Roaming Charges: American Hunger Games

Alcatraz. Photo: Jeffrey St. Clair.

+ The shutdown has become Trump’s RealityTV version of The Hunger Games. How long can federal workers go without being paid? How will they perish? Hunger, influenza, hypothermia, suicide? Place your bets.

+ Lara Trump made a strong audition this week for the role of Marie Antoinette, but in a risky casting move the part ended up going to Wilbur Ross.

+  Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross says he doesn’t understand why furloughed federal employees would need the assistance of food banks. He advised the workers to get bridge loans, essentially putting them in the position to pay interest on their paychecks.

+ Why doesn’t Wilbur Ross (net worth $2.9 billion) simply front them the money himself? Perhaps Ross isn’t nearly as rich as he has claimed to be?

“I know they are, and I don’t really quite understand why.” He says the workers should be able to get bridge loans.

+ Wilbur Ross’ depraved comments on federal workers should encourage Pelosi to re-invite Trump to give his SOTUS speech in the House. The more they talk, they more they condemn themselves.

+ Every so often, Paul Krugman makes an obvious point in an original way…

+ Perhaps Trump can finance his Wall with a pay-day loan.

+ Tom Brokaw emerged from his cryogenic tank to cast blame on both Democrats and Trump for the federal shutdown. Brokaw was hired as a newsreader some 50 years ago for his fresh-faced, good old boyish looks. So what’s the excuse for quoting anything he says now?

+ If there was a media Hall of Fame for thumb-sucking, Tom Brokaw would have his own room of highlights…

+ If Trump’s Wall would stop US arms shipments to death squads in Central America, it might be worth it.

+ When Trump said he was going to “own” the shutdown, he meant “own” in the same sense that he “owns” his hotels–in other words, not really. Suckers!

+ The federal shutdown is hitting already distressed Native American communitiesmuch harder than most. But whatever you do, friends, don’t get caught chanting your anguish, despair and anger in front of some innocence-faced high schoolers goosestepping down the Mall…

+ Rebecca Nagel (Cherokee Nation): “In all of Indian Country, we don’t have as much access to media and power as this one extremely privileged, White kid. And now, he gets to say what happened. Like so many White men who came before him, he gets to rewrite history.”

+ Pretty much sums up my feelings about the matter…

+ The new White House counsel, Pat Cipollone, is a graduate of Covington Catholic High School, which probably means he’s at the top of Trump’s shortlist to replace RBG on the Supreme Court.

+ According to the great Blonde Beast (one of) Laura Ingraham, Trump has just invited the Covington mob to the White House. Will they get a group photo with the Prez under the portrait of Andy Jackson?

+ The Covington high school, whose students regularly dressed up in blackface during basketballs, should be torn down, the football and baseball fields sown with salt. Covington delenda est.

+ Gary Webb and I both grew up in Indianapolis. As teens we spent a lot of time in the nearby cultural mecca (for baseball fans) of Cincy. One of Webb’s first gigs as a young reporter was covering crime and politics in Covington, just across the Ohio River. He said it was one of the most corrupt & racist cities in the US and told me those years in northern Kentucky were the best training he got for probing the CIA. The antics of those punks wouldn’t surprise him.

+ Webb jokingly referred to Cincy as “the Greater Covington Area.” In those days, Cincinnati was dominated by German Catholics, none more notorious than Marge Schott the openly racist owner of the Reds, who once called two of the best players to ever suit up in a Reds uniform, Eric Davis and Dave Parker, “my million-dollar niggers.” Here are sampling of a few of Schott’s greatest hits:

“Some of the biggest problems in this city come from women wanting to leave the home and work.”

“Sneaky goddamn Jews are all alike.”

“Never hire another nigger. I’d rather have a trained monkey working for me than a nigger.”

“Only fruits wear earrings.”

“Everybody knows [Hitler] was good at the beginning, but he just went too far.”

+ She was, however, kind to animals and let her pet St. Bernard, Schottzie, shit wherever it wanted, including the infield at Riverfront Stadium.

+ Here we have Florida Secretary of State Michael Ertel dressing up in blackface as a Katrina refugee for Halloween in 2005….and you wonder where those Covington kids got their peculiar notions.

+ BREAKING NEWS: As of today CounterPunch is officially recognizing Jeremy Corbyn as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and Lula da Silva as the president of Brazil….

+ Still waiting for the first war to be fought over solar energy…

+ I’d rather Pelosi use whatever power she has to block Trump from instigating a coup in Venezuela, than block him from giving the SOTU, which all of us can simply refuse to watch. But so far only Rep. Ro Khanna has made an unequivocal statement against Trump’s coup-plotting.

+ It took Sen. Dick Durbin about 10 minutes to lend his support to Trump’s Venezuela coup…

+ Bill Richardson on Trump’s Venezuelan coup plot: “A bold move.”

+ Has Biden hailed Trump’s attack on Venezuela yet? Back in the 80s he backed the Contras, saying he wouldn’t stand by as the Sandinista “tyrants imposed their will” on Nicaragua, which prompted Alexander Cockburn to call Biden “another Cold War Democrat trying to prove he’s got hair on his chest and sawdust in his brain.”

+ Last year, Rep. Ro Khanna sent a letter to Rexxon Tillerson opposing sanctions on Venezuela. Khanna could find only 8 other Democrats to join him in dissenting against the policy that has helped set the stage for the incipient coup.: John Conyers, Emmanuel Cleaver, Rosa DeLauro, Mark Pocan, James McGovern, Ruben Gallego, Barbara Lee, and Hank Johnson. Subtract Conyers and you have 8 Dems left standing against the coup, with AOC a definite maybe.

+ At least one presidential candidate a short, clear, unequivocal statement against US intervention in Venezuela. Good for you, Tulsi…(That wasn’t so hard, was it Bernie?)

+ Senator Sanders, you must have some opinion on the impending coup against Venezuela. What is it? Yes, No, Don’t No? Bernie, if you’re stumped, you still have the option of Phoning a Friend…

+ How long will the Sandernistas (you know who you are) tolerate Bernie’s silence on Venezuela?

+ Remember during the 2016 campaign, when Bernie Sanders referred to Hugo Chavez, the man who had provided freezing Vermonters with low-cost fuel oil, as “a dead Communist dictator?”

+ A few hours after I wrote the above, Senator Sanders spoke. (Though perhaps it would have been better for his reputation to have kept his mouth shut.)

+ It’s going to be interesting to see how the MAGALeft spins a US-sponsored coup in Venezuela. Who will they blame for “tricking Trump” into taking an action that he has jabbering about taking for four years now?

+ If you’re agitating against climate change, you should also be out on the streets protesting the fossil fuel coup being plotted against Venezuela…

+ Will the US be out of Syria before it plunges into Venezuela? Will Flint have clean water by then?

+ Things Democrats do when the government is shut down: Pass the NATO Support Act in the House without a single Democratic vote against it.

+ Can someone explain to me (rhetorical device) why Reps. AOC, Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib, and Barbara Lee voted with Liz Cheney in favor of the NATO Support Act? Not one Democrat or “Democratic Socialist” voted against this pathetic endorsement of an obsolete and provocative military alliance?

+ Only 22 brave souls voted against NATO, all of them libertarian Republicans. These are the first warm feelings I’ve ever had for Rep. Louie Gohmert.

+ There’s something terminally wrong with a country that prosecutes people for giving water to dehydrated people and using their insurance card to provide medicine to sick children…

+ What a Harvard economist Greg Mankiw really thinks of the rich: “Most rich people I know seem more like Taylor Swift. They make their money honestly by providing value to others. And they have less political influence than is often supposed.” Where’s the old Kanye when you really need him?

+ She’s only 28, she has no real power, she just voted to Save NATO and yet the Right’s already gone the full-Hitler/Stalin on AOC. What will they say in 5 years, 10?

+ Dirty trickster Roger Stone probably deserves his fate. But who told the more dangerous lies to Congress…Stone or James Clapper? Why wasn’t Clapper hauled away in his pajamas in a predawn raid on his dressing room at MSDNC?

+ Stone’s biggest blunder was threatening to kill Bianca, Randy Credico’s dog. Most Americans don’t give a damn about RussiaGate, or even understand what it’s all about, but they do love dogs. The jury will be tempted to give him hard time for this.

+ Rudy Giuliani’s corrections to the Mueller Report will inevitably prove more damning for Trump than the Mueller Report itself…

Rudy: I can’t think of a person who has been as unfairly treated as this, by both the media and, to some extent, the special counsel. Now, maybe he is near the end and is starting to rethink it. I hope.

NYer: The Central Park Five? Trying to think of other people treated badly.

Rudy: O.K., unfairly?

NYer: Yeah.

Rudy: O.K., time to go.

+ You know what’s sad? Hearing Democrats long for the “old Giuliani”, the steady hand behind stop-and-frisk, broken windows, the racist attacks on David Dinkins, the promotion of the grifter Bernard Kerick, the shootings of Amadou Diallo and Patrick Dorismond, and the torture of Abner Louima…the good old days, when Rudy had all of his faculties.

+ Speaking of New York…Mayor Stop-and-Frisk, rumored to be running for president as a Democrat (natch), says that the legalization of marijuana is “perhaps the stupidest thing anyone has ever done.”

+ The recent nip-and-tucks have been distracting enough, but has Barbara Boxer been spending too much time in a Trump tanning bed? Those eyes!

+ The madness of Israeli “historian” Benny Morris: “Something like a cage has to be built for them [the Palestinians]. I know that sounds terrible. It is really cruel. But there is no choice. There is a wild animal out there that has to be locked up in one way or another.” This is, of course, the same language that has been parroted by Donald (Uday to his friends) Trump, Jr. for Central American migrants.

+ Then there’s Kamala Harris to AIPAC, 2017: “I believe Israel should never be a partisan issue, and as long as I’m a United States senator, I will do everything in my power to ensure broad and bipartisan support for Israel’s security and right to self-defense.”

+ Pence and Trump took a lot of shit from the media for spending only “approximately two minutes” at the MLK Memorial. But according to Melania: “Two whole minutes? That’s not bad for Donald.”

+ Martin Luther King Jr.: “You can’t talk about solving the economic problem of the Negro without talking about billions of dollars. You can’t talk about ending the slums without first saying profit must be taken out of slums. You’re really tampering and getting on dangerous ground because you are messing with folk then. You are messing with captains of industry. Now this means that we are treading in difficult water, because it really means that we are saying that something is wrong with capitalism.” Speech to staff, 1966.

+ Gizmodo reported this week that in Trump’s posts on Facebook and Instagram his image has been altered to make him thinner with longer fingers. But are they sure the President hasn’t slimmed down by going on the Ann Coulter Diet?

+Rosanna Arquette: “I just remembered I was expelled from jr high school for awhile in front royal Virginia ..because my family lived in a commune and that was the only school to attend. I was expelled for writing Black POWER in black ink on the top of my hand. I couldn’t of been happier. I never went back. Afterwards I was beaten up by red neck boys who assaulted me and put dog shit in my mouth and called me (blank )lover and then there was a fight by my friends defending me, who were African American and the red neck racists after I moved to New Jersey and lived with friends.”

+ Climate of No Return?

+ When Seattle closed down the Alaska Way Viaduct (Highway 99), many predicted the city would be paralyzed by traffic. Instead, 99,000 car trips a day simply vanished. Rip up the highways and people will find softer ways to travel or just stay home…

+ A new study from ecologists at the University of Wisconsin predicts that Yellowstone’s forests may be replaced almost entirely by grasslands within the next 30 years. Among other dire consequences for the ecosystem, this climate-driven transition will mean the extinction of the Yellowstone grizzly, which depends on white bark pine seeds as an essential source of protein.

+ A record number of private jets landed in Davos this week to attend the Climate Summit. Why? Because their carbon don’t stink…

+ If Trump succeeds in shutting down airports coast-to-coast, even for only a few days, he’ll have done more to combat Catastrophic Climate Change than all other presidents combined.

+ The Himalayan glaciers are in rapid retreat. They are the principle water source for more than a billion people and three nations armed with nuclear weapons.

+ Lake Foul became a “dead pool” the moment they closed the floodgates at Glen Canyon Dam…

+ I wasn’t blown away by BlacKKKlansman. But I am blown away by the fact that this is Spike Lee’s first Oscar nomination as a director. (Spike did get token nods from the Academy for his documentary “Four Little Girls” and his original screenplay for “Do the Right Thing.”) Just as and perhaps even more bizarrely, it’s also the great Terence Blanchard’s first nomination for film score.

+ Pharoah Sanders doesn’t speak much. But when he does, I advise you to listen. Case in point.

+ I hate U2’s music and the damage it does to innocent minds, but at least when Bono the Banal is on tour he’s less likely to be up to devious shit like this

+ RIP Reggie Young, the legendary guitarist in Elvis’ best band, the Bill Black Combo, died this week at the age of 83. His riffs are comfortably lodged in your mind, even if you didn’t realize he was playing them. If you need a refresher drop the needle on “Son of a Preacher Man,” “Drift Away,” “Always on My Mind,” “Suspicious Minds,” “The Letter,” “Luckenbach, Texas”….

David Vest rightly recommends listening to “Bill Black’s Combo Plays Chuck Berry”. So here’s “Little Queenie”…


Booked Up

What I’m reading this week…

Nemesis: Alcibiades and the Fall of Athens by David Stuttard (Harvard)

Genius Weapons: Artificial Intelligence, Autonomous Weaponry and the Future of Warfare by Louis A. Del Monte (Prometheus Books)

The Way of Coyote: Shared Journeys in the Urban Wilds by Gavin Van Horn (University of Chicago)

Sound Grammar

What I’m listening to this week…

Meet You in the Shadows by Outrageous Cherry (Berger Records)

Man Made Object by GoGo Penguin (Blue Note)

What a Wonderful Industry by M. Ward (M. Ward Records)

Blind Empire

Gabriel García Márquez: “So we have reached a point that barely allows us to survive, but there are still some puerile souls who look to the United States as a polestar of salvation with the certainty that in our country we have used up even the sighs to die in peace. However, what they find there is a blind empire that no longer considers Colombia a good neighbor, or even a cheap, trustworthy accomplice, but only another target for its imperial voracity.” (“The Beloved Though Distant Homeland,” 2003. I’m Not Here to Give a Speech.)

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