Roaming Charges: In the Time of Passive Non-Resistance

Biden at CNN Town Hall.

Biden’s remarkable passivity as his political agenda is demolished from within by two lightweight senators from his own party is not a sign of his mental feebleness. It’s endemic to the post-Carter Democratic Party. They don’t fight for anything, except their own reelections and now they don’t even seem much interested in fighting for that. Look back to one of the original “new Democrats,” Al Gore, who refused to fight for his own election as president, as it was stolen right in front of his eyes. Gore showed the same listlessness as Biden.

Of course, Biden’s pledge to become the new FDR was always hollow, almost comically so for those who’d paid the slightest attention to his career in the US senate. When the “new Democrats” finally took power and Clinton began dismantling what remained of FDR’s political legacy, Biden ran interference for him on the Hill, helping to smother what little internal resistance the Democrat’s put up to Bubba’s drive to “end the Era of Big Government.” It takes a politician more gifted than Biden to authentically fake fury at the shriveling of policies that he never really believed in to begin with.

+ When fools rush in…

+ When it comes to the legislative newswire, the phrase “Senate Democrats” is the equivalent of “Florida Man”…

+ I don’t know what’s more breathtaking the brazenness of Joe Manchin’s corruption or that none of the members of his own party, who he repeatedly screws over, seem to care…

+ Paid family and medical leave would have “cost” about $22 billion, or just about the same amount Democrats hiked the Pentagon’s budget by last week.

+ As a Halloween thought experiment, it might be fun to fantasize about the mincemeat LBJ would have made of Sinema and Manchin for obstructing his economic program and Stephen Breyer for not retiring from the court. Listen to crackling of Abe Ribikoff’s bones as LBJ twists the arm of a much more powerful senator to get his way over a much less consequential bill…

+ If Manchin did bolt and join the GOP (as David Corn, who is often, if not usually, wrong reported for Mother Jones), then the Democrats could at least blame the Republicans for blocking their agenda, such as it is. But now they have only themselves to blame, which is how it should be.

+ As the reconciliation bill is ripped apart one vital program (prescription drugs, paid family leave, clean energy program) after another (free community college, expanded Medicare coverage for vision & dental, corporate and billionaire tax hikes), I wonder if the Democrats feel like they are participating in their own political autopsy? It looks like that to an outsider.

+ It was over when Biden reneged on the promise of $2000 checks, which foretold all the betrayals to come: on student loans, Medicare expansion, family separations, oil drilling on federal lands and waters, minimum wage, et al…What’s happening next week is merely a domestic spat over what they want written on their Cenotaph.

+ Manchin: “I don’t know where in the Hell I belong.” At least the 7th or 8th Circle, but rapidly heading toward the 9th…

+ Ryan Grim: “Imagine representing West Virginia and blocking an $800 voucher for dental for seniors.”

+ For someone who’s been in DC for 6 decades, Biden doesn’t seem to have the idea how to create a distraction from his failures, like: inviting Ye & Kim to the White House to broker a reconciliation, invading a tiny Caribbean island inhabited by students at a Marxist college of homeopathy, sending Jill to the picket lines in Des Moines wearing a jacket saying Scabs Make Better Lovers, redecorating the South Lawn with Hunter Biden sculptures, or extorting a Supreme Court justice to retire and replacing him with a Catholic bishop in the name of saving the soul of the nation.

+ Why blame the GOP, Senator Cardin? Two Democrats are filibustering your lame attempt to junk the filibuster. Blame them.

As Eminem might say:

You got some skeletons in your closet
& many of your people still don’t know it,
so before they throw your party in a coffin & close it
you might wanna expose it

+ Henry Adams: “Although the Senate is much given to admiring in its members a superiority less obvious or quite invisible to outsiders, one Senator seldom proclaims his own inferiority to another, and still more seldom likes to be told of it. Even the greatest Senators seemed to inspire little personal affection in each other, and betrayed none at all.”

+ Maybe Mitt can invite Krysten on the next family vacation, strap her to the roof of his car, the way he did Seamus the Irish Setter, pump that accelerator and keep on driving…

+ Julian Assange shouldn’t be released from the dank chambers of Belmarsh Prison because the CIA contemplated assassinating him. He shouldn’t be released because a key witness against him admitted to fabricating his deposition. He should be released because he didn’t commit the crime for which he is charged and a country that treats journalism as a crime against the state shouldn’t have legal standing to bring extradition requests in the courts of nations that consider themselves democracies.

+ The combined costs to UK taxpayers for the courts, prosecutors and prison used for Julian Assange’s extradition case have already surpassed $433,000. The stakeout of the embassy cost another $12 million. To date, the USA hasn’t contributed a penny.

+ A Case of Infinite Jeopardy: “Even if we lose, we can start again with Mr. Assange and issue another extradition request,” James Lewis QC Thursday at the UK High Court on behalf of the US Government…

+ The Biden/Blinken State Department is once again threatening to hit Cuba with even more economic sanctions (if they find anything left to sanction), if it prosecutes any of the organizers from the recent protests. Meanwhile, the US is prosecuting J6 protesters, anti-J6 protest protesters, BLM protesters, anti-BLM protesters, pipeline protesters, strikers, anti-nuke protesters, anti-war protesters, journalists and whistleblowers…

+ In pre-Civil War America, there were two kinds of abolitionist: one, genuinely wanted blacks (or at least black men) to enjoy equal rights, including the right to vote. The other wanted blacks freed from slavery so that they could all be deported to Haiti, Venezuela or Liberia. In many ways, these two mentalities continue to define the politics of white American liberals.

+ The death of democracy in America has been pronounced more times than the expiration of Jason Voorhees. The question is whether it was ever alive to begin with.

+ According to a report prepared for Congress by William Sheridan, white vigilantes committed more than 2,000 “political murders”, largely of blacks and radical Republicans, during the first 10 years of Reconstruction in Louisiana alone. Similar body counts were recorded in South Carolina, Alabama and Mississippi. Democracy has long been America’s favorite blood sport.

+ Israel’s Higher Planning Council is set to approve 3100 new housing units for Israeli settlers inside the West Bank. The Biden administration expressed its “deep concern” over this latest land theft. But unlike with Cuba or Venezuela, the State Department threatened no sanctions and the Israeli government shrugged, as its new Prime Minister Naftali Bennett flew off to Moscow for a meet-and-greet with Vladimir Putin, a confab sure to enflame Biden and which will likely prompt new sanctions on…Russia for intruding on the “special relationship.” Meanwhile, the Israeli government declared six Palestinian human rights groups “terrorist” organizations, for the crime of exposing Israeli atrocities. Just another week in the apartheid state.

+ Gideon Levy: “An Israeli Palestinian dared to raise a hand and hold his head high. He opposed the occupier with his body. From now on Odeh is a terrorist too, he’ll soon be detained without trial. Just as with Palestinian terrorism, the Israeli shock is always over the ugly, inevitable result, never over the cause. Not only do the Palestinians have the right to resist what the Jews have been doing to them for 100 years, it’s their only option. Israel pushes them to despair, and from there to violence. And afterward, how easy it will be to tsk-tsk: Yuck, violence. Palestinian violence, of course.”

+ Raytheon’s CEO Greg Hayes lamented that the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan will have a $75 million impact in sales for the company. Don’t shed any tears for the weapons maker. Raytheon reported sales of $16.4 billion for just the last quarter alone. Hayes hasn’t done badly either. He’s been paid $85 million since 2016.

+ The CEOs of Raytheon, Lockheed, Boeing, and General Dynamics should all be sending lavish Xmas presents to President Xi this year. There was, of course, never much fear that the alleged end of the Afghan War would reduce the Pentagon’s budget, but China’s successful hypersonic missile test insures that over the next decade trillions will be diverted from health care, climate change, education and infrastructure budgets into a bottomless Pentagon slush fund for developing, testing and deploying missiles that by definition (or at least according to the logic of MAD theory) can never be used. The seismic activity in DC is from all the corks being popped up and down K Street.

+ The Biden administration is negotiating with Pakistan to use its airspace to conduct future military actions in Afghanistan. That didn’t take long.

+ The Pentagon is griping that Iranian drones attacked a US base in Syria. I repeat…a US base in Syria.

+ The NYT reports that U.S. counterterrorism efforts in Somalia have made militant group Al Shabab even stronger, which one might be forgiven for thinking was the goal of all counter-terrorism programs.

+ Police have received $25 million worth of military equipment from the Pentagon through its 1033 Program since July and $77 million since January.

+ Radley Balko on qualified immunity for cops: “Qualified immunity isn’t in the Constitution. It isn’t in the U.S. Code. It is judge-made law. It is judicial activism, by any definition of the term.”

+ Kenosha County Circuit Judge Bruce Schroeder has ruled on that Kyle Rittenhouse’s lawyers can refer to the men the young vigilante shot and killed in Kenosha, Wisconsin, in August 2020 as “rioters” and “looters,” but prosecutors may not call them “victims” at any time during the teen’s upcoming murder trial.

+ Even though the city of Portland lists “anti-racism” and “equity” as the city’s “top values”, an internal survey revealed that only 8 of the 103 Black employees at City Hall who responded say they feel supported in their jobs.

+ Nicholas Kristof is leaving his stall at the New York Times to run for governor of Oregon. Journalism’s gain is Oregon’s nightmare.

+ Elon Musk made $36 billion on Monday after Hertz announced it would purchase 100,000 Tesla electric cars, making his net worth on Monday was only some $13 billion less than the total 2020 GDP of South Africa, the country of his birth. Now, predictably, he’s bellowing about the proposed billionaire tax, bleating that “eventually they run out of other people’s money and come for you.” This from a man-child of infinite wealth whose suite of companies (Tesla, Solar City and Space X) has pocketed more than $4.9 billion in government subsidies, grants and tax abatements, according to an analysis by the LA Times.

+ It is a defining characteristic of neoliberal capitalism that austerity will always be imposed on those who can least afford it. In fact, most of us can’t afford it at all.

+ A UAW John Deere striker was hit and killed by a vehicle on the picket line  Weds. morning in Milan, Illinois. Picket lines have always been dangerous places, where striking workers are often considered fair game for company goons, police, scabs and rigthwing vigilante types, as well as careless drivers. Two years ago a UAW striker at a GM plant was killed in Tennessee. A solidarity that extends beyond the picket lines is their only real protection.

+ Ron Jacobs told me that when he was on the picket line in Seattle during the very intense Greyhound strike in the early 1990s a scab driver ran over and killed a striking driver.

+ Our economy basically runs on robocalls, bail bonds, pay day loans and Go Fund Me pages. Prove me wrong.

American legs, Noah Purifoy outdoor installation, Joshua Tree. Photo: Jeffrey St. Clair.

+ The anti-vaxxers are accusing Noam Chomsky of advocating “medical apartheid.” Nonsense. “Medical apartheid” is what the Israeli state practices, that is: denying life-saving medical treatments to a minority, colonized and disenfranchised segment of the population, in the hope that as many as possible get sick and perish. This is not what Noam is promoting. He is calling for segregating a population that is willfully refusing available treatments and thereby putting the rest of the population at risk of a lethal disease. This is, of course, exactly what the Native Americans should have done to the first invaders of the continent, before upwards of 90 percent of the aboriginal population of North America was wiped out by infectious diseases, almost before the first blunderbusses were fired. In the Pacific Northwest, it’s estimated that 84 percent of the base population of the Columbia River tribes were killed by European diseases before Lewis and Clark reached Cape Disappointment.

+ How many of the rightwingers skewering Fauci over the vile medical experiments on beagles have said a single word about the gunning & gassing of wolf pups in their dens now taking place in Idaho–a “pupicide” perpetrated by wildlife killers working for Biden’s Dept of Agriculture?

+ I hope we can all agree that if medical science insists on the hideous practice of vivisection that it be restricted to those robotic dogs, which are now the rage. If not, what the hell are they good for?

+ Meanwhile, a review of 64 recent studies on the efficacy of Ivermectin as a treatment for Covid “suggest that the significant effect of ivermectin on survival was dependent on largely poor quality and potentially fraudulent studies.”

+ In my diary last week, I noted the irony of the New York City Council signaling out a statue of Thomas Jefferson for eviction from its chambers, while ignoring more inconvenient symbols of slavery much closer to home. After all, Jefferson was the person most responsible for keeping the odious practice of slavery out of the Northwest Territories (Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, et al.), at a time when slavery was still legal in New York and would be by law until 1837 and by custom until the end of the Civil War. As late as 1860, the Astor Hotel was still offering rooms for the slaves of visiting Southerners, while denying rooms to free blacks.  At the time of the first census of the young Republic, slaves accounted for 24 percent of the population of Brooklyn, roughly the same percentage as Virginia.

Ishmael Reed wrote to remind me of a much more glaring hypocrisy: that many of the New York elites who are condemning Jefferson are simultaneously celebrating their very own Alexander Hamilton, despite the fact that Hamilton was himself a slave owner, whose wife’s family (the eminent Schuyler clan) had profited from the slave trade, a legacy recently confirmed by the Schuyler Mansion itself.

But the ironies get deeper. Much of Hamilton’s reputation as an opponent of slavery comes from his membership in the Manumission Society, a group of prominent New Yorkers who advocated for the gradual (some might describe it as glacial) elimination of slavery through the freeing of slaves by their owners, a process which had been severely restricted in New York by a law requiring owners to place large cash bonds for each freed slave, so that they would not become a “burden” on the state. The president of the Manumission Society was Hamilton’s close friend John Jay, co-author of the Federalist Papers, a governor of New York and first chief justice of the US Supreme Court. At the time Jay was leading the Manumission Society, he owned as many as five slaves. Unlike Jefferson, Jay later freed his slaves, but only after they had worked off the cost of their purchase, food, shelter, and clothing, as well as providing him with a little interest in his investment–or as Jay cryptically put it: “a reasonable retribution.” It should also be noted that under Hamilton and Jay’s leadership freed blacks were prohibited from becoming members of the Manumission Society. Look too close at almost any American icon of the ante-bellum era and you’re likely to find some unsavory link to slavery. Best to tear down all idolatrous statues of politicians and generals, north, south, east and west.

+ New York City was far from a safe harbor for escaped slaves or even free blacks. The extreme hostility toward blacks in 19th century New York was the reason that when Frederick Douglass showed up in the city dressed in a borrowed maritime uniform and clutching false identity papers that helped him evade the slave patrollers, his friend David Ruggles, the black abolitionist, told him he needed to get to Massachusetts as quickly as possible. He and his wife Anna ended up in the whaling town of New Bedford, about the time Herman Melville was setting sail for the south seas.

The streets of New York were rife with bounty hunters and kidnapping gangs that pulled random blacks off the streets and raided boarding houses and churches, detaining blacks at gunpoint and hurling them into wagons, where they were chained and taken, sometimes for auction, to the Deep South. There was no habeas corpus, no opportunity for blacks to prove they were free. For much of the 18th and early 19th centuries, the slave patrollers were allowed to operate under the common law theory of “recaption,” which permitted “owners” to reclaim their runaway property without the consent of any court. Such “volitional property” included cows, horses, children, indentured servants, wives, and slaves. As Eric Foner points out in his masterful book on the underground railroad Gateway to Freedom, one of the most curious features of this custom was that while husbands were afforded the right to track down and rendition their runaway wives (many of whom had fled from spousal abuse), wives did not enjoy the same privilege and were not permitted to pursue and collect husbands who had abandoned their families, often leaving them in a state of privation.

New York City had its own slave market, located on Wall Street naturally, where the “rights” to more than 7,000 enslaved blacks were bought, sold and traded from 1700 to the Revolutionary War. While New York did not explicitly restrict the right to vote by race, in 1821 it became one of the first states to impose a poll tax on black male voters, who were required to prove they had $250 in order to vote.  It was designed to suppress black voting rights and it worked. In the elections of 1826, only 16 black men cast ballots in New York City, which then had a population of nearly 2500 free blacks.

Blacks had even fewer rights and when they protested their racist treatment, they were dealt with as viciously as any uprisings in Alabama or Louisiana. In one infamous case, the suspected organizers of a 1712 black uprising in the Bronx were tied to wagon wheels and burned to death. There are few clean hands among the men who built New York City.

+ Liberty University threatened to punish students who reported being raped. An official told Pro Publica he was just fired for raising concerns. He called it a “conspiracy of silence.” As disgusting as this is, it shouldn’t come as too much of surprise. Liberty’s founder Jerry Falwell once favorably compared Oliver North, who was running death squads in Central America that routinely raped and murdered Catholic nuns, to Jesus of Nazareth.

+ Biden’s reconciliation package looks like a catastrophe for the environment and not just on climate. The new language codifies “collaboration logging” projects on the national forests, providing $14 billion in funding for clearcutting public forests, a destructive bailout of the timber industry, which the timber industry will promptly pocket and then campaign like hell to take Biden down in 2024.

+ Way to go, Democrats! Your brand-new climate package is stuffed with more bailouts of the fossil fuel industry! Something to brag about in Glasgow!

+ How about dropping a $775 million grant on some non-profit environmental law firms to sue these m-fers into compliance–or better yet–out of existence?

+ Obsessed with abortion to the near exclusion of all other social teachings of the Catholic Church, researchers at Creighton University have found that Catholic Bishops in the US have largely ignored the Hippie Pope’s radical treatise on the environment and climate change and have “collectively snuffed out the spark of Laudato Si’.”

+ According to a sobering new report, The Pathway to Net Zero Emissions, from the global policy group DNV, the mid-term aim of “the Paris Agreement to halve emissions compared to 2017 levels by 2030 is out of reach.” And the goal of hitting the 1.5° climate target will require developed nations to go net-zero by 2042 and become net-negative thereafter.

+ In yet another indication of just how serious the Biden administration is in tackling climate change, the world’s number one climate menace (the Pentagon) opts to skip the Glasgow Climate Summit.

+ Jan Polderman, Mayor of Lytton, British Columbia, a town that was incinerated by this summer’s wildfires:  “I’m 60, and I thought climate change was a problem for the next generation. Now I’m Mayor of a town that no longer exists.”

+ With the world’s leading government’s taking only incremental steps to combat climate change, will it be up to the insurance cartel to pull the plug on big coal?

+ According to data from Berkeley Earth, land areas are warming twice as fast as oceans…

+ What’s driving escalating food prices? Not supply chain failures, but climate-driven droughts.

+ The level of Lake Oroville rose 10 feet after the first blast from the cyclonic bomb. Of course, this is also the “lake” formed by Oroville Dam, which was already on the brink of failure.

+ What the atmospheric rivers meant to the Sierra Nevada…

Images of the Central Sierra Nevada Mountains, the week before and after the Cyclonic Bomb event. Images: NASA.

+ Bomb Cyclone Scoreboard: 159 mph winds, 16.53 inches of rain, 42 inches of snow, barometric pressure of 942 mb…

+ Here’s Martha Williams, Biden’s pick to head the Fish and Wildlife Service, posing in front of the mounted head of a grizzly hung on a wall…

I doubt Williams will get the same treatment from liberals that Sarah Palin did for posing with her grizzly bear-skin rug. But there’ll be a lot more grizzlies losing their heads if WIliams has her way.

+ Martha Williams is another fanatical proponent of the “collaborative process,” where middle-of-the-road conservation groups huddle with ranchers & mining & timber companies and agree to circumvent environmental laws, like NEPA & the Endangered Species Act, to create sacrifice zones on public lands. As head of Montana’s Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP), Williams aggressively pushed for the delisting of wolves and grizzlies and on her watch the state planned for a grizzly hunt. Mainstream groups, politicians and industry love her pliant politics. But she’s bad news for wildlife, especially any species standing in the way of a chainsaw, bulldozer or oil rig.

+ According to surveys by the North Atlantic Right Whale Consortium, the number of right whales fell to an estimated 336 in 2020, which the lowest level in almost two decades. The species has seen a population decline of more than 30% in the past decade, down from 481 whales in 2011.

+ At the same, a new study commissioned by the Greater Ferrallones Association suggests that restoring whales to their pre-hunted numbers could capture 1.7 billion tons of CO2 per year.

+ In southern Oregon, the famous Rogue Wolf Pack has continued to evade the aerial gunships that have decimated the Lookout Mountain Pack, rearing at least four yearling pups, which were spotted on a trail camera near Fort Klamath. The pack need replenishing, since the adult wok known as OR-7 is believed dead and the corpse of the pack’s former breeding female was found this summer in the Sky Lakes Wilderness.

Image: Tim Trainor.

+ Russia is planning to power operations at a remote Siberian gold mine with a new nuclear plant.

+ Malcolm McDowell got off easy during his reconditioning in Clockwork Orange, when his eyes were wired open and he was forced to view a montage of slaughter, genocide and sado-masochism. At least he didn’t have watch this…

+ Actor Brian Cox shreds Johnny Depp in his forthcoming memoir, Putting the Rabbit in the Hat: “Personable though I’m sure he is, [Depp] is so overblown, so overrated. I mean, Edward Scissorhands. Let’s face it, if you come on with hands like that, and pale, scarred make-up, you don’t have to do anything. And he didn’t. Subsequently, he’s done even less.” Do Alec Baldwin next…

+ Scenario: Dick Cheney and Alec Baldwin go dove hunting [write your own denouement]…

+ How do Manchin and Sinema sleep at night? Manchin’s daughter has pills for that. Of course, they’re pricey…

+ Dylan’s New Morning LP sounds fresher now than it did when I first heard it decades ago–more inventive, diverse and fun. Al Kooper’s piano and organ, the gospel backing vocals and bottleneck slide give the record a charge lacking in the monotonous Blood on the Tracks. It has the playfulness of the best of the Basement Tapes

+ Link Wray’s “Rumble” is the only instrumental song ever banned from radio play. It was deemed an irresistible incitement to riot. Let the incitement commence, Link…

Booked Up
What I’m reading this week…

Behind Enemy Lies: War, News and Chaos in the Middle East
Patrick Cockburn

Capitalism and the Death Drive
Byung-Chul Han

How I Became a Tree
Sumana Roy

Sound Grammar
What I’m listening to this week…

A Love Supreme: Live in Seattle
John Coltrane

Sorry, Ma, Forgot to Take the Trash Out
The Replacements

Pinky’s Blues
Sue Foley
(Stoney Plain)

The Calm Metal Instrument of My Voice

“I address the youth, those who sang and gave us their joy and their spirit of struggle. I address the man of Chile, the worker, the farmer, the intellectual, those who will be persecuted, because in our country fascism has been already present for many hours — in terrorist attacks, blowing up the bridges, cutting the railroad tracks, destroying the oil and gas pipelines, in the face of the silence of those who had the obligation to act.  They were committed. History will judge them.  Surely, Radio Magallanes will be silenced, and the calm metal instrument of my voice will no longer reach you. It does not matter. You will continue hearing it. I will always be next to you. At least my memory will be that of a man of dignity who was loyal to his country.”

– Salvador Allende, final radio address, as Pinochet’s coup descended on Santiago.

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