The hero’s fate.

Well, this is interesting. The Mexican good guys had a big win last week, killing a high-ranking gangster, Arturo Beltrán Leyva, in what is inevitably called “a gun battle.” The soldier who killed him also died in the shootout. Although it’s customary for police and military officers involved in anti-drug work to be anonymous and wear ski masks and other clothing to obscure their identity, once one of them is killed, their identity is made public. Ensign Melquisedet Angulo Córdova was hailed as a national hero. His mother was presented with the Mexican flag at his funeral, in much the same ritual we’ve seen in this country during military funerals.

The day after, Leyva’s henchmen burst into Córdova’s family’s home and killed his mother and three other relatives.

People today use the word “decimated” casually. We forget what it means. Decimation was a specific punishment for one’s enemies, and it meant one in ten — you humiliated and humbled the conquered by killing 10 percent of their soldiers. That was considered punishment enough. What’s going on here is something much worse, a zero-sum game that isn’t, really, because the lesson I mentioned yesterday applies here, too: There’s always a demand for drugs, legal or otherwise, and always a new generation of people willing to take them. Legalize everything and you take the gunplay out of it, but otherwise, there you are.


Hey, it’s the Christmas season! Let’s turn the page and move on to something cheerier! You know the newspaper racket is in trouble when the freakin’ New York Times, home of the top-of-3A daily Tiffany ad, etc. etc., accepts a full-page ad for the Amish miracle-heater fireplace. It’s a throwback to the days when companies would run ads that looked like newspaper copy, because apparently there are still seven or eight suckers who believe that on one page of the New York Times you can read about the al-Jazeera cameraman who spent six years at Guantanamo Bay, and on the next a full page devoted to the “miracle” that an electric space heater enclosed in an Amish-made plywood box can make your heating bills “drop to a fraction.”

One of the funnier moments I’ve spent in the company of Alan’s family came when his sister Jenny related her conversation with Aunt Dorothy, who wanted to order one of the “free” heaters for Jenny:

“I don’t want one,” Jenny said.

“Why wouldn’t you want it if it’s free!?” said Dorothy. (There’s such a perfect logic to this, I don’t know what to say.)

Anyway. The scam of the Amish miracle heater is pretty easy to figure out, if you read above a third-grade level: The Chinese-made heater is just your average 1500-watt space heater, available at any Wal-Mart for around $20. You pay $350 for the “Amish” mantel that goes around it. There’s a website, of course. Poke around in there and enjoy yourself; did you know the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval is “prestigious?” Srsly.

The Amish are no strangers to this sort of thing. Alan once visited an Amish farm in Indiana that turned out olde-timey kountry wagons used in displays at Bath & Body Works. Knock together some scrap plywood, throw on some out-of-round wheels, slap a coat of paint on everything and then turn the kids loose on it — each one was “hand-distressed” by Amish boys and girls, who assaulted it with chains, steel wool, chemicals and whatever, preparatory to its placement in an American shopping mall. I love this country so much it hurts.

Two days left, and my list is painful to look at. Yesterday’s excursion to the mall was fruitless but for the picture of Olga the mannequin in her hello-sailor cocktail dress. The sooner this fashion flies, the better. Kate tried on a dress at Betsey Johnson, just for the heck of it, and looked adorable. Two hundred dollars for a dress seemed a little steep, she said, and of course I agreed. But it’s funny how a Betsey dress can be just as short and just as strapless, but looks fun instead of trashy. That’s why they pay her the big bucks.

Happy Wednesday, whatever yours holds. I’m outta here.

Posted at 10:28 am in Current events, Same ol' same ol' |

35 responses to “The hero’s fate.”

  1. LAMary said on December 23, 2009 at 10:53 am

    Betsey Johnson also makes great costume jewelry. It’s not fake classy like Ralph Lauren or hugely overpriced same old same old sterling silver hoops. My fave earrings for the past two years have been some Betsey Johnson fleur de lis, and yesterday I went all festive in some gold mesh bows with oversized pearls dangling from them. Even superannuated office drones like myself can wear earrings that stand out a little.

    419 chars

  2. moe99 said on December 23, 2009 at 11:08 am

    Happy Festivus everyone! Time to air grievances and for feats of strength.

    75 chars

  3. brian stouder said on December 23, 2009 at 11:13 am

    Well, Mary, given the choice I’d rather be superannuated than decimated (and I bet you have no trouble standing out, when you choose to)

    136 chars

  4. coozledad said on December 23, 2009 at 11:16 am

    The only (mild) reservation I have about sweeping legalization of drugs is the cutthroats move into legitimate enterprises like derivatives, health insurance and banking…
    This country’s appetite for drugs gives the lie to every bullshit claim of exceptionalism, and it’s also laying waste to much of the developing world in terms of political stability, sustainable development, and conservation of environmental resources. The junkie is going to get what it wants regardless of the law. It’s not rocket science.
    I will say one thing for keeping drugs illegal: It helps make up for the shitty salaries policemen draw. It also gives them convenient access to the nodes of organized crime, so they can entertain us with a little demonstration of force every once in awhile.
    Some of my high school friends were low-tier distributors. I remember going to some asshole’s house with them to buy a pound of headache weed and he had a bunch of bagged sawed-off shotguns and .45s laying on the floor preparing to be packed into the trunk of his car and driven to New York. He was a little on edge, but only because of the Feds. He was virtually a member in good standing of the Durham Public Safety Officers.

    1205 chars

  5. brian stouder said on December 23, 2009 at 11:19 am

    Moe – we need a pole!

    21 chars

  6. Sue said on December 23, 2009 at 11:24 am

    “Legal­ize every­thing and you take the gun­play out of it, but oth­er­wise, there you are.”
    Well, not quite. Shouldn’t it be “Legalize everything, try to tax the hell out of it to cover the damage it does and watch it form a lobby that purchases all the elected officials it needs”?
    Sorry, feeling cynical today.
    And am I right that part of the “decimation” thing involved dividing the conquered people into groups and having them choose among themselves the 10% who got “decimated”? Or was that in a book or something?

    530 chars

  7. MichaelG said on December 23, 2009 at 11:58 am

    “Decimate” merely refers to one in ten. As with everything else, procedures varied from place to place.

    Read/watch the media today and you would think “decimate” means wipe out.

    181 chars

  8. mark said on December 23, 2009 at 12:41 pm

    The same crowd that was appalled at the thought of letting adults buy basic antibiotics without the intervention of a doctor is ok with a heroin/meth/cocaine aisle at Walmart?

    175 chars

  9. Joe Kobiela said on December 23, 2009 at 12:49 pm

    Brian @5
    You need a pole? I’m Polish, will I do?
    Pilot Joe

    60 chars

  10. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on December 23, 2009 at 1:06 pm

    Have you ever seen the clown car act at the circus, where it simply can’t be possible for that much to come out of such a little space?

    Well, that’s all i’ll tell you about the next-to-last stage of my sinus surgery, other than *four* *blinkin’* *times* — yikes, whatever my doc gets from the insurance isn’t enough, but he wouldn’t let me wash his car on Christmas Eve. Seriously, i asked — after inhaling deeply for the first time in this blinkin’ century, i’d have done the whitewalls and detailed the fenders (not the carpets inside, still can’t turn my head around that much).

    Thanks for all the kind messages and words and prayers; I’ve got no feats of strength to speak of this week in me, after losing 14 lbs the hard way, but a Happy Festivus to all, and to all a good Sprite! (And Merry Christmas to anyone who wants one, and assorted Holiday best wishes across the board.)

    893 chars

  11. mark said on December 23, 2009 at 1:10 pm

    I’m happy things are working out so well for you, jeff. May the new year be a healthy one for you.

    99 chars

  12. Dorothy said on December 23, 2009 at 1:40 pm

    I’m so glad to hear all that Jeff. My hubby had sinus surgery about 23 years ago and I know of what you speak (think: yardage). Merry Christmas to you, and lots of happy thoughts and wishes go out to all of my friends at nn.c.

    228 chars

  13. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on December 23, 2009 at 1:41 pm

    I’d assume the newly legalized drugs wd be behind the counter with the pharmacist, and the stoner/junkie crowd would have to wait behind half a dozen grandmas just like i do for their meds.

    “Uh, i’m here for a quarter kilo, here’s my scrip.”

    “All right, that’s all in order. Would you like to speak to the pharmacist about your drugs?”

    “Uh, whaaa . . . uh, no i guess not. I mean, is he like bored or something?”

    “No, it’s just something we have to ask. Just sign here, and here . . . and let me swipe your card. Next?”

    532 chars

  14. beb said on December 23, 2009 at 3:10 pm

    The murder of the Mexican Marine’s mother and other relatives is horrible. I don’t think criminals ever had much honor but the movies have always told me that good crooks always leave the families of their enemies alone. Clearly the Mexican druglords are no Godfathers. I am all for legalizing pot. I don’t smoke but I’ve never heard of any lasting harmful effects from using it. I’m less sure about cocaine or heroin or meth. I may be Ok with legalizing coke but not the others. Then again, as Nancy says, legalize the drugs takes the money out of it and once the money is taken out of drugs the druglords are going to have to find something else to import.

    658 chars

  15. Sue said on December 23, 2009 at 4:18 pm

    Good golly, those Michigan people are tough:

    117 chars

  16. brian stouder said on December 23, 2009 at 4:19 pm

    You need a pole? I’m Pol­ish, will I do?

    Joe – always!

    Say – what’s your educated guess on that AA crash in Jamaica? My uninformed ground-pounder guess is – wind-shear. They say the (left?) main landing gear failed on the runway; sounds like they smashed into it, and then skittered from there

    310 chars

  17. MichaelG said on December 23, 2009 at 5:24 pm

    Go ahead and legalize drugs. All of them. Would we really have more people abusing them than we do now? Use the money saved for education and treatment. Problem is the drug enforcement machine would never let their livelihood go away. Think of all the people who would be out of work if we legalized drugs.

    311 chars

  18. ROgirl said on December 23, 2009 at 6:06 pm

    Balloon Boy dad sentenced to 90 days in jail, mom got 20, they can’t earn any money related to the stunt for 4 years, they will be have to reimburse authorities for the cost of it (tbd).

    186 chars

  19. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on December 23, 2009 at 9:12 pm

    Jamaica didn’t sound much more complicated than hydroplaning and locking up the brakes. It’s amazing what they’re doing with airframe construction — much of that design work coming out of {koff koff} Purdue University aeronautical engineering.

    Watched 20 mins of the John Hughes 90’s “Miracle of 34th St.,” and were driven to pull out the 1946 just to get the taste out of our mouths. Ah, “latent maniacal tendencies.” Me and Kris.

    438 chars

  20. brian stouder said on December 23, 2009 at 10:19 pm

    IFC ran “Heathers” this evening, which I had never watched, although I had vague memories that it stirred people up, back in the day.

    The somewhat cold-hearted comedy was just pulling me in, when the two main characters commit a murder (which they get away with) – and the thing lost me, and I remembered more clearly why people objected to the damned thing in the first place.

    More precisely, I retreated to Rachel Maddow’s show (which was very good this evening) and popped back during commercials, only to note that the thing had become even colder and darker (involving dynamite and suicide on the suburban Columbus high school’s premises).

    Of course, as 2009 ends, we’ve seen (how many?) horrendous real-life mass killings at high schools and colleges.

    Even 20 years ago, though, this thing was (at best) in very poor taste.

    By way of saying, if we have to have trashy movies in our culture, gimme gratuitous sex over glamorized murder

    958 chars

  21. Joe Kobiela said on December 23, 2009 at 11:01 pm

    A little too fast on a wet runway, hydroplaned got a little sideways gear collapses from side stress. Just a guess.
    Pilot Joe

    135 chars

  22. Kirk said on December 23, 2009 at 11:10 pm

    I won’t be near a computer tomorrow. Merry Christmas, everybody.

    64 chars

  23. Dexter said on December 23, 2009 at 11:29 pm

    Wishing all nnc-ers a Merry Christmas . Travelling to Toledo just ahead of the ice storm tomorrow afternoon, according to The Weather Channel. We already have had far-away visitors come and go most of the day, some from Las Vegas, some from San Diego, and some from Fort Wayne.
    My favorite Christmas memories are from the Christmas mornings when we stayed home, but those days are over as kids move away and have kids, and those kids have a chance to open their presents at their homes.
    The best Christmas memories are of watching our kids open their presents when they were little. Ya can’t beat that.

    612 chars

  24. moe99 said on December 24, 2009 at 12:08 am

    Agree, Dexter. I’ve been going through old photos and the Christmas ones are truly fun to look at, again and again.

    Now for you Detroit Lions fans–is Barry Sanders truly the best NFL running back ever?

    280 chars

  25. Julie Robinson said on December 24, 2009 at 8:53 am

    For those inclined, here’s a link to the King’s College Cambridge Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols:

    Hymns and lessons, all in beautiful English accents. My favorite moment comes right at the start when they point to a choirboy and he soars away with “Once in Royal David’s City”. Better than most Christmas Eve services I have attended.

    Blessings of the season to all whatever your beliefs.

    470 chars

  26. crinoidgirl said on December 24, 2009 at 11:06 am


    Yes. Possibly the only good thing about the Lions since their last championship in 1957.

    And happy winter solstice to everybody!

    139 chars

  27. brian stouder said on December 24, 2009 at 11:06 am

    And the same to you and yours, Julie (and everyone else)

    56 chars

  28. MarkH said on December 24, 2009 at 12:39 pm

    What Dexter and moe said. I am blessed to have those Christmas memories as well, and the photos to go with them.

    We will have 17 assorted children and grandchildren with us through the weekend, and all the joyfull clutter that goes with such an occasion.

    Less than average snowfall (so far) for us in the Yellowstone region, but lower than average temps, too: -12 this morning. We usually get consistent sub-zero starting in two weeks throgh early Feb.

    Be well and safe travels, everyone!

    497 chars

  29. MarkH said on December 24, 2009 at 12:52 pm

    Wouldn’t allow me to edit #28 for some reason, but almost forgot:

    Merry Christmas!

    85 chars

  30. 4dbirds said on December 24, 2009 at 1:53 pm

    Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and Happy Festivus to everyone.

    63 chars

  31. joodyb said on December 24, 2009 at 3:08 pm

    Merry Christmas, everyone. Grateful for you all.

    48 chars

  32. Jolene said on December 24, 2009 at 3:34 pm

    Merry Christmas to all. Am glad to have found this little corner of virtual reality.

    85 chars

  33. Deborah said on December 24, 2009 at 3:43 pm

    Just back in Abiquiu after getting sort of snowed in, in Santa Fe. We went to pick up my daughter in Santa Fe (Little Bird, she took the train from Chicago, she hates flying). The highways were awful between Abiquiu and SF going in and we didn’t want to chance it after dark, black ice and all, so we stayed in SF last night. Glad to be back, very sunny and bright but cold. Tonight the village church in Abiquiu has what they call a Posada (spelling?) it involves bonfires, never been to one before, it will be right next door to us so we’ll stop in. The owner of this place where we are staying left us some farolitos to put out (paper bags with candles in them), And midnight mass is at 10 tonight. I think we’ll skip that this time since I got very little sleep last night in SF, the hotel was stifling hot and had really bad food at the hotel restaurant, way too much garlic, the kind from a jar. About 8″ on the ground, just amazingly beautiful.

    Merry Christmas, to those who observe, and happy holidays to all.

    1021 chars

  34. Dexter said on December 24, 2009 at 8:07 pm

    We made it to Toledo ahead of any weather, and the horrible ice still hasn’t appeared here at all. Got a meteorology lesson from Pilot Captain Steve, explaining how we missed it. High pressure, low pressure, wind, jet stream….
    We had huge shrimp on ice with red sauce with the kielbasa, vegetable tray, chicken , macaroni and cheesecake, eatin’ good…the parents are building a gingerbread house with the little ones and I am streaming Pandora Christmas tunes and sipping some of the old chai. Ahhhh….presents exchanged in the morning…now to track Santa on this computer! Ho Ho Ho !

    594 chars

  35. Rana said on December 25, 2009 at 12:30 am

    Merry Christmas, and a belated Solstice, and a happy holidays all round. Time for bed!

    87 chars