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Roaming Charges: Funny Games

Burial vaults awaiting the Covid dead. Photo: Jeffrey St. Clair.

“It is difficult to speak the truth, for although there is only one truth, it is alive and therefore has a live and changing face.”

— Franz Kafka

+ The Washington Post ran a sprawling and not especially informative story under the headline “Biden Struggles to Define His ‘Unity’ Pledge to a Divided Nation.” Here’s a definition based on the last forty years of politics in America: Unity is a one-way street ending in a right turn.

+ Fun and Games with Mitch: Mitch McConnell refused to reconvene the Senate before January 19 to allow Trump’s impeachment trial to start while he was still in office. Now McConnell just voted in support of the motion that Trump’s trial is unconstitutional because he’s no long in office.

+ Of course, Biden didn’t want a spectacle of an impeachment trial of Trump before the inauguration and probably doesn’t like the idea of one at all.

+ Most Americans have no idea what a filibuster is and those who presume to know probably believe it is part of the Senate’s constitutional powers, a death chamber where good bills are consigned to die.

+ “Relent”? Mitch won. He got two Democratic senators to defect, publicly humiliate Schumer (not hard), and probably exposed Sinema to a primary challenger (deserved). He had a weak hand, but weaker opponents, setting the tone for the next two years, when GOP will recapture Senate. You need a street fighter like Harry Reid to counter McConnell, not a talking ATM like Schumer…

+ Gloating Mitch is the most insufferable Mitch. The question is: did Schumer get outplayed? Or is this result he wanted all along, while flirting to end the filibuster? Win-win solution for the leadership of both parties, I think. Lose-lose for the rest of us.

+ If the French are “cheese-eating surrender monkeys” what are the Democrats? At least the French drew a (Maginot) line in the sand and dared the Nazis to cross it. It would be nice to know, for historical purposes at least, what the Senate Democrats had actually planned to fight for, before they surrendered the procedural weapons needed to wage the battle before a shot was even fired…

+ The self-induced paralysis of Democratic politicus americanii is nothing new. Indeed, this peculiar behavior was first identified by some of the earliest taxonimists as characteristic of the species and has been a staple of most reliable field guides ever since.

+ To rephrase Voltaire: Si McConnell n’existait pas, il faudrait l’inventer…

+ Let’s see how Glenn and Tucker have been covering the political machinations on the hill this week. Yes, it’s going as you might have expected…

+ Who will tell them that the corporations have been ensuring “one-party” rule since at least the Eisenhower Administration?

+ In the week since Biden was sworn in, at least 10 people have been killed by police in the US. How long until the next killing sparks nationwide protests and Biden is forced to show his true commitment to the airy rhetoric he preached Tuesday on racial inequities?

+ In the end, there was only one antiwar vote against Blinken, whose fingerprints have been on nearly every US war from Iraq to Yemen, in the Senate. But not by Bernie or Warren or Merkley or Hirono…but Rand Paul. If you’re unwilling to object to the people who instigated wars you claim to have opposed, how can any of us expect you to stand up against wars they will start now that they are enshrined with even more power? Apparently, Bernie has reverted to his default position in the Clinton years, when he endorsed the overthrow of Saddam and the bombing of Serbia.

+ Blinken is not as bombastic like Pompeo Maximus. He’s very smooth, very well-spoken, very collegial, and like Colin Powell, very well equipped to seduce people into wars they might otherwise be inclined to resist.

+ The White House has selected Morgan Muir, a veteran CIA officer who used to brief George W. Bush, to lead his intelligence sessions. Did Wolfowitz and Feith decline the offer?

+ Right on schedule, Biden draws first blood in Iraq.

+ Linda Thomas-Greenfield, Biden’s nominee for UN Ambassador, testified that BDS “verges on being  anti-Semitic” and said she will stand “against the unfair targeting of Israel” at the UN if confirmed. Many liberals who express rhetorical sympathy for the Palestinian cause (as they understand it) would have condemned these remarks from Nikki Haley, yet will rationalize them from Thomas-Greenfield…

+ Sell short, jump long…

+ A group of multimillionaires in the US senate, including the wife of the CEO of the NYSE itself, used inside information on COVID and god knows what else to dump and buy stocks, but a group of self-proclaimed “autistic retards” on subReddit are being vilified for gaming short-selling hedge funders, who are now mewling for a bailout. Free market, indeed.

+ If Judith Miller reported on Wall Street, her stories would probably read something like this …

+ Wait until the K-Pop girls start playing in this casino…

+ Still, the thing to remember about casinos is that while some big spenders my lose, the house always wins, even if they had to change the rules mid-game to make it happen.

+ $810,000: amount of money Janet Yellin pocketed in speaking fees from Citadel, owner of Robinhood. The Biden White House says she has no plans to recuse herself from federal action around the GameStop stock frenzy. (Yellin signed an ethics agreement that would, if enforced, bar her from participating in any matters involving Citadel or Robinhood for a year.)

+ CNBC talking heads have been prattling all week about the need to keep COVID life-support checks to a mere $1400 and only for families making less than $75K a year. Now they are eager to bailout hedge funds suckered by angry gamers on Reddit….

+ Remember when the neoliberal budget hawks wanted to replace Social Security with mutual funds and have us all day trade for our retirement.

+ Speaking of selling short, the US economy shrank by 3.5 percent in 2020, the worst contraction since World War II. Even so, since COVID was declared a “national emergency” in March, the net wealth of America’s 614 billionaires grew by a combined $931 billion.

+ At $20,000 per day, you’d have to work seven days a week for 178 years to compile $1.3 billion.

+ In 1965, CEOs made 21 times the average worker’s pay. By 2019, they made 320 times as much as the average worker brought home.

+ The poverty rate increased 2.4 percentage points from June to December 2020 (when it reached 11.8%), nearly double the largest annual increase in poverty since the 1960s. Increases in poverty rate were especially high for Blacks (up 5.4 percentage points, to 23.6%). In all, an additional 8 million Americans are now considered “newly poor”– twice the highest annual increase in poverty in over a half-century.

+ Biden’s offering the economy juice, when clearly it needs meth…

+ How many times can Biden pull a bait-and-switch on his own pledge for $2000 stimulus checks on Day One?

+ Hmmm….

+ Q. Hey, Joe, where’s my $2000 check?

A. Diverted for Emergency Hedge Fund Relief…

+ In response to the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, House and Senate Democrats introduce legislation to raise the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $15 by…………………. 2025.

+ A new study from National Bureau of Economic Research finds that uniform moratoria on evictions and utility shutoffs through November of last year could have saved 164,000 lives lost to COVID-19…

+ Across the US, black renters experience both eviction and the threat of eviction at nearly twice the rate of white renters and this pattern has exacerbated during the Covid pandemic.

+ Earlier this month the Center for Systemic Peace has demoted the U.S. from “democracy” to “anocracy” (a “regime that mixes democratic with autocratic features”) on its widely used Polity scale. The  Center noted that U.S. “has lost its designation as the world’s oldest, continuous democracy; that designation now belongs to Switzerland (171 years), followed by New Zealand (142) and the United Kingdom (139).”

+ Didn’t any of the people running the Pentagon, who want to build new US bases inside Saudi Arabia, take the time to re-read what OBL’s fatwah said about the presence of US troops on Saudi soil…?

+ Over seven attacks by the US, 36 members of the al Ameri and al Taisy families in Yemen were killed. A quarter of them were children between the ages of three months and 14 years old. Now they’re suing

+ Continuity in Provocation: B-52 flights over Persian Gulf near the Iranian border are continuing under Biden.

+ You can see why the Pentagon wanted to deep six its internal report on racism in the ranks:

Overall, about one in five active duty members (17.9%) indicated experiencing racial/ethnic harassment and/or discrimination in the 12 months prior to taking the survey. Black (31.2%) and Asian (23.3%) members were more likely to indicate experiencing Racial/Ethnic Harassment/ Discrimination than other active duty members, whereas White members (12.7%) were less likely. Overall, Total Minority (24.4%) members were more likely to indicate experiencing Racial/Ethnic Harassment/Discrimination, whereas White members (12.7%) were less likely.

+ Imagine what a thrill it must be for many of these troops to do home invasions in Mosul and Kandahar…

+ The Madame DeFarge of the QOP…Marjoire Taylor Greene, the Georgia rep who has already filed article of  impeachment against Biden, endorsed the idea of executing leaders of the Democratic Party way back in 2018 and 2019.

+ Who will break the news to Sarah Palin?

+ Another outrageous case of “Self-Cancel Culture”…

+ Mitch and Kevin love the fact that Lauren and Marjorie are around to make them look “reasonable.”

+ Greene’s a ludicrous figure, of course, but there’s nothing particularly abnormal about her positions and there’s something sexist about the scapegoating of her for espousing reactionary positions which share the same ideological DNA as GOP stalwarts Strom Thurmond, Jesse Helms, Newt Gingrich, Steve King, Paul Gosart, Ted Cruz and Louie Gohmert. All things considered, she’s probably not as much of a gun-worshiping racist as was Teddy Roosevelt.

+ By the way, Greene’s unyielding fondness for the Confederacy is shared by a Democratic luminary on the other side of the Capitol, Dianne Feinstein, who while Mayor of San Francisco repeatedly flew the Confederate battle flag over City Hall.

+ You can at least say this much for Greene, unlike her comrade-in-arms, Lauren Boebert, she’s never given 80 of her constituents “bloody diarrhea.”

+ According to the Washington Post, the Biden Justice Department and the FBI are considering not charging some of the rioters who sacked the Capitol. Especially, I assume, those connected to the FBI and the Justice Department…

+ The notion of cops infiltrating the Proud Boys seems a little redundant.

+ The NYTs goes inside QAnon…It seems like a massive group prank that weaves together disparate conspiracies theories that have been around for years (decades even) all building toward a final Gotcha Moment–which happened and the believers, in the way of most cult members (see When Prophecy Fails) still found a way to rationalize it.

+ Federal prosecutors have filed charges against a former Marine from Michigan named Michael Fay, who the feds say assaulted police officers at the Capitol with a hockey stick. The charging documents allege that Fay beat at least 10 cops, including some who were downed, also threw a sharpened pole at them. The prosecutors say Fay, who is well armed and rained for combat, committed some of the most violent acts on the Hill. He is also, the Feds note, known back in Michigan “for drinking as many as 10 beers a day.”

+ Yet another ex-military MAGAman gets nabbed by the Feds this week for threatening to kill politicians, their families and journalists. Here’s an excerpt from the charging documents for Robert Lemke…

+ Prior to January 6th, the Pentagon issued orders restricting the ability of the DC commander of the national guard to respond to the sacking of Capitol Hill. Too bad they didn’t do this at Kent State…

+ $417,608: the annual salary of Anthony Fauci, making him the highest paid employee in the federal government.

+ In the week since Biden was sworn in, at least 10 people have been killed by police in the US. How long until the next killing sparks nationwide protests and Biden is forced to show his true commitment to the airy rhetoric he preached this week about racial inequities?

+ “Quality, affordable health care” is a euphemism for minor tweaks to the same old for-profit medical system that allows drug and insurances companies to get richer off of your misery…

+ Trump bragged about it, but Andrew Cuomo really did kill people on Fifth Avenue and get away with it. He even got reward with an Emmy and a book deal for his performance.

+ There have been more than 85,000 COVID deaths in the US in January alone–more than double the number of people (38,800) who died in motor vehicle crashes in the US in all of 2019.

+ This is a pretty revealing chart how devastating COVID has been for blacks, Hispanics and Native Americans . They should also publish one by income levels…

+ Covid-19 cases on the African continent rose by more than 50% over the past four weeks compared to the previous month, largely driven by the new more contagious variants of the virus.

+ In 1915, Alabama enacted a law prohibiting black nurses from treating white patients. Three years later the Great Influenza struck. Probably not the wisest decision.

+ The real reason the US State Department put Cuba on the terrorism watch list…

+ At least two journalists tested positive for coronavirus after witnessing the Trump administration’s final three federal executions, but the Bureau of Prisons knowingly withheld the diagnoses from other media witnesses and did not perform any contact tracing.

+ We should applaud Biden’s move to end Justice Department contracts with private prison companies and urge him to do the same for ICE prisons. But don’t expect that move alone to decarcerate the federal prison population. In fact when five states ended their ties with private prison contractors a decade ago, the number of incarcerate people in those states actually increase, while the national prison population fell by 2 percent….

+ A former Baltimore Police detective was sentenced to 14 months for lying to the FBI about stealing and selling cocaine back in 2009. By the time he was interviewed, the statute of limitations had passed and he couldn’t be charged with the actual crime itself. The detective could’ve told the truth and walked. Instead, he lied and got charged with lying to the FBI. His defense attorney blamed the “blue code of silence.”

+ Recently released documents reveal that NYPD commissioners have regularly used their authority to reject the civilian review board’s disciplinary recommendations and even to overturn guilty pleas made by the offending officers themselves.

+ I realize the competition is fierce, but is there a dumber political pundit than Jonathan Chait, who is so dumb that he serves as his own yellow-marker by actively highlighting some of his dumbest opinions?

+ Why are the political figures of the “defund the police” movement, like Cori Bush, suddenly proposing so many new criminal statutes? You don’t have to make your mark in congress by writing new laws. You could make an entire career out of gutting the old ones. How many people are going to be shot by police responding to “coercive control” complaints?

+ A new report reveals that Portland (Oregon) police dogs are biting white people less frequently. But black people just as often as they always have.

+ Fewer air travelers, but more of them are packing heat….

+ Meanwhile, the commercial air pilots are making more and more in-flight mistakes, allegedly because they’re “rusty.

+ A headline for our times…”Oil Steady as Virus Deaths Rise.”

+ Leading with science…except when it contradicts the desires of some of my leading financial backers. (When Biden says he isn’t “banning fracking” that’s no malarky. The rest of his climate agenda, however, might well prove to be…)

+ New a disturbing study published this week in Nature suggests that magnitude of human-caused Global Warming already experienced is even more dramatic compared to natural variations than previously thought and the planet is now well outside the bounds of the Holocene. The study argues that apparent Holocene Warm Period (from 6,000 to 10,000 years ago) was likely an artifact of seasonal rather than annual proxy measurements.

+ From 2015 to 2020, the Bering Strait became ice free, on average, 18 days earlier than it did from 2010 to 2014, according to data from the American Geophysical Union. The pace and breadth of the ice loss is accelerating rapidly. In 2018, the Bering Sea held the least amount of winter ice in any winter in the past 5,500 years. Winter sea ice used to routinely extend to down beyond the uninhabited island of St. Matthew, more than 400 miles south of the Bering Strait. For the past few years, the ice has rarely reaches that far south at all.

+ February is coming and it’s likely to be warm, especially in Alaska …

+ The fossil fuel lobby remains bullish on Biden and believes his “green infrastructure” plan will in the long run prove profitable for the oil and gas industry.

+ According to a story in the BBC, big battery technology (often dependent on rare earth minerals such as lithium) could make fossil fuels obsolete. We’ll have to measure the cost in terms of coups per kilowatt hour.

+ The government of Alberta paid a home-school teacher living in England $28,000 to write a report claiming hundreds of climate journalists are part of a conspiracy to end industrial civilization.

+ Overfishing and warming oceans have depleted populations of some shark and ray species by more than 70 percent in the last half-century, leaving a “gaping, growing hole” in ocean life…

+ Tom Vilsack, the Obama retread Biden has picked to run the Agriculture Department,  isn’t much different than the science-suppressing industry hacks who ran enviro policy under Trump, except in the long term he’s probably more dangerous because few of the green groups or greenish politicians will confront his services to Monsanto, ADM and Big Food. PEER, fortunately, is the exception.

+ Since the the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act was passed in 1990, nearly 28,900 people in parts of Nevada, Utah, and Arizona who were exposed to radioactive fallout (as residents living in the path of the clouds or as onsite participants) have been awarded more than $1.5 billion. But that bill is about to expire and unless it is renewed many victims will go uncompensated…

+ Here’s a map depicting the continent-wide decline and regional extirpation of the American Bison, a decline which, of course, almost precisely parallels the encroachment of colonizers and the theft of Native lands. People tend to forget about (or more likely aren’t even aware of) the woodland bison of the East. As a teen, I used to hike some of the still extant “buffalo traces” (migratory paths forged by generations of bison) in southern Indiana, Ohio and Illinois.

+ The State Seal of Indiana depicts a bison fleeing a logger with an axe. Rarely have state emblems been so forthcoming about their ecocidal history…

 

+ In Portland’s battle between the timber heir mayor vs. his dairy heir heckler, who the mayor pepper sprayed in the face for getting within six feet of him, the dairy heir says he “wanted the receipt because it would show how much alcohol the mayor consumed that evening.”

+ RIP Frau Blucher!

+ The latest contretemps inside Chez Conway courtesy of the good folks at Law & Crime:

“I’m assuming my mom took a picture of it to use against me one day and then somebody hacked her or something,” Claudia says in the video. “I’m literally at a loss for words. If you see it, report it.” In one video, Claudia said that “nobody would ever have any photo like that, ever. So, Kellyanne, you’re going to fucking jail.”

+ Having spent nearly a month re-reading the Bros. Karamazov for the first time in 40 years, the characters continued to haunt my head and in an attempt to exorcise them from my mind I found a Freud essay that I hadn’t read before: Dostoevsky & Parricide, written as an intro to a German translation of the novel and not, as far as I know, widely available now. Freud was at his best as a literary critic. He writes so much more vividly than any of his followers (or detractors for that matter). Obviously, the novel is fertile ground for Freud’s own obsessions and he makes the most of it with some enthralling connections and leaps of logic. As always he’s both enticing and infuriating. He pulls you in by the clarity of his written and only afterwards do you say, “Hey, wait a minute…” His own version of the Seduction Theory…

+ When he was in his late 70s, John Gielgud, who early in his career had played Raskolnikov to great acclaim in a stage version of Crime and Punishment, filmed a rare seen version fo the Grand Inquisitor chapter for the Open University. Here it is…

+ In 1952, Jack Warner snitched out two of his studio’s best screenwriters, Philip and Joseph Epstein (Casablanca, Mrs. Skeffington, Brothers Karamazov) to HUAC. When asked by HUAC investigators if he’d ever been a member of a subversive group, Philip quipped, “Yeah, Warner Bros.”

+ The Bidens are attending Mass at Holy Trinity on N Street in Georgetown, the oldest Catholic congregation in DC. The original church (St. Ignatius Chapel) was built 1797 and had to be called Georgetown Chapel because of laws prohibiting the construction of Catholic Churches in DC. USA! Both Holy Trinity and the old chapel are beautiful churches. I say this as an atheist who walked by both of them hundreds of times on my way back and forth from Georgetown University’s library, which I tended use because AU’s sucked.

+ Larry King, who died this week at 87,  threw one softball after another right down the center of the plate, but still most of his shows, night after night, were almost compulsively watchable. Jim Ridgeway once told me, maybe not even half jokingly, that he made a point of watching King every night to get a glimpse of what was really going on in the world. CNN never was never the same after he left….

+ Larry King’s death row interview with Karla Faye Tucker brought the the moral depravity of the death penalty into the homes of millions of Americans and also punctured George W’s brand of “passionate conservatism,” as Bush was caught snickering and smirking at Tucker’s pleas for clemency. She was just another number in his mad rush toward killing 157 inmates.

+ It’s been a week since Henry Aaron died and the MLB team in Atlanta still hasn’t re-named themselves “the Hammers.” Look it’s not that hard to change a ballclub’s name. You don’t need a PR campaign or focus group studies to do it. As an example of how quickly the change can happen consider Cincinnati. In 1953, during the height of McCarthy’s with hunts, the owners of team quickly changed the name of the team from the Reds to the Redlegs in order to assure the fans in this reactionary enclave of the Ohio Valley that they were fielding a lineup of communist sympathizers. (Of course that “Redlegs” roster did feature two of the most revolutionary players in baseball: Frank Robinson and Curt Flood, both from “red” Oakland.)  The team went by the Redlegs until the fall of McCarthy in 1957. In 1984, the Reds were purchased by Nazi-sympathizer, Marge Schott, who owned the team for the next 15 years, until being forced to sell by MLB.

Oh Lord, Don’t Let Them Drop It, Stop it…

Booked Up
What I’m reading this week…

Mike Nichols: a Life
Mark Harris
(Penguin)

The Care Crisis: What Caused It and How Can We End It?
Emma Dowling
(Verso)

Marshlands
Andre Gide
(NYRB)

Sound Grammar
What I’m listening to this week…

Zoot Suit Funk
Gayelynn McKinney
(Beatstix)

The Parlor
Alabama Slim
(Cornelius Chapel Records)

I Told You So
Delvon Lamarr Organ Trio
(Colemine)

Tigers Don’t Nail People By the Ears

“People talk sometimes of a bestial cruelty, but that’s a great injustice and insult to the beasts; a beast can never be so cruel as a man, so artistically cruel. The tiger only tears and gnaws, that’s all he can do. He would never think of nailing people by the ears, even if he were able to do it.” (Dosteovsky, The Brothers Karamazov)

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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