Roaming Charges: My Brain is Hanging Upside Down

Photo by Rex Sorgatz | CC BY 2.0

Photo by Rex Sorgatz | CC BY 2.0


If there’s one thing that makes me sick
It’s when someone tries to hide behind politics
I wish that time could go by fast
Somehow they manage to make it last
My brain is hanging upside down
I need something to slow me down

— The Ramones, “Bonzo Goes to Bitburg”

+ Rachel Maddow’s big exposé on Trump’s taxes turned into a big bust: Trump made $153 million and paid $38 million in taxes. The surprise is that Trump actually paid taxes in 2005, choosing not to avail himself of the $20 billion loss claimed in previous years. In order to cover the flop, Maddow and Co. suggested without the slightest evidence that Trump leaked the returns himself!

+ Maddow claims the protection of 1st amendment for publishing Trump’s leaked/stolen tax returns. Fine. But she should apply the same standard to the DNC/Podesta emails, which she and the rest of the MSDNC crew continue to refer to as “stolen.”

+ Perhaps Maddow was simply preparing her cultish audience for the even bigger bust to come: the Russian Connection. The longer the Democrats, and their talking puppets in the press, remain fixated on the the meta-conspiracy of Russian hacking of the 2016 elections the more cover they give Trump to loot the economy, eviscerate social welfare programs and gut environmental regulations. Trump is going to subvert the country through unbridled greed and avarice, not through a seditious pact with Putin. Maybe it call all be explained as a massive case of PMS–Putin Mania Syndrome.

+ At the end of last week, Trump canned 46 US attorneys, the nation’s top prosecutors. The mass dismissal was entirely his prerogative and is common practice in new presidential administrations. Who weeps for prosectors? Liberals, apparently, who have made Preet Bharara, the former US attorney for the southern district of Manhattan, into a martyr. Bharara is now being cast as a white knight who was waging mighty battles against the crooks of Wall Street. It’s a ludicrous portrait for anyone who knows anything about Bharara’s less than glorious tenure as US attorney. As Pam and Russ Martens report, Bharara is a creature of Wall Street. In fact, he has largely functioned as a factotum for the Senator from Citibank, Chuck Schumer. Bharara served faithfully for several years as the chief counsel for Schumer on the Senate judiciary. As a reward for his dutiful role in protecting the careers of ace financial predators such as Jamie Dimon and Lloyd Blankfein, Schumer persuaded Barack Obama to appoint Bharara to his post as US attorney in the spring of 2009, during the depths of the economic crisis that Wall Street engineered. One of the biggest cases in Bharara’s tenure was the investigation into the Bernie Madoff ponzi scheme, where Bharara’s role seemed to be to protect the felonious fund’s biggest beneficiaries, JPMorgan Chase and Picower Family, who reportedly made a profit of nearly $20 billion from the Madoff fund. Clearly a hero for our time.

+ If you’re not a banker, you’re their prey

+ No sign of any trillion dollar infrastructure plan in Trump’s budget. In fact, funding for the Department of Transportation shrinks. Perhaps Trump will set up a Go Fund My Infrastructure website?

+ David Be’eri, an Israeli settlement leader who once ran over Palestinian kids with his car, just won the Israel Prize for lifetime achievement.

+ Trump’s counter-terror advisor, the brutish Sebastian Gorka, was apparently an active member of a far-right Hungarian order known as Vitézi Rend. As reported in bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550-e1477943826411Forward, the US State Department Vitézi Rend operated under the direction of the German Nazi regime in World War II. Leaders of Vitézi Rend to Forward that Gorka had pledged “lifelong loyalty” to the order, a vow that may place Gorka’s immigration status in jeopardy. The State Department’s Foreign Affairs Manual states that members of the Vitézi Rend “are presumed to be inadmissible” to the country under the Immigration and Nationality Act. No wonder the Trump White House is desperate to chop the State Department by 30 percent.

+ Just call her Never-Never Nikki. This week UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, in full damage-control mode, announced that “Russia should never be trusted.” Even Ronald Reagan, the ideological sperm donor for this whole crew, said “trust but verify.”

+ Royal Robbins, who pioneered low-impact climbing on the vertical faces of Yosemite, died this week. I spent a day in Kings Canyon with Robbins in the early 90s. He was one of the greatest climbers and conservationists of our time.

+ Trump made a morbid pilgrimage to Hermitage to lay flowers on the tomb of Andrew Jackson, slave-owner and Indian killer. Trump’s hero once penned an advertisement for a runaway slave which offered $50 for the capture of the slave “and ten dollars extra, for every hundred lashes any person will give him.” I had a flashback to Reagan’s creepy visit to graves of the Waffen SS in Bitburg, an homage immortalized by The Ramones.

+ The most edifying takeaway from Trump’s big interview with Tucker Carlson on FoxNews this week concerned his reading habits, which weigh-in at about half-a-Palin. Of course, he’d read a little more, if he didn’t have to spend all day making America tremendously great again:

Tucker Carlson: What do you do at the end of the day? What do you read, what do you watch…

Donald Trump: Well, you know, I love to read. Actually, I’m looking at a book, I’m reading a book, I’m trying to get started. Every time I do about half a page, I get a phone call that there’s some emergency, this or that. But we’re going to see the home of Andrew Jackson today in Tennessee and I’m reading a book on Andrew Jackson. I love to read. I don’t get to read very much, Tucker, because I’m working very hard on lots of different things, including getting costs down. The costs of managing our country are out of control. But we have a lot of great things happening, we have a lot of tremendous things happening.

+ A powerful new study by the UN’s Office of Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia confirms and documents the apartheid-like treatment of Palestinians by Israel. Predictably, this report was met with rage by Israel and its allies in the UN (the US). Pressure was applied and a few days later the UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, demanded that the report be removed from OESCWA’s website. Rather than comply with Guterres’s demand, Rima Khalif, the Executive Secretary of the OESCWA, tendered her resignation. There are still things that are true that you can’t say in public without paying an extreme price.

+ Trump: “I’ve always opposed the Iraq war.” On March 15th, the Pentagon announced it’s plans to send 2,500 new to Kuwait to await their deployment to Syria and Iraq.

+ What fascists talk about when they go to the beach:

“In October 1938, while on holiday at the beach, Claretta recorded that he told her how much he detested the Jews and that he planned to ‘massacre them like the Turks did’. ‘I have imprisoned 70,000 Arabs in concentration camps. I can do the same with 50,000 Jews. I’ll put them on a small island and shut them all up there … I shall kill them, every one.’ He insisted to Claretta that he was disgusted to think he had ever slept with the Jewish Sarfatti, speaking of the ‘stench of her flesh’. He also expressed a wish to wipe out the ‘four million’ Italians who, according to his calculations, had descended from Roman slaves and whose blood must therefore have remained vile for ‘fifty generations’. The English, he told her, were even worse: a ‘piggish and fallen people’ who thought with their bottoms and whose institutions were riddled with Jews. As for the French, with the exception of Napoleon, every last one of them was cowardly, syphilitic and degenerate; French women were whores who only enjoyed sleeping with black men – something Claretta concurred was ‘awful’.” (From “Il Duce and the Red Alfa” by Bee Wilson, London Review of Books.)

+ Laila al-Arian has produced a terrific new documentary on the implications of Trump’s Muslim ban, called simply “The Ban.”

+ The West Virginia senate just passed a bill that eliminates coal mine safety inspections. Why? It’s all about the workers!

+ The first condemnation notices are being sent to Texas landowners to clear the way for Trump’s Great Wall. The landowners are being offered a whopping $2,000 an acre. So much for the sacred nature of property rights.

+ For the past two years, carbon dioxide rates in the atmosphere have risen by more than 3 parts per million, the fastest increase ever recorded. Thank Gaia that now learned from Scott Pruitt that the stuff is harmless….Inhale, if the wind’s blowing right you might even cop a buzz! (Of course, if Jefferson Beauregard Sessions finds out carbon dioxide makes you high, he might try to ban it–or arrest you for breathing.)

+ Here is a map of global sea ice. This year’s line is in red and it’s almost off the chart, in a negative kind of way. Over to you Scott Pruitt!


+ Yemen is on the brink of a deadly famine. Meanwhile, the US and the Saudis continue bombing and blocking the disbursement of food and medical aid.

+ Trump on Letterman, Jan. 2015:

“A friend of mine was in Scotland recently. He got very, very sick. They took him by ambulance and he was there for four days. He was really in trouble, and they released him and he said, ‘Where do I pay?’ And they said, ‘There’s no charge.’ Not only that, he said it was like great doctors, great care. I mean we could have a great system in this country.”

Someone should retool Single-Payer, call it TrumpCare and send it to Trump. Flattery sells.

+ The Trump administration just gave the CIA expanded authority to conduct killer drone strikes against insurgents and suspected terrorists (and anyone in the vicinity). So much for that feud with the Deep State.

+ California’s only extant wolf pack has gone missing. None of the seven wolves in the Shasta Pack have been seen since last spring. Have they checked the walls on Uday and Qusay Trump’s trophy room?

+ Rexxon Tillerson ventured to Asia this week, without the press corps, threatened military action against a nuclear power (North Korea), then cut his trip short, citing “fatigue.” Perhaps he consult “low-energy Jeb!” for advice on how to deal with these incapacitating feelings of ennui ..

+ We-Vibe, a Canadian vibrator manufacturer, has just been fined $4 million Canadian dollars for tracking the sexual activity of their customers without their knowledge. No word on whether Kellyanne Conway conducted a sweep of the White House after Justine Trudeau’s visit….

+ Anarchists are fixing Portland’s battered roads, Block by Black Bloc…

+ Dr. Joey Hensley is bigoted Tennessee state legislator who has built his political career by attacking the LGBT community. Now courtesy of court records from his divorce we learn that Dr. Hensley has been carrying on an affair over the course of several years with his nurse, who also happens to be his cousin. Hensley also served as his lover’s doctor and prescribed her a steady diet of prescription drugs. Hensley, who was the chief sponsor of the “Don’t Say Gay Bill“, refused to testify at the divorce trial claiming “doctor-patient privilege.” Shortly before this story broke, Hensley had introduced a bill in the Tennessee Senate that would deem babies born through artificial insemination “illegitimate.”  Dr. Hensley is, of course, a self-described “family values Republican.”

+ Speaking of family values Republicans, another one took a break from hectoring his constituents on the wages of sin to get himself arrested for having sex with a  teenage boy prostitute in a Super 8 Motel in Moore, Oklahoma. Perhaps Trump should start a national crime blotter for such acts of hypocritical venality so America can keep track. It would prove much more entertaining than charting crimes made by poor immigrants.

+ When ExxonMobile executives conducted contentious internal debates on sensitive topics such as climate change, Exxon chieftain Rex Tillerson adopted a fake email name, Wayne Tracker. It’s not clear yet whether Tillerson had any communications with “John Miller” or “Carlos Danger.”

+ The fiercely independent historian Marylin Young died this week. I was very sorry to hear this. I spoke on a panel with Marilyn shortly after 9/11. Everything she predicted then has come true and more so.

+ The return of John Coltrane and James Baldwin in the same year? Maybe Trump is making America great again!

+ My old pal Steve Kelly, the Bozeman artist and environmentalist, made this stirring video on behalf of Yellowstone’s bison, who are being ruthlessly rounded up and killed as they migrate across the park’s boundaries. Watch and then act.

+ The great poet of the Caribbean Derek Walcott has died. Here’s a favorite passage from his great poem “Another Life, Fully Annotated”

The sun drumming, drumming,
Past the defeated pennons of the palms,
Roads limp from sunstroke,
Past green flutes of the grass
The ocean cannonading, come!
Wonder that opened like the fan
Of the dividing fronds
On some noon-struck sahara,
Where my heart from its rib cage yelped like a pup
After clouds of sanderlings rustily wheeling
The world on its ancient,
Invisible axis,
The breakers slow-dolphining over more breakers,
To swivel our easels down, as firm
As conquerors who had discovered home.


Sound Grammar

What I’m listening to this week….

Freedom Highway: Rhiannon Giddens
Change My Game: Thorbjørn Risager & the Black Tornado
Reverence: Nathan East
Love Has Come Around: Donald Byrd and 125th St., N.Y.C.
Man vs. Sofa: Sherwood & Pinch

Booked Up

What I’m reading this week…

The Language of the Third Reich by Victor Klemperer
Hitler’s American Model: the United States and the Making of Nazi Race Laws by James Q. Whitman
Hard Rain Falling by Don Carpenter

Dictatorship of Lies

Hannah Arendt: “The moment we no longer have a free press, anything can happen. What makes it possible for a totalitarian or any other dictatorship to rule is that people are not informed; how can you have an opinion if you are not informed? If everybody always lies to you, the consequence is not that you believe the lies, but rather that nobody believes anything any longer. This is because lies, by their very nature, have to be changed, and a lying government has constantly to rewrite its own history. On the receiving end you get not only one lie—a lie which you could go on for the rest of your days—but you get a great number of lies, depending on how the political wind blows. And a people that no longer can believe anything cannot make up its mind. It is deprived not only of its capacity to act but also of its capacity to think and to judge. And with such a people you can then do what you please.”

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