Roaming Charges: Biden in Plain Sight

Abandoned passenger car, Astoria, Oregon. Photo: Jeffrey St. Clair.

+ Joe Biden will never again be more popular than he was the day before he entered the presidential race. Still his residual appeal, a misbegotten nostalgia for the Obama years, vaulted Biden 20 points ahead of his nearest Democratic Party rivals in a Quinnipiac poll taken a few days after Biden’s announcement (in a creepy video) and his first campaign gigs, where, despite decades of service in the legislative ranks of Wall Street, he cunningly wrapped himself in the union label.

This Quinnipiac poll is almost certainly an outlier, but it must be picking up some kind of vibrations. Warren surging, Bernie plummeting. Warren has been hitting hard on new policies. Bernie is avoiding difficult issues and giving same stump speech he has for past 6 years…

This week’s Quinnipiac Poll vs. a month ago:

+9 Biden
+8 Warren
+6 Mayor Pete
– 7 Beto
– 8 Bernie

Everyone else is flatlining.

+ If you don’t think Biden’s the perfect person to represent the Democratic Party, you haven’t paid much attention to what the Democratic Party has become over the last 25 years: interventionist, anti-regulation, pro-austerity, merciless on black crime and devoted to Israel.

+ For 40 years Biden’s been a consistent neoliberal on economics and an ultra-hawk on foreign policy. I don’t see him changing anything but his rhetoric, which he’ll steal from someone else. (Neil Kinnock is all used up, so maybe he’ll lift a few airy phrases from Ed Milliband.)

+ Was Biden reanimated by the Night King, Qybern or Melisandre?

+ When Joe Biden ran from president in ’88, he was asked about his stance on Vietnam. He explained that he just wasn’t the antiwar protesting type. “I’m not big on flak jackets and tie-dye shirts. And you know. That’s not me. I’m serious.”

+ Biden, who has always thought the people at the bottom were the problem: “I’m not Bernie Sanders. I don’t think 500 billionaires are the reason why we’re in trouble. The folks at the top are not bad guys… wealthy Americans are just as patriotic as poor folks.”

+  Biden defending the proposed balanced budget amendment in a senate floor speech, January 1995: “When I argued that we should freeze federal spending, I meant Social Security as well; I meant Medicare and Medicaid; I meant veterans’ benefits; I meant every single, solitary thing in the government.”

+ Biden on North Korea, in August 2000. “If they develop…I agree with the Israeli position on this. If we have evidence that they are building…a missile system, an offensive system…I would support a unilateral strike to take them out.”

+ Apparently, putting garlic in your vagina will not cure a yeast infection. It may, however, protect you from unwanted groping at a Joe Biden event…

+ Where Smokin’ Joe Biden stands on marijuana: “I still believe it’s a gateway drug. I’ve spent a lot of my life as chairman of the Judiciary Committee dealing with this. I think it would be a mistake to legalize.”

+  Joe Biden: “First of all, I actually like Dick Cheney, for real. I get on with him. I think he’s a decent man.” (No wonder MSDNC is suddenly closing ranks behind the man.)

+ Soon we will be hearing that familiar refrain from the Democrats that Biden has learned his lesson and that, if elected, his military interventions will take a more “progressive” aspect than the “shock and awe” approach he and his pal Cheney favored during the Iraq War, probably a return back to the “soft power” of Clintonesque sanctions that target kids and sick people who die quietly and garner no headlines.

+ Number of deaths resulting from US sanctions on Venezuela since 2017, according to a new report by Mark Weisbrot and Jeffrey Sachs: 40,000.

+ Biden would be a more honorable politician if on an issue like abortion he would simply say as a Catholic he opposed it on moral grounds. Fine. That’s not what he does. He waffles and tries to restrict abortions so that in a practical sense they become only available to the rich.

+ There will be one salutary effect of Biden becoming the Democrats’ nominee. It should obliterate the old sawhorse that no matter how odious the candidate we must hold our noses & vote for him because the future of the Supreme Court hangs in the balance. Clarence Thomas, John Roberts and Alito have their seats largely thanks to Biden, who was one of the ranking members of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

+ For more than a decade, Kennedy, Biden and Thurmond were part of the Creep Caucus of the Senate, also known as the senate judiciary committee. Strom was an evil son-of-a-bitch, but he may have been the most honest of the three. He provided for his illegitimate black daughter & didn’t flee the scene of a homicide, as far as I know…

+ People ask, how can older black voters trust Biden more than Bernard Sanders? After all, Biden authored the 1994 Crime Bill and Sanders marched with (or in the proximity of) Martin Luther King. Perhaps older black voters see Biden as being consistent and when you are an oppressed minority consistency is a valuable commodity when it comes to enduring your political rulers. He’s always been harsh on black “crime,” as opposed to Sanders, who marched with King (and apparently learned nothing from the experience except how to exploit it in a campaign ad) and then voted for the Biden Crime Bill.

+ Here’s your Democratic Party frontrunner, ladies and gentlemen, going all in for Venezuelan coup…

+ In the new Morning Consult poll on the Democratic candidates, the driving concern for Biden voters is “senior issues” followed by “health care,” which gives some indication of his target demographic (along with the credit card companies), though he must be losing voters every day. (Typically, neither climate change nor the environment are mentioned at all.)

+ Biden, during the tumult and early promise of the Arab Spring, came to the defense of Egypt’s strongman, Hosni Mubarak: “Mubarak has been an ally of ours in a number of things. And he’s been very responsible on, relative to geopolitical interest in the region, the Middle East peace efforts; the actions Egypt has taken relative to normalizing relationship with – with Israel. … I would not refer to him as a dictator.”

+ Biden: “I asked President Obama not to endorse.” More lies per minute than Trump?

+ Warren crisply explains the wealth tax: “How many people here own a home?” Most hands go up. “You’ve been paying a wealth tax for years. They just call it a property tax. I just want their tax to include the diamonds, the yachts, and the Rembrandts.” (Although the property tax on homes is actually more of a debt tax, isn’t it? You pay a tax on the total value of your home, even though the bank owns most of it…)

+ Most interesting thing I’ve heard to date about Mayor Bouillabaise…His political handler, a gritty New Yorker named Lis Smith, makes up in torrents of profanity what the rather sedate Hoosier lacks in charisma: “She puts the word fuckk through every part of speech the word can be bent into: noun, pronoun, gerund, verb, term of endearment, sobriquet, epithet, honorific. … ‘How badly,’ she asks me, ‘are you trying to fuck me over right now?'”

+ Then it all evaporated into a familiar mist after I learned that the South Bender had made a pilgrimage to Chappaqua to receive the blessing of Cersei of House Clinton….

+ Bernard Sanders was one of the first candidate to sign the Democratic Party loyalty pledge (even though he claims not to be a Democrat), vowing to support the party’s nominee no matter how much of a blood-thirsty, war-mongering neoliberal hack it turns out to be….Woof, woof!

+ The first (and perhaps the last) time I heard of many of the Democratic candidates is the day they announced they were running for president. Case in point: Seth Moulton.

+ Why is anyone surprised Pelosi slammed the brakes on impeaching Trump? She ridiculed those in her own party who wanted to impeach Bush for lying the country into a war that killed a million people & torturing prisoners with attack dogs. If you start holding the Exec Branch responsible, who knows when it will be your turn in the dock (See Libya)?

+ DNCThink: By trying to impeach Trump the Democrats risk losing the ability to do the things they were sent to Washington to do…like impeach Trump.

+ Of the innumerable Democratic candidates is there even one who says Trump should be impeached for kidnapping children on the border?

+ In a limp plea for moderation in politics, liberal icon Van Jones huffed: “I’ve never seen a bird with only a left wing. We need each other.” I’d rather have my politicians grounded than airborne. I’ve seen a lot of cruise missiles, B-52 bombers and F-35 fighters soar on bi-partisan wings…

+ “Bipartisanship” is a tawdry, recycled slogan that the Dems have unfurled at least since Clinton to justify their own worst impulses on the economy and foreign policy…

+ I’m surprised CNN didn’t go the full-Dukakis on their question about felons voting and ask Mayor Bouilabaisse, “If your husband Chasten was raped and murdered, do you think the rapist should be allowed to vote?”

+ List of countries that allow prisoners to vote while incarcerated:

Czech Republic

+ Remi Kanazi: “If Dick Cheney and Henry Kissinger can vote, then surely anyone should be able to vote.”

+ After licking his wounds from his term as Trump’s chief of staff, Gen. John Kelly has joined the board of Caliburn International, the Florida-based military contractor that operates the largest detention camps for immigrant children. This would be like Eichmann retiring from the SS to join the board of IG Farben.

+ Only Trump could take a report that exonerates him and within three days turn it into an indictment of his own pathological character.

+ Russiagate was so useful politically to both Trump and the Democrats, and so valuable financially to both FoxNews and MSDNC, that they will all conspire to reanimate its decomposing corpse.

+ Is Bill Barr really a “master of obfuscation” if everyone sees exactly what he’s doing while he’s doing it?

+ I know William Safire dubbed Bill Barr “General Cover-Up,” but it’s not much of an honorific is it? Good cover-up artists don’t get exposed time after time. Trump deserves better. Someone with the devious chops of Bobby Kennedy, John Ashcroft or Eric Holder…

+ These Senate hearings with Barr are not exactly an advertisement for America’s elite law schools.

+ Has the Senate declined as a “deliberative body” since the Anita Hill hearings? Hard to imagine. Likely it’s been this bad since Henry Clay’s tendentious perorations on the Nullification Crisis of 1833. But for most of its history networks didn’t inflict this tedium on their audience for hour after mindless hour…

+ The best thing to come out of the Senate hearings on Bill Barr’s Cheat Sheet on the Mueller Report …

+ The Democrats are desperate to find a “safe way” to criticize Israel without alienating Jewish voters and donors. Their current approach has been to focus their ire on Netanyahu, calling his policies “fascist.” They can’t wait for Netanyahu to be indicted or do a Sharon, so they can go back to showering the Middle East’s “only Democrat” with undiluted praise. The Democrats are the Safe Space Party…except, of course, for those they want to drone.

+ Bernard Sanders has been the Democrats’ McCain, a “maverick” before the TV cameras, but a solid liberal vote when it matters most. Elizabeth Warren, by contrast, has been a consistent troublemaker.

+ Jodi Dean: “Living in a dystopian future is not as cool as I expected, tbh.”

+ The 2018 Voting and Registration summary tables are now up. Here is a surprise for Trumplandia. The non-Hispanic White share of the electorate (people who voted) declined to 2016 to 2018 from 73.4% to 72.8%. Historically, the white share of the vote rises during mid-term elections.

+ Trump in Wisconsin this week: “After women give birth, the baby is wrapped in a blanket and then the mother and the doctor decide whether to execute the baby.” At Creech Air Base in Nevada, the CIA and the drone operators decide whether to execute the baby…

+ First the Supreme Court of Kansas, then Oklahoma issued rulings striking down onerous restrictions on abortion passed by their respective state legislatures.

+ The Texas Senate approved a measure to spray herbicides to deter migrants, a Nazi tactic on the border that the Nazis actually got from the US. (See our book, The Big Heat.)

+ The Hippie Pope must be doing something right, if his opponents want to strap him to a stake in the Campo de’ Fiori, “imprison his tongue” and light him up like Giordano Bruno…

+ The Thin Blue Line(up)…A national investigation into dirty cops by USA Today and the Invisible Institute uncovered more than 200,000 allegations of misconduct involving 85,000 police officers in 44 states. These internal affairs investigations, involving everything from planting evidence to spousal abuse, led to more than 33,000 cops losing their jobs. Still the reporters found that at least 20 cops we’re the subject of more than 100 complaints each and remained in the field for years. A database cataloguing these incidents is now online.

+ Between 2017 and 2018, there was 72% spike in lawsuits alleging abusive use of force by the NYPD, according to a new report from the city’s Department of Investigation.

+ Two years after decriminalization in Washington DC, a Black person is 11 times more likely than a white person to be arrested for public use of marijuana there.

+ Because of the asinine way California legalized recreational pot (restricting venues, high taxes, and minimum prices), the illicit marijuana market continues to thrive. Still this is probably a good thing. Street dealers have got to eat, too.

+ Recent headline on the frontage of the Wall Street Journal: “Banks Want Freedom to Hire Ex-Criminals.”

+ The Washington Post reports that billionaires are worried about the survival of the system that made them rich. This seems rather shrill. Capitalism seems capable of adapting to almost any crisis, even its own. Capitalists, on the other hand, are probably expendable, and will likely be devoured by their own system.

+ Gabriel Garcia Marquez: “Why is the originality that is admitted without reserve in literature denied us, with all kinds of suspicions, in our difficult attempts at social change? Nonetheless, in the face of oppression, plunder, and abandonment, our response is life.”

+ The death toll from the Saudi-US war in Yemen could top 233,000 by the end of the year. The UN called the slaughter “humanity’s greatest preventable disaster.” But is “preventable” the right word? When you know something tragic will happen as a consequence of your actions and you do it anyway isn’t the disaster “planned” or at least “premeditated”?

+ The hubris of Pompeo Maximus justifying the new sanctions against Iran for “human rights” violations, a charge he probably cooked up while having tea with the same people who dismembered a journalist in an embassy.

+ Robert Mueller had one job: indict Erik Prince. He failed. Now Prince wants to send his mercenaries to Venezuela.

+ Sergio Leone: “When I was young, I believed in three things: Marxism, the redemptive power of cinema, and dynamite. Now I just believe in dynamite.” (Too bad he didn’t live to direct The Monkey-Wrench Gang.”

+ Stephen Moore, Trump’s pick for a seat on the Federal Reserve Board, on child labor laws: “I’m a radical on this. I’d get rid of a lot of these child labor laws. I want people starting to work at 11, 12.” (Over to you, Mr. Dickens.)

+ More Moore, this time from an appearance on C-Span in 2000: “The male needs to be the breadwinner. One reason you’ve seen a decline of the family, not just in the black community but now in the white community as well, is because women are more economically self-sufficient.”

+ Trump should get some new show runners. There are more convincing Mad Despot monologues on Netflix’s awful series on Caligula than appear on his Twitter feed these days.

+ According to a report in the Washington Post, managers at Trump’s golf club in Westchester, New York made undocumented immigrants work long hours of overtime without pay. No wonder Robert E. Lee is Trump’s favorite general.

+ How Robert E. Lee treated human beings he viewed as his property, as described in 1866 by one of his former slaves, Wesley Morris

My name is Wesley Norris; I was born a slave on the plantation of George Parke Custis; after the death of Mr. Custis, Gen. Lee, who had been made executor of the estate, assumed control of the slaves, in number about seventy; it was the general impression among the slaves of Mr. Custis that on his death they should be forever free; in fact this statement had been made to them by Mr. C. years before; at his death we were informed by Gen. Lee that by the conditions of the will we must remain slaves for five years; I remained with Gen. Lee for about seventeen months, when my sister Mary, a cousin of ours, and I determined to run away, which we did in the year 1859; we had already reached Westminster, in Maryland, on our way to the North, when we were apprehended and thrown into prison, and Gen. Lee notified of our arrest; we remained in prison fifteen days, when we were sent back to Arlington; we were immediately taken before Gen. Lee, who demanded the reason why we ran away; we frankly told him that we considered ourselves free; he then told us he would teach us a lesson we never would forget; he then ordered us to the barn, where, in his presence, we were tied firmly to posts by a Mr. Gwin, our overseer, who was ordered by Gen. Lee to strip us to the waist and give us fifty lashes each, excepting my sister, who received but twenty; we were accordingly stripped to the skin by the overseer, who, however, had sufficient humanity to decline whipping us; accordingly Dick Williams, a county constable, was called in, who gave us the number of lashes ordered; Gen. Lee, in the meantime, stood by, and frequently enjoined Williams to lay it on well,an injunction which he did not fail to heed; not satisfied with simply lacerating our naked flesh, Gen. Lee then ordered the overseer to thoroughly wash our backs with brine, which was done. After this my cousin and myself were sent to Hanover Court-House jail, my sister being sent to Richmond to an agent to be hired; we remained in jail about a week, when we were sent to Nelson county, where we were hired out by Gen. Lee’s agent to work on the Orange and Alexander railroad; we remained thus employed for about seven months, and were then sent to Alabama, and put to work on what is known as the Northeastern railroad; in January, 1863, we were sent to Richmond, from which place I finally made my escape through the rebel lines to freedom; I have nothing further to say; what I have stated is true in every particular, and I can at any time bring at least a dozen witnesses, both white and black, to substantiate my statements: I am at present employed by the Government; and am at work in the National Cemetery on Arlington Heights, where I can be found by those who desire further particulars; my sister referred to is at present employed by the French Minister at Washington, and will confirm my statement.

+ The Night King may have gotten all of his soldiers killed…twice, but he was still the best general on cable TV.

+ F-35 sales boost Lockheed’s earnings. Will Bernard Sanders get a special note of appreciation in the Quarterly Report?

+ Israel’s “secret” nuclear arsenal (now closing in on 400 weapons) was one of the biggest “fake secrets” of our time. The whole point of having nuclear weapons is that your adversaries know you have them and are crazy enough to use them. (Of course, that didn’t stop them from putting nuclear whistleblower Mordichai Vanunu in prison for “treason.”)

+ Jair Bolsonaro, the Mussolini of the Mato Grasso, this week on Twitter announced the end of public funding for departments of Philosophy and Sociology. Brazilian universities are, instead, to focus on” job training.” This is the culmination of a campaign by Bolsonaro that has hyped an alleged leftist takeover of the nation’s education system.

+ Meanwhile, Bolsonaro’s soul-brother in the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte, escalated his trash war with Canada: Duterte: “So what if we quarrel with Canada? We’ll declare war against them, we can beat them.” What university will be the first to open the Durterte School of Leadership, after he leaves office? Or will the Berkeley School of Law snap him up like they did John Yoo?

+ Lara Trump on FoxNews: “The downfall of Germany was Merkel’s decision to let in refugees. It was one of the WORST THINGS TO EVER HAPPEN TO GERMANY.”

+ Medicare: 2.5% of healthcare dollars are spent on overhead.

Aetna: 17.8% of healthcare dollars are spent on overhead and company profits.

+ The moral decline of the San Francisco 49ers can be traced from firing Colin Kapernick to picking racist troll Nick Bosa with the second pick in the NFL draft, a move Trump was quick to venerate in a Tweet. Apparently, the MAGA-rusher isn’t one of those NFL “son-of-a-bitches“…

+ Big Tech used to at least try to disguise their symbiotic relationship with the surveillance state. Now they feel free to brag about it openly, as in the case of Facebook hiring Jennifer Newstead, one of the authors of the Patriot Act, to serve as social media conglomerate’s general counsel . And why not not? Their users (us) have become passively acclimated to the gradually narrowing walls of their (our) own digital prison cells.

+ The Oglala Sioux Tribal Council voted unanimously this week to ban South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem from the Pine Ridge Reservation after she backed new “riot boosting” laws that target tribes and their allies who oppose new oil infrastructure on treaty lands.

+ Decline in global populations over the past decade, according to Biological Conservation:

Butterflies: 53%
Beetles: 49%
Bees: 46%
Dragonflies: 37%
Flies: 25%

+ The damage from the Bomb Cyclone that detonated on the Great Plains may exceed $3 BILLION

+ This loss comes on top of one of the worst quarters in decades for American farmers, collapses by $11.8 billion in the first three months of 2019.

+ The lifespan of a “biodegradable” plastic bag is three years and counting

+ Trump’s BLM just quietly opened the door to fracking on 1.1 million acres of federal land in California…

+ 91 percent of U.S. coal-fired power plants with monitoring data are contaminating groundwater with unsafe levels of toxic pollutants.

+ The accelerating loss of forest cover (30 million acres last year in the tropics alone, the fourth highest loss in 20 years) is yet another little noticed factor driving the climate catastrophe. 92 in the Shade, 108 in the Stumps…

+ The countries with the largest cumulative CO2 emissions since 1750…

1) US – 397Gt CO2
2) CHINA – 214
3) Russia / fmr USSR – 180
4) Germany – 90
5) United Kingdom – 77
6) Japan – 58
7) India – 51
8) France – 37
9) Canada – 32
10) Poland – 27

+ The melting permafrost in the Arctic is expected to inflict more than $7 trillion (that’s TRILLION) of economic damage. The ecological damage is inestimable.

+ Greenland, which on any rational planet would be considered a continent, is falling apart, as its massive ice sheet is rapidly melting, having lost 4,976 GIGATONS  of water since 1972…and half of that loss has happened in the last 8 years. More ominously, the bottom of the Greenland ice sheet is now melting faster than the top, making the whole thing unstable and vulnerable to a catastrophic collapse.

+ The Paris Accords, which Democrats are launching a futile, last minute effort to salvage, were a giant placebo for the gullible and the grant-dependent.

+ The Mississippi River at Rock Island in the Quad Cities of Iowa hit a new all time record flood crest of 22.64′ at 11:50 AM on May 2nd.  This breaks the 1993 Great Flood record of 22.63′. The river continues to rise.

+ Here’s a link to that American Lung Association report on air quality in American cities. I was surprised that San Diego, a city I always thought of bright, clean and breezy, has the 6th worst ozone levels in the country–ozone is invisible.

+ A society that can’t even protect its drinking water is a failed state by any definition that really matters. The EPA’s response to this growing crisis (and, no, Flint still doesn’t have clean drinking water) is to slash its core Safe Drinking Water programs by 8 percent and cut its aid to state clean drinking water programs by 33 percent.

+ After the northern California town of Paradise was destroyed by one of the largest wildfires in history, the city discovered that much of its water had been contaminated by a “toxic cocktail” of gases released by the fire.  Most troubling is the presence of Benzene—a compound linked to anemia, vomiting, and leukemia—found in 30 percent of water samples taken in the town. “It is jaw dropping,” said Dan Newton of California’s Water Resources Control Board. “This is such a huge scale. None of us were prepared for this.” It will take at least  two years and more than $300 million clean and repair the cities water pipes. Meanwhile, the estimated 1,500 residents who moved back have been warned not to drink, cook, or bathe in the water.

+ We’ve lost another mountain lion in Southern California, this one killed with rat poison. And it’s not just mountain lions that are dying, though we can’t afford to lose any more of them in the Santa Monica Mountains, but bobcats, hawks and owls, as well. What was the source the rat poison? Unclear, but it’s often used at illicit grow operations…

+ Angelica Huston on cocaine and Jack Nicholson: “Bad cocaine makes you feel shitty. Probably makes you run for the loo because it’s laced with laxatives. Pure cocaine gives you a very light, airy, clear, and extremely pleasant feeling. But really, there’s no such thing as good cocaine. I don’t believe that people should take it recreationally. [Nicholson] never took overt amounts. He was never a guzzler. I think Jack sort of used it, probably like Freud did, in a rather smart way. Jack always had a bit of a problem with physical lethargy. He was tired, and I think probably, at a certain age, a little bump would cheer him up. Like espresso.”

+ Randy Newman on “Sail Away:” There was a producer, the husband of [actress] Leslie Caron. He wanted to make a movie where he would give ten minutes to these artists – people like Van Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, me – to do anything we wanted. It never got made. But I had this idea of a slave ship and a sea shanty – this guy standing in a clearing, singing to a crowd of natives. These people in my songs don’t know they’re bad. They think they’re fine. I didn’t just want to say, “Slavery is awful.” It’s too easy. I wasn’t doing Roots. I knew Bobby Darin pretty well. He covered this [in 1972], but he was such a musical guy that he missed the point. He was like, “Little one, come to America.” Etta James did it, and I guarantee she knew what it was about, absolutely.”

+ The highlights from 15-year-old John Lennon’s report card…

“His term marks amounted to 17% of the maximum and he missed the final exams. He is on the road to failure if this goes on.”

“He has too many of the wrong ambitions and his energy is too often misplaced.”

“He is content to ‘drift.'”

+ Chuck D on the Apollo Theater: “In the 70s, there were a lot of things going through Harlem that weren’t cool. In the 80s, when Percy Sutton bought the Apollo it started some sort of renaissance, rebuilding it. But in the 70s, the city had abandoned Harlem. It had been a different code in the hood in the 60s. Black folks, we might have been broke, but we wasn’t broken. When it got to a point where Public Enemy got too big for the Apollo, we said we would do a free show there. So we filmed it, and that turned out to be a Grammy-nominated home video, “The Enemy Strikes Black,” and that was done live at the Apollo.”

+ The Art Ensemble of Chicago: they went where no one, except Sun Ra, had gone before…

+ The Doors raped and pillaged every groovy harmonic vibe David Crosby was disseminating into the ether…

+ I think Lennon said this was his favorite cover of a Beatles song. Of course, Harry was his drinking buddy and this was Paul’s song, so make of that assessment what you will. Still, it’s pretty damn good…

Booked Up

What I’m reading this week…

France in the World: a New Global History by Patrick Boucheron (Ed.) (Other Press)

Catherine and Diderot: the Empress, the Philosopher and the Fate of the Enlightenment by Robert Zaretsky (Harvard)

Beneath My Feet: Writers on Walking by Duncan Minshull (Notting Hill Editions)

Sound Grammar

What I’m listening to this week…

We Are on the Edge: a 50th Anniversary Celebration by Art Ensemble of Chicago (PI Recordings)

Epistrophy by Bill Frisell / Thomas Morgan (ECM)

The Hurting Kind by John Paul White (Single Lock Records)

The Tsar of Toy Soldiers

Robert Zaretsky: “[Catherine the Great’s] husband Peter, though seduced by the example set by Frederick the Great, had neither the Prussian king’s capabilities nor culture. Instead, all he seemed to have acquired from Frederick was his infatuation with the pomp and circumstance of the military. When not busy changing into his many brightly laced uniforms, Peter spent hours playing with toy soldiers that, in order to keep them hidden from Empress Elizabeth’s officials, he stowed under Catherine’s bed. Made of wood, led, papier-mâché, and wax, these toy soldiers were periodically reviewed by Peter, who would strut past them wearing boots, spurs, and a scarf. Peter was similarly dressed when, one day, his dog caught a rat that was scampering across his toy battlefield. As he was executing it from a miniature gallows and in full military ceremony, Catherine walked in on the macabre scene. Looking back on the scene years later, she reflected: ‘It could at least be said in the rat’s defense that it had been hanged without anyone having asked or heard its defense.'” [From Catherine and Diderot: the Empress, the Philosopher and the Fate of the Enlightenment.]


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