Roaming Charges: The Shame of the Game

Still from Ingmar Bergman’s “Shame.”

“The enemy is anybody who’s going to get you killed, no matter which side he is on.”

– Joseph Heller, Catch-22

+ In the manufactured showdown over the debt ceiling, Biden didn’t just blink; he set a political speed record for rapid eye movement.

+ Cutting future spending for poor people, sick people and children in order to pay the debts rung up by tax cuts for the rich and astronomical spending by the Pentagon. This is the gist of the deal Biden brokered with Kevin McCarthy, a deal that needed the support of Democrats to push through the Republican-controlled House of Representatives. In the end 165 Democrats voted for the bill and only 149 Republicans.

+ The deal is bad and probably only a harbinger of the coming bi-partisan austerity. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities the agreement will “increase hunger and poverty” among poor older Americans, a reference to new SNAP work requirements. What a thing to brag about when you go back to your state or district.

+ Biden claims he “compromised on the budget, not the debt ceiling.” Of course, that’s the point. The debt ceiling only exists to provide neoliberal politicians like Biden an excuse for imposing austerity on social and environmental programs while funding an ever-expanding defense budget…

+ But he didn’t “compromise” at all. You have to get something in a compromise. Here Biden simply put a limit on how much he was willing to give away.

+  Of course, not all Democrats went away empty-handed. Joe Manchin extracted his pound of hydrocarbons for his vote by slipping a measure to approve the Mountain Valley Pipeline into the debt ceiling bill. They didn’t emphasis how much it pays to be an asshole in those “How a Bill Becomes a Law” videos in grade school.

+ As Biden himself admitted, the fake fight over the Debt Ceiling was really fight over the budget, in which there were two sides making demands: rightwing Republicans and far right Republicans. The Democrats asked for nothing and got less. The Far Right demanded all they could think of, got it and now wants more. This is how the game is played and only one party is playing it.

+ The Congressional Budget Office’s analysis of the debt deal’s cuts to IRS funding concludes that the measure will actually increase the debt because it “would result in fewer enforcement actions over the next decade and in a reduction in revenue collections.”

+ Even for Republicans, it’s never been about the debt. As Dark Lord Cheney said, “Reagan taught us that the debt doesn’t matter.” It’s about re-allocating the federal budget to the people who put you in office: arms makers, banks, drug companies, oil companies, slumlords, tech giants, hedge funds. If you don’t have a lobbyist, a PAC or a dark money conduit, you don’t count for a damn thing in this town.

+ Case in point: the morning after the “Debt” deal passed the House and was sent to the Senate, Susan Collins, the top Republican on the Senate Appropriations committee, announced her intention to introduce an emergency supplemental to raise Pentagon spending beyond debt limit deal. “That is what we need to do,” Collins said. “That is what I would ask the administration and my colleagues on the other side of the aisle to commit to.”

+ Kevin McCarthy: “We might have a child that has no job, no dependents but sitting on the couch, we’re going to encourage that person to get a job and have to go to work, which gives them worth and value.” Imagine being a child that has no job and no dependents! They really do want your kids either sharpening blades at the slaughterhouse or pumping out babies at the age of 13…

+ I’ve often said that at a functional level the two main parties are almost indistinguishable. This is, of course, not entirely true. For example, the House Republicans are ready to oust Kevin McCarthy for not getting all they wanted, while the Democrats are rallying around Biden for giving the Republicans most of what they wanted and getting nothing in return.

+ Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries announced his support for the debt ceiling bill not by saying there was a gun to his head. Not as the least worst of bad options. Not regretfully or even reluctantly. But “without reservations.

+ Astra Taylor, co-founder of the Debt Collective, a union for debtors: “The debt ceiling deal codifies an assurance for Republicans that Biden will head into 2024 as Americans’ debt collector in chief.”

+ Even though the political “middle” today is to the right of Barry Goldwater in 1964, Chris Matthews was hauled out to laud Democratic progressives for “working with the middle” on the debt deal, correctly noting: “The Squad really didn’t cause a lot of trouble this time.”

+ It took Nixon to go to China and the Democrats to slash their own (meager) social welfare programs and impose onerous work requirements to qualify for the pittance that’s left.


+ At the same time the Republicans in Congress were threatening not to pay the nation’s debt (largely attributable to Trump’s tax cuts and the ever-expanding war-making budget), the Democratic-controlled Senate voted to kill student debt relief, reinstating more than 260,000 already cancelled student loans owed by educators, nurses, first responders, and other public service workers and making people pay interest cancelled due to the pandemic payment pause. Joe Manchin, Jon Tester, and Kyrsten Sinema joined with the entire GOP in the Senate to pass the bill. Michael Bennet and Mark Warner didn’t even show up to vote.

+ Enrollment in US colleges has declined by about 15% in the past decade, according to federal data. Is it any wonder why?

+ In the 2020 presidential elections, voters who were 18 to 29 in 2008 backed Biden by 55 percent to 43 percent, a margin roughly half that of Obama’s 12 years earlier.

+ This headline (“The Florida Mom Who Sought to Ban Amanda Gorman’s Poem Says She’s Sorry for Promoting the Protocols of the Elders of Zion“) and her quote are a pretty fair indicator of where we’re headed: “I see the word ‘communism,’ and I think it’s something about communism. I didn’t read the words. They have to read for me because I’m not an expert. I’m not a reader. I’m not a book person. I’m a mom involved in my children’s education.”

+  Imagine the furor if BDS ran something like this as part of its campaigns against SodaStream, HP and Sabra Hummus,…

+ An analysis by Media Matters of FoxNews’ coverage of the protests against Target for offering Pride-themed merchandise revealed that the supposedly chastened network devoted 2 hours, 12 minutes and 32 seconds worth of coverage to the manufactured backlash against Target last week and at total 22 seconds on the Catholic Church sex abuse scandal in Illinois, involving the molestation of 1,900 minors by 450 credibly-accused sexual abusers, including priests and lay religious brothers. So perhaps it’s not about protecting the kids, after all?

+ The Russian Duma, after initially vowing to limit the government’s ban on gender reassignment to pre-op cases, is now imposing a ban on the surgery itself. There have been 2,990 documented gender reassignments in Russia between 2016 and 2022. Some Russian politicians have warned that men are “hiding” from the draft by registering with the state as women.

+ John Carl Baker: “The anti-trans international.”

+ Trump is setting himself up to run to the left of DeSantis. He may end up to the left of Biden…Trump in Iowa this week: “I don’t like the term ‘woke,” because I hear the term ‘woke woke woke’ — it’s just a term they use, half the people can’t define it, they don’t know what it is.”

+ Ron DeSantis vowed this week to “destroy leftism in America.” It’s so typical of DeSantis to promise to do what Clinton, Obama and Biden have already done.

+ For a party obsessed with dress codes and the strict application of pronouns, “Casey” DeSantis is a pretty gender neutral name.

+ At least 250,000 Floridians have been kicked off of Medicaid by the state, even though most are still eligible. How can anyone run for office on this record?

+ It’s a lucky thing that Western Civilization avoided any contamination from the ideas formulated by the peripatetic pederasts of ancient Athens. (By the way, Ben, Socrates lived in Alopece, a deme (or suburb) of Athens, where religious rites were performed at two temples: one to Aphrodite and one to Aphrodite’s two-sexed child from her coupling with Hermes, Hermaphroditos.)


+ Joe Biden made his rep as a drug warrior and, by god, he’ll go out as one. Biden has lent his support to the HALT Fentanyl Act, would permanently add “fentanyl-related substances” (FRS) to Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act, the most restrictive category. FRS is defined as “any substance that is structurally related to fentanyl” and features one of five chemical alterations. Anyone convicted of possessing specified amounts of an FRS will be subject to mandatory minimum sentences: five years for 10 grams or more of “a mixture or substance containing a detectable amount” of an FRS and 10 years for 100 grams or more. If “death or serious bodily injury results from the use of such substance,” the mandatory minimum increases to 20 years.

+ 36% of people who went to jail in 2017 had incomes under $10,000. 22% had a serious mental illness. Over one-third had a substance use disorder. Nearly a quarter had no health insurance.

+ Cities across the US have been forced to pay out a total of more than $80 million in settlements to protesters injured by police during 2020 BLM protests.

+ The Waukegan, Illinois cops who coerced a teen’s false confession to a shooting will face no disciplinary action. But the north Chicago suburb is on the hook to $200,000 to the 15-year-old, who was wrongly charged with attempted murder and jailed for two nights.

+ A Virginia State trooper who catfished and abducted a 15-year-old girl and killed her grandparents and mother had a history of mental health issues so severe that his gun rights had been stripped. These warning signs didn’t stop the Virginia State police from hiring him…

+ A review of millions of traffic stops and the voting records of the officers who made them reveals that White police officers who vote Republican exhibit a larger racial disparity in police stops than white police officers who vote for Democrats. This bias increased from 2012–2020.

+ The use of solitary confinement has become so pervasive and controversial that officials in California, where Gov. Gavin Newsom vetoed a measure to restrict its use, have started labeling prolonged isolation “administrative segregation” and a range of other terms to disguise how often it is employed in the state’s prisons.

+ In justifying detaining migrants seeking asylum in Rikers jail, New York City Mayor Eric Adams has claimed the city simply has “no more room”. But according to documents obtained by the New York Daily News, at least 2,182 apartments meant for homeless New Yorkers are currently sitting vacant.

+ Last week an LA Sheriff’s Department deputy accused of being in a department gang known as the Executioners was compelled to show his gang tattoo in court. The case also disclosed images of the group’s logo printed on office supplies in the station and on flag on a deputy’s truck.

+ In 2021, 93% of the arrests that began as felonies in New York City and did not end in felony convictions.

+ This week the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the death sentence for Colin Dickey, ruling that his prosecutor knowingly presented false and misleading testimony and arguments and withheld favorable evidence from Dickey’s defense.

+ The Lancet, the UK’s leading medical journal, published an editorial (The Death Penalty: a Breach of Human Rights and the Ethics of Care) condemning physician involvement in executions: “Physician involvement undermines the four pillars of medical ethics—beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice.”

+ Richard Carter, 63, was booked into a Harrisburg-area jail on the coldest night of the year and put on suicide watch by a psychologist named Robert Nichols, who said as Carter was taken away: “Fuck him. He can freeze in that smock.”  Carter died in his cell a couple of days later from COPD (Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease).

+ At least four people have died inside Sacramento County jails already this year. Since 2014, there have been 64 reported deaths.

+ Joshua Valles was one of the people sent to Rikers after last year’s rollbacks of bail reform. He died in custody on Saturday after complaining of headaches. Jail officials claimed he had a heart attack and there was “no Departmental wrongdoing.” However, an autopsy revealed Valles had a fractured skull and significant brain injuries. It seems likely that Valles fell victim to the rampant violence inside the jail, which has put the facility under court-ordered monitoring. Valles appeared to be healthy when he was sent to Rikers, after he couldn’t pay the $10,000 in bail set for a non-violent theft charge. Under the bail reforms gutted by Gov. Kathy Hochul, Valles wouldn’t have been sent to Rikers and would probably be alive today.

+ Over the last decade, the firearm death rate in rural counties has been nearly 40 percent higher than in urban areas.

+ Biden’s Justice Department is in court this week arguing that lawsuits filed by some of the thousands of families separated at the border by the Trump Administration should be rejected because the family separation policy was “adopted” for “perceived humanitarian considerations.”

+ Michel Foucault: “Justice must always question itself, just as society can exist only by means of the work it does on itself and on its institutions.”


+ So you think expanding the Court and packing with Democratic nominees is going to protect working people, eh? Both Obama’s appointees voted to gut labor laws in the Glacier Northwest case, involving a concrete company that wanted to sue a union because a strike cost them money. The 8-1 decision (only Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson)  means the company can sue the union for damages over a strike where truck drivers left wet concrete in their trucks. In her dissent, Jackson, asserted that the Court was interjecting itself into a  labor disputes that is lawfully the realm of the National Labor Relations Board. There’s not much doubt that  had Stephen Breyer still been on the court, this anti-labor ruling would have been unanimous.

+ Following in the footsteps Richard Nixon, the last liberal president, the “conservative” UK government of Rishi Sunak is drawing up plans to introduce price caps on basic food items such as bread and milk to tackle the cost of living crisis.

+ Texas AG Ken Paxton wanted his mistress to have a job in Austin, which investigators say he obtained for her, so he would not have to drive back and forth to San Antonio to see her, Rep. Ann Johnson said, in setting forth investigative findings in Paxton’s impeachment trial.

+ 60 million: number of fewer hours per day Americans spend traveling to work, as a result of the pandemic shift to at home work.

+ The health insurance giant Cigna allows let its medical directors reject more than 150,000 claims each month without reviewing patient files. Internal documents show the company has estimated that as few as 5% of denied patients will appeal. According to CounterPunch Carol Miller, a nurse and Green Party activists in New Mexico: “This has been federal policy since at least 1985 when I was reviewing a multibillion$$ federal fiscal intermediary contract. There is an allowable percentage of denials without review in every contract. These funds are held by the insurer in interest bearing accounts. Every bill left unpaid is literally money in the bank. Having also worked on the clinical side, my sharing how much time is wasted on the provider side in resubmittals and protests of the denials did not matter.”

+ Many non-profits are just as callous as Cigna. Take Allina Health System, a wealthy nonprofit company operating hospitals and clinics in the Midwest. Despite its charitable mission, the New York Times reported this week that the company has instructed its doctors not to see poor patients or children with more than $4,5000 in unpaid medical bills. The hospitals are told to lock the patients’ electronic health records so that staffers cannot schedule future appointments.

+ In a piece on the deteriorating memory bank of Dianne Feinstein, the New York Times reported that the Senate upon noticing Vice President Kamala preside over the senator to case a tie-breaking asked her staff, “What’s she doing here?” This is the best question DiFi has asked in the last five years.


+ I don’t know how many billions Russia has sunk into their ballistic missile defense systems (I’m sure it’s a fraction of what the US has wasted) but the Ukrainian drone strikes on Moscow show the futility of such techno-defenses, which can be undone by DIY weapons. (See: IEDs in Iraq and Afghanistan.)

+ The latest $300 million arms package to Ukraine includes: Patriot missiles, AIM-7 missiles, Avenger air defense systems, There’s more artillery in there, too, as well as tank rounds, AT-4 anti-tank weapons, Stinger anti-aircraft weapons, aircraft rockets, mine-clearing equipment, more night vision gear. Of course, Ukrainians might want to check the expiration dates on the packaging. According to a new IG report, many of the weapons sent to Ukraine were outdated and poorly maintained. The report cited rotting tires, worn firing pins, faulty firing mechanisms and “breech blocks” in M777 Howitzer cannons that could result in misfires that would the kill soldiers manning the gun.

+ They also might want to keep an eye on those drones. In exercise at the 2023 Royal Aeronautical Society Summit, an AI-piloted drone turned against its human operator during a simulated mission, when it perceived the human as a threat. “It killed the operator because that person was keeping it from accomplishing its objective,” said U.S. Air Force Col. Tucker ‘Cinco’ Hamilton, the Chief of AI Test and Operations, at the conference. Fragging has just been taken to an entirely new level.

+ As Henry Kissinger was feted for his 100th year on the planet, one might take a close look at the collapse of life expectancy in Cambodia and try to calculate how many memorial candles should have been lit on his cake…

+ Greg Grandin: “You can trace a line from the bombing of Cambodia to the present. The covert justifications for illegally bombing Cambodia became the framework for the justifications of drone strikes and forever war.”

+ The best biographies of the blood-soaked centenarian  are Seymour Hersh’s The Price of Power and Greg Grandin’s Kissinger’s Shadow. But if you want to hear it from his own mouth listen to the Nixon White House tapes where you get the unvarnished Kissinger–vain, sycophantic, manipulative, deceitful, pathologically violent.

+ In 1968, Henry Kissinger invited the 26-year-old Giorgio Agamben to participate in his Harvard seminar. (This was the same year Agamben was attending lectures by Martin Heidegger, which was quite the Teutonic double-bill.)

+ As of May 15, 108 Palestinians in the West Bank and East Jerusalem have been killed by Israeli forces, more than twice last year’s toll during the same period. At least 19 were children. The Washington Post reconstructed in detail the death of one of those kids–a 14-year-old Palestinian boy named Omar Awadin, who was fatally shot during an IDF raid in Jenin, as he was pedaling home on his bicycle.

+ Since the start of 2023, Israel has detained more than 3,000 Palestinians.

+ Since 2001, the Israeli Defense Forces have killed at least 20 journalist, 18 of them were Palestinian. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, no one has ever been charged or held accountable for these deaths.

+ All six of the announced Republican candidates for president now support an invasion of….Mexico.

+ Virginia Slims: the cigarette brand chain-smoked in the 70s by the CIA’s paranoid chief of counter-intelligence, James Jesus Angleton, as he spiraled into madness. These are the kind of revelatory details that I really treasure.

+ Fake Brazilian passports used in the 1990s by Kim Jong-Il and his son Kim Jong-Un to travel to pre-woke Disneyland…


+ Lawmakers in red states are moving swiftly to gut child labor laws so that children can be slotted into jobs from sharpening cutting blades at slaughterhouses to working in bars on school nights…

Work your children like Hell
So they can tell
The code you live by
Don’t ever tell them why
If you told them they would cry
So just look at them and lie
And know they loathe you

+ Master Lock is closing shop in Milwaukee a little more than a decade after Barack Obama held a press conference in the factory praising the company as a leader in re-shoring jobs in the US.

+ A guest at the Cannes party hosted by Warner Bros. bigwig David Zaslav, pointed at two mega-yachts anchored in the bay and proclaimed: “This is what a recession looks like. There used to be 20 of these.”

+ 74 percent of voters support raising the federal minimum wage to $20 an hour,  which is nearly three times the current level of $7.25 an hour.

+ In 1980, 84% of 25-years in the US were living on their own, 63% were married and 39% had a child. According to Bloomberg, by 2021 only 68% of 25-year-olds were living outside their parents’ home, 22% were married and 17% had a child.

+ Another reason to hate American  football: In the 1930s, Cal Berkeley football teams were used as strikebreakers. First on the docks in Oakland, then on campus to bust up organizing meetings for a teacher’s union. (See: Kai Bird and Martin Sherwin’s biography of Robert Oppenheimer, American Prometheus)

+ Charlie Kirk’s Turning Point USA hosted a Pastors Summit, where Kirk railed against groomers and the sexualization of children.  Yet one of the corporate sponsors of the summit is led by registered sex offender, who spent time in federal prison for trying to coerce a minor child to engage in sexual activity.

+ Shortly after Elon Musk hosted Ron DeSantis on Twitter for his presidential announcement, DeSantis signed a bill shielding Musk’s SpaceX company from liability if workers are killed from his rockets blowing up. SpaceX had previously lobbied state officials unsuccessfully at least five times for the measure.

+ American billionaires are making more money and giving less and less. Charitable donations by the top 50 US donors dropped sharply to $14 billion in 2022, a decline of 60% from the previous year.

+ Tenants in Brooklyn are trying to avail themselves of a rarely invoked 1960s-era law that can prohibit landlords from collecting rent when they fail to fix dangerous building conditions for months on end.

+ A study of “medical mistrust” in Appalachia found that more than one-quarter of the respondents who had high levels of food insecurity levels were also much more likely to exhibit higher levels of medical mistrust.

+ Jonathan Turley used to be a fairly reasonable voice on civil liberties. But he’s clearly lost his mind. The entire premise of this column is based on his assertion in the lede paragraph that Biden was “vice president in 2018,” which would come as a surprise to Pence.

+ Hunter Biden’s lawyers have informed the Justice Department that if he’s charged with owning a gun as a drug user (which is illegal), they will argue the ban is unconstitutional under the Second Amendment. Will the NRA file an amicus brief?

+ Sweden already has the lowest rate of smoking in EU, but, with fewer than 5% daily smokers in the population, it is now close to declaring itself the world’s first “smoke free” country.

+ Pass the hemlock, Crito…


+ The CO2 levels at the Mauna Loa observatory hit 424.76 ppm on May 29 2023  Up 3.02 from 421.74 ppm one year ago.

+ If the planet warms by 4 degrees Celsius, people living in Africa will experience a 118-fold increase in exposure to extreme heat. (Africa has generated less than 3 percent of the world’s cumulative greenhouse gas emissions.)

+ Last week, State Farm terminated the sale of new home-insurance policies in California, citing wildfire risk and rapid inflation in construction costs. Michael Wara of Stanford’s Doerr School of Sustainability: “If it was some small insurer, maybe no one would care. But this is State Farm. This is a situation that threatens the broader economic picture of California.” A week after State Farm stopped writing new home insurance policies in California, Allstate followed suit.

+ According to Bloomberg, China has reached peak CO2 emissions seven years ahead of schedule. Next year the country’s reliance on fossil fuels will begin to settle into a long-term decline, largely because China is now adding three times as much solar as it did only 2 years ago  and a third of all new vehicle sales are EVS.

+ As El Niño gathers its forces for a march up the Pacific, ocean temperatures off the coast of South America spiked upward roughly 6 degrees Celsius (10.8 Fahrenheit) warmer than usual in April.

+ A report in the New Scientist charts the gradual rise in the number of people under 50 being diagnosed with cancer  and concludes that scientists “don’t entirely know why.” Plastics, micro plastics, PFAs, petro-chemicals, pesticides, processed foods….ring any bells?

+ Protest is being criminalized across America and you’re not hearing much about it from the supposed defenders of free speech, who bemoan the fact they can’t use the N-word in a sentence without repercussions. On Thursday morning, swat teams from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) and Atlanta Police Department (APD) raided Teardown House and arrested bail support and legal defense workers, who are providing charitable support to protestors arrested for opposing Cop City in Atlanta. The police accused the activists of committing financial crimes. “Arresting bail fund organizers is state repression,” said Suzanne Adely, president of the National Lawyers Guild. “We strongly condemn the state of Georgia’s organized effort to silence, criminalize, and punish movements for justice.”

+ Solidarity is often the greatest crime in the eyes of a corrupt state, especially a police state. It’s certainly what they fear the most. It may be the only thing they really fear.

+ For decades, many economists asserted that immediate action to fight climate change would cripple the economy, but a new study (one of several) demonstrates that the economic benefits of a rapid and immediate cut in CO2 emissions outweigh the costs.

+ A study in Nature argues that the rapidly increasing likelihood of temperatures in excess of 50°C (122°F) across the Mediterranean and Middle East is attributable to human influences: “We find that at all locations, temperatures above 50 °C would have been extremely rare or impossible in the pre-industrial world, but under human-induced climate change their likelihood is rapidly increasing.”

+ A report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences estimates that at least a third of all agricultural production around the globe occurs on lands of “high conservation priority.”

+ Phoenix, the fastest growing metro area in the US, doesn’t have enough water for all the homes that have already been permitted. Thoughts and prayers…

+ The overturning circulation of the Southern Ocean has declined by 30% since the 1990s, leading to higher sea levels and changing weather patterns…

+ In 2017, nearly one-third of all natural gas extracted Canada was used to separate bitumen from bituminous sand. In other words, hydrocarbons are being used to produce more hydrocarbons. Efficient system, you’ve got going up there.

+ A new report calls plastic the new coal: “As of 2020, the U.S. plastics industry is responsible for at least 232 million tons of CO2e gas emissions per year. This amount is equivalent to the average emissions from 116 average-sized (500-megawatt) coal-fired power plants. The U.S. plastics industry’s contribution to climate change is on track to exceed that of coal-fired power in this country by 2030.”

+ Every year another 400 million tons of plastic is produced, about the weight of 1,000 Empire State Buildings. The world is generating twice as much plastic waste as two decades ago. As much as 14 million metric tons of plastic is believed to enter aquatic ecosystems per year.

+Average cost overrun for new power plants:

Nuclear 120%
Hydro dams 75%
Fossil 16%
Wind 13%
Solar 1%

+ Grosse Pointe Stank: a new pipe is set to send raw sewage from one of Michigan’s wealthiest enclaves directly into Detroit’s waterways, including Lake St. Clair…

+ Despite the record snowfall in the Sierra Nevada this winter, California remains short of water and the state auditor just issued a report lambasting the California Department of Water Resources for relying on water forecasts that don’t adequately account for the effects of climate change.

+ On the heels of the successful transformation of Parisian streets to favor cycling over cars, France has announced Plan Vélo, a €2 billion program over 4 years to promote cycling across the country as a mode of transport to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

+ Owing to temperate weather and increased reliance on renewable sources energy, Europe has experienced multiple days of negative wholesale power prices across the continent this spring.

+ In 1910, there move in the US congress to increase the availability of low-cost meat by importing hippopotamuses that would be slaughtered to make “lake cow bacon.” Fortunately, the bill failed.


+ Franz Kafka marked the beginning of WW I in his diary with the directness and dissonance of a lunch poem by Frank O’Hara: “Germany has declared war on Russia.—Swimming school in the afternoon.”

+ The late Martin Amis on what he was best at writing: “banalities delivered with tremendous force” Seems spot on, for once.

+ Looks like they co-opted Juneteenth faster than they did Earth Day and MLK, Jr’s birthday…

+ Christian Cooper. whose ornithological outings in Central Park brought him into a fateful with an off-the-lease dog and its racist owner, on the species which hooked him on birding: “My spark bird — the birding community’s term for the bird that ignited my interest in all things feathered — was the red-winged blackbird. When I was 9 years old, my parents, perhaps hoping it would butch me up, enrolled me in a summer woodworking class. When faced with the choice of building a footstool or a bird feeder, I picked the feeder. And no sooner was it up in our backyard than the cracked corn it dispensed lured in a nearly all-black bird with a bright red patch on its wing.”

+ The dancer Isadora Duncan once wrote a letter to the socialist playwright George Bernard Shaw proposing that according to the principles of eugenics they should consider having a child together. “Think of it!” Duncan wrote. “With my body and your brains, what a wonder it would be.” “Yes,” Shaw replied. “But what if it had my body and your brains?” Rejected by Shaw, Duncan traveled to the Soviet Union, set up a dance studio and married the poet Sergei Yesenin. At the time, Duncan was 46, Yesenin only 28. The marriage lasted less than two years and yielded no children. After the breakup, Yesenin came under near constant surveillance by Soviet secret police and either hung himself in a hotel room in Leningrad or was murdered there by agents from Stalin’s OGPU. As Yesenin’s friend Vladimir Mayakovsky wrote, since his marriage to the American Duncan, Yesenin’s name had been more visible in newspaper police logs than in poetry journals. Duncan herself would die two years later in Nice, when her long, hand-painted scarf became ensnared in the axel of the open-wheeled car she was riding in, nearly decapitating her. Duncan died a citizen of the Soviet Union and her will was the first of a Soviet to be probated in US courts. Gertrude Stein notoriously quipped of her death: “Affectations can be dangerous.”

+ Osip Mandelstam: “Only in Russia is poetry respected–it gets people killed.”

+ George Balanchine, the longtime impresario of the New York City Ballet, died in his 80s of Creutzfeldt-Jacob disorder, more popularly known as Mad Cow Disease. It turns out that Balanchine, whose romantic entanglements with ballerinas stretched back some 60 years, had been taking injections of semen extracted from the testicles of bulls for several years before his death in an attempt to buttress his waning sexual potency.  The company’s dancers stayed young, as he continued to age. It became harder and harder to keep up. Mr. B was 40 years older than Suzanne Farrell, who he relentlessly courted (stalked).  Of course, this age gap pales next to Al Pacino, who at 83 seems to have impregnated his 29-year old girlfriend, Noor Alfallah.  It is speculated that those injections were how Balanchine contracted the fatal disease. (See: Mr. B: George Baldachin’s 20th Century by Jennifer Homans.) Stay away from the bull semen, Al.

+ DeSantis take note. When the BBC banned God Save the Queen 46 years ago today saying it was “in gross bad taste”, it immediately became the song everyone wanted to hear and once you heard it, it was in your head forever–even if the spirit behind somehow left John Lydon’s…

+ While the Sex Pistols thrived on the banning of their scabrous single “God Save the Queen,” Vladimir Nabokov has to be one of the few novelists who sought to ban his own work–at least from the shelves of Cornell University’s library. Edward Jay Epstein tells the story in his captivating memoir of his career as journalist, Assume Nothing. As a Cornell undergrad in the 1950s, Epstein, almost by accident, had become Nabokov’s “auxiliary course assistant.” Nabokov was then an untenured professor of European literature on the Ithaca campus. (The novelist’s primary course assistant was his wife Vera.) Young Epstein’s main responsibility was to watch four movies a week and report back to the Nabokovs on which ones were worth going to see. A year or so later, Epstein learned from a friend who worked in the campus library that his old professor had thrown a fit when he learned that library had purchased a copy of his (relatively) salacious novel Lolita. Apparently Nabokov had stormed to the library and demanded that the novel be pulled from its shelves and its entry in the card catalogue files destroyed. But the Cornell librarians–made of sterner stuff than many of those in Florida today–held firm. They explained that once the book has entered the system, it can’t be removed. That, they explained, would be an assault on intellectual freedom. Nabokov, having fled Russia, Germany and France, had a more intimate understanding of the perils facing the authors of forbidden texts and remained adamant that Lolita should not touch the hands of Cornell students. The director of the library offered a solution: the novel could be shelved in a locked room where they kept hard-core pornography which had been acquired for research purposes. This proved an intolerable dilemma for the great man, who didn’t want his book read on campus, but also didn’t want it deemed obscene. So Nabokov left the library unsatisfied and worried that the novel which would make him famous in the US might also cost him his job. In the end, Nabokov got tenure, his novel became an unlikely best-seller and was made into a film by Stanley Kubrick, though in a version so neutered by the demands of the censors that he and Vera probably didn’t much enjoy watching at the local theater in Ithaca.

+ Sun Ra: “I play some music that will astound some people. But they need to be astounded; they need to be shook up before it’s too late.”

+ Richard Burton on Rex Harrison: “Rex came to dinner. God he is a simpleton. As self-righteous as only the genuinely stupid can be. He talks of Nixon as if he were a God. He is a perfect fascist in embryo. Were Hitler to arise here he would think him a great man & would join the Nazi party in a flash.” Diary entry, May 31, 1970.

+ Ernie Isley’s guitar completely deconstructs and transforms an elegy into electrified collective rage, still throws off sparks 50 years later…

Booked Up
What I’m reading this week..

Pisces Moon: the Dark Arts of Empire
Douglas Valentine
(Trine Day)

Assume Nothing: Encounters with Assassins, Spies, Presidents, and Would-Be Masters of the Universe
Edward Jay Epstein
(Encounter Books)

Spyfail: Foreign Spies, Moles, Saboteurs, and the Collapse of America’s Counterintelligence
James Bamford

Sound Grammar
What I’m listening to this week…

The Other One
Henry Threadgill
(Pi Recordings)

1973: Whatever Happened to the Teenage Dream?
T. Rex

Space is the Place: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Sun Ra
(Modern Harmonic)

Entering the Catastrophozoic

“In the era of global warming, nothing is really far away; there is no place where the orderly expectations of bourgeois life hold unchallenged sway. It is as though our earth had become a literary critic and were laughing at Flaubert, Chatterjee, and their like, mocking their mockery of the “prodigious happenings” that occur so often in romances and epic poems. This, then, is the first of the many ways in which the age of global warming defies both literary fiction and contemporary common sense: the weather events of this time have a very high degree of improbability. Indeed, it has even been proposed that this era should be named the “catastrophozoic” (others prefer such phrases as “the long emergency” and “the Penumbral Period”). It is certain in any case that these are not ordinary times: the events that mark them are not easily accommodated in the deliberately prosaic world of serious prose fiction.” (Amitav Ghosh, The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable)

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