Fentanyl – Dark Side of Technology

NOT Candy, colored Fentanyl pills

Like Covid, Fentanyl is created in a laboratory and is an equal killer of humankind. Both attest to the dark side of technology that leads not to the lengthening of life but the shortening of it. Humans may not be able to prevent Covid, but Fentanyl is largely a matter of choice. Technology is not altogether to blame. It’s only a partial master. Time to confront it. 

Deadly drugs in nature cannot compete with the lab. Humans with a certain cast of mind can take pride in outwitting nature. Until recently, nature provided the popular drugs like heroin and cocaine. Farmers grow and cultivate the plants from which the drugs are painstakingly made – a laborious, expensive process and visible to competitors who enviously eye the goings on. 

The lab makes this all much easier and profitable. Precursor chemicals from China are sent to Mexican labs where they are converted into white powder and pressed into pills, many brightly colored to attract users. No harm in anything looking so innocent. 

But harmful they are. An amount hardly visible to the eye can kill. Even sniffing it can be deadly. Fifty times more potent than heroin, it’s also much smaller than other drugs.  No lugging around bales of marijuana. It’s the number one killer of Americans between the ages of 18 and 45. 

More of it than ever is crossing a mostly open U.S.- Mexican border. The U.S Border Patrol is woefully undermanned. It’s possible to go seventy miles along the Texas border and not see a single agent. National Guard may be on hand, but they cannot make an arrest and can only shoot if they’re shot at first. They are mainly a welcoming committee for illegal immigrants anxious to surrender. 

One reason the Border Patrol Is absent is that it’s bogged down with all the paperwork involved in the myriad migrants crossing the border. This is the scheme of the ever-inventive drug cartels which control the Mexican side of the border. By tying up the Border Patrol, they can more easily move their drugs across elsewhere. It’s a no-lose situation – profits from people along with drugs. Human trafficking is a growing menace with ugly results. 

Americans take more painkilling pills than any other people on earth. As a result, they are sometimes considered a pampered people who have not endured the privation of wars and conflicts that have engulfed other peoples and are often caused by U.S. attack. Some say dangerous drugs are all too readily available. Who can resist? So let’s cut the supply. Policing has worked fitfully in the past, but forty thousand U.S. troops on the Mexican border could seal it and thus keep out the bulk of the drugs reaching the U.S. 

In his book Fentanyl Inc., Ben Westhoff writes that hard drugs can never be eliminated altogether because one way or another people will have them. The answer is what he calls “harm reduction,” clinics that allow the use of drugs in clean and controlled settings. These have been established in Canada, Spain, Slovenia and elsewhere with a marked decline in deaths from drugs. But does this encourage greater use of drugs knowing they won’t lead to arrest or illness? 

Harm Reduction Clinics

The problem remains, the cures are elusive but must be pursued if a society is to continue to function in a safe and civilized manner.

Welcome, Fentanyl

Americans are now welcoming all kinds of people across the U.S.-Mexican border without knowing who they really are. The same goes for drugs. Some are worse than others – like fentanyl, which is easily lethal and, accordingly, the drug cartels’ biggest money maker in earnings that reach an estimated sixty billiondollars a year in the U.S.

More than 100,000 Americans die each year from Mexican delivered opioids, most of which are likely to be fentanyl. It’s their fault, we’re told, because they should know what they’re doing. But often they don’t. The drug cartels now conveniently lace other drugs with fentanyl so people can take it unawares. In effect, they are murdered, a crime yet to catch public attention. 

How have the cartels arranged this? The don’t control the U.S. media which has little to say about their activities – an exclamatory mention every now and then.  Their readers and viewers may know more about Yemen and Somalia than about present day Mexico, where the cartels function.

For an example of certifiable ignorance, we hear continually that the Mexican government should crack down on the cartels. The fact is the government is the cartels. It’s a narco state. They’re not going to crack down on themselves. Is this beyond the capacity of the media to discover? Apparently, since the media has not provided a credible analysis of Mexico in recent years. Unlike Yemen and Somalia the subject is taboo. 

Seemingly, someone has something to lose. Unquestionably, drug money is woven into the fabric of American life. The cartels enjoy considerable freedom of movement in the U.S. with networks of distribution extending throughout the country and into the inner cities where local gangs can be employed, often emulating the shootouts in Mexican cities.

Indeed, the cartels have brought Mexican habits to the U.S. Their illegal marijuana farms are proliferating in California, Oregon, Wisconsin and no doubt elsewhere. They are in effect armed camps, not to be approached by Americans at risk of being shot. Local law enforcement can’t cope, and where is the FBI?

Large Ilegal Marijuana Farm

Technological advance is a two-edged sword – great good orgreat evil depending on its use. Fentanyl, as they say, is a good medicine and a bad drug. It can relieve pain from open heart surgery and also create a high like no other for the determined user. In his book Fentanyl Inc., Ben Westhoff describes what he calls “psychonauts” delving into the mind for the ultimate thrill,even approaching death.  Still more man-made chemical drugs are on the way like carfentanil which is a hundred times more potent than fentanyl. The sky is the limit or the casket.

Assassins, Then and Now

Darya Dugina, a Russian journalist, was recently killed by a bomb placed under her car in Moscow. She was apparently not the intended victim. Her father, Alexander Dugin, was the target because of his writings against Ukraine. A last minute change of cars caused the error. Still, it was unexpected because Dugin is considered a man of letters, not a leading politician who is usually singled out for this kind of attack.

The result?  Certainly a heightening of tensions In this prolonged war. Beyond that who knows? Assassinations through the ages have had unexpected consequences. They have satisfied an impulse for revenge, but the assassin is taking his chance for what follows. They are an uncertain instrument of warfare.

One of the most famous occurred in 45 BC when a group of republican Romans stabbed Julius Caesar to death in the senate because he seemed to be on the verge of one-man rule. This led to fifteen years of civil war with the deaths of most of the assassins and the establishment of Augustus as the first of a series of Roman emperors – the opposite of what the republicans had wanted.

In 1865 Confederate sympathizer John Wilkes Booth shot President Abraham Lincoln because he had led the north against the seceding south. The result was an outraged north imposing an even harsher rule on the defeated south. In 1914 Serbian radical Gavilo Princip assassinated the heir to the Austro Hungarian throne, precipitating a world war in which Serbia lost over half of its army and a quarter of its population.

In recent times assassinations have become more complicated. It’s not always certain who the assassin is or his motives. Initially, it was clear President John F. Kennedy was shot by a lone assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald withcommunist connections. Subsequent researchled others to find a variety of assassins operating on such concerns as the war in Vietnam and nuclear weapons for Israel. The matter is unresolved.

Assassination has also become much easier. Death by drone is now an everyday affair. For example, President Trump, egged on by his neocon advisers and billionaire donors, approved the drone killing of top Iranian General Soleimani, while White Houseoccupants cheered the outcome in comfort nearly half a globe away.

Israel is by far the leading country in assassinations, according to Israeli author Ronen Bergman in his book “Rise and Kill First.” Trying to make do in a hostile neighborhood, Israel has targeted mainly Arab adversaries and Iranian nuclear scientists with an unexcelledproficiency but at a high moral cost, says Bergman. Peace is no closer in the Middle East. The U.S.  has followed the Israeli example with the Obama administration setting an American record of 353 assassinations. 

Given the state of the world and the nature of humanity, assassins will no doubt continue along with serious qualms about them.

The Hitler Problem

Adolf Hitler has had a remarkable progeny – countless rulers over the years who bear his name if not altogether his attributes. Any strong man that arises and is particularly offensive is dubbed “another Hitler,” which seems to settle the matter. There’s such an accumulation of Hitler wannabees that the genuine article seems to be lost in the shuffle. Imagine Hitler’s perplexity if he had known he would be treated this way in history – indistinguishable from some lowlife ruler of a dusty, distant country.

It’s true Hitler was a monster. Deniers are fewand it’s against the law in some countries. His Nazi suppression and slaughter of people, Jews in particular, are his trademark. Succeeding generations are not allowed to forget not would they want to. But are all the Hitler imitations equally monstrous – mass killers and anti-Semitic? It doesn’t seem likely. They should be exposed on their own terms for what they are.An apocalypse is not involved.

There are other standards of evil that can be applied. What happened to Stalin, one of the greatest mass killers of all time? No one is called “another Stalin.” Publicity may have been a factor. During World War Two, while Hitler was excoriated for his deeds, Stalin’s were covered up. He became good old “Uncle Joe,” everybody’s favorite granddaddy. The New York Times even won a Pulitzer Prize for reports that omitted his slaughter and starvationof millions of Russians and Ukrainians. Was he too monstrous to be believed with a name that inspires fear even today? We should give him his due. Let’s name the next strongman that disturbs our sleep another Stalin.”

The problem with name calling is that it doesn’tinvolve thought. He’s another Hitler or Stalin or, searching the past, Genghis Khan or Tamerlane. Let’s get rid of him, and that’s that. We don’t inquire as to how he got that way or whatever persons or events may bear some responsibility. To be sure, Hitler and Stalin have provided us with some explanations, but more are needed – to put it mildly. Without them there can be aglorification of such characters. Great evil caninspire its own form of worship. Let’s bring them down to earth.

Russia’s Putin seems a little too earthy to qualify as another Hitler, as he’s frequently called, ironically enough, since he follows Stalin as ruler of Russia. Let’s at least get hisnationality straight. But he bears little resemblance to either of the great tyrants. They would surely be disappointed in him – just another assertive national leader looking out for his country’s interests with no thrusting ideology. There probably won’t be “another Putin.”

Maybe it’s time not to be so concerned with evil, which can be found in all of us, and concentrate on practical solutions for practicalmatters.

Why War?

As the Soviet Union collapsed in 1989, it looked as if a near century of poisonous ideologies had come to an end. The people of the world could breathe easier since no force would be trying to control their lives. International politics would be more a matter of diligent tinkering by leaders of limited ambition sharing a rather similar outlook. They would look out for themselves and their countries without demanding the rest of the world conform to their views – something perhaps like 19th century Europe which managed to avoid a general war or the best years of the Roman Empire when a general peace prevailed. People had finally learned suitable lessons from their violent past.

How wrong we were. It goes to show that much neglected Sigmund Freud was right when he said the violence in man will always out. It can emerge for all kinds of reasons or none at all – a permanent condition in need of constant attention. It’s astounding that relatively minor issues involving the U.S., China, Russia, Iran and many others can be considered worthy of outright war, even a nuclear one. Have people or their leaders taken leave of their senses or are they clinging to atavistic habits dating back to the stone age from which they cannot escape?

The form of government doesn’t seem to matter. Autocratic rule is expected to be cold and calculating. Its interests come first; others are an afterthought. But what about democracies? Since 9/11 the U.S. has engaged in one war after another without declaring war or having a clear goal in mind. It’s as if democratic rule alonejustifies these actions. Who can find fault with democracy?

Under autocratic rule, a strong man’s word, likePutin’s – is law. Other opinions need not be considered. Invade Ukraine, he says. It’s done.No such power exists in democracy. The will of the people prevails but which people under which circumstances? Democracy is open to all with money a factor above all. Use money as freely as words, say various U.S. Supreme Court decisions. That has been done to the damage of democracy. Billionaire currency trader George Soros has used his wealth to undermine a crucial part of U.S. law enforcement. It’s hard to imagine a Putin allowing that along with his suppression of more salutary ventures.

Advocates of an exceptional nation say the U.S. should set an example for the rest of the world. Indeed. One example might be the use of restraint in crises or simulated ones. Skillful negotiation is more to be prized than the blunderbuss of war. Yes, Putin invaded Ukraine, but who has shown more skill In the aftermath –Putin or Biden, who defying all  geopolitical advice against a two-front war, is now facing wars on several fronts with a U.S. record of notbringing a single war to a satisfactory conclusion since 9/11. Democracy can do better than this and has to.

Poland in the Middle – Again

Poland is situated in one of the toughest places on earth – right in the middle of Europe with assertive, even aggressive neighbors on all sides, some of whom may want it to disappear altogether. It did just that for 123 years until, shockingly, it was reborn after World War One thanks to steadfast Polish efforts. It survived the brutal post-World War Two Soviet occupation and even contributed to its collapse. Today it stands free, independent, the largest nation in Eastern Europe with the strongest economy.

And as usual, with problem neighbors. To the east, Russia, which invaded Ukraine, tells Poland to stop supplying U.S. weapons to Ukraine or else. To the west, the European Union, of which Poland is a member, threatens to cut off funds to the country unless it stops backsliding on democracy. Both powers say do as you’re told or suffer the consequences. Poland replies that it has heard all that before. 

Russian leader Putin is no Stalin, who slaughtered more Poles than any other ruler in history. His war aims, he says, are limited: independence of the Russian-speaking eastern part of Ukraine and no further NATO advance toward Russian borders. But a more prolonged war, he warns, could eventually involve Poland which borders Ukraine, thereby triggering a U.S. military response, and then who knows what? 

Russian rhetoric is in keeping with policy. A top Russian official says Poland has been infected with “Russophobia” by Western “puppeteers.” Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, a Putin ally, boasts that he will attack Poland if it keeps giving weapons to Ukraine. “In six seconds, we’ll show you what we’re capable of.” A Russian TV host insists – you guessed it – Poland should disappear. 

Poles reply that if anything, they will increase their aid to Ukraine. They have already accepted half of the five million Ukrainian refugees and many Poles go to the border with offers of food and shelter.

At the same time, they have built a fence along the border with Belarus,  another Putin ally, to keep out refugees from that direction, mostly Muslims as compared to Christians from Ukraine.

Lech Walesa, leader of the Solidarity union that triumphed over the Soviet Union, says Russia should be dismembered with its population reduced from 145 million to fifty million. He doesn’t say it should disappear altogether. 

The EU threat to Poland is not a military one. It doesn’t have any troops. Its power is only political but no less formidable for that. Its headquarters in Brussels keeps close tabs on 27 member nations to make sure they adhere to EU norms for European benefit. Violations are not accepted as we see in the case of Poland along with Hungary. The official complaint is that the Law and Justice Party, which has governed Poland since 2015, is compromising democracy by abridging the role of the judiciary among other actions. 

Yet there’s a deeper reason for the rift. Increasingly, Brussels has appeared to be moving in a more global direction as opposed to the populism of Law and Justice, which combines liberal economic policies with traditional social values regarding gender, abortion, and the like. One size does not fit all, say dissenting Poles. who don’t want to leave the EU but change it from within. 

Paradoxically, that may prove more difficult in the long run than militaristic Russia. Once the Ukraine war is over with a substantial Russian win, as seems likely, borders will be clear. Putin doesn’t care what happens on the other side of the Polish border so long as it doesn’t threaten Russia. The Poles can do as they please. But that’s exactly what concerns the EU. Poland must conform to EU guidance if it expects to have EU help and funds. It looks as if Poland will continue to live in a troublesome neighborhood. 

Drug Cartel Invasion

Say you’re hiking in one of seventy-two national forests in twenty-one states. It’s exhilarating, and you venture off the beaten path into the beguiling woods. Suddenly, you come upon a white canopied structure from which an occupant emerges with a gun and orders: “Leave or die.” Startled and a little rattled, you do as you’re told and quickly depart a spot in the U.S. no longer controlled by the U.S.

There are now tens of thousands of such spots in national forests, a U.S. treasure also treasured by the Mexican drug cartels, where they can farm marijuana in considerable isolation. It beats having to lug their product across thepartially guarded border, and unlike legal American growers they don’t have to pay taxes and can sell the marijuana out of state.

They do this with impunity in the national forests and elsewhere in suitable terrain. Local law enforcement is out manned and outgunned.When I was in Twentynine Palms in California’sMohave desert a year ago, the town manager said he was doing his best to cope but was ill equipped for a fight with the all-powerfulcartels, while the outraged manager of a local inn noted how the farms were encroaching on nearby land as if they had nothing to fear. Californians in the area have plenty to fear as violence typical of Mexico is on the increase with dead bodies appearing in the vicinity of the farms. Mendocino County Sheriff Matt Kendall told the Louisville Courier Journal: “We’re a very short time away from seeing heads in the square as they do down In Mexico.

USA Today reports that residents in Mendocinowere offered half a million dollars in cash to lease their property for a year. At year’s end they would get a million more so long as they had kept off their own land and had not interfered with ongoing activity. It was an offer hard to refuse, and it’s not certain how many did, considering the consequences.  

The farms are especially damaging to the environment with lavish use of pesticides that can poison humans and wildlife and wasteful use of water in a drought-stricken area. Theyalso contribute to the wildfires plaguing the state. Equally damaged are workers, mainly illegal migrants brought from the border, wholive in squalid conditions with no running water and scant food. A sixteen- year- old girl was discovered who had no idea where she was or what she was supposed to do other than servicethe workers in a sex trafficking arrangement. According to Josephine County Sheriff Dave Daniel, “These people are narco-slaves. They are afraid that the cartels will kill them or their families back home. So they don’t talk.”

The U.S. Government has spent $54 billion onaid to Ukraine to weaken the invading Russians who have not invaded the U.S. In fact, it’s said that Russian ruler Putin seeks better relations with the U.S, which could be useful at a time of robust Chinese global expansion. Billions are also spent on other wars, open and secret, that seem light years removed from the national interest.

Yet here we have a well organized and well armed criminal enterprise, posing as a nation, setting up shop in various parts of the U.S. and making no bones about it. Some cartel chiefs even say they would like to recover the half of Mexico lost in the 1840s war to the U.S. The U.S. indifference to a genuine national threat is truly baffling, giving rise to theories about the power of drug money in our society. All the cartel farms could be eliminated at a sliver of the cost of the Ukrainian war. But take comfort.The government has posted signs in the national forests warning visitors not to get too close to the foreign invaders.