Roaming Charges: Up in Smoke, Down in Mirrors

Train station, Cardiff, Wales. Photo: Jeffrey St. Clair.

Time to Pony Up!

Yes, as I hope you’ve noticed, we are nearing the end of the first week of our annual fundraiser. We’re doing okay, thanks to opening salvos of donations from loyal CounterPunchers, but as of yet not nearly well enough.

CounterPunch needs your help and without it in generous measure in the next three weeks we will not survive. We make this appeal  every year and please empty your mind of the sort of cynicism one develops after meeting for the fourth time in one day the same mendicant trying to raise “bus money” to get home.  We are mendicants year-after-year because we have no safety net.

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+ Like the end of the Afghan War, the pardoning people convicted of federal marijuana possession crimes is long overdue, but Biden did it and deserves credit for it, so far as it goes. Still as with all Biden proposals from the $2,000 check to Student Loan Forgiveness, you’ve got to read the fine print and here the welcome marijuana pardons seem a little less impressive. Biden will pardon 6,500 people convicted of federal pot possession, one of the largest mass pardons in history. But none of these people currently are jailed and there will be no pardons for the more than 2,700 people in federal prison for dealing pot. It might be nice to pardon some people who actually are IN PRISON, like those convicted for dealing a substance Biden says has been over- (if not wrongly) criminalized.

Trump actually pardoned a few people who were doing time. This measure won’t get anyone out of jail and won’t necessarily keep anyone from going to jail on federal pot charges in the future.

Moreover, there are thousands of people doing much more time than they should because a pot arrest was used as an enhancing factor in the “get tough” sentences Bill and Joe scripted into the Crime Bill. Free them too!

+ Will the Biden administration stop testing federal workers for THC (not just CBD)? Will it rehire the hundreds of federal employees fired for marijuana use, including dozens of workers fired after admitting to past marijuana use when applying for medical waivers?

+ Biden’s marijuana pardon policy even comes with a Stephen Miller codicil…

+ Another case of up in smoke, down in mirrors.

+ Biden’s pardon of people not actually serving time for marijuana busts will at least allow them to now apply for student loans–thus replacing the 6,500 or so student loans which will likely be the grand total ultimately “forgiven” by his plan once he’s finished slashing it to fend off GOP lawsuits. Banks and loan companies will support it!

+ Has Larry Summers come out against Biden’s marijuana pardons as inflationary yet?

+ Meanwhile, in Oklahoma prosecutors are charging pregnant women who use medical marijuana with felony child neglect.

+ This is not such a bad platform, if they’d just stick to it! (Thanks Laura!)

+ Update on the Crime Wave: According to FBI crime estimates released today, “violent crime” decreased 1% in 2021 and “property crime” decreased 3.8%.

+ It’s a good thing that the murder rate has dropped, because police are getting worse at solving murder cases. In 2020, the clearance rate hit an all-time low of nearly 50 percent.

+ Alabama is set to execute Kenneth Smith on November 17, despite the fact that his jury voted 11-1 in favor of a life sentence.

+ An investigation by the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal and ProPublica has found that nearly two-thirds of Mississippi’s county-level justice courts prevent access to some or all search warrants and related documents. So do municipal courts in at least five of the state’s 10 largest cities, including Jackson, the capital.

+ A Baltimore Police officer named Eric Banks entered an Alford plea (essentially agreeing that there is enough evidence for a conviction without admitted guilt) to second-degree murder for the death of his 15-year-old stepson Dasan Jones. Jones’ body was found stuffed into a crawl space.

+ According to a study by the Marshall Project, more than $26 billion in Covid relief funds allocated to the states went to the police or jails, dwarfing the amount spent on health and infrastructure. In Illinois, for example, thousands were spent on buying new riot control gear…

+ Four decades ago Justice Sandra Day O’Connor asked her first question during oral argument in a case called Watt v. Energy Action Ed. Foundation. She got out precisely five words before she was interrupted by one of the lawyers.

+ In Florida, female student athletes now have to report their menstrual history in order to play: When they got their first period and when they had their last one. And according to the Florida Times-Union, third parties have access to that information, including a company called Aktivate.

+ Thirty-seven years ago an Alabama man named Charles McCrory was convicted of murdering his wife based on testimony from a “forensic dentist” about an alleged bite mark on the body of his wife, Julie Bonds. In the intervening years, McCrory has continued to maintain his innocence and has repeatedly turned down deals from the prosecutors that would have released him from prison if he admitted his guilt. Now the bite mark “expert” who testified at McCrory’s trial says he no longer believes there is a “valid scientific basis” to match the victim’s injury to a specific person or if it is even a bite mark.

+ This week the Supreme Court declined to hear yet another qualified immunity case, in which a homeowner was shot and killed on his own property by police after they went to the wrong house.

+ Nearly half of the people in LA households who live with a police officer want to defund and even dismantle the police…

+ The lawyer for Houston Tipping, an LAPD officer killed during a training exercise by other cops, says the dead cop had been investigating a gang rape by four cops, at least one of whom was there when he was beaten to death.

+ During a 3 am raid on a house looking for a woman on a failure-to-appear warrant on a drug charge, a Polk City, Florida deputy mistakenly shot and killed his partner. Now the woman is being charged with the murder of the cop who was shot the deputy.

+ Nationwide, police car chases now kill more people every year than tornadoes, lightning, and hurricanes combined.

+ A former Columbus police detective named Steve Rosser was sentenced to 18 months in prison this week for planting cocaine on a suspect and filing false documents to conceal the frame-up. Rosser is the same Columbus vice-cop who falsely arrested Stormy Daniels in 2018 (after she had detailed her relationship with Trump) at a Columbus club for allegedly violating the “Community Defense Act” during her dance routine. Rosser was sanctioned and later fired for the stunt arrest.

+ How big time news anchors in DC are paying off their student loans from journalism school: filming subway fare evaders…

+ Blake Paterson, now a reporter for the New Orleans Advocate, on covering fare-evasion in the New York subways system: “I’ll never forget when the New York Post sent me to Penn Station to ask NYers their thoughts on fare evaders. Not one person cared. After I sent my notes to the rewrite desk, I got an angry call from an editor: ‘That’s not what we wanted.’ The reporting didn’t fit their narrative.”

+ The right has been clamoring for Hunter Biden’s scalp for years now. But do they really want to see him indicted on tax and gun charges? If he goes down on either of those wouldn’t he instantly become the latest cause célèbre of their movement?


+ Hosam Salem is a Palestinian photographer who has been freelancing for the New York Times since 2018. This week he was abruptly terminated by the paper, after a pro-Israel website sent Salem’s editors at the Times links to Facebook posts where Salem had expressed support for the Palestinian resistance. Salem is the third Palestinian journalist at the Times to have been targeted by the site, which calls itself “Honest Reporting,” in the past few months for social media posts it claims are “anti-Semitic.”

The other two Palestinian reporters, Soliman Hijjy and Fadi Hanona, denounced by Honest Reporting were also fired. Salem said  that his posts “spoke of the resilience of my people and those who were killed by the Israeli Army–my cousin included, which Honest Reporting described as a Palestinian terrorist.”

Outrageous under any circumstances but especially given the family ties and biases of several NYT staff reporters and columnists covering Middle East. David Brooks, Ethan Bronner and Isabel Kershner, all had children serving in the IDF while they were reporting on the Middle East. Bronner was serving in the IDF while he was running Time’s Jerusalem Bureau. In addition to having a son in the IDF, Kershner’s husband, Hirsch Goodman, was a research fellow for an outfit (INSS) whose mission is to burnish Israel’s public image.

As Steven Salaita noted: “This stuff isn’t “cancel culture,” by the way, and you should quit using that asinine term to describe recrimination against Palestinians. This is systematic dispossession of a national community viewed at best as surplus by a voracious colonial power.”

+ Has the IDF ever convicted itself?

+ Robert Habeck, Germany’s German Economy Minister,  has basically accused the US of war-profiteering with regard to LNG exports.

+ Meanwhile, Bangladesh suffered its worst blackout in 8 years, when half of the country (nearly 100 million people) lost power. The country, like Pakistan and India, has been struggling to import enough LNG to keep its power plants running,  after getting priced out by European nations.

+ Puerto Rico’s Gov. Pedro Pierluisi: “In short, my asks to you, Mr. President, are straightforward. We want to be treated in the same way as our fellow Americans in the states in times of need.” (He should ask to be treated like Ukraine.)

+ From Jaquira Díaz’s important essay in The Atlantic“Let Puerto Rico be Free:” “There is no benevolent American savior coming to help Puerto Rico. Every day, people see that there is only them, doing everything for themselves. Every day, more of them come to understand that Puerto Rico has always stood on its own. This is why I believe that independence, not statehood, is the path we must pursue.”

+ The fact that a Russian nuclear strike on Ukraine is even a realistic question–and it is– shows how far diplomacy and rational thinking have failed–or, more accurately, haven’t even started. The US cheers Ukraine’s recent advances, but those only make Russian use of tactical nukes more likely–even if just as a bizarre face-saving measure for Putin’s grossly mismanaged war. Meanwhile, a video interview with the Lowy Institute, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky urged NATO to launch a preemptive strike against the Russian Federation in the event of a threat from its side to use nuclear weapons. So who will step in? Xi? He’s the only leader who has economic pull with both Russia and some NATO leaders. Or does Xi see some adv. to China in a ltd nuclear exchange in Europe? How does he know it won’t go global?

+ Here’s Biden at New York fundraiser warning of a looming Armageddon he helped to set in motion:

First time since the Cuban missile crisis, we have the threat of a nuclear weapon if in fact things continue down the path they are going. We are trying to figure out, What is Putin’s off ramp? Where does he find a way out?…We’ve got a guy I know fairly well. He’s not joking when he talks about potential use of tactical nuclear weapons or biological or chemical weapons because his military is you might say, significantly underperforming. I don’t think there’s any such thing as the ability to easily use a tactical nuclear weapon and not end up with Armageddon.

+ How about picking up the fucking phone and calling Moscow, Joe? That’s what it’s there for.

+ I suppose it’s not surprising that the CIA believed (wrongly, it turns out) that the Russian military was less corrupt and more competent than the US military and its contractors and convinced Biden’s top staff that Kyiv would come under Russian control within a few weeks of the invasion. For much of the Cold War, the CIA and the Pentagon vastly over-estimated the capacity and effectiveness of the Soviet military, largely to justify the purchase of large new weapons systems of questionable utility in the US ..

+ Why does the rightwing Hungarian lunatic Sebastian Gorka still have top secret security clearance, as he claims in this interview with the Washington Examiner?

+ Filipino radio host Percival Mabasa was killed in an ambush this week. Mabasa was a leading critic of new President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and his predecessor, Rodrigo Duterte.

+ Someone on the BBC talking about the post-BoJo Tories: “The ringmaster has left the circus, and now the lions are eating the clowns.”

+ UK’s Higher Education Minister Andrea Jenkyns: “The current system would rather our young people get a degree in Harry Potter studies, than in construction”… universities are force-feeding students “a diet of critical race theory, anti-British history and Social Marxism.”

Number of students currently studying architecture, building, planning and engineering in the UK = 245,395

Number of students currently studying “Harry Potter Studies” in the UK = 0

+ In Prague this week, Emmanuel Macron pitched the concept of “strategic intimacy” to France’s partners and allies. “Strategic intimacy?” Now we have a better idea of what was in that file Trump kept on Macron at Mar-a-Lago…


+ Now we know: It’s not the Fed’s ruinous rate-hikes, not price gouging by the oil companies, not the real estate industry, not the proxy war in Ukraine or the tax-evading billionaire class but servers at restaurants who are killing the economy!

+ As of 2021, a typical worker would need to work for 399 years to make the same pay as a CEO makes in a year. According to a study by the Economic Policy Institute, CEO pay has soared 1,460% since 1978.

+ According to the National Labor Relations Board, the number of petitions for unionization elections has climbed by 53% over the past year, to a total of 2,510.

+ Adam Tooze: “If the generation of young people whose educations were blighted by Covid lockdowns finish their training only to find labor markets closed by a global downturn, it will be an inexcusable failure of policy.”

+ Sweatshop mogul Phil Knight, founder of NIKE, is almost singlehandedly trying to flip the Oregon statehouse to the GOP by flooding the coffers of rightwing candidates and PACs with money this summer and fall. Knight’s recent handouts include:

GOP gov candidate Christine Drazan: $1 million

Independent (anti-abortion, pro-big timber) gubernatorial candidate Betsy Johnson: $3.75 million

[Pro GOP] Bring Balance Back to Salem PAC: $2m

Total: $6.75 million

+ 4,000: the number of people who have died from COVID since Biden declared the pandemic over.

+ A minority party that cravenly kills off its own members needs all of the gerrymandering, voter restrictions and filibusters it can get: “the excess death rate for Republicans during the pandemic was 76%, higher than for Democrats.” Nearly all of the death gap came after vaccines became widely available.

+ CDC data shows that despite the hysteria the US did not experience a childhood “suicide tsunami” as a result of the pandemic or pandemic restrictions. Instead, suicide rates continued pre-existing trends, suggesting that the forces driving youth suicides are systemic…

+ Dana Loesch: “I don’t care if Herschel Walker paid to abort endangered baby eagles. I want control of the Senate.”

+ Power first, ideology whenever…

+ Admittedly I’m fairly ignorant about how “redemption” is achieved in the Christian tradition. I naively assumed that one confessed one’s past transgressions and redeemed oneself through compassion for those who have done the same and thru future good works. But the Herschel Walker saga suggests that redemption is actually achieved by getting into a position of power so that you can exact punishment against those who have committed similar acts. This obviates not only your own “guilt” but also the obligation to admit it.

+ Politicians, like Walker, who want to criminalize abortion have qualified immunity against any legal or political consequences of actually paying for them.

+ Dr. Mehmet Oz’s medical research experiments at Columbia killed 329 dogs, after inflicting intense suffering on them. These vile practices violated the Animal Welfare Act multiple times, for which Columbia discreetly paid a fine. (Will the Fauci-Kills-Puppies crowd be on is ass now?)

+ The NRA’s most highly-rate Republicans are nearly all election deniers. This is hardly surprising, since well over half (299 out of 569) GOP candidates reject the results of the 2020 election.

+ Speaking of the NRA, according to the US District Court’s ruling in Antonyuk v. Hochul, the state of New York (and soon probably your own state, too) must now allow concealed carry of fire arms in:

+ childcare programs
+ domestic violence shelters
+ homeless shelters
+ libraries
+ hospitals
+ mental health facilities
+ public parks
+ public playgrounds
+ summer camps
+ zoos

+ While plundering his work to fill many of the pages in the first 1/4 of her Trump book, Maggie Haberman simultaneously felt it necessary to deride the great Village Voice reporter Wayne Barrett’s stories as being boring, confusing and tending to “connect dots that weren’t there.”

+ Did Mick Jagger toxify all of the women he was with? Jerry Hall marries Rupert Murdoch and Bianca Jagger went from Mick to the grotesque senator from New Jersey, Robert Torricelli. In Haberman’s book, Trump calls up the Torch to show off in front of newest his ghostwriter David Shiflett and asks the fabulously corrupt senator, loud enough for Shiftlett to hear: “Hey, Bob, does Bianca like to rake the leaves?” Haberman describes this as a crude sexual innuendo–though it was unfamiliar to me. (I’ve since looked it up. It’s as gross as you might imagine.) I guess Trump and I spent time in different locker rooms.

+ In July Alejandro Suarez, a young autistic man living in Miami, packed his bags and left his home in South Florida to start a new life where people didn’t know him. But his mother and aunt circulated a bogus story that a group of transgender people had abducted him in order to harvest and sell his body organs. A few days later Suarez was located in Chicago, where he was safe, in good spirits, all his organs intact.

+ Sure glad the Denver Post’s crack team of investigative reporters clarified this: “No, several large Colorado schools …are not having issues with students identifying as cats or other animals, as Republican gubernatorial candidate Heidi Ganahl has repeatedly claimed is happening in schools across the state.”

+ I got an email from the Department of Education this week titled: Biden-Harris Student Debt Relief Update, advising me to “Protect Yourself From Scams.” But the biggest scam is the Relief Program itself, a bait-and-switch scam which just jettisoned millions of borrowers who are in the clutches of private loan sharks.

+ The existential dilemma of Ben Sasse: What if you announce that you are resigning from the Senate only to discover that no one knew you were still there?

+ Maybe Adams has finally hit on something. After all, it’s hard to argue with this…

+ Reagan (below on the far right, of course) was one of four male cheerleaders at mighty Eureka College…(Although he did play a football player in a movie!)


+ According to WHO chief Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus more than 10 percent of all of Pakistan’s health facilities have been damaged, leaving millions without access to health care.

+ Though they receive scant attention in the press, each year heat-related deaths in the United States surpass all mortalities from tornadoes, hurricanes, flooding, and cold winter weather combined.

+Death toll (so far) from Hurricane Ian: Cuba: 3; Florida: 92.

+ Companies are fleeing the storm-battered, sea-level encroached Florida home insurance market. So far this year, six insurance companies have gone bust and for underwriting losses have surpassed $1 billion in each of the last two years.

+ The Biden administration is moving to weaken federal laws protecting eagles in order to enable more wind power development. Nationwide, 34 permits in place last year authorized companies to kill 170 golden eagles and more than 200 permits were in place to allow the killing of 420 bald eagles.

+ Saudi Arabia has “won” the right to host the 2029 Asian Winter Games Winter Games in a city that doesn’t currently exist and in a country where the temperatures regularly top 110 F.

+ According to new aerial surveys of the Permian basin, natural gas gathering pipelines have been releasing 14 times more methane than EPA inventory estimates, enough “wasted gas” to meet the needs of 2.1 million homes.

+ This summer the heat in China was off the charts, where more than 240 cities saw temperatures exceeding 104 degrees Fahrenheit.

+ New research out of Spain documents how high temperatures increase violent aggression by directly fueling feelings of hostility and indirectly increasing aggressive thoughts.

+ Here’s a depiction of the “Horizon Modification Zone” in the Santa Rita Mountains–2.25 miles of ridge line that Hudbay plans chop off from the crest of the Arizona range for its Copper World mine, a gash that will span 4 miles in jaguar critical habitat

+ Since 2012 at least 1,733 people have died defending the environment, according to a report by Global Witness. More than two-thirds of these killing have taken place in in Latin America.

+ New mapping study published in Frontiers in Forests and Global Change finds that older forests (80 years and older) in the U.S. make up about 167 million acres, or 36%, of all forests in the lower 48 states. About a third of these forest stands, or roughly 58 million acres, are located on federal lands.

+ It only took 279 days for Sydney, Australia to break the city’s annual rainfall record of 2194mm from 1950. Annual records date back to 1859.

+ In Rome, researchers took breast milk samples from 34 healthy Italian mothers, a week after giving birth. Microplastics were detected in 75% of them. In 2020, the same team of Italian researchers detected the presence of microplastics in human placentas.

+ In the early 1970s, Vine DeLoria, Jr. interviewed Nakoda elder Walking Buffalo about communicating with nature and Walking Buffalo said that trees talk to each other, an observation now confirmed by the latest science:

Did you know trees talk? Well, they do. They talk to each other and they’d talk to you, too, if you listen. Trouble is, white people don’t listen. They never learned to listen to the Indians, so I don’t suppose they’ll listen to other voices in Nature. But I have learned a lot from trees; sometimes about the weather, sometimes about animals, sometimes about the Great Spirit. (Touch the Earth, 1973)

+ A 13-year study of a dozen cities published in the Journal of Health and Transport found that protected bike-lanes led to a drastic decline in fatalities for all road users. While painted bike-lanes yielded no safety improvements at all.

+ A research note by Credit Suisse predicts that by 2029 solar and wind power in the US could be the cheapest in the world at less than $5 per megawatt-hour.

+ Some good news: The wolf population in the Greater Voyageurs Ecosystem increased by 16% this year (2021-2022), and was up 48% from the 9-yr population low in 2019-2020. The population increase was largely the result of increased pup survival.


+ 330: the number of copies The Waste Land sold in the first six months after its publication.

If only Jean Baudrillard was around to parse the deep cultural meaning of this…

+ Loretta Lynn’s rise to become one of the most important musicians of the 20 century was just as improbable as that of Elvis or BB King. Perhaps even more so, given that she ascended not only out of economic destitution but came to hold opinions that were fundamentally counter to the culture she came to dominate like no other before or since:

+ Loretta Lynn: “I loved being outside. We’d hold lightning bugs in our fingers and pretend they were diamond rings.”

+ Loretta Lynn: “I wasn’t for the Vietnam War. When I told that to the hippie newspaper, all my people got nervous.”

+ Loretta Lynn: “I think Charley Pride has been one of the best things to happen to country music.”

+ Loretta Lynn: “I didn’t know how babies were made until I had my fourth child.”

+ Loretta Lynn: “I’m proud of being part Cherokee, and I think it’s time all us Indians felt the same way. I’d love to work more with the American Indians. My people.”

+ Loretta Lynn: “I know what it’s like to be nervous, pregnant and poor.”

+ The Showtime documentary Nothing Compares on Sinead O’Connor is well worth watching, even if Prince’s greedy estate-keepers refused to allow her performance of the song to be used in the film.

From the beginning of her career, O’Connor showed the fierceness and spirit of the Irish revolutionaries and poets. She’s writing songs about police abuse of black kids, protesting the exclusion of hip-hop from the Grammys at the Grammys, calling out the cowardice of musicians who refused to speak out against the Gulf War. The film reveals, without even mentioning him what a banal nitwit Bono is in comparison. O’Connor was right about the cover-up of sex abuse in the Catholic Church going all the way into the Vatican. She was vindicated on abortion and gay rights in Ireland.

I’d forgotten that even before the SNL bit of performance art–the most punk moment ever on live network TV, the US press and rightwing politicians were already attacking O’Connor because she refused to perform at venues that played the National Anthem before concerts. Imagine the vitriol O’Connor would have been hit with in the age of social media? Still in this film there are only two or three musicians coming to her defense, notably Kathleen Hanna of the Bikini Kills and Public Enemy’s Chuck D.

The film begins and ends with her remarkable performance at the Bob Dylan Anniversary Concert in MSG, where she is meant to sing one of his mellow gospel hymns–shortly after she ripped up her mother’s photo of the Pope on SNL and declared: “Fight the real enemy.” The crowd booed so loudly it would have drowned out her acoustic set. But encouraged by Kris Kristofferson, she launched into a raging acapella rendition of Marley’s “War,” the same song she’d sung that infamous night on SNL. It’s an electrifying, gut-wrenching performance.

Hanna says: “You have to wonder what those people booing were doing at a Bob Dylan concert.” Of course, by that point you have to wonder what Bob Dylan was doing at Bob Dylan concert. 25 years later Ireland legalized abortion and gay marriage, while the US is on the brink of outlawing both.

+ This isn’t Sinead, but it is her version of Prince’s song, played by the Irish cellist Patrick Dexter, who notes that his dog
Nisha is “staring out towards our garden gate. Earlier this week my dog’s best friend (my parent’s dog Jessie the collie) sadly passed away. Nisha keeps waiting and looking out at the gate thinking Jessie will come visit. Our family misses her so much.”

+ RIP to the Love Goddess, Judy Tenuta, the Aphrodite of the Accordion: “My mother always told me I wouldn’t amount to anything because I procrastinate. I said, ‘Just wait.'”

Portland, Oregon and a Sloe Gin Fizz, If That Ain’t Love Tell Me What Is….

Booked Up
What I’m reading this week

Cannibal Capitalism: How Our System is Devouring Democracy, Care, and the Planet—and What We Can Do About It
Nancy Fraser

Breathless: the Scientific Race to Defeat a Deadly Virus
David Quammen
(Simon and Schuster)

Indigenous Continent: the Epic Contest for North America
Pekka Hämäläinen

Sound Grammar
What I’m listening to this week…

(One Little Independent Records)

When the Wind Forgets Your Name
Built to Spill

Spanish Villager No. 3

Making History

“Early on, I learnt from the Russian intelligentsia that the only meaning of life lies in conscious participation in the making of history. The more I think of that, the more deeply true it seems to be. It follows that one must range oneself actively against everything that diminishes man, and involve oneself in all struggles which tend to liberate and enlarge him. This categorical imperative is by no way lessened by the fact that such an involvement is inevitably soiled by error: it is a worse error merely to live for oneself, caught within traditions which are soiled by inhumanity.” (Victor Serge, Memoirs of a Revolutionary)

Jeffrey St. Clair is editor of CounterPunch. His most recent book is An Orgy of Thieves: Neoliberalism and Its Discontents (with Alexander Cockburn). He can be reached at: or on Twitter @JeffreyStClair3