Ed Warner

Veteran Journalist

The Charitable Cartels

Posted on | May 26, 2020 | No Comments

The drug cartels are killing more Mexicans than ever, far more than are dying from coronavirus, but with a new twist. They’re also trying to keep some alive by supplying needy Mexicans with food and other supplies they don’t get from the government. “Who do they think they are?” asks an indignant President Lopez Obrador. “The government?” That seems to be the case.

With much fanfare and social media promotion, the cartels are enjoying their new charitable image. It can’t hurt business. But true to form, they’re also imposing a strict quarantine in parts of Mexico. Troubled U.S. states like Michigan and New York might take note of their means of enforcement. No fine or reprimand but in one case – according to the Wall Street Journal – a stiff whacking of a violator with a paddle marked “Covid 19.” Mexicans stay willingly indoors.

Though drug czar El Chapo Guzman is serving a life sentence in a U.S. prison, he is nevertheless an influence in the relief effort. His daughter Alejandrina is distributing boxes of supplies with his familiar face stenciled on them. No escaping El Chapo if you want to eat. Alejandrina in fact has a business offering products in the name of her father whom she describes as a “humble orange seller with many goals and ambitions.”

An unidentified woman distributes provisions in boxes stamped with the image of the convicted drug trafficker (Mexico News Daily)

There’s an even more impressive name associated with cartel enterprise: Osama bin Laden. In fact, a leader in the Sinaloa cartel is known as “El bin Laden,” who appropriately uses heavily armed gunmen in pickups to distribute supplies bearing, course, the image of bin Laden. He taunts authorities by saying if you don’t like bin Laden, then provide supplies of your own.

Sometimes the cartels cannot help themselves and go back to business. Some criminals disguised as health workers approach elderly people with sanitation tips. With a special lubricating oil on their hands they quickly slip off rings, bracelets and other jewels, leaving their victims in worse condition.

What matters is that in sickness or in health the cartels rule.

The Biden We Don’t Know

Posted on | May 12, 2020 | No Comments

What we know about Joe Biden is none too flattering. On his rocky road to the Democratic Presidential nomination, which promises to be even rougher on the way to the election, he has stumbled in speech and action. Critics deride his snarled syntax and lapses of thought. A former Senate staffer claims he sexually assaulted her 27 years ago. And there’s no explaining how he used his Washington influence over Ukraine to add to his wealth at the expense of this distraught nation.

Yet there is something more to the Vice President that has been hidden from view but becomes clear in Bob Woodward’s 2010 book “Obama’s Wars.” This inside look at the White House debate over the Afghan war is filled with the endless, windy pronouncements of the President, his aides and top military commanders. They circle round and round the topic without deciding why we were in the eight-year war and what it was expected to accomplish. Just continue what we’re doing. was the consensus. Only try harder.

One voice stands out for independence and freshness of thought, and that is Biden’s. The room, he complained, confuse al Quaeda with the Taliban. Al Qaeda terrorists threaten the U.S., the Taliban do not. The U.S. has pushed al-Qaeda out of Afghanistan, and they’re not likely to return. So why continue with nation-building and remaking Afghanistan when it’s not really working even with ten thousand troops on the ground.

Biden insisted the Taliban is not monolithic as commonly portrayed. There are hard core believers at the top, but down the line many others are far from committed and open to change. Their differences are exploitable as opposed to trying to kill them all. And the top echelon who will fight to the end are all in Pakistan. Yet we’re at war in Afghanistan. For what?

President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, along with with members of the national security team, receive an update on the mission against Osama bin Laden.

There were no answers to Biden at the meeting, just some shrugs and eye rolling. Obama rather condescendingly urged him on without seeming to mean it. “Verbosity” was the charge against him, as it is today, but was it the length and style of his talk that offended or the content? With consistency he went on to oppose the war in Libya as “madness” since the U.S. was already engaged in two other wars – Afghanistan and Syria. Considering the shambles of Libya today, he knew what he was talking about. He also noted that the extensive U.S aid to the rebels against the Assad regime in Syria was largely going to terrorists. Once again, a policy that made no sense.

What if Biden, instead of being ignored, had prevailed? The world would look different today – no ruined, inflamed Middle East and North Africa with a flood of refugees adding to the global burden. But sadly, this point rarely comes up in the current Presidential campaign where Biden is mainly seen to be faltering, unsure of the message he once strongly conveyed.

The Mexican Plague

Posted on | May 5, 2020 | No Comments

What is more dangerous for Americans than the coronavirus? Going to Mexico.

Edgar Lopez, a golfer who lives in El Paso, Texas, was quarantined from coronavirus along with his Mexican girlfriend just across the border in Juarez. They were protected from the wrong ailment. Both were shot to death in broad daylight by assailants who were not caught and never will be. That same weekend an American woman and a young boy were shot and killed after crossing the bridge from El Paso. Another American woman was murdered inside a tortilla shop in Juarez

Americans used to be immune from drug cartel violence – bad for business. But no longer, and they are just a tiny fraction of the more than 2000 murdered so far this year in Juarez. Imagine if that number of people had been killed in a U.S. city. A frenzied media would be demanding accountability, urging concern and compassion. Yet the Mexican massacre hardly rates any coverage as if death across the border is somehow less consequential. Who really cares?

Yet a case can be made that Americans’ vast consumption of Mexican drugs finances the cartels that do the killing. To what extent then are Americans responsible, and shouldn’t the media be making that crucial connection? Or perhaps it doesn’t care to. Americans dying of overdose is one thing, Mexicans murdered quite another.

In the meantime Juarez is well on the way to reclaiming its title of the “murder capital of the world” in competition with equally crime ridden Acapulco, where in that same weekend of slaughter three police officers were gunned down while patrolling an upscale tourist district. Ten other people were also killed in the area, and an investigation continues of  a burned body in a car that may be that of a Canadian businessman who had disappeared.

A small sampling of a larger disaster that unlike coronavirus is man made and thus can be unmade by man if so desired. No search for a vaccine is necessary.

Tent Life

Posted on | April 22, 2020 | No Comments

If you drive west out of Lake Worth on the eastern Florida coast, you suddenly notice an array of brightly colored tents that contrast with the well manicured green of a vast park. But the sight is not altogether welcome since the tents signify the homeless inhabitants within – a picture of despair in many cities where far more ragged tents along with filth and crime are a blight on urban living.

But this Tent City, as it’s called, might be an acceptable compromise in light of the problem. Nationally, more than half a million people are considered homeless who have not fared well in an otherwise booming economy. Many causes have driven them to live outside – medical, financial, psychological – but they boil down to a basic one: they cannot afford housing. A tangle of state and local restrictions helps prevent the building of housing they might afford. As the libertarian Cato Institute notes: “It’s a problem of too much demand and too little supply.”

“June” (Photo by author)

So what is life like at Tent City where some 150 people occupy seventy tents? Compared to conditions in other parts of the world, living is tolerable. Residents are cheerful and chatty, leaving some critics to ask why are they then here? A woman says she fled a nearby beach town when her boy friend was shot and killed. Here she feels safe. A marine veteran, who arrived a few days ago, says he wanted to escape the coronavirus surrounding him. No reported cases yet of the disease in Tent City perhaps because they live outside.

Occupants seem to talk in terms of a temporary stay. Tents are clean and well kept, but they are hardly adequate housing. My guide – let’s call her June since county authorities don’t encourage visiting journalists and she wants to stay out of trouble – aspires to live in a “sanctuary with four walls,” which other Americans take for granted. Wherever she goes, she is welcomed by companionable tent dwellers along with her pet cat that she carries in a handbag. Robbery and violence are infrequent, but she was sexually assaulted a few years ago. Park rangers are helpful, she and others say, yet the law outside is not always practiced within.

The homeless know they are not wanted and hear talk of removing them. They’re provided with food and other necessities, but complain about a barricade that has been erected along the road to prevent cars from dropping off supplies. They note the county spent two million dollars on a nearby dog park complete with gazebos, drinking fountains and wash basins. Yet it would seem, given the enormous inequality in America today, that one and a half acre of a 700 acre park devoted to those who are much less equal is a reasonable arrangement.

A Polish Seaman Who Wrote for the Ages

Posted on | April 15, 2020 | No Comments

At a time of uncertainty, what’s to read? There’s the consolation of religion, the Bible. Any number of thinkers have their proposals. And then, quite apart, is Joseph Conrad, the Polish-born English writer whose many novels and stories deal with uncertainty, a fact of life that is always with us he seems to say, a perpetual challenge to which we must somehow rise.

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Argentines on the River

Posted on | April 9, 2020 | No Comments

Obviously along in years and sitting in forbidden territory with wine and book, I was a prime target for the coronavirus police. Two patrol cars pulled up by the Masa and More Restaurant, peered through the glass window, entered and said “No sitting here.” That was me, though I was six yards from the nearest person. What’s more, they commanded the staff to bunch up all the chairs so that no one else will be tempted to sit. I remonstrated but to no avail Off they went probably to spell out the rules for other struggling small businesses along the scenic Ft. Lauderdale river.

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Coronavirus Hits Drug Cartels

Posted on | April 7, 2020 | No Comments

There is one benefit – a silver lining – to the coronavirus epidemic. The super rich, wildly violent Mexican dug cartels are also struck. Production is way down, supply chains are broken and prices for drugs have risen 400 per cent. The cartels’ multi-billion dollar business in the U.S. is in jeopardy.

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About

"Master of Narrative"

~Ted Lipien


This website contains the collected works, recent articles and continuing blog posts from veteran journalist Ed Warner who has been reporting for more than 55 years. Ed wrote for Time Magazine from 1958-1982 and wrote, edited and reported for the Voice of America from 1983-2005. He continues to freelance today and his articles have appeared in The American Conservative and on AntiWar.com and other news websites. More...

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