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And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats - Matthew 25:32

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August 06, 2005


Operation Meth Merchant nets jail full of Georgia convenience store clerks

From the New York Times:

ROME, Ga., July 29 - When they charged 49 convenience store clerks and owners in rural northwest Georgia with selling materials used to make methamphetamine, federal prosecutors declared that they had conclusive evidence. Hidden microphones and cameras, they said, had caught the workers acknowledging that the products would be used to make the drug.

But weeks of court motions have produced many questions. Forty-four of the defendants are Indian immigrants - 32, mostly unrelated, are named Patel - and many spoke little more than the kind of transactional English mocked in sitcoms.

So when a government informant told store clerks that he needed the cold medicine, matches and camping fuel to "finish up a cook," some of them said they figured he must have meant something about barbecue.

The case of Operation Meth Merchant illustrates another difficulty for law enforcement officials fighting methamphetamine, a highly addictive drug that can be made with ordinary grocery store items.

Many states, including Georgia, have recently enacted laws restricting the sale of common cold medicines like Sudafed, and nationwide, the police are telling merchants to be suspicious of sales of charcoal, coffee filters, aluminum foil and Kitty Litter. Walgreens agreed this week to pay $1.3 million for failing to monitor the sale of over-the-counter cold medicine that was bought by a methamphetamine dealer in Texas.

Who would defend this kind of extreme heavy handed nonsense? Much as I like to rag on liberals, I doubt very many of them would excuse this. Most conservatives would reject this, certainly all libertarians. Who does that leave, skinheads?

This case of drug war overkill is particularly egregious because they're using it to beat a bunch of poor immigrants, many of whom probably don't even quite understand what they were supposedly doing wrong. Apu at the Kwik-E-Mart didn't get what some undercover screw meant by "finishing up a cook," and just sold them the coffee filters and cold medicine.

Besides being foreigners, these people weren't in any way conspiring to make drugs. Specifically, they weren't getting any kind of cut. Maybe you could try to justify this if some shop keeper was knowingly selling someone Sudafeds by the case. They absolutely would know what it was for, but were making a profit selling them the ingredients. But all these Indian clerks are just running a register. They don't get a cut. Look, is it legal to sell coffee filters and Sudafed, or not?

They're not cops, but now they're expected to be, and that is what is truly egregious, even if it were white guys from Boston with Harvard degrees who understood exactly what was expected. What is expected is simply not reasonable, nor constitutional. Supposedly, we fought a war to do away with slavery. Yet it is demanded that everyone who works in a retail store perform volunteer police informant duties.

Beyond all kinds of civil liberties issues, these laws are creating indentured servitude. If every retail clerk in the country is going to face a military draft in this ridiculous war on drugs, then they should all get combat pay from the government- and hazard pay at that. Being a stooge is dangerous work.

I try to be a reasonable and understanding fellow. I generally have little patience when people start going on about Bush is a Nazi and such. We live in a free country, and I'm proud to be an American, and I support our troops. Yada, yada, yada.

However, it appears that now every clerk running a register at every Wal Mart, 7-11, and Walgreens is not only invited and encouraged but required under threat of arrest and prosecution to be a stool pigeon informing on their fellow citizens to the federal government. This is such a heavy handed old school Soviet bloc move that it's hard to see how you could reasonably interpret this as anything but a big move toward a police state.

As a good patriotic American, when faced with situations like this I often wonder WWJD? What would Jefferson do? I don't know exactly, but I strongly suspect that it would involve guns. Lots of guns.

posted by Al at 8/06/2005 12:06:00 AM

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