Wednesday, May 31, 2006

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Illegal space alien gay mariachis...

...oh my! In North Carolina's 13th Congressional District, Republican candidate Vernon Robinson is running against the Democratic incumbent, Brad Miller. Robinson is African-American, which cuts down on the possibilities for run-of-the-mill "race-baiting" when the going gets tough. Robinson call call Miller a "childless, middle-aged personal injury lawyer" (Mrs. Miller had a hysterectomy for medical reasons when she was still young) which at least lets Robinson run on an anti-gay platform...all very normal in the dirty world of U.S. politics. But... this being "open season" on immigration, it gets very, very weird there in Charlotte. Pam's Blend dissects one of Robinson's more "intriguing" TV commercials:
The Twilight Zone-theme and music are quite appropriate in this case. This is one of the most offensive -- and amusing -- pieces of political theatre I have ever seen, with a picture of a fetus, then invoking the Homo AlertTM with an image of men kissing. He moves on to "aliens," showing spaceships, then cutting to a pic of Mexicans scaling fences. (my emphasis)

Even better, Robinson is running a radio ad that attacks both gays and "illegal aliens" (and gay aliens) featuring mariachi music. You can listen to it MPeg audio here:

"If Miller had his way America would be nothing but one big fiesta for illegal aliens and homosexuals," the ad continues. "But if you elect Vernon Robinson, that party's over."


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Black gold... Tampico Tea... OIL, that is...

There is a short report in today's Caracas El Universal (English edition) on the up-coming OPEC meeting:

Representatives of Angola, Mexico and Syria will act as observers in the 141st special meeting of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). The event will take place next Thursday in Venezuela....

The OPEC meeting to be held in Caracas will deal with keeping, reduction or increase of the oil supply. Also, production and refining capabilities will be explored, as well as the use of currency in global oil dealings, Ramírez told reporters.

This comes the same day Business Week On-line reports:
Mexico's Treasury Department said Tuesday that the government had a budget surplus of US$3.3 billion (euro2.6 billion) in April, with revenue boosted by high oil prices and better tax collection. In a news release, the department said that budget revenues grew 9.8 percent from the year-ago month, with oil receipts up 5.6 percent from April 2005 and tax receipts up 18.1 percent.
The U.S. Department of Energy figures show Mexico as the #2 foreign supplier (about 1500 barrels a day, only slightly behind Canada, at 1509 BBl/day). I realize there are some good reasons Mexican oil sells for only 57.38 USD (well below Brent Crude's 72.00 USD) per barrel, but... given that many now recognize that Mexico's decision not to join OPEC in 1982 was a major blunder , that higher oil prices will meet the demand for more social benefits (a given, no matter who controls the new administration) ... and, if AMLO wins (as I suspect he will) more willingness to cooperate and coordinate foreign policy with other Latin American and Asian nations. Interestingly enough, Raphel Guillen, AKA "Commandante Marcos", sees a "leftward" trend too. Take it for what it's worth -- Marcos is only relevent to the Mexican right and in his own mind.) U.S. news sources always talk about the need for more foreign investment in Pemex. But, if oil prices go higher, it will take the pressure off Pemex to raise foreign capital. And, besides, what everyone seems to overlook is that foreign capital is already involved (in a small way) in Pemex -- from Spanish, French, Brazilian firms. There's no guarantee that even a conservative administration would open Pemex to Exxon-Mobile or BP or the other giants. Oil is going to go up... so, what's left to exploit. Oh yeah, silver and heavy metals. The Canadians are the leaders here. Dia Brass bought out the Cusa silver mines. They go in for Mexican dirty industries anyway -- makes 'em feel virtuous at home.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

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The fix ain't in

There's probably some truth in the adage "power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely", but when one has to deal with a three (or four, or six or eight) way split between alliances, parties and factions, it's hard to figure out who has the power -- except, as you'd expect, the guy with the money... in this case, Fox. Who isn't a candidate. El Finanaciero en línea (English "News" section) Mexico City, May 26.- The pulse in México's presidential race quickens. As recent polls show again a widening gap between Felipe Calderón and his nearest chasers, the two trailing incumbents unlocked horns and intend to prove the Federal government has played a hands-on role in the race. Tossing aside hard feelings dating back 10 years, when they ran for the Tabasco State government, Roberto Madrazo overtly advocated a joint effort with Andrés Manuel López Obrador in order to derail a fixed election. Together, the Institutional Revolutionary Party's (PRI) candidate said, they could curb the Fox administration’s all-out drive to put Calderón in office. Should they fail, Madrazo proposes a last-ditch move to stop Fox: quit the election. Outwardly, López Obrador --running for the Democratic Revolution Party (PRD) -- has played hard to get. He sticks to his lines, insisting the president's split-personality does not benefit the nation's pursuit of democracy. In a recent letter, though, López Obrador told the president that performing his duties as México's chief executive officer and seeking reelection at the same time, grossly impairs the ability to fulfill his responsibilities as the country's head of state. The PRD camp dislikes the idea of a merge. Senior campaign managing officers responded that an alliance of this sort is highly unlikely, considering ideological differences. The truth is, however, that these two parties share political genes. The PRD budded from the PRI. In fact, with the PRI's technocratic faction in self-ostracism, these parties' DNA may look the same. The bottom line in Madrazo's proposal is that a PRI-PRD alliance is the only effective device to stave off a crushing defeat. Otherwise, the embattled candidate forecasts, the huge flood of TV and radio advertising, paid time in talk shows plus doctored opinion polls, will wash them away. Madrazo has placed hard figures on the foreground to produce a clear picture of the situation. He said the Federal government spent, during the past two months, over 1.3 billion pesos in advertising to prop up the position of ruling National Action Party's (PAN) candidate, Felipe Calderón, and has set aside earmarked a similar allocation for the climaxing stage of the race. Such outsize expenditures which, Madrazo charges, are siphoned off the nation's treasury, jeopardize Mexico's democratic development. From his viewpoint, the chilling prospects of the next president being elected by means of TV advertising schedules and opinion polls are real. The Madrazo-López Obrador personal feud is a well known political affair. In 1996, they disputed the State of Tabasco gubernatorial seat. Backed up by the late Carlos Hank González, and the Atlacomulco political powerhouse, Madrazo won. López Obrador challenged the election outcome and produced, to no avail, overwhelming evidence of illegal campaign expenditures. (Then) President Ernesto Zedillo had to take back his decision to unseat Madrazo. Instead, he was forced to remove Esteban Moctezuma from the Secretary of Interior and give the big job to Emilio Chuayfett, a rising member of the Atlacomulco group. López Obrador and Madrazo may not settle this account, for the time being. Both have covered a great deal of political ground and presently may decide to reconcile their pressing priorities. To begin with, freeze President Fox's rampant promotion of Felipe Calderón's candidacy. Next, reverse the trends in voting intention that surveys have reflected over the past eight weeks. More important, to respond efficiently to advertising that savages their political character. Along this line, Madrazo's electoral ally in his party's ticket, has come across with a public exposé that cracked the walls of the PAN's war room. Quite unexpectedly, Senator Jorge Emilio González, chairman of the Mexican Green Party (PVEM), revealed to the press that President Fox himself had tried several times to talk him out of his electoral partnership with Madrazo. According to González's public statement, Fox recommended that he wise up because "he (Fox) was prepared to do everything he could to obliterate Madrazo's and López Obrador's presidential endeavors." Should the story be solid, the president messed around with the law and might fall through the cracks. Nicknamed the Niño Verde (the Green Child), González quoted Fox as saying the PRI runner was undependable while López Obrador represented a peril. "Therefore, the right move for him to make was to defect from the PRI-PVEM coalition and switch to Calderón's winning team". In exchange, Jorge Emilio told reporters, Fox offered top-level cabinet posts for the Green Party in the eventual Calderón administration, "but he had refused the barter". Instead, he blew the whistle on the president. Though the Office of the Presidency has not released a formal response on the issue and Fox brushed it off as an impossible piece of gossip, Jorge Emilio has said to have proof and be ready to attach it as evidence in suits opposition parties are fixing to file. The PRD already did it. Also, the young senator has assured he is prepared to cooperate with a legal inquiry should it be opened and, if needed, to testify in a prosecution room. His display of courage and commitment should help not only restore but bolster Madrazo's regard for his ally's loyalty. In particular if he reflects on the Green Child's fast professional background which Madrazo knows thoroughly. His associate's political career shows he's a deft wheeler-dealer who can sail through troubled waters. Early last year, González was caught in what he called a frame. He was video taped doing business allegedly involving a two-million dollar bribe. He toughed it out and returned stronger to his legislative work. He made sure not to get mad, but to get even. Seemingly Green Child has. Gonzalo Olvera
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Trashy fashions...

I suppose there's something either to be said about "one man's trash ..." or something profound about the decadent western society's need to exploit EVERYTHING from Mexican ... but what the hey. Here's your chance to own genuine Mexican trash. Mexico's trash becomes boutiques' treasure - and Indians' livelihood By LISA J. ADAMS The Associated Press LA SOLEDAD, Mexico -- Empty candy wrappers, potato-chip bags and cookie packages that once littered roads and filled Mexican dumps are now making fashion statements in New York, Los Angeles and Tokyo. Indian men and women from the central state of Mexico have converted the food labels into colorful women's clutches, shoulder bags and hip belts that are selling on Web sites and in upscale U.S. boutiques and department stores for up to $200 apiece. The idea began here with the nonprofit Group for the Promotion of Education and Sustainable Development, or Grupedsac, an organization that since 1987 has helped poor Mexican Indians become self-sufficient through development projects that also aim to preserve the environment. ... a daughter of Grupedsac's executive director ... showed a few purses to friends in Palm Beach, Fla., where they quickly caught the attention of retired British textile manufacturer Stanley Cohen and his wife, Elaine. The couple were so attracted by the bags' designs and socially conscious origins they began buying them in bulk last year. The organization currently provides the Cohens with up to 150 bags, plus dozens of belts, a week. The Cohens resell them to Bloomingdale's branches and small boutiques throughout Florida, as well at
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Anything can happen...

I want whatever it is Roberto Madrazo is having... Despite his consistent third place showing in the polls, defections by key party members openly urging party members to vote for PAN or PRD and a promised party purge after the July 2 election, Madrazo remains optimistic. Madrazo is a funny kind of Mexican politician -- he's a Tabasco puritan, who neither smokes nor drinks, who watches his diet, and who runs marathons. But he's gotta be on something. He's quoted in today's (29 May) El Financiero as believing the "loyal PRI voters" will come through on election day, and he'll be the next president of Mexico. Yeah... and Dominica is going to win the World Cup. Both Reuters and Bloomberg are reporting the latest Milenio Poll, with AMLO now leading Calderón, 33.6% to 33.1%. This is within the 3.2% margin of error, but so... and this is where it gets really, really weird, is Madrazo (30%). I think the shift to AMLO has a lot to do with immigration (or emigration, for those in Mexico) and Calderón's lame excuses for the FOBAPROA mess... as with any advertising campaign. Both U.S. and Mexican papers are crediting AMLO's successful suit to stop "negative advertising" from Calderón's spin machine for the turnaround. Or... maybe Calderón's people are just getting desperate. AReuters Financial reporters seem to accept the possibility that AMLO may be the next president. Much as the incumbent president for the longest time was "Vincente Fox, whose 2000 election marked the end of 71 years of one-party rule", AMLO was always a FIREY LEFTIST. Now he's just a leftist. I think he's saving the fire for the debates.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

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Clowns on the campaign trail...

Mexico has always had it's masked heros -- Zorro... el Santo... Marcos... Brozo the Clown. Behind the clown makeup is Victor Trujillo, a sharp-witted political reporter. As Brozo, he can grill newsmakers, and even insult them, with impunity. Hey, it's only a clown act. If Steven Colbert stopped dressing like a Fox newscaster, and more like Harpo Marx, you'd have a gringo version of Brozo. Brozo is an important opinion-maker, and the politicians know it. Marta Fox, when she had presidential ambitions of her own, uised an apearance on Brozo's show to present herself as a legitimate candidate. When the Fox administration wanted to discredit AMLO's administration in Mexico City, there was no better way than to ambush a hapless City administration hack with videotapes of him stuffing cash in his pockets (campaign contributions, he claimed) -- on the morning clown show. Don't mess with the clown. Felipe Calderón has been leading in the polls, but his lead has been slipping. The latest Indemerc-Harris poll (Diario de Yucatán) showed him only 3.07 percentage points ahead of AMLO (Calderón 35.98; AMLO 32.91; Madrazo 23.90) . The pollsters had to take the unusual step of explaining that the 3.07% difference between the two front-runners was still outside the margin of error. The poll was taken last week. Calderón faced Brozo this week. Brozo, who is normally a spokesman for conservatives (I once wrote that another political clown act, Rush Limbaugh isn't nearly as funny or artistic), had the temerity to ask the "wrong questions" -- specifically whether Calderón benefitted from the mess created by FOBAPROA, which was supposed to reorganize the banks -- and, incidentally, enriched career politicans involved in the sale of Mexican banks to foreign owners. Asking the question hurt... the most Calderón can do is claim it was the previous PRI adminstration's fault. and so, Brozo's under attack from the PANista blogsphero... one more sign that the election is swinging back to AMLO. It looks like the attempts to tie AMLO to the Atenco riots are a bust. The Zapatistas (who attack AMLO as too bougeois) and the PRI adminstration in Mexico State are the obvious culprits in everyone's mind... Dick Morris and Rob Allyn negative campaigns notwithstanding. As it is, Calderón was whining that a court ruling against negative campaigns was a violation of free speech -- though he's still free to make negative ads, but not with public funds. And... AMLO's campaign has been on an upswing. He doesn't need to say a thing about immigration -- thanks to the U.S. Congress and Fox's unsuccessful trip to the U.S. -- all he has to do is show up at the border -- something only Patricia Mercado (and she doesn't expect to get more than 2.5% of the national vote) had the cojones to do. With Manuel Bartlett defecting to AMLO and the PRI in the middle of another purge (Bartlett and pro-PAN PRI leaders have been stripped of their party membership. Bartlett was a former Secretary of Energy, and one time PRI presidentialable), it looks as if Bartlett is right -- the PRI is never going to be a major party... and it certainly will never be the party of the left (Bartlett's problems with his own party have always been with it's tecnocratic wing). AND... in my informal "count the message board numbers" poll, AMLO's comments on Immigration ("Fox put on a show, but nothing happened") generated 127 comments; Calderón's "FOBAPROA wasn't my fault" got 54; and Madrazo's "Well, maybe the immigration situation isn't so bad" only garnered 7 responses. Extreme right-wingers used to write off AMLO as a "clown". They forgot about Brozo. Clowns can be serious threats.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

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Drugs... again

A lot of nonsense was put out in the United States when Congress tried to reform the drug laws down here, and President Fox, after denying that there was pressure from Washington, vetoed the reforms. It was never a dead issue, but the U.S. has been focused on fence-building and "illegal immigration", and just hasn't been paying attention. There are some objections, mostly from PAN (some of whose supporters see any liberalization as likely to encourage drug use) and the Church, and some concerns over giving enforcement authority to local police and prosecutors, but overall, the feeling was that prosecuting Mexico's relatively small number of users is a waste of time and money. What support there is for the growers (protectionist policies in the U.S. and Canada have made marijuana and opium poppies some of the few export crops where Mexico has an edge over its NAFTA partners) and the dealers, is followed by the shame-faced admission that the business is either a necessity (for the farmers) or -- while it is devestating to others, it provides some local benefits within communities. Fox's veto was always seen as a favor to the world's largest consumer nation. And, overriding a Presidential veto is very rare here. Fox will be out of office in December, and it was always assumed here that the bill will be introduced in the next Congressional session. I don't think it has anything to do with the U.S. debate over immigration, but Mexico doesn't have much reason to trust, or listen to Washington right now. And -- although Felipe Calderón continues to support Fox's veto -- either the PANistas realize his support may be evaporting, or, being "lame ducks" themselves, see no reason not to push through the reforms sooner, rather than later. There has been discussion in the press (Statement from the President of the Chamber of Deputies Human Rights Commission in support of the reforms, a Financial Times report -- "U.S. Users cause problems for countries like Mexico", and editorials in El Universal and Jornada. Ione Grillo, who also writes from Mexico City -- and writes very well -- for the Dallas Morning News, covers the story in today's Herald (Lawmakers work to revive drug decrim) Lawmakers are working to revive their bill decriminalizing the possession of small amounts of marijuana, cocaine and heroin, and hope to override a veto if necessary, so that police can better respond to the waves of drug-related violence that has killed more than 600 people this year. President Vicente Fox called on Congress to drop decriminalization from the drug-law overhaul after intense lobbying from the U.S. State Department and mayors of several U.S. border cities, who called it a disaster that would encourage hordes of U.S. youngsters to cross the border for "drug tourism." ... But the issue isn´t going away, and with every new battle over drugs in Mexico City, Acapulco or the violent northern border cities, public pressure grows for reforms to laws that many say have handicapped law enforcement agencies here. "Consumption and addiction are public health issues while drug dealing is a criminal problem," said Rep. Eliana García, who worked with the federal Attorney General´s Office as well as the health and public safety departments to draft the original bill. "When you mix them you get corruption." ... Under existing law, drug dealing is a federal crime, and so local police usually avoid taking on armed drug gangs, instead filling arrest quotas by detaining small-time users, García said. The bill Congress passed last month with the support of all major parties would empower local police as well as federal agents to investigate drug pushers. The president´s spokesman initially said Fox would sign it. He sent it back a day later after an uproar in the United States and criticism from the Roman Catholic Church over the drug possession details. While increasing penalties for large amounts of drugs, the bill would decriminalize possession of up to 25 milligrams of heroin, 5 grams of marijuana (about four joints) or 0.5 grams of cocaine - the equivalent of about four lines. The leading presidential candidates, leftist Andrés Manuel López Obrador and conservative Felipe Calderón, haven´t taken positions on the bill. But García and other members of López Obrador´s Democratic Revolution Party are among the most outspoken supporters, while Roman Catholics, part of Calderón´s base, are generally against it. "Mexico, I fear, could become even more violent," said Cardinal Norberto Rivera, the Archbishop of Mexico City. ... Only 5 percent of Mexicans say they have gotten high once in their life, compared to 40 percent of U.S. citizens. However, these numbers hide the gravity of the growing problem of hard drug use among Mexico´s urban youth, nearly 1 million of whom have used crack, heroin or methamphetamines. ... Gang violence surrounding drug consumption now mixes with bloodshed unleashed by the big smuggling cartels, adding up to more than 1,500 drug-related killings last year, with violence plaguing border towns like Nuevo Laredo as well as big cities. ...

Friday, May 26, 2006

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Crime of Passion ... Presna's police blotter poetry

If I hadn't given up guilt for Lent (in 1987, never to take it back), I might feel some remorse for the decadent pleasure I take in reading the worst poetry in the Spanish language, La Prensa's police blotter. Somehow, paying police reporters by the word inspires them to impart a baroque magnificance to even the most ordinary and sordid of urban tragedies. While it is impossible to translate Prensa police blotter items literally and baldly, I think it is possible to capture the essense of this odd literary form -- run-on (and on and on) sentences ornamented with a plethoria of relevant and irrelevant details, a refusal to use one word where pleonasm, circumlocution and redundancy might spring to mind and, as in Restoration drama, a positive zest for the artistic possibilities of bad taste, murder and mayhem presented in the most indirect way possible. I have translated arcana written in bad Spanish before -- an accounting flow chart written by junior accountants and programmers who hadn't a clue what they were doing, purposely confusing commercial leases and academic papers (rates available)... but to capture the essense of a Presna police blotter item has been maddening, frustrating, a difficult and tiring labor, being such a task as one should not normally undertake, but one does, with the proviso that such an impossible and improbable translation will still fall short, not meet and only dimly match, the brilliance of the original. Here then, is a small masterpiece, by Manuel Olmos Crime of Passion A man was executed by the discharge of a firearm at the corner of 28th Street and 20th Street, Colonia Proletaria Guadalupe, Delegation Gustavo A. Madero. The bloody deed occured at about 18:40, when the driver of a Passat, navy blue, with license plate PVN-64-63, issued in the State of Morelos, moving in the direction mentioned above, was passed by a bottle-green Chevy model Chevrolet, with polarized windows, a back one of which was lowered, and a shooter, with gun in hand and saying not a word, fired two times, taking the life of a 36 year old man named Lazaro Miguel Canchola Cosío. One of the projectiles perforated the back door of the vehicle while another -- the fatal injury -- drilled into the chest of Canchola Cosío, passed through and vanished into the right side of the seat, while the automobile continued on its path until crashing against a gray Nissan Tsuru with license plates 932-MLY which was parked in front of 119 20th Street, where it was being repaired in the mechanic's shop known as Ribero Service. During the course of the homicide the green Chevy shifted into reverse and fled at full speed down 28th Street, until it was lost in the streets of Colonia Proletaria Guadalupe. A few meters from the scene of the crime the wife of the recent murdered victim was mounting a bicitaxi, and present at the terrible scene in which her spouse was killed, the now-widow who is reported to be Claudia Sanabria Cureño, 32 years of age. This is only a few short meters from the location of a house occupied by 32 year old Angelica Martinez Alvardo, who supposedly maintained a sentimental relation with the recent murder victim, this house being immediately facing the site of Canchola Cosío's fatal wounding, which gave reason for a confrontation between the two women, both of whom accused the other of masterminding the crime. In light of the bloody doings, the neighors and witnesses in the vincinity called the rescue squad, which arrived at the scene 10 minutes after the attack in a Red Cross ambulance, economy number 555, commanded by paramedic Alberto Xochihua, who upon viewing the body diagnosed that the victim had already left his existence due to a projectile wound to the chest caused by a firearm. Also arriving at the scene were units of the Secretariat of Seguridad Publica (SSP), in car numbers GAM2 0142 and GAM2 0135, who, witnessing the scene between the women, detained both the presumed lover and the wife of Canchola Cosío, for transfer to Public Ministry GAM2's facilities, where a determination will be made as to who is responsible for what seems a crime of passion. Once in control of the situation between the women, the police units called for backup from the Public Ministry and the Judicial Police stationed in the Capital, the same arriving to begin preliminary investigations and to order the body removed, and the transfer the two persons involved, as well as sending for the mechanics who removed the automobile in which lay the dead Canchola Cosío. Investigations made at this time indicate that Lazaro Miguel Canchola Cosío had been sent to the South Preventative Prison on 5 April 1997 for grand larceny, reason enough to open a second line of investigation, looking into revenge related to organized crime.
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Build a 50-foot fence...

...they'll find a 51-foot ladder (courtesy of Youtube, via Project for the Old American Century).

Thursday, May 25, 2006

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The Invasion of the Spin Doctors

Did anyone else notice that the "some" in Ginger Thompson's article in today's New York Times (Some in Mexico See Border Wall as Opportunity) who speak well of "THE WALL" were all Fox administration officials, former officals or regular apologists for the administration? Ms. Thompson is an excellent reporter, but I'm wondering if she wasn't fed this story by the spin doctors, something new in Mexican politics, according to this article ("Presidential race takes on U.S. flavor") in today's Mexico Herald.
Conservative Felipe Calderón opened his campaign for president with slogans focusing on honesty (“Clean Hands”) and patriotism (“Passion for Mexico”), but the nice-guy image wasn’t working. So the Harvard-educated lawyer embraced a U.S. style of political attacks against his top rival. He even spoke — informally, his campaign insists — with U.S. consultants such as Bill Clinton adviser Dick Morris and Dallas’ Rob Allyn, a Republican strategist. Whether the consultants had anything to do with the change in tactics, no one will say, given Mexico’s extreme sensitivity to any appearance of outside influence in elections. But some critics are blaming the gringos for Mexico’s plunge into the mud. ... “Negative ads are a new phenomenon in Mexican democracy, and Felipe Calderón has been, so far in this election, the one that has resorted” to using them the most, said Armand Peschard-Sverdrup, director of the Mexico Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington research organization. “There are fingerprints of U.S. political electoral strategists all over it because it’s not something that has traditionally been used in Mexican elections.” Calderón began his turnaround with a TV ad whose impact some analysts compared to the “swift boat” commercials that bedeviled U.S. presidential nominee John Kerry in 2004. It equated Andrés Manuel López Obrador, then the front-runner, with leftist Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez in terms of “intolerance” and zeroed in on López Obrador repeating the phrase, “Shut up, Mr. President. ... Shut up, you country hen.” He was referring to President Vicente Fox. Ads that followed called López Obrador, a former Mexico City mayor, “a danger to Mexico.”´ Whether Morris or Allyn was involved with the decision to go negative is unclear, but critics agree the inspiration is American. ... “Calderón’s negative campaign has all the writing of Morris, who’s an expert on destroying the vote of hope by raising the vote of fear,” said pollster Daniel Lund, ... who has worked for López Obrador. “U.S. political consultants at their best produce mischief. They may know how to manipulate media, but do they contribute to the good governance of a country, to the democratic maturity of a nation? I would argue no.” ...
According to Sourcewatch (Center for Media) and a 6 April 2000 article in the Dallas Observer, Rob Allyn was a key player in the George W. Bush campaign to discredit his rival for the 2000 Republican presidential nomination Senator John McCain. Millionaire Bush supporter Sam Wyly funded Republicans for Clean Air to attack McCain in key states during the 2000 primary campaign. Rob Allyn was paid $46,000 to help create the ads. Sourcewatch also claims ties to the "Swiftboat" campaign used in the 2004 Presidential election to discredit Democratic candidate John Kerry. Dick Morris (Sourcewatch) is "a former apolitical/amoral pollster turned Republican operative". There is much more on Morris' U.S. campaign spinning at Media Matters. Al Giordano in Narco News, goes further. I only claim these two are scumbags, but I don't go in for the salacious details of their personal lives and I won't even attempt to tie the two foreign spin doctors to the recent Atenco riots, which led to accusations in the Mexican courts of rape and sexual assault against the police. Still, he makes a good point:

Dick Morris and Rob Allyn....advise President Vicente Fox and his favored presidential candidate, Felipe Calderón, of Fox’s National Action Party (PAN, in its Spanish initials) on how to manipulate the mass media and in the art of “crisis management.”...

Allyn — a Republican Party consultant from Texas who has advised both George W. Bush and his father George Herbert Walker Bush, as well as a Texan energy billionaire with obvious interest in seeing Mexico’s electricity and oil privatized — is joined in Mexico today by U.S. political consultant Dick Morris. Morris was the top political advisor to U.S. President Bill Clinton until August of 1996, when Morris ... had to leave the Clinton campaign in disgrace.

Morris recently penned a column in the New York Post in which he admitted, “I have worked as a consultant for Fox and PAN.”

... Article 33 of the Mexican Constitution prohibits participation by foreigners in Mexican electoral campaigns. It says:

“Foreigners may not involve themselves in any way in the political affairs of the country.”

We report... you decide.
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This 1943 Frieda Kahlo self-portrait in oil (did she ever do anything BUT self-portraits?) , Raíces set a new record for Mexican art prices at a Sotheby's auction last night: 5.6 million dollars.

I am not a Kalo-phile. My preference is for artists whose work stands independently from their lives. What do you need to know about the O's ( O'Higgins, O'Gorman, Orozco) to enjoy their art. What can we believe -- besides his art -- about serial liar, Diego Rivera. And does it even matter?

Kahlo was self-indulgent and self-referential: if you don't buy into her biography (or, rather -- her version of her psychobiography) the art is relatively meaningless. I always thought the art should be independent of the artist, and should stand alone without the myth -- which may be what makes this portrait so unusual -- Kahlo was healthy and happy at the time.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

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Beq's Excellent Adventure... absentee voting in Mexico

According to a story in today's Universal (Herald translation here): "Election officials say roughly 21 percent of the registered voters living abroad have already gotten their ballots in ". That's a lot, if Beq's (who is a well-educated professional) experiences with the absentee ballot process are at all typical. First, you had to find the IFE website for Mexicans living abroad who wanted to vote. First glitch: lack of publicity. I learned about the website through my university's alumni newsletter. Otherwise I would have never been privy to this fact because I never saw it advertised anywhere. I emailed every Mexican living abroad I knew, but I never got word from any place about this. Second glitch: the rules came inside the website (if you managed to find them by choosing the right tabs in a labyrinth of too much information). Something not lots of people understand or have access to... ok whatever, next. The instructions: - you had to have your credencial de elector (how many paisanos travel with this in the first place? if you didn't have it, you had to tramitarla, and that was a whole other ballgame); - you had to fill a downloadable pdf application and sign it; - you had to send this application along with photocopies of front and back of your credencial de elector and your signature... you had to also mail proof of foreign domicile (bank statement, state id, drivers license, something). Most important glitch in my opinion: you had to send all these to a weird apartado postal address by "correo certificado" (according to instructions), and the deadline to postmark it was january 15, 2006. "Certified mail" by USPS is not possible to a P.O. box in an international destination. I tried. it didn't get there. I tried Fedex. It also did not get there (address does not exist according to Fedex). In my last attempt I pleaded with USPS personnel to work with me and explained the situation. they offered "registered mail". I was unsure registered would work, I had to send it certified. but certified had already flopped, so I tried registered. That's the one that finally went through and arrived safe and sound. Now, if you're anal and ocd like me, that difference (from certified to registered) is a huge deal. They're requiring you to follow the instructions to the letter with no deviation or you might render the whole thing invalid, and their friggin instructions are wrong by one crucial word. Anyway, let's go on. Once the application was sent to Mexico, it had to be processed over there. if/when approved. Then they sent you a packet.The packet included:
  • A CD with all the candidates' videos (or should I say one was a video and two sent a photo you had to stare at while you heard a taped speech) [for the record, I didn't even consider the two lesser candidates, in my opinion they're lost votes].
  • A CD with audio (same thing, sans the visual pleasure of candidates' photos).
  • A booklet (same speech you heard in the CDs, only now in paper).
  • A cotton-thread bracelet ("with my vote, Mexico is complete" ... awww, you shouldn't have).
  • The boleta for your vote.
  • Instruction pamphlet.
  • And a self-addressed, self-stamped envelope (thank you!! no glitches sending the thing back this time!).
You just have to make sure you send those in time for the IFE to receive them before 8:00 amon July 1. That's the end of it. Wouldn't it have just been easier to go vote at the local consulate or embassy? IFE personnel could have been present at voting boxes. the same personnel they needed to hire to take care of the applications and the packets and the vote counting in Mexico, just deployed to consulates and embassies rather than staying at home? Hey, at least there's no hanging chads!
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Maybe "Nobody pulls one over on Fred C. Dobbs..." but Lou ain't the sharpest tool in the cabana

The highly-regarded Orcinus dissected the Reconquista myth in his blog back in April. Apparently, though, the information was missed by those those crack researchers (or researchers on crack) at CNN. Bill Scher posted this story on the Yesterday, on "Lou Dobbs Tonight," CNN ran a graphic sourced to the Council of Conservative Citizens(RACIST WEBSITE WARNING), a group deemed to have a "white supremacy" ideology according to the Anti-Defamation League. "Next on Lou Dobbs Tonight... my interview with Reconquista leader Gold-Hat..."

We're coming for you... and for your WEEEMEN!
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On the road again, can't wait to get back on the road again...

President Vicente Fox will be taking his five-year battle for immigration reform to the front lines in the western United States. But analysts say Fox´s trip this week to California, Utah and Washington states may do more harm than good.
(May 23, 2006 Mexico Herald) More harm than good for immigration? For the U.S. Senate? For Felipe Calderón? For AMLO? Or for himself? The usual suspects (see post below this one) are going to blather on about the same old shit no matter what Fox does or doesn't do. The U.S. Senate is worried about their own re-election. Calderón and AMLO -- hmmm... with AMLO's charges that Don Chente is mucking about in the campaign starting to stick (and the surprise announcement that PRI was willing to cooperate with PRD against PAN), maybe it looks better if the Pres. stays out of the campaign (and out of the country) for a few days. OR... given the U.S. is going to piss off the Mexican electorate in a big way later this week anyway, it's Fox's best chance to make the PANistas look tough -- fighting til the last (sort of like Jim Bowie at ... oh, never mind!) until overwhelmed by Santa Ana (well, he was a dumb President, who prefered to hang at his ranch while the smart vice president ran things behind the scenes... and to irretreivably damage his country... but who could I be thinking of?) . ... and d'you know that that thought just crossed my mind?
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HUH? FOX News -- apparently Elana Poniatowska is going to invade Arizona... or something like that

Links to racist hate sites like this: blahblahblah (verdana italic typeface) In Mexico, my favorite TV show is Los Simpsons (who doesn't love Los Simpsons?), which is produced by the U.S.'s Fox Network. One good thing about being in the U.S. is I can catch some other Fox comedies -- Bill O'Reilly's "No Spin Zone", John Gibson (of "make more white babies or we'll be overrun with brown ones" fame and "Your World With Neil Cavuto". Watching these programs requires a "willing suspension of disbelief" -- you have to buy into the American Right, and their alternate universe where two opposite ideas coexist without, as on Star-Trek, destroying life as we know it. On the one hand, the alternative reality folks tell us, "white Mexican elites" export their "problems" to the United States. On the other, those "elites" are planning to take back their problem (and add a bunch more). You see, it's all a secret plan for the "Reconquista" For those of you in the Real Mexico (and in the Real World) this is the ardent belief of tho residents of that alternative universe reality that Mexican plans to take over the territories ceded to the U.S. by the Treaty of Guadelupe Hidalgo. (Why not Spanish Louisiana , which once stretched as far as Manitoba?) . While there is a group that Mexican authorities consider a possible right-wing foreign terrorists, and that talk about Reconquista, these U.S. based neo-fascists, like Aztlan ("brownshirts with brown skins," as one friend called them) are tiny organizations that exist mostly on the internet, or in the nightmares of "white-wing" worriers (and the folks who they worry). I half suspect that at least half their alleged members and supports just enjoy scaring the bejeebus out of these folks. No one in the sanity-based world takes their aims very seriously. By the way, these groups should NOT BE CONFUSED WITH THIS MERRY BAND OF RECONQUISTADORS -- they have a sense of humor, which is to facists what water is to the Wicked Witch of the West. In one variant of the theory, the Mexicans will join with the Yellow Hoardes of Asia to invade California, as in a 1915 Hearst produced serial starring Paulette Godard and reprised (as a theory -- Paulette and William Randolf are both long gone) by a wacko U.S.Army Major last year. Which brings me to another film director, Ron Maxwell. I never heard of him either -- his film about the Battle of Gettysburg is praised by the Heritage Foundation, and other organizations unlikely to be heard of outside of wonky Republican circles or internet political blogs. Somehow, that makes him an expert on the Reconquista -- he even wrote for the (offensive, but not officially racist) World Net Daily about it. Which, in turn, brings me back to Fox News. While Vincente Fox blathered on (presumably in his slow norteño way -- the sound was off) on one side of the screen, Neil Cavuto and Ron Maxwell chatted about the Reconquista on the other. According to Ron, it's a common belief among "Mexican elites and intelletuals" that the Reconquista is real. Prone to giving even complete morons the benefit of the doubt, I did a little googling on this. Carlos Fuentes, once talked about the Spanish language and Latin American culture shaping the United States. Carlos Monsivais during a 1999 talk mentioned that California was as much Mexican as anything else (which it is). But, really, have you ever met Carlos? He's a pudgy, balding, near-sighted writer who ventures out to the Sandborn's katty-corner from Chapultepec Park for his morning coffee before returning to the comforts of home, his beloved cats and his writing. Somehow I can't see him leading the troops across the Rio Bravo del Norte. Carlos Fuentes? He's pushing 80, and frankly, he's more at home in Washington or London than in Mexico. Elena Poniatowska, maybe... having been born Princesa Hélène Elizabeth Louise Amélie Paula Dolores Poniatowska Amor, I guess she qualifies as one of those infamous "white elites". She's a bona fide intellectual and a tough broad. Even with those Polish and French warrior ancestors, I can't image such a nice, quite lady storming the gates of San Diego either. SO... kids... who exactly are these Re-conquistadors? Anyway care to enlighten Neil Cavuto ?

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

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SF Chron Masterful. Other Make More Maddening Mexico Media Mistakes

Best article yet: Carolyn Lochhead, of the San Francisco Chronicle, wrote what I think is the BEST ARTICLE YET on Mexican immigration to the U.S. in last Sunday's edition (Give and take across the border 1 in 7 Mexican workers migrates -- most send money home). Is Lochhead the only one to ever notice the obvious:
The migration is driven in part, experts say, by the large income differentials between the two nations. A rural Latin American migrant may earn 10 times in the United States what he or she can earn at home.
More highlights:

Migration is profoundly altering Mexico and Central America. Entire rural communities are nearly bereft of working-age men. The town of Tendeparacua, in the Mexican state of Michoacan, had 6,000 residents in 1985, and now has 600, according to news reports. In five Mexican states, the money migrants send home exceeds locally generated income, one study found. ... Arriving in small monthly transfers of $100 and $200, remittances have formed a vast river of "migra-dollars" that now exceeds lending by multilateral development agencies and foreign direct investment combined, according to the Inter-American Development Bank. The money Mexican migrants send home almost equals the U.S. foreign aid budget for the entire world, said Arturo Valenzuela, director of the Center for Latin American Studies at Georgetown University and former head of Inter-American Affairs at the National Security Council during the Clinton administration. "Has anybody in the raging immigration debate over the last few weeks thought, could it be good for the fundamental interests of the United States ... to serve as something of a safety valve for those that can't be employed in Mexico?" ... But an equally intense pull comes from U.S. employers, including private households, who employ large numbers of illegal immigrants as nannies, housekeepers and caregivers, said Jeffery Passel, a senior demographer at the Pew Hispanic Center.

The U.S. information economy has created a split labor market, one with a powerful demand for high- and low-skilled workers, economists say. ... Mexico is aging too, which will eventually cause migration to ebb. Its population trails the U.S. age profile by 30 years. By then, demographers expect Mexico may be importing labor. ... Given the predominance of Mexicans and Central Americans in illegal immigration to the United States, Papademetriou wonders why the Senate's guest worker program would be open to all comers, if it is intended to provide temporary workers for the U.S. market. "If 60 percent of our illegal immigration comes from a single country, and another 20 percent comes through that country, logic would say the vast majority of visas should go to the country of origin," he said. "The last thing you would do is create a global temporary worker program, as if somehow we should need Bangladeshis or Russians to pick our fruits and vegetables." Targeted visas could also leverage Mexican cooperation in undertaking politically difficult reforms, and would be more likely to keep guest workers temporary.

... Given that Mexico is the second-largest U.S. trading partner, the two nations' economic integration is well under way, and labor is part of that, experts say.

I can't find anything to carp about with Ms. Lochhart. I carped (ever so slightly) at Bruce C. Swaffield, who wrote an article on the need for journalists to cover Mexico in the Society of Professional Journalist's publication Quill, managed to mangle a few facts about the country. Nothing serious -- the usual "Cinco de Mayo is the major national holiday" type error. Dr. Swafford and I exchanged a pleasant e-mail about this. He is a professor of journalism at Regent University, an institute best known for its association with televangalist Pat Roberson. I think Professor Swoffield was beset by fact-checking gremlins ... no need to call in an exorcist to repel printer's devils! The Associated Press' Mark Stevenson, on the other hand, has by-lined two different stories in the last month, both comparing Mexican and U.S. immigration policies containing serious mistakes. In "Mexico Bars Immigrants From Thousands of Jobs"(not a by-lined version, but the first I found "googling") Stevenson and the AP again compare Mexican and U.S. immigration policy (the gist of the story is some sensitve municipal jobs, and most political offices are not open to non-native citizens). Again, the issue is apples and oranges (Mexico has never primarily been a nation of immigrants, and its independence movement was largely precipiated by the Spanish policy of reserving government jobs for non-Mexicans). The story has its faults, but it's passable. In his April 19 story, Few Protections for Migrants to Mexico, he claimed "Mexican law classifies undocumented immigration as a felony punishable by up to two years in prison, although deportation is more common." Whether Stevenson or a careless editor is to blame, this created an uproar in the United States (especially in the right-wing blogosphere) and served as justification for congressional calls for draconian immigration legislation. The big problem: THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A FELONY IN MEXICO. Mexico uses Code Law ("Napoleonic Code") and not the Anglo-Saxon system. Felonies only exist in the Anglo-Saxon system. Code systems divide crimes into broad categories (crimes against the state and/or community; crimes against the family; crimes against individuals). Overstaying ones visa, or illegally immigrating into Mexico is a crime against the state, but then so is not licensing your dog. For that matter, a lot of crimes, both in the U.S. and in Mexico (and everywhere else, for that matter) can land you in the slammer for up to two years. But they seldom do, and for what it's worth, the only people I've ever met who were deported from Mexico (besides Guatemalan farm workers taking jobs from Mexican farm workers) were deported for something besides illegal entry... theft, drug offenses, endangering the welfare of a child, that sort of thing. The only exception might be the British soldiers suspected of espionage (actually it was hilarious), but countries in similar straits would find some way of tossing those James Bond wannabes out. When I pointed out that Stevenson was running several stories on the same theme, and making errors, one person claimed Stevenson was a long-time Mexico reporter, and I'd just have to accept what he said was true. The source for that remark isn't thought of as particularly reliable, but I did my best to check. As far as I can tell, Mark Stevenson has only been reporting from Mexico for the last year or so. His by-lines from before mid-2005 are from Guatemala and Haiti. Another person thought I was suggesting right-wing bias on the part of the Associated Press. Not that I'm aware of. Sloppy thinking and slovely editing aren't limited to the far right.

Monday, May 22, 2006

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Who let the dogs out? Maybe gated communities ain't the safest places in Mexico

An internet friend, "one of those people who moved " to a gated community where she and her husband -- though gringos -- are the poorest people in the complex, writes on the downside of life in "gringo gulch": Screw the revolution, drug cartels, police on the take, malaria, stomach bugs ... the DOGS will get you!

On my street the people go armed with bear mace, bb guns, rocks blunt instruments. Don't think we are afraid of being kidnapped or raped ... just attacked by our friendly neighborhood pets.

If you are coming to Mexico I advice pepper spray (the larger the container the better -- it is legal) rocks, canes, anything. My neighborhood is gated, 24/7 etc. but we are all armed to the teeth against the guard dogs let out to use the baño or just let out off leash. These dogs are well fed and trained. A huge terrier attacked our dog when we were out for a alk. It came out of the blue, and went straight for our dog's throat. I had the safety on the mace and my husband had to use his cane to fight the dog off. The caretaker found the house where the culprit was hiding, and a neighbor filed a report with the security guards.

My husband is hiding his black and blue wounds and his leg is really swollen. But we're off to the vet -- the dog needs antibiotics for his 4 puncture wounds -- then to the doctor. The attack dog's owner (of course) is out of the country, though his brother will pay the doctor/vet bills. Great. The dog is going to a ranch. Sure. This is his fourth attack. My attitude now is if I see a dog I don't know, spray the bear mace and keep spraying. Then plead fear or just deny doing it.

Meanwhile, this bad dog report from a foreigner in a traditional Mexican village:
I was in the market square talking to my son on the phone at 10:30 pm. When I hung up and started back to my car, I was attacked by 6 or 8 dogs, who were seriously lunging and trying to bite me. I called them some real nasty names at the top of my lungs. I was angry, but fortunately, most of the local women couldn't understand what I was saying. Finally, I managed to get my hands on a rock, and they evaporated instantly. The next morning, my wife went down town to buy milk to make atole for her bachelor uncles. She came back rather excited, told me all the dogs were dead, that someone had poisoned them. I was horrified, because a lot of witnesses had seen me fighing those beasts. So, I expected to be blamed. Her cousin told me not to worry. They have a dog killer, the Mexican equivalent of our dog catchers. When the problem gets bad enough and street dogs are menacing people, the Municipal President writes a kill order, and the dog killer tosses around plenty of poisoned meat, and walks away. The next day, the street cleaners cart off the dead dogs. I asked what happens if a good dog is out there. He said if people aren't taking care of their dog, too bad.
I like dogs, and I've known some very nice street dogs. But, tossing rocks is always an option. Or using pepper spray and denying it. That works too.
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I have no idea (the election)

According to the International Herald Tribune, Calderón is still the one to beat, but the Mexican press is reporting on a new development that could change everything. PRI candidate Roberto Madrazo Pintado suggested over the weekend that PRI MIGHT ally itself with PRD against what he sees as administration interference in the election (kinda ironic, coming from the PRI, which never had any compunctions about that before). Even Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas is seriously mulling it over. AND... what effect the U.S. Senate's considerations of Immigration will have (any U.S. media source) will have on the Mexican elections is still uncertain. Fred Rosen, in today's Mexico Herald sees U.S. policy as undermining the Fox administration -- and, I'd venture, making Calderón less and less the people's choice. I'm waiting for the next debate (6 June) to see what happens next. Stay tuned.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

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A better border solution...

Porfirio Diaz said of the border -- "between Mexico and the gringos, the desert". In his day, it was border crossings from the north that were the problem. Until the late 20th century, there wasn't much of a "broken border" problem. The real problem (and the reason for groups like "the Minutemen") is just that there are a lot more folks -- Anglos or Mexicans in the area until recently. Between the maquilladoras on the Mexican side, and all those ex-Minnesotan, Iowan, Nebraskan etcs. on the other, there's cultural conflicts that rile up people (like the Minutemen) who should know better. We can't go back to Don Porfirio's days... but maybe there's no need to build a wall, bring in the National Guard, ramp up the border patrol, lay in land mines or launch blimps... wouldn't it be cheaper, more cost effective and ecologically more sound to just give the border back to the Apaches?..
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Thou shalt get thy act together... Cardinal rejects wall

Ruth Rodríguez, El Universal 21 May 2006 (my translation): The Primate of the Archdioces of Mexico considers a stronger willingness on the part of the United States as well and energy and vision from the Mexico government both lacking in the attempt to resolve the migratory problem. As was printed this week in the Church's official publication, "Desde la Fe", Cardinal Norberto Ribera stated that the Catholic Church rejects the contention that building a wall will prevent illegal border crossings. Interviewed on the matter, the Cardinal said that the migration is a complex subject and that he is not confident of any resolutin, "because history has shown that the governments of the United States never have acted propiciously towards Mexico". If they first bring in the National Guard and then raise a barrier, a wall, we hardly think they are developing an integral and complete immigration program. " The Cardinal added that "it is difficult for us to believe their words, when there is no evidence. Asked if there were any hopes for the (Mexican) administration to negotiate a good migratory agreement, the Cardinal said "We hope that the government of the United States works not only with the Mexican government and industrialists, but with all of us. We must work together on this task, which is all of our's problem." "Migrants don't leave for no reason. Most of the time, it is out of necessity."

Saturday, May 20, 2006

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Don't drink the water... part 4,687,312

Amazingly, this real post from a tourist message board elicited mostly serious, thoughtful replies -- 22 of them!
My sister is going to Mexico to stay at a time share type place with friends. She is limited as to what she is able to drink (non alcoholic). No soft drinks, no carbonation, no caffiene and no alcohol. Is plain non mineral bottled water available most places? Any US brands available - not US snob, needs to be able to read that it is plain in english.
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The AMLO we know... sorta.

At last, an American study, but a "respectable political scholar" of AMLO... too bad its only available in Spanish. As the always perceptive Kelly Arthur Garrett writes in today's Herald,
Grayson’s critical biography had been eagerly awaited (at least by me) as a potential corrective to the ever-expanding line-up of love-him-or-hate-him AMLO books piling up at Sanborn’s. Grayson, a professor of government at William & Mary College in Virginia, is one of the foremost U.S. authorities on Mexican politics and society, and has been for many decades. That puts him in a position to deliver what we’ve needed — a well-researched, fact-filled, fully footnoted, thoroughly indexed biography in English of the most consequential and least understood human being in Mexico today. Now we have it, except for the “in English” part. For some reason, “Mesías Mexicano” has only been published in the Spanish translation. That’s too bad, since monolingual Anglophones bored with “fiery leftist” and “populist” as handy AMLO definitions are denied an alternative mask for him — “Messiah.”
Grayson is William and Mary's George Grayson, the Class of 1938 Professor of Government and the favorite Mexico expert of folks like Bill O'Reilly and the conservative (er, even more conservative) wing of the Republican Party. With articles in "stellar" publications like David Horowitz's Front Page ("Feathering Their Casa", April 28, 2006), and his involvement with the "Center for Immigration Studies" it's easy to dismiss this as another yanquí imperalista complot. Still, the guy is a reputable scholar..
For the record, “Mesías Mexicano” isn’t just another AMLO- phobic tract. It is, after all, a biography, and the patient, forgiving reader will come out of it with a much better idea of who Andrés Manuel López Obrador is, as well as what George Grayson thinks of him. I especially liked the early chapter on AMLO’s boyhood and family history. Readers will appreciate the several charts and timelines that clarify some of the more Byzantine topics of Mexican politics, such as the background of the desafuero and the PRD’s internal factions.
Condescending and arrogant as he may be, the book is worth reading, if just for background on a a Mexican politician who doesn't fit any of the old rules, and I'm betting will be the next President.
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Mexico -- #1 for a change!

... it used to be Canada...
The top sources of US crude oil imports for March were Mexico (1.697 million barrels per day), Canada (1.693 million barrels per day), Saudi Arabia (1.313 million barrels per day), Venezuela (1.183 million barrels per day), and Nigeria (1.114 million barrels per day). U.S. Department of Energy: Crude Oil and Total Petroleum Imports
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Oh, really, O'Reilly?

Fox News (the U.S. network, not the spin doctors at Los Pinos), broadcasts what it calls "fair and balanced" news and opinion. It's viewship is older and more conservative than the other U.S. media, generally considered the least reliable of all the U.S. major media sources (it likes the attack the others as "mainstream media", implying the News Corporation of America is some little upstart company. It's much, much larger than their perceived "enemies" like the New York Times Corporation). It's famous for newsreaders who are "spun" as opinion leaders, and for manufacturing grass-roots movements based on ... whatever. My favorite example was the call for a boycott of the island of Aruba, based on continual news coverage of a minor story -- the disappearance of an American girl while on vacation. Tourists disappear once in a while, but this was a pretty white girl from a wealthy family (and I never have met poor families that vacation in Aruba). SO... News Corporation was running story after story about this disappearance -- interviews with the family, smears against the guys she was last seen with, interviews with private eyes they paid to dig around in Aruba, and on and on and on. AND... they pimped for a tourist boycott. For Aruba, which depends on tourism, it's a real threat. HOWEVER, showing Aruba again and again and again on news programs with an older, wealthier viewership meant the rather obscure Dutch possession was in the minds of those who can afford Caribean vacations. Aruba did well out of it. Now comes Bill O'Reilly, of the "O'Reilly Factor". I guess about half his viewers watch his program with the same enthuasm people a hundred years ago when to circus sideshows. It's a little more sophisticated that gawking at a two-headed calf, but the "O'Reilly Factor" has it's twisted entertainment values. A recent example -- O'Reilly, who protests (too much) that he isn't a racial bigot -- claimed the New York Times believes "believe "the white Christians who hold power must be swept out by a new multicultural tide". On another famous occasion, he carped that the the reason actor George Clooney, was active in supporting action in Darfur and the Sudan had to do with the "color" of the Sudanese. Clooney, it might be noted, is a "white guy". Bill O'Reilly is an absurd, pompous "media elite" (he's a graduate of Harvard University) from a comfortable New York City suburban background, who is presented as the "voice of the little guy" (the little guy with a hefty salary, a good pension plan and born to advantage, that is). His latest clown act is a call to boycott Mexico -- "If the Mexican government files one lawsuit in the U.S.A., one, pertaining to the National Guard, I will call for a total boycott of Mexican goods and no travel to your country." COOL! If they boycott Mexican fruits and vegetables, they hurt the U.S. corporate giants more effectively than anyone else. Incidentally, given that the Mexican family farmer can't compete against subsidized corporate agribusiness in the U.S. and Canada, it will mean more farmers having to leave the land ... and a good number will be going to the United States. I think Mexican oil should be sold on the open market, especially to Europe and India. And that the U.S. needs to cut its dependence on oil in general, foreign oil in particular. So, maybe boycotting their #2 foreign oil supplier wouldn't be such a bad thing. Americans are overweight because they drive everywhere. With no auto parts, maybe they'll walk more. And Americans consume half the world's narcotics. I think Mexico should get out of the narcotics manufacturing and transport business (and there isn't enough domestic market for that industry) and invest more in other agricultural and pharmaceutical enterprises. Alas, I doubt narcotics users are the kinds of folks who check out "country of origin" when making their purchases, nor that they make their purchases based on political considerations. Watch Bill foam at the mouthhere (Quick Time or Windows Media Player). ------------ Suing in U.S. courts, by the way, has been a particularly cost-effective, low-pressure, "conservative" solution to diplomatic wrangles (and to discharging Mexico's responsibilities to protect its citizens abroad). There's nothing new in what O'Reilly calls "a threat". Screw him.

Friday, May 19, 2006

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Where's Waldo? Where's Biblioteca José Vasconcelos?

For that matter, try finding almost anything named for some important Mexican. When I lived in Cuernavaca, I once spent 40 minutes in a cab looking for something on "Zapata" -- which of the 30 or so "calle Zapata", "calle Emiliano Zapata", "calle Gnrl. Emiliano Zapata", "avenuda Gnrl. Zapata", etc. was something no one thought to tell me. The new National Library, "Biblioteca Vasconcelos", is opening to the public on June first. Is it the "Biblioteca Vasconcelos", the "Biblioteca Pública de México Vasconcelos" or the "Nueva Biblioteca Pública Central Vasconcelos"? And how is it to be distinguished from the "Biblioteca México" (the old Ciudadela), officially... what else..."Biblioteca Vasconcelos"? Well, they say Mexicans don't read enough. At least this way they'll get to SOME library, even if it's not the one they had in mind.
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The (Vatican and other) wheels of justice turn slowly, but they do turn...

The Legionaries of Christ (their English-version website seems to be down), being an "ultramontane" Catholic order in an anti-clerical country has never been without its detractors. The Wikipedia article (only available in Spanish) mentions that the founder of this Mexican order, Marcial Maciel, was expelled from the Jesuits in 1940 -- allegedly for homosexuality. He was later accused of being a morphine addict, and of dishonesty. The Order runs schools, seminaries and youth organizations in Mexico, and throughout the world, especially in the Spanish-speaking countries. These include the Universidad Anáhuac, one of the best (and most expensive) private universities in Latin America. It flourished best in countries with reactionary governments, Spain under Franco and Chile under Pinochet. In Mexico, it's associated with the extreme right and the extremely wealthy. The Wall Street Journal had a front-page article on the Order's economic power on 23 January 2006 (reprint available here). In Mexico, Spain and Chile, there have been legal actions stemming out of allegations of physical and sexual abuse of seminarians and students by Order priests. The bishop of Richmond Virginia, a few years back, specifically ordered the Legionares to stay out of his diocese. He didn't want the same troubles other U.S. bishops had when the order expanded into the United States. Teenage "gangs" recruited from Legionare groups (which tend to be very wealthy kids) have terrorized other youths in several Mexican communities. An entire organization, ReGAIN (Religious Groups Awareness International Network) , exists for former Legionares and those "touched or adversely affected by the Legion of Christ and Regnum Christi Movement". While accusations have swarmed around Father Maciel -- and the Order -- for years, it was a favorite of the late Pope John-Paul II. Like other observers, I think the late Pope was "misinformed" about the piety of the Mexicans. The elite and wealthy Mexicans who are connected with the Legion are atypical of Mexican Catholics, but it is was through them that the Pope "knew" Mexico. Ironically, the extremely reactionary Legionares are somewhat responsible to the losening of clerical restrictions in Mexico which has opened the way to political actions by Evangelical pastors on the left and the Mormon elders on the right. While I certainly accept that Vincente Fox and the PAN led coalition victory in 2000 were a step towards a more democratic Mexico, I recognize that PAN has this extremist, anti-democratic clerical backing. Mrs. Fox is certainly from this wing of the party, and I do think she's dangerous. The Legion, and Father Maciel, has been under investigation by a Vatican-appointed lawyer (surprisingly, a woman). Pope Benedict's order that the 86 year old priest retire to do penance for the rest of his life MAY be only a first step. If the group falls out of official church favor, either its extremely wealthy supporters will put their money into some other reactionary group not constrained by the traditional taboo on overt political influence by the clergy, or -- one hopes, simply pump more money into education and old-fashioned influence peddling without the clerical middle-man. And speaking of child-molesters and the slow wheels of justice... Jean Succar Kuri, wanted in Quintana Roo for child-molesting, trafficing in kiddie porn and a few other things, has FINALLY lost his fight to avoid extradition from Arizona. Maybe. It only took a couple of years, and his lawyers promise to appeal. This is the basis of another important -- and slow to be resolved -- case. Kuri's legitimate business was manufacturing blue jeans. One of his business associates is now Governor of Puebla state. A reporter who wrote about Kuri, and the kiddie porn biz in Cancun (which is in Quintana Roo) ended up in a Puebla jail cell, after she was -- shall we say -- extralegally extradited? (i.e., kidnapped) from QR to Puebla. The Gov. is still in office.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

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The Hindenburg Line!

Bush makes his "Wall of Defense" speech on Monday, and already the contractors are rolling out the latest and greatest in...

BLIMPS! ... but, given the success of the Bushistas in -- well....everything... what they'll probably get is...

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

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If you build it, they will come...

Bush looks to defense contractors to solve immigration woes RAW STORY Published: Wednesday May 17, 2006 The quick fix may involve sending in the National Guard. But to really patch up the broken border, President Bush is preparing to turn to a familiar administration partner: the nation's defense contractors, the NEW YORK TIMES will report on page ones Thursday, RAW STORY has learned. "Lockheed Martin, Raytheon and Northrop Grumman, three of the largest defense contractors, are among the companies that said they would submit bids for a multibillion-dollar federal contract to build a virtual fence along the nation's land borders." Not Halliburton? And the labor will be done by...??????
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Bush the uniter... boy, are they pissed!

If you thought U.S. reaction to Bush's Immigration Speech was tough, wait'll you hear what the Mexican politicans are saying. I translated this from the reactions gathered and reported by Víctor Ballinas, Ciro Pérez Silva, Angélica Enciso, Enrique Méndez, Alma Muñoz, and Rubén Villalpando in the 16 May 2006 Jornada. Politicians agree, Fox's foreign policy a failure Sending troops to the border is an insult The decision by the United States to send six thousand National Guardsmen to reinforce the Mexican border, and to halt undocumented immigrants, has provoked angry reaction in Mexico, where the proposal is called an offense to Mexico, an inadequate response, a grave and terrible failure for Mexican foreign relations and solely a method to increase the salary of human smugglers. Senators and Representatives of the various political parties who were asked about the matter consider it “offensive” that a nation would work against the dignity of any people. “Assigning resources and sending a force of this magnitude with the intent of using them to detain migrant transit would be good, if the military were focused instead on detaining organized crime and the drug traffic, which affects both countries,” said Chihuahua Governor, José Reyes Baeza. The Governor further added that “it is an abrupt measure which can only raise the risk of damaging migrant's human rights and bilateral relations between Mexican and the United States.” The State leader said the U.S. government and its Congress could find some more intellegent solution than militarizing the border, and raising steel walls, fences or a wall of military personnel. Presidential incompetence, charges Madrazo In Mexico City, the PRI-PVEM (Institutional Revolution-Green Party) Presidential candidate, Roberto Madrazo Pintado, said that the militarization of the northern border is evidence of a major foreign policy failure by President Fox's administration. Furthermore, the action is against the dignity of the people. “I've been saying this for the last five years. Fox has been incapable of presenting a clear policy to the U.S. government to resolve the serious problems of Mexicans who live in that country, and of those who go there because of work shortages caused by his failure to generate those seven million jobs he promised in his Presidential campaign. The only thing he's given Mexican have been promises of a 'complete enchilada' – something that now ended in a failed, and frankly absurd, decision, one everyone finds undignified. Meanwhile, the front-runner in the Presidential race, PAN's Felipe Calderón, had said he would not have any comment on the militarization of the border, but later in the evening distributed a press release stating he considered the U.S. decision “rewards those who believe more agents, fences and sensors are the solution to the migration issue.” “This focus,” he said, “is demonstrably mistaken, serving only to augment social and human costs for the migrants. It only benefits the criminal groups who profit from the hopes and sufferings of those who seek new opportunities for themselves and their families.” For his part, Senate President Enrique Jackson, asserted that the migratory question, and the militarization of the border would be discussed by the Permanent Committee in its Wednesday session.
[TRANS. NOTE: In theory, the Mexican House and Senate are always in session. “Permanent Committees” can still conduct business when the regular members are in recess].
PRI (Institutional Revolution) Senator Humberto Roque Villanueva, and PRD (Democratic Revolution) Senator Raymundo Cárdenas, both registered their disagreement with the U.S. government's action. Only PAN (National Action) Senator Cecilia Romero was clearly supportive of Fox: “we can do nothing to advance or incite the militarization of the border. Roque Villanueva predicted that there would be a signifant loss of human life, directly or indirectly, among those who intend to cross into the neighboring country, underscoring the administration's lack of the dignity and skill to negotiate with the United States, particularly on migration. The process, he said, has “ended in a terrible failure. The Senate will call on the Mexican adminsitraion, and also communicate to the United States Congress our insistence on a consultation on legal migration and legalization of undocumented Mexican,” he said. Democratic Revolution Senator, Raymundo Cárdenas, for his part, confirmed his belief that President Vicente Fox has made "unilateral concessions on every issue raised by our northern neighbor without anything in return except promises.” In the view of PRI and PRD Deputies on the Foreign Relations Committee questioned by the media, the rationales given for sending troops to the border is no only “offensive” to this country, but also increases the conditions that put migrants at risk – of their lives, and of their human rights. The legislators lament that President Fox accepted “this action, which simply fulfills an old threat” by the U.S. Adminstration to apply security measures. However, National Action (PAN) justifies the decision by the U.S., claiming that they consider it “preferable that there are forces of insititutional order rather than free-lance migrant hunters controlling the passage of Mexican migrants.
[TRANS NOTE: “cazamigrantes” -- "immigrant hunters" is the word used for unofficial groups claiming to assist the U.S. Border Patrol]
In the meantime, Manuelo Fabio Beltrones, head of the PRI “People's Sector” sensed “an old story we've lived through before. You can't tell me there's been much success in Mexican foreign policy, that there haven't been too many mistakes. It's very important that we look to the future, because we can't continue a foreign policy that only brings failure, confrontation and benefits no one.”
[TRANS NOTE: “Sector Popular” -- PRI is organized by sectors... workers, campesinos, etc. Beltrones heads the general party member sector. Under Mexico's complex proportional representation system, his election to the senate as a “plurinomial” Senator depends on how well his party does in the general election. He is a powerful, and very important, Mexican politician]
For Secretary General of the Democratic Revolution Party (PRD), Guadalupe Acosta Naranjo, the decision to militarize the border is comparable to the segregationist and racist policies used by the Nazis against the Jews; to the apartheid regime's policy on blacks in South Africa; and to the actions of other authoritarian governments. She called it “most lamentable” that the Mexican president kept silent after his U.S. counterpart had mentioned in their Sunday telephone conversation that the United States did not intend to militarize the border. She said, for Fox "Bush's word was enough to guarantee the rights of Mexicans, when in reality, they are seen as a danger to U.S. national security.” And, she added, Bush "doesn't care if he creates a climate of xenophobia and violence, of more discrimination agianst everyone, particularly Mexicans. As a rule, right-wingers also believe migrants are a danger to their country, and we're speaking of the most extreme right-wingers in the world: Nazi Germany, the white South African government, and many rightist governments." At the other end of the political spectrum, National Action (PAN) Secretary General, César Nava, considered the matter lamentable, and contrary to the hopes of the adminstration, noting that “this measure will naturally augment the risks to our compatriots who have crossed into the United States and will increase the swag taken by smuggles who get rich at the migrants' expense".

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

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Kick 'em when they're up, kick 'em when they're down...

... we love dirty laundry! (though it MAY not work): Kelly Arthur Garrett, the Herald's best-damn political reporter, questions whether that "dangerous lefty" really is losing support to the "lackey running dog of the imperialist gringos": The latest voter preference poll released by EL UNIVERSAL Sunday confirmed conservative Felipe Calderón's slight lead in the presidential race, and validated the National Action Party candidate's decision to unleash a barrage of negative campaigning aimed at branding his chief oppo nent, former front-runner Andrés Manuel López Obrador, as “a danger to Mexico.” But neither the El Universal survey, nor six others released since the morning of the April 25 televised candidates' debate, has settled the question on every body's mind: Who is going to be the next president of Mexico? ... The [El Universal]poll has Calderón with 39 percent of likely voters, López Obrador of the Party of the Demo cratic Revolution (PRD) with 35 percent, and the Institutional Rev olutionary Party's (PRI’s) Robert Madrazo at 21 percent. Calderón gained five points since the last, pre-debate El Universal poll, while López Obrador, who skipped the debate, fell three. There has been a 14-point swing since March, when López Obrador held a 10-point advantage over Calderón. Since then, Calderón has pounded hard on the “danger” theme, accusing the PRD candidate of running up debts while mayor of the capital and of accepting help from Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez. More recently, Calderón has tried to associate López Obrador with the violent tactics of community groups in the troubled State of Mexico town of San Salvador Atenco, and with the newly re-en ergized Zapatista rebel leader Subcomandante Marcos.... [Lorenzo] Meyer wrote in his weekly Reforma column “ an act as opportunistic as it was unethical, the PAN candidate decided to connect AMLO with the violent recent events in Atenco to reinforce the idea (that he is a) danger.”
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¡Bush -- el Uniter no divisor!

As I've said many times (many ways), the answer to Steve Coble's question (on Did W Just Push Mexico Left? is a loud ¡SI!

So who is most likely to benefit when current President Vicente Fox's good buddy George W. Bush puts troops along the border? Which Mexican party is best positioned to jiu-jitsu Bush's transparent pander to the anti-Latino wing of the GOP, by turning W's new policy into an insult to the Mexican people?


We shall see, but I think W may just have accidentally tossed AMLO a life preserver. George W. claimed he was a uniter, not a divider, which has proven ironically accurate as country after country in South America has united to choose left-leaning parties. Will W help unite Mexicans against U.S. troops on the border? Does that open the door for AMLO?

And a rather tepid response from the Fox administration (note the timeline) (my translation from Notimex wirestory in El Universal)
23:10 Even before president George W. Bush announced plans to send the National Guard to the border, the consulates of Mexico in the United States said they would redouble their efforts to protect and to guarantee respect for the rights of Mexican nationals. When fixing its position before the Bush's announcement, the Mexican government, through the Secretariat of Foreign Relations (SRE, for its initials in Spanish), stated that "we will not scrimt on resources" when it comes guaranteeing the respect for the rights of Mexican nationals. The undersecretary for North American Affairs, Gerónimo Gutiérrez, made public an official notice stating that the Mexican actions will be independent of any actions arising "from the capacity with which to the National Guard or the local authorities" of the United States participate. ... Although Mexico has received securities that the measures do not imply the militarization of the border, Gutiérrez added, "we must state our concern that these actions not yet are accompanied by sufficient advances in the legislative process". The undersecretary for North America left in clear that better and more secure legal migration is the only way to guarantee the security of the common border and to fight organized crime, drug trafficing and to deal with common security threats.

Monday, May 15, 2006

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"Anti-Immigrants aren't racists", part II...

... it took the Germans less than four years to rid themselves of 6 million Jews, many of whom spoke German and were fully integrated into German society, it couldn't possibly take more than eight years to deport 12 million illegal aliens, many of whom don't speak English and are not integrated into American society.

Vox Day ("a member of the SFWA, Mensa and the Southern Baptist church"): in World Net Daily, 15 May 2006)

Can it happen here? That Mexico, a 97 percent Catholic country, ever became a haven for Jews, is in itself remarkable. By and large, it is a tribute to kindness and tolerance on the part of Mexicans and bears witness to the ability of Jews to adapt to new environments. (Shep Lenchek, The Jews in Mexico, © 2000)