Monday, April 1, 2019

President Baldrick's Cunning Plan

As part of the massive GOP performance art project to convince their idiot rubes base that the patrie is en danger of being overrun by hordes of illegal flesh-eating zombie immigrants (or something) the Trump Administration has announced that it will cut off all aid to three Central American (or, "Mexican", as we MAGAts like to call them) nations; Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador.
We can save a lot of time and nonsense by beginning this discussion with the acceptance that there is no actual "border crisis", that immigration is not an existential threat to the United States, and that anyone who attempts to convince you that #1 and #2 are actual things is trying to sell you something rather like a bridge, or some Nigerian oil minister connections.

The thing about this, though, is that given the conditions on the ground in central America this is either the stupidest Stupid Trump Thing Ever or perhaps the most cunning of Steven Milleresque Cunning Plans.

Life in much of Central America is pretty Hobbsean; nasty, brutish, and short. We, the People, own a shitload of the responsibility for that, given our repeated and malicious meddling in Central American affairs ranging from the support of loathsome caudillos from Arias through Somoza to Rios Montt all the way back to the diddling of American corporations such as United Fruit and the filibustering of William Walker.

One of the main reasons there ARE troubles south of the US-Mexican border is because the U.S. has helped ensure that conditions in those places - never conducive to good government and social stability to begin with, given their Spanish-colonial and post-colonial history - have made it difficult for the locals to simply survive.

When I talked about this almost ten years ago I pointed out the obvious:
"The real issue - the one Which Dare Not Speak Its Name - is that the institutional poverty, misgovernance and social maladjustment of most Latin American countries is so profound and so destructive that to address it would take every penny that the U.S. has spent on poorly planned foreign adventures and more. Much more.

So instead we get this idiotic argument that all we need to do is fence these little heatherns out and everything wil be Good. God will once again be White and in His Heaven, the food will magically get harvested, processed, cooked and served by Real (i.e. white) Americans who will suddenly, magically, want to work for the pittance we want to pay for these jobs to prevent our food, clothing and service costs from reflecting what it would cost to pay humans actually living wages to do these things.

As Hadrian himself might have said: Nam tua res agitur, paries cum proximus ardet.

It is your business when your neighbour's house is on fire."
If, indeed, your neighbor's house is on fire it would seem the heights of ignorance to turn off the little garden hose you've been using to help wet down the flames.

But that would be assuming that you WANT to put out the fire.

As I've also said here before; the GOP in its current incarnation has nothing substantive to offer the non-plutocrat/non-theocrat constituency. Its entire policy agenda consists of returning the U.S. to the social, political, and environmental conditions of 1899. A New Gilded Age, in other words, with everything that implies for those of us not Rockefellers, Goulds, or Carnegies.

So, if the GOP is to gain power in a representative polity it MUST present the temporarily-embarassed-millionaires with another reason to vote Republican. Hence the booga-booga scares about tricksy transgender ladyboys lurking in the girls' bathroom. Hence the frantic insistence in the God-given right to Own Every Semiautomatic Weapon Ever Made. Hence the - as here - insistence that the Browns are Coming To Kill Us All.

And I think this is what this is.

If you treat it as actual foreign policy it's blindingly moronic. You have internal problems in neighboring nations, so you ensure that the relative pittance you've been devoting to helping those neighbors ameliorate the problems doesn't get used as a lever to try and force their dysfunctional governments into being more functional, but simply goes away. You're not trying to solve anything with it. You're just pulling it out from under them.

But...if you treat it was a sort of stupid-person's-idea-of-a-smart-idea that's really intended to ensure that those problems continue and provide you with your immigration Reichstag fire?

That's actually a stupid kind of cunning. You're making trouble for your nation, but making political gains for your party.

And that, my friends, is the State of the Nation.



  1. Life is short there?

    life expectancy
    Canada 82.3 yrs (2016)
    Germany 80.62 (2016)
    United States 78.69 yrs (2016)
    El Salvador 73.15 yrs (2016)
    Honduras 73.58 yrs (2016)
    Guatemala 73.41 yrs (2016)

    Doesn't really look "short" to me.

    1. I'm not even...c'mon, Sven. Be serious.

      These there nations aren't Beyond Thunderdome. But the level of social, economic, and political dysfunction is enormous, and I'll bet if you looked at the demographics of the population and controlled for the 10-15% of each country that are what are called in Panama the rabiblancos, the "white people" who make up the thin layer of elite you'd see a lot worse numbers.

      And the numbers alone don't tell the tale, either. Neither Canada, Germany, nor the U.S. has been the scene of brutal internal wars in our lifetimes the way both El Sal and Nicaragua have, or vicious rebellion suppression as was the case in Guatemala and Honduras.

      The bottom line is that life is damn tough for people living in certain parts of the U.S.; that "toughness" is exponentially more punitive in much of Central America. Beyond the simple life expectancy statistics, that's the single biggest driver of outmigration from Central America.

      Even if that weren't the case this would be silly as foreign policy; the U.S. has good reasons to help their southern neighbors be better places to live. But it IS the case, so this isn't just silly, it's so silly as to make me wonder if there isn't some sort of bizarre anti-commonsense sort of "plan" at work, one that likes the idea of these nations as sources of U.S. domestic political fear...

    2. A "short" life expectancy is in the 50's, that's what the global perspective dictates. The post mis-characterized life in Central America.

      I had a look at Nicaraguan economy a while ago and figured that they badly lack export capability. They simply cannot afford much because they cannot sell much and are too small to manufacture much domestically. NAFTA ensures that little industry sees Nicaragua as a good location regardless of politics and policy. The potential for mining and refining is fully exploited. The home market doesn't really support the rise of start-ups that matter for export.
      Maybe they could hypothetically get much value added with Spanish software products, but such an approach wouldn't help more than one region much - and there are plenty small Central American and Caribbean countries in search of export value.

      In the end, the lying moron's original wish to eliminate NAFTA may have been the best thing that could happen to non-Mexican Central American countries.

  2. I suppose the lesson is that a country needs to get a grip on its oligarchs quickly, or fight a long rearguard. Compare and contrast: Cuba, USA, Guatemala, Jamaica and Haiti.

    1. And a lot depends on 1) prexisting conditions and 2) dumb luck. The legacy of Spanish colonialism has been grossly toxic nearly everywhere it was imposed - not that other European or American colonialism was real nifty - and the circumstances are critical.

      For example, look at the immense difference in the reaction to the economic malfeasance of 2008 compared to 1929. The structural conditions of the Thirties meant that even suspicion of being pro-bankster mean political death. Now? Neither party could be arsed to even make things tougher for the financial fraudsters to steal, much less make the notion the “greed is good” utterly toxic.

      I’m afraid we’re very likely looking at the endgame for the post-Depression/post-war burst of economic and social liberalism across much of the globe.

  3. How about “for the non-elite of Central America” life is pretty Hobbesian? I can’t imagine conditions have much improved since I was there in the mid1980s - and, yes, NAFTA has done a terrific job slamming Central American business (particularly local farming and resource extraction) - and for the poor and the more Indio parts of El Sal, Honduras, and Nicaragua those were pretty damn bad.

    The point here is that anything that can help these nations stabilize - and both equalize and enrich - their societies is a good thing, regardless of who does it and how. This dopey piece of pure spite, OTOH, is the opposite of “helping” to the point where it seems designed to bring about worse ends than are already in place.

  4. Cadet Bone-Spurs and Faux seem to think Puerto Rico is also one of those 'Mexican countries'. In nine days, on 11 April, Puerto Rico will celebrate its 120th year as a free "associated state" of the United States. And a month ago, on the 2nd of March, they celebrated 102 years of American citizenship. Limited though unless they immigrate to one of the 50! Interesting that Congress gave them that citizenship in 2017. Was that for conscription purposes? Or a sweetener to keep them from becoming independent. They have a larger population than Utah and 20 other US states. They are closer to CONUS than Hawaii. They deserve to vote in the presidential election IMHO. Ditto for Samoa, the Marianas, and the Virgins.

  5. The 'idea' to close the border is even more stupid, probably his most stupid one for domestic affairs if one doesn't count the ACA repeal attempt as his 'idea'.

    I keep thinking the inspiration for this 'idea' was that people kept telling everyone that most illegal immigrants and most drugs come through legal ports of entry.
    So what's next after closing the border? No more airline connections to Latin America?

    On another note, how could one possibly expect Europeans to consider the U.S. an actual ally any more?

  6. One thing I think is worth noting is that there appear to be two levels of WTF going on in this Administration.

    There's the "that's just SO Republican" stuff, the sort of thing that any GOP hack wold have done. I think this cutting-off-funds falls under that rubric. Tax cuts the answer for every question? That's just SO Republican. God, guns, abortion, gays, fapping over weapons and The Troops? That's just SO Republican.

    Then there's the truly, deeply, weirdly fucked up stuff like "closing the border". The obsession with The Wall, "Trade wars are fun and easy to win", "Transgender Mexican rapists are climbing in your bathroom window!" kind of stuff.

    Windmills cause cancer, let's play footsie with Russian mafiosos, nominate Hermie Cain to the Fed. THAT stuff is pure Trump brain-tumor inanity. Sometimes it's so freaky that even the bog-standard GOP CHUDs freak out over it.

    The problem I have is primarily with the GOP as an institution. I don't like the idea of a New Gilded Age and they do; it's really that simple.

    Trump, OTOH, is pure comic book villain freakshow, and my problem isn't with him so much as with the GOP pols and voters who are willing to give him what he wants so he'll continue helping them help us party like it's 1899.

    So I'm not sure whether the southern border closure will happen. As Sven points out, it's a ridiculously, monstrously, weapons-grade-stupid idea that the GOP pols recognize will be a flaming dumpster fire. But...if Orange Foolius really, reeeally wants it? I have no confidence that the GOP won't let him do it.

  7. regarding shutting down the border, McConnell told him to pound sand. So he flip-flopped.

    I'm waiting for more of Herr Drumpfenscheisser's idiot moves to start really pissing off the GOP pols. If they smell any weakness in his base they will turn on him bigtime. Cousin's wars and family fights turn out to be damned bloody.

  8. Well, given his two recent nominations to the Fed? That can't help. Moore's a complete idiot and Cain is...a pizza man. Their primary "qualification" is that they're both slavering Trump-humpers. We'll see how well that goes down with the GOP pols and their donors, who could care less other than to ensure that the economy doesn't so they can continue their grifting.

  9. Well, the rich donors won't dislike a lower federal reserve interest rate, but they should keep in mind that Moore is in favour of strangling the economy with a high federal interest rate whenever a Democrat is in the White House.

  10. Not sure what these jokers will do, other than what Trump wants as likely as not, and Orange Foolius has been babbling about QE lately because he doesn’t understand monetary policy. Agree that Moore is a standard GOP supply-side cultist to whom the only goal is GOP political advantage and not actual economics. Cain? Who knows?


    His own "deal" isn't even ratified yet, but he's already willing to break it. His OWN one!

    AGAIN; why should any European country still consider the Unite4d States to be a real ally?