Roaming Charges: Fear of a Black Prince

Grafitti in Chiapas. Photo: Michael Sannino.

“The creed of evil has been, since the beginnings of highly industrialized society, not only a precursor of barbarism, but a mask of good.”

– Adorno, Minima Moralia

+  The ravages of COVID and the narrow victories in the elections gave the Democrats a once in a generation chance to do something big without having to barter for the votes of grifter Republicans. Instead, the Democrats ended up negotiating amongst themselves in a strange dance of downward harmonization, where every intra-party compromise resulted in those who needed the most relief ending up with less and less. In the end, Biden, Schumer and Pelosi settled for a hefty spending package (bigger than most but similar in kind to past bills) that doled out $1.9 trillion across the political spectrum, but did little or nothing to address the system rot that got us here. Instead of making structural changes to a failed private health care system, they re-routed billions back into the very drug companies, hospitals and insurance cartels that exacerbated and exploited the crisis to begin with. Millions of people and small businesses are desperate for money now and they’ll be eager to get what they can. But $1,400 isn’t going to go far, when you’ve been living off of maxed out credit cards for the last few months, while the back rent and utilities are overdue, the kids don’t have daycare and you still don’t have steady work. When the infusion of money into economy dwindles away in six months or so, we’ll be back where we started, a sputtering fossil fuel-based economy run by financial predators that is ready to topple from the next pandemic, hurricane or grid failure. Capitalism is the real virus and we’re still waiting on the antibodies to resist its daily lacerations.

+ A CNBC survey shows that CEO’s are more strongly in favor of Biden’s COVID stimulus plan than the public at large. Could it be because there’s a lot more buried in it for CEOs than the public? That certainly appears to be the case for the health insurance lobby, which securing tens of billions of dollars in subsidies to put people on subpar health plans, as well as the industries state-based operations, which can now tap into forgivable, taxpayer-backed COVID relief loans.

+ Biden has been repeating this same insipid line for the past two years in nearly every speech he gives, regardless of the subject or occasion. I don’t know who he lifted it from (probably Jon Meacham, a one-man factory of patriotic banalities), but I wish they’d take it back …

+ “We’ll take the win!” It’s precisely what so many “frustrated” progressives said about TARP, ObamaCare and the mutilation of Libya into a slave-running state.

+ The Democrats may take the win, but I doubt they are crowing too loudly about the bill’s Debt Collector Protection Provision, which (unlike the Trump-era relief packages) allows debt collectors to seize the $1400 checks before they register in your bank account.

+ Here’s Bernie greenwashing Joe’s COVID bill: “As Chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, I am proud that we passed the American Rescue Plan, which, in my view, is the MOST significant piece of legislation to benefit working families in the modern HISTORY of this country.”

+ It’s easy enough to describe what the bill does and what it fails to do without woof-woof-woofing superlatives, which is the least you might expect from a truly independent socialist with nothing to lose…

+ As with most economic forecasting, this seem a lot more like soothsaying than analysis to me…

+But it seems to be working on the home front. Last week’s YouGov/The Economist poll, among Democrats:

Joe Manchin
22% favorable
37% unfavorable
41% don’t know/not sure

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
73% favorable
12% unfavorable
15% don’t know/not sure

Bernie Sanders
87% favorable
10% unfavorable
4% don’t know/not sure

+ “Something is better than nothing” has been the motto of the Democrats since the Carter administration.

+ During the course of the pandemic, the wealth of 9 of the richest Americans (Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg, Larry Page, Sergey Brin, Larry Ellison, Bill Gates, Steve Ballmer and Michael Dell) swelled by more than $380 billion.

+ One of the legendary princes of the English monarchy was Edward III’s son, yet another Edward, who pillaged northern France during the 100 Years War and brutally suppressed uprisings at home. He would’ve become king had he not been felled by dysentery. Known as the Black Prince, Edward is still venerated with near saint-like status at Canterbury Cathedral, proving the English don’t really mind black princes, as long as it is merely descriptive of their character.

+ To give the Oprah interview some context it’s worth remembering that the British monarchy held a monopoly on the English slave trade for 150 years, from the day Elizabeth I rented the pirate John Hawkins a 700 ton Royal navy ship the Jesus of Lubeck to transport enslaved Africans.

+ In their entire genealogical history has the dissolute clan of inbred Germans squatting on the English throne produced one offspring as accomplished as Meghan Markle’s great uncle William “Happy” Evans, the dazzling shortstop for Pittsburgh’s Homestead Grays of the Negro Leagues?

+ A friend writes from Ireland: “The Hanoverian Family in Buckingham Palace is concerned about the skin color of one the grandkids, while great-grandfather Philip is in the hospital turning purple.”

+ Nigel Farage: “Nobody in the history of the world has done more for people of colour than the British Royal Family.” Even more than Trump, Nigel?

+ From Patrick Freyne’s very funny column in the Irish Times…

+ Piers Morgan, the latest victim of Self-Cancel Culture

+ As Camus observed, “There is only one really serious philosophical problem and that is self-cancelation. Deciding whether or not a life on TV is worth living is to answer the fundamental question in philosophy. All other questions follow from that.” Piers Morgan chose not to be…

+ Barbados has had enough. No more curtsying

+ “Pandemic Competence?” New York: 246 deaths per 100,000, trailing only NJ…

+ When Andrew Cuomo finally goes down, he can begin his rehabilitation by dragging his obnoxious brother with him…

+ Latinos represent 14% of Oregon’s population but 26% of its COVID cases, and only 4% of the people vaccinated to date.

+ Despotism in the name of “freedom”…and mass death.

+ Chris Milburn: “Today a guy who carries a gun to church told me I’m living in fear because I wear a mask.”

+ Are we now in the age of late-pandemic capitalism or late-capitalism pandemic?

+ In 2018, Indian Health Services spent an average of $3,779 per patient. The national spending per capita that same year was $9,409. In other words, tribal people are getting roughly 40% of the health care spending as other Americans.

+ As the Biden administration declares a relaxing of Trump’s punitive Cuba policy “isn’t a priority“, it prompts me to ask once again, what is it about little Cuba that continues to scare the USA so much? Could it be their health care system? Could it be their education system? Could it be their skilled auto mechanics? Their dance moves? Or is it simply that Cuba refuses to bend its knee?

+ One of Her Majesty’s propaganda posters from the 70s…

+ Of course, Che did have Irish ancestry.

+ According to a new report, 21% of the NED’s regime change programs against Cuba are covert. Have they been disclosed to Congress? Is there a presidential finding to support such covert destabilization schemes? If there is not, are they legal under US law?

+ Rightwing scolds like Marjorie Taylor Greene, who normally spend most of their time castigating public schools, desperately need the schools to reopen–regardless of the consequences to public health–so they can start attacking public school teachers and curricula again.

+ Robin D.G. Kelley on Harvard denying tenure to Cornel West: “The practice of using tenure as political management and faculty discipline has a long history at Harvard. And the predictable public response serves to denigrate Black intellectual production.”

+ West decided, in the words of LeBron James, to “take his talents” to Morningside Heights (Manhattan) and the lecture halls of the Union Theological Seminary.

+ It’s Harvard’s loss, though they’ll never admit it.

+ Karla Lasiter, an elementary school teacher in North Little Rock, Arkansas, made a 5-year old student clean feces out of the toilet last week with his bare hands. Lasiter stated “she doesn’t know why she made him do it.” Crystal Hill Elementary has placed her on “administrative leave.”

+ An NYPD officer shot a teenager at “point-blank” range and lied about the incident for years, falsely claiming the young man was holding a gun to the officer’s partner’s head. He was rewarded with a medal. But now that his story has fallen apart, the officer remains on NYPD payroll and is negotiating to retire with his pension.

+ Letitia James, attorney general for the state of New York, charged this week that NYPD chief Terence Monahan was “captured on video failing to adequately supervise or intervene as multiple NYPD Officers used excessive force, including baton strikes and pushes, and made unlawful arrests of peaceful protesters.”

+ Someone inside the Portland Police force leaked a false report to the press that City Commissioner JoAnn Hardesty, a fierce critic of the police department, had been involved in a hit-and-run car crash, even though she own a car that runs. This is the second time in less than a year that someone in the department has leaked incident reports regarding Hardesty to the press.

+ Meanwhile, lethal Portland Police violence has defunded Portland’s budget, again

+ Priorities, priorities….This year Alaska plans to spend $257 million on the University of Alaska, which serves 35,000 students, and $345 million on the state’s prison system, which houses 2,100 inmates. The State Department of Corrections employs 1,800 people, while UA at Fairbanks alone employs 3,700 people.

+ The way things are going in Kentucky, Breonna Taylor’s mother is much more likely to be charged for criticizing the conduct of the police who busted into her daughter’s apartment while she slept and shot her, than any of those same cops being held accountable for her death

+ Racists gonna bait…

+ In testimony submitted to the Oregon legislature this week, Oregon’s attorney general, Ellen  Rosenblum, came out in favor of ending disenfranchisement and enabling people to vote in prison.

+ If people spent even 10 minutes looking at Merrick Garland’s actual record as a federal prosecutor and judge (instead of simply comparing him to Barr or Sessions), they’d be much less exultant about his ascent to Attorney General….

+ And you’re still counting on Bill Gates to solve the pandemic and climate crisis?

+ A record 3,200 (and counting) migrant kids have been taken into ICE custody, with many of them confined for more than the legal. Of course, since this is happening under Biden, we must think of their detention as an extended sleep over…in a cage.

+ Stephen Miller may be gone, but his scumbag policies live on…

+ They go to church on Sunday, rat you out to ICE on Monday…

+ Invariably, whenever the Chinese take steps to counter the encroaching US presence on their doorstep in the Pacific (the famous Obama-Biden pivot now in full deployment), the question in the US press is: what can be done to counter China?

+ The return of the Mineshaft Gap? In a senate hearing on the US nuclear arsenal this week, Tom Cotton asked: “China could possibly have nuclear overmatch against the United States, before the end of this decade, is that correct?”

Admiral Philip Davidson: “If they were to quadruple their stockpile. Yes.”

+ Well, no, Admiral. China currently has about 320 nuclear warheads, compared to the 5,800 in the US stockpile.

+ This week AMLO denounced the Mexico-based correspondents of the New York Times, the Guardian and El País as agents of companies that pillaged Mexico during the neoliberal period…Is he wrong? Then again is AMLO himself turning out to be much different?

+ “Confederate General” is much too grandiose of a description for the racist terrorist who founded the KKK…

+ There’s probably no better proof of the power of Edward Said’s intellect than the fact that nearly 20 years after his death and 45 years after the publication of Orientalism his critics are still trying to dismiss, disparage and distort his ideas. As with Vivek Chibber’s piece here, the hit jobs are usually written in machine-like prose recapitulating the same kind of pre-fabricated planks of sectarian cant that Edward so enjoyed demolishing while he was alive.

+ “So, Major, tell me your side of the story…”

+ Major: “As I’m sure you’re aware, Oprah, there are no bad dogs, just bad owners.”

+ How many White House visitors did Don Jr. bite? He’s a sadist, but I wouldn’t support putting him. A no kill shelter is fine by me.

+ The best thing you can say about Trump is that (as far as we know) unlike Romney, Cruz and Biden he never abused a dog for political advantage.

+ Q. What hasn’t Trump taken credit for?

A. The amount of credit he owes.

+ Evangelist Robin Bullock making an impassioned plea for other Christian “prophets” to summon God to “supernaturally move” Trump back into the White House:

The stage is set, but you’re going to have to pray for the rightful president, whether he wants to walk back into this or not. You must pray that he wants to do it because God won’t make him do anything. Is it his will? Yes. Is he the president? Yes. That’s why he could just walk right back in, and God will supernaturally move things out of the way.

+ With Louis DeJoy still in charge of the Post Office, even fresh cut roses will arrive as “dead flowers by the US mail…”

+ Back in the ’60s, CIA operatives erected two plutonium-powered trans-receivers on Nanda Devi in the Himalayas as part of a plan to intercept signals from Chinese nuclear missiles. An avalanche buried one one receiver, leaving its highly radioactive components to leak into a glacier near the headwaters of the Ganges River.

+ David Wallace-Wells on climatological end times: “Most people talk as if Miami and Bangladesh still have a chance of surviving; most of the scientists I spoke with assume we’ll lose them within the century, even if we stop burning fossil fuel in the next decade. Two degrees of warming used to be considered the threshold of catastrophe: tens of millions of climate refugees unleashed upon an unprepared world. Now two degrees is our goal, per the Paris climate accords, and experts give us only slim odds of hitting it.”

+ Carbon dioxide (CO₂) averaged 416.75 ppm in February 2021, a 2.41 ppm increase since February 2020, despite the COVID slowdown in the economy.

+ A study of Epaulette sharks (native to waters off Australia and New Zealand)  found that warmer ocean conditions caused by climate change accelerated the sharks’ growing process, causing them to from eggs earlier, be born exhausted and struggle for survival.

+ New Mexico’s Senate just passed Roxy’s Law, a bill banning traps, snares & poison on state/fed public lands. More than 150,000 animals in New Mexico alone have been killed this way since 2008.

+ Two-thirds of the world’s tropical rainforests have now been seriously degraded or destroyed, with more than have of the loss since 2002 taking place in the Amazon and bordering rainforests…

+ The Amazon from carbon sink to greenhouse gas emitter?

+ Are economic sanctions driving the rapid deforestation of North Korea?

+ Burned forests are not growing back the way the once did. Some of them aren’t growing back at all. The latest research in the Rocky Mountains estimates  that by 2050, about 15% of the forests would not grow back if burned by stand-replacing fire because climate conditions would no longer suit them. In Alberta, Canada, nearly half of all existing forests could vanish by 2100. In the Southwestern US, which currently in the grip of a “megadrought”, nearly 30% of existing forests are at risk of converting to shrubland or another kind of ecosystem.

+ The toxic airborne particles dispersed by wildfires have resulted in 10 times as many respiratory-illness related hospitalizations as other types of pollution…

+ There has been a 1.6% decline in the total number of butterflies detected west of the Rocky Mountain range each year since 1977, which amounts to a devastating loss of butterflies over the forty-five years.

+ According to a new study by researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, when protections for Mexican wolves in the American Southwest were weakened, the endangered canids, nearly all of them equipped with radio collars, disappeared at a much faster rate (121%), mostly from poachers hiding evidence of their activities.

+ At least 432 manatees died or were killed in Florida last year, the most in more than a decade.

+ A study published last summer in the Ecology and Evolution found that painting a single blade on wind turbine black can reduce bird strikes by as much as 70 percent.

+ In the ongoing conflict between trees and snowmobiles, the trees seem to be winning.

+ A 70-year old Laysan albatross, known as Wisdom, has hatched a new chick, a fact which makes the Ancient Mariner’s crime all the more heinous.

+ In an essay on deathbed confessions, Neil Levy notes that Martin Heiddeger argued that “death individualises us, because at death we cease to be in social relations with others.” I wonder if this is the kind of consolation Heidegger offered Edmund Husserl, as he snitched him out the Nazis …

+ Did it really take research by Apple to “prove” to men what women have known since Lucy (AL 288-1) doubled over and cursed the moon gods while scavenging in the Awash Valley 3.2 million years ago…?

+ In his latest prank (though exactly who he is pranking at this point is unclear), Milo Yiannopoulus announces he’s now an “ex-guy,” trashes transgender people and signals his intention to redeem “gay conversion therapy.”

+ Where’s the parallel, Ross? In the first two cases, the publishers fought government censorship. In the other, the publisher and estate of the author decided not to reprint racist images in their own books that were targeted at an educational audience. Perhaps Douthat reads Ulysses as a manual for masturbation and Lolita as a how-to-guide to pedophilia? That would certainly be in keeping with the obsessions of other NYTs columnists like Brooks and Kristof…

+ Did Bari Weiss and Ross Douthat object to the withdrawal of Pernkop’s Anatomy, the illustrations for which were drawn from the dissected corpses of people who died in Nazi concentration camps? By all accounts, it had more educational value than Dr. Seuss’ books for toddlers, though substitutes are readily available for both.

+ Weiss, John McWhorter, Sam Harris have formed a new “free speech” group called Fairness for All. Yet did any of them speak up for Edward Said, Sami Al-Arian, Ward Churchill, Norman Finkelstein, David Graeber, Joseph Massad or Stephen Salaita?

+ Weiss orchestrated a virulent campaign (unsuccessful, fortunately) to get Massad run off the Columbia campus.

+ So, think of this new group as Witch Hunters Against Witch Hunts targeting people like them.

+ Yesterday’s peace candidate, today’s culture warrior…Tulsi Gabbard: “You see the final expression of cancel culture in Islamist terrorist groups like ISIS and Al Qaeda who basically go and behead those who … they deem to be infidels or heretics in order to silence them in order to protect others from being misled by those heretical ideas and in the eyes of an ISIS or Al Qaeda.”

+ Cockburn used to say that “people rich enough to fly in helicopters ought to be smart enough not to.” Apparently not Olivier Dassault, the French billionaire politician, who perished when his Eurocopter AS350 Écureuil helicopter went down in the Calvados region of northwestern France last week.

+ The super-rich’s obsession with traveling by helicopter is the closest most of the world’s poor will ever get to feeling the thrill of Madame Defarge at the foot of the guillotine…

+ I received my first piece of correspondence addressed to Mx. St. Clair this morning. I hoped that it had something to do with Malcolm, but, alas, it’s a kind gender neutral variation of MS for men, which has been kicking around since the 70s and was officially validated as part of the Queen’s lexicon by the OED in 2015. So, make way: there’s a new Mixter in the house.

+ The three plodding hours of Franklin Schaffner’s belabored depiction of the flameout of the Romanov dynasty, Nicholas and Alexandra (1971), makes for tedious viewing, enlivened only by  precious few minute of levity, including a hedonistic Rasputin (clearly modeled on Charles Manson) greedily sucking on an opium pipe and a young Brian Cox (Succession, et al) portraying Leon Trotsky, already getting quite testy with the stern and imperious Lenin…

Brian Cox as Leon Trotsky, still from Nicholas and Alexandra.

+ If you’re kicking around for something to watch in the waning (one hopes) months of the pandemic try Fassbinder’s “Gods of the Plague”. To the extent that film is “about” anything, it vividly conveys the futility of emerging from a world of prolonged confinement (prison, in this case) to resume what you once considered the rhythms of normal life. It should be shown in waiting rooms as a prerequisite for COVID vaccinations…

+ How Véra Nabokov saved Lolita, but should she have…?

+ Jazz clarinetist Michael White went on a composing binge during the pandemic: “I have a box full of songs. If anything positive has come out of COVID, it’s allowed me to focus on that. It’s become a daily routine, like brushing your teeth or eating.”

+ Marshall Allen is now 96, but still making music in the Sun Ra house (including the newly released Swirling), which had partially collapsed but is now repaired, through the kindness of neighbors, fans and fellow musicians. Play on, Marshall!

Get Into the Mix…Or is That Mx?

Booked Up
What I’m reading this week…

Except for Palestine: the Limits of Progressive Politics
Marc Lamont Hill
(New Press)

The Soviet Writers’ Union and Its Leaders: Identity and Authority Under Stalin
Carol Any
(Northwestern)

A Bullet for the Angel
Don Santina
(BookLocker)

Sound Grammar 
What I’m listening to this week…

An East African Journey
Omar Sosa
(Otá)

Metaphysics: The Lost Atlantic Album
Hasaan Ibn Ali
(Omnivore)

Neil Young Archives, Vol. 2
Neil Young
(Reprise)

An Impossible Theory

“I saw an execution in France—at Lyons. Schneider took me over with him to see it.”

“What, did they hang the fellow?”

“No, they cut off people’s heads in France.”

“What did the fellow do?—yell?”

“Oh no—it’s the work of an instant. They put a man inside a frame and a sort of broad knife falls by machinery—they call the thing a guillotine—it falls with fearful force and weight—the head springs off so quickly that you can’t wink your eye in between. But all the preparations are so dreadful. When they announce the sentence, you know, and prepare the criminal and tie his hands, and cart him off to the scaffold—that’s the fearful part of the business. The people all crowd round—even women—though they don’t at all approve of women looking on.”

“No, it’s not a thing for women.”

“Of course not—of course not!—bah! The criminal was a fine intelligent fearless man; Le Gros was his name; and I may tell you—believe it or not, as you like—that when that man stepped upon the scaffold he cried, he did indeed,—he was as white as a bit of paper. Isn’t it a dreadful idea that he should have cried—cried! Whoever heard of a grown man crying from fear—not a child, but a man who never had cried before—a grown man of forty-five years. Imagine what must have been going on in that man’s mind at such a moment; what dreadful convulsions his whole spirit must have endured; it is an outrage on the soul that’s what it is. Because it is said: ‘thou shalt not kill.’ Is he to be killed because he murdered some one else? No, it is not right, it’s an impossible theory. I assure you, I saw the sight a month ago and it’s dancing before my eyes to this moment. I dream of it, often.” (Dostoevsky, The Idiot)

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 @JeffreyStClair3

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