Notes from the USA

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.

Racism

Throughout October dispossessed families from Central America approached the US border in a so-called ‘caravan’. Predictably – instead of recognising that US (foreign) policies cause poverty and oppression – right-leaning propaganda outlets like Fox increasingly and consistently started calling not only these, but guest-workers as a whole ‘invaders’; and the process of immigration as an ‘invasion’

By the end of the month, Trump announced that would sign an executive order to end birthright citizenship for children of non-citizens born on US soil. This would be in violation of the 14th Amendment of the Constitution, which states: ‘All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.’

As the migrants approached and Trump announced that it was OK for American troops to shoot them, reports emerged that his administration is to discontinue a programme which grant aids groups fighting domestic terrorism. The Countering Violent Extremism grant programme is actually run by the Department of Homeland Security; it is the result of a move by the Obama administration and supports organisations fighting hate groups, including white supremacist, anti-Semitic, Islamophobic and other racists.

Trump and his gang continue to try to convince the world that non-white immigrants are a drain on the US government and its healthcare systems; and so that they represent a burden on US taxpayers. A study published recently by the International Journal of Health Services shows – unsurprisingly – just the opposite. Everyone who travels to the United States actually subsidises the care of the population as a whole because guest-workers and their families pay more into the healthcare system than they receive in treatment.

For what appears to be the first time, Trump’s racism and bigotry has been used by the defence in a court case. Lawyers representing three Kansas men convicted of a plot in 2016 to bomb a mosque and murder Somali Muslim refugees have argued that Trump’s hate-filled rhetoric should be taken into account and result in a more lenient sentencing. They wrote: ‘The court cannot ignore the circumstances of one of the most rhetorically mold-breaking, violent, awful, hateful and contentious presidential elections in modern history, driven in large measure by the rhetorical China shop bull who is now our president.’

Less than a week before the mid-term elections on November 6, Trump tweeted his most an explicitly racist post yet. He uses a video which shows a Latino man who was convicted of killing two California deputies earlier this year. The man smiles and says, “I’m going to kill more cops soon.” The text on screen reads: ‘Democrats let him into our country. Democrats let him stay.’ The same advertisement shows crowds of what are apparently migrants pushing through a gated barrier. It ignores the fact that the man first emigrated to the US when Bush and the Republicans were in power; and of course the fact that his words (and crime) must be taken as his alone.

Environment

Documents prepared by the Pentagon in mid-October revealed that the US military is planning to cut down a large portion of green woodland around the Powidz Air Base in central Poland in order to expand a military base there. The forest is already designated by the EU as a conservation site because of its rare and endangered species.

After the Deepwater Horizon disaster in 2010 in the Gulf, Obama introduced a few minor changes in regulations to curtail exploitation and destruction of the seas around the United States. Now Trump has mounted what seems like an assault on the oceans: executive order after executive order reverses such policies. One, for instance, brazenly calls for the ‘…promot[ion of] ocean “industries”‘. It establishes an inter-agency Ocean Policy Committee. The White House stated that this Committee ‘…will focus on growing the ocean economy…’ and on ‘rolling back excessive bureaucracy created by the previous administration.’ Marine biologist Jane Lubchen commented, “In one stroke of the pen, we have gone from hard-earned, responsible stewardship of the ocean to short-term, reckless, blind pursuit of a buck and a vote”. The environmental group Heal the Bay tweeted that “Oil drillers and other industry interests are cheering”.

In an almost incomprehensible development, the acting director (appointed by Trump) of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which has a vital role in monitoring the global climate crisis, has apparently proposed that the terms ‘conservation’ and ‘climate’ be removed from NOAA’s mission statement.

Scientists at another agency, NASA, very much under threat from Trump have been issuing alarming statements recently about what they call ‘utterly terrifying’ new findings showing that Antarctica has lost about three trillion tons of ice since 1992; and that in the last five years alone the rate of loss of ice has tripled.

Violence

Even before Jamal Khashoggi’s suspect death, the Trump administration was under pressure to halt arms sales to Saudi Arabia over its catastrophic war on Yemen. This has killed thousands of people, pushed millions of Yemenis to the brink of famine and sparked the world’s worst cholera outbreak, with as many as 10,000 new cases of cholera appearing every week. Trump refused: “I don’t like stopping massive amounts of money that’s being poured into our country on—I—I—I know they’re talking about different kinds of sanctions, but they’re spending $110 billion on military equipment and on things that create jobs, like jobs and others for this country. I don’t like the concept of stopping an investment of $110 billion into the United States, because you know what they’re going to do? They’re going to take that money and spend it in Russia or China or someplace else.”

In Maricopa County (the area of Arizona over which racist sheriff, Joe Arpaio, had jurisdiction) an 11-year-old boy fatally shot his 65-year-old grandmother and then himself at the start of November. The motive? The child was repeatedly asked to clean his room throughout the day.

Corruption

Corruption is rife in Washington, of course; it always has been. One of the latest developments came in late October when the Interior Department referred its own Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to the Justice Department for possible criminal investigation. This probably involves at least 18 formal ethics investigations by federal authorities into Zinke’s conduct at the Interior Department.

In the run-up to the mid-term elections this month, even some corporate supporters of far right Congressperson Steve King (Iowa) made moves to withdraw their support. King recently endorsed far-right Canadian Faith Goldy for mayor of Toronto; has reposted racist and anti-immigrant rants on social media; last year published a racist tweet in support of far-right Dutch politician Geert Wilders; in August met with a neo-Nazi Austrian group during a visit to Austria. Until last year, King displayed a Confederate battle flag in his office on Capitol Hill. He won.

~Louis Further


Photo: Aesthetics of Crisis