Tobacco – a colonial addiction
Six companies and sundry State monopolies drive global cigarette consumption. These six companies derive more than US$100 billion dollars in revenues, globally. For many years they were advertising industries largest customers.These six companies are headquartered at former European imperial powers (UK, France, Spain), USA and Japan.
In recent years, dozens of cigarette manufacturing companies have consolidated under four major private corporations: Altria/Philip Morris, British American Tobacco, Japan Tobacco International, and Imperial Tobacco. State monopolies are also major cigarette manufacturers. The largest state monopoly is China National Tobacco Corporation, with a global cigarette market share that exceeds that of any private company. Because the European Union intends to restrict further mergers and acquisitions that increase a tobacco company’s market-share dominance, industry consolidation trends may have peaked.
The tobacco industry includes some of the most powerful transnational corporate entities in the world. Tobacco conglomerates have diversified into many other industries, such as financial services, food and beverages, pharmaceuticals, real estate, hotels, restaurants, communications, and apparel, among others. The tobacco industry is expected to continue increasing in size and power.
The global tobacco market, valued at $378 billion, grew by 4.6 percent in 2007. By the year 2012, the value of the global tobacco market is projected to increase another 23 percent, reaching $464.4 billion. If Big Tobacco were a country, it would have the 23rd-largest gross domestic product in the world, surpassing the GDP of countries like Norway and Saudi Arabia. (via Tobacco Atlas Online – Tobacco Companies.).
India’s small production base is a combination of two aspects. Indian social inertia against addictive substances and the Government on the other. Indian cigarette business, small as it is, was put in Indian hands during Indira Gandhi’s socialist days. BAT lost control of ITC, which was placed in the hands of professional Indian managers.
Chinese State Tobacco monopoly
Or Western powers pushing opium in China in the nineteenth century. After the opium experience of the Chinese, when Western trading houses, under State protection, using the garb of ‘free trade’, made China into the largest consumer of opium.
The Chinese Govt. has replaced opium with tobacco.
The second secret of the tobacco business is to be dominant in purchasing and cornering tobacco stock. For cornering tobacco stocks, Big Tobacco depends on Central Banks’ support – aka State support. For instance, ITC (and other major global tobacco purchasers) in India has a major presence in Guntur, where Indian tobacco trade is headquartered.
ITC’s over-sized chequebook buys it market dominance.
The Indian tobacco profile
India is the third largest producer of tobacco – after China and USA. India ranks 6th as a tobacco exporting nation, as most of tobacco in India is consumed by domestic consumers. Tobacco consumption in India follows traditional patterns, as a non-industrial product – spanning chewing tobacco, bidis (tobacco rolled in leaves), hookah, clay pipes and snuff. Indian traditional tobacco usage consumes between 75%-85% of total tobacco cultivation.
Indian tobacco consumption and control follows consumption patterns of psychotropic drugs. All the major drugs in the world came of India – opium is afeem, khus-khus पोस्त; cannabis is charas, ganja, marijuana, hashish. Heroin is a derivative of opium. Even, as Indians are significant (legal) producers, they are not high on consumption lists.
However, drugs never became a big problem in India. Unlike in China, or in Medieval Middle East (when drug crazed criminals called hashishis became assassins). All these drugs were introduced to the world by India – with records going back to 1000 BC. Similarly family and peer pressure plays an important role in controlling the less dangerous form of traditional tobacco usage in India. In modern times, Indian gold smuggling was funded by carriage and export of drugs.
Cigarette production consumes less than one-fourth of India’s tobacco production.
Until two years ago, non-filter cigarettes comprised 30% of the total cigarette consumption. But with an increase in excise duty on non-filter cigarettes from Rs 168 to Rs 819 per thousand from March 1, 2008, the demand for low-priced filter cigarettes has risen At present, the excise duty on a pack of 10 filter cigarettes is Rs 8.19, and VAT Rs 1.05. Thus, taxes total Rs 10 per pack. Illicit cigarettes are sold for less than this amount, leading the government to believe that either registered cigarette units are evading duty or foreign-made cigarettes are flooding the market from Myanmar and the UK The business of low-cost cigarettes is big in the country, especially in Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Punjab. (via Article Window).
The expansion of manufacturing in cigarettes globally (see chart) is much like the housing scam in US and Europe. Banks made huge advances, created a bubble, and are now busy foreclosing these loans. The modern myth of Republic Democracy at work.
How maya works in real life.
- Australia takes on tobacco giants over packaging (seattletimes.nwsource.com)
- Big Tobacco’s Been Busy (fool.com)
- Philip Morris Int’l buys rights to nicotine system (seattletimes.nwsource.com)
- The unstoppable march of the tobacco giants (independent.co.uk)
- Tobacco giant BAT admits funding retailers’ campaign against ban on cigarette displays (guardian.co.uk)
- Yes, smoking kills – but not everyone wants to be saved | Tanya Gold (guardian.co.uk)
- FDA takes action against illegal marketing of tobacco products (gloucestercitynews.net)
- Why Gas Stations Love Cigarettes (MO, RAI, LO) (businessinsider.com)
- Smokers ignore health warnings, research shows (guardian.co.uk)
- World’s toughest antismoking laws set to pass in Australian parliament (telegraph.co.uk)
Of mice and men
While the US dollar is weakening, by design, Greece, Ireland, Portugal and Spain are being bankrupted by a deliberately overvalued Euro.
an unexpected $7.3 billion trade deficit, the biggest in seven years. The nation’s (China’s) exports rose at the slowest pace since November 2009.
For Europe, the grand prix is to replace the dollar as the currency of international trade – especially oil trade. Euro as a international trade-currency-of-choice, will give the Euro region access to more than 1 trillion euros in zero-cost floating balances.
China is expecting the yuan to play a similar role. Such are plans made by mice and men.
Monsieur Murphy says
What can go wrong with these plans? Plenty.
The eternal enemy of currency manipulation – gold. As a million bureaucrats work on the mechanics of their plans,
Sales of gold coins are on track for the best month in a year amid the worst commodities rout since 2008, a sign that bullion’s longest bull market in nine decades has further to run, if history is a guide.
The U.S. Mint sold 85,000 ounces of American Eagle coins since May 1 as the Standard & Poor’s GSCI Index of 24 raw materials fell 9.9 percent. The last time sales reached that level, bullion rose 21 percent in the next year. Gold will advance 17 percent to a record $1,750 an ounce by Dec. 31 and keep gaining in 2012, the median estimate in a Bloomberg survey of 31 analysts, traders and investors shows.
UBS AG, Switzerland’s biggest bank, had its second-best day this year for physical sales on May 9, according to a report the following day. The bank’s sales to India, the world’s top bullion consumer, are more than 10 percent higher than in 2010. (via Gold Coins Show Bull Market Unbowed in Commodities Decline – Bloomberg).
You take free advice …?
Back in late January, as the world’s important people rubbed elbows in Davos, billionaire investor George Soros had some rather definitive thoughts to offer on gold, which he called “the ultimate asset bubble,” according to reports.
However, he neglected to mention that his hedge fund had been buying.
Another report points out that the liquidation (by people like Soros) of investments in public investment vehicles may be replaced by private investments.
The new filings from funds “may show that big names exited ETPs and this news may cause prices to slip in the very short term,” said Bayram Dincer, an analyst at LGT Capital Management in Pfaeffikon, Switzerland. Some funds switched to holding gold directly so they wouldn’t have to announce it publicly, he said.
Is gold a bubble?
A rather disbelieving journalist writes of the situation in the West
Gold is in a bubble. Anyone will tell you that. They’ve been saying it since gold was about, oh, $500 an ounce. But it’s a funny kind of a bubble. It’s the only one I’ve encountered where so few people seem to own the asset in question.
During the dot-com bubble, you met lots of people with tech stocks. Taxi drivers told you what dot-coms they owned. During the housing bubble you met normal, ordinary people who were trading up to expensive homes using adjustable-rate mortgages, buying new condos off plan to flip, and cashing out their fictional “equity” through a refinance mortgage.
But who actually owns gold? I keep hearing about the gold bubble, but every time I ask people if they own any themselves, they say, “no, no, of course not, it’s a bubble.”
Central banks around the world are printing more dollars, euros, pounds and yen. Gold may simply be a less awful currency than all the others. Banks can’t print any more of it, so its price should probably rise while other currencies fall.
For this year, the question in India seems to be, “Will gold cross Rs.25000, by 2011 Diwali?”
- Gold Coins Show Bull Market Unbowed in Commodities Decline (businessweek.com)
- Soros Sells Most of Gold ETP Holdings During First Quarter (businessweek.com)
- A closer look at George Soros’ big quarter of selling gold (financialpost.com)
- Why is George Soros selling gold, but John Paulson not? (theglobeandmail.com)
- China Is Now Top Gold Bug (online.wsj.com)
- Gold Investment Demand in China (lonerangersilver.wordpress.com)
- Chinese set new standard in buying gold (ft.com)
- Gold grand prix – The Chinese challenge (quicktake.wordpress.com)
- Shanghai Planning Gold Exchange-Traded Funds as Demand Jumps (businessweek.com)
- Oil, gold back in demand (news.theage.com.au)
Fat and lazy
Between 1875-1935, Britain was dependent on India for gunpowder, on USA and Iran for oil, on Malaya and India for rubber. British economy had grown fat and uncompetitive – unlike Italian, German and Japanese economies.
Even though Britain won WWII, their economy was a lost cause. Though Germany, Italy and Japan were losers, with their economy in shambles, they could make a brilliant recovery and vastly out-compete Britain.
The story of Middle East oil is similar for USA and West. The Welfare State, built on a diet of cheap oil, easy dollars, is now too expensive for the West to sustain. The above book extract gives an excellent snapshot of the oil industry in the 20th century.
And the shadow of oil on the 21st century.
- Onward, American Soldiers! Another million await death. (quicktake.wordpress.com)
- Out with the old? (bbc.co.uk)
- UK economy trailing (thesun.co.uk)
- Skidding Oil Prices: A Blip or a Trend? (green.blogs.nytimes.com)
Things go bump in the night
In the early hours of 2nd May, 2011, an obscure twitter-user started tweeting about the US raid on Osama Bin Laden’s safe-house – 35 km from Islamabad, 200 miles south of the Afghanistan border, in Abbottabad. In a city, which houses Pakistan’s equivalent of Indian Military Academy.
But Pakistan’s police, para-military, military forces claimed ignorance, showed surprise, feigned outrage. Par for the course. Was it abject failure or a cover-up in Pakistan , by the powers-that-be?
Afraid of the mullah-madrasa-mujahid combine, predictably, Pakistan started denying any role in the killing of Osama Bin Laden. Truly Pakistan ‘doth protest too much, methinks’. Secret deal or not, in the past or post-facto, a deal around killing Osama could have been easily hammered out between Pakistan and USA.
It suited both the leaderships.
It is election time in USA
Pakistan was not alone in using Osama. Osama alive was source of US funds for Pakistan. Osama dead is an election ticket and a feel-good factor for the a USA being battered by the Great Recession. As Rajiv Dogra points out, on the opposite side of the world,
The timing suited Obama well. It had long been speculated that Osama would be killed around the time Obama’s re-election campaign kicked off.
Predictably, the US made a song-and-dance about the annual aid of US$3 billion that they dole out to Pakistan. Compared to the US$3 trillion that the US Department of Defence is unable to account for, this talk of US$3 billion makes for poor form.
On a lighter – and logical side
Famous for the song केम छे ‘kem che, kem che’ from the film जिस देश में गंगा रहता है Jis Desh Mein Ganga Rahta Hain, a Bollywood songwriter confidently predicted, soon after 9/11, that Bin Laden would be found near the White House or Islamabad!
Coming to India
Memories dimmed, history forgotten, India draws wrong conclusions from these Western adventures in our neighbourhood.
After WWII, as British, French and Dutch colonialists were being thrown out of Asia, in country after country, the West was in real danger of losing markets and raw material sources.
A new power, fueled by a growing migrant population, USA, took the place of tired, old powers – Britain, France and the Dutch. Instead of the openly exploitative system of European powers directly running colonial governments in these Asian countries, the US installed an opaque system – which is equally exploitative. To impose its writ on the newly independent Asian countries, the US simply destroyed their economies by war. The USA, then instituted the innovative USCAP Program and ‘helped’ these countries. These countries (Taiwan, Singapore, Japan, South Korea, Indonesia, Malaysia, et al) were now ruled by overtly independent regimes – but covertly, client states of the USA.
US multinationals and home-grown oligarchs (keiretsus, chaebols, etc.) took over the economy – and sidelined British, French and Dutch companies. To impose this economic model, US armies, using nearly 1 million troops, killed 50 lakh Asians. The takeover of European colonial possessions by the USA was handled over 3 regimes of Eisenhower-Kennedy-Johnson seamlessly.
Between a rampant USA, behind biggest terror spots of the world, and a nuclear-armed, imploding Pakistan, India’s choices are difficult – and reactive policies inadequate.
Once more, Osama’s death and Obama’s antics bring out India’s policy inadequacy in sharp relief.
- Cable: Pakistan military learn anti-Americanism (cbsnews.com)
- Bin Laden’s Pakistan villa: Tourist destination? (cbsnews.com)
- Osama bin Laden dead: Pakistan returns helicopter wreckage (telegraph.co.uk)
- You: Drones hurting national integrity (nation.com.pk)
The official spokesman at the US State Department, PJ Crowley, resigned. His
resignation followed Crowley’s remarks to an MIT seminar last week about Manning’s treatment in military prison.
Crowley had said: “What is being done to Bradley Manning is ridiculous and counterproductive and stupid on the part of the department of defence.”
Glenn Greenwald, a Salon reporter who has been outspoken about Manning’s detention, tweeted that “detainee abuse is allowed, speaking out against it isn’t”.
Last week, Manning gave his own account of how he is being held, saying that it was harsh treatment designed to punish him even before he was put on trial. He said he was stripped naked every night after he made a sarcastic comment to guards about the absurdity of the regime he was under.
Manning has been charged with multiple counts relating to the leaking of thousands of secret US embassy cables, as well as videos and warlogs from Afghanistan and Iraq.(via PJ Crowley Resigns After Remarks Bashing Bradley Manning’s Detention, Ed Pilkington, The Guardian, March 13, 2011).
What is the real story …
Crowley was not a critic – or even dissenting. He was an establishment man – concerned that Manning’s treatment may ‘impact on global standing and leadership’ of Pax Americana. Was this display of power more important than the display of ‘freedom’?
- Onward, American Soldiers! Another million await death. (quicktake.wordpress.com)
- The shadow of oil (quicktake.wordpress.com)
- The madness of Bradley Manning? – video (guardian.co.uk)
- PJ Crowley Resigns After Remarks Bashing Bradley Manning’s Detention (alternet.org)
- The British government has a duty to Bradley Manning and his family | Ann Clwyd (guardian.co.uk)
- You: WikiLeaks accused Bradley Manning ‘should never have been sent to Iraq’ (guardian.co.uk)
United States is being subjected to an old-fashioned protection racket by Pakistan: pay up or things could go bad for you. Those making money out of extortion and blackmail always come back for more. It’s a measure of the US’s waning global strength that it seems to have no option other than to keep paying.US is paying for Pak protection racket | By SHAUN GREGORY |
Jinnah held the entire sub-continent to ransom. After 200 conflicts in 150 years, as the British with their backs to the wall, were walking away, Jinnah became a spoiler. The hour of triumph turned into moment of tragedy. A country born out of this blackmail, has now formalized blackmail as State Policy.
Centre has shared an updated dossier of 31 most wanted terrorists — including 19 of IM and 12 of the other Lashkar-SIMI front, Jama-i-tul Ansarul Muslimeen (JIAM) — with states, asking them to launch a manhunt for them. Security agencies believe that 10 terrorists may be hiding somewhere in the country.
With a majority of them suspected to be in West Asian countries like the UAE and Qatar on Pakistani passports, India has sought help from these nations in the wake of the Varanasi blast.
“A list, comprising 17 top IM terrorists, including Bhatkal brothers — Riyaz and Iqbal — the outfit’s bombmaker Yasin Bhatkal, financer Mohsin Chaudhary and technical expert Abdus Subhan Usman Qureshi alias Tauqeer, has also been with Pakistan for over nine months,” said a senior home ministry official. New Delhi had shared these details with Islamabad during foreign secretary-level talks in February. (Post-Varanasi, govt on hunt for 31 ‘wanted’ – The Times of India).
Small numbers …big problem
31 terrorists is India’s problem. The answer to these 31 operatives is dedicated teams for each terrorist. Teams drawn from the 10 affected states, with 2 specialists from each state, dedicated to the task of booking these 31 terrorists. 620 in all. 30 support staff. 6 in information technology; 12 in accounts & admin another twelve in documentation and secretarial section. Another 50 experts in language, cipher, psychology, intelligence, politics and culture can support this group. 700 people in all. To hunt down these 31.
Replacing these 31 operatives will be tough for any organization.
Let’s do the numbers
Indian police has a superb network of ‘humint.’ But, they need more than that – for neutralizing terror.
There are finally less than 1000 SIMI + HuJI activists who could be future terrorists. There are a similar 1000 Kashmiri terrorists. What India needs to do, is to set up a national database on these 2000 suspects – allot (say) teams of 5 policemen to these 1000 suspects.
Monitoring the activities of the 2000 suspects cannot be a national pastime. With neural networks and similar ‘intelligent’ systems, India police should be able to improve their ‘intelligence.’
2ndlook plan for terrorism
2ndlook has been working on a plan to tackle terrorism for 30 months now – resting on an intel-based theme. Not on more – computers, policemen, organizations.
The first output in this plan was the answer to counterfeit currency problem. 2ndlook analyzed this problem (in September 2008) down to a handful of Western companies, their Governments and proprietors who supply Pakistan with the paraphernalia to make fake currency notes. India needs to tackle these 12 companies and about 4 Governments.
The second stage in this plan was 50 days before 26/11 Mumbai attacks – on October 3rd 2008. Specialist teams to tackle identified, confirmed, proven terrorist candidates – DAT Teams (Dedicated Anti-Terrorist Teams). Instead of Western-style Draconian laws, which depend on mass jails, kills, hanging, State Terrorism, torture, India must depend on a targetted alternative.
For numbers will set you free
After 26/11, came a bigger 2ndlook anti-terrorism plan. Without demonizing Pakistan, or Pakistanis. Further development of better data came in December 2009, when specific numbers were revealed by Army Chief Deepak Kapoor. 42 terrorist camps is what the Indian intelligence agencies had estimated. Instead of putting a full army on alert, is it not possible to lob grenades into these 42 army camps every month for six months. With such sustained attacks comings in, how long will this structure-of-terrorism hold up.
Indian Government has taken action on some of these proposed points. The FCN issue was taken up with the necessary Euro-zone countries. India also decided to make its own security paper, instead of depending on unreliable-and-unethical European companies.
- Collusion or collaboration? The Think Tank Initiative (quicktake.wordpress.com)
- 26/11 – The Maldives Connection (quicktake.wordpress.com)
- Mujahedin Attack Shows India Still Terror-Prone (newsweek.com)
- The IPI-TAPI Story (quicktake.wordpress.com)
the ruling elite cannot be expected to change things because the majority already has one foot out of the door. Most members of the ruling elite have dual nationality, which means that if the situation deteriorates further they can always leave, along with their capital. This saves them from taking responsibility for improving social conditions and the country’s politics for the benefit of all. http://is.gd/krkPC
Who cares …
On 4th January, 2011, Salman Taseer died. Shot dead by his own body guard. His support for non-Islamic minorities in Pakistan coupled with his support for removal of blasphemy laws from statute books angered extremists. Leading to this killing. Salmaan Taseer’s other bodyguards did nothing against the killer. Many ‘powerful people’, afraid, did not attend Taseer’s funeral.
Like this author points out, the State of Pakistan is in the hands of people who have interests, capital, and a life outside Pakistan. Pakistan needs complete, total commitment.
Another hate crime
On the other side of the world, on Saturday 8th January, 2011, in the advanced world, there was a similar incident. Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona, during a public event at a Safeway grocery store on the north side of Tucson, was shot.
Giffords — who in 2006 became the youngest woman ever elected to Congress, at 36 — has, for more than a year, been the target of violence-tinged rhetoric from political opponents and of threats that appear to have come from right-wing activists.
Sarah Palin’s political action committee posted a map of the US, showing the locations of the 20 Democratic members of Congress, including Giffords, it was targeting for defeat. Each location was marked by an image of a gun crosshairs.
Palin’s camp dismissed charges that she was encouraging acts of violence, saying she had spoken out against violence. But Giffords herself was one of many who spoke out against the image, telling MSNBC: “When people do that, they’ve gotta realize there’s consequences to that action.”
In June, the campaign of Giffords’ Republican opponent in this year’s midterms, Jesse Kelly, placed an ad that read: “Get on target for victory in November/ Help remove Gabrielle Giffords from office/ Shoot a fully automatic M16 with Jesse Kelly.”
The website for Kelly, a former US Marine, depicted him with holding an automatic weapon.
Today, Kelly said in a tweet: “We are all deeply saddened by this morning’s shooting. Gabrielle Giffords, the other victims, and their families are in our prayers.”
It is unclear why Gabrielle Giffords was shot. Was is it because she ‘approached the immigration debate in a nuanced fashion, mixing requests for more Border Patrol agents with calls to increase the number of work visas granted to foreigners.’ Or was because she was the first Jewish woman to be elected Congresswoman from Arizona.
Desert Bloc parallels
Gabrielle Gifford and Salman Taseer were ‘marked’ for supporting ‘Others’. Christian intolerance, Islamic extremism. Any difference. Sympathy for ‘kaffirs‘ killed Salman Taseer; supporting ‘aliens’ hurt Gabrielle Gifford. USA & Pakistan-Siamese twins?
Pakistan is evading the blasphemy issue. USA will ‘investigate’ if xenophobia behind Gabrielle Gifford attack. Christian intolerance + Islamic extremism = Desert Bloc behavior. Proof – Attacks on Gabrielle Gifford & Salman Taseer.Last train out
- Family of slain Pakistani politician feels for Giffords (cnn.com)
- Political violence in the US and Pakistan (blogs.ft.com)
- Gabrielle Giffords a Champion of Green Causes (treehugger.com)
- Gabrielle Giffords, update on her brain injury (actionforbetterhealthcare.com)
- Gabrielle Giffords shot in Arizona – Sarah Palin ‘has blood on her hands’ (archbishop-cranmer.blogspot.com)
- Bhutto pledges to defend minorities in Pakistan (reuters.com)
- Salman Taseer assassination – BBC News (news.google.com)
- Global worry: Tucson attack augur more violent US? (foxnews.com)
- Pope Asks Pakistan To Repeal Blasphemy Law (video) (nowpublic.com)
- Taseer Murder Reveals Depth of Pakistan’s Extremist Drift (time.com)
- Pakistan slaying divides nation – Washington Post (news.google.com)