Roaming Charges: Rachel Maddow and the Muellers of Invention

Showers, Alcatraz. Photo: Jeffrey St. Clair.

+ Robert Mueller became like a Hollywood green screen that people could project their fantasies upon, none more baroquely than the doyenne of MSDNC Rachel Maddow, who her rode her CGI version of Mueller to the top of the cable ratings. Maddow’s Mueller wasn’t the man who spread fatal myths about Iraqi WMDs, targeted and infiltrated radical environmental groups, concocted elaborate plots to entrap Muslims in fake terrorism cases and ran roughshod over basic constitutional rights while he was a top federal prosecutor and FBI director.

Maddow’s Mueller was a man of her own invention. Her Mueller was stoic, fearless and indefatigable. He could see deep and far. He would follow any lead, interrogate any foe, unmask any nefarious troll. He would scrutinize tax filings, bank accounts, and loan documents.  He would detect where money was laundered and by whom. He would track computer hackers though the misty reaches of the dark web and back to their source in Moscow or Prague. He was  an incorruptible father figure, a kind of political super-ego who was charged with disciplining and punishing the Id-like rampages of Donald Trump and his cronies.

For more than two years, Maddow indoctrinated her cult-like audience with ever more bizarre, complex and inchoate scenarios of Russian super-villainy and Trumpian mendacity. In Maddow’s cosmology, only Robert Mueller, she assured her rapt claque, could pierce the conspiracy, bring the conspirators to stern justice and set the captives free.

Yet, once again, prophecy has failed. Now Maddow’s ratings are in free-fall and her dismayed congregation left behind, a political preterite, all dressed up in their black tracksuits and Nikes with no indictment party to attend…

+ Mueller may have been “ex Machina,” but he didn’t prove to be the Deus the Dem were praying for…

+ Sorry, Rachel Maddow, the time to “distrust” Robert Mueller was when he was appointed (there was plenty of evidence for you from his past services for the state)–not after he was anointed St. Robert by the Resistance©, then delivered a Gospel you now deem an apostasy.

+ The press reporting on the Mueller Report, which none of them has seen, is of about the same quality as their reporting on Russian collusion with the Trump team, which none of them had seen either.

+ From the beginning Mueller was unlikely to finger Trump for colluding with Russia. Why? There was much more evidence that his campaign had conspired with the Saudis & the Israelis, with real quid & real quo. Criminalizing those associations would threaten the way business is done in Washington.

+ Has anyone checked Lanny Davis’ condo unit? He hasn’t been heard from since the release of the Barr memo “clearing” Trump. His friends must be worried…(If he still has any.)

+ Trump took John Brennan’s security clearance. The cable networks should revoke his green room privileges.

+ So is Mueller an agent of the Deep State or not? If so, the old team ain’t what it used to be.

+ So it appears the only part of the dossier that hasn’t been completely debunked is the one that sounded the most Trump-like in the first place, the piss tape…

+ Could you imagine the simultaneous apoplexy of the Republican caucus if all they saw of the Starr Report was a 4-page memo from Janet Reno?

+ Where will all the former prosecutors on TV go now?

+ Ralph Nader sums it up: “Some Mueller Report! He didn’t demand an interview with Trump and he didn’t make any legal recommendations, leaving it up to Trump acolyte AG William Barr while spending $25 million. Massive distraction. Need to get back to Trump’s destruction of health and safety laws now.”

+ We interrupt the tedium of this column for an important message from our sponsor…

If TV must have commercials, they should all be at least as good as this one. By the way, it was the Williamsburg (not Brooklyn) Bridge Maestro Rollins played on…

+ Werner Herzog in full-on Werner mode, as he pitches his new documentary on Mikhail Gorbachev: “For God’s sake, do not speak about “what could they learn” as if Gorbachev had been a teacher, as if he could encourage them to learn as pupils. No, Trump is the American president and we have to take it as a fact. And by the way, I’m not in favor of the demonization of Trump either. When you look, for example, his initiative with North Korea, that’s an extraordinary thing, and he’s trying to defuse a very, very dangerous situation. So it would be easy, and it would be cheap, to extend Gorbachev into today’s likes or dislikes of politics and likes and dislikes of presidents of America and Russia. I’m not into this business.”

+ A post-Muller CNN poll showed that 40% of Republicans still believe that Trump probably colluded with the Russians. Ironically, this isn’t bad news for the president.

+ And that’s in spite of Glenn Greenwald’s exhortations on FoxNews about the “exposés” of the Mueller Report, even though Greenwald hasn’t read or even glimpsed a copy of it.

+ I’m a RussiaGate skeptic. But I don’t see how you can espouse on the Mueller Report based solely on a 4-page memo written by one of the people who helped cover-up some of the last inconvenient corpses of the Iran/contra scandal, except as a kind of performance art, which I guess any appearance on FoxNews (or MSDNC) qualifies as.

+ I remember Mailer’s classic review of “Waiting for Godot,” a review he’d written without having seen or read the play. But that was the point of the review. He didn’t read someone else’s Cliff Notes account of the play (someone with a vested interest) and claim he was reviewing the play.

+ Who even knows how long the Mueller Report is? The NYTs says 300 pages. FoxNews, which may have better sources, claimed its precisely 657 pages along. (Maybe they slipped a copy to Greenwald?)

+ While Greenwald was happily slapping his own back on Tucker Carlson’s show, he and his team at The Intercept were quietly at work pulling the plug on the Edward Snowden Archives and the resource group that secures and curates it–a project which cost First Look Media $400,000 a year, a mere 1.5% of the company’s 2019 budget. According to Laura Poitras, Greenwald didn’t even consult Snowden on the decision.

+ Trumpism only works when he is exulting in his own victimhood, real or invented. His victory laps always fall flat. Even Achilles lost his allure after dragging Hector’s corpse around the walls of Troy. And Trump’s no Achilles.

+ Douglas Durst: “My brother Robert was acquitted of the underlying crime (homicide), but was convicted of obstruction of justice…and the world is safer for it.” (See “The Jinx.“)

+ Trump is going to miss Mueller now that’s he’s gone. He needs a Hellhound on his trail for his show to work, even if the dog doesn’t bite. Otherwise, the man is left to indulge his own worst instincts, like targeting disabled children and hurricane refugees.

+ If the Democrats had wanted to really nail Trump for collusion, they should have pursued his entanglements with the oil and coal industries and his failure to faithfully execute (and repeatedly subvert) the laws of the Republic on their behalf.

+ For example, over the course of the 35-day government shutdown, the Bureau of Land Management approved 267 onshore drilling permits and 16 leases applied for by oil and gas companies. Two of Acting Interior Secretary David Bernhardt’s former clients were among the companies whose applications won approval from the BLM.

+ Bernhardt and his lobbying firm donated over $1 million to Senators, the same ones who are now set to approve his nomination as Interior Secretary. A million here, a million there. Next thing you know they’re opening ANWR and the Oregon Coast to oil drilling.

+ Though at least there’s one entity in the gallery who is keeping a close eye on Bernhardt.

+ Don’t expect the Mueller dud to alleviate the pressure on Russia. The past two years have empowered Russia hawks in both parties and now they can fly in synch.

+ Mitch McConnell, speaking on Senate floor, is using the Mueller report (or more specifically Barr’s Cliff Notes version of it) to attack Obama administration for being … TOO SOFT on Russia!

+ Pompeo Maximus’ post-Mueller Russian “re-set” sounds a lot like the same old set, as he scolded Russia to remove it’s advisors from Venezuela.

+ Number of Russian service & technical workers in Venezuela: 100
Number of US military bases in Colombia: 12

+ Things are going as planned for Team Coup, as Germany refuses to recognize Guaidó’s emissary as ambassador…

+ Whoops! Looks like Our Man in Caracas has another problem. Juan Guaidó is being investigated for corruption and has been banned from running for office for 15 years

+ A snotty little note arrived in the CounterPunch inbox this morning, chiding us for talking about Opening Day. This loathsome correspondent said sports are a distraction from the really important matters of the day. Doesn’t this cretin know that the Mueller Report is a distraction from baseball?

+ Despite his professed concern for fetuses and unborn children, the Trump administration seems to be targeting pregnant women for detention by ICE.

+ Federal funding for Special Olympics: $18 million; value of Betsy DeVos’s Yacht: $40 million.

+ Joe Biden on Anita Hill’s accusations against Clarence Thomas: “I wish I could’ve done something … To this day I regret I couldn’t give her the kind of hearing she deserved.”

The best you can say about Biden is that he’s a wimp and a coward. But he what he did was actually much worse: he enabled and encouraged the political battery of a victim of sexual harassment.

+ The brain of Biden, never one of the brightest bulbs in an already dimly-lit Senate, is demyelinating before our eyes…

+ Even so, Biden’s spread against Bernard Sanders appears to be widening. Why? The less Biden does, the better his numbers. His numbers will skyrocket, soon after he announces he’s not running. Will someone let him know?

+ A Stacey Abrams adviser to Buzzfeed on speculation about her being named Joe Biden’s VP candidate before the primaries: “What makes it particularly exploitative is that Biden couldn’t be bothered to endorse Stacey in the gubernatorial primary. Now he wants her to save his ass. That’s some serious entitlement.”

+ What Would Jesus Do, after his representative on Earth got elected president? Sell jet fuel to the Pentagon, silly.

+ Beware: Planet of the Borgs! Soon after mocking AOC for her Latina accent, Laura Ingraham engaged in an in-depth conversation with a certain Dr. Paul Nathanson, who is quite distressed at the prospect of transexuals taking over the planet. Their dialogue went like this:

Ingraham: “If masculinity is bad and men are inherently going to be patriarchal unless somehow we can train them, and beat this out of them—to be protectors and to be courageous, all these things that we impugn upon men—well if you get rid of all that, then the traditional family itself collapses and that’s one last bastion of Western Biblically-centered morality that enveloping our, and has helped us prosper, frankly, for millennia and advance in millennia.”

Nathanson: “I think that the trans people have taken it one step further because by abandoning gender altogether, not simply re-writing it, they’re basically trying to use social engineering to create a new species. Which is what, in fact, the transhumanists have been doing for the past half century. Using medical and other technologies to develop a new species. So the goal is really quite radical. We’re not talking about people who want to simply do a bit of reform here and there, add a new category. They want, they must, in fact, destroy whatever is in order to replace it with what they think should be. We’re talking about revolution, not reform.”

Ingraham: “And the new species will be looking like what? Will be part human part animal? I mean, will be human mostly…”

Nathanson said, “I think human and part machine…”

Ingraham “Part machine? Hmm.”

Perhaps this is the kind of enlightened discourse that keeps drawing Glenn Greenwald back to FoxNews…

+ Here’s Chuck Schumer at AIPAC, equating Ilhan Omar to the neo-Nazis at Charlottesville…

No one should be surprised. Schumer’s been doing this kind of mudslinging his entire career.

+ Netanyahu also took a shot at Ilhan Omar, tweeting “Take from this Benjamin. It’s not about the Benjamins.” Does that mean Bibi will be returning the $3.8 billion is US military aid gifted to Israel this year?

+ Ben Ehrenreich: “Instead of delivering his scheduled speech to AIPAC, Netanyahu bombed Gaza. That was his speech.”

+ Rep. Brian Mast (Dimwit-FL): “If you have an issue with Jerusalem being the capital of Israel, take it up with God.”

+ The Kamala Two-Step: Harris made a show of announcing that she wouldn’t speak at this year’s AIPAC conference (she hadn’t actually been invited) and then quietly met in her office with the AIPAC braintrust.

+ The Pentagon estimates that 1,257 civilians have been killed from US-coalition airstrikes on “ISIS” targets in Iraq and Syria since 2014. The real toll is closer to 7,500.

+ Things Trump inflated to get loans

–Added 10 stories to Trump Tower.
–Added 800 acres to his winery.
–Added 24 ready-to-sell lots to his property in CA.

+ Here’s an update on the “greatest economy ever:” GDP growth hit a high point of 4.2% in Q2, then declined steadily over the rest of the year: 3.4% in Q3, 2.2% in Q4 for an average annual 2018 growth of 2.85%, just below 2.88% under Obama’s presidency in 2015. Projected GDP growth for Q1 of 2019: 1.7%.

+ It’s been a week. Has Uri Geller stopped Brexit yet?

+ Mike Pence pledged that the US will put astronauts on the moon again within five years.

In Flint you still can’t drink the water
(And Whitey’s going back to the Moon)
On the streets our blacks are slaughtered
(But Whitey’s going back to the Moon)

+ Did Rep. Mo Brooks quote Mein Kampf on the floor of the House from memory? Or did he rely on his staff to find just the right passage? (This from the same moralizing crew that wants Ilhan Omar driven from Congress for her “anti-Israel” remarks.)

+ I guess we know where the Hitler-quoting Congressman eats breakfast…Einstein Bagels, owned by the Reiman Family, German billionaires whose company, JAB Holdings, profited from slave labor under the Nazi regime.

+ Speaking of Nazis, some upright citizen pitched a glass of water in Steve King’s face at an Iowa restaurant, but the congressman didn’t melt into a fizzing glob of ectoplasm.

+ Hypnotized by the Mueller Report findings, the press largely neglected a horrific massacre in central Mali last week, where 160 Fulani villagers were slaughtered in a dawn attack, many of them burned alive in their homes. “I have never seen anything like that,” said Ali Diallo, a 75-year-old survivor of the raid. “They came, they shot people, burned homes, killed the babies.”

+ Frantz Fanon: “Colonialism is violence in its natural state.”

+ How much torment do the Feds really want to inflict on Chelsea Manning? She can’t tell them anything they don’t already know and she’s told them she’s not going to testify. Being jailed for contempt of court is not supposed to be a punishment. It’s meant to coerce testimony. She refuses to be coerced and thus should be released, under the rules of federal procedure. But they won’t. People are writing powerful words of encouragement and solidarity.

+ Invite to a Trump fundraising event in LA next week: $150,000 to sit at his roundtable; $50,000 for a photo; $15,000 for dinner–not sure if that includes an entire Big Mac Meal or whether the fries and diet Coke will cost extra.

+ Rep. Brad Sherman to Pompeo Maximus on transfer of US nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia: “If you can’t trust a regime with a bone saw, you can’t trust it with nuclear weapons.”

+ The good news about Mexican sewage on the border: it’s eating through the boots of border patrol agents.

+ According to data from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, Trump’s tariffs and trade policy reduced US income at a rate of $1.4 billion a month by the end of November 2018.

+ The top marginal tax rates under Reagan.

1981: 69.13%
1982: 50%
1983: 50%
1984: 50%
1985: 50%
1986: 50%
1987: 38.5%
1988: 28%

+ Wall Street bonuses have increased by more than 1000% since 1985. If the federal minimum wage had increased on a similar pace it would be $33.51 an hour today, instead of $7.25.

+ 48% of all Americans 55 and older have no retirement savings.

+ McDonald’s cries “Uncle!” on the minimum wage

+ Is it really possible to extort NIKE, as Michael Avenatti is accused of doing?

+ The latest episode in the political life of the perennially disappointed Susan Collins…

+ On the day Movita Johnson-Harrell, a practicing Muslim, was sworn in as a new member of the Pennsylvania general assembly, Rep. Stephane Borowicz gave the opening prayer in the statehouse, invoking the name of Jesus 13 times, lavishing praise on Trump for his support for Israel and urging legislators to “turn from their wicked ways,” an invocation widely viewed by other legislators as an Islamophobic rant. Imagine what fate would befall Ilhan Omar if she were to do anything remotely like this…

+ Meet the new face of Dutch populism, Thierry Baudet…

+ So the new biography of Barbara Bush by USA Today writer Susan Page is getting a lot of attention because it details her loathing for Donald Trump. According to an excerpt from The Matriarch:

After Trump was elected, a friend in Kennebunkport gave her a Trump countdown clock as a joke. The red, white, and blue digital clock displayed how many days, hours, minutes and seconds remained in Trump’s term. She parked it on the side table in her bedroom, next to the chair she would sit in to needlepoint or watch television.

She liked the countdown clock so much that when the Bushes returned to Houston that October, she brought it with her. It sat on her bedside table, where she could see it every day. It was there to the day she died.

+ If you want to know the real Barbara Bush, a vicious and vindictive harridan who raised a mass killer (George) and a bank fraudster (Neil), read Kitty Kelly’s book on the Bushes, not this crap.

+ The Barbara Bush hagiography is hard to swallow. She was allegedly a proponent of abortion, though muted herself as Ron & Poppy gutted Roe. Think of the misery she could have saved the world had she availed herself of that choice when she felt the demonic seed growing inside her.

+ If only she’d shown half as much contempt for the actions of her own son, as she did for Trump.

+ On average, bail for black defendants costs $10,000 more than white defendants for similar crimes.

+ Meet the people who have a lot to lose from Single Payer…but they won’t lose their homes or their lives (and probably not even their yachts).

+ The fact that Beto couldn’t defeat the ghoulish Ted Cruz should have written his political obituary. But in the calculus of Democratic Party politics, O’Rouke’s “narrow” defeat turned him into a political celebrity…

+ According this piece in the Washington Post, Kamala Harris is being cagey about her vow as DA for San Francisco to jail the parents of kids who skipped school. But, Madame Prosecutor, what about the kids who missed school because Steve Mnuchin and his pals foreclosed on their homes? Did you ever think, even for a second, about jail the likes of him?

+ Is it possible for a campaign by the man who spends his nights with Rosario Dawson, his mornings praying with James Inhofe, his days battling for Big Pharma and his evenings vacuuming up Wall Street cash to get any more “complicated” than it already is? If so, then Cory Booker’s support for school choice may become problematic.

+ The coral reefs off Lord Howe Island, the most southern reef in the world, are now experiencing bleaching from climate change, despite the cool waters of the Tasman Sea. This is about as bad as it gets. Until next week…

+ March 2019 was the 100th consecutive month with above normal temperatures in Svalbard, Norway. Since 1961, the rate of warming there has been about six times the global average.

+ To illustrate his attacks on the Green New Deal during debate over the show vote in the senate , Sen. Mike Lee used this photo of Reagan riding a dinosaur…What does it represent? A fossil on fossil fuels? (Beto will be appearing in a version of this painting on his next Vanity Fair cover.)

According to Lee, the solution to climate change is for people to have more babies.

+ Climate change, taking out one Air Force base after another… The Air Force says it “requires $1.2B in FY2019 & $3.7B in FY2020/FY2021 of supplemental funding to rebuild Tyndall AFB, and recover Offutt AFB.” Without it, the Air Force claims service “must cut critical facility and readiness requirements”

+ One more thing to ad to the Endangered Species List: local environmental reporting.

+ The equivalent of 34 soccer fields of old-growth forest is clearcut on Vancouver Island every day.

+ This model of Alaska’s melting permafrost should scare the bejesus out of anyone who cares about what happens beyond the next fiscal year…

+ Nick Estes: “The same week Trump recognizes the illegal Israeli annexation of the Golan Heights, he “re-permits” the illegal trespass of the KXL pipeline through Lakota territory. One colonial occupation is only possible because of another.”

+ Murray Energy, which basically writes the rules on coal mining for Trump’s Interior Department, mines 1/3 of the coal in West Virginia and 1/4 of the coal in Illinois…

+ 10 of the levees that failed during the flooding in the Middle West were never inspected by the federal government.

+ More than one million private water wells across the Midwest are at risk of contamination from livestock waste, oil and pesticides, as a result of the record floods. How do you like that Round-Up now?

+ There are only 42 mountain lions left in the Santa Ana and Santa Monica mountains of southern California. These populations have a high probability of going extinct within the next 50 years. Their only real hope a network of wildlife corridors to link islands of viable habitat amid the cancerous sprawl of the Los Angeles Basin.

+ It’s been a brutal year for grizzlies in the Northern Rockies and Greater Yellowstone.  A total 42 grizzlies were killed by so-called “wildlife managers” last year, including 32 in Wyoming alone. That was a record number of “lethal removals” in the state, up 45 percent from the previous record of 22.

+ Number of jobs at the EPA Trump’s budget would slash: 2,000.

+ I eagerly await the Million Wolves March on Washington…

+ The Shasta Pack in northern California has disappeared. Where they poisoned by ranchers?

+ More than 300 bison have been “removed” from Yellowstone National Park already this spring. In this context, “removed” means killed. And those 300 dead bison stripped from Yellowstone Park represent just the start of the killing program. They plan to kill 900, all to protect a few herds of cattle from a disease (brucellosis) that is more common and contagious from elk.

+ Radioactive contaminants from Fukushima are now being found as far north as the Bering Strait

+ If there is a “shithole city” in the US, my vote would be Phoenix, where 10 percent of the land area is now consumed by parking lots.

+ What kind of sick thrill does some pervert with a gun get out of killing a sleeping lion?

+ Geography 101 with Trump: “I support the Great Lakes. Always have. They are beautiful. They are big. Very deep. Record deepness, right?”

+ And people complain that CounterPunch is too pessimistic. We’ve got nothing on the daily menu of dismal stories offered up by the Chronicle of Higher Education

+ Classicist Emily Wilson, translator of a thrilling new edition of The Odyssey, sums up Homer’s epic in one sentence: “The crucial thing that’s changed [for Telemachus] is that he’s got to spend time with his father doing something they both love, which is killing people.”

+ When Bruce Chatwin came to Oregon: “Chatwin’s letters were published last year, and among the stories they contained was one from 1972. That year his lover James Ivory lent him a clapboard cabin in deep Oregon. ‘I wandered long the Brown Mountain trail STARK NAKED for fifteen miles,’ wrote Chatwin to his wife, Elizabeth, “without coming across a soul…’. But Chatwin did, in fact, encounter ‘a soul’: Ivory’s caretaker wrote to Ivory in disgust. ‘… This son-of-a-bitch was stark naked… And you won’t believe this, but he’d tied some flowers round his pecker.’ — Robert Macfarlane.

+ Jazz pianist Carla Bley on touring at 82 years old: “Maybe it’s taking a little longer to remember weird things like, ‘What is the name of that piece?’ But the musical part of my brain is still working.’”

+ Nick Hammersly: “Geezer Butler bought my grandparents house (1972 ish). Went round for tea with my gran and got a signed copy of Vol 4! Her comment was: ‘What a nice man. Not at all what I expected from the look of him!’”

+ Roxy Music is finally reuniting for a live performance, though I wish it was for any reason other than this one

What Will You Do When the Label Comes Off?

Booked Up

What I’m reading this week…

Herbert Marcuse: Philosopher of Utopia (a Graphic Biography) by Nick Thorkelson (City Lights)

Mama’s Last Hug: Animal Emotions and What They Tell Us About Ourselves by Frans de Waal (Norton)

A Season on the Wind: Inside the World of Spring Migration by Kenn Kaufman (Houghton Mifflin)

Sound Grammar

What I’m listening to this week…

Trust in the Lifeforce of the Deep Mystery by The Comet is Coming (Impulse)

Capitalist Blues by Leyla McCalla (Pias America)

Son of Goldfinger by David Torn/Tim Berne/Ches Smith (ECM)

When the Hacking Became Too Tiresome

Greg Grandin: “In December 1981, the American-trained Atlacatl Battalion began its systemic execution of over 750 civilians in the Salvadoran village of El Mozote, including hundreds of children under the age of 12. The soldiers were thorough and left only one survivor. At first they stabbed and decapitated their victims, but they turned to machine guns when the hacking grew too tiresome (a decade later, an exhumation team digging through the mass graves found hundreds of bullets with head stamps indicating that the ammunition was manufactured in Lake City, Missouri, for the U.S. government).”

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