Roaming Charges: Of Fathers and Their Countries

George Washington’s false teeth. Source: Mount Vernon.

+ I’m excavating my way through Ron Chernow’s bulging, semi-woke (by the standards of the Texas Schoolbook Commission)  biography of George Washington. I say, “semi-woke,” because while it discreetly admits that Washington was a patrician dandy of no exceptional military or administrative genius, who abused his troops, committed war crimes, bought his first election to public office with booze, and held 100s of slaves, often treating them cruelly in response to his own ineptitudes as a gentleman planter, it is quick to balance any evidence of fault in the character of the founding father with a statement to the effect that “while this may sound extreme to our ears, it was fairly typical for the time.” Which is, of course, exactly the point.

+ While Chernow’s text is rather elliptical on these decisive episodes in Washington’s life (there’s little risk of it being pulled from libraries in most of the states, at this point), the book is generously foot-noted with primary sources, many of them in Washington’s own hand (he was a prolific self-promoter of his own exalted life), which fill-in the more tenebrous aspects of his character.

+ The first member of the Washington clan to step foot in Virginia was John, who came ashore in the Tidewater area in 1676. George’s great-grandfather wasn’t much of a farmer (after all, he only owned three slaves and some Irish “servants”), but he did amass thousands of acres of land along the Potomac and received a military commission to kill Indians in Maryland, where he earned a reputation for treachery and slaughter. In one notorious incident, Washington murdered five Indian leaders who had come to negotiate a treaty, then claimed their land. He was known by the Potomac tribes as Conotocarious, “destroyer of villages, devourer of homes.”

+ It turns out George Washington could have easily run a CIA black site or the Gitmo torture camp. As an officer of the VA Regiment in the French & Indian wars, he proved a sadistic disciplinarian inflicting as many as 1500 lashes a day for relatively minor offenses: “drinking in and informed another officer he “was determined to hang two or three at a time as an example to the others. (ie., his soldiers).” He kept his condemned prisoners in iron chains in total darkness. In a letter to Robert Dimwiddie, the Lt Governor of VA, with whom he would later clash in the revolutionary war, Washington wrote coldly: Your honor will, I hope, excuse my hanging instead of shooting them. It conveyed much more terror to others and was for example’s sake we did it.”

+”To live in Virginia without slaves is morally impossible.”

Rev. Peter Fontaine, 1757

+ Though they can’t be blamed for its pompous and derivative neo-classical design, seven master black carpenters built most of the plantation house at Mount Vernon. They were all enslaved by Washington. The overseer of the construction, Humphrey Knight, wrote Washington, assuring the young land baron that he wasn’t light with the whip when he spotted a loose board or crooked plank: “As to the carpenters, I have minded ’em all I posably could and has whipt ’em when I could see a fault.”

+ Martha Washington kept her own sister, Ann Dandridge, as a slave. Ann was the daughter of Martha’s father John Dandridge and a young, enslaved woman, who was half-black, half-Cherokee. Ann lived as a slave at Mount Vernon until 1802, after first George, then Martha died.

+ In reading about Washington, I’ve become increasingly distracted by Peggy Shippen, wife of Benedict Arnold. Washington was so entranced by her even after evidence of her complicity in Benedict’s treason came to light he refused to believe it. Shippen was reportedly the highest paid British spy of the Revolutionary period. Aaron Burr was almost certainly right in charging that Shippen was not only central to the conspiracy but enticed Arnold into becoming a British agent and surrendering West Point. This image of Shippen, whose coif would have shamed Madame Pompadour, gives you some idea of what charged the erotic fantasies of the nation’s first president, who called himself “a votary to love.” He remained in the thrall of a similar “Georgian era” English beauty, Sally Fairfax who fled the nearby Belvoir plantation at the start of the Revolution for Bath, England, for most of his life…

+ There’s no question Washington obsessed about sex. On his book shelves lurked two of the age’s most notorious sex tutorials, The Lover’s Watch: or the Art of Making Love by Aphra Benn and Daniel Defoe’s Conjugal Lewdness: or Matrimonial Whoredom. The question is why the father of the country failed to father any children by Martha or any of his hundreds of enslaved women? (Martha gave birth to four children in her first marriage so the lack of fecundity in her relations with George probably didn’t originate with her.) Was it sterility or impotence? If you’d been able to peek inside Washington’s medicine cabinet at Mount Vernon, you’d have found it well-stocked with Spanish Fly, the sex potion made from dead blister beetles, purchased, like Viagra today, by mail order. In Washington’s case, it came from chemists in London in four-ounce jars.

+ But Spanish Fly often proved lethal, especially when administered to women orally. (Men tended to rub the mixture on their penises hoping to swell and prolong their erections.)  In 1772, the Marquis de Sade fatally poisoned five Parisian prostitutes when, in anticipation of a weekend orgy (at which he longed to spend hours with his nose between their buttocks sampling their farts), de Sade compelled the the young women to eat anise seed cupcakes liberally laced with Spanish Fly. Since Martha outlived George, we can perhaps assume that the orders of Spanish Fly were meant to fortify his own faltering Priapic ambitions.


“What twisted people we are. How simple we seem, or at least pretend to be in front of others, and how twisted we are deep down. How paltry we are and how spectacularly we contort ourselves before our own eyes, and the eyes of others…And all for what? To hide what? To make people believe what?”

– Roberto Bolaño, 2066

+ It’s 10PM in Kyiv. Do you know where your invasion is?

+ Give Biden this. I think he really thought the Russians were going to invade Ukraine today. Why? Because that’s exactly how he would have responded to several weeks of provocation, saber-rattling, name-calling and propaganda.

+ The strategy is a scare tactic that is only scaring the people of Ukraine, the media and the few remaining Americans who believe anything Biden says anymore (when they can decipher what it is he’s stumbling to say). But after today, even they might not be frightened, except at the incompetence of their own government and the lengths it will go to generate a conflict no one but the arms merchants and western energy firms want.

+ Biden’s military budget request for FY 2023 is reportedly $773 billion, $60 billion more than the average amount Trump requested and $150 billion more than the average amount Obama wanted during his second term.

+ The NYT was never this explicit about what really motivated the wars on Iraq and Afghanistan…

+ “Germany sends tanks…” is not a phrase the world ever needs to hear again.

+ You have to hand it to Biden and Blinken. For the past 50 years, US foreign policy has been dominated by the Kissinger doctrine of playing Russia/USSR against China. It took Biden to bring them together. Take a bow, Joe.

+ As Patrick Cockburn points out in this weekend’s CounterPunch, the most persuasive evidence against an “imminent” (OED editors are now working furiously to re-define this word) Russian invasion of Ukraine is that the current “invasion force” of 127,000 troops is one-third of what the Kremlin’s own war strategists say would be needed for a successful invasion.

+ CNN reporters are fielding questions from real Americans tonight. First up, Bill from Chappaqua: “Hi there. I made the dip last night for our Invasion Watch Party. How long will it last before it goes bad?”

+ How much are the “I Survived the Russian Invasion of Ukraine” t-shirts going for on Etsy today?

+ I don’t think Putin is as smart as most of his admirers believe him to be and I’m confident Biden is even dumber than many of his detractors suspect, which is why the Ukraine crisis, like most conflicts of the modern era, still could defy reason and spiral out of control, leading to god knows what radioactive conclusion.

+ When Trump said he wanted to seize Syria and Iraq’s oil to pay for the US’s military operations (unwanted, illegal and destructive) in those countries, he was met with outrage and derision. Biden’s even more sinister plan to take billions in embargoed Afghan government funds and give them to 9/11 families has met a much more muted response, even as the nation collapses into poverty and famine. By any measure, the Afghan people are also victims of 9/11.

+ This strange scheme may be explained by the migrations of one of Biden’s former staffers, Lee Wolosky. Wolosky, who served as Biden’s Afghanistan counsel, left the White House in January and has now returned to his former role as a lead attorney for 9/11 families, who are poised to reap a financial windfall from billions in seized Afghan assets.

+ At least when Reagan met with Pic Botha at the White House, he called South Africa’s apartheid regime “repugnant” and rationalized supporting them to the hilt anyway. Two weeks after Amnesty’s Report and a month after the IDF killed another American citizen, we’ll hear no such qualifying language from Pelosi’s delegation…

+ As Nick Turse reports, U.S.-trained military officers who have attempted at least nine coups across five West African countries — Burkina Faso (three times), Guinea, Mali (three times), Mauritania, and the Gambia — since 2008. They’ve succeeded in eight.

+ Has Justin Trudeau ever invoked the “Emergencies Act” to authorize a crackdown on First Nations protesters acting to defend their lands and water? Or is it part of the RCMP’s charter to brutalize indigenous people whenever the oil, pipeline, timber and mining companies ask them to?

+ Is the “trucker” protest in Canada the spontaneous uprising of working-class street democracy in action, as the Three Amigos (Jimmy Dore, Joe Rogan and Russell Brand), would have you believe? Perhaps not

High above the clot of trucks on Ottawa’s Parliament Hill, in hotel rooms just out of the fray, are the war rooms behind the operation. From them, a team of self-appointed leaders, some with military and right-wing organizing backgrounds, have orchestrated a disciplined and highly coordinated occupation.

They have spent the weeks huddling in conference rooms and streaming their own news conferences on social media platforms from hotel lobbies. It is a crew that includes former law enforcement officers, military veterans and conservative organizers, a sometimes fractious collaboration that has nonetheless helped to coalesce a demonstration against vaccine mandates into a force that has destabilized the city and sent shock waves throughout Canada.

+ The “trucker” protests received financial backing from some of the richest people in Canada

+ I don’t know about Canada, but here in the US 90% of truckers don’t own their own rigs and 80% of the 10% who do “own” them are deeply in hock to the banks. It’s hard to believe that COVID mandates rank in the top 10 most pressing issues confronting most truck-drivers…

+ Freedom’s just another word for [fill-in-the-blank]…

+ The Infection Fatality Ratio (IFR) for COVID cases fell almost 10-fold (from 1.3% to 0.15%) in the period from January to July 2021, when the vaccine rollout went from 0 to 90%.

+ Last week, the CDC added Cuba to the list of countries that have a “very high level” of COVID-19 and recommend that Americans “avoid travel” there. This prompted the State Department to update a “Do Not Travel” advisory. This makes about as much sense as anything else the CDC and State Dept have done under Biden, which is to say: none.

+ Pretty sure this warning should be flipped on its head, warning Cubans not to travel to the US…

USA: Covid deaths per million: 2848
Cuba: Covid deaths per million: 749

USA: Covid deaths in the last 5 days: 11,610
Cuba: Covid deaths since March 2020: 8477

+ The road to COVID endemicity in the US will be paved with 250,000 bodies a year, for years to come.

+ Oprah was this quack’s Joe Rogan…

+ US Olympian Aaron Blunck praised the Beijing Olympics and China’s COVID protocols and criticized biased media coverage: “Being stateside you heard some pretty bad media and that is completely false. It’s actually been phenomenal. It’s one of the better Olympics we’ve been to.”


+ This tripe from a man who put his name on a World Bank memo arguing that toxic waste should be dumped in Third World nations: “I’ve always thought that under-populated countries in Africa are vastly UNDER-polluted, their air quality is probably vastly inefficiently low compared to LA or Mexico.”

+ According to a new report from the Economic Policy Institute, since the beginning of the pandemic, the number of employed public K–12 teachers fell by 6.8%, school bus drivers by 14.7%, and school custodians by 6%. Raising salaries will be crucial in the effort to replace these workers.

+ This has almost always been the hard reality for most Americans. Even Social Security was based on the actuarial bet that most people, especially men, would be worked to death before they cashed too many checks, certainly long before they received as much as they put in. The “dream” part’s for suckers…(See How Our Days Became Numbered: the Risk and Rise of the Statistical Individual.)

+ At a mandatory meeting in NYC’s largest Amazon warehouse this week, an Amazon “union avoidance” rep (ie, union buster) told workers they could see their wages reduced to the minimum wage and loose existing benefits if they choose to enter into collective bargaining.

“There are no guarantees as to what would happen, right? … We can’t make any promises things will get better or stay the same. They could get worse. We can’t promise what’s going to happen. Amazon can’t promise you that they’re going to walk into negotiations and that the negotiations will start from the same [pay and benefits workers have . They could start from minimum wage for instance.”

+ Just 15 “super landlords” own 15,500 rental properties in Edinburgh, Scotland, 10 percent of the rentals in the entire city.

+ The UK now has its own version of Dollar General…

+ An article in sliver of print that’s left of The Oregonian laments that worker and tourists aren’t returning to downtown Portland, typically putting the blame on the aftereffects of the BLM protests and the city’s homeless population. Yet, most of the interesting and affordable places to visit in downtown Portland were plowed under by greedhead developers (including a popular food cart court leveled for a Ritz/Carlton) who demanded that the streets be so aggressively policed that no one feels comfortable walking them.

+ Corporate profits for S&P 500 companies rose by 22% in the last quarter and by almost 50% over the course of 2021. Maybe it’s not “higher wages” but profits which are driving inflation.

+ Speaking of inflation, here’s Garth Hankinson, the CFO of Constellation Brands (the conglomerate that sells Modelo and Corona beer) talking about the company’s Q4 earnings: “We want to make sure that we’re not leaving any pricing on the table. We want to take as much as we can. We’ll take as much pricing as we think the consumer can absorb.”

+ McDonald’s USA
Employee: $9.00/hr, no benefits —
Big Mac: $5.81

McDonald’s Denmark
Employee: $22/hr, 6 weeks vacation, 1 year paid maternity leave, life insurance, pension
Big Mac: $4.82

+ Apparently there’s a battle taking place inside the Biden White House over who to blame for inflation. Democratic pollsters are urging Biden to target “corporate power“, which they say would be wildly popular with the base. But Biden’s Council on Economic Advisors is reportedly wary of this approach, noting that such pronouncements would antagonize some of their key financial backers. Bill Clinton’s solution to this dilemma was to get new a pollster: Dick Morris, who put the blame on the people who blame corporate power.

+ Obama sounds like Casey Stengel giving advice to fans of the 1962 Mets. Claim you won 40 games and don’t tell ’em you lost 120…Then hit them up to buy season tickets for next season.


+ Michelle Childs seems to be at the top of the leaderboard of  Biden’s list of “non-ideological” candidates to replace Stephen Breyer on the Supreme Court. Childs’ candidacy is being aggressively pushed by Red. Jim Clyburn, the man who “fixed” South Carolina for Biden in the 2020 Democratic primaries, ending the Sanders surge. Childs has a reputation as a “tough on crime”, pro-police jurist, taking an especially punitive to drug cases. In 2009, as a circuit court judge in Columbia, South Carolina, Childs sentenced Willie Ray Goodwin to 12 years in state prison for selling 8 ounces of marijuana. According to Goodwin, “I had more time than people in there who killed somebody.” You can see why she appeals to Biden.

+ After being locked away in Angola prison for 44 years, a Louisiana judge ruled that Vincent Simmons did not get a fair trial when he was convicted of attempted aggravated rape in 1977. Judge ordered new trial. The local District Attorney said he will not retry Simmons.

+ I wrote a piece for CounterPunch + on the police murder of Amir Locke and how no-knock raids are a recipe for killing innocent people in the name of cop safety. You can check it out here

+ It’s been nearly two years since a federal officer shot Donavan LaBella in the face with a “non-lethal” munition during a protest in Portland, inflicting debilitating head injuries. We still don’t know the officer’s name and the Feds are fighting to keep it that way.

+ There are fewer black head coaches in the NFL now than there were 19 years ago when the league instituted a policy (the Rooney Rule, after Art Rooney the owner of the Steelers) designed to encourage the interviewing and  hiring of more black coaches. The latest casualty is Brian Flores, the recently fired head coach of the Miami Dolphins, who filed a discrimination suit last month against the NFL, which charges that there is a systemic pattern of collusion among the owners to evade and subvert the league’s own hiring policies. To defend itself against the damning allegations contained in Flores’ suit, the NFL has hired Obama’s former AG Loretta Lynch, last seen conferring in her jet conferring on the tarmac with Bill Clinton, as her office decided how to handle HRC’s emails. You didn’t really think that Lynch would lend her services to Flores, did you? That’s not how it works. Service in the Obama administration is a ticket to high-paying corporate gigs fighting against the interests of the people who got Obama elected, much as Obama himself did as president.

+ Speaking of football, the Super Bowl is becoming our Davos. Here’s a map depicting private jet flights out of LAX in the five hours after the game ended…

+ The most expensive pair of VIP tickets sold on StubHub went for $147,304, for seats on the 50 yard line at SoFi Stadium. The cheapest pair of tickets — in an upper corner of the giant stadium —sold for $6,395.

+ Eric Adams has released his first budget for New York City and it’s austerity across the board, except for the po-po…..

+ Dogs have been exploited by American politicians since the slaves of George Washington developed the “American foxhound” breed. Cockburn and I liked to think we cost Mitt the 2008 election by starting the Dogs Against Romney movement, after he strapped Seamus the Irish setter to the roof of the family van. But even Romney’s abuse pales next to the disgusting story Biden told this week about his early political days in Delaware.

I got a call one night; the woman said to me – obviously not of the same persuasion as I was politically – called me and said: “There’s a dead dog on my lawn.”

Corn Pop had a point about the man…

+ LBJ had two beagles, creatively named Him and Her. He used to make them howl before meetings in the Oval Office. When they wouldn’t perform on command, LBJ picked them up by their ears to make them squeal. It probably turned more of the electorate against him than the Vietnam War…

+ “Jesus guns babies” is one of the more antinomian campaign themes I’ve ever seen. Is she related to Anton LaVey? (She’s running for governor of Georgia, not previously known as a bastion of the Satanist Party.)

+ One of the aspects of Washington’s life that one must admire was his complete lack of religiosity. Even his own pastor, Rev. William White, was forced to admit: “I do not believe that any degree of recollection will bring to my mind any fact which would prove General Washington to have been a believer in the Christian revelation.”


+ On Valentine’s Day, the Earth’s daily CO2 levels hit 421.59 ppm, the highest ever recorded at Mauna Loa  and an increase of  5.37 ppm from the record 416.22 of a year ago.

+ According to a new study published in Nature, the average carbon footprint of the top 1% of emitters is more than 75-times higher than that in the bottom 50%. The top 10% are generating almost half of all emitted CO2.

+ Banks have invested $1.5 trillion in the coal industry over the last 2 years. 10 of the top 12 lenders to the coal industry are members of the Net Zero Banking Alliance.

+ Two of the top self-professed Green Funds, Black Rock and Vanguard, have each currently have more than $100 billion invested in coal.

+ How big banks keep investing in oil and gas, while pledging that they are “Net Zero“: A big bank might lend to oil & gas with a term of 1-2 years. Lending to Oil & Gas would therefore have low climate risk (& good returns) for the bank, even if big climate risk for the O&G company (and the planet).

+ Twenty-five years ago, I interviewed an activist with the Gwich’in Nation on the North Slope about the prospect of oil drilling in ANWR. He said “All protections are temporary. In the end, the oil companies going to try to take every last drop. Everywhere.”

+ Oil production this month will rise to 8.54 million barrels a day, according to the Energy Information Administration — just 730,000 barrels below the record in November 2019….

+ Despite, it’s repeated claims of transforming into a “low-carbon” enterprise, a study published in PLUS One this week, found that ExxonMobil “generated no clean energy” from 2010 to 2019 and BP, Chevron and Shell haven’t done much better.

+ The average carbon footprint in the top 1% of emitters is more than 75-times higher than that in the bottom 50%. The top 10% are contributing almost half of all emitted CO2.

+ Standard Biden Era Disclaimer: NYT not The Onion…

+ Glowing FrankenFish have escaped from fish farms in Brazil and into streams,  posing an “imminent” threat to local biodiversity. “This is serious. It’s like a shot in the dark.”

+ The Forest Service is poised to green light an oil railway that would quadruple oil production in Utah’s Uinta Basin, send daily oil trains through Colorado to Gulf Coast refineries and “defy” once again Biden’s climate promise…

+ The mega-drought gripping the American Southwest has produced the driest conditions in the region in at least 1,200 years. According to UCLA hydrologist Park Williams, lead author of the study:

“Climate change is changing the baseline conditions toward a drier, gradually drier state in the West and that means the worst case scenario keeps getting worse.  This is right in line with what people were thinking of in the 1900s as a worst-case scenario. But today I think we need to be even preparing for conditions in the future that are far worse than this.”

+ Last Friday was Stumptown’s warmest day (67 degrees) ever between the dates of Nov. 17th and Feb 17th…

+ Currently, 84% of all coral reefs are located in regions where conditions allow them to withstand the impact of marine heatwaves.. However,  new research shows that at 1.5C of global warming, this figure is projected to drop to just 0.2%. And at 2C of global warming, the study predicts that all coral reefs will cease to exist.

+ Since the late 2000s, the decline in particulate pollution from coal burning and gas-powered vehicles has been “largely offset by increases in emissions from wood burning in domestic settings and biomass burning by industry.”

+ NOAA has issued a new report on sea level rise that finds about a foot of additional sea level rise will take place through 2050 (a century’s worth of sea level rise within 30 years), with the number of flood days hitting coastal communities increasing by a factor of TEN.

+ A study published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that corn ethanol is at least 24% more carbon intensive than gasoline. “Corn ethanol is not a climate-friendly fuel,” said Dr. Tyler Lark, assistant scientist at University of Wisconsin-Madison Center for Sustainability and the Global Environment and lead author of the study.

+ Meanwhile, solar is now 88% cheaper than thought a decade ago, a report by the UK government concludes, half the estimated cost of new gas power plants.

+ Research led by Oregon State University’s College of Forestry shows that wildfires are more likely to burn their way into national forests than out of them.

+ Deforestation in the Amazon hit a record high in January, totaling 430 square kilometers (166 square miles) last month, five times more  than in January 2021.

+ Antarctic sea ice has now [red] hit the lowest point ever measured…

+ Romania is home to 60% of Europe’s remaining old growth forests.  But for the past 10 years, Ikea has been buying up tract after tract and  is now the country’s largest landowner. Meanwhile, environmentalists protesting rapacious logging in Romania are being attacked and killed.

+ One in four African lions and leopards show evidence of wounds from trophy hunters, with many of the big cats exhibiting teeth worn down by snares and shotgun pellets embedded in their skulls.

+ An Inspector General report released this week found that former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke violated federal ethics rules when he sent dozens of emails and text messages, held phone calls and met in his office with developers to discuss the design of a large commercial and residential development in his hometown of Whitefish, Montana.

+ You can understand Zinke’s confusion. Since the days of Albert Fall, the role of the Interior Secretary has been to steer oil and mining leases to favored corporations with the expectation of a payoff on the back end. But Zinke is a simple man who still enjoyed dressing up in his Boy Scout uniform & he was probably confused about where to draw the line when it came to cutting deals with Halliburton’s David Lesar about a development involving his family foundation and a brew pub. Zinke probably assumed any negotiation w/ an oil exec were fair game.

+ Nearly half of the bald eagles in the US suffer from lead poisoning.

+ An avian flu outbreak first detected in chickens and turkeys in Indiana has now spread to “flocks” in confined feeding operations in Kentucky and Virginia, at least one of these disgusting facilities is owned by Tyson Foods. More than 300,000 birds are infected and will likely be euthanized. Sooner or later one of these outbreaks will spillover and that will be it, the Big It…

+ The Pentagon is still trying to cover-up the dire health consequences to its own troops in Vietnam from Agent Orange.

+ Q. Name something you had as a teenager that you don’t have now?

A. The top 1314 feet of Mt. St. Helens…


+ Nina Simone: “We never talked about men or clothes. It was always Marx, Lenin, and revolution–real girl’s talk.“

+ Maureen Dowd has written a phonebook worth of stupid lines. But this one must rank with the most preposterous even she’s ever written: “The epic [Ulysses] is often compared to ‘Seinfeld,’ because not all that much happens.”

+ RIP PJ O’Rourke…I ran into O’Rourke in Bloomington in ’79 (when he was still writing for National Lampoon) at the great used bookstore, Caveat Emptor, which led to a hilarious evening of drinks and increasingly obscene disparagements of politicians left and right at Nicks, the local campus pub on Kirkwood. I don’t recall how I got home or even if I did, though I suppose I must’ve ended up somewhere, probably a bench in Dunn Meadow. We were both from the Midwest (ORourke Toledo; me Indianapolis) and had lived in Baltimore. His dad sold cars, mine represented car dealers. Over the years, O’Rourke became more doctrinaire and less funny. He reached a personal nadir at The Weekly Standard, where his once acidic libertarian wit wilted into facile reactionary tirades in the service of Bill Kristol and the neocons. Somewhere along the line O’Rourke became blinded to the fact that the egos of Bill Clinton and Newt Gingrich were both worthy of being pricked with satirical barbs.

+ Still, once he wanted to burn both their houses down, taking an impish glee in ridiculing the bipartisan absurdities of American wealth, power and politics: “No drug, not even alcohol, causes the fundamental ills of society. If we’re looking for the source of our troubles, we shouldn’t test people for drugs, we should test them for stupidity, ignorance, greed and love of power.”

+ It turns out that Joe Rogan’s deal is more in the range of $200 million, nearly twice what had originally been reported. Meanwhile, as Ted Gioia points out in his recent column on why he returned to vinyl, Spotify’s own business description in its annual report doesn’t even mention “music.” Spotify pays artists (or the corporations or hedge funds which own the rights to the music) about $0.005 per stream, which means Joni Mitchell’s “Clouds” would have to be played 2,000 for Mitchell to make $10.

+ As I wrote the above, there came news that the Berlin-based BMG had just acquired all of the rights to John Lee Hooker’s music catalogue.

+ Q. Remember when MTV was about the music?

A. I’m not sure MTV was ever about the “music,” but it was once about the music videos…at least the white ones.

+ Willem Dafoe: “In The Last Temptation of Christ we had a key scene and it was quite emotional. I had a swing at it. We got into a pretty good rhythm and then Martin Scorsese came up to me and said, ‘Ah, kid. That’s not it.'”

+ A scene in Paolo Sorrentino’s intoxicating film, The Hand of God: A father leans from the kitchen table with a stick to mute the TV during a commercial. The son says, “Dad, why don’t we just get a remote, like everyone else?” The father replies, “Don’t be ridiculous, son. We’re Communists.”

Ain’t It Funky?

Booked Up
What I’m reading this week…

The Treeline: the Last Forest and the Future of Life on Earth
Ben Rawlance
(St Martins)

The Deportation Express: A History of America Through Forced Removal
Ethan Blue
(University of California Press)

The Nineties: a Book
Chuck Klosterman
(Penguin/Random House)

Sound Grammar
What I’m listening to this week…

Dancing Shadows
Tyler Mitchell

Cold as Weiss
Delvan Lamarr Organ Trio

Every Note is True
Ethan Iverson
(Blue Note)

There’s No Place to Go

“We have no one to go to for help. Not even a church. Anything goes, now that our President Roosevelt signed the order to get rid of us. How can he do this to his own citizens? No lawyer has the courage to defend us. Caucasian friends stay away for fear of being labeled ‘Jap lovers.’ There’s not a more lonely feeling than to be banished by my own country. There’s no place to go.”

Kiyo Sato, Kiyo’s Story: A Japanese-American Family’s Quest for the American Dream

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