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Roaming Charges: You Go Back, Jack, Do It Again

In the land of milk, guns and honey. Photo: Jeffrey St. Clair.

+ Just as compulsory school prayer acts as a vaccine against becoming religious as an adult, forcing your child to watch the Congress debate impeachment (or anything else) will serve as an inoculation to suppress any future impulse to enter politics.

+ I committed to watching the whole 10 hour ordeal, providing some color commentary for a couple of radio interviews. But after two hours sanity demanded that I turn the sound off. Whatever death metal they’re inflicting on the poor souls in Gitmo these days is nothing compared to the sonic torture of hearing the voices of Debbie Wasserman-Schultz and Steve King.

+ The hearings weren’t so much a lesson in civics as a foreshadowing of the kind of blabbering cretins Betsy DeVos wants to turn the children of the Republic into. They both may be racists, but when it comes to oratorical chops Steve King is no John C. Calhoun. Basically, Congress is where you end up if can’t make it selling reverse mortgages to stroke victims or poisoning dandelions for ChemLawn.

+ This image of the Republicans in the House awaiting the final roll call vote on impeachment pretty much says it all. Modern day Klan Klaverns have a more diverse membership.

+ The incompetence of both Trump’s pursuers and his defenders make him appear mightier and more substantial than he really is. Trump is not a master politician by any means. In fact, he’s almost as bad at politics as he was at business, where everything he touched went bust. What he has going for him is shamelessness. He’s beyond humiliation. That’s one reason the Russian kompromat (whether piss tapes or money laundering) theory holds no water. He’s constitutionally immune to embarrassment. Similarly, you can’t suck up to enough to ever really please him, which leads to the mortifying spectacle of one Republican after another prostrating themselves before their orange Godhead without receiving so much in return as a pat on the head.

+ A case in point is Rep. Loudermilk (R-GA): “During that sham trial, Pontius Pilate afforded more rights to Jesus than Democrats have afforded to this President.” Pass the crown of thorns!

+ I’m not sure how far the right-wingers want to extend the Christ analogy. In Christian theology, Christ died to expatiate the sins of others. But Trump is much more likely to sacrifice his acolyte to pay for his own transgressions.

+ Still, I’m beginning to admire his hubris. Like the guy in the Steely Dan song, once Trump beats the hangman once, he’s right back running the same con again. But a scam that he once deployed covertly, he later does in plain sight. So it is with Ukrainegate. Here’s the transcript. See how perfect it was? There goes Rudy, back to Kiev, says he’s got some good dirt. Catch me, if you can. He knows they might catch him, but they can’t hold him. Not in the land of milk, guns and honey, any way.

+ Rep Kevin Brady of Texas: “Those who vote to impeach President Trump will become the Joe McCarthys of their time.” That’s going to put Roy Cohn’s ghost in a tough spot, isn’t it? Who’s he going to support, his protegé Trump or the people who voted to impeach him?

+ The impeachment debate has illustrated just how much America has changed. Back in the 1950s, Jesus and Joe McCarthy were on the same team, fighting the Godless Communists who had infiltrated the government and were poisoning our precious bodily fluids with flouride. Now the McCarthyites are acting like Communists who want to kick Jesus’ representative on Earth out of the White House and spoil the true measure of Christmas: retail sales.

+ Pelosi helped corroborate GOP charges that the Democrats had become the new McCarthyites when she opened her indictment of Trump by reciting the noxious 1954 “under God” version of the Pledge of Allegiance, an artifact the McCarthy Era which would have appalled the Deist founders of the Republic and even their Puritan ancestors, many of whom were Calvinists, Quakers and Anabaptists who rightly opposed all oaths and pledges.

+ GOP Rep. Chris Stewart: “If this impeachment is successful, the next president, I promise you, is going to be impeached, and the next president after that. If you set this bar as being impeachable, every president in our future will be impeached.” This is, of course, the best possible outcome. In fact, I’m quite looking forward to impeachment proceedings against the next sequence of presidents. The earlier and more paralyzing the better. Fierce, internecine battles between the Congress and the executive may be the only way to finally deflate the imperial powers of the post-Bush presidencies.

+ Credit where credit is due…in 2008 Trump said that George W. Bush should be impeached.

+ So Trump was just impeached. It is his peculiar genius to make even that astounding experience unsatisfying.

+ Rep. Steny Hoyer, the time-traveling congressman from Maryland: “John Locke millennia ago said this: ‘wherever law ends, tyranny begins.'” Good grief…

+ Tulsi Gabbard, as if answering the ultimate phenomenological question, courageously voted “present.” Twice.

+ Can there really be a “solemnity of the moment” in any matter involving Trump?

+ Did we watch “history unfold” this week or did it, exhausted, simply fold?

+ Not one Republican risked voting to impeach Trump. That’s quite a No Confidence vote in Mike Pence.

+ In 1973, Joe Biden’s pal, the Republican grandee Bob Dole, introduced a bill in the Senate seeking to ban television coverage of the Watergate hearings. I couldn’t imagine today’s Republicans, like Jim Jordan or Lindsey Graham, doing the same. They’re having too much fun watching their own clips on FoxNews.

+ So the Democrats impeached Trump, sort of, but to show how sorry they were they gave him this for Christmas: the Patriot Act, NAFTA 2.0, one of the largest Pentagon budgets in history, $1.8 billion in funding for his wall and Space Force. I wonder what the stocking stuffers will be…

+ Why they love him, despite everything else…corporations only paid a tax rate of 11.3 percent last year. If they paid anything at all..

+ Do you ever get the sense that when you try to “put things in their proper perspective,” the Vanishing Point gets closer every day?

+ Over the last decade, there were 179 defendants arrested in DEA reverse-sting cases in the Southern District of New York. None of them were white and all but two were black and Latino.

+ Trump in Michigan on his alleged black groupies: “I have a group of African American guys, and gals by the way, that follow me around, and they think I pay them but I don’t. They love me and I love them.”

+ Trump, checks his numbers with white women, then decides to mock Debbie Dingell: “Debbie Dingell, that’s a real beauty,” Trump says. “I gave them the A treatment,” he says, of the family after Rep. John Dingell died. Says Dingell told him her husband would be looking down happy. “Maybe he’s looking up,” Trump says.

+ Good to see that both Trump and Grisham know their Dante and how to “counterpunch.” At CounterPunch we’ve been consigning people to Hell for 26 years, starting with Henry Kissinger, who is yet to arrive, although his accommodations are being prepared. Alex and I had been working on project called A Book of Monsters for about 10 years before he died. It was a kind of Dante’s Inferno for the Power Elite and still may see the light of day. Dingell didn’t make our top 100, but he certainly belongs down there somewhere, if only for his persistent gutting of the Clean Air Act, probably among the gluttonous lost souls in the 4th Circle.

+ Christianity Today apparently didn’t receive the Good News that Trump is God’s representative on Earth…They want him impeached.

+ It didn’t take Trump long to strike back, calling Christianity Today a “left wing” magazine. You’ve come a long way, baby. One of CT’s founders was Billy Graham, the peacenik preacher who urged Nixon to bomb the dikes outside Hanoi and drown a million people.

+ Still they flock to him, with anointing oils and healing hands.

Of course, the last time Trump was touched like this he had to pay $130,000 to cover it up…

+ These days Jerry Ford is remembered mainly for a pretty bad running gag by Chevy Chase on Saturday Night Live and for his famous quip after taking office and pardoning Nixon: “Our long national nightmare is over.” (It wasn’t.) Alexander Cockburn, of course, considered Ford to be our greatest president, with the lowest body count since William Henry Harrison, who died after only 31 days in office…

+ Oh, god, do we have to watch another debate tonight?

+ The stage is almost as white tonight as the House Republican caucus.

+ In winnowing the field, the Democrats have made it weaker. Which is a very Democrat thing to do…

+ If you had Putin coming up in the first minute of the debate in the office pool, you won and can now turn your TV off…

+ Klobocop is the white Kamala Harris.

+ Did these candidates sign a non-aggression pact before the debate? What fun is that?

+ Warren: “Economists are just wrong!” TKO, Paul Krugman…

+ We were told that Mayor PeteBot had undergone a system upgrade, but he sounds pretty much the same to me.

+ The damage that Joe Biden and Tom Steyer can to the English language in 2 hours is a greater threat to our way of life than any Russian bot on a search and destroy mission.

+ Biden has had so much Botox his eyes are frozen in a permanent squint.

+ Bernie: “Paris Agreement? Ain’t enough.”

+ Bernie has given a tortured and disappointing answer on Israel. But he did call Netanyahu a “racist,” which will be used in a 1000 attacks, probably from the Biden campaign.

+ MayorPeteBot reminds me of Jeb! but with more energy!

+ Most of the Democrats in the audience will be confused by the question to Warren about closing Guantanamo having labored under the assumption that Obama closed it 8 years ago, as promised…

+ Biden wants 60% of US naval power moved to the Pacific to threaten China: “We are a Pacific power, and we’re not going to back away.” It’s the return of the disastrous Asian Pivot policy of Obama time.

+ Does McKinsey & Co. have the contract for monitoring the “purity tests”?

+ I’m depressed I didn’t get an invite to Mayor PeteBot’s wine cave full of crystal fundraiser…

+ Biden: “Billionaires oppose everything I do!” Except….[fill in the forty or fifty blanks]

Biden: 44 billionaire donors
Mayor Petebot: 39 billionaire donors

+ Give Bernie a little credit for finally admitting, grudgingly, that his vote to go to war against Afghanistan was wrong. He was, however, less forthcoming about why he continued to support the war until at least 2015.

+ Biden used Obama as a human shield until it was time to throw him under the Afghanistan bus.

+ If you trust Biden’s answer on Afghanistan, then on the most important decision of the early years of the administration (the Afghan surge) his “sage counsel” had absolutely no influence on Obama’s actions.

+ Given how badly he flubbed his answer on thorium-fueled nuclear plants, you might want to re-think Andrew Yang as the science candidate…

+ There’s nothing quite like a debate where moderates are tearing into other moderates over who is the more moderate.

+ Remi Kanazi concisely summed up Biden’s closing statement: “I love peanut butter. My grandkid watches Peppa Pig. I’m best friends with Obama. I’ve been in a helicopter. Vote for me. Cut out the malarkey.”

+ Klobocop, who spent the entire night touting her judgment and experience, voted to confirm the federal judge who just cast the deciding vote gutting ObamaCare. And he wasn’t the only rightwing judge she’s backed

+ I think Marianne Williamson won this debate by virtue of not being invited.

+ Truthdig, one of the few progressive sites willing to call out the Russiagate hysteria, challenge the Democratic Party hierarchy and donor class and lift up the voices of the Palestinians in the face of Israeli war crimes, is imploding.

The publisher, Zuade Kaufman, who has lent the site an estimated two or three million dollars, has had bitter clashes with the legendary Editor-in-Chief and the co-owner of the site, Robert Scheer, over the past few months.  Their disputes, staff members say, revolve around Kaufman’s desire to make the site more mainstream and commercially viable by catering to the Democratic Party establishment and adopting the dominant narratives about supposed Russian interference in the 2106 presidential election, as well as other stances embraced by mainstream outlets such as MSNBC.  The dispute between Scheer and Kaufman came to a head last week when Kaufman attempted to fire Scheer.  Scheer’s and Kaufman’s  lawyers are now in mediation.

What seems certain is that the working relationship between Scheer and Kaufman is over.  The site will descend, without Scheer’s integrity, vision and courage, into another mediocre and banal handmaiden of corporate Democrats.  Several senior staff members and contributors, including Chris Hedges, the site’s most widely read columnist, Dwayne Booth, the cartoonist known as Mr. Fish, and the Executive Editor Kasia Anderson, among others, are expected to leave the site if Scheer is forced out.

+ Does someone at Fox write this froth for Ainsley or does it just bubble up naturally, like one of the gaseous mud pots at Mammoth Hot Springs?

+ If Biden gets desperate for new stump material, maybe he could plagiarize a few passages from the collected speeches of House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy. They both seem to have a similar syntax. Here’s McCarthy after being asked if last night’s vote was a defeat for Republicans: “Let me first gauge that. I would feel it was a defeat to the Constitution, that the rise of impeachment would become so low, that you didn’t read the Constitution to be taken.”

+ When Border Patrol was asked why the agency chose protected public lands and wilderness areas like Organ Pipe as the first locations for Border Wall construction. Their response: the “availability of real estate.”

+ At some point, you keep thinking the System going to break from its own contradictions, but it never does. It will need to be pushed. Pushed hard: “Over the last four decades since 1979, the top 1.0% saw their wages grow by 157.8% and those in the top 0.1% had wages grow more than twice as fast, up 340.7%. In contrast those in the bottom 90% had annual wages grow by 23.9% from 1979 to 2018.”

+ Trump’s National Labor Relations Board is seeking to gut the ability of graduate students to form unions. The sight of grad students sleeping in cars is too luxurious for Trump to bear. He wants them on the sidewalks, where they can be swept up in one of Bill Barr’s raids on the homeless…

+ Trump shot down the Senate’s resolution condemning Turkey for the Armenian genocide. He’s just playing it safe. Who knows, Trump might want to commit a genocide or two himself one day to move up the ranks of the really great presidents, like his hero Andy Jackson…

+ If your vote really made a difference, they’d purge you from the rolls…

+ An audit of voter rolls in California has shown that hundreds of voters have been registered to the wrong party. It’s a wonder they could tell the difference.

+ Someone interpreted the UK election results this way: If you were able to buy a house before the year 2000, you’re a Conservative…

How Britain voted at the 2019 general election… by age

18-24 year olds:
Lab – 56%
Con – 21%
Lib Dem – 11%

70+ year olds:
Con – 67%
Lab – 14%
Lib Dem – 11%

+ Bringing “democracy” to Bolivia: The coup government of Jeanine Añez has closed 53 community radio stations in Bolivia. Their signals and transmissions have been shut down.

+ Strike like this!

+ ExxonMobil’s 2019 Outlook for Energy undercuts their claim to be “fighting climate change” by predicting that “no reductions in carbon dioxide emissions from the energy sector through 2040—and no date at which emissions reach net zero”…

+ Speaking of ExxonMobil one of their natural gas wells in Ohio released more methane into the atmosphere during a blowout in 2018 than some COUNTRIES do in a year…

+ And on the 7th day God rested, instead of fixing the fucking glitches in the operating software of the species he picked to run the place : “More than 3 in 4 U.S. adults and teenagers alike agree that humans are influencing the climate. But 43 percent of adults and 57 percent of teens cited ‘plastic bottles and bags’ as a ‘major’ contributor to climate change.”

+ To quote from Gravity’s Rainbow, it was a “Sunday funnies dawn” here on the northern Oregon Coast this morning. But since there aren’t any papers to put “Sunday funnies” in anymore that perfect metaphor won’t make sense to anyone, so here’s a photo…

+ This just in from the Gen. Westmoreland School of Forestry: We must burn and log the Redwoods to save them!

+ While conducting my monthly wintering bald eagle survey along the lower Columbia River on Saturday, I almost jumped out of my skin when I saw this silent ship cruising up behind me. My taxonomy of the US Navy fleet isn’t very good, but I believe this is a Littoral Combat ship named the USS Coronado (LCS-4), armed with Hellfire Missiles, a 57 MM machine gun in the turret, and and four big 50 calibre guns in the fore and aft of the ship, as well as an assortment of high-tech electronic warfare gizmos. It runs very fast and because of Stealth technology was almost quiet. I was able to film this clip before the ship really kicked into gear and headed out toward the Columbia Bar and the slate-colored Pacific. What the hell was it doing in Astoria?

+ TVA, a federally owned utility that serves 10 million customers in seven southeastern states, is pressuring its power providers to sign longer contracts, locking them in for decades of coal and nuclear power with little flexibility use renewables such as wind or solar.

+ The Trump administration just pulled the plug on ToxMap, an online database allowed users to pull up detailed EPA data for each toxic release site, and to overlay other information, such as mortality statistics, onto those maps. They really don’t want you to know if you’re being poisoned, with what or by whom…

+ The groundwater in eastern Oregon’s Harney County is dropping by 8 feet a YEAR in some places…

+ The situation is just as bad, if not worse, in Arizona, where deep wells drilled by mega-farms are draining the desert state’s irreplaceable aquifers.

+ Interior Secretary David Bernhardt’s former firm, Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, has raked in $12 million from clients lobbying the Interior Department since his nomination—a 310% increase from the year before. And the investment is paying off, from oil leases to coal mine permits to water diversions.

+ Former SeaWorld dolphin trainer turned whistleblower Jeffrey Ventre on the moment the scales dropping from his eyes: “It’s like going through a one-way door. Once you see them in the wild—swimming in straight lines with straight dorsal fins—there’s really no going back.”

+ The Brazilian Cerrado loses an area the size of London in vegetative cover every three months…

+ The new acid test: the waters off the California coast seems to be acidifying at twice the rate of the global average. Has the word “acidification” ever been used in a presidential debate?

+ As his company, Murray Energy, sank into bankruptcy, Bob Murray paid himself $14 million for one year’s wages while his then-president, Robert D. Moore, who has since become chairman, earned $9 million a year, on top of his retention bonus. Meanwhile, Murray still had enough money left over to his climate denial campaigns.

+ Murray Energy may be seeking protection from its creditors, but coal’s death has been greatly exaggerated. The world burns 65 percent more coal today than it did in 2000, much of it in Asia, according to a new report by the International Energy Association.

+ Under pressure from the world’s biggest polluters, the UN climate talks in Madrid (COP25) fell apart without any deal. The conference couldn’t even manage to ‘accept’ the U.N.’s own IPCC report.

+ A single rancher in eastern Washington state has killed 26 wolves.

+ One of the fatal problems with HBO’s The Watchmen, which seems to alternate one great episode with a dud, is that it just can’t live up to how horrifying the Tulsa race massacre really was…

+ I noted with sadness the passing of Larry Heinemen this week whose Paco’s Story was one of the best novels to come out of the Vietnam “experience”…

+ Is it OK to be a Gerrit Cole fan even if he pitches for the Yankees?

+ Keith Richards turned 76 this week. No one said immortality was going to come easy. If you want to be like Keith, ya gotta take your supplements…

+ The best Keith Richards joke I’ve heard this week…”Keith has two lovely daughters. When they pass away, he will inherit everything.”

+ How Kurt Vonnegut graded his own work in his essay “The Sexual Revolution” (collected in Palm Sunday).

Player Piano: B
The Sirens of Titan: A
Mother Night: A
Cat’s Cradle: A+
God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater: A
Slaughterhouse-Five: A+
Welcome to the Monkey House: B−
Happy Birthday, Wanda June: D
Breakfast of Champions: C
Wampeters, Foma and Granfalloons: C
Slapstick: D
Jailbird: A
Palm Sunday: C

I feel like I know as much about Vonnegut as anyone. Both of us were disaffected spawns of Indynoplace. Kurt went to Shortridge High School and my father to Broad Ripple, but somehow my father got his hands on copies of Kurt’s underground school paper, which he kept for the rest of his life. One thing that had escaped my attention for many years was that Jerry Garcia had bought the rights to Sirens of Titan and had completed a draft of a screenplay shortly before he died. A version of it is now being made for Netflix. I think Kurt’s grades are pretty accurate though I would rate Breakfast of Champions a little higher for personal reasons. I took that book with me on an expedition to northern Manitoba in 1975, where a grizzly bear walked through our base camp one night and pretty much destroyed everything, tents, food, sleeping bags, kerosene, Scotch. She even mangled my copy of that book, though didn’t shred it completely–so maybe she didn’t like it so much either. But reading it by flashlight keep me alert through the nervous and sleepless nights that followed. I still keep that copy of Breakfast of Champions close at hand and 45 years later it still smells of kerosene, muskeg and bear…

+ From Elton John’s surprisingly captivating, and often hysterical, memoir “Me”: “One of the few times I tried to sit down and write a hit single was at the end of 1975. I was on holiday in Barbados with a big group of friends: Bernie [Taupin] was there, Tony King, Kiki Dee, lots of people. I thought we should write a duet for Kiki and me to sing. Bernie and I came up with two. one was called “I’m Always on the Bonk”: “I don’t know who I’m fucking, I don’t know who I’m sucking, but I’m always on the bonk.’ The was “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart.” I wrote the melody on the piano, came up with the title and Bernie finished it off. He hated the end result, and I can’t really blame him–Bernie was not, and is not, a fan of anything he thinks is shallow pop music. But even he had to admit had substantially more commercial potential than “I’m Always on the Bonk.”

Sail Away, Sail Away, Three Sheets to the Wind

Booked Up
What I’m reading this week…

Wilding: Returning Nature to Our Farm
Isabella Tree
(NYRB)

Me
Elton John
(Holt)

Crime in Progress: Inside the Steele Dossier and the Fusion GPS Investigation of Donald Trump
Glenn Simpson and Peter Fritsch
(Random House)

Sound Grammar
What I’m listening to this week…

The Wanting
Cody Jinks
(Late August Records)

Thanksgiving in New York City (Live)
New Riders of the Purple Sage
(Omnivore)

The Great Summit: Master Takes
Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong
(Parlophone)

You Hate America, Don’t You?

“You hate America, don’t you?”

“That would be as silly as loving it,” I said. “It’s impossible for me to get emotional about it, because real estate doesn’t interest me. It’s no doubt a great flaw in my personality, but I can’t think in terms of boundaries. Those imaginary lines are as unreal to me as elves and pixies. I can’t believe that they mark the end or the beginning of anything of real concern to a human soul. Virtues and vices, pleasures and pains cross boundaries at will.” (Kurt Vonnegut, Mother Night)

 

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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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