1. I wish the New York Times didn’t publish so many good articles. Behind their paywall I gotta believe that all those learned motherfuckers get so much good content they don’t even know what to read. C’mon New York Times, let free the information and let the world know that y’all write some good stories!
2. This is another Longreads best-of-the-year recommendation this time from Geoff Van Dyke. Thanks Longreads, Geoff and the New York Times (you still suck). And of course props to the author of this zippy article, Patrick Radden Keefe, who creates an enjoyable read.
3. This is a lot of money. . . flossing, one might call it flossing.
In 2007, Mexican authorities raided the home of Zhenli Ye Gon, a Chinese-Mexican businessman who is believed to have supplied meth-precursor chemicals to the cartel, and discovered $206 million, the largest cash seizure in history. And that was the money Zhenli held onto — he was an inveterate gambler, who once blew so much cash in Las Vegas that one of the casinos presented him, in consolation, with a Rolls-Royce. “How much money do you have to lose in the casino for them to give you a Rolls-Royce?” Tony Placido, the D.E.A. intelligence official, asked. (The astonishing answer, in Zhenli’s case, is $72 million at a single casino in a single year.) Placido also pointed out that, as a precursor guy, Zhenli was on the low end of the value chain for meth. It makes you wonder about the net worth of the guy who runs the whole show.
4. One marker of power is the mask. As in the cases of the ALF and Zapatista those disempowered wear the mask to obscure the identity of the participant, but also to make the struggle less about the individual. In the case of the Mexican drug war, the use of the mask seems to be more clearly about retaliation and safety.
The tacit but unwavering tolerance that Mexican authorities have shown for the drug trade over the years has muddled the boundaries between outlaws and officials. When Miguel Angel Martínez was working for Chapo, he says, “everyone” in the organization had military and police identification. Daylight killings are sometimes carried out by men dressed in police uniforms, and it is not always clear, after the fact, whether the perpetrators were thugs masquerading as policemen or actual policemen providing paid assistance to the thugs. On those occasions when the government scores a big arrest, meanwhile, police and military officials pose for photos at the valedictory news conference brandishing assault weapons, their faces shrouded in ski masks, to shield their identities. In the trippy semiotics of the drug war, the cops dress like bandits, and the bandits dress like cops.