Roaming Charges: Bernie’s Used Cars

This week Bernie Sanders started moonlighting as a traveling used car salesman. A month ago, the neophyte salesman volunteered to handle the problematic Clinton account, featuring the Hillary model, which, like the Edsel of old, had previously gone unsold during its initial rollout in 2008.

Sanders, who has perfected his pitches to younger and blue-color buyers with questionable credit, is emphasizing the value and durability of the Hillary model, noting that despite the heavy mileage, the engine continues to fire consistently, with only occasional coughing from the tailpipes.

The car is something of a gas-guzzler and seems to run best on fuel refined from sweet crude extracted from the Libyan oil fields. For the environmentally conscious consumer, Sanders noted that the Hillary model can be modified to run on Ethanol, though the carburetor often proves to be a little finicky unless the Ethanol is made from a specific variety of corn genetically engineered by Monsanto.

At one showroom event in Sheboygan, Sanders boasted enthusiastically about the trans-Pacific trade-in value of the Hillary, which remains especially high against Korean and Chinese models.

Under questioning from a prospective buyer, Sanders did admit that, according to a report from a Ralph Nader-affiliated group, the Hillary model has developed a minor issue with the power steering, which causes the car to veer uncontrollably to the right.

As with all Clinton models, financing for the Hillary is available through Goldman Sachs.

Our Revolution, Incorporated

Back in Burlington, Vermont, the roll out of Our Revolution, Inc., got off to a sputtering start. Our Revolution, Inc. was meant to serve as the vanguard for the war on economic inequality and political corruption, which Sanders vowed to keep waging after his defeat in the Democratic primaries. But the organization has been crippled by internal power plays, purges and squabbling over money.

On Monday, more than half of the staff resigned en masse, only days before the organization’s prime time debut during a webcast on Wednesday night. Apparently, the final straw was the decision by Bernie and Jane Sanders to appoint Jeff Weaver, former manager of Bernie’s presidential campaign, to head Our Revolution, Inc. The animus of the Sandernistas toward Weaver and his buddy Tad Davine, another hired political hack who soaked the Sanders campaign for huge consulting fees, is visceral. And with good reason. While pocketing huge fees, Davine and Weaver made fatal tactical blunders during the campaign, such as refusing to contest the southern primaries, that effectively doomed Sanders’ remote chances from the very beginning.

Our Revolution, Inc. has other problems. Namely money. At this point the group has raised only $300,000 toward its mission of helping to get “progressive” (Democratic) candidates elected in November and beyond. That’s less than the Sanders campaign was raking on an average day of online fundraising in March. How much of that amount is being chewed up by staff salaries is unknown. Some of Bernie’s most ardent devotees have pointed the finger at Jane Sanders for the financial troubles at Our Revolution, Inc., which strikes me as petty given all the other vultures circling the carcass of the Sanders campaign. But the smaller the pot, the more intense the money-grubbing. (See: Erich Von Stroheim’s film of Frank Norris’ novel “Greed”.)

Welcome to revolution on the installment plan.

The Bang for Their Buck

Hillary Clinton is experiencing no such troubling issues with her fundraising. In fact, the money is pouring in from all quarters, left and right. In recent weeks, Clinton’s campaign coffers have been filled to the brim by a gusher of funds from defense contractors and weapons manufacturers. Indeed, Clinton has raised twice as much money from the defense sector as her non-interventionist rival Donald Trump.

Over the course of the summer months, executives from defense companies have showered Clinton with $93,000, compared to Trump’s meager pickings of only $46,000. Among the corporate bigwigs to show their faith in Hillary to advance their cause by waging new wars are top executives from Lockheed, General Atomics, Raytheon, United Technologies, Boeing, BAE Systems, General Dynamics and Booz Allen Hamilton, which has the mega-contract to act as the Pentagon’s comptroller. (Aside: an audit this week by the Inspector General for the Pentagon revealed that the US Army made accounting errors of $9.3 trillion in the last two years alone.)

The politics of war is a racket, as General Butler observed, and political contributions are an investment to insure that that racket continues in perpetuity.

Still Hasn’t Found What He’s Looking For

I don’t understand why the task of unearthing Hillary’s emails has fallen to the scrappy rightwing outfit Judicial Watch and not to the New York Times or the ACLU. Don’t liberals care about preserving the integrity of the Freedom of Information Act? Perhaps they’re numbed from listening to the “Joshua Tree” album on endless loop.

One of the most ludicrous emails to be excavated from the latest dump of missives involving fat cats donors to the Clinton Foundation seeking favors from Hillary and the State Department concerns the sad case of Bono, the puerile frontman for U2.

On May 27, 2009, just a few months after Hillary took office as Secretary of State, Ben Schwerin, a Bill Clinton aide, wrote an email to Huma Abedeen at the State Department on behalf of Bono, a donor to the Clinton Foundation. “Bono wants to do a linkup with the International Space Station on every show during the tour this year,” Schwerin wrote. “I’m trying to figure out who the best contact is to talk to at NASA or the congressional committee on science and technology. Any ideas? Thks.”

Abedeen responded quickly, “No clue.” But within a few weeks Bono had his “link up” from NASA for one of the most banal rock tours of the decade. NASA could have done the world a favor by simply launching Bono into deep space.

The Ghost of Tipper Haunts Hipsterville

Speaking of music, ever wonder what became of the censorious Tipper Gore, who was frightened that the children of America might get their sex and political education by listening to rap music and heavy metal? Apparently, Tipper is now secret advisor to the Portland (Oregon) Public Schools. How else can we explain the recent decision by the school executives in Hipsterville to ban the playing of rap music on school buses this fall?

While forbidding the playing of rap music as “inappropriate,” Teri Brady, senior director of transportation at Portland Public Schools, helpfully provided a list of radio stations that played the three permissible genres: pop, country and jazz.

Despite its progressive image, Portland may be the most racist city in the nation. It’s certainly the whitest. And its getting whiter every day as hipster hordes from Brooklyn and the Bay Area flood north Portland forcing out economically stressed blacks.

The school district could better service its students by banning the teaching of American history until it begins to tell a more accurate account of the origins of Oregon statehood, including the race exclusion laws enacted between 1847 and 1855, which banned blacks from settling in the state. Until that unlikely day, rap music may provide the only history that really matters.

Travel Advisory From the Highway to Hell….

Last week temperatures in the Pacific Northwest topped 100 degrees for three consecutive days. This week the once-soggy quadrant of the nation sizzles under temperatures in the mid-90s. Wildfire rage across Oregon, Washington, Idaho, northern California and Montana. Down in the Delta, Baton Rouge just got swamped by another 1000-year flood, which seems to happen once every decade now.

Thus it came as little surprise to learn that July 2016 was the hottest month ever recorded. In fact, the last 12 months have each broken temperature records. According to data from NASA, which combine sea surface temperature and air temperature on land, July 2016 was 0.84C hotter than the 1951 to 1980 average for July, and 0.11C hotter than the previous record set in July 2015. 2016 shows every sign of being the hottest year since record keeping began.

It’s all downhill from here. How do you want to go? By water or fire?

Going Once, Going Twice

The flaming planet and the Bayou floods did not deter the Interior Department from its mission to auction off 23.8 million acres of oil and gas leases in the Gulf of Mexico, the largest such sale since the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe.

That’s not to say that the Interior Department hasn’t learned some valuable lessons from the environmental movement over the past few years. Anticipating angry protesters and perhaps undercover bidders who might choose, like Tim DeChristopher and Terry Tempest Williams, to buy the drilling rights yet not actually sink their drills into virgin ground, the Interior Department held their auction in an online livestream event, safe from pesky greens bent on disrupting one of the last sacred rituals of the fossil fuels industry.

This sums up Obama’s environmental policy for me.

Hey Joe

Joe Arpaio is the bigoted buffoon who has been the sheriff for Maricopa County, Arizona since 1983. Arpaio, one of Donald Trump’s most trusted advisers, is a bully and thug who has overseen the most outrageous system of racial profiling in country in his insane quest to cleanse the greater Phoenix area of suspected undocumented immigrants. Arpaio has starved inmates at the county jail, denied them reading materials and refused to provide basic medical care. He has housed inmates in tent cities in the desert, made them wear pink uniforms and reconstituted the use of chain gang labor. Arpaio has also compelled all of the inmates in Maricopa’s jails to register for the selective service.

On August 20, federal Judge Murray Snow, who is overseeing the investigation into illegal racial profiling by Arpaio and his deputies, took the very rare step of asking that the Justice Department to file criminal contempt of court charges against the sheriff for continually violating court orders designed to keep the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office from racially profiling Latinos.

Just drop him off in the middle of the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge in a pair of sandals and pink jail clothes and let the sidewinders do the rest….

Dianne, Warren Hinkle Calling

Last week, the hacker known as Gufficer 2.0 dropped another bombshell on the Democratic Party elites by posting online the private cellphone numbers and email address of high-ranking members of congress. Nancy Pelosi was apparently irate that her attempt to shakedown money from Bay Area tycoons was repeatedly interrupted by dozens of angry calls from constituents whose past grievances had gone unaddressed.

But Nancy’s miserable night was nothing compared to the righteous havoc that descended on her San Francisco compatriot Dianne Feinstein (Net worth: $43 million) back in the early 1980s at the hands of Hunter S. Thompson and Warren Hinkle. When Feinstein was mayor, she authorized police raids on the O’Farrell Theater, a strip club in the Tenderloin owned by the Mitchel Brothers, producers of Beyond the Green Door and other porn films of the 1970s. It so happened that the O’Farrell Theater was a favorite hangout for Thompson and Hinkle, who peeved Feinstein’s assault on their First Amendment right to observe the artistic performances of some of the Bay Areas most accomplished strippers. Thompson, who claimed to the be the “night manager” of the O’Farrell, once called the club the “Carnegie Hall of public sex in America.” In retaliation for Feinstein’s vice raids, Thompson and Hinkle acquired the mayor’s home telephone number and had it posted on the billboard at the O’Farrell with the message: “For a good time, call Dianne at…”

Warren Hinkle died this week at the age of 77. He was one of the last of his breed, a wild man of American journalism, whose tenure as editor of Ramparts and Scanlan’s magazines helped define radical journalism in America. Among other things, Warren played midwife to the birth of gonzo journalism when he assigned Hunter S. Thompson and Ralph Steadman to cover the Kentucky Derby for Scanlan’s in 1971. (An episode which is now the subject an excellent short film, Gonzo @ the Derby, which features a brief interview with Hinkle.)

My friend Fred Gardner worked for Hinkle at Ramparts in the late 1960s. When I told Fred yesterday that Hinkle had died, Fred said: “He fired me twice, but hired me three times. Four, if you count ‘War News.’ He slandered me twice —not in writing, things he was telling people— and I never held it against him, for some reason. Neither time was it malicious, he was just playing up a plausible story. He had great taste in women.” Last week, we ran Fred’s vivid account of working for Ramparts during the raucous 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago.

Alexander Cockburn and I met Hinkle at a dark bar in Chinatown in the spring of 2001. Warren began ordering mysterious drinks of iridescent colors and names that seemed to derive from the Tibetan Book of the Dead.

“Look,” he said. “You should both come write for the Examiner.” This was once William Randolph Hearst’s flagship paper, which had fallen into the hands of a Chinese family called the Fangs for the princely sum of $100. The Fangs had hired Warren to run the editorial department. “Write about whatever you want. Just keep it under 700 words. As long as I get paid, you’ll get paid.”  We agreed. Alex and I each wrote a column a week. The gig went on for a few enjoyable months before coming to a predictable end.

Hinkle drank us both under the table that day and, deal concluded, walked briskly away down Grant Street, as if he’d just spent the afternoon sipping cappuccino.

Love and War

Lee Ballinger, of Rock & Rap Confidential and CounterPunch fame, becomes the last living American to debut his own podcast: Love and War. Check it out here.

Oh Say Can You See the Slave Breeders?

Word comes from Ned and Constance Sublette, longtime friends of CounterPunch, that their magisterial book, The American Slave Coast: a History of the Slave Breeding Industry, has just won the American Book Award for nonfiction. Congratulations to the Sublettes on a project of deep history that was years in the making. This sprawling and unsparing history of the American slave-breeding industry may be the most important book of the last decade. It is a vividly written, painfully documented alternative history of the grim origins of the political economy of the American republic. As the Sublettes convincingly demonstrate, the heinous truth is that from the earliest days the American economy was driven by slavery and the most profitable business in that abominable enterprise derived from the manufacturing and sale of new slaves.

Sound Grammar

What I’m listening to this week…

Willie Wight: Telling the Truth

Betty Davis: They Say I’m Different

The Velvet Underground: The Complete Matrix Tapes

Esperanza Spalding: Emily’s D+Evolution

Blood Orange: Freetown Sound

A Poker Up the Rear End of the Establishment

“It takes a lot of moola to fool around with national magazines, regardless of their politics. It takes even more if the paper is hell bent on shoving a hot poker up the rear end of the Establishment, as that editorial posture is not conducive to a massive influx of advertising dollars…a lot of people on the left still cherish the idea that Ramparts went under because I bought people drinks.” – Warren Hinkle

Jeffrey St. Clair is editor of CounterPunch. His most recent book is An Orgy of Thieves: Neoliberalism and Its Discontents (with Alexander Cockburn). He can be reached at: or on Twitter @JeffreyStClair3