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What is the true cost of “free trade”? Well, there is a stink bug in my damned coffee. Not just a cup, the whole damned pot! This is not the first time that something like this has happened to me. It is winter here, and cold. Really, really cold. So how in the hell did I get a stink bug ruining my coffee?  Again? And what does this have to do with trade policy?

Please see below the fold...

Well, first of all, “free trade” is a misnomer;  it is really unrestricted, one-sided trade. Or “open” trade, or “dumping” (although that has certain legal meanings, but it is true nonetheless). Basically, we allow other countries to sell their goods here without regard to reciprocity, environmental laws, labor laws or even basic human rights. We do this, not to benefit our citizens, but to benefit multi-national corporations and the wealthy elite that own the vast majority of stock in these corporations. The so-called “elite” tell us that this will benefit us all, eventually.  They have some very convenient talking points, those guys, convenient, since it benefits themselves, but not many others from what I can tell.

You see, the real price of “free trade” is never really calculated. Spreadsheets won't do it, no matter how many MBA's try to push it. Yeah, they love their damned spreadsheets and stuff (Disclaimer:  I have a degree in business administration and computer science). How can anyone calculate all factors? They cannot. Who should calculate the cost to society at large? That is the duty of a government, a duty which ours has abrogated.  So what, you may ask, does this have to do with stink bugs?

Well, I live in western Pennsylvania.  The northeast...  It is winter here, and a bitter one. When the temperature plummeted well below zero, the refrain that I heard over and over again (I actually heard it on local television, from the weatherman) was this:  perhaps it will kill the stink bugs.

Stink bugs.  Damned stink bugs.

Oh, and "free trade" stinks, literally.

A brief history of stink bugs in America. Most experts agree:  

They almost certainly came over in cargo containers from Asia.  North Korea (not very likely) and nearby China...

They cause crop damage. They are resistant to most pesticides. They lay eggs on the underside of leaves, broad leaves preferred... The northeast lettuce crop is devasted. And many other crops.

When the temperature drops, stinkbugs seek enclosed spaces, like cargo containers (that's how they got here), or my house.  They are flat and can squeeze through really narrow cracks.  They are just about impossible to keep out and will sneak in whenever anyone enters or exits a home. Most of them hide in the woodwork, but there always seems one or two every few days that pop out.  They sometimes dive into hot things, like a coffee pot, or my sister's supper that she was cooking. They seem to like to come out and dive into warm or hot things.  

Oh, by the way, they are called “stink bugs” because they STINK, in that they emit a squirt of malodorous liquid anytime they are irritated or killed.  The liquid then attracts other stink bugs (why in the hell would anything would evolve to attract others of its species to its point of death is beyond me).

Stink bugs ruined my damned coffee...  More than once...  Is that in anyone's calculations?  

Lettuce?  Crop damage?  How many billion dollars?  

They are here to stay.  We will never, ever get rid of these disgusting things. They came over on cargo containers. It took them this long, so would they have made it here without massive trade? I doubt it.

Damned, damned stink bugs. I hate them. Damn 'em all to hell!

Fucking stink bugs.  

There is no such thing as Free Trade.  

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Comment Preferences

  •  Do you think that tariffs slapped on Chinese goods (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    hmi, EastcoastChick

    would have stopped the bugs? Maybe they would have got here a few years later. Invasive species are a norm, free trade or not. Look at Australia.

    •  Gee, (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Dirtandiron, JVolvo

      Did I say anything about tariffs? I must have missed that when I wrote this diary.

      A few years later? How many? Please be more specific.

      And what about Australia? I have no idea to what you are referring. Please inform us all of what you mean.

      "No matter how cynical I get, I just can't keep up." --Lily Tomlin

      by paulex on Fri Mar 07, 2014 at 11:00:18 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Free trade usually means trade with low tariffs. (0+ / 0-)

        Or do you mean that all trade should be banned? That would be impossible. People have always traded.

        Australia had huge problems with invasive species. A few rabbits multiplied and ruined the ecology. Sheep weren't much better but they at least were brought there deliberately. All this in 19th century, long before modern 'free trade' ideas.

        •  Wow. (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Dirtandiron, JVolvo, terabytes

          You are putting a lot of words in my mouth that I did not say. I put "Free Trade" in quotes, because that it not what we have. I was pretty specific.


          it is really unrestricted, one-sided trade. Or “open” trade, or “dumping” (although that has certain legal meanings, but it is true nonetheless). Basically, we allow other countries to sell their goods here without regard to reciprocity, environmental laws, labor laws or even basic human rights.You are wrong. What is the problem that you have with fair trade? That is really what I am advocating here.

          "No matter how cynical I get, I just can't keep up." --Lily Tomlin

          by paulex on Fri Mar 07, 2014 at 11:28:28 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Reciprocity (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            FG, Sky Net

            Actually, we have all sorts of reciprocity—from GATT and the WTC, to NAFTA, to other pacts on mutual openings of markets, as well as trade restrictions on items like weapons, certain hardwoods and threatened species, in addition to certain "strategic" materials and manufactures being withheld from international commerce. Now, there may not be enough of these regulations to suit you, but they certainly do exist in some quantity. In addition, beyond governmental regulation, there are the various NGOs certifying diamonds, coffee, and clothing, etc. as being put in trade in accord with certain norms. The mildest characterization is that you have very much overstated your case.

            BTW—pests of all sorts have been international travelers since international trade began, i.e., for several millennia.

    •  I agree (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      I don't think anything would have stopped the invasion of these things.

      Decades past, creatures had to stay on their own home turf.

      Now they can easily hitch a ride in someone's suitcase.

      It is a small world after all.

    •  Currency manipulation (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      paulex, terabytes

      is the biggest problem with Chinese trade policy.

      All the US has to do is enforce the regs already in place and we win.  Jobs come back to the US and consumers once again have choices for safe, quality foods and consumer goods.

      Money is property, not speech. Overturn Citizens United.

      by Betty Pinson on Sat Mar 08, 2014 at 10:46:10 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  I've seen something resembling those brown fellas (7+ / 0-)

    quite often this winter here in Central Ohio. Watched one buzz a tad too close to a server rack last week and heard the result when it literally hit the fan.

    No sir, I don't like 'em.

    CPAC: The Real March Madness

    by here4tehbeer on Fri Mar 07, 2014 at 11:46:18 PM PST

  •  Not all stink bugs, just the brown marmorated (18+ / 0-)

    stink bug (BMSB) which first appeared in Allentown PA in the mid 1990’s but was not positively identified until 2001. Genetic analysis indicates that the founding population came from Beijing and consisted of between 1 and 28 insects IIRC.

    Without its native natural enemies the BMSB population has indeed grown and spread far and wide, a large breeding population was found in Portland OR in 2004 and in Sacramento this past summer. At first it was mainly a nuisance pest in urban and residential areas but starting in 2010 the BMSB emerged as a major pest of peaches and apples in the mid-Atlantic region. That got people’s attention and there is a large scale research effort focused on managing this pest, one approach is classical biological control whereby native natural enemies, in this case that is primarily tiny parasitic wasps that lay their eggs inside the BMSB eggs, are imported into the US. But these imported natural enemies must be screened first to make sure they do not attack our native species and possibly cause other problems, for instance there are native stink bugs that are predacious and provide biological control of some other insect pests.

    Invasive pests are indeed a problem and we need to spend resources to inspect goods to keep them out and  research dollars to combat them when they do arrive. But those resources have not been increasing and, in many cases, have been cut over the last ten to twenty years, mainly thanks to Republicans in congress and their aversion to research and common sense.

    Another recent and dramatic case of an invasive pest from Asia is the spotted wing drosophila (SWD) which attacks cherries and berries right before harvest, it first appeared in California in 2008 and has now spread over most of the US as well as parts of Europe.  

  •  A friend in Baltimore recently posted on Facebook (4+ / 0-)

    That he finally hated something more than stink bugs ... snow.

    Free: The Authoritarians - all about those who follow strong leaders.

    by kbman on Sat Mar 08, 2014 at 01:12:13 AM PST

  •  I live in the DC area and we're under.... (9+ / 0-)

    siege from not only stink bugs, but snakehead fish and now Asian tiger mosquitoes.

    Then there's the kudzu vine that I fear will one day overtake us all. But that infestation comes with an asterisk because the government actually promoted its use for erosion control back in the 1950s.

    I'm thinking we can exact revenge on Asia by exporting the Tea Party to them.

  •  ah, insects. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    paulex, ORDem

    love them, hate them.  Can't ignore them.

  •  I use tape on stink bugs here. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    paulex, terabytes, ORDem

    I keep a roll of tape on top of the fridge just for a quick weapon against those damned things. I'm a bit sensitive to that odor they give off, I sometimes can smell that one is in a room before I see it or hear it flying around. Because of that sensitivity, I avoid killing them in a way that gives them a chance to pollute my air. I see a stink bug, I rip off a strip of tape a few inches long and holding it at the ends I CAREFULLY move the tape onto the bug so that the bug is stuck to the middle of the strip. Then just fold the tape over to seal that foul critter away from the world and toss in the trash. And they tend NOT to spew that stench, if you do it right.

    If you're doing it right, you can snatch a bug off of the middle of a window without hardly touching the tape to the glass - it's a dexterity focused thing rather than a "I shall crush thee" task.

    Duct tape is best, but if you are like me and will spend half an hour on a crusade to catch just one invader no matter what sort of strange location it happens to occupy then painter's tape is both cheaper and easier to separate from things like pictures on the fridge or the cable bill where the bug landed.

    And without that stench, I've only seen maybe three or four bugs all winter. Even over this past summer, I only saw a handful per week.

  •  stink bugs (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    pgm 01, paulex, terabytes, ORDem

    have infested my workplace in Anne Arundel Co. Maryland.  I use a ruler to nudge them into a cup of soapy water (use ordinary dish soap).  They die pretty quickly without stinking.  Have to remember to flush the collection daily - I forgot once, since I use a covered cup, and it's pretty disgusting after some time marinating!

  •  I killed one last night (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    paulex, ORDem

    I was sitting here at my computer and noticed something crawling. I carefully squished it and put it in the trash downstairs.  We also have the Asian lady beetle taking up residence in the house as well, but certainly not as bad as the year where we had to literally vacuum them off the walls.

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