Roaming Charges: The Search for Intelligent Life in American Politics

Owens Valley Combined Array Observatory, near Bishop, CA. Photo: Jeffrey St. Clair.

Our Annual Fund Fall Fund Drive, as you have probably noticed, is not going as well as we hoped. After running it for a month, we are only 85% of the way toward reaching our modest goal.

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– Jeffrey, Becky, Joshua, Deva, Nathaniel, Nichole and Andrew


“Politics does not reflect majorities, it constructs them.”

– Stuart Hall

+ Here’s one thing you can absolutely count on: the post-election interpretations of what happened will be just as ludicrous as the pre-election predictions of what was going to happen. (Myself included.) So with that caveat. Here’s what happened and what it means…

+ I don’t think a candidate I’ve actively supported has ever won elective office–or is likely to–so all of the satisfaction on election day for me derives from the anguish of those who’ve lost. This year’s top losers: the bi-partisan crime scare caucus, “Dr.” Oz, Phil Knight, AIPAC (which spent $4 million in a failed effort to defeat Summer Lee) and media punditry, which was so eager to blame their own contrivance of “wokeism” for the decimation of the Democrats.

+ However this election eventually turns out black Americans will have seen and lived it before: whether it’s a narrow victory by liberals who will ultimately betray nearly every promise or a rout by reactionaries who will directly target the rights, well-being and lives of all minorities.

+ When you realize we live in a country that is angrier at the homeless than homelessness, the results of the mid-term elections will make a lot more sense. (Just a note: a recent University of Chicago study disclosed that 53% of the people living in homeless shelters and 40% of unsheltered people were employed.)

+ The worst thing about the election is that it wasn’t enough of a repudiation of either party to force them to change course: the GOP toward “alpha male” authoritarianism and the Democrats toward spineless neoliberalism. It leaves us stuck with the same two awful political alternatives rushing toward oblivion.

+ The fact Democrats are relieved at the narrowness of their loss and Republicans outraged by the thinness of their win speaks to the different psychologies of the two parties. One lives in fear, unsure (with reason) about its own beliefs. The other perpetually angry that not everyone bends to their will.

+ The Democrats have lost Florida. It’s a red state, no longer in play. There’s no longer any political reason at all to pander to the rightwing Cuban and Venezuelan exile communities.

+ Of course, a blue surge is coming for Florida, sooner rather than later…

+ The thing about Joe Manchin is that you know exactly who and what he represents (I’m opposed to all of it). He doesn’t hide his politics. And he sticks with it regardless of the kind of pressure he’s put under. Is there any other Democrat you can say this about, even on life and death issues, like guns, health care or climate change?

+ Think of the election this way: Whoever wins, we’ll be getting a lot of dangerous people off the streets and into Congress on two to six year sentences.

+ Beto got whacked in Texas, but contrary to theme of a widespread Hispanic conversion to MAGA he held his own along the Rio Grande corridor. What Beto didn’t do, according to Native friends in Texas, was spend any time courting the state’s large Native American vote, to his inevitable doom.

+ Brazil had its election returns within a few hours. Even the votes from the Yanomami tribal lands arrived quicker than those Maricopa County….But then they’re an advanced civilization.

+ When you give people a chance to vote on issues directly–on guns, abortion, drugs, debt, health care, policing–the usually make rational, humane, even radical, decisions–the kinds of decisions their representatives say are politically impossible.

+ The crime wave and the red wave turned out to be the same ripple…

+ The election was a firm rebuke to the crime wave hysteria that so much of the press told us was going to drive a Red Tsunami. At the top of the list was the welcome defeat of the belligerent LA Sheriff Alex Villanueva, who tolerated police gangs within his department. He’s now under investigation himself for violating campaign finance laws by shaking down his deputies for campaign contributions. Then there’s the welcome defeat of crime-monger Lee Zeldin for governor of New York, though the cowardly Democrat Kathy Hochul tried to get to Zeldin’s right on issues like bail reform and promised to crackdown on “subway crime” in the city. In Harris County, Texas (greater Houston), a recent bail settlement freeing tens of thousands from jail was attacked (even though crime in the city had decreased), Lina Hidalgo, the County Judge targeted by the tough-on-crime crowd, was reelected. Democrats now have a 4-1 majority on the Commissioners Court and most of the Democratic judges kept their seats. Also in Texas, Kelly Higgins, a reform-minded Democrat, was elected District Attorney in Hays County, a fast-growing suburb of Austin. In Hennepin County, Minnesota (Greater Minneapolis/St. Paul), a career public defender beat a tough-on-crime opponent by more than 10 points, even in the wake of the expected backlash against the George Floyd protests.

+ The promise of (some modest) student debt relief seems to have worked. Maybe expand that across the demographic spectrum to include medical and housing debt relief?

+ Hershel Walker on student loan forgiveness: “they got the money and were out there buying video games, they were going on vacation, they was gambling, they were drinking booze.”

+ I hope they set aside some of that cash to pay for a couple abortions…

+ Rewrite?

+ Speaking of Rogan, transphobe Matt Walsh said on his Rogan’s show this week that “millions” of trans people are on puberty blockers. The real number is less than one thousand.

+ Daniel Horowitz: “A lot of people are saying Republicans underperformed last night, but no party that attempted to violently overthrow the government has done this well in a midterm since the civil war.”

+ Consider the fact that Diego Morales, a Qanon-linked former Pence staffer who called the 2020 election a “scam,” is now Indiana’s Secretary of State and will oversee future elections in the land of the Hoosiers.

+ Tulsi Gabbard has become the Lara Logan of former Democratic presidential candidates…

+ Tulsi’s right. It’s hard to get more “un-woke” than that darn Chuck Grassley: “I think not having the estate tax recognizes the people that are investing, as opposed to those that are just spending every darn penny they have, whether it’s on booze or women or movies.”

+ People are understandably anxious about the rise of Christian Nationalism, but what about creeping Krishna Nationalism…?

+ As for me, my Lord Mithra of the Wide Pastures, of the Thousand Ears, and of the Myriad Eyes, warns (talking about either Nestle or the Central Valley irrigators): “He who makes the meadows waterless and the pastures desolate is an enemy of my faith.”

+ What are the odds of Trump running as an independent just to screw DeSantis and Rupert?

+ Tim Ryan was the dream candidate of the blue dog Democrats: an unwoke, tough-on-crime, China hawk who spewed a stream of  poll-vetted white working-class rhetoric. He got smoked by one of the most ridiculous people to ever run for public office, JD Vance–a hedge funder campaigning as a hillbilly in drag singing from the Donald Trump fake book.

+ The bad news for Democrats is that the Red Ripple makes it more likely that Biden will seek re-election–not that PeteBot or Kamala Chameleon would have been an improvement.

+ Just as it was for Bill Clinton, a narrowly divided Congress is the political ecosystem Biden wants. More power than ever is vested in him and his veto pen. He can cut deals with the Republicans on entitlements, like Medicare and Social Security, and then blame them for the failure of his campaign promises.

+ Claud Cockburn: “Never believe anything until it has been officially denied.”

+ Jeff Sharlet: I’m in disgusted awe of how quickly political elites are cohering around a new CW that DeSantis—who started a private militia under the explicitly white supremacist sign of a white alligator, & “election police,” and kidnapped a plane load of families—is a return to normal.”

+ A couple of weeks after Sen. Josh Hawley pronounced the GOP the new “working class party,” the Democrats won a majority of Americans who make less than $50,000, while Republicans won a majority of $100,000+ income earners.

+ Who will break the news to the Senator from Citibank, Chuck Schumer?

+ The Democratic Party used to be shaped–at least partially–by social movements–especially labor and civil rights. Now it’s shaped by the movements of money: does Raytheon want more war in Ukraine? Does Goldman Sachs need a bailout? Who does Cargill think will provide the biggest ag subsidies?

+ If they let people vote on Medicare-for-All is there any doubt it would pass overwhelmingly…?

+ One salutary outcome of the otherwise dismal NY election returns is that it probably serves as a morning after pill against the birth of an Eric Adams presidential campaign.

+ Slavery was on the ballot in five states. Vermont, Tennessee, Alabama and Oregon all voted to remove slavery and involuntary servitude from their Constitutions. In Louisiana, however, a ballot question on supporting a constitutional amendment to end the use of involuntary servitude was rejected with 60.9 percent of the vote.

+ In his book What’s the Matter With Kansas? Thomas Frank described Johnson County as one of the “most intensely Republican places in the nation.” It’s now voted Democratic for the past three elections, with the margins increasing from 5 percent to 15 percent in the last four years.

+ And it’s not just Kansas, which also re-elected its Democratic governor. Missouri legalized marijuana, Nebraska passed a $15 minimum wage, while both Montana and Kentucky rejected abortion bans.

+ In Illinois, passage of Amendment 1 marks the first time voters codify collective bargaining via ballot measure, and Illinois would also become the first state with a constitutional ban on “right-to-work”…

+ New Hampshire’s Republican Gov. Chris Sununu, on the message of the midterms: “Fix policy later, fix crazy now.”

+ They won’t do either.

+ After going to the polls in Vermont, my old pal Michael Colby wrote: “Hey, I thought there were going to be Marxists on the ballot?”

+ Speaking of which…


+ Distressingly, one issue that seemed to have little impact on the election was the US’s financing and arming of Ukraine in its war against Russia. One poll found that almost early three-quarters of Americans support continuing economic (71%) and military (72%) aid to Ukraine, and 58 percent are willing to continue to support the country “as long as it takes,” even if U.S. households will have to pay higher prices for gas and food.

+ However you interpret the Russian retreat from Kherson, it presents an undeniable opening for a diplomatic end to the war before winter (nuclear or seasonal) arrives. Will anyone pursue it?

+ This is surely one of the strangest wars ever fought…

+ In 1998, Bernie Sanders called the cops on anti-war activists outside of his office in Burlington who were protesting his vote for Clinton’s war on Serbia.  Now he’s smearing a former supporter and Political Outreach Director, Nick Brana, as being in the pay of someone for criticizing his stance on Ukraine.

+ In Pennsylvania, there are 1,100 people serving life terms under the state’s felony murder law, where a person can face a mandatory life sentence without parole when involved in a crime that led to a death, even if they didn’t pull a trigger or mean to kill. Nearly 70 percent of the people serving such sentences are black, in a state where black people make up only 12% of the population.

+ Police activity logs show that San Francisco Police Department engaged in a deliberate work slowdown under reformist District Attorney Chesa Boudin, which was almost immediately reversed after Boudin was recalled and Brooke Jenkins took office.

+ The increase of police in NYC’s subway has failed to reduce crime, but has led to more arrests for low-level violations, particularly of people of color. This result was not only predictable, but the point.

+ Jody Greene was reelected as sheriff in Columbus County, North Carolina two weeks after resigning following the release of leaked audio where he called his own deputies “black bastards.”

+ It appears that Rupert Murdoch’s New York Post offered two crime victims cover stories if they would say they were Democrats now voting from Republican Lee Zeldin.

+ Sister Helen Prejean: “Tough on crime” policies are not effective. If locking up as many people as possible was the solution, then the United States would be the safest place in the world. Prevention, accountability, and rehabilitation bring safety where retribution and extreme punishment have failed.”

+ In Rochester, New York cops pepper-sprayed a 9-year-old girl in the eyes because she wouldn’t get into a squad car. As the girl cried, “Please don’t do this to me,” the police officer  snapped: “You did it to yourself, hon.”

+ In 1994, two brothers were convicted of rape in Leeds, Alabama (near Birmingham) and sentenced to 20 years in prison, even though there was no physical evidence tying either of them to the crime. The brothers, Frank Meadows and Quentin Cook, served out their entire term, contending all along they were innocent. Thirty years later, a long-buried police report, which was never entered at trial or turned over to the police, surfaced, confirming the protestations. The hair samples in the report didn’t match either Meadows or Cook. The two brothers, both black, were officially exonerated this week.

+ Nevertheless, Speaker-of-the-House-in-Waiting Kevin McCarthy wants to take the drug war nuclear with a “frontal attack on China”…

+ Not to be outdone, Trump, who claimed the average drug dealer kills at least 500 Americans over the course of his career, called for the death penalty for drug dealers and human traffickers in two hour trials, culminating in the executioner’s bullet being sent to the families.

+ So MSDNC has terminated yet another black correspondent.  This time they axed the contract of Tiffany Cross, a frequent target of racist malice from Tucker Carlson. Back in 2016, comedian Larry Wilmore quipped that MSNBC “stands for Missing a Significant Number of Black Correspondents…they got rid of so many black people, I thought Boko Haram was running that network.” (H/t Tom Winter.)

+ The secrets to a long life: Eat cheese, surrender frequently, act like a monkey, (have a national health care program)…

+ Tesla has been forced to recall 40,000 U.S. vehicles over potential loss of power steering assist…

There’s a killer on the road
and he’s got the source code
If you mock this man in a Tweet
His car will drill you in the street
Killer on the road, yeah…

+ Manu Saadia: “Now, Twitter is like a Tesla on autopilot going after pedestrians at random.”

+ Eve6: “Blue checks used to mean you were a mild to severely annoying public figure or journalist. In a week they’re going to mean you don’t believe in age of consent laws and you’re running a crypto scam.”

+ CEOs probably shouldn’t let investors see what self-destructive morons they are in real time. Leave them to try and figure it out from the fine print in the quarterly reports.

+ I don’t understand fleeing Twitter when you can watch one of the most grotesque people on the planet be shredded day after day in his very own safe space, in front of the people whose admiration he craves. It’s something of out Greek myth–like Pentheus being torn apart at the end of The Bacchae.

+ Erin Bartram: “I’m surprised so many academics have abandoned Twitter this quickly. They’re usually such pros at soldiering cheerfully on as an institution collapses around them.”

+ Twitter Prisoner’s Dilemma: Would you rather pay $8 and have 7 people read your Tweets or freeload and have 5 people read your Tweets, then blame the lack of “global engagement” on shadow-banning algorithms?

+ In less than a week, Twitter has undone decades of reputation washing ing by the PR industry for some of the most villainous corporations on the planet. Touché, Mr. Musk!

+ Now, if only Elon can be goaded into launching a hostile takeover of Spotify!


+ From the typewritten manuscript of Kurt Vonnegut’s speech accepting the Eugene V. Debs Award in 1981…

+ American Dream Update: the median income needed to buy an average sized home in the US is now $88,000–$40,000 more than it was before the pandemic.

+ According to Fortune, unpaid labor was the largest sector of the pandemic economy and women did at least two and a half times more unpaid labor than men…

+ Danny DeVito: “Harvard University’s latest 5.6 Billion dollar budget yielded them a 406 Million dollar “surplus!” Wow! They don’t pay taxes. No shit? Who runs it the Pope?”

+ Two views on the same basic economic stats.

+ Chomsky has long argued that if you want straight news you’re more likely to find it in the business press than the NYT or the Washington Post, who will inevitably put their slant on it.

+ Julian Lemos, a Brazilian lawmaker and former campaign coordinator for Jair Bolsonaro, claims that Bolsonaro is physically abusive to his wife Michelle. In an interview, Lemos said that Michelle was not present in Bolsonaro’s speech after his loss to Lula because she was “bruised.” We should note that during his term in office Bolsonaro slashed by 90% the amount allocated to fighting violence against women in Brazil.

+ Meanwhile, two of Bolsonaro’s sons, Flávio (a senator) and Eduardo (a congressman), visited the Italian embassy in Brasília this week, reportedly an effort to expedite their requests for Italian citizenship

+ A study in  the Journal of Peace Psychology found that people living in countries with higher conflict intensity tended to be more susceptible to COVID-19 conspiracy beliefs.”

+ If politicians aren’t actually going to do anything for us, they can at least serve as objects of public ridicule. In this role, Ted Cruz rarely disappoints.

+ Cruz on Fox: “Why did the Democrats do better than expected? Because for two years they have governed as liberals. They’ve governed as whacked out lefty nut jobs. You know what that did? That excited their base. That excited a bunch of young voters.”

+ Myra Brown, a plaintiff in one of the right-wing suits to halt Biden’s modest student loan forgiveness plan, had $47,996 worth of her $48,000 PPP loan forgiven by the federal government. That’s more than twice the maximum amount of debt cancellation available to student borrowers.

+ Is Bari Weiss on the case?

+ It’s the University of Chicago. They’ve done worse. See: Chile.

+ At least 13 journalists have been killed in Mexico this year. That’s more than in any country except war-ravaged Ukraine. Our friend Laila al-Arian and her colleagues at Al Jazeera explains why in this documentary “Silenced:”

+ In the latest cryptoscam, FTX CEO am Bankman-Fried, feted as a genius by the likes of Tony Blair and Bill Clinton, plundered over half of the money his customers had deposited in his crypto exchange to fund his very risky hedge fund, resulting in a $10 billion loss! After the crash, Bankman-Fried wrote it off to a case of “poor judgment.

+ Patrick Thewell, after being arresting for throwing four eggs at Charles Windsor and his consort Camilla during their visit to York: “I’m with all victims of slavery, colonialism, and imperialism… Those eggs are the only justice those people will see… Ror all the people who died so that man could wear a crown.”


+ As climate campaigners headed to the Egyptian police state many of them downloaded the official mobile app for COP27. The app requires access to a range of personal information, including passport numbers and email. It also appears to contain spyware that security experts say poses a “credible” threat to protesters.

+ The fault, dear Brutus, is not in the stars, but in the Stars and Stripes…

+ The Pentagon is the single largest emitter of carbon dioxide on the planet. Globally, militaries account 5.5% of total carbon emissions, according to a new study by Scientists for Global Responsibility, and that’s without counting the direct emissions from wartime.

+ Words missing from Rishi Sunak’s COP27 speech (Sponsored by Coca-Cola)…

Fossil Fuels

+ Sunak’s vapid, but his counterpart in Labour may be even worse. This week Keir Starmer renewed his calls for longer prison sentences for activists protesting inaction on catastrophic climate change.

+ Carbon dioxide (CO₂) averaged 416 ppm in October 2022. In 2012, October averaged 391 ppm.

+ But if you just buy one of the EV cars they’re trying to sell you and use paper straws…

+ Sorry. Electric cars are not going to save the planet. The entire road transportation system contributes less than 12% of greenhouse gas emissions. Plus Tesla’s aren’t “green.” You still have to drive one 13,500 mi to break even w/ a Corolla–78,000 miles if the charge power comes from coal.

+ Moreover, EV prices are going in the wrong direction: The 2023 Kia EV6 will start at $49,795, including a $1,295 destination charge, which is over $7,000 more than the 2022 model.

+ In Africa, the amount of land that will be subjected to oil and gas development is expected to quadruple in the next few years, according to a report by the Rainforest Foundation, threatening to destroy up to a third of the remaining tropical forest in the Congo Basin.

+ According to the Financial Times, Apple’s profits in China have doubled in the last two years, hitting $31.2 billion, making it the largest technology enterprise in China, exceeding the combined income of Tencent and Alibaba, China’s two largest tech companies.

+ A new United Nations report says carbon dioxide emissions from buildings and construction have reached an all-time high, pushing the sector off course to decarbonize by 2050: the report found that the building and construction sector accounted for 34 percent of all energy demand and made up 37 percent of energy and process-related CO2 emissions last year.

+ On November 5th, the ice-skating rink at Rockefeller Center in Manhattan opened. The temperature in NYC that day hit 80F.

+ The Democrats’ new heroine, Liz Cheney, has introduced a bill that would not only delist grizzlies as a threatened species, but also bar public comment and prevent any judicial review of the decision…

+ John Horning of WildEarth Guardians on filing a lawsuit to stop wolf hunting and trapping in Montana: “Right now in Montana, it’s legal for a trophy hunter to stand 10 feet outside of Yellowstone National Park, toss hamburgers on the ground as bait to lure #wolves out of the park, and then shoot them.”


+ This one from Isaiah 20:3-4, perhaps? “He shall walk naked and barefoot, with buttocks uncovered.”

+ Is this the way Isaiah did it?

+ Or maybe it was this prophecy also from Isaiah (28:8), which seems to refer to the dining rooms of Mar-a-Lago: “For all the tables are covered in filthy vomit with no place left clean.”

+ Nick Estes: “What do you call nine unelected officials deciding whether Native nations have the right to be families and protect their children?”

+ Here’s a sample of the kind of judicial bigotry that Nick’s talking about, from this week’s oral arguments in a challenge to the Indian Child Welfare Act, which prioritizes the placement of Native American children in foster care or adoption with relatives, other tribal members, or in other Native homes. In his snide way, Alito is restating the Doctrine of Discovery, arguing that the indigenous people of the continent were warring savages who benefitted from the civilizing hand of conquest and settlement.

+ The so-called “primitive” cultures of North America left behind Mesa Verde, Palenque, Keet Seel, Betatakin, Tikal, Chaco, Machu Picchu, Canyon de Chelly… and we’re leaving behind Storage Locker, Dollar General, KFC…

+ The average date for all of the songs Dylan writes about in the Philosophy of Modern Song is 1961, which seems a little late to me. Cockburn and I used to debate which was the greatest year for music. He argued for 1956, I defended the merits of 1959.

+ Q. What’s your favorite Led Zeppelin song?

A. All the one’s actually written by Willie Dixon.

+ Billie Holiday: ” If I’m going to sing like someone else, then I don’t need to sing at all.”

+ According to the Wikipedia entry on Randolph Churchill, Winston’s son read his wife, Pamela Digby (later Harriman) passages from Edward Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire on their wedding night. The entry wryly notes: “Despite this, she managed to become pregnant by the spring of 1940.”  Perhaps she knew Latin, where Gibbon secreted the raciest parts.

+ In one of his books, Edward Abbey tells an anecdote about Gibbon presenting the final volume of the Decline and Fall to his patron, Baron Eliot, who responds, “Scribble, scribble, scribble, eh, Mister Gibbon?”

+ For Christmas one year, Cockburn gave me a copy of all three volumes of the Decline and Fall filled with fleshy illustrations condensed into one 10-pound tome. The print is so small even the old magnifying glass from the Compact OED doesn’t render the words readable. Looks impressive on the shelf though…

I Want to Shoot Guns or Butter My Bread…

Booked Up
What I’m listening to this week…

I Will: How Four American Indians Put Their Lives on the Line and Changed History
Sheron Wyant-Leonard

Art on Saturn: the Album Cover Art of Sun Ra’s Saturn Label
Sun Ra, Irwin Chusid and Chris Reisman

A Death on W. Street: the Murder of Seth Rich and the Age of Conspiracy
Andy Kroll
(Public Affairs)

Sound Grammar
What I’m listening to this week…

Universal Tonality
William Parker
(AUM Fidelity)

In These Times
Makaya McGraven

Speakers in the House
The Headhunters

How Diplomacy Became Meaningless

“Once war was considered the business of soldiers, international relations the concern of diplomats. But now that war has become seemingly total and seemingly permanent, the free sport of kings has become the forced and internecine business of people, and diplomatic codes of honor between nations have collapsed. Peace is no longer serious; only war is serious. Every man and every nation is either friend or foe, and the idea of enmity becomes mechanical, massive, and without genuine passion. When virtually all negotiation aimed at peaceful agreement is likely to be seen as ‘appeasement,’ if not treason, the active role of the diplomat becomes meaningless; for diplomacy becomes merely a prelude to war an interlude between wars, and in such a context the diplomat is replaced by the warlord.” (C. Wright Mills, The Power Elite)

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