Gone West

Month: May, 2009

A Homegrown Terrorism Story from The 90s

I’m putting up another of my terrorism articles as a companion piece to Homegrown Terror

 This one from. . .playboy book of true crime

Toxic Terror.

In it there’s a section on the Aryan Republican Army, aka the Midwest Bank Bandits. At the time “Toxic Terror” was published, the details regarding the ARA’s relationship with Tim McVeigh had not been  sufficiently established. Since then we’ve learned more about McVeigh’s link to the ARA–yet not enough to confirm that members of the ARA had an active role in the bombing of the federal  building in Oklahoma City.

But we will save all that tsuris for another day.


NarcoGuerra Times–Los Zetas News

Two news stories today on the near-mythical Los Zetas. (I’ll be posting much more on them later.)

 Reuters’ Robin Emmott reports from Durango:

A fight for control of the mountainous state of Durango has killed some 235 people this year, a jump in violence that poses a new challenge to troops already struggling to contain bloodshed along the U.S. border.

With only a few hundred soldiers in Durango, drug hitmen from eastern Mexico are taking over towns, kidnapping police, shooting up local government offices and slaughtering rivals.

This means nothing but more grief and aggravation for fugitive Forbes 400  kingpin, Chapo ‘Shorty’ Guzman, who may be seriously considering pulling the cord on his Golden Parachute.

 Meanwhile, the FBI office in Houston sent out a wild nationwide memo sure to scare the shit of an unwitting American citizenry from Anaheim to Alabama–especially those who get their drug war info from CNN’s Lou Dobbs and the Fox News phalange.

The FBI is advising law enforcement officers across the country that a Texas cell of Los Zetas — an increasingly powerful arm of the Mexican Gulf Cartel drug trafficking syndicate — has acquired a secluded ranch where it trains its members to “neutralize” competitors in the United States.

In order to ensure its share of the lucrative illegal drug trade, the cartel’s members reportedly are operating north of the border to collect debts and spy on competitors. They have also protected cocaine and heroin shipments that were bound for Houston, where they were repackaged and shipped on to Alabama, Delaware, Georgia and Michigan, according to the FBI.

The information, which was disseminated Monday to state, local and federal agencies, does not provide specifics, such as the location of the ranch, but includes a notation that the information came from reliable FBI contacts.

Trainees are reportedly taught about home invasions, firearms and ways to run vehicles off the road in order to kidnap occupants who owe drug debts.

Fortunately, Houston Chronicle reporterDane Schiller bothered to pick up the phone and make a call to Texas law enforcement.

Lt. Dan Webb, of the Texas Department of Public Safety’s narcotics division for the Houston regional office, said Zetas do operate in Houston and other parts of Texas, but they try to limit their time on U.S. soil in order to avoid being arrested by authorities who are far less corrupt than in Mexico.

As for whether the organization has a training ranch in Texas, Webb said there have long been rumors, but he is not aware of hard evidence.

“It very well could be true, but as far as us having a location for the ranch, it is all conjecture,” said Webb, who believes it is more likely they train in Mexico than Texas. “If we had any hard evidence, we’d be all over it.”

He said a lot of drug activity by U.S. gangs, such as the Texas Syndicate or the Mexican Mafia, is mistakenly attributed to Zetas.

“We are trying to keep them over in Mexico and discourage them from coming to America in any form or fashion,” he said.

Lt. Webb has this right. The Zetas have no intention–nor need– to engage US law enforcement in shootouts north of the border. These aren’t some wildassed Mexican bandidos led by Alfonso Bedoya.

NarcoGuerra Times–Cartels as Parallel State?



“Mexico has been plagued in recent years by drug-related violence, with powerful cartels battling each other and the security forces, as rival gangs vie for control of lucrative smuggling and distribution routes.

Armed groups linked to Mexico’s drug cartels murdered around 1,500 people in 2006 and 2,700 people in 2007, with the 2008 death toll soaring to more than 6,000. So far this year, according to press tallies, more than 2,300 people have died.”


This requisite wire service boilerplate tagged to every story that runs in the US media doesn’t get near to what is going on south of the Rio Grande/Bravo.

After two-years of  war on the drug cartels–including the military occupation of Ciudad Juarez,– Mexican President Felipe Calderon’s mano dura campaign  has little to show for all the blood and money spilled.

Last weekend an on-the-ground  report from Michoacan  came in that  threw a sobering splash of cold water on Calderon’s claims of success in his narcoguerra.  Fourteen Michoacan journalists interviewed for this report  concurred that the cartel, La Familia Michoacana  controlled at least 85% of the state.  Some said the narcos had full reign. The cartels have agreements with local, state and federal authorities to conduct business–growing marijuana or poppies, transporting and wholesaling the commodities, running prostitution and extortion rackets or whatever other cash-generating enterprise they come up with. 

In Michocan, as elsewhere in Mexico, the cartels muscle regular payoffs from businesses and city and state offcials– essentially taxing the government.  They also kill journalists that displease them or refuse to do their PR work.

But there’s another development  that takes these new  narcos to another, more interesting level where they are functioning  behind populist  ideology and in the case of La Familia, with Bible-based overtones. They refer to their assassinations and beheadings as “divine justice”.  Professor George Grayson provided a detailed backgrounder on them in February at the Foreign PolicyResearch Institute. 

Though a well-respected expert on Mexico who is frequently quoted in the media, Grayson sits on the board of the hardline anti-immigration group, Center for Immigration Studies and thus veers to the alarmist when it comes to the actual threat the cartels pose to the US.  He is an ardent supporter for the militarization of the US/Mexico border.  Last month Grayson said  “I’m with those who think that Mexico poses a much greater threat in the next few years than does Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan combined. And I’m an optimist. I think they (soldiers) are going to be needed soon.”

Which leads to the question: are the Mexican narco cartels functioning as a Parallel State? 

While  “parallel state ” is not  in wide circulation beyond  military, security and intel circles, we will be hearing  it more frequently as narco-fueled events continue to deteriorate in Mexico, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Historian Robert Paxton is credited with coining the term  to describe “a collection of organizations or institutions that are state-like in their organization, management and structure, though they are not officially part of the legitimate state or government. They serve primarily to promote the prevailing political and social ideology of the state.”

For more on this check out Plazas for Profit: Mexico’s Criminal Insurgency an analysis by John P. Sullivan and Adam Elkus  in the April edition of  Small Wars Journal.

As for all the hyper-ventilating regards the cartel invasion of your neighborhood … check this from Tucson.

USA (c’est la même chose): L.A. CA an analog 20th Century note.


Americans, we have long been a happily ignorant, self-inflated people of avarice, violence and carelessness, and are damn proud of it.

A few years ago as I was working a book project on 1970s California (now abandoned)  I came across a sheaf of  yellowed typewritten notes made during the terminal bleedout  of that decade, a gem culled from Stewart Edward White’s 1910 novel The Rules of The Game. White, a popular author of Western novels and spiritualist sagas featuring his wife Betty during the Twenties, describes Los Angeles through the eyes of his Midwesterner protagonist, Bob Orde. In this passage  White foreshadows the maximized all-available inside-your-head oneright-swipeshort con we live today, a digital version of the horseshit laden LA streets of 1910….


“Each extreme of costume seemed justified, either by the balmy summer-night effect of the California open air, or by the hint of chill that crept from the distant mountains. Either aspect could be welcomed or ignored by a very slight effort of the will. Electric signs blazed everywhere.

Bob was struck by the numbers of clairvoyants, palm readers, Hindu frauds, crazy cults, fake healers, Chinese doctors, and the like thus lavishly advertised. The class that elsewhere is pressed by neccesity to the inexpensive dinginess of backstreets, here blossomed forth in truly tropical luxuriance.

Street vendors with all sorts of things, from mechanical toys to spot eradicators, spread their portable lay-outs at every corner. Vacant lots were crowded with spielers of all sorts–religious or political fanatics, vendors of cure-alls, of universal tools, of marvelous axle-grease, of anything and everything to catch the idle dollar.  Brilliantly lighted shops called the passer-by to contemplate the latest wave motor, flying machine, door check or what-not. Stock in these enterprises were for sale–and was being sold! Other sidewalk booths, like the those ordinarily used as dispensaries of hot doughnuts and coffee, offered wild-cat mining shares, oil stock and real estate in some highly speculative suburb.”


California; An Englishman’s Impressions of the Golden StateArthur Tysilio (A. T.) Johnson, 1913




“Here you may dine, if not sumptuously, for ten cents, or the more fastidious may lunch quite delicately for two hundred. A box in a theatre may be secured for a shilling, and it is not worth any more, a volume of Oscar Wilde for a few cents. For a nickel you may purchase a Sunday newspaper which weighs pounds, and the number of whose columns runs into three figures. From almost every open door in Main Street issue the beguiling strains of the gramophone and the automatic piano, each of which eternally strives with the other for the honour of becoming the national instrument of America. If I were a betting man I would stake my bottom dollar on the former’s success. It is, if anything, a more soul-stirring instrument, while the brazen trumpet suggests a martial spirit to the passing eye. Then, of course, there’s the little white dog with his head on one side. ” My ! ain’t that just ‘cute,” the ladies still exclaim when they see him sitting there. But I digress, and must return to Main Street, to the painted ladies in the glass pay-boxes of those popular, clutch-you-by-the-throat, melodramatic picture shows ; to the alluring senorita from Brazil, dark, seductive, and soft of speech, who will tell you all you desire to know, and sometimes a little more, about your dim future, for a modest dime. You can be hypnotised, seated on a chair on the public sidewalk, before a wild, hysterical-looking gentleman for the same little sum. Step inside one of the palatial ” shaving parlors/’ and you can have your chin lathered and shaved by a lady barber who wears an evening dress of a morning, which in itself is an achievement of no mean order. It will cost you a mere fifteen cents. A hair-cut by the same gentle fingers will cause you to part with a quarter (a shilling), but as it includes the shaving of the back of your neck and a not altogether unpleasing halfhour in conversation with one of the ” buds 99 of the Golden West, who could be niggardly enough to question the cost ? Here, also, the stranger may witness a ” continuous performance of the drama of the Garden of Eden, conducted by Darwin, Jr, in which our first parents do their parts with becoming modesty, and wherein the largest snake in captivity (stuffed) exercises his sense of humour by sometimes swallowing the apple himself, much to Eve’s disappointment and Adam’s chagrin. To judge by the crowds who press in to this novel entertainment, it would appear that the earliest romance in human history still grips the public taste. Then, for the price of a morning paper, you can pass the moments being humbugged by a quack naturalist.

Pink Floyd Taka Taka on The Border

While working through my narco blogs out of Mexico this morning–a Zetas fan in Culiacan, Sinaloa offered this gem from Los Chirrines busting it out in Hussongs on the Baja. While the band obviously worked this up for the gringo turistas, the Thatcher-era  anthem also translates into a sardonic head-bopper for the New Gen narcos down South. Begin by substituting “Calederon” for “Teacher, and you get the idea.


My grandfather introduced me to the IWW when I was a boy tagging along at his side on the farm in Oklahoma. He showed me his tattoo.


He told me about being a teamster–not a truck driver–a teamster driving a team of six mules. He told me about Chicago and Haymarket. He told me about the Bosses and their lies. He told me about who really made the wealth, who really did the work in this big world, who put the cars on the road and got  the food on the tables.He was old enough and tough enough to have lived and worked through all that history no longer taught in our American schools.

So for all those who stumble in here that haven’t a clue about why today–May 1– is an international holiday  (except, of course, here in the USA and Canada), here are three videos to explain…