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Methamphetamine Seizures Increase Tenfold While Opioid Overdoses Continue to Soar

2018-02-13

The Con administration’s reasons for building the Wall included border-crossers with cantaloupe calves from carrying backpacks full of “drugs” (anything from penicillin to potpourri) and it seems that, in  one respect, they are partly right: the rate of seizure of methamphetamine at the border south of San Diego has increased by tenfold in the last ten years, to over 20,000 pounds in 2016.  Seizures at Laredo and Tucson have increased in a similar fashion.   However, the rate of deaths from stimulant abuse has only increased by 2-1/2 times in the same ten years ( see this CDC publication, 2017 National Drug Threat Assessment. )  This represents a complete failure of Richard Nixon’s “War on Drugs.”

 

The driver appears to be the Combat Methamphetamine Act, a law passed in 2005 that, in addition to other strictures, has placed pseudoephedrine behind the counter in pharmacies and limited individual purchasers to  7.5 grams every 30 days.  The first result of the law was to reduce home-brewing of methamphetamine by a dangerous but simple to learn process involving large quantities of over-the-counter decongestants ( those who still do this acquire the starting ingredient by a procedure known as “smurfing” ) thereby reducing the strain on law-enforcement agencies that had been forced to do HAZMAT duties to clean up the poisonous byproducts.

The second result of the law was to encourage drug cartels to take up the slack, which they have done with alacrity.  The fact that the “War on Drugs” has been lost is nowhere more apparent than in the low prices and ready supply of 100% pure methamphetamine on the street.  In Portland, Oregon, methamphetamine is available for $5 a hit and has frequently been the only thing in stock.  Like heroin, the supply of meth mostly comes from abroad, and like heroin, potency and affordability of meth has soared over the years since 1971, when Richard Nixon declared that drug abuse was the nation’s most serious threat and instituted the “War on Drugs.”

Another feature of our abject failure to win or even fight an effective rear-guard action in the War on Drugs is the fact that opioid overdose deaths have increased several-fold, partly because, due to competition, suppliers have increased the potency of heroin by adding fentanyl ( 50 times as strong as heroin )  or carfentanil ( 5000 times as strong ) to pure heroin while keeping the price the same.    Heroin seizures have nearly tripled at the Southwest border over the last five years, according to the Washington Post, while in the same five years, methamphetamine seizures have quintupled.

Oddly, despite the public narrative blaming doctors for prescribing opioids as the cause of the dramatic increases in overdose deaths, the rate of prescriptions for these drugs has not increased very much– a table from the above-named drug threat assessment shows, for example, hydrocodone units prescribed at 7.2 billion in 2007, increasing to 8.8 billion in 2012, and decreasing to 6.2 billion units in 2016.  Oxycodone showed a similar trend.  It appears that the real cause of overdose deaths, in the majority of cases, is heroin, and latterly, heroin mixed with fentanyl.  Perhaps doctors have contributed to the scourge by putting people on prescription drugs and then denying them further refills after they become hooked.  Perhaps.

A future post will look at what has been, will be, and/or should be done about these problems.

 

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Pogo Was Right

2018-02-12

Hooray for Trump! As soon as he indicated cuts in Medicare, I knew that he would lose the votes of every senior citizen, including me. He has touched the third rail. Finally!

 

This person comments on the NYT frequently, and this time, he’s hit the nail on the head:

PogoWasRight

florida 4 hours ago

Hooray for Trump! As soon as he indicated cuts in Medicare, I knew that he would lose the votes of every senior citizen, including me. He has touched the third rail. Finally!

(photo courtesy of pixabay.com and DarkoStojanovic)

Republicans Believe in Bad Government

2018-02-10

… Republicans accept as an article of faith that government is the problem, not a solution. So now that they’re running the government, why would they provide us with anything other than bad government?

A succinct and telling summary of the last fifty years of Republican governing strategy, since Richard Nixon won the presidency. 

 This comment was appended to Paul Krugman’s op-ed in the NYT, “Fraudulence of the Fiscal Hawks”, published February 8, 2018. 

Eisenhower is spinning in his grave– remember that Richard Nixon was Eisenhower’s vice president, and Eisenhower warned about the “military-industrial complex” in his last state of the union speech on January 17, 1961.  Nixon lost the presidential election in November 1960 by a very close margin, and he blamed Chicago’s Mayor Daley for “voter fraud”– allegedly, a number of dead people in Illinois voted for Kennedy and tilted the election in his favor.  Ironically, the kind of voter fraud Nixon complained about would not have been prevented by any of the new voting restrictions espoused by today’s Republican Party.  In 1960, the Republicans were still the party of Lincoln and were not the party of racist white men that governs now.

The new Republican governing strategy began when racist Southern whites deserted the Democrats en masse because of LBJ’s signature on the Voting Rights Act.  The strategy was completed when Reagan made his famous statement in his first inaugural address on January 20, 1981: “In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem. ”   Reagan was referring to “this present crisis”, which at that time was “stagflation.”  But his true followers took him to mean that government was too big and too controlling– it was taking away the “rights” of the wealthy white male minority and of corporations.   That was 47 years ago.

(photo courtesy of pixabay.com and maralb56)

Stimulating an Already Expanding Economy: Republicans Try For 4% GDP Growth

2018-02-09

Republicans have passed a tax bill that allows deficits of “less than” $1.5 trillion over ten years, followed by agreeing on a spending bill that guarantees those deficits will be more than a trillion dollars in the next year alone.

Their purpose is to stimulate the economy, at the risk of raising inflation.  They are gambling that inflation will be manageable if the salary of the typical American worker is kept from increasing unduly.  Suppression of wage raises is behind their destruction of unions and confiscation of tips.  High medical expenses are another way to keep workers from making or keeping too much money.

The Republicans have realized that stock market gains are not as reliably profitable to the idle rich as the locking in of 10-year Treasuries at greater than 3 percent (after inflation) yields.  Ten year Treasuries are sold in the market, not released by the Treasury at a fixed rate, and they are sensitive to fears of inflation.  Their levels rise reliably as the economy improves.  Most importantly, Treasuries are guaranteed to pay off, unlike the risky stock market.

If the economy improves enough, the Republicans think they will be forgiven for collusion with Russia.  They will not be forgiven for racism, sexism, militarism, suppression of free speech, spying on the opposition, and violence against those who speak out.  They will particularly not be forgiven for abrogation of the Constitution.

 

(photo “money laundering” courtesy of pixabay.com and johnhain)

 

Republicans Are Fraudulent Deficit Hawks

2018-02-09

Republicans have passed a tax bill that allows deficits of “less than” $1.5 trillion over the next ten years, followed by a spending bill that guarantees those deficits will be over a trillion dollars in the next year alone; this proves that the Republicans are frauds when it comes to fiscal conservatism.

They screamed in outrage at the trillion-dollar deficits that were forced on the Obama administration during its first year by the worst recession in 70 years, yet they were silent (with the exception of Rand Paul) over the latest spending bill that prevented a shutdown of the government and guaranteed a trillion-dollar deficit this year.  The shutdown was caused by the intransigence of the Republicans over DACA, not by any fiscal emergency.    It is shocking, shocking I tell you!

The worst of it is that temporary deficits were really called for under Keynes’ economic theory during the first days of the Obama administration, when recession was eating the houses of every American who lost his job through the lack of demand caused by speculators in real estate securities who got burned.  Even then, when Republicans offered solutions, it always involved tax cuts for the rich.  Now, when deficits are NOT called for because the economy is doing well, the Republicans who have gained the power are serving up deficits as far as the eye can see.  Now, when saving for a rainy day is really called for, the Republicans have given us– tax cuts for the rich.

Paul Krugman spells it all out in his latest New York Times column (op-ed): “Fraudulence of the Fiscal Hawks”

(photo “money laundering” courtesy of pixabay.com and stevepb)

 

Comment of the Week: Calvinism and the Rich

2018-02-07

Ron Cohen

is a trusted commenter Waltham, MA 2 days ago

The bait-and-switch scam that Krugman decries didn’t appear out of thin air. It was devised by some very rich people as part of a long-term strategy. Why do they care so much? Is it really about money? Or is it something deeper, more visceral, a need to dominate and impoverish everyone else?

The great English historian, R.H. Tawney, in his magisterial work, “Religion and the Rise of Capitalism” (1926), tells us that by the mid 1600’s, most English Puritans saw in poverty “not a misfortune to be pitied and relieved, but a moral failing to be condemned, and in riches, not an object of suspicion … but the blessing which rewards the triumph of energy and will.”

This ideal of individual morality, derived from Calvin, has been with us ever since. But it has surfaced with renewed zeal in our time, with men like the Koch bothers, Robert Mercer, Art Pope and Sheldon Adelson determined to spend whatever it takes to replace democracy as we know it—a leveling force—with a fascistic, plutocratic model of government.

For these billionaires, however, religion is not the motivator. Rather, it’s how they see themselves, their self image, that drives their lust for power, their need to dominate. They are the “makers,” deserving, while the rest of us are “takers,” undeserving and cadging off their efforts. Identity politics isn’t just for Democrats anymore.

For a penetrating interpretation, see George Monbiot’s short but defining piece in The Guardian: http://tinyurl.com/p5dg6b5

(photo courtesy of pixabay.com and Maklay62)

Quote of the Day: Don the Con Calls Democrats Treasonous for Not Applauding

2018-02-06

Don the Con gave his first State of the Union address the other day.  Some (most) Democrats in the audience failed to applaud when he gave his big lines– Republicans stood and enthusiastically applauded some of his more ridiculous claims.  Later, at a rally, he called those who failed to applaud treasonous:

“They were like death and un-American,” he said. “Un-American. Somebody said treasonous. I mean, yeah, I guess, why not? Can we call that treason? Why not?”

As Masha Gessen reports in the New Yorker, during the time of Stalin, in the USSR, failure to applaud enthusiastically enough was definitely considered treasonous.  Is this where Don wants us to go?  Vlad “the Impaler” Putin has already gotten his country back into that territory.

(photo courtesy of pixabay.com)