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Notes from the US: Falling apart


Racism – including anti-semitism – is common in the U.S., of course.

Take, for instance, Trump’s racist threats against a clerk of the court in New York where the civil fraud case against him is being tried. There have been many other examples, such as Elon Musk. They also extend to overtly neo-Nazi and specifically antisemitic supremacist events, like this one in Wisconsin. Former Fox pundit Tucker Carlson has also been spreading antisemitic hatred with fellow MAGA cultist Candace Owens.

So it may at first seem odd that so many public figures in the U.S. seem compelled to ‘take sides’ over the war in Gaza. And that the side they have taken is almost invariably that of Netanyahu and his army. Nationally, only the two main vaguely progressive cable media outlets, CNN and MSNBC, have begun to report and comment on the suffering of the two million Palestinians in Gaza and the murder of what may well be 25,000 Palestinians with nothing to do with Hamas by the end of this year. Elsewhere, a proud declaration by members of the Israeli élite that it had killed two civilians in the Gaza Strip for every Hamas militant has been taken largely at face value by media and politicians – with approval and without seeming conscious of that admission’s irony.

For caring people, it is not hard to imagine under what sort of conditions Palestinians are living and dying in their homeland at the moment. Almost unimaginable physical destruction of the buildings and infrastructure of the area is to be set alongside a figure arrived at by the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor last week, which suggests that 90% of all casualties are civilian. That would be genocide at a rate which exceeds those of the wars waged by the United States on Afghanistan, Iraq, Korea, and Vietnam – as well as Russia’s war on Ukraine.

This is indeed a disproportionate response by the Israeli élite to the attacks by Hamas on October 7. Most of what Netanyahu and the IDF are doing demonstrably constitutes war crimes as if the war in itself were not a crime.

Only a tiny minority of those in Congress and on television, radio podcasts, etc, show any kind of awareness that suffering and slaughter in war are just wrong, no matter the ‘side’. Public comments show virtually no balance supporting the idea of Palestinian survival while rightly insisting that Israelis not face rocket attacks and bombs from anyone.

This is hardly surprising: CNN continues to invite Republican and right-leaning guests and commentators to pronounce on the war in Gaza. Most of them seem to believe that “the other side” (that is, the Arabs) “started it”. The logic of this, of course, is that every war must then be a legitimate act of retaliation. So one wonders where the public at large could obtain even the faintest sense of what the over two million people in Gaza have endured as a result of the Israeli blockade for so long. To assume that the Israeli state has (had) a right to perpetrate such oppression is itself racist because it patronises the (Jewish) population living in Israel, many of whom abhor what is being done to their neighbours. And because it is condescending to generalise about that population and not to insist that many more aspire to a higher standard than those who offer unquestionable support for Netanyahu and his party. This appears to be beyond the powers of political reasoning for those in the U.S. who are invited to provide commentary (and, in many cases, on-the-spot reporting) on the war in Gaza.

Mehdi Hasan is a British journalist. For several years, he has presented a less flinching analysis of the oppressive politics which abounds in the United States on MSNBC. At the end of November, his show was dropped, and Hasan was effectively demoted because of his more balanced view of the attack on Palestine.

Hasan was also trying to accurately reflect that, although few in number, there have been antiwar and pro-peace events. These have received scant attention from the mainstream propaganda outlets, and generally, only then to distort their purpose. In California in mid-November, for example, hundreds of protesters shut down all westbound lanes of the bridge between San Francisco and neighbouring Oakland for several hours; they were demanding that President Biden call for an immediate ceasefire and that the U.S. end military aid to Israel. At the same time, the Jewish-led peace organisation IfNotNow helped to organise a protest at the Democratic National Committee’s headquarters in Washington, D.C. Protesters held hands to block the entrance to the building – in response to which police pepper-sprayed them. They escalated the confrontational nature of the peaceful protestors’ actions.

Fascist propagandist Fox News’, repeatedly describes (such) pro-Palestinian demonstrations and protests – be they never so peaceful and clear in their purpose and message – as “Muslim attacks on America”, a lie clearly designed to foment Islamophobia.

Many seeking and enjoying employment report retaliation when they speak out against the conflict. Jinan Chehade, for instance, is a graduate of Georgetown Law School who had a job offer with prominent law firm Foley & Lardner. But that offer was withdrawn after she was interrogated by the law firm’s partners, having expressed her support for Palestinian rights on social media.

Palestine Legal exists to support and protect those in the U.S. who – to put it bluntly – are capable of acknowledging that two polities (Israel and Palestine) both deserve to have their actions and positions respected when they are legitimate – and condemned when they are not. The group has already received well over 700 requests for support from advocates for Palestinian rights since October 7 – three times the number reported for all of 2022.

So it’s tempting to think that American isolationism and ‘confusion’ about anyone (everyone?) who is not white and ‘local’ makes them fair game for ‘criticism’. Islamophobia might seem to some like a good way to ‘atone’ for – and even ‘disguise’ – past antisemitic behaviour when the majority of people in the United States are pelted with Islamophobic disinformation around the clock. It also helps when binary allegiances are ingrained in the psyche… good vs bad, Democrat vs Republican. It’s as though “standing up for Jews” offers a sort of token virtuousness for having formerly failed to extend support to those portrayed more as victims than aggressors.

It also seems clear that party and left-right politics are playing a much larger role in the media than many people are allowed to know. It was far-right congressperson Elise Stefanik (Republican New York) who was largely responsible for attacking the presidents of three elite universities during a congressional hearing on anti-semitism at the beginning of last week. She did not attempt to define the terms ‘intifada’ and ‘from the river to the sea’. The first typically implies overthrowing oppression; the second has been used by members of Netanyahu’s own Likud party to refer to an enlargement of the rule of one community in Israel at the expense of another.

Yet Stefanik assaulted Pennsylvania President Liz Magill, who later resigned, with the terms in an attempt to besmirch her. It is to be noticed that Stefanik, a Trump supporter, has previously echoed and espoused the racist ‘great replacement theory‘ and stands by Trump while he fraternises and colludes with unashamed anti-semites. At the same time, sources in the educational institutions under fire evidence the fact that it is their right-wing donors who are leading calls for management dismissals. This opinion piece by Robert Reich, former U.S. secretary of labour under Clinton and professor of public policy at the University of California, Berkeley, sets out very well both context and causes for concern when so many positions adopted revolve around money.

Another explanation for what may be little more than crocodile tears when members of the élite decry anti-semitism could well turn out to be the warped ‘prophecies’ of Christian Zionism. Its adherents believe in supporting the State of Israel politically because of its prophetic significance in the trope of End Times. Tellingly, Christian Zionism can be used to support both anti-semitism and the elevation of Israel as the embodiment of many of the values currently advanced so vehemently in the United States. But that movement – and by extension, the belligerent Israeli state – may now, for many, represent a righteousness that must prevail over Islam, which has preoccupied politicians in the United States since well before September 11 2001.

John Hagee is a pastor in San Antonio, Texas, of the Cornerstone ‘megachurch’, which has over 10,000 members. He leads a political group, Christians United for Israel. This has no scruples in – effectively – siding against Palestinians. The group lobbies the U.S. government to maintain its support of Israel in a way that makes no acknowledgement of the slaughter of civilians in the Gaza Strip in their thousands: “We must follow the example of today’s Israeli warriors and the ancient Lions of Judah. The enemies of Israel may try to shake us, but we shall never be moved! Christians United for Israel… stand on the right side of history!”

Hypocrisy is rife: how can the élite in Texas risk the death of a pregnant woman for the spurious dogma of ‘saving a life’ when they support arming the IDF, which takes innocent lives by the hundred each day?

In other words, much of the apparent support of Jewish identity in the light of Israel’s slaughter in Gaza is hypocritical political opportunism and lacks any semblance of nuanced assessment of motives; fails to recognise the damage done by missed opportunities; lacks an understanding of history.


Several documents, speeches and proposals published recently by the Trump fascist cliques make plain – by their own admissions – just how devastating a second term of Trump would be. No, politicians do not usually carry out all they promise; we are well aware. But even if a fraction of these threats from the Trump and MAGA orbits were to be implemented, from this time next year onwards, things could be dire for everyone except some white, rich males.

Most commentators, including experienced watchers and assessors of (usually inflated) campaign rhetoric, are sceptical that much of what Trump has been saying is likely to occur. To emphasise its absurdity also makes good ammunition for the likely Democratic candidate, sitting president Joe Biden.

Nevertheless, Trump and his party took far too many outrageous steps between 2016 and 2020 for us not to be worried. Yes, there would undoubtedly be legal pushback where possible; those attacked would, in theory, have the right to defend themselves. But the ‘justice’ system could well truly be weaponised to engineer revenge on Trump’s opponents and enemies.

At this point in the history of the U.S. – particularly regarding its legal and constitutional politics, there are no checks to prevent Trump from doing what he threatens. As a law professor at the University of Texas School of Law, Stephen Vladeck puts it, “To some degree, we would be in uncharted territory. A lot of the relevant constraints have been norms and not rules. Those norms were enforced not by litigation; those norms were enforced politically. The reality of a second Trump administration will be a lot of novel litigation about these abuses of what were historically norms constraining the executive”.

Trump prizes loyalty to him personally above almost anything else. His personality would mean that he would probably run on revenge to the exclusion of accepted, mature presidential conduct. The chaos and distraction that this would undoubtedly cause would certainly become a significant impediment to tackling the issues (the climate catastrophe – which Trump neither understands nor wants to understand – public health, inequality, and cyber security). These issues – and many more – clearly need massive resources and demand huge, focused attention instead. Even now, Congress is moving to impeach Biden – without being able to produce evidence of wrongdoing. But because… he isn’t Trump.

Trump would eliminate his enemies and political opponents – by using the law, indictments, prosecutions… and, at times, if necessary, violence. He plans to appoint staff who would carry out such ‘eliminations‘.

It’s been known for some time that right-wing Washington think tank, the Heritage Foundation, has a plan in place to put forward literally tens of thousands of appointees vetted as ready to ‘… dismantl[e] the administrative state from day one’. ‘Notes from the U.S.’ has mentioned Project 2025 before. It would participate in many operations to further these processes, which appear to be expanding and gaining greater definition. At its most extreme, Trump and his allies would like to purge the entire federal workforce (about three million U.S. residents, or nearly 2% of the country’s overall workforce) of anyone not loyal to their fascist ‘vision’.

This, of course, is a tactic employed quite successfully by fascist leaders in Hungary (Viktor Orbán) and Poland (Andrzej Duda); these are both figures whom Trump and his acolytes admire. It’s so far unclear, though, whether the MAGA mob approves of this week’s anti-semitic gesture.

There can be no doubt that a future Trump/MAGA presidency would move more decisively still to the racist right and towards fascism. At a rally last month in New Hampshire, Trump pushed the lie that he lost the 2020 election to fraud and – in that context, note – promised to “…root out the communists, Marxists, fascists and the radical left thugs that live like vermin within the confines of our country that lie and steal and cheat on [sic] elections”. Even Biden, who likes to build his (presidential) persona around the model of a family where everyone ‘works together’, said of that speech – one of several in the same chilling vein: “In just the last few days, Trump has said if he returns to office he’s gonna go after all those who oppose him and wipe out what he called the ‘vermin… in America’… it echoes language you heard in Nazi Germany in the 30s… Trump also recently talked about ‘The blood of America is being poisoned’… Again, this echoes the same phrases used in Nazi Germany”. The Trump camp’s stock response is that “…snowflakes grasping for anything because they are suffering from Trump Derangement Syndrome and their sad, miserable existence will be crushed when President Trump returns to the White House”.

Indeed, pursuing an overtly racist – particularly on immigration – agenda would be high on Trump’s list.

This might well start with what a spokesperson for the campaign called “Stopping the invasion at our southern border…” The Agenda/Project 47 platform also envisages rounding up immigrants (‘legal’ as well as ‘illegal’), the building of large camps and mass deportations. If Congress refused to fund such an act, Trump could well resort to what he did in his last term and redirect funds from the Pentagon. He has said that he would re-instate and expand a travel ban on predominantly Muslim countries and bring back Title 42, which was used at the height of the Covid pandemic further to restrict immigration into the country and outlaw welfare payments to undocumented guest workers.

In fact, when asked by Fox News at a ‘debate’ in Iowa (the first state to hold an electoral ‘caucus‘ in a month) whether he “would be a dictator”, Trump joked and said – effectively – “Yes”; and from the off. He has two priorities: to continue the move towards mass extinction on Earth by accelerating the extraction of fossil fuels (“Drill! Drill! Drill!”), and by heightening the fear of ‘the other’ in true fascist fashion – immigrants at the southern border. He reasserted the threat a week or so later in New York.

Although (violent) crime rates in the U.S. are actually falling, Trump has said that he will prioritise its ‘elimination’ by requiring law enforcement agencies to use stop-and-frisk. There would be an enhanced role for the National Guard, and – to ‘combat’ homelessness – ‘tent cities’ would be built and staffed by healthcare workers who would force the homeless either to “move on” or go to jail. Trump has also vowed to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA), known as ‘Obamacare’. This is the healthcare measure passed by the Obama administration in 2010, which – for all its imperfections – is popular and provides healthcare to tens of millions of U.S. residents who would otherwise go without.

Further, Trump and his allies would privatise government agencies, turning the regulation of such organisations as the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and Federal Trade Commission (FTC) into profit-making organs, which would answer directly to President Trump. His branch of government (the executive branch) would be significantly increased in size and power. Regulation and safety measures in force for the public good – environmental, health and safety, industrial and in areas like aviation, pollution and financial standards, etc. – would almost certainly be curtailed and even abandoned in the interests of the exercise of this presidential ‘overhaul’ of public life.

And – of course – Trump is expected to pardon himself (and probably many of his co-conspirators), so absolving himself and them of responsibility for attempting to overturn the 2020 election, mishandling classified documents, financial crimes, and effectively quashing the 91 indictments on which he currently stands accused.

The Trump agenda is absurd. So is the fact that he remains – according to some polls – likely to win the next election despite his… ‘record’. People informed about the dangers of such an ‘agenda’ may easily forget that they live and operate in a two-party ‘democracy’. Voters may still do what democratic theory tells them to do: If you don’t approve of the incumbent (and few could be blamed for disapproving of Joe Biden and his crew), give the other side a chance again.

Those likely to be ‘given a chance’ include public officials such as the chairperson of Florida’s Republican Party, Christian Ziegler. He has been accused of a variety of sexual assaults and is under investigation by the Sarasota Police Department. Ziegler’s wife is co-founder of the fascist censorship group Moms for Liberty, which bans books and harasses transgender and other ‘immoral’ young people. In other words, the couple and their pressure group advocate the absence of exactly what they have been accused of practising. Christian Ziegler has disregarded calls from Florida Governor Ron DeSantis to resign.

‘Notes from the U.S.’ last month described the extent to which Mike Johnson is inappropriate to hold the powerful office he does in Congress. There has been a remarkable number of revelations since he assumed the office of the second most powerful politician in the country. But perhaps the most startling one came last week when Johnson announced at a press conference that when the Republican party released the 44,000 hours of video taken during the violent and lethal insurrection on January 6 2021, which aimed to overturn the 2020 election, the faces of those involved in the violence will be hidden to prevent them from being prosecuted. At the risk of labouring the point, the person who holds the equivalent in the U.K. of Prime Minister is ensuring that the US Justice Department (the equivalent of the U.K.’s Home Office) cannot take action against the armed mob which invaded the equivalent of the Houses of Parliament to reverse the result of the recent general election, which resulted in a clear and unambiguous win for Johnson’s and his party’s opponents.


As Cop28 has almost been paying lip service to the need to eliminate fossil fuels which are destroying (life on) Earth, several recent reports like this one show just how tightly minds in the United States are shut. In 2023, the hottest year ever recorded, most public figures scoff at, downplay or deny the catastrophe already upon us. This year, the U.S. is expected to extract twice as much (12.9 million barrels, or about 160 litres every minute around the clock) oil and gas as it was guilty of doing ten years ago – and is set to continue to increase the amount at least until 2050.

President Biden did not go to COP28. Instead, he began the month – while COP was in session – by auctioning greenhouse gas and oil drilling leases to the tune of $3.4 (£2.7) million. The auction is only the first of many as the U.S. Energy Information Administration itself confirms that the Biden administration has surpassed that of Trump to bring petroleum extraction to its highest level ever.

A new report published at the end of November details just how deadly coal plants in the United States are. It examined deaths recorded by Medicare (the national government health agency for residents 65 years and older) due to fine particulates known as PM2.5 from nearly 500 coal plants; it concludes that between 1999 and 2020, nearly half a million (or nearly three every hour, around the clock) people died unnecessarily.

Last month, authorities in the education administration of Texas spent several days deciding which science textbooks should be adopted by pupils aged 13 to 14. Amongst the books proposed yet rejected were those containing ‘too much’ information about the climate crisis, those published by companies known to have ‘environmentally-friendly policies’, and those which described fossil fuels positively but insufficiently. Within only a couple of weeks, an analysis published in the journal ‘Science‘ suggested that the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere – due to human activity – has not been so high as it is now for 14 million years. Again, 2023 has been confirmed as the hottest year on record.

Books which dealt with evolution but not creationism were also rejected. Texas was also in the news earlier this month when its Republican Party’s executive committee voted 32-29 that Republican Party members may freely associate with anyone (individual or organisation) ‘…known to espouse or tolerate anti-semitism, pro-Nazi sympathies or Holocaust denial…’


Towards the end of last month, a federal appeals panel ruled on election law which will adversely affect black voters. The Voting Rights Act, in force since 1965, attempted to prevent (mostly supremacists in) southern states from discriminating against African Americans by imposing culture-specific ‘tests’ that would prevent or discourage them from registering to vote. Until this two-one decision by the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals, individuals and advocacy groups could take legal action when (such) racist steps were taken or suspected – by challenging them in court. Now, such bodies as The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) can no longer protect minority voters in this way. Trump-appointed Judge David Stras wrote the majority ruling. Sophia Lin Lakin, who is director of the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project, said that the ruling is “a travesty for democracy… [it] has put the Voting Rights Act in jeopardy, tossing aside critical protections that voters fought and died for.”

In October, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the rough equivalent of the DHSC in the U.K., published a policy document, the ‘Gender Identity Non-Discrimination and Inclusion Policy for Employees and Applicants’. It is intended to reduce sex discrimination. In particular, the move mandated that the HHS employees use their colleagues’ preferred names and pronouns. At the end of last month, two fascist lawmakers – the notorious Texan trumper, Senator Ted Cruz and Representative Andy Ogles of Tennessee – introduced bicameral legislation misleadingly called the ‘Safeguarding Free Speech Act’. This would specifically disrespect those employees by banning all federal government employees and federally-funded bodies from using anything other than a person’s legal name and the pronouns that correspond with the sex which they were assigned at birth.

Happy Holidays!

~ Louis Further

Image: Rod Webber

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