Roaming Charges: The Windfalls of War

Refinery in full production, southern California. Photo: Jeffrey St. Clair.

Q. What did you do in the Ukraine war, daddy?

A. I invested my war-windfall oil dividends in Bitcoins and NFTs, son.

+ Modern wars are still run on oil for the control of it.

+ Gas prices are high, but nowhere near record prices in real dollars. Still the gas price hikes since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine amount to blatant war profiteering. According to a new report from Bailout Watch:

In January and February, seven companies’ boards authorized their corporate treasuries to buy back and retire $24.35 billion in stock — a 15 percent increase over all of the buybacks authorized in 2021. Six of those decisions came in February, after fears of Russian aggression against Ukraine lifted stock prices. In total, the 20 companies announced $45.6 billion in stock buybacks since the start of 2021.

Six oil companies have started paying additional dividends on top of their routine quarterly payments, including by implementing new “variable dividends” based on company earnings. So far in 2022, these companies have started paying out an initial $3 billion in special windfall dividends.

More than half of these oil companies hiked their dividends in January and February. Of the 11 companies raising their dividends, nine were increases of more than 15 percent and four were increases of more than 40 percent.

+ Biden is reversing so fast on climate (increased production from public lands, huge releases from the strategic petroleum reserve and issuance of 30-year contracts to increase LNG export capacity), he’s backed over the director of the EPA and his climate czar (if “czar” is still a permissible word). His latest betrayal is an executive order to allow more ethanol-based fuels to be produced, a blow to air quality and sustainable agriculture:  “Today I’m announcing the Environmental Protection Agency is planning to issue an emergency waiver to allow E15 gasoline that uses more ethanol from home-grown crops to be sold across the U.S. this summer in order to increase fuel supply.”

+ In 2021, 40-60% of claimed emissions reductions for Shell, BP, Total, ConocoPhillips came from divestiture of polluting assets, a new report by Earthworks estimates. In other words, the emissions are vanishing  from the corporate books but there’s no real reduction of carbon pollution in the atmosphere.

+ Occidental Petroleum is promoting itself as a leader in the new “carbon removal” industry scam. The question is whether they’ll remove anywhere near what they produce, because they plan to their accelerate oil drilling and refining operations.

I pulled into town in a police car
The IPCC said I took the climate just a little too far
You’re telling them things but you’d better watch your lip
You can’t catch me ’cause the points done tipped…

+ Ocean warming fueled 10% increase in ‘extreme’ rainfall from Atlantic hurricanes in 2020.

+ Despite signing on to the UN’s net zero banking alliance on greenhouse gas emissions, Canada’s major banks have more than doubled their financing of tar sands oil projects to $16.8 billion in 2021.

+ From 1955 to 2020, April snowpack in Western mountain ranges declined at 86 percent of the sites measured, according to a new study by the EPA. Decreases have been especially prominent in Washington, Oregon, northern California, and the northern Rockies. In the Northwest (Idaho, Oregon, Washington) all but four stations saw decreases in snowpack over the period of record.

+ To study the animals’ reactions in a Ugandan wildlife reserve to a huge oil project backed by France’s Total, researchers are monitoring their hormones and their stress levels by collecting blood and fecal samples.

+ The latest IPCC climate report estimates that more than 700 million people in Africa will eventually be displaced by drought. The entire continent of Africa is responsible for less than 4% of total global carbon emissions.

+ The average American uses 284 gigajoules of energy per person each year. A new report by StanfordEarth published in ESA Ecosphere finds with just 75 GJ/person, 1.2 billion people living without electricity worldwide could be lifted out of energy poverty.

+ A brief in a lawsuit filed by the Winnemen Wintu tribe challenging the State of California’s water rights system argues persuasively that “state-sponsored violence and discriminatory laws have caused California Indian tribes and other minorities to be excluded from the state’s water rights system.”

+ The entire basis of Western Water Law flows from the simple premise of “first in time, first in right.” Except, of course, for all of those who really were first, who have almost no rights.

+ A report by NOAA estimates that sea levels will rise by 10 to 12 inches along the US coastline in the next 30 years, which would means that damaging flooding will occur 10 times more often than today. Currently, 15 million Americans live in flood prone areas.

+ One of baseball’s oldest operating stadiums, Fenway Park in Boston, is set to become the first carbon neutral ballpark in Major League Baseball.

+ Who needs asteroids? A 5.5 inch hailstone hit Salado, Texas this week…

Photo: Gina Brown.

+ The British nuclear fusion firm First Light claims that the idea for its technology came from “the Pistol Shrimp, which fires bubbles at unsuspecting prey by snapping its claws together at such high speeds that it creates a shockwave and even emits a bright flash of light.”

+ I guess the “bright flash of light” from the Pistol Shrimp polls better than the “bright flash of light” over Hiroshima…

+++

+ Yasha Levine: “The staunch Bucha denialists on here, making appeals to the ‘rationality’ of Russian troops — ‘they’d never do this, as it goes against Russia’s interests’ — are some of the dumbest fucking people. I repeat: just because you don’t want something to be true, doesn’t mean it isn’t.”

+ White phosphorus munitions, like those reportedly deployed by Russia in Mariupol, have been repeatedly used by the IDF in Gaza and the Saudis in Yemen with ghastly consequences. I don’t recall any objections from the US State Department. But now that the US is “woke” to the dangers of white phosphorus, they might track down those in Pentagon who ordered its use in Fallujah.

+ The US is trying to amend the Security Council veto process at the UN. The changes would  automatically convene a meeting of the General Assembly after a veto has been cast in the Security Council. This could easily backfire on some US client states. The US has used the veto to block Israel from UN censures at least 42 times since 1972.

+ Now Sweden and Finland have expressed a desire to join NATO. The Russian response has been more nuclear sabre-rattling, though, in fact, the US’s first-use nuclear policy remains as trigger-ready as Russia’s.  It makes one wonder if Putin has suffered the kind of cognitive decline common to all autocrats who surround themselves only with yes men and that his rash snap-invasion of Ukraine yielded the thing he most feared: NATO expansion. An entirely predictable consequence. Too predictable, perhaps. It might be argued that Russia being under perpetual threat is exactly the geopolitical condition that Putin wants to justify his absolute grip on power.

+ This is just the argument Andrew Cockburn makes in an insightful piece on his Spoils of War Substack page (sign up today!) about how all of the powerbrokers, east and west, are getting precisely what they want out of the escalating war in Ukraine…leaving the rest of us peons cowering under the threat of nuclear war.

+ Mick Wallace, Irish Member of the European Parliament: “This War is empowering all the worst elements everywhere, in Russia, in Ukraine, and in NATO countries. The voices of Barbarism are drowning out voices for Peace. And the Arms + Fossil Fuel Industry, the Warmongers + Polluters are presented by the media as the reasonable people.”

+ I have some profound disagreements with Pepe Escobar or Scott Ritter’s views on the war in Ukraine. But the surest way to lend them credibility is to ban them from social media platforms like Twitter. If there’s nothing to hide, there’s no reason to censor them. Open it up or shut it down.

+ The Nazi card has been played ever since there were Nazis. In 1936, during the first great Moscow show trial two leaders of the Russian Revolution, Grigory Zinoviev and Lev Kamenov, were accused of plotting with Trotsky and the Nazis to overthrow Stalin’s regime. Both were Jews. Both were convicted and shot. A similar charge was made by the Kremlin later that year against the POUM (Partido Obrero Unificacíon Marxista), a radical leftwing anti-Stalinist group in Catalonia, who were on the frontlines of the war against Franco’s Hitler-funded and armed fascists.

+ I’ve been reading Louise Orr’s great book of letters from Barcelona in the mid-30s. Orr was a young socialist from Louisville who went to Spain to lend her services to the Popular Front as it took power and then confronted the fascist coup. The book is titled An American Woman in Revolution & Civil war. Given the current rightwing assault on Disney (one of the most conservative institutions around) as a purveyor of Marxist cultural wokeness, I was struck by this passage on how Catalonian anarchists had adopted Hollywood cartoon characters as mascots: “The Anarchist trade unions have adopted Popeye as their own pet mascot. Everywhere they sell pins, scarves, and statues of Popeye waving an anarchist flag of black and red. Betty Boop is also much in favor among the Anarchists, but Mickey Mouse, who is the idol of the people, is so popular it is necessary that he be non-partisan. The anarchists all wear silk triangles instead of neckties, printed red and black with various designs–a victory wreath, pictures of dead comrades, a clenched fist, and, most popular of all, nude women.” This at a time when wearing a red necktie or, for women, wearing slacks was grounds for arrest in much of Spain.

+ When Franco left Morocco to lead the fascist coup in Spain, he flew in a transport plane provided Hitler and brought with him the heads of 12 Moroccan revolutionaries he’d had executed. Things only got more depraved from there…

+ It’s hard to say which came first: the false flag attack or attributing your own atrocity to a false flag attack, as Franco did at Guernica, claiming that the Republican forces had burned down the town and blamed the fascists. This prompted the Paris weekly, Le Canard Enchainé, to run a satirical story reporting how Joan of Arc actually lit the fire that consumed her at the stake in Rouen.

+ Set aside for the moment, his internment of Japanese-Americans in concentration camps, a heinous act which may well have had Britain’s imprisonment of Boers in South Africa as a model, rather than Dachau and Bergen-Belsen. Still can FDR really be considered an “anti-fascist”? Not if his response to the fascist coup in Spain is any judge. Not only did FDR refuse to sell arms to the besieged Republican government, but on the advice of his reactionary Secretary of State, Cordell Hull, the US threatened to revoke the citizenship of Americans who went to fight in Spain with the Lincoln and Washington Brigades. This was at a time when Hitler’s Junkers were bombing Madrid, Valencia and Guernica and Mussolini’s Italian troops were fighting on the ground.

+ Among those who defied these threats and visited the Lincoln Brigaders in Spain were Paul Robeson, who sang Ole Man River to troops on the frontlines, and Langston Hughes who read his poetry to the Brigade’s truck drivers and mechanics. Many American blacks had gone to Spain to fight the fascists, disgusted by their own government’s failure to intervene against Mussolini’s invasion of Ethiopia in 1935, where the brutal tactics (including the use of poison gas) of the Italian army and the black-shirts left nearly 400,000 Ethiopians dead.

+ In 1937, the International Brigades in Spain got a little payback, when they inflicted a humiliating defeat on Mussolini’s army in a battle near Guadalajara. Many of the routed Italian soldiers it turned out were conscripts, who had been lured into the army under the belief that they were going to be working as extras in a war film.

+ Speaking of actors in Spain, I’m reminded of a martini-sodden lunch I had at Musso and Franks in Hollywood with the late Charles Higham, who had outted Errol Flynn as a Nazi agent, based partly on Flynn’s trip to Spain in 1937 in the guise of a reporter. Flynn’s traveling partner on that excursion was Hermann Erben, an Austrian doctor, Nazi party member and acquaintance of Hitler. Flynn’s mission, according to Higham, was to compile a list German socialists and anarchists fighting in Spain, so that the Nazis could hunt them down and kill them, either in Spain or when they returned to Germany. “There’s not the slightest doubt,” Higham told me, “that the Gestapo used the names Erben and Flynn gave them to round up the German relatives of the international brigade members and send them to their deaths in the camps.”

+ Higham flourished a letter to Erben from Flynn that he had unearthed in a FOIA request, where Flynn is ranting about the power of Jews in Hollywood. To the annoyance of the table next to us, Higham dramatically read this sentence in a campy imitation of the cinematic swashbuckler from Tasmania: “I do wish we could bring Hitler over here to teach these Isaacs a thing or two.”

+ While FDR blocked arms sales to the beleaguered Republican forces in Spain and tried to prevent Americans from joining the Lincoln Brigades, he let the oil flow…to Franco and the Fascists, largely from the spigots of Texaco, then run out of his suites in the Chrysler Building by a Hitler admirer called Torkild Rieber, who wore a tuxedo to work every day, dined at the 21 Club with the likes of Humphrey Bogart and bragged that he preferred dealing with autocrats like Hitler and Franco because “you only had to bribe them once.”

+ It’s fair to say that Stalin and Lenin’s wife, Nadezhda Krupskaya, grew to loathe each other, the mutual hatred intensifying after Lenin’s death and the circulation of Lenin’s will, a codicil to which urged the removal of Stalin as General Secretary. Stalin alleged that Krupskaya was the true author and after he consolidated his grip on power let it be known that she needed to quietly retreat from public life, saying ominously, “We can always find a new widow for Lenin.”

+ The fact that Russia has “influencers” is the most depressing thing about this story of women shredding their Chanel bags…(Given Chanel’s Nazi past, it’s a little surprising Putin allowed them to do business in Russia to begin with.)

+++

+ I remember when the Democrats attributed their losses in the 2000 elections to a “framing” issue and they hired George Lakoff to try and fix it using “conceptual metaphor theory.” Now they’re blaming their collapsing poll numbers on bad “messaging.” Wouldn’t it have been easier to have just followed through on the $600 checks Biden promised, for starters?

+ Cathy Scott Clark, whose new book The Forever Prisoner links the CIA’s torture program to the sadistic acts of the guards at Abu Ghraib prison, writes of one of the Agency’s torture shrinks:  “Jim [Mitchell] can rightly say ‘I didn’t design what went wrong at Abu Ghraib’, but he has to accept responsibility that he created something that got out of control.”

+ For the last seven years the gap in opioid deaths between blacks and whites has been rapidly closing. In 2020, the rate of deaths for blacks finally surpassed that of whites.

+ According to a forecast by Wells Fargo, US real disposable income is expected to remain below the pre-COVID trend.

+ The creators of four Cuban vaccines against COVID-19 were awarded the “Medal for Inventors” by the U.N.’s World Intellectual Property Organization. Despite crippling sanctions and an embargo, the island boasts one of the top ten vaccination rates in the world. Cuban vaccines have now been exported to seven countries.

+ New study by Nanjing Agricultural University disclosed that wild animals prized as delicacies in China contain a range of dangerous viruses, including 21 that pose a “high risk” to humans.

+ At least 325 people have been killed by police in this year, for an average of nearly 3 each day, which puts the US on pace for one of the worst years for police violence on records. What was that Biden saying this week about the police needing more funding not less?

+ As the Brooklyn subway shooting reiterates for the umpteenth (good Midwest word) time, police, who are all over NY’s subway system (at least 3,000 at any given moment) harassing turnstile jumpers and the homeless, don’t prevent crime. They respond to it, usually ineffectually, often with lethal consequences for bystanders.

+ Uber surge profiteering after Brooklyn subway shooting…

+ Public historian Dominique Jean-Louis: “Because I’ve seen some misinformation out there, Sunset Park is not ‘yuppies with $7 lattes’ Brooklyn, it’s not ‘spread love, it’s the Brooklyn way’ Brooklyn. It’s soccer and paletas and ‘ICE couldn’t detain anyone because their neighbors chased them out the building’ Brooklyn.”

+ 3,500 cops in the NY subway system, but no working cameras! “The search for the gunman was being hampered Tuesday afternoon by the fact that none of the security cameras inside the subway station that might have captured the scene were in operation, according to a senior law enforcement official.”

+ Even as the subway shooter escaped (likely due to a screw up by an NYPD officer), the NYPD’s Strategic Response Group, a counter terror unit, was out in full-force at Tompkins Square Park evicting people from a homeless camp, a mere block away from where Frank James was eventually spotted by a vape shop manager who saw him on his security camera.

+ According to a study by Latino Justice, nearly 200 NYPD cops lied to the Citizens Complaint Review Board during disciplinary hearings, most received no punishment, many ended up being promoted.

+ The NYPD’s $10,000,000,000 budget would make it the 24th largest military spender on the planet. (H/T Public Citizen).

+ The murder rate in New York City is 5.5 per 100,000, which is lower than the averages in 32 states: Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama, Missouri, Arkansas, South Carolina, Tennessee, Maryland, Illinois, New Mexico, Georgia, Delaware, Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, Oklahoma, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Florida, Texas, Arizona, Nevada, Alaska, West Virginia, Kansas, Montana, South Dakota, Virginia, Wisconsin, California, and Colorado.

+ According to the National Registry of Exonerations, at least 161 individuals were exonerated last year for crimes they never committed or for which they were wrongfully charged. Collectively, those people spent 1,849 years spent behind bars.

+ 15,000: the number of bail bond business in the US.

+ In California, cops are blaring Disney music from their cars to ensure citizen videos of them on the job get copyright flagged and taken down from social media sites and YouTube.

+ Radley Balko: “The lesson from the Michigan kidnapping cases isn’t that the FBI is politically biased. Federal police agencies pull this crap across the board. The lesson is that it only gets exposed when they make the mistake of targeting someone who has the resources to fight back.”

+ Clarence Dixon is scheduled to be put to death next month by the state of Arizona. His chances for a reprieve are slim given the fact that the Arizona clemency board, which will decide his fate, is loaded with former law enforcement officers, a pro-death composition which Dixon’s attorneys argue violates state law.

+ 195: the number administrative detention orders Israel issued against Palestinians in March 2022.

+ Dianne Feinstein’s “cognitive decline” is no excuse for her 40 decades of unwavering service to the real estate, munitions and tech industries.

+ Many of the Democrats claiming they see no evidence of cognitive decline in DiFi ought to be immediately tested for cognitive decline.

+ This gives an entirely new meaning to those ubiquitous MIA flags…

+ According to the CDC, 3.5 million Americans died in 2021, making it the deadliest year in U.S. history. 416,000 people died of COVID-19, the 3rd leading cause of death

+ 80: the number of White House officials, reporters and attendees who have now contracted COVID after attending the Gridiron Club superspreader dinner this month.

+ Number of executive orders signed by FDR: 3,700.

Number of executive orders signed by Trump: 220.

Number of executive orders signed by Biden:  80.

+ Former Trump White House Chief of Staff (and current CBS pundit) Mick Mulvaney explaining why he took a job with a cryptocurrency firm: “I was looking for something that was real.”

+ What would the Fatherland be without Fatherhood!

+ The latest identity group demographic: petrosexuals, men who embrace fossil fuels as a sign of masculinity.

+ Speaking of identity groups, there’s this on the nature of gender from Laura Kipnis: “Conservatives will tell you that gender comes from nature and sits firmly on top of biological sex; these sexual differences are imagined to be binary. But this binary was always rather imaginary — the incidence of intersex babies was always higher than was generally acknowledged. Doctors made capricious medical decisions and interventions to assign those babies to one sex or the other, precisely because gender ideology dictated that binary gender had to be preserved. (Apparently intersexed babies are as common as red hair.)”

+ Number of book challenges in public schools and libraries in 2020: 156
Number of book challenges in public schools and libraries in 2021: 729

+ Speaking of book burning, here’s a floor speech from Tennessee State Senator Frank Niceley: “I want to give you a little lesson on homelessness. In 19 and 10, Hitler decided to live on the streets for a while. So for two years, Hitler lived on the streets to practice his oratory and his body language and how to connect with people. And then went on to make it into the history books. So all these people in the homeless camps can come out of this and have a productive life …”

+ Election officials in North Carolina have removed former congressman and Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows from the state’s voter rolls and the State Bureau of Investigation says it is investigating Meadows for “potential voter fraud,” after revelations that revealed that Meadows was registered to vote in 2020 using the address of a mobile home in Scaly Mountain, N.C., where the former owner claims Meadows never stayed.

+ Two Florida men from the Villages retirement compound were sentenced to 50 hours of community service after admitting to voting for Trump multiple times. Meanwhile, Pamela Moses received a 6-year sentence in state prison for trying to register to vote, not realizing she was ineligible due to a probation officer’s mistake. At least the inconsistencies are consistent.

+ Who really thinks that JD Vance even has a “buddy,” never mind one living in France?

+ Rolling Stone on Trump backing Dr. Oz: “Fraud endorses quack.”

+ Compared to Oprah, Joe Rogan is a minor leaguer in the field of junk science

+ 30,000: the number of Viagra pills purchased by the Brazilian Air Force and Navy, allegedly to treat “hypertension.” Given Bolsonaro likely personally approved the purchase, I wonder if tried Ivermectin or Hydroxychloroquine first?

+ Is it any surprise that one of the global rightwing’s favorite ’80s media personalities, Jimmy Savile, was a child sex predator? He was an intimate of the Royals, including Andrew, of course, and a favorite of Thatcher, who secured his knighthood. Many of them knew–or suspected –his criminal perversities (800+ victims). But Savile got away w/ it for years because he was a model of Thatcherian neoliberalism, using private charity to replace government social welfare programs. Thatcher wanted to apply the “Jimmy Fixed It” method to the entire NHS.

+ According to new research from the Economic Policy Institute, the effective state and local tax rate on corporate profits dwindled by between a third and a half between 1989 and 2017, resulting in a revenue shortfall between $43 billion and $57 billion.

+ In seven states—Connecticut, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Michigan, Tennessee, and Wisconsin, more than 60% of corporations pay no state corporate income tax. And depending on the state, between 11% and 27% of corporations more than $1 billion in federal taxable income pay nothing or next to nothing in state corporate income taxes.

+ Michael Lewis talking to Bill James: “The numbers start out as tools for thinking; they wind up replacing thought.”

+ An NFT of Jack Dorsey’s first-ever Tweet, which sold for $2.9 million last year, has been up for sale since last week and has failed to garner a bid over $1,000.

+ Veil, the Bedside Tapes…

Casey: cough, gurgle, rasp…
Woodward: Really, Bill? Amazing.
Casey: hack, gulp, wheeze…
Woodward: And Reagan didn’t suspect a thing?
Casey: slobber, drool, spasm, croak…
Woodward: The real story of Iran/contra at last. Thanks, Bill. And rest assured I’ll keep this conversation between the two of us for at least the next 30 years.

+ Although it didn’t seem to do him much good at the polls, I quite liked the campaign slogan of Fabien Roussel, the Communist Party’s candidate in the French elections: “Il est human.” (He is human.) Not sure what DNA (if, in fact, they have DNA) samples from Marcon or LePen would reveal about their origins.

+++

+ Facebook and Twitter have become marketplaces for the trafficking of endangered animals. It took investigative reporters at Vice News less than 24 hours to negotiate the sale of an endangered tiger from Burma through social media. The price? $29,000. Similar deals were struck for the purchase of “an Asiatic black bear ($1,000), two leopard cat cubs ($280 for both), a wolf ($67) and a slow loris ($45)—a species of vulnerable primate that is often illegally traded as an exotic pet or for traditional medicine.”

+ More wolves from Yellowstone Park were killed this year than at any time in the last century. Montana allows night-hunting of wolves and just legalized shooting them from ATVs.

+ How Tolstoy tended to his bulldog Bulka when he feared it had been bitten in the head by a rabid wolf: “I scattered gunpowder over Bulka’s wound and set it on fire. The powder blazed up and cauterized the sore place…so as to consume the mad virus.” The question was whether the wolf was rabid or as a Cossack warned the Count was actually the apparition of “a witch.” Unfortunately for Bulka, it appears that the wolf was indeed rabid and the burning of the magnificent bulldog’s head didn’t do much to slow the progress of the disease, though instead of biting his master, he loyally started biting table leg instead, before disappearing into the forest. (From Tolstoy’s great little book, Stories of My Dogs.)

+ The count loved his dogs, but it was a rough life for both Bulka and Milton, his setter. There’s an episode where Bulka is nearly impaled with an iron hook by prisoners who have been released from the local jail with instructions from the mayor to kill every dog they encounter. Tolstoy intervenes at the last moment to save the poor bulldog from the “guffawing prisoners.” One of the greatest chapters of in all of literature is the one in Anna Karenina written from Laska the Dog’s point of view.

+ When Timothy Leary predicted we’d all be micro-dosing, I didn’t think it would be with plastics

+++

+ George Carlin: “I like Florida. Everything is in the ’80s. The temperature, the ages and the IQs.” Both the temperature and the ages are in the ’90s since George died. No sign of the IQs having risen though.

+ I watched Lewis Milestone’s All Quiet on the Western Front again last night. Released in 1930, it remains–with The Grand Illusion–one of the 2 greatest anti-war films ever made. Its harrowing combat scenes r more powerful than Saving Private Ryan or even Kubrick’s Paths of Glory, a film which lifted many of Milestone’s techniques, including tracking shots in the trenches, but is fatally marred by the presence of Kirk Douglas. The story doesn’t deviate far from Remarque’s remorseless plotting. The dialogue by Maxwell Anderson is sharp and largely free from Hollywood sentimentality. Milestone was a Ukrainian Jew–born in Odessa–who fled to the US in 1914. When he hit Hollywood he wrote gags for Buster Keaton & then directed some of the best silent films of the 20s: 2 Arabian Nights, Garden of Eden & The Racket. Milestone was a lefty who teamed up with Clifford Odets for The General Died at Dawn, went to the USSR to film a documentary on the Nazi invasion (Our Russian Front), & worked with Lilian Hellman on The North Star, about the Nazi occupation of Ukraine–a film that prompted Hedda Hopper to target Milestone as a “red” in one of her columns, which got him hauled before the HUAC witch-hunters. Somehow he survived the inquisition to make a 4-hour version of Remarque’s Arch de Triumph, which was butchered down to a 2 hour cut by the studio. Collaborated with Steinbeck on The Red Pony. And was rudely cast aside by Marlon Brando on the set of his last film, Mutiny on the Bounty. (He also directed the first versions The Front Page and Ocean’s 11.) Andrew Sarris wrote that Milestone is what Eisenstein might have become had he stayed in Hollywood.

Still from All Quiet on the Western Front.

+ How to interview a French pseudo-intellectual punk:

Frédéric Beigbeder: How much do you smoke a day?

+ Michel Houellebecq: “I’m on four packs a day right now. I don’t think I could write without nicotine. That’s why I can’t slow down right now.”

+ Beigbeder: “Now, can we talk about your dental problem?”

+ RIP Gilbert Gottfried: “Trump is Hitler without the warmth.”

+ The greatest King, the King of Kings, in fact, whose technique was mercilessly plundered (though never equaled) by Eric Clapton, is missing–Freddie having died 10 years before this photo was taken…

+ A “Grunge Supergroup” is by definition not Grunge…

+ John Coltrane: “There is never any end. There are always new sounds to imagine; new feelings to get at. We give to those who listen the essence, the best of what we are. To do that at each stage, we have to keep on cleaning the mirror.”

You Can Free the World, You Can Free My Mind…

Booked Up
What I’m reading this week…

Three Rings: a Tale of Exile, Narrative and Fate
Daniel Mendelsohn
(NYRB)

Humane: How the United States Abandoned Peace and Re-Invented War
Samuel Moyn
(Macmillan)

From Big Oil to Big Green: Holding the Oil Industry to Account for the Climate Crisis
Marco Grasso
(MIT Press)

Sound Grammar
What I’m listening to this week…

Forest Floor
Fergus McCreadie
(Edition)

Midnight Rocker
Horace Andy
(On U Sounds)

El Mirador
Calexico
(Anti-)

Conformists, Cowards and Hirelings

“The pressure of an all-powerful totalitarian state creates an emotional tension in its citizens that determines their acts. When people are divided into ‘loyalists’ and ‘criminals’ a premium is placed on every type of conformist, coward, and hireling; whereas among the ‘criminals’ one finds a singularly high percentage of people who are di­rect, sincere, and true to themselves. From the social point of view these persons would constitute the best guarantee that the future development of the social organism would be toward good.”

– Czeslaw Milosz, The Captive Mind

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