McCain's visit, although it is for his own reasons, signals the growing importance of Mexico for the United States, and not as a foreign policy motive: the closeness and interdependence make each country part of the domestic politics of the other, a fact which we ignore at our own risk.Although many Americans may find the above sentiment galling, it's hard to refute. That's not to suggest that our relationship with Mexico is more important than that with Britain, but Mexico's impact on American electoral politics is certainly more direct, and for better or worse, it's only going to get stronger. The pool balls theory of international relations doesn't work as well with the United States and Mexico, because they occupy much of the same space. I wonder how long before eminent academics start publishing fear-mongering books about the Mexico influence. Oh, wait.
Monday, June 30, 2008
After the violent confrontations of Boca del Rio, Veracruz, the state’s attorney general, Emeterio López said that there was no need to blow things out of proportion, and that the killings were related to those a few days earlier during the clandestine horse races in Vallarín. It’s the truth, but only a half truth that doesn’t explain the entirety of the situation: the events from Boca del Rio are linked to the confrontations in Vallarín, and that bloodbath is related in turn to one that has been ongoing in Tabasco for several months. The Tabasco stuff is the result of an internal conflict between strong political forces and their broad ramifications in Michoacán. There, the war has had very violent manifestations, but it has also generated blows [against the cartels] that must be taken into account: the seizure of 20 tons of ephedrine on December 5th, 2006 and, as a consequence, the finding of $205 million in Lomas del Bosque in Mexico City. The confrontations between and against the cartels in Michoacán and those seizures can’t be separated from what is going on Guerrero. We could continue with the ramifications that come and go from the Pacific and the Gulf to Tamaulipas and Nuevo León, passing through, of course, Guadalajara and the Federal District [Mexico City], Sonora and Chiapas: all of the Mexican Republic.As you can see, a lot of moving parts. So many, in fact, and moving in so many directions at so many different speeds, that writing a timely, broadly illuminating book around a concrete drug war-related thesis sometimes seems like a Herculean task. The authors excerpted here, Jorge Fernández Menéndez and Ana María Salazar Slack, appear after 100 pages to have accomplished just that with El Enemigo en Casa.
The immediate future of the Venezuelan opposition lies in finding moderate young reformers like López, who can batter Chávez for his mis-management and international profligacy, offer a more sustainable anti-poverty plan, and avoid the taint of the corrupt-to-the-core elites who dominated before Chávez arrived in Caracas. And as Diehl points out, it's precisely because people like López can make electoral headway that he's not allowing them to run. Chávez has backed off some of his more extreme positions lately, but letting his opponents run in November is a much more dangerous proposition than denouncing the FARC.
Sunday, June 29, 2008
Whereas all of the presidents through Woodrow Wilson appealed to 'common sense' just 11 times in their recorded papers, presidents since Wilson have done so more than 1,600 times.Also, David Ignatius uses an evocative phrase that should appear in opinion pieces more often:
The 2006 congressional attack on Dubai Ports World, and its bid to manage some American ports, was sheer poppycock.
Saturday, June 28, 2008
The big problem, for me, is the clarity of the Second Amendment's guarantee of the "right of the people to keep and bear arms." The traditional argument in favor of gun control has been that this is a collective right, accorded to state militias. This has always struck me as a real stretch, if not a total dodge.
I've never been able to understand why the Founders would stick a collective right into the middle of the greatest charter of individual rights and freedoms ever written -- and give it such pride of place -- the No. 2 position, right behind such bedrock freedoms as speech and religion. Even Barack Obama, a longtime advocate of gun control -- but also a one-time professor of constitutional law -- has said he believes the amendment confers an individual right to gun ownership.
And even if the Second Amendment was meant to refer to state militias, where did the Founders intend for the militias' weapons to be stored? In the homes of the volunteers is my guess.
More broadly, I've always had trouble believing that a bunch of radicals who had just overthrown their British oppressors would tolerate any arrangement in which government had a monopoly on the instruments of deadly force. I don't mean to sound like some kind of backwoods survivalist, but I think the revolutionaries who founded this nation believed in guns.
Did they believe in assault weapons? Of course not. Would they be appalled that drug gangs are often better armed than the police? Of course they would, and surely they'd want to do something about it.
I believe the Constitution is a living document that has to be seen in light of the times. I believe the Supreme Court, in Roe v. Wade, was right to infer an implicit right to privacy, even though no such thing is spelled out. I think the idea that the Founders' "original intent" should govern every interpretation of the Constitution is loony -- as if men who wrote with quill pens could somehow devise a blueprint for regulating the Internet.
But I also believe that if the Constitution says yes, you can't just blithely pretend it says no. Yesterday's decision appears to leave room for laws that place some restrictions on gun ownership but still observe the Second Amendment's guarantee. If not, then the way to fix the Constitution is to amend it -- not ignore it.
The principal objective of the sensational findings in the letter in the protected computers of Raul Reyes has been to demonize Hugo Chávez and Rafeal Correa, but also the criminalization of the popular movement and its leaders and [leaders] of contrary thought from Rio Bravo to Patagonia, arguing mendaciously their complicity with the FARC...There are plenty of reasonable concerns people in Latin America can (and should) have about the role of the US in the region. Likewise, it's perfectly legit to argue that only a coalition of leftist governments will solve Latin Americas ills. But Guerra's piece, having suffered through a bitter divorce with reality, is something different entirely. The Reyes letters, which showed that Chávez pledged hundreds of millions of dollars to the FARC, were authenticated by Interpol experts. Chávez, though to his credit he has since denounced the FARC, has offered nothing resembling an acceptable explanation. Denying this plain truth, not to mention comparing the US to Nazi Germany, discredits the author and his ideology.
Friday, June 27, 2008
Today's Headline at Hispanic News and Pope Pius XII was silent as six million (6,000,000) Jews were rounded up. Today it is HispanicsI'm not sure whether the syntax or the comparison is more striking. Both deserve to made fun of.
On the undercard, I like Soto over Lorenzo, Fields over Barrett, and Luevano over Santiago. Sorry for choosing all the favorites, but nothing smells like upset to me.
[Gancho Boxing Prognostication Inc. is 3-1 on the year]
An odd wrinkle: shortly thereafter, another man came in and began filming the bodies. The hitman and the cameraman evidently waited rather patiently, leaving just before the police arrived.
Another odd wrinkle: Labastida was one of the two men accused of trying to extort Carlos Salinas' brother Enrique, who was found murdered in his car in 2004.
Thursday, June 26, 2008
The fingers are pointing in Mexico City. So far, the commander in charge of the operation, Guillermo Zayas, is out, and is accused of negligent homicide. The area delegate to the city legislature has also resigned. Marcelo Ebrard, the city's mayor, has offered his support for the chief of the local police, Joel Ortega. If I understand correctly, either the president or the mayor can remove chief of Mexico City police from office, so unless Calderón pulls the trigger or Ebrard changes his mind, Ortega isn't going anywhere. The CNDH (the National Human Rights Commission) has requested that Ortega be forced out. Ironically, Ebrard had a similar situation when he was the local chief of police (it's a political rather than a police position in Mexico City); after the public lynchings of two officers, Vicente Fox ousted Ebrard in 2004. Witnesses have said that the local police (rather than other federal bodies that were present) were particularly abusive, so it'll be interesting to see if Ortega will remain.
Also, Mexico City has a new law in which people harmed in a police action can receive damage payments. This is the first time the law, which came on the books in April, will be applied.
We broke Iraq, and we have a moral responsibility to those whose lives have been shattered by our actions. Helping them is also in our national interest, for we’ll regret our myopia if we allow young Iraqi refugees to grow up uneducated and unemployable, festering in their societies.Kristof writes about a family languishing in Amman, Jordan, where up to 8 percent of the population is Iraqi exiles. The exile community, two million strong, is spread around the Middle East; in 2007, the United States accepted just 1,600 Iraqi aliens. We are on the verge of creating, in the author's words, the "new Palestinians, the 21st-century Arab diaspora that threatens the region’s stability," though in this case the group in question has a much more direct grievance against the United States. Unless there is a shift toward more aggressively relocating Iraqi exiles in stable situations, our abandonment of this group to whom we owe so much more is going to serve as a fitting footnote to W's Iraq adventure: incompetence from beginning to end.
The most consistent work on this subject comes from George Packer; examples are here, here, here, and here.
Two points leap to mind: why doesn't Calderón send a larger troop deployment to the two states? If drug violence is so concentrated, shouldn't be easier to combat? I'm not suggesting that he's wrong for not sending more troops, but honestly asking out of curiosity. If the number of soldiers in each state was tripled, the narcos would probably hot-tail it to another place, or at least lay low for a while. Violence would almost certainly go down, though it would go up elsewhere. Does the government perhaps think that the different cartel groups need to fight it out now and get it over with?
Also, the rising overall level of violence in Mexico masks the regional swings. A year ago, Monterrey was one of the most violent cities in the country, after years of enjoying the reputation as Mexico's safest metropolis. Two years ago, Nuevo Laredo was Mexico's Baghdad. Now, both are much quieter.
Incidentally, I recently finished The Urgent Democratic Security, by Abelardo Rodríguez. He wrote the book before news about Cisen's in-house spying came to light, but the episode fits perfectly into one of his major criticisms of the Mexican security apparatus: for most of the 20th century, Mexican governments equated national security with the preservation of the authoritarian regime. As such, the greatest security threats were opposition politicians and subversive groups. In a democratic society, that cannot be the case, because of course a loyal opposition is an essential part of the process. In 21st-century Mexico, subversive groups still pose a threat, but certainly less of one than drug traffickers and international terrorists. Mexico's political elites may have adjusted to the post-PRI era, but they haven't brought the security agencies with them. Or maybe the pols haven't adjusted at all; we don't really know, because the Cisen case, strangely, has not been investigated thoroughly.
Wednesday, June 25, 2008
In other labor news, one of the nation's foremost experts on the subject, Alfonso Bouzas Ortiz of UNAM, recently called for a reform that places emphasis on creating democratic unions.
The New York Times has an article about the divided loyalties of the Germans and Turks, 2.7 million of whom live in Germany. This sounds nothing like the anger and resentment you would see were Mexico and the United States to face off in the semifinals of a major tourney (no, the Concacaf Gold Cup absolutely doesn’t count). One can only hope that in the three decades or so necessary for both teams to improve enough to land a spot in the World Cup semis, the sources of said resentment will dissipate.
I win a six-pack if Spain takes the title, so I like them. Torres and Villa match each others’ goals in the semi against Russia, and again in Sunday’s final against Germany: 2-0, 2-1.
Tuesday, June 24, 2008
*Unless, of course, they're satirical. For instance, a McCain speech on age, before an MTV audience: "Good afternoon. It's great to be here. I know a lot of you are concerned about electing a man who could reach 80 years before leaving the White House. You can all go to hell. I was kicking ass while your parents were still in diapers. Buncha punks. God bless America!"
[Foreigners] prefer Obama. Why? For the wrong reasons: because the image of the United States that prevails worldwide is very negative.What Montaner leaves out, however, is that the worst excesses of the Bush Administration, the brand new reasons to resent the US that were W's gift to the world, will almost certainly be reversed under Obama. After eight years of Obama, there will almost certainly be no prison in Guantánamo, no extralegal domestic spying program, and, one way or another, no war in Iraq. It also seems a fair bet that new wars would be much less likely with Obama. Not so with John McCain.
Without considering the shadings, without stopping to compare, they see the country as an imperial power manipulated by the big economic corporations, a power that militarily abuses the weakest, consumes a substantial portion of the riches of the planet, pollutes without remorse, alienates the poor within its borders -- to the extreme of denying them medical care -- and generates grave international financial turbulence. In other words, exactly the image projected by Michael Moore in his biased documentaries and by much of the American academic establishment in its college classrooms and publications.
To the world, this is what Obama is going to change. There is a directly proportional relationship between the international degree of emotional support for Obama and the bad perception of the United States. The worse the image of the country, the more confident people are that the young African-American senator will eliminate the reprehensible conduct attributed to the United States.
When Obama says he will change the country (even though he has not defined what he's going to change and how), he is perceived beyond the borders as a revolutionary who will finally put an end to the abuses of the CIA and the International Monetary Fund, withdraw the troops stationed abroad, bring the multinationals to task, protect the environment no matter what the cost, and govern to the benefit of the poor.
Contrary to Kennedy's rhetorical premise, what's important, what's revolutionary is not what Obama can do for his country but what his country has done for Obama in a relatively brief period. That's what is admirable.
Monday, June 23, 2008
But the only real Hitler was Hitler. Saddam and Milosevic were murderers, but at most local menaces. Hitler, on the other hand, meant to extend the Third Reich over almost all of Europe, from the Urals to the Pyrenees, and he very nearly succeeded.Damn straight. As Thomas illustrates elsewhere in the piece, leaping to a 1939 worldview, aside from being intellectually suspect, often leads us to act against our interests. Regardless of Hitler's singularity, there will probably never be a situation truly comparable to the run-up to World War II, if for no other reason than simply because the existence of nukes changes the calculus entirely. It'd be nice if the politicians would retire that bit of nonsense. Not likely, though.
The Soviet Union's Joseph Stalin was just as evil, in his own way, as Hitler, and just as megalomaniacal. He was willing to murder millions and he preached the inevitability of the global triumph of communism. But he was probably not preparing to invade Western Europe; indeed, in the late 1940s the Soviets were tearing up train tracks so that the West could not invade Russia.
I think there's some truth to that, but the fault clearly lies with López Obrador. Much of the ammo for his populist guns was just a natural byproduct of the democratic process. From the narrow election loss to the oil debate, it's not his enemies' actions that were controversial; it was López Obrador's behavior that turned each episode into a scandal.
The local paper of record in Torreón, El Siglo, has taken to ignoring the most high-profile crimes. No one has explained the self-censorship (then again, who would if the Siglo is quiet?), but the paper has become noticeably less interested in any crime that sounds like it's related to drugs. They'll run articles about government actions --say, the arrival of a new military unit to the city-- but the crimes themselves have gone basically uncovered for several months. This has led to the odd scenario in which the only publications that discuss murders are two splashy tabloids that make the New York Post look like the Wall Street Journal. The tabloids, though they employ innovative journalistic techniques like a girl of the day, are neither perceived as reliable nor widely read. News travels more by rumor and third- or fourth-hand accounts, and none of us living here really know what is going on most of the time.
And now, if you'll direct your eyes to the visual aides Gancho has prepared, you'll see what I mean. Each of the tabloids photographed (both from this weekend) mentions a sensational killing, but in neither case does the crime appear anywhere in El Siglo, which dedicates its front page instead to rising interest rates and government disputes with informal merchants.
The United States used to be good at solving problems. These days, we don't seem up to the job.Ricardo Raphael, in his own words, today:
In Mexico, politics has turned into the art of solving without solving.I imagine this has been a pretty constant lament for as long has one generation of mankind has been succeeded by the next, but the similarity is nonetheless striking.
Sunday, June 22, 2008
Will bases his column on one study, from Heather MacDonald of the conservative Manhattan Institute, never addressing the reasons behind the concern over criminal justice in the US. He doesn't mention whether or not he thinks it is acceptable that America has the largest number of criminals the highest incarceration rate in the world. Will denies the role of racism in explaining the number of African-American prisoners, neglecting to address any one of the scores of studies that disagree with MacDonald's. Being the traditional type of conservative that he is, Will often accepts the status quo as a lesser evil than trying to engineer a better society. Here, however, he is almost celebrating one of the most shameful aspects of our nation, simply because he thinks liberals are wrong about it.
Saturday, June 21, 2008
[D]rug dollars can be just as addictive as drugs. They produce an artificial feeling of financial well being, and those who become dependent on drug money soon find themselves scrambling to get more. That's where the danger lies.This is an often overlooked subject that could use a much deeper examination. Well freelance journalists, how 'bout it?
Concerns are growing that police departments are overenthusiastically enforcing forfeiture laws, using dubious pretexts to stop motorists and search their belongings. Large, though not necessarily illegal, amounts of cash are being seized without any criminal charges filed.
Friday, June 20, 2008
This follows a recent in change in the informe (Mexico's state of the union address), which no longer has to be oral, merely a written statement. This is a clear upgrade. Putting to one side the plight of the poor presidents who had to stand speaking about endless governing minutiae for hours at a time, the relevance of the speech in recent years was based less on the speech itself than on the protests surrounding the event. Basically, the informe made the president a giant target in a battle of asymmetrical rhetorical warfare.
Calderón has worked hard to repair relations with the Venezuelan leader, avoiding direct attacks throughout his presidency, and only once implicitly criticizing him. And what does he have to show for it? This. There was a line of thought in American opinion pages after Calderón's election that he could be Latin American to stand up to Chávez (rhetorically, at least). This was a silly idea, and one we should all be thankful that Calderón ignored. At the same time, the improved relationship hasn't bought him any favors.
Virtually all my Israeli friends, young and old, smart and smarter, have been willing to bet me that Americans are “not ready for a black president.”I don't spend my days looking for such examples, but there certainly seem to be a lot of them out there. In the past couple of weeks, American commentators have written about this reaction in Europe, Egypt, now Israel, and I've certainly seen it a lot here in Mexico. In my experience, the questioners usually have a simplistic view of race in America, or they are just repeating something they heard, or are expressing some racism of their own. Whatever the cause, it's annoying, and I want it to stop, immediately. Do you hear me, 5.7 billion non-Americans? I want it to stop now!
Avishai points to an ulterior motive behind Israeli skepticism of the Illinois Senator:
In the back of their minds they fear that two generations of special pleading—about how Israel’s occupation should be rationalized as the Jews’ special need to (how does Prof. Yehezkel Dror put it?) “subordinate morality to survival”—may not quite work on Obama, much the way it did not work on Kissinger. Obama has heard Jabotinsky-like apologetics for victim exceptionalism from the Sharptons—indeed, from the Wrights—for two generations. It takes one to know one. The most frightening question is this: if democracy makes a black man a mainstream American, can it also make an Arab a mainstream Israeli?
And the Mexican are also investigating connections with the Mexican mafia suggested last week by Cuban ambassador Manuel Aguilera de la Paz, a suggestion I ridiculed last when the story came out. Evidently, Cuban American smugglers operate in five states in Mexico, and have long been a menace. My apologies to the ambassador.
As with most urban dilemmas, the issue popped up in The Wire, in the first episode of season three. Bodie and Poot boiled the essence of Rosin's article down to a three-minute dialogue, though of course with more profanity and gratuitous comments about sexually transmitted diseases.
Matt Yglesias' rejoinder is that Obama leaving Gates around would send the message that Democrats are not as serious about national security as Republicans, an outdated narrative that Obama's campaign seems intent on disproving this campaign. Yglesias could be right, but I think Obama can have his cake and eat it too; if, as president, he were to run an exemplary foreign policy with Gates at the Pentagon, that would reflect well on the Democrats as a whole, and Obama wouldn't carry an asterisk around with him for having appointed a Republican Secretary of Defense. In such a scenario, I think voters would be more rather than less ready to trust a Democrat with our foreign policy in 2016 and beyond.
Thursday, June 19, 2008
''The cocaine industry is under stress,'' said John Walters, director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy. ``It can't produce at the same level.''Wait a second; this report is supposedly good news precisely because the cocaine industry produced at the very same level. As with almost everything related to official drug policy, this is insanity. We have gotten so used to losing that even a tie is seen as a knockout. (Insert Kafka reference here.)
The general campaign is on, independent voters are up for grabs, and Barack Obama is toning down his populist rhetoric - at least when it comes to free trade.I'm not sure I've ever found such a transparent political ploy reassuring.
In an interview with Fortune to be featured in the magazine's upcoming issue, the presumptive Democratic nominee backed off his harshest attacks on the free trade agreement and indicated he didn't want to unilaterally reopen negotiations on NAFTA.
"Sometimes during campaigns the rhetoric gets overheated and amplified," he conceded, after I reminded him that he had called NAFTA "devastating" and "a big mistake," despite nonpartisan studies concluding that the trade zone has had a mild, positive effect on the U.S. economy.
Does that mean his rhetoric was overheated and amplified? "Politicians are always guilty of that, and I don't exempt myself," he answered.
On to the weekend bouts: after going back and forth half a dozen times, I like Arthur Abraham and his reconstructed jaw to take Edison Miranda with less controversy than in their first fight. You do have to wonder, however, if Abraham's first fight in the States (and second outside of Germany), the lingering psychological effects of getting beat up by Miranda the first time (even if he did get the decision), and the added weight (this fight is at 168) will all have a negative impact. On the other hand, in the interim since their first fight, Miranda received a terrific, possibly career-curtailing whupping from Kelly Pavlik, though he looked a lot better against the limited David Banks in his last bout.
In the HBO headliner, after going back and forth not once, I'll take Andre Berto by a flashy knockout win over Miki Rodríguez in a welterweight title fight.
[Gancho is 1-1 on the year in boxing predictions]
Chávez, sitting at the stage desk, drew a diagram on a large white card, and, holding it up to the “Aló Presidente” cameras, told viewers that he’d been thinking about a new “windfall profits” tax on oil companies. He called out to Rafael Ramírez, the president of P.D.V.S.A.—a tall, blue-eyed man who resembles Tim Robbins—and he promptly stood up and began taking notes, nodding furiously. This was not a rehearsed moment; to an unusual degree, “Aló Presidente” is Chávez’s government in action, and it is a government that Chávez does not so much administer as perform live.
After a brief hiatus devoted to knocking off Carlos Salinas’ The Lost Decade, I’m back reading The Urgent Democratic Security, by Abelardo Rodríguez. I just finished a portion about the ‘80s, and I was struck by one of the era’s greatest “what if’s?”, as I always am. What if Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas hadn’t accepted his fraudulent loss in 1988? If Cárdenas had been allowed to take over, the country would be far different today. No
Rodríguez also implies another what if: he points to the ‘80s as the decade that drug traffickers firmly established a toehold in
Yesterday, producers of 150 different food staples agreed to maintain prices at their present level for the remainder of 2008 as a response to skyrocketing food prices. According to Bloomberg, the market worries that the government is using the price freeze to counter inflation rather than raising interest rates, which have been at 7.5 percent. The peso, which had reached a five-year apex earlier in the day, gave back some of its gains due to the unfavorable reaction.
Now, having read it once more, I have to ask: is this most boring post ever? Not merely for Gancho, but in the history of blogs, telegrams, poems, sonnets, diaries, and the like, have there ever been 74 words more likely to induce unconsciousness than those written above?
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
Argentina has had a couple of mediocre games lately, and this is a great chance for them to say that ties with the US and Ecuador didn't mean anything. The Argentines are also aware that they've lost three straight by three goals apiece to their neighbors. Brazil is itself coming off a pair of horrible results, 2-0 losses to lowly Venezuela and Paraguay, the latter in a World Cup qualifier. They won't want to drop a meaningful game at home, much less against their biggest rival. Both teams should turn it around today. We expect nothing less than 90 minutes of world-class play.
My impression is that Creel is too good of a person to be a politician, but not a good enough person to make a difference in politics. He lacks the malice or the stomach that makes an Emilio Gamboa or a Manlio Fabio Beltrones professional politicians, full-time jerks. But ultimately, the part-time dignity that Creel shows isn't much better. On occasion, it can even be as or more damaging.Chabat:
The list of explanations for the removal of Creel as the chief of the PAN senators is long. It goes from his bad management of the debates/monologues surrounding the energy reform to his supposed closeness with the PRD, passing by, of course, his desire to be a presidential candidate, his historical conflicts with President Calderón and the conflicts with the television broadcasters, even the exhibition of his personal life in the media...
Now he will have to swim without a life preserver. Like everyone. Like Calderón did in 2005 to win the PAN candidacy. Now we'll see what Santiago Creel is made of.
A heretofore unknown deputy, Cuauhtémoc Velasco Oliva, accused the Finance Secretariat of offering to pay for votes approving the energy reform. That would be a huge scandal, but Deputy Velasco does not, however, have any proof of the charges. The allegations have brought fierce denials from all quarters.
Alberto Aziz Nassif picks at an old scab in yesterday’s column, thanks to a new book by José Antonio Crespo: The Weaknesses of the Mexican Electoral Authority. Aziz (and presumably Crespo) makes the case that the findings of the Federal Electoral Institute show that the true winner of the 2006 election is far from certain. The math, however, suggests otherwise: “While the difference was a little more than 233,000 votes, in the 150 districts analyzed there were more than 300,000 irregular votes proven.” So unless 80 percent of those votes were mistakenly cast for Calderón, or an equal number were meant for López Obrador but were not cast for the Tabascan, it wouldn’t make a difference. Given that neither man secured much more than a third of the vote total, such a scenario is all but impossible.
I hate to sound like a Republican defending the
The Swiss government will return to Mexico $74 million that had been in the account of Raul "I Don't Need No Stinkin' Accent Mark Over the U"
For more about the sticky fingers of Raul “I Got More Long Nicknames than Dirty Bank Accounts”
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
How did you feel when you heard that Buckley died this year? I thought hell is bound to be a livelier place, as he joins forever those whom he served in life, applauding their prejudices and fanning their hatred.
Hard to argue with that.
The day after the Supreme Court ruled that detainees imprisoned at Guantanamo are entitled to seek habeas corpus hearings, John McCain called it "one of the worst decisions in the history of this country." Well.
Does it rank with Dred Scott v. Sanford (1857), which concocted a constitutional right, unmentioned in the document, to own slaves and held that black people have no rights that white people are bound to respect? With Plessy v. Ferguson (1896), which affirmed the constitutionality of legally enforced racial segregation? With Korematsu v. United States (1944), which affirmed the wartime right to sweep American citizens of Japanese ancestry into concentration camps?
The demographic loyalties this election are really mixed up. Liberal women, angry about Hillary, are going to vote red or stay home more than in the past. Evangelicals are going with Obama in droves. Hispanics shunned Obama in the primary, but according to polls, now appear ready to embrace him. And traditional conservatives like George Will will likely stay home. This is going to throw some states and play and take others out. A lot of bottom line stats based on previous elections --Obama needs X percentage of Hispanic votes, McCain must have Y percentage of evangelicals-- could wind up being disproved.
Eduardo Gamarra, the country’s most prominent
Carlos Salinas’ column in today’s El Universal does a remarkable job condensing the pettiness, faulty logic, and finger-pointing laid out over 500 pages in his book into several hundred words. Quite an accomplishment. More on The Lost Decade in a future post.
Oddly, despite voicing support for Felipe Calderón in recent weeks, he implicitly attacks the Mérida Initiative and the energy industry opening. This is more evidence that Zedillo and Fox’s (and soon Calderón's?) chief sins weren’t related to their alleged neoliberalism, but rather having the audacity to govern Salinas' country.
Monday, June 16, 2008
He studies the menu and asks the waiter a couple questions he's probably never fielded. Like, "What is asparagus?" and "Can you bring me some boiled milk and sugar?"The documentary is called "Kassim the Dream."
In last year's electoral reform, advertisements including the likeness of the official who paid for them were prohibited. It was deemed an unnecessary expenditure that did nothing more than raise individual politicians' profiles. Now, as long as you don't show up in the spot, you can still celebrate the accomplishments of the government, but for megalomaniacal politicians, what's the point if you don't get any credit? To get around said obstacle, two politicians --Toluca mayor Juan Rodolfo Sánchez Gómez and Mexico State Governor Enrique Peña Nieto-- have come up with a pair of ingenious maneuvers. Peña Nieto no longer appears in ads about his government's brilliance, but instead a series of low-level celebrities sing his praises in a variety of media. Sánchez Gómez is even craftier: he found a local man who apparently looks just like him, slapped a nice suit and a mayoral hairdo on the guy, and parades him around in various spots proclaiming him the second coming of Benito Juárez. Good stuff guys.
Sunday, June 15, 2008
There's been much talk about how Latin American has been ignoed by the Bush administration and that, as a result, we need greater involvement from Washington in the region. This is simply false. The prosperity and the democracy ultimately depend on the Latin Americans themselves and the policies that we implement...McCain seems to understand this. Obama still doesn't.I agree with the first part, and I wish more people were saying it. The bit about Washington needing to be more concerned with Latin America is a tired refrain. A good portion of Latin Americans would find fault with Washington regardless of its level of interaction, and the goal should be to avoid missteps rather than just generally to become more involved. Certain issues require more direct attention, but it's a mistake for people to think that more attention will remedy all of Washington's problems in Latin America.
However, I don't agree that this recognition mandates a vote for McCain. I didn't particularly love Obama's Miami speech either, but the man remains a virtual blank slate on Latin America. To a point, the same remains the case for McCain, despite his long track record with the region. The requirements and prerogatives of the presidency will dictate each man's policy in the western hemisphere much more than a few ideas tossed out out in a campaign speech. As W illustrates, a candidate's affinity for Latin America is hardly an indicator of what kind of impact he will have on the region. As such, the vote should go to the man who's governing philosophy is more appealing.
Saturday, June 14, 2008
Friday, June 13, 2008
Even if you grant the fact that laptops aren't going to improve grades, I don't think it follows that laptops aren't going to have a positive impact. Computer literacy doesn't necessarily translate into scholastic performance, but it is still an important skill in and of itself. If computer literacy is learned on facebook or searching the web or writing stupid love notes, I'm not sure that makes it any less valuable. (I recognize that "computer literacy" is a pretty vague concept, but I refer to typing ability, internet navigation, familiarity with Word and Excel, and general confidence in learning new programs.) It's possible that, thanks to One Laptop Per Child, a poor kid in Chiapas will be entirely proficient with all of the essential functions of a computer and still struggle in school. In such cases, I still tend to think the program is validated. It would be great if every recipient could turn the laptop into a 4.0 GPA and a scholarship to Harvard, but that's not realistic, and a student's academic difficulties don't make his computer knowledge worthless.
A sort of similar example from my own life: I don't think I ever read all of an assigned book in school until I got to college. Instead, I passed the time with Sports Illustrated. Reading profiles of Ty Wheatley and Dean Smith instead of A Tale of Two Cities certainly hurt my English grades, but that's not to say my subscription was without value. Indeed, I learned to write in large part thanks to Frank Deford and S.L. Price.
This story, about a stickup group essentially robbing the authorities in Chiapas of 33 Cuban and Central American detainees, is making the rounds in
Another question: were the 33 migrants were taken because the smugglers are protecting their control of the racket, or if the migrants had already paid the mafiosos, and they were releasing them from the government’s grip essentially to fulfill their contract? I´m guessing it’s the first option.
Boxers from midwestern towns have long had a reputation for being a bit soft. The logic is that prospects from Oklahoma or Minnesota are not tested in the gyms the same way a kid from New York or Los Angeles or Philly is tested on a daily basis, and there's a long history of midwestern guys with gaudy records being exposed (Matt Vanda anyone?) once they step up. But more and more, a flashy record from
Thursday, June 12, 2008
When you compare Shannon's tenure to that of his predecessor, Roger Noriega, it's a powerful argument for granting regional State Department posts to career diplomats, not ideologues. Noriega, a conservative partisan who helped author the Helms-Burton Act, came across as a tone deaf bully. He shares a good portion of the blame for ruining what looked a promising opening in Latin American relations with the US (though surely, there is enough blame to go around). Shannon, on the other hand, has cooled American rhetoric toward Venezuela, avoided unnecessary snafus with Evo Morales and Rafael Correa, and generally steered American policy back toward moderation and pragmatism. I wonder if Obama would consider letting him stick around if he won. Not likely, but he's done a good job under difficult circumstances.
[The affair] also brought new scrutiny to the curious decision by Obama to name Johnson to the job in the first place, given the candidate's fierce vows to transform Washington's insider culture and ways.I disagree completely (though I should mention that this isn't the crux of Hoagland's criticism). There's nothing illegal or even particularly ethically questionable about Johnson's conduct. It isn't pristine, but there has to be a limit to Obama's idealism. Johnson's track record might be more problematic if he had an important post in the White House, but if there is one job where you really need to have a Washington insider, this would be it. An operator like Johnson has for years been privy to all sorts of potentially important chatter (Candidate X has a drinking problem, Candidate Y cheats on his wife) that a well connected person from Chicago wouldn't necessarily have heard. His job is, as far as I understand it, to look for dirt on potential veeps, not to influence administration policy. Does anyone care if their private investigator knows a few drug dealers? On the contrary, it's probably a good sign that he does.
I remain astonished that there isn't more of a public outcry over this. Absent a groundswell of public anger forcing the panistas to back off their position, it looks like no one is going to be punished for essentially spying on congressman. It's not illegal, but it's entirely unethical, and given the many threats to Mexico's security, it's far from the best use of the agency's resources.
Wednesday, June 11, 2008
That’s what the regime left us: a population starving for leaders, incapable of deciding, irresponsible. In the hands of these irresponsible people, Cantarell has disappeared. We are left without an inheritance, without patriarchs, without money. No we have to work for a living. The sooner we understand that, the better.Two points in the column stand out: First, energy reform can only delay the inevitable drying up of Mexico's oil supply. While Schettino is critical of the administration of oil wealth, even a model energy policy can't change the fact that Mexico's oil isn't inexhaustible. Soon, the nation will need new revenue streams to replace the billions of dollars that Pemex gives to the government each year.
Second, the deterioration in Mexico's oil industry will be tough, but it isn't necessarily a disaster, as you might infer from the above passage's last two sentences. Cantarell's exhaustion is an opportunity to diversify the economy away from a volatile unrenewable resource. A potential role model here is Bahrain, one of the middle eastern nations least endowed with oil wealth. After a decade of pitiful economic performance in the '80s, Bahrain met the lowering crude production head on. Despite the fact that its oil industry is expected to dry up entirely in little more than a decade, and that its 40,000 daily barrels of crude are less than a sixth of what it once produced, Bahrain is now the region's most developed economy.
There's no question that in terms of the people being killed, Mexico increasingly seems beset by a civil war, but intuitively it doesn't make a whole lot of sense. There could never be a power sharing agreement between the Mexicans and the cartels. The cartels don't have a political manifesto outlining their plan for the nation, because their goal is simply to truck drugs across the border as easily as possible, not to govern. The cartels are not one organized force, but a proliferation of cells constantly changing loyalties.
Nor does the label apply according to the formal definitions of a civil war. Both the Geneva Convention and the US Military definition of Civil War require recognition of belligerent status, which the cartels don't enjoy. The US Military criteria, adopted in 1990, include five requirements for the two sides of the conflict (control of territory, a functioning government, foreign recognition, identifiable regular armed forces, and the carrying out of major military operations), of which the cartels as a whole fulfill at best two, and arguably zero. It's a tragic mess in Mexico, but a civil war it ain't.
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
Manny Pacquiao: Some will laugh and say this isn't a realistic match because of the size difference. But you know what? They would be wrong. The fight is entirely possible and I am told that it's a fight that De La Hoya is interested in. Obviously, Pacquiao would have to beat David Diaz June 28 for a lightweight belt and look good doing it. I'm not sure De La Hoya wants to wait that long to set his fight, particularly because it's no lock that Pacquiao beats Diaz. But the Pacquiao side would take the fight in a heartbeat. Back in October, when I first wrote a blog detailing my conversation with HBO's Larry Merchant, who conceived the fight, I called Pacquiao promoter Bob Arum of Top Rank for his thoughts on Merchant's fantasy. Here's what he said back then: "We'll take it. I don't even have to call Manny. I am sure he would accept the challenge without question."That's why we love the guy. That, and for his goofy grin when he fights. And his cheesy No Fear sponsorship. And for his reputation as a bit of a boozer and a pool player and a fun guy. At some point after his career, Manny Pacquiao's last name needs to be converted into a noun, perhaps meaning someone fearless, or, if he fights Oscar, an unreachable but still entertaining quest. Or maybe some sort of food, like a chili dog covered in bamboo shoots, which would attack your stomach with all the intensity of the Pac Man.