Roaming Charges: Darn That (American) Dream

Abandoned mill and power plant along the Willamette River, West Linn, Oregon. Photo: Jeffrey St. Clair.

+ If the Democratic race boils down to Biden and Sanders, you’ll have two candidates in their late 70s who voted three times to overthrow Saddam, approved the murderous sanctions on Iraq, supported the illegal war on Serbia, backed the racist and punitive Clinton Crime Bill and fronted a scheme to dump radioactive waste from New England near a small Hispanic town in West Texas.

+ Elizabeth Warren was in Mississippi on Monday talking about abolishing the electoral college, reparations for slavery and Native people, and breaking up the tech behemoths. (She also told the state to get a new flag.) She’s beginning to make Sanders’ speeches sound like the same old nighty-night tales Gramps has been telling the kids for years.

+ I’m not a huge fan of Warren. I don’t like her foreign policy positions or devotion to the Israeli apartheid state. She hasn’t done much on the environment and while she was claiming Native heritage did nothing to stop the DAPL. However, among an uninspiring herd of Democratic candidates she’s saying the most interesting things on the campaign trail and going to places you wouldn’t expect. Mississippi yesterday, Alabama today. Sanders is like a hot air balloon by comparison and one you’ve seen every year at the State Fair since 1965, when most of his ideas were given form.

+ Sen. Mike Gravel: “It’s simply not enough to go back to “the pre-Trump normal.” Because the pre-Trump normal meant drone strikes, forever, massacres, and mass surveillance. Pre-Trump gave us Trump. The way to escape the hell of Trump is by finding something better, not just returning to the old.”

+ Enthusiasm among Republicans is 10 points higher than Democrats for the 2020 elections. Not surprising given the slate of geezers, cyphers and former prosecutors on the Democratic side.

+ This week marked the 16th anniversary of the invasion of Iraq. 29 Democratic senators voted for war. One of them is now the minority leader of the Senate. The other is the leading contender for the Democratic nomination for president. Another was the party’s last nominee for president. Yet another was the party’s nominee in 2004. Notice a trend?

Baucus (D-MT), Yea
Bayh (D-IN), Yea
Biden (D-DE), Yea
Breaux (D-LA), Yea
Cantwell (D-WA), Yea
Carnahan (D-MO), Yea
Carper (D-DE), Yea
Cleland (D-GA), Yea
Clinton (D-NY), Yea
Daschle (D-SD), Yea
Dodd (D-CT), Yea
Dorgan (D-ND), Yea
Edwards (D-NC), Yea
Feinstein (D-CA), Yea
Harkin (D-IA), Yea
Hollings (D-SC), Yea
Johnson (D-SD), Yea
Kerry (D-MA), Yea
Kohl (D-WI), Yea
Landrieu (D-LA), Yea
Lieberman (D-CT), Yea
Lincoln (D-AR), Yea
Miller (D-GA), Yea
Nelson (D-FL), Yea
Nelson (D-NE), Yea
Reid (D-NV), Yea
Rockefeller (D-WV), Yea
Schumer (D-NY), Yea
Torricelli (D-NJ), Yea

+ Arrogance and ignorance define the American experience in Iraq, on full display here in Medhi Hasan’s interview with Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt.

+ The Iraq War, who said what and when

+ Catch and Release, the Trump Variation: Catch the family, Kidnap the Kids, Torture then Release the Parents…

+ And those kidnapped kids are being “disappeared” into a gulag of secret detention camps.

+ Pompeo Maximus in Jerusalem: “We maintain our unparalleled commitment to Israel’s security and firmly support your right to defend yourself.” The Secretary repeats this mantra every morning before his limo freights him off to Foggy Bottom.

+ Trump the Messiah? Pompeo Maximus says  “it’s possible” that God planned Trump in order to save the Jewish people. (Trump must be the Divine failsafe in case Israel’s 300 nukes fail to launch).

+ How the Lebanese press greeted the arrival of Pompeo Maximus in Beirut: “The Dirty Yankee … and His Lackeys.”

+ Trump simply can’t shoot straight and thus disparages John McCain for all the wrong reasons, missing a sitting (not to mention dead still) target, thus generating sympathy for someone who deserves none.

+ Trump: “I was never a fan of John McCain.”

Trump political contributions to McCain from 1998 to 2008…

+ Good grief, Bernie…

+ If Chuck Schumer didn’t exist, Citibank would have to invent him…

+ Will Beto be “Omar-ed,” after he attacked Netanyahu and accused Israel of “openly siding with racists“?

+ “Husband from Hell?” Isn’t that what Ivana said after she found out about Marla Maples and tried to pull his hair plugs out by their tender, transplanted roots?

+ Iraq was bombed once every three days over the course of the Clinton administration.

+ I have nothing against Marianne Williamson. I know she’s strongly antiwar and functioned as Dennis Kucinich’s guru, but really. Did she overlook the martial sophistries of Bernard Henri-Levy and Roger Scruton?

+ Ralph Nader: “Pelosi’s Law of Impeachment: The more impeachable offenses Trump perpetuates, the less impeachable he is. Where are you, founding fathers and mothers, when we need you? Bad precedent for future presidents, Madame Speaker.”

+ Are there political risks to impeaching Trump? Sure. There are also risks, if you succeed, namely a Pence presidency. Still if Trump committed crimes, he should be either indicted or impeached. If he didn’t, he shouldn’t. Look where not prosecuting Bush era felons got us.

+ The Sanders campaign has been excitedly broadcasting these poll results. I’m not sure why. That’s a pretty weak lead and given the margin of error might even be a deficit. Sanders is polling about what HRC did against one of the most loathed figures in American history. Not much to brag about, Bernie.

Popular vote: Trump 62,984,828    HRC 65,853,514
Percentage:    Trump: 46.1%              HRC 48.2%

+ Back in 2010, Clark McCauley and Roy Eidelson (a frequent CounterPunch contributor) explored US polling data predictors of right-wing extremist attacks. 3 factors stood out: 1) “Our government is out of control,” 2) “the government is doing too much for minorities;” and, 3) “My financial circumstances have worsened.”

+ Trump defaulted on his loan from Deutsche Bank for his disastrous Chicago Tower project. Then sued the bank. But the private banking unit of Deutsche Bank then loans Trump money to cover the defaulted loan! Pretty devastating … for Deutsche Bank. SOP for Trump, of course.

+ The Trump administration just eliminated 5-year tourist visas for Cubans. The noose is tightening once again…

+ What more does Trump have to do to start getting Kim-like love letters from Rachel Maddow? Instead of busting up NATO as she feared, he wants to buttress it by adding another belligerent autocracy led by an honest-to-goodness fascist

+ Even Bolsonaro’s platitudes are delivered with a lethal chill…

+ Winning! Life expectancy in the US dropped for the third consecutive year

Average life expectancy (WHO)

1. Japan – 83.7
2. Switzerland – 83.4
3. Singapore – 83.1
4. Australia – 82.8
5. Spain – 82.8
6. Iceland – 82.7
7. Italy – 82.7
8. Israel – 82.5
9. Sweden – 82.4
10. France – 82.4

30. Costa Rica – 79.6
31. United States – 79.3
32. Cuba – 79.1

One obvious conclusion: opening the borders allowing more immigrants into the US would improve the nation’s life expectancy standing considerably.

+ Nikki Haley: still ignorant, still mean…If she gets even dumber and meaner, Trump may be tempted to dump Pence and put Haley on the ticket.

+ Haley claims that Fins hate their socialized health care system. Maybe a few do. But what they hell would they think about ours?

– Universal daycare
– Universal healthcare
– 105 days paid maternity leave
– Cost of having a child = ~$60

United States:
– No universal daycare
– No universal healthcare
– No paid maternity leave
– Cost of having a child = ~$16,000

+ Gen. John Kelly is now available to give a speech to your church group…Pass that collection plate!

+ Fresh off defending Jeffrey Epstein and Trump, Alan Dershowitz leaps to the defense of Chelsea Clinton, who put a target on Ilhan Omar’s back. Let’s recall that Bubba was a frequent flyer on Epstein’s Air Lolita.

+ Trump is now quietly moving campaign-donor money into his business accounts. Ka-ching!

+ In announcing its support for the Israeli seizure of the Golan Heights, the Trump administration has memorialized land theft as official US policy. This blatant water-grab leaves little room for the US to bitch about Russia’s “annexation” of Crimea.

+ I’ll give Dave Macaray two Pete Rose cards for one Ron “the Penguin” Cey, which I’ll trade to Joshua Frank in exchange for a Bill “Spaceman” Lee. This exchange is a lot less complicated than Jared Kushner’s big plan for the Middle East where “Jordan would give land to the Palestinian territories, and in return, Jordan would get land from Saudi Arabia, and that country would get back two Red Sea islands it gave Egypt to administer in 1950.” (No Palestinians were consulted on this plan.)

+ Florida was the first state to institute the poll tax. Now it’s bringing one back

+ Marijuana arrests by NYPD for the 4th Q of 2018: marijuana arrest numbers for the 4th quarter of 2018: 502.
Number of those who were white: 25.

+ The racial cleansing of NYC’s Stuyvesant High School

Number of black students enrolled by year.

1980: 212
1990: 147
2000: 109
2018: 10
2019: 7 (invited)

+ Back home in Indiana, this is taking place in public schools…

+ Thanks to Devin Nunes’ lawsuit against Twitter, the Devin Nunes’s Cow Twitter account will soon have more followers than Devin Nunes.

+ To put in context a statement on FoxNews this week that the US doesn’t get enough credit for ending slavery: Years between Independence and the Abolition of Slavery in the Western Hemisphere…

Haiti: 0
Costa Rica: 3
El Salvador: 3
Guatemala: 3
Honduras: 3
Chile: 5
Bolivia: 6
Uruguay: 8
Nicaragua: 17
Mexico: 19
Paraguay: 29
Colombia: 41
Venezuela: 43
Argentina: 45
Brazil: 66
USA: 87

In Cuba, slavery was finally abolished by “royal decree” in 1886, 12 years before independence.

+ Not doubt Donna Brazile will set them straight once she starts her new career as a FoxNews commentator. Brazile is still fuming that Wikileaks leaked true shit about her which cost her her gig at CNN. No word on whether she will be slipped debate questions from Shepard Smith.

+ A family of four in the San Francisco metropolitan area making $117,400 a year qualifies as “low income.” Darn that American dream!

+ As Trump boasts about the greatest American economy ever, the homeless population in Minnesota just surpassed 10,230, the highest yet recorded.

+ The income gap is steadily widening in American cities, where since 1973 the one-percent in every state has capture more and more wealth each year. The U.S. income gap between the top 5% and the middle 20% grew by $118,000.

+ Things Beto does: “One time, according to a friend, Beto collected an especially verdant turd from one of their kids’ diapers and put it in a bowl, telling Amy it was avocado.”

+ Many former DEA agents and administrators are being aggressively headhunted for positions with trial lawyers and Big Opioids.

+ Our government at work, terrorizing, kidnapping and torturing 9 year-old American girls, though her citizenship shouldn’t really matter…

+ Immigration attorney Bridget Cambria: “ICE just told a 10-year-old girl appearing at a supervision appointment with her father, that ICE plans to deport her father and give her to a new family. She is unconsolable. ICE instructed dad to bring all of her documents so they can give her away. What would you do?”

+ Hey, Comey fans, check out what the FBI is up to in it’s COINTELPRO-by-another-name harassment of what it calls “black identity activists.

+ Boeing: If you want to keep our jets from crashing, you’ve got to buy the “extras” and the extended warranty

+ Meanwhile, Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan, last seen in this column with his head firmly planted in the sand, has caught the attention of the Pentagon’s Inspector General, who is now investigating the former Boeing executive for “actions to promote his former employer, Boeing, and disparage its competitors, allegedly in violation of ethics rules.” Shocking. Not.

+ Where would the sex trade in the US be without the support of southern Baptist preachers and Republican operatives?

+ I never thought of Margaret Atwood as a naturalist, but this sounds right to me: “In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt.”

Of course, in the Trump era we all smell like dirt at the end of the day, regardless of season or time in the garden.

+ The funky Ameoba Music building, a Hollywood landmark, will be destroyed and replaced by a sterile 26-story glass tower, in the ongoing annihilation of every interesting scrap of the old LA.

Photo: Amoeba Music.

+ From a great interview in Propeller magazine with the late James Salter on the process of writing: “I feel a great informality in writing longhand. I feel I’m alone in the house, I’m just wearing a bathrobe, I don’t have any shoes on, nobody’s going to bother me—I have that feeling when I’m writing longhand. I haven’t sat down to compose, so to speak. Also, you can write anywhere, you can go out and sit on a—I guess you can do that with a computer, too—but all you need is a scrap of paper, an envelope. And you can attack a paragraph, or jot down a lot of ideas that might let you into something—I mean something you want to do, the thing you’re trying to do. It just seems to have an ease for me that I appreciate. I’m certainly not recommending it. I think you should do what feels right to you. It’s often been commented that writing is different now, because you can write so fast, so freely, and it gets more word clogged.”

+ William Gaddis’s JR is one of my favorite novels, a vicious and hilarious skewering of American capitalism, following the exploits of 12-year-old JR in the penny stock trade. A decade after the novel was published, JR was summoned to Congress to explain trickledown economics. A child of Manhattan, JR could tell us much about Trump…

+ It was a gorgeous Sunday in the Oregon Coast Range and I descended a small river I’d long wanted to visit called Beaver Creek (one of dozens), which tumbles through a lovely sequence of waterfalls before emptying into the Columbia, near the old cannery town of Quincy. Just a few hundred yards downstream from the falls is one of the most savage clearcuts I’ve seen in decades. I couldn’t get close enough to get good photographs (see below), but the logging went all the way down to the stream (coho, steelhead, cutthroat, chinook) on a very steep slope, already slumping and poised for a big slide that will bury the creek. There are three waterfalls in less than a mile on Beaver Creek, one of them 60 feet tall. In most states, this canyon would be protected as a state park. In Oregon, it’s just another free-fire zone.

At the mouth of Beaver Creek is a huge fenced off industrial site, totally hidden from public view, unless you’re on the river. It’s PGE’s big biomass plant, turning Oregon’s forests into “green electricity.”

+ The transoceanic migration of the Blackpoll Warbler, from Amazonia to the Boreal Forests, is a natural marvel (not to mention a shaming of Boeing) that is inexorably being extinguished from the face of the Earth.

+ Douglas-fir, the dominant tree species west of the Cascade Ranges  and Ponderosa pine, the dominant tree east of the Cascades, are both struggling to regrow after wildfires and clearcuts in the West, largely because of changing climate conditions.

+ It was 68 in Oregon City on Sunday. While up in northern Alaska, Fairbanks Airport 47F breaks previous record high temp for March 17 of 46F last set in 1981. Tanana 46F breaks the previous record of 39F set in 1998. Bettles 44F breaks the previous record of 38F set in 1998.

+ Fairbanks hit 51F at 3:30 pm on Thursday, the warmest temperature in the Alaskan city since October 24th. Normal high temp for March 21st is 28F.

+ Poseidon is pissed and rogue waves are getting more extreme and dangerous. This kind of “dynamic flooding” is largely a consequence of rising sea levels.

+ Climate change has now destroyed more US military equipment than was lost in any war since Vietnam.

+ A young Cuvier’s Beaked Whale was spotted near a beach in the Philippines last week in terrible condition, weak and coughing blood. The whale soon died and a necropsy was performed on its body. The whale had staved to death, its stomach completely crammed with oceanic plastic debris. The whale had likely been suffering for months, if not a year. It’s stomach was described as being “as hard as a baseball.”

+ Steve King (Nazi – IA): “New Orleans’ Hurricane Katrina victims only asked for help, Iowans take care of each other.”

+ Eco-tourism was always one of the great oxymorons, right up there with clean coal, humanitarian intervention and sustainable development. Now one-percenters are carving carbon contrails into the sky as they fly to the remotest parts of the world on “last chance” tours…

+ Robert Macfarlane’s word of the day: “orming” – wandering without intent, meandering, walking with pleasurable aimlessness (English regional, esp. Lincolnshire; supposedly derived from the Norse word for “worm”).  See also “stravaiging” (Scots), “daundering”, “pootling”, etc…

+ The LCV, created with the best of intentions in 1970 by David Brower and Marion Edey, has turned into little more than a wholly-owned subsidiary of the most calcified elements in the DNC.

+ The New York Times published a list of the 20 best TV dramas since “The Sopranos.” Wrong, as usual. Here’s the correct list…

Wrong, as usual. Here’s the correct list.

1. The Wire
2. The Americans
3. Breaking Bad
4. Borgen
5. Top of the Lake
6. Broadchurch
7. Mad Men
8. The Night Manager
9. The Fall
10. Peaky Blinders
11. Sherlock
12. Luther
13. The Knick
14. Ozark
15. Narcos
16. Bloodline
17. The Tudors
18. Black Mirror
19. Little Drummer Girl
20. In Treatment

+ I was saddened to learn of the death of Bill Merwin. I liked him more than his poems, I guess. A poet friend described his verse as “faux mysticism.” Perhaps a little harsh, but not totally off the mark. Still Merwin was very kind to me when I was a dirtbag student hosting a reading during college and we stayed in touch over the years, drawn together by an interest Zen, forests and birds. He wrote a couple of blurbs for my writing, an endorsement letter for a grant and showed up at a few environmental protests to lend our rabble rousing some poetic gravitas. But there are poems in Compass Flower, Opening the Hand, The Rain in the Trees that have stayed with me across the decades. And I really enjoyed his Berger-like prose book on rural France, The Lost Upland.

+ Former California poet laureate, jazz historian and Bay Area legend Al Young is in very poor health. His family is struggling to provide for his medical bills. Please, if you can, donate

Just to Change the Mood I’m in, I’d Welcome a Nice Old Nightmare

Booked Up

What I’m reading this week…

The End of Myth: From the Frontier to the Border Wall in the American Mind by Greg Grandin (Metropolitan Books)

Horizon by Barry Lopez (Knopf)

Kushner, Inc.: Greed, Ambition, Corruption by Vicky Ward (St. Martins)

Sound Grammar

What I’m listening to this week…

Soulophone by Chicago Souljazz Collective (CSJC)

Passage by Dave Meder (Outside In Music)

Travelin’ Woman by Mary Lane (Women of the Blues Records)

Where to Defer?

Barry Lopez: “Because mankind can circumvent evolutionary law, it is incumbent upon him, say evolutionary biologists to develop another law to abide by if he wishes to survive, to not outstrip his food base. He must learn restraint. He must derive some other, wiser way of behaving toward the land. He must be more attentive to the biological imperatives of the system of sun-driven protoplasm upon which he, too, is still dependent. Not because he must, because he lacks inventiveness, but because herein is the accomplishment of the wisdom that for centuries he has aspired to. Having taken on his own destiny, he must now think with critical intelligence about where to defer.”

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