Category Archives: border control

Incidents of Travel Abroad

Now that we have returned from our 3 weeks in Andalusia (Spain) and a couple days in Dublin (Ireland) I can reflect on some of the experinces and lessons learned.

  1. Andalusia is everything I thought it would be and more. This area of Europe was controlled by Muslims until 1492. For hundreds of years , under Muslim control, memebers of all three religions (Islam, Judaism and Christianity) lived in relative harmony. Non-Muslims had to pay a special tax, but that was it. They could worship how they wanted. Then, some fundamentalist Muslim leaders started persecuting the Jews and Christians and things went downhill. Eventually the Christians (Ferdinand and Isabella) took over and things went off a cliff. The Spanish Inquisition was instituted and Jews and Muslims were tortured and murdered. End of Al-Andalus.                           https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Al-Andalus

2. The customs official in Dublin. Friendly. Wished us a happy holiday. The customs official in Malaga, Spain. Friendly. When he saw that I had been born in Chicago and my wife in Detroit he decided to have a chat. He had been to the US and we talked about our travels and his travels in his broken English and our broken Spanish. We chatted for about 5 minutes before he stamped our passports and welcomed us to Spain. The customs official in the USA. Unfriendly. Unsmiling.

3. Pants. I bought 2 pair of travel pants which made travel so much easier. Three pockets within the pockets that zipped close. Wallet in front right. Passport in left front. All zippered in. Another zippered pocket in the back and another small pocket for a flip phone. No worries about getting anything lifted . ( I had my passport and money lifted by a very proficient lady on the Rome subway a few years ago).  These pants took the worry out of walking around. Nothing hanging around my neck.

https://shop.bluffworks.com/pages/travel-pants

4. Transportation in Spain. Reliable, clean convenient train service between cities. Fast. Reserved seats. Trains on time. Same with the buses. Clean, comfy.  At least the long distance ones that we took. When I think of train and bus stations in the US I think of the “other side of the tracks”. In Spain they are central and packed with people. The bigger ones have restaurants. It is possible to have decent public transport. Spain proves that.

http://www.renfe.com/EN/viajeros/index.html

5. Taxis. Dublin, Cordoba, Malaga and Grenada were fine. But in Seville the taxi drivers, noticing that we were tourists, always managed to fine the “scenic route” to our destination. Padding 1 or 2 euros to the bill. The fastest distance between 2 points is the one that gave the taxi driver a little more loot!

6. Food. Eat the local food. Ham is big in Andalusia. And “tapas”, those small servings of bread and ham or sausage or cheese that come with your beer. My favorite: Bull’s tail stew. Unlike Mexico, where I get sick for a day or 2 whenever I try to eat, in Andalusia neither of us had any problems. Food was great and fairly priced.

http://awanderingcasiedilla.com/2017/02/03/awc-guide-best-tapas-granada/

7. The reason I went to Andalusia. The Alhambra  in Grenada. The Mezquita in Cordoba. The Alcazar in Seville.  (google them) The ocean in Cadiz. The architecture from the Islamic period was not only monumental, but was decorated without using any human figures. So, intricate geometric patterns  were carved into walls, celings, doorways and tiles. The skill of the craftsmen is awesome.

https://www.alhambradegranada.org/en/info/nasridpalaces/alhambranasridpalaces.asp

https://mezquita-catedraldecordoba.es/en/

http://www.alcazarsevilla.org/english-version/

8.  Final note. Leaving Dublin heading for the USA. Unbeknownst to us, all travelers to the USA have to go through a double security system. First, the Irish system which is very thorough and relatively pleasant. Empty your pockets, walk through the body scanner, pick up your stuff. OK. But then, there is another sign with a big USA flag on it.

So, walk downstairs and go through a special US security system. Which is the same as the Irish system. Except for one difference. They don’t do a body scan. Now, understand this. We had to go through the Irish system to get into the departure section, then we had to go through a second system just for the USA.  After going through the US system we then got in line to go to the computer terminals. At these terminals you put in your passport. Then you either get on your tiptoes (if you are short) or crouch down (if you are tall) and have your picture taken. This picture then comes out of the machine on a long strip of paper. It gets better.

You now take this picture that you just took and walk 30 feet to the waiting US security station. Remember, you just walked 30 feet to this new station with the picture you just took. The security person looks at the picture  and looks at you. Remember you just took this picture in full view of the security personnel just 30 feet away. He then verifies that the picture you just took of yourself is actually you. To my undying relief the picture I just took of myself WAS, in fact, me! So, I was allowed to continue.

I am not sure what the purpose is of putting people going to the US through this senseless process. You have already been checked by airport security. You passport has been checked. And the silliest part, showing security the picture you just took of yourself. I am guessing in most cases the photo you just took  is usually going to be you. Unless you metamorphasize in the 30 feet between stations. If a would-be terrorist takes a picture of himself will he no longer resemble that photo 10 seconds later? (By the way, you still have to through US security when you land in the US) .

My conclusion: Theater. Adding some processes to play to a fantasy  that this somehow makes travel to the US safer, when in fact it just makes it annoying. Or perhaps the manufacturer of the computer/photo systems made sizable campaign contributions ?

Travel is great fun. Except for the airlines. And security. Can’t wait until they perfect the transporter beams. Beam me to Spain, Scotty!

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Trump’s Alternative Reality Explained

I saw Kelly Conway, Trump’s spokesperson ,  explain that she has a right to “alternative facts” if the actual facts are not suited to her story. Hey, this is America. When the facts are liberal what other choice does she have?

But as I examine the myriad of demonstrably false claims of her boss I am left wondering if he is, in fact (or, more precisely, in “alternative fact”) correct and honest in his  statements . Can one man deliver so much misinformation? Does he really have the IQ to make up all the stuff he makes up? Or does he really believe it?

Which brings me to Star Trek.

Anyone who has ever watched Star Trek or the many spin offs of Star Trek understands that we are not alone.  Spock (Mr, not Dr), would be the first to tell us that in addition to our own universe there are millions of parallel universes which also exist.  In space. And in time.

For those of you who  are ignorant of the realities of the hard science of fictional characters and preposterous ideas on TV shows, let me try to explain. Perhaps your puny human brains will be able to comprehend.

In the space-time continuum there are many points of overlap. As time and space bend (according to Einstein) there are points at which space and time meet and fold . Kind of like a bean burrito on a hot day in east LA.  It can get messy.

Where these folds occur there are sometimes breaks and openings or fissures in the space-time continuum. Again, according to Einstein (not Albert, but Juan Einstein who runs the taco stand on 112th Street), this is similar to what happens when the soft taco shell leaks. While the entire taco holds together, certain breaks in the tortilla allow beans, salsa, cheese and some other goo to leak through. This is nearly identical to  a fissure in the time-space continuum.

When that happens, in the universe or at a Mexican eatery, things get sloppy. Leakage occurs. Things spill over from one reality to another. It ain’t a pretty sight.

This explains Donald Trump. Every one of Donald Trump’s statements is factually correct and accurate. It is just that he (and many of the folks who followed him through the wormhole) are living in a parallel universe. They have seeped into our reality like the sloppy drippings of a three day old soft shell burrito.

In Universe Trump  the size of a crowd on a photo is inversely proportional to the actual number of people there. For example, in Universe Trump I have over 6 billion followers of my blog, rather than being limited to my wife and the neighbor’s cat. (Well, the cat skips a lot of them).

In Universe Trump millions of people vote illegally whereas in our universe, let’s call it the Real Universe, there is no voter fraud of any consequence. None. Zippo.

In Universe Trump Mexican people are lined up at the 2,000 mile border 8 deep while Obama border agents hand them $1000 bills and pull them over to our side. In the Real Universe, of course, deportations and border security are at an all-time high.

In Universe Trump there is chaos everywhere. Carnage in the streets.  Well, any streets that have not been destroyed by liberal policies.Carnage in our schools where kids learn nothing. Absolutely nothing.  (I guess in Trump’s Universe knowing nothing is a sign of an educated person). Carnage, carnage everywhere. What a mess.In the Real  Universe there are problems, but no bodies piled up by the thousands (except at anti-Trump rallies).

In Universe Trump our military is a bunch of worthless wimps, our factories have all closed and the planet is getting colder by the minute. Of course, in the Real Universe none of this is true.

So, to understand Trump you have to realize that somewhere in the space-time continuum he fell through a hole. (Or maybe pushed by someone on the other side. Barron? Ivanka? Melania?)There is a place in space where our universes meet, the Real one and the Trump one. Somewhere there is that fissure in the burrito.

How do we find it ? It would have be a place devoid of integrity. A place where conmen and the mob feel at home. A place where all hope, dignity and honesty  goes to die. Kind of like New Jersey but not quite as despicable.

So, what do we do? The Trump Universe has taken power in the Real Universe.Can we go  back in time and seal the fissure? Can the Real Universe overcome the Trump Universe and bring back Real Universe sanity. Can we build a time machine, maybe with illegal labor? Or will the Donald return to his own universe voluntarily, perhaps seeking a younger eastern European bride?

The solution is obvious. We need a transporter. (Do I have to explain? You know , it dissolves you and then sets you down someplace else). A transporter beam that we can use to beam back Trump to the universe from which he came. Transport him right through the fissure in the burrito.

Unless it is already too late.  By now those who he left behind may be worried that he will return. I expect they are already building  a wall.

 

 

 

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Trump’s Great Wall

Mr Trump was adamant. He was going to build a WALL. A concrete, brick solid WALL across the entire 1900 mile border with Mexico. His minions chanted : Build the Wall! Build the Wall!.

Of course, people with common sense said, “No”. The border crosses desert, mountain and river. Areas where building a wall would not only be prohibitively expensive, but impractical. And, we already have walls and fences covering much of the border where it is appropriate and feasible. Certainly extending some fencing and increasing border security was reasonable. But not a 1,900 mile solid wall.

Nevertheless, Mr Trump insisted that the border was porous. Rapists and criminals were streaming across the “open border”. Only his 20 or 40 or 90 foot high wall would stop the deluge of criminals pouring in from Mexico. Hillary Clinton, he said, wanted those borders “open” so all those rapists could easily force their way across the border. Of course, Clinton actually voted FOR the 700 mile border security fence in 2006, as did Obama. A sensible, bi-partisan approach to a real  problem. But we won’t let facts get in the way.

http://www.politico.com/blogs/2016-presidential-debate-fact-check/2016/10/did-clinton-once-want-to-build-a-wall-too-230026

And the $25,000,000,000 price tag for his wall? No problem. Mexico would simply pay for it. He would somehow force Mexico, one of the poorer nations in the world, to fund a massive wall that he wanted. And they would do it for free. According to his campaign website Mexico would be “forced” to pay at least $5-10,000,000,000 for the wall on day one of his administration. Trump assured us.

Then Mexican president Nieto said: “Nope. Not going to happen.” He met with Trump and told him point blank. Then, after Mr Trump was elected the Mexican foreign minister, Massieu, reiterated that Mexico would not give the US any money to build a wall.

One of Trump’s main supporters during the election, Brandon Judd is the head of the Border Patrol Union. He supported Trump and his wall. In an NPR interview on November 17, 2016 Mr Judd seemed to be hedging his “wall” bet. He claims he has been advising Mr. Trump about border issues.

Now, Mr Judd says, Trump did not really mean a “wall”, just a border security system. Like we have now, except expanded. (Kind of like Senators Obama and Clinton voted for when they were in the Senate.) Walls already exist, said Judd. But a wall all the way across the border …uh…nope..

“…JUDD: The wall is going to be absolutely effective in certain locations. We do not need a wall along the entire 2,000 miles of border. And what I really appreciate about President-elect Trump is he understands that he doesn’t know everything. And every single time that I’ve sat down and spoken with him, we’ve talked about a wall. We’ve talked about whether it needs to be the full 2,000 miles of the Southwest border or if we just need it in strategic locations. And he’s been willing to listen and that’s very refreshing….”

http://www.npr.org/2016/11/17/502402360/border-patrol-agents-union-confers-with-trump-on-securing-the-border

So, we don’t really need a wall after all.  Just enhanced security. Like Clinton voted for in 2006 in the Border Security Fence Act? That 700 mile fence in strategic locations that has helped reduce illegal immigration?

But Trump wants a brick and concrete and mortar wall, right?

Again, the Judd interview:

“…JUDD: Well, we do want walls in certain locations. We do want a very effective wall. We’re not talking about a brick-and-mortar wall. If you build just a brick-and-mortar wall, they’re going to come up and they’re going to break that wall down. And then it’s going to be very, very hard to patch that type wall. You have to build something that is going to be very difficult to defeat….”

So, we shall see. Will Trump really try to build a massive wall,  as his supporters wanted. Remember the “Build the Wall” chant ? Second only to the “Lock Her Up” chants at the Trump rallies?

Of course, Trump HAS built wall before. In Scotland. When he took revenge on the Scots who lived on the land of their ancestors next to his newly built “golf resort”. When these Scots publicly opposed this boondoggle Trump responded by building a wall across their land,  effectively blocking their view of the ocean they had enjoyed for years. And he sent them the bill for the wall.  They never paid. But he did successfully destroy their ocean view. He taught them a lesson.

And in the past Trump has headed many building projects. And failed to pay his contractors.

So, maybe that is his plan. He will hire contractors to build a wall and simply NOT PAY FOR IT !  Or not build a wall as he promised? Or do nothing but simply TWEET that he has accomplished something?   Meanwhile, we haven’t heard much lately about the Great Wall of Trump. Time will tell.

 

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Filed under border control, foreign aid, GOP, immigrants, Immigration, Neoconservative, neoconservatives, Politics, POTUS, Republicans, Society, Trump, US

The Smuggler

It was dark and chilly near midnight on the Texas-Mexico border. I had a tip that a smuggler was going to cross that night and I wanted to meet up with him. Do an interview.

(In order to maintain confidentiality all the names in this report have been changed. My name is Joe Urban but I call myself Luke. The smugglers name was Jorge Maria Hernandez Moctezuma Gonzalez. I will call him Jose).

Jose was driving a small truck. As it pulled up to the border  a customs agent stopped him and they talked. Jose shook the agent’s hand . The agent looked into his hand, slipped it into his pocket and waved Jose through. A bribe. A time-honored border tradition.

I followed Jose and his truck through the night on the long drive north. Sometime near dawn he pulled off into a small town and stopped at Eat Em and Weep Cafe. I went in and found him sitting at a corner table. Well. The only table. I introduced myself.

Luke: Hello Jose, I am Luke. The guy doing the undercover story.

Jose: I thought I was supposed to meet some gringo named Joe. And my name is not Jose,  it is Jorge Maria Hernandez Moctezuma Gonzalez. What do you want to know?

Luke: Why do you smuggle?

Jose: Because I like to help people. People have needs and I try to make their lives a little better.  It is my way of giving a little back to the world. And it pays good.

Jose rocked back in his chair and stared at the spiders crawling across the ceiling. He had a faraway look in his eye. The awe-inspiring, starry-eyed look  of a philosopher. Or a sleep deprived trucker. He continued.

Jose: You see. I bring to you North Americanos a little joy. A product that makes your miserable lives a little happier. What is wrong with that? Don’t you have the right to be happy like us Mexicanos?

Jose continues: You may think that you can get the same thing from Colorado. You think the best stuff comes from Colorado? Maybe. But no. Colorado cannot supply the entire nation. The law of supply and demand. Capitalismo!

Jose continues: You are thinking about your own internal supply. But my stuff is pure. Better. No extra junk thrown in . The best in the world. Why take  chance on some local supplier when you can have the best? Why take a chance when you know that my stuff has never killed anyone. Guaranteed pure. Uncut.

Jose continues: And you deserve the best. So I will continue to make the dangerous journey to El Norte. I will slip past the border guards..what?..oh, you saw me give him a bribe. Well,  I will continue the dangerous journey and bribing the border guards. It is worth it to see the smiles on the gringos faces when the delivery arrives.

Luke: Are you worried that President Trump will build a wall and and finally put an end to your smuggling once and for all?

Jose: No worry. My uncle Antonio Juarez Moctezuma Gonzalez owns 4 bulldozers. He plans to start a new business smashing into the wall each night at different places. He has already incorporated as “The Holes in the Wall Gang”.  We are ready.

So there you have it. A law breaking smuggler who justifies his actions by claiming to be a “public servant”. Another smuggler defying US laws. A disgrace to all. But the story has a happy ending for law-abiding citizens.

I followed Jose for hundreds of miles north as he drove through Illinois, Indiana and into Michigan. Finally the roar caused by his lack of a muffler, the black cloud of oily smoke  and sparks generated by a right taillight dragging on the ground caught the trained eye of a Michigan State trooper. He was pulled over. Caught. Nabbed.

When the back door of his truck was lifted , there was the contraband in plain site. BUSTED. Cases and cases of the illegal product. It would never reach the lips of addicted Michiganders.

“Crystal” bottled water from Mexico. Cases of it. In sealed plastic bottles. Direct from the bottling plant. Stenciled across the back of each case: Destination: Flint, Michigan. The jig was up. The uncut, super clean water was found before it could be delivered .

The troopers threw  the cases on to the ground and smashed the contraband into bits, Elliot Ness-style. They slashed the bottles and watched as the liquid gushed out onto the pavement. The pure, clean, fresh water flowed onto the highway. The good stuff. Just before he got in his cruiser and drove away I noticed one of the Michigan State troopers slip a couple bottles into his jacket. I couldn’t blame him. I figured he must have had kids.

 

 

 

 

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