Saturday, January 30, 2010

Splendid Eats

Yesterday I had one of the most remarkable eating days of my life. My Enchilado Brother In Law gave me a ride to downtown DF and invited me to breakfast at El Cardenal, thus making a dream come true for me.
I don't think I've ever been happier at 9 am. And unless I go back there, will I ever be.
First, their famous bitter hot chocolate with a warm concha from their ovens. Heaven.
Then their famous nata (clotted cream?) with hot bolillitos. Heaven is pedestrian compared to this. This is sheer ecstasy.
Then huevos revueltos con jamon en cazuela con salsa molcajeteada y queso panela. An earthenware dish of scrambled eggs with ham in a spicy but magnificent red sauce that had a faint taste of chicharrón. Sublime.
I washed this off with fresh orange and pineapple juice, which actually tasted like oranges and pineapples. This was breakfast.
For lunch I met my friends Mauricio and Sergio at a nouvelle cantina called La Capital in the Condesa neighborhood. The food was fabulous. We started with a fresh tuna tiradito with soy sauce and chili oil and lime, then tostadas de camaron en escabeche, shrimp escabeche tostadas, then a pescado zarandeado, a whole fish rubbed with spices and I had a sopa de fideos seca, which is a Mexican vermicelli soup without the broth.
And then dinner at the ultrachic nouvel Mexican, Pujol.
More on that later. I'm going out to lunch!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Greetings from Sunny Mexico

Darlings, I´m too busy eating tacos and seeing family and friends, and so I have neglected you. I am on vacation in sunny D.F. and quite frankly rather averse at sitting at the computer when I can be absorbing some warm and toasty vitamin D.
The city looks good, the traffic is horrible, as usual, and it's great to see old friends.
The news here are consumed by some soccer player who was shot in the head at a bar.
I'm staying in the burbs, and going down into the city takes the better part of an hour. Luckily, there are established outposts of taquerias and diners so those who have schlepped all the way here don´t feel deprived (or don´t have to drive an hour for a torta de milanesa). The prices up here are like those in New York. But more, because this is Mexico.
In the meantime, as usual when I´m here, I spend most of my mental energy navigating the discrepancies between my New York lifestyle/mindset and the one I left behind. Places with enormous gulfs between the rich and the poor, such as Mexico, make extravagant lifestyles seem utterly normal for those who enjoy them. I don't want to get too marxisty or anything, but I think that great wealth is more challenging to achieve when there is a more level playing field and you are not coasting on the sweaty backs of a huge underclass. Having said this, don´t think for a moment that I am not enjoying the perks.
I can see why Mexico City, with all its enormous drawbacks, is appealing. The weather is mild, there are fruits and flowers and food everywhere. Particularly appealing in the winter, and that is as far as I´m willing to go.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Helping Haiti

I don't think I need to view endless images of human suffering to feel empathy and concern for the poor people of Haiti. About a week ago, my friend Mimosa pointed me to an interesting opinion piece in the Washington Post that questioned the barrage of graphic and intrusive photos coming from Haiti. How come we never see pictures of the horribly injured, both American and local, in Iraq or Afghanistan? There is a double standard, and the columnist in the Post was saying that in the case of Haiti the amount of disaster porn (my term, not his) paradoxically signals to the same disregard everybody has ever had for the wellbeing of Haitians. It's as if they don't deserve their own dignity. Starting from the year they tried to free themselves from France and the world conspired against the first independent nation of free slaves. Racism, is what I'm saying.
Having said this, I stayed home last night to nurse a vicious hangover, and so I watched the Haiti Telethon. I believe the effort is noble. Good for George Clooney for organizing it. I saw it streaming live on the net. A lot of manpower and human ingenuity worked very fast to make it happen and it was impressive. American can-do at its best. Even Madonna showed up looking like Cher with her new, waxy, extraordinarily scary face. No time to recover from whatever she is doing to it, but charity is first.
But something about the effort makes me cringe. It feels unseemly. It feels self-serving. Alexandra Stanley in the NY Times praised it for its restraint. Sure, Clooney made sure it was not a free for all of shameless self-promotion, and it was done with as much taste as possible under the circumstances, but I think she is living in LaLa Land. Celebrities manning the phones is a novel concept, and I'm sure it helped raise a lot of money, but it was, how shall I put it, ridiculous. And, as far as I'm concerned, horribly anxiety producing, because celebrities who have something coherent and intelligent to say are few and far between. It was like watching a car crash, seeing them interact with the callers. Plus I kept thinking of the jostling on who was going to get to sit in the first row. Call me cynical.
Some of the artists rocked. Stevie Wonder singing Bridge Over Troubled Water was the highlight of the night. God bless him, he gave it his all, which as you can imagine, is a whole lot. As was Mohammad Ali and what he wrote. You know that he feels the outrage; his eyes still dart with fire behind the mask of his incapacitating illness. Mary J. Blige: Amen, sister. Neil Young and Dave Matthews, Justin Timberlake and Matt Morris, even Kid Rock, Sheryl Crow and Keith Urban, their version of Lean On Me was very pretty. The music was mostly well executed and tasteful, if not particularly inspired. Mary J. Blige should sing the blues and gospel more often, and Jennifer Hudson is a wonder, but I could have done without Shakira and her vulgar, overwrought vocal stylings and without the Aguilera, and that salad of a song between Bono, The Edge, Jay Z and Rihanna which was a smorgasbord of hideousness. I love Beyonce but that wig was killing me. The Boss and Sting didn't do it for me. They increasingly feel like they are believing their own hype too much. I couldn't fail but notice that in most instances, most of the background musicians were kept in darkness. Why? They are helping too. So this is what's wrong about stuff like this, it puts too much emphasis on the stars.
But now that we've put the frivolity out of the way, I'm going to try to put my finger on what exactly is bothering me, which I think is precisely the frivolity, the grandstanding, and the milking of sentiment.
Maimonides says that the second most noble kind of charity (after giving someone an interest free loan or helping them be self-sustaining) is that in which the recipient does not know who helped them and the giver doesn't know who he is helping. He is obviously referring to individual cases, because he wrote in the times before CNN and the internet, but the point is that givers should not make a show of giving, that giving anonymously, without expecting recognition, without boasting of generosity does not put the burden of gratefulness or indebtedness on the recipient. It does not make them feel ashamed of their shortcomings.
I understand that celebrities and artists help encourage regular shmoes to donate, but I think it has gotten out of hand. Will people call because they want to chat with Julia Roberts, or will they simply give?
Also, the American penchant for the story of triumph and survival is effectively grating my last nerve. Do people ever get tired of it? Americans are better served by a more realistic and balanced view of life and not this fantasy of the triumph of the human spirit that has little to do with reality. Haiti is a perfect example of the callousness of the human spirit prior to the quake. As is the Ninth Ward. As is Darfur. Why do we need to wait for a catastrophe to pay attention to what already is disastrous and unfair? We only help the poor when disaster strikes? The rest of the time, you are on your own?  I'm not saying not to help, I'm saying there is something morbid and exploitative about disaster.  Selective philanthropy exposes our indifference elsewhere. The New York Times reports that Israel sent a crack team to Haiti with the only makeshift hospital with surgical capabilities, plus their experts on rescuing people from debris, as they did in Mexico City's 1985 earthquake and every time they can put their vastly superior expertise to work (they have to have it because that's their reality).
Its response to Haiti has been exemplary, but of course people in Israel can't help but think about their next door neighbors in Gaza that are being crushed by poverty and despair. Not to simplify a situation that is complicated by extremely difficult politics, which is not the case in Haiti, but those Israelis have a point. You can't be good to some and indifferent to others.

Friday, January 22, 2010


So I went to my passport renewal appointment. Once you go through the doors of the Mexican Consulate in New York you are immediately transported, in a space warp, to Mexico: The Bureaucratic Version. A horrendous, uglyass space where the Foreign Affairs Ministry deals with the citizens of Mexico who live in NY.
I have many questions:
• Is there a budget for furniture and office decor and if so, is someone stealing it?
• Has the Ministry considered that the space in which they process applications is woefully inadequate for the amount of people they cram into it?
• If you are not Mexican, do they have a side door through which foreigners go to offices that don't look like a solitary confinement cell, that may have carpeting and wallpaper and perhaps even a fern? So as not to discourage potential travelers that think that perhaps Mexico is a modern republic and not the Godforsaken backwater some say it is?
• Does the government realize that this lack of the bare minimum of comfort and attractiveness makes Mexicans feel like second class citizens? Do we not deserve a nice, well appointed space in which to spend 2 hours of our time, mostly dealing with reams of photocopies and documents? Do we not deserve tissues and antibacterial liquid to remove the ink from the three sets of fingerprints we need to provide?

Having said this, indeed there has been progress. In a corner, there is a Xerox machine and they charge you 25 cents per each copy you forgot to bring. Next to the corner there is a photo station, and they charge you $10 for 4 photos. Perhaps they could scrounge up for some carpeting and some nice wallpaper, no?
Mexican bureaucrats have it tough these days. Someone is making them work. Gone are the days of the 2 hour coffee breaks or the nail filing sessions behind the counter. Perhaps even gone are the days of "if you want it done faster, I'll take your money under the table". Photocopies (what else?) proclaiming a commitment to the efficiency of the process are stuck to the bare walls. They seem rather impenetrable but they're there to remind us that we're supposed to be impressed.
The little perv who takes the photographs satisfies his dirty little mind by giving me a  skeevy ogle encompassing my entire frame, right before taking the close up of my face. I ask him more or less how long does the process take. I do not expect an attempt at humor, but a helpful answer.
"Only 2 hours and a half", he deadpans. I gasp.
"It's not that long is it? Used to take 8 hours. By around 3 pm, you'll be ready to get lunch" (it was 11:30 am).
His tone was laced not with lighthearted humor, but with bilious matter (which is what courses through the veins of most bureaucrats).
But after my last forays into the hell of Mexican and universal bureaucracy (because Americans are catching up), I discovered a tactic that drives the bureaucrats crazy and destroys their pathetic power games. I treat them with exaggerated cordiality. I thank them thrice for everything. I basically kill them with kindness. I strongly recommend this technique. It is priceless to see their faces collapse in disappointment that they can't get a rise out of you.

In fact, it took exactly 1 hour and a half, which is pretty impressive. And I must say that the poor woman who they have sitting on a high chair in front of an improvised desk leaning against a column, making sure that everybody has the correct reams of paper; that woman was unfailingly patient and polite. Women that did her kind of job used to be the meanest, bitterest, sourfaced evil bitches on Earth. And this woman needs all her patience, because my compatriots are hopeless when it comes to getting their shit together. However, who can blame them, when the requirements are so absurd? To renew your passport, you need the old passport plus 2 photocopies of the first two pages, plus two photocopies of the last page, except some people also need 2 copies of pages 5 and 6 or sometimes of page 6 but not 5.
As Lars Von Trier likes to say: Chaos Reigns.
And here let me digress, lest I forget:  With all due respect, is it a law that all Mexican toddlers be whiners and cryers and tantrum throwers worthy of La Scala? Or is it only when they are in the seat in front of you on the plane and/or Mexican government offices?
And here comes the surreal part: In the middle of this human maelstrom, I spot two agents for Citibank, very polite, pushing applications trying to get people standing in line to sign up for debit and credit cards. What fresh hell is this? Why are they allowed to do this? It is grossly inappropriate to be conducting business in an embassy. I thought of complaining in the box the Consulate so kindly (or cynically) provides, but I'd have to have been born yesterday. I'm going to complain to Citibank instead. And I want to know who is getting a kickback from Citibank for allowing this to happen. Outrageous.
Yet there is always something endearing about our unique version of the surreal. In this case, once you pay, you wait until someone calls your name to get your new passport. The name calling happens in three ways. First, the agent says the name loudly sans amplification. Then, only one agent has a functioning mike so he uses it to repeat the name, and if all else fails, a third agent takes out a megaphone, I kid you not, and blasts the name out of the megaphone, like in a cartoon.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

For the love of paper

I have to renew my Mexican passport at the consulate. The good news is now they have an 800 number to get an appointment, and the man I spoke to was a very courteous bureaucrat. Living in New York, I have forgotten the soothing dulcet tones of Mexican courtesy.
The bad news is I also have to bring my original birth certificate, plus another ID plus enough photocopies of all three documents to fell an entire forest.
Plus a writing instrument with black ink. No other ink will do. This, for some reason sounds Napoleonic to me.
Mexicans cannot be weaned off their love of mountains of useless paper.
Either that, or they so not trust themselves, that they don't trust the very passports they issue (which are full of cool modern stuff to avoid counterfeiting). I can understand asking for another form of ID. But the ORIGINAL birth certificate? Do they also want my Mom's placenta?
If they only knew what it took me to get a copy of the original birth certificate the last time I had to renew my passport. Heroic efforts not to pay someone a bribe and get it done in fifteen minutes. Hence, a full day of pointless, Kafkaesque, infernal,  bureaucratic errands.
In the US, you mail order your new passport and send a check in the mail. Or you get it at the post office. Next they are going to ask you to print your own, it's so convenient.
But the Mexican government, as hard as it tries to get with the times, still is passionately attached to the XVII Century, when it comes to pushing paper.
If countries were fined on their waste of paper, (brilliant idea, no?) Mexico would go under in a minute.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Antisemitism in Mexico

Yesterday, one of my Enchilados-in-Law sent me an op-ed column that appeared on the Mexican newspaper Reforma, commenting on the tragic deaths of a very prominent Mexican Jewish businessman and 4 members of his family in a helicopter crash. The columnist, a vantz named Froylán Lopez Narváez (who, if memory serves, has never been Jew-friendly), wrote a bizarrely baroque article, implying that people (including the Mexican President and the Mayor of Mexico City) were sending too many sympathy notices in the paper. Basically, the guy resented that such privileged people would merit such an outpouring of sympathy. He used some sneaky epithets that gave one the sinking feeling that what he objected to was not only that they were rich, but that they were Jews.  
This, in supposedly the most respected newspaper in Mexico, which obviously is not saying much and just goes to show more than anything else, the pathetic level of journalism in Mexico. This column would not have passed muster anywhere where there are decent editorial standards, let alone for its content; for the almost unintelligible way in which it was written. Dude, if something is bothering you, go ahead and say it. What exactly is your beef?
It is certainly not this businessman's fault that Mexico is a country of entrenched social inequality and corruption. He is certainly not the only entrepeneur to benefit from the status quo or to be close to power. Mexico, a country where many people still live in crushing poverty, has the obscene distinction of being home to the richest man in the planet (who, by the way, is not a Jew, although some have accused him otherwise).
I bring this up, because Mr. Ex-Enchilada posted something about Mexican Jews in his blog, with lots of comments asking about the state of Mexican antisemitism.
I would say, by and large, Mexicans are not virulently, violently antisemitic. They are just prone to the usual entrenched, ignorant, medieval prejudices and stereotypes generously spread by the Catholic church and/or resentful lefties. My favorites are the Mexicans who admire the Nazis. I always think that had Hitler succeeded in conquering the world, they would not be far behind on line for the gas chambers, given the Nazi insistence on Aryan good looks.
Mexicans are paradoxical. They are in general happy to live and let live, but they are also enormously prejudiced, and not only about Jews. Mexico is a country that peacefully tolerates diversity but that is not used to a lot of difference. It is a highly hierarchical, stultified, not very diverse or upwardly mobile society. Hence, prejudice is rampant. The attitudes towards gays and Jews and blacks are provincial and narrow minded. The way better-off Mexicans treat the Mexican poor is far more cruel and offensive than the way they treat others.
Mexican Jews have never experienced antisemitic violence (like in Argentina, France, Turkey, etc), but sometimes the language has been revolting. Sadly, many times from journalists and "intellectuals".
I hear that the comments section of El Universal on the death of the Jewish businessman was rife with horrid antisemitic comments, no doubt aided by the internet anonymity that is so abused by cowards. They apparently have been deleted.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Department of Mindboggling Incompetence

My advice to Mr. Llamazares is, sue their culos for millions of dollars, as is the time-hallowed American custom.
My advice to the FBI is, why not just photoshop the actual guy, you idiots?
If Bin Laden has indeed been living in a cave all these years, why would he look like he's happily drinking cava and eating tapas and chorizo every day?
And my question is, how did Mr. Llamazares find out?
Isn't this supposed to be "top secret"?
I think the terrorists must be "lol"ing right now. Look at these idiots running like headless chickens without their shoes at their airports! Look at the FBI playing around with Google images! Ha, ha, ha, ha! HA HA HA HA!
If they haven't brought the US to their knees, they have certainly succeeded on making us look like the stupidest nation on Earth.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

The Israelification of Airports

The Israelification of airports: aka USE OF THE HUMAN BRAIN.

Not to sound like a broken record, but I've been saying this ever since air travel became a nightmare after 9/11.
I want to know why, if some schmuck who deserves to be put against a wall and executed (and this includes the romantic Chinese gentleman who breached "security" to kiss his bride at Newark, stranding thousands of passengers for hours), goes through a door he's not supposed to, why does everybody have to be rescreened? Can someone explain this to me? Why not just apprehend the idiot and bar him from airports for the rest of his life? Send the moron on a slow boat to China.
Memo to the TSA, Janet Fucking Napolitano, Obama, whoever is responsible for the carnival of absurdity and retardedness that is security at American airports, please for the love of God, call the Israelis. Or at the very least, read the article. Incompetent, inept idiots.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Poor Haiti

Before the earthquake, it was already a disaster, and now the earthquake reveals the horrifying extent of lack of infrastructure, authority, resources, a functioning state.
The New York Times claims Obama has been trying to get in touch with the Haitian prime minister, and can't find him. I bet some of the people in power are probably doing their utmost to get out of dodge. Because that's how that country is. A mess.
I'm also sure that the Dominican Republic is in a state of utter panic. They already treat the Haitian immigrants like crap and I'm sure they are not looking forward to the massive wave of refugees this may bring to them. I mean, Haiti is so utterly screwed (and this before the quake) that it makes the DR look like the land of plenty.  
As is usual when natural disaster strikes in poor places, the man made disaster increases the tragedy exponentially (hurricane Katrina is a good example). For instance, in Haiti there is no infrastructure to even deal with the aid that is coming their way.
Haiti has been a disaster ever since the French decided to charge it reparations for its own independence from them. You heard correctly, mon amis. Thanks to Guanabee, of all places, I learned this enlightening tidbit:
The Times of London explains that the real devil in this situation is France. (Natch.) It turns out that when Haiti won their independence from those squirrelly bastards, they agreed to pay France 150m francs, in gold. “Haiti was the only country in which the ex-slaves themselves were expected to pay a foreign government for their liberty.
“Though the debt was reduced to 60m francs in the 1830s, it was still far more than the war-ravaged country could afford. By 1900 they were spending 80% of their national budget on repayments. More loans were taken out from the United States, Germany and France to manage the debt. In 1947, Haiti finally paid off the original reparations, plus interest. That left them destitute, corrupt, disastrously lacking in investment and politically volatile. Haiti was trapped in a downward spiral, from which it is still impossible to escape. It remains hopelessly in debt to this day.”
(To which I say, cancel their debt already. It's not like they are ever going to be able to pay it back).
The Brits may never miss a golden opportunity to piss on the French, as if their own colonial misadventures in Africa and elsewhere were somehow superior. I found this other gem in the Times, written by A.A. Gill in 2004, on the heels of the Aristide coup.  All I can say is nobody in the US would have the balls to write/publish an article as politically incorrect and damning as this one. Check it out.
All colonial empires were pretty awful (for which we are still getting the fallout today, something that said former empires stubbornly refuse to acknowledge), but some left infrastructure and institutions in place. The Spanish, as fucked up as they were, left enough so that Latin America, for better or for worse, could be what it is today. But poor Haiti was a slave colony with the apparent misfortune of belonging to the French, whose egalité, fraternité and liberté don't seem to apply to everybody. And what did the French leave behind except for the language and centuries of poverty, corruption and violence? Rien. Rien du rien. Debt and chaos.
If it makes you feel any better, this is what they're doing to help.

Department of Unfortunate Headlines

From the London Times:
Floor Collapses at Weight Watchers Meeting 
What can I say?

Thursday, January 14, 2010

The TSA: Total Stupidity Administration

The New York Times reports that Mikey Hicks, an 8 year old Cub Scout is consistently harrassed by the TSA because he shares the name of someone who is in the no fly list.
Ever since the advent of the TSA we have seen nothing but sheer stupidity, absurdity and blundering, not to mention humiliating mistreatment, when we fly. I reprint this reader's comment that sums up pretty much how I feel about the whole thing. And I agree, it's time for citizens to demand a better system.
I used to work as a Federal Air Marshal. I have seen kids, even disabled kids searched repeatedly. In the meantime, I have gotten through airport security with a handgun, 2 spare magazines, two pairs of handcuffs and a knife, even without my badge. Even through secondary screening. The whole system is nothing but smoke and mirrors. Even the best and brightest TSA screeners could not identify a suicide bomber if one detonated in front of them. On the cargo side, one could easily sneak a heard of elephants onto an airplane. On the ground, planes are being serviced and cleaned by people that have been in the country for only a few months, yet they are 'required' to have a 10 year criminal background check. I can tell you from my 4 years as part of that circus that it is a GIGANTIC waste of money and not much else. I minimize my flying because it is such a pain in the neck these days. I was hoping that the Obama administration would re-visit this stupidity, but its business as usual in DC. And, the terrorists have already won. They spent less than $250,000 on Sept 11th, we spent hundreds of billions and can't even keep KNOWN terrorists out of passenger airliners. We are well on our way to ruining this country. Instead of looking how Israel handles airline security (they did write the book on it), the Bushies re-invented the wheels. Then, there were all those Secret Service retirees that had to be kept on the payroll, so guess who got to be the managers of the Air Marshal Service to the tune of $ 250,000 each per year between their retirement AND a salary. If you want to see the net effect of all of this stupidity, go to GSA Auctions and see the pocket knives, screwdrivers, corkscrews and nail clippers that were taken away from honest people being auctioned of - by the ton. We have seen the enemy and it is us. I am just amazed at how the public has put up, even seem to appreciate being abused by this system because the majority of travelers seem to think that the government is 'trying to keep them safe'. Sorry, you are on your own. Rely on this bloated, ineffective, incompetent and arrogant government system and you might as well be walking towards the Superdome.
I lived in Israel for 4 years. I happily submitted to their security interrogations, after which I was always confident I had no reason to fear a terrorist attack on my flight. I never felt harassed or abused or mistreated by neanderthals. I was never asked to take off my shoes or leave my lip gloss behind. Nobody thought that my toothpaste was a weapon of mass destruction. The agents were smart, well trained people that looked you in the eye, sized you up and took their sweet time asking you questions, not repeating a litany by rote like parrots. They did this with every single passenger. Yes, you had to be at the airport 3 hours before your flight.
Me: bring it on!
I once saw two Norwegian hippie girls bring the security line to a standstill at Ben Gurion Airport because they hesitated to answer if they had been to the Occupied Territories. The nanosecond it took them to look at each other before they got their story straight was enough for the security agent to decide to scrutinize absolutely every possession they had (we were there with all our luggage). He unraveled the socks, opened the lipsticks, unfolded the clothes, uncapped the deodorants, etc.
These women could have been a threat, maybe unbeknownst to them (like a pregnant Irish woman at Heathrow that an Israeli agent stopped because he didn't like that her luggage seemed too heavy but had very little stuff inside, and sure enough, somebody had put plastic explosives inside the lining).
The agent on my line was not abusive or arrogant, just no nonsense. He did his job methodically and tried to put everything back where he found it. Curiously, he didn't ask them to go into another room but made us all wait for like half an hour until he was finished, I assume as a precautionary measure in case anyone thought not to fess up.
Another time I had been given a box of wedding invitations from a friend to bring to Mexico. When asked if anyone gave me something, I was tempted to lie because I knew it was harmless, but then I thought if I lie and this agent reads my mind (they look at you like your mother when she wants to find out where you've been), it's gonna be drama so I said yes and explained. They took the box away and brought it back 5 minutes later. She told me, you did good to tell the truth.
So now that there are so many unemployed qualified people in the US, why not follow the Israeli training manual and give these sensitive important jobs to people who can really do them, not uneducated, clueless minimum salary workers. Not only that, but stop coming up with inane absurdities that just hassle the passengers and keep no one safe.
And Miss Napolitano, you idiot, the system did not work. It doesn't work.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Underwear Predictions

This piece by Calvin Trillin in The New Yorker cracked me up much more than the insufferable Woody Allen piece in the same issue (I think Allen's funny bone is irretrievably broken and I think he should call it quits).
Meanwhile, underwear explosives make me ponder: after the latest fiasco, may this not be the coup de grace for Al Qaeda? After this painful humiliation, not to mention the vilification and growing impatience of the entire world, they may just decide (if they know what is good for them) to call it a day. However, knowing how rational they are, they may get even angrier and find even more violent ways to get to date 72 women. 
In any case, my wish is obviously for the former. My instinct tells me that senseless violence cannot possibly be sustainable for organizations on a long term basis. Eventually the young idiots who get recruited to blow themselves up are going to think twice about what may happen to their balls.
Do not underestimate the symbolic significance of the charred ball imagery: it may prove to be more powerful than all our antiterrorist efforts so far.
The same may apply for those who work for the drug cartels. Is there enough money in the world to be able to live with such fear and violence, to put not only yourself but those close to you in harm's way?
What about morale? What about the generalized oprobium of society? What about the heavy personal losses? There has to be a tipping point, no?
As this enlightening piece by Steve Coll suggests (also wishful thinking, such as mine) Al Qaeda really has nothing to recommend it to the Muslim world. It does not provide anything positive to its Muslim brethren, no social programs, no cohesive community building, just aggravation and the anger, resentment and prejudice of the rest of the world. They are eventually going to be exhausted and destroyed by their own nihilism. Hopefully sooner, rather than later.
I heard the Dalai Lama once say that good is practical and evil is impractical. I liked this statement for its lack of hokey spirituality. For its pragmatism.  And I think it is true. Under any circumstance, using fear, intimidation, violence, coercion, torture, etc, does not lead to any sustainable practical results. Look at the Nazis, look at Stalin, at Mao, at terrorist organizations. Their immediate gains are only fear. And the fear of others is not that great a gain. What real purpose can it serve?
The terrorists are winning the battle only insofar as they are making us irrational (you are not allowed to read a book on a plane? Lipstick is a dangerous weapon?).
And that is why they must be stopped.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Plus ça change

Not to ruin your lovely weekend or anything, but here are some fresh remnants of the depravity of the Bush administration.  Immigrant detainees dying in private jails and officials scrambling to cover up their deaths and mistreatment.
Every time stuff like this surfaces, I wonder how is it that Bush and Cheney and their despicable minions roam the Earth unscathed.
Instead of jail, why don't they just deport the people? Do you know that they have detained legal immigrants because of bureaucratic technicalities that then disappear into a nightmarish rabbit hole from which there is no way out? 
Enjoy the outrage!

No rest for the weary

Niños y niñas! I feel bereft of your presence, knowing that I haven't been to these pages since I don't know when (last week). I have luckily been overemployed since the Christmas break, which means I cannot devote my usual leisurely strolls through the day's news looking for something to amuse or outrage me. I hope this situation changes fast. Meaning, I hope I have enough work but also enough time to come back and write for you.
Ta ta!

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Nothing is Sacred

That goes for you, Ireland, where a blasphemy law goes into effect, punishing blasphemous people with a fine of 25,000 euros.
The Defamation Act 2009 makes blasphemy a crime punishable by a €25,000 fine... Blasphemy is defined as “matter that is grossly abusive or insulting in relation to matters held sacred by any religion, thereby causing outrage among a substantial number of the adherents of that religion” with safeguards to make it harder to prosecute.
This sounds to me like Ireland is designing this cowardly law in the false hope that it will discourage religious fanatical idiots from blowing it up if someone dares criticize their beliefs. Simply substitute the words Islamic fundamentalist for the word religion in the text and voilá. What's a substantial number of religious, intolerant assholes? How many is substantial? Who decides what's grossly abusive? Some people get bent out of shape by a cartoon. Who is to judge? is wrong in principle for a modern democratic republic to have any type of blasphemy law. Theological thought-crimes belong in the past. Religious and nonreligious people alike should be protected from harm and incitement to harm, but religious and nonreligious ideas alike should be open to any criticism. That is how human knowledge progresses. Blasphemy laws discriminate against nonreligious citizens, by protecting the fundamental beliefs of religious citizens only.
This law also has serious international impacts. Irish citizens could face blasphemy charges elsewhere under the European Arrest Warrant. Also, Islamic States are lobbying at the UN to make defamation of religion a crime internationally.
This is rich. Non-Islamic states should vote in the UN to make Islamic fundamentalism punishable by law. It is certainly more deadly than blasphemy.
The moment we allow these religious savages to curtail our freedom of expression, we are allowing them to drag us back to the stone age with them. I will not live in a world of cavemen. 
Absolutely nothing anybody can say about religion is blasphemous. It may be offensive, disrespectful and in bad taste, but it does not have an extra charge of sin only because it is directed towards God or religious symbols or figures.  They may be sacred to some, but as long as they are not sacred to all, there is no blasphemy. Unbelievers cannot be expected to behave and think as if we believed. Please stop trying to foist your ridiculous notions on us and the rest of the civilized world.
If my thinking about religion offends someone, too bad. Lighten up. Their intolerant, irrational, insane religious opinions offend me equally, but I tolerate them because I have no right not to. 
Reasonable, commonsensical people need to be less afraid of voicing their concerns about the abusive, coercive, fearmongering tactics of religious leaders of all persuasions. Enough with treating religious abuse with kid gloves.

Let's start the year with a rant

When Wal-Mart treats its employees badly, it's bad P.R. and it's bad for business.
When Nike makes soccer balls employing blind three year olds in Bangladesh, it's bad P.R. and it's bad for business.
When Gap has sweatshops with horrid conditions in Third World countries, it's bad P.R. and it's bad for business.
When Smithfield Farms is revealed to torture pigs and abuse illegal workers to make ham and bacon, it's bad P.R. and it's bad for business.
People raise holy hell when they learn that their their shopping is tainted with exploitation.
So how come drug users are never outraged that what they smoke or inhale or inject or blow up their noses is tainted with human blood and horrific violence?
Why are they willing to pay ridiculously inflated prices for adulterated product that is marred by violence worse than terrorism?
Shouldn't the conditions in which the drug trade operates be bad for business as well?  
We need to start treating the drug business like the business that it is.
Boycott illegal drugs.

Friday, January 01, 2010

Happy New Year!

My darling readers, here's wishing you a much better year, and since we are at it, a much better decade than the preceding debacle.
Here are some of yesterday's toasts:
1. For Obama to get his shit together.
2. For Hilary Clinton to have a good sex life (that wasn't me).
3. To Joe Lieberman (that was me, joking. Hilarity did not ensue).
4. To World Peace (hilarity ensued).

May you have plenty of love, health, money and spare time to spend it here, in these loving pages.