US state of Arizona passes controversial anti-immigration law

US Border Control © The Last DJ

Thousands of people marched peacefully on Sunday 25th in Phoenix, the capital of the US state of Arizona, to express their opposition to a controversial new anti-immigration law.

Opponents argue that the new law discriminates against Latino Americans. In a rare presidential intervention on a state matter, President Barack Obama described the law as “misguided” on Friday. Civil rights organisations have threatened with lawsuits.

The law was signed by Republican Governor Jan Brewer last Friday. The state of Arizona borders with Mexico. Illegal immigrants smuggled over from the sparsely-populated Mexican desert region cause a lot of trouble, say Americans living in the frontier area. It’s a busy drug trafficking route and the Mexican drug barons regularly extend their wars across the border, killing their victims on US territory. Immigration control is the responsibility of the federal government, but a majority in Arizona feel that Washington has failed them.

So, Arizona has acted on its own behalf, passing a law aimed to stem the flow of illegal immigrants into the US border state. The law requires police officers to question and detain anyone they believe may be an illegal immigrant, even if they are not suspected of committing another crime. It would also require anyone in the state suspected of being an illegal immigrant to show a document proving their legal status.

Racial profiling
But, say critics, if police demand papers from people just because they look Mexican, and they turn out to be a US citizen, their constitutional rights will have been infringed as US citizens are not required to carry ID. Latinos are assuming that only people with an Hispanic appearance will be stopped by authorities, which constitutes an act of discrimination, says one demonstrator in Phoenix:

“That law legalises racial profiling which we fought so hard to end in this country…”

The first anti-immigration legislation demonstrations ahead of the governor’s announcement on Friday ended in clashes with authorities. Empty bottles and lunch leftovers were hurled at the police; supporters of the law were also harassed.

Sunday’s organised march denouncing the legislation passed off more quietly. The law has ignited fury among the mayor of Phoenix, Democratic politicians and civil rights leaders who have announced further protests and legal action. Some police commissioners also spoke out against the legislation, arguing that it will widen the rift between police authorities and Hispanics, including the hundreds of thousands of illegal citizens. This in turn will undermine security at the border region, the very argument used by the governor for its introduction.

Illegal Latinos in the US are a bit like Muslim immigrants in Europe. They’re all thrown on the same heap and often the scapegoat for all the woes of society. The passing of the law – just as Democrats are considering launching a comprehensive immigration reform bid – has ensured that the immigration debate will be placed fully under the spotlight in the weeks ahead.

Obama saves more for better care

Obama’s reform: An expense or an investment?
For conservatives (Republicans but also some thirty Democrat representatives) this is an expense, a redistribution gadget: those who are able to earn money are bled for the benefit of those who are not able to bring in. For liberals we are facing an investment: spending for the poor health, any American – even rich ones – will gain. Besides, this reform is similar to the French universal health coverage-CMU (which impressed Hillary Clinton): taking care of the poor, first you avoid the risk of contamination from the poor to the rich, and then you consolidate an employable and compliant workforce. In the US, the health reform will cost 940 billion dollars over ten years and some 32 million Americans would benefit of it. The aim is to cover active and young, 95% of the population under 65 years. So it costs money.

And it saves money… the hardest to understand. Explanation in 5 points.

The reform creates a more competitive market for insurance and it will be overall cheaper for Americans. So far the insurers provide the richest people who have no health problems. But they do not cover sick. Reform is more than a humanitarian measure; it puts pressure on the cost of health insurance as insured contributors will make the practice to compare proposals.

President Obama’s reform establishes a commission to control health spending, composed of independent experts approved by the Senate. They observe spending excesses in that event.

The most unpopular, but the clearest, the tax on Cadillac insurance (1). Today, employers pay 70% of their better paid employees’ insurance plans and do not pay taxes on it: 250 billion dollars annually for top executives and other senior officers who waste health outrageously. There will be taxed up a certain ceiling: a right way to limit rising of unnecessary health spending.

Turn doctors into caregivers, instead of health merchants. Today, Americans buy health like cars, except they do not want a third car they won’t buy. In health matters, the more doctors push Americans to consume, the more they consume. Obama strikes first at hospitals that offer Therapy Packs with the result one easily anticipates at the end. For the most part, the reform consists in discard the most expensive system in the world, the same who cares the least.

Summarizing the preceding: reforming the philosophy of health, and there, even Republicans agree. Today US system limits health care expenses taking no care of people. Now, the less we care of people, the more health expenses explode. With president Obama’s system, elected people’s representatives will be compelled to focus on health spending, even though they let them go off course drift in the past. Final outcome is $ 138 billion saving cost of Federal deficit in the next ten years and 1,200 billion over the next decade. Obama reform is both an investment and a sharp cutback scheme.


(1) Sometimes referred to as a “Cadillac” or “gold-plated” insurance plan, a high-cost policy is usually defined by the total cost of premiums, rather than what the insurance plan covers or how much the patient has to pay for a doctor or hospital visit.
People who have Cadillac plans often have low deductibles and excellent benefits that cover even the most expensive treatments, but this is not always the case. Premium costs can be high for reasons other than generous benefits, including the age, gender and health status of the customer. In an employer-based plan, premiums are based on the pooled risk of employees and may be higher if many of the employees are sick, older, female or live in a region with expensive health costs. Additional information in

Obama Lays Siege to the Financial Casino

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The tragedy that hit Haiti last week meant a welcome sigh of relief to the four Wall Street emperors. That sad day — Wednesday 13 to be exact – wherein more than 111,000 people were killed in one of the poorest countries in the world, Lloyd Blankfein, Goldman Sachs CEO; James Dimon, JP Morgan Chase CEO; John J . Mack, Morgan Stanley CEO and Brian T. Moynihan, Bank of America CEO, responded to questioning by the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission (FCIC), a commission created by President Obama last year to investigate and discover the perpetrators of the worst financial crisis of the past 70 years.

The catastrophe in Haiti prevented these four glorious characters to get the front pages and the information came buried in the back pages the next day. Parts of the final reports are here. They worth a look for a clearer understanding of recent events and from which the press has turned a blind eye, such as articles published today by El Pais, one of Sandro Pozzi and another by Peter Larsen. None’s aware of the reasons for President Obama to besiege bankers — “If they want war, we will give them,” he said Friday — as well as the requirement to divide the largest banks into smaller entities, or the application of $ 120,000 million tax expected to recover some of the rescue plans. This is a direct comeback to the results of last week and which the press did not report.

Wall Street bankers admit mistakes by the financial crisis. In their view, they already assumed an attitude of apology – but they did not actually account for their acts. As when Lloyd Blankfein said: “What we did, didn’t worked well. We regret that people have lost so much money. ” But what “not worked well” for the people, worked well for them, they who shared out hundreds of billions of dollars in bonuses.

As of Wednesday and Thursday last week, bankers totally downplayed the consequences of the crisis: “It was the perfect storm of the year”, Blankfein said, while James Dimon trivialized “This happens every five or six years”, as if we were into a normal slowdown business cycle and not into a systemic failure founded on financial basis generated by fraud. And although they were cautious not to blame the government, the government caught them and wouldn’t let go of the piece. Furthermore when the bank has continued speculating and creating the seeds of the next crisis.

The investigation led by Sheila Bair, of the FDIC (Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation) helped to illustrate that the trouble is structural and that government and consumers have long been hostage of Wall Street. The frantic struggle to eliminate the Glass-Steagall Act was one of their results. Now you understand Obama’s saying “We will never again be held hostage to banks too big to fail”. And this is just the beginning.

The investigation detected that commercial and investment banks, in collusion with political world, managed to completely disable the security mechanisms and take full control of the system while cheating the government. No public institution was relevant to their view, all public boards were pawn agencies like the SEC — that despite having warned of repeated fraud cases as Bernie Madoff, failed authorizations to investigate and arrest, and so the unscrupulous swindlers could commit crimes with the gentle complicity of the banks. Financial capital formed its own internal guerrilla and finished devouring the industrial capital, the one producing and creating jobs.

Much of this is because the leading figures of finance (Henry Paulson, Timothy Geithner, Lawrence Summers and Robert Rubin) have held positions in banking, government and Wall Street: what must be considered a real incest. You can not serve two masters, being Secretary of the Treasury (that is, a high state official servant) and hold such visible ties with commercial banks, more so when the Fed, is since 1914 a fully private body which lends money to the state, and whose interests are paid by all taxpayers. It would not be surprising that once the whole truth is done Fed decides to return to the Treasury. Maybe Paul Volcker’s plan has already thought about it.

Obama’s War

The worst war is the one being fought into our brains.

Obama repeating mistakes of the past in Afghanistan

West is repeating mistakes of the past in Afghanistan

As soon as its terms are acknowledged you can give it for lost. And you have to write it in full: in Europe, the war in Afghanistan is being considered ever-increasing lost.

It is about the culture war (1) wherein violent actions have a dual persuasive function: intimidate the whole population and transfer responsibility — i.e. guiltiness — to those who act in disagreement with radical Islam, thereby becoming potential targets. The result is that they lead to restraint freedom of expression and censorship. This war has many accomplices, because not only radical Muslims ask for a special status for their religion. Ireland enforced this Jan 1st an anti-blasphemy act which punishes by fine up to € 25,000 those who commit blasphemy publicly. A soldier of this war is the Somali who the Year’s Day attempted assassination — ax and knife in hand — against Kurt Westergard, the Danish cartoonist who published a Muhammad caricature in the Jylland Posten in 2005 — who, since then, is under police protection. Pope, Tony Blair and even George Bush agreed criticizing the cartoons — despite freedom of expression is far better protected in West than in Middle East.

The next battle to fight, waged in view of everybody in the street and in institutions, is not far behind. As the former fight, its identification mark suggests that you are losing it as soon as you accept its existence. The dream of invulnerability can lead to the greatest aberrations. What a hard life will have those who use air transportation! But it happens likewise in trains, buses, subways and even private cars. There is however an inversion of terms in this case. In Europe, for now more familiarized with risk society, the reaction is moderate. In the US, however, where the legend of invulnerability has thrived, even Obama has been incapable to reverse the effects of war on the rule of law and freedoms. The soldier of this war is a Nigerian who tried to blow up the Northwest flight on its arrival to Detroit — from Amsterdam — on Christmas Day. And because of it Guantanamo will remain open. And as a result, imprisoned people without trial will keep on running, as well as secret warrants, eavesdropping without judicial control and everything Bush did at wholesale scale, but now acomplished in retail and with greater care and prevention.

The Culture War of values as shown on a graffiti

Where we are losing the second war at most — the war on values — is inside the third war; the war of real fighters with true clashes, and belligerent general staffs… basically, Obama’s real war. It is a regrettable and revolting war, as any war, but it is more certain and effective. It is waged in secret, without bluster, quietly — although the effects emerge with no little alarm from time to time. Such as, in the recent suicide attack on the CIA base in Afghanistan — a historic setback for the United States who believed getting bin Laden within reach through a double agent when in fact they lost six US agents and one  Jordan’s allied. This action of Al Qaeda is in response to a cyber war through drones, which maintains the CIA in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and has killed at least two dozen of prominent terrorist leaders.

Obama has intensified this kind of war, to the point that some experts say it will replace the current massive presence of troops in the conflict zone that spreads out from Pakistan to Somalia. The CIA has accomplished more than 50 attacks from Predator and Reaper drones all through Obama’ first year at the White House – figures that double those of 2008 with Bush on the stage and surpass the whole activity of the Bush 8 year Presidency. Formally it is about a targeted assassinations program that Bush authorized after another Republican president, Gerald Ford, banished it in 1976. Philip Alston, UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Executions and law professor at the New York University, believes that such actions may be legal in terms of “just war” when there are no other means to stop or prevent the enemy to go on with its activity and when every precaution is taken to avoid civilian casualties. But this does not appear to be the case because there is no official information and no possibility of judicial or parliamentary control over such actions.

Bush made a package with all those wars, which he called Global War on Terror — some mistook with a war against the Arabs or against Islam. “Invoices” for those errors, increasingly higher, are still coming now. Obama qualifies and distinguishes amongst them: but this does not make him immune to criticism from the right, for his supposed excessive restraint and, from the left, because of his continuity with Bush’s illegal war.


(1) Have a look on the clash of ideas over here: The Cultural War

Is Obama’s Smart Diplomacy Substandard?

In Afghanistan, the military solution is like a bottomless pit: just look at the affirmative accents of former president Bush and right now president Obama (“We must finish the job”). What does the US public opinion ponder while Obama is willing to strengthen the conventional forces ?

Yet after his first year, and after his speech of Dec 1st, let us consider President Obama’s general guidelines.

The fall of the Berlin Wall has highlighted the decisive character of the Afghan adventure among the causes of the collapse of the Soviet Union. The Red Army was well and truly stuck on this theater of operations – deemed dangerous. Could it also become fatal to Obama’s America?

Barak Obama tried one week ago to convince the US opinion, more and more reluctant to increase to 100 000 the number of U.S. soldiers engaged in war against the Taliban. Therefore the use of force is preferred, with a deadline.

Will this voluntarism shut up the critics who, since taking office, accuse Obama of being a “weak president”, a new Jimmy Carter, who will eventually be run by those he tries to coax? These critics point out that the “smart diplomacy” of the new Democratic administration has, so far, no notorious  success, meanwhile his hand extended policy toward the traditional adversaries of America remains desperately unrequited. Neither Iran nor North Korea have been sensitive to calls for restraint. In the Middle East, American diplomacy seems without real outlets on a situation which deteriorates every day. And coming back from China – his main partner now – the president returned empty-handed: no revaluation of the yuan, inflexibility on climate policy, and  human rights totally muted.

Of course, it is too early to decide on a foreign policy that is yet preparing the ground for milestones…

The latest false move from Obama, a step towards the militarization of US foreign policy.

It was surprising – and not only in US – to survey television reports whereas in his recent visit to several Asian countries, President Obama prompted a solemn bow before the Emperor of Japan. It is hard to believe that Obama – or anyone from his entourage –could ever consider the Emperor as Heaven Sent when he is just a simple constitutional symbol of the Japanese nation. I do not remember Obama giving such unnecessary signs of respect to other dignitaries – who are also symbols of their respective sovereignties.

For some critics of Obama’s policy in Afghanistan, the speech meaning through the president finally defined his strategy to follow on that troubled country, was another sign of unjustified respect and reverence, but this time to the US military institution and its senior executives. Not only because he chose to do so before the select audience of the Military Academy at West Point instead of the Oval Office. The worst and most ominous precedent of this fact is that also on the same stage, and before a similar audience, his predecessor in the White House presented seven years ago the disastrous strategy of “preventive war” that blazed a trail of blood and destruction across the world. Let us say, in defense of Bush and against Obama, that the first delivered his speech during the military graduation ceremony of the new officers, as it seems to be usual in West Point, while Obama has done so for no particular reason, which is still more shocking.

It is not about criticizing here, once again, the major strategic error which consists to expect winning a war and, secondly, to establish in advance the time frame in which the victorious troops return home. One cannot satisfy both the desires of the people, tired of an endless war that, the lower social strata are suffering especially, and some military commanders who want to achieve all the signs of victory and none of the defeat – as the shameful retreat from Saigon who still lives in the minds of many Americans. Therefore, the date of July 2011 as the scheduled move back is an empty gesture as the withdrawal of the occupation troops will take place just when possible. Just as the closure of Guantanamo, announced later this year and unenforceable to date.

The outcome is that over the next six months 30,000 new US troops will arrive in Afghanistan, i.e. in less than two years the US military contingent will triple, reaching about 100,000. If we add up the 38,000 NATO (to increase by about 7,000), the military deployment in Afghanistan will exceed that of the USSR in the eighties, which contributed to the final disintegration of the Soviet superpower. Will Obama get what the former Soviet Kremlin could not achieve?

But there is another problem. In the aforementioned speech Obama literally said:

“As commander-in-chief, I have determined that it is in our vital national interest to send an additional 30,000 US troops to Afghanistan. After 18 months, our troops will begin to come home. These are the resources that we need to seize the initiative, while building the Afghan capacity that can allow for a responsible transition of our forces out of Afghanistan.”

What is and on what terms you define a “responsible transition”? When will the armed and security forces of Afghanistan be operative as to replace foreign troops of occupation? That’s not up to the White House nor NATO. Uncertainty is the same as before the speech delivery because the objectives of this war are still not clearly defined.

“I make this decision because I am convinced that our security is at stake in Afghanistan and Pakistan,” Obama said. “This is the epicenter of the violent extremism practiced by al-Qaida. It is from here that we were attacked on 9/11, and it is from here that new attacks are being plotted as I speak.”

President Barak Obama chose not to recall that his predecessor in the White House was the true catalyst for the spread of terrorism in these and other countries, with his aberrant “preventive war on terror”.

Even if it seems simplistic, it looks as if Obama gets rid of the straight weight on Afghanistan, putting it on the shoulders of the Pentagon and NATO, to pursue other more immediate and politically profitable concerns. A step forward in the usual militarization of US foreign policy, that Obama does not seem determined to change.

Drug trafficking and imperialism

US imperial mentality in the fight against drug trafficking

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At a recent conference [1], the original and always rightly incisive Noam Chomsky, referred to US military bases installed in Colombia, with the official purpose of assisting the Government of Bogotá in the war on drugs.

Mexico's Federal Police officers escort suspects of working for a drug trafficking gang, as they are shown to the media in Mexico City

Mexico’s Federal Police officers escort suspects of working for a drug trafficking gang, as they are shown to the media in Mexico City

He called to consider a similar case but with different actors. Suppose, he said, that Colombia, China or any other country claim their right to establish military bases in Mexico, in order to fumigate and destroy US tobacco plantations in North Carolina or Kentucky, traditional breeders of this plant. The plan would be enhanced by blocking the production areas through the action of air and naval forces, while sending inspectors to verify the overall elimination of such plantations. All this would aim to prevent tobacco trafficking towards countries suffering its effects.

Chomsky points out that smoking has provided evidence to be more lethal than alcohol, which in turn is more harmful than the use of cocaine or heroin, and these are, in turn, more harmful than cannabis. If in addition to the number of deaths caused by harmful products inhaled by smokers, we take account of those caused to “passive” smokers – though their number is difficult to determine – it is quite sure that the overall lethal outcome of nicotiana tabacum will exceed that of the remaining drugs as a whole. It would be quite logical to pursue more actively tobacco growers than coca’s.

Clearly this assumption is not plausible in the reality of today, not only because tobacco in most countries is not a banned substance while many drugs are. However, when facing this relentless logic, what should be asked is why this happens. Why the US, who say they feel adversely affected by drugs that come from south of the Rio Grande, naturally attributed the right to deploy their armies in Colombia to combat coca growers in the area, and it is even conceivable that no other country could do likewise when its interests are affected similarly.

For Chomsky, the answer is simple and it has an unquestionable bottom: the imperial mentality that exists in the US, so deep-seated in North American minds that it pass unnoticed. Should we add here that this frame of mind also exists – on a smaller scale – in many Western countries.

However, the results so far obtained seem to justify the effort committed. The “war on drugs” has lasted more than four decades in Colombia and has intensified over the past ten years, neither the food nor drug trafficking have declined. The reasons offered by Chomsky leaves no doubts. Several studies show that well-funded prevention and treatment of drug addiction are much more effective than coercive measures used in this endless war. And the preventive or curative treatment of drug-consumers in this business-has a performance cost-effectiveness improved over 20 times to the attacks against growers supplier-side-in “chemical warfare” waged to destroy the fields of drugs.

According to Chomsky, only two scenarios would explain the current situation: Either the US leaders have been consistently fools for 40 years, or the purpose of the war on drugs is very different than what is proclaimed. If one excludes no further the hypothesis of insanity, then what may be the real reasons for this alleged war?

Inside the US two main facts are obvious: the cleaning of the socially less useful (which has led the US into the world’s first place on top of prison population rate) and, as with the “war on terror”, dependence and subjugation of a population terrorized by the danger of drugs, to stop showing its angry opposition to economic policies that have led to the largest social imbalance that the US has ever suffered.

Meanwhile, abroad, the war on drugs is a way of hiding in Colombia – and other countries –some of the most iniquitous antisubversive operations. Colombia is the second country in the world (after Sudan) with more population driven out their homes, while local oligarchies and multinationals occupy the land abandoned by farmers and transform them into mining, agro-industrial production, intensive livestock or infrastructure for industry – whose benefits hardly benefit to concerned populations.

Now it’s time to ask whether Obama will follow the winding road – yet partly covered by his predecessors but in opposition to which he has not revealed much indignation as he showed with e.g. Guantanamo – or on the contrary, he has enough support, resources and intentions to leave the swamped problem that Chomsky clearly presents and whose resolution is difficult and complex, since it not only depends on the White House decisions, although they can point the beginning of a new path.

[1] Noam Chomsky, Militarizing Latin America. In August 30, 2009

Obama Drives a Valuable Shift in the US Defense Policy

No need to search for obscure reasons or ulterior motive when scrutinizing the change in direction introduced by President Obama in the US defense policy after President’s refusal to install the so-called missile shield. The expected partial deployment on European territory was one of the pillars of Bush’s failed strategy against international terrorism.

Obama’s resolution involved several decisions of domestic and foreign policy, all high draft. On the one hand, the strong US defense industry will not feel aggrieved, since this is not about trying to cut off a program that would produce significant benefits, but to transform the land-based missile defense system installed on other naval platforms. The technical explanations do little to the case except to deny the accusation that the US and its allies could be defenseless against a suspected terrorist attack with missiles.

The adopted solution presupposes a more thorough risk assessment, dismissing the idea that Iran is able to hold mid-term long-range missiles and reduce the anticipated missile threat from shorter range. The fact that the current US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, who was also in charge during the Bush administration, supports and implement this change in strategy, is a smart move by Obama. The US President skillfully – and to the surprise of many who did not understand his decision– maintained R. Gates at the same position –the very same that had fully supported the failed military strategy of the former president.

Russia expressed rapidly and unambiguously its favorable opinion about this amendment and countries most directly concerned which are Poland and Czech Republic shall cover up that Europe defense is a common issue that affects all countries rather than a result of bilateral agreements of some of them with the American superpower – in order they appease their peculiar and atavistic fears towards Russia, however reasonable their historical reasons may seem.

Nor should it surprise that the new Secretary General of NATO – an alliance that since the Soviet Union collapsed is looking for a suitable place in the global system of supranational military organizations – is enthusiastically pointing to a new strategy that does not see an almost mandatory enemy in Russia but an appropriate and necessary ally, by which NATO can continue to keep alive, despite all previsions – a treaty that was precisely born to fight today’s new ally.

Subsequently, Mr. Rasmussen, in his first public comments of some significance since in August he took over from NATO, suggested combining missile defense systems of US, NATO and Russia into a single one. However, when asked about specifics of the plan he did not know how to respond and referred to further clarification of the military leaders –quite understandable since the NATO HQ itself was surprised by the swift and unexpected decision by the US president.

Obama, therefore, takes firmly the helm of US foreign policy. He will face a tough offensive from his political rivals. Senator McCain already warned the decision as a “serious error” that “potentially undermines US leadership as perceived in Eastern Europe”. The most obsessive US right wing – the very same which identifies traits of socialism and even communism in Obama’s plan to extend health coverage to every citizen – will go on with its campaign of denigration, with the helpful support from the most extreme republicans.

Obama definitely buries the former US policy, which divided Europe with the invasion of Iraq – one might remember the shameful pamphlet to support Bush policy, signed by many conservative European leaders, including Berlusconi, Aznar and Barroso, together with the joint efforts of three Eastern European countries, significantly Poland and the Czech Republic. The ensuing releasing in the Wall Street Journal allowed the most US reactionary forces to contempt the “old Europe” (led by France and Germany), who opposed the war, while praising the “new Europe” – the latter, whilst supporting Bush’s illegal adventure, showed a mixture of servility and excitement to establish a special relationship with the American superpower, that is trying to came closer to develop relationships with influential people (UK), in sum expecting benefits, as Jeb Bush, the dreadful brother of the former US president, who ruled his fiefdom in Florida, decreed when visiting Madrid: “This relationship between the United States and Spain will provide benefits that cannot be imagined today.”

The way Obama has to pass through is easier said than done and he will need all his personality resources to face opposition from the social sectors – within and outside the US –who worshiped Bush and still share his reactionary ideology and highlight his disastrous decisions.