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.
It’s often difficult for thoughtful and well-informed people to understand how and why spokespeople for and activists on the right seem incapable of understanding the threats posed by climate change; and so why such people try to pretend that the crisis isn’t real. Yes, there’s constant propaganda clogging TV stations most nights in the United States: rather silly, sneering and unsavoury attempts to mock those who are worried about ecology. By and large such misinformation accuses scientists and ecologists of selfishness in wanting to deprive others of their ‘freedoms’.
In fact, of course, these are ‘freedoms’ to pollute the air with high-emission vehicles and to slaughter cattle by the million. On top of that, though, there’s new concrete evidence which helps to explain a perhaps stronger motive: money.
Findings recently published in the The Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences explain the economic side of the climate crisis. The report take data from the past half century using a mass of calculations to show that the richest countries (the ones actually responsible for most of the damage, of course) have benefited by an average of 10% from the ongoing devastation.
These include no fewer than 20,000 calculations each describing a version of what the economic output of each of 165 nations would have been if climate change were not a factor. The result is that global warming has decreased the wealth of individuals in the world’s poorest countries by between 17% and 31%. As a result, the gap between Earth’s wealthiest and poorest nations is 25% greater than it would be without warming.
Media undermines the crisis
On Memorial Day last month when normal programming took a partial break, attempted humorous sketches on the neo-Fascist TV channels in the United States mocking and attempting to undermine the need to confront the climate crisis were watched by millions.
At the same time, the New York Times reported that the Trump administration is adding weight, money and effort to its assault on climate science. Apparently a co-ordinated multi-agency effort is to be employed to emphasise — presumably — the ‘Chinese Hoax’ theory. Any projections (from experts) which outline any (highly) negative cases of climate-induced disasters. From material produced and endorsed by the National Climate Assessment will now reportedly be removed from its reports; a panel will reportedly be set up to question the assessment’s conclusions. The National Security Council under John Bolton has also been ordered to remove references to climate change in speeches and public statements; the US Geological Survey will no longer be allowed to project the impact of climate change beyond the year 2040. ‘ignorance is strength’.
Then a few days later in a development so absurd as to make you wonder whether you read it correctly (you did), the Department of Energy was directed by the Trump administration actually to rename methane (a major greenhouse gas whose human-led emissions are causing the global climate crisis) as ‘freedom gas’.
The pillagers’ policies
In Geneva last month, almost every country in the world signed up to a legally binding framework designed to reduce the pollution from plastic waste. After two weeks of talks — part of a convention on plastic waste and toxic, hazardous chemicals backed by the United Nations — it was agreed to track thousands of types of plastic waste choking the biosphere with increasingly deadly and disastrous result. Only one country failed to agree on such action, and acknowledge the crisis: the United States.
In mid-May Trump threw another temper tantrum because of something which one of the states which didn’t vote for him in 2016 did; and perhaps also because that state (California) also plans now to offer medical care to undocumented guest workers, whom Trump hates because they are not white. Trump unilaterally cancelled nearly US$1 billion (£788 million) previously set aside for California’s much needed high-speed rail project to connect Los Angeles and San Francisco.
In some good news, a jury in the US awarded US$2 (£1.6) billion in punitive damages to a California couple suffering from the non-Hodgkin lymphoma form of cancer caused by Monsanto’s (now owned by Bayer) Glyphosate, the main ingredient in the Roundup weed killer.
Cruelty, of course, is neither unknown nor alien to the establishment in the United States. In an almost unbelievable string of incidents since December 26 last year no fewer than 29 horses have been slaughtered while training or racing on a track in Southern California. That’s more than one each week. For the Stronach Group, which owns Santa Anita Park facility, each death is either the result of ‘uncommon’ circumstances, or ‘very unusual’, or ‘rare’. Really?
It may soon be a major crime merely to protest against pipelines in Texas. A bill (H.B.3557) is being seriously considered in the Texas legislature which would make such actions a third degree felony thus putting planetary protection on a par with attempted murder.
In early June nearly 100 people in California were arrested after after a rescue operation at the Reichardt Duck Farm where they set free dozens of ducks and demanded that authorities investigate the factory and slaughterhouse in Petaluma. Of course these rights activists are not criminals; rather the company which systemically tortures and slaughters billions of animals in the most appalling conditions for profit and breaking multiple laws is the criminal.
Mike Pompeo is the Secretary of State of the United States; one of the most powerful and influential people in the world. In a display last week of breathtaking ignorance, foolishness and almost incredible idiocy, he completely ignored the role of greenhouse gas emissions in an interview with the Conservative Washington Times when trotting out the falsehood that “… The climate’s been changing a long time …”. But worse was to come. What is his solution to the current crisis? That people affected by the climate crisis… move.
Last month in Russellville, Arkansas, a peaceful march by members of the Congregation Chaim B’Derech and supporters took place to commemorate the Holocaust. Speeches were given and prayers offered for the six million Jews murdered by the Nazis during World War II. White supremacists, however, turned up with Nazi flags, and marched down an otherwise deserted pavement waving signs that read, ‘The Holocaust didn’t happen but it should have’, and screaming at the attendees.
Trump ordered a deal with Saudi Arabia worth US$7 (£5.5) billion last month to supply weapons for use in the war on Yemen’s civilian population. The fact that he bypassed Congress in so doing is evidence of the growing dictatorship which his presidency seems to represent. Airstrikes by the Saudis (and so funded by the US) in the hundreds have been killing Yemeni children, women and men since 2015. For example before the Memorial Day weekend at the end of May 12 civilians were slaughtered by Saudi airstrikes including seven children.
Support for Trump’s brand of racist, supremacist hate remains high: last month work began on the first privately crowd-funded wall on the border between US and Mexico. Military veteran Brian Kolfage proudly confirmed that it was being erected with more than US$22m (£17m) in donations which he has raised through an online campaign.
The hatred which Trump and his government share for Latinos and Latinas would seem to be on the increase: it was reported in late May that they are planning — in contravention of (international) law — to prevent anyone travelling through a third country from seeking asylum at the US-Mexico border. If this is put into place most Central Americans would no longer be able to seek refugee status in the US — as is their right. In assessing Trump’s crimes in this area should be added to this the steadily increasing numbers of children (tens of thousands, some sources report) deliberately separated from their parents at the border. Indeed, plans suggested this week are for such usually desperate families to be kept in former Japanese prisoner of war camps.
In another example of cruelty and hatred against non-whites, Trump and his gang introduced new cuts to providing for the welfare of children imprisoned by him at the border in early June. He has instructed the operators of shelters for those children — often held in cages and separated from their parents — to reduce what little education, legal services and recreation at the border they have had until now. Denise Bell, a researcher with Amnesty International, responded: “It’s bad enough that the Trump administration is trying to normalize the warehousing of children. It’s unconscionable that they would so blatantly try to strip them of their rights”.
Starting with good news, in May New Hampshire became the latest state to repeal the death penalty; although the move was at first vetoed by the governor, Chris Sununu, the Senate overrode that and voted in favour by 16 to 8. This progressive step takes effect immediately.
Results of a Gallup poll published towards the end of May reveal that 40% of those asked would welcome some form of socialism in the United States.
An unusually revealing document came to light last month. It’s called ‘Support to Resistance: Strategic Purpose and Effectiveness’ and can be found here. Its 250-plus pages comprise essentially a guide to regime change by the US. Which governments need to be supported and which overthrown; and how.
The Publication appears under the rubric of the Joint Special Operations ‘University’ 7701 Tampa Point Boulevard MacDill AFB, FL 33621 and has an ISBN (ISBN 978-1-941715-37-6). Although there is a disclaimer that the views expressed in the publication are not necessarily those of the various US Departments, it’s clear that the authors’ analyses of dozens of case studies are intended to direct would be aggressors (within and inspired/supported by the United States) towards the most advantageous sets of circumstances and most effective ‘resistance’ movements within régimes which the US wishes to overthrow or otherwise control in its own interests.
To quote from the document, ‘This monograph is the first in a planned series of three volumes that will provide Special Operations Forces (SOF) with an in-depth study of resistance movements. [It…] provides a wealth of case studies focused on the United States Government’s support to resistance movements. For each of his case studies the author summarizes in a clear, concise manner the duration of U.S. support, the political environments or conditions, the type of operation, the purpose or objective of U.S. support, and the ultimate outcome: success, partial success, failure, or an inconclusive outcome.’
There’s the bare-faced rationale; it’s followed by what the authors would like to see next: ‘Unfolding world events are indicative of the need for SOF to maintain and enhance traditional unconventional warfare (UW) skills, but those skills must be assessed in the context of modern resistance movement dynamics. This work will serve as a benchmark reference on resistance movements for the benefit of the special operations community and its civilian leadership.’ Plans for and sanctioning of hegemony, illegality, oppression, murder and hubris could hardly be more plainly stated.
In 2007 Canadian press magnate Conrad Black (whose publications include the Daily Telegraph, the Chicago Sun-Times, the Jerusalem Post, the National Post in Canada and 400 other newspapers) was found guilty of fraud and obstruction of justice. He was convicted of misappropriating millions of dollars from shareholders of his company Hollinger International. But Black is a supporter of Trump and wrote a laudatory book about the president in 2018 entitled ‘Donald J. Trump: A President Like No Other’. So in May Donald J Trump pardoned Black.
Although the law passed in mid-May in Alabama to make abortion illegal in almost all cases was really designed to heighten the pressure on the US Supreme Court to repeal the pro-choice legislation, Roe v Wade, which in 1973 legalised abortion nationally, its declared motive was to save lives. Proving such a claim a lie and a deception, 41-year-old prisoner Michael Brandon Samra was murdered by the state by lethal injection in the same week as governor Kay Ivey denied Samra’s request for a reprieve.
Under Trump, intolerance, bigotry and hate, of course, are encouraged and do seem to be growing. But here’s something to make you think: ‘Arthur’ is a TV cartoon series about animals. The first episode of series 22 (Yes, it’s apparently that popular) featured the wedding of a rat and an aardvark. They are sexless (as animals) — or perhaps the same sex. That was enough for Alabama Public Television to ban Arthur and his mates; and ban the episode.
Ted Cruz is a far right senator from Texas and manic supporter of Trump. In the middle of May he publicly called on Trump to ensure that — as space is weaponised and made commercially profitable (one of Trump’s aims) — he’d better be careful to watch out for ‘space pirates’. Respected, measured and always well-informed MSNBC news anchor and commentator, Chris Hayes, was struck by the … ‘unusual’ nature of Cruz’s comments and said so on Twitter. Cruz — an elected official to the US Senate and former presidential candidate, remember — responded to Hayes with the wish: ‘May Space Pirates devour your liver’.
A new report from Oxfam shows that — as the starving poor of the world grow in number daily, the world’s billionaires grow richer every day by US$2.5 (£1.9) billion. Obviously, the poorest 50% of the population is slowly and surely being impoverished further and further. There are a record 2,208 billionaires — double the number of a decade ago. Add up the wealth of just the top 26 richest individuals in the world and you get US$1.4 (£1.1) trillion. That is the same amount as the total ‘wealth’ of the 3.8 billion poorest people in the world.
The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) was in the spotlight twice last month. Firstly, it announced a plan which would deprive families of all housing — leaving tens of thousands of children homeless — where one or more members of a family is a guest worker in the United States. Then it put on a show of ignorance which would be funny if it were not so serious: at a congressional hearing the agency’s highly incompetent Secretary, Ben Carson (a former heart surgeon who admitted when appointed by Trump that he had no interest in or experience of housing) was asked about REO (Real Estate Owned) foreclosures… a term used routinely in the sector, apparently. Carson responded as if he were being asked about Oreo biscuits.
Let’s go back to cruelty for a moment: a bill for US $19 (£15) billion of disaster relief passed easily — as you would expect — in the Senate last month. After all, it’s a good idea to send federal funds to Western states affected by wildfires, Midwestern states by flooding, areas in the Southeast and Puerto Rico by hurricanes. Now one Republican after another in the House of Representatives has begin to block the bill’s passage there by demanding an official roll call vote, objecting to the lack of border wall funding.
Staying with outright viciousness, a humanitarian aid volunteer from Arizona has been on trial recently for providing water, food, clean clothes and beds to two guest workers crossing the Sonoran Desert. As this month’s Notes was published the jury was deadlocked. If convicted for attempting to save lives, Scott Warren could spend up to 20 years in prison.
Every so often Donald Trump, arguably the ‘most powerful’ — certainly one of the most destructive and dangerous — people in the world offers an insight into how he really thinks. On his recent visit to Japan he insisted that the warship named after warmonger John McCain be kept out of his sight. He dislikes McCain (presumably because the latter has criticised Trump, and not because of McCain’s belligerence). After first denying the report entirely (the US navy meanwhile confirmed it), he contradicted himself — as a child might — by admitting that the move to ‘hide’ the ship from the President was a ‘well-meaning’ one. Donald Trump turns 73 this week.
Earlier this month Republican Alabama Governor Kay Ivey signed into law a bill which requires that any man convicted of a sex offence against a child under the age of 13 to be forced to undergo chemical castration one month before the end of their sentence. Everyone so abused will have to continue treatment until a court — part of the same system responsible for the original barbarity — deems that treatment is no longer necessary. Who pays for the treatment (assault of course under any other circumstances, of course)? The offender.
Although anarchists have too wise and broad a view of the world to get very worked up about elections and ‘democracy’, two events happened earlier this week which might — were we able to take the establishment seriously — have shocked us. Within the space of 24 hours, the vile, callous and obviously deeply unhappy mass murderer, National Security Advisor John Bolton announced that he intends to step up cyber-warfare against Russia because that country … allegedly … conducted cyber-warfare against the United States. Then Secretary of State Pompeo let slip to a special interest group in New York that he and his gang would “do our level best” to interfere sufficiently effectively in a future UK election as to prevent the Labour Party from forming a government. Presumably that’s that Trump meant by a ‘special relationship’.
June is LGBT Pride month. Trump — acting increasingly dictatorially — has rejected requests from US embassies to fly the rainbow pride flag on embassy flagpoles during June.
Picture: California wildfire by Daria Devyatkina