Roaming Charges: Toxic Mom: the Short, Terrible Career of Anne Gorsuch

Federal appellate court judge Neil Gorsuch is Donald Trump’s dismal pick to replace Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court. “Gorsuch” is a familiar name from the political scandal blotter in Washington. Neil’s mother, Anne Gorsuch Burford, ran the Environmental Protection Agency during Reagan time. Her abbreviated tenure there was notable for an obsessive deference to the whims of the oil, coal and chemical lobbies and systemic corruption that spread across the upper levels of the agency. Let us return then to those thrilling days of yesteryear, when the impressionable mind of the teenage Neil Gorsuch was marinating in the wild, self-serving legal theories of that gang of political bandits who called themselves the Sagebrush Rebels. 

In the early summer of 1995, Jay Hair quietly resigned as head of the National Wildlife Federation. This Napoleonic figure had transformed a once scruffy, apolitical collection of local hunting and gun clubs into the cautious colossus of the environmental movement with more than four million members and an annual budget of nearly $100 million. By the time Hair left, the Federation enjoyed more political clout in Washington than the rest of the environmental groups combined.

Hair, a former biology profession who also served as a special assistant to Secretary of the Interior Cecil Andrus during the Carter Administration, was the architect of this astounding transformation. Under the firm hand of Hair’s leadership the Federation’s membership doubled and it’s budget tripled. His strategy was simple: market the Wildlife Federation as a non-confrontational corporate-friendly outfit. Hair created the Corporate Conservation Council and forged relationships with some of the world’s most toxic corporations: ARCO, Ciba-Giegy, Dow Chemical, DuPont, Exxon, General Electric, General Motors, IBM, Mobil Oil, Monsanto, Penzoil, USX, Waste Management and Weyerhaeuser. The corporations received the impriatur of the nation’s largest environmental group, while the National Wildlife Federation raked in millions in corporation grants.

The conservation giant showed less deference to its members. In 1975, Dr. Claude Moore, a long-time member, donated a 367-acre tract of forest land in Loudon County, Virginia to the Federation to be managed as a wildlife sanctuary. The land provided rich habitat for an extraordinary number of birds. A Smithsonian guidebook called the area a natural gem.

Then in 1986 the National Wildlife Federation decided to sell the sanctuary to a developer for $8.5 million and use the money to help pay for the construction of the Federation’s new seven-story office building on 16th Street in DC. Outraged, Dr. Moore and other members sued the Federation, alleging it had violated a contract to manage the land as a nature preserve. Moore lost. The land was sold and 1,300 houses constructed on the site.

While Hair was turning the National Wildlife Federation into a corporate-friendly operation, the Wilderness Society was being run by a millionaire from Montana named Jon Roush. Roush had formerly been the chairman of the Nature Conservancy, the most unapologetically pro-corporate of all environmental groups.

In the winter of 1995, Roush was caught selling off $150,000 worth of timber from environmentally-sensitive lands on his own 800-acre ranch in Montana’s Bitterroot Valley. The trees went to Plum Creek Timber Company, the corporate giant which a conservative congressman from Washington, Rod Chandler, labeled the “Darth Vader of the timber industry.”

Roush’s first gallant reaction to a probing call was to blame it on his wife, whom he was in the process of divorcing. He later claimed that he need to sell of the timber to pay his property taxes. However, local tax records revealed that Roush owed less than $1,000 a year in taxes on property valued at nearly $3 million.

At the same time, the National Audubon Society was being run by a lawyer named Peter Berle, who commanded an annual salary of $200,000. After he savagely trimmed away the muscle from the Society’s conservation staff, Berle gloated, “Unlike Greenpeace, Audubon doesn’t have a reputation as a confrontational organization.”

How did it come to this? Why in the mid-1990s, when Democrats in control of the government, did the nation’s largest environmental groups, which once stood as such a potent force for radical change, mutate into a servile adjunct to the entrenched powers of Washington and Wall Street?

To uncover the forces that drove this transformation, we have to return to the days of the Nixon admininstration, the glory time of American environmentalism. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, the nation rallied to the cause of cleaning up the country’s waters and air, preserving its remaining wild lands and undimmed rivers, regulating the use and disposal of hazardous chemicals, rescuing wildlife from extinction.

Recall the first Earth Day: April 20, 1970. It was the brainchild of a United States senator, Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin, who wanted a national teach-in on the environment. Nelson proclaimed that the environment “was the most critical issue facing mankind.” The teach-in became a media event, orchestrated by a young Harvard educated lawyer, Dennis Hayes, who set forth the lofty protocols of the new movement: “Ecology is concerned with the total system–not just the way it disposes of its garbage.”

That first Earth Day–when millions participated in demonstrations, clean-ups, and rallies across the country–has been hailed as the largest organized event in American history and as a symbol of rebellion against pollution and the exploitation of natural America.

It didn’t take Congress long to get the message. The House and Senate speedily decreed a new era in environmental laws: 1970 saw the creation of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the passage of the Clean Air and National Environmental Policy acts, under which protecting earth, air and water legally became a priority for all federal agencies. Environmental impact statements, for example, give “good science” a word in response to corporate projects. Even the Pentagon was required to play along. Then in 1972 came the Clean Water Act, the first pesticide regulations, the Noise Control Act and a series of laws protecting marine animals and coastal beaches. A year later Congress authorized the Endangered Species Act, regulated toxic chemicals and passed new green laws governing the use of public lands.

Throughout the 1970s, environmental standards stiffened, with legislation covering everything from Superfund (to finance clean-up of toxic dumps) to drinking water standards. The environmental decade culminated with the passage of the Alaska National Interest Lands Act in 1980, which protected about 110 million acres of wilderness, an area larger than the state of California.

In those halcyon days Congress was well-stocked with conservationists: Ed Muskie, George McGovern, Jennings Randolph, Birch Bayn and Eugene McCarthy. Even in the West, where states were still commonly regarded as resources to be exploited, environmentalism had its champions: Idaho’s Frank Church, Montana’s Lee Metcalf, Arizona’s Morris Udall and Oregon’s Wayne Morse and Bob Packwood, an original co-sponsor of the Endangered Species Act.

In his 1970 State of the Union address, Richard Nixon embraced the green theme, proclaiming that “we must make our peace with nature” and reclaim “the purity of its air, its waters, and our living environment. It’s literally now or never.”

To be sure, that supple politician seized this chance to divert the attention of an increasingly restive middle class from the horrors of his war against Vietnam. Nixon understood that “the environment” could bring together every dreamer green enough to impale an avocado seed on a toothpick and raise it up in the thin light of the Me Decade. The environment might bring the beat legions of of the counter-culture together with the heavier left; it could ally those radicals, seniors, working people and the press. Forthwith Nixon created the Environmental Protection Agency, to which he named William Ruckleshaus as overseer. Ruckleshaus confronted industry polluters–he was the first federal bureaucrat to do so–before being drafted to his short-lived tenure as Attorney General, where he turned on his plucky boss.

In that heady decade even the Supreme Court sheltered a radical conservationist, William O. Douglas. Douglas believed that nature should be afforded legal rights. In 1972, he drafted a fierce dissenting opinion in the case of Sierra Club v. Morton, arguing in forceful and poetic language that wilderness itself deserved standing in federal lawsuits, so that before “priceless bits of Americana (such as a valley, an alpine meadow, river or a lake) are forever lost or are transformed as to be reduced to the eventual rubble of our environmental, the voice of the existing beneficiaries of these environmental wonders should be heard.” Douglas further suggested that conservationists who “have an intimate relationship with the inanimate object about to be injured are its legitimate spokesmen.” Thus did Douglas help give birth to both environmental law and, though he is rarely credited for it, the deep ecology movment.

The 1970s saw the green movement mature as a political force with a permanent DC presence, most notably through the creation of the League of Conservation Voters–an organization later headed by Bruce Babbitt–which, for the first time, tracked the environmental voting records of members of congress. Eco-lobbyists, often operating from basements and dingy offices on DuPont Circle, were considered the leanest and most effective on the Hill.

Meanwhile a more confrontational and grassroots-based faction of the environmental community was beginning to take root, spearheaded by the Arch Druid himself, David Brower. (Brower, branded the Arch Druid by John McPhee of the New Yorker, was fired by the Sierra Club because he was too radical, founded Friends of the Earth and was later dislodged from there for similar reasons.)

Using the tactics learned from the civil rights and anti-war movements, this more confrontational wing of the green movement, mustered in groups such as Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace, deployed aggressive media campaigns, civil disobedience and direct action against the corporations themselves.

The decade of the 1970s closed with another huge demonstration which was in its own way as prodigious as Earth Day. In the wake of Three Mile Island, 750,000 people crammed together on the Mall in front of the Capitol to protest the evils of nuclear power, chanting “Hell no, we won’t glow” along with the likes of Tom Hayden, Jane Fonda, Jackson Browne, Michael Harrington and Barry Commoner, who had decided to run for president on the green platform of the Citizens’ Party ticket. One of the chief organizers of the event was Donald Ross, a young protege of Ralph Nader, who had helped establish a nationwide network of Public Interest Research Groups on college campuses.

That bright afternoon on the Mall was the last light that shone on the DC-centered green movment. In a decade and a half of Reagan, Bush and Clinton, the environmental corps in  DC ripened into a complacent putty. The corporate counter-attack on greens began in the West with the rise of the Sagebrush Rebels, an amalgam of ranchers, corporate executives, free-market economists and rightwing politicians who decried environmentalism as socialism-by-another-name and as a backdoor assault on property rights.

The Sagebrush Rebels were largely ignored until the election of Ronald Reagan, who bowed to the enthusiasms of Joseph Coors–the leading money dispenser of the far right and owner of substantial mineral claims on federal lands–and selected a suite of Sagebrush leaders to fill important posts in his administration. These Reagan rebels, headed by James Watt (who ran Coors’ Mountain States Legal Foundation) and Anne Gorsuch, called themselves “the Crazies on the Hill.”

Watt, a millennialist Christian and rabid anti-communist, was given the Department of the Interior, which oversees nearly 500 million acres of public land.  He proclaimed he would make the “bureaucracy yield to my blows” and got off to a fast start. Within a matter of months, Watt proposed the sale of 30 million acres of public lands to private companies, gave away billions of dollars worth of publicly owned coal resources, fought to permit corporations to manage national parks, refused to enforce the nation’s strip mining laws, offered up the Outer Continental Shelf oil reserves to exploration and drilling, ignored the Endangered Species Act, and purged the Interior Department of any employee who objected to his agenda.

Watt defended his actions on religious grounds, arguing that conservation of resources for future generations amounted to a waste of “God’s gift to mankind.”

“I do not know how many future generations we can count on before the Lord returns,” Watt warned. Use it or lose it.

In spite of his ravings, Watt held on. He even survived his bizarre attempt to block the Beach Boys (in his fevered mind the incarnation of the counter-culture, even though the group had played fundraisers for George H. W. Bush) from playing a concert on the Mall, a stance that provoked an amusing rebuke from Ronald Reagan. But like Earl Butz before him, Watt was undone by the racism that welled up invincibly within him. Attacking affirmative action, Watt complained that he couldn’t set up a panel without finding “a black, a woman, a Jew and a person in a wheelchair.” Although Watt was later indicted in a scandal over the bilking of the Department of Housing, Education and Welfare out of millions of dollars, it was this remark that did him in.

Over at the Environmental Protection Agency, Watt’s counterpart was Anne Gorsuch, a rough-hewn and ignorant Colorado legislator. Gorsuch, who later married Robert Burford, the rancher and mining engineer Watt selected to run the Bureau of Land Management, surrounded herself with advisers from the pollution lobby, including lawyers from General Motors, Exxon and DuPont. Her objective was to cripple environmental laws passed in the 1970s which, she argued, had created an “overburden” of regulations that had “stifled economic growth.”

To lead the toxic waste division of the EPA Gorsuch chose Rita Levelle, a public relations executive with the Aerojet General Corporation, a defense contractor with potentially vast hazardous waste liabilities. At her appointment many of the EPA’s top scientists and administrators promptly quit.

Gorsuch and Levelle left a miasma of suspended regulations, secret meetings with industry lobbyists, waived fines and suppressed recommendations of angency scientists. In one piquant case, Levelle refused–at the request of Joseph Coors–to enforce new rules that prohibited dumping liquid hazardous waste into community landfills. Coors’s breweries disposed of millions of gallons of such waste near Denver.

The climate of cronyism that infected EPA in those days had its source in the highest levels of the Reagan admininstration, which encouraged agency heads such as Gorsuch to pander to its political allies: Coors, Browning-Ferris Industries, Westinghouse and Monsanto.

Gorsuch’s downfall came after congressional investigators requested records of her warm chats with companies under EPA jurisdiction. At the advice of a White House counsel, Gorsuch refused to turn over the documents and was duly cited with contempt of Congress. When she was called to defend herself, the Reagan justice department declined to accompany her to the Hill. Gorsuch resigned in disgust. The insipid and grossly naive Rita Levelle was eventually convicted on charges of lying to Congress and spent six months in federal prison.

Less heralded, though more sinister, was Reagan’s appointment of John Crowell as assistant secretary of agriculture, a critical position overseeing the operations of the Forest Service, one of the largest agencies in the federal government. As the former general counsel for Louisiana-Pacific, then the largest purchaser of federal timber, Crowell knew his duty. One of his first actions as assistant secretary was to suppress an internal investigation of his own predatory former employer. Forest Service investigators had concluded that Louisiana-Pacific may have bilked the government out of more than $80 million by fraudulent bidding practices on the Tongass National Forest in southeast Alaska.

Crowell then ordered the Forest Service to double its annual offering of subsidized timber, much of which was destined for mills owned by Louisiana-Pacific. He temporarily halted designation of new federal wilderness areas and squashed  scientific reports suggesting that relentless clearcutting in the ancient forests of Oregon and Washington would wipe out of the northern spotted owl.

Such useful objectives quickly accomplished, Crowell departed the Reagan administration for a lucrative position at a Portland, Oregon law firm, which specialized in clients such as the National Forest Products Association, which have a profound interest in exploiting the natural resources of the public domain.

The raw ideologies of the Sagebrush Rebellion overreached, but their core message took hold: environmental regulations sapped economic growth. Environmental overkill became the excited talk of Washington PR houses such as Buson-Marsteller and lobbying firms such as Akin Gump, which plotted a strategy of containment of the greens and their dangerous ideology.

Often all that was needed was a kindlier visage. Take the case of James Watt’s replacement as Secretary of the Interior, Donald Hodel. Shortly after Hodel took up his new duties, he went hiking in Yosemite’s meadows with David Brower. Brower returned from the outing to pronouce Hodel an “honorable man,” practically a green. Yet Hodel’s policies at Interior were as pro-industry as Watt’s, and far more effective. During his tenture, the Bureau of Land Management’s timber sales program hit record levels, as did subsidies for the grazing and mining industries. Hodel was the man who objected to the Montreal Protocol for restricting ozone-depleting chemicals, suggesting that to avoid skin cancer from increased ultraviolet radiation, people should simply wear sunglasses, long-sleeved shirts, hats and sunscreen.

Watt, Gorsuch, Levelle and Crowell were magnificent villains for fundraising: direct mail revenues of the top environmental groups exploded tenfold from 1979 to 1981. Green became the color of money, and the rag-tag band of hardcore activists who populated the Hill in the 1970s gave way to a cadre of Ivy League-educated lobbyists, lawyers, policy wonks, research scientists and telemarketers. Executives enjoyed perks and salaries that rivaled those of corporate CEOs.

By the 1990s, Jay Hair was pulling down a quarter of a million dollars a year for overseeing the National Wildlife Federation and kept his limo engine running at all times, the air-conditioner grinding ozone-shredding gasses at full tilt against the moment Hair emerged from his office on an eco-mission or deal-making sortie.


+ Neil Gorsuch’s blood courses through his veins as brightly blue as the Danube, which is likely why his mother shipped him off to Georgetown Prep for high school, where he could graze in the same nutritious pastures as the Kennedy children and other scions of the American elite. Neil, however, soon found himself feeling terribly oppressed, badgered by classmates blasting out The Clash’s Sandinista album night after night and teachers infecting their lectures with the seditious heresies of the New Left. What’s a poor boy from Colorado to do? Too young to join the Opus Dei sect, the industrious Gorsuch founded his own new school club, the alliterative Fascism Forever, and slept soundly ever after.

+  Like Obama, Neil Gorsuch allegedly went to Harvard School Law, but did anyone actually “see him” there?

+ A cursory review of Gorsuch’s opinions from the appellate bench suggest that he may circulate in a judicial orbit even farther out than his dead idol Antonin Scalia. One particular case, Porro vs. Barnes, tells the tale for me. In 2009, Alfredo Porro was nabbed in an ICE raid as an undocumented alien and taken to the Jefferson County Jail in Oklahoma. Mr. Porro began to rant and yell in his cell. In response, the sheriff sent in a CERT Squad (Certified Emergency Response Team), the guys in the black uniforms with the body armor and military-grade weapons, who forcibly removed Porro from his cell, dragged him down the hall into an interrogation room where he was tied to chair. While Pollo was fully restrained and posed no threat to anyone, one of the CERT team members, a certain Kenny Lovett, tasered the prisoner at least three times. Porro later sued Lovett, the sheriff and the Sheriff’s Office for violating his constitutional right not to be tortured by agents of the state. Porro prevailed against Lovett, but wanted to challenge the systematic brutality taking place inside the jail. But Gorsuch rejected Porro’s claim, saying the sheriff and the county could not be held accountable for the crimes committed by their employees. This will come as a welcome relief to the generals and CIA officers, like new Deputy Director Gina Haspel, slated to supervise the torturers at those black sites Trump is so eager to reopen.

+ Fiery protests in Berkeley successfully prevented Milo Yiannopoulos, the traveling troubadour of race hatred, from speaking on the Cal campus. According to George Cicciarello-Maher, Yiannopoulos planned to publicly name undocumented students at Berkeley.  At a previous speech on the campus of the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, Milo urged the crowd to “purged your campus of illegals.”

Trump rushed to Milo’s defense, denouncing the Berkeley protests as an assault on free speech. Trump even threatened to pull federal funding from the Berkeley campus. Since much of the federal funding to UC-Berkeley goes for defense and nuclear “research” and the torture of animals, this could prove to be a good thing…

Milo wants to make this all about himself, of course, because, like Trump, his ego feeds on outrage. Frankly, I thought the robust nature of the protests in Berkeley were more about the relationship of East Bay dissidents to the brutality of the cops than any super-rage at Milo. These regular clashes have featured this kind of pyrotechnics since at least the murder of Oscar Grant.

+ I got a note this morning from a concerned reader worried that CounterPunch was legitimizing white supremacists by the using the term “Alt Right,” which I don’t think is part of my lexicon. What about Alt-Right-Delete as a replacement?

+ Remember when the Alex Jones Right was all up in arms over the FEMA camps? Not the ones with off-gassing toxic trailers they stuffed the refugees from New Orleans into, but those “secret” FEMA camps, where the Shadow Government of the New World Order was planning to corral gun-loving American dissident types. Don’t those same patriots now get the icy feeling that Trump’s plans for a border wall aren’t to keep Mexican drug gangs out, but “us,” America’s economic refugees, in? That he is, in fact, trying to turn the entire country into a giant FEMA camp? Or do they just imagine themselves as camp guards?

+ Steve Bannon, auteur?

+ Tweet of the morning, following the announcement that Trump was lifting of some the sanctions against FSB: “Golden showers bring Kremlin flowers.”

+ There was a seismic event here in Portland the moment Chris Christie hit bottom

+ How do the Sonderkommando of Big Labor who photo-opped with Trump last week feel this morning, a Congress moves to enact national right-to-work legislation?

+ One of the most amusing documents in the Podesta email leaks was an exchange between Clinton staffer Jake Sullivan and the irrepressible Neera Tanden of the Center for American Progress, a notorious money pit for big liberal donors. Worried that John Podesta was pushing HRC to support the $15 minimum wage movement, Sullivan writes a bitchy note to Tanden in April 2015.: “John Podesta (and the Red Army) want to support $15!”

Tanden replies with a smiley face: “And when you say Red Army, you mean the base of the Democratic party, right? Just want to be clear here. Substantively, we have not supported $15 – you will get a fair number of liberal economists who will say it will lose jobs. Most of rest seems fine (obviously trade sticks out). Politically, we are not getting any pressure to join this from our end. I leave it to you guys to judge what that means for you. But I’m not sweating it.”

Democratic Party deep thinkers referring to the grassroots of the party as the “Red Army” explains much about why the Clinton campaign flat-lined. California congressman Adam Schiff’s contention that one of the worst side-effects of Trump’s win is that it is “radicalizing” young Democrats explains why the party is unlikely to revive anytime soon. “The radical nature of this government is radicalizing Democrats, and that’s going to pose a real challenge to the Democratic Party, which is to draw on the energy and the activism and the passion that is out there, but not let it turn us into what we despised about the tea party,” Schiff griped to the Los Angeles Times this week.

Would that it were so, Adam….

+ Total amount of money divested from the Dakota Access Pipeline as of January 31 2017: $54,926,616.23.

+ California Dreamin’: this year there are at least 63,000 homeless children registered for school in Los Angeles County, a 17 percent uptick from last year.

+ “And Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.'” NOT. At not in the case of a four-month old Iranian girl scheduled for living-saving heart surgery at the Oregon Health Sciences University medical center in Portland, who was denied entry into the US after Trump’s Muslim travel ban. Perhaps the Donald stopped reading the New Testament at Two Corinthians.

+ Kids, it’s still not OK to plagiarize, even if the Secretary of “Education” does it….

+ And you thought Betsy DeVos was problematic

+ Hot off the No Shit News Wire: Nancy (Net Worth $48) Pelosi: “We are capitalists!

+ Nikki Haley: “Crimea is not part of Russia.” Did Samantha Power leave behind her talking points?

+ When it comes to executive massacres, no one is bringing up Bill Clinton’s cowardly firing of the heroic Jocelyn Elders for preaching the health virtues of masturbation and condoms.

+ The acting Attorney General, Dana Boente, is the new Robert Bork. If he continues to play nice with Trump, perhaps he’ll get a federal judgeship out of this. And then, who knows, maybe he will get “Boented”?

+ Trump/Bannon’s war “of civilization” is turning into a war “on” civilization.

+ But Islamophobia sells in America….

+ British environmentalist Mike Galsworthy: “Let’s keep Trump out of the UK until we all figure out what the Hell is going on…”

+ More than 1,000 State Department staffers protested Trump’s Muslim ban through the Department’s so-called Dissent Channel. Sean Spicer said if they didn’t like the policy, they should quit. Will career Foreign Service officers become the Air Traffic Controllers of Trump time? Would that, necessarily, be a bad thing?

+ Myron Ebell, the crack scientist at the American Enterprise Institute who is overseeing Trump’s environmental & “climate” policy, spoke this week at an energy conference in London, where he outlined his agenda for the planet:

+ Slash EPA budget by more than 50%.
+ Cut EPA staff from 15,000 to 5,000.
+ Withdraw from Paris Climate Agreement.
+ Defund UN Climate Program
+ Scrap Obama’s Clean Power Plan.

+ Many liberals rushed to point out that among the “interests” of Alexandre Bissonette, the Quebec mosque shooter, as listed on his Facebook page, are the names: George W. Bush, Donald Trump and John McCain. But two others grabbed my eye: Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins, both frothing Muslim-haters. Hitchens, of course, helped plan missile strikes on Muslim villages at the White House during the Iraq War.

+ The only redeeming virtue about Trump’s executive orders is that they are written so ineptly that even conservative judges and justices will feel compelled to overturn them.

+ Overheard at the Battery Park protest in NYC.

Chuck Schumer: “Are we gonna win this fight?”

Crowd: “No thanks to you! Stop voting for his nominees!”

+ The Axis of Apartheid: Bibi Netanyahu praises Trump’s plan for a border wall. But hold on a minute. What’s this rippling crossing the wires….Trump White House Warns Israel on Settlements! Bibi and Putin rebuked by their Lord Protector on the same day! No doubt, Democratic attack dogs will accuse Trump of anti-semitism. But friends of the Palestinians should encourage him. We know Trump responds well to flattery…

+ You won’t want to watch this film of bison being killed in Montana, but make yourself sit through it.

Is this hunting? Next year, Uday and Qusay Trump will probably be “hunting” snowbound bison in Yellowstone National Park itself, as the oil rigs are going up near Old Faithful…Support the Buffalo Field Campaign to stop this madness before it spreads.

+ Apropos of nothing:  is a document that you receive as a PDF via email an Alt Fax?

+ There are plans for a protest outside Trump Tower where people will drop their pants and moon Melania up in her Versailles-in-the-Sky penthouse. Sounds fun, but I think a mass urination might be more effective:

Golden showers at Trump Tower,
Mighty streams of people power..

+ However, outlandish “Portlandia” becomes it will never catch up with the real thing….

+ My favorite living novelist is Thomas Pynchon. My favorite novel is his apocalyptic post-World War II comic opera Gravity’s Rainbow. In the early 1960s, fresh out of Cornell, Pynchon was living in Seattle and working as a technical writer for Boeing. At the time, Boeing was developing the Minuteman nuclear missile and Pynchon was writing acerbic internal articles on the hidden dangers of ballistic missile technology.

This week Seattle Magazine published a fascinating essay arguing that Pynchon soon came to regard the Emerald City with such unremitting animus that in his novel he transformed Seattle into the surreal “Rocket City” of Nazi Germany, where the End of the World was being engineered by crazed scientist using slave labor. The article is worth a look, even if you haven’t (shame on you) read the novel.

Pynchon has a thing for limericks. I scribbled down this bit of doggerel in honor of his time in a city that is often too smug for its own good:

There was a young writer at Boeing
Who didn’t like the way things were going
So he climbed the Space Needle
To empty his wheedle
On a town where fascism was growing

+ Henry Rollins: “This is not a time to be dismayed, this is punk rock time. This is what Joe Strummer trained you for.”  It’s up to you….

Sound Grammar

What I’m listening to this week…

Uyama Hiroto: Freedom Jazz
Theo Croker: Escape Velocity
Uptown Funk Empire: The Empire Strikes Back
Colin Vallon Trio: Danse
Wells Fargo: Watch Out!

Booked Up

What I’m reading this week…

Pierpaolo Barbieri: Hitler’s Shadow Empire: Nazi Economics and the Spanish Civil War
Teju Cole: Known and Strange Things: Essays
Robert Moor: On Trails: an Exploration

The Comedy of Political Crooks

Bertolt Brecht: “The great political criminals must be exposed and exposed especially to laughter. They are not great political criminals, but people who permitted great political crimes, which is something entirely different. The failure of his enterprises does not indicate that Hitler was an idiot and the extent of his enterprises does not make him a great man. If the ruling classes permit a small crook to become a great crook, he is not entitled to a privileged position in our view of history. That is, the fact that he becomes a great crook and that what he does has great consequences does not add to his stature. One may say that tragedy deals with the sufferings of mankind in a less serious way than comedy.”

The first item in this week’s Roaming Charges is excerpted from Heatstroke: Earth on the Brink by Jeffrey St. Clair and Joshua Frank, forthcoming this spring from CounterPunch Books.

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