Saturday, February 28, 2009
Mexico's historic error was trying to confront organized crime and the nation's insecurity without having developed a viable system of criminal justice. What the country continues needing are capable police, public ministers who are effective in their work, and judges that can confront organized crime. It's clear to us now that legalizing drugs is not the solution to the problems: it was only an easy way out to avoid doing the work required.
I don't doubt the urgency of attending to the security crisis that demands the (temporary) concentration of the police power of the state. But the municipalities are much more than poorly paid and corrupt police. They are a form of political and social organization that doesn't have a substitute, and that today is lost and defeated, to our misfortune, for bureaucratic reasons. Precisely now, when they are at their most indispensable to put back together our torn fabric.
Friday, February 27, 2009
"Those Washington elite," Palin remarked, "don't like the idea of just an everyday working-class American running for such an office." It's true, we don't. On the other hand, we don't like the idea of an everyday upper-class American potentially assuming the presidency, either. Our ideal president would know much more about public policy than an everyday American of any social class.The second (irritating) one, from Isaac Chotiner:
One rule of American politics (and American political discourse) is that commentators and (Democratic) politicians are not allowed to even suggest that a large percentage of the electorate is none-too-bright. Forty percent of people think Saddam was behind 9/11, huh? Don't say it is because they are dumb; don't you know how elitist and out-of-touch that makes you sound? (The other great answer given here is that people are too busy. Yes, people may watch four hours of television every day, but they do not possess the time to pick up a newspaper and learn that Obama is in fact a Christian). All of which is a belated way of saying that a report in this morning's New York Times is noteworthy. An excerpt:
For 90 minutes on Wednesday, during a lively, at times tense closed-door meeting in Manhattan, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg pleaded his case, trying to persuade five Republican chairmen to let him run on their party’s ballot line this fall.[Snip]
He is the undisputed front-runner in the race, but without the backing of a major party, his name could appear six rows over to the right on the ballot in November, turning off voters who have always favored brand names in municipal politics.
What is the implication here, and why is Bloomberg so concerned about getting his name listed with everyone else's? Is the mayor(-for-life) suggesting that the great and good American people are not intelligent enough to find the name of the person they want to vote for? And the New York press, of course, has been reporting on this story frequently, but without mentioning the obvious upshot. Apparently it is acceptable for everyone to take stupidity for granted, but only elitists have the indecency to say so.
These two both allude to the fact that most Americans don't follow politics or policy particularly closely, but a big difference between these two is that Chotiner is celebrating that fact simply for its own sake, while Chait is using it simply to affirm that being of the masses is not in and of itself a qualification for higher office. It's like the difference between being called stupid after confusing Freddie Mercury and David Bowie in front of a group of music experts, and having someone announce that you are stupid at a party with no provocation at all, with the far less worthy goal of disseminating knowledge of your stupidity. The first would be embarrassing, the second infuriating.
Calderón, perhaps considering the creation of a personality cult like that of AMLO, goes deep into the first person to deny the failure of the Mexican state:
"To say that Mexico is a failed state is absolutely false," Calderon said. "I have not lost any part - any single part - of Mexican territory."For his part, Medina Mora affirmed that 90 percent of the victims of drug killings are active in the drug trade, while 4 percent are innocent bystanders, and the rest are cops and soldiers. I'd like to see a little more about where he got that information, especially in regard to how he went about pulling apart whether law enforcement officials were killed for doing their jobs or because they were working for smugglers.
The Mexican attorney general also provided this inadvertently revealing comment:
"We want to raise the opportunity cost of our country as a route of choice," he said.The idea then is that the drugs will get to the United States regardless, but it doesn't have to be through Mexico. The truth of this comment (or at the very least the first half of it) is self-evident, but it's a rather striking admission coming from the highest law enforcement official in a nation receiving hundreds of millions of dollars of American aid to fight the US war on drugs. Does it follow that even if the Mérida Initiative works better than anyone could have hope, if in 2012 the Zetas are a distant memory and Chapo Guzman and co. are all in jail and no one has replaced them, that drug consumption in the US will remain unchanged? I'd probably still be in favor of the Mérida Initiative, just for the simple reason that no one wants a basket case in the backyard, but didn't Medina Mora just admit that from an American perspective, the drug war is a joke? Again, the truth of this is self-evident, but it's odd to see a high-ranking Mexican law enforcement official support that position.
Juan Diaz versus Juan Manuel Márquez: Diaz is the naturally bigger man with the relentless style that would seem tailor-made to bother Márquez. Márquez is the better boxer with the better skills who should be able to spin and potshot his opponent, but I'm not convinced that will be enough. Nate Campbell beat Diaz in large part because of his great work inside, and I don't have a lot of faith in Márquez's ability to do the same. One of the great pieces of advice I've heard in recent weeks about predicting fights is, Don't start with the fighter you think is going to win and then try to explain why he will do so. Instead, look at the fight as a blank slate, and try to imagine who is going have the stylistic advantage, and who is going to win the exchanges. Following that wisdom, Diaz has to be the pick. Plus, Diaz has the significant advantage of being the aggressor in front of a hometown crowd. But I'm going to ignore the above advice, and say that Márquez will find his way to a majority decision victory. If I'm wrong, I have only myself to blame, but sometimes, when selecting an entree and picking fights, you have to go with the gut over the brain.
Johnathon Banks vs. Tomasz Adamek: Banks is a likeable fighter who's showed a lot of heart and good pop on the (very few) occasions I've seen him in action, and I wouldn't be shocked to see him score an upset of Adamek. The Polish titlist has been in a lot of wars, and I think he will one day go from the height of his powers to looking like a has-been in just a few rounds. But I'm guessing that day is still far off into the future. The champ survives some early rough spots and scores a late-round knockout.
Chris John vs. Rocky Juarez: Like a handful of superstars in the '90s-era NBA, Juarez has the misfortune of being a very good competitor eclipsed by even better ones. Marco Antonio Barrera and Juan Manuel Márquez have already played Michael Jordan and Hakeem Olajuwon to his Charles Barkley, and I think Chris John may as well be Tim Duncan. I'd like to be wrong, but I just don't see Juarez's fifth title shot being the charm. He's still among the best 126 and 130-pounders, but he's looked listless and gun-shy in his last few bouts. I think he'd have to imitate Diaz to defeat John, but that's just not the kind of fighter he is. John cruises to a comfortable UD.
Gancho is 9-3 on the year, although the Cintron-Martínez fight is about as much a loss as was the 1972 US basketball squad's defeat at the hands of the USSR.
Gootenberg, whose book Andean Cocaine was the subject of the interview, also noted that the cocaine trade has always been in the hands of Latin Americans. This has always stumped me. Not being a botanist or cultivator of drugs, I speak with no expertise, but I can't imagine the Andes is the only mountain range conducive to growing coca in the world. Why, then, has an enterprising criminal in Bhutan or Afghanistan or Nepal never thought to open another center of production for cocaine? I'm not hoping they do, mind you, it's just that it seems to confound logic.
you're a coward come to torreon and stay one weekend without a security detail we'll see how you do...It pretty much continues in that vain for another hundred words or so, with some gratuitous comments regarding the man's family.
Thursday, February 26, 2009
Spanish-speakers, check out past interviews with Morett.
The bubble encouraged massive, unsustainable growth in places where land was cheap and the real-estate economy dominant. It encouraged low-density sprawl, which is ill-fitted to a creative, postindustrial economy. And not least, it created a workforce too often stuck in place, anchored by houses that cannot be profitably sold, at a time when flexibility and mobility are of great importance.Not only is this a piercing observation that has been sorely lacking over the course of the last two decades, but it's also one I've had right in front of me my entire adult life. Even as friends and acquaintance have bought their own houses, I've never considered it, for the very reasons Florida mentions.* I didn't want to be tied down; if a job opened up in, say, Torreón, I didn't want to be stuck in Chicago in a lame job with an irritating boss simply because I'd bought a house. My home-buying instincts (and those of many like me) were shaped by the globalized world, but American policy was based on an ultimately unsustainable denial of that world. How could this observation have escaped me?
So how do we move past the bubble, the crash, and an aging, obsolescent model of economic life? What’s the right spatial fix for the economy today, and how do we achieve it?
Maybe it wouldn't work for a variety of reasons I can scarcely envision, but the foreclosure plan Florida mentions sounds better than any other plan I've heard tossed around. The people who made bad decisions would be punished but without ruining their lives, the banks would be able to maintain a revenue stream in declining real estate markets through the rent revenue, and it would counteract the rigidity imposed by the ownership society.
As homeownership rates have risen, our society has become less nimble: in the 1950s and 1960s, Americans were nearly twice as likely to move in a given year as they are today. Last year fewer Americans moved, as a percentage of the population, than in any year since the Census Bureau started tracking address changes, in the late 1940s. This sort of creeping rigidity in the labor market is a bad sign for the economy, particularly in a time when businesses, industries, and regions are rising and falling quickly.
The foreclosure crisis creates a real opportunity here. Instead of resisting foreclosures, the government should seek to facilitate them in ways that can minimize pain and disruption. Banks that take back homes, for instance, could be required to offer to rent each home to the previous homeowner, at market rates—which are typically lower than mortgage payments—for some number of years. (At the end of that period, the former homeowner could be given the option to repurchase the home at the prevailing market price.) A bigger, healthier rental market, with more choices, would make renting a more attractive option for many people; it would also make the economy as a whole more flexible and responsive.
Next, we need to encourage growth in the regions and cities that are best positioned to compete in the coming decades: the great mega-regions that already power the economy, and the smaller, talent-attracting innovation centers inside them—places like Silicon Valley, Boulder, Austin, and the North Carolina Research Triangle.
I do worry that Florida's scheme for the government favoring certain regions' growth would be problematic. This isn't a case of broadly favoring cities and close-in suburbs instead of exurbs, but punishing citizens simply for growing up in Detroit or Youngstown, while rewarding others for inhabiting specific areas thought to have the potential for high growth. It's hard to imagine a government policy that could achieve this fairly and smoothly.
To summarize: while reading, I felt like I was visiting a soothsayer. However, since I don't regularly read work by other demographers and don't really think about the world the way I imagine they do, I do wonder if most any demographer is capable of blowing my hair back the way that article did.
*Of course, a much more direct impediment to Gancho's entering the ownership society is the fact that I've never had enough money in my bank account to even consider purchasing a new car, much less a new house.
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
Forty years ago, showing inconformity publically was a challenge. Marching, shutting off streets, and occupying plazas demanded a great deal of courage: it was to challenge an authoritarian government, which perhaps wasn't essentially repressive, but nor did it hesitate a great deal before crushing the opposition. With the downfall of that regime, that sense of public demonstrations also disappeared, and they were transformed into parodies, into instruments of pressure for unscrupulous leaders...There's a fundamental incongruence to a country in which voting abstention rates are often close to two thirds of the electorate, but in which traffic-snarling, commute-lengthening, potential customers-offending marches are more common than full moons. I hate to sound like a crotchety old man, but marching on the capital to protest something as banal as increases in the price of diesel fuel --and I don't mean to understate its importance to certain industries, but let's not mistake cheap gas for an inalienable right-- is a bit cynical. An eminently reasonable proposal to address this: anyone who hasn't voted in three of the last four gubernatorial, presidental, or congressional elections in his or her state is banned from marching on the Zócalo. Violators will be exiled to northern Greenland.
(Yes, I am still bitter about the de facto increase in taxi rates that AMLO's protests forced upon me in 2006, when I was living in Mexico City.)
To date, Operation Xcellerator has led to the arrest of 755 individuals and the seizure of approximately $59.1 million in U.S. currency, more than 12,000 kilograms of cocaine, more than 16,000 pounds of marijuana, more than 1,200 pounds of methamphetamine, more than 8 kilograms of heroin, approximately 1.3 million pills of Ecstasy, more than $6.5 million in other assets, 149 vehicles, 3 aircraft, 3 maritime vessels and 169 weapons.The operation's delightful name --once more, that's Xcellerator-- would seem to indicate that at least some of the people being laid off from marketing positions are finding work in the government. Even allowing for the tendency of American law enforcement to grossly overstate the impact of drug arrests, those are some large numbers.
However, though this is clearly not a cause for celebration, there is a silver lining. Mexicans should be pleased that Mexico was even included at all. Being measured against Finland and the US and Japan stacked the deck against Mexico, but other mid-level regional powers (South Africa, Chile, Argentina, Nigeria, among others) would love to have been on the list. Moreover, the measures of improvement since the late 1990s offer a lot of optimistic pieces of data. Mexico ranked third thanks to a 20 percent leap in IT investments from 1999 to 2006; its improvements in higher education were the second most significant; the nation's rises in science publications and corporate spending on research and development both ranked sixth; its business climate and broadband access also landed in the top ten. This list proves that Mexico is out of its depth when compared to China, the US, and Western Europe, but we already knew that. Less expected but more welcome are the indications that, in certain areas, Mexico is bounding in the right direction.
To mark the round of 16, check out the Phrasenschwein Project, a very useful glossary of clichés for would-be football snobs. (You'll note I said "football snobs" instead of "soccer snobs." That's step one for American aspirants.) Highlights:
FIERY Euphemism for "alcoholic." Also: "Southern European."(Thanks JC.)
MARADONA Better than Pele. See PELE.
METATARSAL A part of the body that was discovered shortly before the 2006 World Cup. A mark of weakness: "They didn't have those when I was playing."
PENALTY SHOOTOUT A lottery. Note that you can't practice for them. England will lose through one in the quarterfinals.
PELE Better than Maradona. See MARADONA.
PIPPO INZAGHI He was born in an offside position.
I'm not sure quite what PRI officials have to gain by defending their past presidents, none of whom hold public office and all of whom are widely (and correctly) considered to have been ineffective in combating the growth of Mexican drug gangs. They'd do better to simply focus on today. Similarly, I'm not sure what Calderón and co. think blaming the others does for them. It's a matter of fact that drug violence has reached unprecedented levels under his administration, so indirectly encouraging comparisons between today and, say, the halcyon days of Miguel de la Madrid is unhelpful. Aside from that, it's irrelevant. I don't think Mexicans much care who is to blame --they are mostly content fingering anyone powerful-- they just want it to get better.
Here’s the test Brooks should set: will Obama’s efforts lead to worse than the alternatives? Will they be worse than his predecessor’s? The conservative approach to economic and social policy, as refined to ideological purity under Bush, is to get government out of the way, trust free markets, and let chronic problems fester until they turn into disasters. The results are all around us (one example among hundreds: the failure of the Securities and Exchange Commission to regulate Wall Street). Brooks pits a rigid, abstraction-loving liberalism against a wise, experience-loving conservatism. But recent American history has shown the truth to be closer to the opposite. We are where we are because the ruling conservative ideology of the past few decades refused to face facts, like the effect of private insurance on health-care costs, or the effect of deregulation on investment banking. Facts drove the Republicans out of power. And judging from their response to Obama’s first month in office, facts are very hard things to face in politics.Obama isn’t trying to remake America’s economy and society out of ideological hubris. He’s initiating sweeping changes because he inherited a set of interrelated emergencies that require swift, decisive action.
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
One thing that the nation's attorney general and the federal secretary of public security agree on: the war against organized crime will be won the day that the society places itself on the side of the State. That's what happened in Colombia. Although the country has worse indices than Mexico in terms of insecurity, the idea that the corner has been turned on the problem is widely held. The question is: why? The answer has to do with the general attitude of the Colombian society that, sick of what was going on, began to support the State in its fight against organized crime. Social tolerance [of crime] ended. Not to mention the explicit support. That's what President Álvaro Uribe achieved: aligning the society with the State.
About 6,600 Mexicans were killed in fighting involving drug gangs last year, and alarms are going off in this country.Where is this number coming from? The PGR says it was 5,600. Most media tallies are slightly less. How has what I will presume to be nothing more than a slip of O'Grady's finger turned into fact?
Two of our past three presidents...have tried drugs.Of Clinton, Bush, and Obama, which hasn't tried drugs? I suppose this is because Bush has never admitted to doing drugs, but, unless I'm mistaken, nor has he denied it, and there's been plenty of reporting on the topic.
(Gratuitous metaphors in this post: three. It's just a huge day for me. This is the perfect way to bounce back from the disappointment I alluded to in the previous post.)
This is just one of approximately six billion recent criminal episodes that involve soldiers or ex-soldiers. I don't know if there's been an increase in criminal activity involving soldiers, or if I'm just paying more attention now, but I'd like to see some research on the subject that goes beyond the anecdotal.
Monday, February 23, 2009
Juárez is unusual in that it is a huge bordertown that is home to a drug cartel and also has significant drug consumption among its residents (Tijuana is the only other area that shares those characteristics). Consequently, the rest of the country isn't likely to simultaneously decay from above and below in quite the same way, but given that drug use in Mexico is relatively low and rising, it's conceivable that the rest of Mexico could look more like Juárez in ten years. That's more than a bit scary.
In general terms, the answer must be no [Mexico is not failing] – if only because the state still controls most of its territory. However, the situation becomes less clear if the actual, close working of cities and institutions are examined: here, the state's presence is often notional, as those who control the power-strings are the narcos. The government of Felipe Calderón is disoriented and passive in face of the corruption, inequality and impunity that bleed and debilitate society and the state. The feeling that we are marching towards a precipice is accentuated.
I suppose a ceremony interring the Monroe Doctrine couldn't do much harm (I don't think the possible outcry from hard-right Latin Americanists would be worth more than a moment's consideration), but what good would it do? The target audience for such an act would be the small minority of Latin Americans who are still hung up on the Doctrine, but such a group's grievances go far beyond the policy implemented nearly 200 years ago (although it was invoked under the Roosevelt Corollary repeatedly in the twentieth century, up until the mid-1960s). Unless the fake funeral was coupled with a very visible reversal of the more recent iterations of heavy-handed and hypocritical American policy in Latin America, it would be seen as a cynical ploy. At the same time, if Obama were to step away from said heavy-handedness and hypocrisy --say, by deporting Luis Posada Carriles to Venezuela or unilaterally lifting the Cuba embargo-- than the present status of the Monroe Doctrine would immediately become moot.
The same calculus applies even more so for the far larger group of Latin Americans whose lack of love for the US isn't due to lingering anger over the Monroe Doctrine, but rather modern frustrations like strict immigration restrictions and their zealous enforcement, the Iraq war, support for Chávez's ousters, et cetera. Without addressing the proximate causes of resentment of the US, declarations about policies implemented close to 40 administrations ago won't have much impact.
Lauría also expresses dismay that the federal official charged with monitoring and combating journalists' killings, Octavio Orellana Wiarco, has shown a tendancy to downplay the violence. Another sign that Mexico simply isn't taking the issue seriously: the convicted murderer of journalist Manuel Buendía is being released, after having his 25-year sentence reduced to 19.
Sinaloa is that rare place where townies emulate hayseeds, and youths yearn to join their ranks.
Saturday, February 21, 2009
I can't judge anyone who was in a situation so foreign from anything I've ever experienced, but the fact that such a gambit worked, that the police didn't circle the wagons to protect their boss and ward off criminals, offers an undeniable illustration of who runs that town.
Friday, February 20, 2009
This could be a good idea, but I worry that it's just more uniform switching that doesn't get at the heart of the problem: effective police units that are relatively free of corruption. There's been so much of this in the past decade (just off the top of my head, and at the risk of getting mixed up: Feads becomes Siedo, the PJR is disbanded in favor of the PFP and AFI, the PFP is folded into the AFI, et cetera), and I think there's a lot to be said for simply avoiding the administrative hassles of modifying the bureaucratic structure in favor of just making the agencies that exist today as good as they can be.
As for Cotto, his knockout loss to Margarito was more physically brutal than Pavlik's decision loss to Hopkins, but he was far more competitive up until he ran out of gas (and the accumulation of plastered punches?), and the Margarito suspension has to give him an added shot of confidence. I don't know much about Jennings, other than that he's not a world beater. I think Cotto will come out with the vintage meat-and-potatoes style he showed off coming up: lots of body work, not much flipping to the southpaw stance, and a solid knockout in the middle rounds.
Welcome back to the winner's circle, boys!
I don't mean to burn Mexico or any other nation, and most of the examples I see are superficial or ignorant rather than an expression of hatred, but the reason I see all this as borderline racist and Mexicans may not is that the US has become exceptionally astute at reading between the lines and determining racist intent. I don't think that means that the nations without our history and consequent racial self-consciousness are cowardly (it was really an odd choice of words by Holder), but nor is the US, so far ahead of many of its peers recognizing racism, a yellow nation.
Thursday, February 19, 2009
Today the most powerful country in the world is trying to move its economy forward, utilizing infrastructure spending and public support, and even with this it will be very difficult to overcome the problems. Here the government already used the better part of its increase in resources in its current expenses. On the other side, oil income and tax revenues are going to fall, and there won't be anything left with which to confront the crisis.
Yet another potential panacea lies in government funding. If we can bail out banks and auto companies, goes the argument, why not an industry on which the health of democracy depends? And while direct government funding of the press is anathema to all who value free expression, we have the examples not only of the extremely independent-minded BBC and CBC but also an innovative set of steps taken by the French government to shore up that country's newspaper industry, none of which impinge on said industry's ability to write freely about the government.
Perhaps it is a mistake to try to save "the newspaper" per se. Given the unavoidable splintering of what once was a "mass" audience for just about all forms of culture and entertainment, the old-fashioned notion of a mass "newspaper" with a sports page, a comics page, a crossword puzzle and a heartwarming story about the winner of a local high school science fair is a predigital phenomenon, however great the devotion to its daily appearance on our doorstep by old farts like yours truly. Ironically, it is the sections of the paper most crucial to informed democratic discourse that are in danger of disappearing. Sports news, entertainment news, health news, fashion, celebrity and style reporting will always be with us in one form or another, because they are such delightful places to advertise.
It is not merely Mr. Slim’s resources that help swing coverage his way, Mexican journalists say. Rather, they say, Mr. Slim, a widowed father of six, has an unassuming, avuncular persona.
He often shuffles into events alone, his bodyguards well out of sight. Addressing the press, Mr. Slim can appear ill at ease, resembling at times a small business owner rather than Mexico’s richest man.[Break]
“We journalists cover so many bad guys here in Mexico, so many big egos, that Slim, despite all his faults, doesn’t appear all that bad,” said Mr. Riva Palacio, the Mexico City journalist.
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
While Zuckermann offers a logical path for how it could happen, I'm also skeptical of the PRI's chances of reaching 251, basically for the reasons Buendía mentions. Self-identified PRI supporters are less certain of their votes than PAN supporters, although there are a greater number of the former. The PRI support is essentially a mild protest against the ruling-party PAN and the disintegrating-party PRD. It's possible because the worst side of the PRI is buried deeper in Mexicans' memories than those of its competitors. I expect that once the candidates are named and the campaigns start in earnest, at least some of the PRI will do a bang-up job reminding Mexico why 2000 was such a cause for celebration. When voters have a side-by-side view of the electoral options, the idea of punishing the PAN and the PRD will become less important than the relative strengths and weaknesses of the candidates themselves.
There are also a number of possible scenarios that aren't getting a whole lot of attention. What happens if the PAN and the PRD collectively hold a narrow majority? Would the PRD under Jesús Ortega be willing to find common ground with Calderón and the PAN in order to pass legislation? Would the perredistas in the senate go along with that? What would said legislation look like?
Also, let's say that the PRI and smaller parties like Nueva Alianza and the Green Party together hold a majority. In which direction will the smaller parties lean?
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
All I can think of is for Mexico to accept U.S. assistance that would include a massive effort to train Mexican forces to crush the cartels. But that's a step that won't appeal to Mexican nationalists, or, for that matter, to Americans who are wary of walking into an expensive military quagmire.
Given the above, perhaps we should take the rest of his statistics with a grain of salt, but this stat shows how Mexican criminal groups have branched out beyond cocaine smuggling: according to García Luna, in 2002 there were 50 complaints of extortion. Last year, there were 50,000.
The president says that Japan's history demonstrates the need for his "stimulus package." To the contrary, claim Hannity and other conservatives, Japan shows that stimulus plans don't work. Up to a point, they're both right. But the possible parallels between Japan's experience and our own are much broader and pose the question of whether we, too, might face a "lost decade."As Samuelson notes, Japan was a fantastically rich society at both the start and the end of the 1990s, and the economy was significantly bigger at the start of the decade than at the end, yet it's universally considered a disaster. But this is a bit silly; it may have been a statistical disaster, but it wasn't one in terms of living standards. Of course, the situation today is different in a number of ways, not least because the world is more dependent on American consumption than it was on Japanese exports, but still, a decade of 1.5 percent growth wouldn't be a disaster.
What happened to Japan in the 1990s?
It did not, as some commentators say, suffer a "depression." Not even a "great recession," as others put it. Japan experienced a listless, boring prosperity. Its economy expanded in all but two years (1998 and 1999), although the average annual growth rate was a meager 1.5 percent. Unemployment rose to 5 percent in 2001 from 2.1 percent in 1990. Not good, but hardly a calamity. Japan remained a hugely wealthy society.
The trouble is that this system broke down in the mid-1980s. The rising yen made Japanese exports costlier on world markets. New competitors -- South Korea, Taiwan -- emerged. Japan lost its engine of growth and hasn't found a new one. That is Japan's central economic problem.
Since the early 1980s, American economic growth has depended on a steady rise in consumer spending supported by more debt and increasing asset prices (stocks, homes). Just as the mid-1980s signaled the end of Japan's export-led growth, the present U.S. slump signals the end of upbeat, consumption-led growth. But its legacy is an overbuilt and overemployed consumption sector, from car dealers to malls. The question is whether our system is adaptive enough to create new sources of growth to fill the void left by retreating shoppers.
Monday, February 16, 2009
Of course, this legislation can be changed. The problem is that if the PRI obtains a majority in Chamber of Deputies in July, do you know when the electoral laws will be changed? Never. Clearly, the PRD never knew whose bidding it was doing.I guess the idea is that the PRI, with its long list of skeletons closeted away for now and its checkered history leading authoritarian governments, would have the most to lose from an open airing for the parties' warts. Nonetheless, he may be overstating things; the PRI will be able to block reform for at least three years, but then the electoral map will be scrambled once more in 2012.
César Cansino comes at the same question from a different angle:
The decision not to vote, when it is conscious, is also a legitimate choice: it has a significance that projects itself politically. Nor do I share the interpretation that considers the disenchantment of the citizens lies more with the parties or the politicians than with democracy itself, because they have discovered with reluctance that democracy doesn't resolve their immediate problems. Once more, voters here are labeled and their apathy at the ballot box is presumed to be a product more of ignorance and a misunderstanding of what democracy is, because they endow it with meaning it doesn't have. This supposed candor is misapplied; what the majority of Mexicans want from their democracy is that their representatives represent them adequately, better laws and guarantees, and to truly live under the rule of law. Nothing more or less.This is a confusing paragraph, but if I may take a stab at untangling it, Cansino is saying that a) vote abstention isn't so bad if it reflects a genuine protest, and b) the parties and the politicians are not the problem, democracy itself is, because it can't provide voters with what they want.
I read another piece on abstention in the last couple of days, but I can't for the life of me remember who wrote it or where I saw it, so no more comments on this subject as I worry about my enfeebled memory.
The government represents the nation abroad, exercises a quasi monopoly on the use of force within its borders, collects taxes and ensures the integrity of its citizens against perils from within and without. By these measures— indeed by any standard definition of a failed state—Mexico is clearly acquitted, and the Calderón government's response to the charges, an insistence that Mexico is not a failed state, is accurate and well justified.
I don't know to hazard a guess as to which of the three might be the best explanation, but there all far more logical than a fourth theory that someone offered to me at work today: Slim's fortune is extremely solid, compared to many others' vulnerability before the crisis. Therefore, if he can sink the economy, he'll drag down the value of other companies relative to his own, and he will be able to scoop up new additions to his portfolio. For a variety of reasons, that seems preposterous to me, but it is illustrative of the national faith in ulterior motives.
The following day, in an apparent act of hyperbolic dirty war friendly fire, the same paper published a long and sensational cover story about the tendency of foreign nationals visiting Mexico to be murdered during their stay in the country. From June 2005 to July 2008, 110 Americans were murdered in Mexico. According to the article, in 70 of these cases the victim had no apparent link to organized crime, but was murdered as he or she went about his or her daily routine.
Perspective: with a conservative estimate of one million American residents of Mexico, that boils down to an annual murder rate of around 3.7 per 100,000 residents, which is not only below the Mexican average, but well below the American one as well. Or is my arithmetic off?
Sunday, February 15, 2009
The results will be made known to the parents, the student, and the person in charge of the academic program and if they have a positive finding of consumption, the minor will receive the adequate treatment for his rehabilitation.
Saturday, February 14, 2009
The possibilities of Mexico becoming a narco-state or a failed state are zero.
Mexico is on the edge of the abyss—it could become a narco-state in the coming decade.
While the country continues debating as a massacre unfolds or keeps bleeding as uncertainty reigns, however you want to see it, the Mexican partidocracy will laugh once more at the citizens, spend millions on campaigns, bite even the final reaches of the body like a power-hungry psychopathic Hannibal Lecter, and there won't be, I can assure you right now, even one important idea, not one coherent project upon which to vote.
Friday, February 13, 2009
The state attorney general's office stated that there are eight ditches, approximately one meter by seventy centimeters with a depth of approximately 50 to 60 centimeters, where there are the remains of between 14 and 16 victims surely of drug traffickers.They victims more than likely were killed by drug traffickers, or some other organized crime group. Still, would a quote or some sort of supporting information be too much to ask?
The incident in question was the discovery of, as you might have deduced from the excerpt, of a mass grave, just outside of Saltillo. There is some speculation that Cuban-American kidnapping expert Felix Batista, kidnapped in Saltillo in December, might be among the dead.
This weekend we have two really interesting fights and one that would have been had Ricardo Mayorga not backed out against Alfredo Angulo. Let's start with Nate Campbell against Ali Funeka. Funeka is a 6-foot-1 lightweight, which is simply insane. He looks like a string bean, but he can crack. Funeka caught everyone's attention when he knocked Zahir Raheem down five times on his way to a huge fifth-round knockout. Funeka looked great in that bout, but Raheem had the ideal style for him. Raheem is long and lean and likes to box, but not nearly as long and lean as Funeka, so instead of boxing, Raheem had to go inside to get to his foe. It was clear that Raheem is not comfortable doing that, and he was ineffective. The knockout came on a massive straight right hand from Funeka, and if he can land a few similar punches against Campbell, he'll probably take the fight. But a guy like Campbell, who can go inside effectively and regularly, is going to give Funeka a lot more problems than Raheem. The key is whether Funeka can keep Campbell at a distance with his jab, or if he can land a big punch. I don't think he can. Campbell will win a tight decision.
Sergio Martínez faces off with Kermit Cintron in another really intriguing fight. Martínez is a good mover and throws great combinations--he's a 154-pounder who lets his hands go like a featherweight. For a guy who's only knocked out half of his opponents, he's a lot of fun to watch. The thing is, Martínez doesn't fight with that pressure style that really bugs Cintron. I think they will both look good in spots, and Cintron will have some big moments teeing off from a distance, but Martínez will take a competitive but clear decision victory.
And Angulo will walk through whomever winds up being thrown in front of him now that Pérez and Mayorga bailed.
Gancho is 5-2 on the year.
This is an insane sequence of events. First, we have Téllez calling the owner of the cell phone (a woman named Diana Pando), not realizing that the call hadn't ended and that the mailbox was recording everything, and proceeding to make the most inflammatory remarks possible at that precise moment. Assuming that Téllez doesn't walk around accusing his old boss (he was secretary of agriculture under Salinas) of chicanery all day long, that in and of itself is quite remarkable. Then, we have Pando, about whom I know nothing, telling Aristegui that she didn't erase the conversation "for personal reasons." (In the process, she takes the prize for the worst euphamism of 2009. Even though there are 11 months left, no one's topping that.)
Plus, we have the romantic scandal: Pando says that she and Téllez were close friends in constant contact, while Téllez says that he doesn't know her personally. She is quoted as saying, "He used me and threw me away. He insults me by accusing me of trying to extort him and by denying our relationship of two years. I never wanted money, I only wanted his affection." Plus we have a representative of Salinas, whom Pando informed of the conversation (she's also looking at the worst show of judgment in 2009 award, depending on what happens at the NBA trade deadline) essentially threatening the life of Pando.
Thursday, February 12, 2009
I recently heard a theory that explained the relationship between the gangs and the government thusly: the army was protecting the Zetas, while the PGR and the Secretariat of Public Security was protecting Sinaloa. As all-encompassing Mexican conspiracy theories go, this is slightly more nuanced than the simple, "Calderón sold the country to Sinaloa," but it's pretty hard to reconcile with the above information. Or the fact that the Federal Police (under the control of the Secretariat of Public Security) just arrested a cell of La Familia Michoacana, said to be allies of the Sinaloa gangs.
I have not followed the case as closely as I probably should have, but I think a couple of points warrant mentioning: first, there clearly was criminal behavior on both sides. This wasn't merely a bunch of police abusing disenfranchised protesters, and the radicals in San Salvador Atenco certainly provoked the police. But as Carlos Loret pointed out earlier this week, there has been a persistent failure to hold any of the police responsible for their criminally overzealous response, not just the big fish, but at every level. As a result of the rioting, there were 200 protesters arrested, and only 21 police officers. There are thirteen protestors serving prison sentence, compared to zero police officers. There were 26 complaints of sexual assault, which led to the formal investigation of one police officer, who remains outside of prison. Today's decision is an opportunity to address that.
One other comment: Loret obliquely mentions that PAN lawyers were working to implicate PRI officials, presumably Peña Nieto among them, in order to knock off a few prominent adversaries on the other side. That seems like a short-sighted tactic, reminiscent of the desafuero fiasco with AMLO a few years ago. First of all, although this is much lower-profile case than the desafuero, the PAN won't be able to hide its involvement, and it would come off badly as well if judicial penalties look like political hatchet jobs carried out on its behalf. Second, when there are scandals, every party suffers to a degree. The reaction for many Mexicans would be, "It was a PRI official who was guilty this time, but it could just as easily be a panista next. They're all dirty." I'm not saying the parties should wash each others' hands, but nor should they be actively working through a nominally independent judiciary to carry out political dirty work.