Roaming Charges: Tongue-Tied and Twisted

Alcatraz Prison. Photo: Jeffrey St. Clair.

+ Let’s recall exactly the kind of crimes that Chelsea Manning (who remains in prison for refusing to testify against Assange and Wikileaks in a grand jury proceeding in the Eastern District of Virginia) and Julian Assange revealed to the world…

+ The main difference between the anonymous leaks from US intelligence officials about RussiaGate peddled nightly on MSDNC, CNN, the NYT and the Washington Post and Julian Assange’s exposure of US war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan is that what Wikileaks published turned out to be true. In this system, you’re only held accountable for exposing the truth about imperial power.

+ If you dislike Assange’s politics, you’re under even greater moral obligation to remonstrate against his politically-motivated arrest.

+ On the press freedom front, Trump is becoming more Obama-like every day, targeting whistleblowers & journalists for exposing war crimes in a war both politicians claimed–at various points–to oppose.

+ There’s some savage irony in the fact that Julian Assange is now being renditioned to the same people whose “extraordinary” renditions he helped expose.

+ Here’s a link to the indictment against Assange, which should stand as a warning to every working journalist.

+ Will they be arresting the editors & publishers of the Guardian, New York Times and Washington Post, next? If not, will those alleged defenders of press freedom be speaking out in defense of Julian Assange?

+ Assange was arrested for violating the terms of his bail on sexual assault allegations that had been withdrawn by Swedish prosecutors almost 4 years ago. (Of course, that’s not really why he was arrested, as Scotland Yard admitted several hours later.)

+ Edward Snowden: “The weakness of the US charge against Assange is shocking. The allegation he tried (and failed?) to help crack a password during their world-famous reporting has been public for nearly a decade.”

+ Trump said repeatedly he “loved” Wikileaks. Now is the time to prove it. (Take note Kim Jong-Un about the transitory nature of Trump’s affections.)

+ Trump: “I know nothing about Wikileaks. Not my thing.”

In a two month period during the 2016 campaign, Trump mentioned Wikileaks or Julian Assange at least 160 times.

+ Ecuador’s Lenin Moreno (a traitor to his name) seems to have an even more constipated understanding of political asylum than Donald Trump.

+ The former Ecuadoran president assesses the current occupant of the office…

+ On the same day that Assange is arrested, one of the people whose war crimes he helped expose, John Yoo (now a “law” professor at Berkeley), is to found writing an oped for the Los Angeles Times on the “demonization” of the electoral college of all things. Torturers get tenure, journalists go to prison.

+ Still awaiting a statement from Bernard Sanders on how the arrest of Julian Assange represents a direct assault on the First Amendment…(I was holding my breath, but have now almost exhausted the supplemental oxygen I’d stockpiled for my assault on K2.)

+ Memo to Bernie, this is what a real leader sounds like in a moment of crisis…

+ As Assange was being dragged out of the Ecuadoran embassy by cops dispatched from New Scotland Yard, he was clutching a copy of essay by Gore Vidal on the National Security State. This prompted the The Express to ask, “Who is Gore Vidal?” The entire culture must be demyelinating very rapidly now…

+ The Democrats are going to go after Assange more viciously than the Republicans. Here’s a savage statement from Elliot Engel, chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee (who infamously slimed Ilhan Omar)…

+ Here’s the honorable (strike that) contemptible senator from Virginia, Tim Kaine: : “Justice has to be done. Going forward the question is: How do we protect our sensitive information from vandals like Julian Assange?”

+ And the senator from Citibank coming in right on cue…

+ In the hours since Assange’s arrest, Bernard Sanders has tweeted about his legion of volunteers, his organizing parties, the Trump tax cuts, Stop & Shop, the floods in Iowa, health care, the nurses strikes in New York and his own history as a civil rights campaigner. I started out holding my breath waiting for him to mumble even a vague word about how the arrest and indictment of Assange poises a grave threat to first amendment rights. But by late Thursday night there was still nothing and I had almost exhausted the supplemental oxygen I’d stockpiled for my assault on K2.

+ But good for Gabbard…

+ Assange has already effectively been imprisoned inside the Ecuadoran Embassy for two years longer than the maximum sentence (5 years) under the conspiracy charge in the DoJ’s indictment.

+ The US charges against Assange are relatively minor, compared to the slate of crimes many cable TV prosecutors eagerly predicted he’d be hit with by the Feds. Essentially, he’s accused of providing Chelsea Manning with a password that would disguise her forays for documents in federal computers. It’s important to note that this occurred after Manning had secured the trove of explosive documents she had sent to Wikileaks and the password failed in any event.

+ There’s much speculation that the charges have been minimized so as not to trigger too much anxiety in the corporate press or in the British government before Assange is safely extradited into the hands of federal law enforcement and, presumably, intelligence agencies. There’s a theory gaining traction that once Assange is on US soil he will be slammed with a superseding indictment loaded up with new charges.

+ This is surely a possibility and a frightful one for Assange. But as I understand the Extradition Treaty Assange can only be charged with the crimes that he is extradited for. In international law, this is called the Rule of Speciality. Even so, Barton Gellman, a national security reporter and author of the Dick Cheney biography Angler, made an intriguing point about item 15B in the indictment, which implies the alleged “conspiracy” was to violate the Espionage Act, a rather sinister raising of the stakes.

+ Ben Wizner, ACLU: “Any prosecution by the United States of Mr. Assange for Wikileaks’ publishing operations would be unprecedented and unconstitutional, and would open the door to criminal investigations of other news organizations. Moreover, prosecuting a foreign publisher for violating U.S. secrecy laws would set an especially dangerous precedent for U.S. journalists, who routinely violate foreign secrecy laws to deliver information vital to the public’s interest.”

+ Diane Abbott (Great Britain’s first black member of Parliament): “Julian Assange is not being pursued to protect US national security, he is being pursued because he has exposed wrongdoing by US administrations and their military forces.”

+ Assange lawyer Barry Pollack: “The factual allegations…boil down to encouraging a source to provide him information & taking efforts to protect the identify of that source. Journalists around the world should be deeply troubled by these unprecedented criminal charges.”

+ The valorous Pamela Anderson called the UK “America’s bitch” for arresting Assange on minor charges that he’d violated the terms of his bail. A “bitch poodle,” perhaps? Or is Brexit-era Britain now diminished to Corgi-level status?

+ Contrast Pamela Anderson with pseudo-journo Meghan McCain: “I hope he rots in Hell.” (Which is a self-censored version of what her “heroic” Pops would have said.)

+ The Washington Post, circa 2011: “A conviction would also cause collateral damage to American media freedoms. It is difficult to distinguish Assange or WikiLeaks from The Washington Post.”

+ The Washington Post, 2019: “Julian Assange is not a free-press hero. And he is long overdue for personal accountability.”

+ A lot of sniveling pundits are contrasting Assange unfavorably with Daniel Ellsberg. Here Ellsberg speaks for himself, very clearly and to the point.

+ The late Michael Hastings’ interviewed Assange for Rolling Stone in 2011:

Assange sits on a tattered couch, wearing a wool sweater, dark pants and an electronic manacle around his right ankle, visible only when he crosses his legs. At 40, the WikiLeaks founder comes across more like an embattled rebel commander than a hacker or journalist. He’s become better at handling the media – more willing to answer questions than he used to be, less likely to storm off during interviews – but the protracted legal battle has left him isolated, broke and vulnerable. Assange recently spoke to someone he calls a Western “intelligence source,” and he asked the official about his fate. Will he ever be a free man again, allowed to return to his native Australia, to come and go as he pleases? “He told me I was fucked,” Assange says.

“Are you fucked?” I ask.

+ Nixon had his plumbers, Trump has his rat traps…(Though somehow Kirstjen Nielsen escaped unharmed.)

+ All Madame Nielsen, the woman who caged children, need do to restore her reputation (if she ever had one) and become a bona fide member of the Resistance© and a regular contributor on MSDNC is write one modestly critical oped about Trump.

+ Lessons in Geography by Donald Trump. This week’s episode: Texas is Big! “If you look at it, I mean, the state is tremendous. We don’t see that. You know, I come from New York — you have 5th Avenue and that connects to Park Avenue, and it’s not too far away. But this is hundreds of miles between places!”  (I’m no Manhattanite, but I seem to recall that 5th Avenue and Park Avenue run parallel.)

+ On the eve of his US speaking tour, the Trump administration (at the request of the Netanyahu government) denied entry to Palestinian human rights organizer Omar Barghouti, who started writing for CounterPunch a few months after we went live on the web.

+ Another entry for the Dime’s Worth of Difference file. Trump’s sister, Judge Maryanne Trump Barry, retired from the federal bench this week, effectively quashing an ethics investigation into the elaborate Trump family tax avoidance scheme detailed by the New York Times last October….”Judge Barry was nominated to the Federal District Court in New Jersey by President Ronald Reagan in 1983, after several years as a federal prosecutor. She was elevated to the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit by President Bill Clinton in 1999.”

+ The Taliban control more territory now than any time since the 2001 US invasion. Call it a mighty victory and get the hell out of there…

+ I always thought Stephen Miller (now revealed to be pal of neo-Nazi Richard Spencer) would either be the first one pushed out the door at the Trump White House or the last to leave. Looks like we’ve got our answer.

+ Public Citizen has kindly provided this field guide to the Trump administration…

An oil lobbyist runs the DOI
A coal lobbyist runs the EPA
A pharma exec runs HHS
A Boeing exec runs DOD
A billionaire Amway heiress runs DoED
A private equity kingpin runs Commerce
A Goldman Sachs exec runs Treasury

+ “Why is Libya So Lawless?” asks the BBC. (Apparently, its editors didn’t intend this to be a rhetorical question.)

+ Trump and Jared Kushner have recruited a new consultant for their Middle East “Peace” Plan…Alan Dershowitz. This is a comedy show….with dead bodies.

+ Texas lawmaker Tony Tinderholt reintroduced his bill that would make women who’ve had abortions eligible for the death penalty. This is one errant sperm that shouldn’t have been allowed to hatch…(Meanwhile, Tinderholt’s 2nd and 5th wife, Bethany, a former Dallas Cowboys cheerleader, was spotted proudly displaying her conservative virtues at the Playboy Mansion by the Dallas Voice.)

+ Puerto Rico is actually Mexico #4. FoxNews adjust your maps, accordingly.

+ Just another pastor rationalizing the death penalty because it worked out for Jesus…

+ Joe Biden on Israel: “It’s the best $3 billion investment we make. If Israel didn’t exist, we’d have to invent an Israel.”

+ Democrats are not only unfazed by Biden’s “handsiness,” they’re also unfazed by the handlessness of many of the survivors he droned…

+ Biden was on the ropes for a few days over his “inappropriate touching.” How about “inappropriate bombing?” Will any Democrat call Smokin’ Joe out for that?

+ Biden got the prosecutor fired who was investigating his son, Hunter, in a Ukrainian natural gas corruption probe. And bragged about it. Minus the part about his son…+ Biden’s starting to make Joe the Plumber seem plausible…

+ Biden was asked what one thing he wishes people knew, says people should recognize how addictive pain killers are. “A little pain is not bad,” he says. Joe would know. He’s inflicted a lot of pain on others in his career.

+ In 1977, Biden was the only Judiciary Committee member to vote against Jimmy Carter’s picks to become the first black head of the DOJ civil rights division and the 2nd black solicitor general. Why? Biden didn’t think they were anti-busing enough.

+ None of this bothers Stacy Abrams, who came to Biden’s defense, pronouncing that Democrats can’t let “perfection become a litmus test.”

+ Looks like Mayor Pete understands how the game in DC is played after all: He calls Israel’s tactics in Gaza “moving” and “clear-eyed,” and says the US could learn something from them. He blames Palestinians & Hamas for “misery” in Gaza: “If you only visited Israel, you’d see what wise judgments Israelis are making.

+ Why the elites are flocking to Buttigieg as a backup to Biden? South Bend’s first black police chief secretly recorded the other officers saying racist things and confronted them about it and the officers complain to the FBI who investigates and tells Buttigieg. The whistleblowing chief gets demoted and the racist officers get $500k.

+ Bernie says he became a millionaire by writing a best-selling book & you could too, if only you had his story-telling chops. As the author of 1.5 bestsellers (thanks for nothing Al Gore) that hasn’t been my experience. The publishing industry treats writers the way the music industry did blues musicians. This makes me question how much he really understands about the way the economy works.

+ Bernard Sanders was 50-years old when the World Wide Web went live in 1991. I get the sense that many of the young people drawn to Sanders are longing for, if not a pre-Lapsarian world, at least one free from the original sin of HTML…

+ When Eugene McCarthy ran as the antiwar candidate in 1968, he seemed like the old man in the race. He was 52, nine years older than Bobby Kennedy…but 25 years younger than Bernard Sanders is now.

+ Both Biden (78) and Sanders (79) would be older on inauguration day 2021 than Ted Kennedy was when he died (77).

+ Not every Democrat is hoping the Democrats regain control of the Senate. Joe Manchin just endorsed Susan “I’m so disappointed in Brett” Collins…Of course, Collins needs all the help she can get. Her as-yet-to-be-determined opponent already has $3.7 million in the bank.

+ The 400 richest households in the United States hold more wealth than all black households combined with a quarter of all Latino households. The median black family today owns $3,600, or just 2 percent of the $147,000 of wealth the median white family owns.

+ Not content with the oppressive strictures of an ordinary police state, Trump is considering imposing a Military Police State.

+ Is Trump focused on the wrong border? Since late 2016, Border Patrol has arrested nearly three times more criminals at ports of entry on the Canadian border than at the US-Mexico border.

+ Democratic presidential candidates who have visited immigration detention centers since Trump started separating families at the border: Harris, Warren, O’Rourke and Booker. Where are you, Bernard Sanders? (Thanks Charles Davis)

+ In a week packed with bizarre political stories, this is perhaps the most bizarre yet. Last fall, Stephen Miller and the other anti-immigrant creeps in the Trump White House came up with a scheme to dump undocumented immigrants detained by ICE and Border Patrol onto the streets of sanctuary cities and other districts represented by Trump’s political opponents. This Nixonian plan was ultimately nixed by ICE’s top legal counsel as “inappropriate.”

+ But Trump thinks it’s a groovy idea…

+ In the unlikely event he follows through, it might prove to be the most humane thing Trump has ever done for immigrants.

+ TRUMP: “I just got back from Texas & some of the ranchers told me – you look at Brooks County, you look at other places – some of the ranchers told me you have bodies lying all over the land… and they die. It’s something I’ve never heard… many people die.”

April is the cruelest month, breeding, bodies out of the ranch lands,
Mixing memory and fantasy, stirring, dull thoughts from a wet mind.

+ Our President in top form…

+ Robert Caro on Robert Moses: “Moses decorated the wrought-iron trellises of the comfort stations in Harlem in Riverside Park with monkeys.”

+ According to a new report from Oxfam, the corporate tax breaks for Big Pharma buried in Trump’s tax bill amounted to $7 billion for just four companies, an amount that would pay for health care for nearly 3 million uninsured children in the US.

Pfizer: $2.8B
Johnson & Johnson: $2.5B
Merck: $1.2B
Abbott: $473M

+ Wyoming’s Powder River Basin (once the hunting grounds of the Oglala Sioux) is running out of coal faster than expected, but probably not fast enough to save either the river or the atmosphere.

+ Trump is taking another whack at “states’ rights” by limiting their ability to permit and regulate natural gas and oil pipelines. Not a bleat from the Heritage Foundation about this assault on one of their old shibboleths.

+ The March 2019 average temperature in Kotzebue, Alaska was far warmer than any other March, with an average temperature of 23F. The 1981-2010 normal March temp is +1.1F, making last month 21.9F above normal.

+ The winter snowpack at Denali National Park Headquarters melted out March 31. This is, by two weeks, the earliest the winter snowpack has melted out. The previous earliest was April 14, 2003. The average snowpack meltout date is May 04.

+ Rep. Thomas Massie (Moron-KY) is empirical evidence of the consequences for the human brain from drinking water contaminated with coal waste for 20 years…

+ Trump said last week that Venezuela’s electricity problems are bad because “they have a lot of electric cars.” They don’t. Gas is basically free there. Caracas analyst Dimitris Pantoulas: “I really doubt that you can find more than 10 electric cars in Venezuela.”

+ Meanwhile, back on Pine Ridge: They’ve declared a civil emergency. Both interstates in South Dakota remain closed. +10,000 are without power. The blizzard warning continues into tomorrow. There’s 50 mph wind gusts.

+ I wandered into a patch of old-growth forest near the south fork of Short Sands Creek in the Oregon Coast Range. There were 300 year old Sitka Spruce standing next to ancient Western Red Cedars. The forest floor was spongey and bursting with trillium, skunk cabbage, red huckleberries just in bloom. There were standing dead trees and nurse logs, crawling with millipede and salamanders. A couple hundred yards away, however, the scene was a blast-zone, activeclearcutting that spread from the crest of one mountain across the drainage, spawning habitat for coho, chinook and sea-run cutthroat, to the crest of another mountain. The difference in the dead trees was striking. In the clearcuts, the trees, many 6 to 8 feet in diameter, were desiccated, lifeless, bone-white. In the forest, the dead were decaying into soft browns, their crumbling trunks moist and filled with all kinds of plant, fungi and insect life. Two worlds. One living and organic, one dead and sterile.

These clearcuts brought to you by Weyerhaeuser, the tree-killing people.

+ A new study reports that spending 20 minutes in nature can reduce your “stress hormones.” But good luck finding any near you…

+ Hey kids, for a mere $75 (if you want to walk) and $250 (if you want to ride something and really tear shit up) you can recreate in one of Weyerhaeuser’s Denuded Landscapes. They’ll provide the roads, the trails (skid) and the firewood. But don’t forget to Bring Your Own Trees!

Overhead the Albatross Hangs Motionless Upon the Air…

Booked Up

What I’m reading this week…

Outside Looking In by T.C. Boyle (HarperCollins)

Trinity: a Novel by Louisa Hall (Ecco)

Whereas:Poems by Layli Long Soldier (Gray Wolf Press)

Sound Grammar

What I’m listening to this week…

In the Key of the Universe by Joey DeFrancesco with Pharaoh Sanders (Mack Ave.)

Remind Me Tomorrow by Sharon Van Etten (Jagjaguwar)

Avec le Temps by Giovanni Guidi (ECM)

A Pretty Good Rule

Daniel Ellsberg: “There should be at least one leak like the Pentagon Papers every year. Look, all administrations, all governments lie, all officials lie and nothing they say is to be believed. That’s a pretty good rule.”


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