“This is our war, on our drugs”…

WAY: It is obvious that Mexican drug cartels market primarily to the U.S.; it is obvious that the U.S. war on drugs has few victories; it is obvious that Mexican cartel money buys political power; why does only one online newspaper explore these relationships as Mexicans, in increasing numbers, are demonstrating against their government?

White House silence on Mexico protests speaks volumes

In early October, I attended a rally outside the Mexican consulate in New York City to protest the disappearance of a group of students taken by police in the state of Guerrero two weeks earlier. On a busy midtown Manhattan street, a dozen people gathered to call attention to the missing students and demand their return. A passerby, puzzled by the commotion, stopped a protester to ask what they were shouting about. When he was told what had happened, he asked incredulously, “But they were Mexican students? Killed in Mexico? Why should we care here?”

Indeed, why should ordinary Americans care about the rampant corruption, extrajudicial violence and culture of impunity that has overtaken Mexico in the eight years since then-President Felipe Calderón declared war on the drug cartels? Why should they care about 100,000 dead and at least 20,000 disappeared, some of whose remains are being uncovered in a quickly metastasizing map of mass graves? Why should they care about the 43 teachers in training, rounded up by police and turned over to a gang of killers who, it is alleged, burned their bodies and dumped what remained in a local river? Why should they care about the surging protests, the tens of thousands marching in the streets of Mexico’s cities and towns, calling for the renunciation of President Enrique Peña Nieto and declaring “Fue el estado” (It was the state)?

Here’s why Americans should care: We are collectively funding this war. Our tax dollars, in the form of security aid, provide the equipment, weapons and training to state security forces responsible for an ever-lengthening rap sheet of human rights abuses. U.S. drug habits, in the form of an insatiable market for narcotics, marijuana and amphetamines, provide the liquid cash that has proved so corrosive when it has come into contact with every level of the Mexican state.

This is our war, on our drugs. We have created the Mexico from which we now distance ourselves — but we can’t afford to turn our backs any longer….

Since 2007, the U.S. government has spent roughly $3 billion on security aid to Mexico, through the George W. Bush–era Mérida Initiative, which was extended indefinitely by President Barack Obama, and through counternarcotics programs run by the Defense and Justice departments. Those funds served to militarize the war on drugs and contributed to the extraordinary increase in violence under Calderón. The Mexican government, using aircraft and equipment supplied by the United States, maintained that the mounting death toll was of little consequence — just criminals killing one another, the Mexican military argued. Meanwhile, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency quietly propped up the powerful Sinaloa cartel in exchange for information on its rivals, exacerbating the violence by picking off kingpins and splintering structures of power in the cartels.

The end of Mexican democracy

Even before the tragic kidnapping of 43 students from the Ayotzinapa teachers’ college in late September, Mexico’s President Enrique Peña Nieto was already teetering on the brink. His neoliberal reform agenda, systematic repression of protests and iron-fisted control over the media had turned him into the most unpopular president in recent Mexican history.

The enormous unrest that has erupted in recent days is, therefore, not only about criminality and violence but also social power and democratic politics. And what is at stake in today’s battle for Mexico is not just the future of peace and prosperity for those living south of the Rio Grande but also democracy and justice north of the border.

Before taking office Dec. 1, 2012, Peña Nieto penned an op-ed for The Washington Post in which he tried to assuage concerns about his intimate connections with the most corrupt and backward old guard of the authoritarian Institutional Revolutionary Party, which ruled the country from 1929 until 2000. He encouraged observers to forget about the party’s past and instead look at its “plan to open Mexico’s energy sector to national and foreign private investment.”

Writing on the eve of his first meeting with President Barack Obama in Washington, Peña Nieto claimed that such reforms would “contribute to guaranteeing North American energy independence,” since “Mexico holds the fifth-largest shale gas reserve in the world, in addition to large deep-water oil reserves and a tremendous potential in renewable energy.”

Obama, the U.S. military and Congress eagerly accepted Peña Nieto’s Faustian bargain. They would blindly support his presidency in exchange for quick action on energy reform.

Over the last two years, both sides have loyally held up their ends of the deal. In December 2013, Peña Nieto pushed through historic reforms to Article 27 of the constitution that broke up the state monopoly over the oil industry and opened the floodgates to speculation and vast private investment by international oil giants. The majority of Mexicans adamantly rejected these reforms, but they were steamrolled through the National Congress and passed by a majority of the state legislatures in only 10 days without debate and in flagrant violation of the democratic process.

Such quick legal action authorizing the transfer of public oil rents to private hands fulfilled the wildest dreams of Washington. The U.S. has pushed for years without avail to achieve similar reforms in occupied Iraq without success. But in Mexico a loyal and corrupt president proved to be much more effective than direct military occupation.

Unsurprisingly, most of the international press vigorously applauded the oil reform. “As Venezuela’s economy implodes and Brazil’s growth stalls, Mexico is becoming the Latin oil producer to watch — and a model of how democracy can serve a developing country,” wrote the editorial board of The Washington Post. The Financial Times excitedly proclaimed that “Mexico’s historic vote to open its oil and gas sector to private investment after 75 years yoked to the state is a political coup for Enrique Peña Nieto.” And Forbes magazine argued that although previous President Felipe Calderón “may have pushed for real oil reforms, it’s Peña Nieto who will get the spot in the history books.”

Unmatched Power, Unmet Principles:
The Human Rights Dimensions of US Training of Foreign Military and Police
Forces

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TPP: Why would a free trade agreement have so much secrecy re its terms?

China – Russa Sidestep Neocons

Joseph Stiglitz on TPP, Cracking Down on Corporate Tax Dodgers & New BRICS Bank

The ‘Medicine’ of the Trans-Pacific Partnership

The dispute mechanism is not directly mentioned in the intellectual property chapter, but the one article that purports to uphold national sovereignty is contradicted by another article that mandates that multi-national corporations be given the same rights as national corporations. That clause, standard in “free trade” agreements, is a battering ram used by the secret tribunals to order the withdrawal of laws safeguarding environmental, safety, health or labor standards. These rulings, in turn, become precedents that are used to hand down future harsher decisions.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership, however, is far from the only danger to working people. There is also the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership between the U.S. and the E.U.; the Trade In Services Agreement that would eliminate the ability of governments to regulate the financial industry (50 countries are in on this one); and the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement. Each of these are designed to elevate corporations to the level of a country, although in practice, because of tribunal precedents, they would elevate corporations above national governments.

“Free trade” agreements have little to do with trade, and much to do with imposing the domination of capital in as many spheres of life as possible. They are massive failures for working people in all countries. They offer, and can offer, nothing but a race to the bottom. Attempting to reform a race to the bottom is a fool’s errand. The TPP and its equally vile cousins must be defeated, and a complete re-conceptualization of trade and who should benefit from trade, substituted. That in turn requires directly challenging prevailing economic systems, otherwise we will be shoveling against the tide.

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“a riot is the language of the unheard”…

This Little Light of Mine

On a day meant for joy, so much pain for so many. In New York, the families of three unarmed black men shot down by police – Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Akai Gurley – met, mourned, prayed and called for change as they faced what the Rev. Al Sharpton at Harlem’s National Action Network’s House of Justice called “their first Thanksgiving with an empty seat at the table.” Summoning extraordinary dignity in the face of what little he has to give thanks for, Michael Brown Sr. wore a tie with the face of his dead son. In the past week, he has delivered turkeys to the neighborhood where his son died, urged Ferguson to remain calm and peaceful, and stressed, “I do not want my son’s death to be in vain…Change. That all we asking for…Continue to lift your voices with us.” In honor of him, and all the others, and the spirit of the day, a homegrown flash mob in a Bangor, Maine grocery store likewise finds their voices. Don’t forget to hug your kids.

Ferguson: ‘We’re Going to Shake the Heavens’

The riot police and National Guard swarmed the white side of Ferguson, while the black side of town, along West Florissant Avenue, was ablaze. There were almost no cops there. Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon declared a state of emergency a week before the grand jury decision came down, yet the National Guard troops he deployed were nowhere to be seen in this part of town. About a dozen businesses went up in flames. Why was West Florissant Avenue left unguarded? Did the authorities let Ferguson burn?

In his 1968 speech, “The Other America,” Dr. King addressed fears of a forthcoming summer of riots like those that consumed Newark, New Jersey, Detroit and other black inner cities in 1967. King said:

“It is not enough for me to stand before you tonight and condemn riots. It would be morally irresponsible for me to do that without, at the same time, condemning the contingent, intolerable conditions that exist in our society. These conditions are the things that cause individuals to feel that they have no other alternative than to engage in violent rebellions to get attention. And I must say tonight that a riot is the language of the unheard.”

Those unheard, the citizens of Ferguson who have been taking to the streets for over 100 days, weren’t the ones setting fires. They were demanding justice. Solidarity protests involving thousands around the country and around the world are amplifying their demands, linking struggles, building a mass movement.

Ferguson and the Right of Resistance

“So while the corporate media has been somewhat successful in shifting the focus from the injustice of the non-indictment to the reaction of protestors, the insights provided by brother Malcolm X offer a framework for understanding what must be done. For Malcolm, resistance is not a crime. In fact, the fight for human dignity and human rights is what makes us human. But he argued that there is a price that people must be prepared to pay. According to Malcolm: “…you shouldn’t even be allowed around us other humans if you don’t want to pay the price. You should be kept in the cotton patch where you’re not a human being. You’re an animal that belongs in the cotton patch like a horse or a cow, or a chicken or a possum, if you’re not ready to pay the price necessary to be paid for recognition and respect as a human being.” And what was the price? “The price is death really. The price to make others respect your human rights is death. You have to be ready to die…” “This is all we want—to be a human being.” In our quest for authentic freedom for ourselves and our children who are being spiritually and literally murdered, Malcolm is reminding us that we have to be prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice. This willingness to sacrifice, as inchoate and thinly grounded as the mass resistance was in Ferguson, demonstrated, nevertheless, that many of our young people are still prepared to pay the price for freedom. We should be proud that the spirit of struggle, resistance, and sacrifice is still alive. The experience of Ferguson demonstrated to people around the world that despite the opiate of credit-based false prosperity, illusions of system inclusion and Barack Obama – African Americans are finally awakening from an almost two decade long sleep and in the process reawakening the spirit of resistance for everyone.”

Officer Darren Wilson’s story is unbelievable. Literally.

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Two important speeches…

Putin’s speech at the Valdai Club

The Cold War ended, but it did not end with the signing of a peace treaty with clear and transparent agreements on respecting existing rules or creating new rules and standards. This created the impression that the so-called ‘victors’ in the Cold War had decided to pressure events and reshape the world to suit their own needs and interests. If the existing system of international relations, international law and the checks and balances in place got in the way of these aims, this system was declared worthless, outdated and in need of immediate demolition.

Pardon the analogy, but this is the way nouveaux riches behave when they suddenly end up with a great fortune, in this case, in the shape of world leadership and domination. Instead of managing their wealth wisely, for their own benefit too of course, I think they have committed many follies.

We have entered a period of differing interpretations and deliberate silences in world politics. International law has been forced to retreat over and over by the onslaught of legal nihilism. Objectivity and justice have been sacrificed on the altar of political expediency. Arbitrary interpretations and biased assessments have replaced legal norms. At the same time, total control of the global mass media has made it possible when desired to portray white as black and black as white.

In a situation where you had domination by one country and its allies, or its satellites rather, the search for global solutions often turned into an attempt to impose their own universal recipes. This group’s ambitions grew so big that they started presenting the policies they put together in their corridors of power as the view of the entire international community. But this is not the case.

Absolutely crucial statement by Foreign Minister Lavrov

In attempting to establish their pre-eminence at a time when new economic, financial and political power centres are emerging, the Americans provoke counteraction in keeping with Newton’s third law and contribute to the emergence of structures, mechanisms, and movements that seek alternatives to the American recipes for solving the pressing problems. I am not referring to anti-Americanism, still less about forming coalitions spearheaded against the United States, but only about the natural wish of a growing number of countries to secure their vital interests and do it the way they think right, and not what they are told “from across the pond.” Nobody is going to play anti-US games just to spite the United States. We face attempts and facts of extra-territorial use of US legislation, the kidnapping of our citizens in spite of existing treaties with Washington whereby these issues are to be resolved through law enforcement and judicial bodies.

According to its doctrine of national security, the United States has the right to use force anywhere, anytime without necessarily asking the UN Security Council for approval. A coalition against the Islamic State was formed unbeknownst to the Security Council. I asked Secretary of State John Kerry why have not they gone to the UN Security Council for this.

He told me that if they did, they would have to somehow designate the status of Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad. Of course, they had to because Syria is a sovereign state and still a member of the UN (no one excluded it from UN membership). The secretary of state said it was wrong because the United States is combating terrorism and the al-Assad regime is the most important factor that galvanises terrorists from around the world and acts as a magnet attracting them to this region in an attempt to overthrow the Syrian regime.

I believe this is perverse logic. If we are talking about precedents (the United States adheres to case law), it is worth remembering the chemical disarmament in Syria when the Assad regime was a completely legitimate partner of the United States, Russia, the OPCW and others. The Americans maintain talks with the Taliban as well. Whenever the United States has an opportunity to benefit from something, it acts quite pragmatically. I’m not sure why the ideologically-driven position took the upper hand this time and the United States chose to believe that Assad cannot be a partner. Perhaps, this is not so much an operation against the Islamic State as paving the way for toppling al-Assad under the guise of a counter-terrorist operation.

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After Ferguson: Not business as usual…

Darren Wilson not indicted: read the full grand jury report

From NYC to LA: Protesters flood streets in Ferguson verdict rage

The fallout from the Missouri grand jury’s decision to acquit the officer accused of killing Michael Brown. Demonstrations are taking place in a number of large cities across the country, including outside the White House in Washington, DC.

Ferguson in Context on the Eve of the Grand Jury Decision

In addition, we’ve got Ferguson, facing a revenue crisis as property taxes from the factories disappear, turning to the law enforcement system to raise revenue (a public policy approach suggested by an especially vile libertarian, Robert Poole). From Governing:

Ferguson’s budget relies heavily on public safety and court fines that have skyrocketed in recent years. A review of Ferguson’s financial statements indicates that court fine collections now account for one-fifth of total operating revenue. The St. Louis suburb of about 21,000 residents [like I said: small] took in more than $2.5 million in municipal court revenue last fiscal year, representing an 80 percent increase from only two years prior, when fines netted about $1.4 million.

[Brendan Roediger of the Saint Louis University School of Law] described a court system in Ferguson and select areas of St. Louis that function primarily as a revenue generator. “They don’t want to actually incarcerate people because it costs money, so they fine them,” he said. “It appears [because it is] to be a blatant money grab.”

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