Roaming Charges: Dumb All Over, Again

Oil leak, Netul Landing, Lewis & Clark National Park, Oregon. Photo: Jeffrey St. Clair.

+ “Even if the Constitution has taken a holiday during this pandemic, it cannot become a sabbatical.” So writes the sanctimonious Neil Gorsuch in his concurring opinion striking down New York state’s temporary limitations on in person religious gatherings during a pandemic.

+ Gorsuch goes on to deprecate the “implied right to ‘bodily integrity,’ … that some [judges] have found hiding in the Constitution’s penumbras.” This is an explicit right that has been repeatedly recognized by the Supreme Court itself in Roe, Griswold and Casey. Though with this court, those cases and that right seem destined to be overturned.

+ So we have the same “originalists” who used to argue that the “Constitution isn’t a suicide pact” to justify torture, rendition and extrajudicial killings have now ruled that the Constitution is a murder-suicide pact when it comes to religious services during a killer pandemic.

+ This week’s Supreme Court ruling will come as welcome news to the AUM Shinrikyo (Aleph) religious movement, whose adherents released Sarin gas in Tokyo’s subway system in 1995, killing 13 people and poisoning 5000 others.

+ This is a Supreme Court which is eager to sanction a right to life, but not a right to a healthy life and perhaps not even a right to live.

+ From Sotomayor’s acidic dissent: “Justices of this Court play a deadly game in second-guessing the expert judgment of health officials about the environments in which a contagious virus, now infecting a million Americans each week, spreads most easily.”

+ John Paul Stevens really came into his own as a writer with his dissents. Let’s hope Sotomayor follows in his footsteps and over the next decades vividly records the gutting of the living constitution by those who claim to revere it most the fervently…

+ Stanley Cohen: “I cannot recall a single decision in the last several decades, including in Citizens United, where the SCOTUS made such an incredible sweeping rewrite of settled substantive and procedural law as in its COVID/faith nonsense. Roe is toast. As is same sex marriage and adoption.”

+ A new report by PBS portrays Mitch McConnell as the driving force behind the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court:

“McConnell told [Trump] two things. McConnell said, first, I’m going to put out a statement that says we’re going to fill the vacancy. Second, he said, you’ve gotta nominate Amy Coney Barrett.”

+ Tolstoy: “With law comes injustice.”

+The rate of COVID acceleration in the US, by million cases.

Newest 1 million took only 5 days, 11 days for 10th mil, and 7 days for 11th million…

+ Trump should be eager to dump his entire mess onto Biden’s lap. Bush was so anxious to unload the cratering economy on the next administration that he sent Hank Paulson out to start transitioning even before 2008 elections. McCain fudged but Obama swallowed the whole TARP deal.

+ Is there the slightest evidence that Kamala Harris is having any influence in these cabinet and WH staff positions? They all seem like recycled Biden or Biden/Obama veterans to me. Not that Harris’s people would be any better and some might even be worse. They’d at least be different.

+ “Engagement in the world,” which Tony Blinken has promised, is the latest euphemism for the blood-stained term humanitarian interventionism.

+ Blinken is speed racer in the revolving doors of Washington. After leaving the Obama administration, where he rose to the level of number two at the State Department, he co-founded WestExec Advisors, a consulting firm that guided Big Tech companies through corridors of the Pentagon in search of lucrative defense contracts.

+ Among other nefarious line items on his CV, Tony Blinken, Biden’s presumptive choice for Sec. of State, went to the Dalton School, which was run by Bill Barr’s father and employed Jeffrey Epstein…

+ I’m not surprised by anything Bill McKibben has to say these days, but I did a momentary double-take when I saw that he had given his seal of approval to John Kerry being name Biden’s climate czar. It must’ve taken a profound  act of psychological contortion for McKibben to suppress the memory of Kerry’s infamous role in fast-tracking the Enbridge pipeline and its toxic cargo of tar-sands mined oil.

+ John Kerry’s climate priorities were 20 years out of date, 10 years ago…

+ The most diverting nugget I’ve learned about the hawkish retreads Biden has put forward for his national “security” team is that his pick for Director of National Intelligence, Avril Haines (former deputy director of the CIA under Obama), used to own a bookstore in the Baltimore neighborhood of Fells Point, which held a weekly “erotica night.” Probably a setting for honey traps…

+  A Capitol Hill aide “on the left” excitedly proclaimed to the Washington Post’s Jeff Stein: “We’ve won in a very historic way on [Janet] Yellen … This is the first time that you have a professional academic economist appointed for Treasury. Under Bush, Obama, Trump, Treasury was always the domain of Wall Street.”

+ Hell, Milton Friedman’s a “professional academic” and his economic policies have killed, immiserated and starved hundreds of millions, even without him becoming Secretary of the Treasury.

+ Biden economic advisor Larry Summers expressed his “skepticism” this week about student loan debt forgiveness.

+ Summers, Rubin, Geithner, Yellen…you know eaxactly what you’re going to get from the Democratic economic brain trust, which is managed austerity. By managed, I mean that it will be austerity for working class people and the poor and massive bailouts for banks and transnationals.

+ Rahm Emmanuel, the man who covered up the police murder of Laquan McDonald, is without question a more odious figure than almost anyone in Trump’s first cabinet. Will the Left march on the White House, if this political brute ends up running a federal agency in the Biden government? Dream on…

+ Before joining the Trump administration, Gen. James Mattis was an adviser to the UAE, a fact he conspicuously failed to note on his disclosure forms.

+ The Secretary of Defense should more properly be called the Secretary of Defense Contracts…

+ The apocrypha and Gnostic texts of the Trump Reformation are going to make for wild reading when the scrolls are unearthed 1000 years from now in the desertified marshlands of south Florida….

+ As Bill Barr rushes to execute as many federal prisoners as possible before time runs out on the Trump administration, the attorney general, a devout Catholic we are led to believe, instructed his Justice Department to craft new regulations allowing for the use of more extreme methods for federal executions, including firing squads and electric chairs.

+ Five people awaiting execution in federal death houses and Trump pardons another turkey (Michael Flynn).

+ While Trump has bragged about how much he likes the pardon power of the presidency, he has used the power of clemency fewer than any president in modern history. Obama commuted 1,715 sentences. Trump commuted 16, and, according to an analysis by Pew Research, has granted fewer than 0.5% of all clemency requests.

+ If Clinton and Gore hadn’t hated each other so intensely by the end of Bill’s presidency, he could have used the power of the executive to secure the 2000 election for Gore much more swiftly than bungling has-beens in the Trump squad. Then Gore would have nuked Baghdad after 9/11

+ The richest 0.10 percent own 17 percent of all of the stocks on the major markets. The bottom 50% of earners in the US own 2.2 percent of all the stocks on the major markets. (Source: Public Citizen)

+ Evictions kill: As many as 433,700 excess cases of Covid and 10,700 additional deaths in the US were caused by evictions between March and September, according to the findings of a new study by researchers at UCLA and Johns Hopkins.

+ Some lessons still haven’t been learned: During the third wave of COVID-19 in the US, deaths in long-term care facilities continues, as cases increased at twice the rate of the nation’s total cases.

+ NBC News is reporting that Trump is worried that his campaign’s legal team, which is being led by his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, is comprised of “fools that are making him look bad.” I don’t believe this for a second. Trump has lost enough lawsuits to know that if you have a really bad case hire lawyers who are even weaker than the case, then blame the loss on their incompetence.

+ “Law & Order voters” in Florida are people who would have shot Trayvon Martin themselves in their fantasy lives…

+ How Joe Biden helped bring gender equality to the US prison population…According to a new study by the Sentencing Project, The number of incarcerated women was over 7 times higher in 2019 than in 1980.

+ According to her lawyer, Ghislaine Maxwell is being awakened every 15 minutes by jailhouse guards on “wellness” checks. Whatever you think of Maxwell, this is torture straight out of an operating manual from a CIA black site…

+ It’s going to be a torrent of insipid nostrums like this for the next four years, isn’t it? Kamala Harris: “I have always believed in the nobility of public service.”

+ “Nobility” is a word we should have chopped out of the lexicon a couple hundred years ago, especially in the language of politics.

+ En garde, it’s the return of Versailles on the Potomac…

+ You really know you’re the “president elect” when the bank trade groups come calling and the rest of us know we’re screwed again…

+ What do you have to say about how they’re arming your favorite fighter plane, Bernie? This week the US Air Force working with the doomsday technicians at Sandia National Laboratories completed a round of flight tests integrating the new B61-12 nuclear gravity bomb on F-35A Joint Strike Fighters.

+ According to the UN, the Israeli blockade of Gaza, imposed in 2007, has cost the Palestinian territory more than $16.7 billion, causing Gaza’s share of the overall Palestinian economy to decline from 33% to a mere 18%.

+ Both Axios and Haaretz are reporting that the likelihood of a US strike on Iran before Trump leaves office is so high that Israel is already preparing for retaliatory strikes.

+ It’s one of Trump’s inescapable charms that he was never taught manners. But after all these years, I still find it mildly unsettling that he never learned how to sit on a chair…

+ After Ilan Omar came to the defense of Rev. Raphael Warnock, who had be smeared by Sen. Kelly Loeffler for supposedly “celebrating” (as well he might) Fidel Castro, Loeffler bleated that Omar should be “expelled from Congress.” Kelly Loeffler probably spends more on her hair each week than the average Somali makes in a year ($230), assuming they haven’t been killed in a US drone strike…

+ Though it hardly seems possible, Obama has become even more self-righteous since leaving office. Witness the grotesque spectacle of the Deporter-in-Chief chastising those Hispanics who didn’t vote for Biden…

+ In his memoir, A Promised Land, Obama writes of having read Fanon, Foucault and Marcuse in college mainly in order to entice coeds to sleep with him. Of course, Marcuse’s prose didn’t act as much of an aphrodisiac for Frau Marcuse, who famously quipped of her husband, “Oh, Herbert, a bit too much civilization and not enough eros, if you ask me.”

+ Bill Clinton got shredded for saying it back in 2008, but anyone who lived through the Obama presidency and then endured, as I just did, 750 pages of his preening memoir knows it to be true: Obama’s political brand as a dovish progressive is a “fairytale.”

+ After Iowa defunded Planned Parenthood, the number of abortions in the state rose by 25 percent in a single year.

+ RIP David Dinkins, whose term as Mayor of New York was sabotaged from within by the elites in his own party and the NYT (assuming there’s much of a difference)…

+ It’s really hard to say Rush Limbaugh degraded the value of that medal…

+ The median home price in the Anarchist Jurisdiction of Portland is now almost $500,000, proving that despite its reputation as a bastion of progressivism black lives don’t matter to the real estate market.

+ In the grip of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, the wealth of America’s billionaire class increased by more than a third.

+ Nationally, enrollment by first-year community-college students fell by 18.9%, a far steeper decline than what has been reported by four-year colleges. Here in Oregon, community college enrollment plummeted by 23 percent.

+ In yet another sordid legacy of FDR’s presidency, nearly 2300 Japanese living in Latin America were abducted and renditioned to the US during WWII and placed in concentration camps in New Mexico and Texas…

+ 1,367: the number of days the NFL has gone without Colin Kaepernick on the roster of a professional football team.

+ 800 pages of things to attack, mock and ridicule in Obama’s book and Dinesh D’Souza, typically, seizes on the one thing he probably had no control over…

+ The Carbon Capture Con: Most of the 21 large-scale Carbon Capture Storage plants in the world are located in the US and Canada, and all but five of them sell or send the CO2 to power more oil production.

+ An audit by the state Department of Finance found that California oil regulators ignored their own regulations and issued hundreds improper permits for new oil wells last year.

+ An EPA report found that more than 500,000 owners of diesel pickup trucks have been using commercially-available “tuners” to circumvent their trucks’ emission control systems and boost air pollution.

+ Give Trump another four years and he may unintentionally succeed in ending coal mining in America….Employment in the coal industry has hit a new low of 40,450 jobs, a 24 percent decline since Trump took office. Meanwhile, coal production in the US has dropped by 31.5 percent since the first quarter of 2017. Top that, Biden!

+ Global renewable energy capacity will increase by 4 percent in 2020. Of course, we don’t havre a figure yet for how much fossil fuel was burned to manufacture the renewable energy capacity…

+ Tropical Cyclone Gati made landfall in Somalia this week, where it dropped two years’ worth of rain in a mere 48 hours. It’s the first recorded instance of a hurricane-strength storm hitting the country.

+ The social and economic impacts of climate change are going to hit the Global South harder than the richer Global North. Mimi Sheller makes a compelling case for climate reparations.

+ According to the University of Maine’s Climate Reanlayzer, last weekend the Arctic Circle (all 7.7 million square miles of it) was an average 12 degrees Fahrenheit above normal.

+ Do we have Don Jr to thank for the Trump administration killing the Pebble Mine? If so, I’ll be among the first kiss his Covid-contaminated ass…

+ In case you thought the commendable decision by the Army Corps of Engineers to deny a permit to the salmon-killing Pebble Mine in Alaska heralded the debut of a new more environmentally-enlightened Trump consider that his administration almost immediately followed that ruling by clearing the way for a titanium strip mine adjacent to the Okefenokee Swamp in Alabama, despite the protestations of his own EPA and Fish and Wildlife Service.

+ Trump has now followed through on his ghastly plan to gut one of the country’s oldest and most venerable wildlife protection laws, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. I remember when Trump used to make two arguments against wind power, one of which was fallacious, the other he evidently didn’t really care a damn about: 1. they caused cancer; 2. they kill a lot of migratory birds.

+ Philip Verleger, an energy economist involved in creating the oil futures market, told Alaska Public Radio this week that despite the Trump administration’s accelerated plan to offer oil leases in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, he doesn’t believe the oil industry will take the bait: “I do not think ANWR is ever going to be produced. The cost of going there and developing and putting the resources in is too high.”

+ One pill makes you larger, One pill makes you small
But the pills Scott Atlas gives you
Shrink the desk down the hall…

+ According to Peter Salmon’s new biography of Jacques Derrida (An Event, Perhaps), when Derrida completed his thesis at the École Normale Supérieure in Paris and presented it to his faculty adviser Louis Althusser, Althusser didn’t know what to make of the text, saying: “I can’t grade this. Itt’s too difficult, too obscure.”  So Althusser handed off Derrida’s thesis to his younger colleague Michel Foucault, who quipped that it deserved either “an A or an F.”

+ So Van Morrison and Eric Clapton have conspired to record an “anti-lockdown” single titled “Stand and Deliver.” It’s not exactly the b-side to We are the World, but it confirms almost everything I’ve always thought about Clapton, a musician who has spent his life taking blues riffs from black musicians and now records his first “protest” song against the meager restrictions imposed on a disease that is ravaging black populations…

+ It took Clapton almost 40 years to apologize for his drunken, racist rant in defense of Enoch Powell, the rancid leader of the National Front. Needless-to-say, it wasn’t heartfelt.

+ Novelist Hari Kunzru: “Last time Clapton weighed in on politics they had to start Rock Against Racism.”

+ As a friend (who demanded anonymity because his partner still weeps every time she hears “Tears in Heaven”) said this morning, “Clapton is the worst. He’s always been the worst. He was even the worst member of Cream.”

+ The question isn’t why the Monolith is there, but what the hell are “public safety officers” doing in a remote Utah canyon. Nothing good we can presume. (Just wait until the chimps emerge with javelina bones and the Stargate opens…)

+ Don Cherry was to the pocket trumpet what Jimi Hendrix was to the Stratocaster…

+ Guitarist Nile Rodgers recalls the first time he heard John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme: “I almost want to start crying now just remembering what it made me feel like.”

+ “I’m So Bored With the USA“…behind the wheel of my El Camino on Nebraska Avenue, speeding to make an evening seminar at AU on Samuel Beckett’s tedious, almost unreadable novel, Malone Dies, and deciding drive right on past campus to the nearest record shop.

+ Documentarian Alex Winter on the subject of his new film, Frank Zappa: “He wasn’t afraid of success, and he wasn’t afraid of commercial success, but something in him, I think, was inherently suspicious of his own desire to be writing music for commerce as opposed to what he thought was good art, and his own fear of being swayed towards jeopardizing the quality of his work for a different agenda, I don’t think it was so much disdain for the world around him, because he liked doo-wop, he liked a lot of really popular music a lot, but I think he was very hard on himself in terms of wanting to keep himself honest, as it were.”

+ Zappa: “At the time, if you were a good musician, you were a motherfucker. And ‘Mothers’ was short for a collection of motherfuckers.”

We Can’t Really be Dumb, If We’re Just Following God’s Orders

Booked Up
What I’m reading this week…

The Last Libertines
Benedette Craveri
Trans. Aaron Kerner

One Two Three Four: the Beatles in Time
Craig Brown
(Fourth Estate)

The Law of Innocence
Michael Connelly
(Little Brown)

Sound Grammar
What I’m listening to this week…

Live in Maui
Jimi Hendrix Experience
(Sony Legacy)

Time Outtakes
Dave Brubeck Quartet
(Brubeck Editions)

Mingus at Bremen: 1964 & 1975
Charles Mingus

The Excess of Reality

“I sat at the foot of a huge tree, a statue of the night, and tried to make an inventory of all I had seen, heard, smelled, and felt: dizziness, horror, stupor, astonishment, joy, enthusiasm, nausea, inescapable attraction. What had attracted me? It was difficult to say: Human kind cannot bear much reality. Yes, the excess of reality had become an unreality, but that unreality had turned suddenly into a balcony from which I peered into—what? Into that which is beyond and still has no name.” (Octavio Paz, In Light of India)

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