Bill O’Reilly pulls a Brian Williams

How should we respond to the news that Bill O’Reilly, the blowhard from Fox News, has the Brian Williams syndrome? He was caught lying in the same way as Williams by claiming experience in four combat zones. In El Salvador’s civil war in the 1980s he saw nuns get shot in the back of the head; now he says he just saw a photo of that. In Northern Ireland in 1984 he claimed he saw “Irish terrorists kill & maim their fellow citizens in Belfast with bombs.” Now he claims he just saw a photo. In the Falkland War of 1982 he claimed he survived a combat situation but only a small number of British journalists were even allowed near the island. And then he’s claimed something about an unidentified conflict in Israel.

Fox News is standing by him just as they did when he was accused of sexually harassing a subordinate.

The only people who don’t seem to know what an ass he is are red necks & Fox News. Other than that he’s viewed like a white man’s minstrel sucking up to power.

Homeless in Israel: the political economy of apartheid

Homeless in Israel Mar 1  2015

The sometimes contradictory but always remarkable Gideon Levy, Israeli columnist for Haaretz, wrote an article last week titled “Israel is galloping to the next war in Gaza: Israel is heading to the next violent eruption with the Palestinians as though it is some sort of natural disaster that can’t be avoided.” The article was a moving lamentation about the carnage left by Israeli ethnic cleansing last summer & he predicted the next siege will be this summer. It doesn’t take a Nostradamus to see that coming.

Some fear Israel is preparing the endgame against Palestinians in Gaza. When Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon moved the Zionist settlers out of Gaza in 2005, it wasn’t a peace gesture but a tactic to facilitate & make genocide more like shooting fish in a barrel. But the acceleration of barbarism against Gaza & of settlements in the West Bank is not just to outpace the advances of international Palestinian solidarity & the growth of the boycott movement. Israel is a capitalist country where militarism, like in the US, distorts & saps the national budget. As a militarist society & as part of international neoliberalism it is spiraling into crisis & being compelled by irrepressible economic & political forces within Israel to resolve the problems at the expense of Palestinians. Part of this is scapegoating Palestinians to deflect from government culpability for the crisis; part is hoping that the massive inequities & problems within Israeli society will be solved by eliminating Palestinians.

There have been several studies done on the Israeli economy in the past several years, including by Israeli banks, decrying the housing crisis, the growth of homelessness (there are now tent cities for the homeless), the fact that one in five Israelis live below the poverty line. In 2013, the poverty line in Israel was set at 2,392 shekels per month per person. A one-bedroom apartment with utilities rents between 2,926 to 3,460 shekels. Israel has the highest poverty rate among “developed” countries at 21 percent of Israelis & one of the biggest income disparities between rich & poor.

The Taub Center for Social Studies in Israel issues regular reports on poverty in Israel. Last year, they found that 40 percent of Israelis forego dental care & 35 percent do not adequately heat or cool their homes due to cost. Even with universal healthcare in Israel, 38 percent could not afford medications.

Predictably, the Taub study found that 50 percent of Arab Israelis & 57 percent of Haredim (ultra-Orthodox Jews) live below the poverty line due to unemployment. They didn’t include discrimination as a cause but that is beyond dispute. Neither group can afford to heat or cool their homes & purchase medications.

Israel is a colonial-settler state. It cannot induce thousands of freeloaders to move to Israel if it cannot provide secure, affordable housing & they do not expect to come & be housed in huts, tents, & packing crates. But Israel has a bloated military budget to maintain the occupation, crush Palestinian resistance, guard settlements, & protect bulldozers taking out Palestinian lands. This involves heavy expenditures for roads, farm machinery & equipment, bulldozers, tanks, ammunition, & a standing army–expenditures that cannot go to housing.

For the past few years, Israel has been instituting austerity policies cutting back even more on social services & igniting protests throughout the country. The only hope for Israeli working people is if they begin to connect the dots between militarism, apartheid, inequity, & genocide & forge alliances with Palestinians & African refugees against the neoliberal regime long-since capitulated to the barbaric phase of capitalism.

Palestinians cannot wait until Israeli working people come out of their stupor anymore than Blacks, Latinos, immigrants in the US have to wait for US workers to get with the program. The best way to serve working people is to evangelize for the economic & cultural boycott of Israel & demand “No aid of any kind to Israel!” There’s nothing like a little education & pressure to wake a sleeping giant up.

(Photo of homeless man in Jerusalem by Nati Shohat/Flash90 from Times of Israel)

Banksy in Gaza: an enigma

Banksy in Gaza Mar 1 2015

One doesn’t know whether to laud or scratch one’s head over Banksy in Gaza. Banksy is the pseudonym for an English artist who does satirical & political graffiti & who just released a short video & created works in the wreckage of Gaza. It’s a curious melange of graffiti including this portrayal of overwhelming grief & also a giant kitten. It seemed the kitten was to delight the traumatized children of Gaza but when asked about it, Banksy replied with not just a hint of misanthropy: “A local man came up & said ‘Please — what does this mean?’ I explained I wanted to highlight the destruction in Gaza by posting photos on my website — but on the internet people only look at pictures of kittens.”

Even for those who love satire, the video seems more light-hearted & less dark-humored than it ought to be when thousands are still homeless & children are dying from hypothermia in the freezing cold. And yet on his website he writes: “Gaza is often described as ‘the world’s largest open air prison’ because no-one is allowed to enter or leave. But that seems a bit unfair to prisons — they don’t have their electricity & drinking water cut off randomly almost every day.”

But the most curious part of all this, indeed a troubling part, is the statement Banksy released to the NY Times: “I don’t want to take sides. But when you see entire suburban neighborhoods reduced to rubble with no hope of a future — what you’re really looking at is a vast outdoor recruitment center for terrorists. And we should probably address this for all our sakes.”

Banksy doesn’t want to take sides in a genocide!? Gaza is breeding terrorists!? Standing with Gaza against Israeli ethnic cleansing is to prevent the terrorists produced in Gaza from coming after us!?

This is Banksy’s website & video so you can judge for yourself. Next time he might want to leave the graffiti & get out of town without opening his trap:

Israeli settlements in the West Bank

Bilin protest (Thomas Ooex:AFP:Getty Images) Feb 28 2015

The caption to this photo in the LA Times read: “Protestors carry Palestinian flags during a demonstration against Israeli encroachment on a hill in the West Bank village of Bilin in front of the Israeli settlement of Modiin Illit.” Just enough information so you don’t have a clue what’s going on or why Palestinians are protesting a little “encroachment on a hill.”

Modiin Illit was established as an Israeli settlement between 1994 & 1996. It was build on the site of five Palestinian villages, including Bilin, & on hundreds of acres of Palestinian farm land. It’s continued to “encroach” on Palestinian lands until it’s now one of the largest settlements in the area with nearly 60,000 residents. When the settlement expands, the “encroachments” on Palestinian farmland are called neighborhoods. Modiin Illit now has three or four “neighborhoods”, which are really suburban adjuncts to the settlement. And it isn’t the only settlement in the region. Less than four miles away there is another complex of settlements with about 75,000 people. Again on Palestinian land.

About a decade ago, Israel constructed the apartheid barrier wall that cuts off the village of Bilin from most of its olive groves, pastureland, & other agricultural land. This is the subject of the documentary “Five Broken Cameras” that was nominated for an Academy Award. The route of the apartheid wall appears on the surface to be a Rube Goldberg machine because it encircles some Palestinian towns, cuts off villages from their farmlands, puts acres of the West Bank on the Israeli side of the wall. But in fact it has been repeatedly challenged in court because it is a carefully thought out device to expropriate land as well as isolate & control Palestinians.

According to provisions in the Geneva Conventions, Israeli settlements on occupied territory are illegal. Israel denies this of course & Zionist publications & groups defend them by claiming Jews have lived on these lands for thousands of years & they give the settlements Biblical names to render their narrative less nonsensical. They falsify history for the same reasons they appropriate aspects of Palestinian culture & claim Muslim religious sites have previous Judaic traditions. (Those mosques they can’t lay claim to, they simply torch.) But there is no Biblical or historic Zionist claim to Palestine. It’s all invented.

There are somewhere between 400,000 & 500,000 Israeli settlers now living in the West Bank in these monstrous looking high-rises. The settlers, who are basically freeloaders, have come from all over the world to displace Palestinians. They’re moving into settlements & essentially building cities with no useful skills for doing so. There’s no working class & to build a city you need plumbers, electricians, carpenters. So along with setting up construction companies they have to invent a working class to do the work. That’s why the issue of US firms & manufactories subcontracting to the settlements is an issue for the BDS movement. The companies are intended to facilitate the economic stability of settlements.

Israel is sustaining an extreme housing crisis & for a colonial-settler state that is a central problem. You can’t recruit people from all over Kingdom Come to move to Israel if you can’t provide affordable housing even for long-time residents. So many of the settlers are in fact not from abroad but residents of Israeli cities looking for cheaper housing.

It’s now been a decade since residents of Bilin started weekly Friday protests against the apartheid wall & continued expropriation of their lands. Israel claims it built the wall to deter terrorist attacks. So why does it use its occupation army to attack the peaceful protesters of Bilin? In 2009, Israeli soldiers killed 30-year-old protestor Bassem Abu Rahmah with a high-velocity tear gas grenade. His death is also featured in “Five Broken Cameras.” In 2013, Israeli military investigators closed the sham inquiry claiming lack of evidence despite three separate video recordings.

Stand with the people of Biliin by building the economic & cultural boycott of Israel, including products from the settlements. Demand “No aid of any kind to Israeli apartheid & ethnic cleansing!”

(Photo by Thomas Coex/AFP/Getty Images)

The case against terrorism (by which we do not mean Hamas self-defense)

Bangladeshi man (Zakir Hossain Chowdhury:NurP:REX) Feb 27 2015

There are so many compelling arguments against terrorism as a political method for the forces of social transformation. Everyone has the right to defend themselves against considerable & increasing state violence so there are going to be more hefty scuffles to gain & retain our rights to speak, organize, & assemble the forces of change.

But terrorism is something different than self-defense because it takes out the innocent, the bystander, children. Historically, terrorism is often used by the demoralized, by those who are isolated or defeated by relentless tyranny. It often attracts disturbed elements in the political movement along with police agents. In some places, vandalism has become a part of protest, an anarchic grandstanding thing where breaking bank windows is seen as shattering the seats of power. It’s greasy kid stuff trying to substitute showboating for the less glamorous work of movement building.

This very traumatized Bangladeshi man is the most powerful argument against terrorism. He’s one of the bystanders in a political dispute where reckless & foolish activists on one side reportedly resorted to petrol bomb attacks on buses, trucks, & cars. In the incident where this man was burned, officials said the bus was full of sleeping passengers when it was attacked. Seven people were burnt alive & 25 were injured.

Those who are serious about social change don’t adopt the methods of psychos & serial killers. Making the world suitable for human beings to live & love in is a historic mission, not greasy kid stuff or barbarism.

(Photo by Zakir Hossain Chowdhury/NurP/REX)

The baby face of immigration


Lampedusa child immigrant (Tullio M. Puglia:Getty Images) Feb 27 2015

It’s doubtful that many hostile to immigration would hold on to those views if they saw the baby faces of immigration coming across the borders to the US, Europe, & elsewhere–some with parents, some with only mothers, some unaccompanied.

There is so much trauma in leaving children & family to immigrate for work & there are documentaries about the less-than-fairytale endings of families reunited, often where children have resentment from a deep unresolved sense of loss & abandonment. So one can understand why more parents take their children with them on these treacherous journeys & why many of the unaccompanied children come alone to search for their parents.

Here African immigrants are being given rosaries by the priest in a local church in Lampedusa, Italy, the island closest to Tunisia & Libya which immigrants try to reach for the immigration processing center. The immigrant center is five times over capacity. A rosary isn’t going to feed them but it is a gesture of solidarity & humanity & residents of Lampedusa, including the mayor, have more than once expressed that toward the immigrants.

Immigration is a human right! No ifs, ands, or buts.

(Photo by Tullio M. Puglia/Getty Images)

The political character of Zionism

Banksey in Gaza ( Mohammed Abed:AFP:Getty Images) Feb 27 2015

The term “Zionism” is not an epithet. Nor is anti-Zionism a mask for social hatred of Jews. The Exodus mythology justifying Israel’s foundation is unraveling & the dystopic vision of Zionism stands exposed by the barbarous excesses of Israeli ethnic cleansing in Gaza. There is no Biblical or historic claim to Palestine.

The Pentagon can arm Israel to the teeth with the latest high-power armaments, drone bombers, F-35 stealth fighters, & Iron Domes but it cannot give Israel justification for colonialism, for the expropriation & ethnic cleansing of Palestinians. Israeli apartheid has no real theoretical defense. That’s why their only defense is to demonize Hamas & try to identify anti-Zionism with social hatred of Jews. But Zionism’s demise is written in its mission.

Zionism is a right-wing ideology originating in the late 19th century in response to persecution & pogroms against Jews in Europe. It emerged in an era when European colonialism in Asia, Africa, the Americas, & Pacific was starting to be addressed by progressive political forces. Dividing up the world & competing for plunder was a fundamental conflict between nations which led to the first World War. The socialists of the day believed racism & colonialism should be challenged & historically vanquished or it could destroy humanity.

Zionist ideologues, based on their privileged class, were hobbled in their vision of freedom from persecution by a belief in the superiority of Jews & a rejection of any kind of assimilation like modern nation-states entail. Thus Zionism in the historic contest between colonialism & social freedom for all, chose to side with colonialism, adopted its methods & perspectives to set up a Jewish-only state, & rejected the struggle against racism & colonialism.
The Jewish holocaust of WWII was part of European colonialism. What distinguished it was not the extreme barbarism against Jews. Europe & the US were long-involved in unimaginable crimes against Indigenes & black & brown-skinned peoples. Even the massive Atlantic slave trade is only a part of that horrific history. What distinguished the holocaust was that barbaric practices honed against colonized peoples were now being turned on European peoples in the metropolitan center.

There has always been strong objection by progressive Jews to the right-wing proposals of Zionists. Some of the most powerful writings & critiques are by Jews who detested the stinking elitism, wanted to ally the struggle against antisemitism to the struggle against racism & colonialism, & considered it treachery to ally with the forces of reaction. Many of them died in the holocaust while Zionists exploited it to peddle their nefarious scheme. What had been an ideology without a hope now became a social movement.

After 67 years of Zionist terrorism & colonial expropriation, of watching the US & European powers abet Zionists in setting up a country on their lands, Palestinians are finally marshaling the forces of justice & human rights around the world to stand with them. As Palestinian solidarity & the cultural & economic boycott (BDS) of Israel grows, Zionists will become more rabid. An Israeli law firm just won damages in a US federal court against the PLO & Palestinian Authority for fomenting terrorism. They have already begun to go after BDS groups as hate groups. Palestinians are up against the most powerful & reactionary forces in the world. They have not been daunted for 67 years by the odds against them. Nor should we be.

Build the economic & cultural boycott of Israel! Demand “No aid of any kind to Israel!”

The photo is street art in Gaza by the graffiti artist named Banksy who is doing a series to highlight the Palestinian struggle. This one of children swinging from an Israeli army watch tower is in the same town where Israel bombed the school used as a UN refugee center.

(Photo by Mohammed Abed/AFP/Getty Images)

Zoos are incompatible with animal welfare

Frankie at the Griffith Park Zoo, LA (Art Rogers:LA TIMES) Feb 27 2015

This photo of Frankie, a chimpanzee at the Griffith Park Zoo in Los Angeles, is from 1953. The caption exposes the light-hearted contempt justifying captive animals in squalid conditions. It said: “New arrivals at Griffith Park Zoo are too upsetting to Frankie, the monkey. Too much noise, he commented, as he lit a cigarette & decided that he’d ignore noisy elephants.” What a chuckle it must have been to see a chimpanzee pose like a hard-boiled hustler out of film noir.

In the days before animal rights & welfare, many were uncomfortable with zoos & their obvious cruelty but there was no activism on the animal’s behalf. This odious photo was considered amusing rather than a call to arms to close the damn things down. Though the Griffith Zoo was closed in 1966, the animals were relocated to a new one. There’s no word on what happened to Frankie.

There is some mythology associated with the Griffith Zoo claiming a curse was placed on the land in 1863 by a young woman left out of her land baron uncle’s will. They say the place has been plagued with wildfires, murder, plagues, & pestilence. But it appears, judging from Frankie, that captive animals got the worst of it.

Many claim zoos are used for conservation & to fight extinction.That makes good PR but there is far more evidence of animal cruelty than conservation.

(Photo by Art Rogers/LA Times)

Zionists want a Lilliputian Holy Roman Empire

What I like best about Zionists is how cogently they press the case for a Lilliputian, Jewish version of the Holy Roman Empire where the state religion was Catholicism. There’s so little one can say to defend an atavism like the amalgam of feudalism & religion. It’s tough enough for moochocrats across Europe to pull off the combo of feudalism with popular democracy. Feudalism used to be incompatible with capitalism too but neoliberalism is changing all that. It’s hard to tell which century we’re living in. You look one way, it’s the catastrophe of modern capitalism; you look the other way, you’re staring at the Middle Ages.

Since cogency is beyond possibility, Zionists, so regrettably for the English language, resort to rants & it must be said they come up with some beasties. My blog is besieged by Zionist nut cases & because I don’t engage with them their rants become quite lyrical with desperation. This is the latest gem:

“Poor Mary. Scribbling away all by her lonesome in some tiny hobble of a rat hole in poor ass Texas. Loathed by most who know her, all she has left to fill her time is penning nasty, hate-filled rants that basically say the same thing over & over again: Wherever there is poverty & injustice around the world, capitalism & the USA are at fault. Kill the beast, kill the beast huh Mary? Piggy would be terrified, I’m sure, of your Ralph-esque unrelenting bitter savagery.But we are not. Most assuredly. You don’t want peace. Your kind want your vision of justice meted out, Auschwitz style.

As if anyone cares. As if anyone is listening. As if Mary isn’t going a little more stark raving mad with every pathetic diatribe. Your “work” is a textbook definition of what wasted energy looks like. Enjoy the howling!”

Let me just say in closing, I have no idea who Piggy & Ralph are & I take great umbrage at the suggestion I live in a rat hole. I let the rats out daily to join the pigs for a stroll around our own little corner of “poor ass Texas.”

US Justice Department couldn’t find injustice if it bit them in the ass

Remember when Attorney General Eric Holder marched into Ferguson after the murder of Michael Brown promising a Justice Department investigation? I pointed out that after nearly three years, they still hadn’t finished their investigation of George Zimmerman for the February 2012 murder of Trayvon Martin & that both investigations were likely to dead end. Don’t call me Nostradamus. You live long enough you know the score on US criminal justice for Blacks, Latinos, women. Hell it’s tough enough to win in small claims court if you’re the litigant with lower social status.

Tuesday, the Justice Department announced it found insufficient evidence to establish that Zimmerman “willfully deprived Martin of his civil rights or killed him because of his race.” No surprise, but what an outrage & travesty of justice that a vigilante can walk away scot-free from murder. Again.

About a week ago, the big talker Holder announced that a decision is imminent on the murder of Michael Brown & that another investigation will be conducted over a pattern of racist discrimination by the Ferguson Police Department if they do not agree to make changes on their own. It’s not clear how he’ll swing it, but they will of course find insufficient evidence against the cop, Darren Wilson. The maneuver here is how to clear Wilson & at the same time impugn the police department. And then find a way to get the department off the hook. Tricky, but they’ll pull it off.