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Murder in Mexico on Falcon Lake . . .

Murder in Mexico on Falcon Lake . . .

Television and newspapers today are sharply focused on the recent murder of a jet-ski rider that was moving around on the Mexican side of Falcon Lake that straddles the international boundary between the U. S. and Mexico. It’s a giant reservoir, a body of water that extends some fifty miles along the Rio Grande River. The waters of the Rio Grande River are impounded by a huge dam near the city of Roma, Texas. The invisible international boundary line in the lake divides the countries of Mexico and the United States, and divides Texas and the Mexican state of Tamaulipas.

The murdered man was on a jet-ski, a personal watercraft, and was accompanied by his wife who was mounted on a second jet-ski. She witnessed the murder and successfully escaped with her life. Now her story is being questioned because neither the jet-ski nor a body has been found by Mexican authorities, and those worthies will not allow American law enforcement officers to participate in the search. I believe that privilege is being denied because the jet-ski and the body were recovered either by Mexican authorities, persons working for Mexican drug cartels or by members of a Mexican drug cartel. I also believe that both the jet-ski and the body, and especially the body, have been concealed or destroyed in such a manner that the odds of them being recovered or found range from slim to none. I predict that they will never be found, and without the body or the jet-ski the Mexicans will continue to deny that no criminal action occurred.

Much of this is standard procedure in relations between us and our neighbor to the south. The drug cartels control Mexico with the use of cash from their illegal operations—local and federal Mexican officials either accept the bribes or they will be killed—other citizens, with or without an offer of cash, will in either case look the other way to avoid being killed. That’s a brutal way for a multi-billion-dollar conglomerate—perhaps a trillion-dollar conglomerate—to operate, but it is quite effective.

I worked on the Texas-Mexico border as a Customs inspector for twelve years, first as a trainee and journeyman inspector at Progreso, Texas, then as a first-level supervisor at Roma and Falcon Dam for two and one-half years, and finally at the port of Brownsville, Texas for another three and one-half years. I then spent three years at Customs Headquarters in Washington, DC and later held enforcement positions in Houston and San Antonio for another ten years. Looking back on my experiences and the knowledge I gleaned over a period of twenty-six years, I feel fairly well qualified to express my opinion of that murder incident and of the area where it occurred.

One brief statement can describe the incident. It is true—it happened. The man was murdered, either by cartel members or persons supporting the cartels, and the murder is being covered up with the knowledge and assistance of Mexican federal officials. That area on both sides of the border was lawless even before it became a part of the United States in 1848 following our war with Mexico . It was lawless then, it is lawless now and it will remain lawless into the predictable future. That is the nature of the terrain and its population on both sides of the international boundary, whether on land or on the water.

It is not my intention to paint every person in the area as lawless—the population contains the usual mixture of the good, the bad and the ugly—well, perhaps more of the bad than of the other two—my neighborhood and any other neighborhood reflects a similar amalgamation of people, differing only in degree. That area along the Texas/Mexico border is lawless because of its terrain and its proximity to Mexico. Smuggling in Starr County, Texas has for centuries literally been, and to this day remains, a way of life for many of the county’s residents. Merchandise, animals and people are routinely smuggled from Texas to Mexico and from Mexico to Texas, while cash, weapons and ammunition are smuggled into Mexico and illegal narcotics are smuggled into Texas. Much of the smuggling is done to avoid paying duty and taxes on the U. S. side, and paying duty, taxes and mordida on the Mexican side. Mordida is the diminutive of the verb morder, to bite—mordida is a little bite added to the legitimate cost of importations and exportations—on the Mexican side it adds a considerable amount to the cost of doing business, whether legal or illegal business.

A case in point would be the movement of horses across the Rio Grande River in the past, and perhaps even now. The law requires that live animals be subjected to examination by proper officials, whether  going out of the U.S. or coming into the U.S. In past years quarter-horse races have been held and probably are still being held, on both sides of the Rio Grande. Rather than be bothered by quarantine laws and paying mordida, owners and trainers would take their horses to a bend in the river that would guarantee that a horse forced into the water would swim to the other side, where an accomplice would recover the animal, then off to the races– time saved, no veterinarian fees, no holding period, etc. One must necessarily view that as practical, and the odds of being detected were virtually nil. The point is that if one can smuggle a full grown horse from nation to nation in both directions, smuggling narcotics should be a snap—and it is.

Some of Starr County’s features were summed up thusly by a writer in a Playboy magazine article published in the 1970s: The author told Playboy’s readers that in order to visit Rio Grande City, the  county seat of Starr County, Texas you should fly into San Antonio, rent a car and drive to Laredo, make a left turn there and drive until you smell feces—that would be Roma, Texas—then continue straight until you step in it and you’ll be in Rio Grande City, the county seat of Starr County. I seriously doubt that the article increased tourist traffic in the area.

Mexico as a nation and Mexicans as individuals have always felt that our annexation of Texas in 1845, an act that led to our war with Mexico, was illegal and it probably was. Mexico has also always felt that the land lost to the United States in 1848 with Mexico’s defeat in the war between the nations was unwarranted and unfair. Perhaps the drug cartels will at sometime in the future reclaim much of that land, especially in the lower and upper Rio Grande Valley and in the great state of Arizona. The cartels already rule Starr County during the hours of darkness—the next step is to dominate the area during daylight hours—the way things are going now, it could happen.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

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Posted by on October 9, 2010 in bridge, law enforcement, neighbors, politics


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A Rabbit with an attitude . . .

A Rabbit with an attitude . . .

While employed as a supervisory Customs inspector at the international bridge in Brownsville, Texas I worked numerous 4-12 evening shifts. When a spot was available, I parked in front of the Customhouse along an aluminum guard rail placed between outgoing traffic and the secondary inspection area.

On one memorable evening an inspector came to my office and told me that my car had been involved in an accident. It seemed that a tourist in an RV, a heavily loaded pickup truck with a slide-in camper, was somewhat unhappy with his inspection and was in a hurry to leave the area.

When the angry driver backed up to turn around in the inspection area, his rear bumper hit my rear bumper on the right corner at a 45-degree angle and jammed the left front bumper of my car against the guard rail. The conjunction of the two bumpers and their shapes, and the conjunction of the front bumper and the guard rail and their shapes, changed my car’s appearance forever. Nope, I never had the damage repaired.

The simultaneous contact of my car’s rear with the truck and its nose with the guard rail left my 1978 Volkswagen, a Panama Brown diesel Rabbit, in deplorable condition—visually, that is—the accident affected its appearance but not its performance.

The rear bumper was turned sharply up at its right corner, and the front bumper was turned sharply up at its left corner. Viewed from the front the little car resembled a snarling dog, the corner of its mouth turned up in a warning to something or someone, either animal or human. Viewed from the rear it looked like a dog with its right hind leg lifted, its foot high in the air in the stance a dog adopts when it urinates. Had the tourist hit the car and pushed it straight against the guard rail my Rabbit would probably have bent in the middle and wound up looking like a dog humped for a dump—that’s just speculation, of course, and a bit crude, but you get the picture, right?

I left Texas a few months later, headed for an assignment at Customs headquarters in Washington, D.C., and I passed my Rabbit over to one of my daughters. At the time she was commuting to work between Brownsville and Donna, Texas, a daily round trip of a hundred miles. A couple of years later I donated the Rabbit to the Salvation Army in McAllen, Texas with its lip still turned up in a snarl and its rear leg still lifted in that classic doggie stance.

At the time of our parting the little car had performed beautifully for 186,000 miles—the only maintenance in that time, other than routine oil changes, was the replacement of a broken fan belt that gave up the ghost at 100,000 miles. My little Rabbit did have a strange quirk, however. Its fuel supply had only one small strainer between the tank and the cylinders, and when the strainer became blocked the car would begin to slow down, and would finally come to a stop with the engine starved for fuel.

That is a subject worthy of a future posting, so stay tuned.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

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Posted by on September 23, 2010 in bridge, cars, drivers, Humor, Uncategorized


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Brownsville Customs assignment . . .

Before I begin this dissertation, please allow me to digress with an explanation of supervisory titles in the US Custom Service. A first level supervisor is equivalent to a captain in the military, equal in pay and responsibilities, and wears the twin silver bars of a captain in the military. A second level supervisor is equivalent to a major in the military and wears gold oak leaves on the uniform. Chief inspectors and port directors are usually the equivalent of a lieutenant colonel in the military and wear silver maple leaves when in uniform. Many Customs port directors have higher grades and have the option of wearing uniforms or civilian garb—most opt for civilian dress.

Program officers at Headquarters also have the pay and similar responsibilities of lieutenant colonels in the military, and unless involved in some field action requiring the uniform, normally wear civilian garb. The pay and responsibilities of program managers at headquarters are also similar to the duties and responsibilities of a full colonel in the military. The comparisons to military personnel continue up to the pay and responsibilities equal to the grade of a four-star general.

During my 26-year career in federal law enforcement I had the misfortune—oops, I meant the good fortune—of serving US Customs for several years at the Brownsville, Texas port of entry located at the tip of Texas, opposite the city of Matamoros, Mexico. I began my career at the port of Progreso and I was promoted to a first level supervisory position at the port of Roma. After two and one-half years there I was again promoted and transferred to the port of Brownsville, Texas some 125 miles down river from Roma. Click here for a posting on Progreso.

My position at Brownsville was that of a second level supervisor, one of two such officers responsible for supervising a staff of three administrative persons, six first level supervisors and a staff of sixty senior, journeyman and trainee inspectors. I performed my duties under the watchful eyes of the chief inspector and a racially and professionally biased port director, and I was the favorite target for any person that lodged a complaint against management, regardless of the source.  Those activities were dictated and urged on by the National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU). Near the end of my tour at Brownsville, the Chief Inspector left my side and joined in the target practice.

A friendly journeyman told me that NTEU had directed the local Union Steward to have every grievance addressed to me, regardless of the supervisor involved—I was one of nine supervisors, yet all complaints came to me to be investigated and the results forwarded to upper levels including national headquarters, whether resolved or unresolved. The same friendly inspector said that every meeting of the Union members, whether locally or at District or Regional Headquarters, began with a request for input on me and on my actions.

Just as an aside, the Port Director and the Chief Inspector have since been arbitrarily transferred to that shining Port of Entry in the sky—a headquarters directed assignment, so to speak—and one may be reasonably certain that a significant number of the journeyman inspectors have joined them—some were quite advanced in age, and I left Brownsville 27 years ago. I can truthfully say that at this stage of life I hold no rancor for any of them—well, okay, perhaps a trace of rancor for the Port Director!

In spite of the onslaught of arrows (employee complaints) fired at me, none struck a vital organ. To paraphrase William Faulkner in his acceptance speech in 1950 for the Nobel Prize in literature, I did not merely endure—I prevailed. My actions and my decisions were upheld by mid-level and top-level management in every instance. The grievances filed numbered in the hundreds—none was resolved in favor of the complainant, neither by me nor by someone in the upper echelons. Most of the grievances stemmed from my efforts to reduce inspector overtime in accordance with instructions from upper level management given to me prior to assuming my duties there. Misuse of overtime was rife at that location, and my success was in inverse proportion to the number of grievances—as overtime declined, grievances increased.

The pay was good and there was no heavy lifting, so I stalwartly bided my time. I successfully withstood the onslaught for three and one-half years, from April of 1980 to October of 1983, and once again was promoted and transferred to US Customs Headquarters in Washington, DC as a program officer. Halfway through my three year tour in Washington I was assigned the title and assumed the duties of Program Manager for Customs’ National Canine Enforcement Program, and therein lies some tales to be told. Click here for an example of my duties, a tour of canine operations in California. This is just a teaser with more stories to follow, so stay tuned.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

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Posted by on September 11, 2010 in bridge, law enforcement, Military


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An odd thing happened en route to the slaughter house . . .

Long, long ago, across the river from a land where bad things frequently happened and are still happening, I was working the dog watch—12:00 midnight until 8 AM—as the sole United States Customs Service inspector at a small port on the Texas-Mexico border and a strange thing happened during a la madrugada of my eight-hour shift—a la madrugada is Spanish for the wee small hours of the morning.

At that time the midnight shift at the port consisted of three people—one Immigration officer, one Customs inspector and one civilian toll collector for outbound vehicles and pedestrians. When I say a small port, I mean really small—it had a total of one inbound lane and one outbound lane—I don’t believe they get much smaller than that!

A bit of background first—the exportation of live animals to Mexico was legal and authorized provided that certain requirements were met, requirements established by Mexico and the United States. Live animals could be exported to Mexico only if veterinary facilities existed for the examination of such animals and quarantine facilities had to be present in the event that bovine diseases were suspected. Since there were no such facilities opposite my small port, the exportation of live animals was not permitted, a hard and fast rule with no exceptions permitted.

The Immigration officer on duty was manning the entry point for incoming traffic, both pedestrian and vehicles, the toll collector was manning the toll booth and I was in the Customs office studying our fascinating Customs regulations—hey, that was a long time ago and I refuse to say that I may have been snoozing—that wasn’t allowed while on duty, regardless of how sleepy one became and regardless of the absence of incoming traffic—I have a future posting in mind on that subject.

The toll collector sent an outbound citizen, one driving a stake–bed truck with high sideboards, loaded with a half-dozen head of live cattle—bovines if you will—to the Customs office with a question. The driver wanted to know why he could not export cattle to Mexico. He said he was taking the cattle to the slaughter-house at Rio Bravo, a city some fifteen kilometers—about nine miles—into the interior of Mexico and that he had already made the requisite payoff to the Mexican officials and would lose his mordida—his cash bribe—to the Mexican officials if he was not allowed to cross before morning.

I patiently explained the law, stressing the absence of inspection and quarantine facilities on the other side and the requirements established by Mexico’s importation laws and our exportation laws. I told him that no live animals could be exported. He briefly meditated on that information, then thanked me profusely, turned his truck around and headed back into the interior of the United States. A short time later, an hour or so after the driver’s departure, the toll collector called me to come to the toll booth, saying that my attention was warranted.

And so it was—I found a truck loaded with six dead cows, animals that had been alive earlier. The driver had gone to a remote location several miles away from the port of entry, parked the truck, sliced the throats of each animal, waited patiently until most of the blood had drained from the truck and then returned to the port to legally export a half-dozen dead cows—dead as opposed to live.

Yes, I authorized the exportation—there was nothing in the Customs regulations that prohibited the exportation of dead cattle. Those dead animals, regardless of their physical condition, could not possibly contaminate cattle herds in Mexico so they posed no threat to that sovereign nation’s food supply, and given the present circumstances of this particular exportation I felt sure that the Mexican officials would allow the importation of dead cattle into their country.

Hey, before you condemn the three of us that contributed to the demise of those six head of cattle—the driver, the toll collector and I—just remember that the toll collector and I had were unwittingly involved—we were simply the victims of circumstances. Had the cattle been exported alive and frisky they would have died a few hours later anyway because crews at the slaughter house in Rio Bravo were waiting for the load, and would have done the same thing to the cattle that the driver did, perhaps using a more humane way to slaughter them, but I seriously doubt it.

I know it’s a sad story, lamentable and gross, but that’s my story and I’m sticking to it!


Posted by on July 5, 2010 in Uncategorized


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A surgical solution to illegal immigration . . .

Our land border with Mexico cannot be closed.

The military could link hands from Brownsville, Texas to San Diego, California and the line would not slow the illegal entries. They will go under, over, through or around any barrier constructed, living or otherwise, by land, sea and air, and through tunnels.

Anyone who has lived or worked on the border for any significant length of time knows the border cannot be closed. I worked on the Texas-Mexico border for 12 years, with extended assignments at three land border ports as a Customs inspector trainee, journeyman and supervisor, and in a three-year stint at Customs Headquarters I covered every port on the Mexican border (also most international airports, seaports and land crossings on our border with Canada).

I know the border cannot be closed.

Bill O’Reilly at Fox News believes the border can be closed. He’s wrong—the border cannot be closed (he hasn’t asked me about this, but I would be glad to brief him).

I began my 26-year career with the United States Customs Service at the international border crossing in Progreso, a small town in the Rio Grande Valley a few miles south of Weslaco, Texas. The port director at Progreso had, in my opinion, a sure-fire way to dry up the flood of illegal immigrants—such persons have historically been called wet-backs, a highly descriptive term that has fallen prey to the current atmosphere of political correctness. I plan to discuss the term in a subsequent posting.

The then-port director at Progreso suggested that, regardless of nationality or country of origin, one finger be removed from the illegal immigrant the first time he (or she) is intercepted, then return him (or her) to Mexico, and remove another finger if that person is again intercepted entering our country illegally. If adopted, his suggestion would result in numerous nine-fingered illegals, significantly fewer eight-fingered, and virtually none with only seven fingers.

My only suggestion to his plan at that time was to remove the middle finger of one hand for the first offense and the middle finger of the other hand for the second offense, then another finger for the next illegal crossing, etc., etc. My rationale for that sequence was, of course, intended to prevent the offender from flipping the bird at any US federal officer in any future encounter. This led to the development of Operation FRET (Finger Removal Each Time).

I have since fleshed out my plan to control unauthorized immigration, and have also developed a plan to prevent members of Congress from growing old and rich in the “service” of their country. To that end I offer the following concepts: Operation FRET to control illegal immigration, and Operation OFFER to clear out some, perhaps most, of the deadwood in our Senate and our House of Representatives. Operation OFFER, over time, might even clear out all the deadwood and ensure that none of it reappears in Congress.

Operation FRET (Finger Removal Each Time) should not be confused with the acronym for fluorescence resonance energy transfer, a condition related to fluorescent lighting. Operation FRET is my term for a system that, if properly applied, could staunch the flow of unauthorized entries across our national borders. The system is suggested to control entries from Mexico, but to avoid any semblance of bias it should probably be instituted along our northern border as well, and for consistency the system must apply to illegal entries at any point in the nation, whether by land, sea or air.

Operation OFFER (One Finger For Each Re-election) is recommended initially for elections to our Senate and our House of Representatives, but the concept can be applied effectively to lesser elections, ranging from local school boards up to gubernatorial races. I would oppose any suggestion to make Operation OFFEE retroactive for sitting electees—now that would really be cruel!

I would also oppose any suggestion to extend Operation OFFEE to the highest elected office in the land—that worthy needs more fingers, not fewer, to accomplish his complex duties and responsibilities. Besides, any hint of such a suggestion, whether satire or otherwise, would bring down on the suggester the accumulative weight and heat of every national, state and local law enforcement agency.

A fellow blogger made these comments on my suggestion concerning digit removals for illegal immigrants, and his comments inspired me to develop Operation OFFER:

I think your immigration penalty may be a tad cruel.

Could we, however, use it for membership in Congress?

Yes, we can! (I must admit that I pilfered that slogan from the 2008 presidential campaign). If the OFFER concept (One Finger Removal Each Re-election) became law, it’s doubtful that we would ever have more than a handful (so to speak) of nine-fingered senators or representatives, even fewer with only eight fingers and probably none with three fingers missing. I assume the writer meant to remove one finger on the initial election to Congress, whether to the Senate or to the House of Representatives, and the second on the first re-election, etc. And I also assume the same sequence (middle fingers first) would apply to the members of Congress. However, I feel that the system should apply to re-elections only. Under Operation FRET, the illegal immigrant has broken federal law, while the first term electee to Congress has broken no laws. Operation OFFER would ensure that no senator or representative would serve more than one term unless, of course, they would be willing to sacrifice a digit in order to remain on the federal dole and continue feathering their nest—not likely, that.

It is doubtful that the law could be made retroactive, principally because many of the senators and representatives would be minus all fingers as well as both thumbs. And there is actually the possibility, albeit it very remote, that reelections to the Senate and the House of Representatives would be eliminated—one can only dream.

I would oppose any suggestion to make Operation OFFER retroactive for sitting electees—now that would really be cruel! I would also oppose any suggestion to extend Operation OFFER to the highest elected office in the land—that worthy needs more fingers, not fewer, to accomplish his complex duties and responsibilities. And any such suggestion, whether satire or otherwise,  would bring down on the suggester the accumulative weight and heat of every national, state and local law enforcement agency in the nation.

A special note for anyone who peruses (reads) this posting and believes it, or is repulsed by it, or considers it cruel and un-American:

Hey, lighten up!

This is satire and nothing more—no investigation by the AFRC (Anti-Finger-Removal Czar) is needed, nor do we need a BOLO for international border crossers with fingers missing from either hand, specifically middle fingers.

Our newspapers, novels, movies and television presentations are saturated with crime reports, either true or fictional, so everyone should know the meaning of BOLO. However, this explanation is provided for the edification (enlightenment) of the three persons (estimated) in our population of 330 million (estimated) that do not know:

BOLO is an acronym for Be On Look Out (for). Don’t you just abhor (hate) it when someone uses a word, whether verbal (spoken) or written, then immediately defines (explains) it in the belief that the reader lacks eruditeness (having great knowledge) and won’t know the word’s meaning?

I also hate it when someone does that, whether speaking or writing.

I completely understand, and I feel your pain.

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Posted by on January 10, 2010 in Humor, law enforcement, politics


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