Roaming Charges: Lost in Biden’s Triangle

Tarpaper window, Bombay Beach. Photo: Jeffrey St. Clair.

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+ When Bill Clinton and Dick Morris perfected triangulation politics, the strategy was to work with the GOP to strangle progressive policies and advance a neoliberal agenda. Biden’s strategy takes this one step further and relies on Democrats to play the role of the 90s GOP politicians, many of whom were to the left of Sinema and Manchin.

+ Bubba has gone curiously silent lately, but Morris continues to philosophize, largely on Newsmax, where he could be seen this week offering a novel interpretation for  the subliminal dangers lurking in Critical Race Theory:  “What does this do to the children? What does this do to a kid? A quarter of all Black marriages are intermarriage, racially. So what does that do to a Black boy whose mother is Black and his father is white? What does he think? ‘My father exploited my mother and that’s how he got successful?’ Does this reinforce the Oedipal notion that all kids have wanting to kill their father and marry their mother?”

+ In the 1990s, the Chicago Bulls ran the triangle offense. No one really understood how it worked, but the ball always seemed to end up in the hands of Michael Jordan, who would sink the shot. Biden runs his own version of the triangle, where the bills end up the hands of Manchin and Sinema, who sink them.

+ Biden is going to spend more time “bridge building” with Republicans than actually building bridges.

+ The ballyhooed “bipartisan” infrastructure plan is pretty much Trump’s old infrastructure plan, which opens the doors to widespread privatization, selling off federal assets to pay for new construction project. And Biden seems just fine with that…

+ The Biden administration just went to court and urged a federal judge to throw out legal challenges by environmental groups and Native tribes of Trump’s decision to approve the ghastly Enbridge pipeline, which will ferry 760,000 barrels of oil a day extracted from the tar sands of Alberta across Minnesota, including tribal lands, to Lake Superior. Seen enough? There’s plenty more yet to come…

+ Biden is preparing to endorse a bill that will finally eliminate the sentencing disparities between power and crack cocaine, the cynical and outrageous policy he helped write as chair of the Senate Judiciary committee that put some many thousands of young blacks into prison for extended periods. This is still a thing because when Obama had a chance to do it, he only reduced the disparity to a ratio of 18 to 1, in a typical half-assed compromise that Biden fully endorsed. By that time everyone, including people like Bob Barr, knew any disparity was racially-motivated.

+ Here’s the real Biden, at last: He wants to redirect money meant for people who have lost their jobs, face mounting debts and eviction and give to it to augment already bloated police budgets, instead. No malarky. This is what he’s always be about. Austerity for the poor, enforced by more and more cops….”President Biden is expected to address a rise in gun violence in many cities, saying funding from a Covid-19 relief package could go toward hiring more law-enforcement personnel…”

+ Meanwhile, the pandemic, which is far from over despite incessant Biden’s gloating, led to the greatest decline in life expectancy in the US since World War II. According to research published in the British Medical Journal, the COVID hit black and Hispanics the most fiercely, “losing 3.88 and 3.25 years of life expectancy respectively, compared with a decline of 1.36 years for whites.”

+ The Delta Variant is here and it’s carving it’s way through the states with low vaccination rates, just as predicted.

+ Biden’s gun violence reduction plan is guaranteed to do at least one thing: increase gun violence by police.

+ Biden’s proposed funding for federal law enforcement agencies is as much as Russia spent on its entire military last year.

+ With the return of Terry McAuliffe, the future of Virginia looks a lot like the Clinton-Biden crime bill…

+ Day by day, Merrick Garland is crushing the life out of one liberal revenge fantasy after another. Just this week Garland rejected calls for an internal investigation into the actions of the Justice Department under Trump. A few days earlier, word leaked that Garland’s DoJ is preparing to defend Trump in lawsuits brought against him over the January 6 Capitol riots.

+ Biden is still running concentration camp for kids, where 14,661 children are held in dire conditions, where boys are constantly trying to escape, girls are sinking into depression and experiencing panic attacks, and the guards are banning pencils, toothbrushes, forks and other basic implements to try to prevent teens from attempting to hurt or kill themselves.

+ Obama came out this week in favor of Joe Manchin’s voting rights “compromise,” begging the question of how you can compromise on a “right.” But this timid measure is reflective who Obama is and always has been. Recall that his hand-picked mentor in the Senate was the ur-Manchin himself, Joe Lieberman, which makes the Right’s relentless campaign to portray him as a Mau-Mau in a Hart Schaffner Marx suit all the more ludicrous.

+ The House of Representatives, supposedly the most “democratic” institution in our political system, is in practice an autocracy, whether controlled by Democrats or Republicans. The Speaker and her leadership have total power. Most members have nothing to do and therefore they do nothing, but raise money from lobbyists or act out for the C-SPAN cameras, like Matt Gaetz and Marjorie Taylor Greene. Then when they do something, it’s usually the very something someone else is doing or has already done, and done better and more impartially than they will, which is why no should take anything they do seriously. And most don’t. Witness Pelosi’s “select committee” on 1/6/21. It’s “select” because the members will be “selected” to ask “select” questions where the answers are already known and avoid questions that might place those in power in a precarious situation or unflattering light. This system works for both sides. But not for us and it hasn’t in a long, long time. If ever.

+ 58% of American Catholics support the death penalty, all of whom can take communion on demand and are, of course, the most likely to need it…

+ Speaking of communion, does the Eucharist still have salvational power when the hand that places it on your tongue is still sticky from molesting an altar boy?

+ The UN voted 184-2 this week to end the 60-year old blockade against Cuba. The two no votes? The US and Israel.

+ While Biden was assailing Beijing for the closure Apple Daily, the last opposition paper in Hong Kong, calling it a “sad day for media freedom,” his very own Justice and Commerce Departments were seizing the domains of 33 Iranian new sites, including PressTV, which has featured many CounterPunch writers over the years.

+ Is it any wonder that the United States ranks last in media trust — at 29% — among 92,000 news consumers surveyed in 46 countries.

+ I feel like I’ve been reading this same headline for the last 30 years…”Progressive Groups Ramp Up Pressure on Feinstein.”

+ If you were surprised that the assassins of Jamal Khashoggi were trained in the US under the auspices of the State Department, you might also want to acquaint yourself with the fact that Saudi pilots are being taught how to bomb Yemen at US air bases in Florida and New Mexico. The “training” in mass slaughter from above is being conducted under the IMET program, which is designed to “expose Saudi military personnel to U.S. values, ideas, and policies.” From the carnage inflicted on Yemen in the last 8 years, I’d say they’ve learned their lessons well.

+ It’s not just the Saudis who come here to learn the finer points of torture and killing. As Sy Hersh reported years ago, the US has been training the MEK (for years a stable fixture on the US terrorist list) to commit assassinations and acts of sabotage inside Iran…

+ How much expert training does it take for heavily armed thugs to detain, beat up, suffocate to death and dismember with a bone-saw a paunchy, out of shape journalist? Does the US State Department provide a certificate for this kind of proficiency?

+ Like many of the malign policies Trump pushed to the max, the training of the Saudi butchers began under….Obama: “The State Department initially granted a license for the paramilitary training of the Saudi Royal Guard to Tier 1 Group starting in 2014.” And, according to the NYT’s reporting, may be continuing under Biden:

A (Biden) State Department spokesman declined to confirm whether it awarded licenses to Tier 1 Group for the Saudi training. “This administration insists on responsible use of U.S. origin defense equipment and training by our allies and partners, and considers appropriate responses if violations occur,” said the spokesman, Ned Price. “Saudi Arabia faces significant threats to its territory, and we are committed to working together to help Riyadh strengthen its defenses.”

+ From Tim Weiner’s invaluable history of the CIA, Legacy of Ashes: “[The CIA] feared there might be five [reps in Congress] who understood the first thing aboutt the agency. So the staffs of the congressional oversight committees were quickly seeded with career CIA officers who could look after their own.”

+ Biden’s belligerent National Security advisor Jake Sullivan announced this week that preventing Iran from getting a nuclear weapons was now the “paramount priority” of US foreign policy. By the MAD doctrine the US has terrorized the world with since the 1960s, you’d think Iran *getting* a nuclear weapon would be the priority, if the US really wanted to prevent Israel from using one of its 400 nuclear bombs in the Middle East.

+ The bombs used by Israel on the deadliest night of its Gaza airstrikes were made in the US by Boeing and according to international law are prohibited from use in civilian areas.

+ During a February 2020 meeting in the White House, while the administration debated whether to bring infected Americans home for care, Trump asked: “Don’t we have an island that we own? What about Guantánamo?” They almost certainly would have gotten better health care in Cuba, though not in the prison.

+ Trump apparently pressured the Justice Department to try to make SNL stop “teasing” him. I would have filed an amicus brief in support of Trump, just spare myself from endless clips of Alec Baldwin’s cringeworthy “impersonations”…

+ Trump reportedly hoped that COVID would “take out” John Bolton. Millions around the world shared the same dream.

+ In an interview last week, Eric Adams, likely the next mayor of NYC, flaunted his love for Israel and suggests he might retire in… the Golan Heights, occupied Syrian territory.

+ Adams, currently the Brooklyn borough president, is a former NYPD captain, who has defended the chokehold and vowed to bring back stop-and-frisk searches.

+ Critical Race Theory is no longer a theory. The case has been proved by the reaction against it. The theory is now an axiom. Let’s call it such.

+ If it took a prison to save your town was your town really worth saving?

+ Under Louis DeJoy’s new plan mail will get to Death Valley and Bundyville faster than it gets to SF and LA. Why is this miscreant still running the Post Office?

+ Goldman Sachs, eat your heart out: When the economy collapsed after COVID, the Trump economic team–Mnuchin, Kushner and Jerome Powell–turned to Lawrence Fink and Blackwater to design the recovery plan, a plan that Blackwater was deeply invested in.

+ So Rudy loses his law license in New York (for lying about the results of the 2020 election) at the very moment when no one in the right mind would ever hire him as their attorney. Yet how many times did Giuliani lie, dissemble & conceal exculpatory evidence as a federal prosecutor, sending away innocent people for long prison terms or encourage the NYPD to trample New Yorkers civil liberties as mayor, to the acclaim of the city’s elite and tabloids?

+ Boris looking for his Falklands moment won’t find it in the Black Sea, though his ship & its crew may find Davy Jones’ locker…

+ Too bad Tennyson isn’t around to versify the latest encounter in the Crimea…

+ The first graph shows the horrifying excess mortality rate in Brazil. The second shows the very scary mean age for COVID mortality, which is rapidly declining (ie, more and more younger people are dying)…

+ There are encouraging signs that Bolsonaro’s lethal brand of populist machismo has worn out its welcome. A new poll shows Lula demolishing the thuggish president if the elections were held this week…

+ What happened to God’s will? It’s been in probate court since Nietzsche found his body on the side of the road, took his pulse and pronounced him dead and all of God’s children filed competing claims…

+ Can we get a look at Cole Beasley’s brain scan?

+ According to a searing report by my pal Ken Silverstein over at Washington Babylon, during a 2008 campaign stop, GOP fire-breather Allen West vowed to slip into his Democratic opponent’s home and cut his throat while he slept in bed with his wife.

+ Keith McNally, owner of the trendy NYC restaurant Balthazar, said that after letting his waiters enjoy a glass of rosé before starting their shifts, the tips increased by 5 percent.

+ As Governor Ron DeSantis prepares to have Florida’s teachers and students interrogated on their political beliefs, it’s perhaps worth mentioning that the average elevation for the peninsular state of Florida is 6 feet, with 25% the state having an elevation of 3 feet or lower. I wonder how many understand the implications of this? Will Florida’s teachers have to refrain from teaching geography, too?

+ Ground temperatures topped 118F in the Arctic Circle this week, but in the US the dinner table conversation has gone like this: “Honey, did you know the high school wants to teach our kids that George Washington kept slaves?”

+ Mister Weather DJ, I’m pretty sure this isn’t the kind of Heat Wave Martha and the Vandellas were talking about. Can you spin the other one?

+ California deserts have lost nearly 40% of their plants due hotter, drier conditions driven by climate change.

+ The amount of water (acre-feet per acre) needed to grow specific crops in California (weed excepted, which consumes about 1.4 acre-feet of water per acre)…

+ A NYT study found no tuna DNA in Subway “tuna” sandwiches. Good. But now they’ll probably start using tuna again. Bad.

+ Welcome back! As Lake Foul shrinks, Glen Canyon reemerges.

+ The Half-Moon wolf pack’s litter of pups goes out for a stroll in the Boundary Waters…

+ The BLM is reaching new levels of absurdity under Biden. In their budget request to Congress, they pandering for more money to remove (ie, slaughter) wild horses from public lands by saying they contribute to climate change, when the very same agency leases (or in many cases simply gives away) 90% of its land for grazing by the biggest methane producers on the planet: domestic cattle.

+ The irrigation of the lemon tree (and other) plantations is part of what’s making the water taste like dirt…

+ The total number of graves near the former Marieval Indian Residential School, now at 750, is expected to be over three times higher than the 215 unearthed recently in Kamloops.

+ Canada wasn’t the only country with residential schools that practiced cultural and linguistic genocide and left behind a legacy of missing and dead native kids. The motto was “kill the Indian to save the child.” Often they killed both.

+ In thinking of the bodies of indigenous kids that keep resurfacing at residential schools in Canada and the US, my mind flashed to the chilling scene in Jean-Pierre Melville’s remarkable first film, Le Silence de la Mer, where the Francophile German officer goes to Paris to meet his old college roommate, now in the SS, and learns of the death camps: “The work at Treblinka is done. There will be no one left to judge.” That’s the malignant hubris of genocide: to believe that your crimes will be so absolute in nature that they will never be exposed.

Howard Vernon as the German officer in Le Silence de la Mar.

+ In Canadian civil disobedience cases, largely over pipelines and mining sites, 76% of injunctions filed against First Nations by corporations have been granted, while 81% of injunctions filed against corporations by First Nations have been denied.

+ The condos in the shoddily built and maintained Miami high rise that collapsed were selling for a million a unit. What were they getting for their money, except a view of the Atlantic getting a little closer every day, steadily gnawing away at the foundations?

+ I’ve spent most of the week in a lingering daze, since learning that my brother-in-law, Gil Willson, died early Monday morning in his Maryland home. He was 68. His death was sudden, unexpected, and thus surreal, hard to process–to the extent we can process death at all. We hadn’t seen each other in a couple of years, but we talked often, especially after COVID, and the tone of his voice is still very clear in my mind. Conversations with Gil were always wide-ranging, traversing from familial gossip, to politics, to sports, to history. He liked to argue, but in a good-natured way, and not to win but to learn or provoke. It never took long before we were both laughing. Gil had a propulsive laugh that crackled with spirit even when transmitted over cell towers from 3500 miles away. Gil was a reader, mostly of history, and he liked to talk over what he was reading or take off in his truck to visit the site of a Civil War battle he’d just read about it. He had a curious and open mind, in an age when minds (left, right and center) have become increasingly rigid and closed to fresh ideas. Our politics weren’t the same, but that just gave us more to talk about and it never became contentious or mean-spirited, which remarkable given all of the tripwires and landmines in our current predicament. Gil went to school at a small liberal arts college in Lexington, Kentucky called Transylvania. I remember one of the first times we met that he was surprised I knew about “Transy” and had actually been to the campus as kid, when my mother, who was a professor and coach at Franklin College in Indiana, had brought me down along with one of her field hockey or tennis teams. He had fond recollections of his years in the Ohio Valley, which few do, and it gave us something to talk about when we didn’t know each other very well. That and baseball, which we’d both played. Gil was a catcher and a very tough and demonstrative player, as the best ones usually are. Gil was six years older than I was and when we met already a family, with twins and a step-daughter. He had obligations and a “real” job and even gave me one for a few weeks. I worked for Gil for a few weeks one summer, just out of college. He was a general contractor. The first job was replacing a roof on a big house with steep pitches. I knew nothing about roofing, but I wasn’t scared of heights and knew how to climb, so I figured I’d be a natural at it. It took about five minutes to learn that the only thing climbing rock faces and pulling off a roof had in common was the law of gravity. He laughed pretty hard as I tried not to freak out 30 feet above the pavement and, unlike a lot of contractors, actually worked with his crew, teaching a neophyte like me some of the basic survival tricks of the trade. So we worked side by side a couple of weeks, along with his two regulars, Jimmy Snowden and Brother Clark, who’d also worked for Gil’s father. Jimmy was black, Brother was a white redneck, who sang Lay Down Sally for about 6 hours straight–day after day. But we all got along and by the end of the week, even I was humming Clapton’s infectious doggerel. A generous employer, Gil bought us lunch every day. The same lunch. Big Macs, fries and Mountain Dew from McDonalds. It was a routine, which seems comical in the passing light of 40 years, that I recall really missing soon after the job was over and I went back to Baltimore to spent my days reading Pynchon and Foucault. Gil was a huge presence not only in his family (in ways that are too profound and personal to even mention here), but also in his community, the old Quaker village of Sandy Spring. He was someone who could be counted on. He took responsibility for others. He cared. He didn’t interfere in your life, but he was there when you needed him. Is there a better standard for how to live?

+ Here’s Scott Moncrieff, the great translator of Proust, writing to Oscar Wilde’s son, Vyvyan Holland: “I am going to translate the complete works of Pirandello, in two hundred and eighteen volumes; it will be very difficult as I do not know any Italian.” This raises questions. When Moncrieff was talking about translating Pirandello, he was in Italy working for British intelligence, tasked with spying on the rise of Italian fascism. One wonders about the veracity of his dispatches back to London, if he didn’t know the language. Of course, Moncrieff was also a poet (as well as the lover of Wilfred Own) and we know the allure Il Duce held for several of the leading versifiers of the age, so perhaps it’s just as well he didn’t speak the language.

+ The sight of the Mets’ Jacob de Grom getting stop-and-frisked as he walked off the mound after setting down Atlanta in the first inning was yet another stupid example of the over-policing of baseball. Leave it to MLB to turn umpires into TSA agents.

+ Yvonne Lanauze (aka, Eve Duke) the 96-year-old singer who toured and recorded with Duke Ellington, is now giving weekly concerts at her senior care facility in Vancouver.

+ If he keeps going at this pace, jazz innovator Anthony Braxton’s most productive years may still be ahead of him:

“As a young guy, I used to think, ‘Wow, if I could just get my work done and live to 30, then I’ll be the happiest guy in the world because I’d be able to live that long.’ And suddenly when I got to 30, it was like, ‘What?! I’m just getting started.’ And that would happen [at] 40, 50, 60 and now 70. So it’s really far out.”

+ Ted Gioia: “Clive Davis, who fired Ornette Coleman from Columbia Records, was the same person who launched the career of Kenny G. The symbolic resonance here is almost more than I can handle right now.”

+ When I was in LA last month, I drove down Coldwater Canyon several times, where on a sharp curve there is a fan memorial to Eddie Van Halen, piled up with Eddie-like mementos: picks, beer cans, pill bottles, panties. Why here, I wondered? Turns out it’s just below 5150, Eddie’s studio. But 5150 isn’t the street address. Eddie named the studio after the draconian California Code which allows the state to place people on involuntary psychiatric holds (ie. civil commitment), a kind of lockup from which you may never be fully liberated (See: Britney Spears). Van Halen’s 1984 was recorded here, which seems apt. Rock on, Eddie.

+ “No, we can’t do that…” The Beatles watching the Jimi Hendrix Experience, when Hendrix opened his set with Sgt. Peppers, which had only been released three days earlier.

Booked Up
What I’m reading this week…

Culture Strike: Art and Museums in an Age of Protest
Laura Raicovich

“We Called Each Other Comrade:” Charles H. Kerr & Company, Radical Publishers
Allan Ruff
(PM Press)

Being and Swine: The End of Nature (As We Knew It)
Fahim Amir
(Between the Lines)

Sound Grammar
What I’m listening to this week…

Other Worlds
Sound Prints Quintet

What the Flood Leaves Behind
Amy Helm
(Renew Music)

Francis Lung
(Memphis Industries)

What’s Wrong With You, Man?

“You get a tattoo like this and a ’do like this, and wear a shirt where the tattoo shows, and you walk into a room of people and feel the animosity, the disapproval, the how-dare-you. You can feel it coming off them like heat off a stove. And the thing I want to ask them is, how have I deserved this, what have I done that so offends you? I have not asked you to cut your hair this way. I have not asked you what you thought of it, or to approve it. So why do you feel this way towards me? If you can’t get past my ‘too—my tattoo—and my ‘do—the way I got my hair cut—it’s only because you have decided there are certain things that can be done with hair and certain things that cannot be done with hair. And certain of them are right and proper and decent, and the rest indicate a warped, degenerate nature; therefore I am warped and degenerate. ‘Cause I got my hair cut a different way, man? You gonna really live your life like that? What’s wrong with you, man?” (Harry Crews, Getting Naked With Harry Crews: Interviews)

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