SHOT AT THE DNC in Denver this week. It looked like these 9/11 Conspiracy wolves were ready to tear Michelle Malkin from limb to limb. This whole episode reminded me of the 1960s civil rights confrontations, and as I sense it we will see more of this behavior writ large. You know, wolves will be wolves, and bullies will be bullies, no matter what the conflict...
I mean, what do people like this lead bully expect to accomplish? That Malkin would suddenly be addressed by a shaft of light, fall to her knees, tearfully repent of whatever opinions she may have held, and convert to this wolf's version of cocksure dogma? Makes for engaging TV, I suppose, is the fragile logic working here.
These sorts of bullies stalk their prey, unfortunately from both sides of the divide. As the song says, "This is not America."
An excerpt from my poem "Died In My Mouth" by an earlier me, circa 1980. I was then 25, a budding poet, and a fearless hunter standing among the breeze-swept reeds of Corpus Christi. My, how times have changed. I am no longer fearless.
And the saint thus Spoke scantily to the prophet: "He who demoralizes another "Can claim no morality for himself." To this the prophet said nothing, but He knew in part the saint For a shanty fool.
(And the unfed, Left to perish among The unwelcome, left to ravish The beauty of beast, and the beast Of beauty, established Many fine logics.)
I fell blank at such a formula— Asses built on caged numbers observed, Deserved and dirty word reserved For quaint molecules and family, Where my occupation is a gift to anyone Stroking along fishy fables, Mentality tables, cradled Images, daisies, nightsies, Keepsies.
I am the yellow sheep I can’t earn my keep Proving the fallibility of this text World without maps World without worldliness Matterhorn
My mind, an accurate page. My head keeps to its own symbol, There is no comfort.
I wonder what proof died in my mouth.
Of course, a well-fed fellow, whom I think makes his living on the micophone shocking fans and foes alike under the name and out of the mouth of Alex Jones, suddenly appears to protect the mousey but outspoken Ms. Malkin. The crowd begins to stir in a different direction, and everyone with a pair in that crowd seemed to sense, jerks on either side could quickly become the mob...
Thanks for replying so thoughtfully to my post. I would like to comment on what you wrote. Your comments pique my interest on just what kind of disagreements might have been responsible for the group's demise. "Noisy self-interest" covers a lot of ground. It seems to me that in the aftermath of the fall of communism disagreements on the left compounded. 1938 brought a similar crisis to the left.
For or against Stalin. Three years earlier Breton's Surrealists experienced a similar debacle. There was no bridging the gap between the poet's investigation into experience and the Party's requirements of practical administration. But it arguably brought to light an irreducible toggle at the very core of the revolutionary project: does the collective or the individual have the ultimate say in charting direction of the revolution? The Surrealists never satisfactorily resolved this problem, and even as late as 1952, Breton indicated that his answer to the question "does the revolution require that social liberation must occur before individual liberation can?" was yes. I don't believe he really thought out all the possible implications that attend to this issue.
She, too, decries the "creeping individualism" that has seeped into the discourse on May '68 and related phenomena. But that is material for another post. The thing that is important now is to indicate just why Stirner is not just another apologist for the small-time shopkeeper. The key point has to do with the irreducible toggle in the individualism/collectivism question: can I keep my own prerogatives intact if I allow a collective entity to be primary in my own mind and, by extension, in the world?
If social liberation is primary, doesn't it follow that individuals are reduced to an instrumental role? This question goes to the core of the entire Marxist project. My reference to your manifesto being "a little too sweeping" should be explained, I suppose. What I meant was that to assert that nothing of note has happened since the, what? The 1947 International Surrealist Exhibition perhaps?
Was going a bit too far. Personally, I find some of Matta's 1960's works a real extension of the Surrealist outlook. Even Pop has a role in furthering our ideas of personal liberation. Of course, I look at the best of Pop as being heavily laced with irony, so that it can be read as a critique of commodity capitalism. I agree with you the the "balkanization of the universal" is something we need to transcend. I too am an autodidact, to a large degree. I do have 24 semester hours' credit from Roosevelt University in Chicago dating from 1972-74.
My first great epiphany came at attending the Marcel Duchamp retrospective at the Art Institute of Chicago in March 1974. His work and life showed me that formal education provided more obstacles than opportunities. I find academia to be one of the principal obstacles to both individual and social transformation. My second great epiphany came from understanding the intimate connection between Duchamp and Max Stirner in 1989. My course has been set ever since. The bulk of the fruits of my interest in this connection is forthcoming, but it won't be too long now.
You really shouldn't lift whole sections of material from the Encyclopedia of Philosophy on Stirner and present it as your own thought, although you chose a reputable source. George Woodcock, although prone to some of the same collectivist biases as so many other commentators on Stirner, did do a pretty good job at characterizing his thought. I guess you're already surmising that I vehemently disagree with your characterization of Stirner as "yet another status quo philosopher". Your evaluation sound a lot like Karl Marx's ideas on the subject, and I am painfully aware that the situationists used Marx as their basic philosophical substrate.
I believe we are not so very far apart philosophically. Breton, as well as Francis Picabia, Max Ernst and Duchamp, all found Stirner to be quite compelling. It is only a question of continuing to resolve all the inconsistencies attending to the implementation of collectively constituted projects that keeps us from moving forward.
Do you know a book that came out in 2002 by Kristin Ross called "May '68 and its Afterlives"? She, too, decries the "creeping individualism" that has seeped into the discourse on May '68 and related phenomena. But that is material for another post. The thing that is important now is to indicate just why Stirner is not just another apologist for the small-time shopkeeper. The key point has to do with the irreducible toggle in the individualism/collectivism question: can I keep my own prerogatives intact if I allow a collective entity to be primary in my own mind and, by extension, in the world?
The answer, I'm afraid, is no, and if this is true, then my own instrumentalism at the hand of the collectivity is inevitable. This engenders what Stanley Milgram (yes, that Milgram) calls the "agentic state", in which I sign away my right of decision in favor of one "in authority". I presume you are aware of the infamous Milgram experiments of 1960. One look at the results of these experiments should be enough to convince that ours is not a world in which "enlightened" egoism rules, only the debased kind, the infantile kind. Where vulgar egoism leaves off, Stirner begins.
It is possible to trace a trajectory of an increase in "affective individualism" (as the historian Lawrence Stone terms it), beginning in the late 17th century, and continuing up to the present time. Kinship ties have weakened, and individual prerogatives strengthened, in a fairly unbroken progression ever since this began. One of the main problems, in my opinion, is that this process has only gone halfway through its cycle. Individual empowerment is what we all need, not a centralized plan of forced income redistribution. This will only result in endless counterrevolution. It is moralism run wild, what confounded the French Revolution and the communist one as well. Collectives that legislate what's good for the others against their consent is no good.
Self-directed anarchism could avoid these problems if brutality could be expunged from the consciousness of the millions. That “if” is so big you can drive a truck through it, I know. But the revolution is impossible without it. Start small, get bigger. Revolution from below. I believe we are not so very far apart philosophically. Breton, as well as Francis Picabia, Max Ernst and Duchamp, all found Stirner to be quite compelling. It is only a question of continuing to resolve all the inconsistencies attending to the implementation of collectively constituted projects that keeps us from moving forward. Only. We are not talking small-time stuff here, n'est ce-pas? Please respond if you care to.
Culture spreads across the Americas, winning recruits who see L.A. as the promised land.
By S. Lynne Walker
HondurasMarlon Fuentes is a big man in his cell block at Honduras' largest prison. His face is tattooed. His talk is tough. He menaces with threatening stares. A gang member from Hollywood, Fuentes spends his time behind bars impressing Honduran "homies" with his exploits in California. He joined Los Angeles' infamous 18th Street gang when he was 12, was arrested for selling dope and brandishing a deadly weapon, then deported in 1995. Fuentes, 27, is the United States' violent export, a Honduran citizen shipped home under an immigration policy that Central American governments insist has helped spread the deadly gang culture throughout the Americas.
From Honduras to Hollywood and back to Honduras again, Fuentes moved in a distorted world where gang members identify themselves with tattoos and build networks via the Internet that bypass international borders. Two decades ago, gangs were rare in Central America. But in the mid-1990s, the United States stepped up deportations of criminals, many of them gang members from the 18th Street and rival Mara Salvatrucha 13.
Today, gangs are Central America's No. 1 crime problem. Thousands of violent young men experienced in handling sophisticated weapons and evading law enforcement have been sent back to countries they haven't seen since they were children. Some are dropouts. Many barely speak Spanish. They survive by building networks of teenagers who are abandoned, unemployed and devoid of hope.
For these new gang members, as well as the deported veterans, the goal is the same: to make their way back to the United States and reach the gang mecca of Los Angeles. L.A. gang members teach their new recruits what they know bestrobbing, stealing cars, selling drugs and, sometimes, killing. "We've done a great job of exporting the gang culture all over the world," said Al Valdez, supervising investigator of the Orange County District Attorney's Office gang unit. "Now the gang phenomenon is international." Today, more than 35,000 youths are members of gangs in Honduras, a country of 7 million people. El Salvador has approximately 30,000 gang members and Guatemala has 14,000.
In Mexico, where nearly 1,000 Central American gang members have been arrested in the past two years, gangs are taking hold in cities on the southern and northern borders, including Tijuana. The deportations haven't slowed the growth of gangs in the United States. Since 1992, the number of gangs has increased 625 percent, according to U.S. immigration officials. The National Youth Gang Center estimates the United States now has 750,000 gang members. California has roughly 365,000 members, 100,000 of them in Los Angeles County.
Every state in the nation now reports being plagued by gangs. "I sound like Paul Revere riding across the country and shouting the alarm, 'The gangs are coming. The gangs are coming,' " said Los Angeles Police Chief William Bratton. Gang members deported from the West Coast sometimes sneak back across the border and head for East Coast cities. Since they are not known by local police, they can extend the reach of their gangs into virgin territory.
"We're everywhere," boasted a Mara Salvatrucha 13, or MS 13, gang member in Los Angeles. "Honduras, Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico, L.A., Washington, New York, Denver. There's a few in Missouri. There's homies in Canada, too. Wherever we go, we recruit more people. There's no way they can stop us. We're going to keep on multiplying." Gang experts said U.S. immigration officials failed to anticipate the effect of deportations on other countries.
"The world is too global to export a problem and not expect it to come back," said David Brotherton, a professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York who has authored two books on gangs. "In El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, there's a whole new inner city youth subculture that originated in the First World," he said. "We've created this insoluble problem and these countries can't respond. There's no social work infrastructure. There's no rehabilitation. There's no money. They have enough trouble just providing basics for their own people."
For Central America's countries, the problem is certain to grow early next year when the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, launches a nationwide gang-enforcement program. "We're trying to come up with ideas and different strategies" to combat gangs whose violent activities "pose a serious threat to national security," said Michael Keegan, the ICE spokesperson in Washington, D.C., on gang enforcement. Already, ICE agents are patrolling U.S. cities and rounding up foreign-born gang members.
In Charlotte, N.C., more than 100 gang members were arrested during an ICE operation last year. In San Diego, ICE agents arrested 45 gang members during a five-week operation in October and November. In Los Angeles, where more than half the homicides are gang-related, ICE set up an international gang crimes unit three months ago and began exchanging intelligence with the police department. Bratton favors the new initiative. "I think deportation works," he said. With more gang members being sent home, Central American countries are desperately searching for their own strategies to combat gang violence.
The Honduran congress last year unanimously passed one of the toughest anti-gang laws in the hemisphere. El Salvador followed suit with its own version of what has become known as the Mano Dura, or "firm hand" law, which allows police to detain any young man with a gang tattoo. Mexico's southernmost state of Chiapas moved in that direction in May, approving five-year prison sentences for simply belonging to a gang. The crackdown has raised international concerns that gang members are being hunted down and killed by police.
Even so, governments throughout the Americas are pushing ahead to forge a united front against the 18th Street and MS 13 gangs. Mexico City's former police chief spent a week in Honduras earlier this year studying gang-fighting methods. El Salvador's consular representatives in Los Angeles recently asked L.A. police officials for a briefing on their anti-gang strategy.
In the South Bay, gang investigators from Torrance, Redondo Beach and Inglewood met earlier this month for a two-day workshop that drew law enforcement officials from across the nation. The focus was on the MS 13 because the gang is "up and coming," said an Inglewood detective who asked not to be identified. "We'd better know who we're dealing with. If we don't, we're going to get saturated." Gang violence touched Torrance in May, when a suspected gang member was shot at Sur La Brea Park.
The Torrance Police Department was so concerned about the potential for violence during a hearing on the case earlier this month that 10 officers were sent to the courthouse. Torrance Detective Henry Flores said as law enforcement cracks down, "gangs are migrating and continuing their criminal enterprise." Every time gangs are uprooted, they surface in another neighborhood, another city, another country. They move with the assurance that no matter where they go, fellow gang members will feed them, house them, orient them and possibly provide them with weapons.
As the gang culture spreads, people in the Americas find themselves linked in a new and uncomfortable way. Residents are frightened to walk their neighborhood streets at night, police aren't adequately staffed or trained, parents are grief-stricken by the senseless deaths of their children.
From Honduras to Hollywood the story is the same. Residents watch with fear, frustration and helplessness as gangs take their neighborhoodsand their childrenaway. Melrose Hill is an idyllic Hollywood neighborhood of bungalows and vintage streetlamps, a showpiece listed for historic preservation. Last year, Los Angeles Magazine called the 42-home neighborhood one of the 10 best in the city. But at night, when residents of this tight-knit community lock their doors, they hear gunfire in the distance.
The MS 13 has encircled their neighborhood, making it an island of middle-class American life in the center of random and relentless violence. Hollywood is home to the largest MS 13 clique in Los Angeles. Gang members drift in "fresh from Central America," police say, and stand outside the Hollywood Video near the corner of Santa Monica Boulevard and Western Avenue until a homie steps out of the shadows to help them. "There's another world around us," said a lifelong Melrose Hill resident who asked not to be named for fear of reprisals against his family.
"You see what's going on in the surrounding streets, you see young Latino men posturing and you think, 'Oh, God.' And you drive on. You wonder if the prudent thing wouldn't be to flee like other white people." A woman was shot in the head just a mile from Melrose Hill last year as she drove her husband and three children home after a Thanksgiving dinner.
Police suspect an MS 13 gang member from El Salvador fired the fatal bullet. At Melrose Hill Neighborhood Organization meetings, the gang problem is always at the top of the agenda, said Brian Brady, 48, who has lived in the neighborhood for 15 years with his wife and three children. "Everybody knows they're not going away," Brady said. "If there's an answer to this problem, then it's pushing them to other places because there are always going to be gangs."
A few miles away, Hollywood Boulevard has become the 18th Street gang's turf. The gang members hawk their drugs and sometimes shoot at rivals who slip in among the hundreds of thousands of tourists passing through every year. Frank Flores, 30, who works the gang detail in the LAPD's Hollywood precinct, has seen scores of immigrant children join gangs, get arrested and then get sent back to countries they barely remember. "We have seen some who've come full circlehere in L.A., deported, then back again," he said. "It's frustrating."
Jorge Potter is one of those who has come full circle. After being deported in 1989, the Hollywood gangbanger introduced the 18th Street gang to his neighborhood in the Honduran city of San Pedro Sula. Potter's role as an 18th Street leader eventually made him a target of Honduran police, so he returned to the United States illegally and made his way back to Hollywood. There, Potter said he had a religious conversionthe only way a gang member can leave his gang without being killedand started working in a Hollywood discount store.
In June, however, he was deported to Honduras again. He was detained by immigration agents in Las Vegas, where police had twice arrested him on misdemeanor charges. Potter said he was going to divide his time between working at a clothing factory and witnessing to youths in San Pedro Sulawhich now has one of the highest murder rates in Latin Americaabout the evil of gangs. But when he stepped off a chartered plane guarded by U.S. marshals, he was wearing a muscle shirt that showed off his elaborate tattoos, including the number 18 tattooed on his right arm. His voice carried a touch of pride as he talked about his gang. "The 18th Street is No. 1 in Los Angeles," said Potter, now 36. "It's the biggest in the world." Latino kids living near downtown Los Angeles formed the 18th Street in the late 1960s to defend themselves against established gangs.
The MS 13 sprang up in the late 1980s, created by the children of Salvadoran immigrants who fled to California during a bloody civil war. The MS 13, which now operates in 30 states, is "a little more violent and a little more calloused" as well as more experienced in protecting members than its 18th Street rivals, said Joseph Esposito, one of the top deputies in the hard-core gang division for the Los Angeles District Attorney's Office. "If their members commit serious crimes, they are organized enough to move them to Minneapolis or Seattle or another city and start an enclave there," he said.
Jessica is a member of the MS 13, born in Guatemala and trained in the streets of Los Angeles. She has been the target of gunfire more times than she can remember. She is also a full-time office worker and the mother of an 8-year-old daughter. She came to Los Angeles when she was 5 years old, brought by her mother, who saw Los Angeles as a city of endless opportunities. While her mother struggled to support the family, young Jessica discovered a different Los Angeles. She started touching up her eyes with heavy black liner and slipping into gangster clothing after she left home in the morning. Eventually, she stopped going to school and started hanging out. She took a 15-second beating during an initiation ritual when she was 14 and became an official member of the Mara Salvatrucha 13.
Now 26, Jessica has survived longer than most of her homies. But her safety zone has been reduced to a series of city blocks whose boundaries are set by rival gang members. "On every block, on every corner, a homie has gotten shot and killed," said Jessica, who asked that her last name not be published for fear of losing her job. After 12 years as a gang member, she can't decide which direction her life should take. "Being bad is so easy and being good is so hard," Jessica said. "I get bored by the routine. For me, it's the street, the adventure, the thrill of danger.
People tell me that to change I have to get away. But I like being here. "Anyway, I'd probably go to another state and find the 'hood again. You can always find someone from the MS because it's so big." Jessica had a chance to start over after she posted her profile on the Yahoo personals page and met a Camp Pendleton Marine.
The young Texan took an instant liking to her, even flying her to Houston to meet his parents and paying for her trip to a Marine gala in Las Vegas. But Jessica didn't love him, so she broke off the romance. "I had a choice of a good man, benefits for life, or a guy from the street with no papers," she said. She chose a 25-year-old gangbanger who goes by the name of "Puppet."
Like Jessica, Puppet is an immigrant. He was already a member of the MS 13 when he arrived in Los Angeles at the age of 13. Puppet was deported to El Salvador in June. Three weeks later, he called Jessica and told her he had killed a rival gang member. He's trying to get back to the United States, but Jessica is terrified that 18th Street rivals will kill him before he makes it across El Salvador's border. In September, he was in surgery for six hours after 18th Street members hacked at his head, ribs and back with machetes. Jessica paid for his surgery with money collected from L.A. gang members.
Now she's trying to scrape together Puppet's $3,000 passage back to Los Angeles. Meanwhile, MS 13 members in El Salvador are urging Puppet to be their leader. And local cops are watching him "The new law (in El Salvador) is locking up the guys who are getting deported. The cops think they're the leaders," Jessica said. "Some of them are. Like Puppet. He will be one of them." The Rev. Arnold Linares ticks off the gangs that held residents hostage in his Honduras neighborhood of Rivera Hernandez before the anti-gang law went into effect.
The MS 13. The 18th Street. And the Normandies, named for Normandie Avenue in Los Angeles. "All this came from the United States," Linares said, shaking his head. "One 18th Street member killed (rival gang members) with an AK-47 his gang sent him from the United States especially for the job." For five years, Linares, the 35-year-old pastor of the Place for Everyone Baptist Church, has tried to lead young men.
Charitable organizations gave him six computers. A church in Memphis, Tenn., bought uniforms, balls and trophies for the soccer league he started for gang members. But he gets no government support for his efforts and in June, government officials evicted his league from the community soccer field. Linares often confronts danger as he struggles to help gang members. When he stood at the gate of gang leader Mario Montalban's house, he found himself looking down the barrel of a homemade shotgun. Linares raised his big, worn Bible above his head and Montalban, trailed by his second in command, lowered the shotgun.
Montalban, 26, started his Barrio 11 gang when he was 16 years old after a failed attempt to migrate illegally to the United States. He was attacked by gang members when he crossed the Guatemalan border into Mexico, then sent home by Mexican authorities. Montalban said he was "one of the worst," making homemade shotguns and forcing the working people of Rivera Hernandez to pay "rent" before they could walk down his street. He was high on drugs from morning to night. And he murdered at least six people. He stabbed his last victim in the throat with a screwdriver. After Montalban accepted Linares' offer to join the soccer league, he disbanded his gang and converted to Christianity. But his decision to go straight didn't mean Montalban was given a job and welcomed back into society. As a criminal, Montalban made enough money to feed his two young daughters and elderly mother.
When Linares walks the streets of Rivera Hernandez, he worries about Montalban and the others he has pulled away from gangs. "We have so many kids in the streets doing nothing. If they can't find work to feed themselves, they do the easiest thingthey rob people," Linares said. "We are asking the government to give them a place for recreation, to give them work. This is not just a spiritual matter. It is question of jobs." In Southern California, which has had gangs for nearly 100 years, the solution is just as elusive.
"We live in a nation where we want instant results. Unfortunately, the programssuppression, intervention and preventiontake a little while to gestate," said Valdez, of the Orange County District Attorney's Office. Although gangs have now sprung up in every state in the nationthe MS 13 and the 18th Street have been reported as far away as HawaiiValdez said "there is a tendency for the very affluent communities of America to deny that gangs exist. It's always somebody else's problem."
Los Angeles County, which has almost 1,000 different gangs, has responded with more police, more crackdowns, more arrests under gang injunctions. In Redondo Beach and Wilmington, injunctions have resulted in a marked decrease in crime. Since the Wilmington injunction went into effect in March, at least 75 gang members have been arrested. But the injunctions, which allow police to arrest gang members simply for hanging out together in court-designated "safety zones," have drawn criticism from civil rights activists. "Injunctions are a way of outlawing normally legal behavior," said Los Angeles civil rights attorney Constance Rice. "You can't gather. You can't drink together. You can't talk together. You can't go to a restaurant together. It's a suppression method."
City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo acknowledged that, "we are imposing on their civil liberties. That's the whole idea. We do that all the time in our society for safety reasons and the Supreme Court says that's OK. People in our communities deserve protection, too." But pushing gang members from one place to another is not the solution, said the Rev. Gregory Boyle, who works with gang members in East L.A. Nor are massive deportations the answer to the international gang problem, he said. "The police are passing them off to the INS. And what do folks do?
They get deported and they come back," said Boyle, who founded Homeboy Industries to help gang members break their criminal ties. "The idea is to banish them, to demonize them. Tell me how that approach will keep a 15-year-old from doing it again." Lately, Boyle has been receiving phone calls from foreign-born gang members locked inside the immigration detention facility on Terminal Island, waiting to be flown to the nations where they were born.
Among the deportees waiting nervously in the facility in June was Oscar Zapata, who was to be sent home to Honduras. Zapata, 42, said he was out of the 18th Street gang, but a routine "stop and frisk" by L.A. police showed he was wanted by immigration authorities. Zapata joined the 18th Street gang in the early 1970s, shortly after he arrived in Los Angeles. His childhood in Honduras had prepared him for gang membership. At age 9, he was tortured by police and incarcerated with adult men in San Pedro Sula's prison. At 12, he was conscripted into the Honduran Army and taught to fight with an M-16 rifle.
When he was released by the army, he lived on the streets of Honduras until his mother took him to California. By the time Zapata got to Los Angeles, "I wasn't afraid of anything. I had lost my fear. I came here with a different mentality," he said. He was deported to San Pedro Sula two years ago after being arrested on drug charges, but he quickly returned to California. Zapata is appealing a judge's order to deport him this time because he's afraid he cannot survive the tactics of Honduran police.
Beads of sweat stood on Zapata's forehead as he remembered how the Honduran police kicked the body of a gang member and said, "This one is dead." "I am afraid of the police. Nobody can stop them," he said. "If they send you to prison in Honduras you are going directly to your death." Nearly 1,500 tattooed young men have been arrested since Honduran President Ricardo Maduro began his anti-gang campaign 16 months ago. Almost 200 of them died in two separate prison firesone in an 18th Street cell block and the other in an MS 13 cell blockin which the guards were either found negligent or directly responsible.
In the most recent fire, on May 17 in San Pedro Sula, 61 of the 107 gang members who died hadn't been convicted of a crime. Aida Rodriguez blames the Honduran government for the death of her 24-year-old son, Alan, who died in the inferno. A veteran of the MS 13, Alan was serving a 69-year sentence for double homicide. "If the government was going to have an anti-gang law, then they should have prepared prisons for them because they knew they were going to capture a lot," she sobbed. Ramon Custodio, who heads Honduras' National Commission for Human Rights, calls the incarceration of the gang members "a massive illegal detention" and vowed to ask the Supreme Court to declare the law unconstitutional.
"Because you're tattooed or because you behave this way or the other, you can be captured and taken to prison," Custodio said. "The principle of innocence doesn't exist any more in this country." Christian Antunez hides from Honduran police in the single room he shares with his wife and 18-month-old daughter. He has tattoos on his biceps, forearms, back and stomach. Above his right eyebrow are the faint letters NLS, or Normandie Street Locos, for the MS 13 clique he identified with in Los Angeles. Antunez has never been to the United States. He was introduced to gang life by his cousin, who grew up in L.A., joined the 18th Street and then became a leader.
When the cousin was deported to Honduras, he brought back his expertise in gang warfare. By his own admission, Antunez was a violent gang member. He was given a distinctive nickname: Mr. Crime. He murdered one man and said he participated in the deaths of others. "Sometimes you have to kill or be killed," he said. Antunez, 25, says he is out of gang life now, but until he burns off all his tattoos, he is in constant danger of being arrested under Honduras' anti-gang law. The only time he ventures out of his house is for his monthly trip to a clinic in San Pedro Sula called Adios Tatuaje, or "Goodbye Tattoo." "It's a human hunt in this country," Antunez said. "You know what they are doing with the anti-gang law? They are putting all the young people in jail. There is no rehabilitation. You know what rehabilitation is for the government? To kill them like dogs in the street."
Suyapa Bonilla, who runs Adios Tatuaje out of a room in her house, said many of her patients "came here crying because companies would not give them a job." Some had tried to gouge out their tattoos with a knife or the tip of a hot machete. The demand for tattoo removal is so great that Adios Tatuaje has clinics in El Salvador and Guatemala and is about to open one in Nicaragua.
Even men and women who've never been gang members feel compelled to remove their tattoos. Juan Carlos Brito, 24, pulled up the sleeve of his T-shirt to show the heart on his bicep that he'd gotten in the Merchant Marine. "I am sorry I have one," he said as he waited at Bonilla's clinic for his treatment to begin. "I have never been a gang member. But this law affects me, too."
Oscar Alvarez, the country's minister of security, shrugs off accusations by human rights activists that the gang crackdown is turning Honduras into a police state as it was in the 1980s when hundreds of suspected leftists were tortured and murdered by a secret military unit. Law and order, not human rights concerns, are on the public's mind, he said. And Alvarez, who is rumored to be considering a presidential bid, is at the vanguard of the politically popular effort. "The public was crying out, 'I want security,' " he said, "because this affects the people who are the least protected in the country."
Demographics underscore the seriousness of the problem, he said. In Honduras, 51 percent of the population is younger than 18. In El Salvador, more than half the population is under the age of 24. "We have to stop more youngsters from becoming gang members," said Alvarez. "If we don't do something about it, we are predicting a very grave future for our country."
At Honduras' Tamara National Penitentiary outside the capital of Tegucigalpa, an 18th Street gang member named "Lucifer" mocks officials who believe they can stem gang violence. "If you can't control gangs in the United States, how are they going to end it in this (expletive) country?" cackled the 22-year-old convicted murderer as gangsta rap throbbed and inmates pumped iron in the searing Honduran sun.
Paul Antonio Zelaya is an example of the problems faced by both countries. Born in Honduras, his mother took him to Los Angeles when he was 3. At age 11 he joined the 18th Street gang. On his bulging right bicep, Zelaya, who also goes by the name Ricky Alexander, shows off the tattoo bearing his California prison number. He was deported to Honduras in 2003 after being paroled from Imperial County's Centinela State Prison. Three months later, he was arrested by Honduran police for robbery. Zelaya and his fellow Los Angeles inmates talk about going back to the United States, to the city they consider home.
So does a prisoner who calls himself Looney, even though he has never set foot in the United States. Looney is one of 18 children in his dirt-poor family. Four of his brothers are also in gangstwo in the MS 13 and two in the 18th Street. In 1995, family members who had already settled in Los Angeles sent him money to make the trip. But he got arrested for stealing and has been in prison off and on ever since. He imagines Los Angeles as "a beautiful city" where homies can find "a blessed peace," because "there is not a lot of violence against them." "They have cars, TVs, food on the table. Everything. Everything. Everything," he said. "Los Angeles is a paradise.
OUR POSITION IS PUBLIC KNOWLEDGE. We are sloppily but just as surely fighting World War III on the soil and in the minds of competing populations. These are the early years of a long devasting war few wish to declare, but the plotting, scheming, and petty manipulation of the opposition from each camp continues with every twist and turn stiffly cloaked in an exasperated "peace in our lifetime" rhetoric.
The war is inevitableand let it come! I repeat it, sir, let it come.
It is in vain, sir, to extentuate the matter. Gentlemen may cry, Peace, Peacebut there is no peace. The war is actually begun!
That sounds nice, or shall we say, business as usual for states as we know them, but frankly this is a war of ideas that must be fought to preserve life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, not to maintain anything close to the status quo, but to recover the poise with which to embrace those ideals in its original shading.
Tony Blair shuffles his feet. Apologies and mea culpas are broadcast for all the world, especially the Muslim world, and are nothing more than false statements meant to appease the enemy for acts of aggression that once upon a time would have been interpreted as an act of war. pullquote align=right]Besides, sir, we shall not fight our battles alone. There is a just God who presides over the destinies of nations, and who will raise up friends to fight our battles for us. The battle, sir, is not to the strong alone; it is to the vigilant, the active, the brave. [/pullquote]As the UK sailor incident looms across the brow of all of us who know this type of provoation will not end until these totalitarian Islamic powers are dealt a swift and terrible blow, here is a reminder of what's at stake from one of early America's most vocal patriots, Patrick Henry:
There is no longer any room for hope. If we wish to be freeif we mean to preserve inviolate those inestimable privileges for which we have been so long contendingif we mean not basely to abandon the noble struggle in which we have been so long engaged, and which we have pledged ourselves never to abandon until the glorious object of our contest shall be obtainedwe must fight! I repeat it, sir, we must fight!
An appeal to arms and to the God of hosts is all that is left us! They tell us, sir, that we are weak; unable to cope with so formidable an adversary. But when shall we be stronger? Will it be the next week, or the next year? Will it be when we are totally disarmed, and when a British guard shall be stationed in every house? Shall we gather strength but irresolution and inaction? Shall we acquire the means of effectual resistance by lying supinely on our backs and hugging the delusive phantom of hope, until our enemies shall have bound us hand and foot?
Sir, we are not weak if we make a proper use of those means which the God of nature hath placed in our power. The millions of people, armed in the holy cause of liberty, and in such a country as that which we possess, are invincible by any force which our enemy can send against us.
Besides, sir, we shall not fight our battles alone. There is a just God who presides over the destinies of nations, and who will raise up friends to fight our battles for us. The battle, sir, is not to the strong alone; it is to the vigilant, the active, the brave.
Besides, sir, we have no election. If we were base enough to desire it, it is now too late to retire from the contest. There is no retreat but in submission and slavery! Our chains are forged! Their clanking may be heard on the plains of Boston! The war is inevitableand let it come! I repeat it, sir, let it come.
It is in vain, sir, to extentuate the matter. Gentlemen may cry, Peace, Peacebut there is no peace. The war is actually begun! The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!
Those Founding Fathers, orators and shy men alike, really could brandish some perfect sentences when they needed them. Awesome political and spiritual reality writ large. The flesh and bones of the American Revolution were me. The spirit was All God. Today's "Hate America First" counter-revolutionaries cannot hold a candle to the large ideas put forth by people like the man who wrote the words we just read, and do themselves, their families, their friends, and their nation a great disservice when they mock and reject them. Patrick Henry shocks the dull. That is often what it takes. Anything else is nothing but an illusion...
ONE TRILLION DOLLARS sings the band Anti-Flag. One trillion dollars could buy a lot of bling. One trillion dollars could buy most anything. One trillion dollars, buying bullets, buying guns. One trillion dollars, in the hands of killer thugs.
The day that Colorado Republican Tom Tancredo announces that he has launched an exploratory committee to probe his potential as a viable 2008 presidential candidate, I discover a very serious article online at The Middle East Forum, written by Ali Alfoneh, a Ph.D. fellow in the department of political science, University of Copenhagen, and a research fellow at the Royal Danish Defense College. The following paragraph opens the lengthy article critiquing the Iranian point of view:
"More than five years after President George W. Bush's declaration of a global war against terrorism, the Iranian regime continues to embrace suicide terrorism as an important component of its military doctrine. In order to promote suicide bombing and other terrorism, the regime's theoreticians have utilized religion both to recruit suicide bombers and to justify their actions. But as some factions within the Islamic Republic support the development of these so-called martyrdom brigades, their structure and activities suggest their purpose is not only to serve as a strategic asset in either deterring or striking at the West, but also to derail domestic attempts to dilute the Islamic Republic's revolutionary legacy."
And this on the same day that the Iraqi government continues to suggest how cozy it is with the Iranian regime, suggesting that they, as Iraqis, have their own interests, and are bound by geographic destiny to live with Iran, adding that the Iraqi government wanted "to engage them constructively."
A fellow known as Foehammer writes, "Arabs and Persians are completely different races with separate cultural ties. It is one of the foremost reasons that we should be fueling the fires of rebellion in Iranthe young idealists there carrying around copies of the U.S. Constitution in their back pockets. The Persian factor is a large onenational honor goes a very long way back and far beyond the first days that the Muslims invaded and took charge."
Destroy Iran. Free Persia.
And this from the Washington Post (AP): The U.S. military has sold forbidden equipment at least a half-dozen times to middlemen for countriesincluding Iran and Chinawho exploited security flaws in the Defense Department's surplus auctions. The sales include fighter jet parts and missile components.
How long will these beasts run roughshod over the earth?
Posted on Jihad Watch by Hugh Fitzgerald, the following article makes clear YET AGAIN the ridiculous posture American and other Western politicians have taken toward Muslim aggressors anywhere they find them across the global with one notable exceptionAfghanistanand that was only a quarter measure of the necessary response because these same leaders were too busy planning an attack on Iraq instead of focussing on a clean victory in Taliban territories. But I digress:
Talk to Ethiopian Christians in the West. Ask them about their fears. Not fears or memories of this or that regime, of Mengistu and the Derg, or complaints about Zenawi, but fears about Islam. Many may be hesitant at first, thinking perhaps you might be a Muslim or a supporter of Muslims, but if you forthrightly declare your own views, see what you are told in return, what a torrent may follow.
The demographic conquest of the last redoubt of Christianity, the famous Christian Kingdom of Ethiopia, so famous that when the inhabitants of Western Christendom, under constant Muslim attack, with raids up and down the coasts of Europe as far as Ireland and on one occasion, even as far as Iceland, sought and found a comforting myth of the powerful Christian king, beyond the lands of Islam, who would help the Christians of Europe fight the menace of Islam. At first this mythical kingdom of Prester John was located in Asia, in distant India, but later became identified in the minds of many in Europe with Ethiopia as the new Kingdom of Prester John.
Here is how one blogger at an Addis Ababa site expresses his fears:
The transparent argument here is that Christians are not allowed to help fellow Christians lest the war be perceived, as it is declared to be by the Muslims in Somalia and by all the non-Somali Muslims who will help them, as a war between Muslims and Christians.
"Ethiopia is at a crossroads. In fact it was headed for this crossroad no matter who was prime minister. It is a lion cub being hunted by the sabre of Islam. Islam is at odds with democracy, freedom and human liberty. It will ultimately oppose Ethiopia, even in violation of its own Koran.
I have been traveling & working in Ethiopia for several years now. There have been many changes. While the politics of Meles may be brought into question. Any situation beats the DERG and I would say the current status, though far from perfect beats an Islamic state any day. Ethiopia faces the loss of a developing democracy to the enemies of freedom and liberty.
Where Islam is the minority they are as lambs, where they are equal in power they are like a fox, when Islam is the majority they are as wolves.
What's going on is not merely political or philosophical, it is a war of ideology. The sovereignty of Ethiopia is at stake. Shore up her borders and then tackle the internal issues, as a parlimentary democracythere is less freedom in an Islamic-fascist state. Just visit Somalia or Eritrea."
A former U.S. ambassador to Ethiopia wrote: ‘Islam in Ethiopia has confined itself entirely to the spiritual realm. It has shown no interest in politics, though it is keenly aware that it comprises at least half the population and probably more.’ Furthermore, Ethiopia’s unshakable image in the eyes of the world is that of a Christian nation. The recent U.S. Department of State classification of all the main Horn of Africa nations in the region, except Ethiopia, as either predominantly Arab or Muslim, also reinforces that image.
One might also note the views of Muslim apologists who do not want the Americans helping Ethiopia precisely because it is seen as a "Christian" state, and this would offend Muslims, who apparently are free to wage Jihad, but we who are not Muslims must not extend aid to fellow non-Muslims lest this put a "religious" cast on what, of course, is already a religiously-prompted war.
This absurd argument can be found in a piece that appeared in a Houston paper, of which an excerpt is given below:
There are several reasons why aligning with Ethiopia on Somalia would be a bad idea that might even jeopardize the current coalition and undermine the long-term objectives of the war against global terrorism.
First, such partnership with a nation that portrays itself as "a Christian" nation against a Muslim neighbor, which is a member of the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) and the Arab League, and based on little and tainted information, would give the war a religious color, thereby undermining President Bush's core message right from the start: that the war is against terrorism, not against Islam.
Historically, Ethiopia viewed itself as a "Christian island surrounded by a Muslim sea." As a result, Islam has historically been perceived as a major threat to this country, and Ethiopian Muslims, though they constitute at least half of the population, have had an invisible presence in the country. A former U.S. ambassador to Ethiopia wrote: 'Islam in Ethiopia has confined itself entirely to the spiritual realm. It has shown no interest in politics, though it is keenly aware that it comprises at least half the population and probably more.'
Furthermore, Ethiopia's unshakable image in the eyes of the world is that of a Christian nation. The recent U.S. Department of State classification of all the main Horn of Africa nations in the region, except Ethiopia, as either predominantly Arab or Muslim, also reinforces that image. Apparently, this has nothing to do with being "predominantly Arab or Muslim."
The transparent argument here is that Christians are not allowed to help fellow Christians lest the war be perceived, as it is declared to be by the Muslims in Somalia and by all the non-Somali Muslims who will help them, as a war between Muslims and Christians.
About one thing the writer is correct: there are many Muslims in Ethiopia, and its Christian character is threatened by the missionary efforts, and the usual overbreeding by Muslims. That is another problem, and it is a problem that needs to be recognized and not ignored but dealt with, because it is in the interests of the entire non-Muslim world that Ethiopia remain a Christian country and not succumb to Islam. And whatever that takes:including the transfer of some Muslims into Somaliashould be considered.