When kings the sword of justice first lay down,
They are not kings, though they possess the crown.
Titles are shadows, crowns are empty things,
The good of subjects is the end of kings.
— Daniel Defoe, The True Born Englishman, a Satyr
+ As he shuffles out the door, Barack Obama reminds us that he is, at heart, a moral weakling. On Wednesday, Obama denied clemency to Leonard Peltier. It was a thoroughly deplorable decision. Obama could have acted humanely, stood up for human and indigenous rights and stuck it to the FBI at the same time. But, like Clinton before him, Obama folded, his pliant conscience untroubled by the perpetuation of one of the gravest judicial travesties of our time.
+ No doubt Obama thinks his welcome, but belated, commutations of sentences for Oscar Lopez Rivera and Chelsea Manning will eclipse the injustice done to Peltier. For eight years, Obama was happy to exploit Native Americans as props for photo ops, but remained mute as poverty skyrocketed on reservations, tribal people got gunned down more frequently by cops than blacks or Hispanics, tribal lands were preyed upon by mining and oil companies and pipelines bored through tribal burial grounds and water sources. Now this.
+ The Redacter-in-Chief has cracked down more harshly on whistleblowers than any president since Nixon. His last minute commutation of Chelsea Manning’s outrageous sentence won’t do much to soften that record of viciousness. After all, Obama sat idly as Manning was forced to endure prison conditions that would shame the jailers of Uzbekistan.
Why wait until the last minute to free Manning and Lopez Rivera? The point is to make them suffer as long as possible so they appreciate their freedom more deeply when it finally comes, like the Man in the Iron Mask.
+ This just in from MSDNC’s Boy Toy bloviator Josh Barro on Obama’s commutation of Chelsea Manning’s cruel and unusual sentence: “I do not care for the commutation choice. Manning’s leak damaged the diplomatic apparatus and helped make the world less stable.”
+ Here’s a snapshot of the Obama Economy in one telling figure: 56 percent of Americans have less than $1000 in their checking and savings accounts combined. Ain’t that America, little pink matchboxes for your and me…
+ In his various valedictory speeches, I didn’t hear hear Obama crow about the crowning achievement of his Presidency: perfecting the art of assassination by remote control.
+ Obama surprised Joe Biden by draping the VP’s neck with the Presidential Medal of Freedom last week. There were sighs and tears. But it looked very much like the scene in “The Crown” where Queen Elizabeth II pins medal upon medal on Prince Philip’s chest as a reward for staying on the leash…
+ Shortly after their divorce, Trump’s ex, Ivana, said that Donald used to keep a copy of Hitler’s speeches on the night table. It’s a good story, but I don’t believe it. In the hundreds of photos of Trump’s palatial quarters I haven’t seen one bookcase, bookshelf or book.
+ Trump’s team wanted tanks and missile launchers to roll down the streets of DC in the inaugural parade. Unfortunately, all of the tanks and missile launchers have been deployed for pipeline protection duty in North Dakota…
+ Liberals sneered at this request, alleging that Trump was trying to imitate the Soviet parades of yesteryear. In fact, the precedent had been set by JFK…
+ I see that crooner Paul Anka, whose 1970s comeback hit “(You’re) Having My Baby” was voted the most sexist song of all time, had to back out because of a “child custody dispute.” (The B-side of the single was “Papa.”) Anka is 75.
+ DC’s high end hotels are booked for the inaugural weekend and there’s word
the demand for Russian hookers exceeds supply. While the Trump dossier seems like a fabulation, it has apparently inspired a renewed interest in “golden showers,” which many Trump voters had erroneously believed referred to the gilt shower heads at Trump Tower. The whole affair has given fresh new meaning to “trickle down.”
+ Trump’s inaugural ball event planner said the festivities will exude a “soft sensuality.” Soft Sensuality, the rosé of inaugural urines. Served warm, not chilled.
+ Putin the Fact Checker says he doesn’t believe Trump met with Russian prostitutes, “although ours are undoubtedly the best in the world.” Longtime readers of CounterPunch will recall my account of Putin’s trip down the Colorado/Green River, which was abruptly cut short when he demanded of that the river guide provide “whores!”
+ Still it’s refreshing to see that Putin has a sense of humor. Some of the grimmer Soviet leaders, such as Putin’s old boss at the KGB Yuri Andropov, might not have seen the comedy in Barack Obama sending US troops to Russia’s doorstep in Poland and Norway this week in retaliation for snooping into John Podesta’s inbox. This is when those Hitler analogies the Democrats like to throw around come home to roost.
+ For his part, Trump dismissed the counsel of Mad Dog Mattis and doubled-down on his wise contention that NATO is obsolete, a statement which caused many Neo-Cold War Jedi to “feel a great disturbance in the Force …”
+ As so many have before him, Senator Pat Roberts, the CIA’s favorite Republican, got frustrated by Ron Wyden’s grandstanding during the very amusing hearings on the foreclosure artist Steve Mnuchin’s confirmation hearings for Secretary of the Treasury and told Wyden that “I’ve got a Valium pill here that you might want to take for a second round.” Good idea Senator, but Wyden, who is known as Ron the Weenie by his Oregon constituents, needs something a lot stronger than Valium.
As for Mnuchin, the $400 million dollar man, he apparently failed to disclose $100 million in assets on his financial statements. A $100 million here, a $100 million there…so hard to keep track.
+ Wilbur Ross (Net Worth: $2.5 billion), Trump the Protectionist’s pick to run the Commerce Department, apparently didn’t get the memo. He told his senator interrogators that he supports Fast-Track Trade Authority, another gift of the Obama Administration.
Ross, a border wall booster, was compelled to admit that he had “unwittingly” employed an undocumented immigrant. The household staffer worked for Ross for seven years before being unceremoniously fired on the eve of Ross’s confirmation hearings. Won’t someone deport Ross back to whatever hellish country club he sprouted from?
+ Trump told the Israeli daily Israel Hayom this week that his administration would move rapidly to relocate the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Why not just get it over with and move the embassy straight to Megiddo instead….
+ John McCain, the chief architect of the New Cold War, is running from one cable news outlet to the next warning that Putin’s Russia is a much greater threat to American interests than ISIS. Of course, what he’s really saying is that ISIS is a much bigger threat to defense contractors than Russia. You don’t need F-35s, aircraft carriers and a new generation of nuclear weapons to fight the men in black.
+ Yes, that was Joe Lieberman leaping to microphone to introduce Betsy [Net Worth: $5.1 billion] DeVos, Trump’s pick to run the Department of Education. Lieberman, you will recall, was Barack Obama’s mentor in the senate, the man who groomed the young senator from Illinois for admission into the neoliberal kill club…
+ The anti-union, anti-public school DeVos distinguished herself with gripping testimony explaining that she believed students in Wyoming charter schools should be allowed to come to class packing guns in order to protect themselves from … grizzly bears. Ringling Bros is now defunct (good riddance), but it looks as if the circus is just getting started.
+ According to a recent poll by Gallup, 60% of Americans want ObamaCareless replaced with a Single-Payer system. Fancy getting CNN to badger Trump (or Obama) about that. It looks more and more likely that the Republicans will repeal ObamaCare and replace it with … ObamaCare.
+ ObamaCare is all about mandating health care insurance. Health care insurance is all about giving the insurance companies the right deny you the health care you need when you need it for a profit.
+ The fatal flaw in the Democrats identity politics strategy is that instead of acting as a united force each of the assembled identity groups feuded (and feud still) with each other over who was the most aggrieved identity group, who gets the top spot on the Totem Pole of Victimhood.
+ Speaking of identity politics, more and more people are starting to “identify” themselves as mermaids and mermen. Unfortunately for the Democrats, the mer-demographic tends to migrate and spawn in waters of the already blue Pacific Northwest. Where’s a factory trawler when you really need one?
+ The Karma of Climate Change: a new report from UMass-Amherst predicts that much of the continental United States will hit the 2 degree celsius tipping point 10 to 20 years before the rest of the world, with average temperatures rising in the Northeast by 3C before most of the rest of the world reaches 2C. And they say there’s no justice in the world.
+ Obama’s last call to another head of state was a farewell chat with Angela Merkel. Are Obama’s serial hook-ups with Merkel really less revolting than Trump’s flirtations with Putin?
+ What’s worse? Russia hacking DNC emails? Or Obama administration hacking into nearly every phone call and email you’re likely to make (including Obama’s soulmate Angela Merkel’s)?
+ The latest from ColdWar TV’s Rachel Maddow: “Will Trump pull troops recently deployed near Russia’s border because Putin has something on him?” Let’s hope so.
+ The Democrats have managed to escalate tensions with a nuclear power and elevate the public standing of CIA at the same time. Reagan grins…
+ A recent NBC/Wall Street Journal poll sums up the state of things. CIA net favorability: Clinton voters: +39; Trump voters: +2.
+ I have no idea what the US viewership of RT is, but according to US intelligence agencies its broadcasts helped sway the election, which means RT has more influence over American voters than CNN, NPR and MSDNC combined. Not hard to believe, actually.
+ It remains unclear if Russian intelligence actually hacked the DNC emails. But we do know that the Democratic Party is now an operational asset of American intelligence.
+ The Third Way is a Democratic “think tank” populated by intellectual cadavers who promote the defanged neoliberal politics that have gutted the party. Naturally, this outfit has just been injected with $20 million to retool its losing message for the next election season. But no amount of Think Tank Botox will save these Democrats…
+ As DiFi re-fills her coffers for another tour of duty as senator from California, the DNC’s new strategy comes sharply into focus: Fail. Fail bad. Fail again. Fail worse.
+ The Democrats are the party with a glass chin, a rubber neck and two right feet.
+ While most of liberal America is “occupying” the Inauguration, someone should seize the opportunity to Occupy the headquarters of the DNC. After all, no entity did more to insure the election of Donald Trump.
+ Mitch McConnell slithered to microphone in the Senate hallway and warned that “Americans will not tolerate Democrats blocking Trump’s Supreme Court nominees.” Mitch McConnell should have replaced David Letterman rather than Colbert. He’s funnier.
+ Obama’s national monument designations are largely procedural fictions geared to appease fake environmental groups. But EPA’s last minute betrayal at the behest of the chem-ag lobby to skulk away from imposing restrictions on pesticide spraying while honeybees are pollinating will prove devastating to already collapsing bee colonies.
+ Another rupture of the troubled Ozark Pipeline released 400 barrels of oil near Lawrence, Missouri. It’s time to stop calling these events “leaks” and “spills,” which sounds like a kitten tipped her bowl of milk. Of course, Enbridge, the pipeline company, initially significantly underreported the amount of oil that poured out of the breached pipeline. It’s a basic rule for reading the news that every oil disaster will prove to be “worse than originally thought.”
+ John Nichols, one of the deep thinkers at The Nation, quipped this week that “Trump’s inaugural address will be to presidential oratory what the taco bowl is to fine dining.” What does Nichols want? Florid Obama-like rhetoric that will never be realized? Or transparent lies uttered in brutish sentence fragments? I prefer the latter in the same way I prefer a good Taco Bowl to bluefin tuna sushi served at a “fine dining” establishment like Nobu’s.
+ It’s a bracing feeling when you suddenly reach the point in your life when people that you know and have worked with are dying every week. John Berger, Nat Hentoff and, now, Wayne Barrett. There was a time in the 1970s and early 1980s when the Village Voice was the best and most exciting paper in the country and Wayne Barrett was one of the best reporters they ever had. His book on Trump (The Deals and the Downfall) won’t be equaled. According to Wayne’s old colleague at the Voice Tom Robbins: “On the drive to the hospital where he breathed his last, Wayne Barrett was still doing interviews for a big, tough story on Donald Trump.”
+ From his penthouse bunker in Manhattan, Michael Moore is calling for “100 Days of Resistance” against Trump. What happens on day 101?
+ Nothing more succinctly expresses what it’s like to live here in Nouveau Oregon than the fact that the state’s Goat Yoga fad now has a 900-person waiting list…
+ The best unintended consequence of Trump’s election to date is that it has prompted U2 to indefinitely delay the release of their latest album of musical banalities.
+ Here’s one of the best videos I’ve ever watched on Youtube: The Master and Margarita in 2 Minutes.
+ I got this note from Roger McGuinn of The Byrds on how the “new” music industry continues to rip off artists just like the old music industry. “Pandora played ‘Eight Miles High’ 228,086 times in the second quarter of 2016 and paid me $1.79”
+ I’ve basically stopped watching any news since the election. Instead, I’ve devoted myself more profitably to listening to a single album each day, letting it play 15 or 20 times. Most of them exhaust themselves of fresh meaning after 5 or 6 rotations. But I’ve had Dylan’s strange LP New Morning playing all day yesterday and this morning and it still holds up, better, I think, than John Wesley Harding, Blood on the Tracks or Desire. It’s odd, subdued, funny, studded with natural imagery and featuring more piano and country gospel than most Dylan from this period, perhaps reflecting his recent close encounter with the Reaper.
David Crosby describes the origins of the song “Day of the Locusts“:
“Sara was trying to get Bob to go to Princeton University, where he was being presented with an honorary doctorate. Bob did not want to go. I said, ‘C’mon, Bob it’s an honor!’ Sara and I both worked on him for a long time. Finally, he agreed. I had a car outside, a big limousine. That was the first thing he didn’t like. We smoked another joint on the way and I noticed Dylan getting really quite paranoid about it. When we arrived at Princeton, they took us to a little room and Bob was asked to wear a cap and gown. He refused outright. They said, ‘We won’t give you the degree if you don’t wear this.’ Dylan said, ‘Fine. I didn’t ask for it in the first place.’…Finally we convinced him to wear the cap and gown.”
Dylan adorned in a cap and gown? No wonder he declined the invitation to pick up that Nobel Prize…
+ One final word (Señor) from Dylan to help explicate the title of this column.
What I’m listening to this week…
Sun Ra: Singles: the Definitive 45s Collection, 1952-1991
John Cale: Fragments of a Rainy Season
Ricky Eat Acid: Talk to You Soon
Buffalo Brothers: Fresh From the Horn
Thundercat: Golden Age of Apocalypse
What I’m reading this week…
David Toop: Into the Maelstsrom: Music, Improvisation and the Dream of Freedom
Nick Wood: Azanian Bridges
Carter Niemeyer: Wolf Land
Rulers By Accident
William S. Burroughs: “We have a new type of rule now. Not one-man rule, or rule of aristocracy or plutocracy, but of small groups elevated to positions of absolute power by random pressures, and subject to political and economic factors that leave little room for decision. They are representatives of abstract forces who have reached power through surrender of self. The iron-willed dictator is a thing of the past. There will be no more Stalins, no more Hitlers. The rulers of this most insecure of all worlds are rulers by accident, inept, frightened pilots at the controls of a vast machine they cannot understand, calling in experts to tell them which buttons to push.”