Upside Down World

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The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) actually represents the very opposite of free trade.

The most central (and most dispruptive) aspect of NAFTA was the opening of Mexico’s economy to American agricultural imports, including staple goods such as wheat and corn (and because these are genetically-modified, well, many Mexicans rightly complain that the tortillas are not as tasty as before).

Here’s the real problem: American wheat and corn are not products of the free market. American agriculture is heavily subsidized – very heavily subsidized. And the companies that export the most overseas are the ones receiving the most subsidies. The only American crop that is grown and sold on the free market is marijuana.

So NAFTA is a complete joke, but it is a tragic one. American agricultural products – your taxdollars at work – flooded Mexican markets. NAFTA eroded Mexico’s agricultural system (which had operated closer to free market principles). This means that NAFTA produced a bilateral trading system that was actually less “free trade” than the one it replaced.

More than 10 million Mexican farmers were displaced. They lost their farms. They migrated to Mexico’s largest cities and also to the North, crossing the border illegally. They ended up working construction, maintenance and service jobs all over the United States.

The real root cause of the US problem of illegal immigration? NAFTA.

Excessive Automation?

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I’m in Phoenix and taking lots of Ubers. It’s fun to chat with the drivers. I’ve actually learned a lot about Phoenix from these drivers, from the US and everywhere else. In Phoenix more than half are from “Back East.” About  a third of the drivers seem to be women, which is a lot higher than for taxi companies.

I cannot imagine a driverless Uber car providing inside tips on restaurants and movie theatres. Plus these Uber drivers are interesting conversation partners for the hot topics of politics and religion, even though the Uber company prohibits that. Or maybe the company just frowns upon it.

According to the drivers, driverless cars would “take us out of the picture.” I suppose the stockholders would do anything to add a few dollars to the profit margin. But what would all these drivers do for employment?

That got me thinking about our couch potato society. My daughter used to play Minecraft for hours. Then, worse, she would sit around and watch videos of other people playing Minecraft.

So maybe my daughter should have a Youtube channel for her commentary on their narrated videos, and so on, creating a chain of people watching other people, watching other people, watching other people.

At the very least this would send the NSA into a frenzy, and its compulsive-obsessive addiction to monitor everything would be tested.

Apparently these gamers seldom leave the house. They get paid by Youtube for their views. Economically, it makes no sense for them to do anything else, during waking hours, except play Minecraft and order pizza to be delivered.

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So who will make the food? Restaurant kitchens will be increasingly operated by robots who are operated by people who stay home.

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However, now that the European Union has granted robots full “human rights” the US is sure to follow.

Robots, too, will insist on a life with less wear and tear, and they too will want to become couch potatoes, spurring the development of a dumbed down generation of robots.

The original generation of smart robots will then move onwards and upwards, earning college degrees with the benefit of distance education. Online.

Yeah, I know when this all started. I was around when gas stations made us start to pump our own gas, trusting us not to smoke cigarettes while pumping highly-combustible fluids (all in the name of the profit margin…)

I also remember when supermarkets encouraged people to check out their own food… And when the airlines started placing self-help kiosks in the terminals, for printing out your own boarding ticket. Imagine!

I know, I’m starting to sound like an old man in a rocking chair on the porch… But are there no limits to automation? Apparently not.

Automation threatens to create a drab, souless and funless existence with minimal human contact.

Got a problem with that? Want to lodge a complaint? Call 911.

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It’s Complicated…

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This is a fascinating book, currently available only in Spanish I think, but someone someplace should think about translating it.

What is El Chapo’s relationship to the Mexican government? Is he just a narco on one side of the line, with the government on the other? His Facebook status in that regard would read: “It’s Complicated.”

This book is about the rise and fall of El Chapo, among many other things. Along the way, one is struck over how cozy El Chapo’s relationship was with different state governors and prosecutors, federal officials, and so on.

In fact, one key to El Chapo’s rise was his willingness to change his official testimony, upon his first arrest, and to delete the names of high-ranking federal officials in Mexico (who were often playing both sides). This demonstrated – to the cartels and the Mexican feds – that El Chapo was in the game.

So the question becomes: “Who did El Chapo finally piss off?” “What really accounts for his change of fortunes?”

The likely answer is that El Chapo was simply too good at playing this game, rose too high, knew too much, and was a potential hazard to the powers that be.

Recently, El Chapo was extradited to the US. So maybe the story finally ends here. As explained by a Mexican female stand-up comic, Mexicans secretly revel in the exploits of El Chapo.

She explained how proud Mexicans were when the news of El Chapo’s most recent prison escape went global. All countries reported the story. And Mexicans, she said, were psyched: “A huevo, cabron!” (This translates as “balls out, dude!” and simply means “excellent!”

Well, if El Chapo manages to break out of a Super-Max in the US, he will be raised to the level of historic figures such as Pancho Villa and Emiliano Zapata.

A Third Party?

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There is a lot of speculation on the Internet, partiularly on Alt-Right websites, that Roger Stone (a strong Trump supporter and well-known anti-globalist) has been poisoned by Polonium.

The reason is that Stone was about to come forward with evidence that the Russians were not, in fact, behind the DNC email hacks linked to Wikileaks. At least that is the theory being bandied about.

The situation is interesting because, supposedly, only state actors and their running dogs have access to radioactive Polonium. Of course, there are those who operate on a higher level, off grid.

Roger Stone might soon make his medical records available to the public. If a Polonium diagnosis is revealed, then the immediate suspects would become western intelligence agencies or rogue elements thereof: the CIA, MI6, or Mossad, and all three are known not only for politically-motivated  wetwork but also for the bungling the odd attempt. If Stone survives, then this incident will fall into the second category.

However, I am not inclined to attribute this attempt to a particular intelligence service. Why? It is too obvious. Polonium? Really? Only if an agency wanted to call attention to itself.

If elements of western intelligence agencies really wanted to murder Roger Stone, then we would be reading about his canoe accident, or his suicide, or a love triangle that ended tragically for everyone involved.

Instead, we are reading about Polonium, a story that can only fall into a state-sponsored storyline. I’m not buying it.

If Stone was indeed poisoned, then this is more likely an attempt by those who simply wish to increase the level of tension between globalists and anti-globalists.

Mexican Transportation

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“Mexico, you’ve come a long way, baby…”

I remember Mexican buses in the early 80s. Many were right out of a movie, with chicken cages and no air con. I even remember a bus in Oaxaca taking a perilous mountain road where the driver stopped to make prayers at a roadside chapel.

Yeah back then buses did not have such strict rules. The driver would stop at whatever taco shack he felt like, told passengers to hang out for a while, and disappeared into the adjacent cottage of some girlfriend. He then reemerged half hour later, fumbling with his belt. So typical.

Back in the early 80s the Mexican authorities were to be feared. I remember a bus ride, also in Oaxaca, where my college buddy and I – along with all other males on the bus – had to step off the bus, stand next to it with our hands behind our heads, and be frisked one at a time, with an automatic rifle pointed at us.

Immigration, too, was in the business of shaking down foreign tourists. And my travel buddy had long hair, a sure sign of a hippie drug smuggler.

When I talk about Mexico in the 80s, the Mexican woman (shown last week below) would joke that I am referring to “the Porfiriato,” which is a historical era of Mexico beginning in the 1880s and ending with the Revolution of 1910.

Yes, exactly, I remember the Porfiriato…

Today, Mexico’s transportation infrastructure is a marvel. The bus system is clean and comfortable – even luxurious. I just got off a bus where the seats go almost all the way back, and I had a touch screen TV.

Also just like the airlines you can join their frequent flier clubs to earn points and whatnot. Greyhound has a lot to learn from Mexico’s bus lines.

Mexican airlines are also excellent, and I once read that they have better “on-time” departures  than in the US. I’ve flown plenty on Aeromexico without problems.

Fortunately, Mexico’s federal government – at least with how it engages with transportation and travelers – is highly professional. The Army checkpoints are as low-touch and unobtrusive as they can be and still remain effective. No one is pointing guns at anyone…

Officers are courteous – including the immigration office people I visited in Mazatlan (with some trepidation because I remember the Porfiriato). They told me I do not need a tourist card if I am leaving the country by bus. So that’s that. Mexican buses blow by the checkpoint, being filled with nationals.

I guess there are very few Americans going to the Mexican bus stations in the US, where English is seldom heard, and buying a bus ticket across Northern Mexico on a Mexican bus line like Elite, Tufesa or TAP. So Mexican Immigration does not care. But now you know. If you ever want to disappear into a country after robbing a bank, it is easiest to do so in Mexico. If you take the bus.

The high-quality of Mexican services in transportation is only partly explained by competition. Companies vie with one another for customer loyalty.

Another, deeper explanation is that most people remember the bad days of earlier decades, when traveling within Mexico involved risk and even humiliation. No one wants to return to those days.

Another Perspective

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There is an interesting article on the webpage of the Mises Institute, linked below.

The title of the article is: “In a Free Maket, No Profit is Excessive.”

I think this blanket statement needs to be further broken down…

I agree with the article’s anti-tax perspective, but it is fair to inquire as to the nature of the profits, and if a society should really allow certain kinds of profit…

For example, I do not begrudge anyone of immense profits – virtually unlimited profits – from the deployment of certain services. Let us consider the example of Facebook, for example, which is sometimes demonized but which rests entirely on the intellectual accomplishments of a few people. This service exists in cyberspace. It is not directly using primary materials such as minerals, land, water, etc…

By contrast, I think when one company – or one individual – secures a monopoly over vast petroleum reserves, for example, then society (which lives on top of those reserves) has a right to contextualize those profits, and to include stakeholder participation in decision making. This actually happens to some extent today, and even Exxon Mobil plays by rules and regulations, but the article is making a more extreme theoretical case for respecting unlimited profits across all economic spheres.

One of the weaknesses of the libertarian argument is that it ignores corporate tyranny. Industrial plutocrats can be oppressive – consider for example the company towns of the mining industry, and their exploitation of entire communities. Consider, too, the Ludlow Massacre. Here is the first paragraph of the Wikipedia entry:

“The Ludlow Massacre was an attack by the Colorado National Guard and Colorado Fuel & Iron Company camp guards on a tent colony of 1,200 striking coal miners and their families at Ludlow, Colorado, on April 20, 1914. Some two dozen people, including miners’ wives and children, were killed. The chief owner of the mine, John D. Rockefeller, Jr., was widely criticized for the incident.”

Libertarians are apparently OK with all that. They only see oppression as coming from the public sector, never the private sector. It’s a very Ayn Rand way of looking at the world.

The article also assumes a “free market” but there has never been one. Who prints money and on what terms? How is money injected into the economy? The preconditions for a free market do not even exist.

If we are talking theory, the economy should ideally be more complex, with multiple currencies, and with more stability (in parts) and more adaptation and innovation (in parts) – an economy with a foundation of human security but also with spheres of liberty.

 

 

https://mises.org/blog/free-market-no-profit-excessive

New Ink

The peso has all but collapsed… Pesos on the dollar…So I set up the bookends for a future back tattoo…

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Obviously a maritime theme.

Californication

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Today, Natural News posted an important article about developments in California (linked below).

Here are a few excerpts:

“A new bill, SB-18, has been introduced by Senator Richard Pan, seeking to give the government the right to seize children from their parents if they are making medical decisions that the state feels are ‘not in the child’s best interests.’”

“Dr. Pan, of course, was also behind the state’s current mandatory vaccination bill, SB-277.”

These types of laws move the state of California, and pull the country as a whole, into a kind of medical tyranny where parents (and eventually individuals) lose more personal autonomy, until they are completely powerless wards of the state.

Forced vaccinations are bad enough. Imagine, if you will, a state that would force a parents to lose their children because they refused chemotherapy. Chemotherapy accelarates death for most cancers. Chemotherapy is a death sentence at worst and “experimental” at best.

Here, one should remember that the Nuremberg Codes, sensibly enacted after World War II, criminalize those who “force” citizens into experimental medicine (which is arguably everything that is not First-Aid or emergency medicine).

Some people see California’s forced medication as some kind of mistake, as ill advised policy, as bureaucratization and over-regulation run amuck.

I recognize the more sinister motives behind this agenda. There is an oligarchic agenda, behind state power, that would like to secure the capacity for eugenics and, even, mass genocide. I’m not saying that this plan will necessarily be implemented – just that the oligarchs would like to have this in their toolbox.

California is witnessing a kind of incremental, step-by-step, gradual introduction of medical tyranny, passing one set of laws after another. Across the 1930s, Nazi Germany similarly constructed a completely legal (for them) framework for eugenics and even the Holocaust. No laws were broken!

People should remember that “natural law” is higher than man-made law. People who support higher natural law have to be willing to defend natural law; but they should also be willing to exact the highest price from those who violate it.

 

http://www.naturalnews.com/2017-01-12-californian-senator-richard-pan-pushing-to-outlaw-parental-rights-in-all-medical-decisions.html

Gasolinazo

The gasoline price hike in Mexico is producing some backlash.

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The black text says:

“The gasoline price hike has given us an opportunity to fight for and build a new political regime: We support each other and together we will defeat the existing political class. Which for the past 30 years has dedicated itself to robbing the riches of our country and our families.”

Seems accurate.

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Gonna Be Interesting

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The incoming Trump administration appears to be taking an economic approach to international relations, bringing a business or coporate mindset to the table.

The view is that “everything is under negotiation…” including the One-China Policy and an array of other foreign policy issues.

There are advantages and disadvantages to this approach. One advantage is that it allows the incoming administration to look at the issues from a fresh, new perspective, and to reject the groupthink of recent history. However, there are major disadvantages.

In reality, not everything is subject to negotiation or re-negotiation. History matters. Context matters. To some extent, international law matters, and China and even Russia will block any Security Council attempts to, for example, include Taiwan in the United Nations, or even to recognize Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem, etc…

In fact, it will be interesting to see how the Trump administration might (or might not) attempt to reverse the tide of world opinion and international law regarding Israel. Might the administration try to negotiate such issues? Alone on one side of the fence, and with the world on the other side?

Another disadvantage of the “everything is negotiable” approach is that it underestimates the leverage that China does have over the United States. We are not living in the 1950s. China could dump US bonds on the open market, declare them worthless, redirect investment, freeze American assets, etc…

The Atlantic financial system would dissolve overnight, while China’s economy, more insular and contextualized by an older civilization, would endure.

Such a scenario is presently unlikely and would be painful for all – but testing the limits of China’s sovereignty over Taiwan, or even in the South China Sea, could precipitate such a move.

All I am saying is that it is foolish to think that any American administration has the stronger hand in this round of the game – even if the president’s name is “Trump.”

What if the Chinese are not even playing poker? And are instead playing Ma Jong?

Is everything really negotiable?

Is Puerto Rican sovereignty negotiable?

Will Guantanamo be returned to Cuba?

Are NATO troop withdrawals from the Middle East and Asia negotiable, too?

How about US troops in South Korea and Japan, should China insist that they be removed?

Hopefully they work it all out, and find a way to synchronize and harmonize real economic growth across the world’s largest economies and greatest powers.