Roaming Charges: Taxing Representations

AOC at Met Gala, still from Vogue’s live feed.

+ Almost everything Tom Wolfe wrote about the glitterati left in the late 60s has been recapitulated in subsequent decades, with the faux radicalism diminishing into hip liberalism and the artistic pretense inflating into camp couture for the one-percent. It’s beyond parody. In the 60s, the message wouldn’t have been “Tax the Rich” but “Fuck the Rich”, “Eat the Rich”, “Infect the Rich.” As a radical artistic statement, AOC’s catwalk at the Met Gala was pathetic, a commercial aimed at the most middlebrow donors to the DNC.

+ As AOC strolled before the fashion paparrazi at the Met Gala, her immaculate train held aloft by masked workers, I was reminded of the rollout for Verso’s chic 150th anniversary edition of the Communist Manifesto, with a trendy cover by Komar and Melamid, which publisher Colin Robinson boasted was “self-consciously marketed towards sybarites.” Marx and Engels’ call to arms ended up on display in the hands of mannequins at Barney’s and Prada wearing $150 t-shirts featuring Che Guevara. But at least they were marketing revolution as a kind of sly prank and not tax hikes to fund an upgrade to Bernie’s fleet of F-35s.

+ If the Left ever listened to Johnny Cash, they might realize that “taxes”–the one thing universally hated by the rich and working poor–is not a winning political slogan like, say–Free Health Care, End the War, Cancel Student Debt, Stop Evictions, Solar Power Now or even F tha Police.

+ The issue isn’t taxes but how the tax revenues are spent. Why support raising taxes on anyone, if the tax money goes to building a new generation of…nuclear weapons, aircraft carriers, F-35s, super-max prisons, river-killing dams or any of the other dangerous boondoggles Congress usually appropriates tax money to fund. Remember the “defense dividend” of Clinton time, heralding the end of the cold war, which ended up with the destruction of welfare and more B-2 bombers to annihilate an “enemy” that no longer existed?

+ Whoever ends up buying AOC’s Tax the Rich “art” gown will almost certainly write it off as a tax deduction.

+ Clinging like a barnacle to his seat on the Court, Stephen Breyer said this week that the Supreme Court’s “non-ruling” allowing the Texas “heartbeat” law to go into effect was “very bad” but not “politically motivated.” There should be a 25th amendment for Supreme Court justices, whereby they can be removed from the bench for obvious signs of mental incompetence…

+ The court has always been political, usually as the last protector of property rights and the power of the state. What was the judicial philosophy of the “Supreme Court Justices” who decided Dred Scott, Plessy or Korematsu? Plessy or Korematsu? The Roberts court clarifies the institution’s real nature. FDR understood this. His Democratic Party descendants seem to have forgotten, even as his entire political legacy is being dismantled, plank by plank.

+ The anti-abortion Texas “heartbeat” law is constructed on the false premise that embryos have “heartbeats,” when “at six weeks of gestation, those [cardiac] valves don’t exist… The sound that we hear at that point is actually manufactured by the ultrasound machine.”

+ If Biden really wants to inflict pain on Texas for its abortion law, he should just start closing military bases in the state, staring with Ft. Hood and Ft Bliss, then the Naval Air Station in Ft Worth. All 14 federal bases in Texas contribute $123.6 billion to state’s economy.

+ Like the Afghan war itself, where an entire country became collateral damage for terrorist attacks funded and carried out by Saudis, the last (or, I guess I should say, latest) drone strike hit the wrong target, not an ISIS bomber but an aid worker….

+ According to Brown University’s Cost of War project, the cost of the interest alone on the Afghan war debt will reach $6.5 trillion by 2050–or $20,000 for each and every U.S. citizen. At this point, I think it’s safe to say that Ike’s farewell speech on the military industrial complex was taken less as a warning and more like an investment strategy for Wall Street and American corporations.

+ The spectacle of US troops refusing orders to take a vaccine but carrying out orders to drone women, children and aid workers is a pretty fair summary of where we’ve come to as a culture.

+ “You say you want a revolution, well, you know….” At a moment when Sanders needs to be exerting maximum pressure on an administration he might have some influence on, he’s “rebranding” his movement in the name–literally–of “pragmatism“.

+ President Biden pledged to “put human rights at the center of U.S. foreign policy,” which prompted Israel to immediately plead for exemptions for Saudi Arabia and Egypt. No need even to mention turning a blind eye to its own egregious record.

+ There have been many fly-by-night politicians that certain circles of the Left have coalesced around (Howard Dean, John Edwards) for whatever reason (some pragmatic, some inexplicable) but none quite as peculiar, or as sinister, as Tulsi Gabbard, military cop and Islamophobe.

+ I see Bob Woodward–Versailles’ favorite stenographer– is back to quoting Dan Quayle (probably from his golf cart) in his latest “book” and remember with amusement when BW tried to rebrand Quayle as a deep thinker in a ridiculous frontpage piece in the Wash Post in the early 90s. In Woodward’s latest attempt to fashion Quayle as a savior of the Republic, we are meant to believe that he singlehandedly convinced fellow Hoosier misfit Mike Pence to certify the electoral college vote.

+ The uproar over Gen. Milley promising the Chinese he’d block any Trump order to launch nukes (sounds like fanciful Woodward “reporting” to me) illustrates that we still have no real failsafe against a president–crazed or not–launching a nuclear strike that would end life on earth.

+ A week before it’s official release, Woodward and Costa’s book, Peril, is already listed as Amazon’s top seller in “Hoaxes and Deceptions.” Buyer beware…

+ Ex-U.S intelligence officers admit to working for UAE, hacking computers around the world and sharing US technological secret for big bucks. If they promise never to do it again, they won’t be prosecuted or spend even a day in jail. Meanwhile, whistleblowers at those same intelligence agencies rot in prison for years.

+ A new study has confirmed what’s been suspected for years: that hundreds of L.A. County Sheriff’s deputies said they have been recruited to join secretive, “gang-like cliques” that operate within department stations. What’s the difference between a “gang” and a “gang-like clique”? A badge?

+ This machete-packing guy with the pronghorns on his grill and swastikas painted on his Dakota pickup who was arrested outside the DNC headquarters in DC wasn’t from the Idaho panhandle or the UP of Michigan, but Oceanside, California, where the median house price is close to $800,000…

+ If there was one photo to run in the DSM to illustrate the psychological disorder known as American Syndrome it should be this image by Alejandro Prieto of a roadrunner confronting Trump’s border wall near Naco, Arizona…

+ Almost nothing surprises me about the history of Texas anymore but I was struck this morning when reading about how the draft worked in the Confederacy that in Dec 1863 the state legislature passed a law calling for the conscription of Mexicans into the Confederate army and sent troops out to detain Mexican citizens and force them into military service–a move that soon backfired when two companies of Mexican conscripts turned their weapons, including an entire artillery unit, on their “superior” officers. A certain Gen. HP Bell dryly wrote that the “the attempt to enforce it [the draft] not only failed, but caused bad feeling.” Drafts are the surest way to build domestic resistance against war, and the military industrial complex itself.

+ In the late 70s, I used to go out to Mount Vernon all the time as a mental break from reading Faulkner and Foucault in college across the Potomac in DC. It’s a very beautiful, though haunted, setting and while roaming the plantation one day I learned from one of the groundskeepers, an old black man who grew up nearby and whose ancestors had been enslaved by the father of the country, that when George Washington’s nearby River Farm came up for sale in 1971 the Soviet Embassy offered to buy it and turn it into a kind of weekend retreat, or dacha, for Soviet diplomats and embassy staff. The old man told me they should have “sold it to the Russians in the name of world peace.” The Soviets would have treated the place better than Fairfax County, which just approved plans for turning the surrounding area into a $300 million resort complex.

+ The most interesting result from the otherwise snooze of a California recall election is that Green candidate, Dan Kapelovitz, an animal rights lawyer, is beating Caitlyn Jenner by a 2-1 margin.

+ Environmentalists came out to save Gavin Newsom’s ass in the recall. He will no doubt repay them in the customary fashion by striking more deals with oil companies, frackers, water barons and PG&E.

+ Nate Silver is the Washington Generals of prognostication. He should open a bookie joint with Bill Kristol.

+ The tax money spent to hold the California recall election ($300+ million) was more than the entire endowment of UC-Riverside ($260 million).

+ Newsom’s version of Louis Quatorze’s “L’état, c’est moi.”

+ Who’s up for champagne and canapés at the French Laundry?

+ It’s amazing what some people will put in their body in order to avoid putting something else in their body and then ride around town in a pickup adorned with blue lives matter flags supporting police who pop kids for smoking pot and sniffing glue. The latest underground COVID cure? Snorting Iodine.

+ Until liberals understand that vaccination politics has an economic as well as political dimension, we’ll never bring the pandemic under control, assuming it can be brought under control. As hard as it may be to believe most of the unvaccinated don’t listen to Tucker Carlson’s nightly exploitations of COVID for political advantage and ratings. Most of the unvaccinated are the working poor, who have little experience in dealing with the American medico-pharma-insurance complex and the encounters they’ve had have been miserable, expensive and unsatisfying. Covid should have propelled National Health Care to the forefront of the political agenda. Instead, the Biden administration has chosen to empower the very system that has failed to provide basic health care to Americans for the past century. No wonder the poor are skeptical. It’s convenient to blame Murdoch, Trump, and the GOP for these failings, but the rot goes much deeper and closer to home than that. Take the profit out of human misery and you’ll get much closer to “healing” the country.

+ Joe Manchin’s offspring makes Harry Lime look like a humanitarian.

+ Kurt Schrader is the member of congress from my congressional district here in Oregon. I didn’t say he was “my congressman” or that he “represents our congressional district” because he isn’t and he doesn’t. He represents corporations. Always has. Schrader is the guy who took $144,252 from Big Pharma and cast a decisive vote to kill the Democrat’s own bill to lower prescription drug prices, a bill that probably had a 90% favorability rating here in Clackamas County. Schrader is one of the worst elected politicians I’ve ever encountered face to face–and I’ve interviewed Larry Craig, Don Young and Helen Chenoweth! Schrader, who cosplays as a man of the people while he stuffs his pocket with timber and Pharma cash, is arrogant and inept. Yet he occupies one of the most liberal districts in the country and his voting record is almost indistinguishable from Devon (Moo!) Nunes. But it’s entirely the Democrats fault that he continues to undermine their agenda. His seat is only safe as long as they don’t run anyone against him and they haven’t and they won’t. He’s an embarrassment, but one of their own making.

+ 500,000: the number of children diagnosed with COVID from Sept. 2 to Sept. 9.

+ Covid is now the leading cause of death among cops in the United States.

+ In New Jersey, 22 cops died of COVID last week alone, even as the police union continued to fight against vaccination requirements.

+ To the extent that Ivermectin has shown any effectiveness in slowing viral spread, and potentially COVID, it is by “altering cellular channels,” the very fear so many had about the “body altering” rNA vaccines that drove them to do their drug shopping at Tractor Supply, Co.

+ A woman is facing 30 years in prison on involuntary manslaughter and assault charges because a speeding cop who was on the way to the scene of a car accident involving her struck and killed a fellow cop that was on the scene. And people describe Cuba as a police state?

+ $4,000,000,000: amount of money CBP/ICE have awarded in 7,000 contracts to private industry for the likes of pressurized pepper ball launcher, thousands of rounds of ammunition, and funding for detention centers.

+ Call it Perestroke-a?

+ New polls out of South Korea reveal a startling new desire for acquiring its own nuclear arsenal, with 70% supporting the country developing its own nuclear capability and 61% backing the return of tactical nuclear weapons to the peninsula. (The US withdrew its tactical nukes from South Korea in the early 1990s.) Meanwhile, the Biden administration just struck a deal with Australia to deploy nuclear-powered submarines in the Pacific.

+ Ladies and Gentlemen, Paul Krugman!

+ The outbreak of anti-Muslim sentiment was at pandemic levels inside the Justice Dept., Dept. Homeland Security, FBI, the CIA, Pentagon and Vice-President’s office, which began targeting Muslims at home and abroad…

+ Like swallows to Capistrano, 9/11 anniversaries bring Truthers flocking back into my inbox. My response is usually the same. Take a deep bong hit, then ask why an intel operation sophisticated enough to pull off the false flag attack of the century (and there’s no evidence anyone in the Cheney-Rumsfeld circle was remotely that competent), couldn’t find a way to plant WMDs in Iraq, even after they’d been in complete control of the country? My view has long been that the 9/11 Truth Movement itself, which divided the antiwar movement and turned it against itself, was the much more likely CIA operation–although the Left has shown repeatedly that it is capable of self-destructing all on its own.

+ Someone chided me recently by saying Chomsky has called the matter irrelevant. I find that hard to believe. It’s hardly irrelevant in my book, if you want to understand the consequence of US foreign policy, consequences which are explicitly stated in Bin Laden’s fatwas. The US didn’t need a 9/11 event to justify what it had been doing for 50 yrs. People forget, or never wanted to know, that Clinton bombed Iraq once every three days over his 8-year term. They forget that the Patriot Act was pretty much already in place in the form of the Clinton era CounterTerrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act. Bush and Cheney didn’t need 9/11 to do exactly what they did, internationally or domestically. Clinton had done the same, as had Poppy Bush, as had Reagan. The continuity of American Imperial policy has been uninterrupted since WW2. 9/11 was blowback to that very history.

+ Giuliani doesn’t need Tutar’s encouragement anymore. He self-destructs on camera all on his own now…

+ The earth’s atmosphere is unlikely to see a monthly carbon dioxide value below 400 ppm ever again, according to Oceanography’s carbon dioxide monitoring program, and the planet’s hurtling toward 450 ppm by 2032.

+ The Paris Accords are largely toothless and riddled with loopholes for industrial nations to exploit, but the good news is that since their signing plans have been scrapped for three-quarters of the previously scheduled new coal burners.

+ The Biden administration is exploring the creation of a strategic uranium reserve, which would “effectively subsidize” uranium mining across the Southwest and create further demand for mining claims in environmentally fragile and culturally significant landscapes like the Bears Ears.

+ Have we already hit “Peak Lithium“?

+ According to a new report from the UN, 90% of agricultural subsidies end up backfiring and harming both people and the environment.

+ Last week passing over the Cascades around 8 PM, Rainier and St. Helens never looked more beautiful–the skies painted by smoke from distant fires, burning up magnificent old-growth forest canyons many of us had spent much of the last 30 years trying to save. A surreal sensation.

Mt. Rainier at sunset. Photo: Jeffrey St. Clair.

+ I didn’t know it at the time I was flying by Rainier, but much of the smoke in the air that night was coming from a fire 250 miles south in the Bull of the Woods Wilderness. On my first visit Oregon, I climbed Silver King Mountain and along the crest of the ridge to the Bull of the Woods lookout, then down Battle Axe Creek through magnificent old-growth forest. It was as close to a religious experience as I’ve ever had. Now the Bull of the Woods has burned, as last year Opal Creek and Breitenbush burned and before that Big Bottom and Roaring River and Eagle Creek. More than 11 percent of the forest on the west slope of the Cascades has burned in the last three years, much of it old-growth and irreplaceable.

+ Oil and coal companies have been writing environmental policies under administrations from both parties for decades, Monsanto hacks have run the Agriculture Department since the Clinton Administration approving one carcinogenic compound after another and this CDC official is ousted for “colluding” with the teacher’s union on safety in schools? No wonder we’re fucked as society.

+ The rate of global warming is likely to double in the next 25 years, according to former NASA climate scientist James Hansen. The reason is slightly ironic. A steep reduction in sulfate aerosol emissions from industrial sources, especially shipping, will render many cloud formations less reflective, thus enabling more solar radiation to reach and warm land and ocean surfaces.

+ Atlanta’s zoo disclosed that at least 13 of its captive western lowland gorillas have tested positive for COVID-19, including 60-year-old Ozzie, the oldest male gorilla in captivity. Zoo keepers said the gorillas had been coughing, had runny noses and showed changes in appetite.

+ A Missouri cave containing Native American artwork from more than 1,000 years ago has been sold at auction, in defiance of efforts by the Osage Nation to buy the land and preserve the site. “It’s like auctioning off the Sistine Chapel,” said anthropologist Carol Diaz-Granados, who had been working with the tribe to save the cave, which is also burial ground.

+ The ozone hole over the Southern Ocean is now larger than Antarctica and still growing…

+ Classic Norm MacDonald bit on the death of Steve Irwin, the Crocodile Hunter…

+ Roberto Clemente: “From the first day, I said to myself, I am poor people. I have to represent the common people of America. I want to be treated like any person who comes for a job no matter what race or color he is.”

+ I’ve had a blast this week reading a battered copy of Stanley Booth’s Dance With the Devil (rebranded as The True Adventures of the Rolling Stones), the gloriously overwritten inside account of Booth’s time with Stones (that probably couldn’t be published today)–much of it spent in a house on the Bird Streets (Oriole Drive) in the Hollywood Hills, where groupies, drug dealers, movie stars and Allen Klein and his henchmen, weaved in and out, mingling with the likes of Bukka White, Ike Turner and Gram Parsons, the text itself violating, like the Stones’ best songs, every convention of propriety, decency, and political correctness, as the accumulating madness leads up inevitably to the violent denouement at Altamont, by which time Booth himself was nearly as shattered as Brian Jones had been when Mick and Keith left him behind. Booth spent the next 12 years trying pull himself off the floor to write it all up.

+ Anita Pallenberg on Brian Jones: “Every time he punched me, he hurt himself. I mean physically, like breaking his hand. Brian was very fragile.” The last time Brian broke his hand hitting Anita (in Morocco, I think), it was very slow to heal and he struggled play guitar, which became a justification for Mick and Keith booting him from the band and Keith absconding with Anita (much as Mick had done with another of Brian’s girlfriends, sleeping with her, in Brian’s bed, within 20 minutes of meeting her).

+ Shortly after he and Keith composed it, Mick Jagger sent the great R&B producer Jerry Wexler the lyrics to Sympathy for the Devil with a note begging him to have Aretha Franklin record it. Wexler said, “Hell, the only two artists in the entire Atlantic stable who would even touch those lyrics were Sonny Bono and Burl Ives.”

+ I encourage you to sign up for Greg Mitchell’s informative Between a Rock and a Hard Place substack column, where every week you’ll be treated to writing like this description of his first encounter with The Kinks’ Ray Davies, shortly after the release of Lola and the Powerman:

Davies… looked forward to the release of a film called Percy, the English word for penis. In fact, it was a movie about a penis transplant. The producers wanted him to write a funny song for it but instead he had written “God’s Children,” a protest tune. “I couldn’t bring myself to actually write a funny song about a penis transplant,” he explained, displaying his trademark lopsided grin. The refrain:

Don’t want this world to change me
I want to go back
to the way the good Lord made me.

+ I guess we now know how Robert Plant got his nickname and it wasn’t for his love of Romantic poetry…

+ Sun Ra took people to space for a lot less money than Elon Musk. All you had to do to travel the spaceways was to drop the needle and hit play.

+ By 1973, Sly Stone was slipping into a cocaine darkness, his live performances getting more and more uneven. The original rhythm section had left the band, including the great Larry Graham. The tour that summer was for the funky but fanatically overdubbed album “Fresh” – Sly’s final masterpiece. Bob Marley and the Wailers were opening for Sly and the Family Stone and outplaying them night after night. It soon got to the point where Sly kicked the Wailers off the tour. Stuck on the West Coast, they went down to LA for a private concert at the Capitol Records studio. It was one of the last performances of the original Wailers unit, shortly before Peter Tosh left for his solo career. The concert was recorded and filmed and has now finally been released. The performance raw, fierce and utterly infectious, testimony to just how great band they were, how gifted a guitarist Tosh was and how the voices of Tosh and Marley merged darkness and light, searing heat and oceanic breezes, revolution and communal love, a dialectic neither, great as they were, would ever reproduce on their own.

+ I realize that Rolling Stone’s “500 greatest songs of all time” is a fatuous exercise in clickbait and that even in its heyday the magazine didn’t know a great song when it showed up, but are we really to believe that Robert Johnson, Woody Guthrie, Hank Williams, Elvis Presley, Muddy Waters, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, Fats Domino, Etta James, Smokey Robinson (!), the Four Tops, the Supremes, Carole King, Willie Nelson, Tina Turner, Linda Ronstadt, the Eagles, Steely Dan, Earth Wind & Fire, The Ramones and The Clash don’t even land in the top 50?

+ Duke Ellington: “To keep a band together you need a gimmick. The gimmick I use is to pay them money.”

I’ll Push the Wood, Blaze the Fire…

Booked Up
What I’m reading this week…

On the Origin of the Worst Pandemic in 100 Years: an Investigation
Elaine Dewar

The Gallery of Miracles and Madness: Insanity, Modernism and Hitler’s War on Art
Charlie English
(Random House)

Walking the Invisible: Following in the Brontë’s Footsteps
Michael Stewart

Sound Grammar
What I’m listening to this week…

Comfort to Me
Amyl and the Sniffers

Dear America
Eric Bibb

The Capitol Session ’73
Bob Marley and the Wailers
(Tuff Gong)

You’re Not Getting It From Me

“My story is really an affirmation of my strength and my luck. To live with a great artist like Ted Hughes or Mick Jagger is a very, very destructive role for a woman trying to be herself. In fact, it can’t be done…I’ve made a contribution to my time and my generation through being myself, not through what I shared with the Rolling Stones. It’s very bad for me and very dangerous to see myself as someone who had an influence on this song or that song. It immediately puts me in the position where my worth is dependent on how much of my soul I shared with Mick Jagger, and it’s just not valid. You can use the gossip you’ve heard. You’re not getting it from me.” (Marianne Faithfull)

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