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Showing posts from April 10, 2005

our vices, their crimes

There is an essay on trust and the Mafia by a sociologist, Diego Gambetta, that includes an interesting quote by Tocqueville. Before he travelled in America, Tocqueville went to Sicily. Not much of the manuscript he wrote about this visit survives. But Gambetta quotes this sentence from an imaginary dialogue between a Sicilian and a Neapolitan in which Tocqueville presents viewpoints on corruption. The Neapolitan has been scolding the Sicilian for being ruled by criminal gangs -- mafia. The Sicilian replies: ‘dénaturée par l’oppression, 1’énergie cachée de notre caractère national ne se révèle plus que par des crimes; pour vous, vous n’avez que des vices. Somehow, that sentence illuminates the relationship between the United States and Mexico. As long as the black market in drugs and labor is a greater churner of revenue than any licit market in Mexico, the political structure is going to be chronically undermined; and as long as the U.S. refuses to accept the market consequences of t

sympathy for marat

First: my source for the rumor about the NYT reporter in Mexico tells me that the reporter in question has gone back to the States. So the curious non-participation of the Times in this story has nothing to do with lack of Spanish. Second, to get a bead on the culture of our governing class – always an excursion into the farther reaches of psychopathology – LI urges our readers to scan the Daily Telegraph’s interview with Jack Welch . It is a marvel: unintentional black humor competes with mouth-aching sucking up to create the perfect caricature of the way we live: reactionary politics teetering on the edge of the unimaginable in the age of Bush. If this article were published in some socialist journal, it would be dissed as an unrealistic Marxist caricature of the uberrich. Ah, but those caricatures are, unfortunately for the rest of us, real, and they ride mankind. Here’s how the thing starts: “Jack Welch is calling for his housekeeper. ``Maria! Maria!'' he cries, until she a


The rumor in Mexico, right now, is that they are going to lock Lopez Obrador up in some very remote place – remote, at least, from his political base. Like somewhere along the border – a place where inconvenient politicians and journalists have a habit of getting whacked. Meanwhile, the great vials of American indignation about the foreclosure of democracy in Mexico remain capped. Harold Meyerson’s op ed piece, in the WP, is great . But where is the attention that was mobilized in the case of the Ukraine or Lebanon, for instance? This is a rhetorical question about a rhetorical problem. The U.S. does not have, never did have, and probably never will have a policy of implanting democracy in foreign places -- unless that democracy can be controlled by the U.S. A cursory glance at U.S. history – from the fixing of Italian elections in 1949, via the CIA’s Jim Angleton (at that time, an O.S.S. officer in Rome) all the way up to the narrowing of options in Afghanistan and Iraq last year and

The rule of law in Mexico

The editor of a paper located in a petro town on the Gulf was murdered yesterday. He'd been investigating contraband diversions of oil. This is from the LA Times: “Mexico is among the more hazardous places in the world for journalists to ply their trade, said Carlos Lauria , coordinator of the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists. It ranks 11th among countries in the number of journalists slain over the last decade, with nine killed. Iraq, Algeria and Colombia top the list.” And this is from the Washington Post, last week, concerning the recent vote in the Mexican congress to strip Lopez Obrador, mayor of Mexico City, of his immunity: “President Vicente Fox has said the case shows that the rule of law is working in Mexico and that anyone who breaks the law , no matter how popular or powerful, will be prosecuted. Fox, who was traveling Thursday to Rome to attend the funeral of Pope John Paul II, had no immediate comment about the vote in Congress. Interior Minister Santia

saint sartre

The ultrachic grad student who writes Infinite Thought has been writing some nice things about Sartre’s Critique of Dialectical Reason – which is the world’s greatest monument to speed (runner up is Dylan’s Blond on Blond). We are happy about that. Last week there was one of those thought infections that hit the big blogs. There was a David Brooks column about the difference between the left and right in the good old U.S.A. Brooks made the point that the lefties no longer have a philosopher – he called up some lefty think tanker and asked him, hey, who is your philosopher, and the think tanker evidently couldn’t think of anybody. This got commented upon all over the place. Matt Yglesias wrote a post claiming that liberals are all about policy, nowadays, and have dispensed with the superstitious retention of philosophical mascots. Now the standard Crooked Timber reaction to Brooks challenge is to reach for “A theory of justice.” Rawls, it is true, does codify a certain dimension of libe

The congregated roar of corruption

How exhausting it is, the Sunday paper, after the pious filler that has rendered American newspapers almost unreadable for a whole week. What is there to say after the Pope, the Pope's will, the mourners, the Pope's successor, the greatness of the Pope, his gallant struggle against communism, the Pope as a good man, the Pope as a great humanitarian, the Pope salad, the Pope's favorite daytime tv show, the Pope's dressing tips? What is there to say? The Tom Delaying of America (a land of bigotry and superstition, with DDT for all) goes on apace. Other news stories have shyly peeped out from the bottom of A-7: a 300,000 person demonstration in Baghdad, here, a riot in Beijing there. What rivets us is the sad spectacle of the Gringo’s favorite democrat, Vincente Fox, operating just like it is 1988 – that magic time for power in Mexico when the presidential election was resolved by an open fraud, instead of recourse to the usual methods of covert suppressions, bribes, and

colosio's bleeding (not so's you'd notice)

As our readers know, LI has farflung correspondants around the world to bring you...up to the minute... information. Sorry, we copied that from the last fund drive on NPR. LI is actually a sad drunk imbibing a two day old malt liquor by the side of 7th street even as we speak. However, our far flung correspondants love us anyway. So we asked M., in Mexico City, to report on the situation there. Here's what she wrote back: "I'll try to be brief but concrete as to your question (sorry, I've got to go). I guess one way to describe what happened is complete breakdown of anything akin to a democratic process... even though that idiot Fox has been telling the press at the Vatican quite the contrary -- that the decision taken by the senate shows that the Mexican justice is truly blindfolded and does not show preferences for anyone). Basically, the PRI and the PAN agreed to quit Lopez Obrador's immunity so he can be tried for minor bureaucratic offenses, and thus not be el