Roaming Charges: An Unconquerable Thing

Still from Stanley Kubrick’s Paths of Glory.

“And from this consciousness that they had attempted to conquer an unconquerable thing there seemed to arise a feeling that they had been betrayed.”

– Stephen Crane, The Red Badge of Courage

+ Ooops, he did it again! If there’s one politician who should never be allowed by his handlers to ad-lib, it’s Biden. If, like Reagan, he has dementia, it was a very early onset case, like starting back in the 70s. Of course, Reagan’s brain rot was used as an excuse by his defenders to argue that he really didn’t understand Iran/contra. I don’t buy that, since the scheme was totally consistent with his long-held views. Same thing with Biden. His outburst was more of a parapraxis than a sign of senility. Of course, he wants Putin removed. It’s been the unspoken US policy for 20 years. The demented part was saying the truth out loud. Biden’s regime change outburst makes Putin’s ranting about JK Rowling seem rational–though neither should have their fingers anywhere near a nuclear button.

+ With Biden’s clearly demented remarks about regime change in Russia, I assume his cabinet will soon be holding an emergency meeting tonight to invoke the 25th amendment?

+ If you can’t blame the blacks, blame the Irish!

+ A year of fighting on the eastern front in 1915 generated six million refugees in Ukraine and the Balkans. On his way to assume command from the Grand Duke Nicholas Nikolaevich, the Tsar rode in his Rolls Royce past one stream of refugees that stretched 20 miles long. There’ve been nearly twice that many people displaced in Ukraine alone in the last 30 days.

+ Over to you, Leslie Stahl…

+ But wait. Despite Biden’s sanctions, Russian oil continues to flow out for export largely unabated. So the price spikes were just blatant profiteering? Instead of releasing oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, which will do almost nothing to increase supplies, Biden should cap oil prices. Even those truckers would cheer him.

+ Meanwhile, Barclay’s reported this week that Biden’s tweaks of the regulatory process for oil and gas leasing on public lands has done nothing to “hamper” the output, which is flowing more robustly than under Trump.

+ So US oil companies are poised to make tens of billions more in profits from wartime pricing of oil and gas. There used to be a name for this kind of predatory behavior…

+ Apparently, Russia’s generals and intelligence chiefs have been less than forthright in telling Vladimir Putin just how badly the war is going in Ukraine or so sayeth the intelligence agencies that buried the Pentagon Papers, kept Reagan “out of the loop” on Iran/contra, and swallowed Curveball’s fabulations on Iraq…

+ If the Kremlin wants to “save face”, let it. If Russia wants “peace with honor,” so what? If Putin wants to declare he taught Kyiv a lesson and leave. Great. Don’t rub salt in open wounds. End the war before thousands more die or have their homes and places of work destroyed.

+ According to interviews by Reuters with workers at Chernobyl, a convoy of Russian soldiers entered the “Red Forest” restricted zone without anti-radiation gear and inhaled toxic dust that will most likely cause internal radiation in their bodies. They workers said that in the weeks after Russia took the site on February 24, soldiers were still not wearing any protective gear.

+ German Finance Minister Lindner apparently told Ukraine’s ambassador ⁦Melnyk Andrij⁩ on the day of the invasion there was no point in sending Kyiv weapons because “you’ve only got a few hours left” before Moscow installs a puppet government.

+ Meals from Heels…

+ Did she spring for icing on the cupcakes?

+ Biden’s Space Force is requesting $24.5 billion in the 2023 budget, roughly 40 percent more than in last year’s request. Officials said the jump reflects the urgency to launch and defend satellites that can “spot a hypersonic missile & track a moving truck.”

+ I have no idea whether Russia & China have hypersonic missiles or whether they “work.” But even if they don’t, the Pentagon would say they did. Nothing drives the arms procurement budget like a new “missile gap,” real, perceived or invented…

+ Biden’s Nuclear Weapons Budget Request: FY23 topline for nuclear weapons is $50.9 billion after adding in NNSA weapons activities ($16.5B), a $7.7 billion jump from last year’s request with nuke spending not expected to peak until the end of this decade, it will only keep growing unless we step back from the arms race. In addition, he’s asking for $25 billion in new anti-nuclear missile defense systems spending for a total nuclear weapons program budget of $76 billion, the most ever.

+ When looking at the spine-tingling details of Biden’s nuclear weapons budget in the context of the escalating war in Ukraine and Russia’s announcement that it reserved the right to use nuclear weapons, I flashed back to an article Fred Kaplan wrote for The Atlantic back in 2001 about Biden’s hero, John F. Kennedy. Kaplan, who wrote the definitive (at the time anyway) book on US nuclear war planners (The Wizards of Armageddon), revealed that in 1961 JFK’s White House drew up plans for a nuclear first strike against the Soviet Union, an option that JFK seriously considered putting into action–a preemptive strike against global warming.

+ Only a blank check will suffice…

+++

+ On the day Putin’s tanks rolled across the border into Ukraine, I began reading about World War One, thinking it might serve as a guide to how what seems to be a simple and distant war can suddenly open into a black hole that sucks everything and everyone into it. Among the texts I’ve been picking my way through, some for the second or third time, are: Tuchman’s The Guns of August, Clark’s Suicide of the Empires, Ellis’ Eye Deep in Hell, Vellacott’s Bertrand Russell and the Pacifists, Toland’s No Man’s Land, Hochschild’s To End All Wars, Graves’ Goodbye All That, Vera Brittain’s A Testament of Youth and Whalen’s Bitter Wounds: German Victims of the Great War.

+ Perhaps nothing illustrates the absurdity of most European Wars more than the fact that on the day Britain declared war on Germany in 1914, Kaiser Wilhelm was a Field Marshall of the British Army and Admiral of the Fleet of the British Navy.

+  Gen. Edmund Allenby, T.E. Lawrence’s brutish commander in Arabia and Palestine, was fanatical about appearances and once berated a soldier in a muddy trench near Ypres for being sloppily dressed. His anger swelled at the impertinent man’s lack of a reply, until he was informed that he was yelling at a corpse.

+ Before the battle of the Somme, which the British believed would be won by a massive bombardment, so powerful its blasts could be heard on Hampstead Heath in London, followed by infantry charges, a certain Major Ronald “Bloody” Campbell visited each British battalion to instruct them on the proper usage of the bayonet against surrendering soldiers: “When a German holds up his hands and says, ‘Kamerad, I have a wife and seven children,’ what do you do? Why, you stick him in the gut and tell him he won’t have any more!”

On the first day of the battle of the Somme, the British troops lost 57,000 men. Few of them even got close to a German soldier. Most were cut down after taking only a few steps out of their trenches. Those who made it a hundred yards or so into No Man’s Land, encountered the most cost-effective defensive weapon of this mechanized war: barb wire. These barriers proved particularly deadly for the Scottish regiments, who were forced to wear kilts to battle, which inevitably got entangled in the fencing, making them easy targets for German machine guns.

+ The first day of the Somme was the bloodiest single day in the history of the British military. For this reason, the British commander, Douglas Haig, considered it a victory, even though they’d barely gained a few feet of ground. The insane Haig believed that high casualties among his own troops were the surest sign of an operation’s success and that lower-than-expected casualties were an indication of cowardice among the ranks.

+ When Europe goes to war against itself:

“Kill the Germans! Kill them! Not for the sake of killing, but to save the world! Kill the good as well as the bad. Kill the young men as well as the old. Kill those who have shown kindness to our wounded, as well as those fiends who crucified the Canadian sergeant [a recently rumored atrocity in the trenches of Flanders]. I look upon it as a war for purity. I look upon everybody who dies in it as a martyr.” – from a sermon by Arthur Winnington-Ingram, Bishop of London, 1915.

+ Bin Laden’s fatwahs never sounded this blood-thirsty.

+ Along with Sylvia Pankhurst (the lone Pankhurst to oppose the war) and her sometime lover Keir Hardie, Bertrand Russell was the most prominent opponent of the UK’s entry into WWI writing: “The anticipation of carnage was delightful to something like 90% of the population. As a lover of truth, the national propaganda of all the belligerent nations sickened me. As a lover of civilization, the return to barbarism appalled me. As a man of thwarted parental feeling, the massacre of the young wrung my heart. This war is trivial, for all its vastness. No great principle is at stake, no great human purpose is involved on either side. The English and French say they are fighting in defense of democracy, but don’t want their words to be heard in Petrograd or Calcutta.” For his antiwar activism, Russell lost his lectureship at Cambridge, was stripped of his passport and jailed.

+ Despite the espionage capers of Erskine Childers, John Buchan, Joseph Conrad and Alfred Hitchcock, there was not one documented case of German terrorism or sabotage in Great Britain during the entirety of World War One. So the huge intelligence and secret police apparatus that evolved out of and then cultivated the paranoid fever of the war turned its attention domestically, to spy on, harass, infiltrate and detain the domestic “threat”: trade unions, socialists, suffragettes, conscientious objectors and, of course, Quakers. As is the nature of the espionage industry, the fewer spies and subversives they found, the bigger it grew. They had to be out there! Just give us more money and the new tools to find them! Thus was the Intelligence Industrial Complex born. It’s never stopped growing.

+ In 1914, no one was more gung-ho for war than the poet of empire Rudyard Kipling, who referred to peace activists, like Keir Hardie & Bertrand Russell, as “human rubbish.” He wanted them jailed, tried and hanged for treason. Two years later, however, Kipling’s own son, John, was killed in a doomed charge at Loos, leading him to write in Epitaphs of War…

If any question why we died
Tell them, because our fathers lied.

Kipling was rightly shattered by John’s senseless death. He never apologized to Russell, though.

+ George Buchanan, the British Ambassador to Russia, wrote this in his notebook after traveling with Nicholas II to the eastern front in the Tsar’s Rolls Royce, where he took command of an army which had lost 1.4 million men in the previous six months: “The Tsar was afflicted with the misfortune of being weak on every point except his own autocracy.”

+ Robert Graves: “We no longer saw the war as one between trade-rivals: its continuance seemed merely a sacrifice of the idealistic younger generation to the stupidity and self-protective alarm of the elder.”

+++

+ As Jane Mayer reported in the New Yorker, before she met Clarence, Ginni Thomas was a member of the Lifespring cult, which forced its adherents to strip themselves naked in a group setting and ridicule each others bodies.

+ The bar was about as low as it could possibly be for Biden and Harris: slow the pandemic, get people back to work or at least keep them in their houses and apartments, fulfill a couple of campaign promises, don’t blunder into a new war. But…a new Harvard/Harris Poll has Trump up over Biden by a 47 to 41 margin.

+ In a first report of its kind, UN Special Rapporteur Prof. Michael Lynk concludes that Israel is committing the crime of apartheid, and urges the int’l community to adopt robust accountability measures.

+ Michael Herr, quoting an American grunt in Vietnam on his understanding of the Domino Theory: “All that’s just a load, man. We’re here to kill gooks. Period.”

+ A study in the NBER Working Paper Series this week finds that MBAs excel at one thing: Reducing wages. Daron Acemoglu, Alex He and Daniel le Maire find that managers educated at business schools are responsible for 20% of the decline of the U.S. labor share from 1980 to 2020.

+ U.S. corporate profits rose by more than 25% in 2021 to record high as Wall Street cashed in on year two of the pandemic.

+ Shithole Country Update“Uninsured patients who want or need a #covid_19 test and get it at one of Northwell’s GoHealth Urgent Care clinic sites will now be charged between $120 and $195 for a PCR test, in addition to external lab fees accrued for the test’s processing.”

+ Commentary exists in order to…(fill-in-the-blank)

+ Joe Manchin told CNN on Thursday that the Biden administration should drop plans to scrap Trump-era Title 42 border policy, that restricts asylum-seekers as a “public health” threat. Asked why he’s opposed to lifting Title 42, Manchin said: “Oh my goodness. Just watch the news y’all put out every day, what’s coming across.” Can the man’s racism get more explicit? What’s he have to do to tell you precisely who he is?

+ Kevin Munger on “Boomer Ballast“: “In 2014, we broke the record for the oldest Congress in American history. We broke that new record in 2016. And then again in 2018. And yet again in 2020, when the majority of the incumbents who lost election were replaced by someone older…“In 2016, at age 70, Donald Trump became the oldest president ever elected. In 2020, at 78, Joe Biden shattered his record.”

+ An inspirational message from the son of the man who urged Nixon to bomb the dikes outside of Hanoi, which would have drowned 1 million people, including 100s of 1000s of children, of the godless heathen variety. Praise the Lord!

+ Rudy Giuliani’s son Andrew said this about his four-month-old daughter at a political fundraiser last week: “So I have changed the diapers. I have looked under the hood. She’s a woman. I’m gonna be the last guy in a long time that looks under the hood right there.” Has anyone called Child Protective Services yet?

+ GOP Wunderkind Madison Cawthorn claims that people on the Hill have done cocaine in front of him and invited him to orgies. Over to you, John Cale…

Sorry to hear it, sorry to see it
Sorry to mention I couldn’t afford to orgy
Seems such a bother, one thing, another
Tempting and teasing, just for an orgy

+ In the past 12 years (8 of them under the control of Democratic administrations), the National Labor Relations Board has lost 30 percent of its staff. “Republicans are more resolved to destroy this place than Democrats are to save it,” the legislative chair of the staff union told Dave Jamieson at the Huffington Post.

+ Eric Adams spent much of the week calling encampments inhumane, while simultaneously moving to “clear” the camps and cut $615 million from homeless services.

+ Getting into the groove to clear out 150 homeless camps by partying with A$AP Rocky and model Cara Delevigne at the roll out of a Wells Fargo credit card designed just for rent payments…

+ Edward Teller, designer of the H-Bomb, on Carl Sagan: “Who was he? He was a nobody! What did he do? I know he criticized me–that is the only accomplishment of his that I know of. He never did anything worthwhile.”

+ Carl Sagan on Edward Teller: “I see something more in his desperate attempt to justify the hydrogen bomb: Its effects aren’t as bad as you think. It can be used to defend the world from other hydrogen bombs, for science, for civil engineering… to wage war humanely, to save the planet from random hazards from space. Somehow, somewhere, he wants to believe, thermonuclear weapons, and he, will be acknowledged by the human species as its savior and not its destroyer.”

+ Connie Uhre, owner of the Grand Gateway Hotel in Rapid City, South Dakota, banned Native Americans from staying in her hotel last week. The woman defended her action by saying she couldn’t tell the “nice ones from the bad ones.” Here’s one response from the Sioux Nation…

+ There goes Ross Douthat braying on the pages of the New York Times about the clash of civilizations, again. The cultural right and the neocons have trotted out the battered remains of Samuel Huntington so many times his family should sue for corpse abuse…

+ Both Apple and Facebook provided user data in response to forged legal requests sent by hackers using infiltrated law enforcement email systems, according to a report in Bloomberg News.

+ Sign-ups for Trump’s Truth Social app have collapsed by 93 percent since the first week of operation, a month ago. Trump still hasn’t uploaded a single post on his own network.

+ I feel the love. Don’t you?

+ The big double-blind study on the efficacy of Ivermectin for treating COVID symptoms is out and concludes that: “volunteers who took ivermectin in the first three days after a positive coronavirus test turned out to have worse outcomes than did those in the placebo group.”

+ Has anyone checked the stock price of America’s pharmacy (Tractor Supply Co.) today?

+ Walmart now owns the vast majority of all the supermarkets in Mexico.

+ Declaring that the “safety net has become a hammock,” Kim Reynolds, the God-fearing governor of Iowa, is pushing legislation that will cut the unemployment benefits from 26 weeks (common in most states) to a mere 16 weeks. This is after Reynolds stopped an additional $300-a-week federal unemployment benefit three months early, falsely claiming it was to blame for a labor shortage. Church-going politicians are working hard to coerce their constituents into getting jobs that pay starvation wages…

+ Here’s some Pelosi-speak on the Clarence and Ginni Thomas imbroglio…

+ How much did she weigh the ethical propriety of her husband Paul making millions in stock trades while she was privy to inside information on COVID and other economic matters capable of shifting the market?

+ On the 50th anniversary of Title IX, a new report shows that for every dollar schools spent on men’s sports, they spent just 71 cents on women in those categories.

+ They called it Operation Whistle Pig. It was a surveillance program and leak investigation run by a secretive unit of Customs and Border Protection that scoured the federal government’s most sensitive databases to investigate the finances, travel and personal connections of journalists, congressional members and staff, none of whom were suspected of any crimes. The Department of Homeland Security has now been forced to turn over to Congress a two-year long probe into the operation conducted by the department’s Inspector General, who had recommended three of the agents involved in the program for prosecution. The DoJ refused to prosecute, however, citing “the lack of policies and procedures governing the division’s work.” All three officials remain in their positions.

+ Where do the 600,000 dead since Biden took office figure into this chart?

+ Why is anyone surprised that Lachlan Murdoch went from studying philosophy at Princeton to exploiting white nationalism on FoxNews? Seems like the logical progression to  me…

+ This guy was once the head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, Ginni Thomas is whispering her sweet-nothings into ears of the senior member of the Supreme Court and Biden is publicly threatening to remove the head of state of a nuclear power. Insanity pervades our government….

+++

+ In 2021, 50.8% of U.S. petroleum imports came from Canada, according to recent data from the Department of Energy, more than any other single country. Other countries supplying the U.S. with petroleum in 2021 were Mexico (8.5%), Russia (8.3%), and Saudi Arabia with 5.0%. No other country supplied more than 5% of U.S. petroleum imports. In 2021, U.S. petroleum imports were 38% lower than the high of 13.7 million barrels per day in 2005. Historically, the U.S. relied more heavily on OPEC countries (in blue colors below) for petroleum, but in 2021 only 11% came from OPEC.

+ This was the deadliest year in history for Yellowstone wolves, where 25 were killed in less than six months.

+ From Michael Schulson’s remarkable and disturbing survey of trapping animals in the US:  “In the 2018-2019 trapping season, licensed trappers caught more than 2.7 million furbearing animals — a category that includes coyotes, beavers, raccoons, mink, and wolves. They use devices like the Minnesota Brand 450, as well as traps that snare animals in loops of cable, or break their necks with the force of powerful springs, or hold them underwater to die. Many trappers skin the animals to use or sell the fur. Others, often working in pest or invasive species control, may just dispose of the remains.”

+ Between 2001 and 2014, 62 percent of the forest acreage lost in the Tongass region of Southeast Alaska was on state or private lands that had been transferred out of federal ownership.

+ Fifty years after the passage of the Clean Water Act, nearly half of the US’s lakes and rivers remain too polluted for swimming, fishing or drinking.

+ Even in the midst of a mega-drought, California law allows for the construction of surf parks, an ice hockey arena and a lagoon-centric Disney residential development in the state’s water-strapped desert…

+ Now Tennessee is burning in March. Nothing to do with climate change, of course. Much more likely that it’s the Supreme Deity’s punishment for allowing a trans person to use the wrong bathroom…

+ The radical animal liberationist Furry Threat has finally descended on Nebraska: “the schools are wanting to put litter boxes for the children to use. How is this sanitary!?!”

+ Sadly, maybe not

+ Fruits and vegetables are now absorbing micro-plastics through their root systems.

+ New research suggests plastic pollution is causing dropping sperm counts, a trend that scientists warn may be unstoppable and could led to making much of humanity infertile. So maybe there’s a glimmer of hope for the planet, after all…

+ The Louisiana supreme court recently held that the organizer of a protest can be liable for events that happen at a protest, even if they’re not involved.

+ According to the International Energy Agency, renewable energy produced more of the world’s electricity than coal in 2021, as wind and solar combined to make up more than 10 per cent of global generation for the first time.

+ Paris is constructing a fully-automated 47-mile subway line encircling the city for around $10 billion. Meanwhile New York is spending $6.9 billion on a 1.5-mile subway extension that is already partially built. You can’t blame the unions. France’s are more militant than the one’s in NYC.

+ Man how I wish Ed Abbey, Katie Lee and Dave Brower were alive to witness the disappearance of Lake Foul…

+ Surveys of stormwater ponds in suburban Toronto revealed the presence of  more than 20,000 goldfish in a single pond less than an acre in size. Some of the fish weighed in at over three pounds. They are likely descended from “dumped pets.”

+ After experiencing temperatures 90 degrees above normal two weeks ago, Antarctica is in for another heat blast. In the 10-day forecast, areas near the South Pole may reach more than 30C (54F) above average. The heat is also expected to impact West Antarctica and the splintering Thwaites glacier.

+++

+ Andy Warhol: “Isn’t the art scene today revolting? I wish I could find a way of making it worse.”

+ I watched Gallipoli last night for the first time since I saw it on opening night at the Biograph in DC in 1981. It wasn’t as powerful as I remember, but still a very good film and probably the only real contribution to humanity Rupert Murdoch, who produced it, has ever made.

+ Is there any question that if Erich Maria Remarque had somehow lived another 35 years to write a novel on the Iraq War, it would now be on the hit list in Texas, just as All Quiet on the Western Front, The Road Home and Three Comrades were banned and burned by Goebbels as “unpatriotic”? By that time, Remarque had escaped Germany to Switzerland and later New York. But his sister, Elfriede, remained behind in Berlin, where she was arrested, put on trial and beheaded, the “judge” telling her: “Your brother is unfortunately beyond our reach, but you shall not escape.”

+ When Taylor Hawkins and the Foo Fighters rickrolled the gay-hating bigots of Westboro Baptist church…

+ Too bad Taylor Hawkins still battled these feelings of inadequacy because he was by far the most dynamic force at all of the Foo Fighters gigs I saw: “A lot of my insecurities — which led to a lot of my drug use — had to do with me not feeling like I was good enough to be in this band, to play drums with Dave.”

+ Here’s a story about the origins of Sun Ra’s record, Cosmic Tones for Mental Therapy. In the 1950s, Sun Ra and the Arkestra performed at a Chicago mental hospital. In the middle of the gig, a woman who hadn’t spoken for years stood up, walked to his piano and said, “And you call that music?” Cured!

+ I posted this photo of Nirvana a few hours before the Oscar broadcast and I guess Will Smith must’ve seen it. Didn’t know you were a lurker, Will. Sorry, Chris…

+ In light of Will Smith’s slapping of Chris Rock, it might be worth recalling that John Wayne had to be restrained by six security guards from going on stage to yank Sacheen Littlefeather from the microphone, where she inveighed against the racist portrayal of Native Americans in Hollywood films…

+ Chris Rock could’ve taken a dive like Sonny Liston for the Ali-impersonator that slapped him…

+ In the next few weeks, the Academy should try to buy all the left-over fencing Pelosi used to wrap around the Capitol for months and erect it between the presenters and the celebrities during next year’s Oscars…

+ They gave Dylan the Nobel Prize, but he never wrote anything quite like Steve Miller’s Enter Maurice: “My dearest darling, come closer to Maurice so I can whisper sweet words of epistemology in your ear and speak to you of the pompitous of love.” Maurice and his pompitousness would show up a couple years later in a much more familiar song

I Didn’t Even Know That I Was Stranded, Til I Met You…

Booked Up
What I’m reading this week…

How to be a Revolutionary: a Novel
C.A. Davids
(Verso)

Beyond Fossil Law: Climate, Courts and the Fight for a Sustainable Future
Ted Hamilton
(O/R Books)

Bringing Back the Beaver
Derek Gow
(Chelsea Green)

Sound Grammar
What I’m listening to this week…

With Love
The James Hunter Six
(Daptone)

Black Lives: From Generation to Generation
Various Artists
(Jammin’ Colors)

The Bear
Walter Martin
(Family Jukebox)

They Loathe Munition-Workers

“Bertrand Russell, too old for military service, but an ardent pacifist (a rare combination), turned sharply on me one afternoon and asked: ‘Tell me, if a company of your men were brought along to break a strike of munition makers, and the munition makers refused to go back to work, would you order the men to fire?’

‘Yes, if everything else failed. It would be no worse than shooting Germans, really.’

He asked in surprise: ‘Would your men obey you?’

‘They loathe munition-workers, and would be only too glad of a chance to shoot a few. They think that they’re all skrim-shankers.’

‘But they realize that the war’s all wicked nonsense?’

‘Yes, as well as I do.’

He could not understand my attitude.”

– Robert Graves, Goodbye to All That

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