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Roaming Charges: Every Which Way to Lose

Still from “Every Which Way But Loose.”

“And through the fog of the plague, most art withered into journalism.”

— Pete Hamill

+ Four years of Trump, the most precipitous collapse of the US economy in history and one killer pandemic later and we’re right back to where we were in the late summer of 2016…

 

+ How could this possibly be, you ask? Well, here’s Joe Biden, the Democratic nominee in hiding, demanding to know if a black journalist, who asked him a question he didn’t like, is junkie…

Biden: “Why the hell would I take a test?…C’mon man. That’s like saying, ‘You — before you got on this program you took a test where you’re taking cocaine or not, what do you think? Huh? Are you a junkie?’”

 

+ Biden could pick Angela Davis as his VP nominee and it wouldn’t be enough to mask his innate racism, which is deeply encoded into almost every strand of his political DNA.

+ Given every advantage, Biden will still stumble into every which way to lose, from scolding the progressive base to sabotaging his own roster of VP candidates…

+ Thousands are dying every day, millions are unemployed, their benefits running out, millions more are facing eviction and Biden’s driving around in his Corvette, cosplaying Steve McQueen? WTFingF…

+ These attacks on Karen Bass are getting more and more grotesque and nonsensical. All of the neocons who slithered out of the Reagan administration, including two presidents and two presidential nominees, backed the Apartheid regime as ADULTS, as did the top US client state (Israel), while the Cubans were helping to eradicate apartheidism across southern Africa…

+ Let’s a have an election about Cuba, starting with how many lives Cuban doctors have saved…

+ Covid-19 deaths per million

Cuba: 8
Florida: 361

+ Biden sat mute as Democrats & Republicans savaged the estimable Karen Bass for a few bland remarks she made about Cuba and Fidel Castro, then hired a rightwing, viciously anti-Cuba Republican hack named Ana Navarro to “rev up” Latinx for his campaign…

+ Bass is also getting shivved in the media for speaking at the dedication of a new Scientology center near her district in Los Angeles, an entirely normal event for politicians. Are the Scientologists any worse than the Catholics, Mormons, Southern Baptists or Hare Krishnas? Cockburn had a fruitful relationship with their former supremo, Heber Jentzsch, who I believe the church has now disappeared. They’d done a lot of litigation against the CIA, drug companies, FBI and shared some of their discovery with us, which proved very useful in the writing of Whiteout. I never met Heber, a former journalist with LA Free Press, but I talked to him many times until he went missing in 2004. Now when I drive by that sprawling building in Hollywood, I wonder if he’s locked in one of those dark rooms, getting “readjusted”…

+ Ken Salazar, the man who gave us Deepwater Horizon, is now advising Joe on energy policy

+ “There is a lot of room in there for oil and gas,” said Matt Gallagher, the president of Parsley Energy, a West Texas oil producer, after getting a peak at Biden’s energy plan.

+ Gordon Chang: “China Prefers a Biden Presidency.” First good foreign policy reason I’ve yet heard to cast a vote for Biden. Unfortunately, you can’t believe a word Gordon Chang says.

+ During the foreclosure crisis of 2008/9, the Democrats bailed out the banks instead of the people losing their homes. During the eviction crisis of 2020, they’re about to bail out the landlords instead of the people being kicked out on the streets.

+ More than half of low-income communities in the USA have no ICU beds, yet another reason the coronavirus pandemic is disproportionately killing the poor.

+ An analysis of census data shows the Portland, Oregon neighborhoods hit hardest by COVID-19 are the same places, most of them east of 82nd Avenue, where poor people are packed into extremely tight quarters.

+ Andrea LaShea: “For the record, I’m not dying so that this country’s economy can improve. My ancestors already did that.”

+ The entire GOP project for the last 50 years at least has been to transfer federal power to the same state and local governments they now want to bankrupt…

+ Even though US taxpayers are paying for 100% of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine development, the company told its investors that it will be charging the highest price yet for a coronavirus vaccine, essentially forcing a COVID-battered nation buy back a vaccine developed with its own tax dollars.

+ It looks like the early COVID-19 precautions taken by Tribal Nations in Wisconsin have paid off. Their rate of infection is half that of the other residents of the state.

+ Apparently, Gavin “Gruesome” Newsom is complaining that Californians are suffering from “corona fatigue,” hence the state’s spiking COVID numbers. Fatique? It’s only been six months. Wait until southern California goes six years without rain…

+ A few years ago the university system of Georgia privatized many of its dorms. Those companies are now using their contracts to force universities to fill those dorms to near-capacity to protect their profits during a killer pandemic…

+ According to complaints from Colorado State athletes and staffers: Coaches have told players not to report COVID-19 symptoms, threatened players with reduced playing time if they quarantine and claim that CSU is altering contact tracing records to keep players practicing. This is outrageous, if not criminal, behavior by a university that is charged with protecting the health of its student body.

+ Meanwhile, school security officers with SEIU73 have come out against police in Chicago schools, saying no armed officers should be in schools, and that most security can be handled by trained security officers. “The presence of police officers in our schools is traumatizing, and this first hand and second hand trauma has been a barrier to their [students] success” says Jasmine Williams, former CPS student and now security officer at Gage Park HS.

+ From a student at Georgia’s North Paulding High School, where the student nurse resigned on Wednesday. Students have been warned by the administration that they risk suspension and expulsion if they post anything negative about the school online and at least two have already been sanctioned, including 15-year old Hannah Watters, who was suspended for five days for posting images of the crowded hallways on Twitter…

+ “It can hardly be argued that either students or teachers shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate.” Justice Abe Fortas, Tinker v. Des Moines

+ Sorry you’re now in quarantine, kids. It looks like you just got “Penced!

+ “Thigh Land” was the movie he watched last night…twice.

+ Apparently, “Thigh Land” was showing on a double bill in the White House screening room with “The Adventures of Yo-Semite Sam.” (The White House has yet to reply to my query as to whether Trump also watched “Babes in Thigh Land, the Epstein Cut.”)

+ Adorno: “All modern fascist movements, including the practices of contemporary American demagogues, have aimed at the ignorant; they have consciously manipulated the facts in a way that could lead to success only with those who were not acquainted with the facts.”

+ It’s getting harder and harder not to feel we’re doomed, as species if not a planet: The Amazon in flames, paramilitaries slaughtering hundreds a month in the favelas, 100,000-plus dead from coronavirus and Bolsonaro still far ahead in the polls…

+ Bolsonaro’s campaign to expand large-scale mining and ranching in the Amazon has cause an increase of deforestation on indigenous land by 74% from 2018 to 2019. Of the 24 murders of land defenders in Brazil, 90% occurred in the Amazon.

+ Who lost China Redux: Apparently one of Trump and Pompeo Maximus’ pre-election ploys is to base US troops in the country Rogers Waters called “a shoe factory called Taiwan.” One of the bizarro conditions: that they withdraw from the WHO, which is apparently the message Alex Azar is set to deliver when he arrives in Taipei.

+ The Lenin Moreno government in Ecuador is seeking to block the main opposition party, which almost certainly will win if Rafael Correa is on the ballot, from participating in the upcoming elections. Where’s the OAS?

+ When Trump announced to the world he believed the explosion in Beirut was “an attack. It was a bomb of some kind,” I knew with certainty it was an horrific accident.

+  The new “low-yield” version of the W76 nuclear weapon, whose development was started by Obama and finalized by Trump, has an explosive power of 5 to 7 kilotons, about 10 times bigger than the Beirut explosion.

+ So Macron is heading off to Beirut to lend his neoliberal ministrations to France’s former protectorate, no doubt prescribing the austerity measures they must impose in exchange for emergency aid from the French treasury. “Protectorate” is such a quaint word the colonial powers used to describe their grip on the world. What did France ever “protect” Lebanon from except it’s own independence?

+ Joey Ayoub: “My mom has been doing stained glass for three decades. She’s 60 and has a small workshop with just her and one colleague. They did dozens of churches together. She’s still receiving calls two days later.  All her work in Beirut completely destroyed. The entire workshop is also gone.”

+ Here’s Moshe Feiglin, a former member of the Israeli Knesset, gloating over the Beirut blast as a “gift from god“:

“Today is Tu B’Av, a day of joy, and a true and huge thank you to G-d and all the geniuses and heroes really (!) who organized for us this wonderful celebration in honor of the day of love…You don’t really believe that this was some messy fuel warehouse, yeah? Do you understand that this hell was supposed to fall on us as a rain of missiles?! I have some experience with explosives. The largest explosion I took part in was 2.5 tons of TNT…What we saw yesterday at the Port of Beirut was much bigger. The destructive effect (without the radiation) was like a nuclear bomb…If it was us, and I hope it was us, then we should be proud of it, and with that we will create a balance of terror. By avoiding saying it’s us – we are putting ourselves on the dark side of morality…We are all allowed to rejoice that it exploded in the port of Beirut and not in Tel Aviv.

+ UNICEF estimates that 80,000+ children have been displaced by the explosion in Beirut.

+ The last photo of a group of Lebanese firefighters as they deployed to extinguish the blaze from the first explosion…

+ One man’s “hideous guard dog” is another man’s (yes, I’m talking about you, Tom Cotton) “necessary evil“….

+ Welcome to the Resistance© … uhm … Oliver North?

+ On the other hand, there’s this development, which requires no further comment…

+ Number of people killed by police in the USA since the death of George Floyd on May 25th: 147.

+ Police unions are suing so they can continue to choke people to death with impunity…

+ New report confirms that the highly disproportionate policing of Black Portlanders continues unabated, including stops, searches, arrests, and use of force. Study after study shows the same thing. Study after study changes nothing.

+ UPDATE: Cities with the most police brutality incidents since 5/26 (Welcome to the club, Columbus and Des Moines!)…

1. Portland – 223
2. NYC –97
3. Seattle –54
4. LA –43
5. D.C.–28
6. Minneapolis –27
7. Denver -25
8. Columbus -22
9. Chicago –20
10. Richmond -19
11. Louisville -18
12. Austin –17
13. Philly –12
14. Des Moines–12
15. Detroit –11

+ US District Court Judge Michael Simon on extending the restraining order against federal agents from assaulting PDX journalists: “Given that we still have federal officers here and what has been said by them and by the administration, that’s sufficient for good cause to extend.”

+ The Roberts Court reverts to its default position of legalized sadism…By a 5–4 vote, the Supreme Court just lifted an order that had required the Orange County Jail to implement safety measures to curb its COVID-19 outbreak…

+ By almost any standard, John Roberts is a hardcore conservative, far to the right of even Rehnquist. Yet he is now being attacked as a sellout by Pence and others. This is the lesson Democrats never learn. The GOP always holds its politicians and judges strictly accountable to their rightwing ideology, which gets more and more rigid and reactionary each year. The Democrats on the other hand, instead of enforcing the same kind of discipline, urge moderation, conciliation and compromise. It’s no surprise who has been winning for the last 40 years, with dire consequences for the environment, civil rights, reproductive rights and criminal justice.

+ Claire Glenn, a public defender in Prince George’s County, Maryland: “PG judges are now scheduling trials for people out of jail AND refusing to schedule trials for people in jail. Meaning my jailed clients are detained indefinitely, while my out-of-jail clients are expected to risk Covid-19 for a misdemeanor trial, facing jail if convicted.”

+ Can the Louisiana Purchase be invalidated? “Arrested at 38, Mr. Bryant has already spent nearly 23 yrs in prison and is now over 60 yrs old. If he lives another 20 yrs, LA taxpayers will have paid almost one million dollars to punish [him] for his failed effort to steal a set of hedge clippers.”

+ Prisons within Prisons: on July 28, 2020 there were 1001 people caged in “segregation,” or solitary confinement inside Alabama prisons. 705 of them were Black, or more than 70%, according to a notice filed by attorneys over recent suicides.

+ Treating addiction as a crime is the real crime

+ California prison system hit a milestone last week, the population falling below a 100,000 for the first time in several decades. After peaking at 176,000, there’s been no statewide surge in crime.

+ Even the networks were seduced into feting Obama’s birthday this week. But have we gotten a precise accounting on the number people who didn’t get to celebrate another birthday as a result of drone and missile strikes (450 + civilians), coups, sanctions and deportations (>45) back to death squad-ridden countries during Obama’s presidency?

+ Flight tracker data, analyzed by Willamette Week, shows that on at least three occasions, airplanes owned by the Department of Homeland Security circled for hours over Portland protests.

+ Border Patrol is still expelling babies, some as young as 8 months old, of parents seeking asylum. DHS’s “reputation” wasn’t ruined in Portland. It was confirmed.

+ Stuart Newman: “Trump’s China blame story is easily refuted. At worst, China’s withholding of evidence just delayed knowledge of person-to-person transmission by a week or two. Trump dragged his feet for two months when the full dimensions were known. Why do no journalists say this?”

+ This is, course, precisely what the Trumpers accused China of doing for a few weeks on a much smaller scale. Why did they accuse China of a cover up? Because it’s exactly what they would have done and in fact are doing in the face of mass illness and death…

+ “Florida Man” Alert…(After an extensive background check it has been determined that the man who spit in a child’s face for having the audacity to wear a mask in public and told him he “now has coronavirus” is not, I repeat not, a card-carrying member of Antifa)….

+ Hannah Arendt: “Never has our future been more unpredictable, never have we depended so much on political forces that cannot be trusted to follow the rules of common sense and self-interest—forces that look like sheer insanity.”

+ Trump on Biden “No religion, no anything, hurt the Bible, hurt … God. He’s against God, he’s against guns.” Biden goes to Mass twice a week (non-Opus Dei sect), which probably makes him close to the anti-Christ in the eyes of many of Trump’s evangelical followers, somewhere between Romney and Ilhan Omar on the demonological threat scale.

+ I’m reminded of Norman Mailer’s concept of the existential god, which could be hurt, maimed or killed, and perhaps was, if not by Nietzsche or Auschwitz, then certainly by the Apollo moonshot and The Pill. I’m sure Trump never read any Mailer, except for the title of Advertisements for Myself, which he fully embraced and then absconded with…

+ Trump can’t stop COVID. Trump is God’s anointed leader on Earth. Therefore, COVID is God’s plan to glean the faithful from the apostates. The faithful either survive or are Raptured. The faithless either die or, worse, are forced to live under Trump’s second term …

+ I don’t give Trump credit for much, but I will hand him this: he has singlehandedly laid waste to the fatuous academic field of “political science.”

+ The seasonal forecast from Colorado State University has increased and now calls for extremely active 2020 Atlantic hurricane season: 24 named storms (including nine that have already formed), 12 hurricanes (including two that have already formed) and five major (Category 3+) hurricanes.

+ One of the big reasons for increased hurricane forecast is very weak vertical wind shear in July, the second lowest on record (since 1979), behind only 2005. Weak vertical wind shear aids in hurricane development and intensification.

+ For the past 30 years, the Arctic has been warming twice as fast as the rest of planet. And now the region is being rapidly transformed. The latest evidence is the collapse of the last fully intact ice shelf in the Canadian Arctic, an area the size of Manhattan, which lost more than 40% of its mass over the course of just two days at the end of July.

+ The last drilling rig in Wyoming was shuttered this week, marking only the second time the state’s rig count has reached zero since 1884, six years before Wyoming became a state.

+ This week Peabody Coal’s CEO Glenn Kellow announced a $1.42B “impairment” in the vast Powder River Basin mine: “To date, we’ve made significant progress, and we have needed to, yet still more needs to be done”…the reduction of $1.43 billion in coal revenues is the equivalent of 692.7 million tons of coal, more than the entire US produces in a year. Wyoming’s energy boom will be nothing on the economic Richter scale compared to the explosive bust it’s now experiencing……

+ So far this summer, the state of Utah has seen 951 wildfires, 73 new fires in the last week alone. That pace is well ahead of the record numbers from 2018 and 2019.

+ Prior to the summer of 2019-20, bushfires burned 2% or less of Australia’s temperate broadleaved forests. But last year, during the so-called the Black Summer, more than 21% burned, a tenfold increase in a single season, largely driven, according to Australian ecologist Tim Flannery, by climate change.

+ July 2020 was the third warmest July on record, 0.49°C warmer than average.

+ The Rio Grande has shriveled to its lowest levels for this time of year since the 1980s…

+ Trump’s EPA is working hard every day to ensure that comorbidities are the birthright of every American.

+ You just knew that the neoliberal “carbon offset” schemes would eventually come down to this: solar-powered fracking operations.

+ Sunnie Clachchischiligi has written a very disturbing account for Searchlight New Mexico of the dire conditions many Navajo elders are enduring as COVID-19 sweeps across the Big Rez…

+ Save an endangered elephant, feed a croc

+ RIP Pete Hamill, who wrote so vividly about the NYC I knew in the 70s and 80s . His death is a good reason to watch (or re-watch) the Hamill/Breslin documentary that came out last year, which also features a cameo of Cockburn…

+ Pete Hamill in 1989 on Donald Trump’s call for the execution of the Central Park 5: “Snarling and heartless and fraudulently tough, insisting on the virtue of stupidity, it was the epitome of blind negation. Hate was just another luxury…. And Trump stood naked revealed as the spokesman for that tiny minority of Americans who live well-defended lives. Forget poverty and its causes. Forget the degradation and squalor of millions. Fry them into passivity.” (h/t Dave Zirin)

+ I’d forgotten that Pete Hamill wrote the terrific liner notes for Dylan’s Blood on the Tracks, which begins “in the end, the plague touched us all.” (I wish Pete had advised Dylan to stick with the original plan to record the album with an electric band led by Michael Bloomfield, instead of the dreary & monotonous version he settled on, which was an insult to the songs he’d written…I’d encourage you to read Jon Landau’s early and scathing review of BotT for Rolling Stone, which still rings true to me, despite my deep affection for the record.

+ More intriguingly, for me at least, Hamill also wrote the liner notes for Manhattan Symphonie, Dexter Gordon’s brilliant return to the states, after nearly 15 years in self-imposed exile in Europe. I vividly remember buying that record, ripping off the cellophane and reading Hamill’s liner notes, as Dexter prowled around in a cloud of Gauloises smoke between sets backstage at Blues Alley, where I worked for a semester in college…Best job ever.

+ Democrats are frothing at the news that three GOP operatives are helping Kanye West get his name on the ballots for the fall election. And yet it seems like half of the people working to get Biden elected served in the George W. Bush administration…

+ The legacy of the recently rehabilitated George W. Bush, as quoted in Robert Draper’s To Start a War: “Fuck diplomacy. We’re going to war.” Will it be a plank in Biden’s platform?

In flipping through Draper’s new book on the plot to invade Iraq, I was struck once again by what a key role Christopher Hitchens played in selling the fabulations of Iraqi huckster Ahmad Chalabi and brutishly smearing those who exposed him as a fraud including a (failed) scheme to bully an IG, looking into the govt.’s dealings with Chalabi, at Hitchens’ own house in Georgetown…

+ By early 2002, Hitchens was openly consorting with some of the most disgusting people in DC. He’d gone from hanging with Chomsky, Cockburn, Said and Vidal to Chalabi, Feith, Wolfowitz, and Scooter Libby. You’d have to be shitfaced to get through the day with that kind of scum…

+ What happened to Hitchens, people often ask. When did he flip? Cockburn contended that Hitchens merely became a more grotesque version of what he’d always been. Hitchens followed the trajectory of all the other neocons, didn’t he? Except he had a delayed liftoff and was still on the launchpad writing for the Nation when most of the rest of his fellow travelers had settled into columns in the National Review and Commentary? He read Trotsky, then discovered his Jewish heritage, and suddenly he’s quoting Leo Strauss and plotting bomb strikes on Baghdad. He maintained currency w/ some on the left because of his atheism, but it was an atheism driven by an intense religious bigotry.

+ A few months ago Ralph Nader called the CounterPunch offices and said, “Why don’t you publish a book before the election on how the Democrats and Obama have enabled Trump for the last four years? No one else will touch it.” Good idea, as usual, Ralph. Josh and I couldn’t think of anyone better equipped to write such a heretical text than Paul Street. After a few weeks of intense scribbling, the forbidden text, The Hollow Resistance: Obama, Trump and the Politics of Appeasement, is now at the printer and we’re offering it to you this week at a discounted price of $15.95.

+ Ornette Coleman on Bucky Fuller: “Fuller said there was no such thing as up and down. There was only OUT. That was the first time I was ever aesthetically touched by a scientist. When he illustrated his geodesic dome concept, I saw we were brothers.” Coleman’s Prime Design / Time Design was a tribute to Fuller’s concept of the birth of the universe, of finding harmony (and perhaps “harmolodics”) in chaos.

+ So there’s a big stir about removing Flannery O’Connor’s name from a building at Loyola University in Maryland. I’ve read her neolithic novels and stories of Catholic angst in the Deep South. But the idea of naming buildings after writers is ridiculous to begin with. University buildings should be named after apex swindlers and arms dealers, like the Kashoggi Center at my old school, American University.

+ David Kipen has written a clever interview with an imaginary Thomas Pynchon, which prompted my pal Richard Klin to say: “I always wished I liked his writing more than I do–I’d be a much cooler person.” I told Richard he retained all rights to his coolness, since, in my experience at least, it’s the “uncool” people who find refuge in Pynchon’s writing–us glozing neuters, outcasts in high school, too nerdy to be hip, too stoned to be nerds.

+ According to the new documentary on Creem magazine (the only rock periodical I ever subscribed to), editor (and frequent CounterPunch contributor) Dave Marsh got so frustrated with writer Lester Bangs that he stuffed turds from Bangs’ dog into his typewriter. As so often happened, a fight broke out. “We had rolled out into the driveway,” Marsh recalled, “and I got my head smacked into an open car door. That’s OK, he wasn’t trying to hurt me, he was just trying to win.”

+ Joe Strummer: “Punk rock isn’t something you grow out of. Punk rock is an attitude, and the essence of that attitude is ‘give us some truth’.”

+ I was asked in an interview this week who is the most famous person I’ve found myself sitting near in a restaurant? I don’t know if he’s the most “famous,” but the most thrilling for me was Albert King, in the dingy and cramped (but still legendary) John’s Famous Stew in Indianapolis back in 1975, at the very moment I was becoming intoxicated by the blues. King was gracious enough to spend a few moments with an annoying white kid who kept interrupting his spoonfuls of some of the hottest fare north of Cajun country and kindly left tickets for his show that night at a now shuttered blues venue on North Capitol. What I didn’t process until later was that King was eating with two jazz legends from Naptown both of whom sat in with him later that night: Buddy and Monk Montgomery, brothers of the great Wes Montgomery, whose lightness of touch King replicated in a blues format.

Evil as a Man Can Be

Booked Up
What I’m reading this week…

True Crimes and Misdemeanors: the Investigations of Donald Trump
Jeffrey Toobin
(Doubleday)

Owls of the Eastern Ice: the Quest to Find and Save the World’s Largest Owl
Jonathon C. Slaght
(Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

Up a Creek, with a Paddle: Tales of Canoeing and Life
James W. Loewen
(PM Press)

Sound Grammar
What I’m listening to this week…

Data Lords
Maria Schneider
(ArtistShare)

Keepin’ It Real
Bobby Watson and the Horizon Band
(Smoke Sessions)

Silo
The Altogether
(Bandcamp)

Why Are They Making New Things?

“I returned to civilization shortly after that [the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki] and went to Cornell to teach, and my first impression was a very strange one. I can’t understand it any more, but I felt very strongly then. I sat in a restaurant in New York, for example, and I looked out at the buildings and I began to think, you know, about how much the radius of the Hiroshima bomb damage was and so forth… How far from here was 34th street?… All those buildings, all smashed — and so on. And I would go along and I would see people building a bridge, or they’d be making a new road, and I thought, they’re crazy, they just don’t understand, they don’t understand. Why are they making new things? It’s so useless.” (Richard Feynman)

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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