Roaming Charges: Railroaded, Again

Railroad tracks leading to the Tule Lake Concentration Camp for Japanese Americans. Photo: Jeffrey St. Clair.

You can’t call the Democratic Party’s almost unanimous decision to back a strikebusting bill against railroad workers a “betrayal.” It’s more like the ultimate fulfillment of a project begun in 1985 with the birth of DLC designed to unshackle the party from its decades-long bond with organized labor so that it could free itself up to fill its campaign coffers with corporate cash.

The DLC was founded by the likes of Al Gore, Bill Clinton and Joe Biden, after Mondale’s loss. The DLC cynically titled their “think tank” the Progressive Policy Institute, although the only thing “progressive” about it was how it progressively moved away from the New Deal political programs which had come to define the modern Democratic Party.

Justified as a reformation of the party to attract white working class voters (the so-called Reagan Democrats), the “free” trade policies of the DLC and the Clinton/Gore administration hit the working class harder than almost any policies of the Reagan/Bush era. As the job losses from NAFTA took hold, Clinton (with Biden’s support) slashed the social safety net that would have cushioned the blows.

Now, Biden himself stands forth as the latest Reagan, whose poll numbers soared after he busted the PATCO strikers, prepared to stomp on the very workers he claimed to represent but never has when push comes to shove. (For more on this history see our new book, An Orgy of Thieves: Neoliberalism and Its Discontents.)

+ Democrats are always “pro-labor” until that crucial moment when labor asserts itself against the machinery of corporate profit-making. How the neoliberal Biden–the go-to senator for bankers, credit card companies, and the DuPonts–has gotten away w/ his Scranton Joe routine for 50 years is a mystery. The only unions he ever truly supported are the ones whose members are cops, firefighters and prison guards…

+ Net income of the railroad industry: $27 billion.

+ The Congressional Progressive Caucus folded faster than they did on Ukraine…

+ Here are the EIGHT House Dems who voted against the strikebusting railworker bill…

Rep. Norma Torres (CA-35)
Rep. Rashida Tlaib (MI-13)
Rep. Mary Peltola (AK-01)
Rep. Mark Pocan (WI-02)
Rep. Donald Norcross (NJ-01)
Rep. Jared Golden (ME-02)
Rep. Mark DeSaulnier (CA-11)
Rep. Judy Chu (CA-27)

+ Has any party ever said Fuck You to its base more forcefully (or repeatedly)? I’m reminded of the Ramones song…

I don’t wanna walk around with you
I don’t wanna walk around with you
I don’t wanna walk around with you
So why you wanna walk around with me?


+ In Minnesota, the Democratic Party is still officially known as the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party, not one of whom voted for railroad worker’s ability to strike today. Imagine a Banker Party failing to support bailouts for banks?

+ The question as always with Bernie Sanders is what was he willing to do about it? Would he filibuster the strikebreaking bill? Or simply initiate a distraction by offering a sick leave bill he knew had no chance of becoming law?

+ The latter, of course. Which he rationalized as a victory, even when it went down to defeat.

“I’m proud that the House of Representatives passed legislation to guarantee seven days of paid sick leave for all rail workers. While I’m disappointed that we were unable to get the 60 votes we needed in the Senate, we did receive the votes of every Senate Democrat, but one, as well as six Republicans.”

+ Joe Manchin signaled he will oppose adding paid sick leave to the rail strikebusting bill: “I’m really reluctant for us to jump in and set a precedent.” I guess the precedent of strikebreaking has already been set…

+ Manchin’s pals in the coal industry weren’t sweating the strike. They knew Biden would crush it: “We’re still believing that the federal government will be involved enough to prevent…So we’re placing a low probability on it.” 

+ Is AOC really any better than Manchin? With both of them you usually end up in the same desolate legislative place. But Manchin’s much more honest about how you got there.

+ How does a political invertebrate define “stand”? By voting for it reluctantly, of course.

+ “Disappointed?” Really, is that the right word? How about: “appalled,” “disgusted,” “enraged,” “infuriated,” “inflamed,” “incensed,” “revolted” “exasperated” “maddened” or “pissed off”?

+ Jesse Walker: “Bipartisanship: when 211 Democrats who don’t mind slapping down labor team up with 79 Republicans who don’t mind interfering with contractual negotiations.”

+ Out of the planet’s 193 countries, 179 of them enjoy paid sick leave.

+ I’m not entirely sure, but I think the person in the lower right is signing: “What a jerk!”

+ It’s well-known that the Republicans will go to almost any lengths to “own the libs,” even to the point of political self-destruction. But here’s the thing: so do the Democrats, but they seek (as in this week’s strikebusting votes) to own the libs where it counts and hurts the most.

+ Binyamin Appelbaum: “The Democratic Party, which took both chambers and the White House in 2020 promising to pass a law that strengthens collective bargaining, just demolished collective bargaining in one of the few industries that still had it. Quite a legacy.”

+ Apparently, most Democrats can live on rhetoric alone. You’d think they’d be thinner…

+ But laborers can’t sustain themselves on such fatuous bombast and the Railroad Workers Rank-and-File Committee responded by unanimously adopting a resolution declaring the Congress’ move to be completely illegitimate, and saying they reserve the right to organize and prepare collective action.


+ The House and Senate have reached a compromise on the defense policy legislation, setting the appropriation at $45 billion above the Pentagon’s request. But by all means screw the railroad workers out of a few measly sick days…

+ The Wall Street Journal has charted the global boom in arms sales as result of the Russia-Ukraine War. When they can devise a way to sell this many weapons at the peace table, negotiations might commence…

+ Sounds like the AP needs some new editors: “After further discussion, a second AP editor said she “would vote” for publishing an alert [on the missile hitting Poland], adding, “I can’t imagine a U.S. intelligence official would be wrong on this.””

+ Amid the scrum of volunteers, I wonder who McCarthy will pick to read the 3/5s and fugitive slave clauses?

+ Through the end of November, police have killed at least 1,054 people this year–a higher rate of police killings than any year on record in the United States.

+ Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler whining about how Multnomah County won’t help his rounding up of Portland’s houseless population and confining them in concentration camps patrolled by the National Guard…”The main problem is nobody one wants to be in the mud with us. We’re in the mud. We deal in blood, we deal in mud, we deal… in human feces…We haven’t agreed who cleans up the mess,. Who is responsible for the manifestations of this humanitarian catastrophes on our streets?” The mayor (and his developer/real estate backers) are largely responsible…

+ There are still communists in China?

+ Gil Scott-Heron: “Americans want nostalgia. They want to go back as far as they can, even if it turns out to be only last week. Not to face now or the future, but to face backwards.”

+ Due to mounting threat from the far right supporters of Jair Bolsonaro, the electoral court will hand Lula control of the government 5 days earlier than planned. The official inauguration ceremony will still take place on Jan 1.

+ Coincidentally, Lula became the first world leader to use the Indian social media app Koo. According to TeleSur’s Brian Mier, Elon Musk’s relationship with Jair Bolsonaro has led to millions of Brazilians opening Koo accounts over the last two weeks.

+ Speaking of Musk, our very own Dean Baker had his Twitter account suspended the day he published an article criticizing Musk, and calling for changing Section 230 to be less favorable to platforms like Twitter and for the creation of a public voucher system to support alternative news organization.

+ In St. Louis, police are issuing orders banning people from entire neighborhoods. If violated, the people risk arrest. Some of the “orders of protection” don’t expire until 2099.

+ San Francisco police clarified that its killer robot initiative would not arm robots with guns. Instead, they would be equipped with explosives. This is supposed to make us feel safer?

+ On Monday, ICE “accidentally” posted the names, birthdates, nationalities and locations of more than 6,000 immigrants who claimed to be fleeing torture and persecution to its website Monday. ICE only took down the info after it was up for more than 5 hours.

+ An NYC Corrections officer said the quiet part out loud this week when he testified that drugs and other contraband found on Rikers Island “usually” come in through corrupt officers and staff.

In Valley, Alabama police arrested an 82-year-old woman for failure to pay for trash service. The police chief issued a press release defending the arrest.

The woman, who was handcuffed and jailed, owed $77.80.

+ At a press conference with new right-wing school board chairman in Brevard County, Florida to call for more severe discipline of students, a Sheriff Wayne Ivey decried the fact that school children no longer fear having “the cheeks of their ass torn off.” But beware those “groomers!”

+ Three staffers in a Texas school have been accused of locking a boy student in a room and making him eat his own feces. None of them taught a single CRT lesson, so they should be fine…

+ According to a survey conducted by the Marshall Project, at least one-tenth of U.S. sheriffs say they’re willing to place themselves between a higher government authority and their constituents, or “interpose.” The term has a long, fraught history largely tied to Southerners fighting against desegregation.

+ Here’s the new leader of the Democrats in the House (Hakeem Jeffries) on Israel, same as the old leader of the House: “Israel is a democracy. It is not an apartheid state. Any conclusion to the contrary is demonstrably false, dangerous and designed to isolate Israel in one of the toughest neighborhoods in the world.” As I noted in my Roaming Charges column last year, in his first political race Jeffries attacked his opponent for being “a practicing Muslim.” In that instance, it backfired on him and he lost. But it probably earned him early K Street Cred with AIPAC….

+ Itamar Ben-Gvir, who urged settlers to shoot Palestinian stone-throwers in Sheikh Jarrah, may soon be the new boss of the Israeli police chief.

+ According to Haaretz, the Israeli government has now abandoned the so-called tw0-state solution and now envisions a “multi-tiered” state with Jews enjoying the most political rights and civil liberties. Of course, the only two-state solution the Israeli’s ever entertained was a notional one, where one state had 400 nuclear weapons and the other fractured state wasn’t allowed an army and had no control over its own borders, travel or commerce….

+ Pro-Israel groups and donors hung with Trump after the Central Park Five, after his slurs against Mexicans and Muslims, after Charlottesville, child separation, shithole countries and January 6th, but his dinner with the anti-semitic troll Nick Fuentes is the “breaking point“? All together now: “C’mon, man!”

+ In her powerful film The Killing of Shireen Abu Akleh, Laila al-Arian and her team at Fault Lines interviewed eyewitnesses to the shooting and asked the White House and State Department if the US will investigate her murder…

+ Trump blamed the furor over the dinner on Kanye, who Trump said tried to “fuck him over with Fuentes“.

+ Continuing on his tour with Nick Fuentes, Kanye West stopped in for a chat with Alex Jones on Infowars, which went like this:

Alex Jones: You’re not Hitler. You’re not a nazi. You don’t deserve to be described as that.

Kanye: “Well, I see good things about Hitler, also. Every human being has value that they brought to the table, especially Hitler…The Jewish media has made us feel like Nazis and Hitler have never offered us anything of value to the world…He was born a Christian.” Hitler died a Xtian, too, as far as I know.

+ Kanye on Benjamin Netanyahu: “I just heard about this guy two weeks ago. I thought he had a funny name.” That must’ve struck a blow to Netanyahu’s ego…

+ Repeatedly pestered by the press about Kyrie Irving’s anti-semitic drivel, LeBron James turned the tables, inquiring why he hadn’t been questioned about a recently surfaced photograph showing Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, at the age of 14, peering over a crowd of white students who blocked six Black students from entering North Little Rock High School in 1957, shoving some of them down the stairs.  None of the reporters had a good answer.

+ There are several species of Blowback, none more inevitable or self-destructive than the blowback from economic sanctions, especially, as Andrew Cockburn vividly illustrates in this piece on his Substack page, when it comes to oil.

+ Better last-minute-late than never, I guess, but the five major media outlets-New York Times, the Guardian, Le Monde, El Pais and DER SPIEGEL-that worked with Wikileaks on Cablegate, have finally written a joint letter urging the Biden administration to stop its relentless drive to prosecute Julian Assange.

+ And replace mass-shootings with mass stonings, various modes of smiting (usually by blade), apocalyptic floods, burning at the stake, beheadings and turning people into pillars of salt…

+ The father of the Colorado Springs Shooting suspect on learning that his son was likely the shooter: “They started telling me about the incident, a shooting. And then I go on to find out it’s a gay bar. I got scared, ‘Shit, is he gay?’ And he’s not gay, so I said, phew. I am a conservative Republican.”

+ Trump “lawyer” Jenna Ellis is a sick F–k: “The people killed in the nightclub that night, there is no evidence/that they were Christians. Assuming they have not accepted the truth/affirmed Christ as the lord of their life they are now reaping the consequences of eternal damnation.”

+ Remember when Tucker spread panic about Sharia Law coming to the US? He’s well beyond that now. Last week, Carlson invited “Gays Against Groomers” founder Jaimee Mitchell on to declare that shootings like the Club Q shooting are going to keep happening “until we end this evil agenda” of gender-affirming care.

+ Imagine the outrage of among the Blair-Starmerites if Farage had praised Jeremy Corbyn!

+ Here’s Herschel Walker on deciding while sitting in his home in Texas to run for senator from the state of Georgia: “Everyone asks me, why did I decide to run for a Senate seat? Because to be honest with you, this is never something I ever, ever, ever thought in my life I’d ever do. And that’s the honest truth. As I was sitting in my home in Texas, I was sitting in my home in Texas, and I was seeing what was going on in this country. I was seeing what was going on in this country with how they were trying to divide people.”


+ According to a study in Nature, heat conditions across North America in the summer of 2021 exceeded previous heatwaves by margins many climatologists would have considered impossible.

+ Another recent study in Nature found that 90% of coal and nearly 60% of oil and natural gas must be kept in the ground to allow even a halfway chance of meeting that 1.5-degree target—that amount of fuel is worth around thirty trillion dollars.

+ Of course global coal use isn’t close to declining at this point. In fact, coal-burners are on target to generate a record amount of planet-warming pollution by the end of the year.

+ Still if  Africa were to use all its known reserves of natural gas — the cleanest transitional fossil fuel — its share of global emissions would rise from a mere 3 percent to 3.5 percent.

+ NASA issued a report this week predicting that sea level rise could swamp US coastlines by 2050. Not to worry they’ll start working on a fix in 2048.

+ In a rational country–that is, one not run according to the dictates of the Survival of the Fittest Bank Accounts–20% of districts in the most populous state in the country running out of water would be a national crisis instead of another whaddya-want-us-to do-about-it moment.

+ The Washington Post reports that the once-unthinkable (except for those who’ve been paying attention) doomsday scenario for the Colorado is becoming more and more probable: the water level of Lake Powell may drop below the intake tubes, cutting hydropower for millions and stopping the downstream flow of the river to Lake Mead and Mexico. But, hey, we have still have other rivers, right?

+ Since 1948 since Montana agencies have applied rotenone 253 times at more than 200 different lakes, rivers and stream, poisoning an estimated 533 miles of surface water throughout the state, despite the toxin’s known link to Parkinson’s disease and other ailments.

+ Congratulations! Dems are delivering more CO2 at a lower cost!

+ Apparently, scientists have no clue about the consequences of aerosol masking on climate change. But it doesn’t look good: “scientists can’t yet say that if we burn fewer fossil fuels and reduce aerosols by X amount, we can expect Y amount of warming. There are just too many unknowns.”

+ Earth First!ers used to go to prison for demolishing ski lifts. Now it’s a public works project.

+ Out of the 27 EU nations, only France missed its renewable energy objective for 2020, when renewable energy represented 19.1% of its consumption, well below the 23% target.

+ Researchers in Antarctica found polyester fibers, primarily from textiles, in all the samples taken from air, seawater, ice and sediment on the continent. The majority of microplastic fibres were detected in Antarctic air samples, revealing that Antarctic animals and seabirds are likely breathing them.


+ The Emperor Caligula reconsidered: he was kind to horses and loved his sister.

+ Why does the UK need Charles and Camilla when they’ve got Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum? Seems redundant to me. Consider Sistah Space’s Ngozi Fulani’s encounter with Lady Susan Hussey as Fulani tried to enter the Queen Consort’s reception….

+ If you’re like me, you’ve probably been reading Greil Marcus’s Real Life Rock Top 10 since you were in high school…when you could find it. The pop culture column has migrated erratically over the years, often without much notice or a tracking device. I started reading it in the Village Voice, but quark-like, it’s also popped up on Art Forum, Salon, City Pages, Barnes & Noble (where it entered a kind of a black hole, for me at least), Rolling Stone (a teeth-grinding experience) and the LA Review of Books. But now the column has found its final destination (one hopes) on Greil Marcus’ own Substack page. Read and then subscribe here

+ RIP cartoonist Aline Kominsky-Crumb, who continued to subscribe to CounterPunch after her husband dropped his, miffed at Cockburn’s less than enthusiastic assessment of Crumb’s Genesis book…

+ To my ears, Christine McVie, who died this week at 78, was Fleetwood Mac’s best songwriter, her music pleasantly devoid of Nicks’ wu-wu-wicca shit. By the 70s they weren’t a British blues band anymore, but she at least gave them an R&B dimension, especially when she was helming the Hammond B-3. According to the NYT obit of McVie, her father was a classical violinist and her mother “a psychic.” Which is just, well, “Perfect.” McVie said her father pushed her to study classical piano at 11, then she heard Fats Domino and “it was goodbye Chopin.”

+ I was asked in an interview this week to name the “best record of the last 50 years.” Impulsively, I blurted out: Exodus and felt good about it. Exodus is a record that only achieves maximum effect on vinyl. Part of the experience is the act of flipping it from the A side (Rasta religious sermonizing) to B side (uninhibited sexual exuberance). There’s nothing quite like it. First you’re initiated, your soul cleansed, then you surrender to sin.

+ Sight & Sound has finally published its once-a-decade poll of the top 100 films. The big surprise is the dethroning of Vertigo with Chantal Ackerman’s challenging 1975 reassessment of the sexual revolution, featuring a stunning performance by Delphine Seyrig: “Jeanne Dielman, 23, quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles”. It’s a much more diverse list, but there’s still a lot of dead weight. IMHO none of these films belong in the top 100: 2001, Singing in the Rain, Mulholland Dr, Apocalypse Now, Do the Right Thing, Taxi Driver, Rashomon, North by Northwest, Blade Runner, The Red Shoes, Imitation of Life, The Shining and Get Out…As for what’s missing, where are films by Luis Buñuel, Preston Sturges,  Jean-Pierre Melville, Howard Hawks, Werner Herzog, Robert Altman and Frederick Wiseman? There’s only one by Ingmar Bergman (Persona, predictably) and one by Fassbinder (and far from his best)…The revisionism is still in need of a revision.

+ Here’s a brief interview with Chantal Ackerman, who committed suicide in 2015, on the making of Jeanne Dielman.

Twenty years ago, around the time of the 2002 Sight & Sound best film list, Cockburn and I asked several friends and CounterPunch cineastes to contribute their own 10 favorite films. I think it still holds up…

De Heathen Back Dey ‘Pon de Wall!

Booked Up
What I’m reading this week…

Paris in Turmoil: a City Between Past and Future
Eric Hazan

11 Lives: Stories from Palestinian Exile
Muhammad Ali Khalidi
(O/R Books)

Influence Empire: the Story of TENCENT and China’s Tech Ambitions
Lulu Yilun Chen
(Hodder & Stoughton)

Sound Grammar
What I’m listening to this week…

The Hands of Grace
Ishmael Reed
(Reading Group)

There is No Acid in This House
Hieroglyphic Being
(Soul Jazz)

Safe at Home (Remastered)
International Submarine Band

To be Everywhere at Once is to be Nowhere Forever

“There are some good things to be said about walking. Not many, but some. Walking takes longer, for example, than any other known form of locomotion except crawling. Thus it stretches time and prolongs life. Life is already too short to waste on speed. I have a friend who’s always in a hurry; he never gets anywhere. Walking makes the world much bigger and thus more interesting. You have time to observe the details. The utopian technologists foresee a future for us in which distance is annihilated. To be everywhere at once is to be nowhere forever, if you ask me.” (Edward Abbey)

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