Thursday, March 29, 2018

Inextricable and Mutual Sadness

Measured by % of the overall population, black men in the US are most disproportionately victims of fatal police violence; black women are also disproportionately killed. Whereas police kill Hispanics "equitably", only non-Hispanic white and Asian men, and women, are killed less than their share of the general population. In Asians’ case, much much less. That inequitable pattern is amplified in California. In California, Asians make up 15% of the population and less than 4% of police killings, a proportionality gap 3x more favorable than the gap for non-Hispanic whites. By comparison, black Californians are 6.5% of the state population and 16% of police homicides: an inequality 38% worse than the already inequitable national benchmark.

That data led to basic factual and analytical errors, including among high-profile California officials. Those errors also revealed the best and brightest's basic ignorance of #BlackLivesMatter most important messages. Take future CA governor and current lieutenant governor, Gavin Newsom. When Sacramento police shot Stephon Clark eight times (six in the back), handcuffed him, and watched him die 10 minutes later, Lt Governor Newsom said “a suspect that looks like me would be alive”. Newsom's is a popular message. On Twitter, it was shared and liked orders of magnitude more than his other messages from the same time, a period that included his address to the Santa Ana, CA March For Our Lives gun safety event. Newson's definitive conclusion was reprinted in the SF Chronicle (SFC). But Newsom's is a false and dangerous myth. Especially for the probable chief executive officer of the United States' most populous and powerful state.

In recent years, police of his state and mine shot and killed 138 middle-aged (median: 38), white, male Newsom-looking suspects. Less than half were armed with a gun; one-third exhibited mental illness. Over the same time, California police killed 8 white women (median age:38.5); 3 of those allegedly had guns. The same Sacramento PD that shot and killed Clark shot and killed two white guys. Both exhibited mental illness: 42 yo Matt Coates in 2015 was armed with a bb gun (girlfriend: "he was killed for nothing"); 56 yo Wallace Jory in 2017 was armed with a pitchfork when he initiated suicide by cop. One study found 36% of all fatal police shootings could be considered suicide by cop; of those, 93% succeeded.

At the national level, across races, US police encounters turned fatal at the same rate (Injury Prevention). Once an American encountered a US law enforcement officer, the odds of police killing him or her equalized by race. A black economist from Harvard, looking at data from Houston, found black people were almost 30% less likely be shot concluding: "on the most extreme use of force – officer-involved shootings – we find no racial differences in either the raw data or when contextual factors are taken into account," (National Bureau of Economic Research). That’s at least part of the reason why, amongst themselves, some white people I know doubt and debate the ethics of calling the police in an emergency. If your goal is to save the life of a 30 yo white Iraq war veteran experiencing a psychotic breakdown from fentanyl withdrawal in the middle of San Francisco’s Market Street, should you call 911 and hope for the best? I know of white people that refuse to make that call, given the effective revocation of white privilege once “a white man” becomes “a suspect” on a police radio dispatch as the lights flash and sirens sound. 

Some might assume that #AllLivesMatter seize cases of young whites killed by police to negate or deny #BlackLivesMatter a racial monopoly on victimization. Yet, #AllLivesMatter rhetoric is consistently empty of white victims. #BlackLivesMatter activists routinely and correctly note their disproportionate share of voice for white male victims. When a 16 yo white kid was shot in a $20 South Carolina drug bust, Jamilah Lemieux (wiki) wrote "#ZacharyHammond isn't going to get the outrage he deserves because it would force folks to admit their consistent defense of police is wrong" (tweet). When Hillary Clinton invoked Hammond's case at a 2016 primary stop in South Carolina (video), Breitbart's headline concluded Clinton "dump(ed) on cops" (Breitbart). In an Arizona case, popular punching bag Shaun King described a bodycam video of a sobbing middle-aged white Texan, Daniel Shaver, "one of the worst I've ever witnessed...a grave injustice," (tweet). The marquee #BlackLivesMatter brand in this policy domain denies notions of proportional outcomes. Campaign Zero's homepage starts from the premise that "we can live in a world where the police don't kill people". Period. Hypothetically, citing the risks white people face once in contact with police doesn't undermine the #BlackLivesMatter imperatives but affirms and fortifies them. 

Equality in terms of homicide rates after police contact carry through postmortem justice.  Neither Shaver’s nor Hammond’s nor Coates' nor Jory's shooter faced discipline. In SoCal, CA's largest newspaper by circulation, the LA Times found accountability "unheard of". From 2004 to 2017, cops in California's Imperial, LA, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, and San Diego counties killed 2000 Californians. One officer was prosecuted and later acquitted at trial. In the second case, prosecutors alleged a sheriff deputy murdered a rival in a lover's triangle and justified it by arguing his victim attempted to take his service weapon. California Attorneys General (including Kamala Harris, who still struggles to specify law and policy changes) stayed out of police shooting cases: the LA Times went back to 1998 to find such a case of the California AG charging one. Just as Newsom incorrectly asserts white privilege protects whites in contact with police, white victims enjoy little privilege against decades of case law and cliquish police unions, lawmakers, prosecutors, judges. A 12 year LA DA described "awful but lawful" police killings of Californians simply: "like it or not but the law provides huge cover for the police".  If whites in contact with the police are killed at par with peers, and nobody gets their day in court, the true white privilege is disproportionately avoiding police contact in the first place. 

It makes sense, then, that the privilege to avoid police contact is the first policy prescription of BLM's Campaign Zero: "we can live in a world where the police don't kill people by limiting police interventions". In short, they say, end broken windows policing. And that's the cruelest irony of future governor's Newsom politically correct message. Clark's homicide in his backyard was precipitated by - literally - a 911 call about broken car windows. When Newsom asserts (wrongly) that outcomes in his state hinge on a "suspect's" complexion, he skips right over the problem of who is and who is not "a suspect". A problem that is at the headwaters of downstream inequalities. He's obtuse to the question whether or not broken windows absolutely necessitated a helicopter-led thermal vision pursuit in the night skies of the state's capitol - a city he himself does not live in. Newsom lives 90 miles from 45% white Sacramento in 91% white Kentfield. (About Sacramento, Newsom said in 2011, "it's just so dull. Sadly, I just, ugh, God." SacBee). Newsom's aloofness about basic use of force issues may help explain why San Francisco's African American Community-Police Relations Board quietly faded away during his time as mayor (SF Weekly) and why I can't find a statement from Newsom regarding the firing squad that erupted on a cowering, cornered, knife-wielding Mario Woods.

Nevertheless, he's in categorical denial about California's largest racial category of police killing: people that look like him. Some of whom exhibit mental illness, possess guns, and present potential lethal threats to police officers. Some of whom do not. Some of whom premediate and provoke their own execution. Some of those "suspects" that appear to present "policing problems" are, in fact, symptoms of catastrophic policy failures in other domains such as California's care for men and women unable to care for themselves. Newsom may live in a protective bubble. But it's not the one he thinks. As soon-to-be California's highest ranking executive officer, his incorrect understanding of how his state, in fact, treats suspects who look like him isn't a neutral matter. By skipping over the root causes of preventable police interventions, Newsom protects a political culture that relies on police as first and primary responders to every manner of social disturbance - and thus perpetuates threats to those who look like him and disproportionately to those who do not. 

Thursday, March 30, 2017


Before the 2016 US Presidential Election, and for the fifth consecutive year, Texans reported immigration and security as their highest priorities (San Antonio Express). 2000 miles northwest of Texas, on the same international border, Californians ranked employment and the economy as principal concerns (USC).

Many people might assume differences between the state governments and cultural histories of California and Texas, together 20% of the US population (Census), explain their wildly different perceptions of national issues related to Mexico and drugs. But you have to understand the difference in Mexico between those two border areas - California and Texas - and how that might influence different Americans perceptions of "the problem" of Mexico and or drugs. Breitbart Media brands Breitbart Texas and Cartel Chronicles did not emerge from a political vacuum. They emerged from the 21st Century's hottest global drug war zone outside Afghanistan's Helmand River valley. In 2014, Reid Cherlin, on assignment for Rolling Stone, observed a Breitbart editorial meeting: "(now Special Advisor to President Trump, Steve Bannon) described what he claimed were 10 counties in the Rio Grande Valley under the full operational control the drug cartels, and exposed only by the diligence of Breitbart Texas: 'It'll blow your fucking mind. We'll take you on shit in Laredo and these other places; you literally will think, 'I can't be in America',"(Vice).


New data published by Mexican NGO Citizen's Council for Public Security and Criminal Justice sheds light on a dark war (CCSPJP). A war in which media was and is censored, intimidated, and killed. The data obtained from the Mexican Army (SEDENA) details dates, locations, and kill/capture data for 3,333 military operations from 2008-2014. The data captured more than 5000 casualties and 3000 detentions from the onset of the US-Mexico Merida Initiative. Negotiated by Presidents Bush (US) and Calderon (MX), US Congress first funded Merida in FY 2008 to escalate the cartel war. According to the US State Department, the initiative signaled "historic counter drug-fueled violence threatening citizens on both sides of the border" (US State Department). Although the Mexican Navy increased its combat role since 2015, data showed SEDENA went to the frontlines first and most frequently (El Universal). Arguing for the escalation in 2007, Senator Richard Lugar of Indiana quoted a high level SENEDA commander: "the military does not want to be involved in law enforcement any more than it has to, but it has no choice, regular police cannot compete with Ak-47s and grenade launchers," (GPO).


Zoomed out, SEDENA data shows a tale of two coasts. All quiet on the western Pacific coast and a heavily militarized eastern Gulf coast, clustered on south Texas ports of entry. Measured by the number of records, Tamaulipas was the most militarized state Mexican 2008-2014. By an enormous margin. The state contained 1346 SEDENA records - 40% of the total. The three most militarized Mexican cities are in Tamaulipas, clustered at and around the Rio Grande Valley: 1) Nuevo Laredo, 2) Reynosa, 3) Matamoros.  Those three Mexican cities on the Texas border account for 1% of the Mexican population and 20% of the military operations in SEDENA's data. The map below shows what the warzone looked like from space.

Interactive Version at Tableau Public (visit)
That distribution quantified and contextualized sensational reports such as Ginger Thompson's 2005 characterization of Nuevo Laredo as "a war zone" (NYT) or Bannon's 2014 claim that Laredo would "blow your fucking mind". The Mexican army wasn't the only military force in the Rio Grande Valley, 2008-2014. The Obama Administration authorized Pentagon reinforcements to the Rio Grande River Valley: 1200 National Guard troops, 12 Blackhawk helicopters, fixed-wing aircraft. At the time, Congress' Government Accountability Office (GAO) documented concern about the "perception" of a militarized border (Texas Tribune). SEDENA's data showed GAO's concern for "perception" behind the actual, real military trend. A trend that continued. In 2015, Nuevo Laredo gunmen hit a US Border Patrol helicopter; the Obama Administration sent two armored Blackhawk helicopters sent to the Rio Grande Valley (IBI Times).

Most Americans encountered "the drug war" as: an abstract policy to "fight drugs", a covert means to sustain Jim Crow, a useful device to seize assets and pad US police budgets, a contributor to the world's most intensive incarceration. Outside of Afghanistan, few Americans in the last decade experienced "the drug war" as an actual international war involving militaries. SEDENA's data shows Texans unique perspective on armed conflict between well-financed and well-organized militaries, and paramilitaries. Hypothetically, Texans' unique, intimate perspective of "la inseguridad" contributed to Texans' concern for insecurity.


The San Diego-Tijuana border crossing is the busiest in the world. California's southern frontier covers Tijuana to Baja California. It crosses the Gulf of California to Sinaloa down to Guadalajara. Mexico's West Coast created modern international narcotics trafficking. In the 1980s, the West Coast's Guadalajara Cartel employed a future Forbes billionaire, Chapo Guzman. In the Eighties, Guadalajara usurped control of North American drug trafficking from Pablo Escobar and the Colombian cartels. It went to war with the US DEA when it killed DEA Agent Kiki Camarena in 1985. To survive, Guadalajara's bosses strategically decentralized into today's regional subsidiaries: Sinaloa, Tijuana, Juarez, and Gulf. Among those cartels, the Sinaloa Cartel, based in Sinaloa, emerged as the hegemonic power. Sinaloa engineers tunneled under the San Diego border and created the largest drug distribution organization in the world.

SEDENA's operational records revealed little of that geographic reality. Records showed 20 total operations on the Baja California peninsula from 2008-2014. Comparatively, Tamaulipas, the border state adjacent Texas and the Rio Grande Valley, showed 32 records *per month* in 2012. Among western states, Sinaloa ranked third by record count. Californians were geographically distant. Unlike Texans' immediate view of war on their southern front, Southern Californians were insulated from Pax Sinaloa by the Gulf of California, the Sonora Desert, and more than 1000 miles. Despite being residents of a border state, Northern Californians are in some ways further from the war than folks in Illinois.

In the graphic below, blue dots aggregate Mexican army operations at the city level. The gold triangle demarcates the historically lawless Golden Triangle for drug production and smuggling. The US Army unsuccessfully fought Mexican militaries and paramilitaries for a full year in the Triangle in pursuit of Pancho Villa, 1916-1917. White lines signify the vertiginous Western and Eastern Sierra Madre ranges that act as natural ramparts dividing Mexican battlefields and paramilitaries. Shading in the US signal population centers and reveals Texans' unique proximity to the last decade's drug war combat. 

SEDENA's sparse drug war records involving the Pacific Coast contrasted with US Treasury data of entities sanctioned for financial crimes. 44% of US Treasury's SDNs are Mexican or Colombian - multiples more than Iranian. Pacific Coast Mexican cities Culiacan, Tijuana, and Guadalajara are prominent targets for financial sanction. Among the 10 most sanctioned cities by the US Treasury, 9 are connected to the North American drug war. The only exception is Tehran. Guzman's capture hypothetically amplified he disconnect between the drug war battlefields on Rio Grande Valley and the financial centers on the Pacific Coast. 

Interactive Tableau dashboard - Tableau Public.
The juxtaposition of SEDENA's military absence from Sinaloa with the US Treasury's frequent financial sanctions support hypotheses of Pax Sinaloa. Pax Sinaloa refers to the decreased violence after 2014, after the war covered by the SEDENA data. Don Winslow, author of several cartel novels turned Hollywood movies, put it this way: "Basically I think the Mexican government chose a winner and said let's go with the least worst of these people," (Oregon Live). 

Whatever the case, SEDENA wasn't the only political authority that pulled punches when it came to the money. The US DOJ fined UK bank HSBC a record $3B for laundering Sinaloa Cartel cash - no one went to jail. Indeed, the chancellor of the UK Treasury intervened in the US DOJ case against HSCB, arguing that criminal prosecutions threatened the global financial system. Similarly, US Treasury squashed a CIA proposal to target and drain cartel bank accounts. Those stories sound less absurd next to the UN drug tsar's statement that cartel cash propped up failing global banks in 2008. Hypothetically, the Mexican drug war is among the best financed wars in the world. As illustrated by by "organized crime" executions per month, cartels sustained high tempo killing for a decade plus and outlasted political administrations.

Source: Drug Violence in Mexico: Data and Analysis Through 2016 (Justice in Mexico)


Latitude and longitude tell only part of story that separates the Gulf and Pacific Coasts, and shapes American political perspectives. The backbone of the continent also separates them by thousands of meters of vertical space. The American Cordillera produces mile-high barriers through the western US and compresses sea-level corridors on both Mexican coasts. According to geopolitical analyst Robert Kaplan, Mexico is so mountainous that if it were flattened it would be the size of Asia (Newsweek). As much as physical barriers (eg, walls, fences) govern north-south traffic across the Rio Grande River, the Cordillera channels traffic into two distinct east-west zones within Mexico. And, correspondingly, within the United States. Texas' ports of entry yield low, flat freeway access to the US Heartland and, crucially, Chicago. 

Chicago handles an immense amount of North American truck, rail, air, even maritime freight traffic. Mixed in the legal business is the nexus of North America's illegal economies. Chicago authorities twice named Sinaloa's Chapo Guzman "Public Enemy #1", the first designation since Al Capone controlled the Chicago liquor trade. US Attorneys in Chicago wiretapped Chapo himself in blockbuster prosecutions of Sinaloa confederates. Mexican police recorded him refer to Chicago as Sinaloa's "home port" (Bloomberg). Local Chicago media reported at length on "Why the Sinaloa Cartel Loves Selling Drugs in Chicago" (Chicago Reader); CNN explained "How 'El Chapo' Guzman has poisoned Chicago's streets" (CNN). In 2010, the Department of Justice ranked the Windy City among top 5 destinations for 4 major drugs in a 2010 DOJ report. DOJ also cited Chicago as a top 5 point of origin for heroin. 

Source data (Chicago High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area). Transformed data (Google Sheets). 

Chicago's Westside and Southside neighborhoods, linked by the "heroin highway", are themselves concentrated, segregated zones for drug trade turf wars. President Barack Obama openly wept about the daily shooting in his hometown (Newsweek). President Trump invoked "carnage" and suggested "sending in the feds". Authorities at all levels openly and repeatedly linked Chicago's killing to the drug war. Four hours south, St Louis, Missouri contained the most murderous street in the United States (Guardian) and frequently appeared as the most murderous city per capita in the United States. More so than even Sinaloa's capital city. St Louis neighbor Ferguson, Missouri showed the most significant demographic of "missing men" caused by all the killing and incarceration (NYT). From Ferguson emerged Black Lives Matter and the "war on cops" counter narrative.  In 2016, the New York Times quietly introduced another variable, "Crime Spike in St. Louis Traced to Cheap Heroin and Mexican Cartels" (NYT). 

Drugs traded north, guns traded south, cash did both. The Government Accountability Office identified Illinois as a top 10 source for illegal guns trafficked to cartels. The University of San Diego estimated 250,000 such guns were bought in the US and smuggled to Mexican battlefields from 2010 - 2012 (USD). ATF successfully traced half of the weapons Mexican police flagged for chain of custody traces. Of that ~50%, ATF traced 60% to the US and, of those, 41% to Texas (GAO). Texans experienced the last decade in the middle of an interstate trade network circulating literal tons of guns, drugs, and physical cash between northern population centers, and an actual live-fire war zone to the south. 

National Highway base map via Department of Transportation (DOT). Elevation map from Gun trafficking data from the Government Accountability Office (GAO).
SEDENA data quantified the extent of the drug war's militarization and precisely clustered it in the Rio Grande Valley. That "precise" location coincided with a fog of violence across. Alongside armies and paramilitaries, a general, pervasive insecurity of unsolved murder and disappearances in hundreds of thousands settled over them. Mexican media referred to "La Inseguridad", The Insecurity. 

In 2007, before the military escalation coded in SEDENA's data, Foreign Direct Investment magazine and the Financial Times newspaper identified Chicago and Juarez, a Mexican city on the Texas border, as "cities of the future" (FDI). Three years later, three years into the escalation, Juarez murder multiplied by an order of magnitude as Obama's Chicago team took power. Juarez killings accelerated from 301 in 2007 to 3116 in 2010 (Insight Crime). Border reporter Charles Bowden subtitled his 2010 book on Juarez "The Global Economy's New Killing Fields". That slaughter wasn't far afield from Texans' daily life. It was a reality in the Juarez-El Paso "borderplex", a contiguous urban area divided by a river, an international border, and "killing fields". At the same time Juarez was the most violent city in the world, CQ Press used FBI's Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) data to repeatedly rank El Paso, Texas as the safest city in the United States (Fox News).


SEDENA's data codes the military geography of a conflict where combatants are named from their geographic home. "Sinaloa", "Juarez", and "Gulf of Mexico" identify places on the North American map and gave names to cartel combatants: the Sinaloa Cartel. The Juarez Cartel. The Gulf Cartel. To name just three of many dozens of groups competing to control territory. Among organized fighting forces, only Los Zetas, a stateless paramilitary comprised of former Mexican and Guatemalan special forces soldiers, lack a territorial homebase in the last decades war for control of the border, especially Texas' Rio Grande Valley.

In Murder City, Bowden's report from Juarez, he observed "there is a curious disconnect between the Mexican press and the US press, one where the US press pretends that reporting in Mexico is pretty much the way it is in the North, where the Mexican press considers American reporters to be fools". Steve Bannon and Breitbart filled that coverage gap to "blow your fucking mind" and, at least in part, capture the White House. Bannon and Breitbart Media launched Breitbart Texas in 2014. A former California State legislator, Chuck Devore, introduced the site as "an important, nay, the most important Breitbart outlet because it covers the center of the known universe". The emphasis on "most" appears in the original. Devore signaled the new site would be an "antidote to California's liberal contagion" and said it represented a fort in a war, a digital Alamo (Breitbart).

From that outpost, Breitbart developed a network of Mexican journalists and portal dedicated to the cartel war, a unique feature among an American media more focused on embeds and press briefings on Iraq, Syria, and other distant battlefields. Breitbart reporter Ildefonso Ortiz fatally undermined stories about El Paso's supposed security by digging into security data. Ortiz documented numerous gaps between the FBI's UCR data and reality. He noted that UCR data omits crimes such as drug trafficking, "home invasion", and kidnapping, all critical signals of insecurity:
As previously reported by Breitbart Texas, Mexico’s Gulf cartel has in the past had kidnapping crews that operated in Texas rounding up people wanted by the cartel bosses in Mexico for debts or perceived betrayals. At least one of those multiple kidnappings resulted in a case of mistaken identity leading to an innocent person being kidnapped, tortured, smuggled into Mexico and then being executed under orders of the Gulf cartel.
Ortiz's article "Why Claims of a 'Safe Border' are Wrong and Deceptive" (Breitbart) appeared less than a year after reporter Reid Cherlin heard Bannon describe a deeply corrupt Rio Grande Valley and mind-blowing Laredo. Cherlin's 2017 recollection of his 2014 Breitbart embed, "The world is on fire", captured the epistemological canyon between "mainstream media" and Breitbart. Of Bannon's editorial agenda, Cherlin concluded it "mistook fantasy for fact" with "little of it grounded in accepted fact". Perhaps. But accepted by who? On what basis? Cherlin himself deleted material from the 2014 Bannon/Breitbart story because it seemed so insignificant: "obviously, I missed the story... I didn’t understand what he was trying to tell me," (Vice).

The Mexican NGO that obtained this data from SEDENA used it investigate stories of extrajudicial executions by Mexican soldiers. Such allegations are common. There are countless stories still buried in this revelatory data. Though this sliver of SEDENA data ended in 2014, the war did not. According to the Pentagon, Mexican military spending on US weapons increased 100x in 2015 (NACLA). In 2016, US authorities and Mexican marines removed Sinaloa's Chapo Guzman from the battlefield for a third and apparently final time. SEDENA commanders attributed escalating violence in Sinaloa in 2017 to a war within the Sinaloa to succeed Guzman. 140 of Sinaloan schools closed in February 2017 amidst ranging firefights between convoys of men armed with assault weapons (Animal Politico).

Already more dangerous for reporters than Afghanistan, several reporters were killed in targeted assassinations. One survived multiple assassination attempts. Norte, a newspaper in Juarez, bordering El Paso, Texas, closed March 2017 due to the violence against media. Even if those events do not appear in your media headlines, they will dominate the subtext, shape a presidency, and describe a continent. Some of the biggest stories are those you read least about. Despite the fact that they are so close to home. Or maybe because of it.

Monday, March 20, 2017

America Versus America

Before Mexico extradited Joaquin Guzman (Department of State profile) to Brooklyn on the final day of the Obama Administration, an assassin murdered the 37 year old Mexican judge assigned to Guzman's case. CCTV captured the point blank assassination: a young judge shot in the back of the head while jogging across the street (YouTube). Once in Brooklyn, the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York described Guzman's ability to influence politicians, judges, police, and militaries across the world, presented eleven exhibits, and petitioned New York's Eastern District court to detain Guzman before trial (pdf): "In sum, it is difficult to imagine another person with a greater risk of fleeing prosecution than Joaquin Archivaldo Guzman Loera." With good reason. Guzman twice escaped maximum security prison. And the Brooklyn US Attorney wants Guzman to forfeit $14 billion.

Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman escaped authorities and assassins alike. On May 25, 1993 he escaped Baja California assassins from the Tiajuana Cartel at the Guadalajara airport. The would-be assassins hit the wrong white Grand Marquis, killing seven souls including one of two Vatican cardinals posted to Mexico. Catholic Mexicans were outraged

The shot up Lincoln at the Guadalajara airport attack signaled a violent apex in the war to control three ports of entry between Baja California and Alta California. Collectively, those California ports connected the world's busiest cross-border economy: San Diego-Tiajuana. January 1992 Tiajuana homicides surpassed previous years, a state policeman was machine gunned in front of his house, authorities located bodies of six 25-35 year old men from Guzman's Sinaloa in February 1992:
Four of the bodies were found Tuesday morning next to a coastal highway north of Ensenada, and two others were found bound and gagged 15 miles east of Tijuana, on a road to Tecate. The condition of the bodies indicated that the men had been beaten and tortured; at least two of them had several fingers cut off before they were shot in the head, police said. Several were also garroted, police said.
The torture-style slayings resemble drug-related murders that have occurred recently in Sinaloa and other Mexican states, police said. (Los Angeles Times)
Guzman retaliated contra the Tiajuana Cartel in November 1992 at Puerto Vallarta on the Pacific coast. United Press Internationl (UPI) well-expressed the chaotic information environment in this second hard report:
Radio Red reported that some 35 heavily armed men burst into the posh Christine disco early Sunday morning and began firing. The nationalities of the six killed and three wounded were not available but Radio Red said at least two of the dead were Mexicans.
The mayor of Puerto Vallarta, Rodolfo Gonzalez Macias, told the official news agency Notimex that the incident was evidently a shootout between drug traffickers.
Radio Red quoted witnesses as saying, however, that some of the gunmen identified themselves as members of the drug-fighting Judicial Police. The radio network also said one of the victims was carrying a credential identifying him as a Judicial Police agent from the border state of Baja California.
Gonzalez Macias said the gunmen carried some type of police credentials but said he did not know what type, Notimex reported. (UPI)
As drug war raged in Baja California in 1992, the largest US county, Los Angeles County, California, set a homicide record, unbroken as of writing in 2017, 2,589 dead (LA Weekly). 55 of those occurred in April 1992 after a jury found four LAPD officers not guilty of crimes when they beat Rodney King. Of the 2,589 Los Angeles homicides in 1992, police solved a fraction. 

Impunity reached the highest office. On Christmas Eve 1992, President Bush, himself a one time CIA Director, pardoned six officials for Iran Contra crimes during from his 12 year VPOTUS and POTUS terms: "Elliott Abrams, a former assistant secretary of state for Central America; former National Security Adviser Robert McFarlane; former CIA officials Duane Clarridge, Alan Fiers, and Clair George; and former Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger" (Brown University). 11 weeks after Bush's Contra pardons, President Clinton's third-choice Attorney General, Janet Reno, demanded "prompt resignation" of 93 US Attorneys on March 24, 1993 (New York Times). 

The same May 1993 month that Tijuana rivals attacked the Guadalajara airport, Mexican authorities revealed Guzman's 1400 foot tunnel under the Mexican-American border. Days later an international group of authorities, arrested Chapo himself June 9, 1993 at the Mexican-Guatemalan-border. FBI reported Guzman was en route to "a major cocaine operation" in El Salvador. El Salvador's Ilopango airfield was the epicenter of Contra resupply operations and cocaine allegations. Guzman described himself to reporters as a corn and bean farmer. The LA Times described his as "the man widely believed to be Mexico's top drug trafficker and the target of gunmen who mistakenly killed a cardinal and six other people at the Guadalajara airport" (Los Angeles Times, 1993 & FBI docs Houston Chronicle). 

Guzman captured at Mexican-Guatemalan border crossing, 1993
Guzman's story was obscure in 1993. So obscure that Bloomberg referred to drug lord "Joaqun 'Chappo' Guzmn" (sic). Guzman's story surfaced at the end of an era and beginning of a new one. Consider the sea change: Mujahadeen backed by US supply operations, the world's largest opium production, and history's largest bank fraud defeated Soviet soldiers on the Afghan battlefield. The South Florida Drug Task Force, US Coast Guard, and US Navy commanded Caribbean sea traffic and isolated Cuba; American proxy wars onshore bled all sides at incalculable cost. The Wall fell. The Soviet Union collapsed. The Cold War ended. KGB Agent Vladamir Putin went home to become mayor of St Petersburg, Russia (not St Pete, Florida). President Bush invaded Panama, captured General Noriega, and prosecuted him in Miami court from April to September 1992. Nicaraguan authorities held international Contra trafficker, "El Rey de Las Drogas", Norwin Meneses. USA' most prolific trafficker, Rick Ross of Los Angeles, served time in Phoenix federal and Texas state custody. NAFTA passed November 1993. A month later, in December 1993, Colombian paramilitaries with US government support killed Pablo Escobar in Medellin, Colombia.

As of March 2017, information about Escobar's assassination remains so privileged that a court reversed its own decision on how to handle CIA refusal to share documents requested under the Freedom of Information Act. Data remained missing, information unclear, and incredible evidence impossible to evaluate. For example: CIA Director Deutch appeared in South Central Los Angeles (YouTube) to respond to Gary Webb's San Jose Mercury News story (Internet Archive) that CIA Contra assets smuggled cocaine to Los Angeles distributor Rick Ross. In 1996, Contra leaders told Congress they got $30M cash injection from Saudi Arabia (CSPAN). Whatever the combination of forces coincident with Guzman's capture and the end of the Cold War, data from the US DEA Heroin Signature Program shows a revolution in wholesale heroin seizures during that time from Asia to the Americas.

San Diego's US Attorney filed the first federal indictment against Mexico's largest drug trafficker in 1994 - a pivotal year for the North American political economy. In the 12 months after signing NAFTA in November 1993, US President Clinton bailed out Citibank when the Mexican peso crashed, assassins eliminated two candidates for Mexico's presidency, and Mexico's President Salinas fled to Ireland. In 1994, future US Attorney General Loretta Lynch specialized in drug and violent crime prosecution with the US Attorney in Long Island. 20 years later, Lynch drafted Guzman's Brooklyn indictment as Brooklyn's US Attorney before becoming Obama's 2nd Attorney General in 2015. Since 1994, Lynch was one of seven US Attorneys to indict Joaquin Guzman - including New Hampshire's. On Lynch's final day as US AG on January 20, 2017, her Brooklyn replacement, Ron Caspers, and the Acting Attorney General, Sally Yates, announced Brooklyn would prosecute Guzman in partnership with Miami's US Attorney and DOJ's Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs section. 

That salvo in the tumult of the 2016 election, in the shadow of the The Wall, capped a dark, violent 8 year era of legal impunity in the international drug war. Especially in the Americas. Central American children sought refuge from drug war carnage by the tens of thousands. An opioid epidemic broke out. Though overall violent crime is down in the United States, unsolved murder rates hit new highs. American men and boys shot each other at world-leading rates. President Obama wept discussing the daily violence in the south and west sides of his hometown Chicago (CNN). 

85 miles from McAllen, Texas, the Mexican town San Fernando recorded two cartel massacres: 72 dead in 2010, 193 in 2011. In 2014, 43 Mexican students disappeared from a bus convoy en route to Mexico City. As of March 2017, Mexican police found a single charred bone fragment matching the DNA of one 20 year old named Alexander (New York Times). March 2017 revealed mass clandestine graves in Veracruz, along the Gulf of Mexico. Investigators so far recovered 250+ remains of "missing" persons. Everyone is a target. Gunmen target Mexican journalists with impunity. On that score, Mexico is more lawless than Afghanistan, the world's largest opium producer and US war zone since 2001 (Committee to Protect Journalists). Because media and government are intimidated and/or corrupt, data is unreliable and vary considerably. Conservatively, total Mexican victims measure in the hundreds of thousands (PBS).

From 2006 - 2014, MX President Calderon deployed the Mexican army 1000s of times mostly to Gulf Coast Texas border towns in Tamaulipas. The most lethal were just south of Tamaulipas in Veracruz Gulf towns. Here is the view from space:

Charles Bowden documented conditions on the ground in 2010's Murder City: Ciudad Juarez and the Global Economy's New Killing Fields:
The Mexican army is everywhere and can be ill tempered....(it) arrived in new numbers in April 2008 in northern Chihauhua and the general in command held a meeting with the press to lay down some ground rules. He said there would almost certainly be a spate of robberies and rapes, but these were to be explained by the press as the evil deeds of poor Mexicans who come from the far south and who were migrating through the zone to reach the United States. Any questions?
The war escalated from then. The Obama Administration ended with a 100x increase in arms deals between United States and Mexican governments. Before the official spending ramped up in 2015, from day 1 the DOJ allowed arms traffickers to "walk" thousands of weapons to Mexican paramilitaries, two of which were recovered at the murder scenes of US federal agents. Another, a 50 caliber anti-helicopter rifle, was recovered from Guzman's personal armory upon his capture by Mexican marines. 

In the case of slain Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry, the US House of Representatives held AG Eric Holder in contempt. The first sitting Cabinet official so held (Politico). To protect documents in the Terry case, President Obama issued his Administration's only claim to executive privilege (ProPublica) - a privilege rejected by federal court in 2016. Simultaneous to the Terry revelations in spring 2011, DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart, "acting administrator" since the Bush Administration, described violence as a sign of success in the drug war. She likened Mexico to "caged animals attacking one other" (Washington Post). Leonhart resigned in 2015 after DEA agents were discovered in the company of Colombian cartel prostitutes. 

In finance, DOJ colluded with UK banking regulators (Guardianto defer prosecuting HSBC bankers for laundering Guzman's cartel money. Instead, future AG Loretta Lynch's Brooklyn attorneys hit bank shareholders with a record $2B fine. So vast the rivers of illegal drug money, the UN drug tsar claimed laundered drug currency contributed liquidity necessary to float banks through the financial crisis (Guardian). Among bankers and traffickers, US Attorneys fought for multiple multi-billion dollar forfeitures. In the flurry of billion-dollar deals and fog of endless war, guilty and innocent disappeared into the ether of American justice.


President Obama did not invent the southern flow of military weapons. Nor did Chapo Guzman invent the northern flow of cocaine and narcotics. Nor HSBC drug war banking. HSBC did, though, industrialize it. HSBC handled silver accounts for British East India's tea and opium wars in which it seized Hong Kong. "Hong Kong" puts the "H" in Hong Kong Shanghai Banking Corporation - or, "HSBC". On a regional USA level, gun and drug trades explain much political economics between a deeply segregated Chicago metro and Midwestern suburbs.  On a continental scale, Guzman's 20 year, $14B legal battle with DOJ is a blip in the war for Central American assets. The map below (Tableau) shows March 2017 data for Specially Designated Nationals meaning that "their assets are blocked and U.S. persons are generally prohibited from dealing with them" (US Treasury). Specially Designated Nationals cluster in Colombia and align to Mexico's Pacific Coast drug war ports.

In June 2013, Iran dealmaker for Treasury Secretary Jack Lew and future acting Secretary of the US Treasury for President Trump, Adam Szubin (Jewish Telegraphic Agency), sanctioned 19 Mexican companies and 35 Mexicans (DOJ) in his capacity as Director of Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control. A month later, three Mexican judges court released the network's primary actor, an old man named Rafael Caro Quintero. Quintero told Proceso that he's friends with Guzman and Mayo.

In the Eighties, Quintero's Guadalajara Cartel smuggled Pablo Escobar's Medellin Colombian cocaine through The Wall. After President Reagan blockaded Colombian and Venezuelan go-fast boats and aircraft to Cuba, Caribbean Islands, and Port of Miami, North American drug distribution moved on shore via Central American land bridge. Guadalajara birthed the modern Mexican cartel system (including Guzman's Sinaloa Federation). And it killed US DEA Special Agent, Kiki Camarena, in spectacular fashion. Arizona Senator John McCain described Guadalajara's counterattack against Special Agent Camarena in a October 21, 2013 letter to Secretary of State John Kerry:
Quintero’s henchmen kidnapped Agent Camarena at gunpoint outside the U.S. Consulate in Guadalajara on February 7, 1985.  They blindfolded him and brought him to Quintero’s hacienda five miles away where they brutally tortured him for over thirty hours.  The torture Quintero perpetrated shocks the conscience of all decent human beings.  Quintero and his associates crushed Camarena's skull, jaw, nose, cheekbones and ribs with a tire iron.  They used a power tool to drill a hole in Camarena’s head and repeatedly stuck him with a cattle prod.  As Camarena lay bloody and dying, Quintero summoned a cartel doctor to keep him alive so the cartel could torture him longer.  The doctor injected the anesthetic lidocaine directly into Camerena’s heart and the torture endured for several more hours.  Camarena’s battered and bloodied body was discovered in a shallow grave 70 miles north of Guadalajara several weeks later. (McCain's Senate site)
Camerena's case remains a signal event. He infiltrated a billion dollar marijuana farm in northern Texas visible from outer space. That's just what we know. TBD count were arrested.  That cartel doctor became the basis for Supreme Court case law at the foundation of the Global War on Terror. DEA caught up with Quintero in Costa Rica. His transfer to Mexican prison produced little change - see WaPo/Forbes. 

Quintero's Panamanian lawyers defending his Costa Rican properties wrote of fearing his release. Of their client, Quintero, they described Pablo Escobar as "a baby". Where Tigres hunted Escobar to his Medellin end, When it came 20 years early, NSC staff was "deeply disappointed"; Mexican AG confessed he was "worried". US Treasury's Suzban produced more sanctions on October 31, 2013 (US Treasury). On November 5, 2013, the State Department issued a $5 million bounty for a man US Treasury spox John Sullivan (profile) confessed was a billionaire. 

Throughout the fall of 2013, the US DEA agents most responsible for the investigation of Camarena's torture and execution, DEA's El Paso Intelligence Center director Phil Jordan and Hector Ballarez wanted to talk about Cuban-born retired CIA man present at Che Guevara's execution, Felix Rodriguez. Jordan and Ballarez weren't alone in profiling Felix Rodriguez in the fall of 2013. Fox News produced vivid, detailed testimony about DFS and Quintero's escape. Rodriguez himself appeared via Skype on Spanish language TV (YouTube). National Review described allegations that Rodriguez used Colombian cocaine money to finance Central American Contra war and Rodriguez's subsequent 1987 testimony to Massachusetts Senator John Kerry's committee investigating narcotics trafficking. Addressing Kerry at a closed door session, Rodriguez told Kerry, "it is extremely difficult to have to answer questions from someone you do not respect, and I do not respect you and what you are doing here" (National Review).


Monday, December 5, 2016

California Love

Californians face a representation crisis. Sample recent geopolitics: ~500K more people voted Clinton in Los Angeles County (1,893,770) than voted Trump in Wisconsin State (1,404,000 - NYT. 11/4). California's historic 8.2M votes for candidate Clinton did little to the influence the national outcome.

From NY/DC Acela Corridor, the Golden State is 3K miles and a 5 hour flight over North America's Great Plains and Rocky Mountains. A continent apart from Trump and Clinton's Empire State. 

Newman adjusts counties for people.

California's "obscene" Clinton cash machines did little against Trump's cheap, segmented, devisive, targeted messages to high-ROI "battleground" voters (Bloomberg). Ohio. Florida. North Carolina. Pennsylvania.  And beyond: Michigan, Wisconsin. Clinton's popular wins in liberal cities are as historically amazing (statistical outliers!) as they are electorally irrelevant. Consider
Orange County, California the sixth largest county among The States. LA Times:
Clinton beat Republican Donald Trump by nearly 5 points, or 39,000 votes, in the county that has long served as a national symbol for the GOP, the home to Richard Nixon and the cradle of Ronald Reagan’s conservatism.
In California, Kerry beat Bush by 10pts in 2004. Clinton beat Trump by 30pts in 2016. So what?Because California's popular winner takes all EC votes, the margins of victory are irrelevant. So are the margins of defeat. If you are going to lose California, it doesn't matter whether you get 49% of the vote or 1%. If you are going to lose California, you might as well lose bigly. There is no downside. Maybe it helps. Mock the NY/LA media celebrities. Throw red meat.

 "Trump did have an eponymous steak line, sold via Sharper Image. The company's website..."Unfortunately, Trump Steaks are no longer available, but their legacy endures." NPR March 2016

Trump didn't try to win California. Neither did Clinton. Nor should they. High cost, little reward. Politically, California gets what it gives. Inefficient in terms of EC votes per California voter.Trump is candid about California's electoral irrelevance: 

If the election were based on total popular vote I would have campaigned in N.Y. Florida and California and won even bigger and more easily (Twitter)

 In a popular, proportional election, no doubt Trump would have campaigned differently. If he made it out of the Republican primary. If California is a battleground, both parties have incentives to think differently about "electability" during primaries. Hypothetically, blocs of California voters should be swing states unto themselves. Trump faces different incentives to regard California-Mexico relations. Clinton too. Instead, California's 55 Electoral College votes went uncontested in a symbolic, irrelevant popular blowout.

 Obsenities - moreover, they didn't matter.

The 2016 presidential outcome is a symptom of a problem. Step back from the rubble of 2016. Among the states, Californians pay the most gross federal tax to the US Treasury (IRS). While picking up the tab, Californians are the most politically underrepresented people in three federal bodies: the Electoral College, House, and Senate. Overtaxed and unrepresented. Large states made basic concessions on taxation and representation to smaller states at the founding of the United States. Compromise is inevitable. But California's quantitative inequity in 2016 defies common sense and precedent. The status quo cheats Californians and corrupts American political life. The imbalance represents a fragile fault among these united states. That imbalance is striking compared to the states' geopolitical centers of mass. 

Four basic options

ONE - abolish the Electoral College

TWO - succeed

THREE - nothing changes


Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Lead Nation

I respect any vote for Hillary Clinton premised on her superior play of a rigged game of thrones. In terms of benefitting from a political economic system, detractors and supporters appear to agree. She's among the best.

When carrying two devices inconvenienced Queen H, she exclusively (NYT) used private mail to conduct the foreign policy of the United States. Finding the revolving door between private and State business too burdensome, she took it off the axis. What revolving door? 

Clinton represents the logical end of the bipartisan elite consensus to privatize gains - and bill losses to the public. Where Cheney laundered State business to friends at Halliburton, Clinton routed State business directly through her family's private foundation. Literally and tangibly. In this last election of The Boomer Generation, Hillary Clinton represents the apex predator immune to rules or change - an anomalous conservationist/conservative of the status quo in a revolutionary era. 

The Clinton Clan's conservatism is so plain that it's evident even to George W Bush:
Given the near certainty of Hillary’s bid, Bush’s logic about his brother Jeb entering the campaign was mathematical: “What difference does it make,” he said at the time, “if the order is Bush/Clinton/Bush/Obama/Clinton or it is Bush/Clinton/Bush/Obama/Bush?” (Time)
The dynastic American families of the current political order aren't enemies. They aren't even competitive. They are interchangeable. From all sides, global and American oligarchs - and the bipartisan New World Order - face revolution. From Sanders to Trump to al-Baghdadi to Putin to a shattered influence network (MIT Media Lab). I imagine a sleepless Clinton reading her hero:  
The conservative in a revolutionary period is always somewhat of an anomaly. Were the pattern of obligations still spontaneous, it would occur to no one to be a conservative, for a serious alternative to the existing structure would be inconceivable. But once there exists a significant revolutionary party, even more once a revolution has actually triumphed, two complementary questions have been admitted as valid, more symbolic in their very appearance than any answer that may be given: What is the meaning of authority? (A World Restored)
Election 2016: the year triangulation failed, the center did not hold, and things fell apart.