Roaming Charges: Let’s Get Small

Church ruins, Imperial Valley. Photo: Jeffrey St. Clair.

“It comes as great shock to discover that the country, which is your birthplace and to which you owe your life and your identity, has not, in its whole system of reality, evolved any place for you.”

– James Baldwin

+ Joe Biden’s cabinet is shaping up to be the most diverse group of ideological clones ever assembled.

+ One of the most useful things about Obama’s memoir is that he reminds who some of the people now being recycled into the Biden administration really are. John Kerry, for example, who Obama describes as working assiduously to convince greens to “offer up concessions on subsidies for nuclear power and the opening of addition US coastlines to offshore oil drilled.” Obama writes this with gratitude and admiration, naturally, and was probably all the recommendation Biden need to tap Kerry as his “climate czar.”

+ It gets worse. This week Biden picked Obama’s sidekick Brian Deese, a wheeler-dealer executive at BlackRock, to head his National Economic Council. Deese, a budget hawk, like many veterans of the Obama White House, handled the “climate portfolio” at BlackRock, the NY investment house with $168 billion in assets, many of them in environmentally hostile enterprises. In 2019, BlackRock was listed as one of  the top three shareholders in every “supermajority” oil, except for Total. It  was also among the top 10 shareholders in 7 of the 10 biggest coal producers in the world.

+ Obama defended his drone strikes to Stephen Colbert this week with this disgusting bit of sophistry: “The problem with the drone program was not that it caused an inordinate amount of civilian casualties, although even 1 civilian casualty is tragic. But the drones probably had less collateral damage.” In reality, the 542 drone strikes that Obama authorized killed an estimated 3,797 people, including 324 civilians.

+ According to Obama’s book, the breakdown on intervening in Libya was as follows: Against: Biden, Gates, Mullen, Daley. For: HRC, Rice, Powers, Blinken. He, of course, was conflicted, but bombed Libya anyway.

+ Obama spends a few pages in his memoir lauding praise on Elie Wiesel, who he describes as a “mentor.” Wiesel plays tour guide through the dark chambers of Buchenwald, a camp which is a refutation of Wiesel’s “theory” of the Holocaust as a unique tragedy of for European Jews only since Buchenwald was initially established as a concentration camp for communists and other people the Nazis considered “social deviants”, including the disabled, Slavs, members of the German and later French resistance, as well as Jews.

+ Of the lessons taught him by his hand-picked mentor in the US Senate, Joe Lieberman, Obama remains strangely silence. Though the proof is in the deeds…

+ Even Ian Bremmer, who attends weekly services at the temple of centrism, concedes that Biden’s cabinet is “shaping up to be an exceptionally middle of the road, pro-establishment group.”

+ Really? How many of them are jobless, homeless, imprisoned or suffer from chronic illnesses?

+ Austan Goolsbee, a Biden advisor and former top economist under Obama, is urging Democrats to start with a smaller stimulus package and go for a larger one later (by which time they will have lost the House, of course)…

+ When Nancy Pelosi was asked why she was now backing a smaller coronavirus relief package, she snapped with her customary indignation:

“That’s OK now because we have a new president. A president who recognizes we need to depend on science. That was not a mistake; that was a decision that has taken us to a place where we can do the right things without should we say ‘other considerations’ in the legislation that we don’t want … I’m very proud of where we are.”

As for the poor, the unemployed, those facing eviction, let them eat ice cream!

+ Nancy Pelosi has now served as the leader of the Democrats in the House for as long as Leonid Breznev served as General Secretary of the Communist Party, 18 years. At 80, she is five years older than Brzenev was at the time of his death.

+ Let’s get small…!


+ It took Biden about a week to go from FDR to fdr…and he hasn’t even taken office yet. By February, he’ll be to the right of Ike.

+ Biden is so eager to start compromising that he’d comprise with himself, if only he wasn’t already thoroughly compromised.

+ Barbara Lee has gained a lot of mileage with her courageous, lone vote against the Afghanistan war. But I’m afraid the tank is approaching empty…

+ Just to reset, Neera Tanden, scourge of the Sandernistas, outed a victim sexual harassment, physically attacked a colleague, busted a union, advocated slashing Social Security, cheered the bombing of Libya and urged the Obama administration to steal its oil reserves and backed a proposed plank in the Democratic platform calling for bombing Iran…

+ When Barbara Lee and Bill Kristol join forces in support of Neera Tanden, you know it’s time to reset the Armageddon Clock a minute closer to midnight…

+ Ralph Nader: “Will Senator Chuck Schumer explain how he blew the Senate Democratic election campaigns? He selected many candidates, funded them and guided their disastrous, narrow agendas. Over $150 million for Harrison vs. Graham. McGrath vs. evil Mitch. Republicans. won. Why Chuck?”

+ One of the Trump witnesses called by the legal team of Rudy and Jenna at the Michigan hearings said that photo IDs should be required for voters because “all Chinese look alike“…

+ Rudy himself wasn’t in much better form. He testified at the same hearing that: “Two Canadian guys [from Dominion Voting Systems] went down to Venezuela to meet with Chavez two years ago.” Hugo Chavez died in 2013.

+ Better call, Jenna

+ I’m just glad they didn’t show the leakage from Rudy this time…

+ An appearance on SNL will be the first step in Giuliani’s cultural rehabilitation.

+ The GOP has raised $200 million for its attacks on the “integrity” of the US electoral system (and spent very little). By contrast, the DNC has raised almost nothing to defend the integrity of the US electoral system, which is reasonable. There’s no defense for the indefensible.

+ From November 8th through the 14th, the NFL administered 43,148 tests to 7,856 players, coaches and staff. Meanwhile, a survey of more than 15,000 nurses revealed two-thirds had never been tested.

+ An NYT analysis of CDC data reveals that 345,000 more people than normal have died in the U.S. from March 15 to November 14. The tally of excess deaths is 41% higher than the official coronavirus fatality count.

+ The Coronavirus was first detected in the US and South Korea on the same week back in February. On Thursday, the US experience more COVID-19 related deaths in FIVE HOURS than South Korea has during the entire pandemic.

+ The question is, did Scott Atlas rack up a big enough body count during his time with Trump to impress the rank and tenure committee at the Hoover Institute and get that promotion he’s been angling for. We all know there’s mighty stiff competition back in Palo Alto…

+ In the first two months of the pandemic, the US economy lost 22.16 million jobs. In the seven months since, the economy has only regained 12.33 million jobs.

+ It’s the American Way, damn it,  and we’re sticking with it: Between February and June, an estimated 14.6 million people lost their employee-sponsored health insurance.

+ To rub salt in the IV wounds, Americans who’ve survived Covid-19 are now being denied life insurance.

+ I assume there are similar obits running every day all over the country, but this one from Kansas really hit home, perhaps because Dr. Farr reminds me of some many friends back in Indiana who defy the stereotypes the elite media imposes on them …”Dr. Marvin James Farr, 81, of Scott City, Kan., passed away Dec. 1, 2020, in isolation at Park Lane Nursing Home. He was preceded in death by more than 260,000 Americans infected with covid-19. He died in a room not his own, being cared for by people dressed in confusing and frightening ways. He died with covid-19, and his final days were harder, scarier and lonelier than necessary. He was not surrounded by friends and family.

+ Sister Helen Prejean: “The National Catholic Prayer Breakfast presented AG Barr with an award for ‘Christlike behavior’ on the day between two federal executions that he ordered. Now Barr’s DOJ wants to hurry through five more executions and is willing to use firing squads and poison gas if necessary.”

+ Matt Taibbi,  the only man in America shrinking faster than Joe Biden, ridiculously blames lack of a religious tradition (instead of, say, obedience to Wall Street) for the Democrats’ sagging fortunes: “The lack of a religious tradition, even among parents, has created a new kind of democratic voter who has embraced politics as a replacement for their spiritual beliefs.”

+ Taibbi says this at the very moment when the most contested race in the nation features an inside-trading billionaire versus the senior pastor at Ebenezer Baptist Church….

+ Of course, given his rightward drift, perhaps Taibbi has been seduced by Rep. Doug Collins’ contention that Rev. Ralph Warnock actually an agent of Satan: “There is no such thing as a pro-choice pastor. What you have is a lie from the bed of Hell. It is time to send it back to Ebenezer Baptist Church.”

+ Renee Bracey Sherman: “If people don’t like ‘defund the police’ I’m cool with going back to ‘fuck the police’.”

+ I’ll happily come to the defense of the Devil, but not Joe Biden…

+ Sorry Donald, no bang bang. Trump’s desire to preside over a nuclear test was scuttled at the last minute by the House/Senate conference committee working on the defense appropriations bill:

+ $107,575,000,000: the difference in tax dollars spent in the US on police compared to public housing.

+ In NYC, Trump increased his vote tally by 7.6 points between ’16 and ’20, one the his best gains in the nation. The rest of New York swung against Trump by 5.1 points.

+ Apros of nothing, Obama announced that he may take the COVID vaccine live on television to demonstrate its safety. The man should have been put on a diet of bread and Flint drinking water years ago…

+ Does Pfizer really want this guy as the pitch man for their vaccine?

+ Obama: “You lose people with snappy slogans like ‘defund the police.’

+ Like “Fired up, ready to go!” “Yes, we can!” And all the other “hopey-changey”(thanks Sarah Palin) slogan you saturation bombed the airwaves and Net with to secure your place in history?

+ Get used to it. Obama’s going be scolding the Left for the next 25 years…

+ Obama and Trump are set to become the two most annoying ex-presidents in US history, both incapable to relinquishing the spotlight. Maybe they should go on tour together like G. Gordon Liddy and Timothy Leary.

+ What the hell, Hugo?

+ Trump’s “Stop the Steal” isn’t the only grift in town…Corporations can directly contribute up to $1 million to Joe Biden’s inaugural committee; individuals can give up to $500,000–even though there’s not going to be a large gathering or indoor celebrations, which is what the politicians normally spend the money on.

+ Kamala Harris: “This is the team we need to deliver immediate economic relief to the American people, to get our economy back on track, and to make sure it works for working people.”

+ Not to be a pest, but what about the millions of people who aren’t working?

+ More Harris: “We will be ready on day one to hit the ground running because that is what this crisis demands and that is what the American people deserve.”

+ With that broken foot, Biden is likely to literally “hit the ground running”…

+ For his part, Biden says he wants Lin Manuel-Miranda to write a hip hop musical about Janet Yellen. Did Yellen trade in wage-slaves?

+ 137,000,000: the number of Americans burdened by medical debt. Is any one talking about cancelling that?

+ How trickle-down economics works…for the one-percent. In the last 40 years, wages for the bottom 90% grew by an incremental 26%, while income for the top 0.1 percent shot up 345%…

+ Nearer My God to Thee…Rev. Bob Bryant died from COVID-19, a week after being hospitalized. Bryant was a past of the Water of Life mega-church, which claims a congregation of 26,000. Bryant was among the pro-Trump evangelical zealots calling for places of worship to be reopened back in May. Bryant was 58.

+ The Right’s worst fears are actually their deepest desires…

+ The Trump White House, which has the stingiest record on pardons and commutations of the any presidency in modern times, is now embroiled in a federal investigation of pardon bribery scheme.

+ But let’s not forget that Bill Clinton auctioned off pardons, too, notoriously to Marc Rich, which pissed off David Geffen, who’d been lobbying for a pardon for Leonard Peltier, prompting him to yank his donations to DNC, which may have contributed to Al Gore’s loss in 2001.

+ Lots of cash circulated around the Rich pardon, it just wasn’t direct-deposited into Bill and HRC’s personal bank accounts.

+ Sen. John Thune on the $696 billion Defense Appropriations Bill: “This year’s bill focuses on restoring military readiness and ensuring that our nation is ready to face threats posed by powers like Russia and China.” Restore?

+ U.S. arms sales climbed by 2.8% in 2020 to $175 billion. The sales in  included:

+ Japan, $23.1 billion for the F-35 aircraft
+ Morocco, $4.25 billion for AH-64E helicopters
+ Australia – $3.25 billion for aircraft parts
+ Israel, $3.0 billion for fuel

+ Great moments in the history of the world’s most esteemed deliberative body…

+ Trump may not have succeeded in dethroning Obama to claim the title of the Deporter-in-Chief, but he boost the budgets of Border Patrol (up 30%) and ICE (up 40%) to a combined $25 billion a year.

+ At its dismal peak, Stalin’s Gulag is estimated to have confined as many as 800 per every 100,000 people living in the Soviet Union. By contrast, the US penal system 698 per 100,000 people living in the US. If you include the number of people living under some kind of legal restraint, bail, parole, offender registries, that figure rises to more than 1300 per 100,000. These prisoners are now among the most vulnerable for contracting and getting seriously ill, or dying, from COVID. Yet, they will not be prioritized for vaccination under the current protocols.

+ A COVID-19 outbreak has infected more 440 inmates (more than half the prison population) at the Laurel Highlands State Prison, a Pennsylvania facility housing some of the state’s oldest and most infirm prisoners. At least 8, have already died.

+ One of the characteristics of the carceral state is its dehumanizing effect, not just on the prisoners themselves but on the prison guards, administrators, parole boards and officers, judges, prosecutors, defense lawyers, the entire society that created and operates it. This socially corrosive effect is something that Anton Checkov sensed was beginning to infect the Romanovs Russia, as it cast dissidents and minor criminals into Siberian work camps and remote prisons, far away from St. Petersburg and Moscow, in conditions few could visualize or even knew about. In 1890, the ailing Checkov, his lungs already ravaged by the TB that would in a few years claim his life, traveled across Russia to Sakhalin Island, off the Pacific coast, to investigate, telling his baffled friends:

We have allowed millions of people to rot in prisons, to rot for no purpose, without any consideration, and in a barbarous manner; we have driving people tens of thousands of versts [about a kilometer] through the cold in shackles, infected them with syphilis, perverted them, multiplied the number of criminals…but none of this has anything to do with us, it’s just not interesting.

+ A privately-run ICE prison near Tacoma, Washington put people in solitary confinement for weeks solely because of mental illness. One detainee was kept locked up alone for 147 days.

+ On Nov. 4th, New Jersey enacted the largest single-day decarcation in US history, releasing 2,000 prisoners as part of efforts to fight the spread of COVID-19. At least 1000 more releases are planned.

+ Between April and September, more than 16,000 migrants in Mexico were detained and deported. Immigration authorities said just 78 coronavirus tests have been given to migrants. Almost 70% were positive.

+ Since the beginning of the US-backed drug war, Mexico has more missing persons than Argentina, El Salvador and Guatemala during the era of dirty wars and deaths with nearly 80,000 disappeared. To date, only 69 perpetrators have been convicted and sentenced.

+ Over the last few decades, the US spent more than $11.6 billion on Plan Colombia, a Clinton-hatched scheme allegedly designed to keep cocaine out from entering the country. It proved to be a massive failure with much of the money spent on rightwing paramilitaries instead of cocoa eradication or interdiction. Perhaps the CIA didn’t like the competition?

+ More than a million Americans, disproportionately people of color, lack access to plumbing, according to new research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

+ Two of the largest conferences in the NCAA don’t have a single team led by a black head football coach, the SEC and the Big 12.

+ Here’s the latest definitive proof of the NFL’s ongoing league-wide collusion against Colin Kaepernick. Because of COVID-related restrictions, the Denver Broncos played a game this week without a quarterback. Kaepernick was in playing shape and available. They didn’t call…

+ Just because the protests have died down doesn’t mean the police have stopped killing people: 864 in 2020 with a month to go in the year.

+ The FBI “defended” the US from “existential threats” when it tried to get Sartre and Camus banned from entering the US and Columbia University, where Sartre (’45) and Camus (’46) lectured, did not. Ironically, Sartre, the communist, was actually invited to the Pentagon, but Camus, in contrast, was held at immigration by order of J. Edgar Hoover, who had sent out a “stop letter” to all U.S. customs agents saying this dangerous man should be “detained…

+ The new “normalization”: The UAE appears to have dropped, as a practical matter, any objections to Israel’s occupation of Arab lands.

+ 40: the number of military incursions Israel has made into Gaza in 2020.

+ Instead of ridiculing Trump for not winning the Nobel Peace Prize, Biden should mock Obama for winning the Nobel and then surging US troops into Afghanistan, arming jihadis in Syria, backing a coup in Honduras, backing Saudi war on Yemen, overthrowing the government of Libya and setting a world record for wedding parties killed in drone strikes.

+ Betsy DeVos, clinging to her job by her exquisitely manicured nails, lashed out a proposals for free college tuitions, denouncing the plans as a “socialist takeover of higher education.”

+ Socialists haven’t enjoyed this many “takeovers” since Fidel and Che rolled into Havana…

+ “Levin did not like hearing or talking about the beauty of Nature. For him, it took away from the beauty he saw.” (Tolstoy, Anna Karenina)

+ 152: the number of days of unsafe air in southern California, where  the air quality almost every day of the summer was at unsafe-to-breathe levels.

+ 93: the percent of jaguar habitat in the US that will be blocked off by Trump’s border wall, unless Biden quickly reverses course.

+ Percent of people by nation who say they think the climate is changing and human activity is responsible

Greece 91%
Brazil 88%
Spain 87%
Hungary 87%
China 87%
South Africa 87%
Denmark 86%
Italy 86%
UK 86%
France 85%
Japan 85%
Germany 83%
Canada 83%
Australia 81%
US 69%

(YouGov-Cambridge University poll.)

+ Trump’s Interior Department is rushing to offer new oil leases across 400,000 acres of public lands in the West. The leases especially target environmentally sensitive lands. In Utah, 21 parcels covering 23,649 acres will be offered for lease, overlapping with Areas of Critical Environmental Concern (ACECs) and big game habitat. In Wyoming, 275,701 acres will be offered across the state, which will significantly impact sage-grouse habitat. Around 90,000 of the acres offered are in crucial habitat for big game, including mule deer, elk, and moose. While in Colorado, 42 parcels covering 47,445 acres will be offered, and these parcels are in or near sage-grouse habitat, ACECs, and a wildlife refuge.

+ Last July 10th, Alamosa, Colorado set a temperature record for a monthly low (37 F). Later that same day, the town set another record for the monthly high (92 F).

+ UN Secretary António Guterres on the escalating war on the natural world: “Humanity is waging war on nature. This is suicidal. Nature always strikes back – and it is already doing so with force and fury. Biodiversity is collapsing. One million species are at risk of extinction. Ecosystems are disappearing before our eyes.”

+ According to a new report in The Lancet on climate and public health, in the last two decades extreme heat has been linked to a 50 percent increase in deaths of people older than 65, with 296,000 deaths in 2018. In addition, extreme heat also makes it hard to work, especially outdoors with more than 302 billion hours of potential labor productivity being lost in 2019 alone.

+ With that announcement this week that Bank of America has ruled out financing for drilling in the Arctic, including the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, every major U.S. bank now rejects Arctic drilling.

+ 6%: the amount carbon emissions must decline by over the next 10 years to have any hope of stabilizing the climate. Unfortunately, most countries are set to increase production of carbon emissions.

+ Elon Musk vows that his Telsa electric cars will double global electricity demand. And where’s all that power going to come from? Coal, natural gas, nukes, biomass?

+ The city of Des Moines lost $2.2 million in sewage fees because office workers are flushing at their homes in the suburbs, rather than in the Iowa’s capital city.

+ 0: the number of lakes and rivers in the UK classified as being in an ecologically healthy condition, according to a report by the Environment Agency.

+ Lee Edwards: “French Laundry is getting more and more expensive. Tasting menu now up to $310 + your career.”

+ Dining at the French Laundry with lobbyists in violation of his own COVID guidelines is the least significant of Gavin Newsom’s multiple hypocrisies. Consider the $97,000 the California governor took from the fossil fuel industry and their allies in 2019-20.

+ The trembling of Gillian Anderson’s upper lip in The Crown is one of the spookiest affectations in whatever it is that has replaced cinema…streaming, I guess. Her Thatcher really captures the icy callousness of that heartless harridan and far surpasses as an artistic achievement Streep’s fawning portrayal in The Iron Lady.

+ Apparently somewhere in the world (or on cable), it’s Elizabeth Taylor week and I was asked in an interview if I had a favorite Taylor era. I replied that I always my favorite Elizabeth Taylor role was Georgetown cocktail circuit Liz, with John Warner on her arm, a gin & tonic in her hand and a chicken bone in her throat…

+ I don’t think anything alienated my baseball teammates in high school (this was Indiana in the 70s, mind you) more than my love of the New York Dolls and occasionally demonstrating my affection by wearing platforms, scarfs and fuchsia satin pants to parties, where everyone else was clad in football jerseys or denim shirts. Just trash, they called me, nothing but trash

+ Our friend Susan Alcorn (who also written a terrific essay on Texas for CounterPunch) made the New York Times “Best Jazz Albums of 2020” list for her quintet’s dazzling record Pedernal! Way to go Susan!

+ “People that say Bob Dylan can’t sing anymore have literally no idea what singing is.” — Elvis Costello

+ When Robert Christgau, the self-professed “dean” of rock critics, called Jimi Hendrix an Uncle Tom.

+ Steve Gebhardt’s film of the John Sinclair Freedom Rally on December 10, 1971, held to free White Panther John Sinclair from prison for giving an undercover narc two joints. Participants included: Ed Sanders, Allen Ginsberg and Chicago 8 defendants Bobby Seale, Jerry Rubin, Dave Dellinger and Rennie Davis. Musical acts include John & Yoko, Phil Ochs, Stevie Wonder, Commander Cody, Bob Seger, Archie Shepp and, of course, occasional CounterPunch contributor John Sinclair himself…(h/t Michael Simmons).

If He was the CIA, Selling Dope & Making Hay, He’d be Free

Booked Up
What I’m reading this week…

An Event, Perhaps: a Biography of Jacques Derrida
Peter Salmon

The Murder of Professor Schlick: The Rise and Fall of the Vienna Circle
Dave Edmonds

Dinner With Darwin: Food, Drink and Evolution
Jonathan Silverton
(University of Chicago Press)

Sound Grammar
What I’m listening to this week…

Egypt 1971
Sun Ra

Down in the Weeds, Where the World Once Was
Bright Eyes
(Dead Oceans)

Bernard Herrmann: Whitman; Souvenirs de Voyage; Psycho, a Narrative for String Orchestra
PostClassical Ensemble, Angel Gil-Ordóñez, conductor

Leave the Old and Dying America

“Leave the old and dying America and use your creative energies to help form a new America, which would be de-militarized, more humanistic, where the police are less hostile and closer to the community, where the wealthy are not given unleashed power for the exploitation of the people. And, mostly because it’s now a matter of life and death, reassert an ecological balance with the environment, which means the people in the oil companies and the car companies and the space industry and all the other industries will have to be brought into account, so that there will be a new definition of government which has to be closer to the people and less close to special interests which are far more harmful than any revolutionaries.” (Phil Ochs, I’m Gonna Say It Now)

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