Photo: Jorje Cabrera, Reuters
There are “caravans” marching north though Mexico
originating from the Central American countries of Guatemala, Honduras and El
Salvador. Presently around 1,500 miles away, they get out of their trucks to
march for the benefit of cameras with uncannily precise timing to arrive on the
precipice of the U.S. November midterm election.
Is your spider sense tingling? Are you wondering if this is
a scam? So am I.
These people are portrayed as refugees; but are they? They
aren’t acting like it. There’s a pretty straightforward script about how
refugees are handled on this planet. The international law on asylum is that
the asylum seeker is supposed to present themselves to the authorities of the first
international border they reach upon fleeing their countries. For Central
Americans fleeing north from their governments, that country is Mexico;
specifically, the southern border of Mexico.
The way it is supposed to work, Mexico, with aid from the
international community, is supposed to set up refugee camps. The coordination
body for this is U.N. High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR). It is from these
camps, that other organizations such as the US Office for Refugee Resettlement
are supposed to process persons to qualify eligible refugees for movement from
the camps to a third host nation. If this were the Middle East, the analogy
would be people in Iraq and Syria fleeing ISIS going into U.N. camps in
Here’s where it gets weird. That’s exactly what the UNHCR,
Mexico and United States are trying to do in this case. This is not a money
issue. The US, Mexico and the UN have the money and resources to support a
proper refugee camp. We’re talking 1,500 people per caravan which is a drop in
the bucket compared to the 11 million Syrians, Kurds and Yazidis displaced in
the Middle East.
But wonder of wonders, these people are refusing to go into
camps and process as refugees. Somebody’s giving them a better deal than the
internationally sanctioned solution set. Instead, they are marching towards the
US border escorted by, and it seems funded by, American activist handlers. What
does that tell you is really going on here? Again, are these people really legitimate
refugees from their own governments? If so, what exactly are they fleeing?
Let’s dig a little more.
First, these marchers do come from three relatively small
economies. Guatemala has a $75.6 billion GDP nation, El Salvador a $24.8
billion GDP and Honduras has a $22.98 billion GDP. But here’s the thing. As of
2017, the GDP’s of all three of these countries was growing. Yeah, you heard
that right, growing. Note that all three of these governments are imploring
their citizens to return. And they were doing that before Donald Trump
threatened to cut off aid to them. What’s the underlying stress that may be
besetting Central America? Here are my observations.
First, this may very well have simpler explanations that
have nothing to do with being refugee problems. People leaving otherwise improving economic conditions speaks more to
internal forces having to do with economic opportunity inefficiencies within
these nations. One of the organizers of the caravan is a Honduran ex-lawmaker named
Bartolo Fuentes who’s apparently been organizing caravans since last September
as reported by the New York Post and Daily Beast. These are normally small groups numbering in
the 200 range. According to the NYPost,
the swelling in numbers for this caravan may have been triggered by a woman referring
to “assistance” in an interview on Hoduran TV news channel HCH. Mr. Fuentes reported a surge in phone calls
following the broadcast.
What does that mean? Could this be local politics in Central America gone viral on the world stage because of the internet? It's certainly not the first bizarre consequence effect we've seen happen. Or, it
may be simple economics in action. It
costs an average of $7,000 USD to pay a coyote to smuggle a person to the
United States. A caravan with “assistance”
reduces that cost per traveler considerably … and potentially upsets the human
trafficking economies extending from Central America to the United States. Think about the implications of that one
More broadly, what Central American nations do share, actually
the entire Western Hemisphere and the Organization of American States, is a
common problem called Venezuela. That socialist state is a basket case of a
national failure. Venezuela’s economy has collapsed thirty-seven percent (-37%)
since 2014 from being a $482.4 billion GDP nation to a maybe $300 billion GDP
country today; that’s a loss of $182 billion of GDP by Venezuela. That math
basically means that Venezuela has evaporated wealth greater than the combined
economies of Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras. The stresses put on Venezuela’s
neighbors because Nicolas Maduro is nincompoop of a socialist despot even by
socialist’s standards is a problem now beginning to resonate throughout the New
My instincts say Maduro is triggering the Western Hemisphere
equivalent of the refugee problem besetting Europe. We are facing a problem
very similar to the walking wave of people seeking economic opportunity while hanging
on to their cultural identity. They,
like their migrant counterparts in the EU, are escaping a no go home scenario. The
similarity to what is challenging Europe is uncanny; except the problem for the
New World isn’t Muslim refugees displaced from their homes in Syria, Kurdistan,
Libya, or Sudan, it’s Venezuelans displaced from their homes.
The Venezuelans need that $182 billion of lost GDP to
survive and like their Muslim counterparts in the Old World, they are pursuing
a scrounge at the expense of their hosts path to that desperate survival. Central
America is being invaded by Maduro’s refugee hordes.
So far, no one has the guts to do something about the cancer
that is Venezuela’s blight upon the Americas. This is not going to get smaller
as Central and South America’s economies continue to crater under the weight of
the spread of that pathetic socialist failure.
The Gringo Factor
Stranger still, groups in the US are seeking to exploit the
plight of the innocent for their own political purposes, most embarrassingly, by
activists and globalists in the United States. The political elite Gringo’s are
being ugly Americans using these people like pawns. I doubt they even actually
care what happens to them, or their countries.
Here’s my reality check.
Cooler heads than the American hotheads are beginning to voice their
concerns. Eventually, I think the
suggestion of Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto to US President Donald Trump and Canadian Prime Minister Justin
Trudeau that the countries of North America, who have strong economies, will
have to solve this problem as an Organization of American States problem. It will become front burner policy.
My suggestion to President Trump is to seriously consider
these posits. We may need to build a coalition of the willing to help Central and
South America find a better future without a Maduro led Venezuela. We may need to re-cast how US aid to Central America can be better used to further decrease the attraction of economic migration from these countries. And, we may have to deal with the economic food chain of human trafficking in the New World.
There are global repercussions that accompany this strategic
Meditate on this more I shall.
During the first minute of his speech on the 25th of
September 2018 to the United Nations General Assembly, president Donald J. Trump
received a greeting of muted laughter. For the near hour of the speech that
followed, you could have heard a pin drop in the cavern. Trump minced no words.
He was brutally clear to everyone in the General Assembly that the United
States of America meant business. The repercussions of that speech will be world
Foremost In the president's message to the world was his
rejection of globalism represented most by the governing apparatus of the
United Nations and its supporting agencies. The UN had been born in an era of
global power concentration at the end of World War II. It has functioned as
such since then concentrating the real power over the planet in the Security
Council. This model husbanded the planet through the Cold War and a period of post-Colonialism
in the aftermath of it. But much like his domestic presidency is a recognition
that established bureaucracies can become bloated by elitism and hubris, so can
the world stage.
I found it poetic that this message to the world that the
time has come to set central control aside and embrace a more plural form the
world governance was delivered in the General Assembly where decades of
evolution adding nations represented in the room have brought necessity to
evaluate the issue of how nations relate to each other to the forefront.
This has been evolving for some time. The world has become
more regionalized with confederations, some cooperative and some adversarial,
emerging on the planet. The European Union has gone through several cycles of
growing pains, so has Russia and its Confederation of Independent States. These
two regions of the world have now existed in their present forms for longer
since the fall of the Berlin Wall now longer than the entire length of time the
Cold War wall existed. The Middle East and Africa have undergone radical change
from a landscape of colonies to amalgams of nations. The world became plural in
an image, quite honestly, modeled after the original hopes of the United
Nations and financed, in many cases, by the treasure of the United States.
Mission accomplished. Hooray for us monkeys!
In his speech, Trump challenged this now more plural world
to begin to live up to its potential. In doing so, he announced that it was
time to win the world of American dependence. He pointed out that for America
to navigate into its own future such a change was a necessity. He implied that
this necessity applied to every other nation as well. The stunned silence in
the room was surely no surprise to the American delegation delivering this 21st
century tough love message.
I smiled to myself as I listened to it not because I am an
isolationist, but because I am an American. I’m pragmatic about the practice of
global stability and national policy. I found my thoughts drifting back to a
much younger United States of America. In the 1790’s and leading up to the War
of 1812, the United States was a beacon of freedom to a Western Hemisphere
dominated by colonial masters. They coveted how the United States was thriving
in its social and power experiment. Throughout the Americas, people saw the
emergence of a free and independent nation and wanted the same for themselves.
America's leaders struggled with the requests for aid throw off the world
powers of that era and cast them out of the New World. There was acrimony about
it at the time, and regret. America's leaders knew we were not rich enough or
powerful enough come to the aid of our neighbors and risk the combined might of
Europe against us. Mind you the British did try. Lucky for us, we survived the
War of 1812. More importantly for the world’s future, we chose to lead by
example that would become a hallmark of our future conduct on the world stage.
We took the position of tough love showing our neighbors what was possible, to
inspire hope even if (no because) we were unable to do it for them. We recognized
even then the wisdom of teaching others to fish.
If you think about it openly, the world is in a similar
position today following the abandonment of colonialism worldwide. There are
only two nations rich enough to vie for hegemony on this planet. This would be
the multi-trillion economies of the United States and China. No one else has
this potential. Both nation’s societies are presently in flux. One is pursuing
hyper-patriotic centralization of social values controlled via the technology
of universal social scoring. The other tumultuously hangs on to its internal
pluralism using technology in an endless series of trials by fire, well
technically flame wars, to bring everyone’s egos to ground.
Stepping back and looking objectively, both nations are
experiments in the future of complex societies for this planet. Opposite in
approach, these two nations are the templates for where technological humanity
must find a future. Clearly neither model has found its sweet spot yet. Is what
it is. What will be interesting in the next decade is whether the US and China come
to blows over these templates or find a way to manage their polar forms of
leadership in concert for the benefit of the remainder of the world.
Perhaps we’ll find a new détente. Hopefully, the UN General
Assembly noted in its silence of President Trumps speech, the bilaterally
messages between the Unites States and the nations single out by the US, that
included carrots and sticks, loud and clear.
I believe that the American delegation’s message to the
United Nations in 2018 will go down in history as a reminder by the United
States of the same message it has stood for since its birth.
For whatever acrimony the news of the day makes of this inconvenient
truth, President Trump did his job as our messenger effectively.
The ability of the Internet to cause storms of social
upheaval has reached epic proportions. Since the November 2016 election the
Internet has been used by political parties to ferment acrimony in the national
debate far beyond anything we ever saw in terms of campaign influence efforts
by any party foreign or domestic. The degree of malicious animus that the
entire world is seeing us undergo is, quite frankly, embarrassing. We have literally
descended to high school clique mean people politics.
The most recent of these being the nomination to the Supreme
Court of Brett Kavanaugh where, at the last minute after a seemingly clear
path to confirmation had been achieved, an accusation exploded into “court of
public opinion” virality. It doesn’t matter to many people whether the
accusation is founded. It doesn’t matter that the State of Maryland, where the
incident allegedly occurred, has already stated that in the 1980’s the law was
that such an infraction by a minor would have been a 2nd degree
misdemeanor for which the statute of limitations has long expired; and would
have been expunged from the record upon the age of majority.
No. What matters is that the obsession of all parties, of an
entire nation, is to sacrifice Kavanaugh like a lamb on an altar over an
obsession with another man, President Donald Trump. He’s the real “bad boy” that
women have that love-hate fantasy with as noted in that old 1970’s feminism
text, Nancy Friday’s “My Secret Garden”. Entire genres of both pornographic scripting
and victim archetype psychotherapy have evolved from that book.
Today, it seems that total Internet bandwidth utilization is
split 50/50 between these two themes. Well, the social media acrimony half also
shares its allocation with all the other mundane functions of the internet. All
of it makes money from combinations of actual purchases, ad serves, or user
data mining marketing intelligence. We are the product. Yeah that’s right,
looking at the raw traffic data tells you a lot about America.
We are also the fuel that keeps this cycle of meanness
going. The thing about the internet is that it’s a totally level playing field
of democracy. Tumultuously fair. Everyone’s voice counts equally, albeit with amplifications
that come from the gossipy effects of combinations of money and sex appeal.
Anyone can Tweet. Anyone can make a snarky Facebook post. Anyone can generate a
meme. These are all tracked, cataloged and sorted into data mining information for
sale right along with your browser cookies of what you are looking at even if
you think you are expunging them by the way. Regardless, the cumulative effect
on the human brain as we “monkey up” trapped in our biological evolution to be
creature of stimulus-response, is that we begin to believe that what appears on
the LED screens is real. It’s not. The internet is just like TV, it’s a “boob
tube”, pure entertainment for the mind. Something primates do while waiting for
the meteor to hit.
To be sure, the big internet companies take this phenomenon
very seriously. Not because they care about people’s mental health mind you. It’s
because they know that every fad has a half-life and sooner or later, Facebook
could become Prodigy and fade into oblivion. Like their television counterparts
who are seeing the public’s interest decline because the noise saturation level
of the medium has reached abandonment behavior levels, the internet giants are
seeing their own credibility questioned more and more. There’s a big debate
over what to do with the monopoly positions that companies like Google,
Facebook and Twitter have achieve in the mindshare of adult America. I note
“adult” with emphasis, the kids have their own places on the internet they use.
The sites adults argue about are called “old people” watering holes. You ought
to know this if you are reading this article that in internet dog years, you
are an old fart.
The Internet debate rages from academia to government. The
academics, mostly left leaning, who in the 1990’s argued vociferously for an
open and unregulated internet free of influence from “the man” have, in the
last couple of years, done a 180 degree about face. The last conference on this
I attended in November 2017 called “After the Digital Tornado” http://digitaltornado.net/schedule/
was interesting in that eventually this same 1990’s academic brain trust used
the same arguments of Heidegger, Kafka and Marx to argue for a conversion of
the market-based Internet into a central government regulated utility internet.
No really. You can use the same body of academic reference base to create any
outcome posit you want. My considered strategic net assessment analyst reaction
to the conference, with decades of heuristic and mathematical modeling under my
belt? Groucho trumps Karl. Always has, always will.
Now government is getting involved. On Friday September 21st
2018, The White House released a document titled the “National Cyber Strategy
of the United States of America”, https://www.whitehouse.gov/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/National-Cyber-Strategy.pdf
It’s a 40 page document that parallels many of the recommendations from a book
by Tim Maurer named “Cyber Mercenaries”. It’s a very well written, if deeply
academic language laced, examination of cyber policies and strategies around
the world that fairly describes the issues different countries face in dealing
with cyberspace and the state and non-state actors within it. The US strategy
statement elucidates our perspective and aspirations within this larger global
But there are dangers not noted in the latest White House
document. Concepts of governance become moot when the baseline tech shifts back
from central server to distributed infrastructure models. That’s coming. It’s
called the Internet of Things (IOT). The “things” keep getting smarter to the
point that they become mobile self-contained data centers, that’s what a
self-driving vehicle is while it’s parked and plugged into an outlet. It’s
R2D2. The lobbying of the monopoly companies to retain their market share is
intense. But think about it, there’s no reason why social media needs to be a
one stop portal. There’s no reason why Amazon should be the only company store
that matters, that it should replace the post office, UPS and Fedex. One of the
laments of the academics I do agree with is that the Internet used to have
hundreds of them; that the Internet used to better fit the design of a
competitive market space where on single company had greater than fifty percent
market share. That is wasn’t a landscape of pseudo-utilities with unregulated
staffs not subject to internal controls on behavioral norms. Economic interest
wise, big companies and big governments like cozy rooms. That’s ultimately a
bullshit reason for how to design the internet too. Posit in your head for a moment
if social media was a society of 100,000 small servers, each governed by a
sysop, the net would be self-neutral via natural counterbalancing. All these
central control computer programs and intrusive data mining systems would either
be superfluous or governed via a very different set of norms and expectations. My
point here is, we are still in the stage of baby steps even if our egos try to
tell us otherwise.
But the danger to the US in cyberspace is that our own
domestic ineptitude, as seen in how our people are so vulnerable to the
cancerous effects of “low information” viewer social media, are the seeds of
our own destruction in the global race for dominance in cyber norms and
behaviors. We presently do not hold the moral high ground of behavior. It means
we are on a path to lose the cyber war asymmetrically. We will concentrate on infrastructural
security raising barriers to entry to innovation even as the global technology
base develops futures designed on completely different infrastructure models from
the ones our bureaucracies know how to regulate. We will concentrate on
managing down “bots” while at the same time artificial intelligence is making
it that you cannot tell an internet robot from and actual human, and the robots
actually will eventually serve you better as they evolve from toys into
“droids”. What have not even begun to do is teach humans to separate fantasy
from fact, to learn to live beyond being audiences of LED “boob tubes” willing
to believe the shallowest of lies because it gives us a biological endorphin
We have a long way to go.