Roaming Charges: High Anxiety

Still from Mel Brooks’ “High Anxiety.”

+ I gave up trying to predict elections long ago. But my gut read on this election has always been that the harder Trump tries to lose the election, the more likely he is to win and the harder Biden tries to win the more likely he is to lose. By that standard, Trump seems to be slightly ahead….

+ Nader says “vote your conscience.” I say, vote your Id and expect the Diebold voting machine to autocorrect your vote to the Super Ego candidates.

+ Here are the averages of the “high quality” polls  since Labor Day:

MICHIGAN Biden 9.5
NEVADA Biden 7.4
ARIZONA Biden 4.8
FLORIDA Biden 2.6
OHIO Biden 1.1
GEORGIA Biden 0.6
IOWA Biden 0.08
TEXAS Trump 2.5

+ Subtract 3 points from Biden to account for voter suppression, lower than expected youth vote and Trump voters who are embarrassed to admit they’re voting for him and you’re probably much closer to the actual result, that is a very narrow Biden victory.

+ Biden seems to have an insurmountable lead in the generic polls, but the High Anxiety about the outcome of the election is evidence of how little confidence there is that the popular vote will determine who becomes president. It’s not the vote will be rigged, or hacked, but that the Constitution itself has rigged the election to favor the candidate wins the popular vote in the least populated states.

+ Biden losing Texas because he made little to no effort to secure the Hispanic vote and couldn’t effectively distance himself from Obama’s inglorious record as deporter-in-chief will be one of the most biting ironies of this strange campaign.

+ Of course, it probably didn’t help matters that when it finally dawned on Biden that he wasn’t making it with many Hispanic voters, he recruited anti-Cuba/Venezuela/Sandinista neocon Ana Navarro to make his pitch, instead of organizers from the Sanders and Julian Castro campaigns.

+ The Biden campaign has made two shrewd strategic decisions: One, to limit Biden’s own appearances; and two, to keep Bill Clinton off the campaign trail, even though Bubba might have drawn some bigoted white men over to Biden in Georgia and South Carolina.

+The national polling averages with 5 days until E-Day. Of course, Biden could win by 9+ and lose in the electoral college.

2020: Biden+9.0

2016: Clinton+4.2

2012: Romney+0.3

2008: Obama+6.9

2004: Bush+2.4

2000: Bush+3.7

1996: Clinton+14.6

1992: Clinton+8.3

1988: Bush+11.7

1984: Reagan+19.2

1980: Reagan+0.1

1976: Carter+2.0

+ If you want to finally destroy the electoral college, you should hope that Biden somehow manages to lose the popular vote, because of court rulings prematurely stopping vote counting in some states, but narrowly prevails in the electoral college. It will be gone before Amy Coney Barrett gets her new couture robe blessed by Cardinal Dolan…..

+ Usually, the lies get more grandiose the closer we get to an election. This year, however, there’s been a refreshing outbreak of honesty. Biden has pledged that he will “not end fracking.” And Trump’s chief staff Mark Meadows has vowed that Trump “will not control the pandemic.”

+ Thanks for the clarification, Joe, as Hurricane Zeta shreds Louisiana in the last week of October…

+ Keep on frackin’ in the free world…

+ The grooming of AOC for a leadership position in the party seems to be well underway. Consider her placid reaction to Biden’s retreat on fracking:  “It does not bother me … I have a very strong position on fracking … However, that is my view … It will be a privilege to lobby him should we win the White House, but we need to focus on winning the White House first.”

+ The people who are angry at the Green Party for accurately claiming credit for the Green New Deal are the same ones voting for a candidate will bury the Green New Deal under a pile of neoliberal hoodoo and hijinks…

+ The strangest thing about Trump putting all his chips on Biden family corruption, for which there’s plenty of evidence, is that Trump himself has proven that no one cares about corruption in politics anymore. We just expect it, as a kind of prerequisite for that career path….

+ Trump is, as Steppenwolf once said, firing all his guns at once this week: ordering seismic testing in ANWR, gutting protections in the Tongass rainforest, removing wolves from the ESA, renaming a nuclear sub the USS Wisconsin, shooting off ICBM rockets in California, declaring COVID defeated, rushing out federal indictments against protesters in Philly. (Unfortunately, he’s yet to explode into space.)

+ Every batshit idea that’s been faxed to Oval Office by a Trump donor is becoming policy in the week before the election, including a decision by the State Department to allow US citizens born in Jerusalem to list “Israel” on their passports.

+ Speaking of which, Vegas casino mogul Sheldon Adelson shelled out $26.4 million of his own money to the GOP in the 2020 election cycle, the most of any tycoon in the country, according to the latest Federal Election Commission data.

+ The President of the United States is paid $400,000 annually. In four years, Trump has pocketed 20 times that in payments to his business from taxpayers and donors.

+ Harris County has 4.7 million people, roughly the population of New Zealand. And, after the latest ruling from the Texas Supreme Court, it will have just one ballot box.

+ Billionaire bond trader Jeffrey Gundlatch, CEO of DoubleLine Capital, predicted this week that Trump would win the election and spark a revolution. In that case, bring it in…

+ Eau de Sinister….

+ With the confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett, Republican presidents have now appointed 15 of the last 19 Supreme Court justices.

+ Amy Coney Barrett becomes the first justice confirmed to the U.S. Supreme Court without any bipartisan support since 1869.

+ Lots of quivering, but no arrows hit their mark…

+ Barrett’s speedy elevation to the court has become just one more fundraising shakedown for the DNC, the party which vowed, and not only miserably failed to block her but succeeded in raising her support among Democrats from 22% to 52%..


+ Amy Coney Barrett became the first justice confirmed to the U.S. Supreme Court without any bipartisan support since 1869.

+ Great Moments in Senate History: 11 Democrats voted to confirm Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court. (Boren, Breaux, DeConcini, Dixon, Exon, Fowler, Hollings, Johnston, Nunn, Robb, Shelby).

+ If Barrett lives as long as Ruth Bader Ginsburg, she serve will on the Court until 2055…if there is a 2055.

+ Republican presidents have now appointed 15 of the last 19 Supreme Court justices.

+ Minutes before Amy Coney Barrett was confirmed, the Supreme Court ruled 5-3 to throw out ballots in Wisconsin that are postmarked by Election Day, but arrive after. 80,000 ballots were counted in primary that arrived after Election Day but were postmarked by that date. In his opinionBrett Kavanaugh, who thinks Roe v Wade should be overturned, argues that Gore v Bush should hold as precedent, even though the justices who made that wretched ruling themselves said it shouldn’t hold as a precedent. It’s going to be a wild couple of decades with the Gorsuch-Kavanaugh-Barrett court…

+ Recall that Brett Kavanaugh was on the Bush legal in Florida that argued for the inclusion of ballots received 10 or more days after election day, and pressed counties to continuing changing their totals over Thanksgiving weekend.

+ By 2040, it’s projected that nearly 40% of the American population will live in five states. In the Senate, that means roughly half of the population will be represented by 16 senators; the other half by 84.

+ Who will tell DiFi? McConnell, just after the Senate voted to limit debate on Amy Coney Barrett: “A lot of what we’ve done over the last four years will be undone sooner or later by the next election. They won’t be able to do much about this for a long time to come.”

+ After botching the case against Barrett and failing to negotiate a second stimulus package for a desperate population, 80-year old Nancy Pelosi announced her intention to run once more for Speaker of the House. Pelosi’s hands will be as necrotic as McConnell’s when they finally pry the gavel from her grip

+ After its shameful expulsion of Jeremy Corbyn on specious charges of “antisemitism,” the Labour will never win again in the UK and they shouldn’t. Despite the libels against him, Corbyn, and his movement, should feel liberated. The shackles the Blairite Party imposes on its members aren’t just about Palestine.

+ The UK Labour Party had been a ship of death for progressives aspirations since Blair imposed his blow-dry austerity measures & eagerly helped Bush manufacture the fraudulent case for war in Iraq. Corbyn offered the party a last chance at resuscitation & they undermined him at every turn, slandered him, and finally booted him out. Corbyn exits with his honor in tact. The Labour Party, however, now exists only as a smug refuge for Tories, who now regret their votes for Brexit.

+ The Labour Party has done to Corbyn, what the Democrats really want to do to Rashida Tlaib and Ilan Omar and likely will at some point.

+ He was anonymous before he became Anonymous. Taylor should be facing indictment for his role in helping to sell and implement the child separation policy. Instead, he was given acres of column spaces in the NYT, a big book deal and landed a job at Google.

+ The number of migrant women detained in Irwin who underwent unnecessary or overly aggressive gynecological operations — or were pressured to undergo them — is at least 57.

+ Asked why the new border wall is being painted black, Rodney Scott, chief of the Border Patrol, said the decision was driven by tests showing it helps agents see better. The real reason, of course, is that Trump wanted it painted black because he thought it looked more menacing and said it would heat up in the sun and burn climbers’ hands.

+ ICE and Border Patrol have expelled unaccompanied immigrant children from the US border more than 13,000 times since March of this year alone, sending these kids right back to the perilous circumstances they’d fled across the border to escape…

+ The Legacy of ICE: children missing their parents, young women missing their uteruses and ovaries…

+ The Democrats calling the Trump/Miller/Sessions/Anonymous Guy’s family separations policy “incompetent” is an admission that they’d continue it, only they’d update the address book more frequently for whatever hellhole they shipped the parents back to and maybe keep the kids in softer, gentler cages–if they’re good.

+ There has been a dramatic rise in deportations of Haitians over the last month, with a flight every couple of days back to Port-au-Prince. Haitian immigrants are summarily expelled from the US using a public health statute, Title 42, which denies immigrants of the chance to request asylum.

+ Obama helped the Saudis instigate their savage war on Yemen, but Trump has quietly escalated it. According a new report from Air Wars titled “Eroding Transparency: US counterterrorism actions in Yemen under President Donald Trump,” at least 86 civilians have been killed in airstrikes and raids carried out in Yemen on Trump’s watch, most of these deaths occurred during the years 2017 and 2018, two of the most active  years in terms of strikes and the deadliest for civilians.

+ Trump is also on his way toward doubling Obama’s rate of drone strikes: New statistics show that Trump launched 231 airstrikes or ground raids in Yemen during his first four years. Obama launched 255 in all eight of his years.

+ The quintessential Biden revealed itself in the aftermath of the police shooting of Walter Wallace, Jr…

Reporter: “What do you say to Philadelphia residents that are outraged by yet another unarmed Black man being shot by police?”

Biden: “What I say is that there is no excuse whatsoever for the looting and the violence.”

+ Meanwhile, 20 more former federal prosecutors have endorsed Biden…

+ John Nesby, the head of the Philadelphia Police Union, called BLM protesters “a pack of rabid animals.” The Philly cops haven’t changed much since Frank Rizzo’s day…Put on a few pounds, maybe.

+ Philly Inquirer’s Editorial Board: “If the officers who shot Walter Wallace Jr. indeed did nothing wrong according to police use of force protocol, then the state of policing is even more dire than we thought.”

+ From the You Can’t Make This Shit Up Desk: Louisville police officer Jonathan Mattingly has filed a lawsuit against Breonna Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, alleging his suffered emotional distress, assault and battery on the night the cops broke into her apartment and killed Taylor…

+ Of the people police arrested multiple times in the past year, more than half (52%) reported having a substance use disorder….

+ On Tuesday, 15 people were let go from New York City jails. On average they had been incarcerated for 262 days. Today, there are more than 1000 people in NYC jails (pre-trial) who have been there for longer than a year.

+ 19: the number of encounters with law enforcement George Floyd had over his brief life, most of them occurring in the oppressively policed black communities in Houston.

+ Jared the Slumlord on black Americans: “President Trump’s policies are the policies that can help people break out of the problems that they’re complaining about but he can’t want them to be successful more than that they want to be successful ”

+ Georgia Senator, and inside stock trader, Kelly Loeffler said she is “not familiar” with Trump’s “grab ’em by the pussy” comments recorded on the Access Hollywood tape. Over to you, Tom Verlaine…

I understand all, I see no
Destructive urges, I see no
It seems so perfect, I see no
I see, I see no, I see no evil

+ Joseph Massad on France’s obsession with decapitation:

“France’s love affair with decapitating people was not only evident in colonial Algeria but also in its other colonies …The decapitated heads were preserved in formaldehyde… and later put on display in the Museum of Natural History.”

+ Biden has told the South Koreans that he will “work hard to unify” the Korean peninsula. The word “unify” needs some translation. During the Obama years, it meant unification after a military intervention by the US, South Korea, Japan and China. One can hope Biden’s thinking has “evolved,” but given the fact that the leading contender on his fantasy team to run the CIA, Tom Donilon, is one of the architects of the unification-by-decapitation policy it seems doubtful.

+ Remember when TIME magazine darkened OJ’s face to make him look blacker and scarier? Here’s Newsweek advancing it’s latest yellow peril scare piece by pixelating Xi’s face and wrapping in him in a Trayvon Martin hoodie…

+ $40 million: amount DC police have earned in overtime pay since BLM protests began in May.

+ The Country Club Coup: the plotters of the bungled Venezuela coup hatched their plans at Trump’s Doral Golf Resort in Miami. The chief plotter, a mercenary named Jordan Goudreau, says Erik Prince pitched 5000 troops to overthrow Maduro for a mere $500 million (a claim Prince vigorously denies, as well he should). All with connivance of the Trump team. How could it fail?

+ In his forthcoming memoir, Obama blames unions(!) for the failure to enact universal health care:

 “[M]any companies began offering private health insurance and pension benefits as a way to compete for the limited number of workers not deployed overseas. Once the war [WWII] ended, this employer-based system continued, in no small part because labor unions used the more generous benefit packages negotiated under collective-bargaining agreements as a selling point to recruit new members. The downside was that those unions then had little motivation to push for government-sponsored health programs that might help everybody else.”

+ UC Berkeley has been doling out $70,000 a year for eugenics research from a fund called the Genealogical Eugenic Institute and just now realized this might be…uh…problematic.

+ Eric Topol: “We haven’t see positive testing rates like this at any point during the US pandemic. Overall US positive test rate has shot up to 7.3%, and testing has decreased.”

South Dakota 43.4%
Idaho 34.8%
Wyoming 31.5%
Wisconsin 28.0%
Iowa 26.4%
Alabama 25.2%
Nebraska 21.8%
Kansas 20.7%

+ Heckuva job, Jared….Kushner to Bob Woodward in April: “There’s the panic phase, the pain phase and then the comeback phase…We’ve now put out rules to get back to work. Trump’s now back in charge. It’s not the doctors. They’ve kind of – we have, like, a negotiated settlement.”

+ South Dakota (885,000) and San Francisco (890,000) have roughly the same population size. On Tuesday, South Dakota recorded 1,270 new COVID cases. SF reported 37.

+ The US reported more than 98,000 new Covid-19 cases on Friday. For a single 24-hour period. That’s more cases than China has reported for the entire pandemic.

+ According to a report by the Kaiser Foundations, nursing homes with relatively high share of Black or Hispanic residents are more likely to have had a resident die of COVID-19 than homes with lower shares of such residents.

+ “In America, we as U.S. citizens have the right to get sick if we want to, right?” proclaimed Anna Kasachev, a GOP candidate for the Oregon State Senate, who is running on an anti-vaccination, anti-mask platform. ” That is the beauty of this country.” I didn’t realize the right to spread infectious diseases was one of the four freedoms…

+ CNN: “Hospitals in WI are near capacity. Does that give you any pause about going there and holding a big rally?”

Trump 2020 Press Sec. Hogan Gidley: “No, it doesn’t. The VP has the best doctors in the world around him.”

+ A new study from the Department of Economics at Stanford estimates that 18 Trump rallies have led to 30,000 COVID cases and 700 deaths.

+ The White House science office (OSTP) just released its first-term accomplishments. Leading the press release: “Ending the Covid-19 Pandemic.” The full report includes this nugget: “Science is one of the strongest weapons that we have against this virus.”

+ Olives and Palestine are almost synonymous. It’s why the olive groves have become a target of destruction by Israeli “settlers” in the Occupied Territories…

+ I’ve watched with morbid interest the train wreck at the Intercept which led to the resignation of Glenn Greenwald in an editorial dispute over a story on Biden family corruption. I’m all for publishing the Hunter Biden documents, even the suspicious trove Glenn’s friend Tucker Carlson implied were swiped in the mail by the Deep State but turned out to have been mislaid by UPS, the kind of privatized mail service Carlson wants to replace the US Postal Service. So much for the efficiency of the market.

In his resignation letter, Greenwald goes a little far in claiming his story was “censored.” Call it the victim of a strong editorial hand. Cockburn used to apply his frequently to my stories and his normal scalpel was replaced by a ruthless chainsaw whenever my subject matter strayed onto the fraught terrain of climate change, assault weapons or catch-and-release trout fishing.

There’s a lot of finger-pointing going on and axes being ground to a sharp edge, as sides are taken. Much of the animosity toward Greenwald is for his rather indulgent writing about Trump over the past four years and his running slot on Carlson’s xenophobic show, where Greenwald has been reluctant to challenge many of the despicable views broadcast on that regrettable FoxNews hate-fest. Still, Glenn has never really pretended to be part of the Left. He’s always advertised himself as a civil libertarian and his view of the first amendment was so expansive that it led him to admirably, in why view, provide legal representation to the neo-Nazi Matthew Hale and, more questionably, to endorse the Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens’ United.

+ It’s become a fixture of American political culture where those who later apologize for being wrong about a disastrous policy (regardless of the body count) are given more attention and credibility than those who made the right call from the beginning.

+ Many people are unaware of Greenwald’s early support for Bush’s war on terror, a fact he discloses in the preface to his book, How Would a Patriot Act: “I believed then that the president was entitled to have his national security judgment deferred to, and to the extent that I was able to develop a definitive view, I accepted his judgment that American security really would be enhanced by the invasion…”

+ I’m glad Greenwald came to regret his support for the Afghanistan and Iraq wars. It’s something the moral miscreant Hitchens refused to do. But it shouldn’t be blotted from his CV either. A few–very few in fact–of us opposed both wars from the beginning and were relentless vilified for doing so.

+ Robert McNamara was welcomed back into the salons of liberal America after he apologized for being a chief architect of the Vietnam War, despite the fact he went on to kill & immiserate 10s of millions more during his tenure running the World Bank without any lingering twitches of guilt.

+ One of the useful disclosures in Greenwald’s letter is his detailed description of just how badly the Intercept bungled its relationship with whistleblower Reality Winner, leading the FBI right to her computer and door. One of Biden’s first acts, if he becomes president, should be issue her a pardon and apology. But he’s more likely to pardon John Kelly, Mad Dog Mattis, John Brennan, Clapper, Gina Haspel and McMaster…on the remote chance any of them might be charged for their crimes.

+ On the flip side, I’ve learned my lessons as an editor as well. Ishmael Reed may not recall this, but the first time a submission from him landed in my inbox I was so excited I called one of my old college professors, who’d given me a copy of Yellow Back Radio-Broke Down back in 78, to gloat about it. Then I started editing it according to CP stylesheet and quickly sent the story back to the great man, thinking I’d polished it up like a low-rent William Shawn. A few minutes later, Ishmael sent me an email consisting of four words: “Let Reed be Reed!” I printed it out and 20 years later it remains pinned to the wall in my office.

+ Speaking of “censorship,” it would be nice to finally have the long-promised access to the Edward Snowden archive, which Greenwald and Laura Poitras shuttered and continue to keep under lock and key.

+ All the young Dudas, carry the news. Boogaloo Dudas, carry the news

+ Yet another line for the Lacanians to mull over: AOC: “I don’t want to be a savior, I want to be a mirror.”

+ Over to you, Nico…

+ Bruce Springsteen: “There’s no art in this White House. There’s no literature, no poetry, no music. There are no pets in this White House: no loyal man’s best friend, no Socks, the family cat.” As a dog lover, I’m glad that Trump hasn’t stocked the White House with Labradoodles. Many of the pets used as props by US presidents have been exploited, neglected and tortured. Remember when LBJ lifted his Beagle up by the ears said, “Ya see, pulling their ears is good for a hound. Everybody who knows dogs knows that little yelp you heard just means the dog is paying attention.” The man who tortures his dog in front the press is fully capable of napalming peasants…

+ New York’s securities industry profits swelled by 82% in the first half of 2020, boosted by federal stimulus money. The av­er­age Wall Street em­ployee earned $406,700 in salary and bonuses last year

+ We have entered the Go Fund Me Stage of Capitalism

+ The least shocking revelation of the year….One of the main enablers of QAnon (those fearless crusaders against pedophilia) appears to have hosted child porn sites.

+ This week saw the end of the once venerable Minneapolis weekly, City Pages, which had been hanging on by its fingernails for the last couple of years. Cockburn and I wrote a weekly column for City Pages for several years back in the 90s, when it was in the very capable hands of its esteemed editor Steve Perry….It had been in terminal descent since they gave us all the boot.

+ Hurricane Zeta made landfall with maximum winds of 110 mph, making it the strongest hurricane to make landfall in the continental US this late in the calendar year since the Halloween Hurricane of 1899 hit South Carolina, also packing 110 mph winds.

+ Zeta is the 11th hurricane of the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season to date. Only two other Atlantic hurricane seasons on record (since 1851) have had more than 11 Atlantic hurricanes by October 26: 1950 and 2005.

+ With scant national press coverage focused on it, 80% of New Orleans remains without power and many structures won’t have lines repaired for at least 3-5 days. Zeta was the strongest hurricane in recorded history to have its eye directly pass over New Orleans.

+ In the last two years, Trump’s Department of Energy has blocked the release of more than 40 reports on renewable energy: “They just go into a black hole.”

+ The coal industry is in free fall and never coming back. The natural gas industry doesn’t provide jobs. That leaves West Virginia, which has bet its economy on both, in the shitter.

+ The Arctic’s giant methane deposits are beginning to leak their climate-wrecking fumes. Adjust your doomsday clock accordingly.

+ In Colorado, more acres have burned this year alone than in any other five-year period on record, combined.

+ Arctic sea ice extent remains at the lowest on record.

+ about 1,540,000 km² less the 2010s mean
+ about 2,530,000 km² less the 2000s mean
+ about 3,290,000 km² less the 1990s mean
+ about 3,520,000 km² less the 1980s mean

+ A worst-case climate scenario could produce almost $500 trillion in damages—about twice all the wealth in the world today. A best case still inflicts about $30 trillion in damage, a new study in Nature estimates, with intermediate scenarios between $69 trillion and $131 trillion.

+ According to a post-debate Morning Consult poll, only 28% voters oppose transitioning away from the oil industry. 52% of independents support transitioning away, and even 41% of Republicans.

+ Trump’s war on wolves just went nuclear

+ The decision to remove the protections for gray wolves across all 48 states is going to have lethal consequences in Wisconsin, where the state’s “wolf hunt” will be immediately reopened.

+ Trump is exempting Alaska’s entire Tongass National Forest from the Clinton-era rule protecting roadless forests, opening more than 9.3 million acres of the nation’s largest rainforest to logging and road construction. It is one of the biggest public lands rollbacks of his presidency.

+ Ned Norris Jr., Chairman of the Tohono O’odham Nation, on the border wall’s desecration of Indigenous sacred sites: “As Americans, we all should be horrified that the Federal Government has so little respect for our religious and cultural values.”

+ A posse of federal scientists and land managers with US Fish and Wildlife Service have called the Border Wall the “current greatest threat to endangered species in the southwest region.”

+ “It’s a felony to destroy saguaro cactus in Arizona, and yet we’re seeing the government come in and slaughter hundreds of them with total impunity,” says Laiken Jordahl, a borderlands campaigner with the Center for Biological Diversity. “There’s a destruction of the natural history that’s occurring here on a massive scale.”

+ Vicki Gaubeca, director of the Southern Border Communities Coalition: “It’s been both Democrats and Republicans that have been responsible for the tragedy caused at our borders by the border wall.”

+ According to an analysis by the Washington Post, Trump has substantially weakened or eliminated more than 125 rules, regulations and policies aimed at protecting the nation’s air, water and land since taking office. Another 40 rollbacks are in the works.

+ If things keep going they way they have been, soon the Great Barrier Reef won’t be great, won’t be a barrier and won’t even be a reef…

+ Mike Freeman: “It’s official. The Moon has more clean water than Flint.”

+ Archaeology magazine published a study arguing that the Clovis Culture lasted just 300 years. “Just?” That may be longer than our rapidly crumbling Republic lasts…

+ I’m still reeling from the death this week of my pal Jack Tuholske at the tender age of 66. Jack, friend of mountains, rivers, wolves and grizzlies, was one of the fiercest spirits I’ve ever encountered and one of the best and most unrelenting environmental litigators. Fuck cancer.

+ Trump Koan of the Week: “In California, you have a special mask. You cannot under any circumstances take it off. You have to eat through the mask. Right, right, Charlie? It’s a very complex mechanism. And they don’t realize those germs, they go through it like nothing.” (Bullhead City, Arizona.)

+ Think where Howie Hawkins’ campaign would be today, if only Putin had sprung for a few of these selfless campaign workers to help him whip out the vote…

+ Great Moments in Post Office History: In 1890, after being berated by Teddy Roosevelt (then head of the Civil Service Commission) John Wannamaker, the US postmaster general, banned the mailing of newspapers serializing Tolstoy’s The Kreutzer Sonata, ruling the novella “obscene.” TR denounced Tolstoy as “a sexual & moral pervert.”

+ What was the decisive factor in the end of the Cold War (to the extent it has ended) and the collapse of the Soviet Union? Was the war in Afghanistan? The bloated Soviet military budget? The uprisings in eastern Europe? The death of the old guard leaders? No. According to Eurythmics guitarist Dave Stewart, Gorbachev told him it was the TV show “Dallas” that finally did them in.

+ A new trove of Bob Dylan interviews and notebooks was put up for auction this week, including Dylan’s account of his first meeting with Woody Guthrie, which prompted him to memorialize the encounter with these caustic lyrics:

My eyes are cracked I think I been framed
I can’t seem to remember the sound of my name
What did he teach you I heard someone shout
Did he teach you to wheel & wind yourself out
Did he teach you to reveal, respect, and repent the blues
No Jack he taught me how to sleep in my shoes.

+ One of the great outlaws of country music, Billy Joe Shaver, died this week at age 81. I last saw him at small club in Portland, on a bill with Rodney Crowell, while the Iraq War was still in high gear, a debacle both artist deprecated, to the consternation of many of their fans, who obviously didn’t know very much about who they’d come to see play.

+ Joni Mitchell talking with Cameron Crowe on her early songs, a collection of which is now set for release: “Some of the melodies are beautiful, but they’re very ingenue-y.  God, they’re so vulnerable in these tough times. They’re like some ancient world.”

It’s My High Anxiety, Victim of Society, Getting the Best of Me….

Booked Up
What I’m reading this week…

A Kick in the Belly: Women, Slavery and Resistance
Stella Dadzie

Salt Wars: the Battle Over the Biggest Killer in the American Diet
Michael Jacobson
(MIT Press)

Fifth Sun: A New History of the Aztecs
Camilla Townsend
(Oxford University Press)

Sound Grammar
What I’m listening to this week…

Whatever It Is
Hello Forever
(Rough Trade)

Who Are You?
Joel Ross
(Blue Note)

Rainbow Signs
Ron Miles
(Blue Note)

The Political Appeal of Brainless Swine

“The main problem in any democracy is that crowd-pleasers are generally brainless swine who can go out on a stage and whup their supporters into an orgiastic frenzy—then go back to the office and sell every one of the poor bastards down the tube for a nickel apiece.”  (Hunter S. Thompson, Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail, ’72)

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