Thursday, October 06, 2005

The Bush regime reminds me of Argentina...

I was considering putting some money in Argentina (but I think it's still not a good idea just yet - it seems inflation's picking up there...but I am still thinking about it), and by coincidence, I ran across this op-ed by William Pfaff...

The military junta that had governed Argentina since 1975 was projecting disorder as a deliberate distraction from the murderous disorder it imposed within its own society. Its invasion of the Falkland Islands in 1982 was based on Argentina's historical claim to the islands, which it maintains today. (Britain's claim to the islands goes back to 1765. It has governed them as a Crown Colony since 1832.) The aggression was condemned by the UN Security Council, 10-to-1...

In the course of the Argentine military dictatorship's rule, it caused from 13,000 to 15,000 people, whom it considered internal opponents, to "disappear." They were usually tortured, and many were subsequently dropped into the sea from aircraft, sometimes still alive.

The Argentine generals participated in the "Condor" alliance with General Augusto Pinochet's Chile and a corrupt Brazilian military regime, a cooperative project to pursue and kill political dissidents throughout the region.

The Argentine generals' total and costly defeat in the Falklands by a brilliantly commanded British military expedition precipitated their fall from power. Argentina held a presidential election in 1983, and civilian rule was restored...

It seems curious that President George W. Bush's administration has never mentioned the Falklands precedent for what it says its intervention in Iraq is meant to accomplish. Bush want to change the political climate in the Middle East, but few in the region fail to understand that the basic Bush motive was to take control of Iraq and its resources, and put in place a government friendly to American interests. This automatically undermines the democratization argument.

Sidney Blumenthal helps make my point:

The party runs the state. Politics drives economics. Important party officials are also economic operators. They thrive off their connections and rise in the party apparatus as a result of their self-enrichment. The past three chairmen of the Republican National Committee have all been Washington lobbyists.

An oligarchy atop the party allocates favors. Behind the ideological slogans about the "free market" and "liberty," the oligarchy creates oligopolies. Businesses must pay to play. They must kick back contributions to the party, hire its key people and support its program. Only if they give do they receive tax breaks, loosening of regulations and helpful treatment from government professionals.

Those professionals in the agencies and departments who insist on adhering to standards other than those imposed by the party are fired, demoted and blackballed. The oligarchy wars against these professionals to bend government purely into an instrument of oligopolies.

Corporations pay fixed costs in the form of legal graft to the party in order to suppress the market, drastically limiting competitive pressure. Then they collude to control prices, create cartels and reduce planning primarily to the political game. The larger consequences are of no concern whatsoever to the corporate players so long as they maintain access to the political players.

The sums every industry, from financial services to computers, spends on lobbying are staggering. Broadcast media firms spent $35.88 million in 2004 alone on lobbyists in Washington, according to the Center for Public Integrity. Telephone companies spent $71.97 million; cable and satellite TV corporations, $20.22 million. The drug industry during the same period shelled out $123 million to pay 1,291 lobbyists, 52 percent of them former government officials. The results have been direct: The Food and Drug Administration has been reduced to a hollow shell, and Medicare can't negotiate lower drug costs with pharmaceutical companies. In the 2004 election cycle, the drug industry paid out $87 million in campaign contributions for federal officials, 69 percent of them flowing to Republicans.

Whereas almost all lobbying before the Bush era was confined to Capitol Hill, now one in five lobbyists approaches the White House directly. Consider the success story of one Kirk Blalock, a former aide to Karl Rove as deputy director of the Office of Public Liaison, where he coordinated political links to the business community. Now, one year out of the White House, he's a senior partner in the lobbying firm of Fierce, Isakowitz and Blalock, boasting 33 major clients, 22 for whom he lobbies his former colleagues in the White House. Indeed, the Bush White House boasts 12 former lobbyists in responsible positions, from chief of staff Andrew Card (American Automobile Association Manufacturers) on down.

The parallels between the Argentine dictatorship, and its corruption, and its economic decline, and the Bush regime, and its culture of corrpution are undeniable.

As I'd said somewhere before, these corporations do this because they can't compete on a level playing field.

They use the corruption to try to forestall the day when they might actually have to, know, compete in the marketplace, but there is ultimately only so much the government can do short of reinstituting slavery...which, I think might eventually raise a few alarm bells even among conservatives.

Anyway, til I see otherwise, I'd underweight America; I suspect Argentina might get its act together before America at this rate.

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