A new scandal has erupted involving the use of the “war on terror” to crack down on the democratic rights of US citizens. The US justice department has acknowledged secretly seizing all the work, home and cell phone records of almost 100 reporters and editors at the Associated Press (AP).
In the aftermath of the bombing of the Boston Marathon, the Obama administration is broadening its definition of “terrorism” to include fighters for Black rights in the US. Washington has already used the term so indiscriminately against enemies internationally that it has become virtually meaningless. For example, every act of resistance to US occupation in Iraq and Afghanistan is labeled “terrorism”. By that definition, George Washington and the other American revolutionists were “terrorists” for resisting British rule.
The continued rightward shift of capitalist politics in the United States was underscored with the official release of President Barack Obama’s proposed budget. In it, Obama proposes to cut the already inadequate pension program for the elderly known as Social Security and the medical insurance program for the elderly, Medicare. These and other programs for the elderly and poorer sections of the working class are under attack. Both major parties claim that spending on social welfare must be cut in the current economic depression.
Since Richard Nixon proclaimed the “War on Drugs” four decades ago, drug use around the world has skyrocketed. From 1998 to 2008 alone, global opiate use rose 34.5%, cocaine 28% and marijuana 8.5%. People in the US are the world’s largest users of cocaine, Colombian heroin, Mexican heroin and marijuana. When Nixon launched the “war”, his initial budget was US$100 million for the first year. This has ballooned year after year, until it was $15.6 billion for 2011. Given this, here are many commentators who proclaim that the “war on drugs” has failed.
The stock market has surged past its former high recorded in October 2007, before the financial crash and Great Recession. “With the Dow Jones Industrial average [at] a record high,” writes a columnist in a front page article in the New York Times, “the split between American workers and the companies that employ them is widening and could worsen in the next few months as federal budget cuts take hold”. “That gulf helps explain why stock markets are thriving even as the economy is barely growing and unemployment remains stubbornly high.
In a five-to-four split decision, the Supreme Court ruled that, in effect, no citizen may challenge the constitutionality of any of the executive orders, or laws passed by Congress, that violate democratic rights under the pretext of the “war on terrorism.” The decision was in response to a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Amnesty International, Global Rights, Global Fund for Women, Human rights Watch, PEN American Center, Service Employees International Union, journalists Naomi Klein and Chris Hedges, and several defense attorneys.
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.
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.
In the early evening of August 6, a series of explosions at the Richmond Chevron oil refinery in the San Francisco Bay Area sparked a huge fire that burned for hours. The fire sent a huge black cloud that went for miles over densely populated areas. Tens of thousands of residents were ordered to stay in their homes, with windows and doors closed. Local authorities issued a level three warning, meaning the cloud would cause eye, skin, nose and respiratory sickness.
One aspect of the drive by the super rich to make working people bear the brunt of the new Depression is to attack the social wage. Part of this attack is the serious erosion of public education. This predates the crisis that began in 2007, but the recession that followed has been met with a sharp increase in such attacks. The failure of the federal government to adequately fund public education cascades down to the states and cities, who all cry there is not enough money, so cutbacks are necessary.
In a split decision the United States Supreme Court largely upheld the health insurance law, the Affordable Health Care Act, passed by Congress and signed by President Barack Obama. The key provision upheld by the nine robed reactionaries in a five-to-four split decision mandated that all US citizens have to buy health insurance from the private insurance companies beginning in 2014, or pay a penalty. This approach was originally proposed decades ago by right- wing think tanks as an alternative to national health insurance for all.