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"The more ghoulish and extreme the show becomes, ...the more accurately it captures the reality of the cartels and their business."
July 16, 2012 12:19 PM   Subscribe

The Uncannily Accurate Depiction of the Meth Trade in “Breaking Bad”
posted by reenum (58 comments total) 29 users marked this as a favorite

 
*chortle*
posted by telstar at 12:22 PM on July 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


"Uncannily accurate" is really pushing it. From that New Yorker piece, it seems that the DEA likes BB because of some of the supplier issues are portrayed. But, while I'm sadly not involved in the blue meth trade, I don't think it's getting smuggled in frozen chicken batter deliveries. I would love to be wrong about this, however.
posted by Burhanistan at 12:27 PM on July 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


It takes a special brew of amorality and pluck to represent a drug lord, and Saul is an only slightly exaggerated version of some very real attorneys who ply our Southwest border.

Why do I find this statement so oddly satisfying when I know I should be shaking my head sadly?

I can only hope that the real-world versions of Saul share his taste in men's fashion and interior decor.
posted by Currer Belfry at 12:30 PM on July 16, 2012 [9 favorites]


Did you just use the word 'ethically' in a sentence?
posted by shakespeherian at 12:31 PM on July 16, 2012 [22 favorites]


"Bus Bench Lawyer" would be a pretty great Metafilter name.
posted by bondcliff at 12:34 PM on July 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


Breaking Bad also shows, through Walter Jr., a hauntingly accurate portrayal of the teenage love for breakfast.
posted by Uppity Pigeon #2 at 12:37 PM on July 16, 2012 [67 favorites]


Meth isn't smuggled.
posted by Mblue at 12:38 PM on July 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


You know what else is uncanny? Skinny Pete's acting headshot.
posted by davidjmcgee at 12:42 PM on July 16, 2012 [15 favorites]


Sure it is. It used to be largely made in the USA, but after the big crackdown on people buying cold medication it moved across the border to Mexican cartels. Which provide higher quality meth at cheaper prices with a side order of violence and death. Now I can't buy pseudoephedrine without a body cavity search, more people are dying, and the drug lords are making bank.

Heckuva job, DEA.
posted by Justinian at 12:42 PM on July 16, 2012 [41 favorites]


That reminds me that I miss Skinny Pete and Badger. I hope they come back but I also hope they stay far away from Jesse so as not to get killed gruesomely.
posted by shakespeherian at 12:43 PM on July 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


One of those dipshits has to die.
posted by Burhanistan at 12:45 PM on July 16, 2012


Combo already did.
posted by ambrosia at 12:54 PM on July 16, 2012


"... like playing an endless game of Scrabble using only the same eight letters."

Why did the writer choose eight letters for this metaphor? You are supposed to have seven on your rack. Is this a solo game of Scrabble? Or does the opponent only get one letter? Or do each get four letters? I NEED TO KNOW!
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 12:55 PM on July 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


Not eight tiles, eight letters. Once you perceive the difference your mind shall be set free.
posted by shakespeherian at 1:01 PM on July 16, 2012 [5 favorites]


"...but nothing he could dream up, even the unfortunate fate of Tortuga, can rival the creative barbarism of the cartels."

If you make a statement like that, I'm going to need examples.
posted by naju at 1:07 PM on July 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


Hey, maybe a magnet. . . . . . . . .
posted by FelliniBlank at 1:08 PM on July 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


Shakespeherian has 9 different letters. I'm not listening to you.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 1:08 PM on July 16, 2012


Mblue: "Meth isn't smuggled."

Looking at that map, now I know why people from other parts of the country (I'm in St. Louis, MO) don't think meth is nearly the problem I consider it to be.
posted by notsnot at 1:12 PM on July 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


I love this thread so much.
posted by the young rope-rider at 1:13 PM on July 16, 2012


Looking at that map, now I know why people from other parts of the country (I'm in St. Louis, MO) don't think meth is nearly the problem I consider it to be.

What. the. fuck. Missouri?
posted by FelliniBlank at 1:18 PM on July 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


I mean, are there way more meth labs there, or are MO meth cookers just vastly more incompetent and clumsy than elsewhere?
posted by FelliniBlank at 1:19 PM on July 16, 2012


What. the. fuck. Missouri?

Indiana! We're number two!!! We're number two!!!
posted by Thorzdad at 1:21 PM on July 16, 2012


I mean, are there way more meth labs there, or are MO meth cookers just vastly more incompetent and clumsy than elsewhere?

Judging by how people drive around here, option number two is looking pretty plausible from where I'm sitting.
posted by invitapriore at 1:21 PM on July 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


I also want Walt, Jesse and Mike to reenact the entirety of The Three Amigos.
posted by shakespeherian at 1:26 PM on July 16, 2012 [6 favorites]


Now I can't buy pseudoephedrine without a body cavity search, more people are dying, and the drug lords are making bank.

I've been nursing a chronic back injury for about two years. I also have seasonal allergies. I can tell you with some certainty that the most surreal moments of my life happen at the CVS pharmacy counter, when I fill my prescription for hydrocodone and also ask for the 20-pack of Claritin-D from behind the counter. Guess which one requires them to scan my driver's license?
posted by Mayor West at 1:27 PM on July 16, 2012 [9 favorites]


If you make a statement like that, I'm going to need examples.

I had the same thought, so started reading the author's link to his NYT article last month about the business side of a Mexican drug cartel, which has examples like this:

In the late 1980s, Chapo hired an architect to design an underground passageway from Mexico to the United States. What appeared to be a water faucet outside the home of a cartel attorney in the border town of Agua Prieta was in fact a secret lever that, when twisted, activated a hydraulic system that opened a hidden trapdoor underneath a pool table inside the house. The passage ran more than 200 feet, directly beneath the fortifications along the border, and emerged inside a warehouse the cartel owned in Douglas, Ariz.

And as far as the frozen chicken batter deliveries go, here's Chapo again:

Eventually the tunnel was discovered, so Chapo shifted tactics once again, this time by going into the chili-pepper business. He opened a cannery in Guadalajara and began producing thousands of cans stamped “Comadre Jalapeños,” stuffing them with cocaine, then vacuum-sealing them and shipping them to Mexican-owned grocery stores in California. He sent drugs in the refrigeration units of tractor-trailers, in custom-made cavities in the bodies of cars and in truckloads of fish (which inspectors at a sweltering checkpoint might not want to detain for long).

Anyone who likes the linked article above is going to adore that one too.
posted by mediareport at 1:27 PM on July 16, 2012 [13 favorites]


I can tell you with some certainty that the most surreal moments of my life happen at the CVS pharmacy counter, when I fill my prescription for hydrocodone and also ask for the 20-pack of Claritin-D from behind the counter. Guess which one requires them to scan my driver's license?

A slight digression, but some Michigan pharmacies are starting to require a photo ID to fill any narco/controlled substances scrip. I'm like, aren't 92% of the folks needing Fentanyl patches or morphine syrup probably housebound?
posted by FelliniBlank at 1:44 PM on July 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


Keefe also mentions Ioan Grillo's 2011 book El Narco: Inside Mexico's Criminal Insurgency, which looks fascinating.
posted by mediareport at 1:46 PM on July 16, 2012


Nobody's making meth in my state. Hmm...business opportunity?
posted by contessa at 1:52 PM on July 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


If you make a statement like that, I'm going to need examples.

Go to Liveleak.com and search "cartel". There, you will see many, many examples of their "creative barbarism", most of them assuredly NSFW.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 1:58 PM on July 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


I don't remember how the idea occurred to me, but at some point I decided that my dream show would be a Star Trek series whose ship's science officer is unscrupulous genius crystallographer Walter H. White.

I don't know what temporal contortions would have to happen to make that work, but I do know that Mirror Universe Commander White is the one without a beard.
posted by Mister Moofoo at 2:08 PM on July 16, 2012 [8 favorites]


Mblue: "Meth isn't smuggled."

You would be incorrect. A sadly large amount of meth consumed in the US is indeed made in Mexico. Production in the US is limited to fairly small amounts because by the war on sick people. You can no longer buy a 100 count bottle of pseudoephedrine for $1.59 at the mini-mart on every corner. Lots of people making a little is still only a small portion of the supply.

Personally, I'd rather have the labs over the cartel violence, but whatever. Better for Mexicans to die than for my neighbor's house to catch on fire, apparently.
posted by wierdo at 2:12 PM on July 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


By the by, mediareport's NYT link is a gold mine:
Michael Braun, the former chief of operations for the D.E.A., told me a story about the construction of a high-tech fence along a stretch of border in Arizona. “They erect this fence,” he said, “only to go out there a few days later and discover that these guys have a catapult, and they’re flinging hundred-pound bales of marijuana over to the other side.” He paused and looked at me for a second. “A catapult,” he repeated. “We’ve got the best fence money can buy, and they counter us with a 2,500-year-old technology.”
My friends and I in high school used to joke about going to Mexico to buy a bale of marijuana, only to have it flung at us from the back of a truck, knocking us over. At the time we considered the prospect ridiculous hyperbole.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 2:18 PM on July 16, 2012 [6 favorites]


“They erect this fence,” he said, “only to go out there a few days later and discover that these guys have a catapult, and they’re flinging hundred-pound bales of marijuana over to the other side.”

Wow, if our local minor-league baseball club replaced those crappy tshirt cannons with one of these, they'd really boost attendance.
posted by FelliniBlank at 2:28 PM on July 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


From the Science of Breaking Bad blog (previously) I came across some interesting pages:

The Trailer Chemistry (I found it fascinating, breakdown of clandestine chem approaches to meth synthesis)

Zwitterion: On Mishaps & Tragedies in Making MDMA
posted by jcruelty at 2:28 PM on July 16, 2012 [6 favorites]


Also best blog for cartel related stuff (IMO) is Insight Crime.

I used to read mundonarco too but at a certain point it just felt too ghoulish.
posted by jcruelty at 2:30 PM on July 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


Breaking bad is very popular among the chemists I know. It's the only show that not only gets the chemistry (mostly) right, but makes things like yields and synthetic routes into plot points.
posted by bonehead at 2:36 PM on July 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


Frontline's report "The Meth Epidemic" (2006) provides a useful overview on the policy and public health issues related to meth use.
posted by pfzenke at 2:45 PM on July 16, 2012


Have we previously linked here how Tom Arnold's little sister started the meth epidemic? Because it is both enlightening and surreal.
posted by nicebookrack at 2:48 PM on July 16, 2012 [9 favorites]


FWIW, for people like me who click a link without looking at the URL, the above "how Tom Arnold's little sister started the meth epidemic" link is to playboy.com, which may not be looked on kindly by work filters.
posted by isnotchicago at 3:04 PM on July 16, 2012


But you're reading it for the articles!
posted by nicebookrack at 3:12 PM on July 16, 2012 [8 favorites]


I love the idea of being at some shitty temp job at a call center, striking up conversation with the woman in the next cubicle and finding out she used to be a top-of-the-food-chain drug lord. To me, that part is much more insane than her being related to a celebrity.
posted by Uppity Pigeon #2 at 3:41 PM on July 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


Honestly, halfway through I was expecting to discover that the call center job was taking place inside the prison.

That was a great link, nicebookrack; it was like reading the screenplay for Blow.
posted by ceribus peribus at 4:12 PM on July 16, 2012


It's sort of interesting as to how at the beginning it was this sort of wacky yet gruesome geek becomes bad-ass affair to these sort of amazing tragic arcs where shit becomes very unfortunate.
posted by angrycat at 4:15 PM on July 16, 2012


Here's some vid of one of the drug tunnels... pretty sophisticated

My fave tactics are the custom built narco-subs
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 4:44 PM on July 16, 2012


Oh, that latest tunnel find is just crazy. There's no way something like that gets built without deep, systemic corruption on both sides.
posted by Burhanistan at 4:57 PM on July 16, 2012


That DEA map isn't very revealing; a "dump site" could be as minor-league as a trash can that a shake-n-bake artist dumped his used Mountain Dew bottle into. In the meantime, the cartels are building cross-border tunnels that are almost in better shape than the hallway of my apartment building.
posted by Halloween Jack at 5:12 PM on July 16, 2012


I see that my fellow New Englanders are all too stoned to start up meth labs. Whatever, dude. Pass the Cheetos.
posted by sonika at 5:46 PM on July 16, 2012


The narcosubs are crazy. 60 feet of fiberglass bearing up to ten tons of cocaine, seating four, no toilet. Top speed: 11MPH. I think I would go insane somewhere south of San Diego.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 5:49 PM on July 16, 2012


Wait - the subs actually travel from Colombia to Mexico? Yeah, no way.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 5:52 PM on July 16, 2012


Halloween Jack, to be fair, your apartment is secretly built inside a maximum security prison. Although that's still no excuse for the chipped wainscoting.
posted by Uppity Pigeon #2 at 6:04 PM on July 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


wow, over the past seven years WA has gone from 944 incidents to 26? That's a hell of a drop. I wonder if everyone's just taking Oxy instead
posted by KathrynT at 6:08 PM on July 16, 2012


Meth isn't smuggled.

Heh, what's up with Florida being shoved up underneath Alabama in those maps?
posted by junco at 6:08 PM on July 16, 2012


Narco-subs on mefi previously
posted by junco at 6:14 PM on July 16, 2012


The best part about this: “We’ve got the best fence money can buy, and they counter us with a 2,500-year-old technology.” is that it's not as if the fence is cutting-edge tech.
posted by kenko at 10:08 PM on July 16, 2012 [6 favorites]


The Paris Review: Desert Moon - Breaking Bad in the American Southwest
posted by the man of twists and turns at 10:18 AM on July 17, 2012


How To Spot a Meth Lab
I'm very sorry
posted by DWRoelands at 11:11 AM on July 17, 2012 [5 favorites]


The best part about this: “We’ve got the best fence money can buy, and they counter us with a 2,500-year-old technology.” is that it's not as if the fence is cutting-edge tech.

It's adorable that both sides in the [trumpet fanfare] War on Drugs are apparently getting their tactics from Game of Thrones and Tolkien movies.
posted by FelliniBlank at 12:00 PM on July 17, 2012 [6 favorites]


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