Running on Empty

When people say, “Joe Biden’s a decent man,” what Biden are they talking about? The man who befriended Strom Thurmond, the man who treated Anita Hill dismissively, the man who plagiarized Neil Kinnock’s speeches, the man who crafted the most punitive and racist crime laws of the 20th Century, the man who voted for the Iraq war and armed a genocide?

Animal Factories: On the Killing Floor

I grew up south of Indianapolis on the glacier-smoothed plains of central Indiana. My grandparents owned a small farm, whittled down over the years to about 40 acres of bottomland, in some of the most productive agricultural land in America. Like many of their neighbors they mostly grew field corn (and later soybeans), raised a few cows and bred a few horses.

Biden in the Bardo

Seymour Hersh said Biden isn’t all there. Thomas Friedman and Jane Fonda were reduced to tears. Rob Reiner, who watched the debate with Fonda in LA in the company of Doug Emhoff, the husband of Biden’s VP Kamala Harris, screamed at the TV: “We’ve lost.” One of the party’s top money-bundlers told Politico: “Our only hope is that he bows out, we have a brokered convention or he dies. Otherwise, we are fucking dead.”

The End of the Innocence: Railroading Marcellus Williams to Death Row

It was, as prosecutors often say, an evidence-rich crime scene. Felicia Gayle’s murderer left behind footprints in her blood, fingerprints, hair, and, most crucially, DNA on the knife used to kill her. The problem was: none of the evidence implicated the person the DA charged, tried, convicted, and sentenced to death for the crime.

Roaming Charges: The Man From Quiet Room 4

The entire time Al-Hadi was held in Afghanistan he never saw the sun, never knew what time it was, when to say his prayers or in which direction to say them. Unlike many other CIA prisoners, who were blasted with loud music, Al-Hadi was condemned to six months of silence. From his Quiet Cell, he couldn’t hear street noises, bird songs or human voices. He was living in a void.

No Way Out in Nuseirat: the Great Hostage Rescue Massacre 

The Americans knew. The Americans helped. The Americans provided the bombs, the helicopters, the fighter jets, the bullets and the tank shells. The Americans watched the attack unfold. They watched from Biden’s pier. They watched from drones. They watched as the streets filled with blood, bodies and limbs. Afterward, the Americans praised the rescue operation and said nothing about the dead Palestinian children and women. Nothing about the amputees and the eviscerated. Nothing about the three hostages who were also apparently killed in the Israeli attack, including an American citizen. 

Who By Fire? The Burning of Rafah’s Tent People

In eight months of war, Israel has killed thirty times more children in Gaza than Russia has killed Ukrainian children in two years and years months of war. Gaza’s population is just 1/15th the size of Ukraine’s. But instead of sanctioning Israel, Biden and Blinken have threatened to sanction the one agency that’s tried to hold it accountable: the ICJ. Every atrocity Israel gets away with encourages it to do something even more grotesque.

Set the Killers Free: the Pardoning of Daniel Perry

In one of the most egregious uses of the pardon power since Bill Clinton freed billionaire tax cheat, Israeli agent and international fugitive Marc Rich as the clock struck midnight on his lamentable administration, last week Texas Gov. Greg Abbott freed an avowed racist who ran a red light, before plunging his car into a crowd of protesters and fatally shooting a man who was trying to protect people from being run over. Abbott granted the killer a pardon, even though the gunman had been obsessed for months with the idea of killing BLM activists.

Follow the Missiles

Since October 7, the Biden administration has approved more than 100 Foreign Military Sales arms transfers to Israel. Two of the shipments used an emergency authority to circumvent Congressional review. The surge of weapons transfers to Israel began in early October and so much material was being shipped that the Pentagon had a difficult time finding enough cargo aircraft to deliver them.

Medicide in Gaza: the Killing of Dr. Adnan al-Bursh

Adnan Al-Bursh was intelligent, humane, and committed. He could speak multiple languages. He saw and could explain the ravages of the occupation and the horrors of the war. He was exactly the kind of person, like the still imprisoned Marwan Barghouti, Israel has always feared might become a leader of the Palestinian people. For that reason, he was also exactly the kind of person Israel has been targeting for elimination under the cover of its bombardment and invasion of Gaza.

Roaming Charges: Tin Cops and Biden Coming…

As America’s liberal elites declare open warfare on their own kids, it’s easy to see why they’ve shown no empathy at all for the murdered, maimed and orphaned children of Gaza. Back-of-the-head shots to 8-year-olds seem like a legitimate thing to protest in about the most vociferous way possible…But, as Dylan once sang, maybe I’m too sensitive or else I’m getting soft.

Witch Trial in Oklahoma: How the Prosecutorial Slut-Shaming of Brenda Andrew Put Her on Death Row

In the state’s closing arguments jurors were treated to the spectacle of the prosecutor in Brenda’s case, Gayland Gieger, hauling a suitcase toward the jury box, from which he extracted a pair of her thong panties, which he waved in front of them, saying, to audible gasps in the courtroom: “This [dangling a pink thong] is what we found in [the suitcase]. It’s been introduced into evidence. The grieving widow packs this [brandishing a red thong] to run off with her boyfriend. The grieving widow packs this [pulling out a black thong] to go sleep in a hotel room with her children and her boyfriend. The grieving widow packs this [pulling out a lacy bra] in her appropriate act of grief.”

Roaming Charges: How to Kill a Wolf in Society

There are many ways to kill a wolf in America. But most of them are mundane and prosaic. They’re not likely to bring you acclaim and notoriety. Few will hear about your feat if you simply gun down a wolf from a helicopter, kill a wolf with an M-80 cyanide bomb, pour gas into a wolf den filled with pups and strike a match, put out a contract on a wolf with a hired killer from the government, track down a wolf with a drone and shoot it with a long-range rifle and telescopic scope, inject rat poison in an elk carcass and wait for wolves (and whoever else) to feed on it and die an agonizing death, run one over with your cybertruck or, like the current Governor of Montana, catch a wolf in a trap and then after it has struggled to free itself for a few painful days heroically shoot it.

Incident on the Al-Rashid Coastal Road

The darkly ironic thing is that World Central Kitchens was supposed to serve as Biden’s replacement for UNRWA, a private relief effort under the control of the US, instead of the UN. Some Palestinians had even come to view Andrés as a US agent, his group a kind of Blackwater in humanitarian garb. And the Israelis just blew it up: one, two, three. Because any sustained aid to the Palestinians subverts their goal of using starvation to force them to either die or leave Gaza. The arrogance would stun anyone but the benumbed Biden.

Roaming Charges: Nowhere Men

When Joe Lieberman arrived in the US Senate in 1989, Strom Thurmond greeted him by saying, “I understand we think a lot alike in the way we do things.” “Yes, sir, I think we do,” admitted Lieberman. Strom probably learned about this reassuring profile of Lieberman’s center-right political beliefs from his weekly lunch dates in the Senate cafeteria with Joe Biden who, like Lieberman, was one of the founding nowhere men of the Democratic Leadership Council, whose mission was to keep the Democratic Party from ever straying to the Left of Michael Dukakis…

Roaming Charges: L’État Sans Merci

Willie Pye’s lawyer was not only incompetent, he was also, according to other lawyers, a racist, and frequently made racial slurs about his own clients, telling one colleague he thought “young black men were lazy” and saying of another client facing execution: “This little nigger deserves the death penalty.”

Roaming Charges: Too Obvious to be Real

Human kind Cannot bear very much reality. – T.S. Eliot. “Burnt Norton” + An AP poll from this week found that 6 in 10 US adults doubt the mental capability of Biden and Trump. + What it looks like when the Void stares into you… + Biden obsessively pursues deals with the far right–even [...]

Roaming Charges: Somewhat Immature

As Biden moves to out-Trump Trump on the border, he may end up wrecking what’s left of the economy. A recent Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report credits the “migrant surges” with adding $7 trillion to the US economy, lowering the federal deficit and being the prime reason the US economy has outpaced EU nations since the pandemic.

A Cry in the Darkness: “Please Come, Come Take Me”

The massacre on that street in Tel al-Hawa took place three days after Israel had been put on notice by the International Court of Justice that it needed to stop committing acts of genocide, stop killing civilians, stop killing children and health care workers, a ruling that Israel has not just ignored but openly defied. Instead, Israel blames the victims of its atrocities. Tel al-Hawa was a closed military zone, the IDF says. Any Palestinians moving on the streets were legitimate targets, the IDF says. The rules of engagement were those of the US troops at My Lai: shoot anything that moves. Even young girls and the paramedics who rushed to treat their wounds.

Roaming Charges: Comfortably Dumb

The Democrats now have the perfect excuse for Biden betraying nearly every promise he made during his 2020 campaign, unfortunately for them it will prove fatal to his reelction: he doesn’t remember making them. According to the Special Counsel’s report on Biden’s mishandling of classified documents, Biden is “an elderly man with a faulty memory.” And his memory got “worse” over the course of the investigation to the point where Biden “did not remember when he was vice president” or “even within several years, when his son Beau died.”

Execution as Advertisement: Killing Kenneth Smith

Kenneth Smith was executed by the state of Alabama for a contract killing. He was paid by a pastor to murder his wife. The state of Alabama paid an execution squad to strap Kenneth Smith to a death gurney, clamp a mask over his face, and suffocate him to death with nitrogen gas. Smith thrashed and convulsed for at least four minutes as the nitrogen squeezed the oxygen out of his lungs. What is the message here?

Roaming Charges: The Impotent Empire

The problem with American politics isn’t that it’s polarized (we need more polarization over inequality, over war, over climate), but that it’s polarized around two of the most inept and ridiculous figures in American history. The only two people Americans can apparently think of to run their dying Empire have both lost their frigging marbles, if they ever had any, which is a sure sign that your Empire is in fact dying.

Roaming Charges: It’s in the Bag

Though you may not have heard about it given the minimal press coverage, over 400,000 people converged on DC last weekend to demand an end to the US-financed war in Gaza. That’s 300,000 more people than voted in the Iowa caucuses on Monday night, many of whom cast their preferences on slips of paper stuffed into paper bags. Still, Trump barely won a majority of his own party’s vote. As my friend Michael Colby noted: “In 1980, Carter got 59% of the caucus vote (Kennedy got 32%) and he was considered toast for the general election.” Trump won about the same percentage of the Iowa vote as LBJ did in New Hampshire in 1968, a humiliating showing that prompted him to pull out of the race.

The Gasmen of Holman Prison: If at First You Don’t Kill, Try, Try to Kill Again

The first time the State of Alabama tried to kill Kenneth Eugene Smith, he was strapped to the death gurney for four agonizing hours, while lawyers for the state scrambled to overturn a federal appeals court injunction that had halted the planned execution earlier in the day on the grounds that Alabama’s method of execution might violate Smith’s rights against cruel and unusual punishment. 

Roaming Charges: Let the (Far) Right Ones In

I shed no tears for Harvard, an institution that has inflicted untold misery and bloodshed on the world. For all I care, it could become the target of a hostile takeover by financial pirates trained in its own classrooms, access to which they gained through legacy admissions. This is, of course, pretty much what happened, at least in the mind of one of the homegrown Visigoths who breached its ivy-tangled walls in search of the university president’s head. 

From Taser Face to the Goon Squad: the Year in Police Crime

An off-duty Chicago cop named Joseph Cabrera shoots at an unarmed man that he was harassing while driving drunk. The cop then calls CPD, lies about the incident and has the person he shot at arrested, saying he attacked the cop. Eventually the lies unravel, but the cop’s charges are reduced and he ends up with probation in a plea deal. When other defendants in the court room awaiting their cases heard the details of the case, one gasped, “He’s a cop?” Another said, “He got probation?…Damn!”

Roaming Charges: The Sickness of Symbolic Things

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.

Roaming Charges: Leave It to the Men in Charge

+ Americans are experiencing a rare chance to relive in real-time echoes of the darkest episodes of our own history–from the howitzering of the exhausted Nez Perce in the Bear Paws to the slaughter of nearly frozen Lakota women and children at Wounded Knee; from the interment of Japanese-Americans to the grotesqueries of Abu Ghraib–and seem to have decided it was all for the greater good.

Roaming Charges: The Dr. Caligari of American Empire

Henry Kissinger’s greatest triumph–and perhaps his only real talent– was to seduce three generations of American political and media elites into believing that his diplomatic genius could be measured by the Himalayan heights of the body count he left in his wake.

Roaming Charges: Politics of the Lesser Exterminators

The headline read: “Democratic Staffers Told to Let Constant Calls for “Cease-Fire” Go to Voicemail.” This was for a story the Huffington not the Onion, but it serves as an apt description of Biden’s entire political strategy on everything from Gaza, Ukraine, and climate change to health care, the border wall and student loan forgiveness.

Roaming Charges: Shrinkwrapped, How Sham Psychology Fueled the Texas Death Machine

Despite billing $480 per hour for his lethal mumbo jumbo, Dr. Coons admitted that not only did he rarely interview the people he assessed, he never followed up to see if his predictions of “future dangerousness” were borne out. In the wake of that decision, Coons stopped testifying in capital cases altogether.

Roaming Charges: That Oceanic Feeling

Someone challenged me to come up with anything “nice” to say about Ronald Reagan. I thought for a minute and replied, “Yes, He cut-and-ran as fast as he could from Lebanon after 241 US troops (mostly Marines) were killed in a bombing, instead of starting another Middle East war, as opposed to all of his successors who keep looking for ways to start new ones.”

Roaming Charges: Gaza Without Mercy

When you declare total war against Gaza, which has been under perpetual siege since 1967 after being seized by Israel during the Six Day War, what is it you’re going to war against? There are no airbases, no army bases, no tank battalions, no air defense systems, no naval ports, no oil refineries, no rail system, no troop barracks, no armored personnel carriers, no howitzers, no satellite systems, no attack helicopters, no fighter jets, no anti-tank batteries,  no submarines,  no command-and-control centers. Just people, most of them women and kids. It’s why the entire population must be dehumanized, turned into “human animals” whose lives don’t matter.

Roaming Charges: Our Man in Jersey

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.

Roaming Charges: Then They Walked

First, the two cops knocked on the wrong door. Then they didn’t identify themselves. Then they shot the Lopez family dog. Then they shot Ismail Lopez in the back of the head. Then they cuffed his corpse. Then the city said Lopez had no civil rights to violate because he was an undocumented migrant. Then they walked.

Roaming Charges: Just Write a Check

Shortly after learning that a Seattle police officer had run over and killed a woman at a crosswalk, Daniel Auderer, a Seattle cop and the vice-president of the police guild called the union’s president and joked about the young woman’s death. “She is dead,” Auderer says. Then he laughs. “No, it’s a regular person. Yeah, yeah, just write a check, just, yeah.” Auderer laughs again. “$11,000. She was 26 anyway, she had limited value.” Jaahnavi Kandula, who was only 23 when she was killed, was a Master’s student at Northeastern University and financially supporting her mother back in India. The cop who called her a person of “limited value” has been the subject of eighteen Office of Police Accountability investigations since 2014, costing the city more than $2,000,000 in lawsuits.

Roaming Charges: The Pitch of Frenzy

If you need a reminder of the crimes of the Pinochet regime, which both Thatcher and the Vatican begged the Blair government to turn a blind eye toward, consider the account of Luz de las Nieves Ayress, a 25-year-old graduate student, who was arrested by Pinochet’s secret police shortly after the overthrow of Salvador Allende. In a sworn statement, Ayress recounted that after her arrest she was stripped naked, had a electrodes attached to her mouth, ears, breasts, vagina and anus, then was repeatedly shocked with electric currents. But this ordeal, Ayress wrote, was “the easy part.” They “electroshocked everyone,” she said. Then the torture got much worse. During her four-year prison term, months of which were spent in solitary confinement, Ayress says she was repeatedly raped, had her breasts and stomach slashed, and was sexually assaulted by dogs.

Roaming Charges: Through a Sky Darkly

The tragedy of Lahaina is compounded by the kind of government incompetence corporate indifference we witnessed in New Orleans. Despite repeated warnings, Hawaiian Electric refused to shut down the power lines, which have contributed to killer fires in California and Oregon, even as they were whipped apart by near hurricane-force winds, sending spark-showering wires writhing in parched grasses. Then, the only road out of town was barricaded by police and cars were either stuck in line or sent back into the burning town. Only those chose to drive around it ended up surviving the fast-moving fires. During Katrina, the bridge to Gretna was one of the few ways out of the flooded city, until police used force to stop desperate pedestrians, most of whom were black, from crossing it.

The Night the Cops Tried to Break Thelonious Monk

Usually Monk walked. He ambled across the city on feet as light as a tap-dancer. He weaved his way down block after block, whistling, humming, snapping his fingers. Monk liked to take different routes, but most of them led eventually to the Hudson River, where the large man in the strange hat would lean on the railing and watch the lights of the city dance on the black water.

Roaming Charges: Mad at the World

A trove of newly disclosed documents show how Robert Oppenheimer’s boss, the imperious Gen. Lesley Groves, repeatedly downplayed the risk of radiation exposure from atomic testing and the blasts at Hiroshima and Nagasaki themselves. Groves claimed those hit with lethal doses of radiation would die “without undue suffering. In fact, they say it is a very pleasant way to die.” Oppenheimer himself was intimately aware of Groves’ deceptions about the dangers of radioactive fallout. But even after leaving the Manhattan Project, Oppenheimer kept quiet about the grotesque consequences of Groves’ lies.

Little Boy and Fat Man Earrings: a Nuclear Parable

Japan was on the brink of defeat before the atomic blasts and, in fact, it is now clear that the Truman Administration was rushing to use the bombs before the Soviets entered the war, fearing they might have to divide up a defeated Japan into zones of occupation as they had Germany. The atomic bombs themselves,  Little Boy (Hiroshima) and Fat Man (Nagasaki), have now become fetishized as macabre instruments of mass death, even to the point of replicas being sold in US National Parks and Museums.

Roaming Charges: Fighting Our Real Enemies

I finally unearthed my notebook from the day of that first call from Sinéad. There’s a funny bit I’d forgotten. After we’d smoothed the waters and she agreed to drop her suit and write for us instead, O’Connor said: “One more thing, Jeffrey [the fierceness returning to her voice] You’ve got to promise never to run another story by that fucking c-word (she could outswear Lemmy from Mötorhead) Ruth Fowler!” Fowler had written the offensive piece. I replied, a little tremulously now: “No. I promise not to banish you no matter what outrageous thing you write or what nasty shit they say about you and I won’t ban Ruth, either.” She sighed. “OK, a girl has to try. Bye lover.” Bye lover. How could I have ever forgotten?

Roaming Charges: Political Crying Games

Is AIPAC obsolete? It seems clear the political obedience to Israel on the Hill has been fully internalized by both parties with the occasional heterodoxical strays being severely disciplined from the inside before the Israel lobby can even crank out a press release. Last week we were presented with a perfect example of how this dynamic plays out. During a panel discussion at the NetRoots conference, progressive caucus chair Pramila Jayapal called Israel “a racist state.”  Her remarks would be unremarkable, anywhere but here, where they set off a political alarm system that blared across the continent. Jayapal’s diagnosis is, of course, something Israelis, including Israeli Jews, say about their own country nearly every day. Indeed, they could have read the speeches of Benjamin Netanyahu himself, who declared: “Israel is not a state of all its citizens but rather, the nation state of the Jewish people and only them.”

Roaming Charges: Clusterfuck in Vilnius

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

Roaming Charges: Strange Coup

Anyone who presumes to tell you what is going on in Russia now is almost certainly wrong. That includes me. So caveat lector. It is a war that confounds predictions, a war of dizzying turns, blunders and prolonged stagnation, as if from the beginning the conflict had entered not so much a deep fog as a hall of mirrors, where even professional deceivers emerge deceived.

Sacrificial Wolves

In May of this year on the northern border of Yellowstone, a wolf-hating rancher lured another pack of Yellowstone wolves out of the park to his ranch. He baited the wolves by setting out sheep carcasses on his property. The rancher waited until park wolves showed up and opened fire, killing a black two-year old female, who had been born and reared in Yellowstone’s Hayden Valley.

Roaming Charges: All the Girls Around Him Say He Had It Coming

When I think about victims of the Espionage Act, my thoughts immediately go to Ethel Rosenberg, convicted not, as many believe, for treason, but of being engaged in a conspiracy to commit “espionage ” The case against Ethel was thin and manufactured. Even J. Edgar Hoover opposed her execution, which was in the hands of Federal Judge Irving Kaufman, a close friend of her tormentor and prosecutor Roy Cohn.  In condemning the couple to death, Kaufman bizarrely  blamed them for starting the Korean War, a judgement so irrational it alone should have been grounds for reversal. It was later revealed that over the course of the trial and again before imposing the death penalty, Kaufman had engaged in secret and grossly unethical communications with Cohn, conversations which sealed Ethel’s fate. Her electrocution was nothing short of judicial murder.

Infamy at Sea, Cover-Up in DC: Israel’s Attack on the USS Liberty

Before leaving Gore with the check, Cockburn reached into his leather saddlebag and extracted a copy of The Politics of Anti-Semitism. “Jeffrey and I thought you might enjoy reading our latest bit of heresy.” Vidal turned to the table of contents, grunted and said, “As someone who has been scurrilously tarred as an anti-semite myself, why wasn’t I asked to contribute?” Good question. “The next volume is entirely yours, Gore,” Alex offered. Vidal thumbed through the collection and stopped at one of the chapters. “Ah, the Liberty!” Vidal exclaimed. “That’s where it all began. If you can kill American sailors and still get rewarded with fighter jets, you can get away with any atrocity. The story needs to be told and retold until the implications finally sink in!”

Roaming Charges: The Shame of the Game

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

Roaming Charges: Living With the Unacceptable

Brown’s Cost of War project estimates that around 4.6 million people have perished as a result of the post-911 wars. The Brown researchers could have added another million or so wrecked lives back here on the home front. Decades of war abroad have left the US with a rotting infrastructure and paralyzed political system, its population poorer, sicker and more unequal, its streets filled the homeless and the addicted, its prisons swollen, its social welfare programs gutted, its schools turned into shooting galleries and its life expectancy rate in free fall. Every drone and missile strike in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Yemen left an economic crater crater in places like Mobile, Des Moines, Roanoke and Tacoma.