Freedom News

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.

Racism

The Supreme Court continued its pernicious ‘business’ this month and last. The most egregious of its other deadly and destructive deeds are further described later in this month’s ‘Notes from the US’. In June the Supreme Court re-instated a congressional map that has been gerrymandered by Republicans in Louisiana and which violates the Voting Rights Act. The map is clearly designed to suppress votes by African Americans: it dilutes their political strength and their perceived ability to improve their lot in the country’s third poorest state.

In the same week, runoff elections took place in Mississippi and South Carolina; and there were primaries (to decide each party’s candidates for November’s mid-term election) in Colorado, Maryland, New York, Oklahoma, Utah and Illinois. It was in Illinois that the Trump-backed Republican Congressperson, Mary Miller, won – just a few days after she praised the recent Supreme Court’s ruling that effectively abolished abortion rights under Roe v Wade. Miller called it a… “victory for white life.”

The curriculum in schools in Texas is controlled by the state’s Board of Education. Over the summer the Board considers changes to the curriculum in schools which may be adopted in future school years. According to one source, a working group of nine educators, which includes a professor at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, pressed the board to change the way in which several hundred years of slavery from (West) Africa to the United States (amongst other countries) is taught to primary age children across the state. The group is urging slavery to be re-characterised as ‘involuntary relocation’.

Although this suggestion is unlikely to be adopted, it has to be seen in the context of a bill (Senate Bill 3), which already dictates that slavery must not be taught as integral to the founding of the United States; that slavery was an aberration from American values. Further, as recently as 2015, a textbook approved for – and actually used in – social studies classes in Texas referred to African slaves who were brought to the United States as ‘workers’. Equally sickening are the views of several teachers and members of the public in southern states who have recently been interviewed by mainstream media. They are adamant that schools must present the ‘good side’ of slavery to their pupils in order to avoid “playing the race card” in what they see as a concerted effort to criticise the United States and distort the ‘truth’.

Pandemic

The United States has no widely-available system of healthcare that is properly based on need not greed. Its purpose is to make a profit for those who fund it. A new study suggests that over a third of the lives already lost to Covid in the last two years would have been saved if the country had had a ‘Universal Healthcare System’ in place at the time. The peer-reviewed article also estimates that the country would have saved US$459 billion (£1 billion a day) in healthcare costs during the first year of the pandemic had the system been directed first and foremost at improving health and not making profits.

The number of reported (probably far fewer than actual) new cases of Covid continues to rise across the United States. Florida governor Ron DeSantis (Yes, he who called Covid ‘theatre’) also stands accused of illegally using federal funds provided by the Biden administration as part of the ‘Rescue Plan’ specifically to mitigate the worst effects of the pandemic. The funds are going to tax cuts.

Oppression

The armed fascist groups and militias who so eagerly supported Trump after the last election and were so heavily involved in the riotous attempts to overturn the election result in the winter of 2020/2021 seem to have lost interest in him now. This may well be because Trump didn’t succeed in subverting the election; he failed to ‘reclaim’ the America (white working class) that they think is exclusively and rightfully theirs.

Instead, they are allowing themselves to get all worked up about the LGBTQ+ community and race. This time last month 31 members of the white supremacist group, Patriot Front, were arrested in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, where they planned to attack a pride parade. Observers described Patriot Front’s appearance, demeanour, apparel and accoutrements as making them look like a ‘little army’.

Last November over a thousand QAnon addicts gathered in Dallas to see John F Kennedy reappear (he’s been dead for nearly 60 years and would be 105 if he were still alive) to aid Trump in retaking power. QAnon leader Michael Protzman promised the gullible crowd that this would happen. They waited for days and appeared never once to doubt the impossible. They believe their ’cause’ (the name of Kennedy and the greatness of Trump) to be so righteous that the outcome is inevitable. So delusional are they that they are now falling for Protzman’s (or ‘Negative 48’ as he is known to the faithful) promise again. They are certain that Kennedy and Trump can pull it off in Dallas this time.

As we always say, elections merely exchange one form of oppression for another. So nothing should be expected from the midterms in November this year. Nevertheless, a good case can be made regarding the Republicans as much further to the right (both than the Democrats and than they were five years ago), much more openly racist, and much more destructive of the environment and of people’s lives.

So it is disturbing to see the election of quite so many supporters of Trump’s lie that he is still really the legitimate president and that he really won the election in 2020. Last month Adam Laxalt won his primary in Nevada to be on the ballot in November for the Senate. Then there’s one Jim Marchant. He will be the party’s candidate for secretary of state in Nevada – the office which actually oversees elections. A Trump addict believing in the stolen election lie (and – like many others – also a supporter of Trump’s failed coup attempt in January 2021), Marchant will be able to control the results of the election in his state, as its most senior election official. He will potentially be able to reverse the results there if they are not to his liking. According to The Washington Post, already this year over 100 Republicans who backed Trump’s election fraud claims have won primaries.

The same week as those elections, Couy Griffin, a County Commissioner in Otero (New Mexico) responsible for certifying elections in that state nicely summed up the mood of how things stand in respect of elections, lies and lawlessness. A few days earlier he had been ordered by the State Supreme Court to stop delaying the certification… his refusal originates in his addiction to the Trump cult and the lies it continues to peddle.

Not the least significant piece of evidence for his stance on the issue is his involvement in the armed coup attempt on 6 January last year, for which he is awaiting sentencing. Although the statutory deadline for county certification in New Mexico was the following day, Griffin defied the order and – again – held out for what, presumably, he hopes will be mass support of Trump’s ‘Big Lie’ that the election was stolen.

John Cornyn is the head Republican negotiator on the bipartisan effort to try and prevent – or at least decrease the number of – massacres with weapons in the United States. Even though he characterised his efforts to a crowd of supporters in Texas  as having “…fought and kept President Biden’s gun-grabbing wish list off the table…” Cornyn was booed for trying to save lives.

Other incidents at that event show just how immature American ‘democracy’ is, and how hampered such Americans are by their own inability and unwillingness to handle their own fear and ignorance when faced with something they have been brainwashed into disapproving of.

At the same Republican convention, more than 5,000 unmasked delegates passed a clutch of regressive resolutions such as that homosexuality is ‘… an abnormal lifestyle choice’, and that Biden was not legitimately elected president in 2020. They also mocked one of their own, Congressperson Dan Crenshaw, who lost his right eye to a bomb in Afghanistan. Fascist Fox News presenter Tucker Carlson coined the term which delegates chanted: “eye patch McCain!” because Crenshow expressed support for Ukraine in its resistance to the war being waged by Putin and because he rejected the lie that Trump won the 2020 election. For these, he attracted cries of, “Dan Crenshaw is a traitor! He needs to be hung [sic] for treason!”.

Yes, they were swept away by their own sense of tribal oafishness, maybe intoxicated, amongst ‘friends’ and full of the indignation that such behaviour tends to endorse and reinforce. But such sentiments, lies and retrogressive stances are finding their ways more and more often – and with ever greater momentum – into legislative bodies across the United States. And seem likely to continue to do so.

On Sunday 19 Jun, Adam Kinzinger, the Republican congressperson from Illinois who sits on the January 6 Committee and is a critic of Trump got a letter in the post threatening to execute him, his wife and their baby. Less than a day later, Eric Greitens, a frontrunner for the Republican Senate nomination in Missouri, released a violent video which he had made showing him hunting RINOs (Republicans in Name Only).

Supreme Court

This is (usually) the time of year when the US Supreme Court ends its annual term with a spattering of rulings. Among them in 2022 was its statement that certain violent crimes with a gun are not… ‘crimes of violence’ thereby implicitly sanctioning gun violence to some.

The Court also struck down a law passed in the state of New York that restricted the act of carrying a concealed gun outside homes. Because of the way that legal cases and possible new laws (in other states) build on precedent – particularly as set by this, the highest court in the country – it is now very possible that there will be legislation in the trumpy and regressive states which will have the effect of increasing gun violence, increasing the number of mass shootings, leading to loss of life by guns on a wider scale and augmenting the atmosphere and culture of violence across the country. All in the name of a spurious and selfish ‘freedom’ – the ‘right’ to take others’ lives.

The Supreme Court also ruled on ‘Miranda’ rights. This is the equivalent of the right to silence in England and Wales, as most recently amended under the Police and Criminal Evidence (PACE) Act (1984), Code C, and its implications regarding self-incrimination. The ruling in the US last month will cut back an individual’s protections against self-incrimination by barring the potential to obtain damages. If a law enforcement officer fails to administer the warning, “You have the right to remain silent… (etc)” that office is no longer open to potential damages in a civil lawsuit. Put simply, this ruling represents a further erosion of rights. And it comes as increasing numbers of those clearly (and in some cases irrefutably) implicated in illegal activity surrounding the attempt in 2020 and 2021 by the Trump élite to overturn the presidential election in November 2020 are evading the law and look likely to be successful in so doing indefinitely.

And of course six perhaps frightened, well-funded men (Justices Elena Kagan, Sonia Sotomayor, and Stephen Breyer dissented), decided that they know best what’s good for women and their families in overturning Roe v Wade, which has guaranteed access to legal abortion for millions of women since 1973.

Roe v Wade was a ruling, an opinion by the Supreme Court, not a statute law. But it is now feared that up to half the states in the country will act swiftly to criminalise abortion. Nothing will be done to stop the animal holocaust, the slaughter of thousands on whom American-made bombs fall or who are killed by American weaponry, who starve to death because of global inequality brought about directly or indirectly by the US economy and supremacism. And of course, at the hands of those engaged in mass shootings, whose ‘freedoms’ to carry them out are more important to the judicial élite than are the lives of those they injure and murder.

The Supreme Court’s decision has nothing to do with the ‘rights of the unborn child’ and everything to do with dark money funding repressive dogma boosted by fearful and ignorant male judges. Already by the following week cases were coming to the attention of the public of what the ruling will mean. In Ohio, for example, a 10-year-old girl who became pregnant after being raped was forced to travel to Indiana for an abortion after she was denied the procedure in her own state. Ohio’s ‘trigger law’ ban on abortions came into effect immediately after the Supreme Court’s ruling on June 24. This bans abortions after six weeks of pregnancy – without exceptions for children and victims of rape and incest.

The United States joins just a couple of dozen countries in denying access to abortion; and it is feared that the attack from the far right could extend to Federal (trumpy states are enacting, or have already enacted) bans on the right to contraception, of same-sex marriage, and even of same-sex (and inter-racial) relationships.

Indeed, within hours of the ruling, the far right judge Clarence Thomas (members of whose family are widely and consistently alleged to have been involved in Trump’s attempts to overturn the results of the election in 2020) called explicitly for those other rulings to be revisited.

With the usual caveat that anarchists do not believe that elections change much, it is instructive to note what happened in Arizona at the start of July – during Primary season and less than six months from the mid-term elections, which are likely to determine much about the legislative agenda in at least the following two years. Kari Lake is a prominent (indeed the leading) far-right Republican candidate for the office of the extremely powerful governor in Arizona. It is certain that whoever holds the office will have an enormous influence on the outcome of the election in the state – and conceivably could play a decisive role in determining whether Trump becomes president again in 2024. At the centre of her campaign are the expected lies about who won in 2020. But Lake has taken things one stage further. She said that any and all candidates who fail to assert that Trump won in 2020 should be disqualified. Lake added that she would not have certified Joe Biden’s victory in Arizona – even though he gained more votes than Trump.

Environment

Other (state) Supreme Courts have not been idle.

In late June Michigan’s Supreme Court rejected charges against former Michigan Governor Rick Snyder, his former health director and seven other former officials who were responsible for misconduct, destruction, pollution, disease and illnesses in the water crisis almost ten years ago in Flint, Michigan.

In the stewardship of the environment, too, the US Supreme Court’s malice has a long reach. Although the United States is but one country that contributes to the wrecking of our Earth, it does so disproportionately to its size and population. And although the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is not, nor has ever been, a radical and aggressively active protector of the Earth, it is the one official Federal body charged with at least appearing to do so.

Yet on the last day of last month, the Court published its decision significantly to curtail the EPA’s ability to regulate planet-damaging carbon emissions from existing power plants.

This is certain to mean more greenhouse gasses in the Earth’s atmosphere, wilder, more and more frequent devastating weather events; hotter weather; many more deaths; greater suffering for animals and people – especially for those in poorer nations least well-placed to cope. And in the longer term will mean even greater amounts of carbon emissions in the air, so hastening of the destruction of the Earth itself as an eco-system.

In addition, the court cut back the EPA’s authority in general invoking the so-called ‘major questions’ doctrine — a ruling that will impact the federal government’s authority to regulate in other areas of climate policy, as well as regulation of the internet and worker safety.

The first two weeks of June were amongst the hottest on record. An unseasonably warm period lead to more than a third of the US entire population being placed under heat advisories. Temperatures in Phoenix, Arizona, reached 45°C, and 43°C in Las Vegas, Nevada. Local officials in Houston, Texas, warned residents to stay inside because of the dangerously high temperatures.

In Kansas over the same period, more than 2,000 cattle died because of the excessive heat and humidity. That’s about the same number of meteorological records which have been broken recently between the west coast and the midwest. A typical response to the crisis is that of climate scientist Daniel Swain from UCLA: “Obviously, in the long run, the only solution is to bring carbon emissions to close to zero and eventually halt global warming, and thereby halt the increase in extreme heat events.” Not everyone agrees, though. Although much of what Marjorie Taylor Greene does is a form of amateur clowning, people do listen. She is influential.

In Montana, record flooding forced all five entrances to Yellowstone National Park to be shut and Biden declared Montana a disaster area as centuries-old Sequoia trees in the park also burn.

That’s the same administration that is now being sued by a group of environmental organisations because it issued over 3,500 permits to drill for oil and gas on public lands in New Mexico and Wyoming. “The Biden administration is literally drilling away the climate,” said Jeremy Nichols of WildEarth Guardians. If it goes ahead the destructive extraction of fossil fuels could mean that 600 million metric tons of greenhouse gas is released into the Earth’s ailing atmosphere.

What’s more, at the beginning of this month the Biden administration announced a draft proposal to lease new oil and gas drilling rights in federal waters off the coasts of Alaska and in the Gulf of Mexico. This is actually the third time since November that such an announcement – in contravention of pre-election promises – has been made on the Friday before a holiday.

Lastly, legislators in North Carolina ran the risk of being seen as even more immature and ignorant, not to say vindictive. Earlier this month they introduced a bill which would allocate US$50,000 (£41,000) actually to remove and destroy public electric vehicle chargers (unless free petrol pumps are built alongside). Denying the climate catastrophe has been almost de rigueur for Republicans for decades. But as things heat up (literally) the lengths to which they now go to make the case for planetary destruction get more absurd by the month.

Louis Further

Image by John Ramspott, published under CC BY-ND 2.0.