Monthly Archive for December, 2006

Love Monterrey, Hate The Airports

First some background: I came to Monterrey, Mexico in March of this year and had a horrible airport experience. Because of bad weather out of Tijuana our airplane was delayed. Since I had to make a connection with another plane in Guadalajara, that flight was missed as well. So after about five hours of waiting for the weather to clear in Tijuana we finally get on a plane at about 6am in the morning. The problem is that since I missed my Guadalajara flight they had to fly me to Mexico city instead, or else wait some 14 hours for a flight out of Tijuana. After we arrived in Mexico city, my roommate and I, we had to wait another four hours to fly to Guadalajara – my original destination point twelve hours later. After finally arriving in Guadalajara, and an hour or so wait, it was another hour of flying to finally get to Monterrey, all and all, about a 15 hour difference from my planned arrival time.

As if things couldn’t get any worse, after receiving our luggage we discovered that my roommates luggage had ripped and the return airline tickets had fallen out. Since we were returning on a different airline, Aero California instead of Aviasca, we needed those airline tickets or we wouldn’t be allowed to board the plane. Yes, that is right, even if you have proof of purchase, are on their computer, and they have you on record, without your physical airline boarding tickets you cannot get on an Aero California plane. After a couple of hours of calling various airports and with the help of a very helpful Aviasca employee named Adolfo, we were not able to find the tickets. So we had no choice but to repurchase our return tickets, and Aviasca, after the 15 hour delay and losing our tickets, said nothing but `disculpa`, no discount, no refund, not even some damn free cocktails on our next flight, nada.

Fast forward to this Saturday and I arrived at the same Tijuana airport at about 12:50pm, expecting to board my plane at 2:50pm. However, about thirty minutes into the line I realized there were going to be problems again. A lady carrying a baby in line in front of me starts crying, demanding that she be let on the plane. I thought she was late, but after talking to the group in front of me in line, I realized the problem: Aviasca airline (yes, the same airline I had problems with in March, I know, I know) had oversold the seats on the plane. Apparently, this is a policy of theirs to sell more tickets than there are seats in the hope that some passengers will miss their flight and they will come away a winner. All fine, but what happens when nobody misses their flight? Well, that is what we were all finding out. Even though we had arrived at the airport two, some even three hours before our flight, there were about eight of us who were notified of not having enough seats on the plane. The airlines rebuttal when confronted with this injustice was, every other airline does the same thing. Sure enough, they were right. If you walked down the aisle of airline lines, you would see occasional outbursts of one or two passengers not taking the news well. One older lady was so disturbed and created such a scene that the police had to come and escort her out.

After an hour or so of going back and forth Aviasca airlines informed us of what they were to do. Three people in front of me had Cancun as their final destination; they were put on a different plane going about an hour outside of Cancun, and then would be put on a bus that takes them into the city. The three people behind me had as their final destination Oaxaca, and I was the only one with the final destination of Monterrey. What time would our next flight leave? Mine would leave at 1:30am, theirs at 12:45am! Yes, that is right, almost a full 12 hours later! The good news is that instead of going to Mexico City then Monterrey, this time they flew me into Guadalajara, about an hour’s flight away from Monterrey.

During the wait, the four of us passed our time talking about family, Mexico politics, US politics, football, the San Diego Chargers, airport marketing strategies, along with an in depth view of day to day airport life. I also met a security guard who spoke perfect English, and who had a story of his own. Apparently he is from the United States, grew up in Chula Vista, but after an encounter with the law, was sent back to Mexico while his paper work is reprocessed. He told me how he only needs $2,500 in lawyer fees to finish his paper work and go back. He has been in Tijuana for almost a year now and had this security job for 3 months of that year. He said he gets paid $130/week, and how difficult it is to save up $2,500 with such little pay. He also mentioned how if he is caught back in the United States without the proper paper work, in violation of his deportation, that he would go to prison for 10 years and lose all hope of ever returning back to the United States legally. We talked about his family, his life experiences, and his regrets. He also mentioned that he had a daughter back in the States and a very helpful and understanding new girlfriend in Tijuana. He is on the path of completing his $2,500 needed to return, and if allowed back in the United States will come with a very different mindset, one that appreciates more the opportunities the United States gives one (a feeling I have heard more than once from my own family).

Throughout this time I also witnessed another older lady who had arrived at the line expecting to get on the same airline only to be told that she would have to wait and, more importantly, that she had purchased the wrong ticket. She wanted a ticket from Tijuana to Mexico City, but the Aviasca sales person sold her an airline from Mexico City to Tijuana, the opposite of what she wanted. But since Aviasca doesn’t give refunds, she was told that she had to repurchase another airline ticket, not a small thing for families making Mexico wages. This caused her to burst into tears, as it was clear to everybody there that she could not afford another airline ticket and that it was more the fault of Aviasca than hers. The airline would not budge though, and while she stood there crying, all they would say was ‘disculpa’, ‘no podemos aser nada’. The lady left, in tears, hands down, and feeling like this was going to be a bad Christmas.

After 12 hours at the airport, my flight to Guadalajara finally shows up. After checking in my main luggage at the Aviasca ticket counter, I kept with me a carry on case that held the video camera a friend had let me borrow. But upon entering the plane, I was informed that I would have to check in that luggage, as the airline was too full and couldn’t allow any carry on items. I was reluctant, but after being reassured by the airline attendant that I would get my carry on back safely, I conceded. About three hours later I arrive in Guadalajara only to wait two hours to board another plane on its way to Monterrey. An hour on that plane and I finally make it to my destination. Taking into account the time difference, I was on a plane or inside an airport for almost a full 24 hour period, all for a plane ride that shouldn’t have lasted more than six hours.

As bad as that was, I still felt a sigh of relief at the thought that it was all over – only it wasn’t. I arrive at the baggage claim only to find out that my carry on luggage was nowhere to be found. I found my main luggage, but the carry on item with my friend’s video camera, with my shavers, books, gifts, and everything else, was missing. I waited until the last luggage was gone and went to Aviasca lost luggage to complain. Luckily for me my friend from back in March, Adolfo, was there to assist me. After looking at me in the eyes, he recognized me right away (we spent a long time looking for the tickets and buying new tickets back in March), and I explained to him my problem with Aviasca this time. After phone numbers were exchanged, I went to my grandmas house empty handed. Hours went by, I called him, he called me, and still no luggage to be found. At this point, nearly six hours after I arrived, I decided to call my friend and inform him that his video camera was lost. Since I was still determined to video tape my grandmother, I offered him the option of picking out a new and better video camera from the Wal-Mart website and I would go to the nearest Wal-Mart on Tuesday and buy that video camera, video tape my grandma, and give him that video camera in replacement of his others – he agreed, and we left it at that.

As all hope was finally leaving, at about 7pm that night, I get a call from Adolfo that my carry on luggage has been found. I jump on a taxi, shoot back to the airport and confirm that indeed it was my luggage, and after a handshake and a `thank you` to Adolfo, I was back on a taxi back to my grandmas place, feeling overjoyed that my luggage had finally been found. A happy ending to a long and exhausting day.

I leave you now, a couple hours before my trip to Guadalajara is going to start, with a picture of my three friends from Oaxaca.

Los Tres De Oaxaca
Happy New Year everyone!

HP Going To Mexico

Tomorrow at about 10am I hop on a plane to Monterrey, Mexico, to visit, videotape, and spend time with my 90 y/o grandma. I got the idea of videotaping her from my friend Oso who suggested it in one of his blog posts. Though my grandma is in very good shape, and still walks up and down the stairs to her apartment with ease, I thought that I should do it as soon as possible to avoid any regrets. I plan to ask her everything from family, to life lessons, to any message she would like to pass on to the coming generations.

In addition to Monterrey, hopefully I will be able to visit Agualeguas, Guadalajara, and McAllen all in the same trip. I don’t know if I could do them all in the short of two weeks I am away, but I am certainly going to try to do as many as I can.

I won’t be back until January 4th, so I wish everybody a great Christmas, New Years, and holiday season. See you all next year.

Blog Updates And Blog Changes

When I first started this blog in July of 2004, it was with the intention that it would be a place where I can store memorable articles and my thoughts on the world in general. I was hoping that in doing so, I can trace the evolution of my views across time. Being a political novice, yet someone who considers himself open to opposing views, I thought it would be a great learning experience to put my views up for public display as well as public criticism.

Unfortunately, after a few weeks of trying to write my own posts I realized two things: I am not a very good writer (damn ESL classes!), and when I do try to write well, it takes me a really long time. Fortunately, this is not the case when my views are challenged, for some reason in response to challenges I can focus enough to write decent and in the process, improve my writing skills. Well, after a few years of doing exactly that via blogging, and after many more years of participating on online forums and discussion boards, I am confident in my writing skills enough to take another shot at my second objective above.

In 2007 you will see more posts written by yours truly. The topics will primarily focus on economics and politics, but now also include personal experiences. You will also come across some of my impulsiveness, as I plan to post thoughts that I have not clearly thought out and may later change my mind on, as opposed to just views I firmly believe in. I plan to continue, though to a lesser degree, the quote of the days and posting of articles as well. However, many will be substituted with del.ic.ous link posts containing a short synopsis. Therefore I can still store my memorable articles and continue to give readers of this blog a chance to read and discuss any of the articles.

In addition, because I am switching to a more personal and ‘from the heart’ type blog, I have decided to make the blog a bit more anonymous. I want to feel that I can write about almost anything without it affecting my work, personal life, or people whom I am writing about. So I have removed my personal name, my city location, and the pictures link from my blog. I have also decided – more because of spamming than anonymity – to stop using my old email and instead use a Contact Form method to get a hold of me. Of course the writing will still come from the same HispanicPundit you have been reading before; it will just be more anonymous to the google engines and those that don’t know me already personally. This will allow me to write more about my personal life, my upbringing, my life growing up in Compton, my life as an engineer, my life lessons, my family, and many other areas without feeling that google is always looking over my shoulder.

Hopefully this objective will last alot longer than the previous one. See you in 2007!

As a final reminder, my old email will no longer be used. From now on, to get in contact with me click the ‘Contact Form’ link above. Because of the large amount of spam I have decided to stop using my old email indefinitely.

Michael Bloomberg On Our Education System

Michael Bloomberg writes in the Wall Street Journal:

Today a bipartisan commission of high-profile academic, government, business and labor leaders selected by the National Center on Education and the Economy (NCEE) will release a report that provides a sobering assessment of our nation’s education system: Only 18 out of 100 high-school freshmen will graduate on time, enroll directly in college and earn a two-year degree in three years or a four-year degree in six. Just 18!

It used to be that those without college degrees could count on well-paying jobs in manual labor; those days are long gone. Now, not only are we losing low-skilled jobs to nations with lower wages, but more and more of these nations are developing education systems to compete with us for high-skilled jobs. And as technology and communications make the world a smaller place, they are growing ever more competitive.

For much of the 20th century, the education level of America’s work force was second-to-none. But others have caught up, and even moved past us. Now, unless we take bold action, we risk losing our competitive edge. The problem is not that America doesn’t spend enough money on education — we spend enormous amounts, far more than any other nation. But we’re not getting a sufficient return on our investment. The fact is, our education system looks a lot like the U.S. auto industry in the 1970s — stuck in a flabby, inefficient, outdated production model driven by the needs of employees rather than consumers.

For instance, we have built too many bureaucracies that lack clear lines of accountability, which means that mediocrity and failure are tolerated, and excellence goes unrewarded. We recruit a disproportionate share of teachers from among the bottom third of their college classes. Then we give them lifetime tenure after three years, and we reward them based on longevity, not performance. We fail to help struggling students in the early years, when costs are lower, and then, in the upper grades, we pay for expensive remediation programs which have very limited success. And we allow vast funding inequalities to exist between school districts, with poor students, who are disproportionately black and Hispanic, paying the price.

We can continue to invest enormous sums of money in this failing system — and remain like Detroit in the 1970s, slipping further and further behind our international competitors. Or, we can put our famous American ingenuity to work and build a better system — and become like Silicon Valley today, which is leading the world in innovation and technology.

The choice is clear, but the challenge will not be easy. It will require a top-to-bottom rethinking of our school system, one that insists on a performance-based culture of accountability that is oriented around children, not bureaucracies. It will require us to offer higher teacher salaries to attract more of the best and brightest, and to offer financial rewards to the most successful teachers. It will require us to set and uphold high standards, encourage innovation and competition, and end social promotion — the harmful practice of advancing students to the next grade despite their poor academic performance. And it will require us to invest in early childhood development and distribute funding more equitably.

These are exactly the goals we have been working toward in New York City, and even though we still have a long way to go, the early results are encouraging. These goals are also at the heart of the new NCEE report. Deciding how to achieve them will require tough choices, and not everyone — myself included — will agree with all of the commission’s recommendations. But beyond the specifics of this report, achieving real progress requires all of us to think anew and to challenge conventional ways of doing things.

This means that politicians must show a willingness to stand up to special interests, including unions. School administrators must lead from the front in exploring more innovative, performance-driven ideas. Teachers must be given the tools and support they need to succeed — and be held accountable for results in their classrooms. And parents must recognize that the schools can’t do it by themselves; values and ethics begin in the home.

Nothing less is required to keep the American Dream flourishing in the 21st century. It won’t be easy, but we can do it. And to keep America at the head of the class, we must.

Mr. Bloomberg is the mayor of New York City.

Good luck in trying to go against the teachers union, they have a lock on failing schools.

Quote Of The Day

“It seems very likely to me that the small number of people made redundant as a result of a modest minimum wage hike are very likely to be the worst off of the poor: convicted felons, recovering drug addicts, welfare mothers, the cognitively disabled, high school dropouts, those whose backgrounds were too chaotic to impart good work habits. The well-connected, well-socialised middle class teenaged and twenty-something students, on the other hand, seem disproportionately likely to keep their jobs. There is also the moderately well-supported possibility that high minimum wages encourage short-sighted teenagers to drop out, or reduce their studying,in order to take jobs”.–The Economist on the minimum wage

Capitalism In Latin America

Gary Becker, Nobel Laurette in economics and professor of economics at the University Of Chicago, writes on capitalism in Latin America:

One legitimate reason for the opposition to capitalism in Latin America is that it frequently has been “crony capitalism” as opposed to the competitive capitalism that produces desirable social outcomes. Crony capitalism is a system where companies with close connections to the government gain economic power not by competing better, but by using the government to get favored and protected positions. These favors include monopolies over telecommunications, exclusive licenses to import different goods, and other sizeable economic advantages. Some cronyism is found in all countries, but Mexico and other Latin countries have often taken the influence of political connections to extremes.

In essence, crony capitalism often creates private monopolies that hurt consumers compared to their welfare under competition. The excesses of cronyism have provided ammunition to parties of the left that are openly hostile to capitalism and neo-liberal policies. Yet when these parties come to power they usually do not reduce the importance of political influence but shift power to groups that support them. A distinguishing characteristic of Chile since the reforms of the early 1980’s is the growth in competitive capitalism at the expense of crony capitalism. This shift more than anything else explains the economic rise of Chile during the past 25 years that has made Chile the most economically successful of all Latin American nations.

The full post can be found here. His response to comments can be found here.

Quote Of The Day

“Good news from the World Bank’s Global Economics Prospects 2007, released today. Growth in developing countries will reach a near-record 7 percent in 2006. That’s much higher than the economic growth in high-income countries, a still respectable 2.6 percent, which is held down by slow growth in many of the sluggish welfare states of Europe…Why is the Third World growing so rapidly? Market economics, the rule of law, growing world trade. China in the 1980s and India after the collapse of the Soviet empire in 1989–91 moved to free-market policies, and tens of millions have moved out of poverty. It’s a simple formula, and it’s too bad that people didn’t figure it out 40 or 50 years sooner”. —Michael Barone, writing about the World Banks recent report on global poverty

The Illogic Of Creating Jobs vs. Creating Wealth

Explained by Milton Friedman:

While traveling by car during one of his many overseas travels, Professor Milton Friedman spotted scores of road builders moving earth with shovels instead of modern machinery. When he asked why powerful equipment wasn’t used instead of so many laborers, his host told him it was to keep employment high in the construction industry. If they used tractors or modern road building equipment, fewer people would have jobs was his host’s logic.

“Then instead of shovels, why don’t you give them spoons and create even more jobs?” Friedman inquired.

The lunacy of ‘make work’ acts by unions and governments made clear. Dwight R. Lee, Professor at the University of Georgia has more here. Donald J. Boudreaux, chairman of the Department of Economics at George Mason University has more here.

Quote Of The Day

“The latest very good data on the federal budget last week didn’t get any attention from most of the media budget reporters, for whom good news is no news. Federal revenues are growing at a brisk pace, up 9% so far in the first two months of fiscal year 2007. That follows 11% growth in 2006 and 12% in 2005. Over the past 26 months, federal tax collections have grown faster than in any 26-month period in American history. The fastest growth has been in corporate and personal income taxes, with the richest 1% of Americans now paying 34% of all federal taxes, an all-time high. Even better, federal spending is finally beginning to slow down. Expenditures are up 5% this fiscal year — still twice the inflation rate, but half the 10% growth we’ve seen since 2004. And the budget Congress approved last week slows spending growth to about 3% or 4% at least through February of 2007. Plus, no earmarks were included in that bill. Hooray”.–Stephen Moore, writing in the WSJ political diary

links for 2006-12-20

The Real Barack Obama

Don’t be fooled by the man behind the curtain, the voting record testifies to who Obama really is:

Last Sunday, while stumping — er, speaking — in New Hampshire, the young senator delivered an interesting line. Attempting to explain his sudden rock-star ascendancy to the pantheon of presidential hopefuls, Obama said voters wanted a new vision: “It’s a spirit that says we are looking for something different — we want something new.”

Trouble is, there’s nothing “new” or “different” about Barack Obama. Behind that charm and charisma — a media-entrancing appeal worthy of Bill Clinton — is an extremely liberal-left politician.

Just look at his record.

Obama voted against the Bush tax cuts on capital gains and dividends, justifying his anti-growth stance with the old class-warfare saw about tax cuts for the rich. Of course, these are the very same tax cuts that spurred economic expansion, created record job growth and reduced the deficit, as revenues flooded the Treasury.

The young senator also voted against repealing the death tax. He dismissed it as a “Paris Hilton tax break” that would give “billions of dollars to billionaire heirs and heiresses.” Try telling that to the owners of farms, ranches and small businesses who are forced to sell their legacies because of this tax.

He swings a nice protectionist bat, too. He has voted against free trade (CAFTA) and U.S. energy independence (drilling in ANWR), and has opposed lifting a $0.54 per gallon tariff on Brazilian ethanol. “Ethanol imports are neither necessary nor a practical response to current gasoline prices,” he claimed. Nonsense.

He’s also strongly opposed to personal retirement accounts for Social Security reform and prefers instead that the government steward your money. As Amanda Carpenter wrote in Human Events, “When speaking out against various tax cuts, Obama has likened the ‘Ownership Society’ — which entails such things as personalized Social Security accounts, health savings accounts and school choice — to ‘social Darwinism.'”…

The senator is liberal to the core. He voted against Supreme Court Justices Sam Alito and John Roberts. (Even liberal Sens. Russ Feingold and Pat Leahy voted for Roberts.) He said no to Patriot Act wiretap extensions, despite their proven effectiveness in halting terrorist attacks over the past five years. He collaborated in blocking John Bolton’s appointment to the United Nations. He earned a perfect 100 percent rating from NARAL Pro-Choice America. He voted against a ban on partial-birth abortions twice as a state senator. He opposed the Defense of Marriage Act and stood against the Federal Marriage Amendment, despite acknowledging his belief that marriage is between a man and a woman.

Don’t let the charm or the nice smile fool you, when you look straight at the voting record this guy is worse than Hillary Clinton – and few senators can claim that title.

links for 2006-12-19

Quote Of The Day

“Why is NC doing so well? Choice. NC has an educational system that welcomes innovation and individual initiative. The high school my sons attend, Raleigh Charter, is ranked 9th in the U.S., among all public high schools. That’s in the entire U.S., mind you: number 9 overall, among all U.S. public high schools. A group of private individuals put together a plan, formed an organization, and use public funds to run a public high school under a charter. And even though Raleigh Charter is one of the top ten high schools in the nation, its cost per student is less than half that of the average for NC high schools. Facilities costs are less, administrative costs are less, and janitorial services are either provided by the students (they take out their own trash), or by contracting out to private firms that clean the bathrooms and mop the floors. In spite of only spending 50 cents on the dollar compared to traditional state-run schools, students are still better off because they had a choice”. —Michael Munger, Duke University Political Science professor running for the North Carolina Governor office, discussing his education platform

Quote Of The Day

“Sweden is not alone in encouraging competition from independent schools. Parents in Holland and Denmark have a legal right to state funding if they prefer private education. In the Netherlands, about 70 per cent of pupils attend privately-run schools that are state funded. In Denmark, support from only 40 parents is needed to secure state funding for a private school, and about 14 per cent of pupils attend independent schools financed by a voucher worth 85 per cent of the per-pupil cost in the state sector.”–David Green, writing in the London Telegraph

links for 2006-12-16

Quote Of The Day

“American prestige is no small thing. Loss of American prestige as a result of Vietnam, the Iran hostage crisis, Somalia and the bombing of the US Embassy in Lebanon emboldened Osama bin Laden to bomb the World Trade Center. Loss of American prestige gives Kim Jong Il the idea that he can test his nukes with impunity. Loss of American prestige tells the mullahs in Iran that no one and nothing can stop them from acquiring nukes and arming Hezbollah and Hamas”. —Rachel, in a post titled, I’m Disgusted