Roaming Charges: Pray, Grin and Barrett


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+ What I learned watching the Amy Coney Barrett hearings: Any Supreme Court precedent ACB won’t discuss is one she’s willing, if not eager, to overturn.

+ Barrett no longer has an opinion on all the opinions she’s written, both as an academic and a federal judge. Even Keats would be dazzled by that feat of negative capability.

+ Each GOP senator knows exactly what Barrett thinks and how she would rule on the legal, scientific, historical and etymological questions she stubbornly refuses to answer. Otherwise, they wouldn’t risk voting for her and having her turn out to be another Souter. That’s what the Federal Society’s pre-vetting process is all about. The people left in the dark are the very one’s she’s going to screw over as soon as she slips into her black robe.

+ Sen. Josh Hawley, who advertises himself as “constitutional scholar,” announced that merely mentioning the words “Griswold v. Connecticut” (the court’s birth control ruling) is evidence of anti-Catholic bias, which pretty much set the tenor for the Republicans’ defense for how Barrett cloaks extreme brand legal theories behind her even more extreme sect of Catholicism.

+ Barrett, and her fellow textualists, fetishize the sacred language of the Constitution the wording and meaning of which they can’t ever seem to recall…

+ Barrett: “I’m certainly not a scientist. I have read things about climate change. I would not say I have firm views on it.”

+ The Democrats, shock!, didn’t press her very hard on her denialist views or her ties to Shell Oil or the big climate case involving Shell that is heading toward the Court.

+ Barrett’s father, a former Shell executive, was also a mover in the American Petroleum Institute where he served “as chairman of its Subcommittee on Exploration and Production Law.” Naturally, API has played a central role in attacking climate science (and scientists) and aggressively opposing policies to combat climate change.

+ Even if Barrett “believed” in climate change, she’d still vote to eliminate any action the federal government takes to curb it.

+ The public figure Amy Coney Barrett reminds me most of is James Comey. They both ooze rectitude–nothing, not critics, friends or facts, will dissuade them from their certainty in their own righteousness.

+ Lindsey Graham to ACB: “You’re not aware of any effort to go back to the good old days of segregation by a legislative body, is that correct?” Say what?

+ Amy Coney Barrett: “I can’t speak to what the president has said on Twitter.” But she’s very eager to provide an exegesis of Truman Capote’s Breakfast at Tiffanys…

My freshman year, I took a literature class filled with upperclassmen English majors. When I did my first presentation—on Breakfast at Tiffany’s—I feared I had failed. But my professor filled me with confidence, became a mentor, and—when I graduated with a degree in English—gave me Truman Capote’s collected works.

+ Of course, she could have just watched the film, like George Costanza…

+  Q: Does federal law, under any circumstances, allow a president to delay an election? Barrett said she would have to consider, consult, research and that she is not a “legal pundit.”

+ As Dylan once sang, “As long as you didn’t say nothing, you could say anything…”

+ If Squee doesn’t show up with a kegger soon, this hearing will go down as the most boring in the history of the judiciary committee…

+ Apparently, I’m not the only one getting the shakes…Barrett: “I will approach every case with an open wine. Open mind.”

+ NYU sociologist Ann Morning: “Amy Coney Barrett on her white kids: ‘smart,’ ‘math gene,’ likely to go to law school. On her black kids: he is ‘happy-go-lucky’ and she ‘deadlifts as much as the male athletes.’ Judge Barrett’s 2020 description of her kids echoes 18th-century scientist Linnaeus: Homo europaeus is ‘acute, inventive’–i.e. smart–while Homo africanus is ‘relaxed’ and ‘indolent’–not smart.”

+ Torquemada commenting on today’s hearing: “Why have 9 justices? There’s only one way to interpret the law. It always worked for me.”

+ Religion was invoked about 80 times during the questioning of Amy Cone Barrett: 75 mentions came from Republicans or Barrett. Only five came from Democrats, who didn’t even attempt a mild interrogation of the religious views of a jurist whose embraces an extreme doctrine of Catholicism that is more reactionary than the much-feared Sharia Law. It sounded more like advertising than persecution.

+ Since Barrett is a self-described textualist and English Lit major it might be worth exploring the etymological evolution of her middle name, “coney,” which before the latest vowel shift was pronounced “kunnie,” to rhyme with money. A coney was a domestic rabbit raised “for the table,” but by Shakespeare’s time it was also slang for “vagina”, a poetic pun for “cunt”, an origin for cunnilingus, or coney-licking.

+ 230 years from now the textualist justices of the terraformed colonies on Mars will be pouring over Trump’s Tweets trying to determine their original meaning, with feuds erupting over “Covfefe,” “big league,” “Nambia,” “Two Corinthians,”  “my generals…”

+ In 2000, John Roberts, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett all worked for George W Bush to stop the recount. This year they’re likely to vote together to stop the actual counting.

+ If you’re not a natural gas company, bank, insurance company or weapons merchant, can you explain why are you giving money to the Democratic Party?

+ This encomium to Graham, who trampled over nearly every established rule and tradition of the Judiciary Committee to rush through Barrett’s confirmation, culminated with a mask-less hug. How touching

+ Julius Nyerere: “The United States is also a one-party state but, with typical American extravagance, they have two of them.”

+ The genius of the Biden campaign is that there really is no Biden campaign. The outcome of the election will almost certainly depend on whether they can resist the temptation to start one over the next three weeks.

+ What the election comes down to: Biden is taking drugs (Donepezil) to slow his dementia, while Trump is taking drugs (dexamethasone) that accelerate his.

+ Joe Biden told a group of donors this week that he just got off the phone with Warren Buffett and they talked about America’s opportunity “to lead the whole damn world in a way that no one else can.”

+ Ted Cruz arguing that Democrats’ support for the re-enfranchisement of felons means they want Charles Manson, “who is serving multiple life sentences,” to vote. Manson died in 2017.

+ Ben Sasse: “The number one driver of uninsurance is that we change jobs more often than we used to.” It’s about time for Sasse to change his job, isn’t it…?

+ In a taped call with constituents this week, Sasse is heard deprecating Trump charging that he botched the COVID response, “kisses dictators’ butts,” “sells out our allies,” spends money “like a drunken sailor,” mistreats women, trash-talks evangelicals behind their backs, “flirted with white supremacists”and treats the presidency like “a business opportunity”. And in public, Sasse kisses Trump’s ass. But only one of them pretends to be a moralist…

+ Only a white guy from the South could say this with a straight face, though knowing Kennedy he probably said it with a sadistic leer…

+ Steve Silberman: “Amy Coney Barrett is so into the concept of family she can’t wait to join Justices Thomas and Alito in dissolving marriages like mine.”

+ The NY Post thought they were gutting Biden with their trashy piece, dug up by Giuliani, on the crack/sex tapes of Hunter Biden. But they only succeeded in making the Bidens seem gritty and human for the first time…There’s a little Hunter Biden in us all, (if only in our dream lives).

+ The New York Post stories have been slammed by the elite media and the sharing of them absurdly blocked by Facebook and Twitter. But we all know that the allegations of nepotism, incompetence and trading on his father’s position as VP ring true. There are photos, emails, texts, recordings. Gerald Sussman charted the Bidens’ ransacking of Ukraine for CounterPunch back in August, try sharing that on Twitter and Facebook.

+ Nobody really knows what “court packing” means. Most people probably think it has to do with allowing the justices to strap-on Glocks under their robes. If the Dems would just openly support it without elaboration, they might pick up some of the “undecided” Boogaloo vote after all…

+ Didn’t we just see how they “handled it”? Maybe Biden should check with DiFi for a re-cap…

+ Despite the recent influx of Puerto Ricans in the wake of Hurricane Maria, the Democrats’ longtime voter registration edge in Florida is disappearing, dwindling to just 134,000 over Republicans ahead of Election Day, the thinnest margin in recent history. In 2012, Democrats had a 535,987 voter edge and Obama won. In 2016, Democrats had a 327,428 voter edge and Trump won.

+ I think Thursday night’s dueling town hall ended pretty badly for Biden. His somnambulant ABC Town Hall performance drew a couple million more viewers than Trump’s meltdown on NBC. Biden needed those numbers to be reversed.

+ No wonder Trump pretended that being $400 million in debt was nothing during his gonzo performance on NBC…According to Forbes, his debt load is actually closer to a billion dollars.

+ “He started out on Sudafed, but soon hit the harder stuff…”

+ For at least the fourth time, a pro-Trump ad has used footage from Russia. If they start using clips from Tarkovsky and Pudovkin films, I may even be persuaded into voting for Trump…

+ A GOP operative explained to the Washington Post this week how the Republicans are already laying the groundwork to cripple and paralyze a Biden administration, should there be one. What the operative didn’t say is that Biden will generously help the GOP destroy his presidency in the name of comity and bipartisanship…(Cf, Dianne Feinstein.)

+ The same members of the GOP who swelled the deficit to a record $3.1 trillion, with massive tax cuts for the rich and wild Pentagon spending for the benefit of weapons contractors, will use it a cudgel against a Biden-Harris administration and entice them to impose austerity measures and slash entitlement programs…

+ All the former insiders and enablers are now desperate to wash the stench of Trump from their resumés. As head of DHS, Kelly ran the child separation policy. At this point, the only thing I need to hear from him is a guilty plea.

+ When it comes to dictators, the parties in the US set aside their petty differences and unite in their defense: Azerbaijan dictatorship is paying Kamala Harris’s husband’s firm, DLA Piper, to whitewash its war on Armenians. Meanwhile, Trump has poured more than $100 million in “security” aid to the Azerbaijan regime over the past two years.

+ According to the Sentencing Project, 9 states are barring at least 10% of their adult Black population from voting in 2020. They are AL, AZ, FL, IA, KY, MS, NE, SD, and TN. Tennessee’s is the highest: 22%. More than one in 5 Black adults are disenfranchised there.

+ In August a group of conservative activists got together to discuss election strategy at closed-door meeting. The main topic: voter suppression. They’re all for it. “We need to stop those ballots from going out!”

+ Trump’s suave pitch to white suburban women voters: “So I ask you to do me a favor. Suburban women: will you please like me? Please. Please. I saved your damn neighborhood, OK? [From subsidized housing for poor blacks and Hispanics.] The other thing: I don’t have that much time to be that nice. You know, I can do it, but I gotta go quickly.”

+ You can Tweet “out,” But you can never leave: Gen. Mark Milley on NPR dismisses Nat Sec Advisor’s announced troop cuts in Afghanistan. “Robert O’Brien or anyone else can speculate as they see fit…I’m going to engage in the rigorous analysis of the situation based on the conditions .. and conversations with the president.”

+ Trump, shortly after saying he’d seen “all the events of the summer”, including the killing of George Floyd: “I’ve never seen a human being treated as badly as Justice Kavanaugh.”

+ A new report from the Journal of American Medical Association finds that the number of Americans dying from COVID-19 since early May is on average 50% higher than 18 other high-income countries, adjusting for population size. “The United States really has done remarkably badly,” said Dr. Ezekiel J. Emanuel, a professor of health policy and medical ethics at the University of Pennsylvania and one of the authors of the study. I mean remarkably badly.”

+ The JAMA study compared the US to peer countries in terms of both COVID-19 deaths and excess all-cause mortality. The US had more per capita COVID-19 deaths than 15 of the 18 comparison countries (except UK, Spain, Belgium). 11 of those countries have had fewer than 25 deaths per 100,000 — with that mortality rate, the US would have had 118,000 fewer deaths (59%).

+ A faith-healing megachurch in Redding, California flouted mask and social distancing rules. Now it’s the source of one of the largest superspreading events in the West, with hundreds of COVID-19 cases.

+ Nearly all of the children and teenagers who have died in the US from coronavirus have been either black or Hispanic.

+ In the 12 hours after the announcement of Trump’s Covid-19 diagnosis, anti-Asian tweets and conspiracies increased by 85%

+ What to make of this poll? That we should “lockdown” the country more often? (And perhaps Americans don’t like their grandparents as much as we’ve been led to believe by those Hallmark holiday movies.)

Gallup poll on Percentage of Americans who say they are better off now than they were 4 years ago

Sept 2020: 56 percent
Dec 2012: 45 percent
Oct 2004: 47 percent
Oct 1992: 38 percent
July 1984: 44 percent

+ A RAND study reports that the price of insulin in the US is up to 10 times higher than 30 other top industrialized nations. In 2018, the average U.S. price of insulin was $98.70, compared with $6.94 in Australia, $12.00 in Canada, $7.52 in the U.K., and $8.81 across all other OECD countries combined.

4,998: the number of inmates who died while locked in US jails over the last 10 years before ever getting a trial.

+ Any amount of time spent in solitary confinement increases the risk of death after release from prison, including deaths by suicide, homicide, and opioid overdose.

+ Here’s a horrifying episode, and only one of several reported suicides by hanging, from inside ICE’s concentration camp in La Palma, Arizona…

the current brutality of American immigration enforcement is perhaps best encapsulated by something Enrique witnessed while in detention before the outbreak of the virus: one day, while in the yard with his fellow detainees, Enrique watched a man climb to the top of the fence surrounding the facility and hang himself with the barbed coils of concertina wire. When guards arrived, they beat the man’s bloodied body, sprayed him with pepper spray, and took him away.

+ 200,000: the number of time the Trump administration has used the threat of COVID-19 as an excuse to expedite the expulsion of immigrants and asylum seekers from the US.

+ Like Saddam, Trump seems to have ordered the gassing of his own people with toxic smoke grenades (if he considers the residents of the Anarchist Jurisdiction of Portland his own people): “I had a blinding, choking feeling. My whole body started shaking. I couldn’t see, and I couldn’t process anything.”

+ A No Knock Execution…According to new eyewitness accounts,  federals didn’t identify themselves before firing on Portland shooting suspect and activist Michael Reinoehl. After he was killed by federal agents, in an action Trump hailed as “retribution,” Attorney General Bill Barr claimed that Reinoehl was shot after he had “produced” a gun. But it turns out the gun was found in Reinoehl’s pocket, after he bleed to death in the street.

+ After Obama started committing extrajudicial killings of American citizens by drone, it opened the door for Trump deploying US marshals to gun down American citizens on the street in Lacey, Washington.

+ The fact that the 9th Circuit Court even had to make a ruling against the Trump administration’s goon squads targeting journalists during the Portland protests tells you what we’ve come to and what we are hurtling toward…

+ WTF, Moore? Grant, Castile, Floyd, Clark and Garner were all killed by police in Democratic run cities in Democratic run states.

+ Late on Friday of last week, the Trump administration quietly issued notice that landlords could start eviction proceedings against tenants, even while its toothless federal eviction ban is in place…

+ Meanwhile, only 25% of renters eligible for rental assistance actually receive it, at a time when more than 6 million people in the US have fallen below the poverty line in the last three months alone.

+ On Thursday, the Labor Department reported that another 898,000 Americans filed for jobless claims last week, above expectations of 825,000. Seven months into the pandemic and the US is continues to shed nearly a million jobs every week…

+ Yet, according to Larry Kudlow, these “gales of creative destruction” are working out just dandy:

“The talk is that a lot of folks who became unemployed, most regrettably, they’re sticking with it & going out and starting new businesses. … That’s the great part of American capitalism — gales of creative destruction.”

+ Kudlow made (slightly) more sense was he was coked up

+ Maurice Bishop, former president of Grenada, executed in 1983 after a coup: “As we say at home when the capitalist world catches cold we catch pneumonia …”

+ The Democrats are slowly transforming Reagan (who is barely mentioned by Republicans anymore) into a 20th century Lincoln, wiping away all memory of the death squads, the eulogizing of the Waffen SS, the jokes about nuking the USSR, the use of astrologers to plan his schedule…

+ Who did the militias think would pay the ransoms for all these governors they planned to kidnap? Would anyone even notice they’d gone missing?

+ Estée Lauder is reportedly paying $17,500 an hour to have astronauts take photos and videos of its skincare serum in space. NASA has set aside 90 hours of crew time for commercial and marketing activities like this. Yet the cost of operating the ISS is $350,000 an hour, so Lauder is getting a subsidy of about $320,000 and hour.

+ Trump making his post-COVID debut in Sanford, Florida, the town that banned Jackie Robinson from spring training: “I will walk into the audience and kiss all the guys and beautiful women.”

+ Talk about “unhinged”: An expert hired by the Trump campaign in its arbitration case against Omarosa Newman and the disclosures in her tell-all book Unhinged recommended that she pay for a $846,000 ad campaign to “remedy” impressions she’s left in “voters'” minds.

+ What’s the preferred outcome? A soundly defeated Trump, crushed both by the popular vote and in the electoral college, barricaded deep in the White House bunker with only Stephen Miller and Peter Navarro by his side, refusing to concede? Or a “peaceful transition” to a Biden presidency?

+ According to Andrew Roberts’ sprawling biography, Napoleon: a Life, the severe case of hemorrhoids that afflicted the Emperor during the War of the Fourth Coalition (1807) were treated, and apparently cured, by the judicious application of leeches to his anus.

+ September 2020 was the warmest on record. The 10 warmest Septembers have all occurred since 2005. The seven warmest Septembers have occurred in the last seven years (2014-2020). 

+ More than 8 million people across five states breathed toxic air from western fires for at least a day. In California and Oregon, hundreds of thousands breathed extremely unhealthy air for an entire week. Researchers at Stanford University estimated that as many as 3,000 people in California alone died prematurely after being exposed to smoke during a six-week period beginning August 1, while hundreds more deaths could have occurred in Washington and Oregon over several weeks of toxic air caused by the fires.

+ Cal Fire, the public firefighting service in California, recently detained a crew of for-hire private firefighters who were illegally setting backfires in Sonoma in an attempt to protect a wealthy client’s property.

+ Nearly half the continental United States is now mired in the most widespread drought since 2013 and, with hot and dry conditions forecast to persist across the South and Southwest, there’s little relief in sight.

+ The first two years of the Trump administration had a 70 percent decrease in criminal prosecutions under the Clean Water Act and a decrease of more than 50 percent under the Clean Air Act, according to a new study by the Environmental Crimes Project at the University of Michigan law school.

+ Despite the economic collapse, the number of global methane hot spots spiked by 32% this year–the largest leak is from a pipeline in Iraq, which is spewing 150 tons of methane an hour, creating a methane-plume 2oo-miles long.

+ New research suggests that lax environmental enforcement in Texas this year has increased pollution—and that both the number of COVID-19 cases and deaths may have increased as a consequence.

+ Almost half Portugal’s endemic plants now face extinction. At least, 19 species have already become extinct in the last 30 years.

+ Avian botulism, a disease exacerbated by climate change, has killed more than 40,000 migratory birds in the last few weeks at the Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge in southern Oregon and sent thousands more for treatment to a bird rehabilitation hospital.

+ In some good news, it appears that India will build 86% less new coal power capacity than expected last year, according to the International Energy Agency. The nation long seen as the primary force driving global coal growth will add just 25GW by 2040. The result? Global coal capacity will fall dramatically.

+ Diego Maradona went to lowly Napoli and won. It makes him greater than Messi for me. By the same standard, LeBron has won everywhere he’s played, often with a limited cast around him. With this latest championship for the Lakers, his superiority to Michael Jordan as a player is now confirmed. LeBron’s always been superior to Jordan as a human.

+ In 1989, Reds’ great Joe Morgan, who died this week, was racially profiled and falsely arrested at LAX. Then the cops lied about him becoming “violent.” Morgan sued and won a $500K judgement against LAPD and $800K from City of LA. Morgan’s case, along with Rodney King’s beating, which happened shortly afterwards, helped rip the veil off of what was really going on inside the LAPD.

+ This photo reminds me of Edward Hoagland’s great essay on the bears of New Jersey, gorging themselves on apples to the point of drunkenness, before, like figures in Breugel’s painting, passing out on car hoods in the parking lot of a shopping mall near the orchards…It’s also photographic proof of the reincarnation of Alexander Cockburn.

+ Bruce Springsteen on the prospect of a Trump victory in November: “I’ll be on the next plane to Australia.” A cowardly option not available to any of the working class people Springsteen made millions by promoting himself as the gritty troubadour of…

Where is the Man with the Charismatic Hands?

Booked Up
What I’m reading this week…

Dead Epidemiologists: On the Origins of COVID
Rob Wallace
(Monthly Review Press)

Ben Fletcher: the Life and Times of a Black Wobbly
Peter Cole
(PM Press)

Football’s Fearless Activists: How Colin Kaepernick, Eric Reid, Kenny Stills, and Fellow Athletes Stood Up to the NFL and President Trump
Mike Freeman
(Sports Publishing)

Sound Grammar
What I’m listening to this week…

Scattered Diamonds
Barrett Martin

Terje Rypdal

Free Now
Drew Citron
(Park the Van Records)

Fight the Main Danger

“My point is not that everything is bad, but that everything is danger­ous, which is not exactly the same as bad. If everything is dangerous, then we always have something to do. So my position leads not to apa­thy but to a hyper- and pessimistic activism. I think that the ethico-political choice we have to make every day is to determine which is the main danger.” (Michel Foucault, “On the Genealogy of Ethics.”)

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