Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Vicente Fox and Mexico's greatest president

In Georgie Anne Geyer's article, Is the tide finally turning in Mexico?, she makes another error. She says,
There are no voluntary organizations, no civic involvement, no family foundations – and thus, no accountability, allowing corruption to flourish.
This is very much not true. Almost every wealthy Mexican family has some sort of philanthropic organization which the family funds. For example:

From Carlos Slim Helu, himself:
Telmex and Grupo Carso each have foundations, with a combined fund of $850 million, which will reach $1 billion this year. Last year, we gave out 17,000 scholarships to college students.

We fund infant nutrition programs. Last year, we helped cover the expenses of 11,000 surgical operations in rural areas.
Then, unfortunately, comes this laugher:
We paid bail for 5,000 first-time arrestees accused of minor crimes, so that they wouldn't sit for years in jail waiting for the slow justice system to move.
Imagine Bill Gates bragging about helping to put 5000 petty criminals back on the streets. And I love that name; Carlos Slim. It reminds me of the conversation between Arthur Kennedy and Sir Alec Guinness in Lawrence of Arabia. Guinness, as Prince Feisal, had just offered a back-handed compliment on the cleverness of Peter O'Toole's T. E. Lawrence. Kennedy, playing American newspaperman Jackson Bentley, replied, "Yes, he's a slim customer, isn't he?" Feisal didn't understand "slim customer". Bentley said, "Never mind."

Mexico is filled with hundreds, if not thousands, of volunteer organizations. They just don't stay volunteer for very long. The campesinos whom you see and read about marching in the streets can't afford to travel to the various state capitals to make their displeasure known, let alone all the way to Mexico City. So, someone has to pay their expenses.

Who pays for the transportation and their food when they travel and march, or riot? The political parties which are controlled by the oligarchs and the 40 rich families pay these expenses. The campesinos march around for awhile, disrupting traffic and the daily lives of the almost-just-as-poor city dwellers, then they return home having received platitudes and empty promises from the politicians. The politicians who are also controlled by those same oligarchs and 40 richest families.

What Ms. Geyer and most American pundits do not realize is that it is Mexican culture to be uncivil. A person who takes great pride in keeping their little part of the world clean and neat will thoughtlessly toss an empty sandwich wrapper or drink container out of the window of their taxi or bus so long as it lands in someone elses little part of the world. I see this constantly and still, after all this time, do not cease to shake my head in wonder. A person driving a car will honk their horn in a fury at someone who double parks in front of them forcing them to go around. Then, two blocks later, having arrived at their destination, the furious horn honker will do exactly the same thing to the car behind. Unbelievable.

Mexicans, at least the majority of them, want and expect a nanny state. The government owns almost everything that the oligarchs and rich families do not. The oil belongs to the government. Natural gas belongs to the government. The water belongs to the government. The electrical grid all belongs to the government. The two biggest airlines belong to the government (they are technically privatized but receive cost breaks on fuel which drives out competitors, hence they are owned by the government). Minerals and metals in the ground belong to the government. And on and on.

And Vicente Fox created none of this. His attempts to allow some private enterprise into the elecrical supply grid and the oil industry were soundly defeated in the congress. He stood no chance.

In 1994, the hand picked candidate for the presidency from the PRI, the political party that ruled Mexico for 70 some years, was Donaldo Colosio. Colosio seemed to be the typical party hack of the type usually chosen to run for and win the presidency for the PRI. But something went wrong. Colosio, both in public statements and in private shout fests, proclaimed his independence. Therefore, on a campaign appearance in Tijuana on March 22, 1994, Colosio received three bullets in the head -- in front of thousands of witnesses and on national TV.

The guy who managed to shoot him three times can be seen in the films firing one shot only into the back of Colosio's head before being swarmed under by bodyguards and the police. Where did the other two bullets come from? The man shown firing one shot into Colosio's head was paraded the next day before the press by the triumphant police. "We catcht dee keeler!" Only one small problem; no one could recognize the guy. His appearence had miraculously changed overnight. The police claimed that they had shaved him and given him a prison haircut but insisted it was the same guy. After much missing evidence, missing witnesses, bribes and payoffs and the typically corrupt and botched investigation, a judge ruled, and with a completely straight face, that the man committed the assassination alone.

In any event, a fellow by the name of Ernesto Zedillo Ponce de Leon was chosen to succeed Colosio. Zedillo was another faithful party flunky who was expected to toe the line, especially given the somewhat glaring example of Colosio's fate. And, I suppose, for a little while, he toed that line. But not for long. Outgoing President Carlos Salinas de Gortari had presided over what was maybe the most corrupt 6 year presidential term in Mexico's long and horrific history of corrupt regimes. Zedillo had to take some kind of action as the county was sliding towards ungovernability. He arrested Salinas' brother, Raul, known as "Mr. 10 Percent", for, among other things, the murder of the PRI party president, Jose Francisco Ruiz Massieu, on September 28, 1994, just 6 months after Colosio's murder. The Salinas boys were fighting desperately to cling to power. Raul was thrown into prison and Carlos fled the country.

Zedillo had a real mess on his hands. He tried to devalue the peso which had been propped up artificially by the Salinas regime. This was a common practice by the Mexican government and had been going on for many years. The outgoing president was required by custom to devalue the peso just before leaving office so that the incoming president could begin the artificial currency inflation anew. Kind of like a courtesy flush. Carlos Salinas didn't do this for Ernesto Zedillo. Zedillo foolishly allowed the peso to float freely for a couple of seconds too long. It crashed.

The Mexican peso lost a full 60% of its value almost overnight, plunging Mexico into a financial disaster. Only emergency loans, guaranteed by the USA, bailed Mexico out. However, Mexico's budding middle class was devastated. I was here at that time and several of my employees lost their homes and cars. Mexican banks at that time only issued variable rate loans. The interest rates they charged caused people's mortgage and home loan payments, as well as tens of thousands of business loan payments, to double and triple within weeks of the peso disaster. Just about everybody, except, of course, for the oligarchs and rich families who owned the banks, got wiped out.

This was not really Zedillo's fault. He trusted his economic advisers -- who else did he have? -- and they had no idea that the peso was so falsely overvalued by the Salinas regime or what was likely to happen with a free float. In any event, Raul Salinas was still in jail and Carlos Salinas was still out of the country. Zedillo spent the next 6 years trying to rebuild Mexico's shattered economy.

As for Raul, he received a sentence of 30 years for the murder of Massieu. Then, as time went by, he was charged with additional counts of illegal enrichment and money laundering. He had his sentence increased to 40 years and then to 50 years. Then a friendlier judge reduced it back to 40 years. Then a still friendlier judge reduced it again to the original 30 years. Then the friendliest judge of all tossed out all the remaining charges due to "lack of evidence" and Raul, after 12 years in prison, walked out a free man just about 3 weeks ago.

Meanwhile, shoes kept dropping on Zedillo's head. He appointed a Mexican Federal drug czar, one Gen. Jose de Jesus Gutierrez Rebollo. Gutierrez Rebollo, who America's very own drug czar, Gen. Barry McCaffrey, called, "an honest man" and "a guy of absolute unquestioned integrity," was arrested by Zedillo's federal agents. Gen. Gutierrez Rebollo was arrested for being in the long-time employ of Mexico's most notorious narcotraficante, Amado Carrillo Fuentes, the alleged leader of the Juarez drug cartel.

All this supposedly happened without the knowledge of the American government. I don't think that is true. I have been told that the CIA was well aware of Gutiérrez's involvement with Carrillo Fuentes and had been for several years. I have been told that the CIA went into shock when Zedillo announced the general's appointment. I have been told that the CIA dropped this bombshell into Zedillo's lap and then sat back to see what he would do. It is possible that the CIA did not inform President Clinton or Gen. McCaffrey beforehand. Zedillo did the right thing. Gutierrez Rebollo went directly to jail, did not pass GO, and did not collect $100.

Meanwhile. in the state of Guanajuato, Vicente Fox had been elected for the second time to the governorship. He would, however, be serving his first term. He had run for the post in 1991 and been elected, but again, as has happened so often in Mexico, the PRI which controlled the ballot counting announced that their candidate had won. The stink raised by Fox and the PAN was so smelly and noisy that President Carlos Salinas was forced to remove the newly installed PRI governor. And did he give the job to Vicente Fox, the election winner? No, as El Presidente, he decided to pick another PAN political hack more friendly to his regime and installed him as the governor. Unbelievable. Fox was so disgusted that he dropped out of politics completely.

Then, in 1995, Fox decided to run again, was elected again by a wide margin and this time he was allowed to take his rightfully won office. He soon began to campaign for president without the full support of the PAN. By the time the candidate choosing process began, he was so popular that the PAN had no option but to choose him as its candidate. The PRI, headed by President Zedillo himself, chose a guy named Francisco Labastida Ochoa, who makes the word "colorless" seem too colorful, as its candidate. And, of course, old leftist PRD warhorse Cuahtemoc Cardenas rounded out the 3 man field.

Just a second on Cardenas. He actually won the presidential election in 1988, defeating Carlos Salinas. However, there was a mysterious computer crash at the department of the interior, run by a guy named Manuel Bartlett Díaz. It took 10 full days to get the computers up and running again, during which time Salinas miraculously vaulted from 3rd to 1st place. Adios, Cuahtemoc Cardenas. Bartlett's reward was the governorship of the state of Puebla. He made a run for the PRI nomination for president to face Fox in 2000 but his involvement in the massive election fraud in 1988 made him poisonous to even the PRI. Also, the CIA planted some stories, maybe false, maybe true, of his alleged involvement with narcotraficantes. He is now, I think, in the national senate.

And now we return to Ernesto Zedillo. I believe, with very little supporting evidence, that Zedillo, even as a party hack who had seen the inner workings of the PRI at almost every level, from local to state to federal, was stunned at the grip that the party had on the country. He was aghast at the control exercised over the party by the oligarchs and the rich Mexican families. He stood by with his hands tied as billions of dollars so desperately needed by the people were squandered by the PRI governments, federal, state and local. Sweetheart loans that were never repaid which drove the banks into insolvency which the government then had to take over, privatization deals where valuable government owned assets, like Telmex, were sold to rich oligarchs, like Carlos Slim, for a pittance, and example after example of corruption that Zedillo simply could not control.

So, when Vicente Fox decided to set out to wrest the presidency from the PRI after 71 corrupt and disastrous years, Ernesto Zedillo decided to sit out the wresting. Instead of using his considerable power as president to back the ghostly Labistida, Zedillo, quite simply, did nothing. I believe that he knew in his heart that Mexico could not survive another PRI regime.

Oh, he occasionally made a little noise, probably just to keep up appearances for his friends with whom he had worked for so many years. But Zedillo did not ever intend to do anything to help assure another PRI victory, tainted or otherwise. How much he did behind the scenes to torpedo his party remains open to speculation. But it is certain that he did little or nothing to help the PRI and Labastida.

When the dust settled in the 2000 election, Vicente Fox was the first opposition candidate elected president since the founding of the PRI in 1929. And Ernesto Zedillo left Mexico to become the president of the International Development Bank. He now lectures, I believe, from behind the safe confines of the ivy covered walls of Harvard U.

I think that it is fair to say that, without the withdrawal of Ernesto Zedillo from active participation in the 2000 Mexican presidential election, Vicente Fox would never have been president. That makes Zedillo, in my mind, anyway, arguably one of Mexico's greatest presidents, if not the greatest.

Francisco Madero led the Mexican revolution against president and dictator Porfirio Díaz in 1910 and was subsequently elected president. But he was also subsequently soon shot dead. His presidency never had a chance to be judged. The mythical Benito Juarez successfully took back control of the country from Emperor Maximillian. But Juarez's repudiation of the country's foreign debt which led to the French invasion and Maximillian's rule in the first place has tainted his reputation, except among the indigenous peoples because he was one of them.

And President Lázaro Cardenas, a Priista but also father of the PRD's Cuahtemoc Cardenas, is revered in Mexico for nationalizing the oil industry in 1938. But he formed PEMEX, probably second only to Nigeria's state owned oil company for incompetence and corruption. In addition, the expropriation of the property of 17 international oil companies caused several governments, most notably those of the United States and Great Britain, to boycott Mexican oil. Only WWII saved the Mexican economy. In 1942, Cardenas was forced to sign a reparations agreement that brought Mexico's foreign debt to a number that was staggering in those days, some $130,000,000. That debt, now in the hundreds of billions of dollars, remains to this day.

So I say that Ernesto Zedillo is Mexico's greatest president. He presided over the partial recovery from a financial meltdown that was not of his making, tossed one of the most powerful and corrupt men in the country who was also an ex-president's brother into the slammer, forced that corrupt ex-president to flee the country and arrested one of the most powerful military generals in the country as well as one who had the support of the country's most feared and deadly narcotraficante. And Ernesto Zedillo got out of Mexico alive. Viva Zedillo!

Next up: Immigration, legal and otherwise.

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Note: I didn't use Spellcheck because the Spanish accent marks drive Blogger nuts. It takes me 15 minutes to fix my post.

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Is the tide finally turning in Mexico? No.

Georgie Anne Geyer, writing in The San Diego Union-Tribune, asks, Is the tide finally turning in Mexico? I can answer that question.

I have written 2 or 3 posts about the current Mexican presidential race, immigration - or rather, illegal immigration - Mexcian politics and the reasons for Mexico's stance on an open border between itself and the USA. I was less than pleased with my efforts, didn't publish them, and ultimately deleted them. So, here goes a 2 or 3 parter on how we got to where we are and what the prospects are of changing the status quo. At least, from the perspective of an American who has lived in Mexico since 1994.

Ms. Geyer says,
In short, Mexico is so corrupt, so oligopolistic, so rotting inside with the privilege of the rich that it has to send its poor and its potential political activists to another country. And on top of that, it tries to blame the United States for its own failures.
All too true, Ms. Geyer. Later, she says,
There is virtually no industrialization, no small business, no real chance at individual entrepreneurship.
I'll give her two of three there. One of Mexico's biggest problems (that's almost an oxymoron because all of Mexico's problems could be classified as "its biggest") is the fact that only small businesses can be started and survive. By "small business" I mean the tens, or, perhaps, hundreds of thousands of mom and pop workshops and stores that crop up throughout the country.

For instance, within 2 blocks of my office are 3 grocery stores (10 x 20 feet each, each built into the former living rooms of apartments which here are called "houses"), a lady who cooks tamales in her kitchen Sat-Sun-Mon which her husband sells on the streets on Tuesday and she cooks tamales on Tue-Wed-Thur which her husband sells on Fridays (her operation is directly in front of my office and I have the roach infestation to prove it), a lady who turned her living room into a chicken rotisserie, a family that turned their living room into a lunchroom, a family whose mother and daughter cook and sell hotdogs every evening from a street vending cart which during the days is parked on their front porch, a lady who makes and freezes yoghurt popsicles and sells them through the front window of her "house", two different graphic arts advertising companies, and another family which sets up tables and chairs, partially blocking the street every Saturday and Sunday afternoon and sells lunches and dinners to the neighbors. All this within one block to the west and less than one block to the east of my office.

The neighborhood where my office is located is the norm, not the anomaly. As one moves around this city, or the city of Puebla, or Mexico City, or any city in Mexico, this is what you will see. Thousands upon thousands of small, independent businesses providing a meager return to their owner-operators. And I'm not even talking about the ambulantes (street vendors) who set up shop illegaly in every high traffic area in every city. Of those, there are tens of thousands more.

So, Ms. Geyer is wrong when she says that there are no small businesses. That's the problem. There are only small businesses. The oligarchs and the rich make sure that there are only small businesses. To further illustrate my point, Ms. Geyer underscores it herself with this:
Meanwhile, Mexico collects taxes equivalent to 9.7 percent of GDP, a figure on a par with Haiti; there is painfully little to spend on education and health care, which means there is no social mobility and little job opportunity.
Guess why. Of all the independent businesses that I just mentioned, only the two graphic arts companies pay taxes, if even they pay any taxes at all. None of them collects IVA, the omnipresent 15% VAT which is supposed to be paid on all goods and services rendered in the country and, therefore, none is paid to the government.

If and when a health inspector or tax collector comes around, the owners plead for mercy, pay the inspector/collector a few hundred pesos in bribes, receive the requested mercy, and the inspector/collector goes away until the next time when the scenario is replayed. Let me ask you this; What else is the inspector/collector going to do? He's not going to try to shut down a neighborhood mom and pop business. So long as they wet his beak just a bit, he's not even going to threaten them too much or give their illegal businesses too hard a time. Why not? Because, A: How else are these people going to survive? and, B: the neighbors would quickly gather a force and lynch the inspector causing great embarrassment to the city's mayor and the state's governor as well as to the local police forces whose asses they would also kick. Trust me, it's happened many times.

Ms. Geyer says,
When I was in Mexico last fall, after dozens of visits over the years, people on every political and social level confirmed these accusations, complaining to me of Fox's failures. Forty families still own 60 percent of Mexico. There are no voluntary organizations, no civic involvement, no family foundations – and thus, no accountability, allowing corruption to flourish.
Ms. Geyer, I was in Mexico last fall also. I was in Mexico last winter, last summer and last spring as well as the previous 43 seasons. And I don't know who you were talking to but they must have been from a very sheltered clan. Fox didn't do the things he promised to do because he couldn't.

If 40 families own 60% of the country, what is a non-member like Fox going to do about it? He has to get legislation through the federal congress which he does not control. The rich and the oligarchs control the congress. Fox is a member of the PAN political party. The PRI, which had controlled the presidency and the country for the previous 70 odd years prior to Fox's victory in 2000, and the PRD, which is the leftist party currently sponsoring presidential candidate Andres Manuel López Obrador (AMLO), were bitter enemies. So bitter that murder and assassination, mostly but not exclusively by the PRI, was a favored and common political tool. However, once a Panista was elected president, the PRI and the PRD suddenly became best of buddies, at least in the congress, and successfully blocked almost all of Fox's initiatives. He was stuck and he has remained stuck. There was absolutely nothing that he could do.

Ms. Geyer describes Fox as "laconic". That's true and therein lies his failure as a reform leader. A successful reformer needs a big mouth. He's got to give no quarter, knowing that not all his reform goals will be met. It is Fox's nature to try to win by negotiation, sound argument, presenting facts, etc. That doesn't work here. When a legislator who works only a few months out of the year, is being paid $148,000 a year, plus a $28,000 “leaving-office bonus” at the end of the term (deputies cannot stand for re-election), all at the behest of the oligarchs and the wealthy 40 families, who cares what a laconic reformer wants. Screw'im.

Do you think that President Bush lies awake at night worrying about what August A. Busch, Jr. is up to? Fox lies awake at night worrying about what María Asunción Aramburuzabala, owner of Grupo Modelo and wife of US Ambassador Tony Garza, is up to. She's worth $2 billion and owns a chunk of Televisa to boot. She's a member of both the groups: the richest 40 families as well as an oligarch. Plus, she's married to the US ambassador. Sweet, but not so sweet for Fox. And why is Tony Garza still the US ambassador to Mexico? After his marriage last year to one of the people most responsible for the disaster that is Mexico, he should have been reassigned to Latvia.

Was the US Department of Justice afraid to take on Microsoft and the richest man in the world? Nah. The DOJ not only took on Bill Gates and his company, but also slapped him around pretty well. Could Fox's government take on Carlos Slim and his company, Telmex, which controls 96% of fixed land lines and 80% of the cellular phone market in Mexico? Don't make me laugh.

Do the Republican party movers and shakers worry too much about Rupert Murdoch's fixation with Hillary Clinton? I doubt that they like it, but I also doubt that they lose any sleep over it. But I am sure that Fox loses sleep over Ricardo Salinas Pliego, owner of TV Azteca as well as Emilio Azcarraga Jean, owner of Televisa. If they go against him, he couldn't leave his residence at Los Pinos. American Black Hawks would have to fly in and rescue him and his family.

If Fox's government was ever to take on any of these or several other oligarchs or rich Mexican families, some or all of the following would happen:
1. Judges would be bribed.
2. Judges would be threatened.
3. Judges would be shot dead.
4. Government lawyers would be bribed.
5. Government lawyers would be threatened.
6. Government lawyers would be shot dead
7. Fox would be threatened (he's not going to accept a bribe).
8. Fox would be shot dead.
And Vicente Fox is well aware of this.

If Vicente Fox and the Mexican government cannot gain control of the streets in a mid-sized city (pop. 400,000) like Nuevo Laredo after almost a year of effort, what chance does his government have to gain control of the legislature or the courts or public opinion or the oligarchs or the richest 40 families that own 60% of the country or a 1951 mile international border with the United States? Answer: None whatsoever.

When I first arrived in Mexico in 1994, on my very first day there, I had lunch with a Mexican customer in downtown Matamoros. He told me the following:
Mark, I'm going to tell you a story that will explain who we Mexicans are and you must remember it well. Out there in the Gulf there is a demarcation line separating the United States and Mexico. On the north side of that line, in US waters, lies a crab trap set there by US fishermen. It is filled with US crabs. They are all desperately trying to escape from the trap. They are fighting and biting and pinching and climbing on top of one another, all in their efforts to escape. If one should be so lucky as to discover a way out, all the rest will follow.

Now, south of that line, in Mexican waters, there is another crab trap, this one placed there by Mexican fishermen. It, too, is filled with crabs, only they are Mexican crabs. They are all backed up against the inside walls of the trap eyeing each other suspiciously. If one of them appears to be making a successful effort to escape, the others rush in to drag him back.

Remember this about Mexico and you'll do OK here.
He was buttering a dinner roll slowly, deliberately and thoughtfully as he spoke and he never looked me in the eyes throughout his little lesson. After he finished, he bent his head and continued to eat. He was ashamed, I guess. He also didn't want any questions. But he was a good guy and wanted me to start my stay in Mexico armed with the best possible knowledge of his people that he knew how to give me. I'll never forget that lesson and, in the months and years that followed, his words rang true and the now ring more true than ever.

Next up: A man who should be remembered as one of Mexico's greatest presidents and Vicente Fox (they aren't the same guy).

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Note: Not spell-checked because Blogger goes nuts with Spanish accent marks.

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Monday, May 29, 2006

Sunday, May 28, 2006

They gave me a HAT. I have the HAT.

What's with John Kerry and his stupid magic hat. He is still insisting that he ferried Martin Sheen up the Blue Nile river on a top secret mission to find and kill Marlon Brando. Sheen was assigned this mission because the Army brass had decided that Brando had to go due to his unacceptable weight gain and talking with cotton balls stuffed in his jowls. The generals in Saigon, capital of Cambodia, couldn't understand anything he was saying over the field telephone when he was speaking in Morse Code. For example, when Brando called to say "Merry Christmas", the generals thought they heard, "May you kiss my ass." So, they ordered the recently decorated hero John Kerry (who had shot himself in the fingernail) to ferry the notoriously bloodthirsty right-wing bigot with the idiot sons (Sheen) to the border between Laos and Tasmania to find and silence Don Vito Brando.

As proof, Kerry offers an Army/Navy Surplus Store campaign hat that he carries around in a secret magic briefcase (its secret is that it is covered in bull elephant foreskin and the magic is that, when you rub the side of the briefcase, it grows into a full-size Pullman suitcase).
"They gave me a hat," Mr. Kerry says. "I have the hat to this day," he declares, rising to pull it from his briefcase. "I have the hat."
Ok, ok, you've got the damned hat. The people listed below all were quite proud of their hats, too, and justifiably so.

Benedict had a hat but traded it for a red coat.

Jimmah's got a hey-at.

Fonda's fond-a her Hanoi helmet.

J. W. in his hat. Abe could have used Jane's Hanoi helmet.

Billy Bonney has a bonnet but it's now Pat's hat.

George has a hat but no longer any hair to wear under it.

Antonio Lopez has a hat under which he gloriously wins an abandoned Spanish mission and un-gloriously loses 2/3rds of New Spain.
Pancho looks pretty pithy in his hat.

Al Capone wears his hat to Al Catraz.

J. Edgar and his closeted Clyde wear their hats gayly.

Adolph proudly wears his hat as he bids adieu to 20 million souls, give or take.

Uncle Joe proudly wears his hat as he bids adieu to 30 million souls, give or take.

Mao proudly wears his hat as he bids adieu to 50 million souls, give or take.

Tojo wears his hat as he formally accepts invitation to a necktie party.

Elijah wears a hat as he steals Cassius from us and orders Malcolm XX'd out.

Idi wears a hat as he says, "U-take-a U-gand-a." Amen.

Jack wears a hat when he stings Darryl, permanently. Jack says, "Tough taters."

Fidel wears his hat for its brain-cooling effects during 6 hour speeches in the Caribbean sun.

Bobby Moogobby wears his hat as he declares, "A chicken in every pot." He then confiscates everybody's pots and blames Bush/Blair.

Jefferson Davis Hogg wears a big white hat and waves a governator-sized seegar.

Not to be outdone by any of the aforementioned, Mark in Mexico wears two (2) hats on the beach in Huatulco. One to cover his face and the other to cover . . . well . . . not that much, really.

La Cucuracha! La Cucuracha!
Yada yada yada yada.

La Cucuracha! La Cucuracha!
Yada yada yada yada.

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John Kerry was an Army Ranger

Stars and Stripes, the newspaper that my father read in Belgium and France, reports that Jesse MacBeth, feared hunter-killer of the US Army combined Special Forces/Rangers/Airborne/Swift Boat/M1A1/7th Cavalry/SWAT/MASH/STEELERS/USPS/NASCAR operation in Iraq, said, when asked why the Army found no record of his service,

"They did the same thing to John Kerry."

Wow! I didn't know that. The Army said it couldn't find any record of Kerry having served in the Army. Lying bastards.

Sgt. Major Lt. (jg) Col. (Full Bird) Benjamin Hill, commander of the US Army's combined Special Forces / Rangers / Airborne / Swift Boat / M1A1 / 7th Cavalry / SWAT / MASH / STEELERS / USPS / NASCAR Expeditionary Force (commonly known as SFRASBM1A17CSMSUSPSNASCAR, but more commonly referred to by the acronym T.H.E.M.) in Belgravia, Yugoslavia.

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Friday, May 26, 2006

Senate: NSA wiretapping? No Problem!

The Senate confirmed Michael Hayden, architect of the NSA telephone surveillance program, as the new director of the staggering CIA by a vote of 78-15. That means that at least 78% of the 100 United States Senators currently on the public dole don't seem to have a big problem with the NSA's warrantless surveillance program. Or, as Helen Thomas so dearly loves to call it, "the illegal tapping of private citizen's private telephone conversations, held in private, and why did we illegally invade Iraq in such an illegal manner?"

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Spanish-American War paid for, finally.

What has turned out to be the most expensive war in US history, the Spanish-American War, has finally been paid for. The 3% tax on long distance phone calls, enacted in 1898 to help pay for the war, has been repealed. In fact, government bean counters have determined that there has been a $15 billion overcharge and that money will be refunded to taxpayers and businesses next year. The Treasury department has ordered telephone companies to stop adding the tax to consumer and business phone bills as of August 1.

Wow! 109 years to pay for a war that Teddy R won in a 15 minute charge up San Juan Hill in Cuba. Bully!

Treasury Secretary John Snow announced proudly, "It's not often you get to kill a tax, particularly one that goes back so far in history." What he didn't mention is that the federal government has been fighting in court for years to maintain this illegal tax. Only after losing the last four consecutive appeals court cases did our government throw in the towel and concede defeat. The government's overall record in defending the tax is 1-10. One win in a lower court and 10 defeats in various lower courts and circuit courts.

The fight over the tax has lasted far longer than the actual war. In reality, federal appeals court judges killed the tax. I guess that's who Snow meant by "you".

Congress tried to kill the tax in 2000 but President Clinton vetoed the bill. I cannot find any source that gives a total of the amount collected over the past 109 years, but this source (Bleeding Heart Anti-war Website Warning!) says that, between 1966 and 2001, the illegal tax collected $89 billion and about $6 billion per year since..

The last Spanish-American War veteran, Nathan E. Cook, died 9/10/1992, age 106, leaving behind a debt of about $52 billion. That debt has finally been paid. The House of Representatives voted on May 25, 2000 (6 years ago) to kill the tax by a vote of 420-2 in roll call 233, 109th Congress, 2nd Session.

The two congressmen who, along with President Clinton, continued to insist that ol' Nate still owed us money were the loudmouth Pete Stark (he of "You little fruitcake" and "c**ks***er" fame) and, tah dah, John Murtha. Murtha has always made noises about being the serviceman's friend. And he may be, so long as you're not a poor dead 106 year-old Spanish-American War serviceman nor a serviceman currently deployed in Iraq nor a serviceman currently deployed in Afghanistan nor any serviceman currently under the ultimate command of one George W. Bush.

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Thursday, May 25, 2006

"We stole."

"We stole. We all benefited financially at the expense of others."
Andrew Fastow, former Chief Financial Officer, Enron Corporation
Here are the details of the Lay/Skilling/Enron trial verdicts. It didn't go well for either one. Remember that Lay went through a second, judge only, trial for bank fraud during the jury deliberations in the conspiracy and fraud trial. The judge witheld his verdict on the bank fraud charges until after the Lay/Skilling trial verdicts.

Jeffrey Skilling was convicted on 19 of 28 conspiracy and fraud charges. He will appeal. He was found innocent on 9 other charges. Presumably he will not appeal those 9 innocent verdicts.

Kenneth Lay was convicted on all 6 counts of conspiracy and fraud. Then, to make Lay's bad day worse, the judge in the separate bank fraud case released his verdict: guilty on all 4 counts of bank fraud.

The judge set sentencing for September 11, an intersting choice of dates, don't you think? 9/11 will take on a whole new meaning to Messrs. Lay and Skilling. The judge set bail for Lay at $5,000,000 and directed him to hand over his passport before leaving the federal courthouse in Houston.

Skilling's lawyer immediately announced an appeal, paraphrasing Capt. John Paul Jones with, "As I told (Skilling), we've just begun the fight." Skilling was available for comments after the verdicts were read but Lay made himself scarce. I would imagine that Lay will also appeal. Why not? At his age, his prison term will almost assure that he will die behind bars.

It will be interesting to see how the judge metes out financial penalties. If he were to strip both Lay and Skilling of every cent they have to their names as well as all property and any and all other assets, it wouldn't account for a drop in the bucket of the financial losses they helped cause. I guess we wait for Lay's and Skilling's personal 9/11 to find out.

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Jury: Lay and Skilling guilty.

Kenneth Lay and Jeffrey Skilling were both convicted of conspiracy and fraud in the Enron case. The verdicts, announced just minutes ago, are not yet on the wires, at least not where I can access them.

I'm probably among the majority in being pleased with the verdicts. I think it was always a real stretch to try to believe Skilling and Lay, presidents and chairman of the board, respectively, of Enron, that they had no knowledge of Andrew Fastow's financial shenanigans. How could one possibly believe that the CFO of Enron could bankrupt the company, costing tens of thousands of people billions of dollars, many of them their life savings, without any knowledge whatsoever of the president and the chairman of the company? Preposterous, if you ask me. Preposterous, even if you don't ask me.

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Oil prices to crash?

NewsMax says that
Financial Intelligence Report says that
Saudi Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi says that
oil prices will plummet to as low as $40/barrel within the next year on reduced demand.

This is a sales pitch by NewsMax for the Financial Intelligence Report but I guess the base data is the same whether you subscribe to the report or not. That is to say, I am sure that if you subscribe to the report you are not going to be be advised that oil prices will double in the next year to $120/per barrel on increased demand.

Happy Days are here again.

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Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Some Doubts about the Kiwis

News.com.au from Australia reports that New Zealand leads the world in Google searches for "sheep". Kiwis are #2 in Google searches for "girlfriend". And the Kiwis also rank #2 in searches for "porn".



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Monday, May 22, 2006

Fight depression with a permanent smile.

Fake it till you make it.

According to this report, medical researchers are proposing a theory, backed up by a limited trial, that a chemically induced permanent grin (with botox) will chase the blues away. Well, it worked for this fellow.In fact, he became my number one guy.

You know, this botox stuff is becoming so popular I'm thinking about letting my garbage pile up in the back. A botulinum toxin farm, so to speak.

Or maybe not.

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A defense for Ray Nagin

Laura at Pursuing Holiness steps up for Ray Nagin. I think that it is important to listen to her side of the story, or rather, Nagin's side as she presents it. She sounds a bit defensive and I guess if I were a New Orleans citizen I would be a bit defensive, too.

In In Defense of Nagin she says that charges of corruption against Nagin (which Mark in Mexico has not made) are unfounded. She challenges those making such charges to step up with credible evidence. Well, there you go boys, you've been called. If yur a-holden 'em, show 'em.

She responds as follows to one charge made here.
There has been criticism that Nagin did not immediately straighten out the Levee Board when he took office. The Levee Board is appointed by the Governor and they are useless. The Mayor is not empowered to change it. He likewise has no control over the Corps of Engineers, who is largely responsible for the damage in New Orleans. If the levees had held as promised, we’d have been back to normal a month after the storm.
That's a two-parter. First, I did not realize or had forgotten that the levee boards were appointed by the governor. Another nail in Kathleen Blanco's political coffin, I guess. So, I apologize for holding Nagin responsible for not cleaning up the corrupt levee boards.

Secondly, Laura says that the levees did not hold as promised. I don't think that is completely accurate. The levees were overtopped and everybody in official capacities knew or had been warned many times that a storm surge of sufficient height would overtop the levees. Once the levees are overtopped, all bets are off over whether they will or will not hold up. Both the scouring effect from water on the outside of the levees as well as impact from heavy objects, like boats and barges, can cause sections of the levees to fail. This, I think, is what occurred. In any case, the levee specifications, design and construction are not under the control of the New Orleans mayor and were all completed long before anyone ever heard of Ray Nagin.

In “Chocolateville” Ray Nagin won - and it’s a good thing, Laura admits to some of Nagin's flaws, but says,
Nagin made plenty of mistakes, but they were honest mistakes, and we can tell the difference.
And maybe she spells out the bottom line with this;
A vote for Nagin was a vote for honest government. Is Nagin perfect? Of course not. Do we like the fact that the race card (deck!) was played? Of course not. Do we want our money - and yours! - handled honestly? Yes, we do.

New Orleans had a choice between a man who has actively fought corruption from his first week in office, and a man well entrenched in Louisiana politics, a “Cajun Kennedy” who spent almost a million taxpayer dollars redecorating. Given the amount of federal money that will hopefully, eventually, flow through New Orleans, who would you prefer we elected?
Well, ma'am, taxdollarwise, I 'spect you're right.

I guess maybe one way to look at this is that everybody got buried, at least initially, by the scope of the disaster. The one thing that sticks out, at least to me, and continues to haunt recovery efforts, is the mountain of bureaucratic red tape that no one seems to be able to cut through with any success, with the possible exception of Gov. Haley Barbour over there in Mississippi. I don't know what the hell you do about that.

Laura does complement Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco, however, saying she,
. . . would make a fine 2nd grade teacher . . .

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Sunday, May 21, 2006

Goodbye New Orleans . . . and good riddance

I no longer have any sympathy whatsoever for the Katrina victims of New Orleans. Yesterday, they re-elected the man who was the front line commander of the botched hurricane response that first headed the whole affair in the direction of being the worst natural disaster in American history. Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco and the federal response from FEMA completed the job that the incompetent Mayor Ray Nagin began.

It wasn't Nagin's fault that the levees were breached nor that some sections failed after the breaching. But is was partially the fault of the various corrupt parish levee boards. What did Nagin do in his years in office prior to the hurricane to clean up or at least begin to reform the notoriously corrupt and incompetent levee boards? Nothing. And Nagin's mishandling of the evacuation and subsequent first response has been well documented. "Hep! Hep! Sumbody save us from mahself!"

So, Ray Nagin gets re-elected. How can this happen? The guy who is almost wholly responsible for the initial death and misery suffered by the citizens of New Orleans is returned to office by those same citizens, er, those that survived, that is. I wonder how many dead New Orleans citizens cast their ballots for him? Many, I would guess.

Maybe he got re-elected because, hey, why not? His opponent, Mitch Landrieu, is a member of a long time power brokering family in New Orleans that includes current Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu (D), his sister, and former long time New Orleans mayor Moon Landrieu (D), his father. It is always most beneficial economically to keep that down home tradition of corruption all in the family, ain't it, y'all?

In the same election, two of seven incumbent tax assessors defeated their "I Quit" opponents handily. Four others won re-election in April and only one was unseated. New Orleans is America's only major city where the assessor's responsibilities are split up -- in seven different districts. Every other major American city has only one tax assessor's office. New Orleans needs seven. The IQ team sought to defeat the incumbents and then lobby for the seven tax assessors to be combined into one.
The Tax Commission discovered more problems when it did another study last year. Overall, the commission concluded that 80 percent of assessments in New Orleans were flawed.
80%? How does a city function when its property tax base is 80% wrong? One of the re-elected assessors, Betty Jefferson, holds the distinction of being tagged, "the worst-performing assessor in New Orleans" by the Louisiana Tax Commission. Their study said that the uniformity of her assessments maintained an error rate of 55%, when 20% is considered acceptable. In one egregious case, she assessed a property's value at $243,200 when the property was really worth $850,000, saving the property owner $11,000 per year in property taxes. I wonder where a good portion of that $11,000 went every year. But good 'ol Betty gets returned to office, and handily, too.

New Orleans voters, demonstrating that they are no more stuck on stupid today than in the past, returned some assessors to office whose families have held the assessor's position in their grip for more than 100 years. That's 100 years or more of corruption and incompetence and the voters jist keep'em on a'comin'.
In 2003, the Louisiana Tax Commission found that almost half of the properties in New Orleans owned by assessors or their families were undervalued as much as 70 percent.
Betty Jefferson just happens to be the sister of Rep. William Jefferson (D-New Orleans) who has been in the news just a bit, lately. Two people have pleaded guilty to shoveling at least $400,000 in bribe money his way. And remember that he is the fat cat who commandeered a badly-needed-elsewhere National Guard convoy to take him to his house in New Orleans just a few days after the hurricane struck. A service that was not available to the New Orleans citizens who continue to support him and return him to office election after election. More of that Republican corruption, I guess.

It's just like Mexico, folks. There is this steady barrage of hootin' and hollerin' about how "We gots to change this and we gots to change that," but when the campaign money starts greasing palms, the same ol' same ol' keep getting returned to power. And we're supposed to have some sympathy for them. I think not.

Oh, yeah, it's because I'm a racist.

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Friday, May 19, 2006

Badges? I don't gots to show you no stinkin' badges!

Our old buddy in Iran, Mymood Ahmadanadajihad, has proposed that all non-Muslims in Iran be required to wear color-coded badges to identify them as apostates, heretics and, well, Jews, especially. I vaguely remembered hearing about somebody else doing about this same thing, once. So, I did a little research and found some fine examples of Jew badges that the Iranians and their president, Mymood Ahmadanadajihad, can use as precedents. That is, if Mymood has enough time between writing his various letters to the Great Satan, the Catholic Apostate Kahuna and others. I hear he's looking for the zip code of the Dalai Lama even as we speak.

The branding of Jews with a special sign in Nazi Germany and the occupied countries was designed to enable them to be distinguished from the general population, and consequently isolated from it and degraded in its eyes.

The Jews themselves were required to manufacture the badges and distribute them.
And, hey! If he follows the historical lead, he can also find gainful employment for the ne'er-do-well Jooz there in Iran, making their own badges.

Much more here. And much more at Hot Air, Atlas Shrugs, Clayton Cramer, Jeff Goldstein (he may be a bit slanted against the idea -- I mean, look at his name -- does that look Zoroastrian to you?), Democracy Project might be going just a bit overboard, Andrew Olmsted finds it hard to avoid comparisons, Jawa-Still-in-Beta 2.0, Point Five, Ninth State purloins my title, Sigmund, Carl and Alfred are unanimous, Ken McCracken sees the handwriting on the wall, and many, many more.

Most of the lefty bloggers are leaving this one alone, since they might find themselves in agreement (HORRORS!) with the right on this one. With a glaring exception, however. Taylor Marsh, who apparently is a Democrat, blames Bush. Jeezus.

Question re Iran and fearless leader Mymood Ahmadanadajihad: Would the phrase "Bomb them back to the stone age" be apropos, here? Just askin'.

Now, these guys have had the right idea for a long time.See how easy it is to recognize these fellows, even from a distance? From left-to-right, they are easily identifiable as Joo, Hindu apostate, Catholic apostate and The Great Satan's Murdering Crusader.

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Monday, May 15, 2006

A Dutchman's Lament

Michaelgalien Groningen, writing from The Netherlands, is jussssst a bit ticked off at his government and his fellow lowlanders. It appears that Muslim activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali will leave Holland for the USA. Michaelgalien says that's great for her but a great loss for Holland and the whole affair leaves him feeling ill.

Note 1: Michaelgalien is a heck of a name, isn't it? I've never seen the name "Michaelgalien" before. Is it Michaelangelo or Miguel Angel in the Dutch language? I dunno.

Note 2: Why do we Americans say Holland and then The Netherlands and then call the people there the Dutch? I dunno about this either.

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Friday, May 12, 2006

Breaking: MSM discovers Americans

I think that this is great. Most Americans Support NSA's Efforts. The MSM, most specifically the New York Times, must be staggering around in shock over this Washington Post poll. And the lefty blogosphere? My goodness, they're slobbering and spitting all over their spittle-flecked keyboards and monitors. The WaPo does, however, include this caveat:
The survey results reflect initial public reaction to the NSA program. Those views that could change or deepen as more details about the effort become known over the next few days.
What that means, in MSMspeak, is,
"After a steady drumbeat of howling criticism presented to the American people by us, we look forward to changing these numbers as quickly as possible."
And the numbers that the MSM is scrambling to change?

63% of Americans found the NSA's program to be "an acceptable way to investigate terrorism";

44% "strongly endorsed" it;

66% said ". . . they would not be bothered if NSA collected records of personal calls they had made . . .";

65% "said it was more important to investigate potential terrorist threats 'even if it intrudes on privacy.'"

That brings us to the 31% as well as the lefty pundits who don't care a whit how many of their fellow Americans get murdered in a terrorist attack, just so long as it ain't them. Let's see what some of them have to say.

Greenwald calls it "polling hysteria" and then cites numerous polls to support his contention. But then, Greenwald is hocking a book (pun intended) and worships this guy:

Bob Geiger insists that the White House has violated the law, then admits he has no idea what he is talking about "In the interest of full disclosure . . ."

Taylor Marsh, who is a Democrat, says "first our phone calls and then our guns." No, Taylor, only Dick Cheney's gun.

Kos falls in love with "Every. Single. One." He also says, "But what Americans need to understand is that this most recent disclosure means that every American is a potential terror suspect." Well, yeah. That's why airline passengers must pass through metal detectors and are subject to search. "Every. Single. One." That's why American citizens are subject to arrest and incarceration if found carrying around Semtex. "Every. Single. One." That's why American citizens are subject to detention and interrogation if spotted photographing military installations. "Every. Single. One." That's why American citizens are subject to arrest and incarceration if found hauling around an M-60 automatic weapon, or any automatic weapon, for that matter. "Every. Single. One." I could go on but you get the point. Kos does not.

Bob Geiger, see Cassandra. She 'splains it all for you.

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Light blogging, lately

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I know I've been doing almost no blogging lately and I'll tell you why. I am launching a business offering Mexican Indigenous peoples' artwork and other crafted-by-hand products. If you would like, you might visit Pale Horse Galleries to learn more about one type of very famous art created by the Zapotec and Mixtec indigenous peoples of the Oaxacan valleys and sierras. It's called Alebrije (ah lah BREE hay) and is some really beautiful stuff.

I created the Pale Horse Galleries blogspot site so that I might offer a detailed explanation of the various items, photos of representative samples, photos and biographies of the artists and craftsmen (craftspersons?), and some history of the development of the various types of art and hand-crafted items that I offer for sale. Some of this art, and almost all of the skills to produce this art, go back millenia. I am and will be traveling far and wide throughout the valleys and high sierras of Oaxaca and Chiapas to find the artists themselves in their salons and workshops, called talleres (tah YAIR ace, singular = tah YAIR). I'll also be offering, eventually, artwork and hand-crafted items created by the Aztec (mexica), the Maya, the Olmec, the Tlaxcalteca, the Apache, the Yaqui and others.

I've got an online store set up at palehorsemex.vstore.ca/ and it's called Pale Horse Galleries, also. The long term goal is to generate enough money through online sales to open a brick-and-mortar Pale Horse Gallery in downtown Oaxaca. That, however, will be an expensive undertaking.

I intend to offer

  • alebrijes (up and running now)
  • ceramics, including talavera dinnerware from Puebla and Tlaxcala, barro negro (black clay - no lead) and barro natural from Oaxaca
  • fine pottery from Oaxaca
  • hand-crafted and hand-engraved knives, swords and table service from Oaxaca
  • scented and decorated candles from Puebla
  • decorative art in tin from Oaxaca and Guadalahara
  • creations in leather from Nuevo Leon, Chihuahua, Sonora, Jalisco and Guanajuato
  • hand-woven textiles in cotton, wool and silk from Oaxaca
  • lots of other stuff.

Needless to say, this effort has absorbed a lot of my time and this blog has been seriously neglected. I'll try to do better but there are only so many hours in the day.

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Saturday, May 06, 2006

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Breakfast of Champions

"Two eggs over easy, sausage and hash browns."



Christopher Hitchins hits a nerve; Juan Cole's

Christoper Hitchins took a whack at Juan Cole, one of America's chief apologists for all things Islamic terrorist related.

Cole's response can be best summed up as,
Or maybe as,
Or perhaps you'll like this better
(scroll down and read the comments).

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3000 voters speak louder than a million strong mob

The Mexican illegal aliens and their supporters who marched around waving their country's flag in major cities all over the US on Monday have already seen the first evidence of how things are supposed to work here . . . er, there. In Mexico, rule by street mob is a common thing. Mobs shut down cities on a regular basis. At Atenco, a mob of machete waving campesinos, who had accepted and been paid as much as $21,000 an acre for their land which was to be used for a badly needed new Mexico City airport, changed their minds, forced the federal government to scrap plans for the airport and then kept the money they had been paid. This incident was seriously miss-reported there. It was reported by, among others, the Washington Post, that the farmers had fought off the expropriation of their land and refused to accept the $21,000 per acre.

That's not what happened at all. The farmers began selling their land to the government at $3000 an acre and receiving payment. As some diehards held out, the government began upping the ante to as much as $21,000 per acre. The earlier sellers got angry that they only received $3000 while holdouts were beginning to sell for $21,000 per acre. Then, some property owners who had homes, businesses and commercial buildings (that makes them the "rich") received even more money for their properties. Duh! I don't know too many places where an acre of pasture with a dozen cows is valued as highly as an acre of urban land with a couple of four-story office buildings sitting on it, do you? The original selling farmers who received the $3000 per acre took to the streets, with their machetes, demanding the same money as the commercial sellers. Paying the same price for rural pasture as for developed urban land would have bankrupted the airport project before it even got off the ground, pun fully intended.
But now the plan is dead, withdrawn last week by the government after local farmers, aided by free-lance activists from all over the country, rose up in a four-day spasm of violence that included hijacking trucks, burning cars, taking 19 public officials hostage and threatening to tie them to gasoline tanker trucks and blow them up.
So the government backed down. And all of the campesino sellers kept the money. And the government said it wouldn't try to get its money back. Sweet deal, this rule by street mob, eh?

Er, not really. The airport project would have created 80,000 jobs. The Atenco campesinos live and work on small parcels of a couple of acres or less where they maintain dairy herds of a half dozen animals or so or raise corn. They are subsistence farmers who survive on government handouts. The new airport was their ticket out of aching poverty. The price they would have to pay was to sell their land. They did and then they didn't, so to speak. Their future? They've no doubt already spent the money they received for their land, so they can continue to live and work and raise their families in grinding poverty until, in twos and threes, they pull up stakes and head north to march in the streets of Los Angeles.

Here in Oaxaca, the state government offices were right on the zocalo (central plaza), a main tourist attraction. After the zocalo was taken over for two months the summer before last by disaffected teachers who camped in it, drove off the tourists, strewed garbage all over the central city and urinated and defecated in public on the streets, as well as after years of every activist group that exists in the state taking over the zocalo as well as the downtown streets whenever they wanted, the state government fled the city. They converted the government headquarters into a museum, the government is now located in temporary quarters south of the city and a new state government complex is being built east of the city. All this to get the mobs away from the tourist center, hopefully.

That brings us to an affair that the Mexicans don't seem to understand. In Herndon, Fairfax County, Virginia, 3000 voters dumped pro-illegal immigrant councilmen as well as the mayor, turning a town council that was 5-2 pro illegal alien job center into a 6-1 majority against. That's the way it works there. One takes a stand based on one's principles, beliefs or poll results, the majority disagrees, and it's "Adios amigo, find other employment."

To be fair to the Mexicans, their votes have been pretty much meaningless in their home country since, well, since its inception (La Independencia). The real rich along with a handful of powerful unions control the federal congress and all the 31 state congresses as well as the governors. In Mexico, rule is by bribery, nepotism, a kept press, extorsion and murder. The politicians pay themselves exorbitant sums and the campesinos and other poor be damned. On the other hand, the campesinos and other poor return regularly to the ballot box to send the same crooks back to power. Year after year, decade after decade. It's really sad.

Until the Mexican people decide to take their lives into their own hands and vote for real reform, year after year and decade after decade, they give themselves no other options than to move north. What they must understand is that when they cross that river they are entering a whole new world where the rules are completely different. A world where 3000 voters following the rule of law can defeat a million strong mob with no bloodshed whatsoever.

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Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Boycott the Gringos? What boycott?

Yesterday's "Hate the Yanquis Day" or "Boycott the Gringos Day" or "Whatever Day" wasn't too popular down here. The supposed boycott did not seem to have a big effect in Oaxaca. In fact, due to some noise about the boycott over the past couple of weeks, I expected to see at least a few protesters in front of at least a few of the better known American based businesses. Here is what I saw.

12:00 Noon:
VIPS Restaurant (Wal-Mart) - packed with a waiting line - normal for a holiday
Sam's Club - Parking lot about 2/3 to 3/4 full - normal for a holiday
Burger King Plaza del Valle - parking lot about 1/3 full (2:00 pm is the normal lunchtime down here) - normal for holiday
McDonald's outside Plaza del Valle - parking lot full - normal
KFC - parking lot full - unusual for a holiday at this hour
Pizza Hut - parking lot about 3/4 full - unusual for a holiday at this hour
Chrysler Dealer - closed for the May Day holiday as are Honda, Peugeot, VW and Renault
Ford Dealer - closed for the May Day holiday with two transports full of cars waiting to be unloaded today.
Bodega Aurrera (Wal-Mart) Airport Highway - parking lot about half full (this is a new store and is not too busy on a non-boycott day. I don't know why. The Bodega Aurrera on the Etla Highway is always packed but it's on the other side of the city so I didn't see it yesterday.)
I returned to the city from San Martin de Tecajete at 5:30 pm and this is what I saw.
5:30 pm
Bodega Aurrera (Wal-Mart) Airport Highway - parking lot still about half full - normal
Pizza Hut - parking lot and restaurant packed - normal
KFC - parking lot and restaurant packed - normal
McDonald's outside Plaza del Valle - parking lot and restaurant packed - normal - this is an exceptionally well run establishment while Burger King, KFC and Pizza Hut are not.
McDonald's inside Plaza del Valle - packed with two lines at the cashiers about 8 people long each - normal
Burger King Plaza del Valle - parking lot and restaurant packed with about a dozen cars parked on the street in front - I saw the same thing yesterday at this hour and this is unusual for Burger King - they are doing more business than normal. ???
Sam's Club - Parking lot overflowing to about two blocks from store - normal
VIPS Restaurant (Wal-Mart) - parking lot full but restaurant only about half full, if that - normal - big restaurant and small parking lot.
All 5 auto dealerships still closed, obviously
Burger King needs a boycott everyday.

UPDATE: I didn't see anything like this.

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