Roaming Charges: Special Master Blaster

September sunrise, Mt. Hood, 2022. Photo: Jeffrey St. Clair.

“I grew up hearing over and over, to the point of tedium, that “hard work” was the secret of success: “Work hard and you’ll get ahead” or “It’s hard work that got us where we are.” No one ever said that you could work hard – harder even than you ever thought possible – and still find yourself sinking ever deeper into poverty and debt.”

– Barbara Ehrenreich

+ Although it’s allegedly a cherished constitutional right, few people brought to trial on criminal charges in the US ever truly face a “jury of their peers.” Usually, they’re confronting a jury of the prosecution’s peers. For example, even though 45% of Americans oppose the death penalty under any circumstances, those people are automatically excluded from hearing death penalty cases. So the system is rigged to favor a pre-determined result. It is, of course, almost unheard of that a defendant (or the subject of an investigation) would face a judge of his peers– never mind a judge he has put on the bench and hand-picked to hear his case. But that is exactly the situation playing out in the Trump document theft case. There are multiple levels of impunity encoded into our justice system, where the master criminals, the ones who kill, rob and steal the most, those who exploit their positions in government or business for their  own enrichment, are forever shielded from popular justice, while the poor and the powerless remain at the mercy of a system that is designed to keep them in a state of perpetual obedience.

+ The real American exceptionalism, the systemic rot at the core of the Republic, has long been that the people who write, enforce and judge of the laws of the country are the least likely to be held accountable to them, especially when they achieve ranks of power where they’re required to take an oath to uphold them.

+ I’m all for strictly limiting the power of the state to search your house and seize your property, as long as it’s a right enjoyed by all of us. But when has a special master ever been convened in a drug asset seizure case, where police departments have sold off houses, jewelry, boats, and cars–even before people have been convicted of crimes? There is no right to an attorney in these proceedings, which often target low-income people who exist in a cash economy. The legal standard for confiscating your entire bank account is not “beyond a reasonable doubt”, but merely a “preponderance of the evidence.” This kind of “policing for profit” happens all the time up and down the criminal justice system, from local town cops to the federal Dept. of Justice itself, which prepared a memo in 1990 saying, “We must significantly increase forfeiture production to reach our budget target. Every effort must be made to increase forfeiture income.”

+ What did Marsha (aka, Sen. Mopsy) Blackburn say when the Louisville Police Department lied in a warrant application to raid Breonna Taylor’s apartment and shot her, no questions asked?

+ Few, if any, of us would be able to stop a federal espionage investigation in its tracks because of the potential “reputational harm” a search of our property might pose.

+ The judge in the case, Aileen Cannon, is only on the federal bench because 12 Democratic senators, hoping to earn anti-Cuba political cred, voted to confirm her, even though she was rated “unqualified” for the lifetime position by the American Bar Association.

+ According to the Washington Post, among the more than 300 classified files seized from Mar-a-Lago this year was a document describing a “foreign government’s military defenses”, including its “nuclear capabilities.” Israel is the only country whose “nuclear capabilities” are at all in question…do they have 90 or 400 nuclear weapons? As for the buyer, it could be the Saudis or, I guess, even the Israelis, seeking to buy back their own secrets. Jared Kushner did extract $2.5 billion from MBS’s sovereign wealth fund after sharing (according to MBS) US intel on his domestic opponents, many of whom were rounded up. Perhaps Trump thought he could shake them down for even more money…

+ Olbermann sounds like he would have personally flipped the switch on the Rosenbergs…(There shouldn’t be any “nuclear secrets,” whether they’re in the hands of the US governor or offered up as collateral on overdue loans at Mar-a-Lago.)

+ The right has no qualms about using the court they’ve put in place, forum-shopping their test cases in front of the judges they’ve appointed. And they shouldn’t. Laws are political artifacts, the judges who interpret them political actors. The notion that justice is blind, that laws are impartial, judges apolitical and sagacious arbiters of fairness are fairytales only the most naive can still cling to at their own peril, as if they’d been seduced by Thomas More’s airy speech to Roper (“I’d give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake.”) in A Man for All Seasons without recalling how that turned out for him.

+ Whenever Trump goes apeshit over some politically-motivated intrusive action by the State, you can be assured that it’s something he tried–and invariably–failed to do himself. Consider the revelations from Geoffrey Berman’s new memoir, Holding the Line. Berman’s was Trump’s pick to head the US Attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York, replacing Preet Bharara, who Trump had unceremoniously fired. Berman had volunteered for Trump’s campaign, but was unprepared for the demands that would be placed on him once he became the top federal prosecutor in Manhattan. Throughout my tenure as U.S. attorney,” Berman writes. “Trump’s Justice Department kept demanding that I use my office to aid them politically, and I kept declining — in ways just tactful enough to keep me from being fired.” Among those political enemies Trump pressured Berman to indict was John Kerry, for supposedly violating the Logan Act regarding his interactions with Iran.

 

+ That would indeed be a very Biden thing to do and the “fucknuts” liberals would probably support it, even though many of those “secrets” are classified in order to hide illegal conduct by the US government, often against US citizens….

+ In the past, I suspect most of Trump’s special masters have dressed in black leather and wielded a riding crop.

+++

+ The reason the West keeps burning with bigger and more intense fires, year after year, isn’t because pinko commie tree-huggers have been locking up the forests, but this…

+ 64% of the European continent is either facing drought or in imminent danger of it, according to a recent report by EU scientists.  The report predicts at least another three more months of “warmer and drier” days.

+ Researchers at Harvard and the University of Washington forecast that by 2100 heat exposure would increase by three to ten times in America, among other mid-latitude regions. Few cities are prepared for the health consequences of these temperature surges.

+ The catastrophic flooding in Pakistan last month was at least in part driven by extreme temperatures in April and May, which hovered above 104F for prolonged periods in many places.On one day in May, Jacobabad topped 124F, making Pakistan the hottest place on Earth.

+ At no stage of its production cycle–from the mining of uranium to the operation of the reactors to the long-term storage of radioactive waste–is nuclear energy green. Now the uranium companies are setting their sights on the Black Hills, again.

+ Large swaths of the Amazon are being converted from forest to savannah and much of it may never recover.

+ In Zimbabwe, the drought is so severe park rangers have begun moving more than 2,500 wild animals from a southern reserve to one in the country’s northern reserves. Climate change has now supplanted poaching as the nation’s biggest threat to wildlife.

+ In a single day this week, the Double Creek Fire in the Wallowa Mountains of eastern Oregon exploded from 3,500 acres to more than 38,000 acres.

+ In the Permian Basin of West Texas Oil and gas operations will generate 588 million gallons of toxic wastewater per day for the next 38 years, according to findings of a state-commissioned study group—three times as much wasted much as the oil it produces.

+ The town of Las Vegas, New Mexico (Pop.: 13,100) will run out of fresh water sometime in the next 20 days. Las Vegas is a 76% Hispanic community.

+ $185: the social cost per ton of Carbon emissions.

+ The Thwaites “Doomsday” Glacier in Antarctica is melting much faster than previously believed, largely driven warm and dense deep water heating up the present-day ice-shelf cavity and melting the ice shelves from below. Its collapse could raise sea levels by 10 feet.

+ A big study in IOP Science on how the fossil fuel industry tried to downplay the threat of climate change for 30 years reached the shocking conclusion that: “electric utility industry organizations have promoted messaging designed to avoid taking action on reducing pollution over multiple decades. Notably, many of the utilities most engaged in communicating climate doubt and denial in the past currently have the slowest plans to decarbonize their electricity mix.”

+ Since 2007, federal law has required the blending of biofuels, mostly corn-based ethanol into gasoline. Now, fifteen years later, the country’s ethanol plants are generating more than twice the carbon emissions, per gallon of fuel production capacity, than the nation’s oil refineries.

+ Voting for the lesser-of-two evils on climate change is like switching to the Celsius scale believing it will yield lower temperatures than Fahrenheit.

+ 75% to 85% of plastic floating in the planet’s oceans comes from industrial fishing operations.

+++

+ Here’s Obama’s official White House portrait painted by Robert McCurdy. McCurdy was striving for a hyper-realistic image of the Peace Laureate Prez, which fails because it’s missing Obama’s customary Drone Joy Stick–unless that’s what he’s “gots in his pocketses,” as Gollum might say…

+ The White House is preparing another $13.7 billion in “emergency funding” for Ukraine. Emergency? What about Jackson, Mississippi?

+ Bill LaPlante, the Pentagon’s top weapons-buyer, said this week that the US trained the Ukrainian missileers on how to use the Harpoon missiles that sank two Russian warships. This is how it always goes: first sell a besieged ally weapons, then train the foreign troops how to use them, then send military advisors for how to deploy the weapons, then send the CIA to pick targets, then send US troops when all of the above fails, kill tens of thousands of people (mostly civilians), then cut and run before you’re chased out of the country by the very people you claimed you wanted to protect…

+ Zugzwang [tzoog-tzwung]: a situation in chess (and life) in which a move must be made, but each possible one will make the situation worse.

+ September 3, 2022 in America: 127 shooting incidents, 134 injuries, 46 fatalities…

+ Despite the fact that drug use of any kind is rarely  the cause of miscarriage or still birth, prosecution of women who test positive for drugs still happens and it’s likely get even more common in the wake of the overturning of Roe v. Wade.

+ Voting is the basement in the abandoned house people keep running into thinking they’ve found the way you, only to find someone in a hockey mask (Pelosi or McCarthy, on any given year) holding a chainsaw to cut off the rest of the Social Security, Medicare, unemployment insurance and Food Stamps…

+ Goldman Sachs analysts spell out the likely consequences this winter from the NATO/US/EU sanctions on Russian oil and gas: “In our view, the market continues to underestimate the depth, the breadth & the structural repercussions of the crisis… We believe these will be even deeper than the 1970s oil crisis.”

+ Europe’s response, however, has been to double down on dirty fuels. European governments are expected to shell out at least €50 billion this winter on new and expanded fossil fuel infrastructure and supplies, including gas shipped in from overseas and coal to fuel previously idled power plants.

+ In Germany, coal-fired power stations generated roughly 30% of the electricity produced in the first half of 2022, outpacing every other energy source.

+ The Israeli Army exonerated itself for the murder of Shireen Abu Akleh, concluding that while an IDF sniper may have fired the shot that killed her, it certainly wasn’t intentional but was purely accident, a mistake. The report concludes there’s a “high probability” that an IDF sniper “accidentally” shot Shireen Abu Akleh. Cynically, the report leaves open the “possibility” that Akleh “was hit by bullets fired by armed Palestinian gunmen,” despite the lack of evidence of Palestinian gunfire near Shireen. This is where it ends, as far as the Israelis are concerned. The report, one can’t really call it an “investigation,” failed to identify the gunman and summarily concluded that there was “no suspicion of a criminal offense that justifies the opening of a Military Police investigation.” Israeli officials said all of the IDF soldiers involved in the raid had been “briefed and acted according to procedure.” It’s the “procedure” which is the problem, which IDF leaders essentially confirmed when they said they were  “very proud of the conduct of our soldiers,” even he sniper who likely killed Shireen. “If he did it,” one senior Israeli official said, “he did it by mistake”. If “he did it by mistake,” he’s a pretty incompetent sniper, given that Shireen was nowhere near any Palestinian gunmen (if there were, any) was wearing gear clearly marked “PRESS.” Even the whitewash needs a whitewash.

+++

+ How did James Madison become the THIRD President of the US, according to Fox? Was Jefferson elided from our Great Patriotic History by the Right for enthusiastically supporting the French Revolution, one of the first eruptions of Wokism? I’ll say again, the people who most fetishize American history know the least about it, even basic undisputed facts about those they idolize.

+ I’ll say again, the people who most fetishize American history know the absolute least about it, ignorant of even basic undisputed facts about those they idolize.

+ W.H. Auden: “The Victorian father who said that he would rather see his daughter dead than on the stage was less foolish that the modern parent who cheerfully allows his children to go into advertising or journalism.”

+ Your government’s contract killers from Wildlife (Funeral) Services had quite a bloody year, killing more than  400,000 native species, including 64,131 coyotes, 24,687 beavers, 3,014 foxes, 605 bobcats, 433 black bears, 324 gray wolves, 200 cougars and 6 grizzly bears.

+ Last year, Mar-a-Lago got permission to hire 87 foreign waiters, cooks and housekeepers. Trump’s company has asked to hire 92 more foreign workers to start work in October.

+ It takes 38 days of full-time work in the Indiana State Women’s prison to afford a bra…

+ Eric Adams called 25-year-old Rameek Smith a “dangerous criminal” and praised the cops who shot and killed him in May, saying they were defending their own lives. But new body cam footage shows that Smith never fired a gun and that he was shot in the back by the cops while he was running away.

+ After prison staff strip-searched him twice and then sent him to be examined by a doctor, a transgender man says he refused still another illegal genital examination. In response, prison guards threw him into solitary confinement.

+ Last July, a cop in Joliet, Illinois handcuffed Eric Lurry, a black man who was suffering from a drug overdose. The cop shoved a baton in his mouth, restricting his airway and called him called him a “bitch.” Lurry later died. When the cop’s brutal actions were exposed, the cop was suspended 6 days. But Javier Esqueda, the police Sergeant who revealed this abusive behavior, was expelled from the cop union. Now Esqueda faces 20 years prison for whistleblowing.

+ 5 million: the number of formerly incarcerated people living in the US. Their unemployment rate is 27 percent.

+ This man is a sitting senator in a country whose incarceration rate rivals Stalin’s during the height of the purge…

+ A high proportion of recent cocaine samples in Australia contained no trace of the drug. In the samples that did contain cocaine, purity levels were at an average of just 27%. Is it a crime to think you’re snorting coke, even if it proves to be powdered laxatives?

+ The few poor people being prosecuted for largely incidental acts of voter fraud (by people like Ron DeSantis) are those who tended to vote against those elected by the institutionalized fraud of our electoral system.

+ US District Judge Reed O’Connor in Texas ruled this week that requiring employers to provide coverage for PrEP drugs (preventing the transmission of HIV) violates the religious rights of employers under the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). If the ruling is affirmed, it will basically unravel the few worthwhile remnants the ACA (ObamaCare).

+ This is medically ignorant, grotesquely bigoted and factually specious. But even if it were true, so fucking what? Aren’t we allowed to have consensual sex with whoever we want–at least until the next shadow docket ruling comes down from the Alito Court?

+ Life expectancy is a pretty good standard for how well your society is functioning. China has now passed the US, theirs increasing, ours falling. Wonder why?

+ A boy born in Rwanda in 2021 now has a higher life expectancy (72.6 years) than a Black boy born in the United States (66.7).

+ 10.5 million children worldwide lost at least one parent to Covid. At least 7.5 million were left as orphans because of the virus.

+ A new study published in Nature of 346 previously healthy COVID-19 survivors found that 73% had cardiac issues and symptoms more than 3 months after infection, and 57% still had them nearly 1 year later.

+ Stephen Thrasher in his new book The Viral Underclass: “Viruses show us where the cracks in our society are.”

+ Speaking of “Shithole Countries,” here’s the line to get bottled water in Jackson, Mississippi…

+ Out of the 38,000 people on the Oath Keepers’ membership rolls, at least 370 are currently working in law enforcement agencies, more than 100 are serving in this US military, and no fewer than 80 hold a public office or running for a political office.

+ When the Patriot Front, like the Arthurian Knights of legend, came to Indy on their quest to locate the Sacred Object…

+ NBC News ran a segment on what it’s like for teens who are sent out West to a “Christian Therapy” camp, where grueling labor and public shaming rituals are meant to straighten them out. The teens tell of girls being forced to run up and down a mountainside, dodging rattlesnakes in the broiling heat. Others were restricted to a diet a canned olives and beans. Three the girls who were accused of being “stubborn” were tied by staffers to a goat with a leash. One teenage boy was “branded” with a cross.

+++

+ The Queen is dead. Long live Henry Kissinger!

+ Having died at Balmoral, the Scots should seize the Queen’s corpse until they’re granted independence.

+ The weird American nostalgia for the British monarchy is a kind of “lost limb syndrome,” the longing for a vestigal, even cancerous, appendage that was removed so the rest of the body could function.

+ Of course, the US replaced the monarchy with the electoral college, an even less democratic institution.

+ My beloved grandmother–who was born in Sheffield (father unknown)–always claimed that she was the “illegitimate” daughter of Albert Edward, the Prince of Wales. Where do I go to file my claim to the throne? Can it be done online or do I have to raise an army in France?

+ Vijay Prashad: “I’m in Ireland. I hear this from Irish people: ‘I hope the lady left us the six counties in her will.'”

+ James Connolly on George V: “We will not blame him for the crimes of his ancestors if he relinquishes the royal rights of his ancestors; but as long as he claims their rights, by virtue of descent, then, by virtue of descent, he must shoulder the responsibility for their crimes.”

+ Cockburn, a self-professed Carlist, would be celebrating today. Not–like many of his old friends in Ireland–at the death of “the Queen” but over at long last the ascent of Charles, the organic gardener prince now King…

+ Unlike Shakespeare, John Milton–the greater poet, IMHO–never served as a hired gun for the monarchy. Instead, he put his life on the line to tear it to shreds…

For of all governments a Commonwealth aims most to make the people flourishing, vertuous, noble and high spirited. Monarchs will never permitt: whose aim is to make the people, wealthy indeed perhaps and wel-fleec’t for thir own shearing , and [for] the supply of regal prodigalitie; but otherwise softest, basest, vitiousest, servilest, easiest to be kept under; and not only in fleece, but in minde also sheepishest….

+ The “Royal Firm” (the Windsor Family business) is a $28 billion a year enterprise, yet the struggling British taxpayers still pay Elizabeth–and now Charles– a “Sovereign Grant” of 86 million pounds a year…

+ Is there any question that the American right would embrace a constitutional (and probably extra-constitutional) monarchy in a heartbeat…?

+ In contrast to Sullivan and his pious ilk, one of Trump’s finest moments–and there were precious few of them–was when he (unwittingly) trampled on every ridiculous standard of royal protocol during his encounter with the Queen at Buckingham Palace.

+ The only time I’ve ever bowed to a Queen was after a midnight showing of Female Trouble on Charles Street in Baltimore, when Divine in her magnificent raiment graced us with her imperial presence.

Still from Female Trouble.

+++

+ Devastated to hear of the death of Barbara Ehrenreich, a good friend, a fearless writer and a longtime supporter of CounterPunch.

+ Ehrenreich: “The ‘working poor,’ as they are approvingly termed, are in fact the major philanthropists of our society.”

+ I’ll say this about Barbara Ehrenreich. I imposed on her many more times than she imposed on me and she never once made my requests sound like an imposition. She was a kind person, she worked for a better world for others and she loved (most of) the people she wrote about.

+ As the sniveling scion of a South African mining magnate, Elon Musk knows that the dwarves need an albino elvin master of pure genetic stock to whip their dusky bodies into shape & increase productivity down in the pits, where things have gone lax because of the woke presence of black female dwarves…

+ JRR Tolkien: “I have the hatred of apartheid in my bones; and most of all, I detest the segregation or separation of Language and Literature. I do not care which of them you think White.”

+ Probably has a starring role as an Elf lord in Elon Musk’s upcoming film of the Silmarillion…

+ In the Penguin Random House/Simon & Schuster antitrust trial it was revealed that out of 58,000 trade titles published per year, half of those titles sell fewer than one dozen books. (Pleased to say that all of our books have at least hit the lower 3 digits.)

+ The English novelist and biographer A.N. Wilson on his prep school (Rugby): “A concentration camp run by sexual perverts.”

+Mike Davis on Raymond Chandler: “I hate Raymond Chandler, yet I’ve read him and reread him so many times. He’s a fascist, and I mean this in a precise sense. He represents the small businessman being trampled by outside forces. Each of his novels has an openly racist section. But of course, you care about the writing, and you end up forgiving things that really aren’t forgivable. Chandler was a strange guy. He’s buried a mile from here.”

Interview: Have you been to Chandler’s grave?

Davis: Yeah. It’s right next to our Home Depot.

Salvador Dali’s sketch of Sigmund Freud. Source: Freud Museum.

+ Salvador Dali on Sigmund Freud, following their 1938 encounter in London, a meeting arranged by their mutual friend Stefan Zweig, shortly after Freud fled Vienna: “I had just that instant discovered the morphological secret of Freud! Freud’s cranium is a snail! His brain is in the form of a spiral – to be extracted with a needle!”

Afterwards, Freud wrote to Zweig about his own impressions of Dali (presumably unaware of Dali’s dalliances with Spanish fascists): “I really have reason to thank you for the introduction which brought me yesterday’s visitors. For until then I was inclined to look upon the surrealists – who have apparently chosen me as their patron saint – as absolute (let us say 95 percent, like alcohol), cranks. That young Spaniard, however, with his candid and fanatical eyes, and his undeniable technical mastery, has made me reconsider my opinion.”

+ Here’s the original artist’s statement from Sonny Rollins on his 1958 LP “Freedom Suite.” The declaration provoked such an uproar that Riverside pulled the record off the market and reissued the album under another title (“Shadow Waltz”) and deleted Rollins’ comment from the back cover.

(See: The Cutting Edge: the Music of Sonny Rollins by Richard Palmer.)

+ Cockburn and I were always fairly deprecating toward journalism awards–to the point where Alex even ribbed his own brother Patrick for winning (deservedly) the Martha Gellhorn Award. So it comes as something of an existential predicament (though a very happy one) to learn today that I’ll be the recipient of the “Anti-Censorship Award” at this year’s American Book Awards. I’m humbled to be in the stellar company of the other award winners: Emma Brody, Francisco Goldman, Daphne Brooks, Edwin Torres, Gayl Jones, Fatima Shaik, et al. Many thanks to the good people at the Beyond Columbus Foundation. The zoom ceremony will be on October 9 at the San Francisco Public Library. I’m pretty awful at these things. Does anyone have Sacheen Littlefeather’s phone number?

Everyone’s Feeling Pretty, It’s Hotter Than July…

Booked Up
What I’m reading this week…

An Inconvenient Apocalypse: Environmental Collapse, Climate Crisis and the Fate of Humanity
Wes Jackson and Robert Jensen
(Notre Dame Press)

The People Immortal
Vasily Grossman
(NYRB)

The Oldest Cure in the World: the Secrets of Fasting
Steve Hendricks
(Abrams)

Sound Grammar
What I’m listening to this week…

King Scratch
Lee “Scratch” Perry
(Trojan)

Jerry Jeff
Steve Earle & the Dukes
(New West)

I Ran Down Every Dream
Tommy McLain
(Yep Roc)

The Indignities Imposed on Low-Wage Worker

“My guess is that the indignities imposed on so many low-wage workers—the drug tests, the constant surveillance, being “reamed out” by managers—are part of what keeps wages low. If you’re made to feel unworthy enough, you may come to think that what you’re paid is what you are actually worth. It is hard to imagine any other function for workplace authoritarianism. Managers may truly believe that, without their unremitting efforts, all work would quickly grind to a halt. That is not my impression. While I encountered some cynics and plenty of people who had learned to budget their energy, I never met an actual slacker or, for that matter, a drug addict or thief. On the contrary, I was amazed and sometimes saddened by the pride people took in jobs that rewarded them so meagerly, either in wages or in recognition. Often, in fact, these people experienced management as an obstacle to getting the job done as it should be done.” (Barbara Ehrenreich, Nickeled and Dimed)

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