Notes from the US: Land of the Free (citation needed)

Louis Further rounds up some of the horror show that’s been ongoing in the background of US politics this month.

Trump’s intolerance of anyone who does not bow to his undoubted and indisputable greatness is well known. This often takes the form of hatred and attempts to suppress journalism and members of the press. In late November, though, five journalists brought a federal lawsuit against the Trump administration because they were tracked, detained, and interrogated by the US Department of Homeland Security for reporting on conditions at the southern border in 2018 and 2019 as Trump’s concentration camps for non-whites were in the news. The American Civil Liberties Union’s (ACLU) national, New York and California chapters filed the suit [pdf] in the US District Court for the Eastern District of New York on behalf of Bing Guan, Go Nakamura, Mark Abramson, Kitra Cahana, and Ariana Drehsler.

Muh freeze peach?
Trump’s rallies have become noted for the many ways in which he uses them to incite violence – often against members of his ‘audience’. Earlier this month in Hershey, Pennsylvania, Trump criticised an arena security guard for not being rough or tough enough when ejecting a woman protester wearing a #MeToo hat and holding a sign reading, ‘Grabbing Power Back’: “Get her out. Get her out … See, these guys want to be so politically correct. You see that? I’ll tell you, law enforcement’s so great. That particular guy wanted to be so politically correct”.

Cutting food stamps
In the first week of December, a smug and smiling Donald Trump announced that he has finalised his plan to tighten up still further the punitive work-requirements for those in receipt of food stamps. The new regulations are set to become so stringent that around three quarters of a million needy and poor people (remember that 20% of all children in the United States are already estimated to be officially under and/or-malnourished) will be ineligible by the middle of next year.

Racism

The Costs of War Project at Brown University recently released new research showing that the so-called ‘war on terror’ launched by the Bush administration after the attacks on 9/11 has now resulted in more than 800,000 deaths at a cost of US$6.4 (£4.9) trillion. But the researchers warned that this estimate is probably too low once ‘indirect deaths’ are taken into account. Professor David Vine argues, “This means that total deaths during the post-2001 U.S. wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Pakistan, and Yemen is likely to reach 3.1 million or more — around 200 times the number of U.S. dead.”

Miller white nationalist
Stephen Miller is a senior White House policy adviser. He holds hardline views on immigration, and has often promoted stories from white nationalist and fringe media organisations to — amongst others — those working at the far-right website Breitbart. Most would acknowledge that such material is incompatible with a government official in a civilised society. Late last month revelatory emails from 2015 were published by the Southern Poverty Law Center, a non-profit organisation that monitors hate groups. They showed that links promoted by Miller include those to VDARE, a prominent white nationalist website and to the fringe right-wing media organisation InfoWars — again, amongst others.

Arrest brown people: Fabulous prizes to be won
According to a now-retired member of the New York Police Department, its Transit District 34 in Brooklyn encouraged officers to arrest Black and Latino men in exchange for rewards. Sergeant Edwin Raymond with three others said as part of an active lawsuit that they were forced to apprehend more Black and Latino men than those belonging to other racial and ethnic groups; and that Asian, Jewish and white people (referred to as ‘soft targets’ by the Department) should not be handcuffed. All officers in that district allegedly had a ‘collar quota’ to fill.

Still in New York – and along similar lines — four ‘correctional’ officers from the notorious Rikers Island prison were suspended earlier this month after video emerged which showed them standing by for seven minutes while a teenager attempted to hang himself. One officer even walked up to the cell where the teenager was hanging and opened and closed its door without taking any kind of (preventative or helpful) action.

Environment

Trump’s almost single-handed attack on the environment continued last month: as two major fires at a Texas chemical plant forced the evacuation of over 60,000 residents over the Thanksgiving holiday, many environmental justice groups condemned Trump for pandering to the chemical industry: the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalised the removal of disaster prevention measures from Obama’s presidency which were designed to protect workers at and residents in communities with and near chemical plants. Ken Cook, president of the Environmental Working Group (EWG) said in a statement, “Those who work in or live near a chemical or petroleum plant are already at far greater risk than the average American… Today’s action by the EPA has only increased the chances that people who live in these fence line neighborhoods, which are disproportionately lower-income communities of color, could be seriously harmed or killed.”

The EPA also surges ahead in the destruction regardless of the health of the planet: environmental and public health advocacy groups expressed alarm last month as Trump’s EPA increased the allowable level in US waterways of a common herbicide linked to hermaphroditic amphibians and birth defects, cancer, and other harmful health effects in humans. The notorious atrazine is the second most widely used herbicide in the US and is manufactured by Syngenta. It is not authorised for use in the EU because of its known harmful effects on groundwater.

Last month Freedom reported on the latest oil spill on October 29 from the Keystone pipeline. It can be no surprise that it has since emerged — using data from North Dakota’s Department of Environmental Quality — that the amount of land damaged by the spill is almost 1,000% greater than first admitted by TC Energy Corp (formerly known as TransCanada), who is responsible for the controversial pipeline: more than 380,000 gallons of crude oil spewed into rural wetland.

Let’s end the year on a happy note: at the start of this month, lawmakers in Kansas City (Missouri) took the positive step of voting unanimously to make public bus transport there free. They are setting aside US$8 (£6) million to pay for every US$1.50 (£1.10) fare currently charged on the city’s bus system.

Happy Holidays!

~ Louis Further