Roaming Charges: the Rise of Pompeo Maximus

Photo by Mark Taylor | CC BY 2.0

+ The Tweets that haunt:

Trump: “Why do we keep broadcasting when we are going to attack Syria. Why can’t we just be quiet and, if we attack at all, catch them by surprise?” August 28, 2013

Trump: “I would not go into Syria, but if I did it would be by surprise and not blurted all over the media like fools.” August 29, 2013.

Trump: “For the first time in the history of military operations a country has broadcast what, when and where they will be doing in a future attack!” August 31, 2013

Trump: “Who are our generals that are allowing this fiasco to happen right before our eyes. Call it the “PLENTY OF NOTICE WAR.”” August 31, 2013

Trump: “In war, the elememt of surprise is sooooo important.What the hell is Obama doing.” Sept. 1, 2013

Trump: “Russia vows to shoot down any and all missiles fired at Syria. Get ready Russia, because they will be coming, nice and new and “smart!” You shouldn’t be partners with a Gas Killing Animal who kills his people and enjoys it!” April 11, 2018

+ Trump this week: “Assad’s an animal for killing women and children.”

Trump last week to CIA: “Why didn’t we kill women & children in that drone strike?”

+ I have no idea who was behind the ghastly chemical weapons attack in Douma. But I do know that prolonged wars make these kinds of atrocities almost inevitable, even by armies which are on the verge of victory: Wounded Knee, Dresden, Nagasaki, Grozny, Fallujah. So what is the response of the foreign policy elites, both Republican and Democrat? More war, more massacres…

+ Here’s an idea, Donald. Boast all you want about how smart your bombs are. How powerful they are. And when you’re going to launch them and how big the craters will be …. then don’t do it. Millions will back your crafty deception.

+ Before testifying at his Senate confirmation hearings, Mike Pompeo Maximus consulted with Hillary Clinton on how to handle himself as Secretary of State. HRC to Pompeo: “First bomb the hell out of Syria, launch a few cruise missiles at Tehran and then send NATO into Crimea. Pick up the phone by at least the second ring whenever Bibi calls. Never send emails to anyone dating Anthony Weiner…”

+ Pompeo Maximus promptly announced that the “soft” approach to Russia was over, then bragged about the US killing 400 Russian mercenaries in Syria. Diplomacy by predator drone.

+ Pompeo Maximus at Thursday’s hearing:

Q. Did Trump ever ask you to do anything improper in regard to the Russia probe?

A. No.

Q. What did Trump ask you to do?

A. I don’t recall.

+ Pompeo’s bombastic performance convinced at least one mouthpiece of the Washington elite, the Bezos Post, which gave him its editorial blessing.

+ Washington is throbbing with talk about the tragedy of Paul Ryan. But Ryan started out wanting to starve the poor, keep the sick from getting health care and kick elderly people out of their homes and onto the streets. Is it possible to have a tragic fall from the depths of those beginnings?

+ As he often does, Steve Bannon described Ryan more bluntly:  “A limp-dick motherfucker who was born in a petri dish at the Heritage Foundation.” [From Joshua Green’s revealing chronicle of Bannon’s role as Trump’s political Svengali, Devil’s Bargain.]

+ Rarely has a Congress been so eager to give up the little power that it still retains. Paul Ryan announced his view that Congress has no need to authorize or even debate military action against the Assad regime. James Madison would surely object, pointing the Speaker to Article I, Section 8, Clause 11…Read it again, Ryan. Once upon a time you & your gang pledged to uphold it. All those Federalist Society junkets these congressional hucksters went on from Key Biscayne to Jackson Hole and none of them ever took the time to read the Federalist Papers.

+  If Trump launches cruise missiles on Syria to distract from the Stormy/Cohen saga, he will once again be following the template of the president he most resembles, Bill Clinton

+ The French claim they’ve unearthed proof that Assad was responsible for the Douma chemical weapons attack. If so, there’s still no international or constitutional authority for a strike on the Syrian regime. Any military strike will constitute a de facto war crime, at least as grievous as the one they are allegedly responding to…

+ Hundreds of thousands of Resisters© have signed a pledge to take to the streets if Trump fires Robert Mueller, but where are the people signing up to stop Trump from firing another 60 cruise missiles into Syria? The firing of Mueller may or may not happen. In fact, it’s increasingly unlikely, because Republicans are freaking out that the sacking of Mueller might cost them both the Senate and the House in the upcoming midterm elections. There’s a moral danger to the nation when the Constitution and international law are flouted to commit murder in our name. Trump has vowed to strike Syria in brazen violation of international law. The streets should fill with protesters intent on stopping it.

It is, of course, possible, even obligatory, to protest both.

+ Number of Syrian refugees: 5 million, more or less.

Number of Syrian refugees admitted to the United States:

2016: 15,479
2017: 3,024
2018: 11

+ Fresh from a dinner with Trump at the White House, where he says he advised the President on Middle East policy (heads up Syria, look out Iran), Alan Dershowitz, who seems to be angling for a position on Trump’s defense team, denounced Robert Mueller in the friendly confines of the Sean Hannity Show, charging that special prosecutors can “manipulate crimes against anybody.”

+ In fact, the batting average for Special Counsels is really pretty paltry. Archibald Cox was fired, Nixon resigned and was pardoned before Leon Jaworski could indictment or issue a report,  Ken Starr flopped, Patrick Fitzgerald failed to indict Karl Rove and saw Scooter Libby’s sentence commuted. Lawrence Walsh prepared iron-tight cases against the Iran/contra cabal and had the convictions of Oliver North and John Poindexter overturned and Cap Weinberger pardoned by George HW Bush.

The original Left, of course, germinated under the protective cover of a special prosecutor named Antoine Fouquier de Tinville, from whose immaculate judgments there was no appeal…

+ Speaking of Scooter Libby, Trump is preparing to pardon the neocon martyr just as he prepares to commit fresh war crimes in the Middle East. Patrick Fitzgerald, the special prosecutor, who won Libby’s conviction on charges of perjury and obstruction of justice in the Valerie Plame affair, was appointed by…James Comey. (A not-so-covert signal to Trump’s co-conspirators to hang tough and they will be saved?)

+ Despair no more, Tiffany, you may not be the only neglected Trump offspring…

+ IDF: Israel’s Depraved Forces…After a sniper shot an unarmed Palestinian protester in Gaza, another soldier praised his “legendary clip.”

+ Gazans and born poor, born occupied, born targets, and, according to Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, born guilty

+ How rancid has MSDNC become? On the day North Korea re-committed to putting de-nuclearization on the table, the “prime time bomber” network runs this…

+ Cruelty as Policy: In a matter of days, Trump signed an executive order requiring burdensome work requirements for mothers on welfare and announced his plans to make food stamp recipients undergo drug screening. (Trump once licensed his name to a urine testing company.)

+ There’s never been a “war on poverty,” just “war on the poor” by other means….

+ It turns out that most of the brunt from NAFTA was borne by working-class married women, whose wage growth was 33 percent less than men doing similar work.

+ Trump is considering rejoining the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact which he withdrew from with great fanfare on his first day in office, proving once again that while the president might not be as smart as a photon, he can often be found in two places at once…If he actually moves forward with this plan, Trump will have undone his greatest achievement as president.

+ The president was enraged by the FBI’s raid on Michael Cohen’s offices and apartment, but hasn’t Trump been one of the biggest champions of No-Knock Raids? Well, how do you like it now, Donald? If the Cohen raid has you uptight, wait until the FBI starts Stopping-and-Frisking White House staffers & cabinet members on their nightly migrations to Le Diplomate…

+ Where were the rightwing defenders of attorney-client privilege when the Bush administration jailed Lynne Stewart?

+ Another raid we can all support….

+ Isn’t there an ordinance in DC prohibiting Indecent Thumb Exposure?

+ Stop infantilizing Mark Zuckerberg as a mere boy, they say, but he did require a booster cushion for his senate testimony.

+ The following Senate Judiciary Committee members who grilled Zuckerberg on privacy also voted to expand NSA spying on Americans…

-Chuck Grassley
-Dianne Feinstein
-Orrin Hatch
-Sheldon Whitehouse
-Lindsey Graham
-John Cornyn
-Ted Cruz
-Ben Sasse
-Jeff Flake
-Thom Tillis
-John Kennedy
-Amy Klobuchar

+ As one of his “reforms,” Zuckerberg is planning to turn over academic research on FaceBook data usage to the….Charles Koch Foundation. Feel better now, Facebookers?

+ One of the more amusing ironies of the Michael Cohen case, which involves Cohen’s role in arranging hush payments to two Playboy models and a porn star, is the fact that it’s being heard by federal judge Kimba Wood, who was Bill Clinton’s second botched choice for attorney general, her nomination doomed by failing to make SS payments for her Nanny and Republican mock-shock at the fact that she’d spent five days training to become a …. Playboy bunny.

+ The Republicans sure have come a long way since John Ashcroft draped two statues of Lady Justice under black cloth because he got uptight about her breasts…

+ In the latest betrayal from the man Ishmael Reed dubbed the Boho Gov (in his great book on Oakland, Blues City), Jerry Brown is bowing to Trump and sending 400 National Guard troops to the border. Meanwhile, in Oregon, Kate Brown is holding firm…

+ The Jerry & DiFi Show rolls on…

+ When it comes to Trumpian abreactions, one person’s insanity is another’s catharsis…

+ The biggest threat to Scott Pruitt’s (job) security is apparently the EPA staffer who revealed there were no known threats to Scott Pruitt’s security. He has been dealt with in customary fashion

+ The spoils of big oil…400 violations by the oil & gas industry in only three years by rigs off the California coast.

+ New Study: Cancer risks are 8 times higher for people living near oil & gas rigs…

+ The snowpack in the Colorado Rockies is only 66 percent of normal, presaging region-wide water shortages and new drought. Meanwhile, the National Park Service has stripped any mention of human responsibility for climate change from all of its publications.

+ Arizona is running out of water. The state is entering its twentieth year of drought and the conditions are intensifying. Much of the state is now experiencing extreme drought conditions, with minimal rainfall and meager snowpacks.  The winter of 2018 has been the driest ever recorded recorded in Arizona. Two major reservoirs in Central Arizona, Cragin and Horseshoe Lake, are nearly empty at a time of year when they should be nearly full. Meanwhile, Lake Foul continues to shrink, ceding back a bit of Glen Canyon with each declining acre foot. The spring-summer runoff into the reservoir is expected to be only 43 percent of normal, making it the sixth worst water year in the infamous lake’s history. It’s quaint that Trump believes the worst problem confronting the southwest are a few thousand desperate people crossing the border.

+ Donny Youngblood, who has served as sheriff of Kern County, California since 2006, was caught on tape explaining his theory of cost-conscious policing:  “When a deputy shoots somebody, which way is better financially? To cripple them or kill them for the county? Because if you cripple them you have to take care of them for life and that cost goes way up.” In 2015, Kern County police killed 13 people, four more than were killed by the NYPD in the same year.

+ Anti-abortion fanatic Wendy Vitter, whose nomination to sit on the federal bench in Louisiana is backed by Democratic Party presidential aspirant Mitch Landrieu, refuses to say whether she supports Brown v. Board of Education…

+ Serious question: Does the NYT pay David Brooks to write columns like this (“Renaissance on the Right“) or does Brooks pay the NYT to run them?

+ I have to spend 8 hours on a plane zigzagging across the continent to Indiana this weekend and there’s no good political smut to read. Where’s Kitty Kelley when you really need her? Comey’s pious revenge saga sounds like a bore. I want Kelley digging through Trump’s dirty linens. Most people don’t remember that she exposed Ronald Reagan as a rapist. In 1952, when he was president of the Screen Actors Guild (and ratting out screenwriters, actors & directors to Hoover and Joe McCarthy), Reagan showed up at the house of Selene Walters, a young actress, at 3 AM, threw her down on a couch and raped her. And they still named National Airport after him…

+ Speaking of airports, those bathroom hand-driers are actually vacuuming up fecal particles from traveler’s hands and spraying them back on yours, thus lending weight to Alexander Cockburn’s once quaint, now prescient, notion that an unwashed hand is a healthy hand…

Free Nastya! She could bring people together if only they’d let her!

+ Samuel Taylor Coleridge, lost and found

+ Fleetwood Mac, gearing up for its final, final, final farewell tour, once again booted guitarist Lindsay Buckingham from the band. Buckingham has always been a thug:  “During a 1980 tour for “Tusk,” Buckingham allegedly mocked Nicks onstage, tried to trip her and, at one point, attempted to kick her. Singer Christine McVie was furious….He later also threw “a Les Paul [guitar] at Nicks’ head during the show.” I have a particular fondness for Stevie, having driven her to and from a benefit concert in Indy in 1977. She was very sweet to an obnoxious little punk who was totally smitten by her…

Can’t Get No Money to Spend

Booked Up

What I’m reading this week…

This Land is Our Land: How We Lost the Right to Roam and How to Take It Back by Ken Ilgunas

The Road to Unfreedom: Russia, Europe, America by Timothy Snyder

Space Odyssey: Stanley Kubrick, Arthur C. Clarke, and the Making of a Masterpiece by Michael Benson

Sound Grammar

What I’m listening to this week…

Still recreating my vinyl collection. The latest acquisitions…

41. Mingus Ah Um by Charles Mingus

42. Disraeli Gears by Cream

43. Legalize It by Peter Tosh

44. Midnight Marauders by A Tribe Called Quest

45. Broken English by Marianne Faithful

Blundering Into Accuracy

Alexander Cockburn: “People on the left spend a lot more time than they should complaining about the mainstream papers, most particularly the New York Times. They fume at the breakfast table, and often in print, or on the airwaves, bitterly decrying falsities in the ‘paper of record.’ What do they expect? In fact, they should rejoice when the Times gets things wrong, which it mostly does, and take it as a singular event when it blunders into accuracy.”

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