In his State of the Union address on January 28, United States President Barack Obama highlighted growing inequality in the US. He also pledged to take steps to cut greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. So what has the Obama administration done recently on both counts?
Division among ruling circles in the United States and internationally about what to do about the revelations of wholesale NSA spying continues to deepen. A January 17 speech by US President Barack Obama, which was supposed to move the discussion forward, was a flop. Polls indicate it failed to change people’s minds. He gave his usual “on the one hand, and on the other” type speech trying to appease both sides, but came down in defence of the NSA program.
A major rift has developed in the ruling class over the revelations by Edward Snowden of the huge spying by the NSA of every American and hundreds of millions worldwide. On December 16, Richard Leon, a conservative federal judge appointed by George W. Bush, ruled that the vacuuming up of phone “metadata” of US citizens was most likely a violation of the Fourth Amendment of the US Constitution’s prohibition of unreasonable search and seizure.
On Christmas Eve, the Queen of England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, and the Commonwealth deigned to pardon one of the 20th century’s most important mathematicians of the crime of homosexuality. In 1952, Alan Turing was tried and convicted of engaging in sex with other men. He was presented with the choice of prison or chemical castration. He chose the latter, estrogen treatments that caused him to grow breasts, made him impotent, and drove him to depression.
Of the six nations that reached a preliminary deal with Iran concerning its nuclear program, five ― the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China ― have nuclear arsenals. Atomic weapons were first developed by the US, the only country to have used them against large urban populations twice, over Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Those two war crimes killed hundreds of thousands of people. The hypocrisy is compounded by the fact that the strongest opponent of Iran in the Middle East is Israel, which has hundreds of fission and hydrogen bombs.
Kshama Sawant, an openly declared socialist, was elected to the city council in a major United States city, Seattle, in November’s ballot. You need to go back to the first half of the 20th century to find anything similar in the US. The Indian-born Sawant ran as an activist. She first drew attention as part of the Occupy Seattle protests that included taking over a downtown park and a junior collage campus in 2011.
Two reliable recent reports throw light on the moral depravity of Washington’s “war on terror”. The first concerns a massacre in Afghanistan by US Special Forces. The second documents how doctors and other medical personnel “participated in cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment and torture of detainees” held in Guantanamo and elsewhere. Rolling Stone magazine published an article by award-winning investigative journalist Matthieu Aikins, who is based in Kabul, titled “The A-Team Killings”. 'A-Team' killings
Several thousands of people marched and rallied in the United States’ capital on October 26 in protest against the mass surveillance of almost all Americans and hundreds of millions of citizens of other countries. The huge Big Brother program, conducted by the US National Security Agency (NSA), has been exposed by Edward Snowdon, considered a hero by those demonstrating. Beginning in May last, Snowden’s trove of revelations keeps coming through releases by Glenn Greenwald in the British Guardian. ’Thank you’
The bid by Republicans to defeat President Barack Obama’s health care program by shutting down the government and threatening to cause a default ended in failure. The result opened fissures within the Republican Party between its “moderate” right wing and the further right-wing Tea Party. The difference is not over “Obamacare”, which the whole Republican Party is against, but over the Tea Party’s tactics. The Tea Party drove the failed effort to force its way. So what does the Tea Party represent?
Discussing the last-minute deal in the United States Congress to avoid triggering a debt default, Gail Collins, a columnist in the New York Times wrote: “Well, um, yippie. Wow. “Congress has decided it won’t trigger a global financial crisis out of pure pique. Can’t get any better than that.” Much could be written about the antics of the far right in the Republican Party on display for the world these past weeks.
Amid bitter recriminations between the Democrats and Republicans over the partial shutdown of the government and the Republican threat of forcing of a United States government default, it is easy to forget what their policies have in common. Both have intervened to protect the interests of the capitalist class as a whole in the aftermath of the Great Recession at the expense of the working class. This is indisputable given statistics showing profits are soaring while real wages are declining. Both parties have implemented policies that cut the social wage for working people.
Two related anniversaries were marked this September. The first was the collapse five years ago of Lehman Brothers, which came to symbolise the financial crisis, the subsequent Great Recession, and the anemic recovery. The second was the upsurge of the Occupy movement two years ago in response, which popularised the idea that the richest 1% are the enemy of the rest of us. This slogan has taken hold in mass consciousness ― an enduring legacy of Occupy.
The proposal by Russia, accepted by the regilme of Bashar Al-Assad, for Syria’s chemical weapons to be turned over to an international authority (presumably the United Nations) for destruction, has temporarily put off Washington’s plans for war against Syria. Obama has postponed asking Congress to approve of his plans to attack Syria. This represents a political defeat for the war drive. Even if Washington scuttles the proposed agreement and goes ahead with war, it will do so with even less support at home and abroad than it had before the Russian proposal.
When NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden gave his first public interview in Hong Kong, he said his greatest fear was that his revelations of huge US government spy programs might fall on deaf ears. If that had happened, then his great personal sacrifice would have been for naught. WikiLeaks whistleblower Chelsea (formerly Bradley) Manning and Snowden have paid a steep price for revealing US war crimes and the US government's huge violations of the Bill of Rights and global spying program.
Workers in fast food companies such as McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s, KFC and others took to the streets in mobilisations at the end of July in seven cities. They highlighted miserable wages and working conditions, and demanding the right to form unions in the virtually non-union sector. The actions took place in New York, Chicago, St Louis, Detroit, Milwaukee, Kansas City and Flint, Michigan. It is likely that these actions will spread in the coming weeks.
A new whistleblower has come forward with a chilling new revelation concerning Washington’s surveillance of its citizens. But he is not allowed to blow his whistle under threat of jail. All the whistleblower could do was report his act of resistance and that there was a threat. He did so on the United States' progressive TV show Democracy Now! on August 13. Ladar Levison is the owner of Lavabit, an email provider that offers users a secure service the government cannot easily get into. It employs sophisticated encryption -- putting user's messages in hard-to-crack code.