Louis Further’s latest roundup of goings-on in the USA.
The Trump administration’s racist agenda took a new turn recently when officials at the Department of Homeland Security announced a proposal to arrest, detain, and then prosecute adults who attempt to cross the border between the US and Mexico border with their children. Lee Gelernt, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union commented that this would make “children as young as two and three years old pawns in a cruel public policy experiment”.
- Although responsible for more drone attacks than any other president, Obama did make it obligatory to report on the numbers of deaths caused by such aggression. The Trump administration, however, recently ignored, and so flouted, two major deadlines for such disclosures: both civilian and military deaths were reported neither to Congress nor publicly.
- Lewis ‘Scooter’ Libby was a corrupt chief of staff to former Vice President Dick Cheney. In 2007 he was convicted of lying under oath and obstruction of justice during the investigation into the leaking of the identity of covert CIA operative Valerie Plame. Plame’s husband — a US ambassador — challenged the Bush-Cheney narrative for invading Iraq. Although Bush commuted Libby’s sentence, it took Trump to pardon Libby; this he did in early April.
- It’s hard not to concentrate on Trump: ‘The Art of the (Self) Deal: Political and Taxpayer Spending at Trump’s Properties‘ is a new report detailing how Donald Trump has gained financially from his presidency. Public Citizen shows how about 90% of the revenue, or $13.2 (£9.5) million, from his campaign and from Republican political committees has made money for Trump’s own hotels, aero-planes, restaurants, golf courses and even a bottled water company.
- In an astonishing move Carl Icahn, billionaire investor and former regulatory adviser to President Donald Trump, has received a “financial hardship” waiver from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) despite reporting a net income of $234.4 (£172) million last year with the result that his oil company need not now comply with fuel regulations.
- Claims of actual fascism are sometimes tempting, but should be used lightly. Yet very worrying is Trump’s recent reiteration of his total immunity from… almost everything. Once again last month his lawyers asserted publicly that he has … “absolute immunity” from legal action both in his official capacity and as a private individual as they called on a federal court to dismiss one of the many lawsuits of which he is currently the object. In this case it is that accusing him of violating the Constitution’s Emoluments Clause because he has continued to accept payments from foreign governments at his “Trump International” hotel in Washington, DC In fact, Norm Eisen, who was once an ethics official at the White House, and is chair of Citizens for Ethics and Responsibility in Washington, pointed out that if the court accepts Trump’s argument, it would effectively mean the president is indeed beyond the reach of the law.
- White House budget chief Mick Mulvaney’s admitted last month that as a lawmaker he would only meet with lobbyists who gave him cash. At an American Bankers Association conference in Washington, he said: “If you’re a lobbyist who never gave us money, I didn’t talk to you. If you’re a lobbyist who gave us money, I might talk to you”. The startling news only resulted in a few ripples for a day or two in the mainstream news outlets; then was forgotten.
- The state of Texas is asking Trump administration Attorney General Jeff Sessions for permission to opt into a federal law that would speed up executions. Anti-death penalty advocates warn that this would lead to the state killing more people – including those who are wrongfully convicted and those deemed too handicapped to be executed.
- In early May Reuters published the result of polling which it has carried out with trade union members to discover how satisfied they now are with Trump. Between March of 2017 and March 2018, the survey shows, his support with members has fallen by 15%. Trump’s apparent attractiveness to blue collar workers was analysed endlessly during the election campaign in 2016 and after the result that year. Indeed, support amongst union members was — and remains — also about 15% higher with trade unionists than with voters polled overall. But it is waning.
- Secretary of the Housing and Urban Development (HUD) agency, Ben Carson, recently announced measures which will flout his own Agency’s recommendations on the amounts of money Americans should spend on monthly housing costs. He plans to triple the rent for individuals and families with low incomes and those in receipt of housing subsidies. The agency will also impose work requirements on many recipients. The so-called Making Affordable Housing Work Act would require those on subsidies to pay 35% of their income toward housing – an increase of 15%. The effect would mean that those poorest families and individuals who currently pay $50 (£37) a week would now have to pay $150 (£111) and work at least 15 hours per week at a minimum-wage job.
- A poll by the Washington Post and Kaiser Family Foundation recently revealed that – contrary to what politicians have planned – over half those asked were in favour of a national health plan, as opposed to a for profit system. Similarly a new Gallup poll in April found that 52% of Americans disapprove of the recent tax plans introduced by Trump to help the rich.
“This is a huge win for all Californians — and a huge loss for Monsanto… it upholds our right to protect ourselves and our environment from unnecessary and unwanted exposure to the dangerous chemical, glyphosate”. That was senior lawyer at the Center for Food Safety (CFS), Adam Keats in response to the verdict by the appeals court in California last month which backs the state’s listing of glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup, as a probable carcinogen. This was after California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) announced that — adhering to the outcome of its Proposition 65 – it would thenceforth list glyphosate as a chemical known to the state to cause cancer. That listing would require warning labels on packages.
On the minus side, Trump’s administration has quietly withdrawn funding from the US space agency, Nasa’s, system which monitors greenhouse gases. The Carbon Monitoring System (CMS), which costs $10m (£7m) a year remotely tracks the world’s flow of carbon dioxide. The move is likely to jeopardise, curtail or completely remove the Agency’s ability to measure national emission cuts, which were agreed to by those countries participating in the Paris climate deal, from which Trump is to withdraw anyway, of course.