The horrific murders of 20 children aged six and seven, along with six adults, at a school in Newtown, Connecticut, in December has ignited a debate about gun violence in the US. This was the latest in a series of such massacres to occur at schools, malls, religious institutions, theatres and similar places over the past few decades. In many of these instances, rapid-fire military-style weapons were used that sprayed big numbers of bullets in seconds, as was the case in Newtown.
The January 1 deadline for the so-called fiscal cliff has come and gone without resolving anything. In a last minute agreement, taxes were raised a little bit on the wealthiest, with rates going back to what they were under the Clinton administration in the 1990s. But nothing was done to close the “loopholes” through which the rich evade taxes, and indeed, some new loopholes were created.
In the recent elections, Latinos, Asians and Blacks voted against the extreme racist policies and rhetoric of the Republicans. A central plank in the Republican onslaught has been attacks on immigrants who lack documents. Romney said he would make life so miserable for them they would “self-deport”. In the aftermath of the elections, immigrant youth without papers have remobilised to fight for their own rights and for citizenship for all of up to 12 million undocumented migrants working in the US.
To believe the capitalist media, there is a specter haunting the US — the danger that we are about to fall over a fiscal cliff come January 1. This is presented as if it were a natural phenomenon, a physical cliff the nation is hurtling toward — something must be done before we go over and crash on the rocks below! President Barack Obama, the Democrats and Republicans in Congress must come to a compromise to avoid the impending catastrophe, we are repeatedly told.
The capitalist press has been overloaded with the sex scandal of General David Petraeus, former commander US troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, and his resignation as head of the CIA. The story has morphed into something wider, drawing in other high officers. I’ll return to the saga of the “Real Housewives of the High Command” below, but first I want to discuss a story that has received only scant attention, about one of the grunts who was on the ground in Afghanistan.
The outcome of the United States November 6 elections was the best possible one for the interests of the ruling class, even if some of them don’t understand this. The best candidate to defend their interests, Barack Obama, retained the presidency. The Democrats control the Senate, and the Republicans the House of Representatives. This is a quite pleasant configuration from their point of view. Before looking at why this is the case, I will look at other important results of the elections.
A Brooklyn teacher on an email list said on November 2: “As I begin writing this, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano is speaking in Staten Island. She is rattling off statistics on how much water the federal government is delivering and reminding residents of the island borough of FEMA’s phone number and URL. “CNN only seemed to discover the massive death toll, flooding, and destruction in Staten Island 3-4 days after Hurricane Sandy hit the east coast.
Hurricane Sandy was the largest tropical storm to ever hit mainland United States. Its extent, power and the fact that it formed so late in the hurricane season so far north in the Atlantic ocean can only be understood in light of global warming caused by the burning of fossil fuels. For many years, scientists have been warning that the rise in water temperature in the oceans would create more powerful storms, and that is what happened in the case of Hurricane Sandy.
In a lengthy editorial on October 13, the United States’ most important ruling-class voice concluded that the war in Afghanistan has failed, and that the US should get out as soon as possible. New York Times editors said in an editorial titled "Time To Pack Up and Leave Afghanistan" that:“The United States will not achieve even President Obama’s narrowing goals, and prolonging the war will only do more harm.”
This election year has seen some of the most extreme weather in the US for some time. Heat records were topped in many cites for a prolonged period. The most devastating drought in decades has ruined crops in a large area of the country. Yet there has been hardly a peep from either Barack Obama or Mitt Romney about global warming and climate change. Both have championed dangerous new methods of drilling for oil and natural gas, and promoted the very dirty tar sands oil from Canada.
There is a statue in revolutionary Havana of Don Quixote, the literary creation of 17th century Spanish writer Miguel de Cervantes, who fought for his principles, even if he was crazy. I know I’m a bit crazy. With less than a month to go before the US presidential elections, the farce we have been living through for more than a year becomes even more grotesque. Hundreds of millions of dollars are being spent on advertisements for US President Barack Obama or Republican candidate Mitt Romney. Money has never been so awash in an election before.
The recent strike and mass mobilisations of teachers and their supporters in Chicago were significant for those who opposed them. The Democrat Barack Obama and the Republican Mitt Romney aligned themselves against this fight to defend public schools. In contrast, Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein expressed solidarity with the movement and was invited to speak at a rally.
Chicago's teachers have successfully fought off an assault on their union, school children and public education launched by Democratic Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, and even pushed him back in some respects. The strike and mass mobilisations of the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) ended on September 19 when the teachers went back to work. The evening before, the elected House of Delegates, which represents teachers throughout the system, voted by 98% to end the strike.
The Chicago teachers’ strike entered its third day on September 12. This strike is of national significance for a number of reasons: * It is a militant fightback against the ruling class onslaught to destroy public education being carried out by Democrats and Republicans across the country. * It is aimed at the policies of the Obama administration and the Democratic Party machine in Chicago headed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, longtime aide, advisor and fundraiser for Obama. *It is being organised by a new rank-and file-leaders with a class-struggle perspective.
The election rallies of the mis-named “conventions” of the twin parties of Wall Street are over. The Tea Party-dominated Republicans have gone sharply to the right. Is supporting the Democrats the way to fight the rightward shift in US capitalist politics? Many who consider themselves leftists or even socialists reply “yes”. Let us look at the record.
Mitt Romney’s choice of Paul Ryan as his vice-presidential running mate for the November presidential poll signaled the takeover of the Republicans by the Tea Party, at least through the election. Ryan’s record as a Congressperson puts the representative from Wisconsin squarely on the far right of capitalist politics. Ryan co-sponsored a bill with Republican representative from Missouri Todd Akin, who thinks that women cannot become pregnant from a “legitimate” rape. It sought to narrow the definition of rape to reduce the number of poor women who can get abortion through Medicaid.