Roaming Charges: The Trembling Air

Ukrainian orthodox churches, Willamette Valley, Oregon. Photo: Jeffrey St. Clair.

Where to start?
Everything cracks and shakes,
The air trembles with similes,
No one world’s better than another;
The earth moans with metaphors.

– Osip Mandelstam

A couple of decades ago, we moved into a neighborhood in our Willamette Valley mill town populated mainly by Ukrainian exiles, three extended families living in eight houses on our block. Only the children spoke much English and they were delightful. I still cherish images of them skateboarding down the street in their traditional Orthodox dress, all reds and golds, listening to Avril Lavigne and Nelly on their Walkmans. Four of the houses kept chickens, which roamed freely down the block for several years, until newer houses went up with less tolerant and more lawn-obsessed occupants. The grandmothers and great-grandmothers (the prababuskas) went for evening walks, swaddled in thick black wool coats and blue headscarves, every night, rain, sleet, or heat wave, until one fell and broke her hip. Then in a few weeks, she was back out there, being pushed down the street in a wheelchair by her grandson.

Slowly we learned about each other, mostly through Anna, a woman a few years younger than us, who knocked at the door one late summer evening in 2005 and asked very politely in practiced English whether she could buy some of our apples. I told her she could pick as many as she wanted and declined the dollar bills she held out in her hand. The next morning we found a wicker basket on our porch, overflowing with zucchini, tomatoes, green peppers, and beans, harvested from Anna’s magnificent vegetable garden.

I’ve never been quite sure what Anna’s husband, Yevgeny, did for a living. His English was not as proficient as hers and we communicated mainly through nods and gestures. He spent most of his time working on various kinds of small engines in his garage and driveway.

All of the families on our block were from Vysshorod, north of Kyiv. All were Orthodox, although, Anna said, “the children are finding their own way. So many temptations here.” She laughed, “And it’s a long way to church!”

Their church, with its gleaming onion-shaped dome, is located 25 miles south of town on the Howell Prairie. Anna told me there’d been a recent schism among the church elders and there now five churches within a quarter-mile of each other in this small farming community, attracting parishioners from across western Oregon. Each new church featured a larger, more ornate cupola. She called it the “Battle of the Domes.”

I saw Anna’s father yesterday. He’s a stout man in his 80s. For years, I thought he was a rather stern figure. I was wrong. He is a gentle man with a wicked sense of humor, who likes to drive a bronze Cadillac from the 70s that he keeps in immaculate condition. Yuri has a volcanic laugh that erupts from deep within. In 20 years, we’d never talked about politics. I wasn’t going to start now. I waved and simply asked him how his family was. His face was solemn, weary. “We came here to get the children away from this,” he said, shaking his hand in the air. “Still so many back there. What do I do? I don’t know what to do.” I had nothing to offer but consolation.

If I were Ukrainian and living in Kyiv or Odessa, I’d certainly be out on the streets, rolling flaming tires at Russian tanks. But I’m not and I certainly don’t know what’s to be done from here. Or who will do it.

Still the Ukrainian resistance–as courageous as it is–cannot defeat the Russia military. Most of those armchair strategists urging it to intensify the fighting are at no risk themselves. NATO will not intervene. Russia can and will escalate the war, ratchet up the bombing and destruction until there is nothing left for fleeing Ukrainians to come home to. Look at the ruins of Syria, the rubble of Homs and Aleppo. Instead of pushing for more war–even if the cause seems just–the only moral position is to call and continuing calling for a ceasefire and to stop using Ukrainian civilians as pawns in a larger depraved game.

Anna and I have a mutual friend, a real estate agent named Alexei. Alexei K., I call him, so as not to confuse him with Alex C. Alexei helped one of the Ukrainian families find a new house, deeper in the valley, nearer to their church. Alexei is an atheist and a lawyer, though he can’t–or simply refuses–to practice here. He is Russian from Putin’s city of St. Petersburg, nee Petrograd, nee Leningrad. He was a Soviet judge when Putin was in law school. For 20 years, I’ve refrained from asking if they ever met.

Alexei is trying to forget. He is not big on the Memorial movement that swept Russia in the 2000s, lately snuffed out by Putin. He is appalled by the crimes of Stalin, but he doesn’t feel the need to be reminded of them. He feels haunted enough by the poems of Anna Akhmatova and Osip Mandelstam. Mandelstam who died in a camp, his body stacked in a woodpile of other bodies, until the spring thaw, when they were all buried in a mass grave. These are his religious texts.

“Politics for me is dead,” Alexei says. “It is something from the past. Something perhaps that never really was. Something I’m trying to extinguish from my mind.”

Alexei and his family left St. Petersburg, left Russia, two years after Putin came to power. The “new new Russia” was not for him. Neither is the US, really. But, he says, here you know what you’re in for. America shows its corruption on its skin.

He’s witnessing that corruption up close now. Obscene phone calls, death threats, garbage and dog shit tossed on his driveway. “For all they know, I could be Ukrainian,” he quips. “Americans lack the power to differentiate.” The meaning is implicit. Here is a man who fled Putin’s regime being swept up in the manufactured ire and bigotry against it.

“I was sent to Ukraine once, as a lawyer,” Alexei says. “My job was to not investigate Chernobyl. I mean that literally. I showed up. I did nothing. I left. I could have done worse. But I did nothing, which was all I could do. Understand?”

Alexei shares my passion for birds. His office is full of his own paintings and drawings of birds from the Russian steppes. “Mostly, I want to forget,” he says. “But these I want to recall. I draw them from memory.” He’s working on one now as we talk.

“No one knows what they’re fighting for or against,” he says, shrugging his shoulders. Alexei K. is a fatalist. “This can only go one way, my friend: from bad to absurdly bad.” Alexei’s favorite writer is Albert Camus. He’s convinced nothing will turn out as planned.

I left Alexei sketching a Siberian crane, sailing across the Himalayas at 30,000 feet. His words lingered.

A war is being fought on the ground already drenched with the blood of millions in the last century. A place where mass starvation was instituted as government policy. Where people were rounded up and sent to camps according to their race, ethnicity, sexual orientation. Where dissidents were shot en masse.

Now this ground is being defiled again in a war where none of the actors have clean hands, a war where all of the belligerent parties have acted in bad faith, a war where history has turned on itself.

What can you say about a war where the country with the world’s largest nuclear arsenal invades its neighbor, a country a fifth its size that renounced its own nukes and doesn’t have a functional air force, a country its invaders say (echoing Molotov’s chill description of Poland as Soviet tanks rolled across the border after the signing of the “non-aggression” pact with Nazi Germany) doesn’t exist? What can one say about a war where this very same country has been dangled by other nuclear powers as a kind of geo-political bait in a long-running game of high-stakes nuclear roulette? A war where the air trembles from oxygen-sucking weapons and the ground is wet with blood from maternity wards and nurseries. A war over the control, distribution and retailing of a product which will cook the planet as surely as a nuclear exchange on-time release. A war that everyone saw coming and no one tried to stop.

What are we left with beyond the rhetoric of war, beyond the historicizing and the ideological finger-pointing, which only leads us into the same paralyzing intellectual cul-de-sac? What position can we take, except to side, as Camus advised, with the living against the killers and those who profit from death.

+++

+ The Amazon has reached its final tipping point, the Arctic & Antarctic are warming faster than ever, Greenland is melting from below & 2 nuclear powers are fighting an oil war, driving up global prices and spurring a mad rush to extract all that remains. This planet is fucked.

+ I agree 100%! But Madame Prosecutor might want to consider the implications of this statement…

Civilians killed in Vietnam: 2.5 million
Civilians killed in Iraq, including sanctions: 1+ million
Civilians killed in Afghanistan during Biden/Harris’s first year in office: 5,183

+ Demanding a ‘No Fly Zone’ in Ukraine New York artists launched 100s of paper airplanes across the Guggenheim Museum this week. When did art become this stupid? Did the rot set in with Jeff Koons or Warhol? Compared to this, NFTs begin to make sense. At least they’re unlikely to provoke a nuclear holocaust. (By the way, this deluded stunt cribs and  perverts an action by the Zapatistas.)

+ Most people, particularly those advocating one, have absolutely no idea what a “no-fly zone” is. So here’s a refresher: It was Bernie Sanders’ No-Fly Zone resolution on Libya that gave the green light to NATO’s air raids, the collapse of the government, the murder of Qaddafi and the reinstitution of the slave trade in Libya. But at least Libya didn’t have nuclear weapons.

+ No Fly Zones are enforced by ballistic (or nuclear) things that fly…

+ The mad “no fly zone” stunt at the Guggenheim–effectively a call for a nuclear exchange with Russia–is even more perverse than it sounds, given the fact that it profanes a building designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, whose anti-war activities earned him a 1000+ page FBI file and prevented him from getting a single federal commission. (See my old essay on FLW and the FBI).

+ Chomsky: “Putin has succeeded in establishing the Atlanticist [NATO-based] system even more solidly than before. The gift [to Washington] is so welcome that some sober and well-informed analysts have speculated that it was Washington’s goal all along.”

+ Wake me when the sanctions on Russia are harsher than the sanctions on Cuba or Venezuela. The only invasion Cuba’s launched has been with doctors to fight the global pandemic, a true humanitarian intervention which earned them a scolding from the US Sec of State…

+ A gallon of gas $4.17
A gallon of insulin $122,850

+ Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the US Ambassador to the UN, condemned Russia’s use of cluster munitions, proclaiming that these indiscriminate weapons have “no place on the battlefield.” Within a few hours, the US Mission deleted her comment from the transcript because the Pentagon refuses to endorse a ban. (The Saudis have been using US-made cluster bombs in Yemen.)

+ I much prefer incompetent press secretaries, who stammer, sweat and twitch when they lie, rather than ones who seductively manufacture public consent for mass slaughter without even blinking an eyelash…

+ Mike Davis: “What I find most remarkable about these strange days ­– as thermobaric bombs melt shopping malls and fires rage in nuclear reactors – is the inability of our supermen to validate their power in any plausible narrative of the near future.”

+ They’re playing with (unquenchable) fire around Chernobyl, where the power needed to cool the pools holding 20,000 radioactive spent fuel rods went out this week…

+ Let’s resist rooting for nightmare scenarios like envisioning a war in Europe that lasts more than a decade, results in more than 2 million deaths, involves biological & chemical weapons whose after-effects are still being felt, spread to two other nations & left the loser feeling it just didn’t drop enough bombs and itching to prove it on someone else…

+ Then again perhaps San Marino will become Putin’s Grenada…

+ Lindsey Graham seems intent on making even an apex war-monger like Tony Blinken look like Gandhi.

+ Rep. Madison Cawthorn, the Annapolis reject who was recently busted for driving without a license): “Remember that Zelenskyy is a thug. Remember that the Ukrainian government is incredibly corrupt and is incredibly evil and has been pushing woke ideologies.” Zelensky is a “woke” neo-Nazi?

+ In point of fact, Zelensky is Jewish. His three great-grandfathers were killed by the Einsatzgruppen during the Nazi occupation of Ukraine and his grandfather Seymon fought in the Red Army (perhaps that explains the “woke” part.)

+ Ukrainian neo-Nazis are the “aluminum tubes” of Putin’s invasion. There may well be some, but that’s not what this war is about.

+ Putin seems to be exporting some of Russia’s new-Nazis to the Pacific Northwest

+ I thought Lavrov was shrewder than this. He should be familiar enough with the template: First manufacture the “bio lab” evidence, leak it to a favored reporter at the NYT, send your most media-friendly figure to perform a dramatic show and tell with props at the UN and then bribe as many nations as possible to back your invasion.

+ Instead of the “bio labs” ruse–which seems to be a crudely transparent (and perhaps deserved) trolling of the US–the Russians might be better served to locate and identify some Blackwater mercenaries in Ukraine, which would a) be believable and b) find a receptive audience among a large portion of the world’s population.

+ We’ve now surpassed the Freedom Fries level of absurdity for Russophobia: the Cardiff Philharmonic has scrubbed its planned performances of Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture.

+ In the escalating tit-for-tat exchange of bans and sanctions, Putin responds to Biden’s ban on the import of Russian oil and gas by banning the export of all raw materials from Russia until Dec. 31, 2022…”No More Wars for…What’s that again?…Oh yeah…Palladium!”

+ The last time wheat prices spiked to the current levels was back in 2007 and 2008, sparking protests across nearly 40 countries. Then a jump in grain prices in 2009-10 helped fuel the Arab Spring uprisings…

+ Buy-Buy Birdie…

+ Where does all the crypto go after the first electromagnetic pulse event?

+ Writing in Defense One, James Jeffrey (the former U.S. ambassador to Turkey, Iraq, and Albania; and former Special Envoy to the Global Coalition To Defeat ISIS, and Syria chief of mission) is calling for putting US troops on the ground in Ukraine. Why? Because it worked so well in the ruins of Syria! Remember the blowback for putting US troops in Saudi Arabia? Now multiply by 6,250 (the number of nuclear warheads in Russia’s stockpile)…

+ Ilhan Omar is one of the very few Democrats condemning sanctions on Russia’s energy sector: “That’s not only going to have a devastating impact on the people of Russia, but on Europe as well. When we’re having these conversations, they can’t be about just the immediate, gratifying response that we want to come up with.”

+ The mayor of Odessa, Gennady Trukhanov, largely known as a pro-Russian politician, has spoken out forcefully against the invasion, saying: “I don’t know what kind of bastard you have to be to press the button to drop bombs on Odessa.”

+ Time to cue up the Odessa Steps sequence from Eisenstein’s masterpiece, Battleship Potemkin, depicting the Tsarist cavalry and Cossack mercenaries slaughtering civilians?

+ The combined budgets of the LA police and sheriff’s departments are larger than the entire Ukrainian military, which gives you an idea how much firepower American police have.

+ 13 million gallons: the amount of Agent Orange dropped on Vietnam.

+ According to the FT, there’s at least some sensible news coming out of Sweden: Magdalena Andersson, Sweden’s center-left prime minister, has ruled out applying for membership of NATO, saying it would “destabilize the security of northern Europe.”

+ At the precise moment when Biden’s shown an interest in cutting a nuclear deal with Iran in order to get their oil back on the world market, the CIA intervenes with this little bomblet:” The U.S. intelligence community has assessed that #Iran will threaten Americans — both directly and via proxy attacks — and that Tehran remains committed to developing networks inside the U.S.”

+ George Washington railed incessantly against the war profiteers & speculators during the Revolution, calling them “plundering scoundrels,” while today’s members of congress make millions trading in weapons and oil stocks, as their states and districts get gouged at the pump.

+ The cost of transportation in the US functions as a regressive tax on the working poor, who are forced to choose between paying extortionate prices for gas or trying to use the most inefficient and dysfunctional public transit system in the post-industrial world (and it was built to be so).

+ How’s that decision to embark on a 5400-mile there-and-back cross-country Freedom Convoy in your 6.7 mile per gallon semi truck feeling today?

+ The price of diesel in the Columbia River town of Bingen, Washington hit $5.49 per gallon yesterday. The average semi-trailer truck gets 6.5 miles per gallon. It’s about 2800 miles from Tacoma to DC or 423 gallons. Cost: $2323 one way, $4446 round-trip (assuming price doesn’t rise, which it likely will). Send receipts to the Koch Bros?

+ Thinking their veins course with divine blood is looking like the least ludicrous thing any of the Windsors believe…

+++

+ Biden should be applauded for finally yanking the US out of Afghanistan. He should be impeached and investigated for crimes against humanity for the vicious sanctions he’s imposed since the withdrawal, which have left nearly half the country on the brink of starvation: “People are dying by suicide across Afghanistan because of starvation, as the US has frozen the Afghan Central Bank’s assets and the IMF suspended access to funds after the Taliban takeover.”

+ According to a piece in the NYT, describing how military veterans in the US are preparing to flock to Ukraine to confront the Russian bear, the Afghans brought this cruel condition on themselves by rejecting the US’s 20-year effort to bring them the blessings of democracy:

+ In his razor-sharp little book Studies in Classic American Literature, DH Lawrence concluded: “All the other stuff, the love, the democracy, the floundering into lust, is a sort of by-play. The essential American soul is hard, isolate, stoic, and a killer. It has never yet melted.” It’s harder and harder to argue the point. Take Arizona, where the senate just passed a bill allowing the use of deadly force for property damage.

+ 10,594: the number of Palestinians in the West Bank banned from traveling abroad last year.

+ Over to you, Bari Weiss….

 

+ Nathan Bedford Forrest II, describing in 1921 a new college in Atlanta owned by the Ku Klux Klan: “Most of our large universities are turning out socialists, cynics, and atheists”! So we’re starting a new college “to teach pure Americanism”! They’ve been playing the same tune for 100 years and still get acres of space on the pages of the NYT (See this week’s oped by Emma Camp)…

+ Radley Balko: “Sorta surreal that Twitter exploded over a college student’s complaint (in the NYT!) that hostile reactions to views like hers cause discomfort and “self-censorship” at the same time that lawmakers are literally trying to fine/jail teachers and librarians for unapproved speech.”

+ Newly unsealed documents from the raft of lawsuit over talcum “baby” powder reveal that Johnson & Johnson helped fund a study 50 years ago that involved injecting asbestos into prison inmates, most of them black men…

+ Our for-profit health care system at work: spending more to reduce life expectancy…

Source: One World in Data.

+ In the US, some lives matter more than others and many lives don’t matter at all to the people who run the show…

+ The Don’t Say Gay political block says “gay” more often than any teacher they’re trying to gag. If there was ever an outright ban on the word, they’d be the first ones to violate it. They can’t help saying “gay” and “trans.” They’re obsessed with the words. The thoughts and images won’t leave their minds. They should just come out of the closet or transition and lead happier lives…

+ In a perverse new variation on the Mann Act, Missouri legislators are pushing legislation that would criminalize getting abortions out of state. I have a feeling that they’re just getting started with this kind of shit.

+ This is a stunningly ignorant statement by a man who has always pretended to know much more than he actually does. Comey needs to read more American history, especially about the post-Reconstruction Era, which, of course, hasn’t ended yet.

+ After NY lifted its mask mandates, infections from the Omicron sub-variant are now doubling  Who could have predicted this?

+ ICE has been secretly collecting data on tens of thousands of money transfers sent to and from the US under the pretext of investigating “money laundering.” In fact, it seems clear that they are tracking remittances to family members of immigrants.

+ By 1800, the English East India Company dominated one-fifth of the world and commanded a larger private military force than England’s.

+ After the Revolutionary War, Washington, one of the most avaricious land speculators in American history, became the head of the Potomac Company–a development scheme to build canals and locks in the Potomac watershed–where he had vast holdings, to facilitate the movement of crops from plantations in Virginia and Maryland. Originally, the canals were to be constructed by “free labor,” mainly low-paid Irish workers. But this soon proved unprofitable and Washington’s company began using slave labor. Because the backbreaking work was so close to Pennsylvania, Washington ordered the slaves heads’ shaved to make the runaways easier to track down.

+ The labor of each slave earned a payment of $8 per week…for their owners.

+ Our Founding Sackler: The slaves at Mt. Vernon grew poppies, harvested the opium and distilled it with alcohol to make laudanum tinctures. Some was used by Washington himself to numb the pain of his rotted teeth and decaying jawbone. The rest was sold, proving much more profitable than the tobacco that had destroyed the productivity of the soil on the plantation, and giving rise to a century of laudanum addicts, many of them women.

+ Looks like Lauren’s been eating her own food again…

+ Who will break the news to the Mein Pillow guy? since the fall of 2020, Mark Meadows’s voter registration lists his residence as a mobile home in Scaly Mountain, North Carolina. Meadows doesn’t own the mobile home and has apparently never once slept there.

+++

+ The Arctic has never been warmer in February. In February 2022, the Arctic was +4.09°C warmer than the average February of 1951-1980…

+ In fiscal year 2021, 98 percent of drilling permit applications were approved. So far this year, 96 percent of permit applications have been approved. During fiscal year 2020, the last year of the Trump administration, the approval rate was 94 percent. In terms of raw numbers, more drilling permits were approved during Biden’s first year in office than in any of Trump’s first three years. And it’s done Biden no good politically, because the GOP is still accusing him of “locking up” federal lands and Manchin is extorting him to expanding leasing and drilling even further. So why do it? Because Biden believes in it. (The enviros will forgive him anything, naturally.)

+ None of this appeases Joe Manchin, naturally, who is now threatening to kill the nomination of Interior Department nominee Laura Daniel-Davis in order to extort more assurances the Biden administration plans to even further expand federal oil/gas leasing.

+ Manchin: “I’ve got a Mountain Valley Pipeline coming out the Marcellus Shale. 99.5 percent done. 20 miles left… If I can get the federal government to help us accelerate…I am looking for some way to use the Defense Production Act to help us meet the needs of the world.”

+ It’s one thing to have to deal with Manchin’s incessant whining and obstructionism. It’s another entirely to have handed him the keys to energy supply as chair of Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

+ ConocoPhillips CEO Ryan Lance: “There’s going to be plenty of cash…As an industry, we can’t lose sight of the returns.”

+ Boris Johnson’s new oil drilling + nukes plan: “Net zero but with more hydrocarbons!” You can’t make this shit up…

+ More than 75% of the untouched forest in the Amazon has lost stability since the early 2000s, tipping the whole ecosystem toward a kind of functional collapse.

+ One of the stranger episodes in Masha Gessen’s biography of Putin (The Man Without a Face) tells of his photo ops in the Siberian outback. He discreetly kept his shirt on for dignified photos of him attaching a radio collars to endangered species. In one instance, the advance team realized that the site had been recently clearcut (industrial logging being a primary threat to the survival of brown bears & Siberian tigers) and ordered tree trunks bolted to the stumps, giving new meaning to “restoration forestry.” It was later revealed that the tiger Putin was photographed with had been brought from a zoo & sedated for the photo op, then returned to captivity. Still one must admit that Putin actually seemed to care about protecting these animals and he comes off as a more humane figure than the Gov of Montana, Bungalow Greg Gianforte, who has now killed for sport a radio-collared wolf & a treed, radio-collared mountain lion on the boundary of Yellowstone.

+ The unresolved question in both of these incidents is whether the Shotgun Gov. was provided tracking locations for the wolf and cougar, from collars that were meant to provide scientific information to biologist in Yellowstone Park.

+ It turns out that most plastic “advanced recycling” plants in the United States don’t really recycle plastic. Instead they convert it into a dirty fuel, while producing toxic waste they dump in low-income communities.

+ Over 170 million U.S.-born people who were adults in 2015 were exposed to harmful levels of lead as children, a new study estimates. (Most of them are running the world now, apparently.) This is not a “historical problem.” Flint still doesn’t have safe drinking water and some communities in Portland, Oregon have even higher lead levels than Flint.

+ This begs the old question raised by Edward Abbey, who used to toss his beer cans out of his truck along the roadside, much to the consternation of his nature-loving readers. Why, Ed, why? they’d plead. Because, Abbey said, there’s no way to beautify a road. Roads are ugly intrusions and should look like it. So perhaps it’s better to just throw our plastic bottles and packages out in the yard until the midden piles inspire universal revulsion, instead of having it “vanish” into the recycling bin only to resurface microscopically in the bloodstream of some living creature, like a whooping crane or your grandkid.

+ IEA this week: Energy-related CO2 emissions grew to 36.3 Gt in 2021, a record high. The report confirms what most of us have suspected: When the price of gas goes up, it gets replaced by coal not renewables, even if they’re cheaper.

+ Melting permafrost is poised to release massive quantities of greenhouse gases, microbes, and chemicals, including banned pesticides like DDT.

+Through the alchemy of lobbyists, biomass (the burning of trees for fuel) has once again been magically transformed into a “carbon neutral” energy source.

+ What’s the most toxic substance the average person is likely to inhale? Woodsmoke.

+ The latest from the Trump (I mean Biden) EPA: Toxic Pesticides Are Good for Your Bees...

+ The karma of flooding in New South Wales…

+++

+ “Une minorité à la ligne révolutionnaire correcte n’est pas une minorité.” – Jean-Luc Godard. (45 years after first watching La Chinoise, I continue to console myself with the truth of this sentiment, even though it’s almost certainly false.)

+ Here’s a clip from a fascinating 1969 Der Spiegel interview with Theodor Adorno, after he stopped giving lectures in Berlin in response to protesting students who scolded him for not practicing the revolutionary theory he preached in his books…

Adorno: I think that one often conceives the connection between theory and praxis too reductively. If one has taught and published for twenty years with the intensity that I have, it does en­ter into general consciousness.

Der Spiegel: And thus also into praxis?

Adorno: Possibly, but not necessarily so. In our writings, the value of so-called individual actions is delimited by an emphasis on societal totality.

Der Spiegel: But how would one go about changing societal totality without individual action?

Adorno: This is asking too much of me. In response to the question “What is to be done?” I usually can only answer “I do not know.”

+ Bob Dylan turned 80, released one of his best records in years, is back out on the road, and set to open his own cultural center in Tulsa. Meanwhile, he’s written a new book, which in a classic bit of misdirection isn’t the long-awaited volume two of Chronicles, but The Philosophy of Modern Song. If the book lives up to its cover, it’s going to be a lot of fun to read…

+ Jason Moran on the cornet player Ron Miles, who died this week at 58 from a rare blood disorder: “If you played a Ron Miles song right, in the best of moods you’d be crying. Because the songs were full. I equate it to the way John Coltrane made ‘Lonnie’s Lament.’ He knew how to find the joy in a melody, and he knew where the heart was in it. Even just in the moment of playing them, it would just rush over you. A lot of music we play doesn’t have that, it just doesn’t.”

+ I’ll sign off with this, which is the one thing which made me laugh during this unforgiving week…

Let the Gypsies Take the Wheel And Drive…

Booked Up
What I’m reading this week…

Oceans of Grain: How American Wheat Remade the World
Scott Reynolds Nelson
(Basic Books)

Billy Wilder: Dancing on the Edge
Joseph McBride
(Columbia University Press)

A Most Remarkable Creature: the Hidden Life of the World’s Smartest Birds of Prey
Jonathan Meiburg
(Penguin/Random House)

Sound Grammar
What I’m listening to this week…

Ghost Song
Cecile McLoran Salvant
(Nonesuch)

In Too Deep
Sugaray Rayford
(Forty Below)

External Combustion
Mike Campbell and the Dirty Knobs
(BMG)

In This Alone

“Neither fate, nor history, nor the anger of the State, nor the glory or infamy of battle has any power to affect those who call themselves human beings. No, whatever life holds in store – hard-won glory, poverty and despair, or death in a labor camp –they will live as human beings and die as human beings, the same as those who have already perished; and in this alone lies man’s eternal and bitter victory over all the grandiose and inhuman forces that ever have been or will be.”

– Vasily Grossman, Life and Fate

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