Roaming Charges: The Cuba Fixation

Image: Jakavonis.

+ The hatred of Cuba by the ruling class of the US is a kind of political neurosis. It’s visceral, irrational and violent. Cuba poses no threat to the US, militarily or economically, Yet its very existence seems to drive US policy makers crazy. This week the mayor of Miami, an anti-Trump Republican, suggested that it might be necessary to bomb Havana. Why? Because it’s there. Well, it wouldn’t be the first time. The US has invaded Cuba, funded multiple insurrections, tried dozens of times to assassinate its leaders, used biological weapons to wilt its crops and poison its livestock, tracked down and executed Che Guevara, bombarded the island with hysterical propaganda, ranted against it at the UN, financed, trained and protected a gang of thugs that planned and executed the bombing of a Cuban passenger plane (killing 73 civilians), plotted false flag ops in Miami to blame on the Castro government, and enforced a decades long embargo (that even China finds it hard to break) that would have crippled almost any other nation. The fact that Cuba is still standing, a little wobbly at times, but still defiant, simply drives the US nuts. It’s a living example of another way to organize a society can’t be tolerated, especially so close to home.

+ As the US continues to rant incessantly at Cuba, we should not forget in this age of heightened sensitivity to infectious diseases that among the US’s many crimes against the Cuban people two stand out: introducing Asian Swine flu in 1971 (causing 500,000 pigs to be slaughtered) and Dengue Fever in 1988, an outbreak that killed 113 children.

+ The worst thing the Cubans ever did to the US was to export the island’s most reactionary criminal element to south Florida, where they’ve dominated the economic and political scene for the last 60 years, using the same corrupt practices that got them chased out of Havana. And they’ll probably be paying price for this island cleaning until the Atlantic reclaims Miami.

+ The sanctions and embargo enforced by the US, coupled with the post-Castro Cuban govt’s marketizing of the economy, have resulted in economic disparities not seen since before the Revolution. The protests in Cuba, centered in Havana’s poorest neighborhoods, are demanding more socialism not less.

+ In his four years in office, Trump imposed 231 new sanctions on Cuba. Biden hasn’t removed any of them.

+ Cuba has plenty of vaccines. What it lacks are syringes, which are in limited supply because of the US sanctions & embargo, the objective of which, as in Iraq, when they killed as many as 2 million people, many of them children, is to foment political change through the infliction of maximum human misery. Meanwhile, Florida and Oklahoma just passed laws protecting drivers who run their cars over protesters.

+ Biden is cheering the very misery he has inflicted. This is Reaganism with an even more withered face…

+ For the past year, the US has blocked the shipment of ventilators to Cuba

+ Biden is demanding that the Cuban government not arrest protest leaders (I agree), at the very same time that the US govt. is holding 40 people in torturous conditions at Guantanamo, many of them without charges or trials, several of whom have been cleared for release 10 years ago and remain locked in cages.

+ This disgusting statement from one of Obama’s mentors, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL), is what passes for the Left wing of the Democratic Party in 2021. Not much different than the Left wing of Democratic Party that launched the Bay of Pigs invasion 60 years ago and got its ass kicked…

+ Even AOC joined in, providing a Master Class in how to Tweet out of both sides of your mouth…

+ Meet the protesters cars aren’t allowed to run over in Florida

+ As of February 2021, the National Endowment of Democracy had shelled out more than $5 million to 42 different group to agitate for “US values” inside of Cuba. Three of the groups are based in the Czech Republic (highlighted in yellow).

+ Just look at what the awful Cuban secret police are doing now, honey! What? That’s Rochester? New York?? Well, never mind. But you still know what I mean, right?

+ Speaking of Gitmo, in court filings this week, the Biden administration “took no position” on whether detainees should be afforded due process rights, which is a cowardly way of advancing the position that Gitmo detainees should not have due process rights…

+ Secretary of State Tony Blinken announced this week that the US would come to the aid of The Philippines if China attacked its aircraft, in the recent border flareups between the two nations. Following the mad Duterte into a war with China? I doubt even Trump would have done that…

+ Duterte’s government is financing its “red-tagging war” against rebels, leftwing activists, civil liberties critics and journalists by pumping 10 billion pesos for a “rebel-free” villages in regions with most extrajudicial killings by paramilitary forces.

+ Sanho Tree: “I warned five years ago that once Duterte built the infrastructure for extrajudicial killings in the drug war, he could turn that apparatus on other enemies of his. Now you can kill a leftist for a community bounty.”

+ Only China and the US have the resources and power to address the three major threats to life on the planet today: extreme inequality, a killer pandemic and a killer climate. Instead, we get this from the Biden administration: “US Air Force is Sending Dozens of F-22 Raptors to the Pacific Amid Tensions With China.”

+ Have the US ever ruled out sending troops (or launching nuclear missiles) anywhere?

+ Speaking of using nuclear weapons, here’s Dean Acheson writing in 1950 on the possibility of dropping a nuclear bomb on North Korea…

The Lord gave us the A-bomb to defend again the millions of Red Atheists. It takes the atom bomb to excite the awe in a Red, awe akin to the awe of the power of the Almighty. The Russia Reds of Asia need something to stop them cold in awe, wonder, and apprehension.

+ Meanwhile, the Marines are testing flying, remote-controlled grenades.

+ Amid hundreds of column inches of competition from his own self-humiliating archive of material, this sentence may standout as the most ridiculous thing David Brooks has ever written: “After Iraq and Afghanistan, America lost faith in itself and its global role — like a pitcher who has been shelled and no longer has confidence in his own stuff.” The column degenerates from there

+ You know what was a real “mistake”? Poppy Bush not “pulling out” before this guy was conceived…

+ The Jewish Telegraph Agency reports on a new survey of US Jews that finds a quarter of them believe that Israel “is an apartheid state.” Will they too be slimed as anti-Semites?

+ Israel refuses to allow Khalida Jarrar, a Palestinian Member of Parliament,  to attend the funeral of her daughter Suha, who died suddenly last week.

+ Livid that the Supreme Court summarily rejected his challenges to the results of the 2020 elections, Trump has been heaping abuse on Brett Kavanaugh: “Where would he be without me? I saved his life. He wouldn’t even be in a law firm. Who would have had him? Nobody. Totally disgraced. Only I saved him.”

+ American billionaires had a very good pandemic. Total billionaire wealth when the pandemic began was $2.9 trillion. It now stands at $4.7 trillion. The pandemic accounts for one-third of all billionaire wealth gains since 1990.

Musk: up $134 billion
Bezos: up $99B
Zuckerberg: up $72B
Page/Brin: up $57B each
Ellison: up $54B
Buffett: up $34B
Gates: up $31B
Ballmer/Knight: up $29B each
Waltons: up $28B

Average US billionaire: up 60%

+ It turns out that the corporate empire of Elon Musk, the corporate libertarian who fled to Texas to evade taxes and regulations, has been fueled by $4.9 billion in federal and state subsidies. In an age of frauds, he’s definitely made the all-star team.

+ And it’s gilded with lithium instead of gold…

+ $226,963,847: amount of combined income executives at the five largest US weapons companies took home in 2020…

+ According to a new report by the National Low Income Housing Coalition, people working minimum wage jobs full-time cannot afford a two-bedroom apartment in any state in the country.

+ What slumlord Biden donor wanted this? The Biden administration has gutted proposed health and safety rules for public housing. HUD no longer plans to require fire extinguishers, circuit breakers to prevent electrocution, and other key safety features, contrary to housing codes adopted in many states.

+ Tennessee’s top immunization official, Michelle Fiscus, was forced from her job after writing a memo describing a 34-year-old legal doctrine that suggested that some teenagers might get vaccines without their parents’ permission. Dr. Fiscus’s memo came as conservative lawmakers in the state were attacking efforts by her agency to raise awareness of vaccines among teenagers.

+ After Fiscus’ forced departure, Tennessee Department of Health halted all vaccine outreach to minors – not just for COVID-19, but all diseases–caving to pressure from GOP officials. The agency’s staff were also ordered to remove the agency’s logo from any documents providing vaccine info to the public.

+ It ain’t rocket science: Covid infection rate among vaccinated and unvaccinated people in Contra Costa County, California…

+ Nature’s Death Panels: Newsmax’s host Rob Schmitt on Covid vaccines:

You know, one thing I’ve always thought, and maybe you can guide me on this because, obviously, I’m not a doctor. But I’ve always thought about vaccines, and I always think about just nature, and the way everything works. And I feel like a vaccination in a weird way is just generally kind of going against nature. Like, I mean, if there is some disease out there — maybe there’s just an ebb and flow to life where something’s supposed to wipe out a certain amount of people, and that’s just kind of the way evolution goes. Vaccines kind of stand in the way of that. Do you follow what I’m saying? Does that make sense to somebody in medicine?”

+ Books will be written. But I doubt any will be able to fully explain the willful ignorance that has allowed this to happen. I’m having a hard time shaking the image of teenagers in Mississippi on ventilators because their parents wouldn’t let them get vaccinated.

+ After his surgery, the Hippie Pope made an urgent plea for free universal health care. Being a good Catholic, I’m sure Biden took the message to heart…

+ So the Guardian is back with a big story on leaked documents from the Kremlin supposedly revealing Putin’s plot to put a deranged Trump in the White House in order to sow social division in the US. The problem? It’s written by Luke Harding. Harding’s last big “exposé” on Paul Manafort holding secret talks with Assange at the Ecuadoran embassy was a flop, if not a complete fabrication (either by his “sources” or Harding himself.)

+ Several members of the hit squad that took out Haitian president Jovenel Moïse were not only dressed like DEA agents, they were (or had been) paid informants for the agency.

+ So the murderers of Jamal Khashoggi were trained by contractors for the US State Department and the Colombian assassins of Haitian president Jovenel Moïse were trained by the Pentagon. Who says US educational standards are slipping?

+ It’s almost touching to believe that the US has ever stopped intervening in Haiti…

+ Cornel West: “This is my candid letter of resignation to my Harvard Dean. I try to tell the unvarnished truth about the decadence in our market-driven universities! Let us bear witness against this spiritual rot!”

+ Caitlyn Jenner encountered her fan club at CPAC. It didn’t go as planned (though probably as expected by anyone who’s paid the slightest attention to CPAC’s views on trans culture)…

+ This dipshit masquerading as a hillbilly to try when an election in Ohio was a venture capitalist and went to Yale Law School…

+ Crime rate (per 1000 residents) in Cincinnati versus New York City…(You’re not afraid to go to Cincy, are you big boy?)

+ There’s a new media panic, fueled by politicians, police and prosecutors, about a crime surge. But the US hasn’t been this “safe” (from crime) in 30 years…

+ According to a dispatch in Rolling Stone, in the 1980s the pedophile-financier Jeffrey Epstein moonlighted as an arms dealer and intelligence operative for the Israelis (among others).

+ For much of Kristi Noem’s youth, South Dakota was represented by two of the most leftwing senators in the history of the senate: George McGovern and Jim Abourezk….(Of course, they might not recognize “Biden’s America”, either.)

+ San Francisco County and South Dakota have roughly the same population size; San Francisco has recorded 559 total Covid deaths, while South Dakota’s “no mandate” approach yield 2,039 Covid deaths.

+ In Utah, it’s now a hate crime to stomp on a blue lives matter flag and smirk in “an intimidating manner.”

+ He’s 83 and a cancer survivor, but Stephen Breyer still doesn’t want to step down from his seat on the Supreme Court and give Biden a year to try to fill it before McConnell regains control of the Senate. Breyer’s a self-righteous prig and always has been. He was one of the first neoliberals to gain a seat on the court. As a Senate staffer, he crafted the deregulatory polices (for Ted Kennedy, no less) that became the hallmark of the Reagan and Clinton decades. As a jurist, Breyer was to the right (often far to the right) of David Souter. It’s time to face the fact that the Supreme Court is lost to liberals for decades. They should just get over it and concentrate on rebuilding the movements that compelled the court to act on civil & voting rights & abortion. Whether Breyer is replaced by Stacy Abrams or Lauren Boebert isn’t going to make a bit of difference in the near (or probably long) term.

+ That putative critic of the Deep State Tucker Carlson, scion of a frozen fish company, once applied for a job at the CIA and was rejected, even though his father ran one of the loudest outlets in the Agency’s Mighty Wurlitzer: the Voice of America. Like many other reject before him, he eventually found refuge at the Heritage Foundation.

+ In Carlson’s book, Ship of Fools, he vilifies his first grade teacher at the posh day school his father sent him to in La Jolla. Carlson portrays her as a “blubbering” gorgon of “earth-mother liberalism,” who was so incompetent as a teacher that he didn’t learn basic reading and math skills. He claims that his father had to hire a tutor to teach him “phonics.“ Like many of the reactionary anecdotes describing the emasculation of white males on his TV show, this episode seems to have been a slanderous fabulation. The Washington Post tracked down the teacher Carlson slimed, Marianne Raymond, now 77. When told of Carlson’s aspersions against her, Raymond exclaimed: “Oh, my god! That’s the most embellished, crazy thing I’ve ever heard.” Raymond told the Post that not only did she teach Carlson to read and write, but that she was the tutor his father hired to give him extra lessons at home!

+ Tucker Carlson’s show is a kind of Oprah for the right. It’s a safe space for white men to talk about how they feel emasculated by their wives and black men, which isn’t a subject most are comfortable discussing in the local sports bar. But Tucker’s empathetic questioning enables them to open up and share their feelings before 2 million Fox viewers.

+ RIP to Athan Theoharis, who used FOIA to excavate the secret files of the FBI and expose the criminality of J. Edgar Hoover and his gang of agents: “Hoover was an insubordinate bureaucrat in charge of a lawless organization,” Theoharis told the Milwaukee Journal in a 1993 interview. “He was also a genius who could set up a system of illegal activities and a way to keep all documentation secret for many years.” Athan was an invaluable resource for me when I was excavating 10s of thousands of pages of files from the CIA and FBI while researching Whiteout…

+ Obama’s EPA turned a blind eye to the poisoning of Flint and secretly approved “forever toxic” fracking chemicals. Now it’s administration, Gina McCarthy, is running climate policy in Biden’s White House…

+ Despite his climate change rhetoric, Biden’s Interior Department is on pace to equal or surpass the glory days of the George W. Bush administration when it comes to the approval of new oil drilling permits on public lands. By the end of the year, the Interior Department could issue close to 6,000 permits. The last time so many were issued was fiscal year 2008, during an oil boom propelled by crude prices that hit an all-time high of $140 per barrel.

+ The National Interagency Fire Center estimates that there are already 67 large fires burning across 12 states Western states. Seven have fires reached scales of 50,000 acres or larger.

Smoke patterns from Western Fires.

+ Fires in California have burned over twice the acreage they had by this point last year. “We’re seeing fire activity that we would normally be seeing in September and October already,” said CalFire’s director Thom Porter.

+ Multnomah County, Oregon officials revealed this morning that 10 of the 54 people who officially died of heat related causes during the June heat dome in Portland were houseless people living in RVs, mobile homes or their cars.

+ Over the last century, the chance of a given tropical storm becoming a Category 3 or greater has grown 8 percent every decade.

+ Shasta is melting…mudflows.

+ Here’s a 40,000 foot tall pyrocumulonimbus smoke plumes from the Sugar Fire, near Mt. Lassen…

+ Latinos make up about 18 percent of the U.S. population, but represent 37 percent of the people who live in the areas identified as facing the most extreme wildfire risks.

+ With the impending failure of the US wheat crop due to drought and excessive heat, it looks like we all may be going gluten-free, like it or not…

+ As a consequence of decades of unrelenting logging, slash burning and cattle ranching, what was once the world’s largest carbon sink, the Amazon, is now a net emitter of carbon.

+ What’s the carbon footprint of building “green infrastructure,” if there even is such a thing?

+ Send reinforcements! A pack of wolves from Yellowstone has made its way to Colorado.

+ This is true largely because the coal companies have removed most of the mountaintops…

+ Post-Brexit England blaming their black players for the loss of the Euro Cup is perfectly reflective of the political mentality that led to Brexit in the 1st place–even though Saka, Sterling & Rashford were the 3 most exciting players on an otherwise bland, slow and uncreative team. All tournament long, as Sterling and Saka were making daring runs and creating scoring chances, we kept being told that the English fans’ favorite player was Jack Grealish, who sat on the bench most of the time tending his Beckham-like hair…

+ Why blame Ireland for the typically foul behavior of the English fans? I’m sure the Irish were rooting for Italy. So, Ireland should recast its World Cup bid with other nations England has fucked over: an Ireland / Kenya / Jamaica World Cup would be a beautiful thing to behold.

+ This article in the Washington Post this week by Geoffrey Fowler is must reading for anyone trying to understand their Comcast bill. Warning: after reading this you still won’t be able to understand your Comcast bill, but at least you’ll (mostly) know why…

+ My old friend Jesse Walker has written a fascinating piece on cults for Reason, well, not cults as much as the media’s often ludicrous, and even more cultish, attempts to define them

+ Before the release of Citizen Kane, MGM head Louis B. Mayer and a group of other studio moguls approached RKO with an offer to buy the film for $800,000 and destroy all of the prints, probably by dumping them in the Pacific off of Catalina Island where the butchered reels of The Magnificent Ambersons (and thousands of other films) are dissolving into toxic particles. Mayer wasn’t concerned about the film per se, but William Randolph Hearst’s reaction to it, especially when he learned that Welles had used his pet name for Marion Davies clitoris as the key phrase of the movie. Mayer feared that Hearst would retaliate against the entire industry by using his papers to spread some of Hollywood’s dirtiest laundry. It took a desperate speech to RKO’s shareholders from Welles to save his masterpiece from the ultimate act of cancel culture.

+ Hemingway to Howard Hawks after seeing his film version of To Have and Have Not: “You kept the title?”

+ I watched Jean Epstein’s silent film version of Poe’s Fall of the House of Usher, where the images swirl by as if swept along by a coming storm. The script was cowritten by Luis Buñuel and the film has the mad logic and strangeness of a recurring dream. There are very few intertitles to interrupt the flow and it doesn’t really need any if you are at all familiar with the story. It’s a film that leaves almost every question it raises unanswered. Is Madeleine Roderick’s sister, lover, both? Is she buried alive? Is Nature itself a sentient force? To compare this film to Roger Corman’s version 32 years later is to have some appreciation of what the French, from the time of Baudelaire at least, mined from Poe and the Americans, largely missed. Epstein is a grossly neglected artist (he doesn’t even merit an entry in Thomson’s Biographical Dictionary of Film), who as an assistant to Lumière, was present at the birth of film, and a few year later stretched the medium to artistic extremes few others have ever surpassed. Never satisfied with narrative film, Epstein began making documentaries, many among the Bretons, using the same surrealistic techniques he deployed in Usher. Definitely worth an hour of your time…

+ Dwight Garner’s NYT review of the two new books on Trump’s final months (spare us any more) is almost as tedious and repetitive as the books themselves, but it signs off on a high note with a smashing Tom Wolfe quote: “The dark night of fascism is always descending in the United States and yet lands only in Europe.”

+ Most people in the US who listen to music are listening to old stuff. Only 34% of music listening in the US is of new releases and the market share loss to older recordings seems likely to continue.

+ Ted Gioia, one of the best music writers around, has compiled a useful survey of the concert venues with the best acoustics: Grosser Musikvereinssaal in Vienna, Symphony Hall in Boston, and Concertgebouw in Amsterdam. All were built before 1901. Still I’d rather hear Monk at the Half Note or Bill Evans at the Village Vanguard, even with all the clinking plates and glasses…

+ For the first time since MRC Data (formally Nielsen SoundScan) began tracking sales in 1991, vinyl albums outsold CD albums. Vinyl is the leading format for album sales overall (19.2 million vinyl LPs vs. 18.9 million CD albums sold).

+ This week’s nutritious fare on CounterPunch + includes Paul Street’s excavation of the cynical motives driving the GOP’s assault on Critical Race Theory, Julie Wark and Daniel Raventos’ dissection of the political economy of human trafficking and my account of Donald Rumsfeld’s rise to power and why Nixon loved him and Kissinger loathed him. You won’t find a better prix fixe menu of weekly stories for $25 a year!

Iba matando canallas con su cañón de futuro…

Booked Up
What I’m reading this week…

Appleseed: a Novel
Matt Bell
(Custom House)

Landslide: the Final Days of the Trump Presidency
Michael Wolff
(Henry Holt)

Sittin’ In: Jazz Clubs of the 1940s and 1950s
Jeff Gold
(Harper Design)

Sound Grammar
What I’m listening to this week…

Treasure of Love
The Flatlanders
(Rock ‘Em)

Back to the Garden
Judy Wexler
(Jewel City)

Windows (Expanded Edition)
(Sonic Cathedral)

No Way to Spend a Life

“I think I essentially made a mistake in staying in movies but it’s a mistake I can’t regret because it’s like saying I shouldn’t have stayed married to that woman but I did because I love her. I would have been more successful if I hadn’t been married to her, you know. I would have been more successful if I’d left movies immediately, stayed in the theatre, gone into politics, written, anything. I’ve wasted a greater part of my life looking for money and trying to get along, trying to make my work from this terribly expensive paintbox which is a movie. And I’ve spent too much energy on things that have nothing to do with making a movie. It’s about two percent movie-making and ninety-eight percent hustling. It’s no way to spend a life.” (Orson Welles)

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