By John Ruberry

The Netflix neo-western Longmire has ridden into the sunset after six years. The final season started streaming on the network nine days ago and the results should please its fans. I enjoyed it.

My Da Tech Guy review of the first five seasons of is here.

Walt Longmire (Robert Taylor), a widower, is a sheriff in the fictional county of Absaroka in Wyoming. He and his three deputies patrol an area that is larger than Delaware. While Walt, an old-school lawman who knows the difference between right-and-wrong and who rarely crosses the ethical line, at first glance appears to be an anachronism, he still has the smarts and the brawn to set things straight.

If you haven’t watched Longmire but think you might, I suggest you skip the next paragraph as there are some series spoilers.

At the end of Season Five, Walt’s personal and professional life are in shambles. The smartass mayor of Durant (Eric Lane) wants Longmire to resign, and he gets in a brutal knock-down bar fight with his best friend who has turned into a vigilante, Henry Standing Bear (Lou Diamond Phillips). Henry’s situation gets worse after he is kidnapped by corrupt former Bureau of Indian Affairs police chief Malachi Strand (Graham Greene) and his goons. Walt faces a wrongful death lawsuit from the estate of a businessman who also happened to be the father of one of his deputies and the brother of Longmire’s predecessor as sheriff. (Hey, not many people live in Absaroka County.) Walt’s most trusted deputy Victoria “Vic” Moretti (Katee Sackhoff) is pregnant–no one knows who the father is. And the Native American casino in Absaroka, run by the compromised Jacob Nighthorse (A Martinez), is fostering the crime Walt predicted would result, although I’m pretty sure that he didn’t expect Irish mobsters from Boston being part of it. Walt’s daughter, Cady (Cassidy Freeman) is running a free legal aid clinic on the Cheyenne reservation, but she’s being paid by Nighthorse.

Season Six kicks off a new story thread about a serial bank robber known as “Cowboy Bill.” A stereotypical blogger–who is bearded, overweight, and shoves iPhones into people’s faces while garnering minuscule traffic on his site, causes another headache for Walt when he reports that the sheriff  “ambled in” to the robbed bank long after Cowboy Bill made off with his loot. Of course that infuriates the mayor. As for this blogger, I’m thin, clean-shaven, I own a camcorder, and I have many more hits daily on my blog than that other guy has received in the life of his blog. Da Tech Guy of course crushes the traffic of that fictional blogger’s site too.

Anyway…

John “Lee” Ruberry of Da Tech Guy’s Magnificent Seven

The lawful death lawsuit against Walt begins. Cady continues to face difficulty striking an equilibrium between the law, her ethics, Native American culture, and Nighthorse. As for the casino operator, his juggling act becomes even more difficult, as it does for Walt’s pal Henry. And we learn that the Irish mob doesn’t take “no” for an answer from a Wyoming sheriff.

The series ends with a surprise twist, one that is satisfactory too.

The first three seasons of Longmire ran on A&E, and while the ratings and the critical response were favorable, the network cancelled the show because the demographics favored older viewers. A&E is run by dopes. Thank you Netflix for rescuing the program.

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

Thankfulness is not the same as gratitude.

Thankfulness involves appreciativeness, gratitude is the act of being thankful. You must appreciate something in order to be thankful, which brings in the act of gratitude.

Our first President, George Washington, at the request of Congress, established the first Thanksgiving Day for the purpose of “acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.”

Let’s look closely at those words.

Acknowledging with grateful hearts

A human being recognizes a good, appreciates it, and does do with gratitude.

the many signal favors of Almighty God
As we are created by God and endowed with “certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government
Not only to establish a form of government, but a government, as defined in the Declaration of Independence, that is “deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,” not a government that imposes its will upon its people.

for their safety and happiness.
Safety in a country where all citizens are equal under the law, and pursue happiness in liberty.

If you are of a certain age, you may be thinking, “I heard this in grade school.” Yes, I know I’m sounding like a fifth grader going over a history homework.

Sadly, a great many adults have forgotten, and a lot of young people are never taught, the most basic of lessons: Thankfulness is inherent in the American spirit.

And yes, the Founding Fathers chose their words very carefully.

Fausta Rodríguez Wertz writes on U. S. and Latin America at Fausta’s blog

In the late 1960s the counterculture set out to destroy societal mores. Free love, legal abortions at any point in the pregnancy, drug use, destruction of the establishment, damn the consequences.

The 60s generation rebelled against their parents’s standards where men were expected to be gentlemen and women ladies.

I was not one of the anti-establishment crowd. Even back then I didn’t see the use of tearing down society . . . for what? Some 10 years ago, my son, who at that time was the same age I was during the Summer of Love, asked me where I was during Woodstock, and all I could answer was, “probably at home preparing for the SATs.”

Now the headlines have discovered sexual harassment.

My Facebook feed popped up some posts by women SJW activists who blame white men. Their default stance is to blame the patriarchy, Western Culture, and white men, regardless of the fact that it is Western, Judeo-Christian values codified and enforced by (mostly) white men that have brought about women’s equality under the law.

It’s worth pointing out that SJWs characteristically do not hold the individual responsible. If Charlie Rose, age 75, allegedly strips down and makes unwelcome advances, the patriarchy’s to blame and not that Charlie is allegedly a perv.

There’s another problem: Andrew Klavan mentions that

the New York Times, a former newspaper, now has a tip line where you can complain about something sexual someone famous did to you back in the day.

Klavan continues,

USA Today has a running list of Hollywood sexual offenders and I was reading through it and came upon the charges against Dustin Hoffman. The now 80-year-old Hoffman is accused of talking dirty to one woman and inviting another woman on a date some 30-odd years ago. And you know what? I don’t care. Not even a little. I think Harvey Weinstein, assuming he’s guilty, should go to prison for what he did and I think what Hoffman allegedly did shouldn’t even be mentioned in the papers. When they’re both on the same list, the whole list becomes a moral blur.

Human life is complicated. Sexuality is one of the most complicated parts of human life. Some people make errors, other people corner you in the basement and bang off in front of you, and still other people tell lies. If any voice can be raised against any man and illicit the same level of outrage, all voices will eventually blend into a silence of obscurity and indifference — and that’s a kind of silence that’s very difficult to break.

There’s yet another problem, about which a Facebook friend posted: “The system of the social left, both apparatus and reflex, is structured to be distributed and unpredictable.” The aim is not toleration, respect for women, or encouraging strong moral men to protect women.  The proximate step may be to generate fear and confusion, but the ultimate goal is control.

As it always has been.

Fausta Rodríguez Wertz writes on U. S. and Latin America at Fausta’s blog

It’s forgivable that Ben Franklin didn’t include governmental bureaucracies with death and taxes as being the only certainties of life. After all, he died 143 years before that other Franklin – Roosevelt – laid the groundwork for the America’s administrative state.

This revelation came to me in early October, five days after my wife passed away, when a letter from the Social Security Administration notified me I was entitled to $255 in spousal survivor death benefits. The funeral home had reported the death a day after it happened, so I was surprised by how quickly the SSA sprang into action.

The letter told me to call a toll-free number about the benefit claim, which I promptly did. After going through an irritating introductory robo spiel (“What are you calling about?” etc.), the cheerful electronic voice promised to connect me to the right person. Instead, I got a recording telling me I had an estimated wait time of 45 minutes before I could talk to a human being.

I called twice more at different times over the next two days and got the same results. Then I realized how lucky I had been to get that far when the recording said, “All our lines are busy. Please try again later,” on my fourth call.

After several more fruitless phone calls during the following week, I checked the Social Security website for a solution. As I anticipated, there was no way to file a death benefit claim online, but it did mention that I could call my local SSA office instead of Washington.

I punched in a number, told the operator what I needed and was transferred to a phone that was picked up by a person. “Aha!” I thought. “I’m finally getting this done” No such luck.

The representative I spoke with offered his sincere condolences and took down my basic information. He then told me he was only a middle man – to actually file my claim, I still would have to talk to someone in Washington, but he could schedule a time for someone to call me. After doing some checking, he told me the earliest time I could receive a call would be mid-November, nearly six weeks away. I immediately agreed and wrote down the info on my calendar.

Before I hung up, I told the rep my wife and I had needed only short and simple phone calls to sign up for Social Security, so I couldn’t understand why there was such a convoluted process to collect a measly $255. He commiserated with me and said the rigmarole baffled him, too. “I’ve been here for 25 years and have never understood why it isn’t easier to get the death benefit,” he said.

Such are the ways of Rooseveltian bureaucracies.

When I finally received the phone call last Friday, it lasted about 10 minutes and was completely pointless. Instead of asking questions, the rep had me confirm information he obviously had in front of him. The only real question he asked was the city of my birth. When I gave the correct answer, I apparently proved I was not a lowlife trying to cheat Uncle Sam out of a small fortune.

A little background about the spousal death benefit is in order. It was included in the original Social Security Act of 1935, presumably to help grieving wives and husbands pay for their spouses’ burial expenses. The law capped the benefit at 3.5% of a person’s covered earnings, which would have been a maximum of about $315 when the law was adopted. Possibly nobody ever received such a large sum; in 1939, the average payment was $97 (roughly $1,709 in inflated-adjusted dollars).

Congress capped the lump-sum death benefit at $255 in 1954 ($2,388 today), and the limit was retained the last time the provision was overhauled in 1981 ($723 today).

In one respect, I’m glad the size of the benefit hasn’t changed in 63 years – it’s extremely rare when Congress puts on a display of frugality. On the other hand, I feel compassion for the poverty-stricken families who receive such a pittance when they have to bury a loved one. I know people who have spent more than $255 on a pet burial.

But despite the show of thriftiness, the Social Security death benefit – as it’s now constituted – wastes millions of taxpayers’ dollars a year.

It’s not the payouts that are wasteful, it’s the process. How many thousands of SSA employees spend millions of hours every year to take care of phone calls like mine? These are jobs that easily could be replaced by a web page (which probably would be more efficient, too).

Not only would streamlining the system save money, but it also would spare surviving spouses extra grief in their time of mourning.

By John Ruberry

Last week I had some time off from work and I did what few people do. Before sunrise I left home and drove to Detroit for a pleasure visit.

It was my second trip to the Motor City. My first Da Tech Guy account, from 2015, is here.

What follows is a progress report with a grade.

First of all, is Detroit back? Well, if you are like most visitors and you don’t venture beyond downtown, Midtown, Greektown, New Center, or its three casinos, you’ll say, “Yep, Detroit is a thriving city, it’s back.”

But most of the the neighborhoods, Corktown, Palmer Woods, and Sherwood Forest are exceptions, are either rundown and decrepit, or near-apocalyptic wastelands, such as Brightmoor. And as for Palmer Woods, just three blocks from its southeast corner, near where I parked my car to snap a picture of a feral dog–90 minutes later a store manager was murdered during an armed robbery.

But even in its rough patches–actually most of Detroit is one expansive rough patch–there are noticeable improvements.

The abandoned GM Fisher Body 21 plant

Two years ago I was able to walk into vacated schools and factories with only a nagging guilt about trespassing preventing me from entering. That didn’t work, I walked in anyway. Harry B. Hutchins Elementary School, where I spent an hour taking photographs in 2015, is fenced off now. The Packard plant, the world’s largest abandoned factory, has a small but aggressive security presence. I wandered around there undisturbed for hours during my previous visit. Fisher Body 21, an old General Motors factory, is a glaring eyesore at the intersection of the Edsel Ford and Chrysler freeways. While I was able to stroll into that one, the windows in the stairwells must be bricked-off. The stairways are now as unlit as a cave beneath the dark side of the moon. Only a fool, or someone wearing a miner’s hat with a supply of back-up batteries, would climb them now.

So for urban explorers such as myself, Detroit is no longer a free-range video, photography, and souvenir collection zone.

Two years ago no one with authority appeared to give a damn. I credit the attitude change to Detroit’s reform mayor, Democrat Mike Duggan–who lives in Palmer Woods by the way. Duggan was elected four months after the Motor City’s bankruptcy in 2013. Earlier this month Duggan, who is white, overwhelmingly defeated Coleman Young II, the son of Detroit’s first black mayor. The elder Young’s 20-year tenure can best be deemed as controversial. The former communist utilized race-based politics and dog whistle words–city (black) versus suburbs (white)–which kept him in office but drove businesses and of course jobs out of Detroit. He was the steward of the city’s descent. While the white population is growing for the first time since 1950, Detroit remains a super-majority African-American city. Yet Detroit voters rejected the younger Young’s own dog whistle call to “Take Back the Motherland.” Good for them.

While there still are vacant buildings downtown, two of the most obvious ones that I noticed during my first visit, the 38-story Book Tower and the former Wayne County Building, are being rehabbed. Both were seen in the premature Detroit-is-back Chrysler Super Bowl ad with Eminem from 2011. A mile up Woodward Avenue to the northwest is the gleaning new Little Caesars Arena, the new stadium for the Red Wings and the Pistons. Detroit’s NBA team has returned to the Motor City after a nearly three-decade absence. Across the street from the arena are the luxurious Woodward Square Apartments. With Ford Field, the home of the Lions, and Comerica Park, where the Tigers play, as well as some theaters and other new or rehabilitated apartments, the result is the new District Detroit, an entertainment and residential area that rivals any in the United States.

Alley in Delray

So there is a lot of good going on in Detroit.

As for the bad, let’s discuss those forsaken areas, and it goes beyond the crumbling and abandoned housing stock and the crime. Most pedestrians in “the other Detroit” walk on the streets, because the sidewalks are for the most part crumbing. Some are overgrown with weeds. Nearly all alleys are impassable. Even large trees can be found growing in some. Keep in mind that in 1950 not only was Detroit America’s fifth largest city but it enjoyed the highest standard of living of any city in the world. Municipal alley garbage pick-up ended decades ago and many garages of otherwise well kept-up homes are collapsing. Why maintain a garage when you can’t access it from your alley? And besides, there are plenty of vacant lots, with a bit of elbow grease, that can be converted into grassy parking lots. Rubbish can be found everywhere. Illegal dumping–much of it done by suburbanites–is a serious problem in Detroit. Side streets have many potholes and even more cracks. On the other hand, Duggan has made good on his promise to install more street lights.

Urban prairie in Brightmoor

And that post-apocalyptic neighborhood of Brightmoor? A few sections that were once packed with residents have devolved into the kind of emptiness that you expect to see from a country road, a phenomenon known as an urban prairie.

Critics from the left will lash out at me as I take measure of Detroit’s unpleasant underside and yell, “What about racism?” Yes, for decades Detroit’s blacks suffered from institutional racism. So did black Atlantans. The year after Detroit elected Coleman Young, Atlanta, whose blacks endured Jim Crow laws, followed suit and elected its first black mayor. Atlanta became the city that was “too busy to hate.” In 1996 Atlanta hosted the Summer Olympics, which is something pre-Young Detroit unsuccessfully bid on an unprecedented nine times.

Back to the good: Most Detroiters are generally friendly people, strangers say “hello” to each other. That’s a commendable behavior I’ve never seen in any big city.

Sidewalk in Petosky-Otsego

Back to the bad: Detroiters are the rudest and most reckless drivers I’ve encountered outside of New York City. And remember, Detroit’s streets are in terrible shape, so such road effrontery is especially hazardous.

Detroit is not “back.” but it is coming back. But some unfinished business remains that could send the onetime Arsenal of Democracy back in the wrong direction. While the deadly 1967 riot and the contraction of the Big Three auto makers, as well as fiscal malfeasance, corruption, and numbing levels of crime are largely responsible for Detroit’s demise, the municipal income tax, a commuter tax, and loads of burdensome regulations also played a role. Those taxes, largely idiosyncratic to Detroit among big cities, still remain, along with those regs. And Detroit’s property tax system, according to the Detroit News, is “fundamentally flawed” and was “particularly devastating in the cycle of decline and renewal Detroit has undergone.”

“New Detroit” has emerged from the starting block but the Motor City is wearing ankle weights.

My grade for the city is “incomplete.”

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

The 30 members of the all-Democrat Congressional Hispanic Caucus denied Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo’s membership, since to the Caucus you’re not “Hispanic” enough unless you are a liberal:

CHC Chairwoman Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-N.M.) said the group’s decision wasn’t just based on the Dream Act but also Curbelo’s support for Republican efforts to repeal Obamacare and the GOP tax bill.

“Many of those votes in this climate gave members who voted no, and maybe other members, pause about whether or not this was a good time for changing membership,” Lujan Grisham told reporters after the meeting.

I’m sure the Dems are not pleased that Curbelo won in Hillaryland, too.

But I digress.

Never mind that there’s a new member of Congress; if you’re not a Dem, you’re not welcome,

In a statement after the decision, group spokesman Carlos Paz tried to dispel the notion that the CHC should admit Curbelo simply because he is Hispanic.

“This vote reflects the position of many of our members that Rep. Curbelo and his record are not consistent with those values,” Paz said.

I’m of two minds on this. On the one hand, I believe there’s no such thing as Hispanic. On the other hand, policy making comes through alliances.

Either way, it’s useful that the Caucus again shows itself as a group of partisan hacks.

Several Florida Republicans walked out years ago over differences on Cuba policy and formed their own group, the Congressional Hispanic Conference.

The Congressional Black Caucus accepted Republican Mia Love as a member.

The Congressional Hispanic Caucus ought to make it official and rename itself as the Democrat Hispanic Caucus.

Fausta Rodríguez Wertz writes on U. S. and Latin America at Fausta’s blog

A sitting U. S. Senator is on trial for corruption and is involved in a sex scandal, but you wouldn’t know it.

Robert Menendez, (D-NJ) is on trial for 12 counts of bribery and corruption; his co-defendant, Florida eye doctor Salomon Melgen, is on for 11 counts. The jury is deadlocked but will resume deliberations today.

CNN touched on four of the charges:

Official Act #1: Visas for Friends
Official Act #2: The Dominican Port Security Contract
Official Act #3: US Scanning Equipment Donation to the Dominican Republic
Official Act #4: Attempt to resolve Melgen’s $8.9 million billing dispute

The trial is new, but I was posting on How Bob Menendez sponsored a bill that would have benefited his biggest political donor four years ago. Four and a half years ago I was already saying that The real scandal in the Menendez story… is the relationship between Miami ophthalmologist Solomon Melgen and Menendez.

Back then the media was not interested in corruption charges involving Democrats goings-on, least of all in the Dominican Republic. Things changed when Menendez became ranking member of the Committee on Foreign Relations.

The Obama administration was displeased by Menendez’s positions on the Iran deal, Russia’s aggression in Ukraine, and by

Menendez’s support of dissidents from countries other than Cuba: He vigorously supports the State of Israel against Iran-sponsored Hamas in Gaza, which also figures in his support of international sanctions against the Iranian nuclear program – sanctions that Ecuador and Venezuela attempt to help Iran avoid.

Most of this was ignored. I know from experience (having blogged on LatAm for 13 years) that news involving overseas transactions generally elicit eyes glazing over.

Hawever, sex sells, so the headlines mentioned that he liked the ‘newest and youngest’ prostitutes. The missing hos turned up, and apparently were not underage in Dominican Republic law.

The legal issue was, and is, as Glenn Reynolds pointed out then, a

CULTURE OF CORRUPTION: Billion With a ‘B’: Did Menendez Provide Special Favors to HookerGate Donor? “Follow the money – if Melgen had a billion-dollar contract at stake, his ‘friendship’ with Senator Menendez was obviously more than a mere social acquaintance, which doesn’t necessarily mean that it was illegal for Menendez to pressure the administration to help Melgen enforce his Dominican port security contract. But how and why does a Florida opthalmologist become an international port-security mogul?”

The fact remains that the media would rather not cover the trial, and guess who’s to blame,

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Fausta Rodríguez Wertz writes on U. S. and Latin America at Fausta’s blog

The State Sponsor of Terror List needs more teeth. In its current form, the list only leverages three elements of national power (diplomatic, informational, and economic). It is time to discuss changing this reality by adding the fourth and final element of national power.

On November 2nd  the State Department failed to meet a congressional deadline. Their task is to determine whether the United States should relist North Korea on the State Sponsor of Terror List. President Trump will announce a decision at the end of his current Pacific diplomatic visits.

It may come as a surprise to most Americans that North Korea is not currently on this list. They were removed by the Bush administration in 2008 in a forlorn hope that the North Korean dictatorship then under Kim Jong-il would honor new denuclearization options in exchange for their removal from the list. As anyone with common sense and a rudimentary understanding of that region’s history should know, that did not work. Also unchanged is the Kim dynasty’s sponsorship of international terrorist movements who actively target the west, especially the United States and its interests.

This discussion, however, provides an opportunity to reconsider the usefulness of the State Sponsor of Terror List in its current form. There are three countries identified on the current list: Iran, Sudan and Syria. They have all been on this list for many years, and they have not changed their behavior in any tangible fashion. In fact, one could argue that all of them, and most certainly Iran, have accelerated their support for terrorist organizations.

Why? Listing a nation as a state sponsor of terror results in automatic diplomatic and economic sanctions, and such actions have next to no impact on leaders of nations who simply don’t care. Certainly, adding North Korea to this list will do almost nothing to them we are not already doing. Can we impose further diplomatic or economic sanctions than those already imposed due to their withdrawal from the United Nations Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and their pursuit of ballistic missile delivery systems for their nuclear warheads? The obvious answer is, “No.”

The United States must alter its current policy to include the military element of national power. We must include the stated right to immediately, and without warning, retaliate against any state sponsor of terror in any fashion the US deems appropriate, up to and including the use of our own nuclear arsenal. Such an attack will be triggered as a response to a terrorist attack against our nation, its people, or our allies so long as the terrorist organization is shown to receive any support (arms, money, training, safe harbor, etc.) from a state sponsor on the list. This will provide a level of deterrence that currently does not exist.

Some may argue such a change would be extreme. I, however, would argue it is in our survival interest to do this quickly. Technology has progressed to where even third world dictators like Kim Jon-un are able to acquire weapons that can kill tens of millions, destroy hundreds of billions of dollars of infrastructure, contaminate our food sources, attack our economic infrastructure, shut down national electric grids, etc. Our enemies are all pursuing some or all of these technologies. It is very possible, and arguably probable, that at some point one of these nations will consider providing such a weapon to a terrorist organization they believe they can control. We need to insure they think long and hard before doing so.

This is a narrowly defined policy change. It would only apply to those nations who we place on the list. The State Sponsor of Terror List will then have a level of importance it currently does not, both for nations added and for those who are removed.

We need to stop giving the state sponsors of terror a pass while they conduct war by proxy against the US and its allies. Change our policy, and place North Korea on this list.

I normally focus on Latin American news, but two stories have prominently popped up in my news feed during the last couple of days: the Roy Moore sex accusations, and the Trump-didn’t-take questions-in-China tale.

The Roy Moore story (or as Scott Johnson calls it, The Moore miasma) is astonishing, not the least because of the timing. Moore had been suspended twice from the state’s Supreme Court: the first in 2001 for refusing to remove a monument of the Ten Commandments from the Alabama Judicial Building, the second in 2016 for directing probate judges to continue to enforce the state’s ban on same-sex marriage. It defies belief that the accusers would not have felt they could come out and expose events that took place nearly four decades ago only until a couple of weeks before this upcoming election.

I do not know if Moore is guilty. I do not know if or how the allegations could be proven or disproven. But no matter the facts, I expect this story to remain prominently in the top headlines for a while, especially if Moore wins.

The media will pick and choose.

As it did, for instance, with the Trump-didn’t-take questions-in-China story: Pres. Trump did not take questions from the media after a press conference. Streiff describes the media outrage,

CNN, naturally, ran a story in which they claimed that Trump broke from decades of tradition by participating in a news conference with a Chinese president in which there were no questions.

A few hours later, this, from a CNN article:

CORRECTION: This story has been updated to reflect neither Trump nor President Barack Obama took questions alongside his Chinese counterpart during their first visit to the country. A previous version misstated that Obama had.

By then,

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Streiff, again,

So you can have your journalistic hit job and claim the moral high ground by tweeting and publishing a correction no one will read.

And then it’ll happen again.

JD sums it up:

What concerns me is the intellectual dishonesty and blatant manipulation these news outlets embrace.

That is what I keep in mind every time I read any news at all.

Fausta Rodríguez Wertz writes on U. S. and Latin America at Fausta’s blog

Drug cartels have a full panoply of false gods.

The best-known in the wide-ranging and impressive array is Our Lady of the Assassins, made famous by a popular novel that was later made into a movie. She’s also known as Santa Muerte, a grim reaper figure which even turned up in Breaking Bad,

The most recent is The Infant Huachicolero, essentially a baby Jesus with a jerry can, an image promoted by gangs in Puebla, Mexico. Huachicoleros illegally tap oil pipelines, stealing fuel for cheap resale – a business which, according to the BBC, has become Mexico’s second-biggest organized crime after drug trafficking.

A Google search for religious imagery and drug cartels yields almost 250,000 results, among them Know Your Narco Saints: The Religious Iconography of the Drug Trade

Some of these figures are true “Narco-Saints,” forthright patrons of illegal acts. Others are simply saints that narcos pray to, holy figures asked to intercede in unholy doings. Even Jesus and Mary are not considered beyond the pale.

It’s hardly surprising that cartels would be willing to exploit this tradition of the Catholic Church for their purposes. For instance, San Ramon Nonato (Saint Raymond Nonnatus), patron saint

of the the secrecy of the confessional, of priests keeping their mouths shut. In narco culture, that secrecy is extended to more secular arenas. Namely, police interview rooms and witnesses boxes at the courthouse. “If you get arrested you’re gonna pray to this saint hoping that your witness or whoever is gonna testify against you will be silent and keep the secret of your dirty deed,” says Garza. Petitioners sometimes offer padlocks at San Ramon’s altar, or place tape across his mouth.

How better to broadcast the message “keep your mouth shut”?

Juliette points out for the need to fill the space of your soul, and she quotes Mark Steyn’s essay, The Triumph of Amoral Will, (emphasis added)

A republic requires virtue, and the decline of virtue is accompanied necessarily by the decline of the concept of evil, and its substitution by exculpatory analysis of the “motives” of evil. A more useful conversation would be on what it takes to remove the most basic societal inhibition – including the instinctive revulsion that would prevent most of us from taking the lives of strangers, including in this case eighteen-month-old babies.

Like at the cartels,

That inhibition is weaker in the dar al-Islam, because of Islam’s institutional contempt for “the other” (unbelievers) but also because of the rewards promised in the afterlife. Thus, violence is sanctioned by paradise. That is the precise inversion of our society, and yet the weakening of inhibition seems to be proceeding here, too.

“One should not underestimate the effectiveness of cultural pressures,” Steyn states. Whether in dar-al-Islam or narcostates or anywhere, when the culture eliminates virtue, a republic cannot sustain itself.

Fausta Rodríguez Wertz writes on U. S. and Latin America at Fausta’s blog