Tuesday, February 12, 2008

All the Fetish that’s Fit to Print

Ever the shill for Big Plunder, the New York Times has gotten its Mexican steppinfechit to assure the world that NAFTA is a great thing for Mexico and the only problem is that those stupid Indian tortilla eaters don’t know it.

It is a lamentable fact that it is easier to throw a spanner into the works than to undo the damage done, and to unravel the heap of lies and sophistical tricks neatly packaged into two pages of the Times by OpEditor Eduardo Porter. Ultimately people of goodwill tire of the effort, which is why, in the latter day the venal and their lackeys get lined up against a wall and mowed down.

At bottom, though, Porter is just a fetishist -- a person whose mind elaborates self-gratifying fantasies in support of an arbitrary object of devotion, in this case his Invisible Hand. But the fantasy is a distortion of objective realities, which is which is why objective facts have to be confused or ignored in order to save the fetish.

Big Sugar & Wee Corn are Two Peas in a Pod

Porter begins with a confusion. Noting that the endlosung of NAFTA went into effect last month, Porter informs us that “Mexican corn farmers and American Big Sugar hate this unreservedly.”

Cute. Porter grounds his argument in the well-known sophistical trick of insinuating a false equality based on an irrelevant common feature. The reader is being set up to loose sight of the fact that in all substantial respects Mexican farmers (the campesino variety) and Big Sugar have nothing, nothing, nothing at all in common.

But in case you didn’t get fooled at first, Porter makes sure the QED is clear: “This shared outrage underscores how egalitarian free trade is.”

No it doesn’t. It shows only that “free-trade” has managed step on two different sets of toes. If NAFTA were really egalitarian it would step on everyone’s toes. But if it did that, it sure as hell would not be law. Anyone who knows anything about NAFTA knows that in its very operative terms and explicit provisions it is not egalitarian.

Porter also knows that Big Sugar and li’l campesino are not in pari-materia but he tries to blur the distinction by jumping back and forth between “sugar issues” and “corn issues” so that by talking about them at the same time, they will seem to involve the same factors. They don’t.

High Fructose OpEd

According to Porter, “Free trade in sugar within North America will allow cheaper Mexican sugar to flood in [to the United States], .... Mexico’s rural poor, even if they don’t believe it now, are likely to come out ahead.”

How? How will the rural poor come out ahead?

The clear and necessary implication for Porter's pronouncement is that “rural poor” Mexican sugar farmers.... Jose y Pablo... will benefit from this flooding even if they are too damn stupid to realize that no tariffs on their sugar makes their sugar competitive abroad.

What Porter doesn’t tell his readers is that “Mexico’s rural poor” are not sugar growers. No. Mexico’s rural poor might work as underpaid day laborers in big cane fields or sugar mills, but they are not sugar growers. What “free trade in sugar” will benefit is Big Mexican Sugar. Porter knows this, because after digressing to talk about corn he bounces back to the sugar issue, and says.
“ America’s sugar barons ... first cut a deal with Mexico’s sugar barons that would have created a new system limiting trade in sugar and other sweeteners”
Got that? “Barons” Since when has a “baron” qualified as “rural poor”?

Striving hard to inform its readers, this editor of the Times slips and slides with fluid ease between "Mexican corn farmers," "the rural poor" and "Mexico's sugar barons." His style is so free and open ended that he never even bothers with pesky prepositional phrases which might delineate which way the "flooding" was going.

Although Porter does his clever best to occlude and confuse, this part of the NAFTA picture is really the battle of Big Sweet -- Mega Food Mex and Mega Food USA trying to lock up their respective turfs Whether NAFTA would benefit them or not the issue has nothing, nothing, nothing at all to do with Jose y Pablo.

Porter knows he has shuffled, switched and lied, because he concludes by saying “Opening up the sugar trade with Mexico will be good news for Americans: it will lead to lower sugar prices for everybody, from confectionary manufacturers to regular consumers.”

Rejoice Amurkans... you can now march on the road to diabetes ever more cheaply than before. This is good for you just as it’s good for Big Sugar. But notice, how the Mexican farmer suddenly dropped out of Porter’s egalitarian picture. Wasn't it supposed to be good for Mexico's rural poor and weren't they supposed to be too stupid to know it?

Uncle Sam becomes Tio Tortilla

When it comes to corn, Porter is no less ingenuous:
“ Mexican farmers fear that a flood of cheap agricultural imports from the United States will take away their meager livelihoods, and end a centuries-old way of life revolving around small-scale farming of corn.”
No... they don’t fear. They know. The “taking away of meager livelihoods” has been something they have directly experienced since 1994. It is not a question of fear, but of knowing. It is not a question of what might happen but of what has happened. Potter knows this too, because he goes on to spew that,
"NAFTA has already shaken up Mexican farming — mostly for the better. The value of agricultural imports from the United States has doubled since 1994, when tariffs started to gradually decline. Imports of corn have more than doubled by volume."
Mostly for the better for whom? How does the soaring value of imports and the doubling of imports beneft poor, small-scale farmers?

I will repeat the question : How does the soaring value of imports from the United States into Mexico benefit Mexican farming which presumably grows things to sell. Since when have cheaper foreign imports benefited domestic production?

This paragraph is simply scatological. There is simply no other way to describe it. Porter has the effrontery to say that soaring imports have “shaken up” the poor campesino for the “better”. Anyone who believes this, probably thinks vomit soup is a delicacy.

Porter knows that he is bullshitting through his lie-stained teeth because he goes on to say that “rural Mexico needs investment to increase yields and move out of corn and into more lucrative crops” and the Mexican Government “ will also need to help more rural Mexicans find jobs outside agriculture.”

Translation: Agi-Business needs to get in there and buy up the land, forget about corn... go into other globally-marketable stuffs...and let the Government figure out how to re-employ Jose y Pablo. You know... just the way ol’ Bill Clinton “re-tooled” the US work force for goo-paying- jops at McDonald's.

Porter concludes this by now utterly repulsive screed by pounding away at his article of faith: “NAFTA will be good news for Mexico’s consumers and many of its farmers.” Yeah... the big ones.

Howsoever Porter greases his slipping and sliding with equivocal terms. what it boils down to is that a well paid, well stuffed whore on the Times Editorial Board has taken up a full two pages of this very august newspaper to fill the reader’s mind with [you name it] to get you to think that NAFTA is a good thing when in fact it has left nothing but devastation in its wake.

The Devastations of Liberalism

The the lynchpin for "all the fetish that’s fit to print” is Porter’s claim that since the US produces yellow corn and the campesino grows white corn, the swamping of Mexico with yellow corn hasd no causal effect on the impoverishment of the white corn producing Mexican farmer.

He says this notwithstanding that he also says that NAFTA will make it necessary for campesinos to "find jobs outside agriculture." That is the strangest non-causal effect ever seen.

But even on its isolated merits, this lynchpin is so wobbly in its hole that it wouldn’t support a single tortilla. Estimates as of 2002 were that 1 in 3 tortillas were being made of yellow corn. But in actuality the grade & color of corn is not the critical factor at work. It is just a bogus difference in support of a bogus propaganda for the benefit of Big Plunder.

NAFTA is not just a question of “open trade over open borders”. It is a complex economic regime with equally complex causes and effects. The true fact is that the price of white corn is tied to and fluctuates with the price of yellow corn. The dumping of yellow corn on the Mexican market has devalued the return on white corn.

It is a plain fact that, by law, Mexico used to only allow the importation of corn when its farmers' production fell short of domestic needs. In other words, white or yellow, Mexico was buying domestically. NAFTA eliminated quotas limiting corn imports while at the same time allowing U.S. subsidy programs to remain in place. This promoted the dumping of corn into Mexico by U.S. agribusiness at below the actual cost of production. The price paid to farmers in Mexico for their corn fell by over 70%

The decline was not due solely to the mere fact of imports. A contributing reason for the decline is that in February 1995, the Mexican government was advised by the World Bank and IMF to continue to depress prices to reduce domestic grain production and to import supplies. It complied.

Another reason for the devastation of the small Mexican corn grower was that corn buyers in Mexico were offered very favorable loan rates available to them through U.S. export agencies. U.S. Commodity Credit Corporation which made corn-purchasing loans at 7% for three years, 1/4 of the rate Mexican banks were able to provide.

In other words, while the World Bank was ordering Mexico to depress local prices, U.S. export agencies were undercutting Mexican banks in order to promote corn sales that would undercut the Mexican farmer.

Liars like Porter would have his readers believe that NAFTA was simply a matter of “open borders” when in fact it is the fulcrum for a coordinated series of policies designed to despoil and plunder Mexico and the rest of Hispanic America.

Ask yourself, who these “corn buyers” are? Surely Laura y Maria aren’t applying for 7% loans to buy their daily tortillas. These “corn buyers” are in fact giant Mexican corporations like Minsa, Gimsa and Maseca, mass producers of agricultural products and food stuffs. But these Mexican produces are in turn heavily “invested” by U.S. agribusiness interests, like Cargill and ADM - who are responsible for fully two-thirds of all U.S.corn exports.

Since NAFTA, Birdseye, Green Giant, Campbell’s Soup, Hunt, Arthur Daniels Midland, Conagra, Cargill, and Tyson’s have all significantly increased their farming and processing operations in Mexico. While these companies’ profits have skyrocketed. rural poverty and unemployment has also skyrocketed.

In other words, what the neo-liberal regime boils down to is a strategy for Big Food to destroy the little guy. And the strategy includes US agribusiness taking over food production and processing in Mexico, with the assistance of “trade” policies, government subsidies, and IMF diktats.

Odious shills like Porter, decry that the rise in rural poverty is “just a correlation” that there are “other variables” at work to explain the decimation of the Mexican rural social-economy. But then these same word punks turn around and ignore those interlocking variables and talk about NAFTA as if it were just trading sugar for flour over the picket fence.

Ring In the Mall!

Porter’s screed betrays two other noteworthy facts. First, that he is himself aware of the social and human costs involved and second that he is willing to sacrifice human beings on the high pyramid of corporate greed.

Although Porter’s oblique reference to a “centuries-old way of life” may effectively hide what is at stake from the average US reader, those familiar with Mexican will know that Porter is saying to hell with a centuries old culture. Ring in the Mall!!!

Since before the arrival of the Spanish, the Mexican rural community was based on the ejido -- a form of communitarian homesteading of land. The land is owned by the community but is ‘farmed out’ to families who work it and who live on it from generation to generation so long as they continue to work it. The ejido was at the center of what the Spanish Administration used to refer to as the “Indian Republics.”

The phrase was apt, because at issue was, in microcosm, a “republic”. The ejido system is not just a “mechanism” of production but is the material undergirding for an entire way of life, that reaches into family structures, social morés and spirtual life. The Indian has tenaciously fought to preserve the ejido throughout the centuries and the Mexican Revolution of 1910-1920 was in one third part the revolt of ejidatarios against ...(guess)... Big Sugar which was poaching on Indian lands lands in the name of “efficient” production. That is what Zapatismo was all about.

Porter, who got his degree at UNAM, (Mexico's National University) knows the story full well. He is the latest crop -- escoria mas bien dicho -- of Mexican liberales.

In Mexico the word “liberal” retains its original and correct meaning, followed in the entire rest of the world, except the obfuscatory Spew York Times and US mudia. In a nutshell, a liberal is a person who believes in the Sanctity of the Invisible Hand and the all Beneficence of Market Forces.

Ever since the 1850’s the “liberal” regime in Mexico has done its best to destroy the peasantry. Their so-called “maximum hero” Benito Juarez, “freed” the peasant from the “bonds” of the ejido by allowing him to be a “free-hold” farmer. Result: the land was bought up by U.S. “investors” on the cheap. The peon was turned into a hired-day laborer who could spend his pittance getting drunk in pulquerías.

Juarez was one in that lamentable train of Mexican “intellectuals” who get drunk on foreign intoxicants to the great detriment of the people of the country.

Eventually the Juarez land reforms were “corrected” -- at least to the extent that further damage wasn’t done. But just as the Mexican peasant was recovering from that dubious benefit, he then had to face the encroachments of Big Rail and Big Sugar in the 1890’s and 1900’s. It was then the policy of the liberal Porfirian government, to develop the country by “investing it out” to foreign capital. And if some damn peon village stood in the way, to hell with it. In 1910, the campesino revolted as he will again, soon enough.

After 10 years of revolution, his hard fought way of life and the inviolability of the ejido was enshrined in the Constitution for near 70 years, until Salinas, that slimy, murderous gangster-mole, incubated in a Harvard test-tube, amended the constitution to, once again, take away the campesinos’ legal protections. NAFTA is the end of the process.

The Spew York Times will never let on. What it routinely excoriates as the “one party rule of the PRI” was in fact an essentially social-democratic regime modeled on modern European lines. It was not perfect (what politics is?); it was corrupt (what party isn’t?) -- but when all is said and done it was repudiation of a “free-for-all” market liberalism, in favor of a managed economy that, while fundamentally capitalist, protected certain social values and standards of living.

What rags like the Spew York Times call the “opening up” and “democratization” of Mexico was in actual fact a reversion to the economic savagery of 19th century liberal economics. Porter, who has never done any harder work than shovel his own palaver for Business World, the WSJ and now The Big Spew, thinks it is marvelous that the Mexican peasant can join the burgeoning lumpen proletariat in the cities.

Anyone who wants to behold Porter's demented vision of the good can travel to Mexico City, look beyond the ne plus ultra towering glass "statements" of Big Plunder -- dejando su planta en el suelo -- and behold the millions of once rural poor now living in urban hovels on top of garbage dumps

This is not to say that there are not problems involved in sustaining a way of life that is not maximally efficient from a purely economic point of view. It is a question of political-economy that many European countries, particularly France and Germany, have faced. Is preserving a way of life worth the economic cost? Can the small farmer, the European peasantry, the Mexican campesino have a role in a larger economy? The non-liberal answer is, Yes. It is often complicated and it involves “costs” just the way education, health, pensions also involve “costs” but the “costs” are considered worth it since it is also felt that human life is something more than fungible in the spinning vortex of exchange values.

Licking the Capitalist Boot

But Porter, like the rest of his crowd of liberales, don’t care about non-economic social values. For them, the “movement” of goods is a good in itself -- it has become their dominating fetish, which they obsesses over and thrill to to the exclusion of everything else. This is why, Porter can callously talk about“shifts” and “reallocations” and macro-benefits over the long run, even when the stupid people don’t realize how benefited they are.

Ever since some god first taught man to plant a weed, civilized life has consisted in a cycle of production and consumption. The problem with Porter and his crowd is that the cycle has become an end in itself.... something like a beloved and oft-licked boot.

All ideologies ultimately demand their own reinforcement by insisting that perceptions and concepts conform, ratify and thus perpetuate the ideology itself. To this extent fetishism is built into all “systems”. The way toward freedom is not to deny the necessity of production and consumption but rather not to idolatrize it.

That idolatry is the essence of what passes for Porter’s thought process. Uncontrolled movement of goods and money and profits is the only good he understands. He is so wedded to his fetish, that he cannot even explain how this un-restrained, gyrating vortex might benefit ordinary small people. Instead, licking furiously at the boot of his fetish, he insists that large “imports” of corn will benefit the poor Mexican farmer. To perpetuate his idolatry, he engages in false facts, absurdities and repeated thumping on his capitalist bible that NAFTA is good dammit, it’s good.

In fact, the only beneficiaries of this macro-system are the macro-players. Those that control the mass-production - mass consumption cycle. And the big corporate players are so heavily cross-invested, that it bears little relation to reality to speak Mexican versus American corporations. These labels are about as meaningless as the country of a ship’s registry. Under NAFTA what controls and benefits is simply Big Food.

But none of this disturbs shills like Porter who is so enthralled to his fetish that he can actually pen articles entitled. “Feeding the Rich Feeds the Poor

Ah yes! Le Brioche pour moi est le pain pour toi. Isn’t that right Porter?

In fact all Porter is doing is feeding the poor into Moloch’s Maw.

©WCG, 2008

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