Saturday, January 31, 2009
Friday, January 30, 2009
1) Mexico's drug traffickers fight each other more than the government.2) The drug traffickers have no political agenda.3) Calderón's government is fighting for its life, but it hasn't lost (yet).
I would be interested to know what the counterinsurgency community's read of Mexico is: Does it fit the model of an insurgency? And if so, should Calderon be mounting more of a COIN campaign, focusing on population security as opposed to the largely seek-and-destroy operations his army seems to be waging?
No word on whether the Mérida Initiative includes funds to turn those comics into Pixar flicks.
Also, the business group CCE has criticized the timidity of Calderón's anti-crisis plans, pointing out that the US and Brazil (embracing its role as Mexico's measuring stick, at least in this post) have both dedicated more funds to their rescue packages, with 1.4 percent and 5.4 percent, respectively, of each nation's GDP. This continues an odd pattern of politicians being much more receptive to Calderón's anti-crisis plans than the businesses community. (Odd because for most of his term, business has been a better friend to the president than the political class.) The point is well taken, but the comparison with the US is not very helpful, because American banks are crashing, and a huge portion of the bailout funds have gone to shore up banks. Mexico's banks are fine, so the government has no need to toss hundreds of billions of dollars at them.
*Check out the emotion on the call of Maradona's famous goal in '86 against the English. With apologies to Gus Johnson, that's got to be the most enthusiastic sports broadcasting moment ever. It's not often that you have an announcer pleading with God, saying he wants to cry, asking the viewers for forgiveness, saying "Long live soccer!", thanking God, actually crying, and asking what planet the moment's protagonist is from, all in the span of about 30 seconds. You say over the top, I say passionate.
No, you don't do that in the PAN. And I convinced them that such was not the path.This article brings a local rivalry to the national stage: former Torreón mayor Guillermo Anaya (now a senator) is close to Felipe Calderón and Germán Martínez, and seems to have a bright future in national politics. Thanks to Torreón's many problems, the exact opposite is true for José Ángel Pérez. And they are both said to hate each other.
Thursday, January 29, 2009
With such a gloomy climate surrounding them, Mexican soccer fans are turning to a new tactic ahead of the World Cup qualifier against the Americans on February 11: voodoo:
An advertisement in the sports daily Record on Tuesday invited fans to clip coupons and redeem them at their local Radio Shack store for a voodoo-doll likeness of a U.S. player. The hope was that a little black magic might help Mexico break a decade of futility on the road versus its northern neighbor.A nice idea, and certainly at this point one has to think that the team won't go anywhere without a little supernatural support, but we gringos don't lose in Gringolandia.
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
It's odd how the run-up to this truce resembled the preparations for meetings between adversaries on the global stage: low-level feelers came first, then mid-level agenda-setting reunions, followed by the actual agreements hammered out by the leaders.
Countries are particularly determined to prevent the importation of illegal narcotics across their borders, whether by organized criminal networks, terrorists groups, or the hybrid narco-terrorist networks that DEA officials describe as "meaner and uglier than anything law enforcement or militaries have ever faced." [Emphasis mine.]Relative to what? "Militaries" have faced the Nazis, the Red Army, Mao's hordes, Pol Pot's henchmen, Rwanda's Interhamwe, and sundry other villains. So Hezbollah's hashish-dealing wing is worse than any of them?
Otherwise, the article's quite good.
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
When I put my virginity up for auction in September, it was in part a sociological experiment—I wanted to study the public's response. Now it seems that the tables have turned, and the public is studying me.Later:
Like most little girls, I was raised to believe that virginity is a sacred gift a woman should reserve for just the right man. But college taught me that this concept is just a tool to keep the status quo intact. Deflowering is historically oppressive—early European marriages began with a dowry, in which a father would sell his virginal rdaughter to the man whose family could offer the most agricultural wealth. Dads were basically their daughters’ pimps.Finally:
When I learned this, it became apparent to me that idealized virginity is just a tool to keep women in their place. But then I realized something else: if virginity is considered that valuable, what’s to stop me from benefiting from that? It is mine, after all. And the value of my chastity is one level on which men cannot compete with me. I decided to flip the equation, and turn my virginity into something that allows me to gain power and opportunity from men. I took the ancient notion that a woman’s virginity is priceless and used it as a vehicle for capitalism.
One conclusion my experiment has already borne out is that society isn’t ready for public auctions like mine—yet.On behalf of "society," I'd like to say that it’s odd to be made to feel like an unenlightnened prude by a 22-year-old virgin.
Also, if The Onion has not yet run a story about someone auctioning off the opportunity to be his or her 43rd partner, or selling backseat oral sex outside of a dive bar online, now seems like the perfect time.
His sought-after moral force requires supporters in the Chamber of Deputies. The recent evidence shows it. This force has had voices --but above all votes-- in energy, fiscal, electoral, and security debates, thanks to congressional representation.
The force of his movement can no longer disdain the only political spaces in which it can have synergy. Renouncing the formal path of representation has translated into a weakening of his own political force.
The achievements of the Mexican left have come about, and they will continue coming about, only if it exists within the perimeter of the institutions and no outside of it. And this is a virtue --not a tragedy-- of the present democratic Mexican regime.
What there is no longer much time left to do is cook up an electoral single apparatus between so many factions infected by resentment and distrust: "How do you achieve that a new perredista leadership, accepts the detractors from Convergence and the Workers Party? How can you ensure that the radicals in each wing of the Aztec Sun reconsider costs of division and schizophrenia? How do you make the leaders of the lopezobradorista movement surrender to the logic of campaigning?
AMLO declares that his call for unity is not about satisfying personal ambitions, but rather strengthening a social movement that privileges principles and values. If what he wants is ensure the left of a robust congressional caucus, AMLO will have to do more than make declarations.
The real-world impact of Calderón's counter-crisis stimulus plan: helping middle-class foreigners scrape by!
Monday, January 26, 2009
Williams gives the impression that she would take you home in a blink, if she thought you wouldn't bore her, and that you would bore her if you haven't read Flannery O'Connor.The piece is, however, saved by the following paragraph:
The latest hit from Fearless is a marvel of toothlessness called "Love Story, " in which Swift retells Romeo and Juliet truly fearlessly, changing all the stuff about dying that the morbid original writer had in there. "I wrote this song because I could relate to the whole Romeo and Juliet thing," she explained to an interviewer. "I was really inspired by that story. Except for the ending. I feel like they had such promise, and they were so crazy for each other, and if that had just gone a little bit differently, it could have been the best love story ever told."
One, which has become a topic in recent days, is the gradual but constant deterioration that turns us into a failed state. With different degrees of advancement, Latin America has a catalogue of these nations that will celebrate two centuries of independence with neither present nor future. The other possibility is that Mexico becomes the fifth greatest economy in the world, something a couple of years ago managed to get placed on the agenda, but that wound up fading away through our customary defeatism.I'm not sure it's all sink-or-swim, but, as with the talented 17-year-old waiting for his parents at the police station after being picked up with a bag of weed, the range of possibilities for Mexico's future is strikingly large.
Sunday, January 25, 2009
Saturday, January 24, 2009
Friday, January 23, 2009
Here’s Jorge Buendía, addressing Problem A:
A party with two or more pre-candidates [i.e. primary candidates] will be at a disadvantage in front of the “autocratic” party. The new legislation reduces the campaign timeline, but through introducing the primary campaign, it opens a space that the parties utilize today.Ricardo Raphael tackles the same subject, but is more dejected in his conclusion:
The internal democracy can bring electoral advantages for a party. In a primary election, the pre-candidates can become known, gain media coverage, and awaken citizen interest.
These objectives, nevertheless, are impossible to reach in elections to elect candidates to be deputies. Internal elections of this type generate little interest among the population and the media. Aside from that, before the new law, parties and pre-candidates have limited resources to promote each one of the 300 contests. In the cases in which there are primary elections, few voters will be aware.
Lastly, what will the criteria that party activists and adherents will use to evaluate the party leadership: electoral triumphs of the degree of openness in the selection of candidates? I suspect that the victories will weigh more heavily.
Our democracy now travels along the path that takes us from bad to worse. Now it seems that for the upcoming federal elections, if you aspire to stand as a candidate for deputy, either you are a good friend of the parties’ principal leaders or you file away your desire to participate to use in a better moment.Martínez's excuse may be more one of convenience than of reality, but, as I mentioned above, the effort to isolate the candidates from drug money is occupying a lot of attention these days, so it's not a totally off-the-wall explanation. Carlos Loret takes on this topic, and, instead of savaging the PAN, he is harder on the PRI, which he says, though marginally more democratic in its selection of candidates, hasn’t taken sufficient measures to counter the influx of drug money.
The present political class –mediocre and petty—is not willing to lose even one seat in the train cars that pass by its door. The methods that are being used to select the parliamentary candidates have been placed in the complete service of the highest levels of the party.
Germán Martínez, president of the PAN, explains that in his institution they have taken such an arbitrary decision with the purpose of “guaranteeing the citizens that the candidates aren’t going to be linked with organized crime.” It’s a declaration with the aroma of a rotten lie.
The interest of the criminals centers on mayors and governors that can put police at their service, but the penetration is such that there never before has been a greater risk that in the Chamber of Deputies is there exists, with legislators from various parties, a “Parliamentary Caucus from Organized Crime.”Taken together, Loret and Raphael seem to demonstrate an inherent conflict between democratic openness and the exclusion of drug money in politics. It’s a conflict that many argue is illustrated by Mexico’s recent history: as the country has democratized, drug money has had an increasingly prominent role in the nation’s politics. There’s an element of truth to this, but it certainly wasn’t inevitable, nor, more importantly, is it necessarily permanent. This post is already quite long, so I’ll elaborate at a later date.
When they talk about the topic, politicians from all the parties put on their “national security face,” but they don’t succeed in inspiring confidence that the campaign armor will resist the cannon blasts from the drug traffickers.
There are attempts. The IFE [the Mexican electoral authority] will put the names of all the aspirants and their teams into the hands of the Financial Intelligence Unit of the Finance Department so that their bank accounts are monitored. If they want the agency to reach its goal of modern and real-time oversight, they will have to allocate more personnel to the task.
The PGR, Cisen, the Department of the Interior, and the Department of Public Security will collaborate with the parties that solicit investigations of the candidates about whom they have doubts, so that they “check off” their aspirants, despite what the parties promise to utilize as mechanisms of control.
The problem is that distrust is in the middle of everything. The reasonable suspicion is that if information is exchanged, if confidential data is placed in the hands of a political adversary, this will be used electorally. They’ve sworn that they won’t. But they don’t believe each other.
Furthermore, inside the federal government and even the IFE they are criticisms of the PRI: it’s the party that has accepted the fewest concrete measures to attempt to contain the narco-campaigns, such that they think that if the elections were today, it would organized crime’s easiest access to political power.
People pleaded for tickets three hours before tip-off, standing outside in unseasonably chilly air, and inside, there was a distinct something-other-than-ordinary feel.But wait, why is the cool weather unseasonable? We're talking about January 22nd! If it's ever going to be chilly in Orlando, we are at the precise moment in the exact season when you would expect it. The author clearly means that it's cold for Orlando, but that's not a function of the season, but rather the climate. Therefore, it's not unseasonably chilly, but unclimatically chilly, a phrase which, despite the handicap of including a word that isn't, is far more suited to the circumstance.
Also, the song Gancho al Corazón (which serves as the theme for the soap opera of the same name) by Playa Limbo includes the line, Yo quiero vivir intensamente, or, I want to live intensely. That's ridiculous; how is an intense life in and of itself a reasonable objective? If your wife leaves you, and your boss fires you, and your ulcer flares up, and your lender forecloses on your house, and the police are investigating you for fraud, and the local gangster thinks you slept with his girlfriend, that's pretty intense, but it's also a nightmare. Why would they pick a modifier that is value-neutral?
Thursday, January 22, 2009
Rogelio Carbajal, leader on the PAN National Executive Committee (which is heavily involved in doling out candidacies), also said dismissively that his party doesn't "recycle candidates." That's absolutely ridiculous. The problem with Salinas isn't that he was president per se, merely what he did with his presidency. In other circumstances, having an ex-president serve in a lower position after his (or her) term could be of great benefit. If you lived in a northern state whose economy depended heavily on foreign investment, wouldn't you want a guy with decades-long relationships with CEOs of multinational companies heading the entity? Essentially, Carbajal is suggesting that we should punish relevant experience, which, I repeat, is absolutely ridiculous.
The most excited, for obvious reasons, are the black men, women, and children who came here to see something that they thought was impossible in their lifetime. I speak with several of them. I ask how they feel. Excited, overwhelmed, content, hopeful, are the answers I receive most often. I ask them if they feel proud of their country. They all tell me they do. One tells me that he is especially satisfied with the whites who finally voted for a black man for president. Until not long ago, this group of African-Americans felt, with good reason, discriminated. They were second-class citizens. Not today. This is their day. Today they feel that their political redemption finally arrived. Today, for that reason, their are many African-American tears.It's possible that he did and I missed it, but I think Zuckermann is one of the few analysts who wrote regularly about the campaign and never expressed any doubt that being African-American wouldn't be an insurmountable obstacle to the presidency. That's probably because he has lived there and has a better grasp of the nuance of the US's racial stew.
Also, this passage appeared before the speech itself, so extra points for prognostication:
...I don't think we should expect any memorable phrases that remind us of Roosevelt, Kennedy, or Clinton.
In a weird way, this was quite a humbling moment for me. I don't know how it's possible that I let that slip by me. I've read ZuckermanN's column (which appears every weekday) perhaps 100 times since I've started this blog, and yet somehow, I managed to let that basic piece of info slip past me. What else that is right in front of me on a daily basis am I getting wrong?
Also, in happier news, unemployment dropped from 4.47 to 4.32 percent in December. That doesn't spell the end of the crisis (for a characteristically pessimistic take, check out yesterday's Rogelio Ramírez de la O column, where he laughs at the idea that the Mexican contraction will last a mere six months), but it's better than a rise in job losses.
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
18. We've seen bands like Band of Horses and Of Montreal catch some heat for having their songs used in television commercials and now some Iron & Wine fans are groaning because one of Sam Beam's greatest tunes is getting a ton of exposure in the film Twilight. I'm happy these people are making cash and getting noticed for their work, but many people still resent this so-called "selling out," even when it's clearly the road many artists need to take to get paid in today's music industry. Your thoughts on selling songs for commercial use?I was talking about the idea of selling out with my brother a few weeks ago, and we both basically agreed that it's kind of a silly complaint that you grow up making without thinking too much. The biggest problem is that, for a 19-year-old future lawyer (or insurance salesman or doctor or whatever), it's easy to call a singer a sell-out, but, as interviewer Steve Alexander points out, why should the artists have to be starving? Furthermore, artistic integrity isn't won through poverty and anonymity. London Calling is no less important for having appeared in a James Bond movie.
SM: No problems - to each his own. Gotta put bread on the table, within reason. It's like owning Kobe. Sometimes you gotta do it.
Modest Mouse helped clarify my thinking on this. They sold one of their cool songs from the Moon and Antarctica for a minivan ad in maybe 2004, but the song was no different afterward, and the album still had the really authentic and depressing mood that made the early Modest Mouse stuff so memorable, even post-minivan ad. When, shortly thereafter, the band stripped their music of that moodiness, that was much more off-putting to me than one of their songs appearing in a commercial. And even then, I wouldn't accuse the band of selling out; how do I know what was the inspiration that eventually resulted in more radio-friendly music?
The prestige of the New York Times is such that it wields an unparalleled moral suasion. A few years ago, I wrote a Times editorial making the point that in flirting with succeeding her husband as president, Vicente Fox's wife was threatening to make a mockery of the nation's democratization. The Mexican press treated the editorial as news in itself, and Mrs. Fox backed down. (We were, to be sure, not the only ones making the point.) But from now on, any Times utterances on Mexico will now be interpreted, fairly or not, through the prism of Slim's stake in the company.
Such second-guessing will not be limited to news about Mexico. When the Times is tough on Hugo Chavez, the Venezuelan leader can accuse the paper of doing its favorite investor's bidding. (Slim has businesses throughout Latin America.) And when the Times writes about extreme wealth concentration in other developing countries or unseemly business monopolies in Russia (or here in the United States, for that matter), second-guessers will ask why the paper of record doesn't take a closer look at what its white knight, Mr. Slim, is up to in Mexico.
The New York Times is facing difficult times, and it's easy to understand why it made this deal. But in the long run, in terms of the newspaper's global brand, that $250 million may appear far costlier than the high interest payments Slim is now due.
On a related note, I've also noticed that Mexican soap operas have begun sprinkling mildly offensive words into the dialogues. Gancho al Corazón (no relation to this blog) has used the words "naco" and "wey" a handful of times in the last two or three weeks, and I don't remember ever hearing them before, either in this telenovela or any other.
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
Priísta Carlos Meza Viveros offers a real-life example of why those advantages may not be overwhelming (especially if prominent PRI figures keep associating themselves with petty criminality): the former Puebla interior secretary has been linked via recorded conversations to a string of robberies of religious art from Puebla churches.
One thing about the PRI's support that is important to keep in mind: much of it is circumstantial and shallow. The PAN and the PRD are presently more dysfunctional than the PRI, but every incident like the above triggers memories of myriad other scandals, and reminds voters just how flawed the party is.
The drug traffickers have had a great presence in the country since at least the middle of the 90s and the country has been plagued by corruption since its creation.All this makes you wonder, why now? It's a bit like Iraq way back when in that it seems like a manufactured drumbeat to stir up concern about a problem which has existed for years. I am not suggesting any nefarious invasion plans, but it just feels kind of similar to the comments being made about Iraq around October of 2002.
In other words, the power of the drug traffickers isn't more than it was a decade ago, but it's more evident. The decomposition that drug trafficking generates has been hidden for years beneath the rug and Calderón simply uncovered it.
[T]he climate of violence through the country is living is simply a consequence of applying the law against drug traffickers, something the American government has demanded for years. So that generates chaos? Well, yes. But then, what do we do? Return to the policies of pretending to apply the law as in the past? Perhaps with that the governmental circles in the US would be calmer.
The next question: how could the failed-state hypothesis change American policy? If it is indeed a failed state (and it's not, I repeat), what is the remedy? I don't think, as Chabat suggests, that government officials would be happy with a significant relaxation of drug enforcement in Mexico. So what do the Mexico hawks want? More money in the Mérida Initiative? Greater military interaction? More troops on the border? How does any of that make more than a marginal impact on Mexican security? It's a head-scratcher.
I'm going to dig deep into my bag of silly metaphors to explain this one: the failed-state theorists are like a quack doctor who is diagnosing a cancer that's never been seen before and that is not in fact a cancer, but is neither fatal nor necessarily permanent nor treatable by any known medicine.
Andrew Sullivan has a pretty good analysis of why Obama is perfectly suited these times.
Obama acts like a kind of antacid to the American stomach. He has walked through the churn of racial and cultural and religious polarisation and somehow calmed everyone down.
Last spring he faced his biggest crisis — the exploitation by the Republican right of his incendiary former pastor Jeremiah Wright, a man whose penchant for polarisation was pathological. At a moment of extreme emotion and political peril, Obama found a way to give a speech that remains the greatest of recent times, to remind Americans of their complex and painful racial past, and not to condescend or cavil. The intellectual achievement of the speech was impressive enough — sufficient to provoke Garry Wills, the Lincoln scholar, to compare it to the Gettysburg address. That Obama wrote and delivered it as he heard in his ears every racial stereotype that had pummelled his psyche for his entire life bespoke an emotional maturity that still shocks.
He even managed — and this was a real achievement — to suck the drama out of the Clintons, to defeat them by quietly and methodically reducing their oxygen supply until they had no option but to surrender. Then he gave them their own night at the convention, a concession that many viewed as weakness but that only strengthened him. In the autumn he never took the Sarah Palin bait, treating her as one might handle the proverbial nutter on the bus even as she accused him of being a terrorist-loving socialist and whipped up largely white, southern crowds with paranoid fervour.
Even if Obama's legislative legacy falls a bit short of expectations, he has the chance to change the American political discourse for a generation. A couple decades of a more reasonable, more intelligent, and less hysterical brand of politics might not be quite as valuable as universal health care and a booming economy, but it'd be hugely significant anyway.
*If I ever publish a magazine with a foreign phrase as the title, especially if it's a phrase I am inventing, I'm going to be sure to ask a native speaker if said phrase sounds OK. Because if I screwed up the title, it would be hard for anyone to take my magazine seriously.
Monday, January 19, 2009
Yes, they did have their colonia: Francisco I. Madero, Pancho Villa, Lázaro Cárdenas, Miguel Alemán, Gustavo Díaz Ordaz, Luis Echeverría, José López Portillo, and Miguel de la Madrid.No, they didn't: Venustiano Carranza (and he's from Coahuila!), Álvaro Obregón, Manuel Ávila Camacho, Adolfo Ruiz Cortines, Adolfo López Mateos, Carlos Salinas, Ernesto Zedillo, and Vicente Fox.I forgot to check for them and didn't realize until I was driving home, which made me feel like Homer Simpson, but in any case I don't think they did: Plutarco Elías Calles and Emiliano Zapata.
Another piece of news that could be good for the PRD: Alejandro Encinas is launching his own PRD caucus. This could present headaches for Jesús Ortega, but it represents a better near-term outcome than Encinas heading elsewhere. In general, the hard-core leftists seem to be collectively hedging their bets about where the future of the hard-core Mexican left lies. AMLO seems more out of the PRD than in it these days, but Encinas, for years a close collaborator, is sticking around.
Sunday, January 18, 2009
Peyton:Year 2: 4135 yards, 26 TDs, 15 INTs, 90.7 rating.Year 3: 4414 yards, 33 TDs, 15 INTs, 94.7 rating.Year 4: 4131 yards, 26 TDs, 23 INTs, 84.1 rating.Year 5: 4200 yards, 27 TDs, 19 INTs, 88.8 rating.Eli:Year 2: 3762 yards, 24 TDs, 17 INTs, 74.9 rating.
Year 3: 3244 yards, 24 TDs, 18 INTs, 77.0 rating.
Year 4: 3336 yards, 23 TDs, 20 INTs, 73.9 rating.
Year 5: 3238 yards, 21 TDs, 10 INTs, 86.4 rating.
Saturday, January 17, 2009
In one of his declarations, the leader of the PGR affirmed that the Zetas were a myth, that its members were already dead or in prison. Shortly thereafter, General Vega, head of the Defense Department, symbolically revived and released them when he indicated at a meeting with senators that "he didn't want to alarm them," but "it seemed to be" that a group of Kaibiles "wanted to be invited" to join the Zetas and would be operating along Mexico's southern border with Guatemala. Two months earlier, the US Department of Homeland Security had sent a memo to the Border Patrol in which it indicated that according to unconfirmed reports around 30 Kaibiles were training people from the Zetas "south of McAllen" (Texas), a twisted and bureaucratic way of saying Reynosa, Tamaulipas. Previously, the Mexican press had published reports about the supposed presence of Gurkha mercenaries from Nepal and other nationalities on the southern border, according to Guatemalan military sources. The only thing left was to report the presence of Darth Vader.
According to the mayor of Zihuatanejo (PRD), the violence in his city and in Costa Grande was due to Fox having "come to an agreement" with one of the organized criminal groups. But if this was true, how do you explain that despite all the supposed aid for one group of all the force of the state, or at least of the presidency, that another group could compete with the "protected one"? What power greater than or equal to the president's protected the other group? Mysterious.
Nevertheless, most professionals understand that the increase in violence in Mexico is a sign that Calderón's policies are working, not failing.Actually, most objective professionals, if they are honest with themselves, realize that they don't really know what is going on. It's like Belfast: if you're not confused, you're not paying attention. So many variables are at play, so many known unknowns (thanks Rummy!) are floating around, there's no way to accurately measure the success of Calderón's policies. Something I wrote a couple of months ago seems relevant here:
Two separate but related elements of Mexico's drug trade cloud the immediate reality, making it impossible to measure near-term success or failure, and all but scream for patience and moderation. The first is the fact that the most decisive players, i.e. the cartel leaders, operate hidden from public view. Their perceptions and intentions are unknown to the public. Does the recent peace and quiet in one city mean that it is already divvied up, or is one group merely biding its time and resources before making a violent play for the plaza? Will an escalation in violence send every cartel to the mattresses, or is it an opening for a pact that will reduce the bloodshed? We never know until after the fact.
When U.S. and Mexican officials achieved the largest seizure of drug money in the Western Hemisphere — more than $200 million — it was due to cross-border law-enforcement cooperation and coordination.
Other recent successes include the arrest of methamphetamine kingpin Ye Gon in Mexico City...
Friday, January 16, 2009
The mob did not disappear when alcohol became legal again. It turned to narcotics and also used violence to create competitive advantage in otherwise legitimate trades (gambling, for example). There is no reason to believe that drug legalization would have a vastly different effect today. Under legalization, today’s drug dealers will run tomorrow’s rackets in money laundering, tax-free contraband, gun-running, human trafficking, identity theft, numbers, contract killings, perhaps even conflict diamonds. There are dozens of other such enterprises, including the more pedestrian forms of violent crime, which have been eclipsed in profitability by the drug trade. In the event of legalization, we can expect a migration back toward them. It would also be foolish to believe that a black market in drugs would disappear with legalization, especially if drugs are taxed and regulated by the government.
As with alcohol, minors would find it much easier to obtain drugs if they were legal.
Maybe Mexico isn't a failed state right now, but how can we ensure that it won't be?
A couple of intriguing fights down the road were also announced this week: Marco Antonio Barrera versus Amir Khan, and James Kirkland versus Joel Julio. Khan could be dangerous for Barrera. The Mexican is naturally smaller, older, and he hasn't been a big puncher since he was at 126 pounds, so I don't think he'll be able to keep Khan off of him. Barrera's a better boxer, but I think Khan's athleticism will make this a really tough out for Barrera.
As far Kirkland and Julio, I have no clue.
From the archbishop of Santo Domingo: Cleavage and miniskirts provoke men.Women who dress in a style unbecoming of a Sunday mass are a periodic concern for the Mexican Church. Their lack of tact in addressing the issue --sexy clothes are so common in Latin America that even people inclined to agree with the general thrust of the comments will bristle, because they inevitably insult a person's mother, sister, daughter, aunt, et cetera-- is a pretty good demonstration of why the Church is ceding its role as the moral compass for many Mexicans. It's just so far removed from reality.
The archbishop of Juárez: It's not just a question of dress, but attitudes.
The Mexican family has lost its sense of shame.
The archbishop of Tegucigalpa: Women who dress provocatively devalue
themselves and their dignity, and put themselves at risk of rape.
An Ecuadorian attendee: Such women are to blame for men attacking them.
Thursday, January 15, 2009
Two words: Putin and Medvedev. When the going gets weird, a wise man once said, the weird turn pro, and when the Russian economy tanks as the price of oil craters, Russia’s historically vicious world of pro politics will turn positively monstrous. Medvedev will pull a Palin and go rogue, offering Europe the chance of a lifetime: a friendly Russia given a free hand in the Caucasus and Asia in exchange for admission to the EU in everything but name. Putin, of course, will not go down without a fight, or at least a quiet sushi dinner.Present-day politics in Russia reminds me a bit of Lázaro Cárdenas' six year in the Mexican presidency. Like Medvedev, he arrived as the perceived puppet of a former president, in this case the Jefe Máximo de la Revolución, Plutarco Elías Calles. But instead of being pulled this way and that, Cárdenas outmaneuvered Calles, building his own base of power while eroding Calles', to the point that he had no need for his erstwhile patron. The cold war between the two was eventually resolved by Calles' exile to California in 1936. In supplanting Calles, Cárdenas ended his domination over the federal government. By voluntarily relinquishing the presidency at the end of his term in 1940, he established the (mostly) peaceful succession of the Mexican presidency. Anyone worried about the prospect of two more decades of Putin should hope that Medvedev turns into a Russian species of Cárdenas.
6. Amnesty. The issue of illegal immigration will remain urgent and vast, but anything resembling a guest worker program will be justly jeered from all sides as a Zombie Bush Plan. The left will be correct that the institutionalization of a mass of mobile labor without true citizenship will sacrifice the Mexican people at the altar of amoral, apolitical capital, and the right will be right to say ditto about the American republic. Any democracy, and especially ours, requires a maximum of humans inside it to be full citizens, rooted in the country and committed to their own shared governance. Obama will be looking for game-changing ways to overcome our apparently intractable ‘structural’ failings, and he will be looking for dealmaking Republicans working on a shocking and awesome relaunch of conservative policymaking. The deal is obvious: really seal the borders, then grant a blanket amnesty — and set up the redeeming, 21st-century equivalent of the Freedmen’s Bureau, which will demand citizenship of those who have come here and empower them to govern themselves. The alternative is a future in which the rights of citizens are extended piecemeal to noncitizens—something all Americans should recoil against. And who’s that GOP bigwig Obama can rely on? That’s obvious, too: McCain.I find this pretty unconvincing. If Obama can find his way to clear from the financial crisis long enough to devote some attention to his legislative agenda, health care is almost certainly going to come first. That's going to take months, so the window for immigration reform in 2009 is pretty small. Even if he does have sufficient time, an energy overhaul and education reform seem far more likely to occupy his attention than immigration. Immigration reform (much less amnesty) was not a campaign promise, so Obama has little incentive to dive head-first into what is inevitably going to be an extremely contentious issue. I think the best chance for immigration reform would be after another couple elections of Republicans getting pummeled by Hispanics, after Obama's already been reelected, with a new Mexican president in power, say in 2013.
This makes Bush's failure to jump on immigration in early 2005 all the more frustrating. Alex Massie's thoughts on that episode are very sharp.
Maybe the businessmen have hired Putin as a consultant. It's hard not to feel sympathy for the companies, who are surely at their wits' end, but the response punishes the people least responsible. Pretty harsh.
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
This espn.com piece on Marvin Harrison is the most gripping and informative piece of sports reporting I remember reading in years.
The Calderón-Obama interview is without a doubt something from the Mexican government to celebrate. This meeting will put Mexico on Obama's radar, but to expect great changes in the bilateral relationship is illusory. The new president of the United States will be very busy in the coming months in solving the international financial crisis and, if he has success on that task, maybe he will start to dedicate some time to the relationship with Mexico.
So, the interview in Washington must be a motive for satisfaction for Mexican diplomacy but not to set the bells ringing. It could be the beginning of a cordial relationship between both presidents, but to think this alone will resolve all of the problems in the bilateral relationship is simply an error.
One hundred thousand individuals, who represent 52 percent of the total of federal prisoners, are convicts for crimes related to drugs. The US government will allocate $14 billion for the treatment, prevention, combat, and foreign aid to combat drugs.Good points all, especially the gap between the number of addicts and the money to treat them.
From that amazing data inevitable questions emerge. If that country has more than 35 million addicts, why do they portion only $400 for each one of them to reign in the problem? The total figure is impressive (14 billion), but it's ridiculous considering the extension and gravity of the problem. Why don't the politicians in the United States, a country that fancies itself as the champion of individual liberty, commit to the legalization of drugs? Isn't at least plausible to propose that what each adult consumes is exclusively his business? Shouldn't a tax be established on consumption (as is the case with alcohol and tobacco) to cover the cost that we all pay to alleviate the damage of addiction, from armed violence to the destruction of health? That number of consumers deserves it?
In the press, the answer to the speculation was soon published: [Patricia] Espinosa would be secretary for two years, at which point [Arturo] Sarukhán would be preparing at the Mexican embassy in the United States to later arrive in relief.I'm not crazy about all of Calderón's foreign policy priorities, but there's no denying that Espinosa has done a pretty good job implementing them.
The political equation didn't take into account that, in two years in office, "the perfect unknown", without any scandals, reconstructed the relationship with Mexico and Cuba, Venezuela, and Bolivia, landed the country in the UN Security Council, also in the G-20, saved the delicate situation of Lucía Morett with the Colombian guerillas in Ecuador, and without letting herself dominated by Sarukhán's caginess, was key to the agreement on the Mérida Initiative and contributed to her boss being the only leader that the American president-elect received.
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
People seem to be following the Middle Eastern conflict in Gaza much more closely -- and passionately -- than in the United States.
Newspapers in this corner of the world are splashing headlines about the conflict across their front pages, much more prominently than the global financial crisis or local stories. On television, the Israeli attack on the Hamas terrorist group in Gaza after the group's constant rocket attacks is the focus of debates, with most voices criticizing Israel.
I meant to write about this last week, but I got sidetracked. Here's the covers of La Jornada, El Universal, and Excelsior the day after the ground invasion began. The last time all three papers (which, I should point out, have very different political slants, placed the same foreign event on their cover was Obama's election. Before that, I can't remember one.As Oppenheimer mentions, the coverage is anti-Israel, but I don't see it as anti-Semitic, but rather anti-imperialist. (I'm not calling Israel imperialist, just pointing out that that's what I see in the coverage.) The negativity feels much more like the resentment of a bully than a more disturbing example of anti-Jewish bias. Oppenheimer also points out that for anti-American populists, knocking Israel is a way to take aim at the US.