Please visit the new home of Majikthise at

« June 2009 | Main | August 2009 »

38 posts from July 2009

July 31, 2009

Afghan drug war: Interdiction to replace crop eradication

U.S. envoy Richard Holbrooke is congratulating himself for ending the Bush administration's expensive and ineffective opium poppy eradication program. Trouble is, he's decided to replace eradication with interdiction.

He's only switching to the same failed strategy that the rest of the drug war is based on. Interdiction doesn't stop the billion dollar drug trade right here in the U.S., where the government actually controls all the territory. What makes Holbrooke think that interdiction will work in Afghanistan when the coalition doesn't even have a presence in, let alone control of, most of the territory.

Here's how Holbrooke described a successful interdiction at a press briefing yesterday:

On this trip, we saw the first indications that it might work. And those indications came from the British and American forces in Helmand, where they targeted interdiction and made interdiction their goal and they went after drug dealers. And using modern technologies, they located what they called drug bazaars, marketplaces which sold drug paraphernalia, precursor chemicals, laboratory equipment, poppy seeds and there were vast amounts of opium, nice fluffy poppy, to buy and sell, and they destroyed them. [The Cable]

He says they used "modern technology" to find drug bazaars. Does he really mean drone strikes on drug markets? If so, that's going to work until the narcos give up on their farmer's markets and go underground like normal traffickers. Of course, that will be an impetus for defense contractors and private security firms to sell the U.S. another costly round of "modern technology" to detect slightly better-hidden dope.

And how long before a drone or an satellite image analyst mistakes a real farmer's market for a drug market?

July 29, 2009

A guide to recognizing your Drug Czars

Sketches of the Drug Czars, an illustrated history of the American drug war by Ricardo Cortes.

Morning Coffee: Nicaragua's shocking abortion ban

Nicaragua's new total abortion ban is killing women, according to a new report by Amnesty International. Nicaragua forbids abortions even to save the life of the mother.

In fact, the law makes it a crime to save the life of the mother using treatments that are contraindicated during pregnancy, like chemotherapy, anti-malarials, or drugs for HIV/AIDS. That proviso distills the woman-hating core of the anti-choice agenda. Proof positive that some people consider women as nothing more than incubators.

According to Amnesty, women are punished for miscarriages, even spontaneous ones, because doctors can't always tell the difference between a natural and an induced termination.

Over 30 pregnant women have died this year, up from 20 during the same period last year--and those are just the deaths the government is prepared to acknowledge. This is the first time Amnesty has written a report on the human rights implications of abortion regulations.

Get more hot, fresh international news with your Morning Coffee.

July 28, 2009

SEIU consultant: "[M]ost of these academics really are not worth it-but spamming them sounds like what they deserve!!"

The Perez Stern blog just published some awkward emails that SEIU sent out to a group of academics who had signed an open letter about the SEIU raid on UNITE HERE.

The "spam" emails at the top look normal, but keep scrolling down, a few messages got appended that probably weren't meant to go live.

Union building bombed in Honduras

A bomb went off in a union building in Honduras on Sunday afternoon. The building belonged to the beverage workers' union (STIBYS), which has been one of the most vocal opponents of the coup regime:

An hour before the burial a bomb exploded at the union hall in Stiby [sic] belonging to the Food and Beverage Union.  Two suspicious people had entered the hall where campesinos, indigenous Hondurans and others from the middle of the country often find shelter.  The bomb exploded at 1:05 pm., in other words, ten minutes after the National Front Against the Coup D’Etat had finished a large assembly, and was on its way to the cemetery at Durazno on the outskirts of Tegucigalpa, in order to participate in the burial.

The union president, Carlos H. Reyes, a legendary and combative union leader, had no doubts about who was responsible for the attack.

“Mr. Billy Joya, one of those responsible for the disappearances in the 1980’s by the 3-16 Batallion, is the person who is the head of state security today.  Today he announced on the Sunday news program, 30-30, that there were going to be bombs.  And when they say there’ll be bombs, historically they themselves are the ones who place them.  This is exactly what has happened here today,” said Carlos Reyes when we found him in the union hall.  The bomb was placed next to the men’s bathroom and blew a 20 centimeter hole in the cement floor. [Source: Dick Emanuelsson, for Translation: Machetera, via Mexfiles.]

Another English language account of the attack is available here

BoRev has more information on the murders of two pro-Zelaya protesters (most likely at the hands of the police or the military) and another protester who says he was tortured by the military.

You'll be heartened to learn that the Wall Street Journal published an op/ed by the coup regime's civilian ringleader, Roberto Micheletti. Maybe Mullah Omar has some thoughts he'd like to share, too.

Everything's a frackin' insurgency nowadays

Analysts started likening drug violence in Mexico to an insurgency long before the facts justified the analogy. At first, the comparison was just a clumsy attempt re-describe the dreary old drug war in the hip new counterinsurgency talk the that the young people enjoy. (A similar jargon-shift happened after 9-11, when every bad thing in the world became a species of terrorism.)

However, John P. Sullivan and Adam Elkus (via Narcoguerra Times) make a good case that the facts on the ground are starting to match the rhetoric, thanks in large part to President Calderon's attempt to send the military after the drug cartels on Mexican soil. It's not surprising. Start a civil war, create an insurgency by default.

Continue reading "Everything's a frackin' insurgency nowadays" »

July 27, 2009


Sensational crime lede du jour:

The murders of Byrd and Melanie Billings, parents of 17, were made more bizarre by the ninja garb worn by the killers. Now Rick Outzen reports that these ninjas might have struck before. [Daily Beast]

The author mentions "ninja garb" several times and speculates that a ninja crime wave is sweeping the Florida panhandle. But he doesn't explain what he means by the "bizarre dress of [the] executioners as Japanese ninja warriors."

I'm going to assume he means black ski masks and black clothes. What else would you wear to a home invasion?

I'd take notice if the assassins used swords or throwing stars, but according to media reports they used guns.

July 26, 2009

Honduran junta getting off on the attention

As you've probably heard, ousted president Mel Zelaya made good on his promise to return to Honduras, albeit briefly. Zelaya stepped over the border, saw his shadow and went back over the line. As everyone knows, that means six more weeks of junta.

They're certainly enjoying their moment in the sun. Here's an amusing and incisive anecdote from David Rothkopf about last week's failed negotiations over the fate of Honduras:

Yesterday at lunch I ran into a very senior official who is deeply involved in the negotiations with Honduras. He said, "It is a very strange situation. Here you have on one side officials from Honduras and on the other side you have the United States, Hillary Clinton, Brazil, Michelle Bachelet, the rest of the world. They seem to be enjoying it ... they have never had so much attention."

And so the government of Honduras learns the first lesson of weak-state diplomacy as taught by the Sun Tzu of diplomatic tantrums, Kim Jong-Il: the more big powers you can irritate, the better off you are. [Foreign Policy]

As Al Giordano notes, the junta had vowed to arrest Zelaya if he set foot in the country, but they didn't follow through. So, both sides blinked.

The president and his followers are still camped out near the border in Nicaragua, perhaps awaiting a rematch. Talks with Clinton will resume tomorrow in DC, but Zelaya has pointedly not been invited. Clinton earlier called his return to Honduras "reckless."

On the bright side, the military has already started contradicting the junta's civilian leader about what would count as an acceptable resolution to the crisis.

U.S. mulls (even larger) private army for Afghanistan

Great. The U.S. military is considering hiring even more private security contractors in Afghanistan:

The U.S. military is mulling a plan to build a private army to protect bases throughout Afghanistan. On July 10, the Army issued a request for information from companies interested in bidding on an Afghanistan-wide security contract. While a formal solicitation has not been launched, the idea would be to provide security services for approximately 50 or more forward operating bases or command outposts throughout Afghanistan. [Danger Room]

July 24, 2009

My Daley pic on the front page of the Chi-Town Daily News

Mayor Richard M. Daley, originally uploaded by Lindsay Beyerstein.

My photograph of Chicago mayor Richard Daley is on the front page of today's edition of the Chi-Town Daily News.