Roaming Charges: Going Viral

The Black Death by Hieronymus Bosch.

+ From Albert Camus’s The Plague, which is once again on my nightstand: “There have been as many plagues as wars in history; yet always plagues and wars take people equally by surprise.”

+ We are witnessing what happens to a country (this one) that faces a pandemic after it has privatized almost every aspect of its public social welfare and health systems & gutted the teaching of science in public schools so thoroughly that most people can’t even understand what’s coming at them …

+ Even as we are being told to distance ourselves from each other, we need more solidarity now than ever before, because the System we are living under has failed, failed to offer even a minimum level of protection to those most vulnerable, just as we all knew it would fail, in precisely the ways it was meant to fail.

+ Leave it to Mike Davis, who wrote a terrifying book a few years ago on Avian Flu, to give us a stark forecast for what we’re up against: “There is, however, more reliable data on the virus’s impact on certain groups in a few countries.  It is very scary.  Italy, for example, reports a staggering 23 per cent death rate among those over 65; in Britain the figure is now 18 per cent.  The ‘corona flu’ that Trump waves off is an unprecedented danger to geriatric populations, with a potential death toll in the millions.”

+ Six months from now, 75% of Americans will have a “pre-existing condition.” The other 25% will probably be composting…

+ When CDC Director Dr. Redfield was asked at a congressional hearing on Thursday morning who’s in charge of making sure coronavirus tests can be administered, he hesitated and then turned to Dr. Fauci, who said, “My colleague is looking at me to answer that…”

+ Do you REALLY want to give Trump those extreme powers, Bernie?

+ What fascism in the US will look like …under the sweeping “extraordinary powers” Trump just gave to Customs and Border Patrol, border cops will be allowed to surveil and detain people suspected of carrying the coronavirus indefinitely.

+ Trump, the petty tyro, is reportedly considering slapping bans on travel to and from Washington State and California. It’s an insane plan and he’s insane enough to do it.  The Pacific Northwest should take this opportunity to secede…

+ All of the financial elites who were willing to swallow Trump’s nativism, managerial incompetence and anti-science lunacies in exchange for tax cuts, gutted regulations and a bull market are getting their just desserts…but did they have to drag the rest of us down with them?

+ Consider how Border Patrol dealt with this horrific situation: An asylum-seeker who was kidnapped, sexually assaulted in front of her daughter, and tortured with acid begged US border officers not to send her back to the same Mexican city where the men attacked her. They did anyway. For about 12 days she was kept inside a dirty home, occasionally fed old food, and assaulted.

+ So according to a source for NPR, Trump rejected testing for coronavirus back in January because he thought it would harm his reelection chances. And they tried to impeach him for digging up dirt on Biden in Ukraine…!


+ Quarantined, Italian-style: Pornhub Premium free in Italy during COVID-19 restrictions.

+ Are the faith healers still laying their hands on Trump?

+ The for-profit health care system in the US is already starting to crack under the pressure and the virus hasn’t even really hit yet…

+ Pence promised 8 million tests by the end of the week, but according to Lamar Alexander: “We are going to work as hard as we can to push this administration to continue to ramp up the number of tests but the reality is..they do not yet have the tests available and can’t give us a date.” South Korea, where the virus appeared about the same time it did in US, is testing 10,000 a day and has been for nearly a month.

+ Your country under neoliberalism: The CDC tested only 77 people this week for coronavirus.

+ Here in Oregon, the state health lab only has the capacity to perform 80 tests a day…but that’s still more than the CDC did all week.

+ Another sign of the impending crisis (and that ObamaCare was a disaster): The number of hospital beds in the US has fallen by 5% over the last ten years.

+ The US (pop. 330 million) has fewer hospital beds than … Italy (pop. 60 million) and South Korea (pop. 51 million). And many of those are unaffordable for most people. Winning!

+ Larry Kudlow, who missed the great recession, “The virus is contained!”

+ On Weds night Sanjay Gupta asked CNN’s Don Lemon to read the CDC’s coronavirus testing stats off of his phone.

ZERO tests conducted today by CDC.

A grand total of 8 tests conducted by other public health agencies across the country.


+ The Republican Governor for Ohio Mike DeWine confirmed on Thursday that only 1,000 tests are available to 11.69 million citizens who live in the Buckeye State. He further said that projections are that more than 100,000 Ohioans will be infected with the coronavirus…

+ The projections for NYC are sobering, to say the least…

+ If you’re looking for a short introduction to the nature and behavior of viruses, I highly recommend Carl Zimmer’s Planet of Viruses (2d ed). It’s a lucidly written book that makes complex and sometimes unsettling science comprehensible.

+ Rebecca Nagle: “Look, I fully support banning travel from Europe to prevent the spread of infectious disease. I just think it’s 528 years too late.”

+ Matt “Gas Mask” Gaetz, one of the most ridiculous buffoons in a Congress filled with them, voted against paid sick leave. Now he’s taking it, because he was exposed to COVID-19.

+ The Cuban health care system, whose doctors are even now in China testing interferon-based drugs against the virus, is going to look better and better to people in the US, as the COVID-19 does its thing here. Even the Miami Cuban nutcases may be singing Fidel’s praises before this is over….

+ Maybe Jay Inslee (who promised tests would be “free”) is a “snake” after all…


+ The Senate won’t take up House coronavirus bill until after its recess. “The Senate will act when we come back and we have a clearer idea of what extra steps we need to take,” Sen. Lamar Alexander told reporters…What if they never come back? One can hope…

+ Why the Senate is refusing to act on COVID-19: “A key sticking point in the talks appears to be GOP demands to include Hyde amendment language in the bill to prevent federal funds from being used for abortion…” Priorities, priorities…

+ Joe Biden: “I don’t like the Supreme Court decision on abortion. I think it went too far. I don’t think that a woman has the sole right to say what should happen to her body.” (Biden said this in 2006, not 1976.)

+ I guess Mitch McConnell, who vowed to kill the House Coronavirus bill, was serious when he called himself The Grim Reaper.

+ The World Health Organization has announced that dogs cannot contract Covid-19. Dogs previously held in quarantine can now be released. WHO let the dogs out! (The jokes will only get worse, as the virus spreads.)

+ To wit: Always scrub your hands like you just shook hands with the President…

+ Come back, Marianne, your country (if not your lamentable party) needs you!

+ From The Plague:

“What on earth prompted you to take a hand in this, doctor?”

“I don’t know. My… my code of morals, perhaps.”

“Your code of morals. What code, if I may ask?”


+ According to Amazon’s rankings, Camus’ The Plague is now #7 in the Self-Help & Psychology Humor category, which is an irony Camus himself probably couldn’t have gotten away with. A viral pandemic is apparently what it takes to get Americans to read French existentialist literature…

+ “Carbon Joe” Biden’s entire climate change plan is budgeted at $1.7 trillion. The Fed just dropped that much on Wall Street in a single day without any public input…

+ And they said we “can’t afford” national health care!

+ Windmills don’t cause cancer, but the Karmic Wheel just might spread the coronoavirus in some deserving directions…

+ The mayor of Miami, Francis Suarez, contracted the coronavirus shortly after attending an event with Brazilian despot Jair Bolsonaro. Lesson: don’t shake hands with someone who has blood on them.

+ Sen. Tom Cotton’s WTF press release on Thursday morning: “We will emerge stronger from this challenge, we will hold accountable those who inflicted it on the world.” CPAC?

+ No, Iraq. Trump Wags the Virus, ordering airstrikes against Shia militia sites in Iraq.

+ Sorry, Beto, we don’t need any more “fight for democracy abroad”…

+ Laleh Khalili: “The NY school system won’t shut down because over 100,000 students are homeless and will not get a meal otherwise. The US is the dystopia they imagine everywhere else being.”

+ “I haven’t touched my face in weeks,” Trump says during a meeting with airlines CEOs on responding to coronavirus. I wonder who orders to wipe his ass? Stephen Miller, I hope…

+ The real origin of Planet of the Apes?

+ GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: The Grand Princess is docking tomorrow. What’s the plan for the 3,500 people on board?

BEN CARSON: They’re coming up with one

S: It docks tomorrow

C: The plan will be in place

S: Shouldn’t you be able to say what it is?

C: It hasn’t been fully formulated

+ Pay No Attention to the Man Behind the Curtain…

+ Move over, Goldman-Sachs! “Confidants” to Joe Biden tell “Axios on HBO” that JP Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon is being considered to head the Treasury:…..

+ The Malthusian power elite of Big Capital used to talk like this only in the privacy of their country clubs. Now they just write it openly. Here’s Jeremy Warner, “business” writer for The Telegraph: “From an entirely disinterested economic perspective, COVID-19 might even prove mildly BENEFICIAL in the long term by disproportionately CULLING elderly dependents”.

+ Charlie Chaplin: “America commitment to freedom is so iron-clad that it can’t tolerate freedom of speech.”

+ Two months after a powerful earthquake struck Puerto Rico, thousands of people are still homeless and living outside, ignored by FEMA, Congress and the Trump administration…

+ Like the Whitman Sampler, there really is a Trump tweet for every occasion…

+ Puerto Rican nationalist Rafael Cancel Miranda, who died last week at the age of 89:  “I’ll work for the revolution until I die and if I’m lucky I may find a little time to sing to the children.”

+ Nike, the IG Farben of neoliberalism, is sourcing products from Chinese factories where Uuighur Muslims have been forced to work in sweatshop conditions…

+ Falwell Jr. on Virginia becoming a blue state: “They’re passing all kinds of bills that are just contrary to what the majority of Virginians — not the majority of Virginians, but most Virginians as far as land mass support.” The “land mass Virginians”. One acre, one vote!

+ I spent the day in the Yosemite Valley, contemplating for a couple of hours how the hell Alex Honnold free-climbed El Cap, rather than watch the slaughterhouse of the Mini-Super Tuesday returns, but the quick lesson from Michigan: this is a conservative country & the Democratic Party is a conservative party. So much money & time have been spent trying to “reform” it since Gene McCarthy, through Barry Commoner, Jesse Jackson and Bernie 2016 and it only lurches farther and farther to the right. When will progressives cut the cord and forge a new party?

Bridalveil Falls from the banks of the Merced. Photo: Jeffrey St. Clair.

+ Bidenism predated Clintonism and remains, in many respects, an even more reactionary political ideology.

+ The latest evidence Democrats hate Hillary and Bernie more than they hate Trump:

97% of precincts counted in Grand Traverse County, home of Sanders endorser Michael Moore’s film festival.

2016: Sanders 65%, Clinton 33%
2020: Biden 48%, Sanders 43%

+ Bernie is now being urged to “unify” the Democratic Party by the same people who threatened to sit out the election (or vote for Trump) if he won the nomination. What a den of snakes.

+ The Jim Crow Democrats are in the ascendancy again: “Biden said in 1977 that desegregation would create ‘a racial jungle.’” Kamala Harris had one mission in the primaries: Do to Biden what Warren did to Bloomberg. But she backed off, retreated and quit…

+ Welcome back to Michigan, NAFTA Joe…

+ This week Chelsea Manning was once more hauled out of her jail cell in the Alexandria Detention Center and compelled to testify before a federal grand jury, in an attempt to coerce testimony against Julian Assange. Manning refused, was returned to her cell and later tried to commit suicide. Two days later, Judge Anthony Trenga, the federal judge in the case, ordered her release from jail, noting that: “The Court finds that Ms. Manning’s appearance before the Grand Jury is no longer needed, in light of which her detention no longer serves any coercive purpose.” Her detention hadn’t served a “coercive purpose” in the last 10 months. Despite being fined $256,000, Manning said from the beginning that she would not testify. The horrific jail conditions led to her suicide attempt, a fate that many of her detractors, from Hillary Clinton to Donald Trump, seemed to relish.

+ Help Chelsea pay her (unjust) court fines

+ Speaking frankly, Angela Merkel warned that 70% of the German population could contract COVID-19.

+ Biden has tried to cut (and privatize) Social Security four times…for weeks just like this one.

+ The UNHRC has been releasing the same statement for the past 30 years on the illegality of Israeli settlements, just hit resend: “UN expert says Israel’s recent announcement that it planned to build more than 8,000 settlement housing units in the occupied Palestinian territory amounts to “a significant breach of int’l law that must be meaningfully opposed by the int’l community.”

+ Arundhati Roy on the anti-Muslim rampages in India: “All the dead, wounded and devastated, Muslim as well as Hindu are victims of this regime headed by Narendra Modi, our nakedly fascist Prime Minister.”

+ One of my favorite minor characters in Faulkner is Wallstreet Panic Snopes, Eck’s son in The Hamlet, who explains: “If we named him Wallstreet Panic it might make him get rich like the folks that run that Wallstreet panic.”

+ Matthew Stevenson reminded me this morning of that old, but prescient, headline from the Onion about my second favorite Red Sox (my favorite being Bill “Spaceman” Lee): “Manny Ramirez Asks Red Sox If He Can Work From Home.”

+ Stephen King has been passing around this timely bit of advice…

+ According to a court ruling, the NYPD & the city’s lawyers destroyed a cop’s memo book documenting the department’s racial stop/arrest quotas.

+ Driving back to Portland from My First Winter in the Sierra, I listened to the fantastic audio recording of the final volume in Gore Vidal’s Empire series, Washington, DC. It’s jammed with one brilliant passage after another. On the morning after the Michigan/Washington primaries, when it looked like Biden had secured the nomination, I listened to a sharp piece of dialogue on the Truman’s first election that ends with this: “Elections in imperial democracies allow you to change the dictator but not the dictatorship.”

+ Who would want to consult science when developing (gutting) environmental rules (or responding to pandemics)….?

+ Round-Up is good for you: Monsanto has just been exposed as having ghost-writiten research papers for regulators and for using front groups to discredit critical scientists and journalists. How will the Trump administration make informed decisions without this kind of helpful input?

+ Air pollution led to 8.8 million premature deaths in 2015, a new study found. That translates to an average shortening of people’s lives by 2.9 years—an impact greater than smoking, HIV/AIDS, vector-borne diseases such as malaria, and violence.

+ Even large ecosystems the size of the Amazon rainforest can collapse in a few decades, according to a study that shows bigger biomes break up relatively faster than small ones….

+ Take that, President Dumbshit… “Trump Is Thwarted by Court in Bid to Log Biggest National Forest.” A brief reprieve for the Tongass, perhaps, but a welcome one.

+ Interior Secretary David Bernhardt is giving Wildlife “Services” (the Death Squads of the public lands ranchers) even more money to kill grizzly bears in Montana….

+ Sen. Tom Udall: “We are consuming a credit card’s worth of plastic each week,”  At events with constituents, he will brandish a Visa from his wallet and declare, “You’re eating this, folks!”

+ Between New Mexico, Colorado and Wyoming 2,811 spills were reported last year. Those spills released an average of 2,716 gallons of crude oil and 19,587 gallons of toxic fracking water per day….

+ Here’s Edward Muybridge’s photograph of a Miwok sweat lodge in the Yosemite Valley, 1885.

+ In 1770, anthropologist Alfred Kroeber (Ursula LeGuin’s father) estimated that Miwok population was 11,000, almost certainly an undercount. By 1930, it had been reduced to a mere 410, or roughly the number of people scuffling down the trail to the Mariposa Grove every hour. I’d forgotten, if I ever knew it, that the Ewok in Return of the Jedi (the filming of which severely damaged some of the most spectacular redwood groves on the north coast) were named after the Miwok. Doubt the tribe got any residuals from the film or the merchandise from the exploitation of their name…

+ California just experienced its driest February on record. If LA would simply give the Owens Valley it’s river back,  perhaps the river gods will talk to the rain gods about that drought!

+ Barry Harris, who is still playing and giving bebop lessons for $15 a pop: “We believe in Bird, Dizz, Bud. We believe in Art Tatum. We believe in Cole Hawkins. These are the people we believe in. Nothing has swayed us.”

+ I’m slightly amazed that people still watch the professional bigot Bill Maher, who defended his odious pal Chris Matthews and trashed his victim, reporter Laura Barrett…

+ The great Max Von Sydow, who died this week at age 90: “I wish I could have a wider choice of roles in American productions, the kind of roles I get in Europe. Unfortunately, American film producers only offer you exact copies of roles you successfully performed before.”

+ A Giant Sequoia has fallen, jazz legend McCoy Tyner. Tyner was much more than John Coltrane’s piano player, although that gig alone would have put him in the pantheon. He was a musician of dazzling inventiveness, whose most challenging music always left an entry point for new listeners. His music was always sounded fresh and new, yet it built on the music of the past: the blues, bebop, classical and gospel. I saw Tyner three times: in DC in the 70s, in Indy in the 80s and in Eugene in the 90s, all in different groupings, but each performance had an electrifying intensity. Tyner’s music may have been abstract and experimental at times, but it was always palpable and intensely human. If you’re new to Tyner’s music, check out The Real McCoy or Fly With the Wind.

+ When Social Distortion reunites as Social Distance, you’ll know the LA punk scene is truly dead. In the meantime, hit it boys…

Sick-boy, Black Leather Jacket Scene….


Booked Up
What I’m reading this week…

The Mirror and the Light
Hilary Mantel
(Henry Holt and Co.)

A Planet of Viruses (2nd Edition)
Carl Zimmer
(University of Chicago)

Funny Man: Mel Brooks
Patrick McGilligan

Sound Grammar
What I’m listening to this week…

The Big Exercise

A Simple Trick to Happiness
Lisa Loeb
(Furious Rose)

Across the Universe
Al DiMeola

Pestilence and Silence

“At the beginning of a pestilence and when it ends, there’s always a propensity for rhetoric. In the first case, habits have not yet been lost; in the second, they’re returning. It is in the thick of a calamity that one gets hardened to the truth–in other words, to silence.” (Albert Camus, The Plague)


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