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.

Environment

Just when you thought you’d heard every possible turn of oafish lunacy which the Trump gang could come up with in trying to respond to climate change, take a look at what warmonger, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (the same who seems to be preparing to attack Venezuela), had to say about the Arctic on the very day when the UN released its alarming report on the extent and rate of humans’ destruction of the Earth during a visit to Rovaniemi, Finland.
Referring to the rapidly diminishing ice levels, Pompeo actually said: “The Arctic is at the forefront of opportunity and abundance. It houses 13% of the world’s undiscovered oil, 30% of its undiscovered gas, an abundance of uranium, rare earth minerals, gold, diamonds, and millions of square miles of untapped resources, fisheries galore. Steady reductions in sea ice are opening new passageways and new opportunities for trade. This [climate disaster] could potentially slash the time it takes to travel between Asia and the West by as much as 20 days. Arctic sea lanes could become the 21st century Suez and Panama Canals.”
Talking of Venezuela, and the US élite’s efforts to destabilise the country for its oil, in early May Trump cut off the power supply to the Venezuelan embassy in Washington DC. And by the second weekend this month appeared to have caused a material threat to life and limb by cutting off water and other essential utilities there.
On the positive side, in April Boston’s legislative body unanimously passed an ordinance designed to protect the environment, workers, animal welfare, and promote healthful eating.
Included in the new regulations are measures aimed to support those producers who employ sustainable production systems when they reduce or eliminate synthetic pesticides and fertilisers; which avoid the use of hormones, antibiotics and genetic engineering; which conserve soil and water; which protect and enhance wildlife habitat and biodiversity; and which reduce on-farm energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.
Also encouraged is the protection of agricultural workers’ rights to free association; union organising; collective bargaining; and access to health insurance and affordable child care. Those responsible for these regulations hope also to promote health and well-being by advocating generous portions of vegetables, fruit, and whole grains; reducing salt, added sugars, fats, and oils; and by eliminating artificial additives.
Last month Trump yet again used his powers as virtual dictator to try and restart the disastrous Keystone XL pipeline from Alberta (Canada) to Texas. His new permit states that pipeline company TransCanada has the authority ‘to construct, connect, operate, and maintain pipeline facilities at the international border of the United States and Canada at Phillips County, Montana, for the import of oil from Canada to the United States.’ May Boeve, executive director at 350.org said, “This is a ridiculous attempt by Trump to skirt due process to benefit an oil corporation.”
In 2010 the drilling platform, Deepwater Horizon, owned by BP exploded in the Gulf of Mexico. It caused the worst offshore oil disaster, pollution and destruction in the United States’ history and killed nearly a dozen people. As almost always happens, the élites, BP, safety officials said, “Never again!”
But now it is more likely to happen again thanks to one man, Donald Trump. Dictator-like, he announced at the beginning of May that the safety requirements put in place after the disaster (actually rather weak ones, justly criticised by environmentalists at the time) will now be “easier to meet”. Some were even described by Interior Secretary David Bernhardt as ‘unnecessary’! The safeguards will be removed, it seems, so as to save the oil industry over US$1.5 (£1.2) billion over the next 10 years. Nine years ago an estimated 3.19 million barrels (more than 130 million gallons) of oil were poured into the Gulf of Mexico; so you might want to make a guess as to how many it will be next time.
Then towards the end of April Trump announced plans to open over one million acres of public land in California to oil drilling and fracking.

Racism

Although Affirmative Action has drawn criticism, the reasons why Trump wishes to abolish it are purely racist ones. Last month the US Education Department started to require the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center medical school to discontinue their policies of taking race into consideration when making decisions on admissions. This seems like a test case which puts other (potentially all) institutions of higher education on notice that if they (continue to) attempt to ensure equitable intake where ethnic origin is concerned they risk federal scrutiny… and conceivably loss of funds.
Days after Trump vetoed a bipartisan and bicameral vote to end US complicity in war, war crimes, atrocities and genocide in Yemen, Attorney General William Barr issued an order which would detain thousands of asylum seekers indefinitely. Reversing existing policy, immigration judges would no longer be able to order their release. This appears to be against international law. Omar Jadwat of the ACLU’s (American Civil Liberties Union) Immigrants’ Rights Project said, “This is the Trump administration’s latest assault on people fleeing persecution and seeking refuge in the United States. Our Constitution does not allow the government to lock up asylum seekers without basic due process. We’ll see the administration in court.”
The Trump administration announced that it is planning to spend US$40 (£31) million to build two ‘tent cities’ in which to imprison migrant families – including children – in southern Texas; this indicates that the administration aims to admit and process as few claims for entry as possible as the hot weather approaches.
In 2009 former Army 1st Lieutenant Michael Behenna, of Oklahoma, was convicted of murder in the death of an Iraqi combatant; he was sentenced to 25 years in prison. Earlier this month Donald Trump issued a full pardon for Behenna, showing his allegiance to and preference and support for white American terrorists over Muslims.
At a recent ‘rally’ (why is an sitting president still holding rallies?) in Florida, Donald Trump laughed and muttered in approval when a member of the audience shouted “Shoot them!” in response to Trump’s re-iteration of his anger at the (actually non-existent) ‘flood’ of non-whites into the United States… “We don’t let them [border security agents shoot immigrants] and we can’t let them use weapons. We can’t. Other countries do. We can’t. I would never do that. But how do you stop these people?”

Oppression

This month the number of judges at all levels appointed by Trump passed the 100 milestone. Since many of these are reactionary right-wingers, the negative effects from their tenure of judicial office from the local to the national will last decades after Trump (or Biden) are long gone, many observers express greater concern at such appointments than at the outcome of elections.
If Texas lawmakers get their way, pregnant women in the state who feel they have no alternative to abortion would face the death penalty for ‘homicide’. The ‘Abolition of Abortion in Texas Act’ or House Bill 896, introduced by Republican Tony Tinderholt, concentrates on this – and would take those women’s lives if passed.
At exactly the same time as North Korea launched its latest test missile, Trump quietly announced that his administration would no longer make details of the size of the US nuclear weapons arsenal public, as has been done for many years. Last year, the State Department reported that the United States had 3,822 nuclear warheads stockpiled.
According to budgetary disclosures made in April, it is now projected that the United States will spend more on its military in 2020 than at any point since the Second World War except for a few years at the height of the country’s war on Iraq. Even the Democrats’ counter-proposal of US$733 (£568) billion (or the equivalent of about £1 for each child, woman and man in the US every six hours around the clock day in day out) to Trump’s requested US$750 (£581) billion in Pentagon spending represents a large increase over the Pentagon’s 2019 budget.
In November 2017 Laura Loomer tweeted that she was late for a conference because she was unable to find a ‘… non Muslim cab, Uber or Lyft driver…’ She called for the creation of a ride-sharing company which did not employ Muslims. Paul Joseph Watson is someone with whom Freedom readers are likely to be familiar. Both Loomer and Watson are among those individuals and organisations banned by Facebook earlier this month. Trump was quick to tweet (a dozen times within as many hours) in their support. That’s right, he openly sides with the likes of Watson, Loomer and far-right conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, who promotes the idea that non-white people are responsible for the genocide of the ‘white race’.
When former vice-president Joe Biden announced his candidature for the 2020 presidential elections, many apparent ‘liberals’ and Democrats responded with sighs of relief… “Good old Joe!”, “If he’s running, we’re safe at last”, “Joe Biden? Former Vice President and all-round nice guy – what can go wrong?” A great deal would go wrong if he did manage to beat Trump: he believes that women should be allowed to choose their right to abortion, but that no federal funding should be provided to help; he voted No on gay marriage in 2008; in favour of the war on Iraq and so on. Nor was Biden alone amongst leading/prominent Democrats in expressing support for military intervention in Venezuela.
In fact, Biden – although he is now considered the front-runner – holds views very far from those hoped for by a majority of likely Democrat voters according to a new poll published by CNN at the start of May. Rather, they support aggressive climate policies and Medicare for all – policies unlikely to be endorsed by the Democrat establishment.
In the same week in which it looked as though school shootings were slowly but surely becoming a daily occurrence, a measure became law in Florida (last year 17 people were killed at a school in Parkland in that state last year) which will allow teachers to keep firearms in the classroom.

Economics

The Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy produced a new analysis last month – just ahead of tax day in the United States. It shows how tax policy under Trump is benefitting large corporations to such a huge level that twice as many large companies will pay nothing in federal taxes for 2018 as have managed to avoid tax in previous years. Fully 60 companies – including Amazon, Netflix, Activision Blizzard, General Motors, and IBM – employed what the report calls ‘a diverse array of legal tax breaks’ actually to allow them to pay no tax whatsoever, despite very large profits.
Louis Further