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Roaming Charges: Supply Chain of Fools

Do CounterPunch, Outubro 15, 2021
Por JEFFREY ST. CLAIR



Cargo ship, lower Columbia River.
Photo: Jeffrey St. Clair.

The swirl of recent stories proclaiming the “degradation” of democracy has been so dizzying it’s difficult to remember which country they’re referring to. Surely not this one?

The attempt of the elites to restrict voting rights to their own propertied class has been on the of the defining features of American “democracy”. From 1789 to 1835, free black men were able to vote in Tennessee, Virginia & North Carolina, (as well as many northern states). Even slave owners like Andrew Jackson and Sam Houston campaigned for their votes. But after Nat Turner’s rebellion in 1831, when human “property” rose up against the ownership class, most of the southern states, freaked out at the revelation of just how tenuous their grip on power really was, enacted new constitutions outlawing black suffrage, while the northern states, even the ones which mouthed the rhetoric of abolition, enacted Black Codes, deny black suffrage, prohibiting blacks on juries and even restricting black residence (In Ohio, blacks had to pay bonds when they entered to the state). Illinois enacted its Black Codes in 1858, and despite repeated pleas from abolitions and black activists in Chicago, Lincoln, two years from being elected president, refused to speak out against it.

Less than six months after Lee’s surrender at Appomattox, the southern states began enacting their own Black Codes which were nearly has onerous as the old peculiar institution itself. South Carolina passed a law ordering blacks confined to their former plantations, restricted the right to travel, and compelled them to work off their freedom in the fields for 12 hours a day. Mississippi made it a crime punishable by flogging and forced labor in work camps for blacks to hunt or fish, thereby making them even more dependent on white businesses for food. Florida enacted a vaguely worded statute that made it a felony for blacks to ride in public transport or to display “disrespect” for their white employers or business owners. The punishment was to be publicly whipped and locked in a pillory.

In July of 1866, black activists and white radical Republicans gathered in New Orleans for a conference on civil rights and black suffrage during reconstruction and the drafting of a new state constitution. The meeting, which was held at the Mechanics Institute, was publicly denounced by the city’s new mayor, John Monroe, a former Confederate officer and racist, who had been pardoned for war crimes by the new president and southern sympathizer Andrew Johnson. Monroe orchestrated a bloody attack on the conference, which is graphicly depicted in Ron Chernow’s hefty biography of Ulysses S. Grant:

Around 1 PM, a procession of black delegates marched to the institute, brandishing an American flag, when it clashed with a white mob, backed by police, many of them Confederate veterans. The whites stomped, kicked, and clubbed the black marchers mercilessly. Policemen smashed the Institute’s windows and fired into it indiscriminately until the floor grew slick with blood. When blacks inside shook a white flag from a window, the white policemen ignored it and invaded the building. They emptied their revolvers on the convention delegates, who desperately sought to escape. Some leapt from windows and were shot dead when they landed. Those lying wounded on the ground were stabbed repeatedly, their skulls bashed in with brickbats. The sadism was so wanton that men who knelled and prayed for mercy were killed instantly, while dead bodies were stabbed and mutilated. Dr. Anthony Dostie, a well-known white Republican [and abolitionist], was shot five times and slashed with a sword for good measure. “Let Dostie’s skin be forthwith stripped and sold to PT Barnum,” the Mobile Tribune taunted, “the proceeds to the Freedman’s Bureau and negro newspapers.” In the end, the riot left 34 blacks and 3 white Republicans dead, with 160 wounded, in a chilling display of racial hatred. The son of Hannibal Hamlin, Lincoln’s first vice president, commented on the sickening butchery: “I have seen death on the battlefield but time will erase the effects of that; the whole sale slaughter and the little regard paid to human life I witnessed here on the 30th of July I shall never forget.”

Just how bad was New Orleans, and the other southern cities, after the war? One of the most vivid early surveys was written by Carl Schurz, the Prussian exile, revolutionary socialist and admirer of Karl Marx, who served as an officer in Grant’s Army and later in both Lincoln and Grant’s administrations. Schurz’s 48-page report (which was suppressed by Andrew Johnson) described freed blacks living in destitution, being forced into indentured servitude, and terrorized and murdered by white mobs and police. The situation grew so bad in New Orleans that the genocidal William Sheridan had to be sent in to enforce desegregation. Sheridan started with the city’s police department and trolley car system. Sheridan forced the city to stock its police department with Union soldiers, including a retinue of black troops. New Orleans streetcars were completely segregated: one system for whites and other limited run for blacks. The black street cars were marked with yellow stars, an eerie foreshadowing of Nazi-occupied Europe. Sheridan stripped the stars from the black cars and proclaimed the entire system open to all riders, regardless of race. When the owners of the streetcar companies tried to evict black riders, Sheridan vowed to take over the companies. These battles over desegregation of public facilities in the south would reverberate over the next 100 years.

How, one might ask, is it possible to “degrade” from this kind of carnage? When was that golden age of American democracy from whence we are now falling?

***

+ It is a barometer of the diminished condition of both the Democratic Party and Bernie Sanders that Sanders is the most aggressive defender of Biden’s economic plan. Instead of pushing Biden to the Left, Bernie is defending Biden’s timid plan from the assaults of the Democratic right.

+ Close to 100% of John Deere’s UAW workers voted to authorize a strike. This was the reaction of the liberal senator from Illinois Dick Durbin: “I’m worried about it. We don’t need a strike at a major employer like John Deere.”

+ Melinda Gates owns $1 billion in John Deere stock. So far the newly liberated billionairess has remained silent on the company’s tactics to force a strike.

+ After Kellogg’s moved to cut their pay and benefits, the workers who make your Fruit Loops and Rice Krispies went on strike at all of the company’s US cereal plants, fed up with 7 day work weeks, 16-hour shifts of forced overtime and work schedules that often saw them working 120 straight days. While the company pleaded economic necessity, their own SEC filings told a much different story. Kellogg’s amassed over $1 billion in profits last year and their CEO pocket $11.6 million in total compensation.

+ As Biden vows to keep the ports of LA and Long Beach running 24/7, likely gutting labor rules to in the process in effort to speed the import of cheap goods from China and South Korea, it’s hard not to reach the conclusion that the most pressing supply chain issue is housing, where there’s not a single state in the US where an employee who works a 40-hour can afford a 2-bedroom rental at the current minimum wage of $7.25 hour.



+ Sensing fresh opportunities for profit from human misery, Consolidated Edison, one of the country’s largest utilities, made huge profits during the pandemic by jacking up rates on millions of consumers in New York.

+ The pandemic-related utility debt in the US has topped $32 billion. Now more and more people across the country are getting their power shut off

+ According to the Federal Reserve Distributional Financial Accounts, America’s middle class now holds a smaller share of wealth than the top 1%. The middle 60% (by income) saw its wealth share dive to 26.6% of national wealth, the lowest level on record.



+ For the past 40 years, it’s been an ironclad rule of American politics that Republicans generally at least try to do what they promised their fringe they’d do and the Democrats generally find ways to justify whatever the Republicans ended up doing…

+ It turns out that Krysten Sinema, who escaped to Paris and London this week, has been teaching a political fundraising class in Arizona. Sinema’s syllabus is basically cribbed from the HRC Master Class on cultivating donors: “Say one thing in public, another in private.” Which is, of course, why you have to confront her in the privacy of the bathroom to get a straight answer on any policy question.

+ In the new Texas House districts passed this week by the state legislature map whites, who make up 40% state’s population , will control 59% districts; Hispanics, who make up 39% of the population, will control 20% districts; and Blacks, who make of up 12% of Texas’ population, will control only 2.7% of the districts.

+ An analysis of the 2020 Census suggests that the undercount of the black population may be as much as three times higher than the undercount in 2010 that the the undercount of black children may be 10 times higher than the undercount of the last census, prompting Marc Morial, president and chief executive of the National Urban League, to declare: “This might be our greatest undercount since 1960 or 1950.”

+ How did Wickr become the dominate encrypted chat platform for government agencies? A $1.6 million infusion of cash from the CIA probably helped.

+ Congress is pressing Secretary of State Tony Blinken to fill a post overseeing “Havana Syndrome,” the mysterious headaches and tinnitus afflicting diplomats and CIA officers around the globe. Blinken should fill the post with a shrink and rename it Ghosts of Empire syndrome. He won’t, of course. Because Blinken is quite committed to blaming Cuba for all kinds of phantom acts…

+ Biden has named Christopher Hill as his ambassador to Serbia. Connoisseurs of Democratic wars will remember Hill as the devious diplomat who shaped the 1999 accords in what Alex and I referred to at the time as a “two-bit pastry shop called Rambouillet,” which were designed precisely to insure their rejection by Yugoslavia, which Madeline Albright and Bill Clinton could then use to justify NATO’s bombing campaign.

+ If Portland is being “destroyed,” as we’re being told by everyone from Reason magazine to FoxNews to the NYTs, it’s by these motherfuckers not ANTIFA or BLM or the houseless population: “For decades, the Woodspring Apartments offered low-income housing for people 55+. The building owners didn’t renew the affordable housing contract, meaning rent will go up by about $600 by 2023.”

+ Newt Gingrich’s 2012 presidential campaign, which brayed incessantly about fiscal responsibility, still owes its vendors more than $4.6 million.



+ Gingrich’s personal net worth: $9 million.

+ Katie Couric admits to editing out Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s condemnation of black football players to spare her public embarrassment. Ginsburg told Couric that those who kneel during the national anthem were displaying “contempt for a government that has made it possible for their parents and grandparents to live a decent life.”

+ Even more embarrassing for all concerned, Couric says she consulted David Brooks about RGB’s answer and Brooks replied, Ginsburg probably “didn’t understand the question,” although she was sitting on the court hearing complex constitutional matters and her answer suggests she knew exactly what was asked and how she felt about it. In her decades on the federal bench, RGB only hired one black law clerk.

+ As Rebecca Nagle has pointed out, Ginsberg also cited the 15th Century European legal “doctrine of discovery” in her written decision in City of Sherrill v. Oneida Indian Nation of New York, ruling that that Indigenous people didn’t have land rights because they weren’t Christian.

+ I recall when Couric accused Diane Sawyer of “taking a knee” in order get interviews…

+ As liberal arts colleges, state universities and community colleges struggle with declining enrollment and sagging budgets, the pandemic has been very, very good to Harvard, which ended the fiscal with a $283 million surplus and saw its endowment spike upward 34% to a staggering $53.2 billion. Not to be outdone, Yale reported that its own endowment investments earned 40% last year.

+ The state auditor of Mississippi has ruled that Brett Favre illegally spent $828,000 in welfare funds meant for poor families in the state. Favre banked $1.1 million for speaking engagements that he never attended for Families First For Mississippi, a non-profit which has been indicted in the welfare scam.


While the rest of them dudes were gettin’ their kicks
Boy, I beg your pardon, I was gettin’ mine
Mississippi Welfare Queen
If you know what I mean

+ Ex-US Army officer Brent Eastwood’s envious description of Russia’s new flame-thrower tank: “The heavy flamethrower TOS-1 ‘Pinocchio’ is one of the most terrible means of destruction created by man. Reinforced concrete shelters can’t protect against it, explosions of shells fired by Pinocchio literally suck the life out of a person.” The US better catch up. We wouldn’t want a flame-thrower gap to develop…

+ SmartLandmines networked on the SmartPowerGrid. The latest innovation from today’s Green Army. And they’re reusable!

+ Meanwhile, robot dogs are now being manufactured which are capable of having 6.5 millimeter assault rifles mounted on their “backs.”

+ Remember two years ago, when Gabbard was being touted as the “peace candidate”?



+ It’s long been a practice among NYPD cops to make arrests for low-level offenses at the end of their shifts order to maximize their overtime pay. They call it “collars for dollars.” It’s been epidemic under DeBlasio and will probably only get worse under ex-NYPD detective Eric Adams.

+ More than 75% of jail suicides involve people who had not been convicted of a crime. Nearly half had been held for a week or less at the time they died.

+ Trump’s declaration that MAGA won’t vote in 2022 and 2024 unless Republicans move to overturn the results of the 2020 election must come as quite a relief to Biden and his 38% (still dropping) approval rating…

+ Americans are paying pharmaceutical corporations more for the world’s 20 top-selling drugs than the rest of the world combined.

+ According to a new Kaiser Family Foundation survey, 83% of the public supports having the federal government negotiate drug prices, even after hearing arguments for and against the idea. Of course, our politics has never been about what most Americans support. US politics has never been about what most Americans “support”. It’s about what we demand and how fervently we go about demanding it…

+ This is the kind of noxious harassment school board members across the country are having to put up with from militant anti-vaxsers…


My entire time on twitter, I have never once asked you to retweet something. I am asking now. Please let people hear Brevard, FL School Board member Jennifer Jenkins tonight detail the threats and intimidation her, her family, and her neighbors have been subjected to this year. pic.twitter.com/6iAMxeKd9P

— Ron Filipkowski (@RonFilipkowski) October 12, 2021

+ Heckuva job, Boris!

Daily Covid cases on Tuesday:

UK: 40,224
Germany: 4,872
Netherlands: 2,711
Belgium: 1,594
Italy: 1,561
Ireland: 1,357
Spain: 1,277
France: 1,120

+ Here in Oregon, more people died (610) in September than in any previous month of the pandemic.

+ In marked contrast to Kyrie “Flat Earth” Irving, Muhammad Ali filmed an ad promoting vaccines for school kids in NYC in 1978…

+ I’m a little surprised Tucker Carlsen’s intrepid team of deep researchers haven’t unearthed this revolutionary war anecdote as an example of the threat that vaccinations pose to national security. In 1776 George Washington, the newly-minted commander of the Continental Army, left his post in New York City, then threatened by the British Navy, for Philadelphia in order to get Martha inoculated against the small pox virus. So tender were his affections for her that he refused to leave her side, as she recovered from the after effects of the variolation in Thomas Jefferson’s apartment, thus neglecting to inform the Continental congress of the imminent threat to New York. Fortunately for the revolutionaries, George and Martha were accompanied back to New York by John Adams, who transcribed Washington’s military plans to defend the city and relayed them back to Philadelphia. Of course, Washington’s decision (over-riding a proclamation by the Continental Congress itself) to mandate inoculations for the entire Continental Army likely helped the rag-tag troops survive the travails of Valley Forge and maintain a healthy enough force amid the spreading plague to defeat the British in the decisive battles of the war: Princeton, Saratoga, and Yorktown. Washington knew from his experience in the French and Indian Wars that disease was the primary menace, the variola virus having been the cause of nearly 90 percent of the casualties in that conflict.

+ Augustine of Hippo was one of the first epidemiologists. It was he who theorized, in his great debate with Pelagius, that the virus Peccatum Originale (original sin) was transmitted through semen. Both the infection rate and infection mortality rates were absolute.

+ Speaking of Biblical seminal fluids, it is a measure of the level of public skepticism in the classical age that soon after the distribution of the gospels of Matthew and Luke, with their slightly varied accounts of the circumstances of the birth of the Christ child, many people saw this a tall tale, which bore such striking similarities to the campfire stories of the rapine lust of Olympian deities for virginal humans they’d been entertained with in their youths. So an alternate theory spread across the Mediterranean in the Second Century AD that the true story of the Messiah’s parthenogenic conception resulted not from the Holy Spirit’s artificial insemination of the unwitting Mary with the Divine Seed, but from an assignation she’d made with a certain Roman tribune named Panthera, a wry Latinate pun on “virgin”. (See Robert Van Voorst’s Jesus Outside the New Testament: An Introduction to the Ancient Evidence.)

+ There are many reasons to read Greg Grandin’s The Empire of Necessity but one of the sections which leapt off the page at me during a pandemic re-reading was his description of some of the earliest epidemiology studies that were conducted in the fetid bowels of the slave ships, where viral and bacterial infections spread in a matter of days, often killing 50 to 70 percent of the “human cargo.” Among its many horrors, the slave trade was a primary contributor to the global spread of tropical diseases and the victims became the unacknowledged sources for some of the most profound advances in medical science of the early modern era. (Note: You might benefit from reading Melville’s perplexing novella “Benito Cereno” before reading Grandin’s devastating exposition on the slave trade and slave rebellions.)

+ Another nugget from Grandin’s Empire of Necessity that I overlooked during my initial reading several years ago was the fact that although many sea-faring ships of the 18th & 19th centuries didn’t have a Bible on board (and perhaps even fewer believers), most carried the complete works of Shakespeare, a volume on which oaths were sworn.

+ According to the International Energy Agency, global carbon emissions will decline just 40% by 2050 under the industrial countries’ current pledges, if they even manage to meet those.



+ Hey Joe, where you going with that black death in your hand…Coal usage under Biden has spiked higher than it ever did under Trump. U.S. power plants are on track to burn 23% more coal this year than last, the first increase since 2013, despite Biden’s pledge to eliminate carbon emissions from the power grid. The rebound comes after coal consumption by utilities fell by 36% under Trump, who gutted environmental regulations in an unsuccessful effort to boost the fuel.

+ 50% of all new solar power in the world is being produced in China. In 2020, China’s solar power generation reached 142 billion kWh.

+ The production of steel, cement and ammonia alone emit about one-fifth of all human-caused CO2.

+ So far, 2021 ranks only behind 2020 for having the most billion-dollar weather and climate disasters in a year. The first nine months of 2021 saw 18 separate disasters that claimed 538 lives and cost $104.8 billion. Hurricane Ida’s cost alone will top $65 billion, which is almost half the cost of Biden’s entire Clean Electricity Plan. Ida took a week to inflict its damage. Biden’s plan will be doled out across a decade, in the unlikely event it even passes.

+ Forest firefighter Kristen Allen, a 25-year veteran, on this summer’s Dixie Fire: “15 years ago, a 100,000-acre fire would be the largest fire of your career. Now, we have one-million-acre fires. It’s hard even for us to comprehend.”

+ This week Deb Haaland announced the Interior Department’s ruinous scheme to erect wind “farms” along nearly the entire US coastline. Instead of democratizing soft energy production, the Biden administration is intent industrializing it, keeping it firmly in the corporate grip with all the attendant economic, environmental and social justice inequities that entails.

+ In 2000, fluorinated pesticides accounted only account for only 9% of pesticides used in the US. They now account for 70% of pesticides approved since 2015.

+ Sometime in the next five years, the earth’s atmospheric CO2 will top 427 parts per million, surpassing the peak of the mid-Pliocene warming period 3.3 million years ago, when temperatures were 3 to 4C hotter and sea levels were sixty feet higher than today.

+ In 2015 California endured its hottest winter on record. In 2020 California experienced was hit with its hottest fall on record. And now, in 2021, California has just experienced its hottest summer on record.



+ A small Alabama company called Diversified Energy now owns more oil and gas wells than Exxon. It acquired this empire by buying up old gas wells cheap, that other companies off-loaded because they’re spewing out methane. Diversified Energy doesn’t seem overly concerned about this environment liability…

+ According to the World Nuclear Industry’s own annual report, nuclear power is becoming increasingly inconsequential on the global grid. Nuclear capacity is up, but production is downward spiral. “Put out the light, then put out the lights…”

+ 2.1 million Kenyans are at risk of starvation, as a prolonged drought has scorched more than half the country, killing livestock, wilting crops and drying up water supplies.

+ What we come to: Bounty hunters for abortion providers in Texas and wolves in Idaho

+ Federal agents have now killed 8 wolf pups from a back that high-school students have tracked for years. “I understand a lot of people think wolves are dangerous animals. But it was so shocking to see that federal agents were the ones to come into a pups’ den to kill them, even though the pups didn’t do anything,” Michel Liao, a member of Boise’s Timberline Highs School’s wolf club told the Washington Post.

+ The North Atlantic Cod stocks off the coast of Labrador and Newfoundland are in a state of near terminal collapse



+ The Sacramento River Delta smelt are in even worse shape. No smelt at all were found in the river during a September survey. It seems increasingly likely the fish species will be extinct in the wild by the end of the year.

+ Meanwhile, a new poll shows 59% of Washington voters surveyed support a plan to remove the fish-killing Snake River dams in a last desperate effort to keep this imperiled salmon and steelhead from suffering a similar fate.

+ I hope everyone read Dave Clennon’s demolition of Tom Hanks for his role in eviscerating the SAG union in CounterPunch this week. Clennon’s exposé elicited this response about Hank’s activities from across this pond:

A great article. However, it is missing a major story about Tom which proves he is a union buster. Tom Hanks was co-producer of the TV series “Band of Brothers” shot in the UK. Tom, in consultation with the then UK Prime Minister, Tony Blair, managed to get an agreement whereby principal actors on the series would not get any residuals – yes nothing at all. In return for Tony Blair’s help, as newspapers reported at the time, his nephew was given a role on the set of “Band of Brothers”. Denying principal actor residuals is union busting pure and simple.

Paul Edney SAG-AFTRA

+ It is not widely remembered that Harriet Beecher Stowe’s scathing attack on slavery in the South, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, became a bestseller in England, where it sold 500,000 copies–though Stowe herself didn’t earn a pence from the sales because of the lack of copyright laws. So Stowe went on the lecture circuit instead, where she soon encountered the Duchess of Argyle, a certain Elizabeth Campbell, who presented herself as an abolitionist and friend of the oppressed everywhere. The Duchess had a problem and she inquired if Ms. Stowe might be willing where the stories of their brutal treatment began to appear in local papers. This caused much distress in the Campbell Clan & the Duchess offered Stowe a nice financial consideration for disputing these calumnies with their “side of the story,” which Stowe, her conscience unruffled by this coruscating hypocrisy, duly did in her memoir, Sunny Memories of Foreign Lands.

+ For all the bluster from southern politicians about trans rights, it should be recalled that their patron saint Jefferson Davis was captured in the woods near Irwinville, Georgia wearing one of his wife’s dresses.



+ I was surprised to find that Charlie Watts’ net worth at the time of his death was nearly $250 million, considering Mick and Keith denied him songwriting credit, despite his undeniable contributions to some of rock music’s most enduring songs. Even more eye-opening is fact that the world’s most notorious illicit drug consumer has apparently managed his finances more lucratively ($500 million) than the dropout from the London School of Economics ($350 million)…The lesson is clear: Just Say Yes.

+ I was asked during an interview this week whether I could come up with a list of the 10 best guitarists that didn’t include Jimmy Page. “Only 10?” I asked.

1. Robert Johnson
2. Jimi Hendrix
3. Wes Montgomery
4. Eddie Hazel
5. Chet Atkins
6. Freddie King
7. T-Bone Walker
8. Sonny Sharrock
9. Magic Sam
10. Sister Rosetta Tharpe

+ Ralph Gleason, who was indirectly responsible for the debacle at Altamont, having chastised the Stones for their high ticket prices and challenging them to play somewhere for free: “You’ve got to have something to eat and a little love in your life before you can hold still for anybody’s damn sermon.”

+ Sonny Rollins: “Monk was one of the most beautiful human beings I ever met in my life. He was the most honest person; he was the most real person.”

Every Chain Has Got a Weak Link

Booked Up
What I’m reading this week…

Mother Chicago: Truant Dreams and Specters of the Gilded Age Over Chicago
Martin Billheimer
(Feral House)

Ever Closer Union? Europe in the West
Perry Anderson
(Verso)

Sagebrush Empire: How a Remote Utah County Became the Battlefront of America’s Public Lands
Jonathon P. Thompson
(Torrey House)

Sound Grammar
What I’m listening to this week…

…dreaming in lions…
Arturo O’Farrill and the Afro Latin Jazz Ensemble
(Blue Note)

BLK2life: A Future Past
Theo Croker
(Sony Masterworks)

Tempting Fate
Carolyn Wonderland
(Alligator Records)

We Can Allow No Appeal to Patriotism

“Our country is the world, our countrymen are all mankind. We love the land of our nativity, only as we love all other lands. The interests, rights, and liberties of American citizens are no more dear to us than are those of the whole human race. Hence we can allow no appeal to patriotism, to revenge any national insult or injury.” (William Lloyd Garrison, Declaration of Sentiments, Boston Peace Conference, 1838)


Jeffrey St. Clair is editor of CounterPunch. His most recent books are Bernie and the Sandernistas: Field Notes From a Failed Revolution and The Big Heat: Earth on the Brink (with Joshua Frank) He can be reached at: sitka@comcast.net or on Twitter @JeffreyStClair3.

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