Saturday, September 6, 2014

ONE VIEW - "1984" by Gene Bocknek

[Our thanks to Gene Bocknek for this very fine essay]

Thirty years ago 1984 was already just another number for so many young people, not the sensational novel George Orwell wrote in 1949.  Orwell, an Englishman, was describing a future society, a nation ruled by an anonymous Big Brother.  The nightmarish content of his novel captured the imagination of future generations, portraying a place where the very meaning of words was altered, where history was redesigned and always where "Big Brother is watching".  A process which later was named "brain washing" was the norm.  People everywhere were instructed in a new revision of language and events, "Doublethink" and "Newspeak".  You heard "war" and it was explained that the correct meaning was "peace".  Battles fought years earlier which resulted in defeat were to be remembered as "glorious victories."

Every home was equipped with microphones, listening devices, and a large screen, from which Big Brother constantly reassured all listeners that a brilliant new age was dawning.  The social class hierarchy consists of three levels:  The Inner Party elite represented 2% of the population.  The middle class Outer Party was 13% of the population and the lower class Proles constituted 85% - the uneducated working class.  The Party controls the populace with 4 ministries:

     Ministry of Peace (Minipax) deals with war
     Ministry of Plenty (Miniplenty) deals with economic affairs (rationing and starvation)
     Ministry of Love (Miniluv) deals with law and order (torture and brainwashing)
     Ministry of Truth (Minitru) deals with propaganda (news, entertainment, education
       and art)

Thought police spy on everyone and people are indoctrinated to spy and inform on suspected thought-criminals - those who question the new language and belief systems.

Here we are in a new century, a different country, and it's 65 years after "1984"'s publication.  Are you getting an eerie feeling in your gut?  Have you read "1984"?  Do we have any thought-criminals today in our democracy?  In "1984" such people were tortured until they could speak Newspeak and Doublethink with sincerity and conviction.  America has a sad history with citizens whom we call whistle-blowers.  Too often their courage makes them victims rather than heroes.  Our laws technically protect such individuals but in practice they lose their jobs, risk arrest, and endure rejection and isolation.  But we do seem to have learned some things from "1984."  We have names like "Operation Freedom" to describe our invasion of other countries.  We deny the devastation wreaked on agrarian peasants using terms like defoliation (blanket napalm killing anything and everything in its path), Agent Orange-poison gas that affects our soldiers while the government denies its use; collateral damage for civilian injuries and deaths.  The list is too long for one article.

But we do surpass "1984" in a tremendously important way.  Whatever its limitations, we are a government of laws, and we have groups who use those laws to challenge those who would allow us to slide into a 1984 world.  In particular, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has a long history of taking to court those who would abuse and persecute citizens unable to defend themselves. Unfortunately, in return, the ACLU has been vilified for defending abusive arrests of public protestors, those denied their constitutional rights, and providing protective cover for whistle-blowers in government and large corporations.  Their work in courageous because it is financially unrewarding, but more so because by challenging abuse of the law in many eyes they are challenging the existing order.  In an uncertain world uninformed individuals will cling to authority whatever its faults, rather than trust their common sense and fight for a more just "justice."

Our "free press" includes newspapers and newscasters from world class to guttersnipes.  I personally wear the scars of naiveté for years of believing I was getting the whole truth and all the news that's fit to print.  These sources, however good their intentions, are too often overruled by publishers and advertisers whose financial interests take priority over journalistic ethics.  Some of our most important stories are filed by serious investigative reporters working for magazines and newspapers that accept no political ads or even no ads at all.  "Mother Jones" broke the comment by Mitt Romney about 47% of people who shirk work.  But almost nobody among the newspaper giants broke the story of Romney's 200 IRAs that enabled him to avoid taxes for 25 years.  Recently, the ACLU magazine, "Stand", sent a lawyer to Russia to interview Snowden about revealing the Big Brother tendencies in our own government.

The similarities between "1984" and our political leadership since the Nixon administration, one which now threatens to immobilize our electoral process, reaching into the U.S Supreme Court, is absolutely chilling.  Without a determined electorate we will continue to slip into government plutocracy run by money and power for the very few rather than one built on those democratic values which insist on true representative government and fair sharing among all of our working citizens.

Friday, September 5, 2014

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