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Old Posts, Renewed

21 Jan

Here are some most posts, taken from the Archives, that are worth reading for the first time or revisiting for all the good times you had the first time. Enjoy.

SCOTUS pick reflects Obama’s politics

Afghanistan’s no. 1 domestic enemy

500 words on: Iran and Mexico, and Democracy’s growing pains

Has gay marriage hit a tipping point?


Old Posts, Renewed

5 Dec

Here are some most posts, taken from the Archives, that are worth reading for the first time or revisiting for all the good times you had the first time. Enjoy.

The Paradox of Pride: Pride Makes, And Breaks, The Politician

Rosarito and the Drug War

Mexican Television for Dummies

Mexican Army Using Torture In The Cartel War?

9 Jul

According to human rights monitors, political leaders, and the written testimony of alleged victims, the Mexican Army, in their pursuit of key members of drug cartels, are using torture and extortion to find their man.

From The WashPo:

In Puerto Las Ollas, a mountain village of 50 people in the southern state of Guerrero, residents recounted how soldiers seeking information last month stuck needles under the fingernails of a disabled 37-year-old farmer, jabbed a knife into the back of his 13-year-old nephew, fired on a pastor, and stole food, milk, clothing and medication.

In Tijuana, across the border from San Diego, two dozen policemen who were arrested on drug charges in March alleged that, to extract confessions, soldiers beat them, held plastic bags over their heads until some lost consciousness, strapped their feet to a ceiling while dunking their heads in water and applied electric shocks, according to court documents, letters and interviews with their relatives and defense lawyers.

If true, these allegations will further alienate a Mexican people that is growing weary and skeptical of President Calderon’s war on the cartels, while at the same time showing an interestingly high level of sympathy for the top narcos.

The US government has threatened to pull over $100m of anti-drug aid if these allegations are confirmed. It is unlikely that the Mexican government will own up to these charges or even be apologetic if they are proven true. Losing anti-drug aid from the US will hardly rock their operations ($100m compared to the billions the cartels make in profits each year is a meager amount).

I figure Calderon likes this sort of  bad PR. It shows him stronger and more cutt-throat than ever before. He might look tyrannical, but maybe that is what he going after. As Dean Acheson used to say (likely erroneously) about the Soviets: “They only undertand one language: force.” Calderon might feel the same way and opt accept the spilled blood with the fear it might instill in the narcos.


19 Jun


Welcome to another set of poliPicks! I am sure you were eagerly awaiting the bag of goodies I have for your weekend, so lets not waste anytime and get down to it.

  • When Mob met al-Qaeda: Put in adjacent jail cells, a former mob guy and an al-Qaeda terrorist struck various conversations and eventually became business partners of sorts. If this weren’t so dead serious it would make a great sitcom, a la Perfect Strangers.
  • Bush is back!: After months of silence, the former prez returns to the limelight, bringing with him indirect swipes at Obama and stoking the flames of a “socialist” US. Welcome back!
  • 7 Mexican Mayors Charged with drug shenanigans: In a raid in the state of Michoacan, 7 mayors were jailed for collaborating with the La Familia drug cartel. No word yet if this will hurt the mayors’ presidential ambitions or soap opera cameos.
  • Arrested Development Documentary trailer: Because genius deserves promotion. Is it 2010, yet? (#1–but please also look at #18 for the sheer “Whaaaat?!” factor).
  • Hot dogs, fireworks, and missile launches: This 4th of July, thanks to North Korea, might be less festive than last year’s.
  • Sacha Baron Cohen’s brain: Meet Dan Mazer, his co-writer and longtime friend–the genius behind the genius.
  • Who’s Who in Iran: Who’s on the left, right, center, and who are sworn enemies (a long list, indeed).
  • Best. Wedding Invite. Ever.
  • The Twitter #HoekstraFail: This is what happens when you think you are being insightful but are actually making no sense and sound ignorant.

Feel free to follow me on Twitter, @jzippy

Bonne weekend!

Hmm News of the day: Cocaine-stuffed sharks

17 Jun

The mother of invention is necessity, isn’t it?

Due to the massive crackdowns across Mexico, drug cartels are thinking of different, and increasingly inventive, ways to get their product into the US. Newest mode of transportation? Sharks. Shark carcasses, to be exact.

When caught with poor sharks packed with cocaine like twinkies, the man in charge of the shipment claimed the drug was used as a “conserving agent.” That guy should be in politics.

More here.

500 Words on: Iran and Mexico, Democracy's Growing Pains

16 Jun

Mexican protests in 2006. photocredit: bradblog

When the news declared the conservative from the less than popular incumbent party had won the presidential election, many felt cheated.

Rather than accepting the results and avoiding further confrontation, the opposition candidate decided to flame the fires of protest. Rallies erupted across the country.

In the nation’s capital, the opposition candidate told audiences of hundres of thousands of supporters to keep fighting for justice and to not accept their “illegitimate” new president. This was in 2006. In Mexico.

In Mexico as in Iran, democracy is a struggle. Unlike countries like the United States, Western Europe, Japan and Australia, Mexico and Iran do not have decades of democratic tradition. They have either experienced sham democracy or unrepentant authoritarian regimes.

They’ve made noble steps toward escaping their political past, such as breaking the 70-year rule of a party (the PRI in Mexico) and electing the first-ever non-cleric for president (Ahmedinejad n Iran). But the struggle is still there, and the past is still haunting, as is evidenced by the latest post-election protests in Iran.

photocredit: Daily Intel (getty images)

Mousavi, the opposition candidate in Iran, is very similar to Lopez Obrador, of Mexico. Both are populist, both ran under the banner of reform, both recruited a passionate and youthful following. Also, both are refusing to back down. With Obrador, Mexico saw one of their own rise to president–a folksy fellow who was unsophisticated and straightforward, both double-edged swords in politics. Mousavi is much more of a professional politician, but his earnestness has earned him the favor of many.

Ahmedinejad is slightly less comparable to Calderon. Calderon ran under the PAN party, the party of the very unpopular president at the time, Vicente Fox. Calderon was his Energy Secretary and, in a politically savvy move, resigned two years before the end of his boss’ term. He distanced himself from him, as much of the rest of the party did, and ran under his own credentials. Right of center, he was not inflammatory or flamboyant, unlike Ahmedinejad.

After legal battles with the Independent Election Institute (IFE), Calderon remained the winner. Unlike in Iran, the margin of victory for Calderon was always razor-thing. The flurry of voting irregularities and allegations of fraud were unsuccessful and Calderon quickly (and secretly) was sworn-in. That was that.

In Iran, things will go a different route. As mentioned in an earlier post, threats of violence against the main players is being predicted by some, while street demonstrations see-saw between peaceful protests and violent riots.

Ahmedinejad’s orders to quelch the rioters has already claimed two lives. Bloody and battered, the protesters on both sides are not giving up. This may be something unresolvable by any Iranian court.

The Supreme Leader is not sure where to stand, and every second he spends in between the two camps weakens his authority in the country. Talks of removing him are already making the rounds.

Attacks on government websites are rampant, Ahmedinejad is so afraid of what may become of his country that he has taken a questionable trip abroad, and the international community is questioning his draconian approach to the massive demonstrations against him.

The democracy in both countries is a work in progress. Mexico passed its first major test on the transfer of legitimacy after Calderon’s swearing-in. There were still some strong feelings against him, but soon enough he was recognized as the president. Since then, his role as president hasn’t been questioned.

Iran will need to pass this test if its attempt to become a democratic state is to be taken seriously. If not, it will be stripped of whatever vestiges it had left. Not even a sham democracy anymore, Iran will be a weaker country than before: a divided land.

Mexican Television for Dummies

26 Apr
photocredit: ++frank++ (flickr)

photocredit: ++frank++ (flickr)

Many people often ask me: “Jaime, what are you doing on my lawn at 2 in the morning?

A few others ask me: “Jaime, what is the deal with Mexican television? Are they trying to make everyone have a heart attack after 20 minutes of watching it?”

Short answer: Of course not. That would kill off our most coveted viewers: the old ladies who watch it to find out which recent pandemic they probably have because they feel 2 out of the 10 symptoms. Long answer: It is a hyperbolic summary of what Mexican life is all about. There is drama, religion, dancing, lust, grandmothers that carry a rosary around all the time, dancing, disappointment in our government, dancing, and love of life.

Univision and Telemundo are the top television channels for those of us with brownish hues here in the United States–and they are dominating the airwaves. Univision averages prime time viewership that rivals, and often beats, the likes of NBC, CBS, and FOX. It’s a billion dollars a year media monster. (Note: I know it is not “Mexican” television as it is Latino television, but any latino will tell you anything Univision/telenovela is almost always associated with Mexicans rather than other Latinos)

In Mexico, the top channels are Televisa and TV Azteca. Televisa essentially founded Mexican television. For over 50 years it was the only real network available. Once TV Azteca appeared, around 1994, Televisa’s share started falling. Currently, Televisa is still no. 1, but TV Azteca has been making tremendous inroads in its short lifespan.

Telenovelas are the cash cows. A handful of them are on each channel every day during prime time. They propel careers, singers, and songs like no other medium. The film industry is not very developed in Mexico, so any actor looking to get their talent get noticed MUST go through the telenovela circuit. Their following (telenoveleros) are extremely faithful, and I am certain that if any popular telenovela were moved to Sunday (el dia de Dios!), those telenoveleros would have an internal struggle akin to Darth Vader in The Return Of The Jedi.

The news is, unfortunately, more like a telenovela than an objective report. All in all, it is not as bad as many who ridicule it say it is (although we do tend to spice up the news with scantily-clad, dancing models whenever we can), but it definitely is more toward the sensationalized end. Mexican news is no Newshour with Jim Leher, that is for sure.

In case you prefer to watch your breakdown of a foreign culture’s style of mass communication, enjoy (and please, don’t judge us–we are just want to dance):

As a Mexican, it’s sometimes frightening to put myself in a non-Mexican’s shoes and watch this stuff. Give me ignorance, please, it’s warmer and more comfy.

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