The response e-mail address for US Farm Report (email@example.com) gets an enormous amount of spam - hardly a surprise with a public address. As I sift through the hundreds of messages each week, I do get a sense for the latest angle is and what topics must be provoking the strongest responses.
You can guess the top categories, of course. What is becoming embarrassing to me is I no longer recognize the names of the (I assume) celebrities who have been photographed nude. But then I couldn't name 5 hip-hop artists if they held a gun on me.
Wait - that could actually happen.
Anyhoo, my favorite themes are the conspiracy-mongers. I spoke about the NAIS mail I get on the show (11/17-18) in Mailbag segment. (Watch here). There are some very intense opponents of this effort to track animals.
But every few days I get an update about the North American Union. And for those of you too young to remember the Soviet troops living under Detroit, here is an introductory course to this persistent fear.
The North American Union is a supranational organization, modeled on the European Union, that will soon fuse Canada, the United States, and Mexico into a single economic and political unit. The details are still being worked out by the countries' leaders, but the NAU's central governing body will have the power to nullify the laws of its member states. Goods and people will flow among the three countries unimpeded, aided by a network of continent-girdling superhighways. The US and Canadian dollars, along with the peso, will be phased out and replaced by a common North American currency called the amero.One of the supposed pieces of evidence is the NAFTA Super-highway. This monumental undertaking is perhaps the outgrowth of the Trans-Texas Corridor.
If you haven't heard about the NAU, that may be because its plotters have succeeded in keeping it secret. Or, more likely, because there is no such thing. Government officials say a continental union is out of the question, and economists and political analysts overwhelmingly agree that there will not be a North American Union in our lifetimes. But belief in the NAU - that the plans are very real, and that the nation is poised to lose its independence - has been spreading from its origins in the conservative fringe, coloring political press conferences and candidate question-and-answer sessions, and reaching a kind of critical mass on the campaign trail. Republican presidential candidate and Texas congressman Ron Paul has made the North American Union one of his central issues. [More of an even-handed report]
Add up all the above ingredients--NASCO, SPP, Lázaro Cárdenas, the Kansas City SmartPort, the planned pilot program allowing Mexican truckers to drive on US roads--and you still don't have a superhighway four football fields wide connecting the entire continent. Which is why understanding the persistence of the NAFTA highway legend requires spending some time in Texas, where Governor Rick Perry and his longtime consigliere, Texas Department of Transportation commissioner Ric Williamson, are proposing the $185 billion Trans-Texas Corridor (TTC), 4,000 miles of highway, rail and freight corridors, the first of which would run up from the border through the heavily populated eastern part of the state. Plans for the TTC call for it to be up to four football fields wide at points, paving over as much as half a million acres of Texas countryside. The first section will be built and operated by a foreign enterprise, and when completed it would likely be the largest privatized toll road in the country.
And unlike the NAFTA highway, the Trans-Texas Corridor is very, very real. [More of a must read for non-Texans]
The interesting thread weaving all these fears together is simply xenophobia - our growing distaste for foreigners. The TTC would be built and operated for 50 years by a Spanish concern (with US partners). This foreign ownership really riles up some people.
In my conversations with people in Texas, it seemed that the privatized nature of the road was what got folks the angriest. Bad enough that drivers would face tolls, that ranchers would have their land cut out from under them, but all for the financial gain of a foreign company? "If you liked the Dubai ports deal, you'll love my TTC land grab," taunts an animated Rick Perry on one anti-TTC website. The cartoon goes on to portray Cintra as conquistadors clad in armor riding in to steal Texans' treasure.That is the curious fact. While our government debt is in Chinese/Japanese hands, and our financial institutions glad to be acquired by Mideastern governments, why the uproar over highways?
"What really drives this is economic," activist Terri Hall told me. "It's about the money. We're talking about obscene levels of profit, someone literally being like the robber barons of old. And this is one thing that government actually does well, build and maintain roads."
I think it's the simple obviousness of the deal - and the fact that writing to your legislator can affect it. After all, nobody took a poll of farmers to see if they wanted Case combines to be built by an Italian company.
But the other influence, I believe is the residue of America's late entry into global living. For most of my life we were large enough and diversified enough to ignore international business as a curiosity. Unlike countries in Europe, we didn't need to learn to tolerate and conduct commerce with people unlike us. Heck - it was bad enough doing biz with people from a different region.
And while many view the current interdependence as a slide downward, it strikes me more as the logical outcome to economic advantage. While we don't mind strangers being dependent on us for feed grains, we cannot yet embrace the obverse of that exchange: we become dependent on outsiders for some good/service they provide really well (shoes).
Nor will we be convinced otherwise, I think. Globalization will continue to irritate many Americans until they are gradually displaced by children who have grown up with a different business and social climate.
So I'm expecting a steady stream of NAU warnings.
Any guesses as to the next great threat to America?
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