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Monthly Archives: June 2010

Ed Ruscha

School is officially over, we’re packed and out the door in 9 hours, headed to Incheon for a long flight via Doha to Rome.  A few days there, hoping to see some friends, then Bologna a few days and to Lisbon, Portugal where the Cineteca will screen my films for 3 evenings, July 7, 8 and 9:   Homecoming and OUI NON,  and 6 Easy Pieces and Passages.  The latter was made for my daughter Clara whom I would hope to see as she lives in Lisbon, but I am sure her mother, Portuguese director Teresa Villaverde, will make sure they are hidden far away.   We move on then to Madrid, where the Cineteca Espanol also has scheduled 3 evening of screenings, July 14, 15 and 16.  They’ll show La Lunga Ombra, Parable, Passages, and Over Here.    From Spain we go back to Italy for a wedding in Matera and then about a month moving slowly in Sicily, hopefully shooting something.

In the meantime, until September, I imagine postings here and at will be rather fewer, but check in once in a while.  Meantime we’ll hope against hope that the Deepwater Horizon disaster does not, as I anticipate, amplify with the hurricane season now upon the Gulf, or a failure of the 2 relief wells, or the other possible mutations spelled out here before.   For the folks on the Gulf, let’s hope it gets stopped.  And then let’s hope this perfectly natural consequence of the cowboy capitalism championed by some makes perfectly clear it doesn’t work and needs to be stopped dead in its tracks before it wrecks the globe further.

Happy summer if possible.

General Stanley McChrystal

General McChrystal, formerly of a secretive intelligence branch of the US Army, vaulted by George Bush into a leadership role as a reward for his participation in the Pat Tillman scandal, in which the General lied regarding the demise of Tillman and participated in concocting a great patriotic gore story from a “friendly fire” killing, was this past week caught in an ambush laid out by the once rock and rolling hippie magazine Rolling Stone.   This morning he was in a quick 20 minute meeting in which evidently there wasn’t much to say, and was dismissed by the Commander-in-Chief he’d recently dissed.   This sequence suggests that McChrystal’s learning in the ways of “intelligence” lacked a certain element.  In previous speeches he’d pushed his political plans, lifting a profile for himself, though he’d been taken to the woodshed by his boss, and told to close his loose lips.  That he let a counter-culture spy into his council room for some weeks speaks primarily of his vanity and his apparent political ambitions.

McChrystal visits White House, 2009

Caught up in the theater of Washington where appearances trump realities, General McChrystal is seen above in a White House visit, decked out in in officer’s combat dress, as if there would be terrorists lurking about in the Rose Garden.  Such theatrical posturing now is a US military norm, whether in letting George Bush, long ago Air Reserve derelict dress up in cod-piece macho drag or in officers in computer rooms commanding drones across the world from American cubicles wearing camouflage and boots such as those McChrystal sports.  War as Kabuki theater, a sequence of codified masks to signify that “we’re at war.”   Little wonder that the General got bushed-whacked by a rock and roll journal, so wrapped up in the costumes he and his staff (his press man was fired before he himself was canned) took as important.  Hubris über alles.

Biden, Obama, Petraeus, Gates after McChrystal’s dismissal

Notice the facial expressions, the clasped hands, the uniform expression of “seriousness” which each figure takes in this staged drama.    Unfortunately while these carefully preset acts are carried out, the end result is, seemingly also fated: according to the Obama administration the failing “COIN strategy” which former General McChrystal developed and pushed for Afghanistan will be continued, only now under the command of General Petraeus.  COIN is merely a renamed version of the policies by which France lost Algeria, were losing in Viet Nam, a loss which America took over as its own when it attempted a series of acronym-murders with Wellsian names such a “pacification” (as in My Lai), the bombing of Cambodia and others “strategies” which would “win the minds and hearts” in Viet Nam, or now Afghanistan.

My Lai

In one of the many puff-pieces written about McChrystal before he was requested to fall on his sword, it was said that as a West Pointer, and a Harvard fellow, he was a rarity in the military – an intellectual, read history, and all the rest of the “best and the brightest” baggage we require of our erstwhile leaders while at the same time he was spartan, tough, went with the grunts on gung-ho patrols, was a soldier’s soldier.  He was, it was said, of the new post-Vietnam-trauma generation, who had overcome the fear, and learned the lessons of history.  Apparently only to repeat them.  Such is the nature of tragedy.

Naturally, in its utterly predictable Kabuki form, the Republican Right has latched onto General McChrystal, in their usual thrall to epaulettes and be-ribboned chests, and are already proposing him as their standard bearer for the 2012 elections.   In such manner does our entire political sphere minuet in lock-step, caught in its own theatrical binaries, as rigidly as a Noh master emulating the techniques of 500 years ago.

While the domestic landscape of America crumbles under the assaults of its corporate masters – topless mountains, gouged plains, poisoned rivers, and now an oil drenched Gulf of Mexico, our political squires continue our plan of permanent war, the ancient old imperial imperative.  It is estimated that the United States has already spent about 3 trillion dollars of its common-wealth upon our adventures in the cradle of civilization, the Euphrates valley (Iraq) and its mythic anti-body, that cradle of unconquered not-civilization, Afghanistan.   Much of this is, as customary in imperial endeavors, about saving face.

In our failing to face the truth of our society, which is that it is severely damaged and can be “saved” only by a radical overhaul of our values – a prospect not likely given the nature of our body politic – we will soon have no face to save.

In the northern hemisphere, the longest day arrives,  a summer of discontent begins.   Jimmy Buffet’s aging Tequila Sunset is laced now with bitters too harsh to drink.  The Gulf of Mexico, littered with oil rigs, now begins to drown in the malfunctions of our society, the poisons of our “free market capitalism” now lapping the beaches of Louisiana, Mississippi and Florida, and soon to curl with the loop current by Key West and up the American Atlantic coast.  “Beyond Petroleum” BP, unable to hide the ever more awful truths, now concedes its original claims that 5,000 barrels a day of thick oil and gas were belching from its blown Deepwater Horizon well, is actually 100,000 – a factor of 20 off. Goop chokes the marshlands, gums up the pristine white beaches, and glazes the ocean surface awaiting the next element, the coming hurricane season.  Far beneath the surface a cocktail of oil, deep-sea pressures and Corexit spreads toxins ever further throughout the complex ecological system of the gulf, suffocating life from the smallest plankton, to the more visible dolphins, turtles, myriad fish, and along the way the human livelihoods of those who work and live in the region.   At the shore, the rich tapestry of marsh, bayou, tide-land, and its bounty of bird, fish, crab, oyster, and the vivid culture that it birthed, all heaves under the weight of 30 billion year old organics rising from 3 miles beneath the earth’s crust thanks to the hubris of a giant corporation pursuing ever greater profits.

This story already has all the heft of an ancient tragedy, and it has hardly even begun.  Leaking incrementally, as did the original BP and government words as to the scope of this “spill,” the oozing reality is daily made more explosive, as was the originating well blow-out, ripe with the potential of a truly Biblical deluge of catastrophic proportions.   British Petroleum, instinctively of course lied, falsifying and trying to cover its tracks, in collusion with Federal and local government authorities, in an attempt to minimize the damages to itself.  But while it could say there were “only” 5,000 barrels a day gushing from the sea floor, it could not hide the reality of 100,000 barrels a day that were actually erupting from its blasted well-head.   Not even all the Corexit it applied in its attempt to break up and dissolve the thick sulphur laden goop rushing out could work to mask the enormity of its error, as masses of oil far beyond its control to hide or gather or burn came forth, a prophetic damnation the end of which is not now visible.  In the face of this, Tony Hayward, the inside man, 30 years working up the ranks of BP, bumbled, seemingly incapable of perceiving the enormity of  this incident.   Following a Congressional hearing and a meeting with President Obama, he went back to “his life” and attended a sailing race in the UK, to see his boat “Bob” come in fourth.

Tony Hayward’s boat, Bob, in the J. P. Morgan yacht race off the Isle of Wight

At the further, but plausible, end of the spectrum of the possible denouements contained in the blow-out are scenarios truly horrific, equal to the literary circles of Dante’s hell.    Within the oil industry it is assumed, on the basis of information available, that in the blow-out, the actual two mile long hole drilled to carry the oil to the surface was broken, and the oil, under a pressure of 100,000 psi, is rushing now outside the containment which was intended to carry it, in such force to excavate an ever larger opening to rush to the sea-floor surface and then into the waters of the gulf.  It is logically speculated that these immense forces have fractured the layers of sedimentary rocks and sands, and now leaks, out of control or possible control, gouging out a cavity which will in some time (weeks or months) let loose a giant balloon of highly compressed methane gas.  Should this erupt from its deep time capsule, expanding exponentially in its rise through the ever-lesser pressures of the sea, it would incur an expansion of highly inflammable gas producing a massive explosion, raining a genuinely apocalyptic fire of destruction upon the entire region, accompanied with a vast tsunami, washing cliff-scale waves upon the placid gentle slopes of the beaches, tide-lands, and shoreline from Louisiana to Florida, much of which is only feet above sea-level, and beyond.   Such is the physically plausible consequence of what is and was known of the geological formation which British Petroleum sought to tap.

Botticelli version of Dante’s Circles of  Hell

As this diagram shows, in the process of drilling a hole is made, which is then encased in steel and concrete sheaths, through which the oil/gas is to be guided.  In the Deepwater Horizon blow-out apparently a bubble of high-pressure methane, which was known to be in the area being tapped, along with oil, blew out the preventer, and went to the deck of the drilling rig, exploding, instantly killing 11 workers, and setting the rig on fire.   In the blow-out it is likely that some of the steel piping was also shot out, and the walls of the well were compromised, allowing gas/oil to escape to the outside of the well, under high pressures, and eating out the area to the sides of the well shaft, thus providing a path for the entire oil/gas deposit to exit, with no controls.  The original estimate of the Maconda deposit was in the area of 50 million barrels of oil, of which 40% is methane.  Methane is a severe greenhouse-effect gas.

The official current scenario is that BP will, through various systems, capture 90% of the escaping oil/gas, and sometime in August one of the two relief wells being drilled will pump heavy mud and concrete into the well shaft and seal the well.    The official scenario not long ago asserted the well was releasing 5,000 barrels per day, which was then upped to 25,000, then 60K and now is estimated as 100K.  This expansion in numbers would fit all too well with the worst-case scenario described above, although it also fits with a BP/government effort to cook-the-numerical-books to make this look less catastrophic at the outset.

In his address to the nation on the Deepwater Horizon disaster, President Obama ended with an appeal to prayer. It is speculated by our pundits that he did so to toss a bone to the regional inclination towards evangelical Christian beliefs.  If so, it will be no small irony that an area enamored of SUV’s, Nascar, and the belief that the earth is only 6,000 years old, and that the myriad instances of geological evidence of billions of years of earth’s existence – which 30 million years ago commenced with what became the Maconda area field – are merely elaborate tricks played by an unforgiving god to foil the unbeliever, would be rendered asunder by a catastrophe fully fitting the description of being Biblical in its dimensions.   Whether this worst case scenario plays out in a vast explosion of fire followed with a deluge of an oil drenched tsunami is played out, or a lesser one of millions of barrels of oil and gas let loose into the Gulf of Mexico, whipped by hurricanes, and then set to drift into the Atlantic, with all the ecological and social and economic destruction implicit, the summer promises to be dangerously hot not only physically, but psychically as well.

Gustav Dore’s 4th Circle of Hell

Whether such a lesson in hubris will, in the rabid climate of American politics in this time, provide a grim but evidently necessary lever to force our society into fully re-thinking its place on the planet – its ethics, its morals, and how to organize our individual and collective (that awful word!) lives in a manner more properly accommodating to our earth – remains to be seen.   It seems likely that something near the worst-case scenario described here will be the only thing which will awake Americans out of their stupor and force a change.   As seen in the inanities of our political classes, through all our narrow “capitalism only” political spectrum, it would seem only a cataclysmic event of these proportions would shake our culture to its foundations and provoke a serious re-evaluation of how we construct our small place on this small globe in our universe.

The sun, a small star which is the sustenance of our lives

“The ultimate Gulf disaster, however, would make even those historical horrors pale by comparison. If the huge methane bubble breaches the seabed, it will erupt with an explosive fury similar to that experienced during the eruption of Mt. Saint Helens in the Pacific Northwest. A gas gusher will surge upwards through miles of ancient sedimentary rock—layer after layer—past the oil reservoir. It will explode upwards propelled by 50 tons psi, burst through the cracks and fissures of the compromised sea floor, and rupture miles of ocean bottom with one titanic explosion.

The burgeoning methane gas cloud will surface, killing everything it touches, and set off a supersonic tsunami with the wave traveling somewhere between 400 to 600 miles per hour.

While the entire Gulf coastline is vulnerable, the state most exposed to the fury of a supersonic wave towering 100 feet or more is Florida. The Sunshine State only averages about 6 inches above sea level. A supersonic tsunami would literally sweep away everything from Miami to the panhandle in a matter of minutes. Loss of human life would be virtually instantaneous and measured in the millions. Of course the states of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and southern region of Georgia—a state with no Gulf coastline—would also experience tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of casualties.”

From a curious website. For a thread challenging this worst-case scenario see this at TheOilDrum.

For more information see and see this by Rob Kall. And this from Naomi Klein in the UK Guardian.   And an in-depth NYTimes article on the BOP and related problems.

[And this, from Kall again, suggesting the worst-case scenario is wrong. On the other hand, today’s (June 26) news reports a tropical storm shaping up in the Caribbean, in which case Deepwater Horizon’s salvaging would be halted, the oil flow would be uninhibited 5-10 days, and of course there’s many more anticipated such storms to come this season: expect some hard rains with rainbow oil-sheen hues and god knows what on the beaches, tide-lands, etc. of the Gulf, whether there’s a methane belch tsunami or not, it’s shaping up to be a truly apocalyptic mess down south.]

David Brooks, “conservative” Republican columnist for the New York Times, apparently has a thin skin, or his editor for the comments section does.  Yesterday, replying to his column Trim the “Experts/Trust the Locals, I wrote the below, posting it early as I did to the other column by Paul Krugman, the response to which was published high on the list.  I must assume, since just to make sure I re-posted my Brooks item, the censorship mechanism came into play.  Others replying – the overwhelming majority of them – basically took  him to the woodshed for the same things, though I guess they didn’t quite plop it so directly in his lap.

Typical Brooks, side-stepping the real matters to lump it all on the problem of  Big Gov. I am no fan of inept Big Gov, but in this case the problem really lies somewhere else, landing directly in Mr Brooks’ lap: big business is the problem. BP made this mess. It made it by, along with others in the bidness world, corrupting and rigging the MMS and many more agencies to NOT REGULATE. It made it by convincing, with PR and BS, most – including our Harvard-trained President – that big corporations were good. Afterall look at British Petroleum’s clever logo and name change to green Beyond Petroleum BP. Sure. Madison Avenue con job that one. So Obama fell for their alleged expertise which was really lies. We’ll save the gulf walruses said the environmental impact report, and the snortin’ Bushies at MMS bought it.

And Obama didn’t clean house fast enough since he had more than enough on his plate left over. So now the Republican drowned-in-bath-tub government of Brooks’ friends can’t respond coherently. I wonder why?

In part because BP is lying, won’t let people see what is really going on, enlisted local government to act as its thugs, seems to run the Coast Guard, and otherwise has seen to it that things are being done wrong, just like Deepwater Horizon was done wrong – to save a few million bucks to make more profit.

But Mr Brooks can’t bring himself to face the origins of this all – instead its the usual perps, the faceless bureaucrats of some Big Gov agency who are to blame.
Look in the mirror, Mr Brooks. You led us to this but you can’t face that awful truth.

For a much more in-depth look at BP’s Deepwater Horizon disaster and its ramifications, see this. For a graphic video from a gamester that vaguely shows what 25,ooo barrels looks like, see below, and keep in mind that the current estimate on daily spillage is more like 60-80K.

Yesterday, replying to a column by Roger Cohen, Modern Folly, Ancient Wisdom, in the New York Times, I wrote this:

Israel is Europe’s pathologies exported to another setting. Until people are honest as to why Israel even exists, no solutions will be forthcoming. People in Europe, in the US, Israel and the Arabic and Muslim nations: failure to acknowledge the real origins of Israel – not mythological ones, not romantic ones – but hard ugly real ones, will keep Israel as a poisonous cancer on global politics probably until the wished for Armageddon that some advocate.

This begot these responses to my other blog, and Cinemaelectronica.

Eli, no other identification and what appears to be a one-off email address wrote:

Hi Jon. I hope your films are better than your understanding of history. In your response to Roger Cohen’s NYT Op-Ed on 6/11/10, you state that “until people are honest as to why Israel even exists, no solutions will be forthcoming.”  Mr Jost, Israel exists because the UN voted to grant the Jews a home. In fact, the Jewish people have always resided in Israel, with various levels of population. Prior to the establishment of Israel, the land was a British Mandate. Study your history before you write such drivel.

Stephen H Schwartz wrote:

Your comment in The Times supposedly on ‘why’ Israel exists reflects both your hate and your ignorance, the two often going hand in hand.

Israel exists because with the end of the Ottoman Empire after World War II, states were promised and carved out of the huge swath of land formerly ruled by Turkey. One such state was to be a Jewish homeland. Other such states were Lebannon, Iraq Kuwait, Syria, Jordan – all of which have the same provenance as Israel.

That the promise of a Jewish state was not fulfilled when others were does not diminish its legitimacy but rather speaks to the duplicity those who did not live up to the promise exercised.

That’s the history. The idea that the Jewish state was created solely as a recompense to the Jews of Europe for the Holocaust is equally inaccurate.

Jews living in Arab lands for 1000s of years, before most of them were even states lived under a constant threat of repression and retribution.     Sometimes the local Jews were allowed to live in peace, other times not.

Israel was created to provide them a safe haven as much as it was for the Jews of Europe. Thus it was contrary to your assertion an extension of the pathologies of Christian Europe also for the pathologies of Muslim Arabs.

It should also be noted the Mufti of Jerusalem, a Palestinian, spent WWII in Berlin, demanding of Hitler that he not only murder the Jews of Europe but also those in the Middle East. It is classic post-war policy that those who support the wrong side pay a real price for doing so. The Palestinians long before there was an Israel went with Hitler and paying a price is not some injustice to them, but exactly what Germany, Austria, Poland and a lot of other countries have suffered all throughout history. In 1948 the Arabs launched a war and lost. They have done so time and time again but somehow they believe they should not pay a price for doing so.

In the 1949 Armistice to end the war the Arabs started, the dividing line, what is now the ’67 borders were not some fixed border, but simply where the troops on both sides happened to be that day. AT THE INSISTENCE OF THE ARABS, that line was NOT to be a final border between the Israelis and the Arabs which was to be negotiated so as to be secure, defensible ones.   From that day on the Arabs refused to negotiate such borders and from 1949 until the ’67 war was occupied not by Israel but by Jordan (and Gaza, by Egypt) and no one complained about its occupation nor, more importantly, did the Arabs make any create a state for the Palestinians. What they did do was promise to destroy Israel and take all the land.

At the end of the ’67 war Israel said to the Arabs let’s negotiate and the Arabs issued the famous three ‘No’s’ from their meeting in Khartum, Sudan.

During the control by the Arabs, the holy sites of Jews were destroyed and the synagogues used as urinals and no Jews were allowed to visit. Under Israeli control all religious sites are protected and respected, open to all.

Contrast this history to your views of the reality. Hate and ignorance is the difference. The Israelis I note have made mistakes and bad decisions but the reality is Jews have been a part of the Middle East for millenia and have as much a right as anyone to have a secure peaceful homeland that since its inception to this day Arabs deny them and people like yourself do their bidding.

You have the right to do that but its not right to do it. Fairness as well as accuracy is a duty imposed on all of us, self-imposed by the best of us and you do not demand that standard of yourself. Shame.

And then another anonymous person wrote:

Your comments on Israel at the New York Times were disgusting. How dare you call any group of people a poison! You are no different than the Nazis.

Map of the 12 Tribes, circa 1808

I can’t say these responses surprise me as I am only too aware that the matter of Israel, Jews, Arabs, Muslims, etc. is certainly in our times (and many others) a very hot-button matter.   To merely bring it up is to set up a litmus test, a kind of socio-political Rorschach in which the reader usually superimposes their views and sees what those views allow, and not much else.

Eli, chastising me for not knowing my “history” goes back about 60 years, and then a bit further, to the British Mandate.

Mr Schwartz, starting with some pleasant ad hominem comments, mines history a bit more extensively [and incorrectly, for instance the once Ottoman empire was carved up before WWII, not after, specifically after WW1, though it had been quite weak long before; the Balfour Declaration by the British in 1917 announced a Jewish state in Palestine,  which stated:

“His Majesty’s government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavors to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.”

This was adopted by the Sèvres peace treaty between Britain and Turkey.  As usual in such Imperial carve-ups the locals were not consulted.]

Along the way Mr Schwartz lays the groundwork for the claim – true enough – that Jews had been living in the area for some millennia.  In passing he suggests what I think, or puts in my mouth things I did not write such as “The idea that the Jewish state was created solely as a recompense to the Jews of Europe for the Holocaust is equally inaccurate.”  With mangled syntax Mr Schwartz, perhaps more governed by anger – usually an irrational force – wraps up with a bit more of that ad hominem stuff.

The final anonymous fellow follows suit, suggesting I wrote something to the effect that “Jews are poison,” when that isn’t what is on the page.

What I wrote was, consciously and deliberately, a bit opaque and indirect, as in poetry.  It was also short – for the setting in the NYT.    In the listing of “readers recommend” it came in 5th, whatever that may be worth.  I suppose what I intended was to provoke the reader to perhaps think and reflect before jumping to conclusions.  Between the lines what I was thinking was that the “problem” of Israel can’t be resolved until there is an honest discussion and understanding of why it came into being.  To do so requires sense of history of Biblical depth.  In my view this can be understood only in acknowledging that Europe since it was Christianized, commencing some 2000+ years ago, has in varying degrees, treated its wide-spread Jewish population, with hostility and enmity.  The origins of this are probably in a sense tribal, as humans nearly always treat “others” with suspicion at minimum, and often a lot worse.  Jews, wherever they went, tended to retain their culture and religion, and hence were seen as “other.”  The entrance of Christianity into this mix only poured oil on the already existent tinder.  And, as historically happened recurrently, whenever European cultures were under pressure, be it internal contradictions and stresses, or external threat, as usual, some “other” was a handy scapegoat.  Quite often in the long history of Christianized Europe, it was Jews.   Only quite recently was the Pope of the Catholic Church able, reluctantly, to utter something to the effect that Jews were not the murderers of Christ/God. It was out of this history that the Zionist movement gained impetus in the 1870’s, though there had been, since 1700, some minor movements of German, Lithuanian and Polish Jews to Jerusalem.

Cumulatively Europe’s record with the Jewish community, over 2000 years, has been rather bad, culminating in the Holocaust, which was not only Germany’s doing, but far broader, though in the post-WW2 era great effort was made to sanitize the history of collusion of much of Europe (not all) in that great tragedy.   The connection of Europe’s and America’s willing collaboration in assisting in establishing a Jewish state in the wake of World War Two and the revelation of the full scale of the Holocaust, is all too clear.   It doesn’t take a Freudian analysis to see this political act as an expression of guilt and contrition.  Or that it sort of “solved” the problem as seen from European eyes.

However, the reality is that the roots go deeply into the foundations of European culture, and in turn my comment looks to address this, for unless this is considered each step of whichever explication and argument is made, it is rooted in a falsehood.   Thus in my respondent’s words, the groundwork is placed for asserting that Israel was always, for millennia actually a Jewish nation because there were always some Jews living in the area.   This elides the inconvenient truths that while that may have been so, they were a small minority and there was no Jewish nation, and when one did arrive it was by force primarily of European Jews who had moved to Palestine, and displaced the Palestinians in part by ethnic cleansing, i.e. wiping them out by killing them.  And it elides the more current reality that by far most of the Jews in Israel derive recently from Europe: 70% are sabras, 2nd or 3rd generation, derived from Europe primarily, and 35%, are recently arrived primarily from Eastern Europe, though some from America.   Statistically the claim for millennial-deep national and cultural roots in Palestine is rather thin.  Far more appropriately should the United States be returned to its native inhabitants, who numbered far more than at present in 1492, and were relieved of their home in the next 4oo years.  Ironically were this to occur, the majority of the world’s Jews – some 7 million – would have to de-camp along with all the European descendants.

So what I wrote – as compared to what the writers above “read into” it – is that Israel essentially is a European pathology off-shored to Palestine, by force.  I very sincerely doubt that had Jewry never had such a bad time in Europe that the Zionist movement and its predecessors would have ever begun.   If it were not for the long sequence of pogroms, banishments, expulsions, forced conversions and all the rest of the sordid history of Europe’s dealings with its Jews, then likely they would have prospered, been happy and stayed, partly assimilated, as occurred in relatively brief times in Germany, France, Italy and elsewhere.   But such was not the history which Europe wrote for itself, and for its Jews.

Put crudely, what occurred instead was after centuries of abuses heaped upon Jews in one manner or another, throughout nearly all of Europe, and following a final convulsion originated in Germany and Austria, but aided and abetted throughout nearly all of Europe (and the US), the surviving remnant of European Jewry was allowed/encouraged/helped to set up camp in Palestine – whether the Palestinians agreed to it or not.  Quite naturally, they did not.  And the matter has since been a growing thorn in the side of global politics, in general exacerbating and inflaming already existent problems, from the West’s mucking around in Arabic lands, primarily for oil, since the late 1800’s, and the myriad real-politik compromises made there-by – from America subsidizing Israel, turning a blind-eye to Israel’s acquisition of nuclear bombs and funding its military, to bedding down with whichever short-term Arabic dictator seems to fit the tenor of the moment.

How not to get along with your neighbor

In my own pessimistic view the problem is intractable and will probably come to a very bad end, which perhaps is avoidable.  But it is not possible to even begin to find a resolution if it doesn’t start with some honesty as to the origins as a first step.   To me it is quite understandable that a population which has undergone the history which Jews in Europe suffered, both long ago, and recently, is psychologically traumatized and thinks and behaves as Israel does and the writers who responded to me do.  Hence the quick ad hominem comments of the writer’s above, who are too sensitive to actually take the moment to think, but lash out instinctively, in this case utterly misreading what was before them. And there, in plain sight, is much of the problem – for Palestinians feel pretty much exactly the same way: threatened, fearful, backs to the wall.  And like Israel in its political behavior, they act similarly.  And on both sides there are those goading the matter on for their own reasons, be it American fundamentalists gunning for Armageddon, or Arabic or Persian politicians using the Palestinian circumstance to either distract from their own short-comings or as a lever to heighten their own power.  All in all a very intractable mix.  But one with sadly very deep historical cultural roots – which is the source of my pessimism.  That we seem unable to talk of it without recourse to rhetorical slogans, facile claims, or insult, only serves to deepen my sense that we will be unable to solve this except through worst-case scenarios.  Which will solve nothing.

Israel meets PalestineMexico meets the United States

Fences don’t fix problems, they only mark them, like a band-aid.

Some little signs of the times, as they impacted me directly.  First came a belated note from the Cinematheque Portuguese, with which I was arranging some screenings.  Apologizing for being late, it was explained that the delay was induced by the sudden new financial realities imposed by the Euro-area fiscal crisis.  The Cinematheque has no money, and it appears likely the rather lavish funding of Portugal’s state-funded film agency, ICAM, is to be yanked leaving the filmmakers there high and dry.  Except for those who were smart enough to shift to DV some time ago, like Pedro Costa.  He’ll do fine.  The rest, accustomed to their European scale industrial budgets are likely to hit a brick wall.  I had thought this would come many years ago.  Little Portugal handing out $750,000 grants each to 5 or 6 filmmakers a year to make films which would show in a round of festivals, make no money, and…..

Having other reasons for going to Lisboa, I acceded to the no-pay deal, and will be there on July 7-11.  Which films, time, etc. I don’t yet know but will post here when I do.   We go on to Madrid for screenings there at the Cinemateca Espanol on July 14, 15 and 16.

The other item was a notice by email that the little local Nebraska bank, TierOne, with which I’d opened an account  when there and maintained on leaving as a convenience for sales of DVDs in dollars, has been seized and closed by the FDIC.   Though a friend in Lincoln had written me some months ago that the financial crisis and unemployment had not much impacted Nebraska owing to the conservative values around, it turned out that TierOne, not wanting to be left out, had gone hog-wild into the housing bubble loan scam, and….  And now my bank is one from South Dakota, taking care of my minimal and shrinking bag of US assets.

Visible oil in Gulf; the undersea elements are evidently larger

Meantime this little item in the NY Times confirms the nasty rumors and news that British Petroleum, with the assistance of the US Coast Guard, Homeland Security, local police, and other “public officials” are not-so-discreetly doing what they can to prevent news of what is really going on with the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe.  This was evident from the outset when BP sought to very low-ball its estimate of the daily amount of oil being gushed into the Gulf, claiming initially 1000 barrels a day, which they then upped to 5,000.  Having finally attached a pipe to the well head, they now assert they are capturing almost 20,000 barrels, which seems to give the rather obvious lie to the previous lie about five thousand. [And the news today, June 11, says now scientists have doubled the estimated size of the on-going “spill” :

“This assessment, based on measurements taken before BP cut the riser pipe of the leaking well on June 3 to cap some of the flow, showed that approximately 25,000 to 30,000 barrels of oil could have been gushing into the Gulf each day. That is far above the previous estimate of 12,000 to 19,000 barrels a day.”

Other more buried news indicates that vast lakes of oil/water mixtures, perhaps a product of the at-the-source use of dispersants, now drift at the sea’s bottom, toxic and poisonous to all life, except happy little bacteria which are gobbling it up, depleting the oxygen, and likely to make for a vast dead-zone in the near and far future.

What BP did not do

Further news suggests that the actual drilled well-line has ruptured, and oil is leaking out along a suture in the seas floor, which, if it turns out to be so, may mean that slowly the entire – second largest known reserve in world – oil field which had been tapped may be released into the sea.   This would be a global catastrophe, effecting not only the Gulf of Mexico, but the entire Atlantic Ocean.  Perhaps this explains the eagerness of BP and “the authorities” to keep a lid on information.   However, like the good old USS of R’s behavior with the Chernobyl nuclear plant explosion, this one is slipping out of their media control as vast soups of thick oil begin to land on the popular beaches of Alabama, and the Florida panhandle.  While it only landed in bayou swamps, somewhat difficult to get to, it seemed feasible they could keep a veil over it.  But now…

Now we may await the continuing stream of real information as to the actual scale of this “accident” and the actual scope of the damages it will incur.  At the moment I think I’d take bets that BP, 4th or 7th largest corporation in the world (depending on source) with an annual income, previously, of $14 billion or so, will not survive this – along with the billions of birds, turtles, fish, dolphins and other marine life, large and small, being destroyed by the greed and avarice of a giant corporation which nickel and dimed safety concerns and now has placed on the entire planet a debt burden which cannot be paid in god-almighty greenbacks.  And along with the livelihoods of those who lived beside the coast and for whom it was “home.”

The singular virtue of this disaster is that it may finally provide the leverage to dislodge from the American mind the false and devastatingly damaging ideology of the so-called “Free Market Economy” mantra of rampant capitalism.

Wall Street