Slap My Assets

April 16, 2009 at 10:23 pm (By Miles Lascaux)

Wednesday, the Obama administration proposed a “choke the money” strategy to solve complex problems. Obama slapped financial sanctions on three of the most vicious Mexican drug cartels and threatened to prosecute Americans who do business with them. The same day, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the administration will try to seize the financial assets of Somali pirates.

Fighting drug lords and pirates by pinpoint surgical strikes on their cash streams sounds like a bad joke in a country where we can’t even discover what our own financiers are doing with our own trillions until it’s too late.

The quickest and cheapest way to undercut the cartels, of course, would be to legalize marijuana, which, according to the White House drug czar, accounts for 62 percent of the Mexican drug cartels’ profits. But Obama doesn’t seem to be moving in that direction.

-Miles Lascaux

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11 Comments

  1. rodjean said,

    Legalizing drugs is tempting, but I’m not so sure. Once upon a time a heroin habit was so expensive that users eventually ran afoul of the law engaging in burglaries or robberies to support their habits. The price has gone down and users are merely harassed; not prosecuted. One can support a habit today by panhandling, and many do. And the habit itself wrecks their lives. Same for crystal meth.

    Granted, not many people die from a pot OD, or lose their teeth and the calcium in their bones, and starve themselves until their kidneys fail on a little Mary Jane, but every drug has its addicts, and legality has to mean increased availability, more stoners, more stoners driving, etrc.

    Knowing what we know today, if cigarettes had always been illegal and a stubborn subculture flouted the law, would you vote to legalize them? It is an easy question to a true libertarian, perhaps, but a bit harder for anyone with a child who has destroyed her life for a high.

  2. amba12 said,

    Obama is trying very hard to sound tough. He hit my feminist nerve today (it is there!) when he sort of blew off the Afghan women’s brave demonstrations (as life-risking as the civil rights marches in 1960s Alabama) by basically saying, We don’t like this law, but what’s really important is fighting al-Qaeda. What a tone-deaf, graceless thing to say! As if one major (as in majority) reason to fight al-Qaeda weren’t so his own daughters will never be subject to such a law (which President Karzai is now changing anyway).

  3. amba12 said,

    I wonder if drug policy shouldn’t be made with the consultation of recovering addicts and the families of addicts. Once you have become an addict, even if you’re blessed to get into rehab and work for your sobriety, you’ll have to fear relapse for the rest of your life. Libertarians can talk about curtailing people’s freedom, but an active addict has no freedom, having exercised the freedom to self-enslave or self-destruct. Yes, it is possible to get sober (could any addict do it in principle? I don’t know) and those who do become some of the best people you’ll ever meet, because of their honesty with themselves (I once complained to a friend in AA, “Why isn’t there AA for nonalcoholics?”). But it’s such a wasteful way to get some wise wounded. What’s the percentage of people who successfully get sober? I think it’s sadly small.

  4. rodjean said,

    Can’t sleep again, huh?

    Addicts can give you a different perspective. I can pick out the heroin connections in my town. It’s the Mexican Mafia here. The guys stand in front of supermarkets – for hours, with a cell phone. A buyer contacts them and, if the buyer is known or looks safe, they call somebody else who makes the drop nearby – often near the loading docks behind a strip mall, where you can see somebody coming about a block away.

    I was once tempted to buy a gun and drive from supermarket to supermarket shooting them.

    Maybe some members of addicts’ families should not make drug policy.

  5. Icepick said,

    Knowing what we know today, if cigarettes had always been illegal and a stubborn subculture flouted the law, would you vote to legalize them?

    Two points. First, if tobacco had always been illegal, the USA would have never existed. Tobacco made many of the colonies possible.

    Second, making tobacco prohibitively expensive has the same effect as making it illegal, and we have a Mexican example of how that worked in the past. From U. S Grant’s memoirs:

    Corpus Christi is near the head of the bay of the same name, formed by the entrance of the Nueces River into tide-water, and is on the west bank of that bay. At the time of its first occupancy by United States troops there was a small Mexican hamlet there, containing probably less than one hundred souls. There was, in addition, a small American trading post, at which goods were sold to Mexican smugglers. All goods were put up in compact packages of about one hundred pounds each, suitable for loading on pack mules. Two of these packages made a load for an ordinary Mexican mule, and three for the larger ones. The bulk of the trade was in leaf tobacco, and domestic cotton-cloths and calicoes. The Mexicans had, before the arrival of the army, but little to offer in exchange except silver. The trade in tobacco was enormous, considering the population to be supplied. Almost every Mexican above the age of ten years, and many much younger, smoked the cigarette. Nearly every Mexican carried a pouch of leaf tobacco, powdered by rolling in the hands, and a roll of corn husks to make wrappers. The cigarettes were made by the smokers as they used them.

    Up to the time of which I write, and for years afterwards–I think until the administration of President Juarez–the cultivation, manufacture and sale of tobacco constituted a government monopoly, and paid the bulk of the revenue collected from internal sources. The price was enormously high, and made successful smuggling very profitable. The difficulty of obtaining tobacco is probably the reason why everybody, male and female, used it at that time. I know from my own experience that when I was at West Point, the fact that tobacco, in every form, was prohibited, and the mere possession of the weed severely punished, made the majority of the cadets, myself included, try to acquire the habit of using it. I failed utterly at the time and for many years afterward; but the majority accomplished the object of their youthful ambition.

    Under Spanish rule Mexico was prohibited from producing anything that the mother-country could supply. This rule excluded the cultivation of the grape, olive and many other articles to which the soil and climate were well adapted. The country was governed for “revenue only;” and tobacco, which cannot be raised in Spain, but is indigenous to Mexico, offered a fine instrumentality for securing this prime object of government. The native population had been in the habit of using “the weed” from a period, back of any recorded history of this continent. Bad habits–if not restrained by law or public opinion–spread more rapidly and universally than good ones, and the Spanish colonists adopted the use of tobacco almost as generally as the natives. Spain, therefore, in order to secure the largest revenue from this source, prohibited the cultivation, except in specified localities–and in these places farmed out the privilege at a very high price. The tobacco when raised could only be sold to the government, and the price to the consumer was limited only by the avarice of the authorities, and the capacity of the people to pay.

    All laws for the government of the country were enacted in Spain, and the officers for their execution were appointed by the Crown, and sent out to the New El Dorado. The Mexicans had been brought up ignorant of how to legislate or how to rule. When they gained their independence, after many years of war, it was the most natural thing in the world that they should adopt as their own the laws then in existence. The only change was, that Mexico became her own executor of the laws and the recipient of the revenues. The tobacco tax, yielding so large a revenue under the law as it stood, was one of the last, if not the very last, of the obnoxious imposts to be repealed. Now, the citizens are allowed to cultivate any crops the soil will yield. Tobacco is cheap, and every quality can be produced. Its use is by no means so general as when I first visited the country.

  6. Maxwell said,

    Knowing what we know today, if cigarettes had always been illegal and a stubborn subculture flouted the law, would you vote to legalize them?

    I would. And I say that knowing that my father lost his life due to his smoking habit, at a relatively early age. He came from a long line of people who struggled with various addictions, and was a distant relative of Bill Wilson.

    Legalization does not have to mean a fully free market – indeed, it should not. And that’s where I think the input of addicts and their families would be most important, in determining where that balance should lay. But our present policy is insane.

  7. Maxwell said,

    What a tone-deaf, graceless thing to say!

    Yes, I was disgusted by that too. I think the failure, though, was not tone-deafness but hesitance – he was definitely in his stumblebum speaking mode, which indicated to me a lack of confidence. He knew it was weak tea, but was fearful of straining our already-frayed ties in that region.

  8. amba12 said,

    It smacked of that cultural-relativism thing. We will ease off on values we believe to be absolute out of strategic deference to people we may believe to be in the Stone Age in that regard but cannot afford to alienate.

    I suppose the spectators have to make the distinction between strategic cultural relativism for show (which might actually speed progress sometimes, since preaching and pushing hardens resistance — viz the gay-marriage issue) and actual soft-coreness. Obama is often suspected of the latter, which is probably why his statement got our backs up. But he has two daughters, and it cannot be doubted that he wants their full birthright for them.

  9. amba12 said,

    Ice: what a marvelous slice of history and psychology! Thank you!!

  10. Callimachus said,

    “I wonder if drug policy shouldn’t be made with the consultation of recovering addicts and the families of addicts.”

    It was, once upon a time, though the modern terminology wasn’t used. The result was called “Prohibition.”

  11. Ron said,

    To me the worst part of criminalization is that, ultimately, I feel it destroys respect for the rule of law. Even with the problems of addiction, bringing in the whole apparatus of the justice system doesn’t necessarily deal with or ease those problems; if anything it makes them worse.

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