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Roaming Charges: Texts, Lies and Transcripts in the Time of Moloch

Migrating salmon, Bonneville. 

Time to Pony Up!

Yes, as I hope you’ve noticed, we are nearing the end of the first week of our annual fundraiser. We’re doing okay, thanks to opening salvos of donations from loyal CounterPunchers, but as yet not nearly well enough.

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***

+ Some political scandals are too complex to understand, others, like the Ukraine plot, are too stupid to believe.

+ Rudy Giuliani, the president’s lawyer, does a John Dean on national TV, confessing to mucking around in Ukraine for dirt on the Bidens and to passing off  a manilla envelope stamped “White House” stuffed InfoWars-like conspiracy theories in folders marked “Trump Hotel.”   Will the calligrapher be called to testify and become this scandal’s Fawn Hall? The president not only cops to the crime on the White House lawn, but brags about doing it again. The Veep’s staff says he knows nothing, then hours later Pence proves he was in on it all. The ambassadors and the envoys exchange text messages showing that there was not only quid pro quo, but quo pro quid. Still they’re all grinning like John Gotti in a new suit, knowing they’re going to get away with it all.

+ Is it really possible that Mike Pence, the most intellectually vaporous VP since his homeboy Dan Quayle, did not know Trump wanted dirt on Biden, even though Rudy had already gone public months about what he was doing. Yes. In his defense, maybe Mother didn’t read Mike the papers or his daily briefing book that day?

+ The Left used to worry about a President Pence. But with Pence ensnared in Trump’s Ukraine Plot, we now cower under the even more chilling specter of a President Pelosi…

+ The whistleblower’s statement was too well written to have been drafted by Adam Schiff, as Trump alleged. But when Trump accuses someone else of doing something illicit, you can be sure it’s something he’s done (or ordered done) himself. So this came as no surprise: two of Trump’s top envoys wrote a statement for the president of Ukraine in August vowing to investigate Biden.

+ Trump is fortunate in his enemies. Adam Schiff is one of the few politicians in DC whose hubris rivals Trump’s own. Schiff will find a way to make the impeachment inquiry about himself and his own Inspector Javert-like rectitude–which may engender sympathy for a man (Trump) who deserves none. Schiff, who appears to have lied about his staff’s contacts with the whistleblower, should step down and hand the Inquisition over Val Demings, which would trigger every lurking racial prejudice and sexual insecurity in Trump’s bloated body. He won’t.

+ Who needs a whistleblower, when there’s a Trump press gaggle every day?

+ Trump called on China to investigate Hunter Biden’s activities in securing Chinese money for a venture called Bohai Harvest RST Equity Investment Fund Management Co. Go for it. But while they’re at it, Chinese prosecutors might also want to dig into how Ivanka Trump won approval from the Chinese government for 16 new trademarks (including for voting machines) in the midst of her father’s trade war with China.

+ How can they tell what’s corruption and what’s just capitalism? Well, maybe the Chinese can figure it out.

+ Right out of Yale Law, Hunter went to work for MBNA, the big Delaware bank his father had long been a senatorial servant of. In fact, Papa Joe was known as “the Senator from MBNA.” MBNA’s most fervent hope was a reform of bankruptcy laws that allowed it to squeeze every last drop of blood from its credit card holders. Biden pushed the bill through the senate in 2005, with son Hunter serving as a lobbyist communicated every demand from the bank. This seems a much more pungent scandal than H Biden’s profiteering in Ukraine. Will Warren and/or Sanders pursue?

+ In her divorce filing, Kathleen Biden said the marriage had become untenable because Hunter had been “spending extravagantly on his own interests including drugs, alcohol, prostitutes, strip clubs, and gifts for women with whom he has sexual relations.” No wonder, he needed that $50,000 a month from Burisma Holdings.

+ Hunter Biden getting $50,000 a month for sitting on the board of a troubled company sounds like a lot of money and it is. But it’s also not all that unusual in this age of predatory capitalism.

+ Donald Trump Jr. and his girlfriend, Kimberly Guilfoyle, are getting the Hunter Biden Rate  to give a speech at the University of Florida. The $50,000 they are getting paid  out of student fees  to pontificate about something they know little about is more than the starting salary for an instructor in the humanities.

+ Axis of Crime: Trump facing impeachment. Bibi facing indictment. Boris under police investigation

+ Kevin Kruse: “Who’s going to be the first Republican to demand an inquiry into the identity of the cameramen who recorded Trump this morning?”

+ For his next press conference, Trump should interview himself, the way Norman Mailer used to do…

+ According to the Washington Post, “Trump told two senior Russian officials in a 2017 Oval Office meeting that he was unconcerned about Moscow’s interference in the U.S. election because the United States did the same in other countries…” So, was he wrong?

+ Rick Perry, still dumb, but maybe, just maybe, not as dumb as he looks?

+ I know that Trump thinks gun violence is really a mental health issue (unless the shootings are committed by Hispanic migrants or blacks, in which case it’s caused by a violence gene). Under his plan, would Rudy Giuliani be issued a concealed carry permit?

+ Trump’s strategy of systemic corruption is that of a mob boss: getting everyone around you dirtied up in your conspiracy, even your lawyer. The question is: how many crimes do you have to commit to become a “made man” in the Trump administration?

+ John Dunham, the prosecutor Barr and Trump tapped to lead their investigation into the “Deep State,” is the same prosecutor that gave the CIA’s Gina Haspel and Jose Rodriguez of the National Clandestine Service, a clean bill of health for their destruction of the torture tapes.

+ Daniel Ellsberg was on CNN this disclosing a story I hadn’t heard before about how Nixon had recruited former Big of Pigs operatives to track him down and “totally incapacitate” him. Ellsberg also said that when he heard Trump talk about how “we” used to treat spies and traitors, he thought Trump must’ve been referring to George III, when treason against the monarch was punished by having the accused drawn and quartered.

+ On the day Bernie Sanders undergoes heart surgery, this from Stephen Schwartzman, billionaire chairman of the Blackstone Group: “Maybe Bernie Sanders shouldn’t exist.”

Over to you, Alfred…

+ According to the new book Border Wars: Inside Trump’s Assault on Immigration by New York Times reporters Michael Shear and Julie Hirschfeld Davis:

“Privately, the president had often talked about fortifying a border wall with a water-filled trench, stocked with snakes or alligators, prompting aides to seek a cost estimate. He wanted the wall electrified, with spikes on top that could pierce human flesh. After publicly suggesting that soldiers shoot migrants if they threw rocks, the president backed off when his staff told him that was illegal. But later in a meeting, aides recalled, he suggested that they shoot migrants in the legs to slow them down. That’s not allowed either, they told him…”

+ Will Ivanka help daddy, from whom she got her “moral compass,” feed migrant children to alligators? Or does she prefer impaling them on the spikes atop daddy’s wall?

+ The Moot Court finds you guilty, Mr. Trump. Now prepare for sentencing….

+ Not content with alligators, snakes, spikes, moats and shooting migrants in the legs, Trump also suggested arming border agents with bayonets. What kind of graphic horror novels have Stephen Miller been leaving on Trump’s pillow for his afternoon nap?

+ Speaking of Trump’s obsession with bayonets, here’s a passage from David Grossman’s “On Killing“:

“The concept of sex as a process of domination or defeat is closely related to the lust for rape and the trauma associated with the rape victim. Thrusting the sexual appendage deep into the body of the victim can be perversely linked to thrusting a knife or bayonet into the body of a victim.”

If you can’t grab ’em, stab ’em in the pussy.

+ The only reading Trump is likely to do this year is from Bill Clinton’s impeachment playbook. Deep down Trump admires Bubba. Bill put the “sin” in cynical.

+ During his impeachment, Clinton bombed Iraq. During his, Trump will find new ways to torture migrants, announcing Friday a “Proclamation on the Suspension of Entry of Immigrants Who Will Financially Burden the United States Healthcare System.” The order will deny entry to immigrations who “lack health care coverage.” This from the ogre who has been bragging about killing the “individual mandate” and replacing it with … nothing but misery and debt.

+ According to CounterPuncher Eve Ottenberg, Trump’s new immigration policy: “Shoot ’em in the legs and make Mexico pay for their medical bills.”

+ The difference between ICE and AOC is that ICE cages babies before eating them and AOC prefers all of her babies to be free range.

Eat your children well
So this Earth’s climate Hell will slowly pass by
Feed them gluten free
So the one’s you pick will digest well
But don’t ever tell them why, if you do, they will cry
So try not to lick your lips, at the prospect they will die
Just know they’ll taste swell…

+ Maxine Water says she wants Trump locked up and place “in solitary confinement.” Solitary? No, Maxine, that would leave Trump alone with his favorite person. He really needs to mingle with the general population…

+ According to the Israeli website, Globes, in 2018, almost 19,000 visitors to Israel were turned away at the country’s various entry points, compared to only 1,870 in 2011.

+ This explains a lot: The senior Twitter executive charged with editorial responsibility for the Middle East is also a part-time officer in the British army’s psychological warfare unit.

+ When the Census Bureau began studying income inequality in 1967, the Gini index was 0.397. In 2018, it climbed to 0.485. By comparison, no European nation had a score greater than 0.38 last year.

+ Patrick Hruby: “I don’t see a change. The GOP of my lifetime has always been a machine that transforms cultural and racial grievances into tax cuts for rich people.”

+ Perhaps no one personifies the sado-masochistic relationship between Trump and his inner circle more starkly than the poor Jeff Sessions, who served as Trump’s human punching bag for nearly two years. Still, Sessions felt compelled to come forward this week to announce he “still supports” Trump. The more viciously Trump abuses them, the more desperately they crave his approval…

+ Last week, Trump huddled at the UN General Assembly with Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández, who Trump feted for bowing to his demands to detain Hondurans fleeing their blood-soaked country. This week prosecutor’s in Trump’s own Justice Department describe Orlando Hernández as a stooge of the Sinaloa cocaine cartel, “man who himself has received millions of dollars in drug money bribes,” including $1 million from El Chapo.  Was that cocaine coup worth it, Hillary?

+ The UN General Assembly looks more and more like a gathering of mob families…

+ Dave Brown: “If you like subpoena coladas / and getting caught in Ukraine.”

+ Touché to the Ukrainian press for dubbing their groveling president “Monica Zelensky.”

+ Pastor Robert Jeffress, last seen when he was Tweet-quoted by Trump predicted a “civil war” if the president is impeached, recently described the Democrats as worshiping the Canaanite god, Moloch, who demanded “child sacrifice.” Is he referring to Obama’s drone program?

+ After the dust settles from the new “Civil War,” will small towns in the Trump states start erecting statues of Stephen Miller, Rudy Giuliani and Lindsey Graham?

+ How long before John Bolton starts appearing in DNC attack ads against Trump…?

+ The Incredible, Shrinking Joe Biden…Warren stretches out to a four point lead in the latest Economist/YouGov poll.

+ Did Joe Biden’s hair-sniffing serve as “gateway” behavior for Hunter’s coke snorting?

+ One of the most hilarious aspects of the Clinton impeachment trial was William Rehnquist designing a special robe to wear with gold stripes on the sleeves, a design he got from a Gilbert & Sullivan opera. What will Roberts wear, something frilly from Cosi Fan Tutte, I hope!

+ Battered by Trump’s trade war, the small farmers of the Midwest are on the brink. Yet, they’re feeling no love from Ag Secretary, Sonny Perdue, who said there’s no guarantee they’ll survive. “In America, the big get bigger and the small go out,” Perdue told reporters after appearing at the World Dairy Expo in Madison, Wisconsin. “I don’t think in America we, for any small business, we have a guaranteed income or guaranteed profitability.” But you’re still going to ask them to appear in Trump campaign ads, right, Sonny?

+ One of the big existential questions of the Trump era is when to start reading the news in the morning. My rule of thumb is: wait an hour and it will all be different yet somehow still the same.

+ You’re only a legal whistleblower if you play by the rules of the corrupt agency you’re blowing the whistle on…

+ Ismael Lopez was shot and killed in his own mobile home by Mississippi police in a case of “mistaken identity.” The city’s lawyer claims in a brief that because he was not a US citizen he enjoyed no protections under the “Fourth or 14th Amendments”….

+ What prison “reform” looks like in Alabama, more overcrowding not less: “Prison “ain’t supposed to be like a stay at the Renaissance Hotel. If it’s crowded and chaotic in them cells, find a damn corner and cower, you con! ’Cause you can’t blame anyone but your own criminal self—you can’t.”

+ An Alabama jailer’s response when told an inmate was in severe medical distress: “See if she has insurance.” The woman died a day later.

+ Alabama, does your conscience bother you? Tell the truth…

+ People keep inquiring: what’s your deal with Tulsi Gabbard? Do you have TulsiPhobia? Here’s my deal, or part of it. CJ Werleman at Bylinetimes has obtained 8,000 pages of transcripts from lectures given by Chris Butler, a leader of Hindu sect called the Science of Identity, which Gabbard and her family have long been tied to. Gabbard once proclaimed her “gratitude” to Butler “for the gift of this wonderful spiritual practice that he has given to me.” The transcripts reveal Butler to have engaged in homophobic and Islamophobia rants. Here’s a sample of Butler at full-throttle:

“They [Muslims] are demons. They’re demons that go ‘Allalalalah’. It’s bullshit. But everyone is afraid of them, and Christians are so f*cking passive. So-called Christians are just watching the faggots take over. Watching the Muslims cut their throats. They’re just cowards because they’re afraid to tell the truth in case of what happens.”

+ 85,000: the number of children under 5 who have died in Yemen of malnutrition and disease since the war began in 2015–green lighted by Obama, expanded by Trump.

+ “And then Bernie sided with William Clinton on the bombing of Yugoslavia, 78 straight days and nights, with depleted uranium, which has left Serbia today with the highest cancer rate in all of Europe…”

+ Only 13% of Americans would support the US going to war over attacks on Saudi oil fields. At least some evidence of sanity remaining in the Republic…?

+ A UN Report released on September 11 charges that US-led forces committed war crimes in its bombing raids in Syria last winter. The UN investigation found that the final stages of operation Al-Jazeera Storm “were characterized by hundreds of coalition air strikes, heavy artillery bombardment by SDF, coalition forces and Iraqi forces through cross-border operations,” that led to widespread civilian casualties.

+ A new report by the Costs of War project states that at least 5,442 people have been killed and 14,693 people injured by devices embedded in or left on the ground in Afghanistan since the start of the US-led war in 2001.

+ Did you let him plot a drone strike, Mike?

+ The Institute for Supply Management’s U.S. manufacturing purchasing managers’ index came in at 47.8% in September, the lowest since June 2009. This marks the second consecutive month of contraction. The new export orders index tanked to only 41%, the lowest level since March 2009.

+ Let’s check the scoreboard in the Trade War: Whoops, looks like the is US down another $54.9 billion in August.

+ I’m all for paying workers as much as possible, even baseball players, whose union is one of the strongest around. Still if you like rooting for the underdog, you might consider that the combined team salaries of the As and the Rays is less than that of the Houston Astros alone.

+ Marijuana arrests rose again last year, despite more states enacting some form of legalization. There was one cannabis arrest in the U.S. every 48 seconds, or a total of 663,367 in 2018.

+ The Army official who oversaw White House communications at Mar-a-Lago was convicted of lying to investigators in a child pornography case involving a Russian website.

+ On Thursday Trump’s schedule included this event: “THE PRESIDENT delivers remarks and signs an Executive Order Protecting Medicare from Socialist Destruction in The Villages, FL.” The president’s executive order amounts to a backdoor attempt to privatize Medicare (one of the government’s most popular programs,” which Nancy Altman, of Social Security Works, describes this way: “This is a ploy to push seniors into Medicare Advantage plans instead of traditional Medicare. Medicare Advantage is stealth privatization intended to undermine traditional Medicare, which is an effective, popular government program and therefore loathed by Republican ideologues.”

+ Zuckerberg targets Elizabeth Warren, who has threatened to breakup his Facebook conglomerate, as an “existential threat”:

“You have someone like Elizabeth Warren who thinks that the right answer is to break up the companies … if she gets elected president, then I would bet that we will have a legal challenge, and I would bet that we will win the legal challenge. And does that still suck for us? Yeah. I mean, I don’t want to have a major lawsuit against our own government. … But look, at the end of the day, if someone’s going to try to threaten something that existential, you go to the mat and you fight.”

+ Follow the leader: More than 25% of US adults haven’t read even a single book in the last year.

+ According to Ivy Meerpool’s new film on Roy Cohn, the man who sent her grandparents to their deaths, Alan Dershowitz says Cohn told him that in the Rosenberg case, “We tampered with the evidence in order to persuade the judge and the jury.”

+ The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is deciding whether to perform fewer comprehensive engineering inspections at U.S. nuclear power plants. Since the year 2000, these vital safety inspections have resulted in over 2,000 inspection findings. They helped identify many defective components before they failed.

+ Two and a half years after Hurricane Harvey, Tropical Storm Imelda dropped 30 inches of rain, killed five people and inflicted $8 billion in damage in the area around Houston. This means that Houston has now been hit with one 500-year rainfall event and two 100-year events since 2016.

+ According to research published in the journal Elements, authored by several teams of researchers from the Deep Carbon Observatory (DCO) — a global collective of more than 1,000 scientists studying the movement of all Earth’s carbon from the core of the planet to the edge of space, since 1750 human activity has had a more disruptive impact on the Earth’s carbon cycle than the asteroid impact that killed off the dinosaurs 66 million years ago. According to the report, the total amount of CO2 being released into the atmosphere every year by fossil fuel burning surpasses the cumulative amount of CO2 released by every volcano on Earth by at least 80 times.

+ Global temperatures have increased by 1C since 1960. But the Arctic is heating up much more rapidly, with some areas warming by more than 4C. Here’s a map by Berkeley Earth showing how the planet has warmed from 1960 to 2019.

+ According to a study in Nature, underground aquifers are being drained at the rate of trillions of gallons a year with disastrous consequences streams and rivers that are fueled by these water sources. Already, somewhere between 15 and 21 percent of watersheds that experience groundwater extraction have slipped past a critical ecological threshold. By 2050, that number could soar to somewhere between 40 and 79 percent.

+ Ahoy! An iceberg bigger than Los Angeles broke off the Amery Ice Shelf on the eastern coast of Antarctic ice shelf this week and is now cruising north…

+ Autumn Peltier addressing the UN General Assembly on behalf of Canada’s First Nations: “We can’t eat money or drink oil.”

+ The new Permian Extinction? Those shale oil jobs are drying up faster than the oil itself.

+ The loss of sea ice in the Arctic is a travesty for polar bears, who aren’t able to get to their normal feeding grounds. Apparently, the abundant population of oil company workers just didn’t prove nutritious enough to sustain the Arctic bears…

+ While new research shows that wild coyotes and wolves experience sadness and mourning like humans, there’s no sign that spend too much time expressing their personal grievances…

+ Roundup is still finding new ways to kill. A new study, published in Frontiers in Genetics, shows that a very low concentration of the herbicide glyphosate (in the parts per trillion range and thus environmentally relevant for everyone) can trigger breast cancer when combined with another risk factor.

+ I’m very glad Jay Inslee finally came out against the killing of wolves in Washington state. Let’s kill the euphemisms for the slaughter of wildlife, like “lethal removal,” instead…

+ Chase Madar and I compiled a list of writers who should, but haven’t, won the Nobel Prize for Literature:

CM-

Leonardo Sciascia
Pauline Kael
Nicanor Parra
Stevie Smith
Vladimir Nabokov
James Joyce
PG Wodehouse
Céline
Jorge Luis Borges
Georges Simenon
Fernando Pessoa
Andrei Platonov

JSC –

James Baldwin
Frederico Garcia Lorca
Anna Akhmatova
Franz Kafka
Roberto Bolaño
Chinua Achebe
Willa Cather
Virginia Woolf
Carlos Fuentes
Mikhail Bulgakov
Dashiell Hammett
Thomas Pynchon
Flann O’Brien

+ Am I alone in thinking that Nashville Skyline and Planet Waves sound better with each listening and Blood on the Tracks and Desire just get more and more grating?

+ From Debbie Harry’s new memoir, Face It: “Rock was a very masculine business in the mid-seventies. Patti Smith dressed more masculine … My approach was different. I was playing up the idea of being a very feminine woman while fronting a male rock band in a highly macho game. I was saying things in the songs that female singers didn’t really say back then. I wasn’t submissive or begging him to come back. I was kicking his ass, kicking him out, kicking my own ass, too. My Blondie character was an inflatable doll but with a dark, provocative, aggressive side. I was playing it up but I was very serious.”

+ Your Trump Koan of the Week: “I’ve always liked American wines better than French wines — even though I don’t drink wine. I just like the way they look, okay?” Okay, okay, Mr. President, we hear you. But what do you think about “Kush?” Humboldt County or Southern Oregon?

RIP Kim Shattuck…

Booked Up
What I’m reading this week…

Coming to Palestine
Sheldon Richman
(Libertarian Institute)

Crisis of Conscience: Whistleblowing in an Age of Fraud
Tom Mueller
(Riverhead)

Face It
Debbie Harry
(Dey Street Books)

Sound Grammar
What I’m listening to this week…

Blue World
John Coltrane
(Verve)

The Quartet
George Coleman
(Smoke Sessions)

Sound & Fury
Sturgill Simpson
(New Elektra)

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

Monty Python: Almost the Truth (Lawyer’s Cut)
Director: Alan G. Parker
(2009)

Johnny Winter: Down and Dirty
Director: Greg Oliver
(2016)

Mirrors and Blue Smoke

Jimmy Breslin: “All political power is primarily an illusion. Illusion. Mirrors and blue smoke, beautiful blue smoke rolling over the surface of highly polished mirrors, first a thin veil of blue smoke, then a thick cloud that suddenly dissolves into wisps of blue smoke, the mirrors catching it all, bouncing it back and forth.”

More articles by:

Jeffrey St. Clair is editor of CounterPunch. His most recent books are Bernie and the Sandernistas: Field Notes From a Failed Revolution and The Big Heat: Earth on the Brink (with Joshua Frank) He can be reached at: sitka@comcast.net or on Twitter  @JSCCounterPunch

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