Roaming Charges: When the Band Plays “Hail to the Chief,” They Point the Tank at You, Lord

Water Monster petroglyph, Columbia Gorge. Photo: Jeffrey St. Clair.

+ Here’s an inconvenient truth to chew on over the Fourth of Me Holiday: If Al Gore Sr. had gotten his way, the DMZ rendezvous between Kim and Trump would likely never have taken place. As Alexander Cockburn and I reported in our biography of Al Gore, the old man wanted to saturate the DMZ with radioactive waste as a permanent deterrent to re-unification.

+ In the wake of Trump’s sessions with Putin, MBS and Kim, Tucker Carlson tried to educate the FoxNews audience about the power dynamics of today’s realpolitik: “You’ve got to be honest about what it means to lead a country, it means killing people. A lot of countries commit atrocities, including our allies.” Of course, there’s a fine line, which Tucker seems to have rather gleefully transgressed, between teaching and advocacy.

+ The anti-Tucker, Dan Rather, castigated Trump in for his “deeply strange behavior” at the G20 summit. I wonder who writes the Great Liberal’s opinions these days? In Joan Didion’s After Henry, she notes that in the early 80s Peggy Noonan (Reagan’s speechwriter) used to write his “daily radio commentaries.” When Rather wanted to give her a bonus, she told him to write a check to the Contras.

+ A July 4 Week historical tidbit: After the Cubans kicked the ass of the CIA’s invasion force at the Bay of Pigs, JFK’s poll numbers went up by 6 percent…just in case you still labor under the notion that Americans are capable or even interested in learning anything from past debacles.

+ On a more uplifting note, here’s Jimi Hendrix explaining to Dick Cavett his rendition of the Star Spangled Banner at Woodstock:

+ Tulsi Gabbard volunteered to go kill people in Iraq in 2004, a year after the massacre at Fallujah and the “casus belli” of the war had been revealed to be a hoax, which is like signing up for a tour of duty in Vietnam after My Lai and the release of the Pentagon Papers.

+ I’m all for evolution and if Gabbard has evolved, good for her. But excuse me if I prefer someone with better judgment as a putative leader of the antiwar movement. After all, the evolution/devolution of John “Reporting for Duty” Kerry is still fresh in the minds of many of us…

+ Gabbard’s “evolution” on the Iraq war was incremental at best. Recall that her second tour of duty in the Iraq/Kuwait theater of operations was in 2009, when she was platoon leader for a Military Police unit. This was FIVE YEARS after Sy Hersh had exposed the sadistic practices of the MPs at Abu Ghraib.

+ Rahul Mahajan: “If Gabbard evolved, why is she always bragging about her experience?”

+ Good question. Gabbard, who is still a member of the National Guard Reserve, appeared in uniform so many times during political campaign events (through at least 2018)  that she was reprimanded by the Pentagon.

+ Gabbard’s supporters depict her as a Pat Tillman-like figure, carried away by the  revenge fantasies that swept America after 9/11. But Tillman had turned against the Iraq war before he was sent to fight it and quickly saw even the Afghanistan war for the debacle it is, which probably explains why he was killed (murdered) by friendly fire. The fact that Gabbard returned intact from her two tours of duty in Iraq suggests that her “awakening” was very recent indeed.

+ At one point in her adult life, Gabbard viewed both Palestinians and homosexuals as sub-human. No wonder she was so excited to lead a Military Police unit in Iraq, five years after the sadism at Abu Ghraib had been exposed.

+ Quite the trio here: Miriam Adelson, Gabbard and Orthodox Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, holding his book The Israel Warrior. (Not exactly Peter, Paul and Mary.)

+ Here’s Gabbard speaking in 2015 before the ultra-Zionist group, Christians United for Israel…

+ In Gabbard, it looks like the MAGALeft has finally found a cop they like.

+ When people ask me what I mean by the “MAGALeft” here’s a case study in the species…

+ Our political culture is so deeply militarized that it prioritizes those who turned against a war, well after their own tours of duty (Kerry, Gabbard, et al), over those who opposed the war from the beginning.

+ The two putative anti-war candidates in the Democratic Party, Sanders and Gabbard, are polling at around 15 percent combined. This is either evidence of the weakness of both candidate or the fact that the Democratic Party itself remains stubbornly indifferent (as it has been for 50 years) to the urgent matters of war and peace. Probably both.

+ Here’s the front-runner, Joe Biden, during his 2002 floor speech before the Iraq War vote:

“President Bush did not lash out precipitously at Iraq after 9/11. He did not snub the U.N. or our allies. He did not dismiss new inspection regimes. He did not ignore Congress. At each pivotal moment, he has chosen a course of moderation and deliberation, and I believe he will continue to do so.”

+ Trump: “And we’re gonna have some tanks stationed outside… So we have to put them in certain areas but we have the brand new Sherman tanks and we have the brand new Abram tanks.” (No new Sherman tanks have rolled off the assembly line in 60 years…)

+ Our Yankee Doodle Dandy…

Gonna buy a tank and an aeroplane
When Melania catches up with me
Won’t be no time to explain
She thinks I’ve raped another woman
And that’s enough to send her half insane

(My apologies to The Ox…)

+ Trump’s amassed more firepower on the Mall for his Fourth of Me celebration than the total military arsenal of 112 countries, including flyovers by a B-2 stealth bomber to two F-35Cs, two Super Hornet F-18s, four Apache helicopters, two F-22 Raptors, H-60 and H-65 helos, along with the BlueAngels and Air Force One…

+ I’d gladly trade 3 Abrams tanks on the Mall for the banishment from DC of 3 much more dangerous think tanks: Brookings, Heritage, and the Center for International Studies.

+ Too bad the media spent a week ranting over the weapon-porn display on the Fourth and almost no time exploring how those weapons are being used in out the real world. In Yemen, for example…

Estimated fatalities in Yemen by year:

2015 – 17,100

2016 – 15,100

2017 – 16,800

2018 – 30,800

2019 – 11,900

+ In 2017, total arms sales for the world’s 100 largest defense contractors topped $398 billion.

+ According to the Pentagon, the war in Afghanistan costs $45 billion a year, which works out to $123,287,671 each day.

+ The Park Service lost $11 million in entrance fees during Trump’s government shutdown. Now he is diverting $2.5 million from the Park Service budget to fund his Fourth of Me party on the Mall. Meanwhile, Park Service rangers have been diverted to the Border to help CBP strip children from their aunts and grandmothers and put them in cages.

+ “I don’t care what the Ivy League pinkos write in their Fake History books, son. If the man says there were airports during the War of 1812 believe him.”

+ Trump’s Fourth of Me fest could have been worse. Instead of celebrating defense contractors, he could have feted the profession that gave us the Declaration of Independence: lawyers.

+ If I were programing the music for the Fourth of Me:

Star Spangled Banner – Jimi Hendrix
God Bless Amerika – Lil Wayne
Crazy Horse – John Trudell
This Land is Your Land – Pete and Arlo
Fortunate Son – CCR
My Country – Nas
I’m So Bored with the USA – The Clash
Heartland – Willie Nelson and Bob Dylan
Fuck America – Choking Victim
Uncle Sam Goddam – Brother Ali
Empire of the Senseless – The Mekons
Stars & Stripes of Corruption – Dead Kennedys
If White America Told the Truth for 1 Day It’s World Would Fall Apart – Manic St. Preachers
Fight the Power – Public Enemy

+ Next year will Trump invoke a moment of silence for Gen. Pinochet during his Fourth of Me celebration, as attack helicopters hover over the Mall?

+ Bacher, the only beer to get your MAGA on with…


+ Meanwhile, the US Arms Control Office is so understaffed it has almost stopped functioning. On the other hand, consider the cast of characters Trump might have filled those empty slots in the US Arms Control Office with…

+ Albert Einstein: “Nationalism is an infantile disease. It is the measles of mankind.”

+ One of the shared mindsets that once united Americans on the political left and right was that most of us grew to hate our rulers a few months after they had assumed power. The recent cults of Trump and Obama (the noxious cult of Kennedy only really formed after the assassination) have spoiled the true spirit of Independence Day.

+ Abu Ghraib on the Border: CBP leadership was told in 2016 about offensive posts to secret Facebook group, including images of Border Patrol agents simulating sex acts, taking selfies while shitting and one of an agent smiling while holding what appeared to be a human skull.

+ This is the depraved meme the ICE and Border Patrol agents posted of AOC on their private site. I’m usually of the disposition that not matter who is at the helm the System doesn’t change course much, except at the margins. But there are more and more signs of a deepen rot…

+ Nick Estes: “Watching AOC get shouted down outside a literal concentration camp to hide the crimes of this country sums up the challenge of Indigenous history—a cacophony and perpetuation of erasure atop a literal, ongoing crime scene.”

+ There was a truck driving around the Mall in DC with a child in a cage in the back, playing the audio of children crying in concentration camps.

+ Immigrants housed in a federal detention center in Texas were fed frozen sandwiches, cold burritos and potato chips, and told to drink water from toilets.

+ Glenn Beck on conditions at migrant concentration camps: “They’re used to sleeping on the dirt outside…They’re usually coppin’-a-squat by a cactus.”

+ Repressive immigration laws are as old as the Republic itself and just as politically-motivated then as today, see the Alien and Sedition Acts signed into law by John Adams in 1798.

+ There was also the Naturalization Act of 1790, which limited citizenship to immigrants who were “free White persons of good character,” thus prohibiting naturalization for Native Americans, indentured servants, freed slaves, and all Asians. The law was only fully repealed in 1952

+ To paraphrase Claud Cockburn: don’t believe anything the Trump Administration says until it has been officially denied by Trump.

+ Trump’s new border Tsar Ken Cuccinelli once compared US immigration policy to Washington’s rodent control program, claiming (incorrectly it turns out) that the D.C. regulation that doesn’t let animal control workers kill rats is worse than U.S. immigration policy because, “You can’t break up rat families. Or raccoons, and all the rest, and you can’t even kill ‘em. It’s unbelievable.”

+ Lakota Law Project: “Reminder: most of the people in cages are Indigenous to the Americas. Many of the people with the keys are immigrants.”

+ In a new CNN Poll: 93% of Democrats and 60% of Independents disapprove of the treatment of migrants by Trump administration; 62% of Republicans approve of the treatment of migrants by Trump administration. What were those numbers when Obama was locking up thousands of kids in 2014 and earning the nickname, Deporter-in-Chief? Or did the press even bother to inquire?

+ A little racism with your morning coffee and beignets, from NYT columnist (and Trump Resistance™ hero) Bret Stephens

“They speak Spanish. We don’t. They are not U.S. citizens or legal residents. We are. They broke the rules to get into this country. We didn’t. They pay few or no taxes. We already pay most of those taxes. They willingly got themselves into debt. We’re asked to write it off. They don’t pay the premiums for private health insurance. We’re supposed to give up ours in exchange for some V.A.-type nightmare. They didn’t start enterprises that create employment and drive innovation. We’re expected to join the candidates in demonizing the job-creators, breaking up their businesses and taxing them to the hilt.”

+ Charlotte Delbo: “Mothers keep a tight hold on their children — trembling at the thought they might be taken away — because the children are hungry and thirsty and disheveled by lack of sleep after crossing so many countries.” (Auschwitz and After).

+ Whenever Trump and Tucker Carlson shoot the breeze they come up with some freaky sounding shit:

Trump: “When we have leaders of the world coming in to see the president of the United States and they’re riding down a highway, they can’t be looking at that. They can’t be looking at scenes like you see in Los Angeles and San Francisco . . . So we’re looking at it very seriously. We may intercede. We may do something to get that whole thing cleaned up…It’s a phenomenon that started 2 years ago. It’s disgraceful … You can’t have [it] where police officers are getting sick just by walking the beat. I mean, they’re actually getting very sick … This is the liberal establishment.”

+ Biden on the 2010 IDF attack on the Gaza flotilla that killed nine peace activists: “I spent a lot of time going to the UN directly, making sure one thing was made clear, Israel had the right—had the right—to impose that blockade.”

+ Like his buddy Jesse Helms, Biden pushed for tough economic sanctions against Cuba. He even internally opposed Obama’s proposals for loosening restrictions on travel to Cuba & the right of Cuban-Americans to send remittances for family members still living there.

+ Fact-checking the Washington Post’s fact-checker on Bernie Sanders’ statement that the three richest Americans own more wealth than the bottom 50 percent.

+ The failure of Biden’s “voluntary” school desegregation (aka, busing) plan is the reason the federal courts imposed “mandatory” school desegregation (aka, busing). “Busing” itself is a pejorative term deployed by Biden-like politicians meant to scare suburban middle class white families.

+ From a 1975 NYT editorial on Biden’s attempt to end forced desegregation of public schools…

“The principal tragedy of the Biden amendment…is that it would signal a major crumbling of Federal determination to achieve equal justice…the Biden amendment is thus a real threat not only to the gains of the sixties, but to decency in this society.”

+ As Biden tries to use Obama as a human shield to deflect attention from his racist policies on education, let’s remember that public schools were almost as segregated under Obama as they were when the Civil Rights Act was signed and some of their policies exacerbated only the disparities:

“While the Department of Education has paid lip service to the need to promote integrated schools, and has included modest diversity incentives within a handful of federal grants, it refused to use larger education initiatives like Race to the Top to encourage states and districts to prioritize school diversity. In some cases, the department actually pushed policies that made segregation worse.”

+ Obama’s Education Secretary, Arne Duncan, was a more competent, and thus more destructive, version of Betsy DeVos.

+ The Democrats are really going to run this guy as their candidate for president?

+ Biden, who swears he doesn’t have a racist bone in his body and has fought for Civil Rights his entire career: “If you have a piece of crack-cocaine no bigger than a quarter, we passed a law thru leadership of Sen. Thurmond and myself that says you go to jail for 5 years.” (If you snort the powder up your nose, don’t worry you’re good.)

+ During an event in Seattle, Biden was hissed at by the crowd after he said that five years ago it was okay to make “gay waiter jokes.” Biden must be perplexed. These routines prompted guffaws when he auditioned for the lunchtime crowd at his assisted living compound back in Wilmington…

+ Biden can always be counted on to commit a new “gaffe” while trying to explain a previous “gaffe” because the ‘gaffe” actually reflects what he really believes. “”We’ve got to recognize that kid wearing a hoodie may very turn out to be a poet laureate and not a gangbanger.”

+ Joe Biden is a walking concordance of Freudian parapraxes.

+ If Biden uses the word “folks” one more time in a speech, Pete Seeger is going to rise from his grave and whack him in the head with his banjo..

+ I’ve always been mystified by the argument that HRC lost the election because she didn’t spend enough time in Wis, Michigan and Pennsylvania. Wouldn’t those visits have convinced even more voters to stay home or vote for Jill Stein or Gary Johnson?

+ Bernie Sanders seems to have hit the political doldrums. His poll numbers are lagging and his fundraising trails even Mayor Butter&Eggs. I’m far from a Sanders fan, but I thought his debate performance was gritty, even if he did seem to be showing his age. Sanders hammered the same points he always does, in part because these are the core issues of American politics that never vary. But people are saying they’ve heard it all before and looking for something fresh. Perhaps this explains Kamala Harris’ appeal: her inconsistency. She’s capable of giving 57 different explanations for her position on universal health care.

+ Here we have the eternal obsession of MSDNC and its sponsors on full display….

+ People think of Trump as being uniquely corrupt among US presidents. He’s not. When Reagan left office, his pals got together and bought Ron and Nancy a house in Bel Air. The house was purchased for $2.3 million, even though two very similar houses on the same block had sold that year for more than $10 million each, back when a million meant something in the LA real estate market. (Not to mention the aisles of “gifted” couture dresses that hung in Nancy’s WH boudoir.)

+ Harvard’s Douglas Elmendorf’s said the reason for giving a Harvard fellowship to former Michigan Governor Rick Snyder (the man who poisoned Flint’s drinking water) was that “fellowships aren’t endorsements”. This is, of course, the opposite of the reasoning he gave for stripping the fellowship from Chelsea Manning: “fellowships are perceived as endorsements”.

+ Jason Stanley on Michigan Gov and Harvard Fellow recruit Rick Snyder: “Snyder’s first appointment as an emergency manager, to the city of Pontiac was Louis Schimmel, with a salary of $150,000 per year. By privatizing most of the city’s services, Schimmel laid off 480 out of 500 city employees, resulting in a 96% loss of public sector jobs.”

+ A battered (though not battered enough) Rick Snyder renounces his Harvard Fellowship on Weds. afternoon, citing “a lack of civility.” I’m sure there’s a Monsanto Fellowship in his future, even if he’s on parole.

+ It turns out that the bottled water many of us are drinking may be just as toxic as the water coming out of Flint’s poisonous pipes. A new report reveals high levels of arsenic in bottled water sold by Wal-Mart, Target and even Whole Paycheck.

+ I’m sorry to hear that Meghan McCain feels like “a caged animal.” Maybe she’d be willing to trade places with a caged kid?

+ Suddenly everyone’s freaking out about Ivanka’s takeover of the foreign policy of the US under Trump. But who has Ivanka killed? Her hands are cleaner (not to mentioned more well-manicured) than Pompeo’s or Bolton’s…

+ Then again. Steve Mnuchin in Bahrain on Jared K’s deal of the century for Middle East: “Gaza could become like a hot IPO”.

+ $62: the amount Ivanka Trump’s company paid Chinese women each week to make her handbags.

+ AMLO, whose first months in power have been less than inspiring, finally speaks some sense: “If it were up to me, I would get rid of the army and turn it into the National Guard, declare that Mexico is a pacifist country that does not need a military and that the defense of the nation, if necessary, would be done by all.”

+ The stock market rises while the real economy, well, tanks … US manufacturing sinks to 32-month low.

+ Gusher Up Economics…the wealth gap continues to widen despite the economic “recovery.”

+ Two-thirds of American workers regret their college degrees.

+ Mark Ames: “I noticed Putin didn’t say ‘neoliberalism is dead’—that would be denying his own existence.”

+ I wrote many pieces back in the 90s and early 2000s on Minatom and the post-Soviet nuclear industry, which was, if possible, an even more harrowing enterprise than what’s depicted in Chernobyl. What could possibly go wrong with Putin’s insane venture to ship a nuclear reactor into the Arctic Ocean?

+ Is this the end of Frackenlooper?

+ Trump’s ambassador to Kenya, Kyle McCarter, lashed out at the African nation after it announced plans to pull the plug on the country’s first coal-fired power. Where’s America’s first Kenyan-born president when you need him?

+ More than 150 MILLION trees died in California’s most recent drought. It’s just the beginning…

+ June 2019 was the hottest month ever recorded on Earth. Just wait until August…

+ More importantly, June was also the hottest month at the airport in Anchorage…

+ More than 100 wildfires were burning in the Arctic Circle in June, releasing 50 megatons of CO2 into the atmosphere. They’ll likely burn until the rains come in September…

+ The Opera Lady is singing the final aria…rising global C02 emissions make it unlikely the Paris targets can be met.

+ 45 million gallons: the amount of water Nestle takes each from the San Bernardino National Forest.

+ $0: the amount of money Nestle pays for taking 45 million gallons of water each year from the San Bernardino National Forest.

+ China doesn’t want the US’s trash anymore. Will Americans finally be forced to deal with their own garbage?

+ The smog in the LA basin is getting inexorably worse and may cost another $14 billion to mitigate, if it can be mitigated. This news prompted me to re-read Joan Didion’s essay on Los Angeles real estate in the late 80s. Didion said two things in LA will always get worse: the air and the price of housing. She cited a poll where 60 percent of the residents of LA wanted to move somewhere else, like San Diego. But a Brentwood real estate agent warned, “They want to leave. But they can’t afford to. They’d never be able to afford to buy their way back in.”

+ Because of climate change, yellowjackets and wasps are living through the winter, making massive nests the size of Volkswagens

+ Enter Sandman…Greenland’s rapidly melting ice sheet is creating massive deltas of sand.

+ The Trump administration is planning to more than double the land available for coal leasing in Colorado. This isn’t likely to save the coal industry, which is being flattened by a wave of bankruptcies, where the workers are taking the brunt of the pain and the executives hijacking the loot. Here’s what happened when Westmoreland Coal Co. filed for bankruptcy: the miners had their health care coverage voided, while the company’s top executives, the people who ran the company into he ground, took home more than $10 million in bonuses.

+ Chukchi Sea Ice lowest ever recorded in June…

+ Jimmy Carter is getting plaudits from Gang Green for turning a 10 acre field into a solar “farm.” Sorry, Jimmy. Solar “farms” aren’t the solution. Solar power should (and can easily) be democratized by putting panels on rooftops. No need to sacrifice fields, forests or deserts.

+ There was a 6.4 earthquake in southern California near Death Valley on Thursday morning, the largest SoCal quake in years. Because of funding cuts to USGS (don’t want people checking out those fracking-quakes), the agency’s website is snarled, so much of the early seismic information came coming from European websites. Meanwhile, Trump wants to privatize the National Weather Service (see Michael Lewis’s book, The Fifth Risk)…

+ Watch the aftershocks of the SoCal quake live on a site run by the UC Berkeley Seismological Lab. Bound to be more exciting than Trump’s Fourth of Me show…

+ The earthquake in So Cal kicked up dust from Vegas to Bakersfield, spreading widely the spores that cause valley fever. As usual, farmworkers will pay the heaviest price.

+ According to the Williams Institute at UCLA, the South is home to the largest population of transgender adults and teens in the nation–and they’re right outside your door, Franklin Graham!

+ Megan Rapinoe: “Go gays. You can’t win a championship without gays on your team. It’s pretty much never been done before ever. Science, right there. To be gay and fabulous during Pride month at the World Cup is nice.”

+ Tony Posnanski: “One huge difference between Donald Trump and Megan Rapinoe is she doesn’t have to pay 130k to score.”

+ RIP to Laugh-In’s Arte Johnson, who died this week at 90, just when Nazi helmets (if not actual Nazis) were coming back in style here in the States…

+ Franz Kafka, while admiring fish in an aquarium: “Now I can look at you in peace; I don’t eat you any more.”

+ Tell me if you’ve heard this one before: A guy walks into a bar in Cave Junction, Oregon at 7 AM, drinks for a few hours, goes home, gets out his AK-47, starts firing, wings his neighbor in the arm, with whom he’d been feuding over two stolen pistols, kills a dog and, yes, a camel named Camille, a resident of a nearby Tiger “Preserve”. The wounded neighbor sues the bar, Art’s Red Garter Saloon, owned by the shooter’s grandmother, for feeding him too many drinks.

+ The NYT reports that scientists are beginning to reanimate the brains of dead pigs and asks, “What could go wrong?” Anyone who’s watched Young Frankenstein knows the answer to that question…

Dr. Frankenstein: Igor, would you mind telling me whose brain I did put in?
Igor: And you won’t be angry?
Dr. Frankenstein: I will NOT be angry.
Igor: Abby… someone.
Dr. Frankenstein: Abby someone. Abby who?
Igor: Abby… Normal.
Dr. Frankenstein: Abby Normal?
Igor: I’m almost sure that was the name.
Dr. Frankenstein: Are you saying that I put an abnormal brain into a seven and a half foot long, fifty-four inch wide GORILLA?!! IS THAT WHAT YOU’RE TELLING ME!!?!?

+  It’s a madder than MAD world…RIP Alfred E. Neuman.

Some Folks are Born With Star-Spangled Eyes, They Send You Down to War, Ooh …

Booked Up

What I’m reading this week…

Ice at the End of the World: an Epic Journey Into Greenland’s Buried Past and Our Perilous Future
Joel Gertner
(Random House)

Beyond Words: What Elephants and Whales Think and Feel
Carl Safina
(Roaring Brook Press)

Years of Infamy: the Untold Story of America’s Concentration Camps
Michi Nishiura Weglyn
(University of Washington)

Sound Grammar

What I’m listening to this week…

Where Future Unfolds
Damon Locks and Black Monument Ensemble
(Intl. Anthem)

Bring on the Music: Live at the Capitol Theatre
Govt. Mule

The Brown Beatnik Tomes
Ron Carter and Danny Simmons
(Blue Note)

The New Arrival as Adversary

Primo Levi: “Remember that the concentration camp system, even from its origins, had as its primary purpose shattering the adversaries’ capacity to resist: for the camp management, the new arrival was by definition an adversary, whatever the label attached to him might be, and he must immediately be demolished to make sure that he did not become an example or a germ of organized resistance.” (The Drowned and the Saved)

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