Archive for November 2012
The transition from long drawn out anxiety, perhaps a lifetime’s worth of anguish and despair to the short exuberant moment of laughter is the brief recognition of how unimportant our gravest worries are compared to the importance of allaying our concerns, even if only for a moment. One can, and has for many centuries chosen not to laugh and has died a comical death.
Fiscal cliff, Taxmageddon, and a committee of CEOs commissioned to assist lawmakers in reducing the deficit is a combination found exclusively in two places: Idiots Guide to Plutocracy and the United States of America. The corporate CEO’s who have made their way into deficit negotiations by way of billionaire and former U.S. Secretary of Commerce under Nixon Peter Peterson’s Campaign to Fix the Debt and it’s self-proclaimed CEO Fiscal Leadership Council all with the obsequious approval of Congress flouts the fact that these same people are substantially responsible for the bloated deficits they are suddenly responsible for trimming.
These guys, 80 plus CEOs from America’s most powerful corporations are charged with the role negotiating a debt deal that continues to provide corporate tax breaks and corporate subsidies while shifting costs to the poor and elderly. The central tenet to their deficit reduction plan is to enact enormous cuts to “social safety-net programs/” It’s bad enough that the banksters and corporate elites at the center of the 2007 financial meltdown have any say at all in fiscal policy. What’s worse is that their recommendations hold real weight with the legislators they are courting, who will, of course, be rewarded handsomely for advancing the campaign’s tax agenda.
The Institute for Policy Studies released a report illustrating how this CEO-led initiative is exploiting the “fiscal cliff” as an opportunity to secure tax-code changes that would result in a multibillion dollar windfall for all 63 corporations represented in the campaign:
The 63 Fix the Debt companies that are publicly held stand to gain as much as $134 billion in windfalls if Congress approves one of their main proposals — a “territorial tax system.” Under this system, companies would not have to pay U.S. federal income taxes on foreign earnings when they bring the profits back to the United States.
The CEOs backing Fix the Debt personally received a combined total of $41 million in savings last year thanks to the Bush-era tax cuts. The top CEO beneficiary of the Bush tax cuts in 2011, Leon Black of Apollo Global Management, saved $9.9 million on the Bush tax cuts. The private equity fund leader reaped $215 million in taxable income last year just from vested stock.
Of the 63 Fix the Debt CEOs at publicly held firms, 24 received more in compensation last year than their corporations paid in federal corporate income taxes. All but six of these firms reported U.S. profits last year.
Goldman Sachs’ Lloyd Blankfein and Honeywell’s David Cote have done a tour de force PR campaign advocating massive spending cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security as the sole option to reduce the deficit. Cote took to the airwaves in a CBS news interview not only lobbying for “entitlement” cuts and slashing “low priority spending” but in another interview, when asked by CNBC’s Andrew Ross Sorkin what he thought the effective tax rate should be for corporations Cote responded, “zero.”The Huff Post noted that Cote walks the walk and talks the talk:
“At Honeywell, Cote practices what he preaches. Between 2008-2010, the company avoided paying any taxes at all. Instead, the company got taxpayer-funded rebates of $34 million off of profits totaling nearly $5 billion.”
Obama sought advice from Cote on the economy last week.
A look at the campaign’s member corporations, from military contractors GE, Boeing and Textron-some of the biggest recipients of corporate welfare and entirely dependent on Congress and the White House to maintain defense spending that translates into lucrative federal contracts-to the financial powerhouses, Morgan Stanley, JP Morgan and Bank of America shows the disdain the ruling elites have for those they govern. As the “fiscal leaders” barnstorm the media, a cynical attempt to convince people who aren’t on their corporate boards that they should foot the bill for the federal and corporate largesse that has created this situation, they lift their shoes and tell us we should be honored to taste their soles. As Obama confers with Monsignor Cote, dotes on Bryan Moynihan and gives Lloyd Blankfein carte blanche to voice his vision of how the economy should operate he and the coterie of elites surrounding him and his administration give a warm and sincere fuck you to America’s most vulnerable. This peek into what’s happening behind the “closed door” deficit discussions is a sham. CEO as economic adviser is an incommensurable duality. CEO as policy dictator is more fitting. The priests of Cybele flagellated themselves in violent frenzy before castrating themselves in honor of their goddess. Watching the corporate elites silently as they attempt to hijack fiscal policy once again reminds us that we aren’t too far behind the priests of Cybele.
No sooner than Palestinians erupted in celebration of the news that a cease-fire had been negotiated with Israel the New York Times front page head line read: Gaza Conflict as Trial Run. Speaking of the eight-day Firefight, U.S. Israeli Ambassador, Michael Oren stated, “Israel was not confronting Gaza, but Iran.” Earlier this week an Israeli Defense Force spokesmen referred to the Hamas controlled Gaza Strip as a “forward Iran base” placing the recent conflict in a broader context.
The conflict in Gaza that has raged over the past eight days has not been only as Israeli officials declared about deterring Palestinian rocket fire into Israel but more about testing Israel’s military capabilities. A live stress-test on its anti-missile defense system Iron Dome was performed as missiles launched from Gaza. The accuracy of Israel’s Air Force was measured by the destruction fighter jet pilots wrought on over 1,500 targets. And by engaging Gazans in a firefight, Israel minimized the cache of munitions that could be used against it by suspected ally of Iran, Hamas, in the case of war with Iran.
Of course the Times article does not once question how the use of a densely populated city as a military laboratory affects the lives of residents, hundreds who have been injured and blown to pieces. Instead the article focuses “the three tiers of threat” Israel would face in a conflict with Iran: “the short range missiles that have been lobbed in this campaign, medium range missiles fielded by Hezbollah in Lebanon and long range missiles from Iran”.
In my last post I spoke of how the pro-Israeli media shapes the perception of the Israeli-Palestine conflict as one where both sides suffer equally. The numerical reality that Palestinians endure disproportionate loss of lives is reflexively swept under the rug. This latest Times article is a testament to the pro-Israeli biases that permeate mainstream media. That Israel can not only conduct a live military “practice run” on a peopled territory but do so without scrutiny from one of the most prominent newspapers in the world reflects the complicity of the press in advancing Israel’s violent goals.
Reading the New York Times today makes one realize you don’t have to sit-a-top a hill outside Sderot in southern Israel, watching F-16s level entire neighborhoods while you picnic to be a spectator of “justified” aggression against the Palestinian people, all you have to do is read an article like David Sanger’s and Thom Shanker’s uncritically.
Since Israel launched Operation Pillar of Defense last Wednesday, an effort, Israel claims, to deter Palestinians from launching rockets into Israeli territory the death toll has climbed. The Gaza Health Ministry has reported at least 132 deaths and over 920 casualties since mortar rockets and air strike missiles began hitting Gaza. 1,500 targets in Gaza have been blasted by the Israeli Air Force, naval force and IDF since last week. Over 700 rockets have been launched into Israel from Gaza. Although Israel’s missile defense system Iron Dome has intercepted 300 missiles, a fatal rocket landed in the southern town of Kiryat Malachi killing 3 Israeli civilians on Sunday.
The asymmetrical loss of life on both sides corresponds to disproportionate use of force. Rockets launched from Gaza are met with Israeli mortar shells and and F-16 aerial bombings. Daily Beast writer Yousef Munayyer puts the exchanged shelling in context:
In 2011, the projectiles fired by the Israeli military into Gaza have been responsible for the death of 108 Palestinians, of which 15 where women or children, and the injury of 468 Palestinians, of which 143 where women or children. The methods by which these causalities were inflicted by Israeli projectiles breaks down as follows: 57 percent, or 310, were caused by Israeli aircraft missile fire; 28 percent, or 150, where from Israeli live ammunition; 11 percent, or 59, were from Israeli tank shells; while another 3 percent, or 18, were from Israeli mortar fire.
Through September 2012, Israeli weaponry caused 55 Palestinian deaths and 257 injuries. Among these 312 casualties, 61, or roughly 20 percent, were children and 28 were female. 209 of these casualties came as a result of Israeli Air Force missiles, 69 from live ammunition fire, and 18 from tank shells. It is important to note that these figures do not represent a totality of Israeli projectiles fired into Gaza but rather only Israeli projectiles fired into Gaza which cause casualties. The total number of Israeli projectiles fired into Gaza is bound to be significantly larger.
In short, Palestinian losses are incomparably higher than Israel’s although the way the latest conflagration has been portrayed in the media, both sides are shown to be suffering equally. Creating this perception is crucial for Israel to justify it’s “whatever actions neccesary” credo. Humans have always been great at making up reasons why the person whose neck their boot presses on should have their windpipes crushed. They shot rockets into our sovereign territory, threatening the security of our people, Israel reasons. Therefore we must retaliate with ferocious force to make them think twice about launching rockets at Israel in the future. Exactly what Israel is retaliating against in this flare-up is subject to debate.
Israel’s “targeted killing” of Ahmed Jabari, leader of Hamas military wing Eziden al-Qassam on November 14, was the incident that sparked the latest firestorm in Gaza. Sure we could as Michael Oren wrote in the New York Times this morning, cite the origin of today’s raging crisis in Gaza back to “the operation [that] began on May 14, 1948, the day Arab forces moved to destroy the newly declared state of Israel.” We could also try for a second to imagine how after 45 years of brutal occupation Israel’s recent “targeted killing” of Hamas’s top military leader follows a depressingly familiar pattern of Israeli aggression.
When your policy is one of anticipatory defense, as it is in Israel, the pretext of an imminent threat is readily available to justify the excercise of violence. For every rocket that is launched into the Israeli desert air strikes will be meted out in populated towns and villages in Gaza. For every 3 Israelis killed in war with Palestine 132 bodies will have to be piled up by Israeli defense forces. And for every image of death and carnage Hamas posts on twitter, a media building will be bombed to the ground by US subsidized weapons. Let the numbers speak for themselves.
Gaza comprises 1.6 million people, 80 percent of whom are refugees living in a militarized, blocaded and economically isolated open-air prison. Despite their resistance being met with overwhelming force for decades, Palestinians remain resilient in their fight for dignity and autonomous self-rule. The pro-israel orthodoxies that permeate the media obfuscate the nature of the struggle between the occupied and the occupiers. Remaining trapped in the perspectival corner of justified anticipatory defense is a failure to depart from the tired script of justified violence against Palestinians
Glenn Greenwald blogged a few days ago: this morning’s New York Times editorial self-consciously drapes itself with pro-Israel caveats and completely ignores the extensive civilian deaths in Gaza before identifying this as one of the only flaws it could find with the lethal Israeli assault: “The action also threatens to divert attention from what Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly described as Israel’s biggest security threat: Iran’s nuclear program.” That editorial was written last Thursday. A look at the papers today contains the same reflexive pro-Israel biases. And for those following the crisis as it unfolds in Gaza on social media filtering out the Israeli propaganda its no wonder why an Al Aqsa TV building wound up on the target list.
Gaza about an hour ago
Reporting from Gaza, Palestinian journalist Mohammed Omer said a historic bridge in Gaza has been hit by Israeli fighter jets.
Mohammed Omer @Mogaza
#Israeli fighter jets bombed the historical bridge between AlNusssirat and Almoghraga, center #Gaza Strip
21 Nov 12 ReplyRetweetFavorite
The different ideas that arise from the concept of sex are inextricably linked to what Michele Foucault calls “power relations.” The way we think about sex, as Decaf Fiction pointed out is effected by social categories surrounding the act of sex. OK, so say we have like 1800 years of missionary position, personally think we were more creative than that, at least before Cyril scraped the flesh from Hypatia’s body with an oyster shell (he was sanctified for this)…rambling now, anyways, during this 1800 year reign of missionary-only sex, people were socialized to regard anything straying from this sexual norm as deviant. Punishment was meted out to anyone suspected of defying established norms controlling human sexuality. Religious and social institutions reinforced these norms. Touring torture mueseums in medieval towns of Europe will acquaint you with the extent religious authorities would go to enforce sexual proscriptions. A torture device called the “pear”, a bolbous screw driven mechanism that expanded when turned, for instance, was inserted into the vagina of women suspected of cukoldry, of being witches or for any number of other offenses of sexual deviance. This was also called the “Pope’s Pear”, a reference to its use by the Popes and clergy in the act of extracting confessions from sinners. That such disciplinary measures surrounding the act of sex repressed people’s sexual drive, causing them to conform to the sexual norms dictated by the religious establishment illustrates how certain people were in a positions of power, in positions to coerce compliance out of others, often by ruthless means. This is an example of how power relations function. Sex was supposed to be confined to acts permitted by the pear inserting screw turners and their superiors during the 1800 years of missionary. Clergy members and others involved in regulating copulation stood at a distance from the social body they coerced into obedience. Having lived during this sexually repressive historical moment one would associate sex with the rules, regulations and punishments surrounding the act of sexual intercourse. A discourse about sex existed, but that discourse was dominated by people in positions of power (relgious establishment in this case) who forced submission to their rules and regulations of the body and it’s engagement in sexual intercourse with the pervasive threat of punishment, with the pear or in places like Chad and Kandahar today with scalpels and scissors to perform female circumsision, an act of regulating a females sexual life and enforcing compliance to established sexual norms.
With the CIA investigating Petraeus and lawmakers pressing inquiries about the Benghazi attacks as couple of weird things have emerged.
Over the Patraeus clatter it has come forth that an agent used sophisticated surveillance and datamining technologies to investigate someone without having received a warrant and with absolutely no oversight is alarming. That Jill Kelly a Tampa Bay “socialite friendly with Patraeus” approached a friend of hers, an FBI agent after receiving threatening emails and a major investigation ensued shows the disturbing reach of the surveillance state and how easily surveillance is conducted for purely personal purposes. Let me summarize the Patraeus scandal: Sexy friend complains to FBI. FBI agent launches his own investigation. Paula Broadwell identified as sender of threatening emails is subjected to invasive surveillance despite there being no evidence that she committed a criminal offense. Every personal email she sent is scrutinized, pics of her lover (“shirtless” apparently) are viewed, her contacts databased and also investigated which revealed her affair with Patraeus and involvement with General John Allen too. And then a scandal breaks loose because Patraeus was getting busy with his hot biographer. The real scandal here is that an FBI agent launched his own investigation not because a crime was suspected but because he felt like getting to the bottom of a friends grievance. So when an investigative agent or a police officer with access to surveillance tools feels like using them on say a wife he suspects of cukoldry or a friends nemesis boss or simply to cast the surveillance camera on someone who caught his eye, those in the internal investigation units are going to pay no attention to their agencies gross overreach of authority unless their spy was involved in a sex affair and was in the organization’s top ranks. And that’s great that the Pentagon is reviewing its ethical standards after a 4 star general got caught with his pants down but how bout showing the same outrage over the litany of other crimes the US military has committed over the past decade; peeing on dead people, killing babies, raping women and torturing war prisoners. The US is a surveillance state and it conducts unaccountable probes into the lives of even the most law abiding citizens. Washington Post’s Top Secret America revealed that “Every day, collection systems at the National Security Agency intercept and store 1.7 billion e-mails, phone calls and other types of communications.” If this scandal is really about Patraeus and his sex life rather than about the tentacular reach of America’s sprawling surveillance apparatus that’s disturbing…
like…the Senate Intelligence Committee reviewing “a detailed chronology of the attack on September 11 that killed Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens” from a “video made from a composite of sources, including Predator drone video of the events that night.” What’s being admitted too here is that investigators have possessed video footage from various sources since the attacks occurred. Dianne Feinstein has been upfront about that. So why the ambiguity surrounding the event? Although the comprehensive surveillance networks are anything but synchronized and comprise a vast and often unnavigable data universe it’s unconscionable that the CIA, NSA and the hundreds of other investigative bureaus responsible for investigating the Benghazi could not see what was occurring in real time or at worst in the immediate aftermath. The strategic vagueness that has shrouded events in Benghazi and the strange contradictions now surfacing as investigations continue is the Obama Administration fumbling “perception management“, the reviled strategy popular during the Bush administration that included creating and disseminating “misinformation” to manipulate public perception of events.