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.
Trump
While not being in any way truly radical, the media giant CNN has been consistently critical of Trump during his presidency. Now that it is over, CNN has published a statistical summary contrasting his time in office with that of some of his recent predecessors. It makes interesting – and at times startling – reading.
The turnover rate of his senior advisors is more than 90%, for instance. His executive orders (directives with no backing or consensus even from elected representatives in Congress) have been issued at a rate of one every 72 hours. He has also spent about a fifth of his days as president golfing. As was pointed out in last month’s ‘Notes from the US‘, Trump has ordered more Federal judicial murders than any president in 75 years. And has been the president to have caused the most damage and destruction to the environment.
On the day before Trump incited his followers to storm the seat of the US government (it’s looking increasingly likely that (some members of) the Capitol ‘law’ ‘enforcement’ agencies abetted – and perhaps even colluded with – those attempting the Putsch), a newly-elected Congressperson from Illinois, Mary Miller, appeared to praise or compliment Hitler: “Hitler was right on one thing. He said, ‘Whoever has the youth has the future.'”
At the time this month’s ‘Notes’ goes live, though, it is fair to say that the situation nationally is at best uncertain and at worst extremely tense and threatening. Trump himself aside, it is clear that there is a sizeable and significant ‘army’ of armed, determined and ruthless fascist militias who appear to be planning what they call a Civil War if the government moves to impeach or otherwise disable Trump and refuses to reverse the result of the election. There are fears that the inauguration of Biden on 20 January could also see nationwide violence and destruction, deaths and further attempts at ‘coups’.
At this stage the pertinent question is not whether more fascist insurgency is planned, or where, or even when (some sources – including the FBI– say that every State Capitol could be affected from 16 January onwards); but how large the numbers of the fascist militias actually are, and how great or small the possibility is that they could be prevented from acting in the immediate and longer term.
As could have been predicted, members of Congress have now begun to contract Covid-19 because they were forced to shelter in place during the attack at the Capitol on 6 January with Republican lawmakers and staff who refused to wear masks. Bonnie Watson Coleman (New Jersey, Democrat), a 75-year-old cancer survivor, Brad Schneider and Pramila Jayapal have all now tested positive after being mocked by Republicans for wanting to wear a mask during the incident. This is in addition to the six Republicans who have previously tested positive since the 117th Congress was sworn in on 3 January. It could be said that the Republicans additionally staged a super-spreader event inside the Capitol on 6 January.
Donald Trump has certainly unleashed a monster. It seems likely that its toxicity and danger will outlive him.
Environment
Public Citizen has produced a similar ‘rap sheet’ of Trump’s crimes against the Earth. It makes grim reading.
The estimated population of the Monarch butterfly, for instance, has fallen by 90%. Yet Trump has refused to grant the insects protection as an Endangered Species and has failed to do anything to halt the degradation and destruction of habitat which would go some way – along with a substantial reduction in emissions of greenhouse gases – to help. This news comes at the same time as a clutch of new papers from over 50 scientists warns yet again that decline in insect life will worsen not only the deficit in biodiversity, but deepen the crises in agriculture and survival of other lifeforms. ‘The Global Decline of Insects in the Anthropocene Special Feature’ was published last week in Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences alongside a related news article. It shows how chemical, light, and sound pollution; invasive species; land-use changes; nitrification; pesticides; and urbanisation are leading to an ‘insect apocalypse.’
Just after last month’s ‘Notes from the US’ was published, as threatened, Trump also gutted the Endangered Species Act more widely thereby producing devastating consequences for some of North America’s most iconic species… the grizzly bear, whooping cranes, and Pacific salmon.
There is fight back, however: members of the San Carlos Apache Nation in Arizona called a day of action on 21 December to resist the building of copper mine in a sacred portion of the Tonto National Forest. If the proposal goes ahead large areas of ancient forest known as Oak Flat would be razed, and much of southern Arizona would be contaminated. Trump’s action is part of his manic give-aways to friends and supporters in the last month or so of his term. Here he’s trying to transfer massive amounts of federal land to oil, gas and mining companies. Also planned is a uranium mine in South Dakota, an open-pit lithium mine in Nevada, and a natural gas pipeline, which would run through Virginia and West Virginia and cross under the Appalachian Trail.
Pandemic
Immediately before Christmas, the state legislature in Oregon met in the special legislative session to continue its work in helping to prevent the spread of Covid-19. Far-right protesters including the group Patriot Prayer stormed the statehouse to disrupt the session. They attacked security guards with chemical sprays and assaulted journalists. There is evidence that a Republican lawmaker welcomed them in. Now that the (response to) the pandemic has been largely politicised, the actions of such groups in support of the end of public health restrictions have become common, if not yet commonplace. For instance, the mayor of Dodge City (Kansas), Joyce Warsaw, has resigned her position after receiving threats because of her support for a mask mandate in the city.
Untangling Trump’s motive for delaying then appearing to want (US$2,000/£1,500 in) the so-called stimulus cheques for those affected by the Covid-19 pandemic are about as clear as his claim that he had received a Nobel Peace Prize. He hasn’t. Senate majority leader McConnell managed to scupper the deal thereby depriving those in need of such relief for the Holidays. The reasons for this certainly aren’t lack of funds: in the face of opposition from the public and some members of Congress because of the human rights records of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen, Trump pushed through deals involving weapons worth US$4.5 (£3.3) billion to these countries.
Deliberate ‘super-spreader’ events designed to flout the law, make political points and have sickness and death prevail over care and common sense seem to be growing in number and scope. Chief clown, Sean Feucht, came to Los Angeles, for example, on New Year’s Eve to infect as many people attending his rallies as possible. Local hospitals were already turning away the ill and dying. Ambulance crews in the area were – and still are – under instructions to allow those whom paramedics doubt might die to do so. In Wisconsin a health care worker owned up to deliberately spoiling over 500 doses of vaccine by removing 57 vials from refrigeration in the pharmacy of the Aurora Medical Center in Grafton, a village of about 12,000 20 miles north of Milwaukee. A clear MAGA gesture.
Although he later rescinded his directive, the Governor of Nebraska, Pete Ricketts, announced that guest workers at meatpacking plants in his state will not be allowed to receive the coronavirus vaccine: “You’re supposed to be a legal resident of the country to be able to be working in those plants, so I do not expect that illegal immigrants will be part of the vaccine with that program.”
Racism
As part of Trump’s attack on immigrants, he has ordered a number of changes which have harmed their status. Amongst these is his insistence that undocumented residents living in the United States not be included in the final census count carried out in 2020. Because in part the census is designed to better assess the needs (especially economic) of the whole of the population, such exclusion potentially disadvantages the immigrant community. A lawsuit was brought, however, to challenge this order. In the middle of last month, the US Supreme Court dismissed that suit.
In sum, not a good start to 2021. Things look likely to change rapidly in the next few days and weeks. As always, Freedom is committed to reporting the facts, illuminating their causes and consequences, and illustrating the apparent trends.
Louis Further

Image: Marco Verch, published under CC BY 2.0.