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Losing Faith in the State, Some Mexican Towns Quietly Break Away (nytimes.com)
469 points by camtarn 3 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 270 comments



Nils Gilman has a great article on this phenomenon https://www.the-american-interest.com/2014/06/15/the-twin-in...

States within the global political economy today face a twin insurgency, one from below, another from above. From below comes a series of interconnected criminal insurgencies in which the global disenfranchised resist, coopt, and route around states as they seek ways to empower and enrich themselves in the shadows of the global economy. Drug cartels, human traffickers, computer hackers, counterfeiters, arms dealers, and others exploit the loopholes, exceptions, and failures of governance institutions to build global commercial empires. These empires then deploy their resources to corrupt, coopt, or challenge incumbent political actors.

From above comes the plutocratic insurgency, in which globalized elites seek to disengage from traditional national obligations and responsibilities. From libertarian activists to tax-haven lawyers to currency speculators to mineral-extraction magnates, the new global super-rich and their hired help are waging a broad-based campaign to limit the reach and capacity of government tax-collectors and regulators, or to manipulate these functions as a tool in their own cut-throat business competition.

Unlike classic 20th-century insurgents, who sought control over the state apparatus in order to implement social reforms, criminal and plutocratic insurgents do not seek to take over the state. Nor do they wish to destroy the state, since they rely parasitically on it to provide the legacy goods of social welfare: health, education, infrastructure, and so on. Rather, their aim is simpler: to carve out de facto zones of autonomy for themselves by crippling the state’s ability to constrain their freedom of (economic) action.


I'm always a little skeptical of arguments made in the American Interest, since they bill themselves as a magazine devoted to the idea of the nation-state. Whatever I read as the reasoning, I know their bottom-line commitment was pre-written. If there was a powerful but positive movement against the nation-state (say... some form of Bookchinist libertarian municipalism), would the American Interest admit its virtues? Well no, and so it makes sense that a search for "Rojava" turns up nothing, despite it being an extent, present-day experiment in politics without the state.

Also, claiming that communists tried to nurture a middle class is just plain wrong. Communists were, at least according to Communists, trying to abolish class entirely, and initially to uplift the proletariat, the working class.


> they bill themselves as a magazine devoted to the idea of the nation-state

And, moreover, one particular nation-state. But still, the scholarship you find in American Interest tends to be high quality. I can respect a sincere concern with quality argumentation, even if the reasoning is motivated and even if I don't entirely sympathize with that motivation.

> Also, claiming that communists tried to nurture a middle class is just plain wrong. Communists were, at least according to Communists, trying to abolish class entirely

The second sentence is entirely accurate. However, the article doesn't claim that communists (or capitalists) of the 20th century were trying to nurture "the middle class". Rather, the article (carefully) claims:

"virtually all states—whether capitalist or communist, industrialized or developmental, great power or post-colonial—aimed to legitimate themselves by serving the interests of middle classes whose size they sought to expand... Both capitalist and communist accumulation strategies were based on the nurturing of industrial laborers".

I think the article's characterization is fair, in-so-far as you can say anything at all about such a broad group of political projects as "all capitalists and also all communists"! WRT your first sentence specifically, the communist project did aim to "nurture" industrial laborers; the purported means was abolishing class, of course, but all the same.


I know nothing of the American Interest in particular. But there is nothing wrong with particular publications having particular philosphical starting points. First, an author's analysis is usually more incisive if she has a clear personal thesis. Secondly, the reader is better prepared if she knows the biases of the writer.

We can't expect to read articles as if they are the neutral truth (which doesn't exist anyway). That's why we need a free press expressing a diverse bunch of ideas.


Oh absolutely! I guess I'm just saying that I take articles about The Nation-State in the American Interest with about as much salt as I take articles about Socialism in Jacobin. I know, going in, what point of view the magazine pushes, and the interesting part is whether I had really understood that point of view in the first place.


Well, look at it in the sense of offering an incomplete set of truths. It sounds like we have a rather similar political outlook, but I read a lot of statist and right-wing opinion because you often learn more from your antagonists than your allies.

A weak point in left thought to my mind is its widespread spontanaeism - the notion that once people just see how well other approaches work they'll naturally adopt them. While true to some extent I think it also rests on a sort of utilitarian rationalism and skates over the problem of incumbent actors operating in bad faith. So people either tend to avoid that question altogether (utopianism) or posit extreme solutions that take no account of tactical/strategic factors (ultras). If you delve into the work of statists like Bill Lind, in contrast, you don't have to look too far before coming on discussions of the practicalities of repression and how to implement it while maintaining strategic superiority.

The AI analysis is OK from that perspective - kinda like classical mechanics does a decent job of predicting local astronomical phenomena despite its explanatory limitations.

Also, claiming that communists tried to nurture a middle class is just plain wrong. Communists were, at least according to Communists, trying to abolish class entirely, and initially to uplift the proletariat, the working class.

Well, you could say lift them up into what? The middle class is in the middle between (stereotype warning) powerful idle elites and downtrodden industrial wage slaves/serfs. The Communist Manifesto sketches the idea of the future society out quite loosely, but it boils down to 'hey, we could actually provide a middle class lifestyle for everyone by rethinking property relations' - Marx talks about everyone putting in some work but also having meaningful amounts of leisure time . Presumably the heroes of a future communist society would be those who maximized consumer rather than producer surplus after externalities had been accounted for.

The goal wasn't to drag everyone down to the lowest pits of the working class, but to afford everyone the freedom from day-to-day economic insecurity and the dignity middle class people have historically enjoyed, without allowing new elites to coalesce. Think of post Kruschev Soviet media where there's a sort of technological and economic self-confidence on display.


Red Plenty by Francis Spufford is an extremely interesting — and entertaining — book that paints a broad picture of that short moment in Soviet history where the horrors of revolution, Stalin and war were behind the nation and they tried to seriously embark on the project of providing “better than American” middle class living to everyone.



When you try to abolish class, you're really trying to make everyone middle class. No one wants to make everyone working class, and upper class can only exist if there's at least one lower class to subjugate.


The upper class wants the fruits of being wealthy, they're generally not in it for the "subjugation" aspect. With sufficient automation and efficiency/recycling, everyone could be what we call "upper class".


You need to expand your social circle :P Obviously, a generalisation about an entire class is one generalisation on top of another, but i've had discussions with people who have explicitly told me they don't really care how good/bad things are, as long as they are better than others.

Ditto with skills, tests. Don't care, just as long as i'm above others.

A lot of people don't REALLY want to abolish slavery or heirachies. What really want is to ensure they're considered the masters.


> but i've had discussions with people who have explicitly told me they don't really care how good/bad things are, as long as they are better than others.

No question that mentality exists, I'll argue that it's a very small minority of eg millionaires in any society that hold such a view.

There are around 11 to 13 million (not including primary residence) millionaires in the US; or around 4.5% to 5% of the adult population. The typical millionaire in the US is worth about $3 to $4 million. While it's a very large group of people spread across the country, they do have a few things in common.

The majority acquired that status from working extremely hard for a very long time, usually either operating and or selling relatively small businesses with no more than between a few dozen up to a hundred employees, or slogging away for decades piling up invested wealth slowly over their lifetime.

The millionaire class in the US is numerically overwhelmingly dominated by those types of outcomes and has been since the industrial revolution.

Extreme wealth on the other hand obviously is concentrated in a few thousand persons with unusual outlier situations, usually around very large business concerns. My suspicion is that group is dramatically more likely to have a master of the universe mentality.


> No question that mentality exists, I'll argue that it's a very small minority of eg millionaires in any society that hold such a view.

I'd say it's the majority of millionaires that I've met (all successful small business owners).

They all worked very hard for their wealth and built it over a lifetime, as you said, but every single one of them relished screwing over others and being better than others. They worked like they did for their egos, and not much else. And all of them are virulently committed to making sure they stay on top, even if the top is sinking.


Most millionaires acquired it, largely, via inheritance, not hard work.


I grew up in an area where there were many millionaires. You would have been hard pressed to distinguish most of them from any blue collar worker they employed. They were all hard workers themselves, they generally drove vehicles no different to pretty much everyone else, they lived in houses much as most others in the area.

I went to school with their children and their wealth was not shown in any obvious way. We were all equal.

To maintain their wealth required long hours, hard work and generally being fair to everyone around them. Within the same area, we had people who didn't have the same level of wealth but considered themselves superior because they were lawyers, or bank managers or other professionals. These carried an air of distinction and superiority and many considered the "millionaires" as plebs.

One cannot generalise about any group based on some specific characteristic like money. Each of them is an individual and though some can and do take up airs, others do not. I have a son to whom I have lent money so that he can get ahead and he has always shown himself responsible, including paying me back. The way he is going, he will be a millionaire long before I am. I have another son to whom I will not lend any money to, as he has shown that he cannot handle the responsibility. They were both brought up the same way, only one took up the challenge to be financially proficient.

Different people will act and react in different ways and you cannot paint any group of people with the same brush.


Seems like a false dichotomy. For instance, Bill Gates' family was very well-off, but they never gave him a million bucks as an inheritance. What they did give him was private schooling, business connections, and computer time that allowed him to build a business and win a monopoly when everyone else was worried about getting a job.


That's true for most European countries, but not America.


Not challenging, just asking, do you have sources to back up your claim?


Social mobility is far lower in the US than in European countries.


I know there are plenty of people who want to feel like the masters of the universe. But the bulk of the upper class in the US (the economic class) is composed of professionals like doctors, lawyers, investment bankers, engineers, etc. If you take a broad sampling of those people, most of them are in it more for the nice houses, cars, vacations, interesting work, social esteem, and freedom.


This seems to be a confluence of social class and economic class. Those who are concerned about economic class don't care about the subjugation part. Social class, particularly of the hereditary kind, may be concerned with it.


That is, by definition, impossible:

"""the social group that has the highest status in society, especially the aristocracy. "it is important that the children of the upper class attend the ‘right’ school" """

I could have the same goods as you, but we'll find a way of distinguishing ourselves based on accent, assuredly. Speaking as a Brit.


This is under the fallacious basis that one only becomes wealthy by appeasing the wealthy... by getting into their social group. Which is hardly how modern economies work (although politicians has made great strides in shifting economies back towards that under the guise of a well-intentioned 'helping hand').

If anything we should be striving to limit the power of artisotricacy type groups (whether in dynastical political families, special interest group form, oligopolistic industry cartels with political pull, etc, etc).


No it's not. It's on the basis that wealth has little to do with social class, especially if you make everyone equally wealthy. People will find new ways to distinguish between one another. It's intrinsic to humanity.


> People will find new ways to distinguish between one another.

I don't see anything especially wrong with that as long as said distinction isn't built on some kind of vertical hierarchy which involves downwards oppression/discrimination.

People can be vastly different yet still consider each other as equals. The only reason we think of this as a contraction is that for the longest time humans have solely organized themselves in vertical hierarchies where the "top" is supposed "the best" going down to the "bottom" with the supposed "worst".

That's why so many people are conditioned to always strife for the top, for them it's the goal of the game, but a games goal can be changed, just like its rules.


Sure, people will always try to make a social hierarchy, even when there's no difference in material wealth. Trying to feel better than others and climbing the social ladder is not "subjugation of the lower classes", though.


That's fine, though. Subcultures can invent their own hierarchies and enjoy feeling superior to one another without harming each other.

Maybe you look down on me because I don't even have a HAM radio license, maybe somebody else considers himself superior because he knows a lot about wines, maybe other person thinks she's cooler because she knows everything about 80s punk bands...


Fair enough, I should have specified that I was thinking of the American upper class, which I think is typically based primarily on wealth, rather than a parallel social hierarchy.


See Dr Seuss and Sneetches - he's spot on.


This is what we'd like to imagine the upper class thinking, but meeting them can be disillusioning.


regardless of intent, the upper classes have material conditions that condition their behavior. Regardless of how they come off upon meeting, they still would rather have subjugation and hold their position than work to create an egalitarian society.


Looking at your username, did you make an account on HN just to discuss class issues? If so, why?


I live for the discourse


Generally it's suggested to keep a consistent identity on HN as it suggests more reasonable discourse when people understand their actions follow them. Discourse is fun, rational discourse with consistency is what makes this site amazing.


Unfortunately humans tend to measure their wealth relative to others ("keeping up with the Joneses"), so making everyone equally wealthy probable doesn't improve average or maximum happiness in the population.

In developed countries even the poorest are infinitely better off than the upper class in medieval times, safe for the aspect that they're not richer than their peers. That seems to be a very important factor for happiness.


Speak for yourself! I'm in the wealth game so I can get other people to do things for me. Machines performing the labour isn't authentic, doesn't have the same meaning.


Haha my apologies. Good luck with your quest for domination.


Middle class without working class? Doesn't that sound silly? In communism/real socialism everyone is supposed to live by their own labor and means of production may not be owned by individuals. Middle class, including minor entrepreneurs(like cafe owners), merchants(shop owners), craftsmen(shoemakers), little farmers are the first victims.


If you only have one class, there's no point in talking about classes.


looking for laudatory articles about rojava in a magazine called 'the american interest' is a bizarre proposition to begin with


But it's the correct commitment. Mexico is a Mafia State. A country that has a government that is deeply intertwined with organized crime: the government IS essentially the drug cartels. You can criticize the United States, but you'll have a tough time convincing any rational person that obtaining autonomous control over a region in the US (via Bookchinist route or not) is somehow equivalent to what's going on in a Mafia State with regions obtaining autonomy to escape it.


As people understand it today, the middle class is the working class. The middle class, circa 1900 was not.


I would say their wording is pretty sympathetic here, when the context we're talking about is new militias operating checkpoints in Mexico.


> Also, claiming that communists tried to nurture a middle class is just plain wrong. Communists were, at least according to Communists, trying to abolish class entirely, and initially to uplift the proletariat, the working class.

Precisely. And the Communists did one thing grossly wrong - they substituted the Capitalist class with the Communist "Elite". It was from an older owner to a newer owner. The people saw little difference in who they were required to work for.

A new Communist thought is that of worker collectives. The idea is that they are better than unions, with the capitalist class continually picking and clawing at any reforms. With a worker cooperative, the owners and managers are the very workers which eliminates that avenue of strife. And it is one step closer to the proletariat owning the means to production.


The problem there of course is you end up with a defacto ruling class made up of the most motivated workers, which will often end up being just as undemocratic with fewer means of non-political (in the office politics sense) intervention. You run the risk of everyone having to become a middle manager. Not to say it wouldn't be a better system, but we fallible humans are far from being ready for the enlightened fully automated communism some predict.


True, but we're already seeing the ugly side of the capitalist choice already - machines making decisions that we proles can't argue with. Look at Google, Amazon, Microsoft. If their automated systems say X, it doesn't matter if X is true, neutral or false. X is a fact and that's that.

Oh and if you quit using their services and then try to later, they will collect. But yeah, this is the "bad" side of capitalism - you not only will be automated out of a job, but will have decisions automated. And seriously - of course they will be decided against your favor. The capitalists didn't get in their place by loosing money.

And yet, I get downmodded for talking communism. It's about time someone talks of different economic theory. We've gone down long enough of "trickle down", and it doesn't work - or it works beyond the elite's dreams.


> True, but we're already seeing the ugly side of the capitalist choice already - machines making decisions that we proles can't argue with. Look at Google, Amazon, Microsoft. If their automated systems say X, it doesn't matter if X is true, neutral or false. X is a fact and that's that.

You don't have to argue with them - you can always take your money elsewhere. Big corporations are already AIs (although slow and made of people) that are optimized for one thing - their customers.


> It was from an older owner to a newer owner.

Many people have a fundamental liking to be in positions of power. What system are you proposing?

> With a worker cooperative, the owners and managers are the very workers which eliminates that avenue of strife.

I'm sure you've been to Linux/OSS meetup. Linus rules with an iron hand, as does Guido for Python. Why does that eliminate strife? IRL, forking is not relatively painless.


Sounds very like - ‘All power to the soviets’ - part of the Russian communist program (until the Kronstadt rebellion).

The unfortunate problem with most systems yet devised is that they fail to account for humans actively subverting them and coopting them.


As a curious exception to the revolution from below example, the Taliban completely eliminated heroin production in Afghanistan when they were in power. Production has skyrocketed since their overthrow. There's a reason why religious fanaticism, for better or worse, is popular among the destitute. It represents an alternative to criminal gangs for dealing with government failures.


They did that when they were trying to be recognized as a state, which they were earnestly trying to do all the way to September 10th, 2001.

Without that prospect, they stopped bothering. The Taliban's popularity came despite the opium ban, not because of it. The poppy growers did not get high on their own supply.


>As a curious exception to the revolution from below example, the Taliban completely eliminated heroin production in Afghanistan when they were in power.

not so much lately. the taliban are at their highest peak of territorial control since the invasion, but these days their territories export poppies.


Then again the notion of religion and state as two separate entities is a fairly new one.

Dig far enough back into the texts of most religions and you find that they have sections that are old laws dealing with everyday domestic quarrels.


Considering that religion from the relevant eras was largely a mechanism of control (or, less ominously, societal orchestration), this is not surprising.

I'd very much like to read an exploration of the relationship between the rise of irreligious social constructs and the decline of the importance of religion in modern states.


You don't need to go any further that "Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's; and to God the things that are God's." to see the principle of separation of church and state laid in a religious text.

Not that it was ever followed in practice in the centuries that followed.


If I'm not mistaken this is found only in the book by the apostole who was a tax collector for Caesar. :-)


That was sort of the whole point of the parable.


...still canon.


Apparently not completely - and now they’re profiting from it.

http://www.businessinsider.com/taliban-control-of-heroin-dru...


They changed their policy on it after the 2001 invasion.


> From below comes a series of interconnected criminal insurgencies in which the global disenfranchised resist, coopt, and route around states as they seek ways to empower and enrich themselves in the shadows of the global economy. Drug cartels, human traffickers, computer hackers, counterfeiters, arms dealers, and others exploit the loopholes, exceptions, and failures of governance institutions to build global commercial empires.

I wouldn't call drug cartels, human traffickers, computer hackers, counterfeiters, and arms dealers the "global disenfranchised" at all. I'd call them very powerful, but criminal. "Criminal" is not the same as "disenfranchised"; "powerless" is.

So what the quote means to say is that there are two sets of powerful people seeking to carve out spaces for themselves. One operates totally outside the law, the other operates within the law but wants a space where fewer laws apply to them.


They've become powerful because they turned to crime, rather than starting out that way by inheritance or corporate affiliation.


The question that can't seem to be answered consistently is, what are these so-called obligations and responsibilities? Who determines them? Autocratic, selfish leaders and/or misinformed and uneducated masses?

The notion of social obligation is one that is problematic from top to bottom for this precise reason.


Selfless leaders elected by informed and educated masses, of course! And many proposed social obligations flow from the desire to create such a society


This dynamic doesn't seem particularly novel. The stable nation-state is the novel part.


Rage against the global elite, is misplaced. Mexico isn't safe for business and isn't safe for those elites. As the article points out Monterey is elite, but their peace is emphermal.


This article is insightful, but it's unfortunate that it does not even mention the EZLN [0] (colloquially, Zapatistas), the majority indigenous and rural breakaway communities in the southern state of Chiapas which have been autonomous since 1994.

[0] https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zapatista_Army_of_National_L...


It isn't just in Chiapas; my understanding is that many indigenous communities in Mexico are autonomous and doing relatively well because of it. Some have always been autonomous and others more recently. At the same time, many communities seem to avoid autonomy as long as they can so there are obviously down sides. I think unfair practices against indigenous communities are more likely to turn violent when the community becomes autonomous. Indigenous communities have been dealing with the worst aspects of government corruption for much longer than the current wave of violence (and not just drug issues) and they are also affected by the current issues.

However, I don't know of a great source for this type of information, it is just the impression I get from a variety of sources that I have been able to find.

In general, the best overall English language resouce on what is happening in Mexico that I've been able to find is Borderland Beat. They translate a bunch of article from Mexican newspapers and repost stuff from English language newspapers as well. http://www.borderlandbeat.com

They had an interesting article about a recent study showing that the recent increase in violence seems to be due at least in part to the weakening of the one party system in Mexico that had stabilized the cartel situation due to long term continuity of the corruption. http://www.borderlandbeat.com/2017/11/study-sheds-new-light-...


The impression I have, coming from a host of different sources (by living here, reading newspapers, talking to people that live in those communities, etc) is that a lot of those towns do quite well thanks to their autonomy, but

1) it doesn't seem to scale past a certain community size

2) it leaves them vulnerable to aggression from rival groups that get in cahoots with narcos and other powerful people (caciques, etc), and when they ask for government help the response they get is along the lines of "well, you wanted to be autonomous, so now help yourself and don't ask for help". In many cases it's even been pretty well documented that the government itself funded these rival communities precisely to "punish them" and create conflict due to them "daring" to go independent.

In any case, some communities have very interesting takes on how governance should be carried out. For example, some require people to serve in the "governance body" for a short period of time (I've read about 3-6 months in some cases) so that everyone gets to participate a few times at least and thus everyone's interests are fairly represented. Also, those positions are often unpaid as they are considered to be "your duty", i.e. it's the share of the load that you get to carry for living in such society, and so on.

Unfortunately I can't link any sources since a lot of this info has been told to me in person and some I've read in obscure magazines, random blog articles or Mexican newspapers and such. I think the works of Eduardo Galeano [0], if you can find them translated, have some information on Zapatistas' government structure called "Caracoles" for example.

It's an interesting topic to say the least.

[0] https://ososabiouk.wordpress.com/2015/04/15/eduardo-galeano-...


I am curious what issues the larger communities have if you have more information on that?

I read part one of EZLN's "Autonomous Governement" but had forgotten about that. IIRC, one issue they mentioned is that when they invested in services, people outside the autonomous areas wanted to use them but didn't help support them at the same level as they were using them, which increased the difficulty of providing services for the community. I should read the first one again and the rest of them. The english translations are available at: https://escuelitabooks.blogspot.co.uk/

You link confuses the Zapatista Galeano with the writer Eduado Galeano, at least to the extent of implying that Subcomandante Galeano is named after the writer. The Zapatista Galeano was killed by paramilitary forces (that came from two rightwing parties, the Green Ecologist Party and the National Action Party, as well as the Independent Center for Agricultural Workers and Historic Peasants) who also destroyed a school and health clinic. http://radiozapatista.org/?p=12813&lang=en https://wagingnonviolence.org/feature/assassination-world-st...


I am not really aware of specific issues with larger ones, but I've never seen mention of sizes beyond a certain point (small towns, marginalized areas in the mountains, etc). I'd love to have better references on this.

No, I was trying to refer to Eduardo the writer. He's written about Zapatistas' Caracoles a bit. Can't find the specific text though :(


I'll keep an eye out for translations of Eduado Galeano's work, thanks for the recommendation!


I think it's going to be pretty hard to find the relevant texts among Galeano's work.

Closest thing I could find with a tiny bit of information about Caracoles is the Wikipedia page translated with Google :/

https://translate.google.com/translate?sl=es&tl=en&js=y&prev...

But at least maybe you can find some pointers there in case you want to do a bit more research.

In any case, my Keybase profile is in my hn profile so you can get in touch with me if you want to.

Cheers!


Similarly, Rojava and their role in Syria are barely mentioned by Western media.


To be fair, this is true for all anarchist societies, as their stated goals are directly contrary to the goals of media conglomerates owned and managed by wealthy capitalists.


But as far as I could see it, all anarchist society's still in effect acted as a state, no matter how much they said otherwise.

And the rojava is not really anarchist afaik. (there is only a small anarchist group inside, of mostly foreigners)

They are a independent Kurdish society in the first place. Then they have strong ties to marxism because of Pkk and their history, but lately more moderate federalism.

But with the pressure from ISS and now turkey, they just accept any help they can get, so that's why they have hardcore marxists next to antimuslim fanatics next to regular (capitalist) american special forces.

If it would not be cracy dangerous, I actually would like to see all that weird mix by myself ...


They seem to be anarchist in a sense that they reject the notion of state as an organizational structure for their society.


Could you name a few of these that you're referring to? I'd love to read more.


I am not a specialist but these two (largely overlapping) lists provide a good start:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_anarchist_communities

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anarchy#Lists_of_ungoverned_co...

There are also interesting things happening in Catalonia and the Basque country, but the limit between anarchy, direct democracy, autonomism is more blurry there.

I would also add that another reason why they are not talked about too much in the media is because they keep quiet. They know that a small community has to live under the radar because a strong influx of newcomers could easily destroy them.


The New York Times would never mention the EZLN. =)


They've reported on them dozens of times

https://www.nytimes.com/topic/organization/zapatista-nationa...

though strangely apparently not between 2005 and 2017.


Here are another 200 google hits from 2006 to 2016. The tags are often just used for larger features, not every news item.

https://www.google.com/search?q=site:nytimes.com+zapatista&r...


That’s a pretty big gap


I thought so too, but another commenter here found that they were repeatedly reported on during that time, just not tagged as the main subject of the articles. (But maybe this change still does reflect a different level of editorial interest in them during that time.)


Why not?


The New York Times has an archive of news and background on the Zapatista with hundreds of articles: https://www.nytimes.com/topic/organization/zapatista-nationa...


Sure, but how many column inches did those articles occupy? And how does that compare to the number of column inches dedicated to consumer capitalist interests?! </chomsky>


Probably a lot more for the general topic and very little for the very specific topic. As one would expect.


The goalpost has now moved, and the new question is obviously impossible to answer.

It's also worth noting that "consumer capitalist interests" is a term I've never heard and, more importantly, neither has Chomsky, who never used the term.


Sort of similar to how the Mafia is thought to have arose from protection schemes for Sicily's valuable, but vulnerable lemon crop. https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/mafia-lemons-citrus-si...


Or, like, every paramilitary ruling a South American state.


Mexico is a country at civil war and in denial about it. The cartels and affiliated corrupt public officials effectively control large swaths of the country.

Yet when the central government tries to take action against them, naive people in Mexico City take to the streets to protest over civil liberties. The cartel problem is treated as one of crime, when it is really one of insurrection.

When the US had its civil war, Lincoln did what needed to be done: civil liberties were abridged, habeas corpus was suspended, secessionist state legislators were arrested, seceding states were blockaded, and Lincoln openly violated court orders demanding otherwise. Sherman’s March to the Sea had such a devastating effect on the South’s economy that it caused mass starvation among Southern civilians. The time for magnanimity and kindness came after the war, where a blanket pardon was issued on the condition of future loyalty. But until the final victory was achieved, nothing was off the table.

Mexico needs to eradicate the cancer within. Their survival as a nation-state depends on it.


> Mexico is a country at civil war and in denial about it.

No, it's a country split into trafficking fiefdoms with some violent disputes about the divisions that's in denial about that. But there's no general civil war.

> Yet when the central government tries to take action against them

The central government sometimes rearranges which traffickers are allowed which territories, which results in an upswing in violence. It rarely moves against them generally, though it uses that as the cover for shifting arrangements.

It's funny that you recognize that public officials involved with the cartels are a major factor, but somehow seem to exempt the central government.


My understanding is that while many federal politicians are also compromised, the army is mostly clean.


> the army is mostly clean.

That’s very much at odds with most of what I've seen, which is that both regional commands and the highest levels of authority in the army have shown corruption by and, especially at the regional level, direct intervention on behalf of cartels.


Mexico has no cancer within, it is the cancer. The central government is inept and corrupt, leading to the drastic measures you see here.

A revolution on the part of the Mexican people is needed, but the US will never allow such volatility so close to home. Until then, the US government is content to let the cartels and the Mexican state fight it out ad infitium.


Government statistics show avocado exports now bring more money into the country than petroleum.

https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2017/aug/06/mexico-...


mexico nationalized its oil industry and mainly uses it for internal supply (their choice), so I don't think this is a really useful comparison.


Mexico just mismanages it. They use it for Internal Supply because they have screwed up PEMEX so much they can't product enough oil for export.


Yes it's pretty crazy. They ship it to the US to be refined. Then they buy it back. Sounds like a huge bloated organization with little regards to efficiency.

Source: dated a woman who worked there.


It's recently been privatized.


Yeah, last time I visited my hometown there were British Petroleum and Arco gas stations. They were offering slightly better prices than Pemex.


IME they've also been offering better quality, at least shell. Hopefully they'll also end the widespread practice of shorting customers.


Of the civic experiments listed, this quotation from a citizen in Neza seems to hit on a core issue - human trust and particularly in those who enforce laws:

"""

Yazmin Quroz, a longtime resident, said working with police officers, whom she now knows by name, had brought a sense of community. “We are united, which hadn’t happened before,” she said. “We’re finally all talking to each other."

"""


I seem to have encountered similar notions when politicians have to face the people their decisions affect on a person to person level.


Can you elaborate?


I think this is on-topic and exemplary with regard to trust in law makers/upholders/enactor: What comes to mind is video footage from the US of local meetings of reps with constituents in the US where the meetings are filled with the frustration of the constituents at the poor and short-sighted decision making by their representatives that would significantly affect the disaffected already - e.g. any anti "Obamacare" sentiment held by and voting against such things that would benefit their communities in the long run over short-sighted possibly political corruption based / greasing the wheels of the seemingly continuous seeking re-election that officials focus on over perhaps their duties to their constituents.

So those would be examples of lack of trust or dissolving of trust emerging as the reps return home from the voting grounds of the capitol(s) to meet their constituents who are questioning the motives and decisions of their representatives who should be acting in their constituents best interested (or whatever campaign promises they used to build themselves up as electable/elected).

(Let me know if this became too abstract, I just did not research and pull examples.)


Anyone able to provide any context as to why the cartels would care about a town like this?

As far as I am able to tell, the town is not: a tourist area, on a main route to anywhere, bordering the US, etc.


The price of avocados has soared worldwide thanks to memes like avocado toast. Avocados themselves are now valuable enough for cartels. They're calling it green gold.

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-41635008

http://www.businessinsider.com/mexican-farmers-in-michoacan-...

http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2008-01-30/news/080130007...

It has now become a joke to say "échale aguacate", (throw in some avocado) to express something like "go all out" or "be a big spender".

https://pbs.twimg.com/media/CmUQfURW8AAYQpY.jpg


The bigger factor in increased avocado prices is Phytophthora Root Rot, a fungal infection which has destroyed whole orchards in many places. My father used to have a small orchard that made a little money but sadly all the trees were killed years ago.

http://ipm.ucanr.edu/PMG/r8100111.html


Retail prices have been "about a buck" since 2004

http://www.hassavocadoboard.com/retail/volume-and-price-data...

(page is javascript heavy)

They crossed 1.5 2017 dollars back then too.


From my third link: "Exports of avocados from the state of Michoacan, the top source of both the fruit and immigrants to Chicago, have risen fivefold since 2004." And that was in 2008. Mexicans are genuinely starting to be unable to afford avocado. This is decidedly bizarre to me, since it's a common staple food in Mexico. It's like hearing that potatoes are too expensive for the Irish.

I can't find accurate avocado prices worldwide, but the soaring prices over the last decade or so are easily attestable in Mexico, or at least their effects are. I think the prices have always been high in the US due to tariffs and transportation costs. So perhaps the prices haven't changed much, but the demand sure has.


Right, the increase in consumption is forcing people in producing regions to pay global prices. That's not an increase in global prices. I guess I wouldn't expect places outside the US to have particularly higher demand or prices (US is wealthy, really embraces Mexico derived cuisines).


I can assure you that in Australasia there is both high demand and high prices. Even in season, avocados are typically $2.50 ($1.80usd) each in NZ (and this is a crop that is widely grown locally).

It's worth noting that the 'smashed avo on toast' meme originated in Australia. It was a tongue-in-cheek jab at millennials who complain of being priced out of the property market but still have the temerity to visit cafes regularly.


I experienced this when I lived in Honduras, C.A. Avocados from Mexico and indigenous Honduran avocados cost the same as Canada, my country of origin. It was a shock to me as I immediately thought of the locals, however for a number of them they have their own trees that bear fruits/vegetables for them allowing them to bypass purchasing these food items.


Avocado hasn't been a "staple" in that sense. It's basically a condiment. The potato equivalent in Mexico would be nixtamal.

Otherwise, damn, it sucked to be Irish...


For anyone in the thread whose Nahuatl is a little rusty, "nixtamal" means corn (after being processed in a particular way).


I think it's more likely that many people like the taste of avocados and avocado products.


A delicious food is worthless without culutural knowledge about how to prepare it. Thus the attribution of cause to the meme, not the fruit itself, which has existed a very long time.


Doesn't one generally prepare avocado toast by ... spreading avocado on toast? And maybe adding salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes, but that doesn't seem like particularly recent cultural knowledge - you do that to all sorts of foods. It's about as complicated as putting butter on toast.


The version I’ve been eating for a couple of decades goes like this:

Good bread is key, I like olive sourdough or something chewy with grain. Layer of avocado, layer of hummus, sprinkle feta cheese, sliced tomatoes, lettuce on the side as a “chaser” and... yum.

I guess that’s “cultural” in that it’s just adding avocado to a Greek thing. I’d guess that’s the story of how a lot of people got into various new produce... add it to the familiar.


It is easy to make an egg and cheese sandwich too, yet they don’t exist in every culture. Culture is knowing you can, and knowing when the details are “wrong”.


I don't think the avocado toast meme has spawned the popularity of avocados, but rather the other way around.

Avocados have become very popular in the low-carb/paleo/"health" community, alongside coconut oil, and various other trending foods.

I don't think that people have been lacking the knowledge to put avocado on toast until a meme about millennials never being able to buy a house due to spending too much money on avocado on toast.


They're also VERY popular for baby foods these days as well for the reasons you mentioned. Lots of people are trying to avoid too much sugar for their babies.


It's popular for baby foods for the same reasons that banana is - babies like it, it's fairly nutrient-dense, and it's soft so doesn't pose a large choking risk.


Exactly. Ask any quack chiropractor and he'll tell you about the "superfood" benefits of avocado.


Also helping is the reassessment of "all fat" is bad. Similar to what we are seeing with eggs. They are making a dietary comeback.


Avacado bathrooms are a bit notorious in the UK


I think you're referring to that one M&W episode. Or are there many like that? I thought it was like thinking that every American rooms are stuck in 1970s yellow-brown color palettes based on napoleon dynamite.


I can remember that about 20 years ago at least 4 of my Aunties and Uncles had them as well as a few friends. They had well and truly fallen out of favour by the late 90s though.


Two of those articles are from 2008 - was avocado toast a meme 10 years ago?

Also, I'd read that last joke as more like a "guac is extra" joke (referencing Chipotle) in American culture, than anything about avocado production - in fact a Google Images search for "guac is extra" brings up the same dude tossing the same bills: http://weknowmemes.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/bitch-i-kn...


I was a bit facetious about avocado toast -- that's just a recent trend. Avocado has certainly become a lot more popular worldwide. Avocado toast is but one of the recent avocado recipes whose worldwide popularity has increased.

The joke in Mexican culture is about Mexican culture because avocados are becoming more expensive everywhere in Mexico, not just in some restaurant chain. Mexicans are genuinely starting to becoming unable to afford paying for avocado. The only reason the joke works in Spanish, (e.g. give me some premium gasoline and smear some avocado on it) is because a staple food is getting out of reach.


memes like avocado toast

Add some red onion, tomato, salt&pepper, and you have one of my favorite memes - lunch.


Anecdotally, I've seen the price of avocados go down, not up, since mid last year.


Well, for one thing the cartels have forced parts of the civilian population -- especially in Michoacan-- to work for them (farming poppy; processing raw opium; spies and lookouts). These people are then affected by narco inter-gang violence, since they are viewed as part of the organisation thay are forced to work for. This also explains the large number of "gang-members" killed, when the mexican state publishes numbers on the death toll of the drug war.

Another thing is a system of "taxation", narco gangs put on these people. They have to pay the taxman from the state, as well as protection money to the rackets.

For a great documentary on this topic (this and how the people are trying to defend themselvs) I can point you to "Cartel Land" -- available on Netflix.


Protection money. Cartels have more revenue streams than just drug trafficking.

At this point, cartels want to control territory to prevent rival cartels from controlling territory. Less drug gang more fiefdom


How is their protection/tax rate calculated - revenue, profit, land size, number of people?


I'd guess more likely "pay as much as you can, and a bit more".

A bit like the tax authorities in any country, but even more callous and without public scrutiny.


Pay as much as we can sustainably demand, given the political realities of this time and place.

And you are right, that is exactly what all tax authorities do. It's important to get those political realities right.


tax authorities tax based on income or value at set percentages. cartels pretty much extract what they can arbitrarily.


That made me chuckle. At least as far as the US tax code goes, our decisions about who gets taxed what amounts are just as arbitrary, we just publish the amounts further ahead of time than the mafia tax collectors.


except, you know, the mafia doesn't use the money to build bridges and fund social programs.


Funny enough, almost all forms of the mafia in fact do social works projects. Their scale has historically not been large enough to build bridges though, however they almost all fund social programs to one degree or another.

The Italian Mafia both in NY and Italy have done that. Escobar did it. Al Capone did it. Etc. One can certainly debate their reasoning for doing it of course (eg buying goodwill so they can continue their crime spree, set up an underdog appeal and so on).


True. Even terror organisations like Daesh (ISIS) or Hamas use social programs to justify what they do and attract supporters.


Tancitaro produce a lot of high quality avocados. Cartels force people into paying some money or "tax" (it depends on how wealthy the person/company is) in exchange of "protection". They can punish / kill / kidnap people when they choose not to pay [1]. The problem is not only located at that town, other areas are affected and working in the same way. The federal government do nothing to solve any of the issues, instead they pay large quantity of money for positive news [2], you don't see this kind of news on the TV. It's sad.

Source: [1]My father is from the Tancitaro town area. [2]https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/25/world/americas/mexico-pre...


I would think laundering money through the export of avocados would be quite lucrative.


It leaves the money with a distinct smell.


Because a corrupt government can be purchased as an ally but a farmer defending his family and way of life cannot?


Quietly?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/EZLN

It is fairly famous, in anarchist circles, that half of a state of Mexico consists of anarchist communes, independent from the state. It has been that way since at least 1994.


I wonder if this has to do with article I read the other day.

(From memory) there was a shooting in Acupulco a day or so ago which left like 8 dead. A local town security force arrested a guy and it turned into a gun battle. Then the feds showed up and attempted to arrest members of the local security force who fought back and some of them were killed also. It's nuts. Hope things stabilize down there. Feel awful for the people who have to put up with it all and used to really enjoy traveling in Mexico.


Acapulco is a warzone. It used to be a world renown tourist area but fell into chaos.

Search youtube for the video where cartels attack the police headquarters and hotel where they were staying.


You can't blame the people for trying to do something about corrupt government and cartel violence. Problem is the whole "meet the new boss, same as the old boss" thing.


There's an excellent documentary about one of the first break away parapolice forces called Cartel Land.


"Tancítaro represents a quiet but telling trend in Mexico, where a handful of towns and cities are effectively seceding, partly or in whole. These are acts of desperation, revealing the degree to which Mexico’s police and politicians are seen as part of the threat."

Not to say this is far along the road of chaos, but chaos is always the correcting factor to things. At the end of the day people are going to look out for their best interests no matter the official state line/laws.


Did they really "break away"?

I skimmed through the article so I may have missed something, but what I read was about how the municipal authorities took over many of the state / federal responsibilities. The last one is engaged in a turf war with the state police.

What about the federal taxes? Infrastructure projects? Salaries of the state employees?


One relevant detail was a town driving out the police force along with cartels, and replacing them with a militia.


O Americans, I would like you to keep it in mind that the only country than shares a land border with USA and is not a NATO member is Mexico.

It is generally a bad idea to have a failed state on your border, but moreover to have one that will be eager to host few Russian tank regiments.

Soviet agents were all around Mexico during cold war years, there is nothing to suggest that they were recalled after the fall of USSR.


Thanks to weakening of the state, Mexico became in my eyes largest real world implementation of libertarian paradise where in the absence of state people are left to decide what's ok and what's not. Apparently plenty of weapons used on daily basis to resolve disputes about who has the right to what is two thumbs up ok.


Depends what part of the country you're talking about. Big cities are still strict about laws, especially Mexico City.

But yes, I tell people back home all the time, in a lot of ways it feels more free here than in the US. (I'm a gringo living in Mexico)


I feel like a lot of Americans don't realize or chose not to acknowledge that most of the violence in the South and Central Americas is directly caused by the United States. The Bay of Pigs, the School of the Americas, the Iranian-Contras, the CIA supported coupe in Chile on September 11th, 1973, United Fruit Company, .. the list is as long as you want to make it.

It's intentional. The lower Americas are pushed into this state by various corporate interests in the US which are large enough to dictate policy. I've written about this before:

http://fightthefuture.org/article/america-and-the-mexican-dr...


African here. Apart from the Bay of Pigs I don't know much about the events you mention. What I can tell you in Africa similar stories are shared. All coups are allegedly plotted and carried out with support from the CIA. I am not naive enough to believe that the CIA is innocent of everything but I often wonder why my fellow Africans betray us at the behest of the CIA. I get it often there is lots of money and power at stake but it saddens me to see some of the atrocities we commit against each other. There will always be a foreign power waiting to take advantage. It could be China next or Russia.


The US is simultaneously blamed for everything bad that happens in the world politically, while receiving between zero and very little credit for anything good that has happened since WW2. If Russia annexes part of Ukraine and threatens to go further, it's the fault of the US. If Venezuela installs a Socialist military dictatorship with horrific economic ideas, it's the fault of the US (even though the US tried to stop Chavez). Meanwhile you don't see the US trying to topple Sweden, Norway, Finland, Denmark, Japan, France, etc. because of their quasi Socialist tendencies. The US hasn't tried to invade, topple or obliterate Canada because of it's far more Socialist-leaning beliefs. It's the irrational blame consequence of being the sole superpower during the post WW2 era.

Here's the reality: the US isn't even remotely as powerful or influential in about 180 of the 195 nations as the propaganda would have you believe. The US plays very little role in the affairs of most nations.

People take it to absurd extremes in trying to blame the US for anything and everything that happens, including: all poverty and crime in Latin America (but not the prosperity in Canada of course), any and all polical chaos in Africa (but not the improvements there in the last 50 years), anything in Eastern Europe that is bad (but not the dramatic increase in most standards of living there post cold war), et al.

Typically if you dig into any claims about the US doing X Y Z, you'll find the story goes dramatically beyond any influence the US had on the situation. Iran's last 40-50 year history is a classic example of that intellectual fraud (usually the false claim is put forward that the US toppled a democratically elected government, which isn't true (it was never democratically elected for one thing), and is therefore responsible for every bad decision Iran has made about installing and keeping a 40 year theocracy).


>Meanwhile you don't see the US trying to topple Sweden, Norway, Finland, Denmark, Japan, France, etc. because of their quasi Socialist tendencies.

The list of the countries the US did topple or try to topple in the 20th C because of their "quasi Socialist" (or democratic) tendencies runs into the dozens. The stories are sickening.

"While there are no freestanding foreign bases permanently located in the United States, there are now around 800 US bases in foreign countries. Seventy years after World War II and 62 years after the Korean War, there are still 174 US “base sites” in Germany, 113 in Japan, and 83 in South Korea, according to the Pentagon. Hundreds more dot the planet in around 80 countries, including Aruba and Australia, Bahrain and Bulgaria, Colombia, Kenya, and Qatar, among many other places. Although few Americans realize it, the United States likely has more bases in foreign lands than any other people, nation, or empire in history."[0]

'The US plays very little role in the affairs of most nations.' Really? So GTFO, for god's sake.

Who are these people "trying to blame the US for all poverty and crime in Latin America", "all political chaos in Africa"?

Your claims seem to me a good example of 'taking it to absurd extremes'.

[0] https://www.thenation.com/article/the-united-states-probably...


Sorry, I had to respond to your comment because it's attempting to derail parent's long list of difficulties faced by smaller weaker nations.

Basically, the US, is just another empire in the pages of history. It is not the all bright shining red white and blue in which you've been brainwashed to believe. The rest of the world certainly doesn't buy that bullshit.

Just read about United Fruit Company. It's one of the many if not hundreds of cases where US corporations became the vanguard of US foreign policy to extract economic, military, and political concessions by forcing them to go under debt (which they can't pay back).

Iran is another excellent example where Kermit Roosevelt (Grandson of Ted Roosevelt) was able to bribe and influence the prince to plot against his own father in order to extract their oil.

It's not just Iran but Indonesia and pretty much every fucking corner of the world where they are able to bribe the elite of those countries.

Did USSR do the same shit? Would they have done the same shit to the country had US not? Of course! Because they are all giant countries with continuous need for resources in order to keep their place.

So the US is just another empire but because of the nuclear threat that USSR posed, they couldn't just invade countries out right (in fact it's A) Bribe B) Assassinate/Coup C) military), so it evolved into this clandestine network of corporate interests to do what all empires do: take shit because North America wasn't enough.

It just infuriates me to see people attempting to take the moral higher ground by trying to point fingers at other countries that managed to stand their ground by building up their own fuck-you-stick. It makes me sad how ignorant some Americans can be, but can you blame them?

Literally, the same old tricks of every empire that came before it and it will be replaced by another one that will do what empires do best.


> If Russia annexes part of Ukraine and threatens to go further, it's the fault of the US.

When did Russia ever "threaten" anything like that? And do you really think Euromaidan, which was basically just Orange Revolution 2.0 [0], was in no way sponsored, motivated and financed by US gov agencies [1] and served as a primer for that whole Crimea situation? It's not like a well known National Security Advisor has spelled all this out in a book [2] or anything like that.

It's not like this information is hard to find for anybody who actually bothers to look for it [3]. That section of the Wiki article used to be its own, way more detailed Wiki page, until some Wiki editors decided it's far better suited as yet another sub-topic on US foreign policy. The scariest part being that this is only the public record, you'd be naive to think this is even remotely the whole picture.

The matter of fact is that the US has been the de-facto hegemonial power on this planet for this past century, even proudly boasting about it to anybody who would want to listen "America No1" and even those who rather wouldn't want to listen.

You can't go around boasting like this, with a well-known history like that, and then turn around and go "Actually we are not that powerful and influential, nobody really minds us and we didn't do anything of relevance".

Similarly, you can't go around willy-nilly toppling governments, regardless of them being "elected" or not, and then absolve yourself from any responsibility for everything that follows after that, that's not how history works. Iran today is what it is because of its history, said history involves a US-sponsored coup. Maybe if this whole "Russia influenced US elections" hysteria goes into overdrive you will maybe understand what something like that can do to the collective psyche of a nation and it's people.

You might not see the US trying to topple Sweden, but it's a well-established fact that US economic interests (copyright lobby in particular) have had their fair share of meddling with Swedish internal politics (piratebay), it's similarly dishonest to list Japan there because just like Germany it's a country which was rebuilt by the US with US interests in mind. Germany's constitution has far-reaching intelligence services exemptions in place for exactly that reason and it didn't stop there either [4] [5]. Yes, that last source is the world socialist network, but it's literally the only English language article I found about that particular issue, which is rather odd considering it made some big waves in Germany at that time.

Mind you: I'm not saying the US is responsible for all the bad things in the world, but trying to belittle the influence the US had, and still holds, like you just did there, comes across as extremely dishonest.

[0] https://www.theguardian.com/world/2004/nov/26/ukraine.usa

[1] http://openukraine.org/en/about/partners

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Grand_Chessboard

[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Foreign_policy_of_the_United_S...

[4] http://www.europarl.europa.eu/document/activities/cont/20140...

[5] https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2014/05/30/germ-m30.html


> I often wonder why my fellow Africans betray us at the behest of the CIA

I'll try to answer this the best I can. First know that it won't be Americans for long, China is picking up whatever the US neglected and doing the same shit. Also realize that this is how empires operate for the longest fucking time.

Literally every page of history is filled with similar methods.

Step 1) Install a puppet, give them huge "aids" or loans to buy guns, bridges, electricity, hospitals.

Step 2) The puppet and empire knows he can never pay the loan back so they ask for their natural resources or other political or military demands.

Step 3) The puppet looks at his palace, harems, horses, jewlerry its all too much to lose. In fact, life is so good for him and his family there's nothing that can possibly get in his way. Oh and his son just graduated from Harvard, must buy him a new lambo.

Step 4) National assets are slowly stripped, the elite enjoy a marvelously rich life from the arbitrage and owns much of the country which they can exchange for continued material pleasures. They look down on their poor countrymen (from which they exploited) who wonder how a leader can sell their country out.

Now what happens if you don't take the bribe and play ball with the empire? You get replaced. Suddenly riots starts to sprout up. Local media 'stumbles' upon huge corruption.

And then it becomes just how badly the puppet keep his place. So much that killing an entire generation of his countrymen do little to deter his weekend getaways to his yacht in Monaco or penthouse in NYC. What else is the alternative?

Plata O Plomo


You have articulated the problem well and that is my observation too. Is there a solution? Do we accept that the world will always have one super power at a time and the said super power will always influence what goes on in the poorer states. Is it our fate as Africans to make do as best as we can with the hand we have been dealt? If you are brave or have money is the answer to try migrate to the West? Is there enough space for all of us in the West?

I don't think the CIA is innocent but too many of my brothers and sisters are obsessed with how the west/US treat us. My opinion is that this energy would be better spent doing some introspection and being obsessed with how our government officials behave. I just feel I have more chance of influencing a few fellow Africans here than I have of influencing the CIA to act in my interests.


The only successful organization which kept US at bay was OPEC. They collectively caused a major oil shock that sent US panicking.

Similarly, the best thing for Africa is to somehow form a coalition to collectively operate on Africa's interest.

It's extremely difficult to pull off, but education is the only way forward. The more people are aware of what is happening to your country, what their leaders are doing will allow for better decision making but this is also tough in countries where the leader has all the latest tools and gadgets specifically aimed to disrupt such rebellion or threat to their powerbase.


Particularly damaging was the coup d'etat against Madero in February 1913 by US Ambassador Henry Lane Wilson.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_Lane_Wilson

It trigger one of the most violent revolutions of the 20th century, with great loses of life and economic infrastructure.


This is a little misleading. Not in that Wilson was not responsible, but in that the violence was ongoing well before his actions:

In response to this lack of action, Zapata promulgated the Plan de Ayala in November 1911, declaring himself in rebellion against Madero. He renewed guerrilla warfare in the state of Morelos. Madero sent the Federal Army to deal with the Zapata, unsuccessfully. Zapata remained true to the demands of the Plan de Ayala and in rebellion against every central government up until his assassination by an agent of President Venustiano Carranza in 1919.

The brilliant northern revolutionary general Pascual Orozco, who had helped take Ciudad Juárez for the revolutionaries, had expected to become governor of Chihuahua, a powerful position. In 1911, although Orozco was "the man of the hour," Madero gave the governorship instead to Abraham González, a respectable revolutionary, with the explanation that Orozco had not reached the legal age to serve as governor, a tactic that was “a useful constitutional alibi for thwarting the ambitions of young, popular, revolutionary leaders."[67]

Madero had put Orozco in charge of the large force of rurales in Chihuahua, but to a gifted revolutionary fighter who had helped bring about Díaz’s fall, Madero’s reward was insulting. After Madero refused to agree to social reforms calling for better working hours, pay, and conditions, Orozco organized his own army, the "Orozquistas", also called the Colorados ("Red Flaggers"). In early 1912 they rebelled against Madero, causing considerable dismay among U.S. businessmen and other foreign investors in the northern region. It was a signal to many that Madero’s government could not maintain the order that was the underpinning of modernization in the era of Porfirio Díaz.

In April 1912, Madero dispatched Gen. Victoriano Huerta of the Federal Army to put down Orozco's revolt. As president, Madero had kept the federal army intact as an institution, using it to put down domestic rebellions against his regime. Huerta was a professional soldier and continued to serve in the Federal Army under the new commander-in-chief, but Huerta's loyalty lay with General Bernardo Reyes, rather than the civilian Madero. In 1912, under pressure from his cabinet, Madero had called on Huerta to suppress Orozco's rebellion. With Huerta's success against Orozco, he emerged as a powerful figure for conservative forces opposing the Madero regime.[68]

During the Orozco revolt, the governor of Chihuahua mobilized the state militia to support the Federal Army, and Pancho Villa, a colonel in the militia, was called up at this time. In mid-April, at the head of 400 irregular troops, he joined the forces commanded by Huerta. Huerta, however, viewed Villa as an ambitious competitor. During a visit to Huerta's headquarters in June 1912, after an incident in which he refused to return a number of stolen horses, Villa was imprisoned on charges of insubordination and robbery and sentenced to death.[69] Raúl Madero, the President's brother, intervened to save Villa's life. Jailed in Mexico City, Villa fled to the United States, later to return and play a major role in the civil wars of 1913–1915.

Notably, the men who conspired against him were previously his revolutionary supporters.


Funny that you mention that. One my best friends is a direct descendant of Pascual Orozco and my Grand father was a Captain on Villa's army.

Madero was not topped by Orozco. Abraham Gonzales and Villa were always loyal to Madero.

Madero was topped by Huerta, Feliz Diaz and Bernardo Reyes who conspired with Henry Lane Wilson. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Victoriano_Huerta#Revolution


Yes, but it's pretty obvious that there were multiple parties betraying each other. Madero was only in power because of a previous coup.

It was not a stable political system. Wilson stepped into that void (and wrongly), but he did not trigger that revolution.


Madero's revolution started when it became clear that the democratic process was not working. They overthrow Diaz in just 8 months with minimal bloodshed. An election was done and Madero was democratically elected. Constitutional order had been re-established. However, as you mention, there were still revolts by Orozco and Zapata.

After Huerta's golpe is when the Bloody Civil War started. Death toll estimates are between .5 and 2 million.

Even President Woodrow Wilson was appalled by Henry Lane Wilson's assistance to Huerta's coup d'etat against Madero.


> It was not a stable political system.

And as such exactly the kind of situation which is very susceptible to external intervention/influence. For somebody with ambitions like that, it's exactly the right time to get involved to influence the outcome, while somebody with no ambitions like that would most likely not get involved and wait for it to play out "naturally" and reassess their approach after that.


The irreverent, and better, version of that story: http://www.exile.ru/articles/detail.php?ARTICLE_ID=8223


$99 for one month access? That gotta be one of the most expensive paywalls I've seen in a while.


The eXile has been defunct for a while now. Probably pays for Mark Ames' Central American retirement or whatever debts might still be owed in Russia.


Some of the violence? Sure. Most? Not even close.


What fuels all that violence? Mostly drug related shit, and the US is by far the biggest market in the region for all kinds of drugs, not to mention the historic influence of e.g. the CIA in the drug smuggling. In exchange for drug money, US weapons end up in South America (what else is to be expected when one can buy AR-15s in Wal-Marts?!).

So therefore it is legitimate to blame the US for most (or even all) violence in South America.


The US drug market makes things shittier on the margin, but it is not the main cause. If they stopped buying drugs the gangs would fight over the control of some other resource.

For example, the town of Tancítaro became prosperous (and therefore valuable for organized crime) because they grow lots of avocados. The US doesn't fight a war against avocados.


The reason drug traffickers are billionaires is that they are drug traffickers. In the absence of that, they would have no money and no power.


They're rich because they have a large organization capable of carrying out organized crime. They're also do extortion, kidnapping, pimping, and anything else they can think of to make money.


Yeah but the most money can be done by dealing with drugs. Extortion or the other stuff is small fish compared to drugs - it's a pest for the small businesses but in the end it's passed on to customers. Pimping is vile but can be helped against by empowering sex workers, and the number of whores on the streets should be identical even after an end of drug criminality.... after all, the number of customers in a city should remain constant (if not shrink a bit because the gang-financed customers vanish).


You are assuming prostitution is driven by demand-side concerns alone (or that eliminating trafficking gangs has no effect on the supply side.) Trafficking gangs using addiction to trap people into prostitution is not unknown, so eliminating criminal trafficking gangs should have supply-side impacts as well.


I was thinking about the angle "the drug trade vanishes, so the gangs will drift into pimping" - which is, imho, not really valid since where prostitution is illegal, the gangs are already in pimping and the supply/demand is more or less matched, so there are no new profits to be made there.


Yeah, it's amazing, the way to keep criminals out of any industry, is to make that industry legal...


Do you think they'd just shrug their shoulders and go home and be poor?


Some violent predatory thugs die. Some go to prison. Some get old and chill out. Some remain violent predatory thugs. They all run through cash pretty quick, though, so when American drug users start buying their drugs from normal nonviolent firms, the violent predatory thugs will be poor.

Since they don't know any reputable trades, some problems with protection rackets etc. will remain for years. No one will be perverse enough to blame those echos of The Drug War on the fact that we finally decided to end it. What, did you think that narcos are somehow representative of Mexican national character? They most certainly are not.


Please source the claim that the legal purchase of firearms by US citizens from FFLs, such as Walmart, is a significant contributor to the presence of firearms in Central America.

Because other than botched ATF stings, I haven't heard any claims of this previously.


> Please source the claim that the legal purchase of firearms by US citizens from FFLs, such as Walmart, is a significant contributor to the presence of firearms in Central America.

For example, one study is at https://nacla.org/article/small-arms-trade-latin-america.

> The U.S.-Mexican border is also a central route through which illicit small arms enter Latin America. A study released by the Mexican government suggests that as many as 2,000 guns are crossing the U.S.-Mexico border daily. As in Colombia, these guns are fueling an arms race, in this case between Mexican drug cartels, costing the lives of 4,000 people in 18 months.14 Weapons, including assault rifles like AK-47s, AR-15s, and M-16s, fetch up to three times their U.S. market value in Mexico, assuring a continued southward flow of weapons.


Exceedingly small numbers of civilians hold M-16s legally in the US. If there are M-16s going over the border the source is military or law enforcement.


> Exceedingly small numbers of civilians hold M-16s legally in the US.

M16s are only a part of the problem. AR15s and ordinary 9mm handguns can be had in Walmarts or "conveniently" bought without any background checks/documentation on private sales.

I mean, I understand the appeal on having a 9mm at home for self defense, and a hunting rifle for, well, hunting - but having AR15 or worse for everyone at a supermarket? And then the ability to sell 'em on without any record of the transferral? I don't get the US on gun rights sometimes.


There's violence across the region, even in countries that have little or nothing to do with the drug trade. Bad governance is more responsible for violence than anything the US has ever done in countries like Venezuela and Argentina.


The US has its faults, but it didn't invent crime, corruption or stupidity.

And there is no corporate interest that wants mass killings and kidnappings.


Well, except the defense industry.

The guys who sell you x-ray machines and bomb sniffing dogs and private security services.

And the companies who build military tanks, planes, and ships.

And the companies that build guns, body-armor and night vision goggles.

And the ones that want you to be scared because scared people are easy to manipulate.

Oh, that stuff represents a shit-ton of the federal budget? Weird. I guess it's just a really dangerous world, nothing to be done about it...


The parts of the defense industry you listed are the parts that benefit most from arms races between well funded nation states and proxy wars.

Basic hardware is cheap. Anyone can make it and that drives down price. The Mexican police can buy cheap guns and bullets from whoever they want. Stuff like radar systems and guided missiles are what makes it into the highlights list of the quarterly all hands.


9/11 (an incident of mass murder) caused the US to invade Iraq and Afghanistan, surely that sold enough guided missiles, attack helicopters and radar systems to make the quarterlies for a few years.

It also sold a ton of those bomb search machines and led to a couple of huge wings of the government (NSA and TSA).

Cheney's Haliburton stock being a singular example of this type of violence being beneficial to certain corporate interests.

People with power and money are much more cynical that we'd like to believe.


>People with power and money are much more cynical that we'd like to believe.

Than you'd like to believe. I have no illusions.


Indeed, I would personally prefer to live in the world where our leaders are idealists trying to make the world a better place rather than war-profiteers.


I'd prefer to live in the world with fewer leaders, each of whose leadership is inflicted on fewer of his fellow human beings.


Oh man, you'd be surprised. Historically, at the global scale, war's biggest driver has tended to be economics.

African enslavement anyone?


Remington, Ruger, Smith & Wesson, Glock, etc. I'm sure are making boatloads of cash from this instability.


You may notice the US is full of guns despite a lower crime rate. That's clearly the model they want, as they keep lobbying to maintain it. Very high crime rates are likely a problem from their point of view, as it tends to lead to weapons restrictions.


Naw, the struggle was already there. Yankee just backed a side. Which wasn't doesn't make it OK but you can't blame every problem in the world on the CIA. The CIA simply isn't that efficient.


This isn't even remotely correct. It's just a... U.S.-centric way of thinking.

Violence -- political violence -- was endemic in the 60s and 70s in Latin America, and that was not because of the U.S. The U.S. didn't get involved in, say, Chile, until 1973, and even then, while Nixon supported Pinochet at first, Kissinger did tell Pinochet to cool it. Carter did not support the Argentine "Proceso" either. You can say what you want about the School of the Americas, but the Argentines had a long long history of political violence going back to pre-WWI days. The U.S. had NOTHING to do with Perón, nor with the coup against him in 1955, nor with any of the succession of civilian governments and military coups that followed it, nor with the peronist violence.

Political violence greatly cooled off in Chile, Brazil, and Argentina after the experience of the 70s. Not -mind you- because dirty war killed the violent (dirty war was awful and a failure) but because people just got tired of the violence. For example, in 1983 Argentina had free elections again after 7 years of dirty war, and they voted for the normal guy rather than for the radical leftist put up by the peronists. Then for each successive economic crisis (they're like clockwork down there) there was... no violence -- nothing remotely like the violence of the 60s and 70s.

Now, I'm focusing on Argentina, and you might say they're unique, but I don't think so. The story is not the same throughout Latin America in terms of detail, but writ large it kinda is: the 60s and 70s were a violent time. In Central America the violence went on much longer, and in part that is because Cuba and the USSR stoked it. Now that the USSR is gone and Cuba/Venezuela on their heels, violence in Central America is down a lot -- especially in Colombia, where a clean war defeated the communist guerillas and the narcos.

It would be much more interesting to study why political violence was so endemic in Latin America in the 60s and 70s, and later still in Central America. But as it's very popular to blindly blame it all on the U.S., I fear there's too little interest -- the narrative that "the evil U.S. what done it" must be too appealing, facile though it is.


Its ironic that you say parent is thinking like American yet you are doing exactly that.

The US like USSR used ideological excuses to prop up dictators who goes into heavy debt from buying weapons, infrastructure etc.

When they can't pay it back (not all country is Saudi Arabia), they must give in to US demands, not directly of course because that would directly implicate US but through US corporations.

In return these dictators enjoy their power, material perks and send their offsprings to the elite military academies in America where they learn the latest in torture and warfare tactics to keep their father's opponents at bay (so they can keep all the cool toys).

Would it kill you to admit that possibly, that US is not exactly innocent or uninterested (as you say) in South America or any other parts of the world? Would it anger you that this imperial economic system was created to benefit the elite in your own country while letting the poor barely afford the luxuries that even other smaller countries have such as national health care?

I'd understand what you are saying if the average American were the intended benefactors of this global imperialism but you are not. You are just saying exactly what you've been programmed to say because admitting the truth is too painful. Similarily for Russians or Chinese, everyone is going around defending the elite of their country, for what? National pride? How patriotic would you be when you realize your own leaders don't give a fuck about you?

It's time to wake up and realize, we are living in the same feudal society which we were sure was over. I don't even care that it's Americans. Yesterday it was Britain. It could be China doing the same shit tomorrow. It could be Russia or India. It doesn't matter. All we can do is just acknowledge and try to think independently! I'm not even saying everyone get their pitchforks and start a revolution. It's just a slow step to eroding that mountain of ignorance now even bigger thanks to information overload.


I only blame Cuba/USSR for violence in Central America. Others blame the U.S. for all of it. There's a big difference. It's very clear that Cuba/USSR were involved in a number of conflicts in Central America in the 80s, but they really were not directly involved in South America -- sure, they had sympathizers, and I'm sure they lent a hand to a number of groups, but not enough to make a big enough difference. The key thing is: political violence in Latin America was endemic long before the Cold War.


>The U.S. didn't get involved in, say, Chile, until 1973

This isn't even remotely correct. The US began expanding its influence in South America (Chile included) around the early 1800s.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_intervention_i...

South America has been getting plundered by empires for centuries, the US is just the most recently successful one to do so.


Most of that seems like not much of anything. I made a very specific claim: that political violence was endemic in Latin America before 1973, and that the U.S. did not cause that violence. You did nothing to refute it.


>violence was endemic in Latin America before 1973, and that the U.S. did not cause that violence

I must still be misunderstanding; you're saying US interests have had no involvement with the violence in South America before 1973? If so that is assuredly false.

"I spent 33 years and four months in active military service and during that period I spent most of my time as a high class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism. I helped make Mexico and especially Tampico safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street. I helped purify Nicaragua for the International Banking House of Brown Brothers in 1902-1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for the American sugar interests in 1916. I helped make Honduras right for the American fruit companies in 1903. In China in 1927 I helped see to it that Standard Oil went on its way unmolested. Looking back on it, I might have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate his racket in three districts. I operated on three continents."

-Major General Smedley Butler, War is a Racket (1935)


Americans had zero to do with political violence in Argentina prior to 1976, and going back decades.


It was mostly the Spanish, French, and British empires instigating violence in Argentina up until then, when the US joined the party with the Dirty War.


The book Inside the Company is the diary of a CIA officer in Uruguay and El Salvador during the late 60s and early 70s. He specifically recounts times where he allowed/encouraged the local police to torture dissidents, and how he helped fund the anti-Allende campaigns before 1973.

This primary source shows that the CIA was encouraging political violence before 1973.


The example I'm most familiar with (because I grew up there), Argentina, was violent through and through for many many decades, long before 1976. The U.S. absolutely had nothing to do with violence in Argentina prior to 1976. Carter did not support the military in Argentina either, nor did they need his support. They would have killed 30,000 people with or without external support because it's what they wanted and had the means to do (it doesn't take much!).

But more than that, the violence stopped in the 80s. As horrible as the dirty war was, one thing changed in its aftermath: there was no further appetite for political violence afterwards. It's certainly NOT the case that all who liked violence met a violent end during the dirty war. What happened was that there was a noticeable -impossible to miss!- "enough!" feeling throughout Argentine society in 1983. How do you square that with "the U.S. what done it"?! I don't think you can.


How do you respond to Noam Chomsky?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NKwJI9axblQ


Chomsky pretty regularly exaggerates his positions regarding politics. For a long time he was defending the Venezuelan government. He has popular appeal in a lot of communities, but his expertise is linguistics not politics.

No objective historian would say that the US is responsible for all or most of the violence in South America, nor that it has been innocent. The violence is not due to the US but rather is largely a result of the divide between the landholding elites and poor and the economic/social system the Spanish set up.

To add to their examples, political violence was common in Mexico from 1900 onwards, and that was largely self-inflicted.


Funny you bring up political violence in Mexico from 1900 onwards.

Mexico had a revolution at the beginning of the century. It lasted 3 years at first, and then the US ambassador was involved in the murder of the President, which extended the violence for at least another 4 years.

Mexico has a cartel problem now. It also happens to have in its northern neighbour the biggest consumer demand for drugs in the world. And said neighbour will rather export its problem and fund a war south of the border with billions of dollars, torture training and illicit arms smuggling [1], than address its public health issue.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mérida_Initiative#Criticism


Mostly by ignoring him.


have you ever heard the falsehood that "my ignorance is as good as your knowledge?"


Your ideas are intriguing to me, and I wish to subscribe to your newsletter.


Scroll up. I gave a lengthy (for HN) exposition on why the U.S. is not to blame for Latin American violence of the past. The answer I got was a change of topic: what do I think of what Chomsky has to say? Asking me that is just a way to ignore the points I made.


Please don't post unsubstantive comments here, even when someone else has done so. It only makes the thread even worse.



Its crazy that one of the most dysfunctional third world countries borders the most powerful and prosperous. Weird huh?


Mexico's history is really complex, way before the US was a thing, New Spain (today's Mexico) was heading to become one of the most powerful and prosperous regions. It was right in the center between Asia and Europe, New Spain's silver currency was used in both continents as exchange currency, New Spain along with the whole Spanish Empire had to fight British pirates in our seas, there were expeditions to Alaska to prevent Russian colonizations in our territory, the first universities in The Americas were born here. But then the Spanish Empire collapsed, just at the moment when the US emerged strong. US governors did the best for their people and took advantage of this collapse, implementing strategies like the Monroe Doctrine, controlling the whole region. I'm not trying to justify our current situation or blaming the US for all our problems, but it is impossible denying the US has had a big part in Mexico's current state (losing half of the territory in the US-Mexico war, influencing in elections, empowering certain groups and fighting others, and more recently giving tons of guns and money to the cartels).


Mexico is really not that dysfunctional. Mexico is not even third world.

We just hear a disproportionate of news from Mexico because of how close it is.


On one side, I [selfishly, unfairly] like that Americans are conditioned by the media to be so scared of Mexico. I almost never see other Americans here. I meet a lot of people day to day who just haven't spoken to an American that wasn't a Mexican-American. Those experiences are some of the most interesting you can have when traveling.

But on the other side, that's not healthy for the people of either country. For example, I regularly meet Mexicans that think Americans hate them. And comments from the people who post in /r/the_donald regularly have me shaking my head muttering "poor sheltered bastard."

Even HN commenters will talk about how they want to pull the trigger on leaving their boring office job and move to Chiang Mai, but that's a pretty incredible move. It's far away and with a much different culture and language, which is a cool thing but increases the chances that you just won't do it.

Meanwhile I'd say I have a pretty exotic lifestyle living on nothing and I'm just a 2 hour flight from my family in Austin.


Mexico, which is not part of NATO and not subject to Russian hegemony, is by definition part of the Third World [0].

Colloquially, judging by its per capita GDP [1] and intentional homicide rate [2] it seems to fit right in with what people think of when they use the term "Third World".

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Third_World

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_GDP_(PPP)...

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_intention...


its just sensationalist nonsense.


Not really, they have always been more dysfunctional. The southern border of the U.S. is basically there to separate America from that dysfunction.

Now, for what it's worth, the dysfunction is far less pronounced further away from the border. It's quite a developed country, aside from the sorts of places where you can be raped and murdered for criticizing the wrong people. This is largely despite the state though, which is why you'll probably see more secession.


Gee, I wonder if having the largest consumer of drugs on the northern border contributes to this dysfunction.

That same northern neighbour whose ambassador is attributed as having a key role in the assassination of the ideological leader and president after the last revolution, and brought the country back into 4 more years of violence and fighting [1].

Or that same northern neighbour who swept in and took almost half its land after Mexico had just come out of a war against Texas and another against France.

Historically the US has been the prime benefactor of not only Mexico, but all of Latin America being dysfunctional, which is why the CIA has been involved in destabilizing the region for years.

[1]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_Lane_Wilson


Agreed. Most Americans are unaware how destabilizing US policies have been to Latin America in general. From toppling democratically elected leaders, to supporting corrupt murderous regimes during the cold war.


they are truly disgusting.


Who/what is? The Mexican government? The cartels?


That sentence might make some sense and be arguably relevant if you replaced “third” with “first”. (As written, it suggests that the most powerful and prosperous third world nation is bordered by the most dysfunctional third world nation, and that this is somehow relevant to a story about Mexico, which is, for starters, not a third world nation.)


yr right they are a very stable and egalitarian power house.


This is such an interesting question so I made a blogpost about it: https://medium.com/@kwbil/the-poor-are-shunned-even-by-their...


Yeah Canada must hate having us so close.


nice


Sad to read. The US has a big problems, but nothing like the total breakdown of order that seems to have occurred in Mexico. It's an enormous humanitarian crisis, and our response is to build a wall. No, we should legalize drugs, and undermine the economic power of the cartels. I'd love it if someone more familiar with Mexican culture could explain the nature of almost universal institutional corruption.


There have been walls along the US/Mexico border for decades, not to mention other international borders.

To even implicitly imply that some causal relationship between border security (irrespective of how effective you think a wall is to this end) and Mexico's inability to govern itself is highly misleading.


Why not both? Why can't we have strong border security and legalize drugs? I'm hoping with the recent Sessions announcement that he will be enforcing federal law in states where marijuana is "legal" that will put pressure on congress to legalize it. Or at least repeal all federal laws on it and truly leave it up to the states.

This is a pretty good short video about how building a wall can help Mexicans. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VLv8Z6bsI24


It looks like you've been using HN primarily for ideological and political arguments. That's actually an abuse of the site, and we eventually ban accounts that do it. See https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html.

HN's core value is intellectual curiosity. That's the first casualty in ideological battle—actually it evaporates before the battle even begins—so we have to be proactive about this. If you'd please read the site guidelines and also https://news.ycombinator.com/newswelcome.html and take the spirit of this site to heart, we'd appreciate it.


Ah, I was afraid of this. I wasn't really intending on starting flame wars or anything. They are just the posts I feel I have something to add. I'll attempt to diversify my comments.


reading through your history there is an obvious bias in who you choose to say this to based on your personal ideology. not to mention your various strictly ideological and political submissions. disappointing as that seems like an abuse of the guidelines and your power.


People's image of HN mods' political bias is entirely predictable from their own ideological affiliation. Strong rightists think we (and HN itself) lean left, strong leftists think we (and HN) lean right. Since the conclusions you all draw are so contradictory, I don't think these charges have much informational value—at least not about us. There's clearly a cognitive bias at work here.

If you don't believe me, here are some quite typical posts that run the contrary direction to yours:

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=16019694

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=15307091

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=15034119

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=14529468

These people are having the same reaction as you are, they just start from the opposite end of the football field.

That doesn't mean we're magic centrists in a centrist fairyland. It means the situation is affected by other factors, some of which aren't obvious. If you want to look at this objectively you have to work to suspend your own political feelings, which is not easy to do and not something many people want to.


this isn't a mathematical proof. a few counter-examples are easy to create. i looked pretty comprehensively at your history and i think the bias is beyond obvious.

> If you want to look at this objectively you have to work to suspend your own political feelings, which is not easy to do and not something many people want to.

And something I think you have failed at doing. (As you believe of me, so I guess agree to disagree.) However, you are the one bringing it up in a moralistic and pedantic way from a position of power as a moderator.


LOL. You guys do an excellent job overall but you are in tech in the Bay Area no? An area where gravity is different and the poles are reversed. Where whirlpools spin backwards. An area unlike any other. In an international industry filled with young, intelligent, usually college educated people.

And, if the above is correct it's totally fine. Almost every community will have a majority opinion and the cool part is that the staff at HN doesn't let it get too far out of control. And I have seen posts complaining about large numbers of "fascists" on HN for instance which blew my mind, but apparently it is largely a matter of perspective.

Incidentally, I keep saying this and people don't apparently agree, but not everything fits neatly in boxes of left and right. My belief is that people who are really thinking will find, given time that they don't eternally fit neatly in either category.


Both good suggestions. Personally, I wouldn't mind leaving legalization up to the states, similar to gambling.

The problem with increased border security is, in my view, is that big federal security apparatuses (apparati?) are security contractor cash-cows engaged in security theater. The DHS in general and the TSA in particular are cases in point. In other words, I don't think government should be a meat-grinder into which you feed people you don't like. a) false positives are far too frequent, and b) literally no-one deserves to be put into "the system" as it stands. Maybe if the justice system were reformed, maybe if politicians (particularly the GOP) showed some adherence to actual values instead of tribal, angry populism, I could get behind that.


In general I agree, especially with the TSA. I'm not a fan of the amount of foreign intervention we do. Such as in Syria, it is sad to see how terrible things are there, but I have no idea how it is of any strategic importance to our country. I'd much rather we just let Russia do as they see fit considering it is much more in their interest to stabilize the region than it is ours. It is akin to Russia intervening in Venezuela.

That said, borders are what makes a country. If you cannot do something so basic as controlling who comes into your country, it would be pretty difficult to call yourself a sovereign nation. So I think that should be a much higher priority in terms of national defense than interfering in conflicts thousands of miles away.

Since I'm quite libertarian, I'm not a huge fan of government action in general. However, I do see a role for government and defending the borders of the country from foreign invasion (which is essentially what illegal immigration is) should be the government's highest priority as it is the most basic role of government.

While it has become a meme, building a wall, at least along the easiest places to cross, would make the job for our border guards much easier. It would also have maintenance costs, but if we do it right it very well could be worth it in the long run. Especially if you take into consideration how many government resources illegal immigrants take away from the rest of the population.

A little anecdote I saw a while back during the "immigrant day of absence" to show how necessary "immigrants" (that term is very muddied since people insist on lumping legal and illegal immigrants into the same bucket) are a lot of kids didn't show up for school. A teacher tweeted about it saying how much easier class was that day because of how many fewer students there were to teach. So to some people that day had the opposite effect as to what was intended by the organizers.

Anyway, no other country on the face of the planet are as courteous and welcoming as the US is to people who aren't in their borders legally. I do not see us owing them anything, and while they do have certain rights, we shouldn't treat them like cockroaches, they have broken our laws and should be dealt with in the same way we would deal with any of our own citizens who would break the law. In addition to being deported at the end of their confinement.

As for criminal justice reformation, I more or less agree, depending on what you are referring to since that's quite the broad statement. Ending the war on drugs would be a great thing. But I see a lot of our problems to be more societal and stemming from illegitimate children, fatherless homes, than any other single source.


> I have no idea how it is of any strategic importance to our country

It is of strategic importance because Assad was about to start selling oil in another currency than the USD. The moment the USD stops being the main oil trade currency the monetary bubble will explode just as it did in the late 60s (after which the current petrodollar system was instituted) and america won't be able to run on printing money anymore.


Congress is going to do diddly squat about legalization while the GOP runs the place.


Let's be fair here. How much did Democrats do when they controlled the House, Senate and White House?

These arguments are popular when someone's preferred party is out of power, but reality is that there is a bipartisan opposition and bipartisan support for legalization. About 28% of Democrats oppose legalization, while 30% of Republicans support legalization. The numbers are actually fascinating. [1]

For example, Hillary Clinton was all over the 1994 crime bill that her husband signed into law -- with a Democrat Congress (Republicans didn't actually take the majority until Jan 1995 after sweeping the 1994 midterm elections.[2] She promoted the law, she supported it. She even famously called African American young men "super predators" -- while stumping for Bill Clinton on the 1996 campaign trail. That super predators line came when Hillary was trumpeting the success of the 1994 crime bill. [3]

So to imply that "Congress is going to do diddly squat about legalization while the GOP runs the place" -- that's intellectually dishonest.

And the reason I mention Hillary Clinton is because the implication with these sorts of comments is that Democrats would legalize if Trump and the GOP weren't in power. Since Hillary was the alternative, her background is very relevant.

[1] http://iop.harvard.edu/survey/details/political-issue-mariju... [2] https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/apr/15/bill-c... [3] http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2016/aug/...


Dems haven't had a filibuster-proof majority in decades, and spent all their capital during the obama years on healthcare reform. Legal weed wasn't happening back then.

If Clinton was president, they would have most likely kept the Obama-era policy rather than reverse it after multiple states voted for legalization


You say that. I'm not so sure, and I'll make no predictions. But when the Republican Congress decriminalizes marijuana ahead of the mid-terms, I'll be back to check what you have to say then. I think these guys have the power to think outside the box and surprise you.

I agree with grandparent that Sessions' action will tend to increase pressure for federal decrim., and that might even be Sessions' (and/or President Trump's) goal.

What would the effect of Federal decriminalization be on the mid-terms? Don't you think it would help Republicans? Do you think they don't think so? Of course they think so.

I don't know if it will pass, but my guess is that a reasonable bill would decriminalize marijuana possession and trade, but would keep it illegal for interstate commerce (this would be a sop to those States that want to keep it criminalized). Sort of like the 21st Amendment, but as a statute. Such a compromise would help Republicans in States where legalization is popular and... would not hurt them in States where it is not. It would also help with the federalist types.

This should all be blindingly obvious. The only reason I wouldn't make a prediction is that Republicans sure know how to shoot their feet off.


The theory that a party that has consistently screamed bloody murder for the last 60 years about anything that even smells like toning down the war on drugs or carceral state is somehow playing 1000 dimensional political chess and cracking down on drugs because of their secret plan to legalize them is... well, how do I put this... wildly speculative?

Do you think your theory is really more likely than this being Sessions simply doing exactly what he's explicitly said he has wanted to do every single moment of his entire adult life, crack down on people who use pot?

Crushing states where pot is legal will lose them the most heavily blue seats that they would never win anyway, but why should they care? It will give their base what they say they want whenever you ask them, the thing that they want most, that drives them to the polls. It is an assault in a culture war against the smug, pot-smoking coastal elites and despised pot-smoking minorities, hippies, college kids. Perhaps they see the drug war for what it is, for how it was designed: not a war on drugs, but a war on the demographic groups of people who tend to use them. And that's why they support it.

At best, I'd see them allowing a vote on it then let their vulnerable reps in purple/blue states vote yes but make sure it fails anyway: "I'm on your side, I promise, see, I tried".


> But when the Republican Congress decriminalizes marijuana ahead of the mid-terms

With what votes, and what leadership?

The entirety of the GOP house leadership opposes any form of legal cannabis. Messer, the policy committee chair, even opposes medical cannabis for vets prescribed by their VA doctor and residing in states where medical cannabis is legal.

Concretely, which GOP representatives do you think will vote for decriminalization? I'm incredulous, but curious to hear a rational argument that this is a remotely reasonable expectation.


I can't make a "rational argument" about what people I don't know might do. I am saying that it's very much in their interest and that I would not be surprised if they do it. How about we check in here again when it happens / fails to happen?


Just because they have a rational interest tells you nothing about the probability. It's a little rude to throw out a bold claim ('when the Republican Congress decriminalizes marijuana ahead of the mid-terms' as if that were highly probable) and then suggest tabling the discussion when you get refuted.

Sure, if you think they should do it, totally valid opinion. Talking as they are going to implies knowing something that everyone else doesn't, which is why you're being challenged about it.


You could say I'd have a rational interest in becoming a doctor because I'd stand to make on average 300k a year. I won't do it for other reasons which aren't pondered.

It's easy to make something look rational when you pick and choose axioms. The republicans don't have a rational interest in decriminalization because their financial backers don't want it, and they have moral qualms about it since 100 years of government lies convinced them it's the devil's plant.


There are already walls at the border where it makes sense. Do you want a wall separating Texas from the Rio Grande?


What I've seen are short fences at best. Barely enough to stop a paraplegic. Gates are possible to build, not to mention a lot of the Rio Grande wouldn't need anything built near it because of the natural geography and the sheer cliffs that are practically unscalable.


Has anyone done a survey to determine if there's broad congressional support for the legalization of cannabis?


Yes. Gallup does this ever year. It's been over 60% for the last two years[1].

[1] http://news.gallup.com/poll/221018/record-high-support-legal...


American support for legalization != congressional support for legalization, see https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2016/09/29/meet-...


In order to make the most of your travels, you need to first understand that, throughout much of the Third World, there is a smoothly functioning “system” in place that has evolved over centuries. From the First World perspective it is a “corrupt” system, and indeed, at the higher levels there is no other word for it, and this blog’s purpose is to remove the brutality and horror of such high level corruption. At the lower levels, however, the system contains an element of grace and humanity, and this lower lever is all that most people will ever encounter. You might still call this lower level “corruption”, but that’s not a helpful word if you want to acquire the most effective attitude for dancing with it. I prefer “negotiable”. It focuses the mind on the true task at hand when dealing with officialdom and removes any unpleasant subconscious connotations. So if you can view the following tools and tips as negotiation guidelines it will help bring the necessary smile to your face when the situation requires one.

Source: http://www.whoismcafee.com/the-travel-guide/


I have been to enough developing countries to know that "the system" does not work.

It's just a bunch of jackbooted thugs, who got lucky for some reason and somehow became police officers, extorting money from everyone because of some arbitrary state power entrusted in them.

I've seen cops in Vietnam make hundreds of dollars a day in bribes, when the average Vietnamese person makes $5 per day. Sure, they're making a lot of that bribe money from tourists, but I can guarantee you that they're not reinvesting that money in the local community.

There is no grace and humanity in these systems. It's greed, it's capitalism at its most pure, if you have the money, you can do whatever you want, as long as you don't draw the ire of the powers that be. It is not a fair system, the poor just get fucked over harder, why is the government worker going to process your paperwork faster when the person next to you is willing and able to pay more to get it done?


I never would have imagined someone idealizing third world corruption. Shits corrupt and prevents these places from developing functioning institutions and governance; the first world used to have the same type of arrangement until stable democratic institutions took over. Pretending its some stable existence is a weird idealization of a shitty scenario.


John Mcaffe isn't really idolizing it. His guide is explaining to otherwise hapless western tourists.

Of course since he wrote this he had to return to America to flee a murder investigation so you should take everything he says with a grain of salt.


He's far from the first to do so, although Ashis Nandy had different reasons

https://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/the-nandy-affair




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