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All Reason.com articles with the "Mexico" tag.



Published: Sun, 17 Dec 2017 00:00:00 -0500

Last Build Date: Sun, 17 Dec 2017 17:42:10 -0500

 



Mexican Radio in Los Angeles Crashes—And Down With It Comes An Anti-Immigrant Fable

Fri, 08 Dec 2017 11:22:00 -0500

"Spanish-Language Broadcasters Take a Fall," read a front-page headline in the December 3 edition of the Los Angeles Business Journal. In just the past year, according to the accompanying article, the audience share of Spanish-language radio stations in the L.A. market fell two points, from 21.6 to 19.4, while their English-language counterparts saw an increase from a 56 to 58 share. It was a "dramatic drop for several outlets that spent years at or near the top," according to the paper. One of the big factors: a "shift in preferences among younger listeners in Spanish-speaking communities for English-speaking media." The story hasn't gotten much traction outside of media circles. But it's a big one in the continued assimilation saga of Mexicans in the United States. And it's one giant chinga tu madre to anti-immigrant types who have spent the last 25 years decrying the Mexican takeover of "American" airwaves in Southern California. One of their main proofs that unassimilable, backwards Mexican culture had taken over the Southland is the continued switchover of crappy pop and adult alternative stations to Latino formats. First they flooded our schools, then they took over welfare. Now their tuba music is all over the dial, and it probably plays hidden messages about how to sacrifice gringos with an obsidian knife! But L.A. radio station owners don't flip formats because of Reconquista, but because it makes business sense. Mexicans, like all people, are consumers. And Mexicans change their tastes as well—you know, like other people. So the industry keeps evolving. This is a story I've had the advantage of growing up in. I remember a January 6, 1993, Los Angeles Times story that reverberated across the country. KLAX-FM 97.9 ("La Equis"—The X) had topped the local Arbitron ratings with a formula used by all stations in the United States for decades: genius marketing, wisecracking on-air personalities, and a hot new genre that set it apart from rivals. Except this time, the language was Español. And the music was Mexican. KLAX's victory was so unexpected that classic rock station KLSX 97.1 "expressed concern" to the Times "that some of their audience may have gotten the call letters mixed up and that those listeners may have been attributed [in the Arbitron ratings] to KLAX." It was a line repeated by Howard Stern, who saw his reign as king of the L.A. airwaves toppled by what he dismissed as "some Mexican station." (KLAX, the Times reported, responded by sending Stern "a funeral wreath with a note reading: 'Thanks for helping us remain No. 1.'") KLAX's win started a good 15 years of Spanish-language domination of the Southern California airwaves, as other stations emerged to take turns at the top. The same began to happen across the United States. Smart programmers took advantage of changing demographics, and Mexican-Americans no longer ashamed of their ethnic background (see: Linda Ronstadt recording a mariachi album in 1987) wanted to listen to genres like banda sinaloense, pasito duranguense, and rock en Español that were previously available in el Norte only live or on pirated CDs. The influence of Spanish-language radio in the United States reached its peak in 2006, when DJs from across the country set aside their rivalries and urged their respective listeners to take to the streets in support of amnesty; the resulting protest marches were the largest in American history until the Women's March earlier this year. I remember this era well. My cousins and I had all grown up with the music of our parents and liked it enough, but we never thought of it as cool. KLAX changed all that. Suddenly, my older cousins went to quinceañeras decked out in tejanas (Stetsons), silk shirts, and cintos piteados (leather belts with arabesque designs). I'll spare you the visuals of me dressed like this as a gawky 13-year-old nerd, but I can say this: All along, we primarily spoke English and listened to hip hop at home. To anti-immigrant zealots, our choice of music and dress became further proof of the Mexican menace. Their laws dr[...]



Chicano Yaktivists Be Damned; Regular Mexicans Are Wild for Coco, Disney

Wed, 29 Nov 2017 11:00:00 -0500

Pixar's Day of the Dead-themed Coco was the biggest movie in the United States over the Thanksgiving holiday. The CGI flick gets Mexican culture right yet crosses over to the mainstream with muy Disney messages about the importance of family and finding your own way—¡AJUA! It's already the top-grossing film ever in Mexico, beating that other paragon of mexicanidad, The Avengers. But it also unwittingly reveals two inconvenient truths about "regular" Mexicans that the Chicano Left will never admit. Regular Mexicans—that is to say, the vast majority of Mexican Americans, like my cousins who live and breathe Raiders and Dodgers and are too busy working to give a shit about cultural appropriation and other issues that obsess the political left—will gladly support corporations they feel do right by them. And the corollary to that is even when a complaint is legit, the masses won't get up in arms just because aggrieved activists tell them to. For decades, the Mouse has been a cucuy (the Latin American version of the bogeyman) for Chicano intelligentia. Famous artworks have imagined Mickey as an Aztec sacrifice, as smiling witness to the genocide of Native Americans or as what the New York Times described as an "imperialist icon." Chicano Studies types have long griped over the 1944 live-action cartoon The Three Caballeros for its supposed "commodification of the Latina body" and its simplification of a Mexican rooster character as a "bandito" (never mind that Panchito Pistoles is Donald Duck's pal in the film). I remember a class at UCLA I took in the early 2000s that taught us that the following scene in Pixar's A Bug's Life was a dog whistle for Americans to freak out about the Reconquista. Why? Because it happened in a mosquito cantina! src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/VLbWnJGlyMU" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" width="560" height="340" frameborder="0"> Disney in the Chicano Left imagination stands for everything evil about the United States: corporate, capitalistic, ignorant of Mexican traditions at best and blatantly racist at worst. The company has deserved such criticisms: In 1994, when Disney donated money to then-California Gov. Pete Wilson, legendary Chicano cartoonist Lalo Alcaraz imaged Mickey as "Migra Mouse" because Wilson had campaigned on the xenophobic Proposition 187, which sought to do all sorts of bad things to illegal immigrants. More recently—which brings us to Coco—Disney tried to trademark Dia de los Muertos in 2013, in anticipation of their then-untitled film on the subject. A furious online backlash (one that I helped to promote along with Alcaraz, who did a great parody of Mickey as "Muerto Mouse" coming to "trademark your cultura" ) rightfully forced Disney to back off, because their move was tone-deaf and just plain pendejo. But then Disney did what any smart corporation would do: They hired someone to teach them how to do things right. Better yet, they hired Alcaraz as a cultural consultant for Coco. That led armchair Aztecs to accuse Alcaraz of being a vendido—a sellout. Even allies of Alcaraz engaged in a lot of Facebook hand-wringing and asked Alcaraz why he decided to help his Moby Dick try and tackle a Mexican holiday. But regular Mexicans gave Disney the benefit of the doubt with Alcaraz on board—or, most likely, never even heard about the controversy. His help proved crucial to ensure Coco's success. And because it's a legit product, Mexicans have supported the film in droves, armchair Aztecs be damned. This isn't the first time the Chicano Left have swung and missed on Disney with regular Mexicans. For most of this decade, UNITE HERE Local 11 (which represents hotel workers at the Disneyland Resort, the collective name for the Happiest Place on Earth and its low-rent cousin, Disney California Adventure) have aired their complaints to the public, sometimes even dressing up as Disney characters for the camera-friendly spectacle of having Mickey getting taken away in handcuffs after a protest. It's a cause célèbre with progressives in Souther[...]



Brickbat: From the Farmhouse to the Outhouse

Wed, 15 Nov 2017 04:00:00 -0500

(image) Officials at Troy University, a state school in Alabama, have punished members of the FarmHouse fraternity for a skit in which frat members playing Donald Trump and Border Patrol agents chased a Mexican immigrant over a wall. Members of the fraternity were ordered to complete "education and training on the importance of unity, respect and diversity on campus" and perform "acts of service."




The Death of a Nacho King Proves the Media Are Cultural Appropriation’s Biggest Enablers

Wed, 08 Nov 2017 15:23:00 -0500

For the past couple of years, the biggest issue in food media has been cultural appropriation: who can cook what, whom can write about it, and how "privilege" trumps hard work and originality to keep people of color down and lift up bearded white hipsters. The heat really gets caliente when it comes to Mexican food, where it seems like every yoga-loving millennial wants to open a Mexican fruit stand in the barrio or bug Mexican women in Ensenada for their burrito recipes. The topic is generally a non-starter to me. Anyone can and should cook comida mexicana, because (as I argued in my 2012 Reason story on the subject) it keeps the cuisine innovative and thus popular, unlike, say, liverwurst. And I've seen nouveau riche "privilege" burn millions of dollars on shitty tequila bars that close within a year while Mexican immigrants create fast-food empires on nothing but sweat and the perfect French fry–stuffed burritos. But the death of the 84-year-old San Antonio native Frank Liberto is a reminder that cultural appropriation's biggest enablers aren't entrepreneurs but rather clueless reporters who'll swallow any Montezuma's Revenge that PR hacks and Google feed them. Liberto died on November 6, one day before National Nachos Day—fitting, because he helped push the cheesy, crunchy meal beyond the American Southwest and into leaky concession-stand cartons and souvenir ballpark baseball helmets nationwide with a cheese sauce that didn't need to get refrigerated. Liberto debuted these prefabricated nachos at Arlington Stadium during a Texas Rangers game in 1976, and consumers haven't stopped squirting watery queso since. Liberto didn't invent nachos. That genius was Ignacio "Nacho" Anaya, who whipped up a quick meal of fried tortilla strips, melted cheese, and pickled jalapeños for hungry American military wives at his Piedras Negras restaurant in 1943. But facts didn't stop the San Antonio Express-News, San Francisco Chronicle, and Washington Post from calling Liberto the "Father of Nachos," even as they all acknowledged Anaya's innovation—and betcha more media outlets will do the same in the days to come. Why? Because the National Association of Concessionaires deemed Liberto as such in 2004, then Smithsonian Magazine did the same in 2013, so why not? Media love to use the Big Lie (Hey, I just broke Godwin's Law in an article about nachos! That must be some sort of record!) with Mexican food, because it precludes them from speaking with actual Mexicans. That's what I discovered when doing research for my 2012 book Taco USA: How Mexican Food Conquered America. Newspaper articles and cookbooks I scoured passed off as fact multiple dubious creation stories about Mexican foodstuffs: that the margarita was named after Rita Hayworth when she was a dancer in Tijuana (the screen goddess' birth name: Margarita Cansino), that chili became popular because the Texas delegation to the 1893 Chicago World's Fair set up a stand, that Rick Bayless is the greatest Mexican chef in the United States. No interviews, no research: just regurgitation of other food writers, who did the same ad infinitum. When I finally found the source for most of these origin stories, it turned out they were outright lies created to feed into American preconceptions of Mexicans as stupid, lazy beaners. Such dereliction by writers not only erases Mexicans from their own history but becomes its own fuel for the hype fire that sets off most cultural appropriation controversies in the first place. Why look for Mexicans cooking Mexican food when it's easier to find whites and Asians doing the same? And why go to a Mexican restaurant run by Mexicans when they don't get the attention others do? You can't blame restaurateurs for wanting to make money, but you should blame the people whose job it is to promote the Next Big Thing. If food writers (and social media influencers) would do actual journalism (or hire writers who know what the hell they're talking about), then most of the poste[...]



South of the Border: Mexican Populist Presidential Candidate Runs Against Trump While Copying His Campaign

Mon, 11 Sep 2017 17:15:00 -0400

A left-wing populist and outspoken critic of President Donald Trump, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, is the perceived frontrunner in Mexico's 2018 presidential race. His rising popularity south of the border can be seen as both a reflection and a result of Trump's rhetoric and policies. Lopez Obrador, or "AMLO" via his name's initials, spoke in Washington, D.C., last week at the Woodrow Wilson Center. His remarks came two weeks after the publication of his book, "Oye, Trump," ("Listen up, Trump"), a compilation of recent speeches made in eight U.S. cities this year. Lopez Obrador is positioning his campaign as a populist response to Trump, but he's attempting to appeal to the same crowd—those left behind by globalization and angry at the country's elites—where Trump's campaign found fertile support in 2016. "The countryside is not only where food is produced, there is a lifestyle there which must be valued again," Lopez Obrador said Tuesday, just down the street from the White House. Discarding that lifestyle, he said, has strained families and increased crime. The elites are to blame, he says, because they lack understanding of the ill effects of a globalized economy on the country's rural areas. They instead chose to bar themselves off in their cosmopolitan centers and are unaware of those struggling in the countryside. "When technical people simplistically decide that you could abandon the countryside," he warned. "They're making a major mistake." In other ways, too, Lopez Obrador has sounded almost Trumpian, even while campaigning as a Trump critic. He has criticized the Trump administration for suggesting the imposition of tariffs on Mexican goods, but has echoed Trump's calls for NAFTA to be renegotiated. This is Lopez Obrador's third crack at the Mexican presidency. He previously declared himself the "legitimate president" after losing in 2006 and has remained adamant that the election, as well as his second loss in 2012, were stolen from him from shadowy interests controlling the corrupt political establishment. The former mayor of Mexico City has developed his populist bona fides over the years. Though some of his economic views could put him in Donald Trump's camp, it may be more accurate to compare him to Bernie Sanders. Some media outlets such as The Guardian have compared him to other left-wing populist figures, such as Ralph Nader and the UK's Jeremy Corbyn, who Lopez Obrador subsequently met following his recent trip stateside. But the comparison to Trump only goes so far. Unlike Trump, who effectively rose to the presidency by executing a hostile takeover of one of the two major political parties in America, Lopez Obrador is running outside Mexico's main political parties, promising to end corruption and to expand public expenditures while cutting taxes. These are standard populist tactics, like his tactic of contrasting the culture of the rural and urban populations, but some observers worry that Obrador has more in common with former Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez than with the current occupant of the White House. Reason TV's Nick Gillespie interviewed Cato Institute scholar Roberto Salinas-León last month to discuss the future of NAFTA. Salinas-León warned the policies of protectionism and anti-immigration policies of Donald Trump could embolden Lopez Obrador, whom he described as the Mexican "equivalent of Hugo Chávez. A rabid, primitive, vitriolic, populist." Though Lopez Obrador and his supporters decry the accusation as scaremongering, he doesn't do himself any favors. He seemed reluctant this past Tuesday to condemn the Venezuelan government of Nicolas Maduro, which continues to collapse under the weight of its socialist economic policies. He has also been an advocate for "self-sufficiency" and views foreign trade in the agricultural and energy sectors as problematic—central tenets of what came to be called "Chavismo." "We are going to produce what we eat. We will no longer buy f[...]



Hey Libertarians for Trump, How Much More #Winning Can You Take?

Wed, 06 Sep 2017 14:35:00 -0400

It's almost nine months into Donald Trump's presidency and here's a question for the old "Libertarians for Trump" crowd: How much more winning can you take? There was a small but vocal band of limited-government folks who vocally supported the billionaire real estate mogul on the grounds that he couldn't possibly be as bad as Hillary Clinton or even most of the other Republican candidates, especially when it came to foreign policy. Leading the pack was economist Walter Block, who beat me in a competitive debate in New York City right before the election. Block's argument was that "the perfect is the enemy of the good" and "the Donald is the most congruent with [the libertarian] perspective" especially on foreign policy. Trump has turned out to be anything but an isolationist. He promised to bring fire and fury to North Korea, "the likes of which this world has never seen before." He bombed Syria on the same humanitarian grounds he explicitly denounced during his campaign. He escalated war efforts in Yeman and Iraq, And more recently, announced plans to "win" in Afghanistan. His secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, declared that while the United States might not walk away with a "battlefield" victory in the graveyard of empires, neither will the Taliban. That's not inspirational, it's stupid. Apart from his foreign policy follies, this anti-free-trader and nativist has turned out to be even less libertarian than advertised during the campaign. He's continued giving mealy-mouthed support to white supremacists and pardoned Joe Arpaio, "America's toughest sheriff," who was found in contempt of court after he continued to illegally racially profile and detain Latino suspects. And his attorney general is walking back a decade of incremental progress on criminal justice reform. There's no question that the Trump administration is doing some good things, such as deregulatory moves related to the FCC, the FDA, and the EPA. His Education department is supporting school choice to the extent that the federal government can do so. His deregulatory push is all to the good, but it's overwhelmed by Trump's other policies. There's also no question that at this point Trump is doing virtually everything else he can do to alienate libertarians who believe in shrinking the size, scope, and spending of government. And the excuse that Hillary Clinton would have been worse is getting older than Bernie Sanders. The perfect is the enemy of the good, but what Donald Trump has shown us so far just isn't good enough. Produced by Todd Krainin. Written by Nick Gillespie. Cameras by Jim Epstein. Production assistance by Andrew Heaton. Subscribe to our YouTube channel. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter. Subscribe to our podcast at iTunes.[...]



Why Trump's Wall Is Not Going to Happen

Sun, 27 Aug 2017 00:00:00 -0400

Donald Trump has served one-seventh of his constitutionally allotted term of office, and given his talent for self-destruction, there is no guarantee he will get to serve the remaining six-sevenths. But whether he does or not, one thing is a safe bet: When he leaves the White House, there will not be a wall running the length of our southern border. This may come as a shock to his more devoted followers. They cheered madly, and still cheer madly, at his promises to build a wall that Mexico will pay for. "Believe me, one way or the other, we're going to get that wall," he told a rally in Phoenix on Tuesday—even "if we have to close down our government." Between now and the end of September, Congress needs to pass legislation to raise the federal debt ceiling and extend funding to keep the government operating. Trump's threat is to veto any such bill unless it features money for the wall. Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, however, said, "There is zero chance, no chance, we won't raise the debt ceiling." House Speaker Paul Ryan scoffs at the idea of a government shutdown. To get a bill with wall funds through the Senate would require 60 votes. Every Republican and eight Democrats would have to agree, and that is not going to happen. Both Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer and House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi have invited Trump to take a long walk off a short pier. They say they won't support the barrier under any circumstances. This response no doubt makes many Republicans secretly grateful, because they regard the proposal as what the late Democratic Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan referred to as "boob bait for Bubba"—a tough-sounding but dumb idea useful for appealing to a certain segment of the electorate that is not well-informed or discerning on matters of policy. Plenty of GOP members would rather put Barack Obama on Mount Rushmore than underwrite this addled project. The Department of Homeland Security says it would cost $22 billion—and a study by the Democratic staff of the Senate homeland security committee priced it at nearly $70 billion. In April, The Wall Street Journal reported, "Not a single member of Congress who represents the territory on the southwest border said they support President Donald Trump's request for $1.4 billion to begin construction of his promised wall." That's one reason he's angry with Arizona's two Republican senators. Doubt has seeped out of Trump's Cabinet room. As secretary of homeland security, before becoming White House chief of staff, John Kelly admitted, "It's unlikely that we will build a wall or physical barrier from sea to shining sea." Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has also been equivocal. Trump faces some daunting obstacles in trying to get his way. One is that the wall is not very popular. A poll by Rasmussen Reports found that only 37 percent of likely voters support the idea. Another is that Trump is not very popular, with an approval rating matching that of the wall. Those numbers won't intimidate many members of Congress. Shutting down the government would be bad for GOP lawmakers, who recall the negative fallout when they did it in 2013. But it would be worse for Trump. If the president threatens a closure and it happens, he will be slathered in blame from head to toe. Let's not forget the comical absurdity at the center of this dispute: Voters were assured by Trump that the cost of his barricade would fall exclusively on our southern neighbor. But Mexico has declined the opportunity. In a January 27 phone conversation with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto, Trump pleaded: "I have to have Mexico pay for the wall. I have to. I have been talking about it for a two-year period." It didn't work. Pena Nieto said bluntly, "My position has been and will continue to be very firm, saying that Mexico cannot pay for the wall." The impasse led to an unintended exercise in hilarity by White House pre[...]



Brickbat: Good to the Last Drop

Mon, 07 Aug 2017 04:00:00 -0400

(image) The United States government agreed to pay $1 million to settle a lawsuit brought by the family of Cruz Velazquez Acevedo, who died after Customs and Border Protection officers encouraged him to drink liquid meth. Cruz, 16, was crossing the border from Mexico to San Diego with what he said was apple juice. The officers told him to drink some to prove that's all it was. The officers were not disciplined.




Ending NAFTA Would Decimate American Jobs

Wed, 02 Aug 2017 12:52:00 -0400

"The intellectual backwardness of many of Trump's trade advisors contrasts dramatically with some of the very good advice he's gotten in terms of deregulation," says Roberto Salinas-León, president of the Mexico Business Forum and adjunct scholar at the CATO Institute. "Talking about your second most important trading partner in that [derogatory] vein—that's not the 'art of the deal.' That's just very bad business." Salinas-León, an expert on trade and monetary policy, says that if Trump ends the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), it would decimate jobs on both sides of the border. "Does Indiana depend on jobs because of its trade with Mexico? Does Ohio? Texas? You want to shut down NAFTA? That turns Texas into a Democratic state overnight." Reason's Nick Gillespie sat down with Salinas-León at Freedom Fest in Las Vegas to discuss NAFTA's economic impact, his heated confrontation with Trump at Freedom Fest 2015, and how the president's anti-Mexico rhetoric propelled leftist presidential candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador ("a rabid, primitive, vitriolic, populist") to the top of the polls. Interview by Nick Gillespie. Edited by Alexis Garcia. Camera by Justin Monticello and Meredith Bragg. Badass by Bensound is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution license (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/) Source: http://www.bensound.com/royalty-free-music/electronica Artist: http://www.bensound.com/royalty-free-music Strange Stuff by Matt Harris is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution license. (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/) Source: https://www.youtube.com/audiolibrary/music Subscribe to our YouTube channel. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter. Subscribe to our podcast at iTunes. This is a rush transcript. Check all quotes against the audio for accuracy. Gillespie: Let's talk about NAFTA first and your role in it. Is NAFTA a good thing or a bad thing for Mexico, Canada and the US? It's getting a lot of heat lately. Salinas-León: In the early 1990s, we thought, "Well, wow! Mexico's already a story of trade liberalization. We're exporting 35 billion dollars a year worth of products and so on." Today that number is 365 billions, so from a trade perspective, and this is a trade agreement, from a trade perspective, I don't think there's any question that NAFTA has been a success in the sale side. And then you go to the purchase side, in other words, imports, and you find that you're also importing a vast amount. Guess where those imports come from? In about 80 percent, the United States. Gillespie: Yeah, exactly. Salinas-León: So those in Indiana depend ... I mean, speaking of Mike Pence, does Indiana depend on jobs because of its trade with Mexico? Does Ohio? Texas? You want to shut down NAFTA? That turns Texas into a Democratic state overnight. Gillespie: Where do you think the animus against NAFTA, particularly in the United States, and I mean, this is something that Donald Trump ran on. It's also something that Bernie Sanders brought up a lot, the idea that somehow free trade agreements suck jobs out of America and they put them in third-world countries, which due to a lot of economic ignorance, often times they're talking about Mexico as a third-world country, as well. Where does the resentment of something like that come from? Salinas-León: I think that was one of the great lessons of the Trump campaign, the Bernie Sanders campaign. It's not something that discriminates between Republicans and Democrats or between the right or the left or whatever. What you found out is that there is anger because there's displacement. There is job displacement, and that's a very serious concern. But are we going to address it by closing our economies? By building walls? I mean, wasn't another famous Republican the one who said, "Tear down this wall." The same one t[...]



Former DHS Official: Let's Declare War on Mexico!

Wed, 19 Jul 2017 14:05:00 -0400

As addiction researchers and health care providers search for a scalable response to heroin- and fentanyl-related deaths, a former senior official in the Department of Homeland Security has proposed a simpler solution: Congress should declare war on Mexico. "It sounds crazy, I know—unless you acknowledge we are already fighting a war with Mexico," Matt Mayer writes in U.S. News and World Report. "Short of such an all-out military effort, has anyone offered a realistic way to defeat the drug cartels and stop the flow of death drugs? Crushing the supply of opioids and other death drugs from Mexico will allow our treatment activities to gain ground against the epidemic and one day get ahead of it." Mayer worked at DHS under President George W. Bush, and his proposal draws inspiration from that period of foreign policy: Let me put this issue in perspective. Since the first al-Qaida terrorist attack in Yemen in 1992, fewer than 5,000 Americans have died in terrorist attacks, with many of the deaths occurring on Sept. 11, 2001. In response to terrorist attacks, we waged wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and spent hundreds of billions of dollars on external and internal security measures to detect and to prevent future attacks. If we did all of that in response to radical Islamic terrorism, why is it so crazy to consider using our military power to defeat the Mexican drug cartels which have inflicted far more death, mayhem and costs on America than al-Qaida and the Islamic State group combined? I cannot argue with Mayer's math, though he's calculating on a slippery slope. Heart disease is the number one killer of Americans, and we know what causes it: lack of exercise, poor dietary habits, and/or tobacco use. Should we raze the sugarcane fields of South Florida and the cornfields of Iowa? What about napalming Georgia, Kentucky, and North Carolina, which produce the bulk of America's smoked tobacco? It sounds crazy, I know—unless you acknowledge we are already fighting a war with heart disease. Mayer goes on to suggest how we might conduct this war without provoking retaliation from the Mexican government: Ideally, as our fight is not with the Mexican government, its military or its people, which try to weaken the cartels, we would try to partner with those entities against the cartels, much as we partnered with the South Vietnamese government and military against the Vietcong and the North Vietnamese Army. I have read just enough about Vietnam to know it's not a model for success. I might also point out that 85 percent of the global heroin supply comes from Afghanistan, which we invaded 16 years ago. Instead, I'd like to talk about the Mexican military, which is perhaps the most efficient killing force on the planet. Last year, The New York Times reported that military conflicts generally produce a injure-to-kill ratio of four to one. That is, for every four combatants injured, one combatant is killed. The Mexican military writ large has a injure-to-kill ratio of one to eight, meaning they injure one person for every eight they kill. The Mexican Marines kill 30 people for every one person they injure. In fact, the Mexican military kills so many people while injuring so few that most informed observers believe the country is violating international laws regarding human rights and warfare. Considering how good Mexico's government is at killing its own people, Mayer's proposal has me wondering what the value-add of a U.S. invasion would be. Washington hasn't merely turned a blind eye to human rights abuses south of the border; it has poured money into Mexico's drug war for nearly two decades, along with military advisers and weapons. Declaring war would be the next step in an instruction manual written by a Neanderthal. It would be expensive, illiberal, diplomatically catastrophic, and[...]



Trump Targets NAFTA, But Will an 'Update' Just Be an Excuse for More Government Meddling?

Thu, 27 Apr 2017 15:45:00 -0400

(image) President Trump's push on trade and NAFTA this week appears more motivated by the symbolic 100 day mark emphasized by Trump and the media than any coherent approach to trade neogtiations.

The Trump administration followed up the imposition of a 20 percent tariff on Canadian lumber—a long-standing stalking horse for the timber industry—earlier this week by floating the idea that the U.S. would withdraw from the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which liberalized trade between the U.S., Mexico, and Canada. Shortly after, the White House announced that in phone calls with Canada's prime minister, Justin Trudeau, and Mexico President Enrique Peña Nieto, President Trump "agreed not to terminate NAFTA at this time" and that the two leaders " agreed to proceed swiftly, according to their required internal procedures, to enable the renegotiation of the NAFTA deal to the benefit of all three countries."

As Republicans alarmed by the prospect of a NAFTA withdrawal speculated yesterday, the threat was a "negotiating tactic" to bring Mexico and Canada to the table or otherwise extract a better deal. Yet there's little indication either Mexico or Canada needed such a push for new negotiations. The election of Trump, who campaigned on a protectionist platform that was one of a few principles he's held on to consistently for decades, sufficed.

The perception of bringing Mexico and Canada to the negotiating table over NAFTA can be chalked up as a victory, but it doesn't contribute to any clarity on what might happen next. Trump has not articulated what kind of "improvements" he wants to negotiate. His trade views are mostly based on the idea that foreign competition is bad, and that returning Americans to factory jobs would make America great again. The whole thing could just more noise signifying nothing, a tactic explained in the Art of the Deal.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross told senators the administration was interested in "updating" NAFTA, not not withdraw from it, Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.) told Politico. Given the prevailing anti-trade mood in Washington, it's doubtful that such an update would involve reducing government interventions instead of increasing them.

The troubling migration of anti-trade rhetoric from left to right is nevertheless unsurprising. It's easier to convince people their problems are caused by foreigners than by their own government's policies, and more politically beneficial for those deploying such rhetoric in a quest for public office, especially when politicians who understand that free trade benefits everyone are unwilling or unable to articulate it effectively.

Related: Have Republicans Turned Against Trade? We Asked Them.

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Sen. Ted Cruz Wants to Pay for Border Wall with Asset Forfeiture (UPDATE: Criminal Forfeiture Only)

Tue, 25 Apr 2017 16:45:00 -0400

President Donald Trump is having a bit of a challenge actually finding the funding to build the border wall he promised in his campaign. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) who himself campaigned for president partly by saying he would be even tougher on illegal immigrants than Trump, thinks he has a solution. He wants to use federal asset forfeiture funds to build the wall. Axios notes that Cruz wants to introduce legislation named after famed Mexican drug kingpin El Chapo to help pay for the wall. The feds are trying to seize $14 billion from the drug lord. Cruz said in a statement, "Fourteen billion dollars will go a long way toward building a wall that will keep Americans safe and hinder the illegal flow of drugs, weapons, and individuals across our southern border." There are a couple of issues to worry about here (besides the most obvious one that the wall is a stupid idea that won't work and should be abandoned). First is the likely incorrect assumption that the federal government will be able to get its hands on all that El Chapo money. Axios notes that Cruz's proposed bill (he hasn't even posted the text up on his own Senate page yet so we don't really know what it says) would "use asset seized from drug lords such as El Chapo." Italics mine. Cruz's statement on his Senate page uses similar language. It doesn't sound like this legislation would be confined to taking money from El Chapo. This is significant because police and prosecutors and like-minded supporters of asset forfeiture always attempt to present this process as taking the ill-gotten gains of the drug cartels and keeping it to fund law enforcement. But that's not actually how it plays out. In reality, police and prosecutors tend to abuse the civil asset forfeiture process to harass travelers who are carrying cash, claim that it's all part of the drug trade, and attempt to keep it for themselves without ever providing any proof a crime happened. Civil asset forfeiture has become a massive source of controversy because it's been abused to take money and property from citizens without due process in order for police departments to fund themselves. So if this legislation is not written in such a way that it requires these "drug kingpins" to actually be convicted of crimes before their money is seized, and the Trump administration becomes dependent on using this money to pay for this wall … you can see where this is going, can't you? FBI, DEA officers and federal prosecutors are going to have even more incentives and pressures to attempt to seize the property of greater numbers of people. And they're going to fight tooth and nail to keep from having to give it back even if they never actually charge people with federal crimes. Cruz has previously said that he supports asset forfeiture reforms as a "property rights" issue. But he's flip-flopped on criminal justice issues before, supporting the easing of mandatory minimum sentences before turning against changes. If he wants that wall hard enough (and he does want that wall), is he willing to turn is back on asset forfeiture abuses? IMPORTANT UPDATE: The legislation has been posted and will apply specifically only to actual criminal forfeiture of the assets of a convicted member of a drug cartel. Read the proposed text here.[...]



Good Neighbors Can Make Good Fences

Sun, 09 Apr 2017 06:00:00 -0400

Good fences make good neighbors, or so Robert Frost reminds us in his annoyingly overused and frequently misquoted high school literature class staple. The poem that made the adage famous actually offers a more ambiguous take on the utility of border barriers than its signature line would suggest, with the speaker musing: "Before I built a wall I'd ask to know / What I was walling in or walling out, / And to whom I was like to give offence." The question of what exactly is being walled in or walled out by Donald Trump's barrier—he issued commands for the "immediate construction of a physical wall on the southern border" in a January 25 executive order—is trickier to answer than it initially appears. The short answer, illegal immigrants, is an unsatisfactory one, in part because so many other goals tend to get lumped in once the policy rationalization process gets rolling, including drug interdiction, terrorism prevention, and tariff enforcement. The question of who will be offended is easier. From Trump's unflattering remarks about Mexican immigrants while announcing his candidacy in June 2015 to his ongoing insistence that Mexico will pay for the wall, much offense has been given, and much taken. During the campaign, Trump flew to visit Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto. Upon returning home, the candidate claimed that they had discussed the wall but not who would pay for it—an assertion his counterpart denied. Shortly after his inauguration, tensions built around a planned visit by the Mexican president to the north. "If Mexico is unwilling to pay for the badly needed wall," Trump tweeted, "then it would be better to cancel the upcoming meeting." When Peña Nieto did just that, Trump made it clear that he would consider garnishing some of the $26 billion in annual remittances from the U.S. to Mexico. The Associated Press also reported the following astonishing threat by Trump, gleaned from (disputed) transcripts of a phone conversation between the two men: "You have a bunch of bad hombres down there. You aren't doing enough to stop them. I think your military is scared. Our military isn't, so I just might send them down to take care of it." Simultaneously on the table during that period: A 20 percent tax on goods at the Mexican border, though that idea was withdrawn almost as quickly as it was proposed. When Trump addressed a joint session of Congress on February 28, he reiterated his intention: "We will soon begin the construction of a great, great wall along our southern border," he told the assembled lawmakers. This time, notably, he didn't say that Mexico would pay for it, reportedly as part of a deal he struck with Peña Nieto. The following day, however, his vice president reiterated that this was still the plan. "He didn't say Mexico is going to pay for it," said George Stephanopoulos on Good Morning America. "Well, they are," Mike Pence quickly replied. In Mexico City in late February, when I visited for a conference sponsored by Arizona State University, the chattering classes were waiting with bated breath to hear whether Trump's capricious treatment of their leader would be returned. Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson were cooling their heels before a planned meeting with the Mexican president. Would they be turned away? In the end, the three men spoke briefly before the American officials returned to U.S. soil. While the intrigue was titillating, the general sense was that conversations with Cabinet members didn't much matter, because Donald Trump could and would do whatever he liked. "The only thing that is certain is uncertainty," said El Universal columnist and journalism professor Ricardo Raphael. "Trump talks about renegotiating [t[...]



Trump's Wall Is Already Collapsing

Mon, 03 Apr 2017 00:01:00 -0400

Donald Trump spent more than a year rousing crowds with a simple promise: "I'll build a great, great wall on our southern border, and I will have Mexico pay for that wall." As the campaign wore on, it got so he could ask "Who's gonna pay for the wall?" and the audience would roar, "Mexico!" It was fun while it lasted. But now, in the cold light of day, some facts are coming into focus: It may not exactly be a wall. It won't be paid for by Mexico. And it may not get built. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is one of the people backing off from this promise. Non-wall options, such as electronic sensors, will have to be considered in some places, he said. You see, "the border is complicated, as far as building a physical wall." Not only that but where would we locate it? "The Rio Grande, what side of the river are you going to put the wall?" Zinke asked. "We're not going to put it on our side and cede the river to Mexico. And we're probably not going to put it in the middle of the river." The Mexicans won't invite us to erect the structure on their side. So siting may be a problem. That's not all the Mexicans won't do. President Enrique Pena Nieto has said repeatedly and unequivocally that his government will not bear the cost. Trump had the chance to out-negotiate Pena on the wall when he met with him in Mexico City last summer—but Trump chose not to even raise the payment issue. The Mexican president was supposed to come to Washington for a White House meeting in January. But when Trump said it would be better to cancel the trip if Mexico was not willing to pay for the wall, Pena canceled the trip. Trump said that rather than make Mexico pay for it upfront, "we'll be reimbursed at a later date from whatever transaction we make from Mexico." So we'll send the invoice and they'll mail a check? Well, not exactly. "There will be a payment," he told ABC News. "It will be in a form, perhaps a complicated form." No one on Capitol Hill seems to share Trump's confidence. When Politico's Jake Sherman asked Mitch McConnell whether Mexico will pay for the wall, the Senate Republican leader couldn't suppress his mirth at the very idea. "'Uh, no,' he shot back, chuckling," Politico reported. House Speaker Paul Ryan said with solemn vagueness, "We will be working with (Trump) to finance the construction of the physical barrier, including the wall, on the southern border." Faced with the funding disagreement with Mexico, Trump included money for the wall in his budget outline, with the funds taken from other programs. Republican enthusiasm is not abundant. Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado, head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, said recently that "billions of dollars on a wall is not the right way to proceed." Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina agreed it is "probably not a smart investment." Democrats have promised to block any bill that includes money for the wall, which means they could force a government shutdown if Republicans attach it to the emergency spending measure that needs to be approved by April 28. Ryan said Thursday that the wall appropriation will be dropped to avert a shutdown. But there may not be much interest in funding it afterward, either. The House Freedom Caucus is generally not fond of spending money, and Trump's declaration of war on the group will not make its members more eager to indulge him. Plenty of Senate Republicans are also skeptical. "If you're going to spend that kind of money, you're going to have to show me where you're going to get that money," Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska said in February. "We can't pay for it out of thin air," said Sen. James Lankford of Oklahoma. There don't seem to be many people in Washington who think the wall can[...]



Trump the Weakling

Thu, 09 Mar 2017 00:01:00 -0500

When rocker Tom Petty found out Republican George W. Bush was blaring his song "I Won't Back Down" at campaign rallies in 2000, he sent a cease-and-desist letter. Maybe the reason Donald Trump avoided the song in his campaign is that he didn't want similar trouble. Or maybe it's because he will, in fact, back down. After a federal court blocked his February travel ban, Trump tweeted, "See you in court, the security of our nation is at stake!" From that bold declaration, you would expect him to fight all the way to the Supreme Court. But he didn't. On Monday, he caved in and issued a new travel ban designed to appease the judiciary. Backing down is not a departure from his usual style. It is his usual style. Trump is not a guy who can be counted on to stand his ground. Often, he crumbles under the slightest pressure. Ask the Chinese. Shortly after he was elected, he took a call from the president of Taiwan, in defiance of the long-standing U.S. policy of recognizing only one China. Then, when the Beijing government took offense, he snapped back on Twitter, asking, "Did China ask us if it was OK to devalue their currency?" Conservatives applauded his manly bravado. Former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton said Trump was alerting the Chinese that "nobody in Beijing gets to dictate who we talk to." Actually, somebody in Beijing does. His name is Xi Jinping. He's the president of China, and he refused to speak with Trump on the phone until he agreed to eat his words. As China's government media reported, Trump tamely assured Xi that "the U.S. government adheres to the One China policy." Sean Spicer did his best to mask the humiliating retreat. Asked whether the president had gotten anything in return, the press secretary insisted, "The president always gets something." Of course he does. In this instance, he got a lesson in the ancient Chinese art of kowtowing. The surrender came as no surprise to anyone who watched him during the campaign, or after. After months of promising his supporters that he would build a border wall at Mexico's expense, he paid a visit to President Enrique Pena Nieto in Mexico City and, at a news conference afterward, admitted he didn't even raise the topic: "We didn't discuss payment of the wall." In fact, Pena Nieto said later that during their session, he informed his guest that Mexico would not pay for it. Only when he was safely back across the Rio Grande did Trump dare to repeat that our neighbor will foot the bill. During his second debate with Hillary Clinton, Trump informed her, "If I win, I am going to instruct my attorney general to get a special prosecutor to look into your situation, because there has never been so many lies, so much deception." He hasn't. After his boast about grabbing women by the genitals came out on video, several women came forward to accuse him of groping or kissing them without their consent. He denied it and announced, "All of these liars will be sued after the election is over." When is that lawsuit going to be filed? Probably right after he finishes fighting the lawsuit against Trump University. Oh, wait—he has already finished that fight, by capitulating. "I don't settle cases," he said last year about the dispute. "Watch how we win it." But in the end, Trump agreed to pay $25 million to the people accusing him of fraud. Idle threats are his specialty. Last year, he pledged to "immediately terminate President Obama's two illegal executive amnesties," one of which allowed unauthorized immigrants brought here as children to stay and work. But that order is still in place, to the disgust of anti-immigration groups. "His thinking is: 'We don't have to deal with this right now,'" explained Spic[...]