20 February 2011


MEXICO. From the San Antonio Express-News, an article headlined "Another Ominous Turn In Mexico" wastes no time in outlining an event which received scant attention in the broadcast media -- "The violence in Mexico has taken a number of disturbing turns in recent years. It's not only the level of violence that is troubling, with more than 28,000 deaths since the government of President Felipe Calderon began to fight back against the drug cartels back in 2006. It's also the methods employed by the criminal syndicates -- beheadings, car bombings and mass murders -- that are indistinguishable from terrorism.

"This week there was another ominous development with the ambush of two U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement agents between Mexico City and Monterrey. As many as 15 armed men attacked the agents, killing Jaime Zapata and wounding Victor Avila.

"The ambush occurred in an area where the Zetas, a criminal organization of cartel enforcers, are known to be active. Since Zapata and Avila were driving an armored SUV with diplomatic license plates (see image above), it seems obvious the gunmen knew they were attacking officials or agents of the United States government.

"A bad explanation is that a rogue group of Zetas carried out the hit, indicating cartel violence is getting even more out of control. A worse explanation is that the attack on the U.S. agents was directed from the top of the Zetas, which could only mean they have decided to declare war on U.S. law enforcement, and not necessarily only on the Mexican side of the border."

As recently as the 1970s and 1980s, life along the border and within Mexico was relaxed and decidedly non-dangerous. I lived 16 miles north of the U.S.-Mexico border in rural southern Arizona for four years, and took many extended camping trips to the Sea of Cortez in northwest Sonora, both privately and as part of University of Arizona class field trips. How deeply sad that the region has turned into a war zone, whose genesis is (proximally) the failed war on drugs, and (ultimately) the demand for drugs in the U.S. and the demand for weapons in economically bereft Mexico. The tragedy of the slain agents is but a symptom of issues portrayed compellingly in the film Traffic. However, the intensity and sophistication of violence by both sides has become an order of magnitude worse in the decade since Traffic was released .... so much so that an international intervention is called for, on the scale of sending UN/NATO peacekeeping forces into the wartorn, genocidal region of Bosnia-Serbia-Herzegovina in the 1990s. Let's not wait until such an effort is too little, too late.

G.O.P. NYTimes columnist Frank Rich's article The G.O.P.'s Post-Tucson Traumatic Stress Disorder was music to my ears (to mix a metaphor). In it he describes the plummeting fall from popularity of right-wing media attack dogs like Glenn Beck, right-wing political nut cases like Sarah Palin, and the shortfall in substance within Republican policy. With the influx of Tea party radicals, and G.O.P. leadership's response (bending over and smiling) to ultraconservative attempts to defund, debunk and eviscerate humanitarian social programs like Medicare, Social Security, community health clinics, education, et al., Republicans are reduced to trite and frankly embarrassing tactics like questioning President Obama's U.S. citizenship, all the while hoping desperately for the miraculous emergence of a new Ronald Reagan. One almost hopes that Republicans will continue to seek destructive solutions to the issues we face, since in doing so they are alienating not only American voters but also world opinion. In the end, as happened during the McCarthy era, they will self-destruct, and the rest of us can return to a more rational and constructive society.

GIRL SCOUTS. Are Girl Scout cookies killing orangutans? When two girls scouts in Michigan discovered that the answer, indirectly, is Yes, they took action. Here's the setup -- "Many varieties of Girl Scout cookies include palm oil, the No.1 culprit behind deforestation in Southeast Asia, particularly Indonesia and Malaysia. When (the two scouts) found out that Girl Scout cookies were destroying the forest homes of endangered wildlife like orangutans, pygmy elephants, and Sumatran tigers -- and displacing indigenous peoples -- they sprung into action. First, they stopped selling the cookies, and then launched an effort to encourage the Girl scouts to switch to more environmentally-friendly (and healthier) alternatives like canola oil. The Girl Scouts USA and their CEO Kathy Clonginer have refused to act despite efforts by Girl Scouts across the country and the encouragement of organizations like the Union of Concerned Scientists and the Center for Biological Diversity .... the Girl Scouts' sister British organization, the Girl Guides, have eliminated palm oil from their cookies, and are offering to help the Girl Scouts USA and Girl Guides Canada do the same."


No comments:

Post a Comment