Roaming Charges: False Summit

Storm over the north face of Mt. Shasta, June 2021. Photo: Jeffrey St. Clair.

A Not So Quiet Word About Our Fundraiser

We’re two thirds of the way through it, and here at CounterPunch we’re getting first hand testimony about the depth of the economic Depression inflicted by COVID and the austere neoliberal response to it that put money into the pockets of the rich and left the rest of us falling further and further behind. Many CounterPunchers are rallying as they do year after year, but telling us times are tight. All we can ask is, give if you can and as much as you feel you can afford. We truly need every penny and every dollar to keep the show on the road. Dig as deep as you can in those pockets. The cause is good and the need is great. Please, use our secure server make a tax-deductible donation to CounterPunch today or purchase a subscription to CP +  or one of our scintillating books (or a crate of books!) for summer reading. (We promise we won’t call you to shake you down or sell your name to any lists.)

+ The last time a group like this got together in a villa on a Swiss lake Bryon composed the third canto of Childe Harold, Mary Shelley drafted Frankenstein, Percy tripping on laudanum wrote the Hymn to Intellectual Beauty and Polidori, pilfering Byron’s notebook, produced the first vampire novel. The best we can probably hope for from this despotic pair is that they don’t leave intent on dismembering body and with an unquenchable thirst for more blood…

+ In reading the transcripts from the post-summit press conferences, nearly every question from the US media was an attempt to goad Biden into making even more belligerent comments about Russia and, once FoxNews got the microphone, China, than he was already inclined to do. The press hasn’t changed all that much since the days of Hearst. In fact it’s probably worse, since there was still a muckraking tradition, even in Hearst’s papers, and the beat reporters themselves were largely working class then. If the administration shows any reluctance to escalate a confrontation, then the media is more than willing to light a match for them and then hide in the green room at CNN as it all goes up in flames.

+ Biden has a nasty edge and CNN’s Kaitlan Collins exposed it. So good for her. Still even her question tried to coax Biden into threatening retaliatory action by the US for perceived provocations from Russia, such as the detention of Alexei Navalny or incursions into Ukraine. By and large Biden wasn’t taking the bait. Frankly, he seems to have pretty much lost interest in Russia, an attitude that will surely incense Hillary Clinton and Rachel Maddow. Biden seems much more eager to pursue a confrontation with China, a reconfiguration of US military and economic ambitions which is likely to find the kind of bipartisan backing at home that Biden fetishizes.

+ Like most summits, this one didn’t live up to the advance billing. It was abbreviated, largely unproductive and lacking in surprises or diplomatic fireworks. We can be thankful for that, I suppose. Both Biden and Putin have been trolling each other for months, so perhaps the flaccid nature of their square-off in Geneva will put some of that dangerous posturing to rest for a few months and enable deals to be brokered on the New START and Open Skies treaties and the Iran nuclear pact. Any agreement on providing humanitarian aide to Syria will, of course, have to get the approval of Israel, a name, like climate change, that didn’t receive one mention in either press conference.

+ According to the US press, Putin is a despot because he has been in power for 17 years. I don’t disagree with this assessment. Yet, Putin was only 20 when Biden entered the US senate. And he has nwo spent nearly 50 years as one of the key powerbrokers in the US government, 35 more years than Stalin served in the Soviet regime.

+ “Mocked?” It’s one of the few true things Trump ever said. Yet, denial of the millions of corpses amassed by US foreign policy across the world since the end of WW 2 is the liberal’s version of the campaign against Critical Race Theory.

+ In what was otherwise not a very energetic performance by the Russian president, Putin was at his sharpest, when exposing this kind of hypocrisy in the western media and Biden’s incessant claims about been a defender of human rights.

Generally speaking, responsibility for everything that takes place in our countries ultimately rests with the political leadership and top officials, that is, regarding who is guilty of what and who is the killer. You see, people, including the leaders of various organisations, are killed in American cities every day. You can barely say a word there before you are shot in the face or in the back, regardless of who is nearby, children or other adults. I recall a situation when a woman left her car and started running, and she was shot in the back. All right, these are criminal matters. Take a look at Afghanistan: as many as 120 people were killed there in one blow; entire wedding parties were wiped out. Yes, this could have been a mistake; such things happen. But using drones to shoot people who are obviously civilians in Iraq – what was that? Who is responsible? Who is the killer?

Or take human rights. Listen, Guantanamo is still open. This is contrary to all imaginable rules, to international law or American laws, but it is still functioning. The CIA prisons that were opened in many countries, including in Europe, where they subjected people to torture, – what is this? Is this respect for human rights? I don’t think so, do you?

+ Although it wouldn’t have helped Assange’s case, I was surprised that Putin, who has a PhD in whataboutism, didn’t respond to the questions about the jailing of Navalny by pointing the US’s pursuit of it’s own political dissidents and whistleblowers from Reality Winner & Snowden to Assange and John Stirling.

+ The USSR used to condemn the US for lynchings of blacks. Putin condemned the US for allowing BLM to protest in the streets.

+ Putin on BLM protests: “We saw disorder, destructions, violations of law. We feel sympathy with the USA, but we don’t want that to happen on our territory.”

+ Who knew Putin was an Orioles fan? “There is no happiness in life, there is only a mirage on the horizon, so cherish that.”

+ It’s so hot in Geneva that Biden had to take off his jacket five minutes into his press conference. But not a word about climate change from him or Putin…

+ I wish the Russian translators who are interpreting Biden’s comments to Putin could retranslate what he’s saying back to us. Maybe it would make more sense.

+ From listening to Biden’s remarks this afternoon, I found it hard to tell which country’s history the president knows less about: Russia’s or his own.

+ Biden: “”How would it be if the United States were viewed by the rest of the world as interfering with the elections directly of other countries and everybody knew it? What would it be like if we engaged in activities that he engaged in? It diminishes the standing of a country.” Almost everyone in the world knows this already, except, of course, most Americans, who prefer to be kept in the dark…

+ Biden has an especially perverse understanding of what took place in post-Gorbachev Russia, apparently unaware of the role the “Harvard boys” played in facilitating the looting of the Russian economy.

+ Putin took a lot of questions, some absurdly hostile, from the US press. Biden is taking questions almost exclusively from the US press, including Radio Free Europe, then lost his cool after getting a fairly routine question from CNN’s Kaitlan Collins. Biden berated her for simply inquiring why he had confidence that Putin would abide by the few agreements that had been made at the summit. Had Trump reacted like this, he’d have been excoriated as a misogynist. Good for Collins for bringing out the inner Biden, he tries so hard to conceal…

+ In many ways, Sen. Robert Menendez, the scourge of Cuba who the Democrats made Chair of the Foreign Relations Committee, is worse than Manchin. It’s hard to think of a single way that he’s any better: “I want him to speak to Putin the way he knows who Putin is. Putin’s a killer. He said it, he was right when he said it.”

+ The level of cognitive dissonance it takes to describe yourself as the leader of the “free world”, while simultaneously overseeing one the planet’s largest prison populations is truly inspirational…

+ I can’t help but think the Supreme Court ruling upholding what’s left of Obamacare is welcome news to both Republicans (who want to continue to fight–that is raise money–against it) and Democrats (who don’t want to be forced by circumstance to replace it with a single-payer system). So there the ACA remains, doing little more than forcing everyone into the grip of the health insurance industry, where the real death panels do their grim actuarial calculations of life, death, misery and profit.

+ The Radcliffe Institute at Harvard reviewed 7,305 Black Lives Matter protests that occurred after the murder of George Floyd. What they found may surprise Vladimir Putin: the overall level of violence and property destruction was minimal and most of the violence that did take places was leveled against BLM protesters. And that doesn’t include the violence waged by police, who made at least 8500 arrests and used tear gas against at least 210 different protests.

+ It’s very welcome news, indeed, that Reality Winner has been released from prison for “good behavior.” But Reality Winner was exhibiting “good behavior” when she “leaked” information to The Intercept. Some might say it was model behavior. Biden needs to pardon her and the reporters at the Intercept who burned their source need to apologize, abjectly.

+ People who are “surprised” by Merrick Garland never took the time to find out who Garland is or what his record was on civil liberties, police power & gvt secrecy. They just assumed that because Obama wanted him on the Supreme Court and McConnell opposed him he must be a good guy with progressive views on the Constitution. That assumption would be wrong.

+ Predictably, Biden’s anti-domestic “terrorism” initiative lumps Antifa, environmentalists and animal rights groups in with the neo-Nazis….

+ Obama from the Audacity of Hope. You can see how easy it was for him to become the deporter-in-chief…

+ Meanwhile, the conditions at Guantanamo, already one of the world’s most macabre prisons, have deteriorated since Biden assumed office. I think to die in Gitmo is better than to stay alive—it is a lonely life and prolonged detention is prolonged hopelessness, Life here is like a nightmare,” Asadullah Haroon Gul, who has been entombed in Gitmo for 14 years, told Vice News.

+ Ask Biden, Schumer and Pelosi. Hell, the public option isn’t even an option anymore. It was just political clickbait from a party that remains a wholly-owned subsidiary of the health insurance industry. The GOP doesn’t care if you have insurance. The Democrats want to force you to buy it, even if it’s crap…

+ Let’s face it, you’re not really prime minister of Israel until you’ve bombed Gaza. Almost any pretext will do. Even, yes, balloons.

+ CNN’s latest euphemism for Gaza as a “coastal enclave” makes the besieged strip sound like Cabo on the Mediterranean.

+ The Israeli “unity” cabinet is looking more and more like the newest slate of Marvel villains: we’re hip, we’re sexy, we’re going to drone your kids, blast your sister with “skunk water” and bulldoze your mother’s home…

+ Not a word out of the Biden administration about the rupture in the “ceasefire” agreement they were so enthusiastic about last week, reconfirming Biden’s career-long belief that there should be “no daylight between” the US and Israel.

+ Over the last few decades, the wealth of billionaire family dynasties has grown at 10 times the rate of ordinary families. Since 1983, the five wealthiest dynastic families in the U.S. (Walton, Koch, Mars, Cargill-MacMillan, Lauder) have seen their wealth grow by a median of 2,484%.

+ CEO compensation package in 2020 (h/t Public Citizen):

Hilton: $59.9 million
Chipotle: $38 million
Carnival: $13.3 million
Dollar Tree: $11.3 million

Average worker salary:

Hilton: $28,608
Chipotle: $13,127
Carnival: $27,151
Dollar Tree: $15,816

+ In the latest provocative machination from the guy who pledged to end the Forever Wars, Biden is actively considering installing a permanent Naval Task Force in the Pacific with the specific charge to “counter China”…

+ Wherever the CIA go, dem drugs will flow…Not only is Afghanistan leading the world in opium production, it has also cornered the global black market in ephedra, called  oman in much of the world, which is now being used as a meth substitute.

+ Roger Waters on Mark Zuckerberg: “How did this little prick who started out as ‘she’s pretty, we’ll give her a four out of five. How did we give him any power? And yet here he is, one of the most powerful idiots in the world.”

+ Biden reveals himself to be just another pro-death penalty Catholic, as his Justice Department urged the Supreme Court to reinstate the death sentence against Dzhokhar Tsarnaev that was set aside last year by a federal appeals court…

+ Meanwhile, in a rare display of bipartisan support for infrastructure improvements, the state of Arizona is refurbishing its gas chamber in anticipation of restarting executions of death row inmates.

+ Interesting comments on the Delta Variant from the Tweet feed of Dr. Bob Wachter, chair of the UCSF School of Medicine…

If you’re fully vaxxed, I wouldn’t be too worried, especially if you’re in a highly vaxxed region….

Unvaxxed may well do OK for a while, probably through summer [due to the large number of vaccinated people]. But fall/winter now scares me a lot, much more than it did 2 weeks ago….

For Delta, Pfizer dose 1 is only ~33% protective.…/vaccines-highly-effective-against-b-1… This creates 2 problems: 1) People stay vulnerable until after shot 2 (& many let guard down earlier); 2) Loss in efficacy for dose 1 points to some degree of vaccine/immune escape. And – though this isn’t proven – I’d worry that a fully vaccinated elder, or someone whose immunity stems from an infection >12 mths ago, won’t be sufficiently protected over time, if immunity falls below a threshold needed to thwart Delta….

For a vaccinated person, watch the Delta % in your region (currently ~6% in the U.S. & rising) & Covid cases in your community.…/delta-variant-makes-6-us-covid… If you’re seeing more cases & more Delta, I’d restore some precautions (esp. if you’re high risk) – at least indoor mask wearing (if you’ve stopped; BTW, I haven’t) in places w/ unvaxxed/unmasked folks.

I’ll now bet we’ll see significant (incl. many hospitalizations/deaths) surges this fall in low-vaccine populations due to combo of seasonality, Delta’s nastiness, & “back to normal” behavior…

For me, Delta adds to my resolve to keep mask on indoors when unvaxxed/unmasked people may be around. And I’m getting psychologically prepped for some restrictions to return in fall (tho highly vaxxed places like SF will likely do fine). Nobody wants that, but the virus doesn’t care what we want. For unvaxxed, I wish you well but my sympathy is flagging. Your bad choice is looking worse.

+ Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts takes a stab at explaining Critical Race Theory and why it’s such a threat to the impressionable minds of American children…

+ If Florida kids weren’t curious about CRT before, they’ll be scrambling for those forbidden books now. Florida was also one of the first states to prosecute rappers for their lyrics, 2LiveCrew, which helped make hip hop the most popular music in the world.

+ Imagine being the moronic network executive at ABC who buried this extraordinary interview with James Baldwin, thereby proving by his actions everything that Baldwin said in it:

“White people go around, it seems to me, with a very carefully suppressed terror of Black people—a tremendous uneasiness. They don’t know what the Black face hides. They’re sure it’s hiding something. What it’s hiding is American history. What it’s hiding is what white people know they have done, and what they like doing. White people know very well one thing; it’s the only thing they have to know. They know this; everything else, they’ll say, is a lie. They know they would not like to be Black here. They know that, and they’re telling me lies. They’re telling me and my children nothing but lies.”

+ Whole new level of respect for the reactionary brat Madison Cawthorn (though for reasons he may not fully appreciate)…

+ The House voted to revoke the 2002 AUMF in Iraq, which is long overdue. But it’s the 2001 AUMF that continues to authorize the forever wars…

+ Shirley Chisholm: “The liberals in the House strongly resemble liberals I have known through the last two decades in the civil rights conflict. When it comes time to show on which side they will be counted, they excuse themselves.” (In Her Own Words, Jill Ker Conway)

+ Hello? Hello? Hello? Hello?
Is there anybody in there?
Just nod if you can hear me
Is there anyone home?

+ USA! USA!! USA!!! Death Valley, California, hit124ºF on Weds., making it not only the hottest spot in the US but also lhe hottest location in the world, as temperatures spiked 10 to 30 degrees above average across the western US.

+ The Week the Salmon Died:

“An extreme heat period for the Sacramento Valley is expected for the third week of June, and it is still only spring. Winter-run and spring-run adult salmon that made it to the spawning grounds below Shasta and Keswick dams earlier this winter and spring are very likely to experience highly stressful water temperatures (>60ºF) for holding and spawning. Because it is releasing too much agricultural water now, Reclamation is likely to run out of cold water in Shasta by the time that fall-run salmon arrive in Redding in October and November. The drumbeat of dying salmon will be pounding all summer and into the fall.”

+ Scenes from I-5: Using water from Oregon, Nevada, Utah, Wyoming, Arizona, Mexico and Colorado, California will make the desert sprout…Pistachios, which require 1,362 gallons of freshwater per pound!

Pistachio stand, near Kettleman City, CA. Photo: Jeffrey St. Clair.

+ Meanwhile, 400 miles north, the water level at Lake Shasta has now dropped more than 150 feet below the boat ramp at Antlers.

Sign for Antlers boat ramp at old water level. Photo: Jeffrey St. Clair.

The end of the Antlers boat ramp. Photo: Jeffrey St. Clair.

Current level of Lake Shasta as seen from end of the Antlers boat ramp. Photo: Jeffrey St. Clair.

Lake Shasta from about 100 feet below Antlers boat ramp. Photo: Jeffrey St. Clair.

Lake Shasta from Antlers boat ramp. Photo: Jeffrey St. Clair.   

Watch were you ride that ORV on the lake bed, son! Photo: Jeffrey St. Clair

+ According to the UK’s Climate Change Committee, heat-related deaths could triple to more than 7,000 a year in the UK by 2050 unless urgent efforts to tackle climate change are made.

+ What NASA describes as a “phenomenon” might more accurately be described as the future…

+ Climate change doesn’t give a damn about your quaint anachronistic concept of the “seasons“…

+ Between 2007 and 2020, oil production in the tar sands of Alberta swelled by 113.7%, from 8.3 million cubic meters a year to 17.8 million. Yet, oil and gas jobs in the region feel over he same period by 12.95%, from 150,000 to 132,800. This has long been the strategy of the oil industry: increase production while slashing the workforce.

+ Maybe the Veep should contemplate how little snow there is in the Tetons, why this might be the case and then rethink her conservation priorities, and instead of pushing for increase access, usually by car, to already overburdened national parks and wilderness areas, urge the hordes of eco-tourists to, as she did the Guatemalans, “Do not come. Do not come. Stay home.”

+ The New York Times ran a big piece on the “quiet strength of old-growth forests” illustrated by a car speeding down a road running through the heart of the redwoods…

+ Once there were trout in Pasadena, kids. Too bad you didn’t get a chance to see them…

+ When there’s a power cut, what happens to my bitcoins?

+ I watched Robert Altman’s “Images” (1972) last night, a psycho-sexual thriller, that was pretentious in all the ways Altman’s films normally aren’t. And in this case Altman couldn’t blame the source material, since he wrote it. But almost every scene features Susannah York and I was reminded again of what a powerful screen presence she was, an actress who maybe never really liked acting and thus allowed herself to be cast in movies that wasted her talent. York really wanted to be a writer and the plot of Images, such as it is, hinges on a fantasy story that York herself wrote. One of my favorite stories about her is her refusal to attend the Academy Awards after she was nominated for her terrific role in They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? York said she felt it was rude to be nominated for a prize without being asked first if she wanted it. She said: “I don’t think much of the film, or of myself in it.” Images was shot at Ardmore Studios, near Cockburn’s Irish hometown of Youghal. My favorite York role is one of her first, as Freud’s patient “Anna O.” (called Cecily Koertner in the film) in John Huston’s The Secret Passion, a mangled biopic based, very loosely, on Sartre’s screenplay, with Montgomery Clift almost comically miscast as Siggy.

Still from Robert Altman’s “Images.”

+ The most compelling argument I’ve seen so far for not resuming live music festivals…

+ According to a recent study by Primephonic, 46% of Americans can’t name a single classical music composer.

+ Revenues for the US recording industry remain 46% below 1999 levels.

+ Dylan says Howlin’ Wolf was the greatest live performer he ever saw. Hard to disagree what that assessment, if you exclude Wendy O. Williams and the Plasmatics, of course.

It Makes You Feel So Sure, It Makes You Feel So Virile, You’s Like to Rule the World…

Booked Up
What I’m reading this week…

Frida Kahlo and My Left Leg
Emily Rapp Black
(Notting Hill Editions)

Terminal Boredom: Stories
Izumi Suzuki

Ahab’s Rolling Sea: a Natural History of Moby-Dick
Richard J. King

Sound Grammar
What I’m listening to this week…

There is No End
Tony Allen
(Blue Note)

Butterfly 3000
King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard

Julian Lage
(Blue Note)

They Hummed of Mystery

“Once there were brook trout in the streams in the mountains. You could see them standing in the amber current where the white edges of their fins wimpled softly in the flow. They smelled of moss in your hand. Polished and muscular and torsional. On their backs were vermiculate patterns that were maps of the world in its becoming. Maps and mazes. Of a thing which could not be put back. Not be made right again. In the deep glens where they lived all things were older than man and they hummed of mystery.” (Cormac McCarthy, The Road)

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