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Roaming Charges: Unmasked and Anonymous

A show of hands. Photo: Jeffrey St. Clair.

“There are people in this world who can wear whale masks and people who cannot, and the wise know to which group they belong.” – Tom Robbins, Jitterbug Perfume

+ I’m hyped for some ObamaGate action, as long as its about things that matter: health care plan designed by Heritage Foundation, bailing out Wall Street, failing to close Gitmo, droning US citizens, Afghan surge, the jailing of whistleblowers and legal harassment of journalists, the Libyan and Honduran coups, mass surveillance, the funding and arming of proxy wars in Yemen and Syria, record deportations, Deepwater Horizon, new nukes (both power plants and weapons), etc…

+ There was a time when a sketch this sharp on Letterman or SNL would destroy a politician’s career. Now half the country can’t wait for Trump to say something inane just to see how Sarah Cooper  will mime him…

+ But no that’s not how it’s going to play out…

Trump, Dec. 2017: “I had to fire General Flynn because he lied to the Vice President and the FBI. He has pled guilty to those lies.”

Trump, May 2020: “What they’ve done to that man and that family is a disgrace.”

+ Trump: “If I were a Democrat instead of a Republican, I think everybody would’ve been in jail a long time ago, & I’m talking with 50-year sentences…people should be going to jail for this stuff…this was all Obama. This was all Biden.”

+ Bring on the show trials!

+ Number of “unmasking” requests by year…

2015/16: 9217
2017:       9529
2018:    16,721
2019:    10,012

+ The Wyden-Daines amendment to the FISA law would have prohibited the FBI from conducting warrantless surveillance of web browser history. It was up for a vote today and 10 Democrats voted against it: Carper, Casey, Feinstein, Hassan, Jones, Kaine, Manchin, Shaheen, Warner and Whitehorse. Two Democrats didn’t even show up to vote: Patty Murray and … Bernie F-ing Sanders. The measure failed by two votes. So much for providing a check against the most dangerous president in history…

+ The Senate just passed the the USA Freedom Act (aka PATRIOT Act), 80-16, giving the most authoritarian president since the previous president vast powers to lie, spy and pry into your private life, business, associations, travel patterns, emails, texts,  browser history and phone calls.

+ Democrats who voted No Patriot Act reauthorization: Baldwin, Brown, Cantwell, Durbin, Heinrich, Hirono, Markey, Merkley, Murray, Schatz, Tester, Udall, Warren, Wyden.

Republicans who voted no: Burr (for procedural reasons, I think) and Paul.

+ As the Patriot Act moves toward reauthorization encountering only meagre resistance, it might be prudent to recall the many times Biden claimed to have written it (He didn’t, but he wrote its precursor and voted for the real thing)…

+ I wonder if Biden got Mandela’s input when he was writing the Patriot Act?

+ 43 million: the number of Americans who could lose their health insurance during the COVID-19 pandemic.

+ Texas Sen. John Cornyn says that workers who have lost their employer provided health care can simply “sign up for ObamaCare.” Cornyn has voted multiple times to eliminate ObamaCare and supports the Trump Administration’s lawsuit seeking to have it overturned.

+ Just testing out new ideas this morning. Has anyone come up with a system where when you lose your job in the midst of a killer pandemic you don’t also lose you health care insurance? I was thinking there might be a Nobel Prize there for the taking …

+ Trump up 7 on Biden in battleground states, which were the entire rationale for his campaign (if you can call what he’s doing campaigning)…

+ Sound familiar? Nearly two dozen friends, advisers and allies, told CNN, that while Biden is not sharing specifics of his thinking, they believe “loyalty” is more important to him than virtually any other trait…

+ In his search for a  “loyal” running mate, Biden is apparently focusing on two former prosecutors: Kamala Harris and Amy Klobochar…

+ Seven black women (LaTosha Brown, Tiffany D. Cross, Brittany Packnett Cunningham, Alicia Garza, Sunny Hostin, Angela Rye and Amanda Seales) have a message for Joe Biden and his party of neoliberal neosegregationists: “Though we have propped up the Democratic Party for decades, the return on our investment in the party might as well read, ‘insufficient funds.’ Those days are over. We are here to collect.”

+ Is Bernie supporting Biden’s secret group of GOP policy advisors? Is Bernie fully behind this, too? “You don’t want something like this out on the street before it needs to be,” one GOP operative said. “It just makes it much harder to do.”

+ I’m glad Biden found a way to avoid the draft by claiming to being an asthmatic in high school (despite having played football, worked as a life guard, fought off Corn Pop and not mentioning asthma in his autobiography), but the way he avoided it might deserve a bit more scrutiny, especially if Trump’s “bone spurs” becomes an issue again. Still you have to wonder about the fate of the young black kid (most likely) from Wilmington who was sent to Vietnam in his place. (Also, Biden lied about playing football for the University of Delaware? Who does that? Didn’t he realize there are team and player photos? And stat sheets?)

+ Biden claims he is planning an “FDR-sized presidency.” The image of Biden as FDR reminds me of a joke that Gore Vidal told at dinner one night in LA shortly before the 2004 elections. “John Kerry is looking more and more presidential, like Lincoln…after the assassination.”

+ By the time FDR was Biden’s age he’d been dead for 14 years…

+ Like many others, we’ve spent the last couple of days going through the freezer, fridge (ours cost $10,500 less than Pelosi’s), and cupboards tossing out expired food, which got me thinking that politicians should have an expiration date. Biden seems about 25 years past his…

+ Before it’s over, Biden will be running to the right of Trump on China, Cuba, Venezuela, Russia, Iran and Palestine…

+ We think of the US a rich and powerful country, but most of the wealth and power here in the US is held in a very few, tight-fisted hands…

+ The United States has less than 5% of the world’s population, but more than 28% of the world’s coronavirus deaths.

+ The Imperial College in London estimates 90% of deaths could’ve been prevented if the US had shut down by March 2.

+ Iceland started testing at the end of January, a month before they identified their first case. “Why did you do that?” Christianne Amanpour asked Prime Minister Katrin Jacobsdottir. “Because we knew it was coming.”

+ The U.S. still trails more than a dozen other countries in the number of tests per confirmed Covid-19 case, a leading indicator of a nation’s scale of testing.

+ Trump in Allentown, PA, on Thursday: “We have the best testing in the world. Could be that testing is, frankly, overrated. Maybe it is overrated. But whenever they start yelling we want more, we want more. Then we do more and they say we want more. When you test, you have a case. When you test, you find something is wrong with people. If we didn’t do any testing we would have very few cases.”

+ No one has seen logic like this before. In fact, no one ever thought logic like this was even possible. Not even that Wittgenstein fella. And he knew some wicked logic. The test is all that is the case….

+ Zack Bornstein: “Trump makes decisions like the Coronavirus has a tape of him being peed on.”

+ The Abbott ID Now Covid-19 rapid test used by the White House has misses 48% of positive cases.

+ Trump, however, says he remains confident in the Abbott test. You can see why this testing percentage looks impressive to Trump: .480 is .342 points higher than his best batting average in high school.

+ It’s certainly no surprise (or accident) that the places where Trump has direct custodial responsibility: US military, federal prisons, VA hospitals, Secret Service details, tribal reservations and the White House have some of the highest COVID-19 infection rates in the country.

+ Apparently, Jared Kushner convinced Trump that doing widespread testing and gearing up ventilator production would “spook the stock market.” Trump deferred to Jared over Fauci, the WHO and the CDC, with lethal consequences.

+ More Trump in Allentown: “Doctors and nurses are running into death just like soldiers running into bullets…and it’s a beautiful thing to see.” This reminds me of Norman Mailer’s perverse description of the beauty of bombs exploding as viewed from a B-52. But somehow it’s even more demented.

+ Mailer espoused this notion in several places, most bizarrely in his interview with our old buddy Paul Krassner: “A native village is bombed and the bombs happen to be beautiful when they land. In fact, it would be odd if all that sudden destruction did not liberate some beauty. The form a bomb takes in its explosion may be in part a picture of the potentialities it destroyed. So let us accept the idea that the bomb is beautiful. If so, any liberal who decries the act of bombing is totalitarian if he doesn’t admit as well that the bombs were indeed beautiful.”

This leads Krassner to accuse Mailer of having a “totalitarian attitude toward masturbation.”

Mailer: “I wouldn’t say all people who masturbate are evil. Probably I would even say that some of the best people in the world masturbate. But I am saying it’s a miserable activity.”

Krassner: “Well, we’re getting back now to the notion of absolutes. You know, to somebody, masturbation can be a thing of beauty…

Mailer: “To what end? Who’s going to benefit from it?”

Krassner: “It’s a better end than the beauty of a bombing!”

Mailer: “Masturbation is bombing. It’s bombing oneself.”

Checkmate Krassner. (See: One Hand Jerking: Reports From an Investigative Journalist by Paul Krassner).

+ Trump: “We have met the moment and we have prevailed.” 84,000+ dead, COVID-19 all over the White House, the heads of CDC & FDA in quarantine, growing outbreaks in the military, VA hospitals & federal prisons. But this absurd pronouncement won’t come back to haunt Trump the way Mission Accomplished did Bush because Trump will say something even more ludicrous and specious tomorrow and the next day and the day after that…

+ Trump’s racism and misogyny on full display at his  “We Have Prevailed” press conference: Weija Jiang, CBS’s very talented White House Correspondent, who is Chinese American, asks Trump why he is making this a global competition about testing.

Trump snaps “Maybe that’s a question you should ask China.”

Jiang inquires, “Why are you saying that specifically to me?”

TRUMP: I’m saying it to anybody who would ask a nasty question like that.

CNN’s Kaitlyn Collins, the pride of Alabama, tries to follow up and Trump storms off…

+ What staffer (if there are any staffers left in the White House) will have the terrible burden of telling Trump that CBS’s Weijia Jiang was born in … West Virginia?

+ Trump to Yamiche Alcindor: ““I understand you very well, better than you understand yourself.”

+ The three reporters (all women, naturally) who regularly cause Trump to have an abreaction during his press conferences are from West Virginia (Jiang), Alabama (Collins) and Florida (Alcindor)…

+ The University of Washington coronavirus model cited by the White House has now revised its estimate to 147,000 coronavirus deaths by August.

+ Indiana University study: The infection-fatality rate for COVID-19 in the state is 0.58 percent, about six times worse than flu. To date, 2.8 percent of the state’s population has been infected.

+ For more than four weeks, millions of masks now considered inadequate for medical protection entered the U.S. and are now in use.

+ Søren Kierkegaard: “Don’t you know that a midnight hour comes when everyone has to take off his mask? Do you think life always lets itself be trifled with? Do you think you can sneak off a little before midnight to escape this?”

+ Dr. Joseph Fair, a virologist who has been in many epidemics, even contracting Ebola in West Africa, and is now in the hospital with COVID-19, which, he thinks he contracted through his eyes while on an airplane. Health care workers in ICUs wear goggles, for a reason. If Fair is right, this will have big implications for workplaces…

+ Given the incompetence of our state government, it’s just dumb luck that Oregon’s COVID-19 infection and death rates are as low as they are. That’s likely to change…Oregon law has forced jury trials to continue despite the pandemic. That’s raised questions about the public’s safety. “It is very unusual,” said Paula Hannaford-Agor, the director of the Center for Jury Studies at the National Center for State Courts, a nonprofit organization that supports state court systems.  “To the best of my knowledge, Oregon has been the only state that that has been doing trials.””

+ Casinos will open next week on the Oregon Coast, where the hot game will be COVID Roulette…The cool thing about COVID Roulette is that you play it for a couple of hours at the casino, then you can go home and play it all day long for the next two weeks.

+ Here’s remarkable editorial from the Waco Tribune, which opens with a direct shot at the governor of Texas for urging small business owners to flout local lockdown orders: “In a definitive and disgraceful act of cowardice, Republican Gov. Greg Abbott last week not only surrendered the principle of rule of law to political convenience, he compromised the high authority of his office, making it harder for the next governor to manage a crisis, whether hurricane or another viral pandemic…”

+ New York City had four times the number of deaths as expected during its Covid-19 outbreak, according to a new CDC study, including thousands of excess deaths that may not be attributed directly to the virus but to its effect on the health-care system, city services and other factors.

+ Black and Latino New Yorkers account for 9 of every 10 COVID- 19 related arrests in Queens.

+ Corporations are people who don’t pay taxes and, like Tyson Foods, have immunity from 3 strikes laws…

+ The son of a US governor is 6,000 times more likely to become a governor than the average American and the son of a US Senator is 8,500 times more likely to become a senator than the average American…

+ Germany’s COVID-19 infection rate tripled after it began to reopen its economy. Merkel is considering hitting the “emergency break.”

+ In Germany, the anti-lockdown protesters include a strange coalition of anti-vaxxers, hardcore vegans, neo-Nazis, members of the Reichburger sovereign citizen movement, and politicians from the far-right Alternative for Germany…

+ Japanese COVID-related death rate is a mere 2% of America’s. One reason: masks.

+ Preliminary results of Spain’s seroprevalence study with >60,000 participants.

Antibodies for SARSCoV2:
5% of Spanish population
11% in region with highest incidence (Madrid)

Very far from herd immunity (70%) in the country with 2nd largest number of cases after U.S.

+ In Slovakia, leaders wore face masks from day one. The result: Low transmission rates, low death rates, and now a return to something like normal

+ Based on the CDC guidance that was shelved by the Trump administration, “no one who is reopening meets the criteria for reopening.”

+ Every once in a while, you stumble on a passage like this one in Nietzsche and you understand perfectly why Lou Salome told Fred to fuck off and leave her alone (twice)…

Masks. There are women who, however you may search them, prove to have no content but are purely masks. The man who associates with such almost spectral, necessarily unsatisfied beings is to be commiserated with, yet it is precisely they who are able to arouse the desire of the man most strongly: he seeks for her soul – and goes on seeking. (Human All Too Human)

+ Fascinating findings (or speculations) from a report on the choir outbreak in Skagit, Alaska: “The act of singing itself might have contributed to SARS-CoV-2 transmission. Aerosol emission during speech has been correlated with loudness of vocalization.” This follows a similar “super-spreader event” at a choir in Mount Vernon, Washington.

+ As if cholera, malnutrition and shredded bodies from Saudi airstrikes weren’t enough for one of the most battered nation’s on earth, the rate of coronavirus cases in Yemen has increase by five-fold in the last week.

+ Here’s the syllabus for Hannah Arendt’s 200 level philosophy class “Thinking” at the New School…That would have been a blast. But holy shit what a lot of really difficult reading.

+ The UK, under the Conservative Party, will provide 80% wage replacement for workers up to 2,500 pounds through October to avoid “mass redundancies”. Meanwhile, US is experiencing mass unemployment with the GOP vowing to reject extended unemployment benefits.

+ As Red States reopen, the virus enters: The list of top 10 surge areas included Nashville, Tennessee; Des Moines, Iowa; Amarillo, Texas; Racine, Wisconsin; Garden City, Kansas, and Central City, Kentucky…

+ A nail salon worker tested positive for coronavirus 9 days after her Oklahoma shop reopened.

+ Since late March, more than 1,000 counties carried by Trump have now become high-coronavirus, according to new data from demographer William Frey. High Covid means the counties have reported 100 or more cases per 100,000 residents. By contrast, only 102 counties carried by Hillary Clinton have become high-covid in that same period. In the last three weeks, some 80 Trump counties in “swing states* have become high-COVID.

+ States facing sudden drops in tax revenue amid the pandemic are announcing deep cuts to their Medicaid programs just as millions of newly jobless Americans are surging onto the rolls, many having lost their employer-provided health insurance.

+ In California, the counties most eager to reopen are the ones already flouting the criteria to reopen…

+ After being exiled for a string of racist rants, Iowa Rep. Steve King says that he’s getting his committee assignments back. It’s not that King’s moving back toward the party seeking redemption, but that the party’s moving to fully embrace its racist wing in advance of the elections…

+ Apparently, there’s not enough carnage strewn across the landscape bearing Trump’s fingerprints for Chuck Schumer to get to the bottom of, so the Senator from Citibank is still harping about Trump’s tax returns

+ Consumer prices fell 0.8% in April, the largest monthly decline since December 2008 and extending the 0.4% decline seen in March. Sharply lower energy prices led the headline measure lower, with gasoline costs plummeting 20.6% for the month. BUT…food prices rose 1.5% in April, with food at home costs jumping 2.6%, the largest increase in 50 years. Over the past 12 months, the consumer prices index has risen 0.4% (seasonally adjusted), the slowest year-over-year pace since November 2015.

+ According to Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell, 40% of the households earning $40,000 or less lost their jobs in the month of March.

+ Best evidence yet the GOP thinks it might lose the 2020 elections…McConnell is now worried about budget deficits. Recall Dark Lord Cheney’s admonition: “Reagan taught us deficits don’t matter.” (Except when Democrats are in power.)

+ GOP slogans in the Covid era: “Protect the Unborn!” “Kill Your Grandparents!” “Guns Save Lives!” “Vaccines Kill!”

+ How is the prospect of the military stabbing your butt with a rushed untested vaccine before the election going to go down the Don’t Tread on (or Vax) Me protesters, many of whom have replaced their traditional Holy Undergarments with one-size fits all TrumpWear

+ In Kansas, people convicted of minor drug crimes are placed on a public registry, along side sex offenders, and have to check in, in person, at the sheriff’s office. Even with COVID, they’re getting arrested for not showing up.

+ NYPD police arrested a public defender as she was recording cops throwing young men against a wall in Brooklyn. They pushed her and forced her go across the street. When she asked cops for their ID cards, they arrested her.

+ A 17-year-old Guatemalan boy has been in a California detention center for migrant children for more than 400 days….

+ Oregon’s Governor-in-Hiding Kate Brown asked the heads of state agencies to come up with ideas for budget cuts. One of the most popular: close 10 of the state’s 14 prisons.

+ Yesterday, Gov. Brown authorized 31 counties to beginning reopening in Oregon. Today, a new corona model prepared by the Oregon Health Authority predicts that  ‘severe cases’ (hospitalizations) to rise to 12 per day by June 17, quadrupling from the previous expectation of 3….

+ “We ain’t given no cleaning supplies, the showers smell like piss, and they keep submitting all this false information to the public,” said Eric Wayne, who has been in Santa Rita Jail in Alameda County, California since February 2019…

+ Their viewers are expendable: As one FoxNews host after another urges the reopening of the economy, the network has advised all of its employees to stay at home for at least another month.

+ “We’re asking for temporary presidential immunity,”  Trump attorney Jay Sekulow arguing before the Supremes in Trump’s tax case …

+ Since late March, the Trump administration has granted asylum to only two refugees. “The whole purpose of asylum law is to give exhausted, traumatized and uninformed individuals a chance to get to a full hearing in U.S. immigration courts, and this makes that almost impossible,” says immigration lawyer Lucas Guttentag. “It’s a shameful farce.”

+ Trump approval rating by gender via a recent CNN poll:

Men
51% approve
46% disapprove

Women
39% approve
56% disapprove

Do American men know that while Trump talks nasty to and about women, he’s actually supervising policies that kill men at greater rates than women?

+ Men prove their coolness and virility by dying of COVID-19 at a much faster rate than women…

+ Rev. Jeremy Duncan: “Can someone explain to me why the same people who don’t need to wear a mask because God will look after them also need an AR-15 because God won’t?”

+ In the midst of a pandemic, US domestic production of medicines and pharmaceuticals fell in April. The economy has been so gutted by neoliberalism that the country can’t even manufacture what it needs most when it needs it most…

+ After 3 years of Depression (20+% jobless rate and no unemployment insurance) facing no less than FDR, Hoover still pulled 40%. McCain got 45% in the 2008 crash.

+ At least 600 Amazon workers have tested positive for COVID-19, yet Amazon executive Dave Clark is warning workers that they’ve got to continue coming into the warehouse or else:

“If there’s no reason not to be at work and you choose to stay home…you’d have to use your unpaid time off or [use] your other paid time off options in order to remain at home. And if you run out of all those options you would need to come back to work or yes, it would result in separation from [the] company.”

+ Meanwhile, Amazon supremo Jeff Bezos is expected to become the world’s first trillionaire within the next few years…

+ The contradictions of capitalism: Worst unemployment since Great Depression (and getting worse daily), best stock valuations in 18 years.

+ Unemployment claims have now reached 33 million. But more than half of those applying for unemployment benefits in recent weeks were unsuccessful…

+ The American economy at work: More inequality, more caging of the poor, more prison guards.

+ The basic purpose of the Hoover Institution is to come up with new ways to kill off Social Security (and your grandmother at the same time)…”Senior White House economic officials are studying a plan by researchers at AEI and Hoover that would allow Americans to get cash immediately im exchange for curbing their Social Security benefits…”

+ “If the markets can’t even produce hand sanitizer or toilet paper or masks during a plague—what good is this system?

+ Here’s a real question Maria Bartiromo asked President Trump in his interview that aired this morning: “Where does this resilience come from, that you keep getting things done?” This is the way Bartiromo used to” interview” Wall Street raiders and junk bond kingpins. It’s why they called her the Money Honey…

+ Meanwhile, here’s a question that Lou Dobbs asked his viewers. So hard to choose…

+ They are expendable: While FoxNews hosts are urging the networks viewers to violate stay-at-home orders, network executives had told their own workers and on-screen “talent” to work at home for at least the next month.

+ At Tuesday’s press briefing, new White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany claimed that “Every state is better off than South Korea at this moment.” But South Korea has a death toll of less than 300. As of today, 29 states have a higher death toll.

+ Trump’s only claim to doing something proactive to stop the spread of COVID was the “partial” ban on travel from China that he belatedly imposed. The problem is the virus largely spread from travel to NYC from Europe

+ The coronavirus spread at more than twice the national rate in U.S. counties with major meatpacking plants in the first week after Trump issued an executive order directing that they be reopened.

+ I know, I know. It’s a Nick Kristof column, but the numbers seem sound: more than COVID-19 100,000 deaths already in the US, according to stats compiled by a Harvard statistician…”The undercounting is a global problem, not just one in the United States. Dr. Christopher Murray of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington estimates that globally, excess deaths are about double the official Covid-19 death counts.”

+ Risking the lives of US slaughterhouse workers in order to kill pigs, cows and chickens and ship the butchered meat  to…China?

+ As of May 7, 2020, there were 5,000 market hogs euthanized in Iowa. The federal Natural Resources Conservation Services (NRCS) estimates there will be 500,000 to 600,000 hogs gassed or shot over the next six weeks.

+ It’s not just the meatpackers and slaughterhouse workers who are getting sick but hundreds of immigrant farmworkers as well:

“The laborers were mostly guest workers from Mexico who were brought to the state under the H-2A visa program. They are believed to have caught the virus in the U.S., despite the fact that their employer, Stemilt Ag Services, one of the state’s largest ag labor employers, had from the start implemented extensive safety measures to minimize their risks.”

+ There have been 200 recorded coronavirus deaths in New Mexico, 100 of them Native Americans. Native Americans account for 11 percent of New Mexico’s total population, but 50 percent of its Covid deaths and 57% of its total covid-19 cases.

+ The Navajo Nation now has more COVID-19 cases per capita than any state.

+ Without immigrants, the United States army would have failed to meet its recruiting goals nearly every year between 2002 and 2013…

+ According to the New England Journal of Medicine, coronavirus was detected in three cats after they were housed with cats that had been experimentally inoculated with the virus. Cats may be a silent intermediate host of COVID-19…

+ Cost of Trump’s border wall: 800 ventilators (and the entire jaguar population in the US) per mile.

+ The US State Dept. just put Cuba on a list of countries that isn’t “cooperating” with US counter-terrorism investigations. This is some rich hypocrisy coming from Pompeo Maximus an his crew in Foggy Bottom, which has refused to investigate a terrorist attack on the Cuban embassy in Washington, DC…

+ 52 percent of Israeli Jews support the annexation of even more Palestinian land in the West Bank…

+ Killer ex-cop’s license to arrest and/or kill was suspended for failure to attend how-to-kill-as-a-cop training sessions…”The standards and training council notified district attorney [Jackie] Johnson, then [Gregory] McMichael’s boss, that McMichael [the ex-Brunswick, Georgia cop who shot and killed Ahmaud Arbery for jogging while black] had fallen short in various types of training hours in 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009 and 2010. McMichael did not complete the mandated use-of-force and firearms training in at least three of those years, according to the records.”

+ Reported crime in Baltimore last week, compared to the same week last year:

Robberies: Down 48 percent
Rapes: No reported rapes
Aggravated assaults: Down 51 percent
Burglary: Down 74 percent
Larceny: Down 66 percent
Homicides: Up 44 percent

+ In Kansas, people convicted of minor drug crimes are placed on a public registry, along side sex offenders, and have to check in, in person, at the sheriff’s office. Even with COVID, they’re getting arrested for not showing up.

+ $400 million: the amount of cuts to hospitals in New York in Andrew Cuomo’s budget, as a killer pandemic rages across the state.

+ Tesla is telling workers that if they do not come back to the factory – which is open in defiance of an Alameda County public health order – they may have their unemployment benefits eliminated. Hasn’t Elon Musk menace been arrested yet? He was begging for it earlier in the week…

+ In Indonesia, a Donald Trump-branded resort is being built in the jungle. To clear the land, local residents say, Trump’s partners dug up the graves of their relatives without permission.

+ Penn State’s Earth System Science Center (ESSC) predicts that the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season could feature between 15 and 24 named tropical storms this year, suggesting it could be one of the most destructive on record.

+ Ahead of what’s forecast to a be a vicious hurricane season, FEMA has suspended its pre-hurricane season in-person training sessions to comply with social distancing guidelines—and this comes on top of a longstanding problem of training deficits.

+ It’s official. Warmest April in history…(All that heat didn’t seem to slow down coronavirus, perhaps because the UV light wasn’t entering the body?)

+ Carbon emissions in India have fallen for the first time in 40 years.

+ The wolves of the Tongass, as well as the Tongass itself (our greatest remaining temperate rainforest), are under attack…

+ Is it any wonder that nearly every business this guy touched went bankrupt and that he wants to keep his grades from Wharton secret?

+ Still drilling for oil, even though no one is using it and there’s no place left to store it. U.S. commercial crude stockpiles are rising at the quickest pace ever in data going back to 1982. In the Wyoming oil patch they are paying good money to have the extracted oil pumped back into a salt dome to store it. They even waste/pollute millions of gallons of water to carve out caves in the salt for it.

+ The US Energy Information Agency predicts that says US coal production is will to be 24% lower in 2020 than in 2019. That’s 30.8% lower than 2018 levels….

+ US coal jobs were tanking before COVID-19 hit. Current data shows employment down 8.4% in the first quarter and production down 10.1%. The second quarter will likely see even larger declines.

+ It’s not looking great for renewables either. April was worse than March for the struggling U.S. clean energy industry, as the sector saw job losses double. There have been more than 600,000 layoffs since January.

+ The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is proposing much weaker emergency planning for small modular reactors and non-light-water reactors than for the existing nuclear power system…Comments are due by 7/27.

+ Trump wants to sue China for the 80,000+ deaths from COVID-19. It’s a hard case to make. A simpler one would be for him to sue his own EPA for relaxing clean air standards that may result in as many as 360,000 deaths per year in the US…

+ Right to Life With Birth Defects! The EPA decided not to place limits on percolates in drinking water, a chemical associated with jet and rocket fuel that is known to cause fetal damage and deformities. The decision appears to defy a court order that required it to establish a safe drinking-water standard for perchlorate by the end of June.”

+ EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler also approved the use of a little-known pesticide called isoxaflutole — a highly toxic pesticide linked to cancer and liver damage — for use on more than 90 million acres of crops.

+ A major new study on the climate consequences from livestock grazing concludes “[a]t current numbers and as currently produced, livestock…are and continue to be important contributors to the problem of climate change and to other environmental harms.”

+ Ryan Bundy doing Bundy things again, like building irrigation trenches on Gold Butte National Monument, where his cows are grazing illegally…

+ Trump, pushing water privatization on behalf of Central Valley water pigs (I don’t know if this helps or hurts their scheme): “I had a house in Los Angeles… I sold it. You know why I sold it? Because Secret Service says ‘you can’t come here anymore.’ I said, ‘I might as well sell it.’ But I had a house, and you couldn’t have water. You couldn’t water your grass.”

+ I just heard the very deflating news that Ron Mitchell, one of the feistiest and most unique environmental activists in the West, had died. Ron presented all the symptoms of COVID-19 and was sure he had it, though he couldn’t get tested in Boise. I first met him in the White Cloud Mountains in Central Idaho in 1990, where driving down a scary logging road that was slipping off a 1000-foot cliff, he went on an Ed Abbey like rant (though more profane than Ed ever was in my presence) about the butchers in the Forest Service who were carving up a gorgeous roadless landscape. Ron wrote several gritty pieces for my old environmental magazine, Wild Forest Review, usually taking a ground view perspective rarely heard in more elite environmental circles. Ron knew the contours of the land he was writing about and fighting to preserve. Over the decades his group, the Idaho Sporting Congress, filed hundreds of administrative appeals and lawsuits to protect wild lands, wolves, trout and wild rivers. He signed on to a new lawsuit to try to stop the atrocious Lost Creek/ Boulder Creek timber sale only last week. Ron was a true original and we won’t see his like again.

+ From I.F. Stone’s obituary for Einstein, April 1955…

“Professor Einstein would not have liked a stuffy tribute. My wife and I loved him. He was a charter subscriber to the Weekly, and often strained its primitive bookkeeping facilities by renewing when no renewal was due. We and our three children had the great pleasure on several occasions of having tea with him at his home. It was like going to tea with God, not the terrible old God of the Bible but the little child’s father-in-heaven, very kind, very wise and yet himself very much like a child, too…”

+ Jean-Luc Godard: “Good films get smaller audiences, but more of the viewer.”

+ Bob Dylan just cancelled his summer tour “in the interest of public health and safety.” Dylan will probably write, record and release songs on the assassinations of Garfield and McKinley (along with Squeaky’s Lament: the Winging of Gerald Ford) and film Unmasked and Anonymous before he tours again…

+ Sun Ra and the Arkestra performing at Ann Arbor Blues and Jazz Festival, Sept. 30, 1979…The caption reads: “Sun Ra, skipper and chief astro-telemeter of the Solar Arkestra airship, practices some of his trans-constellation pentatonic-mytho-biographical-hybrid-revelatory-archeo-historic-didactic-monlithically/biomorphic Calculus doctrine on the Hill Auditorium crowd Friday evening. He also had ‘em dancing……” (h/t Richard Scheinen)

+ From Mark Lanegan’s coruscating memoir of sex, drugs and grunge, Sing Backwards and Weep: “I would then cure the Chore Boy, blackening a piece of it with a lighter… then I’d take a previously prepared outfit full of dope and search until I got it in a vein. I’d register… and then, careful not to jiggle the rig [I’d] hold the tube out at arm’s length and melt with a butane torch the biggest hit…”

+ Was there anyone farther ahead of his time (assuming his time ever came) than Little Richard, I mean by decades?

+ Cockburn was a huge Little Richard fan, especially of his gospel songs. For his birthday, I took Cockburn and Barbara Yaley, his partner at the time, to see Little Richard at the San Francisco Opera House of all places. We’d spent the day filming the commentary for the DVD of Tim Robbins’ film Bob Roberts and were all a little tired but excited to see Richard, who was fabulous, cracking jokes all night, dancing on the piano, just electric. About 20 minutes into the show, Barbara elbows me and points at Alex, who is sleeping and snoring and did for the rest of the show. He didn’t live that down…

+ Breaking musical barriers was one of the least of Little Richard’s achievements. He taught us how to live without giving a damn what other people thought about us.

Mmmm, Let’s Get Rid of That Old Man, Hey-ey-ey, and Bring Our Government Up to Date…

Booked Up
What I’m reading this week…

Sinews of War and Trade: Shipping and Capitalism in the Arabian Peninsula
Laleh Khalili
(Verso)

Yellow Bird: Oil, Murder and a Woman’s Search for Justice in Indian Country
Sierra Crane Murdoch
(Random House)

Pharma: Greed, Lies and the Poisoning of America
Gerald Posner
(Simon and Schuster)

Sound Grammar
What I’m listening to this week…

Dizzy Atmosphere: Dizzy Gillespie at Zero Gravity
Dave Douglas
(Greenleaf)

Ultrasonic
Field Works
(Temporary Residence)

Petals for Armor
Hayley Williams
(Atlantic)

The Apparatus

“Whether the mask is labeled fascism, democracy, or dictatorship of the proletariat, our great adversary remains the apparatus—the bureaucracy, the police, the military. Not the one facing us across the frontier of the battle lines, which is not so much our enemy as our brothers’ enemy, but the one that calls itself our protector and makes us its slaves. No matter what the circumstances, the worst betrayal will always be to subordinate ourselves to this apparatus and to trample underfoot, in its service, all human values in ourselves and in others.” (Simone Weil, Lectures on Philosophy)