Roaming Charges: The Grifter’s Lament

Dance of the thieves.

+ I have no idea if Paul Manafort will be convicted in his tax evasion trial in Alexandria, Virginia. But the financial crimes (tax evasion, bank fraud, embezzlement, money laundering) confessed to by the man Trump didn’t fire, Rick Gates, are fairly eye-popping…until you compare them to the $120 million Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross is accused of grifting.

+ Now we have the case of Rep. Chris Collins, the Martha Stewart of the House, who used inside information on a failed trial for a multiple sclerosis drug to tip his son about the potential collapse in the stock price for Innate Immunotherapeutics, a pharmaceutical company on whose board the congressman sat. Collins’ son dumped his stock days before the news became public and the share value plunged by 92%, saving himself more than $768,000. Then, like Stewart, Rep. Collins lied to FBI agents during his interview about the pump-and-dump scheme.

+ Collins was one of the first politicians to endorse Trump and served as a key member of his transition team. They had much in common. Both were brash New Yorkers with millions in the bank and an antipathy toward any federal regulators scrutinizing their financial transactions. In fact, Collins, whose net worth is upwards of $65 million, is one of the wealthiest members of Congress.

+ It doesn’t get much sweeter than this. The indictment alleges that Collins, acted on his inside trading tip while at the White House picnic for members of Congress!

+ Remember that $40 million yacht owned by Cruella DeVos’s family, which some heroic pirate cut loose from its moorings in Port Huron, Ohio, and set adrift in Lake Erie? Turns out it’s registered in the Cayman Islands as a tax dodge…Making America Great Again!

+ The unplugging of InfoWars from its corporate platforms was a stupid and cynical move to silence a cynical and stupid man after Alex Jones started to hurt their bottom line. As with all forms of censorship, Jones will portray himself as a martyr and probably make even more money. Still, I can’t imagine a true feral journalist like Jean-Paul Marat whimpering that the Bourbon-owned postal service refused to distribute his L’Ami du Peuple rag to the Sans Culottes…

+ Whether the “Left” defended Alex Jones’ fascist theatrics on free speech grounds or wanted to see his mouth firmly muzzled with a red ball gag, we can be certain of one thing: the desires of the “Left” played no role in the decisions of the social media companies to yank his plug.

+ Almost to the day Cockburn died, he referred to CounterPunch as a “Twitter-free Zone,” blissfully unaware that Nat had set up a CP Twitter account a couple years earlier. But Alex understood that relying on FB or Twitter meant that you submitted to their corporate rules & whims not our own.

+ The underground press was underground for a reason. The Left never had any expectation that the titans of capitalism would play fairly with publications whose stated goal was to take them down and put their owners in the tumbrils.

+ The lesson the Left should take from the Jones Affair is that if you’re organizing on Social Media platforms you’re building movement on a trapdoor that will open beneath your feet the moment you become a threat.

+ I wish Gil Scott-Heron was still around to rap: “The revolution will not be Tweeted.”

+ After 1.5 years telling us how crazy, impetuous, and pathological he is, 40 Democrats in the Senate just voted to give Trump one of the largest war-making budgets in history…

+ John Bolton had to hide his erection behind a podium while announcing the reimposition of sanctions on Iran.

+ Predictably, the sanctions on Iran didn’t go far enough to appease many Israeli hardliners. “It would be better of the Iranian regime would disappear entirely from the world,” Israel’s Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said in an interview with Israel Radio.

+ According to a report in the New York Times by Helen Cooper and Julian Barnes, in the weeks before the NATO meeting in Brussels John Bolton worked to craft a secret agreement with the coalition’s military commanders in the fear that Trump wouldn’t blow it up during the conference. This would, of course, serve as rich fodder for the Deep State conspiracy theorist, except for the fact that Trump himself appointed all of the conspirators. Still it’s hard to see how Bolton survives the exposure of his behind-the-scenes machinations–unless the Walrus has some kind of kompromat on the president.

+ A day later, Bolton once again waddled forth to chide the North Koreans on their failure to take steps toward “de-nuclearization.” Here’s an object lesson in Trump Politics 101. Claim to great fanfare that North Korea made an agreement to denuclearize (when they didn’t), then belligerently condemn them for violating the terms of an agreement that didn’t exist.

+ The Coalition of the Assassins struck again this week, when a Syrian scientist named Azir Asbar was blown up by Mossad-planted car bomb in the town of in Masyaf. Asbar was Syria’s top researcher in precision-guided rockets. The killing was at least the fourth by Mossad in a foreign country in the last three years.

+ Michael Jordan made much more money off of sweatshop labor than he ever did playing basketball. Jordan has no social conscience. The question is will he allow his name (and brand) to be used by Trump in his racist tantrum against a player who is not afraid to speak out against racial injustice?

+ Mueller tagged 3 top DC fixers (Tony Podesta, Greg Craig and Vin Webber) for possible criminal violations in their work in Ukraine, sending their files to prosecutors in the Southern District of New  York for further investigation. Perhaps the swamp will be drained after all? If Mueller keeps this up, there’ll be bipartisan calls for his ouster.

+ If you wonder why people vote Green in tight elections, it’s often because the Democrats run candidates like Sen. Joe Donnelly from Indiana, who says he’s just “fine” with appropriating more money for the border wall Trump promised Mexico would pay for…

Joe Manchik, who believes he is the spawn of aliens and that everyone should be required to grow hemp, is a relic from the Green Party I remember before Nader routinized it and  David Cobb suffocated all of the life out of it. I, for one, am glad the oddballs from what Greil Marcus called the “weird America” are back. Let it grow, let it grow, let it blossom, let it flow….

+ Running against two of the most unappetizing presidential candidates in history & a fractured Democratic Party, Jill Stein only managed 1.07% of the popular vote–or about the same percentage that Joe Manchik did in the primary. If that’s the true state of the Left/Green movement, then we’re better off advertising it as a kind of Situationist prank on a corrupt electoral system.

+ I’m a Yippie at heart. I love Ralph, but there’s only one Ralph Nader. If the Greens can reveal the absurdity of the political system, go to it. Electoral politics is not the solution to the Earth-threatening problems we face.

+ Still, Sun Ra, child of Saturn, would have made a great president.

+ If the Green Party didn’t exist, the Democrats would have to invent them in order to justify their loses. (You can’t blame everything on Putin, can you?) Shortly after the results in the Ohio special election came in showing another narrow loss, celebrity Democrats began to vent their fury . Here’s Hollywood screenwriter Randi Singer:

Russia hasn’t been RED in 30 years, at least. That’s the “secret” as to why fat cats like Trump, Rex Tillerson, Wilbur Ross, Jamie Dimon and all of the cut-throat bankers at Goldman Sachs want to do “business” there…

+ You might think Joe Manchik is nuts for claiming he’s the progeny of space aliens (though Francis Crick of DNA fame believed basically the same thing about all of us–see Life Itself), but he’s not nearly as bonkers as the people now running the government…

+ If Congress goes along with Trump and funds the creation of a US Space Force will the Pentagon have to be demolished to make way for a Hexagon?

+ Barack Obama is about to be presented with the Robert F. Kennedy Award for Human Rights. RFK, the red-baiting, anti-communist zealot who desperately wanted to assassinate Fidel? Sounds about right for the President of Drones.

+ After the 2016 elections, Obama supposedly comforted Sasha and Malia with these words: “Your job as a citizen and as a decent human being is to constantly affirm and lift up and fight for treating people with kindness and respect and understanding.” (I don’t know if he read them from a teleprompter.)

+ My question is how did Obama console his daughters after they learned about all the kids he’d killed through drone strikes?

+ Apparently, Dick Cheney has been feeling friskier since the huge ratings from his Sacha Baron Cohen interview…I just knew that show would backfire.

+ The average American household in the 10 percent wealth bracket is three times as rich as a similar household in 1971. Meanwhile, the average household in the bottom 50 percent is poorer.

+  Recovery? What Recovery? While the stock market has soared since the Great Recession and Wall Street bailouts, the housing market has yet to spring back, meaning that most Americans still haven’t recovered the wealth they lost in the housing crash of 2008.

+ The perversities of housing in America: in major cities across the US rents are falling for the rich and rising for the poor.

+ It’s hardly surprising then that more and more people are living in their cars.

+ Kshama Sawant: “The average Seattle home is selling for $813,000. Assume you can make $75,000 (!) downpayment, 30-year mortage w $3,757 monthly payment (total payout $1.352M to Wells Fargo-like big bank, incl $614,000 interest). To avoid being cost-burdened, you’d need $135,252/year OR $65/hour.”

+ Trump declared that the war on poverty is over. Looks like poverty won.

+ The education system in America, now in the hands of Cruella DeVos, seems to be designed to keep most of the country from understanding what this means for them….

+ A Congress of rich, old, white men…

Millionaires in America: 5%
Millionaires in Congress: 51%

White Men in America: 31%
White Men in Congress: 77%

Women in America: 51%
Women in Congress: 20%

Over 55 in America: 28%
Over 55 in Congress: 67%

+ CNN calculates that Trump has been “telling 7.6 mistruths a day.” “Mistruths?” If only Trump spent a little more time on the NRA practice range in what was formerly known as the Rose Garden, the president wouldn’t be missing the truth so often…Will it be long before we hear this from Trump? “The penises of white men have grown 3 inches since I took office, after shrinking more than 2 inches under Obama.”

+ Trump in Tampa: “The time has come for voter ID…
if you go out and want to buy groceries, you need ID.” When’s the last time Trump bought groceries? Remember when GHW Bush went to a grocery store during 92 campaign and marveled at price scanners, proving he hadn’t visited one in 15 years? It was one of the first cracks in the Bush veneer after the triumphant glow (provided courtesy of Deplete Uranium) of the Gulf War…

+ A Cincinnati cop moonlighting as a security guard at a Kroger’s grocery store ran after an 11-year old girl he suspected of shoplifting some food. When she didn’t stop on his command, he Tasered her into submission. I guess the pre-teenager can count herself lucky that she wasn’t shot. Cincy police say that it’s standard procedure not to Taser anyone under the age of 7 or over the age of 70. Otherwise, we’re all fair game.

+ You know your memorial has struck a nerve when they keep shooting it up, as some crack(er)-shots are doing to Emmett Till’s...

+ A stage version of Paddy Chayefsky’s  “Network” is about to open on Broadway starring Bryan Cranston as the ranting newscaster Howard Beale. Does America really need this? Can’t we save the $300 ticket price and just tune into CSPAN to watch the next Trump rally in Ashtabula or Tonopah?

+ Steven Seagal: by day Putin’s envoy to the US, by night training Joe Arpaio’s storm troopers. Do you get the sense are living in a Warner Bros. cartoon…?

+ The Hippie Pope forbids the Death Penalty. Too bad he previously abolished Hell as a place of eternal torment for the American Catholics (several on the Supreme Court) who will ignore his directive… I’ve taken a liking Francis. As Pope’s go, he’s the most humane one I’ve ever seen. Pope’s carry 2000 years of baggage with them and he’s off-loaded quite a bit…

+ There’s something pathetic about a journalist, such as Michael Graczyk of the AP, who has witnessed more than 400 executions and still can’t make up his mind about the barbaric nature of the death penalty. Since Texas has executed more than 500 people since Graczyk started reporting on its use of the Death Penalty, we can certainly conclude that his reporting hasn’t had a deterrent effect. I think it’s pretty clear where this “practicing Catholic” really stands.

+ Billionaire and presidential aspirant Tom Steyer on impeachment: “Once you don’t speak up against lawlessness, lawlessness is permitted.”

+ Lawlessness is now the law of the land, in part because people like Tom Steyer, who might have had some influence, hit the mute button when Obama was, among other renegade acts, droning American citizens without a trial or even a FISA death warrant…

+ Keeping pregnant women shackled in detention camps is sadistic, Sen Harris. Keeping anyone shackled in detention camps for the “crime” of seeking asylum is inhumane and a violation of US and international law.

+ Melania’s parents,Viktor and Amalija Knavs, were sworn in as US citizens this week. A case of golden chain migration?

+ Reuben Navarette, Jr. “I can’t use the fact that my Mexican grandfather was discriminated against 100 years ago to benefit from affirmative action. But Bill O’Reilly can use the fact that his Irish grandfather was discriminated against 100 years ago to deny that he benefited from white privilege.”

+ Trump six years ago…

+ I wonder whether that “extremely credible source” was Alex Jones or Stuttering John?

+ There’s a new call for getting more women into positions to craft environmental policy. I’m all for it. But don’t expect any dramatic changes. That approach didn’t work out so well with Ann Gorsuch, Rita LaVelle, Katie McGinty, Christine Todd Whitman, Gale Norton or Gina “Let Them Drink Lead” McCarthy running the show, did it? Why not try having more “environmentalists” involved in creating environmental policy, instead of corporate shills?

+ The ozone levels in some of America’s most popular national parks rival those in the nation’s largest cities.

+ Look at this: they’re finally growing crops at Mt. Vernon without slave labor.

+ Instead of fines, corporations will soon be receiving bonuses for their criminal behavior…

+ As the press was distracted by RussiaGate, the EPA slipped through a SNUR (Significant New Use Rule) on the first of June that will that manufacturers to once again start using asbestos. Who knows perhaps the Trump administration will begin aerial spraying the California wildfires with the carcinogenic fibre?

+ And coming soon to a Home Depot near you: vats of thalidomide, PCBs and DDT.

+ The Trump administration has reversed an Obama-era policy banning pesticides and GMO plants from National Wildlife Refuges. Why? Because what red-blooded American duck hunter could possibly feel safe in a wildlife refuge that hasn’t been thoroughly saturated with pesticides…?

+ Will beans really save us?

+ So it seems that the Trump administration is handing out special permits allowing donors to the Republican Party to import the heads of lions killed in Africa. Nearly everything this administration does is redolent of sadism.

+ Ed Abbey and his chainsaw-wielding pals used to make nocturnal assaults on billboards across the Southwest, but I think even Cactus Ed would spare these, which are sprouting up along highways in Colorado, Wyoming and Montana…

+ Speaking of Abbey, I got an email from CounterPuncher Mike Christian, who grew up in Moab when Abbey lived there and recalled his days playing tennis with the anarchist of Slick Rock Country.

“I was the judge’s son. I had leukemia at age 8. I was bullied badly, in that nasty little Uranium town. A couple of bullies fractured my skull in the eighth grade. I started hanging with nerds. We played tennis in Moab at the Junior High, from age 14 till age 18. Since there were only two other adults in Moab, who played tennis and the four of us, we played tennis with Ed Abbey and his girlfriend quite often, till we graduated in 1977.  Mr. Abbey later signed a copy of The Monkey Wrench Gang, for me. I went on to study toxicology. Will never forget Ed Abbey and the tennis tournaments we used to have.”

+ I really feel sad that Alex Cockburn isn’t here to write about Trumptime. He suffered through those interminably boring Obama years and is missing out on the daily parade of true Americana we are now witnessing: Roger Stone, Stormy Daniels, Karen McDougal, Rudy Giuliani, Rob Goldstone, David Pecker and now the Manhattan Madam. He would have gorged on all of it.

+ The NFL announced that the first male dancers will perform at football games in Los Angeles and New Orleans this year. What are the odds that this will trigger Trump’s psyche to detonate more explosively than the anthem protests?

+ If we were to pick an All-Star team for humanity, James Baldwin would be my point guard…

+ They like me! They like me!!…

+ I’ve never been a Billy Joel fan. He gave a long interview to the New York Times last weekend and sounded insufferable even when he was trying (not very hard) to be self-deprecating. But I’m glad I read to the end of the piece, because I learned that his grandfather’s textile company had been seized by the Nazis. I’ll let Joel take the story from here:

“My father’s family left Germany in ’38, after Kristallnacht, but they couldn’t get into the United States. There was a quota on European Jews, and if you couldn’t get in here, you were shipped back, then you were rounded up and sent to Auschwitz–which is what happened to my father’s family. They were all killed at Auschwitz, except my father and his parents. So this anti-immigration stuff strikes a very dark tone with me.”

+ A new report cited by Rolling Stone magazine reveals that musicians only make about 12% of the profits from their music. This is 12% more than they used to make. I know everyone hates The Eagles (largely because The Dude told them to–I like the Eagles precisely because The Dude told me not to, and for a hazy summer I spent trying to experience what the “warm smell of colitas” actually smelt like), but Alison Ellwood’s terrific documentary on the Eagles (now on Netflix & Amazon) makes clear that the contract the band signed with David Geffen’s Asylum Records allowed Geffen to take all of the recording revenues. Geffen made so much money off of the Eagles that he gave Jackson Browne a percentage of his own recording revenues as a gratuity for bringing the Eagles into the Geffen stable. Jackson confesses he understood why Don Henley, Glenn Frey and Don Felder were pissed off about that arrangement. Like Fogarty, Henley and Frey were later sued by Geffen for performing their own songs…

Join Sun Ra’s Space Force!

Sound Grammar

Still recreating my vinyl collection. This week’s acquisitions…

Blue’s Moods by Blue Mitchell

Live at the Roxy Theater, 1982 by Gregory Isaacs

If You Need Me by Solomon Burke

Booked Up

What I’m reading this week…

A New Hope for Mexico by Andrés Manuel López Obrador

Left Bank: Art, Passion and the Rebirth of Paris, 1940-50 by Agnès Poirier

The Collected Letters of Flann O’Brien edited by Maebh Long

Tiny Periods of Temporary Relief

Flann O’Brien: “Anybody who has the courage to raise his eyes and look sanely at the awful human condition must realize finally that tiny periods of temporary release from intolerable suffering is the most that any individual has the right to expect.”

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