Archive for July, 2008

Love A Fools Game

Thursday, July 31st, 2008

How many times have I been in love? I can’t even count the times. It has been more than once, but not as many times as I imagine. It has been at least three, four, maybe five or six times for real. After so many times one would thing, you know I would be able to tell a real love from a false one, but nope, I can’t. All I know is that when I fall, I fall. I ran from love after the last time, I ran long and hard, but I fell again and now I don’t know if I was mistaken again or if it was just a fling, whatever that means, or if this is for real. I am a guy, so I can’t deal with this very well.
I make mistakes; I have a big ego and lots of inferiority complexes. I overcompensate, I get carried away by my dreams and then I become irrationally depressed. Who knows, if I even have the right to love? But I don’t know what else to do, love or die. That seems to be the choice. I spent years dieing, and it was not fun, oh it had its moments, but to spend years on my own, just licking my wounds, was not a life. I truly believe that we have to love to live. Not to love is to give up. But who knows if live is enough. I don’t. I can only try.
I love someone, but I don’t know if it is enough. I have found through bitter experience that we don’t always get what we want. Like that old song goes. I just hope that sometimes, just sometimes, we can get what we need. I hope it is not the ok of a fix, but when I try, I am amazed at what can happen sometimes. And it can be really good or really bad, but it is what it is. By the grace of whatever there is that keeps us going, I hope I deserve a little love, but when I get it, I abuse it and I understand, it is because I get greedy, missing it for so long, but that is not the answer, all we can do is give our best, learn from our mistakes and carry on in hopes that love will win out in the end. Otherwise why do we sweat and struggle and strive? Why, if not for love?
I hope the one I love sees things enough the way I do to put up with my idiosyncrasies, but I don’t know, all I know is that I am what I am and love is part of that, and sometimes it is just getting by and hoping for the best, or living with the worst. And believe me; I have had plenty of shit in my life, but who hasn’t. That is all I have to say, this is not cool, it is not hip, it is not politically correct, it is not anything but a guy telling the one he loves that he misses her. What more can I say?

Maybe as my friend Mark has said, I am being a bit melodramatic, but hey as I told him, that is my life.

Is History Real? Will Anarchy Replace Christianity and Communism?

Sunday, July 27th, 2008

Are we living in a universe where linear logic and historical truth can have meaning or are we in a chaotic quantum apocalyptic place where time can run backwards as well as forwards and logic and proportion has as much relevance as the abacus does to today’s computing technology? We act as if the sun rises when we very well know that the earth rotates on its axis. We act as if we are the center of the universe when we very well know that humanity is a small spec in the vastness of the cosmos.
Anyway I wrote this bit earlier today for a debate on whether or not Christians can be Anarchists and Anarchists Christians.
We can see that there is in the life of Jesus a model for rebels that do not take the tact of state seizure. He specifically stated that his kingdom was not of this world. But what was he preparing humanity for then if not a political liberation of the Jews from the domination of the Romans? It seems he was almost indifferent to the Romans and had a much stronger antipathy to the local Jewish hierarchy. These immediate dictators of the strictures that a good Jew lived by were more concerned with keeping the populace docile and in line, partially to prevent further Roman intrusion into their affairs and to keep the more radical elements among the populace from aggravating the situation and provoking a confrontation with Rome. Some may have been advocating a return to the rule of a member of Herod’s family. Others simply desired to keep things as they were with the priests left in charge of the day to day lives of the Jewish populace. At least this is my reading of Josephus, the pro roman Jewish writer of the later part of the 1st century AD. There were also Hellenic elements of the Jewish population who appreciated the Greco-Roman rule and the expanded view of the world it gave them outside the more restricted view of the Jewish priesthood. But these were more to be found among those with an economic tie to the capitalist economy that existed at that time. Capitalism, one must remember has at times been seen as a force for liberation from limiting agrarianism, although most of what we are familiar with in terms of capitalist developments have been in the last three centuries. There was a primitive capitalism in the Greco-Roman world also as well as state socialism if you accept some of Rostovtzeff’s writings about Hellenistic Egypt in particular.
But to place Jesus, if he did exist, in a historical context, is to place him in a land that had recently been taken over by direct Roman rule and had gone back and forth between rule by a Herodian descendant and that of the Roman State. The Jews had a surprising level of influence in the Roman Imperial circles considering what an insignificant area of the empire it represented.
Here was this guy advocating a general renouncing of all the rules of conduct that were being imposed on the Jewish people by a frustrated leadership caught between a rock and a hard place. This guy was not advocating fighting the Romans, but revolutionizing the Jewish religion. He was a threat to their authority, and who knew if he would become a threat to the Romans. The Romans certainly didn’t see him as a threat. He was a local problem for the priests and they were the ones who insisted on his being taken care of, especially after the episode in the temple where he kicked out the money changers. He must have seemed like some one possessed by devils or even more threatening, some one who might have been a prophet of god. In any case he was too dangerous to be allowed to go around spouting his communistic nonsense.
As it turned out the priests were not able to keep a lid on the situation and there was a revolt in the 60’s AD and the temple was destroyed, the money taken by the Romans and the enslaved resistance fighters built the Coliseum an edifice that has stood as a symbol of Roman grandeur through the centuries. Unless you believe with certain Gnostics like Philip K. Dick that we are really living in about 96 AD and the history we have lived for some 2000 years is an illusion. But then that is irrational, but based on quantum physics a possibility as the old Donavan song about electrons goes “First there is a mountain, then there is not”…
As to whether there is any reason for anarchists to be Christians, well that is for each person to decide for themselves, nobody, certainly not an anarchist could tell someone what they can or cannot believe and still call themselves an anarchist.
That may be a problem for those who romanticize the revolutionary execution of priests as was done in Spain during the revolution. But not everything anarchists have done in the past was perfect. Priest killing may have been excessive, or it may have been justified, but we cannot use past prejudices as a guide for current realities, some of the most fervent opponents to the state are Christians and they cannot be discounted by so called anarchist purists who want to relive the last six months of 1936 over and over again. We certainly do not any more than we want to relive the punk rock era with its incredibly bad music and rude posturing. I was one of its most fervent proponents at the time. We are living in a time when anarchists have taken up the mantle of leading the way into the Promised Land that the communists dropped. Like it or not Anarchists are the new Moses’ and they have got to get over certain childish attitudes if they are to take on the serious business of destroying mammon.”

Personally I believe that there is a separation taking place, those who insist upon maintaining the old order are getting their way in spades. The rich are getting so impossibly rich that it will soon become evident to even the most simplistic believer in getting material wealth, that money does not buy happiness, it only brings a certain level of comfort that can rapidly turn to discomfort, as the cartoon about the pig forced to eat pies until he exploded was a graphic reminder of the evils of consumerism gone wild. Stewardship is the key; we must take our place among the elders before they all die out from our consciousness. They do not live on the same plane in three dimensions, they are perceived in another level of reality, and life only makes sense on that higher plane or alternate reality. It certainly doesn’t make dollars and sense. Leaders like Jesus understood that, but how many of his followers did? Certainly it is not those believers in prosperity Christianity. Praying for material wealth is a child’s game, not something for an adult, unless he or she has been deprived all their lives, or forced to live in fear. An adult who has any self respect understands that they are here to provide purpose, that is what a real anarchist does, provides a focus of purpose in a world where purpose and focus has disappeared in the noise of consumerism. Let us take some time out to listen to the sound of the voice that nature has been calling to us, and go on our own vision quests and ask for meaning and truth and purpose in a world on the brink of going mad with materialism.
Let us take care of those less fortunate, give every human the basics for life, a shelter, food, clothing and medicine, and then let the values in our society change, so that it is meaning and purpose we seek, not wealth and position. Simple enough, Lol.

Post Modern World At War

Sunday, July 27th, 2008

The US as the only world super power, leaves anyone who is opposed to the United States with limited options. The US has inherited the Roman Imperial Power, directly since handed over by the British and the French after the Second World War, willingly by the British who felt they were incapable of sustaining a series of wars in their colonies while the home populace was exhausted by 6 years of war. The French on the other hand had to be convinced and after a series of debilitating wars in Vietnam and Algeria, De Gaulle was the one who reluctantly admitted that the US was the power.
Communists in Russia, China and smaller countries around the world were willing to give the US a run for the money in world domination. But the Soviet Union had been exhausted by the battle with the Germans more than any other power in the world.
At first getting a boost from the technology captured from the Germans they were able to gain the great equalizer, the atomic bomb. That and being half way decent poker players, they were able to bluff the US into not attacking them outright as generals like Patton and Le May wanted to do right after victory over the Germans and Japanese.
But having a point with which to make their case, in the colonial exploitation of the third world by the British and the French, the Soviets were able to ally themselves with national liberation fronts around the world. Ho Chi Min for example asked for American support back in 1944. When the Roosevelt did not follow up and the Soviets did, the Vietnamese decided that the Communists were more reliable allies. Castro went through a similar process in Cuba; Eisenhower decided he had more interest in a few multi national corporations being nationalized by the Cubans, instead of the new idealists in charge. Greed on the part of the US in Cuba, and an alliance with De Gaulle in the case of Vietnam, tied the US to policies that harmed the ability of the United States to become allied with these successful nationalist leaders. They became Communists because there was no other world power to turn to.
With the demise of the Soviet Union in the early 1990’s, there was no place to turn to for insurgents who were serious about regime change in their countries but to illicit funding. The FARC became involved with the drug trade and kidnappings. The IRA had their rich relatives in the US to hit up for support, and when that failed there was the combination of drugs, kidnapping and bank robberies. In the middle east, particularly in Afghanistan the mujahedin were supported by the rich Saudis and the US while the Soviets still provided a target, once they were gone, there was no reason for the US to use these Guerrilla fighters, except in Bosnia where they were allowed to aid the government against the Serbians. But the rest of them were left to their own devices and before long they were in a war with their former allies, the United States.
How did this come about? How did a force of our own creation go from freedom fighters to international terrorists? Some would say that they were hijacked by radical fundamentalist Moslems like Osama Bin Laden and the Egyptian theoreticians of the modern day Jihad. Some of it could also be a result of the US bias in supporting Israel against the interests of the Palestinians. Another is the Saudi ruling family’s insecurity in their own country, which have depended on United States for military support made most evident when Saddam Hussein attempted to recover the province of Kuwait but was thwarted by the invasion by Bush Senior a close friend of the Saudi royal family. That became the excuse for serious US intervention in the Oil bread basket of the world. Now there were troops stationed in the land that houses the heart of the Moslem religion. This gave Moslems the world over a reason to suspect that the US and Israel were working out some international plan to take the greatest source of wealth the Arab and Moslem peoples had, their oil.
This is something that the peoples of the United States do not appreciate. We blithely send out military around the world to protect our interests without considering what this would do to the peoples in these lands. The US has never been occupied once the British left due to the expense of fighting the French and their allies around the world in the 18th century. A period of over two centuries has left the US with no experience of occupation. Citizens of most of Europe have in recent historical times experienced the occupations of the Germans, and the Russians. Much of the rest of the world had been occupied but the Europeans and used as sources of cheap labor and raw materials on the one hand and as the dumping grounds of excess agricultural and industrial production. The citizenry of the US had only the experience of dominating others. Only the black descendents of slaves, the descendents of the conquered indigenous peoples and the recent Spanish immigrants from economically depressed neocolonial states would be in a position to comprehend the states of alienation and resistance that would be natural to conquered or occupied peoples.
The Jews of Israel would have strong reminders in their own experience with the German attempts at extermination. That would explain why they overreact to the Palestinian resistance. To them any resistance is a threat to their survival. For a people so recently driven to the brink of extinction, there would be little psychic tolerance for nuanced dealings with other peoples, especially when they are being told that they want to drive you into the sea.
On the other hand the US, not having any such experience, its memory would react to any attack as something akin to Armageddon. The British and the Spanish saw the terrorist assaults as a police problem. They had subways and trains blown up in their capital cities. They did not panic and declare war.
The United States, after 911 did not respond rationally, treating the small band of terrorists as a police problem as they should have been. One can say that a cynical President and his buddies in the Oil business and the Military Industrial Complex saw this as an opportunity to revitalize the military that had become somewhat moribund with the so called peace dividend brought about by the demise of the Soviets, largely a result of their recognition that their system was inefficient, unpopular and corrupt. Gorbachev tried to revitalize and reform it but too many people had lost faith in the system and even though communism is morally superior to capitalism as a system, because of the centralization of power, it corrupted the men in control and the corrupt do not believe in their own system. The result was a leadership emulating their enemies in the west and in recognition of their hypocrisy they threw out their own baby with the bath water, leaving all the poor peoples of the world with no place to turn.
This surrender and collapse of the will left all the peoples of the world who needed an organized opposition to the ruling classes of capitalists, ultimately up the creek with out a paddle. Anarchists, long the poor relations to the communists, seen as being too idealistic and infantile picked up the revolutionary momentum and attracted the disaffected intelligentsia. But as anarchists had been in the minority for so long, they had not developed the cadre capable of taking up the struggle. In fact most of them became even more deeply enamored with intellectual obscurantism and instead of stepping up the challenge; they found themselves identified with Ted Kaczynski and other radical anti human intellectuals who took up the cause of other species. This might have been fine for the animals, but it was not something that the vast majority of humans could identify with. If that were so than the most vegetarian nation on earth India should have become Anarchists, they had Veganism, pacifism and direct action, a radical critique of human technology that would be inspirational to the home of Gandhi. But that was not the case.
India is like China in the throes of a radical modernization that is affecting approximately one fifth of the populace. That is about the same as the entire population of the United States. These are the intelligentsia and they are not interested in returning to the village, or to hunter gatherer lifestyles. For one, there is no open land without humans left in India, for another if they wanted to live like pre-industrial villagers all they had to do was to change places with their relatives. India wants modernization, without the violence and alienation that is rampant in the west. But they know what it is like to live in a pre-industrial world. It is all around them. Communism, with its emphasis on social organization is attractive to intelligent Indians. But they are not attracted to anarchy.
So what has happened in the US, we see at anarchist conferences a disputation over technology, akin to the Man of La Manta and his attempts to restore the values of Chivalry in modernizing Europe? Tilting at windmills is not the answer, it wasn’t then and it isn’t now.
But back the other problem being faced by the dominant power in the world. While it’s radical community dithers over whether or not to eat parts of cows or parts of corn, the ruling class has been able to take the marginal elements of the working class and turn them into the new centurions. The modern army of the US is more like that of the Roman Empire than of the Roman Republic. These are not citizen soldiers taking up the gun when needed and then returning to the plow. Instead they have a professional force, isolated from the rest of the citizenry, paid and trained as a mercenary force. In fact now there are private corporate armies being formed that would be able to replace the state run institutions that have to obey pesky international codes of conduct. A private army would be able to operate much as private security guards. As we have seen in Iraq where they now comprise half of the occupying force, they are above their law and a force that is beyond the Geneva Convention, outside of the rules set down in the Treaty of Westphalia, a force that can be utilized in the most barbaric manner, a force adapted to a post national world, where the ideals of a United Nations has faded to that of a world of Multi national corporations, where profit is the sole concern and a soldier is trained to fight more as a gladiator, than as a soldier.They are more like the medieval knighthood and their bands of serfs than the legionaries, with their state structure providing a systematic methodology of war. But this is an emerging possibility, not a dominant reality.
We still have the nation state, we have the United States attacked by a band of terrorists overreacting and invading two countries, one Afghanistan, a land of tribal warriors who have ground up the armies of Russia, Britain and the Moguls. Only a military commander as brilliant as Alexander was capable of realizing that intermarriage was the only way to gain the loyalty of these determined defenders of their kith and kin. The other is Iraq, the cradle of civilization, the land of Babylon and the home of Abraham and Noah. This is a place where every family not only has a gun, but a machine gun, something that even the American gun Lobby only dreams of. This is a land that is old, and yet sophisticated. Where blood feuds and extreme national pride have led the people to follow the plan of resistance developed by a dead dictator, someone the people were supposedly happy to be rid of. But as we can see they have simply maneuvered the US into a position where they have essentially picked the next president of the United States at the same time they work hand in glove with one of the members of Bushes Axis of Evil.
The people of the United States are not prepared for this level of sophistication. We declared war at the equivalent of a slap in the face, like a Cavalier might have when faced for the first time by the imposing will of an intelligently ruled state, the first in generations when Louis the 14th managed to turn these primitives living in their isolated castles into the dilettantes who fought over the privilege to spend their wealth on finery in the social struggle for eminence at Versailles.
The United States is in a similar situation. It can move into the next level of civilized conduct as the French nobility did in the 17th century, or they can move further in this self destructive path in which a great country devolves into a feudal state of multinational corporations. Do we fall into a Polish like state of regionalism, or do we emerge as the beacon of light on the hill, with our own Sun King, like ruler. Certainly it isn’t McCain, could it be Obama? If he insists upon this war in Afghanistan he had better be ready to have his troops intermarry with the locals. Otherwise he can only look for frustration in that land.
Legalization and decriminalization is the path for drugs that will turn the FARC to a peaceful party similar to what happened in El Salvador or Nicaragua. The Taliban will no longer find the drug lords as such easy allies and will have to become a popular force, or disappear from the scene. But we cannot win militarily in Afghanistan, not unless we are willing to make peace with Iran and occupy Pakistan. We shall see what happens in the next few months if Obama has truly new ideas, or if he simply repeats the same line as has been mouthed at least since Carter gave up on reform in the middle of his presidency.
Will the radicals in the US take a more intelligent path and drop the primitivist, punk rock youth rebellion and become serious as an alternative? Or will there be a resurgence of a more chastened Marxist left? We shall see. Now let us turn to another story about drugs. The ridiculous war on drugs being conducted by the DEA and other portions of the militarized civilian agencies, have made William Boroughs into a prophet for our times.

“Cocaine Sustains War Despite Rebel Losses in Colombia
Scott Dalton for The New York Times
Eradication efforts elsewhere have pushed coca cultivation into rural El Rosario, where workers processed coca leaves recently.
Published: July 27, 2008
PASTO, Colombia — Along with Colombia’s successes in fighting leftist rebels this year, cities like Medellín have staged remarkable recoveries. And in the upscale districts of Bogotá, the capital, it is almost possible to forget that the country remains mired in a devilishly complex four-decade-old war.
But it is a different story in the mountains of the Nariño department. Here, and elsewhere in large parts of the countryside, the violence and fear remain unrelenting, underscoring the difficulty of ending a war fueled by a drug trade that is proving immune to American-financed efforts to stop it.
Soaring coca cultivation, forced disappearances, assassinations, the displacement of families and the planting of land mines stubbornly persist, the hallmarks of a backlands conflict that threatens to drag on for years, even without the once spectacular actions of guerrillas in Colombia’s large cities.
“The armed groups are like malaria, evolving to resist eradication and killing with efficiency,” Antonio Navarro Wolff, governor of Nariño and a former guerrilla from the defunct M-19 group, said in an interview. “If anything, Nariño shows the guerrillas may have lost their chance for victory but not their ability to cause suffering.”
Today, a dizzying array of armed groups lord over the farmlands of Nariño. These include not only leftist guerrillas from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, but also right-wing militias operating under names like the Black Eagles or the Peasant Self-Defense Forces of Nariño.
Their presence reflects the symbiotic nature of the armed groups and the drug trade, each drawing strength from the other.
In Nariño, flanked by the Pacific Ocean on the west and Ecuador on the south, coca growers have nimbly sidestepped almost a decade of fumigation efforts by reorganizing industrial-size farms into smaller plots that are much harder to find and spray from the air. They are taxed and protected by forces on the various sides of the conflict.
The United Nations reported in June that coca cultivation in Colombia surged 27 percent in 2007 to 244,634 acres, the first significant increase in four years. Nariño had the largest increase of any Colombian department, an administrative district, up 30 percent to 50,061 acres.
The expansion has allowed Colombia to remain by far the world’s largest coca producer and the supplier of 90 percent of the cocaine consumed in the United States.
It has also made the drug-fueled conflict a resilient virus in large pockets of the country, with double-digit increases in coca cultivation in at least three other departments, Putumayo, Meta and Antioquia. In Nariño, almost every week, government officials, Roman Catholic leaders or aid workers report actions by the rebels or paramilitary groups.
Nationwide, the FARC still collects $200 million to $300 million a year by taxing coca farmers and coordinating cocaine smuggling networks, according to Bruce Bagley, a specialist on the Andean drug war who teaches at the University of Miami.
That is down from $500 million earlier this decade, Mr. Bagley said, but it is still enough to finance the FARC after recent desertions and killings that have thinned its ranks to about 9,000 from 17,000.
Similarly, while the FARC’s share of the cocaine trade has declined, Colombia’s share of the world cocaine production has remained stable at about 60 percent. That means opportunities for new players like Colombia’s resurgent right-wing militias and small-scale armed gangs taking the place of disassembled cartels.”

The article goes on and you can find it at the NY Times site. But again what we see is that drug production has continued and will do so for as long as it is illegal and there is demand in the industrialized and alienated north. With no rational alternative system of beliefs, people fall into despair. Anarchists and other radicals should be offering intelligent alternatives, not a return to the Neanderthal world. It is more a sign of deepening despair than one of the victory of the libertarian communists.

Decriminalization Vis Legalization

Friday, July 25th, 2008

The ultimate solution is Decriminalization. Just leave people and their drugs alone. We all have substances we are attracted to, whether they are physical or psychic. The question is not if we are to become attracted, because we all are, but when it happens what is the culture going to do? Are we supported or condemned? Why some and not others?
This is in a recent World and News Report. A former cop calls for Legalization, not the best solution in the world, but it is better than incarceration.

“Two Takes: Drugs Are Too Dangerous Not to Regulate—We Should Legalize Them
The nation’s drug problems should be controlled through regulation and taxation
By Peter Moskos
Posted July 25, 2008
Peter Moskos of John Jay College of Criminal Justice wrote Cop in the Hood: My Year Policing Baltimore’s Eastern District.
Drugs are bad. So let’s legalize them.
It’s not as crazy as it sounds. Legalization does not mean giving up. It means regulation and control. By contrast, criminalization means prohibition. But we can’t regulate what we prohibit, and drugs are too dangerous to remain unregulated.
Do Not Legalize Drugs—Control Demand
Should the U.S. Legalize Drugs?
Let’s not debate which drugs are good and which are bad. While it’s heartless to keep marijuana from terminally ill cancer patients, some drugs—crack, heroin, crystal meth—are undoubtedly bad. But prohibition is the issue, and, as with alcohol, it doesn’t work. Between 1920 and 1933, we banned drinking. Despite, or more likely because of, the increased risk, drinking became cool. That’s what happens when you delegate drug education to moralists. And crime increased, most notoriously with gangland killings. That’s what happens when you delegate drug distribution to crooks. Prohibition of alcohol ended in failure, but for other drugs it continues.
Law enforcement can’t reduce supply or demand. As a Baltimore police officer, I arrested drug dealers. Others took their place. I locked them up, too. Thanks to the drug war, we imprison more people than any other country. And America still leads the world in illegal drug use. We can’t arrest and jail our way to a drug-free America. People want to get high. We could lock up everybody and still have a drug problem. Prisons have drug problems.
Illegal production remains high. Since 1981, the price of cocaine has dropped nearly 80 percent. Despite the ongoing presence of U.S. and other troops, Afghanistan has been exporting record levels of opium, from which heroin is made. Poor farmers may not want to sell to criminals, but they need to feed their families, and there is no legal market for illegal drugs. Al Qaeda in Afghanistan, the FARC in Colombia, and drug gangs in Mexico all rely on drug prohibition. A legal drug trade would do more to undermine these terrorists than military action would. If we taxed drugs, profits would go to governments, which fight terrorists.
Illegal drug dealers sell to anyone. Legal ones are licensed and help keep drugs such as beer, cigarettes, and pharmaceuticals away from minors. Illegal dealers settle disputes with guns. Legal ones solve theirs in court. Illegal dealers fear police. Legal ones fear the IRS.
Less use. Regulation can reduce drug use. In two generations, we’ve halved the number of cigarette smokers not through prohibition but through education, regulated selling, and taxes. And we don’t jail nicotine addicts. Drug addiction won’t go away, but tax revenue can help pay for treatment.
The Netherlands provides a helpful example. Drug addiction there is considered a health problem. Dutch policy aims to save lives and reduce use. It succeeds: Three times as many heroin addicts overdose in Baltimore as in all of the Netherlands. Sixteen percent of Ameri-cans try cocaine in their lifetime. In the Netherlands, the figure is less than 2 percent. The Dutch have lower rates of addiction, overdose deaths, homicides, and incarceration. Clearly, they’re doing something right. Why not learn from success? The Netherlands decriminalized marijuana in 1976. Any adult can walk into a legally licensed, heavily regulated “coffee shop” and buy or consume top-quality weed without fear of arrest. Under this system, people in the Netherlands are half as likely as Americans to have ever smoked marijuana.
It’s unlikely that repealing federal drug laws would result in a massive increase in drug use. People take or don’t take drugs for many reasons, but apparently legality isn’t high on the list. In America, drug legalization could happen slowly and, unlike federal prohibition, not be forced on any state or city. City and state governments could decide policy based on their needs.
The war on drugs is not about saving lives or stopping crime. It’s about yesteryear’s ideologues and future profits from prison jobs, asset forfeiture, court overtime pay, and federal largess.
We have a choice: Legalize drugs, or embark on a second century of failed prohibition. Government regulation may not sound as sexy or as macho as a “war on drugs,” but it works better.”

Not a bad idea. The state wants to get a piece of that action. Personally I would rather the state simply butt out, fat chance…

More Drug Stories-Afghanistan

Thursday, July 24th, 2008

This is another one of those stories that don’t need much of an introduction. The author does not seem to make the logical conclusion, but he leads us right to the point where the logical thing to do is to demand decriminalization. Read it and tell me if you don’t think I am right.

“Afghanistan the Narco-State/Thoughts on the Drug War
By Dr. Steven Taylor [Ed Note:That is is site and he wrote this]
The NYT magazine asks Is Afghanistan a Narco-State?

Well, the short answer is: yes, depending on what one means by the term. I don’t think that the opium lords actually run Afghanistan directly, but they clearly have substantial influence. At the end of the day we are talking about an extremely poor country with little in terms of a functioning economy or government that has an ongoing insurgency problem and we find that 1) illegal activity is rampant, 2) highly profitable (and easy to grow) crops are everywhere, and 3) corruption is pervasive. Who could have predicted that?
The article is interesting, as it deals with something I have tried to address before, i.e., that the War on Terror and the War on Drugs often are at odds with one another. In the Afghanistan case, it is clear that those policies are focused first on security/anti-terrorism with drugs coming in second:
the Pentagon strategy was “sequencing” — defeat the Taliban, then have someone else clean up the drug business.
This strikes me as not unreasonable, actually, as while heroin on US streets is hardly a happy thing, we have seen how a group like the Taliban can be far more problematic by providing sanctuary to persons like Osama bin Laden.
Of course, the drug trade can (and does) fund violence, so in that way, the Terror War and Drug War have a common enemy. On the other hand, drugs are made more profitable, and therefore a better source for funding illicit activity because of the Drug War. There is also the problem that pursuing the drug issue can have a negative impact on the prosecution of the terror issue (see, for example, here).
The Afghanistan case is of specific interest to me, as there are those who are seeking to apply the Colombian model to Afghanistan. To wit: the appointment of former Colombian Ambassador William Wood to the same post in Afghanistan. Further, the article notes that another former ambassador to Colombia, Anne Patterson, has been very much involved in setting drug policy in Afghanistan.
Now, one who is only cursorily aware of Colombia might think that Colombia is a good model given the recent fortunes of the FARC. However, when I speak of the Colombia model in this context, I am talking in terms of narcotics interdiction. Our policies vis-à-vis coca cultivation in Colombia have not been successful if by “successful” one means stopping enough cultivation to actually affect street price and supply. There is little doubt that lots of hectares of coca have been sprayed or pulled up over the years, to the tune of large sums of money (billions and billions of dollars) directly from the US taxpayer. However, given the profitability of the cocaine trade (from cultivation all the way up the chain) these moves have not affected the cocaine business.
Indeed, those involved in the policy have so bought into the notion that we have been successful, that they are (as noted) seeking to export the policy. The author of the article under discussion is a high level official dedicated to the notion that the drug war is working (Thomas Schweich was Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs).
The drug war logics in question can be seen in the following paragraph from Schweich’s piece:
But because no other crop came even close to the value of poppies, we needed the threat of eradication to force farmers to accept less-lucrative alternatives. (Eradication was an essential component of successful anti-poppy efforts in Guatemala, Southeast Asia and Pakistan.) The most effective method of eradication was the use of herbicides delivered by crop-dusters. But Karzai had long opposed aerial eradication, saying it would be misunderstood as some sort of poison coming from the sky. He claimed to fear that aerial eradication would result in an uprising that would cause him to lose power. We found this argument perplexing because aerial eradication was used in rural areas of other poor countries without a significant popular backlash. The chemical used, glyphosate, was a weed killer used all over the United States, Europe and even Afghanistan. (Drug lords use it in their gardens in Kabul.) There were volumes of evidence demonstrating that it was harmless to humans and became inert when it hit the ground. My assistant at the time was a Georgia farmer, and he told me that his father mixed glyphosate with his hands before applying it to their orchards.
Several things.
1) This demonstrates that all such policies are rooted in the notion that it is possible to combat fundamental laws of supply and demand. Specifically it assumes that the right mix of policies can short circuit the basic human drive to survive and to do the best one can for one’s family.
2) Um, call me crazy, but dumping herbicide from planes and helicopters is “some sort of poison coming from the sky.” As such, I am not sure why Karzai’s objection seems so strange. And despite the way it is presented above, there have been local objections about aerial spraying in other countries. This is not unique to the Afghans.
3) I have used glyphosate (a.k.a., Roundup) in my yard as well. That doesn’t mean I want it dumped on me, my house, and my children from the sky. And make no mistake, aerial spraying doesn’t just result in the chemical falling on the naughty poppies/coca leaves. It falls on people, animals, structures and legal crops (raining on the just and unjust, as it were). And the fact that someone’s Dad mixes it with his hands doesn’t mean much of anything.
However, we see here clear drug war logic. It is assumed that the policies work and that any objections to them aren’t really reasonable. If the drug warriors could just do their jobs, after all, the drug war would be won.
Schweich is also very dismissive of the economic element of the equation:
Earlier this year, the U.N. published an even more detailed paper titled “Is Poverty Driving the Afghan Opium Boom?” It rejected the idea that farmers would starve without the poppy, concluding that “poverty does not appear to have been the main driving factor in the expansion of opium poppy cultivation in recent years.”
The U.N. reports shattered the myth that poppies are grown by destitute farmers who have no other source of income. They demonstrated that approximately 80 percent of the land under poppy cultivation in the south had been planted with it only in the last two years. It was not a matter of “tradition,” and these farmers did not need an alternative livelihood. They had abandoned their previous livelihoods — mainly vegetables, cotton and wheat (which was in severely short supply) — to take advantage of the security vacuum to grow a more profitable crop: opium.
Now, it may well be true that it is possible for a lot of those who grow poppy to subsist otherwise. However, that really isn’t the way to look at it. To wit, the Financial Times noted in 2005:
Officials concede nothing can compete economically with the lucrative crop, which yielded about $4,600 per hectare last year, according to United Nations estimates - more than 10 times the income from wheat.
Now, if I am farmer and I can choose to “not starve” and make $460 per hectare a year or I can make ten times that amount (and with an easier to grow crop), I wonder what choice I will make?
Sure, the security situation makes this all more likely, but that is hardly a shock.
The article recommends a forceful push against Karzai (and the Pentagon, for that matter) to start aerial spraying and to increase US anti-drug personnel in the country. One suspects that such a policy prescription would lead to a loss of power by Karzai and would ultimately not eradicate enough poppy to do anything other than drive up the street price of opium and heroin (if it would even be enough to do that). Such a move with likely empower the Taliban within Afghanistan (as the regional warlords would cooperate even less with the government, and therefore with the US) and it would also increase their ability to finance their operations. But, of course, we would kill a bunch of poppy plants, often destroying the livelihoods of peasants in the process.
Update: To summarize the summary of the summary:
1) It is no surprise that poppies are being widely cultivated in Afghanistan at the moment.
2) It therefore no surprise that the corrupting influence of drug money infuse the government.
3) Aerial spraying is heavily supported by drug warriors, but the evidence suggests it does not produce the promised results.
4) The US’s main interest in the region is the curtailment of the Taliban and therefore the administration’s focus (and its semi-blind eye to the drugs) is not a surprise.
5) The sad fact of the matter is the that the area is going to produce opium whether we like it or not, and even if we spend trillions to stop it, we won’t be able to do so.”

Your insights bear out in the recent reports that the Coca crop in Columbia has increased not decreased. What we need is not more eradication but something to remove the incentive and that is for the price of Heroin and Cocaine to drop to the level they would be if they were legal, or if there were no demand for the drugs due to a radical shift in the culture. We could try to return to a relative state of grace, as existed in the 1950’s when drug addiction was limited to Jazz musicians and a few inner city hard core types. But that is not likely to happen soon. The demand exists.
An easier solution would be to simply legalize the drug, better yet, decriminalize them, but legalization would provide a new tax source to help fund any social problems that might occur. But if a dose of Heroin was reduced to a Dollar a dose, with another dollar for tax, you have a reasonably priced product that anyone could afford another source of income for the state and it would bring a large number of people out of the underground economy. It would force groups like the FARC and the Taliban and the CIA to find other means of funding their activities.
But that raises the question does the powers that be really want an end to the drug wars? Any more than they want an end to the war on Terror, or whatever the latest excuse for maintaining a military-industrial-prison complex may be. As a reasonably intelligent person wrote, “you cannot blow up a social relationship”.
And there we have it, another bloger writing logically about what seems to be a sensible thing. End the war on drugs, decriminalize them or at least legalize them.

Wipe That Lie Off The Map

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2008

It seems that there was a mistranslation of the Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s comments in 2005. It seems the mis translation started not with a deception on the part of the west, but possibly an attempt to discredit him in Iran itself. The point is that he never said that Israel should be wiped of the face if the earth. In fact what he did do was quote a great spiritual leader the Ayatollah Khomeini who said something like “the regime occupying Jerusalem should fade from the page of time” And now we have the story.

“Iran’s President Did Not Say “Israel must be wiped off the map”
By Arash Norouzi
01/18/07 “Information Clearing House” — – Across the world, a dangerous rumor has spread that could have catastrophic implications. According to legend, Iran’s President has threatened to destroy Israel, or, to quote the misquote, “Israel must be wiped off the map”. Contrary to popular belief, this statement was never made, as this article will prove.
On Tuesday, October 25th, 2005 at the Ministry of Interior conference hall in Tehran, newly elected Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad delivered a speech at a program, reportedly attended by thousands, titled “The World Without Zionism”. Large posters surrounding him displayed this title prominently in English, obviously for the benefit of the international press. Below the poster’s title was a slick graphic depicting an hour glass containing planet Earth at its top. Two small round orbs representing the United States and Israel are shown falling through the hour glass’ narrow neck and crashing to the bottom.
Before we get to the infamous remark, it’s important to note that the “quote” in question was itself a quote— they are the words of the late Ayatollah Khomeini, the father of the Islamic Revolution. Although he quoted Khomeini to affirm his own position on Zionism, the actual words belong to Khomeini and not Ahmadinejad. Thus, Ahmadinejad has essentially been credited (or blamed) for a quote that is not only unoriginal, but represents a viewpoint already in place well before he ever took office.
So what did Ahmadinejad actually say? To quote his exact words in Farsi: “Imam ghoft een rezhim-e ishghalgar-e qods bayad az safheh-ye ruzgar mahv shavad.”
That passage will mean nothing to most people, but one word might ring a bell: rezhim-e. It is the word “Regime”, pronounced just like the English word with an extra “eh” sound at the end. Ahmadinejad did not refer to Israel the country or Israel the land mass, but the Israeli regime. This is a vastly significant distinction, as one cannot wipe a regime off the map. Ahmadinejad does not even refer to Israel by name, he instead uses the specific phrase “rezhim-e ishghalgar-e qods” (regime occupying Jerusalem).
So this raises the question… what exactly did he want “wiped from the map”? The answer is: nothing. That’s because the word “map” was never used. The Persian word for map, “nagsheh”, is not contained anywhere in his original Farsi quote, or, for that matter, anywhere in his entire speech. Nor was the western phrase “wipe out” ever said. Yet we are led to believe that Iran’s President threatened to “wipe Israel off the map”, despite never having uttered the words “map”, “wipe out” or even “Israel”.
The full quote translated directly to English:
“The Imam said this regime occupying Jerusalem must vanish from the page of time”.
Word by word translation:
Imam (Khomeini) ghoft (said) een (this) rezhim-e (regime) ishghalgar-e (occupying) qods (Jerusalem) bayad (must) az safheh-ye ruzgar (from page of time) mahv shavad (vanish from).
Here is the full transcript of the speech in Farsi, archived on Ahmadinejad’s web site

While the false “wiped off the map” extract has been repeated infinitely without verification, Ahmadinejad’s actual speech itself has been almost entirely ignored. Given the importance placed on the “map” comment, it would be sensible to present his words in their full context to get a fuller understanding of his position. In fact, by looking at the entire speech, there is a clear, logical trajectory leading up to his call for a “world without Zionism”. One may disagree with his reasoning, but critical appraisals are infeasible without first knowing what that reasoning is.
In his speech, Ahmadinejad declares that Zionism is the West’s apparatus of political oppression against Muslims. He says the “Zionist regime” was imposed on the Islamic world as a strategic bridgehead to ensure domination of the region and its assets. Palestine, he insists, is the frontline of the Islamic world’s struggle with American hegemony, and its fate will have repercussions for the entire Middle East.
Ahmadinejad acknowledges that the removal of America’s powerful grip on the region via the Zionists may seem unimaginable to some, but reminds the audience that, as Khomeini predicted, other seemingly invincible empires have disappeared and now only exist in history books. He then proceeds to list three such regimes that have collapsed, crumbled or vanished, all within the last 30 years:
(1) The Shah of Iran- the U.S. installed monarch
(2) The Soviet Union
(3) Iran’s former arch-enemy, Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein

In the first and third examples, Ahmadinejad prefaces their mention with Khomeini’s own words foretelling that individual regime’s demise. He concludes by referring to Khomeini’s unfulfilled wish: “The Imam said this regime occupying Jerusalem must vanish from the page of time. This statement is very wise”. This is the passage that has been isolated, twisted and distorted so famously. By measure of comparison, Ahmadinejad would seem to be calling for regime change, not war.
One may wonder: where did this false interpretation originate? Who is responsible for the translation that has sparked such worldwide controversy? The answer is surprising.
The inflammatory “wiped off the map” quote was first disseminated not by Iran’s enemies, but by Iran itself. The Islamic Republic News Agency, Iran’s official propaganda arm, used this phrasing in the English version of some of their news releases covering the World Without Zionism conference. International media including the BBC, Al Jazeera, Time magazine and countless others picked up the IRNA quote and made headlines out of it without verifying its accuracy, and rarely referring to the source. Iran’s Foreign Minister soon attempted to clarify the statement, but the quote had a life of its own. Though the IRNA wording was inaccurate and misleading, the media assumed it was true, and besides, it made great copy.”

Interesting huh?

Obama And Maliki Agree On Timeline

Monday, July 21st, 2008

The Iraqi prime minister, with upcoming elections and facing the hard facts that Bush is on his way out, has just positioned himself to agree with Obama that US troops should be substantially out of Iraq in 16 months.
CNN is reporting this as a major shift on the part of Maliki away from Bush, and after the administration spend the weekend spinning the statements in the German Paper Der Spiegel, made by the Iraqis where they indicated they would like a timetable. This statement coming out of Iraq today, July 21st, confirms the Iraqi position in favor of what they are calling an aspirational timeline.
This is a blow to McCain who has taken the administration position that there should be no timelines and that if the US needed to stay for 100 years that we would. This sounds to the peoples of the world outside of the US, not like a commitment to Iraqi democracy, but one to a new American Imperialism. The peoples of the Middle East do not feel reassured by the American presence, they feel threatened. Not by Americans per se but by the presence of the American military.
Since the Reagan administration attempted to occupy Lebanon in the early 1980’s and the Marines found themselves under attack by suicide bombers who managed to kill 300 marines in one swat, the Republicans have been obsessed with having a base in the Middle East that is not Israel.
The Bush family has long been close to the Saudi ruling class, elite that finds Israel to be inconvenient, not because they are anti Semitic, but because the mass of the Moslem world resents the presence of Israel and it is inconvenient for the guardians of Mecca to say that they would rather do business with Israel. It would be easier for them to have the Israelis disappear, and short of that, at least not be so much in the American corner.
The democrats are basically comfortable letting the Israelis do their dirty work in the Middle East. Leaving the tough work for the Navy and Air Force is the Democratic way. But not the Republicans, they want to have boots on the ground, and Bush senior succeeded when Hussein made the mistake of believing the US didn’t care if they took back Kuwait. Bush senior saw this as the perfect excuse to get American forces on the ground protecting the oil fields. This has been a plan of the Republicans at least since OPEC put the Squeeze on after the 73 war with Israel, in the first Oil Embargo while Nixon was president.
The democrats, at least on Carter’s watch wanted to develop alternative energy, and place emphasis on conservation. This was not accepted by the media who blackened Carter’s image as being out of touch with American aspirations. Reagan took advantage of the Hostage crisis in Iran to make Carter look like a wimp for not standing tall and asserting American greatness in the world. Reagan himself had his nose bled by that experience I Lebanon, but he then invaded Grenada, a tiny Island nation with almost no military, to show that America was standing tall.
Reagan in a short sighted move destroyed the efforts under Carter to develop solar and other energy alternatives, poo pooing conservation and putting his eggs in the Saudi basket through his Vice president Bush’s special relationship with the royal family.
Now the Republican plans for a permanent ground presence in the heart of the Middle East is crumbling with Maliki and Obama on the same page with a troop withdrawal by 2010. The Democratic alternative to put more troops on the ground in Afghanistan to put pressure on Iran and Pakistan from that central position may not be any better thought out than the Republican plan to take over Iraq.
The peoples of the Middle East do not want an American Imperial presence. The Republican attempt to seize the oil of Iraq is collapsing. But will the Democratic plan to move in on central Asian oil by securing a pipeline through Afghanistan work any better? I doubt it. The British those master imperialists could not retain Afghanistan. The huge Russian bear collapsed in its attempt to secure that land and I doubt if the Americans will have any better luck. It was the heart of Tamer lane’s empire, but every one else since Alexander has failed to maintain a base in that fiercely independent land. Alexander only succeeded by marrying a daughter of that land. People wonder why he would marry some obscure daughter of a distant tribal people instead of the civilized daughter of the queen of Persia. Possibly because these people reminded him of his own Macedonian relationship to the Greeks, being considered a rough country people by them as the hill people of Afghanistan were by the Persians. But more likely he appreciated their military prowess and he wanted a strong fighting force to anchor the north east while he went down into the heart of India and for centuries after Greek led kingdoms ruled from the Afghani heartland descending upon the Indus valley to conquer swaths of territory.
But Americans are not likely to marry the daughters of the ruling tribesmen, but that is what it will take to make them your allies, blood ties are the rule in those lands of the clans.
In the meantime, there is nothing but ‘the noise of politicians running around’, to paraphrase Lou Reed in his anthem to an era “Heroin”. In the meantime we have to watch them on the tube making squawking sounds.

Doha WTO Trade Talks Continued

Monday, July 21st, 2008

The Doha rounds of WTO negotiations started in 2001 in have been stalled almost from the beginning over the issue of agricultural support subsidies in the United States and in the EU. Poor countries around the world under pressure from the World Bank to implement economic reforms for promised economic aid fell in line and granted the demands of the planners in the west who dangled bits of aid as incentive. This has allowed American and European agriculture to dump cheap grains on the rest of the world. Small agriculture collapsed around the world and then the US and Europe decides to divert more agriculture to biofuel, add to that some bad harvests and what do you have food shortages.
This is an excerpt from an article in the Guardian.

“Heather Stewart The Observer, Sunday July 20, 2008
With America reeling from the worst financial crisis for half a century, poor consumers struggling to afford food, and China’s appetite for raw materials forcing up the cost of oil, now may not seem the best moment for a new leap towards globalization. Yet as trade ministers gather at the HQ of the World Trade Organization on the shores of Lake Geneva this weekend, in a last attempt to resuscitate the seven-year-old Doha round of WTO talks, there is a powerful sense of now or never.

Conceived in the aftermath of the 11 September attacks, the ‘Doha Development Agenda’ was meant to provide fairer access to the global trading system for poor countries, but has repeatedly become bogged down in squabbles, including the dramatic collapse of talks in Cancun, Mexico in 2003, when furious developing countries walked out.

With the Bush presidency in its dying months, many countries hope this week could finally see the outlines of a deal emerging. Bush’s team has nothing to lose and he can leave it to his successor to push any agreement through Congress.

Yet with economic uncertainty at fever pitch in the US, Europe and across a swath of developing countries, more trade liberalization could be a hard sell. When hundreds of thousands of protesters rioted against the WTO’s secretive pursuit of trade liberalization in Seattle in 1999, most were angry about the impact of gung-ho globalization on the world’s poorest countries. But today, many in rich countries, too, are deeply anxious about the consequences of unfettered trade. Even before the credit crunch hit last summer, US politicians were pointing the finger at China for job losses in the American rust-belt, and disquiet was growing about the impact of globalization on the lowest-paid workers.

Barack Obama has questioned the rationale for pursuing the Doha round; even hinting he could try to unpick existing agreements, including the North American Free Trade Association with Canada and Mexico. In Europe, trade commissioner Peter Mandelson has come under furious criticism from French President Nicolas Sarkozy for offering too many concessions on farm subsidies.
Securing a deal would send a powerful signal that, notwithstanding continuing economic turmoil, the WTO’s members are committed to globalization. Under the terms on the table, Europe and the US would trim their farm subsidies and reduce support for exports in exchange for cuts in tariffs on manufactured goods in many of the larger developing countries. The World Bank has estimated that the potential gains could be as high as £90bn, though most analysts believe they will be considerably lower.

For countries such as the former colonies in the Caribbean, which have long enjoyed preferential access to European markets, there is much to lose and little to gain as their advantage over other exporters is eroded. Others, such as India and Pakistan, hope that it is worth agreeing to reduce protection for their farmers in exchange for winning new export markets.

For the poorest countries, ‘aid-for-trade’ which helps them to develop transport links and more productive technology, is likely to be as important as the level of tariffs. Many already enjoy tax-free access to European markets, under the ‘everything but arms’ agreement, but have been unable to take advantage of it because they don’t have the economic capacity. Europe’s trade ministers agreed on Friday to provide €1bn of support for farmers in poor countries as a gesture towards a more comprehensive aid-for-trade agreement.

Because of the prominence of agriculture, some politicians have suggested that a Doha deal could provide a solution to the global food crisis, which has seen the price of staple products such as rice and wheat rocket, driven by poor harvests, the rising price of oil-based fertilizers, and growing demand for biofuels made from corn. But trade analysts say the devastation wrought by sky-high food prices on some of the world’s most vulnerable communities is better seen as a cautionary tale about the dangers of ill-thought-out liberalization than a sign of the Doha round’s importance.

Many developing countries were encouraged in recent decades, partly by the last round of trade talks, but also by the lending policies of the International Monetary Fund, to tear down agricultural trade barriers in an attempt to make their farming sectors more efficient and generate export business. But with the US and Europe still spending billions on subsidizing their own farmers, the result in many cases has been a dramatic increase in dependence on food imports instead of the hoped-for improvement in the health of the agricultural sector.

‘In the long run, subsidies to improve production in Europe have disincentivised production in developing countries,’ says Simonetta Rarrilli of Unctad, the UN’s trade and development arm. ‘This has led to a situation where the agricultural sector has had very little investment, and developing countries are not able to respond to the crisis because they do not have supply capacity.’

Jack Thurston, co-founder of, which campaigns for transparency about agricultural subsidies, agrees: ‘If free markets had been given a chance in agriculture over the past 40 years, I don’t think we would be in the position we are. We are reaping the whirlwind.’ Developing countries dismantled the barriers protecting their farmers, he says, ‘without the quid pro quo of undistorted markets’.

That has meant cut-price, subsidized food products from Europe and America being ‘dumped’ on developing countries. When world prices are low, consumers in poor countries benefit, but at the same time there is little economic reason to invest in agriculture.

As a report from Unctad, prepared for last month’s emergency Rome food summit, put it: ‘Developing country producers were left defenseless and agricultural production in these countries suffered setbacks from which it has not been easy to recover quickly.’

Anti-poverty campaigners warn developing countries to remember this before signing up to a Doha deal in its present form. ‘A deal along current lines would be more about salvaging political reputations and accommodating special interest lobbies rather than delivering trade reform favoring the poor,’ says Amy Barry, trade campaigner at Oxfam.

Claire Melamed, of ActionAid, insists ‘using the food crisis to force a resolution on these trade talks is nothing more than a shameless distortion of the truth. Luring developing countries into signing up to a bad deal when they are already coping with rising food prices, climate change and the threat of global recession is an insult to the world’s poor.’

Developing countries may decide they simply do not have enough to gain to make Doha worth their while. But this time it is just as likely to be the world’s richest countries, jarred by job losses, economic insecurity and the growing toll taken by the credit crunch, which decide to walk away.

Haiti: where the recipe led to hunger

Thousands of protesters took to the streets of Port-au-Prince, the capital of the Caribbean island state of Haiti, earlier this year to protest against rising food prices, which were forcing the poorest families to go hungry. UN peacekeepers fired rubber bullets and tear gas into the crowd, and some reports suggested that five people died.

Yet this is a country that followed the rich world’s recipe for opening up its farm sector - and campaigners say it is a terrible illustration of just how badly market liberalization can go wrong.

Haiti is very poor: almost 80 per cent of its population lives on less than $2 a day. A coup in 1991 led to the exile of President Aristide and a political and economic embargo, which devastated the economy. But in the mid-Nineties, after US-backed military intervention brought Aristide back from exile and helped secure elections, the new government obediently followed a World Bank and IMF-backed programme to open up its food markets to foreign competition, in exchange for much-needed aid.

As prescribed by textbook free market economics, the Haitian government slashed the tax on imports of the staple food of rice, from 50 to 3 per cent.

This liberalization process was meant to make Haiti’s farmers more competitive, and allow its consumers access to cheaper imports from the world market, while redirecting investment to more profitable industries such as tourism and, eventually, leading to a sustainable escape from poverty.

Yet, despite carefully following the so-called Washington consensus of open markets, Haiti is struggling to feed its people, and subject to wild price swings on international commodity markets.

Initially, rice prices did fall as cheap imports arrived from America, helping the poor in the cities. But local agriculture was devastated, leading to job losses and leaving little productive capacity once world rice prices shot up again.

In a recent report, Christian Aid found that Haiti has gone from being self-sufficient in food to using 80 per cent of its export earnings to pay for food imports. Rice production has fallen by almost half, and three-quarters of the rice consumed comes from the US.

Meanwhile, the other, more profitable industries, such as tourism, which were meant to help replace jobs lost in agriculture, have failed to materialize. The IMF says that’s because the Haitian government didn’t implement other elements of the economic development programme, such as privatizations; but, as in many developing countries, subsistence farming is a huge employer, and replacing those jobs can be very difficult.

‘Rural decline has prompted a huge exodus from the countryside. This has extremely negative impacts on urban areas, where there is a growing slum population and an appalling deterioration in living conditions,’ said Christian Aid, adding that hunger has increased since the food market was liberalized. In this instance, it is difficult to see trade liberalization as a recipe for economic success.”

This excerpt has emphasized the lack of willingness on the part of the developed west to give up its own subsidies. The ruling classes of the West are no fools. They know that they need their agricultural prowess to insure that when the shit hits the fan in the next decade they are capable of countering their weakness in fossil fuels with their abundance of “amber waves of grain”. With manufacturing moved overseas to China, the US and Europe want to remain dominant in the world though control of the worlds finance, high tech, and military might. But more than any of these is an ability to provide the world with massive food surpluses. Add the Australian, Argentine, and Brazilian backup grain production, and you are sitting in a very strong position relative to the needs of the teeming masses of Asia and the raw material reserves in Africa. This is an oversimplification, but the United States and the EU have no intention of ending subsidies. The fact that they were able to black mail nations like Haiti to make disastrous reforms for a pittance of financial aid was simply good business as far as the Clinton administration was concerned. The Bush administration has simply been less adept at playing the game than Clinton was. But then the bombing of the World Trade Center, if it had succeeded in 1993 under Clinton would have simply happened 8 years earlier. Luck had it that it came on Bushes watch and as Ward Churchill so succinctly stated “the hens came home to roost”, or was that pigeons? What we are seeing is simply a manifestation of the anger and resentment felt in Asia and Africa over the dominance of the world by the west over the last 2 1/2 centuries, and more immediately the free trade agenda of the multinationals since the end of World War 2 when the British decided that there was a more sophisticated way to skin a cat than direct occupation. The French at first did not believe in the system devised by their Anglo counterparts but after a few bruised noses in Indochina and North Africa they soon came around. They were able to set the United States up as the new cop on the beat to keep the rest of the world in line. They only had to deal with the troublesome Russians and Chinese. Armand Hammer had proven long ago that Lenin and the Bolsheviks were people that the west could do business with, all that was needed was to bring them around the western approach of economic control through state capitalism, and to stop fooling around with communist rhetoric.
The Germans and Japanese, highly ambitious players who fought to become world players in World War Two, proved their mettle and were given much support once they had been properly taught how to play by the rules. Question is the rules shifting under the feet of all the players?
Global warming, food shortages, fuel shortages, environmental destruction and overpopulation were seen back in the 1970’s by groups such as the Club of Rome and the Trilateral Commission as coming to a head in this century, somewhere between 2010 and 2060, depending on what was done to mitigate the situation. They postulated severe restrictions of popular democracy and the implementation of martial law type regimes in all of the worlds states to insure civil order as the world went though the crisis period. Because almost nothing was done to mitigate the situation it has come sooner than later. We are now truly reaping the whirlwind.
What was not foreseen was the potential of things such as the Gulf Stream changing and dieing out. That would not lead to the collapse of agriculture in much of Europe, nor was the desertification of North America foreseen. Thus these agricultural giants are threatened with serious consequences. The need for tightening up of the control over the world has now become urgent. How will they resolve this crisis? Will they resolve it, remains to be seen? Those of us in the opposition must do our best to insure that something of our traditions of human solidarity and liberty are retained so that we may come up with a strategy to eliminate this giant leech like entity that is sucking out our life blood. But until people see capitalism for what it is, they will continue to drain us, and as the world plunges into further recession, hopefully we will be able to remove this cancer from the body of humanity before they cause us much more misery with their World Trade Organizations and their so called free markets.
I am not saying we need to return to isolation, I am saying that humans need to unite and eliminate those who are keeping too much wealth in the hands of a very few who seem to think that is their divine right to live as gods among us mere mortals.
There are reforms that are needed, rational food redistribution, global climate change mitigation, elimination of subsidies for the rich, and a leveling of the inequity of the distribution of the worlds wealth, to name a few. Elimination of the world’s armies would solve the financial crises most nations face immediately. That would free up resources to give free medical care for all, as a start.
Much more can be done, but we must first get rid of this parasitical force that is poisoning our minds with delusional thoughts through the mass media, miss education systems and mind numbing work. Debt forgiveness for the masses would be another immediate goal. Elimination of usurious interest rates would be another. But it is late and I must go back to my own personal grind in the morning. “A feast of friends, alive she cried, waiting for us, outside” to quote Jim Morrison.

Council Communists Come To Los Angeles

Sunday, July 20th, 2008

A member of the ICC, International Communist Council came to Los Angeles today and spread the word of the Communist revival. I had the privilege to hear a communist spread the gospel according to Marx without reverting to Stalinist dogmatic lines. I was impressed with the down to earth non preachy style of presentation.
Saturday we had a discussion of the 1968 revolt in France and an analysis of what could emerge today in the modern world with the system under assault from the contradictions within and the angry masses without.
I always had trouble with phrases like “contradictions”, what the heck did they mean by that. I knew it was based in Hegelian dialectics, but I was no dialectician, hell, I am barely literate. So I always pictured something like a hot air balloon that popped from too much gas, or hot air or maybe it was the sunlight or perhaps the lack of atmosphere at a certain altitude. But then for all I know some escaped balloons are still up there in the stratosphere, circling the globe looking for a chance to be lifted on the solar wind out into the cold blackness of interstellar space. But then it could be the opposite and be like Icarus on his magical journey, like Pink Floyd into the Sun.
Not likely, old hippie you say? No just tired from being up too long. I just want the world to know that I am still Blogging and will be back with my usual irascible tone in the next day or so. Until then this will have to do. Forward comrades.

Homeland Security Jive

Thursday, July 17th, 2008

I don’t like Homeland Security. I am watching Secretary Chertoff speak before the Homeland Security Committee on CSPAN today July 17, 08. What I am seeing is the usual Republican cheerleading and democrats with a mixed bag of concerns.
Recent ICE raids seem to be geared to the gaining of publicly and the congresswoman from New York wants to know why so much of the limited enforcement budget is being spent on arresting helpless people on the job, productively working in the US economy instead of going after criminals who are in the illegal economy as drug dealers, etc.
Another Congress woman Sheila Jackson Lee from Texas wanted to know why Drew Griffin a CNN reporter who was critical of aspects of Homeland Security and found himself promptly placed on the Watch list. I am on the watch list and I know what a hassle it is to be stopped, searched and have your laptop perused by Homeland Security Neanderthals. I am on the list due to antiwar activism I assume. But why would a reporter be placed on the list?
Secretary Chertoff sidestepped the issue by talking about birth dates and blaming it on airlines that refuse to use birth dates as identifiers.
Congressman Al Green from Texas asked if he could have a means to get people off the list that have been identified as not being the terrorist who shares the same name.
Chertoff said there is legislation in the works to make the department of Homeland Security the sole manager of the watch list instead of sharing the responsibility with the airlines.
Won’t that make us feel secure? There are about 26 persons in the country with my last name; I find it hard to believe there is someone else with my name who is a terrorist. The watch list is a means of harassing undesirables, pure and simple.
Rep Yvette Clarke from NY wants to know why legal aliens with green cards who have committed crimes years ago and were not deported at that time, are now being deported for crimes from years back.
Chertoff said it was the mandate of congress that passed a law that if you are not a citizen and you committed a felony, such as a drug bust, you will be deported. Period. He said they were not going out looking for former criminals but they will deport a person if they are found to have a record in the past.
Outrageous. Legal immigrants deported years later for crimes they have already paid for. I don’t think this is what congress had in mind, but maybe they did.
Representative Jackson also expressed outrage at the ICE Raids on workers in factories in the Midwest.
All Chertoff had to say was that if you break the law you will be arrested. He did not seem to be concerned that these were easy pickings, inhuman or breaking up families.
As an old anarchist I do believe we need to eliminate borders and nation states. I do believe people should be free to come and go as they please. After watching these people talk about investigating small boats and planes that travel on the waters of this country, I feel that perhaps the only answer is the libertarian one, of limiting the funds and areas of access the government has to intrude in people’s lives. Perhaps there is no cure for government corruption and the increasing tendency for government to intrude in our lives except to across the board eliminate it.
Unlike the libertarians I don’t want a world free for capitalists to hire private armies to create fiefdoms. I want a world safe for the average person to live and love and create their reality without being intruded upon by big government or big money. Small truly is beautiful.
There is no way to make the borders safe, We can build a wall and turn the country into a concentration camp and all you will end up with is a bunch of paranoid guards and angry prisoners.
The best solution is eliminating the borders, just like the way to eliminate the drug problem is decriminalization. Terrorists will not attack us if we are leaving their countries alone. They are seeking revenge, not conquest. The only persons out to create terror on a large scale is the military establishment of each and every nation state, with the United States military as the number one terrorist group in the world.
We need to dismantle this evil machine, not create more walls, and not hire more cops not build more prisons. In the end if we follow that course we will have gulags like the Soviet Union or concentration camps like Nazi Germany.
The best homeland security would be to never have trained the terrorists in the first place. We trained them to attack the Russians and when they defeated one enemy, they came after the last man standing. The USA is the last major force for mass coercion in the world today. This is the last country that can afford to ignore the will of the peoples of the world. Time to change our ways before the rest of the world gets its act together and changes our ways for us.

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