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.

Trump Inner-City Campaigning... comic by Justin C. Benedict


Trump Is No Hitler - Explained

Trump is No Hitler 

You can tell the level of Trump panic by the number of comparisons to Hitler in your Facebook feed. I call it the Hitler index. Not to worry, Trump is not another Hitler, will not become another Hitler, and could not become another Hitler even if he wanted to, because of the issues outlined below.
My reasoning is based on the book "Hitlerland" by Andrew Nagorski which drew on unpublished manuscripts of Americans who actually witnessed Hitler's rise to power, knew Hitler and other German politicians in the mid-1920s through 1942.  It is a very good book and worth reading.

Racial Purity

From the beginning, Hitler was clear that impurities in the German race needed to be rooted out. By this, he meant primarily Jews, but others as well. Americans who met Hitler during his rise to power remember him referencing a "final solution" to the "Jewish problem." Of course at the time, they had no idea what he meant.

Trump does not define anything in terms of racial purity. He never suggests that the American "race" needs to be purified from Mexicans. First of all, there is no American race. The idea would be a non-starter as there are many people of Hispanic origin here. Mexico is only one place where they originate. Trump does not claim that all Mexicans need to be removed from the U.S., as Hitler did. Trump's focus is illegal immigrants, not Mexicans in particular, no matter how offensively he sells the idea.

In Germany, Jews were beat up in the streets, as were women who were engaged to Jewish men. These women were shaved bald, dragged through the streets half naked, and crowds of people would laugh at them and call them names as they were beaten. Nothing like this is happening now to women engaged to Mexican men.

More than that, there is a country for people to go to for safety: Mexico. There was no such place for Jews in Nazi Germany. From the beginning, concentration camps and mass extermination were Hitler's plan to rid Germany, and Europe, of Jews. Safety for Jews living in Nazi-controlled territory was non-existent because no other country wanted to take them. Sure, a few hundred were accepted by Switzerland and other countries, but on the whole, there was no safe place for the Jews to live.

Readers may react to this reasoning by saying that the sentiments Trump calls out in his followers are eerily similar to those Hitler aroused in his followers. It's a good point, and a correct one. However, xenophobia, racism and fear of social change are not new political weapons, and politicians who use them are not all little Hitlers. The degree to which Trump does this is nowhere near that of Hitler.


From Wikipedia: The Sturmabteilung; literally Storm Department, functioned as the original paramilitary wing of the Nazi Party (NSDAP). It played a significant role in Adolf Hitler's rise to power in the 1920s and 1930s. Their primary purposes were providing protection for Nazi rallies and assemblies, disrupting the meetings of opposing parties, fighting against the paramilitary units of the opposing parties, especially the Red Front Fighters League (Rotfrontkämpferbund) of the Communist Party of Germany (KPD), and intimidating Slavic and Romani citizens, unionists, and Jews – for instance, during the Nazi boycott of Jewish businesses.

There were hundreds of Brownshirts who followed the directives of the Nazi party. They wore uniforms and marched in pseudo military formations and pretended to be a military in its own right. Upon suggestion, they smashed windows, shouted and beat people up. Again, no reasonable argument could be made that Trump is doing the same thing.  Yes, Trump has strongly implied that people should be beaten, but there are no roving gangs of young people in America who are beating up Mexicans in every town and smashing up their businesses. That's what happened to the Jews.

For the Brownshirts to act with such violence and get away with it, there had to be tacit approval from authorities. Remember, the Brownshirts were active for ten years before Hitler came to power. Also remember, they were all killed once Hitler secured the support of the military.

Donald Trump supporters do not act like this. They probably couldn't even if they wanted to, which they do not. The Republican Party is an already-established political party, not an insurgent one like the Nazis. The most you will see is ugly insults and thrown refuse at rallies.

To get to the level of German politics in 1920s, each political group would have its own gang that oversaw "security" for its rallies and attacked gangs from other political parties. Now this is a point of some worry. The fights between supporters of each political candidate are escalating. There is increasing fear of violence, but more than the actual violence that has occurred. Yes, there have been some assaults. But again, the level of it nowhere near reflects what was happening in Germany during the rise of Hitler.


Germany was suffering from a severe financial crisis - much worse than the one in 2008. It caused blind panic and almost universal suffering. Veterans from World War I were left begging on the street, a source of national shame to compound the loss of World War I. Germany was forced to pay reparations to France, England and the United States which was a further insult to them, even if they did start the war.

German hyperinflation before World War II

Like people everywhere, Germans were looking for a group to blame. They blamed the Jews. Similarities to Trump's discourse are obvious: he blames Mexicans for our economic troubles.

There is no hyperinflation in the United States. We are not in a state of economic collapse. In 1930s Germany, people used wheelbarrows of cash to buy one loaf of bread because inflation was that bad. No one is doing that now.

Should the U.S. economy collapse, there would be a reason to be concerned about Trump's rhetoric. But that hasn't happened.

Hitler Was Insane

And let's not forget: Hitler was insane. Trump may be offensive and absurd, but he is not insane. Reports from Americans who met Hitler during his rise to power describe him as a person that was unable to have a conversation, as he had no interest in listening to anyone. He disliked anyone who tried to interject even a few words for "talking too much." Meeting with Hitler meant being a one person audience to one of his speeches. He never looked at people with whom he was having a conversation. Not to mention his meth addiction.

Trump is not an addict of any sort. He does not drink, smoke or do drugs. In fact, Trump's brother died of a drug overdose, and I think it's the real reason he wants to build a wall on the border with Mexico. Trump has managed to swindle scores of people over a long period of time. You don't do that if you are insane. Trump is noted as a very personable guy, and has many friends. You may not be one of them, but they are out there.



The Nazis led a nationwide boycott of Jewish businesses. And if you didn't want to take part in it, the Nazi Brownshirts would make it very unpleasant for you if you stepped into a Jewish-owned store. Nothing like this is happening to Mexicans or anybody else because of Trump.

Weak Institutions

The democratic institutions that could put a limit on Hitler were overwhelmed by his popular and political support. Hitler was forced to be a witness in a trial of one of his Brownshirts for murder. We would call it a hate crime. The man was found not guilty.

Hitler had tacit support from the Bavarian political establishment, such that his niece was shot under suspicious circumstances and Hitler was not even questioned about it. Or his Beer Hall Putsch, which was open treason against the German government and for which he only spent nine months in prison out of a five year sentence. If Donald Trump shot someone, there is no jurisdiction in the country that would look the other way. If Trump engaged in an open, armed revolt against the U.S. government, no political establishment would shield him from his full sentence.
Defendants on trial for treason for Hitler's Beer Hall Putsch

So, Trump is No Hitler

Much of what allowed Hitler to grab political power were the political and economic conditions in Germany in the 1920s.  Those conditions do not exist in the United States right now, nor are they likely to in the future.  Trump's style of political rhetoric, and its content, are troubling.  The answer to that is the ballot box. 

Are you registered to vote?

Are you registered to vote?