Roaming Charges: Recycling History: First as Tragedy, Next as Farce…Then What?

Power plant along the Kanawah River, West Virginia. Photo: Jeffrey St. Clair.

+ Let us return to Baghdad in the sweltering summer of 2007, four years into the bipartisan war that destroyed Iraq. It is day one of Operation Ilaaj, a maneuver in the Sunni section of town known as New Baghdad that was designed to “clear” neighborhoods of “insurgents” and “caches of weapons.” Thanks to onboard cameras, we all became witnesses of what happened as two US Army AH-64 Apache attack helicopters hovered overhead and soon spotted a group of 20 people gathering at an intersection near the US combat troops. Some of the men appeared to be armed, not uncommon in occupied Baghdad (or unoccupied Dallas, Texas for that matter). In their midst were two reporters covering the war for Reuters, Saeed Chmagh and Namir Noor-Eldeen. The pilot of the attack helicopter points to Noor-Eldeen and shouts: “He’s got an RPG!” (The journalist was armed only with a camera.) Within seconds, the helicopters unleashed a barrage of 30 mm rounds at the group. One crew member is heard to scream: “Ha! Ha! Ha!” Another gloats: “Oh yeah! Look at those dead bastards.”

Seven men were killed, including Namir. Chmagh was critically wounded. As he tried to crawl to safety, a van approached the scene. Three men got out and tried to help Chmagh into the van, prompting one of the Apache crew members to yell: “Looks like they’re possibly picking up bodies and weapons!” The helicopter began strafing the van, killing Chmagh and the three men who tried to save his life, and wounding two children, a boy and girl, who were inside the van. One of the pilots was recorded saying, “Well, it’s their fault for bringing their kids to a battle.”

Army investigators later ruled that the civilian van was “fair game under Army rules.” The Pentagon also blamed the Reuters reporters for their own deaths, asserting that Chmagh and Noor-Eldeen’s “furtive attempts to photograph the Coalition Ground Forces made them appear as hostile combatants.”

On April 5, 2010, Wikileaks released a 39-minute video of the massacre, which they aptly titled “Collateral Murder.” The footage had been sent to Wikileaks by Chelsea Manning, then a 22-year-old Army Intelligence analyst. It is one of the most comforting conventions of self-proclaimed democratic societies that the public disclosure of governmental wrong-doing is the best pathway to reform and a powerful inhibition to recidivism. “Sunlight is said to be the best disinfectants,” Louis Brandeis wrote in 1913. “Electric light the most efficient policeman.” But is this really true? What if, after the public disclosure of an atrocity, there’s no official accountability, no “efficient policeman” on the block? In this case, does the disclosure (as vital as it is) serve to habitualize the abhorrent tactics and teach the perpetrators that they can get away with almost anything?

Now let’s fast-forward to August 29, 2021. The scene is Kabul, Afghanistan, a few days after the Taliban have taken control of the capital. Unnerved after an ISIS-Khorasan suicide bomber killed 183 people (including 13 US troops) during evacuations at the Hamid Karzai International Airport, US ground forces spotted a white Toyota Corolla and reported their suspicions to the Over-the-Horizon Strike Cell that this was another ISIS-K terrorist on his way to set off another bomb. Within minutes, six Reaper drones converged over the car. When the 1996 Corolla stopped near a warehouse, one of the drones launched a Hellfire missile at the car, killing the driver and 9 other people, seven of them children, three of whom were running to greet the driver when the missile struck. For days, the Pentagon and the Biden administration claimed that they had dealt a mighty blow to ISIS-K and avenged the deaths of the US troops killed at the airport. Eventually, the Pentagon admitted that some civilians may have been killed, but not by the Hellfire missile. Instead, the Pentagon claimed that the civilian deaths were the result of detonations from the explosives in the Corolla. But the driver, Zemari Ahmadi, was no terrorist. He was a humanitarian aid worker with an outfit called Nutrition and Education, International, based in Pasadena, California. In the passenger seat beside him was Ahmad Nasser, a 30-year-old former Army officer and US military contractor. Ahmadi’s trunk wasn’t packed with C-4 explosives, but food, medical supplies, and bottles of water.

In now ritualized act of self-cleansing, the Pentagon investigated itself and determined this week that no crimes had been committed by US personnel. It was all an honest mistake, caused by Ahmadi driving in the wrong part of town, in the wrong kind of car, at the wrong time.

In the end, the only people who will pay a price for these atrocities are Julian Assange and Chelsea Manning, because in the eyes of the US government the only real crime, the crime that must be punished severely, is the act of exposing the crimes committed in the name of the Empire. The dead–journalists, aid workers and children–are merely footnotes in the case for official impunity.

+ Between 2018 and 2020 alone, the US engaged in 85 “counter-terrorism” operations in 22 different countries, using the 2001 AUMF, often citing only the region not the country where airstrikes or ground combat has taken place. Imagine what the numbers would have been if Donald Trump hadn’t been an America First, “anti-interventionist”!

+ Talon Anvil. It sounds like the name of a Marvel villain. It was in fact a secret strike force set up in 2014 under the Obama administration to target suspected ISIS sites in Syria for airstrikes. Over the next five years, this shadowy group of Delta Force commandos worked 24-hours a day in three 8-hour shifts launching what amounted to nearly 100,000 bomb and missile strikes, many of them indiscriminately and outside the rules of engagement. As a result, thousands of civilians died in reckless airstrikes: villagers, farmers, families, and children. According to a report in the New York Times, an internal Pentagon assessment showed that there were 10 times as many civilian casualties in Syria as from similar operations in Afghanistan. These berserker tactics were apparently encouraged by Gen. Stephen Townsend, who was in charge of the campaign against ISIS between 2016 and 2017. Townsend was reportedly dismissive of reports of high rates of civilian casualties from Talon’s airstrikes. To date no one has been held to account for this resumé of careless slaughter and Townsend himself now heads the Pentagon’s Africa command and continues to write off any collateral damage as a consequence of the “misinformation of war.”

+ The same government which blames every headache suffered by a diplomat or CIA officer on “Havana Syndrome,” refuses to acknowledge the years of torturous conditions– conditions it is largely responsible for– that precipitated Julian Assange’s stroke…

+ Joe Manchin is to the fossil fuel industry what Strom Thurmond was to the KKK–a one-man filibuster, who is beyond shame in his defense of the indefensible. The difference is that Thurmond was in the opposition party and acted out of perverse ideological beliefs. By contrast, Manchin is a cancerous lump within the Democrat’s own party, that grows fatter and fatter on the money he’s making by blocking his own party’s core agenda. When confronted by this kind of systemic blockage, most parties would seek a political lumpectomy, but the Democrats merely cower at his malignant bluster, as their party wastes away day by day.

+ Having gutted the infrastructure bill and smothered the Build Back Better bill in its cradle, Manchin is now turning his death ray on Biden’s plans to ban oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and impose meagre restrictions on off-shore drilling (while simultaneously offering one of the largest lease auctions in the history of the Department of the Interior).

+ Studs Turkel: “We have two Governments in Washington: one run by the elected people–which is a minor part–and one run by the moneyed interests, which control everything.”

+ One actually governs, the other is largely for show.

+ How are things going in Biden country? This week they shelved Build Back Better, killed the Child Tax credit, mocked the idea of sending Americans quick at-home COVID tests and signaled that instead of being forgiven, as promised, student loan repayments will start again next month.

+ Marcus Mason, a lobbyist for the student loan company Navient, was recently voted in as a DNC member, nominated by Chair Jaime Harrison, and promptly joined a top finance committee.

+ Meanwhile, the Fed intimated that its pandemic economic-relief measures would soon come to an end,

+ Desperate Democrats are already starting to recruit Hillary Clinton for another run at the presidency in 2024. What do they call it after history has already repeated itself as farce?

+ During the pandemic, at least 75 members of Congress bought or sold stock in companies that make COVID vaccines, treatments or tests.

+ Pelosi’s Net Worth: $196.7 million

+ Pelosi’s husband, Paul, has been a shrewd pandemic trader, making $5.3 million on a series of bets on the tech market.

+ And Nancy isn’t going home anytime soon

+ It should be clear to just about everyone by now that Members of Congress have developed robust antibodies to shame

+ Bloomberg ran a piece this week reporting that most Americans believe the stock market is rigged. But was there ever a time when most Americans didn’t believe this and when it wasn’t true?

+ Just how rigged is the system? Since 1979, the top 1 percent of wage earners have seen their incomes soar by 179%, while the share of wages for the “bottom” 90 percent have hit new lows, increasing by only 28% over the last four decades.

+ Average pricetag for a new electric car: $55,600.

+ When Joe Manchin is busy taking dictation at some dinner with coal lobbyists, the Senate Parliamentarian steps in as his designated hitter to swat down any distasteful progressive policies, like protection for immigrants and migrant workers

+ Employees at the Mayville, Kentucky candle factory obliterated by a tornado claim that supervisors threatened to fire workers if they left hours before the deadly twister leveled their facility.

+ Shortly before workers in the Ohio Valley were reportedly threatened with job termination if they sought shelter from killer tornadoes, corporate lobbying groups blocked a bill that was designed to outlaw such firings.

+ Amazon bans workers from bringing their smartphones into warehouses, which means they can’t access updates/warnings on potentially deadly weather events: “After these deaths, there is no way in hell I am relying on Amazon to keep me safe,” one worker told Bloomberg News.

+ Just how devoted is the entire US political system to the Saudis? This week the Senate quietly removed a provision from the Pentagon appropriations bill that would’ve put visa bans on anyone involved in the murder of Jamal Khashoggi. NDAA, which increases the Pentagon budget by $24 billion more than the Pentagon requested,  passed by a vote of 89-10.

+ Launch a war, the Pentagon budget goes up. End a war, the Pentagon budget goes up even higher than the Pentagon wants. Meanwhile, austerity always begins with those least able to afford it and usually stays limited to them…

+ I wrote last week about Jose Rodriguez, the brash, unrepentant CIA man who ran the Agency’s Clandestine Services shop during the Bush/Cheney years. Rodriguez played a decisive role in the CIA’s torture program, overseeing its rendition operations, black sites, and enhanced interrogations of detainees. He hired the two notorious torture shrinks, James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen, pushed them to try more and more brutal methods. When the sadistic nature of the interrogation program began to emerge, Rodriguez ordered his faithful adjutant, Gina Haspel, to destroy the torture tapes. Rodriguez faced no legal consequences for his actions and, like his pal Mitchell, retired comfortably to Florida, where he cashed in with a self-glorifying book (Hard Measures), indulged his passion for sports cars and, according to Bart Gellman’s book on the Snowden revelations, Dark Mirror, was hired as a consultant by Academi (aka, Blackwater) to vet the private paramilitary company’s “code of conduct” policy.

+ Biden caved to pressure from Naftali Bennett’s regime this week and dropped the administration’s plan to resurrect the de facto mission to the Palestinians which was closed by Trump in 2019.

+ A few months ago I talked to someone who said they’d participated in a “COVID orgy,” a party with at least one COVID-positive partygoer where “we breathed in each other’s faces and kissed each other deeply.” I don’t know if other bodily fluids were shared. The professed intent of the orgy was to “build our natural immunities.” Time for a tongue check?

+ A new study published in the Journal of American Medicine found that if everyone living in the United States, aged 25 years or older, died of COVID-19 at the same rate as college-educated non-Hispanic white people did in 2020, 48 percent fewer people would have died.

+ COVID vaccine mandates for the US military are probably the only way we’ll ever see a reduction in US forces…

+ Omicron: “I can’t drive 55!

+ Epidemiologist Katelyn Jetelina: “If we continue this rate of spread, I would venture to say that there is no modern day virus that has spread this fast and this far ever before.”

+ So leading anti-vaxxer RFK, Jr. held a holiday party at his home and the guests were instructed to either have a COVID test or get vaccinated before showing up. When confronted with this apparent hypocrisy, Jr. did the Kennedy thing: he blamed his wife, the actress Cheryl Hines. The guy’s a jerk and has been for a long time. I know several people who were forced to work with Jr. when he was an attorney for NRDC (one of the most corporate of all enviro groups) and later at Riverkeeper/Waterkeeper, where he was widely detested by staff and other enviros who came into his orbit. A couple of weeks ago, Jr. did a bonkers interview with the new Gawker trying to promote his new book attacking vaccines, Fauci and Bill Gates. He didn’t seem particularly well-grounded in the material and he comes off as more than a little paranoid, festering with as many grievances as your run-of-the-mill MAGA-man. (The Hitchens of the anti-vax movement, Jr. describes briefing the Trump White House on how he’d handle the pandemic.) But what struck about the interview was Jr.’s claim that his salary at Riverkeeper/Waterkeeper (billed as a grassroot green group) was $400,000 a year and that he was pulling down at least $25,000 per speech, revenue that he says he’s now lost because of his righteous campaign to stop the jabbing.  Even so, his group, the Children Health Defense Network, doubled its income in the first year of the pandemic to $6.8 million. Despite this freshet of new money, Children’s Health Defense still applied for and got a $145,399 PPP COVID-relief loan, which was later forgiven. So spreading vaccine hesitancy does pay.

+ Wait until the people with COVID Fatigue Syndrome hear about the next 500 years of climate change has in store for them.

+ There have now been 703 people charged in the Jan 6 sacking of the Capitol. The average is 39 years-old. 612 of them are men, 91 of them women.  Most of them came from Florida (75), Pennsylvania (63) and Texas (63). At least 81 of them have some kind of military experience. 151 have already plead guilty. More than 80 percent of them were charged at least partially on the basis of their own social media accounts.

+ We interrupt your reading pleasure for an important commercial message…

+ Here in the Pacific Northwest, United Food and Commercial Workers Local 555, representing over 29,000 grocery workers in Oregon and SW Washington, voted last Saturday to authorize a strike against Fred Meyer and Quality Food Centers (both owned by Kroger).

+ Squid Game, the South Dakota variation.

+ The Biden administration just shelled out another $50 million to complete a section of Trump’s border wall inside a Texas wildlife refuge. According to Scott Nichol, who has been tracking the ongoing expansion of the wall despite Biden’s pledge for a moratorium on construction:

The people who are making these decisions at CBP weren’t put in place by the Biden administration. They’re the same people who have been building border walls since the Bush administration. I don’t think they’re paying any attention to what the Biden administration says the policy should be, you know, they’re just doing their thing. Biden’s still supposed to be the boss. So he should be able to say to the individual who runs tactical infrastructure for CBP, who’s been there since 2007, “You need to stop building walls. I’ve put in a pause. What are you doing?” But that doesn’t seem to be the case.”

+ Meanwhile, Stephen Miller’s ideological soulmate Inger Stojberg, Denmark’s former immigration minister, was sentenced to prison for ordering the separation of underage married asylum-seekers, even if they had children. Stojberg has been touted as a heroine by Europe’s new right.

+ Documents disclosed by Haaretz this week, revealed the client list for Candiru, the secretive Israeli cyberarms maker, which, along with the cyber-hacking outfit NSO, was blacklisted by the Biden administration last month. Candiru’s clients include: the state of Israel, Singapore, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Spain, Germany, Hungary and Mexico.

+ This week grand jury indicted an ex-Houston police captain after he was accused of running a man off the road and pointing to a gun to his head because he thought he was committing voter fraud in the run-up to the 2020 election. The indictment alleges that last October Aguirre began following an air condition repairman named David Lopez Zuniga. After four days of “surveillance,” Aguirre came to believe that Zuniga was the mastermind of a vote fraud scheme and that he was hiding 750,000 illegal mail-in ballots in his repair truck. On the 19th of October, Aguirre rammed his black SUV into the back of Zuniga’s box truck. When Zuniga got out to check on the damage, Aguirre confronted him with a gun and ordered him to the ground. As Aguirre pinned Zuniga to the ground with a knee to his back, two other cars pulled up driven by associates of Aguirre. The ex-cop told his pals to search Zuniga’s truck. When the cops arrived and told Aguirre to let Zuniga up, one of the defendant’s buddies drove off in Zuniga’s truck. The frantic Zuniga told  the cops that he thought he was being robbed and feared he might be killed. Aguirre’s story was that he believed Zuniga was working for Mark Zuckerberg, who had spent $9.7 million on a ballot harvesting operation, which used Hispanic children to sign ballots because “the children’s fingerprints would not appear in any databases.” Aguirre advised the cop who was interviewing him that he could be a “hero or part of the problem…I just hope you’re a patriot.”

+ Aguirre was apparently paid more than $266,000 from the Liberty Center for God and Country, to investigate the alleged voter fraud. The vast majority of the money — $211,400 — came the day after the alleged aggravated assault. Former Harris County Republican Party Chairman Jared Woodfill is president of the group; conservative Houston activist Steven Hotze is the group’s CEO, according to the organization’s website. Hotze used Aguirre’s voter fraud allegations in a lawsuit earlier this year. The former police captain, Mark Aguirre, was fired from the Houston Police Department in 2003 for his role in the Kmart mass arrests of 270 people during a notorious operation meant to crack down on illegal street-racing and which turned into a total fiasco.

+ 475: the total number of potential cases of voter fraud in the six battleground states of the 2020 election.

+ The media hysteria about retail theft is little more than scaremongering to draw attention away from the fact that no one wants to work for them anymore or buy shit in their stores. Nationwide, retail theft is barely up (0.2%), all of the losses they can probably write off…if, and that’s a big one, they’re paying any taxes at all.

+ Yet that didn’t stop SF Mayor London Breed for calling for more cops on the streets to protect Nordstrom, Tiffany’s and Louis Vuitton.

+ WEB DuBois: “A system cannot fail those whom it was never designed to protect.”

+ Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has taken the Texas abortion bounty hunter model and applied it to Florida’s schools, allowing “private enforcement” of his ban on teaching Critical Race Theory….

+ Will this apply to Bible study? Because what is Christianity but one episode of “wokeness” after another? Paul was literally “awakened” on the road to Damascus, while the disciples were caught sleeping in the garden when Jesus needed them most…

+ Speaking of critical race theory, Paul Austin and his wife, Tenisha Tate-Austin, a Black couple in the Bay Area, saw the appraisal value of their home increase by nearly $500,000 when they had a white person pose as the owner.

+ Michelle Odinet is a city court judge in Lafayette, Louisiana, who claimed last week that her house had been robbed by an armed black man. As she and her family watched security footage of the break-in, someone in the house recorded their reaction to the unfolding scene. One of the judge’s children is heard shouting: “Mom’s yelling ‘Nigger! Nigger!!’” And Odinet is heard to reply: “We have a nigger! It’s a nigger, like a roach!” When video of the racist outburst was leaked to the Current, Odinet claimed that her “mental state was fragile” and that she “was given a sedative at the time of the video” and had “zero recollection of the video and the disturbing language used in it.” Blacks account for a little more than 30% of the population of Lafayette and a significantly higher percentage of those appearing in Judge Odinet’s courtroom. According to the Lafayette police, despite the judge’s accusation, no gun was found on the man who they arrested for the robbery.  I guess drug manufacturers will now have to put a warning label on sedatives: “Caution: May make some people repeatedly shout the N-word.”

City Court Judge Michelle Odinet. Photo: Lafayette City Court.

+ Another way to Defund the Police (and why they should be): Portland (Oregon) City Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty has filed a $5 million lawsuit against a police officer, the police union, and the former union head, alleging that leaked information falsely implicated her in a hit-and-run.

+ The number of imprisoned journalists hit a new high this year, rising by 15 over 2020. A least 24 journalists were killed because of their coverage, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, and 18 others died in circumstances that make it too difficult to determine whether they were targeted because of their work.

+ They wouldn’t lie, would they?

+ Jennifer Granholm, Biden’s Energy Secretary, handed “an olive branch” to oil executives this week when she pronounced that a ban on crude oil exports is now off the table. The Biden administration has handed so many “olive branches” to the oil industry they’ve had to import them from Israeli settlers who’ve chopped down 500-year-old Palestinian plantations to build illegal compounds…

+ The Biden administration argued in court filings in August that it was not legally compelled to hold last month’s oil and gas lease sale in the Gulf of Mexico, despite the ruling overturning the leasing pause. But it went ahead with the sale anyway because they wanted to.

+ The old pitch from the desert boosters used to be: let them come and the water will follow. That doesn’t seem to be turning out as advertised in Scottsdale, Arizona, where hundreds of new homes in the Rio Verde Foothills will have no running water.

+ The eastern ice shelf of Antarctica’s Thwaites Glacier could fail within the next five years, a vast expanse of melting ice that already accounts for about 4 percent of annual global sea level rise. Once considered the most stable part of the Florida-sized glacier, new data shows that the warming ocean is rapidly eroding the eastern ice shelf of the so-called Doomsday Glacier from below.

+ In 2020, the Arctic surpassed 100° F, prompting the World Meteorological Organization to create a new category of extremes: highest temperature at or north of the Arctic Circle.

+ The old normal will soon be the new anomaly…

+ The Amazon, the world’s largest tropical rainforest, is being rapidly transformed into a savannah, with dire consequences for the atmosphere of the planet. “‘We are about to collapse,” Luciana Gatti of Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research, told the New Scientist. We are in an emergency, we need action now. It’s a nightmare.'”

+ Alex Jones is getting ripped for suggesting that Joe Biden had sparked the Ohio Valley storms with “weather weapons.” The accusation is not as outlandish as it seems given the record number of oil leases on federal lands and in the Gulf of Mexico Biden has approved…

+ Meet the Manchins–the Sackler family of coal country, minus the philanthropy.

+ Scamming the clean energy scammers: The Portland Clean Energy Fund gave a $12 million contract to nonprofit executive, Linda Woodley, who: went to prison for defrauding energy companies; accumulated  millions in tax liens in three states; and fabricated portions of her contract bid.

+ If “reducing” logging can “help” curb climate change, imagine what ending logging on public forests could do…

+ Letter in the Klamath Falls paper of some poor lonely soul who wants to start a fully-vaxxed motorcycle group filled with riders who believe that southern Oregon should stay part of Oregon and not join Greater Idaho.

+ In art news, Melania Trump is set to release her first NFT. Called Melania’s Vision, it will include watercolor art that “embodies Mrs. Trump’s cobalt blue eyes, providing the collector with an amulet to inspire…” It will set you back 1 Sol, each. Or maybe that’s Soul.

+ For the last month, I’ve been slowly scaling David Bight’s mountainous biography of Frederick Douglass, Prophet of Freedom. Douglass seems to have lived more distinct lives in his 77-year span than the Dalai Lama in all of his incarnations. It’s the smaller episodes which stick with me: running with Irish street kids in Fells Point on Baltimore Harbor, compulsively putting to memory speeches collected in the Columbian Orator as a teen, being rescued and nursed back to health by a Quaker family after being mauled by racists during an early speech in Indianapolis, swimming in the Caribbean off the coast of Santo Domingo, while on a mission to secure the acquisition of the country for President Grant, his love of Robert Burns, and the fact that Douglass and his son Charles were investors in some of the first “professional” baseball teams. In post-Civil War America, it wasn’t uncommon for blacks and whites to play on the same squad or for black-owned teams to play white-owned teams. Douglass invested in the Washington Mutuals, which Charles managed, and the team played its home games in DC on the “white lot” on the Mall, between the White House and the Washington Monument. Then in 1876 the National League was formed as a whites-only league and remained such for the next 75 years.  The advent of segregated baseball was another sign of the failure of reconstruction. It’s too bad the current team in DC is named the Nationals, freighted with that ugly history, and not the Mutuals or the other black-owned team in 1870s DC the Douglass’s supported, the Alerts.

+ bell hooks, who died this week at 69 at her home in Berea, Kentucky: “It is essential to our struggle for self-determination that we speak of love. For love is the necessary foundation enabling us to survive the wars, the hardships, the sickness, and the dying with our spirits intact. It is love that allows us to survive whole.”

+ Music writer Ted Gioia has conducted a fascinating interview with Paul Winter. (I strongly encourage you to subscribe to Ted’s always informative Substack page, The Honest Broker.) I was particularly struck by Winter’s description of his ties to Soviet-area Russian jazz fans:

“In the late 50s, during college, I saw in Downbeat an ad for ‘Jazz Lift’—Send me your jazz albums and I will smuggle them behind the Iron Curtain. Theodore Grevers, ‘The Fat Man’, International Private Detective; Battle Creek, Michigan.” So every few months I would send a few LPs from my collection to him. He instructed me to put my mailing address on the back of each album. I got amazing letters from fervent jazz fans in the Soviet Union and Poland…Our tour in 1986 began by my request in Irkutz, the city closest to Lake Baikal, and went west from there. One of the last concerts was in Leningrad. After the concert the Russian stage manager backstage told me there was somebody at the stage door who wanted to meet me. He brought this man in, a rather thin middle-aged man in a thread-bare Soviet-issue suit, and I greeted him and we shook hands; but he spoke no English, and I very little Russian. He just handed me an envelope. In it was a letter I had written him in 1959, after he had thanked me for the album I sent to him through Jazz Lift…It was a beautiful moment. I still get tears in my eyes when I think of it.”

They Don’t Leave Good Things Laying ‘Round

Booked Up
What I’m reading this week…

Foucault in Warsaw
Remigiusz Ryziński
Trans. Sean Gasper Bye
(Open Letter)

Ending Fossil Fuels: Why Net Zero is Not Enough
Holly Jean Buck
(Verso)

The Nutmeg’s Curse: Parables for a Planet in Crisis
Amitav Ghosh
(University of Chicago Press)

Sound Grammar
What I’m listening to this week…

Puzzle People
Nate Radley
(Steeplechase)

Barn
Neil Young and Crazy Horse
(Reprise)

Forfolks
Jeff Parker
(Nonesuch)

The Fuel They Burn to Stay Alive

“You know what I think?” she says. “That people’s memories are maybe the fuel they burn to stay alive. Whether those memories have any actual importance or not, it doesn’t matter as far as the maintenance of life is concerned. They’re all just fuel. Advertising fillers in the newspaper, philosophy books, dirty pictures in a magazine, a bundle of ten-thousand-yen bills: when you feed ’em to the fire, they’re all just paper. The fire isn’t thinking ‘Oh, this is Kant,’ or ‘Oh, this is the Yomiuri evening edition,’ or ‘Nice tits,’ while it burns. To the fire, they’re nothing but scraps of paper. It’s the exact same thing. Important memories, not-so-important memories, totally useless memories: there’s no distinction–they’re all just fuel.”

– Haruki Murakami, After Dark

Jeffrey St. Clair is editor of CounterPunch. His most recent books are Bernie and the Sandernistas: Field Notes From a Failed Revolution and The Big Heat: Earth on the Brink (with Joshua Frank) He can be reached at: sitka@comcast.net or on Twitter @JeffreyStClair3