Roaming Charges: Insane in the Ukraine

Armchair Americana. Photo: Jeffrey St. Clair.

Who you trying to get crazy with ése?
Don’t you know I’m loco?
To the one on the flamboyant tip
I’ll just toss that ham in the frying pan
Like Spam, get done when I come and slam
Damn, I feel like the Son of Sam
Don’t make me wreck shit, hectic
Next get the chair got me going like General Electric
“Aaant”, the lights are blinking, I’m thinking
It’s all over when I go out drinking
Oh, making my mind slow
That’s why I don’t fuck with the big 4-O
Bro, I got to maintain

– Cypress Hill, Insane in the Brain

+ Neo-Nazis in Ukraine, neo-Romanovs in Moscow, NATO expansionists in the western capitals, shale oil companies and natural gas conglomerates, if this devolves into a war it’s going to make World War I seem like a battle of clean hands.

+ Can we roll the tape back for a sec? Did Biden say, he’s “convinced Putin will invade” or that he’s “convinced Putin to invade?”

+ Chunk by chunk, Putin reconstructs the old Tsarist empire giving the US the excuse to cite “Russian expansionism” as justification for another massive build-up of the kind of big ticket transcontinental weaponry that had gone out of fashion during the Global War on Terror. It’s a win-win scenario for the two super powers & a blank check for weapons contractors. NATO, however, is exposed as an impotent entity, which should serve as a timely warning to any other nations seeking to join it. Tough luck for those caught in the crossfire, per usual.

+ I’ve never taken claims of Russian penetration of the US government too seriously, but if there’s one figure who seems to have served as an effective Russian agent, though an unwitting one, it would have to be the anti-Russia scold Victoria Nuland, whose bellicose taunting of the Kremlin in both the Obama and Biden administrations seems to have motivated Putin to acquire, or reacquire (depending on your point-of-view), not only Crimea but Donetsk and Luhansk on her own watch. Years from now, when the clue on Jeopardy! is: The American diplomat who lost Ukraine. The answer will be: Who is Victoria Nuland.

+ Translation: On the life-and-death issues (and most of the less consequential ones, too), we don’t give a shit about popular opinion, especially when it runs counter to the desires of the weapons makers and oil companies.

+ Russia’s invasion of Ukraine should spell the end of NATO or at least NATO expansion, since any aspiration to join the organization is more likely to get you invaded. Ukraine made the mistake Libya did when Qaddafi relinquished his nuclear program. He trusted the West and then, without a deterrent, they took him out.

+ It’s worth noting that Ukraine wanted NATO, more than NATO wanted Ukraine–except perhaps as bait. And this desire spelled its doom. Even Lenin didn’t want Ukraine. And he was right not to. The question is, and I don’t think we’ll know for some time, why did Putin bite and will it become a quagmire resembling the Russian experience in Afghanistan?

+ In his bizarre speech this week, Putin, sounding a lot like an Israeli PM, claimed that Ukraine didn’t really exist as a country and that it was largely the invention of Vladimir Lenin. As Slavoj Žižek wrote a few years ago, Lenin didn’t “invent” Ukraine but he did believe that it had the right to exist as a sovereign nation with an unconditional right to secede from the USSR:

The proletariat cannot but fight against the forcible retention of the oppressed nations within the boundaries of a given state, and this is exactly what the struggle for the right of self-determination means. The proletariat must demand the right of political secession for the colonies and for the nations that ‘its own’ nation oppresses. Unless it does this, proletarian internationalism will remain a meaningless phrase; mutual confidence and class solidarity between the workers of the oppressing and oppressed nations will be impossible.

+ Most wars aren’t “rational” and become more irrational the longer they go on (See Afghanistan). And most attempts to “rationalize” them are freighted with the very biases that will serve to perpetuate them. It’s one reason Barbara Tuchman’s The Guns of August will never go out of date. Almost all of the “lessons” learned from the insane bloodbath of World War I were wrong and helped to set the stage for the even more genocidal World War two decades later, was itself a war that produced  not global peace but a world at perpetual war with itself, with antagonistic nuclear powers still fighting over the same scraps of land and oil reserves, insensate to the future of the planet itself.

+ If there’s anything positive to come out of this debacle it would be the cancelation of NordStream 2, a climate disaster that would lock Europe into fossil fuels for the next 30 years. Nord Stream 2 would emit 100 million tons per year (the equivalent of gas-powered 40,000 cars). And that’s not counting the methane emissions. Of course, pipelines rarely die, so the odds are this monstrosity will resurface in one form or another. Or be replaced by fracked gas from the US and Canada, which was of course HRC’s plan all along.

+ Brett Chapman: “I keep reading about territorial integrity and sovereignty. Russia violates Ukraine’s and the West will never recognize it—10, 20, 75 years on. The US violates the Lakota’s territorial integrity and sovereignty and now it’s the US and returning it is a fringe view and unfathomable.”

+ US officials are developing plans to evacuate Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky from Kiev should Russia invade. Will he get the Shah’s Condo or the Baby Doc Suite?

+ This banality is what passes for high-level thinking in the foreign policy establishment these days. Of course, they were probably always this trite but only seemed deeper because we so rarely heard what they actually thought. Now with social media the cat’s out of the bag…

+ If you want to become a Big Time political commentator in the US you have to be able to generate nonsense like this on-demand. (For context, the US bombed Iraq once every 3 days between the end of the Gulf War & the beginning of the Iraq war. Since the alleged end of the Iraq War it has bombed Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen, Niger, tribal areas of Pakistan, Somalia, decapitated the government of Libya and, of course, bombed Iraq 1000s of more times.)

+ The US has 850+ military bases “over there”. There were US troops occupying Afghanistan for 20 years and Iraq for 17. There are US troops in Germany & Japan 77 years after the end of World War II. There were “boots on the ground” in Syria for a major raid just a few weeks ago. Between the Gulf and Iraq Wars (two escalated phases of the same war), the US had time to go to war against Serbia. Yes, the US uses drones. It also uses cruise missiles, MOAB bombs, M1 tanks, Apache and Cobra attack helicopters, B-52 bombers, F-18 and F-16 fighters, M4 and M16 rifles, and the M249 and M60 machine guns. You need to use them all to keep the contractors happy.

+ Speaking of which, a new report by AirWars has found that at least 8,168 civilians have likely been killed by the U.S.-led Coalition during the campaign against ISIS in Syria. The Coalition, however, has only accepted responsibility for 1,417 such deaths.

+ There’s more opposition on the streets of Moscow to the Russian invasion of Ukraine than there was in the US over the regime change operation in Libya or the bombings of Syria or Somalia or the proxy war on Yemen or wars in Afghanistan and Iraq at any time under Obama or Trump, which tells you something about the Russian character. And our own.

+ Putin’s vow to “de-Nazify” Ukraine as part of his “special military operation” is laudable. Don’t expect it to happen. After all he hasn’t done much to de-Nazify Russia and has openly embraced Vladimir Zhirinovsky, going so far as to pin the Order of Alexander Nevsky medal to his chest.


+ I got a call on Thursday night from my pal Kevin Alexander Gray, the writer and civil rights organizer in South Carolina. Kevin said that he’d been put in Facebook jail for posting Norman Solomon’s article from CounterPunch on Bob Dylan, Masters of War and Ukraine. Why? Because Solomon mentions the unmentionable: there are neo-Nazis in eastern Ukraine, a fact the western powers are now trying desperately to suppress. (Newsflash: there are also neo-Nazis in Russia and the US. Neo-Nazis have their uses to almost all governments, especially in heavily policed countries like the US and Russia.)

+ The US has been off-loading a lot of over-priced Pentagon junk like the M-1 Abrams tank onto Poland (for $6 billion), a vehicle that has proved too fat and too heavy for many combat situations. Plus its engine tends to cut out, after developing algae in the fuel tanks. Still it’s long been my view that if you’re going to base your country’s economy on building weapons for war, it’s best to build weapons (especially of the mass death variety) that don’t work.

+ Re: Pentagon contracts & high-tech weaponry, when Washington learned the Continental Army only had 300 barrels of gunpowder–not the 10k he’d been promised–Benjamin Franklin urged him to arm the troops with bows and arrows. “They’ve worked pretty well for centuries,” Franklin wryly noted. If only they the bow-makers had had a PAC!

+ According to Ken Klippenstein writing in The Intercept, Saudis are conspiring with Russia to drive up gas prices, deepening the economic consequence of the crisis in Ukraine. The partnership dates back to 2015 when Mohammed Bin Salman chose to meet with Vladimir Putin after Obama rebuffed a meeting with him. But they still buy our weapons and fight our proxy war in Yemen, so who really cares!

+ Laurence Tribe was once considered a serious candidate for the Supreme Court…(Ukraine is not the 51st or even 55th state. It’s not even a member of NATO.)

+ We keep hearing the Ukraine crisis described as the “worst since WW II.” This is seems far-fetched given the number of dead (4 million) in the Korean War (which US refuses to end), Vietnam (2.5 million), and Iraq (2 million). But I’ve always thought the invasion of Grenada was the worst crisis since WW 2, since it put the world on notice about the absolute insanity of the planet’s most heavily-armed nuclear power, a political psychosis which has only deepened across the subsequent decades.

+ Whatever the real motivations, most post-Vietnam wars have been justified on the grounds of “humanitarian intervention”–that is one of the nuclear powers (usually the US) justifies a war to save civilian lives, even though these wars have invariably proved catastrophic to the very people they pledged to protect. Look no further than Syria, where both the US and Russia claimed to be conducting bombing campaigns to shield civilians from terrorists. In both cases, these “humanitarian missiles” killed far more civilians than the “terrorists” who were supposedly the targets, leaving most of the country in ruins. It’s hard to imagine the Russian “intervention” in Ukraine turning out any different.

+ The US needs to do the one thing it won’t be able to resist doing: not escalate the crisis it helped ignite.

+ The Great Gates of Kiev (ELP by way of Mussorgsky)  is the only “rock” song about Kiev that I know of. (Surgeon General’s Warning: Don’t Treat Your Organ Like This or You May Not be Able to Play With It Again)


+ Two weeks ago Salem (OR) police shot a homeless man with a history of mental illness 5 times for “pulling out of a parking lot without stopping.” There were 18 bullet holes in his car. Meyers died at the scene. His dog was also shot and had to euthanized. The shooting was just ruled “justified.”

+ Zach Kenney, one of the Portland Police officers who fired fatal shots at an individual in SW Portland this weekend wrote an o-ed in 2010 defending police use of lethal force.

+ According to a study in JAMA, Stand Your Ground laws produced an 11% increase in gun homicides over 18 years starting in 1999. There’s likely to be a parallel if not greater increase in non-fatal shootings in Stand Your Ground states.

+ It’s not the “odds” Cuba defied when it began exporting its own Covid vaccine, but a crippling embargo and punitive sanctions. Still standing up to the Big Bully and doing more than most western nations combined to help the poor of the world.

+ This week’s update from the Apartheid State…

+ This Virginia poll suggests that the manufactured hysteria over CRT wasn’t Youngkin’s path to victory. Youngkin won because people are tired of Clinton re-treads. McAuliffe’s campaign consisted almost entirely of the former Clinton moneybags trying to tie Youngkin to Trump. He had nothing else to offer, but assuredly the Democrats will learn all the wrong lessons from his defeat.

Youngkin approval: 41%
Youngkin disapproval: 43%

Teach how racism impacts society:

Support: 63%
Oppose: 33%

Ban on Critical Race Theory:

Oppose: 57%

+ Bob Beckel is dead at 74. He was the former McGovern campaign staffer who became one of FoxNews’ Democratic pundits. Beckel called for the assassination of Julian Assange: “A dead man can’t leak stuff. This guy’s a traitor, he’s treasonous, and he has broken every law of the United States. And I’m not for the death penalty, so…there’s only one way to do it: illegally shoot the son of a bitch.”

+ Over the next decade, the growth of the global “middle class” will occur almost exclusively in Asia

+ So another liberal revenge fantasy bites the dust. Alvin Bragg, the new Manhattan DA doesn’t think there’s a case against Trump, prompting two of the prosecutor’s leading the office’s inquiry into Trump’s sketchy dealings to resign. Of course, if the Manhattan DA really tried to hold Trump accountable for his financial cons, it would set a precedent that wouldn’t be looked on favorably by those in his former Zip Code, where such fraudulent accounting tricks have become standard operating procedure. Where would it stop?

+ The USPS says as much as 90% of the up to 165,000 new mail trucks its purchasing will be gasoline powered, despite “pleas” by the Biden administration to purchase more EVs. “Pleas?” Who the hell’s in charge?

+ Firearms have now overtaken car crashes as the primary cause of premature deaths due to trauma in the US since 2017.

+ According to a study in JAMA, Stand Your Ground laws produced an 11% increase in gun homicides over 18 years starting in 1999. There’s likely to be a parallel if not greater increase in non-fatal shootings in Stand Your Ground states.

+ Home at last…

+ Aby Broyles is running for Congress in Oklahoma as a Democrat. On Valentine’s Day, she was invited to a sleepover with a group of pre-teen girls. In a questionable decision, she accepted. The plan was to spend the evening watching Titanic and eating pizza. Broyles brought along a few bottles of wine to speed things along and immediately began draining the bottles faster than irrigators are depleting the Ogallala Aquifer. (She was also, by her later admission, popping sleeping pills.) Broyles’ tolerance for such a cocktail is apparently quite low. The aspiring politician soon called one girl an “acne fucker,” which prompted the 12-year old to run out of the room in tears. Broyles allegedly called another girl a “Hispanic fucker” and another a “judgy fucker.” After which, Broyles allegedly puked into a laundry basket and onto one girl’s shoes. Sounds like she’ll fit right in on Capitol Hill. (Note to Broyles: Oregon Senator Bob Packwood stocked his office with “box wine.”)

+ Child poverty in the U.S. rose by 41 percent from December 2021 to January 2022, after Manchin joined the GOP to spike the extension of the expanded Child Tax Credit.

+ According to an analysis by of rental properties with two or fewer bedrooms, in the 50 largest U.S. metro areas, median rent rose by 19.3% from December 2020 to December 2021. Meanwhile, homeless camps are being “cleared out” up and down the West Coast.

+ Texas Governor Greg Abbott has directed state agencies to investigate organizations that provide “gender-affirming care” to trans kids for “child abuse.” Freedom!

+ The U.S. now has nearly 500 cities where the average cost of a home has hit $1 million.

+ Remember when Infomercials used to try to sell you Ginzu knives, Potty Putter, Wearable Towels, and a 15-minute seance on Miss Cleo’s Psychic Friends Network…

+ If this is a spoiler, I apologize, but given the speed at which similar books are being ripped off the shelves, I thought it important to remind people that in Gore Vidal’s Burr the slight that prompts the fatal duel on the Heights of Weehawken is Hamilton’s assertion that Burr regularly had incestuous relations with his daughter Theodosia, these maulings occurring at roughly the same time Burr’s other hated rival, Thomas Jefferson (who had manufactured evidence against Burr at his treason trial), was raping his enslaved house servant Sally Hemings. So when the Originalists piously ask about some Constitutional nuance, what was the intent of the Founders? It was probably something designed to indemnify their own felonious predilections.

+ George Washington had a brilliant aide-de-camp during the final three years of the Revolutionary War. No, not Alexander Hamilton. His name was John Laurens. Laurens was that rare thing: a wealthy abolitionist from South Carolina. Even rarer his father had amassed the family fortune through the slave trade, purchasing and selling as many as 10,000 people captured in Africa and shipped in chains to Charleston. Laurens had already developed plans to free his own family’s slaves and eagerly approached Washington with a daring scheme to shift the balance of power in a stagnating war, especially in the south, where British forces had just ransacked and torched Savannah. Laurens proposed emancipating at least 3,000 blacks who would be willing to serve in a South Carolina regiment to confront the marauding troops of Banastre Tarleton, which had terrorized the southern coast from Virginia to Georgia. Members of the Continental Congress warmed to the plan and some even wanted to go further, emancipating all slaves who’d be willing to serve in the American army. After all, at that point the Continental Army was already more integrated than any US army until the Vietnam War, with free blacks accounting for more than six percent of the total force. But Washington, who still owned or controlled as many as 300 slaves, recoiled at the idea of arming emancipated blacks in the South. He rejected Laurens’ plan and quietly contemplated a scheme, typically reactionary, of his own: sell off the slaves of Mt. Vernon and his other properties and loan the proceeds to finance the maintenance of his bedraggled army. In a letter to his plantation overseer (and distant cousin) Lund Washington, the general wrote that if the Americans lost the war

it would be a matter of little consequence to me whether my property is in Negroes or loan certificates, as I shall neither ask for, nor expect, any favor from his Most Gracious Majesty…the only points therefore for me to consider are…whether it would be most to my interest, in case of a fortunate determination of the present contest, to have Negroes and the crops they will make, or the sum they will fetch and the interest of the money.

So the war dragged on another three years, until finally the decisive blow was struck at Yorktown, where the nearly all-black First Rhode Island Regiment made one of the most audacious raids. As for Laurens, who dreamed of abolishing slavery across the Americas, he soon became one of the last casualties of the war, shot in the head during a skirmish with British troops pillaging a rice field along the Combahee River, a couple of weeks after the British fled Charleston.

+ A hundred years ago, the Mississippi Senate voted to send the state’s entire black population to Africa. Under the Patriotic History guidelines, this plan will likely be taught to young students as a humanitarian gesture. Sure, it didn’t go anywhere, but it’s the thought that counts, right?

+ I heard some I read some inane clip from a Jimmy Dore Show about how the new New Left has to give up “ideology” for “economics,” as if economics wasn’t the ultimate ideology and hadn’t been fought over fiercely since Rousseau was stoned (with rocks) after publishing his Treatise on Inequality.

+ Nietzsche: “A very popular error: having the courage of your convictions. The point is to have the courage for an attack on your convictions!”


+ Adam Federman: “BP is the largest private shareholder in Rosneft, Russia’s state-owned energy giant whose CEO, Igor Sechin, is one of Putin’s closest advisers. Sechin and his son Ivan are among the ‘Russian elites’ targeted in the first round of US sanctions. Rosneft, with BP’s support, is pursuing one of the most consequential new oil and gas development projects in the world.”

+ The base of the Greenland ice sheet is melting 100 times faster than previously  thought…

+ Each kilogram of carbon emitted as CO₂ will ultimately result in the melting of more than two metric tons of Antarctic ice, according to a study published this week in Science.

+ Antarctic sea ice extent has now fallen below 2 million km² for the first time since satellite observations began.

+ There’s a new push from some hedge funds to use their shorting of carbon stocks as an offset. It’s a move that has no real basis in accounting..

+ Carbon offsets are the NFTs of the climate crisis.

+ Bill Magness, the former chief of Texas’s power grid, testified this week that Gov. Greg Abbott “instructed” officials to charge the maximum amount for power during the winter storm. Texans still owe $3.4 billion.

+ According to a new report from the International Energy Agency, global methane emissions from energy sector are about 70% greater than amount national governments have officially reported. Coal leaked 43.6 million tonnes of methane in 2021, more than oil or gas. The report also found that coking coal for steel-making alone emits more than all gas pipelines and LNG operations.

+ Meanwhile, China is exceeding its targets for new solar and wind power under the Paris Accords.

+ According to a new study the UN Environment Program, the risk worldwide of highly devastating fires could increase by up to 57 percent by the end of the century, largely driven by climate change. “The heating of the planet is turning landscapes into tinderboxes,” the report concludes.

+ For many years now, women activists from the Tlingit Nation have been leading the opposition to the massive logging schemes on the Tongass National Forest, the largest temperate rainforest in North America:  “When the clear cut started in Hoonah, it happened right in one of our hunting areas,” says Kashudoha Wanda Culp. “We always, you know, would drive around when we had vehicles just for something to do. And I was up on Hoonah mountain, ran into one of my grandmas. Her and her husband were driving around, and she looked at the fresh clear cuts. And she was crying. And she said, “See what they’re doing to us. Do you see what they’re doing to us?” It broke my heart, and I did not realize because we’re so isolated in Hoonah — those days with no, you know, no access to internet technology like today — so I had no idea that others in Southeast were also voicing their objections to the clear cut business happening all around us.”

+ Using a petroleum-based gunk to pave roads for petroleum-fueled vehicles. That’s some “green” infrastructure plan, Joe…

+ Since the rise of humans, wild mammal biomass has declined by around 85%. First through overhunting. Then habitat lost to expanding agricultural land. Now through climate change…

+ “Koalas have gone from no-listing to vulnerable to endangered within a decade. That is a shockingly fast decline,” says Stuart Blanch, a conservation scientist with the World Wildlife Fund-Australia.

+ Since 2015, 1,500 wolves have been killed in British Columbia, under specious logic that they are responsible for declining caribou populations, which actually under assault from the timber, mining and oil companies.

+ The estimated cost of a new UK underground nuclear waste facility has climbed  to £53 billion, more than twice what was projected only four years ago.

+ If every person on Earth consumed as voraciously as an average American, CO2 emissions would increase three-fold.

+ 200 million: the number pounds of pesticides applied to crops grown to feed animals on factory farms in the US every year.

+ Droughts, such as the one crippling Morocco, now occur every two years instead of once a decade as happened until the 1990s.

+ The ​​number of jobs in renewable energy in the U.S has increased by 237 percent over the last five years, compared to a 19 percent rise in oil and gas jobs.

+ “They may as well include parking lots“: Artificial turf is an environmental nightmare, yet it’s being considered as qualifying for “conserved land” under Biden’s 30×30 plan. Sounds familiar. At the behest of a California developer named Donald Brin, Bill Clinton and Bruce Babbitt designated clover-leafs on southern California highways as critical habitat for the California gnatcatcher. My pal Michael Donnelly reminded me that back in the 1970s, Portland started putting artificial turf on slices of areas at intersections. At a triangular one near Lewis and Clark College, students painted “STOP CALIFORNICATION” on one. They were caught in the act and charged with felony public property damage. They snuck back again and erased it. They were acquitted and the turf was removed.

+ Reuters: “Spurred on by soaring demand for seafood, a Spanish company plans to open the first commercial octopus farm next year but as scientists discover more about the enigmatic animals some warn it could be an ethical and environmental disaster.” “Could be?” Go watch My Octopus Teacher again…


At last the Miles Davis bobblehead. Now do Rahsaan…and don’t skimp on any of his horns.

+ Were Hieronymus Bosch’s wild paintings of demonic orgies all the result of  bad weather and moldy bread?

+ Gerald Early: “When they study our civilization two thousand years from now, there will only be three things that Americans will be known for: the Constitution, baseball and jazz music.”

+ From Lenny Kaye’s Lightning Striking: Ten Transformative Moments in Rock’n’Roll: “They will leave a trail of blackouts and addiction, fatal auto accidents, careening through all the clichés of live-fast-die-young, only Mötley is intent on faster, younger. It makes me wonder how they will muster enough work ethic to sell 100 million records, and still be together after nearly forty years, all members still alive (at this writing)…Despite its twisted family tree, there is something comforting about the decibel avalanche at metal’s core, the layers of civilization it scrapes away. To unleash our subhuman roar, the primal animal.”

The Devil on Your Shoulder is Your Only Friend

Booked Up
What I’m reading this week…

Democracy in the Time of Coronavirus
Danielle Allen
(University of Chicago)

The Fragile Skin of the World
Jean-Luc Nancy
Trans. by Cory Stockwell

Lightning Striking: 10 Transformative Moments in Rock and Roll
Lenny Kaye

Sound Grammar
What I’m listening to this week…

Return Concert
Cecil Taylor

Sarah Shook and the Disarmers
(Abeyance Records)

Once, Twice, Melody
Beach House
(Sub Pop)

The Rational World

“When it can be said by any country in the world, my poor are happy, neither ignorance nor distress is to be found among them, my jails are empty of prisoners, my streets of beggars, the aged are not in want, the taxes are not oppressive, the rational world is my friend because I am the friend of happiness. When these things can be said, then may that country boast its constitution and government. Independence is my happiness, the world is my country and my religion is to do good.”

– Thomas Paine, The Rights of Man

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