Roaming Charges: A River Ran Through It

Northern loop road, Yellowstone National Park. Photo: National Park Service.

“People ask me to predict the future, when all I want to do is prevent it.”

– Ray Bradbury

Fed by four days of solid rain, much of it falling on high country snowpack, the Yellowstone River, one of the last of its free-flowing kind, rose up out of its banks, untamed as a grizzly, assertively changed its course and overwhelmed almost every impediment that had once stood in its way.

Hillsides collapsed. Culverts crumpled. Bridges were shorn from their abutments, twisted and heaved into the river. It ate the northern loop road, swallowing a huge chunk between the Gardiner Arch and Mammoth Hot Springs–a road I’ve driven maybe 75 times. Large sections are gone now, chunks of asphalt tumbling toward Livingston. Bankside houses slid into the raging waters.  Water mains ruptured. Sewer pipes broke. Treatment plants inundated. The 100-year floodplain was swamped from Gardiner to Billings, whisking away Chevys, sheds and black angus at 82,000 cubic feet per second.

They called it a 1000-year flood. It will probably happen four more times in the next 50 years. At Billings, the river was rushing at 20,000 cubic feet per second faster than it had ever flowed before. The river, unbridled by dams, asserted itself, demonstrated in real, terrifying time the consequences of climate change–deep system changes that are already at work and defy mitigation. The pugilistic, wolf-trapping, bear-baiting Governor of Montana was vacationing in Tuscany. No one really wanted him to come back.

If ever a river had a consciousness, an agency of its own, it would be the Yellowstone, shredding the roads, bridges and cars that have become the bane of the park’s existence, the driving forces behind so many of its ecological ailments. Yellowstone is big, but not big enough for the burden it bears. Nearly 5 million people drive through Yellowstone each year–a hissing, carbon-spewing, bison harassing traffic jam from May to October.

All that changed in a few hours. The five entrances were closed for days. Flights were grounded. Tourists stranded. Trips cancelled. The northern section of the park may be shuttered for a year. Mission accomplished. The park, and its indigenous inhabitants, need a break. A prolonged one. Everyone else needs to take notice. Message delivered.

+++

+ Those who rightly condemn Russia for the imprisonment and medical torture of Alexie Navalny by the regime that poisoned him should decry with equal moral force the reprehensible decision by the UK government turn over Julian Assange to the hands of the government that plotted to assassinate him. (The flip-side  of this also holds. Assange’s supporters should denounce with similar vigor the obscene treatment of Navalny by Putin’s security apparatus.)

+ According to a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, from the COVID pandemic’s beginning through mid-March 2022, universal health care could have saved more than 338,000 lives from COVID-19 alone. The U.S. also could have saved $105.6 billion in health care costs associated with hospitalizations from the disease and that’s in addition to the estimated $438 billion that could be saved in a non-pandemic year.

+ New research out of Johns Hopkins School of Public Health shows that anyone infected with COVID is at higher risk for heart issues—including clots, inflammation, and arrhythmias—a risk that persists even in relatively healthy people long after the illness has passed.

+ NATO Supremo Jens Stoltenberg announced this week that NATO will have preassigned forces and prepositioned equipment on its eastern flank for the first time since the Cold War ended.

+ In the war that no one asked for or was asked about, the Biden Administration is putting together the biggest weapons package yet for Ukraine, this one worth at least a billion dollars. The blank check is now on an automated recurring payment plan…

+ According to the Wall Street Journal, the US is sending around $130 million a day in military aid to Ukraine plus economic and other assistance. That’s more than what the US spent at the height of its Afghanistan war.

+ $80,000: the amount the US spends every minute on nuclear weapons. More than the rest of the world combined.

+ To top it off, the Senate just tacked on an additional $45 billion to Biden’s Pentagon spending bill. Sen. James Inhofe crowed: “It’s everything I hoped for!”

+ Biden is going to the Kingdom of the Headchoppers, despite his repeated vows to treat Saudi Arabia as a pariah state. Is it merely to plead for increased oil production? Sam Husseini, who always tends to see the bigger picture in these matters, argues there’s much more at play:

Most seem to buy that the motive for Biden’s trip is cheap oil. But couldn’t that be something of a pretext?  The US establishment has lots of other motives: Sell weapons. Wants to normalize Arab states relations with an expansive Israel. Wants to ensure lots of financial and political and media relations with Saudi Arabia. One obvious thing is that oil profits are used to finance Wall Street and not reasonable regional development. Wants to squash independent states and movements. But the US public may not get behind any of those. Couldn’t Biden do lots of other things to get cheaper gas, like addressing oil company profits?  I’m concerned that accepting the notion that the motive is cheap oil makes the twisted US-Saudi relationship seem more decent than it actually is.

+ A recent report from the Land Research Center documents that Israeli forces demolished about 1,032 Palestinian homes and buildings in the occupied cities of West Bank and Jerusalem in 2021, displacing 1,834 Palestinians, including 954 children.

+ The Israeli police have completed an internal probe on the crackdown at Shireen Abu Akleh’s funeral. The report will not be released. In sum: “wrongdoing” is acknowledged (in secret), “wrongdoers” in the police won’t be charged, their “wrongdoing” was justified by “rioting” Palestinian mourners…

+ In advance of Biden’s visit to the Middle East, the Biden administration has asked the Israeli government “to avoid actions that could create tension.” Translation: Please don’t shoot any American reporters in the head until after Air Force One has left the tarmac, Naftali…

+ 20 years later, we’re just now seeing photos of how the first prisoners were brought to Gitmo…

+ Former detainee Manoor Adayfi, who now lives in Serbia, on life after being released from Gitmo: “America punishes you for 15 years, and then the rest of the world punishes you for the rest of your life.”

+ In the special election for Texas 34th congressional district, Mayra Flores (R) defeats Dan Sanchez (D) flipping an 84% Hispanic Rio Grande Valley seat red for the first time in 75 years. The dominoes will start falling very fast now…

+ Like Bill Clinton, Biden wouldn’t mind (and might even secretly desire) having the Republicans take control of Congress for the next two years, so he can blame them for nothing getting done (even though he doesn’t really want to do much of anything himself). But the rest of the party is nuts for going along with him.

+ The Democrats are using a playbook from the late 1980s. It didn’t work very well then and it’s pretty much worthless now, but apparently it still seems like the latest thing to the octogenarians running the party.

+ Bernie Sanders said this week that he’ll support Biden’s re-election bid in 2024. Bernie’s no Ralph Nader. He’s not even Eugene McCarthy.

+ Either I’m insane or Robert Reich (who wrote a column this week urging Liz Cheney to run for president) is. I guess it must be me, because Reich isn’t alone. There are more and more liberal Democrats who want a Republican Party run by the Cheney faction. By next week, they might even prefer that the Cheney’s to run their party.

+ They–the Democratic elites, I mean–fall for this kind of wishful thinking every time. Why? Because they’re much more comfortable with neocon Republicans than they are the base of their own party, whose aspirations & pleas they usually spend 3 out of every 4 four years suppressing

+ So Robert Reich is supporting Liz Cheney for president and the Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg is backing Mike Pence. The Democratic primaries in 2024 are going to wild!

+ All you need to know about the “heroic Mike Pence” is that he would dutifully campaign again for the person who incited a mob to hang him. Which is a kind of heroism, I guess.

+ To the extent that ex-football player and fake-cop Herschel Walker has had anything like a political career, it’s been made from bashing black men, especially “absent” black fathers. So it’s certainly no surprise that he has now admitted to having two secret sons, who he rarely sees. Here’s Walker last year lacerating black fathers: “The father leaves in the Black family. He leaves the boys alone so they’ll be raised by their mom,” he said in a 2021 interview. “If you have a child with a woman, even if you have to leave that woman — even if you have to leave that woman — you don’t leave that child.” He’s still running even with Warnocke for the Georgia senate seat.

+ Uvalde police have hired a private law firm to fight requests to release the bodycam footage of the school shooting because they claim it could be used by other shooters to determine “weaknesses” in cop response to crimes.

+ A new Ohio law cuts the training required for teachers, school staff and bus drivers to carry guns in schools to a maximum of 24 hours, down from 700 hours….

+ What set him off? Video games, hip hop or pot?

+ Linda Reza was notified that her stepdaughter had died by a voicemail, an increasing common practice in the US prison system : “Yes, hello, this message is for Linda Reza, stepmother of inmate Rocha, Erika, here at California Institution for Women. It is imperative that you contact the facility as soon as possible. We have some information relative to your stepdaughter’s demise.”

+ Andrew Johnson is a black US Army veteran who spent 16 months in solitary confinement on attempted murder charges before a jury ever heard any evidence against him. Johnson claims he was defending himself after being attacked by two strangers in Santa Clara County, California. It only took a jury two hours to acquit him, after he’d spent three years in jail. Neither he nor his parents were ever told why he was placed in solitary before trial. “There’s no way I’m going to stay in this country after what it’s done to me,” he says. “I’m not going to wait for the police to come and shoot me after I win.”

+ Johnson’s case isn’t exceptional. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, between 2014 and 2018, there were around 735,000 people who were being held at any given time in the nation’s 3,000 jails, most of them awaiting trial. While there’s no systematic tracking of the number of prisoners held in solitary in jails, one study of 357 jails housing around 53,000 inmates, it found that 2.7 percent were held in solitary, some of them for 30 days or more.

+ For the second time, the US Supreme Court has refused to hear an appeal from Texas death row inmate Don Flores, who was convicted of a 1998 murder based largely on the testimony of a witness whose memory had been “refreshed” through the use of “police hypnosis.”

+ In Louisiana, a man raped a teenage girl after offering her a ride. The rape resulted in a pregnancy. The teenager raised her baby girl. Years later the rapist found out about teen’s baby, demanded full custody and child support. Court ruled for the rapist, awarding him custody and ordering his victim to pay child support.

+ Finally a reason to visit Outback…

+ Rep. Bennie Thompson, co-chair of the J6 investigative committee, said this week that the committee won’t be making any criminal referrals to the Justice Department. All Show, no Trial…

+ Big Steal = Big Grift…Trump raised nearly $100 million in the first week after the 2020 election off of fundraiser emails encouraging supporters to “step up” and “fight back” to protect the integrity of the election.

+ Kimberly Guilfoyle spoke for 2-minutes, 30-seconds at White House Ellipse on Jan 6. Guilfoyle was paid $60000 out of money raised via Trump’s election fraud claims. That’d be $400-per-second for Guilfoyle’s speech.

+ It might be a grift, but much of the GOP is onboard with it. More than 100 GOP primary winners back Trump’s stolen election claims.

+ “I’ve decided that I should be on the pardon list, if that’s still in the works.” — Trump lawyer and Ginni Thomas e-pen-pal John Eastman

+ Teen Vogue interviewed SF Bay Area Drag Queen Panda Dulce (aka, Kyle Chu) about being harassed by the Proud Boys at a library story time event: “I was sitting with the two librarians, singing a welcome song, when eight to ten Proud Boys marched in with their cameras outstretched. They took seats in the second row behind children and parents. One man had an AK-47 shirt that said ‘kill your local pedophile’ on it. We stopped the song and the Proud Boys yelled ‘who brought the tranny’ and started hurling insults, calling me a pedophile and a groomer.”

+ Candace Owens on parents who take their kids to drag queen story hours: “They are underqualified to have children. They should have their children taken away from them.”

+ Number of children sexually assaulted by Catholic priests: 4,228
Number of children sexually assaulted in the Boy Scouts: 82,000
Number of children sexually assaulted by drag queens during library story time: 0

+ Meanwhile, in Kalama, Washington, a Columbia River town south of Olympia, a high school freshman was arrested after threatening to open fire on an LBGQT demonstration at the school. He was cited for a “misdemeanor.” The local sheriff said that “while it was a credible threat, it was not an actionable threat.” Parse that how you will.

+ Behold, the power of Trans!

+ Note: 50% of the US tampon market is controlled by Proctor & Gamble, which claimed $17.8 billion in profits last year.

+ The US home affordability index fallen to the lowest level in 15 years.

+ You can see why rightwing pundette Monica Crowley resorted to plagiarism. When she thinks on her own, this is the kind of stuff that comes pouring out…Biden is destroying the US from the inside as part of a scheme hatched and run by the KGB in the 1930s and transferred to the Chinese Communist Party after the Soviet Union collapsed…

+ New York City is facing a lifeguard shortage at its public swimming pools, but Mayor Eric Adams has come out against a modest pay hike  (starting salary: $16/hr, $1 above minimum wage), saying it wouldn’t help attract more lifeguards: “They do it because of the love of the swimming, they do it because of the love of protecting people.” Let’s see Adams apply this logic to the overtime pay of NYPD cops.

+ Toronto Police have released a report showing Black people were 230% more likely to have a police officer point a firearm at them when they appeared to be unarmed than white people: “Black people were overrepresented in use of force incidents compared to their share of total enforcement actions by 60%, Asian & Middle Eastern people were 20% overrepresented, while Latino people were overrepresented in use of force incidents by 50%.”

+ You can run, you can hide, you can give up, turn yourself in,  raise your hands or drop to the ground. You can do everything except change the color of your skin and, more often than not, that’s what’s going to get you shot by police. Even if you’re just a 13-year-old kid on the streets of Chicago…

+ The Justice Department has charged 18-year-old Payton Gendron in the Buffalo shooting with 26 counts of hate crimes and a firearms offense that carries the potential penalty of death. Gendron should get the Max, but the Max shouldn’t be the death penalty. The fact we still have a federal death penalty is in large measure the fault of Bill Clinton and Joe Biden’s draconian “Counter-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act.”

+ LBJ’s drawing of RFK in 1960. And this was before he had to attend cabinet meetings with, as Johnson referred to him, “that little shitass”…

+ Bill Maher went off on the NYT for supposedly burying the “assassination attempt” on Supreme Court justice Brett Kavanaugh, saying “they wear their bias on their sleeve.” The big problem for Maher is the fact that there was no “assassination attempt.” This was not Squeaky Fromme. The guy, who was having a nervous breakdown, called 911, turned himself in, called 911 again to give them his precise location and, like an obedient liberal, sat on the curb until the county cops showed up to haul him away. His unloaded gun was locked inside a case.

+ According to a new report in Nature, five transport measures alone could replace around 60% of global oil imports from Russia within a year. Meanwhile, turning thermostats down by 2°C in EU nations could save around 13% of global gas imports from Russia.

+ The Four Thieves Vinegar Collective has shared Do-It-Yourself instructions for how to make your own abortion pills. Has the Democratic Party ever done anything as practical or useful?

+ Crypto layoffs this week…

Cryptocom: 5%
Robinhood: 9%
Bitso: 10%
Gemini: 10%
Coinbase: 18%
BlockFi: 20%
BitMex: 25%

+ The collapse of the “gig economy“.

+ Where would the economy, such as it is, be without free prison labor? According to a new report from the ACLU, US prison workers produce $11 billion worth of goods and services a year for “little to no pay at all” under extremely harsh conditions.

+ The “slut shaming” of Lauren Boebert by liberals over allegations (unproven if not completely bogus) that she’d been an escort and had “two abortions” is as despicable as their newfound affection for Liz Cheney.

+ But, I’m asked, isn’t it proper to expose hypocrisy? Is it “proper”? Maybe, if true (doesn’t appear to be) and relevant (I’m not sure either allegation is). But that’s not really the point. It’s the glee which liberals are taking in it which exposes their own deeply-rooted puritanical mindset and their own hypocrisy when it comes to lofty talk about the right to privacy.

+ Given the nation’s blood-soaked history, it’s pretty hard to come up with any new policy that could further shame Britain. But Boris seems to have found a way. Even the Bishops of the Church of England have condemned his deportation flights of refugees to Rwanda as an “immoral policy.”

+ They chased Corbyn out with vile calumnies on his character and replaced him with this moral ingrate and political coward. No wonder Labour is helpless even against a clown like BoJo…

+ Why not send him to Rwanda with the other political refugees?

+ The Seattle-area police officer who displayed Nazi-insignias will receive a $1.5 million package to resign.

+ The popularity of the Supreme Court is collapsing, according to a Marquette University Law School poll conducted in May. Only two months ago, the Supreme Court’s approval ratings were above water: 54% approved, 45% disapproved. Now those numbers have flipped.  55% of Americans say they disapprove of the Supreme Court, while just 44% approve.

+ Remember that Jimmy Breslin book The Good Rat? Apparently, rats are now being trained to wear tiny backpacks and descend into the rubble of earthquake zones so that rescuers can talk trapped survivors. In Breslin’s book the “rat” did the talking.

+ Of the 400 crashes involving driver-assisted cars in the last year, 273 were Teslas.

+++

+ So far 2020 has been the driest year on record for California and Nevada…

 

+ More than half of the reservoirs in California are less than are at less than 50% capacity.

+ The Commissioner of the Bureau of Reclamation warned that the Colorado River Basin states will need to cut water use as much as 4 million acre-feet next year to avoid a catastrophe.

+ Nepal announce this week plans to move the base camp for climbing Mount Everest, because global warming is making the current location unsafe. Everest should be shut down altogether. How many more sherpas must die lugging some millionaire’s crap through melting seracs in the name of corporate or personal branding?

+ Across northern Kenya, more than 1.5 million cattle carcasses are rotting on the region’s dust-blown landscape and tens of thousands of rural farmers are enduring parched fields, withered crops and famine conditions after successive droughts.

+ Madagascar was blasted by six tropical storms in the first four months of this year, killing more than 200 people and displacing nearly 600,000 across the country. Meanwhile, the southern half of the country endured a prolonged drought.

+ The Raspadskaya coal mine in Russia’s Kemerovo Oblast region is leaking about 90 tonnes of methane an hour, roughly the equivalent of five coal-fired power plants. This is 50% higher than any other recorded methane leakage from a coal mine.

+ Global average sea level has risen about 101 mm (about 4 inches) since 1993 as a result of human-caused global warming, with recent rates being unprecedented over the past 2,500-plus years.

NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/PO.DAAC.

+ As many as 200,000 coastal properties in England are likely to be lost to encroaching sea levels by 2050.

+ The North Barents Sea is now the fastest warming place on Earth. Recent data show annual average temperatures in the Arctic region are rising across the year by up to 2.7C a decade, with particularly sharp increases in the months of autumn of up to 4C a decade.

+ Between 1990 and 2018, pollen production across North America has expanded by more than 20%. Both the length of pollen season and the concentration of pollen are both increasing as a result of climate change.

+ The temperature at Chicago’s Midway Airport topped 100° this week–the first time Midway has reached 100° since July of 2012.

+ In 2014, a French meteorologist announced the forecast for August 18, 2050 as part of a campaign to alert to the reality of climate change. Her forecast that day is the resembles the forecast for the next 4 or 5 days. The future arrived 28 years early.

+ Number of animals slaughtered per year for human consumption:

0.3 billion cattle
 0.4 billion goats
 0.5 billion sheep 
 1.5 billion pigs
 65.8 billion chickens

 Livestock emits 7.1 Gt CO per year (14.5% of global emissions)

Source: World Economic Forum.

+ Researchers from the University of Canterbury in New Zealand collected fresh snow samples from 19 sites across Antarctica, and all contained microplastics. There were an average of 29 microplastic particles per liter of melted snow. Of the 13 types of plastics, the most common was polyethylene terephthalate (PET), which is used to manufacture clothes and soda bottles.

+ According to a study in Lancet’s Planetary Health, between 2000 and 2019, floods, droughts, and storms alone affected nearly 4 billion people worldwide, costing over 300,000 lives. The frequency of floods increased by 134%, storms by 40%, and droughts by 29% over the past two decades.

+ If they’ll log Yosemite, they’ll come up with an excuse to log anyplace…

+ Ranchers looking to develop at least 40 new water wells for cattle inside the supposedly sacrosanct Bears Ears National Monument.

+ The annual Air Quality Life Index report finds that “particulate air pollution takes 2.2 years off global average life expectancy, or a combined 17 billion life-years, relative to a world that met the WHO guidelines….This impact on life expectancy is comparable to that of smoking, more than three times that of alcohol use and unsafe water, six times that of HIV/AIDS, and 89 times that of conflict and terrorism.”

+ A new study from Netherlands found 129 different pesticides in soil, manure and animal feed samples from 23 cattle farms. Even organic farms showed the presence of 69 different pesticides.

+ A nationwide study conducted by the CDC  has found PFAS (forever chemical) in more than 98 percent of American blood samples.

+ Despite being banned 40 years ago, orcas are still washing up on beaches having been poisoned to death by PCBs.

+ Over the last seven years, China has reduced air pollution by nearly as much as the US did in three decades. The amount of harmful particulate matter in the air in China fell 40% from 2013 to 2020. This may add about two years to average life expectancy in the country.

+ Western Australia is set to become coal-free by 2030, as it’s two remaining coal-fired power plants are slated for closure.

+++

Louis Menand on Yoko Ono: “Ono may have leveraged her celebrity—but so what? She never compromised her art. The public perception of her as a woman devoted to the memory of her dead husband has made her an icon among the kind of people who once regarded her as a Beatles-busting succubus. Yet the much smaller group of people who know about her as an artist, a musician, and an activist appreciate her integrity. No matter what you think of the strength of the art, you can admire the strength of the person who made it.”

+ RIP Philip Baker Hall, who was the best Nixon on film, in Robert Altman’s under-appreciated Secret Honor….

+ Joe Rogan gets $100 million deal, but now Spotify wants to start charging recording artists to “promote” (ie, play) their music…

+ The Shape He Was In: 8: number of bottles of Grand Marnier Richard Manuel drank a day while living in Goldie Hawn’s LA house in the summer of ’76, before trying to kill himself twice: once by lighting himself on fire, once by shooting himself in the head with a bb gun. Still pulled himself together for the Last Waltz tour. Respect!

+ Here’s a piece from 1981 on Warren Zevon’s alcoholism, written by one of RS’s better writers, Paul Nelson. Two things stood out to me: the great hardboiled novelist Ross MacDonald tried an intervention with Zevon, who was too drunk to talk but conscious enough to listen. Zevon says MacDonald save him. For a while.  The other is that one of Zevon’s last big benders happened inside a detox center, when he swilled tumblers of Wild Turkey for 3 straight days because was nervous about an impending visit from Red Sox pitcher Bill “Spaceman” Lee, about whom Zevon had written a song he was anxious to play for him.

+ Led Zeppelin was a band totally devoid of political consciousness and their class consciousness consisted of knowing where to go to steal music: the blues catalogue of Willie Dixon.

+ Lester Bangs review of Led Zeppelin IV: “Just ZoSo.”

+ The Runaways bass player, Jackie Fox (nee Fuchs), was a Harvard Law classmate of Barack Obama. Not sure what that means for her, as Joan Jett would say, “reputation”.

+ I came across Stephen Holden’s NYT review of Bob Spitz’s biography of Bob Dylan from 1988. The stuff about Dylan was pretty bland, but I was struck by this passage about the Stones: “One of the most the revealing show-business spats in recent years has been the campaign waged by Keith Richards to startle Mick Jagger into cultivating a more mature image before the Rolling Stones re-form to make a new album. Mr. Jagger at 44 still refuses to give up the voluptuous, adolescent Jumping Jack Flash persona he has flaunted for more than two decades.” I guess Keith lost that one, eh?

Why Does the Radio Sound Like Plastic?

Booked Up
What I’m reading this week…

Bitch: On the Female of the Species
Lucy Cooke
(Basic Books)

The New Fire: War, Peace and Democracy in the Age of AI
Ben Buchanan and Andrew Embrie
(MIT Press)

The World the Plague Made: the Black Death and the Rise of Europe
James Belich
(Princeton)

Sound Grammar
What I’m listening to this week…

Let Sound Tell All
Julius Rodriguez
(Verve)

Versions of Modern Performance
Horsegirl
(Matador)

Listen to the Water
Luke Steele
(Harvest)

The Shameless American

“There’s a new Puccini opera.  An American buys a Japanese woman. Butterfly. He ought to die of shame­, but does not–Butterfly does. What are we to make of this? Is it that Japanese do die of shame and dishonor, but Americans don’t? Maybe can’t ever die of shame, because they lack the cultural equipment? As if somehow your country is just mechanically destined to move forward regardless of who is in the way or underfoot?”

–Thomas Pynchon, Against the Day

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

[class^="wpforms-"]
[class^="wpforms-"]