Monday, July 26, 2010
Who'd Have Thought?
by Ben Small
Some of David Baldacci's Divine Justice Camel Club heroes fight illegal activities run from a small town mine. Terrible conspiracies, and just under the nose of federal inspectors and state officials. Big money. A good, suspenseful story, and I enjoyed the book, although I thought it stretched credibility a bit. How could such a wide conspiracy be run for so long without anyone involved in regulatory or law enforcement taking any notice? How wide must the conspiracy extend?
Well, as seems to be the case more and more these days, David could have stretched this plot-line even further and still run short of reality.
A Northern Mexico prison just got caught running hit man squads. Prisoners, many of them juveniles, supplied weapons and vehicles by prison officials and then sent on execution missions. Their last one? The birthday party massacre you heard about last week. One hundred twenty rounds fired; seventeen dead, eighteen more injured. The executioners shot wildly, striking guests and bystanders. All part of the ongoing Mexican drug wars.
Don't believe me? Check out this link: Murder School. Or this one: NYT Report
Now, as a novelist, I think this is a great idea. Consider the coordination involved in such a project. How does one shut prisoners up? They're known for bragging about their exploits, known for turning on their co-conspirators or cell-mates. How did the director of this prison and his top three subordinates think they could keep their execution-for-rent operation quiet? Obviously, police and other governmental officials knew. These guys were for hire, cash on demand. C'mon, lots of people touched their nose and rubbed their fingers.
"A rival gang crossed a forbidden boundary? Someone didn't pay for their load? Need to pay a debt and don't have the funds available? Call Hector Gomez, Gomez Palacio Prison Director. Hector will dispatch your problemo and send a strong, clear message. Low rates, terms on arrangement. Quantity discounts. Pricing to fit any budget."
Would make a good TV ad, eh? Maybe some AKs going off in background, some blood spatter, maybe some subliminal stuff...
But take a look at this map:
Location of Mexican Hit Man Prison Execution Squads
Notice how close the prison (marked with the red "A") is to the U.S. Border, especially such border towns as Yuma and Mexacali. Just a short hop, around fifty miles, to interstate 8 and easy access to these cities, plus San Diego, Phoenix or Tucson. And lots of trails to the highway and a fence that can in spots be walked over, in others, crossed by ATV and ramp.
Mexico is at war with its drug lords, and we cannot secure our borders, a recipe both for a great novel and real tragedy. Somebody will write the novel; the tragedy, we're seeing play out along our borders every single day.
What are we to do?
I've got two suggestions: 1) Secure our border, and 2) Take the market away from the drug lords.
The first solution is obvious. Leaving our borders open invites tragedy, either continued growth of the drug and human smuggling cartels and gangs and their wars, or a terrorist sneaking some dirty bombs inside our country.
The second solution relates to simple economics. President Calderon has blamed the U.S. for its demand for drugs, saying truthfully that American money is driving these gangs into ever more outrageous, murderous conduct. Money talks. And the money here is buying marijuana, by far the largest percentage of goods smuggled over the border.
What if we legalized marijuana, regulated it and taxed the hell out of it?
California is reputed to grow the best marijuana in the world, and California is mired in a deficit crisis, as is the federal government. Some have estimated the value of California's marijuana crop in the hundreds of billion dollars. And that's while it's still illegal to grow the stuff in most areas. If we legalized pot, wouldn't we solve some of our budget woes and deprive our crooked southern neighbors of much of their oh-so-profitable market?
Look what the end of Prohibition did to alcohol smuggling.
Seriously, our scientists have studied the effects of marijuana for over seventy years. They've yet to find a reason to criminalize it beyond the effect originally intended by Wm Randolph Hearst when he funded its criminalization effort: to get rid of Mexicans.
Yeah, that plan worked well, didn't it?
I've seen plenty of aggressive drunks. Don't think I've ever seen an aggressive pothead.