Notes from the US

Freedom’s long-running US correspondent Louis Further does his monthly roundup of some of the lesser-known stories that have emerged over the last few weeks.

Even a relatively uninformed observer of the US scene at the moment would probably conclude that there is little going on (and nothing positive) in terms of legislation and government action.

The exceptions are Trump’s continued destruction of the environment (the formal start of the US withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord began this month, for instance; we report on other disasters below). And the impeachment of Trump.

That same perhaps less than attentive observer might well be struck by two aspects of this impeachment process: the depth and breadth of a mass of (existing) evidence of Trump and his gang’s manic corruption, greed, incompetence and vile determination to trample over anything and anyone not prepared to follow his way.

Equally notable is the consistent refusal by many of those called to show up as required in order to testify before the various congressional committees and panels of inquiry. This in theory places each witness who fails to appear on the wrong side of the law. By ignoring subpoenas this way they further shift what is for anarchists a sham system (party politics, congress) anyway into an open free-for-all in which the only course of action for the Democrats seems to be legal action. Of course this is delaying the impeachment process and reduces still further any chance of positive action by legislators on the climate emergency, poverty and inequality.

However few illusions we have as anarchists in capitalist, white, male laws, a dangerous precedent is set as selective application of the law further favours the rich and powerful.

Oppression

Nor is the law as it stands now itself untouched by the Trump élite: at a rally last month in Kentucky ahead of the state’s gubernatorial election (the result of which the Republican candidate immediately challenged because it hadn’t gone his way), Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said with pride that he and President Donald Trump are “…changing the federal courts forever…” by confirming far right judges for life.

Trump also gave the go-ahead for taxpayer-funded foster care and adoption agencies as well as those helping individuals struggling against substance abuse and youth homelessness to discriminate against LGBTQ people. Each year the federal Department of Health and Human Services awards hundreds of billions of dollars in grants annually. The move is disguised as one which “…[will] better align… grants regulations with federal statutes, eliminating regulatory burden, including burden on the free exercise of religion.”

Environment

During several wide and ferocious wildfires in California in October and November, Trump actually threatened to cut off federal funding to help with the climate-fuelled disaster. On Twitter, Trump repeated his ignorant and misinformed attacks on California Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom, who replied, appositely, that – because Trump is effectively so ill-equipped to understand or deal with the climate emergency – he is “…excused from this conversation”.

Freedom has reported before on those many occasions when the Keystone pipeline (which, it was promised, could not – and so would not – leak) has done so. The most recent polluting disaster occurred this month when a rural wetland area in Walsh County was inundated with crude oil from Canada’s tar sands. This time it was more than a quarter of a mile long and 15 feet wide. TC Energy (formerly known as TransCanada) did nothing to fix the leak as an unknown quantity of oil continued to leak.

The ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) celebrated with environmental activists recently after reaching an agreement with South Dakota’s Republican governor, Kristi Noem, and state Attorney General Jason Ravnesborg. The agreement looks set to put an end to what many have described these officials’ “… unconstitutional attempts to silence pipeline protestors.” The ACLU filed a lawsuit challenging provisions in various state laws, including South Dakota’s ‘Riot Boosting’ Act. This would have sentenced activists protesting to save the planet in their own way and area of the country with up to 25 years in prison. “The state’s anti-protest efforts were plainly unconstitutional,” Stephen Pevar, senior staff attorney with the ACLU’s Racial Justice Program, said in a statement afterwards.

Climate activists were prominent in California too. Here more than 50 young people staged a sit-in at the office in the Capitol of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, drawing attention to how little she has done to take any kind of action on the environment even as their own state is covered by wildfires made worse by the global (climate) crisis. The climate activists from the Sunrise Movement went to Pelosi’s office with signs reading “What Is Your Plan?” and singing, “Which Side Are You On?” Organiser Claire Tacherra-Morrison said: “Democratic leadership is failing to treat this like the emergency that it is… Business-as-usual is killing us.”

Healthy Babies Bright Futures recently released a report showing that fully 95% of baby foods in the US contain either lead, arsenic, mercury or cadmium. Over 60 different baby food brands were purchased across more than a dozen different metropolitan areas — from San Diego, California, to Albany, New York; the group then tested them for these contaminants. At least 25% of the tested baby foods contained all four types of the heavy metals. They are associated with loss of IQ.

In a modest victory, the clothing retail store Macys says it will no longer sell fur products after 2020. This follows many years of pressure from the Humane Society. This promise follows similar announcements by other such major companies as Michael Kors and Gucci.

One step forward, two steps back, though: a trade group representing meat and poultry giants like Cargill and Smithfield Foods recently went to court to prevent a measure already passed in California from improving animal welfare. Last November Proposition 12 was supported by more than 60% of voters, and won praise from multiple animal welfare groups… the ASPCA (the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) went as far as to all it an “…amazing victory for animals in California”; Mercy for Animals suggested that the new law was the “…strongest animal welfare law for farmed animals in history.” If the trade group gets its way, a lawful step to lessen cruelty and death of untold animals will be overturned and the suffering will continue.

From animals to plants: in Arizona bulldozers destroyed protected cacti to make way for Trump’s ridiculous border wall. The barrier’s path has been designed to cut through the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument; this is an international biosphere reserve. Trump had to override more than 40 environmental rules to allow for his racist fetish. These statutes have been put in place – not for fun; not as suggestions – but specifically to prevent such destruction.

Trump has boasted all along that the wall will be ‘impenetrable’. And – if you believe him – that 20 ‘world class’ mountain climbers have claimed that the wall would be, at least, hard to climb. In reality, several amateur climbers have already easily scaled a prototype of the wall which was built by the owner of a climbing park in Kentucky. Member Lucy Hancock is eight years old and scaled the wall in about a minute earlier this month.

Louis Further