Trump, Escobar, and El Chapo:  Impunity and Immunity

Little Rock       We had watched a couple of the Netflix “Narcos” shows that are a fictionalized take on some surreal or semi-real events involving Pablo Escobar, the Medellin, Columbia drug czar.  Recently, we have done a deeper dive and are now halfway through the second year.  It seemed so unreal and of a different time that we could pretend it was more entertainment than reality show.  Escobar was a case study, if anyone was watching, of someone with resources who believes he is above the law even as embraces being a bandito.  He had a hardcore base among the poor in the barrios of Medellin that was willing to overlook crazy violence and hold him up as a Robin Hood.  He believed he could negotiate equally with the President of Columbia with an army at his command and could use his fighters, violence, and money to secure his own separate peace in his own narcissistic piece of the world.

Now, we’ll have to watch the rest of the episodes for tips in understanding our world in the wake of the latest news from Mexico.  As reported by the New York Times:

The violence began shortly after 3:30 p.m. in the city of Culiacán, the capital of Sinaloa State, when a patrol of 30 soldiers came under attack by individuals in a home in the neighborhood of Tres Ríos, according to government officials.  After taking control of the home, the security forces encountered and detained four men — among them [Ovidio] Guzmán López, a leader in the Sinaloa cartel [son of El Chapo, Joaquin Guzman Loera, now imprisoned in the USA]. Cartel gunmen then surrounded the home and engaged the armed forces, the officials said. …Later, the cartel deployed fighters throughout the neighborhood and began burning vehicles and blockading streets throughout the city.  Gunfire continued into [the] night, as soldiers and cartel fighters battled in the streets. In its brief statement, the government said it had opted to suspend its operation, but did not elaborate on what exactly that meant. Later, it became clear through local media that the government forces had indeed released Mr. Guzmán López back into the custody of the cartel.

We hadn’t realized that the “Narcos” was a watered-down version of the drug wars or that this level of impunity was as narcotic as they drugs being dealt.

Of course, we see the same level of impunity from President Trump these days, along with his entitled feeling of being immune to any legal or institutional norms.  Threaten to impeach him for his solicitation of yet another foreign country, Ukraine, to further his personal politics, and he doubles down and asks China to investigate and help him.  Accuse him of personal self-dealing, and he selects his Trump Doral hotel resort in Florida as the location for the 2020 G-7 meeting of world leaders that he gets to host next year.  Tell him there is legal protection for whistle blowers, and he announces in every forum that he’s “looking for” this guy.  Accuse him of violating the “emoluments” section of the Constitution on receiving benefits for his service, and he spends 308 days or one-third of his time in office to date staying at one of personal properties and conducts numerous meetings in his hotel in Washington, D.C.  Accuse him of selling out the Kurds on a whim to help his dictator buddies, and after years of partnership he says the Kurds “are no angels” while standing tall with some of the world’s worst devils.

Escobar, the Guzmans, and the Trumps may use slightly different means, but their view of the ends is the same:  whatever is best for them, the devil take the hindmost, laws don’t matter, governments come and go, it’s all about them.  Immune to any other opinions, standards, or norms, it’s their way or the highway with absolute impunity.  Catch me if you can.

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Gilmore Girls Blow up Fair Grinds Coffeehouse

dscn1914Little Rock    It all seemed simple enough. Through the on-and-off challenge of erratic email in Cameroon, I got an email from a marketing company asking if Fair Grinds Coffeehouse, our social enterprise fair trade operation in New Orleans, was willing to do something they called a “Luke’s Diner” pop-up for 5 hours on a Wednesday for Netflix. It seems they were trying to revive the old “Gilmore Girls” television show sometime later in the year. They would pay us for up to 250 free cups of coffee to giveaway. They would do the promo and send us cups, sleeves, and some t-shirts or aprons and such.

What did I know from the “Gilmore Girls?” I might have watched them for a couple of minutes sometime back in the day while flipping through channels perhaps. Sort of a rom-com, adult soap opera of sorts tilted toward a female demographic. I looked at the calendar. It was a Wednesday. Someone willing to buy 250 cups of coffee on a Wednesday morning, usually a somewhat slow day, what did we have to lose, I thought? I forwarded the message over to Zee Thornton, our manager, saying as much, but warning that I was buried, so she would have to pull the trigger on any contract, since I couldn’t sign and scan from Douala.

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I was a little worried when I read the contract they sent over which had a line that they could unilaterally disregard everything they said in the contract on a whim, so I objected to the marketing company. Their agent replied. Hmmm. Then he suggested we just scratch that line out and sign it and see what might happen. That seemed a little sketchy to me, but, what the heck, Zee could handle it, and how bad could this be, Gilmore Girls, maybe 50 or 100 folks would show up. I would roll by and check it out as I left for meetings in Greenville, Mississippi, and Little Rock, Arkansas.

The “Gilmore Girls” blew up Fair Grinds! It was crazy! When I got there at 730 AM, an hour after we opened on Ponce de Leon, the line stretched from our counter, out the door, and snaked down the street, and around the corner of ’s grocery store at the end of the block. I took a picture from our balcony and, having seen many marches and demonstrations, it looked like Fair Grinds was the target of an action! Luckily Zee had showed up for a look too, so she was behind the counter with two baristas. The opener said that when he got there at 530 AM, there was already a line. I left at 8 AM to hit the highway after trying to reassure folks along the line that we were slinging the coffee, and it wouldn’t be long.

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I asked the crowd of largely younger, white women, what was up? Many said they had watched it with their mothers. The series had run between 2000 and 2007. This would have been its 16th anniversary. One young woman on a bicycle who used to work at Canseco’s told me when she was working in the neighborhood, she had told her parents that this whole neighborhood reminded her of the Gilmore Girls neighborhood. Unlike most crowds, they were totally mellow, chitchatting as they inched along, patient, just sort of grinning about being at some kind of a Gilmore Girls lovefest. It could have been drugs, but I don’t think so.

It turned out we were out of the free coffee before 9 AM, and had used all 500 cup sleeves not much after that. Netflix worked this promotion in 200 coffee houses and cafes around the country. I’m not sure it cost them much more than $100 – $150000 nationally. We had radio, television, and newspapers before, during, and after the event. It was a total happening! I looked on-line, and USA Today had a story about a similar line and Luke himself showing up at a joint in Los Angeles.

Wild. My son, Chaco, the Fair Grinds assistant manager, who showed up luckily to restock and help out, posted on Facebook that he was going to have to check this show out now and see what was up.

You think you know something about organizing and moving a crowd, but there’s always something to learn!

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Please enjoy Hiss Golden Messenger’s Biloxi. Thanks to KABF.

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