seriously with a single social question.

Obama evaded the real issues that affect tens of millions of working people in America every day of their lives. He painted a ludicrous picture of economic recovery and social progress that insulted the intelligence of his television audience—and went unchallenged by the millionaire politicians assembled in the chamber of the House of Representatives.

Summing up what he called “the progress of these past seven years,” Obama gave first place to “how we recovered from the worst economic crisis in generations.” The so-called “recovery” has been a bonanza for corporate profits, stock prices, and the wealth and income of the super-rich. For the working people who are the vast majority of the population, it has been a disaster.

By most social indices, the American people are worse off in January 2016 than when Obama took office seven years ago. The real wages of working people have fallen, social services have deteriorated, pension benefits have been gutted, and cities such as Detroit and San Bernardino have been forced into bankruptcy.

According to a report by the National Association of Counties issued on the eve of the State of the Union address, of the 3,069 counties in the United States, 93 percent are worse off than before the 2008 financial crash according to at least one of four economic indicators: total employment, the unemployment rate, the size of the economy and home values.

In 27 states, not a single county has recovered fully from the 2008 crash and the deep economic slump that followed. These include such major states as Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Massachusetts, Missouri, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania.

Obama, however, painted a picture of nearly unblemished economic advance, declaring, “The United States of America, right now, has the strongest, most durable economy in the world.” He boasted, “We’re in the middle of the longest streak of private-sector job creation in history. More than 14 million new jobs; the strongest two years of job growth since the ‘90s; an unemployment rate cut in half.”


The president did not acknowledge that the post-2008 “recovery” is the weakest on record, that the vast majority of the new jobs created have been low-wage and many of them part-time, or that the drop in the unemployment rate is primarily due to the withdrawal of millions of people from the work force because they lost all hope of getting a decent-paying job.

He went on, tellingly, to cite the auto industry as a symbol of success, declaring that it “just had its best year ever.” This perfectly expresses the utter blindness, not just of Obama, but of the entire political establishment. The “best year ever” was for General Motors, Ford and Fiat-Chrysler, which enjoyed record profits, not for the auto workers who produced those profits.

Real wages for auto workers have dropped sharply since the Obama White House forced through a 50 percent cut in wages for all new hires as part of the bankruptcy reorganization of the industry in 2009. Mass discontent among auto workers was expressed at the end of 2015 in the rejection of contracts at Fiat-Chrysler and Nexteer, a major supplier, and in widespread demands for strike action, smothered by Obama’s stooges in the United Auto Workers union.

“Anyone claiming that America’s economy is in decline is peddling fiction,” Obama concluded. The social position of the American working class has, in fact, suffered a dramatic decline, through the combined efforts of the corporate bosses, the unions and the two capitalist parties, the Democrats and Republicans.

The president conceded that economic inequality has grown in the United States, but he described it as the outcome of long-term trends such as globalization and automation, as though the policies of his administration—bailouts for Wall Street, budget cuts and wage cuts for workers—had nothing to do with it.

In the seven years since the financial crash, brought on, as he admitted, by “recklessness on Wall Street,” not a single banker or speculator has been prosecuted or jailed. On the contrary, the billionaires have greatly increased their wealth, gobbling up 95 percent of all new income since Obama entered the White House.

Obama listed a few other policy “successes,” claiming that “we reformed our health care system, and reinvented our energy sector… we delivered more care and benefits to our troops and veterans.” He was referring, however, to a series of social disasters: the reactionary attack on health benefits for workers and their families known as Obamacare; the devastation of Appalachia and other energy-producing regions; and the abuse of ex-soldiers, wounded in body and mind, by the Veterans Administration.

Obama sought to defend the foreign policy record of his administration from criticism, mainly from the Republican right, where demands are being raised for military escalation in the Middle East and stepped-up attacks on democratic rights at home in the name of fighting “terrorism.”

While he claimed to reject an American role as the world’s policeman, he nonetheless boasted, “The United States of America is the most powerful nation on Earth. Period. It’s not even close. We spend more on our military than the next eight nations combined.”

He continued, “Our troops are the finest fighting force in the history of the world,” winning the bipartisan standing ovation that always accompanies any mention of American soldiers engaged in combat overseas.

Obama indulged in the glorification of killing that has become an essential part of the degraded spectacle that passes for political discourse in America. Describing the US war against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, he claimed, “With nearly 10,000 air strikes, we are taking out their leadership, their oil, their training camps, and their weapons.”

He called on Congress to pass an Authorization for the Use of Military Force against ISIS, but vowed to wage war with or without legislative approval. The leaders of ISIS, he proclaimed, “will learn the same lessons as terrorists before them. If you doubt America’s commitment—or mine—to see that justice is done, ask Osama bin Laden. Ask the leader of al Qaeda in Yemen, who was taken out last year…”

Then he declared, in language that will be noted by nations all over the world, that when it comes to waging war against potential adversaries, “our reach has no limit.”

Obama concluded his speech with an appeal to his Republican opponents to work with his administration and pull back from the extreme anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim rhetoric that has characterized the contest for the Republican presidential nomination.

In a clear reference to Donald Trump, he argued that “we need to reject any politics that targets people because of race or religion. This is not a matter of political correctness, but understanding what makes us strong.”

Obama was making an argument, not so much that racism and bigotry are intrinsically wrong, but that they make it more difficult for American imperialism to maintain its dominant world role. “When a politician insults Muslims,” he said, “it makes it harder to achieve our goals.”

The lottery and social despair in America

The lottery and social despair in America

9 January 2015
This mania, so generally condemned, has never been properly studied. No one has realized that it is the opium of the poor. Did not the lottery, the mightiest fairy in the world, work up magical hopes? The roll of the roulette wheel that made the gamblers glimpse masses of gold and delights did not last longer than a lightning flash; whereas the lottery spread the magnificent blaze of lightning over five whole days. Where is the social force today that, for forty sous, can make you happy for five days and bestow on you—at least in fancy—all the delights that civilization holds?
Balzac, La Rabouilleuse, 1842
The jackpot in the US Powerball lottery has hit $800 million, since there were no winners in Wednesday’s drawing. In the current round, which began on December 2, over 431 million tickets have been sold, a figure substantially larger than America’s population.
Go into any corner store in America and you will see workers of every age and race waiting in line to buy lottery tickets. With the current round, the lines are longer than ever. Americans spend over $70 billion on lottery tickets each year. In West Virginia, America’s second-poorest state, the average person spent $658.46 on lottery tickets last year.
Powerball players pick six random numbers when they purchase their tickets, with a certain percentage of sales going to the jackpot. If no winning ticket is sold, the jackpot rolls over to the next round.
The totals for the Mega Millions and Powerball national lotteries have been growing every year. This year’s jackpot has eclipsed 2012’s record of $656.5 million, the $390 million payout in 2007 and the $363 million prize in 2000. The jackpots have grown in direct proportion to ticket sales.
State-run gambling programs such as Powerball have been promoted by Democrats and Republicans alike as a solution to state budget shortfalls, even as the politicians slash taxes on corporations and wealthy individuals and gut social programs. From the standpoint of government revenue, lotteries and casinos are nothing more than a back-door regressive tax, soaking up money from the poor in proportion to the growth of social misery.
The boom in lotteries is global. Lottery sales grew 9.9 percent worldwide in 2014, after growing 4.9 percent in 2013.
Psychology Professor Kate Sweeny has noted that lottery sales grow when people feel a lack of control over their lives, particularly over their economic condition. “That feeling of self-control is very important to psychological well-being,” Sweeny says.
There is ample reason for American workers to feel they have no control over their lives. According a recent survey by, more than half of Americans do not have enough cash to cover an unexpected expense of $500 or more—roughly the price of four name-brand tires.
Some 62 percent of Americans have savings of less than $1,000, and 21 percent do not have any savings at all. Most Americans are one medical emergency or one spell of unemployment from financial ruin.
For all the talk about “economic recovery” by the White House, the real financial state of most American households is far worse than before the 2008 financial crisis and recession. As of 2013, Americans were almost 40 percent poorer than they were in 2007, according to a recent survey by the Pew Research Center. While a large portion of the decline in household wealth is attributable to the collapse of the housing bubble, falling wages and chronic mass unemployment have played major roles.
The yearly income of a typical US household dropped by a massive 12 percent, or $6,400, in the six years between 2007 and 2013, according to the Federal Reserve’s latest survey of consumer finances. A large share of this decline has taken place during the so-called recovery presided over by the Obama administration.
In addition to becoming poorer, America has become much more economically polarized. According to a separate Pew survey, for the first time in more than four decades “middle-income households” no longer constitute the majority of American society. Instead, the majority of households are either low- or high-income. Pew called its findings “a demographic shift that could signal a tipping point” in American society.
“Is the lottery the new American dream?” asked USA Today, commenting on this month’s Powerball jackpot. The observation is truer than the authors intended. For American workers, achieving the “American Dream” of a stable job and one’s own home is becoming increasingly unrealizable.
Following more than 10 million foreclosures during the financial crisis, America’s home ownership rate has hit the lowest level in two decades, and for young households, the rate of home ownership is the lowest it has been since the 1960s.
For the tens of millions of America’s poor, and the more than 100 million on the threshold of poverty, the dream of winning the lottery has replaced the “American Dream” of living a decent life. A lottery ticket is a chance to escape to a fantasy world where money is not a constant, nagging worry, where one is not insulted and bullied at a low-wage job by bosses whose pay is matched only by their incompetence. The lottery is, as Balzac aptly described it, the “opium of the poor.”
Using the same phrase to describe religion, Marx noted that the “illusory happiness of the people” provided by the solace of religion is, in fact, a silent protest and distorted “demand for their real happiness.” It is the intolerable social conditions that compel masses of people to seek consolation in a lottery ticket that will propel them into revolutionary struggles.
Andre Damon

Survey finds a majority of Americans unable to pay for major unexpected expenses

Survey finds a majority of Americans unable to pay for major unexpected expenses

By Nick Barrickman
9 January 2016
A new survey put out by the personal finance management site on Wednesday found that more than half of Americans could not weather a sudden financial crisis without having to borrow money from friends and family or being forced to reduce the amount spent on other items such as dining out, paying cable or cell phone bills, or other basic features of a “middle class” lifestyle.

The survey, conducted last month among a pool of 1,000 Americans in conjunction with Princeton Survey Research Associates International, found that only 37 percent of those surveyed would be able to pay an emergency expense of $1,000, such as an emergency room visit or the cost of repairing a broken down vehicle, out of pocket.

Sixty-three percent of those surveyed would not be able to cover such a sudden expense without either cutting down on expenses elsewhere, borrowing or resorting to credit. The survey found that nearly four in 10 Americans had suffered such a financial setback in 2015.

“Without an adequate rainy-day fund, we are all living on a very slippery financial slope,” Gail Cunningham of the National Foundation for Credit Counseling told “The unexpected, unplanned expense is going to rear its ugly head and usually at the most inopportune time…Things as small as a flat tire or one trip to the emergency room can wreck the budgets of those who do not have an adequate amount in their savings account,” she said.

For Americans making less than $30,000 per year, only 23 percent would be able to cover such a sudden expense on their own. This was contrasted by nearly 60 percent of those making over $75,000 annually who could say the same. Nine percent making $30,000 or below stated that they did not know how they would cover such expenses, meaning that they were one expensive setback away from personal financial ruin.

The poll comes amid a slew of other reports detailing an immense drop in the living standards of a significant section of the US population, a component of the growth of social inequality more broadly.

Since the 2008 financial collapse and the subsequent economic “recovery” in 2009, 95 percent of all wealth gains have gone to the top 1 percent in society. A report released in November by the St. Louis Federal Reserve showed that Americans’ personal savings in 2015 were half of what the average was in the early 1980s.

A US Federal Reserve report released in 2014 found that nearly six in 10 Americans had lost all or part of their savings due to the financial impact of the 2008 economic crisis, while a 2015 study by revealed that the majority of Americans have less than $1,000 in savings to their name. A report released the Pew Research firm last month revealed that the number of middle-income homes as a portion of the population had largely vanished in the span of a few decades.

The figures come as the US Federal Reserve has begun raising interest rates for banks and other financial institutions, which will likely lead to further difficulty for individuals who rely upon credit in order to finance their costs of living.

The expenses eating away at the typical individual’s savings read like essential items for living in modern society. According to, the largest expense for one-third of all Americans outside of food and shelter consisted of utilities such as water, electricity or phone service. For those over the age of 50, one in five cited medical bills as their largest co

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