South of the bloody border.

It’s a big country, and what happens in one part of it doesn’t always make the front pages in another part. So those of you who live along the Mexican border will have to tell me — is the criminal unrest in Chihuahua and Sinaloa making the American papers down there? Because my night job involves farming news with the search term “drug,” I read something almost every night that makes my jaw drop and skin crawl.

Drug-trafficking organizations are warring for control in these and other Mexican states, and the corpses pile up like cordwood. The WSJ reports the body count for 2008 was 6,616, and 354 for the first three weeks — yes, weeks — of 2009. These aren’t just-business Mafia-style hits of a couple slugs to the head, either. In fact, many victims lose their heads entirely, a favorite way to send a message. The same WSJ story said one police commander’s head was left in a cooler in front of his police station, with a calling card from one of the cartels. Bodies routinely show marks of torture, and no one is immune — women and children are regular targets. Reuters moved a story last night about the appeal of the drug lifestyle to the poor but beautiful girls of Sinaloa, where beauty pageant audiences are filled with drug lords shopping for girlfriends. Sometimes, the story said, they take them directly from the runway to a life of indolent luxury:

Such high-profile murders did not deter 18-year-old beauty pageant winner Emma Coronel from marrying (high-ranking drug lord Joaquin) Guzman, who is three times her age, in a lavish secret ceremony in 2007, not long after he escaped from the prison where he and Hernandez were lovers.

Culiacan residents say they sometimes spot Coronel at the salons that do eyelash implants and decorate false nails with garish designs or photos of loved ones. Local reporters say her parents feel like they’ve won the lottery.

Of course, the concern is that this level of violence, so close to the U.S., could easily cross the border. (Needless to say, we’re the destination of the cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine and other drugs being produced in Mexico, and these operations are well-established here.) A NYT story earlier this week offers this stark contrast: El Paso, Texas, is considered the third-safest city in the United States, while Juarez, right across the Rio Grande, had 1,550 drug-related homicides last year. The story said the Bush administration had a plan to send more agents and troops to the region, should the fighting spill over to the American side. But fans of “The Wire” and public-policy debate will appreciate this blackly comic detail:

The conflict in Juárez has led some in El Paso to propose radical solutions. In a symbolic resolution of support for Juárez, the El Paso City Council recently voted unanimously to ask Washington to consider legalizing drugs as a way to end the violence. “We think it should at least be on the table,” Councilman Beto O’Rourke said. On Monday, the Council backed down after the mayor vetoed the resolution and local members of Congress warned that the Council’s stance might imperil federal aid.

The council said: “Think about it.” Congress said: “Don’t even.”

That Wall Street Journal story quotes Gen. Barry McCaffrey, the former drug czar, from his assessment of what Mexican police are up against:

“The outgunned Mexican law enforcement authorities face armed criminal attacks from platoon-sized units employing night vision goggles, electronic intercept collection, encrypted communications, fairly sophisticated information operations, sea-going submersibles, helicopters and modern transport aviation, automatic weapons, RPG’s, Anti-Tank 66 mm rockets, mines and booby traps, heavy machine guns, 50 cal sniper rifles, massive use of military hand grenades, and the most modern models of 40mm grenade machine guns.”

And my ex-congressman thinks the answer to this is: A wall. Good luck with that.

Well. Didn’t want to bring you guys down on a spectacularly bringin’-down sort of day. Seventy-five thousand jobs lost, justlikethat, yesterday. I tried to tally up how much of our discretionary spending could be curtailed in the very likely event we’re included in the carnage before year’s end, and came up with: Not bloody much. Cable, cell phone, gym membership, a few meals out — it doesn’t add up to more than a couple hundred bucks a month. The fixed costs aren’t lavish — our mortgage payment wouldn’t get us a two-bedroom apartment elsewhere in town, but they are fixed. You gotta have a roof and a couple meals a day, after all. I keep reading about how this is all the fault of “our” greed and “our” unwillingness to live within our means, but I’m not the one with an $87,000 rug or a frequent-flyer account at Hermes, so please — include me out.

I’m telling you: President Obama? A few public floggings? Would guarantee you not only a second term, but perhaps a rollback of the 22nd amendment and probably a jeweled crown.

Ah, I’m just another whiner in a nation full of them. We send our good thoughts to Deborah, our NN.C community member, facing a big announcement in her own office today. Fingers crossed all over for her.

Have I crushed your spirit yet? I don’t mean to. Every so often you look around and see the funniest things. In these long, dark winter evenings, Kate and I have taken to watching “Wheel of Fortune” and “Jeopardy” again, a reprise of her third-grade year, before Zack and Cody co-opted her. (Also, my former colleague Lynne McKenna Frazier was on last week, and though she didn’t win, I send her belated congratulations on making the cut and answering some toughies.) Last night the winner on “Wheel” was a gay man, accompanied in his victory dance by “my fiancee, Chuck.” It was so sweet and normal you couldn’t help but smile.

In the darkness, we see shafts of light. The days are getting longer. More layoffs ahead, but maybe we’ll survive it after all.

Off to the gym to sweat it all out.

Posted at 9:32 am in Current events |

57 responses to “South of the bloody border.”

  1. Randy said on January 27, 2009 at 9:44 am

    My city is big enough to have a long-established and thriving drug trade (like most cities), but some people just won’t believe it’s happening. A 20-something guy went missing last year, and was found 6 months later, stuffed in a barrel that had floated to the surface of a lake. He’d been shot twice in the head. His girlfriend and parents remained adamant that he was a victim of mistaken identity. And a lot of people and media wondered what kind of world we live in where innocents could be taken out like that. Then we found out he’d been dealing for a long time, and had gotten way over his head with unpaid debts. So, um, yeah.

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  2. Deborah said on January 27, 2009 at 9:46 am

    Passing the time waiting to be called for that special meeting this morning, so I’m checking out my favorite blogs. Who cares who sees me doing it?
    We have land in Northern New Mexico and I read NM newspapers on line. I hadn’t heard about those slaughters. I do know that the area of NM where our land is has a big drug problem. There was a bust last year across the highway from the turnoff to the dirt road that leads up to our property. We could watch the drug deals with our binoculars whenever we camped on the land (really creepy). The police are often in on it (that’s what the neighbors say anyway), so it’s hard to get anything done about it.
    I can’t wait for this day to be over.

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  3. mark said on January 27, 2009 at 10:09 am

    Good luck deborah. And, while you have a little time on your hands, let me recommend the google sidebar ads on this blog. Absolutely fascinating. Hats, hats, hats. Really. You and everyone else should check them out- many times.

    Seriously, best wishes for you.

    Edit: OK, the hats are gone. But now you are just a click away from Turbo tax. Well worth a click. Very timely.

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  4. lisa said on January 27, 2009 at 10:09 am

    my brother works for Honda, in Marysville, Ohio. They are not union. Honda has taken all it’s employees down to a three day work week and have taken away all OT forever. A guy, Mike, came into my workplace last Thurs and told me this “i am going to lose $27,000 a year since Honda has taken away all our OT… regular pay (about $30 an hour) keeps me in my home and keeps me in my truck and i lived off of my OT and now i do not know what i am going to do”.
    Scary. Scary. Did you see “60 Minutes” on Sunday where they had a segment about DHL and basically the entire town of Wilmington, Ohio is jobless since DHL is out of business.

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  5. Jolene said on January 27, 2009 at 10:29 am

    I caught the 60 Minutes piece, Lisa. Heartbreaking. It’s online at

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  6. Gasman said on January 27, 2009 at 10:41 am

    Here in New Mexico, the people who live down south along the border with Old Mexico are more than a little nervous. The fear is that the crime will work its way across the Rio Grande. I think that a more reasonable fear is that the violence has gotten so bad that the federal government of Mexico might just be swallowed up by the drug cartels and we’d be left with a North American version of Somalia right next door.

    For nearly two decades I’ve refused to cross into Mexico, and the crime and lawlessness has grown exponentially worse since then. In El Paso, standing along the Rio Grande you can see some of the reasons that Mexico is such fertile ground for the unfettered rule of the drug cartels.

    El Paso is a fairly normal looking and feeling U.S. city, albeit really hot in the summer. Juarez, however, is like nothing that we are familiar with. From the relative safety of our side of the border you can see mud huts with no windows, ratty curtains in place of doors, dirt floors, donkeys tethered out front in place of cars, surrounded by the ubiquitous Juarez dusty dirt. Even their dirt is dirty. This is third world poverty at our stoop. Ain’t no wall that can solve this problem.

    Unless we can address the corruption of federal and state governments and do something to lessen the abject poverty that is strangling Mexico, the narcos will continue to gain power and continue their murderous reign. The druggies offer the poor an economic step up. When rich flashy narcos provide the only way out of this stifling poverty, is it any surprise that the cartels are so powerful?

    Meanwhile, we’re staying north of the border.

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  7. LA Mary said on January 27, 2009 at 10:44 am

    We do hear about the drug murders and kidnappings in Mexico all the time, but it’s not played up much. It’s just mentioned, if you know what I mean. It’s not a lead story.

    I spent last Friday working with the 96 folks we laid off, trying to find other jobs in the company they might fit into. I know we won’t be able to accomodate all of them, but we’re trying. I feel pretty safe, but I know others in my deparment who are not. A couple of them have been slackers, so unfortunately, they have marked themselves for the first round of cuts, but for the most part, it’s just a question of numbers: how much will cutting them save, how much do they produce.

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  8. Jolene said on January 27, 2009 at 10:44 am

    I might add that the same 60 Minutes show had a segment on whether a two-state solution to thw Israeli-Palestinian conflict remains possible was also fascinating. I had no idea the West Bank settlements were so extensive.

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  9. moe99 said on January 27, 2009 at 11:12 am

    wrt to tightening the belt exercises, I was reminded that my father’s parents (Paulding, Ohio) sold their Lake Hamilton vacation home at the heighth of the Depression for $2,000. It was on the lake, and my fahter had many happy memories of hanging out there as a kid. I wonder what we will be forced to do these days.

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  10. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on January 27, 2009 at 11:14 am

    Re: Mexico, can i suggest a counterpoint (sadly, not a contradiction) entitled “Another Mexico” by Carlin Romano that appeared in “The Chronicle Review” Jan. 16, 2009 issue? It’s pay only online, but it was a bracing read over the weekend in print — reminding all and sundry that Mexico has a huge, vast, rich, ancient literary tradition that is still quite at the heart of Mexican culture, including one of the largest book fairs in the world (yep, as big as Frankfurt), operated by the Unversity of Guadalajara.

    If anyone can find a public access link, it would be worth posting . . . much of the intro to the article is an expression of regret and frustration on the part of Mexicans that so many only see their nation in terms of illiterate immigrants doing yard work and drug cartel violence, which oddly enough is mostly right up against the northern border . . . so whose violence is it, anyhow? But “Literary Mexico” is not an oxymoron — think Paz, Fuentes, Esquivel.

    Then two two themes intersect with Roberto Bolano’s 2666. My head is still reeling from that book (in English translation, he admitted regretfully).

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  11. mark said on January 27, 2009 at 11:23 am

    My loathing for Nancy’s former and my current congressman knows few limits, but I don’t think even he has suggested that a wall along our border with Mexico will change the balance of firepower between the Mexican government and the drug cartels or alleviate the third world poverty gasman describes. A wall is intended to slow down the illegal immigration into the US from our southern border.

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  12. brian stouder said on January 27, 2009 at 11:28 am

    OK – so my spirit was crushed, but then I read this article

    about the rocky economy’s effect on tv advertising (think “Sham-wow”) – and I had to laugh at this passage:

    More than a few viewers, for instance, have recently become acquainted with Vince Offer, the headset-wearing huckster for ShamWow, a dishrag that “holds 20 times its weight in liquid.” Offer’s two-minute spot has been on and off the air for the better part of a year; it’s now a classic, with YouTube parodies and untold numbers of fans. But Offer seems as relentless as rain now, and just as inescapable. Morning until night, you can watch him mopping up spills with the confident demeanor and rapid-fire patter of a carnival barker: “Dis is for da house, da car,” he says in his distinctive New Yawk accent. “Are you gettin’ dis, camera guy?”

    Vince Offer??!

    And do you know the name of the owner of the Baltimore advertising company that produced Offer’s campaign?

    Jeff Order! Really! (you could look it up!)

    It reminds me of Nance’s ruminations from before the crash, when scrap metal prices were so high that some particularly brazen people in her city (then at the vanguard of our national onset of Hard Times) took to simply scrapping out empty homes in broad daylight.

    By way of saying, when she writes her quirky novel about the journey of a Baby Boomer/yuppie from the go-go ’80’s into the Yes We Can 21st Century (with stops in a No You Won’t Indiana city, and a We Once Did major industrial has-been), she should name one of the daylight scrappers some thing like Bill Brazen or Juan Pipes.

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  13. nancy said on January 27, 2009 at 11:40 am

    Souder never said a wall was the answer to drug violence, true. But he has said that our policy toward Mexico has to start with a wall, which strikes me as ludicrous. The amount of bloodshed — and our complicity in it, and yes, I realize most people reading here aren’t drug addicts — should put the idea in even his thick skull that there are no simple answers to complicated problems. But maybe I overestimate him.

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  14. alex said on January 27, 2009 at 11:41 am

    Speaking of Congressman Souder, I heard that petulant turd in a sound byte on local television this morning:

    “How dare Obama tell us who we can or can’t listen to?”

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  15. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on January 27, 2009 at 11:48 am

    Complicity = Drug War.

    The Iraq war made more sense than the War on Drugs does, and we’re doing worse and causing more collateral damage on the latter than we have on the former. And for the record, the only drug i’ve ever used is Caffeine. I mainline, but that’s not important right now.

    I/we are complicit in the Drug War, even if crackheads all aren’t we. But . . . i’m not sure putting increased border control measures, like building some stuff, at the front end of the process, is entirely ludicrous. OTOH, building a big honkin’ wall, and still doing all we can to keep drug prices high and profitable with our national drug policy, is just begging criminals and others to get ever more creative about evading it (go Google “underwater craft smuggling florida” for the tech level they’re getting into down there). Yes, i’m saying broad, general legalization — and taxes! Wheeeee . . . OK, taxes, bad, drugs, bad, but jail and fines is just making a mess of our law enforcement system, let alone Mexico.

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  16. mark said on January 27, 2009 at 11:50 am

    You underestimate the thickness of Souder’s skull. But if you need an expert on putting Reagan on the dime, fooling with DC gun laws, or raising the cost of VN and Thailand sex tours for Japanese businessmen, he’s the go to guy.

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  17. Michael said on January 27, 2009 at 11:51 am

    In the area of discretionary spending I “fired” Comcast yesterday. It was a very liberating feeling. I’m going to read more books in the evening instead of watching movies.

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  18. Sue said on January 27, 2009 at 11:54 am

    Sort of off-topic, but maybe not: After reading a five-part series in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel about drunk driving in WI, and then seeing a website section devoted to followup information, including a blog area and information on elected rep stances on various aspects of the series, I emailed one of the reporters and asked if JS was consciously devoting resources to investigative journalism. The reporter replied:

    “I am happy to say that yes, we have a dedicated investigative team with eight reporters (I am among them) and one fantastic editor.

    The rest of our newsroom staff is also encouraged to do in-depth and investigative work.

    Here’s a link to a column our managing editor recently wrote about our paper’s commitment to investigative reporting:

    Also, I am sure you have seen our watchdog page, but in case you haven’t, you can check it out here:

    So, what’s the verdict, all you reporters out there? Is this unusual, maybe some good news on a bad day?

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  19. Julie Robinson said on January 27, 2009 at 11:59 am

    A friend’s husband has worked for a printer for maybe 35 years. Everyone in the shop has been reduced to 30 hrs/wk, with the understanding they will probably be reduced again. They are still giving them full benefits though, and no one has been completely laid off.

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  20. Kirk said on January 27, 2009 at 12:10 pm

    Watchdog and investigative journalism, the kind that gets laws changed and puts people behind bars (or gets them out, if they were wrongfully convicted), is what newspapers can do that most other media can’t or won’t. Newspapers with a clue are stepping up such efforts. We’ve done so in Columbus.

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  21. nancy said on January 27, 2009 at 12:26 pm

    What Kirk said. These are no-brainers. The opposition mainly comes from “change agents” like Lee Abrams and Randy Michaels, the Tribune Co. looters of the franchise consultants, who are concerned that some staffers might work on these projects for a long time before they produce anything. Typical efficiency experts, they don’t understand that investigations take time.

    I’m hoping their contract is up very soon.

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  22. alex said on January 27, 2009 at 12:44 pm

    Jeff (tmmo), you may bristle at the comparison, but some applaud the result of Roe v. Wade precisely because it takes the profit motive, and thus the criminal element, out of a “vice” that will always be in demand no matter what the laws are.

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  23. Catherine said on January 27, 2009 at 12:48 pm

    The Great Depression is what finally led to the end of Prohibition — governments needed the sin tax revenue. Maybe the current economic fiasco will provoke a pragmatic look at legalizing drugs. Instead of a net drain on government resources, drug taxes could be a net gain.

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  24. ROgirl said on January 27, 2009 at 12:59 pm

    I took those steps to cancel my cable and I’m downgrading on my gym membership to a cheaper no-frills place.

    Since I don’t have the spare bucks to spring for an HDTV I had to rummage around the basement for my old Radio Shack rabbit ears to plunk on top of the telly. Now I can get 3 stations in Detroit (Fox, WDIV, WXYZ) and a fuzzy but viewable CBC. I went on the dtv website to order a discount coupon for a converter box, and of course there are no more coupons left, so I’m on the waiting list. I read this morning that the conversion is going to be delayed until June, so maybe I’ll get a coupon before then. When it comes down to it, the only things I really miss without cable are Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert (OK, Top Chef and Project Runway too), and their broadcasts are available online. I dropped HBO after the Sopranos ended. I don’t miss the bloviating blowhards on the political shows, or the sleazy reality show participants either.

    My gym membership is what I’m really going to miss. It won’t be the same at a different place. Sigh.

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  25. Gasman said on January 27, 2009 at 1:07 pm

    Anybody that thinks a giant wall along the border is going to solve anything is extremely deluded. The Berlin Wall was regularly breeched and it had machine gun turrets, mines, and lots of dogs guarding it. Nobody is proposing that level of security along our wall. I find it highly ironic that one of the utterances of Ronald Reagan that is most cherished by conservatives is, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” So, what is their solution to immigration? Build an even bigger wall. This doesn’t seem to mesh with the notion of democracy espoused even by Reagan.

    The conservative boondoggle wall also ignores millennia of regional history. Migration across this region has been constant long before Columbus and his pale crew landed on this continent. Add the inexorable economic pull of our society upon the enterprising poor south of our border, and no physical barrier will stop them. I guarantee that we lack the political will to commit to the level of troops and resources that it would take truly shut the border down.

    The recent lessening of illegal immigrants doesn’t have a damn thing to do with the partial wall; it is a direct response to our economic woes. Historically, the same downturn in immigrant labor corresponds to every severe downturn in our economy.

    So, there are two surefire ways to stem the tide of illegal immigrant workers: 1) make sure our economy is in the toilet, 2) or, help our southern neighbors strengthen their economies at home, providing economic opportunity for people in their own countries. I’ll vote for option 2 please.

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  26. Kirk said on January 27, 2009 at 2:28 pm

    For you Abe Lincoln buffs. This is pretty interesting:

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  27. Deborah said on January 27, 2009 at 2:37 pm

    It’s 1:30 and I’m still here. As far as I can tell no one got the ax today. It makes me mad because we all know it’s coming, we just don’t know when. This will be the second wave, they already got rid of slackers in the first wave, now they’re cutting off arms and legs. But the project work has slowed way down. Many clients canceled their design projects for obvious reasons (except the guy at Merrill, who had his office renovated for over a million). So basically we’re all tap dancing to look as busy as possible and scrounging for any work we can find out there. I’m the design director of the graphics group, for a little while longer anyway.

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  28. KarenNM said on January 27, 2009 at 2:47 pm

    I grew up in Las Cruces, NM, about 30 miles north of El Paso/Juarez, and my family still lives in the area. Trips to Juarez used to be a part of the itinerary whenever visitors would come to down, and as a high school and college student I made a couple of idiotic trips down to the clubs that cater to kids under the US drinking age. Now days people aren’t making trips to Juarez, not even during the day, not even to shop just across the bridges. Folks seem more likely to hop on a plane to Cabo for the weekend than drive to Juarez for cheap booze.

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  29. JGW said on January 27, 2009 at 2:48 pm

    We went the ditch the cable route last summer and it’s been O.K. I bought a decent antenna since I’m 40 miles or so from the Ft. Wayne broadcast towers. I got a Winegard Square Shooter if anyone is looking for an antenna. The real issue for most people who get broadcast T.V. is going to be the antenna and aim.
    I’m upset that the switch is delayed. I acted early and now I’ll get to enjoy a longer delay for FOX since too many people didn’t act on time. Here the FOX affiliate is still broadcasting a low power signal and since I haven’t seen a non-fuzzy Simpsons or Cops in months I was eager to see them finally take action on going full power. Now they can procrastinate longer.
    I have found with Hulu, SciFi, and some other websites that I don’t miss much. I have figured out how to do bit torrents so the range of content is amazing.
    My final steps to complete my entertainment package will be either AppleTV running Boxee software (frees you from only using ITunes) or just some media server. Last month I ran ethernet cables from the router to each TV in the house.
    It took the return of Battlestar Galactica to get me moving on torrents. I figured it all out to see some really dark episodes. I encourage everyone to watch. The writing is great, it’s very well acted, and no character is safe.
    Two weeks ago a longtime character shot herself out of the blue, Adama tried to goad Tigh into killing him, the 13th tribe turned out to be a tribe of cylons, and earth was a nuclear wasteland. Ohh, and Starbuck found “herself,” dead and burned her own body… What the Frak?

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  30. del said on January 27, 2009 at 2:49 pm

    Brian’s comment about the ShamWow guy Vince Offer’s popularity makes me wonder, as people lose their jobs will the bad jobs of the past be resurrected? Will Amway and and Fuller Brush make a comeback? Or is the 21st century the time for human signage only, like the $5.00 pizza, the statute of liberty tax return biz? Bring on Change.

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  31. Catherine said on January 27, 2009 at 2:50 pm

    Having been through more rounds of corporate layoffs that I care to count (my favorite was when I was 8 months pregnant! nothing like interviewing for new positions wearing a navy blue tent), I have a just a little advice:
    1. Make friends in finance, especially with the people who do budgets. They can’t save you but they can give you the heads up.
    2. If a friend says it’s time to brush up your resume, listen. People may not be able to tell you what they know but hints will be dropped. At the same time, don’t look for deeper meaning in everything.
    3. Keep a stash of red wine and homemade brownies in your desk.

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  32. Connie said on January 27, 2009 at 2:55 pm

    Amway make a comeback? They never went away, they just call themselves quixtar instead.

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  33. John said on January 27, 2009 at 3:04 pm

    homemade brownies

    Maybe the magic variety?

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  34. brian stouder said on January 27, 2009 at 3:12 pm

    Kirk – interesting link. First place I read about the threat from Junius Booth upon President Jackson was in American Brutus, a book about J Wilkes Booth. The letter was judged to be a joke – although it will be interesting to see why this (or these) historian(s) have now decided otherwise. Booth’s dad was described as eccentric, and a friend of Jackson’s. Jackson certainly would never have been a fellow to seriously threaten; he participated in many duels, and took bullets and other injuries, without hesitation.

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  35. Catherine said on January 27, 2009 at 3:13 pm

    John, whatever gets you through. What are they gonna do, fire your ass?

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  36. brian stouder said on January 27, 2009 at 4:05 pm

    By the way, I DO think the ongoing civil disintegration and warlord activity along the southwest border of the United States is the “dark matter” within our political and social future; it is exerting gravity and affecting how things progress even now, even despite that we (collectively) aren’t paying attention.

    These insurgents are as horrible as any of our jihadist enemies, lopping off heads somewhat indiscriminately, and literally watching them roll (at a disco, in one recent story).

    In fact, one can read stories such as the ones Nance pointed out in Proceedings magazine, and the effect is oddly nostalgic; they are very like stories one saw in the mid-90’s, about this or that Sheik or Mullah, who executed this or that action plan against an embassy or a barracks…or a US naval ship being refueled in a distant port.

    In the old-old days, a Soviet Secretary or a Chinese Chairman would ‘test’ a new president. More recently, murderous cave-dwelling scions of Saudi construction fortunes and their Egytpian concubines make a point of ‘releasing’ video jeremiads every so often, just to remind us that we haven’t yet found the right rathole.

    One wonders how long before some Mexican or Central American warlord determines that he really needs to twist our tail, in order to consolidate his grip on the drug market

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  37. Dexter said on January 27, 2009 at 4:16 pm

    My cable & ISP are bundled, damned if I give up either. My bachelor brother dumped cable, bought the new box for digital broadcast, and returned it and is going totally TV-free, forevermore.
    We’ve already cut back so much…we only eat out once a month, we sold the extra vehicles and we drive ten-year old hoopdies, we shop at Aldi’s, we cut and sacrifice everywhere, but damn, I NEED my Sundance and IFC channels to maintain a modicum of being alive! I need my computer because this is the modern age…it was very difficult to keep up with mail-order prescriptions and other business issues when we were transitioning to a new computer for ten days.
    I was the driver for my bro-in-law today , he had an eye procedure over in Defiance, and I saw CNN’s seg on $100,000 jobs, for the taking! Some I recall are plumber, $130 grand a year, court reporter, $120,000 a year ($ really, you ask? YES!), police detective, $104,000 a year (where? I asked!) So there you are! Money for the asking!

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  38. JGW said on January 27, 2009 at 6:13 pm

    The broadband issue was the thing that had us married to the cable company but we solved that by pursuing “naked DSL” ( no phone) which the phone company here (AT&T) offers but doesn’t promote. It’s my only luxury. I pay $45 a month for the fastest DSL they offer. If I needed less bandwidth I could get their slowest DSL for $15, but between 3 hard-wired computers, a PS3, and various wireless laptops and the I-Pod Touch, we use a lot, especially since we stream a lot of videos.
    For the phone we use a pre-paid cell as our “home number.” It’s really only for texting and brief incoming calls. Between the double minutes for life plan and a website that offers promo codes for extra minutes and service, it’s cheap, perhaps $22 a month. I actually get mad at my kids if they load minutes without checking for new promo codes.
    My wife uses truphone on her I-Pod for cheap calls. It’s a VOIP app. Turns the I-Pod Touch into an poor man’s IPhone without the service plan. It works on the IPhone also, so you can make VOIP calls from any hotspot. We never go anywhere but I’m told it’s the killer app for anyone who travels overseas or is in the service. Calls are 6 cents a minute from anywhere. Not a great deal from my living room, but it’s kind of cool at Burger King, very cool on a road trip if you just park outside a hotel…
    Our “home phone” is a Magic Jack. Yes it works, very well! It’s cheap (like me), and the only drawback for us is we have a different area code since they don’t offer 260 yet.
    I guess we all have different priorities but when we cut to the bone the internet was something no one here will sacrifice.

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  39. alex said on January 27, 2009 at 6:35 pm


    I think I want to be a court reporter. (Besides, when I look at transcribed depositions I’m always amazed at the things mis-heard by reporters.) Definitely something to consider as part of my bear market backup plan.

    Otherwise, I don’t have an overpriced cable TV package to shed. I tried a very cheap pail of laundry detergent recently that makes my clothing and bedding smell like mosquito repellant. I tried corned beef brisket from Wal-Mart and it was like chewing a giant loogie. Frankly I’d rather be filthy and starving than have to adjust to subpar merchandise like this.

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  40. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on January 27, 2009 at 6:51 pm

    Alex, that’s an interesting comparison (ref’n waaay upthread), and i promise to think it through — something feels not quite parallel about abortion and drugs, but i’d expect me to say that!

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  41. Deborah said on January 27, 2009 at 8:28 pm

    I hope you don’t think I’m one of those folks who confuse New Mexico with Mexico because they are out there. When I tell some people I have known that I’m going to NM for a vacation they always assume that I’m talking about old Mexico and in the winter they think I’m going where it’s really warm and tropical. I have to explain that the elevation is up there and it’s closer to Colorado.

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  42. Bill said on January 27, 2009 at 10:23 pm

    Ready for this?

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  43. alex said on January 27, 2009 at 10:44 pm

    Bill, it looks like she dragged that wrinkled suit out of one of the garbage bags at RNC headquarters.

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  44. joodyb said on January 27, 2009 at 11:10 pm

    court reporting school is not for the faint of heart. my sister was among the best in ny, had to retrain in new tech a few years ago. 250wpm or some such ridiculous fig is baseline to certify. she crashed and burned right after her fresh schooling when a virus caused nerved damage in her right hand.

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  45. joodyb said on January 27, 2009 at 11:11 pm

    edit: that suit was a poor choice for any photo. it’s supposed to look like that. then again, it isn’t.

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  46. moe99 said on January 27, 2009 at 11:23 pm

    JGW: Let me second the recommendation of Battlestar Galactica. I dropped direct tv this fall after my youngest went off to college and so my friend Anne and I catch it on Sat nights on the computer– It’s terrific. I can’t imagine why those interested in eschatology would not find this absorbing to the nth degree.

    So you don’t think Dee was a cylon?

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  47. Rana said on January 27, 2009 at 11:51 pm

    What’s bad about that suit is that its texture matches the background of the website!

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  48. joodyb said on January 28, 2009 at 12:01 am

    Rana, that’s what it is. i hate that puckery fabric anyway. for the ultra-svelte only. which raises other objections. but i could go on and on.

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  49. JPK said on January 28, 2009 at 12:20 am

    I think Jeff TMMO has it right re: the War on Drugs. It’s way past time to get real about marijuana (I may, unlike Jeff, not be entirely disinterested on this one, but nothing would please me more than to pay the taxes on a regulated product that comes with clearly defined expectations and standards of usage). Other drugs, notably the stimulants such as meth and the cocaine derivatives, are genuinely dangerous, but outright criminalization does not appear the way to go — unless we think continuing to build prisons and house unfortunates there the way we do is going to provide infrastructure stimulus (my guess: not). At this point, it’s practically empirical: the whole WoD thing is stupid, expensive, ineffective, and not a luxury we can afford any more. It’s just another artifact of failed wedge politics.

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  50. Dexter said on January 28, 2009 at 1:25 am

    check out this link…did the anti-coalers hack the Trib?,0,1352378.photogallery

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  51. Dexter said on January 28, 2009 at 1:31 am

    Finally, some good news out of Michigan! ( At least for 2 men)

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  52. JGW said on January 28, 2009 at 5:20 am

    Moe –
    Dee was no cylon, she was just a fox that was tired of being hunted and running, so she swam into the currents and rode the tide out to sea. But even knowing some spoilers I didn’t see that coming.
    I keep preaching the BSG message here because there is no show more reflective on humanity, the war on “terror”, and faith. And no show as willing to twist the knife and sucker punch the viewers.
    This week a dead character was revealed to have been cheating on her (cylon) husband and having a kid with someone else.
    This is a show worth checking out. Bear in mind – the last writers strike was basically over BSG and the “webisodes.” The strike was to resolve issues over online content and viewers.
    I have to respect the cast and crew. In the first season NBC Universal begged Ron Moore (producer) to lighten things up, have an episode where the characters celebrate something. After a lot of nagging he gave in, the pilots had a party to celebrate a 100th landing by a newbie. A bomb fell off an ammunition rack, rolled across the floor, and killed 14 people, mostly pilots. It was like the volleyball scene in top gun if all that sweaty gayness was followed by a bloodbath. NBC stopped offering show ideas after that.
    For someone to get a taste of the show without all the backstory, get a hold of “Razor.” It was a movie on DVD they released that stands on it’s own. The miniseries is a good start also, but it doesn’t even hint how dark the path ahead will be, which is a reach since it starts with a nuclear war.

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  53. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on January 28, 2009 at 7:21 am

    What do you guys have against seersucker?

    Alex, my answer to your query/comparison will get me ice balls thrown from snowforts on both sides. IMO, Roe v. Wade is a “dead decision walking” because Blackmun wrote a forced opinion based on un-science — he was trying hard, but his legal creation of the non-existent category “trimester” was based on a picture of fetal viability that i can respect . . . except that medical technology was already making it nonsensical in ’73, let alone today. So Roe has to give way to something, sooner or later.

    What will get me thrown out of most orthodox pro-life gatherings is that i’m sympathetic to the spirit of what Blackmun intended: i think that civil society needs to allow early stage medical procedures within a cautious legal framework, even if some, let alone many religious bodies are personally opposed to what we’ll call early stage abortion (i’d not support, promote, or encourage them pastorally, but that’s a separate discussion from whether i can theologically oppose something and still tolerate it as legal, which i can and do all the time).

    If you concede that, and most Americans do, in general (pro-life & pro-choice “work the refs” by spinning poll data so much it’s hard to say “what Americans think about abortion”), the sticking point is later stage, post-viability abortion. The idea was supposed to be, though Justice Blackmun, that allowing legal abortion early was being traded for creating a framework for legal controls of later “term” abortions. With Doe v. Bolton and following lower court decisions, that isn’t how it worked out. We got a largely “abortion on demand” legal structure from conception to birth — the most expansive of anywhere in the industrialized world.

    So we’ve spent 35 years trying to stuff part of this genie back in the bottle, and i understand the absolutism that motivates both sides, but there’s a compromise coming . . . except.

    The whole “unwanted children” thing — i do find the spike in child abuse issues post-73 potentially indicative, especially when you add in how often in the sadder side of my day job i actually hear parents say to kids “i shouldn’t have even had you.” We could hand out condoms all day in high schools and not affect the social harm done by the fact that abortion is birth control for many, many people, and that’s a problem. It creates a mindset towards children and choices and life that has a ripple effect that’s more like a wave. As i may have said here before, i left seminary pro-choice, and work in housing and social service issues made me pro-life, watching how “choice” actually worked out in people’s lives.

    Some pro-lifers will read this and say to me “well, if you’ll accept something that you acknowledge is killing, and that acceptance contributes to the coarsening of the culture around life, then how are you pro-life?” Well, the questions around what it means to abort viable fetuses still haven’t hardly been debated, so i don’t think we can even slap labels on sides and factions yet. “Haven’t been debated?” you ask with bemusement? Well, no, not in the vast actual reality of the problem. It keeps getting spun as all about a frightened girl in college with a single missed period, or a 45 year old with a dreadfully ill baby inside her who might kill her in another week, but who can’t find a doctor to perform intact D&E because of those mean awful pro-lifers.

    “Hard cases make bad law” said Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., and that was never so true as on abortion. Alex, i think it should be illegal to kill a child who could live outside of the mother. Period. To clarify that, i think pro-lifers should, as you suggest, accept legal structures that allow early post-conception procedures that end the pregnancy, then we can politically just argue about how to pay for that, which will disturb some of us, but others hate paying taxes to pay for the Marine Corps, so it should even out.

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  54. beb said on January 28, 2009 at 8:17 am

    1. Late term abortions almost never happen and when they do it’s usually for sound medical reasons. Late-term abortions is a made-up issue. It was never a problem and only exists now in an attempt to find some area where where the public would accept a ban on abortion, the proverbial camel’s toe in the tent.

    2. Viability has not been pushed back more than 24 weeks (third trimester) despite a lot of medical advances. The fetus is simply too undeveloped to survive on its own. Even the ones that survive in the 20-22 weeks prermature range are severely damaged — for life. So Bllackmun’s trimester approach to abortion was very sound, very pragmatic.

    3. Far too many of the people arguing against abortion turn out to be opposed to all forms of birth control and sex education. Their agenda appears to be more anti-woman then anti-abortion.

    4. Schools handing out condoms? I wish!

    5. Remember Dan Quayle? When asked what he would do if his daughter decided to have an abortion. He said he would stand by her decision. The next day his wife corrected him, that they were anti-abortion. It would appear that even when someone is anti-abortion, it’s OK to get one if you are family. I have never respected anything said by Quayle, except that one, because he was speaking as a father not a politician.

    6. Polls show that the nation favors abortion. That’s not spin.

    7. Ultimately abortion is about woman’s sovernity. It’s their body; it’s their life. If they can’t be allowed to make decisions about their life, their body, then they are not full citizens. Forcing women to have babies they don’t want is worse than slavery.

    8. No one has ever changed their monds from a discussion of abortion. The two sides never stop arguing. Neither side ever conceeds that the other side might have a point. Discussions of abortion will kill this blog. Nancy, please step in and kill this now!

    9. Seriously, boss. It’s a killer.

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  55. mark said on January 28, 2009 at 9:04 am

    That’s funny. “This topic is toxic. So as soon as I’ve had my say, let’s agree that nobody should be allowed to discuss it.”

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  56. brian stouder said on January 28, 2009 at 9:22 am

    Here is a true-life incident, that just occurred.

    We got 6 or 8 inches of fluffy snow last night and this morning, and it’s still falling. I happened to gaze out the window of our office, and saw a new black Honda something-or-other, well and truly stuck in a snow bank at the entrance to the parking lot. Two well-dressed fellows were ineffectually pushing a bit, while a third fellow spun the tires.

    Well, several of us put on our coats, and went out there to help push, and before long we had them out…and the driver promptly backed through the main track and into another snowbank – and we all massed again and pushed him out of that one and back into the track. They drove in, parked the car, and came into the building for their business meeting.

    And the kicker of the story?

    These fellows were our bankers!

    Anyway – it made me laugh!

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  57. Steve said on December 12, 2009 at 7:06 am

    There are a lot of everyday Joe’s out there who have worked in the same industry all of their lives and now that the economy has taken a turn for the worse are walking around like they are just completely lost. Is this what America has become now? I have always thought of Americans as the strong ones who in the face of adversity will re-create themselves and move on. I truly believe that Americans have gotten very lazy for the most part due to being over paid and having the luxury of living beyond their means for far too long. The strong, versatile and creative Americans will survive and the others will suffer in this global economic situation. Just because you have been employed in the same industry for years does not mean that you are now not able to re-create yourself and move on? Sure you may not make the money that you were once used to, but that was yesterday. Americans..Look forward not backwards.

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