Roaming Charges: Measure for Half-Measure

American Ruin, Bombay Beach. Photo: Jeffrey St. Clair.

“Well, heaven forgive him! and forgive us all!
Some rise by sin, and some by virtue fall…”

+ Plus ça change! In late April, the national Quinnipiac Poll showed five candidates – Biden, Sanders, Warren, Harris, Buttigieg – drew 79% of Democratic primary vote. In mid-June, before 1st debate, 79%. This week, before 2nd debate, 78%.

+ If you haven’t been paying attention to the Democratic Party for the last 40 years and just now tuned into the presidential debates, you might be shocked at how hostile it is to even debating the modest and sensible ideas proposed by Sanders & Warren. With each mention of “single payer,” “free college,” or “green new deal,” the Party writhes wildly like Linda Blair’s possessed body being sprinkled with Holy Water.

+ Pundits are writing that by embracing Trump’s transparent racism the Republican Party has retreated from the “inclusive” vision of Reagan, who was recently caught on tape engaged in racist banter with Nixon. But Lee Atwater’s Big Tent was always made from a white sheet.

+ John (Who the hell are you, again?) Delaney to Sanders and Warren: “When are you going to tell the American people how you’re going to pay for these radical proposals?” When was the last time politicians told the “American people” how we are going to pay ($37 billion) for the new class of (unseaworthy) aircraft carriers or the $1.5 trillion nuclear modernization scheme?

+ After the first debate, former Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill rushed to condemn Sanders and Harris, saying “free stuff from the government does not play well in the Midwest.” This might come as a surprise to the regions farmers, who are currently cashing checks from Trump as reparations for the damage inflicted by his tariffs. Based on this performance, MSDNC will probably be giving McCaskill a primetime show with Joe Lieberman, “Evening Joe?”…

+ Let’s recall that Claire McCaskill, now whacking progressives nightly on MSDNC, was one of the first senators to endorse Barack Obama, which tells you more about Obama than McCaskill and should have tripped an Early Warning System about the real political agenda of the young senator from Illinois.

+ Wasn’t the Deep South built on the very idea of getting “free stuff”, as in free labor to build all the stuff you ever dreamed of having. And when that went away along came pols like Huey Long to dish out free stuff from the Guv’mint: highways, price supports, dams, electricity…

+ The image of the “rural” Midwest, promoted by rightwing Democrats like McCaskill, is largely a myth. In Minnesota, for example, 73% of the state’s residents live in urban areas. Increasingly, “rural” is becoming a euphemism for “white.”

+ One of the most comical routines in these debates has been a parade of candidates making the “electability” argument whose own polling has maxed out at 2% or less.

+ Who thought it was a good idea to let him on stage? Montana Governor Steve Bullock insanely defended a “first strike” nuclear policy Tuesday night, apparently forgetting that his own state, which houses a large portion of the US nuclear ICBM arsenal at Malmstrom Airbase, would be a top target for any counter-attack.

+ Why is Marianne Williamson considered any more of a “goof” than Nixon talking to the portraits of former presidents as the wall closed in, Reagan planning his schedule according to the advice of his astrologer or HRC communing with the spirit of Eleanor Roosevelt?

+ DNC chair Tom Perez rants as loudly and gesticulates as wildly as Bernie Sanders but to emphasize no apparent point…

+ Joe Biden took the stage and snapped a John “Reporting for Duty” Kerry-like salute. Meanwhile, Gabbard, once again, announced that she’s running on the “soldiers’ values” theme….

+ Jay Inslee, who is sporting a pair of Rick Perry brand “Smart Look”© glasses,  sounds like he dined on edibles tonight, heavy on the indica by the looks of it.

+ Two hours into the second debate before the first question about Iran, Yemen, Afghanistan, Venezuela, North Korea. The foreign policy segment lasted for all of six minutes and was cut-off before a word could be said about Iran.

+ Who will tell Biden that half the leaders he says he knows from the old days and is eager to negotiate with are now dead?

+ Arun Gupta: “Andrew Yang’s climate change mitigation plan is to give people money to run for the hills.” Makes more sense than Biden’s plan.

+ In an answer to a question about the environment, Kirsten Gillibrand says the first thing she’s going to do is “clorox the Oval Office.” Isn’t there a green solution for that?

+ Is this the first time “antediluvian” used in a presidential debate? Maybe Jay Inslee nibbled on  a sativa brownie, too….

+ Tulsi Gabbard and Joe Biden’s excuse for their involvement in the Iraq war is that they were “lied to”. But almost everyone paying any attention knew the rationale for the war was fraudulent. Gabbard sounds disappointed that we’re still not out there hunting down Al Qaeda.

+ Biden: “People have to get in line … if they cross illegally they should be sent back.”

+ “Some of us have learned the lessons of the past and some haven’t.” Castro finally lands a blow, Biden staggers into the ropes, though he seemed to out on his feet before Castro threw his punch.

+ I don’t know who is landing more blows against Biden, DeBlasio or Biden himself.

+ Instead of “my time’s up,” tonight Biden is using “anyway” as an abrupt way to end a statement which makes no sense even to himself….

+ Andrew Yang: “The opposite of Donald Trump is an Asian man who likes math.” It’s a crowd tested line but still merits a chuckle.

+ With the media’s help, Joe Biden is trying to redefine himself as a “moderate”, instead of the race-baiting-corporate-pill-pushing-hawk that he’s been his entire career…

+ “But,” someone told me, “Biden’s got a certain gravitas.” On closer inspection, the gravitas turns out to be gravy stains.

+ Witnessing Biden, Harris and DeBlasio debate criminal justice is like watching Tony Soprano, Big Pussy and Pauly Walnuts plot their next hit.

+ Kamala Harris: “Trump committed obstruction. I’ve sent people to prison for far less.”  I believe you, Madame Prosecutor, I believe you…

+ It’s becoming increasingly clear that the frisson between Biden and Harris is almost completely manufactured, a political breakup to makeup rom-com, where after a few months of clawing and scratching each other Biden taps Harris for his VP candidate and promises to hand her the reigns after four years….

+ Biden: “I don’t know what happened…” No shit.

+ What happened, Joe? Biden has changed his position on the Iraq War, the drug war, NAFTA, TPP, the Hyde Amendment…almost everything but allowing everyone to get health care. What a guy.

+ Biden looks like he might have a stroke as a visual aid to demonstrate how his health plan will work.

+ Here’s Harris’ latest bait-and-switch on health care that she humbly calls My Medicare-for-All, which isn’t for “all” and isn’t “all Medicare” (i.e., federally funded). When a politician like Harris starts with a half-measure, you’ll be left with no measures at all by the time she’s done…

+ On closer inspection, Biden and Harris’ health care plans are pretty similar: a public option with bailouts for private insurance industry. The “confusion” is part of a deliberate attempt to make them look different and thus have something to engage in a fake fight about.

+ The centerpiece of Biden’s health care plan, the Public Option, was also the centerpiece of ObamaCare. It was also the first thing Obama & Biden jettisoned to make it palatable to … the insurance companies and their congressional shock troops, like Biden’s old pal Max Baucus.

+ One of Biden’s scare-talking points is that Single-Payer will force you to give up your employer-financed health care. That’s more than a little ironic because Biden played a key role in gutting the employer mandate in ObamaCare.

+ Has the DNC hired Sarah Palin as a consultant on how to kill Single-Payer? Most of their candidates and flacks sound like they’ve taken her “death panels” seminar. Their mission is not merely to repudiate Sanders and Warren as agents of a destabilizing heterodoxy, but to savage their ideas and grind them into the dust, as if they were Gibson Firebird guitars, too enchantingly dangerous for any of us mortals to ever touch…

+ “Never let the perfect be the enemy of the lesser evil.” –Democratic Party motto.

+ During his inexplicable explanation for his flipflop on the Hyde Amendment, Biden couldn’t even let the word abortion exit his mouth, instead sputtering “access to those services.”

+ Gillibrand’s attack on insurance companies was her best moment….ever? A few minutes later she ceded back all the ground she had gained by regurgitating some inane platitudes about the decay of “American values” under Trump.

+ Harris knocked Biden out in Debate 1. Biden and Harris knocked themselves out in Debate 2. Winners? Harris and Sanders.

+ After the debate, NYT columnist Frank Bruni lamented that he “wanted so much more from Biden.” But that’s all there is to Biden, Frank. There used to be more, a lot of it even more noxious than the hapless figure you now see. And there’ll be even less of him tomorrow. It’s entropy right on the stage.

+ On the impeachment of Trump

Yes: Harris, Booker, Castro
No: de Blasio, Bennett, Gabbard (I think)

How the hell could Biden not even be asked?

+ Matt Christman: “That debate was like a bunch of adult children trying to convince their dad to go to a retirement home.”

+ There was not a single question last night about Israel or Palestine, which was probably fortunate for the Palestinians given some of the abrasive views held by many of the candidates on stage.

+ Speaking of abrasive views on Palestine: Tulsi Gabbard announced after the debate that she will be spending the “next two weeks on a National Guard training mission in Indonesia,” which is a strange way to lighten the US’s imperial bootprint on the globe.

+ Kamala Harris: “I have nothing but praise for Obama.” Nothing?

+ After being roughed up by Tulsi Gabbard, Madame Prosecutor claimed that she’d always been against the death penalty, except, of course, whenever it mattered

+ Let’s run with the preposterous assertion that Tulsi Gabbard (who I’m no fan of) is the preferred candidate of Russian bots, a theme now being zealously pushed by the Harris people after the licking she took last night. Gabbard now stands at less than 2% in the polls (0% among African-American voters). That’s not saying much for the power of Russian bots to sway an election, is it?

+ By the way, here’s Gabbard pushing regime change in Ukraine in 2014 (The context here is that Gabbard’s bill and Obama’s policy was to undermine and overthrow the government of Viktor Yanukovych)…

+ The protesters who interrupted Biden, Booker and de Blasio were chanting “Fire Pantaleo”—a reference to Daniel Pantaleo, the New York Police Department officer who killed Eric Garner. Good for them, bad for CNN not letting anyone know.

+ Looks like Trump’s message has been received and processed by his troops. A gun shop in North Carolina has erected this, shall we say provocative, if not inciteful, billboard. Give the boys some credit, their spelling has improved.

+ The approval ratings for all four of these Members of Congress are higher than Donald Trump’s….

+ Two weeks ago, Nancy Pelosi, who seems to have a deep affection for the Gipper, invoked the spirit of Ronald Reagan when she introduced her censure of Trump for his racist tweets about the Squad. “It condemned the words of the President. Not the President, but the words of the President,” Pelosi said. “And doing so, it anchored itself in the words of Ronald Reagan. Ronald Reagan, beautiful speech by Ronald Reagan, which I reference all the time.”

Any illusions about Reagan’s bigotry were shattered this week when tapes were released of an October 1971 phone call Reagan made to Nixon, after he became enraged at African nations voting in the UN to recognize the People’s Republic of China.

“Last night, I tell you, to watch that thing on television as I did,” Reagan said.

“Yeah,” Nixon interjected.

“To see those, those monkeys from those African countries,” Reagan ranted.”Damn them, they’re still uncomfortable wearing shoes!”

+ The racist portion of the taped conversation between Nixon and Reagan was withheld from the public for decades in order to protect the privacy of a man, Ronald Reagan, who respected no one else’s privacy–in what we read, watched, listened to or did with our own bodies.

+ The Emperor may not have any clothes, but he’s still got that white sheet…

+ Lord Halifax to Stanley Baldwin after his first meeting with Hitler and Goering: “Nationalism and racialism is a powerful force, but I can’t feel it’s either unnatural or immoral…I cannot myself doubt that these fellows are genuine haters of communism, etc! And I dare say if we were in their positions we might feel the same.”

+ Each generation tends to think its rulers are more insane than any others. And it often seems that way. But the fact is: they’re all insane. Who remembers how close Reagan was to starting a nuclear war when he was caught “joking” on a live mic before giving his weekly radio address: “My fellow Americans, I’m pleased to tell you today that I’ve signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever. We begin bombing in five minutes.”

+ It’s been a rough week for the Reagan legacy. First, he’s outed as an unvarnished racist. Then Trump rescinds his signature global achievement, the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty, signed in 1988 at the great summit with Gorbachev in Moscow.

+ At his revival rally in Cincy, Trump promised: “We will be ending the AIDS epidemic shortly in America and curing childhood cancer very shortly.” Stayed tuned for his next miracle, when TrumpJesus will raise the Confederate dead…

+ It turns out that the bulk of Trump’s aid to farmers is going to the biggest and wealthiest agribusiness concerns in the country. In Trump’s defense, there are almost no “small farmers” left…(not that they would have gotten any crumbs in any event.)

+ Trump on the US’s largest trading partner, China: Trump says this about China: “If they don’t want to trade with us anymore, that would be fine with me. It would save a lot of money.”

+ Those tariffs are starting to bite…American consumers. According to a new study by the National Bureau of Economic Research: “Overall, using standard economic methods, we find that the full incidence of Trump’s tariffs falls on domestic consumers, with a reduction in U.S. real income of $1.4 billion per month by the end of 2018.”

+ Since the 2016 elections, more than 17 million people have been purged from voter rolls across the US. 17 MILLION, a large percentage of them in black and Hispanic areas that no longer have the protection of the Voting Rights Act. HRC’s 3 million vote spread in the popular vote doesn’t sound so big now, does it?

+ A few years ago, Michael Moore wrote he was sexually attracted to HRC, a fixation he sublimated by backing her awful political campaigns. After a brief flirtation with Oprah, he’s now transferred his obsession to Michelle Obama. The man needs help…

+ Mighty nuclear-armed, wall-building nation trembles at the prospect of 3-year-old pebble thrower…

+ Jack Shafer: “How far are we from Trump saying, ‘Race wars are good and easy to win?'”

+ Why are people so convinced that Trump’s racist rants are aimed at the white working class? I’m certain that almost every slur Trump has launched against blacks over the past few weeks is more commonly heard in the locker rooms of elite country clubs than on the shop floors, where people work for a living.

+ The unmasking of Alan Dershowitz, by his own hands, is one of the few genuine pleasures of the Trump Era…

+ In 1960, Michigan counties held 51 people in jail for every 100,000 residents. In 2017 ‒ with the same crime rate as 1960 ‒ Michigan counties held 163 people in jail for every 100,000 residents.

+ ICE recently snatched a 9-year old girl on her way to school and held her captive for two full days, even though she is a US citizen. But don’t be like that Elijah Cummings and say bad things about our Border Patrol…

+ Now an important message (sponsored by L’Oreal FoxNews Dye No. 2) from Tomi Lahren…

+ Unless, of course, you’re a rightwing Cuban fleeing the menace of free education and health care by strapping your kid on a dingy in hurricane season in a mad attempt to put “one dry foot” on Key Largo, in which case you’re an international hero who should one day run for senator from Florida…

+ Brian Trautman: “The two U.S. soldiers killed in Afghanistan on Monday were PFC Brandon Jay Kreischer, 20, of Ohio & SPC Michael Isaiah Nance, 24, of Chicago. Kreischer was 2-years-old when the U.S. invaded Afghanistan in 2001. Nance was 6. Let that sink in.”

+ 75% of rural hospitals have now closed in states that refused to expand Medicaid. “Money-losing hospital” is a term that you should only hear in a failed state, that is a state that is failing its citizens…

+ Despite the fact that no one ever saw down there, including the official in charge of clearing people for visits, Trump inflated his own legend this week by telling 9/11 first responders (those still living) that he was with them down at Ground Zero helping to clear the smoking ruins. At least when Reagan boast to Yitzhak Shamir that he had helped liberate Dachau and Buchenwald, he’d actually done so …on a film lot in Culver City.

+ Has the Tucker Carlson Show replaced “patriotism” as the last refuge for scoundrels? Witness Tulsi Gabbard’s servile appearance on Carlson’s show the same week he was orchestrating the racist assaults on her colleagues in the House, slanders that Gabbard cowardly failed to confront or even mention.

+ The New York Times reports that Jeffrey Epstein wanted to “seed humanity with his own DNA” and have his penis frozen for posterity and no doubt, like his former wing-man Trump, fantasized about one day unwittingly sleeping with his own adolescent daughter…

+ How Marx’s writing influenced Lincoln’s thinking…

+ Ted Cruz: “Universities are trying really hard to raise a generation of pansies.” Maybe the Ag School at Texas Tech is using too much Round-Up in its flower beds?

+ If we consider this era “late capitalism,” what will people call it 100 years from now, assuming there are any people?

+ Have the chants started in Parliament yet to send Boris Johnson back to the “crime infested shithole” he came from? (i.e., Manhattan’s Upper East Side)

BLM lands in the Mojave desert near Joshua Tree National Park. Photo: Jeffrey St. Clair.

+ The new acting director the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is an old Sagebrush Rebel by the name of William Perry Pendley, a man who, like Rick Perry, doesn’t believe the agency he’s now charged with running should even exist. Most BLM directors, Democrat and Republican, have viewed their job as cut-rate salesmen, offering up public forests, minerals, oil, gas, coal and rangeland at bargain basement prices. Pendley sees his mission as that of a real estate agent, selling off the public lands themselves. Pendley adheres to the antiquated notion that the Constitution doesn’t authorized the US government to own land.  As George Wuerthner points out in today’s edition of CounterPunch, a blitzkreig is coming, a multi-pronged attack on our most cherished environmental laws and the very concept of public land itself, like nothing we’ve seen before, even under James Watt. There are few signs that the national environmental movement is prepared to confront what is bearing down on us.

+ The loss of the reflective cover provided by Arctic Sea will accelerate the pace of global warming by at least 25 years: “Losing the remaining Arctic sea ice and its ability to reflect incoming solar energy back to space would be equivalent to adding one trillion tons of CO2 to the atmosphere, on top of the 2.4 trillion tons emitted since the Industrial Age.”

+ The German Institute for Economic Research estimates that the average 1000MW nuclear power station built since 1951 has resulted in average economic loss of $7.7 BILLION.

+ The low temperature on Weds. at Fairbanks Airport was 50F , making this the 49th consecutive day with a low of 50F or higher, easily breaks the previous record of 41 days from 2016. Prior to 2016, there was no streak longer than 32 days.

+ Back in the early 1960s, the CIA experimented with using Dengue Fever as a biological weapon against disobedient countries like Cuba, not knowing that with climate change it would eventually be  coming for everyone

+ Last week I several fans of Greta Thornberg bristled at my tweaking the young climate campaigner for associating with some rather dubious characters and foundations. This week, however, we find Greta palling around with the World Wildlife Fund, whose human rights violations are becoming more and more grotesque.

+ Build here before its gone! “In many coastal states, flood-prone areas have seen the highest rates of home construction since 2010, a study found, suggesting that the risks of climate change have yet to fundamentally change people’s behavior.” Or even marginally change behavior, which is precisely why climate education and “shaming” campaigns will fail and only firm laws, treaties and regulations will have any chance of working.

+ The average temperature (not average high) this July in Utqiaġvik (Barrow), Alaska of 48.3F (9.1C) is the warmest month on record and 7.4F (4.1C) above normal.

+ Greenland is melting so fast that scientists are having a hard time measuring how fast the ice sheets are disappearing. People are right to be skeptical of climate models. The climatologists didn’t expect Greenland to melt this fast until…2070.

+ Our new UN Ambassador, Kelly Knight Craft (coal baroness), on climate change: “I believe there are scientists on both sides that are accurate. I think that both sides have their own results from their studies, and I appreciate and respect both sides of the science.” (Kelly Knight Craft is a name worthy of Nabokov.)

+ Master Blaster: the Department of the Interior is junking its pledge to regulate the toxic clouds of dust generated by open-air blasting for coal.

+ Mothers living near oil and gas development have 70 percent increased chance for birth defects in their babies…Sacrifices must be made.

+ You really couldn’t make this up: Trump aides submitted a draft of this “America First” energy policy speech to officials in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for editing.

+ The Malaysian tiger will likely be driven to extinction within the next three years.

+ Peru is moving to rescind protections for over 100,000 hectares of forest and indigenous land.

+ Jimmy Buffett’s latest assault on American music: knocking down the building where the first “country” hit record was recorded in 1923 for one of his noxious Margaritaville hotels

+ All the lonely bots, where do they all come from? 391 million Twitter accounts have no followers at all…

+ Amazon’s Alexa has apparently been eavesdropping on British couples having sex. Does Alexa then rate the performances on the same Five Star scoring system Amazon uses for product reviews?

+ Asked if he had a message for Poland on the anniversary of the Warsaw Uprising, Trump says, “I have a lot of respect for Poland, and as you know the people of Poland like me. And I like them. And I’m going to be going to Poland fairly soon.” (Maybe he’ll be starring in a remake of Wajda’s Kanal. He’s certainly familiar with the sewer.)

+ Taratino has always been a reactionary hack. Perhaps his latest film, Once Upon a Time in … Hollywood, will finally “awaken” people to his noxious cultural politics.

“Essentially a buddy comedy featuring Leonard DiCaprio as an aging actor and Brad Pitt as his stunt double who pal around on the periphery of the Manson murders of 1969, the movie is pretty, pretty, pretty (especially when cars and Brad Pitt are involved); its politics, however, are ugly, ugly, ugly: violently reactionary in their treatment of the late ’60s counterculture and its concomitant burnout.”

+ Your editor and co-editor were almost turned into chalk outlines on I-5 on Saturday night, after having been nearly crushed in a 6 car chain collision on I-5 in the Greater Los Angeles Death Zone. Fortunately, we survived, like minor characters in a song by Guy Clark. This was my first major pile-up on LA freeways and, I must say, it generated none of the erotic charge promised on the pages of JG Ballard’s Crash. Still, the experience, harrowing as it was, was worth it to watch the lowly Orioles defeat the mighty (on paper) Angels on the same day that Trump slandered Baltimore.

“Left my wife and kids in Baltimore, Jack. I went out for a ride almost didn’t come back…”

+ I have an unyielding affection for Baltimore and in my years there working for Clean Water Action Project and Friends of the Earth in early Reagan time got to know nearly every part of the city. It is in every respect a livelier and more interesting, creative and habitable city than DC.

Say Goodbye to the Landlord for Me, That Son of a Bitch has Always Bored Me

Sound Grammar

What I’m listening to this week…

Jesca Hoop
(Memphis Industries)

Remind Me: the Classic Elektra Recordings, 1978-1984
Patrice Rushen

Grits, Beans and Greens
Tubby Hayes Quartet

Booked Up

What I’m reading this week…

Heaven’s Breath: a Natural History of the Wind
Lyall Watson

To See Paris and Die: The Soviet Lives of Western Culture
Eleonory Gilburd

Revolutionaries for the Right: Anti-Communist Internationalism and Paramilitary Warfare in the Cold War
Kyle Burke
(North Carolina)

Leaving the Bills Unpaid

Éric Vuillard: “In a letter to Margarete Steffen, with a feverish sarcasm that time and postwar revelations make unbearable, Walter Benjamin relates how they had suddenly cut off the gas for Vienna’s Jews: their consumption was costing the gas companies too much money. The bigger consumers were precisely the ones who never paid their bills. At that point Benjamin’s letter to Margarete takes a strange turn. We’re not sure we understand correctly. We hesitate. It’s meaning floats amid the branches, in the pale sky, and when it becomes clear, suddenly forming a little pool of sense out of nowhere, it becomes one of the saddest and most insane statements of all time. For if the Austrian gas company refused to provide service for the Jews, it was because the Jews were killing themselves, preferably by gas, and leaving the bills unpaid.” (The Order of the Day)

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