Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Jury Duty: The Verdict

Did you know that you can access trial information for free on the internet?
Is this a great country or what?
The verdict: Guilty.

The jurors deliberated part of Friday and on Monday. The verdict was announced yesterday. But, the plot thickens. All of the charges were dismissed except one:

I think the judge dismissed the attempted murder charge before the start of the jury trial. I remember hearing attempted murder mentioned when we were being chosen and I thought I was going crazy when I never heard it again. They never explained.
So the big attempted assault charge was dismissed and so were the reckless endangerment, and the other possession charge, which is just possession of a loaded weapon (paging Franz Kafka here -- confusing).
The verdict makes sense. The prosecution did not prove he fired the gun, but it showed he possessed one.
Here's the deal with this verdict. The definition of Criminal Possession of a Weapon in the 2nd Degree:

As a lawyer's blog explains:
If one possesses a loaded firearm outside their home or business, the charge is Criminal Possession of a Weapon in the 2nd Degree a “C” felony which carries a mandatory minimum 3 ½ year to a maximum 15 years in state prison.
I think the judge was a very fair, avuncular guy. I'm curious to know for how long is he going to stick this guy in the slammer.
I would think that the count of reckless endangerment could still hold, no? 

I think it shows depraved indifference to human life to turn your busy city block into the OK Corral for the purposes of securing your drug turf. Anyone who is not the police or the army has no business carrying a weapon, as far as I'm concerned.
I hope I run into one of my fellow jurors on the street one day so I can get the juicy details, since I did not exchange information with anybody. And I will be checking the trial page for the sentencing terms. I believe sentencing is set for August 12.

In case you haven't noticed, I love this shit. 


So we finally get to see and hear the woman who accused DSK of attempted rape. She had the risky idea to tell her story to Good Morning America. Now everybody is saying she sounds fake. I saw the interview. Looks like it was edited by Young Frankenstein.  Robin Roberts solemnly asks a question -- cut to Miss Diallo answering -- cut to images of them walking down the street -- cut to another question. Clumsy, stilted and the rhythm is off. Why couldn't it be a natural conversation where we could get a more spontaneous appearance from Diallo? I saw the TV interview with the father of that crazy Norwegian creep and the camera was set behind him, so as not to show his face, and was fixed on the reporter as she spoke with him. There were no cuts or camera moves. The compassion in her face was palpable, and his declarations, uncut and unrehearsed, felt genuine, poor man.
What I'm saying is that I would not blame Nafi Diallo exclusively for seeming histrionic and fake. This piece of garbage journalism is rehearsed and overbaked. 
Still, she doesn't come across like the shy, mousy thing people expect of a rape victim. She is attractive and exuberant. She is histrionic. She cries, or pretends to, on command. Her accent is funny. She has personality. She went over the top with the bit about finding out DSK was going to be the next president of France and fearing for her life because in her country if you mess with power, you can end up dead. But I kinda like her spunk. I like that maybe DSK finally met his match. Instead of one shitty human being maybe now we have two. Bring it!
At this point she may be eyeing the book contract and the paid appearances, but she has to know that if she goes to court, as she so fervently wishes, the defense is going to destroy her. She knows what they are saying about her lies to immigration, contacts with undesirables, numerous bank accounts and all that, so if she insists on a day in court, either she is too brave, or she's nuts.
Maybe she went on TV to perversely encourage Cyrus Vance not to pursue the criminal case, so she can try to get the money from the civil case? Otherwise, I think it was a pretty bad move, unless she is one of those people whose goal in life is to be on TV. Still, as I have said before, she may be a conniving diva, but if she was attacked, a crime was committed and needs to be brought to justice. I still believe she was attacked.

Now, all those indignant people who are livid about the fact that immigrants from fucked up countries lie in order to gain political asylum in this country, do me a favor, get a life.
People want to lynch this woman because omg! she lied in her immigration application. Americans behave sometimes as if they cannot fathom that someone would lie for whatever reason. This George Washington syndrome is very annoying. People tell lies all the time. Pious lies, little white lies, necessary lies, malignant lies. Don't act as if this sullies your entire concept of humanity beyond repair.
Guess what, if you come from a hellish place and this is the way you can gain entry into the land of opportunity, you are going to lie to get in. People lie to the asylum system all the time because they are desperate to come here. It's not good that they lie, but as Suketu Mehta writes in this week's New Yorker, it's what gets them in and it's what is expected. Officials expect to hear the most truculent stories and so applicants make them up, or embellish on already horrible circumstances. Everybody knows applicants lie. Everybody knows business owners look at social security numbers that might be fake and look the other way. So stop the freaking self-righteous hypocrisy already. It's revolting.
Many immigrants abuse the asylum system. I heard of a Venezuelan gay man who claimed political persecution, even though there is no official policy of harassment against gays in that country (simply put, everyone is homophobic). As I was reading Mehta's account of the immigrants' lies about atrocities and torture, I remembered reading about the Iraqi translators who have helped American troops in that war and now that they ask for asylum for totally legitimate reasons, they are completely ignored and abandoned by the US government. These people risked their lives to collaborate with an occupying force and this is the thanks they get.
Americans will never understand what it means for someone to seek a better life in a foreign country. (Well, let me qualify that. They may start knowing what it means after August 2, when we default on our debt. But that's another story, also involving a very particular form of local stupidity).
Many Americans don't understand the risks people are willing to take, or the things they are willing to do to be able to have a decent life. They get all bent out of shape because people fake their names, their social security cards, their stories. I'm not saying it's okay, but I can understand why they do it. As long as they work hard, pay taxes and do not harm anybody, what the hell do you care?
You don't know how good you have it here.  You don't know that people from other less coddled countries navigate much more treacherous realities, full of impunity, corruption, chaos, poverty, and hardship. Get a passport and travel around (all-inclusive resorts in the Caribbean don't count) so you can get a sense of the real world out there, you morally superior fucks.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Jury Duty: Comments

I am answering the very welcome comment by Mr. Ex-Enchilada here rather than in the comments section, because some people never read the comments:

I did listen to the judge's instructions. He defined each word of each charge according to the law as he gives it, (what is Attempted, what is Assault, etc) but some of the definitions were in cumbersome legal language, and I can see how confusing it can be for jurors. It was attempted assault in the first degree, not murder, by the way.
We were told to consider the case only taking into account the facts of the case as they are presented in the courtroom (holes everywhere). We were told to consider the quality of the evidence vs. the quantity of the evidence. But we were also asked to use our common sense. Well, common sense tells me that even though the phone calls do not prove that he was shooting that gun on that night, he was concealing a gun in his house and took pains to remove it before the police could get it. It's possible that is the gun he carried in the melee, if he indeed was packing heat.
This guy was hiding drugs inside THE HOLLOW of his bathroom door and despite the fact that they ransacked his place, they couldn't find the piece that his buddy retrieved without a problem. No wonder they couldn't get him on drug charges.
So yes, as an obedient juror I would probably have argued that the evidence was not sufficiently clear that he was shooting from a gun that night. A fellow alternate juror with whom I chatted after dismissal felt the same way. Circuitous evidence sloppily presented probably means, if the jurors follow the letter of the law and not their common sense, that this creep will walk. Maybe the cops can nail him next time.
The waste of resources, as you point out, is appalling. Perhaps that's what prevents the city from having more modern facilities. The Criminal Courts Building is almost in a state of disrepair.
I agree that in the Casey Anthony case the wrong charges were brought. In this case,  I wonder why they didn't just go for the counts of criminal possession of a weapon and reckless endangerment. Too little jail time? Meanwhile, this happened in 2009. Has he been in Rikers for two years? I doubt that he's been out on bail. We weren't told.
My point is that justice is muddled, elusive, and very complicated.
I'm dying to find out the verdict.

Jury Duty: Part 3

During the entire trial, I was fairly convinced that the prosecution did not have a compelling case. The prosecutor's summation was a disaster. Why bother presenting so much technical evidence, police officers, ballistics, endless photographs of doorways, videos and recorded phone calls if you then undermine it by saying that the most credible and important part of the evidence is the testimony by two eyewitnesses? I would think that eyewitnesses can be unreliable and that hard evidence trumps recollection, but the problem, and I think they knew it, is that they didn't have much to go with. The prosecutor was not a compelling speaker and a rather disorganized presenter. He needs an acting coach.
The defense lawyer, court appointed, I believe, did a much better job in trying to raise our doubts, which is all he needs to do to be effective. He was far more eloquent and had a better sense of narrative. He was a big man, like a more handsome, younger version of Charles Durning. I thought he was pretty good.
At first I was convinced the prosecution did not have a case.  But the more I think about it, and I guess this is the intention and wisdom of deliberation, the more I can, in retrospect, see culpability, even though the connections are not 100% solid.
But here's the thing. The guy deserves to be off the streets even though the evidence against him may be shaky. Do you ignore this fact and, using your common sense, do a favor to the city and lock him up? Or do you really follow the instructions to the letter and acquit him, letting him out on the streets again?
I think something similar may have happened in the Casey Anthony trial, which I didn't follow, but I did follow the uproar after the verdict. Shoddy police work makes convictions difficult. Jurors feel a huge sense of responsibility and if they follow the judge's instructions to the letter of the law, they may vote to acquit, even if this runs contrary to the hunches in their hearts.
I did not get a full sense of who the jurors were and what they think, because we were a very obedient group and did not discuss the case among ourselves (that I know of). It was a mixed group of Manhattanites, racially, economically and professionally diverse, from people who seem pretty streetwise, to coddled liberal intellectuals and everything in between. I have a feeling there are several very smart and common-sensical New Yorkers in this dozen. I hope that the jury, as the judge instructed, uses their common sense and not their sympathy, prejudice, ideology or fears.
As I write this right now, having deliberated only with myself, I'm thinking: lock him up and throw away the key.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Jury Duty: Part 2

The first eyewitness lives in the same building as the defendant and claims he sells drugs from the corner every night.  He said he saw him from his fifth floor window shooting with a gun in his hand. And when the police secured the block, he went down to accuse him. He was a very colorful witness, an older man from Liberia, who is in the community board and is the president of the association of Liberian immigrants. He was not letting the defense confuse him. It is entirely possible that he is telling the truth. But he also has a vested interest in removing this punk from his block because he is a menace to the neighborhood. However, selling drugs is not what the defendant was charged with. I wonder how it is possible that a known drug dealer commandeers an entire city block and everybody knows it, but nobody can stop him. Perhaps this shootout was the police's opportunity to put him away.
The second eyewitness was a 30 year old female drug abuser out of central casting, a white woman hardened by drugs. Defiant and bad mannered, she didn't even try to appear reformed although she protested that she has been clean for 18 months. The defense argued, although I think it was stricken from the record, that she did it because she made a deal with the DA to get into a drug treatment program instead of more jail time for selling. The most unbelievable part of her testimony was that she knew the defendant and went to his apartment thousands of times, where she allegedly saw lots of guns, but could not remember what floor it was on (2nd). And even more unbelievably, that they gave drugs to one another, like boy scouts sharing s'mores on a camping trip. Really? Out of the goodness of their hearts? I assume sharing drugs in exchange for blow jobs is more like it.
So two eyewitnesses, one with a vested interest in removing this pest from his building, and the other one perhaps doing it to save her own skin.
We are told we are going to watch surveillance videos. I think, cool, we will see the guy with the gun in his hand shooting: hard, incontrovertible evidence. But the quality of the videos is abysmal, and there is no way that you can determine with any accuracy that what he is holding in his hand is a gun. What else could he be holding, I don't know. A bag of drugs? A granola bar? When you freeze frame a movie in your DVD you see everything in perfect detail. Surveillance companies need better video cameras. So the video is for shit, and in my view, actually hinders the prosecution's efforts. If I were to deliberate I would ask to see those tapes in detail again.
The most damning evidence, in my view, were some recorded phone calls the defendant made from jail. Fully aware that he is being recorded, he asks his mother  to go get a woman on the block who knows a guy who can get in through the window of his apartment and retrieve an "x-box" (the police had secured it and changed the locks). An undercover police officer later testified that this is a code name for firearm.  Then he calls another apparent drug dealer to ask him to do the same.
When his buddy finally tells him he retrieved the "x-box", this guy gets so victoriously happy you can almost picture him jumping for joy.
The calls were appalling. I could see why there was no way this guy could open his mouth on his own defense. He speaks with the foul language and grandstanding of a street thug ("nigger this", "nigger that", "my fucking lawyer," etc) but with his mother he adopts a whiny, wholly unconvincing voice when she asks him what kind of shit he has done now. He promises the buddy to go out on a night on the town for him and is convinced not only that he is home safe but that he has a lawsuit against the police. Apparently, they turned the place upside down. On the phone, he gloats that they could not find anything, not one drug, not one weapon. He has a hiding place for drugs inside the bathroom door. The guy is a pro.
But do these calls prove that he had a gun in his hand and was shooting it the night of the incident? Or do they prove that he possesses a gun unlawfully? They may prove the two charges of criminal possession, if anything. And they may point to consciousness of guilt, but is this the same as actual criminal action?
The most bizarre incident occurred the day of the eyewitnesses testimony, when the Liberian man suddenly interrupted his testimony saying that he was being signaled. They let us out of the courtroom for a good while and when we came back he claimed that the defendant had mouthed threatening words to him as he was on the stand. I wonder if any of the jurors, particularly those who had a clear view of the defense table, saw what happened. As we were instructed not to talk about this between ourselves, nobody said anything. Then the woman who was assisting the DA as an intern also testified that she saw the defendant make a sign of cutting the throat of the drug addict witness, but the witness never came back so we don't know if she saw him threaten her or not. The defense lawyer raised a stink about that one.
It is rather risky if not downright stupid, for this punk to do something like that right in front of the judge, the jury, the bailiffs, the prosecution and the court reporter and I'm dying to know if any juror actually saw this happen, because if they did, the guy is gonna fry. One of the jurors was called out of the jury room and she may have had something to report to the judge, but I don't know what.
The day of jury selection, the defendant looked straight at me. He looked sheepish with a shirt and a tie and glasses. I could not interpret whether the glare he sent my way was "mami, I dig your curls" or "you better vote in my favor", but either way it was not endearing. 
A couple of days later, we saw the pictures of him under arrest and his attire was textbook ghetto punk. Another thing: why was he wearing the same clothes he wore during the shootout when he was arrested hours later? Now that I think of it, the guy is 40 years old but he looks like an overgrown child. So he is not really a young man, he just acts like one. It was mentioned he has an 8 year old son. The day of the closing statements, I arrived early and saw the defense attorney speak with a woman and a kid around that age. They sat in the courtroom the entire day. The kid slept the whole time. The lawyer did not mention them or point them out to us, but they were the only spectators. I saw the woman react to the replay of the phone conversation with the mother. She was shaking her head.

To be continued...

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Jury Duty

I do not watch Law & Order or CSI: San Bernardino, or any of those shows. Everything seems formulaic and too easy. They bore me. A real trial, however, is both tedious and endlessly fascinating. Most of all, it is extremely complicated.
I have been pining to be chosen as a juror since I became an American citizen. People think I've lost my last marble, but I wanted the opportunity to see how this system works in reality. I am a frustrated criminal lawyer, detective and/or Supreme Court judge.
I come from Mexico, a country that has an utterly depraved legal system, medieval and corrupt to the core. We don't have juries, we have miserably paid and not always thoroughly trained judges who usually take bribes to supplement their incomes. There is no presumption of innocence. Nothing prevents a corrupt police officer or anyone with power to accuse innocent people of crimes and lock them away forever. The presumption of innocence, which supposedly is coming to the Mexican legal system soon, is not only an important defense against state tyranny, but also a pillar of civilization. You people do not realize what you have here.

I got my wish last week, but with a slightly perverse twist. I was chosen as Alternate Juror No. 2. This meant that I had to sit through the trial but was dismissed before deliberations. I missed the most stressful and perhaps most interesting part, but I am immensely relieved. It is a huge responsibility to decide the fate of a person. And unlike on TV, in this case, the DA did not present a clean, open and shut case. It was full of holes, despite the fact that the defendant does seem to be a blight upon this city, probably did it and should probably not be allowed to walk our streets. I'm dying to know what verdict the jurors reached, but, I'd be surprised if they vote to convict.
The defendant, a young Latino man, was accused of participating in a shootout in the middle of 109th St between Amsterdam and Columbus Ave at 9:25 pm on a Summer night in 2009. He was accused of carrying and firing a gun with intent to kill. The motive: another drug dealer encroaching on his turf. The four charges against the defendant were Attempted Assault on the First Degree, two counts of Criminal Possession of a Weapon, one with intent to cause serious bodily harm and one as unlawful possession outside the home or place of business, and Reckless Endangerment.
Five bullet casings were recovered from a .25 caliber revolver, and a spent bullet from a .40 caliber automatic, I believe.
People who testified said they heard a lot of shots, so more shots were fired than evidence found. A 13 year old boy was slightly injured when a bullet grazed his leg. Shots were fired from a red pick up truck. When you think that this could happen on your street, you just want to lock everybody away.
About 10 police officers testified about the crime scene, evidence collection, ballistics. A small handgun was recovered on top of some garbage bags. It was not tied in any compelling way to the defendant. Not by DNA or fingerprinting. I don't remember if they clarified who this gun belonged to. The person the defendant allegedly shot at was also arrested but did not testify.
None of the police officers were able to remember the time of the arrest. The arresting officer, I believe, lost his note book, where such information is supposed to appear. He spoke to a witness that identified the defendant as the shooter and who knew where he lived, yet he did not arrest him or even go look for him until the next day. None of them saw the suspect with a gun in his hand at any time.
Since the burden of proof falls on the prosecution, they showed their evidence first. The prosecutor, a slight, young Chinese American man, did not give the jury a compelling causal and chronological narrative and the evidence was presented piecemeal. Now I don't know if this is because he was just not an organized presenter or because he is not allowed to thread a narrative that would make us see the crime as it happened. But the police evidence was confusing, and he never arrived at a story that could help the jury understand clearly how the incident happened.
According to the defendant's statement to the police, he saw a guy dealing drugs on his street and went down to tell him he should not do it. As if! Can you imagine yourself seeing guys dealing drugs on your block and telling them in their face to scram? I didn't think so. In the statement the police took, apparently he confessed to having a gun. This statement was presented as evidence, but not read in its entirety. Why? And how come that the police detective who took the statement was not called to testify?
There were dozens of photographs of the buildings on the block and endlessly boring testimony about where people were. I don't yet understand what purpose this served except to confuse the jury.
Of the dozens of people who ran for their safety that night, only 2 people agreed to testify.

To be continued...

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Pie A La Mode

The highlight of my year, I'm almost tempted to say my life so far, has been to see in an endless instant replay loop the moment Wendi Murdoch stands by her man and tries to counter attack the pie thrower, as if she was in an episode of Jerry Springer.
I will love this moment forever and I don't even know why, but I suspect it has to do with the refreshing unraveling of the ruthless vulgarity of this family. Contrary to the opinion of a lot of people, I do not feel sorry for Rupert Murdoch, with or without a pie in the face. He deserves worse. As Stephen Colbert suggested, maybe a kidney pie would be more fitting.
However, the pie throwing incident made me ponder an important issue:
Why shaving cream instead of whipped cream?
Shaving cream leaves the victim smelling like three hundred cologne wearers crammed into a subway car, which is not necessarily a good thing. It probably stings the eyes and tastes horrible. Whereas good old fashioned whipped cream is sticky, so that finally flies can overcome their queasiness and hang on to the victim, but the upside is that it's yummy and you can lick it off yourself (unless it's curdled, which could be an interestingly cruel version).
Such are the things that preoccupy me this ridiculously hot and humid morning.

Friday, July 15, 2011

News of News of The World

So Rebekah Brooks, she of News Of The World infamy, finally resigned. This after an entire newspaper was shut down and hundreds of jobs were lost in order to protect her cushy job. Her resignation letter is repulsive. Her former employers are even more repulsive and they have handled this crisis terribly.
And guess what I learned today in the NYT: Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal of Saudi Arabia is News Corporation’s second biggest shareholder, after the Murdochs. 
I find it rich that a royal from that atrocious country where there is no freedom of anything, not even of women driving, and whose royal family has ties to the attacks on 9/11, has shares in this media company.
As we say in Mexico, guácala (Eew).   

On The Subject of Tacos

I hear raves about this Rockaway Taco place. We pass by and the line of hipsters threatens to engulf all of Brooklyn. This immediately makes me suspicious, plus there is no way I'm standing in line for this, even though a taco right now would really come in handy. However, it's not only the hipsters that scare me off.
When you go to a really crowded taco place in Mexico, you NEVER have to wait more than a couple of minutes for your taco. The reason is that Mexican taqueros are like the Samurais of food. Their speed and agility are legend. It doesn't take them forever to assemble a taco. They do it so fast, their hands are a blur. This is important because the whole point of the taco is to satisfy your hunger fast and to be hot and right off the grill and not sitting there waiting for someone to add unnecessary radishes and shreds of insipid iceberg lettuce that have no point being anywhere near a taco. No gringo place that I know has been able to master the Mexican taco system. None. So as we say in Spanish, tache for slowness.
Then, the mother of all horrors: they sell Tofu tacos.
American people, lines must be drawn. I appreciate your obsession with melting pots and hybrids but tofu tacos is a resounding NO. WAY. IN. HELL.
There is absolutely no need for a tofu taco. You can have the tastiest vegetarian tacos, you can have bean tacos, if you need the protein. A tofu taco is a huge red flag and I'm not buying it.
Interestingly, we were there with my friend Maribel, the proud owner of the delicious Caracas Arepa Bar chain of Venezuelan restaurants.
"Why not a tofu taco?", she said.
"Imagine for a moment, Maribel, a tofu arepa", said none other than The Magnificent Arepa herself. Maribel's face contorted into a minute grimace.
I bet she would not serve that even at gunpoint. Not even to Chavez on his deathbed (whether to save him or to finish him off).
Love our food, respect our food, play around, if you must, with our food, but it better make sense.

Monday, July 11, 2011

News Digest

The Casey Anthony Trial
I must be the only person in this country who did not follow the Casey Anthony trial. Not once. I vaguely remember hearing about it and nothing else until the non-guilty verdict. This is what happens when you don't have cable. However, I have been glued to anything with the initials DSK on it.  Perhaps I find it hard to muster curiosity about a crime in Florida committed by trashy people. Call me a snob. I much prefer the sleaze of the former president of the IMF and the now possible sleaze of an immigrant chambermaid.
I'm writing this as I sit and wait in Jury Duty.

News of The News Of The World
Again, had heard about Sienna Miller and Hugh Grant having their phones hacked, but what transpired with that poor murdered girl, the families of fallen soldiers, Murdoch's cozy relationship with David Cameron, who once employed the very same guy who is now arrested for hacking phones, and the fact that Murdoch would rather close a newspaper and leave people jobless, than sacrifice his deputy in evil, make this quite irresistible. That the British police, which in my fantasy were supposed to be a model of probity, were colluding with this trashy paper which, like the New York Post, is not fit for people to scoop up dog poop, this is actually shocking to me.
I'm exuberantly delighted that the untouchable Rupert Murdoch finally got his brass balls dipped in acid. Let it rip.

Facundo Cabral Gets Murdered in Guatemala
Poor guy. He happens to ride with a Guatemalan impresario and gets sprayed with bullets in that hellhole of a country. I am not a fan of his mawkish protest folk music, but geez, what's with the endless, stupid violence?

Today On I've Had It With Hollywood

Rapt, a fabulous French thriller that may remind you of DSK.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

We The People

As seen in the West Village on July 4:

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness".
Better than the ubiquitous flags. 

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Take This Job And Shove It

Funny: the less Mexican illegal immigrants there actually are (numbers are falling precipitously), the more draconian the measures being passed in certain xenophobic states. Some people will argue that the main reason Mexicans have virtually stopped crossing the border illegally is because they don't want to deal with those terrible anti-immigration laws. I'm sure they have given people pause. But it is important to point out that they are not the sole reason why Mexicans are choosing to stay home. According to this article in the New York Times, there are many more substantial reasons why Mexicans are not crossing over, namely, that life has gotten better in Mexico
This is hard to believe when all we hear is about thousands of deaths due to the "war on drugs" and the anti-immigrant hysteria here in the States. It's hard to believe even for Mexicans, who, used to ages of corruption and inefficiency, are constitutionally incapable of believing that things are going well in their own country, or that their government is doing something right. But birthrates have fallen from seven children per woman in the 1970's to two today (thanks to an enduring family planning campaign by the government. I still remember the slogan "la familia pequeña vive mejor" -- "a small family lives better"), and despite the best destructive efforts by the Catholic Church. 

As families' economic pressures are eased, more children are studying, more are going to college. Many former migrants are coming back. Certainly, life must also have gotten better because they were, if I am not mistaken, the second source of income for Mexico after oil. They sent a lot of money back to their hometowns, and they are coming back with money to spend. And many Mexicans are applying for legal work visas, because they are doing the math. Why pay $3000 to risk death at the hands of the merciless desert heat, murderous gangs or rapacious smugglers? Get in line and ask for a Visa. The United States cannot live without this labor force.
Even with the solidity of the numbers quoted in the article, I'm a little skeptical. The article focuses on the state of Jalisco, which is a pretty prosperous state. It says that a lot of the work there comes from the boom of fancy tequila marketing (as I've always maintained, tequila is not only the Nectar of the Gods, but good for all that ails you, including apparently curbing illegal immigration). Yet I wonder if really poor states like Oaxaca, Chiapas and Guerrero are seeing the benefits of this economic upswing.
Still, I'm so happy that circumstances prove that Mexico is not only not a failed state, nor should it be annexed by the US, nor is a dark hole of underdevelopment, but a great, dynamic country which has always teetered between extraordinary progress and stagnation.
I hope that economic, social and political progress will continue. I love the college kid in the article who says that he wants to come to the US but as a tourist. Now that is change.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Petra Rules

Dear readers: for those of you who wish to read Petra's Diary, please be advised that on her request, it is being published on her new very own blog. She didn't want to mix with riffraff like me, so now she has her own page. It was the least I could do since I decided to publish her private diary without her permission.
For your convenience, there is a link to her blog on the blogroll below. Be sure to check her page out. She's a fun lady.

Friday, July 01, 2011

The People v. DSK

It just started getting interesting! Who knew!

The narrative of a sex-addicted, entitled, powerful white male vs. a hard-working innocent African widow is interesting enough. But the narrative of a sex-addicted, entitled, powerful white male vs. a seemingly hard-working and perhaps not so innocent African widow that seemed to ask advice about profiting from her accusation is far more interesting. It messes with our heads big time.
This is not only a case in which we allowed ourselves to be swayed by our romantic notions of pure evil vs. pure good, strong vs. weak, white vs. black, powerful vs. powerless, man vs. woman, etc. By now we should all know that human nature is a magnificent cornucopia of complexity and base motives and we should not fall so easily for such tidy narratives. Which is to say, in so many words, "my bad".
I feel a little bad about coming down so hard on DSK, but not too much. The copiously documented fact remains that he is a serial harasser of women (not a confirmed rapist yet). Now his accuser needs to prove that he tried to rape her. The fact that she lied about her asylum application, consorts with drug dealers, and has been lying to prosecutors certainly weakens her case but does not necessarily mean that he is automatically absolved from the accusation. I assume that is why he has been released from house arrest but they have not given him his passport back.
The New York Times says that "forensic tests found unambiguous evidence of a sexual encounter between Mr. Strauss-Kahn and the woman" so the question is whether she was attacked or it was consensual. I find it hard to believe that it was consensual. This woman may be a pest, and not the angelical Pollyanna she was portrayed as by the media, her lawyer and the D.A's office. The fact that she may be a liar and perhaps even a criminal does not erase an attempted rape if indeed there was one. But how are we ever going to know? She has no credibility now. Unless the forensic evidence is incontrovertible (signs of struggle, etc), he may always claim it was consensual.
There are so many questions:
Why did the D.A.'s office write to the defense with their findings of this woman's credibility issues? To beat them to the curb? Is this normal procedure?
Is it legal for them to record a conversation between her and her incarcerated friend (who happens to be a drug dealer who apparently uses her to launder money?). Can this evidence be used in court? 
If they were too eager to accuse DSK, are they now not too eager to let him off?
Was there attempted rape or not? This is the question.
Everything I've read seems to point out to the fact that the woman did not know who DSK was when she accused him. Let's suppose she was attacked and then continued cleaning* and then decided to seek advice from her friend in jail and only then did she come out with the allegations. This still does not mean that there was not an attack on her, just that she was figuring out if it was profitable to her or not. This is horrible, but such is human nature.
And who knows? After his ordeal, he may be rewarded with the Presidency of France, if he decides to seek office. And she may be deported for lying on her asylum application and other documents. Tides turn, or what?

*On 9/11, after witnessing the two planes hit the towers, I went to my office and told my colleague at the time that we should get back to work. He looked at me as if I was insane. I didn't even know what I was saying, but it was like an instinct to will everything to return to normalcy. So I could believe that this may have been the case with her, or most likely she had things to weigh in her mind before crying out immediately with an accusation. Will they believe me? Should I say anything? This happens all the time... To me this is not evidence of cold calculation. The phone call to the friend may be.