Why is Stephen King Writing about Mexico and the U.S. Financial Crisis?

Might the US, then, be the world’s largest emerging market in disguise?

At first blush, I thought horror writer Stephen King was writing about economics. It seemed a little strange, but then again, after the past week, he seemed like a natural. But the piece was penned by Stephen King, the HSBC economist.


Healing the National Psychosis

Red-headed Neanderthals at Sanborns may have kept Travis Whitehead out of harm’s way  JUANA ALONSO HERNANDEZ 1during the September 15th attack on Morelia, but it took clay pots, a cornfield and a visit with an old lady off in the Meseta Purepecha to restore his balance and faith in Morelia, Michoacán, and its artisans.


Expats Put Morelia’s 15/S into Perspective

Recovering lawyer Linda Breen Pierce, the engineer of The Pierce Simplicity Study and author of Choosing Simplicity: Real People Finding Peace and Fulfillment in a Complex World and Simplicity Lessons: A 12-Step Guide to Living Simply, moved to Morelia with her husband, Jim, this year.

They were in Morelia’s Centro Historico on the evening of September 15th, leaving just before the attack. In a post to Mexico Connect’s Living, Working and Retiring Forum the next morning, Pierce wrote:

As I write this, I hear the sound of helicopters overhead from my house 2 blocks from the main plaza in Morelia. It’s been a frequent sound all day today, a not surprising sound after explosions last night at El Grito celebration in the main plaza, resulting in a reported 8 deaths and about 100 wounded. As Jennifer Rose opined in her blog, Morelia lost its innocence last night. We spent several hours at El Grito celebration last night, but didn’t have the stamina to stay up late enough for the 11 pm traditional ceremony with the Governor’s talk and bell ringing. The earlier hours were wonderful – a truly family event, wonderful music, happy people dancing in the streets.

Five days ago, my husband and I signed a contract to purchase a house in Morelia. We love this city. After two years of exploring Mexico, trying out San Miguel de Allende, Ajijic and Guadalajara (for 1 to 3 months in each location), we fell in love with Morelia. We fell in love with the architecture, the size (large enough to have a fair sampling of restaurants, theaters and other cultural events, and small enough to not get lost), the challenge of having to learn Spanish (not many English-speaking expats here), and the friendliness of the people – it all felt great to us. Now I wonder about our future – will Morelia become a constant target of violence? Will we be afraid to walk the streets at night (this city is so gorgeous at night, it takes your breath away)? Will the sound of police helicopters be our constant companion?

Strangely enough, I don’t worry about being killed in an act of violence. At age 60, I can say that I’ve lived a great life. If I get killed by a narco bullet or cancer or some other unanticipated cause, I won’t feel cheated. Many have not had the blessings I’ve had in my life. I am not afraid of death. If I were 40 or had children to raise, I might feel differently. Still, I feel the odds of getting killed in Morelia are far less than when I lived in Hollywood, California for 10 years or when I lived in San Francisco for 8 years.

But it would just break my heart if the violence increased in Morelia to the point where living here was no longer the pleasure it is today. The sound of helicopters remind me of the 10 years I lived in Hollywood when we constantly heard police helicopters overhead. We never walked our neighborhood at night. I’m not up for another 10 years of that.

Today, I am cautiously optimistic. I hope and pray that the violence last night will not be a frequent occurrence in our adopted city. I’ve always been a risk taker, and if buying a house in a city that may have an uncertain future ends up being a poor financial risk, well, so be it.

Viva México

And her husband, Jim, responded:

A somewhat unrelated observation is that this recent violence in Morelia may be illustrative of the good job being done by Calderon. If his government’s efforts weren’t hurting the drug gangs, I doubt they would have stooped to throwing grenades into a public gathering and hurting women and children at a cherished Mexican event. This unprecedented act, which will help to turn the populace against the drug lords, seems to suggest that Calderon is hurting the gangs. Like the Prohibition era in the US, when the bootleggers were really being hurt by the Feds, they started taking actions that ultimately contributed to their demise.

On yet another related topic that has received little comment, these drug gangs exist almost entirely to serve US consumers of their products. Yet the richest nation on earth has turned down requests for assistance by Mexico, apparently in hopes that a poor nation will solve their problems on the cheap. These are complicated issues–don’t get me started!

But I digress. Absent better data, I agree with Jennifer Rose–we are safer here in Morelia than in much of the USA.

15/9 and After

“So, everything’s back to normal in Morelia now?” asked a well-meaning Estadounidense lawyer this morning. He would not be the first to ask the very same question.

“No, it isn’t. Not by a long shot.”

It was sort of like asking Lehman Brothers or Washington Mutual if they were going to have a record year of profits.

Life is the same in Morelia—and it isn’t. And never will be. Like anyplace else, lives go on, people go to work and shop at Walmart (where there was a false alarm this week about a bomb), and on the surface, it looks the same. There is a palpable tension in the air, a quiet nervousness that just wasn’t there on Monday afternoon, and many people are on a heightened sense of alert. People will avoid public events for a while. We’ll put on a brave face, but the reality is that many are filled with fear.

Downtown businesses are the first to take the hit. Sales are down. Guests staying in downtown hotels packed up and left town Tuesday morning. Tourists are going to think twice before visiting Morelia, even though it will be one of the safest places to be in the coming months.

Estadounidenses have certain frames of reference: before and after JFK was shot, before Kent State and afterward, pre- and post-9/11.

In Mexico, we have dates by which we measure life before and after: October 2, 1968, the Night of Tlatelolco; September 19, 1985, the Mexico City earthquake; and March 23, 1995, the assassination of presidential candidate Luis Donaldo Colosio.

September 15, 2008 will be one of those dates forever etched in the memory of every living Mexican.


Below the Fold, Page A-6

shoes The Estadounidense response to and coverage of Monday evening’s attack in Morelia has been resoundingly quiet. Sean Mattson over at My SA Blogs, Cox News Service Mexican correspondent Jeremy Schwartz, The Los Angeles Times’ Deborah Bonello, and  The News’ David Agren have done most of the heavy lifting. English-language bloggers have been uncharacteristically quiet.

 U.S. Ambassador Tony Garza took his sweet time coming up with the usual diplomatic response. The U.S. State Department hasn’t updated its travel alert for over five months.

When I’ve brought up the topic with my friends in the U.S., a well-read bunch, they just didn’t seem to grasp the impact of what had happened. And these were the same folks who were outraged by a few gang-bangers who’d lost their heads in Uruapan a few years ago.  This is our 9/11, and Estadounidenses just don’t seem to care.

One Estadounidense blogger, lawyer Alan Bail picked up on the events, mostly, I suspect, because he’s been to Morelia three times before and laughs at my jokes.

Don’t get me wrong. I know the Northern Front’s been real concerned about money, bailouts, a failing economy, Bike, Sarah Palin’s e-mail, and who’s invited to Bristol’s combination wedding-baby shower, and there is that business about a war somewhere on the other side of the world, but is Mexico buried back below the fold on page A-6 in the print edition no one reads?

ADDENDUM: Over at Gone City, John Sevigny, a Mexico-based Estadounidense photographer, shares his aftershocks about Morelia.

¿Quién y Por Qué?

The crowd gathered to hear Michoacán Gov. Leonel Godoy ring in El Grito last night at Morelia’s Plaza Melchor Ocampo right smack dab next to the Cathedral represented a cross-section of society: fresas, nacos, old people, middle-aged people, young people and families, the middle class and poor folks, people like you and me. They weren’t making any kind of political statement; they were just out celebrating Mexico. For Estadounidenses, they were doing nothing more than cheering this country’s version of the 4th of July and Thanksgiving all rolled into one.

When other groups are victims of terrorism, it’s easy to foist off some of the blame onto them for being the wrong kind of people in the wrong place at the wrong time. The World Trade Center and Pentagon people were, after all, working in and for the famed military-industrial complex. Iraqis had the poor sense to be living in the wrong country. Jews who ended up in concentration camps were foolish enough to be born of less than Aryan blood. The Israelis are crazy enough to live alongside Palestinians. Those gunned down in the Tlatelolco Massacre forty years ago were students and workers who lacked the good sense to refrain from demonstrating. All of these people were in some way offensive to their attackers.

Last night’s victims were guilty of nothing. They incited nothing. They offended no one. And that’s what made the attack even more senseless.

That’s what terrorism is all about.

And it’s more than simply picking off random people like the Beltway sniper did a few years back. Pulling a trigger on a gun creates a direct connection between the perpetrator and the victim, even if the shot’s fired into a crowd. Detonating a grenade is an entirely different matter and far more evil, because it blurs and extends the distance between the attacker and the attacked.

That’s how terrorists operate.

We can’t lay blame upon the Arabs, Muslims and foreigners for this one. Whoever is responsible for last night’s acts was as home-grown as nopal.

That’s where terrorists come from.

The symbolism in striking during a revered national event wasn’t lost on the rest of the world. Last night’s attack won’t be the last one we can expect to experience. The next one may not occur at national celebration, but instead at a crowded theater, a shopping center, sporting event, or even a school.

That’s where terrorists strike.

For one brief and shining moment, politicians from all corners will be on the same page. By tomorrow morning, someone will have written and recorded an anti-narcocorrido. Morelia’s Wikipedia entry has already been updated. Editorials will be written. Pledges, righteous indignation, and campaigns will precede conspiracy theories and finger-pointing. And then we still will not know what’s coming next.

That’s what terrorism does to people.


The Night Morelia Lost its Innocence

Last night, I decided to act like the boring, middle class Mexican that I’ve become. For the first time in years, there were no public or private gatherings in celebration of independence on my plate. I went to bed with David Lida’s First Stop in the New World.

And awakened to the news that Morelia had lost its innocence.

Narcos had tossed or remotely detonated hand grenades into the crowd of about seven hundred people, right at the moment Gov. Leonel Godoy would sing out the Grito, killing eight people and injuring perhaps a hundred. One report had a well-built guy in black apologizing to the crowd before tossing out the bombs, and another placed the blame on a crew of youths with shaved heads seen running from the scene.

These things don’t happen in Morelia. Not in my Morelia. Not in the colonial jewel of Mexico, the up-and-coming city of Mexico’s future, the hometown of our president. Not in the town where the 200th anniversary of independence would be a focal point for the nation. Not here. Not among our kind of people.

There were reports of bombs going off in various other parts of our city – up by the glorious bandera in my own neighborhood, down by the Acueducto. Police would tell those gathered in restaurants, bars and gatherings to go home. For the first time ever, the parade downtown would be cancelled. Godoy decreed today a Day of Mourning.

The attacks weren’t supposed to happen in Morelia. Not in my town. The undercurrent was that violence could be expected in the port town of Lazaro Cardenas or Huetamo. Like, who really cares what happens somewhere else? Those places were as distant as the border cities of the north.

Sure, everyone hears and reads about how Michoacán is a hotbed of drug-related violence. It had always been confined to rival drug gangs or the law enforcement, just like professional mafia wars are supposed to be. Last night, they broke the rules of organized crime and injured innocent men, women and children. They maimed even those who weren’t at the Plaza Melchor Ocampo. They hurt even those who were safely tucked away in bed.

We will go about our lives, just as we always have. The tourism and hospitality industry will take a major hit, and then it will recover. A monument to the injured will be erected on the Plaza Melchor Ocampo. There will be candle-lit marches and prayers. Accusations will fly, as usual, that respected businessmen and politicians are in bed with the narcos. But life will not be the same in Morelia. Our collective conscience has been shattered.

Bastards. Cock-sucking, mother-fucking sons of bitches. The assholes who’re responsible for raping Morelia should rot in hell.


The White Trashing of America

bristol-palin-sarah-palin If John McCain’s selection of Sarah Palin is enough to make you want to cry, try laughing instead. Here. And here. And here and here. Levi Johnston’s blog, clearly a parody site, was taken down this afternoon.

Mrs. Palin, it was bad enough that you had to exploit your infant by using him as a stage prop, but you’ve gone just too far parading your unwed teenage daughter’s pregnancy. She was five months along, and you just didn’t notice it? Or were you just too worked up over the prospect of having a teenage son-in-law who describes himself like this:

“I’m a f***in’ redneck who likes to snowboard and ride dirt bikes. But I live to play hockey. I like to go camping and hang out with the boys, do some fishing, shoot some s**t and just f***in’ chillin’ I guess.”

I’m not even going to address your limited knowledge of the American political landscape or your vast experience in the P.T.A. I’m not going to mention that business about the oil industry, Troopergate or the bridge to nowhere. What does appall me is your heartless disdain for your very own family. Was all of your talk about putting “life first” just hot air? You’ve put moral issues on the table for political gain, but you forgot that old adage about morality starting at home. Go back home and take care of your own family first. Shame on you, Sarah, for putting your own political gains ahead of your very own family.

America’s excited, my ass. Count me as one Republican who is outraged and disgusted.