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As everybody knows, Mexican telecom monopolist Carlos Slim [formerly Salim] and largest single owner of New York Times stock is of Lebanese Maronite Christian descent through both of his parents.

Interestingly, Slim married a Lebanese girl as well, with whom he had six children before her sad death in 1999.

But only today did I learn Slim’s wife’s maiden name:

Soumaya Domit Gemayel

Mrs. Slim was a Gemayel on her mother’s side. The name “Gemayel” brings back memories.

Lebanon’s Gemayel Family has its own Wikipedia page, with eleven members of the family having individual Wiki pages.

If you followed Israel’s invasion of Lebanon in 1982 and America’s subsequent misadventure in Lebanon, you’ll remember hearing the name Gemayel.

After visiting the Berlin Olympics in 1936, Pierre Gemayel founded Lebanon’s fascist-oriented, pro-Western Phalange Party.

Sheik Pierre’s son Bashir Gemayel was the most ferocious Christian warlord of Lebanon’s civil war that began in 1975. (Above is Geraldo Rivera’s 1982 interview with Bashir.) It should be kept in mind that much of Bashir’s violence was devoted less to fighting Muslims than to making the Gemayels supreme over the other Christian warlord clans, such as the Chamouns.

(One of my readers once worked for the State Department and was in charge of babysitting a young member of one of these elite Christian clans eventually overwhelmed by the Gemayels. [I think he was a Chamoun, but my recollection could be faulty.] To pass the time, my reader took the young Lebanese to see The Godfather. His charge was shaken by the movie, saying afterwards: “That’s exactly like my family.” But, as it turned out, they weren’t quite Corleoney enough to stop the rise of the Gemayels.)

Bashir and Ariel

And for 22 days in 1982, Bashir was President-elect of Lebanon, with the backing of the Reagan and Begin-Sharon governments.

Time Magazine wrote:

Gemayel: Ruthless Idealist
Monday, Sept. 06, 1982

Liberator. Warlord. Patriot. Power-mad. Those are some of the terms that Bashir Gemayel’s deeply riven countrymen have used to describe their President-elect during his years as a leader of the Christian militia forces.

Part political idealist and part storm trooper, Gemayel, 34, has shown he will use whatever means necessary to achieve his nationalist goals.

But on September 14th, 1982, Bashir was blown up (apparently by a rival Christian).

The headline on his obituary in the NYT read:

Bashir Gemayel Lived by the Sword

The notorious massacres in the Sabra and Shatila Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon were carried out by Bashir’s Phalangists (apparently with Israeli approval) two days after his murder.

Bashir’s brother Amine Gemayel took Bashir’s place and served from 1982-1988 as president of Lebanon.

Amine’s son Pierre was assassinated in 2006.

Ronnie and Amine

Three sources I’ve found say the late Senora Slim was the niece of Bashir and Amine Gemayel (which would make her the granddaughter of Pierre Gemayel), while another describes her as their cousin. (Or the genealogical relationship could be more distant: people often collapse relationships when recounting them.)

In summary, I’ve been reading up now and then about Carlos Slim for about eight years now, but until today I’d never heard that his wife was a member of the clan that was in the news practically every single day in 1982.

It probably wouldn’t be good for business for Slim to broadcast that fact. The Gemayels had enemies. On the other hand, important people who would be reassured by this Arab entrepreneur’s ties via his in-laws to, say, Ariel Sharon could be apprised of them personally.

I’m starting to imagine that, with that kind of ancestry, Carlos and Soumaya’s six children will remain a dynastic force even after their parents are gone.

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Here’s a transcript of the heart (from 0:49 to 2:16) of this high level discussion at the National Palace in Mexico City:

President of Mexico [to American Ambassador]: “First of all, and as you may know, we actually have many problems in Mexico. The most important are the economic ones: crisis, inflation, unemployment, social instability, and the violence originated by the organized crime. But I want to inform you that we are working very hard on these subjects. [Getting to the point] If you opened your border to all my fellows countrymen, we can do all kinds of jobs even the black people don’t wanted to do.”

American Ambassador: “Eh … I beg your pardon, Mr. President, I’m not quite sure I understand what you’re saying?”

President of Mexico: “I’ll make it clear for you, Ambassador, my government has a very interesting propulsion …”

Aide: “Proposition”

President: “Proposition to your President.”

Ambassador: “I’m listening, Mr. President.”

President: “That we, the Mexicans, we are waiting to do all the dirty jobs not even the Negros wanted to do. Actually, the Mexicans are better than blacks almost in everything.”

Ambassador: “Yes, well, I will report this news to President Obama and I’m sure he’ll be pleased at your offer.”

President [standing, wrapping up meeting]: Well, Mr. Ambassador, once again, ¡Welcome to Mexico!”

This is the opening scene from La Dictadura Perfecta, or “The Perfect Dictatorship,” a term for the Mexican government coined by Peruvian novelist Mario Vargas Llosa.

Directed by Luis Estrada, La Dictadura Perfecta was the highest grossing Mexican movie of 2014. (I reviewed Estrada’s first political satire, Herod’s Law, in 2003.)

After this scene, the film turns into a multi-Wag the Dog story as the President orders the monopoly television network to redirect attention from his embarrassment to a financial scandal involving a corrupt state governor (Damián Alcázar). In turn, the network executives offer the beleaguered governor their premium image management services.

You can watch the movie (with English subtitles or dubbed into English, your choice) on Netflix.

Here’s the historical inspiration for this scene: Mexican President Vicente Fox speaking in 2005:

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From the Wall Street Journal, an article that doesn’t have too much new news, but gives me an excuse to offer some perspective on the Bush Dynasty’s self-image of their role in New World history:

How Jeb Bush Spent His Years on Wall Street
Former governor’s time at Lehman and Barclays sets him apart from other presidential hopefuls

Aug. 4, 2015 10:30 p.m. ET

Ten weeks before the collapse of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc., a financial disaster that ushered in the global economic crisis in September 2008, Jeb Bush was in Mexico City to seek help from billionaire Carlos Slim.

Mr. Bush signed on with Lehman after leaving the Florida governor’s mansion, making it clear he wanted work as a hands-on investment banker rather than hold a ceremonial role typically given ex-politicians. Now was his chance.

Mr. Bush was a longtime acquaintance of Mr. Slim, at the time ranked as the world’s second wealthiest individual and one of several deep-pocketed investors on Lehman’s radar. “Project Verde” was supposed to bring home badly needed cash and confidence. Mr. Slim, however, was more interested in talking baseball than investing in the troubled firm.

More doors closed that summer before Lehman shut its own, but Mr. Bush, following in the footsteps of a grandfather and great-grandfather, latched onto investment banking through the worst downturn since the Great Depression.

For more than seven years, nearly the length of his two gubernatorial terms, Mr. Bush, a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, spent as much as half of his working hours advising Lehman and later Barclays, which bought the collapsed investment bank’s U.S. business. He wasn’t an employee of the firms, said people familiar with the matter, but was paid to attend meetings, dinners and conferences where he spoke to clients and bank executives on such subjects as health care, education, immigration and energy—matters he has started taking up this year with voters.

Mr. Bush earned about $1.3 million a year at Lehman and some $2 million from Barclays, his campaign said. …

Mr. Bush received a warm welcome on Wall Street, where financial firms often seek former political figures to help open doors. At least six firms offered Mr. Bush a position when he finished his second term as governor in January 2007, according to people familiar with the matter.

When he joined Lehman in June that year, Mr. Bush was the brother of a sitting U.S. president, George W. Bush, and already had ties with the investment bank, known for its scrappy culture and aggressive management team led by chief executive Richard Fuld, a longtime Democrat.

In other words, the President’s brother took several months to decide which Wall Street firm to cast his lot with and picked the one that blew up the world less than a year and a half later.

Unlike most former politicians in finance, Mr. Bush was seen as “commercial,” almost a term of endearment on Wall Street meaning he understood how bankers prepared for meetings, advised clients and made money.

Jeb strikes me as an amiable second rater relative to his older brother, a hostile third rater.

… Finance, however, is part of the Bush family history. Jeb’s great-grandfather, George Herbert Walker, and grandfather, Prescott Bush, both worked at the firm that became investment bank Brown Brothers Harriman & Co.

“I’d say for the Kennedys, politics was in their DNA,” Ms. Perry said. “In the case of the Bushes, it’s both politics and high finance.” …

Mr. Bush’s fluency in Spanish and extensive experience in Latin America made him a good choice for the July 2, 2008, trip to Mexico City. He also knew Mr. Slim well: the Mexican billionaire had lent a collection of small-scale Rodin sculptures for the Florida governor’s mansion when Mr. Bush lived there. …

Mr. Bush and a handful of Lehman advisers also met with Mr. Slim in his office that day to propose a number of deals, including an investment in Lehman. The answer, the Lehman team soon learned, was no.

“Project verde was unsuccessful,” Mr. Bush wrote to a colleague after the meeting in a July 5, 2008 email made public during Lehman’s bankruptcy proceedings. “He did not express interest in jv or stock purchase.”

While refusing to pour his money down the Lehman rathole, Slim went on to bail out the New York Times. It’s almost as if Slim understands America better than the Bushes do …

The background on all this is that the Bush family has been interested in reversing Mexican economic nationalism / protectionism — highlighted by the 1938 kicking out of American and British oil companies (recently reversed) — for a very long time. There’s a lot of money to be made grinding down the border between America and Mexico, and it’s by no means impossible to persuade yourself you are doing it for the good of your country.

George H.W. Bush named the oil firm he cofounded in Texas in 1953 Zapata (similarly, George W. Bush named his oil firm Arbusto). By 1960 the elder Bush had hired a Mexican front man, Jorge Diaz Serrano, to allow Zapata to operate in Mexican waters. Diaz Serrano later went on to be head of Mexico’s Pemex monopoly and to steal so flagrantly during the late 1970s boom that he was one of the three government officials symbolically imprisoned for corruption by the new PRI president elected in 1982.

GHW Bush & Carlos Salinas

Much of the elder Bush’s presidency consisted of reacting to various unexpected developments, such as the decline of the Soviet Union, the invasion of Kuwait, the recession, the Los Angeles riots, and so forth. But one exception to this “in-box Presidency” where Bush was more proactive was NAFTA, helping get Mexico to join the trade agreement long underway between the U.S. and Canada.

The elder Bush used his Spanish-speaking son Jeb and Mexican daughter-in-law Columba Bush in a diplomatic role of building ties with the Salinas clan ruling Mexico.

Dolia Estevez wrote in Forbes on April 7:

In 1988, as a special gesture to Salinas, Bush sent his daughter-in-law Columba to his inauguration. …

The vast bulk of Carlos Slim’s fortune derives from President Salinas selling him the Mexican government’s telecom monopoly, so the Bushes and Slim are linked at least through their mutual friendship with the Salinases.

Similarly, GWB came to office in 2001 with as a very high priority negotiating an immigration deal with the new PAN government of Mexico. Why? Why not? Doing deals with Mexico is what Bushes do.

The Bushes’ ties to Mexico, however, have not been free from controversy. During the first Bush Administration, Jeb and Columba became close to Raúl Salinas de Gortari, the then President’s powerful and controversial older brother.

Raul Salinas

After Salinas left office in 1994, the Salinas family fell from grace in a swirl of drug-related corruption and crime scandals. Raúl was jailed and convicted on charges of money laundering and of masterminding the assassination of his brother-in-law; after spending 10 years in jail, Raúl was acquitted of both crimes.

Another Salinas brother, Enrique, was found dead in a car in 2004, apparently murdered.

With the scandal unraveling, Jeb’s friendship with Raúl did not go unnoticed. “There has been a great deal of speculation in Mexico about the exact nature of Raúl Salinas’ close friendship with former President George Bush’s son, Jeb. It is well known here [Mexico] that for many years the two families spent vacations together–the Salinases at Jeb Bush’s home in Miami, the Bushes at Raul’s ranch, Las Mendocinas, under the volcano in Puebla. There are many in Mexico who believe that the relationship became a back channel for delicate and crucial negotiations between the two governments, leading up to President Bush’s sponsorship of NAFTA,” wrote Mexican intellectual Jorge G. Castañeda, in a 1995 op-ed in The Los Angles Times. Castañeda later became Mexico’s Foreign Minister.

Jeb has never denied his friendship with Raúl, who keeps a low profile in Mexico. Kristy Campbell, spokesperson for Bush, did not respond a request for comment. …

After leaving the Governor’s mansion in 2007, Jeb continued to cultivate his connections to Mexico’s powerful elite. … Later McCain and Bush dined at the U.S. Embassy with some of Mexico’s most powerful businessmen, including Carlos Slim Domit, telecom mogul Carlos Slim Helú’s older son.

So, much of the background of the immigration issue is tied into a Game of Thrones played by clans like the Bushes, Salinases, Slims, etc. But we’re not supposed to notice that. We’re supposed to believe that it’s all about fighting the good fight against white racism, so therefore you are a racist if you are skeptical about what the Bushes are up to.

• Category: Ideology • Tags: Carlos Slim, Jeb Bush, Mexico 
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From my new movie review in Taki’s Magazine:

Among literary critics, a controversy has been raging tepidly over what purpose reviewing might hold in this age of crowdsourcing. Why rely upon one fallible pundit’s thumbs up or thumbs down when you can access the wisdom of crowds by averaging many ratings, whether elite or mass? 

As a 21st-century movie reviewer, I’ve always found this catcall hard to dismiss, which is why I try to only write about movies where I can explain something more interesting than whether I liked it or not. While I take a backseat to no one in admiration of my own taste, I have to admit that the aggregation sites are reasonably reliable. 

Consider Mel Gibson’s new crime movie Get the Gringo, which debuted in Israeli theaters back in March but is finally out now on Netflix and DVD here in the land of the free and the home of the brave.

(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
• Tags: Mexico, Movies 
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From my Taki’s Magazine column:

Every Fourth of July, a heretical question nags: Would it have been so bad if America hadn’t won its independence from Britain?

Read the whole thing there.
(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
• Tags: Canada, Mexico 
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Mexico’s Institutional Revolutionary Party is back in power after 12 years, with a President who looks like a mid-market anchorman trying to figure out if what the weatherman said on-air was just a joke or actually some kind of veiled insult directed at his intelligence.

Here’s a new article in which two crack reporters from the New York Times struggle visibly to come up with anything to say about Enrique Pena Nieto. Can this guy possibly be as vapid as he looks? Isn’t President of Mexico one of those really good jobs, like Mayor of Chicago? What’s the story here?

And here’s an ancient VDARE article from 2001 about Pena Nieto’s backer Carlos Salinas, the PRI’s president from 1988-1994.

Mexico is a quite interesting place, but Americans consider it in poor taste to pay much attention.

More globally, are politicians getting more youthful-looking?

(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
• Tags: Mexico 
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Something I noticed last year when looking at 2009 PISA school achievement scores is the virtual non-existence of Mexico’s intellectual elite. Mexico’s average scores on this school achievement test of 15-year-olds were mediocre, but the lack of high end scores was startling, compared to a similar scoring country like Turkey, where there is a definite class of very smart Turks. Obviously, there is a stunning shortage of very high-achieving Mexican Americans in the U.S., but I had tended to assume that the really smart guys who run things in Mexico were just foisting off their mediocre people on the U.S. Yet, it’s hard to find test score evidence that there are many really smart guys in Mexico at all. This is not to say the average Mexican is all that uneducated by global standards, just that the far right end of the bell curve in Mexico is a lot thinner than you’d expect.
Perhaps this is just an illusion because all the schools in Mexico with smart students refuse to participate in international tests? The public school teachers union in Mexico is hilariously awful: many teaching jobs are hereditary, and if your heirs don’t want your teaching job after you die, they can auction it off to the highest bidder. But the overall performance of Mexican students on the PISA isn’t terrible (it’s a lot worse than the performance of Hispanics in the U.S. on the PISA, but not miserable by Latin American standards). 
Yet, here’s a 2008 paper on the same subject that takes the lack of cognitive superstars in Mexico seriously:

Producing superstars for the economic Mundial: The Mexican Predicament with quality of education 

Lant Pritchett and Martina Viarengo
Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government
November 19, 2008 

Abstract.   The question of how to build the capabilities to both initiate a resurgence of growth and facilitate Mexico’s transition into a broader set of growth enhancing industries and activities is pressing.  In this regard it seems important to understand the quality of the skills of the labor force.  Moreover, in increasingly knowledge based economies it is not just the skills of the typical worker than matter, but also the skills of the most highly skilled.  While everyone is aware of the lagging performance of Mexico on internationally comparable examinations like the PISA, what has been less explored is the consequence of that for the absolute number of very highly skilled.  We examine  how many students Mexico produces per year above the “high international benchmark” of the PISA in mathematics.  While the calculations are somewhat crude and only indicative, our estimates are that Mexico produces only between 3,500 and 6,000 students per year above the high international benchmark (of a cohort of roughly 2 million [which is about half America's cohort of around 4 million]).  In spite of educational performance that is widely lamented within the USA, it produces a quarter of a million, Korea 125,000 and even India, who in general has much worse performance on average, produces over 100,000 high performance in math students per year.  The issue is not about math per se, this is just an illustration and we feel similar findings would hold in other domains.  The consequences of the dearth of globally competitive human capital are explored, with an emphasis on the rise of  super star phenomena in labor markets (best documented in the USA).  Finally, we explore the educational policies that one might consider to focus on the upper tail of performance, which are at odds with much of the “quality” focus of typical educational policies which are often remedial and focused on the lower, not upper tail of performance.

I don’t know what the full story is here. Perhaps Mexican elites are just lazy, and they set a bad example for the Mexican masses?

(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
• Tags: Mexico, PISA, Tests 
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After Newt Gingrich’s frontrunnership implodes as people get bored for the umpty-umpth time with Newt’s incessant yammering, Republicans will need somebody new to fill the Anybody But Romney hot seat. Obviously, Ron Paul is unthinkable, so I’ve found the perfect modern Republican candidate. He’s handsome, he’s a successful politician, he has a Spanish-surname to appeal to the Hispanic Electoral Tsunami, and he appears to be as dumb as a box of rocks. 
Granted, he’s not, technically, an American, but that kind of nativist prejudice should have no place in our forward-looking GOP. I suppose you could also object that Enrique Peña Nieto is currently busy being the favorite for president of Mexico on the former ruling party’s PRI ticket, but clearly the GOP should make him an offer. You don’t find a perfect fit like this everyday. From the LA Times:

The front-runner in Mexico’s presidential race stumbled in a high-profile way at a world-class book festival on Saturday, when, over several minutes, he appeared unable to correctly name a book that’s influenced his life, besides the Bible. 

And even then, Enrique Peña Nieto fumbled, not citing an “author” or a prophet whose biblical verse has particularly touched him. Instead, he merely made a vague reference to “some passages of it.” 

He also confused the names of two well-known Mexican authors, Enrique Krauze and Carlos Fuentes, in a four-minute episode that ended with the candidate red-faced, saying, “The truth is, when I read a book I often don’t fully register the titles.”

He’s such a synergistic fit that maybe Peña Nieto could run on both the PRI and GOP tickets simultaneously. After all, as a great man from Texico might have said, “Literary values don’t stop at the Rio Grande.”

(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
• Tags: Mexico, Politicians 
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I wanted to briefly quote from my review of former Mexican foreign minister Jorge G. Castaneda’s Manana Foreveri?

He notes that the impoverished Indian south of Mexico “continues to provide much of Mexico’s personality.” In contrast, the wealthier “north is industrious, modernizing, violent, lighter-skinned, and devoid of charm …” In short, the north sounds a lot like Los Angeles.

In Northeastern American intellectuals’ assumptions about the impact of massive immigration from Mexico, I notice a lot of assuming that, of course, we are bound to get the best of both worlds — all the visual quaintness of a Diego Rivera painting of the South of Mexico and all the industriousness of the North of Mexico. 
But, sometimes things work out like John F. Kennedy’s description of Washington D.C.: “A city of Southern efficiency and Northern charm.”
The evidence from the Southwest U.S. of a century or so of Mexican immigration is pretty similar to the north of Mexico: that you get a fair amount of industriousness, not much enterprise (especially not of a socially cooperative nature), and very little charm. Violence? Hard to say … a lot in L.A. over the years (although far less than L.A. blacks), not much in El Paso.

Castaneda, by the way, worries about this conundrum. As a way out, he suggests some of the pleasant middle-sized old colonial cities of the middle of Mexico as national models: not too strip mallish, not too burroish.

(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
• Tags: Mexico 
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My new VDARE column is a long review of former Mexican foreign minister Jorge G. Castañeda’s new book Mañana Forever? Mexico and the Mexicans.

In 2001, Castañeda made a valiant effort to foist Mexico’s problems off on America—hey, you can’t blame him for trying. But today it’s obvious that America isn’t rich enough anymore to subsidize his country of 113 million. Mexico, therefore, is going to have to fix itself. 

Castañeda sees Mexico as doomed to perpetual mediocrity as long as it continues to indulge in its traditional worldview of victimism and anti-Americanism. If, as General Patton said, Americans love a winner, Mexicans love a loser.

Read the whole thing there.
I cover a whole lot of ground in this review, but something I’d add is that Castañeda has now come around to believing that Mexico’s past and present is, relatively speaking, surprisingly nonviolent. In general, Castañeda seems to view Mexicans as being a little soft and childish, as being mama’s boys.
This may seem unlikely, what with all the gruesome crimes in Mexico’s current drug wars, but I can see that he has a point. 
Perhaps these opposing views can be reconciled by noting Mexico’s traditional penchant for spectacular sadism, which goes back (at least) to Aztec priests ripping out captives’ beating hearts on top of pyramids. You can’t get much more spectacular or sadistic than that. But for sheer quantity of killing (as opposed to people dying due to side effects), it’s hard to top Europeans in the 20th Century. White people had the organizational skills and the willpower and the ideological intensity to kill and die in ridiculous numbers.
(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
• Tags: Mexican mediocrity, Mexico 
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From the LA Times, which in recent years has started to cover Mexico more, and more entertainingly:

By Tracy Wilkinson, Los Angeles Times

Reporting from Mexico City— The most powerful woman in Mexico carries $5,000 Hermes purses and can make or break a presidency. 

She’s head of the nation’s principal teachers union, the largest syndicate in Latin America, and once gave Hummers as gifts to loyal teachers. 

Elba Esther Gordillo commands the patronage of more than 1.5 million teachers, and in election years, that means more than 1.5 million votes. Almost every political party courts her. 

Yet scandal has forever dogged her, including accusations of illegal self-enrichment and even murder. No charges ever stuck, making her seem untouchable. Her union reportedly takes in millions in government money while she, once a humble teacher from Mexico’s poorest south, lives much of the time in luxurious properties in Southern California. 

Gordillo’s critics say her extravagances during 22 years as union president might not be so bothersome if the state of education in Mexico were not so abysmal. …

Last year, slightly more than half of high school students flunked the math portion of standardized tests, while more than a third flunked Spanish. Mexican students scored the lowest reading levels of developed countries in the most recent survey by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

Okay, but Mexico doesn’t really belong in the OECD with Denmark, Canada, and Japan. It’s more like Turkey or Brazil. And, its 2009 PISA scores were up over the previous PISA.

On the other hand, Mexicans in Mexico score a lot worse than Mexicans in the U.S. on the PISA. The thing that struck me the most about Mexico’s lousy PISA scores was not the mediocre average but what a tiny percentage of Mexicans scored high. There are several times more students in Turkey who ace the PISA than in Mexico, which suggests that rich Mexicans, the ones who ought to be doing well on the test, are lazy, don’t like reading and studying, and set a bad example for the Mexican masses.

Meanwhile, in 2010, 75% of teachers-in-training failed the exam that would have placed them in a job, and last year only 1% of working teachers passed a test that would have raised their salaries. …

Gordillo is in the spotlight again because Mexico is in the throes of campaign fever, with a presidential election coming up next year. Her support was considered decisive in the 2006 narrow victory of Felipe Calderon and his conservative National Action Party; and today, she appears prepared to cast her lot, and her many votes, with the clear front-runner, the opposition Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI.

By the way, wouldn’t the best thing for Mexico be a victory by a responsible leftist, like Lula in Brazil? It’s not like the political climate in Mexico is so anti-business that nobody can get rich there (e.g., Carlos Slim). The left party has never won, having the 1988 election stolen and may have had the close 2006 election swiped, and wouldn’t it be time for them to learn some responsibility by having to govern? However, that’s just my gringo view and Mexican voters seem to want to go back to the old ruling party. Maybe there aren’t responsible leftists in Mexico?

Gordillo, with her fondness for designer frocks, extreme jewelry and, apparently, abundant plastic surgery, was in fact a product of the PRI’s old-style, autocratic type of rule, which lasted seven decades until 2000 and is poised now to return. The party controlled just about everything, including unions. Then-President Carlos Salinas de Gortari anointed Gordillo in 1989 as president of the National Syndicate of Education Workers, or SNTE, after she’d spent years as a tireless and fiercely loyal climber in the party and the union. 

In 2007, at a closed-door meeting protected by private guards, the union leadership purportedly made Gordillo “president for life.” A dissident group of unionized teachers has been threatening ever since to denounce her to the International Labor Organization for abuse of office. …

Gordillo, 66, calls herself and is widely known as La Maestra, The Teacher. In public speeches, however, she sometimes sounds more like a failing student than a polished educator, fumbling words and syntax.

My recollection is that some public school teaching jobs in Mexico have become a hereditary privilege. Talk about tenure: in Mexico, if you are a teacher and die, your heir gets your job. If your child doesn’t want to teach, he or she can auction off the right to the job.

In general, Mexico is a pretty entertaining place to read about, but it doesn’t get covered much in the U.S. in the English language media relative to, say, the Middle East. By the way, whatever happened to that whole Arab Spring thing? Did Summer happen to it?

(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
• Tags: Education, Mexico 
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I haven’t really been following the Obama Administration’s Fast and Furious scandal, but this is from the LA Times:

Are high-profile suspects in Mexican drug cartels also paid informants for U.S. federal investigators? If so, could a brewing scandal in Washington implicate more U.S. agencies in the ongoing drug-related violence in Mexico? 

Kenneth Melson, the embattled chief of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), made the earth-shaking revelation in testimony early last week, The Times reports. Melson reportedly told congressional leaders that Mexican cartel suspects tracked by his agents in a controversial gun-tracing program were also operating as paid informants for the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and the FBI. 

The revelation is further complicating an already tangled scandal unfolding in Washington that ties U.S. weapons to the violent drug war in Mexico. The conflict has left about 40,000 dead in 4 1/2 years. In effect, the scandal also points to a deeper involvement of the U.S. government in Mexico’s drug war than the public has previously known or suspected.

The Fast and Furious scandal may perhaps be related to the Obama Administration looking to gin up a politically correct set of bad guys to blame for Mexican violence. If Mexican narco-cartels are obtaining guns in the U.S., they’re probably mostly using immigrants and Mexican-Americans as their conduits, but that’s not the kind of thing we’re supposed to think about. Diversity is good!

But that gets me thinking about a more general topic: Mexico is to the U.S. as Afghanistan is to Pakistan. Nobody is surprised to find out that Pakistan’s ISI spy agency pulls a lot of strings in Afghanistan.

Does the U.S. pull a lot of strings in Mexico the way Pakistan does in Afghanistan?

You know, that’s an interesting question. What’s even more interesting is that I’ve never heard anyone ask it before.

My guess would be “not really,” but what do I know? Nobody in America pays much attention to Mexico.

Well, not exactly nobody. The Bush family, for one, has long paid close attention to Mexico.

Now that I think about it, it seems to me that you could write a Secret History of the Three Bush Administrations that could provide a coherent tale that the central plan of the Bushes, father and son, was to unify North America, economically and politically, under Washington’s hegemony.

George H.W. Bush, owner of Zapata Oil was doing business, illegally (through a Mexican cutout who went on to be head of Pemex and then to jail for corruption), in Mexico from earlier than a half century ago. His son Jeb married a Mexican girl.

Look at it from GHW Bush’s point of view coming into office in 1989. G.H.W. Bush is often derided as an “in-box President” who didn’t have big ambitions like Reagan, but who felt up to dealing with events, like Iraq seizing Kuwait.

But I suspect that understates GHWB’s strategic vision, which was directed at a place that nobody in New York or Washington cares much about, but is highly relevant to the business and political leadership of Texas: Mexico. Bush probably felt that Mexico should be a highly profitable country for American business.

But ever since the overthrow of dictator Porfirio Diaz in 1911, the government of Mexico has been overtly anti-American (e.g., the Plan of San Diego of 1915 or the Zimmerman Telegram of 1917). This reigning philosophy of anti-Americanism helped Mexico avoid being a banana republic minion of Washington like poor Honduras. But, it came with costs, especially for American companies, but also for Mexicans. Much of the Mexican economy was locked up in stodgy government owned monopolies. Nobody in Mexico could do much in the way of offshore oil drilling the way GHWB’s Zapata could, but he had to hire a Mexican frontman, Jorge Diaz Serrano (who later became head of Pemex and then was one of the three symbols of 1970s corruption sent to prison by the new President who came in in 1982.

After the fall of the Berlin Wall, President Salinas of Mexico decided to get very cozy with President Bush. He sold off many of the government-owned businesses to insiders and allies (this is the source of the fortune that made Carlos Slim the world’s richest man). And they negotiated NAFTA.

But the Mexican public wouldn’t let the politicians sell off the crown jewel, Pemex, the national oil monopoly, which long remained lusted-after by the Bush coterie. GHWB’s Commerce Secretary Robert Mossberger said his dream job was CEO of Pemex.

The second Bush concentrated more on integrating the two countries’ labor markets, with perhaps a hazy view toward eventual political integration of some sort under Jeb’s half-Mexican son George P. Bush.

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In my new column, I analyze a recent feature package in the New York Times centering on Damien Cave’s article: Better Lives for Mexicans Cut Allure of Going North.

The essential concept that evades the mental grasp of Damien Cave and the NYT’s editors: convergence. 

Mexico has indeed been—very slowly—becoming more like the U.S. 

For example, Walmart, a firm that clawed its way out of the Ozarks by being ruthlessly efficient, now operates 1,773 stores in Mexico and Central America. Walmart bans even the normal American corporate etiquette of salesmen taking buyers out to lunch. So its stern morality is likely teaching Mexico’s traditional culture of corruption some much-needed lessons. 

But, just as the temperature inside your house in July or January will eventually converge with the unpleasant temperature outside if you leave your doors open (unless you spend ever more on air conditioning or heating), decades of mass immigration from Mexico mean that America is also converging on Mexico: poorly-paid, underemployed, economically unequal, educationally unmotivated, and oligarchical. 

Not surprisingly, the more America becomes like Mexico economically, the less attractive of a destination it is to Mexicans. 

Another lesson to be learned from the theory of convergence: while you could, at vast expense, air condition a few feet of your porch by keeping your windows open, you can’t cool off the whole world. 

The global population will hit seven billion next spring. The U.N. predicts ten billion by 2100. It forecasts that Mexico’s southern neighbor, Guatemala, will grow from five million in 1970 to 46 million in 89 years. 

These billions of people are going to have to solve their own problems. We can’t do it for them by letting them into America.

Read the whole thing there.

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In Mexico, the PAN government’s of the last decade has been trying to get parents to keep their kids in school longer. Here’s PISA document congratulating Mexico for getting its act together over the last decade. 
The really striking thing about Mexico’s performance on the 2009 PISA school achievement tests is the lack of very high scorers. For example, on reading, 9.9% of Americans score at the 5th level or 6th level on a 0 to 6 scale. In contrast, only 0.4% of Mexicans score that high. That’s really bad. 
In comparison, 1.9% of Turks score in the top two levels: not great, but several times the fraction in Mexico, suggesting that in Turkey there are small cultures of elites here and there who impress it upon their kids to hit the books hard. When I was in Bodrum, Turkey for Hans-Herman Hoppe’s conference, I was impressed by the books on sale at the supermarket across the street. Granted, Bodrum is kind of like Santa Barbara and this was an upscale supermarket in a chain headquartered in Switzerland in a nice neighborhood in a resort town, but, still, it was nice to see serious books on sale somewhere.

That suggests to me, not for the first time, that much of the blame for Mexico’s cultural malaise stems from Mexico’s rich not setting a good example for the masses, such as by not studying hard.

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Asks Stephen Dubner on the Freakonomics blog, citing a paper by an American economist about how the Mexican government has done much of what American economists have advised them to do, with only fair to middling results.
The comments are relatively interesting. I would add that it’s worth looking at areas in the U.S. with a traditionally Hispanic dominant population, such as parts of the upper and lower Rio Grande Valley as a test of the institutionalist explanations. They tend to be much richer than Mexico, but much poorer than the rest of the U.S., thus showing the institutionalist theory’s glass is part full and part empty.

I would also add that a lot of Mexico isn’t terribly poor anymore. Overall, the current life expectancy in Mexico is 97.5% of the life expectancy in the U.S.

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Deborah Solomon interviews Vicente Fox in the NYT and doesn’t ask him the obvious questions like, “Aren’t you ashamed at how many Mexicans left Mexico during your six years in office as Presidente?” and “Isn’t there something weird about the President of Mexico being a foot taller than the average Mexican man? What’s the deal with that, anyway?”

Mostly, there’s just boilerplate about immigration:

I’m sure you’re aware that the U.S. Department of Justice has sued the state of Arizona to overturn its immigration law, which may well be invalidated by the time this interview appears.

That’s a good intent. President Obama is committed to Hispanics and migrants. That’s a promise I had from President Bush, and six years went by and nothing happened. I don’t want to be negative, but I’m seeing the same story repeating again. It’s been two years now, and nothing has happened in relation to migration. 

But then, in her not terribly well-informed way, she stumbles into asking a tough one:

What do you think Mexicans have contributed to American culture?

Oh, starting with Mexican food! The jalapeños and the tacos and the rest. I think they have contributed family values. And then we have our culture. When you were killing Indian Apaches there, we had built Mayan cities, the pyramids, Mexico City.

Great … tacos.

Also, in the future, Mr. Fox, you’ll make a better impression if you don’t use the words “killing” and “pyramids” in the same sentence. You really don’t want to go there.

At least Fox didn’t mention how Mexico gave us our vibrant Human Signs.

I could come up with a better list than Fox’s: the Spanish mission architecture style of places like Santa Barbara, the lariat and a lot of other cowboy stuff, Carlos Santana and Los Lobos, lowrider cars, the Dos Equis guy who says “Cheating is only in good taste when it involves death,” and about 500 Nashville songs about vacationing in Mexico.

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From the Dallas Morning News:

Immigration reform is either right around the corner or may be postponed once again to next year by Congress and the White House, depending on whom you ask.

But one thing is clear for former Mexican Foreign Minister Jorge G. Castañeda: It could prove to be a key factor in helping the U.S. move out of the current financial crisis.

“The U.S. is seeking a reorientation of its manufacturing base, and it’s not easy to do without cheaper labor and the Mexican industrial base,” he said Wednesday.

Castañeda will head to North Texas next week to talk at the University of Texas at Arlington about his latest book, Ex Mex: From Migrants to Immigrants, and about the mutual need in the U.S. and Mexico for immigration reform. He will deliver this year’s Center for Mexican American Studies Distinguished Lecture at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday in the UTA library.

Castañeda remains bullish about the prospects of enacting immigration reform sometime during President Barack Obama‘s administration, despite all the heated and polarizing rhetoric surrounding the issue.

“I don’t put much stock in those [anti-immigration] voices,” he said. “Obama wouldn’t have been elected and health care reform wouldn’t have passed if they were the majority.”

He believes immigration reform is a crucial component not only in reviving our economy, but also in creating a North American community, similar to the European Union.

It’s not a new idea – former Mexican President Vicente Fox mentioned the idea of a free flow of labor and trade on a visit to Dallas in 2000. And the U.S. Council on Foreign Relations issued a trinational report in 2005 in which it proposed the creation of a North American community involving the U.S., Mexico and Canada for enhanced security and prosperity.

Castañeda’s vision for this broader relationship goes beyond the North American Free Trade Agreement and involves a free flow of labor and energy, security provisions, integration of currencies, and greater social cohesion.

“NAFTA has run out of steam, and it is not generating jobs in Mexico,” he said. “The U.S. and Mexico are further apart in economic development today, and the gap is getting bigger. We cannot leave it to the market alone to solve our issues.”

The world’s richest man lives in Mexico. Maybe, you Mexican officials should look into how exactly that happened.

The idea of a North American Union modeled on the European Union, with tariff walls around the continent, is something Mexico needs to take up with higher authority: i.e., Beijing. I don’t think, however, that America’s chief creditor will approve. Maybe it would have been a good idea two decades ago, but that horse left the barn a long time ago.

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I haven’t been paying much attention to Iran, so don’t take my word for it, but it seems to be playing out a lot like the disputed election in Mexico in 2006: the party in power says they won the election, the party out of power says they cheated and that they’re going to demonstrate until they turn blue, and eventually they turn blue and give up and go home, and the party in power stays in power.

At least, the Washington Post headlines suggest such a scenario:

Hope Fades for Iranian Protesters
Numbers dwindle after government crackdown against demonstrators, but their anger remains.
- Thomas Erdbrink

Keep in mind that I haven’t actually read these articles and probably won’t get around to reading them, so I don’t know what I’m talking about, but it all sounds a lot like the PRD’s months of mass demonstrations in Mexico City’s Zocalo from early July 2006 into September, along with mass acts of civil disobedience, before they eventually gave up.

The question that interests me is why almost nobody who is anybody in America cared about Mexico in 2006, but everybody was supposed to care about Iran in 2009.

Indeed, how many elections in that general part of the world, centered around the old Byzantine Empire, have we Americans been told to get excited about in this decade? There was the Ukraine Orange thing, and the purple finger whoop-tee-doo in Iraq, and the whiskey sexy election in Lebanon, and the Rose Revolution in Georgia, and the mob violence in Serbia where the nonviolent democrats burnt down the Parliament building and seized power. And now Iran.

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From WFAA:

Some Mexicans fear threat to way of life with rapid growth of American residents

Not everyone is rolling out the welcome mat to Americans. Many Mexicans complain about the rapid growth of the American population in their neighborhoods, the threat they see to Mexican culture and language, and the possible drain on Mexico’s inexpensive health care.

In San Miguel de Allende, the group Basta Ya is protesting the erosion of the language and the rising cost of living generated by the infusion of dollars into the local economy.

“They think Mexico, especially San Miguel de Allende, is an extension of their country,” group member Arturo Morales Tirado said of the Americans who call San Miguel home. “It’s not and won’t be, no way.”

Well, they’ve certainly solved the problem of too many Americans in Rosarito Beach, the once popular tourist resort 30 miles south of Tijuana.

I have to say, though, that I’ve come to appreciate Mexican anti-Americanism. It has helped keep two countries that share a 1,952 mile border quite different.

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The NYT article “Two Sides of a Border: One Violent, One Peaceful” compares the low murder rate in El Paso to the carnage in Ciudad Juarez across the Rio Grande (which, when I crossed the bridge that figures in “No Country for Old Men” in 1980, cost me $0.02 each way). The newspaper mentions various theories, but the article should have mentioned that El Paso has long been famous for an anomalously low crime rate.

Here’s an article entitled “The Texas Tranquilizer” from Time’s archives, dated October 4, 1971:

By legend Texans are a grandiose breed with more than the natural share of megalomaniacs. But University of Texas Biochemist Earl B. Dawson thinks that he detects an uncommon pocket of psychological adjustment around El Paso. The reason, says Dawson, lies in the deep wells from which the city draws its water supply.

According to Dawson’s studies of urine samples from 3,000 Texans, El Paso’s water is heavily laced with lithium, a tranquilizing chemical widely used in the treatment of manic depression and other psychiatric disorders. He notes that Dallas, which has low lithium levels because it draws its water from surface supplies, has “about seven times more admissions to state mental hospitals than El Paso.” But state mental health officials point out that the mental hospital closest to Dallas is 35 miles from the city, while the one nearest El Paso is 350 miles away—and the long distance could affect admission figures.

But FBI statistics show that while Dallas had 5,970 known crimes per 100,000 population last year, El Paso had 2,889 per 100,000. Dallas (pop. 844,000) had 242 murders, El Paso (pop. 323,000) only 13. Dr. Frederick Goodwin, an expert on lithium studies for the National Institute of Mental Health, doubts that “lithium has these magical properties in the population.” Others are not so sure. If lithium does have anything to do with the relative peace in El Paso, what would it do for other cities like New York and Chicago?

I have no idea if Dawson’s lithium theory panned out, but it’s fun to recall something I heard about three decades ago when I went to Rice U. in Houston.

By the way, I give reporter James C. McKinley a thumbs-up for using the dreaded V word correctly for once in describing a Mexican neighborhood:

Across the river, the once-vibrant streets of Juárez are dark and gloomy, as residents scurry for home.

My recollection of my evening in Ciudad Juarez in 1980 was that the tourist section was, indeed, “vibrant” — which, I insist, should only be used to denote a neighborhood with lots of loud live music coming out of the doors of bars (e.g., you can rightly call the French Quarter in New Orleans vibrant, but calling Van Nuys, CA “vibrant” just shows you can’t think of anything else to say about it).

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Steve Sailer
About Steve Sailer

Steve Sailer is a journalist, movie critic for Taki's Magazine, columnist, and founder of the Human Biodiversity discussion group for top scientists and public intellectuals.

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