Thursday, March 26, 2009

Night Two of Live Coverage From El Paso, Texas, Regarding The Mexican Drug War

Hi everybody. Wow, we're two for two. Another great show! There was a small issue I had at the end of the broadcast, but other than that, they continue to rock with this coverage. Once again, Anderson Cooper is coming at us live from El Paso and we begin with the BREAKING NEWS that a US marshal has been found dead in Juarez, which is just across the border from where our anchor is currently standing. The show has been getting better with their BREAKING NEWS lately, so I guess I won't complain too much that I myself tweeted this news hours ago. Whatev. Also? Yikes! The story is kinda strange because the marshal was actually wanted for stealing federal guns and stuff. I won't speculate, but there's definitely more to this.

On now to an interview Anderson did with a mid-level member of a drug cartel, who was verified by two CNN sources. He tells us it's an interview we'll see "only on 360." EXCLUSIVE! Okay, now that the slightly eye-rolly horn-tooting is out of the way, we can get to what is actually a really good interview. I'm going to refer to cartel dude as "CD" because he's on the down low and not giving up his identity. Sorta don't blame him there. They begin by talking about guns and how people--many of them young--legally buy weapons here and then smuggle them into Mexico. The subject then switches to violence and Anderson notes that the level is actually down in Juarez. CD gives us the chilling response that the cartels are still there, they're just lying low and waiting for the military to leave. We've heard this story before. Just on a different continent.

CD tell us the flow of drugs will never stop because the money is too good. And demand? "That depends on you guys," he says. Touche. Cocaine and heroin are easier to ship across the border because they come in smaller packages. Anderson then switches the subject to the brutality of the violence, noting that people are not simply killed, they're beheaded and worse. CD explains that this is a way to send a message. Again, parallels of Iraq. Remember the torture by drilling? Anderson asks if the beheading is a signature of a particular cartel, which is a very good question. CD says yes, and they go on to talk more torture. The segment ends with CD basically stating that the cartels will torture and kill anyone, even women and children. This is where I'd normally place a quip or something. I got nothing.

Next up, we have an Anderson piece on the military side of the drug battle--Mexico's military, not ours. The soldiers we see just arrived in Juarez last month. There are 45,000 deployed throughout the country by president Felipe Calderon, who realizes that the police force is way too corrupt to really make a difference. Anderson tells us more as he rides along on patrol and then talks with Juarez mayor Jose Reyes, who tells us that violence is now down, but yeah, he's still got body guards. There have been threats against his life and his own chief of police resigned under threats. The mayor still doesn't trust the police force--even after firing half of them. A truly messed up situation.

Back from last night, we're joined by filmmaker Rusty Fleming and Arvin West, sheriff of Hudspeth County, Texas. This segment was unfortunately pretty drown out by the wind. Oh Silver Fox, can your hotness not control the weather? Best laid plans and all. But I think I caught most points made. They talk about the dead marshal, which doesn't shock Rusty and Arvin tells us the military on the ground is definitely helping with the violence. They then go into the subject of corruption and both in their own ways make the important points that the problem is more situational, rather than just being about bad apples. Rusty notes that the cops have to live there and Arvin states that it's play the game or be killed. Most people would do anything, anything, to keep their kids safe.

Tom Foreman is at his wall now, breaking down how we Americans like to get high. The ganja is the most popular of course, with one in six people over the age of 12 saying they used it in the last month. Damn. That's a lot. You people are a bunch of potheads! Reefer nation, indeed. Then there are all of the prescription drugs that are abused, followed by cocaine, hallucinogens, inhalants, and heroin. I've only ever used that last one. Kidding!

On now to a Gary Tuchman piece that begins with a man handcuffed to a bench at a US border patrol station. Why? According to the man he was hauling tomatoes, which is true. He just left out the part about the $720,000 worth of pot that was with them. Hey, how'd that get in there? We then leave tomato man and Gary goes out on a border foot patrol with Sarah the drug-sniffing dog. Pretty soon the pooch is jumping around by a green shrub thingee and lo and behold, pay dirt. That's no shrub--that's thousands of pounds of marijuana! Craziness.

Gary then takes us to a drug lock-up where a bunch of pot confiscated over the last couple of days is being kept. For demonstration of what happens with some of this wayward ganja here, he puts 64-pounds of the pot on his back (heavy!) like he's a smuggler and then suddenly drops it because that's what people do when they see an agent. Also, because it's heavy. Then Gary's at the border fence (dude's everywhere for this story) to show us how pot might be brought into the U.S. Using a rock as his "pot," Gary simply, uh, walks around the fence. Yeah, there's a gap. Effective! Also? Gary just smuggled in rock contraband! And he then throws it down like he's spiking a football.

Apparently, this whole scenario is frowned upon by the border patrol who then proceed to literally sic their guns on Gary and crew. Oh noes! That's right, you keep this country free of Mexican rocks! Seeing as though Gary is probably the least shadiest person on Earth, irony abounds here, but really, they're just doing their jobs. A little explaining makes the mess go away, though, uh, they probably want to give the guys with the guns a heads up next time they decide to smuggle fake drugs in from Mexico. Good piece. In terms of news, Gary hit the jackpot--lots of stuff happening to report. In terms of the situation overall, yeah, we're kinda screwed, aren't we?

Tom and his wall again. This time he's breaking down the demographics of drug users. It seems that men are twice as likely as women to toke up, but everything else is pretty equal gender wise. The drug using in general starts young and tends to increase until around 30 or so, when it drops off. So I guess I'm about past my drug prime. Tom also tells us that going to college makes you more likely to try drugs. ZOMG, higher education will get you hooked on smack, yo! Or, uh, not. Actually, not going to college makes you more likely to be a regular user. The jobless are more likely to partake as well, which is not a welcome stat in this economy. Native Americans have the most problems with becoming addicted and city dwellers are twice as likely to use as their country counterparts. But what about meth? Last I heard that was the white trash drug of choice. Just saying.

Back now to Anderson's interview with CD and they talk torture specifics: removal of nails, ice picks to the feet, burning testicles with a torch. Lovely! CD thinks that 9 of 10 people are probably corruptible. I might actually say 10 out of 10. The power of any given situation can be enormous. As CD says, it's not just about the money, it's about these people's families. I'm not saying everyone can be corrupted to commit murder, but I bet many people would be surprised what they're capable of if the alternative was to have their child injected with acid. As for the killing, well, apparently hits are a bargain these days. A hundred bucks for a kill in Mexico and $500 to $1000 for one in the US. So disturbing.

Next up, we have Anderson live, walking along the border fence. It's 18 feet high and double mesh steel, which he demonstrates makes it hard to get a good grip for climbing. But that's all kind of moot given that it just stops a little way down. Sigh.

Transitioning to the interview again, CD tells us he doesn't trust the people he works with and he's afraid his family will be hurt because he's speaking out. Anderson then brings up Americans who use these drugs that are being smuggled and CD points out that "they have blood on their hands." Honestly, I don't think that notion is going to make any difference. People are too far removed from it. You can say the same thing about oil. People fight, die, and commit terrorist acts over it. Anyone who drives, indirectly has blood on their hands. And most of us drive. The interview wraps up with CD stating some of his regrets (people dying). Good interview. Very creepy.

Now we come to the part of the broadcast where I have to give out a demerit. According to 360, President Obama opposes legalizing marijuana. This comes from an answer given to a question at today's online town hall. The problem is, Obama wasn't asked about legalizing marijuana. He was asked if legalizing marijuana would result in job creation and he answered that, no, he did not think doing so would grow the economy. It's subtle, but there's a difference there and as a viewer, it did not seem black and white. Now, later, Press Secretary Gibbs got more specific and flat out said the prez is against legalization, but that's not mentioned by 360. I'm just saying that even though they were correct in their statement, by leaving out the latter follow up, it looked like they were misinterpreting. That's all.

This brings us to a drug debate. In one corner, we have Terry Nelson, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition board member and cowboy hat-wearing guy who supports legalizing and regulating. In the other corner, we have Robert Almonte, executive director of the Texas Narcotics Officers Association, who is dead set against the legalizing notion. I'm too tired to go through all this, but it was a pretty decent discussion. I don't think Robert backed up his side very well, but maybe I'm biased. Legalizing just seems practical to me. I love that they found a conservative-looking calm guy to argue the legalize side. He doesn't fit the usual stereotype.

I think I'm just going to wrap up now because there's not much left of the show. As I said up top, another great broadcast. The ratings from last night weren't fantastic, but I don't think they were bad either. Encouraging is the word I would use. I hope they can keep this up. And I really hope they understand they don't always have to take a road trip to do good shows. That'll do it.

3 Comments:

Blogger Sammem said...

lol yea Gary Tuchman is probably one of the least shadiest people on Earth... Gary certainly did a lot this week.

I didn't see PS Gibbs' speech on the President's view. I think thats interesting that you mentioned that because what I got out of the President's speech was he is against legalization for the purposes of economic stimulation. My roommate will be very depressed to hear there may not be marijuana legalization in the near future.

I think AC360 did a good job with the show these past two days... The best part, besides the interview with CD, last night may have been the live blog (in my opinion). I never saw such a strong contrast in opinions on the live blog, or maybe i just didn't pay as much attention previously.

2:09 PM  
Blogger eliza said...

@Sammem: Yeah, I'm a huge Gary fan and am continually frustrated by the fact that apparently not everyone knows he's the nicest person on the planet. :P

I didn't see Gibb's speech either, but I figured if I was going to yell at 360, I should at least see if Obama was on record re: legalization. That's when I discovered Gibbs had confirmed. I don't agree with Obama on this one, but he has bigger fish to fry right now.

I've been sorta avoiding the live-blog lately. It hasn't really been working for me. Plus, I'm addicted to Twitter. Heh.

4:42 AM  
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3:34 AM  

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