“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

The Ugly Underbelly of America

Rampant violence is Latin America's 'worst epidemic'
Rory Carroll in Caracas
The Guardian, Thursday October 9 2008

Violent crime in Latin America kills more people and wreaks more economic havoc than Aids, the head of the Organisation of American States warned this week. Drug trafficking, gang warfare, kidnapping and other crimes pose one of the gravest threats to the region's stability, said José Miguel Insulza. "It is an epidemic, a plague on our continent that kills more people than Aids or any other known epidemic. It destroys more homes than any economic crisis."

The warning came amid a backdrop of horrific violence in Mexico, where drug cartels are waging war against the state, and evidence that cities from Caracas to Buenos Aires are becoming more dangerous.

The number of people killed by gun crime in central and south America is four times the world average, according to UN estimates, with a homicide rate of more than 25 per 100,000 people. In parts of El Salvador, Guatemala and Venezuela the rate is more than 100 per 100,000.

The violence has been blamed on factors including poverty, inequality, cocaine trafficking, the legacy of civil wars, a bountiful supply of guns and corrupt, ineffective state institutions, notably the police, prisons and courts.

Anger at crime and distrust of the police often leads to lynchings, with several suspects recently beaten and hacked to death in Bolivia, Guatemala and Peru. There are even grimmer stories from jails which are controlled by inmates.

Crime stories, often accompanied by grisly images, dominate media coverage and rank at or near the top of public concerns. Most victims are impoverished slum-dwellers but the perception of danger still hinders tourism and investment, with several Caribbean countries feeling the sting of recent high-profile murders.

Some studies suggest Latin America"s income could be 25% higher if its crime rate, which began soaring in the 1980s, was similar to the rest of the world.

Insulza made his dramatic warning at a two-day security meeting of the OAS in Mexico City. He praised the host government's controversial decision to deploy 20,000 soldiers against powerful drug cartels, a move which provoked a vicious backlash. Thousands have died, the state has lost control of several areas and headless bodies are discovered with numbing regularity.

Mexico's president, Felipe Calderón, called for a pan-regional database on criminals and a "continental front" which would include the US. "We must attack simultaneously not only drug smuggling, but the world's main market," he said.

Some countries, such as Costa Rica, are relatively untouched by the violence and in Colombia, once-notorious cities such as Bogotá and Medellín have enjoyed a renaissance as leftwing insurgency has ebbed before a US-supported military offensive. Brazil's favelas, however, remain killing zones for gangs and police and a perceived crime wave in Argentina has driven anxious middle-class families into South Africa-style gated communities.


  1. Obama read his speech from a TelePrompTer, his habit in recent weeks.

    He strayed from the prepared text, however, to mention GOP vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin, the Alaska governor who has led her ticket's attacks on Obama.

    "McCain and Gov. Palin are out there saying all kinds of stuff," Obama said.

  2. Buddy Larsen said,

    "wretchard, that Auden is COLD, man. reminds me of the ‘bondsman’s whip’ passage in Lincoln’s 2nd Inaugeral. But it is true that USA has some out-of-whack stuff that will out somewhere somehow sometime someplace –it’s been worrying me since the obesity epidemic hit in the late 90s. Some say it’s 50 million tiny little ghosts wanting to be heard."
    I've always thot the Obesity Epidemic was a serious matter, but I don't get how Buddy has worked it into these other narratives.
    (on re-reading, maybe I do...
    other guesses will be welcomed)

  3. Maybe he already got his lede from the Elephant's Underbelly?

  4. Obama's Real Problem With Ayers
    Election '08:
    At an education forum in Venezuela, Bill Ayers showed the real issue is not his terrorist past. It's the socialist revolutionary agenda that he and Barack Obama want to impose on the nation's schools.

  5. Zim said...

    Went to see my wife’s grandfather today who is on his death bed. This is a man who was raised in the great depression, spent 3 years in the Pacific during WW II then came home and raised a family of 11 children by digging rocks out of a rock quarry and running the family farm.
    The guy was a mountain.

    I sat there wondering if I could’ve done any of that, if there are any people left in the US that can.
    We may shortly be put to the test, I pray we aren’t shown to be lacking.

  6. Former Gov. Tom Ridge said he doesn't think John McCain is losing in Pennsylvania by double digits as some polls suggest, but told Wednesday the succession of polls showing the presidential nominee losing ground bears some truth.


    But that record does include the nominee's links to Bill Ayers, Ridge said. He questioned how anybody, much less a future presidential candidate, could show up for a fundraiser with a known terrorist.

    "It's galling," he said.

    Focus on Stark Contrasts

  7. NEW YORK (AP) - In a sign of the times, the National Debt Clock in New York City has run out of digits to record the growing figure.

    As a short-term fix, the digital dollar sign on the billboard-style clock near Times Square has been switched to a figure - the "1" in $10 trillion. It's marking the federal government's current debt at about $10.2 trillion.

    McCain: "Let's make it $10.5 trillion and bail out everyone who's upside-down on their mortgage."

  8. The 2008 presidential election in US brings us a clear choice of either keeping an ugly past that Sen. McCain, President George Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, and Corsi represent or choose moving forward to a promising future that Sen. Obama will bring. It is because bad choice that Americans ended up with President Bush in the white house in the first place, a man who has not only dipped America into a 11 trillion dollar national debt, but also loss of jobs as well as 5000 deaths of American soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001.

    The dirty campaigns and hatred that Sen. McCain and Gov. Palin are propagating is very dangerous for this country and it must stop. Their call to demonize, kill or cause Americans to hate Sen. Obama just for his color of skin and ancestry must be rejected by all sound minded Americans.

    Sen. McCain and his Republican Party are happy with all that is going on today in the country and they want another four years of the same. No we can’t.

    McCain Campaign

  9. Elijah, I think, asked if "ditz" wa a code word - NOPE!

    2 dictionary results for: ditz

    –noun Slang. airhead2.

    ditz (dĭts) Pronunciation Key
    n. Slang

    A scatterbrained or eccentric person

    So, no, elijah, I'm not using black liberation code when I call Palin a ditz, just slang. And, no, I'm not alone in my sentiment about her:

    "Bless your heart, sir, my son is over in Eye-Rack, fighting for your right to protest. -- Sarah Palin, to a purported heckler at a rally yesterday.

    There's something doubly evil about a self-avowed Christian who prefaces almost every uncharitable remark she makes with a disingenuous "Bless your heart!" In any case, I say this without even the slightest amount of support or emboldening from the US military-- fuck you and your jingoistic blather, Palin. How's that for freedom?


    3- With her outburst yesterday, Governor Palin only underscored the fact that her son is in Iraq as a potential human sacrifice to her political ambition. Like her daughter she is forcing into marriage, he has been shoved by his stupid family into an arrangement that may well destroy his life because it is what is best for his mother's cynical aspirations. (At least Biden's son is also promoting his own political ambitions.) Young Palin is also serving as a Hessian in the cause of corporate imperialism. Sadly, that pretty much sums up what this poor dupe is doing in Iraq. To repeat, he doesn't have a goddamned thing to do with my freedom to call Palin on her bumper sticker jingoism. His presence in Iraq doesn't make it safe for me to speak out against reactionary slime like his mother. The First Amendment to the Constitution is what guarantees my right to accurately label political bottom-feeders like Sarah Palin.

    Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel and Palin opens with it. Then the freeze-dried fascist sinks even lower by terrorist-baiting her political opponents. She is the worst America has to offer.

    So if you love your freedom, thank a protester for confronting penny-ante political thugs like Sarah Palin."

    more at

  10. Regional/Cultural eccentricities vs
    Criminal Socialist Revolution, eh, Ash?

    You know what side of that equation I'M On.
    And You?

    ACORN played a major role in precipitating the subprime crisis.
    Planting Seeds of Disaster

    Fraud allegations keep piling up.
    Thug Thizzle to Election Day

    The years he won’t discuss may explain the Ayers tie he keeps lying about.
    Why Won’t Obama Talk About Columbia?

  11. of course Mr. Obama may be completely unaware of the ideological foundation of the church he attended for 2 decades

  12. True, True.
    Not the Church that he once knew.

  13. Ayers Tried to Kill Us
    John M. Murtagh
    Fire in the Night
    The Weathermen tried to kill my family.

    During the April 16 debate between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, moderator George Stephanopoulos brought up
    a gentleman named William Ayers,” who “was part of the Weather Underground in the 1970s. They bombed the Pentagon, the Capitol, and other buildings. He’s never apologized for that...”

  14. "Not the Professor William Ayers that I knew. "

  15. odd how anyone who disagrees with your or your linked authors ideology is stupid or a ditz

    the left speaks warmly of indigenous peoples in foreign lands, here in the states, not so much...people from small towns are rednecks if they disagree with your perspective or ideology

    how tolerant

  16. Precisely because they shared the same views, Obama and Ayers also worked comfortably together on the board of the Woods Fund. There, they doled out thousands of dollars to Jeremiah Wright’s Trinity Church to promote its Marxist “black liberation theology.”

    Moreover, they underwrote the Arab American Action Network (AAAN) founded by Rashid Khalidi, a top apologist for Yasser Arafat. As National Review’s David Pryce-Jones notes, Khalidi once directed WAFA, the terrorist PLO’s news agency. Then, like Ayers, he repackaged himself as an academic who rails at American policy. The AAAN, which supports driver’s licenses and public welfare benefits for illegal aliens, holds that the establishment of Israel was an illegitimate “catastrophe.”

    Khalidi, who regards Israel as a “racist” “apartheid” state, supports Palestinian terror strikes against Israeli military targets.
    It’s little surprise that he should be such a favorite of Ayers, the terrorist for whom “racism” and “apartheid” trip off the tongue as easily as “pass the salt.”

    And it’s no surprise that the like-minded Obama would be a fan. Khalidi, after all, has mastered the Arafat art of posing as a moderate before credulous Westerners while (as Martin Kramer documents) scalding America’s “Zionist lobby” when addressing Arabic audiences.

  17. The global recession does not bode well for emerging markets - Latin America being no exception. A contraction of FDI and development, a further squeeze on thin domestic resources...harder times aren't going to make the picture prettier. On top of the general economic gloom, Colombia's going to have a hell of a time making the transition from this US administration, with which it has enjoyed a uniquely supportive relationship, to the next.

    A hell of a time.

  18. (In a 43 commment blog Wretchard blocked me. No explaination. I asked why.Silence. I had noot used ab abusive word nor even addressed anyone directly) later I said this.

    Perhaps a bit of history of the Belmont Club is in order.

    About five or six years ago it was the salon to be read and to contribute to. It was a hit. The Wretchard closed it, many say because it got too folksy. It was reopened but not before The Elephant Bar Blog had opened and everyone had gone over for free and open discussion.

    W’s contributors fell to 5 to 10 per thread.. Sometimes none. They stayed there for years.

    Meanwhile the Elephant Bar Blog was growing and growing. They have some great contributors and despite my locking horns with several of the alpha contributors in very contentious ways the owner has never barred me. Never. They talk the talk and walk the walk. There’s a female contributor over there who has taken every blow a person could take but she dusts herself off and comes back with her say. She is very bright and one of the most effective Platonist questioners you’ll ever encounter.

    The owners writing has grown very, very good equaling anything on the internet,. And he is a successful businessman with other full time duties. His main contributor is a formidable debater, another highly , and I’m not using hyperbole, successful businessman, loaded with facts and when necessary a sharp tongue, but used judiciously (usually on me, we’re not tight friends).

    The point is this is W’s modus operandi. Imperious behavior, no explanations ever offered, simply bend you knee and genuflect. I was never asked to do any of that at The Elephant Bar. And if it comes to foul language or other ad hominem attacks, yes you’ll get warned , usually by the contributors that you are out of bounds. But you always know where you stand.

    Buddy can tell ya …he was there

  19. Habu,

    I tried putting a comment up at BC and was added to the sediment at the filtering plant. Never mind. Thanks for your kind words. We have a tough crowd here but fair, tolerant , informed interesting and often quite amusing.

    So it shall stay.

  20. ...and we all love T and I am sure she appreciates your respectful comments. That girl has some tough bark on her. She had the added distinction of having been on the board twice, but sadly resigned twice. I have tried to quit twice myself, but here I be.

    Our rules are that no one on the board can be banned from the EB unless there is a unanimous vote. Anyone who has read the EB knows that is a congruency never to be achieved.

    We have no rules preventing resignation.

  21. LinearThinker--Black cherry juice Here and many other sites, did wonders for me and gout, thanks to that delivering angel, Miss T.

  22. Speaking of Linear, and the Board...

  23. Habu,

    Without self discipline people lose their teeth. :)
    You have good insight. You have the heart in the right place. You can contribute more to W's blog than that nonsense.

  24. Hula-head, you missed a hell of a party that night!

  25. How did you miss Veronica? Sonia had you occupied?

  26. This comment has been removed by the author.

  27. This comment has been removed by the author.

  28. Old men make better lovers, Mat, this is known all across the world.

  29. And why did you take your post down, I thought it was good.

  30. Older men aren't in a big swoosh and rush, but rather are digitally atuned, and know to work the dial slowly, slowly....

  31. Global Finance Has My Eyes, Guys!
    U.S. May Take Ownership Stake in Banks
    Treasury Dept. Would Hope to Spur Lending

    The Treasury Department is considering taking ownership stakes in many U.S. banks to try to "restore confidence", according to government officials.
    MY confidence is restored:
    Now I'm positive GWB will get his Place in the Socialist Pantheon.

  32. But, then, there is damnable Eros, and Romeo, and Juliet, always rushing to finality, and, oh, oh, oh, why couldn't they just wait a bit....but, no, no, no....

    O play the guitar of the lovers early death......

  33. And why did you take your post down, I thought it was good.

    I didn't like the way it was phrased.

  34. Surfer dude stuns physicists with theory of everything
    By Roger Highfield, Science Editor

  35. Romeo and Juliet

    Our poet has hit a timeless theme, that would bring even Ash to tears.

  36. Lisi's inspiration lies in the most elegant and intricate shape known to mathematics, called E8 - a complex, eight-dimensional mathematical pattern with 248 points first found in 1887, but only fully understood by mathematicians this year after workings, that, if written out in tiny print, would cover an area the size of Manhattan.

    E8 encapsulates the symmetries of a geometric object that is 57-dimensional and is itself is 248-dimensional. Lisi says "I think our universe is this beautiful shape."

    What makes E8 so exciting is that Nature also seems to have embedded it at the heart of many bits of physics. One interpretation of why we have such a quirky list of fundamental particles is because they all result from different facets of the strange symmetries of E8.

    Lisi's breakthrough came when he noticed that some of the equations describing E8's structure matched his own. "My brain exploded with the implications and the beauty of the thing," he tells New Scientist. "I thought: 'Holy crap, that's it!'"

  37. Tis My Lady

    Romeo and Juliet was my topic in my major paper in college.

    Yes, I'm a sap.

    A sap, sap, sap....

    And, I warn you, those that don't know, it is very adult entertainment, going to the heart of the human predicament.

  38. "see,
    how she leans her cheek
    Upon her hand.."

  39. "swear by thy gracious self,
    the god of my idolatry"...

    Ho,ho, that's damned good, saith Bobal.

  40. "swear by thy gracious self,
    the god of my idolatry"...

    Which is the west, the independant west, at it's very best.

    Startin' with them troubadors.

    And brings ol' bob to tears.

  41. "for stony limits
    cannot love hold out"...

    Now we are getting into mythology, the real.

  42. Doug said...
    Welcome to the Pub, Linear!

    Sun Sep 28, 07:17:00 AM EDT
    Musta been too drunk,
    or it was too late,
    too remember.

    Always discount the "age"
    possibility, of course.

  43. Goin' ta bed.

    But, Romeo and Juliet was a kinda revolutionary play, in the day, saying the Lords of the Great Houses cannot rule everything.

    That Life itself will have its way, come what may.

    Life, and the poets that write about it, a good thing.

  44. 2164th said...and we all love T and I am sure she appreciates your respectful comments. That girl has some tough bark on her. She had the added distinction of having been on the board twice, but sadly resigned twice. I have tried to quit twice myself, but here I be.

    I've been trying to get back on the board for months now, and maybe even get the keys to posting new topics again. I thought you and whit dinnit want me. I got me a blog I've been keeping up every day since June as sort of a "resume" to go along my proprietorship application, it's not like I'm a slacker.