Tuesday, April 19, 2016


Links:
 The Journal of the American Medical Association released an article online on April 10 by Chetty, R, Stepner M (Stanford University), Abraham S, et al., with a fascinating statistical analysis of the relationship between income and life expectancy, broken down to the county level and large metropolitan commuting zones.  It is free, and well worth downloading.  Major takeaways:
  1. Nation-wide, gaps in life expectancy by income increased from 2001-1014.  For those in the bottom 5% of income life expectancy remained the same; for those in the top 5% life expectancy during that time frame increased by about 3 years.
  2. Life expectancy increases continually with income.  If you are a man in the top 1% of income at the age of 40 your life expectancy is fully 15 years more than a man of 40 in the bottom 1%; for women the gap is 10 years.
In Dona Ana County men in the top quarter of income can expect to live to about 83, about 7 years longer than men in the bottom quarter of income.  For women the gap is about 5 years.  In the Albuquerque metropolitan region men in the top quarter can expect to live to about 85, about 10 years longer than men in the bottom quarter, while for women the gap is about 6 years.  On the other hand, men in the bottom quarter of income in Dona Ana County live about one year longer than men in the bottom quarter in Albuquerque.

The best place to live in New Mexico, statistically speaking, if you want to live to a ripe old age in any income category, is Santa Fe or Rio Arriba and Taos counties, where men in the bottom income quartile can expect to die around the age of 77 and men in the top quartile can expect to die at about 86 years of age.  In these counties women in the bottom quartile can expect to die at the age of abut 83 and women in the top quartile can expect to hang on to the age of 88, only two years longer than their male counterparts.  The article has exceptionally clear maps where you can compare, county-by-county, these results.

Monday, April 11, 2016


Links:
About the links:  James Hamilton at Econbrowser asks the question why lower oil prices has not lifted the economy.  His answer:  while consumers have spent the extra cash, especially among those who rely on gasoline (trucking companies, taxi drivers), lifting the economy, oil producers have offset these gains by reducing spending.  Once the employment drop in the oil sector registers, we can expect a corresponding drop in GDP.  This gives added credence to the rumors of an impending recession.  NMPolitics.Net links you an excellent site, Buying of the President 2016 (click here) and a story about big money shoveling its way to the Hillary campaign while she tries to keep up with Bernie in bashing big money on the rhetorical end.  Tim Taylor summarizes evidence suggesting "alternative" jobs account for all the job growth during the past ten years.  Robert Reich shows that the big banks are even bigger than they were before the bust, directing you to a statement by the Vice Chair of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (click here) that the assets of four big banks are about the same as GDP in the US in 2012.  ProMarket discusses how special interests have intimidated journalists into legitimizing those with an interest in denying man-made climate change.

Talking about intimidation, Heath Haussamen (click here) posted a chilling story last week about a border check point stop and followed with another story written by Cassie McClure (click here and here) who suggests abuse of authority at check points is common.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Quotes from Two Mainstream Republicans From the 1980s

1. "I do know that it's true that if you wanted to reduce crime, you could--if that were your sole purpose--you could abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down."
---Bill Bennett, transcribed from his conservative talk show, Morning in America, in 2005.  Bennett was head of the National Endowment for Humanities under Reagan, later becoming Secretary of Education under Reagan.  He was Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy under George H.W. Bush, Distinguished Fellow in Cultural Policy Studies at the Heritage Foundation, author of Moral Compass:  Stories for a Life's Journey, editor of The Children's Book of Virtues, and a political analyst for CNN from 2008 until he was terminated in 2013.

2.  "You start out in 1954 by saying, 'Nigger, nigger, nigger.'  By 1968 you can't say 'nigger.'  That hurts you.  Backfires.  So you say stuff like forced busing, states' rights and all that stuff.  You're getting so abstract now that you're talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you're talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is that blacks get hurt worse than whites."---Lee Atwater, on tape in 1981 in an interview with Alexander P. Lamis.  Atwater was campaign manager for George H.W. Bush.  He was author of the Willie Horton ad against Democratic candidate Michael Dukakis in 1988,  Later  he became Chairman of the Republican National Committee.  When dying of a brain tumor at the age of 40 he apologized to Michael Dukakis in a Life magazine interview, for the "naked cruelty" of the 1988 presidential campaign.

It is not possible to understand the 2016 Republican primary contest, yet alone American politics today without knowing something about the Republican Southern Strategy (of which both quotes above are a part), which triumphed in 1968 and dominated national campaigns for the next half-century.  You must also reflect on the mischief created by bipartisan "political correctness," as enforced ideologically and selectively by the increasingly arrogant establishment media, and the damage it has caused to honesty in political expression. 
But mainly you must understand the profound frustration of millions of white working class Republicans (not just in the South) who drank the kool-aid only to wake up decades later and discover the ineluctable truth that it was their vote--not their financial security nor their health nor "family values"--that stood behind the curtain of the American Dream envisioned by Republican campaign strategists.  How to channel this frustration is what the Republican campaign of 2016 became after Trump began winning primary elections.  Trump, Cruz, and Kasich represent different versions of just how to do this, but the national electorate doesn't seem to be buying it so far.  The Clinton and Sanders campaigns also represent variations on how to deal with these same frustrations over massive, bipartisan, government failure on bread and butter issues.  Not since 1968, with its political assassinations and violence in the streets over Viet Nam and civil rights has the public played as decisive a role in setting the terms of the debate.  This election is a game-changer, long overdue.

Friday, April 8, 2016

The Cartel on the US Side

News media attention for decades has focused on the Mexican drug lords--Amado Carrillo Fuentes, Pablo Acosta, Chapo Guzman, the Arellano Felix brothers, El Mencho, etc.  These entrepreneurs carve out territory, bribe the appropriate officials, guard their turf jealously, and create viable supply chains all the way through Mexico to the border.

But what happens to the drugs once delivery is made to the US?  Is the distribution of drugs franchised like a hamburger chain?  Is it still controlled by the drug lord in Mexico?  Surely the managerial ability to get the drugs to market rivals the managerial ability to create a supply chain through Mexico.  But very little media attention has been paid to this aspect of drug trafficking.  This article, "The Twins that Betrayed El Chapo," translated from El Debate by Borderland Beat, while not answering all the questions, goes a long way toward giving you a strong picture of some of the elements.  It is about the Flores twins' empire in Chicago before it collapsed.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Can Bernie Win New Mexico?
 
Feedback suggests I hit a sensitive nerve in the Bernie campaign.  I argued a couple of days ago that the Sanders campaign has four problems in New Mexico, three of which are fixable:
Fixable:  
  • The campaign isn't reaching out to Hispanic and Native voters
  • The campaign isn't relating the Sanders candidacy with inequality in New Mexico
  • There isn't any visible statewide strategy to win the primary election.  This is particularly true in areas with heavy concentrations of Native and Hispanic voters, using what works at local levels.
Non-fixable:  
  • The Democratic Party apparatus and many progressive NGOs are for Clinton.  
Neither the Clinton nor the Sanders campaigns have been very visible.  Most Democrats probably believe Clinton has the nomination locked up, something reinforced daily in the establishment news media.  Also, since the New Mexico Primary is in June, most Democrats assume the nomination will be locked up by then, so no need to expend energy in a major push for votes.  Here is a recent article that argues Bernie has a chance.

Whether Bernie has a chance to win in New Mexico will depend on what Sanders supporters do between now and the primary to address the three fixable problems listed above.  If things remain the same, Clinton will almost certainly win.  Most incumbent Democratic candidates at the local level are probably for Clinton; most of the party apparatus is for Clinton.  Without a strong statewide effort, and with Bernie trailing in the polls, turnout will probably be dominated by Clinton supporters.

On the other hand, it would be nice, and healthy for the body politic, to see a serious campaign in New Mexico for the presidential primary.

It's too early to know what will happen in New Mexico in the Republican primary.  But if Trump is just a few votes shy of the nomination, it could be an exciting time among New Mexico Republicans in late May.
The Failure of Trickle Down

Links:
 The Failure of Trickle Down:  Since 2010 the wealth of the US, adjusted for inflation, has gone up 12.6%, as measured by GDP.   However, the Pew Charitable Trust study shows that average household expenditures, adjusted for inflation, have gone up about that much while average household incomes, adjusted for inflation, have actually declined.  The pie is growing but the vast number of Americans have actually seen their slice of it grow smaller.  While other presidential candidates this year have been debating about the the cost of health care, how to fight terrorism, planned parenthood, the rights of minorities, etc.,Sanders has stuck to the bread-and-butter issue of dividing an expanding pie more fairly.  Trump, while not discussing this issue head-on, speaks to voters who toed the Republican line for many years but find themselves frustrated by a deep sense of betrayal--for all their political correctness, all the Tea Party legislators and Republican governors elected in the past few years, they still just as far are behind the curve ball.  He addresses their frustration by blaming political correctness itself, by blaming immigration policy, and simply pointing to poor leadership in both parties.  Both candidates give voice to the frustrations of people angry at a political system that doesn't address the underlying problem laid out in Pew report.

The rigged nomination process in the Democratic Party is analyzed by Charles M. Blow in the NY Times op-ed piece about the superdelegates.  This is the best briefing I've seen of this deliberately confusing maze of rules that privileges establishment (that is to say, entrenched) elements in the party.

The Wisconsin Democratic Primary election will probably be close between Sanders and Clinton.  RealClear Politics summarizes the latest polling data.  As is true everywhere, Sanders is overwhelmingly the choice of younger voters, under 50.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

CJNG Arrests in Cancun Suggest Expansion to Quintana Roo as Well as to Tijuana

Borderland Beat (see blogs here under "Frontera"), a blog that covers drug trafficking in Mexico, recently reported the arrest of 14 presumed drug traffickers in Cancun (in the state of Quintana Roo), "most" of whom were thought by authorities to be recently arrived members of the Jalisco Cartel (CJNG).   The state attorney general said in a press conference that the CJNG operatives were "seeking to take over the plaza," presumably away from the Gulf Cartel.

The CJNG, which has in the past specialized in the production and distribution of methamphetamine, is reported by the Global Initiatives network to be expanding operations to Japan, Indonesia, and Hong Kong, where profits are significantly higher than in the U.S.  Unlike the Sinaloa Cartel the CJNG and their associates, Los Cuinis (said to be in-laws of Nemesio Oseguera Cárdenas (El Mencho), have targeted markets in Europe instead of the U.S. (See this report, from Borderland Beat, which summarizes a press release from the DEA, also reported in the Mexican magazine Proceso).  In addition, Global Initiatives network reports relatively longstanding associations with elements of the FARC in Colombia.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Can Bernie Win in New Mexico?

Where is the Sanders campaign in New Mexico?  The last poll of Democrats was released in late February, showing (click here) Clinton well ahead, overall (especially with women), but trailing Sanders considerably among likely voters between 18 and 49.  This follows the national trends, and if the Sanders campaign can mobilize this demographic, he stands a fighting chance to close the gap and take the lead as he has done in other states.

The same elements fueling Sanders nationally are present in New Mexico, in spades:  poor job prospects as employers offer temporary jobs with fewer benefits, growing income disparities between the rich and the lower 99%, entrenched party leaders, comfortable with the status quo, etc.  This should be fertile ground for Bernie.  But most observers believe it is not.  Here are some reasons why.

1.  The Bernie phenomenon looks White in a New Mexico where most Democrats are Hispanic.  There appears to be no serious outreach among Bernie organizers toward heavily Hispanic populations or Native American, except at colleges and universities; no surrogates advocating for Bernie among these populations; no Spanish language outreach.  Clinton appears to be headed for a primary victory simply for lack of attention to the bulk of Democratic voters.  The small number of delegates and the lateness of the state primary election almost certainly have something to do with this, but if Bernie followers really want to ignite a "revolution," New Mexico is a relatively inexpensive place to explore the views of the Hispanic and Native populations.

2.  There has been no visible effort to link New Mexico's economic plight to the stakes in the presidential campaign.  In spite of poor economic conditions in the state (this has received enormous attention in recent months) and a more unequal distribution of income in New Mexico than in the nation at large, there has been no effort to link the state's poor economic performance to some of the things Bernie is for:  campaign finance reform (the blogs are full of examples of statewide abuse), lower interest on student loans and free college education (UNM is about to raise tuition again, hurting Hispanics more than Anglos), expanded health care (Hispanic and Native American access to the best health care is significantly below that of the White, non-Hispanic population); raising the minimum wage (the New Mexico poverty rate is exceeded only in Mississippi and Louisiana).

3.  The state's liberal (progressive?) political and civic organizations appear to be dominated by Clinton supportersLeadership among the gatekeepers of civic action in New Mexico appears to be firmly in the hands of Democrats attached to traditional power structures.  This is not something the Sanders campaign can do much about, but his campaign has overcome these odds in other states.

4.  The Sanders campaign appears to be deliberately non-hierarchical, dispersed among groups throughout the state without an apparent central leadership cadre.  This may have worked in other states, but in New Mexico it pays to have a statewide strategy that can identify geographic and demographic priorities and follow these through with action.  In particular, there is no single media market outlet for the state.  It takes knowledge of multiple media markets and their demographic correlates, to be effective.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Juarez Registers Strong Growth in 2015
Can You Spare Albuquerque a Few Jobs?


Economic recovery in Juarez is alive.  Juárez added, 32,883 jobs in 2015, for a growth rate of nearly 8%.  Vacancy rate of industrial space is down to 6.5%, down from a high of 15.4%.  This represents positive growth each quarter for the past three years.  TPI, a wind propeller manufacturer, has announced plans to add a 62-acre site (click here for El Paso Inc story).

The growth in Juarez has been led by the automotive sector, which accounts for nearly one third of industrial occupants in Juarez.

There are about 415,000 people earning salaries in Juarez.  Albuquerque employs about 388,000 persons.  But whereas Juarez added nearly 33,000 jobs in 2015, Albuquerque lost 1152 jobs between January 2015 and January 2016, according to preliminary Bureau of Labor statistics (click here)
Bernie!  We Need You in Juarez!

Fully 62% of workers in Juarez earn less than the cost of living, or basket of goods, there, for a family of four, which is $5260 pesos ($292 US dollars) per month.  This is according to the highly respected municipal planning agency (IMIP) of Juarez in its annual 2015 Radiografia Socioeconomica del Municipio de Juarez.  (click here for link to the story in Diario)
 
Only 20% of workers in Juarez earn more than 5 minimum salaries ($586 US) per month.  Of these, only 2.25% of workers earn over $2345 (US dollars).

Tuesday, March 29, 2016


Santa Teresa:  Bright Spot in a Bleak NM Economy

El Paso Inc.:  (click for complete story)
  •  Trade totaling $22.8 billion moved through the Santa Teresa Port of Entry last year – 4.3 percent of all trade between the United States and Mexico, according to the El Paso Branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas.
  •  El Paso businesspeople, including oil billionaire Paul Foster, are buying swaths of empty desert west of El Paso where they are investing tens of millions of dollars.“There hasn’t been as much land sold in Santa Teresa in the last 10 years as there has in the last 18 months,” said Anthony Mash, a first vice president with CBRE, a global real estate firm.

Monday, March 28, 2016

The CJNG, "El Mencho's" cartel, said to be expanding into Tijuana

The Cartel Jalisco Nueva Generacion (CJNG), headed by Nemesio Oseguera Cervantes (El Mencho) is said to have advanced to the US-Mexico border, where it competes with the Sinaloa cartel (Chapo's cartel) and the remnants of the Arellano Felix cartel.  Homicides have spiked in Tijuana in the past year.  If true, this represents an exceptionally rapid expansion of the cartel in the past four years, from obscure origins as hitmen for Chapo, which led to it's nickname "matazetas," (kill the zetas--a rival set of hitmen for the Gulf cartel), to a multi-state, powerful organization operating in Mexico City, Jalisco, Colima, Michoacan, Guanajuato, Nayarit, Gerrerao, Morelos, Veracruz, and now Baja California.  Baja California is a major prize, given its direct access to the market in the U.S.

A blog that follows border drug trafficking is Borderland Beat, from which I obtained some of the information in the above paragraph.  I have not followed drug trafficking for several years, and I am thinking about renewing my interest in it, if there is any interest among my readers.

Nemesio Oseguera Cervantes, "El Mencho"), leader of the CJNG



Saturday, March 26, 2016

New Mexico 49th among states in the income it takes to make the Bernie top 1%

Is your household income $241,000 or more?  If not, YOU are not in the top 1% in New Mexico!  But in all states except Arkansas, it takes more, sometimes much more, to be in the Bernie top 1%.  In Connecticut, it takes $678,000 to make the top 1%.  In Colorado it takes $405K.  New Mexico is
surrounded by states where it takes $300K or more to make the Bernie list.
  But the $241K is just the lowest price of admission, getting you to the bottom of the barrel of the top 1%.  The average income of those in the top 1% in New Mexico is $675,216.  The bottom 99% average income per household is a whopping $36,883.  In Connecticut in order to be the average one-percenter, you need to be making $2,683,600, almost four times more.  In inflation-adjusted income the bottom 99% in New Mexico are down 8.5% from where they were in 1979, while the top 1% are 82% up. To look at each state, click here

Friday, March 25, 2016

 New Mexico at the Tail End Again.  Does Sanders Beat Trump?  Are White Working Class Men Morally Deficient?

Links:
New Mexico Unemployment:  The average unemployed person in New Mexico can expect to be unemployed for about ten months (43.5 weeks), and almost half (45.3%) of all unemployed persons will be unemployed for more than 27 weeks, according to data compiled by Governing.com.  This makes New Mexico the worst state in the union in which to find yourself unemployed.  New Mexico is surrounded by states (Texas, Arizona, Utah, Colorado, Oklahoma) where unemployment periods last about half as long.

Kasich Beats Clinton and Sanders in latest polls:  Most recent polls show both Clinton and Sanders beating Trump (and Cruz) handily in the general election.  But Kasich appears to be well ahead of Clinton in recent polls (beating her by 6 points in a March 24 poll, and competitive with Sanders, beating him by 1 point in two polls, but losing to Sanders in a March 21 CNN poll by 6 points. Expect a lot of media attention to be focused on Kasich, whose campaign at this point appears to be based on these polls and on his modest "aw, shucks" demeanor in contrast to the bombastic self-assurance of Cruz and the gleefully delivered insults that form the core of Trump's campaign.

Kick the White Working Class that Supports Trump:  A National Review article by Kevin Williamson, ("Father-Fuhrer"--you can read it here for 25 cents) essentially telling the angry white working class to quit whining, rent a U-Haul, and go to a city with jobs, kicked up quite a storm.  In reply, the Arnade article (click here) sympathizes with them, arguing their plight is not the result of any moral failure on their part, but of multiple layers of government policies.

Does legal and illegal immigration hurt American workers?:  One out of twenty workers is unauthorized.  The Camarota and Krogstad and Passell articles are excellent summaries based on solid research.  Camarota has been looking at the evidence for many years, and relies on George Borjas' work at Harvard.  David Card at Berkeley (click here) has a different perspective

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Rivalry Over Tribal Status Continues

 Ed Roybal, Cacique, Piro Manso Tiwa Tribe (PMT)

 On Monday the Las Cruces City Council tabled a motion whereby "full support is established for the petition of the (PMT) to achieve their long-sought federal recognition..."  On Tuesday the Dona Ana County Commission voted to "support the petition" of the PMT to become recognized as a tribe.  But it took some heated debate in the audience on Tuesday before the motion was approved by a vote of 3-2.  The first resolution is deliciously ambiguous:  is the support for the sending of the petition to the federal government, or for the federal government to grant the petition?  The second motion seems more clearly in favor of the granting of the petition.  Language makes a difference.

Commissioner Garrett began discussion of this item assuring the audience the motion was not intended to take sides in the substance of rival claims, but merely to acknowledge the right of groups to petition the federal government for recognition as a tribe. He made this point twice. As pointed out by Commissioner Rawson, however, the wording of the resolution was to "support the petition" to the federal government for recognition.  So by a slight slippage of language, but by a huge conceptual leap between the more modest verbal language of Commissioner Garrett and the actual wording of the commissioner's motion, it appeared the commission voted to support the claim to recognition sought by the PMT.

Arianna Fierro, representing the Corporation, (see yesterday's blog) certainly saw it that way and complained that the resolution, to the extent it made a difference in the outcome of the petition, could jeopardize the interests of the Corporation, since the petition contains a claim to property now legally under the control of the Corporation.  If recognition were granted, according to her argument, this might strengthen the case for seizure of property by the PMT.  In reply, representatives of the PMT argued the case for recognition had nothing to do with assets, but rather with legitimizing a longstanding claim for the PMT's identity, amply documented, as members of a tribe.  Complicating matters even more, there is another, and possibly a fourth, group claim to membership in the thus-far unrecognized tribe.

I asked Cacique Ed Roybal after the vote about his interpretation of the motion.  He believed the motion limited itself to support RMT's moving forward with the petition itself, not to express approval of recognition, the language of the resolution to the contrary.  I took this as a hint he might be willing to take a step toward reconciliation.  I thought I detected a similar hint the day before from Arianna.  Leadership is about creating effective collaboration for the good of the whole.

Full disclosure:  my wife's (Olivia Nevarez) uncle, Charlie Madrid, played a significant role in articulating the first case for the PMT back in the 1970s.  An excellent history from the PMT's point of view is found in http://www.bia.gov/WhoWeAre/AS-IA/OFA/PetitionsInProcess/Petition5/index.htm.  At the same time the mother of Olivia's brother-in-law lived most of her life in Tortugas.  The late Ruben Flores, and Felipe Chavez, on opposite ends of this dispute, were valued friends and allies of mine and both have been  highly influential and respected in the larger community.  Frida Flores was a student of mine.  Many of us in Las Cruces are friends with people on both sides.

I have reservations about the wisdom of public bodies expressing opinions about controversial issues that will be resolved a higher levels of decision making.  My attendance at the county commission meeting on Tuesday reinforced this reservation.  But should these resolutions result in greater awareness of the issues and stakes of the Tortugas people, it may be healthy for the body politic.  Hopefully the factions will take this opportunity to explore for themselves the possibilities of eventual spiritual and political unity.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Tortugas:  Internal Rivalry Over Tribal Recognition

Arianna Fierro, President of the Tortugas Corporation and Patrick Narvaez, Acting Cacique





There is a lot on Arianna Fierro's plate as the newly selected President of the Tortugas Pueblo Corporation.  It might be helpful to pause here for a little background.

During the Pueblo Revolt of 1680 groups of Piro and Tiwa natives relocated to the vicinity of El Paso from their traditional settlements near Socorro and further North along the Rio Grande.  They were accommodated by the Manso natives who lived in the El Paso region, and the three groups maintained strong relationships and inter-married thereafter.  In the late 1800s some Piro, Manso, and Tiwa natives relocated to Las Cruces, creating a single unified tribal unit.  They have lived in Tortugas, now a suburb of Las Cruces, ever since. 

There are two distinct, rival, villages within the Tortugas community.  The Eastern part of Tortugas, known as San Juan, is home to the PMT, the Piro Manso Tribe.  The Western part is home of the Guadalupe, or Tortugas Pueblo.  Both share the same heritage.  The split became serious in the 1940s when Miguel Fierro, from the Guadalupe side, split from the San Juan side over money issues, becoming the sole custodian of the Corporation, formed in 1914 to protect the tribe's heritage and property.  Arianna is Miguel Fierro's great granddaughter.

In 1971 the PMT sought tribal status from the federal government.  It was denied, but the effort continues in various venues.  On Monday March 21 the Las Cruces City Council will be asked to support the PMT's new efforts to seek federal recognition.  The Guadalupe, or Corporation, side is opposed to granting the PMT tribal status, fearing the PMT may use this enhanced status to claim the assets of the Corporation, which funds much of the spiritual side of the community.  All of this has opened up debate on the Guadalupe side about whether it, too, should seek tribal recognition; whether efforts should be made to reconcile differences with the PMT, and what the overall political goals of the Corporation should be.  Fierro has her hands full.  Standing by her side is Acting Cacique Patrick Narvaez, spiritual leader of Guadalupe.
Senator Papen and Jose Luis Nevarez talking Local Politics in Tortugas

I caught onto all of this on Sunday, March 20, when I overheard Senator Mary Kay Papen discuss some of these issues with Jose Luis ("Lio") Nevarez, at lunch in one of the fund raising events hosted by the Corporation.  This led to my interview with President Fierro and the Acting Cacique.

Senator Papen, currently President of the New Mexico Senate, has a long history of involvement with the Tortugas community, walking the "A" mountain trek most every December, finding capital outlay funds for various projects in Tortugas, and in general befriending many citizens there, such as her long friendship with the late Maria Baldon who, although not part of the Corporation, was an active participant in the community.  Sen. Papen also knows many members of the PMT, including a former student of mine, Frieda Flores, whose father, Ruben Flores, was well known as a Democratic Party stalwart (I knew him years ago when he was a precinct chair) and who survived the Bataan Death March.  Tortugas has produced many exceptional civic leaders, among them my friend Felipe Chavez, a union leader influential in the Democratic Party, and past President of the Corporation..

Leadership is important, and from the looks of things, the Corporation is in excellent hands with Narvaez and Fierro.  Narvaez, as Acting Cacique, is the custodian of the Tombé, the drum, which signifies the cultural and spiritual heritage of the tribe, expressed in various rituals and dance ceremonies, some of which are closed to outsiders.  Fierro has a full time job as a paralegal, and is a graduate of NMSU.  Suerte, Arianna; the political destiny of your community has been entrusted to you.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Marco Rubio and the Strong Man

In the waning days of his losing campaign in Florida, Marco Rubio began using the theme of the Latin American strong man to describe Trump.

You go to Latin America you go to the third world they are bedeviled by leaders that stand up and say, I am going to be a strong leader.  I am going to solve all your problems.  Give me power and I will make your life better," he said.  "And it always ends in disaster, always."

Having studied Latin American dictators, strong men, military juntas, civil wars, and revolutionaries for many years, let me reflect on this theme for a few lines.

The last classic strong man in Latin America was Hugo Chavez, from Venezuela.  He led a failed coup against President Carlos Andres Perez in 1992, costing him two years in jail.  He was elected president in 1998 and ruled in semi-dictatorial fashion for 15 years.  He died of cancer, still president, in 2013.  He took obvious pleasure insulting the U.S. with his buddy Fidel Castro and other left-wingers in the Andes, such as Evo Morales in Bolivia, Ollanta Humala in Peru, and Rafael Correa in Ecuador.  He insulted domestic enemies as well.  Megalomaniacal?  Yes!  He tried to build a cult around his personality.  He had a nightly television call-in program as President, and his mother frequently called in to "scold" him about bureaucratic glitches.  Popular with the masses?  Yes!  He loved creating international mischief.  The U.S. State Department loved to hate him, and Venezuela is still a mess (100% inflation in 2015) three years after his departure.

But how did this out-sized blowhard come to power in the first place?  Did people vote for him only because he promised to solve all their problems?  What was happening in Venezuela when, as a Lt. Colonel he led a failed military coup and won election easily five years later?

A couple of clues:  (1) The president Chavez tried to overthrow, Carlos Andres Perez (known as CAP), was indicted in 1993 for stealing 250 million bolivars of public funds.  He was forced to resign and jailed for 28 months in 1996, and then accused again in 1998 and 2001 of massive embezzlement of funds during his presidency.  (2) The establishment political party he belonged to, the AD, a Christian Democratic party, had alternated in power since 1958 with the COPEI, a slightly more conservative Social Christian party.  CAP had been president from 1974-1979, during the boom days of oil prices.  Corruption was rampant, accountability disappeared.  The two major parties, controlling Congress and alternating in the presidency, squandered revenues with lavish favoritism toward insiders, creating massive levels of debt.  After years of bipartisan mismanagement of the economy, with little to show for the oil boom, and high levels of public disgust at the corruption, CAP ran for president again in 1988, this time as a leftist reformer who argued Venezuela's economic problems were the result of foreign neoliberal policies known as the Washington Consensus (later backed strongly by President Clinton).  He promised to help out the neglected middle and lower sectors.  But after winning he quickly embraced the very neoliberal reforms he had repudiated openly in the campaign, largely at the expense of the lower and middle classes, raising the price of subsidized transportation services and the price of gasoline and allowing rampant inflation to impoverish many sectors of the lower and middle classes.  When riots broke out the national guard killed somewhere between 500 and 3000 protesters.  Corruption continued unabated.  The public was even more outraged than before/  And then a paratroop commander named Hugo Chavez tried to overthrow the president and put an end to the spoils system.

The point is this:  it took the failure of the two-party system in Venezuela  mired in corruption, mismanagement, and blatant favoritism, for the public to turn away from the establishment and elect a strong man, who, once in office, destroyed the despised two-party system. I could cite many other examples of similar failures of ruling coalitions, across many decades, that gave rise in Latin America to the arrival of a strong man:  Juan Peron in Argentina, Haya de la Torre in Peru, Rojas Pinilla in Colombia, Velasco Alvarado in Peru, Lucio Gutierrez in Ecuador--the list goes on and on.  In each of these cases the chronic failure of establishment political parties to satisfy the public led to the rise of strong men to acted often with great initial public acclaim.

The important question, then, may not be why people would follow a strong man, but why they would reject establishment politics, in spite of the uncertainties inherent in turning to the unknown?  It usually takes a lot of system failure for this to happen.

Viewed from this perspective, Trump's rise (and in less dramatic fashion Sanders' popularity) to levels no one expected just six months ago, in the face of enormous establishment opposition, can be interpreted as an indicator of system failure, rather than as a result of the kind of promises he makes, or of characteristics of people who form his base.  Both Sanders and Trump are clear about this.  Sanders calls it a "corrupt campaign finance system" that rigs it for the rich.  Trump says simply, "we aren't winning anymore," and promises to bring the good-paying jobs back home from China.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Figuring Out the 2016 Election Cycle:  What Went Wrong With the Narrative?

Links:
Commentary about what underlies the Trump-Sanders upset-the-flimsy-applecart phenomenon is beginning to produce serious insights, after months of confusion when the two most interesting candidates strayed too far from what is referred to as the "mainstream narrative" about political reality.  In fact, what is beginning to emerge (link to the above) is an alternative narrative about how political reality was hijacked by a coalition of Republican and Democrat leaders and corporate interests, including the mainstream news media, who created and enforced a fictional account of reality that justified much of the bipartisan mischief that has passed for policy making in the past quarter century.  It was the stubbornness of Trump's supporters, vilified by Democrats and Republicans alike for supporting Trump in spite of, and indeed because of, his blasphemies against political correctness and his attack on the media--that inspired a deeper look at the Trump phenomenon and a closer look at the underbelly of the bipartisan consensus of the last two decades.

It takes a con-artist to expose a con:  From the Left, Krugman's piece suggests the real anger among Republicans against Trump is that he has exposed the con-job mainstream Republicanism has perpetrated on Trump's supporters (largely white males) by leading them to believe their anger should be directed against Liberals, Democrats, and especially Obama and Hillary.  Instead, Trump tells his supporters that currency manipulation by China (supported by the way by US corporate interests), bad free-trade deals, stupid but expensive wars, and dumb bipartisan and wacko immigration policies--all perpetuated by a well-heeled bipartisan coalition in Washington--are the causes of our national decline.  Take away the racially charged, misogynist, and nativist icing on this cake, and it begins to taste a lot like Bernie Sanders, right?  Add a hint of raspberry campaign finance corruption, a note of cinnamon shovel-money-to-the-one-percent, drop the fragrances of beaten up protesters, and (link to "Why the Working Class...") you would hardly notice the difference!

Get over it and find a job:  From the Right (and mainstream) Mark Thoma ("The Truth About...") reproduces parts of an article in National Review, by Kevin Williamson, telling Trump supporters to quit listening to Trump blame the expensive wars, China's currency manipulation, poor trade deals, and immigration policy for their troubles:  Just rent a U Haul and head to a city with a growing job market:  and, by the way, vote for Cruz, Rubio, or Kasich.  Not exactly a novel idea, but one that is more frequently reserved for the black unemployed, instead of a major component of the Republican base.

Take a look at the inside of Bernie's "corrupt political system:"  The Right has not delved much into what might be behind the Bernie phenomenon.  Analysis of Bernie (even from the Left) has been as shallow as the Left's analysis of Trump six months ago.  In most circles, Republican or Democrat, and in the mainstream news media, he is still desmissed as a hopeless "populist," as though the word itself was an explanation.   But some stuff is beginning to percolate, including the Pro-Market piece, which exposes the blatant, and legal, corruption in the pharmaceutical industry's relationship with doctors, and in the Justin Fox and Thoma pieces.