Roaming Charges: Then They Walked

Cellblock door, Alcatraz. Photo: Jeffrey St. Clair.

+ Ismael Lopez and his wife Claudia Linares were asleep in their beds on the night of July 23, 2017, when they were awakened by a loud knocking on the door of their trailer. Ismael got up and opened the door. Two men were standing on the porch with guns. They didn’t identify themselves. Lopez’s dog ran out. One of the men, Samuel Maze, shot and killed it. Frightened by the late-night banging, Lopez had answered the door with a shotgun. As Maze shot the dog, the other man, Zachary Durden, pointed his gun at Lopez and told him to drop the shotgun. When Lopez turned to put the gun down, Durden shot Lopez in the back of the head, killing him instantly. With Lopez’s body lying still on the floor, Durden cuffed him. Maze and Durden were cops with the Southaven, Mississippi police. They had come to the trailer to serve a warrant. But they were at the wrong address. They weren’t even on the right side of the street. No charges were brought against either cop. When Claudia Linares filed suit for wrongful death, the city of Southaven defended itself by arguing that Lopez had no civil rights to violate because he was a Mexican living in the US without documentation. A federal court rejected that argument. But after the case finally went to trial last week, an Oxford, Mississippi jury rejected Linares’ suit, ruling that the two cops didn’t use “excessive force.”

+ On a March night in 2020, Manuel Ellis, a 33-year-old black man, was walking back to his sober living home in Tacoma, Washington when he was confronted by three police officers. Ellis was carrying a box of raspberry-filled donuts and a bottle of water. The cops claimed they stopped him because he was walking “erratically.” When Ellis protested, he was tased and beaten. While on the ground, Ellis was hogtied and beaten again. The cops took turns kneeling on his back and sitting on him. Then they wrapped a nylon bag around his face. Less than an hour after he was accosted by the police, Ellis was dead, a death the Pierce County medical examiner ruled a homicide. Now the three officers who tortured and killed Manuel Ellis, Matthew Collins, Christopher “Shane” Burbank, and Timothy Rankine are going on trial. Collins and Burbank for second-degree murder and first-degree manslaughter and Rankine for first-degree manslaughter. The officers have all been on paid leave since the killing and have collected more than a million dollars in salary and more in benefits. In the last 50 years, only 6 law enforcement officers have been charged with unlawful killings in Washington State, half of them in this case.

+ A Colorado cop named Gabriel Jordan was cited for indecent exposure after he allegedly masturbated in public while staring at a woman at the Denver Police Academy. Jordan was in uniform and on duty at the time. He has been placed on paid leave. In 2015, the same cop shot and killed a 17-year-old girl named Jessica Hernandez. The slain teenager’s family received $1 million in a settlement.

+ According to a review of police databases nationwide by the Intercept, out of 54 officers involved in 14 high-profile killings since 2014 that sparked the Black Lives Matter protests, only 10 had their certifications or licenses revoked as a matter of disciplinary action.

+ Last Thursday night, the Minor High School band was on the verge of finishing its “Fifth Quarter” rendition of Cameo’s funk classic, Talking’ Out the Side of Your Neck, after a football game in Birmingham, Alabama, when local cops approached the band director, Johnny Mims, and demanded he stop the performance, so the police could clear the stadium. Mims told the officers the band was almost done and that there was only a minute left in the song. Then the cops turned the lights out at the stadium and as the band wrapped up the song two officers tried to arrest Mims for not complying with their request. When Mims declined to put his hands behind his back, a cop pointed a stun gun at the teacher and tasered him, as many as three times, in front of the 175-member band, many of them his students. Mims was taken to the hospital. After he was discharged, he was arrested and taken to jail, where he was charged with harassment, disorderly conduct and resisting arrest. “I’m a Christian guy and I’m called to forgive but this situation makes me more apprehensive about the police,” Mims said. “You may not know what their intentions might be even when you’re doing something positive.”

+ In 2020 reporters for Reuters documented more than 1,000 deaths related to police use of tasers. Most of the deaths occurred between 2000 and 2018. Black Americans accounted for a disproportionately high number of those deaths.

+ Glynn Simmons was only 22 years old when he was convicted of murdering Carolyn Sue Rogers during the robbery of a liquor store in Edmonds, Oklahoma. The jury in the case sentenced Simmons to death, even though a witness testified that Simmons had been with him in Louisiana playing pool at the time of the killing. Simmons told the cops, “I don’t even know where Edmonds is at.” Simmons, who has always asserted his innocence, spent the next 48 years in prison, much of it on death row.  The young black man was convicted based on the testimony of a witness who had been shot in the head during the armed robbery. But during a police line-up, the witness identified two other people as the perpetrators, not Simmons. During the trial, the police buried this report and prosecutors refused to turn it over to the defense. This week an Oklahoma judge vacated Simmons’ conviction with prejudice, meaning he can’t be tried again. After his release, Simmons told reporters: “I’m going to spend what is left of my life helping others in similar situations.” 

+ When a father called the police in Columbus, Ohio to report that his 11-year-old daughter had been manipulated by an adult man into sending him explicit photos, the cops showed up at the father’s house, acted dismissive of the complaint and blamed his daughter for being a perpetrator of the sex crime committed against her. One of the cops told the father of the girl that his daughter could be charged with making “child porn.” The exchange was captured on the door-cam of the father’s house. One of the cops says: “I mean, she can probably get charged with child porn.”

“Who? She can?” the dad replies, incredulously. “She’s 11 years old.”

“Doesn’t matter,” the cop insists. “She’s still making porn.”

+ In 2014, constitutional law scholar Erwin Chemerinsky called on Ruth Bader Ginsburg to resign from the Supreme Court, writing in the LA Times: “If Ginsburg waits until 2016 to announce her retirement, there’s a real chance that the Republicans would delay the confirmation process to block an outgoing president from being able to fill a vacancy on the Supreme Court.” In the end, it was Scalia who resigned (by dying in his sleep in a hunting lodge) and proved Chemerinsky’s prediction.

+ In 2011, the first year with complete data, San Francisco police made arrests in about 2% of reported car break-ins. Today, that figure is less than 1%.

+ Last year, the Las Vegas Police Department cleared only 15.5% of the rape cases they investigated. This year the clearance rate is even worse with the cops solving only 14% of their rape cases.

+ Since former cop Eric Adams took office as Mayor of New York City, the NYPD has made more than one million traffic stops. Of those who were pulled over, 62% were given citations and 2% were arrested. Nearly 90% of those who were arrested were Black or Hispanic. Blacks and Hispanics make up about 52% of NYC’s total population, but only 22% of the city’s drivers. Meanwhile, white New Yorkers, who make up 40% of the city’s drivers, accounted for only 25% of traffic stops by the NYPD.

+ This week Illinois became the first state to end cash bail. To give you an idea of how revolutionary this development is: there are currently at least 500,000 locked up in US jails without having been convicted of a crime, that’s more than twice as many currently people in jail awaiting trial than it incarcerated in all of its prisons in 1970.

+ After public outrage over the handcuffing and arrest of a six-year-old girl at an Orlando school, Florida changed its law increasing the minimum age for such arrests to…7. Meanwhile, the Florida legislature is taking up a bill to gut child labor laws and allow minors to work full time and overnight. Old enough to work the night shift at the slaughterhouse, but too young to learn that gay people exist.

+ At least 32 people have died inside LA County’s jails this year, with 14 of the deaths occurring since June. That’s an average of about one a week.

+ Despite Biden’s pledge to end private prisons at the federal level, a review by the ACLU shows that the US Marshals Service is renewing private prison contracts on a much larger scale than previously reported. “Secret loopholes” in a Biden Administration Executive Order allow for 1/3 of the detainees to remain in private facilities.

+ From 2014 to 2018, 35 women at the federal women’s prison in Carswell, Texas reported they had been sexually assaulted by a staff member.

+ In 2018, Coloradans voted to amend their state constitution to ban forced labor in prison. Years later, incarcerated people are still being punished for refusing prison work assignments, which pay around 13 cents an hour. According to an investigation by 9News in Denver, since 2018 there have been at least 727 documented cases where an incarcerated person was disciplined for failing to work. The punishments have included changes in housing, loss of privileges and delayed parole.

+ ShadowDragon is a tool that lets ICE monitor pregnancy tracking sites like Baby Center. “When people post about their pregnancies to BabyCenter,” says Eva Galperin, the director of cybersecurity at activist organization the Electronic Frontier Foundation. “I think it’s safe to assume they are doing so without the expectation that ICE is watching.”

+ From 2006 to June 2022, around 1,400 people were arrested for actions related to their pregnancies, according to a report by Pregnancy Justice.  Most of the arrests involved allegations of substance use, even when there was no harm to the fetus or infant. The report cites the spread of fetal personhood laws—which give fertilized eggs, embryos, and fetuses the same legal rights as people—to the increase in the criminalization of pregnant women. Nearly 77 percent of cases where pregnant people were arrested occurred in states that expanded the definition of child abuse to include fetuses, fertilized eggs, and embryos.


+ What an F-35 sounds like going down (This is my new ringtone)…


+ How Paul Valéry defined war: “A massacre of people who don’t know each other for the profit of those who know each other but don’t massacre each other.”

+ The ever-expanding Pentagon budget has become so complex and labyrinthine that analysts at the Defense Department have developed an AI program called Game-Changer to help the joint chiefs and top generals keep track of what goes where and for how much. As Cockburn reported in Corruptions of Empire, they used to explain the Pentagon budget to Reagan with a series of cartoons…

+ Instead of Game-Changer, the Pentagon brass should simply consult Stephen Semler, who reports this week that the five largest weapons makers (General Dynamic, Boeing, Northrup Grumman, Raytheon and Lockheed) are projected to pocket $140 billion next year from the Pentagon’s record budget of $826.45 billion—getting one-sixth of all military spending, which is, of course, the primary goal of military spending.

+ The US ensured that Pakistan got an emergency loan from the IMF after Pakistan agreed to secretly sell arms to the United States for the war in Ukraine. According to a report in the Intercept by Ryan Grim and Murturza Hussain, the loan allowed the Pakistani military to crush internal dissent, halt the election and imprison former PM Imran Khan.

+ 300 US troops will march in South Korean President Yoon’s military parade in Seoul later this month. Who will these troops be marching with? Well, Yoon’s pick for Korea’s Defense Minister has a history of speaking at a far-right gathering. Among his many provocative statements: “It is only a matter of time before Moon Jae-in’s head is cut off.”

+ Bipartisanship in action: Senators Angus King, the Maine liberal, and Deb Fisher, the conservative from Kansas, took to the pages of the Washington Post in a joint op-ed to defend the development of the new sea-launched cruise nuclear missiles (SLCM). Feel safer?

+ With a mutual security pact with the US pending, Mohammad Bin Salman told FoxNews: “If Iran obtains a nuclear weapon, we must obtain one as well.”

+ Speaking of nukes, this week was the 43rd anniversary of a nuke exploding in its silo. At 3:00 am on the morning of September 19, 1980, the highly-volatile liquid fuel of a nuclear-armed Titan II ICBM exploded inside an underground silo 3.3 miles north-northeast of Damascus, Arkansas, and approximately 50 miles north of Little Rock. Both the missile and silo were destroyed. One person was killed and another 21 injured.

+ The Guantanamo War Court has been in existence for more than 22 years. It has had 5 chief judges and zero trials.

+ Apparently, the Biden White House had to order its own ambassador to Japan–none other than Rahmbo Emanuel–to stop taunting China on social media.

+ A UN report released this week vividly describes the surge in Israeli settler violence against Palestinians, which has displaced more than 1,100 Palestinians from their homes since 2020. The report documented around three settler-related incidents every day in the West Bank, the highest daily average since the U.N. began documenting such attacks in 2006.

+ Ha’aretz editorial on Netanyahu’s meeting with Elon Musk: “In Europe and in the U.S., Benjamin Netanyahu has no problem joining forces with the Holocaust deniers, antisemites and their enablers who pose a threat to the safety of Jews — as long as it serves his political interests.”

+ Just before his confab with Netanyahu, Musk took to Twitter to condemn the family of George Soros, who Musk claimed “wants nothing less than the destruction of Western Civilization” by flooding the country with hordes of migrants.

+ In response, Netanyahu this week accused his Jewish critics in the US and Israel of being enemies of the Jewish State and allies of the PLO and Iran.

+ When Biden sat down with Bibi this week, he sounded like a more fervent Zionist than half of the Israelis: “I think that without Israel, there’s not a Jew in the world who’s secure. I think Israel is essential.”  Maybe RFK, Jr.’s got a shot at being Biden’s ambassador to Jerusalem if Biden squeaks out a second term.

+ This week a UN committee designated ancient Jericho, the West Bank city that is one of the world’s oldest continuously inhabited communities, as a “Palestinian world heritage site,” a move that was immediately condemned by Israel’s Foreign Ministry as “another sign of the Palestinians’ cynical use of UNESCO.”

+ Trump’s Rosh Hashanah message was a virulent attack on liberal Jews that trafficked in anti-Semitic tropes (including disloyalty), claiming that they had voted “to destroy America & Israel.”

+ Azerbaijan has launched a military raid into the breakaway region of Karabakh, which has seen more than 7,000 people forced out of 16 villages. This latest episode of ethnic cleansing has been made possible by weapons supplied by Azerbaijan’s leading arms supplier: Israel, which provided 69 percent of Baku’s major arms imports from 2016 to 2020. Israel increased its weapons shipments to Azerbaijan during the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

+ The Pentagon budget is at new record highs, but a new GAO report documents the pitiful condition of military barracks across the country, which are rife with mold, gas leaks, brown tap water, and broken sewage pipes. Is it any wonder there’s a recruiting crisis? Wait, that’s because of its “woke” policies. My bad.

+ Okinawa’s governor, Denny Tamaki, testified to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva that the relocation of a U.S. military base on the island “threatens peace.” Tamaki asked “the world to witness” that the US “proceeds [with building the base] despite the fact that it was clearly opposed by Okinawan voters in a democratically held referendum.” Tamaki noted that the Okinawa prefecture hosts 70% of all the U.S. military bases in Japan while accounting for only 0.6% of the country’s total land area.

+ Two years after the Taliban banned girls from school beyond sixth grade, Afghanistan is the only country in the world with restrictions on female education. According to the U.N. children’s agency, more than one million girls are affected by the ban.

+ Nancy Pelosi contrasted herself with Kevin McCarthy last weekend by saying she was under pressure to impeach Bush when she became speaker in January 2007, but she resisted because she didn’t think that lying about the reason to go to war in Iraq rose to that level, which is surely a judgment almost as corrupt as the decision to go to war itself.


+ Luigi Gjokaj, vice president of UAW Local 51, on the strike against Stellantis, maker of Jeeps: “The Jeep Cherokee that was built in Belvidere went to Mexico, and Stellantis actually raised the price on it. They’re paying these workers (in Mexico) $20 a day because they can get away with it; exploiting people in a situation.”

+ In 2022, GM CEO Mary Barra was paid $538,000……EVERY WEEK OF THE YEAR. She’s been paid more than $200 million in the last 9 years.

+ Trump announced on Monday he’s skipping the next GOP debate to address striking autoworkers in Detroit (where he will tell them they’re being conned by their union leadership, who he claims is in bed with China), while DeSantis spent the day attacking Senator John Fetterman–who’s still recovering from a stroke–for wearing a hoodie in the US senate: “The US Senate just eliminated its dress code because you got this guy from Pennsylvania [Fetterman]–who’s got a lot of problems. He wears, like, sweatshirts and hoodies and shorts. We need to be lifting up our standards in this country, not dumbing down.” Is it any wonder Trump is creaming him in the polls?

+ New CNN/UNH poll shows DeSantis in freefall in New Hampshire since the last poll in July.

Trump: 39% (+2)
Ramaswamy: 13% (+8)
Haley: 12% (+7)
Christie: 11% (+5)
DeSantis: 10% (-13)
Scott: 5% (-3)
Pence: 2% (+1)
Burgum: 1% (-5)

+ James Hohman, for the Washington Post editorial board: ‘The U.S. Capitol is, or should be, thought of as the temple of the world’s oldest continuous democracy. Within that, the Senate floor is its most sacred space. Throughout history, those who participated in its proceedings dressed accordingly. Until now.” Yes, I’m sure Preston Brooks wore the finest linens, woven from cotton hand-picked by South Carolina slaves, when he nearly beat the abolitionist Sen. Charles Sumner to death on the floor of the Senate with a gold-headed cane made of the hardest gutta-percha wood.

Head of the gutta-percha cane used by Preston Brooks to attack Charles Sumner on the floor of the United States Senate in 1856 (in the collection of the Old State House Museum, Boston, Massachusetts)

+ If we’re going to have dress codes in the Senate, they ought to be NASCAR-like uniforms displaying all the logos of the senator’s political sponsors.

+ Fetterman: “I figure if I take up vaping and grabbing the hog during a live musical, they’ll make me a folk hero.”

+ UAW president Shawn Fain on Trump’s plans to speak in Detroit and possibly visit the picket lines: “Every fiber of our union is being poured into fighting the billionaire class and an economy that enriches people like Donald Trump at the expense of workers. We can’t keep electing billionaires and millionaires that don’t have any understanding of what it is like to live paycheck to paycheck and struggle to get by and expecting them to solve the problems of the working class.”

+ When they tell you who they are, you ought to believe them. Here’s who Tim Scott (who claims to get direct messages from the Supreme Deity) is (girlfriend or not): “I think Ronald Reagan gave us a great example when federal employees decided they were gonna strike. You strike, you’re fired. Simple concept to me.”

+ In other words, God wants you to work longer hours for less pay. Not sure this divine injunction is meant for CEOs, however. A new report from the Economic Policy Institute shows that average CEO compensation (including stock awards and options) was $25.2 million in 2022, a slight decrease from 2021, due largely to stock market declines. Since 1978, however, CEO compensation has soared by 1,209.2% compared with a 15.3% increase in a typical worker’s compensation. In 2022, CEOs were paid 344 times as much as a typical worker. Back in 1965, they were paid 21 times as much as a typical worker.

+ Scott’s rant telling workers they should be fired for striking violates federal labor law and the UAW wasted no time in filing a complaint against him with the NLRB.

+ While the white working-class vote has shifted toward the Republicans since Reagan, the Democrats continue to hold the union vote, largely, one assumes, because of comments like Scott’s…

Republican presidential nominee share of the union household vote since 1988:

1988: 43%
1992: 24%
1996: 30%
2000: 37%
2004: 40%
2008: 39%
2012: 40%
2016: 42%
2020: 40%

+ Records released by the UK Cabinet Office reveal that Liz Truss claimed £23,310 from an annual public fund for former Prime Ministers, despite only holding the position for 49 days.

+ $10 billion: the amount Google pays out each year to companies like Apple to make it the default search engine on their devices.

+ A recent analysis of the once fashionable NFT (non-fungible token) market, shows that 95 percent of the highly-touted crypto assets are now essentially worthless.

+ A study of income redistribution in France by the Institute National de la Statistique et des Études Économiques (INEES) found that before redistribution the ratio of income of the highest-income people (10% of the population) to the lowest-income people (13% of the population) was 18-to-1. After redistribution, it shrank to 3-to-1.

+ Lower-income black families have been pushed out of their homes by a developer buying up houses on their block in West Philly, who now whines that his “market-rate” apartments have an occupancy rate of only 50 percent.

+ Less than 1% of Africans have an income above the rich world’s median, and fewer than 1% of the people living in the rich world have an income below the African median.

+ A new paper by William Marble (What Explains Educational Polarization Among White Voters?) addresses the political realignment in the US, where white working-class voters have become more conservative on economic issues, while whites with college degrees have become more progressive on issues like taxation, social insurance, redistribution and government intervention in the economy.

+ According to Goldman Sachs, India will surpass the US and become the world’s second-largest economy by 2075.

+ Lula at the UN General Assembly: “Amidst the wreckage, far-right adventurers emerge who deny politics and sell solutions that are as simple as they are wrong. Many have fallen to the temptation of replacing failed neoliberalism with primitive, authoritarian and conservative nationalism.”

+ Poverty levels in Nicaragua have been cut to 13.3% of the population by 2022, according to the calculation by the World Bank,  They stood at 48% in 2007.

+ FoxNew’s Shannon Bream: “It does generally seem that Republicans get blamed for shutdowns.”

Karl Rove: “Well, generally because Republicans are responsible for the shutdowns, they seem to eagerly want it, so there’s a reason they get blamed.”

+ According to CNN’s Kristin Wilson, since 1995 the House has failed to pass rules 8 times, all under GOP control. Gingrich: 6 in four years; Hastert: 2 in 8 years; McCarthy: 3 in 8 months, including twice this week. Boehner, Pelosi and Ryan never lost a rule.


+ According to New York Magazine, Donald Trump used “moderate abortion rhetoric” during his bizarre Meet the Press interview with the compliant and docile Kristen Welker. An example of this “moderation”: “Nobody wants to see five, six, seven, eight, nine months. Nobody wants to see abortions when you have a baby in the womb. I said, with Hillary Clinton when we had the debate, I made a statement, “Rip the baby out of the womb in the ninth month, you’re allowed to do that, and you shouldn’t be allowed to do that…Look, the Democrats are able to kill the baby after birth.”

+ In fact, less than 0.9 percent of all abortions occur in the third trimester.

+ Before imposing a sentence on the Nebraska mother who bought abortion pills for her daughter and helped bury the fetal remains, the judge in the case ordered a psychological evaluation. Then last week the same judge abruptly canceled his own order. Why? The judge cited “lack of funding.” According to court records in Nebraska, the typical cost of a psych evaluation from a registered shrink is $169. Rafa Kidvai, director of the Repro Legal Defense Fund, told Jezebel: “It’s fucking fucked up.”

+ Two South Carolina state senators (Penny Gustafson and Katrina Shealy) who voted for an abortion ban at 6 weeks will receive the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation “Profile in Courage” Award. Just imagine the kind of people 40 years from now who will be getting the RFK Jr Profile in Courage awards…

+ Black women in America are more than twice as likely as white women to have a stillbirth. Lack of health care insurance is a big issue, but even when they have insurance many Black women still have a hard time convincing doctors to take their concerns seriously: “If you’re a Black woman, you get dismissed.”

+ Democracy in America Update: Trump won Ohio by 8 points in 2020. But Ohio’s Redistricting Commission, dominated by Republicans, has chosen to adopt a map where the partisan breakdowns will be 62 GOP seats to 37 Democratic in the Ohio House and 23 GOP seats to 10 Democratic in the Ohio Senate.

+ A word from our guardian of public morality Howard Stern: “Lauren Boebert is a disgrace to the country.” Gitmo is a disgrace to the country. Lahaina getting burnt off the map is a disgrace to the country. Pregnant women being shot for suspected shoplifting is a disgrace to the country. 600,000 homeless people on the streets of the US is a disgrace to the country. Boebert’s antics barely count as a commercial interruption in our free-fall from grace…

+ When Trump was sued, he didn’t pay his personal lawyer. When his personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, was sued for representing Trump, he didn’t pay his personal lawyer. Now his personal lawyer is suing him.

+ Rep. Ralph Norman says his vote to advance the Continuing Resolution rule out of committee on Monday night was an accident and he plans on voting against it on the floor: “To be honest with you, I was asleep at the switch. I thought it was the vote with the New Mexico.” Whatever that means…

+ In pushing his plan to require young voters to take a political literacy test, the spastic Vivek Ramaswamy often compares it to the citizenship test his parents had to pass. But it turns out, his father isn’t a US citizen

+ Florida with its aging population has the highest rate of COVID-19 hospitalizations, even as its governor and state surgeon general urged people, even those in high-risk groups, to avoid getting booster shots this fall…

+ As we brace for the fall COVID surge, the CDC quietly announced it will stop updating its COVID-19 excess deaths database at the end of September.

+ Naomi Klein on Russell Brand, who has been accused of sexually assaulting multiple women, including a 16-year-old girl: “Of course, Russell Brand’s followers deny the allegations. He has groomed an audience to deny/disbelieve everything they see and hear, which is very different from healthy skepticism. This knee-jerk denialism is precisely why people with plenty of skeletons in the closet love conspiracy culture: they have a built-in defense against accountability. It’s all a conspiracy, always. I have met Brand, been on his show (years ago). It took a hell of a lot of courage for these women to come forward. They have all my solidarity.”

+ Tim Ballard, who was portrayed by Jim Caviezel in the child sex-trafficking movie The Sound of Freedom, left the organization Operation Underground Railroad after seven women accused him of sexual misconduct. Apparently, the self-promoting “anti-slavery” crusader invited as many as seven women to act as his “wife” on undercover missions ostensibly aimed at rescuing victims of sex trafficking, where Ballard allegedly coerced those women into sleeping with him or showering together, telling the women that it was necessary to fool traffickers. Vice reports that Ballard sent at one woman a photo of himself in his underwear, his body adorned with fake tattoos. He is said to have asked another woman “how far she was willing to go” to save children. The Sound of Freedom was the “sleeper hit” at the summer box office, quietly pulling in more than $210 million at the box office, largely through a promotional campaign spread by religious conservatives and self-empowerment gurus like Tony Robbins.

+ Meanwhile, the producer of The Sound of Freedom, Paul Hutchinson, has been accused of touching the naked breasts of an underage trafficking victim during “an operation” in Mexico in 2016.

+ The movie about the sexual assaults of the people who made the Sound of Freedom is going to be better than the movie they made.

+ In her new book, former Trump aide Cassidy Hutchinson claims that Rudy Giuliani sexually assaulted her on J6, putting his hand “under my blazer, under my skirt … like a wolf closing in on its prey.” Hutchinson also reveals that Trump’s reluctance to wear a mask during the height of COVID was driven by his vanity: “When he looked at the straps of his mask, he saw they were covered in bronzer. He wasn’t happy about that. ‘Why did no one else tell me that? I’m not wearing this thing.’”

+ Trump apparently told Joint Chief’s chair Gen. Mark Milley, in front of witnesses, that a wounded combat veteran in a wheelchair shouldn’t attend a military event because “no one wants to see that.

+ The same week Texas outlawed racial discrimination based on hairstyles, Darryl George, a Black high school student in Houston, was suspended twice because school officials say his dreadlocks violated the district’s dress code.

+ Clarksville, the fifth largest city in Tennessee, is seeking an exemption from the state’s Sunshine law, which requires all official business to be conducted in public. One of the city commissioners said she thinks requiring the city to conduct public business in public “stifles communication and collaboration.”

+ If only the NYT would fact-check David Brooks’ columns as thoroughly as Twitter readers…(or at all).

+ Of course, fact-checking David Brooks’ columns would defeat the point of running them in the first place.

+ Joyce Carol Oates: “(bar bill: $66. food bill: $12. tip: $0 N Y Times expense account).” And, in fact, the Smokehouse BBQ at the Newark Airport confirmed Oates’ supposition, tweeting out that most of Brooks’ tab was indeed for booze:  “Keep drinking buddy – we get paid off everything.”



+ Since humans appeared on the planet, the rate of species extinction has accelerated by 35 times. In the last 500 years alone, at least 73 complete branches of the evolutionary tree of life have gone extinct.

+ A new report from Global Witness shows that it’s becoming more and more dangerous to be an environmental activist. Between 2012 and 2022, at least 1,910 people advocating for environmental protection were killed worldwide. In 2022 alone, at least 177 environmental activists were murdered, about every two days.

+ On the last day of WINTER in South America, temperatures peaked as high as 45°C (113°F) in Brazil. The highest temperature in its history for any day of any month.

+ The 2023 Canadian wildfire season so far:

+ 5% of Canada’s forest area burned;

+More 43 million acres of forest charred, greater than the size of Florida;

+ 3 times more carbon produced than previous record wildfire year;

+ 2.5 times more acres burned than the previous record year.

+ Studies from Antarctica reveal that ice sheets can collapse into the ocean much faster than previously thought, up to 2,000 feet a day.

+ Arctic lakes used to function as carbon sinks. Now they’re emitters.

+ Southern California air regulators could have collected more than $200 million in fines from the region’s worst smog polluters over the last decade. Instead, they adopted a rule exempting polluters from having to pay, saying the fines wouldn’t help.

+ Even if no new coal plants are built in the future, the International Energy Agency says that the emissions from the world’s existing coal plants, if they remain online, would make it impossible for the world to meet the Paris Climate Agreement goal of limiting warming to 1.5C.

+ Around one million people who lived or worked at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina from 1953 to 1987 may have been exposed to contaminated drinking water. Many women on the base experienced repeated miscarriages, stillbirths and other defects during that period.

+ According to an analysis by First Street, around 39 million properties—roughly a quarter of all homes in the US—are being underpriced for the climate risk to insure those properties. This year the price for Florida property catastrophe reinsurance has jumped 30-40%, according to Moody’s, prompting a new spike in homeowners’ premiums.

+ An extreme weather event like the floods that swept more than 10,000 people to their deaths in Libya has become up to 50 times more likely and up to 50% more intense compared to the planet under a 1.2C cooler climate.

+ Iraq is running out of water. The flows of the Euphrates and Tigris rivers are down by half. Yet these shortages haven’t stopped the oil industry from hogging more than 25% of the nation’s daily water consumption.

+ A new study out of the University of Michigan links wildfire smoke to dementia: “All airborne particles increased the risk of dementia but those generated by agricultural settings and wildfires seemed to be especially toxic for the brain.” A new study links wildfire smoke inhalation to higher rates of dementia.

+ Every year, around 400,000 Europeans die from diseases linked to air pollution. A Guardian investigation found that 98% of Europeans live in areas with highly damaging fine particulate pollution that exceeds World Health Organization guidelines. Nearly two-thirds live in areas where air quality is more than twice as dangerous as the WHO’s guidelines.

+ Claiming the UK had already made extraordinary progress on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak says he’s delaying by five years a ban on new gas and diesel cars that had been scheduled to take effect in 2030.

+ It’s like watching a watershed snuff film…

+ A major new research paper published in Science suggests that pre-1492 soil-enrichment practices in the Amazon’s generally bad soils captured so much carbon that in places the soil now contains as much carbon as the (once) immense canopy.

+ There are only two majority-black towns in West Virginia. One of them, Institute, was left out of a state regulatory plan earlier this year to tighten limits on cancer-causing chemicals.

+ In 1970, around half of American kids walked or biked to school. Now only ten percent of kids go to school those ways. Even when the school is closer than a mile away, only about a third of children walk or bike there.

+ A new study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences estimates that fully remote workers produce less than half the greenhouse gas emissions of people who spend their days working in offices.

+ El Niño has barely started and already scientists are saying they’ve never seen anything like it before.



+ If you search for “Tank Man” of Tiananmen Square on Google, the first result is likely to be an AI-generated selfie.

+ The combined payroll of the two best teams in the American League, the Orioles and Rays, is $170 million–$108 million less than the Yankees and $170 million less than the Mets, neither of which will make the playoffs.

+ John Waters at his Hollywood Walk of Fame ceremony: “Here I am, closer to the gutter than ever.”

+ What Cheryl Strayed read while hiking the Pacific Coast Trail…

The Dream of a Common Language, Adrienne Rich
As I Lay Dying, William Faulkner
A Summer Bird-Cage, Margaret Drabble
Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov
Dubliners, James Joyce

+ Book banners have adopted a definition of “pornography” that is so ridiculous it has been used by the Katy Texas School District to ban Dr. Seuss’s Wacky Wednesday and a book about a “naked” crayon that has lost its wrapper. Meanwhile, a Houston-area teacher was fired after reading passages from the graphic novel edition of the Diary of Anne Frank. The district sent an apology to parents for making their kids read about Anne Frank. Apparently, the teacher was meant to use the PragerU edition of Anne Frank’s Diaries, where the Nazis were hiding Anne in Bergen-Belsen in order to save her from the clutches of the advancing Red Army.

+ Stanley Cohen: “The paradox of more Palestinian children being familiar with the story of Anne Frank than Texans.”

+ From Kafka’s diaries: “This tremendous world I have inside of me. How to free myself, and this world, without tearing myself to pieces. And rather tear myself to a thousand pieces than be buried with this world within me.”

+ Letter to the editor, Pittsburgh Press, February 5, 1936: “The critics who are constantly assailing the President [FDR] for being a Socialist do not know what Socialism is.”

+ Virginia Woolf’s diary entry for Sept. 14, 1940: “A sense of invasion–that is lorries of soldiers and machines–like cranes–walloping along to Newhaven. An air raid is on. A little pop rattle which I take to be a machine gun, just gone off. Planes roaring and roaring. Percy and L. say some are English. Mabel comes out and looks: asks if we want fish fried or boiled.”

+ Jack Bruce on the time Ahmet Ertegun, head honcho of Atlantic Records, didn’t want to release “Sunshine of Your Love,” which would become Cream’s biggest hit: “I was aware that I had a huge crossover song on my hands, but it wasn’t easy to persuade the record company people. Especially the big boss of Atlantic. We had done a rough recording of it and he didn’t like it. When I played it to him, he said ‘psychedelic hogwash’. He didn’t want to release it. I was very lucky because Booker T and Otis Redding came into the studio and said it would be a smash. In fact, it became Atlantic’s biggest-selling single.”

+ Dylan: “All these songs about roses growing out of people’s brains & lovers who are really geese & swans that turn into angels—they’re not going to die. It’s all those paranoid people who think that someone’s going to come & take away their toilet paper—they’re going to die.”

+ There’s little more satisfying than to watch a pompous bigot, who has paraded his misogyny and racism around for decades with a sense of royal impunity, suddenly implode with his own hand on the detonator. The long overdue self-immolation of Jann Wenner came in what started out as a typically friendly NYT interview by David Marchese to pitch Wenner’s tedious new book The Masters, featuring his fawning interviews with some of the most over-hyped figures in popular music: Bono, Dylan, Lennon, Jagger, Townshend, Garcia, and Springsteen. All artists so over-exposed that no one really needs to hear another word from them. Marchese made the obvious point that all were white men who played guitar-oriented rock and Wenner, the contempt for women and black artists drooling from his lips, just couldn’t resist the temptation to dig his own grave, jump in it and bury himself with the mud he’s slung for decades:

NYT: There are seven subjects in the new book; seven white guys. In the introduction, you acknowledge that performers of color and women performers are just not in your zeitgeist. Which to my mind is not plausible for Jann Wenner. Janis Joplin, Joni Mitchell, Stevie Nicks, Stevie Wonder, the list keeps going — not in your zeitgeist? What do you think is the deeper explanation for why you interviewed the subjects you interviewed and not other subjects?

JW: Well, let me just. …

NYT: Carole King, Madonna. There are a million examples.

JW: When I was referring to the zeitgeist, I was referring to Black performers, not to the female performers, OK? Just to get that accurate. The selection was not a deliberate selection. It was kind of intuitive over the years; it just fell together that way. The people had to meet a couple criteria, but it was just kind of my personal interest and love of them. Insofar as the women, just none of them were as articulate enough on this intellectual level.

NYT: Oh, stop it. You’re telling me Joni Mitchell is not articulate enough on an intellectual level?

JW: Hold on a second.

NYT: I’ll let you rephrase that.

JW: All right, thank you. It’s not that they’re not creative geniuses. It’s not that they’re inarticulate, although, go have a deep conversation with Grace Slick or Janis Joplin. Please, be my guest. You know, Joni was not a philosopher of rock ’n’ roll. She didn’t, in my mind, meet that test. Not by her work, not by other interviews she did. The people I interviewed were the kind of philosophers of rock.

Of Black artists — you know, Stevie Wonder, genius, right? I suppose when you use a word as broad as “masters,” the fault is using that word. Maybe Marvin Gaye, or Curtis Mayfield? I mean, they just didn’t articulate at that level.

NYT: How do you know if you didn’t give them a chance?

JW: Because I read interviews with them. I listen to their music. I mean, look at what Pete Townshend was writing about, or Jagger, or any of them. They were deep things about a particular generation, a particular spirit and a particular attitude about rock ’n’ roll. Not that the others weren’t, but these were the ones that could really articulate it.

NYT: Don’t you think it’s actually more to do with your own interests as a fan and a listener than anything particular to the artists? I think the problem is when you start saying things like “they” or “these artists can’t.” Really, it’s a reflection of what you’re interested in more than any ability or inability on the part of these artists, isn’t it?

That was my No. 1 thing. The selection was intuitive. It was what I was interested in. You know, just for public relations’ sake, maybe I should have gone and found one Black and one woman artist to include here that didn’t measure up to that same historical standard, just to avert this kind of criticism. Which, I get it. I had a chance to do that. Maybe I’m old-fashioned and I don’t give a [expletive] or whatever.

A couple of days later, Wenner had been booted from the board of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and denounced by the current staff of the magazine he co-founded.

+ Wenner’s aspersions against Joni Mitchell, Janice Joplin and Grace Slick ring especially hollow. Our own Phyllis Pollack had a “deep conversation” with Grace a few years ago. Slick had many interesting things to say and was much wittier than anything I’ve ever heard from Bono, the most banal frontman in rock history.

+ This one’s for you, Jann Wenner…

Booked Up
What I’m reading this week…

The Internet Con: How to Seize the Means of Computation
Cory Doctorow

Why SNAP Works: A Political History—and Defense—of the Food Stamp Program
Christopher Bosso
(University of California)

Bresson on Bresson: Interviews, 1942-1983
Robert Bresson
Edited by Mylène Bresson

Sound Grammar
What I’m listening to this week…

The Land is Inhospitable and So Are We
(Dead Oceans)

Where We Are
Joshua Redman
(Blue Note)

Who’s Next/Life House [Super Deluxe Edition]
The Who

Our Power Knows No Limits, Yet…

“Our power knows no limits, yet we cannot find food for a starving child, or a home for a refugee. Our knowledge is without measure and we build the weapons that will destroy us. We live on the edge of ourselves, terrified of the darkness within. We have harmed, corrupted and ruined, we have made mistakes and deceived.” – John LeCarré


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