Roaming Charges: Notes From the Ice House

Buddha and Japanese maple on ice. Photo: Jeffrey St. Clair.

+ We’d been without electricity, heat, internet and cell service since Friday, when Oregon City was encased in three inches of ice. The power returned intermittently on Wednesday morning, with the internet and cell service lagging behind. The news of the world had largely passed us by for five day. No big loss there. I was pretty confident that things would continue to fall apart in entirely predictable ways. The great, irreplaceable loss was hearing via Ralph Nader that my writing colleague and traveling companion, James Ridgeway, had died, while we were isolated in the dark chill.

+ Here’s a photo of Ridgeway and Alexander Cockburn in 1980 from the jacket of their novel, Smoke.

+ The photo was taken at the 1980 GOP convention and you can see that they’re got something in the works, like the plan to prank Phil Crane by telling him he was the VV’s preferred candidate for president. The Cranes (there were three brothers, one more pious and hypocritical than the next) were the harbingers of what was to come from the moralizing right. I’ll write about my 25 years of knowing and working with Jim when my fingers thaw out and my brain defrosts next week.

+ A week later there are still more than 150,000 Oregon homes out of power from Friday’s brutal ice storm. PGE says it’s getting reports of people trying to move downed power lines themselves. I talked with a PGE linesman yesterday who said it’s the worst calamity to strike the grid in his 30 years on the job. He also said that not only are people trying to remove downed limbs from the lines, but they’re also trying to reconnect lines to the junction boxes!

+ During the ice storm, Portland police were dispatched to a local grocery store (Fred Meyers) to stand guard over dumpsters from starving and freezing people seeking to glean discarded food. It’s the Grapes of Wrath all over again, when excess fruit and vegetables were doused in kerosene to keep them from being eaten by hungry migrants and Okies.

+ How Texas politicians responded to the crippling of the state’s power grid…

Gov. Greg Abbott: “The power outages are the fault of solar panels, wind mills, AOC and the Green New Deal.”

Former Governor and former Trump Energy Secretary Rick Perry: “Given a choice, Texans would rather freeze to death than have more government regulations.”

Ted Cruz: “My daughters forced us to flee to Cancun.”

+ Heidi Cruz, now exiled in Cancun, is a managing director at Goldman Sachs, which maintains a controlling interest in several Texas utility companies, including Energy Future Holdings…

+ Maybe Cruz went to Cancun to pick up a check for the Wall….

+ What a dad! Cruz stood by as Trump accused his father of killing JFK and mocked the appearance of his his, then blamed his daughters for absconding to Mexico… Ted Cruz: “With school cancelled for the week, our girls asked to take a trip with friends. Wanting to be a good dad, I flew down with them last night and am flying back this afternoon.” Ted lied.

+ If ever there was a moment for Mexican immigration to start doing family separations…

+ Finally, I’m beginning to see the logic of that Oklahoma bill to open a bigfoot hunting season…

+ Beto lost to Ted Cruz and somehow got the notion he had the goods to run for president.

+ As the Texas power grid fails spectacularly, let’s recall that energy deregulation was a priority of the Clinton administration and neoliberal environmental groups. One of the founders of NRDC, John Bryson, became the CEO SoCal Edison, the group’s chief energy flack promoted Enron and the deregulation of California’s grid, with predictable consequences.

+ The only regulation of the deregulated Texas power grid is that it can’t buy power from out of state. The first step toward secession is going well…

+ In fact, El Paso was spared rolling blackouts largely because its grid is outside of the ERCOT system.

+ It’s almost like they used our wonderfully efficient for-profit-medical care system as a model for the deregulation of the electric power grid…

+ Blame it on the Wavy Polar Vortex….

+ The crisis in Texas isn’t just about electricity, it’s also over water, where 12 million people are faced with a dire choice: preserve individual water access via dripping faucets to keep their pipes from freeze or tighten the faucet to preserve the collective water supply.

+ So the toxic heap of flesh Rush Limbaugh is dead and wherever his corpse is buried will soon become the newest moral Superfund site. In the mid-90s, when Rush was becoming a national phenomenon, Cockburn and I wrote a cover story in The Nation about the then president of The Wilderness Society who had clearcut old-growth forest on his ranch in Montana and when caught (by us) blamed it on his wife. Limbaugh trumpeted the story on his show for a couple of days and we got a note from Katrina saying how thrilled she was at the national publicity, even progressives craved his attention.

+ The man encouraged people to smoke, drink PCB contaminated water and food saturated in Round-Up. I don’t think “toxic heap of flesh” is so much of an insult as a fairly accurate bio-chemical assessment of what the morticians are dealing with today. But, yes, I also recall the pleasure felt by St. Thomas, as quoted in Gravity’s Rainbow, writing home: “Dear Mom, I put a couple of people in Hell today…”

+ Some of you may recall that Limbaugh had a recurring segment in the 1980s where he’d mockingly read off the names of people who’d died of AIDS, while Dionne Warwick’s “I’ll Never Love This Way Again” played in the background…

+ Cockburn on Limbaugh: “The dirigible of drivel.”

+ The best thing I’ve ever heard about Limbaugh, other than the news of his demise: “He was known to drop $5,000 tips in restaurants.”

+ George W. Bush on Limbaugh: “He spoke his mind as a voice for millions.”

+ Does Bush’s side-squeeze Michelle Obama agree?

+ Limbaugh may have been impotent and sterile, but he still managed to generate thousands of morally-degenerate offspring, many of them residing in political offices small and large, like the  Republican legislator who introduced a bill this week to track Iowa women who are searching online for abortion services, then bully them into changing their minds…

+ With Biden whispering to governors that the $15 minimum wage now on the chopping block and punting on the cancelation of student loan debts, I sure as hell wouldn’t want him as my agent or union rep…

+ Didn’t Trump say almost exactly the same thing about the economy every other day for four years?

+ As any connoisseur of NYT correction notices knows, focusing on Biden’s small lies often serves to conceal the larger, systemic ones…

+ If there’s one thing Larry Kudlow is certified to render an expert opinion about, it’s “bullshit“…even Kamala Harris’ brand.

+ And, by the way, when Harris says that teachers should be given “priority” for COVID vaccines, the follow-up question should be: priority over whom?

+ Biden announced this week that he’s “flexible” on immigration reform. Of course, it’s easy to be flexible when your base has proved itself to be spineless….

+ What does flexibility mean in human terms? As of today, 26,248 people have been deported under the Biden administration.

+ Last week, ICE carried out 21 removal flights to six different countries, roughly the same as the weekly average over the previous three months under Trump.

+ Late on Thursday, Biden issued new ICE guidelines completely abandoning his pledge to halt deportations. The ACLU has already denounced this predictable retreat as “a disappointing step backward from the Biden administration’s earlier commitments to fully break from the harmful deportation policies” of Trump and Obama.

+ Poor, Neera, snubbed, scorned and scuttled by the same species of neoliberal corporate hack politician she’s spent her entire career promoting…

+ Clinton’s murderous PLAN Colombia, just kept on killing: tribal people, leftists, union organizers, kids, pedestrians, farmers, grandparents, anyone to meet those death quotas. A Colombia tribunal reports that at least 6,402 people were killed by soldiers between 2002 and 2008 just to boost the armed forces’ total body count.

+ Didn’t Hillary bomb Libya in recognition of International Women’s Day?

+ A student-led campaign successfully cut $25 million from the school police budget of LA Unified School District, removed cops from all campuses, and started the process of reinvesting those dollars in a culturally-competent support system needed to build a safer and healthier campus environment.

+ The life expectancy gap between Black and white Americans has now expanded to six years, the widest it’s been since 1998.

+ Who will stop Cuba before it saves millions of lives (maybe even your own)?

+ Whatever service Everette Koop did to elevate the position of Surgeon General by humanizing the AIDS crisis in an administration of homophobes, Clinton pretty much demolished when he fired Jocelyn Elders for speaking frankly about sex, masturbation and birth control…

+ The most vicious battles at the Pentagon are always over who gets what contracts…This must be where the “influence artillery” comes in to play.

+ No Shit Newsire: Official reports of “tranquil federal executions” don’t match witness accounts.

+ The shocking thing is Cornel West was just denied tenure at Harvard. The more shocking thing is that Cornel West didn’t already have tenure at Harvard.

+ On Biden rejoining the Paris Accords: Obama proved that it’s a lot easier to get away with widespread oil drilling, natural gas fracking and tar-sand pipeline construction if you publicly announce that you believe in climate change.

+ Monsanto’s executives, and political agents inside the US government, have been caught twisting Mexico’s arm in an effort to force it to drop its ban on glyphosate.

+ It’s still debatable how Lauren Boebert earned her GED. But here’s proof that she did get a home decorating certificate from the NRA…

+ According to our friends at Survival International, Amoim Aruká, the last surviving man of Brazil’s Juma tribe, has died from Covid 19. Amoim was the last male member of the tribe. A number of women survive. The Juma were the target of several massacres, the last in 1964, when more than 60 were murdered.

+ People love to credit Mark Twain for things he never said and don’t credit him for the things he did say, especially about the evils of US imperialism.

+ On Friday our house became encased in three inches of ice. The power went off Friday evening to the sound of the limbs of trees falling in the canyon, on the street, into houses and cars. We couldn’t open our door until Saturday afternoon. We had no heat, no stove to cook by, no cell service, no internet, no tea, no coffee. The power in the Kindles, iPhones and MacBooks had steadily dwindled and expired. The road out of the canyon was impassible, buried under layers of ice, snow, branches and fallen trees. By Tuesday, it was colder inside our house (42 degrees) than outside 45 degrees. but I was able to get out and photograph the wreckage around our little canyon community from the worst ice storm to hit the Willamette Valley in 50 years.

Icicles from our bedroom window, Saturday morning. Photo: Jeffrey St. Clair.

Iced forsythias. Photo: Jeffery St. Clair.

Apple tree branches under ice. Photo: Jeffrey St. Clair.

Apple tree branches under ice. Photo: Jeffrey St. Clair.

Birches and flag. Photo: Jeffrey St. Clair.

Crumpled fence. Photo: Jeffrey St. Clair.

Playground maples. Photo: Jeffrey St. Clair.

Torn gutt3er. Photo: Jeffrey St. Clair.

Our sidewalk, Monday. Photo: Jeffrey St. Clair.


Toppled cottonwood. Photo: Jeffrey St. Clair.

Downed power line. Photo: Jeffrey St. Clair.

Fallen shore pine. Photo: Jeffrey St. Clair.

Fallen maples. Photo: Jeffrey St. Clair.

Big cottonwood down. Photo: Jeffrey St. Clair.

Ice sheaths shed from maple tree. Photo: Jeffrey St. Clair.

Broken birches. Photo: Jeffrey St. Clair.

Fallen alders. Photo: Jeffrey St. Clair.

Fallen maple. Photo: Jeffrey St. Clair.

Broken fence line, Pioneer cemetery. Photo: Jeffrey St. Clair.

Doug-fir branches and cemetery fence. Photo: Jeffrey St. Clair. 

Fallen black cottonwood. Photo: Jeffrey St. Clair.

Reading Demons by candlelight. Photo: Jeffrey St. Clair.


I Do Pretty Well, Till After Sundown…

Booked Up
What I was reading in the dark…

Empireland: How Imperialism Has Shaped Modern Britain
Sathnam Sanghera

Morley vs. the CIA: My Unfinished JFK Investigation
Jefferson Morley
(Future of Freedom Foundation)

Flights of Passage: an Illustrated Natural History of Bird Migration
Mike Unwin and David Tipling

Sound Grammar
What I was listening to in the dark…

Let My People Go
Archie Shepp and Jason Moran

Pacific Kiss
Rat Columns
(Tough Love)

Five Peace Band Live
John McLaughlin and Chick Corea

Our Native State of Being

“You know, now that I’m older and more mature [laughs] I can easily observe a simplicity which is: music is music – doesn’t matter the form – it either communicates and touches the listeners or it doesn’t. And when I say ‘music’ I mean the musicians and artists who make the music. Music and the arts are what we have as a culture here on Earth – they’re one of the only activities that can remind us all of our basic nature – our native state of being. I believe that we are all basically aesthetic beings, so the music and the arts can always reach that positive and true part of any person because it’s native to him – it’s the real being – and it can bring us all together.”  (Chick Corea)

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