Roaming Charges: Under Furious Skies

+ I’m writing this late on Thursday afternoon. The sky is the color of rust. Neil Young’s live rust. The sun is a crimson orb that occasionally bores through the enveloping pall, then recedes. We are under evacuation orders. The fires which have steadily gnawed their way toward us since Monday have reached the upper forks of our canyon outside of Oregon City. We’ve done a quick triage of our belongings. Stuffed the cars with clothes, diapers, food, photographs, books, a couple of small paintings by friends. So much stuff, accumulated over 4o years. What was it all for? There’s the smell of burning trees, cars, houses in the air. Even the evacuation center is now under evacuation.

+ It started on Labor Day. On my morning stroll with the enfant terrible, the sky was clear, cloudless, a sharp blue typical of late summer in the Willamette Valley. By the time we reached the crest of the canyon and looked to the east, we could see that the Cascade Mountains, were obscured behind a scrim of smoke from the fires on the eastside of the range, some 70 miles away. Then the winds shifted and began to reverse their normal westerly flow and rotate out of the east, pulling the smoke down the Columbia Gorge and over the Cascade Range itself. Within an hour or so, our canyon was clotted with sweet orange smoke which flared into a sunset worthy of Turner.

+ Tuesday morning the smoke had retreated, but the winds had picked up and were now blowing at a steady 15 to 20 miles per hour from the ENE. An ominous augury of the menace to come. By early afternoon the smoke had crept back, thicker, blacker, giving the sky a bruised almost furious look. Then around 9 pm, the internet went down, followed by the power and unbeknownst to us our cell service, which is always frail here in the canyon. What we didn’t know because there was no way to warn us is that later that night a fire had ignited on the eastern rim of Newell Canyon and another to the northeast along the Clackamas River, both dangerously close to us given the fierce wind conditions. Evacuation orders had been issued and we slept right through them.

+ I woke up on Wednesday morning to find power still out and one flickering bar of connectivity on my iPhone, despite the grandiose claims of universal coverage and outlandish monthly charges from ATT. There were power outages across western Oregon, 6500 homes in our small town alone, as shown on this map.

+ The enfant terrible and I found one of the outages on our walk, the power line, downed by a fallen cottonwood, had melted into the asphalt of a parking lot…

+ Meanwhile, a quick look at the fire risk map showed that the danger for today was going to be extreme across almost all of the Pacific Northwest….

+ This satellite image from NOAA of the smoke from the West Coast fires confirm the grim outlook….

+ Here’s some stunning aerial footage of the confluence of smoke plumes from the eastern Washington and Oregon fires, as the winds shifted and pulled the smoke through the Columbia Gorge…

+This is what it looked like 40 miles to the south in Stayton, Oregon around noon…

+ Meanwhile, Trump has diverted Oregon National Guard helicopters for use in Afghan War: “Six of the state’s 10 firefighting helicopters, the CH-47 Chinooks, are not available because they have been deployed to Afghanistan at the request of the Department of Defense to aid in military missions.”

+ The Cold Springs Fire in eastern Washington has burned a 50+ mile path…just today.

+ Really thick smoke here in Oregon City on Thursday morning. I got up early and went to nearby Clackamas Community College, which is serving as an evacuation center, to drop off some coffee water and food. About a thousand people camped there in RVs, cars, tents or sleeping bags out on the fields, right along side their animals: Llamas, ponies, goats, sheep, chickens, pigs, dogs, alpaca, ducks. All seeming to get along, as if it were Dr. Doolittle’s ranch transported to Mars…


+ Soon, the evacuation center itself would need to be evacuated, a few miles north, to the vast parking lot of a ghost mall, emptied by the specter of Covid…

+ The visibility in Oregon City at noon on Thursday, according to my iPhone, was 437.5 yards, which seems a touch generous. Don’t want to scare off future tourists, I guess…

+ By 3PM on Thursday, the mandatory evacuation orders had moved to the upper reaches of our canyon. Kimberly, Zen and the enfant terrible had evacuated to Astoria. I’m trying to find the cat, thinking about what to pack–the 1st edition of Gravity’s Rainbow? the photo of James Joyce Cockburn gave us? a wolf’s bone from Hudson’s Bay?–and watching the ash drift down like hot September snow …

+ Instead of simply releasing nonviolent prisoners as Jay Inslee did in Washington, Oregon Governor Kate Brown moved them to an overcrowded COVID hot spot in order to avoid advancing wildfires. Oregon Department of Corrections had to evacuate over 1,000 women prisoners to Deer Ridge–a men’s prison in Madras–after the prison became filled with smoke from nearby wildfires, causing nosebleeds and widespread panic.

+ Leah Sottile: “As I’m packing up my home, preparing to evacuate, I’m thinking about how the eyes of the national media were on Oregon for one square block of protests. But now? When the state is actually on fire? Barely a mention by most media.”

+ The massive August Complex fire is now officially the largest blaze in California history, burning across more than 471,000 acres.

+ COVID-19 slashed global carbon emissions by about 7%, which also happens to be the least of what we need to do every year to avoid a climate catastrophe…

+ On Thursday, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler announced an outright ban on CS gas (tear gas), a mere 100 days after he was asked to do so. But, in true Wheeler style, the order contains a cynical loophole that may allow the police to continue using OC (oleoresin capsicum), a kind of weaponized pepper spray, the deployment of which is alleged to be more “targeted,” although it is often fired with impact munitions that have inflicted serious injuries among protesters.

+ According to the GAO there are 25 domestic federal “special operations” or “special response” tactical teams deployed to quell civilian protesters.

+ New research shows that the coronavirus has the capacity to invade brain cells, attacking them to make copies of itself and starving the nearby cells to death.

+ The University of Wisconsin-Madison has canceled in-person classes after more than 1,000 people tested positive for COVID-19 just five days into the fall semester….

+ Come join the Snopes Family Frat! As the number of cases at University of Mississippi and in Oxford spiked, several fraternities hosted large gatherings outside of their respective houses to celebrate “bid day.”

+ According to a new US senate report, all of the mail-order pharmacies that are heavily reliant on USPS for delivery of mail-order drugs reported an increase in average delivery times, ranging from 18-32%…

+ One in five Oregonians is currently at risk for eviction, according to the Aspen Institute’s COVID-19 Defense Project.

+ The pipeline executives and their rent-a-cops should be the ones in prison: Standing Rock water protector Red Fawn Fallis will finally be released after being a political prisoner for four years…

+ Asked if he understood why he and Bob Woodward needed to work harder to understand the black experience in America, Trump snapped, “No…You really drank the Kool-Aid, didn’t you? Just listen to you. Wow. No, I don’t feel that at all.” Give him points for honesty…

+ Those who can’t perform like to “watch”…

+ A Trump 9/11 Moment: Where once Trump swore he saw thousands of dancing Muslims in Jersey cheering the fall of the Twin Towers, now he claims to see Antifa elves dancing arabesques as they torch Portland, Seattle and DC.

+ In reference to Kyle Rittenhouse, the Kenosha shooter, Don Jr. posited that “we all do stupid things at 17.” Over to you, Central Park Five…

+ A video circulated by GOP operatives showing Kamala Harris laughing at “violent” protests was an obvious fake. Madam Prosecutor would have directing the cops who to shoot, who to gas and who to arrest…

+ This kind of provocative and deracinated  bullshit being spread by the Qanon right is going to get people killed. There is no “Pallet Company” in Oregon City. The Douglas County Sheriff (200 miles to the south) doesn’t have any Antifa members in custody and the fires have not been set by anarchists. Fires have been ignited at lumber mills, in clearcuts, by sparks from an RV, by lightning, at a small factory in southeast Portland, an illegal campfire, a meth addict, and lots of downed power lines…

+ Despite the internet rumors there is no Antifa camp in downtown Portland. Antifa, come home!

+ The four costliest settlements involving Portland police all involved people with a mental illness being severely injured or killed by police officers.

+ Mississippi election commissioner Gail Welch posted in a Facebook comment the following warning to her white constituents, “I’m concerned about voter registration in Mississippi. The blacks are having lots (of) events for voter registration. People in Mississippi have to get involved, too.” PEOPLE…!

+ All of Washington is still in a snit about the Jeffrey Goldberg story in the Atlantic about Trump deprecated American veterans, especially the dead and the wounded, as “losers” and “suckers.” Typically, Trump didn’t back down when confronted with the story, instead lashing out at the military brass who probably leaked the presidential slurs to Goldberg. According to Trump, the generals main goal was securing fat contracts for weapons makers, even if it meant engineering wars to do so. Didn’t Ike say the same thing, except in more detail and in complete sentences? And, unlike Trump who has given the military-industrial complex every thing it wanted and more in three of the biggest Pentagon budgets in history, Ike meant what he said, although he waited until he was walking out the door to say it….

+ Trump’s assault on Lauren Powell Jobs is typically vile, but it must be noted that Jeffrey Goldberg also spent much of his career helping one of the most evil and corrupt regimes in American history fabricate a case for invading Iraq and overthrowing its government…

+ When the Bush administration needed help convincing a dubious public and reluctant Congress to greenlight its war on Iraq, it had the help of 3 journalists who, at one time or another, positioned themselves on the Left: Judith Miller, Christopher Hitchens and Jeffrey Goldberg.

+ Biden, though, can be counted on to plant more bodies in cemeteries, announcing this week that “the US must keep at least a small force in the Middle East” and assuring Pentagon contractors that he doesn’t foresee major cuts in the war-making budget.

+ Biden: “I’ve met with a number of my advisors and some have suggested in certain areas the [Pentagon] budget is going to have to be increased.”

+ Biden chant: “Hell, no, we won’t go! (Home).”

+ So Bob Woodward has known since March that Trump understood the danger COVID posed to the public health, but was lying about it publicly in order to keep the Dow and his poll numbers from falling.

+ What’s Woodward’s share of the body count?

+ On the other hand,  the Associated Press obtained government documents in April showing that leaders in Beijing knew the potential scale of the COVID threat by January 14th, but Xi waited six DAYS before warning the public.

+ In throwing his support behind perpetually concerned Senator Susan Collins, Joe Lieberman, the sleaziest man in politics (and Barack Obama’s senator mentor), referred to himself as a “lifelong Democrat.” Recall that John McCain really wanted Lieberman as his VP running mate, but was talked into Palin and on the very day that Mueller was named Special Prosecutor, Lieberman was at the White House offering himself as a candidate to replace James Comey as FBI director…

+ Biden dusts off the HRC playbook: “Have a public position and a private position.”

+  According to the Associated Press, Biden and Trump are presenting “dizzyingly different versions of reality“, neither of which are recognizable to me (or most of America, I’d wager)…

+ In his speech before the AFL-CIO, Biden pledged to be the “strongest labor president you’ve ever had.” Surely some of the labor bosses will recall that this Working Class Hero helped ram NAFTA through the US senate…

+ Vote shaming should be a civil rights violation. If Joe Biden needs Susan Sarandon’s vote to win NY, he’s going to get creamed anyway. If Biden wins & there’s no pressure from the Left, he’ll institute many of Trump’s policies against little resistance because he “seems” less insane.

+ According to the New York Times, more than 37 million people have been “displaced” by the US “War on Terror.” Though “displaced” is an anodyne way of putting it…

+ The French government, even under the austerity-minded Macron, will continue paying up to 84% of salaries for furloughed workers “until next summer,” as a consequence of the prolonged economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic. Why can’t we have nice things?

+ Chema Vera, executive director of Oxfam International: “COVID-19 has been tragic for the many but good for a privileged few. The economic crisis we are suffering because of the pandemic has been fueled by a rigged economic model. The world’s largest corporations are making billions at the expense of low wage workers and funneling profits to shareholders and billionaires — a small group of largely white men in rich nations.”

+ A little background on the Jared Kushner brokered UAE-Israel deal from Michael Schmidt’s new book, Donald Trump vs. the United States: Kushner’s security clearance was downgraded partly due to questionable business dealings with UAE. Also, an NSA intercept recorded the UAE amb. saying he wanted to “help Jared & Ivanka get a house in DC.”

+ Check your calendar: It’s 2020 and segregated lunch counters have come to (check your map) Dearborn, Michigan…

+ Jim Tourtelott: “Anybody can have a bad idea. But some are so bad that the very next thought should be, ‘Shit, that’s a bad idea.’ And then there’s this one.”

+ It’s hard to tell what Trump is most agitated about, in making the case to the Brits for equivocations on abortion: His sick fantasy of Ivanka getting raped or her getting pregnant by a black or Hispanic man. “‘Imagine some animal with tattoos raping your daughter and then she gets pregnant.”

+  Smithfield Foods of Sioux Falls, South Dakota has been “fined” a mere $13,494 by OSHA for its failure to mitigate worker exposure to the coronavirus. Nearly 1,300 Smithfield employees tested positive for COVID-19, 43 were hospitalized, and 4 died between March 22 and June 16.

+ Total Arctic sea ice volume was 55% below the 1979-2019 average in August 2020…

+ Woodland Hills and Chino hit 120 Fahrenheit on Sunday the highest temperatures ever recorded west of the mountains in Southern California. San Luis Obispo topped out at 120, the highest temperature ever recorded that close to an ocean in the Americas…

+ David Wallace-Wells: “The last time Los Angeles was this hot, Homo sapiens were just venturing out of Africa for the first time.”

+ When Rudolph M Schindler, perhaps LA’s greatest and most politically radical architect, designed his home/studio in West Hollywood in the 20s, instead of bedrooms, he made outdoor “sleeping porches”, which soon proved much too cold for comfortable sleeping even on summer nights. Schindler was 100 years ahead of his time.

Schindler house and studio. Photo: Jeffrey St. Clair.

+ A federal report, commissioned by President Trump’s own Commodity Futures Trading Commission, issued dire warnings about climate change’s impact on the markets, predicting “financial havoc” from the consequences of climate change. Not shit..

+ There were four named Tropical Storms brewing in the Atlantic already in September…Nana, Omar, Paulette and Rene.

+ The Democrat elite seem to think that it’s enough to say climate change is real, as if this elevates their moral superiority above their GOP rivals. But I find their position morally worse than the unbelievers & professional deniers. The Democrats profess to believe in science, understand what’s driving catastrophic climate change, and comprehend the risks to the planet. Yet still remain subservient to the fossil fuel industry.

+ Who says gender isn’t at the root of all of our problems? Fire officials say “a smoke generating pyrotechnic device” used during a gender reveal party caused San Bernadino County’s El Dorado Fire in Southern California.

+ Bureau of Land Management recently approved both the Gemini and Yellow Pine Solar Projects in Southern Nevada. In total, this will damage over 10,000 acres of habitat for threatened Desert Tortoise, yet most major environmental organizations refuse to oppose these incursions. Industrial solar is an environmental travesty not a solution to climate change. Solar panels belong on buildings and rooftops.

+ First Al Kaline, then Tom Seaver, now the Swift One, Lou Brock. The idols of my youth are falling fast.

+ Brock batted .391 with 4 homers and 14 stolen bases in 21 career World Series games.

+ My old friend Chuck D and I had a little colloquy on Elvis that pissed off a lot of folks on Twitter this week…

+ Elvis could have done so many little things as a down payment on the debt he owed to the music he absorbed on the radio & from the black churches in Tupelo & from the adjacent studios at SUN. Imagine him touring the southland w/ Jr Parker & Big Mama Thornton? He never even tried.

+ Elvis’ liberal defenders always blame “Colonel” Parker for actions that contradict their view of Elvis as a force of liberation, as if Elvis was an eternal juvenile, unable to formulate his own opinions or make his own decisions, his brain softened by Dilaudid and fried bananas

+ For the first time in 34 years, sales of vinyl records surpassed those of CDs in the U.S. Too bad it’s all melting…

+ I’ve been listening to 100 Years of Solitude while strolling the enfant terrible each day, captivated once again by its spiraling narratives, which seem to encapsulate the entire political history, past and future, of the western hemisphere and was amused to recall that, like one of us today in the checkout line at Safeway, Col. Aureliano Buendia would only stand in public inside a chalk circle drawn by his attendants, “putting 10 feet between himself and the rest of humanity.”

+ Losing David Graeber and Kevin Zeese in a week is an incalculable to blow to the Left. Among other things Kevin, who had been writing for CounterPunch since 2006, helped organize the very spirited OWS encampment in DC in 2011, and, unlike many of the other OWS sites, kept the focus squarely on the Obama Democrats’ abandonment of workers, the foreclosed and the sick.

+ We’re all very excited, and a little anxious, about the debut of CP +, the online version of the old CounterPunch magazine, which debuted this week. It’s a still a work-in-progess and for the next few months it will be available for everyone to read. We’ll feature the same columnists and writers who wrote for the old magazine: Chris Floyd, Jennifer Matsui, Laura Carlsen, Julie Wark, Daniel Raventos, Peter Dolack, Lee Ballinger, Lucy Schiller and yours truly. Plus, we’ll feature in-depth investigative reporting, music, film and book reviews, travelogues, photography, videos. This week we’ve kicked things off with a terrific piece by JoAnn Wypijewski on the legacy of Collateral Murder video, Eric Draitser’s in death report on Libya, Ron Jacobs on the life and career of the novelist Robert Stone, and Shalon Van Tine on Michele Obama. There’ll be new pieces every week, instead of once every two months in the old magazine format, and the entire archive of CounterPunch newsletter and magazine stories dating back to 1993 is available online. Take a look and let us know what you think.

Don’t play with me and you won’t get burned…

Booked Up
What I’m reading this week…

Reaganland: America’s Right Turn, 1976-80
Rick Pearlstein
(Simon & Schuster)

Fallout: The Hiroshima Cover-up and the Reporter Who Revealed It to the World
Lesley M.M. Blume
(Simon & Schuster)

Siren Song: Understanding Pakistan Through Its Women Singers
Fawzia Afzul-Khan
(Oxford University Press)

Sound Grammar
What I’m listening to this week…

Dinner Party
Terrace Martin/Robert Glasper/9th Wonder/Kamasi Washington
(Sounds of Crenshaw/Empire)

Lead Belly Re-Imagined
Adam Nussbaum

All Rise
Gregory Porter
(Blue Note)

A Constellation of Ignited Eyes

“It was a lone tree burning on the desert. A heraldic tree that the passing storm had left afire. The solitary pilgrim drawn up before it had traveled far to be here and he knelt in the hot sand and held his numbed hands out while all about in that circle attended companies of lesser auxiliaries routed forth into the inordinate day, small owls that crouched silently and stood from foot to foot and tarantulas and solpugas and vinegarroons and the vicious mygale spiders and beaded lizards with mouths black as a chowdog’s, deadly to man, and the little desert basilisks that jet blood from their eyes and the small sandvipers like seemly gods, silent and the same, in Jeda, in Babylon. A constellation of ignited eyes that edged the ring of light all bound in a precarious truce before this torch whose brightness had set back the stars in their sockets.” (Cormac McCarthy, Blood Meridian or the Evening Redness in the West)

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