Roaming Charges: Enter Sondland

Abandoned shoes, Old Town, Portland. Photo: Jeffrey St. Clair.

+ One of the useful life-lessons Roy Cohn taught the young Donald Trump was always to have a fall guy, a patsy on retainer to take the blame when a deal goes sour. In the Ukraine extortion scheme, the patsy was supposed to be Gordon Sondland. Sondland was a guy who, though not exactly an intellectual, understood how quid pro quos work. After all, he sank $1 million into Trump’s coffers with the expectation of landing an ambassadorship in the administration. He got the gig he wanted, ambassador to the EU, but perhaps not the assignment he expected: shake down the new Ukrainian regime to provide political favors to Trump. Sondland was meant to be Trump’s stooge, one of the three amigos (along with Rick Perry and Kurt Volker), who would blindly do Trump and Rudy’s bidding even if he didn’t have a clue about the consequences or precarious legality of his mission. After all, Sondland wasn’t a real diplomat. Like Trump, he was in the hospitality business (Provenance Hotels). He aimed to please. His were the fingerprints meant to be left on the extortion scheme, if it was ever exposed.  So imagine Trump’s surprise, when even the ass-lickers like Sondland started to cover their own asses, at his expense.

+ This is what happens, Trump, when you hire someone richer than you who only wanted the gig to attend ambassadorial parties across Europe with his investment banker wife, Katherine Durant. The Sondland’s have a cushy life they want to go back to in Seattle. No loyalty. Better call, Rudy, Trump, and sleep with one eye open, before you enter Sondland…

+ Trump on Schiff: “He is a proven liar, leaker & freak who is really the one who should be impeached!” Adam Schiff is many things and probably a liar and leaker but the Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers assure me that he is not a member of their seditious tribe…

+ According to a story in the Washington Post, several GOP senators are ready to acknowledge that Trump did demand a quid pro quo deal with Ukraine. They were left with no choice after Giuliani was captured making incriminating statements on his own Quid goPro Quo camera…

+ Finally a “win-win solution” we can all get behind! Ukrainegate takes down Trump and Biden, whose son Hunter was named-dropped by the Blue Sky influence-peddling outfit to try to gain access to the Obama State Department…

+ Maybe Trump can put Scooter Libby in charge of the new White House Office of Whistleblower Identification. That pardon’s gotta be good for something.

+ Unity is a one-way street for the Dems. One must never criticize the candidate of the party elites or risk being tarred as an outsider or malcontent. The elites are under no similar stricture to remain mute about progressives. In fact, it’s their job to tear them apart live on CNN.

+ Here comes Hillary to denounce Elizabeth Warren’s Medicare-for-All Plan as dead on arrival. She would know, of course, having been a single-payer assassin since 1993.

She’s as cold as ice
She’s willing to sacrifice (your loved ones)
She’ll never take advice
She’ll make the sick pay the price
She’s done it before
It happens all the time
She closes the hospital door
And leaves the Bill behind…

+ The more trouble Trump gets in, the more visible HRC becomes, which makes it more likely Trump will get reelected, just like the first time. There must be some kind of secret quid pro quo, right?

+ With the Republican Michael Bloomberg now entering the Democratic Party primary race will the DNC finally stop blathering about Bernie not being a member of the party? Don’t count on it. Neoliberals can move seamlessly between the two parties without even a visa. It’s the Henry Wallace liberals they feel compelled to watch out for…

+ Here’s Mayor Stop-and-Frisk speaking at the 2004 RNC Convention in NYC, during the height of the Iraq war, while the NYPD was arresting and roughing up protesters across the city: “The president deserves our support. We are here to support him.” (Thanks to Tom Robbins, the journalist not the novelist.)

+ With Kamala Harris failing, the police lobby needed someone else to step up to the plate…

+ Trump apparently believes that he could not only shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and win Kansas, but that he could kill off half the farmers in the state and their relatives would still vote for him…and he may be right.

+ Socialism in Trump country…in 2019 40% of all farm income will derive from federal aid and crop insurance.

+ William Roebuck, the US envoy to Syria, wrote a blistering memo complaining that the Trump Administration didn’t do enough militarily to counter the Turkish invasion of Kurdish held territory in Syria. Of course, short of using tactical nukes, no amount of military force would be enough to satisfy of these guys…

+ Will abandoning the Kurds to the Turks, Syrians and Russians, Trump ordered expanded military operations to seize oil fields in northern Syria. Last time I checked, looting was still a war crime.

+ Trump ignored Native American Heritage Month and instead, pandering to his 7th Cavalry base, proclaimed November “National American History and Founders Month…”

+ How Caroline Winne, the wife of a US Army doctor, reported the assassination of Crazy Horse…

+ These day’s a lot of controversy in Indian Country about the Crazy Horse Monument in South Dakota and I feel partly culpable for its construction. When I was 10, I saved up money from cutting lawns and sent 20 hard-earned bucks, all ones as I recall, off to South Dakota to Korczak Ziolkowski, who I’d read about in National Geographic. A few weeks later, his office sent back a plaster of Paris model of the monument. It’s been on my desk for the last 50 years, a little battered from many moves, but still one of my favorite possessions, guilty as I may now feel about it.

+ From Pekka Hamalainen’s compelling new book, Lakota America: a New History of Indigenous Power: “Lakotas were fighting for survival but they were also fighting to keep alive a broader vision, where coexistence through right thoughts and acts might be possible.”

+ Trump blew up the Iran nuclear deal and Iranians got the message. Now 70 percent of Iranians think the main lesson of the JCPOA is that “it is not worthwhile for Iran to make concessions, because Iran cannot have confidence that if it makes a concession world powers will honor their side of an agreement.”

+ A federal judge slammed the Trump administration again, blocking its vicious plan to bar immigrants who can’t pay for health care. One should be able to make an argument that repeatedly enacting policies that violate the Constitution is an impeachable offense. But the Democrats refuse to go there, perhaps because they fear it blowing back on their own savage policies.

+ Yet nothing seems to deter them in their drive to harass migrants. According to documents unearthed by Pro Publica, the Trump administration is creating a center that will give immigration agents access to information from U.S. intelligence agencies. Migrants and others denied entry will be unable to see the evidence against them because it is classified.

+ Let’s check the scoreboard for the Neoliberals vs. the Rest of Us: The wealthiest 10% of adults own 82% of the world’s wealth. The bottom 50% account for less than 1%.

+ Despite having to endure 8 years of a  Peace Prize president and three of an “anti-war” president, the war industry is doing just fine: “Defense shares have returned 130% since 2014—based on a constructed index of 25 firms—compared with 89% for the S&P 500.”

+ Looks like they finally found some spies on Twitter. Turns out they were working fo the Saudis not the Russians. Whoops.

+ This week Joe Biden attacked Warren and Sanders for “elitism.” The venue for this assertion of populist sentiment? A big donor fundraiser featuring the “president of Pittsburgh-based developer Castlebrook Development” and “chairman of Millcraft Investments.”

+ According to the latest Morning Consult poll there are only two candidates (Williamson & Gabbard) whose unfavorable ratings surpass their favorable ratings and neither is named Joe Biden or Kamala Harris. What’s wrong with you people? What’s Marianne ever done to any of you?

+ Politics in the age of billionaires…an aide to Tom Steyer reportedly offer cash to Iowa politicians who would endorse Steyer’s doomed presidential bid. And this guy was supposed to be an apex investor?

+ Phony Betomania has bitten the dust

+ This week Georgia began purging 300,000 voters from its rolls. Who needs a Poll Tax to suppress the black vote, when you’ve got a Poll Axe?

+ The Constitution basically locks the US into a two-party system. Yet we’re rapidly (though not rapidly enough) approaching the point where the combined support for both parties is less than 50% of eligible voters. What then?

+ Israel killed 222 Palestinian protesters in Gaza since 2018. Only one solider has been indicted….

+ Former IDF Navy commander and chief of Shin Bet, Ami Ayalon, called for strong Jewish opposition to Israel’s savage war against Palestinians, which he says is fueling anti-Semitism all over the world. This was the thrust of argument of book The Politics of Antisemitism.

+ Spreading democracy Israeli-style, one expulsion at a time. The latest target: Omar Shakir, director of Human Rights Watch for Israel and Palestine.

+ Meanwhile, an Israeli firm funded by Microsoft has been identified as using facial recognition software to spy on Palestinian activists in the West Bank.

+ In the 1920s, one in three “eligible” men living in Dallas were members of the KKK. Eligible for what you might ask, appearing on the Dating Game? Behind the white hood, bachelor Number Two…Apparently, it refers to being eligible to join the Klan: white, Protestant, over 21.

+ According to a new poll, 70% of Americans want peace with North Korea. Will someone please inform the Democrats?

+ The New York Times is calling for a US intervention in Haiti: “Decades of misrule have kept Haiti poor and on the verge of collapse. Its neighbors — including the United States — need to step in to help.” In fact, Haiti’s history has been blighted by one instance of the US “stepping in to help” after another, leaving it in the ruinous state it’s now in…

+ Remember when the Clinton administration offered “medical assistance” to Haiti’s women by offering them Norplant birth control implants in exchange for food?

+ As Jim Kavanaugh remarked, “When Cuba sends medical help, they send doctors, not Marines.”

+ According to David Cay Johnston, “adopting French or German universal care is statistical savings equivalent of exempting from income tax everyone making less than $500,000.”

+ He’s got the magic touch…Trump vowed to eliminate the trade deficit. It’s expanded to $500 billion over the last nine months.

+ The  “Cockburn” who writes for the Spectator using the third person, is not one of our Cockburns; yet his story about Kushner and MBS is explosive, if even remotely true: “According to Cockburn’s source about the seven whistleblowers, there’s more. It is that Kushner (allegedly) gave the green light to MBS to arrest the dissident journalist, Jamal Khashoggi, who was later murdered and dismembered in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.”

+ Darth Vader on the utility of ISIS…Henry Kissinger rose from his crypt this week to warn that the destruction of ISIS might fuel the rise of an “Iranian radical empire!

+ A second person (a wrestling referee) has now come forward to say that he informed Jim Jordan, one of the chief inquisitors in the House, about sexual assaults on Ohio State wrestlers by a team doctor. Jordan’s response? “Yeah, yeah, we know.” Is the country really filled with creeps or is the creep demographic disproportionately represented in Congress?

+ Retiring  Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson, who led the department after the murder of Laquan McDonald, a black teenager who was shot 16 times by a white officer, and was recently discovered asleep in a parked care: “I’ve actually never encountered police misconduct.”

+ Trump in Atlanta on Friday afternoon:  “What do you prefer: Blacks for Trump or African-Americans for Trump?” Really…

+ Is it a surprise to anyone that Trump’s “criminal justice” reforms are turning out to be just as hollow as his “withdrawals” from Syria and Afghanistan?

+ The Bush-Obama-Trump Economy (oh, hell, just call it neoliberalism) at work…the incomes of America’s poorest have fallen by 7 percent since 2004.

+ Many people are starting to get it. A Financial Times poll showed that nearly two-thirds of Americans don’t feel like their economic situation has improved under Trump. And it hasn’t.

+ In the San Francisco Bay Area, 676,000 jobs have been added over the past eight years, compared with 176,000 new housing units. Corporate contributions, like that recently made by Apple, won’t do much of anything to stem the crisis.

+ Trump’s new spiritual advisor, the prosperity pastor Paula White, has been leading prayers against Trump’s opponents, who she says are practicing “witchcraft and sorcery” against the president. “Sorcery and witchcraft” probably have a better chance of defeating Trump than what the DNC has tried for the last four years…

+ White, who has been married three times, currently to Jonathan Cain the keyboardist Journey, described her relationship to Trump this way: “God used Donald Trump in my life as much as I was used in his life…”

+ How’s that Roger Stone trial going? Here’s one of the email exchanges between Stone and radio host Randy Credico, who Stone tried to throw under the bus. Credico writes to Stone via email on 4/07/2018: “You had nothing to do on any level with Assange as much as you [threw] Hail Marys to Guccifer and WikiLeaks and you know it…” Credico urges Stone to tell the truth. Stone replies: “Why does your breath smell of Ari Melber’s cock?”

+ According to the “humanitarian” bombers at Freedom House, the Internet is “less free” than it was a decade ago. But it was never free. The Internet started as a virtual Panopticon developed, as Yasha Levine documents in his book Surveillance Valley, by the defense and intelligence agencies that most people willingly entered and locked themselves up inside. The walls have been closing ever since…

+ In his new book, Don Jr describes a visit to Arlington National Cemetery before his father’s inauguration and compares the sacrifice of the slain soldiers to “all the sacrifices we’d have to make to help my father succeed….Frankly, it was a big sacrifice, costing us millions and millions of dollars annually.” Thanks Don, that pretty much sums up Trumpism for me.

+ In 1989, Trump used his now defunct foundation to pay Don Jr.’s $7 enrollment fee for the Boy Scouts.

+ Where is the love? Where is the love, you said you’d give to me?

+ If Don Jr and Eduardo Bolsonaro are any indication, the next generation of despots looks like they will prove to be even worse than their fathers…

+ I skimmed through the recently released Mueller memos and didn’t see much of interest except for the amusing escapade of the two real estate tycoons from Kyrgyzstan pitching dirt on Clinton to Team Trump. You just can hear Trump’s response, “Kyrgywhatever, a place nobody’s heard of, but with a lot of potential.”

+ We’re constantly being told about the new Texas. Perhaps. But the state still seems to be incredibly eager to execute an innocent man, just like the good old days under Bush and Perry…

+ For years at Florida’s largest women’s prison, guard Keith Turner was accused of countless abuses of inmates. He wasn’t fired. “Instead, he was promoted to lieutenant.” Then he almost beat an inmate to death

+ What members of the G7 will miss out on now that the meeting won’t be held at Trump’s Doral golf resort:

+ Views of 2 different garbage dumps.
+ Mold on an A/C vent in the lobby and “on nearly every chaise-lounge by the pools.”
+ Lingering fumes from jets on approach to MIA
+ Bed bugs

+ E. Jean Carroll on why she’s suing Trump for defamation: “I am filing this on behalf of every woman who has ever been harassed, assaulted, silenced, or spoken up only to be shamed, fired, ridiculed and belittled…No person in this country should be above the law – including the president.

+ Nationals pitcher Sean Doolittle (word is he and his wife are members of the DSA) on why he refused an invitation to the White House: “My wife and I stand for inclusion and acceptance, and we’ve done work with refugees, people that come from, you know, the ‘shithole countries,”

+ A new study suggests that regular exercise might improve memory and stave off dementia. Which begs the question: do we really want to remember the era we’re living in? Hell, I still remember the Reagan administration, which, I suppose, is the definition of dementia…

+ Rep. Matt Gaetz to FoxNews’ Mark Levin: “It’s a worldview [those who advocate impeachment] where you eat nothing but kale and quinoa, where those of us who cling to our Bibles and our guns and our fried foods and real America are looked down upon.”  I wonder where he learned to pronounce “guinoa”?

+ The rise of the Pew Brothers, who not only brought us the modern GOP, but also managed, through the Pew Charitable Trusts, the leveraged buyout of the environmental movement along the way….

+  Chase Iron Eyes, lead counsel for the Lakota People’s Law Project. “This is what pipelines do: They spill.” The latest “spill” for the Keystone XL pipeline occurred last week in Walsh County, North Dakota, with 383,040 gallons of oil seeping out on the prairie.

+ Gina McCarthy, the woman who as head of Obama’s EPA turned her back on Flint is the new CEO and board president of the neoliberal “eco” group NRDC…

+ The CEO of NRDC was making well over $100K 20 years ago, when I profiled them for CounterPunch. One of NRDC’s founders, John Bryson, went on to become the CEO of So Cal Edison and spearheaded the energy deregulation bill that has now turned PG&E into nation’s most notorious arsonist.

+ Meanwhile, the kids of Flint still doesn’t have safe water

+ In a report published in Nature, scientists using NASA imagery estimated that 10% of the places in California releasing methane — including landfills, natural gas facilities and dairy farms — are responsible for more than half of the state’s total emissions. And a fraction of the 272,000 sources surveyed — just 0.2%, so-called super-emitters — account for as much as 46%.

+ The always engaging John Bellamy Foster in Monthly Review: “Solving climate change will require huge shifts in the economy, moving away from fossil fuels & restructuring whole energy systems.… [raising] fundamental questions about production & consumption & along with it the rule of capital.”

+ Trump officially pulled the US out of the Paris Climate Accords. Good riddance. The Paris Climate Accords aren’t worth saving. The more enlightened nation’s on the planet (like, well, let’s see… Bhutan, maybe?) should use Trump’s petulant pullout as an excuse to trash that deal and forge a global policy strong enough that it might actually work.

+ Sea levels will continue to rise for CENTURIES even if emissions targets are met. As Suetonius quoted Caesar, “Iacta alea est”…

+ 248 locations recorded one of their top 10 warmest Octobers on record. Of those, 30 locations had (or tied) their warmest October EVER, including-

Vero Beach
West Palm Beach
Fort Myers
Daytona Beach

+ Nome, Alaska’s 5-year running average temperatures are now 5F above the 20th century average and are much higher than any time in the past century.

+ The air in the West has been this toxic since 2009: “Between 2016 and 2018, the levels of fine particulate matter — inhalable specks of liquids and solids that make up air pollution — increased by 11.5%.”

+ Roxanne Amico: “Making America Gag Again.”

+ Toxic smog is choking Delhi. What a fine job we’ve done with this place we live on…

+ I think all trapping should be illegal, but this interactive map published by the Albuquerque Journal is a useful reminder that traps don’t discriminate between rare species, protected species your dog or your kid…

+ $20 billion: the amount of deferred maintenance that has accrued in federal land management agencies.

+ One more lane will fix it!

+ Fuck cars, up with Good Samaritan bears!

+ In April, a bankruptcy court approved bonuses for arsonists. Then six months later PG&E struck again…

+ PG&E: Pacific Gaslighting & Evasion.

+ The risk of wildfires in California is predicted to be extreme into December.

+ Should they call them “wildfires,” when PG&E is starting most of them? At latest count, PG&E has been responsible for starting more than 1,500 fires in the last 6 years alone.

+ The sudden relocation of the Conference of Parties (COP) from Chile to Madrid has left hundreds of activists in the Global South stranded and unable to attend. There need to be climate conferences that activists don’t have to “attend” by flying halfway around the world to get there, burning carbon all the way there and back. That’s what video-conferencing is for…

+ A new billboard sprouted along I-5 in Oregon this week shaming PNW “environmental” groups for failing to protect endangered species such as the spotted owl…

+ Care about endangered species in the ancient forests of the Northwest? Donate money to Eco-Advocates NW instead.

+ I highly recommend the Netflix documentary The Devil Next Door, on the Demjanyuk case. It has a bit of everything: Ukrainian Nazis, possible Russian (Soviet) meddling, forgeries, nationalism, prosecutors who destroy exculpatory evidence, the fallibility of eyewitness testimony (even from Holocaust survivors), and the US embrace of “former” Nazis, as long as they were anti-Communist. It was so compelling that I watched all 5 episodes in one sitting. Ironically, I happened to be reading Roth’s Operation Shylock, a faux-memoir where Roth encounters another “Philip Roth” in Jerusalem while covering the Demjanjuk trial, who is advocating the repatriation of Jews from Israel to Europe. The novel was published before the  resolution of the case, which as the doc shows remains ambiguous, but gets at the essence. There were two Demjanjuks: one who was Ivan the Terrible only in the eyes of Treblinka survivors and the other who wasn’t at Treblinka but was killing Jews at Sobibor.

+ Speaking of Roth, he reportedly left $2 million to his local library in Newark. What would Portnoy’s mother say? “Alexander, first the disgusting thing with the liver, now this? How much more do you expect a mother, even a dead one, to take? Didn’t I tell you charity begins at home? Think of your nieces and nephews! You want they should go penniless?”

+ Film historian Ben Schwartz writes that “As movie cops grew more amoral and violent after 1971s “Dirty Harry,” it makes perfect sense that by 1988 Die Hard would be a story told in the language of a horror film.” Dirty Harry? What about Welles’ Touch of Evil (1958)? Hard to get more amoral and violent than that, which was also told in the language of a horror film.

+ Delta, which edited out the lesbian sex scene from Olivia Wilde’s terrific film Booksmart, is the Mormon Church of Airlines…

+ Yet another reason to avoid the absurd spectacle of the Academy Awards: the Nigerian entry was rejected because it contained “too much English.” English is the official language of Nigeria.

+ We needed a film of Jonathan Lethem’s Motherless Brooklyn like we needed a film of Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch

+ The NYT obit for the great Ernest J. Gaines, quotes a review of A Lesson Before Dying by one of my old professors at AU, longtime friend and current CounterPunch book reviewer, Chuck Larson. “Charles R. Larson, reviewing it in The Chicago Tribune, wrote, “This majestic, moving novel is an instant classic, a book that will be read, discussed and taught beyond the rest of our lives.””

+ What’s the concussion rate for e-sports?

+ If you thought Dylan was a prickly interview subject, check out this bracing encounter with Van Morrison about his new record, Three Chords and the Truth.

+ I remember when Dave Marsh interviewed Morrison for his Sirius show, around the time of the Hank Williams record. Dave was very solicitous but still didn’t get much out of him. A lot grunting, as I recall. As a writer, I don’t know why writers and musicians should be expected to explain their work or their work habits. As an interviewer, I wish they’d answer the fucking questions. As a reader, I wish they’d spend more time spreading salacious gossip about their rivals and trashing their critics.

+ And Jesus said, “What you would render unto Caesar, Caesar will render unto Kanye…”

+ Bassist Avery Sharpe on the challenge of composing the songs for his new album 400: An African American Musical Portrait: “The hardest part was to try and condense 400 years into 60 minutes.”

+ Detroit jazz great Barry Harris needs our help. Harris fell ill in Bologna and desperately needs a medical air transport back to the states. Consider pitching in a few bucks on his Go Fund Me site

I Point the Gun, They Shoot for Fun

Booked Up
What I’m reading this week…

Dirty Jokes and Bawdy Songs: the Uncensored Life of Gershon Legman
Susan Davis

Floating Coast: an Environmental History of the Bering Sea
Bathsheba DeMuth

The Storyteller Essays
Walter Benjamin
Trans. Tess Lewis

Sound Grammar
What I’m listening to this week…


Note by Note
Booker T.
(Edith Street)

Michael Kiwanuka

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

The Devil Next Door
Directors: Yossi Bloch & Daniel Sivan

The Jazz Loft, According to W. Eugene Smith
Director: Sarah Fishko

Even Worse Than TV

Donald Fagen: “I tried to grow up. Honest. Didn’t quite happen. I guess I’m someone for whom youth still seems more real than the present, or the half century in between. And why not? I’m deeply underwhelmed by most contemporary art, literature, music, films, TV, the heinous little phones, money talk, real estate talk, all that stuff. The Internet, which at first seemed so fascinating, appears to be evolving into something even worse than TV.” (Eminent Hipsters)

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