Roaming Charges: Bedtime for Bezos

“Was the conquest of space then a potential chariot of Satan, the unique and grand avenue for the new totalitarian?”

– Norman Mailer, Of a Fire on the Moon

+ Five planets in our solar system are adorned with rings. The rings around four of these planets (Saturn, Jupiter, Uranus and Neptune) are comprised of dust and ice. The ring that encircles earth is made of trash, the detritus of the launch-it-and-leave culture of the new generation of space junketeers.

+ We are witnessing the last great enclosure, as the billionaire rocket-set greedily stake their claims on space–once a universal commons, a kind of dreamscape that since the beginning of humankind has been available freely to all, owned by none.

+ Bezos’s rocket looks like it was designed by Barbarella’s workshop, a stubby white vibrator, which is the most extravagant manifestation yet of that favorite pastime of the American elite, Ostentatious Onanism.

+ There can be no doubt that Ham, the first chimpanzee in space, would have made a more evocative and intelligent description of his suborbital flight than the vapid mutterings of Bezos, who didn’t even have the sense to hire a professional peddler of pomp, like Jon Meacham or Peggy Noonan, to script a few uplifting lines of homespun doggerel.

+ Bezos, the $207 Billion Manchild, blurted out after his 10-minute ride, blurted out: “I want to thank every Amazon employee and every Amazon customer because you guys paid for all of this. Seriously, for every Amazon customer out there and every Amazon employee, thank you from the bottom of my heart very much. It’s very appreciated.”

+ The median salary of an Amazon worker is $29,007 in 2020. The CEO-to-worker pay ratio at the company is 58:1.

+ Biden’s press secretary Jen Psaki on Jeff Bezos and Blue Origin: “The United States is the first country to have private companies taking private individuals to space. This is a moment of American exceptionalism. That’s how we see it.”

+ NASA administrator Charles F. Bolden on ABC News: ‘One black kid watching this launch on a corner somewhere is one less Black kid getting ready to use a weapon.’ “Black kid,” hell. Shouldn’t they be force-feeding the footage to Tony Blinken, Tom Cotton and the Mayor of Miami who wants to bomb Havana?

+ He’s evil and nuts…Jeff Bezos, hours after returning to Earth from “nearspace“: “We need to take all heavy industry, all polluting industry, and move it into space. And keep Earth as this beautiful gem of a planet that it is.”

+ Predictably, the press lapped it all up, giving Bezos’s quick in-and-out more coverage in a single day than it devoted to the threat of climate change in the last year.

+ The climate atmospheric impact of just 1000 space flights a year would equal that of all current aviation.

+ Where’s a frozen O-Ring when you need one?

+ Biden came out against killing the filibuster this week, saying oxymoronically that it would lead to “chaos” and “gridlock.” The filibuster is, of course, the very lock on the grid..Like the old rag man Krook in Dickens’ Bleak House, every time Biden goes off script he spontaneously combusts in from his own gaseous idiocy…

+ Remember when Biden “got arrested” to see Mandela in prison? Yeah, that made about as much sense as this perverse appropriation of Mandela’s legacy…

+ 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…”US Air Force to Send Dozens of F-22 Fighter Jets to Pacific Amid Tensions With China.”

+ Instead of removing any of the 243 sanctions Trump slapped on Cuba, Biden has added two more.

+ Meanwhile, in Afghanistan the US is leaving…bomb craters.

+ Add it to the indictment: Biden launched his first airstrikes on Somalia.

+ The American Health “Care” System: First you get sick, then, if you’re lucky enough to get treatment, the bill collectors flock to feast on what remains of your life…Medical debt now tops $140 billion in the US, much of it weighing on those living in states that rejected Medicaid expansion.

+ Let’s check the COVID scoreboard…

This week: 30,887 cases/day

7 days ago: 18,489 cases/day

14 days ago: 13,562 cases/day

21 days ago: 10,525 cases/day

+ Steve Doocy: 99% of people who are dying are unvaccinated

Brian Kilmeade: That’s their choice!

Doocy: They don’t want to die. The admin and gov’t says mask mandates are to protect the unvaccinated.

Kilmeade: That’s not their job, it’s not their job to protect anybody!

+ Alabama Governor Kay Ivey: “It’s time to start blaming the unvaccinated folks, not the regular folks. It’s the unvaccinated folks that are letting us down….I’ve done all I know how to do.” With only 40% of the state vaccinated, the unvaccinated are the regular people.

+ The anti-vaxxers have succeeded in prolonging the very measures they are so fanatically opposed to.

+ Once again Merrick Garland has chosen not to pursue charges against Trump officials, in this case Wilbur Ross and his cronies who the Inspector General found perjured themselves  before Congress about the 2020 Census. If politicians don’t have the ability to lie with impunity, how would they be able to promise their constituents anything? The political advertising industry–one of the last growth industries left– would collapse overnight…

+ Black Rock CEO Larry Fink (net worth $1.1 billion) has admonished Americans that they will need to work longer and increase the risk of their investment strategies if they want to be able to “afford to retire.” Americans already work more hours for less wages in riskier conditions with nothing to fall back on than any other post-industrial society. Most sane cultures would send this guy packing…

+ That champion of progressives Ro Khanna must be a ” fellow of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy!”

+ Wait, he wasn’t  joking?

+ Was the murder of Jamal Khashoggi a joint venture of the Saudis and Israelis? It’s looking more and more likely.

 

+ It was the Indians! Trump in the latest Vanity Fair, blaming his loss on vote fraud by Native Americans: “If you take the illegal immigrants that voted. If you take this—Indians that got paid to vote in different places. We had Indians getting paid to vote! Many, many different things, all election-changing.” I, for one, hope it was the “Indians” who took Trump down and I hope they got “paid” a lot–it would be one of the first times they got paid for anything…

+ Along with two others, Trump’s buddy Tom Barrack, who among other things chaired in inauguration committee, was arrested by the feds this week on charges of “acting and conspiring to act as agents” of the United Arab Emirates between April 2016 and April 2018. Barrack was also charged with obstruction of justice and making multiple false statements to federal law enforcement agents. Why did the UAE need Barrack, when they had Kushner working for them on the inside? Or was Barrack just cashing in, like everyone else?

+ Question: Have you yourself been vaccinated?

Marjorie Taylor Greene: Your first question is a violation of my HIPAA rights!

+ Ask Greene if an abortion is also a HIPAA right and whether the Texas state law deputizing abortion snitching neighbors is a violation of it (not to mention the Constitution she claimed to venerate)?

+”Civilized nations?” George Will, who became one of the favorite punidiots of the Trump era, reverts to his Cold Warrior form.

+ The Economist laments Biden’s alleged move to “Europeanize the American Welfare State.” The existing “American Welfare State” consists almost entirely of payments to defense contractors and subsidies to fossil fuel companies…

+ Congress last raised the federal minimum wage in 2009 to a meager $7.50. Twelve years have now gone by without another hike, the longest in history. Over that extended period, even that tiny amount has lost 21 percent of its value.

+ After Ben & Jerry’s announced that it would stop selling their products in what the AP referred to as Israel’s “war-won lands” (ie, the Occupied Territories), Israel’s new prime minister referred the company as purveyors of “anti-Semitic ice cream.”

+ 65% of “line of duty” cop deaths last year were from COVID-19, whereas shootings and stabbings accounted for less than 15% of cop deaths…

+ During the pandemic, more than 4,000 non-violent federal inmates were released from prison on home confinement. Then in the waning days of his administration, Trump cruelly signed an executive order requiring all of the released prisoners to be returned to their cells once the pandemic ended. Supposedly, the Biden administration “studied” the Trump order for months before finally deciding to let it stand and force the released inmates back into federal prisons, even though they’ve fully abided by the strict terms of their release.

+ Every time you think the Biden administration has hit rock bottom, they continue to drill through new strata of political turpitude.

+ Portland policed photoshopped the photo of a man to make him look more like the description of a robbery suspect. A judge has ordered him released from jail.

+ In her book on Jeffrey Epstein, Perversion of Justice Julie K. Brown drives to the Florida panhandle to interview one of Epstein’s young victims, Courtney Wild, who was imprisoned at the Gadsden Correctional Institution,  privately run women’s prison notorious for its wretched conditions: “Inmates at Gadsden were living without hot water and heat, and were forced to walk through bathrooms flooded with human waste. They were on water rations because the septic tanks were jammed.”

+ Illinois is the first state to restrict the ability of police to lie to minors during interrogations. This is welcome news, naturally. But why limit the ban on lying to minors? In fact, why stop at “lying”? Police shouldn’t be allowed to interrogate minors at all. No competent lawyer would allow it, so those who are being interrogated have been duped into waving their right to counsel or have incompetent lawyers.

+ Word comes that NYT columnist Nicholas Kristof has spent the last few weeks contemplating a run for governor of…OREGON. Doesn’t he have a brothel in Calcutta to inspect?

+ Health Reform as PR: Under new rules backed by both Trump and Biden and supported by 93% of Americans hospitals are required to post their prices online. But 94% of hospitals have simply ignored the rule because the fine is only $300 a day and there’s no one to enforce it anyway…

+ Each generation spends the rest of their lives unlearning the history they learned in high school and getting no closer to the “truth”…

+ We have reached a new level of absurdity in the Arctic, where the thawing permafrost is destabilizing the TransAlaska pipeline, causing the braces that hold the pipeline to warp and bend. The solution? The Alaska Department of Natural Resources is installing a “cooling system” to refreeze swaths of tundra beneath the “black snake” of the pipeline, which hauls oil from the North Slope to Anchorage.

+ The Biden administration is moving to protect pipelines from “cyberattacks.” The pipelines themselves are a “climate attack”. Who will protect the planet from those? Not Biden.

+ Record-shattering heat hit Northern Japan on Monday. Some areas reached the mid-30s, about 10C higher than normal. The heat was so intense that the train rails were distorted in Hokkaido.

+ The Bootleg Fire, in southern Oregon, has now charred nearly 400,000 acres, an area that has had the shit logged out of it, over and over again, as shown in this map put together by ForestWatch…

+ Here’s an aerial view showing the extensive clearcutting in the northern half of the fire zone…

+ Marcus Kauffman, Oregon Department of Forestry. “The [Bootleg] fire is so large and generating so much energy and extreme heat that it’s changing the weather. Normally the weather predicts what the fire will do. In this case, the fire is predicting what the weather will do.”

+ There’s some grim irony here. The Sierra Nevada town of Quincy is the site of one of the first collaboration groups (Quincy Library Group), where grant-dependent enviro groups huddled with Big Timber to rationalize the logging of public forests, often using the threat of fire as the justification. After twenty years of such “green” logging, the town of Quincy is at risk of burning down.

+ Air conditioning is not “a solution” to the climate crisis. It’s a cause…

+ Joe Manchin obviously got the word from his buddies in Big Coal that the person many enviros in Montana know as Tracy “Stone-Mining” will play ball

+ Alaska salmon runs are down 87%, after last year’s meager returns…

+ Meanwhile, restaurants in British Columbia are removing wild salmon from their menus as a protest against over-fishing…

+ For the first time in more than 40 years, a female grizzly (and three cubs) have been spotted (and collared) in Washington State.

+ Ecological restoration is work is finally beginning on lands Trump tore up for his cancelled border wall near Yuma, Arizona.

+ Speaking of Manchin, Andrew Cockburn performs a biopsy on the most conspicuous tumor within the Democratic Senate caucus.

+ I watched Von Sternberg’s Macau last night. Jane Russell is no Dietrich, but the film flies along, largely propelled by Robert Mitchum & Gloria Grahame, who are always magnetic. The ’52 film opens with a shot of a thermometer warning “dangerous for humans” in the 85-95F range–those were the days…

+ The New Yorker profiled Ishmael Reed this week and (remarkably) didn’t stick their normal gratuitous knives in his back…

+ Thomas Pynchon’s novel Mason & Dixon is set largely between the years 1764-68, but was published in 1997, when America’s most notorious developer was you-know-who…

Next in line behind O’Rooty comes a “Developer,” or Projector of Land-Schemes.

“Kill him,” advises Dixon, before anyone can get in a word. Mason risks a quick lateral Squint, but can neither see nor smell any sign of Intoxication. “And do it sooner rather than later, as it only gets more difficult with time.”

Since early in their acquaintance, the two have learn’d to mutter together so as to remain unheard beyond a Pipe-stem’s Length. The Projector, devotedly binocular and far too brisk, moves in an industrious Hop from one foot to the other, back and forth. “This is some you know?” Mason not yet all that alarm’d.

“In general only. But work’d for enough of them, didn’t I. Nor proud of m’self for it. Needed the money.” So abridged is this reply that Mason surmises some long and probably tangled Iliad of Woe back among the Friths and Fells which did not work out in Favor of Dixon, who continues. “Well, then?…What’s they preference?”

“Ehm…what?”

“As in to which will do the Deed?”

“Deed?”

“You know,–” cocking a rigid Finger toward their Visitor, who at last grows aware of being under Discussion.

+ Genesis ended when Peter Gabriel split. The Collins led band was more like a musical version of Leviticus…

+ So Springsteen and Obama are “writing” a book together titled “Renegades.” Really. Renegades, apparently culled from their monotonous podcast ceaselessly promoting the vacuous virtues of centrism.  Have two people ever so explicitly proclaimed their unswerving devotion to the middle of the road or been more pious about it? At least Clinton, who turned neoliberal politics into a contact sport (against his own team), lived his personal life as a hedonistic outlaw from conformity…

+ Springsteen is steadily transitioning–inexorably it seems–into the American Bono. Apparently, this transformation is becoming a significant contributor to the increased methane levels across the continent.

+ Mos Def as Thelonious Monk? About time.

+ Has there been a better lineup of musicians playing on a movie score than the one Harry Belafonte, Robert Wise and John Lewis assembled for Odds Against Tomorrow? (Missing from the list is Belafonte himself, who sings a couple of blues songs.) Terrific film with a very menacing performance by the great Robert Ryan, a leftist who usually played heavies and, in this film, a virulent racist. Ryan kicked Sam Peckinpah’s ass on the set of the Wild Bunch, when Peckinpah (one of Hollywood’s true assholes) refused to give Ryan the weekend off to campaign for Eugene McCarthy.)

John Lewis – arranger, conductor
Bernie Glow, Joe Wilder, John Ware, Melvyn Broiles – trumpet
John Clark, Tom McIntosh – trombone
Al Richman, Gunther Schuller, Paul Ingram, Ray Alonge – French horn
Harvey Phillips – tuba
Robert DiDomenica – flute
Harvey Shapiro, Joseph Tekula – cello
Ruth Berman – harp
Milt Jackson – vibraphone
Bill Evans – piano
Jim Hall – guitar
Percy Heath – bass
Connie Kay – drums
Richard Horowitz – timpani
Walter Rosenberger – percussion

+ Sonny Rollins on recording his haunting sax solo on the Rolling Stones’ Waiting on a Friend: “I do remember once I was in the supermarket and they were playing Top 40 records. I heard this song and thought, Who’s that guy? His playing struck a chord in me. Then I said, ‘Wait a minute, that’s me!’ It was my playing on one of those Rolling Stones records.”

+ Howard Hawks’ Scarface is a screwball comedy dressed up like a gangster flick, with the enfilade of Ben Hecht’s dialogue firing faster than Paul Muni’s Tommy Gun.

+ Donald Sutherland, who turned 86 this week: “I was up for a great part but they told me, ‘Sorry, you’re the best actor, but this part calls for a guy-next-door type. You don’t look as if you’ve ever lived next door to anyone.'”

+ The Billboard for this week’s CounterPunch + offers a triple feature, starting with John Mellencamp biographer David Masciotra’s roving essay on the future of “democracy” in America, Jack Wareham’s penetrating survey of the many times “cinema” has been pronounced as “dead” only to be miraculously revived and my investigation into the dozens of  ways the CIA tried (and failed) to kill Fidel Castro. Buy the ticket, take the ride: it’s only $25 for a full year’s worth of thrills.

Been There a Half an Hour, I Want to Come Home Soon

Booked Up
What I’m reading this week…

Perversion of Justice: The Jeffrey Epstein Story
Julie K. Brown
(Dey Street)

The Brilliant Abyss: Exploring the Majestic Hidden Life of the Deep Ocean, and the Looming Threat That Imperils It
Helen Scales
(Atlantic Monthly Press)

Changes: An Oral History of Tupac Shakur
Sheldon Pearce
(Simon & Schuster)

Sound Grammar
What I’m listening to this week…

In Cinerama
April March
(Une Vie)

In Harmony
Roy Hargrove/Mulgrew Miller
(Resonance)

Solid Gold U-Roy
U-Roy
(BMG)

The Root of Most Punished Crime

“I am convinced that imprisonment is a way of pretending to solve the problem of crime. It does nothing for the victims of crime, but perpetuates the idea of retribution, thus maintaining the endless cycle of violence in our culture. It is a cruel and useless substitute for the elimination of those conditions–poverty, unemployment, homelessness, desperation, racism, greed–which are at the root of most punished crime. The crimes of the rich and powerful go mostly unpunished.” (Howard Zinn, You Can’t Be Neutral on a Moving Train)

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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