Roaming Charges: The Ugliest Thing in America

Abandoned trucks on Youngs Bay, Oregon. Photo: Jeffrey St. Clair.

The enraged man always appears as the gang-leader of his own self, giving his unconscious the order to pull no punches, his eyes shining with the satisfaction of speaking for the many that he himself is. The more someone has espoused the cause of his own aggression, the more perfectly he represents the repressive principle of society. In this sense more than in any other, perhaps, the proposition is true that the most individual is the most general.

– Theodor Adorno

+ After three years of Covid home confinement, I’ve begun to feel pretty estranged from the country at large. Despite its invasive presence in our lives, social media just isn’t capable of capturing the national vibe. To really get a read on the pulse of the populace, you need to turn to talk radio.

Earlier this week, while driving across the Oregon outback, I switched on the radio hoping to pick up a recorded sermon by one of the great old-time evangelists of the 50s and 60s on a subject like demonic possession and communism that you often find lurking on the far end of the dial. But the only channel with a static-free signal was pumping out the Glenn Beck Show, who I hadn’t heard since he blew his Faustian deal with CNN. I was poised to turn it off, preferring the diesel-throated growl of the semis struggling up and over the mountain passes to Glenn’s splenetic mewling, when I paused at his plea for me to send him $28 to save the life of a “pre-born” child. Pretty good deal, on the surface, eh?

It seems that Glenn and his wife Tania (number 2, sequentially not concurrently, despite their conversion to Mormonism) had bought an ultrasound machine, which would somehow be aimed at young pregnant women, in an attempt to show them images of the fetal tissue growing within–images guaranteed to stop them dead in their tracks before they reached a Planned Parenthood abortion clinic. All for a mere $28, which Glenn attested, was solely the cost of paying the life-saving ultrasound technicians.

It’s stranger than I thought out there. But Glenn had hooked me into staying around for his next segment, which he billed as a news update, following some sage words from one of his sponsors, which turned out to be some kind of an ultramart selling everything you will need to survive the coming Apocalypse, which was being planned at that very moment in Davos by the titans of Big Tech, Al Gore and Greta Thunberg.

Admittedly, there was quite a lot of news breaking that day: three mass shootings in California, classified documents being found in Mike Pence’s house, Abrams tanks being shipped to Ukraine. None of these, however, would make Glenn’s top stories. Instead, Beck informed his followers (I was now counting myself among his captivated minions) that George Soros (who he compared unfavorably to the Emperor Palpatine in Star Wars) had found a way to dictate what the media writes about him by funding the Committee to Protect Journalists. Next Glenn moved on to disclose the latest scheme of the Gates Foundation, which was a plot to force people to start eating powered crickets as their primary source of daily protein. He ended with an ominous report on Biden’s plan to confiscate your pick-up trucks, in which, I presume, federal agents will also haul away your gas range and your 12-year-old’s AR-15.

By the time I got back to Portland, I felt as if I’d been living in a parallel universe for the last three years. But now, thanks to Glenn, I’m ready to integrate back into that old, weird America we call home.


+ Mass shootings are an unimpeachable proof of American exceptionalism.

+ On the same day as the bloodbath in Monterrey Park where 20 people were shot (11 killed), 5 people were shot in Yuma, Arizona 2 in Cleveland, 2 in Dillon, South Carolina, 4 in Queens, 2 in Manhattan, 2 in Brooklyn, 4 in the Bronx, 4 in Chicago, 5 in Houston, 3 in Long Beach, 3 in New Bern, North Carolina and two dozen more in single victim shootings.

+ One of the people shot in California last week told the state’s Governor, Gavin Newsom, that he was trying to get out of the hospital as soon as possible because he couldn’t afford the medical bill. Last year, Newsom, some may recall, helped sink California’s single-payer health care bill.

+ If only Brandon Tsay had shot the mass-murderer instead of disarming him by hand, he would have been lionized by the NRA, given a headline speaking slot at CPAC, and rewarded with his own weekend show on FoxNews…


+ In a confidential memo unearthed by The Intercept, Biden’s Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen praised unemployment as a “worker-discipline device.” This is the logic of neoliberalism in a nutshell.

+ In congressional testimony while he was director of Obama’s National Economic Council, Jeff Zients, Biden’s new chief of staff, defended cuts to Social Security, telling Congress that the Obama-Biden administration was “willing to make these compromises as part of a deal that calls for shared sacrifice.” Biden’s “grand compromise” (sell-out to Wall Street) to gut Social Security has been in the works for years. His entire career of cutting deals with the likes of Strom Thurmond, Bob Dole and Trent Lott has led to the coming moment….

+ In 1919, the average steelworker in a Gary, Indiana plant worked 68.7 hours a week–more than 11 hours a day 6 days a week. Yet even this amount of toil in the hellish conditions of the mills wasn’t enough to feed and house a family of five, according to the Wilson Administration’s own figures–and they were no friend of labor (organized or not). Now, a married couple can work an 80-hour week and still not earn a living wage for their family four.

+ Most workers making $50,000 a year contribute to Social Security based on 100% of their income. Meanwhile, a CEO who makes $20 million a year contributes to Social Security with less than 1% of their income.

+ Microsoft had to settle for Sting? Was Bono playing at Google’s pre-firing Davos soirée?

+ Union Pacific just announced a record $6.2 billion in revenue. The company, which helped lead the effort crush rail workers’ demands for paid sick days, spent $1.7 billion more on stock buybacks in 2022 than on pay and benefits for all of its employees.


+ As the Biden administration harangued Germany into sending Leopard tanks to Ukraine, the New York Times ran a front-page piece asking whether Germany can be a “great military power again?” WW I total deaths: 15 to 24 million, WW II total deaths in Europe: 30 million. Who in their right minds would want Germany, or any other nation involved in those wars, to be a “great military power” again?

+ We rarely consider the after-effects of prolonged war, the misery and death that continue to plague ravaged countries long after the cruise missiles have stopped shattering buildings. Let’s return to Iraq for a moment. In a much overlooked (if not ignored) study (‘Cancer, Infant Mortality and Birth Sex-Ratio in Fallujah, Iraq 2005–2009’) of 4,800 individuals in the heavily bombed city of Fallujah published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, medical investigators documented a four-fold increase in all cancers and a 12-fold increase in childhood cancers in kids under the age of 14. The survey also detected a 10-fold increase in female breast cancer and large increases in both lymphoma and brain tumors in adults. Researchers found a 38-fold increase in leukemia. By comparison, survivors of the Hiroshima atomic blast experienced a 17-fold increase in leukemia.

+ Hard at work approving TOW missile sales to Iran to make up for a shortfall in Contra cocaine revenues…?

+ With classified documents turning up in Trump’s resort, Biden’s garage and Mike Pence’s prayer room, it’s time to drop the charges and vacate the convictions against Assange, Snowden, Hale, Stirling, Winner and Manning.

+ Imagine the trove of classified documents awaiting investigators in the Wyoming crypt into which Cheney lowers himself in the pre-dawn hours each morning before the first rays of sunlight top the Wind River Range. Hell, they might even finally find the missing WMDs.

+ Lindsay Graham: “You won’t find any classified documents at my house, just Chick-fil-A bags all over the floor.” And you wonder why he’s still single. Graham once pledged to “go to war for the principles Chick-fil-A stands for.” Like making seniors and teens work for food instead of cash?

+ During the Cuban Missile Crisis the Doomsday Clock was set at 12 minutes to midnight. Now we’re down to 90 seconds…Progress!

+ Still that 90 seconds may be generous, considering how the transfer of NATO tanks to Ukraine is being received in Moscow. Checkout this rant from the excitable Vladimir Solovyov, the Sean Hannity of Russian talk shows:

Berlin, Paris, Madrid, London, Washington should be on fire! The capitals of Nazi countries who made a decision to go to war with Russia… Why wasn’t Kyiv wiped off the face of the earth after the Nazi nation of Ukraine conducted a strike against our strategic aviation base? Stop resorting to empty, worthless words!…

Strikes are being carried out against our cities! Against our land! Russian soldiers are perishing! Russian people are dying! Nazis are rejoicing! How are we planning to respond? By howling that avoiding nuclear war is the most important thing? Then why the heck do we have a stockpile of tactical and strategic nuclear weapons? To be afraid to use it? So that big decorated generals would gasp, “Do you want a nuclear war?” Do you want the destruction of Russia with conventional weapons, of which NATO countries have 3 and a half times more than we do?

+ At least 75 percent of the “experts” named to the Commission on the National Defense Strategy which will review the implementation of Biden’s defense plans ($858 billion a year and counting) have deep financial ties to major Pentagon contractors and weapons makers. Seems unlikely they’ll be recommending cuts to cash-machines like the F-35.

+ India has used emergency powers to block the airing of a BBC documentary that questions PM Narendra Modi’s role in the bloody 2002 Gujarat riots, where “the police stood by as Hindu mobs attacked Muslims and religious attacks took hold of the state.” Both YouTube and Elon Musk’s Twitter capitulated to Modi’s demands that they remove links to the film. Some Indian student activists are finding ways to show it any way…

+ This year’s winner of the Bari Weiss Prize for Free Speech Absolutism: Elon Musk!

+ This week YouTube also removed an interview by US-Palestinian journalist and CounterPunch contributor Ramzy Baroud from the platform, in which Ramzy discussed the censorship of Palestinian voices on social media. Baroud quipped: “Palestinians are now censored for protesting censorship.”

+ The Nobel Peace prize has been rotten since the beginning. Woodrow Wilson won the award in 1919, after breaking his anti-war pledge and sending the US in for the final year of slaughter. On the day of the Armistice, US commanders ordered their forces to continue attacking for four hours after the ceasefire had been signed, resulting in thousands of needless deaths and maimings. Then Wilson went limp at Versailles, going along with Clemenceau and Lloyd George’s punitive terms against Germany that set the stage for the even greater carnage of WW II.


+ According to a new study from the Economic Policy Institute, states with restrictive abortion laws also have worse economic conditions, lower wages, less employment security, higher incarceration rates, and less access to unemployment benefits.

+ California has fruit checkpoints at the border. Looks like Indiana wants to install fetal checkpoints to stop women from crossing the state line to get abortions.

+ Proof of Mencken’s warning that Comstockery never dies, conservatives now want to use the Comstock Act–once used to ban the mailing lewd magazines and books–to block the distribution of abortion pills.

+ Kareem Mayo and Donnell Perkins were convicted of the 1999 murder of Reuben Scrubb in Brooklyn. The case hinged solely on the eyewitness testimony of Ernest Brown, who said he clearly saw Mayo shoot Scrub on the orders of Perkins. Brown, who claimed at trial that he had good eyesight and only needed reading glasses, was a surprise witness, sprung on the defense the night before trial, meaning they didn’t have a chance to investigate his story. It turns out that Brown lied on the stand about the quality of his eyesight, which was actually quite bad a multiple distances. His ex-wife confirmed that he needed glasses for everyday activities and DMV records revealed that he required glasses to pass the eye exam for his driver’s license. After 20 years in prison, Brooklyn Judge Dena Douglas vacated Mayo and Perkins’ convictions and ordered their immediate release. The prosecutor who ambushed the defense and put the lying surprise witness on the stand remains at his post, an active member of the Brooklyn DA’s office.

+ T.J. Juty, a black man living in Worcester, Massachusetts, has been pulled over by the city’s police 70 times in the last eight years. Once for failing to update the new color of his car on his registration, which he wasn’t required by law to do. When he pointed this out to the cops, he was arrested for disorderly conduct. He’s suing.

+ A Justice Department investigation into the Louisiana prison system found that from January to April 2022, 27 percent of people who were legally entitled to be freed from Louisiana state custody were held past their release dates.

+ The Aurora, Colorado Police Department has re-hired Matthew Green, the cop who threatened Elijah McClain with his police dog during the stop that led to the 23-year-old black man’s death, after being put in a chokehold and then injected with ketamine.

+ LA County’s new homeless czar, Lecia Adams Kellem, will be paid $430,000 a year, which helps explain why LA has at least 66,436 people sleeping without a roof over their heads…

+ It’s entirely predictable, I suppose, that transphobes would begin making a fuss about the prospect of someone with a rape conviction being sentenced to a women’s prison. Yet how many of these fierce guardians of biological identity have ever expressed outrage over women prisoners being raped by male guards? In the last 10 years, there have been 5,415 reported sexual assaults and rapes of women in the federal prison system alone and thousands more in state prisons. I think it’s safe to assume that the people who run the carceral state see rape as a feature (not a problem) of the prison system, as yet another form of discipline and punishment.

+ It’s probably a toss-up between about 20 of them, but Woodrow Wilson, who fancied himself a progressive, gets my vote as America’s most racist president. In one of his most famous speeches, a speech that is said to’ve brought tears to the eyes of journalists, Wilson, in making a final plea for Congress to approve his League of Nations plan, couldn’t suppress the rancid nature of his xenophobia. He frothed about the grave threat posed by non-Anglo immigrants, who he believed were the animating force behind the radical labor movement. In his 1919 Pueblo speech, Wilson roused himself one last time to the cause of the preserving the US as an Anglo-Saxon country: “Any man who carries a hyphen about with him carries a dagger that he is ready to plunge into the vitals of this Republic whenever he gets ready.” A few weeks later the Palmer Raids were unleashed. Using lists compiled by the young J. Edgar Hoover federal agents raided union offices and homes (as well as a couple of Tolstoy reading clubs) across the country, arresting and deporting more than 1,300 foreign-born union members.

+ It’s useful to remember that Mitchell Palmer, the man behind the infamous Palmer Raids, the largest mass arrest and deportation operation in US history (all without warrants by the way) was a Quaker. Not a Nixon Quaker. But a real, practicing, “thee and thou” speaking Quaker…

+ Who needs Rudy Giuliani when you’ve got Matty Yglesias?


+ According to reporting by ITN’s Georgina Lee, Britain’s NHS is at least 10 worse than it was in 2011 on four different measures: emergency service, ambulance wait times, cancer referrals and elective. For example, the waiting list for scheduled treatments has now topped 7 million, roughly 10 percent of the entire country. No wonder nurses are striking.

+ As the Tories continue to destroy the NHS, it’s worth remembering its origins. Here’s the leaflet each household in Britain received at the birth of the NHS…

+ Nearly every country in the world saw life expectancies decline during the pandemic. But now with vaccines and anti-viral treatments widely available, life expectancy in most middle- and high-income countries has started to bounce back. But not in the U.S., where it is still falling.

+ Lula in 1978: “This guy showed up at the union wanting to help out,” he said, laughing, “and before I asked about his profession, I looked at that palm of his hands. There was no mistake about it: smooth palms with no callouses, it had to be a Trotskyist.” (“Lula”, Volume 1 of Fernando Morais’ biography.)

+ Lula’s assessment was a little harsh and it certainly didn’t apply to one of Trotsky’s most ardent admirers, Ahmed Shawki, whose sudden death this week came as a deep shock. Ahmed and I were roughly the same age, but he always seemed older to me, not physically, but emotionally and intellectually. Ahmed was a big, exuberant presence and, unlike many political activists and thinkers, he never lost his optimism, his belief that seemingly impossible victories over entrenched power could and eventually would be won.  I greatly enjoyed my interactions with him, both at Socialism conferences and on the couple of occasions I stayed with him and his wife Sharon Smith in their Chicago home. He had a keen mind, a sharp wit and a passion for life.

+ If you’re looking for Patrick Cockburn’s trenchant assessments of what’s going on the world, you can now find his writings exclusively on The I.


+ According to Carbon Monitor, global CO₂ emissions for 2022 increased by 1.6%– 8.0% higher than 2020 and 2.1% higher than in 2019.

India +7.1%
US +3.5%
EU & UK +2.4%

Meanwhile, China saw its emission decline by 1.3%.

+ 2022 was the first year in history where the US used more electricity from renewables than coal. Back in 2010, the US got 4.5 times as much electricity from coal than from renewables.

+ Even in Texas, the share of electricity coming from carbon-free resources doubled over the last decade, from 20 percent of the power mix in 2012 to more than 40% in 2022.

+ The price of solar modules has declined by 99.6 percent since 1975.

+ An iceberg the size of London (660 square) miles has broken off of the Brunt Ice Shelf in Antarctica.

Fracturing of the Brunt Ice Shelf. Photo: European Union/Copernicus Sentinel 2.

+ Since joining the net-zero banking alliances in late 2021, Canada’s 5 biggest banks have financed fossil fuel expansion by at least $46.4 billion.

+ If England and Wales manage to reach Net Zero carbon emissions by 2050, it will result in substantial health benefits and longer lives for their populations. A new study in Lancet estimates that it would will lead to at least 2 million additional years lived across the population of England and Wales.

+ We’re not going to get a handle on climate change until we begin to decarbonize the military-industrial complex, hopefully by defunding it. The US military-industrial complex alone generates 104.1 metric tonnes of carbon per capita each year. That’s more greenhouse gas emission than 167 countries and a higher per capita emission rate than any other country on the planet.

+ 125: the average number pedestrian deaths a year in New York City since 2014.

+ This week the Nuclear Regulatory Commission rejected PG&E’s request to resume a review for an extension of the aging Diablo Canyon nuclear plant’s operating license. The decision prevents PG&E from making an end-run around NRC regulations that requires the company to file a new and up-to-date license renewal application. The power company had previously admitted that the application was severely outdated and could not be updated or completed until late 2023, a year before the Unit 1 license term expires. It now looks like PG&E may have to close Diablo Canyon when its licenses expire in the fall 2024 (Unit 1) and spring 2025 (Unit 2) and keep them closed unless and until the NRC approves a new license renewal application.

+ I located this eagle nest near a slough on the lower Columbia about a decade ago. The same pair has been using it every year since, tending and mending the nest, which is now about 12 feet deep. I’d splashed and slopped my way back through the swamp twice earlier this winter and hadn’t spotted them. I was worried they might have been shot by one of the sheep ranchers in the area, who is aggressively anti-eagle, coyote and bear. But there they were yesterday, at work again, refurbishing their high-rise penthouse with new sticks, twigs and moss. They’ve successfully fledged 18 chicks since I’ve been watching them with two more on the way, I trust. Carry on…

Photo: Jeffrey St. Clair.

+ Despite pledges to preserve forest for biodiversity and climate reasons, deforestation in the US is accelerating. The country now loses an average 1 million acres of forest a year, an area about the size of Delaware.

+ Forest fires are burning hotter and longer. New research finds that the average annual area that burned at low-to-moderate severity has fallen  from more than 90% before 1850 to 60-70% today. At the same time, the area burned annually at high severity has increased four-fold, rising from less than 10% to 43% today.


+ Did Scott Joplin knock off Woodrow Wilson, one of the US’s most racist chief executives? In the autumn of 1919, during a train trip across the country to sell his League of Nations plan to a skeptical public, Woodrow Wilson suffered a series of strokes that ultimately left him incapacitated. The New York Times’ White House correspondent at the time blamed his condition on “hearing a loud orchestra piece in ragtime, giving evidence that his nerves were affected. He was unable to obtain sufficient exercise and the result was to send the blood to his head at the expense of his stomach and other organs.” Wilson never really recovered; a fact largely concealed not only from the public but many members of his own cabinet. For the remaining 15 months of his presidency, as Wilson experienced  “disorders of emotion, impaired impulse control, and defective judgment,” the country was run by a secret troika consisting of his wife Edith, his private secretary (chief of staff, by today’s standards) Joseph Tumulty and his personal physician Dr. Cary Grayson. Thus did black music undo the man who invited D.W. Griffith to screen Birth of a Nation at the White House.

+ Obama’s pal Deval Patrick, former Gov of Mass. and failed presidential candidate, is the son of Pat Patrick, the multi-instrumentalist jazz musician, who played in Sun Ra’s Arkestra for 40 years. Father and son were estranged, particularly after Deval rejected his dad’s advice and accepted a scholarship to the elite Milton Academy, where Pat warned he’d “lose his black identity.” By all accounts, Deval, now managing director of Bain Capital, has in fact left any trace of that identity far, far behind.

+ From a  fascinating interview with Sun Ra by John Sinclair: “A lot of people think they can just come on this planet and do what they want to do, be what they want to be, and there’s no repercussions whatsoever.  But that’s not true.  It’s not a matter of having no hell–this is hell here–but it’s just a matter of, eventually reaping just what you sow.  Whether it’s good or bad.  You set up something, and then it starts to happen.  It’s like when I started studying, I wanted to find out what was happening on this planet.  Then I found out that it’s in a worse condition than I ever dreamed of, and I didn’t want to have anything to do with it.  But since I had set that up as my objective, I can’t avoid it.”

One of Sun Ra’s business cards. Photo: Jeffrey St. Clair.

+ Get me rewrite: Top Gun Maverick is a nominee for best adapted screenplay, said screenplay “adapted” from the original Top Gun. Do Boeing and the Pentagon get credit here? The main adaption being that the original Top Gun featured an F-14 TomCat built by Grumman, while Maverick features an F/A-18E/F  Super Hornet built by Boeing.

+ The “adapted” screenplay for Top Gun Maverick is up against Living (adapted from Kurosawa, who adapted his film Ikiru from Tolstoy’s The Death of Ivan Ilyich) and All Quiet on the Western Front (adapted from Erich Maria Remarque’s novel). What a horse race!

All About the Atmosphere

Booked Up
What I’m reading this week…

How I Stopped Being a Jew
Shlomo Sand

Transborder Los Angeles: An Unknown Transpacific History of Japanese-Mexican Relations
Yu Tokunaga

The Pandemic Divide: How Covid Increased Inequality in America
Ed. Gwendolyn L. Wright et al.

Sound Grammar
What I’m listening to this week…

The Sixth Decade: From Paris to Paris
The Art Ensemble of Chicago
(Rogue Art)

John Cale

The Great White Sea Eagle
James Yorkston, Nina Persson and the Second Hand Orchestra

The Lunatic Ideology

“The ugliest thing in America is greed, the lust for power and domination, the lunatic ideology of perpetual Growth – with a capital G. ‘Progress’ in our nation has for too long been confused with ‘Growth’; I see the two as different, almost incompatible, since progress means, or should mean, change for the better–toward social justice, a livable and open world, equal opportunity and affirmative action for all forms of life. And I mean all forms, not merely the human. The grizzly, the wolf, the rattlesnake, the condor, the coyote, the crocodile, whatever, each and every species has as much right to be here as we do.” (Edward Abbey, Postcards from Ed)

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