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Roaming Charges: the Fog of Bores

Fog settles over the Cascade Foothills. Photo: Jeffrey St. Clair.

+ Soon we will awaken from the current national nightmare and fall back to sleep into the next.

+ I don’t know about the rest of you, but the last four days have left me lost in the fog of bores. MSDNC’s Steve Kornacki and his tedious explanations of meaningless demographic trivial, all delivered in a rapid-fire patter, as if he had consumed a Sartrean-quantity of black beauties, the pompous posturing before maps and charts by John King,  the banal patter of Gloria Borger, who seems to have eclipsed Elizabeth Drew as the chief purveyor of conventional wisdom (often wrong), which she then repeats, phrase by clichéd phrase over the course of her three hours, the lethal drone of Wolf Blitzer’s voice. The more they say, the less meaningful any of it becomes. Face it, any network, besides the Comedy Channel, that hires Rick Santorum as a political analysts should lose its license. And Santorum isn’t even the worst of the bunch. That honor probably belongs to Van Jones, who, if Trump somehow survives, will eagerly pronounce the Fluke of Orange humbled by the experience and ready to assume a new, more presidential bearing. God, let’s hope not. The best thing about Trump is that he’s never even pretended to be the least bit presidential. Trump’s going out, the way he came in. The “burden of the office” hasn’t changed him…

+ Largely, I escaped from it all by turning to the only offering of any value on HBO-Max and it alone is worth a subscription: Sergei Bondarchuk’s meticulously restored film of War and Peace, all 460 glorious minutes of it. I’ve long mourned the fact that Stanley Kubrick, after years of preparation, junked his plan for an epic film on Napoleon, allegedly because the financing fell through after Bondarchuk’s own Soviet-Italian production of Waterloo, was released a year earlier. I’ve read Kubrick’s treatment and script and looked at the designs for the costumes and sets, all meticulously done (See: Kubrick’s Napoleon: The Greatest Film Never Made). But it wouldn’t surpass Bondurchuk’s masterpiece, made over three years (1965-67), with its gorgeous cinematography, swirling camera movements, subjective points of view (including a charging horse at the battle of Austerlitz) and panorama of nearly the entire spectrum of Russian society from aristocrats to serfs, Cossacks to Orthodox priests, bankers to the bankrupt, pacifists and anarchists to monarchists and genocidal maniacs. It’s an overwhelming cinematic experience, even when the sweeping images are shrunk to the diminutive confines of a TV screen. Even the minor characters pulse with more authenticity than almost anyone on our political or cultural scene today.  The duel between the rakish Dolokhov and the portly, near-blind intellectual Pierre (played adroitly by Bondarchuk himself) is one of the most compelling two-minutes sequences in film.

Napoleon gazing on the wounded Prince Andrei. Still from War and Peace.

+ If there’s one thing Trump has taught us it’s that lies are no longer a liability, if they ever were, in politics, that fact-checkers are smartypants irritants, that many people like to be told lies and find them deeply comforting. Most people also grew up hearing them in church, civics class,  every week.

+ Based on his Thursday night tirade, Trump seems intent on going out like Ceausescue, only less eloquently…

+ I’d nominate Trump for the Nobel Peace prize he craves so greedily, if during his lame duck transition period he pulls US troops out of Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria before Biden takes office.

+ On his first day in office (should that day ever come), Biden must commute the sentences of every person still in federal prison under the racist and punitive drug laws that he inflicted on the country for 40 years and back reparations for the damage done to them. If he doesn’t act to immediately correct this grievous stain on the country, you’ll know everything you’ve heard up to this point has been bullshit. Except the part about not banning fracking, I guess.

+ A country of innumerates trying, and failing, to count and recount their votes…Betsy DeVos, you can return to your yacht, your mission is done here.

+ Was Pat Robertson’s prophecy that Trump had to be actually re-elected by all of the votes before the asteroid strikes the earth or just the counted votes? Can we get a clarification from the Supreme Deity or his prophet on Earth?

+ You don’t have to be Huey Long to understand that if you want to decisively win an election, you have to offer people more than the slogan “I’m not Trump,” a pledge to continue fracking and a Springsteen poem he didn’t even write.

+ I keep hoping that one day there’ll be a presidential candidate who just says very plainly: I don’t want to invade anyone else’s country or drone their wedding parties; I don’t want to torture anyone; I don’t want your family to go bankrupt from the bills for your daughter’s chemo; I want you to be paid fairly for the work you do and not be preyed upon by bill collectors when you’re unemployed; I want you to have a roof over your head and clean water to drink; I don’t want your kids to go hungry at school or be thrown in jail for smoking grass or be shot by the police while walking home from the 7/11; I want you to have time off to enjoy your life and not worry about your house burning down in a wildfire or being swept away in a hurricane. Is that too much to ask? Where is this person?

+ Combined Amy McGrath and Jaime Harrison raised $199,004,686. They lost to Mitch McConnell and Lindsey Graham by a combined 35 points. Maybe that $$ would have been better spent in Maine, Iowa and North Carolina? Meanwhile, the Republicans sank $10,000,000 into trying to unseat AOC and lost by 37%. But at least the consultants got paid.

+ Trump actively courted the Lumbee vote in the final weeks of the campaign and promised them tribal recognition (even as he moved to strip recognition from other tribes). Biden was MIA. Robeson County, North Carolina precincts where Native Americans are a majority of voters:

2012

Obama – 59.4%
Romney – 39.2%

2020

Trump – 69.1%
Biden – 30.1%

+ When CNN labeled Indigenous Americans “something else”….

+ Looks like it’s a dead heat in Arizona now between Biden and Trump. Don’t worry, I’m told it’s a dry one.

+ So it remains possible that Biden could win the popular vote by more than 6 million votes with more than 50 percent of the total and still lose the election to Trump. There’s your update on the state of democracy in America, Monsieur de Tocqueville.

+ According to an analysis in the Washington Post, it’s theoretically possible to win the electoral college with less than 22 percent of the popular vote.

+ Biden’s popular vote lead is now larger than the population of 22 states. But he still may lose…Will the Organization of American States intervene?

+ Over to you, Tutar…!

+ Speaking of Rudy and Tutar, I was reminded this morning that the first name of President Muffley in Dr. Strangelove is “Merkin”, which flew right by me the first few times I saw the film. But like so much else in Terry Southern’s script, it continues to draw satiric blood today and will tomorrow, whoever wins.

+ If we’re going to have a Civil War in the wake of this election, can they finish it this time?

+ On his first day in office (should that day ever come), Biden must commute the sentences of every person still in federal prison under the racist and punitive drug laws that he inflicted on the country for 40 years and back reparations for the damage done to them.

+ It’s always so disappointing when the cool slang words of our youth assume human form…Robbie Mook, for example, who after running HRC’s losing campaign to Donald Trump, just managed to blow the congressional elections for the Democrats, somehow allowing the Republicans to flip seven seats in the House in a general election.

+ Prediction: If Trump loses, the seismic activity in DC for the next 2 months from shredders will rival that of the fracking earthquakes that have been rattling Oklahoma for the past decade.

+ Biden is in full ideological retreat and he hasn’t even been elected yet. CNBC: “A source familiar w/the Biden transition points out that Biden + GOP Senate would mean the transition will have to re-evaluate the names it has in mind for Senate confirmed positions. May have to send more moderate figures who can get through. Wall Street will like that.”

+ Clinton and Obama could sell the likely scenario spelled out by CNBC’s reporter. Biden can’t. But he’ll try anyway and it will end badly for him and the Democrats. One term president and GOP will retake the House in 2022.

+ If Trump wins, one would expect the Democratic House to resist his agenda and try to impose a kind of legislative & budgetary gridlock. But if Biden wins and begins triangulating with the GOP Senate, the House is much more likely to capitulate to measures they’d otherwise block. That’s the key political lesson from Clinton time.

+ You can always count on Claire McCaskill to let slip what the Democratic Party’s political elites really think of their base: “Whether you are talking guns or…abortion…or gay marriage and rights for ‘transexuals’ and other people who we as a party ‘look after’ and make sure they are treated fairly. As we circled the issues we left voters behind and Republicans dove in.”

+ The big untold story isn’t the predictable stalemate between Biden and Trump. It’s that Pelosi’s Democrats managed to lose SEVEN seats in the House, in a big turnout general election. And she wants to lead the House again as speaker. That really spells long term trouble for the Democrats.

+ The median age of people living in the US is 38. By contrast, the age of the leaders of the Democratic Party are as follows.

Joe Biden, 77.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, 80.
House majority whip Jim Clyburn, 80.
House majority leader Steny Hoyer, 81.
Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer clocks in at a sprightly 69.

+ Speaking of which, here’s Clyburn’s post-election message to the Democratic troops (ie, funders) on Thursday: “If we are going to run on Medicare for All, defund the police, socialized medicine, we’re not going to win Georgia senate races.”

+ The Hill reported a similar story (we get this kind of rear-guard action after nearly every Democratic electoral debacle) that the “centrist Democrats” (that is, every one to the right Ilhan Omar) are meeting to rethink their leadership and strategy. Group hug followed by ice cream and seppuku?

+ It’s an axiomatic rule of American politics that when Republicans lose elections, they respond by catering even more deferentially to the demands of their base. Democrats, however, respond by denouncing theirs (what’s left of it) and groveling apologetically before the money brokers.

+ You can defeat Trump (maybe, barely), but you won’t defeat Trumpism until you demolish the current incarnation of the Democratic Party and build something new–freed from this kind of arthritic thinking, timid politics and feverish addiction to Wall Street money.

+ One of the ways I interpret Obama’s ability to win Iowa, Ohio North Carolina and Florida is that his purported opposition to the Iraq war allowed him to capture working class whites. The Democrats responded in 2016 and 2020 by running candidates who voted for the very war Obama opposed with predicable results.

+ Memo to Pelosi and Clyburn:

Democratic co-sponsors of Medicare-for-All who just won re-election in swing districts:

Jared Golden (ME-02; R+2)
Ann Kirkpatrick (AZ-02; R+1)
Mike Levin (CA-49; R+1)
Katie Porter (CA-45; R+3)

Susan Wild (PA-07; D+1) and Matt Cartwright (PA-08; R+1) seem on track to win as well. (h/t Jonathan Cohn)

+ The only lesson that will eventually be learned from this election is that the Democrats learned no lessons from this election.

+ You know what a Biden presidency with a GOP senate means, don’t you? Hit it boys…

A lot of people won’t get no supper tonight
A lot of people won’t get no justice tonight
The battle is gettin’ hotter, In this iration
Triangulation Time….

+ Obama himself, however, has gone quieter than the Lincoln Project bros. Back in their counting houses, counting out their money, I presume…

+ The Lincoln Project raised $67 million. Republican Voters Against Trump raised $10 million. 93% of Republicans voted for Trump in 2020, up from 90% in 2016.

+ After WW II, the US immediately began recruiting “ex”-Nazis to work for OSS and the US missile programs (See: Project Paperclip). Who will Biden pluck from the Trump team for positions in his administration?

+ Pollster Nate Silver is a non-self-correcting entity. He’s like a system flaw in the early MS Windows programs that somehow came to life.

+ Trump’s blistering attacks on FoxNews in recent weeks are merely preparing the way for his takeover of the OANN network, where he will be delivering his daily broadcast from his exile in Turks and Caicos.

+ Russia didn’t manipulate our elections. We could only screw things up this badly ourselves. But increasingly I feel like we’re living out the plot of a Russian novel by Gogol or Goncharov.

+ The second sinking of the Armada: Trump lost 4 of the top 5 states for boat ownership: CA, MI, MN and WI.

+ A top New York Police Department official, accused of posting racist comments online under the name Clouseau, runs the office “combating” workplace harassment. No word on whether the estate of Peter Sellers is bringing suit….

+ Portland cops brutalizing women in the street this week for no explicable reason…

 

+ Another reason to Disarm the Police…Disarm the police….With a voice vote, the Baltimore Police were awarded 12 new sniper rifles this week,  at $9,500 per gun. The expenditure was buried among 80-plus pages of spending items before the city’s Board of Estimates.

+ Good riddance! Los Angeles District Attorney Jackie Lacey, who put 23 people on death row, has been defeated by DA-Elect George Gascon, a death penalty opponent who will never put anyone on death row, will never request an execution date, and will work to re-sentence those already on death row.

+ The cost of detaining people in a pandemic: ICE released it year-end report on health care costs for detainees. In 2020, the cost was $315 million, or $25.50 per detainee a day, up from $248M and $13.55 per detainee a day in 2019.

+ Meanwhile, the world continues to spin, ominously…Security forces destroyed 76 structures in the Humsa al Bqai’a Bedouin community. The number of Palestinians made homeless by Israeli house demolitions has already reached a four-year high, with now 869 Palestinians displaced between January and November.

+ In yet more deflating news from AMLOland, Mexico is getting paid to build the (apartheid) wall…

+ Jared the Slumlord’s company is moving swiftly to evict hundreds of renters in the midst of the coronavirus outbreak, a pandemic he was in charge of handling for Trump. Kushner’s tenants are among tens of thousands of Americans who face eviction when moratoriums expire in the coming days and weeks.

+ How do you sever ties with someone who owes you $340 million? That’s what Deutsche Bank is trying to figure out…

+ Trump’s final federal income tax bill, year by year, since 2011.

2017 – $750
2016 – $750
2015 – $641,931
2014 – $0
2013 – $0
2012 – $0
2011 – $0

+ The MAGA version of levitating the Pentagon…

+ What does Steve Bannon want from Trump’s second term? The heads of Anthony Fauci and FBI Director Christopher Wray on pikes outside the White House as “a warning to other federal bureaucrats.”  He said this while out on bail for federal fraud charges over his border wall scam.

+ Trailing Bannon on the mad dog meter, but not by much, is Newt Gingrich, who showed up on FoxNews to urge Trump to order Bill Barr to arrest Pennsylvania election workers, have the state legislature throw out the election results and appoint their own “electors” for the Electoral College vote.

+ Then there’s this from Glenn Beck. Remember when CNN gave him a show on their Headline News network and years later Samantha Bee tried to rehabilitate him?

+ Then along came Gorka: “We need the U.S. Marshals to deploy and they need to break down the doors of those polling stations and stop the crimes being committed!”

+ Imagine, if you will, the federal response to a similar communiqué by Agent Boisenberry broadcast on Radio Antifa….

+ Has John Yoo been hired by Trump to waterboard confessions out of malfeasance out of the election workers in Georgia, Arizona, Nevada and Pennsylvania?

+ Are they burning their “Fuck Your Feelings” t-shirts? Can I have one?

+ C. Vann Woodward: “Just as the Negro gained his emancipation and new rights through a falling out between white men, he now stood to lose his rights through the reconciliation of white men.”  (The Strange Career of Jim Crow.)

+ Cancel Culture, Bill Barr edition. The Justice Department has seized 27 websites, it says are controlled by Iran. Where is Bari Weiss?

+ This is what your website (the American Herald Tribune in this case), looks like when it’s been taken over by Bill Barr, on suspicion of being backed Iran. Will he soon become seizing websites from the Anarchist Jurisdictions of Portland and the East Village?

+ It turns out, the way that things tend to do, that child sex prosecutions have been way down under Trump. Who will tell Q?

+ Obama helped usher in the Age of the Gig economy and his buddies at Uber and Lyft spent a record $205.7 million to score a decisive win for California’s union-busting Prop. 22, which condemns gig workers to the perilous and unshielded fate of independent contractors.

+ COVID is so rampant in Wisconsin prisons now that one of them is no longer even trying to isolate its positive inmates.  Gov. Evers campaigned on cutting our prison population in half.  I’m told by lawyers in the state that he could do this relatively easily if he really wanted to, but that the Dept. of Corrections hasn’t granted a single petition to release an inmate for medical reasons (or because she’ll be released soon anyways) to reduce the risk of COVID.  Almost all of the state’s prisons are overcrowded.

+ It’s estimated that 1 in 100 French citizens now have COVID. French Health Minister Olivier Véran: “The second wave is here, and it’s brutal.”

+ There were 116,255 new COVID cases reported on Thursday in the US–a 204% increase from only one month ago.

+ A new study on gender differences in COVID-19 attitudes and behavior from 8 countries reveals that women are more concerned about covid infection and are more likely to follow public health advice, contributing to their lower morbidity and mortality rates.

+ According to a report by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children’s Hospital Association, more than 61,000 children in the U.S. were diagnosed with Covid-19 last week — more cases than in any other week during the pandemic.

+ CounterPunch Michael McKnight notes the ultimate margin in Georgia is likely to be roughly the number of white seniors who have died in the state, many of them likely following Trump’s cavalier advice about the innocuous nature of the virus and the uselessness of masks and social distancing to their graves….

+ As president of the University of California, Janet Napolitano oversaw the pepper spraying of student protesters by UC-Davis campus police.  As Secretary of DHS under Obama and Biden, she caged children and supervised mass deportations. Now she’s on the board of Zoom…

+ “Extremely active” Atlantic hurricane seasons based on NOAA definition in satellite era (since 1966) are: 1969, 1995, 1996, 1998, 1999, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2010, 2017 and 2020.

+ Last week ExxonMobil announced it may have to write-off $30 billion in losses tied exclusively to its natural gas fracking business.

+ Fires in Brazil’s Amazon rainforest surged in October and the number of blazes is up by 25% in the first 10 months of 2020, over a year ago, according to data from government space research agency INPE.

+ Don’t be alarmed the scorching temps in the Southwest will start to decline soon after Biden appoints some natural gas executive to run the EPA…

+ Colorado just voted to reintroduce wolves to the Rocky Mountain state, a week after Trump removed them from endangered species list….

+ Best news from a grim week: There’s evidence that reservation dogs are “on the verge of forming a single conscious.” If only the Left could achieve this kind of solidarity.

+ Bo Diddley: “I’m what you call a black Frenchman, a Creole. All my people are from New Orleans–French, African, Indian, all mixed up. That’s where my music comes from, all that mixture.”

And He Walked on Down the Hall…

Booked Up
What I’m reading this week…

Stories I Forgot to Tell You
Dorothy Gallagher
(NYRB)

Tacky’s Revolt: the Story of an Atlantic Slave War
Vincent Brown
(Belknap Press)

She Come By It Natural: Dolly Parton and the Women Who Lived Her Songs
Sarah Smarsh

Sound Grammar
What I’m listening to this week…

No Tears Suite (For the Little Rock Nine)
Christopher Parker and Kelley Hurt
(Mahakala)

Budapest Concert
Keith Jarrett
(ECM)

Electric Meditations
The Silence
(Drag City)

A Powerful Criminal in the Name of the Law

+ Judith Butler: “What has always been distinctive of the Trump regime is that the executive power of the government has consistently attacked the laws of the country at the same that he claims to represent law and order. The only way that contradiction makes sense is if law and order are exclusively embodied by him. A peculiarly contemporary form of media-driven narcissism thus morphs into a lethal form of tyranny. The one who represents the legal regime assumes that he is the law, the one who makes and breaks the law as he pleases, and as a result he becomes a powerful criminal in the name of the law.”

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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