Roaming Charges: They Are the Walrus

Haida totem, British Columbia. Photo: Jeffrey St. Clair.

+ What I learned at the debate last night….

+ We’re going to be stuck in the middle with Klobuchar…

+ Booker: such fancy rhetorical skills in the service of nothing.

+ The common theme seems to be that the Democrats will “unify” America. Is a “unified America” a 54-46 split?

+ Bernie’s voice may not make it through the debate, especially if the questions get any more insipid.

+ Biden lost the thread on his own prepared opening remarks, which were, in true Biden fashion, largely lifted from JFK.

+ Warren is the best story-teller, even though the point of the stories are often obscure.

+ Biden has a condescending smirk that is as predatory as Trump’s. Perhaps they have the same dental plan.

+ Mayor Pete in his endless quest for the middle ground came up with: “Medicare-for-All who want it.”

+ Biden, apropos of nothing: “I don’t like it.”

+ Biden misplays the socialist card against Sanders. Gets burned.

+ Are we supposed to take advice from this group of Democrats on criminal justice policy, nearly all of whom have their fingerprints, either as legislators or prosecutors, on the carceral system that haunts the country?

+ Harris is giggling again as she tries to evade her own record as a prosecutor and AG. What’s she been vaping?

+ Biden: “I’m the guy….who put all the people in prison who I no longer believe should be there.”

+ They could test the constitutionality of seizing guns by starting with taking them from the cops, ICE, Border Patrol and the FBI. We know that would save more than a thousand lives a year.

+ In what’s left of his own mind, Biden has never made a mistake and, if he did, Obama forced him to do it.

+ This debate is sorely missing the presence of Marianne Williamson.

+ Oh no, Beto’s shifted into Spanglish again…

+ Still, I thought Beto had his most animated, free-wheeling performance last night, highlighted by his vow to come after “your AR-15s and AK-47s.” At least someone back home in Texas was taking him seriously. The man’s name is Briscoe Cain (which Mel Brooks should have used for a character in “Blazing Saddles”) and he currently serves as in the Texas Statehouse as the people’s representative from Palestine.

+ Apparently, Obama and Biden only caged kids who deserved to be caged.

+ Harris: “I have no criticism of Obama’s trade policy.” Thank you, you are excused.

+ Good for Bernie for finally unloading on Biden’s support for NAFTA. Bad for ABC for not allowing anyone to follow up.

+ Warren should have stopped after she said we need to pull US troops out of Afghanistan, instead of calling for a global coalition to fight terrorism. Been there, done that.

+ Can Warren name one problem that can be solved “militarily?”

+ Biden continues to lie about his position on the Iraq war and he lies so badly that no one, not even Bernie, bothers to call him on it.

+ Bernie: “We spend $700 billion a year on the military and we don’t even know who the enemy is…”

+ Bernie: “Maduro is a vicious tyrant.” I guess we found out who the enemy is…

+ Sanders snarled at the Ramos calling Venezuela a socialist country. Instead, Bernie pointed to his ideal “democratic socialist” countries, which aren’t all that different than Trump’s white sanctuaries: Canada, Sweden, Norway…

+ Harris, now slumping at her podium, seems to have switched from a giddy blend of indica to a mellower sativa.

+ Biden dropped some Kierkegaard on the peeps tonight and philosophers sprang into action…

+ Yang is handing out money tonight faster than Oprah Winfrey. Will his “democracy dollars” feature Harriet Tubman?

+ Neither Trump nor Yang seem to know the names of their kids. But at least Yang recalled that he’s got one at home.

+ Biden’s had been doing much better for the last 10 minutes, having avoided any questions, then he had what is called an “abreaction” on the Psych Ward, as he veered wildly from reeling to  schools to Venezuela to leaving record players on at night. Let’s check the tape, which will some day be cited as a case study of political psychosis in the DSM:

Linsey Davis: Mr. Vice President, I want to talk to you about inequality in schools and race. In a conversation about how to deal with segregation in schools back in 1975, you told a reporter, “I don’t feel responsible for the sins of my father and grandfather. I feel responsible for what the situation is today, for the sins of my own generation, and I’ll be damned if I feel responsible to pay for what happened 300 years ago.” You said that some 40 years ago, but as you stand here tonight, what responsibility do you think that Americans need to take to repair the legacy of slavery in our country?

Joe Biden: Well, they have to deal with the … Look, there is institutional segregation in this country. And from the time I got involved, I started dealing with that. Redlining, banks, making sure that we are in a position where—

Look, we talk about education. I propose that what we take is those very poor schools, the Title 1 schools, triple the amount of money we spend from $15 to $45 billion a year. Give every single teacher a raise to the equal of … A raise of getting out of the $60,000 level.

No. 2, make sure that we bring in to the help with the stud—the teachers deal with the problems that come from home. The problems that come from home, we need… We have one school psychologist for every 1,500 kids in America today. It’s crazy. The teachers are required—I’m married to a teacher. My deceased wife is a teacher. They have every problem coming to them.

Make sure that every single child does, in fact, have three, four, and five-year-olds go to school. School! Not day care, school. We bring social workers into homes of parents to help them deal with how to raise their children. It’s not that they don’t want to help. They don’t know what— They don’t know what quite what to do. Play the radio. Make sure the television—excuse me, make sure you have the record player on at night. The phone—make sure the kids hear words. A kid coming from a very poor school—er, a very poor background will hear 4 million words fewer spoken by the time they get there.

Davis: Thank you, Mr. Vice President.

Biden: No, I’m going to go like the rest of them do, twice over, OK? Because here’s the deal. The deal is that we’ve got this a little backwards. And by the way, in Venezuela, we should be allowing people to come here from Venezuela. I know Maduro. I’ve confronted Maduro. No. 2, you talk about the need to do something in Latin America. I’m the guy that came up with $740 million to see to it those three countries, in fact, change their system so people don’t have to chance to leave. You’re all acting like we just discovered this yesterday! Thank you very much.

+ I don’t know what any of that means, except that Joe’s a vinyl guy.

+ Biden’s incoherence is one of the few things he’s got going for him. The meaning of what he is trying to say is left entirely up to the audience, most of whom live their lives going from one wishfulfillment fantasy to the next. It’s what being a Democrat is all about.

+ All the Democrats seem firmly wedded to the Monroe Doctrine when it comes to Latin American policy.

+ Bernie could have cited the Cuban health care system as his model. Instead, he pointed to Canada and attacked Venezuela. His socialism begins with a “sub-script” s.

+ Whatever brain-eating disease Biden has seems to be contagious, gnawing inexorably through the gray matter of the other candidates…

+ Leave it to ABC to give the last words to the 2%ers.

+ The debate tonight was a safe-space zone for the CIA.

+ James Bovard: “Watching this presidential candidates debate was like looking at a police line-up of future molesters.”

+ Any Dickian “pre-crime” police force would have a much better conviction record, if they just stuck to arresting those who aspire for political office.

+ CNN: “Biden had his best debate.” Ok, I know I didn’t drop acid tonight. Did Wolf Blitzer spike the company water cooler?

+ Really, Baltz? Biden was incoherent on NATFA, lied about the Iraq war, couldn’t describe his health care plan, derided black families, stumbled over his immigration record & went completely loco at the end. Other than that…

+ The only debate Joe Biden ever won was against Sarah Palin and she knocked herself out in that one.

+ Beto O’Rouke gets a lot of ridicule, most of it deserved. But credit where credit is due. Beto should get a bonus point or two for being the only candidate, as far as I could determine in a cursory search, to ever talk about the virtues of “no-till” farming in a presidential debate.

+My scorecard on 10-point system:

Sanders 5 (demerits for his dreadful answer on Venezuela)
Warren 5
Beto 3 (bonus point for mentioning “no till” farming)
Yang 2.5
Booker 2
Castro 2 (bonus point for hitting Biden below the belt)
Mayor Pete 1.5
Harris 1
Klobochar 1
Biden 0

+ Joe Biden at a press gaggle in Houston, after the debate:

Q: Will you be releasing your medical records?

BIDEN: Yes, I don’t have—what health concerns, man? You want to wrestle? What’s the deal here, man?

Okay, Joe, but can you still eat corn on the cob with those loose dentures?

+ Whoever wins the nomination, the GOP seems determined to run against AOC. A conservative PAC ran an ad during the debate labeling AOC the “new face of socialism,” showing a photo of her in flames.

AOC continues to unnerve all the right people, even as she becomes more domesticated by the DNC….

+ Memo to Trump: any time you’ve done something which generates “bipartisan backlash” (like inviting the Taliban to Camp David for talks to end the war), you’ve probably stumbled upon doing something that’s worth doing again.

+ There have been far bloodier contingents than the Taliban who have bedded down at Camp David for a weekend…

+ Is Trump’s pulling the plug on a meeting with the Taliban an example of the “Cancel Culture” FoxNews derides nightly?

+ Is the real scandal that Trump considered a meeting with the Taliban or that Obama didn’t?

+ David Swanson: “The real problem with the Taliban at Camp David may be Mike Pence’s objections to their liberal way of life.”

+ The US now celebrates 3 holidays for the launching of wars: Columbus Day for the war on indigenous people, the Fourth of July for the war on British colonialist overlords and 9/11 for the war on whoever we feel like killing this week…

+ Trump’s 9/11 speech: “If for any reason they come back to our country, we will go wherever they are & use power the likes of which the US has never used before — & I’m not even talking about nuclear power. They will have never seen anything like what will happen to them.” (Is he talking about that Infinity Gauntlet device from the last Avengers movie?)

+ How long before John Bolton becomes Senior Foreign Policy Expert-Texpert to Biden campaign?

+ Right on cue, here’s Nancy shedding Walrus tears for Bolton. Goo goo g’joob…

+ Trump became so frustrated with Bolton’s neocon antics that he reportedly kept calling up HR McMaster to vent, telling him how much he missed their time together.

I’ve been holdin’ out so long
I’ve been sleepin’ all alone
Lord, I miss you
I’ve been hanging on the phone
I’ve been sleeping all alone
I want to kiss you sometime

+ Bolton may be gone (to a holding cell in The Hague, one hopes), but Elliott Abrams remains.

+ Say what? Trump: “In fact, my views on Venezuela, and especially Cuba, were far stronger than those of John Bolton. He was holding me back!” (Explains why he kept Abrams at his post.)

+ Who better than Gorka to replace Bolton as Trump’s National Security Advisor, last heard blaming the spike on military suicides on Obama’s “lack of moral clarity”?

+ President Trump: “The light bulb. People said what’s with the light bulb. I said here’s the story, and I looked at it. The bulb that we’re being forced to use. Number one, to me, most importantly, the light’s no good. I always look orange. And so do you. The light is the worst.”

+ How Baltimore greeted Trump when he rolled into town on Thursday morning…

+ By almost every standard Biden is a worse candidate than Hillary Clinton: he’s frailer, dumber & has a more tarnished record. His saving grace, as far as I can tell, is that Biden is so boring, so lacking in inspiration, that he can’t even inspire people to hate him as passionately as they did HRC.

+ Q. “So you think, looking back on it, still, that it [Iraq] was a just war, in your opinion?”

Biden: “Oh, I do think it was a just war.”

+ None of the 9/11 attackers or planners or financiers were members of the Taliban, “Professor” Tribe….

+ Tribe isn’t the only one confused about 9/11. So is Bernie Sanders. The people of Afghanistan had “nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks,” yet you voted for the AUMF that allowed the Bush (Obama & Trump) administration(s) to strike whoever they wanted using 9/11 as the excuse…

+ John Fugelsang: “Eighteen years ago today America was attacked by zero Afghans, zero Iranians and zero Iraqis.”

+ A 9/11 Moment with FoxNews’ Ainsley Earhardt: “Many people out there didn’t vote for President Bush but they were supportive of our country. No one was kneeling when the national anthem was played. How do we get back to that without another 9/11?” (If only we had another 9/11, perhaps the black players would stop kneeling!)

+ Q. Where were you on 9/11?

A. I was asleep on a late summer morning in northern Oregon until jolted upright by the phone. It was Alexander Cockburn, who’d been similarly awakened by his brother Andrew.. “Turn on the TV” he commanded. I struggled out of bed, found the remote, clicked on the Sony. “What do you see?” Alex asked. (He hadn’t paid his cable bill.) So, phone in hand, I described the scene as it unfolded over the next few hours and we started writing a column. I don’t think I’ve slept since.

+ Hard to choose who to root for in this cage match between the Adelsons and the Netanyahus:

“She’s [Sarah Netanhyau] completely crazy,” said Sheldon Adelson, publisher of the Israel Hayom daily. “She was compulsive about photos of herself and how she looked. She said ‘I’m the first lady, I’m a psychologist and I teach children about psychology.’ … She would tell my wife that if Iran attacked it would be her fault … because we didn’t publish good pictures of her,” said Adelson, a leading donor to Israeli and Jewish causes as well as to the Republican Party.

+ As you digest the implications of this disgusting statement by Benny Ziffer, the editor of Haaretz’s Culture and Literature supplement, keep in mind that Ha’aretz is Israel’s “liberal” paper.

“En route I looked at the Palestinian villages alongside the Jewish communities, and I thought of how for the Palestinians murder is a type of sport or enjoyment, perhaps a substitute for erotica. From that perspective we will never have anything culturally in common with them.”

+ Given the Crimea precedent, will the US sanction itself for abetting an Israeli annexation of the West Bank?

+ The Israelis seem to have planted listening devices near the White House, their version of a Nanny Cam to make sure Trump and Jared are following their instructions.

+ A direct question from the New York Times to the presidential candidates on press freedom receives mostly indirect answers: “Would your administration continue the Espionage Act part of the case against Assange?” Only Weld and Gabbard answered “no” without some equivocation or evasion.

+ When Biden tired to buy off Putin with oil plundered from the Iraq war:

“Biden said during the event that he, along with a Republican senator he chose not to name, asked for a meeting with Putin and proposed a deal where all proceeds from seized Iraqi oil would initially go to cash-strapped Russia. Biden viewed it as an offer Putin wouldn’t be able to refuse and was disappointed the Bush administration didn’t consider it.”

+ Biden on Iraq: “Yes, I did oppose the war before it began.” (Perhaps he will claim his memory is shot as result of PTSD from his landing on the beaches of Normandy.)

+ Bill Maher, who has a net worth of $100 million, just warned that he thinks Elizabeth Warren is potentially “scarier than Donald Trump.” It all comes down to the tax code for that class of people.

+ Here’s DNC hack (and Biden mercenary) Ed Rendell attacking Warren in the Washington Post, which certainly gives her some street cred and suggests that she’s getting under the skin of the Party’s moneybags….

+ You can see why this kind of treatment from CNN drives Sanders and his followers nuts…

+ Trump’s immigration judges are now using Abu Ghraib-like tactics to scare children in court. “Want me to go get the dog?” Judge V. Stuart Couch, a former Marine, once yelled at a 2-year old Guatemalan boy. “Do you want him to bite you?”

+ ICE’s barbaric treatment of immigrant detainees often involves throwing people into solitary confinement for no particular reason and regardless of the detainee’s physical condition. One pregnant women was temporarily removed her while experiencing severe cramps and then was later returned to solitary confinement, where she was kept naked, despite still bleeding from a miscarriage.

+ Trump on denying entry to hurricane survivors trying to leave the wreckage of the Bahamas: “We have to be very careful. Everyone needs totally proper documentation…I don’t want to allow people who weren’t supposed to be in the Bahamas to come into the United States, including some very bad people.”

+ Here’s another snapshot of the Great Economy Ever: Median household income was flat in 2018, holding steady at $63,179.

+ For the first time since 2014, the share of Americans with health insurance declined, a sign that ObamaCare is beginning crumble under its own weight. Will Biden still claim credit or blame his former boss?

+ Nearly one-in-thirteen American seniors are slowly starving to death from lack of food. Is there any part of the social contract this country is fulfilling?

+ In the last five years, at least 1,688 polling places across the southern states have been closed, many in majority black precincts. So much for that endlessly recycled homily that the US bombs peasants abroad to protect democracy at home…

+ Ralph Nader: “Trump’s standard for selecting heads of federal agencies that advance the safety, health and economic well-being of Americans by curbing corporate crime abuses is simple. Does the applicant have a record of working to dismantle the agency’s enforcement work? If so, they’re hired. The latest is Eugene Scalia to become Secretary of Labor. Scalia is anti-labor and anti-union. Will the Senate stop Trump here?”

+ George Soros offering praise for how Trump is man-handling Huawei must have caused heads to explode live in studio on Infowars…

+ The GOP is dropping primaries in at least four states in order to frustrate challengers to Trump. There’s no need to be so heavy-handed. They should have consulted with the DNC. There are ways to rig a primary without canceling it…

+ Quarries outside Medillin may contain the largest mass graves in Latin America with more than 900 corpses, many of the killed by paramilitaries financed by the rightwing government as part of the US-backed PLAN Colombia.

+ Fidel Castro: “Today you cannot talk about a United Nations system;… what actually exists is a domination system over nearly all countries in the world by a small group of powers under the aegis of the United States, determining all issues.”

+ Trump said today that his decision to come out so strongly against vaping was motivated by Melania’s concern for Barron–at least he appears to be talking about Barron. “That’s how the First Lady got involved. She’s got a son — together — that’s a beautiful young man, & she feels very very strongly about it.”

+ It’s literally raining plastic in Colorado…

+ Important new study on logging & climate change by my old friend John Talberth, which concludes that logging in the hardwood forests of North Carolina emits 44 million tons of carbon dioxide a year. That makes it the third largest source of CO2 in the state, just behind electricity generation and transportation, and far ahead of farming and other industries.

+ Bolsonaro’s war on the Amazon and its inhabitants draws blood. Maxciel Pereira dos Santos, who worked at FUNAI protecting the interests of indigenous tribes in the Amazon, was shot twice in the head in front of his family in an execution-style hit last week.

+ Japanese officials announced this week plans to dump more than 1 million tons of radioactive water from the Fukushima nuclear complex into the Pacific Ocean. Can’t they just pour it into George Monbiot’s swimming pool?

+ The US is gutting regulations that had successfully slowed the decline of Atlantic bluefin tuna. Why? Because whatever succeeds must be undone…

+ Screw the tribes, screw the San Juans, screw everything

+ Through the first six months of 2019, more than 7 million people have been displaced by extreme weather events. A million here, a million there…

+ It’s a distinct honor and rare privilege to be part of the one human generation out of the thousands that preceded us that gets to watch the Great Extinction unfold in real-time…

+ Today’s Trump Koan: “We are keeping even more promises, by far, than we made, or than we promised. So many more. So many more. Sooo many more.”

+ Tulsi Gabbard announced this week that she’s open to restrictions on abortion in the third trimester. No wonder FoxNews and the National Review adore her.

+ Nigel Farage left the chaos of London this week to attend a rally for one Germany’s far right parties, now on the resurgence. The soiree at the Spandau Citadel was hosted Beatrix von Storch, the granddaughter of Hitler’s finance minister Lutz von Krosigk.

+ No matter how far away Todd Palin moves, Sarah will still be able to keep an eye on him from her window…

+ I’ve been looking for years, but still haven’t found the “average American,” so frequently referred to by pollsters and political consultants. She’s a Springsteen fan, right?

+ Too bad Les Blank isn’t alive to film Filthy-Mouthed Wives, the logical sequel to his great film, Gap-Toothed Women. I guess it’s up to his co-directors Chris Simon & Maureen Gosling…

+ Like Trump, Jesus only hires the best people

Longtime Liberty officials close to Falwell told me the university president has shown or texted his male confidants—including at least one employee who worked for him at Liberty—photos of his wife in provocative and sexual poses. At Liberty, Falwell is “very, very vocal” about his “sex life,” in the words of one Liberty official—a characterization multiple current and former university officials and employees interviewed for this story support. In a car ride about a decade ago with a senior university official who has since left Liberty, “all he wanted to talk about was how he would nail his wife, how she couldn’t handle [his penis size], and stuff of that sort,” this former official recalled.

+ FoxNews host (and Trump confidant) Pete Hegseth declared that Christian kids should bring their Bibles to school so that they can debate “gay marriage.” Maybe the kids should also bring a bag of stones to school so that if they win the debate they can then enforce the prescribed Biblical punishment…

+ I don’t know who the greatest novelist of the 20th Century was, but in my own mind I’ve narrowed it down to either PG Wodehouse or Georges Simenon. Having just re-read Dirty Snow (La Neige ètait sale), surely the most perverse novel ever written about life under totalitarian occupation, I’m leaning toward Simenon…

+ I still think Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy is the greatest miniseries ever and it’s a shame that it’s not available to stream, except in a fuzzy version on YouTube. Alec Guinness will always be Smiley in my mind.

+ Composer and pianist Kenny Werner on detachment and creativity: “There’s a story about Art Tatum doing a solo piano record & Oscar Peterson came into the booth to watch and he asked the engineer ‘Why is Art wearing headphones?’ And the engineer said, ‘He’s listening to the World Series!’”

+ Speaking of Expert-Texperts, Eric Burden claims that he was “the Egg Man,” and that the lyrics in I am the Walrus refer to a specific sexual act his girlfriend used to perform on him in his Mayfair flat in Swinging London. Burden said it all started when he was cooking breakfast naked one morning and his Jamaican girlfriend “Sylvia slid up beside me and slipped an amyl nitrate capsule under my nose. As the fumes set my brain alight and I slid to the kitchen floor, she reached to the counter and grabbed an egg, which she cracked into the pit of my belly.” Burden says he told Lennon about this one night while they were tripping at a bar. When the waitress came to get their order, Lennon told Burden, “Go get your eggs, Eric.”

+ The amount of time America’s spent listening to music has declined sharply in the last two years, thus proving Biden’s point that for the health of the nation we simply must start “leaving our record players on at night.”

+ Sonny Rollins’ birthday message: “Greetings, everybody. ‘Sonny Rollins is alive and well and living in upstate NY!’ Not only living, but learning. For instance, in this world there is a big picture & a little picture. I’m all about the big picture, and therefore it’s all good all the time. See you later. –Sonny”

RIP Daniel Johnston…

Booked Up
What I’m reading this week…

Poisoner in Chief: Sidney Gottlieb and the CIA Search for Mind Control
Stephen Kinzer
(Henry Holt)

She Said: Breaking the Sexual Harassment Story That Helped Ignite a Movement
Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey
(Penguin Press)

Gun Island: a Novel
Amitav Ghosh
(Farrar, Straus and Giroux )

Sound Grammar
What I’m listening to this week…

Last Pair of Shoes
John Dee Holeman
(Music Maker Recordings)


Cancel the Sun
The Rails
(Psychonaut Sounds)

Images in the Stream
What I’m streaming this week…

Fox and His Friends
Director: Rainer Werner Fassbinder

Ivan’s Childhood
Director: Andrei Tarkovsky

Leaving Home, Coming Home: a Portrait of Robert Frank
Director: Gerald Fox

We’re All Being Watched

Robert Frank: “There are too many images, too many cameras now. We’re all being watched. It gets sillier and sillier. As if all action is meaningful. Nothing is really all that special. It’s just life. If all moments are recorded, then nothing is beautiful and maybe photography isn’t an art anymore. Maybe it never was.”



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