Roaming Charges: The Sickness of Symbolic Things

Still from Ingmar Bergman’s The Hour of the Wolf.

“I am sick of symbolic things. We are fighting for our lives.”

– Fannie Lou Hamer

+ The defining characteristic of Biden’s political career has been to make compromises with the right, no matter how far right the right gets. What started with amicable lunches with Strom Thurmond has ended with him knee-deep in a genocidal war with Netanyahu. It’s no surprise that Biden ended up here. It’s where he’s always been headed.  It’s mildly surprising that the rest of the party has so willingly gone along for the ride, on a doomed political trajectory fueled by burning the aspirations of their own base.

+ Indeed, for most of his political career, Biden has been so desperate to compromise with the right that he’s rarely cared whether the person he’s compromising with even compromises anything back.

+ Day after day, Biden keeps committing political suicide and no one in his party seems to care.  He combines the arrogance of RBG with the political tone-deafness of HRC, all wrapped up in the demyelinating brain of a man who lacks the political skills to slow his freefall. Biden’s job rating has fallen to an all-time low since taking office at a mere 34%.

+ Biden’s approval numbers began their downward slide about the time he retreated from the social welfare spending during the pandemic.

+ It’s not the first time Biden’s cut welfare, either. He helped ram Clinton’s dismantling of welfare through the Senate in 1996, one of 26 Democratic senators to vote for it. He meant it. Biden: “Government subsidy is not the ultimate answer to the problems of the poor…We are all too familiar with the stories of welfare mothers driving luxury cars and leading lifestyles that mirror the rich and famous. Whether they are exaggerated or not, these stories underlie a broad social concern that the welfare system has broken down.”

+ Bill Clinton, Al Gore, HRC, Barack Obama & Biden all share the same New Democrat philosophy: hawkish on defense, pro-business & banks, punitive criminal justice policies and a desire to roll back Great Society social programs. Clinton and Obama had the rhetorical skills to sell symbolism to the base, to make people see what isn’t there. The others don’t and they paid the political price.

+ In October, more than one-quarter of California households reported they couldn’t pay their utility bills. The economic misery in the US is deep, pervasive and real, no matter what the people who play with numbers for a living want to make you believe. The more Biden tries to tell people their pain isn’t real, the deeper he’s going to plummet in the polls.

+ Another factor in declining life expectancy in the US: unaffordable rents and evictions. According to a Princeton study published in Social Science and Medicine, someone paying 50% of their income on rent was 9% more likely to die in the next 20 years than someone paying 30% of their income on rent. This is especially true for black renters, over a third of whom now pay more than half their income on rent.

+ In 2022. at least 315 people died while experiencing homelessness in the Portland metro area.  The mortality risk for people experiencing homelessness was nearly 6 times higher than the general population.

+ Researchers gave homeless people $750 per month for a year, no questions asked. The recipients spent the money on food, housing, transportation, clothing, and health care. And after six months, only 12% of those who received funds were still homeless.

+ This a country where tens of millions of people live off of payday loans and GoFundMe pages, while Democratic politicians are telling them they don’t realize how good they have it.

+ Biden is so desperate to secure funding for his Ukraine war that he’s told the Senate he’s willing to adopt draconian immigration measures that would place drastic limits on asylum, impose a vast expansion of mandatory detention and mass deportation without due process and accelerate border wall construction. He’s essentially adopting Trump’s border plan.

+ Some Democrats can see the writing on the wall, even if they’re unwilling to stop him. Sen. Alex Padilla: “If he does go too far in the Trump direction when it comes to this, it’s going to be felt at the ballot box next year. No doubt about it.”

+ If the GOP holds out a few days longer, Biden will offer to nominate Stephen Miller to run DHS and Sheriff Joe Arpaio to run ICE’s migrant prisons for separated children….

+ Of course, every time Biden moves closer to Trump, Trump moves deeper into fascism. So it was no surprise that shortly after Biden announced his eagerness to reach the most extreme anti-immigration bill in 30 years, Trump took to the stage and began paraphrasing Hitler on immigrants: “Nobody has any idea where these people are coming from, and we know they come from prisons. We know they come from mental institutions [and] insane asylums. We know they’re terrorists. Nobody has ever seen anything like what we’re witnessing right now. It is a very sad thing for our country. It’s poisoning the blood of our country. It’s so bad, and people are coming in with disease. People are coming in with every possible thing that you could have.”

+ We were reminded this week of Ivana Trump’s 1990 interview with Vanity Fair reporter Marie Brenner, where Trump’s former wife said a friend of the family “clicks his heels and says, ‘Heil Hitler'” every time he entered Trump’s office. The article says that Ivana told her lawyer, the late, great Michael Kennedy, that from time to time her husband reads a book of Hitler’s collected speeches, My New Order, which he keeps in a cabinet by his bed. Kennedy now guards a copy of My New Order in a closet at his office, as if it were a grenade.” Brenner asked Trump about the book. “It was my friend Marty Davis from Paramount who gave me a copy of Mein Kampf,” Trump admitted. And he’s a Jew.” Davis told Brenner, “I did give him a book about Hitler. But it was My New Order, Hitler’s speeches, not Mein Kampf. I thought he would find it interesting. I am his friend, but I’m not Jewish.”

+ In the very first chapter of Mein Kampf Hitler wrote: “In the north and in the south the poison of foreign races was eating into the body of our people, and even Vienna was steadily becoming more and more a non-German city.”

A couple of chapters later Hitler really lets loose (though whether Trump’s attention span is capable of lasting that long is an open question):

Unfortunately the German national being is not based on a uniform racial type. The process of welding the original elements together has not gone so far as to warrant us in saying that a new race has emerged. On the contrary, the poison which has invaded the national body, especially since the Thirty Years’ War, has destroyed the uniform constitution not only of our blood but also of our national soul. The open frontiers of our native country, the association with non-German foreign elements in the territories that lie all along those frontiers, and especially the strong influx of foreign blood into the interior of the Reich itself, has prevented any complete assimilation of those various elements, because the influx has continued steadily.

+ Lindsey Graham on Trump’s rant about immigrants “poisoning the blood of our country”: ”You know, we’re talking about language. I could care less what language people use as long as we get it right.”

+ Trump denied having quoted Hitler, saying he’d come up with the phrase “poisoning the blood” on his own, which isn’t as exculpatory as he might think, and then almost immediately vowed to implement a religious test for immigrants if he is elected:  “If you don’t like our religion…then we don’t want you in our country.”

+ DHS is paying a contractor $600 million to repair border wall breaches, but they just keep happening. This same border wall post in Arizona has already been cut through and welded back three times in a single month.

+ Even with nearly the entire political and media establishment in the US backing Israel’s genocidal rampage in Gaza, public support for US military aid to Israel has continued to fall, especially among the youth of Biden’s own party, a demographic he’s always been indifferent to and patronizing towards, now at his own (and the country’s) peril

Support more military aid to Israel?

Oct 17
All Voters: 64-28 (+36)
Dems: 59-29 (+30)

Nov 2
All Voters: 51/41 (+10)
Dems 49-43 (+6)

Nov 17
All Voters: 54-39 (+15)
Dems: 45-48 (-3)

Dec 20
All Voters: 45-46 (-1)
Dems: 36-58 (-22)

The generational gap is profound.

Opposition by age bracket:

18-34: 72%
35-49: 53%
50-64: 36%
65+:     28%

Source: Quinnipiac.

+ Hannah Arendt: “The bourgeoisie’s political philosophy was always ‘totalitarian’; it always assumed an identity of politics, economics and society, in which political institutions served only as the façade for private interest.”

+++

+ Speaking of symbolic things, in keeping with last year’s marijuana pardons, which freed no one from prison, Biden has issued a new round of marijuana pardons which will free no one from prison…

+ Almost 80 percent of Americans, and 92 percent of Republicans, think crime has gone up. It actually fell in 2023.

+ Innocent Black people are seven times more likely than white people to be falsely convicted of serious crimes, according to a report released today by the National Registry of Exonerations.

+ Prosecutors in Warren, Ohio have criminally charged a black woman for having a miscarriage at home. Brittany Watts, a medical worker, was told by her doctor that her 21-week pregnancy was nonviable. Even though abortion is legal in Ohio until 22 weeks, Watts was unable to have her labor induced because hospital administrators raised concerns about potential legal issues. Watts suffered a miscarriage at home in her bathroom. After the miscarriage, Watts became ill and was treated in the hospital, where a nurse called the police after Watts told her she had disposed of the bloody tissue of her miscarriage. Watts, who was still recovering from the loss of her pregnancy, was interrogated by a police officer in her hospital room. Two weeks later, Ohio prosecutors charged Watts with felony abuse of a corpse, which carries a possible sentence of a year in prison.

+ In Illinois, two best friends—Tevin & Marquise—robbed a gyro shop. A cop with 20 misconduct complaints chased, shot, and killed Marquise without justification. The cop received accolades. But under Illinois’ felony murder statute, Tevin was charged with his friend’s murder, even though he was miles away.

+ Shortly after midnight on Sunday morning, a St. Louis police department SUV was swerving through multiple lanes of traffic when it jumped the curb and crashed into an LGBTQ bar as it was closing. One of the Bar:PM’s owners, James Pence, was upstairs when he felt the entire building shake as the SUV plowed into the building. As he went downstair to find out what had happened, he was confronted by a cop, who demanded to see his ID. Pence refused and the cop spun him around and placed him in handcuffs. Meanwhile, the other co-owner, Chad Morris, was filming the scene and asked the cops why his partner had been handcuffed: “He’s not going to yell at me, that’s causing a disturbance?” Morris asked, “Who was sucking whose dick?” when the car crashed. Then three cops went after him and tried to take his phone. According to Pence, as Morris raised his hands, “the cops said he hit them.” Morris was arrested on charges of felony assault and resisting arrest against the cops who rammed their car into his building. He was held in jail for 36 hours. When he was released, Morris was sporting a black eye. A video of the entire incident, filmed by a bystander, didn’t show Morris hitting the cop, which prompted the St. Louis Circuit Attorney’s Office to reduce the charges to misdemeanor assault. Morris’s lawyer, Javad Khazaeli, said, “There is a history of St. Louis police officers driving around drunk.” Khazaeli uncovered street camera footage of the cop car speeding through a red light a few seconds before crashing into the bar. The driver was not given a breathalyzer test.

+ Why Eric Adams wanted to shutter NYC’s libraries: Overtime pay for extra NYPD officers in the subway system went from $4 million in 2022 to $155 million this year, according to city records obtained by Gothamist.

+ Steve Bannon has a new plan to stop school bully: arm the students: We should get kids off social media and start teaching them the proper use of guns, how to defend themselves, their own self-defense. “Should we not make that an integrated part of the education so they’re not picked on or not threatened and certainly not scared, right?”

+ White men account for 80% of the gun suicides in the US.

+ A recent charging sheet in a J6 case shows how Google searches can be used against defendants in criminal cases…

+ In 18 states, it’s a parole violation to hang out with anyone with a felony record – even if that person is trying to help you adjust to life outside of prison.

+ The Supreme Court of New York ruled this week that the state doesn’t have to release the “training documents” that its parole board uses to guide its often murky and seemingly inconsistent decisions on who gets granted release and who doesn’t.

+ Last month as human waste flooded parts of a U.S. immigration prison in central New Mexico, guards ordered incarcerated people to clean up the sewage with their bare hands and put those who protested in solitary confinement.

+ When UCLA researchers Nick Shapiro and Terence Keel examined the autopsies of 59 people who had died in LA County jails, they found that the bodies of more than half of the deaths classified as “natural” by the coroner showed signs of violence. The deaths of black people were much more likely to be classified as “natural.” 

+ At least 14 Mississippians have died, including 9 by suicide, after being jailed while awaiting mental health treatment.

+ Intoxication deaths in jails increased 381% between 2000-2018. When someone dies of an overdose in jail, it’s usually after just one day of incarceration.

+ This week the New York City Council passed (with a veto-proof majority) a ban on the use of solitary confinement in city jails.

+ The state of Alabama has made millions leasing prisoners to work for employers including McDonald’s, KFC, Burger King and Wendy’s restaurants and a Budweiser distributor — as well as state, county and city agencies.

+ April Sponsel, the former Maricopa County prosecutor, who worked with Phoenix cops to invent a gang and then falsely charge BLM protesters as members, was given a two-year suspension for prosecutorial misconduct by Arizona’s presiding disciplinary judge.

+ Missouri Republicans are proposing murder charges for women who get abortions.

+ For nearly two years, the Louisiana State crime lab has refused to test fingerprint evidence that could exonerate death row inmate Daniel Blank, unless he agrees not to sue them for civil damages if the court rules in his favor.

+ I feel vindicated once again in fingering Samuel Alito as the leaker of his draft opinion in the Dobbs case overturning Roe v. Wade. According to a detailed account of how the court rendered its decision, New York Times reporters Jodi Kantor and Adam Liptak revealed that Alito secretly leaked his draft to his fellow conservative justices.  Only 10 minutes after Alito sent out the 98-page draft to overturn Roe, Neil Gorsuch replied saying he would sign on without revision, which is scarcely enough time to read Alito’s convoluted writing never mind assess how it could overturn 50 years of constitutional precedent. By the next morning, Thomas, Barrett and Kavanaugh had all given their total blessing to Alito’s opinion/screed. Roe was dead, killed by a cadre of rightwing justices assembled for that very purpose. As Kantor and Liptak wrote: “Justice Alito appeared to have pregamed it among some of the conservative justices, out of view from other colleagues, to safeguard a coalition more fragile than it looked.”

+ Clarence Thomas threatened to quit the Supreme Court unless he could make more money–a lot more. So Republican politicians arranged for billionaires to start showering him with money, luxury trips and gifts in exchange for his continued service. This sounds an awful lot like judicial extortion to me.

+ Some as yet unknown benefactor gave Clarence Thomas a $514,000 mortgage with only $8,000 down.

+ Despite the relentless incoming tide of stories on the death of Portland by outlets as varied as FoxNews and the NYT, violent crime in Portland is down 14% year-over-year.

+++

+ The amount of military contractor money pocketed by members of Congress who voted for and against the latest $888 billion Pentagon appropriation bill…

Ave $ taken by members who voted Yes: $24,000

Ave $ taken by members who voted No:     $5,000

+ The UK’s highest court ruled that Guantanamo Bay prisoner Abu Zubaydah, a Palestinian national, can bring suit against the British government in England and Wales over allegations that British intelligence services asked the CIA to put questions to him while he was being tortured in “black sites”. Between 2002 and 2006, Zubaydah was unlawfully renditioned by the CIA to Thailand, Lithuania, Poland, and Gitmo, then to Afghanistan, Morocco and finally back to Gitmo, where he has been held ever since, still awaiting trial.

+ Typically, the US media, and Sinophobe politicians like Nikki Haley, totally perverted remarks that President Xi reportedly made to Biden at the Asian Summit in San Francisco, hyping claims that Xi was poised to reclaim Taiwan. In fact, Xi merely reiterated China’s long-standing policy of reunification though peaceful means. Xi explicitly shot down a U.S. Air Force general’s prediction of a Chinese invasion by 2025.

+ Nikki Haley, allegedly the most rational of the Republican presidential candidates, on how she connected the dots to discover the real mastermind behind the attacks of October 7–it was Putin’s birthday!

Hamas invaded Israel on October 7th. October 7th is Putin’s birthday. Who’s the happiest person in the world, right now? Putin. Why? Because the US and the West took all of their eyes off of Ukraine and they started looking at Israel. Did Putin call Netanyahu? Nope. Not for 10 days. Who did he call? Hamas. They came the next day. They held hands and said they were friends. We now know it was Russian intelligence who helped Hamas know how to get through that barrier.

+ Argentina’s whacko new President Javier Milei has announced that his government will cut all social assistance to any citizen who “promotes, instigates, organizes or participates in street protests against his austerity program of ‘shock therapy.’ According to a Lancet study “shock therapy” privatization killed millions in the former Soviet Union and reduced the life expectancy of Russian men from 65 years in 1988 to less than 60 years by 2006…who would want to protest that?

+ One of Milei’s first presidential decrees will permit Argentine employers to pay their workers in meat, milk, or even bitcoin instead of cash. Welcome to Crypto-feudalism.

+ Spain has expelled two US spies, stationed at the U.S. Embassy in Madrid for bribing agents from Spain’s CNI intelligence service in an attempt to infiltrate it. Recruiting secret agents of a host state to betray their own country is considered an openly hostile act. Sources from the Spanish intelligence service told El Pais, ‘What do Americans have to pay for if we give them everything they ask for?” They insisted that Spain openly collaborates with the United States and always exchanges information. The number of times in which Spain has refused to share information of interest to Washington, one source Spanish intel official said, is ‘between one and zero.’” Julissa Reynoso Pantaleón, the U.S. ambassador to Madrid, told her Spanish counterparts that the U.S. agents who had bribed the Spanish spies were working independently of her office, in a program that was launched under the Trump administration that had been maintained until now for “unknown reasons.”

+ “They know innocent people were killed, but they’ve never told us a reason or apologized, said Abdi Dahir Mohammed, whose 4-year-old niece was killed in a US drone strike. “No one has been held accountable. We’ve been hurt — and humiliated.”

+ A story in The Intercept by Ryan Grim and Murtaza Hussain details a secret Pakistani ISI document that finds the core charges against Imran Khan, currently facing trial, lack merit. Pakistan’s military authorities have blocked coverage of his case.

+ Rep. Mike Garcia, the Republican from southern California, sold up to $50,000 of Boeing stock just weeks before a committee he’s on released a report on Boeing 737 crashes. Garcia didn’t disclose his trades until after Election Day.

+++

+ “Slowbalization”: new IMF term for the plateauing of trade openness since the financial crisis.

+ David Wallace-Wells: “A good first test of whether the country bungled school closures is probably whether peer countries, in general, did better. The test scores imply that they didn’t. So why do we keep telling ourselves a story of the U.S. pandemic educational disaster?… In reading, the average U.S. score dropped just one point from 505 in 2018 to just 504 in 2022. Across the rest of the O.E.C.D., the average loss was 11 times as large.”

+ Navy Federal Credit Union approved more loan applications from white borrowers making less than $62,000 than Black borrowers making more than $140,000.

+ Earlier this year, Target announced it had closed 9 stores in 4 states because theft and organized retail crime had made them too dangerous to run. However, an investigation by CNBC found the closed locations generally saw fewer reported crimes than others nearby.

+ 40% of federal student loan borrowers refused to make their student debt payments in October.

+ An analysis of Medicare claims by Pro Publica found that atherectomies, a procedure to treat vascular disease, were performed on about 30,000 patients who had questionable need for them.

+ The Hippie Pope said this week that priests can bless same-sex unions and that requests for such blessings should not be subject to moral analysis. This encyclical will be banned from all public libraries in Florida.

+ The Williams Institute found that Oregon is the state with the highest proportion of its population identifying in the LGBTQ+ community, 7.8%.

+ Despite pleas from food banks and child welfare advocates, the state of Nebraska, under Gov. Jim Pillen’s administration, decided to reject a new summer child nutrition program that offered $18 million in federal aid to feed poor Nebraska kids.

+ Unlike on land, unaccompanied kids traveling by sea are almost always denied protection in the US.  A Pro Publica investigation found that since July 2021, the Coast Guard has detained around 500 unaccompanied minors, mostly Haitians. Nearly every one of them was sent back.

+ Since April 2022, Texas Gov. Abbott’s administration has bused some 75,500 migrants from Texas to six cities, including New York, DC, and Chicago. He has no plans on stopping.

+++

+ How much more Bidenmentalism can the world take? This year the US pumped out more oil than any nation in history, accounting for nearly one-fifth of total global production.

+ Per person emissions for 6 largest Greenhouse Gas emitters

USA 14.9 TONNES PER PERSON
Russia 11.4
Japan 8.5
China 8.0
Euro27 6.2
World 4.7
India 2.0

+ The chance that 2023 will be the warmest year since measurements started is almost 100%.

The chance that 2023 will be the 1st year to exceed 1.5°C is greater than 40%.

The chance that the 12-month running mean from February 2023 to January 2024 will exceed 1.5°C is greater than 90%.

+ A study in Nature this week confirms the obvious: the surge in high-intensity forest fires has been driven by climate change and the enormous CO2 emissions from these fires have become a driving force accelerating climate change: “The increased numbers of forest fires was largely driven by frequent heatwaves & droughts caused by climate change…In turn, the CO2 emitted by forest fires contributes to global warming, creating a feedback loop between the two.”

+ On the eve of COP28, which had a greater focus on the impact of climate change on public health than any of its predecessors, a study was released that found that 8 million people around the world die annually from air pollution.

+ For the first time in several years, China’s State Council released a new air quality action plan with measurable targets that require action. The plan targets a 10% reduction in PM2.5 concentrations from 2020 to 2025 across all 337 cities. The total number of heavy pollution days should fall below 1%, from 1.2% in 2020, but requiring no improvement from 2022. A more ambitious reduction of 20% is targeted for Beijing and the surrounding provinces from 2020 to 2025, scheduling a 7% reduction in the next two years. A 15% cut is targeted in the Fenwei plain surrounding Xi’an, with 11% left to do in the next two years. These air pollution control regions are among the highest concentrations of coal use and heavy industry in China.

+ The lifespan of the average cat has more than doubled since 1980, which is bad news for birds. Cats kill around 4 billion wild birds a year in the US alone.

+ Across British Columbia, there are more than 7 million acres of land where logging companies have evaded the establishment of spatially-designated old-growth management areas [by withholding forest inventory data].

+ Southern Alberta is the “driest it’s been in the last 50 years,” which is the same thing they said in 2016 before the huge Fort Mac Fire.

+ Insurance costs for California’s “affordable housing” developments increased by 56% from 2020 to 2022.  But from 2022 to 2024, those costs increased from 50% up to 500%.

+ The International Energy Agency predicts that renewables will provide half the world’s electricity by the turn of the decade.

+ A new study by CSIRO (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization) an Australian government agency responsible for scientific research, determined that solar and on-shore wind provide cheapest the electricity and nuclear most expensive. Moreover, the costly small modular nuclear reactors would provide the most expensive source power and will not be available until 2030.

+ At COP28, Norway made a big announcement of a $50 million donation to the Amazon Fund. Impressive, right? Perhaps not when you consider that the country recently approved $18 billion in new oil and gas projects.

+ In 1977, SUVs and trucks accounted for a combined 23 percent of American new car sales; today they comprise more than 80 percent. the major factor in the high toll of traffic deaths on American roads.

+ In 2022, there were 1.1 million e-bikes sold in the United States, almost four times as many as were sold in 2019. In 2018, there were 325,000 e-bike sales, but that number dropped to 287,000 the following year. In 2021, e-bike sales sprang back with sales more than doubled from the previous year. (Source: DOE)

+ Anne Hidalgo, the mayor of Paris, wants to triple parking rates for SUVs in central Paris to €18 an hour, and €12/hour for the rest of the city. The measure would affect roughly 10% of the cars in the city. Elon Musk’s cybertruck wouldn’t be permitted to park in Paris at all.

+ In his latest, “reelect me” first gimmick, Biden says he plans to ban logging old-growth forests…in 2025!

+ Richard Powers: “Our brains evolved and have been shaped by forests for longer than we’ve been Homo sapiens…And it could be the eternal project of humankind, to learn what forests have figured out.” (The Overstory)

+ The 5th National Climate Assessment discussion on wildfire fails to even mention, never mind analyze, the well-documented impact of commercial logging on fuel loads and fire hazards in most western landscapes. Selective omission of important contributing factors is not sound science.

+ Sam Knight reports in a piece for The Lever that the Kingspan Group, an Irish company that made insulation used in the scaffolding on Grenfell Tower, deceived the public about fire safety tests for the product. Now, the same company is angling to cash in on green subsidies from the Biden administration, despite its unsavory record.

+ Food is 26% of global greenhouse gas emissions…and the emissions associated with food produced and not eaten are nearly the same as all of India’s GHG emissions.

+ Nearly 1 in every 4 animals that is raised and killed on a factory farm never actually makes it to your plate.

+ Using 34 years of data,  a study of more than 1,500 species of herbivorous insects in Europe has found that 60% of insects are already struggling to keep up with the plants they rely on because climate change is advancing key seasonal timings.

+ Writing on Climate Uncensored, Kevin Anderson on the closing window for keeping warming below 2°C:  “If all nations deliver on their emission-reduction pledges, then in 2030 the remaining carbon budget for 2°C will be similar to what we have left for a 50:50 chance of 1.5°C today; a budget many/most analysts consider no longer viable.”

+ The Supreme Court just agreed to hear challenges to the EPA’s “good neighbor” plan, which sets limits on states’ ozone pollution. Their ruling could extract the few remaining teeth in the Clean Air Act.

+++

+ I’d like to see Father Lankester Merrin (Max Von Sydow version) cast out demons in those heels…

+ Dan Mannarino (PIX on Politics): Mr. Mayor, we’ve come to the end of what was a very eventful 2023, right? So, when you look at the totality of the year, if you had to describe it— and it’s tough to do— in one word, what would that word be, and tell me why.

Mayor Eric Adams: New York. This is a place where every day you wake up you could experience everything from a plane crashing into our Trade Center through a person who’s celebrating a new business that’s open. This is a very, very complicated city, and that’s why it’s the greatest city on the globe.

Visit NYC, it might get hit again!….

+ Politics 101 with George Santos…

Ziwe: What can we do to get you to go away?

George Santos: Stop inviting me to your gigs.

Ziwe: The lesson is to stop inviting you places?

George Santos: But you can’t cuz people want the content.

+ Who will replace George Santos? Either a Republican former IDF paratrooper vs. a Democrat who says he’s a proud Zionist who will “always fight for Israel.”

+ Charlie Kirk’s advice to American women: “You should get married as young as possible and have as many kids as possible. Period. Reject the siren song of modernity.” The average cost of raising one child to age 17 in the US: $300,000…

+ Ted Cruz, the Dr. Ruth of the new Men’s Movement, on why liberal women are so angry and pissed off all the time: “If you had to sleep with those weenies you’d be pissed off too.”

+ “This looks like a wedding. But they are not bride and groom — but rather father and … daughter.” Thus begins a news segment on the German channel n-tv, showing images of a “purity ball” attended by House Speaker Mike Johnson and his then 13-year-old daughter Hannah. The report shows the Johnsons dressing up in formal ball attire and then attending a chastity dinner and dance that celebrates Hannah signing a vow to her father to abstain from having sex before marriage.

+ In 1990, only five percent of Americans had a passport. According to the State Department, today that number is 48%.

+++

+ The Economist came up with a ranking of the world’s 20 wealthiest countries using three GDP measures (GDP per person at market rates, adjusted for cost differences and adjusted for costs and hours worked)

1. Norway
2. Luxembourg
3. Qatar
4. Bermuda
5. Denmark
6. Belgium
7. Switzerland
8. UAE
9. Austria
10. Sweden
11. USA
12. Germany
13. Iceland
14. Netherlands
15. Singapore
16. France
17. Finland
18. Britain
19. Bahrain
20. Italy

+ Florida Republicans just approved a bill to roll back child labor law protections. The bill would make it legal for 16-year-olds to work overnight shifts seven days a week. Meanwhile, the Department of Labor fined Florence Hardwoods, Wisconsin sawmill, $1.4 million after it allowed teens to operate dangerous machinery. Last summer a 16-year-old boy became trapped in a stick-stacker machine as he tried to unjam it. He remained pinned in the machine until he was found and extracted. He was taken to the hospital and died two days later.

+ The NLRB issued a complaint ordering Starbucks to reopen 23 stores they closed that workers have said were in response to union organizing.

+ Elon Musk: “I disagree with the idea of unions …Unions naturally try to create negativity in a company…. I just don’t like anything which creates a lords and peasants sort of thing.”

+ According to an investigation by Reuters, Tesla has a history of accusing its customers of “driver abuse” and charging them for repairs on parts that the company knew were faulty.

+ Roth IRAs were intended to help average working Americans save, but IRS records obtained by Pro Publica show billionaire Peter Thiel and other ultrawealthy investors have used them to amass vast untaxed fortunes.

+ States that went all in on tutoring (using high-dosage and regular school day models) during the pandemic, such as Illinois, recovered much more of the learning losses than those that didn’t.

+ In 1900, Black landowners owned and operated 890,000 farms. Over the next 50 years, they had lost more than half a million farms. By 1970, only 45,000 remained.

+ New House Speaker Mike Johnson, a rabid opponent of reparations for slavery, is a descendent of multiple enslavers.

+ The 118th Congress–one of the least productive in history–has passed one pro-Israel resolution for every five bills it has passed.

+ More than 10,000 research papers were retracted in 2023, obliterating the old record.

+++

+ The great social historian Arno Mayer , who spent much of his career at Princeton, has died at the age of 98. Arno wrote regularly for CounterPunch, many of the essays on Israel. Arno would call a couple of times a year and say, “Jeffrey, could I trouble you to look at something and see if it might be suitable for CounterPunch?”–as if I wouldn’t do nude cartwheels down the block at the chance to publish anything he wrote.  Like Cockburn, Arno preferred using a typewriter and the early pieces arrived by fax, some of the last to do so. Later they were emailed by a grad student, but always preceded by a call and a funny chat, which was deeper than it sounded.  I should FOIA the NSA for transcripts.

+ According to the Chamber of Commerce, Washington, DC is the nation’s loneliest city. Why? Because 48.6 percent of DC’s residents live alone. Of course, some might equate this with happiness, depending on how much the dog or cat sheds. The remaining top 10: Birmingham, Alabama, St. Louis, Atlanta, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Cincy, Alexandria, Virginia, Minneapolis and Richmond.

+ For the first time in history, more than 25% of 40-year-olds have never been married and living together isn’t substituting for marriage, either. According to a Pew Research survey, only about 1-in-5 never married 40-year-olds live with an unmarried partner.

+ Last week, someone called the cops in Great Barrington, Mass. on a book. The caller complained that the W.E.B. Du Bois Regional Middle School was inflicting an obscene book on its 8th-grade students, Maia Kobabe’s illustrated novel, “Gender Queer.” A few hours later a plainclothes police officer showed up at the school, entered a classroom, turned on his body cam and searched the shelves in the room of an eighth-grade English teacher for the offensive volume. The search ended in vain, but the raid prompted more than 100 students to walk out of school a few days later in protest. The English teacher wrote on her social media accounts: “How on earth is a cop more qualified to decide what books are OK to be in an educational setting for teens?” Kobabe’s award-winning novel about sexual identity and gender confusion is now the  “most banned book” in the US.

+ From Virginia Woolf’s diary: “I will never dine out again. I will burn my evening dress. I have gone through this door. Nothing exists beyond. I have taken my fence; and now need never whip myself to dine with Colefax, Ethel, Mary again. These reflections were hammered in indelibly last night at Argyll House. The same party; the same dresses; same food. To talk to Sir Arthur [Colefax] about Queen Victoria’s letters, and the Dyestuff Bill and –I forget–I sacrificed an evening alone with Vita, an evening alone by myself–an evening of pleasure. And so it goes on perpetually. Forced, dry, sterile, infantile conversation. And I am not even excited at going. So the fence is not only leaped, but fallen. Why jump?” – Dec 16, 1930.

+ Adolph Reed Jr on the Netflix biopic about Bayard Rustin produced by the Obamas: “It was so banal and + wrong-headed that immediately after it ended, I watched ‘The Battle of Algiers’ as a purgative.”

+ Director Ruben Östlund (Triangle of Sadness, Force Majeure) on Greta Gerwig’s Barbie: “It perfectly describes the madness of our time. A toy manufacturer [Mattel] finances their own film and buys off an American auteur filmmaker to make their very old-fashioned dolls more presentable.”

+ Leonard Cohen: “I don’t want to give you the impression that I’m a great musicologist, but I’m a lot better than what I was described as for a long, long time. You know, people said I only knew three chords. I knew five.”

+ Marc Jacobs: “I always loved that image of a girl putting toenail polish on a guy – her boyfriend, or something like that. Or a guy waking up in the morning and reaching over and putting on his girlfriend’s shirt. Like Keith Richards putting on one of Anita Pallenberg’s blouses, or Courtney Love putting nail polish on Kurt Cobain.”

You’re a Wasted Face, You’re a Sad-Eyed Lie

Booked Up
What I’m reading this week…

From the River to the Sea: Essays for a Free Palestine
Edited by Sai Englert, Michal Schatz and Rosie Warren
(Verso/Haymarket)

Shackled: 92 Refugees Imprisoned on ICE Air
Rebecca Sharpless
(California)

Extinctions: How Life Survives, Adapts and Evolves
Michael J. Benton
(Thames & Hudson)

Sound Grammar
What I’m listening to this week…

Long Story Short: Willie Nelson 90 [Live at the Hollywood Bowl]
Willie Nelson, et al.
(Sony Music )

Owl Song
Ambrose Akinmusire with Bill Frisell and Herlin Riley
(Nonesuch / Warner Bros.)

Fabric Presents Sama’ Abdulhadi
Sama’ Abdulhadi
(Fabric)

Alone in All the World

“I know a sentence that is still more terrifying, more terribly ambiguous than ‘I am alone,’ and it is, isolated from any other determining context, the sentence that would say to the other: ‘I am alone with you.’ Meditate on the abyss of such a sentence: I am alone with you, with you I am alone, alone in all the world.”

– Jacques Derrida, The Beast and the Sovereign

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: sitka@comcast.net or on Twitter @JeffreyStClair3