I often times look at several news sites in order to find the topic for my next blog entry. I like to see what stories pop up in more than one place, how they're written differently depending on which person from which country wrote them.
I hope all of you have had happy holidays thus far. Not to be a buzz kill, but most of the world hasn't: flare ups of violence in Gaza, Kurdish executions in Iran, Israeli demolition of Arab homes in East Jerusalem, news that Gitmo will remain open til...well, whenever the fuck Obama wants to make good on his campaign promise, Ivory Coast civil war, earthquakes in the happy land of hobbits, protesters getting life sentences, holy shit, it's a big mess out there!
So, it might make us feel a bit cozy, thinking we're safe here in the land of the free. I am such a sarcastic humbug aren't I? Because you're not. You're no freer than the poor bastards in Gitmo. For example, according to Bush-era written law, I can be thrown in jail on suspicion of anything from tax evasion to terrorism and rot there till hell freezes over or until enough Americans come to their senses and do something (the cynic in me wants to send Satan a cooler). I can literally disappear like the nervous constituents of dictators past. Pretty fucked huh?
But, I didn't write this blog to comment on revoked rights and Bush bashing. Nope, I've got a much more fun topic: corporate America rapes the world!
It's no secret that corporate America has the politicians' nuts in a salad shooter but many people make the dangerous mistake of feeling that this opinion is extremist, remote, even conspiratory. Well, it's not.
Stuart Eizenstat, a deputy treasury secretary under Clinton, has commented on the intense lobbying power overshadowing our international sanctions. A New York Times report found evidence of US firms trading with blacklisted countries...legally. But, but, how?
Well, it's called a loophole. When US sanctions come up for debate and vote, lobbyists jump in with a pen in one hand, check book in the other and get their dealing on. The pen is indeed mightier than the sword. According to the New York Times report, the US treasury had granted more than 10,000 licenses for US companies to deal with blacklisted countries. In theory, sanctions are to be humanitarian or democracy related. For example, an agricultural or medicinal exemption being approved in the name of humanitarian aid. However, it turns out that through this exemption, US companies were allowed such items as: cigarettes, chewing gum, hot sauce and weight-loss remedies, hardly the humanitarian fare. Further, more intensely crooked deals include an exemption allowing a US firm to bid on a pipeline job making it possible for Iran to sell natural gas to Europe, a staunchly opposed project by US lawmakers. An oldie but a goodie: allowance for multiple US firms to trade and do business with foreign companies associated with terrorist activities and weapons proliferation.
Still feeling cozy?
Stuart A. Levey thinks you should. He says the focus on these petty exemptions forces people to "miss the forest for the trees."
Well, yeah, I find it difficult to focus on the beautiful forest when instead of trees, I see a bunch of corporate shit head lobbyists raping humanitarian efforts, burning American flags. But he's right. I should focus on the happy things...good advice that the majority of Americans seems to follow...ignore the bad, go to your happy place.
Mr. Eizenstat told the BBC that while many of the sanctions do good, there is a significant problem with these loopholes and exemptions.
"...one of the problems is that our sanctions policies tend to be riddled with exceptions that are neither humanitarian nor related to democracy promotion but really are put in by particular industries or interests to create loopholes. Most exemptions are inserted into sanctions legislation by individual members of Congress acting in the interests of a particular state or industry," he said. In a typical Sophie's choice dilemma Eizenstat added, "In that case, the administration oftentimes has no choice but to accept them if it wants the broader sanctions passed."
As with most of the ills on the ever growing mound of our broken policies, it doesn't seem to be biting us in the ass now. However, over time, the mound will create a stench and sight too grotesque to ignore. Our thin, pathetic layer of do-gooding and global policing isn't enough to hide the evils in our national baggage.
When that day comes, as we sit in our cozy winter wonderlands or sweet spring landscapes, we might regret that we didn't do a god damn thing to stop it, to stop them. That we didn't say anything about the corporate lobbyists, that we didn't notice our lives, our rights, our freedoms had been whittled away by the sharp, merciless knife of corporate interests.
Well, happy holidays everyone.