Roaming Charges: Fire is Sweeping Our Very Streets Today

‘+ The Camp Fire, which leveled the Sierra foothills town of Paradise (pop. 27,000), is now the deadliest and most destructive wildfire in the history of California. As of Friday morning:

+ 63 people are dead

+ 630 people are missing

+ 11,000 structures have been destroyed, including nearly 9,000 homes

+ 52,000 people have been evacuated

+ 140,000 acres have burned.

+ The forests burned in Camp Fire were so parched by prolonged drought they were described by ecologists as “sucking water from the air.”

+ Of the 10 most destructive fires in California history, 9 of them have ignited since 2000.

+ According to the Ecologist-in-Chief, if only there was more clearcutting of forests  and raking of leaves, the California fires (many of them raging in coastal chaparral habitat–what’s left of it amid the subdivisions, malls and highways) wouldn’t be happening…

+ Trump’s a buffoon, but what’s the corporate media’s excuse? In it’s non-stop coverage of the California wildfires, the national news networks have mentioned climate change in less than 4 percent of the total coverage.

+ The Woolsey Fire near Malibu roared across the best mountain lion habitat in southern California. Most of the adults likely escaped, but many of their cubs probably didn’t…

+ The Woolsey Fire jumped the freeway and scorched Bell Canyon in the West Hills area of LA, where I scrambled up El Escorpión Peak with the late Galen Rowell and a few others back in the early 90s. I had taken a fistful of magic mushrooms that September day, anticipating how they might enhance a tangerine sunset brewed up from fires in the Topatopa Mountains near Ojai. I don’t recall the sunset, but I can’t still shake memory of the three rattlesnakes I nearly stepped on during that climb. You don’t think of rattlesnakes, when you think of LA. But they are there and I hope they remain so, long after the ashes from this fire cools and the chaparral springs back to life …

+ In 1995, Mike Davis wrote an incendiary essay on why we should let Malibu burn. It’s truer today than it was when he wrote it 23 years ago.

+ 500 miles north of the Camp Fire, the smoke has clogged the skies in Portland, making the air quality hazardous for the old, the infirm and children…

+ If the air in Portland was awful, it was downright deadly in the Bay Area, where San Francisco topped the charts for the worst air quality in world on this week.

+ The smoke is so bad throughout the state that many California cities are handing out masks to residents. But are we sure the masks weren’t donated by the oil & gas companies to make everyone believe the air is safe to breathe on days when there aren’t any fires?

+ With smoke from the Camp Fire swirling inside Golden 1 Arena in Sacramento and LeBron James gasping on the court, will the NBA finally come out against climate change?

+ In Chico, Trump was asked if the devastation of the Camp Fire changed his views on climate change. “No, no. I have a strong opinion. I want great climate. We’re going to have that. And we’re going to have forests that are very safe. Because we can’t go through this every year.”

+ For more on why California is burning, check out our new book, The Big Heat: Earth on the Brink.

+ After 17 years, no fewer than 480,000 people have died as a direct result of fighting in the US’s Global War on “Terror.” More than 244,000 civilians have been killed and another 10 million people have been displaced due to violence.

+ And there’s no sign that these wars are winding down. Afghanistan was bombed more times in 2018 than any previous year: 5213 sorties and the year isn’t over yet. Afghanistan has now had the bloody hell bombed out of it by a Nobel Peace Prize winner and a self-advertised anti-interventionist. Perhaps it will take an unapologetic warmonger to finally bring peace…

+ An AP story asserts that “many Afghans now blame the US” the ongoing war. Many? Every Afghan not on the US payroll who I’ve talked with in the last decade knows this to be true.

+ And they called Neanderthals “savages“?

+ The financial cost of the Bush-Obama-Trump War on Terror will soon top $6 TRILLION, which is, of course, why we “can’t afford” single-payer healthcare. These expenditures are the driving force of the war, an unending gravy train for defense contractors, as I charted in my book Grand Theft Pentagon.

+ Don’t worry it’s not coming to an end any time soon. A new report from the National Defense Strategy Commission breathlessly warns that the US military may struggle to “win a war against Russia or China.” Why we would want to fight a war against Russia or China is not explained. This is more scare-mongering to increase the Pentagon’s already bloated budget…(Although the report is nothing new, the US military has in fact struggled–and failed–to win a war against peasant armies around the world since 1945). Cheer up, however, it’s not all bleak. We are winning the war against the planet.

+ Speaking of going to war against Russia, guidelines issued by the Wehrmacht’s high command to German troops in Russia sternly warned them never to explain their actions to a Russian: “He can talk better than you since he is a born dialectician and has inherited a philosophical disposition.”

+ The first black nurses in the Army where prohibited from treating US soldiers and, instead, were relegated to caring for Nazi prisoners of war. Greatest country on Earth, no question…

+ Mad Dog Mattis made a courageous visit to the border this week, where he delivered a Henry V-style speech to fire up the troops as they steel themselves to confront the Children’s Caravan that may charge the border two or three weeks from now. If HRC visits, she’ll probably claim she came under sniper fire, from the refugees fleeing the regime she helped bring to power…

+ Trump tapped retired Gen. John Abizaid as the new ambassador to Saudi Arabia. Bolton, Mattis, and now Abizaid. Do you get the sense that Trump never believed any of his own critiques of the Iraq War…except that the US should have looted the oil?

+ TRUMP: “I think we’ve wasted enough time on this witch hunt. The answer is probably we’re finished.”
CHRIS WALLACE: What are the odds? One in a hundred? What–What?
TRUMP: I don’t do odds, I gave very detailed–
WALLACE: You ran a casino sir.

+ Young whites shifted toward the Democrats by 25 points in the midterms. Will they give them any reason to vote for them again (or vote at all) in 2020? Enter Joe Biden…

+ Why Do We Need Democrats? Exhibit A. Claire McKaskill: “I hope that no one thinks that because some of the red-state Democrat moderates lost that means we have to nominate a progressive.”

+ Why Do We Need Democrats? Exhibit B. Oregon Democrats just took the governor’s mansion and won super-majority’s in both houses. Their first act of business? To cede control over tax policy to the sweatshop lords at NIKE.

+ Why Do We Need Democrats? Exhibit C. Joe Biden, now leading in the polls, spent his weekend bestowing the Liberty Medal on a war criminal.

+ Why Do We Need Democrats? Exhibit C. Ex-Clinton pollster Mark Penn says HRC will run again and the Democratic rank-and-file will flock to her…

+ Why Do We Need Democrats? Exhibit D. Nancy Pelosi: “We have an obligation to find common ground where we can.” I’m sure you and Trump will quickly find some “common ground” to bomb, Nancy.

+ Why Do We Need Democrats? Exhibit E. Chuck Schumer, despite having a record of ineptitude only a hedge funder could love, was “reelected” to his post as minority leader by acclamation. That means without a vote.

+ After losing to the most unappealing member of the Senate, Beto O’Rouke is apparently considering a run for the White House. In other news, the Mets announced their intention to contend for a World Series championship next season….

+ At least there will by a parity of prolixity in the House, where the Republicans selected as their leader the only member of congress less coherent than Nancy Pelosi: Kevin McCarthy, who supervised the wipeout of Republican House seats in California.

+ Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, the Lynching Lady of Mississippi, recently disclosed her views on voter suppression to an intimate group supporters: “And then they remind me, that there’s a lot of liberal folks in those other schools who that maybe we don’t want to vote. Maybe we want to make it just a little more difficult. And I think that’s a great idea.” She’ll need all the suppression she can muster to defeat Mike Espy, Clinton’s Secretary of Agriculture, in a tighter-than expected runoff election to retain the senate seat she inherited after the sudden resignation of Thad Cochran.

+ Susan Rice and John Brennan can scrub their hands as furiously as they want, but the Yemeni blood still won’t come off…

+ Let’s take a moment to reflect on the eviction of one of Congress’s true oddballs, Dana Rohrabacher. He surfed, he dropped acid, he rode with the Mujahideen in Afghanistan, he befriended Julian Assange. Too bad he also backed nearly every war that came along, including, most hypocritically, the war on drugs. It may have been his flagrant lies about health care that finally took him all the way down. As Andrew Cockburn noted, “he was the only member of congress who arm-wrestled Putin.”

+ George Conway, husband of Kellyanne, on why he turned down a high level post in the Trump Justice Department: “I’m watching this thing and you know it’s like, the administration is like a shit show in a dumpster fire.”

+  Too bad Adorno isn’t around to follow up his defense of the semi-colon with an essay on the importance of the hyphen…

+ Meanwhile, back in the Kiddie Concentration Camps, the number of imprisoned juveniles keeps on going up. Now, 14,000 and rising.

+ Immigration lawyer Larry Sandingo: “In court this morning, I asked the judge if my client could wait outside. She was being fussy. He said yes, and she was carried out. Even then, I could hear her whimpers and cries. She’s two years old. She had on a pink coat. Today was her deportation hearing.”

+ This is all Kentucky needs…the Bluegrass State’s supreme court just ruled that “right to work” laws don’t violate the constitution.

+ According to the Labor Department, there are nearly 1 million more job vacancies than there are available workers. Neel Kashkari, president of the Minnesota branch of the Federal Reserve, told CEO’s whining about how they can’t find qualified workers to fill open slots: “You should try paying more, and you may be able to attract more workers.”   What a novel idea…

+ Trump announced his intent to cut off all relief funding to victims of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico. What kind of a weakling is so insecure that he gets off on causing more pain and deprivation to people who are already living in miserable conditions?

+ Trump math makes the new math look like the old math: “He [Kemp] was 10 points down when I endorsed him, he ended up winning by 40 points in the primary. He’s now in, but he was 10 points down. It was 70 to 30, something like that, 70-30 or 70-40, maybe 70-40. But it was an easy win.”

+ Before Melania launched her purge of the West Wing, she must have read up (or listened to the audiobook) on Nancy Reagan’s tenure as first lady. Like Melania, Nancy also hated the people around her Ronnie, none more intensely than RR’s chief of staff, Don Regan, who she believed was undermining the Gipper at every turn. She eventually got Regan’s head and in many ways the new shadow chief of staff became the person Nancy trusted most: her astrologer, Joan Quigley. Can’t say I blame her.

+ So the big drama this week is that Trump wants to fire John Kelly. But since Trump is too much of a coward to fire anyone in person, he’s waiting on Kelly to fire himself, which you would think the General would have done after Charlottesville.

+ A man interrupted a performance of “Fiddler on the Roof” in Baltimore this week, standing up to give a Nazi salute and shout “Heil Hitler! Heil Trump!

If I were a Reich man,
Daidle deedle daidle
Daidle daidle deedle daidle dumb

(Late word this morning is that the man who yelled “Nazi” in a crowded theater was drunk and made the Nazi salute ironically, driven mad by his hatred of Trump.)

+ From historian Tom Holland: “An astonishing story of a small group of SS man who tried to shoot two lorry-loads of Soviet prisoners lacking either legs or arms. “The legless were not a challenge, but the ambulant wounded overpowered their murderers. Two SS men were shot & the prisoners escaped.”

+ Thursday marked the 49th anniversary of one of the biggest anti-war protests in American history, when more 500,000 people descended on DC on a frigid November day to demand an end to the Vietnam War, when Pete Seeger led a half million people in an extended version of “Give Peace a Chance“…

+ Doing his best Don King impersonation, Trump warns Antifa not to mess with American neo-Nazis…

+Of course, he’s right. The neo-Nazis far outnumber the anti-fascists here in the states and they are armed-to-the-teeth, especially when you factor in the Nazis in local police departments, including the socialist enclave of Portland.

+ Bernie Sanders: “We have a president who is a racist.” When did Bernie have this epiphany? What was the final straw?

+ Do you get the sense that the cast of characters in the daily spectacle of our politics come right out of a Molière play…?

+ Trump accuses people of changing their clothes and returning to cast additional ballots in disguise in Florida: “Sometimes they go to their car, put on a different hat, put on a different shirt, come in and vote again.” (I often vote first dressed like Frank Zappa and return (to my kitchen table to cast another mail-in ballot) disguised as Joey Ramone. Sometimes if I’m feeling really frisky and a Green candidate is poised to cause Max Chaos, I’ll cast a third ballot as Joan Jett.)

+ CNN’s suit against the Trump administration for stripping the showboating Jim Acosta of his “hard” press pass only serves the dubious function of legitimizing White House briefings as real news events.

+ While the corporate press, even FoxNews, rallies around Acosta, the Department of Justice appears poised to indict Julian Assange to steely silence from the very same gutless claque of self-glorifying defenders of a “free” press…

+ There seems to be documentary evidence that Assange has already been charged the indictment sealed. On Thursday afternoon, Seamus Hughes, a former advisor to the Senate Homeland Security Committee, was reading through new federal court filings from the Eastern District of Virginia, when he came across a strange reference to Assange in a filing for a separate case not related to Assange, involving a man indicted for “coercion and enticement of a minor.”

The key sentence, wherein the prosecutors argue for keeping an indictment under seal, reads: “Another procedure short of sealing will not adequately protect the needs of law enforcement at this time because, due to the sophistication of the defendant and the publicity surrounding the case, no other procedure is likely to keep confidential the fact that Assange has been charged.”

So what’s going on here? Was it a cut-and-paste error by the prosecutors? Or was it, as Hughes argues, a kind of Freudian slip made by a prosecutor, Kellen S. Dwyer, who is also working on the Wikileaks case? Here is the link to the case in question, which is captioned: United States of America v. Seitu Sulayman Kokayi. The motion was filed on August 24, 2018.

+ This article in SpliceToday argues that the Left needs to stop its “slobbering, orgiastic” love affair with Marx. I find myself in total agreement. It’s time for some self-imposed abstinence. In my case, there’s so much slobber on my copy of The 18th Brumaire of Louis Napoleon that many of the pages have dissolved into each other, achieving a state of simultaneous dialectal synthesis, I suppose.

+ I’d heard about the Polish painter and writer Josef Czapski’s Lost Time: Lectures on Proust in a Soviet Prison Camp since college, when reading Proust for the first time seemed like being sentenced to a Gulag. Now it’s finally been translated and I understand why reading Proust might just help you survive life in a concentration camp. There were, of course, no copies of In Search of Lost Time in the camp, so Czapski quoted the Divine Marcel from memory, much the way Erich Auerbach did when he wrote the first draft of his magisterial Mimesis.

+ An average of 3,000 Poles died each day during the Nazi occupation, half of them Christian, half of them Jewish.

+ Lawrence Freedman, Historian, on the Brexit debate within the May government: “You know you are in a great British political crisis when you find yourself watching a closed door on TV.”

+ Speaking of my old town, 75% of Baltimorans voted against any efforts to privatize public water resources…

+ One of the best recent books I’ve read on WW I is Into the Silence by Wade Davis, a biography of the mountaineer George Mallory, who died on Everest after (perhaps) reaching the summit. It depicts a generation which returned from the trenches of France opposed to war, opposed the very idea of Europe and willing to go to farthest reaches of the planet to find new ways to live.

+ RIP to the great Stan Lee, who was one of the 20 original subscribers to CounterPunch in 1993. Lee faithfully sent a $100 check for the next 25 years.

+ Anyone foolish enough to believe that Obama and the Democrats were fighting climate change needs to have this graph tattooed to their forehead…

+ The Arctic hasn’t been this warm in 120,000 years. Maybe next year we can go for 500,000…

+ Against great odds, Trump appears to be winning the War on Coal! This year alone, 16 gigawatts worth of coal-fired plants have closed down, which is close to an all-time record. The president should Tweet proudly about his victories!

+ Up in what we called The Region, NIPSCO (Northern Indiana Public Service Company) has always been one of the most noxious and environmentally hostile utilities on the continent. If they’ve given up on coal, it’s really all over…

+ This week Bill Clinton’s favorite utility, Entergy, announced that it will stop burning coal at its two Arkansas power plants. This is welcome news. But when will Entergy stop burning uranium to boil water?

+ It’s very hard to keep fully up-to-date with the Trump Administration crime blotter, but this week Onis “Trey” Glenn, the EPA’s top administrator for the Southeastern Region of the US, was just indicted on ethics charges in Alabama for his work on behalf of Drummond Coal Company to block an EPA investigation into a toxic waste site in a poor, black neighborhood of Birmingham.

+ According to, more than 300 racehorses have died either training or during a race in 2018.

More wolves, better rivers

+ The fuckers in the Trump administration just signed an order exempting the State of Oregon from the Marine Mammal Protection Act that will allow state wildlife agents to begin killing sea lions at the base of Willamette Falls here in Oregon City. I’ve been kayaking next to these magnificent creatures all summer and fall. Here’s the sea lion I call Garbo, who lounged silently on an abandoned dock at the Oregon City Marina. She had always secured the same spot and each time I paddled by she would raise her head an inch or two in acknowledgment before letting it drop back to the deck with a slight thud. Now she’s targeted for assassination for the crime of eating what sea lions in the Pacific Northwest have always eaten.

+ Sea lions aren’t the cause of salmon decline. They’ve been feasting on them since end of the last Ice Age. The dams, the logging, the grazing, the dioxin pouring out of pulp mills and the changing climate are the salmon killers. Stop the scapegoating and fight the real enemy!

+ Trump announced he is plans to award the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Republican megadonor Miriam Adelson;  Sen. Orrin Hatch; the late justice Antonin Scalia; Babe Ruth; Elvis; former Minnesota Viking defensive lineman Alan Page; and former Dallas Cowboy quarterback Roger Staubach. Hold on. Nothing for Ted Nugent or Kid Rock?

+ From Greil Marcus’ revealing interview with rock critic Robert Christgau:

I see no reason not to acknowledge that one reason I did that piece [“A Night on the Town”, where Christgau ventured out every night for a month to hear live music] is that the [Village] Voice had been taken over by a hostile force from Phoenix. The enemy was somewhere lurking and looking to fire me, which they did about two months after that piece was finished. And for sure one thing I wanted to do with that piece was say, “Fuck you. You think I’m some old fart? Here’s what I can do.” But also, I really thought it would be interesting, and it was fantastically interesting. Every once in a while I got tired, or I missed Carola, my wife, who didn’t come to all these shows with me, though she came to quite a few and provided me with some good lines.”

+ In 1978, I worked as a busboy at Blues Alley, DC’s most intimate jazz club. (Almost certainly the best job I ever had, despite from getting paid less than $5 an hour.) That spring, Dexter Gordon played a weeklong gig there. I got Dex drinks, towels, cigarettes and discreetly passed notes to various women. He was the coolest person I’ve ever met. No one even close. This week Elemental Music released a live recording from that era that captures Gordon as a recall him sounding on those glorious nights in Georgetown. It’s called Espace Cardin, 1977, and features his smoking Parisian band, Al Haig, Pierre Michelot and Kenny “Klook” Clark.

+ Sonny Rollins tweeted on Wednesday: “I often wonder, what would Monk say?”

+ RIP Roy Clark, a kick-ass musician lurked under the character he played on Hee Haw….

Booked Up

What I’m reading this week…

Memphis Rent Party: the Blues, Rock and Soul in Music’s Hometown by Robert Gordon

The Ecocentrists: a History of Radical Environmentalism by Keith Makoto Woodhouse

No Exit: Arab Existentialism, Jean-Paul Sartre and Decolonisation by Yoav Di-Capua

Sound Grammar

What I’m listening to this week…

Wanderer by Cat Power

Working Class Woman by Marie Davidson

Broken Politics by Neneh Cherry

All Available Indignities

John Kenneth Galbraith: “Despite a flattering supposition to the contrary, people come readily to terms with power. There is little reason to think that the power of the great bankers, while they were assumed to have it, was much resented. But as the ghosts of numerous tyrants, from Julius Caesar to Benito Mussolini will testify, people are very hard on those who, having had power, lose it or are destroyed. Then anger at past arrogance is joined with contempt for the present weakness. The victim or his corpse is made to suffer all available indignities.”

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