Roaming Charges: The End of the Innocents

Street art day of Ulvade shooting, Portland. Photo: Jeffrey St. Clair.

“The horror is that America changes all the time, without ever changing at all.”

– James Baldwin

+ Is there any country that kills more–at home and abroad– than this one, while its politicians and preachers prattle on endlessly about the “sanctity of life”?

+ I understand why gun sales go up after mass killings in the US. No matter how much $$, arms and gear is poured into police agencies, they won’t be there to protect you or your kids. They’ll wait outside until the shooting stops, then outline the bodies in chalk & mop up the blood We are on our own inside one of the most violent societies that’s ever existed, a society whose cultural & economic structures pit us against each other for survival. The tragedy is that being armed makes it more likely that you or someone in your family will die from a gunshot.

+ Many of the same politicians who just sent $40 billion in weapons to Ukraine are lamenting the domestic slaughter from military-style assault weapons at home without pausing for a second to contemplate any possible connection between the two…

+ Biden: “When in God’s name are we going to stand up to the gun lobby?”

+ $118.5 million: Pentagon contractor lobbying expenditures for 2021.

+ Speaking of gun control, US arms exports totaled $138.2 billion in 2021, before the blank check given to Ukraine.

+ Has Raytheon cashed their checks, yet?

+ $15.7 million: Gun industry/rights lobbying expenditures for 2021

+ Nearly 500 gun manufacturers and retailers cashed COVID relief checks totally more than $125 million. Daniel Defense, the company that made the assault rifle used by the Uvalde mass shooter, pocketed a $3.1 million loan from the federal government in April 2020.

+ There are two complimentary ways to interpret this Financial Times chart of mass shootings in the US. One is that mass shootings exploded after the assault weapons ban expired in 2004. The other is that the longer the Forever Wars went on the more blowback there was here in terms of mass shootings. Violence abroad breeds violence at home.

+ Steven Salaita: “The biggest mistake many people make in the aftermath of a schoolhouse massacre is assuming that politicians give a damn about their children’s well-being.”

+ Police officers killed by gunfire 2022: 20
School kids killed by gunfire 2022: 24

+ 90% of all firearm deaths for children 0-14 years of age in high-income countries occur in the US.

+ In areas where new gun stores open, gun homicides increase

+ More than 30 studies have demonstrated that not only does gun ownership not reduce violent crimes (murder, rape armed robbery), it facilitates them..

+ Meet the Ulvade Police SWAT team. Where were they? Outside the school, waiting on reinforcements. When one parent shouted, “Let’s just rush in because the cops aren’t doing anything like they are supposed to,” they took out their Tasers to keep parents from entering the school to try and save their kids.

+ All that military hardware, body armor and firepower that’s been shoveled to them for decades and they sat for an hour as the mass killer emptied his magazines on defenseless 10 year-olds and their teachers.

+ So this is how it went down. The shooter entered a classroom and locked the door . The police on scene left him in there. When Border Patrol showed up they couldn’t break down the door. After 40-60 minutes they finally got a member of the school staff to unlock it with a key. Imagine how they would have plunged into action, if someone had been reported smoking pot in the bathroom?

Student calls to 911:

12:03—whispered she’s in room 112
12:10—said multiple dead
12:13—called again
12:16—says 8-9 students alive
12:19—student calls from room 111
12:21—3 shots heard on call
12:36—another call
12:43—asks for police
12:47—asks for police

+ $7.4 billion: amount of military equipment transferred to police in the US since 1990.

+ For from being defunded, the Uvalde Police Department consumes 40% of the town’s budget.

+ The main function of a militarized police is the US is to crackdown on protests against police abuses, either killing innocent people or standing by as innocent people are killed.

+ The shit that public school teachers have had to endure for the past 20 years–even from Obama and his gang of “reformers”–is appalling & then to have them put their bodies in front of their young students, as cops in body armor with automatic weapons cowered outside for an hour.

+ What a pretty hat. It would have been a shame to get any sweat or blood on it…

+ It only took the Minneapolis Police Department 13 seconds to break down the door to the apartment where Amir Locke was sleeping and shoot him while he was laying on the sofa…

+ For argument’s sake, let’s take the Uvalde cops at their (specious) word: there felt no rush to enter the building b/c they believed the shooting was over. So they waited an hour for wounded kids–who they had heard screaming–to bleed out? That’s depraved indifference and it’s vile.

+ Derrida: “Such a caring for death, an awakening that keeps vigil over death, a conscience that looks death in the face, is another name for freedom.” This is the opposite kind of “freedom” from that piously proclaimed by American politicians & tycoons, which is the “freedom” to ignore the often lethal consequences of their actions, to dismiss the dead as losers in Trump’s crass phrase, as as weak and somehow responsible for their own fate, and valorize the survivors as winners in the Darwinian struggle that defines late-stage capitalism in the US.

+ Michael Parenti: “You see there are people who believe the function of the police is to fight crime, and that’s not true, the function of the police is social control and protection of property.”

+ Every mass shooting is a fundraising bonanza for all the political players: NRA, GOP and DNC. Hardly a surprise why we are seeing more not less of them.

+ The challenge for the Democrats is to find a “common sense” (ie, toothless) compromise on gun legislation that will win over Manchin, so that (unlike with codifying Roe) when it inevitably fails in the Senate they can blame Republicans.

+ Five minutes after Paul Gosar (Bigot-AZ) claimed that the Ulvade mass murderer was a “transsexual leftist illegal alien”, Glenn is lamenting to his soul(less)mate Tucker Carlson how the left is politicizing the shooting…

+ What’s really “fucking nuts” is that it isn’t “fucking nuts.” Doing nothing (on school shootings, COVID, or climate change) is a perfectly rational response to the financial incentives that drive the US political system in the post-Citizens United era.

+ Though many police departments use the motto “protect and serve,” cops don’t have to come to your rescue, help you when you’re in distress or try to save your child from being shot. Under a Supreme Court case called Castle Rock v. Gonzalez, the police can’t be held accountable for not coming to your aid, even if the lives of your children are at stake. Yet they have the absolute right to taser, cuff and arrest you, if you complain too loudly about them sitting on their asses as kids are being shot in front of them.

+ How about getting rid of the Dept. of Grooming, I mean, Education and replace it with a new Dept. of Looking…

+ Surviving spring break in Daytona is nothing compared to surviving study hall in many American schools.

+ After the history of the Uvalde massacre is finally written, how soon will it be re-written to conform with the standards of school textbooks in Texas?

+ How many students has Critical Race Theory killed?

+ According to Sen. Ron Johnson (Asshole-WI), all of those kids in Uvalde…

+ Any comment from the “Jesus Guns Babies” lady this morning? Prophecy fulfilled?

+ Ted Cruz wants schools to have only one door and Texas AG, Ken Paxton, wants to arm teachers….

+ After the Parkland High mass shooting in 2018, the Florida legislature responded by passing a law requiring armed police in every public elementary, middle and high school in the state. Predictably, the presence of police didn’t make the schools any safer, but it did lead to treating more and more students like criminals. Within two years, student arrests had hit new highs, the number of students expelled from school climbed by 43 percent and the number of students being physically restrained quadrupled. Meanwhile, there are now more police officers (3650) in Florida schools than nurses (2286), psychologists (1452) and social workers (1414).

+ More than 311,000 students in the US have been exposed to school shootings in the US since Columbine.

+++

+ In its latest assault on habeas corpus, the Supreme Court ruled this week that two men on Arizona’s death row could not argue ineffective assistant of counsel to have their convictions overturned, even though in one of the cases the court-appointed indigent attorney was so incompetent that they failed to introduce evidence that their client was innocent of the crime. The court ruled that Bill Clinton’s heinous Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (co-written and shepherded through the Senate by Joe Biden in 1994) prohibits federal courts from examining evidence that an “ineffective” counsel failed to produce at trial. The logic here is beyond Kafka and Heller: your lawyer is so incompetent that he neglected to introduce evidence of your innocence. But because the evidence wasn’t used at trial, you can’t use the evidence on appeal to prove the incompetence of your counsel. We’ve reached the point where innocence is no defense.

+ Like many people on death row, Barry Jones was convicted and sentenced to death based on the testimony of a state expert witness, in this case a “bloodstain pattern analyst,” who dazzled the jury with a blizzard of “junk forensics.” The so-called expert had achieved that exalted status by attending one weeklong class.

+ The opinion in Shinn v. Martinez Ramirez was written (or at least signed by) Clarence Thomas, who called the idea of a federal court conducting a hearing on evidence that someone on death row might be innocent “an affront to the State.”

+ We were told that the leaking of the Alito draft opinion overturning Roe was destructive to the deliberative process because drafts usually get corrected and altered. Yet Thomas’ opinion manages to get most of the facts, including the crucial ones, wrong. His entire narrative of the case, which survived the “strict scrutiny” of five other justices, is based on evidence later debunked by several expert witnesses, who testimony was found credible by a federal circuit court judge (a Bush appointee) and a federal appeals court. Who will fact check the Court?

+ Clarence Thomas draws the line “high-tech” lynchings. He’s more than willing to provide the rope for all others…

+ This is the culmination of Scalia’s dissent in the Troy Davis case: “This Court has never held that the Constitution forbids the execution of a convicted defendant who has had a full and fair trial but is later able to convince a habeas court that he is ‘actually’ innocent.”

Defendant: I’m innocent.

Court: Prove it.

Defendant: Here’s the proof.

Court: Too late.

Defendant: My lawyer was incompetent.

Court: Prove it.

Defendant: The proof is that he didn’t use the evidence that proved my innocence.

Court: But that evidence should have been introduce at trial.

Defendant: That’s my point.

Court: Well, you can’t introduce it now.

Defendant: But that’s my lawyer’s fault.

Court: You should’ve hired a better lawyer.

Defendant: I didn’t hire him. The state appointed him.

Court: Tough break, kid.

Defendant: But my life’s on the line and I’m running out of time.

Court: You should have that of that before you did whatever you did. We’ve got a schedule to keep. Next case.

+ So now Biden is ready to go to war against China to defend what Roger Waters once called “the shoe factory called Taiwan.”

+ Or did he misspeak, again?

+ How much time will Biden’s Ministry of Truth spend re-messaging “misinformation” that emanates from the mouth of Biden himself?

+ The weapons in/cocaine out flights of the Contra war have been replaced by weapons in/baby formula out flights of the Ukraine war…

+ $17 billion: the amount of direct revenue likely to flow to military contractors from the $40 billion Ukraine aid package.

+ According to the UN, the number of people globally who have been displaced by war, poverty or climate change has now topped 100 million, more than 1% of the Earth’s human population. Around 54 million are internally displaced people. Another 8 million have already been displace by the Ukraine war. This number seems likely to grow, perhaps substantially in the next few years.

+ So Henry Kissinger is now officially to the Left of the entire Democratic Party on Ukraine. At Davos, Kissinger called for resumption of negotiations, an end to hostilities and allowing Russia to claim the territory it has seized in eastern Ukraine.

+ When Kissinger flies to places like Davos, does the plane carry with it boxes of the soil of his native country….?

+ Andrew Cockburn reports hearing that JSOC, plus the UK’s SAS, have been providing close protection to Zelensky since first days of the war.

+ In a move that will almost certainly boost Russian life-expectancy, the Golden Arches are being removed from Moscow

+ “End the war faster” is an incantation chanted multiple times by LBJ and Nixon to no effect….

+ Idrees Ali, Pentagon correspondent for Reuters: “Yesterday on an official trip with Deputy U.S. Defense Secretary Hicks, my phone was confiscated by a DoD official, locked up and I was stopped from using electronics because of a new policy that bars non-US reporters from using devices on govt planes.”

+ How many funeral corteges of journalists are attacked by police each week, their pallbearers savagely beaten, the casket defiled, the body nearly toppled into the street, by a govt. that claims to be a democracy and sucks up $$ from the US? This is the double standard…one of many.

+ Two separate investigations, one by the Associated Press and the other by CNN, have demolished the IDF’s slander that the Shireen was killed by a Palestinian gunman. Both conclude that the shooter was most likely an IDF sniper. CNN’s report suggests that Shireen was targeted.

+ A delegation from the Irish parliament tasked with investigating the circumstances around the killing of Shireen Abu Akleh was denied entry into Gaza by Israel this week.

+ Meanwhile, Al Jazeera has referred the killing of Shireen to the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

+ A new billionaire has been created nearly every day of the pandemic.

+ Another hand don’t despair. There is some good news to report. The world’s 50 richest people have lost half a trillion dollars so far this year!

+ Einstein, Replacement Theorist? According to a piece in the Guardian about Einstein’s diaries, the physicist described Chinese children as “spiritless and obtuse” and calls it “a pity if these Chinese supplant all other races.”

+ According to a new study by the Economic Policy Institute, rising inequality over the last four decades has reduced economic growth in the US. Since 1979, income share has risen for the top 10% but fallen for the rest. By 2018, the top 1% were securing 16.4% of pre-tax and benefits income, up from 8.9% in 1979. The top 1% were saving 30.6% of their income, over 60 times as much as the bottom fifth of household. This reduction in spending put constraints overall economic growth.

+ As many as 14.2 million people may lose their health care coverage in July when the Covid public health emergency funding ends…

+ According to the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services, the opioid overdose death rate for Indigenous people in Montana was twice that of white people from 2019 to 2021.

+ Hot Fun in the (Socialist) Summertime…

+ Former Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows reportedly told colleagues that on January 6th Trump” had signaled a positive view of the prospect of hanging the Vice President.” If Trump’s the GOP nominee in 2023, Pence, of course, will campaign for him…

+ The anniversary of George Floyd’s killing has now been memorialized by the US Congress as… National Police Week and who else but Senator Klobocop led the way…

+ Klobuchar’s numbers are a little off and totally out of any context. The Officer Down Memorial page tallied 623 “line of duty deaths”–more than 3/4s of those deaths (444) were from COVID, at a time when vaccines were widely available.

 

+ Police officers shot and killed in 2021: 62
Shot and killed by Police officers in 2021: 1144

+ Texts messages between gang detectives and the DA in the Portland metro area reveal a detective and prosecutor discussing having a “fiesta” to celebrate “convicted Mexicans”.

+ NY Mayor Eric Adams’s new “Neighborhood Safety Teams” are stocked with NYPD cops who have  repeatedly accused of beating, harassing, and illegally arresting people while serving in disbanded plainclothes units, often as high-ranking supervisors.

+ Adam’s fear-mongering about a non-existent crime wave in NYC has been so successful that downtown businesses are facing staffing shortages because employees are afraid to go back to work

+ Tennessee is set to become the first state to make it a “felony” for homeless people to camp on public property, punishable by up to six years in prison and the loss of voting rights. (Another case of people losing voting rights for being poor.)

+ After the LAPD cleared the homeless encampments in the Echo Park neighborhood, fewer than 7 percent of the people evicted found permanent housing. Nearly half of them are still missing and at least seven are dead.

+ $2,465: the hourly rate charged by lawyer Neal Katyal to represent Johnson & Johnson in its bankruptcy case to resolve claims that its baby powder caused cancers.

+ Pelosi: “Why doesn’t Catholic Church punish death penalty supporters?” Good question. But the same should be asked of the Democratic Party…

+ Can anyone explain why the NYT fired Jayson Blair and kept Tom “I had lunch with [fill in the blank]” Friedman? Blair was a much better writer and his forays into fabulation at least had a distant ring of truth to them.

+ If Ayn Rand and Alan Greenspan had consummated their “flirtation”….

+ Most Americans will pay a premium price just to buy the coolest-looking mass surveillance device that tracks their every move and preserves the data for the abortion police

+ The five counties with the highest IRS audit rates are predominantly black, rural counties in the deep south…

+ More than 40% of refinancings in Q4 2021 saw homeowners pull cash out of their homes, a former boost to US consumer spending that will likely have come to a halt in 2022.

+ The governor of Oklahoma, who just signed a bill banning abortion, period, is being primaried by another Republican named Mark Sherwood who believes life begins before conception. “I believe life begins in God before it begins at conception,” Sherwood says. Sherwood claims every life is pre-planned by the Supreme even those that begin with incest or rape, as he says his own life did. God wanted Sherwood’s mother to be raped?

+ Kandiss Taylor, the Jesus Guns Babies lady running for Governor of Georgia in the GOP primary: “We’re gonna do a political rally and we’re gonna honor Jesus .. They’re not gonna tell us ‘separation of church and state.’ We are the church! We run this state! .. The church runs the state of Georgia!”

+++

+ For context, the CO2 level surpassed the historical highs of 300 PPM in 1950 and hit the maximum “safe” level of 350 in 1989. This month it hit 421 ppm.

+ Under current CO₂ emission trajectories, the chance of limiting warming to 1.5°C is less than 1%.

+ According to NOAA’s annual greenhouse gas index, warming increased 49% between 1990 and 2021.

+ On the road (to ruin) again…in the first quarter of 2022, drivers in the US racked up 753 billion miles, a new record. Meanwhile, CO2 emission rose by 4 percent.

+ On Thursday the UK government announced plans to double tax relief for new oil and gas extraction.

On Friday G7 environment ministers announced: “We stress that fossil fuel subsidies are inconsistent with the goals of the Paris Agreement.”

+ Historically, the United States has alone produced 20 percent global carbon emissions, almost twice as much as China, the second-largest emitter. Contrast that with all of sub-Saharan Africa, with a population of nearly a billion people, which is responsible for less than 1 percent.

+ Extreme long-lasting early heat waves in India and Pakistan have become about 30 times more likely due to human-caused climate change.

+ Ten months ago, California Governor Gavin Newsom called for voluntary 15% water use cuts. Since then water use in CA cities and towns has increased nearly 19%…

+ The Big Ag growers of the Sacramento Valley, protected for decades by their water rights, are now suffering for the first time during the prolonged drought that has seized the West. Ranchers are selling off cows, rice fields are going fallow, almond plantations are being plowed under and, yet the environment is still being degraded…

+ GenX is the most lead-poisoned generation in America.  The average GenXer’s childhood lead exposure has cut “nearly 6 points” off their IQ…

+ Over the last 100 years, deaths from exposure to emissions from vehicles, smoke stacks and wildfires have increased by more than 50 percent.

+ Despite mounting evidence of adverse health and environmental effects, California regulators continue to say it’s “safe” to grow crops with oil wastewater

+ 44: the average number of hours of sleep lost each year to climate change.

+ New archaeological research has unearthed the remains of large settlements in the Amazon dating back at least to 1400 CE. One of these complexes, which features walled compounds and pyramid-like terraces, sprawls across more than 100 hectares, roughly three times the size of Vatican City.

+ A new study shows that reductions in particulate pollution exposure raised test scores and narrowed the black-white test score gap by 0.06 and 0.01 standard deviations, respectively.

+ A meta-analysis of 1,200 scientific studies has identified more than 3,000 chemicals residing in food packaging, many of which are toxic on their own and several of which interact with each other in ways that make them even more harmful.

+ Much of the town of Paradise, California burned down in 2018.  At least 85 people died in the fire. Now the town a “hot” housing market, where new home prices are spiking.

+ “It’s not my duty as Mayor to make sure you have a parking spot. For me it’s the same as if you bought a cow, or a refrigerator, and then asked me where you’re going to put them.” – Miguel Anxo, Mayor of Pontevedra, Spain.

+++

+ If Shakespeare’s comedies are largely about sexual relations, Hollywood comedies of the 30s focus on something that’s nearly disappeared from its films today: class. Class warfare runs all through Lubitsch’s films, from a minor one like Trouble in Paradise, where the wonderful Miriam Hopkins and Herbert Marshall play a pair of pickpockets who gleefully fleece aristocrats and tycoons to a classic like Ninotchka (written by Billy Wilder and Charles Brackett).

Ninotchka: Why should you carry other people’s bags?

Porter: Well, that’s my business madame.

Ninotchka: That’s no business. That’s social injustice.

Porter: That depends on the tip.

+ Screenwriter Julius Epstein (Casablanca, Arsenic and Old Lace, Pete n Tillie, Mrs Skeffington) on genre films: “I detest science fiction. I thought Star Wars was a big bore and the sequels I didn’t even bother to go see. I just don’t believe there’s anybody out there in space. ET, I thought, was one of the biggest bores of all time. I was bored from the first frame until the last. ET itself was one of the dullest characters ever. He never said anything of consequence. He had no humor. Nothing. He was made up to look like Menachim Begin. With as much humor. I hate Westerns, too. I’m an Easterner. I think all the stories about the West are probably full of shit.”

Epstein’s observation on Hollywood genre films comes from a really funny interview in the first volume of Backstory, a collection of conversations with screenwriters of the 30s and 40s. Epstein, who wrote and doctored hundreds of scrips with his brother Philip, described his working day as “writing from 12 to 2.” He tried to write three good pages. It took him 4 to 6 weeks to produce a complete script. In a career that spanned 50 years (from 1934’s Twenty Million Sweethearts to Reuben, Reuben in 1983), most of his work was uncredited. Epstein said he didn’t mind because most of the Hollywood films were crap and credit only mattered for screenwriters after the collapse of the studio contract system, when screenwriters could earn money off of residuals. He said he and his brother came up with ending for Casablanca while in a traffic jam at the intersection of Beverly Glen and Sunset. I’ve spent motionless hours at that same spot without inspiration striking…He considered the film a fairly standard war flick, which his children later forced him to seek credit for…

+ David Ehrlich on Baz Luhrmann’s “Elvis“: “a sadistically monotonous super-montage in which a weird Flemish guy manipulates some naïve young greaser over and over and over again until they both get sad and die.”

+ “Real Live” isn’t a great Dylan album, but it is the best Rolling Stones album of the 80s–powered by Mick Taylor in Exile/Sticky Fingers mode, The Faces’ Ian McLagen on keys and produced by Glyn Johns.

You May be Rich, You May be Poor…

Booked Up
What I’m reading this week…

Atoms and Ashes: A Global History of Nuclear Disasters
Serhii Plokhy
(W. W. Norton)

Earthlings: Imaginative Encounters with the Natural World
Adrian Parr
(Columbia)

Water Thicker Than Blood: A Memoir of a Post-Internment Childhood
George Uba
(Temple)

Sound Grammar
What I’m listening to this week…

Carry Me Home
Mavis Staples and Levon Helm
(Anti-)

Combat Rock: [People’s Hall Special Edition]
The Clash
(Sony Legacy)

Interstellar Black Space
Brandon Coleman
(Brainfeeder)

A False Self-Image

“We humans almost universally have a false self-image of our species. We think that monstrous, wicked policies must be, can only be, conceived and directed and carried out by monsters, wicked or evil people, or highly aberrant, clinically ‘disturbed’ people. People not like ‘us.’ That is mistaken. Those who have created a continuing nuclear threat to the existence of humanity have been normal, ordinary politicians, analysts, and military strategists. To them and to their subordinates, Hannah Arendt’s controversial proposition regarding the ‘banality of evil’ I believe applies, though it might better have been stated as the’“banality of evildoing, and of most evildoers.’”

– Daniel Ellsberg, The Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner

 

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