Saturday, January 29, 2011

Egypt.... the coup ... The bill?

Up until now, President Mubarak has enjoyed the support of the armed forces. He was, after all, a career air force officer suddenly catapulted to the presidency when Anwar Sadat was assassinated in 1981. But if these protests continue and intensify there are bound to be senior voices within the military tempted to urge him to stand down. -  BBC News
David Seaton's News Links
Lieutenant colonel Gamal Abdel Nasser, who overthrew King Farouk, was an Egyptian army officer. Anwar El Sadat, who succeeded Nasser, was a military officer, who earlier had joined Nasser in overthrowing Farouk. Hosni Mubarak, an air force general, succeeded Sadat on his assassination.

Therefore it would be reasonable to suppose that Mubarak's successor will be a military officer too.

The question would be: what kind of a military officer, what rank?

As a general rule of thumb, the higher ranking the officer, the more conservative the coup.

Notice that Nasser was a Lt. Col, when he removed Farouk, so was Lybia's Muammar al-Gaddafi, when he took power from King Idris, and of course Venezuela's Hugo Chávez was a paratroop colonel, when he attempted his coup d'etat.  American backed generals tried unsuccessfully to overthrow Chávez, but were not supported by the lower ranking officers. Lower ranking officer's coups are nationalist revolutionaries, higher ranking officers like Chile's Pinochet tend to act under American supervision.

In the Egyptian case, the higher ranking officers are probably firmly in the US pocket, but among the colonels, majors and captains there may be men that are of the nationalistic mode of Nasser and that are chafing at Egypt's enabling Israel in league with American interests.

The key to this question may very well be something as simple as the wives of colonels and majors whose husbands are not making as good salaries as the husbands of their sisters working in the private sector. These are men who have direct command over the troops... the fat generals sit in their offices raking in the graft. Imagine the bedroom scenes after family dinners... many a coup d'etat has begun there.
Probably the first move to oust Mubarak would come from senior officers, eager to execute a Lampedusian, "change everything in order to change nothing" maneuver and thus keep American military aid in place. If this doesn't satisfy the masses in the street, than a group of younger officers, more in touch with popular feeling, might make their move. The question then would be if those younger officers would be interested in some sort of "national reconciliation" with the Muslim Brotherhood, in which case America's whole foreign policy in the Middle East gets flushed down the Nile.

The colonel becomes a general, the major becomes a colonel and their wives are happy, they are now the stars of the family dinners, the ones who can fix fat state contracts. They have to cut out wine and wear a hijab and pray five times a day? Paris vaut bien une messe. DS

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The "Sputnik Moment": One nation with paranoia for all

David Seaton's News Links
I remember once reading an Indian guru, who said that if the water buffalo had a god, it would probably look like a very large water buffalo. He believed that there is only one god, formless and all pervading, but that he/she/it responds to intense worship by taking on the form that most pleases his/her/its devotees depending on their temperament and station in life.

I am beginning to think that the goddess of paranoia pursues a similar strategy: she appears to the crunchy granola/ruccola crowd as global warming and to the deep fried Mars Bar set as black helicopters.

To each of her myriad of devotees she appears in the form most guaranteed to seduce and charm them, but at bottom, there is no paranoia but paranoia and the media is her witness.

I was reminded of an incident from the darkest days of the Second World War, a time with millions of human beings freshly dead, or about to die, with European civilization ground to dust or burned to ashes, when there, deep in his bomb poof bunker, Winston Churchill sent a pudding back to the kitchen, complaining that it had "no theme".

That, I think is problem with America's free floating paranoia: like Winnie's dessert, the paranoia pudding that Americans are collectively pulling, has no "theme".

Sensing this themelessness and needing a theme himself, President Barack Obama turned this up in his State of the Union speech:
Grasping to sum up the country’s perilous position, the US president said the country was facing its “Sputnik moment”, a reference to the alarm felt in 1957 when the former Soviet Union launched the first orbiting satellite. “We need to out-innovate, out-educate and out-build the rest of the world,” he said. - Financial Times
The president is too young to have lived the first "Sputnik moment", but it was one of the turning points of my life and on hearing the word "Sputnik", the goddess of paranoia walked over my grave.

For any American child alive then who was principally interested in the humanities: art, literature, history, as I was, it was a terrible moment. The Soviet Union, may she rest in peace, put up the first hunk of the endless rubbish that now tirelessly circles our planet, something about the size of a grapefruit that sailed the heavens in earth orbit going "beep, beep, beep", soon to be followed by an unfortunate dog named Laika, the first warmblooded creature to die out there. From one day to the next, there was a political-ideological science hysteria that prioritized everything that I am not interested in: math, chemistry etc, to the detriment of everything I love. I think it was then that I vowed to myself that I would someday live in Europe, as far away as I could get from such barren, Sputnik induced, philistinism. Without the first "Sputnik moment" I might never have left.

But my private paranoia is just another face of the hydra-headed goddess of American paranoia. And the president would be kidding himself if he thought that America's decline is the mother of all our paranoia. He did touch briefly on what I do believe is the goddess's true form.
We are part of the American family. We believe that in a country where every race and faith and point of view can be found, we are still bound together as one people; that we share common hopes and a common creed; that the dreams of a little girl in Tucson are not so different than those of our own children, and that they all deserve the chance to be fulfilled. That, too, is what sets us apart as a nation. - President Barack Obama
I disagree, I think the opposite is precisely the truth and that is what "sets us apart as a nation".... And I can prove it with a few simple graphs:

Actually this is exactly what  doesn't set us apart, here is the entire world's estimated distribution of wealth:

So as you can see, if anything sets us apart it is that the distribution of wealth in the USA is much more unequal than the world average.

The previous illustrations are examples of what is called the "Champagne Glass Graph", let's look at this simple pie-chart to get a clearer idea of what is going on.

So if there is one thing the American people are not is a  "family" with "common goals". One percent of the population controls thirty five percent of the net worth. Twenty percent of the population controls eighty five percent of that wealth. That leaves no less than eighty percent of the population to divide up the remaining fifteen percent of the wealth left over.

This is a reality that Americans don't face easily. Here is the reality contrasted with what people think that realty is and with what they think that reality should be:

How does that sort of wealth distribution play out in real life? Here is a reading of America's mood from Pew Research:

Hat to über-wonk Donal
The survey finds that a majority of the public (57%) says it is very difficult or difficult to afford things they really want. About the same percentage said this two years ago (55%). And for many Americans, affording basic necessities remains a struggle – 51% say it is difficult to afford health care, 48% say the same about their home heating and electric bills, and 29% say it is difficult to afford food. - Pew Research Center
In the richest country in world nearly thirty percent of the population have trouble earning enough money to eat. Fifty one percent say it is difficult to afford health care and another forty eight percent can't afford to heat their homes. 

You kind of wonder here in the flash-frozen northeast if, a few days from now, scores of dead bodies will be found in unheated trailers across the county. The Weather Channel said 20-below-zero this morning in upstate New York. I know there are people so desperately poor out there because a couple of weeks ago I overheard a supermarket worker say she couldn't afford to buy propane. And she had a job!
Now having read that you wonder how Obama could say the following with a straight face:
We are part of the American family. We believe that in a country where every race and faith and point of view can be found, we are still bound together as one people
So here is how the paranoia thing works:

The one percent  of the population that controls forty three percent of the financial wealth and the next four percent that controls twenty nine percent, plus those who control the next twenty one percent are justifiably paranoiac thinking what would happen if the eighty percent of the population left with only seven percent of the financial wealth ever woke up and decided to change the percentages around, if only by democratically using income taxes to redistribute that wealth. 

So the major cultural, legal and ideological industry of the USA is to keep that eighty percent, the peasantry,  from actually discovering who is making them so miserable and how they do it and then getting together and changing the situation... as has so often happened throughout history. With ninety three percent of America's money at their disposal there is no lack of funds for the one percenters to do the job.
And that boys and girls explains why so many Americans are worried about Islam and abortion and black helicopters and climate change and transgenic food and whether Barack Obama was born in the USA and polar bears. Anything but the 800 pound gorilla in the room... identifying the fucker and the fuckee.

Paranoia is what "binds us together as one people"... the paranoia of the haves, fearing that the have nots will someday dispossess them and the have nots with whatever paranoia du jour  that the media, owned by that one percent, chooses to feed them and that "suits their temperament and station in life". DS

Friday, January 21, 2011

Too bad Obama can't talk like Ricky Gervais

David Seaton's News Links
I wasn't really paying attention, but I read that there was this big hoohah about Ricky Gervais presentation of the 2011 Golden Globe awards, so out of idle curiosity I dialed it up on YouTube. I was ravished.

It was wonderful. All these fat egos of today's overbloated, more than mediocre Hollywood, sitting there, waiting to be worshiped, and Gervais just flailed them alive. Delicious! Reality invaded the Winter Palace like the Red Death in Poe's story.

Everything about it was perfect, beginning with Gervais's working class English accent, just made for taking the mickey out of a troop of jackasses... Wonderfully "inappropriate behavior".  The entire absurdity of  our star worship stripped naked. Perfectly savage!

When I was a young fellow, I went to school in England and I remember what a revelation it was for me how uncompromising and wildly funny their sense of humor was. Gervais brought it all back and what was best of all for me was the shocked reaction of all these princesses and princes of self-love.

I couldn't help thinking how great it would be if Obama could talk like that to the Republicans and the Tea Party. Perhaps that would be the only way to restore sanity to the Republic. Jon Stewart is much too tame.DS

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Freedom in America: as plain as the nose on your face

Severe Concomitant Esotropia

David Seaton's News Links
The most obvious things are often the hardest to see: for example, without a mirror it is impossible to see the nose on your face... unless of course you suffer from severe concomitant esotropia, in which case you hardly see anything else but the nose on your face.  Much of American political discourse is victim to both mirrorlessness and mental esotropia.

Although the Tucson shooter had no known political affiliation, because a congresswoman was attacked, the Tucson massacre is being treated as a political act. In a sense I think it is it is one, but only for what it reveals about the contradictory pull of the American reality on the America's subconscious.

Some might say that, since the perpetrator of the massacre is insane, his act has no meaning in itself, simply the "tale told by an idiot". This would be missing the point. Insane people's acts do have meaning, but the meanings are private, dark, obscure and must be read as metaphors, as in the interpretation of dreams.  They live in their dream world and perhaps their dream world is not so different from ours, differing mostly in that we only visit that world in our sleep or under the influence of drugs and they spend their tortured lives inhabiting it.  Their life is a "daymare", so to speak. Perhaps we could learn about our own hidden darkness by studying his visible darkness. 

Violent fantasies spring from the frustration of powerlessness. 

Jared Loughner  dreamed of the power of a gun, he dreamed of killing, the ultimate power:  darkened living rooms and movie theaters all over America are filled with men, women and even children, who dream the same violent dreams, every day, for hours on end... The difference: Jared Loughner's dream came true.

As insane as Jared Loughner is, there are hundreds of people in Tucson even crazier than he is... the thousands of people who went to the "Cross Roads of the West" gun show in Tucson the Saturday after the massacre... business was brisk. That is what is unique... not the killings themselves.

The United States is not alone among developed nations in having an occasional citizen run amok with a gun. Just the other day in the Catalonian town of Olot, here in Spain,  we had such an incident.

An older man was about to lose his job and have the bank foreclose on him, (sound familiar?) So he took his rabbit gun, loaded it with buckshot, went into a cafe and shot his boss and his boss's adult son dead, then got into his car and drove to the bank, where he shot dead the bank manager and an employee that he found there, and then he calmly went to the police station and turned himself in. He will now be lodged and fed by the Spanish taxpayer. None of his neighbors ever considered the killer crazy, but all were in agreement that he had always been a mean and nasty son of a bitch... America has no monopoly of those.

What makes American gun violence rather unique is the type and free availability of the weapons we employ when we run amok and more unique than that is the wide public demand that military grade weapons be kept available to all, despite frequent massacres. 

It is hard to carry out a massacre on the order of Tucson or Virginia Tech with only a double barreled shotgun.  Glock  automatics and assault rifles are not freely available in Spain and  I don't think very many Spanish people would like them to be. They do not feel that their "freedom" is endangered by not being allowed to own automatic pistols and assault rifles. 

More than examining the fevered brain of Jared Loughner, I am interested in examining why so many Americans feel they need to carry such deadly weapons in order to be "free". Of what? From what? For what? Are they right to feel threatened?  If so, why?

Obviously they do feel their freedom is threatened and depending on how they define the word freedom, they may have reason to feel so.

There are over 300M Americans living in a military juggernaut occupying a huge space that spans a continent: the world's most populated country after China and India.  This enormous collective is a grab bag of ethnic and religious origins and quite a few of the inhabitants are recent arrivals who have only a tenuous grasp of the official language.

However disagreeable this might seem,  when there are so many different people, impersonal rules and laws have to govern every aspect of the relations and conflicts between total strangers. Nothing can be left to chance. The larger and more heterogeneous the collective, the greater number of rules needed and the greater the severity needed to enforce them. I have talked to Spanish bankers who have been operating banks in the USA and they are amazed at the mind boggling quantities of rules and regulations and the armies of lawyers you need to do even the simplest things. The fear of litigation is always in the room.  Nothing can be taken as "understood",  everything has to be on paper.

Thinking this over, it occurred to me that the US was an extreme example of an enormous collective of unrelated strangers.  A natural candidate for being a micromanaged dictatorship. What seemed strange, when seen under this prism, was that at the same time this collective  maintains a stubborn fiction of great and untrammeled individualism and personal liberty.

I say "fiction", because the USA is a country where you can get sixteen years in jail for stealing a candy bar, where the prisons are full of people sent there for possessing small quantities of cannabis, where the death penalty still exists... you name it. Certainly the difference in punishment for those who caused the financial crisis and those who steal candy bars, seems more in keeping with a repressive and punitive kleptocracy then a land where supposedly "all men are created equal".

Of course if we look at that phrase, we have to remember that is was written by a man who owned African slaves and lived on land stolen from the Native-Americans, therefore it might be worth the trouble to subject it to a severe exegesis, because it is not truly clear what a person in Thomas Jefferson's position and time actually meant when he used the word, "men" or the word, "all" or the word "equal" or for that matter even what he meant when used the words "created" and "are".

Sometimes the ringing words of classic texts are less sonorous when rendered into the common speech of today. If for example, you compare a text from the King James Bible with the same text in the New American Standard Bible, you'll get an idea of what I  am talking about.  But, more than that, under the pressures of its immense size and diversity, American English seems to have deteriorated rapidly since the end of the Second World War, until many examples of contemporary American public speech are so filled with cryptic euphemisms that they seem products of a Google translation from the Japanese. I could write an entire rant about the newly coined euphemism, "inappropriate behavior", which appears to cover everything from picking your nose to child molesting.

Fortunately some Americans have not lost the ability to write simple, clear, declarative sentences. Here is how Paul Krugman describes the idea some Americans have of freedom:
One side of American politics (...) believes that people have a right to keep what they earn, and that taxing them to support others, no matter how needy, amounts to theft. That’s what lies behind the modern right’s fondness for violent rhetoric: many activists on the right really do see taxes and regulation as tyrannical impositions on their liberty. Paul Krugman
Using Krugman to help us translate the Declaration of Independence into contemporary right wing American English; the following phrase, written, signed and promulgated by slave holders, which reads, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness", might be freely rendered in Tea Party speak as, "By God, everybody like me has certain privileges which cannot be taken away: you aren't allowed to kill us, we can do anything we want, and we are here to have a good time."

I believe their paranoia is justified. Reality is not on their side. DS

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The shooting in Tucson: the sound and the fury

A 22-year-old man described as a social outcast with wild beliefs steeped in mistrust faces a federal court hearing Monday on charges he tried to assassinate Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in a Tucson shooting rampage that left six people dead. - Associated Press
David Seaton's News Links
The obligatory theme for a political blogger this week has been the Tucson shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. Wading through the papers, columns and the bloggers, everything I have read about is a stew of the same cliches that appear after every shooting of this kind. Among all the flood of cliches I found one, single, memorable quote from (as often happens) "Saint" Bob Herbert of the New York Times:
I remember having lunch with Marian Wright Edelman, the president of the Children’s Defense Fund, a few days after the Virginia Tech tragedy. She shook her head at the senseless loss of so many students and teachers, then told me: “We’re losing eight children and teenagers a day to gun violence. As far as young people are concerned, we lose the equivalent of the massacre at Virginia Tech about every four days.”
At the bottom of it all lies what is, in my opinion, the marker, the key, to all of America's present day political dysfunction:

Because of an amendment to a sclerotic 18th century document (a time when it took about a minute to muzzle-load a single-shot, flintlock pistol) a 21rst century, gibbering maniac can purchase, carry and fire a semi-automatic pistol with a 30 bullet clip.

Here is the tragic key:

I get the feeling that much of the entire document is about as relevant to contemporary American life as that treasured Second Amendment and with similar results in all fields touched by political organization.

The chance of any of this ever getting changed?

Practically nil.

Another doctoral thesis for my "future Chinese historians"?

Amidst the sadness and the sick feeling that senseless violence brings, I noticed something underneath, a feeling that was obscenely inappropriate to the tragedy of the occasion: boredom.

I find myself not wanting to write about American politics anymore. Political news from the US seems increasingly, to my ears at least, to be the Shakespearean, "tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing".

I write about politics for two basic reasons: because people tell me that I have some understanding of it, but mostly because I have discovered late in life that I love to write...

I love the mere act of writing itself, the putting together of appropriate words in the appropriate order in such a rich and beautiful language as ours... and political commentary is vaccinated against the terror of writer's block. There is something to write about every day. But what is coming out of the States is so hopelessly repetitive and so locked and loaded in its ideological matryoshka that it produces for me a "Larsen effect" of stupefying dissonance.

The world's a big place and I am going to give more attention to other problems, in the words of Robby Krieger, "The time to hesitate is through/ No time to wallow in the mire"... I hope my regular readers will bear with me while I work this out.. DS

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Without a "Golden Voice" or a "Golden Kidney".... The "Fickle Finger of Fate"

David Seaton's News Links
The story of a homeless beggar with a "golden voice" has caught the world's imagination. The man in question, Ted Williams, is charming and witty, with suffering written all over him, and it is impossible not to wish him well.  From one moment to the next, this poor man, who was sleeping in a makeshift tent behind a filling station and panhandling spare change beside the highway, is now appearing on national television and has many job offers... If the decompression and sudden attention doesn't destabilize him and cause him to fall back into the drugs and alcohol that ruined him in the first place, his celebrity and future prosperity are now assured.

I can't help wondering what would have become of Ted Williams if he were a former electrician or an ex Wal-Mart "associate" without any stunning talent like Ted has.  

For a rich, western, nation, Ted's story is a bit unique... and not just the "only in America" thing of becoming world famous overnight.

Let me tell you a little story from the far off world of the 1970s.

The father of friend of mine from those years was Spain's ambassador in Norway. In front of the Spanish embassy in Oslo was little park and living in that park, sleeping on a park bench, was a very shabby wino.

Now, after some 800 years of Moorish occupation, the Spanish have been left with a few Islamic habits, such as their proverbial hospitality and also the Muslim custom of "al-zakat", the giving of alms to beggars in return for their blessing, "que Díos se lo pague", (may God pay you).

Spanish ladies are an especially soft touch.

So, very soon after arriving in Oslo, my friend's mother, on spotting the wino sleeping in front of the embassy, took him a bowl of hot soup and a few coins. She discovered to her astonishment that he was quite indignant, he not only refused the food and the alms, he took out his official government, "registered alcoholic" card and explained to her that that government employees picked him up once a week and took him for a medical check up, vitamin injections and a bath. I imagine that if he had the slightest interest in going on the water wagon there would have been psychologists and group therapy to help him. As far as the Norwegian state was concerned, the choice was his and they would help him either way. My friend's mother was quite impressed back then. Nowadays she wouldn't be that impressed, because today Spain has similar services. 

I am sharing this story with my American readers to give them an idea of how a civilized, rich, western country (Norway) and a civilized, if not quite so rich, western country, (Spain) handle a problem like the one Ted Williams had. I also imagine that if a Norwegian Ted Williams was able to dry out, that the state would have put him in vocational training courses and with his "golden voice", in the course of time, he would have found work in Norwegian radio without having to wait for the "fickle finger of fate" to turn him into a viral sensation on YouTube. Not so much fun for the rest of us, but probably easier on his nervous system.

The other story that impressed me in similar fashion this week is the story of the Scott sisters of Mississippi. Bob Herbert tells it so well, that I'll just quote him:
As insane as it may seem, Gladys and her sister, Jamie, are each serving consecutive life sentences in a state prison in Mississippi for their alleged role in a robbery in 1993 in which no one was hurt and $11 supposedly was taken.(...) The prison terms were suspended — not commuted — on the condition that Gladys donate a kidney to Jamie, who is seriously ill with diabetes and high blood pressure and receives dialysis at least three times a week.(...) Governor Barbour did not offer any expression of concern for Jamie’s health in his statement announcing the sentence suspension. He said of the sisters: “Their incarceration is no longer necessary for public safety or rehabilitation, and Jamie Scott’s medical condition creates a substantial cost to the state of Mississippi.” (...) What is likely to get lost in the story of the Scott sisters finally being freed is just how hideous and how outlandish their experience really was. How can it be possible for individuals with no prior criminal record to be sentenced to two consecutive life terms for a crime in which no one was hurt and $11 was taken? Who had it in for them, and why was that allowed to happen? Bob Herbert - NYT
In the case of the Scott sisters it is obvious that being black and in Mississippi was a huge component of their problem. The whole thing reminds me of a story from northern Georgia that my father told me way back in the 1960, when he worked there... and I wonder how much has changed? 
A Yankee salesman is driving very fast down a back road in Georgia in a terrible hurry to make it on time to an appointment in a nearby town. As he tears down the road,  two black men walk out from behind a tree and start to cross the road, the Yankee is going too fast to stop and he hits them. One of them is thrown twenty feet into a cotton field and the other crashes through the windshield into the car's front seat... both men are bleeding and unconscious. The horrified salesman manages to run to a nearby farmhouse and call the county sheriff. In a short time a siren is heard and a squad car pulls up light flashing. Out steps the sheriff, a full "Rod Steiger", Georgia sheriff: mirror sun glasses, thin lips with toothpick and a very fat gut. The frantic salesman runs up to the sheriff and says, "this is terrible sheriff, what will the charges be?". The sheriff  slowly surveys the scene and drawls, "Well, this n****r here in the front seat, we'll charge him with breaking and entering and that one over there we'll charge him with leaving the scene of an accident".
Reading about the Scott sisters, I wonder what is so "new" about the "New South"?

I also wonder, how much of a coincidence it is that the Scott sisters and Ted Williams are African-Americans. Certainly all three of them are/were horribly vulnerable and it is true that some of America's most vulnerable citizens are conveniently color-coded. But there are also many people of varying shades of pink and gray who are in situations of stark neglect that are just as obscene as that of Williams and the Scott sisters.

In the end I think that even more than racism, which, no matter how nasty it is, at least has some passion, some feeling in it; the story of Ted and the Scotts and of all the vulnerable people in America, is the story of the callousness indifference of the system. DS

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Poor United States, so far from God and so close to... the USA

The lesson of the past few years: Watch out for things that can go massively wrong. What could go massively wrong in 2011? Let's start next door, with Mexico.  Mexico drug war a nightmare scenario - CNN
David Seaton's News Links
I put the quote above, one that I have taken at random from CNN, to avoid being accused of setting up a straw man -- the idea that no one in the USA is worried about the Mexican drug war. Plenty of people are very worried, and for all the right reasons. All I want to do here is add some more reasons of my own to be worried. 

Many people fear, and they have good reason to do so, that Mexico may be in danger of becoming a "failed state", or may already be one to some extent. I am not that optimistic, I think that the real danger may be that the United States of America is in danger of becoming a "failed state" or may already be one to some extent and that Mexico's dilemma is in great part only a symptom of America's own dilemma.

This is really not all that complicated:

What is happening in Mexico is because of unsolved problems in the USA.
Americans consume 60 percent of the world's illegal drugs.
Ye Quakers really hath got this one all figured out:
Drugs are the ultimate consumer product for people who want to feel good now without benefit of hard work, social interaction, or making a productive contribution to society. Drug dealers are living out the rags-to-riches American dream as private entrepreneurs desperately trying to become upwardly mobile. That is why we could not win the war on drugs. We are the enemy, and we cannot face that fact. So we launched a half-hearted, half-baked war against a menace that only mirrors ourselves.
So it turns out that the Americans have an insatiable appetite for drugs -- unmatched in all the world -- seemingly bottomless pockets to pay for the stuff, after which, the American banks launder the drug money, and then to top it off, the US gun dealers take this laundered money and sell the Mexican drug lords the military grade weapons to fight off the Mexican army and police and to murder some 30,000 people in the last four years. Really you'd have to ask yourself which of the two states failed first, Mexico or the USA?

But all of this is the easy part... when states fail to deliver reasonable governance to this degree, when a state is what I call "bath tub ready", what follows is difficult to predict beyond its messiness.

Here is a possible scenario of political "science fiction":

Over the last few years, the drug gangs of Mexico have developed into very sophisticated paramilitary organizations with expertize in counter-surveillance, counter-intelligence, recruiting and corrupting public officials, confronting conventional military power, money laundering, clandestine transnational movement of men and materiel, financial engineering and communications of  all kinds, not just their primary skill set of torturing and killing people and blowing things up.

A large number of poor young Mexicans, both men and women, without a great deal to look forward to in life, are joining these organizations, where they are being exposed to and being trained in the above mentioned skills to a high degree. This might be the proper place to point out that these are the typical organizational and operating capabilities of a national liberation movement. It would appear that developed countries' addiction to illegal recreational drugs is the natural way to finance revolutionary activity in the underdeveloped countries that produce or transport those drugs... That is how the Taliban finance their long running war against the United States, by the way. Here might also be a good place to point out that traditional South American revolutionary movements such as Colombia's FARC and Peru's "Shining Path" already finance themselves by catering to American's love of cocaine and that neither Colombia nor Peru share Mexico's vibrant revolutionary traditions.

So it might be logical to postulate that if a contemporary Emiliano Zapata were to appear among the poor of  Mexico, he or she would almost certainly spring from the ranks of the young people who are being armed and trained by the Mexican drug lords. Many commentators accuse the FARC and the Shining Path guerrillas of being nothing more than drug gangs disguised as revolutionaries... perhaps to win the sympathy of Mexican poor, the Mexican drug lords might consider donning such a disguise themselves. Or perhaps one of their number might have a genuinely patriotic epiphany... Who knows? But the temptation would be great. As we know in the United States, wrapping oneself in the flag is... why continue?

But however such a development took place it would lead to outcomes much worse than anything that the Middle East or South West Asia could ever dish up. Nothing that Al Qaida or any Islamic organization could execute would ever destabilize life in the USA even a fraction of what a well funded, well armed and sophisticated revolutionary movement in Mexico could. 

Imagine what sort of nativist paranoia and racist hysteria would result if only one single Mexican woman ever blew herself up in a crowded shopping center in Los Angeles. Impossible you say, suicide bombers are always Muslim fanatics going for the 72 virgins in Islamic paradise... Sorry, but the exploding vest, the most effective terrorist weapon ever developed was the invention of Sri Lanka's Tamil Tigers, a secular, nationalist liberation movement. Globalization means the free movement of ideas, remember?

In the 1990s as the Russians lost control of their traditional spheres of influence; the world witnessed the seemingly magic disintegration of the czarist empire that Russia had maintained through world wars and revolution since the 17th century. The similarities to the deflation of US power in Latin America are striking. If anything defines the times we are living through it is that the unthinkable and the unbelievable not only can happen, they are almost sure to happen, just as sheep are cloned and the New York skyline is fractured.

But remember, what happens in Mexico is financed by the American hunger for chemical release from their daily lives and armed by the greed of American arm dealers, who are unrestrained because the American political system is paralyzed by special interest lobbies. 

The United States is the world's richest, most powerful country, only the United States can defeat or destroy the United States... "Heck of  job Uncle Sam!" DS