Rodrigo Rosenberg’s Murder in Guatamala

Finally making my way through this Rodrigo Rosenberg article in the New Yorker. It’s a long-form, in-depth article, that clocks in at about 14,000 words, which is one of the reasons why the tab has remained open in my browser for the last few months. It’s an astounding story, told almost perfectly by David Grann.

Between 2000 and 2009, the number of killings rose steadily, ultimately reaching sixty-four hundred.

The murder rate was nearly four times higher than Mexico’s.

In 2009, fewer civilians were reported killed in the war zone of Iraq than were shot, stabbed, or beaten to death in Guatemala.

The state’s counter-insurgency strategy, known as “drain the sea to kill the fish,” culminated in what the commission deemed acts of genocide.

Criminal networks have infiltrated virtually every government and law-enforcement agency, and more than half the country is no longer believed to be under the control of any government at all.

Incredibly, the death rate in Guatemala is now higher than it was for much of the civil war.

And there is almost absolute impunity: ninety-seven per cent of homicides remain unsolved, the killers free to kill again.

In 2007, a U.N. official declared, “Guatemala is a good place to commit a murder, because you will almost certainly get away with it.”

Guatemalans often cite the proverb “In a country of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.”

The election was one of the bloodiest in the country’s history: more than fifty local candidates and party activists were murdered, and Colom’s campaign manager was nearly killed by three grenades thrown at his motorcade.

As Don DeLillo has written, “A conspiracy is everything that ordinary life is not. It’s the inside game, cold, sure, undistracted, forever closed off to us. We are the flawed ones, the innocents, trying to make some rough sense of the daily jostle. Conspirators have a logic and a daring beyond our reach. All conspiracies are the same taut story of men who find coherence in some criminal act.”

Castresana thought, Rosenberg had been making threats to himself.

As inconceivable as it seemed, Castresana and his team were now certain that Rosenberg—not the President, not the First Lady, not Gustavo Alejos, or anyone else—was the author of his own assassination.

Castresana says of Rosenberg, “He set himself off like a suicide bomber.”

“He was an honorable person.” He added, “He wanted to open up a Pandora’s box that would change the country.”

The Value of College @ The New Yorker

Good article in the New Yorker about education and what it means to society. If college is a 4-year IQ test, then what’s grad school, especially in abstract disciplines like pure mathematics? I wonder. I fully appreciate being a graduate student in math. It makes your brain work in funny ways, and I like it.

[…] that the two most crucial ingredients in the mysterious mix that makes a good writer may be (1) having read enough throughout a lifetime to have internalized the rhythms of the written word, and (2) refining the ability to mimic those rhythms.
Professor X quoted in the New Yorker

Operation Mincemeat in WWII

Extraordinary piece about Operation Mincemeat, Ben Macintyre’s new book, in the New Yorker about a secret briefcase, Nazis, and Allies.

The letter was a fake, and the frantic messages between London and Madrid a carefully choreographed act. When a hundred and sixty thousand Allied troops invaded Sicily on July 10, 1943, it became clear that the Germans had fallen victim to one of the most remarkable deceptions in modern military history.

In 1941, British authorities had to bail him out of a Spanish jail, dressed in “high heels, lipstick, pearls, and a chic cloche hat, his hands, in long opera gloves, demurely folded in his lap. He was not supposed to even be in Spain, but in Egypt.” Macintyre, who has perfect pitch when it comes to matters of British eccentricity, reassures us, “It did his career no long-term damage.”

The genius of that parody is the final line, because spymasters have always prided themselves on knowing where they are on the “I-know-they-know-I-know-they-know” regress. Just before the Allied invasion of Sicily, a British officer, Colonel Knox, left a classified cable concerning the invasion plans on the terrace of Shepheard’s Hotel, in Cairo—and no one could find it for two days.

More On Pinker & Gladwell

Lloyd explains why Pinker and Gladwell don’t agree, which is partly based upon Gladwell’s new book, What the Dog Saw., a collection of essays that were published in the New Yorker.

Ricky Jay

I’ve never seen Ricky Jay perform, but from this profile in the New Yorker, I imagine that he must be quite the magician. That’s not all. Errol Morris interviewed him for his series on lying. Actually, I do remember him playing a villain in Tomorrow Never Dies.

He is a sleight-of-hand expert and is notable for his card tricks, card throwing, memory feats, and stage patter.


Nicholson Baker from the New Yorker on the Kindle

Even though everyone has been raving about the Kindle, I haven’t really thought much of it. I know that the technology isn’t there yet to have a great low-powered display. I’ve also read e-books and I would never purchase them, especially when you can order real books instead. When you buy e-books, you buy nothing but digital ones and zeroes. When you buy a book, you buy something physical, something you can touch and feel. Nicholson Baker from the New Yorker explains it better than I do.

Le Caméléon

Frédéric Bourdin is a thirty something year old French con artist, who has been serially impersonating teenagers. David Grann from the New Yorker, tells his fantastic tale and how he got involved in the Nicholas Barclay disapearance. (via kottke)

Politics Of Satire


The New Yorker‘s July 16th cover is under fire for its depiction of Senator Obama and his wife Michelle. Some right-wing Christian Republican militants have been saying that Senator Obama is a secret Muslim.

Art Spiegelman defends the cover of the New Yorker.

“The intention is to satirize not Barack Obama and Michelle Obama, but, in fact, to hold a pretty harsh light up to the rumors, innuendos, lies about the Obamas that have come up — that they are somehow insufficiently patriotic or soft on terrorism,” he says.

Those are the words of David Rennick, a New Yorker editor.

Spiegelman’s last cover for the New Yorker, published on the 24th of September 2004.

My initial thoughts upon seeing the cover were as follow: I didn’t know that the New Yorker was a Republican publication. Indeed, I thought it was more liberal. A few moments later, I understood the satire. And of course the New Yorker is liberal. But for a moment, I tried to make sense of this image.

One thing is for sure, people will want to talk about this. The Christian right will use it for their own purpose.

I think that the subtleties that Rennick and Blitt wanted to showcase are lost on most people.

Asked about the image, Obama shrugged his shoulders. But his (and McCain’s) spokespeople have made clear their disapproval, claiming most readers would judge the image “tasteless and offensive”.

More from Art Spiegelman, famed cartoonist and creator of Maus.

New Yorker, under fire?

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Relevant Links

Read more on Art Spiegelman’s Pullitzer prize winner graphic novel Maus.

Vengeance Is Ours

Jared Diamond wrote a fascinating article about vengeance in The New Yorker. It tells the tale of Daniel seeking revenge in Papua New Guinea. (via kottke)

Video Of A Man Stuck In Elevator For 41 Hours

This is accelerated security cam footage of Nicholas White, who was stuck in an elevator for 41 hours. (via waxy)

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