Roaming Charges: the Sick Blue Line

Photo by Fibonacci Blue | CC BY 2.0

Photo by Fibonacci Blue | CC BY 2.0


+ In his acrid little book Studies in Classic American Literature, DH Lawrence wrote that “the American is a killer.” He may have underestimated the depths of the country’s cultural psychosis.

+ This week came the news that three of the Baltimore cops who took Freddie Gray on a fatal torture ride were feted at a black tie gala hosted by the Media Research Council, a right-wing smog machine based in Virginia. The three killer cops–Brian Rice, Edward Nero and Garrett Miller–were hailed as “heroes” by columnist Cal Thomas.

Miller spoke to the worshipful crowd, begging them to keep the cops in their prayers. “Our profession is hurting,” Miller whined. “We’re losing officers at an incredible rate. Not just from gunfire but because they’re tired of it. They quit. Our department is short. Everywhere is short. Nobody wants to be a police officer anymore.”

+ Call it the Sick Blue Line. Cops portray themselves as victims even after they’ve killed defenseless citizens and the Police Industrial Complex rallies to their aid. The innocent dead are slimed and slandered, their lives distorted beyond all recognition. Tyre King, a 13-year old with a toy gun, was shot multiple times by Columbus police and then smeared as a gang-banger and thug before his corpse had even cooled. They didn’t pause for a moment to contemplate the young life they had prematurely foreclosed, as if young Tyre were merely a future problem pre-empted.

On Tuesday, El Cajon police, in southern California, responded to a call from the sister of Alfred Okwera Olango, who said her brother was sick, unarmed and needed help. It took the cops 50 minutes to get there and when they arrived they almost immediately shot Olango to death, claiming that he had pulled a gun them. The killing was live-streamed on Facebook, where Olango’s sister can be heard screaming as her brother is slain before her eyes: “You guys killed my brother in front of me! Why couldn’t you guys Tase him? Why? Why? Why? Why?”

The object in Olango’s hand turned out to be a vaporizer. Any object is now considered a lethal weapon, any posture a mortal threat.

+ I get the sense that many cops get off on watching these kill shots. They screen them like snuff films, a sadistic kind of “blue” movie, where they derive a sick psychic charge from images of their own lethal power, immune from any moral or legal accounting.

+ Being black in America means that you can’t drive, can’t walk, can’t shop, can’t even park without risk of being shot by cops.

+ Marijuana busts have declined by steeply nationwide since the Clinton Crime bill got to work in 1997. According to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report, police made 643,122 arrests for marijuana-related offenses in 2015. Of those arrested, 574,641 were charged with marijuana possession only, not cultivation or trafficking. The annual arrest total represents more than a 25 percent decline since 2007, when police arrested a record 872,721.  Welcome news, naturally. But in North Carolina you can still got shot for smoking a blunt in your own parking lot.

+ Pot busts still account for 89 percent of all drug-related arrests. Blacks are four-times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession, even though similar percentages of blacks and white partake of the herb.

+ Chelsea Clinton, the mentally-challenged offspring of a power mad couple with the blood of millions on their hands, believes that pot is the real killer.  “We also have anecdotal evidence now from Colorado where some of the people who were taking marijuana for those purposes [chemotherapy, epilepsy, autism], the coroner believes, after they died, there was drug interactions with other things they were taking.” If only Bill had inhaled…

+One of the prerequisites for being taken seriously as a presidential candidate is  pledging that you possess the necessary moral numbness to “strike first” with nuclear weapons, even if it means destroying life on Earth. Cockburn used to tell the story of the great Fred Harris, the feisty Democrat from Oklahoma, who was running, what today would be called an “outsider campaign,” in 1976. Before the Iowa caucuses, Harris went on Meet the Press early in the campaign and vowed to end the First Strike doctrine. Fierce denunciations of Harris’s “naiveté” were immediately launched from think-tank silos on K Street in DC. His campaign was in ruins within hours.

+ Consider Trump. In one of the most fascinating exchanges of the first debate, the testy tycoon announced “I would certainly not do first strike…Once the nuclear alternative happens, it’s all over.” This is a perfectly rational statement and a refreshing one for a presidential candidate. Then Trump, sensing that he might have just said something that could land him on some CIA hit list, retreated and sought refuge in the chilling “all options are on the table” bromide.

+ A new poll probes the minds of Trump supporters and reveals the obvious. Most Trumpeters view blacks and women has having too much power over the government. Trump’s campaign that preys on these feelings of white male impotence. It should come with an advisory notice: “If your erection lasts for more than four hours after voting for Trump, call your doctor–or your mother.”

+ For the first time in its 136 years of publication, the Arizona Republic has endorsed a Democrat for president. The paper hasn’t changed his vile political views for more than a century. What does that say about Hillary Clinton’s?

+ The Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson appeared on MS-DNC’s Hardball this week. I thought he held up pretty well under the hostile and impertinent questioning. Johnson has suddenly become a threat, as polls show him outpacing Clinton among millennials. The Johnson surge has brought once safe states, such as New Mexico, Colorado and New Hampshire, into play. Thus the guns have been turned on him.

+ The liberal press and the Clinton Twitterchoir are trying to make a big deal of Johnson’s answer to a silly question from Matthews, asking him to name a current head of state that he admired. Johnson’s answer was clear and simple: “I can’t think of one.” This statement is being ridiculed by the political class as evidence of the triviality of the Johnson campaign. But isn’t it an accurate reflection of the world as it exists?

+ After snickering at Johnson for saying he couldn’t think of any world leader that he admired, Hillary disclosed her choice….Angela Merkel. Trump, showing his feminine side, quickly followed suit. Both major candidates are admirers of the grim enforcer of Euro-Austerity. Goodbye pensions! Goodbye Social Security!! I’m with Gary.

+ Johnson made a very important statement during the Matthews interview. Unlike Trump and Clinton, who want to see Edward Snowden brought home in chains and tried for treason, Johnson said, “Based on what I know about the case, I would pardon Edward Snowden.”

+ This strong statement of solidarity from a leading political figure in the country (which synchs with Jill Stein’s own position on Snowden) was met with derision, even on the far Left. I quote just a few comments from our Facebook page:

“I’m sure he knows as much about Snowden as he does about Aleppo.”

“It does leave open the question of what Mr. Libertarian “doesn’t know.”

“Er, Aleppo? What’s Aleppo? Snowden? Some place in Maine, isn’t it? It snows a lot there, doesn’t it?”

“What is Snowden?”

“That is the first intelligent thing he’s said.”

“Impressive, considering the depth of his knowledge.”

+Even the boutique-radical magazine Jacobin joined the gang-bang, publishing a lengthy hit piece on Johnson, treating the Lib as if he had a real shot of becoming president instead of roving the country as an anti-war, pro civil liberties gadfly. In effect, Jacobin is running interference for the Charlotte Corday of this election, the woman who knifed Marat/Sanders. Perhaps they should change their name to Girondin?

+ The Jacobin painter David refused to depict her in “Marat Assassiné.” Here’s Baudry’s painting of the bloody scene. Perhaps Girondin’s new logo could be a profile of Corday’s head, which was said, by Camus (I believe), to have blushed at the executioner’s touch.

+ The knee-jerk Left cares more about staying inside the strict enclosures of its own ideology than finding unity with libertarians and anarchists on matters of state power, civil liberties and militarism. It’s a self-defeating posture. Dissing Johnson in such smug ways makes Leftist feel temporarily elevated, but does nothing to help the perilous circumstances facing Edward Snowden or Chelsea Manning, end the drug war or stop the next regime change intervention.

+ I’ve always admired Michel Foucault’s statement that “Resistance unites us.” Foucault and Sartre, who despised each other, stood arm-in-arm on the streets of Paris during the street protests of 1971 over the censorship of the Maoist newspaper La cause du peuple. Too often the American Left, such as it is, seems united only by its own sense of isolation and alienation.

+ In a glorious, if belated, rebuke to Obama, the Senate voted 97-1 to override the President’s veto of the bill allowing the families of 9/11 victims to sue Saudi Arabia for complicity in the attacks. It was the first time an Obama veto had ever been over-turned.

+ The vote would have sent a much more forceful message if it had been unanimous, but Harry Reid voted against it (for procedural reasons) and Tim Kaine was campaigning. But what about Bernie Sanders? Even Marco Rubio showed up to cast his vote and he never votes on anything. What’s your excuse Bernie? Didn’t want to alienate the Kingdom that you want to prosecute a proxy war in Syria? Or did you feel obligated to go out on the campaign trail in New Hampshire with Hillary? Priorities, priorities…

+ The great Mark Ames, editor of The eXiled, reports that the CIA intense pressure on Harper & Row to censor Alfred McCoy’s classic text, The Politics of Heroin, which conclusively documented the CIA’s historical complicity in the drug trade. McCoy’s book was a crucial source for our own volume Whiteout: the CIA, Drugs and the Press. Ames and Gary Brecher discuss the importance of McCoy’s book on their WarNerd podcast.

+ For Rachel Maddow a “big scoop” is getting an advance copy of a story appearing in the morning’s papers. She’s not exactly the Seymour Hersh of MS-DNC. This week Maddow breathlessly announced that a new story by disgraced journalist Kurt Eichenwald was going to rock the Trump campaign and probably cost the mogul the state of Florida. What was the big revelation? That Trump’s organization had negotiated a couple of deals with the Castro government in violation of the beastly Cuban embargo. Shouldn’t Trump have been given a medal for breaching such a malign policy?

+ The Democrats’ red scare tactics have now expanded from Putin to Fidel.

+ You can see why the Clintons are pissed at Trump for violating the Cuban embargo. After all, Bill signed the dreadful Helms-Burton Act into law to appease Miami’s noxious tribe of Cuban exiles.

+ Democrats love sanctions. They are the quiet killers. Cuba, Iran, Iraq, North Korea, Syria. You can kill millions of people, inflict starvation and misery across an entire population of civilians, and leave no trace of your own culpability.

+ Here’s an excerpt from Diane Blair’s diary about her decades long relationship with the Clintons. She is describing her conversation Hillary about Bill’s “relationship” with Monica Lewinsky, a few weeks after Bubba confessed to having “a relationship with ‘that woman.'”  “She thinks she was not smart enough, not sensitive enough, not free enough of her own concerns and struggles,” Diane Blair wrote. “It was a lapse, but she says to his credit he tried to break it off, tried to pull away, tried to manage someone who was clearly a ‘narcissistic loony toon;’ but it was beyond control.”

I’m confused. Who is the “narcissistic looney tune” here? Monica, Hillary or Bill?

+ Morbidly obese philandering moron “weighs-in” on Miss Universe-gate. Which one, you ask? Good question. This episode in misogyny features Newt Gingrich.

+ Just weeks ago, the Liberals were gleefully body shaming Trump for his bulging gut and micro penis. Now the same people are aghast that Trump is body shaming a former beauty contestant! Both will, of course, greedily consume the fat of the land.

+ What do you do when your candidate is a mendacious, neoliberal hawk with nothing to recommend for her? Demonize Jill Stein, naturally…

+ Speaking of demonization, it was heartening to see that Jeremy Corbyn crushed the Blairite insurrection to maintain his position as leader of the Labour Party. Since the Brexit vote, Corbyn has been subjected to vile histrionics from Britain’s neoliberals, both inside his party and in the press. As the vote neared, the insurgents became unhinged. Take Nicholas Lezard, a literary critic for the Guardian, who a few days before the election erupted in a bizarre Facebook rant where he called for crowdsourcing an assassination plot against Corbyn. He later said he was merely joking.

What’s next? A columnist at The Nation magazine (ahem, Joshua Holland) calling for the rendition of Jill Stein to a CIA black site in Uzbekistan?

+ When Samantha “Smarty-Pants” Power speaks, you’d better run for the nearest hardened bunker.

+ This just in from Peter Lee: “The deep state has already voted. Hillary Clinton for president.”

+ Hot off the Twitter wire:

“BernieSanders: RT HillaryClinton: “Thank you, BernieSanders. Thank you for your leadership and your support in this campaign.” —Hillary”

Love blooms amid the ruins….

+ When a war criminal on friendly terms with the western powers dies, you can be assured that he’ll eulogized as a peacemaker. Thus did Bill Clinton praise the loathsome Shimon Peres, the butcher of Qana, as “My brilliant and eloquent friend. His life was a blessing to all who strive for peace.” The Clintons are all about peace and the children, except when those children are Palestinian refugees, who must be pre-emptively executed before they grow up to be terrorists. 108 were killed in Peres’s politically-motivated raid on UN camp in Qana, Lebanon: 56 of them children.

+ Politico reports that the Clinton campaign is in high anxiety over the lack of enthusiasm shown for HRC by black voters. The panic is especially acute in Florida, Ohio and North Carolina, where blacks voters, uninspired by the woman who labeled black youth “super-predators,” are 20 percent less likely to vote this year than in 2012.

You heard it here first: If Clinton loses, Hillary will blame blacks. If she wins, she’ll reward Wall Street.

+ Watch this terrific short interview with one of the greatest Oregonians, the fearless and crafty George Atiyeh, on how to take on a savage industry and its bureaucratic automatons and win–WIN BIG. Against all odds and a great personal risk, Atiyeh saved the Opal Creek Wilderness from chainsaws and logging roads, one of the last intact groves of ancient forest in the Pacific Northwest.

+With a thick Oregon fog enwrapping the house, Zen St. Clair and I sat before the fire and watched the Binoche/Fiennes 1992 version of ‘Wuthering Heights’ this week. It sticks unnervingly close to Emily’s text, unlike the celebrated Olivier / Oberon version. Every social convention and moral norm is enthusiastically overturned, if not annihilated. It’s the equivalent of the French Revolution for English literature. I remember Cockburn saying, “How could that young, sickly girl have written the greatest English novel of the 19th century?”

Binoche is hauntingly, fatally beautiful; Fiennes’s Heathcliff is an obsessive fiend–repulsive, feral and irresistable. The film is enhanced, for me at least, by my old nemesis (we’ve since kissed and made up) Sinead O’Connor, who narrates and briefly appears all swaddled up in a bonnet and wind-blown cape as Emily, giving just a hint of the ferocious mind Brontë must have possessed. The Yorkshire Moors have never looked more intoxicating or treacherous. Highly recommended for doomed Romantics. That said, I have no clue what the hell Kate Bush is doing in this video. If anyone has an idea, please explicate.

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Sound Grammar

What I’m listening to this week:

1/ Julia Holter: Have You in My Wilderness
2/ Grimes: Art Angels
3/ Gov’t. Mule: The Tel-Star Sessions
4/ Lisa Hannigan: At Swim
5/ Kenny Garrett: Do Your Dance

Booked Up

What I’m reading this week:

1/ John Gray: The Soul of the Marionette: a Short Inquiry into Human Freedom
2/ James Baldwin: The Evidence of Things Not Seen
3/ Wilkie Collins: No Name

Selling Dead Souls

Alexander Cockburn: “Shades of Gogol, who was born 200 years ago. The motor of his great novel is the economic use of “dead souls”–deceased serfs listed by the state as assets of the landlords. The novel’s central character, Chichikov, goes around buying them up. New York State could take Gogol’s hint and start auctioning its “living dead” as income generators to other states in need. Looking at our criminal justice system here, Gogol would surely use the line carved his gravestone: ‘And I shall laugh my bitter laugh.'”

A Colossal Wreck.


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