Roaming Charges: Where’s the Beef With Billionaires?

Benedict Canyon, No. 3. Photo: Jeffrey St. Clair.


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+ Another Democratic debate, another wasted day and wasted night.

+ These episodes of tedium and mental torment might be more tolerable on LSD. The problem is that they last longer than the average acid trip and you wouldn’t want to risk coming down to the sound of Kamala Harris’ hectoring voice. That would be a hard landing, indeed.

+ DNC chair Tom Perez kicked off the night’s event by saying: “We’ve got to thank our Intelligence Community for speaking truth to power.” (This phrase has long lost any meaning it may have once had and has now transited beyond parody.)

+ It’s 10 against 2 tonight…

+ The ten Twinkies in this debate are trying to strangle every progressive idea the followers of Sanders and Warren have embraced.

+ Mayor Pete, single-payer assassin….

+ Biden has no answer to Hunter’s grifting, because his grifting “speaks for itself.”

+ Why is Warren running away from the accusation from Beto that her wealth tax is “punitive”? She ought to embrace it. Warren says she “has no beef” with billionaires and just wants them to cough up their 2 percent.  The rest of us have a beef, Liz, a big juicy beef. (For the first time in US history, billionaires paid a lower tax rate than the working class.)

+ The class struggle has become the middle class struggle.

+ All of those appearances on his show and Tulsi Gabbard still remains to the right of Tucker Carlson on the economy.

+ Biden: “I’m the only one up here that’s got things done.” Most of the things Biden “got done” put people in prison or cemeteries.

+ Cory Booker is apparently auditioning to be Joe Biden’s Giuliani.

+ Mayor Pete: “Smarter legal minds than mine….” That would include most of us and most of the people in the bar down the street.

+ There’s Biden reminiscing about hearing George Washington’s second inaugural address.

+ Good for Booker for talking about abortion as a class issue. Bad for Booker for largely ignoring this fact under 8 years of Obama, as abortion clinics closed from coast-to-coast.

+ Hey, Beto, speak for yourself. I want a hand out! It seems to be the birthright of every American corporation.

+ Harris the cop wants to police everything, even the internet, where she would boot Trump from Twitter, which is his equivalent of the Watergate tapes. Trump rails about the press, but Democrats like Harris are the bigger threat to the First Amendment.

+ Would anyone on stage who isn’t a “former prosecutor” please raise your hand…

+ Jimmy Carter said a few weeks ago that he thought there should be a maximum age limit for presidents, admitting that he didn’t think he, the most active of all ex-presidents, would have had the stamina to do the job at age 80. Biden (76) is more incoherent now than Jimmy Carter (95) will be four years from now, even if Carter’s bones are resting in the family plot in Plains.

+ “We’re not going to beat Trump with pocket change,” charged the guy, Pete Buttigieg, who is himself being beaten by pocket change.

+ Klobuchar makes incrementalism seem like a radical idea…

+ Yang countered Warren’s plan to break up the tech monopolies by saying “competition doesn’t solve our problems.” And he’s right. Competition is the essential problem of capitalism. So instead of breaking up big oil and big tech and big pharma, nationalize them.

+ Biden has more problems remembering what he has done than what he thinks Sanders and Warren have done. Would someone ask him if he knows where he is?

+ Democrats: Get the assault weapons off the streets of the US and into Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan!

+ Gabbard has a list of questions on her podium that she keeps trying to ask Warren, do doubt trying to replicate her TKO of Harris several debates ago. If Tulsi doesn’t make the next debate, maybe she can be one of the interrogators. Anyone but Anderson Cooper. Well, anyone but Wolf Blittzer.

+ Klobuchar (yes, she’s talking again) just told a story about her father being in AA. That kind of takes the Anonymous out of the Alcoholic, doesn’t it?

+ Senator Klobuchar, your time was up before you started speaking…

+ Biden: “ISIS is going to come here!” (Check Biden’s earpiece. Is Cheney or HRC feeding him his lines tonight?)

+ First Tom Steyer bashes Russia, then says the world must work together to fight climate change.

+ Cory Booker: “We need more great generals like Jim Mattis.”

+ Mayor Pete is in the running to become the Democrats’ gay Rumsfeld.

+ By the time this debate is over John Bolton may be too much of a dove to join the next Democratic administration, if there is one…

+ Some hot Pete on Beto action going down now.

+ Bernie just knocked out Biden, though Biden’s so out of it he doesn’t realize it.

+ So suddenly it’s all about the “purity test” that Sanders and Warren are supposedly thrusting upon the Democrats. Was there ever a “purity test” for neoliberalism in the Democratic Party? What were the scores?

+ Biden got through the debate without mentioning gay bath houses. That’s got to count for something.

+ Gabbard keeps referring to the Syrian “regime change” war as beginning in 2011. Does she really believe that the Arab Spring uprisings in Syria were manufactured by the US and not part of a homegrown revolt against the Assad regime, which had, among other things, cruelly mismanaged the prolonged drought that had afflicted the nation for more than two years? A domestic uprising savagely repressed by Assad’s forces with mass arrests, torture, executions, barrel bombs and later chorine gas. Has the anti-imperialist Left, which she is now the political voice of, completely given up on the idea of popular risings to overthrow despotic regimes? Is the only choice presented to us a binary one of near equal evils, Assad or the CIA? I ask this as someone adamantly opposed to any foreign intervention in Syria–by the US, Russia, Iran, Israel, Saudi Arabia or Turkey.

+ Just think how much worse Biden would be doing if people actually understood what he was trying to say.

+ Buttegieg is the son Joe Biden wishes he had (or at least adopted)…

+ Mayor Pete wants to fill Biden’s shoes when Biden implodes. The problem is that the only people still hanging with Joe (older blacks) distrust (with good reason) Pete. So he ends up where he is…nowhere.

+ The debate ended with Anderson Cooper citing Ellen DeGeneres’ smooch-fest with George W. Bush and asked each of the candidates to name someone with a different political ideology who they’d enjoyed working with in the past . No one took the opportunity to condemn Bush as a war criminal on the loose and only Julian Castro said that “politicians should be held accountable.” It’s probably no surprise that John McCain was the favorite dance partner, named by at least three of the Democrats, including Bernie Sanders. Tulsi Gabbard picked Trey Gowdy. Klobuchar tapped McCain. Steyer seemed to pick his former self. Booker named James Inhofe, climate denier. Andrew Yang recalled his time with Fred the Trucker. Kamala Harris exulted over Rand Paul. Sanders extolled McCain and Lee (Mike not Barbara). While Liz Warren reached back to the George HW Bush days for Charles Fried. And Biden seemed to say McCain, though his dentures were slipping at the time.

+ What you get when CNN and the NYT put their heads together to plan a three-hour long debate: Not ONE question about the climate crisis.

+ Remember when the press was aghast at the glancing blows struck against Biden and Obama during the first two debates? These same guardians of civility are now praising Klobuchar and Mayor Butter & Eggs for ganging up on Warren. I guess Bernie will be next in the meat-grinder, damaged heart and all.

+ In American politics, only what passes the Left is required to be “civil.” Everyone else can hurl toxic waste, especially at progressive candidates.

+ The Watergate break-in was a stupid idea, even as an act of political sabotage & they botched the job. (What would you expect from the gang who plotted the Big of Pigs?) Still it took years for the whole conspiracy to unravel. Liddy & Hunt look like masterminds next to Rudy & Don. Roy Cohn would be embarrassed at his protege’s incompetence and probably deny all knowledge of him (or rat him out)…

+ Only Trump could get away with boasting that he’s “bringing the troops home,” the same week he increases troop deployments in the Middle East.

+ The body count in Afghanistan from the Nobel Peace Prize president and the anti-interventionist president will dwarf that racked up by Bush and Cheney…

+ According to the autopsy of the Hevrin Hajy Khalaf, the Kurdish politician executed a few days ago by Turkish militias her legs and jaw were broken, she was dragged by her hair until the skin of her scalp was ripped out & then repeatedly shot…

+ Above all, Trump admires despots like Erdogan, a man with a Deep State he can trust.

+ Arms reduction, Trump-style…US planes are now bombing its own ammo dumps in Syria to keep the munitions out of the hands of the Turks, ISIS, Syria and the Russians.

+ The Pentagon also reports that its fighter jets bombed its own anti-ISIS operations headquarters in Syria. If so, it’s one of the few bombing runs in the last four years that actually hit its intended target…

+ Trump on the Kurds: “The PKK, which is a part of the Kurds as you know, is probably worse at terror and more of a terrorist threat in many ways than ISIS… So it’s a very semi-complicated, not too complicated if you’re smart, but a semi-complicated problem.” Can’t wait to hear his description of Rudy’s clients at the MEK.

+ So you get your doctorate in American history at Yale. You do post-doc studies to become an archivist at the University of Illinois. You land your dream job at a Presidential library. Unfortunately, it’s Trump’s, out on Staten Island, where you spend your days collating letters like this one…

+ According to Turkish officials, Erdogan crumpled up Trump’s letter and threw it in the trash can. No sense of humor, that Recep Tayyip fellow…

+ Deep down, of course, Trump admires despots like Erdogan, a man with a Deep State he can trust.

+ Referring to Kurds living along Turkish border in Syria, Trump says of Turkey, “They had to have it cleaned out.” Rarely has there been such an explicit endorsement of ethnic cleaning from an American administration…at least since the days of Generals Sherman and Sheridan.

+ A US Special Forces officer said that after the withdrawal from Kurdish-held territory in Syria he felt “ashamed for the first time” in his career. But he never lost a night’s sleep after calling in target locations for the droning of babies….

+ The Supreme Deity is totally chill with caging and bombing his little children, but according to God’s Press Secretary on Earth, Rev. Pat Robertson, leaving Syria may cost Trump the Mandate of Heaven

+ In response to a question about a New York Times story that the Turkish government was holding 50 US nuclear weapons “hostage” at Incirlik Air Base, Trump became the first US president to publicly acknowledge that the US has a nuclear arsenal in Turkey. Give Trump the Mordechai Vanunu Award for revealing nuclear secrets, everyone knew but said nothing about…

+ According to the Pentagon’s annual suicide report, the number of suicides by veterans exceeded 6,000 each year from 2008 to 2017 and last year the rate of active duty suicides hit an all time record, 24.8 suicide per 100,000, a sharp increase from previous five years, where the active duty suicide rate was 18.5 per 100,000 troops.

+ Putin is pulling Russia out of the Geneva Convention on War Crimes Investigations. Bombing hospitals makes you reconsider these kinds of high-minded commitments…

+ Trump has now been president for 1000 days. Looks like he made it longer than Anne Boleyn.

+ This week Trump defended the wife of the US diplomat who killed a UK teen in a car crash in London, then fled Britain claiming diplomatic immunity: “That happens in Europe. You go to Europe and the roads are opposite. It’s very tough if you’re from the United States. That happens to a lot of people, by the way.”

+ Wait until mining company executives travel to England and find out they can’t dump their coal ash in the Avon River….

+ If, as Trump says, Pelosi is a “3rd rate politician”, what does that make Schumer?

+ You know the country is turning on Trump when Congress’s approval rating goes up….

+ I don’t want to see any more job losses in the journalism business. But can we all agree that the next reporter or columnist who writes a “This was Trump’s worst week ever” piece gets the boot?

+ Columnist Steve Duin held on to his post at the Oregonian, as the rest of the paper collapsed around him, just to write Gordon Sondland’s political obituary

+ The U.S. State Department sold $67.9 billion in weapons in fiscal 2019, the lethal largesse is spread across 64 individual procurement requests from 28 different countries and the NATO consortium.

+ It would be a worthy project for some grad student to try to assess who is responsible for more deaths since the end of World War Two: the Pentagon or the State Department. My money’s on the diplomats.

+ So long, Marianne…strike that.

+ A federal judge has ruled that Alan Dershowitz must face one of Jeffrey Epstein’s accusers in a defamation suit filed by Virginia Guiffre, who says she was forced to have sex with Dershowitz when she was under the legal age of consent. One of those moment when you really miss those live trials on CourtTV…

+ JP Morgan’s Jamie Dixon warned this week that “there’s a recession ahead.” If Dimon says it, it must be wrong.

+ Don’t say Trump doesn’t read. It appears like he’s been dipping into Samuel Huntington. Here he is at the Values Voter Summit describing the violent tendencies of people who live in countries in the Middle East: “They fight. That’s what they do. They fight. Tony [Perkins] wants to go watch a football game. I want to go do things. They want to come out and fight. That’s what they do.”

+ Trump’s announcement that his own country club, Doral, will be hosting the next G-7 Summit is a straightforward act of self-dealing, an explicit transgression of the emoluments clause of the Constitution. Trump is making Saddam’s palaces look like public works projects….

+ Climate change won’t be on the agenda at the Trump-hosted G-7 in Florida next year, even as Florida’s beaches are swallowed by rising sea levels. So? It’s not even on the agenda at the Democratic Party-sponsored debates.

+ How incompetent is Trump? He’s trying like hell to get himself impeached and still can’t get it done.

+ First, they came for Rick Perry, and who stood up? …. C’mon, somebody, quick, before they come for Ben Carson…

+ What department was Rick Perry Secretary of and when did he know it?

+ This is the third time since April that Perry has said he was planning on resigning. Will someone please remind him that his office in the Department of ENERGY and show him the exit route?

+ “To me it will always be Columbus Day. Some people don’t like that. I do.” – President Trump

+ For Trump, every day is Columbus Day.

+ It’s not a real Trump Party unless Erik Prince is there: “On Election Night, Parnas, along with other donors, including the Blackwater founder Erik Prince, were invited to attend a gathering with Trump and his family. “We were all there,” he recalled. “I will never forget that.””

+ Whatever you do, don’t make a wrong turn near the border, even if you’re white, English-speaking and didn’t want to be here in the first place…

+ Trump may well sprout horns, but he’d still need a pill to make them stand up…

+ Harris is awful in almost every way and it’s refreshing to see that most people sense that, even if they don’t know the bill of particulars, such as how she aggressively fought making payments to people who her office had wrongfully convicted.

+ Welcome to the age of Zombie Debt collectors: “If they can’t get the money from you, they will withhold your adult children’s tax returns. You read this correctly: the federal government will take your children’s money to resolve a 30-year-old alleged public benefits overpayment….”

+ Trump lashed out at Jeff Sessions once again, calling him a “total disaster” and an “embarrassment to the great state of Alabama.” This is the same Jeff Sessions who just last week said how much he still admired and respected Trump. These guys all really want to be spanked and humiliated in public. They beg for it. And Trump delivers. That’s why they love him.

+ Random question: Has Obama closed Guantanamo yet?

+ How many drone strikes, oil wells and tax breaks do these refugees from the GOP need in their Welcome to the Democratic Party care package? I’m sure they can accommodate them if they just give a number…

+ William Barr the second coming of … Ed Meese? “This is not decay. It is organized destruction. Secularists, and their allies among the ‘progressives,’ have marshalled all the force of mass communications, popular culture, the entertainment industry, and academia in an unremitting assault on religion and traditional values.”

+ John LeCarré on his new novel about Brexit-era Britain, Agent Running in the Field: “I have no real leisure activity. I am dismayed when I’m not writing, completely content when I am. I also am stimulated and appalled by the path my country has taken.”

+ Remember that John Cale song, “The Man Who Couldn’t Afford to Orgy?” If you’ve got a yacht, you can not only afford it, but you can also exploit your orgying as a campaign theme…

+ Mrs. Patrick Campbell (1910): “Does it really matter what these affectionate people do — so long as they don’t do it in the streets and frighten the horses.”  (Thanks Carl Estabrook!)

+ For cops it’s always the victim’s fault, unless the victim is a cop.

+ In Cook County (greater Chicago) hate crime cases with a white defendant, the 60% of the defendants were sentenced to probation. On the other hand, only 22% of black defendants in similar cases were given probation — the rest were sentenced to prison.

+ Lindsey Graham puts the “pox” in hypocrisy

+ I wonder if there’s ever been a “wanted” instance of sexual contact with Trump that wasn’t transactional in nature?

+ Just when you think we’ve hit the bottom of the bottomless pit, along comes Hillary ruminating publicly about entering the 2020 race, as she begins smearing her potential rivals, like Tulsi Gabbard, as Russian assets. Hillary claims Putin is “grooming” Gabbard to run as an independent in 2020.

+ Speaking of “grooming,” is that how Hillary became a Goldwater Girl?

+ HRC has done more to elevate the Gabbard campaign than all of Tulsi’s appearances on FoxNews…

+ If I could summon three writers from Hades to cover the Trump/Pelosi Circus, they’d be: Suetonius, Gore Vidal and Alexander Cockburn.

+ It’s a rather sobering sign of our times that the Federal Reserve may be the last federal institution doing any serious analysis of the consequences of climate change….

1: Floods gets worse
2: Banks stop issuing mortgages
3: Property values tumble
4: Tax revenue falls
5: Cities can’t fund flood control measures
6: Floods gets worse…

+ Are there any other environmentalists out there who are outraged that the vice president’s son would exploit his DNA for a $50K a month do-nothing gig at a natural gas co. at the very time when his dad was supposed to be pursuing an aggressive global policy to fight climate change? Of course, we know that’s not what Biden and Obama were actually doing. Instead, they were promoting fracking and natural gas development as a “bridge” fuel. Bridge to where, you ask? A bridge to big campaign donations from the oil & gas industry.

+ Nearly a quarter of Navajo women and some infants who were part of a federally funded study on uranium exposure had high levels of the radioactive metal in their systems, decades after mining for Cold War-era nuclear weapons ended on their reservation.

+ All those stories warning about Russian hackers trying to knock down the power grid and the culprit turned out to be PG&E.

+ Obama’s fracking legacy hits home in Colorado: “There has been a fivefold increase in oil and gas production since 2008 in Colorado. 40,000 active and inactive wells are in the Denver basin; every month, there’s more. They are built close to schools, playgrounds, and clusters of family homes.”

+ Forget climate change. Forest fires. Deforestation. Toxic mine waste. Invasive species.  Desertification. According to the BLM’s Acting Direct, William Perry Pendley, the greatest threat to public lands in the west is…wild horses.

+ Two-thirds of North America’s bird species are at risk of extinction from climate change…and that’s not counting the one’s imperiled by logging, grazing, mining, subdivisions, pesticides and fracking.

+ The shale oil “boom” Obama unleashed is finally dribbling to an end. It will take 10,000 years for the planet to recover (if then)…

+ Good riddance to coal, the demand for which has slumped to a 43-year low. But what they’re replacing it with isn’t any better…

+ You can’t make the Sequoias Giant Again. You just have to leave them the hell alone...

+ U.S. agriculture is now 48 times as deadly to insects as it was a quarter-century ago, before neonicotinoid pesticides were introduced.

+ One the first day of its weeklong annual bear killing spree, hunters in New Jersey slaughtered 94 black bears, including mother bears with cubs. A bear of any age can be killed. I repeat this is going down in Jersey not Wyoming.

+ The warming Clinch River in Tennessee is causing a massive die-off of freshwater mussels, leaving a “smell will knock you off your feet. You see what was a healthy looking river, but now there’s just dead bodies scattered everywhere.” Similar mass extirpations are happening across the rivers of the South.

+ A 2012 study found that a 10% reduction in work hours may lead to declines in ecological footprint, carbon footprint, and CO₂ emissions by 12.1%, 14.6% and 4.2% respectively.”

+ Robert Dudley, who helmed BP during the Deepwater Horizon ecological war crime, is leaving the company. Shouldn’t Dudley at least be wearing an ankle bracelet or be required to register if he moves into a watershed near you?

+ Trump Koan of the Week: “We’ve taken control of the oil in the Middle East, the oil that we’re talking about, the oil that everybody was worried about. We have — the US has control of that.”  (Friday, October 18.)

+ How Philly became Sun Ra’s space base

+ Stephen Cooper: What do you think about Kanye West?

Lee “Scratch” Perry: He’s not even an idiot.

Cooper: He’s dumber than an idiot?

Perry (Smiling and nodding): He’s a true fallen angel. He’s not even a cockroach.

+ I watched Secret Agent again last night, Hitchcock’s 1936 take on two of Somerset Maugham’s Ashenden stories. (Confusingly, Hitchcock later made an even better film, Saboteur, based on Conrad’s novel The Secret Agent.) It writhes with more sexual tension than almost any Hollywood film in the last 10 years. Three spies in the Alps, all in love with each other: Gielgud, Robert Young and the vastly under-rated Madeleine Carroll. A warning: the copy streaming on Amazon is dreadful and the sound wasn’t synched. But Lorre was hilariously campy, his face caked in thick brown make-up, as a “Mexican” count-assassin. Peter Lorre, license to kill. It’s that wonderful thing: a wild parody of James Bond in a story that inspired Fleming’s depiction of Bond twenty years later. Apparently Robert Donat was meant to play Ashenden, but was ill. Geilgud gives the the bi-sexual charge that’s present in all of Maugham’s work and much of Hitch’s.

It’s Not the Warm Illusion

Booked Up

What I’m reading this week…

Music: a Subversive History
Ted Gioia
(Basic Books)

Plagued by Fire: the Dreams and Furies of Frank Lloyd Wright
Paul Hendrickson

Comrade: an Essay on Political Belonging
Jodi Dean

Sound Grammar
What I’m listening to this week…

No Home Record
Kim Gordon

Trane’s Delight
Pancho Sanchez

Two Hands
Big Thief

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

Diego Maradona
Dir. Asif Kapadia

Living Undocumented
Dir. Aaron Saidman and Anna Chai

The Secret Agent
Dir. Alfred Hitchcock


The Two Essential Facts of Our Condition

Gore Vidal: “It is true that I rejected election to the Society of American Historians, but I am no less a historian than those who are paid to keep the two essential facts of our condition from the people at large: the American class system (there is no such thing, we are flatly told) and the nature of the US empire (no such thing, either). Apparently, it is perfectly natural for a freed0m-loving democracy, addicted to elections, to have bases and spies and now FBI terrorist fighters and drug hounds in every country on earth.” (“Mickey Mouse, Historian,” The Last Empire)

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