Roaming Charges: Bull Connor on the High Plains

When they turn the attack dogs on you, you know that you’ve won…morally. Of course, moral victories aren’t worth much in the short term. All too often the price of a moral victory is to lose what you’ve put your life on the line fighting for, if not your life itself.

Such was the appalling scene this week on the plains of North Dakota, when security goons for the Dakota Access pipeline attacked defenseless protesters, many of them members of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, with dogs, clubs and pepper spray. The local police stood by and watched, egging on the mercenaries. A few days later, the local sheriff, a big oil automaton, would issue warrants for the arrest of Jill Stein and Ajamu Baraka for vandalizing a bulldozer with spray paint. That’s what passes for justice in the Bakken oil fields.

The sheriff has been peddling outrageous and racist slurs about the protesters “carrying hatchets and knives,” in order to justify his orders to seal off the protest site, conduct warrantless raids and searches at the Sacred Stone Camp and dress up his rent-a-cops with shields, riot gear and high-powered weapons. These tactics seemed to be motivated by a desire to provoke the tribal protesters into a violent defense of their camp. It failed. The war zone is his own creation.

As Sarah Manning reported in chilling detail for Indian Country Today, the pipeline company’s Praetorian (or one should say, Petroleum) Guard was used to shield bulldozers and trenchers as the machines chewed into burial grounds and sites long sacred to the Sioux. This brazenly illegal act was a preemptive strike against claims filed by the Sioux and others in federal court challenging the pipeline route. “Portions and possibly complete sites have been taken out entirely,” Tim Mentz, the Tribal Historical Preservation Officer,  told Manning.

The obvious comparison is to Bull Connor and his thugs, when they brutalized civil rights marchers in Birmingham, Alabama. But the assault in North Dakota seems somehow more grotesque, sadistic and, ultimately, pointless. What, after all, are the oil goons defending? No demented principle, no deranged “way of life,” as with the deluded bigots of the Old South. The pipeline itself is like some steel artery implanted in the dermis of the Earth to carry poison, a black death, threatening the water supply for 28 million people.

The biggest hypocrite of them all, naturally, is Barack Obama, who only this week gave an interview with the New York Times where he said the signature issue of his presidency was the fierce battle he waged to confront runaway climate change, which he called “terrifying.” This shameless bit of malarky comes from the man who enabled the fracking boom, oversaw the near death of the Gulf of Mexico (Deepwater Horizon) and whose agencies gave the green light for the Dakota Access fracked oil pipeline and dozens like it.

(As I write this, word has come down that the federal court in DC denied the tribe’s request for an injunction against the pipeline based on the threat it poses to tribal burial grounds and sacred sites, which constitute violations of the Antiquities and Historic Preservation Acts. This is a bad ruling which needs to be appealed.  A few minutes later the Department of the Interior and the Justice Department issued a joint letter “requesting” that the pipeline company “pause” its construction before tunneling under an undammed stretch of the Missouri River. Gang Green is, of course, heralding this as a “major victory.” But it is yet to be seen whether this letter has any “legal force,” whether the pipeline company will heed the “request,” how long the project will be “paused” and what happens to sacred sites on either side of the river crossing in the interim. One theory is that the “pause” is intended to quell the protests and that the destruction will resume after the masses of people have left the site. By the way, James E. Boasberg, the Federal judge who denied the Standing Rock Sioux injunction, was a member of the (Geronimo’s) Skull and Bones Society. You really couldn’t make this shit up.)

The Sioux have been winning moral victories for more than 200 years. But their land keeps shrinking, their lives and way of living more and more under threat. The Standing Rock Sioux are, in effect, defending the quality of life of those who are mindlessly attacking them. They are, and have been for centuries, the true defenders of the homeland. Their fight is ours. Let us join them.


(Of course, there has been a little progress in the last 40 years. Some of the dog-wielding goons where female. Yes, you’ve come a long way, baby.)

Defending God’s Dog

I have the honor of serving on the board of the Fund for Wild Nature, a unique foundation that gets all of its money from environmental activists and targets its grants solely to small, underfunded and aggressive grassroots green groups. Each year the Fund also singles out one environmentalist who has made a singular mark in the defense of nature and wildlife.

This year the Fund for Wild Nature honors the courageous and innovative work in defense of wild predators by Camilla Fox. Camilla runs Project Coyote, the national grassroots organization based in the Bay Area that has fought relentlessly on behalf of coyotes, foxes, cougars, bears, bobcats and wolves in wild, rural and urban environments.

Under Fox’s creative leadership, Project Coyote has played a lead role in exposing and challenging the lethal and ethically degraded killing sprees of Wildlife Services, a vicious branch of the US Department of Agriculture which traps, poisons and shoots millions of animals every year, a killing program that Wildlife Services officials chillingly refer to as “mowing the grass.” Operating on a lean budget and largely volunteer network of activists, Project Coyote has challenged the scientific rationale behind these predator killing regimes across the country.

Fox has a particular fondness for coyotes, which she calls the “most maligned and misunderstood animal in America.” Coyotes, the most ubiquitous and adaptable predator on the continent, have been subjected to sadistic treatment by ranchers and government killing agents. They have been trapped, poisoned, bombed and burnt alive in their dens. Fox’s organization has successfully targeted coyote killing contests in California and Oregon. She has also worked to change public attitudes toward coyotes and other predators. In Calabasas, California, Project Coyote convinced City officials to re-allocate $30,000 a year from a trapping scheme to the humane management of coyotes, a program which relies largely on public education and improved waste management. In San Francisco, Fox and her allies convinced city managers to close off portions of city parks to protect denning coyotes.

Among Fox’s more notable achievements: a lawsuit challenging trapping in Maine, where threatened lynx where being killed; successfully closing loopholes in California’s wildlife rules that permitted wildlife killing contests; offered compelling testimony at hearings which secured protections for the gray wolf on California Endangered Species list; and helped lead a triumphant campaign that banned trapping of bobcats in California.

For her zealous work and unrivaled dedication to wild predators, the Fund for Wild Nature was proud to honor Camilla with a $1000 check and a Golden Badger statue in recognition of her being named our Grassroots Activist of the Year.

I urge you to support Camilla’s vital work at Project Coyote and consider donating to the Fund for Wild Nature, a hedge fund for the survival of the planet.

From the “No Shit News Wire”

Climate scientists, a timid lot, have linked the recent storm that whacked southern Louisiana to climate change. It will take about 1000 ISIS-inspired “lone wolf” attacks to inflict the economic damage of this one relatively moderate GW-charged storm. But fancy hearing anything about it during the campaign from either major party candidate.

As for the climatologists, the nuclear zealot Edward Teller, of all people, wrote about the Greenhouse Effect as early as 1958, warning of melting ice caps, prolonged droughts and intensified storms. The “seasoned researchers” who have remained mute out of fear for their reputations as neutral observers for the last 60 years have a lot of explaining to do.

Toss Your Dime

Howard Schultz, the justly reviled CEO of Starbucks, just announced that he is all-in with Hillary Clinton. So Trump now has 90 generals, Tila Tequila and Ted Nugent, while Hillary’s bench includes the entire Bush cabinet, Bono the Miscreant and 900 CEOs. Toss your dime in the air…Heads they win, tails you lose.

Smile Gate

Reince Pribus is jumping on Hillary for not “smiling” during NBC’s mock debate with Matt Lauer, whose interviewing technique makes Larry King look like IF Stone. But, of course, HRC only smiles after she’s killed someone and she turns on the wide smile, plus peace sign, for killing lots of someones. (Cf., Libya.)

I keep getting asked by nice liberal people whether I am “naive enough” to think a Trump victory will spark the long-awaited Revolution. All we know for sure is that Hillary has been a leader of the Counter-Revolutionaries since the founding of the DLC in the mid-1980s. This spring she crushed Bernie’s “Softball Revolution” and spit out its bones with no sign of absorbing any of its ideas, viewing it with much the same contempt she showed Qaddafi’s tortured corpse.

Jacking Hillary

The morning after the NBC non-debate, Lil Donald Tweeted out his speculation that Hillary was wearing an earjack–wireless per Apple’s new specifications. Perhaps he is on to something here. The earpiece is likely the same one that Shrub was accused of using in his ‘04 debate with John Kerry. It allows the Bush Whisperers now backing HRC to give her the neocon talking points on Russia, Syria, Iran and Libya in real time…


Shortly after the “Commander-in-Chief Forum,” the TwitterWorld erupted with torrents of Tweets saying that Matt Lauer’s interview with Trump was a “snow job.” Of course, it was. (See National Enquirer’s “World Exclusive” story: “I Sold Cocaine to Matt Lauer.” Apparently, Matt is NBC’s answer to Hunter Thompson. Prime Time Gonzo!

Where is the Love?

Before Trump fell madly for Vladimir Putin, there was his unforgettable fling with Bubba. This week, as Trump slammed Hillary for “not looking like a president,” 21 new photos of Bill and Donald emerged from the vaults of the Clinton Library, several showing a telltale gleam in Donald’s eye, so reminiscent of the way he once looked while in the presence of Marla Maples, that other southerner charmer who won his heart decades ago.

You Say Aleppo, I Say … “What?”

Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson (who said this week he’d rather shoot himself than vote for Hillary or Trump) is taking a lot of heat for his brain freeze about Aleppo during an interview with the atrocious Mike Barnacle. But isn’t this a much more endearing quality than Hillary’s blatant lie about their being no US troops on the ground in Syria and Iraq? A candidate who doesn’t know the precise location of Aleppo is less likely to order missile strikes on its citizens.

Brain Damage

You heard it here first. A few months after Hillary takes office, the Democrats are going to be claiming that HRC has brain damage to excuse her crimes in office, much as the GOP used Alzheimer’s to exculpate Reagan for any complicity in Iran/Contra.

Your Next Mission

Now that Colin Kaepernick has fully discredited Francis Scott Key’s racist doggerel, can he please turn his attention to that rancid relict of the Cold War, the Pledge of Allegiance? Millions of schoolchildren will reward him by buying his socks and sweatbands.

Up in Smoke

Hillary Clinton just received her copy of Diana Johnstone’s Queen of Chaos. Nick Roney was on assignment for CounterPunch to film her reaction.

Down in Flames

CounterPunch’s social media editor Nathaniel St. Clair (a distant relative) walked into my office this week holding the gun that Gary Johnson wants to shoot himself with, ala Cleavon Little in Blazing Saddles, and forced me to begin “Tweeting.” (Alexander Cockburn, who famously declared CounterPunch a ‘Twitter Free Zone’–one year AFTER CounterPunch had opened its Twitter account–is probably rolling in his grave, which accounts for the seismic activity on the Lost Coast today.) Don’t let a brother Tweet solo and a capella. Retweet them, delete them or whatever. (@jsccounterpunch)

Wizard of OZ

This came the brutal news that Richard Neville, a founder of the great Australian magazine OZ (a cross between The Realist and Ramparts) had died. Richard was a good friend and frequent contributor to CounterPunch. He was a true free speech hero, a great writer and a man who never stopped breaking new ground. Richard’s essays always seemed fresh, opening new ways of thinking about familiar subjects. (Check out Richard’s writings for CounterPunch. You’ll get a kick out of his prose style and you might even learn something.)

Neville’s friend John Pilger told me that “Richard’s triumph was confronting Rupert Murdoch – literally, in New York I think – and damning him for starting his media empire on the death of a boy in Australia, hounded to suicide by Murdoch’s tabloid, thus setting the tone for the Murdoch empire.”

Somewhere along the line Richard began calling himself a “futurist.” I asked him once what the “future” was going to look like. “A lot like the present, only darker.”

Sleep well, friend.

Sound Grammar

What I’m listening to this week.

1/ Jaco Pastorius and Bireli Lagrene: Live in Rome

2/ Kenny Burrell: Blue Bash

3/ Daniel Langois: Goodbye to Language

4/ Gun Outfit: Possession Sound

5/ The Beatles: Live at the Hollywood Bowl

Booked Up

What I’m reading this week.

1/ Hokusai’s Lost Manga by Sarah E. Thompson

2/ The American War in Vietnam by John Marciano

3/ The Moment of Cubism and Other Essays by John Berger

You Can See It’s the End

Jean-Paul Sartre:A few years ago, a bourgeois colonialist commentator found only this to say in defence of the West: ‘We aren’t angels. But we, at least, feel some remorse.’ What a confession! Formerly our continent was buoyed up by other means: the Parthenon, Chartres, the Rights of Man or the swastika. Now we know what these are worth; and the only chance of our being saved from, shipwreck is the very Christian sentiment of guilt. You can see it’s the end; Europe is springing leaks everywhere. What then has happened? It simply is that in the past we made history and now it is being made of us. The ratio of forces has been inverted; decolonization has begun; all that our hired soldiers can do is to delay its completion.” 

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