Taking On the Drug Cartels

More drugs than ever are crossing the U.S. Mexican border along with related violence usually directed at Mexicans but now involving Americans. Four were recently kidnapped by drug cartels in Mexico just over the border and two were killed. U.S. politicians, generally indifferent to the carnage in Mexico, reacted strongly to this attack on their own citizens and called for some kind of military action. Some Republican senators said they would introduce legislation allowing the deployment of U.S. troops in Mexico. Former U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr spoke for many: “The cartels hold Mexico in a python-like stranglehold. Our leadership is needed to help Mexico break free from this. We cannot accept a failed narco state on our border, providing sanctuary to narco terrorists preying on the American people.”

The tactics contemplated seemed somewhat vague. The U.S. military is skittish about another invasion and full-scale war. The cartels are well organized, heavily armed and know their terrain. The thought of trying to occupy a portion of Mexico after the lessons of Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere gives pause. Former President Trump has urged firing missiles into fentanyl labs across the border, but the cartels can resort to others no doubt well hidden. U.S. intelligence on Mexico is sketch. The last U.S. incursion into Mexico serves as a kind of example. During the Mexican revolution of the early 1900’s, one of the violent participants, Pancho Villa, crossed the border to murder some Americans, cartel style. General John Pershing, subsequent victor of World War One, was sent into Mexico to catch Villa. While he eluded capture, Pershing destroyed most of his forces and then withdrew, making it clear that no more violence across the border would be tolerated until today’s invasion of drugs.

Mexican President Lopez Obrador blatantly denied his country has anything to do with Fentanyl and added that the drugs are an American problem. On this he has a point. If Americans were not consuming almost all their drugs, the cartels would not exist or at least be in very sorry shape. All the Americans would have to do is stop taking the drugs. But that seems unlikely considering the risk taking with even lethal Fentanyl. The alternative is closing the border which is now wide open. This can be done by using some forty thousand U.S. troops to seal the border. Unlike the present Border Patrol and National Guard they would not be limited in firing their weapons but could shoot first if necessary.

At present the cartels can quite freely cross the border and are becoming more adventurous in their activities. They may toss small children over the wall or they may be visibly directing drug traffic on the other side of the Rio-Grande border. In such cases, U.S. troops could take action and if necessary pursue the invaders into Mexico. But only so far. The message is clear – stay away. The aim is to stop the drugs and weaken the cartels, not demolish them. Leave that to the Mexican people who will take heart once they see the U.S acting decisively. Courage is not lacking in a people whose journalists are murdered in greater number than anywhere else on earth and yet continue to report on their oppressors. In time, stymied at the border and demoralized, the gangsters can be overthrown, and Mexico can once again become a normal country.

Purists will say the U.S. has no business carrying the fight to the cartels inside Mexico, a sovereign country. But that’s not what it is. As Bill Barr, among others, says, it’s a narco state, a criminal enterprise in the guise of a genuine country. This seems to baffle much of the media and the U.S. Government who have yet to provide a serious analysis of what’s really going on. We may finally get it as the  U.S. military, properly deployed, achieves a victory over the current greatest threat to the U.S.

A Mother’s Plea on Drugs

The common number for annual fentanyl deaths in the U.S. Is 100,000 – an impressive figure but still an abstraction that may not sink in. At a recent U.S. Congressional hearing, Rebecca Kiessling of Rochester Hills, Michigan, put flesh on these numbers by describing how her two sons Caleb, 20, and Kyler, 18, died of fentanyl that had been laced into the painkiller Percocet. They like many others, didn’t realize they were killing themselves. There was no warning of the mixture from the drug dealer.

Kiessling complained that the criminal received only an eight to fifteen year prison sentence for ending the lives of her sons. When is this crisis going to be taken seriously? she asked. The dead bodies from fentanyl are piling up in funeral homes. “If Chinese troops lined up along our border with weapons aimed at our people, you damn well would do something about it. A Chinese balloon comes across our country, no one dies but everyone is freaked out. This is war. Act on it.”

Members of congress who listened appeared concerned, but action is unlikely. The problem has been around for many years with little being done. The wealthy donors who keep the politicians in office don’t seem interested, and some may have connections to the enormously lucrative drug trade. The media displays the same indifference at a time when newspapers are in serious financial trouble. The Mexican drug cartels are on hand to provide relief for one and all.  At an Arizona state senate hearing, an investigator for the Harris/Thaler law firm offered 120 documents to show that forty public officials in Arizona had been bribed by the powerful Sinaloa cartel in Mexico anxious to keep the U.S. border open for its drugs. Republicans and Democrats alike expressed disbelief and outrage. Sinaloa didn’t comment.

The aftermath of Kiessling’s testimony was not encouraging. Republican Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene said that the two boys might still be alive if President Bader had secured the border and stopped the flow of drug into the U.S. In turn, the President denied that he was responsible for the deaths. “That fentanyl they took came during the last (Trump) administration,” he said with something of a chuckle. “How dare you!” replied Kiessling. “Almost every Democrat on the committee offered their condolences You don’t even do that. You have to mock my pain.”  

The emotional exchange points up the severity of the problem. The genuine solution is for Americans to forgo their drugs, which would also eliminate the drug cartels. They sell almost entirely to the U .S. which alone keeps them in business. Without drugs their other crimes – extorting migrants to the U.S, sex trafficking, kidnapping – would hardly suffice. And their reach is increasing. They control with armed guards many thousands of illegal marijuana farms in California, Oregon and Wisconsin that undercut legitimate American growers and add to their astonishing profits. We don’t know how much they’re involved in local elections and government, but there are signs pointing to it. You took half of Mexico in the 1840’s war, they might say. Now we are taking it back in our own way.

The Aluxe Invasion

Heads of state are expected to be all-seeing. So perhaps it was no surprise that Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador spotted an aluxe, an elf like creature, in a photo some engineers took while working on a tourist train in the Yucatan peninsula, a favorite project of the President.  Fascinated with the Mayan culture of fifteen thousand years ago, he wouldn’t doubt he had seen a contemporary offshoot of the ancient past.

He wanted the world also to see it, and it did with varying reaction – excitement, skepticism or relief that it has nothing to do with the current drug trade that has overwhelmed the country. But wait! On closer inspection, is that something in his hands? Could it possibly be drugs? Is there no escape from them? Could aluxes now be carrying them across the border? What an advance in the drug trade!

Mischievous aluxes like to hide things from humans. Perfect! They can hide drugs as they cross the border. It’s hard enough to see them at all, much less the drugs they carry. The U.S. Border Patrol would need a revised manual to describe their activities and how to catch them. Once apprehended, what then?  Would they join human migrants in detention centers and on release go north to various destinations? What communities can we count on to accept them? Would they qualify for sanctuary cities?

Their existence sheds new light on President Obrador’s ambitious and controversial plan for developing the Yucatan peninsula. It is there in the Mayan culture that aluxe originated. A train that goes 910 miles around the peninsula will be able to transport any number of aluxes to support drug cartels at the border. Tourists go down to the Mayan scenery, aluxes come up to make a lot of money. A nice trade-off.

But it could eventually backfire. The cartels, as is their habit, would treat aluxes the way they do human Mexicans. Do what we say or die, and the cartel manner of death can be unpleasant for any living creature. But the aluxes are not known for tolerating this kind of abuse from humans. They could change their minds and turn on their oppressors with their special aptitude for other-worldly annihilation. The cartels wouldn’t know what hit them.

Having accomplished what U.S. might could not, the aluxes would be the toast of the town. Aluxe for President, if Constitutionally ok.

Hubert Humphrey, a Liberal Lost to History

“Man of the people” is a much over-used phrase, but if it applies to anyone, it’s to Hubert Humphrey, chief spokesman for liberalism a few decades ago. He never quite outgrew his roots, which was just as well. He grew up in Dalton, South Dakota (pop 900), where his father ran a drug store and he helped out. For a bright ambitious boy it was up the proverbial political ladder from mayor of Minneapolis to the U.S. Senate to the Vice Presidency and perhaps to the highest prize of all? Along the way he never forgot his origins and the people from whom he came. They were his lifelong passion.

This was demonstrated as he became a master legislator in the U.S. Senate. You name the issue for the betterment of humanity, as he saw it, and he effectively supported it – civil rights, education, medical care, arms control, genuine economic equality. This near unparalleled reach of the federal government was his liberalism, but he gave it a happy face. If you’re going to remake America over the objection of many, you may as well be cheerful about it. He was without guile – no lies, bribes, blackmail, not even routine arm twisting. His biographer Carl Solberg writes that he was wordy and corny in his endless speech giving but also extremely likable.

To be sure, he was not without his fights. An early one was with the communists, then a power in the U.S. Initially, he had worked with them, even opposing President Roosevelt’s removal of Henry Wallace as vice president because of his communist connections. But he wasn’t left enough. While mayor of Minneapolis, he was prevented from giving a speech at the convention of his Democratic-Farm-Labor party by communists who spit on him and cursed him as a fascist. He became a lifelong anti-communist and supported major U.S. measures against the Soviet Union in the Cold War.

He thought he had the right collection of policies to achieve the Presidency, his lifelong ambition, but his major obstacle turned out to be a fellow liberal Democrat of a far different stamp, President Lyndon Johnson, who craved power above all else. He was contemptuous of Humphrey’s benign brand of politics, though he felt he had to name him vice president in 1964 because of his national popularity. A dramatic falling out came over the Vietnam war. Humphrey felt a settlement was needed to end a war that was eventually lost and presented LBJ with a memo praising the President’s skills as a negotiator. The war obsessed President was furious and locked Humphrey out of any more talks on Vietnam and belittled him at every opportunity. Doubling down on his loyalty to LBJ didn’t do Humphrey any good as he outhawked the President. His liberalism over shadowed, he lost the 1968 Presidential election to Republican Richard Nixon.

He might have done better to have followed the example of the great populist-liberal William Jennings Bryan, who resigned from a top post in government rather than approve U.S. entrance into the catastrophic First World War. Humphrey’s liberal convictions would still be unsullied and setting an example for today’s more truculent version. He showed that venom is not needed to attain liberal ends, in fact is counter productive. His was a Humphrey style search for new ideas instead of an assumption that they have already been found and must be imposed. Coercion in the realm of ideas is not liberalism. 

Living Down Below

While some builders are bringing earth skyward, others are digging below, crafting homes and even hotels partially or altogether beneath the earth. They take all kinds of shapes depending on the land that encloses them. Empty space can often suffice – an abandoned mine, quarry or even a missile site. Otherwise, excavation is needed to secure a home in a mountain or valley or even desert.

Who is that who seems to be coming mysteriously out of a hill? It’s no ghost but a human being who chooses to live where he can  hardly be seen unless he wants to appear. That’s the advantage of living below – quiet and privacy. It’s not altogether for the fainted hearted, anyone who may fear being buried alive. It takes a certain type of adventurous mortal. Roughly speaking, we know of a million underground homes, but there could be many more. We just can’t see them all.

There are distinct advantages to living underground. While excavation adds to the cost of a home, it’s matched by savings in energy – heating and cooling.  Built of durable concrete, the home below is especially desirable in areas of extreme temperatures. The insulation of the earth helps keep living conditions comfortable. Depending on how far down the structure goes, windows may not be available for sunlight, but bright lights can substitute. The location also provides protection from the hurricanes, tornadoes and earthquakes that periodically ravage the homes above. It’s called living with the earth instead of in opposition to it.

Not content with that, ambitious builders are contemplating entire cities beneath the earth. The plans are there. They await the execution. Meanwhile, an imposing 337-room hotel, the Intercontinental Shanghai Wonderland, more appropriately known as the Deep Pit Hotel, has been constructed in an abandoned quarry near Shanghai, China. The top of eighteen floors is on a level with the earth, the lowest two are under water. Guests have a unique view of what transpires underground. This takes some getting used to, admits an hotel manager. It’s topsy-turvy with water and sewage having to go up instead of down.


Life below is not without problems. Doris James Mizbejabber has lived in a partially underground home for eighteen years near the Arkansas state capitol Little Rock. It’s been delightful, she says, but over time repairs due to location are needed. A wet spot appeared in the ceiling, and then more, forming stalactites from above – picturesque but daunting. Walls and ceilings have also suffered cracks. A variety of insects – spiders, centipedes, termites – decided to make a home there as well. The family thought it was time to sell, but the value of the house had declined. Where would they go? Why to another underground home, to be sure, but a bit more up to date.  There’s nothing like mother earth.

Parks In the Sky

One day Italian architect  Stefano Boeri was walking around fabulously wealthy Dubai and grew tired of all the glass walled buildings that distinguish the city. Too sterile to look at, he thought, and too wasteful of the energy needed to keep them livable. There must be something better, and he decided to work on it.

The result is a pair of buildings that are the talk and pride of Milan, Italy. In this heavily industrialized city they are an offering to the gods of change, beauty and energy conservation.  All 800 units in the 27-story buildings have balconies with two trees, an array of plants with birds nesting in them, all living comfortably with human occupants. It seems to be a park heading skyward that almost makes the apartments disappear, a striking contrast to the routine of the typically makeshift city.

Architect Boeri says his plan has been realized. Nature can be enjoyed in the midst of the city hubbub. Trees can help absorb pollutants, he says, and contribute to global cooling. “Bringing more trees into the city means fighting the enemy on the spot.” With renewable energy solar panels and a flittered water system sustain plant life. Once every three months three flying gardeners repel from the roof down to every apartment to prune and water the vegetation.

That sight itself is worth the price of the rent, which varies considerably from the affluent top occupants to the more affordable units down below. Boeri says he wants renters of all levels of income to have nature in their lives. A full survey of their adjustment to this new existence has yet to be made. Higher upper Simona Pozzi says how much she enjoys watching her plants change with the seasons. Instead of going out to a park she comes home to one.

Boeri has been encouraged to build even taller sky soaring parks elsewhere, and admirers are duplicating his efforts in various parts of the world. China, However, offers a note of caution. An elevated park in the city of Chengdu has lost most of its occupants because of mosquitoes swarming in and plants enveloping balconies that leave no room for humans. Maintenance is obviously lacking. Some diehards grumble that trees belong on the ground not in the air, but that increasingly is where they are to largely dazzling effect.

Ollie North, Flawed Hero of a Secret War

Emerging on tv, a figure of the past, Oliver North offers some proposals on the conduct of the war in Ukraine. Given the clandestine nature of much of the U.S. effort, he is worth listening to since he was a leading director of covert activities in the last years of the Cold War – almost too many to count that finally collapsed of their own weight, leading to Iran-Contra, the chief scandal of the Reagan administration. 

It began as a herculean effort to combine four secret projects, any one of which would be a full time job: blocking aggressive Soviet moves in the Middle East and aiding the Contra rebels against the Soviet supported Sandinista regime In Nicaragua; rescuing some fifty American hostages seized in the Islamic takeover of Iran in 1979, while at the same time attempting an opening to Iran with the aim of dividing our enemies instead of pushing them together, as the U.S. is doing at present. By any measure it was a superhuman effort, and to be sure, Ollie North was only human.

He enlisted in it with gusto. A proud marine colonel with a record of heroism under fire in Vietnam, he had no qualms about what he was doing and was joined by other equally enthusiastic members of the Reagan Administration. But not all forces were cooperating. The President was intent on bringing the hostages home and conveyed that feeling to North without going into detail.  North acquired the services of a go-between, Manucher Ghobifar, full of promise and duplicity. Sell the Iranians the arms they need, he proposed, and they in turn will release the hostages. President Reagan had opposed trading arms for hostages but changed his mind with circumstances. Practicality prevailed over consistency. One of the hostages, a CIA chief in the region, had been brutally tortured and died, not before revealing the names of a number of CIA agents.

The weapons were sent by way of Israel, which then considered Iran less of a danger than Iraq, the reverse of today. But the hostages didn’t appear with the Iranians complaining that some of the weapons were flawed. While making plenty of money from the transactions, Ghobifar reassured North. Don’t worry, be patient, just depend on me. He claimed he spoke for the top leadership of Iran, which remained resolutely hostile to the U.S., regardless of weapons, While North waited, interminably, he thought some of the money from Iran could be put to good use aiding the Contras in their struggle against the Sandinista regime in Nicaragua. The fear was that a communist Nicaragua could become another Cuba, where the nuclear missile crisis of 1963 had been a global scare.

But the U.S. Congress had ruled against any more aid to the Contras. A leak of all this maneuvering was inevitable and occurred to the outrage of Congress and media. How much longer would we have to deal with this communist menace? Not very long at all. Within a couple of years Reagan would meet with Gorbachev and the Soviet Union would collapse with a finality. Exposed and his plans no longer of use, Ollie had turned from hero to anti-hero. Such are the consequences of at least this covert action. The U. S. is now involved in some of the must clandestine activities in its history in Ukraine.  Are they altogether workable or could they go the way of Iran-Contra?