Roaming Charges: Hour of the Goat

Baphomet drawing by Éliphas Lévi. From Dogme et Ritual de la Haute Magie by Éliphas Lévi (G. Baillière, Paris, 1861)

+ One of the reasons Biden is having such a hard time making the case for the US’s exit from Afghanistan is that he is congenitally inarticulate and he has no one around him who can make the case for him. Nearly everyone in both parties has been corrupted by this war: voted for it, funded it, planned it, rationalized it, stood silent as it started, very early on, to go bad, closed their eyes to drone killings, torture, and an occupation with no end. Even Bernie Sanders and Ron Paul. They own this war and the war ended up owning them. Aside from Barbara Lee, there aren’t any heroes in this 40-year-long fiasco. But if Biden can stand firm as he’s ambushed from all sides, not retreat from his retreat, and finally bring the occupation to an end, he’ll go down in the history books a lot more credibly than the jackals who are assailing him.

+ Curtis LeMay wanted to bomb Vietnam into the Stone Age, “destroying every work of man.” HRC wanted to bomb Afghanistan into modernity, destroying every vestige of misogyny. The bombs fell for years until the US finally left. Amid ruins and graveyards, both nations remain culturally much the same, free to determine the shape of their own future. The US, however, is weaker now, morally, politically and internationally, than it has ever been.

+ It’s not that difficult to understand why after 20 years US/NATO forces couldn’t “pacify” Afghanistan: they hardly ever knew who was aligned with the Taliban or where they were. Every “errant” airstrike that killed a civilian (and there were 1000s of t hem) probably increased the Taliban’s strength by 10. The increased reliance on drones was an early indication that the war was lost. What seemed from the outside like a demonstration of overwhelming power was actually a sign of strategic futility, as each bomb blew another hole in the Pentagon’s aspirations to subdue Afghanistan.

+ The American Media in Crisis Mode: People who know nothing about Afghanistan interviewing people who have already demonstrated (with the body counts to prove it) that everything they thought they knew about Afghanistan was dead wrong.

+ Has America as a whole become this stupid and depraved? Or just the neocon flapjaws who get paid to comment on American foreign policy? Does Starnes have any idea how many towns and villages have been leveled by US airstrikes and drones in the last 20 years? Probably not, but he wouldn’t care anyway. Push-button bombings which pretty much assured that the US would lose any moral claim it may once have had to help shape the future of Afghanistan.

+ Rep. Mark Green: “I’d put more military in there, I’d get every single American out, and I’d start killing bad guys.”

+ Tony Blair, a lap dog in search of a new lap.

+ And here’s HR McMaster, the man who McMaster used pictures of Afghan women in skirts back in the seventies, to entice Trump into sending more troops to Afghanistan in 2017, calling the Taliban “the enemies of all humanity,” blaming the chaotic situation in Kabul on “the neo-isolationist far right and the self loathing far left,” and claiming that he “wouldn’t be surprised if this ISIS-Khurasan attack was just a straw man, a front, for the Taliban,” without explaining that ISIS and the Taliban have been at each other’s throats for years and that Taliban guards were among the victims of the bombing in question.

+ Number of Kabul suicide bombings during McMaster’s term as Trump’s NSA advisor: 17.

+ Meanwhile, SIGAR reported that there were more 40,000 “enemy-initiated” attacks in Trump’s last year in office. The most by far of any year of the war.

+  It’s so damn infuriating that the national press corps, like the drooling pack of war dogs they are, have put me in the position of defending Biden’s “precipitous” (if you can possibly call it that after 20 years) retreat from Afghanistan.

+ This week the Washington Post ran an essay–probably too grand of a word–by Ian Cameron, a former Marine drone operator, who recounted his experiences inside an air-conditioned console room in Nevada targeting drone strikes on suspected insurgents in Afghanistan.

I’d wake up in my “can,” a small but comfortable air-conditioned metal container outfitted with a bed, desk and a dresser. I would take a hot shower and shave and then walk 100 feet over to the cafeteria for a breakfast of eggs, bacon and Cheerios. Afterward, I crossed a small dusty road lined with porta johns to arrive at the operations center. I brewed a pot of coffee and then took over my shift at 8 a.m.

I killed men for the next eight hours.

After the fall­­–or one might say rising­–of Kabul, Cameron grapples with whether or not his assassinations from afar were worth it. If can make it through this self-wallowing bilge without vomiting, you’ve got a stronger stomach than I do.

+ Cue Jon Langford’s Drone Operator…

+ An excellent piece in Harper’s by Andrew Quilty provides a close up view of how the Afghan war was actually waged, largely through a strategy of death squads and drone strikes, both of which proved to be powerful recruiting tools for the Taliban.

+ It should not surprise anyone that Erik Prince, the mercenary’s mercenary, is offering to fly people out of Kabul for $6,500 each. Fifty years from now, if there are still history books, Erik Prince will the enduring symbol of the wars on terror, the man who put a price on every life, those lives he took and those he “saved”…

+ Prince is a war criminal and the lowest form of life on the planet. But’s he far from the only one and probably doesn’t rank in the top 10 as a war profiteer. Are Boeing, Raytheon, Lockheed and General Atomic donating their lethal services? This war is ending the way it began: making bank from the infliction and exploitation of human misery.

+ The U.S. spent nearly $28 million on uniforms for the Afghan military with camouflage patterns that didn’t match the environment. Pentagon officials claim this particular design was picked because Afghanistan’s Minister of Defense at the time thought it “looked good” on the troops.

+ In comparison to other US wars, the Afghan invasion and occupation was a remarkably safe tour of duty for US troops. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for Afghan farmers, villagers and wedding parties. At least 241,000 people have been killed in the Afghanistan “zone of conflict,”: more than 71,000 of them civilians.

+ A former Pence adviser said Trump had four years to help Afghan allies leave the country but Stephen Miller’s “racist hysteria” blocked it from happening. She claimed the pair actively worked against the visa process for Afghans who helped US troops.

+ There’s almost nothing worse than a diplomat who is a true believer in the State Department’s humanitarian interventions, they’re like missionaries with drones.

+ Memo to Taliban: Drop acid, don’t throw it!

+ Things I learned during the Afghan War. In Air Force parlance, airstrikes are called “weapons releases.” In the first 76 days of the war, there were 17,500 such “releases.” They continued “releasing” these “packages” every day for 238 more months.

+ Thousands are dying each day again, ICUs are overflowing into parking lots, the West is burning from San Diego to Missoula, it rained 17 inches in 12 hours in Tennessee, people are falling from the wheelwells of planes fleeing Kabul and the House is probing an ex-president’s mental health? Now truly is the definition of insanity.

+ Only 50% of workers say their employers are providing paid time off to get vaccinated and recover from the side effects of the shot. Yet following an intense corporate lobbying campaign, the Biden administration refused to mandate those protections in its new Labor Department rule.

+ So the COVID vaccines–which, credit where credit is due, were developed with enormous federal subsidies from Trump in a dramatic demonstration of how socialist medicine could work–bought the country about 8 months, 8 months which Biden squandered when he couldn’t convince 30% of the country to take the vaccine (≈100 million people) and had no plan for what to do when they didn’t and the efficacy of the vaccines began to fade at the very moment mutations of the virus became more contagious. Now, the hospitalization rate is higher than it was at the height of the pandemic, 100,000 people in hospital beds and thousands more wheezing and coughing at home because there’s no room from them in the ICU.

+ Dan Patrick, the blowhard bigot who serves as the Lt. Governor of Texas, implied last week that black people are the source of COVID’s resurgence in Texas. But an analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that White adults account for the largest share of unvaccinated adults.

+ Televangelist Jim Bakker: “How can you go to church and pray when you’re wearing a mask? Do you think God can hear your prayers through a mask?” Is this the beginning of a doctrinal schism with Franklin Graham, who said yesterday that Jesus would oppose government background checks for guns because Almighty and All-Seeing God knows what’s in everyone’s heart and was doing the background checks himself?

+ So Nietzsche was wrong. God isn’t dead. He’s just deaf.

+ Woman at the Trump rally in Alabama (which has the lowest vaccination rate in the country), after Trump recommended getting the vaccine…”I think it is time where God is separating the sheep from the goats. I’m a goat. Because I am not a sheep. I’m not doing what they tell me to do. I’m fighting against it (the vaccine).”

+ There’s been a remarkable transformation in Christian cosmology. Lambs used to be the flock of Jesus, the good shepherd, and goats were the Satanic symbol of yielding to lustful temptation.

+ The relevant passage is in Matthew, where Jesus sets the sheep on the Right and the goats on the Left and orders the goats to “depart into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes & you did not clothe me, I was sick & in prison and you did not look after me.”

+ Those antinomian goats expelled by Jesus sound like they provided the template for Stephen Miller’s political program.

+ Here’s a list of the prohibited items at the Trump rally in Alabama last weekend. In other words, you can wear a mask, but you can’t bring your sidearm? You can bring your gun everywhere, even Church, except to a Trump rally? Is there a constitutional footnote, awaiting discovery in a dicta by that beer-swilling brat Brett Kavanaugh, that sanctions this intrusion into our Jesus-anointed right to carry? As for the prohibition on balls, they wouldn’t want to embarrass Trump.

+ I’m no fan of Patton, who was overrated as a general and underrated as a sadist, but it would have taken him about 5 seconds to slap the shit out of Don Jr.

+ While driving around the ancestral cornpatch this week, I came across this potential new COVID cure announced on the Flatrock River Bridge, near Mike Pence’s hometown in Bartholomew County, Indiana. Pass it on.

Flatrock River Bridge, north of Columbus, Indiana. Photo: Jeffrey St. Clair.

+ Now, Oklahoma is running out of horse dewormersMr. Ed: “It goes in the other way, Wilbur. You’ve got to bend over. Yesssss, it may sting a little the first time.”

+ After Jackson Hole Mountain Resort’s owner held a fundraiser with Marjorie Taylor Greene, Jim Jordan and Mark Meadows, Patagonia said it wouldn’t supply its products to the resort. It was Patagonia’s “largest single customer in the Jackson Hole area.”

+ At least 14.87 million Americans belong to a church or denominational group that has endorsed in faith-based boycott and divestment collective action for Palestinian human rights.

+ The IDF has been seizing solar panels from Palestinian homes in the brutal heat of summer in a cruel attempt to extort families into abandoning their homes. Ha’aretz’s lead editorial denounced these disgusting seizures in terms so vehement it would almost certainly have been denounced as “anti-Semitic” if it had run (it wouldn’t) in a major US paper: “These events can only be described as pure evil, a lack of conscience, which stems from a desire to abuse the inhabitants until they have no choice and leave.”

+ In 2019, Phoenix police shot Jacob Harris in the back, killing the 19-year old. Three of Harris’ friends, who were in the car when the cops shot him, have been in jail awaiting a murder trial for his death ever since, under a legal theory that always prosecutors to charge people for the fatal actions of a third party, such as a police officer, if the death is deemed a reasonably foreseeable outcome of the crime. Harris’ friends never fired a shot. The cops who killed Harris received no disciplinary measures. At least 13 states permit this kind of prosecution.

+ Q sure missed a lot that was going down right under its own tent: “The proximate cause of [Minnesota GOP chair Jennifer] Carnahan’s departure was a firestorm that engulfed the party in recent days, after a GOP donor she was close to, Anton “Tony” Lazzaro, was indicted on federal sex-trafficking charges…. In addition to the charges against Lazzaro, the chairwoman of the University of St. Thomas College Republicans was arrested on charges she assisted him in trafficking minors for sex…”

+ After a decade of Tory rule, workers in the UK are on average £1,000-a-year worse off.

+ The question is how much worse off would they have been under the very similar neoliberal policies of the Blairite “Labour” Party?

+ The public golf courses in London alone could provide housing for more than 300,000 people.

+ If I wasn’t so terrified of needles (yes, I’ve had my jabs), I’d probably have this quote tattooed on my wrist: “If you ask us what’s going to happen in the near future, we have no fucking idea. Sorry for using the word ‘idea.'” – Subcomandante Marcos (aka, Galeano)

+ It turns out that much of the federal COVID relief money sent to colleges has been diverted into sports programs. In New Mexico, for example, of the $51.8 million received via the CARES Act or the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF), nearly a quarter ($12.5 million) went to athletics.

+ The city of Tampa is now treating its tap water with bleach instead of liquid oxygen because local hospitals need the liquid oxygen to keep ventilated COVID patients alive. The city’s also asking customers to “eliminate non-essential water uses.”

+ In a 6 – 1 ruling this week, the Florida Supreme Court approved a rule that shields corporate executives from discovery motions. Only 4 other states have such a rule.

+ A new scientific model called the Prompt Assessment of Global Earthquakes for Response (PAGER) developed by the U.S. Geological Survey suggests that the number of fatalities in the recent earthquake in Haiti (now listed around 2,000) may be closer to 100,000 or more…

+ Rising global electricity demand outpaced growth in clean electricity, meaning more coal was burned, pushing power’s CO2 emissions 5% higher than the pre-pandemic levels of 2019.

+ A new analysis of the global oil supplies concludes that emissions from oil refineries while continue to rise in the near-term future.  A global inventory has revealed that CO2 emissions from oil refineries were 1.3 Gigatonnes (Gt) in 2018 and could be as large as 16.5 Gt from 2020 to 2030. Dies iræ, dies illa, Solvet sæclum in favilla: Teste David cum Sibylla.

+ Almost everything Biden told you about his climate plan were lies–most of them transparent to anyone who was paying attention. But after Obama’s policies led to the Deepwater Horizon disaster, this giveaway to Big Oil in the Gulf is really brazen. Will anyone in Gang Green object or are they still just happy that Deb Haaland’s deputy secretaries return their calls…eventually?

+ The announcement of the new Biden leases came just days after a fire erupted in the Gulf of Mexico at a PEMEX offshore oil platform, killing five and injuring 6, with two workers still missing. This was the second massive failure at a PEMEX offshore oil platform in the last two months.

+ Under Andrew Cuomo’s leadership, the state of New York remains at only around 5% wind and solar on the power grid largely because Cuomo pushed fracked gas as a “bridge fuel.” As a result, renewable energy sources flatlined and 16 times more gas power plants were built as wind/solar in his decade in power.

+ 700 homes (and counting) lost in the Dixie Fire barely merits a mention in the media these days. We’ve entered a sinister new complacency about climate change, as if 750,000 acre, town-destroying fires are simply accepted as a routine part of life in the Pyrocene.

+ Smoke from wildfires likely contributed to thousands of additional premature births in California between 2007 and 2012.

+ This flanks of Mt. Shasta (elevation 14,179 ), snowless for the first time in modern history.

+ The killer floods in Tennessee, which killed at least 21 people in rural Humphries County, were fed by seventeen inches of rain in a 24-hour period a new state record, We were getting rainfall rates of 3 inches per hour for three hours straight,” said Krissy Hurley, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Nashville. “It’s an unheard-of, astronomical type of statistic to see after the fact.”

+ The latest research  estimates that global warming has made such extraordinary rainfall events–like those in Germany, Japan and Tennessee this summer–up to nine times as likely as in the pre-industrial age.

+ Biden urged OPEC to increase crude oil production, has approved more new oil leases on federal lands than Trump and is now selling new oil leases in the Gulf of friggin’ Mexico, Bernie. Tell him. You’ve got his number, don’t you?

+ Not sure why neo-Nazis in Idaho felt the need to attack it, since the power grid’s perfectly capable of failing on its own and burning down half the state in the process…

+ McDonald’s CEO Chris Kempczinski on why the fast-food empire doesn’t offer healthier options:

“Our menu is very Darwinian. We will put on the menu what our customers are looking to buy. We do have healthier choice options on the menu. And we have more indulgent choices on the menu. Ultimately, we leave it to the customer to make those choices.”

+ A new study suggests that eating a single hot dog will take 35 minutes off your life. At this point, Joey Chestnut must be living his life in “dog” years…

+ He may have left his dog behind with the furniture and unopened boxes of his book, but at least Andrew Cuomo didn’t strap Captain to the roof of his car when he retreated from the Governor’s mansion.

+ Despite later claims that he’d helped liberate the death camps, Ronald Reagan spent most of his WW II experience in San Francisco at Fort Mason, telling fellow Hollywood troopers how to march and supervising the loading of trucks with uniforms for new recruits. Even so, he insisted on wearing spurs, while he strutted along the bayfront, openly fantasizing about leading a charge against Rommel himself. One of the military doctors told Reagan his eyesight was so bad he’d probably “shoot one of our generals” and someone else in the room, a screenwriter, snickered, “Yeah, and he’d miss.”

+ Raymond Chandler was no fan of his rival James M. Cain and his animosity intensified after Billy Wilder hired Chandler to write the screenplay of Cain’s novella Double Indemnity. Here’s Chandler writing to his editor at Knopf about the experience:

“James Cain–Faugh. Everything he touches smells like a billygoat. He is every kind writer I detest, a faux naif, a Proust in greasy overalls, a dirty little boy with a piece of chalk and a board fence and nobody looking.”

+ Ernest Hemingway was ecstatic when Paramount bought the rights to For Whom the Bell Tolls for $150,000. It was twice the price David O. Selznick had paid for Gone With the Wind. What Hemingway failed to realize, even after having seen what Hollywood did to A Farewell to Arms, was that once Hollywood got the rights to his novel about the Spanish Civil War he lost all influence over what they would do with and to it. Little did Hemingway know that the film had been put in the hands of one of Hollywood’s most reactionary figures, Sam Wood, who took the novelist’s pages of notes on the script and dumped them in the trash, as he proceeded to drain all of the politics out of Hemingway’s gripping saga of communist and anarchist resistance to Franco’s fascist takeover of the Spanish Republic. Wood quipped to Gary Cooper: “It’s a love story against a brutal background. It would be the same love story if they were on the other side.” What Hemingway and one of the film’s stars, Ingrid Bergman, probably weren’t aware of was the fact that at the same time Wood was filming For Whom the Bell Tolls in the Sierra Nevada, he was secretly organizing one of the most vicious rightwing groups in Hollywood, an anti-communist and immigrant outfit he dubbed the Motion Picture Alliance for the Preservation of American Ideals, whose mission was to fight communist influence in Hollywood. “The American motion picture is, and will continue to be,” Wood brayed at the Alliance’s first public event, “by Americans, for the American people, in the interests of America, and dedicated to the preservation of the American scene and the American way of life.” Among the celebrities Wood (Pride of the Yankees, Kings Row, Goodbye, Mr. Chips) recruited to join his red-baiting, xenophobic outfit were Cooper, Clark Gable, Walt Disney, Robert Montgomery, Barbara Stanwyck, John Ford, Ginger Rogers, Irene Dunne and John Wayne. A few years later, Wood would slip the names of people he suspected of communists to HUAC, including Hemingway and Bergman’s. When Wood died in 1949, his will required that beneficiaries, including his own children, sign an affidavit swearing that they “weren’t now and never had been a member of the Communist Party.”

+ Ishmael Reed at 83, still writin’, still fightin’….

+ Imagine seeing Coltrane perform a Love Supreme live in Seattle one night, the Ascension pieces another night and who knows what far-out explorations the other four nights…all for the price of a few drinks. I’d have given one of my kidneys. (But now you can at least listen to the performance, finally unearthed after 56 years in a private vault.)

+ RIP Charlie Watts, the only Stone I could relate to. He seemed human, when the others (give or take Mick Taylor) seemed slightly more or less so and always beyond approach. Behind all the prancing, posturing & faux-feuding up front, Charlie kept the beat with a wry look on his face, bemused that so many were still buying this routine after so many, many years.

+ From Keith Richards’ memoir, Life,…

There was a rare moment, in late 1984, of Charlie throwing his drummer’s punch–a punch I’ve seen a couple of times and it’s lethal; it carries a lot of balance and timing. He has to be badly provoked. He threw this one at Mick. We were in Amsterdam for a meeting. Mick and I weren’t on great terms at the time, but I said, c’mon, let’s go out. And I lent him the jacket I got married in. We got back to the hotel about five in the morning and Mick called up Charlie. I said, don’t call him at this hour. But he did, and said, “Where’s my drummer?” No answer. He puts the phone down. Mick and I were still sitting there, pretty pissed–give Mick a couple glasses, he’s gone–when, about 20 minutes later, there was a knock at the door. There was Charlie Watts, Savile Row suit, perfectly dressed, tie, shaved, the whole fucking bit. I could smell the cologne! I opened the door and he didn’t even look at me, he walked straight past me, gold hold of Mick and said, “Never call me your drummer again!” Then he hauled him up by the lapels of my jacket and gave him a right hook. Mick fell back onto a silver platter of smoked salmon on the table and began to slide towards the open window and the canal below it. And I was thinking, this is a good one, and then I realized it was my wedding jacket. And I grabbed it and caught Mick just before he slid into the Amsterdam canal. It took me 24 hours after that to talk Charlie down. I thought I’d done it when I took him up to his room, but 12 hours later, he was saying, “Fuck it, I’m gonna go down and do it again.” It takes a lot to wind that man up. “Why did you stop him?” My jacket, Charlie, that’s why!

+ “In Amsterdam for a meeting….” They were more of a transnational conglomerate than a rock band by then.

+ Merry Clayton’s voice may have generated the spinal chills in Gimme Shelter, but Watts’ drumming gave the song its sinister beat, the rhythm of approaching doom…

+ And here’s Watts, in more familiar terrain, providing the propulsive polyrhythmic force to Stray Cat Blues…

+ The interplay between Mick Taylor and Watts on Can’t You Hear Me Knocking makes it one of the best songs the Stones ever recorded, the dramatic coda improvised by the band’s two best musicians. Here are the isolated tracks for the song…

+ Java Saint wrote to describe his encounters with Watts: “During my time in Denver, I worked at the venerable Twist and Shout Records; Charlie was the one that would come to the shop when the Stones came to town, and though most would never recognize him, or because of that, he was legitimately the nicest guy in store.”

+ Charlie Watts: “When people talk about the ’60s I never think that was me there. It was me and I was in it, but I was never enamoured with all that. It’s supposed to be sex and drugs and rock and roll and I’m not really like that. I’ve never really seen the Rolling Stones as anything.”

+ Like the corporate machine they are, I’m sure the Stones will find another drummer to plug into the band for their upcoming tour, but they won’t find another Charlie Watts. Let’s hope Mick refrains from the kind of self-centered “tribute” he gave to Brian Jones, who he & Keith had booted from the band, in Hyde Park two days after he died, when he piously read from Shelley’s Adonais and released a 1000 “cabbage white” butterflies before playing “I’m Hers and I’m Yours.”

+ Don Everly, who died this week: “When Phil and I started out, everyone hated rock & roll. The record companies didn’t like it at all — felt it was an unnecessary evil. And the press: interviewers were always older than us, and they let you know they didn’t like your music, they were just doing the interview because it was their job. Then along came the Sixties, and everyone suddenly got real young, and if you were over thirty, they didn’t trust you.”

+ The Everly Brothers tight harmonies were a template exploited for years by the Beatles. Then in the late sixties they recorded Roots, one of the best country albums ever made. The record was a commercial bomb, but it set the stage of the southern California roots-rock sound that would sweep the country two years later.

Take Me Away and Turn Back the Years…

Booked Up
What I’m reading this week…

China in One Village: The Story of One Town and the Changing World
Liang Hong
Translated by Emily Goedde

Why Fish Don’t Exist: a Story of Loss, Love and the Hidden Order of Life
Lulu Miller
(Simon and Schuster)

Dangerous Ideas: a Brief History of Censorship in the West, From the Ancients to Fake News
Eric Berkowitz
(Beacon Press)

Sound Grammar
What I’m listening to this week…

Kirtan: Turiya Sings
Alice Coltrane

The Horses and the Hounds
James McMurtry
(New West)

A Sky Record
Damon & Naomi with Michio Kurihara

The Dignity of Oblivion

“I remember being struck by de Sade’s will, in which he asked that his ashes be scattered to the four corners of the earth in the hope that humankind would forget both his writings and his name. I’d like to be able to make that demand; commemorative ceremonies are not only false but dangerous, as are all statues of famous men. Long live forgetfulness, I’ve always said—the only dignity I see is in oblivion.” (Luis Buñuel, My Last Sigh)

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