Roaming Charges: It is What It is, But is That All There is?

Mount Hood from the Marquam Prairie, western Oregon, December 2020. Photo: Jeffrey St. Clair.

+ In order to understand the sometimes perplexing nuances of the US political economy, you first have to realize that the people who manage it believe as an article of faith that the poor have too much money and the rich not enough.

+ Get ready for four years of this kind of austerity-mongering from the elite enforcers of neoliberalism, including the newspaper owned the the world’s richest human…

+ Meanwhile, the editors’ own paper reported that there’s been a 54 percent increase in the deaths of homeless people in Washington DC this year, to at least 180.

+ On Weds., Bernie Sanders, Ed Markey, Elizabeth Warren, Ron Wyden, Chris Van Hollen, and Jeff Merkley were the only Senate Dems who stood their ground against Mitch McConnell to try to get a vote on $2000 checks. (Harris, Biden and Schumer helped sabotage it.) They were joined by six Republicans: Hawley, Braun, Cruz, Lee, Kennedy and Paul. That’s it folks.

+ Thomas Friedman makes Milton Friedman sound like a humanitarian…

+ Thomas Friedman, who thinks that giving people who make under $100,00 a year a $2000 survival check is “crazy,” lives in this house in Bethesda…

+ Jon Greenbaum: “I’d like Godzilla to flatten that world.”

+ Let’s make a list of all the things Tom Friedman hasn’t found “crazy” over the years. I’ll start: the Iraq War, the Afghan War, the Syrian War, the Libyan War, the Kosovo War, any bombing of Gaza, the 2008 bailout of the banks, the economic policies that led to the 2008 recession …

+ Divisive? (So says the guy who once got a $50,000 stimulus check from Enron, though admittedly it didn’t stimulate much original thinking from Krugman.) It’s supported by Sanders and Trump, & nearly 70 percent of people in both parties….

+ Even though you didn’t have money to keep in the bank, the banks made money off you anyway …. $125 billion worth.

+ Will she say the same thing about thing about GOP plans to totally eliminate the “death tax”, even though the “dead” by definition don’t “necessarily need it”?

+ It’s a little late now for liberal Democrats like Rev. William Barber, as well intentioned as he is, to be fretting about austerity-driven economic policies Biden has supported his entire political career, which dates back to the Pleistocene Epoch…

+ It would be a Pentagon spending bill that brought Democrats and Republicans together to defeat Trump. Raytheon contracts are the ultimate aphrodisiac (to paraphrase Kissinger)…

+ Only 20 Democrats in the House voted to defund (even temporarily) the Pentagon…

+ Meanwhile, the two Democrats who voted against $2000 COVID relief checks were Dan Lipinski, one of the most conservative House Dems who lost a primary in March and is out of office in a few days and our congressman here in western Oregon, Kurt Schrader, who’s just an all-round dick.

+ Was there ever a Schoolhouse Rock video on how a president becomes president? First you vote at the polls (or by mail). Then your vote is counted (or lost). Then it is recounted (or thrown out). Then it is certified (or not). Then electors (& sometimes Alt electors) are elected. Then the electors are certified (or not) & they all go to DC to vote in the electoral college (or by phone). The vote of some electors may be worth 25x as many actual votes as electors from other states. But actually these electors can vote for whomever they want. Now the winner can start calling themselves “president elect.” But it’s not official, because the electoral college vote must be certified by Congress &, it turns out, the congresspeople can vote for whoever they want and each state’s vote (CA) counts as much as any other (ND). That’s equality, even though the person who become president may not be the person the people or their “electors” voted for. But, hold on kids there’s another safeguard to the system. The president isn’t really President, until they drone someone.

+ The Simpsons gave it a shot (Thanks Michael Jackman).

+ Linn Wood, one of the lawyers filing election fraud lawsuits on behalf of Trump, took to Twitter to makes some eye-popping claims: 1. Chief Justice John Roberts is part of a pedophile ring; 2. Roberts may have conspired in the death/murder of Antonin Scalia; 3. Jeffrey Epstein was behind it all; 4. Epstein is alive!

+ Helpfully, Wood “clarified” his claims by noting, “My information from reliable source is that Roberts arranged an illegal adoption of two young children from Wales through Jeffrey Epstein. I think we can all agree that Epstein knows pedophilia.”

+ You have to hand it to Wood, he doesn’t back down. He escalates…

+ According to some of Wood’s former law partners, he was tape recorded asserting that he may be the second coming of Christ on Earth.

“I might actually be Christ coming back for a second time in the form of an imperfect man, elevating Christ consciousness. That cause you to have a little bit of a chill? Who would be more eloquent to say what the will of God is, the belief of God in me.”

+ Of course, there may be another contender for that, uh, crown…

+ People who hate the fact that Trump is president spend a lot of time on social media complaining (instead of rejoicing) that Trump is playing golf and not working as president.

+ Here’s an example of Trump working from the New York Times: “You’re killing me! This whole thing is! We’ve got all the damn cases,” Trump yelled at Jared Kushner in the Oval Office on August 19. “I want to do what Mexico does. They don’t give you a test till you get to the emergency room and you’re vomiting.”

+ The Democrats never fight like this for anything. Al Gore meekly presided over his own defeat, even though he’d won the popular vote and likely the electoral vote as well…

+ This week Trump order two more B-52s to fly over the Persian Gulf to “deter an Iranian attack on US troops in Iraq.” The best, in fact only, way to deter attacks is to do what he promised and failed to do: remove the troops…

+ Pompeo Maximus, who has turned psychological projection into US policy at the State Department, announced this week his intention to place Cuba on the list of state-sponsors of terrorism. That’ll teach them to embarrass the US by sending their doctors around the world to treat victims of COVID, Ebola, Swine Flu and other infectious diseases.

+ Boris Johnson’s father, Stanley, applying for French citizenship gives entirely new meaning to Brexit.

+ 981: the number of people in the US shot and killed by police in 2020.

+ A Boston police cop sexually assaulted an intoxicated woman after she passed out. He was suspended without pay for a year, but when he returned, he was promoted. This year, he bragged about hitting BLM protesters with his patrol car.

+ An investigation by Naples (Fla.) Daily News and the New Press found that thousands of police officers with records  of abusive (including criminal) behavior were returned to their jobs as cops. At least 505 of those law enforcement and corrections officers who were given a second chance later committed an offense that led to their decertification…

+ Even though most police departments refused to share details about investigations and discipline or even officers’ names into police abuse during the George Floyd protests, Pro Publica compiled 68 videos from across the country showing specific instances of where police officers escalated violence.

+ Testimony from the Chicago 8 (minus 1) trial…

Leonard Weinglass: “Did they tell you why you were arrested?”

Abbie Hoffman: “They said they arrested me because I had the word ‘fuck’ on my forehead. They called it an ‘obscenary’.”

+ Index of American Greatness: The United States ranks 20th for collective-bargaining coverage and union density among the 21 countries in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) .

+ They look like uniforms for Nazi school crossing guards…

+ Many of the people who have already ordered facsimiles of those Space Force uniforms will also be appearing in a Youtube video being hauled out of a Walmart for refusing to wear a mask while trying to redeem a 3-for-the-price-of-1 MyPillow coupon…

+ Yes, more than 1 in 1000 Americans has now died from Covid. But Black Americans exceeded that mark in September. As of the first week in December, 1 in 800 Black Americans have died of Covid and 1 in 750 Indigenous Americans.

+ Roughly 20% to 40% of the L.A. County’s frontline workers who were offered the vaccine declined to get the shot. In Riverside County an estimated 50% refused the vaccine.

+ Meanwhile, Ohio’s Republican Governor Mike DeWine reported this week that an estimated 60% of nursing home workers in his state who have been offered the vaccine have refused it.

+ This deflating news comes after we learned that nearly 3,000 health care workers have died of COVID-related causes, even though the US government has scarcely bothered to keep track…

+ This synchs with a new national survey conducted by researchers at Oregon State University’s Cascades campus which  found that roughly 40% of people surveyed believe COVID-19 is no worse than the flu, and about 25% think the pandemic is likely a hoax.

+ Doxxing frontline public health care workers is now a thing among GOP legislators…Last week, a Republican Party leader in Colorado named Mark Hall took to his Facebook page to warn public health workers that, “If you work for the state, CDPHE, Tri-County or other agencies, you are on the radar, at your homes and elsewhere.” Hall also accused them of being “anti-Americans.”

+ After repeatedly downplaying COVID-19 on his TV show, “Dr.” Drew Pinsky has now contracted COVID-19. “My early comments about equating coronavirus with influenza were wrong. They were incorrect. I was part of a chorus that was saying that. And we were wrong.”

+ Spread the faith, let Jesus raise the dead…

+ But, doc, unpreparedness is one of our God-given rights as long-form birth-certified Americans!

+ Amy Watson, a 47-year old preschool teacher in Portland, says she’s had a fever for more than 280 consecutive days, after testing positive for COVID.

+ The Ninth Circuit Court just 9th Circuit over-ruled the injunction against Trump’s ban on immigration for people who don’t have health insurance. The opinion was authored by Daniel Collins, a Trump appointee, with a stinging dissent from Judge Wallace Tashima, who was imprisoned as a child in a WWII internment camp.

+ The bloody fallout from the Obama/HRC abetted coup in Honduras continues. This week Félix Vásquez, a longtime leader of the Lenca people, was shot and killed at his home in Santiago de Puringla, in rural western Honduras, soon after reporting death threats linked to his work. Vásquez’s children were also beaten and threatened by the four armed assailants, but survived the raid.

+ For those of you who haven’t seen Verso’s Spring Catalogue. 20 years ago, Cockburn and I couldn’t interest them in a book on radical environmental politics. Things change.

+ Wolf biologist Doug Smith: “The problem wolves have is people. I was on the phone yesterday with a wolf researcher in northern Montana, and she’d just talked to a packed hotel conference room of four hundred people in Kalispell. Every single person in that room wanted to kill wolves. That’s the age-old problem wolves face everywhere.”

+ I was gutted to hear of the death of Barry Lopez, whose Of Wolves and Men and Arctic Dreams exerted a profound, and still lingering, influence on my thinking about the natural world. We crossed paths many times, none more enjoyable than a day-long float down his home river, the frothing McKenzie…

+ Barry Lopez: “It does not demean men to want to be what they imagine the wolf to be, but it does demean them to kill the animal for it.”

+ Through the first 10 months of 2020 there were no regions on the planet which experienced near record cold. When it came to heat, however….

+ This satellite image, taken back on 9 September 2020, shows some of the wildfires over Oregon, including the fire that drove us from our house. The view on the right utilizes SWIR bands to penetrate the smoke.

+ A new batch of research in the American Southwest shows that shows higher levels of arsenic in the water systems of Hispanic communities across. There are, of course, no safe levels of arsenic.

+ There are more than 90,000 dams in the United States, many of those dams are at risk of failure. When they collapse, don’t rebuild them…

+ Over the past century, three of the Hawai’i’s major islands, Oahu, Maui and Kauai, have lost around one-quarter of their beach shores. The Obamas have been complicit in their destruction

+ On the last day of one of the hottest years on record, featuring some of the most vicious wildfires, hurricanes and cyclones in history, Alaska is about to hit by its strongest storm in more than a century (if not ever)…

+ The combined emissions of the richest 1% of the global population account for more than twice the combined emissions of the poorest 50%. The earth’s super-rich will need to reduce their carbon footprint by a factor of 30 merely to keep within the Paris Agreement targets, which we all now know are woefully inadequate to the challenge before us.

+ From the testimony of Tohono O’odham Tribal Chairman Ned Norris Jr. on the border wall’s destruction of Indigenous sacred sites and burial grounds: “For us, this is no different than DHS building a 30-ft wall through Arlington Cemetery or through the grounds of the National Cathedral.”

+ I keep hearing New Years resolutions about “turning over a new leaf” in 2021. But what if you self-identify as a conifer?

+ My friend, and occasional CounterPunch writer, George Szamuely, drew my attention to a C-SPAN interview with Milosevic conducted during the height of the NATO bombing campaign against Serbia. George noted how remarkably well Milosevic spoke English. He’s right.

+ It’s so often the case that people who learned English as adults speak and write it more gracefully than native speakers? Look at Conrad, who published his first novel only 10 years after teaching himself English. No one has written more complex or elegant sentences.

+ Speaking of Conrad, some people continue to argue that David Lean’s plan to film Nostromo is one of the greatest unmade films. Having just re-read Nostromo, I voice my dissent. When it comes to novels that are driven by language and ideas, the best films are the ones that remain unmade. Moreover, Lean’s grasp of the consequences of the imperial project is primitive at best and indulgent at worst. Would he have cast Alec Guiness (who’d already played a Saudi in Lean’s Lawrence of Arabia and an Indian scholar in Passage to India) in brownface once again for the role of Avellanos, Hernandez or Montero?

+ In any event, there’s an excellent Italo-English miniseries with a multi-racial and ethnic cast to fill the gap, which is, typically, only available on YouTube. (It enjoys the additional allure of a propulsive score by Morricone the Great.)

+ Director Shonda Rhimes hired an “intimacy coordinator” to coach the sex scenes in her new Netflix series “Bridgerton.” Can you imagine Pasolini hiring an “intimacy coordinator” for Salò? Probably not. But Biden might want to consult one as he begins his courtship of Mitch McConnell and Company.

+ Give the People What They Want!

+ Joe Strummer: “Punk rock was invented by all the great hopeless garage bands the world over.”

The truth is only known by guttersnipes…

Booked Up
The 25 best books of 2020…

Baseless: My Search for Secrets in the Ruins of the Freedom of Information Act
Nicholson Baker
(Penguin Press)

The Jakarta Method: Washington’s Anticommunist Crusade and the Mass Murder Program that Shaped Our World
Vincent Bevins
(Public Affairs Books)

Fallout: The Hiroshima Cover-up and the Reporter Who Revealed It to the World
Lesley M.M. Blume
(Simon & Schuster)

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

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

War in the Age of Trump
Patrick Cockburn

The Green New Deal and Beyond
Stan Cox
(City Lights)

Set the Night on Fire: LA in the Sixties
Mike Davis and Jon Wiener

Desert Notebooks: a Roadmap for the End of Time
Ben Ehrenreich

The Return of Nature: Socialism and Ecology
John Bellamy Foster
(Monthly Review Press)

Fathoms: the World in the Whale
Rebecca Giggs
(Simon & Schuster)

Ornette Coleman: the Territory and the Adventure
Maria Golia
(Reaction Books)

Human Shields: A History of People in the Line of Fire
Neve Gordon and Nicola Perugini
(University of California)

We Still Here: Pandemic, Policing, Protest & Possibility
Marc Lamont Hill

The Future Earth: A Radical Vision for What’s Possible in the Age of Warming
Eric Holthaus

The Dawning of the Apocalypse: The Roots of Slavery, White Supremacy, Settler Colonialism, and Capitalism in the Long Sixteenth Century
Gerald Horne
(Monthly Review Press)

Sinews of War and Trade: Shipping and Capitalism in the Arabian Peninsula
Laleh Khalili

Who Killed Berta Caceres?: Dams, Death Squads, and an Indigenous Defender’s Battle for the Planet
Nina Lakhani

Perilous Bounty: the Looming Collapse of American Farming and How We Can Prevent It
Tom Philpott

Oak Flat: a Fight for Sacred Land in the American West
Lauren Redniss
(Random House)

Chasing the Light: Writing Directing and Surviving Platoon, Midnight Express, Scarface,  Salvador and the Movie Game
Oliver Stone
(Houghton Mifflin)

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

The Big Goodbye: Chinatown and the Last Days of Hollywood
Sam Wesson

What We Don’t Talk About When We Talk About #MeToo
JoAnn Wypijewski

Hellfire From Paradise Ranch: On the Frontlines of Drone Warfare
Joshua Zulaika
(University of California Press)

Sound Grammar
The 25 best recordings of 2020…

Susan Alcorn Quintet
(Relative Pitch)

Fetch the Bolt Cutters
Fiona Apple

Pursuance: the Coltranes
Lakecia Benjamin

Quarantine Tapes
Dean & Britta

The Unraveling
Drive-By Truckers

Ghosts of West Virginia
Steve Earle & The Dukes
(New West) 

The Lost Berlin Tapes 
Ella Fitzgerald

America at War
Joel Harrison

Budapest Concert
Keith Jarrett

Blacktop Run
Sonny Landreth

Mabern Plays Mabern
Harold Mabern
(Smoke Sessions)

We’re New Again: a Reimagining
Makaya McCraven / Gil Scott-Heron


Palo Alto
Thelonious Monk

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

All Rise
Gregory Porter
(Blue Note)

That’s How Rumors Get Started
Margo Price
(Loma Vista)

Rawer Than Raw
Bobby Rush
(Deep Rush Records)

We Are Sent Here by History
Shabaka and the Ancestors

Blonde on the Tracks
Emma Swift

It is What It is

José Martí en Nueva York
Manuel Valera & the New Cuban Express Big Band

Old Played New
Christina Vane
(Blue Tip Records)

Keepin’ It Real
Bobby Watson and the Horizon Band
(Smoke Sessions)

Mind Hive
(Pink Flag)

What Does It Mean to Grow Rich?

“What does it mean to grow rich?  Is it to have red-blooded adventures and to make a ‘fortune,’ which is what brought the whalers and other entrepreneurs north?  Or is it, rather, to have a good family life and to be imbued with a far-reaching and intimate knowledge of one’s homeland, which is what the Tununirmiut told the whalers at Pond’s Bay wealth was? Is it to retain a capacity for awe and astonishment in our lives, to continue to hunger after what is genuine and worthy? Is it to live at moral peace with the universe?”  (Barry Lopez, Arctic Dreams)

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