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

Friday, October 28, 2011

The Scorched Earth

When we last left the sullen landscape of Mexico Lindo, Los Zetas were treating Tamaulipas like their own personal chew toy. For now, the battle for control of Mexico's Gulf coast has played out in favor of Los Zetas. Although, the demise of the Beltran/Leyva organization left a void, and everyone is rushing to fill it. This puts Mexico's second city, Guadalajara in the crosshairs of both Los Zetas & Chapo Guzman. Los Zetas have made preliminary strikes into Jalisco, and in turn Sinaloa has launched a campaign aimed at Los Zetas in Veracruz. This has ushered in a sharp and sickening increase in violence. Veracruz is a stronghold for Los Zetas who operate within the city and state of Veracruz with impunity. Recent allegations have surfaced showing that the former governor, who left office in 2010 had either by threat or greed turned control of the state over to Los Zetas. 

Carrying out Guzman's ominous strategy is a  group called The New Generation. They refer to themselves as "Los Mata Zetas", a tag that first appeared on narcomantas (drug banners) and YouTube videos. They made their presence felt by dumping the bodies of 35 alleged members of Los Zetas on a busy thoroughfare in Boca del Rio, an upscale suburb of Veracruz. Los Mata Zetas followed this up by killing 32 more Zeta associates, and scattering their bodies at various locales around the city of Veracruz. The dead men & women, were mostly street level dealers, "halcones" (lookouts, spies) a trip wire or early warning system. They are expendable frontline fodder and the ones most likely to catch a bullet. 

It's believed that the brazen move by Chapo Guzman was to stall or discourage Los Zetas from moving in on lucrative drug routes. The two cartels have been swirling around Mexico like tornados, touching down in various cities and states to wreak havoc and destruction. All along it's been coming down to this, a showdown between Los Zetas and Chapo's Sinaloa cartel. Loyalty can be bought for a price. The Gulf Cartel & The Knights Templar (a quasi religous organization formed by  a fracture within La Familia) have fallen in with Sinaloa. La Familia, now without its spiritual leader Nazario Moreno, also known as "El Mas Loco" is in dire straits and fighting for it's very survival. To this end they've made a pact with the devil (Los Zetas) 

Nazario Moreno, who once authored his own bible, was a psychopathic zealot on a narco mission from God. He was killed in a shootout with the federales. While we're on the subject of madmen, The International Order of the Knights Templar, which is a charity organization, is disturbed that a drug cartel would appropriate their good name. Roberto Molinari, spokesman for that order in Mexico explained "The real Knights Templar has never had any link to criminal activities" he added "The danger is if the criminals hurt someone and their rivals are looking for revenge they might shoot one of our members. So we are like, 'Hey. Find yourself another name." They have every right to complain, although when you consider that is was the group that introduced beheadings and grenade attacks to Mexico, it would be wise to temper their complaints.

An alliance formed between Los Zetas & La Linea (the Juarez Cartel) will certainly re-ignite the smoldering conflict in Juarez.  La Linea oversees Barrio Azteca, a prison/street gang with a strong presence on both side of the border. Los Aztecas have long carried out the dirty work for the Juarez Cartel and they are now joined by a group of  cartel loyalist who call themselves "El Nuevo Cartel Juarez." This group operates as a paramilitary unit and is in charge of disrupting Chapo Guzman's organization in the plazas of Chihuahua. Their stated purpose is to expose ties between the Sinaloa Cartel and Calderon's government. Los Negros (a paramilitary squad who dress in black and travel in convoys of black vehicles) were once Chapo's enforcers. When the Beltran/Leyva cartel broke away from Sinaloa they switched sides, now one has to presume that they're on the payroll of Los Zetas. 

Naturally, nothing goes without notice, and payback is swift. Just recently, the bodies of four men murdered in Juarez bore a narco message "Tell El Nuevo Cartel Juarez to keep recruiting." The new enforcers for Chapo Guzman are La Gente Nueva, who were on the frontline in Juarez and have now spread out into the interior. The G.N. controls The Mexicles & Artistas Asesinos (Artist Assassins, also known as Doblados) Since 2006 these two Juarez street gangs (unlike Barrio Azteca, they have few ties to the U.S.) have borne the brunt of La Linea's retaliatory strikes.  A recent estimate put the number of cartel combatants in Juarez at 9,000, however, Like everything else in Mexico, the numbers are deceiving, policemen by day become sicarios by night, corrupt prison guards moonlight as hitmen. 

The federal government seems to have lost its taste for the fight, it's either re-evaluating its strategy or simply waiting out the remainder of Calderon's term.  Amid all the killing, Mexico is hosting The Pan-Am Games in Guadalajara. In order to accomplish this without any participating athletes falling victim to stray bullets, The Federales are mobilizing a massive security force to maintain calm in the city. They're doing this by pulling thousands of soldiers & Federal police from strife ridden cities in the north. It's assumed that  once the games end, all bets are off and an unprecedented wave of violence will explode across Old Mexico. 

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Look Through any Window

I'm going to cut across the grain with this, but don't get me wrong, I mourn the passing of Steve Jobs, just not with the same sense of sadness as Mac users. I never joined the cult of Macintosh, my preference for computers is utilitarian.  They are after all simply appliances, in our household they are no different than televisions or radios.  The first computers I ever owned were a trio of Tandys that I picked up at The Barrett House Thrift Store for $20 each. The lady was kind enough to toss in a box full of 5" floppys, some how-to books and a tangle of cables that resembled the nine heads of the Hydra.

I'm partial to HP or Compaq, my first operating system was Windows 95, which to me was mind blowing compared to the black & white screens on the Tandys. From there I quickly progressed through Windows 98, Windows 2000, XP, Vista and now Windows 7.  Computers are like cars, some knuckleheads will argue all day over which is better Ford or Chevy (Ford is better) Some computer geeks will argue the merits of Apple over PC's, same thing! 

All arguments aside, the goal is to get from point A to point B. Ford or Chevy will get you there, a Land Rover will get you there in style. However, we all arrive at the same place, no matter what mode of web browsing or transportation we use. When it's all said and done, we're all standing in line at some big box store, or on You Tube looking for music videos to post on Facebook. 

I bought a used Macintosh computer for my niece once. (1996?) I couldn't even tell you what version it was, all I know is that we could not find any software for it. When we did find software, it was priced well above that of Windows. After a long search I finally found a printer, but ink cartridges ran $49 each. I found Mac to be tiresome and overpriced, we soon gravitated back towards Windows. Apple has always rubbed me the wrong way, their sales pitch has long boiled down to "Be a part of the cultural Illuminati, buy Apple."

That recent ad campaign that depicted Mac as a smug young hipster and Windows as a bumbling nerdy fuck-up really got on my nerves. I use Windows simply  because it fits within my budget, I don't have a couple thousand dollars to buy a Mac and I don't need Apple to rub it in my face. What those ads really did was turn Windows into the underdog. That brand came off as the champion of the people making computing affordable and easier for the befuddled common man struggling to keep up with all this new technology.  

To a person like myself, the bottom line is price and affordability.  Apple priced itself (by design) out of most people's reach, to some that could be considered elitist. The I-pod was good, but the Sansa player can do what it does. The I-phone is great, but when you drop it into a swimming pool, it gets just as wet as any old Samsung.  iTunes, when compared to  Rhapsody, is tedious and invasive. The products Apple introduced are high end, the Rolls Royce of their respective markets, I just wish they had kept us po' folks in mind. 

And so it goes, ultimately Steve Jobs' legacy will be well rounded and not just limited to the iMac or Macintosh. Music, movies (he founded Pixar) and the business world were changed forever due to his unrelenting drive towards innovation. His impact goes beyond just computers, he revolutionized the way the music industry sells music, he changed how Americans listen to and store music, and he changed how people around the world use the internet to communicate. 

Steve Jobs was a private man, a demanding boss and a fierce competitor. He once said that Bill Gates would have been more of a visionary if he had dropped acid and gone off to an ashram, the way he did. Under his leadership, Apple became a world leader and helped make America great. He was without a doubt, an innovative genius and a great American.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Guns over Butter

"I sure as hell wouldn't want to live in a society where the only people allowed guns are the police and the military."
William S. Burroughs

They say that Mexico has some of strictest gun laws in the world, yet everyone with bad intentions is armed to the teeth. Mexico is the poster child for every argument ever raised by the NRA. If you take firearms away from ordinary citizens then only criminals will have guns. That scenario doesn't always apply in Mexico where the distinction between outlaws and law enforcement does get blurred.

El Presidente de Mexico likes to shake his finger at the great Satan to the north and cry foul.  But, we are no more responsible for Mexico's love affair with firearms, death cult obsessions and brutish tendencies than they are of our love for getting high.  We send Mexico guns and they send us marijuana, coca & chiva, and that is what passes for a Mexican standoff these days. 

"Ordinary citizens don't need guns, as their having guns doesn't serve the State."

The calm of a late August morning was broken by the sound of helicopters taking off from the Deming airport. With doors open and legs & rifles poking out, the copters flew in a loop and landed less than 4 miles away.  It was a glorious display of  Homeland Security "cowboy up" law enforcement. Their target was the home of Rick & Terry Reese, who operate a business known as New Deal Shooting Sports.

It was a splashy take down for the Border Task Force, they're great at making lots of noise, while getting minimal results from their investigations. The entire Reese family was already under custody, having been arrested without incident at their unopened Las Cruces gun shop earlier that morning. The only thing missing from the picture other than a perp walk was "Ride of the Valkyries" pouring out from speakers mounted on the helicopters.

This impressive force, labeled "Bad Deal" touched down at the Reese family's fortified compound located south of Deming. The property site is off the grid, with electricity provided by power generators and water pumped up by a windmill. On site, officials discovered a weapons bunker under the gun shop along with a vast cache of arms and ammunition. Rick Reese an avowed survivalist has longed preached self sufficiency along with his anti-federalist rhetoric.

 At first whiff, entrapment smells just like victory

Mr. & Mrs. Reese along with their sons Ryin & Remington had been targeted by federal authorities for a number of violations involving the illegal trafficking of firearms, money laundering and falsifying sales records. The Federal indictment alleges that Rick Reese, Terry Reese or more specifically Ryin and Remington sold numerous AK47 rifles, AR-15 rifles, a pair of .50 caliber rifles, several handguns and over 7000 rounds of ammo, to undercover agents or informants. 

The weapons were sold with the full knowledge that they would be smuggled into Mexico for use by drug cartels. A fact ignored by Luna County Tea Party hacks who are leading a grassroots effort to exonerate the family.  Signs along Rockhound Road, where their home & business are located proclaim, "Bring The Reese Family Home!"  A few people around these parts send clothing and food across the border, Rick Reese chose to send guns and bullets.