The Hamburger Standard

Your Big Mac just got more expensive. Big Mac In the short time since this McCurrency menu was compiled, the Mexican peso strengthened against the U.S. dollar.

To track the price of a Big Mac since 2001, go here.

I have never eaten a Big Mac, so I don’t  know what I’m missing.

More on the Law for Promotion of Reading and Books

30% of Mexicans have never visited a library in their entire lives.

40% have never set foot in a bookstore.

1 in 8 have never read a book.

We’re not a poor country. We’re not an illiterate country. Reading just isn’t valued in this country.

Sobre la Ley de Fomento para la Lectura and el Libro (About the Law for the Promotion of Reading and the Book) is dedicated to an explanation of the history behind Mexico’s new book law and what it hopes to accomplish. The full text of the law can be found here.


What Keeps Mexicans from Reading Books?

It’s no secret that Mexicans aren’t exactly among the world’s leading readers of books. The absence of books in the homes of educated is frightening. So, too, is the dearth of bookstores. Any Mexican lingering alone over a book at a café might as well be committing acts of perversion and self-abuse for all the respect reading a book in public generates.

Books are expensive in this country, and that keeps many from buying them. Today the “book law” vetoed two years ago by then-President Vicente Fox was signed into law by President Felipe Calderon. The new law requires that all books, whether printed in Mexico or imported, be sold at the same price throughout the nation, forbidding discounting until the book is 18 months old and in stock for a year.  The rationale is that this step will encourage Mexicans to read more books.

If that makes a centavo of sense to you, I want to know what drugs you’ve been taking.


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Paul – Friedman 2008

So, Grace Slick calls me up with a great idea for Ron Paul’s running mate. None other than Kinky Friedman, she says.

“How about McCain naming Kinky as his running mate?” I ask.

“Kinky’s not going to go there,” she tells me.

“McCain could dump his plastic wife and marry Kinky,” I suggest, thinking that McCain could get some of the liberal and gay vote that way. Stranger things have happened in the name of politics, you know.

“No, no, a thousand times no. It’s Paul – Friedman. It’s time we had two Texans on the ballot. And Kinky’s slept in the White House twice, under two different administrations. And just think about the voters who’ll think they’re voting for Paul Friedman.”

I give the notion some more thought. 30 seconds is all it takes to know that this has got to be the winning ticket. Please, someone out there in Blog-O-Land, tell Ron Paul to recruit Kinky Friedman this very minute. I think we may be on to something.


When the Praise is Feint

until recently, it was also home to some of Mexico’s most notorious drug kingpins. Less than a decade ago, its coastal highway was nicknamed Bandito Alley, and the region was overrun with marijuana fields and methamphetamine labs.

Drug-related violence has fallen in the last year and despite occasional flare-ups — which have been confined to gang-on-gang violence and government crackdowns — Michoacán is beginning to attract visitors besides backpackers and serious collector

The region has a reputation for a rebellious citizenry…

In the last decade, American retirees have swooped into town and turned its historic center into a booming expat community.

Why does an otherwise interesting and informative article in the New York Times about Michoacán’s crafts have to be so snarky? It’s sort of like seeing a travel piece touting New York City’s Greenwich Village which drops a line about Joel Steinberg and Hedda Nussbaum or mandating that there be at least a couple of mentions about muggings in each piece about Central Park.

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Little Murders

Murder is not just a New York City phenomenon.

The first murder in which I actually knew one of the parties took place during my college years. I can’t say that I knew any of the players well, but I knew who they were. I’d been in the same room with both of them months before.

Now, anyone who can read or even has a television has heard about the execution rate in Mexico. It’s really nothing new in this country, and the rates aren’t nearly as bad as the press might make them out to be.

That is, until it happens. Friday’s newspaper carried a small story below the fold about a stabbing death in a part of town I knew well. The name of the victim rang a bell, as did his profession. He was a lawyer. 8 o’clock in a summer evening spells a fair amount of pedestrian traffic, and darkness would not fall for another hour. Gossip and details can travel fast. It was a rare, unrainy evening, and we had heard no police or ambulance sirens. Pondering whether it would be safe to venture out on foot for tacos after dark, we wondered what led the lawyer to that part of the city. He was feeding his horses, down on a lot he owned, the later news stories would tell. And later he would be found lying face down in the street, stabbed and stabbed and stabbed over and over again, nine times by some reports, a dozen by another. What was clear was that this was no random act.

The early stories said that those who saw anything would not say much about dead man’s assailants for fear of reprisals. They weren’t talking, because they knew perfectly well who did the deed. Within hours, the neighborhood newswire would have more takes on the story, and, just like these things go in a small town anywhere in the world, each account would have its grain of truth.

I realized that, while I did not know the victim, I knew those who knew him, and, while I did not know the man whom the local wisdom had tagged as the hand behind the dagger, I knew those who knew him. I’d broken bread in the homes of the families of both.

Practicing law in a small town in Iowa means running into those who are murdered—and those who murder. Some of them were even clients.

I can remember sitting in the Mexico City airport in July 1981, reading about the Skidmore, Missouri, murders, just a few miles down the road. As the years would go on, scattered family members of the murdered town bully became clients, and the identity of the man who shot him was an open secret. 60 Minutes did its story, the New Yorker descended for its story, and Harry M. MacLean wrote a best-selling true crime book, which became the mandatory made-for-TV movie.

Most murders, no matter how compelling the story may be to the perpetrator, the victims, or the public, never make it beyond a brief mention in the evening news or the morning paper, and the odds are that Thursday evening’s killing won’t make the national media. It won’t be long before the details are forgotten, and it’ll take its place in the local lore.


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