Roaming Charges: Was That Some Kind of Joke?

Wall art, Portland. Photo: Jeffrey St. Clair.

Yes, I received your letter yesterday
(About the time the door knob broke)
When you asked how I was doing
Was that some kind of joke?

– Bob Dylan, Desolation Row

+ Alas, the most open of secrets is no more. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin has finally thrown away the bag and let the cat run free. The aim of US policy in Ukraine is…(wait for it)…to “weaken Russia.” After returning from Kyiv, Austin told reporters, many of whom feigned shock at his lack of discretion, “We want to see Russia weakened to the degree that it can’t do the kinds of things that it has done in invading Ukraine.” The reporters were no doubt worried that Putin might order this quote read over loudspeakers to the Russian Army as motivational material for the siege of Mariupol.

+ Was that some kind of a joke, Lloyd? This has been US policy since Madeleine Albright became Secretary of State in 1993. Every new “reset” merely tightened the screws further. Ukraine is paying the price now. Soon we’ll all be paying the price. Shall we convene a séance to ask the shade of Madame Secretary, if it was worth it?

+ Biden is asking Congress for another $33 billion in “emergency” military and economic aid to Ukraine. This is an endless cycle: more weapons will escalate the war, exacerbating the humanitarian crisis, which will require ever more economic assistance. A negotiated settlement will save thousands of lives and billions of dollars, which is, of course, why it’s not being pursued.

+ Biden’s $33 billion “emergency” military aid package for Ukraine is three times the size of the EPA’s entire budget for 2022.

+ The Ukraine war can only end diplomatically. But not until every possible weapons deal is made and all of the PAC contributors have gotten their cut of the action.

+ According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI)  worldwide military spending for 2021 hit an all-time high of $2.1 trillion, a 0.7% increase from 2020 levels. It’s the seventh straight year of increased expenditures.

+ The Air Force has been ordering more F-35s faster than Lockheed can build them, even when building them badly.

+ I suppose the Panzer divisions rolling into Danzig in 1939 were also a “significant move”…

+ Rand Paul often gets so carried away with himself that he loses the thread of his argument, as happened in his questioning of Secretary of State Anthony Blinken. But his central point remains sound: “While there’s no justification for Putin’s war on Ukraine, it doesn’t follow that there’s no explanation for the invasion.”

+ The US and the UK have reportedly provided Sweden with “security guarantees” as its application to join NATO is being reviewed. These security guarantees usually turn out to be a kiss of death for the countries seeking them. See Norway, 1940.

+ This possibility has not diminished eagerness of Saab executives to see Sweden join NATO’s military alliance, saying it will open up new market opportunities for the company.

+ Ivan Krastev: “Blaming Russians for Putin’s war unwittingly gives him the legitimacy to speak on behalf of the Russian people. Worse, it justifies his twisted narrative that the only Russia the west can tolerate is a weak or defeated one.”

+ Originally, Putin wanted to hold “referendums” in the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts on those regions joining Russia last month. The slow pace of the war has apparently pushed these plans back to late May or June. Not clear yet whether they’ll be using mail in ballots or Dominion voting machines.

+ What’s Putin’s primary goal in invading the Donbas region of Ukraine: extracting Nazis or natural gas from the Yuzivska gas field, discovered in 2010 and now considered one of Europe’s largest reserves?

+ USAID funding for LGBTQ satanists in the Ukraine is the best USAID project I’ve ever heard of…Why can’t we have more of this!

+ If, as Putin alleges, Ukrainian neo-Nazis really were running Mariupol, they were a lot more “woke” than the original Nazis.

+ As is often the case, it’s getting harder and harder to detect which is the more reaction regime in this turf war between rival gang lords, the invading one or the invaded. But it’s almost guaranteed that the war will move both Russia and Ukraine further to the right than they already are.

+ After Russian missiles hit fertilizer facilities in the Ternopil re­gion, near the city of Lviv, wa­ter sam­ples down­stream from the strikes showed am­mo­nia lev­els 163 times higher than normal and nitrates 50 times above normal…

+ Whatever the conflict, whoever the combatants, one outcome is certain: oil will win. Two months after Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, Russia’s oil exports have actually increased

+ Chevron nearly quadrupled its profits from last year’s record earnings, reporting a $6.3 billion profit in the first quarter, up from $1.37 billion in the same quarter in 2021. Its revenues jumped to $54.37 billion from $32 billion last year. Exxon reported doubling quarterly earnings from a year ago, even after writing off $3.4 billion from abandoning its operations in Russia.

+ Word out of Moscow is that Putin has assumed strategic command of military operations in Ukraine and turned over domestic policy to Russian Prime Minister, Mikhail Mishustin. This is a bad idea, if true. For a fan of the Romanovs, you’d think Putin would have had a better grasp of history. Nicholas II did the same in World War I, promptly lost more than a million Russian soldiers, leading to him being evicted from his palace and shot in a basement in Yekaterinburg, as “Anastasia screamed in vain”….

+ In 1945, the Allied Forces forcibly evicted more than 10 million ethnic Germans (not Nazi party members) from their homes in eastern Europe, where their families had lived for a century or more. At least 500,000 of them died as a result, one of World War II’s most heinous unacknowledged crimes.

+ José María Doussinague y Teixidor, general director of foreign policy at the ministry for foreign affairs, in Francoist Spain: “Without American petroleum, American trucks and American credit, we could never have won the civil war.”

+ Boeing’s CEO David Calhoun says the company should never have capitulated to Trump’s terms for the design and construction of two new Air Force One jetliners. The company announced it lost $660,000,000 building the two planes. Years ago I wrote a piece titled “Boeing & Nothingness.” (I was ridiculously proud of the title.) Not much has changed, since then. Boeing is so badly run, it’s only stayed in business because of federal contracts, bailouts and wars. Now they’re even losing millions on government deals, which is nearly impossible. (By the way, Sartre’s Being and Nothingness is a breeze compared to the Critique of Dialectical Reason, which should have come with a prescription for the same doses of Benzedrine that Sartre was swallowing while writing it…)

+ Hassan bin Attash was detained by Pakistan’s ISI in a raid in 2002, he was 17 years old. He was soon turned over to the CIA and held at a black site for more than 120 days. Then Bin Attash was shipped off to Guantanamo prison, where he has been locked up for the last 20 years. He is now 37 years old. He has never been charged with a crime. Now he has been cleared for release by Periodic Review Board, which drolly concluded that his detention had “changed the trajectory of his life” and that he’d been “influenced by American culture.” He’s eligible for release, if the US can find a country willing, in the words of the Defense Department, to “rehabilitate” him. “Rehabilitate” from what? He should be getting half of the CIA’s budget in reparations for wrongful detention under torturous conditions…

+ What’s the difference between liberals and neoliberals? The liberals gave us Japanese-American concentration camps, the use of A- and H-bombs as tactical weapons, the CIA, and the Korean and Vietnam Wars. Neoliberals gave us the wars on Afghanistan, Serbia, Libya, Yemen and the poor.

+ I’m still not quite sure about the etymology of “tankie,” but I wouldn’t mind being called one if there was a government worth going “in the tank” for. There hasn’t been in my lifetime, though I sometimes fantasize about being on the Parisian barricades with Rimbaud on one side and Courbet on the other.

+ Roger Stone, who knows a thing or two about these matters, claims there is a “satanic portal” above the White House. It must be the same one that Henry Kissinger has used, after receiving instructions from his Master, to secretly brief every president since LBJ.

+ 2.7 million tons: the amount of explosives dropped by the US Air Force illegally on 116,000 different sites in Cambodia, a country with which it was not officially at war, between 1963 and 1974. More tonnage than the Allies dropped in all of World War II.

+ Martin Dies, 1st chairman of the House Un-American Activities Committee, justifying investigations into Lincoln Brigade members who had fought Franco’s forces in Spain: “If you were against Hitler and Mussolini before Dec. 7, 1941, you were a pre-mature anti-fascist.”

+++

+ Macron’s re-election was the least inspiring French victory since a Bordeaux won a blind taste test at the Iowa State Fair.

+ Motivations of French voters…

– 47% of people who voted for Macron did so to block Le Pen
– 41% of people who voted for Le Pen did so to block Macron

+ Former members of Colombia’s military have publicly admitted before the transitional justice tribunal to executing more than 100 civilians during the country’s ruthless war against the FARC and the leftist Patriotic Union party. The military covered up the murders by creating “false positives”– portraying their victims to be militants killed in combat by planting weapons on the bodies. “We made a theater to show supposed combats because of the pressure from the high command,” testified Nestor Gutierrez, a former Colombian Army official. “I executed, I killed relatives of the people who are here, taking them with lies and deceit, shooting them, murdering them cruelly, cowardly, and planting guns and saying that they died in combat, that they were guerrilla.”

+ Belarus President (for life) Alexander Lukashenko this week: “Thank God we have dictatorship! You criticized me…at least there’s order in a dictatorship! Otherwise we’d be going around in rags.”

+ By a 42-point margin, Americans back K-12 teaching on “the legacy of slavery and racism and how this history impacts our laws, institutions, and society to this day.” When given with a concise definition of what CRT involves, even Republicans overwhelmingly oppose a ban.

+ Is the “light of consciousness” powered by a lithium battery? If so, how many coups per kilowatt hour?

+ It wasn’t that long ago that free-speech champion Elon Musk demanded that Chinese censors crackdown on online criticisms of Tesla.

+ Elon Musk’s bid for Twitter: $44 billion
Biden’s Climate budget: $44.9 billion.

+ Of course, it’s even worse than that, because Musk will probably actually pay the $44 billion. Biden won’t get the entire $44.9 billion and he’ll probably spend much of what he gets on projects like biomass that actually exacerbate the climate crisis.

+ According to a 2020 study by Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman, the 18 richest households in the US had an average net worth of about $66 billion in 2020. The share of national wealth owned by the tiny group, which represents 0.00001 percent of the population, has risen by a factor of nearly 10 since 1982.

+ A brief stop-over in Hong Kong by Jamie Dimon in November is the only time an international banking CEO has set foot in China in the last three years.

+ A new study predicts that more than 200 rural hospitals are at immediate risk of closing because they will be unable to pay their expenses within 2-3 years. Overall the study reports that “600 rural hospitals — over 30% of all rural hospitals in the country — are at risk of closing within the next 6 years … Most of the hospitals are located in isolated communities, where closure of the hospital would mean residents could not obtain essential healthcare services without traveling long distances.” The study places much of the blame on “inadequate payments” from large insurance companies.

+ Remember when Mitt, the $250 Million Man, said this about, who was it, Elon Musk, perhaps? “They’re dependent upon government … believe that they are victims … believe the government has a responsibility to care for them … these are people who pay no income tax.”

+ The polls show that Biden would benefit politically by doing what he repeatedly promised to do on the campaign trail…

+ But after floating the idea earlier in the week, he’s already backing down: “I am not looking at $50,000 student debt reduction, but looking at cancelling some other debt.”

+ 91%: increase in student debt load in the last 10 years.

+ No matter how far right the Democratic Party moves, the Right will accuse it of being “far left,” which encourages the Dems to move even further to the right. This is the opposite of the way the GOP works, which is why it’s the party with all of the energy–evil as it may be.

+ Trump-endorsed candidate for AZ Gov Kari Lake on ivermectin: “It works, I’ve taken it. It’s a wonder drug. Anthony Fauci kept that from us. I’m encouraging any lawman here .. to issue a warrant for Anthony Fauci’s arrest.” Over to you, Mister Ed

+ Except, of course, Ivermectin doesn’t work…for COVID.

+ This reveals a lot about Kamala’s current relationship with Biden…

+ When Biden was courting Harris to become his Veep, he promised that he’d have lunch with her at least twice every week. So far this year, they’ve had lunch together twice

+ In Canada, the rate of COVID infections is now higher than at any other point prior to this past winter’s Omicron BA.1 wave. Hospitalizations are also rising, with more people in hospital now than at any point before the winter.

+ Health Care in America: We are now entirely dependent on Boston sewage samples and Walgreen’s testing data to chart the course (rising) of the pandemic…

+ Biden will be sending out his Climate Czar with the same message on Global Warming next week to justify new oil leases on federal lands…

+ Compulsory prayer in school is the best vaccine against becoming infected by organized religion later in life…

+ Over the last decade, the average salary of Texas public school teachers (when adjusted for inflation) has stayed almost unchanged and the average pay for new teachers decreased.

+ This is one reason a record number of Texas teachers are quitting during the middle of the year and having their teaching licenses revoked by the state as punishment. The other reason, of course, is they’re tired of “being kicked around” by politicians.

+ The median annual income during the Great Depression was 22% of the cost of an average home. Today it’s 14%.

+ “Pleased to meet you, hope you guessed my name…”

+ Since Facebook changed its name to Meta the company has lost 250 billion dollars in market value.

+ Manchin will be even more insufferable now (if that’s possible): “In surveys conducted Jan. 1-March 31, 57% of West Virginia voters approved of Manchin’s job performance, up from 40% during the first quarter of 2021 — the biggest increase of any senator over that time frame.”

+ The concerned citizens who took over the Llano County, Texas library board wanted to remove two books they considered “pornographic” from the libraries digital and audio books collection. They couldn’t figure out a technical way to do this, so they simply deleted all 17,000 volumes from the collection.

+ Biden’s first three pardons, issued more than 460 days into his presidency, only highlight just how miserly he has been with an unlimited executive power to show compassion and empathy in a country that gets more sour and cruel by the hour. He remains stubbornly reluctant to reverse the enormous damage he did in drafting the punitive laws that grossly expanded the carceral state.

+ LA County Sheriff Alex Villanueva is investigating LA Times reporter Alene Tchekmedyian for stealing LA sheriff’s office property. The property in question? A leaked video of deputies abusing a prisoner…

+ Villanueva claimed that he learned that the LA sheriff’s deputy kneeled on a handcuffed inmate’s head eight months after it happened. But the sheriff department’s own commander (a kind of inspector general), Allen Castellano, filed a claim charging that Villanueva watched the video a mere five days after it happened and then directed the cover-up, saying: “We do not need bad media at this time.”

+ A two-year-long investigation by the Minnesota Department of Human Rights, found that the Minneapolis Police Department engaged in systemic and illegal racial discrimination over more than a decade. In a blistering 72-page report, the human rights department cited racial disparities in how Minneapolis police officers “use force, stop, search, arrest, and cite people of color, particularly Black individuals, compared to white individuals in similar circumstances.”

+ According to the Dept. of Human Rights report, Minneapolis police set up fake social media accounts and posed as members of the public to criticize elected officials and spied on Black activists and organizations “without a public safety objective.”

+ In a 4-3 decision, the NY Court of Appeals ruled that 19-year-old boy named Malik Dawson didn’t invoke his right to counsel in the following interchange while being interrogated by police:

+ Herb Robinson, a 30-year veteran of the Kansas City police department, is suing his own department for racial profiling, after being pulled over last year while on duty in an unmarked car. Robinson was wearing his uniform at the time.

+ Eric Adams on his favorite subject…the anointed one, himself, Eric Adams: “God made the decision that Eric Adams and all of his life experiences was going to become the mayor of the city of New York.”

+ Lara Logan’s Toobin moment…

+ Josh Bivens: “The rise in inflation has not been driven by anything that looks like an overheating labor market—it’s been driven by higher corporate profit margins and supply-chain bottlenecks.

+ According to a study by the Economic Policy Institute, the average US wage grew 4.4% in the first year of the pandemic and then fell by 1.7% in the second year.

+ Crypto mining–which will consume as much energy as the city of Houston within the next year–could cripple the state of Texas’ power grid.

+Pat Dennis: “I’m sick of people calling everything in crypto a Ponzi scheme. Some crypto projects are pump and dump schemes, while others are pyramid schemes. Others are just standard issue fraud. Others are just middlemen skimming of the top. Stop glossing over the diversity in the industry.”

+++

+ They’re going to need a taller graph…

+ A study by the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit’s Net Zero Tracker found net-zero pledges by the 25 top global companies totaled, at best, an average 40% cut in emissions, far from the 100% they promised.

+ Where California is burning during the last week of…April.

+ Alok Sharma, President for COP26: “Mia Mottley, PM of Barbados, said 2 degrees is “a death sentence” for her country. And it’s not just her country. I mean, there are millions and millions of people across the world, for whom 2 degrees will be a death sentence.”

+ A new study in Nature estimates that with only two degrees of warming, the consequences of climate change will release thousands of new viruses spread among animal species by 2070, vastly increasing the risk of emerging infectious diseases spilling over from animals to humans.

+ Grass-fed beef is not, I repeat NOT, a solution to the climate crisis.

+ In April, temperatures in New Delhi (population: 25 million) hit 100 degrees (37.7 Celsius) 23 out of 25 days. The average temperature for that month has been 4.8 degrees higher than normal. More than 500 million people are sweltering under a killer heatwave that shows little sign of relenting…

+ According to BerkeleyEarth, India is on pace for around 3.5C warming by the end of the century.

+ Industrial fossil fuel CO2 emissions have risen at about same rate in 2010s as in 1990s.

+ The intake pipes in Lake Mead, which supply water to Las Vegas, are now above the surface of the lake.

+ A new UN report estimates that more than 40% of the planet’s land surface area is now “degraded,” largely as a consequence of food production.

+ All but one of Yellowstone’s nine wolf packs lost individuals to hunters and trappers this year.

+ A federal appeals court has upheld a ban on the baiting of brown bears in Alaska. The ban should be extended to all bears, nationwide.

+ For the first time in four years, a new litter of red wolf pups has been born in the wild. The newborn pups, four females and two males, were located in the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge along the coast of northeastern North Carolina.

+ The world’s mammal population in terms of biomass…

Livestock: 62%
Humans: 34%

Wild mammals: 4%

+ The Rembrandt, Iowa egg factory roasted 5.3 million chickens alive in an attempt to eradicate Avian flu, then fired nearly every worker at the plant. The factory is owned by billionaire Glen Taylor, who also controls the Minnesota Timberwolves NBA team. One fired worker told the Guardian:

Right now everybody’s worried about the chickens. We get it: it was really inhumane the way they killed them. But chickens are chickens, right? People worked in those barns pulling out dead birds in terrible conditions, faeces everywhere, doing 12- or 14-hour days. They couldn’t protest because then they’d be fired and lose their redundancy pay. Then they’re thrown out of work and no one speaks for them.

+++

+ Werner Herzog in an interview in the latest issue of the New Yorker:

“The deepest of catastrophes was the First World War, and then only twenty years later or so you have the Second World War, and the complete destruction of Germany. Almost every single major city in Germany looked like the World Trade Center after its attack. And that sank in—and it’s in me. My first memory is of my mother ripping my brother and me out of bed in the middle of the winter night, wrapping us in blankets, and taking us up on a slope. In the distance, at the end of the valley, the entire night sky was red and orange and very slowly pulsing. She said the city of Rosenheim was burning. I was only two and a half. Normally, memories do not go back that far, but I know this was my very first memory, and it’s embedded in my soul…”

+ Megan Fox: “It’s just a few drops, but yes, [me and Machine Gun Kelly] do consume each other’s blood on occasion for ritual purposes only.” This is getting routine. Every 25 or so some celebrity couple does this for shock value: Jim Morrison and Pamela Courson, Angelina Jolie and Billy Bob Thornton…Why not share something original, like lymphatic or spinal fluids?

+ Army evaluation of Jerry Garcia: “Recruit Jerome J. Garcia… [was] unreliable, irresponsible, immature, unwilling to accept authority, and completely lacking in soldierly qualities… he was only interested in getting out of the Army as soon as possible.”

 

PLAYBOY: How did you feel when you saw “Saturday Night Fever” and spotted the poster of yourself—in your Serpico beard—on the wall of John Travolta’s room?

PACINO: I ducked. I was watching the screen and I muttered, “That’s not Al Pacino, that’s Serpico.” Sometimes I talk aloud in a movie theater. Like in “The Good-Bye Girl,” with Dreyfuss and Marsha Mason, one of the characters says to the other, “Nobody knew Al Pacino before The Godfather, and I yelled up at the screen, “You’re full of shit, Marsha. You were in a one-act play with me before The Godfather!

PLAYBOY: That was during a regular screening at a movie theater?

PACINO: Yeah. Sometimes I’ll do that.

Like a Tree Planted by the Water…

Booked Up
What I’m reading this week…

The New Science of the Enchanted Universe: an Anthropology of Most of Humanity
Marshall Sahlins
(Princeton)

Winston Churchill: His Times, His Crimes
Tariq Ali
(Verso)

Disaster Mon Amour
David Thomson
(Yale)

Sound Grammar
What I’m listening this week…

Live in Paris: the Radio France Recordings, 1983-1985
Chet Baker
(Elemental)

Get On Board: the Songs of Sonny Terry and Brownie McGee
Ry Cooder and Taj Mahal
(Nonesuch)

Tinta y Tiempo
Jorge Drexler
(Sony)

The Benefits of the Useless

“But why should we have to be useful and for what reason? Who divided the world into useless and useful, and by what right? Does a thistle have no right to life, or a Mouse that eats the grain in a warehouse? What about Bees and Drones, weeds and roses? Whose intellect can have had the audacity to judge who is better, and who worse? A large tree, crooked and full of holes, survives for centuries without being cut down, because nothing could possibly be made out of it. This example should raise the spirits of people like us. Everyone knows the profit to be reaped from the useful, but nobody knows the benefit to be gained from the useless.”

– Olga Tokarczuk, Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead 

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