Sunday, July 26, 2009

Marijuana and Narcotic Trafficking Across the U.S./ Canadian Border

Here's a great article about marijuana and narcotic trafficking across the (lightly protected) U.S./Canadian border:

http://www.azstarnet.com/sn/printDS/302366

For my opinion, see my comments concerning marijuana and narcotic trafficking across the U.S./Mexican border in my earlier posts.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The Lure of Money and Marijuana Smuggling in Arizona

Here's the link to an interesting article concerning money and the smuggling of marijuana through the Tohono O'odham Reservation, which is near Tucson, that was written by Brady McCombs and published in last Sunday's edition of the Arizona Daily Star:

http://www.azstarnet.com/altsn/default/newsletterclickthru/300617

My question is: When are we going to learn that the U.S. drug policy concerning marijuana is wrongheaded? (Please see below my previous blogs on this subject.)

Monday, July 13, 2009

What does the acronym LGBTTTIQ stand for?

What does the acronym LGBTTTIQ stand for?

I was familiar with the acronym LGBT over the years, but the whole LGBTTTIQ thing really took me by surprise. (The “Q”, by the way, can also refer to the questioning of one’s own sexual orientation.) The incredible lengthening of this once familiar acronym seems to stem from the fact that some people think that gender is a social construct. Some things may, in fact, be social constructs; but, in my opinion, gender is certainly not one of those things.

So what, exactly, does the acronym LGBTTTIQ stand for? LGBTTTIQ stands for: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transsexual, Transgender, Two-Spirited, Intersexed, Queer (and Questioning).
The definitions of these words, which follow, have been taken from the OK2BME website (http://www.ok2bme.ca/home):

“Lesbian: A lesbian is a woman whose primary sexual and romantic attraction is to other women.”

“Gay: A gay man is a man whose primary sexual and romantic attraction is to other men. ‘Gay’ is also used as an inclusive term encompassing gay men, lesbians, and bisexual people. In the last 20 years, this has become less and less common and ‘gay’ is usually used currently to refer only to gay men. The term is still often used in the broader sense in spoken shorthand, as in ‘The Gay Pride Parade is at the end of June’.”

“Bisexual: Bisexual men and women have sexual and romantic attractions to both men and women. Depending upon the person, his or her attraction may be stronger to women or to men, or they may be approximately equal. Bisexuals are also referred to as ‘bi’.”

“Transgender: 1) Transgender (sometimes shortened to trans or TG) people are those whose psychological self (‘gender identity’) differs from the social expectations for the physical sex they were born with. To understand this, one must understand the difference between biological sex, which is one’s body (genitals, chromosomes, etc.), and social gender, which refers to levels of masculinity and femininity. Often, society conflates sex and gender, viewing them as the same thing. But, gender and sex are not the same thing. Transgender people are those whose psychological self (‘gender identity’) differs from the social expectations for the physical sex they were born with. For example, a female with a masculine gender identity or who identifies as a man. 2) An umbrella term for transsexuals, cross-dressers (transvestites), transgenderists, gender queers, and people who identify as neither female nor male and/or as neither a man or as a woman. Transgender is not a sexual orientation; transgender people may have any sexual orientation. It is important to acknowledge that while some people may fit under this definition of transgender, they may not identify as such.”

“Two-spirited: Two-spirited is a term adopted by some contemporary North American Aboriginal peoples to refer those who embody both the male and female spirit. The term is inclusive and can refer to both sexual orientation and/or gender identity or expression. Therefore, lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, and heterosexual trans-people may all refer to themselves as two-spirited. Terms such as ‘berdache’ have a colonial origin; and ‘gay’ and ‘lesbian’ are, to many people, Eurocentric and culturally irrelevant to Aboriginal two-spirited people.”

“Intersexed: A medical diagnosis that describes a person who is born with physical and/or chromosomal features in which sex characteristics usually considered to belong to distinctly male or female bodies are combined in a single body. Intersexed persons are often subjected to surgical intervention at birth (with or without parental knowledge or consent). The term intersexed is often encompassed under ‘transgendered’. However, while there are some areas of overlap with intersexed and transgendered issues, there are also many areas of distinction.”

“Queer:
1. A political statement, as well as a sexual orientation, which advocates breaking binary thinking and seeing both sexual orientation and gender identity as potentially fluid. Many of those who use the term feel it is more inclusive, allowing for the diversity of race, class, ability and gender that is represented by the LGBTTIQ communities.

2. A simple label to explain a complex set of sexual behaviors and desires. For example, a person who is attracted to multiple genders may identify as queer.

3. Used by some to refer to themselves, the LGBTTTIQ community, a person who is LGBTTTIQ, or even someone who is supportive of the LGBTTTIQ communities.

4. Often viewed as a political statement as well as an identity or label.
Many older LGBTTTIQ people feel the word has been hatefully used against them for too long and are reluctant to embrace it. In addition, because it was used to demean LGFBTTTIQ people, those who do not identify as queer are urged to use the term with caution, or not at all.”

What does the LGBTTTIQ community think that gender is? Here are a couple of definitions of gender which, again, have been taken from the OK2BME website:

“Gender: 1) A socially constructed system of classification that ascribes qualities of masculinity and femininity to people. Gender characteristics can change over time and are different between cultures. Words that refer to gender include: man, woman, transgender, masculine, feminine, and gender queer. 2) One’s sense of self as masculine or feminine regardless of external genitalia. Gender is often confused with sex. This is inaccurate because sex refers to bodies and gender refers to personality characteristics.”

“Gender Identity: One’s initial and psychological sense of oneself as female, male, both or neither. At birth, we are assigned one of two genders, usually based on our visible genitals. For many people this gender assignment fits and feels comfortable. Others do not feel as comfortable in the assigned gender, either because they find the two-gender system too limiting or because they feel more identification with the gender opposite that to which they were assigned at birth. Gender identity does not cause sexual orientation. For example, a masculine woman is not necessarily a lesbian; a feminine man is not necessarily gay.”

And, after reading all of that…it’s really hard for me to know exactly what to say...

Is gender neutrality even possible? No, because neutrality itself is impossible. We always have presuppositions that influence our thinking about the world; therefore no one can approach the world from a neutral perspective. The fact that, biologically, the higher living organisms are of two, distinct kinds (i.e., female and male) renders impossible any attempts on our part to attain neutrality regarding gender.

Certainly all rules have exceptions, even “the rule” of life. But just because some people are born with a confusion of primary and secondary physical sexual characteristics doesn’t mean that gender is a social construct. The overwhelming majority of people are not born with a confusion of primary and secondary physical sexual characteristics; therefore gender—as determined (objectively) by the observation of primary and secondary physical sexual characteristics as belonging to either the one or the other grouping of a certain and distinct kind (i.e., male or female)—is, very simply, a fact (i.e., the rule) of life.

According to the American Heritage Dictionary (4th Edition), the word gender means: “Sexual category; males or females as a group [> Lat. genus, gener-, kind.]”

This is what I said above. Gender is a grouping of kinds, which are either female or male. And these grouping are determined by physical characteristics. There are only two kinds of people in the world: men and women, boys and girls. And everyone knows that.

The definition of gender given above, which was taken from the OK2BME website, states that gender is “[o]ne’s sense of self as masculine or feminine regardless of external genitalia…[g]ender is often confused with sex. This is inaccurate because sex refers to bodies and gender refers to personality characteristics.” But again, according to the American Heritage Dictionary (4th Edition), the word sex means: “The property or quality by which organisms are classified on the basis of their reproductive organs.” I’m sorry, but the only confusion here, regarding the word gender and the word sex, is in the minds of the gender neutralists.

If, according to a standard dictionary, the word gender refers to grouping organisms into the sexual categories of female and male. And, since these sexual categories are based upon the reproductive organs of the organisms, the word gender and the word sex mean the same thing: organisms can be classified as either male or female. The word gender does not and cannot mean “[o]ne’s sense of self as masculine or feminine regardless of external genitalia” nor can it refer “personality characteristics.”

Once we start changing the meanings and definitions of the words we use to communicate with each other, we should be prepared for the inevitable confusion that this will cause whenever we attempt to communicate our ideas to other people.

So, I can’t jump on the whole LGBTTTIQ bandwagon, because I’m not even sure what, exactly, is being said, or what, exactly, the idea the LGBTTTIQ community is trying to communicate with this sort of language (the words of which are not being used according to standard dictionary definitions).

Do I want people to be tolerant of one another, regardless of their sexual preferences or orientations? Sure I do, but I cannot accept the misuse of words and language in order to promote an agenda (i.e., gender neutrality) that has no basis whatsoever in reality and is, in fact, flatly contradicted by an abundance of evidence that is plain for all to see (i.e., that the overwhelming majority of people are (objectively) either male or female).

And it’s no coincidence that the whole gay marriage thing is so controversial. The LGBTTTIQ community has been changing the meanings and definitions of words, which denote ideas, for a long time. What does the word marriage mean? And why does it mean either one thing or the other? The word marriage presupposes the fact that people are of either the female or the male gender or sex, and the word marriage means that two people—one of each sex—are joining together in a social contract, the purpose of which is relational, sexual, and based upon the innate drive to reproduce (marriage is, in fact, a social construct, which is based upon the objective fact that there are only two kinds (male and female) of people in the world. As a society, we may decide that marriage means the joining together of two people—regardless of their sex—in a social contract, the purpose of which is both relational and sexual, and the basis of which (even if homosexual) is the innate human sexual drive to reproduce.

Marriage is a social construct, so we can define it in whatever way we may wish to define it. Currently, the word marriage means: “The legal union of man and woman as husband and wife” according to the America Heritage Dictionary (4th Edition). This is what the word marriage means, and when we communicate our ideas to one another using words we had better be prepared for trouble whenever we change the meanings of those words. The term “gay marriage” is, in fact, a contradiction of terms; because the word marriage means: “The legal union of man and woman [not man and man or woman and woman] as husband and wife [not husband and husband or as wife and wife].”

It may be that the word marriage will take on this additional (i.e., gay) meaning, but it hasn’t yet. And it may never take on this meaning, because social constructs (like marriage) are determined by society and our society may not accept this change in the meaning of the word. The current battle over gay marriage has more to do with whose definition of the word marriage—society’s in general or a sub-culture’s in particular—is more appropriate. It’s a battle of words, which is why I pick on words and their meanings. Whoever controls the terms (i.e., the words and the definitions thereof) controls the debate. And I, for one, don’t care for playing fast and loose with the definitions of words. When the meanings of words differ between individual peoples, who use the same language in order to communicate with one another, they cannot accurately express their thoughts and their ideas to one another. Our common language and our ability to communicate our ideas to one another is one of the most important things that we have as a society. In fact, without a common language, we could not have a society at all.

On religious grounds, as a Catholic, I would oppose gay marriage; but politically—as a libertarian and as an American—I believe that, as long as people are consenting adults and they are not harming innocents by their actions, people should basically be allowed to do whatever they want to do. I mean, who really cares what they do, as long as they’re not harming anyone? I would certainly support civil unions (and the legal protections thereof), but I cannot support changing the definition of the word marriage to mean two people—regardless of their sex—joining together in a social contract called marriage, the purpose of which is both relational and sexual, and the basis of which (even if homosexual) is the innate human sexual drive to reproduce.

That’s not what the word marriage means in our society; at least not according to the dictionary anyway. And I certainly don’t know where else (besides a dictionary) we might look for the definitions of the words we are using.

Friday, July 10, 2009

More on the U.S.-Mexico Drug Trafficking Issue

More on the U.S.-Mexico Drug Trafficking Issue

Here are some interesting excerpts from an article by JJ Hensley in the the Arizona Republic (Dec. 23, 2008) concerning the recent (six months ago) bust of a large Mexico-to-the-U.S.-by-way-of-Arizona marijuana smuggling organization. The article is well worth reading in full, and it can be found at:

http://www.azcentral.com/news/articles/2008/12/23/20081223drugbust1223-ON.html

“The drug dealers had the standard hallmarks of their trade — hundreds of bales of marijuana, fleets of stolen cars, bundles of cash and a small arsenal of weapons.”

(Meaning they are heavily armed and well financed.)

“They had radio towers set up in the desert to communicate with each other, as many as 50 scouts scattered through the rugged border country to direct the operation, and a mobile ramp to help vehicles hop the border fence.

(Meaning they are well organized.)

‘The ramp trucks are new,’ said John Stonehouse, an airborne officer with Customs and Border Patrol in Tucson. ‘The creation of the border fence resulted in the creation of the ramp truck. I'm sure the design was a copy off military ramping systems.’”

(Meaning the border fence isn’t doing the trick.)

“After crossing the border and entering the Tohono O'odham Reservation, the smugglers would stick to ravines and washes as they made their way toward Pinal County under the cover of dark.”

(Meaning that policing this area is like trying to police an ocean (of desert).

“The group, which federal agents linked to the notorious Sinaloa cartel from Mexico, smuggled up to 2 million pounds of pot over the border in the past five years, with a wholesale value estimated at about $1 billion.”

(Meaning the cartel runs a very profitable business.)

“Another organization will likely step up to take over the business of the Garibaldi-Lopez ring, authorities acknowledged.”

(Meaning this same kind of operation continues to go on.)

“The cash that comes from marijuana sales fuels other operations in the Sinaloa cartel's drug trade, which makes pot sales in the state a crucial part of the operation, said Matthew Allen, a special agent in charge with Immigration and Customs Enforcement…Every time they lose cocaine, meth, heroin, they make up those losses by selling marijuana in the United States,’ Allen said.”

(Meaning that marijuana money is venture capital for the narcotics business)

“It took the combined intelligence and resources of all the agencies involved to take down the sprawling drug ring, said Pinal County Sheriff Chris Vasquez, whose jurisdiction encompasses a common smuggling route…With the resources we have, we would make a small — not even a dent — in the amount of drugs coming up through that corridor,’ Vasquez said.”

(Meaning this same kind of operation continues to go on.)

Monday, July 6, 2009

Tucson, Arizona: A High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area

I heard on the news (yesterday) that the Army National Guard is asking for volunteers (from within their ranks) to work the U.S.-Mexico border regions of California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas.No doubt the rising tide of violence in Mexico is causing concern about the possibility of violence spilling over into the U.S. As well as the fact that the Mexican government is having a very difficult time dealing with the cartels these days.

According to the National Drug Intelligence Center, Tucson, Arizona "is a regional-and-national-level distribution center for illicit drugs, particularly marijuana. Mexican DTOs exploit the area because of its proximity to Mexico; the city is located only 65 miles from the U.S.-Mexico border and is situated near the Tohono O'odham Indian Reservation, the Coronado National Forest, and Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument--vast tracts of remote land commonly used by Mexican DTOs to transport illicit drugs into and through Arizona. Tucson's proximity to the U.S.-Mexico border and its access to major interstates and secondary highways render it a key Southwest Border distribution center and stash location."(1)

The devil you say.

Tucson, Arizona is surrounded by an ocean of desert. And there are a lot of smugglers crossing that ocean every night. Too many to stop them all, or even most of them. Okay, there are too many to stop any of them, except for a few. In short, the U.S. drug policy is a proven failure (a proven failure).

True, Latin America does export narcotics; as well as many other (legitimate) products. But, as I've said before (in a previous blog, see http://blogs.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=blog.ListAll&friendId=108766118&page=2) opium (and heroin) sales are a vital sector of the global economy. Meaning that, without those sales, the global economy would collapse.And what about Mexico and all of that marijuana? Do we realize that the legalization of marijuana would deprive the cartels of a good portion of their venture capitol (i.e., the money they need in order to produce and distribute narcotics, and reap the higher profits thereof. Just think, legalization would fill the coffers of the state (through taxes) and deprive the cartels of a good portion of the money they need to produce and distribute narcotics.

What should we do?

According to the National Drug Intelligence Center, the U.S. plans to coninue the fight. Using the military if necessary (and everyone seems to think that it is necessary) because the "Mexican DTOs [Drug Trafficking Organizations] will adapt drug smuggling methods into the Arizona HIDTA [High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area] region both at and between POEs [Points of Entry] in an effort to thwart law enforcement. For example, Mexican DTOs will likely increase their use of subterranean tunnels, small aircraft, cloned vehicles, more innovative concealment methods, and alternate smuggling routes in an effort to circumvent law enforcement and military operations against them." (2)

This sounds like a war that will never end.

The Economic Crisis: A Report From Below

The Economic Crisis: A Report From Below

It’s still dark outside as people begin lining up at the back entrance to the labor hall, which opens at four-thirty in the morning. The people are day laborers. And, if they are hired out to work today, the odds are that the jobs they will be doing will be dirty and very physically demanding—especially when the temperatures are in the triple digits.

If Bill Gates is on the top of the economic ladder, then the day laborer is on the bottom. Ever since ancient times, the day laborer—one who is unskilled in a trade, and who does a day’s work for a day’s pay—has been considered the lowest member of the working class. Even the New Testament includes a parable, spoken by Christ, that makes use of the common practice of hiring day laborers, which Christ uses as a simile for the kingdom of heaven: “For the kingdom of heaven is like a householder who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard” (Matthew 20:1; see 20:1-16).

The good economic news is that there are a lot of people who are willing to work—very hard—for the money that they need to survive. The bad news is that there just isn’t that much work out there these days. This, in itself, is certainly not news (we all know the economy’s bad) but, from the lowly perspective of the day laborer, the economic situation appears to be worsening. There are a lot more people at the labor halls these days, a lot less jobs, and there are more new faces here every day—all of them hoping to be sent out on a job that will put a much needed fifty dollars or so in their pockets at the end of the day.

Working day labor is a last resort for many people, and, when your last resort isn’t working out so well, there are few legitimate options remaining to which one can turn to in order to generate a much needed income. If you’re wondering why the recidivism rates are so high for ex-cons, you need look no further. Most of the workers here at the labor hall desire to work a regular job, but, for a variety of reasons, many of them also have a very low employability status (e.g., poor employment history, criminal background) which hinders them from being hired by many (most?) businesses—especially during periods of high unemployment.
This economic report from below is a discouraging one. The economic outlook is bleak, especially in the construction industry, and it’s the construction industry that provides so many of the jobs the day laborers need. If you think the economic situation looks bad on the news, it looks even worse from the perspective of the day laborer who, though willing to work hard, doesn’t know from one day to the next whether he will be working (and earning money) or not.

There will always be a mutually beneficial symbiotic relationship between the poor and the wealthy: those who are wealthy will always hire those who are poor, and those who are poor will always work for those who are wealthy. And when the wealthy (and the middle-class) are hurting financially, as they are today, the poor are guaranteed to be hurting even more, because they have so much less. Today the day laborer hopes for the wealthy business owner to hire him out, yet the business owner, who is also feeling the economic pinch, simply doesn’t have enough work for him.

In the parable mentioned above, the householder—throughout the course of the day—puts many laborers to work in his vineyard, and he pays all of them the same daily wage, whether they had worked for one hour, two hours, or the entire day. In the parable, those who had worked all day long were angry with the householder for paying those who had worked only an hour or two, or a half day, a full day’s pay even though they had not worked a full day. The wealthy householder (who, in the parable, represents God) chastised those who were angry with him and upbraided one of them, saying: “Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for a denarius [i.e., a day’s wage]? Take what belongs to you, and go; I choose to give to this last as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?”

Through this parable, Christ is showing us how, by having a compassionate and generous heart, one can actually help to bring about the kingdom of God on earth, which is a compassionate world wherein people care more about one another than they do money. From personal experience, I know that some of the business owners who hire out day laborers, like myself, will occasionally demonstrate the same generous and compassionate spirit as that of the householder spoken of in the parable (i.e., that of caring more about people than money) by paying the laborer for a full day’s work even though they have not worked for a full day.
These are tough economic times indeed—the ranks of the poor are growing and the portfolios of the wealthy are shrinking—which can mean only one thing: we are all in this economic mess together, and we will only get through it together if we are willing to act, from a generous heart, with compassion for one another. Although economics may seem like a rather heartless subject, economics is really about people, about community, and about how we choose to live together in a society (the word: economy actually comes from two Greek words: ecos, meaning: house, and nomos, meaning: law, and literally means: the law of the house).

How we choose to act toward one another is crucial to how we will get through this economic crisis. In other words, the best economic indicator of all is to ask ourselves this one, simple question each and every day: Did I act with compassion and generosity toward people today? If the answer is yes, then we can be assured that, however slowly, we are definitely on the economic upswing. But if the answer is no, then the economic downturn will only worsen, and there will be darker days ahead of us. If we really want to get out of this economic mess, we are going to have to be willing to share what we have with those who are less fortunate than we are. Whenever we give, willingly, from a generous heart, we will always gain far more than we have lost.