Posts Tagged ‘US’
Some unintended consequences in the “War on Drugs”: murderous gangs who lay waste to whole towns.
On the other side, a brutal war between drug gangs has forced dozens of fearful families from the Mexican town of El Porvenir to come to the border seeking political asylum, and scores of other Mexicans have used special visas known as border-crossing cards to flee into the United States. They say drug gangs have laid waste to their town, burning down houses and killing people in the street.
Americans are taking in their Mexican relatives, and the local schools have swelled with traumatized children, many of whom have witnessed gangland violence, school officials say.
“It’s very hard over there,” said Vicente Burciaga, 23, who fled El Porvenir a month ago with his wife, Mayra, and their infant son after gang members burned down five homes in their neighborhood and killed a neighbor. “They are killing people over there who have nothing to do with drug trafficking,” he said. “They kill you just for having seen what they are doing.”
Now, it occurs to me that if you decriminalize “drugs”, the people who trade in them can take advantage of a modern judiciary to settle their disputes instead of simply killing each other.
It looks as though our trusty client Maliki will come out ahead in the 2010 Iraqi elections after all, if this McClatchy dispatch is any indication. Carrying out long-standing political discrimination against the disgraced Ba’ath party, six major candidates will lose their votes and seats, costing Allawi (another US client) his victory. The six candidates committed the awful crime of having been associated with the Ba’ath party before the US invasion:
Six winning candidates in Iraq elections will be stripped of their votes and lose their seats – which would cost secular politician Iyad Allawi’s bloc its narrow victory – if a federal court upholds a broad purge of candidates who are suspected of past involvement with the late dictator Saddam Hussein’s outlawed Baath Party, Iraqi officials said Monday.
What’s most appalling about this development is not that the Iraqis had to choose between two pro-occupation candidates, but that Ahmad Chalabi is in charge of the so-called ‘de-baathification”, and thus in a position to unilaterally decide who can and cannot contest elections in Iraq. Chalabi, you must remember, was a major architect of the 2003 invasion, and went so far as to provide fake intelligence to convince Bush to bomb Baghdad. Astoundingly, Chalabi also contested the 2010 Iraqi Elections, while retaining the power to disqualify candidates at will. (Unsurprisingly, he won re-election.)
Aram Roston has written several excellent articles detailing Ahmad Chalabi’s crucial role in the Iraq invasion, and his 2008 article in The Nation entitled “Chalabi’s lobby” is a must read. Why Chalabi is still in such a powerful position after the Senate Intelligence Committee determined he had (in their words) “attempted to influence United States policy on Iraq by providing false information” is totally beyond me.
Somewhere in the bowels of the Pentagon, some master brain or another must have decided that the US would rather have Maliki in the Prime Minster’s seat rather than Allawi, and gave the order to Chalabi (who has been collaborating with the US Department of War since the ’90s) to disqualify such-and-such candidates to make Maliki come out on top.
The truth is, it doesn’t really matter – not to the Iraqis, anyway. Either Allawi or Maliki would have carried out US policy like the obedient servants they are. Whoever won, the Iraqis would still be saddled with a long-term occupation force of 50,000, their oil would still have gone up on the international market, with no chance of nationalizing it, and their elections would continue to be rigged in favor of the US – just as this one was.
When they said we’d be bringing “democracy” to Iraq, I’m sure our leaders meant “US-style democracy”. You know, the kind where the electorate chooses between two candidates with identical policies and who are funded by the same corrupt sources. Just like we have it here!
From the BBC:
We went to a house where three children, all under six, were suffering from birth defects.
Two boys were partially paralysed, and their sister clearly had serious brain damage.
Like all the other parents we spoke to, their mother had no doubt that the American attacks were responsible.
Outside, a man who had heard we were there had brought his four-year-old daughter to show us. She had six fingers on each hand, and six toes on each foot.
She was also suffering from a number of other serious health problems. The father told us that the house where they still lived had been hit by an American shell during the fighting in 2004.
There may well be a link with drinking-water, especially in al-Julan.
After the fighting was over, the rubble from the town was bulldozed into the river bank, and most people in this area get their water from the river.
A startling statistic buried within an outstanding New Republic article:
As a result of the crisis and various government rescue efforts, the largest six banks in our economy now have total assets in excess of 63 percent of GDP (based on the latest available data). This is a significant increase from even 2006, when the same banks’ assets were around 55 percent of GDP, and a complete transformation compared with the situation in the United States just 15 years ago, when the six largest banks had combined assets of only around 17 percent of GDP. If the status quo persists, we are set up for another round of the boom-bailout-bust cycle that the head of financial stability at the Bank of England now terms a “doom loop.”
Good god. I knew that these banks were big, but I had no idea they were this big. The New Republic devotes the rest of its article to explaining why Obama’s bank regulations are (surprise!) a sham. But then, we should have already known that. When Treasury Secretary Geithner appeared on Newshour a few days ago, he baldly stated that these new regulatory rules “will not include breaking up the banks“. Forgive me, but what is the point of “regulation” if our banks are allowed to keep their “too big to fail” status and continue to engage in the same practices that brought down our economy in 2008? The so-called Volcker rules do nothing to stymie the relationship between Wall Street and Washington, they do nothing to prevent banks from over-leveraging (as they had during the run-up to the crisis), they allow the banks to retain their gargantuan size… so what were the Volcker rules supposed to do again? Oh yeah, it bans “proprietary trading”, somthing which only accounts for 5 percent of total bank revenue.
Meanwhile, President Obama is proposing yet another giveaway to the banks, this time in the form of $30 billion in loans at below-market interest rates. If I sell you something about below-market value, then I’m giving you a gift. That’s what these “loans” are. The Washington Post attempts to bury the issue in the middle of the piece, and refers to the subsidy as going to “community banks”, without noting that most of these “community banks” have long since been bought up by our banking behemoths.
I don’t really know what else to say here. The banks own Congress; they own the House; they own Obama (check out his campaign donors) – there doesn’t seem to be any way out of this. I think some mobs with torches and pitchforks would not go amiss at this point.
The Times continues its reporting on the Greek crisis:
Echoing the kind of trades that nearly toppled the American International Group, the increasingly popular insurance against the risk of a Greek default is making it harder for Athens to raise the money it needs to pay its bills, according to traders and money managers.
These contracts, known as credit-default swaps, effectively let banks and hedge funds wager on the financial equivalent of a four-alarm fire: a default by a company or, in the case of Greece, an entire country. If Greece reneges on its debts, traders who own these swaps stand to profit.
“It’s like buying fire insurance on your neighbor’s house — you create an incentive to burn down the house,” said Philip Gisdakis, head of credit strategy at UniCredit in Munich.
Fabulous. So let me see if I have this straight: our banks sold Greece predatory loans which they knew Greece would never be able to repay – then they took out “insurance” on those loans, effectively betting against Greece’s solvency. Heads they win; tails Greece loses. It’s important to note that this is the exact same behavior they indulged in during the sub-prime fiasco. They sold loans to people whom they knew would never be able to pay them back, and then bet that those loans would default. If, by some miracle, the debtor was able to pay these banks back, they’d get a nice interest rate. If, as the banks bet, the debtor couldn’t pay them back, they’d get re-imbursed via the Credit Default Swaps. It’s a classic win-win for the banks – and a lose-lose for whatever poor sucker they entrapped.
Only now its happening on the level of entire countries. I want to stress that Greece is neither the first nor the last nation to default on account of the malfeasance of US banks. Iceland came before it, and Spain, Ireland, or even France are likely to come afterward.
It is clear that our banks are purely malevolent forces, who benefit only from the destruction of others, and that, for the sake of the world economy, they must be thoroughly audited and broken up. And it is equally clear that this will never happen.
(c/o Kevin Drum)
The Project for Defense Alternatives has just put up its 2011 guide to Pentagon spending, entitled Trillions to Burn – complete with nine handy charts which excruciatingly detail the United States’ military dominance of the world. We will be hearing a lot in the coming months about the US budget deficit – how this or that proposal will be “unfeasible” because of its budgetary implications, or how we must reduce social spending (via education, social security, medicare, etc.) in order to show “fiscal responsibility”. Just know that all of those statements are hogwash and bullshit (or hogshit, if you like).
In reality, the single biggest contributor to the United States budget deficit is so-called “defense spending”. We spend upwards of $5000 per second in Iraq (source) and spend a similar amount per unit time in Afghanistan. This spending does nothing for anybody. It does not make us “more safe”, it does not help these impoverished people “achieve democracy”, and it certainly hasn’t made oil any cheaper. The only thing – and I do mean the only thing – it does is transfer the nation’s wealth from the taxpayer to a select group of war profiteers.
That’s it. That’s all our “defense spending” does. The next time you hear some “Republican” or “Democrat” spout off about how we need to spend this money in order to “defeat our enemies”, check to see who their campaign contributors are (via OpenSecrets), and ask yourself if these people would still be our “enemies” if we weren’t spending the equivalent of South Korea’s GDP every year attempting to bomb them out of their homes. Remember the Fort Hood shooter, who specifically stated that his motivation was outrage over US massacres of Iraqi and Afghan civilians? Or the so-called “shoe bomber” who similarly claimed he was compelled to attack the US because of its ongoing support for Israeli atrocities in Gaza? (Aid to Israel = “Defense spending”, in the eyes of our budget office). Osama bin Laden himself, assuming he was responsible for 9/11, repeatedly cited the US occupation of Saudi Arabia and its continued ‘aid’ to Israel as his primary beefs with the United States.
It is clear that the gargantuan sums of money we allocate for ‘defense’ have precisely the opposite of their intended effect. That we should spend our time squabbling over whether or not health care reform should “add to the deficit” demonstrates just how far removed from reality our discourse has become. Anyone who claims to worry about the deficit yet still thinks we need to prosecute our foreign adventures is either an idiot or in the pay of our ‘defense contractors’. Either way, we should all benefit from their swift and timely death.
The Obama administration is accelerating the deployment of new defenses against possible Iranian missile attacks in the Persian Gulf, placing special ships off the Iranian coast and antimissile systems in at least four Arab countries, according to administration and military officials.
Military officials said that the countries that accepted the defense systems were Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Kuwait. They said the Kuwaitis had agreed to take the defensive weapons to supplement older, less capable models it has had for years. Saudi Arabia and Israel have long had similar equipment of their own.
He also described a first line of defense: He said the United States was now keeping Aegis cruisers on patrol in the Persian Gulf at all times. Those cruisers are equipped with advanced radar and antimissile systems designed to intercept medium-range missiles. Those systems would not be useful against Iran’s long-range missile, the Shahab 3, but intelligence agencies believe that it will be years before Iran can solve the problems of placing a nuclear warhead atop that missile.
It’s important to remember that in the mouths of our “military planners”, words have a tendency to mean their opposite. Thus, “defensive” means “aggressive”; “defense systems” mean “offensive weapons platforms” and “deterrence” means “coercion”. With that in mind, the true designs of the United States become evident.
Iran, you see, is not allowed to have nuclear weapons – or even peaceful nuclear power plants. Only the United States is mature enough to decide who can and cannot be “trusted” with nuclear weapons. Iran, naturally, doesn’t consider this legitimate or fair. So to “protect” themselves from the Iranian “threat”, the US sets up umpteen missile bases all along Iran’s border and arms its neighbors to the teeth. For “defense’, you see.
It’s also worth mentioning that “missile defense” is error-prone, unreliable and impracticable. There is no technology capable of reliably shooting a missile out of the sky. None. The real point of setting up “missile defense” systems on Iran’s border is for offense – to have a quick button we can push if Iran further incurs our displeasure.