Saturday, December 31, 2005

Perfect New Year's Eve

In one of my jobs, I have to drive from McAllen to Mission to Edinburg to McAllen and to Mission again. The weather in the Rio Grande Valley is awesome this New Year's Eve. It's t-shirt weather. When I got off from my first job, I smelled barbecue. I drove to the second job to load up and still smelled barbecue. On the way from McAllen to Mission, I smelled barbecue. From Mission to Edinburg, I smelled barbecue. From Edinburg to Mission (I skipped McAllen today), I smelled barbecue. This is such a perfect New Year's Eve compared to other years when we spent the evening huddled inside to keep warm. Everybody is barbecuing! At first, I thought it was fog, as we had fog this morning. I realized, however, that it's smoke from everybody's grills. That's awesome!

I'm going to spend the evening drinking Shiners and chilling out. This is the perfect New Year's Eve. I'll stop blogging now and go out to drink beer. The traditional Tejano drink is Bud Light, but I'm not a traditional Tejano. I've been corrupted by my time in Austin. Shiner Bock, baby!

This is bad

Speaking of mojados

While writing the last post, I was reminded of a recent experience with a mojado I met recently. I occasionally am called upon to give people a ride home. This guy I met, whom I no longer transport, is a mojado. In English, that's a wetback. For the sensitive crowd, an undocumented worker. Anyway, it's a common misconception that mojados are ignorant, stinky, dirty, and ill-mannered peasants. Well, most Mexicans, including the wealthy ones with whom I often mingle, are ill-mannered. However, many of them are well educated, even the poor ones.

So, this guy works in construction. He knows everything about the field. He can roof, lay tile, frame, lay a foundation, set brick, and even make granite countertops. I have a tendency to get to know people; so I got to know him. This guy knew about the bible and about some of the books I've read like Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill, and some other similar books. He is living in, shall we say "low-income housing". Yet, he and his wife have an anchor baby in this country. He bought land and built a 6 unit apartment building, which is in his son's name. His son is 13 years old. His wife owns a small store. He visits them on occasion, or they visit him on occasion. He has made good money in the past.

I read a book called Deals on Wheels some time ago. It's about buying and selling used mobile homes. This mojado was telling me about the virtues of building homes and selling them, especially tax lien properties. His problem is that he can't do that because he's here illegally. He needs somebody from here to be his front. I mentioned to him that he could also make money with used mobile homes as described in Deals on Wheels. I gave him the details of how it's done and he really liked it. What is really great about these deals is the low cost of entry into the market and the high demand. He seemed really excited. I have no doubt he will make it happen.

I also shared my knowledge from Robert Kiyosaki's Rich Dad, Poor Dad. I explained to him that most Americans are educated and trained to be employees. We don't have to hustle and, therefore, don't know how to hustle to make money. In addition, we spend more time saving money on the spending side rather than the investing side.

What really impressed me about this guy is his knowledge of the Bible and books in the genre of Think and Grow Rich, by Napoleon Hill. He was really interested in The Millionaire Next Door, which I've read. I gave him some of the findings of this book. One of which is that most of our millionaires are first generation immigrants. Sure, there are millionaire Americans, but they are outnumbered by immigrants. I also told him that most millionaires are net savers. They try not to spend, like Sam Walton. I also explained to him that there is a difference between high earners and millionaires. High earners, like doctors, lawyers, and such, spend their money as easily as they make it. They like the good life. Many millionaires, on the other hand, stay humble. This gave him much comfort and inspiration. I have no doubt that he will do well.

Not only that, he inspired me to hustle as well. Since then, I have given my employer notice that I am looking for better opportunities. So, it's my turn to go out and make a buck. I look at the job market and I am disappointed. I think I shall have to make business for myself. I made the mistake of asking friends for their opinion on a business idea I had. They discouraged me. Apparently, it's too much effort for too little a reward. I've decided, it's worth a try. I wish to thank the mojado for his inspiration. I wish him luck in his ventures.

It's amazing

I was amazed that people like this think that building a wall across the border is similar to the Berlin wall. I would agree that it is similar to the Great Wall of China. You see, the Berlin wall was meant to keep people in more than it was for keeping people out. The Great Wall of China was, like the recent legislation's plan, meant to keep people out. Chinese people are not racist for one reason. Everyone in China is Chinese. This is probably mostly true because they had the wall to keep out Mongols and Manchurians.

The biggest argument I hear from people that it's a bad idea to build a wall across our border is because it will not stop people from crossing it. DUH! It won't stop people from entering the country illegally. That is a given. It will, however, slow them down considerably. Well, no, it won't. The problem with the wall is that it's a government project. Let me tell you the reason why it's destined to fail.

You see, the Great Wall of China was not built by one emperor, it was progessively built over generations. You don't expect a project of such a massive scale to be built within a few years. Come on! The Wall is visible from space! That's a lot of rock that has to be shaped and put together to make a wall. Once it was built, it was effective in stopping invasions. But keep in mind, it's a big ass wall!

That is the reason why our wall will fail. You see, Chinese emperors could order the wall to be built. The Federal Government of the United States has to award the project to the lowest bidders. If we could build the Great Wall of America, we would no doubt put a big brake on illegal immigration. Since our government hasn't that authority, the wall will probably hold people off for a couple days before they chisel their way through.

Therefore, all you liberals who are opposed to the wall, forget about it. You make a big deal over something that, by your own admission, won't work. I know it won't work. You know it won't work. So, let the wall be built. Think of all the jobs that will be created for building the wall. I know most of the workers here in the Rio Grande Valley building the wall will be mojados. Are you against mojados getting jobs?

A CAPITOL BLOG: Breaking News: Marching Valley Veterans Successful In Securing Clinic Expansion

A CAPITOL BLOG: Breaking News: Marching Valley Veterans Successful In Securing Clinic Expansion

I wish to congratulate Rep. Aaron Peña and Valley Veterans on their small success in getting a Veterans clinic in the Rio Grande Valley. The Rep mentions that some vets see this move as a "crumb". I urge our vets to see this as a big step forward. Yes, it would have been great to get a hospital, but you have to realize that it's on the way.

First, our local Veterans should realize that government is like cancer, it only grows and grows. You never hear about government cutting back. The cutbacks you hear about are cutbacks on growth, but not real cutbacks. Like your wife telling you she saved you money because she bought stuff on sale. She could have spent more. The same is true with government. Now it's a clinic with a certain fixed budget. Next year's budget will be bigger due to the high demand of Veteran health services in the Rio Grande Valley. Every year will have a bigger budget. Within a few years, a clinic will no longer be adequate for the size of the budget. We'll need a hospital to meet the demand for services. Then will we see the hospital come.

I am sympathetic to our Veterans in the Rio Grande Valley. Recently my father had heart problems and he had to travel to San Antonio for VA care. Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately, his condition could not wait as long as the VA doctors asked him to wait so that he had to have care here in the McAllen Heart Hospital. The point is, imagine having to wait a month to have heart surgery in a city 250 miles away while you can't work and have no income. I think our Veterans may be able to deal with having to wait, but having to travel for the privilege is insulting.

Good job Aaron and Valley Vets. Your efforts are appreciated.

Friday, December 30, 2005

I forgot ... the tamales

I forgot to write about one of the important traditions in the Rio Grande Valley around Christmas time. Tamales! If you live far from the Southern border, you may have tasted canned tamales. Those things are crap. Please don't judge tamales by those standards. Tamales are great when they are fresh. There are chicken tamales, pork tamales, beef tamales, bean tamales, sweet tamales, and I recently tasted cream cheesa and jalapeno tamales. The Christmas holiday is the best time of year because of the abundance of tamales. Certainly they are greasy and can stain your clothes with the spice and chile coloring. There is no doubt that the carbs and high fat content will put you over the 2 million calorie mark. But who cares? They're delicious. If there is one thing that the Mexican culture has got right, it's tamales.

The beauty of tamales is that they are delicious when they are fresh. If you have leftovers, you can freeze them. Afterwards, you can nuke them or toss them on a comal (a skillet/grill?). If you use a comal, the corn husk will burn and blacken. Just scrape that off and enjoy the tamal. One of my favorite breakfasts is tamales and coffee. That's just heaven.

If you are a traditionalist, like me, you eat tamales with salsa. Mmmm. The tamales are already spicy, but they are often not spicy enough. It may suprise you to know that little Mexicans aren't born liking chile. We acquire the taste. So, the tamales are not so spicy that children won't eat them. This then requires that we add our own comfortable level of "hotness" to the tamales. The taste is up to you. You can use tabasco sauce, picante sauce, homemade salsa, a fresh pepper, or some other hot sauce to give the tamales some kick. Be careful not to overdo it in the morning, however, because if you are enchilado, hot coffee won't help.

I wish to thank God for giving Mexicans tamales. I also want to thank him for making my family Mexican.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

It's still warm

We have had great weather in the Rio Grande Valley. It's cause for frustration amongst some here. It would have been nice to have a cold Christmas. No luck. It was a gorgeous day. We've had temperatures in the 70 and 80 degree range. The weather is expected to continue this great. If you're from up north, you may think that this is a great thing. The problem is this, you can't do hot chocolate and baking very well in warm weather. It just doesn't fit. This is iced tea and sandwich weather. We'd like to pretend this isn't a subtropical region once in a while.

Friday, December 23, 2005

POLITICO: More Corruption -- FBI Wll Be Picking Up Several Individuals Today In The Valley

Politico is right about Omar Guerrero. The lies will be his undoing. If I were caught in the same circumstances, even if the weed weren't mine, rather than deny it, I'd say that I need help with my problem. I'd do this because nobody is going to believe that "somebody" left their bag of weed in my vehicle without my knowing. There's no way. Let's say it isn't his. Who is going to get on the vehicle of the district clerk and just leave his stash behind? I know stoners, they DON'T forget where they put their weed. If it's not his, he knows exactly who left it there.

Gonna Start Volunteering

I got a chance to speak with Laura Hinojosa today. She seems upbeat about her campaign, especially with the latest developments with her opponents. She expects to ratchet up her work in January. I think I'll make some time to go visit her campaign office and help out.

Just to remind my readers, I don't really know Laura Hinojosa's views on politics. At the District Clerk level, they are not relevant. It would be stupid to help a Republican seek an office because the Democrats run the Rio Grande Valley. In any case, Candidate Hinojosa is nice to me, so I am willing to return the favor. I won't report any juicy secrets about the campaign, should I hear any. I will simply report my contribution.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Haciendo Chile con el Rabo

There is a Mexican saying: Estan haciendo chile con el rabo.

Loosely translated, it means "they're pretty angry". The literal translation is "they're making pepper with the tail". Something gets lost in translation.

Anyway, the Dems are probably haciendo chile con el rabo over the president's recent rise in approval. GW is kicking butt on two fronts: Iraq and the economy. In Iraq, the recent elections are proof that he was right about the Iraqis wanting to govern themselves. Even the Sunnis turned out to vote.

On the economy, just watch CNNfn, Bloomberg, or other financial networks. Listen to Bob Brinker on the weekends. You'll have known that the economy has been surging ahead like a machine. The only downer on the economy is the President's reluctance to reign in spending by the Republicrats. We have low interest rates, single digit unemployment, and a pretty steady cosumer price index despite fighting a war against terrorism, getting hit by two hurricanes, fuel cost instability, and the constant downplaying by opponents of the president.

I'll grant you that the President of the United States does not have the power to control the economy. He does have, however, the ability to give his country confidence in its own ability to push ahead and win. That has been the President's message all along. We'll find terrorists and kill the bastards. We'll hold accountable those who helped them. We'll grow the economy by letting people keep their money. He said it, and we're doing it. It has not mattered what roadblocks the Dems throw in our country's way, we have been able to overcome them. It's unbelievable that the Dems want us to fail with such passion. When they attack the president, our chief cheerleader, they are attacking us, their constituents. Don't they want us to have a great economy? Don't they want us to finish the mission in Iraq successfully?

The truth is, the dems are as we Mexicans say, "nomas quieren estar chingando." I won't translate that. Although it upsets me, I am glad in a way. I am happy that the Dems are chinge y chinge. For one, we are getting a great look at their character. Another benefit to their anti-victory efforts are that they are targeting the President in their attacks. They are so rabidly anti George W. Bush that they don't realize that he's just a figurehead for a movement. GW didn't get up there by himself. America put him up there. Anybody against GW is against the majority of America. Most of America is Christian. Most of America does not live like what you see on TV or in the movies. Most of America is not the Hollywood, New York, or Boston elite who have no clue what blue collar America is. More importantly, most of America is NOT ASHAMED OF BEING AMERICAN AND PROMOTING AMERICAN IDEALS THROUGHOUT THE WORLD. I hope that wasn't too subtle. I'm not so good at nuance. In my book, it's always America First. I have the good fortune to have been born in this country. I enjoy my Mexican heritage, but I know I have little in common with my brethren 5 miles south of me. We share a language, cuisine, and distrust of authorities. Other than that, I identify with American ideals. Our country did not become so great because it follows French, German, Mexican, Cuban, Russian, Chinese, Italian, Spanish, Rowandan, Thai, or any other foreign desires. Our country is great because it is founded in fundamental ideals and a can-do attitude that inspires us to achieve all that we can. If you're anti George W. Bush, you are against our national pride and self interest. This is why Dems, despite their constant complaining that we are losing the war, and we don't have enough troop or have too many troops, and any number of complaints, they could not vote to have an immediate withdrawal of our troops from Iraq. If they were so sure that it's what America wants, then why not vote to bring our troops home? Because, they know America wants to win. America supports our troops in deed, not only in word. AMERICA DOES NOT QUIT! Dems on the other hand, when it came time to go on record in their vote to bring home the troops right away, they gave in and voted against the measure they wanted. Quitters!

Our Troops are Thugs

Anybody who supports the McCain amendment is calling our troops thugs. We had a few jerks who stepped out of line. Overall, our troops have not been and are still not torturing people. This is a piece of feel-good legislation that doesn't do anybody any good. Here is my point.

When legislators take on a cause to criminalize some behavior, they have not solved the problem. Let's say that we criminalize drugs, for example. People will still do drugs. The law only applies to those who get caught. If we criminalize torture, it only applies to those who get caught. I've broken so many laws, yet have not been caught. I break the law every time I go 56 in an 55 mph area. I break the law when I sell some crap in a yard sale and don't report the income. I break the law when my insurance expires for a couple days. I am a hardened criminal. The laws were meant to stop me from doing these things that I do often.

More importantly, the fact that such legislation was ever proposed makes the statement that people such as the Senator from Arizona, who will never get my vote should he run for President again (I'd rather abstain), believe that our troops are a bunch of thugs out there torturing people. I say this because legislation generally goes out to address something that the lawmakers believe is wrong. If there is a belief that people aren't wearing seatbelts, pass a seatbelt law. If legislators think that not enough people have auto insurance, pass a law requiring it (we know they're in the insurance industry's back pocket). If legislators believe we have too many weapons, even if we are constitutionally entitled to them, they pass laws. In some states, like New York, God help you if you have a weapon and no permit. Why is this? Because legislators want to make a statement that something is not acceptable and to make us think twice about breaking the law, since we do it anyway. So, McCain and his supporters are saying that our troops are torturing thugs. I'll stop now because I need to step outside and curse.

Happy Holidays

For Our Democrat Friends:

"Please accept with no obligation, implied or implicit, our best wishes for an environmentally conscious, socially responsible, low-stress, non-addictive, gender-neutral celebration of the winter solstice holiday, practiced within the most enjoyable traditions of the religious persuasion of your choice, or secular practices of your choice, with respect for the religious/secular persuasion and/or traditions of others, or their choice not to practice religious or secular traditions at all. We also wish you a fiscally successful, personally fulfilling and medically uncomplicated recognition of the onset of the generally accepted calendar year 2006, but not without due respect for the calendars of choice of other cultures whose contributions to society have helped make America great. Not to imply that America is necessarily greater than any other country nor the only America in the Western Hemisphere. And without regard to the race, creed, color, age, physical ability, religious faith or sexual preference of the wishee. By accepting these greetings you are accepting these terms. This greeting is subject to clarification or withdrawal. It is freely transferable with no alteration to the original greeting. It implies no promise by the wisher to actually implement any of the wishes for herself or himself or others, and is void where prohibited by law and is revocable at the sole discretion of the wisher. This wish is warranted to perform as expected within the usual application of good tidings for a period of one year or until the issuance of a subsequent holiday greeting, whichever comes first, and warranty is limited to replacement of this wish or issuance of a new wish at the sole discretion of the wisher."

For Our Republican Friends:
Here's wishing all of You a
Very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

Monday, December 12, 2005

Cold on the way

Accuweather's Joe Bastardi is forecasting freezing temperatures for the Rio Grande Valley on Sunday and Monday. You can hear Joe on KURV 710 AM radio during the morning drive show. You have time to prepare your plants and pipes for the cold. Make sure you check out your heater early. The fire department gets many calls during this season because of poorly maintained heaters that catch fire. If you have a gas heater, check for leaks and provide adequate ventilation to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning. And don't forget to bring your pets inside. Make sure you have plenty of Swiss Miss and pan dulce ready.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Season of Joy and Reflection

The Holidays are without a doubt, one of my favorite times of year. I love the cheer and goodwill that permeates the air amongst us. Even when we are older, we try to be good for goodness sake around this time. Then there is also the happiness of being with friends and family. We share food. We share gifts. We spend our time off together. Most people do not decorate their homes throughout the year, but will at least put up a Christmas tree. It's a wonderful time.

I must admin that for me it's also a time of reflection on seasons past. I remember the days of my childhood as a poor migrant and the slow shift to where I am today. I am by no means well off or even comfortable. Thanks to my wife's job, we are officially above the poverty line, although with tons of debt. Prior to this year, our combined earnings were less than $20k per year. I look forward to someday being middle class.

Still, I look back and see how poor we were and I am grateful for what I have. If you ever saw Johnny Carson, you know that you're supposed to ask, "how poor were you?" Well, we always had food stamps. Sometimes we had money, especially after coming back from Wisconsin where we did migrant work. Of course, we'd run out of money as we rounded the corner.

Our house was a wood framed home with painted plywood for the walls. At first, it was just a shell. We had no floor, it was just dirt. The shell sat atop cinder blocks. We filled the gap between the floor and the frame with bricks. We had no electricity, we used an oil lamp for light. In the winter, we had a fire in the middle of the house. We could do that because there were no interior walls and our dirt floor didn't suffer any damage from the heat. That was literally central heating. We didn't worry about carbon monoxide because the house was just a shell without insulation. We had plenty of ventilation, even with the windows closed. Our house basically blocked the wind and kept out the rain. It did nothing against the heat or the cold. Besides the fire, we kept warm by the use of many blankets. When we eventually got electricity, we shivered in the light. We bathed in a shed outside. We used an outhouse. We got water from a guy who would carry water in barrels in his pickup. He would empty his barrels into ours. We bought drinking water in 5 gallon containers. We heated our water on the stove and mixed it with cold water in a 5 gallon bucket. We bathed outside in the shed in hot and cold weather.

One year, I think it was in Junior High School, a Christian Missionary group, I think they were Baptist, helped our family by building a wood floor for us and covering our walls with plywood. This was a big improvement for us. We had walls. We had rooms. There was no insulation, so the summers were still hot and the winters were still cold, although slightly less than before. Eventually, we got indoor plumbing and installed a shower and toilet. We still had to heat water on the stove. Things continued like that until I graduated from High School.

I wound up going to The University of Texas at Austin for one year. I came back, married my girfriend. She and I lived with my mom in the same house. I put in the money to get us a water heater. My wife was pregnant; I decided to go back to UT to continue my studies. She stayed at the University of Texas-Pan American. Next Fall, after the baby was born, we moved to Austin together. Then we came back. We lived in the old house again. Our daughter spent her first two years there. I worked a job and went to school. My wife also went to school.

We helped a friend start up a business, it just never took off. So, I wound up working at a call center. At that time, my wife and mother teamed up and got us a mobile home. We had to move out of the old house because water would not run off in our neighborhood after hard rains. Everybody, of course, raised the level of their properties by filling in with soil. We did the same, but the house wound up being lower than the rest of the property. Consequently, the house would flood in heavy rain. After a few of those incidents, the floors were ruined, pests moved in in greater numbers, and mold was certainly around. So, life got much better with the mobile home. We finally had a warm home. We had proper bathrooms. We had AIR CONDITIONING!

My wife and I realized that we had to try to make it on our own, so we moved out. We first moved into a duplex not far from my mother's house. It was made of cinder blocks and basic finishing. It was extremely hot in the Summer and warm enough in the Winter. We stayed there for almost a year. My wife graduated from Pan Am. She could not get a job doing anything. She was overqualified for minimum wage jobs and did not have experience for other jobs.

Then we moved to a mobile home between Mission and McAllen. We went there because there would be no lease like we had in the duplex. It was basically month to month. It was cool enough in the Summer, but freezing in the Winter. It really needed a lot of work. Around this time, we decided we needed a better place.

My wife found an apartment complex that was just built north of Mission. We have been here since. It's comfortable. It's more expensive than the other places where we lived, but we don't swelter in the Summer and don't freeze in the Winter. We have plumbing and hot water. We have electricity. We could have cable, if we want. Soon after moving in, my wife started working. She has had three promotions in less than a year. So, now we are out of poverty.

Despite the hardship, the slow and difficult path we have had to get to this far, I feel fortunate. I have learned a lot. We have had family help us on our way. We have had friends. Government has been a mixed bag. Food stamps are a waste of time. If you don't make money, you get them. If you start to make money, they take them. If you are working full-time, it's not easy to get a day off to go see your case worker. Suffice it to say, food stamps suck. Medicaid is a big help and worth the effort. You will sleep better knowing that your children are covered, even if you aren't. Income sensitive apartments are good, except if you start to earn more. Then from one lease year to the next your rent can possibly go up considerably. Suffice it to say, rising out of poverty is a process of taking two steps forward and one step back. Every time you do a little better, you lose some kind of help. So, your net gain is very little. But you have to keep going, little by little. Our next step back will be having moved up a tax bracket. We earn more, the government takes more.

Student loans are good, but you have to keep in mind that once you are on them, you have to keep going to school until you finish. Don't take out loans and then drop out of college. It will be really difficult to pay them back without a degree, unless you find a very well paying job that does not require a degree. I'm not so fortunate. I need to get back in school to finish. For now, my wife and I need to save money to get me a degree. That's another thing. Now we can save money. We don't have to put all of our time and energy into mere survival.

So, I remember these things around this time of year. Another five years and the first quarter of my working life will be over. Will I come out with points on the board? We'll see. What ultimately matters is that I have points by the end of the game. I have a good family. I have prospects for the future. Even though we are no longer poor, one thing lingers. I still feel poor. I don't feel equal to those who have achieved middle class or higher. I need to stop feeling poor. In the meantime, I'm going to enjoy the season and reflect on our good fortune.

Caldito Weather

Listening to radio statioin KURV, you may hear Sergio Sanchez refer to the weather we had recently as "caldito weather." Mmmm, caldo. I have to agree with Sergio. Caldo is awesome in cool weather.

For the uninitiated in Rio Grande Valley culture, caldo is soup. It can be chicken or beef soup. Caldo generally has cabbage, carrots, potatos, corn on the cob, and chayote, a kind of squash. Some people add some celery or other greens. You garnish the soup with cilantro. You also squeeze some lemon into the soup. In the Valley, we hardly use yellow lemons, we use limes. We just say lemons because we don't use lemons and the only thing close to one is a lime. Geez, my mouth is watering while I write this. If you just have the soup by itself, it's not really filling. You need to eat caldo with a rolled up tortilla in the same way most people eat food with a roll or a biscuit. This may be enough to introduce you to one of our favorite dishes. To really make your caldo complete, you need sopa de arroz, which is known as Spanish rice. Just add some sopa to the caldo and your favorite salsa (don't desecrate it with Pace, picante sauce is not the same as salsa). That's heaven right there.

When shopping for caldo ingredients, you are fortunate if you live in a market where there are Mexicans. Our local HEB grocery stores and others have pre-packed caldo vegetables. Just add meat and water. I even saw frozen caldo vegetables. If you don't live in the Rio Grande Valley or have the good fortune to have a Mexican population, the ingredients are easy to find anywhere. Simply substitute chayote with zucchini and make do without tortillas.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

It's Cold in the Rio Grande Valley

This morning, the temperature was 37 degrees. It has gone up into the 40's today. Things will get better later in the week. I can't wait. I had a low tire, which was a bit worn out around the edge anyway, so I went to a tire shop and had the two front tires replaced. It was on my list of things to do, so I can pass the state inspection. So, for $50, I got two front tires with mounting included. Used, of course. It was damn cold out there. It must be tough for the guys changing tires. I had a quick trip to HEB down the street to get cash. My face, ears, fingers, and brain were almost frozen stiff. I can't imagine what it must be like to work outside in the cold all day like that.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

A CAPITOL BLOG: Mexican Special Force Agents Modeled on FBI Under Investigation

Just want to post a quick, see, I told you so. The Mexican AFI, their version of our FBI, has agents under investigation for "probably committing crimes." Come on, probably? Let me tell you that drug cartels are much better financed than the federal government in Mexico. There is no way the government can afford to pay agents better than drug lords. In addition, there is no way the government can protect agents and their families from drug lords.

The irony, as mentioned previously, is that we pay for all this. When we reduce supply on the streets, it increases the price of drugs. This is more incentive for cartels to do everything in their power to bring their stuff in. The additional money also gives them more options by allowing them to pay off officials in both countries and to afford better logistics.

Vicente Fox and the succeeding presidents of the Mexican Republic simply cannot win so long as there is poverty in Mexico. Easy money is just too much of an incentive for people who have a tough time getting ahead. Money pays for workforce for the cartels. Money pays for corrupt officials. Money pays for transport. Money pays for American officials. Our problem is not the agents, the street dealers, the smugglers, or the cartels. Our problem is the money we shell out for drugs. If cartels couldn't make money, they would not exist. The harder we fight them, so long as we fiddle around with the pipeline rather than the supply, the more money they make.

We could blame the dealer down the street. But he's in it for the money. If that guy down the street doesn't have drugs, somebody else will. If you have the money, you will find a seller. The buyer is the problem. We have one of the most productive countries in the world. Our workforce is bent on blowing cash on drugs. You would think that with all the workplace drug tests that the demand would be squelched. If you don't do drugs. Good for you. Now, go watch your kids, they probably do, or know somebody who does. Quit screwing around with your career and pay attention to your family. Americans have the power to kill the demand simply by being there for the family. That is, unless you do drugs yourself. In that case, try to cut back.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Grits for Breakfast: Mexican border wars: "The only leaders who can contain the violence are the ones who are in jail"

I once had a research paper regarding the drug trade. The way things are now, we can only expect one result: increased violence. You have to know some people in the business to understand that it's business. Take away the profit and you've got no incentive.

I don't know when the drug war started. I'm sure it was back in the 60s or 70s sometime. In the Reagan years, our country began to crack down on drugs (pun intended). Then George Bush, the father, had his turn to defeat drugs. Bill Clinton did his best. I haven't seen any evidence that the current Bush puts fighting drugs as a priority. On the other hand, by adding more people to the Border Patrol and Customs, it's likely that more drugs are interdicted.

It seems like the more our country fights drugs, the richer and more powerful the cartels become. It's simple supply and demand economics. The more we restrict the flow of drugs into the country, the more valuable the drugs that get through become. The increased profit is then sufficient incentive and capital to bring more drugs into the country. If you lose some drugs, that's a cost of doing business. You expect some loss. Of course, you reduce your losses by holding the caught smugglers responsible for repaying the loss.

Here is another thing to consider. The cost of entry for new Cartels is too high. In order for a new cartel to enter the market, they would have to buy drugs wholesale, obviously. Can a new market entrant get the same price breaks that the current cartels do? In addition, the larger cartels can afford their own highly trained security and enforcement personnel. New cartels would have to pay a premium to attract talent. You also need to consider that when you buy a corrupt official, you need to ensure that he does not help the competition.

How do you ensure loyalty from a corrupt official? Well, it's simple. You pay him well, and you protect him and his family from rival drug cartels while making it clear that you would not hesitate to kill his family should he step out of line. Obviously, he has no choice in the matter. The decision to be corrupt is not his. He either is corrupt, or he will be honest and dead. So, for a new cartel, the pool of available officials to corrupt is small. All the good ones are taken.

So, on the Mexican side, we have no influence. The whole network is bought and paid. The federal government, despite heroic efforts to contain the situation, are inadequate against a well-financed enemy.

On the U.S. side, we have raised the price of the goods so that substitute products are an attractive alternative. This is similar to when gas was really expensive. Suddenly, bike riding became a viable alternative for transport. So, by raising the price of traditional drugs, we have created a market for meth. Now we have to fight the drugs coming in from abroad AND the ones being manufactured here at home.

Every time we escalate the war on drugs, we are subsidizing the existing cartels by making it more difficult for new market entrants and by decreasing the supply, resulting in higher profit. Not only that, we have created enough incentive for our own people to manufacture drugs.

My solution? None. It can't be fixed. The only way to win the game is not to play it. We should just stop fighting. Let the drugs hit a price floor and end the market. At the very least, legalize marijuana so that it can be grown by every stoner in the country. Why pay for it when you can grow it? Heck, license, regulate, and tax pot so that we can use that money to pay for the drug war (ironic, isn't it). That will effectively put an end to that market. Then, we can focus on the other drugs that aren't made here and keep them from entering the country. But it won't happen. Every respectable politician is going to be against drugs. It's as inevitable as being for clean air, clean water, and wanting to help children. It just sounds good and polls well with voters. So, don't expect our government to solve the problem. After all, Government is subsidizing the kingpins. If I were a kingpin, I would contribute to rabidly anti-drug politicians. Sure, it would hurt my exports, but it also hurts the competition. We are the only ones who can solve the problem. We simply have to stop using drugs. But that won't happen.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Hidalgo County Christmas Party

Listen to Rio Grande Valley news as recorded live.

What I was trying to convey here was that my wife and I attended the Hidalgo County Christmas Party, hosted by Judge Ramon Garcia. Also in attendance was Eric Cardenas. The party included live music and brisket dinner. It was held at the Pharr International Convention Center, which is located right off Hwy 281, North of the Sioux Rd Exit. Towards the end, there were prizes awarded to lucky ticketholders.

Compared to last year, the location was much roomier with more parking. Last year's party at Nellie's Ballroom was great, but a little crowded. Last year's party also had a better band, Latin Beat. In any case, it was fun.
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