10.15.2017

Tourism in Saudi Arabia

Saudi Tourism



Saudi Arabia has a wealth of natural beauty on its shores with the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf. The coastline is as original as it was ten thousand years ago. It is completely undeveloped desert wilderness. You are stepping back in time.


And now Saudi Arabia wants to become a beach holiday place. It is long-term thinking. After all, the world will turn away from oil soon enough and their economy needs something to stand on. In that sense, it is not a bad idea.

The Saudi beach experience will not be like any you have had before.


The Saudis built roads along the beach that extend far beyond any houses, or any building of any kind. Many roads were built to set up the infrastructure of future growth based on oil money Saudi Arabia has now.  Their religious police don't go there.  And they certainly don't go farther than the road itself. Yet that is what an adventuring friend and I did.  There, I wore a bathing suit.  It was just myself, my friend and Phillipino servants who went there to drink.  Alcohol.


We put our snorkels and flippers on and set out in to the Dead Sea.


It was like a public television adventure, but I was in it. The fish and the coral were all around us. The water was clear and cool, quite unlike my experiences in Wildwood, NJ.

Saudi Arabian tourism could be a fantastic idea, based on my experiences there.  The big obstacles to Saudi tourism are the scorching sun, the religious police, separate and awful facilities for women, the media diet, and the desert itself.  


Scorching Sun



You don’t know what a scorching sun is until you’ve been to the Saudi beach.  The sun will burn under the top layer of skin, and you can feel it for a few days.  And that is without any redness on the top of your skin.  Seriously.  Now, I am what I like to say is “skin cancer candidate number one.”  Me be pale.  Very pale.  So my experience may be extreme compared to most of the planet.  But if you are a human being, you will need sun protection at the Saudi beach, and I slathered that stuff on every 15 minutes.


Religious Police



They are going to be there somewhere.  There is no way they would let go of that power for what will be a major economic influx for the country. In fact, some of their powers have already been curbed.


The religious police were an interesting experience for me.  The first Gulf War had just ended and most of the troops had been withdrawn.  During their time there, I heard more than one story about a female soldier hitting a religious policeman and then hopping in her vehicle and driving away.  The religious codes are enforced by religious policemen, always men, hitting women with little switches if they violated the dress code.  So one of them decided to hit this American soldier with his switch because she was wearing her uniform.  That’s when she decked him.  


Now I am not going to say that the dress code will be addressed like this by every Western woman, but the Saudi religious police need to be ready for more resistance than usual.


Separate But Equal



If Saudi Arabia is serious about tourism, they can’t have the “separate but equal” accommodations for women.  Just as the phrase meant historically in the United States, one side has vastly inferior options to the other.  Even the Saudi houses were divided between male and female, with the male side being much nicer than the woman’s.  


Maybe Saudi Arabian women put up with it, but none of the rest of us do.  


Like with any changes, you can’t just change one thing and think everything else is going to remain the same.  Saudi Arabian religious police must adjust to a reduced power status, and there's bound to be some backlash.  Imagine having the power to admonish almost anybody on the street, and to hit women who offended you, justified or not.  Then, enter tourism.  


After Saudi tourism, they will not have to power to arrest and punish on the spot.  They will be in a business of attraction, not punishment.  It will be a major adjustment for those policemen, many of them skinny, short men.  


The Media Diet



You will see no pictures of women’s bodies there.  It was very weird at first, and then a little funny.  The most skin you got was from Egyptian soap operas, where middle-aged women fell in love with hunky young men all the time.  And yes, they were fully draped with gobs of makeup.  So much makeup, in fact, it was like an abaya for the face.


But this media diet of “no female flesh” had an interesting side-effect:  I stopped feeling fat.  It was the first time since I was 8 years old that I didn’t feel fat.  


It was also the first time I was introduced to the idea of a media diet - that what you consume with your eyes is a diet too.  And that visual diet will affect how you feel about yourself and how you see yourself.


To my mind, the media diet in Saudi Arabia is going to be the surprise benefit to Saudi tourism.  I have always thought that Saudi Arabia would be a perfect place to recover from eating disorders.  I must mention that to the Saudi Ambassador the next time I see him.


The Desert



The mighty Saudi desert destroys anything in its path.  That shit will eat up concrete and decay metal.  Good luck building there.


But there is gold in that there overheated sand:  adventure.


I am truly one of those high-risk personalities.  I walked away from the shore, found my camel bones, and explored tiny huts that had been abandoned not long ago, but long enough for the desert to eat them up.  The wind and the sand are brutal.


A Saudi desert vacation paradise has lots of opportunity for visitors to ride camels, lunch in a desert tent like a nomad, watch a fake harem dance, bargain in a fake souq, watch sample sword fights, and have midnight picnics.


About the midnight picnics:  damn, those were fun!  One thing about Saudis - those people are WAY into picnics.  The idea of a picnic was introduced to Saudi Arabia in the 20th Century by the British, and was adopted with the relish of the converted.  Now, any visitor to Jeddah, Riyadh or Dhahran will see Saudis picnicking in CVS parking lots. Yes, there’s CVS in Saudi Arabia, along with Pizza Hut, McDonalds and Safeway, which for international legal reasons is called Safestway.  As a note, American cashiers are not generally interested in knowing this.


Saudi Arabian picnics, when done right, are something that cannot be missed.  It seems the real party starts after dark on the shores of the Persian Gulf.  All sober, of course, at least as far as I could tell.  There were wedding parties on the beach at midnight - dozens of men singing and dancing and collapsing with laughter on the sand.  The hidden joy of life came out late at night in Saudi Arabia.  You have not experienced Saudi Arabia until you have been on the beach under the full moon with little kids running up to you and wanting to touch your hair or shake your hand.  And, of course, running away at the last minute, only to do it again. And again.  And again.  It was really fun.


I am optimistic about tourism in Saudi Arabia.  If it is done right, tourists could have an unique holiday experience that is different from any other place on Earth.  I hope it works out for them.























8.19.2017

Note to The Young Turks

Note to Young Turks


Actually, this goes out to all media, but The Young Turks and The Intercept will be the only ones who care.
There’s a German book “Der Desinformant” (“The Disinformation”) that describes how the East German government got disinformation into Western media: they bribed journalists.
Let’s get specific.  Journalists working for Western media outlets got monthly payments from the East German government to float stories that the East German government wanted told.  They didn’t know the payments were coming from the communist Germany.  They thought the information, or “news,” was from the CIA or Mi5.
In fact, “Der Desinformant” tells how many informants aren’t even aware that they were sources for intelligence information.
Back to the Plan.

I propose that The Young Turks establish a policy that its reporters do not take money from other sources that aren’t being disclosed.  This is not an attempt to get people to give up their weekend bartending gig.  It is just a test that, if this book is correct, other media organizations will not be able to meet.
It would be one hell of a rallying cry.
“The Young Turks does not let its reporters take payments from undisclosed sources.  Can the New York Times say that?”
I’m guessing they can’t.



4.12.2017

Success Without College Roadmap

What are your chances of success without college degree?  In this $uccess Without College Book series, I investigate how to be a success without going to college.  There are many media reports about success without college statistics, and many of them will tell you that the income a person earns is dramatically increased with a college degree.  That was the old days.  Now, when calculating whether college is a good "investment," you need to include the cost of student loans.  $uccess Without College Roadmap gives real success stories without college degrees, and improves your chances of success without college by providing a roadmap for you to follow the people who have already done it.  The goal of $uccess Without College Roadmap books is to increase your percentage of success without college.
Students who have success without college are people who work hard.  People who have success without college think outside the box, which means they have the courage and intelligence to do what is right for them. Stories of success without college provide paths to success without college.  

Tuition is up, and college tuition is up, too.  While college tuition is increasing, it many seems like a tuition scam is going on.  Students are in debt, and some can't afford college at all.  Students can't afford college are people our country needs for the future of our economic wealth.  When people can't afford college, and college tuition is too high, traditional education as a path to a successful career needs a rethink.  Debt-ridden students from higher education will not be able to fuel our economy by buying cars and houses.  

While some say higher education is a scam, and there is a decline of college enrollment, our book is not a diatribe against college.  It just suggests that college is a choice, and not necessary to be an American success.  College is also not the only way to succeed in many occupations.  Maybe you can go to college in ten years, or five years, after you are established financially and professionally.  That is fine.  The $uccess Without College Roadmap series only gives you suggestions, and roadmaps to alternatives.

Try the $uccess or Success Without College Roadmap podcast.

1.20.2017

Women's March on Washington Ham Radio Contact Frequency

The general frequency to monitor is 145.470 -, CTCSS 107.2.  It is an Arlington repeater.  We will be listening to it all day long, and if you see anything let us know.  Probably better if you use a headphone/earpiece so you can hear better.

11.13.2016

Note to Steven Bay

Note to Steven Bay

 

Edward Snowden's Supervisor Steven Bay Speaks

 
“Knowing what I knew at the time, l would have hired [Edward Snowden] again,” Steven Bay, a former cyberintelligence analyst for Booz Allen Hamilton, said today in Seattle at the IEEE Computer Society’s “Rock Stars of Cybersecurity” conference.

“Knowing what I know now, obviously, I wouldn’t,” he added.

Bay said today’s talk marked the first time he discussed his side of the Snowden story in a public forum.”  - as reported in Geekwire.

Edward Snowden, NSA Whistleblower

Steven Bay Talks at CyberSecurity Conference

 
Steven Bay was Edward Snowden’s supervisor as a contractor at the National Security Agency.  He spoke at a conference recently defending the mass data-collection programs run by the NSA.  He mentioned all the procedural and administrative protections in place to prevent misuse of American’s personal information. Edward Snowden’s outrage at the NSA’s and U.S. Government’s actions led him to expose the existence of these programs to the world.
 
 
 

Personal Question for Steven Bay

Steve, may I call you Steve? Steve, you were quite clear about all the procedural protections against the misuse of personal information of American citizens. I believe you, and further believe that those procedures are followed.
 
Given that, there is something you should think about:  all that and more was in place to prevent torture, and it happened anyway.


The tools, and data, that the National Security Agency relies upon can easily be used for political purposes, and probably already have.  I’m speaking about the targeting of the Occupy movement. No one doubts your procedures and sincerity. We doubt their resilience. I know from personal experience that there will be other NSA employees who will fall on the sword, professionally speaking, to stop political exploitation of your agency’s tools. But we all have seen how that is not enough to stop torture, and it will not be enough to prevent the use of the NSA's tools from being used for political purposes.

My question is whether or not, when the time comes, you will be willing to risk prison and a destroyed career to object when these surveillance tools are used to break up a peaceful political movement.  Will you be willing to go public?  Will you be strong enough to refuse?  Where do you draw the line? 

Most people will do nothing.  Will you?
Political actions protect civil liberties, and so do uncomfortable questions asked of elected representatives. Newspaper articles. Protests. Sunlight. That's the value of the public's right to know.  So they can make decisions about how their country behaves.
 
I know you believe what you are saying, and I don't doubt your integrity. I'm just saying that administrative rules, without external review, are not adequate to protect American freedom, because that is indeed what is at stake.

10.17.2016

Clinton's Goldman Sachs Speech Quotes


Goldman Sachs paid speeches


Clinton's Speech to Deutsche Bank AG Oct 7, 2014

...Now, Jacques was talking about Eleanor Roosevelt, and I hope a lot of > you have seen the extraordinary Ken Burns documentary series on PBS about > the Roosevelts. It's just riveting. And you should see it if you haven't, > because it tells stories and shows pictures that have never been seen > before of Teddy Roosevelt and Franklin Roosevelt and Eleanor Roosevelt. > > But Eleanor Roosevelt in particular is someone that I admire as one of my > predecessors, and I adore the book that Jacque's mother-in-law has written > about the relationship that she and her late husband, who was Eleanor's > personal physician, had with Eleanor Roosevelt. > > And you look at the documentary and you really are struck once again how > every generation has to do what it can to make sure that economic > opportunity is broadly shared and upward mobility remains at the core of > the American dream and experience. > > I mean, Teddy Roosevelt said it well. His commonsense slogan, the square > deal, captured the American imagination and still resonates today. > > Just think about the changes that were going on at the turn of the last > century: technological transformation, growing economic inequality, the > steady accumulation of vast power and wealth in the hands of a select few. > > Roosevelt was a Republican from the party of big business, but he resisted > both the elites who sought to protect their gilded age advantages and the > rising tide of populist anger that threatened to sweep the nation. > Instead, he stood up for the level playing field, no special deals, just a > fair shot for everybody willing to get out there and work hard. > > I think that's a message worth recalling today when so many hardworking > American families, and I add European families feel like they're falling > further and further behind, while they see, in their view, the playing > field becoming more unlevel, and feeling as though it doesn't matter how > hard they work because the game is rigged against them. > > Now, to me this is not just about fairness, although I think that's an > important principle. We now know, based on research done by the IMF and > others, that income inequality holds back growth for the entire economy. > There is no more important driver of growth around the world than the > purchasing power of American consumers. That is once again becoming clear > as we move forward more dynamically than a lot of our friends and allies > are economically. > > Stagnating wages translate into fewer customers, and that's not a new > insight. Just ask Henry Ford who first articulated it. > > And it's no surprise that many Americans feel frustrated, some even angry, > as you probably see in news coverage. And a lot of that anger has been > directed at the financial industry. > > Now, it's important to recognize the vital role that the financial markets > play in our economy and that so many of you are contributing to. To > function effectively those markets and the men and women who shape them > have to command trust and confidence, because we all rely on the market's > transparency and integrity. > > So even if it may not be 100 percent true, if the perception is that > somehow the game is rigged, that should be a problem for all of us, and we > have to be willing to make that absolutely clear. And if there are issues, > if there's wrongdoing, people have to be held accountable and we have to > try to deter future bad behavior, because the public trust is at the core > of both a free market economy and a democracy. > > So it is in everyone's interest, most of all those of you who play such a > vital role in the global economy, to make sure that we maintain and where > necessary rebuild trust that goes beyond correcting specific instances of > abuse of fraud. > > Last year, the head of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, Terry Duffy, > published an op-ed in the *Wall Street Journal* that caught my > attention. He wrote, and I quote, "I'm concerned that those of us in > financial services have forgotten who we serve, and that the public knows > it. Some Wall Streeters can too easily slip into regarding their work as a > kind of moneymaking game divorced from the concerns of Main Street." > > We heard a similar point from a more global perspective this spring at a > conference in London on inclusive capitalism organized by my friend, Lynn > Rothschild, who's here with us tonight. Mark Carney, the Governor of the > Bank of England, offered what we in America might call straight talk about > how the financial industry has lost its way and how to earn back public > confidence. > > And I think his words are worth both quoting and thinking about. Here's > what he said. "The answer starts from recognizing that financial > capitalism is not an end in itself, but a means to promote investment, > innovation, growth and prosperity. Banking is fundamentally about > intermediation, connecting borrowers and savers in the real economy. In > the run-up to the crisis, banking became about banks not businesses, > transactions not relations, counterparties not clients." > > And then Mark Carney went on to outline proposals for stronger oversight, > both within the industry and by government authorities, but he noted > "Integrity can neither be bought nor regulated. Even with the best > possible framework of codes, principles, compensation schemes and market > discipline, financiers must constantly challenge themselves to the standard > they uphold." > > So this is a time when for all kinds of reasons trust in government, trust > in business has eroded. And I believe that it has to be rebuilt, not only > by those in offices in Washington or Albany but by so many of you. > > Over the years, I've had the privilege of working with many talented, > principled, smart people who make their living in finance, especially when > I was Senator from New York. Many of you here were my constituents, and I > worked hard to represent you well. And I saw every day how important a > well-functioning financial system is to not only the American economy but > the global economy. > > That's why as Senator I raised early warnings about the subprime mortgage > market and called for regulating derivatives and other complex financial > products because even among my smartest supporters and constituents I never > understood what they were telling me when they tried to explain what they > were. > > I also called for closing the carried interest loophole, addressing > skyrocketing CEO pay and other issues that were undermining that all > important link between Wall Street and Main Street. > > Remember what Teddy Roosevelt did. Yes, he took on what he saw as the > excesses in the economy, but he also stood against the excesses in > politics. He didn't want to unleash a lot of nationalist, populistic > reaction. He wanted to try to figure out how to get back into that balance > that has served America so well over our entire nationhood. > > Today, there's more that can and should be done that really has to come > from the industry itself, and how we can strengthen our economy, create > more jobs at a time where that's increasingly challenging, to get back to > Teddy Roosevelt's square deal. And I really believe that our country and > all of you are up to that job... >



COMMENTARY ON SPEECH


Could we just get someone to say she quoted Duffy and Carney to them, to the effect that Wall Street had lost its way? On Nov 23, 2015, at 11:51 AM, Mandy Grunwald <gruncom@aol.com> wrote: I worry about going down this road. First, the remarks below make it sound like HRC DOESNT think the game is rigged -- only that she recognizes that the public thinks so. They are angry. She isn't. Second, once you start looking at speeches, you run smack into Maggie Haberman's report for Politico on HRC's Goldman Sachs speech, in which HRC isn't quoted directly, but described as saying people shouldn't be vilifying Wall Street. Maybe you think the Deutsche Bank speech takes the sting out of the Goldman report -- but I am concerned that the passage below will exacerbate not improve the situation. *Mandy Grunwald* *Grunwald Communications* *202 973-9400* -----Original Message----- From: Brian Fallon <bfallon@hillaryclinton.com> To: Dan Schwerin <dschwerin@hillaryclinton.com> Cc: Jennifer Palmieri <jpalmieri@hillaryclinton.com>; John Podesta < john.podesta@gmail.com>; Jake Sullivan <jsullivan@hillaryclinton.com>; Mandy Grunwald <gruncom@aol.com> Sent: Mon, Nov 23, 2015 11:41 am Subject: Re: Deutsche Bank Reviving this thread because AP is working on a story similar to Pat Healy's article in Sunday's NYT about HRC's "Wall Street image problem." The reporter, Lisa Lerer, plans specifically to note that her paid speeches to banks were closed-press affairs, and transcripts are not available. She is asking if we wish to characterize her remarks in any way. I think we could come up with a vanilla characterization that challenges the idea that she sucked up to these folks in her appearances, but then use AP's raising of this to our advantage to pitch someone to do an exclusive by providing at least the key excerpts from this Deutsche Bank speech. In doing so, we could have the reporting be sourced to a "transcript obtained by [news outlet]" so it is not confirmed as us selectively providing one transcript while refusing to share others. On Fri, Nov 20, 2015 at 3:03 PM, Dan Schwerin <dschwerin@hillaryclinton.com> wrote: > Following up on the conversation this morning about needing more arrows in > our quiver on Wall Street, I wanted to float one idea. In October 2014, > HRC did a paid speech in NYC for Deutsche Bank. I wrote her a long riff > about economic fairness and how the financial industry has lost its way, > precisely for the purpose of having something we could show people if ever > asked what she was saying behind closed doors for two years to all those > fat cats. It's definitely not as tough or pointed as we would write it > now, but it's much more than most people would assume she was saying in > paid speeches. (Full transcript is attached and key riff is pasted below.) > Perhaps at some point there will be value in sharing this with a reporter > and getting a story written. Upside would be that when people say she's too > close to Wall Street and has taken too much money from bankers, we can > point to evidence that she wasn't afraid to speak truth to power. Downside > would be that we could then be pushed to release transcripts from all her > paid speeches, which would be less helpful (although probably not > disastrous). In the end, I'm not sure this is worth doing, but wanted to > flag it so you know it's out there. > >



Sent from my iPad

9.11.2016

The Saudi Standard

The Saudi Standard


War!  Again! Against an evil enemy, of course.  While we chart the offenses of our putative enemies, the crimes of our solid allies are ignored.


Before we find ourselves lost in yet another desert storm, let’s objectively state how bad a country has to be before we attack them with military force, including bombing.


I nominate the Saudis. As in, the United States does not go to war with any nation unless they act worse than the Saudis.  Let's recap the crimes of Saudi Arabia:
encouraging and funding radical Islamic terrorists
public beheadings for minor crimes and non-crimes imprisoning women, all women, with travel, money and clothing restrictions
use of chemical weapons. See video below:




The Saudi Standard is that a country would have to be at least as bad as the Saudis for the United States to declare war, provide military support, or use drones.  There.  Finally we have an objective, independent standard for decisions of military aggression.





Sins of the Saudis


The real weight in the Saudi Standard is the “aiding the 9/11 attack” part of the test.  Besides Japan bombing Pearl Harbour, no country has behaved worse towards the United States.  Now, the Saudi Arabian monarchy did not attack the United States as a country. But Saudi money and radical interpretation of Islam supports terror groups all over the world. Those groups carry out terror attacks against us and our allies. And because of the oil, we look the other way.


The latest news is a bill passed in Congress allowing families of people killed in the 9/11 attacks to sue to Saudi government.  Their claim is based on the participation of Saudi officials in preparing for the World Trade Center attack in 2001. See video below:





The Saudis are allies you could say only wish on your enemy.  If we can fight wars to protect Saudi Arabia from Iraqi invasions, then the nations we declare war on should at least be worse than them.  All that is aside from their monarchy system of government, which our soldiers died to protect.

It is our civic duty to ask for an accounting of our military decisions, and the real reason we are attacking, or supporting the attack, of other countries. It certainly can't be human rights violations, as almost no one is as bad as Saudi Arabia.

8.15.2016

Cocaine Banking - review of Zero Zero Zero by Roberto Saviano

The Story of Cocaine in our World

Everyone Does Cocaine

The book first assaults our misperceptions. To dismantle general denial about the levels of popular drug use, the author takes us through a catalog of who in our lives is using cocaine. And I have to admit, when the idea that everyone uses cocaine was introduced, I laughed. I mean, it sounds absurd. No one I know uses cocaine, I thought. Then he takes you through the list of people you casually know, and the people they know, and the people who work at the businesses where those people get their dry cleaning done. And then you realize: I have no idea if any of these people use cocaine.

Going through the numbers Mr. Saviano presents, you see that somebody is doing all this cocaine. The alternative is to believe that there's a vast oversupply of cocaine all over the world, being produced and trafficked, but not bought. We know that is not true. So people really are using this drug, and heroin, to the extent the author asserts. It is really tough to internalize, though. I really think I don’t know anybody who does cocaine. Really. And that no one I come into contact with knows anyone who does, either. I comfort myself in thinking that the purchasers of this drug are all those people, those other, vacuous, soulless suburban types who watch tv every night.  Of course, I watch tv every night too, but somehow everyone I know is different from these cocaine-purchasers who are tacitly destroying the world. Or propping up the international banking system with liquidity, if Mr. Saviano is to be believed.
Roberto Saviano

The Trail of Cocaine

Zero Zero Zero takes the reader through the financial and logistical roads that act as veins to the body Cocaine. Its delivery system, innovations in transport, sea shipping, hidden in fruit imports, are interesting as well as plausible. I always said that Donald Trump’s real interest in Mexico has to do with drugs, as his brother died of a drug overdose, and those walls and stops he wants to put in place are coming from a desire for revenge.

Zero Zero Zero is well-researched and a well-told story. The detailed recounting of modern drug-dealing history is impressive and depressing at the same time. But at the end of it, certain conclusions pull at my sleeves:
  1. People do drugs.  
  2. People always will try to sell drugs to the people who do drugs.
  3. Successful sellers of drugs are always murdered.

Zero Zero Zero is quite the eye-opener about how heroin and cocaine find its way around the world. No doubt there. But the book never takes a step back from all the blood to analyze the entire system.



Demand Demand Demand

Mr. Saviano details the supply part of the illegal drug business insightfully. It is interesting, though, that he ignores other side of the economic equation: demand for drugs.

Maybe the problem is that people do drugs. For it is the demand for cocaine and heroin that spurs all this other illegal activity. Eloquent descriptions of the history and shifts in drug cartels and their methods are informative.  It is even skin-crawling at times. But the primary engine of all this destruction is never addressed:  people want to do drugs. 

Is it Mr. Saviano's contention that the fight against this corruption can only take place through supply side attacks?  We don’t know because he never tells us. In reading this book, it becomes clear that demand is the only thing can be attacked in this War on Drugs. And yet, demand is not written about at all. It is the cause and the reason for every bloody act described in the book, and nothing is said about its role in stopping the overall system.
Victorian Street Gangs Ruled London

An historical look at other invasive crime syndicates would have been helpful. After all, there were criminal gangs before. Did they last for thousands of years to continue to feed off the misery of others?  No. They fell. How did that happen?  A detailed listing of gory crimes does little to enlighten the reader, and only convinces me more that I should never become a drug dealer.


Of course, the rebuttal will be that this is the beginning of a truly worldwide criminal enterprise. I don’t believe it. If 300-year-old Chinese pottery shards can be found at the Londontown archeological dig in Maryland, United States, globalism has been with us for a very long time.

The Cost of Truth

Roberto Saviano confesses his personal and emotional journey for this truth-telling, asking himself why would he do this, subject his wife and family to stress and worry, and possible danger themselves. He discusses the reality of being under police protection 24 hours a day for years as a result of his reporting on organized crime in Italy. And yet he cannot stop looking and telling us about it. And his research is thorough. It starts in the Eighties and explains how the Columbian cartels were displaced by Mexican ones, the trans-Atlantic alliances for the shipment of Columbian cocaine, and how American demand for illegal drugs feeds this violent and awful business.

I can relate to truth-telling as a role and a duty, but have never made the sacrifices of Roberto Saviano. He must love his country very much to sear truth into its skin at such a cost.

Cocaine Banking

Hearing the hopelessness in the author's words, the reader could reasonably start feeling a little depressed themselves. The story is presented as a fait accompli. There is no going back now, we are all under the thumb of illegal crime lords who are using their cash to prop up post-Great Recession banks and small businesses that require a boost in these economic times.

Rather than a catalog of torment, the author could have looked to the weaknesses in the system.  Instead, all the reader is left with is stomach pains and a dull wish for death.

Aside from that, this blood-dripping tale offers no solution, no hope. So this humble blogger will put up her interpretation for the way forward.

Cheer Up, Mr. Saviano!

The book is excruciating in its descriptions of the role of illegal drug profits in a post-2008 cash-strapped banking system.  The facade of our financial system is held together by the raw cash of illegal drug sales, it argues. I am not in a position to dispute that, and will not bother. 

Even if true, Mr. Saviano still has reason to hope. See, I know something about these upper class types of international finance and banking. Not as one of them, but better, as one who worked for them. I can assure Mr. Saviano the this current system of reliance on the liquidity of drug money will not last beyond its need. When the international economy gets its footing again, the uber-elites will turn and cut the throats of the thugs whose money they happily take now. And probably keep their money, too. It will be done as it always is, through law enforcement. 

In exchange for cooperation, banking leaders will be allowed to go on banking, and the drug dealers and producers will be either dead or in prison. American prison. So I do not lose hope, and ask Mr. Saviano that he not lose hope either.  In America, the toughest, meanest gang is the middle class. And they always win in the end. The thugs are being used, lured into a belief of their power.  Instead, they are like a cat on a bed, preening and unaware they are about to be thrown to the floor. But for the now, for the minute, they think they are in charge.

I debated before writing out this balm, believe me, Roberto. Why warn them? Then I realized it didn't matter. They were already dead.