Roaming Charges: Lookout, Joe

Peregrine falcon scouting a flock of plovers along the lower Columbia River. Photo: Jeffrey St. Clair.

+ I was asked this morning to name my favorite Neil Young song and said, Lookout Joe, for obvious reasons. There’s at least one Young song for each decade of my life. But I keep coming back to Tonight’s the Night. One of my best friends in HS was killed on his first date (and a date that’d I’d arranged for a smart but shy kid) by a drunk who ran a stoplight. I’d picked up Tonight’s the Night the day before the crash and played it for the next week, amid tears and fury, and quoted lines from it in my eulogy. That whole LP still “haunts me to this day.”

+ Neil Young’s demand that the streaming conglomerate Spotify remove his music from their database or end their deal with the blowhard podcaster Joe Rogan, the former UFC announcer and Fear Factor host, was greeted with ridicule and derision on the right. But Young is no stranger to these fights. In fact, this is the second time Young has yanked his music from the streaming service. The first time was because the sound quality of the music sucked. (It still does. Young himself described the Spotify listening experience as a: “shitty, degraded and neutered sound”)  More on point. Neil was afflicted by polio as a child. Two of his sons were diagnosed with cerebral palsy and his daughter suffered from epilepsy.

+ I didn’t know until this morning that Joni Mitchell–who, along with the Foo Fighters, joined Young’s campaign against Spotify–also contracted polio as a child in Canada. Patrick Cockburn, had a severe case of polio and wrote a great book about the disease (The Broken Boy), how it swept through Ireland in the 50s and his own experience in overcoming it to become one of the world’s greatest and most fearless war correspondents

+ Spotify is the Sun City of the Covid era.

+ The real question is why Young’s music was on Spotify to begin with? Is it because he sold 50% of his catalogue to a hedge fund? I deeply admire Neil, but why are artists of his stature complicit in the recreation for the streaming age of a corporate music model that has historically exploited so many artists?

+ Neil should have yanked his songs from Spotify years ago for ripping off musicians who don’t have his stature or bank account. This year Spotify paid the “lowest royalty rates” in history for songwriters.

+ Neil knows the streaming enterprise is an artistic and financial scam. “Spotify plays the artists’s music at 5% of its quality and charges you like it was the real thing,” he wrote on his blog this week.

+ Given the amount Spotify shelled out for Rogan (reportedly more than $100 million), you’d have reason to believe that a good chunk of that came from the money they’re making off of musicians they’re grossly underpaying…

+ In November, many artists launched a boycott of Spotify over the decision of its CEO Daniel Ek to invest decision to invest $100 million in an AI defense tech startup called Helsing, a Berlin-based outfit which describes itself as a “new type of security and artificial intelligence company.”

+ Seth Marset: “A major music service picking Joe Rogan over Neil Young is everything Neil Young has been warning us about for fifty years.”

+ Much of the early money behind Spotify came from Thrive Capital, the venture capital firm owned by Jared Kushner’s brother Josh.

+ Will Joe Rogan be touring with the group pretending to be Lynyrd Skynyrd this summer?

+ In a blow to the Natural Immunity movement, the monthly React study, which randomly tests 100,000 people across England, found that two-thirds of the positive tests in January were reinfections, suggesting natural immunity offers only limited protection against infection with Omicron.

+ Another large-scale study out of England reports that, compared to the general population, people who had been hospitalized for COVID-19—and survived at least one week after discharge—were more than twice as likely to die or be readmitted in the next several months.

+ The IMF is now threatening China over its Zero Covid policy, claiming its “hardline policy”, which has saved millions of Chinese lives, risks damaging the global economy. You didn’t really think that the Masters of Capital wanted to stop the pandemic did you?

+ Along those same line, I direct your attention Goldman Sachs report from 2018, which questioned whether “curing patients” is a “sustainable business model”–a paper which could have been written by Larry Summers and pretty much reflects the thinking inside the Biden White House these days.

+ Actually, Niall, America is a long-running experiment in social Darwinism inside a panopticon.

+ You know what’s a catastrophic moral crime? Your indifference to an 80-year old man being rousted from his car at night in the W. Bank by your pals in the IDF–blindfolded, handcuffed & dumped at a building site to die, as you yuk it up over minor inconveniences to your privileged life.

+ The “Body Autonomy” Left (aka, the My Precious Bodily Fluids Movement) has helped to enable this catastrophe and they will have much to answer for in the future. Not just the million dead and millions more with lifelong debilities, but the gutting of the government’s power to impose workplace safety rules, the disgusting attacks on unions, especially teachers’ unions, & perhaps most perniciously the savaging of public health institutions–plagiarizing the death panel language of Sarah Palin–which will probably be the death knell for Single-Payer for at least the next generation.

+ While listening to the cries of “Give Me Liberty or Give Me Covid” at RFK’s rally, I was drawn back to a passage about American notions of liberty in Dickens’ comic picaresque about swindlers, land agents, slavers and mountebanks, The Adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit, where Mark Tapley, one of the novel’s very few upstanding characters, encounters a 90-year-old black man named Cicero who having bought himself out of slavery now intends on making one last purchase before he dies by buying the freedom of his own daughter at a slave auction: ‘They’re so fond of Liberty in this part of the globe, that they buy her and sell her and carry her to market with ‘em. They’ve such a passion for Liberty, that they can’t help taking liberties with her…Liberty forever, Hurrah! Hail, Columbia!”

+ Many of the signs at RFK’s Spread the Virus rally called for explicit acts of violence, sentiments are more than a little creepy for a march led by someone whose father and uncle were assassinated. In harmony with the Nazi-theme of the festivities, several placards compared Anthony Fauci to Mengele. One referred to him as “Dr. Jeff Mengele.” (I got a special thrill from that one.) Others labeled Fauci a traitor and called for his execution. One featured a crude drawing of his head and a guillotine, not sure if it was the same one meant for Pence. Another woman held a sign that read: “SHOOT those who try to kidnap & Vaccinate your child–Exodus 21:16–.” The verse from Exodus reads: “16. And he that stealeth a man, and selleth him, or if he be found in his hand, he shall surely be put to death.”

+ Bill Gates, Anthony Fauci, satellites, 5G, micro chips, Nazis and vaccines, oh my! It’s the Conspiracy Theory of Everything! The apple fell far from the tree, at least from his mother’s branch…

+ RFK, Jr is a ridiculous, almost pathetic figure. More sinister is Alex Berenson, the former NYT scribe who has attached himself like leach to the anti-vaxx movement. (Leaches may be one of his approved treatments.) As an example of just how disingenuous many of these leading figures of this movement are look no further than a piece Berenson blasted out to his credulous followers this week boldly proclaiming: “Dr. Monica Gandhi is Done With the mRNA Vaccines.” This would be astounding news, if true, and a huge coup for the cause of the anti-vaxxers. Gandhi is a leading expert on infectious diseases, who specialized in the treatment of HIV and AIDS. Gandhi is a professor of medicine at UCSF, where she serves as director of the Center for AIDS Research. She also runs the HIV Clinic at San Francisco General Hospital. Gandhi has been something of an outlier among Bay Area doctors on COVID prevention measures. She has been skeptical about the efficacy of lockdowns and school closures and instead has argued that the emphasis should be on “vaccines, vaccines, vaccines.” If Gandhi had suddenly turned against them, then that would indeed be a big deal. So I carefully read Berenson’s breathless January 26th piece on his grandly titled “Unreported Truths” Substack page. Yet nowhere in Berenson’s screed does Gandhi say anything remotely like what Berenson attributes to her. Instead, Berenson extracts a single paragraph from Gandhi’s newsletter and entirely perverts its meaning. At the end of his piece, Berenson coyly writes: “Unlike me, Dr. Gandhi is too smart to come out and say openly that mRNA vaccines are useless (if not dangerous) at this point.” As I read that remarkable sentence, I wondered to myself how he was going to get away with putting fake words in the doctor’s mouth on a subject of profound importance. The answer wasn’t long in coming. Gandhi quickly wrote Berenson demanding that he retract his piece because his assertion of what she said was totally “inaccurate.” Berenson, of course, refused to do so.

+ The left wingers who are part of Berenson’s flock–the Randian (as in Ayn) Left–must be a really peculiar bunch. After all, this is a man whose views on marijuana are to the right of J. Edgar Hoover and Harry Anslinger. (See Berenson’s book, Tell Your Children: The Truth About Marijuana, Mental Illness and Violence, published the same year Covid came out, 2019. Coincidence?)

+ Much of the “theory” behind the body autonomy movement derives from the writings of Michel Foucault (Birth of the Clinic, The Use of Pleasure, The Care of the Self), a philosopher I’ve followed closely since the late 1970s, when I attended several of his lectures. Foucault walked his talks to a very morally dubious end. He kept secret until his death from AIDS the fact that he had contracted the HIV virus and continued to engage in unprotected sexual intercourse, often with anonymous partners, without informing them of his highly contagious medical condition. When does the right to be infected become the right to infect? (See: James Miller’s The Passion of Michel Foucault).

+ Stephen Breyer was the first neoliberal put on the Court. His role in crafting the deregulation of the trucking industry for Ted Kennedy in the late 70s, made him an attractive pick for Bill “the Welfare Killer” Clinton. As a Supreme Court justice he proved to be well to the right of David Souter.

+ As I wrote in a recent profile of Breyer for CounterPunch +, “In 1979, Breyer, then Kennedy’s chief legislative counsel, published an extremely influential article in Harvard Law Review, in which he argued an old business favorite: Environmental hazards could best be dealt with by market mechanisms in which ‘rights’ to pollute would be traded.”

+ Who will Manchin and Sinema pick to replace Breyer on the Court?

+ If Clarence Thomas, the second oldest member of the Supreme Court, waits until he’s Breyer’s age to retire from the bench it will be the year 2035 and Anchorage’s streets will be lined with more palm trees than Burbank. As it stands, the court will be in the hands of the far right for a generation. The next appointment is all about drama, which is why Biden should (he won’t) nominate someone who will set off some fireworks, like Anita Hill or Angela Davis. The only real option the Democrats have (and it’s not a very real open) to salvage what little remains of their corroded brand of liberalism is to make DC and Puerto Rico states, which they should have done decades ago.

+ DiFi tees it up for Mitch…Sen. Feinstein doesn’t see a rush to confirm a Breyer replacement: “With six months until Justice Breyer departs the court, the Senate Judiciary Committee will have ample time to hold hearings on President Biden’s nominee.”

+ I urge Biden, futilely of course, to nominate the mother of someone killed by the police. The court doesn’t need another legal theorist, but someone to disrupt its gentile proceedings with the raw voice of what it’s like to live in a violent, over-policed America these days.

+ Or perhaps Martha Stewart?

+ Jonathon Turley used to be worth reading. Now he’s a predictable reactionary, too stale to even find a slot on FoxNews anymore. He’s become the George Will of legal pundits. Biden’s pledge to nominate a black woman to the Court gives him more ideological flexibility (unfortunately) than Trump’s vow to name someone vetted by the Federalist Society.

+ This was the case for the first 178 years of the Court’s history and the exclusionary criteria went far beyond race and sex…

+ Reproductive rights, voting rights, affirmative action…It’s all going down. Pretty soon, the only living legacies of the FDR/LBJ era of liberalism will be the Vietnam War and the Korematsu decision…

+ What’s truly “SAD” is that not one Democrat voted against confirming Antonin Scalia…

+ The coroner for the Palestinian Authority who performed the autopsy on Omar Assad, the Palestinian-American who was detained by Israeli soldiers and had a fatal “stress-induced” heart attack, “had bruises on his head as a result of traumatic brain injuries” and suffered “internal bleeding in his eyelids from being blindfolded tightly.”

+ According to an Israeli Foreign Ministry cable obtained by Axios, Israel is planning a campaign to discredit a UN commission formed to investigate the violence in Gaza last May and the root causes of the protracted conflict in the West Bank & Gaza.

+ There have been a lot of recent stories about the drug Captagon, an amphetamine which is supposedly being used by groups as varied as ISIS, Hezbollah and Assad’s Syrian Army to turn it fighters into “super-human soldiers.” This is in contrast, of course, with the US Air Force which was stuffing its fighter pilots with morally superior “go pills” during the Iraq war…

+ The Eric Adams Era begins in earnest, by bringing back a secret police unit that was abolished two years ago for its repeated violations of civil liberties and Constitutional rights.

+ The City Attorney for Portland apologized on Tuesday to the Justice Department for not turning over riot-police training materials that included a Proud Boys meme about bashing “dirty” hippies.

+ It’s always seemed unlikely to me that Russia intends to invade Ukraine, unless, that is, the US and the increasingly bellicose media goad Putin into it. Even the Zelensky is imploring Biden to dial back the war rhetoric, which has only served to make an unlikely war more likely. Such impertinence toward the Western powers may put Zelensky’s his own presidency at risk, as it has so many others who have refused to act as obedient servant of imperial demands under similar circumstance. Once again under the sway of hawks like Victoria Nuland, the US State Department is churning increasingly provocative anti-Russian propaganda, such as this recent posting by the US Embassy in Kyiv, which looks like it was made by undergraduates at the Colin Powell School of Diplomacy.

+ US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman contends that the Beijing Olympics and disapproval from China might delay a Russian invasion of Ukraine…and give this US more time to provoke one? That’s some fancy “strategery”, Wendy!

+ What did Russia mean when it vowed to make a “military-technical” response to unmet demands on Ukraine? One very dangerous possibility is the deployment of intermediate-range ballistic missiles to the western front capable of striking targets inside Europe.

 

+ There are already hundreds of US sanctions against investing in (and in many cases even having transactions with) most Russian businesses, sanctions which have only encouraged Russia to be more aggressive in protecting economic and geographical security.

+ Secretary of State Anthony Blinken has taken to rewriting his own stepfather’s history of being a prisoner in a Nazi concentration camp, crediting only the US for the defeat of Hitler’s regime. His stepfather, Samuel Pisar, remembered it quite differently: “I was saved by the Battle of Stalingrad, which was the turning point of the war, and the Red Army offensive. For me, during the Second World War, Russia was a savior.”

+ This will come as a relief to 98% of the planet…

+ According to CNN, the US Navy is scrambling to recover an F-35 stealth fighter jet that crashed in the South China Sea to protect its “sensitive technology” from China. More plausibly: the Navy is desperate to keep secret the fatal design flaws in the F-35, so they can keep selling them to our network of favorite dictatorships…

+ Remember when The Who’s Pete Townshend did a recruiting ad for the US Air Force during the height of the Vietnam War? Lana Del Ray now providing the same “service” as gears up for Ukraine…

+ FIFA president Gianni Infantino suggested moving from a four-year to a two-year World Cup would help prevent refugees from fleeing to Europe: “We have to give the Africans hope that they don’t have to cross the Mediterranean to perhaps have a better life here. We have to give them opportunities and dignity.” And FIFA making more billions from more frequent World Cups does this how?

+ A new paper by Daniel Firoozi shows that Democratic candidates gained votes when Appalachia’s poorest counties were declared “economically distressed” based on local poverty, unemployment, and income.

+ Teachers in the US are paid almost 20% less than similar college-educated workers.

+ A convoy of 30 vehicles of flag-waving MAGAbots carrying signs proclaiming “kneel for the cross” swarmed around the home of Ohio Rep Casey Weinstein. Weinstein’s Jewish. The throng demanded he support veterans. Casey Weinstein’s a 3rd Generation Veteran, and like his father, a graduate of the USAF Academy. Happy Holocaust Remembrance Day!

+ Tasha Adams, the estranged wife of Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes, posted photos of the escape tunnels Rhodes built in the backyard of their rented house. Her testimony was cited by a federal judge in refusing to grant Rhodes’s bail. Adams wrote on her blog: “Folks if you ever feel tempted to rent a backhoe and dig escape tunnels in the backyard of your rental house, keep in mind it may come back to haunt you if you later attempt to overthrow the US government.”

+ The latest trend in American neo-Fascism is to blame all the Fascist activity on false flag jobs by the Feds. Poor Antifa. They used to get all the credit…

+ Nikki Sixx’s most fanatical groupies demonstrated more self-respect than JD Vance

+ Virginia Gov. Glenn Younkins is asking Virginia parents to turn in teachers who teach “divisive content.”  We’re raising a generation of narcs….

“Dad, Mrs Ortiz spent half the afternoon trying to brainwash us with a really divisive concept…”

“What was it honey, more crap about the Black Panthers?”

“No, something the teacher called Long Division.”

+ The McMinn County School board in Tennessee recently voted to ban Maus, Art Spiegelman’s Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic novel about the Holocaust. The vote was 10-0.

+ Five years later and Susan Sarandon remains American liberalism’s most banal obsession. At least “Let’s Go, Brandon!” was funny…the first 5 or 6 times I heard it.

+ It looks like it’s up to Willow the Cat to save the Biden White House. Of course, the way things have been going she’s more likely to be mauled on camera by one of the German shepherds. Watch your back, Willow.

+ Some good news: Overwintering Monarchs in the state rise to 247,000 a year after fewer than 2,000 appeared. The monarch numbers, as welcome as they are, remain still historically low.

+ Idaho plans to spend another $1 million to kill even more wolves….

+ For only the fifth time, a ringtail was spotted in southern Idaho. Of course, the Idaho Department of Fish and Game had to go trap it and detain it…

+ Just months after Biden’s Cop26 pledge to end deforestation, his own Forest Service plans to quadruple logging on the Pisgah-Nantahala National Forest, one the US’s most popular public forests, including allowing clearcuts along the Appalachian Trail.

+ After being convicted for criminal negligence in a 2010 explosion that killed 8 people in San Bruno, PG&E’s five years of probation has come to an end. That was some “hard time” PG&E did. How many parole violations did it commit while it was on probation? Well, in the Paradise fire alone, PG&E pled guilty to guilty to 84 felony counts of involuntary manslaughter.

+ California wildfire survivors, including those from Paradise, now own roughly 1/4 of PG&E…

+ Big oil is spreading comorbidities wherever it goes…

+  According to a study in Nature Energy people living near fracking sites and other “unconventional” oil drilling operations have an increased risk of dying prematurely.

+ The burning of fossil fuels kills about 1000 people every hour of every day. A recent study published in Environmental Research estimates about 8.7 million people die prematurely each year due to fossil fuel burning, and there are 8760 hours in a (non-leap) year.

+ A new Global Witness report found that Shell’s vaunted carbon capture plant has the same carbon footprint per year as 1.2 million gas-powered cars.

+ Of 21 cities that have previously hosted the Winter Olympics, only nine would be reliably cold enough by the end of the 21st century to safely host the games, even if the goals of the Paris Agreement were met.

+ Last month, Exxon Mobil announced it plans to increase spending on new oil projects by as much as 56 percent over the next six years. Don’t worry. The oil giant also said it’s “committing to reduce carbon emissions”!

+ In a huge legal victory for the environmental movement, the DC Circuit Court ruled on Thursday that Biden’s decision to offer 80 million acres in the Gulf of Mexico for oil and gas leasing violated federal environmental laws. The court held that Interior failed to accurately disclose and consider the greenhouse gas emissions that would result from the largest lease sale in history and grossly underestimated the climate impacts and risks to Gulf communities.

+ In the last year alone, China added 16.9 gigawatts of offshore wind capacity, cementing its position as the world’s biggest market for wind farms at sea. The second-biggest market, the U.K., generates about 10 gigawatts of wind  total.

+ Investigators looking into the origins of the Marshall Fire, which burned 1000 homes in Colorado northwest of Denver last month, are focusing on an area where an underground coal seam has been burning since the 1870s.

+ 81,000: the number of people who have demanded that the US Fish and Wildlife Service impose tougher protections for Mexican gray wolves.

+ Gas stoves leak large amounts of methane when they are being lit and continue to leak gas after they are turned off. According to a new study in the Journal of Environmental Science and Technology, during the course of a typical year, three-quarters of gas stove emissions occur when the devices are shut off. The methane emissions from these stoves have the climate impact of half a million cars driven for a year.

+ Better than Dune…

+ Both Pitchfork and Rolling Stone have proclaimed the return of the CD. But the numbers tell a different story. According to MRC Data, CD sales in the US increased 1.1% in 2021 from their numbers in 2020. But in 2020 they had dropped 26% from 2019, “the format’s biggest year-to-year decline ever.” In 2000/2001, there were around a billion CDs sold worldwide. In 2019 that number had fallen to 31.6 million, with no sign of a revival. Good riddance.

+ What will the China-bashing Cancel Culture-scaremongers make of the fact that Chuck Palahniuk, the Portland-based author of Fight Club, considers China’s “censored” ending to David Fincher’s film of his novel truer to the book. “The irony is that the way the Chinese have changed it is they’ve aligned the ending almost exactly with the ending of the book, as opposed to Fincher’s ending, which was the more spectacular visual ending,” Palahniuk told TMZ. “So in a way, the Chinese brought the movie back to the book a little bit.”

+ When he was 12, Glenn Gould wrote an operetta where “in Act I, the entire human population was to be wiped out and in Act II they were to be replaced by a superior breed of frogs.”

+ I love David Ortiz, the Red Sox great who was just voted into Cooperstown on the first ballot. But consider this. In 2000, while playing for the Twins Ortiz had 415 plate appearances and hit 10 HRs. In his first five full seasons, he never hit more than 20 HRs. In 2003, he had 448 plate appearances and hit 31 HRs. In 2006 he hit 54. In 2003 Ortiz tested positive for PEDs, according to a report in the NYTs. If Ortiz enters in on the first ballot, Barry Bonds deserves an entire room.

+ Eduardo Galeano: “We live in a world that treats the dead better than the living. We, the living, are askers of questions and givers of answers, and we have other grave defects unpardonable by a system that believes death, like money, improves people.”

Te Guardo Mi Luz de Mañana (I Save You My Morning Light)

Booked Up
What I’m reading this week…

Confessions of the Flesh: the History of Sexuality, Vol. 4
Michel Foucault
(Vintage)

Liberty is Sweet: the Hidden History of the American Revolution
Woody Holton
(Simon and Schuster)

The Soviet Passport: the History, Nature and Uses of the Internal Passport in the USSR
Albert Baiburin
(Polity)

Sound Grammar
What I’m listening to this week…

Personal Recordings 1946-1970
Lennie Tristano
(Mosaic/Dot Time)

Marchita
Silvana Estrada
(Glassnote)

Crisis of Faith
Billy Talent
(Spinefarm Records)

And to Think That It is Not Over Yet

“What will become of us in twenty years’ time?” we asked ourselves one evening. Thirty years have passed now. Raymond was guillotined: “Anarchist gangster” (so the newspapers said). I came across Jean again in Brussels, a worker and a trade-union organizer, still a fighter for liberty after ten years in jail. Luce has died of tuberculosis, naturally. For my part, I have undergone a little over ten years of various forms of captivity, agitated in seven countries, and written twenty books. I own nothing. On several occasions a press with a vast circulation has hurled filth at me because I spoke the truth. Behind us lies a victorious revolution gone astray, several abortive attempts at revolution, and massacres in so great a number as to inspire a certain dizziness. And to think that it is not over yet.”

Victor Serge, Memoirs of a Revolutionary

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