Roaming Charges: Ain’t That America, Something to See, Baby

On 135 South, in central Indiana. Photo: Jeffrey St. Clair.

“Again and again it has been shown that society’s attachment to its familiar and long-since forfeited life is so rigid as to nullify the genuinely human application of intellect, forethought, even in dire peril. So that in this society the picture of imbecility is complete: uncertainty, indeed perversion of vital instincts, and impotence, indeed decay of the intellect.”

– Walter Benjamin

+ For years, the mantra of “anti-war” liberals, including the Peace Prize president, was that by invading Iraq, the US was fighting the wrong post-9/11 war, losing its focus on Afghanistan. In fact, the US shouldn’t have been at war with Afghanistan either…

+ Over the last 20 years, we’ve heard dozens of rationales, justifications and excuses for the US occupation of Afghanistan, all of them now exposed as hollow (or worse). There’s been no “nation-building,” the status of women has not been elevated or protected, the army and security forces have not been “trained” and “modernized,” opium poppy production has not been eradicated, militant groups have not been eliminated, sectarian strife has not lessened, the influence of Pakistan’s ISI has not been blunted. But American contractors and weapons makers have made tens of billions, year after year, for two decades, on long-term, no-bid contracts, many of the companies run by retired officials from the Pentagon and CIA, with little to no oversight or accountability. The Afghan war and occupation was one of history’s longest gravy trains, feeding govt. guaranteed profits to some of the most unsavory operators in the country, as 1000s of Afghans perished, and every time someone tried to stop it, they were shouted down with one word: “terrorism.”

+ Justly, there’s been much (belated) media attention about the number of bodies of indigenous children exhumed from residential schools in the US & Canada. I’m equally interested in how many corpses will be discovered at CIA black sites like Bagram, after the Taliban take control.

+ On Friday, the State Department urged US embassy staff in Kabul to begin destroying all “sensitive material.” There go the torture tapes…

+ It turns out that the Bush Administration knew the war on Afghanistan was lost in the early years and covered up just how close the Taliban came to assassinating Cheney.`

+ Uh, can you repeat that for the record, Donald?

+ As blame is apportioned for the Afghan debacle, the temptation, fully yielded to by many, is to focus on Cheney and Rumsfeld, leaving out the malign roles played by John McCain, David Petraeus, Barack Obama and nearly the entire US Congress and press corps.

+ Once you get out, they pull you back in

+ The word “first” has now officially lost all meaning…

+ If you understand the “War on Terror” as an enterprise for the benefit of weapons makers and defense contractors, it’s been one of the most successful wars in US history.

+ Cost of Afghan War: $2.3 trillion.
+ Cost to stem climate change (according to UN): $300 billion.

IPL Harding Street Power Plant, Indianapolis. Photo: Jeffrey St. Clair.

+ Global warming will get progressively worse and cannot be stopped over the next 30 years, according to the new IPCC climate assessment, because the world’s nations delayed so long (and continue to delay) in curbing emissions. A hotter, perhaps much hotter, future is now essentially locked in.

+ In the worst of five scenarios detailing how future global emissions may play out, the world faces a catastrophic 4.4°C average temperature rise by 2100, the IPCC concluded. Under all five scenarios, in the next two decades warming reaches or exceed the 1.5°C goal of the 2015 Paris Agreement, which also set a weaker goal of holding warming to 2°C.

+ How is the new IPCC report substantially different from any of the other IPCC reports? The planet is warming. Human activity caused it. There is only a limited amount of time to take action in order to forestall the most extreme outcome. The report is a prelude to yet another global climate conference, where more non-binding, incremental measures will be agreed upon by the very leaders who profit from inaction, amid much self-congratulatory backslapping about how fraught the process was. Meanwhile, the forests burn, the permafrost melts, the methane percolates, the droughts deepen, the seas rise, the rivers flood, and the hurricanes line up in the Atlantic basin like jetliners over O’Hare.

+ When reading the dire climate report, it’s important to keep in mind that 20 transnational corporations and the Pentagon are responsible for more than 35 percent (480 billion tonnes) of the total global carbon emissions since 1965.

Saudi Aramco 59.26 (billion tonnes of carbon dioxide)
Chevron 43.35
Gasprom 43.23
Exxon-Mobil 41.90
National Iranian Oil Co. 35.66
BP 34.02
Royal Dutch Shell 31.95
Coal India 23.12
Pemex 22.65
Petro Venezuela 15.75
Petro China 15.63
Peabody Energy 15.39
Conoco-Philips 15.23
Abu Dhabi National Oil 13.84
Kuwait National Oil 13.84
Kuwait National Petroleum 13.84
Iraq National Oil 13.48
Total SA 12.35
SonaTrach 12.30
BHP Billiton 9.80
Petrobas 8.68

+ They want us to believe the fault is shared equally, that human behavior can’t change, and thus there’s little or perhaps even nothing that can be done. This is a con. In fact, corporations are making trillions killing the atmosphere and, to this point, have no real economic or political incentive to change. These vast corporate entities don’t succumb to heat waves or perish in fires or get swept away in floods or drowned in hurricanes. They find a way to profit off the planetary catastrophe they’ve inflicted. There are few, if any clean hands, anywhere you look: the US, Russia, China, India, Venezuela. All are implicated. It’s an economic death wish that transcends what we used to think of as mere “capitalism.”

+  You can credit Al Gore for highlighting the climate crisis, if you like. But he can’t escape culpability for the fact that more than 30 years after Earth in the Balance was published, we’re in worse shape now than we were in 1990. As Cockburn & I documented in our book on Gore, he was a chief architect of the neoliberal approach to “environmentalism” (pushed by his partners in profit Fred Krupp at EDF & John Bryson at NRCD/SoCal Edison) which argued that “market forces” should be used to entice corporations to reduce their carbon emissions. This “painless” strategy, which replaced firm regulations and criminal penalties with financial incentives and more tax breaks, was doomed from the start. Gore knew what the planet was facing, knew the consequences of inaction, and still pushed policies that prioritized profit over dramatic action, even going so far as to preach that energy deregulation would insure a decrease in fossil fuel consumption. This is what prosecutors call consciousness of guilt. And Gore doesn’t have much of a defense against charges that’s he’s complicit in the harrowing crisis that has descended inexorably upon us.

+ And then there’s Obama, during boasting about his record during the 2012 campaign:

“We’re opening up more than 75% of our potential oil resources offshore. We’ve quadrupled the number of operating rigs to a record high. We’ve added enough new oil and gas pipeline to encircle the Earth. So we are drilling all over the place.”

+ According to the IEA, global carbon emissions are expected to hit a record high in 2023.

+ From the IPCC Report: “Human-caused stratospheric ozone depletion was the main driver of cooling of the lower stratosphere” of 0-0.8 degrees “between 1979 and the mid-1990s.” If it weren’t for that ozone-shredding disaster, we’d really be cooking now.

+ House Democrats are “urging” more conservation and transportation funding in the budget reconciliation package. In customary Democratic fashion, these are, of course, contradictory “urges”…

+ At Biden’s press conference, he said he wanted the first “electric” Corvette that rolls off the assembly line, as if electric power wasn’t generated (or the cars themselves assembled) with fossil fuels. The mindset is still Steve McQueen with advancing dementia.

+ + Meanwhile, Bezos and Gates have teamed up to start scouring Greenland for lithium to strip-mine for “electric” vehicles…

+ From Pynchon’s Against the Day

“Mine engineers take a dim view [of alchemy],” Merle pretended to explain, “old-time superstition from back in the Dark Ages, nowhere near’s scientific as modern-day metallurgy. But, if you look at the history, modern day chemistry only starts coming in to replace alchemy around the same time capitalism really gets going. Strange, eh? What do you make of that?”

Webb nodded agreeably. “Maybe capitalism decided it didn’t need the old magic anymore.” An emphasis whose contempt was not meant to escape Merle’s attention. “Why bother? Had their own magic, doin’ just fine, thanks, instead of turning lead into gold, they could take poor people’s sweat and turn it into greenbacks, and save the lead for enforcement purposes.”

+ Even with all the blather about electric cars, the Biden administration remains on pace to approve more oil and gas drilling on public lands than any administration since George W. Bush, such drilling practices already account for nearly a quarter of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.

+ Biden’s infrastructure plan calls for $64 billion a year for climate. His budget for the military—the world’s largest institutional producer of greenhouse gases—is 12 times that amount.

+ Thus no incentive for people to drive more fuel-efficient cars, seek out public transit, walk, cycle or just stay the hell home…

+ A day after the release of the latest “dire warnings” on the climate catastrophe, the Biden White House urged OPEC to pump even more oil, beyond the current 400,000 barrels a day monthly hikes the cartel is already implementing. Once you peak behind the curtains, you see how little the real machinery of government changes from one administration to the next.

+ Biden: “I want to make sure that nothing stands in the way of oil-price declines leading to lower prices for consumers.” He’s talking to you, Heat Dome 2!

+ Imagine the political apoplexy if “Antifa” or Al Qaeda (assuming Americans know the difference) were killing this many people?

Republicans? Did you say, Republicans, senator? On this very day, Biden is demanding that OPEC increase crude oil production and lower prices, as a hurricane aims at Florida, two of the largest fires ever seen on the continent are still burning out of control and another killer Heat Dome inexorably descends on the PNW….

+ Cost of Afghan War: $2.26 trillion
Amount UN scientists estimate it will cost to slow climate change: $300 billion.

+ Are you needing a non-commercial break from this tedium? I know I am. Try immersing yourself in this glorious rendition of In a Silent Way by Pharaoh Sanders and band…

***


Sweet corn field, near Trafalgar, Indiana. Photo: Jeffrey St. Clair.

+ George Stephanopoulos: “Is it time for more vaccine mandates?”

NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins: “Yeah, I think we ought to use every public health tool that we can when people are dying.”

Most of the people who are unvaccinated are poor, lack health care, work 2 jobs at a sub-livable wages, have no day care & can’t take a day off work for a jab. Mandating a vaccine won’t help them–universal health care will, increased minimum wages will, extended unemployment will, another round of COVID checks will, outreach into the poorest communities will, consistent messaging on masks and social distancing will. Wonder drugs alone are not going to stop this pandemic. It’s way too late in the game for that.

+ On Monday, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis pressured the Florida Board of Education to withhold the salaries of superintendents and school board members who defy the his executive order prohibiting mask mandates.

+ DeSantis’ political calculus is pretty simple. Those Floridians who live through the pandemic unscathed think he’s great and that the whole thing was nothing but a big sneeze. Those who get sick and recover are likely to follow his lead and blame their ordeal on immigrants. Those who die don’t vote. As for the relatives of the Covid dead who still back him, I think they call them “beneficiaries.”

+ The surge in hospitalizations across the Southeast has almost matched the highs of last winter. But the age demographics are much different…

Under 18: +88% vs January
18-29: +100%
30-39: +121%
40-49: +89%
Over 70: down 45%

+ At what point do you think public attitudes will change? How many deaths will it take? Nationally, more than a million people have died of COVID, according to excess mortality tables. Will it take 2 million? 4? The iconic 6? What suggests attitudes will ever change? If kids slaughtered on the floor of their 10th grade history class (with fully sanitized Florida-approved curriculums) didn’t change attitudes toward guns, what leads any of us to believe that 14-year-olds on ventilators from severe Covid will change the politics of the pandemic? Could it be that our culture, after decades of wars abroad, is now so death-saturated that the higher the death count rises and the COVID skeptics themselves don’t die, the more special and exceptional they feel about their own Elect and privileged status, that they are members of the Super Class that evangelicals, cynical politicians like JD Vance and vaccine hypocrites like Tucker Carlson keep evoking, for their own profit and political power? What if a significant part of our culture, instead of fearing death, begins to crave the death of the Other to make their own dull lives seem special. It may be time to revisit Freud’s concept of the death instinct.

+ Will Texas Governor Greg Abbott “stand (or sit in his case) in the schoolhouse door,” ripping masks off of third graders as they enter…?

+ Dr. Mark Kline, Physician-in-Chief at the Children’s Hospital New Orleans, told ABCNews: “We are hospitalizing record numbers of children. Half of the children in our hospital today are under two years of age, and most of the others are between 5 and 10 years of age.”

+ If you had a bunch of kids, but lost them all to COVID because you followed the lead of DeSantis and Abbott on masks in schools and now find yourself as childless as the Cat Ladies, will JD Vance still give you extra votes because you gave it a good old GED try?

+ Is losing your kids to COVID through medical negligence a more morally refined form of infanticide than having a fetus scraped out of the womb?

+ Do you really think this society is capable of doing what it takes to confront climate change, even as the consequences become more and more tangible and less abstract?

+ Percent of people living on the African continent who have been vaccinated: <2%.

“ACAB,” E. St. Clair Street, Indianapolis. Photo: Jeffrey St. Clair.

+ Jill Collen Jefferson: “The last recorded lynching in the United States was in 1981. But the thing is, lynchings never stopped in the United States. Lynchings in Mississippi never stopped. The evil bastards just stopped taking photographs and passing them around like baseball cards.”

+ The age of the Eric Adams Democrats has begun. (Although to be fair, it’s basically just a system upgrade from the Biden/Harris Democrats)..

+ FoxNews, which I’ve been compelled to watch while visiting a relative in a hospital in Indiana for the past couple of weeks, has endlessly focused on the recent shooting of a cop in Chicago, as proof of the “carnage” in the Windy City, and reported nothing at all about the cop who framed 88 innocent people and was sentenced to only 22 months in prison

+ The murder rate in New York City in July 2021 was 49% lower than the murder rate in New York City in July 2020. Where’s the press coverage?

+ Alleging an effort to curb “contraband”, Florida prisons are planning to eliminate prisoner access to handwritten mail. Instead, the prisons will scan and digitize the mail, which could then be viewed on a tablet you buy from JPay or on a kiosk (these break), or pay to print at $.25 per pg for black & white or $1 per page for color. Cruelty for profit.

+ Sen. Ron Johnson: “Once you’ve granted the American public a new entitlement, it’s impossible to take it away.”

+ It’s amazing the level of absolute bullshit politicians can get away with, almost un-rebutted. Take Ron Johnson’s absurd allegation that no federal entitlement program has ever been rescinded. Given the scurrilous broadsides he and his party unload about houseless people, you’d think he’d at least have some familiarity with the fact that one of the biggest surges in homelessness happened after his hero Reagan ended federal support for mental health programs, which led hospitals to dump patients on the streets by the thousands.

+ They also took welfare away, they eviscerated food stamps, energy & housing assistance, they took Covid relief away…What they haven’t taken away are tax breaks for those who don’t need them or a single weapons program designed to fight enemies that no longer exist, if they ever did.

+ In its drive to provide its children a “patriotic education,” South Dakota just stripped indigenous and tribal history from the state’s social studies curriculum. Perhaps Pine Ridge should block the highways again…

+ More grist for the Critical Math Theory mill….

+ Josh Hawley, one of those politicians who obsesses over the voting habits of black and brown people, lives in a house he owns in Virginia, but uses his sister’s home in Missouri as his “legal” residence for purposes of both running for office and voting.

+ Despite his thumbs up to the Capitol Hill rioters, Hawley isn’t exactly an outcast in the Senate. This week he slipped through this measure on a nearly unanimous vote (95-3), but will almost certainly continue to rail about the “defunding of the police”: “Hawley amendment to establish a deficit-neutral reserve fund relating to hiring 100,000 new police officers nationwide to combat the crime wave in the United States. (2734)”

+ Andrew Cuomo came in an asshole and goes out the same way:  “In my mind, I have never crossed the line with anyone. But I didn’t realize the extent to which the line has been redrawn.”

+ Stephen Colbert is getting a lot of accolades this week for critiquing CNN’s conflict of interest in having Chris Cuomo report on (and secretly advise) his brother. But it’s been a conflict since CNN hired Chris Cuomo and became an egregious conflict after Andrew Cuomo covered up nursing home COVID deaths while CNN was casting him as a heroic foil to Trump. How courageous of Colbert (last heard bellyaching about being disinvited from Obama’s birthday bash) to call it out now that Andrew has resigned.

+ Alex Baldwin (and many other liberals) are lamenting the fall of Cuomo as a “tragic day.” But Cuomo never had the moral fibre to be a tragic character. There was no fall from grace, because he never rose to any exalted state. He’s always been a bully, a blowhard and a pig. Something Baldwin can identify with, I’m sure…

+ What are these t-shirts going for on e-Bay these days? Do they sell at a premium if they’ve been heavily worn?

+ No drones for Obama’s birthday bash? I hope they paused the deportations as well.

+ How many kids, like Elon Musk, who announced his intention this week to launch satellites that will beam advertisements in space, grow up wanting to become a comic book villain but don’t have the trust fund to realize their maniacal obsessions?

+ Orwell the Snitch deserves his share of posthumous abuse for his hypocrisy and betrayal of friends, but maybe not the cruel fate of being compared by the odious Niall Ferguson to the equally odious Andrew Sullivan…

+ Dana Milbank delivered a master class in taking quotes out of context and eliding words and entire sentences that would’ve fatally undermined his hit piece on Rashida Tlaib. Apparently, it’s now anti-Semitic to even discuss how the richest 1% dominate almost every aspect of our politics. There’s a reason even the Washington Post relegated him to writing satire–at least his columns have smelled like satire for years, though they’ve rarely provoked even a grin.

+ Each helmet for pilots of the F-35 is individually tailored, costs more than a Ferrari, takes two days to get fitted and a new haircut may throw it all out of alignment…

+ Monica Hess: “I did not have children because America is a difficult place to be a mom. And because every policy-based attempt to change that is met by telling women to buck up, drink a glass of rosé and download the Calm app. Screw that.”

+ Notes from the Trauma Ward: My relative crashed her car into an unyielding oak tree, causing multiple fractures. It turns out the crash may have been caused by a previously undiagnosed heart condition, for which the cardiologist, without any consultation, prescribed a drug called Apixaban (marketed as Eliquis). Although there are other anti-stroke meds, Eliquis is a relatively new patented compound and there are, as yet, no generic substitutes. When we pulled up to the drive-thru CVS to pick up the prescriptions, the bill for a one-month supply of Eliquis alone was $493.19. Medicare only paid 16% of the retail price of $590.47. After registering the shock on my face at hearing the price, the young pharmacist in this rural southern Indiana town said: “This is what I hate about our health care system. It’s so often a choice between your money or your life. The prices of these patented drugs eat up almost half of people’s monthly social security. Even more sometimes. Something’s got to change.”

Aphrodite’s Fritillary and purple coneflower, near Bean Blossom, Indiana. Photo: Jeffrey St. Clair.

+ The wildfires sweeping across Siberia are bigger than all the other current wildfires in the world combined.

+ Smoke from these fires is now swirling above the North Pole for the first time in recorded history.

+ A paper published in the journal Science Advances reports on findings by researchers at Harvard University finding that there were nearly 20,000 extra coronavirus infections and 750 Covid-19 deaths associated with exposure to wildfire smoke between March and December 2020 in the American West.

+ Temperatures hit 120F in the ancient port city of Syracuse on the island of Sicily this week, the highest ever recorded in Europe.

+ The Pentagon wants more low-altitude training for the Air Force in the Owyhee Canyonlands, sending planes as low as 100 feet off the ground across one of the wildest regions of Oregon…

+ My pal John Stauber wrote a book, more years ago than even John would like to admit, titled Toxic Waste is Good for You, about how the PR industry can take even intractable problems and flip them to their advantage, but even he might be impressed by the hubris of the Trudeau Government arguing that it must maximize revenues from the Transmountain Pipeline to fight climate change. How do they plan to “maximize” this revenue? By doubling the amount of tar sands oil pulsing through its deathly pipes. But rest assured, it’s all in a good cause. Only liberals talk like this, because only other liberals are likely to swallow it.

+  A story at the Intercept, documents how bureaucrats at the EPA have tried to intimidate agency scientists in so-called “hair-on-fire” cases (high priority assessments where manufacturers have objected to the agency’s findings), including warning them (falsely) that they will “will be sued by the chemical manufacturers if they insist on standing by their findings” critical of certain toxic compounds.

+ The Democrats’ infrastructure bill calls for more logging, more logging roads and more road maintenance, all of which will contribute to more…forest fires (and further imperil forest-dependent and road-averse species.)

+ Fresh off its spring slaughter, Wisconsin has called for the killing of 300 more wolves this fall, if there are even that many left

+ The Golden State is considering the composting of human corpses as a “greener method” of the final disposition. But what’s the micro-plastic content of the average the average human body in California these days?

+ In a chilling interview with Survival International, Rita Piripkura, the only Piripkura person in regular contact with outsiders, describes how nine of her relatives were massacred in one attack by loggers, and says that her brother and nephew, Baita and Tamandua, are known to still live inside the territory. “There are lots of land grabbers around,” Rita says. “If they kill them [her relatives], there won’t be anyone left.”

+This week’s CounterPunch PLUS offers two incisive history lessons (both unauthorized by the Texas Commission on Patriotic Textbooks): Dan Glazebrook probes the ongoing obsession with monarchy, as represented by the sclerotic dynasty of the House of Windsor and Eve Ottenberg profiles the political legacy of one of the greatest and most fearless organizers of the 20th century, Fannie Lou Hamer. Plus a brief account of my first close encounter with a Yellowstone grizzly, on the banks of Nez Perce Creek. Better than any Master Class and at a mere 50 cents a week it’s almost free. CP PLUS is the antidote to the counter-histories now proliferating in schoolrooms from Tonopah to Kissimmee.

Booked Up
What I’m reading this week…

Earth’s Wild Music: Celebrating and Defending the Songs of the Natural World
Kathleen Dean Moore
(CounterPoint)

Reef Life: an Underwater Memoir
Callum Roberts
(Pegasus Books)

The July Revolution: Barcelona, 1909
Leopoldo Bonafulla
Trans. Slava Faybysh
(AK Press)

Sound Grammar
What I’m listening to this week…

Behind the Dikes: The 1969 Netherlands Recordings
Bill Evans
(Elemental)

Wide Through the Eyes of No One
The Steoples
(Stones Throw)

Jazz is Dead 008
Brian Jackson / Ali Shaheed Muhammad / Adrian Younge
(Jazz Is Dead)

Lord, This Must be My Destination

American Impatience

“As a class, Americans are extremely impatient. While they are the first to catch onto a joke, they are also the quickest to get bored. In Europe, a film producer can take his time establishing a mood. He can have dozens of dissolves of clouds. American audiences will not sit still for them, no matter how beautiful or exciting they may be. If they show the second cloud shot they expect to see an airplane in it. Then, if there’s a third, they expect to see the plane explode in mid-air.” (Billy Wilder)

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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