San Francisco

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.
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.
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.
One year after a huge explosion and fire at the Chevron oil refinery in Richmond, California, there was a demonstration of thousands of people directed against the oil giant on August 3. Richmond is part of the sprawling San Francisco Bay Area, where I live. A significant aspect of the action was that it brought together environmentalists from the Bay Area and nationally, and activists from the Richmond community.

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