A Bit Odd

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So this is a muscle relaxer of some sort. I bought it for 75 cents from a vendor on a public bus.

I don’t need it, but its a fun photo to send to my kids as a gag.

Full disclosure: I’m not going to freebase it.

Apparently this paste is perfectly legal here, with a bar-code and everything. Smells like Vicks vapor rub.

Of course, I won’t be landing in Miami airport with it. I wonder if anyone ever has.

Coke and weed? It’s sure to trigger the dogs off. I can hear them barking now.

Power Tools

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There was an article today with this headline, linked below:

“The director of the FBI says the whole of Chinese society is a threat to the US — and that Americans must step up to defend themselves”

The FBI Director, Christopher Wray, is living in an alternate universe, that of Beltway careerists hankering for some good old fashioned Cold War simplicity.

Firstly, China does not have becoming a global superpower in mind as a “goal” but rather as a natural “outcome” of its restoration as Asia’s center-of-gravity. There is a subtle but important difference between “goal” and “outcome.”

Secondly, China does not imagine itself as ever becoming “the” global superpower. They simply refuse (rightly so) to allow any other power to assume that position. China is already “a” global superpower, arguably along with the other permanent members of the UN Security Council, the US, Russia, Britain, and France.

Wray and colleagues are still striving to maintain the 1990s unipolarity (Fukuyama’s End of History) that was lost with the Iraq debacle, and that was confirmed with the 2008 financial meltdown.

Thirdly, the idea that Chinese “society” represents any kind of a threat to the US or to the West is absurd. Leave it to the FBI to imagine that China’s language-teaching “Confucian Institutes” are disseminating Chinese “propaganda,” as the publication Foreign Policy charged.

Really? Chinese “propaganda?” I just spent four years in China. The days of Mao’s little red book are long over. The only ideology being diffused in China is modernization.

Really, what else is left that is objectionable? Taiwan and Hong Kong are part of China. Is it propaganda for a Chinese language teacher to say so? What exactly is the problem here?

China wants to link Asia – and East Africa – with high-speed rail and futuristic ports, with the One Belt, One Road policy. It’s a great idea.

Unfortunately, American foreign policy has not really done anything constructive in Asia in generations, and the recent debacles of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars should force Christopher Wray and colleagues into years of silence. But no. Obviously, there is no shared memory of these recent events, and so no sense of shame.

Wray is representing the FBI – the same organization that spied on the Kennedy brothers, that tried to blackmail Martin Luther King, that helped launch the Red Scare and House Un-American Activities investigations, and that even ended the careers of professionals just for being homosexual – when the first and most important figure in FBI history, J Edgar Hoover, was a drag queen who wore pink tutus to Eyes Wide Shut parties.

Across the decades, the FBI has been involved in all kinds of nefarious political cover-ups, entrapment programs, and of course in a perpetual and non-stop violation of the Fourth Amendment.

Am I to be schooled on China by the FBI?

Another Fun Show

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“The 100” is a Netflix show about several thousand people living in orbit, in a giant space station, unable to return to Earth because of a nuclear war’s radiation.

The idea was there were were a dozen separate space stations, from different countries, but they joined together once Earth became toast.

Next, 97 years after the war, the space station sends 100 juvenile delinquents down to Earth to test out its livability. The kids form a colony that immediately fractures into factions and power struggles. Kind of like Lord of the Flies – but with girls also.

Earth turns out to be livable, but rather hostile, and it is inhabited after all. The humans who descended from the survivors are called “grounders.” The show depicts them as extremely primitive, a bit like Neanderthals.

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A Grounder

And so the show revisits, and recycles, all kinds of themes and memes relating to cross-cultural conflict – and cross-cultural romance, as one space girl takes up with a grounder, much to everyone’s disapproval (they call her a “grounder pounder”). This relationship reverses the Pocahontas – John Smith dynamic.

This recycling of memes does not mean that the show is not good. It is good. It’s very engaging. Granted, the tip came from my teenage kids, who are part of the show’s target audience. The other, secondary plot line – the power struggles on the space station – involve adults. So there is something for everyone.

Interestingly, what happened to human society on Earth after the war? Within one century, new clans emerges (12 to be exact) with their own barbarian language and with the retention of modern English (how convenient for Netflix).

The visual appearance of the grounders is a mixture of many things: Quest for Fire meets Game of Thrones meets Mad Max.

Another thing I found interesting was the map below, a variation of the Flat Earth map.

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The photo is blurry but it shows the American hemisphere on the left and a portion of the Old World on the right.

In any case, The 100 give plenty of food for thought. It’s well put together. Lots of fun.

 

 

Upscale Part of Town

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Santa Marta, Colombia

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The Week After

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Heads Up: A longer than usual posting…

Normally, I’d say “The Day After” a presumed upcoming stock market collapse, but I prefer to think that such a collapse would be followed by a week of sheer chaos and panic.

The major banks shut their doors. “This webpage is not available” will be the only thing displayed on the Bank of America or Chase homepage. ATMs will not work. This has all happened before – and recently – in Argentina. It ended up with middle-aged housewives rioting in the streets, smashing bank windows.

In some ways, it makes sense for a week to pass before anyone lifts a finger to fix the problem. This way people  will truly understand that their lifelong faith in this economic and financial system has been, well, misplaced. I’m not talking about an intellectual understanding but a visceral one – an understanding that can only come from panicking about where the next meal will come from.

A week’s worth of madness should finally eliminate any remaining faith or respect for this system – so that new systems (in the plural) may emerge. In the past, the powers that be, the controllers and their intermediary factions, have used similar crises to further concentrate economic, financial, and political power, making it more remote, unaccountable, and placing power at the service of those who already hold it.

This time, however, things might go down differently. Social media has much to do with this, as does the collective memory of the Occupy movement and the liberty movement. It may be a possibility (however remote) that a post-collapse United States becomes one with activated and engaged citizens, rather than subjects.

As I mention once or twice a year, the ideal future – from my point of view – is one with complexity, meaning that there are simultaneous and paradoxical forces at work: centralization and decentralization.

From this perspective, it is possible to have a stronger national and state public sectors whose roles are crystal clear, and whose institution serve regular people. Simultaneously, it is possible to have a more decentralized and unregulated private sector, especially as it unfolds across medium- and small-scale industry.

In this hypothetical future, both national and state governments would issue their own currencies, valid for certain spheres of activity. Meantime, clusters of private institutions – banks and corporations – would also issue currency that both complements and competes with public currency, with the added benefit of keeping inflation in check.

Ten years on, people would be using half a dozen currencies, some paper or coin and some digital, depending on the situation.

Multiple currencies is vital to this scenario. The fracturing of hegemony, the check on both public and corporate abuses of power, and the variety-generation needed for adaptive evolution – all are made possible by multiple currencies (and perhaps only by multiple currencies).

This time, if the stock market “pulls a 1929,” and there is economic collapse, then the political institutions will collapse also. Congress and the executive branch will be seen as having been complicit in bringing about the crash. The days of more bailouts are over. Plus, groups like Anonymous or Wikileaks (or realistically, other groups) would dump files on most people in these two branches. Mass resignations. The Supreme Court, which has ruled on “corporate personhood” and moved to systematically constrain the Bill of Rights – would be similarly exposed.

Realistically, the only real option for any kind of order, post-collapse, would be a transitional government formed by the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The only way temporary military rule would work is if 1) it announced elections (and a constitutional convention) for a set date; 2) cooperated with citizen militias of various stripes; and 3) turned the use of force – and the threat of force – not on those below but rather on those above.

Realistically, in a post-collapse scenario there would be no other option. It’s either military rule or anarchy. Personally, I think there are more people “awake” within the military than in civilian society, so I am not fearful of this scenario.

First. Banks would have to be nationalized (at least during the transitional period), and funds made available for customers (up to a certain amount). People with holdings above that amount would get a haircut. (Austerity finally comes home to roost).

Second. The Federal Reserve note would have to be replaced by a New Dollar pegged to sustained future productivity (with credit-based systems that have been described by others).

Third. Debt cancellations would have to be sweeping, with the national debt, student debt, credit card debt and so on all wiped out, and with home mortgages significantly reduced and restructured.

I can hear some of my readers complain now… “But.., but..” Please remember this is a post-collapse scenario in which almost all financial assets and savings are down the drain anyway! There’s nothing left to defend!

Fourth. Universal Basic Income. This would be needed to guarantee that no citizen falls beneath the bare minimum, so that people can truly focus on employment, education, and productivity. Staying at Maslow’s lowest level of needs harms everyone in the long run. Fortunately, there are no valid arguments against universal basic income. Not after the bank bailouts of 2008 and 2009! Not after decades – nay, centuries – of corporate welfare! No. People opposed to a universal basic income have no leg to stand on.

Fifth. Declaration of Civil Liberties. In the scenario of military transitional rule, citizens should not be dis-empowered but rather empowered. For example, the may be entitled to augment public security by training for organized militias (as per the US Constitution), and, furthermore, entitled to use force to prevent 1) forced relocation, 2) forced disarmament, 3) forced medication or forced micro-chipping, etc…

The use of lethal force, against any military or civilian authority violating civil liberties, should be classified as “justifiable manslaughter” in this delicate transitional period, one in which those with power may be tempted to abuse it.

Will there be an economic collapse? I have no idea. Mainstream and alternative media have been recycling this meme for a decade. Same thing every year. 2012! 2013! It goes on and on.

However, if I wake up one day and cannot use my bank cards, and discover that the entire American or Western system collapsed, then I hope that people in power (well, those just below it) do not simply rush to administer band-aid solutions, like last time. No, let the system collapse. Let the House  of Cards fall down.

Complexity – true complexity – accelerates both individual and collective evolution. Complex  systems can provide for more stability and, simultaneously, allow for more freedom.

Great Show: Marseilles

I think a look at the two minute trailer, above, entices one to watch the first season on Netflix. Obviously, I have lots of time on my hands…

This is a political thriller about the mayor of Marseilles played by Gerald Depardieu. It’s also about loyalty and betrayal, fidelity and infidelity (the latter being more common because it’s France, after all, and everyone is sleeping with everyone else), and the gangs in the slums, whose illegal activities and romances intersect with those of the political class (including the breathtaking mayor’s daughter). The photography is spectacular.

The show is in French not surprisingly. If the scenes are relatively formal (office settings, political speeches, press conferences) I understand fine, but I do not understand the street scenes and its slang. Why do French gangsters mumble so? Like they have a hot potato in their mouth. It’s crazy how wide the distance is between formal French and the street version. So my subtitles alternate between being annoying distractions (off) and then necessary (back on).

Marseilles is a riveting series. Lots of surprising twists and turns in the show. Very unpredictable.

Colombia Changes Policy

 

The Colombian government will no longer just accept the Border Crossing Card for arriving Venezuelans, downloadable online. It seems that Venezuelans have only needed to show that card and their their regular national ID, know in Venezuela, Colombia and Panama as a “cedula” and used for banking, hotels, whatever. (I have a Panamanian cedula).

Up  until now, Venezuelans have had a relatively easy time entering Colombia by road.

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Photo from Caracol (Col): Venezuelans in Colombia

From this point onward, Venezuelans will have to show a passport at the border. Obtaining a passport is a much longer, more bureaucratic and more expensive procedure. Actually, in Venezuela it is becoming very difficult to obtain a passport, if rumors are to be believed, and the underground market for false passports is 500 – 1,000 each (I am doubtful that these would actually work).

To its credit, the Colombian government is not “cracking down” in some panicked round-up of people. It’s priority is to regularize the people here, stem the flow of new people, and simply obtain more control over the situation. President Santos, to his credit, just had an emergency meeting about this yesterday in Cucuta, a border city, and announced the new measures all of which seem reasonable. The UN was also invited and is setting up some kind of monitoring office.

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Photo from Panorama (Venez)

As I stated before, I end up in conversations with Venezuelans here in Colombia on a daily basis. In fact, I’d say most of the people I buy fruit from, or coconut water, or coffee in the streets, are Venezuelan. I meet Venezuelans when I’m waiting in line at the supermarket. There were two teenage boys behind me buying huge bags of rice to take back to Venezuela, which is about six hours away by bus. All told, here in Colombia I’ve had more interactions with Venezuelans than with Colombians.

Today, some lady at a fruit stand (Venezuelan) said there were 250 Venezuelan pregnant women near the border taken to a new clinic of some sort. Not sure if that is true. I read Spanish-language news from Colombia and Venezuela and did not see that story. Colombia does not have “jus soli” laws, so just giving birth here does not mean the child will be Colombian. However, if the foreigner has obtained some kind of legal residency status, or if the father (on the birth certificate anyway) is Colombian, then the child can be Colombian.

Some Venezuelans here want more Colombian control over the situation to keep out the bad elements and prevent the law-abiding migrants from being tarnished by the delinquency of a few.

Sometimes I remark to these folks that I was in Venezuela in 2006, which they all remember as the golden years. The revolution was flush with cash, and as witnessed by the UN, the poorest fifth of the population rose above extreme poverty levels. That was a decade ago. Now life is more of a Hobbesian struggle. Many of the arriving Venezuelans are – or were (past tense) – part of the revolution’s “base.”

Unless the Venezuelan government finds a way to reverse the downward spiral – with inflation predicted to reach 13,000% this year – then the country could devolved into “garrison socialism” where the armed forces become the only real pillar of support.

Cuba, actually, never reached that point, because the party and bureaucracy forged strong bonds with its society (and where support for the regime still remains much stronger than most Americans would know). Cuba has a loud and vocal minority (mostly in Florida, but some in Cuba) but its government is by no means on the ropes. It still has majority support.

Venezuela’s government is in a much more vulnerable position. It’s going to have to “think outside the box” to come up with a solution.

 

http://caracol.com.co/emisora/2018/02/08/bucaramanga/1518130228_631797.html

http://www.panorama.com.ve/ciudad/Director-de-Migracion-Colombia-Respetaremos-tarjeta-fronteriza-del-venezolano-que-la-tenga-20180209-0036.html

Sense8

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As I was telling my son, when I was his age there were only a handful of new TV shows each year on just three major networks. Not much to choose from, and it was all pitched to the lowest common denominator.

Also, back in the day there was not much international programming. From the UK for example, there was Monty Python. A great show, but that was it. Now, there’s all kinds of stuff from the other side of the pond. Take “The End of the Fucking World,” for example, which is doing well with the adolescent demographic.

Today, there is an avalanche of new programming, and a larger than expected chunk of it is thought provoking, engaging, and very cutting edge. Sense8 is definitely worth watching. It’s about a group of individuals from all over the world who are connected telepathically, forming a “cluster,” and they are up against another group trying to wipe out their kind.

According to the show, this kind of genetic warfare goes back to the Burning Times and before, back to paleolithic times, when there were parallel species to homo sapiens.

The show’s premise is interesting: that there is a faction of oligarchic controllers, mostly based in England aiming to dampen human potential by any means necessary (ok, non-fiction thus far). The full-spectrum war on humanity – including artificial diseases – fits into this show’s narrative.

Sense 8 has some risque sex scenes – of a “pansexual” nature – but these seem necessary to the plot. Needless to say, nothing even approaching these scenes would have been visible on TV back in the 70s.

Of course there is violence, but most people are desensitized to that by now. The only thing I found objectionable was that the show inadvertently made it “cool” for one of the “cool” guys to use heroin. Not vital to the plot.

In any case, this is a fascinating show, very well done.

Supreme Court will Decide

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Apparently a Kern County judge in California sided with the evangelical bakers who refused to bake a cake for a same-sex couple. The bakers probably used that common argument that the Bible said “Adam and Eve,” not “Adam and Steve.”

As I’ve argued on this blog before, same-sex marriage should be legal because what consensual adults arrange is their business, and because same-sex couples – under the Equal Protection clause – deserve the same medical, financial and retirement benefits that hetero couples get.

I’ve also argued on this blog that Biblical prohibitions against same-sex conduct (between consenting adults) violates individual sovereignty and violates natural rights. Maybe those passages, like so many others in the Illuminati scriptures, were not actually written by the man above but rather by the man below.

In June, the Supreme Court is going to rule on a case very similar to this one.

I am guessing the Court will – as it should – force bakers to bake cakes for everyone (not just heteros or whites or whatever category one chooses). Otherwise, we are right back to the Woolworth drugstore situation, where business establishments can pick and choose who they serve. Besides, same-sex marriage is now legal. There is absolutely no justification for a baker denying such a service.

Admittedly, a trickier question emerges with the hypothetical cake for a Nazi: Should a baker be forced to draw a swastika on a cake for a neo-Nazi party? That is a tougher question to answer. One could argue that the swastika has become synonymous with mass murder (promoting illegality), giving some leverage to the baker’s refusal.

These are apples and oranges. Same-sex marriage is legal, and homosexual people are recognized by the law as entitled to the same rights. On this score, the bakers opposed to Adam and Steve wedding cakes actually share something in common with the Nazis: both on the God squad and both virulently anti-gay.

A brick-and-mortar business serves the “general public.” These are “places of public accommodation.” Perhaps the Christian bakers who think that their fetish is more important than the Equal Protection clause should advertise their services on Craigslist along with other fetishes.

End of an Era

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My love affair with Latin America is… over. Well, to be more precise, I’ve come to  the conclusion that it is a great place to visit, but you wouldn’t want to live here – not if you are still working, that is.

Living in East Asia did spoil me, because that region is successfully modernizing and still preserving much of its food and customs.

Latin America has an interesting culture, but its economies are not growing very impressively. Amazingly, there is a high tolerance for vast inefficiency and social inequality. Pockets of the First World exist next to pockets of the Third and Fourth World. Besides, outside of Mexico and Peru the food is actually not very good. Just saying.

I’m allowed to complain since I’ve put in my time in this region. Plus I was born in it. I also know where the airport is and I’m heading out February 21. I’ll either return to Asia with a much better job (Plan A) or do find clients for weight loss and fitness in the US or Canada (Plan B).

For foreigners, Latin America is great for adventure or retirement. When I moved to Mexico in my 30s I was single with no kids and so it was adventure. I’m more than a decade away from retirement. And so it makes no sense for me to stick around Latin America, struggle to make monopoly money and then convert it into dollars. What was I thinking?

I don’t regret coming here. For the first time ever I could place getting physically fit at the top of my to-do list. Two more weeks and I’m back in the US for a bit.