Roaming Charges: News From Never-Neverland

Wildfire near Weed, California. Photo: Jeffrey St. Clair.

Dreams of war, dreams of liars, dreams of dragons’ fire
And of things that will bite, yeah
Sleep with one eye open
Gripping your pillow tight
Exit light
Enter night
Take my hand
We’re off to never-never land

– Enter Sandman, Metallica

They seem to come with the seasons (what’s left of them) now: urgent dispatches on the unraveling of the earth’s climate system. Each one direr than the last. Each warning met with shrugs and political indifference. It’s not hard to understand why. After decades of prophecies, the climate Apocalypse has slowly and inexorably arrived. We are living it. Being burned and flooded and parched by it. The old nihilism has become the new realism–for anyone paying attention.

What needs to be done? Nothing less than a revolution in the way the world’s economy functions and the fuels that drive it. What can be done? Not much. What will be done? Almost nothing. That’s my read on the latest (and reportedly the final) consensus report from the IPCC, a document reads less like the Book of Revelations than an after-bombing damage assessment. The bottom-line is that the 1.5C warming goal set by the panel in 2015 is obsolete. It’s unattainable. Defunct. Moreover, it’s always been unattainable. The international plans to slow global warming from Kyoto to Paris would not have been able to keep the climate below that threshold, even had they been fully-implemented. Needless to say, they haven’t been fully implemented. Far from it.

Consider this: the average annual greenhouse gas emissions over the last 10 years were the highest in … human history. In 2019, carbon emissions were about 54% higher than in 1990. Sixty percent of all historical emissions were produced in the lifetime of the average American, who is 38. Almost 90 percent were produced since the birth of Joe Biden in November 1942.

In order to get anywhere close to 1.5C,  the world needs to cut carbon emissions to near zero by 2050. But that’s not happening. Carbon emissions from currently-operating fossil fuel infrastructure alone exceed the carbon budget for 1.5C. Emissions from planned infrastructure exceed the carbon  budget for 2C. The investments in fossil fuels exceed those for those mitigation and adaptation. And this is just the power-generation sector!

Even the IPCC has come to realize that any goals, even the most ambitious, set by treaties are not binding. There’s no mechanism to enforce them. No penalties for not meeting them. Especially for the biggest culprits, who enjoy carbon impunity. As long as there is coal, gas and oil to burned, and the plants to burn them, they will be burned. And there’s still lots of fossil fuel in reserve and a vast infrastructure for consuming it.

The IPCC report essentially throws in the towel on the possibility of radically reducing carbon emissions. (At this point it’s unlikely that their increase can even be restrained.) Instead, they focus on the chimera of carbon-capture and removal  schemes that rely on unproven and even dubious technologies that will attract subsidy and tax-credit hungry corporations but do little if anything to keep the planet from blowing past 1.5C and toward 2C.

How many “now or never” reports on the unfolding climate catastrophe do we need to get before realizing we are living in Never-Neverland? Oh, never mind…

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+ “They are lying.” You can’t get much blunter than that from the Secretary General of the UN….

+ Current policies (red) barely stabilize emissions. Country commitments through 2030 (navy) do only marginally. Meanwhile, the world needs to cut emissions to near zero by 2050.

+ According to a joint study by NASA and NOAA, the Earth’s “energy imbalance” doubled during the 14-year period from 2005 to 2019, meaning  the Earth system is gaining energy, causing the planet to heat up.  “It’s likely a mix of anthropogenic forcing and internal variability,” said aid Norman Loeb, lead author for the study and principal investigator for CERES at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia. “And over this period they’re both causing warming, which leads to a fairly large change in Earth’s energy imbalance. The magnitude of the increase is unprecedented.”

+ Extreme rainfall events in the aftermath of Western wildfires will more than double by the end of the 21st century, causing an increased risk of killer floods and landslides.

+ Wind and solar generated 10% of global electricity for the first time in 2021, but needs to be 50% at least by 2030 to make any headway against climate change.

+ It turns out that the European Union’s much vaunted plan to reach net zero carbon emissions doesn’t account for how growing more crops for biomass energy will increase its land footprint, which increasing global deforestation and decreasing biodiversity.

+ A single Tesla battery weighing 1,000 pounds requires extracting and processing some 500,000 pounds of materials. At this rate, over the next thirty years we will need to mine more mineral ores than humans have extracted over the last 70,000 years.

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+ A week after the Bush Administration launched its War on Terror, Bob Woodward asked Dick Cheney how long it would last. Cheney replied: “It may never end. At least, not in our lifetime.” The wet-dream of weapons contractors had materialized. The Pentagon Budget in 2001 was $287 billion. Now it’s $773 billion and rising.

+ There’s no revisionism quite like Iraq War revisionism…

+ Not only did the US-led coalition demolish (and re-demolish) cities at the beginning (Baghdad, Fallujah, Nasiryah, Hillah, Karbala, Ramadi) & middle of the war (see: Basra, Baghdad, Fallujah, Ramadi again) but also as the occupation “ended”–as any survey of the ruins of Mosul will attest…

+ How the Ukraine war complicates the transition to renewable energy sources:  “The price of these three metals required in a 60KWh battery…has risen from $1,395 a year ago to more than $7,400 in early March.”

+ Biden’s variation on the Queen of Hearts Rules of Criminal Procedure: First the verdict, then the trial…

+ The perennial question: Will the disclosure of the massacre at Bucha be used to expand the war or end it? History strongly suggests that one massacre sows the seeds for the next atrocity and that sure seems to be the direction we’re heading in this grotesque war.

+ “America’s response to My Lai was worse than the massacre.” — Kendrick Oliver

+ Wars breed atrocities. To end the atrocities, you must first end the war. Who is seeking to do this in Ukraine?

+ Bulgarian writer, Georgi Gospodinov (author of Time Shelter), in an interview with Il Manifesto on Ukraine:

Without fully realizing it, he [Putin] has actually attacked Russia itself. Whichever way the war ends, Russia has already lost it, economically and symbolically. It has lost the memory that will remain from this war. It will not be able to tell the story, no matter how much propaganda it may put out, like it managed to tell its own story as both victim and victor in World War II. This memory, and these stories, will now be very different. In his blindness, Putin is portraying himself very clearly as embodying that line we know from Gogol’s Taras Bulba: “I gave you life, I will take it.” Only he didn’t give it life. And he can’t kill it, he will only hurt it badly, and Russia will continue to bleed, literally and symbolically, for decades after this war.

+  Let me guess: Manzanar? US detention camps along the Rio Grande?

+ Cheered on by the likes of Rudyard Kipling and Winston Churchill, the British set up the first system of concentration camps during the Boer War (aka, the South African War), another resource grab by gunpoint, this time for the control of gold and diamond mines. As British troops torched Boer farms, killed their livestock and poisoned their wells, the farm-workers (mostly African), women, children and elderly were detained and sent to guarded camps enclosed by barbed in the broiling desert of South Africa. Often the children were separated from their mothers, setting yet another ghastly precedent for the future. Eventually, more than 100,000 were imprisoned in such harsh conditions that 27,000 had died by the end of the war–a death toll that was twice as high as the number of Boers killed in combat. When he returned to London from Johannesburg, one the designers of this gulag, Alfred Milner, was knighted for his services to the empire by the new King, Edward VII.

+ After perfecting the design and lethal operation of concentration camps in South Africa during the Boer War, the architects of these prisons, Alfred Milner and Thomas French, pushed to have them deployed in Ireland after the Easter Rising to suppress the Irish revolutionaries. In 1920, under French’s supervision as Viceroy of Ireland, Ballykinlar Internment Camp was set up and soon filled with more than 2000 Irish men, who’d been rounded up for suspected ties to the IRA. Eventually just about every country wanted its own version, from Kolyma to Tule Lake to Dachau.

+ Who will tell her?

+ Adam Tooze on the Ukraine war and the future of the dollar: “There is a huge asymmetry in the world right now between the financial system that remains spectacularly euro-dollar centered and the new multipolarity of power, trade and economic activity.”

+ Looting Now and Then: One of the big problems facing the La Grande Armée when L’Emperor belatedly decided to decamp from Moscow was how to get all of the shit they’d looted back to Paris after their horses had frozen to death and raiding Cossacks were trying, with great success, to crush their skulls before they crossed the Berezina River. The Russian Army is apparently confronting a more technological issue. Much of the equipment, especially farm machinery, they’ve looted from Ukraine and shipped back to Russia are equipped with GPS systems revealing their locations and tracking the routes they took to get there.

+ Liberals out-Trumping Trump…

+ Let’s face it, many of the people running our government couldn’t pass a 6th grade social studies exam…

+ It’s been a rough war so far for Russia’s greatest composer, Pyotr Tchaikovsky: performances of his music have been canceled in the West and the Russian army just destroyed his house in Ukraine.

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+ 3 months: the average life expectancy of a fighter pilot during World War One.

+ In 1918, Bertrand Russell was sentenced to prison for six months for writing an article “likely to prejudice His Majesty’s relations with the United States of America.” The offending sentence warned that US troops arriving in England and France might be used as strikebreakers “an occupation to which the American Army is accustomed when at home.” In sentencing the philosopher, the judge said that this unquestionably true statement constituted “a very despicable offense.”

+ “A bayonet is a weapon with a worker at both ends.” a slogan from WW I, attributed to Lenin, adopted by the IWW, which probably originated with the Scottish socialist John Maclean, who like Bertrand Russell was jailed for his antiwar writings under the “Defense of the Realm Act.”

+ Total Military Deaths in WW I 10.5 million
Total Civilian Deaths in WW I 13.5 million
(Not including Russian Civil War, which killed another 7-10 million people)

(Source: To End All Wars, Adam Hochschild)

+ In a century of mad generals (Patton, Budyonny,  Iwane Matsui, Ludendorff, Franco, LeMay, Rios-Montt), perhaps none was more deranged than Douglas Haig, the commander of British forces on the Western Front during World War One. Haig sadistically contended that high casualty rates were the surest sign of strategic success on the battlefield and his two major offensives during the war yielded some of the highest in history: 275,000 dead, wounded or captured at Passchendaele and 420,000 dead, wounded or captured at the Somme. Neither battle netted the British more than a few meaningless acres of territory. After overseeing the deaths of nearly 900,000 British and Commonwealth military personnel over the course of the war to machine guns, mines, artillery, poison gas and aerial bombing, Haig still hadn’t lost his conviction that light cavalry on horseback was the central component of ground warfare, saying that tanks and planes were merely ancillary weapons. Haig also considered himself an astute judge of political character and shortly before he died pronounced an energetic young Italian named Benito Mussolini as just the kind of fresh, strong-willed leader post-war Europe, Britain included, needed: “I found him most pleasant. There is no doubt that he has already done much good for his country. His view is, that everyone is a servant of the State and must honestly do his best to serve the State. If anyone fails he is punished. We want someone like that at home at the present time.

+++

+ The federal minimum wage is now worth 21% less than it was in 2009, the last time it was raised, and 38% less than in 1968.

+ “Budget!”…

+ F. Scott Fitzgerald in a letter to his daughter Scottie: “Read the terrible chapter in Das Kapital on the working day, and see if you ever feel quite the same.”

+ Following in the footsteps of Amnesty International and the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights, Harvard Law School’s International Human Rights Clinic recently issued a report that finds Israel’s treatment of Palestinians on the West Bank amounts to the crime of apartheid.

+ Has anyone checked Alan Dershowitz’s heart rate?

+ Disturbing reports from Mali suggest that Malian forces and Russian mercenaries “summarily executed” as many as 300 detained men, in what Human Rights Watch is calling “the worst single atrocity reported in Mali’s decade-long armed conflict targeting Islamist groups.”

+ While Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz was railing about Starbucks “being assaulted in many ways by the threat of unionization” and denouncing to Starbucks Workers United as an “outside organization trying to take our people,” his company just fired a worker after the NLRB had issued a complaint against the company for retaliating against her for union activity by suspending and disciplining her.

+ Words banned on Amazon’s new worker chat app: “union,” “grievance,” “vaccine,” “living wage,” “slave labor,” “harassment”, “restrooms” and “this is dumb.” Yes, it is.

+ What meds did they mix in with his Metamucil this morning?

+ $631 million: the value of stocks traded by Members of Congress in the past year alone.

+ As recently as the year 2000, 41 of the world’s 100 most valuable companies were based in Europe. That figure has shrunk to only 15 today.

+ A school board in Eau Claire, Wisconsin has been receiving threats to “kill all Marxist teachers.” Another message threatened to shoot the school board president “for promoting the horrific, radical transgender agenda.”

+ John Gray on how Stalin orchestrated the execution of Bukharin: “The manner in which he orchestrated the execution of Nikolai Bukharin is revealing. Before his show trial, in which he was accused of plotting to assassinate Lenin and Stalin, Bukharin wrote to Stalin begging to be executed by poison rather than by a bullet in the back of the head. In response, according to a report by a former secret service officer cited by one of Bukharin’s biographers, he was given a chair so he could sit and watch as 17 of his co-defendants were shot, one by one, until his time came. Bukharin’s fear and horror were multiplied many times over. There can be no doubt that the proceedings were scripted by Stalin.”

+ Gray on Stalin’s reading material:  “Stalin borrowed from the Lenin Library, and failed to return, a Russian edition of the memoirs of the ‘Iron Chancellor,’ Otto von Bismarck. In the introduction, written by a historian, Stalin underlined the observation that Bismarck always warned against Germany becoming involved in a two-front war against Russia and Western powers. In the margin he wrote, ‘Don’t frighten Hitler.’ In a translation of the memoirs of a British diplomat, he highlighted Edward Gibbon’s statement that the Romans believed troops should fear their own officers more than the enemy.”

+ Who knew that Disney was a Commie front for a global pedophilia ring? Congressman Andy Biggs, apparently….

+ I was so astonished by the alleged Commiefication of Disney that I went back to the HUAC transcripts to see what Walt had actually said when he was summoned before the tribunal witch hunters…

HUAC Investigator: “What is your personal opinion of the Communist Party, Mr Disney, as to whether or not it is a political party?”

Walt Disney: “I don’t think it’s a political party. I believe it is an un-American thing. The thing that I resent the most is that they are able to get into these unions, take them over…I feel that they [Communists] really ought to be smoked out and shown up for what they are, so that all of the good, free causes in this country, all the liberalisms that really are American, can go out without the taint of communism. That’s my sincere feeling on it.”

+ Well, that clarifies matters…

+ Oscar Wilde: “The story of mankind began in a garden and ended in revelations.”

+ Speaking of “sexual, immoral filth,” here’s how Madison (“Cocaine Orgy” Cawthorn defines a “woman”: “Someone with no tallywhacker.”

+ Rep. Greene has her own definition: “We came from Adam’s Rib. We are the weaker sex. We are our husband’s wife.” Speak for yourself, Marjorie…

+ The far right’s obsession with pedophilia is itself a sublimated form of pedophilia. They decry in others the thing they most want to do themselves.

+ In his own book, JD Vance writes that his mother stole drugs from a hospital pharmacy after she had been over prescribed opioids and had become addicted. Now he’s blaming it on Mexican drug runners crossing the border. Is he a “racist”? Does he “hate Mexicans?” Pretty sure…

+ The Arizona Republican Paul Gosar admires Putin. (He was one of six House Republicans to vote against investigating possible Russian war crimes in Ukraine.)  Putin claims Russia invaded Ukraine to kill Nazis. This week Gosar posted on his Instagram a notice that he was planning to attend a “social gathering” of the white nationalist group American Populist Union on April 20th…Hitler’s birthday.

(After a story about this appeared in the Arizona Mirror, Gosar’s office quickly announced that the congressman would be doing a “farm tour” on that day and didn’t know how he got on the APU bill as a “featured guest” or why it appeared on the congressman’s Instagram.) Something doesn’t compute…

+ The federal prison population has increased by 3,000 people since Biden took office. In 1980, before the bipartisan drug war Biden helped launch, the federal prison population was 25,000. Now it’s more than 150,000 and rising again.

+ The Minneapolis cops who shot Amir Locke during a no-knock raid will not be charged. In sum: Police can break into your apartment while you’re sleeping and within a few seconds of entering shoot you while you’re on the couch without any legal consequences…even when you’re not the person they were looking for. But we are not, I repeat NOT, living in a police state.

+ You’d think the standard of behavior for cops and ex-cops pretending to be cops would be higher than for the rest of us, but it’s actually much lower. In fact, it’s almost as if there isn’t a standard at all. Consider the case of the ex-Hialeah, Florida police officer who wrote bogus traffic tickets to people he never pulled over and will do no jail time and eventually have the conviction erased from his records.

+ The USS Ginsburg will remain in service long past its retirement date, then sink without a shot being fired prior to a major engagement…

+ A study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine by researchers at Stanford reports that that non-gun owners in California living with a handgun owner are more than twice as likely to die by homicide compared to anyone living in a gun-free home.

+ A recent Lancet study found that official death records underreport by more than 50% how many people are killed by police.

+ Oh, look kids, it’s Prank Bernie Sanders Day at the White House!

+ According to a study by the Poor People’s Campaign, people living in poorer U.S. counties died at almost twice the rate of people living in richer ones over the course of the pandemic. This more than double the rate from pre-pandemic years, even though the school campuses are open for in-person learning.

+ A new study published in the Journal of Social Science and Medicine suggests that white people who are the most familiar with the disproportionate impact of COVID on communities of color are least likely to fear the virus or support safety measures such as masking, social distancing and vaccines,

+ Between mid-August of 2021 and mid-March of 2022 the US  experienced a single week where the deaths from COVID fell below 1,000 per day.

+ The city is New York. The city attorney is muy loco

+ Nearly half of the students (about 200,000 kids) in the Los Angeles Unified School System have been “chronically absent” this school year, meaning they have missed at least 9% of the academic year.

+ According to a forthcoming book by Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns, Biden called Rupert Murdoch the “most dangerous man in the world.” I bet that made Rupert’s day.

+ “I was censored!” Roger Stone vs. Trump’s Algorithm.

+ Here’s a passage from Margaret Atwood’s speech accepting an award she was very surprised to have received, if only because it was named after a writer who was often her nemesis, Christopher Hitchens:

You can’t exist as a writer for very long without learning that something you write is going to upset someone, sometime, somewhere. Whether you end up with a bullet in your neck will depend on many factors—there are lots of bullets, and some necks are thicker than others—but let us pause to remember that the most important meaning of freedom of expression is not that you can say anything you like without any consequences whatsoever but that the bullet should not be your government’s, and it should not be fired into your neck for an expression of political views that don’t coincide with theirs.

+ Mike Huckabee’s new book will almost certainly recruit vast new throngs of kids to socialism …

+ Thomas Meaney on Gramsci’s letters from prison: “In his letters, Gramsci theorized in every direction. He had a theory about Goethe’s grammar, a theory as to whether the Dinkas of Sudan had a religion that was ecologically determined, a theory about the political import of jazz, a theory about the effects of American toys on children, a theory about the inner lives of sparrows.”

+ The value of forgiveness: The New York Public Library reports that tens of thousands of books have been returned since the library adopted a policy of no late fees.

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+ According to the World Health Organization, 99% of the world’s population now breathes air that exceeds safe limits for air pollution, including fine particulates that can lodge deep into the lungs.

+ Plus ça change! The Biden EPA announced this week it would maintain a Trump-era position of not regulating toxic perchlorate (aka, rocket fuel) in drinking water.

+ Wind turbines take a ghastly toll on birds, killing around a million a year, including a recent case of one wind power company being held liable for killing 150 eagles. But that’s nothing next to too exacted by high-rise buildings which are responsible for an estimated BILLION bird deaths a year in the US alone.

+ Another case of Fox News being hoisted on their own chyron…

+ It’s snowing micro-plastics in the ocean: “A recent model found that 99.8 percent of plastic that entered the ocean since 1950 had sunk below the first few hundred feet of the ocean. Scientists have found 10,000 times more microplastics on the seafloor than in contaminated surface waters.”

+ Areas of Sydney recorded more than 160 mm of rain in 24 hours on April 6-7th. The average for the entire month of April for Sydney is around 125 mm. Some families have been forced to evacuate their homes from flooding for the third time in the last five weeks.

+ In the US, as climate change exacerbates flooding in the Midwest and South, crop insurance payments for inundated lands have bulged by more than 300 percent in recent decades, according to a new report from the Department of Agriculture. This figure is only going to increase. A simpler and more cost-effective solution would have been to retire 300,000 acres in flood-prone lands from planting.

+ Who is really threatening whom?

+ Annual Compensation of the Top 30 Employees of The Nature Conservancy (based on tax filings for FY 2018): $912,000, $738,000, $710,000, $628,000, $592,000, $538,000, $473,000, $467,000, $430,000, $419,000, $416,000, $411,000, $409,000, $404,000, $401,000, $392,000, $390,000, $389,000, $385,000, $379,000, $375,000, $374,000, $370,000, $368,000, $363,000, $356,000, $349,000, $337,000, $335,000, $261,000.

+++

+ Luis Buñuel on Picasso’s Guernica: “I can’t stand ‘Guernica,’ which I nevertheless helped to hang.”  Buñuel disliked the painting’s “grandiloquent technique” and boasted that he “would be delighted to blow up the painting.”

+ There’s a rather tedious article in Unherd by Philip Hensher claiming that novelist are now “afraid to write about class,” preferring to indulge in other “identity markers” like race and gender. But surely it’s less a question of what novelists are writing about than how people are reading the novels. Class is everywhere. Even as you try not to write about it, you’re writing about it. Recall Godard’s assertion that “Tracking shots are a question of morality.” Though he wrote this about Hiroshima Mon Amour, as a fan of Frank Tashlin’s oeuvre I’m sure JLG thought it equally applicable to Jerry Lewis movies. A novel about lesbian Honduran migrants is a novel about race, sexuality and class. It’s whether you see them as such that matters. Look at what Edward Said was able to excavate from Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park.

+ Monty Python re-reuns now come with a warning label that is itself worthy of a Monty Python skit: “This program reflects the standards, language and attitudes of its time. Some viewers may find this content offensive.”

+ Hilarious Amazon Kindle version cover for All Quiet on the Western Front, marketing Remarque’s WW I novel as if it were a Louis L’Amour western…

+ Interviewer: What’s your favorite Styx song?

JSC: Whichever one jams the tape deck before the next one plays.

+ Once again this week I was asked how I could stand the music of Merle Haggard, the guy who wrote “Okie from Muskogee.” Simple. Merle Haggard sent CounterPunch a check every six months or so since the start of the Iraq War. Cockburn and I had a tentative date to go fishing with Haggard on Lake Shasta. (He lived near Redding.) Then Alex got sick. Then Merle got sick. Merle was no leftist, but he was anti-war, pro-pot, anti-cop and totally authentic. Plus he was one of the greatest songwriters and singers in American music.

His Mind is Not for Rent, to Any God or Government…

Booked Up
What I’m reading this week…

Inequality, Class and Economics
Eric Schutz
(Monthly Review Press)

The Adventure of French Philosophy
Alain Badiou
Trans. Bruno Bosteels
(Verso)

Ugly Beauty: Jazz in the 21st Century
Phil Freeman
(ZerO Books)

Sound Grammar
What I’m listening to this week…

Out of the Dark: the Film Noir Project
Melissa Errico
(Ghostlight)

Jacob’s Ladder
Brad Mehldau
(Nonesuch)

Bells on Sand
Gerald Clayton
(Blue Note)

The State Exacts the Utmost Degree of Obedience

“This war, in which we had refused to believe broke out, and it brought disillusionment. not only is it more bloody and more destructive than any war of other days, because of the enormously increased perfection of weapons of attack and defence; it is at least as cruel…as implacable as any that has preceded it. It disregards all the restrictions known as International Law…It tramples in blind fury on all that comes in its way, as though there were to be no future and no peace among man after it is over. It cuts all the common bonds between the contending peoples, and threatens to leave a legacy of embitterment that will make any renewal of those bonds impossible for a long time to come… A belligerent state permits itself every such misdeed, every such act of violence as would disgrace the individual. It makes use against the enemy..of deliberate lying and deception…The state exacts the utmost degree of obedience and sacrifice from its citizens, but at the same time it treats them like children by an excess of secrecy and censorship upon  news and expressions of opinion which leaves the spirits of those whose intellects it thus suppresses defenceless against every unfavourable turn of events and every sinister rumour.”

– Sigmund Freud on World War One, (1915)

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