Roaming Charges: Rough Trade Transcript

Hellhound on Their Trail, Newport, Oregon. Photo: Jeffrey St. Clair.

+ I think we can all agree that refusing to send military aid to Ukraine would have been a wise decision by Trump. But trading the slaughter of civilians in eastern Ukraine for political dirt on HRC and the Bidens pretty much exposes his America First foreign policy as little more than diplomatic narcissism, which, of course, we’ve known all along but it’s useful to have it confirmed in his own “Rough Trade Transcript“….

+ Trump targeted an American citizen overseas for political gain. Obama targeted American citizens overseas for drone strikes. Both deserve impeachment. But only one left blood splatter for forensic analysis…so far.

+ The “transcript” notes that the conversation lasted for 30 minutes. It took me less than five to read the entire “transcript” twice–that’s a lot of dead air in those ellipses….

+ CNN talking-lawyer-head Jeffrey Toobin, rare for him, raises an interesting point: what do the ellipses in the transcript signify, especially the crucial one at the end regarding Biden? Do they represent a Trumpian brain freeze or has something damning been elided, as in the Nixon “transcripts.”

+ In his call with Zelenskyy, Trump roped Bill Barr and Rudy Giuliani into the conspiracy, while Rudy helpfully implicated Pompeo on Laura Ingraham’s “show.”

+ If it’s not Quid pro quo, it may be Quo pro quid…

Zelenskyy: “I would also like to thank you for your great support in the area of defense…” (That’s the military aid.)

Trump: “I would like you to do us a favor though…”

+ Trump’s political antics would be a lot more entertaining if they weren’t so petty & repetitive. For example, instead of badgering Zelenskyy about HRC’s involvement in the Ukrainian coup, he suggests that her email server might be gathering dust on a shelf in pawn shop in Kiev…

+ Greg Mitchell: “Not in ‘transcript’: Ukraine leader found horse’s head in bed that very morning.”

+ There were far too many complete sentences for this to have been an actual transcript of Trump speaking off the cuff…

+ Recall that when Nixon first released the transcripts of the White House tapes, they were full of deletions, omissions and even rewrites of what was actually on the tapes.

+ When William Safire (former Nixon speechwriter turned NYT columnist) dubbed Bill Barr, the “patsy prosecutor.

+ In April 2018 White House counsel Don McGahn wrote a memo to Trump warning him that if he asked law enforcement to investigate his rivals, he could face a range of consequences, including impeachment. Trump seems to have taken this memo as encouragement…

+ When House minority leader Kevin McCarthy said at his press briefing on Weds. that “No one has read this transcript,” he surprised many of his own colleagues who knew he had been at the White House earlier in the morning, for the purpose of reading the transcript before its public release.

+ Naked Capitalism: “Ukrainegate is both parties shooting themselves in the foot with the same bullet.” The magic bullet at last!

+ Too bad Lou isn’t alive to record the Ukraine version of this…

+ Kevin Kruse: “The break-in at the Democratic National Committee’s headquarters at the Watergate Hotel raises some troubling questions about just what it is that the Democrats are hiding there.”

+ If you really wanted to covertly dig up dirt on the Bidens (of which there are geological strata in plain sight), why would you assign the task to Rudy Giuliani and send him on a mission to Ukraine, unless you wanted to get caught and force the spectacle of impeachment, which you can count on the Democrats to completely screw up to your advantage?

+ Giuliani is Trump’s go-to guy for the limited, brain-modified hangout…

+ Trump, not going down alone: “I think you should ask for VP Pence’s conversations because he had a couple conversations.”

+ As Trump publicly outs everyone in his Ukrainian conspiracy–Giuliani, Barr, Mnuchin, Pompeo and Pence–it’s amusing to recall his condemnation of the Rat, Michael Cohen. Just wait, when finally cornered, Trump will squeal faster than any of his underlings.

+ Even though she doesn’t drink or curse, is there still a chance that Mother Pence might become the Trump administration’s Martha Mitchell? Apparently, not. Looks like Mother has finally swallowed the last drops of her moral revulsion about the Pussy-Grabber-in-Chief…..

+ Canceling Mike Pence’s visit to Ukraine and sending Rick Perry instead is supposed to be “punishment” for not “playing ball”? All things considered, Rick Perry (once he takes off those Sarah Palin smart glasses) seems like he’d be a lot more fun prowling the bars of Kiev…

+ What would a Pence presidency look like? The Handmaid’s Tale with even less sex…

+ Here’s Biden on the Replacement President, Mike Pence, “a decent guy.

+ I don’t know who the Whistleblower is, but after reading the complaint it’s clear that they’re a better writer than most of the journalists at the New York Times or the Washington Post. They were probably an Eng Lit Major at Yale, recruited to the CIA because there no jobs left in academia.

+ If the Whistleblower had written the second part of the Mueller Report people might have been able to understand, to quote Trump, “what the hell was going on.”

+ Oh, for a scandal that doesn’t involve SERVERS!

+ Trump has been caught in a locked room with a body on the floor and a smoking gun in his hand. He’s toast right? Nah…

+ Adam Schiff is no Sam Ervin. He’s not even Peter Rodino. (See Jimmy Breslin’s enthralling portrait of both in his account of the Watergate hearing, How the Good Guys Finally Won.)

+ There are only 3 Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee who should be permitted to ask questions. Most of them should never be allowed to speak in public.

+ Mark Ames: “The only sympathetic character in this impeachment story is the battered underdog, Zelenskyy’s Ukraine: after that hilariously groveling phone call, Ukraine winds up accidentally doing what no other country managed: regime-change in the world’s only super power.”

+ It’s Spy v. Spy inside the Trump White House….”The revelation that the White House knew that a C.I.A. officer was expressing concerns before he filed a whistle-blower complaint demonstrates a weakness in a law meant to protect him from reprisals and shows that he was at risk of retaliation long before Mr. Trump obliquely threatened him on Thursday.”

+ Trump: “You know what we used to do in the old days when we were smart with spies and treason, right? We used to handle it a little differently than we do now.” Barter them for oil rights and pipeline routes?

+ Will the executions of the White House “traitors” who talked to the Whistleblower be choreographed like an episode of the Apprentice? “Fire!”

+ The best way for Trump to retaliate against the CIA leakers is to release the torture files…

+ But if Trump consults the Clinton playbook for how to distract from impeachment, we’ll soon be seeing cruise missile strikes on Caracas, Tehran and, who knows, maybe Copenhagen (unless they turn over Greenland)…

+ The difference between the Trump and Obama administrations is that Obama would arrest the whistleblower and the people who outed the whistleblower…

+ After the whistleblower is outed, he/she can always move to Santa Fe (aka, Spook City New Mexico), sell your story to Hollywood, buy a sports car and run for Congress…

+ Trump should have learned from Roy Cohn that he could commit any crime he wanted as long as he did it in plain sight. It’s the clumsy acts of concealment which may doom him.

+ Yuri Lutsenko, the Ukrainian prosecutor that Joe Biden wanted fired for turning a blind eye to corruption, now says he didn’t see Hunter Biden engaging in any corrupt activities in Ukraine.

+  Giuliani: “It is impossible that the whistle-blower is a hero and I’m not. And I will be the hero! These morons—when this is over, I will be the hero.”

How you get a rude and a reckless?
Don’t you be so crude and feckless
You been drinking brew for breakfast
Rudie can’t fail

+ Note that despite this week’s spectacle, Pelosi is not holding a House vote to establish Impeachment proceedings. She is not establishing a Select Committee on Impeachment. She said that the committees will continue to “investigate” as they have been. But she has quelled the internal unrest and given the Democrats a whole new theme for their fundraising.

+ We’ve been told that an impeachment inquiry will add legal weight to House subpoenas and challenges to assertions of executive privilege, which might be reason enough to do so, even if you don’t plan on impeaching. However, the House has actually to pass a resolution. Pelosi can’t just say in a press conference that’s what they’re doing and expect a federal judge to believe it.

+ The media keeps tossing around the term “formal impeachment inquiry,” even though there’s no bill authorizing one. So does a “formal” impeachment inquiry simply mean the Members of Congress are required to show up in black tie & long gowns for the hearings of those 6 committees?

+ Alan Hirsch’s short but very well-argued book on Impeachment (thanks to Ralph Nader for the recommendation) is well worth reading, if only to remind us that US politics has always been nasty & vicious, and that Joe Biden’s and that Joe Biden’s bipartisan fairy tale exists only for the rich (and defense contractors). The chapter on Johnson’s impeachment was especially informative. The main charge was that Johnson had illegally fired the Secretary of War, but the floor speeches included allegations that he was a drunk, a liar, illiterate and had been complicit in the assassination of Lincoln.

+ One of the anecdotes in the Hirsch book on impeachment that struck me is the fact that Tom Eagleton was one of the few Democrats to oppose an impeachment inquiry into Nixon, which leads me to believe Eagleton suspected the leak about his electroshocks came from the Dems not Nixon.

Of course, McGovern supporters had every reason to want Eagleton off the ticket. He was apparently the anonymous source of Robert Novak’s infamous quote from an unnamed Democratic senator that McGovern was the AAA Candidate — “Amnesia, Amnesty and Acid.”

+ If the Schumer-Pelosi Congress won’t defend its own constitutional rights, why would you think they’d defend any of ours?

+ You don’t need to assert the constitutionally dubious Unitary Theory of the Executive, if Congress willingly relinquishes much of its allocated power (war & appropriations) & refuses to enforce what little power it retains (oversight & impeachment). The neutering of congressional power will be Pelosi’s lasting legacy.

+ Gabbard says “divisive” like it’s a bad word…

+ They must be using a lot of those new light bulbs at the UN today because Trump looks orangier than ever.

+ If I replay the Trump UN speech at 45 RPM will it make more sense?

+ Trump: “Beware the growing cottage industry of radical activists!”

+ Trump could speak half as many words as Castro in twice the amount of time.

+ Trump: “We believe that every child, born and unborn, is a gift from God…even the ones we put in cages.”

+ Trump sure hit a home run with that UN speech, but 37 minutes later he still hasn’t touched home plate!

+ The best thing I’ve ever heard about Wilbur Ross

+ Dr. No at the UN: the US has voted “No” the most times, followed by Israel and the UK…

+ REPORTER: Are you concerned about the human rights situation in Kashmir?

TRUMP: About which?

Reporter: The human rights situation.

TRUMP: Sure. I want to see it work out. I want it to be humane.

+ While at the UN, Trump repeatedly referred to CNN’s Chris Cuomo as “Fred0,” which is truly a slander against the memory of Michael and Sonny’s bro…

+ Trump’s motto: “I’m smart. Not…dumb….like everybody says.” (Thanks Jim Tourtelott!)

+ President Trump at the UN: “I think I’m going to get a Nobel Prize for a lot of things, if they gave it out fairly, which they don’t.” Trump hasn’t killed enough civilians to qualify for a Nobel Peace Prize yet. But give him a few more years and he’ll catch up with the likes of Kissinger, Carter, Begin, de Klerk, Peres, Rabin, Gorbachev, Gore, and Obama.

+ Here’s a transcript of Greta’s speech at the UN, which may be the hottest piece of righteous invective since Hugo Chavez used that platform to excoriate Bush…

+ Whatever you think of Greta, you have to love the look on her face here, like Carrie just before she goes nuclear…

+ Here’s Trump-pardoned felon Dinesh D’Souza sliming a 16-year old girl as Nazi…

+ The moment Trump got immunity for his corruption in office was 10 years ago when Obama refused to prosecute any of the Bush/Cheney gang for their post 9/11 crimes.

+ As Obama’s former environmental team sprouts up on MSDNC this to pontificate about our dire situation, remember that Flint, Michigan was poisoned on their watch, as the notoriously passive EPA director Gina McCarthy falsely insisted there was nothing she could do about it…

+ In other news, the Senate just voted 54-41 to terminate President Trump’s declaration of a national emergency for the border, in an attempt to block the diversion of funds for the wall…

+ As noxious as they are, Trump’s transcripts, tapes and Tweets just don’t rise to the level of unrestrained villainy that can be found on almost any hour of the Nixon tapes. Consider this recording of Kissinger and Nixon from March 1, 1973, after Nixon met with Golda Meir about the fate of Soviet Jewry.

“The emigration of Jews from the Soviet Union is not an objective of American foreign policy. And if they put Jews into gas chambers in the Soviet Union, it is not an American concern. Maybe a humanitarian concern.”

+ The “maybe” is the clincher, eh Henry?  (Thanks to Mark Ames for resurrecting this Kissinger Klassic.)

+ Did the White House serve Kissinger’s carafes of blood cold or chilled?

+ According to the State Department, Trump’s travel ban has barred entry into the US to more than 31,000 people. So much for all of Trump’s prattle at the UN about “religious freedom”…

+ The US joined 19 other countries, including Saudi Arabia and Russia, to declare that there’s “no international right to an abortion.” Finally, a global coalition that Trump can get behind!

+ The Pentagon announced on Thursday that it will send a Patriot battery, four Sentinel radars, and 200 troops to Saudi Arabia in response to recent oil facility attacks. What could go wrong?

+ Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman tells PBS: “Khashoggi murder happened under my watch.” That must’ve been some watch!

+ As Sam Husseini was the first to report (and I expanded on in my column on Friday), Trump’s new Nat Sec Advisor, Robert O’Brien, attended the all-white Free State of Orange University on a Rotary Foundation Fellowship in 1987, breeching the academic boycott of Apartheid South Africa. The Guardian follows up this week with this piece

+ Cindy McCain bemoaned to the Jake Tapper that the GOP is “no longer the party my husband and I belonged to.” Why? Because Trump hasn’t bombed Iran yet?

+ Pompeo Maximus’ performance on this morning’s talk shows should shatter any notion the GOP is simply cowed by Trump and will revert to normal sub-evil mode when he’s gone–the Biden illusion. But they are Trump. He is their fantasy leader materialized. He has freed their inner viciousness. They can wear their jackboots in public now, say openly any racist, despotic thing they’ve always thought but long suppressed. It’s not the Republicans who have “enabled” Trump, but his so-called opposition, which keeps hoping for the magical return of the old “bipartisan consensus.”

+ Pompeo Maximus: “Attacking other nations and disrupting the global economy has a price.” Indeed. I believe the price of the US’s wars in the Middle East since 9/11 has now surpassed $6 TRILLION.

+ Trump’s found his poodle…”Boris Johnson said the U.K. would consider taking part in a U.S.-led military effort to bolster the Gulf kingdom’s defenses.”

+ Trump: “These animals in the press. They’re animals actually. Some of the worst human beings you’ll ever meet. . . They’re scum, many of them are scum.” I confess: I’m a javelina. But what about you, Josh?

+ Here’s Nate Silver’s 538 doing its part to help the war parties sell a war against Iran…

+ Someone asked me this morning, “What has Iran done to deserve this treatment?” Like Cuba, Iran will never be forgiven for having a revolution that evicted US-sponsored despots. Never.

+ The only withdrawal Trump’s made to date in Afghanistan…”Trump administration is cutting $100 in aid to Afghanistan.

+ Has phony Tulsimania beaten the dust, yet?

+ Biden once plagiarized from a limp speech by a second-rate British Labour politician. Now he’s stealing his lines from Grover Norquist: “She’s [Warren] going to raise people’s taxes!

+ There should be a Biden Alert, a corollary to the Amber Alert, warning young women that a creepy old man is in their vicinity, who might grab their hands tightly for an unseemly length of time, sniff their hair obsessively and insult them when they question his devotion to the fossil fuel industry…

+ Trump: “If a Republican ever did what Joe Biden did, if a Republican ever said what Joe Biden said, they’d be getting the electric chair right now.” Is that a promise?

+ At some point, Sanders and Warren are going to have to pull Biden apart live on the debate stage for his shameful service on behalf the banks. It will be amusing to see him try to use Obama as a human shield while his sinews are snapping…

“One of the major drivers of the debt crisis was the 2005 bankruptcy legislation that Bernie fought — and that Joe Biden helped Republicans ram through Congress. A 2018 study found that the legislation made it far harder for patients to discharge medical debt through bankruptcy after a hospital stay, especially for uninsured patients. Biden split with then-Senator Obama to become just one of only three Democrats to vote against an amendment that would have exempted those with serious medical debt from the harshest parts of the bill”

+ Warren edges Biden in new Monmouth NEW HAMPSHIRE poll. (Gabbard fans will be ecstatic that her 2% in this poll gets her into the next debate.)

– Warren 27%
– Biden 25%
– Sanders 12%
– Buttigieg 10%
– Harris 3%
– Booker 2%
– Gabbard 2%
– Klobuchar 2%
– Steyer 2%
– Yang 2%

Everyone else 1% or below.

+ A New Quinnipiac poll released this week shows Warren gaining ground with black voters. In 2016, HRC was winning black voters across the south by 75 to 85 percent…

Biden 53%
Warren 4%

Biden 47%
Warren 8%

Biden 40%
Warren 19%

+ Something to chew on… In 2016, Hillary Clinton beat Trump in California, Oregon and Washington by 5.1 million votes. Trump beat Clinton in the rest of the country by 2 million votes.

+ Do we need to consult a sabermatrician to determine whether Trump or Biden makes more errors reading while reading from a prepared text?

+ It’s hard to tell whether Trump mimics the antics of the worst of the US police or vice versa: “Orlando police arrested a six-year-old Black girl for ‘throwing a tantrum’ in her first-grade class. The cops handcuffed her, put her in the back of a police car and took her to a juvenile detention facility where they fingerprinted her and took a mugshot.”

+ According to data from the US census, inequality has grown to its highest level in 50 years. Meanwhile, the median household income has remained static for the last 20 years.

+ Trump and DeVos want to end school lunches for 500,000 poor kids. If you can’t cage ’em, starve ’em…

+ Probably the distressing news of the day for the grinding reality of most people’s lives and will hardly be reported: US Senate has confirmed Eugene Scalia as Trump’s new Secretary of Labor with a 53-44 vote.

+ When I went to school in DC in the 70s, it was a black city with rich white enclaves in NW. For a kid raised in the white suburbs of Indy, it was one of the best things about living in DC. The racial cleansing of Washington is infuriating. It’s probably an illusion, of course, but I’ve always thought that having the capital in a poor, black city, which could at any moment, with just the right spark of circumstances, rise up against their rulers, acted as a kind of restraint on the worst impulses of the government.

+ I see Bill Clinton’s work to make Harlem Great for Wall Street has almost reached its culmination…(For those who don’t remember, Clinton established his office to Harlem after leaving the White House.)

+ Snicker if you like, but Arizona Republican Daniel McCarthy’s desire to “annex Mexico” is perfectly in keeping with the American tradition. The history of the US has been one “annexation” of someone else’s land after another.

+ At $28 billion so far, Trump’s farm rescue is more than twice as expensive as the 2009 bailout of Detroit’s Big Three automakers, which cost taxpayers $12 billion…

+ Everything that was once attractive about rail travel, Amtrak is destroying. Now they’ve eliminated the dining car, which they replaced with pre-made meals in a bag.

+ 12 states already have some form of tuition-free college. It’s not only possible, it’s being done in some very “red” states (AR, KY, TN, IN)…

New York
New Jersey
Rhode Island
New Mexico

+ As a someone who grew up in the rural Midwest, I remain baffled by the use of “crickets” as a metaphor for “silence.” In my experience, it was the crickets drowning out the barred owls, the coyotes and the screams of a woman down the block being beaten by her drunken husband after his team lost again on Monday Night Football…

+ My favorite sign from the climate strike in Portland: “Leonardo DiCaprio’s girlfriends need a future!”

+ According to a wide-ranging report from the United Nations, climate change is warming the oceans and changing their chemistry so profoundly that it is threatening seafood supplies, fueling hurricane, super-storms and coastal flooding that puts hundreds of millions of people at risk.

+ Western Antarctica’s crumbling ice shelf will reshape coastlines across the globe: “Today, all the ice sheet models lose ice at a significant rate. The continent’s ice sheet has shed about 150 billion tonnes of mass every year since 2005, virtually all of it in West Antarctica. Ice loss in both Greenland and Antarctica is accelerating.”

+ A paper in Nature reports that Earth’s vegetation may not be able to continue to absorb human carbon dioxide emissions at current rates, which could accelerate climate change and exacerbate its effects.

+ Will Mike Pence start calling Hurricane Karen, the “Mother” of all storms?

+ “Honey, first we lost the beach house and now it’s the chalet!

+ Washington State wants gun down more wolves to protect cows and sheep. Since 2012, the state’s Department of Fish and Wildlife has killed an estimated thirty endangered wolves and pups, has obliterated entire wolf families  and has caused countless packs to fragment as a result of targeting individual wolves.

+ Josh Frank and I covered the FBI’s targeting of environmental activists thoroughly in our recent book The Big Heat, but here’s another reminder of why giving the FBI more powers to investigate domestic “terrorism” is a bad idea…

+ More than 91,000 dams across the US have earned a “D” for human safety. All of them earned an “F” for fish safety.

+ Big win for enviros striving to keep an open pit copper mine from intruding on the Boundary Waters

+ I know the AP stylesheet redefined the guidelines for hyphen usage, but I don’t think this is what they had in mind. Anyway, here’s your TrumpKoan for the Week. Start meditating…

+ When I saw “Apostrophe” trending this morning, I was a little thrilled, thinking that they had released the complete Zappa sessions. But, no, just another lesson in Trump grammar…

+ Does anyone remember Philip Roth’s madcap Nixon novel Our Gang, which was both tedious & very funny. If recall, Trick E. Dixon prompts a riot of Boy Scouts in DC after he denies he that supports sexual intercourse. He blames unrest on the great Curt Flood, acting as an agent of Denmark, resulting in the bombing of Copenhagen. It sounds less far-fetched every day…

+ Driving home from Newport on Sunday in the face of ferocious rains, it struck me the little logging & mill towns of the stripped bare, slip-sliding Coast Range (Toledo, Chitwood, Eddyville, Nortons Corner, Summit, Siletz, Burnt Woods, Elk City, Logsden, and Blodgett), depicted so vividly in Kesey’s Sometimes a Great Notion, may be the last places in the PNW to resist gentrification–though even Toledo, a Georgia-Pacific company town on the Yaquina River, now has a yoga parlor, food carts and a Kombucha store. I briefly felt the urge to write a piece in High Country News titled: Clearcuts Not Condos, then came to what’s left of my senses! Anyway, there’s nothing quite like the mid-day almost eclipse-like darkness of the coast range during an early autumn storm.

+ Ken Kesey: “Wallace Stegner once accused me at Stanford of being an ‘anti-intellectual.’ What he didn’t realize was that I was an illiterate.”

+ Every septuagenarian candidate needs a septuagenarian rocker…Springsteen has been the soundtrack to American political campaigns since Reagan came on stage to Born in the USA and our politics keeps getting worse. Give it up, Bruce, for the sake of the nation.

+ The most Kenny G thing ever: he’s releasing an album in the spring called New Standards…all the compositions are his own.

+ They’re going fast now. Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter died this week at 78. My favorite Hunter songs…

China Cat Sunflower
Box of Rain
Friend of the Devil
Sugar Magnolia

I Set Out Running, But I take My Time…

Booked Up
What I’m reading this week…

In the Ruins of Neoliberalism: the Rise of Anti-Democratic Politics in the West
Wendy Brown
(Columbia University Press)

The Code: Silicon Valley and the Remaking of America
Margaret O’Mara

Mississippi Reckoning
Mitchell Zimmerman
(Mitchell Zimmerman Books)

Sound Grammar
What I’m listening to this week…

Brittany Howard

Je Suis Africain
Rachid Taha

Talking Dogs and Atom Bombs
Darrin Bradbury

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

Directors: Lisa Cholodenko / Michael Dinner / Susannah Grant

16 Shots: the Police Killing of Laquan McDonald
Director: Richard Rowley

A Savagely Intolerant History

Wendy Brown: “Only recently has tolerance become an emblem of Western civilization, an emblem that identifies the West exclusively with modernity, and with liberal democracy in particular, while also disavowing the West’s savagely intolerant history, which includes the Crusades, the Inquisition, witch burnings, centuries of anti-Semitism, slavery, lynching, genocidal and other violent practices of imperialism and colonialism, Naziism, and brutal responses to decolonization.”

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