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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.


It was predictable that the range of Trump addicts and cultists – from the congressional parties to the fascist militia – would quickly decry, distort and denounce the search of their leader’s ostentatious beach house at Mar-a-Lago on 8 August. This was to retrieve documents which the former president had illegally removed there from the White House at the time of his tantrum when he left office a couple of weeks after he incited the riot that resulted in the deaths or suicides of at least eight people and injuries to over 150.

‘Notes from the US’ reported last month on the consequent attack on an FBI office in Ohio which also resulted in one death. Four days later, an armed fascist gang mounted an intimidatory operation outside the FBI’s office in Phoenix, Arizona.

Instead of acknowledging Trump’s error, those on the right who speak on the matter only cry Witch hunt, Victimisation. Then one congressional candidate made more of a fool of himself than usual: on 13 August, Carl Paladino, who is running in the 2022 primary for the US House seat from New York’s 23rd district, said that Attorney General Merrick Garland should “…probably be executed…” for authorising the search of Trump’s home. But then, in February 2021, this same congressional candidate also said on a local radio station (WBEN in Buffalo, New York) that “…we need somebody inspirational…” like Adolf Hitler, who “aroused” and “hypnotized” crowds, “screaming these epithets… that’s the kind of leader we need today.”

The FBI nationally had already issued a bulletin outlining credible threats similar to those circulating in January 2021 against its own offices, against law courts and against (other) government facilities. In other words, Trump’s addicts look to be so totally brainwashed, confused and out of touch with reality that they are prepared (planning even) to disrupt the very organs of the state which are most effective at oppressing those whom they seek to exclude from participation in the life of the country.

Only an anarchist with little understanding of the oppressive structures of oppressive states would believe that the FBI exists and works solely in the interests of the majority of people living in the USA. The significance of these attacks on its personnel and premisses lies in the ease with which Trump addicts can be persuaded that when the Bureau does something – intentionally or merely by following protocol and procedure – to right wrongs (assist in disabling arguably the most dangerous individual in North America), then the FBI almost overnight become the enemy, the object of… scorn, abuse and physical violence. The same goes for the Department of Justice, which was lauded by the Republicans when it appeared to be supporting Trump during his presidency.

The same belief that anyone who does not do what you want deserves to be attacked is increasingly manifesting itself as we approach the next round of elections, November’s midterms. In less than two months’ time, 35 (of 100) senate and all 435 house seats, as well as 39 of 50 governorships, are up for election. To say that these elections will be contentious is an understatement. They are bedevilled by lies and threats. Many of the results are likely to be challenged as ‘fake’ when they do not reflect a majority for the Republicans. That is assuming that the process can be properly staffed and the votes counted. For instance, the administrator of Gillespie County, Texas, and all her staff have left their posts because of death threats, harassment and incidents of stalking by those who refuse to accept that Trump lost last time.

One of the more encouraging votes in this summer’s primaries across the United States was that in Kansas, which wasn’t cast for or against a candidate. Despite deliberately confusing wording, a proposed amendment to the state’s constitution which would have withdrawn women’s right to abortion permanently was decisively rejected by voters. Nearly 60% of the votes cast were ‘No’ votes in what actually surprised many observers.

Predictably, though, an individual in the state (Melissa Leavitt, of Colby) has challenged the outcome. Although nearly 544,000 votes of 922,000 is a decisive majority about which there should be little doubt, when the results were in, there were differences: the number of ‘No’ votes had decreased by a whopping 0.004%. By 49 – or net 41 because there were also eight more ‘Yes’ votes than counted in the original results. Yet that is still not what Republican anti-abortionists wanted. So – just as they did with the 2020 general election – leaders in the Kansas Republican Assembly mounted a campaign for a hand recount, proffering a credit card in payment of the US$229,000 (£248,000) fee for the move. The secretary of state in Kansas has agreed to their request.

Although the United States is (in common with most other places on this beleaguered planet) facing crises of ecology, health, oppression and finance, spending on destruction and taking others’ lives continues to rise. Last month the House of Representatives voted to allocate a staggering US$839 (or £1.3 million a minute around the clock) to the 2023 National Defense Authorization Act for the country’s ‘military’ budget.


Winners of an election for a school board (rough equivalent of governors in England, Wales and Northern Ireland) in Sarasota, Florida, were recently photographed with two members of their local Proud Boys fascist militia. Briget Ziegler and Robyn Marinelli can be seen on the FaceBook page of the Sarasota Watchdogs posing with James Hoel and Nick Radovich making the coded ‘OK’ sign. Almost needless to say, the MAGA candidates are supported by Florida’s governor, Ron DeSantis. They are one of five school boards in Florida which have been taken over by overtly or implicitly fascist activists. Other states where fascist militia members are likely to secure, or have already secured, seats on their school boards and so have significant influence over pupils’ wellbeing and education are California and Washington.

It’s clear that the right’s attack on schools is now well under way. This means, of course, an attack on children. Various long-term objectives for the campaign are evident. These include the abolition of publicly-funded schools in favour of ‘charter’ schools, which are fee-paying and élitist. It includes attempts to indoctrinate children as widely as possible with ‘patriotism’ (which is really American exceptionalism), the promotion of intolerance and a pragmatism akin to ‘social Darwinism’. Under all these guises, a majority of children will be left behind and significantly disadvantaged for the rest of their lives.

One of the sources for the doctrinaire oppression and malicious shove towards inequality and draining of both diversity and compassion from pupils’ educational experience is Hillsdale College, which is at the forefront of moving schools in the United States backwards in terms of cognitive science, curriculum. Far-right social engineering is active and aggressive in many and varied ways.

As a taste of what’s going on, look at what’s happening in schools in Texas school districts. Despite the principle of separating (the functions of) church and state, Texas now has a law which requires that schools and colleges ‘must’ display a copy of the country’s national ‘motto’, ‘In God We Trust’, in a ‘conspicuous place’ in all its buildings. Educational sites have already begun to receive framed posters with that motto that are being donated by an internet service provider and wireless company, Patriot Mobile, which has placed itself as ‘America’s only Christian conservative wireless provider’. (As always, it’s not clear what they want to ‘conserve’. It’s certainly not the nation’s declining education system: there are massive shortages of teachers across the country as the new school year begins. Nor, to be frank, are such acts going to embellish the educational reputation abroad of the country for which they claim to be patriotic.)

Although estimates made by such respected bodies as the Pew Research Center show that even Texas has a comparatively diverse confessional demographic, legislators in the state cling to the notion that white Christianity should be foisted on everyone who attends schools and colleges there… “The national motto, In God We Trust, asserts our collective trust in a sovereign God”, tweeted State Senator Bryan Hughes, a Republican partially responsible for the new law.

Thankfully, an activist prankster from Florida, Chaz Stevens, may have found a way to point out the absurdity of the law: he started a GoFundMe campaign to make and distribute signs in other languages than English, including Arabic and Spanish). This ostensibly has the intention of including those pupils and families whose first language isn’t English. But Stevens also knows that many Texas lawmakers are likely to object to anything so obviously not white and not doctrinaire Christian.

Common decency requires respect for the way that teachers should be addressed – say in emails that they send to pupils’ families. Stating preferred pronouns also helps those unfamiliar, perhaps, with the genders of names from cultures with which recipients are unfamiliar. Not in Wisconsin in the Kettle Moraine School District, though. Christian crosses are allowed. But not Pride flags. Children must be brought up and educated in ignorance of other ways of life than that which the District’s (the equivalent of the LEA in the UK) board believes is acceptable. More shame, isolation, exclusion and feelings of marginalisation and lack of acceptance.

‘Notes from the US’ will be covering these disturbing developments in education in the United States more fully next month.

In 2021 the ‘Firearms Policy Coalition’, a gun owners’ rights group, filed a challenge to the ban on 18 to 20-year-olds in Texas carrying handguns… a rather weak attempt to save lives. The pressure group’s claim was that it was young people’s constitutional right to carry guns whenever and wherever they liked. Given that such firearms are not used to play golf with or assist in building houses for the homeless, it has to be assumed that guns are designed to injure and kill. So it must also be assumed the pressure groups felt it their right to injure and kill people. At the end of last month, a Federal judge (Mark Pittman of the Fort Worth district court) agreed and overturned the ban in Texas. The way is now clearer than ever for lawful armed militias and for more mass shootings.


Thoughtful people are likely to care about where their pension funds are being invested: do the investments contribute to the good of the greatest number of people or not; or will they just make money regardless? Last month one of the most malicious and callous figures in contemporary US politics, the governor of Florida, Ron DeSantis (whom many now see as even more dangerous and disastrous than Donald Trump if the latter makes it through the many lawsuits – several of which disqualify him from public office indefinitely), set himself and his addicts on a likely collision course with considerate people by stipulating that pension fund managers in Florida must no longer consider the social impact of their investments in particular, and their financial decisions more generally. Pursuing his asinine campaign against what he insists on calling ‘wokeness’, which his dogma is too vile to understand as decency and compassion for other people, DeSantis has said that fund managers must henceforth take account only risk and return when directing the state’s US$200 (£166) billion assets.

DeSantis says that his state will be the one where “…’woke’ goes to die…”. What he’s actually doing, of course, is threatening, insulting, disparaging and seeking to prevent those who understand and work for compassion, tolerance and moves towards equality from putting policies and projects based on those values into practice.

DeSantis himself provided a further example of this vile ignorance when he said of Dr Anthony Fauci, the United States’ top infectious disease expert who guided the country through the Covid 19 pandemic “…Someone needs to grab that little elf and chuck him across the Potomac.” DeSantis either isn’t able to understand the nature of INFECTION where diseases are concerned or believes that people shorter than him are inferior; or both. Either way, this is the offensive act of a bigoted bully.

In the middle of last month, the DeSantis stunt machine went into overdrive announcing the arrest of 20 ex-convicts who, he claimed, had voted when they shouldn’t have done. (The more the right talks about ‘election integrity’, the more it hopes to bolster its lie that Trump won the last presidential election – even though the majority of the very few recorded number of fraudulent votes was cast for the former president.) Florida previously passed legislation authorising those with expunged criminal records to vote. Indeed, by the end of August it was revealed that these alleged fraudsters had been issued with voter IDs by the relevant election officials in Florida. So the voters can be forgiven for acting in good faith: there was no reason not to believe that they were eligible to vote. Entrapment anyone?

This kind of nonsense has even attracted criticism from the United Nations. Given the immaturity and intolerant obstinacy of DeSantis and his gang, this will be seen as a ‘badge of honour’.

Far-right Congressperson Marjorie Taylor Greene is at it again as well. Last month she introduced a bill in the House of Representatives to ban gender-affirming care for transgender minors nationally. Anti-trans attacks outside the legislature are increasing: for instance, on free, open storytelling sessions, on doctors and at Boston Children’s Hospital, where online extremists are threatening to execute any staff members involved in transgender care, and on social media, where Chaya Raichik and anti-LGBTQ media personality Matt Walsh have harassment campaigns on TikTok. So Taylor Greene is doing her bit inside the legislature.


We owe authorities in the prison and judiciary services of Oklahoma a debt of gratitude. Over the next two years, they will undertake quite an ambitious project to show everyone in the rest of the United States just how wrong it is to murder, to take the life of another person, to kill.

No fewer than two dozen prisoners (one each month for 25 months) are themselves to be executed.

This show of unassailable logic must presumably be designed to make it plain just how wrong murder is: “Let’s murder the murderers!” These multiple executions will take place despite the views of experts and those in the legal profession that there remain significant doubts about the guilt of many of those about to lose their lives. That there are doubts about the mental fitness of those on death row even to plead. Doubts that the authorities who are responsible for taking the prisoners’ lives can manage to do so given the many recent cases of botched, cruel and painful lethal injections. Fordham University law professor Deborah Denno, for example, said last month, “It’s just yet one more reckless move by Oklahoma. If there was going to be any state that was going to do something so obviously irresponsible and unjust… it would be the state of Oklahoma, given the history.”

Republican governors in several states – Mississippi, Nebraska, Arkansas, amongst others – actually returned aid from the federal government, which would have helped people on low incomes to avoid being evicted from their homes. Mississippi governor Tate Reeves, for example, said: “Mississippi will continue to say no to these types of liberal handouts that encourage people to stay out of the workforce. Instead, we’re going to say yes to conservative principles and policies that result in more people working.” Apart from the brazen callousness of his actions, he is (presumably knowingly) ignoring the facts: fewer than a third of those who have taken advantage of the Rental Assistance for Mississippians Program (RAMP) initiative are actually unemployed. US$130 (£110) million will actually be sent back to the US Treasury in order for Reeves and his gang to promote ‘conservative’ values.


Other forms of racism and oppression continue in Mississippi. At the end of last month, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals refused to remove a Jim Crow-era voting restriction which is widely acknowledged to discriminate against black people. Section 241 in the state’s constitution lists 10 felonies (murder, rape, bribery, theft, arson, obtaining money or goods under false pretence, perjury, forgery, embezzlement or bigamy) for which a conviction results in loss of the right to vote. The law dates from 1890. The court last month even acknowledged that the law is specifically aimed at restricting the rights of anyone convicted of what it calls a ‘black crime’ while leaving that right in place for ‘white’ criminals.

In other words, the state of Mississippi has demonstrated the very institutionalised racism – actually written into law and subsequent case law – which its apologists on the right insist does not exist. They say that its history shouldn’t be taught in schools and colleges under the rubric of Critical Race Theory. And their legal system is proud to uphold it.

Libraries are not unaffected: Kimber Glidden was until recently the Director of the Boundary County Library in Bonners Ferry, Idaho. She resigned last month because of pressure and threats from censorship activists who demanded that more than 400 books be removed from the library. In some cases the books are not even in stock – so one wonders how many of the far-right advocates of censorship may have read them. The activists just disagree with what the books are thought to have contained: gender and racial equality for the most part. It was reported at the start of this month that a gang of ARMED protestors attended a meeting at which the issue was discussed in order to ensure that the ban was implemented.

Then there’s the case of a teacher in Kansas, Pamela Ricard, who sued her school district because she was suspended when she refused to respect transgender or non-binary pupils by using their preferred names and pronouns when addressing them. She was awarded a settlement of US$95,000 (£82,000). Ricard claimed that her ‘religious beliefs’ gave her the right to ignore others’ wishes. The senior director of the nonprofit Gender Spectrum, Joel Baum, however, said, “We know from research, long term, very powerful research, that affirming a young person’s gender leads to better health and well-being. This is about the basic rights and dignity of a human being. Your beliefs do not allow you to refuse to acknowledge who a student is.”

Intolerance supported by (potential) violence is growing in other areas as well. Just like the ‘blue’ and ‘white’ lives matter groups (in response to the valid Black Lives Matter movement), there is now a ‘straight pride’ gang. At the end of last month, a couple of dozen of them turned up in Modesto, California, to protest the existence of Planned Parenthood, the healthcare body which provides a multitude of vital services, only one of which is abortion. Fewer than 8% of patients avail themselves specifically of abortion care from Planned Parenthood. Behind the targeting of Planned Parenthood (also constantly under attack with disinformation from the rightwing media) is the apparent fear of members of the ‘straight pride’ group that abortion increases what they worry will be an unfavourable imbalance between the white and black populations.


Most nights on prime time TV Fox ‘News’ continues to wretch up malicious disinformation about the severity – indeed, the very facts – of the Covid 19 pandemic. Now it is estimated to have taken the lives of over six and a half million people worldwide.  Well over one million of those were in the US, which has barely 4% of the world’s population. Over 10 million children in the country have lost a parent or caregiver since the pandemic began in the winter of 2019/2020. But for the far-right propagandists, like the climate catastrophe, it’s a ‘liberal’ myth.

Multiple factions of the right have long had – and are still aggressively pursuing – campaigns to take control of local institutions; particularly in the south of the country and particularly in the trumpy states. ‘Notes from the US’ has regularly reported on the right’s attacks on education, libraries, the judiciary – and infiltration into the military and law enforcement.

There was a disturbing new example of their dangerous encroachment into the public health sphere last month. Anti-vaccine cultists are campaigning in Sarasota (Florida) to take control of the management board that runs a public hospital there because its well-qualified professionals treated one of the campaign’s prime movers when he had Covid. Victor Rohe, a leader of the campaign to remove the hospital board and replace it with anti-vaxxers, sought the advice of his friends over that of informed medical staff and rented his own oxygen tent instead of letting hospital staff treat him properly. Medics involved have expressed concern for what they see as a “… new disregard for the professional training that medical people have, and a disregard for the science of what is best for the population.”


The Democrats in general and Biden in particular haven’t got much of a record on protecting the environment. Despite his promise to “[prohibit all] …new oil and gas permitting on public lands and waters,” Biden actually issued more such permits in his first year in office than did his predecessor. True, the administration planned to impose a moratorium on drilling for fossil fuels. But towards the end of last month, a judge sympathetic to the increased destruction caused by fossil fuel extraction (the group, Carbon Brief has estimated that a quarter of all emissions by the United States comes from fossil fuels) issued a permanent injunction putting an end to the moratorium. The 13 states which brought the action (Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Georgia, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah, and West Virginia) can now – and will – continue to contribute to the process of slowly bringing about the collapse of the climate on Earth by exploiting leases to extract oil and gas in areas over which they have control.


Aware that the best thing which elections may be able to do is select which individuals and parties might do the least amount of damage, we should still note these two things:

First, sitting congressperson Liz Cheney, arch hawk and daughter of former terrorist father and vice president, Dick Cheney, lost her primary to a Trump addict (with very little experience) on 16 August by a margin greater than any in the last 70 years. Trump ‘ordained’ that it should happen as he vilifies those in his party who have attempted to speak anything like the truth.

Then we need to remember that on the current slates of candidates contesting the mid-term elections, nearly two-thirds (54 of 87) of Republican nominees in key posts in swing states like Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin are declared election deniers. They have allowed themselves to be convinced (or pretend to be convinced: their position is so absurd that it’s hard to swallow that they really believe it) that Biden is not the legitimate president; and that Trump really won.

That lie really began life in the summer of 2020 when Trump cast implicit doubt on whether he would accept the results… “I Have to See“. To claim that he “won big” [sic] then became the preferred scenario as an excuse when he didn’t. In the months between the election and transition in the winter of 2021/2022 it was the strategy of a wider coterie of allies – congresspeople, lawyers, Trump fixers, media and publicists; and by this spring mainstream Republican ‘policy’.

The deniers have moved from minority to majority ascendancy to occupying the default position. Add to that lies and disinformation from the fascist news outlets and the reactions of those attending Trump’s rallies, and it becomes clear that in a future election – perhaps a close one, where votes cast in those six states would decide the result – these Republicans (if elected) are likely to (want to) ensure that the electoral college votes for their candidate(s), regardless of the actual numbers of votes counted.

There is a very real risk that they will rig the election.

Again, as anarchists party politics hold little or no attraction in the hopes that one ‘side’ will suddenly start working to conserve life on earth and bring about a decent, equitable society where everyone really does have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. But the damage planned by those who threaten to bully their way to power regardless of the electorate’s wish to stop them could be enormous. Not because it subverts ‘democracy’; but because their view of what is needed from legislators is so distorted, malicious and destructive.

Further confirmation that the Republican party of Donald Trump is essentially a supremacist, insurrectionist party came at the start of September when Trump made the very public announcement that he would pardon the January 6 insurrectionists if re-elected. This came in the same week as Biden weakly called the position of “some people” in the Republican party “…like semi-fascism…”

It isn’t ‘some people’ though: in Arizona, the Republican nominee for Secretary of State (a high profile executive role which includes as one of its main duties the oversight of elections) is one Mark Finchem, who is actively endorsed by Trump. Finchem’s social media accounts have included people in Nazi uniform, fascist regalia and claims that a ‘holocaust’ would happen in the United States. Finchem keeps a ‘Treason’ Watch List and has posted about stockpiling ammunition. He is also a proud member of the fascist militia, the Oath Keepers; this is the group which provided ‘security’ to the insurgents on January 6 2021, and which was recently reported as numbering in its membership more than 500 serving members of the police force (including senior management), military, first responders, teachers and other public services.

If all of that fails, treat the whole thing as a joke and – vote more than once

It is common in many states for elections, including the upcoming midterms this November, to include ‘propositions’ or ‘ballot measures’ allowing the electorate to vote – referendum-style – on matters like drug legalisation, animal rights, major construction projects and specific but pressing concerns brought to the attention of state election officials by signatures on a (formal) petition.

Now the rule for inclusion on the ballot in Michigan is that a minimum of 425,000 valid signatures must be gathered. Then the proposal must appear on the ballot.

Just such a move was advanced by Reproductive Freedom for All. It seeks to amend the state constitution so as to ensure that women have a right to abortion following the Supreme Court’s decision in June this year to overturn Roe v Wade. It received over 140% as many signatures (600,000) as required. The state’s Bureau of Elections, the body responsible for overseeing the process, which was pressured by Trump to declare him the winner of the 2020 presidential election, nevertheless rejected the petition; the measure is not on the ballot.


At a rally in Pennsylvania at the start of this month, Trump raged about the (until then waning) QAnon conspiracy theories. Bracket this with his rants on his nattily-named but ever-shaky ‘Truth Social’ platform. Then it’s hard not to see Trump as going further than merely endorsing the conspiracy. Such language appears to be a deliberate and explicit escalation of his hopes and calls for violence by the armed militias which support him. Especially if he is indicted for one or more of his crimes, recent or in the past.

He also used that rally to emphasise his support for one of those nearly one thousand people convicted and/or charged for their part in the attempted coup of January 6 last year. He invited Cynthia Hughes, leader of a support group for January 6 defendants, to speak. She chose to speak in favour of Nazi sympathiser and violent anti-Semite, Timothy Hale-Cusanelli, who is maybe best known after the Justice Department released images of him with a Hitler moustache. But then one of those for whom Trump stumped that weekend is gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano. A photograph of him wearing a Confederate uniform recently surfaced.

To be sure, slogans are cheap; things can change; the courts may well try and steer things back to what everyone is used to, and towards what is supposed to happen. And – although the deniers are increasing in number – not all of them will necessarily prevail on November 8.

A significant majority of officials with determining roles in these swing states alone has already stated that they would not have certified Biden in 2020. So it can safely be assumed that – with the wind behind them and the impetus to their cult that the actions last month of the Department of Justice (and FBI) to investigate at least some of Trump’s crimes – there will be those who pull some sort of stunt to try and ensure a Republican victory.

Talk of a ‘civil war’ as such is surely exaggerated and misplaced.

At the very least, the fact that the centre of state gravity is still more physically powerful than that of the vocal (far) right opposition and protesters.

That is, provided that the military and agencies of law enforcement do not side with the militias etc. But alarming figures attest to huge increases in purchases of weapons since 2020. People buy guns in the US at the rate of one every half hour around the clock. There are 1.2 firearms for every person in the country. Many more people (presumably those unwilling to accept anything but Trump’s brand of fascism) than formerly seem to be equipping themselves for some sort of ‘fight’, even if imaginary, token, or ultimately failed.

Louis Further

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