Roaming Charges: Welcome to the Pyrocene

Monument Fire in the Trinity Mountains of northern California. Photo: CHP.

+ A few years ago, I followed as closely as I could, the flight of the Nez Perce, from the tribe’s grassy redoubt in the canyons of the Wallowa Mountains of eastern Oregon, across the Snake River into Idaho, over the Bitterroot Mountains and into the Yellowstone country, then up through Montana to the Bear Paw Range, where, exhausted, they camped a few miles from the sanctuary of Canada and were ambushed and bombarded by the US Army. Last week, the tribe finally got a small parcel of their land in the Wallowas back, with tribal elders visiting the 148-acre plot known as the Place of Boulders on horseback in full regalia to bless the land after so many painful years of exile. I skimmed through my journals from those two weeks and extracted these notes from my travels.

In June 1877 a fistful of non-treaty Nez Perce lashed back against the forces conspiring to evict them from their traditional lands in the Hells Canyon and Salmon River country of central Idaho and eastern Oregon. The young warriors killed 18 white settlers, bringing down upon their people the full wrath of the US Army, which was, of course, looking for any excuse to incarcerate or exterminate them. Thus, began the most amazing journey and ruthless pursuit in American history.

Soon after the killings, the leaders of the Nez Perce bands, Looking Glass, White Bird, and Joseph, led their 300 warriors and 500 women, children, and elders across the Salmon and Clearwater Rivers and up the deep ponderosa, Doug-fir, and lodgepole forests of the Lochsa Canyon to the rugged Bitterroot Range, chased most of the way by the one-armed, demented fundamentalist Gen. Otis Howard. Their goal was the buffalo country north of the Canadian border and a possible union with the Sioux visionary Sitting Bull.

The dissident Nez Perce, loaded with dried salmon and buffalo robes, single-shot rifles and their lodgepoles, quickly traversed the steep and treacherous Lolo trail, where Looking Glass skirted the band past an inept blockade at Lolo Hot Springs and down into the stunning Bitterroot Valley, then across the spiny Anaconda Mountains to a campsite along the Big Hole River, perhaps the world’s most exquisite trout stream.

As the Nez Perce regrouped and rested, they were cruelly ambushed by a pre-dawn raid led by Col. John Gibbon that left a carnage of slaughtered women, children, and elders. Miraculously, the Nez Perce recovered behind Ollokot and Wounded Head to inflict heavy casualties on the overconfident troops, while Lean Elk led the shattered band away to the south across Bannock Pass, east to Henry’s Fork where they gathered camas root and raided General Howard’s camp for horses and supplies, and then over the tall Targhee Pass and into the Yellowstone country.

The Nez Perce sped across the central plateau, hugging the rim of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, and then made the slow, torturous crossing of the Absaroka Range, their travel impeded by dense forest and heavy treefall. When it appeared they might finally be caught between converging federal troops, the renegades descended the treacherously steep “Dead Indian Hill” undetected by Col. Samuel Sturgis’s spies. Then the Nez Perce dropped into the dark and narrow slot of the Clark’s Fork Canyon deftly evading the ambush plotted by the comically pompous colonel.

The Clark’s Fork Canyon opened to a fast, grueling route north along the Rocky Mountain Front across the Mussleshell River and through the Judith Gap, before it all came to a disastrous dénouement on the wind-brushed buffalo plains of northern Montana in the shadow of the Bear Paw Mountains, when General Nelson Miles unleashed this howitzers and cavalry on the weary Nez Perce encamped by Snake Creek only a few hours ride from the Canadian border.

Ollokot, Lean Elk, and Looking Glass were killed in the battle, along with 120 others. Chief Joseph, later canonized for his pacifism by white historians, surrendered to be imprisoned on the dusty Colville Reservation in eastern Washington. But the old chief White Bird, who refused even to consider giving up to the marauders in blue uniforms, quietly escaped with 200 other Nez Perce renegades to the wilds and relative freedom of the Canadian Rockies.

Nez Perce tipi sites, Big Hole Battlefield. Photo: Jeffrey St. Clair.

* * *

The escape route of the non-treaty Nez Perce roughly transects the bioregion now known was the Northern Rockies, a terrain that remains as hostile as it is enchanting. From Hells Canyon to the asbestos plants of Libby, the Chinese Wall to the Berkeley Pit, the Northern Rockies is a region of extremes, extremes in climate and geography, culture and politics. It is a haven for writers and artists as well as white-supremacists and conspiracy theorists; it’s a region that gave rise to Earth First! as well as some of the most virulent strains of the Wise-Use Movement.

In a bitter irony, perhaps symbolic of the region, the gray wolf has been returned amid international fanfare to Yellowstone at the same time the grizzly seems destined to make its final exit from the park.

The Rockies are the ecological spinal column of North America, a fragile corridor down which our native wildness flows. Unlike the coastal forest of the Pacific Northwest, a ragged and tattered ecosystem in need of major reconstructive ecological surgery, the wildlands of the Northern Rockies retain a certain native wholeness and exert an imposing primal presence on the totality of the landscape. Today, wildlands, not clearcuts, still define the states of Idaho and Montana.

Here, the opportunity exists to preserve complete ecosystems. There are roadless areas in Idaho the size of some of the original colonies. And some of them share grizzlies, wolves, and salmon. Beyond the smelter stacks, strip mines and ski resorts, Lewis and Clark would recognize much of western Montana. But each year this wilderness is being inexorably shaved away by the forces of corporate greed, bureaucratic malfeasance, political expediency and social indifference. Each year forgotten ranges like the Yaak or the Missions, the Selkirks or the Crazies are being cut into fragments and islands, shattered images of their former selves, lengthening forever the forested synapses across which the sparks of life must jump.

Like the tragic saga of the renegade Nez Perce, the recent history of the Northern Rockies must be read with a mixture of hope and despair.


+ From Thomas Pynchon’s Mason & Dixon, as the surveyors look back at the swath of cleared forest removed to demarcate their infamous line…

“They want to know how to stop this great invisible Thing that comes crawling Straight on over their Lands, devouring all in its Path.”

“Well! [Mason replies] of course it’s a living creature, ’tis all of us, temporarily collected into an Entity, whose Labors none could do alone.”

“A tree-slaughtering Animal, with no purpose but to continue creating forever a perfect Corridor over the Land. Its teeth of Steel,— its Jaws, Axmen,— its Life’s Blood, Disbursement. And what of its intentions, beyond killing ev’rything due west of it? do you know? I don’t either. …Haven’t we been saying, with an hundred Blades all the day long,— This is how far into your land we may strike, this is what we claim to westward. As you see what we may do to Trees, and how little we care,— imagine how little we care for Indians, and what we are prepared to do to you. …As the Indians wish, we must go no further.

The view on Thursday evening from a PG&E camera near Susanville, California, in the northern Sierra Nevada…

+ A few words about fire. The temperate forests of North America evolved with fire. Fire has been a shaping force in forest ecosystems since the end of the last ice age. Forests have adapted to fire and been reborn out of it. From Yellowstone to the Oregon Coast Range, the Siskiyous to the Sangre de Cristos, forests have burned and remained forests. Douglas-firs, redwoods, Ponderosa pines, and Giant Sequoias have all evolved and even thrived under natural fire regimes. But not now. Not with these forest-killing infernos that burn for weeks and months, killing everything in in their paths, down to the soil itself. These fires are hotter and more intense. They burn longer, spread faster, travel farther. Of course, the climate has changed and it’s a driving force behind these super-charged fires. It’s hotter and drier, in both winter and summer. The moisture content of forest soils has withered. The understories of forests are dry and crisp. The snow pack has dwindled. The fogs of summer have dissipated. The warming climate has primed the forests to burn. But the forests themselves have changed–or rather–change has been inflicted upon them. The fire-resistant old growth trees–95 percent of them, anyway–have been logged off. The forests themselves have been fractured and fragmented by clearcuts, pipelines, power corridors, monocultural plantations, and a road network that in some places exceeds 10 miles per square mile of land. Fires, most of them, start near roads, many by accident others by design. Some for sick kicks, others for profit. There’s a dark history of arson for profit in America’s forests: for the jobs that come in putting them out and “cleaning” them up. Not just in the firefighting, but the roadbuilding and logging and milling and log exports that come afterwards. Managed forests–that is logged, roaded, grazed–forests burn and they tend to burn long and hot. Under normal circumstances, logging is an accelerate not a deterrent for fire. Under these extreme climate conditions, logging has fueled the infernos that have swept the West for the last decade. Last year was the worst fire season in the West in the last 2,000 years. This year will worse. And so, likely, will be the consecutive years of the next several decades. There’s no immediate solution and all of the proposed political responses will only exacerbate the crisis. Welcome to the Pyrocene.

+ In June, about 97% of the West — Arizona, California, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah and Washington — was in water-deficit territory, according to the Palmer index. Utah was never drier, while Oregon and California were at their second driest on record. Idaho and Arizona were at their third driest ever, and Nevada was at its fourth driest.

+ While the carbon emissions generated by fewer than four Americans would kill one person, it would require the combined carbon dioxide emissions of 146.2 Nigerians for the same result. The worldwide average to cause that single death is 12.8 people.

+ The current version of the “Dynamic Integrated Climate-Economy” (DICE) calculates the social cost of carbon to be about $37 per metric ton. The Obama administration’s estimates put the figure at $50 a ton, but the Trump administration slashed the estimate to a mere $1 per ton. The Biden administration is working on its own social cost of carbon, expected early next year; a preliminary figure released in February roughly matched the Obama administration’s.

+ The Gulf Stream is slowing down, turning into a kind of oceanic trickle. No one knows precisely what the consequences will be if the entire Atlantic settles into a doldrums but they are unlikely to be pleasant…

+ The new “bipartisan” infrastructure bill has largely been stripped of its key climate change and clean energy provisions. Call it the Brown New Deal.

+ If you’re keeping score on your Apocalypse 2021 checklist: Fires, drought, locusts, floods… and now plague.

+ Facing the worst heat wave since 1987, when more than 1,000 people died, Greece is sweltering with a string of record breaking temperatures (116F)  and hundreds of wildfires, several burning in and around Athens. Temperatures soared to 115.3 degrees Fahrenheit earlier this week as Greece recorded its hottest day on record.

+ Brace yourself, PNW, for Heat Dome: the Sequel…opening region-wide on Friday August 13th, at 100F.

+ Years, perhaps decades, too late, the state of California finally banned the pumping of water from the desiccated Sacramento River Delta region.

+ They could thrive in one of the most extreme environments on Earth…but not the Hellscape we made. Emperor Penguins, those astounding beings, appear to be doomed to extinction by the year 2100.

+ Louisiana has just passed four laws making it illegal to step foot on oil and gas industry “property,” a felony punishable by three years in prison. The law applies not just to environmental protesters, but to anyone, including families visiting the gravesites of their ancestors who had been held as slaves.

+ The Biden administration is using a non-binding Brett Kavanaugh “concurrence” in Alabama Association of Realtors v. HHS as an excuse not to extend the CDC’s evictions moratorium. The Supreme Court ruled 5 to 4 against the Realtors Association that the CDC eviction moratorium could continue, but Kavanaugh, one of the judges who voted to continue the moratorium, wrote the following concurring opinion:

I agree with the District Court and the applicants that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention exceeded its existing statutory authority by issuing a nationwide eviction moratorium. Because the CDC plans to end the moratorium in only a few weeks, on July 31, and because those few weeks will allow for additional and more orderly distribution of the congressionally appropriated rental assistance funds, I vote at this time to deny the application to vacate the District Court’s stay of its order. In my view, clear and specific congressional authorization (via new legislation) would be necessary for the CDC to extend the moratorium past July 31.

Still Kavanaugh’s opinion is mere “dicta,” was not joined by another of the other justices and is not controlling in any way. (If Kavanaugh wasn’t on the Court, Biden would have to appoint someone just like him…and probably still will.)

+ Massive protests, including some lead by Rep. Cori Bush, forced the Biden administration to shift gears at the last minute and the CDC issues a new temporary order halting evictions, but only in counties with heightened levels of community transmission. In other words, thousands who are behind on their rent will be left to their fate in the tenancy and eviction courts.

+ The houses Nancy Pelosi went to home to, while tens of thousands of renters face eviction because the Democrats, who control the Congress and presidency, failed to act…

+ According to an investigation by Ken Klippenstein (who sharpened his reportorial chops here on CounterPunch) at the Intercept, Pelosi’s statement opposing a student loan debt cancelation followed an intense lobbying blitz by Steven Swig, a billionaire who has served as her campaign treasurer since 2012. Swig claims he only learned student debt even exists a few years ago. (He made this claim in a Salon article calling for…student loan cancelation!)

+ As thousands are set to lose their living spaces, rents have increased a startling 11.4% so far in 2021: “July’s spike continues to push rents well above where they would be if growth had remained on its pre-pandemic trend.”

+ Instead of lifting the killer embargo, Biden just imposed even more sanctions on Cuba…

+ Nevertheless, a coalition of liberal groups are preparing to mount a $100 million advertising campaign to support the “Biden agenda.” The Biden agenda? You mean more sanctions on Cuba, no action on student debt or evictions, bombing Somalia, chastising China and Iran, faster deportations, making immigrant detainees go without underwear, approving a record number of new oil leases…

+ With Nina Turner’s narrow defeat in Ohio, the knives are out for progressive challengers to Democratic orthodoxy, with the NYT leading the way scolding progressives for being disruptive and impertinent and that they need to “develop a new strategy for critiquing Biden without seeming disloyal.” The Times doesn’t point out the amount of money and institutional firepower the party itself unloaded on many of these races. The “Biden Democrats” have spent more time trying to suppress the votes of progressives in their own party than expanding the franchise in general elections. They’ll pay the price in end…

+ Florida’s Governor Ron DeSantis has perfected the look of arrogant imbecility that is a key, perhaps even the key, attribute to success in contemporary American politics….

+ Does anyone really believe De Santis’ crap about immigrants spreading Covid? The US leads the world in Covid cases & deaths. Covid has been running rampant here for a year and half. If any immigrants entering the US have Covid, they most likely contracted the virus after it spread to their country from the US. Blaming migrants for your own lethal policies is one of the oldest forms of sewer politics, but it takes a special brand of hubris to deploy it in a state that has for the past 60 years had an open-door policy for a favored class of immigrants.

+ Of course, at an operational level Biden isn’t much different as his Administration continues to invoke the old and grossly outdated Public Health Rule (resurrected by Stephen Miller) to turn away migrants at the border, thus perpetuating Trump’s scapegoating of immigrants for a virus that is already systemic across the country…

+ According to a new whistleblower complaint, the Biden administration kept hundreds of immigrant kids in a Texas concentration camp at Fort Bliss without underwear “for weeks and months,” during a COVID-19 outbreak they tried to cover up.

+ Biden: “I coulda been a contender for the crown of deporter-in-chief, if not for the damn virus!

+ An epidemiologist from Johns Hopkins walked into a maskless party with 14 other fully vaccinated friends… 11 of the 14 contracted breakthrough Covid.

+ The US is closing in on, and has likely already surpassed, one million Covid deaths. Excess COVID deaths from March 2020 through May 2021, by country.

Source: Health Data.

+ A Missouri county coroner is removing “COVID” from death certificates to appease grieving families. Did he replace COVID with: “Cause of Death: Impure faith”?

+ More than 40% of the wild deer in the US are testing positive for COVID anti-bodies.

+ Bertrand Russell: “Liberalism considered it proper for a capitalist to say to a worker, ‘You shall die of hunger,’ but improper for a worker to retort, ‘You shall die first, of a bullet. […] It is ridiculous to make a distinction between these two threats.”  (Skeptical Essays)

+ The NYT ran a column this week by former UN envoys to the country Kai Eide and warn of the “collapse” of Afghanistan after the US withdrawal. But I’m pretty sure much of Afghanistan has already “collapsed” under the pounding from nearly 100,000 US air and drone strikes over the last 20 years, including a record number of air strikes in Trump’s final two years in office…

+ Air campaigns have never “won” wars, they’ve only been used to discipline, kill and instill terror. It’s always been my contention that every air strike is a war crime. Finally, the US has given up all pretense of any humanitarian role in Afghanistan, a subterfuge for invasion and occupation that had worn thin years ago…Now retribution is all.

+ Since 2015, police in the US have shot and killed more than 6400 people, including a record 1021 last year alone.

+ The girls were 4 and 9, when the Chicago police kicked down their door, woke them up, pointed guns at them and ordered them on the floor. They had no warrant and no real reason to even knock on their door at that late hour. Yet, this shit just keeps on happening, almost every week, in cities from one coast to another, and all points in between, just like this is what the police are trained and meant to do…

+ Philadelphia police have been towing cars from legal spaces to illegal spaces, impounded the cars from the illegal spaces, and then trying to sell the cars at auction, in a racket of what amounts to city-sanctioned auto theft.

+ Dark Lord Cheney: “Reagan taught us…(Gasps for methane)…deficits don’t matter.”

+ This story about Trump’s ongoing grift, where he has raised $102 million, but spent none of it on the audits that were supposed to prove a rigged election reminded me of Humphrey Bogart’s searing 1936 film The Black Legion, mostly directed by Archie Mayo with a few key scenes helmed by Michael Curtiz, the director of Casablanca. It’s an unsparing look at the rampages of a Klan-offshoot group in Detroit, which engaged in acts of terrorism against blacks and immigrants. What’s unique about the film is that it depicts the Legion has being created and secretly run by a cabal of tycoons, who are making big bank from selling “regalia” (black robes & hoods) & guns to the terrorists–domestic terrorism as for-profit-enterprise. Many of the arsons targeted rival businesses. The film rejects the conventional Hollywood narrative of having Bogart infiltrate the racist gang, or even come to see the error of his ways and inform on it. Instead, Bogart plays a factory worker who loses a promotion to a “bookish” Polish immigrant with a “big nose,” then gets seduced by the xenophobic rhetoric of the Klan: “You don’t have to be pushed around by foreigners, who are stealing jobs from the real 100 percent Americans and bread from American homes.” The lexicon of hate hasn’t changed much in the last 85 years. Bogart’s character goes all the way in: torching homes, torturing immigrants, shooting his former pal in the back. There is no redemption. Bogart and his fellow goons do down for life. But the profiteering cabal at the top of the organization never even see the inside of the courtroom. The real KKK sued Warner Bros–not for defamation but copyright infringement for using their symbols. The Klan lost that one.

+ Congratulations! As a 100% real American, you’ve been pre-qualified for a Trump Card, a promissory note that you’ll never have to make good on…(Certain fees and restrictions may apply. May be considered not-100% legal in certain jurisdictions.)

+ Trump, a lifetime .138 hitter, strikes out again, this time by taking a swing at the Bronze medal-winning US women’s soccer team, screeching: “If our soccer team, headed by a radical group of Leftist Maniacs, wasn’t woke, they would have won the Gold Medal instead of the Bronze.” In the midst of his meltdown, he falsely claimed that the team didn’t stand for the national anthem.

+ Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY): “My dad is deeply troubled about where our party is …” Don’t worry, if there’s a war to wage, Dick will always have a home in the Democratic Party.

+ The fake hillbilly and former finance capitalist JD Vance is trying to restarted his faltering senate campaign in Ohio by demanding that people with children get more votes. He spouted on Tucker’s show that the country was being run by “childless cat ladies” like AOC and Pete Buttigieg.

Remember when the GOP slur against blacks was that they had large families in order to garner more social welfare benefits (never a very coherent argument for anyone who tried raise a family on that pittance). Now they want to reward their own large families with more “votes”…

+ When Eric Osterberg, the gay black assistant city manager of the southern Oregon city of Klamath Falls, showed up at a city council meeting on racism and discrimination, an angry demonstrator threatened him with a large rock and blamed him for “spreading HIV”. “I was very surprised to see that there was going to be a direct threat of violence against me personally. I did not anticipate that,” Osterberg said.

+ Wir fahren, fahren, fahren auf der Viktor Orban

+ The latest from the Middle East’s “only democracy,” where marriage laws are strictly controlled by Israel’s Chief Rabbinate and couples of mixed religions, or who are atheists, gay or not deemed inadequately Jewish have been prohibited from marrying in the country. This is the fate that befell Artem Dolgopyat, who took home a gold medal in artistic gymnastics, only the second gold medal ever awarded to an Israel. Even so, Israel has prohibited Dolgopyat from marrying his fiancé because he is not “Jewish enough,” citing the fact that only his father’s side of the family is Jewish.

+ Update from the Trauma Ward: I’ve spent more than two weeks, prowling the trauma ward of a suburban hospital and now the first bills, the minor ones by all accounts, are starting to arrive: $750 for towing and storing a totaled car, $3,000 for an ambulance service, $550 for transport to and from doctor’s offices (X 5, and counting), $7200 for emergency medical services. The real bills are still being calculated. Memo: don’t get sick, don’t pass out, don’t have an accident, don’t let them call the ambulance. You probably can’t afford it. Not in this country.

+ I nominate Dolly Parton as America’s greatest living contribution to humanity

+ I took this photo of the DollyDoor near Fountain Square in Indianapolis this week, where people have first-hand knowledge of Dolly’s empathetic and charitable nature.

+ In the ultimate triumph of post-Modernism, a note at the top of the lengthy Wikipedia entry for Alexander Cockburn warns: “This article relies too much on references to primary sources. Please improve this by adding secondary or tertiary sources.”

Jean Seberg and Jean-Paul Belmondo in Jean-Luc Godard’s BREATHLESS (1960), this year celebrating its 50th anniversary. (Rialto Pictures/StudioCanal.)

+ Jean Seberg in a letter to a friend back in California, while filming Breathless: “I’m in the midst of this French film and it’s a long, absolutely insane experience–no lights, no makeup, no sound! Only one good thing–it’s so un-Hollywood I’ve become completely unselfconscious.”

+ It’s now pretty clear that Godard didn’t know what he was doing technically when he made Breathless. And didn’t care. And not caring made all of the difference…

+ In the late 1960s, I had a paper route on the near eastside of Indianapolis, delivering the weekend editions of the Star to the wedge of houses and buildings formed by Mass Avenue and East Street, where an industrial area nudged up against some of the city’s oldest, and for a time, most desirable enclaves: Lockerbie Square and Chatham Arch. I rode my black Schwinn stingray past some great old manses, including the boyhood home of Indiana’s state poet James Whitcomb Riley, along the imposing front of the Indiana Glove Factory, where my grandmother toiled as a seamstress in sweatshop conditions, by the Das Deutsch Hall (renamed the Athenaeum after the war), the old hulk of the Real Silk Hosiery Mills Building, now converted to trendy lofts, and down to the exotic minarets of the  Murat Shrine Temple, meeting place of the Ancient Arabic Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine. For most of that ride, I could hear the metallic hum of the old Coca-Cola bottling plant, the largest bottling plant in the world at the time. The air was permeated with its sticky smell, sweet and oily. I would watch the men come and go from their shift changes, a melange of working class Indy: blacks, Germans and Poles, Irish and Italians. They would hoot and whistle at me:  “How’d the Reds do yesterday?” “Who’s dancing at the Red Garter tonight, kid?” I’d laugh and fling them copies of the paper from my saddle bag as I sped down College Avenue. Like Detroit and Cleveland and Milwaukee, Indianapolis was a working city then, pulsing with life spilling out on the streets. A few years later the plant would be shuttered, bought up by the Indianapolis Public School District for administrative space and to service the district’s fleet of busses. Scanning the skyline today, Indianapolis seems to have retreated inside, who knows what kind of grim work goes on behind the reflective glass of these shiny towers. But hurray, the building has been saved by developers, transformed a hipster food court, movie theaters for god knows what audience and into a boutique hotel, with the sinister interior vibe of the Overlook in Kubrick’s film of The Shining.  Its sleek skeleton and ornamentation have been immaculately restored and, yet, drained of almost any meaning. A place of working people has been rendered into a kind of architectural parody, a celebration of the neoliberal economic machine that closed the plant as inefficient, shipped jobs to low-wage workers in Latin America and made it impossible for those who would have worked at the plant, or hundreds of similar factories across the Midwest, to ever sample its luxuries.

Bottleworks Hotel, entry. Photo: Jeffrey St. Clair.

Exterior detail, Bottleworks. Photo: Jeffrey St. Clair.

Bottleworks, lobby. Photo: Jeffrey St. Clair.

Tile entryway, Bottleworks. Photo: Jeffrey St. Clair.

Restroom, Bottleworks. Photo: Jeffrey St. Clair.

The Green Room, Bottleworks. Photo: Jeffrey St. Clair.

Billiard room, Bottleworks. Photo: Jeffrey St. Clair.

The Library, Bottleworks. Photo: Jeffrey St. Clair.

Grand Staircase, Bottleworks. Photo: Jeffrey St. Clair.

Gilded exit, Bottleworks. Photo: Jeffrey St. Clair.

National Pastime. Photo: Jeffrey St. Clair.

+ This week’s delicacies on CounterPunch + (our online magazine—and so much more!) are headlined by Pete Dolack’s laser targeting of the weak points in the underbelly of late-Capitalism and by Ed Rampell’s investigation of how California’s wildfires are reshaping not only the state’s ecology but its culture and politics. As a special bonus, I sat through the three-plus hours of DW Griffith’s Birth of a Nation so you don’t have to and reported back all the disgusting parts for you to gross out your friends with at the church fish fry this weekend. All this for 25 bucks. A whole year of it.

The Great Taste of Coke has Refreshed Players…

Booked Up
What I’m reading this week…

The Nation of Plants
Stefano Mancuso
Trans. Gregory Conti
(Other Press)

One-Way Street and Other Writings
Walter Benjamin

Beloved Beasts: Fighting for Life in an Age of Extinction
Michelle Nijhuis

Sound Grammar
What I’m listening to this week…

Welcome 2 America

The Complete Live at the Lighthouse
Lee Morgan
(Blue Note)

Amaro Freitas
(Far Out Recordings)

The Great Thieves of Whitehall

“Why is it that we honor the Great Thieves of Whitehall, for Acts that in Whitechapel would merit hanging? Why admire one sort of Thief, and despise the other? I suggest, ’tis because of the Scale of the Crime.–What we of the Mobility love to watch, is any of the Great Motrices, Greed, Lust, Revenge, taken out of all measure, brought quite past the scale of the ev’ryday world, approaching what we always knew were the true Dimensions of Desire. Let Antony lose the world for Cleopatra, to be sure,–not Dick his Day’s Wages, at the Tavern.” (Thomas Pynchon, Mason & Dixon)

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