Roaming Charges: No Speaker, No Cry

Outhouse, near Slab City in California’s Sonoran desert. Photo: Jeffrey St. Clair

It is impossible not to recognize that the people who are endlessly boasting of their freedom–we’re the best because we’re free!–loathe the very suggestion for anyone other than themselves. They are forever stitching flags, making and threatening and dropping bombs, creating instruments of torture and torture chambers and overseers and deputies and detention centers. Their notion of freedom is so strenuously calisthenic, not to say defensive, that freedom becomes a case of keeping everyone out of your backyard. Or bomb shelter: there are none, by no means incidentally, in the ghetto.

– James Baldwin, “A Letter to Prisoners”

+ There are 100 members of the “Progressive Caucus,” who capitulated within seconds to nearly every demand Pelosi made, and 40 members of the Freedom Caucus who don’t mind waterboarding their own leader in public to get their way & ditching him if they don’t.

+ Sartre’s No Exit, starring Kevin McCarthy, in a limited engagement: “Hell is other people in your own party.”

+ Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-TX): “These fucking people. Now they’re just being clowns.” Crenshaw’s one to talk…

+ NYT: “The Republicans who blocked Representative Kevin McCarthy of California from becoming speaker include some of the most hard-right lawmakers in the House. Most of them denied the 2020 election result. Here’s a closer look at the 20 lawmakers.” The problem is McCarthy himself is endorsed by Trump and the neo-fascist Marjorie Taylor-Greene, along with Freedom Caucus hardliners Jim Jordan and Louis Gohmert. In the face of a MAGA raid on the Capitol, McCarthy still voted to overturn the 2020 elections and boasted: “I want you to watch Nancy Pelosi hand me that gavel. It will be hard not to hit her with it.”

+ The spectacle on the Hill has demonstrated that Trump has no real influence over his political followers and I’m not sure he ever really did. His function was to remove political inhibitions. He showed the far right that they could say and do almost anything and get away with. Why would they restrain themselves now?

+ Just a reminder: the Democrats lost control of the House to this crew.

+ If Marjorie Taylor Greene succeeds in quelling the revolt against Kevin McCarthy will she become the new Liz Cheney, an icon of liberals seeking a return to the good old days of bi-partisanship on the Hill?

+ Maybe the Democrats can offer up one of their own to break the deadlock. Someone like Henry Cuellar? He’s to the right of McCarthy on most issues…

+ Only bad things can emerge from a united and functional House under the control of relatively orthodox politicians like McCarthy, with whom Biden will be tempted to “triangulate” in the name of political comity. Let chaos reign….

+ Look at Biden in this clip. He would much rather cut deals with the likes of Mitch and McCarthy than Sanders or Rashida Tlaib. He’s almost giddy about it.

+ Democrats: the GOP must be saved from itself so we can cut deals with them to gut Social Security and fund the Ukraine war.

+ No Speaker, No Cry…

+ Waiting in the wings is McCarthy’s number 2, Steve Scalise, who  once referred to himself–to a reporter, no less–as “David Duke without the baggage.”

+ According to a Pew survey, the 118th Congress continues the trend of Christians, especially Protestant Christian, being over-represented in Congress than other faiths, sects and unbelievers. At least, 88% of Members of Congress claim “Christian” as a religious identity compared to 63% of Americans in surveys.

+ Dr: Thompson: “The main problem in any democracy is that crowd-pleasers are generally brainless swine who can go out on a stage and whup their supporters into an orgiastic frenzy—then go back to the office and sell every one of the poor bastards down the tube for a nickel apiece.”

+ The Downfall meme returns for the New Hitler Generation…


+ A week after Bush launched the War on Terror Bob Woodward asked Cheney how long it would last. Cheney replied: “It may never end. At least, not in our lifetime.” The wet-dream of weapons contractors had materialized. The Pentagon Budget in 2001 was $287B. Now it’s $857B & rising.

+ Contracts with Raytheon and Lockheed to blow shit up followed by contracts with BlackRock to “rebuild.” What are the Minsk Accords compared to this kind of deal?

+ According to an analysis by the intrepid Stephen Semler military contractors are set to pocket around $20 billion out of the $47 billion in the last Ukraine aid package.

In the room the arms lobbyists come and go
talking of how they just added another zero…

+ Apparently the Russian military is blaming cell-phone usage by its troops on the frontlines for the recent spate of Ukrainian missile attacks on Russian outposts, attacks which may have killed more than 1000 Russian soldiers. If so, those soldiers in rural Donetsk Oblast get better cell service than I do here in the sprawl of Greater Portland, where I barely get a single bar here in the house. If Russia really wanted to protect their troops they’d force them all onto an AT&T plan…

+ According to an analysis by Max Berger, more than 75% of the $40 million crypto-conman Samuel Bankman-Fried contributed to Democrats in 2022 went to groups that dumped nearly all their money on competitive primaries, largely to neoliberals facing off against more progressive candidates. Not that it would have mattered much in the end, since nearly all of the progressives end up voting with the neoliberals when the chips are down…and even when they aren’t.

+ Life expectancy in the US continues to plummet. The response of Congress and the Biden administration in the omnibus spending bill is to end emergency Covid funding and raise the age of mandatory retirement account withdrawals by three years. Someone’s making out, but it sure ain’t us…

+ Biden campaigned to expand Medicaid. Now he’s signed a bill to sharply curtail it, ending coverage for millions of people in the middle of a pandemic he pretends is over…

+ The Social Security administration continues to deny thousands of disability claims a year, in part because it continues to rely on a 45-year-old list of outdated job titles. We live in a System that is eager to help the people who least need it and quick to ignore, chastise and punish the weakest, sickest and poorest among us.

+ 54% of Mississippi’s hospitals are running out of operating funds and at risk of closing. This “looming disaster” is largely a consequence of Gov. Tate Reeve’s stubborn refusal to accept expanded Medicare funding offered to state under ObamaCare.

+ Our book, An Orgy of Thieves: Neoliberalism & Its Discontents, which the great historian Peter Linebaugh says is written “in acid prose cutting through the machine’s wicked fabrications,” is now available on Kindle


Mississippi jails more of its population than any other state and nearly twice the average for the US as a whole. It’s incarcerate rate of 1,031 per 100,000 people (including prisons, jails, immigration detention, and juvenile justice facilities) becomes even more glaring when compared to that of the founding countries of NATO.

+ An off-duty Salt Lake Police Department officer named Thomas Caygle was arrested after allegedly driving under the influence, rear-ending a car, then pinning other driver with his pickup, while he checked for damage.

+ A Louisiana prison inmate working at the state Capitol for no pay who told a Washington Post reporter that he’s been called a “slave” was placed on lockdown by prison officials for talking to the reporter.

+ According to a disturbing report in the Arizona Republic, Arizona prison official are inducing the labor of pregnant prisoners against their will — sometimes as early as three weeks before their due date.

+ A senate investigation paints a grim picture of life inside federal women’s prisons, finding that the Bureau of Prisons “failed to prevent, detect, and stop recurring sexual abuse in at least four federal prisons, including abuse by senior prison officials.”

+ More than 2,000 Black women and girls were killed in 2021, a 51% increase over 2019. At the same time the number of unsolved homicides of Black women and girls soared by 89% in 2020 and 2021 over the levels in 2018 and 2019.

+ On Tuesday, Missouri executed Amber McLaughlin. The jury in McLaughlin case deadlocked at the punishment phase of her trial, so the trial judge intervened and imposed a death sentence. Missouri is one of only two states that allow judges make this decision. Amber was 49-years old and the first openly transgender woman executed in the U.S.

+ In the first two weeks of December at least 7 LAPD officers were arrested for drunk driving.

+ 12: the number of days in 2022 when police in the US didn’t kill anyone.

+ Andrea Ritchie on her book with Mariam Kaba No More Police (one of my selections for the best books of 2023): “We want folks to come away with the understanding that police are not producing safety. They are not preventing or interrupting violence. They’re not healing and transforming people from violence.”

+ On New Year’s Eve, Biden issued six more pardons…for people who aren’t in prison.

+ A recent study in the journal PlosOne reveals that 43 of the 50 most populous cities in the US spend more on police, jails, and courts, than on health and human services, public health, parks & recreation.

+ Meanwhile, 1-in-3 incarcerated people in the US are locked up in jails, most of them (nearly 500,000) haven’t even gone to trial.

+ People are dying in US jails for lack of a couple hundred bucks for bail on minor “crimes,” while the crypto geek SBF, facing several lifetimes in prison, gets home confinement in one of the most elite communities on the West Coast.

+ In an effort to kill bail reform, Mayor Eric Adams had the NYPD compile a list of people with repeat arrests, even though none of the people’s cases impacted by bail reform. It appears Adams and the broke the law by leaking sealed and dismissed arrests records.

+ According to OSHA the 10 most dangerous jobs are: fishers, loggers, roofers, construction workers, pilots, garbage workers, steel workers, delivery drivers, miners, and farmers. More cops need to be assaulting other cops in order to get cops back in the top 10 most “dangerous” jobs…

+ On the other hand, police killed 1,176 people in 2022, more police killings than any other year recorded. Fully one-third of those killed by police last year were fleeing at the time they were shot. Most of the killings took place after a routine encounter with police, a traffic stop, a mental health call or an incident where no crime was alleged. The data also revealed an upsurge in killings by local sheriff’s departments.


+ I got dinged last week by Facebook for posting (three years ago!) a link to a famous photo of the writer Eve Babitz playing chess against Marcel Duchamp. Eve is nude, but the photo doesn’t show nipples,  pubic hairs or orifices. The notice claimed it violated FB’s “community standards.” NeoNazis and anti-trans trolls OK, though. 

+ Maybe it was the chess not the chest that set off the alarms…

+ The suspension was too absurd even to contest. To contest it would make it seem as if it’s open to argument.

+ Speaking of which, human rights lawyer and CounterPunch contributor Stanley Cohen remains permanently banned from the Absolute Free Speech Zone known as Twitter.

+ Cohen is just one of hundreds of pro-Palestinian accounts that have been blocked by Twitter, a kind of information-cleansing that continues unabated under Musk. Two weeks ago the Twitter account of Said Arikat, the persistent State Department correspondent for the Palestinian newspaper Al Quds, was unplugged without explanation or even a murmur of protest from his colleagues in the US press corps. I’m sure Bari Weiss is on the case…

+ Meanwhile, Ken Roth, the former head of Human Rights Watch, and a fairly cautious one at that, has been denied a post at Harvard. According to a report in The Nation, the Kennedy School crumbled under pressure from donors and rescinded Roth’s appointment as a senior fellow at the Carr Center for Human Rights over his assertion, now held by most rational minds on the planet, that Israel is an apartheid state.

+ There’s a new Netflix series on Bernie Madoff, the scapegoat for a financial system that fleeces 98% percent of the country for the benefit of 2%…

+ Former Enron adviser Paul Krugman, wrote a piece decrying the age of “petulant oligarchs“, like Sam Bankman-Fried and Elon Musk. What demeanor did our previous generations of oligarchs display that Krugman found more comforting than “petulant”? “Rapacious,” “Ravenous,” “Avaricious,” “Gluttonous,” “Voracious,” “Swinish,” “Mercenary”?

+ According to a database maintained by Cornell University, there were at least 374 worker strikes started in 2022, a 39% increase over 2021.

+ In a world in rapid flux, the WSJ opinion page remains an anchor of stability. It’s just as bigoted and bonkers as ever….

+ Brazil’s markets plunged after Lula’s inaugural speech vowing to end poverty, which tells you all you really need to know about the priorities of financial markets.

+ In response, Gleisi Hoffmann, president of Brazil’s Worker’s Party, said, “Markets don’t starve to death.”

+ Bolivia’s President Luis Arce has asked President Lula for help investigating the Bolsonaro family’s role in the coup against Evo Morales, including Jeanine Añez ‘s 25 flights on Bolsonaro’s presidential jet during the lead up to the coup.

+ Meanwhile, Lula started the process eliminate all of Bolsonaro’s “100 years of secrecy” decrees. Within a month, the public will find out the players was involved in a multi-million dollar kickback scandal and whether or not Bolsonaro lied about being vaccinated.

+ The FT’s annual economic survey predicts that the UK will face the worst and longest recession of all of the G7 countries.

+ Real wages in the UK are today lower than they were 18 years ago, and, according to the Financial Times, workers have seen a collapse in real wages since austerity started under the Tories in 2010. Perhaps collapse isn’t the right word. More properly, it’s a planned demolition.

+ Both Apple and Amazon lost more than a trillion dollars in value in 2022. In response, Amazon has announced the layoffs of at least 17,000 workers.

+ According to the NYT, “Zvi Thau, a rabbi who is convinced of the existence of a progressive cabal whose sole aim is to erode Israel’s Jewish character through advancing L.G.B.T.Q. rights and gender equality.” Sounds like most of the Republican Governors in the US.

+ Saying the quiet part out loud: Last week the rightwing politician Orit Strock, now a member of Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition that doctors should be able to refuse treatment to people based on their religious beliefs. It’s been happening there and here for years…

+ The problem with Israel’s new government is that it is too explicit about the racism & territorial ambitions that have covertly characterized every other government of Israel–making it more challenging for Israel’s backers in the US to support it unequivocally. They’ll find a way

+ Jamaica’s attorney general, Denise George, was removed from her post less than a week after George filed suit against JPMorgan Chase Bank in Manhattan federal court, alleging the company facilitated Jeffrey Epstein’s sex-trafficking scheme in the U.S. Virgin Islands.


+ I’m more concerned about the presidents who are alert, competent and criminal..

+ Five minutes later Nixon returned to the Oval Office and ordered the Christmas bombing of Hanoi…

+ Among the revelations from Trump’s tax returns: While president, Trump received income from more than a dozen foreign countries, among them the UAE, Canada, the U.K and…..China. Hunter Biden would like a word.

+ As Dark Lord Cheney himself said: “Reagan taught us that deficits don’t matter.” When will the Democrats learn this lesson?

+ They cut the monthly child allowances, which lifted so many children out of extreme poverty, and COVID relief to do it…

+ A Malaysian study of 301 flights from each of the countries 15 states found the presence of Covid in 288 samples or 95.7 percent of all flights.

+ Little Cuba, doing the heavy-lifting for the health of world, and being locked under an embargo for its efforts…

“The AbdalaVaccine based on the RBD antigen may constitute a universal #booster for the rest of the COVID19 vaccines, and amplify a protective immunity against the SARS-CoV-2 virus variants that have circulated, including Omicron, or those that could be generated.”

+ There was some good news for Mississippi this week. Arizona has surpassed now surpassed it to become the state with the highest per capita death toll from COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic.

+ A new CDC study predicts a 700% increase in diabetes in young Americans: “the trend may lead to as many as 526,000 young people having diabetes (including both type 1 & type 2) by 2060. Comparatively, 213,000 young people in the U.S. had diabetes in 2017.”


+ New research published this week in the journal Science suggests that even at 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming above preindustrial levels, the Earth will lose nearly half of its 214,000 glaciers, resulting in more than 3 inches of sea level rise. Three degrees C (5.4 degrees F) of warming, the study finds, would result in a loss of over 70 percent of global glaciers and raise global sea levels by five inches.

+ The 1.5C warming target was always a lie: first in that meeting it would forestall devastating convulsions of the Earth’s ecosystems, second that warming could be limited to 1.5C under the timid measures of Kyoto, Paris, Copenhagen and Cairo…

+ The intensity and scale of this week’s winter heatwave is unlike anything in European history.

According to the UN Environment Program. in the 1950s the world generated two million metric tons of plastic each year. Today the amount has swelled to more than 400 million metric tons. And if current trends continue, yearly plastic production will top 1.1 billion metric tons by 2050.

+ More than More than 2,400 lives are expected to be lost to bushfires in Australia over the next decade. The healthcare costs from treating smoke-related deaths will top $110 million.

+ Percent of US land it would take to support an entirely renewable energy system: 0.84%.

+ Percent of US land currently occupied by the fossil fuel industry: 1.3%.

+ Both Vox and New York magazine have now banned ads from fossil fuel companies.

+ Some rare good news coming out of the Ukraine war: A Bill Gates-backed nuclear energy project in Wyoming has been put on hold for at least two years amid worries about the supply of a special fuel currently made in Russia. 

+ By the end of the war, such plants may prove too expensive to build at all. According to Lazard, the price of a new nuclear power plant is around $168 per megawatt hour, while new natural gas plant costs about a third that much, and solar and wind only about one-fifth.

+ Diablo Canyon, the decrepit nuclear plant built on a fault line on the central coast of California, has sprung a welding leak in one of its cooling systems. Shut this monstrosity down. Now.

+ 2022 was the hottest year in the United Kingdom since they began keeping records in 1659.

+ Around 1,400 people die each year in Ireland from air pollution–92 percent of them from inhaling microscopic pollutants known as PM2.5s released by the burning of indoor heating fuels such as peat and wet firewood.

+ A US Department of Agriculture report warns that in 60 years Iowa could lose enough topsoil that would make current farming practices unsustainable.

+ Environmentalists, of all people, need to stop using this insipid and specious wolf analogy. (They also might want to consider banishing “tipping points” from their vocabulary.)

+ 116: the number of wolves killed in Montana already this season.

+ Number of sharks killed each year by humans: 100 million
Number of humans killed in 2021 by sharks: 11

I don’t think the sharks are the real criminals of the seas.

+ Given a chance, the Endangered Species Act can work. Of the more than 1,400 plants and animals placed under its care since 1973, 99% are still around, if not thriving at least saved from extinction.

+ Each year Amazon generates enough plastic packaging to encircle the world 800 times.

+ The birth, growth and detonation of the latest bomb cyclone to smash the West Coast…


+ Partying with Kierkegaard… “I have just returned from a party of which I was the life and soul; witty banter flowed from my lips, everyone laughed and admired me–but I came away, indeed that dash should as long as the radii of the earth’s orbit ––––––––––––––––– wanting to shoot myself.” (Life Mood, 1836)

+ One of the most ridiculous sentences Pauline Kael ever wrote and I suspect she knew it. At least I hope she did: “There are parts of JAWS that suggest what Eisenstein might have done if he hadn’t intellectualized himself out of reach — if he’d given in to the bourgeois child in himself.” (1975)

+ I’ve already developed a visceral hatred for this movie and I’ve only seen the trailers…

+ Piers Morgan claimed last week that his Twitter account had been hacked, resulting in the posting of a “string of offensive messages.” Of course, it would take a linguist with the chops of Saussure or Chomsky to detect the difference between the “apparent hackers” and the normal effluent coming from Morgan himself…

+ I used to consult the Vatican’s roster of condemned films as a must-see list. But after reading Ben Shapiro’s comical attack on Glass Onion, I may have found a better a guide for what to watch in the current cinema.

+ After 50 years, this song finally makes sense…

+ RIP Fred White…I’ve never been much of a fan of “arena concerts”, but Earth Wind and Fire EWF put on some of the best live shows I’ve ever seen, bringing 25,000 people on their feet, dancing together to their grooves for 2 hours…and Fred, who like Tony Williams with Miles Davis, joined the band when he was 19, was a driving force to their infectious sound.

+ How deep of a “philosophy” can Dylan’s Philosophy of Modern Song possibly be if it doesn’t include a single entry on James Brown, who single-handedly modernized an entire tradition of song, dress, dance and performance? (He does find space for Cher, Rickey Nelson and Bobby Darin.)

Someone defended the exclusion of Brown on the sexism inherent in It’s a Man’s World. (Have they ever listened closely to the lyrics of Just Like a Woman, I wonder?) But Betty Jean Newsome wrote (or co-wrote) it, didn’t she? And I always took it a little ironically. It ends: “he’s lost in the wilderness, lost in the bitterness.” But then again JB was Republican, like BB King, probably as much because of the IRS as the Democrats he had to put up with in South Carolina and Georgia.

The depositions in the lawsuit over who should get writing credit for It’s a Man’s World are really funny and worth reading. They were a “couple” for a while. Betty claimed she got the lyrics from Genesis. James said he got the idea from It’s a Mad, Mad, World.

By all accounts, Betty was just as tough as JB: “I’m a Southern woman, and I will light on his behind like the clothes on his back. I was a bouncer in an after-hours joint, frisking men and taking their guns. So you know I wasn’t afraid of that little man. No, no, no, uh-huh.”

+ From his recent interview with the Wall Street Journal, it sounds like Dylan’s gone back to Jesus: “I’m a religious person. I read the scriptures a lot, meditate and pray, light candles in church. I believe in damnation and salvation, as well as predestination. The Five Books of Moses, Pauline Epistles, Invocation of the Saints, all of it.”

+ James Baldwin: “Consider some of the things the blues are about. They’re about work, love, death, floods, lynchings; in fact, a series of disasters that can be summed up in the arbitrary heading: ‘Facts of Life.'”

+ When Baldwin died in 1987, he left behind an extensive vinyl collection in his apartment in St. Paul-de-Vence on France’s southern coast. Chez Baldwin is a Spotify (I know, I know!) channel streaming songs from many of those records.

Government Leaving the Youth on the Shelf (RIP Terry)

Booked Up
What I’m reading this week…

Saving Freud: the Rescuers Who Brought Him to Freedom
Andrew Nagorski
(Simon & Schuster)

Arid Empire: the Entangled Fates of Arizona and Arabia
Natalie Koch

Worse Than Nothing: The Dangerous Fallacy of Originalism
Erwin Chemerinsky

Sound Grammar
What I’m listening to this week…

Let Sound Tell All
Julius Rodriguez

Sun Ra
(Modern Harmonic)

Who’s Calling
Harvey Mandell
(Tompkins Square)

The Myth of Success

“As naturally as the ruled always took the morality imposed upon them more seriously than did the rulers themselves, the deceived masses are today captivated by the myth of success even more than the successful are. Immovably, they insist on the very ideology which enslaves them. The misplaced love of the common people for the wrong which is done to them is a greater force than the cunning of the authorities.” (Theodor Adorno, Philosophical Fragments)

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