Cultural Baggage / November 14, 2010
(A young child’s voice)
I pledge allegiance to the flag
Of the United States of America
And to the republic for which it stands
One nation under God, indivisible.
Broadcasting on the Drug Truth Network, this is Cultural Baggage.
“It’s not only inhumane, it is really fundamentally Un-American.”
“No more! Drug War!” “No more! Drug War!”
“No more! Drug War!” “No more! Drug War!”
My Name is Dean Becker. I don’t condone or encourage the use of any drugs, legal or illegal. I report the Unvarnished Truth about the pharmaceutical, banking, prison and judicial nightmare that feeds on Eternal Drug War.
Thank you for joining us on Cultural Baggage. We have with us here in just a moment, Brendan Kiley. He’s a journalist with The Stranger and he has a story, which needs to be told about the mechanism of Drug War, how it works and what it does and doesn’t do with a focus on the cocaine trade in particular. I want to read just a little bit from it:
“Once cocaine crosses into the U.S. over the Mexico border, dealers cut it with agents other than levamisole: flour, baby powder, Epsom salts, laxatives, lidocaine, chalk. The lore is that we get some of the worst product in the country—it gets cut and stepped on, mostly by Latino narcs, at every stop between San Diego and Seattle.”
I think, with that I want to talk about the harms of cocaine. Cocaine can be a deadly drug but what we’re getting shipped to us is even more deadly because of prohibition. With that, I want to I ant to go ahead and bring in Mister Brendan Kiley. Hello, sir.
Brendan Kiley: Hello, how are you doing?
Dean Becker: Brendan, thank you for joining us here on Cultural Baggage. Yeah, this is part two of a story you’ve been doing on the cocaine trade, right?
Brendan Kiley: Yes, sir.
Dean Becker: “The Mystery of the Tainted Cocaine, Part II: How It's Made, How It Moves, and Who Might Be Cutting It with a Deadly Cattle-Deforming Drug.” It’s got several sub headings within there.
On how it’s made, you had some great discussions with a gentleman who was involved in the manufacture of the cocaine, right?
Brendan Kiley: Yes that is correct.
Dean Becker: Tell us a little bit about what you heard from him.
Brendan Kiley: Well, he – his pseudonym is “Diego” and he grew up, it’s outside of Cali. He is no longer living in Colombia. He came to my attention and we began having some conversations about when he was a young man, he got a girlfriend pregnant and he needed to make some money.
So, he was wondering what to do and his grandmother actually, of all people, suggested that he go work at a cocaine camp where she had worked run by FARC, which is a left wing, Communist sort of people’s army in the countryside.
So, he took a very dangerous and long trip to this place. He didn’t even know where it was, it was way up in the hinterlands and he worked there for several different month long stints. First picking leaves, which was very difficult and tough on the hands. He was a city boy and didn’t have hard hands like country boys. So, the leaves scarred up his hands.
Then he graduated into turning the leaves in to paste, which in involves putting a lot of gasoline and a bunch of chemicals on it. He never graduated into the step of turning the paste into powder, that was for more sophisticated lads.
It was in very dangerous conditions. There was guerrilla warfare happening all around. He saw a lot of people killed and it was just very, very tough.
Dean Becker: Now, reading again from your article, “They'd pick coca leaves until dark, hoping for rain to cool them down and to make their leaves heavier, meaning they had to pick fewer to fill their sacks.” It paid well in Colombia, right?
Brendan Kiley: Yeah, yeah, by the standards of where he was living and the opportunities available to him, it did. It was quick cash.
Dean Becker: Now, you mentioned that the scratchy leaves ruined his hands. Now, my time in Bolivia, I was chewing coca leaves and boy, it could tear up your cheeks, I’ll tell you that.
Brendan Kiley: (Laughs) He said, yeah, that sometimes they would chew the leaves to deal with the exhaustion and the hunger and all that stuff but he said that nobody that he knew there would never ever snort cocaine because they saw what was put into it and the process of making it.
They thought of cocaine as something that only rich jerks used. So they would sometimes urinate or defecate in the vats where they were making the cocaine, just as a – I don’t know, like a practical joke or something.
Dean Becker: Folks, now think about that the next time you’re snorting that up your nose. (Laughs)
Brendan Kiley: (Laughs)
Dean Becker: Now, alright, now let’s get into – we had talked on this earlier and you’ve been trying to delve deeply into determining what’s the mystery with this Levamisole product. You want to talk about that a bit?
Brendan Kiley: Yes, well, levamisole is something that the US federal agents began seeing about five years ago. It’s a cutting agent. It’s only real practical use these days is to deworm livestock.
In some human beings, it causes a very catastrophic immune system crash. There have been several hospitalizations and deaths throughout the country. When the Feds first started seeing it, they were seeing maybe 2% of the cocaine they were seizing contained this stuff. Within five years it went up to about 70%.
So, the DEA estimates that 70% of the US cocaine supply is tainted with levamisole.
There’s some doctors, one notably here in Seattle at Harborview who have been doing some independent testing of urine and blood analysis of patients of theirs who say they have recently used cocaine or have tested positive for cocaine and the doctors are also seeing this roughly 70% rate of the presence of levamisole.
Dean Becker: You know, you talk about here that the three things we’ve learned since the last article in this regard of Levamisole, can you briefly list those three things?
Brendan Kiley: Yes, one is there is a theory going that levamisole is – because the question is, why is it there, right? It’s not as cheap as other cutting agents. It’s also being cut into the product in Colombia, which is relatively unusual because usually you want to smuggle a purer, denser product so you have less chance of detection.
So, one of the theories about why it was there was because in racehorses, levamisole is shown to become metabolized into an amphetamine-like drug called aminorex – or a compound called aminorex.
We have since found that human beings do not metabolize levamisole like aminorex and levamisole by itself doesn’t seem to have any stimulant properties in people. However, there is another researcher up here in Seattle, named Michael Clark, who is doing some research to see whether levamisole combined with cocaine, whether thay have some sort of synergistic potentiation effects between the two of them.
The results of that study are still pending and we – remind me. I don’t have the article in front of me, what were the other two things?
Dean Becker: And I, honestly, don’t have it in front of me either, so I —
Brendan Kiley: So, (Laughs)—
Dean Becker: That’s Ok. So, I’ll tell you what, I want to talk about one of the determinations you made, that there’s new intelligence from the Drug Enforcement Administration showing that cocaine producers are actively trying to keep their access to this levamisole. So, there must be some valid reason, even if we don’t know specifically what that is, right?
Brendan Kiley: Yes, yes, when people, when the levamisole questions first starting coming up, there were sort of two schools of thought. One was that levamisole has a definite purpose and that’s why it’s being used. Another school of thought said, “Well, maybe they just had it lying around. It was a cut of convenience.”
Now there are indications from DEA intelligence that drug producers in Columbia, Peru and Bolivia are actively seeking to keep access to their levamisole supply. Some may be coming from China and there is even some indication that they might be making it themselves in labs down in South America.
Dean Becker: Ok, well I guess we’ll find out someday. Now, included in this analysis you’ve done is that they’ve also – the DEA is now also able to track via genetic tracing. I don’t know the words but that they can tell what valley it came from and that sort of thing. What’s your – what have you discovered there?
Brendan Kiley: Yes, well, it seems that there are – there’s two things that the DEA has been able to track. One is the valley where the paste was made and the other is where the paste was turned into with hydrochloride powder, although the latest information seems to show that they are losing the ability to tell where the paste was turned into powder.
There was an arrest, I think it was in Bolivia and there were some Colombians involved and the Colombian process, as it is known, has had a technology transfer, where now there are drug producers who are not in Columbia who are using the “Colombian” process. So, that is one way of tracing the origins of the paste or powder transfer that the DEA is losing it’s ability to trace that.
Dean Becker: Ok, once again, we’re speaking with Mister Brendan Kiley. He’s a journalist with The Stranger up in Seattle. He has a great new article. I was reading here, The Cocaine Trade: The Mystery of the Tainted Cocaine, Part II and it’s really an amazing story with all the hoops an ladders and ways and means by which the drugs are made and transported and smuggled and sold isn’t it?
Brendan Kiley: Uh, huh.
Dean Becker: You had another section in your article, How the Cocaine Gets Here. Do you want to talk about the shift in transportation routes and what’s going on now?
Brendan Kiley: Yes, it seems that in the eighties, which is the era of Miami Vice where a lot of the cocaine was being smuggled through the Caribbean. There were a few factors that led to a shift from the smuggling routes going from the Caribbean into Mexico in the nineties and now the 21st century.
One of the things, there were some fairly successful interdiction efforts from the Coast Guard and the DEA and such in the Caribbean. The second was that the Medellín and the Cali cartels got infiltrated and broken down. They really had the resources and the contacts to do this smuggling through the Caribbean and then there was NAFTA.
What NAFTA did was – it did a couple of things. One, it made the border between the US and Mexico much more porous. So, it made easier to move cocaine over land into the US, much easier than it had ever been before. The other thing it did is that banking deregulations suddenly made it much easier to launder money from the US into Mexico and then it would go down into South America.
So, the result of this was to both push and pull factors moving the trade from the Caribbean up through Mexico and I think that has largely contributed to what we’re seeing and the levels of violence that we’re seeing there today. It’s a major factor.
Some people warned about it during the time of NAFTA but the debate was so heated between all the different constituents. You have labor and banks and all this stuff that what it would mean for the smuggling kind of got drowned out in the debate.
Dean Becker: You know, I’ve been hearing the stories of late that Wachovia Bank and several other major banks have been caught with their hands in the till or however you might want to say it.
Brendan Kiley: Uh, huh.
Dean Becker: Laundering money by the billions for these cartels and paying hundreds of millions of dollars in fines, which I guess considering the magnitude of what they are doing, it’s a slap on the wrist. What’s your thought there, Mister Brendan Kiley?
Brendan Kiley: Well, I think it’s sort of – kind of the nature of the beast. We set the system up to make that an attractive area of corruption and certainly a possible one as we’re seeing. So, the system is set up to move in that direction.
I don’t know and especially with the general trend in the United States towards banking deregulation historically, I’m not sure that we can really stop that from happening. It’s sort of like the drug trade itself. You can attempt to suppress it but the system is set up to encourage it. So, if it’s not happening in one place, it’s probably happening in another.
Dean Becker: Right, Brendan and I look at it this way, you know I hear the stories coming out of the ONDCP and DEA and they say we’ve curtailed the production, that the spraying and the round up is doing its job. Yet truth be told, UN studies and others have reexamined that same evidence and found it to be just complete fallacy. What’s your thought?
Brendan Kiley: Yeah, well the numbers are wildly divergent. I mean, between what the US estimates and the international estimates are of (A) how much coke is being produced and how effective spraying is – I mean, just no body seems to have a real handle on exactly what’s going on.
Dean Becker: Right, now you have a quote in here from Norm Stamper, former Police Chief of Seattle, talking about the fact that there seems to be a – well, I won’t say a conspiracy but a truce or an agreement perhaps, between the Asian gangs of Canada and maybe the Latino gangs in Washington to not smuggle cocaine across that northern border. Do you find that to be true or what’s going on?
Brendan Kiley: You know, I don’t know that to be true but obviously this is a story that I had heard circulating in Seattle and when I asked former Chief Stamper talking about it, he said, “Yes.”
It was his understanding that while he was police chief that that was the same agreement that was in effect. Basically, to say that the Asian gangs control the trade north of the border and the Latinos south of the border and that’s just the working agreement, for now anyway.
Dean Becker: Right, right and Seattle is known – some folks think of it as Amsterdam or better. I don’t know.
Brendan Kiley: (Laughs)
Dean Becker: But the fact of the matter is that Seattle has a relatively, well, a significant number of arrests for these “harder” drugs, right?
Brendan Kiley: Oh yes, absolutely. There have been movements in this city to have the police declare marijuana enforcement it’s lowest priority and things like that. Although just earlier, just a few weeks ago, there’s been a case that’s kicked up, where the police kicked down the door of a man who had a medical marijuana card and two very small, spindly little plants that they kicked down the door for. That’s causing city hall and the chief of police some headaches now.
Dean Becker: Well, now and I think it should. The intent of the voters was to do away with that sort of draconian enforcement, wasn’t it?
Brendan Kiley: Absolutely and the man was perfectly in his legal rights to have those two little, spindly plants.
Dean Becker: Once again, we are speaking to Mister Brendan Kiley of The Stranger. I want to kind of go back to the levamisole for a minute. It’s in – what was it, 70%, 75% of the cocaine?
Brendan Kiley: Yeah, yeah, it’s estmated around 70% of the cocaine in the United States.
Dean Becker: This is a major health complication for those taking it. Am I correct?
Brendan Kiley: You are, I mean, we don’t have a lot of research now to understand exactly why some people get sick and some people don’t. The researcher on levamisole use on humans was abandoned years and years ago.
It was initially thought that it might be a good potentiator for some drugs used to treat colon cancer but it was making enough of the patients sick with this immune system problem, they said, “Forget it. It’s not worth it.”
So, scientists are just now beginning to sort of reopen the chapter in levamisole use in humans. We have some catching up to do to understand how and why it works the way that it does on people.
Dean Becker: Right and I guess, the point being that the DEA is right, in this instance, certainly, to talk about the fact and the potential harms of using this black market cocaine. It is almost self-fulfilling, if I dare say. Your thoughts?
Brendan Kiley: Yeah, I think it is self-fulfilling. I mean, the whole reason it’s there is because it’s a black market product control. I mean, obviously this is the stuff that the drug reform people talk about all the time.
The laws are arranged to make the drugs more dangerous and to make their transportation and smuggling more violent.
Dean Becker: Right. Well, and one more thought that occurs to me that I want to address. We have, over the years, heard the DEA and members of the ONDCP talk about the harms of drugs. They never – I mean, as a for instance, a person gets busted with a bag and it might have 10% of cocaine in there. It might have 90% cocaine and who knows whatever contaminates.
Brendan Kiley: Right.
Dean Becker: I guess the point being that it is once again the black market itself, which insures that nobody knows what’s in that bag. Your closing thoughts on that, Mister Brendan Kiley?
Brendan Kiley: Well, I think that’s entirely true. One thing that we are trying to do here in Seattle, it’s the physician I mentioned earlier, Doctor Mike Clark, who invented a relatively inexpensive levamisole test kit that we are trying to distribute through needle exchanges so people can test powder cocaine and crack cocaine, to see if it has levamisole in it.
Hopefully, that will – you know, it’s one tiny drop in the bucket of trying to fight the harms of the Drug War but with that, at least people who have been using – well, hopefully they throw it away but if they don’t and they know that they are using levamisole contaminated cocaine and they begin to get sick, they will go to the hospital right away. We hope they’ll be honest wit their physicians. We’re just trying to spread the word and spread as much knowledge as possible.
Dean Becker: Well, you’re exactly right. Mister Brendan Kiley is there a website that you night want to recommend to our listeners?
Brendan Kiley: Sure, there’s the www.thestranger.com/cocaine. It has the whole series of articles there and it’s an ongoing series. I’ll continue to work on this story, as long as it remains a mystery.
Dean Becker: (Laughs) Well, thanks to the government, that might be forever.
Brendan Kiley: (Laughs)
Dean Becker: Well, Brendan Kiley, thank you so much.
Brendan Kiley: Thank you very much.
Dean Becker: Alright.
(Game show music)
It’s time to play: Name That Drug By It’s Side Effects
Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, cirrhosis, psychosis and dementia. The number one contributor to domestic violence and deaths on American highways.
The answer: Beer… taxed, regulated and freely available in non-Muslim countries.
(Saxophone plying Three Blind Mice)
Drug War addicts, Drug War addicts
Hear how they lie, hear how they lie
They all pretend that they’re doing good
The real truth is that they never could
Why must there be such a thing as
Drug War addicts, Drug War addicts
Drug War addicts…
Mary Jane Borden: Hello Drug Policy Aficionados, I’m Mary Jane Borden, Editor of Drug War Facts.
The question for this week asks: Is drug classification accurate?
The National Institute on Drug Abuses has named this week, November 8th through November 14th, National Drug Facts Week.
NIDA, “Encourages teens to get factual answers from scientific experts about drugs and drug abuse.” NIDA’s publication for the use of that entitled, “Drugs Shatter the Myth” contains “facts” for marijuana, tobacco, methamphetamines, prescription drugs and huffing.
A search for alcohol finds no facts for this substance that is used monthly by 10 million American teens aged twelve to twenty. This publication also omitted facts concerning heroin, cocaine and crack.
Last week, the prestigious medical journal, The Lancet, published an article entitled, “Drug Harms in the UK: a Multi-Criteria Decision Analysis.” A panel of experts used this analysis technique to rate twenty different drugs on sixteen total criteria of harm to the individual and harm to others.
This study found alcohol to be the most harmful drug. Its harm to others was rated as almost twice that of heroin and crack cocaine that placed second and third in that category.
Heroin, crack cocaine and methamphetamine were scored most harmful to the individual. Still alcohol’s overall harm score was 50% higher than that for runners-up heroin and cocaine, dwarfing the scores of the seventeen drugs evaluated.
It appears that the three drugs deemed to be the most harmful in one of the most prestigious scientific journals; alcohol, crack cocaine and heroin were overlooked in NIDA’s official publication for National Drug Facts Week.
The Lancet sums up this submission by concluding, “the present drug classification systems have little relation to the evidence of harm.”
These facts and others like them can be found in the Drug Usage and the Addictive Properties of Drug chapters of Drug War Facts at www.drugwarfacts.org.
If you have a question for which you need facts, please email it to me at email@example.com. I’ll try to answer your question in an upcoming show.
So, remember when you need facts about drugs and drug policy you can get the facts at Drug War Facts.
Kara Gotsch: My name is Kara Gotsch. I am the Director of Advocacy at the Sentencing Project.
Dean Becker: Kara, I follow the news that comes out of the Sentencing Project. You guys are doing great works and trying to better serve our nation through a new means of understanding, I believe. Of late you guys have a new effort of trying to get the Senate to do something that the House has already done, correct?
Kara Gotsch: That’s right. The National Criminal Justice Commission Act was introduced last year for the first time by Senator Webb of Virginia and what that bill would do is create a bi-partisan independent commission appointed by the President and Congress to examine the criminal justice system from soup to nuts, from prevention, early intervention, law enforcement, through the court process, through incarceration and to reentry to determine what we’re doing right in criminal justice and what we’re doing wrong and offer recommendations for reform.
Dean Becker: This is a lame duck Congress at this point. Is it even more important that we move on this immediately?
Kara Gotsch: Absolutely. The legislation has already passed the House. It passed the Senate Judiciary Committee earlier this year and so the last piece is obviously passing through the Senate and having the Senate – the President sign the legislation.
We are – it’s usually a bipartisan piece of legislation. It has both Republicans and Democrats on board. There has been a lot of support from the law enforcement community, local and state organizations, as well as traditional criminal justice and drug policy organizations.
We really think that it can get done. There’s only a few weeks left on the legislative calendar and it would just be wonderful to be able to get this legislation through.
Really, I believe the commission is vital because it provides an opportunity for Congress and state legislators and state and local policy makers, to learn about the criminal justice system, to find out what works, to learn about best practices and to really take a hard look at what we are doing wrong.
I think a lot of people would agree that we have too many people in our prison system and that when people come out of prison they often come out worse then they were when they went in.
That just needs – that needs to be corrected and the hope is that this commission will provide the political cover necessary for policymakers to get those reforms done that need to happen and needed to happen for many decades now.
Dean Becker: Given the current fiscal failure, many of the states and even the federal government are looking for new avenues to save money, are they not?
Kara Gotsch: Absolutely and I think criminal justice, particularly in the states, criminal justice budget items for law enforcement and for prisons are very expensive and they often take up a big proportion of the cost of tax payers and what tax payers are paying for.
So, you have states needing – beginning to reevaluate their sentencing policies, their – how they are treating people who are addicted to drug abuse and whether it is appropriate to be putting these people in prison in the first place. More of that needs to happen because the current cost is just unsustainable. If we continue to increase the prison population, the cost is going to be and already is, I would argue, too burdensome and impossible to maintain.
Dean Becker: Alright, once again, if folks would like to show their support, there’s a phone-in campaign day, is there not?
Kara Gotsch: That’s right. It’s taking place next Tuesday, which is November the 16th and we’re targeting two Senators. We are targeting the Democratic and the Republican leadership in the Senate. First, Senator Reed in Nevada and Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and we hope that they will prioritize this legislation and make sure in happens, that we are able to get it done before the end of the year.
If we can’t pass it this year then we will have to pass it all over again next year in January and move it again through the House and hopefully move it again through the Senate Judiciary Committee and through the full Senate.
If they want to find out more about it, they can go to our website, which is www.sentencingproject.org.
That is the sound of the American
society, economy, the people
shooting themselves in the foot.
(Continuing gunfire and screams)
Continuously, twenty-four hours per day,
seven days per week, for eternity
in order to wage the war on drugs.
Please visit drugtruth.net
And we owe it all, to eternal war
The first eternal war
Please visit drugtruth.net
Dean Becker: Alright my friends. I hope you enjoyed our interview with Brendan Kiley out of Seattle. There’s much about this Drug War that we just need to realize, that it’s failing in any aspect and any way you choose to measure it.
Be sure to join us on this week’s Century of Lies show, which follows next on many of the Drug Truth Network stations. Our guest will be Mister Dudley Althaus and Mister Dane Schiller, both reporters with the Houston Chronicle.
We’ll also be hearing from Mister – Council Member Beta O’Rourke out of El Paso talking about the horrors going on down in Mexico. There’s just so much that we need to realize and we need top acknowledge and deal with in a different fashion.
I urge to please sign out petition, inviting the Drug Czar to come on our show. You can access that on our website drugtruth,net. We’re actually hooked up to twitter now. I’m just getting started with that. Send me a message [@DrugTruth], I’d love to hear from you.
Be sure to join us this week on Time4Hemp. We’re going to be taking over for Casper on americanfreedomradio.com and their twenty-seven broadcast affiliates. We’ll be interviewing Mason Tvert of Safer Colorado and Michael Blunt of Students for Sensible Drug Policy.
Mary Jane Borden of Drug War Facts will co-host and our guest will be Doctor Melamed, President of Cannabis Science and Mike Gray, author of Drug Crazy. He’s President of Common Sense for Drug Policy.
Next week on Cultural Baggage and Century of Lies we’ll be reporting from Austin at the Harm Reduction conference that’s going on up there. They won’t have a medication room there, if I’m to understand correctly but we’ll see.
You know, you guys have got to do your part. You’ve got to educate yourselves a little bit more and get a little bit more backbone. You’ve got to end this Drug War. It’s really going to come from you.
As always, I remind you that because of prohibition, you don’t know what’s in that bag. Please be careful.
To the Drug Truth Network listeners around the world, this is Dean Becker for Cultural Baggage and the Unvarnished Truth.
This show produced at the Pacifica studios of KPFT, Houston.
Drug Truth Network programs are archived at the James A. Baker III Institute for Policy Studies.
Transcript provided by: Ayn Morgan of www.eigengraupress.com
Tap dancing… on the edge… of an abyss.