Tag: war on drugs

Is the war on drugs a make-work project?

By Alan Bean

Ripple effects from the sequester continue to proliferate.  Now it is local and regional narcotics task forces that are feeling the pinch because federal Byrne Grant funding has been ever-so-slightly reduced.  The article below appeared in Stateline, a daily news service of the Pew Charitable Trusts and it is essentially a scare-piece designed to pump up concern about the sequester.  But if you check out the chart a few paragraphs down the page, you will notice that Byrne Grant funding took a big hit in 2008 in the wake of the financial crisis and then rebounded heroically in 2009 thanks to President Obama’s stimulus spending.  That funding has retreated a bit from these record levels is hardly surprising, sequester or no sequester.

Maggie Clark’s article is significant for what it doesn’t say.  It doesn’t say that the war on drugs is primarily a federal make-work project for hard up counties and municipalities.  But it is.  The Obama administration didn’t pump millions of fresh Byrne Grant money into the drug war to get drugs off the street; it was all about saving jobs and under-girding fragile rural economies that have little legitimate job-creation potential.

I have no problem with job-creation programs since I don’t think the for-profit economy, by itself, can prevent the kind of mass unemployment we have witnessed in recent years.  But sending the big bucks to narcotics task forces, for-profit prisons and incredibly wasteful projects like Operation Streamline is a radically inefficient and fundamentally dishonest job-creation strategy.  Why not sponsor violence reduction programs in poor communities while hiring potential gang-bangers to beautify their own neighborhoods; why not shore up a crumbling infrastructure that has become a national embarrassment?  Make-work programs can make the world a better place; but the war on drugs and the booming border security industry just recycle misery.  Sure, they provide some jobs and a few fat cats get fatter; but our culture is debased in the process.

I was glad to see that Clark mentions the Tulia fiasco, even if she did get most of her facts slightly askew.  Tulia explains why George W. Bush (governor of Texas at the time) didn’t like the Byrne Grant program and worked hard to scale it back.  Tulia embarrassed Texas and led to the virtual disappearance, at least in the Lone Star State of the kind of unaccountable and counterproductive narcotics task forces that depend on the largess of the DOJ.  Drug abuse is a big problem in every sector of American life, but the drug war is fought almost exclusively in poor, predominantly black and brown neighborhoods.  The real sickness is rampant poverty and unemployment, and so long as we focus exclusively on a symptom of that disease (drug abuse and drug dealing) we are tilting at windmills. (more…)

At Mexican Border, Four in Five Drug Busts Involve American Citizens

ImagePosted by  Pierre Berastain

“Three out of four people found with drugs by the border agency are U.S. citizens, the data show. Looked at another way, when the immigration status is known, four out of five busts—which may include multiple people—involve a U.S. citizen.”

Amidst the accusations of people like Governor Brewer and Sheriff Apaio that undocumented immigrants are dangerous criminals responsible for smuggling millions of dollars worth of drugs , this article brings a new and fresh perspective.

At Mexican Border, Four in Five Drug Busts Involve American Citizens


The public’s view of a typical Mexican drug smuggler might not include U.S. Naval Academy grad Todd Britton-Harr, who was caught at a Border Patrol checkpoint in south Texas in December 2010 hauling a trailer with 1,100 pounds of marijuana.

Nor would someone like Laura Lynn Farris leap to mind. Border Patrol agents stopped the 52-year-old woman at a border checkpoint 15 miles south of the west Texas town of Alpine in February 2011 with 162 pounds of marijuana hidden under dirty blankets in laundry baskets. (more…)

How the US government used a Mexican drug lord to convict an innocent man

Ramsey Muniz runs for Texas governor in 1970

By Alan Bean

Ramsey (Ramiro) Muniz is a man of seventy who hobbles on a bad hip, but his spirit grows stronger with each passing day.  Ramsey has now spent two full decades in federal prisons (including three years in solitary confinement) for participating in an alleged narcotics conspiracy.  Supporters feel that a septuagenarian with a broken body and a vibrant heart is a sterling candidate for a presidential commutation.  I agree.  But first we must face a troubling question.  Somebody entered into a conspiracy with a Mexican drug lord, but was it Ramsey Muniz or was it the federal government?

Eager for a big media splash and an easy conviction, the Houston office of the DEA treated their counterparts in Dallas to a series of carefully staged events while intentionally obscuring the truth.  Those who testified at trial had no idea what was going on; those who knew the truth did not testify.  The DEA got a big media win, a drug lord got a plane ticket back to Mexico, and Ramsey Muniz got a life sentence.  (more…)