Roaming Charges: A Place Where Nobody Knows

In the hedges of Cielo Drive. Photo: Jeffrey St. Clair.

Final Days

We’re in the final days of our annual fund drive, and here at CounterPunch we’re getting first-hand testimony about the depth of the economic depression most of us live in. Many CounterPunchers are rallying as they do year-after-year, but telling us times are tight. All we can ask is: give if you can and as much as you feel you can afford. We truly need every penny and every dollar to keep the show on the road. Step up to the plate, and reach for the phone, or your checkbook or hit the online donation button.

+ I don’t know about you, but for me the planet just hasn’t been the same since that day Trump looked directly into the sun during the eclipse and the Earth slipped off its axis and into some parallel universe, a place where nobody knows…

+ Welcome to the “lynching” of Donald Trump, our 3rd black president…

+ Is it any surprise that Trump and Joe Biden, the two most explicitly racist candidates in the 2020 presidential contest, both view impeachment as a “lynching?”

+ Trump sent White House spokesman Hogan Gidley out to defend his lynching Tweet. Gidley is from Arkansas, a state which has had at least 284 lynchings.

+ Waiting on the Mississippi (581+ lynchings) and Georgia (531+ lynchings) delegations to weigh in on Trump’s lynching Tweet…

+ No Soros-funded progressive plot could have ever prompted jerks like Lindsey Graham to make these kinds of asinine comments on camera. Kudos to Trump…(Number of lynchings in South Carolina: 164.)

+ Graham’s role as Trump’s crypt keeper doesn’t seem to be doing him any good back on the home front…

+ It wasn’t “high tech” and he wasn’t “lynched”, but as a black man publicly pilloried for his abusive sexual conduct, Clarence Thomas had a much better case for using the word than Trump, who has none, except as a distraction from the fallout of his abrupt abandonment of the Kurds.

+ There may well be a legal defense for Trump’s shakedown of Zelensky–just not any of the ones he’s been using

+ The oped gang at the Wall Street Journal has, however, come up with the defense of last resort for Trump: he wanted to commit a crime but was too inept to pull it off.

+ As usual with Trump, he makes even good policy decisions impossible to support. Why? Because you can’t trust anything he says or does. The anti-war movement would have backed his decision to withhold military aid to Ukraine, except he only used the aid as leverage for his own political benefit and, in the end, released the munitions anyway.

+ George Szamuely:  “It’s always like this with Trump: In 2013, he, rightly, opposed US bombing of Syria, but only because Obama was on the brink of doing so. Now, he pulls out US troops from NE Syria and sends them “to guard”–ie, to steal–Syria’s oil.”

+ Trump: “We’ve secured the oil and, therefore, a small number of US Troops will remain in the area. Where they have the oil. And we’re going to be protecting it.”

+ It’s always about the oil, but rarely so explicitly

+ Trump’s Middle East “strategy” seems to be cut-and-re-deploy. Cut-and-run works for me…

+ Daily reminder to watch what Trump does, not what he says he’s doing: “US may move battle tanks & troops into eastern Syria “relatively soon” to protect US troops stationed near oil fields controlled by the SDF: US defense official. Battle tanks are a huge jump in US firepower potentially aimed at Russia/Syria regime.” — Barbara Starr, CNN (10/24).

+ It’s a month before Thanksgiving, but it looks like Trump just pardoned Turkey, lifting  sanctions as they threaten the ethnic cleansing of Kurds from the border region of northeastern Syria…

+ The guy who covered up Iran/contra (Barr) and the guy who covered up CIA torture (Durham) are now going to uncover the plot by torturers and wiretappers to frame Trump. This is going to be fun!

+ This week marked 8th the anniversary of Gaddafi’s death in the Libyan town of Sirte. The lesson of his life is: If you do exactly what the US demands, they’ll still enter your country, overthrow your government, hunt you down, torture you to death and display your mangled body in a meat locker. Class dismissed.

+ The Clash’s “I’m So Bored With the USA” came out 40 years ago. By then, Joe Biden was already serving his second term in the US Senate…

+ Biden, who reversed himself again this week and said he’d take Super-PAC $$$, has previously claimed he was the guy who convinced Sanders not to take PAC money in 2016. (Almost certainly a lie, like nearly everything else that comes out of Biden’s mouth, even when he’s plagiarizing.)

+ The daily humiliation of Giuliani is one of the true pleasures of the Trump era. I know I should be satiated by now, but I just can’t get enough of it, including him butt-dialing reporters and leaving ranting messages about his need for cash…

+ One might wonder why Giuliani is such an expert on cyber-security, he didn’t have a passcode for his phone? Not to worry. Rudy has the latest in “ass-recognition” software.

+ North Macedonia has just been admitted to NATO. Wait until the Macedonians sack Athens again. That will put the NATO allies in a bind…

+ New charges have been filed against actress Lori Laughlin (who I once gave my aisle seat to on a flight) and 10 others in the “Varsity Blues” college admissions scandal. Good. Send them away. Meanwhile, Betsy DeVos is still at liberty to set an Education policy that criminalizes public schools, gags teachers, starves poor children and leaves indebted students at the mercy of collection agencies.

Judge Denny Chin: If Trump shot someone on 5th Ave., “local authorities couldn’t investigate? They couldn’t do anything about it? …”

Trump lawyer William Consovoy: “No.”

Judge Chin: “Nothing could be done?…”

Consovoy: “That is correct. That is correct.”

+ Trump thinks he can shoot someone and get away it. There’s precedent for that. Consider the cop who shot an unarmed teen in the back of the head

+ Some Trump cabinet members don’t know what department they’re heading. Some Trump cabinet members are incompetent. Others, likes DeVos, are intent on destroying the department they are charged with leading.

+ I think HRC’s smear of Gabbard is bullshit. But it was the peace activists who put their bodies and lives on the line for their country, Bernie, not the soldiers who volunteered to go to Iraq to kill people they knew nothing about. Let’s remember. Iraq was not a war fought by an army of conscripts. It was a volunteer force fighting a war of choice waged on manufactured grounds, a fact which most of the troops knew before they got to the Middle East, if not when they signed up in the recruiting station. Why? Because the peace activists & writers and a few politicians had already exposed the war as a criminal fraud. When are they going to get credit as the real defenders of the country?

+ Is the drone operator at Creech Air Base, who launches a push button attack on a wedding party in the Pakistan tribal areas, then goes out for a Mojito at the bar in the Bellagio defending our country? Do they have no moral culpability for their actions, even if the strike was ordered by superiors?

+ Speaking of automated killing, here’s Bruce Jette, the US Army’s acquisitions chief, on the kind of autonomous tanks he wants to deploy on battlefields of the future: “It just shoots. I flip it on. It hunts for targets and then goes and kills them.”

+ But politicians and the media worship in the cult of the veteran. Usually they’re the only ones given a platform to speak out against US wars.

+ Go watch the first half of “Full Metal Jacket” again, Pete. The whole purpose of the re-conditioning known as basic training is to rob the recruits of their honor, dignity and humanity so they can go forth and murder, torture and despoil without a second thought.

+ I hope the Democratic Party institutes a Random Purity Testing program. Those scoring above 50 percent on the Purity Scale will be banned for an election cycle. Ralph Nader & Jesse Jackson have already been hit with lifetime bans after registering more than 75% on multiple tests. Bernie Sanders was facing a multiple year ban, but won his appeal in 2016 after endorsing HRC.

+ Whatever happened to Obama’s mentor in the Senate Joe Lieberman, you ask? Well, don’t worry about him. He just landed a gig as a lobbyist for a top Israeli weapons contractor

+ HRC could sing “Bomb Bomb Bomb Iran” and the cast of “The View” would join in as her backup chorus.

+ Andrew Yang, the candidate of disruption in the Democratic Party primaries, asserted this week that “Medicare-for-All” is simply “too disruptive,” proving he’s not nearly disruptive enough.

+ Since 2008, health insurance premiums and deductibles have risen at more than twice the rate of wages with premiums costing an average $20,576 and deductibles another $1,655, nearly double the cost 10 years ago. Still want to cling to your private insurance plan, Andrew Yang?

+ There still a deep gender bias in Medicare coverage of sex-related drugs: Older men can get erectile dysfunction meds, but women can’t get vaginal meds and hormones.

+ 21 states have seen manufacturing job losses this year. Those with the biggest percentage declines are states where Trump won by less than 5 percentage points. In Pennsylvania, the manufacturing sector lost 8,100 jobs. In North Carolina, it was 7,700, and Wisconsin lost 6,500 jobs.

+ Greatest economy ever?

Average postwar GDP growth: 2.9 percent

2nd quarter 2019 GDP growth: 2.0 percent

+ $3,000: the amount Jeff Bezos makes every second of every day of the year.

+ Are the embryos reproduced by “human scum,” human, scum or a hybrid? Are they protected by the fetal heartbeat bills Trump now favors?

+ Human Scum. Trump comes up with more great band names than Murray the K or Malcom McLaren ever did. And he’s certainly avaricious enough to become a manager of rock groups in his post-White House years, enriching himself while bankrupting his bands.

+ “You just start your countdown, and old Bucky’ll be back here with his floppy out before you can say… Blast Off!” After more than 40 years, the Strategic Air Command will finally stop using 8-inch floppy discs to operate the operations for the US’s nuclear weapons arsenal.

+ Q. Can feminism be bombed into a country?
A. Yes, if Samantha Power can be squeezed into a cruise missile.

+Rep. Katie Porter to Marc Zuckerberg: “You’ve got 15,000 contractors watching murders, stabbings, suicides and other gruesome videos for content moderation. You pay many of those workers under $30K & you cut them off from mental health care when they leave the company even if they have PTSD.”

+ Mayor Butter&Eggs says he wants more Supreme Court justices just like….Anthony Kennedy, author of the Citizens United majority opinion!

+ Sanders responded that he’d appoint justices like Ginsburg and Sotomayor. Really? Are those two the best you can come up with, Bernie?

+ According to statistics presented by Judge Felipe Restrepo at an NYU Law School symposium on mass incarceration, 19 former prosecutors have been on the Supreme Court and zero former public defenders; of the 163 active federal circuit judges, 57 are former prosecutors and only 5 former public defenders. Of appointed state supreme court judges, 53% are former prosecutors and 3% former public defenders. Of those elected to the bench, 39% are former prosecutors and 8% former public defenders.

+ One of those federal judges is James C. Ho, who declared this week in a dissenting opinion, that “if we want to stop mass shootings, we should stop punishing police officers.” Wait a minute. We punish police officers?

+ On any give day in the Trump era, US Marshals are holding 62,000 people in pre-trial detention. There’s almost no oversight over the conditions these people are held in or accountability for mistreatment and abuse by their captors.

+ The first good thing I’ve ever heard about a Tesla…

+ Evo Morales: “A coup is underway, carried out by the right-wing with foreign support. They’re not recognizing or waiting for election results, they’re burning down electoral courts, they want to proclaim the second-place candidate as the winner.”

+ Surely, child abuse as government policy constitutes a high crime. Impeach Trump for this

+ Jose Segovia Benitez, a Marine combat veteran who served in Iraq and suffers from PTSD and traumatic brain injury, is facing “imminent” deportation back to El Salvador , a country he left when he was three years old.

+ A Honduran worker injured by the New Orleans Hard Rock hotel collapse has been detained by ICE after speaking with the media and is to be deported.

+ As despicable as he is, Trump is not the most evil person in the country: “Gene Gorelik, a property developer and an aggressive critic of the homeless, suggested luring the thousands of homeless people in the San Francisco Bay Area onto party buses stocked with alcohol and sending them on a one-way trip to Mexico.”

+ The perpetual blank look on Mike Pence’s face doesn’t mean he’s “inscrutable.” The man really is just as stupid as he appears.

+ Israeli authorities have demolished at least 140 Palestinian homes in east Jerusalem this year, according to B’Tselem, the highest annual number since it began keeping records in 2004. 238 Palestinians have lost their homes this year, including 127 minors. The second highest number of demolitions on record was in 2016, when 92 homes were demolished.

+ In the Canadian elections, twenty-five-year-old Mumilaaq Qaqqaq defeated a former cabinet member to represent Nunavut in parliament.

+ You can understand why Trump says he loves cops. But why do so many cops say they love Trump?

+ When the GOP finally re-takes control of the House, how long will it be before they pass a Resolution declaring this sacred SCIF site a national battlefield?

+ “Anonymous”, the author of an infamous New York Times op-ed from last year, which claimed other anonymous insiders were keeping Trump from doing all sorts of unspeakable acts, just signed a contract to publish a tell-all book, sure to trigger all of Trump’s anxiety zones just before the election. My $$$ is on Dan Coats as “Anonymous,” though it might well turn out to be Tiffany…

+ Trump: “George Washington had two desks.” Yes, he did, Mr. President. One for government business, one for slave business.

+ Who knew Trump spoke “Esperanto” Did he clear that with Stephen Miller?

+ I think Trump must have tasted-tested some of that Rocky Mountain High brand kush before his big speech…

+ Or maybe it was the Sudafed

+ Make New Mexico pay for the wall … to keep the Coloradans out!

+ Please try focus on the three words (“Bush” “ethics” “lawyer”) appearing sequentially in this story arguing that Trump is worse than Nixon and try not to have a seizure…

+ I doubt that Redford will be reprising his role in The Return of Jeremiah Johnson, Trump Avenger: “Rick Wiles warns that if Trump is removed from office, veterans, cowboys, mountain men, and “guys that know how to fight” will hunt down Democrats and kill them.”

+ With spiritual leaders like Pastor Wiles is it any wonder that even many Christians don’t want anything to do with Christianity any more…

+ A survey of British voters suggest that a majority of both Remainers and Brexiters would support “violence against MPs” in order to get their way on Brexit.

+ The Deep Twitter State: a Pew survey found that 97% of tweets from U.S. adults that mentioned national politics in the last year came from just 10% of Twitter users.

+ The carbon bootprint of empire…the US military generates more pollution than 140 countries.

+ After more than a decade of decline, a spike in air pollution may have taken the lives of almost 10,000 additional Americans over two years.

+ PG&E should be seized by the state of California and turned into a publicly-owned utility before it kills any more people

+ In the first five months of the administration of California’s hipster Governor Gavin Newsom, fracking permits have increased 103 percent and new oil well permits have increased by 35.3% and that was before Newsom appointed two oil and gas lobbyists to serve as regulators in his administration, one of them, Uduak-Joe Ntuk, a former Chevron executive. Before he’s finished, Newsom’s environmental record will make Arnold look like Rachel Carson…

+ At the beginning of his administration, Trump promised to cut two regulations for every new one put into effective. But he’s truly outdone himself. Over the first 2.5 years, Trump has slashed  8.5 regulations for every new one, most of them environmental and food safety rules.

+ Speaking of rolling back regulations, a nationwide test of baby food found that 95% of the samples contained lead, arsenic and other heavy metals in varying proportion. Most of these contaminated products have slipped right past the inspectors at Trump’s FDA.

+ Wood-burning power plants emit far more CO2 per megawatt-hour than coal plants. Yet the biomass lobby has successfully deemed them a “green fuel” enabling biomass companies to enjoy billions in subsidies intended to reduce emissions of greenhouse gasses.

+ Just another October with F-3 tornadoes

+ The planned extinction of the Delta Smelt by the Trump Administration will probably also spell the end of imperiled Sacramento River salmon…

+ Leaving trees standing sequesters more carbon than planting new trees. It’s vital to do both. But not as part of some crazy carbon offset scheme.

+ Planet of Climate Mutants…the inexorably warming oceans are turning most baby sea turtles into females.

+ Kill Fee: Oil companies got an $18 billion incentive from the Feds for killing the Gulf of Mexico.

+ What a smart wolf to get the hell out of Wyoming, where every wolf is fair game, and into Colorado. (Except, every other wolf that has made it to Colorado has been killed by a human.)

+ Rick McIntyre on his fascinating new book on the social dynamics of Yellowstone wolf packs, The Rise of Wolf 8:

“From watching 8 and his adopted son, 21, I learned how multiple adult wolves in a family cooperate to raise young and protect them from threats such as grizzlies and rival wolf packs. I saw that alpha females are the true leaders of the pack, not the big alpha males. Wolves have a matriarchal society and males seem to totally accept that. Maybe that is a sign of the intelligence level of wolves. I also witnessed how male wolves accept rejection from females in the breeding season, give preference to pregnant females at kills they made, and work tirelessly to feed and protect pups.”

+ Just think about this for a moment: Seventy-five percent of the mass volume of Arctic ice has melted in the past 30 years.

+Bears don’t need “training.” They are born knowing what to do, how to do it and who to do it to

+ I knew it was near, but that sure didn’t help cushion the blow of Peter Stone Brown’s death, after a two-year long struggle with cancer. Peter was a musician, a writer, a musicologist, a leftie and one of the world’s authorities on Bob Dylan and the folk music scene that Dylan grew out of and the one he gave rise to. Peter was also a teacher, of music, of writing, of how to live in a world gone mad. Peter started writing for CounterPunch in 2006 and, until he got sick, the pieces came as regularly as Dylan toured. Peter was smart, funny and direct. He never hesitated to admonish me for some silly or ignorant assertion I’d made about music. He once told me my understanding of folk music didn’t even rise to the level of rudimentary. And he was right. Peter taught me to hear the new in the old and the old in the new. He knew Dylan from the inside out, in the way only an accomplished musician can. He even knew what Dylan was after in those mysterious standards of these later albums, recordings that still remain elusive to my untutored ears. Go back and read Peter’s columns. They are a master class in how to listen to a master at work. Here’s Peter at work, when he was really ‘up against it’….See you on the other side, brother.

+ Thanks to the Secret Service, which interrogated him over the “threatening lyrics” of his song “The Ringer,” Eminem is relevant again for the first time in more than a decade…

+ The First Amendment has never applied to hip hop. From warning labels to prosecutions, rappers have had to fight for every rhyme.

+ In 1970 the Canadian band The Guess Who were invited to play at the Nixon White House for a visit by Princess Anne. They were Tricia’s favorite group. Before the gig, Burton Cummings got a request from Pat Nixon that they not play American Woman, which was a Number One it single at the time. I wonder why? “I don’t need your war machines / I don’t need your ghetto scenes”.

+ This anecdote is just one of those strange rock trivia things that has been rattling in my head for years and finally wriggled its way out after hearing the overwrought Kravitz cover of the song on the radio this AM. I think the band was invited to play as “subjects” of the visiting Princess Anne. Randy Bachman left the group not long afterwards, the humiliation of playing for the Nixons proved too much of a burden.

+ Martin Scorsese on Lou Reed: “He spoke the language of people with nothing.”

+ The strange origins of the jazz standard Nature Boy among a cult of nudist vegans in Los Angeles.

+ The last interview with John Coltrane (1966)…

+ Rolling Stone just released its list of the 100 greatest vocalists of “all time.” But where’s Harry Nilsson, Jimmy Cliff, Joe Strummer, Linda Ronstadt, Skip James, Tammi Terrell, Jackson Browne, Bessie Smith, Clifton Chenier, Tammy Wynette, Gram Parsons, Chrissie Hynde, Ray Davies, John Trudell, David Byrne, Debbie Harry, Madonna, Chaka Chan, Joe Cocker, Sade, Joey Ramone, Leonard Cohen, Joan Baez, Sandy Denny, Grace Slick, Astrud Gilberto, Big Momma Thornton, Victoria Spivey, Judy Collins, D’Angelo, Kim Gordon?

+ Nick Tosches died this week at 69. Somehow I was surprised he was that young. Somehow he seemed older. As a writer, he had the fiery, exuberant, hit-or-miss style of the generation of Norman Mailer and Tom Wolfe.  Tosches’ Country: the Twisted Roots of RocknRoll is one of the best books I’ve ever read. His book on Sonny Liston one of the worst. Still he was a writer who demanded to be read and fought with, even his weird novels.

+ Apparently, a group of economists has just made the case for why the world needs English majors. Damn. Now I have to reevaluate my Eng Lit degree. I have labored for 40 years under the belief we were utterly useless to these apex predators. Still, I take some comfort in knowing the economists are wrong about nearly everything.

+ Revenge Porn Politics, with bongs and Nazi tattoos!

+ Florida Man Alert! Cody Meader was arrested last week for dry humping two large stuffed animals at a Target store in Pinellas Park, Florida.  Has Harmony Korine signed on to direct the movie?

+ Andrew Cockburn has filed a complaint with the prosecutors against the word “weaponize.” After a thorough investigation, we have rendered our verdict of guilty. The has been perverted beyond all meaning and his hereby dispatched to the chopping block.

+ Trump Koan of the Week: “Don’t hurt ’em. Don’t hurt ’em, please. They don’t know they’re dealing with very tough people in this room. They don’t know who they’re dealing with! They don’t know who they’re dealing with! Go home to mom!”

The Last Time We Made Love, She Called Out His Name

Booked Up
What I’m reading this week…

The Rise of Wolf 8: Witnessing the Triumph of Yellowstone’s Underdog
Rick McIntyre

Race for Profit: How Banks and the Real Estate Industry Undermined Black Homeownership
Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor
(UNC Press)

Agent Running in the Field
John Le Carré

Sound Grammar
What I’m listening to this week…

Common Practice
Ethan Iverson Quartet

What It Is
Hayes Carll

Thanks to You

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

The Naked Kiss
Dir.: Samuel Fuller

Dir.: Jonny Campbell

Burned: Are Trees the New Coal?
Dir.: Lisa Merton and Alan Dater

The Map of Their Suffering

Susan Sontag: “So far as we feel sympathy, we feel we are not accomplices to what caused the suffering. Our sympathy proclaims our innocence as well as our impotence. To that extent, it can be (for all our good intentions) an impertinent–if not inappropriate–response. To set aside the sympathy we extend to others beset by war and murderous politics for a reflection on how our privileges are located on the same map as their suffering, and may–in ways we might prefer not to imagine–be linked to their suffering, as the wealth as some may imply the destitution of others, is a task for which the painful, stirring images supply only an initial spark.” (Regarding the Pain of Others.)

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