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Monthly Archives: August 2013

I am bitterly disappointed by many things in this world. During my morning run today I saw at least ten things on CP24 that deeply troubled me, most of them having to do with Syria and the asinine presidents of Venezuela and Russia’s reactions. On a smaller scale, I am disappointed that Liberte no longer makes 2.1% un-Greek coconut yogurt, and that three out of every four Golden Girls are dead. And don’t even get me started on dinosaurs or Data’s death!!

But nothing in this world has disappointed me more consistently than my adopted country of origin, Mexico. I was born September 15, which is when Mexicans begin celebrating the Grito de Dolores (the beginning of their revolt from the Spaniards). In other words, my birthday is the day when Mexico gets really, really messy.

So it’s fitting that I have always had a special relationship with Mexico. I watch its telenovelas, I listen to its music, I single-handedly keep Corona in business, and, yes, I’ve been known to see a Mexican man or two in my time.

Now anyone who has been following the events in Mexico for any amount of time is likely pretty horrified, as am I. Ciudad Juarez had/has the murder rate of a war zone. The police force is so corrupt and ineffectual that vigilante groups are popping up all over the country. The state of Michoacan is in danger of being overtaken by drug cartels. Many of the candidates in recent elections faced violence and some were murdered. And now the one bright spot–the miraculous “Pacto por Mexico” project of cooperation between the three major political parties, the PRI, PAN, and PRD–is in danger of derailment due to an ugly spat over the privatization of Pemex, the state-owned oil behemoth.

But many of these problems have been argued and lamented over for years. The violence in Mexico has been turning my stomach pretty much ever since I had a stomach to turn, and the nation is certainly no stranger to failed state speculation. The thing is that now the one thing that President Pena Nieto said his government would be good at, the economy, is also falling into the shitter. This is purportedly due to a weak export market in the States, but I don’t know why anyone even feels the need to make excuses: how can the economy function, let alone grow, when much of the country is in a constant state of chaos and insecurity?!

At the outset of his mandate, Pena Nieto vowed to focus on the economy; economic prosperity, he claimed,  would be the key to solving the country’s grave security issues. (Though he has also outlined a comprehensive security strategy.) By severely downplaying the situation, he attempted to attract foreign investors, and official crime stats since he took office have been promising. However, this is probably due to factors outside of his control: his predecessor Calderon took down many of the major narcos in his bloody and ill-advised war on drugs. Even more worrying is the PRI’s history of cooperation (for a price) with the cartels, which makes me wonder how much of violent crime reduction is due to the PRI returning to old ways. I have my suspicions, but I haven’t seen any coverage of this issue in mainstream media, so I’m not sure how concerned I should be.

So as I’ve previously mentioned, Mexico would do well to diversify its export market away from the States, but it really needs to deal with the crazy shit happening inside its borders, and it probably needs some help to do that. Some of what should be done lies with the US–gun control and drug legalization would be a nice start, but good luck getting anything accomplished in that partisan cesspool. And Mexico’s regulators should use this rare moment of harmony to focus on creating a strategy to deal with the violence instead of squabbling over oil.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that I am not really disappointed by Mexico, as most Mexicans are not actively and maliciously attempting to take down their own country. I am disappointed by the events that always seem to conspire against Mexico, and I am disappointed that its neighbors to the north are too self-involved to care. I am disappointed that I cannot go there and start a new life without wondering if my severed head will be put on a stick outside of a nightclub at some point–and that’s one of the better ways to die.

Also, I am disappointed that Jaime Camil doesn’t seem to be aging as gracefully as I’d hoped. Yowza!

Seriously, Jamito, get it together…or not. A few days ago, a Mexican man I used to date proudly declared that he was a player. I asked him why, and his response? “Baby, soy latino!” Way to ruin it for everyone else, man. Just one more thing to add to the pile of Mexican disappointments.

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I’ve been off my blog grind lately and on my international development grind. As some may be able to tell, I’ve also been listening to a lot of hip hop music, so it may take a while to get my writing style back to a normal place. Gangsta party.

I don’t really want to get too in-depth about anything today, but would like to observe how appallingly little has changed in the world since I last wrote about it. I check the econ blogs and see that inequality is still a buzzword, the financial sector is still improperly regulated,  Republicans still hate the poor, and Miley Cyrus is still twerking. Ok that last one wasn’t covered by the econ blogs, but it’s a pretty hot story right now for whatever reason.

Here in Canada, senators are still being bad, while in the Middle East, Syria is still imploding and the Israelis and Palestinians haven’t been able to come to any sort of deal despite the best efforts of Mr. Kerry. Across the pond, Mark Carney made his first public statement as Governor of the Bank of England, which contained more escape clauses than a Choose Your Own Adventure novel. And so the confusing central bank developments continue.

One story I have been following with genuine interest is the debate around who will succeed Bernanke as Chair of the Federal Reserve. The argument follows a trajectory sort of like this:

1. Someone makes a case for Summers to succeed Bernanke. This person is usually a friend of Summers.

2. Summers supporters are accused of sexism and a case is made for Yellen instead.

3. The Yellen supporter is accused of supporting her only by virtue of her gender, and therefore is also sexist.

4. Mark Carney is dragged into the controversy for saying that talent is being overlooked in the upper echelons of finance and central banking, his evidence being the near-complete absence of women in the upper echelons of finance and central banking.

5. Mark Carney is accused of being sexist like Larry Summers. In fact, anyone who mentions the issue of women’s advancement in finance is sexist and anyone who supports Summers OR Yellen is sexist. In fact, any human who was ever born, anywhere, and who regularly says words and breathes air is sexist.

So that’s where that leaves us, with no obvious successor to Bernanke and no obvious way to encourage women’s advancement in the finance industry. Ignoring the problem doesn’t solve anything, and drawing attention to the problem opens a floodgate of (GASP!) Larry Summers comparisons. Anyone who draws attention to the problem is labelled sexist, which is a wonderful way to stifle debate and perpetuate the status quo.

I’m in the Yellen camp–perhaps unsurprisingly–not because she is a woman, but because she has not shown the reckless hubris and complete lack of moral scruples that personify Summers. Hm where did I see those traits last….oh yeah, Alan Greenspan! Summers is a cad who deregulated asset-backed securities and then when shit got real he dipped, running straight to the private sector, where he had his pick of jobs from the banks he had helped (at the expense of pretty much everyone else) while in government. Yellen is not an asshole. Maybe it’s because she is a woman, but plenty of women are assholes, so we’ll have to ask Judith Butler about that one.

What I will say is that many arguments against Yellen are centered on her outsider status. “Outsider status” seems to me a euphemism for “she does not tolerate the cronyism that is rampant between finance and government.” Again, maybe it’s because she’s a woman, but probably not. In fact, the issue of sexism seems wholly beside the point to me in this debate–the real issue is cronyism. (Though cronyism can be sexist…but that’s another day’s post.) Would someone with Summers’ track record be hired solely based on his professional achievements? Not a chance–he has none of which to speak! He is being considered because he is known and he’s been around that way before. Shame on you, Obama.

And now, lest anyone think I’ve focused on frivolous trifles at the expense of the issues, here is one story that matters for everyone, regardless of gender or interest rate policy preference:

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It’s great to be back!