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Archive for November 2012

Aphorism 1

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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.

Written by yourinquirerprofoundly

November 29, 2012 at 7:27 am

Posted in Aphorisms, philosophy

Obama, The Trusted Terminator

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The Terminatoresque Skynet warfare that has become the hallmark of the Obama administration’s continued war on terror has provoked the ire of everyone from the families of kill targets and human rights groups to civil rights activists and those who fear what will happen when drones wind up in the hands of the very people we are trying to fight. But who exactly are we fighting with drones?

Since the CIA operated Predator Drone killed suspected Al-Qaeda leader Abu Ali al-Harithi and the five other men riding along with him in November 2002 the United States and the rest of the world for that matter entered a new era of warfare.

Among the counterterrorism tools used to modify the legal framework for 21st century combat was the exception made to Executive Order 12333 which banned United State’s officials from carrying out assassinations except “in response to a foreign terrorist attack on U.S. soil.” Reinterpreting this order made Bush’s “targeted killing” of Mr. Harith, in Condoleza Rice’s words “well within the balance of accepted practice and the letter of his constitutional authority.” Bush’s Authorization to Use Military Force (AUMF) following the sweeping interpretation of the Executive Order allowed him “to use all necessary and appropriate force…in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States.” Now the cornerstone of the Bush Doctrine, AUMF gave the president free reign to secretly target and kill terrorists believed to have perpetrated the 9/11 attacks anywhere in the world.

Obama more than doubled the number of drone attacks during his first year in office all while claiming to usher in a new era of governmental transparency and respect for human rights. The rhetorical often contradicts the actual in politics. This is precisely what makes Obama such a dangerous president. Obama and his marketers have created Barack Obama the public personality, a man who is at once honest, dignified, intelligent, trustworthy, a good father, a loyal husband and for those who only trust a man with at least one fault, he smokes cigarettes and drinks Guiness just like you. It’s much easier for this Obama brand to kill 2,500 plus people away from battlefields in clandestine assassinations that he has helped legitimate and institutionalize than it would be for some cold-blooded Republican. Remember the outrage from the anti-bush “liberals” every time Bush and his “evil” coterie shrouded some aspect of the war on terror in secrecy. In principal, the same people who took a stand against Bush’s sweeping expansion of executive authority would be expected to make that same stand against a president who sought to expand those powers further; Obama. But the public outrage against Obama’s own power grab has been virtually invisible despite the fact that fhe Obama administration’s interpretation of the AUMF was even more far reaching than Bush’s and Cheyney’s interpretation of Executive Order 12333. Obama has not only expanded the powers he campaigned against curtailing in 2008, but he has literally entrenched them. Signing into law the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act Obama institutionalized the Bush administration’s broad interpretation of enumerated war powers, setting America on course for another generation of global war.

Apparently America’s enemies have multiplied. What was once a war against “terrorist perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks” under Bush and at the beginning of Obama’s presidency a war against “operational Al Qaeda leaders or people who posed significant and imminent threats to the U.S. homeland” is now being waged against “militants” and “counterinsurgents” in Pakistan, Somalia, and Yemen. The majority of people targeted for drone death by the Obama administration are not carrying out plots against the US. Micah Zenko at the Council of Foreign Affairs was interviewed by Propublica regarding the changing face of America’s enemies:

Most of the people who are killed don’t have as their objective to strike the U.S. homeland. Most of the people who are killed by drones want to impose some degree of sharia law where they live, they want to fight a defensive jihad against security service and the central government, or they want to unseat what they perceive as an apostate regime that rules their country.

Distinguishing between terrorists, insurgents or militants is, however, critically important. Vague descriptions of enemies can and have been used to justify attacks on non-enemies. The alleged Al-Qaeda factory in Sudan bombed in response to Al-Qaeda attacks on US embassies turned out to be a pharmaceutical plant. Several innocents died. The drone attack at Damadola targeting Zawahiri wound up killing 18 civilians, identified as “militants”. Zawahiri, the principal target, was absent during the attack. The U.S. has been involved in hundreds of other attacks against the wrong targets, leaving thousands of innocents to die at the arbitrary hand of US justice. So what is the primary purpose of the US drone war? Can the global war on terror be abridged to America’s global war? If our targets aren’t only terrorists but militants fighting against their own governments in Yemen, Pakistan and Somalia are we not as Justin Elliot asked using our drones as a “counterinsurgency air force” for allied governments? And if this is the case should we not be reevaluating our justifications for a protracted war in the Middle East?

Obama’s justification for continuing and expanding Bush’s war on terror was to protect Americans from imminent terrorist threats. That was the stated objective of war. But since a wider range of people have begun to be mowed down by drone fire, many who posed no threat to the United States initially, the ranks of enemies now conducting operations against America and its installations abroad have soared. John Brennan, Obama’s chief counterterrorism executive by his own account acknowledged that AQAP’s ranks had swollen to “more than a thousand members in Yemen” from a mere few “hundred” when Obama first took office. Obama, like his predecessor has gone about combating terrorism like a farmer trying to discover the most productive way to grow a crop. Each drone strike, every image of a dead child that appears online, the videos of womens’ faces charred by Hellfire missiles shot by drones streamed live on the web and aired on Al-Jazeera embolden “terrorists” claims that the United States is a violent imperialist force that should be subdued.

Like the scramble for tanks during WWII and the race for nuclear superiority after the A-bomb was dropped governments and sub-state actors that have witnessed the lethal efficacy of drone warfare are scrambling to get their hands on their own drones. What an outcome for the war on terror, a war with stated objective of eliminating terrorists. Obama, like his predecessor has gone about combating terrorism like a farmer trying to discover the most productive way to grow a crop. Unfortunately his harvest has been bountiful.

The illusions swallowed every time someone buys into the Obama-is not-as bad-as-the-scary-republican-war-mongers argument are poisonous. Teddy Roosevelt said, “To announce that there must be no criticism of the president, or that we are to stand by the president, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic or servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public.” The reluctance to challenge the Obama image that has been spoon-fed to the American public by savvy marketers and critically examine how Obama has carried out his war on terror results in what we have today: a president who secretly kills anyone he wants, without oversight, shunning due process, even when that person is a US citizen and who resists restraints to his awesome and terrifying powers in the most kingly fashion possible-closing the doors to his citadel and excercising his powers in darkness.

Written by yourinquirerprofoundly

November 29, 2012 at 12:40 am

Fiscal Leadership Council and the Cult of Cybele

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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.

Written by yourinquirerprofoundly

November 26, 2012 at 6:06 pm

Posted in News, Politics

Covering (up) a military practice run

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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.

Written by yourinquirerprofoundly

November 23, 2012 at 7:55 pm

Pro-Israeli media shapes perception of Gaza

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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

Written by yourinquirerprofoundly

November 21, 2012 at 3:31 am

Like, 1800 Years of Missionary-Position

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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.

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November 19, 2012 at 2:03 pm

Patraeus, Benghazi, Surveillance Weirdness

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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.

Written by yourinquirerprofoundly

November 16, 2012 at 4:38 pm