Roaming Charges: Republic of the Tormented

Medieval bestiary image of a self-castrating beaver being pursued by a hunter.

+ If your country (unlike Cuba) isn’t willing to rapidly vaccinate the global population, then it doesn’t have much moral or epidemiological standing to demonize the unvaccinated within its own borders, since the virus doesn’t recognize & isn’t impeded by borders or border walls. The virus doesn’t care why you are unvaccinated, whether it’s for reasons of politics, religion, fear, ignorance, poverty or governmental neglect. It is likely to infect you and be passed on by you to others, across rivers, oceans, borders and border walls. And the longer it circulates, the more it has a chance to mutate and resist the defenses against it. As long as some are vulnerable, we all are.

+ Only 9% of people in low-income countries have received at least one dose of a COVID vaccine, compared to 66% of people in high-income countries.

+ The Biden Health Care Plan in Action: “Americans who are uninsured, or who are covered by Medicare will not be able to seek reimbursement for over-the-counter tests they purchase.” The people who most need to be tested will continue to be those who can’t afford to get tested…There’s a death panel for you, Gov. Palin.

+ The Great Barrington Declaration on herd immunity is beginning to look radically proactive compared to the current Biden COVID policy…

+ Given that the best indicator of what’s really going on in American society isn’t the Dow Jones but a close analysis of the contents of our shit, it’s uplifting news that the level of COVID detected in the sewage of Boston is falling as almost as rapidly as it spiked.

+ Speaking of “vaccine passports,” here’s an excerpt from Daniel Defoe’s Journal of a Plague Year (h/t Yasha Levine), which was published in 1722 but is an account of the plague of 1665:

This hurry of the people was such for some weeks that there was no getting at the Lord Mayor’s door without exceeding difficulty; there were such pressing and crowding there to get passes and certificates of health for such as travelled abroad, for without these there was no being admitted to pass through the towns upon the road, or to lodge in any inn. Now, as there had none died in the city for all this time, my Lord Mayor gave certificates of health without any difficulty to all those who lived in the ninety-seven parishes, and to those within the liberties too for a while.

+ Biden: “I make a special appeal to social media companies and media outlets — please deal with the misinformation and disinformation that’s on your shows. It has to stop.”

+ I suppose it’s too much to ask that Biden start by telling the CDC to stop spreading “misinformation and disinformation?”

+Tito’s Vodka has now contributed more money toward the development of open source vaccines than the Biden White House.

+ Can you repeat that for the Guinness Book of Quotations, Governor DeSantis? We want to make sure we have it right. What I wrote down is: “Think about it. Before COVID did anyone go out and seek testing to see if they were sick?

+ The Supreme Court is doing its part to prolong the pandemic. How about you?

+ Before United Airlines enacted a vaccine mandate, one United employee was dying of Covid each week. Now, even though 3,000 employees recently tested positive, zero vaccinated employees were hospitalized. The company hasn’t experienced a Covid death for 8 weeks.

+ The Supremes ruling is a twofer for the corporate rightwing and the bodily-autonomy Left. Not only did the Roberts Court kill vaccine mandates, but they effectively pulled the plug on OSHA, too–long a target of every cost-slashing, dirty and dangerous industry in the country. Just a preview of what’s to come from this court.

+ Ask her how to spell “potato”:

+ It’s clear now that Biden didn’t expect–or even desire–the Democrats to win the Senate. He wanted to be seen as “forced” to cut “the best deals possible” with McConnell, not to be revealed as impotent to sway even “low-skilled” members of his own party like Manchin and Sinema.

+ A couple of weeks ago, Biden and Schumer agreed to “set aside” the Build Back Better economic revival plan (blocked by Manchin and Sinema) in order to focus on voting rights, which they vowed to push through even if it meant eliminating (or poking a temporary escape hatch in) the filibuster.

+ When Stacey Abrams–whose normal orbit around a camera is measured in minutes not weeks or days–goes MIA from your big event in her very own state on her very own issue (voting rights), it’s a sign you’ve not only lost all your political juice but are likely emitting lethal toxins.

+ Running a Clintonoid retread whose sole campaign theme was that his hedge fund manager opponent wouldn’t denounce Trump lost the Democrats Virginia. But apparently they have nothing else…

+ A few minutes before Biden was scheduled to visit Congress, Kyrsten Sinema took to the floor of the senate to proclaim her support for the filibuster: “I will not support separate actions that worsen the underlying disease of division infecting our country.”

+ 2.8: percentage of the US population represented by Kyrsten Sinema & Joe Manchin.

+ Here’s the thing I don’t get. If you’re going to take all that heat for giving Rahm Emanuel an ambassadorial post, why not put him to use doing what he’s really good at, like waterboarding renegade politicians like Manchin and Sinema? He’s the last living link to the LBJ-Richard Daley style of Democratic politics.

+ Biden’s strategy (if you can call it that) seems to be that by putting the focus on Sinema, who is perfectly willing to commit political “suicide right on the stage” in order to pad her resume as a future lobbyist for Big Pharma, it will somehow disguise his own incompetence instead of highlighting it.

+ If Poppy Bush, a man who ran the CIA and later oversaw the death squad wars in Central America, could be hobbled by what his pollster Robert Teeter dubbed the “Wimp Factor,” what would you call a president who gets repeatedly TKO’d by the likes of Kyrsten Sinema?

+ The system of government we piously like to call “democracy” may well be at risk, but not primarily because of political gerrymandering, voting restrictions or mobs storming the capitol…

+ Nancy Pelosi: “None of us have happy memories of Strom Thurmond.” The fact that you have a memory of Strom Thurmond–who has been dead for 19 years–is a sure sign that you’ve been serving (if “serving” is what you can call it) in Congress too long.

+ One of the few Democrats who still has “happy memories” of Strom Thurmond is Joe Biden, who in his eulogy for Thurmond said: “Strom Thurmond was also a brave man, who in the end made his choice and moved to the good side.”

+ Not sure if Biden was present when they had “beat Strom’s pecker down with a baseball bat” to get Thurmond’s coffin lid closed.

+ Schumer & Biden both knew Sinema & Manchin opposed junking the filibuster. Since they knew the plan was going to blow up in their own faces, what have the last couple of weeks really been about? A distraction from the administration’s increasingly lethal incompetence on COVID? Usually, you put forward popular losing policies to blame your opponents for their failure. But none of this damages the GOP & the whole dismal routine pretty much insures that McConnell will return as Senate leader–if he can patch things up with Trump, if not then Ted Cruz–which may be objective.

+ Good riddance to the exclusionary Presidential Commission on Debates, which has suppressed third party and independent campaigns for several decades: “The Republican National Committee says it will require candidates to pledge to not participate in debates run by the Commission on Presidential Debates.”

+ According to the latest figures from the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, 458 officers died in the “line of duty” in the US last year, making it the deadliest year in more than 90 years. There’s a big caveat in those numbers. Two thirds of them 301 died because of Covid-19.

+ In 2021, 84 police offers were killed by “felonious assaults,” 62 with firearms. Meanwhile, police killed 1132 people in 2021, far exceeding the 10-1 ratio set by Vietnam War planners. These figures do not include those who died from COVID, which they contracted from encounters with unvaccinated and contagious officers.

+ An officer with the LAPD placed a sign on the doors of the Wilshire Division offices falsely claiming that “Due to defunding We are currently short staffed for today 01/08/22 Our desk will be closed Sorry for the Inconvenience.”

+ Four inmates in an Arkansas jail are suing the jail and its doctor for giving them Ivermectin as a treatment for Covid without their knowledge. The suit charges that the inmates were told they were being given “vitamins, antibiotics or steroids.

+ New NYC Mayor Eric Adams, who it now seems will run a more repressive regime than Giuliani, when asked why some people might see his appointing his brother Deputy Commissioner of Police an act of political nepotism: “I don’t understand that. Protection is personal. With the increase in anarchists in this city, we have a serious problem with white supremacy.”

+ You heard it here first: BlueMAGA is going to run Adams as the Democratic presidential candidate in 2024.

+ The average Police salary in the United States is $68,000.

The average Paramedic salary in the United States is $46,000.

+ Police in Virginia Beach routinely used forged DNA reports during interrogations to try coerce confessions. In at least one case, the forged reports were introduced as evidence at trial.

+ Lithuania has paid 100,000 Euros in compensation to Abu Zubaydah, the forever prisoner at Guantanamo Bay, for allowing the CIA to torture him in a “black site” near Vilnius, the country’s capital.

+ Omar Asad was a Palestinian-American citizen, who spent many years working in Milwaukee before moving back to Ramallah a decade ago. On Tuesday Asad was driving home after visiting relatives when the 80-year-old was stopped by Israeli police in Palestinian territory, handcuffed, blindfolded, and detained for a couple of hours before being dumped at a building site in the small town of Jililya, an area subjected to frequent Israeli incursions. Asad’s body, still handcuffed, was discover early in the morning by local villagers. He appears to have died of a heart attack. Asad is the second Palestinian to die in the West Bank this week after an encounter with the IDF. The US State Department has asked the Israeli government for a “clarification” about the circumstances around Asad’s death. So far, none has been forthcoming, except to say he was “apprehended after resisting a check.”

+ Nima Shirazi: “Israel is only -2850 weeks away from having a nuclear weapon.”

+ Re: “Havana Syndrome“: Every time something goes awry in a US embassy, the CIA & State Dept. reflexively blame it on some new Commie super weapon out of Dr. No’s laboratory. In 1977, a fire broke out in the US embassy in Moscow on the floor above the CIA’s offices. For months, Stansfield Turner, one of the better CIA directors (one reason he was hated by the Agency’s covert action division) blamed the fire on “beams”, as in microwave beams from a ray gun aimed at the embassy. The CIA also alleged that KGB agents dressed up as firemen rushed into the flaming embassy to steal US secrets, although the embassy’s vaults held almost nothing the Russians didn’t already know. It turned out to be a case of faulty wiring done by the State Dept’s own ad hoc electrician.

+ Is it possible that the Border Patrol is even more reckless under Biden than it was under Trump. It sure looks it:  22 people were killed as a result of Border Patrol’s high-speed chases in 2021, including one passenger who was ejected from a vehicle on Christmas Day. By comparison, there were two deaths in 2019, civil rights organizations said.

+ The Biden administration appeared before the Supreme Court this week urging the justices to deny bond hearings for immigrants facing deportation after being held for more than six months.

+ Two LAPD officers were fired for ignoring a call regarding a robbery in progress because they were playing Pokemon Go and had spotted a Snorlax. Credit the Snorflax for keeping them from shooting some innocent bystander trying on clothes in the dressing room…

+ “The economy as a whole?” Surely she meant “hole.”

+ 63% of Red Lobster staff said they worked sick while the seafood chain’s owner made record profits in 2021.

+ It wasn’t the BLM protests that “destroyed” Portland, but a housing market whose prices have increased by more than 30 percent, while wages remained flat and tens of thousands were put out of work (and their homes) by a killer pandemic…

+ Today’s vandals have no class consciousness…

+ It came as a real blow to learn Thursday afternoon that Alan Nasser had died, after his three-year battle with brain cancer. Alan was a brilliant scholar & political economist, who taught for many years at Evergreen College, where I met him in 2004, hawking our book Dime’s Worth of Difference.

Soon Alan was writing for CounterPunch, deeply argued and immaculately reasoned pieces on the economic and social consequences of the neoliberal order. But our friendship was solidified by Alan’s love of jazz. We swapped album recommendations and gossip about musicians.

Alan was a musician and a talented one, so he prevailed in most of our disputes. He was also an actor and a magician. A real polymath with an acerbic wit, which he deployed playfully to his friends and lethally to his enemies.

Alan’s last book, Overripe Economy: American Capitalism and the Crisis of Democracy, which he completely shortly before his diagnosis, remains a must-read for anyone wanting to know how we got into the mess we’re in and what forces put us there. Well done, Alan.


+ Maine’s Democratic governor, Janet Mills, killed a bill that would have given farm workers in the state—which relies heavily on its agricultural industries—the right to unionize.

+ The Bronx apartment building that went up in flames this week killing 19 residents  is owned by a group of investors, including Camber Property Group, who bought it as part of a $166 million deal in 2020. Camber’s co-founder is Rick Gropper, who was named to Mayor Adams’s transition team as an advisor on…housing.

+ NYC Mayor Eric Adams says there’s “a key message” to take from the devastating Bronx fire that killed 19 people: “Close the door. If we can drill that in, we can save lives…This painful moment can turn into a purposeful moment.” Here’s an idea. Why not tell your campaign donor and transition team advisor on housing to turn on the damn heat in his firetrap buildings. (They called them firetraps for a reason and didn’t have anything to do with open or shut doors.)

+ Jamie Raskin: “A quarter century ago, Republicans changed Texas state law to permit astronauts to vote absentee from space. They want to make it easier to vote from space and they want to make it harder to vote on earth.”

+ 2021 was the Earth’s fifth-hottest year on record. The last seven years have been the planet’s seven hottest…

+ 2021 was also the first year Earth has recorded four weather mega-disasters costing over $20 billion each (adjusted for inflation).

+ In the 1980s, the US was hit by one billion-dollar climate “event” every four months. Now, there’s one every 3 weeks.

+ U.S. carbon pollution rose 6.2% in 2021, according a new report by the Rhodium Group. Transportation emissions saw the largest increase, rising over 10%…

+ Melting permafrost threatens to destroy nearly half of the existing infrastructure in the Arctic by 2050.

+ The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) is now predicting that U.S. oil production will average 12.4 million barrels per day during 2023, soaring past the record high for domestic crude oil production set in 2019 under Trump.

+ $29.70: Average price per barrel  for oil in the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.

+ On Tuesday, temperatures hit 106.7 degrees Fahrenheit in Buenos Aires, the second-highest mark ever. Other parts of Argentina saw temperatures as high as 113 degrees Fahrenheit. The heat was so intense in Argentina that air temperatures rose to 129 degrees F, making it for a few hours the hottest place in the world–until it was obliterated by a reading of 123 degrees F in Onslow, Western Australia, the highest temperature ever recorded in the Southern Hemisphere.

+ 7 Hiroshima nuclear explosions: the equivalent amount of heat the Earth’s oceans  absorb every second.

+ The Great Barrier Reef seems likely to be hit by another mass bleaching by the end of January, the fourth such coral killing event in the last seven years.

+ It was downright scorching in Texas in December, where the average temperature was an astounding 12.1°F above the 20th century normal and nearly 6°F warmer than any other December in the last 126 years…

+ Biden to the survivors of the Marshall fire, which destroyed 1100 homes on the high plains of Colorado outside Boulder: “The way you’re going to get through this, because we’ve been through a few things ourselves, is just hang on to on another. You will get through this & you’ll be stronger for it.” Is there any evidence at all that people emerge “stronger” after suffering the loss of their homes, jobs, cars, pets and family members?

+ The Biden administration was in court this week defending Trump-era coal mining plans in the ravaged Powder River Basin of Wyoming.

+ Between 1982 and 2016, the American ski season shrunk by an average of 34 days a year, and levels of snow cover saw an average drop of 41%.

+ Oregon just doubled its “rebate” for the purchase of Electric Vehicles by low-income families to $7,500, which brings the cost down from an average of $50,000 a car to $42,500 and they still run on power plants fueled by dead salmon, natural gas, or biomass from clearcut forests….

+ Of the 78 billion kilograms of plastic packaging materials produced in 2013, just 14 percent were even collected for recycling, and only 2 percent were recycled effectively enough to compete with virgin plastic.

+ Trappers in Idaho are killing badgers for $1.56 a pelt. Pacific fisher and pine martin, both species on the decline, are selling for $30 or less a pelt.

+ The bobcat prices are so high, it makes one speculate as to whether or not some of those pelts are actually Canada lynx.

+ It’s a wonder there are any beaver at all left in Idaho. According to a recent history of the Hudson Bay Company, the company’s authoritarian Governor-in-Chief, George Simpson, devised an extermination strategy for eastern Oregon, eastern Washington and Idaho in order to stem the influx of American settlers and trappers in lands still claimed by the British. In an 1824 letter to the HBC’s proctor in the Northwest, Dr. John McLaughlin, Simpson ordered the creation of a “beaver-free zone” to the south and east of the Snake and Columbia Rivers: “The first step that the American Government will take towards colonization is through their Indian Traders, if the country becomes exhausted in Fur-bearing animals they can have no inducement to proceed thither…The country is a rich preserve of Beaver and which for political reasons we should endeavor to destroy as soon as possible.” (See The Company: the Rise and Fall of the Hudson’s Bay Empire by Stephen R. Brown)

+ The man Simpson and McLaughlin picked to put this bloody plan into motion was a sadist named Peter Skene Ogden, who had already developed a reputation for butchering native traders. Over the next few years, Ogden led six expeditions into the Snake River territory, setting leg-hold traps on nearly every river and stream they came across, not even bothering to check them later for the kills. By the 1840s, the beaver had already been nearly wiped out in the interior Northwest.

+ The castor referred to in the Snake River Trappers fur sale numbers is the glandular excretions from beaver, which the animals use to keep their fur waterproof and to scent-mark their territory. It’s long been prized for humans for other peculiarities, including its alleged sexual properties. Beavers were known as castors because it was once believed that they castrated themselves as a defense mechanism. According to a medieval bestiary:

There is an animal called Castor the Beaver, none more gentle, and his testicles make a capital medicine. For this reason, or so Physiologus says, when he notices he is being pursued by the hunter, he removes his own testicles with a bite, and casts them before the sportsman, and thus escapes by fight. What is more, if he should happen to be chased by a second hunter, he lifts himself up and shows his members to him. And the latter, when he perceives the testicles to be missing, leaves the beaver alone. (See TH White’s The Book of Beasts)

+ More than 1,700 people who served in the U.S. Congress were slaveholders at some point in their lives. One of them was Rebecca Latimer Felton, “a suffragist and a white supremacist, was appointed to fill a Senate vacancy in 1922 and briefly represented Georgia at age 87. The first woman ever to serve in the Senate was a former slaveholder.”

+ Most of us grew up knowing that Edith Hamilton’s the Greek Myths gave a more accurate account of the classical history of the Mediterranean than our High School textbooks provided for the history of North America, but even by that standard of manufactured ignorance the proposal by GOP legislators in Virginia to require public schools to teach the Lincoln-Douglass (as in Frederick not the sulphuric Stephen) Debates is really stretching the boundaries of Alt History….

+ You have to admit, Frederick Douglass is having some very good recent years and is being “recognized more and more” by Republicans for “doing an amazing job“…

+ Buster Douglas scored a surprise knockout of Lincoln in their first debate. But Abe regained his footing in the second debate against a feisty but overmatched Marjorie Stoneman Douglas…

+ Several months ago I wrote that “the people most obsessed with American history know almost nothing about it.” It’s now clear that a correction is in order. Delete that “almost.”

+ Dozens of books written by Black authors are being yanked from school libraries across the country under the pretext that they’re teaching Critical Race Theory. Most of the books don’t refer to CRT but are written by and about people of color. Basically any library that stocks books written by blacks is now too Woke for school. Don’t worry, Bari Weiss will be buying a copy of each for her personal collection.

+ Charles Dickens after returning from a tour of the US (motivated mainly by a vain attempt to get the US to enforce copyright) in 1841 wrote sharply about slavery in The Life and Adventure of Martin Chuzzlewit: “Thus the stars wink upon the bloody stripes; and Liberty pulls down her cap upon her eyes, and owns oppression in its vilest aspect for her sister.”

+ Elizabeth Gaskell (AKA, Mrs.) was one of Cockburn’s favorite writers and her descriptions of the collateral damage inflicted by the industrialization of England rival Dickens (who frequently published her writing in Household Words) at his best. I was flipping through her wonderful novel North and South (1855) this morning and was struck by this passage, where her unitarianism seems already morphed into full-blown universalism: “Margaret the Churchwoman, her father the Dissenter, Higgins the Infidel, knelt down together. It did them no harm.” Of course, I don’t recall a pandemic raging through the pews in 1855.

+ Given the dangerous currents documented in this absorbing piece on ship traffic near Istanbul, are we still to believe that His Lordship really swam across the Bosphorus, propelled by powerful strokes timed in perfect tetrameter and a wicked kick from his clubfoot?

+ JG Ballard on England: “England interested me. It seemed to be a disaster area. It was a subject and character in its own right. I was interested in change, which I could see was coming in a big way, everything from supermarkets to jet travel, television and the consumer society. I remember thinking, my God, these things will bring change to England and reveal the strange psychology of these tormented people.”

+ Here’s a photo from 1975 of Fidel giving George McGovern a tour of Cuba in his Jeep and a sampling of Havana’s finest.

From the looks of the passengers in the backseat, it looks like McGovern just cracked a joke, but since George wasn’t known for his wit they were probably cracking up at Castro’s driving, which, according to my old friend Saul Landau, was a frequent (thought discreet) subject of amusement among Cubans.

+ A few years later Fidel gave up smoking, saying: “The best thing you can do with this box of cigars is give them to your enemy.”

+ Comedian (alleged) Steve Harvey claims that “political correctness“, a variation of which has been around since the Puritans set up shot in Massachusetts,  has killed comedy. Harvey (net worth $160 million), who has never been funny, now has an excuse for being the only one laughing at his own jokes. He has no idea what real censorship is. Lenny Bruce was arrested multiple times for “obscenity” (once for using the word “schmuck”) & was banned from entering England as an “undesirable alien”, after a raucous run of gigs at Peter Cook’s comedy club in England.

+ Philosopher Martha Nussbaum has written a fascinating piece on western attitudes (largely hostile, if not horrified) toward the human body, which includes this passage on the Russian mystic Nikolai Fyodorov’s conception of the resurrection of the flesh:

And speaking of Dostoyevsky, I cannot mention bodily resurrection without making mention of Nikolai Fyodorov (1829-1903), the Russian Orthodox Christian philosopher and friend of both Dostoyevsky and Tolstoy. Fyodorov insisted that it is our central duty, as human beings, our Common Cause, to promote the bodily resurrection of everyone who has ever lived, since only this would guarantee eternal life for all. He had complicated ideas about how this might be arranged scientifically through a process akin to cloning; but he also realized that this would cause the world a huge population problem. He therefore spoke ambitiously about space travel, and is thought to have been a major influence, indirectly, on the genesis of the Soviet space program.

+ Ronnie Spector’s voice changed over the decades–got rougher, harder, infused with the raw gravitas of a hard life, but it never–I mean never–lost its ability make you feel what she felt, a voice that conveyed so much more than the pedestrian lyrics she was often forced to sing…

+ Ronnie Spector: “Every song is a little piece of my life. I’m just a girl from the ghetto who wanted to sing.”

+ RIP  James Mtume, the great funk percussionist, who was a key component of Electric Miles, wrote “Juicy Fruit,” gave Herbie Hancock the name “Mwandishi,” and produced for D’Angelo. Mtume was also a world-class competitive swimmer while attending Pasadena City College and was recruited for the 1968 US Olympic team but decided to instead take a different direction and joined the Cultural Nationalist Organization US. The prospect of Mtume raising a black fist in the pool, while Tommy Smith and John Carlos were doing the same on the podium at the Olympic Stadium in Mexico City would have been a truly amazing sight. Just the image of Mtume being in the pool would have been deeply disturbing to half of the Americans watching on their couches.

Candy Rain Comin’ Down (Juicy!), Turns Me All Around…

Booked Up
What I’m reading this week…

Black in White Space: the Enduring Aspect of Color in Everyday Life
Elijah Anderson
(University of Chicago)

Culture and Politics: Essays
Raymond Williams

The Nation on No Map: Black Anarchism and Abolition
William C. Anderson
(AK Press)

Sound Grammar
What I’m listening to this week…

Mabern Plays Coltrane
Harold Mabern
(Smoke Sessions)

Sex O’Clock (Twentieth Anniversary Reissue)
Anita Lane

Breath by Breath
Fred Hirsch

The Ideology of the Masters Alone

“The process of industrialization is necessarily painful. It must involve the erosion of traditional patterns of life. But it was carried through with exceptional violence in Britain. It was unrelieved by any sense of national participation in communal effort, such as is found in countries undergoing a national revolution. Its ideology was that of the masters alone.”

– EP Thompson, The Making of the English Working Class

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