Roaming Charges: Rexless Abandon

‘+ Before attempting to see things from Trump’s point of view this week, I consulted the great EM Cioran: “Chaos is rejecting all you have learned, chaos is being yourself.”

+ I mourn Rexxon’s passing. He was the least lethal Secretary of State of my lifetime. Tillerson was no Kissinger, Haig, Powell, Clinton or Albright and that was fine by me. Even though he was the former CEO of Exxon, Rex fought to save the Paris Accords. He stood up to Israel and the Saudis on Iran. He quashed McMaster’s “bloody nose” plan for North Korea. And he outed his boss as a “fucking moron,” and never apologized.

+ When John Kelly called Tillerson to let him know his firing was imminent, Rex was on the toilet, probably still straining to discharge that wilted salad Trump forced him to eat.

+ Tillerson may get a little cold revenge from the fact that his nemesis HR McMaster’s head appears to be next on the chopping block, with other “deadweights” in Trump’s  Cabinet of Curiosities to follow soon: Shulkin, Carson, DeVos, Sessions and Kelly. Of course, the real punishment is to be left behind, condemned to serve the entire four year term with no early release or parole.

+ There’s only one person I can think of who is consistently wrong about more things that he claims to know a lot about than Bill Kristol and that would be the person Trump just picked to replace Gary Cohn as his chief economic advisor, Larry Kudlow. Kudlow, an economic fabulist who helped concoct and implement supply-side (aka, trickle down, voodoo) economics during the Reagan era, has repeatedly misread some of the most shattering economic events of our time, including the 2008 crash. Here is Kudlow, then a jabbering head on CNBC, in December 2007: “There’s no recession coming. The pessimistas were wrong. It’s not going to happen.” A month later, he was still boosting away: “Banks are taking significant steps to repair their balance sheets. Even though some people might not be happy with the speed, the reality is things are improving.” Amid the wreckage in February 2008, Kudlow still hadn’t recanted: “I’m going to bet that the economy will be rebounding sometime this summer, if not sooner. We are in a slow patch. That’s all. It’s nothing to get up in arms about.”

+ Kudlow will head the National Economic Council. Three weeks ago, an NEC staffer named George David Banks resigned after being told he would not be granted a security clearance. Why? Banks had admitted to smoking marijuana back in 2013. One wonders if the same standard will be applied to Kudlow. After leaving the Reagan administration, Kudlow went to work as an economist at Bears Stearns in 1987, where he soon developed a serious cocaine habit. By 1994, he was reportedly shelling out $100,000 a month for blow. Kudlow was fired from his job, entered a rehab program and landed a gig as economics editor at the National Review. But he hadn’t completely kicked his habit and was eventually canned from that job as well. Kudlow finally cleaned himself out with the help of the neo-fascist Catholic sect Opus Dei, admired by Antonin Scalia and villainized in Dan Brown novels. After going straight, the still-jittery Kudlow began dispensing his hallucinogenic readings of the economy on CNBC. The credulous people who followed his market tips over the years probably ended up worse off than many of Bernie Madoff’s clients.

+ Larry Kudlow, speaking about bombing Iraq in 2002: “The shock therapy of decisive war will elevate the stock market by a couple-thousand points.” So watch the Dow closely. When the market slumps, the prospects for war increase.

+ Stormy Daniels: “Get your hands off of Trump, Olga. He’s mine, all mine!”

+ So Robert Mueller did it. He breached Trump’s “red line” by filing subpoenas for financial records from the Trump organization. Well, if that’s what it takes to entice Trump to finally fire Jeff Sessions, good for Mueller. Yes, I know that Trump is likely to install someone even worse. But fire Beauregard anyway, Donald…

+ Who might that worse someone be? The word around Washington is, EPA Director Scott Pruitt, who gets advice on what mountain tops to remove to mine coal from Jesus or his Father. Since Pruitt has already been confirmed by the Senate, the theory goes, he wouldn’t have to endure another protracted round of hearings that might touch on the delicate matter of his first class air travel and praetorian guard. No word on whether Pruitt would take his super-secret soundproof booth with him to the Justice Department.

+ Does Pruitt have an extra soundproof booth to lock Ryan Zinke in? No one wants to listen to his racist “banter” anymore…

+ Yes, it’s a new, reformed, and enlightened generation of Saudis. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the man who is keeping his mother under house arrest to keep her from talking shade about him to his father King Salman, is warning Iran that he quickly acquire a nuclear weapon. Goodbye Yemen, lookout Tehran…

+ The Russians’ alleged hacking of US power plants wasn’t nearly as destructive as Enron’s legalized hacking of the California electric grid.

+ If the Russians disrupted operations at a few coal plants with their alleged cyber hacks, then Putin will have done more to combat climate change than we’re likely to see during Trump’s entire first term. Maybe someone will nominate him for the Goldman Prize.

+ Of course, that’s not a high standard. Consider that FEMA, still struggling to repair the catastrophic damage from three major hurricanes and the worst fire season in California history, quietly removed any mention of climate change from their strategic plan.

+ Six months after Hurricane Maria crashed through the Caribbean Sea, only a fraction of the aid money to Puerto Rico has been spent and the aid money that was appropriated is only a fraction of what Puerto Rico needs to recover.

+ Mike Pompeo Maximus had set himself an almost impossible goal, namely: “Make the CIA more vicious.” With medal-winning torturer Gina Haspel now in charge his dream is likely to come to fruition…Now, on to making the State Dept. more meddlesome.

+ If confirmed by the Senate as Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, the Tea Partier whose congressional career was sponsored by the Koch Brothers, will be the Trump administration’s leading international voice on climate. Here’s what he believes:  “there are scientists that think lots of different things about climate change. There’s some who think we’re warming, there’s some who think we’re cooling, there’s some who think that the last 16 years have shown a pretty stable climate environment.”

+ Of course, Pompeo never would have become CIA director without these Democrats who voted to confirm his nomination:

Donnelly (D-IN)
Feinstein (D-CA)
Hassan (D-NH)
Heitkamp (D-ND)
Kaine (D-VA
King (I-ME)
Klobuchar (D-MN)
Manchin (D-WV)
McCaskill (D-MO)
Reed (D-RI)
Schatz (D-HI)
Schumer (D-NY)
Shaheen (D-NH)
Warner (D-VA)
Whitehouse (D-RI)

+ Darling Nikki Haley’s clearly pissed that she was passed over for Secretary of State. She went rogue on Wednesday by grinding on the Russians over the poisoning of Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia. Skripal is a Russian exile and double agent. In a rabid speech before the UN, Haley reiterated British PM Theresa May’s accusation that the Skripals were poisoned with the highly toxic “Novichok” nerve agent manufactured by the Russian government. May offered no evidence for her charge. Salisbury is just a few miles down the road from the UK’s very own chemical weapons facility at Porton Down. The Soviet’s Novichok program was tested at a research base in Nukus, Uzbekistan, which ultimate fell into US hands after the former Soviet Republic gained its independence. One of the chemists who helped develop the Novichok poisons, Vil Mirzayanov, left Russia to live in the US. The US was charged with decommissioning the facility and destroying any stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons. So both the Brits and the US may have had access to Novichok, as well as any number of independent actors who could have bought the chemical on the black market. How the UK identified the poison as a Novichok agent remains a mystery, since British researchers at Porton Down allegedly don’t have any samples and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons Scientific Advisory Board (OPCW) claims that it has “insufficient information” to accurately detect and identify Novichok agents. No wonder Jeremy Corbyn warned that May had prematurely, and dangerously, leapt to blame the attack on the Russian government. Corbyn decried the “McCarthyite” hysteria sweeping Britain and sagely urged people to “keep calm.”

+ This stern lecture came only a day after Haley madly ranted that the US would consider military action if the Russians didn’t behave themselves in Syria. The Russians, naturally, returned the favor. It’s escalation on all fronts.

+ Vanessa Trump is filing for divorce from Donald Jr, who, shortly after she first met him, said to the younger Trump: “Oh, you’re Donnie, the one with the retarded dad.” The last straw  for the former model was apparently Donald’s demented tweeting condemning the students of Parkland High School, who had called for banning assault weapons in the wake of the massacre. Take him to the cleaners, Vanessa, and fight for custody of all of his guns and dead animal parts….

+ Make schools safer, disarm the police

+ An NRA-approved method of reducing class sizes…?

+ Instead of arming teachers & training them how to shoot a Glock, why not just replace teachers with mercenaries from Blackwater and train them how to teach basic accounting and Creationism? I’m sure Betsy DeVos can get a discounted rate from her brother Erik Prince.

+ I hope many of the students protesting gun violence this week will also protest the vile decision to seek the death penalty against the Florida shooter. State sponsored killing only sanctifies more killing.

+ Multinational corporations now pay lower taxes than they did 10 years ago. Soon the multinationals will be taxing governments…

+ The odious Tomi Lahren, whose racist rants made her a star in the firmament of Trumplandia, bragged on Instagram this week about kicking her dog, Kota.“Why don’t you tell the world what you were doing during my entire ‘Fox & Friends’ hit?” Lahren says she asked the small dog. “Oh I know, chewing on her damn bone as loud as she possibly could. So I had to kick her about five times during the show.” The next time she flies United let’s hope the flight attendants do the right thing and stuff her into the overhead compartment.

+ Bannon’s Il Duce Fixation: “He was clearly loved by women. He was a guy’s guy. He has all that virility. He also had amazing fashion sense, right, that whole thing with the uniforms. I’m fascinated by Mussolini.”


+ Chuck Schumer says he will not urge his fellow Democrats in the senate to oppose the nominations of Pompeo Maximus or Gina Haspel. Of course, he isn’t. Chuck wants war against Iran, even if Haspel has to torture some recalcitrant senators to get the votes …

+ Obama’s CIA chief, Leon Panetta, whose 2016 DNC convention speech was memorably drowned out by chants of “No War, No War,” rushed to the defense of  Madam Rendition, Gina Haspel, Trump’s pick to replace Mike Pompeo Maximus at the CIA. “I’m glad that it’s Gina, because frankly, she is someone who really knows the CIA inside out,” Panetta said about the woman who ran the CIA’s torture chambers at a black site. Well, he’s right about that, at least. Remind me, why is it we need Democrats?

+ If Elizabeth Warren could do one good thing for her country, it would be to take down the Senator from Citibank …

+ Rand Paul is no Leon Panetta, Schumer or Dianne Feinstein. (Thankfully.)

+ The fact that the pro-gun, anti-choice, coal-promoting former Marine and prosecutor Conor Lamb can be described as a “centrist” illustrates how far to the right the Democrats have lurched since Clinton-time. Lamb does have one redeeming virtue. He wants to give Nancy Pelosi the boot…

+ Nearly, every square mile of Iowa was buried under more than 88 pounds of Monsanto’s Round-Up herbicide each year. And this is true for much of the Midwest, as depicted on these maps showing the use of glysophate, the carcinogenic chemical in Round-Up, in 1992, before the advent of Round-Up Ready crops, and 2014.

+ It’s come to this: Swiss glaciers are being draped in huge white blankets in a last desperate effort to slow their melting.

+ FOIA Under Trump: 78% of FOIA requests filed last year returned either nothing or heavily redacted files. (I can attest to this. I have 15 outstanding FOIA requests filed over the last 14 months.)

+ Karl Marx (1883), Edward Abbey (1989), and Stephen Hawking (2018). All died on March 14th.

Ground Control to Major Tom

+ Someone has to say it: Tom Brokaw is a “low IQ individual.”

+ Up in Minnesota, the Red Lake Nation’s Tribal Council voted unanimously to force Enbridge to remove its 4 pipelines from tribal lands. Get out the excavators…

+ Don DeLillo: “I quit my job just to quit. I didn’t quit my job to write fiction. I just didn’t want to work anymore.”

+ The latest evidence that those trying to prove that homosexuality is an “illness” are the ones who are “sick“…

+ You want to know why Portland is still considered one of the most racist cities in the US? In the trial of an American American man, prosecutors hung plastic manikins from a rod in court and placed photos of three black men on the torsos in a kind of courtroom lynching

+ All Trump has to do to calm the fears of the neocons over his nuclear summit with Kim Jong-Un is to tell them he consulted an astrologer and the auspices are good. It worked for their idol Reagan.

+ For those of you who live near Portland, there’s a worthy exhibit to inspect at the Oregon Historical Society on one of the forgotten heroes of the early conservation movement, William Finley. This link includes a fascinating 10 minute video of his life in the Northwest, including a description of how Finley campaigned to stop a hideous tourist operation in Tillamook Bay where tugboats took gun-toting families out to the large sea stacks off the coast to shoot thousands of nesting seabirds for after church Sunday fun.

Don’t Let Them Say Your Hair’s Too Long

Booked Up

What I’m reading this week…

The Weeping Time: Memory and the Largest Slave Auction in American History by Anne C. Bailey

The Death of Caesar by Barry Strauss

The Future is History by Masha Gessen

Sound Grammar

What I’m listening to this week…

I’m still recreating my vinyl collection. Here are this week’s acquisitions…(Thanks for the recommendations.)

21. Marquee Moon by Television

22. What’s Goin’ On by Marvin Gaye

23. The Singles by Sun Ra

24. Something Else by Cannonball Adderley

25. Are You Experienced? by Jimi Hendrix Experience

What next?

The Fruit of Exile

Primo Levi: “This is the most immediate fruit of exile, of uprooting: the prevalence of the unreal over the real. Everyone dreamed past and future dreams, of slavery and redemption, of improbable paradises, of equally mythical and improbable enemies; cosmic enemies, perverse and subtle, who pervade everything like the air.”

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