"Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing."

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Great Firewall of China

The Soviets, with their Tonka truck technology could never bury us, all along the real threat came from the Chinese.  In the early 1970's, Chinese engineers invented the internet and online chat rooms, recently a defector smuggled out transcripts of some of the first messages ever sent. These missives give us a rare glimpse behind The Great Firewall of China. In  1978, Mine Yor-Tung (Mao's nephew and head of Communications and Technology) defected to the U.S. and sold all Chinese computer secrets to Paul Allen & Bill Gates. He now makes his home in Corrales, where his neighbors know him as Mike.  Meanwhile, The Russians are still tweaking their first desktop PC, which comes with a mid tower case made of pre-fab concrete. Nyet..I know what you're thinking, but it's lightweight concrete.

Mine: a suggestion for your book Chairman
Title: The Pack
The frontrunners wear haughty smirks on their faces, the middle of the pack grimaces with fierce determination, while those bringing up the rear display glowing smiles
Mao: Bleh!!...lol... it needs more work
Mao: I came up with this one
Title: Glory Hounds
The running dog lackeys of the imperial class, grow tired of kibble
they chase rickashaws into cupboards, hoping to get just a nibble
stupid mongrels 
they scratch at their master's door
On their hind quarters they beg for more
stupid mongrels
Mao: What do you think Mine...funny--Yes? 
Mine: crickets....
Mao: What?
Mine:  JK..Chairman....Funny-Yes!!!
Mine: Yes..Yes..Yes (I'm bowing as I send this)

Mao:  Hey Mine! get me the Gang of Four
Mine: Which Ones?
Mao: The first two albums... everything after that sucked ass..LMAO!!
Mao: Hey Mine!
Mine: What!!
Mao: Your mama so dumb, she thinks eggrolls come from chickens
Mine: Chairman...my mother is dead...you had her killed along with all the other capitalist    roadsters when you took power!!
Mao: So...Sorry! Mr. Sensitive 
Mine: thank you Chairman
Mao: thread killer  
Mao: Hey Mine! ... All the tea in Formosa!!
Mine: lol
Mao: Hey Mine! Where's my little red book
Mine: Next to your bed Chairman
Mao: Have you read it?...huh...red it... 
Mine: Good One and yes I have...  : P

Mao: Hey Mine! The Taiwanese are very good at baseball, are we good at baseball?
Mine: We suck dick for skittles at baseball   : ( 
Mao: How about basketball?
Mine: lol... good one...
Mao: We are good in kung fu ... right?
Mine: Only movie stars in Hong Kong actually know kung fu 
Mao: Is Bruce Lee Korean?
Mine: He's Chinese
Mao: cool : )
Mao: what are we good at?
Mine: ping-pong  : )
Mao: That's it?
Mao: F**k Me  : P

Mao: Hey Mine! have the Navy lob a few shells at Taiwan
Mine: Why?
Mao: Why Not!!!
Mine: LMAO!!    XO (that's my o-face)
Mao: Hey Mine! My ass and Richard Nixon
Mine: What?
Mao: Can you tell the difference?
Mine: Frankly...I can't.... : )
Mao: Hey Mine! what's my favorite color?
Mine: Red
Mao: Yes it is!    : ) 

* Yes, I realize the Gang of Four (both the political clique and the band) didn't surface until after Mao's death.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

A Confederacy of Brutes

Ericka Gandara is one of history's tragic figures, a diminutive woman born with more heart and courage than most men.  When the police chief of  Guadalupe, Chihuahua (across the US border from Fabens,Tx.) was found murdered with his head packed in an ice chest, the job suddenly became available. It came as no surprise that nobody wanted the job. The sole applicant, Ericka Gandara a 28 yr. old police radio dispatcher got the position by default.

Guadalupe is located in El Valle de Juarez, ground zero in the war between La Linea and Chapo Guzman. By the time she was sworn in, all eight of the town's policemen had either fled or been killed.  Nobody would've thought any different of Ericka if she had walked away, but the $580 a month salary and a stubborn sense of pride kept her from doing so. 

Her family begged her to keep a low profile, but she didn't heed their advice, Ericka did newspaper interviews and was shown holding an AR-15, which she always kept on hand. Ericka as the sole law enforcement representative for the town of 9,000 residents, openly admitted to being frightened. However she was sworn to uphold the law, and she never veered off that track.

There's an image of Ericka Gandara that appeared in a newspaper. It shows her sitting on the edge of a desk next to her AR-15. She is wearing a purple fleece lined hoodie inscribed with a butterfly and the words "Los Angeles." She is flanked by pictures of the Virgin of Guadalupe, her right eye is bandaged. If this were a painting it would be titled "Woman Contemplating Her Fate"

During her six month tenure Ericka went about her business, she was not a real threat to either of the cartels. Nonetheless, on Dec. 23rd. 2010, at 6:00 a.m., ten armed men showed up at her home, they dragged her to an awaiting vehicle and then set the house on fire. Ten armed men to subdue one small woman, the AR-15 sat unused on her kitchen table.

It's difficult to contemplate how horrendous her last hours of life may have been. One can only hope that she was killed immediately after her abduction and not subjected to torture and abuse... One can only hope. Ericka Gandara's  body was discovered a couple of months later, she was discreetly buried. Her remaining family members not wishing to draw attention from her killers. 

Meoqui, Chihuahua was once a peaceful town, but now the troubles had reached this northern outpost.  In 2009, forty deaths had been attributed to drug related violence in Meoqui. The trend continued well into in 2010, it was no mystery why none of the men wanted the job of police chief.  Hermila Garcia-Quinones a 38 yr. old lawyer, took the dangerous job when nobody else would.

Known as "La Jefa" Hermila, had no previous experience in law enforcement. She was sworn in on Oct. 9th 2010 to head up a police force of 90 officers. When asked why she refused bodyguards or carried a weapon, Garcia-Quinones replied: "If you don't owe anything, you don't fear anything."  A reasonable assumption when dealing with reasonable men.

Hermila dressed well, she was good looking, educated, confident and headstrong. "La Jefa" was in charge, but she enjoyed reminding the men that she was indeed a lady. Garcia-Quinones felt that as a woman and by the force of her personality, she could walk the line between her department and Los Zetas, the dominant cartel in the area... she was wrong.

On Nov. 29th 2010 while on her way to work, Garcia-Quinones was ambushed by a convoy of gunmen and shot to death. A Chihuahua state spokesman described her assailants as "reportedly working for drug traffickers" another classic case of stating the obvious. Hermila held the job less than two months.

Hermila Garcia-Quinones was no less a tragic figure than Ericka Gandara. Both women were probably given a choice of silver or lead and both made fatal decisions. Hermila thought of herself as being in control, Ericka had no such notions. In the end, both died for sticking to their personal codes of honor and obligation.

This story will have a happy ending.  Marisol Valles Garcia, a 20 yr. old criminology student volunteered for the job as police chief  in Praxedis Guerrero, Chihuahua and lived to tell the tale. "The bravest woman in Mexico" as she came to be called, held the job for five months before death threats forced her to flee. Marisol fled Mexico before cartel killers could make their move, and is   now seeking political asylum in the U.S.

Praxedis Guerrero a small town in El Valle de Juarez, is known as "one of the most violent towns in Mexico" Marisol's predecessor was tortured and then beheaded by sicarios, naturally nobody rushed in to replace him. Valles-Garcia a mother of one, took the position "I'm doing this for my people" she said "This is not for me, I'm tired of all the drug violence."

Upon taking the job, Marisol put out word that her office would police the community and not poke around in cartel business. That move bought her some time, but it wasn't long before death threats started to come in.  Officers under her command reported that cartel sicarios were shadowing her every move. They advised Marisol to abandon her post and leave the town.

Perhaps with the deaths of Hermila Garcia-Quinones and Ericka Gandara on her mind, Valles-Garcia grew wary. When several black vehicles with dark tinted windows parked directly across the street from her office, Marisol made her choice. Within a few hours she had picked up her 1 yr. old son and crossed into the United States. To gain asylum status, one has to prove a "well- founded fear of persecution" With two female police chiefs already murdered, it would seem that Marisol Valles-Garcia has a good argument for asylum. 
Our mothers, sisters, wives, aunts, are the keystones that we build our lives around.  A healthy society, is one that holds its women in reverence, one that protects its women and children. Once that basic principle of morality and obligation breaks down, the social structure is forever damaged.  Nothing is sacred and no good deed goes unpunished in a land ruled by a confederacy of brutes.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

A Broken World

The industrious northern city of Monterrey has always been the one metropolis that the people of Mexico could point to proudly and say "Yes! this is who we are."  When The Gulf Cartel aided by Los Zetas, fought off  a hostile take-over bid by Chapo Guzman in 2005, Monterrey dodged a bullet. With the Gulf Cartel in charge, the city was relatively untouched and peaceful. However, the killing of a Zeta jefe in 2010, led to a split between the former partners and renewed violence. This time around, Monterrey would not be spared a bloodbath.  

Los Zetas made Monterrey their base, and now The Gulf Cartel wants to dislodge them. Los Zetas are not only biting the hand that once fed them, but like any snake, they also want to devour the entire body. Before long, victims were hanging from overpasses, having been tortured, shot or in one particularly hideous case, burned alive. Los Zetas boldly post recruiting banners across highway bridges that state "Join Us! We Don't Eat Ramen" which apparently is what Mexican soldiers are fed on a regular basis.   
 "As long as there are consumers and a critical mass of young people for these gangs to recruit, it's hard to imagine the number (of killings) will go down," said Jorge Domene, a spokesman for the state of Nuevo Leon. Mexican government officials excell at stating the obvious. In the meantime Mexico's drug cartels do battle like Godzilla & Mothra. Laying waste to one city after another.  As was the case in Juarez, Nuevo Laredo and Tijuana, the killings will continue until there is a clear cut winner...no more...no less.  

Two years ago, Mexican poet and novelist, Javier Sicilia was awarded Mexico's top poetry prize for  a poem that spoke of "The mystery of God in a broken world"  Then, in March of 2011 his son, Juan, a university student and six of his friends were found, murdered execution style in Cuernavaca. By all accounts they were innocent victims, in the wrong place at the wrong time. This has become an all too common occurrence in Mexico, where simple gatherings to celebrate birthdays, weddings or just to blow off steam are invitations to a massacre.

Now with his own world shattered Javier Sicilia explains that "I still have my faith, but it has sunk into a deep, dark place." To honor his son he wrote a poem "The world is not worthy of words, they have been suffocated from the inside..." He then declared that the public had heard the last poem he would ever write: “Poetry doesn’t exist in me anymore.” Now, Sicilia leads marches under the banner of "Hasta la Madre!" which could be translated as "We have had enough." Still, the poet's  marches and other protest efforts have had little effect, they are fighting raging forest fires with water guns.  

The world is not worthy of words
they have been suffocated from the inside
as they suffocated you, as they tore apart your lungs ...
the pain does not leave me
all that remains is a world
through the silence of the righteous,
only through your silence and my silence, Juanelo.
Javier Sicilia: Ode to A Son

Wednesday, July 13, 2011


The furrows were so long and straight, that the distant ends seemed to disappear with the curvature of the earth.  Wavy lines of reflected sunlight gave way to rampaging dust devils all of which gave  the fields a hellish sense of isolation. A never changing scene, not much different from a painting hanging in a museum.

A crop duster cruised overhead, I came to envy the pilots, seemingly freed from the constraints of mortal men. Lucky bastards, they're getting away... A mile distant, the sight of a truck kicking up a plume of dust gave me pause. Who in the hell would think this was a good place for an eleven year old kid?  This was my first summer job. While the spoiled youths of summer hung out in air conditioned gyms, practicing lay-up drills, I walked countless miles in the blazing heat. I would trudge my way down the rows, chopping and cutting. Out in the open the only shade you find is your shadow and it's always leaning away from you.  

I wasn't always alone, every now and then, the farmer's kids would join me, usually as punishment for something they'd done at home.  We would talk non-stop, we would tease each other without mercy, we engaged in dirt clod fights and chased lizards across the rows. They also brought a transistor radio with them, silence was vanquished. The voice of KGRT's Steve Crosno resonated across the fields as did the music of The Dave Clark Five, Doug Sahm and Sam The Sham.

Not owning a watch, I learned to tell time by the sun.. I had twelve noon down to a few minutes. For lunch, the boss would drive by and take me to a nearby irrigation tank that had a cluster of weeping willows growing around it. I would eat my modest lunch, refill my canvas water bag and then sling rocks at bullfrogs until he came back for me. "Don't kill the bullfrogs" he would tell me "They keep the mosquitos down." After lunch his boys would leave for basketball practice or Little League games and I would be alone again.

I kept my mind occupied by reconstructing the radio program from that morning. I also re-played baseball games and pro-wrestling matches from the night before, somehow finding a way to put myself in the action. After a while, I made-up my own radio stations, I became the dj, I came up with my own lyrics. Imaginary baseball teams and athletes came to life in my mind, it was the original fantasy league. 

In the movie "Cabeza De Baca" which is about the travels of a Spanish explorer who finds himself shipwrecked along the Gulf Coast. There's a scene where he finds himself repeating a word in Spanish, over and over, as if the mechanics of speech were now foreign to him. I became prone to bouts of soliloquy, a subliminal  response to the crushing silence. Funny thing is, once work was done I didn't feel like talking to anyone.
I had always imagined that I would grow up to be a farmer. That my father and I, would drive tractors side by side. Together we would plow the long straight furrows, the kind that you could look back at with pride. In tandem we would hoist the PVC pipes, dropping one at the head of each row and in one swift motion starting a flow of water down the line.  It wasn't to be, just like thousands of other farm families, we moved into town and I became a townie. The experience forged me into a better person, although, in a strange way I found the solitude of the furrows to be better company than the town kids.