Wednesday, November 30, 2011
The Guadalajara killings offer the latest illustration of an alarming trend in Mexico's underworld: attention-grabbing massacres. This latest incident comes just weeks after dozens of bodies were dumped around Boca del Rio, Veracruz, a populous state along Mexico’s Gulf coast. The Boca del Rio killings, in turn, followed the August arson attack on a Monterrey casino, which left 52 civilians dead. In June, more than 20 people were killed in a Monterrey nightclub when gunmen entered and opened fire.Malcolm Beith also has a two-parter distinguishing Mexico from Colombia.
Prior to the attacks in Monterrey, massacres already appeared to be on the rise. Three different attacks on nightclub in the northern city of Torreon killed scores of civilians in 2010. Attacks on migrants and bus passengers in the northeastern state of Tamaulipas earlier this year and in August 2010 led to the discovery of hundreds of bodies around the small city of San Fernando.
While mass killings were certainly not unheard of in the past, such attacks seem to be growing more frequent, and spreading across the country. They are not confined to a single group: the Zetas are thought to be responsible for the casino attack as well as the San Fernando killings, the Gulf Cartel for the previous Monterrey attack, the CJNG for the Boca del Rio killings, while a local group linked to the Sinaloa Cartel has been blamed for the Torreon shootings.
Tuesday, November 29, 2011
In contrast to the U.S., PAN President Felipe Calderón rebuffed Keynesian proposals that Mexico increase deficit spending to counter the slump that followed the 2008 financial crisis. Mr. Peña Nieto concurs.Personally, I think transferring domestic political disputes onto foreign terrain is a recipe for misunderstanding, as every nation's context and history are simply too important for easy equivalences, such as, the PRD is the Democratic Party of Mexico. Or, the stimulus was a bad idea in the US and therefore must be a bad one in Mexico. However, if you do want to engage in cross-border partisanship, facts, as ever, are important, and O'Grady's assertion is simply incorrect. Here's Calderón announcing his economic stimulus in January of 2009. Here's a rundown of the plan's provisions. Here's me thanking Calderón for the portion of it that reduced my gas bill. And, here's Enrique Peña Nieto, supposedly Calderón's partner in a fiscally conservative response to the crisis, endorsing his plan, with the reservation that it should not be used for electoral purposes.
In summary, there was a Keynesian response to Mexico's crisis, and the primary criticism of it was that it ran out of money and was cut short in the summer of 2009.
Monday, November 28, 2011
It's been said that the fact that the PRI and PRD have a single candidate could be an advantage and that the PAN has months to go before selecting their candidate. What do you think about that?Maybe they are going to speed the process along, but that doesn't sound like it to me.
I am sure that we will resolve the issue correctly, that we will resolve it fulfilling the goals of unity and cohesion, which, in this case, is the most important thing for the party.
Saturday, November 26, 2011
I wish him more luck in the first endeavor than in the second. I would have thought in 2007 that it was impossible we'd be facing a 2012 in which AMLO defeated Ebrard for the nomination, so that makes me wonder: why are we so sure that AMLO will stand aside in 2018? Presumably, Ebrard received some assurance over the past several months that if he supported AMLO with little fuss, he'd have a crack at the presidency down the line, but promises can be broken. AMLO will be 65 in July 2018, which isn't young, but nor is it mandatory retirement age for politicians. And I can't see his support base disappearing. They had all the evidence of AMLO's defects was manifest in 2006, and yet here we are, readying ourselves for another Peje presidential campaign.
Friday, November 25, 2011
Wednesday, November 23, 2011
With the candidate considers necessary for the operation of his campaign is what will be done. I can't say "I'll be here until 2015". That's the party discipline.
Tuesday, November 22, 2011
Talking of other greats, Leo Messi was the subject of some controversy in midweek, the journalists at Pep Guardiola's press conference asking if he was to be rested, after flying home from South America quite late in the week. Guardiola, annoyed by the questions, asked the journalists if they preferred him not to play - which may well have been the case with several of them.
Of course, Messi did play against Zaragoza, and of course he scored. Which doesn't mean that (some of) the journalists don't have a point, but Messi is simply from a distant planet, in most respects. He is also very probably a Jedi. If he doesn't need to rest, he doesn't need to rest. It defies belief, after flying so many miles, cooped up in a pressurized cabin, but it would seem to be second nature to these guys.
*As far as I know, I just invented that moniker, and I feel quite satisfied. Let's all watch this video to celebrate.
Monday, November 21, 2011
In 2008, I mentioned that at least virtually no one was wildly claiming that Calderón was behind the crime. That reaction was, and this one is, progress. I also think it demonstrates that a widespread belief in conspiracies is linked to an authoritarian system with no free press. The more that era fades into the rear-view mirror, the less the conspiratorial mindset will dominate.
Saturday, November 19, 2011
Calderon responded, as he has in the past, by saying the main threat to citizens is from criminals, not the government. It is almost certainly true that the human rights violators represent a small minority of the government officials, while violating human rights is a rather fundamental part of most gangs’ operations, but in his response, Calderon is skirting the issue.
The most obvious flaw with Calderon’s logic is that he is comparing apples to oranges -- the criminal gangs are more abusive precisely because they are criminal gangs. If the best the government can do to address the issues raised by the HRW report is to say that the criminals are worse, it’s hard to imagine a more damning indictment.
Furthermore, while the government is understandably embarrassed by the content of the report, the automatic assumption that the ultimate interests of HRW and the Mexican government are in conflict is short-sighted. One point that does not get made often enough is that the abuses outlined in the report are not the case of a juggernaut government stepping on a few toes while otherwise doing a good job; they are symptomatic of a broadly ineffective force unable to keep up with the demands of the task at hand. If the Mexican military and police agencies were less prone to extra-legal activities, then they would almost certainly be more effective in their pursuit of criminals.
For that reason and all the others, I keep saying "no" whenever anyone asks me if there will be a 2011-12 NBA season. Just know that there's no side to take — it's mutually assured destruction in its purest form. That's difficult to explain to anyone losing their job over these next few months.Putting aside all the inherent problems in comparing the potential annihilation of the human race to a single league's labor negotiations, this is an inappropriate metaphor that Simmons has used more than once. MAD was a long-term mechanism for a tenuous peace; if the NBA were the Cold War, this is a parallel version where the missiles are flying, something we avoided thanks precisely to MAD. Indeed, the fact that the NBA is heading into its "nuclear winter" itself is proof that the metaphor is inapt. The way this would work is if there was a horrible CBA for 40 years whose limits would be pushed but without anyone bailing, knowing that it could easily trigger the end of the league. But clearly that's not what is happening.
So what is the best possible international relations metaphor for the NBA? They are all limited, but I think maybe World War I is the best fit; two sides misread their opposition and underestimate the potential damage, and in so doing blunder into a tragic and avoidable catastrophe. And the power relationships everywhere are likely to be completely scrambled in very unpredictable ways. (That part may be a reach.) So where are we presently? I'd say it's February 1916.
Friday, November 18, 2011
I am not particularly familiar with the back-story here, so maybe there is more to Johnny Jolly's history than is being reported, but it seems just a phenomenal waste of resources, and not to mention the prime of a person's life, to send someone to prison for six years for a series of non-violent codeine possession charges. Granted, 600 grams of codeine is a lot, but even so.
Among a handful of suggested format changes being considered by Bowl Championship Series members is an informal proposal that would radically change the structure of the BCS and significantly alter the major bowl selection process.
According to sources with direct knowledge of meetings held in San Francisco earlier this week, the suggested change calls for the BCS to sever its direct ties with the so-called BCS bowls -- the Allstate Sugar Bowl, Tostitos Fiesta Bowl, Discover Orange Bowl and Rose Bowl Game presented by Vizio -- and concentrate solely on arranging a No. 1 vs. No. 2 national championship matchup.[...]
"There's a lot of stuff being thrown at the wall," said one official who attended the meetings. "I think the people in the room really want to get it right. They're tired of getting beat up. So you'll probably see us go slow on this one."
They're tired of getting beat up, and yet they don't consider the one solution that would satisfy everyone immediately and has long been used to great success in pro sports leagues and international competitions around the globe: a playoff. There's not need to throw a bunch of crap at the wall! There is your solution! Evidently, they're not tired enough of getting smacked around.
For the record, the word "playoff" appears once in the article, and not until the 23rd paragraph.
Thursday, November 17, 2011
Wednesday, November 16, 2011
He also promised to send the army back to its barracks within six months. That is much more achievable, but I do wonder, in such a hypothetical, what he would do the next time a governor in a violence-wracked state started clamoring for the army's return, and blaming the federal government for abandoning them.
El Universal responds with an editorial making the obvious point that one reason these attacks continue to occur is that the perpetrators are never punished. Indeed.
Tuesday, November 15, 2011
That Mexicans would react like this is understandable; there's always a predisposition in sports media to support their own in any international competition. This piece by Jay Caspian Kang, who watched the fight in Mexico, indicates that the sentiment rubbed off on him. Highlights:
But from the opening bell to the late-middle rounds, Manny seemed stuck in the past. Every time he went forward, Marquez answered with precision counterpunching. At the end of the seventh round, the Mexican TV scorecard read: Marquez 69, Pacquiao 64. It made sense. Manny was clearly frustrated, confused. Marquez had whipped himself into a rare focus. I asked my friend if he had ever seen Marquez this good, this sharp, this strong. He shook his head and said, "He is ready, I think, to be Mexico's champion."This is a bizarre take: he seems to recognize that reasonable people could disagree on the result, yet he calls boxing a corrupt, dying sport, and says it was a robbery. A lack of objectivity is written into the rules of boxing, and fights that could have gone either way are inevitable. To be boxing fan is to accept that. Horrible decisions are quite maddening, but this wasn't Lewis-Holyfield or Whitaker-Chávez, nor was it even Lara-Williams. There were nine or ten different rounds that could have been scored either way. I love Márquez --in fact, I bet on him in the first two Pacquiao fights-- and I can sympathize with the fact that he has essentially proven himself Manny's equal over 36 rounds, yet he has come away empty handed. But there is a difference between an unjustifiable robbery and a close fight that went the other guy's way. Indeed, it's important distinction to draw, so as to both shine a brighter light on the truly heinous decisions and to spare us all the silly upset over close calls. After a fight like this, those people who are so convinced that no right-minded person could disagree with them that they give up on the sport are just infuriating. If only they would follow through on their threats.
I had scored the fight 116-112 for Marquez. I felt awful for Marquez, who fought a perfect fight. I felt awful for the people in the bar who had been ready to crown Marquez as the great fighter of his generation. But mostly I felt awful for myself and all the time I have spent over the past years trying to make sense of this corrupted, dying sport. The bout I watched was a dominating win by the fighter who was willing to make adjustments and outsmart his faster, stronger opponent. Manny threw more punches, but they reminded me of the "more punches" Oscar De La Hoya threw in his bout against Floyd Mayweather.
When I got back to my hotel, I was shocked to find that a number of boxing writers whose work I admire had scored the fight much differently. One scored it a draw. The other scored it 115-113 for Marquez. Another had the fight 115-113 for Manny.
Let's stop talking about the power of the almighty dollar and call the fight for what it was: a robbery.
Kang's take on the specifics of the action is odd, too; Márquez fought the perfect fight, except for getting completely out-hustled down the stretch. That was a significant imperfection! And Manny didn't sit down on his punches the way he did with Margarito, who had nothing to throw back at him, but he wasn't merely slapping. If he did, Márquez's face wouldn't look like this today:
Márquez vastly exceeded expectations, and it seems as though many people wanted to hand him the victory based on that alone. This happens from time to time; the same dynamic drove a lot of the angry reactions, to take but one example, to the Jermain Taylor-Cory Spinks fight, in which the latter, a light-fisted welterweight, boxed beautifully but did about as much damage to Taylor that evening as you or I did. In short, exceeding expectations is not the same thing as scoring more blows than the other guy; Wepner, it should be remembered, actually got his ass kicked by Ali.
At the end of the day, we have this: Márquez never knocked Manny down, nor did he ever seem to hurt him. The reverse is also true, but Pacquiao has been a stronger puncher than Márquez his entire career, and Márquez landed more total punches than Pacquiao in one single round. Márquez landed more power shots than Pacquiao in four of 12 rounds. Compubox totals aren't God's truth, but they do give us an indication of the flow of the fight, and here they tell us what anyone watching should already know: it was not a robbery, but a close contest that could have gone either way.
Monday, November 14, 2011
An alternative theory is much simpler and more logical, though probably more damning. That is, the extraordinary number of fatal crashes is not caused by criminal groups sending messages to the president, but rather by a deficient aviation safety system. Defects in the model that killed Mouriño and Santiago Vasconcelos, a Learjet 45, had provoked a warning from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration in 2003, yet the Mexican government purchased a handful of them for use by senior officials a year later.
The helicopter carrying Blake Mora had recently received maintenance, according to reports, but it was also almost 30 years old, having been purchased originally during the administration of Miguel de la Madrid.
With so many fatal crashes in recent years, it’s difficult to rule out criminal sabotage in every case, but the lack of attention to aviation safety crops up again and again. Such carelessness in protecting the men and women responsible for running the Mexican state, while not as viscerally scary as the idea of hyper-aggressive, all-powerful capos, would ultimately be more worrying.
Sunday, November 13, 2011
In fairness, having one those laser pointers aimed at your eyes makes you want to kill someone.
Ronaldo was the subject of 'Messi' taunts and had laser pens pointed at him throughout the session before Friday's Euro 2012 play-off draw with Bosnia & Herzegovina. The Real Madrid star responded by raising his middle fingers to the fans jeering him, but has received criticism in the media for his actions.
"Everyone is speaking badly of me, but why don't people criticise the lasers that were being aimed into my eyes," Ronaldo told the press. "They behaved in that way and so I reacted in my own way ..."
Saturday, November 12, 2011
Friday, November 11, 2011
Thursday, November 10, 2011
Ricardo Alemán points out, as many (including yours truly) have previously, that the big winner tomorrow if AMLO comes out on top will be Enrique Peña Nieto, as he'd much rather confront the candidate with more limited appeal. However, even if he loses, AMLO will still likely renege and run, so the effect will be the same, or even more advantageous: no viable threat from the left. Tomorrow's results notwithstanding, I won't be convinced that AMLO is really stepping aside until roughly June 30.
Monday, November 7, 2011
Thursday, November 3, 2011
Alternatively, the poll could be crap. We'll know here in about 10 days.
The governors, for instance, ignore the fact that they are carrying out the vetting at a snail’s pace. According to a study from the National Public Security System, released in February 2011, just 8 percent of the state police officers have passed through a vetting process, while states collectively spend just two-thirds of their total security budget allocation.
Given these statistics, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that the state governments are not doing everything possible to improve the police under their control as quickly as possible. Furthermore, while the gap between the average advanced country’s police and Mexico’s is yawning, the sense of fatalism displayed by Aguirre is disheartening; revolutionizing a police system consisting of thousands of different institutions is a daunting prospect, but shouldn’t Mexico at least aspire to have world-class police forces?
Calderon’s position is motivated in part by the fact that Mexican governors typically respond to increases in violence with pleas to the federal government to deploy troops; this has been the tactic of, among others, Andres Grenier in Tabasco, and Zeferino Torreblanca in Guerrero. Stronger state police agencies would alleviate the strain on federal resources, allow them to concentrate their efforts more selectively, and could also allow the military to withdraw to a more supportive role.
Furthermore, Calderon has long sought a police reform that would consolidate the nation’s more than 2,000 municipal police departments into just 32 state bodies. Such a reform would make the integrity of the state institutions all the more important.
But Calderon’s position is also flawed. He implies that the vetting process simply needs to be brought to a finish, and then the state governments will all enjoy clean, competent police force.
Unfortunately, there is no reason to believe this. Past police purges have not served as a long-term solution to corruption in Mexican security agencies, and it is not likely that this one will be any different. Those police who remain after the vetting are not universally incorruptible; many of them have simply not been confronted with the dilemma. But if a criminal group loses all their local police protectors, logic dictates that they will seek to replace them. No matter the efficiency and thoroughness of the housecleaning, the gains will be only temporary.
Wednesday, November 2, 2011
Gonzalo has more demons than most. He was incarcerated in the prison a year before I met him and bought his way into the Christian wing hoping it would be a quiet place where he could escape the war. But when I listen carefully to his interview, he sounds as if he has really given his heart to Christ, does really pray for redemption. And when he talks to me – a nosy British journalist prying into his past – he is really confessing to Jesus.
"You meet Christ and it is a totally different thing. You feel horror and start thinking about the things you have done. Because it was bad. You think about the people. It could have been a brother of mine I was doing these things to. I did bad things to a lot of people. A lot of parents suffered.
"When you belong to organized crime, you have to change. You could be the best person in the world, but the people you live with change you completely. You become somebody else. And then the drugs and liquor change you."
I have watched too many videos of the pain caused by killers like Gonzalo. I have seen a sobbing teenager tortured on a tape sent to his family; a bloodied old man confessing that he had talked to a rival cartel; a line of kneeling victims with bags over their heads being shot in the brain one by one. Does someone who has committed such crimes deserve redemption? Do they deserve a place in heaven?
Yet, I see a human side to Gonzalo. He is friendly and well-mannered. We chat about lighter issues. Perhaps in another time and place, he could have been a stand-up guy who worked hard and cared for his family – like his father, who, he says, was a lifelong electrician and union man.
I have known angry, violent men in my home country; hooligans who smash bottles into people's faces or stab people at soccer games. On the surface, those men seem more hateful and intimidating than Gonzalo as he talks to me in the prison cell. Yet they have killed nobody. Gonzalo has helped turn Mexico at the dawn of the twenty-first century into a bloodbath that has shocked the world.
While I'm at it, because I was traveling when I read it, I never gave Malcolm Beith's The Last Narco its proper due here. It's a great read, anyone interested in the war on drugs or modern Mexico should dig right in.