Roaming Charges: When the Whip Comes Down

Slave Patrol. Image: African American Heritage Association.

Under the blows of your barbarous whip we have accumulated for you the treasures you enjoy in this colony; the human race has suffered to see with what barbarity you have treated men like yourself.

– Toussaint Louverture

+ We reenact our history again and again without even realizing it, so absolutely have the darkest chapters of our nation’s past been erased from the collective memory. Our leaders react in mock horror when confronted with the outlandish scenes of torture and gratuitous violence that they themselves have set in motion. The liberal conscience, frail as it is, recoils momentarily at what it has done, then quickly reverts to its default setting of moral superiority by blaming the victims, people so poor and desperate they hold all of their earthly possessions in their hands, if, that is, their hands aren’t already holding a frightened and hungry child.

The blackness of the Haitians crossing the Rio Grande, fleeing their quake-ravaged nation, a country whose elected leader was just assassinated by hired killers trained by the US Army and on the dole of the DEA, strikes deep historical chords of anxiety and guilt that dates back to its slave-led revolution, a revolution that has never been forgiven, an example the US has spent the last 230 years trying to suppress and punish. Usually this retribution takes place off camera, in a country the press rarely visits and never stays in for long. Haiti is a state where failure has been manufactured repeatedly by the US and then blamed by the US government for the destitution it has wrought, just as those anguished people at the border, chased down by horse patrols and whipped into submission, are transformed into the perpetrators of their own misery. Our leaders–Clinton, Bush, Obama, Trump, Biden, and Harris–wash their hands before they’ve even spilled blood of lives they consider insignificant. They’re willing to spend more on detention camps (including for separated children), prisons and deportation flights than it would cost to house, cloth and feed them. In the US, the door is closed most firmly in the faces of refugees from countries our economic and foreign policy has helped to ruin.

When things go badly wrong, no one is held accountable. It’s the system, they say. And, of course, that much is true. But it’s a system politicians like Biden helped to program. It’s a system that administration after administration refuses to change, a system as inhumane as it is terrifying. We are meant to believe that the system runs on autopilot, where each past failure is replaced by a new crueler upgrade. The US is whipping people on the border to preserve a democracy that is incapable of changing a system most of its citizens find morally abhorrent.

These contradictions have been eating away at the American conscience since the infancy of the Republic. I’m reminded of a letter Thomas Jefferson wrote to his pal Lafayette in Year Three of the French Revolution, where Jefferson praised the Marquis for “exterminating the monster aristocracy, & pulling out the teeth & fangs of its associate monarchy” and then exhorted him to make sure that the new revolutionary government acted quickly to keep its colonies under the lash, lest they break free and threaten the slave-owning “democracy” to the north. Jefferson warned that unless the French got Saint-Domingue under control “no future efforts you can make will be able to reduce the blacks.” More than two centuries later, the US government is still futilely trying to “reduce the blacks,” whose resistance under the direst of circumstances exposes the hollowness of a nation that markets itself as a beacon of freedom and yet violently repels those who are drawn to it.

+ In the past few days, ICE has deported 1,400 Haitian refugees using over a dozen mass deportation flights. ICE uses two private companies to carry out most of its mass deportation flights – Omni Air and Fly Swift Air. Many of the refugees are shackled during the flight, their few belongings dumped out of the planes onto the runway, after landing in Port-au-Prince.

+ The scenes of whip-wielding Border Patrol agents on horseback, hunting down Haitian refugees on the Texas border were like watching Slave Patrols at work…Only worse. The slave patrols were legalized by the govt. These people are the government.

+ In moral and humanitarian terms, the abhorrent treatment of desperate refugees at the US border is even more despicable (because it is planned & calculated) than the treatment of Afghan refugees–yet it’s being cheered by those who decried the bungled exit from Kabul: “I thought the United States was a big country, with laws. They treated us terribly,” said Nicodeme Vyles, 45, who had been living in Panama since 2003, working as a welder and carpenter. “They didn’t even give me an interview with an immigration agent….What am I going to do?”

+ “This is why your country’s shit, because you use your women for this!”, a mounted Border Patrol officer, whip in hand, screamed at a Haitian migrant he was riding down, as the man sheltered with his family.

+ White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki defends border patrol agents on horseback whipping Haitian Refugees as “a Covid Safety Protocol”. Disgusting. There’s a much higher incidence of Covid in the US than in Haiti, though after their detention and deportations they whipped and rounded up refugees probably go back and spread the delta variant they acquired in US custody.

+ Looks like the plan is to detain the Haitian refugees at Gitmo….As it scrambles to roundup Haitian migrants at the border, the Biden administration is seeking a private contractor to operate a migrant detention facility at Guantanamo Bay with a requirement that some of the guards speak Spanish and Haitian Creole.

+ Did Comma-la come up with this? Or was Biden himself flashing back to the early 90s, when he voted to keep Haitian refugees locked in Gitmo indefinitely, using AIDS as the rationale.

+ Following in Trump’s footsteps, Biden is using Title 42 to expel asylum seekers without their right to hearings,  citing COVID 19 as the justification, even though health experts say it has no medical basis. According to CNBC, it has been used to expel:

 440,000+ people under Trump
 690,000+ people under Biden

+ Biden: “If Haiti sank into the Caribbean, it wouldn’t matter.”

+ After an in-depth investigation of the regretful events on the Rio Grande, the Biden administration has determined that the problem at the border was caused by horses, which will now be confined to their stables at Del Rio. Presumably, Border Patrol will now conduct its roundups while riding Ford Broncos. It’s the humane thing to do.

+ Inside Biden’s migrant concentration camps a kind of chemical warfare is being used on the detainees: “Every day crowded cells holding people at an immigration detention facility in Florida have been doused with caustic disinfectants that have caused breathing problems and bleeding…”

+ Who needs Stephen Miller?

+ After the Haitian Revolution, the “refugee crisis” was slave owners and traders fleeing the island to the US, where they were warmly embraced by Washington’s administration, which was freaked out by the slave revolt. It was John Adams who changed the policy and provided direct aid to Toussaint Louverture to help him fend off his British rivals. Jefferson, however, feared the slave revolt might spread to the US, and perhaps even to Monticello itself, cut off aid, slapped an embargo on Haiti and refused to recognize Haitian independence– a policy that persisted until 1826, a year after even France had recognized Haiti’s status as an independent nation.

+ Biden at the United Nations: “I stand here for the first time in 20 years with the United States not at war. We’ve turned the page.” Who is writing Biden’s UN speeches these days, Colin Powell?

+ The US bombed Syria the day before Biden made his big speech. The 2001 AUMF allegedly permits the US to engage in warfare anywhere it wants, as long as it justifies it in the name of fighting “terrorism,” which it is actively doing in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Niger and covertly in Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

+ It’s a lot of what my grandmother used to call “gumption”  to release this statement a few days after droning an Afghan aid worker and attempting to smear him as a terrorist and as whip-wielding Border Patrol agents on horseback run down refugees from the earthquake in Haiti…

+ Rules-based order? I don’t see any rules at all.

+ 54% of US military spending from FY 2001 to FY 2020 ended up in the coffers of private contractors.

+ The NYT-certified maniac who wrote this insane column in 2002 (and he’s lost more brain cells since) now wants to be governor of Oregon…

+ They said it couldn’t be done! COVID has now killed nearly as many Americans as the 1918-19 flu.

+ A staff member at Mabel Rush elementary school in Newberg, Oregon (just up the river from us) showed up to work in Blackface on Friday, allegedly saying she was dressed as Rosa Parks and protesting a vaccine mandate for teachers.

+ The Superintendent’s office issued this as a response…

+ I’m pretty sure HMO’s destroyed the doctor-patient relationship long before the gaslighting anti-vaxxers, who are increasing a self-extinguishing problem…

+ This is cynical, disingenuous, and likely insane (even for Glenn), though it’s amusing to see that Weiss and Greenwald have patched up their once fraught relationship, as they embark on fighting a “tyranny” that has been in place for decades without either of them noticing it.

+ There is no “proof” of a negative test since the error ratio for most Covid tests is between 20 and 38% and you could have been exposed to COVID shortly after having taken the test. There is a proof of having been vaccinated and that vaccines reduce transmission, hospitalizations and deaths.

+ If you really want to feel the intrusive power of the state, try having a swab jammed up your nose every 3 or 4 days for your Covid test, which becomes invalid 5 minutes later when you run into someone, because you’re also the type of person who thinks masks are the mark of Marx.

+ The “tyranny” Glenn and Bari are fighting actually began in Massachusetts in the 1850s, when vaccines were required to prevent smallpox transmission. By the 1900, nearly half of all states had the same requirement. Thus was “liberty” lost…

+ Still perhaps Israel’s “Green Pass” will finally prompt Bari Weiss to attack the “tyrannical” nature of that “segregationist” regime…

+ The South has so romanticized the Lost Cause Myth, embedded it so deeply into almost every aspect of its political culture, that they compulsively play it out over and over again–the more people who perish, the more righteous the latest Lost Cause becomes.

+ Georgia’s Gov. Brian Kemp: “I mean that’s basically how the AIDS vaccine worked, you know people wouldn’t take it early on ’cause it was mandated, they started educating people and now it’s doing a lot of good out there.” There is no AIDS vaccine, so it seems unlikely that there’s ever been an “AIDS vaccine mandate.” But I’m sure he wasn’t making a bad faith argument, aren’t you…?

+ For the first time in Alabama’s known history, the state had more deaths than births in 2020.

+ 6.7: the drop in the number of years in the average age of Idaho’s Covid cases over the last month.

+ In the least surprising news of the week, Brazil’s health minister tested positive for Covid in NYC for the UN General Assembly. He is part of  Brazil’s delegation to the UN with Jair Bolsonaro, who refuses to vaccinate–both men violating NYC Mayor Bill deBlasio’s indoor vaccine mandate.  Turns out, the only immunity he has is diplomatic…

+ Less than 1 percent of the nearly 6 billion doses of Covid vaccine administered worldwide have gone to low-income countries.

+ We’ll all be reduced to taking horse dewormer and snorting iodine solutions, if the insurance companies have their way.

+ Even though its Covid vaccine has been shown to be less effective than Moderna’s (and probably all of Cuba’s vaccines), Pfizer is boasting to its shareholders that it expects to ring up $33.5 billion in vaccine sales. If they’d take the profiteering out of the pandemic by nationalizing the production and distribution of vaccines and therapeutics, some people just might be more likely to get jabbed.

+ A dark money group funded largely by Big Pharma started running ads promoting Arizona Senator Krysten Sinema just before Sinema boasted that she would vote to kill the Democrats’ drug pricing bill. Sinema has now reaped $500,000 from donors in the drug/health products industry.

+ Sinema—a sitting senator from Arizona earning a taxpayer-funded salary of $174,000—took a paid internship at a winery last summer. The winery was in California.

+ Best Health Care (Billing) System in the world! A New York couple’s baby daughter died in the hospital. They had insurance, supposedly good insurance. But by the time the bills stopped coming they totaled more than $257,000.

+ Public approval of the Supreme Court has sunk to 40%, a new low.

+ As for Congress, back in February its approval rating hit 35%, the highest in more than a decade, after it passed the CARES Act. Since then, Congress has done almost nothing and its approval rating has justifiably slipped back to 28%.

+ Lara Logan used to read copy for 60 Minutes, and she was just as bonkers then, most notably her valorization of Petraeus.

+ Speaking of Petraeus, here he is on Biden’s Afghan exit: “We didn’t have strategic patience here.” After 20 years!

+ According to Bloomberg News, employers are baffled by the fact that the feds abruptly terminated extended unemployment benefits in early September, but there’s been no rush to fill open jobs. Maybe they should raise pay, make their workplaces safe and open the borders?

+ Mitch McConnell, who vowed this week to force the US into default, has voted 32 times for a total of $20.7 trillion of debt limit increases, including all 11 times under George W Bush and Trump.

+ Apparently Trump’s lawyers had developed a convoluted plan for Mike Pence to overturn the election. You can see why it was doomed to fail. A six-step plan seems like about 4 steps too many for either Trump or Pence to understand and put into action. Have you seen either of these guys on the dance floor?

+ 43%: Increase in the number of women in US prisons serving life sentences without parole since Obama’s election in 2008.

+ South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem says she is introducing a bill to bring back prayer in public schools. “We’ve seen our society, our culture, degrade as we’ve removed God out of our lives .. I really believe focusing on those fundamental biblical principles .. will re-center our kids.” What Gov. Noem doesn’t seem to realize is that compulsory school prayer is a kind of childhood vaccine against being infected with a religious virus in adulthood.

+ Here’s another case study proving the central thesis of Critical Race Theory: a new principal was fired for instituting a “critical race theory” curriculum even though he made no changes to the existing curriculum. The only institutional change was in the race of the principal himself, who was black.

+ 710 Native people, most of them girls, went missing in the same general area as Gabby Petito, none of them trended…

+ From the people who brought you humanitarian drone strikes…

+ Bill Clinton executed Ricky Ray Rector as a campaign stunt during the Democratic primaries in 1992. It worked.

+ From Victor Hugo’s letter published in papers across Europe and the US urging that John Brown’s life be spared, arguing, presciently from his exile on the island of Guernsey, that Brown’s execution would plunge the US into Civil War…

Politically speaking, the murder of John Brown would be an uncorrectable sin. It would create in the Union a latent fissure that would in the long run dislocate it. Brown’s agony might perhaps consolidate slavery in Virginia, but it would certainly shake the whole American democracy. You save your shame, but you kill your glory. Morally speaking, it seems a part of the human light would put itself out, that the very notion of justice and injustice would hide itself in darkness, on that day where one would see the assassination of Emancipation by Liberty itself.

+ While there are still hundreds of streets, parks and schools honoring Robert E. Lee, on the entire planet there is only one street named after John Brown: and it’s in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, a country, like Cuba, which will never be forgiven for its impertinent revolution.

+ Things I didn’t know about a city (DC) I lived in for more than 6 years: For the first 50 years of its existence, DC was nearly twice its current size and straddled both sides of the Potomac, largely on the insistence of George Washington, whose slave-labor farm, Mt Vernon was merely 7 miles downstream. But in 1840, with abolitionist sentiment rising, the property owners of the county of Alexandria voted 763 to 222 to leave DC and rejoin Virginia. They called it “retrocession.” The public rationale was that the white, property-owning men of the county were frustrated at not having representation in the federal government, a familiar refrain today for DC residents. The real reason probably had more to do with the fact that Alexandria had become the leading slave-trading city north of Charleston, the waterfront lined with slave prisons and holding pens for the two big slave auction houses. The move had dire consequences for both free and enslaved blacks, who under DC law were able to attend schools and churches. Back in Virginia, the black schools and churches were closed and manumitted blacks were forced by law to leave the state or risk re-enslavement. It’s not entirely clear to me how a part of a city can constitutionally separate itself from a federal jurisdiction, but if DC ever becomes a state it ought to reclaim all of Arlington County & its 236,000 residents with it, which would make DC about as populous as South Dakota and larger than four other states: Wyoming, Vermont, Alaska and North Dakota.

+ If you don’t allow Israel to kill anyone it wants without fear of reprisals, it will be forced to kill everyone in its path, whenever it wants to teach Gaza a lesson.

+ The problem is, Ambassador Ross, that the facts flatly contradict you. According to the U.N.’s casualty figures, the overall death tolls for both Israelis and Palestinians were far higher in 2014 (2,251 Palestinians and 73 Israelis were killed), despite Israel’s deployment of Iron Dome, than they were during the 2008-09 war (1,385 Palestinians and 10 Israelis in 2008-9).

+ Maybe at the next MET Gala, AOC can wear a “Present” gown, the train carried by masked Palestinian children who lost their parents to Israeli airstrikes…

+ After the disciplining of AOC, Pelosi’s House approved the funding for Iron Dome (417-9), then  passed a $778 billion Pentagon budget by a margin of 316-113, with more than twice as many Republicans voting against it than Democrats.

+ Judy Woodruff: “Do you draw any lessons from the mistakes you made with Jeffrey Epstein?”

Bill Gates: “Well, he’s dead, so…

+ Alice Roosevelt Longworth, American hero: “She would be banned from the White House twice after her father left office in 1909, once for burying a voodoo doll of Sec of War William Howard Taft’s wife in the yard, and a second time for consistently badmouthing new president Woodrow Wilson.”

+ Map depicting radioactive iodine fallout from open air atomic bomb testing in Nevada in 1953.

+ You look for small signs of change amid the smoke (which is pretty thick here this morning), any little encouragement, and then you just have to face the reality that the driving force of capitalism is just going to use up every existing energy source to the last drop and dirty tonne, regardless of the consequences, and there’s no real mechanism to stop it, even if the end result is self-annihilation…

+ The new Glasgow climate commitments would result in a 12 percent emissions cut by the decade’s end, well short of what is needed to curb global warming and that’s if they’re implemented and met, which they won’t be…

+ In its drive to expand offshore oil drilling, the Biden administration has declared that the IPCC climate change report “does not present sufficient cause” to halt its plan open 82 million acres of the Gulf of Mexico to oil companies.

+ Exxon’s internal assessment of its $210 billion investment strategy shows yearly carbon emissions rising 17 percent by 2025.

+ A study published this June in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found that climate warming over the last few decades has exposed an additional 31,400 square miles of U.S. forests to fires at higher elevations. It also found that between 1984 and 2017, fires in the Sierra Nevada climbed in elevation by more than 1,400 feet, overrunning some previously impassable moisture barriers.

+ From June through August, California fires emitted 75 million metric tons of carbon dioxide, twice as much CO2 as during the same period last year, and far more than any other summer in nearly two decades. In total, fires in the Western United States released 130 million tons of CO2 this summer, according to he Copernicus Atmospheric Monitoring Service, including about 17 million tons in Oregon, more than 10 times the amount released last year.

+ 98% of fires in the western Oregon are caused by humans, the other 2% are apparently ignited by beavers destroying man-made infrastructure.

+ The world’s koala population has declined by 30% since 2018, many of them burned to death in Australia’s climate-fueled wildfires.

+ 74% of likely Arizona voters oppose the proposed Resolution Copper mine, which would destroy Oak Flat, a sacred Native American site in the Tonto National Forest. Opposition is strong across party lines and among both urban and rural residents.

+ The world’s whitest paint has been created in a lab at Purdue University. Scientists say it’s so white that it could eventually reduce the need for air conditioning. They’re thinking of calling it the Tucker…

+ The latest Colorado River projections from the Bureau of Reclamation predict a loss of hydropower production at the rapidly receding Lake Powell is likely within the next nine months.

+ In a victory for labor and the environment, workers at the National Audubon Society’s headquarters voted decisively in favor of forming a union, 90-14. “Despite every obstacle thrown in our path, we prevailed because we knew what we were fighting for was just,” said one worker. The Audubon staffers are joining the CWA. Let’s hope the protection afforded by the union allows the Audubon staffers to advocate more militant positions for the protection of woodlands and wildlife than they’ve been allowed to do in the past by the conservative and politically timid executives in the front office.

+ At least you know where they’re coming from…

+ There’s a story about Mick and Keith deprecating Hendrix’s guitar-playing, saying he could only play loud and had no feeling to his tone. He showed up to their place in Laurel Canyon one night and Mick handed him an acoustic guitar and asked him to play something. Hendrix demurred saying that he was left-handed and the guitar wasn’t strung for him. Mick shot Keith a smirk. Hendrix said, oh what the hell, flipped the guitar over and played Robt Johnson’s Love in Vain with the strings in reverse order. That put an end to the snobbery…

+ Sonny Rollins: “I’m not just avant-garde, I’m not just straight ahead, I’m not just sentimental, I’m all of these things. And I’m trying to get them together, because they’re part of me. That’s what I want to portray in a coherent style.”

Wherever I Go, They Treat Me the Same…

Booked Up
What I’m reading this week…

The Spoils of War: Power, Profit and the American War Machine
Andrew Cockburn

Shutdown: How Covid Shook the World’s Economy
Adam Tooze

Presumed Guilty: How the Supreme Court Empowered the Police and Subverted Human Rights
Erwin Chemerinsky

Sound Grammar
What I’m listening to this week…

Springtime in New York: The Bootleg Series, Vol. 16, 1980-1985
Bob Dylan
(Sony Legacy)

Strange Lands
Nicole Glover

I Have Nothing to Say to the Mayor of LA
Dean Wareham
(Double Feature)

They Too Needed Emancipation

“The great bulk of the legal voters of the South were men who owned no slaves; their homes were generally in the hills and poor country; their facilities for educating their children, even up to the point of reading and writing, were very limited; their interest in the contest was very meagre–what there was, if they had been capable of seeing it, was with the North; they too needed emancipation. Under the old regime they were looked down upon by those who controlled all the affairs in the interest of slave-owners, as poor white trash who were allowed the ballot so long as they cast it according to direction.” – Ulysses S. Grant, The Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant

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