Freedom News

Notes from the US: Break from reality

Freedom’s US correspondent rounds up the past month.


In November last year (2022) several conservation groups – including the Center for Biological Diversity, the Conservation Law Foundation, Defenders of Wildlife, and Whale and Dolphin Conservationpetitioned the Biden administration to support their efforts to protect critically endangered North Atlantic right whales by regulating the speed of ships, which strike and kill whales – especially in the waters where they calve: off the southeastern coast of the US. In January the Biden administration denied their request thereby further threatening their extinction.

The Atlanta Forest (also known as the Weelaunee Forest) is an urban ‘park’ in DeKalb County, Georgia, south east of Atlanta. It’s surrounded by mostly black communities and has been chosen by the Atlanta Police Department as a training ground. As actually the largest such operation of its kind in the United States. Military-grade training facilities, a pretend ‘city’ to practice urban warfare, shooting ranges, and a helicopter landing pad are all proposed. It has very little – if any – local support. In fact, determined and strong protest groups have arisen quickly. But on 18 January during a multi-agency raid, police shot and murdered a forest defender from Tallahassee, Florida, Manuel Teran, while he was working with others to resist the destruction of the land and imposition of the destruction which is proposed by the police.

There is environmental destruction across the board: the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) released its final environmental impact statement for what’s known as the Willow project. This is an oil-drilling proposal by ConocoPhillips to allow them to profit from contamination, destruction and pollution in Alaska. The Bureau says it ‘prefers’ that ConocoPhillips be allowed to open three new drill sites, with a potential fourth later on. This will ensure 287 million metric tons of pollution over the next 30 years. Almost 600 million barrels of oil would be burnt. This would – of course – adversely impact indigenous communities by increasing pollution, wildlife degradation and the risk of violence as they resist. It also seems likely that such a licence will make it easier for more drilling in the area to be approved in the future. The Biden Administration now has until February 28 to issue its final decision on whether to permit the project. It doesn’t have to happen.


Ex-president Donald Trump was never taken very seriously for his grasp of policy in government, of course. Indeed, he achieved very little in his four years. Last November he announced his candidacy for the post in 2024. But it seemed more of a perfunctory move than one with his heart was in it.

Lately he seems to have been persuaded to heighten his profile and make some announcements, though. He duly did so at the end of January with a series of proposals to ‘reform’ education in the United States.

If Trump were elected in 2024 and both managed to remember what he said on the matter, and – heaven preserve us – got his way, then he would cut federal funding for ‘…any school or program pushing critical race theory, gender ideology or other inappropriate racial, sexual or political content onto our children…’; his administration would ‘…create a new credentialing body that will be the gold standard anywhere in the world to certify teachers who embrace patriotic values support our way of life and understand that their job is not to indoctrinate children…’; he would ‘… [f]ire Department of Education employees deemed “radicals, zealots and Marxists”…’; and ‘…[ban] transgender students who identify as girls from participating in girls sports…’. On the other hand ‘…massive funding preferences and favourable treatment…’ would be given to schools that abolish tenure for teachers in schools, that cut numbers in management, that adopt a parents’ bill of rights which includes school choice and ‘curriculum transparency’, and which allow parents to directly elect headteachers.

Some people are actually going further – already. In Ohio the body responsible for overseeing education, its Department of Education, is investigating a homeschooling group (the numbers of children homeschooled in that state has increased by over 50% in the last five years – to approximately 50,000) which is openly antisemitic and racist. Logan and Katja Lawrence run the neo-Nazi organisation, Dissident Homeschool, which distributes white supremacist material on its Telegram channel with the stated and public aim of making the children whom they ‘teach’ “…become wonderful Nazis…”. The outfit claims to have more than 2,500 members. Katja Lawrence has posted examples of how her family embraces Nazism: baking a Führer cake for Hitler’s birthday and having her children shout “Sieg heil!”

Ohio state laws only require those wanting to homeschool (their) children to inform the local superintendent (the equivalent of the leader of a LEA in the UK) that they want to homeschool their children, and that anyone so choosing agree to abide by certain broad conditions in order legally to keep their children out of publicly-funded schools. Credit goes to the Anonymous Comrades Collective for their original investigations.

At least one Republican has taken to trying to shoot his opponents, those who defeated him and colleagues in recent elections. Solomon Peña lost his attempts to be elected last November in the New Mexico state legislature (House District 14). He claimed fraud (as is now the usual strategy of many Republicans) and set about planning to shoot Democrats in their homes. On Peña’s arrest the Chief of Police for Albuquerque, Harold Medina, said, “It is believed he is the mastermind… [behind the shootings that happened in December and early January].”

Fascist governor of Florida (where nearly seven and a half million people have so far been infected with Covid-19 since 2020 and over 80 have died, and are dying, each and every day) is pressuring legislators in the state to make measures which he forced on residents in 2021 permanent. These imposed penalties on companies which require all employees be vaccinated against Covid so as to save lives. This vile move towards death and suffering by curtailing pandemic mitigation efforts can be seen chiefly as an election-boosting move among those who would be more inclined to vote for him. DeSantis said, “They were wrong about lockdowns. They were wrong about mask mandates. They were wrong about school closures. They were wrong about mRNA shots. They were wrong about vax passports and vaccine mandates.” It is to be noted that the most prominent Fascist pundit, Tucker Carlson on Fox ‘News’ recently delivered himself of the opinion that Covid-19 “did nothing, was a little bug”. One wonders how many the millions of families and loved ones of those who died in the United States would agree.


DeSantis seems to be popping up everywhere at the moment. This time last month he announced that he would block implementation of a new advanced course on African American studies in Florida schools because it is “… inexplicably contrary to Florida law and significantly lacks educational value… and is historically [in]accurate.” There are, though, parallel and comparable such syllabi for other cultures. As State Senator Shevrin Jones pointed out, there are (such) well-established courses in European History, Art History, Japanese Language and Culture, German Language and Culture, Italian Language and Culture, and Spanish Language and Culture.

Objections raised by DeSantis include the fact the syllabi aimed to further students’ understanding of The Black Power Movement and The Black Panther Party.

In 2021 Florida enacted a law to ban teaching ‘Critical Race Theory’, which examines the ways in which systematic racism in the United States impacts those alive today. That same law also banned material from The 1619 Project, a Pulitzer Prize-winning initiative by The New York Times which elegantly places American history in the context of the first slave ships to arrive in the country in the Seventeenth Century. As of 2022, schools in Florida are significantly restricted in the way that race can be handled, taught or even discussed with pupils.

As the new school term began last month, teachers also found themselves under new pressure in Florida. As part of Ron DeSantis’s silly ‘Stop W.O.K.E.’ act, no book can now appear in any classroom unless it has been approved by the State. Given his racist, supremacist, homophobic and generally intolerant approach to residents in Florida, it seems probable that pupils’ education will become narrower, less founded in reality and will leave them poorly equipped to discriminate between valuable material and that which is less so: anything of which the administration in Florida disapproves is to be censored. The clips in this news report illustrate what educators there are up against. Teachers’ failure to comply – by teaching Nobel prize winner Toni Morrison, for instance – are now open to being criminal charged.

Similarly, a new bill in Missouri would replace attempts to help pupils understand inequality based on race in the United States with a plan that would require teachers to ‘… teach the principles of American… patriotism’ and reward them with a one time bonus of US$3,000 (£2,400) if they complete training to indoctrinate their pupils this way.

The right in the United States seems to be constantly trying to find as many (new) ways as they can to push a more or less pointed racist pettiness as part of their agenda. Although recent polls strongly suggest that members of the Latinx communities really don’t care very much about how they are referred to, it is obviously important neither to offend nor stereotype. Former Trump White House press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, was elected governor of Arkansas in last year’s midterm elections. Last month, on the same day as she was inaugurated, she issued an executive order to force state offices, departments and agencies in Arkansas to reverse the practice of using the more inclusive ‘Latinx’ with ‘Hispanic’, ‘Hispanics’, ‘Latino’, ‘Latinos’, ‘Latina’ or ‘Latinas’ – terms which emphasise gender and the imperialist origins of those communities.

True, this is a move designed to appeal to the racist base of voters and to seem strong and determined in the fight against anything progressive which respects others, what such legislators and powerful people call ‘woke’. But such a stricture (to be in place ‘…within sixty (60) days of this Order…’) is indeed offensive, divisive and – Yes – racist.

A federal holiday is observed in the United States on the third Monday of January each year in honour of Martin Luther King and his work in the Civil Rights and peace movements, and legacy after his assassination in 1968. In two states, Alabama and Mississippi, though, the holiday is pointedly combined with a celebration of the Civil War general, Robert E Lee. The occasion thus endorses and retains a positive memory for the slavery which Lee fought to preserve. Arkansas only abandoned the same practice in 2007 and Virginia in 2020.

The same kind of footling offensive conduct is being increasingly employed elsewhere: although the measure has received next to no support, a bill was introduced last month in North Dakota by Republican state Senator David Clemens, to fine people US$1,500 (£1,200) if they referred to transgender people by the pronouns, which they have a right to expect, rather than those assigned to them by default at their birth. This is not the first such oppressive insult current in the state.


Last month’s Notes from the US offered a preliminary sketch of the newly elected House of Representatives, which was only sworn in after days of wrangling to ensure that insurrectionist Kevin McCarthy become its most powerful member. Republicans made it clear immediately after they lost control in 2020 that they would focus on playing at revenge against Democrats for all the (usually sane, predictable and even in some cases mildly and potentially positive) steps which their opponents had taken in the last two years. And do so instead of pretending to tackle (or perhaps even make real efforts to address) the pressing issues on environmental catastrophe, the animal holocaust, racism, poverty and economic chaos.

Employing the usual caution in reading too much into opinion polls, our reaction to what looks like a fairly thorough research exercise by ssrs published at the end of January does not give much cause for optimism. Interviewees responded to open-ended questions put to them to identify what they thought are the most important priorities for the USA. Far and away the most pressing issues were thought to be the economy and immigration. Every other issue achieved single digit percentages and was seen as vastly more pressing than the survival of the planet itself (environment: 3%), racism (3%) or Covid-19 (1%).

Because Trump was impeached, Republicans swore they would go after the Biden family. Because the Democrats understandably sought to get to the bottom of what happened in the attempts which Trump and the Republicans made to overturn the 2020 elections, Republicans went after, removed, attacked and vilified them. And so on.

Much of the important and consequential work in Congress is carried out by committees. In the middle of last month several effective Democrat members of committees were removed – obviously as acts of revenge: these included dismissal of Adam Schiff and Eric Swalwell from California, and Ilhan Omar (Minnesota).

The notorious Marjorie Taylor Greene (Georgia) has now been placed on the House Homeland Security Committee, which has jurisdiction over the border and matters of race. She has often used racist (“Muslims don’t belong in government”), anti-semitic and otherwise nonsensical (“the mass shootings at Parkland, Sandy Hook, and Las Vegas were staged”) rhetoric in the course of her short career in Congress, claiming, for instance, that wildfires in western states were caused by lasers set up by a Jewish cabal. She has also advocated the execution of prominent Democratic politicians. There is a legal component to the work of the committee on which she now serves.

Then 15 months or so ago Representative Paul Gosar (Arizona), a notorious white supremacist and clearly psychologically challenged election liar was censured and removed from his committees for posting on social media a photoshopped ‘animé’ video where he kills Democratic Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and attacks President Joe Biden. He has now been re-appointed got to the House Committee on Natural Resources.

Other far right firebrands, liars, racists, supremacists and all round troublemakers Lauren Boebert of Colorado and Scott Perry of Pennsylvania were seated on the House Oversight Committee.

Perhaps most surprising, and tending most persuasively to remind observers of the silliest, least credible and most disreputable satire of political life was the appointment to the Small Business and Space and Technology Committees of embattled new Congressperson George Santos of New York. He was eventually removed. Santos has faced calls for his resignation – including many from his own party – after he lied and invented almost everything on his CV, lied about his achievements and illegally misappropriated campaign monies as well as stealing from a crowdfunding attempt to provide surgery for a dog who subsequently died. In some ways Santos is just where he belongs: approved of and welcomed by a disgraced, disgusting corrupt, racist political party in hock to its hard right and prepared to do anything to hold onto power. There is a good chance that a Democrat might win the Special Election that would have to take place in New York were Santos no longer in the House of Representatives. That would reduce his party’s slim majority.

Louis Further

Image: Rob Webber

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