Roaming Charges: Muzak for the Cancer Ward

Willamette Falls at flood stage.

Here at CounterPunch we’re brainstorming about ways that we can make our annual fundraiser more effective, less annoying and brought to an end as soon as possible. None of us are professional fundraisers. None of us like asking for money or sacrificing staff hours and space on the website for this annual ordeal. But we don’t have any other options. We won’t sell ads and we don’t get big grants from liberal foundations.

Not many outlets that take our line on the Middle East or the vacuity of the Democratic Party get grants from the Pew Charitable Trusts or the Rockefeller Foundation. That’s one big reason there aren’t that many sites like CounterPunch, frankly. Another, of course, is that they don’t have our writers. We’re funded by our readers and only our readers. Live by the word, perish by the word.

Thankfully one of our longtime supporters has stepped up this week and promised to match every $50 or more donation up to $50,000 total. The matching grant is landing right on time, but it will only make a dent in our modest goal if our readers pitch in. C’mon, let’s end this thing and get on to the very important matters at hand.

The biggest challenge for the impresarios of these climate summits is to appear to take some action to avert the crisis that envelopes us, while doing almost nothing at all. Less than nothing really, since over the course of the summit the catastrophe will have deepened by more than the meager measures adopted to ameliorate it. When the first COP (aka, Conference of the Polluters) was held in Berlin in 1995, the atmospheric carbon level hit 395.92 parts per million. This year the monthly average topped 419 ppm. Net less than zero reduction.

Mostly the art of summitry comes down to stagecraft and after three decades of these kinds of performances the mechanics of the event are pretty well scripted. Indigenous leaders are brought in from the Arctic and Amazonia to bless the event. Global leaders memorize their lines and pitch coins into fountains for good luck, by far the most assertive act for of the entire affair. News is carefully leaked about fake fights behind the scenes in the anterooms of the conference, which threaten to imperil any agreement. The leaders of island nations are given a few moments before the cameras to declaim how many acres of their land mass have been lost to rising seas since the last summit and the members of the press try earnestly to recall how to spell the names of their countries before they disappear altogether.  Outside protesters from around the world swarm the streets, lending the whole affair a gravitas that these hollow exercises wouldn’t have without them.

The lobbies of nearby hotels are turned into showroom floors for the latest quick-fix technologies marketed by corporations, most of them also Pentagon contractors, seeking to capitalize on a global green new deal. The rituals of the COP are followed as diligently as the secret salutations and backroom handshakes at Davos and Bohemian Grove. The most important thing, of course, is that whatever agreement is reached–even if it’s an agreement in name only (often the most preferable outcome)–must be good for the bottom line. It must make the crypto-carbon-futures markets jump.

Still there must be drama and tension to emphasize how seriously these ambassadors of the atmosphere are taking the crisis. One way or another, the people’s interest must be simultaneously maintained and distracted. The protesters need to be kept on the streets, shaking their puppets and signs, voicing their agitation over the carefully cultivated prospect that it all might fall apart and nothing, alas, will be done.

The blah blah blah outside the COP confab has become as predictable and tedious as the blah blah blah inside. But every summit needs its sonic score, the sound of marching, charging feet, boy. As Norman Mailer once said in a different context, it’s like muzak for the cancer ward.

Big fights ensue over tiny measures. Nations threaten to walk out, until, at the last possible moment, the summit is saved by some fancy deus ex machina wordplay by veteran climate diplomats like John Kerry and Angela Merkel, deftly changing “phase out” to “phase down” and eliding the tripwire phrase “fossil fuels” altogether.

Hurray! Progress has been made, if not toward reducing emissions, at least, and this is, naturally, the most important thing, toward planning the next summit, sure to be the most important one yet, when the planet’s atmosphere will have breached the once unthinkable level of 420 ppm. Book your flights now.

+ When the carbon footprint of holding your summit is greater than the aspirational pledges for carbon reduction made at the summit, maybe you should consider skipping the next summit so you can claim some real carbon savings.

+ Fortunately for the US delegation, they wrapped things up in Glasgow in time to return home to conduct one of the largest offshore oil lease auctions (82 million acres in the Gulf of Mexico) in American history. Go team!

+ The atmospheric rivers unloaded again on the Pacific Northwest last week. They’d just re-opened many of the roads along in the Willamette Valley when I was driving around last Sunday looking for red tails, harriers and kestrels. The Pudding River, normally thirty feet wide had flooded huge fields and lowland forests, while Butte and Abiqui creeks were still roaring and the temperature was 67 degrees, warm enough for the snakes to emerge. A totally understandable natural response to the Glasgow summit…

Road closures along the Pudding River, near Mt. Angel, Oregon.

Pudding River at flood stage.

Pudding River at flood stage.

Scotts Mill at flood stage.

Gallon House Bridge.

Northwestern Garter Snake sunning in mid-November.

Willamette Falls at flood stage.

+ We got drenched down here in Oregon, but our floods were mere rivulets compared to the deluge that struck Northwest Washington and British Columbia, where massive flooding and landslides cut off the three main highways connecting Vancouver with Canadian interior and blocked all rail traffic.

+ 14 million tons: the amount of coal still burned every day by China and India.

+ Half of all carbon dioxide emissions have occurred since 1991. Since the release of Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth” in 2006, cumulative global emissions have increased by about 40 percent. More than 15% of all US greenhouse gas emissions have occurred in the last 15 years.

+ Industry and politicians want you to believe that climate change is our fault and that they path to “net zero” is through individual changes in behavior. But even under the rosiest scenarios of electric cars, more sweaters and eating vegan less than 8% of the needed reductioncan be achieved through individual behavior changes.  92% of  the reductions, according to the International Energy Agency, will have to derive from industry itself switching to low carbon technology.

+ More than half of all greenhouse emissions in the US (over three billion tons of CO2 a year) come from transportation and electricity generation, inflicting more than $150 billion in long-term damage each year.

+ According to the EPA, the animal agriculture’s the prime industrial source of methane emissions in the U.S. Yet, Biden plan includes no actions to regulate methane emissions from slaughterhouses, factory farms and confined feeding operations. None.

+ According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, the cost of achieving net zero is less than one fifth the cost of the CARES Act (pandemic relief), which the Journal estimated at 10.2% of GDP.

+ Until something new comes along (probably next week), this will serve as the perfect symbol of Biden’s environmental policies: “Ahead of that formal analysis, the Interior Department and its agencies have touted a wide range of programs as examples of the America the Beautiful program, from synthetic turf at a city park to new wilderness lands.” Astroturf Greens, really…

+ Kyle Rittenhouse’s lawyer during closing arguments: “Other people in this community have shot somebody seven times and it’s been found to be ok. My client did it four times…”

+ The lawyer is referring to the cop who shot Jacob Blake seven times not being charged. The prosecutor should have objected but didn’t, probably because it’s his office that didn’t bring charges against the cop who shot Blake.

+ You can see his point. NYPD cops shot Amadou Diallo 41 times for no justifiable reason and walked. Then they shot Sean Bell 50 times on the morning before his planned wedding and also walked.

+ Apparently the American police state–already the largest and most violent in the world–is no longer enough to deal with the long term-consequences of economic inequality, institutional racism and environmental decay gnawing away at the social fabric of the nation. An auxiliary force is required to protect the security (largely psychological) of our financial elites–armed paramilitaries roving the streets, private gunslingers, like you’d find in many of the dictatorships the US has financed around the world, able to strike at will with the same legal impunity enjoyed by cops on the beat. We have become (and probably always were) almost exactly the kind of violent and repressive society that we have inflicted on much of the world, under the banner of spreading freedom and democracy.

+ Biden on Rittenhouse verdict: “I stand by what the jury has to say. The jury system works.” It’s no surprise that Biden supports the verdict. Rittenhouse’s vigilantism is a privatized version of his 90s crime bills–and we all know Biden is a big supporter of privatization.

+ Biden’s endorsement of the Rittenhouse verdict is a pretty clear signal that Merrick Garland won’t be pursuing federal charges under the Civil Rights Act.

+ The people who shot Jacob Blake walked. The person who shot the people protesting the shooting of Jacob Blake walked. The only people who won’t walk are the people arrested for protesting those who did.

+ After Kyle Rittenhouse was acquitted for shooting three people on the streets of Kenosha, Donald (I could shoot somebody on Fifth Ave. and not lose any voters) Trump is going to have to come up with some new boast about the kind of outlandish behavior he can get away with, since this will soon become routine event in America…

+ Apparently, you can now walk down many streets in America carrying what looks like a military assault weapon. This gun might make other people nervous about your intentions. You perceive their anxiety about your gun as a potential threat to your safety & shoot them. Case closed.

+ The concept of Stand Your Ground has become a legal version of Hemingway’s a Moveable Feast–it goes wherever you go or, really, wherever your gun goes. Your ground is literally wherever you’re standing with a gun–even if it is on someone else’s street in someone else’s town with someone else’s gun…

+ But Rittenhouse shot white people! Doesn’t that prove he’s not a racist? No. He shot race traitors, white people protesting the police shootings of blacks. During Reconstruction some of the most sadistic murders in the South were committed against so-called Radical Republicans, Southerners who supported emancipation and black suffrage, a threat that needed to be completely neutralized before JIm Crow could be implemented.

+ I recall when many of the same people now celebrating the Rittenhouse verdict pointed to images of teenage paramilitaries roaming the streets of Mogadishu and Freetown with assault weapons as evidence that those nations were failed states in need of military intervention.

+ Like many suburban kids, I was force-fed the Dick and Jane readers in kindergarten. I guess in the updated post-Rittenhouse Patriotic editions of these books all the juvenile characters in the stories will be carrying AK-47s for self-defense, except Spot the dog and Puff the cat. I can imagine an episode where Spot and Puff are kidnapped by the evil Dr. Fauci for grotesque medical experiments on a island off the coast of Africa and have to be liberated in a commando raid by Dick, Jane and Sally.

+ In yet another case of pro-active “self-defense,” new video show that teenager Christian Hall had his hands in the air when he was gunned down in the street last year by Pennsylvania State Troopers…

+ A reminder: 907 people have been shot and killed by police in the US this year.

+ Can there be any doubt that Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt, knowing for several days knew he was going to commute the death of Julius Jones, sadistically waited until the last possible moment to do officially, forcing Jones, his family and friends, to endure all of the excruciating stress from the macabre protocols of executions in America.

+ Julius Jones isn’t free, as he so clearly should be, but he is alive and will be tomorrow morning, when his fight for freedom can begin again. Rarely is the specter of state-sanctioned murdered told to fuck off so successfully in America. And that’s something to celebrate. Yet look at the movement it took to compel the state it took to grudgingly do something so obvious and just. Executions have become political spectacles in America, where the customary virtues of justice, compassion, and empathy have been supplanted by vengeance, retribution and blood sacrifice for political gain.

+ Newly released documents reveal that the city of Portland, Oregon was operating a secret police force during the summer of 2020.  Will Anthony Blinken, who piously chastised Cuba for “intimidating” rightwing protesters this week, impose sanctions on Stumptown?

+ This takes “bipartisanship” to a whole new level of tautology…

+ Less than two weeks after the US sanctioned the Israeli government-licensed cyber-spying firm NSO Group for endangering human rights, the Biden administration signed a cybersecurity pact with Israel….

+ America has made wrong turns at so many crossroads even a pair of ruby slippers couldn’t get it back on track.

+ Speaking of inflation, the Air Force’s next-generation B-21 stealth bomber program will likely cost taxpayers at least $203 billion to develop, purchase and operate 100 aircraft over 30 years.

+ Still, Rep. Kai Kahele, the Democrat from Honolulu, complained this week that the Air Force was grossly underfunded. Underfunded? Let’s check the numbers: Air Force budget of $156.3 billion is a 2.3% increase over FY21 enacted levels, and the Space Force budget of $17.4 billion is a 13.1% increase over FY21 enacted levels.

+ Why is there a shortage of truck drivers? Consider this. In 1980, the average trucker made $120,000 a year (in 2020 dollars). In 2019, according to Christopher Mims’ new book Arriving Today: From Factory to Front Door, truckers earned only $45,000 a year, a 63% decrease.

+ 41.5: the percentage of union election campaigns where employers have been charged with violating federal election laws.

+ 48% of nonunion workers want to join a union, but only 12% of workers now enjoy union representation, largely because of tactics like these…

+ Meanwhile, Wall Street bonuses are set to climb by 35 percent this year, the largest increase since the Great Recession of 2008.

+ An in-depth investigation by Bloomberg News showed that Black workers in Georgia were twice as likely as whites to be denied state unemployment benefits, but 90% of those denied who reapplied for federal pandemic aid were approved.

+ The second biggest component of the Democrat’s big spending bill is a $280 billion  tax giveaway to millionaires. (The House proposal on SALT (State and Local Tax deduction) gives more than 70% of its benefits to the wealthiest 5% of taxpayers.)

+ During the early months of the pandemic, meatpacking plants were connected to 6% to 8% of Covid cases and 3% to 4% of Covid deaths, although OSHA had a hard time keeping track of  the number of meatpacking Covid deaths.

+ Nearly two years into the pandemic, the COVID new case load (84,000) remains higher than all but four months of the pandemic.

+ Monthly deaths in Florida from flu, pneumonia and COVID from 1999 to 2021…

+ “If we learned nothing from the AIDS pandemic— and we did learn maybe a couple things, which made possible a speedier treatment pipeline, for one — it’s that even those of us who are wildly, delightedly promiscuous don’t deserve diseases. Yet we’re still incapable of making sane assessments about risks, fault, cause, and blame.”

+ Most countries, including small poor ones like Cuba, Malaysia, Belarus, and Sri Lanka, have managed to wipe out congenital syphilis. In the US, by contrast, the disease is spiking to its highest level in nearly thirty years. In 2020, there were 2,022 reported cases, including 139 deaths.

+ A medical clinic affiliated with UCLA charged a patient $809 for a plastic boot for her broken foot. The same boot is available on Amazon for $80.

+ A masochist by inclination, I watched an episode of the Hillary documentary on Hulu last night & was struck by two things: Thing 1. after all the renaissance weekends, encounter groups, seances with Eleanor Roosevelt, election postmortems (2008 & 2016), HRC remains the least self-aware political figure of our time, except perhaps for James Comey, who, ironically, would have made a perfect partner for her in an alt. life. Thing 2: Bill had a portrait of Andrew Jackson hanging in the Oval Office. No wonder he gave a pardon to Marc Rich instead of Leonard Peltier.

+ Move over, John Maynard, tell John Kenneth the news…

+ I think it’s incumbent on Congress to keep the demented dentist Paul Gosar in the House, preferably in some meaningless hearing room like the Ethics Committee, and out of people’s mouths back in Arizona with a drill in his hand…

+ Don’t miss the next episode of Succession, where King Rupert is overthrown by the Mein Pillow usurper Mike Lindell

+ Episodes in Red-baiting, GOP-style.

Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA): “I don’t know whether to call you professor or comrade.” Someone off-camera: “Oh my goodness.”

Dr. Saule Omarova, Biden’s comptroller currency pick: “I’m not a communist. I do not subscribe to that ideology. I could not choose where I was born.”

Kennedy: “You used to be a member of a group called The Young Communists.”

Omarova: “Everyone in that country was a member of Komosol. It was a part of normal progress in school.”

Kennedy: “Have you resigned?”

Omarova: “You grow out of it with age.”

Kennedy: “Did you send them a letter, though? Resigning?”

+ Imagine Kennedy interrogating Solzhenitsyn.: “I understand you published a book or two, comrade, but did you actually write a letter of denunciation to Bzezhnev himself? And by letter, I mean a certified, long form letter? I’m told the Soviets renounced you, not you them. Am I wrong? Tell the truth, were you too Red even for the USSR?”

+ According to Jonathan Karl’s book Betrayal, Trump lawyer Sidney Powell urged the Department of Defense to send a special operations team to detain CIA director “Bloody” Gina Haspel and “force her to confess” that she destroyed evidence proving that voting machines had been hacked from a site in Germany in order to steal the election from Trump. The karmic resonances of the Trump era are truly surreal: the possibility of the person who oversaw CIA torture at black sites and destroyed the evidence being herself tortured into making a false confession about election fraud is about the most thrilling form of political entertainment you can expect these days in the cheap seats of the American colosseum.

+ I don’t know whose appropriation of Frederick Douglass is more nauseating Trump’s or Ro Khanna’s. Khanna’s I think because Trump had no idea who Douglass was, and seemed to believe he was still doing his thing in Prince George’s County, while Khanna does (or at least pretends to)…

+ More than 10% of all prisoners put to death in the U.S. since executions resumed in 1977 have been “volunteers,” inmates who gave up their appeals. Most of these prisoners had also waived critical rights at trial. David Cox, put to death by the State of Mississippi this week, is the 150th execution volunteer.

+ In the last 15 years, more than 1,200 women have been charged with manslaughter after having a miscarriage. In one of the latest cases, a 21-year-old Native American woman from Oklahoma named Brittney Poolaw was convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to four years in prison after having a miscarriage.

+ A cop in Joliet, Illinois slapped a handcuffed man who was dying of a drug overdose. He called the prone, dying man  a “bitch” and shoved a riot stick in his mouth. These abusive actions were recorded on a dashcam video. Eventually, that cop was suspended for 6 days. But Sgt. Javier Esqueda, the cop who revealed the acts of police brutality to a local reporter, was expelled from the cop union, then investigated by the local prosecutor and charged  four counts of “official misconduct.” He now faces 20 years in prison for whistleblowing.

+ North Dakota legislators passed a bill banning Critical Race Theory (CRT) in K-12 schools, which Governor Doug Burgum (R) signed it into law. Under this legislation, not only are teachers banned from teaching or talking about CRT, but they are also forbidden to discuss the law that bans them from teaching it.

+ While Texas Governor Greg Abbott is cleansing the state’s library shelves of smutty novels, state regulators at the Railroad Commission cleared the way to raise Texans gas bills $3.4 billion over the next few decades. The money will go to natural gas companies that charged astronomically high prices during last February’s blackout and freeze.

+ An analysis by the Rocky Mountain Institute estimates that the Build Back Better package’s investments in clean energy deployment, now stalled in Congress, could save ratepayers $9 billion by the end of the decade.

+ More than 256,000 Americans live in areas where rate of cancers caused by air pollution exceed the Environmental Protection Agency’s current limit of ‘acceptable risk’…

+ According to recent research led by Anders G.J. Rhodin, working with the Chelonian Research Foundation and Turtle Conservancy, nearly half of the world’s turtle species are now threatened with extinction, largely as a consequence of habitat loss and trapping for consumption and the pet trade. According to the study, turtles are the second most endangered vertebrates in the world—only primates appear with a higher percentage on the list of threatened species.

+ Beaver created wetlands slow the spread of wildfires and provide refuges for animals to escape the flames….

+ In October 2021 more than 877 square kilometers of forest was leveled in the Amazon, the worst month of deforestation since 2015, when new features were included in the INPE’s DeterB satellite monitoring system.

+ When Thoreau delivered his incendiary speech, Slavery in Massachusetts (which Horace Greeley retitled Words That Burn, when he printed it in the NY Herald), where he charged that any state, court, cop, church or business that enforced or tolerated the Fugitive Slave Act was as complicit in the practice of slavery as any southern plantation owner, he was literally standing on the ashes of the US Constitution, which William Lloyd Garrison had just burned at the podium at the July 4, 1854 anti-slavery protest in Framingham, Massachusetts.

+ Following Emerson’s less than sage advice, Thoreau decided to pay himself for the printing of his first book, A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers. He used Emerson’s publisher, James Munroe, who printed 1000 copies and never shipped them to book stores, selling them only out of its own obscure offices in Boston. Then the reviews came out, which were merciless. Prefiguring John Lennon, Thoreau was excoriated as a heretic for a passage where he put the Bhagavad-Gita on the same level as the Bible and encouraged “every Yankee” to read it. He was accused of blasphemy in his friend Horace Greeley’s own paper and urged to publicly repent for his heterodoxy. It took Thoreau five years to pay off the print bill. Eventually, he lugged the 750 unsold copies back to Concord, using them to line the walls of his attic room, where they at least served to insulate him, and his TB ravaged lungs, from the worst chills of the winter of 1857, when the temperature dropped to 26 below. Despite a mainstream publisher (Putnam) and more enthusiastic reviews, Walden didn’t sell all that much better, only one print run of less than 2000 copies in Thoreau’s abbreviated lifetime. Combined five of the greatest American books of the 19th century–Walden, Moby-Dick, A Week on the Concord & Merrimack, The Confidence Man and Pierre–sold less than 10,000 copies in their authors’ lifetimes.

+ Our garage is thickly insulted by stacks upon stacks of Cockburn/St. Clair books, St. Clair/Ridgeway books, St. Clair/Frank books and St. Clair books. The common sales-killing dominator being St. Clair, I guess.

Henry David Thoreau, daguerreotype by Benjamin Maxham, 1856.

+ The image most of us have of Thoreau is that of a rather unkempt man uncomfortably swaddled in an ill-fitting suit and too-large bowtie casting a rather bored look from a clean-shaven face, whose neck is strangely shrouded in a thick bramble of hair. Thoreau’s wildly cultivated neckbeard was known to the barbers of the era as Galway Whiskers. It was a beard-style favored by the Amish, who rejected growing mustaches because of their association with the military, a hirsute protest the author of “Civil Disobedience” may also have found compelling. Yet the neckbeard we see Thoreau wearing in the famous daguerreotype from 1856 seems to have had a medical not political purpose, prescribed by the doctors of Concord as a “throat warming” measure to help stave off attacks of the consumption that would fill his lungs and still his wild heart six years later. (Why Nero favored a similar beard remains open for interpretation.)

+ One of my favorite small towns in the Willamette Valley is Mount Angel, about 45 miles south of Portland. Mount Angel reminds me of European hilltowns with its beautiful Benedictine abbey and library on the butte and the convent down in the Pudding River valley, which had just dropped below flood stage when I was there yesterday. For most of the late 19th and early 20th century Mount Angel was populated by Bavarian immigrants, German Catholics, who grew hops and made sausage and beer. The hops were stored in a large granary along the railroad tracks, first as part of the Mount Angel Farmer’s Union and then later as one of the first large granaries of the Willamette Valley Cooperative (ie, Wilco). In the 70s, Mt. Angel was the site of the Colegio Cesar Chavez, an open university for farm workers staffed by Mexican-Americans and Chicano. From 1973 until it closed in 1983, the Colegio graduated more Latinos than Oregon State and University of Oregon combined. Several of the buildings adjacent to the Granary complex had been used for classrooms. Lately, part of the Blackbird Granary had become an antique store featuring an array of historic farm tools from the pre-industrial era of Oregon agriculture. Last month it all burned down and with it artefacts from a little known but once vital part of the history of the Pacific Northwest.

Blackbird Granary a couple of years ago.

Sign for Colegio Cesar Chavez, Mt. Angel, Oregon.

+ While driving through the logging towns of Skamania County, Washington I caught part of a radio sermon on the Bible as the literal word of God and my mind flashed to a passage from Exodus which has stuck with me since I was 8, when it prompted me to ask my grandmother what a “foreskin” was:

“At a lodging place on the way, the Lord met Moses and was about to kill him. But Zipporah [the wife of Moses] took a flint knife, cut off her son’s foreskin and touched Moses‘ feet with it. ‘Surely you are a bridegroom of blood to me,’ she said. So the Lord let him alone.”

+ I’m not sure about the veracity of this episode of Exodus involving a flint knife, foreskin and feet. A more plausible scenario is that the Lord backed off when he saw the kind of heat Charlton Heston was packing, the Sinai being an open carry, stand-your-ground zone.

+ Ridley Scott’s latest offering is House of Gucci, with Lady Gaga playing the role of Patrizia Reggiani, as the wife of an heir to Gucci empire, who turns on her feckless husband and uses a psychic to arrange his murder. Reggiani was sentenced to 29 years in prison. She was eligible for work-release in 2011, an offer she refused, defiantly saying: “I’ve never worked in my life and I’m certainly not going to start now”.

+ I re-watched Monterrey Pop on Criterion. It left me flat and wondering just how much DA Pennebakerreally knew about the music and culture he was documenting. The performance of Shankar and Rakha completely overwhelmed everyone else, even Joplin and Hendrix. Did we really need to see both Townshend and Hendrix smashing their guitars? Hendrix looked bored to me: with the crowd, with his band, with the feeble song (Wild Thing) he was playing, with the whole scene. Did we need to see Country Joe or Simon & Garfunkel–very far out of their element–at all? Some of the crowd scenes were funny, including the cameos by Brian Jones and Mickey Dolenz, but it all seemed very chaste for the Bay Area hippie tribes of 1967. Are we meant to believe that the Hells Angels sat firmly in their chairs for the whole weekend? The Mommas & the Poppas looked like aliens out of a Star Trek episode, humanoids from one of those utopian planets who turn out to be the most perverse kind of bloodsuckers. No one should have been surprised about the secret life of John Phillips. Otis Redding deserved more time, though I’m not sure he’d have wanted to spend it sitting on that particular bay.

+ Miles Davis on how Max Roach led him to kick heroin: “Max Roach walked up to me one day on the street. We were real tight. And he said, ‘Damn, man, you sure do look good. What’s happening?’ But I could tell he was looking at me. And as he left, he touched me on pocket. He put $100 in my pocket. And I didn’t dig it until he left, telling me I looked good and then giving me a hundred dollars like I’m some fucking bum. And that’s all you are when you use that shit. I went right to St. Louis and kicked.” (1983 interview with David Breskin).

Just Walkin’ Through the Darkness on Our Own…

Booked Up
What I’m reading this week…

The Dawn of Everything: a New History of Humanity
David Graeber and David Wengrow
(Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

Scientist: EO Wilson, a Life in Nature
Richard Rhodes

We are All Whalers: the Plight of Whales and Our Responsibilities
Michael J. Moore
(University of Chicago)

Sound Grammar
What I’m listening to this week…

Heavy Load Blues
Gov’t Mule

In Virus Times
Lee Ranaldo

I Don’t Live Here Anymore
War on Drugs

From Kinship to Kingship

“When sovereignty first expands to become the general organizing principle of a society, it is by turning violence into kinship. The early, spectacular phase of mass killing in both China and Egypt, whatever else it may be doing, appears to be intended to lay the foundations of what Max Weber referred to as a ‘patrimonial system’: that is, one in which all the kings’ subjects are imagined as members of the royal household, at least to the degree that they are all working to care for the king. Turning erstwhile strangers into part of the royal household, or denying them their own ancestors, are thereby ultimately two sides of the same coin. Or to put things another way, a ritual designed to produce kinship becomes a method of producing kingship.”

– David Graeber and David Wengrow, The Dawn of Everything: a New History of Humanity

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