Roaming Charges: The Good Rat or the Mouse That Bored?

Young bald eagle, Columbia River marshlands. Photo: Jeffrey St. Clair.

+ Jimmy Breslin’s book The Good Rat tells the sordid story of drug dealer Burton Kaplan, an underling in the Luchese crime syndicate, who to save his own ass dropped a dime on two NYPD detectives, Luis Eppolito and Stephen Carapacca, as hired killers for the mob. Eppolito and Carapacca murdered 8 people before they were arrested, several on the orders of Kaplan. Breslin, who knew more about the mob than most mobsters, deplored snitches. But he hated dirty cops more, hence the description of Kaplan as “the good rat.”

+ Michael Cohen presents himself as “a good rat.” But he came off more as the mouse that bored, as any client of Lanny Davis was likely to do. Cohen aped the bluster of a mob fixer, but he’s no Sammy “the Bull” Gravano. When Trump asked him to intimidate people, Cohen called them on the phone and spewed invective. He didn’t stuff the decapitated heads of thoroughbreds beneath silk sheets. Cohen didn’t scare many people and he probably doesn’t scare Trump. He told us things we already knew, denied episodes of RussiaGate (such as the secret trip to Prague) most of us suspected were false and couldn’t provide documentation for his most salacious allegations, including Roger Stone’s call to Trump about Julian Assange and Don Jr.’s whispered colloquy with Pops about the Trump Tower meeting with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya.

+ It does sound like Lanny Davis wrote Cohen’s prepared testimony: 10 minutes of high-octane hyperbole. When Cohen finished his opening oratorio, I said to the TV: either he’s buried the lede or this hearing’s going to be a bust. It was a bust.

+ Giovanni Gambino, cousin of notorious mob boss Carlo Gambino, publicly warned Cohen not to take the rat role too seriously: “Inmates love Trump, and hate rats. If he wants to get out alive, he better keep his mouth shut about Trump.”

+ Will McLatchey’s Peter Stone and Greg Gordon now reveal the sources who repeatedly sold them lies about Michael Cohen’s alleged trip to Prague, refuted under oath by the subject himself?

+ After Cohen’s testimony exposing the greed, corruption and venality of nearly everyone in the Trump orbit, MSDNC’s Chris Hayes made a big deal of Cohen having been named by Trump as the Deputy Finance Chair of the RNC, which is the political equivalent of being the 18th executive producer of a Michael Bay movie…

+ Usually, the father acts as the son’s procurer (see Freddy D’s Notes from the Underground), in Trumpworld, Don Jr. pays for his old man’s trysts.

+ You know what many sex workers say, the bigger the signature on the check, the smaller the…

+ If I were Elijah Cummings, I wouldn’t have had Debbie Wasserman-Schultz hitting second in the lineup, since I’m sure on hearing her voice many people immediately started channel-flipping looking for a rerun of “The Price is Right.”

+ So Trump defender Mark Meadows lied in his questioning of a convicted liar who was hired to lie for the President.

+ One Republican inquisitor snarled that Michael Cohen was the first person to testify before Congress after being convicted of lying to Congress. Apparently he missed the testimony of convicted liar Elliott Abrams from two weeks ago.

+ The members of the House Oversight Committee, Republican and Democrat, reminded the country why a prolonged shut down of the government might be a good idea.

+ Since members of congress have never been that bright, I take it that the ineptness of the questioning in the Michael Cohen hearing is evidence for the intellectual decline of congressional staff and perhaps the country itself.

+ In a lineup of political reprobates, Lil Marco Rubio may standout as the most repulsive of all. Here he is essentially calling for the democratically-elected leader of Venezuela to be Qaddafied: overthrown, tortured, anally-sodomized with a bayonet, murdered and put on public display in an industrial freezer, his shattered country left in ruins for years to come.

+ “Unseating:” the latest euphemism for violent overthrow of a democratically elected government…

+ Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov said this week that the Trump administration has sought Russia’s advice on how to deal with North Korea. Well, at least Trump is taking advice from someone. The last thing anyone in the world–and we all have a stake in US nuclear weapons policy–wants is for Trump to go on his own gut instincts (or Bolton’s)…

+ TAPPER: Do you think North Korea remains a nuclear threat?


T: But POTUS said he doesn’t

P: That’s not what he said

T: He tweeted, ‘there’s no longer a nuclear threat from NK’

P: Not quite

T: It’s a direct quote!

+ Breaking news from MSDNC’s Kelly O’Donnell: “The US and Vietnam had a very adversarial relationship for several decades.”

+ The Bolton Touch…former South Korean unification minister Chong Se-hyun contends that the summit was derailed by the last minute attendance of Bolton, who added demands for North Korea to also provide an inventory of its chemical/biological weapons. The North Koreans responded by increasing their demands for sanctions relief.

+ After Trump fled Hanoi, North Korean official said they had asked for 5 of 11 sanctions to be lifted in exchange for partial denuclearization. Trump’s comments made it seem like North Koreans had asked for all sanctions to be canceled.

+ Two days later, even the State Department contradicted Trump and publicly backed Kim’s version of why the talks collapsed.

+ So, Trump finally gets “an enemy KIA” in Vietnam to brag about: one peace treaty with North Korea.

+ The fiendish Lindsey Graham back in McCain mode, jokes at CPAC about assassinating Kim Jong Un, demonstrating to a guffawing audience that US policy has never been about “denuclearization,” but the deKimification of North Korea, same as it’s been for 75 years….

+ The corpse of Otto Warmbier is as much as prop as Lynne Patton (the token black at the Cohen hearing) and I expect him to be exhumed again, whenever Trump decides to “get tough” on North Korea, announcing new evidence showing Kim’s handprints on his throat.

+ Texas Senator John Cornyn is so rattled by AOC that he invoked the Benito Mussolini to warn against the evils of socialism…

Did Il Duce make the dialectics run on time?

+ Elliot Abrams, sans regret: “The change from military dictatorship … in Latin America is an exceptional one. I think anyone in the Reagan Admin who participated in that project … should be proud of it. I know I am.”

+ This is precisely why Bernie Sanders feels so comfortable running in the Democratic Primaries. He talks in the torturous way many Democrats did about the Vietnam War, while LBJ was running it. His deliberate ambiguity will help enable an invasion. The time to stop a war is before it begins. US Out of Venezuela!

+ One keeps looking for the moral clarity of Eugene McCarthy, Wayne Morse or Mike Gravel from Bernie Sanders on issues of war and peace. Yet what we are offered is mush and drivel. One might be tempted to blame it on his age. But like Reagan, he knows exactly what he is saying and why.

+ Who is briefing Bernie on Venezuela? Could it be ….

+ Bernie’s dreadful foreign policy positions are no surprise to those of us who have watched his career for the last 25 years. Remember when he joined with the likes of Marco Rubio to shaft Palestinians…?

+ Bernie, you couldn’t even “make it clear” to the DNC not to sabotage the primaries…

+ On the Bernie age issue.

The life expectancy for white males in Vermont is 78.02, slightly higher than the average for the US.
The life expectancy for white males (richer) in DC is 82.7

If elected, Bernie would be 79.4 on his inauguration.

+ On December 19th Trump ordered a “rapid withdrawal” from Syria. Sixty-three days later, we’re still there.

+ A foreign entity is spying on US citizens with impunity. But I wouldn’t hold my breath for hearings from Adam Schiff or Elijah Cummings…

+ Bibi Netanyahu was finally indicted this week. Not for committing war crimes against Palestinians, but for bribery and “breach of trust.”

+ According to the new UN assessment of Israel’s latest crackdown on Gaza: “Of the 189 Palestinians killed, 183 were shot with live ammunition, including 35 children, three health workers and two journalists.“

+ After this news broke, an MSNDC talking head said: “Netanyahu may actually be the lesser of two evils.”

+ I doubt that Trump will praise Kim’s crackdown on corrupt North Korean elites with quite the same enthusiasm he showed for Xi’s remorseless administration of the death penalty for drug offenses in China…

+ Median and average household wealth in US by race…

+ Ivanka Trump: “People want to work for what they get. So, I think that this idea of a guaranteed minimum is not something most people want.” Especially, most people who inherited millions from a father who inherited millions from his father.

+ Trump gushed to a meeting with US governors that his daughter, Ivanka, had created “millions of jobs,” a statement which was greeted with considerable skepticism. If she’d had the chance Ivanka would have created the Earth and all living things in only three days…and it would have been the Best Earth ever, with an infinite supply of unicorns, coal and silicone.

+ Suck on this, Ivanka: “The Labor Market is Doing Fine With Higher Minimum Wages.

+ Estimated number of new billionaires over next ten years.

China: 448
India: 238
US: 147
Russia: 63
Australia: 25
Hong Kong: 22
Canada: 13
South Korea: 13
Switzerland: 12
Japan: 11

(AfrAsia Bank Global)

+ Rick “That’s Latin for Asshole” Santorum explains why Trump lies so much about Russia: “Trump doesn’t tell the truth about a lot of things fairly consistently. So the fact that he’s not telling the truth about Russia… Why is that any different?”

+ Putin declared this week that Russia would target US cities and “decision-making centers” (presumably Trump’s new golf simulator) with “new advanced weapons” if the US deploys new missiles in Europe. This is, of course, exactly the response the US nuclear weapons industry was hoping for, guaranteeing them almost anything they want and at any price they want to charge. Are we sure that Putin isn’t the real puppet of the US Military-Industrial Complex?

+ Gorka may not like the way this turns out.

+ Former Maine Governor Paul LePage explained the electoral college to listeners of WVOM radio: “Actually what would happen if they do what they say they’re gonna do is white people will not have anything to say. It’s only going to be the minorities that would elect. It would be California, Texas, Florida.”

+ Apparently, The Handmaid’s Tale is a PG-13 version of what’s really going on out there. Consider the Speaker of the House in Florida, José Oliva, who repeated refers to pregnant women as “host bodies.

+ Just another “host body”: An 11-year-old Argentinian rape victim was forced to give birth after she was denied an abortion.

+ Then there’s Virginia Democratic Governor Ralph “Coonman” Northam’s wife Pam, who handed out pieces of cotton to African-American kids visiting the Statehouse in Richmond and asked them to imagine what it was like to be a slave. She should’ve handed the kids a lash and tied herself to the post…

+ Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s (D-CA) net worth:

2004: $61,768,616
2014: $94,202,571
Increase in 10 years: $32,433,955 (+52.58%)

No wonder she doesn’t want to leave office…

+ DiFi in action, versus 5th graders…

+ Those second-graders who confronted DiFi over climate change are lucky they didn’t ask Kamala Harris a tough question: “To date, I have prosecuted 20 parents of young children for truancy. The penalty for truancy charged as a misdemeanor is a fine of up to $2,500 or up to a year of jail. Our groundbreaking strategy has worked.”

+ Kamala Harris told AIPAC that she backs Israel because some American Jews marched for Civil Rights on the Edmund Pettis Bridge in 1963. Can you repeat that, Madame Prosecutor? I couldn’t quite process what you said…

+ Since Joe Biden’s hair plugs didn’t seem to do the trick, the former Veep is now asking social media executives to recommend things he could do to appeal to younger voters. Move into an assisted living facility?

+ This, on the other hand, probably isn’t the way to do it: In Omaha this week, Biden called Mike Pence “a decent guy, our vice president.” No word on what Biden thinks of Mother Pence.

+ Amy Klobuchar (she who eats her salad with a comb, kept pristine by her staff) says she’s driving down the middle of the road toward the nomination. Over to you, Loudon Wainwright…

+ Pfizer exec Sally Susan is set to host a fundraiser for presidential aspirant Kirsten Gillibrand, with tix prices running from $1,000 to $2700. Looks like Pfizer just hired a contract killer for Single Payer.

+ You really thought they’d seen the light?

+ Yves Smith: “More than 42 percent of the 9.5 million people diagnosed with cancer from 2000 to 2012 drained their life’s assets within two years. Cancer patients are 2.65 times more likely to file for bankruptcy, and that puts them at a higher risk for early death”

+ According to Gallup, liberals now outnumber conservatives in only 6 states, down from 9. Somewhere, Phil Ochs must be smiling…

+ Brace yourself, here’s the Che of El Paso, expiating on means testing for Social Security…

+ ICE is continuing to detain infants and toddlers, some as young as five months old.

+ St. Mark’s Comics, another sanctuary of the East Village expires….

+ There are only 50 ways to leave your lover, but 116 ways to be neurotic about it…

+ Trump on Robert Kraft: “Sad.”
Trump on Coast Guard terrorist: “Very sad.”

+ Sportswriter Jeff Pearlman: “The NFL will absolve Robert Kraft of any/all sins. Because you can solicit prostitutes, you can punch women, you can kill dogs, you can do drugs atop drugs. You just can’t kneel to protest police brutality against African-Americans.”

+ Re: Kraft. It looks like Colin Kaepernick wasn’t the only one down on his knees…

+ Most prostitution cases are bullshit. But if the Chinese women were, in fact, being held against their will in a kind of sexual servitude, then perhaps this investigation was worthwhile, aside from the karmic value of seeing one of Trump’s best friends “go down” on Trump’s home turf in Palm Beach County. The captive Chinese women in the Kraft sex sting were forced to live at the “spa” and made to “service” 6 to 8 men a day.

+ Roger Stone, who complained to a federal judge  that he can’t afford his rent, previously told the pretrial services office that he earns $47,000 per MONTH…

+ A Texas teen escaped prison time after she lied to police about being raped by the three black men.  Did I miss Big Daddy’s outrage Tweet about this case? Perhaps the parallels were too close to his own fingering of the Central Park Five, a wrongful accusation that he has never apologized for…

+ CPAC standup, featuring Michelle Malkin: “I identify as American. My pronouns are U-S-A.”

+ Oliver North at CPAC: “I ask you to pray for the NRA. The NRA is freedom’s safest place.”

+ More rip-roaring GOP humor at CPAC…Mark Meadows: “You know, with this Green New Deal, they’re trying to get rid of all the cows. But I’ve got good news — Chick-fil-A stock will go way up because we gonna be eating more chicken!”

+ Mike Lindell (the My Pillow guy) at CPAC this morning: “I see the greatest president in history. Of course Trump is, he was chosen by God.”

+ On the first day God made Trump president. On the second day, he made Chuck Schumer “Guardian of Israel.” Then he sat back, cracked open a home-brew, looked down upon his works and laughed maniacally…

+ So Obama’s library will be perfectly in tune with his presidency: dig beneath the surface and there’s nothing there…

+ Sir Charles, finally a role model for us all….

+ Maybe the duct-taped women Trump keeps talking about are the ones Alex Acosta gagged from testifying about how they were sexually abused before Acosta brokered the Jeffrey Epstein plea deal…

+ Alan Dershowitz announcing that he’s still advising Jeffrey Epstein may be the most Dershowitz thing Dershowitz has ever done..

+ Trump: Yes, there have been Fourth of July gatherings before, but this time there will be fireworks!

+ More than 50 years after his death, the town of High Point, North Carolina is finally moving to protect the childhood home its is most famous resident, John Coltrane.

+ David Price dug up a copy of John Marks’ classic essay “How to Spot a Spook,” on public display in the the CIA reading room!

+ A new simulation finds that global warming could cause stratocumulus clouds to disappear in as little as a century, which would add 8°C (14°F) of extra warming. (But look on the bright side of this otherwise distressing news: In a world without clouds, it will be easier to track Bernie’s private jet when it flies over your neighborhood…)

+ We are now witnessing the first Category 5 Typhoon ever to develop in February…

+ The waters of the Jordan River and the Sea of Galilee are draining away, largely as a result of climate change. Soon, we’ll all be able to walk across the lakebed Jesus walked on…(as long as you’re not a Palestinian, that is.)

+ Meet William Happer, the climate change denier Trump just picked to head his new panel on climate change. “The demonization of carbon dioxide is just like the demonization of the poor Jews under Hitler.”

+ If temperatures increase by 2 degrees Celsius, climate change could cost U.S. infrastructure $500 billion by 2100. Don’t worry, Mexico will pay for it…

+ Bering Sea ice remains critically low, only 53% of the average from 1983-2010…

+ Is this the hottest summer ever in Australia?

+ Kill an orphaned kitten while jogging get celebrated as a hero, save a bear cub get thrown in jail….

+ Killing wolves won’t save caribou, according to a new report…but that’s not why they really want to kill wolves.

+ This map depicts 20 years of migratory data from a single golden eagle tagged with a GPS device…

+ Greenwashing, it’s for everyone, even dredge miners, who have taken to describing themselves as “aquatic health technicians” to secure money from the State of Oregon.

+ It’s now open season for wolves on the Colville Rez, whose tribal council is dominated by anti-wildlife ranchers….

+ We lived adjacent to the Yellowwood Forest in southern Indiana for 8 years. Yellowwoods are a rare tree in Indiana, a relic of the glacial age. Most forest land in Indiana is private. There’s no economic or social reason to log public forests. In Indiana, public forests, even the crown jewels like Yellowwood, are logged for political reasons, to stick it to environmentalists. We now know that the State of Indiana recently sold trees logged in Yellowwood for $68 per tree. Cost: mangled wildlife habitat, increased soil erosion, decreased biodiversity, appalled tourists…$68 PER TREE!

+ Snake River salmon runs before and after the completion of Lower Granite Dam…

+ Mining companies dump 50 million gallons of toxic wastewater into American streams every single day.

+ An Australian rodent called the Bramble Cay Melomys became the first mammal known to go extinct due to climate change. And we’re just getting warmed up!

+ What’s rock music about, anyway? At a minimum it should either make you want to dance, laugh, fuck or tear shit up. On a good day the much-maligned Monkees could at least manage 3 out of 4. That’s more than Procol Harum, Styx or the Moody Blues.

RIP André Previn

Booked Up

What I’m reading this week…

Limits of the Known by David Roberts (WW Norton)

Life Lived in Relief: Humanitarian Predicaments and Palestinian Refugee Politics by Ilana Feldman (Un. of California)

Mythologies of State and Monopoly Power by Michael E. Tigar (Monthly Review Press)

Sound Grammar

What I’m listening to this week…

Love Hurts by Julian Lage (Mack Ave.)

Sunshine Rock by Bob Mould (Merge)

Live at Baker’s by Dennis Coffey (Omnivore)

Yankee-Doodle Socialism

James Baldwin: “When I use the word [socialism] I’m not thinking about Lenin, for example. Bobby Seale talks about a Yankee Doodle-type socialism. I know what he means when he says that. It is a socialism created from the indigenous need of the people in the place.”

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