“Hands up! Don't shoot!” This slogan was taken up by community protesters right after the murder of 18-year-old African American Michael Brown by police in the St Louis suburb of Ferguson, Missouri, on August 9. Brown had his hands up in surrender and shouted “Don’t Shoot!” when a white cop shot the unarmed teen six times. His body was left lying on the ground for four hours before the police had it picked it up. This callousness further angered the Black community, who make up about 70% of the small town.
Many commentators have written about the growing divide in the United States between capitalists and workers (and other producers) ― although they eschew the terms “capitalists” and “workers”. They prefer to talk about levels of income and wealth abstracted from the role different classes play in the production process. Nevertheless, their figures give an insight into the real growing disparity between the two main classes under the capitalist system, which was first brought to national attention by the Occupy movement in 2011.
The city of Detroit has been declared bankrupt, reeling from the closure of many auto plants and related enterprises that were once the backbone of the city. City administrators are making working people bear the brunt of this severe economic crisis. They are driving many out of their homes and out of the city, while a small area is gentrified. Whole neighbourhoods are disaster areas. Schools and community centres are being shut. Now a new twist has been added -- cutting off water to the poorest, creating a humanitarian and health crisis.
There has been a huge rise in refugees from Central America seeking asylum in the US, many of them unaccompanied children. So far this year, the Border Patrol says more than 50,000 unaccompanied children have crossed the border with Mexico. This is double the number for all of last year and five times that of 2009. Those grabbed by authorities have been subjected to widespread and systematic brutal treatment, a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and immigrant rights groups said. Widespread abuse
Washington has embarked on a risky course in Iraq that may lead to a new US war. In the face of the swift advance by a Sunni coalition headed by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), which captured a large swathe of northern and western Iraq, the Obama administration has sent 300 soldiers back into the country. This force, referred to as “observers” or “advisers”, are there to shore up the US-installed Baghdad government in a situation of developing civil war.
Since the Obama administration arranged for the release of Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, the last US prisoner of war held by the Taliban in Afghanistan, there has been a firestorm of outrage from the right wings of both the Republican and Democratic parties. Bergdahl has been pilloried as a traitor. His father has been denounced as a Muslim. Senators called for him to be court-martialed and thrown into the military stockade. What is Bergdahl’s crime? While deployed in Afghanistan, he became disillusioned with the war and said so in emails to his family.
On the evening of May 23, the United States suffered another massacre of the type that has become all too familiar. Elliot Rodger, a 22-year old student at the University of California campus in Santa Barbara went on a killing spree that left seven dead, including himself. He left a video and a manifesto that made clear his motive was hatred of women.
The way the United States government treats soldiers returning from its wars of imperial conquest indicates its priorities. There have been many reports of failures to adequately treat all the cases of mental illness resulting from the wars of occupation in Afghanistan and Iraq. High levels of alcoholism, drug use, depression and suicide have been reported by veterans and their families.
A racist rant by billionaire Donald Sterling, owner of professional basketball team the Los Angeles Clippers, was broadcast on national TV last month, sparking widespread discussion lasting weeks. Sterling's views eclipsed another racist rant that got national attention just before that by Nevada rancher, Cliven Bundy. For years, Bundy has grazed his cattle on land in Nevada owned by the federal government. Normally, the government charges a modest fee for such practices. But Bundy, who holds far right views, has not paid that fee for years as he does not recognise the government.
The United States Supreme Court ruled on April 22 that states can ban affirmative action in admissions to their public universities. At issue was a constitutional amendment passed in Michigan that banned consideration of race in admissions to the state’s education institutions. States that have banned affirmative action in higher education, such as Florida and California, as well as Michigan, have recorded a significant drop in the enrollment of Black and Latino students.
When Barack Obama was elected President in the 2008 election, it marked an historic first. An African-American was elected in the country noted for its oppression of Blacks since the time of slavery. My next door neighbour, an African-American who knew my history as a supporter of the Black liberation upsurge of the 1950s, '60s and '70s, raised his fist in celebration when he saw me the next day.
Dianne Feinstein, chair of the Senate’s Intelligence Committee, lashed out against the CIA on March 11 in a sharply worded 45-minute speech that took other Senators by surprise. President Barack Obama’s appointee to head the CIA, John Brennon, issued a denial a few hours after Feinstein’s speech, virtually charging her with lying. It is no wonder that her speech was a bombshell. Feinstein has a well-earned reputation of being little more than a shill for the CIA, NSA and other spy agencies over the years.
The dangers of global warming due to greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is well-established. But there is more damage done by the capitalist system of production, including the release of toxins into the atmosphere, water and the rest of the biosphere. Two notable examples have occurred in the first months of this year in the United States. In January there was a huge spill of 10,000 gallons of crude MCHM, a chemical mixture used in the coal production process, into the Elk River near Charleston, West Virginia.
In a closely-watched election, the United Autoworkers Union (UAW) tried to break into the anti-union South to organise a Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The union lost the February election among the plant’s 1550 production workers. There were 626 votes in favor and 712 against. The negative vote was something of a surprise, because Volkswagen management did not threaten workers’ jobs if they voted yes, and was officially neutral. Generally, bosses intimidate workers and pay for a barrage of anti-union advertising to stop workers voting in favour of unionising.
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.