Notes from the US: Racist attacks rise while green protections fall

In his latest column Louis Further reports on spiralling intolerance in the land of the free — unless you happen to be an irresponsible business tycoon.

According to the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) Islamophobic attacks rose by 57% in 2016. This includes arson at mosques, assaults on Muslim women and the illegal targeting of Muslims for interrogation by the FBI. CAIR says this is likely to be the result of President Trump’s campaign rhetoric and his appointing Islamophobes and Muslim-haters to top Cabinet and White House positions.

In early May in Ferguson, Missouri, 27-year-old Edward Crawford, a father of four, who took part in the 2014 Ferguson uprising after the killing by police of unarmed African American, Michael Brown, became the third protester from Ferguson to be found shot dead inside their own cars since the uprising.

In West Virginia, former police officer Stephen Mader has sued the city of Weirton, after being dismissed for NOT shooting 23-year-old African American, Ronald “R J” Williams Jr in May 2016. When Williams’ partner called the police because he was threatening to hurt himself, Mader attended to find Williams suicidal and began to defuse the situation. Two more police officers arrived; one of these immediately shot and killed Williams. Mader was informed he would be sacked for “apparent difficulties in critical incident reasoning.”

Environment

The first effects of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) looser regulations on pollutants since the Trump administration took over are beginning to be felt: in mid May dozens of farmers in Bakersfield, California, were recovering after they were exposed to a highly toxic pesticide made by Dow Chemicals. Chlorpyrifos has been proven to cause vomiting, diarrhoea and blurred vision and long-term damage in children (developmental delays and higher rates of autism). The chemical was about to be banned by the EPA until the Agency’s new administrator, Scott Pruitt, reversed the decision and approved its use.

Meanwhile, even before it’s fully operational, the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) leaked a further 100 gallons of oil in North Dakota in two different spills – just as protestors feared and predicted it would: 84 gallons (two barrels), were discharged due to a leaking flange in Watford City on 3 March; and half a barrel (20 gallons) two days later in Mercer County. Of course contamination was the result.

Economy and Health

A new report from the AFL-CIO trade union reveals that CEOs of the biggest companies in the United States now pay themselves an average of almost 350 times more than their workers in any one year: an average of US$13.1 (£10.1) million each in 2016.

As the Trump gangs continue to wreck almost everything in sight — including health care — a new study commissioned by the California Nurses Association shows just how feasible a system similar to a national health service in the state would be. It’s called the Healthy California Act (SB 562). According to the Political Economy Research Institute (PERI), who produced the report, “… through implementation of Healthy California, overall costs of providing full health care coverage to all Californians could fall by about 18% relative to spending levels under the existing system.” Unsurprisingly, a poll taken at the end of May shows that fully 70% of Californians are in favour of establishing just such a system with universal coverage provided by a single-payer — rather than competing for-profit “insurers.”

Abuse

Two extraordinary cases of retribution by Trump’s gang occurred in May: charges were actually brought against two people laughing or insisting on answers at public events with Trump staff or nominees present: against Desiree Fairooz, a librarian in Arlington, Virginia, and a Code Pink activist at Trump’s inauguration; then in West Virginia, against journalist Dan Heyman of Public News Service for repeatedly asking Health and Human Services Secretary, Tom Price, whether domestic violence would be categorised as a pre-existing condition (which would likely render those involved ineligible for coverage) under the Republican’s new healthcare plan.

Illustrative of the ignorance and strength of feeling which Trump still attracts and draws on was an incident in mid May where an African-American congressman, Al Green, D-Texas, was threatened with lynching, and subjected to racist name-calling after advocating Trump’s impeachment in Congress the week before: “You ain’t going to impeach nobody. Try it and we will lynch all of you …” and “you’ll be hanging from a tree” were samples of voicemails which Green received. There are now several moves to draw up articles of impeachment, to sue Trump for profiting from the presidency and a variety of other misdemeanours and crimes.

Later in the month Trump granted retroactive waivers to senior staff so that they can avoid ethics rules which would otherwise flag conflicts of interest. Yet those members of the public applying for a visa to enter and/or visit the United States must now answer a questionnaire requiring them to provide their social media names for the most recent five years and 15 years of biographical information.

In Yemen US-backed Saudi aggression is destroying infrastructure as well as taking many lives directly. At the same time as the situation in Yemen was worsening dramatically with the outbreak of cholera to become what aid agencies are now calling the worst current crisis in the world, there were unconfirmed reports in mid June that US-funded and resourced troops fighting ISIS in Raqqa have deployed munitions with white phosphorus, an illegal incendiary weapon which can burn human flesh down to the bone, and reignite wounds several days later. Civilians are almost always involved in such attacks by the US.

Trump’s nominee to replace sacked director of the FBI, James Comey, is Christopher Wray. Wray was assistant Attorney General under George W Bush from 2003 to 2005. This was the period in which the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel agreed to the use of torture against prisoners in CIA and military custody. Shortly after Trump’s announcement, Faiz Shakir, political director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) questioned whether Wray could lead the FBI independently: “Given that Wray touts his deep involvement in the Bush administration’s response to the 9/11 attacks, which includes his connections to some of the most unlawful legal memos on Bush-era torture programs, the Senate should press Wray to come clean about his role in the programs.”

Louis Further


Pic: National Equality March on June 11th, by Stephen Melkisethian (Creative Commons)