Thursday, August 28, 2014

Crime Scene - New Orleans by Greg Palast

Crime Scene – New Orleans 

By Greg Palast
Tuesday, 26 August 2014

[Lower Ninth Ward, New Orleans] Nine years ago this week, New Orleans drowned. Don’t you dare blame Mother Nature. Miss Katrina killed no one in this town. But it was a homicide, with nearly 2,000 dead victims. If not Katrina, who done it? Read on.

The Palast Investigative Fund is making our half-hour investigative report available as a free download Big Easy to Big Empty: The Untold Story of the Drowning of New Orleans, produced for Democracy Now.  In the course of the filming, Palast was charged with violation of anti-terror laws on a complaint from Exxon Corporation. Charges were dropped, and our digging continued.

Who is to blame for the crushing avalanche of water that buried this city?

It wasn’t an Act of God. It was an Act of Chevron. An Act of Exxon. An Act of Big Oil.

Take a look at these numbers dug out of Louisiana state records:

     Conoco 3.3 million acres
     Exxon Mobil 2.1 million acres
     Chevron 2.7 million acres
     Shell 1.3 million acres

These are the total acres of wetlands removed by just four oil companies over the past couple decades. If you’re not a farmer, I’ll translate this into urban-speak: that’s 14,688 square miles drowned into the Gulf of Mexico.

Here’s what happened. New Orleans used be to a long, swampy way from the Gulf of Mexico. Hurricanes and storm surges had to to cross a protective mangrove forest nearly a hundred miles thick.

But then, a century ago, Standard Oil, Exxon’s prior alias, began dragging drilling rigs, channeling pipelines, barge paths and tanker routes through what was once soft delta prairie grass. Most of those beautiful bayous you see on postcards are just scars, the cuts and wounds of drilling the prairie, once America’s cattle-raising center. The bayous, filling with ‘gators and shrimp, widened out and sank the coastline. Each year, oil operations drag the Gulf four miles closer to New Orleans.

Just one channel dug for Exxon’s pleasure, the Mississippi River-Gulf Outlet ("MR-GO") was dubbed the Hurricane Highway by experts—long before Katrina—that invited the storm right up to—and over—the city’s gates, the levees.

Without Big Oil's tree and prairie holocaust, "Katrina would have been a storm of no note," Professor Ivor van Heerden told me. Van Heerden, once Deputy Director of the Hurricane Center at Louisiana State University, is one of the planet’s the leading experts on storm dynamics.

If they’d only left just 10% of the protective collar. They didn’t.

Van Heerden was giving me a tour of the battle zone in the oil war. It was New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward, which once held the largest concentration of African-American owned homes in America. Now it holds the largest contrition of African-American owned rubble.

We stood in front of a house, now years after Katrina, with an "X" spray-painted on the outside and "1 DEAD DOG," "1 CAT," the number 2 and "9/6" partly covered by a foreclosure notice.

The professor translated: "9/6" meant rescuers couldn’t get to the house for eight days, so the "2"—the couple that lived there––must have paddled around with their pets until the rising waters pushed them against the ceiling and they suffocated, their gas-bloated corpses floating for a week.

In July 2005, Van Heerden told Channel 4 television of Britain that, "In a month, this city could be underwater." In one month, it was. Van Heerden had sounded the alarm for at least two years, even speaking to George Bush’s White House about an emergency condition: with the Gulf closing in, the levees were 18 inches short. But the Army Corps of Engineers was busy with other rivers, the Tigris and Euphrates.

So, when those levees began to fail, the White House, hoping to avoid Federal responsibility, did not tell Louisiana's Governor Kathleen Blanco that the levees were breaking up. That Monday night, August 29, with the storm by-passing New Orleans, the Governor had stopped the city’s evacuation. Van Heerden was with the governor at the State Emergency Center. He said, "By midnight on Monday the White House knew. But none of us knew."

So, the drownings began in earnest.

Van Heerden was supposed to keep that secret. He didn't. He told me, on camera––knowing the floodwater of official slime would break over him. He was told to stay silent, to bury the truth. But he told me more. A lot more.

      "I wasn't going to listen to those sort of threats, to let them shut me down."

Well, they did shut him down. After he went public about the unending life-and-death threat of continued oil drilling and channelling, LSU closed down its entire Hurricane Center (can you imagine?) and fired Professor van Heerden and fellow experts. This was just after the University received a $300,000 check from Chevron. The check was passed by a front group called "America’s Wetlands"—which lobbies for more drilling in the wetlands.

In place of Van Heerden and independent experts, LSU’s new "Wetlands Center" has professors picked by a board of petroleum industry hacks.

In 2003, Americans protested, "No Blood for Oil" in Iraq. It’s about time we said, "No Blood for Oil"—in Louisiana.

For more revelations from Professor van Heerden, the true untold story of Katrina, get a signed copy of Palast’s bestseller, Vultures’ Picnic, a BBC Television Book of the Year.

Greg Palast is also the author of the New York Times bestsellers, Billionaires & Ballot Bandits, The Best Democracy Money Can Buy and Armed Madhouse.

Get Palast’s latest film Vultures and Vote Rustlers. HELP US FOLLOW THE MONEY. Visit the Palast Investigative Fund's store or simply make a tax-deductible contribution to keep our work alive!

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[Note:  This essay reprinted with permission.  Please check out Greg Palast's website here.]

Saturday, August 16, 2014

The Supremes - in their go-to robes

Coat hangers for sale at Hobby Lobby

Hobby Lobby, as you know, won the lawsuit because the Supremes, guided no longer by the U.S Constitution, but by conservative Christian ideology, decided the chain could forgo providing for women's needs by its insurance company. All of which is more than a little hypocritical in light of the fact that Hobby Lobby buys junk made in China by Chinese women, many of which are subjected to forced abortions.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Rickie Perry the guv of Texas indicted!

Rick Perry, the accidental governor of the State of Confusion, aka Texas - in spite of his close connection to Jesus Christ and God the Father and the Holy Spirit - as well as being a Repugnican nogoodnik, has been indicted by a grand jury in Austin, Texas, for abuse of power.

I've always thought he abused his power just by getting up in the morning.

Every time he opens his mouth he abuses his power.

He could get 99 years in prison.

Makes one think there might be a god.

You can read all about it here.

Voting Rights in the US of A

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Dear World by Blake Ezra

[The essay below was written by Blake Ezra, who blogs at The Times of Israel.]

My friend, Bob Poris, wrote a comment which I thought was an excellent introduction to Mr. Ezra's article:

"I wonder why people all over the world accept the current anti-Semitism being acted out on the streets of so many nations that sat by until too late to stop Hitler, who used hatred of Jews to create WW2 and many millions of deaths.  Now, with less than a million or so Jews in all of Europe, we see it starting again, as Jews leave Europe in fear for their lives.

"Do we need another Holocaust to awaken us?  Some other race, religion, class, political party, etc., always becomes a victim after the Jews leave.  Always!  You can see it happening now throughout the Arab world.  It is spreading as the rockets fall again into Israel as has been the custom for years!"

* * * *

Dear World, I'm writing to you from a place of despair and confusion.  When I say 'world', I don't simply mean the planet upon which we all live but I address personally whoever is reading this.  As a Jewish person, I have a question for you.  It's a genuine question to which I can't find a suitable answer through my own thoughts... What do you want from us?

I'm writing from London, where only yesterday a black Islamic flag was flown from an estate in Tower Hamlets, and a passer-by was shouted at by a group of Muslim youths, "Fuck off Jew, you're not welcome here."  In the past month, in the supposedly liberated and forward thinking capital of England, a Swastika has been daubed onto a Jewish home, protestors have carried placards with slogans such as 'Hitler Was Right', and an independent arts venue has imposed sanctions upon an apolitical Jewish Film Festival.

In Scotland, a property sales consultant called Richard Ladd, a professional suit-wearing gentleman who deals with the public each day, tweeted "Shut up you ugly Jewish c***.  If only Hitler was still around to sort you out" to a Jewish footballer.  In France, rioters have looted and burned Jewish shops, and attacked synagogues.  In Germany, two Jewish people were attacked only for being Jewish, and an Imam in Berlin told his congregants, "Count the Jews and kill them to the very last one."  In Belgium, a cafe has displayed a sign banning Jews from entering, and four people were indiscriminately murdered on the street outside the Jewish Museum in Brussels.  Flags of Hamas and Hezbollah, both of whom call for death to Jews, have been flown in cities including Sydney and Vancouver.  The cover of Newsweek Magazine recently featured the headline, 'Why Europe's Jews Are Fleeing Once Again'.  World, shockingly I really could go on for much longer, but hopefully you get the picture...

I don't feel safe as a Jewish person in my own city as this moment in time, and this is a sentiment shared by many of my co-religionists, regardless of their level of religious observance or political affiliations -- it is solely due to the religion into which they were born.  It is truly difficult to believe I'm writing such a post, condemning the most vicious forms of racism with masses of people in numerous countries genuinely calling for death to Jews, whilst using a military situation in the Middle East as their excuse to make these ferocious desires appear somewhat justifiable.  Perhaps Lord Rabbi Sacks, a respected thinker and former Chief Rabbi of the UK, summed it up better than I could in the British House of Lords last week:  "My Lords forgive me, if I say that I did not expect 120 years after the Dreyfus Case and 70 years after the Holocaust, that the cry of 'Death to the Jews' would be heard again in the streets of France and Germany."

Please continue reading here.

Waiting for Robin

h/t to my friend William, who blogs here.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Shalom, mother****r.

(This article was written by Eitan Chitayat, "founder of, a boutique global agency that specializes in branding, animation, storytelling, and design. [...]  He's lived in Hong-Kong, London, Tel Aviv, New York and Boston."  The article appears in his blog at The Times Of Israel.)

I don't know how to write this without sounding like the kind of person I'm about to sound like, but sometimes you've just go to write it like you feel it.  And I feel this.  I un-friended a 'friend' from Facebook the other day.

To be honest, he wasn't really a friend.  He was a professional acquaintance and one whose talent I respect.  But that's it.

I un-friended him because he crossed a line.

I don't mind that he didn't write to ask how we're doing here in Israel.  People have their lives and we're not the center of the world.

No.  He started posting videos and images that reek of anti-semitism and an anti-Israel bias the likes of which are posted by people who clearly hate my country.

And I saw these posts.

[Please continue reading here.]

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Feeding the rich, screwing the taxpayers!

h/t to my friend, Lou Cardamone

Sunday, August 3, 2014

John Boehner's Monster: How Irrational Racist Hatred for Obama Will Destroy the GOP

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Musings on the state of the world

Freddie Prinze, who is an actor, has been dissing Keifer Sutherland, who is also an actor. Who cares, I wonder? Why does he feel the need to do that? Whatever happened to the notion that if you can’t say something good about someone, say nothing at all? That almost always makes life more pleasant for all involved.

Sarah Palin has concocted a new TV channel. She’s gonna tell us the truth about Obama and other not real Americans. She’s gonna do an end-run around those lib’rul media folks! And you can participate for only $9.95 a month or about $100 per year.

I went poking through a bin of cheapo DVD movies at Walmart. Unscientific guess: 90% are steeped in violence…murder, mayhem, war, terror, ghoulish crap, etc. Argh!

What has happened in our country that we have so many absolutely stupid people? The political right, including teapot crackpots, are smothering our ability to govern effectively. Now they’re talking impeachment although they have no clue what Obama might have done to suffer such a thing. These stupid people deny climate change and global warming; they reject the “theory” of evolution even though they cannot define the word, “theory,” in its scientific sense. There is no question about either of these things; they are not debatable.

It’s like the idiot teacher who made her 8th-graders write an essay as to whether the Holocaust really happened!

 And how did we get so screwed up about guns? How did carrying loaded guns around in public get to be a symbol of freedom? Guns have only one purpose - to kill. I know they can be used in the sport of target shooting but one can do that with non-lethal weapons or ammo just as well. We kill almost 40,000 people a year in this country with guns! And the NRA, which has bought and paid for most of our politicians, insists we need more guns. Their latest crazy proposal argues that gun safety should be taught in elementary school.

It’s hard to believe that we are again fighting about the right to contraception. Contraception! As if there are not enough people in the world. And the doofuses who most oppose abortion are also most involved in the attempt to disallow the use of contraceptives, which, if they had their way, would mean more abortions! It’s a religious issue, nothing more. And this is supposed to be a secular country which means our laws are not based on religious beliefs!

The real nut cases have gone so far as to say that personhood begins at conception. Please. A fertilized egg is not a human being. A fetus is not a human being. One does not become a living, real human being until one is born and it doesn’t matter what the religious right or the Roman Church thinks about that because what they believe is based on religious precepts, which are fantasy and not reality!

In Pakistan a bunch of Muslim “true” believers attacked and killed a grandmother and her two daughters because they belong to an unacceptable sect of Islam and posted “objectionable material” online and that was blasphemous! Blasphemy has no meaning outside of religion. There is no such thing in real life.

This is religion at its worst. It is also the religion of much of the world, a religion that has no regard for human life or human freedom. Religion always, and I mean always, limits one’s freedom. If you belong to a religious sect, you have given up your autonomy and become a pissant who must believe what that sect preaches no matter how goddamn crazy it is!

A federal judge has ruled against Washington, D.C.’s ban on handguns in public. This seems to be how the 2nd amendment is now being interpreted: “The Second Amendment secures an individual right … to carry a common weapon outside the home for self-defense.” What? As an historian I would insist that the 2nd Amendment secures no such thing! The 2nd Amendment was to provide weapons for state militias in times of crisis - “well-regulated” state militias, not for every Dick who has a small penis and needs a gun to be a “man.”  The NRA has done its work of confusion and rewriting history very well!

Have you noticed that these days just about every commercial on TV has people jumping up and down or dancing on tables or generally making fools of themselves? Where did that crap come from? Kids can’t even sit down and eat a bowl of cereal without jumping up and dancing around the kitchen. People can’t take their RAV4 Toyota camping without jumping and screeching and hollering around a campfire. Craziness!

Lana Del Rey (whoever that is) says she has “Slept with a lot of guys in the industry.” I’m assuming she means the entertainment industry. Don’t know why she thinks it’s important to tell us that, though. It’s probably what everyone assumed anyway.  And why would you announce to the world that you are a slut?

Geraldo gave out some marriage advice the other day. For instance, he said men are the breadwinners, although he also admitted more women are working these days. Oh, and he claims that what women bring to a marriage is their youth! That’s it? Did I mention this bozo has been divorced four times?

You knew it would come to this!  The Church of Satan, referencing the recent Hobby Lobby decision by the Supremes, argues their female members have the right to refuse anti-choice materials when seeking an abortion. Thirty-five states require women to get “counseling” from a doctor before they can get an abortion (said “counseling,” of course, consists mainly of warning them about “non-existent health risks”). The Satanists say such laws “violate their members’ belief in scientific accuracy and the right to determine what to do with their own bodies.” Yes! Chew on that one, you Supreme Court christianists!

Speaking of really stupid, ignorant fools, I bring you Michele Bachmann (who, by the way, just might run for prez in 2016 - doesn’t that whet your whistle?). Ms. Bachmann has the solution for all those kids from down south trying to get into this country: Put ‘em in labor camps; make ‘em work; teach ‘em what they should know (like god and that this is and always has been a fundy Christianist country), the goal of which is to have “them pay off their past, present, and future care expenses, while assimilating them into American culture.”

Yes, this idiot says she follows the guy who some call the Prince of Peace.

“Political language … is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.” —George Orwell

The White House (i.e. the Obama administration) put out another Global Warming warning today. According to Jason Furman, who chairs the Council of Economic Advisers, the cost of dealing with climate change rises by 40% each decade.

Some actions being taken include reducing methane emissions from the natural gas and distribution system; the establishment of new rules to cut methane emissions from oil and gas wells on public lands; and the Obama administration is partnering with IBM, Amazon, Microsoft, Coca Cola and other business entities to use available data to “help make agriculture and food production more resilient to climate change.”

Yeah, but does the average Joe on the street or the average crook on Wall Street really care?

Talk about being removed from reality:  As noted above, Sarah Palin and other of her ignorant compadres have been yammering about impeaching the president for months now. In fact, the newly-elected Majority Whip has said he would not take impeachment off the table. Other Repugs have been talking the talk, too.

But weepy John Boehner claims that this impeachment talk is a White House “scam.” The Obama folks dreamed it up in order to motivate their supporters to give more money and time to the Democratic Party. I’m always amazed at the ability of Republicans to make up things out of thin air and then insist that what they just created is reality.

Speaking of guns: Crooks and Liars reports that Peter Nathan Steinmetz, a brain scientist, was arrested at Phoenix Airport for waving an AR-15 around and actually pointing it at a couple of folks. He has the “right” to carry such a weapon in an airport, so his arrest was due to “inappropriately carrying” the weapon. What person in his right mind would do such a thing or condone such nonsense?

People with a very small brain!

Pam Bondi used to be a Hillsborough County (Florida) prosecutor. Then in 2010 she got elected to be Florida’s Attorney General. She has been a vocal mouthpiece for the criminal governor, Rick Scott. She’s also gotten rich. Before her election in 2010, her net worth was reported at $472,260. In 2012, it was $780,871. As 2013 drew to a close, it had jumped to $1.24 mil. Amazing, isn’t it? Poor girl makes good in Florida politics.

Thanks to our friends at Yborcitystogie for this bit of news.

It’s only Tuesday, but I don’t think things will improve much by Saturday.

Monday, July 28, 2014