I’ve been re-reading with great pleasure John Le Carré’s mid-80s novel A Perfect Spy, which is a kind of roman à clef about the writer’s turbulent relationship with his father, Ronnie Cornwell, an extravagant trickster and confidence artist, who, in one of his most elaborate hoaxes, ended up running for Parliament. But Le Carré’s twisty tale of fraud and duplicity among the English moneyed classes (and those who would exploit their greed) can’t really hold up to the career of New Jersey’s own apex con man, Robert Menendez, whose personal embellishments and political fictions have become so labyrinthine that now that he’s been caught with gold bars in his closet, he can’t even get his own life story straight.
As in Le Carré’s complex thriller, Menendez has been living close to the edge for decades, managing one narrow escape after another (including a corruption trial six years ago that ended in a hung jury), each close call only seeming to make him more resolute to pull off an even bolder caper the next time, the final one (so far) featuring a starring role by his guileful wife, Nadine. According to the 39-page federal indictment, Nadine acted as her husband’s go-between in a scheme to leverage the senator’s position as a political powerbroker on the Hill in return for under-the-table cash payments of more than $500,000, a new $60,000 Mercedes convertible, top-line exercise machines, mortgage payments, and bars of gold bullion. Menendez was so eager to learn the value of the gold bars that after returning from a “fact-finding” trip to Egypt in 2021, the Senator did a web search for “how much is one kilo of gold worth.” Answer: $150,000 on today’s market. Some of the cash payments were found by the FBI during a search of his closet still in their envelopes, stuffed in the pockets of jackets embroidered with Menendez’s name and the seal of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.
In return for this largess, Menendez, one of the staunchest defenders of autocrats in the US Senate, promised to use his position as a top member of the Foreign Relations Committee to help protect Egypt’s access to billions in annual US aid against the remonstrances of political do-gooders, even as evidence of systemic corruption and human rights abuses under the Sisi regime mounted. Here again, Nadine played a crucial role as a cut-out, by passing messages from the senator to an American-Egyptian businessman named Wael Hana, who maintained close ties with Egyptian military and intelligence officials. In a text to an Egyptian general, Hana referred to Senator Menendez as “our man.”
Were Egyptian intelligence agents trying to recruit Menendez as a spy? Did they try to turn him, like Le Carré’s Pym, through bribes or blackmail? Did they even need to in order to get what they wanted from him?
Menendez was the perfect mark. Arrogant, vindictive, greedy and totally convinced of his own impunity. You can understand why he may have felt that way. After all, this was a man who had shrewdly migrated through the swamps of corruption his entire political career. In fact, Menendez, similar to the corruption-fighting Rudy Giuliani across the river in Manhattan, first made his mark in New Jersey by turning snitch against his political tutor, Union City Mayor William Musto. The young Menendez, who claimed he wore a bulletproof vest for a month, testified that Musto and other city officials had pocketed bribes to approve construction projects. Musto went to prison; Robert Menendez went to Congress.
As is so often the case with confidence men, Menendez thought he had learned from the blunders of his mentor. As he eagerly launched his own career on the corpse of Musto’s, Menendez didn’t abandon the back-room horse-trading that was then endemic to New Jersey politics, he tried to perfect it. For nearly two decades, Menendez’s secret dealing-making has attracted the scrutiny of federal prosecutors, even as he rose up the ranks of the Democratic leadership. Like Clarence Thomas, Menendez always seemed to have his hand out and his senate office door open to anyone willing to pay the price for his attention, the price often coming in the form of luxury vacations, trips on private jets and accommodations at seaside villas. By 2018, Menendez’s excesses had become so extravagant that he was hit with a finger-wagging chastisement from the Senate Ethics Committee (so-called), which said his “actions reflected discredit upon the Senate.”
The rebuke didn’t deter Menendez from running for re-election that year and winning and it didn’t stop his longtime senate pal Chuck Schumer from making Menendez chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, when the Democrats regained control of the Senate in 2020, where the hawkish Menendez’s role has been almost entirely malign, especially as regards the economic strangulation of Cuba and Venezuela. He also exploited his position to protect his proclivity toward political graft. It was, after all, Menendez who singlehandedly blocked the passage of bipartisan legislation in 2020 that would have strengthened the law regulating foreign influence and lobbying in Washington. That same year, Menendez’s daughter, Alicia, landed a weekend show (American Voices) on MSNBC and two years later, Menendez’s son, Rob, won his father’s old seat in Congress. The seeds of his legacy have been planted and fertilized. Thus Menendez, who grew up in a Jersey tenement, has become a fixture in the Democratic Party establishment and one which it may prove very hard to dislodge.
Schumer knew what was doing. Menendez was a known quantity and a toxic one. But he served his purpose. He could be counted on to do the party’s dirty work on foreign policy, from protecting contracts to arms makers to subverting any attempt to loosen ties to brutal US client states. And Menendez was more than willing to take the blame. And profit from it.
When Menendez and the zaftig Nadine were indicted by the Feds last week, he quickly went on the attack, claiming he’d been “falsely accused” by nameless forces “who simply cannot accept that a first-generation Latin American from humble beginnings could rise to be a U.S. senator.” Feeling that this wasn’t perhaps an explicit enough defense, he returned to the microphones a day later to identify the hitherto nameless force as none other than his old manufactured nemesis, Fidel Castro: “For 30 years, I have withdrawn thousands of dollars in cash from my personal savings account .. for emergencies and because of the history of my family facing confiscation in Cuba.” Of course, that’s simply what the spooks call his “legend,” the false political identity the Senator created for himself and deftly exploited for a gullible press corps for decades. In fact, “our man” in Jersey, Robert Menendez, was born in New York City in 1954, a year after his impoverished family fled Cuba, then still firmly under the tyrannical grip of the US-backed dictator Fulgencio Batista, the very same kind of ruthless puppet regime he’s spent his entire political career running cover for.
+ Chuck Schumer on Trump’s indictment: “No one is above the law”
Schumer on Menendez’s 2nd indictment for corruption in 10 years: “Bob Menendez has been a dedicated public servant and is always fighting hard for the people of New Jersey.”
+ George Santos, who shares the sentiments of the Democratic Party leadership: “I don’t think Menendez should resign.”
+ For a couple of days, John “the Hoodie” Fetterman was the lone Democratic senator calling for Menendez’s resignation. On Monday, Fetterman’s campaign announced the senator is also returning his campaign contributions: “We are in the process of returning the money, in envelopes stuffed with $100 bills.”
+ It is ironic that both Robert Menendez and Hunter Biden are likely to get off due to recent decisions by the most reactionary Supreme Court since the 1920s that effectively make almost any convictions for political corruption (US v. McDonnell) or gun charges (NY State Pistol and Rifle Club v. Bruen) impossible…
+ In a 2005 case Clarence Thomas wrote the majority expanding the protections in Chevron vs. NRDC, a precedent-setting case on government regulation made in 1984 that determined agencies like the EPA are responsible for setting the rules that put laws into effect. By 2020, however, Thomas had rejected his own opinion as unconstitutional. What happened in the interim? Thomas had been wined, dined, and escorted on junkets by the Koch Foundation, which had made overturning the Chevron Rule a top priority. Now, the Court is preparing to entirely emasculate the ability of federal agencies to engage in rulemaking.
+ The Supreme Court is poised to make a major ruling in a corporate tax case called Moore v. United States, challenging a one-time corporate levy imposed in 2017. If the court strikes down the tax, nearly 400 multinational corporations could see a total of $271 billion in tax relief, including 19 enterprises that Justices Alito and Roberts own stock in. Those 19 corporations alone stand to gain as much as $30 billion from the Supremes’ decision. Neither justice has seen fit to recuse themselves from the case.
+ Speaking of corruption, a jailed French tycoon named Arnaud Mimran, who is serving time for fraud and kidnapping a rival, was recorded saying he financed vacations for Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife, Sarah, bought him expensive watches and meals, as well as giving him more than one million Euros. Mimran, whose association with Netanyahu dates back to at least 2000, is also suspected of ordering a triple murder. Mimran is recorded bragging about how he used his association with Netanyahu to curry favor with other politicians and governments: “When I had to work with someone, I’d invite him for a meal with Netanyahu. I organized dinner in Monaco every day and each time I invited the person I wanted to further my business with. All the finance people, the Jews I wanted to work with – bingo. They saw me at my best.”
+ Netanyahu is writing a new chapter in the book of Holocaust denialism…
Netanyahu says Hitler didn’t want to kill Jews, he killed because a Muslim told him to do so! Like Modi, Netanyahu invents the Islamophobic history. pic.twitter.com/bfeyU4zWSa
— Ashok Swain (@ashoswai) September 27, 2023
+ Mohammed al-Kurd: “Palestinians are told the words we use dwarf the decades of violence enacted against us by the self-proclaimed Jewish State. A drone is one thing, but a trope—a trope is unacceptable.”
+ Biden is signing a mutual defense pact with the butcherous Saudi regime, which has sentenced a secondary schoolgirl to 18 years in jail and a travel ban for posting tweets in support of political prisoners.
+ First, the house of Abdulmenam al-Ghaithit, the mayor of Derna, was burned down by angry Libyans after failed dams unleashed floods killing at least 15,000 people. Now he and eight other officials have been arrested for negligence in the dam collapses. A 2007 contract to repair the half-century-old structures was never implemented after Libya descended into civil war following the NATO-led coup against the regime of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. Will Obama, HRC, and Nicolas Sarkozy be next?
+ It’s been nine years since 43 Mexican students were attacked and disappeared from the disappeared from the Ayotzinapa Rural Teachers’ College in Iguala, Guerrero, Mexico. The US still refuses to declassify its records about the case.
+ On Sunday night, someone attacked the Cuban embassy in Northwest Washington, DC with Molotov cocktails. The story was buried in the nether regions of the Washington Post and barely covered at all anywhere else. Imagine the coverage if someone had bombed the Israeli or Ukrainian embassies in DC.
+ Former Assistant Secretary of Defense and founding dean of the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, Graham Allison, finally came clean on the true nature of the “rules-based order”: “We say we’re the exceptional nation. What does that mean? That means we make the rules and you’re supposed to obey the rules. But we don’t obey the rules. So we say we’re for the rules-based order. Excuse me the rules-based order was the basis with which we invaded Iraq? I don’t think so. That we occupied Afghanistan? I don’t think so. The US has made a lot of mistakes of unnecessary wars.”
+ On the morning of August 21, Ronald Davis, a Pennsylvania State Trooper, went to the Lykens Police Barracks and asked some of his fellow troopers to have his ex-girlfriend involuntarily committed to a hospital for a psych evaluation. Davis was told he would have to submit a commitment request with the county Crisis Intervention unit. Davis told the county officials he was a state trooper and exchanged emails with them using his state police account. When the commitment request was approved, Davis told the local police in Lykens, “I’ll take care of it myself.”
Davis, who had served as a state trooper for more than seven years, part of Troop L, based in nearby Jonestown, drove to his ex-girlfriend’s house in Williamstown, about 11 miles away. Not finding her at home, Davis cruised the town before spotting her at a picnic area in the Weiser State Forest, where he got out of his car and confronted her. As she tried to get away from Davis, he grabbed her, threw her to the ground and sat on top of her. She repeatedly asks, why he is doing this to her.
Davis tells her “The police will explain it to her when they arrive.”
At this point, someone in the park started filming the assault. As the two struggled, Davis put the woman in a chokehold and she shouted, “I can’t breathe…I can’t breathe.”
When the state troopers arrived, Davis told them his ex-girlfriend had been making comments the entire day about being suicidal and depressed. The troopers took the woman to the Lehigh Valley Hospital for observation and, based on Davis’ bogus statements, she was placed on a 72-hour psychiatric hold. A physical exam showed that the woman had cuts and bruises to her forehead, torso, arms, knee, leg and backside. The psych evaluation didn’t reveal any suicidal tendencies and the staff later told police that the woman had calmed down and seemed “agreeable” once she’d been treated for her injuries and Davis was gone.
Davis and the woman had been in a four-month-long relationship that soured to the point where she wanted to split. The woman later told police that when she expressed her unhappiness with their situation, the trooper became more controlling and abusive. He shut off the electricity to the camper they shared, locked the shed where she kept her property and kept her from having contact with her friends. The woman told police that Davis had repeatedly threatened to make her seem to be crazy. “I know you’re not crazy,” he told her. “I’ll paint you as crazy. I know the law.”
Last week, Davis was arrested and charged with strangulation, unlawful restraint, false imprisonment, simple assault, official oppression, and recklessly endangering another person.
+ In 2021, the NYPD launched a new website with public officer profiles. It was touted by officials as part of an effort to improve transparency. Yet the site has left out hundreds of police misconduct lawsuits that have cost the city tens of millions of dollars since 2013.
+ Since the election of Eric Adams as mayor, NYPD officers are making 84% more drug arrests per month than before he was elected.
+ Since 2013, 10 NYPD cops accounted for more than $68 million in misconduct payouts. All of them are still on the public payroll. One of the cops, Sgt. David Greico has been a defendant in 48 cases for which the city paid a total of $1,099,825 in legal settlements. Officer Pedro Rodriguez has only been the subject of three different suits, but one of them resulted in a payout of nearly $12 million.
+ Over the past seven years, the Alaska Board of Parole has considered only two applications for geriatric parole. Neither was granted.
+ Police have killed at least 827 people this year, roughly three every day.
+ During a narcotics arrest in Tampa’s Ybor Heights neighborhood, Officer Dukagjin Maxhuni, a 10-year veteran of the department, chased down a young Black man and knocked him to the ground. Maxhuni looked down at the kid and said, “You fucking broke my glasses you piece of shit.” By then a crowd of mostly black people from the neighborhood had gathered around the cop and he began to gesture at them and boast, saying: “That was one hell of a flying knee from me, guys! You should have seen it, it was good. It’s on my body camera, I’ll show it to you. It was awesome.” In fact, the entire episode was captured on his body camera, the footage from which was released this week. As people began to walk away from the cop, he followed them and taunted: “Hey come stand up to me, I’m standing right here, motherfucker! Motherfuckers, you should know who runs these fuckering streets, and it ain’t you all.” Maxhuni was given a reprimand and moved to a different district.
+ Jonathan Lancaster was only 38 years old when he died four years ago in an isolation cell at Alger Correctional Facility in Michigan. During his time in solitary confinement, Lancaster lost more than 50 pounds in 15 days and became so dehydrated he couldn’t speak. He was kept in restraints and his body was found lying in his urine and feces. Two wardens and four prison nurses were charged with involuntary manslaughter in Lancaster’s death. This week a Michigan judge let them walk, saying that while the prison officials were negligent none of their actions (or lack thereof) directly led to Lancaster’s death, who, the judge noted, was “doomed to die from dehydration.”
+ The Prison Policy Institute just released a new report on the incarceration rate of blacks in state prisons, which nationally lock up Black people at 6 times the rate of white people. But some states, including ones with liberal reputations, have much worse racial disparities: New Jersey 11.9x, Wisconsin 11.8x, Connecticut 9.9x, California 9.5x, Rhode Island 9.4x, Maine 9.2x, Utah 9.1x…
+ Alabama, one of the poorest states in the union, is going to spend $1.082 billion for a new prison–the most expensive prison ever built in the United States, for $270,500 per bed.
+ Nothing spells bi-partisanship like a nationwide campaign to round up homeless people and put them in camps or prisons…
+ In the latest expansion of biometric surveillance, the FBI’s latest budget proposal requests an additional $53 million to store and maintain DNA samples collected from hundreds of thousands of immigrants and asylum seekers.
+ The DEA is celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the War on Drugs. And what a smashing success it has been!
US drug overdose death rate, 1973: 3.0 per 100,000
US drug overdose death rate, 2021: 32.4 per 100,000
+ The Washington State Supreme Court ruled this week that “quelling riots” by drenching protesters (and surrounding neighborhoods) with tear gas is a “core function” of sheriff’s departments.
+ NuBrittany Smith and her mother Tasha, two black women living in Portland, Oregon, are looking for a new place to live after fleeing their apartment to escape the harangues of a mentally-disturbed neighbor, who lived in the unit above them and had harassed them for the past two months. “Every time he comes down he is either holding a knife or beating on our door,” NuBrittany said. When Smith complained to property management, they refused her request to be moved into a new unit. NuBrittany and her mother posted a door ring camera video of the neighbor, a man named Dominic Austin, yelling, “You’re about to get murdered!” In another clip, Austin shouts: “I’ll fucking rape your daughter, bitch!” NuBrittany says during one of his nightly rants, Austin stabbed the door with a knife. The harassment went on for weeks until Austin was finally arrested. But neither feel safe living in a complex that ignored their safety for weeks. They’ve set up a GoFundMe page for help finding a new place.
+ A Delaware woman who was arrested for begging in two upscale restaurants spent a year even though she was never convicted and the original charges against her carried no more than a month in jail.
+ What “America” means to me: In the last 15 years, 6,253 cars have crashed into 7-Eleven storefronts in the U.S.–an average of 1.14 per day.
+ Money for Nothing Update, American edition…
Elon Musk, Net Worth
2013: $2.7 billion
2023: $250 billion
Jeff Bezos, Net Worth
2013: $25.2 billion
2023: $155 billion
Mark Zuckerberg, Net Worth
2013: $13.3 billion
2023: $109 billion
Median Net Worth of Average American Family
Federal Minimum Wage
+ Trump to FoxNews’ Neil Cavuto in 2008, two weeks after the UAW made huge concessions to help bailout the Big 3 automakers: “[Unions] get their little 5 percent. They get another 2 percent. They get another 3 percent, 4 percent. All of a sudden, they’re making more money than the people that own the company.”
+ Of course, Trump is only slightly more hostile to organized labor than Steve Rattner, the man Obama handpicked to manage the rescue of the Big 3 automakers during the financial crisis, which saw the UAW coerced into making deep contract concessions while the companies feasted on a federal bailout to compensate for their own mistakes and greed…
+ Biden’s brief trip to the picket lines has all the hallmarks of a political stunt to repair his reputation as a strikebreaker, freshly reconfirmed by his crushing of the rail workers strike last December. But when it comes to putting a presidential thumb on the scale of a contract dispute, how does Biden’s innocuous appearance with autoworkers in Michigan compare to Reagan’s firing of striking air traffic controllers?
+ Lula came out in support of striking UAW workers, and said he had a “moment of great happiness” when he saw Biden on the picket lines: “It is crucial that presidents all around the world show concern for labor.”
+ Nikki Haley, however, is not a nice lady: “I will continue to be a union-buster, because every time you see me on national TV busting the unions, another CEO calls. It just works.”
+ A ground-breaking new study by Princeton scholars Ann Case and Angus Deaton found that life expectancy for the college-educated in 2021 was eight-and-a-half years longer than for the two-thirds of American adults without a bachelor’s degree, more than triple the 1992 gap of about two-and-a-half years.
+ Over the last 22 years, the mortality rate among Black Americans resulted in 1.63 million excess deaths relative to white Americans, according to a new study published in JAMA. Many of these deaths are of relatively young people, which makes the cumulative loss even greater, an estimated 80 million years of life compared with the white population.
+ A CDC-commission study published this week in JAMA Psychiatry found no evidence of a correlation between Oregon’s Measure 110, which decriminalized the use of all drugs, and overdose deaths. The researchers noted that fatal overdoses are on the rise nationally, due to fentanyl, but not because of public policy changes. Yet, can we expect that this important news will receive even one-thousandth of the coverage of the hysterical pieces alleging a link between humane drug criminalization policies and overdose deaths? Dream on…
+ Two-thirds of all American adults, including nearly half of Republicans, favor replacing the Electoral College with a system where the candidate who wins the popular vote wins the presidency. Of course, despite (or perhaps even because of) the overwhelming popular support, no major politicians are even talking about this.
+ Trump is Making Matt Drudge Great Again…
+ The breaking Trump news this week is that his New York real estate business is one big fraud, which might have qualified as “breaking news” 45 years ago before it had been first exposed as such by the Village Voice’s intrepid reporter Wayne Barrett. In the New York case brought by AG Letitia James, Justice Arthur F. Engoron ruled from the bench that Trump’s company had deceitfully inflated the value of its assets on annual financial statements by as much as $2.2 billion a year, in order to win favorable terms on bank loans. Justice Engoron wrote that the statements Trump had submitted to banks and insurance companies “clearly contain fraudulent valuations that defendants used in business.” As a result of the ruling (if it withstands appeal), Trump could lose control of several landmark properties, including Trump Tower in Midtown Manhattan, a high-profile commercial building at 40 Wall Street and his Westchester County golf club.
+ No question, the man has an eye for talent…
+ In his taxpayer-funded letter to constituents, Arizona Congressman Paul Gosar calls JCS chairman General Mark Milley a “homosexual-promoting-BLM-activist,” a “deviant,” and a “traitor.” Gosart also asserts that “in a better society, quislings like the strange sodomy-promoting General Milley would be hung.” I wonder if this letter violates the Comstock Act, as it is being interpreted by some of the current crop of evangelical jurists on the federal courts.
+ Robert Menendez has made a point of inquiry with Joe Manchin as to whether his new Senate dress code has any restrictions on the size of jacket pockets and what you can keep in them…
+ The Republican “debate” at the Reagan Library seemed like an exercise in collective madness. And 24 hours and half a bottle of Jameson’s later, I still don’t know what’s crazier, Nikki Haley saying that she’d solve the health care crisis by letting patients negotiate the price of treatment with hospitals and doctors, Tim Scott’s assertion that LBJ’s Great Society program was harder for black people to survive than slavery or Ron DeSantis’ pledge to use the Civil Rights Act to target “left-wing” prosecutors: “I will use the Justice Department to bring civil rights cases against all of those left-wing Soros-funded prosecutors. We’re not going to let them get away with it anymore. We want to reverse this country’s decline. We need to choose law and order over rioting and disorder.”
+ The site Formerly Known as Twitter is running ads for the NFL on white nationalist accounts, including one featuring a video interview in which a guest calls for Taylor Swift and Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce to be hanged for endorsing the COVID-19 vaccine. The league wants answers. No doubt Musk will confer with his newest free speech consultant, Chaya Raichik, who runs Libs of TikTok, an account with a history of targeting hospitals and others, including summer camps, who help gender non-conforming kids.
+ In the early 1990s, only 11% of homeless adults in the US were aged 50 and older. By 2003, this percentage had swelled to 37%. Now, the over-50 demographic represents more than half of the homeless single adults in the U.S. Baby boomers (those aged 57 to 75) are now among the most likely to end up living on the streets.
+ So Zelenskyy joined the Canadian Parliament’s ovation to a 98-year-old veteran who fought with the Waffen SS. Over to you, Joey…
+ Vaughn Klingenberg, a candidate for school board in Roseville, Minnesota, said during a July appearance on the VT Radio podcast he believes that “Zionist Jews wanted the Holocaust, not the Nazis. The thing is too and what annoys me, is that we’re doing the Jewish community a favor. We’re doing them a favor by giving them the facts about the Holocaust which they may not want to face. I think there’s profound cognitive dissidence in the Jewish community. But us Holocaust truthers are doing the Jews a favor.”
+ Net favorability in a Pew Research poll of US views toward religious affiliations…
Jews +28 points
Mainline Protestants +20
Mormons (LDS) -10
+ Among Republicans, 53% described Trump as a “person of faith,” ahead of every other person on the list, even professional holy-rollers like Mike Pence and Tim Scott. Meanwhile, only 23% of Republicans considered Biden a person of faith, while 12% said the same of Kamala Harris.
+ Check out former Mexican president Vicente Fox’s latest attack on the frontrunner to replace AMLO, Mexico City’s mayor, Claudia Sheinbaum, for being “Jewish and foreign at the same time.” Sheinbaum, as well as both of her parents, were born in Mexico City. Fox, himself, is of German descent.
+ Central America’s latest tough man, Nayib Bukele, is waging war on public sector unions in El Salvador: 146 union leaders fired, 38 suspended, and 16 imprisoned under the indefinite state of exception.
+ Since 2004, Google searches for phrases including “Am I gay” and “Am I lesbian” have increased by 1,300% according to a new analysis by the Cultural Currents Institute. Utah had more searches for “Am I gay” than any other state, while Oklahoma led the nation in queries for “How to come out”.
+ Elon Musk’s reverie to Benjamin Netanyahu about the ethereal possibilities of AI: “The very positive scenario of AI…(is)…actually in a lot of ways a description of heaven…you can have whatever you want, you don’t need to work, you have no obligations, any illness can be cured…[and death is]…a choice.’”
+ Mohammad Ghotbi, who heads a state-linked organization in the holy city of Qom that promotes the growth of tech business, on how AI can be used to solidify Iran’s religious character: “‘Robots can’t replace senior clerics, but they can be a trusted assistant that can help them issue a fatwa in five hours instead of 50 days.”
+ Gavin Newsom will debate Ron DeSantis on Fox News on November 30 with Sean Hannity moderating. Why? Debating DeSantis now is like debating a falling stone, a kidney stone as it painfully emerges, completes its arc and tumbles into the urinal…
+ On September 25, the Copernicus Sentinel 3 satellite captured this image of southern Greenland, including the capital city Nuut, smothered by a suffocating layer of smoke from the Canadian wildfires.
+ The number of heat-related deaths in the UK has been climbing for the last decade. Last year, more than 4,500 people died in England alone as a consequence of high temperatures, the most such deaths on record.
+ A Wall Street Journal investigation of Hawaiian Electric records shows the company fell behind on replacing old utility poles and invested millions less on upgrades than it planned in the years leading up to the fires that incinerated Lāhainā.
+ The most extreme heat wave recorded on Earth was 39 degrees above normal. It took place last year in… Antarctica.
+ With rising sea levels and dwindling river flows, the Corps of Engineers is now planning to barge 36 million gallons of fresh water every day into the lower Mississippi River near New Orleans to protect drinking water supplies from the intrusion of saltwater from the Gulf of Mexico. Flint, Jackson and now New Orleans, three of America’s major black cities may soon be without safe drinking water.
+ Jared Goyette, a former reporter for Fox9 in Minneapolis, wasn’t allowed to cite climate change in weather-related stories. Goyette: “At my MN TV job, we couldn’t mention climate change in stories about weather-related news. When I cited science on forest fires & climate change, the Chief Meteorologist pulled the piece, no debate.”
+ Last week, daily global surface temperatures were a full 1C above the recent 1991-2020 baseline period and around 1.9C above the preindustrial averages.
+ Battered by climate-driven drought, extreme temperatures and wildfires, French forests are in rapid decline. In 2011, French forests absorbed more than 60 million tonnes of CO2. A decade later that number has plunged to only 31 million tonnes of CO2. Over the same period, tree mortality in France is up by 54%, according to surveys by the National Geographic Institute.
+ After comparing current climate trends to the planet’s climate 3 million years ago, an international team of scientists has concluded that most of Earth’s near-surface permafrost could be gone by 2100.
+ The volume of ice lost from glaciers in the Swiss Alps during the summers of 2022 and 2023 is roughly the same as that lost between 1960 and 1990.
+ Between, 2001 and 2021, 90% of all U.S. counties experience a weather disaster.
+ Look, ma, it’s raining plastic cats and dogs! Japanese researchers at Waseda University have detected between 6.7 and 13.9 pieces of microplastic in each liter of cloudwater they tested: “Ten million tons of these plastic bits end up in the ocean, released with the ocean spray, and find their way into the atmosphere. This implies that microplastics may have become an essential component of clouds, contaminating nearly everything we eat and drink via ‘plastic rainfall.’”
+ Nearly one-third of California’s wildfire fighting force is made of incarcerated people, more and more of them women, who put their lives on the line to save forests, people, homes, businesses and entire communities across the state. They got paid less than $5 a day for this dangerous work and found that upon their release from prison, they were prohibited from becoming firefighters.
+ As of December 2022, there were four counties in the United States with electric vehicle (EV) market penetration above 30%. All were in California. Santa Clara County topped the list at 35%, followed by Marin County at 34%, and then Alameda and San Mateo Counties at 32% each. Several counties outside of California also had robust EV sales, including Boulder County, Colorado (22%) and San Juan County, Washington (22%). As of the end of 2022, there were 100 counties where EV market penetration was 10% or more.
+ The use of new wildfire risk scoring by insurance companies in Washington state has led to thousands of people losing their property insurance, even though no one has inspected their property. Since 2022, the number of complaints about insurance cancelation is roughly 10 times higher than the average of the previous six years.
+ What we’re up against: The earnings of oil and gas companies topped 4 trillion dollars last year, a figure that is larger than the entire economy of the UK and about 20 times all the international aid budgets. It is also 40 times the $100 billion-a-year target for the Global South pledged in 2009 for 2020 but never reached.
+ The latest State of Nature Report compiled by the National Trust estimates that one-in-six species of wildlife in the UK is at risk of extinction with bird species being the most imperiled with more than 43% assessed as being threatened. The report says that 31% of Amphibians and reptiles are also at risk of extinction, as well as 26% of terrestrial mammals, 28% of fungi and lichen species and more than half (54%) of the UK’s flowering plant species.
+ Last week, NOAA quietly reported that at least 9 orcas had been drowned by supertrawlers in the Bering Sea in 2023 and another orca was killed by a NOAA survey longline. These methods of killing orcas are exempt from the Endangered Species & Marine Mammal Protection Acts.
+ Number of animals slaughtered for meat every day…
Goats: 1.4 million
Sheep: 1.7 million
Pigs: 3.8 million
Ducks: 11.8 million
Chickens: 202 million
Fish: Hundreds of millions
+ To extract copper from Oak Flat, a sacred site for the Apache and many other tribal people of the Southwest, Resolution Copper plans to use 250 billion gallons of desert water over the life of the project. That’s 17 million gallons a day, 365 days a year for 40 years, or the flow of a 12,700-mile-long river stretching halfway around the earth.
+ The federal government expects hydroelectric power to fall by 6% this year due to changing weather patterns in the U.S. Northwest.
+ A Smithsonian map from the late 1800s map of the known mound and earthworks sites in the eastern US, each indigenous structure is designated by a red dot. The field archaeologists only went to convenient locations to identify mounds, along rivers, railroad lines, and roadways. Some of these sites had more than 100 mounds. Those surveys identified around 100,000 mounds, which is probably less than half the true total.
+ America’s newest “high speed” train, the Brightline between Miami and Orlando, travels at a top speed of 120 mph, slightly slower than the 130mph (210km/h) operating speed of the earliest series of Japanese bullet trains that went into service 59 years ago.
+ RIP Brooks Robinson, the best to ever play the position. For years, I had Brooks’ signature glove and used to imitate his catch and throw during the Cincy World Series endlessly in our backyard. I’d dive and throw the ball fading away. Our dog (Kelly the Irish Setter) would chase it and bring it back and we’d do it again. And again and again…
One of the best plays EVER by a third baseman
RIP Brooks Robinson pic.twitter.com/dabAmThVrt
— Baseball Quotes (@BaseballQuotes1) September 26, 2023
The poet Ann Sexton in a 1965 letter to Jon Stallworthy detailing her struggles to write a memoir:
I live the wrong life for the person I am. I’m tall and thin and that’s all right with me, but my life is square and small and I wish I had a maid but that wouldn’t help. And I wish I lived in Italy, but that wouldn’t help. But the only important part of the story is that I started to write. One might add that interviews and life stories give me the horrors. I’d throw it all out, like rotten apples, word by word… “Her father was an alcoholic; her mother was chained to her diamonds?” Need it be said, “She was locked in her room until the age of 5 and started school.” Or “She was unhinged” or “Her mother was a brilliant woman who excelled in all things and who shone brighter than the diamond she wore” or “She was an awkward child, backward, breathing in Fairy tales and force-fed on black market food.” Isn’t it all in the poems somewhere? Isn’t too much of it in the poems, an almost shameful display and listing of one’s LIFE STORY. I understand Kafka. I understand Rilke. Only through them can I understand myself. The life story or better named, the case history, is only the machine, a Kafka machine. It makes me want to hide, back in the room where I was locked.
+ Keith Richards: “I gave up cigarettes in 2019, heroin in 1978, cocaine in 2006. but I still like a drink.”
+ Guitarist Mick Taylor after his first week of rehearsals with the Stones: “I just couldn’t believe how bad they sounded. Their timing was awful. They sounded like a typical bunch of guys in a garage— playing out of tune and too loudly. I thought, ‘How is it possible that this band can make hit records?’”
+ Umberto Eco: “American coffee can be a pale solution served at a temperature of 100 degrees centigrade in plastic thermos cups, usually obligatory in railroad stations for purposes of genocide.”
+ His touch is like human fentanyl…
“Miracle healing” at a Sam’s Club… pic.twitter.com/zO90AMnjTp
— Christian Nightmares (@ChristnNitemare) September 24, 2023
+ On Tuesday, Ryan Walters, Oklahoma’s State Superintendent of Education, promised to bring Christian prayer back into the Sooner state’s public schools and claimed that the constitutional separation of church-state in the United States is a “myth.”
+ The British Museum has put out a call to the public and “experts” to help it find more than 2,000 stolen artifacts. Is the Greek embassy sending a delegation of archaeologists? I’m pretty sure they’d know the precise location of some large stolen treasures affixed to the walls in Room 18…
+ Stephen Strother’s review of Oppenheimer in the Spectre Journal focuses on the fascist nature of super-heroes:
We are now fifteen years into the superhero movie’s dominion over U.S. film production, discourse, and consumption. Since the release of Iron Man in 2008, our major film productions have been almost exclusively devoted to stories of heroic individuals using superpowers to defeat grand cosmic threats. It’s no surprise that the essentially fascist notion of a superhero—an individual of unique power acting to quell threats to the collective population is too weak and ignorant to defeat on its own, and exempt from all laws and norms in that pursuit by virtue of their unique power—has so taken root in the United States. After all, our atomized culture of individual striving, fearful and violent, produces a society of anxious worshippers of unchecked power, a people who do not look to one another to solve problems or make a society, but to the hoped-for benevolence of a few extraordinarily powerful individuals. It is a world primed for Great Men to save it, and U.S. entertainment conglomerates have been happy to provide us with endless fantasies of Great Men (and the very occasional Great Woman).
+ Martin Scorcese: “Out of the Past. I first saw that on a double bill with Bambi.”
+ Max Roach: “Sometimes we do use the music as a weapon against man’s inhumanity towards man.” Hit it, Max…
What I’m reading this week…
The Age of Insecurity: Coming Together as Things Fall Apart
(House of Anansi)
Many Things Under a Rock: the Mysteries of Octopuses
Abortion Pills Go Global: Reproductive Freedom Across Borders
(University of California)
What I’m listening to this week…
Afro Futuristic Dreams
Idris Ackamoor and the Pyramids
The Jeff Lorber Fusion
Playing Robots Into Heaven
A Concentrated Form of Thinking
“Writing is a concentrated form of thinking. I don’t know what I think about certain subjects, even today, until I sit down and try to write about them. Maybe I wanted to find more rigorous ways of thinking. We’re talking now about the earliest writing I did and about the power of language to counteract the wallow of late adolescence, to define things, define muddled experiences in economical ways. Let’s not forget that writing is convenient. It requires the simplest tools. A young writer sees that with words and sentences on a piece of paper that costs less than a penny he can place himself more clearly in the world. Words on a page, that’s all it takes to help him separate himself from the forces around him, streets and people and pressures and feelings. He learns to think about these things, to ride his own sentences into new perceptions.” – Don DeLillo