Roaming Charges: Running Out of Fools

‘+ Aretha Franklin is dead and America will never be as great again.

+ Aretha made her first recording when she was 14. She emerged almost fully formed as an artist, with killer chops on the piano and a voice that had the power of Howlin Wolf’s and fluidity of Sam Cooke’s…

+ For the Romans a “diva” was a woman who had experienced an apotheosis, who had arisen to godlike status, who had been deified. That was Aretha….

+ When Trump says Aretha “worked for him many times,” he says it with the arrogance and condescension of a slave owner…

+ Don Cornelius: “Smokey, when did you first hear Aretha sing?”
Smokey: “Oh, when she was about four.”

+ If it wasn’t for Soul Train I wouldn’t have survived growing up on the southside of Indianapolis. I wouldn’t have known how dance or how to walk, how to dress or how to talk, how to find the back beat and how to stand up to bullies..

+ Don Cheadle: “January last year my phone rings. I don’t recognize the number… ‘Hello?” A woman responds, “Hello. I have Miss Aretha Franklin for Don Cheadle?’ ‘What?!? Wow! Um, yes. Of course. Please, put her on!’ Then the same voice changes slightly, ‘This is Aretha, honey…'”

+ Even when she sang rock, pop, disco and opera, Aretha was a gospel singer…

+ It’s going to be interesting to see how hefty Aretha’s FBI file is. Given her father’s role in the civil rights movement, the feds were probably monitoring her in utero. Aretha’s voice expressed the soul of the Civil Rights movement.

+ When Martin Luther King, Jr. was nearly broke after his old donors abandoned him following his denunciation of the Vietnam War, Aretha performed 11 benefit concerts and gave the proceeds to King’s organization.

+ Aretha did more for the women’s rights movement than the CIA-chic promoted by Gloria Steinem. She didn’t ask for respect, she compelled it…

+ CNN: “At Aretha’s peak in the 1960s and 1970s….” That’s not a “peak” that’s a mountain range…

+ I can’t help think that if I just listen hard enough, the voices of Aretha and Mavis might even be able to save an old pagan like me…

+ You have to give Trump credit. LBJ, Nixon, Reagan, Cheney (I mean Bush), and Clinton kept their Enemies Lists secret. Trump ushers Sarah Sanders out to announce his on live TV at White House press briefings.

+ Are liberals who are bewailing the revocation of John Brennan’s security clearance worried that Trump’s drone strikes will become less accurate?

+ 13 former NatSec and CIA officials signed a letter protesting Trump’s stripping Brennan of his security clearance. There’ no solidarity quite like the solidarity of war criminals…This is the opposite of a Spartacus Moment. I imagine them all beating their chest and shouting, “I am Crassus!

+ Much more menacing than Trump’s rabid Tweets or his meaningless revocation of Brennan’s security clearance is the fact that the Pentagon is exiling reporters whose coverage Mad Dog and his generals find unflattering…

+ Trump signed one of the largest war-making budgets in history and the Resistance© is chaffing that he didn’t mention John McCain

+ Flexing his view of the limitless power of the executive, Trump is now asserting that he has the authority to ignore congressional limits placed on defense spending. This is bound to bolster his case for that Nobel Peace Prize….

+ The march of folly has become a sprint: Russia announced this week that it had deployed two nuclear-capable strategic bombers to the Chuckota Peninsula almost within range of Sarah Palin’s viewfinder in Alaska.

+ The Senate just confirmed DonaldTrump’s TWENTY-FIFTH circuit court judge. Here’s who Trump has appointed so far:

22/25 are white.
16/25 are white men.
0 African Americans.
0 Latinos.

“I think every woman should have a blowtorch.” Former OSS agent, Francophile, and cook, Julia Child, who would have been 106 this week. Of course, if you can’t find a blowtorch, you can always invite Omarosa to your dinner party.

+ Trump is so unnerved by Omarosa, he allegedly demanded J. Beauregard Sessions have her jailed. Fortunately for Omarosa, Sessions isn’t a “real” Attorney General, though he’s probably salivating at the prospect of locking up a black woman.

+ However bad Trump is as president (and he’s rapidly closing in on Buchanan and the two Johnsons) he’s not as awful as Truman…yet. After dropping nukes on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Truman intervened to keep North and South Korea from reaching a peace deal.

+ You can’t say that Republicans haven’t evolved under Trump. Now four in ten think that foreign interference in US elections is only an insignificant problem or no problem at all. Of course, they’re probably only thinking of Russia, Saudi Arabia and Israel. But what if the meddling came from Mexico or, even more diabolically…FRANCE?

Kellyanne and George are the Carville/Matalins of the Trump era. Of course, George Conway lead the legal assault on Bill Clinton by writing many of the legal briefs for Paula Jones, which means he’s always been to the Left of Carville.

+ I ran into an old friend this week who said she was shocked that Henry Kissinger was still alive. It’s worse than that I said. Trump’s Russia policy, to the extent there’s any coherence to it at all, is largely of Kissinger’s design: a new détente with Russia to isolate China. And, like most of Kissinger schemes, it’s blowing up in Trump’s face…

+ Is it possible that MSDNC’s Brian Williams, whose sepia hues get deeper with each passing week, encloses himself inside the same model of tanning bed as Trump? Perhaps only Omarosa the Whistleblower knows for sure, though why she has detailed knowledge about how the furniture is arranged inside Trump’s bedroom is anyone’s guess. Are there tapes?

+ The last we visited Sacramento the city’s prosecutor was defending the cops who gunned down Stephon Clark in cold-blood in his grandmother’s backyard. Now comes news that the Sacramento County Department of Human Assistance has been tracking the license plates of welfare recipients hoping to catch some of them who might commit fraud. They’d have better luck tracking Mark Zuckerberg. A 2012 investigation by the DHA detected only 500 cases of fraud among Sacramento’s 193,000 welfare recipients.

+ Fox and Friends’ Ainsley Earhardt celebrated V-J Day by praising the US’s victory over “communist Japan“. Perhaps we should reevaluate Shinzo Abe, who wants to return Japan to it’s pre-WW II glory…The Fox blondes, babe, have such teeth dear, and they keep them pearly white.

+ Natural blondes account for only 8% of the American population and about half of them appear to have shows on FoxNews…

+ According to an hilarious Politico story which cruelly deprecates Trump’s understanding of political geography, the President refers to  Nepal as “Nipple and Bhutan as “Button.” But you can understand the parapraxis at work in Trump’s mind. He probably hasn’t seen a “Nipple” or a “Button” since the Access Hollywood tape went public…

+ “In 2014, Robert Gates, former director of the CIA and Secretary of Defense, said that he wished he’d recruited Woodward into the CIA.” Hold on! Didn’t Woodward recruit Gates into the CIA?

+ The LA punk band Social Distortion was playing a gig in Sacramento at the Ace of Spades club when frontman Mike Ness began to be jeered by a Trump supporter named Tim Hildebrand, who kept shooting the band the finger. Ness finally threw down his guitar, jumped off the stage and began flailing on the hefty Hildebrand, who filed a police report and says he’s pressing charges (not a very punk thing to do, frankly).

+ Something like this happened at almost every punk concert I went to in the 70s. Though then instead of pummeling someone wearing a MAGA hat, they tended to go after the unfortunate person who showed up wearing a Styx t-shirt…

+ If you didn’t emerge bleeding from the mosh pit at Madam’s Organ after The Dictator’s played DC, then you just weren’t there…

+ By the way, the next time you’re in Long Beach stop in for a burger and a beer at the Pike Bar, owned by Social Distortion’s drummer Chris Reece. Dress conscientiously…

+ ICE’s new spokesman in New Jersey is a man named Emilio Karim Dabul, who has been accused by the Southern Poverty Law Center, among others, of having “disturbing ties to hate groups.” Prior to joining ICE, Dabul worked as an editor at the American Congress for Truth, one of the leading purveyors of Islamophobia in the nation. It looks like Dabul’s new position fits his talents. ICE is, after all, a disturbing hate group.

+ Leslie Cockburn: A Guatemalan father, still waiting to be reunited with his eight year old son, told NPR “Now they’re punishing us, they’re humiliating us, they’re treating us very cruelly. The pain is intense. There are no words to explain our suffering.”

+ How desperate must you be to seek asylum in Trump’s America, knowing the chances are you’ll be arrested, imprisoned, abused and mercilessly deported?

+ CNN ran a scare video warning about the “vanishing white American.” The report says the death rate of whites exceeds the birth rate in more than half of the states. But are the demographers sure they didn’t all vanish into Portland, America’s whitest city which is getting whiter by the month, with hipster migrants from Brooklyn, Silver Lake and Marin County?

+ The Maoist used to talk about heightening the contradictions of capitalism, but is it possible to get more contradicted than this: Trump praises Harley-owners for boycotting Harley-Davidson after the company announced plans to open overseas plants in response to Trump’s tariffs. On the very same day, the president holds a press event with a cadre of Bikers for Trump, whose organizer sells Bikers for Trump t-shirts that are made in Haiti because it’s “too expensive” for them to be made in the US.

+ Like so many populists before him, Trump is spending his Friday afternoon at a fundraiser in the Hamptons.

+ If you were disappointed by the feeble turnout at the Unite the Right “rally” in DC last weekend take heart, most of the white supremacists who usually inhabit Washington were back in their districts campaigning for the upcoming primaries.

+ Here’s a photo taken in DC by James Bovard at the counter-protest to the “Unite the Right” rally.

This might be a more accurate explanation for “the disappearing white American”…Will Laura Ingraham please investigate?

+ The fact that Reality Winner is going to be sent to prison for at least 5 years (the longest sentence ever for a leak to the media) and Erik Prince is still walking free and poised to send his murderous mercenaries into Afghanistan pretty much sums up where we’ve come to as a country…

+ The Jewish-American writer Peter Beinart, one of the mildest critics of Israel you’re likely to encounter, was detained and interrogated by Shin Bet about his political views and activities at Ben Gurion Airport.

+ Social Security turned 83 this week. I don’t know if it will survive the Trump Era, but at least it survived Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Barack Obama’s “cat food commission,” and Paul Ryan, all of whom wanted to kill it…

+ Nancy Pelosi has a bridge for sale, though Democrats are the only people likely to buy it.

+ Bernie the Lemming: “Should we go west this time?”
Nancy the Lemming: “Stop being a backseat driver, Bernie. We’ve been going north for 10,000 years. Why change direction now?”

+ Change you can’t believe in…Congressman Cedric Richmond, new chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, has come out against a plan to reduce the number of super-delegations to the Democratic Party National Convention.

+ From Agnès Poirier’s wonderful new book Left Bank about Paris in the 40s and 50s:

[Sartre] convinced Gallimard to publish his 700-page essay Being and Nothingness even if the commercial prospects were extremely limited. However, three weeks after it came out in early August 1943, sales took off. Gallimard was intrigued to see so many women buying Being and Nothingness. It turned out that since the book weighed exactly one kilogram people were simply using it as a weight, as the usual copper weights had disappeared to be sold on the black market or melted down to make ammunition.

Score one for Camus’ absurdism over the existentialists…

+ A friend sent this view from the window of his office in downtown Calgary this morning, where the sky is clotted with smoke from fires in BC. Do you think this will prompt Le Dauphin Trudeau to reconsider his tar sands pipeline fixation? Didn’t think so…

+ There are nearly 600 wildfires burning in British Columbia. Has Canada adopted all of California’s “bad environmental laws” and foolishly let its rivers run into the ocean, too?

+ The Scripps Institution of Oceanagraphy measured ocean temperatures of 81 degrees off the coast of Torrey Pines near San Diego, the warmest temperature ever recorded in the California waters of the Pacific.  Can’t wait to read Trump’s Tweet explaining this phenomenon….

+ The first months of this summer have been the driest 45-day period on record for much of Montana, where Helena has recorded only 0.1 inch of precipitation since July 1.

+ Jerry Brown, the man Ishmael Reed dubbed the Boho Gov, is approving hundreds of new oil wells across the state, almost all of them in low-income neighborhoods

+ Democrats being Democrats: DNC chair Tom Perez has quietly reneged on the party’s pledge to refuse donations from fossil fuel companies.

+ 90% of the grizzlies who survive cub-hood will be killed by humans, most of them on roads

+ Monsanto’s Cancer Caucus…top Democratic recepients of Monsanto cash in 2017-8 election cycle.

$66,585 – Claire McCaskill
$20,300 – Debbie Stabenow
$13,000 – Steny Hoyer
$11,500 – Bob Casey
$6,250 – Heidi Heitkamp
$6,000 – Joe Donnelly
$4,167 – Doug Jones
$2,500 – Bob Menendez
$1,560 – Elizabeth Warren

+ That’s a pittance for Warren and it says something about her that she hasn’t made a show of returning the money to poisoners.

+ The most sensible thing Andrew Cuomo has ever said: “America was never that great.” Of course, he’s being trashed for stating the obvious by liberal outlets like CNN and MSDNC, fearful, one supposes, of fracturing their new coalition with the neocons. Cynthia Nixon has gotten under the man’s skin, prompting to say things he’s never even thought about it.

Martians 1 Space Force 0.

+ It’s been almost impossible to sleep here with the temperature in the mid 80s at 10 pm and the air clotted with smoke. So last night I stayed up late watching “Army of Shadows.” What a great film and meticulously restored. Made in 1969, it depicts what a real resistance looks like: long periods of tedium and creeping paranoia, punctuated by stunning moments of  terror and betrayal. Jean-Pierre Melville never had much money, none of the French directors of the time did, but his films are always immaculate visually. As the title suggests, much of the action takes place at night or the shadows, but here’s a richness to the color cinematography that you don’t find in many films of that period. A wonderfully decayed Simone Signoret, who chain-smokes Gauloises while penetrating Nazi-occupied Lyon, is fabulous. Maybe her best role. Obviously, they don’t make films like this anymore. But they didn’t make films like this before Army of Shadows either.

Still from “Army of Shadows.”

Only last week, I had read Le Silence de la Mer written by Jean Bruller under the pseudonym “Vercors”. The novella was the first book published Editions Minuit, the great press of the French underground, which is still publishing today. Meville’s film of it, his first feature I think, was made on almost nothing, using scraps of film, as Rosellini did in “Rome: Open City.” But it’s a stunning visual achievement, intensely claustrophobic and charged with a heroic fatalism. Melville wasn’t “new wave”. He was his own wave. Melville sits high in my pantheon of film-makers. 

+ In Nate Chinen’s recent book Playing Changes: Jazz for the New Century he relays a story about Herbie Hancock walking down the street with Miles Davis and seeing a woman stumble. Davis points at her and tells Hancock, “Play that.”

I Will Lay Me Down

Sound Grammar

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

Aretha Now by Aretha Franklin

Organic Music Society by Don Cherry

King’s Record Shop by Roseanne Cash

Booked Up

What I’m reading this week…

The Tangled Tree: a Radical New History of Life by David Quammen

Rising in Flames: Sherman’s March and the Fight for a New Nation by JD Dickey

Dora Bruder by Patrick Modiano

Before Nothing

+ Marguerite Duras: “Finding yourself in a hole, at the bottom of a hole, in almost total solitude, and discovering that only writing can save you. To be without the slightest subject for a book, the slightest idea for a book, is to find yourself, once again, before a book. A vast emptiness. A possible book. Before nothing. Before something like living, naked writing, like something terrible, terrible to overcome.”

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