Monday morning mixed bag (and of course, Open Thread)

Victorian posy of pansiesIt turns out that a long-time friend of mine is related by marriage to Matt Axelson, who died during Operation Redwings.  As you recall, Marcus Luttrell memorialized Operation Redwings in Lone Survivor: The Eyewitness Account of Operation Redwing and the Lost Heroes of SEAL Team 10.  A movie based upon the book opened this past weekend.

My friend heard from her relative some months ago that the movie — which family members got to preview — is really good.  Not only is the box office reflecting the movie’s quality, the movie is also driving the Left nuts for daring to be an American movie that shows our military as the good guys and the Taliban as the bad guys.

Incidentally, I do not include Jake Tapper in my scorn for the media.  There’s been a kerfuffle about him asking Luttrell whether the latter felt a sense of lives wasted when he looked back on that event.  I thought that was a legitimate question in light of the way that Obama, repeating Vietnam, has deliberately lost the war for Americans.

I will not be seeing the movie.  I found the book disturbing enough, without having actors graphically replay it on the big screen.  Not only am I too cowardly to fight, I’m too cowardly even to watch a fake version of a real fight.

Go here for more on the Left’s strident opposition to a factually accurate movie that is American-friendly and Taliban-unfriendly.

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Although I didn’t blog about it, I didn’t miss the fact that Ariel Sharon, after spending so many years in a coma, finally died.  He was a fierce warrior, always fighting on behalf of his beloved Israel.  I think his gamble with Gaza was a failure, but that failure certainly could have resulted because Sharon was struck down before he could optimize that gamble.  Bibi is good, but he’s never had Sharon’s ferocity nor do Israelis trust Bibi the way they did Sharon. When all is said and done, Ariel Sharon was a larger-than-life, frequently heroic figure who never acted without considering Israel’s welfare.

I’ve also stayed away from commenting on Obama’s tepid response to Sharon’s passing.  However, Keith Koffler did such a good write-up about Obama’s praising Sharon with faint damns that I must pass it on to you.

I’m not surprised at Obama’s dry eyes, of course.  Obama always wears his heart on his sleeve when people die.  Maggie Thatcher, who stared down communism and saved England’s economy?  Eh.  Hugh Chavez, whose hardcore socialism impoverished his country and began the work of turning it into a police state?  Obama wept.  Chris Kyle, who bravely and effectively served his country in war and in peace?  His name never passed Obama’s lips.  Whitney Houston, a drugged-out singer who wasted a God-given talent?  Obama and the missus were beside themselves.  When I look at Obama and Mooch-elle, I always want to copy Groucho Marx by singing “Whatever you’re for, I’m against it!”

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In Mexico, the drug cartels and the police forces are brothers in arms.  The citizens suffer terribly — except in Michoacan, where a vigilante army has risen up and is battling both cartels and corrupt police.

Or maybe not.  It’s entirely possible that the vigilantes are merely hired guns for a rival cartel.

I tend to believe that counter narrative.  Why?  Because violent, drug-ridden Mexico has some of the strictest gun-control laws on the books.  If these vigilantes have guns, they didn’t get them legally.  The only guns are in the hands of the government and the drug-runners.

Imagine, just for a moment, how different it would be for honest citizens in Mexico if they had a Second Amendment….

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My friend at To Put It Bluntly has written a post examining the hypocrisy behind the California Supreme Court’s decision to allow an illegal alien to get a law license in California.  It’s not just that this guy has sworn to uphold the laws of the United States and the State of California, despite the fact that he is the living embodiment of their violation.  It’s also that the tactic the Supreme Court used to arrive at its PC conclusion reveals just how much the government has its thumb on the scale when it comes to deciding who can and cannot work.  Too often, in modern America, the pursuit of happiness doesn’t include a right to honest employment without permission from the government.

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If you’re at all curious as to just how bad John Kerry is when it comes to the Middle East and Israel’s security, he’s this bad.  And if you want to know just how badly Obama dropped the ball on Iran’s nuclear ambitions, he dropped it this badly.  (Alternatively, if you believe as I do that Obama has deliberately decided to pivot away from Israel and towards Iran, he did a great job pivoting.)

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And for your reading pleasure, leadership buzz words in the Marines.

 

How Brown University “Choices” program disseminates propaganda

My 9th grader asked for help today with a required reading about Mexico.  Before helping with this assignment, I’d never heard of Brown University’s Choices Program.

Having seen just a bit of its “lesson” on Mexico, I’ll be on the lookout for it.  In just a few pages, it pretty much exonerates Mexico from its problems, blaming America and free market reforms. Please pay special attention to the cartoon that occupies almost a quarter of a page in this reading.

Never mind that Mexico never had free market reforms (it just had oligarchic capitalism) and that it uses illegal immigration to Mexico as a safety valve excusing its endemic corruption. Poor and criminal people leave the country; American dollars flow in — or at least they did, until our economic collapse, when poor Mexicans were faced with a saggy American economy to the North, and a corrupt, violent country to the South.

Choices Program on Mexico for High School students

What’s the matter with Mexico?

Up until two weeks ago, my contacts with Mexico had been very limited.  When I was four, my parents spent a day in Tijuana, at which time I allegedly stood in the middle of the mercado and cried out “I want to go back to my own civilization.”

Fast forward 20 years, and I went to Matamoros, Mexico, for a short visit.  I could not believe how seamy it was — or, at least, how seamy the quarter we visited was.  I was not surprised to learn that it later became notorious for murder.

Four years later, a friend and I went to a “luxury” resort south of Puerto Vallarta.  I use the scare quotes around the word luxury because, despite the price, there was nothing luxurious about it.  It was barely clean; the rooms were minimalist, not by trendy design, but by poverty; and the water (both drinking and swimming) was scary.  The towns we drove through from the airport were distinguished by dust and decay.

You can imagine then, that when my husband proposed a cruise to Mexico I was not enthusiastic.  I finally convinced myself to go, however, because the price was good, and the cruise ship would insulate me from the risks of contaminated food (to which I am unusually vulnerable), as well as ensuring a clean bed and bath every night.  I’m glad I made that decision.

The cruise we took was a far-reaching trip down Mexico’s west western coast.  We visit Cabo San Lucas, Manzanillo, Acapulco, Huatulco, Puerto Vallarta and Mazatlan, spending a day in each port.

Thumbnail sketches of each place don’t do them justice, but they are a start:  Cabo is nothing but a beach; Manzanillo is a bustling port city that is trying to generate buzz as a nature habitat (and that has, in the middle of the city, the most amazing tree filled with giant iguanas); Acapulco is a huge city of 2 million, that provides a graphic visualization of the rise, decline and rise again of the tourist trade over the past 40 years; Huatulco is an excellent example of the early stages of a planned eco city, interesting and sweet, both in terms of nature and archaeology; Puerto Vallarta is an almost generic arts and tourist destination; and Mazatlan is an old, interesting, quite decayed city.

As I said, those thumbnails are completely inadequate.  They reflect my impressions of those cities and towns based, not on intimate knowledge, but on a few hours in the areas most readily available to tourists.  Still, those few hours did leave me with some very strong overarching impressions about coastal Mexico generally, and I think these impressions are at least somewhat valid.

To begin with, Mexico has no middle.  This wasn’t just my impression; this was something I heard from several people, in many of the places we visited.  Mexico has a small number of very wealthy people at the top, a huge number of very poor people struggling along at the bottom, and almost no discernible middle class.

In other words, although ostensibly capitalist, Mexico doesn’t have a balanced capitalist economic structure.  Instead, its structure more closely reflects either a socialist structure (peons and party apparatchiks) or a rural aristocratic structure (nobles and laborers). Both models make sense, given Mexico’s overwhelming government (high taxes; massive, although often ignored, regulation; and a massive military presence) and its development under the Spanish aristocratic model (as opposed to the 18th Century British enlightenment model that gave America its initial social and economic structure).

Speaking of the military, Mexico doesn’t have anything equivalent to America’s posse comitatus.  The military is everywhere, a fact I remembered from my other visits to Mexico.  The constant military presence has an oppressive feel to it, at least to this American, who is used to the military being aimed at enemies foreign, not domestic.  Having said that, the people to whom I spoke felt that the military now serves a useful function because President Calderon is using it to combat the drug lords.  That is, rather than flexing its muscle against all citizens, the military is actively pursuing the bad actors.

President Calderon, by the way, appears to be popular with those paying attention.  In several of the towns we visited, people I spoke with said that they liked Calderon, and this was true even if their allegiance was to the opposition party.  The reason given, always, was the sense that he was sincere in his efforts to combat drugs.  Other presidents have postured, but Calderon actually seems to be doing something.  Even the recent increase in violent crimes is seen as something of a good thing, because it shows that the drug lords are feeling and reacting to Calderon’s pressure.  The killings are the broken eggs on the way to a drug-free Mexican omelet.  (How’s that for a strained metaphor?)

I keep mentioning “the people to whom I spoke,” so let me say something about the people we met in coastal Mexico.  Whether taxi drivers, or van drivers, or merchants, or waitresses, or anyone else, they were amazingly pleasant people.  Most spoke at least a little English, and all were anxious to be helpful.  They were kind to the children, honest in their business dealings, and incredibly hard working.  This last, incidentally, was almost sad — and it’s what leads me to repeat the question I asked in my post title:  What’s the matter with Mexico?

I saw a population of kind, honest, extremely hard-working people, and they’re going nowhere.  Although Mexico is swiftly Americanizing in many ways (Costco, American auto dealerships, Staples, Starbucks, Home Depot, and other like stores, are omnipresent in the big cities), the vast majority of people seem to live one step away from abysmal economic failure.  They’re hustling like crazy, but going nowhere fast.  They’re like people trying to swim through Jello:  no matter how fast they move their arms and legs, they’re still sinking.  Small wonder, then, that so many of them look to America, a land in which effort makes an actual difference to outcome.

The people to whom I spoke about this stagnant situation vaguely blamed government corruption.  They explained that taxes are enormously high, but little of the money seems to return to the citizens.  Government officials get paid enormously high wages, many supplement their incomes with drug money, no project can take place without bribery, and government funds are siphoned off into private pockets.

A perfect example of corrupt or inept government was a high rise in Acapulco.  It was about 16 stories tall, fairly new, and completely empty.  After the developer had built the entire framework, our driver told us, the government shut it down for failing to comply with building laws.  In America, that probably wouldn’t happen, because inspectors monitor every step of the project.  (I’ve seen this on both private and institutional projects.)  Under the corruption hypothesis, the fact that a building climbed 16 stories only to be abandoned suggests that someone in the government didn’t get paid and got his revenge.  The ineptitude possibility is that no one was paying attention to the building’s structural integrity until millions had already been sunk into a building too dangerous ever to be occupied.  Either way, it’s an expensive dead spot in Acapulco.

One can’t avoid the cultural problem, either.  The small number of coastal cities in Mexico that I saw were prone to what I would call an ad hoc or jury rig approach to things.  Nothing was done well if it could be done badly.  People hustled like crazy, but there was little evidence of Western style efficiency or organization.  This is self-imposed Jello swimming.  If you’re locked in a mentality that steers you to the lowest common denominator, you’re never going to get ahead.  I know that part of this is because of poverty, but a lot of the jury rigging I saw (in the way things were cleaned or constructed, for example) had nothing to do with poverty, and everything to do with attitude.

I would like Mexico to do well.  Selfishly, I want a safe country on my southern border, one that doesn’t import drugs, terrorists and the poor onto my own land.  More altruistically, I want the Mexican people to prosper.  They’re good people and deserve better than they’re getting right now.  I cam away from my trip, however, convinced that it will take an enormous effort to bring Mexico up in the world.  Change will happen only under two circumstances, both uniquely difficult to achieve:  (1) Government must clean up and shrink down; and (2) the citizens have to become more organized and efficient.  As long as they’re spending at least as much time spinning their wheels as they are moving forward, they’re going to go nowhere fast.

The passive aggressive selfishness and racism of the open borders crowd *UPDATED*

The next big thing on the political agenda is, again, immigration “reform.”  As someone said, it’s 2006 all over again, right down to the conveniently available, often Communist-provided signs.

The matter might have sat around for a little longer, but Arizona pulled the trigger on debate by looking at its impressive levels of border crime and welfare, and then enacting a law that authorizes it to act within the parameters of existing federal law regarding illegal immigration.  The Progressives (and by now that means most of the loud mouths in the Democratic party) are incensed.  They’re likening Arizona to Nazi Germany for having the temerity to ask people to show their citizenship papers.  Given the point of origin for most illegal immigrants (hint:  it’s not Denmark), those most likely to be asked are Hispanics.  Quell coincidence!

Rush, of course, instantly pointed out the most obvious hypocrisy behind the Progressive hue-and-cry:  Progressives have enacted and strenuously support a law requiring every American citizen to show papers to the IRS or risk a fine; but they are shocked beyond measure that a state rife with crime may want to enforce pre-existing law that allows them to ask people to prove that they even belong in the country in the first place.

“Belonging in the country” is where things really get interesting.  As best as I can tell, the Open Borders crowd is convinced that the illegals here do really belong in the country.  Whether they’re making hopey-changey arguments; or “we Hispanics were here first” arguments (a line of argument that actually applies only to Native Americans, with everyone else being an invader); or “we’ve imposed so much misery on oppressed people of the world we deserve to suffer” arguments, the gist of the Progressive world view is that it’s simply unfair that people south of the Border live in poverty.

For purposes of this post, I’m going to accept the Progressive argument at face value:  it’s horribly unfair that people south of the Border live in countries rife with crime, sexual violence, drugs and poverty, when we have this perfectly nice, clean, relatively safe country just hovering north of them as a perpetual enticement.  And if you buy that it’s all our fault that they suffer so terribly down there, it’s even more unfair.

The easy answer, the answer the Progressive’s espouse, is simply to open the borders and let some of the tired, poor, huddled masses from down south pour in.  Not only will they get to live in a nicer place (if you think urban slums and crime ridden border towns are nicer), but we Americans will be forced to pay a perpetual penance in the form of fewer jobs for legal citizens, higher taxes to cover welfare for illegals, and increased crime rates everywhere illegals are.  We deserve to be punished, right?

What the Progressive’s refuse to recognize is that their cute little game of allow a continuous trickle of illegal aliens over the border is a cop-out.  No matter how many come in here, there are still a much larger number abandoned way back there.  And what’s even worse is that, by allowing utterly corrupt governments (Mexico comes to mind) to have this safety valve, we are giving those governments carte blanche to continue in their reckless, corrupt, abusive ways.  As long as we siphon off the poorest and, sometimes, the most criminal citizens, the same governments that are grossly abusing their citizens continue to get a free pass.

If Progressives actually wanted to make a change South of the Border, they’d close our border and start putting really serious pressure on Latin American countries to start engaging in true reform.  The Mexican government, denied a safety valve (plus the billions of dollars the illegals send home to float the Mexican economy), would have to reform or, probably, collapse.  Clearing out that rot, allow room for true reform and real Democratic impulses, would be the true gift we, as Americans, could give people South of the Border.

Right now, all that the shrill, abusive Progressive rhetoric is doing is propping up tyrants, demagogues, criminals and incompetents.  That the Progressives’ goal is to punish Americans, not to aid Latin American, is made manifest by the fact that they aggressively refuse to help the greater number of Hispanics repair the situation at home, choosing instead to abuse their own country by putting small percentages of Hispanics in ghettos in America, all the while implicitly and explicitly supporting the same horrible regimes that sent these people fleeing in the first place.

UPDATE:  Speaking of Mexico, Michelle Malkin explains how Mexico treats its illegal immigrants.  Unconstrained by PC guilt, it’s not pretty.  Also, it was the Anchoress who said it’s 2006 all over again, and now I’ve got a good link to that effect.

Our next door neighbors

When I was five years old (so this would have been in the mid-1960s), as part of a trip to Southern California, my parents dipped us into Tijuana.  I still remember that trip.  We went to a large, crowded market place that smelled bad.  That’s all I remember.  But what my parents remember is me coming to a dead stop in the middle of the market and howling “I want to go back to my own civilization.”

Tijuana is still an uncivilized place, and continues as a reminder that Mexico is an unstable, crime-ridden society, and that good fences make good neighbors.

Even the earth is out to get Mexico

Questions swirl (a little bit) about whether the fatal swine flu plaguing Mexico is a “man-caused disaster” or just the run-of-the-mill Nature triumphs kind of thing.  There can be no doubt, however that the earthquake  that just struck is Nature’s little reminder that she is now, and always will be, in charge.
From Twitter’s breaking news:

  1. URGENT — People have been evacuated from buildings in Mexico City after a major 6.0 magnitude earthquake struck 100 miles away.

  2. BULLETIN — USGS UPGRADES EARTHQUAKE MAGNITUDE IN MEXICO TO 6.0.

  3. A moderate and shallow earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 5.6 has struck Guerrero, Mexico. No word on damage or casualties.

  4. BULLETIN — MEXICAN EARTHQUAKE HAD PRELIMINARY 5.6 TO 5.8 MAGNITUDE.

  5. A spokeswoman for the United States Geological Survey says an earthquake has rocked central Mexico; news agencies say “powerful” quake.

  6. BULLETIN — “POWERFUL” EARTHQUAKE SHAKES BUILDINGS IN MEXICO CITY, NEWS AGENCIES REPORT.

If you masquerade as a US citizen, you’ll be treated as one

Back in 1989, Bay Area locals were stunned to learn of a horrific massacre up in Sonoma County:

[Ramon] Salcido, now 47, used a gun and knife to murder his wife, Angela Richards Salcido, 24; their daughters, 4-year-old Sofia and 22-month-old Teresa; his mother-in-law, Marion Richards, 47; her daughters, 12-year-old Ruth and 8-year-old Maria; and Tracey Toovey, 35, his supervisor at Grand Cru Winery in Glen Ellen.

He was also convicted of attempting to murder his 2-year-old daughter, Carmina, who survived a slashed throat, and another winery worker, Kenneth Butti, who was shot in the shoulder.

After these heinous murders, Salcido escaped to Mexico, where he was caught and returned to California for trial.  The jury convicted him and recommended the death penalty.  He’s been appealing ever since, a process that just resulted in an opinion from the California Supreme Court.

Almost surprisingly, given that it is a California Court, the judges ruled that the death penalty was valid.  They batted down his arguments about mental illness and information withheld from the jury, and all sorts of other stuff.

The argument that intrigued me was Salcido’s claim that, as a Mexican citizen, he could not be extradited from Mexico (which has no death penalty) to America.  This is a familiar argument, as we’ve seen it play out before, with Mexico refusing to turn suspected killers over to the US authorities.  This time, though, there was a twist.  In reading the following, you have to appreciate the unspoken concept behind all this, which is that Salcido was here in America, and committed all those horrible acts, as an illegal alien:

In his appeal, Salcido’s lawyer contended his client, who was a Mexican citizen, had been transferred to the United States in violation of a treaty that allows the Mexican government to block the extradition of one of its citizens unless U.S. authorities promise not to impose the death penalty, which does not exist in Mexico.

Salcido’s lawyer contended agents from Sonoma County and the federal government had induced Mexican officials to transfer Salcido by identifying him as a U.S. citizen.

But the court said law enforcement officials from both countries had believed Salcido was a U.S. citizen based on his own statements and on Salcido’s residence in California, where he had a Social Security card and a driver’s license.

In other words, the Supreme Court said that, if you’re going to go around pretending to be an American citizen, you can’t complain if you are then treated as one to your detriment.  In any event, the Court added, only the Mexican government gets to complain if one of its citizens is wrongfully taken from its borders.  Given Salcido’s appalling conduct, Mexico may feel that this is one citizenship error better left unremedied.

From the “now I’ve seen everything” file

I get emails from Kayak.com, a travel site. The most recent email offers this cutting edge travel opportunity:

Immigration and border patrol seems to be at the top of every political conversation. At Parque Eco Alberto, you can go on a pretend ‘Night Border Crossing Experience.’ The parque is owned by the Hnahnu Indians in Hidalgo, about three hours from Mexico City. The $18, four-hour night hike starts with the Mexico National Anthem. Your ‘coyote’ guide, Pancho, pulls off his black ski mask while actors gather around to scare you senseless along the way. Run from border control agents; dodge hidden actors shooting (blanks) at you, and make your way through barbed-wire fences. Survivors are blindfolded, led across a rickety bridge, and then set free to run across the border to freedom!

Believe it or not, this is not a joke. It’s the real deal, ready-made for those who want to feel the illegal immigrant’s pain. As the New York Times explained this past weekend (and how could I have missed it?):

Organizers say they opened the park about two and a half years ago, with financing from the Mexican government, and began the caminata as a way to offer tourists a taste of life as an illegal immigrant. (Emphasis mine.)

The Hñahñus are people who know something about that life. Of the approximately 2,200 Hñahñus from this area, 700 live in Mexico and 1,500 live “on the other side” — mostly in Las Vegas and other parts of Nevada, where they install drywall, drive trucks or work on farms, residents say. Many of the tour guides here have crossed the real border several times.