TaxCast is an excellent program produced by the Tax Justice Network and hosted by Naomi Fowler. Each 15 minute podcast follows the latest news relating to tax evasion, tax avoidance and the shadow banking system. The show features discussions with experts in the field to help analyse the top stories each month.
In this month’s TaxCast: Tax haven insiders speak out, the co-founder of Facebook ‘unfriends’ the US, and Europe considers a Financial Transaction Tax.
A night reading Rumi fills ancient wineglasses.
By day speed & freeway suck God out of me.
I have stayed up all night thinking of you.
Wall Street & City leech love out of me.
Who is my brother if the world is a village?
Jet and internet pluck my roots out of me.
If earth goes toxic, let’s move out to Mars.
This devil optimism takes the heart out of me.
When blue sky and sun wrap me in their arms, Shähid, this friendship takes the dread out of me.
M. Shahid Alam teaches economics at Northeastern University in Boston. He is the author of Israeli Exceptionalism (Palgrave, 2010). His poems and Ghalib translations have appeared in Kenyon Review(forthcoming), Critical Muslim (forthcoming), Clapboard House, Prairie Schooner, Chicago Review, Beloit Poetry Journal, Paintbrush, Black Bear Review, West Coast Review, Marlboro Review, Journal of South Asian Literature, Kimera, Sufi, Swan, Chowk, Blanket and Pulse.
There are some, perhaps many, Syrians who detest their government and are entirely aware of its treasonous nature — yet wish for the demonstrations and the guerrilla actions of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) to stop and for President Bashar al-Assad’s regime to regain control as soon as possible. They take this position out of a profound pessimism: They believe it is impossible to uproot the surveillance-and-torture state and its deep sectarian substructure, that more people will die the longer the unrest continues, that the economy will collapse further, and that nothing will alter the end — Assad’s inevitable victory. Some Syrians go so far as to say that the regime itself, or a branch of it, is surreptitiously encouraging demonstrations so as to have an “excuse” to teach the new generation an unforgettable lesson.
I can’t agree with this defeatist perspective on principle — the principle being my refusal to give in to despair, and my faith in the ability of human beings to change their circumstances. I understand it, however, and I understand that I might share it if I were living in the heart of the horror instead of in Scotland. But apart from principle, I think the assumption underlying the defeatist perspective is mistaken. Yes, the regime is still able to kill, and will continue or even intensify its killing. However, it has lost control of the country and won’t be able to reestablish it.
The much-maligned United Nations observers have confirmed what news reports had already suggested: Large areas of the Syrian countryside and provincial cities are either under FSA control or nobody’s. Regime forces are able to infiltrate and punish areas under the revolutionaries’ sway, but they dare not linger. Sometimes, they are not even able to move in. When the Assad regime recently attempted to retake the eastern city of Rastan, the FSA destroyed a number of armored vehicles and killed 23 soldiers, forcing the military to retreat.
On May 29, The New York Times published an extraordinarily in-depth look at the intimate role President Obama has played in authorizing US drone attacks overseas, particularly in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. It is chilling to read the cold, macabre ease with which the President and his staff decide who will live or die. The fate of people living thousands of miles away is decided by a group of Americans, elected and unelected, who don’t speak their language, don’t know their culture, don’t understand their motives or values. While purporting to represent the world’s greatest democracy, US leaders are putting people on a hit list who are as young as 17, people who are given no chance to surrender, and certainly no chance to be tried in a court of law.
Who is furnishing the President and his aides with this list of terrorist suspects to choose from, like baseball cards? The kind of intelligence used to put people on drone hit lists is the same kind of intelligence that put people in Guantanamo. Remember how the American public was assured that the prisoners locked up in Guantanamo were the “worst of the worst,” only to find out that hundreds were innocent people who had been sold to the US military by bounty hunters?
A surprise peak of Madonna concert ticket sales comes from a small territory in the Middle East known as “The Dictatorship Formerly Known as Palestine”. A war-torn land, which’s people have obviously suffered enough. Thus, in a desperate attempt to escape the hardships of every day shopping, they turn to the Material Girl’s hard hitting, politically provocative show. With international hits like “Girl Gone Wild” (dedicated to Palestinian activist Rana Nazzal Hamadeh who courageously mounted the notorious “Skunk” truck) and that song of hope and liberation “Turn Up The Radio”, Madonna always has world peace on her mind.
Due to the high ticket sales, super-mega-star Madonna has treated the Middle East with what its been thirsting for. Nope, it’s not water; It’s a second concert, dubbed “Dirty Laundry”. Once again, calling attention to the colonial state of Israel’s policies of apartheid against the Palestinian people, Madonna shines with yet another brilliant PR move. Outdoing her own diplomatic efforts of the 2009 concert in Israel and far surpassing Leonard Cohen’s whitewashing of concert proceeds with NGOs in desperate need of cash, Madonna chose to buy out the already sold-out Peace Industry NGOs with more slogans of peace and free tickets.
Arriving a week early for rehearsals, we met up with the pop diva for a sun bathing session on the shores of the White City, and she carried this message of peace on earth:
Music is so universal and if there’s any chance that through my performance I can bring further attention and enlightenment to honor the peace efforts in the Middle East and help people come together, it would be an honor for me. It is my way of thanking those who are making so much effort toward bringing peace to the Middle East.
Madonna’s humble gratitude doesn’t go unanswered and already pro-peace-Israel’s biggest propaganda outlets are abuzz with the latest elevating of hardships, due to the cultural siege it’s been suffering:
The fact that she chose Israel to begin her world tour and will be arriving a week early to hold rehearsals has been seen as a boost for the country, which has witnessed some performers canceling shows and others opting not to appear here at all.
But gratitude must also be extended to those tireless Non-Governmental-At-All activists at the Creative Community for Peace Laundromat who brought Conan O’Brien along to add that missing air of glitter quality. And producer (and dry-cleaner extraordinaire by day and “cultural terrorism” fighter by night) Shuki Weiss, who was willing to sell the “Dirty Laundry” tickets at a reduced price and even provide free tickets for white-as-snow government celebrities:
The artist’s shrewd political maneuver has indeed brought the much needed unity to the inflamed region, as a joint statement was issued by President of the Palestinian National Authority, Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas leader in the Gaza strip, Khaled Mashal:
We, Mahmoud Abbas and Khaled Mashal, the leaders of the new unity government of the Palestinian people would like to bestow Madonna with an honorary Palestinian citizenship on this wondrous occasion of her bridge-building concert (and once we get our land back), but we are stuck at the checkpoint and being shot at in the “Death Zone” respectively.
Honduras has belatedly appeared on the radar of the U.S. media over the past couple of weeks. A joint U.S.-Honduras drug raid on Friday, May 11, reportedly killed civilians—including two pregnant women—near Ahuas, a town in the Mosquitia region of Honduras. According to press coverage based on accounts by U.S. officials, four State Department helicopters—piloted by Guatemalan military officers and outside contractors—carried a strike force of Honduran security officers from a U.S.-built base to the Patuca River. They were accompanied by what The New York Times called a “commando-style squad” of U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents, and acted on Colombian and U.S. intelligence. U.S. and Honduran officials toldThe Times the forces seized 1,000 pounds of cocaine from a boat before being attacked by another boat of drug traffickers; Honduran personnel, then on the ground, and with support from “the door gunner of at least one of the helicopters,” engaged in a late-night firefight with the traffickers, killing two of them. The State Department and the DEA insist that only Hondurans participated in the shootout.
Both the local mayor and congressional representative disputed this account, asserting in the Honduran newspaper El Tiempothree days after the raid that four people were killed—Emerson Martínez, Chalo Brock Wood, Candelaria Tratt Nelson, and Juana Banegas—and that they were ordinary citizens. In a later interview with TIME, the local leaders said the civilian boat was “ferrying passengers,” and “was passing from the opposite direction and got caught in the nighttime crossfire.” Close to a week after initial reports incorrectly described the mission as having been carried out solely by Honduran forces, and days after the local authorities accused the DEA of involvement, official U.S. spokespersons finally admitted to the DEA’s “advisory role” in the brutal raid.
This piece was published at NACLA. See also Belén Fernández’s short profile of Noriega here.
On May 2, CNN executive producer Arthur Brice published what was purported to be a news article on Venezuela. Instead, Brice’s 4,300-word screed, titled “Chavez Health Problems Plunge Venezuela’s Future Into Doubt,” is little more than a platform for the bizarre theories of Roger Noriega, an ultra-rightwing lobbyist and one-time diplomat under George W. Bush, who Brice references over two dozen times throughout his article.
As a political commentator, Noriega pontificates with total brazenness. He appeared as the chief pundit in Brice’s CNN piece six months after announcing—based on what he said was the belief of Chávez’s own medical team—that the Venezuelan president was “not likely to survive more than six months.” Noriega is not fazed by facts. He promotes his fantastical claims in many major news outlets, often based on anonymous sources. Take, for example, his 2010 Foreign Policy article, “Chávez’s Secret Nuclear Program,” whose subtitle reads: “It’s not clear what Venezuela’s hiding, but it’s definitely hiding something—and the fact that Iran is involved suggests that it’s up to no good.” (State Department officials dismissed this suspicion with “scorn.”)
CNN’s interviews with Noriega and the other mostly rightwing analysts likely led to this demonstrably false claim at the beginning of Brice’s May 2 article: “Diosdado Cabello, a longtime Chavez cohort . . . amassed tremendous power in January when Chavez named him president of the National Assembly.” In fact, even El Universal, a daily Venezuelan newspaper long-aligned with the opposition, conceded in a January 5 report that Cabello was elected as the new president of the National Assembly, even if “only with the votes” of the majority United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV). Ewan Robertson of Venezuelanalysis.com found that 98 deputies of the pro-government bloc supported Cabello, while the 67-member opposition bloc opposed him. Such mundane electoral processes have guided much of Venezuela’s political dynamics over the past decade.