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.

Absurdity

Let’s start – once again – with recent events which nicely typify the way the Trump gang is now conducting itself (in public). Two little scenes show him prematurely shutting down his press conferences and running away from reporters’ challenges to his lies. About Covid-19 in this clip, where Trump suggests that the SARS-CoV-2 is able to distinguish between ‘political’ and ‘public’ events. And here, where he lists changes to regulations for one of which he was not responsible – but claims he was. It is to be noted that Trump also suggests that if you “…don’t love …vets…” (veteran soldiers who may have terrorised civilians overseas), you can lose your job!

Talking of the absurd and of indications of just how sick Donald Trump is: White House aides last year apparently asked the governor of South Dakota, Kristi Noem, to explore the possibility that Trump’s head is added to the giant sculptures at Mount Rushmore, where he recently held a super-spreader event as well. This request was made, presumably, at about the same time as Trump tried to ‘buy’ Greenland.

Stella Immanuel could at best be described as a vehement advocate of ‘alternative medicine’, if that phrase covers a belief that ‘alien DNA’ is used to make certain medicaments; that scientists are developing a vaccine to prevent people from being religious; that witches and demons are to blame for certain medical conditions; that some women have sex with people in a dream world… “They turn into a woman and then they sleep with the man and collect his sperm… then they turn into the man and they sleep with a man and deposit the sperm and reproduce more of themselves”; and that gay marriage can result in adults marrying children.

Two people who obviously endorse this way of looking at the world – as well as Immanuel (who runs her ‘surgery’ from a small row of shops in Houston and believes that hydroxychloroquine will cure everyone) – are Donald Trump junior, whose Twitter account was limited for all of 12 hours at the end of last month because he expressed support for Immanuel, and his father.

That’s right, the President of the USA, retweeted what Donald junior had posted; he then refused to disavow his re-enforcement of such dangerous material; and later walked out of a press conference – yet another one – when challenged by a reporter from CNN about his endorsement – at least electronically – of such ‘alternative medicines’.

Covid-19

A good case could credibly be made that a pupil in their first year at Secondary School with a basic understanding of maths, biology and some simple social studies would see that the rush to ‘re-open’ the economy of the United States, at both State and National level, would lead to disaster if it were done long before any of the accepted epidemiological criteria for it to be safe to do so had been met.

A smattering of life experience and common sense possessed by a Middle Schooler would have led them instinctually to see that such a re-opening was at best very risky.

So it will surely puzzle adults and young people alike that Trump drove such a ‘re-opening’ as hard (and effectively) as he did.

Unless, that is, they attribute such a drive to one or more of the following three distressing aspects of his ‘thinking’:

1 – Denial: my wishful thinking resonates with more of those likely to vote for me in November than any and all scientific, epidemiological and historical principles, data and precedent

2 – Minimisation: in order to be re-elected in November I have to portray myself as more successful in ‘dealing’ with the pandemic than even the least informed voter can conceive that I have been, am, and could or will be

3 – Stupidity: I am essentially willfully ignorant. Good, old-fashioned stupidity. I mustn’t let anyone else’s reaction to, or commentary on, my actions guide me in any way… I am sufficiently narcissistic and mentally unbalanced for my stupidity to be the only acceptable default position.

In the United States, this last month news and ‘opinion’ in the media and online is again saturated by the pandemic – after the protests launched and inspired largely by Black Lives Matter in response to the murder by police in Minneapolis of George Floyd on 25 May. Things are very different, though, from five (or even two) months ago. The country looks set to career down a course of collective suicide.

At its worse, this could be of Biblical proportions with many millions eventually dead… Anthony Fauci hinted in the middle of July that the effects of Covid-19 might eventually be comparable with those of the ‘Spanish Flu’ in 1918/19. (Trump still insists on getting the date wrong…”The 1917 flu”.)

With a bit of luck, goodwill, and hopefully with measures inspired by adult values implemented by Joe Biden if he is elected in November (no matter how unattractive as a political figure and part of this political system he may be in other ways) the death toll could be kept under a quarter of a million by, say, the end of this year.

But in all likelihood the pandemic will condemn many millions (perhaps the majority, adults, children and their children) to suffer as yet unknown after- and side-effects for the rest of their lives… susceptibility to blood clots, brain damage, further compromised respiratory and immune systems, complex physical impairment.

By itself, the fact that there is so very much about the virus which we just don’t know should have caused the Trump administration to be cautious and minimise (not downplay and refuse to acknowledge) as many risks as possible.

So why didn’t this happen? And – of even greater concern – why isn’t it happening now? Why is the Trump gang’s sadism, infantile bullying – and dogged insistence on committing mass murder by forcing children back into unsafe school environments, for instance – still prevailing?

In some ways, the answers are quite simple.

It’s human to act out of suppressed and perhaps subconscious fear. If we refuse to acknowledge a danger, perhaps it will go away. Perhaps it doesn’t really exist at all anyway.

Cognitively impaired adults can convince themselves that if they don’t worry, that must be because there is nothing to worry about – a kind of reverse logic.

Such flawed logic has been bellowed out by the deniers for months now: more people die of ‘the flu’, TB and on the roads. False in all cases and – even were they correct – such sophistry would not justify also allowing Covid-19 to rage almost unchecked as it is doing.

Looking at worry from an emotional angle, it may (also) seem as though those (in the government) who could have addressed the pandemic relatively easily by a coordinated national programme to trace, test and treat actually abandoned any hope of doing so about six weeks ago at the start of July.

So, Trump at their head, they distract their followers (and to some extent gullible people more generally) by introducing irrelevant bogies into the news cycles, tweets and speeches. They chatter on about the wicked rioters, a ‘leftist takeover’, the shortcomings of the Democrat opponents for president, dishwashers, preserving statues, windows, windmills and methods of voting (mail-in), which are actually as reliable as any others, but likely to disadvantage him… Yes Trump has flapped about with all of these – and many more – irrelevances and sillinesses in the last month. CNN published a breakdown of his lies egregious enough to remove most public figures before this hoggery gained the momentum which it has.

Most alarming, though, is the ‘official’ denial movement (on which Freedom has reported and commented before). It has grown dramatically since June. Its advocates make five basic claims, which are (implicitly) endorsed and encouraged by Trump and his party and their followers and supporters. They are each as vile and absurd as one another:

1 – the pandemic is much less physiologically harmful than the ‘communist media’ is claiming; the stats are simply wrong

2 – the pandemic either was introduced and/or is being engineered by wicked communist state governors in order to take away our god-given rights as freeborn Americans

3 – it’s a sign of weakness to ‘give in’ to science; I can survive this by myself… no mask needed… social distancing an imposition

4 – the rest of you can go to hell: your health is not my concern; if you’re scared, stay indoors

5 – I gain strength by loudly browbeating everyone else with the first four assertions in order to be part of a highly visible and vocal (‘no-nonsense’) tribe deferring to the cult of Trump.

The result of community spread exacerbated by this denial and hoaxism in the United States: nearly five and a half million cases with 50,000 new cases and 1,000 dead each and every day; and 170,000 dead.

Wearing masks to protect others is now utterly and probably irretrievably a political issue. It seems likely that any nationwide mandate attempted by Biden in November would be disregarded. Now the selfish pick and choose which measures suit them.

Look at Mike DeWine, the Republican governor of Ohio. In March he was one of those governors who took the lead, aggressively shutting the state down in response to the pandemic. In April – as pressure grew to re-open everywhere – DeWine suggested that if businesses wanted to re-open then both their employees and every customer would have to wear masks. But the backlash was so severe, so vocal – and so personally, physically threatening in mass opposition to this idea and against DeWine – on social media, in person, by phone and with angry scenes on the spot – that DeWine backed down. He ended up saying that “[…asking people to wear a mask] is offensive to some of our fellow Ohioans… I understand that.” No mandate. What’s more, Ohio Republican state Representative, Nino Vitale, actually posted a request on Facebook for people to stop getting tested. Ohio was not alone in such moves: at about the same time as this conservative intimidation worked, a circuit judge in Kentucky ordered Governor Andy Beshear to stop issuing or enforcing executive orders related to Covid-19. Eventually DeWine tested positive for the virus (although it seems as though a reversal of this result the same day illustrates just how unreliable the testing still is).

To be fair, when faced with a calamity of the proportions of the Covid-19 pandemic, one may have some sort of bitter sympathy for the minimisers, hoaxers and deniers. They’ve created a monster. What else can they do? They have to avoid losing face. So of course it’s a hoax.

But they don’t ask: What has to happen (and when, how) to prevent the entire population of the US (325 million) from eventually becoming infected carriers? And so it goes on.

One small question remains: is there even a tiny chance that the USA will now adopt (or even act with even a minimal semblance of) an adult response to the climate catastrophe? Stranger things have happened; but it really doesn’t seem likely now.

Racism

Even after weeks of protests, it’s obvious that prominent members of the white élite couldn’t really care less about showing even token support for the black struggle. On 17 July two black civil rights leaders (John Lewis and Cordy Tindell (‘C.T.’) Vivian) both died – of natural causes. Both Senator Dan Sullivan (Alaska) and darling of the far-right, Marco Rubio (Florida), posted pictures on their websites/social media feeds of Elijah Cummings, who had died last October. Presumably one black man looks much like another, but will do for a photo opportunity and to shed crocodile tears.

Meanwhile Arkansas Republican senator Tom Cotton said that the enslavement of millions of African people was a “…necessary evil upon which the union was built.” A short time later Cotton introduced a bill in the senate to deprive schools of funds if they include the ‘1619 Project’ in their curricula. “Not a single cent of federal funding should go to indoctrinate young Americans with this left-wing garbage,” Cotton said.

The 1619 is an initiative promoted by the ‘New York Times’ national newspaper. It aims to present a more accurate view of American history by drawing attention to the fact that a group of slaves was brought to Jamestown, Virginia in 1619. The project proposes 1619 as a more significant ‘starting date’ for the United States than those usually cited. This is both because the country was founded on slavery and because 20% of the population of the original 13 colonies was composed of black slaves. They were treated as objects; they led lives of unparalleled oppression. The 1619 Project advocates that this portion of the United States’ past must no longer be sanitised, but faced.

Meanwhile in In Conway, Arkansas, prosecutors have cleared several officers of criminal charges which were brought as a result of their violent arrest in February of 39-year-old Lionel Morrisa. He died after being repeatedly punched in the back, tasered while on the ground, and pinned under the knee of one of the police. Like so many other (young) black males he too protested, “I can’t breathe”.

“If you can talk, you can breathe. Chill out,” was the response from one of the police recently exonerated.

Retired general and Fox ‘News’ contributor Anthony Tata has often promoted Islamophobic conspiracy theories (that former President Barack Obama was a ‘terrorist leader’; that Islam was the ‘most oppressive violent religion…’; and that former CIA Director John Brennan ordered the assassination of Trump in 2018). Suitable for a senior public and diplomatic office? You bet. Tata has been picked by Trump as the Pentagon’s next undersecretary of defence for policy.

Oppression

Recently Trump consulted John Yoo on how the law can be ‘skirted’. Yoo was the lawyer responsible for trying to justify illegal torture ten years or so ago by the Bush gang in Iraq. Now armed and unmarked national stormtroopers continue to attempt – illegally – to suppress protestors in a number of cities across the US, notably Portland (Oregon) and Seattle (Washington). They have started to use a new (and equally illegal) tactic. Protesters are being arrested for offences as trivial as ‘failing to obey’ an order to get off the pavement on federal property. Those arresting them (often without identification and using unmarked vehicles) then make it a condition of their release that they agree not to protest again.

As discussions in Congress continue to advance wholly inadequate ‘relief’ packages for those affected by the pandemic, the Senate passed its version of the National Defense Authorization Act allocating US$740.5 (£570) billion to the Pentagon; 37 Democrats joined the Republicans in supporting the proposal.

A number of prominent (mostly pro-Trump) public figures have begun to appear with QAnon imagery and slogans online and in other published statements. Indeed, it is highly likely that one Marjorie Taylor Greene will be elected in November to represent the conservative 14th congressional district in Georgia. She won a primary defeating another Republican this week; and will thus become QAnon’s first potential spokesperson in Congress.

The head of the New York Police Department’s second-largest police union, Ed Mullins, gave a television interview last month while sitting in front of a mug carrying QAnon imagery… roughly seven minutes on the Fox ‘News’ show ‘Your World with Neil Cavuto’. Fox ‘News’ is notorious, of course, for its lies and rabid pro-Trump/Fascist propaganda. Media Matters for America (MMFA) produced a report detailing over 250 untruths, distortions and instances of misinformation on the pandemic, its science and effects – between 6th and 10th July alone!

Environment

Last month Trump removed a major impediment for the proposed Pebble Mine in Alaska, which would be one of the world’s largest copper and gold mines. The multi-million dollar scheme would poison and destroy large areas of that part of the state; it has attracted vigorous opposition for nearly two decades.
The wrecking and destruction continue on many fronts.
Louis Further