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.
The mainstream press has focused on the decision of the judge in the military courts-martial of Bradley Manning to find him not guilty of “aiding the enemy”. However, judge Denise Lind's conviction of of the whistleblower who exposed war crimes for 20 other charges amounts to a full-scale assault on democratic rights. The courts-martial now enters the sentencing phase. Manning faces a maximum of 136 years behind bars. Whatever the final sentence is, it is widely believed it will be decades in the military stockade.
When the “not guilty” verdict in the trial of George Zimmerman for murdering Trayvon Martin was announced late July 13, spontaneous demonstrations of protest were held in cities and towns across the country. Protests have continued in the days since. The day after the verdict, thousands marched in New York. Here are some of the voices on that march: Marlene Duperley said: “I have a son. It’s difficult because he sees it, and he’s already had dreams about it. And he’s already had dreams about the man following Trayvon.
A recent ruling by the United States Supreme Court represents a big step forward, while another represents a leap backward. Both passed by a five-to-four vote. First the good news. The Court struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) that defined marriage as a right of only heterosexual couples. DOMA was passed by Congress and signed into law by Democratic President Bill Clinton in 1996.
The exposure of the huge surveillance by the National Security Agency (NSA) of all phone calls in the United States, as well as the vast data mining of all electronic communications through computer servers and search engines worldwide, is one of the most important whistle-blowing events of our times. Daniel Ellsberg, who leaked the surveillence Pentagon Papers during the Vietnam War, says these exposures by Edward Snowden, who worked for a private contractor used by the NSA, said Snowden’s exposures were even more important than the Vietnam War revelations.
The court-martial of US Private Bradley Manning opened on June 3, and is expected to last 12 weeks. The courageous US soldier leaked a large trove of classified material documenting US war crimes in Afghanistan and Iraq, diplomatic cables exposing Washington’s machinations in the Middle East and elsewhere, and other material. At a previous hearing, Manning admitted he was the source of these leaks. As a result, he opened himself to a potential sentence of up to 20 years in military prison.