Roaming Charges: Clusterfuck in Vilnius

Odd Man Out: Zelensky at the NATO summit’s “family gathering” in Vilnius.

+ Whatever your thoughts about NATO or the war in Ukraine (I recoil at both), it’s hard not to feel some sympathy with Volodymyr Zelensky’s frustration at being left outside the clubhouse gates, chastised by Biden that Ukraine is not yet “democratic” enough for membership in the West’s elite protection racket. (Even worse, Zelensky apparently had to suffer the indignity of Biden, that world-class master of parapraxis, refer to him as “Vladimir.” They’re actually pronounced pretty much the same, but don’t tell that to the New York Post.) This rebuff comes from a consortium that includes Poland, Hungary and Turkey, a nation NATO supremos courted assiduously in order to win the entry of the new recruit they really wanted: Sweden. Of course the price of Sweden’s admission into the Brussels-based syndicate seems to have been giving Erdogan the green light to crackdown even more repressively on Kurds, inside and outside Turkey. But when have the Kurds ever really mattered? Like the Ukrainians, the Kurds have long served as disposable pawns in larger regional power plays by NATO, Russia and the US.

+ Before the Russian invasion, Ukraine seemed an unlikely candidate for NATO membership (its application has been repeatedly nixed since Bush the Lesser first proposed it in 2008), despite what Putin says. However, after a year-and-half of bloodshed, financed, armed and largely strategized by western powers, Ukraine might have expected its aspirations for membership to be treated more hospitably, even if its entry is likely to open a black hole in eastern Europe that might eventually suck every other nation into it. After all, cities have been destroyed, millions displaced, and tens of thousands killed in a cause NATO claimed as its own. Yet, Zelensky was also admonished by the toffee-nosed British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace, who griped that Ukrainians aren’t showing enough gratitude for Western military aid: “You know, we’re not Amazon. I told them that last year, when I drove 11 hours to be given a list.” At this point, you can’t help thinking that Ukrainians just aren’t NATO’s kind of people: glad to have them dying on the frontlines, but not anywhere near the board room or the swimming pool. The events that played out in Vilnius this week should be a clear warning to other nations (Kosovo, Georgia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina) currently seeking NATO membership.

+ Cornel West on CNN last night: “I want to head the US empire in order to dismantle it. We need to be a nation among nations. We don’t need to be the grand empire that every nation has to bow down to. I am anti-imperialist. NATO is an instrument of US global power.” You can see why the founder of Jacobin and the editor of The Nation want him safely secured back in the plantation house of the Democratic Party.

+ First Elliott Abrams, then depleted uranium, now cluster bombs. The Biden administration is beginning to look a lot like the Reagan administration. What’s missing is Reagan’s commitment to reducing nuclear weapons. Biden’s going ahead with a new generation of those…

+ Never one to be hobbled by its own hypocrisy, in 2015 the Pentagon lambasted Russia for using cluster munitions in Syria: “Attacks using these imprecise weapons only continue to cause unnecessary suffering.”

+ Every member of NATO–except the US, Finland and Turkey–is a signatory to the Convention Against Cluster Munitions. Will they now be in breach of their own treaty? Will the ICC open an investigation?

+ Recall that Obama sold cluster bombs to the Saudis, who used them to commit grievous war crimes against civilians in Yemen

+ Although the US isn’t a signatory (neither is Russia or Ukraine) to the Convention on Cluster Munitions, there is a US law prohibiting the export of the kind of cluster bombs Biden is sending Ukraine. Biden is simply using his executive authority to waive compliance…

+ Not a single Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee said they opposed Biden’s decision to sell cluster bombs to Ukraine, even though the sale is in contravention of US law.

+ Biden claims he is exempted from the cluster munitions law because of “military necessity,” the same rationale Bush and Cheney used to justify rendition, torture and detention without trial during their post-9/11 wars.

+ The deal has received the John Bolton Seal of Approval, which looks a lot like the red skull and crossbones they used to put on bottles of poison…

+ According to the New York Times many of the cluster bomb packages earmarked for Ukraine “fail to detonate.” Until a kid picks one up a year or two later…

+ So, make way for the Humanitarian Cluster Bombardiers!

+ Predictably, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu announced on Tuesday:  “In the event that the United States supplies cluster munitions to Ukraine, the Russian Armed Forces will be forced to use similar weapons against the Armed Forces of Ukraine.”

+ Russia could have responded by finally signing the Convention Against Cluster Munitions and highlighting the morally depraved nature of the US decision, instead this war of bi-lateral escalation continues to unfold in ways that should strike an ominous chord for anyone paying attention. (Even so, there is pretty good evidence that Russia has been using cluster munitions “extensively” since the early days of the invasion and that both Russia and Ukraine have been using them in the Donbas since 2014.)

+ The big question now is what will kill more Ukrainian civilians in the long run: Russian airstrikes or US-supplied cluster bombs and depleted uranium, which will keep killing long after the war ends (assuming it ends)…?

+ According to the Cluster Munitions Coalition, there are still 16 nations that manufacture cluster bombs: Brazil, China, Egypt, Greece, India, Iran, Israel, North Korea, South Korea, Pakistan, Poland, Romania, Russia, Singapore, Turkey, and the United States.

+ Just five days after the attempted coup, President Vladimir Putin held talks at the Kremlin with Wagner mercenary group founder Yevgeny Prigozhin and his commanders to discuss the armed mutiny Wagner attempted to mount against the army’s top brass. According to Kremlin spokesman, Dmitry Peskov Putin had invited 35 people to the meeting, including Prigozhin and Wagner unit commanders, and that the meeting had lasted three hours. Strange coup, indeed.

+ If Prigozhin seems to have survived his mutiny, the same can’t be said for some high ranking members of Russia’s military. Since the aborted Wagner uprising, two top generals have been removed, another killed in a Ukrainian airstrike and Stanislav Rzhitsky, the submarine commander who launched Kalibr missiles at Vinnytsia, Ukraine, killing up to 27 civilians, was assassinated while jogging, apparently by a Ukrainian-born judo teacher who trailed Rzhitsky on his bicycle before shooting him seven times.

+ Using data from Russia’s national probate registry on inheritances, a joint study by Meduza and Mediazona show “a surge in probate cases opened for men under the age of 50 since the start of the war,” suggesting that “at least 47,000 Russian troops have been killed fighting in Ukraine.” That would be three times the number of fatalities during the Soviet’s 10-year-long war in Afghanistan. We still don’t have a clear picture on how many Ukrainians have died, but it’s likely twice the Russian death toll and maybe considerably more.

+ On the eve of the Vilnius summit, Biden’s National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan admitted to the Washington Post’s David Ignatius that the expansion of NATO may in fact make nuclear war more, not less, likely: “It is a threat. It is a real threat. It’s one we need to take seriously.” I guess that’s one way to diminish the horrors of cluster bombs.

+ As bad as Biden is (and he’s plenty bad, mon), he could be even worse. He could be Emmanuel Macron, who on Tuesday announced France’s plan to ship at least 50 MBDA SCALP cruise missiles to Ukraine, the kind of missiles capable of striking deep inside Russia which Biden has (so far) denied Zelensky, despite increasingly strident pressure to do so from anti-Russia hawks on the Hill.

+ As with most modern wars, this one goes from bad to worse for all concerned, except the arms merchants and the transnational companies salivating over the future construction contracts to rebuild Ukraine. This is simultaneously the best reason for the war to be brought to a swift end through negotiated settlement and why it is unlikely to happen anytime soon.

+ South African President Cyril Ramaphosa confirmed that the BRICS summit in August will be in person, meaning that Putin can attend only if he is willing to risk arrest on his International Criminal Court warrant for war crimes in Ukraine.


+ Mark Fallon, former head of an investigative unit at Guantánamo: “Guantanamo is still open not because of what they did to us, but what we did to them. And the government continues to try to hide, redact and classify anything that will lead to accountability of those who were involved in the torture program, as well as those who’ve advocated for it.”

+ It now appears that a Greek coastguard vessel was “moored at a closer port but never dispatched to” the scene of the endangered migrant ship, and that Greek authorities “failed to respond not twice…but three times to offers of assistance by Frontex.”

+ From Francesca Albanese’s new report for the UN which described Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories as “open-air prison”: “Israel’s carceral regime haunts Palestinian life even outside prisons. Blockades, walls, segregated infrastructure, checkpoints, settlements, bureaucratic permits and digital surveillance, further entrap Palestinians in a carceral continuum across strictly controlled enclaves…These measures have been used as tools to subjugate an entire population, depriving them of self-determination, enforcing racial domination and advancing territorial acquisition by force.”

+ Writing in the New York Times about Israel’s latest assault on Jenin, Tareq Baconi described the Palestinian Authority as having “been irreversibly integrated into the structure of Israeli apartheid, maintaining a Bantustan-like authority that helps pacify its population for Israeli gains.”

+ This year a record 2.6 million students took China’s demanding national civil service examination hoping to get a federal job–nearly twice the number in 2019. Only 1.4 per cent passed the exam.

+ Sen. Tommy Tuberville’s blockade on high-level promotions in Pentagon, prompted by his ire over the Defense Department’s abortion policy for women in the armed forces, has left the Marine Corps without a confirmed leader for the first time since 1859. Now do the Army, Tommy! Tommy? Tommy, can you hear me?

+Apparently, Tommy had other things on his mind…

Tommy Tuberville: Totally against racism. If the Democrats want to say that white nationalists are racist, I’m totally against that. I’m a football coach. I’ve dealt with more minorities than everybody in this building…

Reporter: It’s not a Democratic definition.

Tommy: It’s your definition.

Reporter: It’s the definition.

Tommy: Next question.

+ Like Kissinger, Elliott Abrams flows seamlessly between administrations, a roving minister of interventions, coups and death squads…


+ According to Linda Greenhouse, the Roberts Court has accomplished the entire conservative wish list over the last 18 years. On to banning birth control and allowing wife-beaters to carry guns!

+ From a Legal Times profile of Clarence Thomas in the 1980s: “He said he plans to be rich, says that means more than just a few hundred thousand dollars a year.” Around the same time, Thomas’s friend, Armstrong Williams (then his subordinate at the EEOC), paid for his wedding reception.

+ Thomas also “befriended” Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, who flew the Thomases around on his private jet, invited him to Dallas’ training camp, hosted him in his luxury suite when the Cowboys played in DC, and gave him a Super Bowl ring.

+ Speaking of Jerry Jones and Black men…

+ A lawyer for the law firm Consovoy McCarthy, which argued both the case to kill affirmative action and to kill student debt cancellation, sent money via Venmo to Clarence Thomas’s clerk, Rajan Vasisht, with memos that make it clear it was for Thomas’s birthday.

+ Brett Kavanaugh: “If you’re in a high school gym, the abuse the referees get.  I always say, ‘God, who would want to be a referee at a high school basketball game?’ Then, I think, ‘I kind of do the same thing.’” Brett never really left high school, did he Squee?

+ At this point, Ethics Rules for the Supreme Court would only serve to paint a veneer of legitimacy over an anti-democratic institution which has now become the most dominate force in American government.

+ HRC: “I still feel strongly that the Supreme Court needs to stand on the side of the American people, not on the side of corporations and the wealthy.” Remind me, is that what you told Goldman Sachs?

+ As France erupted after the killings of two young men by police, it’s worth noting that in the last 12 months police in the US have shot and killed at least 1,048 people, the rate of shootings little changed since the killings of Michael Brown, Philando Castile or George Floyd.

+ Not to be a homer, but I’d like to remind people who whine: “Why can’t the US protest like the French?” that Portland sustained nightly protests against the local police, the feds and ICE for more than a year. It can, has and is (see Atlanta) being done here.

+ In a gut-punch to the rights of defendants, the Georgia Court of Appeals ruled that a man who spoke with his attorney on the jail phone was not entitled to attorney client privilege because there is no reasonable expectation of privacy on a jail line, even though its often  impossible for lawyers to visit their clients who are detained pretrial.

+ Florida police are secretly acquiring real-time access to private surveillance cameras, which the cops are using to run AI-powered image searches, picking out people wearing certain colored shirts and certain makes and models of cars.

+ Meanwhile, in Vallejo, California the police chief folded to pressure from the police union to cancel a contract with a video analytics firm reviewing body cam footage because they kept coming across videos of cops violating procedure and laws. Now the footage will remain examined.

+Mark Lesure, a retired Memphis Police officer who was outspoken against the MPD after the killing of Tyre Nichols, was found murdered in his front yard last weekend, two days after the City of Memphis filed a motion to dismiss the Tyre Nichols lawsuit.

+ Car chases by the NYPD have increased dramatically in the last year, up nearly 600%. The surge is part of a deliberate shift in “quality of life” enforcement tactics under Mayor Eric Adams that has put civilians and cops at risk.

+ Ann Butts was horrified to learn this week that the Seattle Police unit which shot and killed her teenaged son, Damarius, in 2017, kept a mock tombstone marking his death on a shelf in a precinct break room. As revealed in recently released body cam footage, the room also featured a Trump 2020 flag hanging the wall, in violation of Washington state law.

+ Texas hires between 8,000 and 10,000 new prison guards a year. But the retention rate is less than 45% and now the state is running so short on prison guards that it’s recruiting high school students. “I don’t know how to phrase this in a good way,” Thomas Washburn, director of the Law and Public Safety Education Network, told the Texas Observer. “Corrections is a job whose challenges outweigh its benefits. It’s not a great career…When it’s paying 40% better than anything else in your community, it is a viable option.”

+ Bureau of Justice Statistics data show that of the more than 50,000 people released from federal prisons in 2010, a staggering 33% found no employment at all over four years post-release, and at any given time, no more than 40% of the cohort was employed. And those formerly incarcerated people who succeeded in finding work earned $.84 for every $1 the average worker earns ($28,851 a year).

+ Amid the hysteria over fentanyl, more and more states are allowing prosecutors charge a person with murder if they distribute drugs to someone who overdoses and dies, even when neither person was aware of the risk. One person recently charged with a fentanyl murder was 17-years-old.

+ State troopers in Connecticut wrote more than 25,000 fake tickets to fake white people, likely to hide over-policing of minorities. At least, a quarter of the state’s troopers were involved in the scam. The investigation found there was a “high likelihood” at least 25,966 tickets were falsified between 2014 and 2021. Another 32,587 records over those years showed significant inaccuracies and auditors believe many of those are likely to be false as well.

+ The San Francisco Police made 113 arrests for skatingboarding on Dolores hill (the Dolores Hill Bomb), 81 of those arrested were minors, most of the rest teenagers. Parents had to wait until the early morning to get their kids. The last one was released from custody at 4:30 AM.

+ Dakotah Wood, an employee with the Hernando County, Florida sheriff’s office, fabricated a story about two Black men attempting to carjack him, after he shot himself in the leg while ‘playing’ with his gun. Wood resigned from his job and has been charged with a slate of crimes, including tampering with evidence, filing false police reports and discharging a firearm in public.

+ Meta, the parent company of Facebook, handed over messages between a Nebraska mother and her teenage daughter, about the mother ordering abortion pills for her daughter. Thanks to the Facebook DMs, the mother had to plead guilty and faces up to two years in prison.

+ Mass Shootings on July 4th: Akron (4), Indy (3), Edgewood, MD (4), Hayward, CA (3), Shreveport (9), Charlotte (4), Lansing (5), Peoria (3), DC (9), Lexington (3), Cleveland (3), Chicago (3)…There were 118 shootings overall resulting in 164 deaths or injuries. Let freedom ring!


+ A studio executive told Deadline’s Dominic Patten that the strategy of the studios toward the Writer’s Guild strike is to let the writer’s go broke: “the endgame is to allow things to drag on until union members start losing their apartments and losing their houses.” Another executive claimed that the crushing of the strikers was “a cruel but necessary evil.”

+ The 10,000 screenwriters who went on strike in May have now been joined on the picket lines by the 160,000 members of the  Screen Actors Guild, which voted force the first industry-wide work stoppage in 60 years. At the press conference announcing the strike, SAF leaders explained one of the threats actors are facing by citing the fact that the studios offered as a “groundbreaking” AI proposal that background actors can be scanned for one day’s work and then their likenesses used in perpetuity.

+ Guitarist Vernon Reid (Living Color): “You might not grok this immediately, but this Writers & Actors STRIKE is the First Stand against Skynet. REALTALK. The emerging convergence of AI & vocal cloning has to be CHECKED. Legally. NOW.”

+ The last time screenwriters and actors were on strike at the same time Ronald Reagan was the president of the Screen Actors Guild…but his Vice-President James Garner did all the work: “Ronald Reagan wasn’t qualified to be governor, let alone president. I was a vice president of the Screen Actors Guild when he was its president. My duties consisted of attending meetings and voting. The only thing I remember is that Ronnie never had an original thought and that we had to tell him what to say.”

+ A possible explanation for why Reagan was such an inept union leader is that fact that more than a decade before the 1960 SAG strike, he’d served as confidential informant ”T-10” in the FBI’s report on “‘Communist Infiltration of the Motion Picture Industry.” Reagan’s snitching (which he tried to keep secret for decades) ruined the careers of dozens of actors, many of them acquaintances.

+ SAG president Fran Drescher said: “What’s happening to us is happening across all fields of labor, when employers make Wall Street greed their priority and forget about the essential contributors that make the machine run.”

+ Disney CEO Bob Iger said that the writers and actors unions going on strike in Hollywood are not being “realistic” about their expectations: “It’s very disturbing to me.” Iger’s net worth: $690 million. His total compensation from Disney in 2021: $45.9 million, up from the $21 million he earned in 2020.

+ Iger’s weekly compensation for 2021: $927,000

Weekly compensation for average union member in the entertainment industry: $2,276 (Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics)

+ Monty Python’s Eric Idle on why there are so few low-budget movies these days: “It was explained to me very simply by a Producer. It’s hard to steal a million dollars from a 13 million dollar budget.”

+ Alexander Cockburn: “In America it’s mostly legal to go on strike. It’s simply illegal to win one.”

+ This chart from EPI pretty much tells the larger story…

+ Meanwhile, RFK Jr.’s campaign appears to be supporting scab labor by selling campaign merchandise not made in the USA or by union labor.

+ Strange fusion: Axios is tracking a number of big money donors who are investing in the campaigns of both Ron DeSantis and RFK, Jr, including: David Sacks (PayPal), Omeed Malik (former Bank of America executive and founder of Farvahar Partners) and Joe Voboril (co-founder and managing partner of Farvahar Partners), donors that GOP strategist Alex Conant described as being “like the super-rich Joe Rogan crowd.”

+ RFK, Jr.: “Climate change is being used to control us through fear. Freedom and free markets are a much better way to stop pollution. Polluters make themselves rich by making the public pay for the damage they do. You show me a polluter, I’ll show you a fat cat using political clout to escape the discipline of the free market.” Take away the conspiratorial spin and you pretty much have the position of his old group, NRDC, back in the 1990s when they hawked NAFTA (see “The Shameless Seven” in our new book An Orgy of Thieves), pushed energy deregulation (disastrously in California), and backed Enron’s takeover of Portland’s electric utility. One of NRDC’s founders, John Bryson, later became head of Southern California Edison.

+ RFK, Jr. followed this up by floating a “theory” (I use that term in the broadest possible sense) that COVID-19 may have been deliberately engineered as an “ethnically targeted” bioweapon designed to kill Blacks and Caucasians but spare Chinese people and Ashkenazi Jews. Are we sure the RFK, Jr campaign isn’t the next season of Curb Your Enthusiasm, playing in selected venues before an unsuspecting live audience?

+ Even in today’s world of for-profit conspiracy mongering this one strains credulity. According to modeling by Zhanwei Du of the University of Hong Kong and Lauren Ancel Meyers of the University of Texas at Austin, Covid may have killed as many as 1.4 million people in China from December 16 to January 19, after China lifted its lockdown –more deaths in a month than the U.S. had recorded in the entire pandemic.

+ So RFK Jr would have us believe (among other things) that Chinese scientists are so inept that they designed a bioweapon to kill everyone except the Chinese and George Soros, then leaked it in China, forcing them to shutdown their economy for more than two years, then when they lifted the lockdown, the virus it ended up killing more Chinese than any other nationality by far.

+ The Kennedy Mystique survived Chappaquiddick and the infamous “waitress sandwich,” but can it survive the blowback from his fart-fueled NYC fundraiser?

+ According to a new working paper by Carter C. Price and Kathryn Edwards of the RAND Corporation, from 1975 through 2020 more than $50 TRILLION has been redistributed from the bottom 90% of US households to the top one percent.

+ A record number of Americans are now living alone. In 1940, 8% of all households were solo households, according to U.S. Census data. 2. By 2022, the share of solo households more than tripled to an estimated 29%.

+ The supply of rental units affordable to lower- and middle-income renters fell by 3.9 million units over the last decade, according to Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies. The decline was felt in every state.

+ CEO-to-worker pay ratio:

1965: 20-to-1
1978: 30-to-1
1989: 58-to-1
1995: 121-to-1
2020: 351-to-1
2023: 399-to-1

+ At least decade past his political expiration date, Barney Frank showed up on the editorial pages of the Wall Street Journal this week to praise the 2018 “rollback” of his own Dodd-Frank law, touting the Trump Era measure as a bipartisan attempt to make “specific fixes for obvious problems.” Frank says it could serve as a model for bipartisan work on crypto, deposit insurance and in other areas. Of course, the real problems with Dodd-Frank were its authors, Christopher Dodd, who Nader once dubbed the Senator from Aetna, and Bernie Frank, whose leading PAC financiers were Fidelity Investments & the American Bankers Association, who wrote a so-called financial reform bill which protected the very industry that had just wrecked the economy.

+ Beginning in 2013, more than half of the outstanding student loans had a balance greater than the originally loan amount. By 2019, most borrowers couldn’t even keep up with the interest payments, increasingly the likelihood that few of these loans would ever be paid back. Researchers from the Jain Family Institute found that “counterintuitively, the [Covid] repayment pause was the best thing that ever happened to help student loans get repaid.”


+ In an election that pitted two of the most unpopular candidates for president in US history, the Green Party was only able to win 1.06% of the popular vote. Surely Cornel can outperform that pathetic result and if he does, the Democrats will only have ClusterBiden to blame…

+ Fabian Basabe, a Florida state Representative who was a prime backer of DeSantis’ “Don’t Say Gay” bill,  has been arrested for drunk driving, and is accused of calling people the n-word and “a sand negro.” Basabe also faces accusations of sexual harassment against two male former staffers.

+ George Santos, the new Rosa Parks? “Mitt Romney tells me, a Latino gay man, that I should be in the back. Well guess what? Rosa Parks didn’t sit in the back and neither I am going to sit in the back.”

+ Remember when Democrats wanted (or at least pretended to want) to “get the money out of politics?” Now it’s their only measure of success…

+ “The president has a temper” is a standard summer doldrums story for the DC press corps, probably going back to Millard Fillmore. This week it was Biden’s turn, as Axios reported that the president occasionally erupts with expletives at staffers and can get so irate that some aides try to avoid meeting him alone. Here are a few of Biden’s stock put-downs:

“God dammit, how the fuck don’t you know this?!”

“Don’t fucking bullshit me!”

“Get the fuck out of here!”

“During the 2008 presidential campaign, a 23-year-old fundraising staffer got into the car with Biden. “Okay, senator, time to do some fundraising calls,” the aide said. Biden responded by looking at him and snapping: “Get the fuck out of the car.”

Still Biden’s rants hardly rise to the exalted level of LBJ at full-throttle.

+ Since World War 2, only Reagan had a lower approval rating (38.8) at this point in his term than Biden (39.7). (Of course, Reagan won in a landslide and Poppy Bush, who, fresh off the Gulf War, had the highest (82.7), lost.)

Source: Gallup.

+ The latest polling from Florida (June 27-July 1)…

2024 General Election

Trump: 49% (+10)
Biden: 39%

DeSantis: 49%
Biden: 36%

Poll: Florida Atlantic University.

+ Florida is no longer a battleground state, which should be liberating for Democrats, who no longer have to genuflect to the reactionary demands of the Cuban exile community. (They will anyway.)

+ Do socialists really believe that Biden runs the government or that his mental capacity affects the decisions and direction of the global enforcer of capital? Were Obama’s policies much different, when all his synapses were in working order? Focusing on Reagan’s “clearly deteriorating mental state” helped the Gipper to evade culpability for Iran/Contra: out of the loop, didn’t comprehend what was going on, lacked the mens rea to be complicit. All bullshit, of course. Plus, who gives a shit about British royal protocol? I like the fact that both Biden and Trump flouted it, intentionally or not.

+ Robert Welch–founder of the John Birch Society– believed the cancer which claimed the life of Sen. Robert Taft, the Ohio Republican, was triggered by a tube of radium slipped into the cushion of his seat in the Senate chamber by a Soviet agent. Welch also claimed that the Birmingham church bombing, which killed 4 young Black girls, was a false flag attack by the Communist Party of the United States. We’re fully marinated in this mindset now. (See: Birchers by Matthew Dalleck.)

+ Wait? “Jewish camp.” So now the Jews ran Dachau?

+ GOP attorneys general from seven states (Indiana, Arkansas, Idaho, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri and South Carolina) sent a letter to Target last week warning that selling LGBTQ-themed merch “to families and young children” may be illegal The letter alleges selling “LGBT-themed onesies, bibs, and overalls, t-shirts” could violate “child-protection laws.”

+ Note of clarification: The original Pride flag, designed by Gilbert Baker in 1978, had 8 (is 8 a Satanic number?) not 6 colors: Hot = Pink Sex, Red = Life, Orange = Healing, Yellow = Sunlight, Green = Nature, Turquoise = Magic, Indigo = Serenity, Violet = Spirit…What color is your parachute?

+ In the wake of the Supremes’ ruling in the fake website designer case, a hair salon in Traverse City, Michigan announced that it will no longer accept LGBTQ customers. The owner called them pedophiles and compared them to animals who should go to “pet groomers.” The new new Jim Crow.

+ After Trump posted online what he claimed was Barack Obama’s address in Washington, DC, Taylor Taranto, a 37-year-old J6 rioter, showed up near the house in a van, armed with two guns and hundreds of rounds of ammunition. Shortly before his arrest, Taranto had posted on Telegram: “We got these losers surrounded! See you in hell, Podesta’s and Obama’s [sic]!”

+ For political crimes of the week, it will be hard to top this one: Ohio state representative Bob Young, a Republican from Summit County in the northeast corner of the state, allegedly hit his wife after she tried to intervene in argument he was having with another politician at a late-night party. When she threatened to call the police, Young grabbed her phone and  threw it in a swimming pool. As she fled to her brother-in-law’s house with her children, Green followed in her car and, when told he wasn’t welcome at the house, he tackled his brother-in-law through a glass storm door.

+ In a preview of the forthcoming war on contraception, the Daily Wire’s Michael Knowles suggested this week that condom use is a gateway experience for the rise of homosexuality (“Condoms are kind of gay“) and the decline of “manliness.” If so, it’s been a slow conversion.  The condom was invented in 1564 by the Catholic cleric and anatomist Gabriele Falloppio, who also described the structure and function of what came to be known as the fallopian tube.

+ Mike Pence (currently hovering at 4% in GOP primary polls) said this week that he would because he wants “always err on the side of life” his abortion ban would force women to carry pregnancies to term even when doctors have determined there is no chance a baby will survive outside the womb. Do you plan to “err on the side of life” when it comes to the death penalty, Mikey?

+ In a late-night vote, the Iowa state legislature passed a bill banning abortions after six weeks. In defending the measure on the House floor, Rep Brad Sherman declared: “If they’re not prepared to have a baby, don’t have sex.”

+ Idaho, which has now banned almost all abortions, just became the first state to Idaho has banned almost all abortions—and end reviews of pregnancy-related maternal deaths, which continue to increase across the US, especially among Black women.

+ A new UN Report excoriated the US for its shameful record on Black maternal deaths. The report discloses that Black women and girls in the US are three times more likely to die while giving birth or within six weeks of giving birth compared to white women.  Even those who have a higher income or level of education face greater rates of mortality. Deaths among pregnant Black American college graduates is 1.6 times higher than white women with less than a high school diploma, the U.N. reported.

+ The US cancer death rate has fallen by 33% since 1991, which amounts to around 3.8 million deaths averted. Even so, life expectancy in the US continues to decline…

+ A CDC study of blood donated by some 143,000 people in the USA: showed that 96.7% have antibodies against SARSCoV2 . Some 80% of the anti-bodies resulted from having COVID19, the rest are from vaccination.

+ In 1981, Joseph Heller was diagnosed with Guillain-Barre syndrome leaving him paralyzed for two years, unable to stand or write. Shortly before the diagnosis, Heller had missed a $90 premium payment on his health insurance, which was promptly canceled. His lengthy recovery drained his bank account, leaving the author of three best-sellers, Catch-22, Something Happened and Gold as Gold, deeply in debt. This kind of particular something can happen to anyone, but only in America.

+ This is how Thomas Friedman opened his NYT column on Wednesday: “Whenever people ask me what I do for a living…” Presumably these are people who have been reading him for 25 years.

+ V.S. Naipaul: “The Europeans wanted gold and slaves, like everybody else; but at the same time they wanted statues put up to themselves as people who had done good things for the slaves.”

+ Amid the documents released during the Senate hearings on the Saudi takeover of the PGA golf tour is this table of the Saudi Public Investment Fund’s holdings…

+ If you thought Josh Hawley was bonkers for his recent posts endorsing Christian Nationalism (including a fallacious quote attributed to Patrick Henry), you probably missed Bill Clinton during his joint address to Congress in January 1994: “We can’t renew our country, unless more of us, I mean all of us, are willing to join churches.”

+ NYC Mayor Eric Adams, facing collapsing poll numbers, wraps himself ever tighter in the cloak of Christian martyrdom: “You want to see people get angry? Tell them you believe in God. You want to expose the Devil? Say, ‘I believe in God and the Devil is liar!'”

+ Tim Scott: “Faith is a cornerstone of American freedom. But under President Biden, our nation is retreating away from patriotism and faith.”

+ Tom Paine: “I do not believe in the creed professed by the Jewish Church, by the Roman Church, by the Greek Church, by the Turkish Church, by the Protestant Church, nor by any Church that I know of. My own mind is my own Church.”

+ Apparently Rand Paul still hasn’t gotten over Texas Western’s all-Black basketball team kicking the shit out of segregationist Adolf Rupp’s top-ranked all-white Kentucky team in the championship game of the 1966 NCAA tournament…


+ In 2003, more than 70,000 people died during a prolonged heat wave in Europe. But few lessons seem to have been learned from the mass death. A new study in Nature using data from the Eurostat mortality database for 35 countries calculates that 61,672 people died from heat-related illness between May 30 and September 4 of last year. “The fact that more than 61,600 people in Europe died of heat stress in the summer of 2022, even though, unlike in 2003, many countries already had active prevention plans in place, suggests that the adaptation strategies currently available may still be insufficient,” warns Hicham Achebak, one of the study’s authors. This summer looks to be the hottest ever.

+ According to calculations from Berkeley Earth, June was the warmest June on record by a big margin, topping the previous (2022) record by 0.18C. It was also 1.47C warmer than preindustrial (1850-1899) June temperatures. The 5 hottest Junes on record have occurred in the last five years.

+ In the pre-industrial age these extremely hot summers occurred less than 1% of the time. Now the likelihood of killer heat is more than 20%.

+ Last week, it was Bidenomics. This week Bidenmentalism: The US is producing more oil now than it did at the same time of year in 2019.

+ Subsidies for the consumption of fossil fuels soared worldwide in 2022, rising above a trillion dollars for the first time, according to IEA new estimates by the International Energy Agency.

+ For the first time, wind and solar generated more than 20 percent of the USA’s monthly electricity. Wind and solar generated a monthly record 21.06% of US electricity in April 2023. Wind alone produced 13.95% and solar 7.11%. Each were monthly records for wind or solar alone.

+ Through July 10th, Miami had endured more hours above a 105°F heat index than it ever has in any entire year.

+ The water temperatures surrounding Florida this week are hot tub-like…

Key West 92.1F
Vaca Key 94.3F
Johnson Key 95.7F

+ The highest recorded oceanic temperatures have been in the Arabian Gulf with 99F/37C.

+ Twenty years of satellite data shows that the oceans are turning from blue to green as a result of climate change.

+ From July 9 through July 11, daily maximum temperatures reached Climate Shift Index (CSI) Level 5 in central Texas, parts of New Mexico and Colorado, large portions of the Mexican state of Chihuahua and most of the Gulf Coast of Mexico. Climate Shift Index (CSI) Level 5 means that human-caused climate change made this excessive heat event five times more likely, indicating an exception climate change event.

+ The temperature 100 degrees in the town of Norman Wells in the Northwest Territories of Canada last Saturday, the hottest temperature ever measured north of 65 degrees latitude in the Western Hemisphere.

+ Zeke Haufsfather, the Climate Brink: “The 2.5 trillion tons of CO2 we have emitted from both fossil fuels and land use change is larger than the total dry living biomass (e.g. all living things on the planet today) and the mass of all human-made structures (all concrete, brick, steel, etc.).”

+ With three months to go in the fire season, Canadian wildfires have now burned an area the size of Portugal. Hundreds of fires are still burning and temperatures are expected to climb through July and August. More than 155,000 people already have been forced out of their homes.

+ In a survey conducted by the Ella Baker Center, nearly 40% of  the people in California state prisons surveyed by say that wildfire smoke (and other environmental hazards) has worsened an existing respiratory condition.

+ The Lula Effect: Deforestation in Brazil’s Amazon dropped by 34% in the first half 2023.

+ The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals has issued a temporary injunction stopping the construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline in the Jefferson National Forest over questions about the constitutionality of over the debt ceiling deal that approved it.

+ According to the Department of Energy, the highest-rated EPA combined fuel economy for gasoline-powered vehicles was about 60 miles per gallon (MPG), while two electric vehicle (EV) models – the Hyundai Ioniq 6 and the Lucid Air – achieved 140 mpg-equivalent (MPGe). MPGe is a unit of measure used by the EPA to represent EV fuel economy in a common unit with gas-powered vehicles, where 33.7 kilowatt-hours of electricity are equal to the energy contained in one gallon of gasoline. From MY 2011 (the year modern mass marketed EVs were introduced) to MY 2023, maximum EV fuel economy has grown by 37%, while gasoline vehicle fuel economy has increased just 19%.

+ A once-in-1,000 year rainfall event occurred in the Lower Hudson Valley, north of New York City last weekend, where more than 8 inches of rain fell in just 6 hours.

+ A few days later, Vermont got drenched with two months’ worth of rainfall in less than 48 hours.

+ For every Celsius degree of warming, the atmosphere absorbs 7 percent more water vapor, which is what drives the extreme rains events, like the ones in New England, that have increased by 55 percent since 1958.

+ Property insurers continue to flee coastal states being repeatedly hit by extreme weather events. In Louisiana, at least 8 insurers have gone insolvent and more have left the state. One of the remaining insurers, Citizens, has increased its rates by 63%. Farmers Insurance just left Florida, a state which saw 6 insurers go insolvent last year alone. Citizens is increasing rates in Florida by 14% this year. In California, State Farm, All State, Farmers and Tokio Marine America have all stopped or greatly restricted new property insurance policies. Nationally, the National Flood Insurance Program is facing lawsuits from numerous states and consumers over rate increases, which have soared by as much as 100 to 500% in some places. AIG is limiting coverage in some high valued, high risk Zip Codes.

+ The real reason MayorPeteBot didn’t visit East Palestine in the immediate wake of the Norfolk Southern derailment, even though he told local families it was safe to return home? Levels of a chemical irritant called acrolein detected near the derailment site in East Palestine, Ohio on February 20 and 21 were at least six times higher than normal levels recorded before the disaster. But both state and federal officials had told residents it was safe to return home on February 8.

+ The giraffe continues its slide toward extinction, almost without notice. There are fewer numbers of the world’s tallest mammal than African elephants or gorillas.

+ In Paris, drivers of large SUVs will soon have to pay more to park. In Paris, owners of big, heavy cars will have to pay extra to park. Deputy Mayor David Belliard: “There are no dirt paths, no mountain roads … SUVs are absolutely useless in Paris. Worse, they are dangerous, cumbersome and use too many resources to manufacture.”

+ The kind of heady climate advice you’d expect from the guy whose Administration wrecked the Gulf of Mexico and promoted the globalization of fracking as a “bridge fuel”…


+ I had not the slightest desire to see Barbie until Ted Cruz revealed that the doll’s a Communist. Now I’m inviting my entire block…I mean bloc.

+ Barbie is the new “Pink Lady,” the red-baiting slur Richard Nixon, scourge of Alger Hiss, spewed against his liberal rival Helen Gahagan Douglas in the 1950 California senate campaign. When Douglas dismissed Nixon as a “pee-wee,” he erupted: “I’ll castrate her! I don’t care if she has no balls. I’ll do it anyway!”

+ Baseball Prospectus recently rated the 100 greatest teams of all time. By my count, 47 of them were teams that played before integration, including 9 of the top 10. How dominant could they really be, if they weren’t facing the likes of Josh Gibson, Cool Papa Bell, Buck Leonard or Rube Foster? If you set aside the pre-47 white’s only teams, the list comes out like this: 1. Yanks ’98; 2. Orioles ’70; 3. Mariners ’01; 4. Dodgers 20; 5. Tigers ’84; 6. Mets ’86; 7. Reds ’75; 8. Yanks ’61; 9. Tigers ’68; 10. Cubs 16. The Big Red Machine is ranked too low, the Mariners were pretenders and the list is missing four of the best teams I’ve watched: ‘67 Cards, ‘04 Red Sox, ‘71 Pirates, and the ‘74 A’s. One of the reasons baseball has re-segregated is that many of its owners a racists and many of the game’s writers, analysts and historians continue to romanticize the sport’s past, instead of its greatest era which began when Jackie Robinson stepped onto Ebbets Field and began to ebb with the retirement of Rickey Henderson.

+ From the scouting report on Wendy Torrance: “Though she lacks plate discipline and tends to strike out wildly at times, when young Wendy gets locked in and pushed to the wall she can hit harder than any Cubs second base prospect since Ryne Sandberg.”

+ Male monkeys on small islands tend to have more sex with each other than with females. The rhesus macaques on Cayo Santiago that engaged in same-sex behavior were also found to have more babies, indicating an evolutionary advantage to same-sex relationships. (Don’t tell DeSantis, but it’s pretty much the same story in Key West…)

+ Chet Atkins: “When I was a little boy, I told my dad, ‘When I grow up, I want to be a musician.’ My dad said: ‘You can’t do both, Son’.”

Lord It’s Raining Here and It’s Storming on the Deep Blue Sea

Booked Up
What I’m reading this week…

Canopy of Titans: the Life and Times of the Great North American Temperate Rainforest
Paul Koberstein and Jessica Applegate
(O/R Books)

The Climate Crisis: Science, Impacts, Policy, Psychology, Justice, Social Movements
Adam R. Aron

A Philosophy of Walking
Frederic Gros
Trans. John Howe

Sound Grammar
What I’m listening to this week…


Tony Allen JIDO 18
Tony Allen & Adrian Younge
(Jazz is Dead)

A Trip to Bolgatanga
African Headcharge
(On-U Sound)

The Real Power in America

“The real power in America is held by a fast-emerging new Oligarchy of pimps and preachers who see no need for Democracy or fairness or even trees, except maybe the ones in their own yards, and they don’t mind admitting it. They worship money and power and death. Their ideal solution to all the nation’s problems would be another 100 Year War.” (Hunter S. Thompson)

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