Notes From the US: A gulf in green expectations

Louis Further rounds up the latest happenings in US politics from an anarchist perspective.

Environment: The oncoming Gulf storm

In early December the Center for Biological Diversity filed a formal ‘notice of intent’ to sue the Trump gang for its plans to further wreck the ecology of (marine) life in waters in the Gulf Coast — Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi. Earlier this month, those threats were expanded — actually illegally (for not following a specified consultation process) to include every marine state except Florida, where Trump has one if his main ‘winter retreats’ … and many corrupt supporters.

Trump’s aggressive and destructive Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that it had finalised a new Clean Water Act permit two months earlier to promote new and existing offshore oil and gas platforms. This was effectively to allow for the dumping of waste from fracking and drilling into the Gulf of Mexico, without considering the detrimental effect it will have on marine life.

As he falsely claims to have passed more legislation than any other president in his first year, and crowed over his plans to destroy the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge by opening it to oil and gas drilling, there were some checks and balances which Trump did abolish or diminish. They include those to regulate nursing homes and safety regulations for offshore drilling brought into effect after the Deepwater Horizon disaster in 2010; and reducing the age at which it would be legal to handle certain farm pesticides — despite evidence that young people are particularly susceptible to such toxins..

Oppression: Abuse of prisoners

Towards the end of last year the United Nations special rapporteur on torture called on authorities in the United States to investigate and consider criminal charges after viewing almost two dozen video extracts from prisons obtained by Reuters from jails in Franklin County, Ohio; Cheatham County, Tennessee; Franklin County, Arkansas; and McCurtain County, Oklahoma. The abuse of prisoners with tasers in particular was so sever as to constitute torture.

As the number of public figures forced to resign for abusive sexual misconduct or worse grows (all except one — the president — who has frequently boasted about his misconduct), comments by the president’s choice for Alabama’s Senate race, Roy Moore, resurfaced on Social Media last month. In September 2017 at a rally in Florence, Alabama, Moore told an African-American audience member that the last time America was ‘great’ was when slavery was legal. Moore was defeated.

The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) released its report on the global arms trade last month. It reveals that killing and destruction are major sources of profit for those half of the 20 major sellers of weapons (including Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Raytheon, and Northrop Grumman — all actually in the ‘top’ five) which are from the United States. The hundred largest producers reaped well over a billion dollars daily (or about £540 million a minute) in 2016. And the trend is rising.

Just before the Holidays the Washington Post reported that the Trump administration has has actually barred top federal health officials from using seven words or phrases in the spheres of abortion, sexuality and science in official documents. An anonymous whistleblower said that policy analysts at the Centers for Disease Control were instructed never to use the words ‘foetus’, ‘entitlement’, ‘vulnerable’, ‘diversity’, ‘transgender’, ‘evidence-based’ or ‘science-based’.

In the days immediately preceding the Holidays last year a federal judge dismissed an ethics lawsuit against President Trump, which alleged Trump had violated the Emoluments Clause of the US Constitution by accepting foreign government money through the new Trump International Hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington DC. The plaintiffs, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) plans to appeal.

At about the same time, Trump fired the remaining 16 members of his HIV/AIDS council in letters delivered to them by FedEx. Six members themselves resigned in protest earlier in 2017  because “[Trump] … has no strategy to address the ongoing HIV/AIDS epidemic, seeks zero input from experts to formulate HIV policy, and — most concerning — legislation that will harm people living with HIV and halt or reverse important gains made in the fight against this disease”.

The New York Times reported late last year how the Department of Homeland Security has dramatically extended its global reach. Thousands of agents are now deployed in over 70 countries worldwide — at sea on Coast Guard ships and in surveillance planes.

Not typical, but indicative of the atmosphere in some parts of the United States, a middle school teacher was handcuffed and pushed to the ground in Vermilion Parish, Louisiana at an evening meeting in early January. Deyshia Hargrave was physically removed from a school board (governors) meeting because she questioned her district’s (LEA) decision to give its superintendent a pay increase ($38,000 or £28,000) at the same time as teachers’ salaries are static and class sizes increase. Hargrave was properly recognised by the board for a second time during the meeting; but then approached by a city marshal, ordered to gather her belongings and leave the room. It was then that she was handcuffed.

Hearings to confirm Trump’s nominee for Health and Human Services, Alex Azar, began early in January. He is a former pharmaceuticals executive and so spent most of the hearings avoiding answering questions about his ruthless price increases against patients’ best interests; and his plan to wreck the safety net health provision for seniors, Medicaid. Most starling, perhaps, was his record when – as president of Eli Lilly’s U.S. operations — he oversaw testing of the erectile dysfunction drug, Cialis, on children, in an effort to extend a patent that was soon to expire.

Economics: Champion of the unequal

In case some of them tricked you into thinking that legislators who appear to say the right thing have scruples, look at the conduct of Tennessee Republican Senator Bob Corker. He initially objected to the great Trump tax scam (which benefits big corporations, multimillionaires, private equity managers, private schools, liquor stores, lawyers, tax accountants and President Trump and his family), which was passed before the Holidays. After it was rewritten to slash taxes on income from real estate limited companies, Corker threw his support behind it. He is a real estate tycoon, who stands to pay over a $1 million (£730,000) less in taxes; while the top 15 corporations receive receive a combined $236 (£176) billion tax cut.

At the same time, a senior United Nations monitor issued a scathing report on poverty in the United States. Philip Alston characterises the Trump administration and Republican party as turning the US into the ‘world champion of extreme inequality’; he warned that the tax bill will shift huge amounts of wealth to the richest earners yet make life harder for the 41 million Americans living in poverty.


Pic: Deepwater Horizon on fire in April 2010