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old dude, all hair, swell new teeth

04 March 2006

Stop Drug Smuggling Immediately. Also I want a 75-centimeter penis. And a Masserati made of halvah. And the Olson Twins in a hot tub. And

Automatic Tortilla Machine: Tortilleria
Lord Shiva making Bhang

In one of my Secret Internet Lives, I participate on a remarkably interesting (usually) informal forum/list about world drug policies and drug reform called drugwar. While the superstars of world drug law and policy reform aren't quite as well known as the Rolling Stones or Gary Glitter, all the best drug-reform superstars hang on drugwar -- well, all the best English-speaking ones, but you can find a little français and italiano dialogue here, too.

I am tremendously fond of Mexico. For my very first visit to a foreign nation, I wheeled all over it for about six months, in a very spiffy green 4-wheel-drive vehicle which I did not know at the time was Mexico's favorite hearse. (I finally figured out why businessmen in dark suits were always trying to buy it from me; Mexican funeral homes couldn't buy it directly in Mexico or import it from the U.S.)

To say I had some Adventures in Mexico -- this is perhaps the Understatement Of The Millennium.

In Mexico City we stayed in a hotel, the Riva Palacio, near the wonderful 24-hour Eating Market called Plaza Garibaldi. The Vleeptron Hotel and Restaurant Guide rates the Riva Palacio *****.

My pathetic español was the best of all four of us gringos y gringas, so I was the only guest to discover during the week we stayed there that it was a brothel. I kept my mouth shut, because it was the cheapest hotel in Mexico City, and if the 2 gringa hitchhikers from Oregon had figured out they were staying in a brothel, they'd have instantly demanded that we pack up and find another hotel. They just thought the place was sort of a Fun College Dormitory with friendly guys and girls partying all the time.

Mariachi bands rehearsed under our balcony all night, every night. I couldn't sleep so I followed one of them and that's how I discovered the Plaza Garibaldi. I almost ate myself to death. No place on Earth tastes so wonderful. The pre-Columbian Mexicans -- Aztecs, Mayas, Toltecs, Zapotecs, Olmecs, etc. -- domesticated corn (Zea mays), and Nothing Smells So Delicious as tortillas as they bake on a tortilleria. My nose has been drunk on that aroma for decades. Mexico also brews up a fermented cactus juice called Pulque, a very effective beverage for dialoguing with God.

With my superior español, Bob el Turisto Gringo was responsible for paying the hotel bill when we checked out. I could not make the young clerk understand that we'd been there for a week. No guest had ever stayed in that hotel for longer than half a day, and most stayed there for just a few hours. No matter how much I tried to explain, he refused to accept anything more than one day's rent.

But I have always recognized that I owe the Riva Palacio about $20, and if the brothel management will contact me, I will gladly send it via Western Union, the giant of transferring funds for all sorts of international transactions from the USA to Central and Latin America. It was just a classic bilingual misunderstanding, the kind that happens in brothels all over the world (that's why the Lupinaria in Pompey used Big Cartoons to help visiting sailors who did not speak Latin), and I did my best to be an Honest Gringo.

Mexico and drugs? It has nothing to do with Mexico. It has everything to do with the U.S.A. We want drugs and we have lots of money. Ding-dong! Here are your drugs, Aqui son los drogas.

post to drugwar list:

"The Mexican economy" is like "all the oceans" or "the solar system" -- big, complex, varied, and thus highly resistant to valid or meaningful generalizations.

I don't care how big its drug sector is. I saw Pemex, the state oil monopoly. That's bigger.

Lord knows if any bunch can understand this, this bunch can. But if you think this analysis has big flaws, it's just an informal version of a classic economic description which former Reagan Secretary of State George Shultz, now at the Hoover Institute at Stanford, has been telling anybody who cares to listen, probably since he graduated from Princeton. (He has a Princeton Tiger tattoo on his ass). He probably credits his argument to the 18th-century economist Adam Smith.

People are always saying Smith's contemporary Malthus got a lot of things wrong about his theory, but nobody really argues with Adam Smith (except Marxists, and their economic analyses haven't been doing very well lately).

I should emphasize one thing about Smith's analyses. He said that a modern, growing, dynamic capitalist economy depends much more on Luxury and Frivolous Commodities than it does on (literally) Meat and Potatoes necessities of life. Hamburger Lust can't really be synthetically hyped up very much. The ferocious advertising is intended to make you buy your $2 hamburger at Wendy's rather than Burger King. (I know where to buy a $15 hamburger, but such places are pretty rare.)

But consumers can be synthetically hyped to want to pay $200 for a pair of NBA-superstar-endorsed athletic shoes. It's all about Lily Langtry (TM) Brand Ostrich Feather Hats. It's not about generic peanut butter -- a $1 jar that meets all your family's protein needs for a couple of days has nothing to do with the engines that drive a modern capitalist economy.

Drugs, where lawful or prohibited, fit perfectly into Smith's scheme. Nobody needs them. Lots of people want them. "Blow" [movie starring Johnny Depp] has a lot of dialogue about the centerpiece that changed white powder cocaine from an unknown drug to an economic powerhouse almost overnight: People perceived it was very cool, very elite, very prestigious to stick white powder cocaine up their noses. WPC magically turned you not into a Bowery Bum leper, but into a Beautiful People. That's a classic Smith Commodity.

The USA has the Buyers. They have cash to pay for the marijuana and the heroin. American consumers wanting to buy this stuff is a Green Niagara.

(Except I saw the Army Corps of Engineers turn the water off on Niagara Falls once, for a week of maintenance. That was pretty startling -- a dry Niagara Falls.)

No nation, either by clever policies or an enormous police army, has ever shut off the faucet of a Green Niagara.

The police army not only has to be enormous, but entirely free of corruption, which is a function of how highly the government pays the police. I guess an average salary of about $80,000 a year might turn most cops involved in drug interdiction into Eliot Ness. (Might. Congressmen get about $200,000 a year, and one of them is on his way to federal prison for bigtime corruption.)

Here the argument transcends drugs. Whenever through history, and wherever on the surface of the Earth that there's Money on one side of a border, and any sufficiently desirable Commodity on the other side, suppliers and smugglers will deliver the Commodity across the border, get it to market, and take the money.

This argument isn't at all Prohibition-Dependent. Cigarettes and alcohol are legal on both sides of the U.S.-Canadian border. But different states and provinces put different rates of "sin taxes" on these commodities, and sometimes popular labels and brands (e.g. Marlboros) aren't legally available in certain provinces. When the tax rates differ significantly -- with smokes, maybe $1 per pack cheaper/more expensive on opposite sides of the border -- the smugglers move in. With smokes, different state tax rates generate smuggling from the cheap tobacco tax states (the Carolinas) to the big sin-tax states (like New York) -- so if the tax rates differ sufficiently, domestic state borders can generate smuggling activity as inevitably as an international border.

Mexico is across a very long and very porous border.

There are no sealed borders.

I'll ask my pal in Switzerland, a small circular border largely ringed by big Alps, how good Switzerland is at keeping out arbitrarily prohibited or differentially taxed Commodities that people are willing to pay for, but I seem to recall that a huge amount of the heroin moving from Central Asia to Western Europe transits through Switzerland.

If there's a Green Niagara on one side and a Commodity buyers want on the other, all borders are porous. The U.S.-Mexican border is distinct from the U.S.-Canadian border only because of much more interesting music and much tastier food.

Yes, the guy's conclusion that the Mexican economy will collapse without drugs is silly. It could only possibly have any validity if you could test it. How could you test it? By shutting off America's Green Niagara. Call me when that happens, I want to see that.

One fundamental strategy of American anti-drug policies, focused entirely on shutting off the Green Niagara, is to educate American children never to buy drugs. D.A.R.E., whose teachers all carry guns, has been doing that for a generation. You can meet thousands of D.A.R.E. graduates, who all took the Oath and signed the Pledge, at the national and regional conventions of S.S.D.P.

Direct all criticism to George Shultz first, and if you can't get him on the line, okay, aim them at me.

The cool thing is that you can model the inevitability of all this on a computer (there've been a couple of naughty computer games that do this), and you don't even need to specify that you're talking about drugs. Tweak the Numbers of any ficticious or imaginary Commmodity until there's a sufficient cross-border profit difference, and the program starts smuggling. It stops smuggling when the potential profit vanishes.

And yes, racism makes Mexico get this crap in the face more than Canada gets it. When Canada gets it, everybody's comfortable blaming Vietnamese immigrants or Quebecoise (French-speaking) biker gangs or black Jamaicans. A few years ago, the OPP [Ontario Provincial Police] and RCMP ["the Mounties"] were daintily experimenting with blaming ecstacy smuggling on funny-looking Hassidic Jews, but I haven't heard The Jew Thing from them in a while. (I've also never heard a police agency publicly identify drug suspects as Methodists or Presbyterians.)


"Recently featured on BBC World Service! Heard briefly by Gazillions!"


} [Original Message]
} From: Newsroom-l {}
} To: {}
} Date: 3/3/2006 8:35:36 AM
} Subject: [DrugWar] Re: [NEWSROOM-L] Fw: [DrugWar] Mexican Economy Will Collapse if theDrug Trade is Really Stopped
} It's 100% ignorant racist BS. Mexico has the world's eleventh or twelfth
} largest economy, with a GDP of more than a trillion dollars. It is the
} United States' second largest trading partner, after Canada; the world's
} eighth largest oil producer; its tenth largest automobile producer (more
} than 1.8 million units annually). It exports everything from Volkswagens
} (some of them to Germany) to oil drilling platforms. The world's second
} largest cement company is Mexican.
} Drugs are penny ante stuff by comparison, especially marijuana and
} heroin. Mexico does not produce cocaine and does not profit much from
} the cocaine that does pass through its waters and territory on the way
} to the United States. I don't see how the collapse of marijuana sales to
} the United States could have a significant effect on the Mexican
} economy. Heroin is such a small time business in general that its volume
} is probably statistically insignificant in terms of the Mexican overall
} economy.
} {,,16849-2066804,00.html}
} The Times March 03, 2006
} Mexico and Indonesia 'will overtake British economy'
} By Gabriel Rozenberg, Economics Reporter
} MEXICO and Indonesia will both have bigger economies than the UK by
} 2050, according to a report out today which outlines the massive
} potential of the world’s emerging nations.
} The report examines long-term demographic trends to suggest that
} countries such as Mexico, Indonesia, Brazil and Turkey all have young
} and fast-growing populations compared with the UK and continental
} Europe, putting them in line for significantly higher long-term growth
} rates.
} PP wrote:
} } Speaking of Mexico, I found this interesting take (below sig line) on
} } things this morning.
} }} Why is the "Drug War" a Complete Failure in Relation to Mexico? The
} }} Truth is That the American Government Believes the Mexican Economy
} }} Will Collapse if the Drug Trade is Really Stopped, So It's Just a Show
} }} "War." A BuzzFlash Interview with Author Charles Bowden.
} }}
} --
} JS, Cancun, Mexico


Blogger CHUCK2222 said...

I just have one question. Is 75 centimeters longer than four inches?

Blogger Bob Merkin said...

Come on, Chuck, you can do this. It's not like the Rocket Science question about the length of an ellipse.

Vleeptron does not champion the Metric System over the English System. But Vleeptron does note that the Metric System is a lot easier to do Science in, and the Metric System is just about Everywhere on the surface of the Earth except the USA.

You can do this.

And thanks for visiting Vleeptron!

Blogger Bob Merkin said...

Chuck, if you're who I think you are and if you're where I think you are doing what I think you're doing, do be careful, and safe home.

How's the food?

Blogger SteveHeath said...

CHUCK ponders: I just have one question. Is 75 centimeters longer than four inches?

SH: Depends on who is doing the measurement - a male or a female.


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