What I’ve Been Reading: Friday, 31 August 2012

Dan Hind contributed So who’s winning the war on drugs? to al-Jazeera English. He raises some interesting points about the illicit financial flows generated by the trade, and the fact that the actual people on the ground, the little fish, in both producer and consumer countries, make very little money. A very few people are getting very, very rich (while a lot of people are dying). The article ends up a little breathless for my tastes, however:

The War on Drugs, then, is about more than the dramatic crimes and stratagems of gangsters. It has its origins in the political sphere and can only be understood in political terms … it is an instrument of the reaction, a kind of intoxication that serves the “noble task” of keeping money and the power in the same hands. The War on Drugs in its current form serves the established order.

While this kind of radical argument – shades of instrumental neo-Marxism – certainly has something to offer, I think it needs to be presented with a little more sophistication. Hard to do in an 800 word opinion piece, of course. It came off a little Conspiracy Theory for me, and I don’t think it’s going to convince the people it needs to (i.e. the US taxpayers).


The New York Times, on the other hand, published a brilliant piece of long-form reporting, The Throwaways, by Sarah Stillman. It talks about the local victims of the War on Drugs, young people facing harsh penalties for minor drug offenses, offered a way out: turning confidential informant.

Hoffman chose to coöperate. She had never fired a gun or handled a significant stash of hard drugs. Now she was on her way to conduct a major undercover deal for the Tallahassee Police Department, meeting two convicted felons alone in her car to buy two and a half ounces of cocaine, fifteen hundred Ecstasy pills, and a semi-automatic handgun.

There are many tragic stories surrounding the War on Drugs, and the United States gets off easy. Nevertheless, this is a fascinating story, and an unexpected one.


This one’s short and sweet but beautifully captures the sheer surreality of Argentine political economy. Argentina: When a raise is not a raise, from the Financial Times’ Beyond BRICS blog:

As the cameras rolled, one Fernández de Kirchner ally, construction union (UOCRA) head Gerardo Martínez, made the mistake of converting the new wage into dollars using a parallel rate instead of the official one, to the President’s obvious irritation.

Under the President’s glare and remonstration, he nervously backtracked.

“I got confused,” he said later in a radio interview.


Note: the “official rate” is around 4.3 pesos to the dollar, whilst the black market rate is upwards of 6.


Penny Red’s It’s trigger warning week is a brutally and beautifully honest, devastatingly sharp response to recent ludicrousness surrounding definitions of rape. I’m not pulling out any quotes because it’s all amazing and you must click through. I’m furious that we still need to have this conversation, but thankful she was brave enough to make such a wonderful contribution to it.


The Economist throughly dissects the Assange/Ecuador affair in An Ecuadorian history of the world. The one thing missing from their analysis is the false distinction being made between freedom of speech and the rights of women: Laurie Penny from the Independent takes care of that in If you really believe in WikiLeaks, you must want Assange to face up to justice.


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