Thursday, July 26, 2007

Ok, I've just written a paid post about virtual phone cards, and in order to convince me and my readers, they gave me access to some lovely data. Pingo is a service of a major long distance broker - which means they move VAST amounts of data.

So let's do a little data-mining.

First, the current rate quoted for domestic US long distance is 1.8 cents/minute.

Let's look at rates from the US to Mexico:

Mexico 9.0¢
Mexico - Chihuahua 4.0¢
Mexico - Guadalajara 2.8¢
Mexico - Mexico City 3.0¢
Mexico - Mobile 27.9¢
Mexico - Monterrey 3.0¢
Mexico - Puebla 3.0¢
Mexico - Tlaxcala 5.0¢

Clearly there is enough voice and data traffic via phone between the US and Mexico to justify these rates - rates that for Mexico City, Monterrey, Puebla and Guadalajara are roughly a penny more than US domestic long distance rates quoted by Pingo.

That's an interesting factoid, don't you think?

Let's look at Canada.

1.8 cents/minute, the same as the domestic rate. (with the exception of Alaska and Hawaii.) Hm.

So, from a telecommunications standpoint, Canada and the US are the same market. That I knew already, but it's a surprise to me that so much of Mexico is too. And it cannot be all due to "illegals" calling home. Rates like this are due to big blocks of business traffic being brokered back and forth.

But just to make sure, let's see what a South American would have to cough up to call home from the US.

Bolivia 7.8¢
Bolivia - Cochabamba 5.8¢
Bolivia - La Paz 5.8¢
Bolivia - Mobile 11.8¢

Still not bad, but much more in line with what I would have expected for a call across the equator.

Now, I could mine this rate chart all day for interesting correlations. For instance, I would have expected much lower rates for calling China, considering our enormous trade deficit. I wonder if this reflects infrastructure issues, regulation, or a preference for doing business via web and through brokers. I'd have to know more to be sure, but it's information sources like this that provide a really accurate picture of the patterns of trade and globalization. There's all kinds of sources for "impartial" information about the perils and virtues of Globalization. Me, I prefer the raw data generated by people who have a direct interest keeping that data "clean." It may not tell you what is going on politically, and certainly it will bear no resemblance to what any politician or activist will tell you.

But that's a good thing.

In the case of North America, this gives us a graphic and unavoidable truth - there already IS a North American Union. The powers that be just want to tax it, regulate it, and otherwise impede what is obviously a large and largely unregulated market that primarily benefits those involved in it.

It's anarchic; it's developed as much in spite of government as because of it, and while that has been a fact with the deeply entwined economies of the US and Canada for years and years, a similar commingling with brown folks alarms xenophopbes.

Well, I'm afraid it's a little late. Due to some rather dumb immigration and enforcement policy, it's been easier for Mexican illegals to establish households here than to simply cross the border for seasonal work. This means, of course, there's no reason to concentrate on seasonal work - and now far more than the lettuce crop depends on Mexican workers, documented and otherwise.

You know, sometimes policies are so stupid, so obviouly likely to produce the opposite of the advertised intent, you gotta wonder which is more likely - stupidity or deception. And seeing as I believe this policy change occurred under Bush.

Well, this an many other such data-points tells me that our cultures and economies are entwined to the point where we should be re-considering the whole concept of the "illegality" of economic migration, and more importantly, ask the obvious question of who it benefits when the flow of labor this way and money that way is choked off.

From the rumbles and rumors I get, it seems to me that economic migration is putting more pressure on the Mexican government than it is on ours - and that the price of educating and providing such small services as our government offers can and should be written off as the best foreign aid package ever. It's a serious threat to a corrupt elite that is very comfortable with maintaining a feudal system that benefits nobody but those in charge.

The United States does not give foreign aid without strings, and there have never been such potentially lucrative strings as these. For one thing, by entwining the economic destiny of the entire stretch of Mexico from Tijuana to the Gulf with our own, we have accidentally created what amounts to a buffer state that is not any more loyal to Mexico City than it is to Washington - but more dependent on the economy of the US Southwest than it is on the rest of Mexico.

And any circumstances that allows you to educate the children of potential competitors and enemies - we should be turning HANDSPRINGS, folks!

This gives us a potential headlock on the whole intellectual and economic future of an entire nation with a troubled history of outright mismanagement and lots of lovely economic opportunity going to seed. It's your free market capitalist's wet dream.

Alas, real free maket capitalism is about as likely to be permitted to exist as actual communism. Neither lend themselves to huge concentrations of wealth or power, so they have to be "fixed." Usually in the name of those who would otherwise actually benefit from either system run honestly.

Now, prepare yourself for a complete change of topic, although it also derives from prepaid phone cards. Randi Rhodes was talking about Alberto Gonzales and his repeated perjuries regarding the illegal and unconstitutional domestic surveillance program.

It's depressing to have to observe this, but the explosion in pre-paid (and therefore untraceable) cel phones and pre-paid (and therefore, untraceable) phone cards is probably NOT due to an explosion of illegal activity, but rather an entirely legitimate concern that our government is far too interested in our business.

Randi Rhodes just speculated aloud again that the reluctance to impeach Bush is directly due to proceeds from illegal domestic surveillance. Or in other words, this has always been a completely political administration with policies that are always driven by political outcomes and the political outcome of this illegal wiretapping was Watergate all over again, at the wholesale level.

Ever wonder why there has been such complete party loyalty among republicans? That is not all that usual - there are lots of different sorts of Republicans in both House and Senate? So why haven't they voted as you'd expect? Hm.

Well, if you pay cash, pre-paid long distance, cel phones and internet solutions make it impossible to connect a person with a credit card or bank account. And these days, seeing the advantage of that is not paranoid, it's prudent.

This president has just given himself the power to confiscate the assets of anyone who he deems to be giving "aid and comfort" to "the enemy." The statute is so broad that it could be used to take Ron Paul's assets for saying that 9/11 was at least in part a response to years of US meddling in the middle east. It could be used to seize Hillary Clinton's assets and political war chest in order to prevent her from potentially "interfering with the rebuilding of Iraq" by being, you know, elected.

Seriously, as written, that could occur. And it might well occur to anyone less visible than Ron Paul or Hillary Clinton.

At this point, it's pretty obvious that the government is trying, at least, to filter through every conversation, every internet post, every email to find useful intelligence.- and now they are apparently opening snail mail with far fewer safeguards than previously existed.

Yet, Al Queda flourishes, Bin Ladin is free and many of our ports and I believe ALL of our passenger rail terminals are operated by Middle Eastern companies.

So it would seem to me that winning the "war on terror" is no the priority of this program. Unless the source of "terror" is the terror of Republicans being placed at risk of being held accountable, investigated, audited and brought before war-crimes tribunals.

So, if you are likely to say such things on the phone and have the desire to be discreet about it for some reason regarding, say, personal and financial liberty, you might start considering your own personal information security plan. You don't need an urge to be getting away with something to enjoy privacy of communications - you just need to be concerned about the likelihood of someone deciding that something you are doing disturbs them.

And without the right to habius corpus, they won't even have to admit they disappeared you.

Paranoid ranting? Alas, not for the last six months. As Randi suggested, it's time to consider how you look in a tin foil hat, because if they can't read your thoughts, it ain't because there isn't a program trying to achieve just that.

As for Congress, whatever you desire, however you would prefer to handle this, you also are facing a crisis point. It's time to tell George to "Publish and be damned to you, Sir!"

When the president of the united states is mad enough to arrogate to himself powers not even King George would have dared presume, he's mad enough to do anything. It's past time worrying about your political future - it's time to concentrate on personal survival. If Bush succeeds in consolidating power as he is clearly doing, you won't have either a political future, or any future outside of barbed wire.

Initiate impeachment procedures immediately and you will have the support of the American People. There's no better time to do it, because whatever indiscretions suddenly appear, the timing of their appearance will be damning. So cowboy up, put on your BIG girl panties and cope. You have the great fortune of having lived in interesting times.

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