>The other night we watched a very interesting documentary from 2006 called Cocaine Cowboys. It was about the drug trade in Miami in the 70s and 80s, basically up until Reagan launched his version of the War on Drugs in the late 80s. It had interviews with many of the big players — dealers, guys who trafficked in pot and coke, even one guy who is considered the most dangerous hit man during that time. Lots of old footage (I especially enjoyed the cars, clothes and hairstyles), and some pretty gruesome photographs. There was a lot to make the film compelling, and I enjoyed it on multiple levels. As a guy somewhat fixated on crime stories these days, there was that element that sparked my imagination. It was fascinating to see what Miami was like in those days, well before it became the city it is today. And for just pure, “Holy shit!” shock value, it scored high. If I came away with one thing, it is this: this country’s continued reluctance to legalize, regulate and tax this trade is utterly ridiculous.
This is a paragraph from the Wikipedia entry about the movie:
The film reveals that much of the economic growth which took place in Miami during this time period was a benefit of the drug trade. As members of the drug trade made immense amounts of money, this money flowed in large amounts into legitimate businesses. As a result, drug money indirectly financed the construction of many of the modern high-rise buildings in southern Florida. Later, when law enforcement pressure drove many major players out of the picture, many high-end stores and businesses closed because of plummeting sales.
This element of the documentary was particularly compelling. These people had so much friggin’ money it was ridiculous. More than they knew what to do with, despite the elaborate setups they had for trafficking the drugs, front businesses, multiple houses and cars, you name it. On top of it, they were burying cash in bags out in the yard because they had too much money. Meanwhile, law enforcement struggled with resources to combat the problem (which wasn’t really even viewed as a problem until bodies started piling up, which was more the result of one psychotic crime lord than anything directly related to the drugs themselves), lacked money to get good people, didn’t have adequate firepower, etc. I don’t want to spoil the story with too much detail, I’m just saying if you have any interest at all in this kind of thing, or just in quality documentary filmmaking, it is absolutely worth a look.
Now I’ve mentioned once or twice here my own feelings about drugs. I don’t indulge and never have, and I hate the “drug culture” that so many folks seem to identify with. This may seem odd, particularly considering most of the music I’ve played over the last ten years or so is more closely associated with the “stoner rock” genre than the “metal” tag that many locals label it with. I also much prefer, given a choice, to be around people who are baked than are all liquored up. Hard drugs like cocaine, meth, heroin, etc. are a different story — I don’t want those drugs, or anyone on them, anywhere near me.
That doesn’t mean I’m a fan of the stupid War on Drugs. That whole undertaking is a waste of time, money and lives. We’ve already shown ourselves that prohibition doesn’t work, and the fact that alcohol is legal and other drugs aren’t is so asinine as to boggle the mind. When you watch this movie and see all the money changing hands, and how huge the market is (and who is buying the drugs, which is another story entirely), it’s clear it is a battle that cannot be won. Throw in the violence that goes with it as an illegal trade and it really seems a no-brainer to me. I’ve read enough articles both pro and con (I’m too lazy to find links at the moment) to make what I think is a pretty informed, rational decision, and I still think there is a far stronger argument for legalization than there is for continued prohibition. And it’s not like I have a bias as a user or anything, it just makes sense. Economically and socially, legalization is the way to go.
It’s a pipe dream, though, I know (Get it? Pipe dream? Har, har, I kill myself!). I suppose it’s possible that pot may be legal in my lifetime, but I’m not going to hold my breath. I’ll tell you what though; I can sure understand why these guys got into the business back in the day. For someone who was reasonably sharp and had certain zest for adventure, there were friggin’ shitloads of cash to be made. Damn.
We wrapped up watching The Wire a couple weeks ago and were looking to find another series to get hooked on. Took a stab at The Shield and dumped it after one disc — I really don’t even want to get into all the ways I loathed it, especially when compared to The Wire, but that’s beside the point. So I ordered Generation Kill on NetFlix. It’s a 3-disc miniseries that ran on HBO based on a book by Rolling Stone writer Evan Wright. Wright was embedded with a platoon of First Recon Marines who were in the vanguard of the American-led invasion of Iraq in March of 2003. I chose it because the TV version was adapted by Wright with a hand from Wire writers/producers David Simon and Ed Burns. It is an interesting and telling portrayal of what life was like “on the ground” for the first troops into Iraq. What is striking to me, though not surprising, is how so much of the disorganized bullshit that seems so typical of hierarchical organizations (political groups, corporations, etc.) was rampant among the powers-that-be who were directing the invasion. Bad decisions, ridiculous tantrums (one Marine commander berates a Marine for losing his helmet mere hours after said commander ordered the abandonment of an entire truck full of weapons, explosives, and food just because it got a flat tire), and assorted glory-grabs made the lives of the leathernecks doing the work miserable.
The show also shows the frustrations of many of the men who know they are doing the wrong thing, the stresses they face, and how difficult it is for them. Others fit the stereotype of the kill-happy soldier; racist, xenophobic, and eager to pull the trigger. It isn’t easy to watch, but in a way I think it’s necessary as well. It does nothing to change my feelings about the war(s) we are fighting, but it does tell a compelling story about the soldier we are allowing to die on our supposed behalf.
It was a little irritating then last night to get behind this Dodge pickup headed north on Russell street. It had a Marines Veteran license plate with a plate frame around it that said Veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom. A bumber sticker to the right said, “Guns Don’t Kill People, I Kill People,” while to the left was one very similar to this one: