Monday, April 14, 2008

Over Time

So this morning I'm looking at 3 different articles in the Times -- all about Mexico, and a situation that appears to be brewing there.


Mexican Leftist Leader Wants Oil Debate
filed at 9:30 last night

Mexico: Leftists Take Over Congress in Protest Against Oil Plan
news brief, yesterday

Mexico Proposes Limited Overhaul of State Oil Monopoly
April 10

I'm interested in a few different things -- ranging, of course, from language to the new world order...

First off, I'm interested in the word "leftist;" what does that word mean?
  • believing in or supporting tenets of the political left
  • collectivist: a person who belongs to the political left
  • (

Wikipedia says:

"Over time it became clear that there was something to the left even of that "left": the precursors of socialism and communism. The original left, and their radical or republican descendants, had stood for a certain abstract equality of rights, but this emerging socialist left stood for a more radical notion of equality: in its more extreme forms, for an absolute leveling of wealth and a willingness to use the power of the state to achieve that postulated "equality". The traditional right views civilized society as existing primarily to defend property rights."

I was wondering when that shift took place... over time. Glad that's cleared up.
I've been more and more interested in how people write with bias without even noticing it -- without even meaning to -- of course there are times when we mean to persuade -- but more often we are persuaded ourselves by our own interior voices...

Okay, so back to the headlines. The socialists have taken over congress. Well that's alarming.
In the beginning of the first article it sounds like a filibuster to me:

"Legislators from Lopez Obrador's Democratic Revolution Party and two minor parties have camped out around the clock in both chambers of Mexico's Congress to block discussions on the bill. Congressional leaders have said they might look for a new place to conduct legislative business."

Somewhere else... can't you hear Dick Cheny now, okay guys, we could go over the Library of Congress -- they have a nice big table and a coffee maker...

In the brief it sounds slightly more forceful:

"Left-wing legislators shut down both houses of Congress and vowed to continue their sit-in indefinitely to protest a government plan to revamp the country’s state-run oil monopoly."

I'm interested that there is forceful debate -- and to see a government that seems to have some control over itself in terms of different parties, ideas and conversations having the power to have themselves heard. A sit-in shut down congress! Here here!

As always, I'm interested in the language -- Vow, Revamp, Monopoly.

Vow is forceful and sounds rhetoric like; Revamp sounds like a positive, not major fix-up, monopoly is bad. Who looks how because of this language...

The issue is that Mexico is running out of oil. Furthermore they lack the advanced capabilities they need to keep looking and drilling, as the easy oil options dry up. The constitution of the country says that the industry must be owned and operated by the government. The 'revamp' entails partnering with private companies -- to share equipment, risk, knowledge... of course, then you have to share the profits.

I'm interested in the word "monopoly." It's such a bad word to us capitalists -- connotes all sorts of unhealthy controls -- price fixing, lawlessness, power. But when I think about the balance -- of governments V. the 5 major oil companies -- it's the companies feel like the monopoly to me, with government owned industries serving a very important role in keeping the big companies and big countries out of regional assets and resources -- those which are consistently plundered to the detriment of local peoples when Chevron et al are given the opportunities. So the use of the word "monopoly" here is very loaded. I have offered my opinion here, which I do more than I'm comfortable with, but it seems that kind of forum -- but the use of "monopoly" by the AP writer of today's article make clear their own bias -- or the bias of the paper, or the sources on the story.

Here's the thing. Mexico has a lot of oil. They are important to the US, and oil is important to them.

When you learn how to write a hard news article, they basically teach you this: very few people are going to read the whole thing. You write the lead in such a way that no one has to read further -- you get all 5 W's (who what when where and why) right in the first sentence (or two) so that the first paragraph functions as a brief itself. Then the information comes in from the top down -- most important first and then next then next -- so that the information at the end is the least imperative. This is important, because very few readers will get that far, so you can't put anything they need down there. I think about this as I write here all the time -- I often put the most important things at the end... I often wonder (especially days like today when I go on and on) if anybody gets there...

Here is the third paragraph in today's story:

"Oil production in Mexico, one of the top suppliers to the United States, is declining, and reform advocates say Pemex needs outside resources to explore for more reserves."

Here's the third to last paragraph:

"Lopez Obrador said the bill aims to privatize Pemex, allowing Mexico's oil revenues -- which now account for nearly 40 percent of the national budget -- to go to private and foreign companies."

Umm... to repeat what is folded in and left for last... oil revenues account for nearly 40 percent of the Mexican national budget. And they are running out of oil. And they have to decide at what cost are they willing to sign up for sharing their future with the big oil companies.

Russia, Venezuela, Mexico...

-- socialism v. capitalism -- capitalism won, didn't it already...

I taught a poem last week. It was an Orpheus poem -- retold in the voice of a husband who had brought his wife back from the mental hospital. The end is different, say the students; the author has rewritten the myth... but what if not, I argue. What if Orpheus just hasn't turned around yet...

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