Sunday, November 30, 2003
Dutch Cannabis Cafes Victimized By Protectionism
A few European Union nations are not happy that some of their citizens
find Dutch drug enforcement policies more to their liking than they find
the homegrown policies. The offended nations haven't been able to force
the Dutch to close their "coffee shops" -- cafes where sale and
consumption of small amounts of marijuana are tolerated (officially,
sale and possession of pot remains illegal in the Netherlands). But they
have succeeded, it seems, in making these cafes off-limits to tourists,
according to this UPI article passed along by a (mythical?) Vice Squad
friend who wishes to remain anonymous. Fans of Brussels will be sorry
to learn that for now, at least, a similar constraint is not being imposed
on Holland's legal brothels.
Vice Squad has touched upon vice tourism recently, here. [Update: My understanding is that the restrictions against outsiders were not imposed.]
Youthful Pedestrians Win One in Michigan
Drivers have to submit to Breathalyzer tests requested by the police or
suffer serious consequences -- even when the police do not have a
search warrant. In Michigan, pedestrians under the age of 21 were
subject to a similar regime. A nineteen-year old walking down the street
could be asked by an officer to submit to a Breathalyzer, and could be
fined for refusing to do so. Not anymore, following a ruling last week by
federal district judge David Lawson. Here's an excerpt from the ACLU
news release on the case:
"Judge Lawson held that the ordinance violates the Fourth Amendment
because (1) a breath test is a search, (2) the Fourth Amendment
ordinarily prohibits searches without search warrants, and (3) no
exceptions to the search warrant requirement apply.
Judge Lawson further emphasized that 'the right to be left alone in
public places ranks high on the hierarchy of entitlements that citizens
in a free society have come to expect - at least in the context of
One of the interesting aspects of this decision, at least for Vice Squad,
is that the case was brought by a factually innocent party, a young
woman who had not been drinking but who did not want to take the
Breathalyzer. She submitted under the threat of a $100 fine and indeed,
the test confirmed that she had not been drinking. Would the decision
have turned out the same way if she had been, say, above the state
BAC limit? (Vice Squad has harped on the issue of search and
seizure law being dominated by cases involving factually-guilty
individuals in the past.)
Saturday, November 29, 2003
Vice and Football
Lawrence Taylor was one of the greatest football players of his
generation. Tomorrow, the television program 60 Minutes is
slated to telecast an interview with Taylor, in which he will
discuss his problems with cocaine -- problems that almost
scuttled his athletic career and continued to cause havoc
with him after his retirement. But the headlines generated
by the interview have been concerned not with drugs, but
with another vice: prostitution. Seems that Taylor would
hire call girls to spend the night before a game with key
players on the opposing team, with a view to tiring them
out. He learned this trick by having once been "victimized"
by it. Here's the New York Post story on the Taylor
Friday, November 28, 2003
Prostitution in Thailand
Discussions to legalize prostitution seem to be taking place on
a global scale. Thailand is home to such a debate, which might
come as a surprise to those who assumed that the sex trade
already was legal in Thailand. (The Thai debate was mentioned
earlier in Vice Squad.) An article from the Voice of America
explains the current situation: "An estimated 200,000 women
and men work in the multi-billion dollar sex trade that accounts
for three percent of Thailand's gross national product. The sex
trade is illegal, but is tolerated as a transaction between
The arguments in Thailand hit upon many themes that permeate
Vice Squad: tax revenues, harm reduction, vice tourism.
According to the VOA article, prostitutes themselves are split on
the issue: "Sex workers who have been interviewed as part of
the debate hold differing opinions. Some support legalization
because it would allow them better benefits and protection.
Most, however, say they oppose the registration of sex workers
that would come with legalization, because it would stigmatize
them forever. And, they say, they are only working in the sex
trade until they can find better jobs. "
Pyrrhus Watch: Victory #12
Washington state's drug abatement law was designed to provide
a means to shut down crackhouses. Business owners who are
insufficiently vigilant in their required role of being auxiliary officers
in the war on drugs need to be wary, too, it seems. This linked story
detailing one business owner's experience comes from the book
Mugged by the State, by Randall Fitzgerald; thanks to
A Reasonable Man for the pointer.
Alcohol Advertising Lawsuit
The Volokh Conspiracy brings word (via the Wall Street Journal) of a new
class-action lawsuit against parts of the alcohol industry on the grounds that
some advertising has targeted those who are too young to drink legally.
Vice Squad recently posted about this working paper by Henry Saffer and
Dhaval Dave that finds that underage drinking is promoted by advertising.
The working paper makes no claim that the underage are specifically
targeted by the advertising; rather, the authors simply find that more
alcohol advertising is associated with higher rates of underage
consumption, all else equal.
Thursday, November 27, 2003
Today is one of those special days when the usual rules
concerning vice are suspended. So pay little heed to
this warning, borrowed from deadlysins.com:
In the words of nineteenth-century Russian Bishop Ignatius Brianchaninov:
Wise temperance of the stomach is a door to all the virtues. Restrain the stomach, and you will enter Paradise. But if you please and pamper your stomach, you will hurl yourself over the precipice of bodily impurity, into the fire of wrath and fury, you will coarsen and darken your mind, and in this way you will ruin your powers of attention and self-control, your sobriety and vigilance.
(Back to Vice Squad.) No mention from Ignatius as to
whether a tax on fatty foods would be a good idea.
Wednesday, November 26, 2003
Oops, Did We Say Spying? We Meant Vice
The Muslim US Army Chaplain at the Guantanamo detention center
who was arrested for mishandling classified information has been
released from prison, according to this story from
channelnewsasia.com. He's not entirely in the clear, however. While
that pesky mishandling info charge has been dropped, he now faces
new charges of adultery and of keeping pornography on a computer.
Adultery, it seems, is illegal under US military law, and the charge will
likely not play well with the chaplain's wife, either.
The chaplain's attorney, according to the linked article, spoke about
the rationale for his continued prosecution: "'It is nothing related
with the security of the US. I think it's very vindictive,' said the lawyer.
'It really suggests a kind of desperation on the part of the US
One of the chief factors that lies behind the spread of legal gambling
in the US in the past 40 years has been competition among
jurisdictions. When a state sees that many of its citizens are
going to a neighboring state to gamble, its incentive to get
a piece of the tax action grows. And even when a state already
permits some forms of legal gambling, competitive pressure can
promote further expansion/liberalization. Delaware might be feeling
some of that pressure right now, according to this post at
Slacktivist, as Maryland and Pennsylvania look to gambling revenues
to help make up for state budget shortfalls.
The mobility of people and/or their vice expenditures presents serious
complications for analyses of vice policy. Nevada has relied upon vice
tourism for years, and the Netherlands is also a vice destination. As
vice consumption (and production) generally comes with associated
externalities, the prospect of attracting vice tourists dissuades some
potential liberalizations. But if a liberalizing jurisdiction demonstrates
that the externalities are manageable, then it might find that its
comparative advantage in providing vice is short-lived, as neighboring
jurisdictions liberalize. In the case of gambling in the US, the moral taint
has declined substantially in recent decades, and the forces of positive
feedback are in the ascendant. But as Jerome Skolnick has pointed out,
the moral ambiguity of vice means that in the future the pendulum is
likely to swing in the opposite direction (see this early Vice Squad post).
When that happens, there can be positive feedback in strengthening
controls, because as one jurisdiction regulates more strictly, neighboring
areas will see increased vice tourism, and the increased externalities (or
perceived moral taint) that comes with it.
Tuesday, November 25, 2003
One Compromise on Smoking
The mayor of the Chicagoland village of Hoffman Estates has come
up with an interesting proposal for a partial smoking ban in workplaces,
according to this article in today's Trib. The ban would only apply to
office buildings containing a common ventilation system but multiple
businesses. The proposal is prompted by a complaint from a physician
concerning smoke that filters into her office from neighboring
The mayor employed a sort of "assumption of risk" analysis in
formulating his proposal: "He said the proposal also would leave out
bars and restaurants, a more common battleground for anti-smoking
measures, because 'if you take a job in one of those establishments,
you can expect smoking. But if you take a job in a doctor's office, you
don't expect secondhand smoke in the ventilation.'"
Vice Squad is against broad smoking bans, and even this circumscribed
one might be a bit heavy-handed for my tastes. Why not allow smoking
if the ventilation system is sufficiently able to filter out smoke? Further,
the market for commercial real estate might be competitive enough and
the participants savvy enough for the market solution to be workable.
But in general some regulation of smoking in public places seems desirable
to me, given the long-term, low probability nature of the harm (admittedly
not all that well-established scientifically) from secondary smoke, and the
difficulties people have in making decisions that serve their own best
interests in such circumstances. At any rate, the mayor's suggestion is
novel and not devoid of logic.
The Trib's sister publication Red Eye had an update today on how the market
is dealing with smoking in Chicago bars and restaurants: "Of the approximately
6,500 restaurants in Chicago, about 500 are smoke-free, from casual eateries
to some of the city's best dining spots..."
Bingo Fights Back?
The huge growth in legal gambling in the US in the past two decades
has been concentrated in lotteries, casinos, card rooms, and
bookmaking. Some old standbys, notably bingo and horse racing,
have been left behind in relative terms, and in some instances,
in absolute terms as well. Today's Chicago Tribune, however,
includes this article on some of the ways that church bingo is
adapting to meet the competition. Seems that the technology of
bingo is changing -- players can participate by means of a hand-held
computer, into which they punch the chosen cell. By using a computer,
a bingo-er can simultaneously play up to 216 cards at once. Some
40% of the players at Thursday night bingo at St. Barbara Catholic
Church in the Bridgeport neighborhood of Chicago now use the
computers. Nevertheless, attendance has been halved from its
peak, which apparently was reached before casino boats were
available in the Chicagoland region.
The connection between smoking and bingo also is diminishing,
apparently. One of the two bingo halls at St. Barbara has gone
Monday, November 24, 2003
Czech Prostitution -- Legal?
In a prior post concerning prostitution in the Czech Republic,
Vice Squad noted that there were conflciting reports as to the
legality of the commercial sex trade in the CR. Recent news
articles add to the confusion. Here's a sample from one report:
"Prostitution in the Czech Republic isn't legal, but it is
rampant, especially in the capital of Prague. Estimates of the
number of prostitutes range from ten-to-25-thousand -- and
there are about 800 brothels."
But a second story contains this information: "Prostitution in
the Czech Republic is not illegal and is widespread, especially
in the capital, Prague, and near the country's western borders
with Germany and Austria. Estimates of the number of prostitutes
range from 10,000 to 25,000, and there are about 800 brothels."
At least everyone agrees that prostitution is widespread in the
Both stories are sourced to the Associated Press. The second
article appears to be more credible, as it contains more detailed
information: "There are no controls on prostitution under current
law, though the police sometimes sweep through brothels in search
Vice Blogs are Elsewhere
Vice Squad has successfully survived the notorious Canadian customs
officials (oops, no, sorry, it's the Ukrainian ones who are notorious)
and returned to his home in Viceville. It might take a while to catch up,
however, so let me just mention a few vice-related stories out there
Mark Kleiman comments upon Rush Limbaugh's potential legal liability.
Amanda Butler at Crescat Sententia informs us that Los Angeles is
backtracking on its attempt to separate exotic dancers from their
customers. (Earlier Vice Squad post here.)
Overlawyered links to this story concerning a smoker's lawsuit in Germany.
The initial line of the story: "A German court has rejected the country's
first compensation claim by a smoker against a cigarette maker
because of a lack of evidence."
Rantfarm links to this story about how, well, the French wine
industry wants to convince motorists that they needn't completely abstain
from drinking alcohol to comply with the legal BAC limit of .05. Seems
the French government has been stepping up enforcement of drunk-driving
laws. Here's a sample: "The government says road deaths fell more than
20 percent to under 5,000 in the first ten months of 2003 from the same
period last year -- still among the highest rates in Europe relative to
Amid the tightened enforcement and government warnings, sales of wine
in restaurants have also fallen by about 15 percent in just months, wine
Friday, November 21, 2003
Life is Elsewhere
Vice Squad is off to a conference today -- carrying a not-
what-one-might-call-finished paper concerning Adam Smith --
and so blogging may be somewhat sporadic. Apologies to
the loyal Vice Squad reader!
Illinois Supreme Court Limits Drug Sniffs
A 4-3 Illinois Supreme Court decision yesterday has raised the
standard for the use of drug sniffing dogs during traffic stops,
according to today's Chicago Tribune. Dogs are frequently
used to sniff around, on, and under cars, even in the absence of
probable cause. Dog searches also are employed against the
cars of motorists who refuse a request to consent to a search.
The Illinois Supreme Court ruled that the police must have
reasonable suspicion, and not just a vague hunch, before
they can legally employ a drug-sniffing dog.
With this decision, the Illinois Supremes overturned the conviction
and a twelve-year sentence of a man caught with what was
described as "about $250,000 worth of marijuana."
Vice Squad has recently ruminated about the evolution of
search and seizure law when the relevant cases are dominated
by factually guilty criminals.
Stateville Update (II)
Another former guard at the Illinois state prison at
Stateville has been arrested and charged with
smuggling drugs to inmates, according to yesterday's
Trib. His is the fourth such arrest; Vice Squad noted
the earlier developments, most recently here.
Drug War Victim
A sad story in yesterday's Chicago Tribune about a 24-year-old man
in Texas who choked to death. He was fixing a flat tire early on
Wednesday morning when police stopped to offer him assistance.
The man apparently feared being caught with marijuana; it was a
plastic bag containing pot that choked him to death. In Texas,
possession of less than two ounces of marijuana can be punished
by 180 days in jail and a $2000 fine, according to the NORML
Wednesday, November 19, 2003
Alcohol Poisoning in Russia
Friend of Vice Squad Nikkie informs us of this news
out of Russia -- seems that a vodka drinking contest was
sponsored by a local food and drink seller in the
southwestern city of Volgodonsk. The winner was to receive
a prize of ten bottles of vodka, but he died of acute alcohol
poisoning. Four other contestants are apparently in very
serious straits at the local hospital.
The extent of fatal alcohol poisoning in Russia is tragic and
inexplicable. In 2002, more than 40,000 people died
from alcohol poisoning in Russia, a rate of 28 per 100,000
people. Typical rates in other countries are on the order of
one-one-hundredth of the Russian rate. Professor Vladimir Treml
of Duke University, an expert on alcohol in Russia, has described
Soviet and post-Soviet rates of fatal alcohol poisoning as "so high
that they do not fit into the range of international experience."
See pages 232-4 of his chapter (chapter 7, "Soviet and Russian
Statistics on Alcohol Consumption and Abuse") in this 1997
volume from the National Academies of Science.
Record Harvest in Belarus?
Vice Squad friend Bridget Butkevich passes along a story from
today's RFE/RL Newsline. Seems that the always charming
President Lukashenka of Belarus doesn't want to take it
anymore from inebriates. Here's a sample from the RFE/RL
story: "The Belarusian president emphasized the need to
rehabilitate alcoholics through labor. He also stressed that
detoxification and rehabilitation centers should be financed
by patients. 'We cannot accommodate these people at public
expense. They should be sent to do agricultural work [or]
clean streets,' he said."
Advertising Alcohol, and a Problem With Deregulating Commercial Speech
Friend of Vice Squad Dima Masterov passed along this story
concerning alcohol advertising in NBER Digest Online. A recent
NBER working paper by Henry Saffer and Dhaval Dave finds that
underage drinking is responsive to advertising. (Vice advertisers
sometimes claim that they are fighting for market share, not
spurring overall demand.) An excerpt from the Digest story:
"The [Saffer and Dave] analysis 'suggests that the complete
elimination of alcohol advertising could reduce adolescent
monthly alcohol participation from about 25 percent to about
21 percent. For binge participation, the reduction might be from
about 12 percent to about 7 percent.' (Binge drinking is a term
defined by most researchers to mean the consumption of five or
more drinks at one occasion.) "
Vice advertising presents a tricky regulatory issue. Commercial
speech in the US currently does not receive the same level of
First Amendment protection as political speech. Some people,
including Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, would like to
see the Constitutional protection of commercial speech enhanced.
I am not so sure -- even if all you care about is the protection of
commercial speech! The problem is as follows. The envisioned
enhancements for protection of commercial speech generally
would not apply to illegal products, such as heroin or marijuana.
If most restrictions on commercial speech are impermissible, then
legislatures will face only two options when it comes to vice
regulation: either the vice (think marijuana) can be made legal,
with advertising thereby virtually uncontrolled, or, marijuana can
be kept illegal, with no advertising allowed. (That is, intermediate
options, such as legal marijuana but a ban or severe restrictions
on advertising, would not be feasible.) I think that if the only two
options are as I indicated above, many legislatures will prefer to
keep marijuana illegal. As I object to the prohibition of vice backed
by criminal penalties, I think that this would be a pity. Further, the
intermediate option of legality plus advertising controls is often
a more desirable regulatory regime for vice than legality with
unrestricted advertising -- perhaps especially during a transition
away from a prohibition regime. For instance, British gambling
regulation has long followed this pattern -- do you know there
are (largely unadvertised) casinos in London? -- though now it
appears that British gambling will be further deregulated.
Vice Squad earlier looked at tobacco advertising bans.
Tuesday, November 18, 2003
Vice Capital of Illinois?
What is going on in Aurora? Cocaine, marijuana, you name it --
and today, we can add prostitution to the list. Just how many
undercover officers does this town have?
The news of Friday's prostitution busts comes from this article
in today's electronic Chicago Tribune. Seems that four of our female
friends and neighbors were arrested on Friday in Aurora for allegedly
offering to exchange sex for money! To undercover officers!
Friday's arrestees join 64 of our male friends and neighbors who
have been arrested in Aurora this year, accused of offering to
purchase sex for money -- from undercover officers!
Though I wouldn't want to offer any advice to a town with so much practice
in undercover operations, perhaps the example of Fremont, Nebraska bears
An Omaha police officer "testified he was called in Nov. 15, 2002, by the
Nebraska State Patrol. The patrol had received complaints about limousine
violations, employees engaging in full-content lap dancing and possible
prostitution activities at Boomers Lounge.
Several other officers participated in the undercover operation, staging a
'mock' bachelor party, he said. [The arrested woman] conducted lap dances
with him and other officers, showing aggressive behavior."
[Correction, December 6, 2003 -- I earlier mistakenly gave the impression
that the Nebraska strip club was in Omaha; I have now updated the post
to note the club's location in Fremont.]
Monday, November 17, 2003
Dancing to Discernment
The forces of sin took a step forward on Friday night when
Wheaton College held its first dance, according to this article
in Sunday's Chicago Tribune. The Christian school located
in the Chicago suburbs recently lifted its 143-year old ban on
Vice Squad, which mentioned the pending demise of the ban
in October, is all in favor of voluntary private regulations of
vicious adult activity. The fact that the elimination of the ban
was spurred by legal concerns is a pity. The student quoted
in the Trib -- "I like to have my restrictions" -- should have been
able to continue to study at a college that provided them. Not
that it's 'no holds barred' at Wheaton now! According to the
article: "At Wheaton College's dance, administrators were prepared
to tap students on the shoulder if they got too intimate or out of
control with partners, but, campus leaders insisted, no tapping
was needed with this crowd."
Nevertheless, Wheaton's Dean of Student Life, a proponent of
dropping the dancing ban, had an interesting take (as reported
in the Trib article) -- a point of view that could be generalized to
other voluntary adult activities: "After all, if we want to be about
teaching discernment rather than compliance, this is the way
to do it."
Sunday, November 16, 2003
Persona Non Grata in Parts of Reno
Nevada is a great boon to beleaguered vice policy bloggers. Since 2001, some
alleged prostitution law offenders in Reno have been given suspended
sentences in exchange for a guilty plea and an agreement to stay away
from the seedy side of town. The sentencing approach is called "vice
mapping," and it is now being extended to violators of alcohol and
panhandling codes, according to an article in the Reno Gazette-Journal.
A police officer claims that the program has reduced recidivism, and has avoided
shifting prostitution into other neighborhoods. Many of the prostitutes sentenced in
the vice mapping program are from out-of-state, and for them, at least, the creative
sentencing could be a very attractive option. That is, it might be an attractive option
in our nth best world, where we are happy to threaten our friends and neighbors
with jail if they engage in an explicit exchange of sex for some unapproved form
As it is Adam Smith week for me, let me note what Smith had to say about taxes so
excessive that they encourage smuggling. (The smuggling then encourages harsh
penalties -- and guilty pleas induced through the threat of harsh penalties? -- in a manner
addressed earlier by Vice Squad.) At any rate, our current vice prohibitions similarly
create attractive nuisances for police and inner-city youth and others:
"An injudicious tax offers a great temptation to smuggling. But the penalties of smuggling
must rise in proportion to the temptation. The law, contrary to all the ordinary principles
of justice, first creates the temptation, and then punishes those who yield to it; and it
commonly enhances the punishment too in proportion to the very circumstance which
ought certainly to alleviate it, the temptation to commit the crime."
Saturday, November 15, 2003
Adam Smith on Alcohol
Vice Squad has to prepare a paper for a conference next week; while
the paper has nothing to do with vice, it does have to do with
that ever-popular of moral philosophers, Adam Smith. So this time-out
from paper writing tonight elicits a post on Adam Smith's views on
In the Wealth of Nations, Smith argues for trade in alcoholic beverages
to be as free as trade in other commodities, although the purchase of
ale by workmen is "somewhat more liable to be abused" than trade in
other goods. He continues "Though individuals...may sometimes
ruin their fortunes by an excessive consumption of fermented liquors,
there seems to be no risk that a nation should do so." Further, "if
we consult experience, the cheapness of wine seems to be a cause, not
of drunkenness, but of sobriety." There is a transition problem,
however. Were you to introduce cheaper alcohol by eliminating taxes,
you might, "occasion in Great Britain a pretty general and temporary
drunkenness among the middling and inferior ranks of people, which
would probably soon be followed by a permanent and almost universal
Smith was no Puritan. In discussing beer taxes (according to
student notes that were later published as Lectures on
Jurisprudence), Smith noted that "Man is an anxious animal and
must have his care swept off by something that can exhilarate
the senses." Nevertheless, between the first and second
editions of the Wealth of Nations (with its famous butcher, brewer,
and baker), Smith deleted a reference to beer as a necessity of life!
Friday, November 14, 2003
Arizona Uses Confiscated Drug Money...
...to confiscate more money. Parallel prostitution stings, one aimed at
prostitutes and one aimed at clients, resulted in 72 of our friends and
neighbors being arrested in Maricopa County, Arizona, according to
this article in the Arizona Republic. The arrestees include 45 women
and 27 men.
If you go to the linked article above you also might want to take a look
at the slideshow and the local news broadcast that are linked. The
sheriff was good enough to make sure that the media were embedded
in the operation -- some of the photos were taken in hotel rooms where
arrests took place -- demonstrating yet again what a good idea it is for
law enforcement and the mass media to work hand-in-hand in enforcing
vice laws. Arrestees were brought to the parking lot of a local mall where
they could be processed, coincidentally providing another forum for film
and photos of our accused friends and neighbors. The caged dogs of
some of the arrestees can be viewed in Photo#3 of the slideshow.
How was this large-scale operation funded? With confiscated drug
money. Now perhaps you might think that there are better ways to
spend this money, but that is because you have overlooked the fact that
prostitution arrests can be almost as lucrative to law enforcement as drug
arrests. From the Republic article: "Sheriff's detectives spent $12,000 in
seized drug funds during the operation, but they found $36,000 when
they searched the homes and massage parlors."
A couple more quotes from the article I will pass along without comment:
"Once the women are booked into jail, they will be kept until they are
checked for any sexually transmitted diseases, part of a new state
"Deputies will decide whether to seize the women's homes and cars after
more investigating, [the sheriff] said."
But I did note one inconsistency in the operation, however. On the one
hand..."'We're a full-service law enforcement agency,' [the sheriff] said.
'We go after everybody.'" Well, not quite everybody. When they were
luring men to meetings with purported prostitutes so that the would-be
johns could be arrested, one man asked if he could bring a friend, a
soldier recently back from Iraq. The police officer posing as a prostitute
told the man not to bring his friend, reasoning that the soldier "'deserves
a little better than being thrown in jail.'" Not like his friend, of course,
who is a tremendous hazard to the community.
Perhaps the sheriff is really trying to land a job as a high-school principal
in South Carolina, given his crystal clear understanding of priorities:
"During a news conference, [the sheriff] defended the sweep and called it
just as valid as chasing murderers."
Thursday, November 13, 2003
Wilmette Smoking Ban Update
Yesterday, Vice Squad noted the broad smoking ban adopted by the
Illinois village of Wilmette. More fallout in today's Trib. The village
trustees adopted the ban on a 6-1 vote. Confounding public choice
theorists the world over, seems that the sole dissenter is a
nonsmoking woman who suffers from asthma.
Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE)
Continued funding for DARE programs in the state of Illinois is in jeopardy,
according to this article in today's Chicago Tribune. Last year
the state provided $600,000 for DARE, a marked falloff from $1.9 million
the previous year. Funding ended October 1, though DARE programs
soldier on in many of the state's classrooms.
The most remarkable feature of DARE is that the anti-drug, pro-responsibility
curriculum is taught in elementary, middle, and high school classrooms by
uniformed police officers. Isn't it amazing how the legal status of a drug
influences the qualifications of those who are perceived to be experts?
Obesity has very serious health consequences, and children should be
encouraged to eat in a healthy way and to exercise. I know, let's have
police officers teach kids about proper nutrition! Skiing is a physically
dangerous form of recreation -- so of course, we must have police officers
educate our children about skiing! Somehow, we recognize the obesity
and skiing examples as absurd, but we (almost) take for granted that
police officers are the appropriate educators concerning drug choices.
A second interesting feature of DARE is that it is a very popular program,
even though there isn't much evidence that it works in terms of
keeping kids off drugs. Actually, most of the evidence is that DARE doesn't
work. But at least there are plenty of evaluations of DARE out there, and
some school districts and state and local governments have shied away
from DARE because of the lukewarm results. Where is the demand for
evaluations of programs that jail our friends and neighbors because they
have a little bit of some illicit drug on them? At least among some of its
customers, DARE is asked to justify itself. Drug prohibition backed by
criminal penalties just, well, is.
Wednesday, November 12, 2003
Aurora Becomes Drug Free
Three men were arrested and 48 kilograms of marijuana were
confiscated yesterday in Aurora, a town in the western suburbs
of Chicago. The men were captured following a sting operation involving
an undercover purchase of 100 pounds of pot. From the Trib article linked
above: "Police said they long ago placed the home on 6th Avenue under surveillance based on tips from citizens.
When that produced no results, they staged the undercover buy, they said."
This latest triumph in the War on Drugs, when combined with the
half-ton haul of cocaine in September, undoubtedly has rendered
Aurora drug-free, probably for all time.
Wilmette Smoking Ban
Yesterday the Illinois village of Wilmette adopted a wide-ranging ban on
smoking, according to this article in the Chicago Tribune (registration
required). The ban, which will take effect on July 1, applies to "restaurants,
bowling alleys, country clubs and nearly every public place."
Smoking doesn't seem to be a major pastime in Wilmette (maybe passing
overly sweeping laws is?): only 6 of the village's 39 restaurants currently
Vice Squad has looked at smoking bans before, primarily here and here.
"Our" position is that some governmental regulation of smoking in public is
permissible, even in restaurants (i.e., even where folks assemble voluntarily,
where they do not constitute a captive audience.) But prohibitions on smoking
are not permissible, as they impose too high a cost upon rational smokers
(or rational employees of smoking establishments). The links to previous
posts above provide more details.
Tuesday, November 11, 2003
High School Drug Sweep Fallout
The outrageous drug sweep last week at a South Carolina high school
involving 14 police officers, some with guns drawn, continues to provoke
controversy. (Why should it be controversial? -- it was so clearly wrong-
headed!) Here's the latest story from the Charleston Post and Courier
(registration required). As a reminder, some 100 or more students were
forced onto the ground, some handcuffed, while their bags were checked.
(Vice Squad's original post on this story is here.) School officials continue
to avoid stating the obvious -- this was a dangerous, hamfisted and completely
unnecessary operation. Among other things it will foment a good deal of ill
will towards the police and the school administration.
Though drugs should not be illegal, they are, and in almost any imaginable
regime, they will remain illegal for people of high school age. So if the
school administration believes that there is a drug problem, they should
take steps to address it. Here, the administration suspected certain students,
but instead of dealing with those students directly -- questioning them, searching
their bags and lockers, posting teachers or guards (the school has guards)
nearby their morning hangouts -- they have this general over-the-top search
by police. Terrible judgment.
No drugs were found in the search. This fact played an important role in how the
media fallout has been developing, but I don't think it should. What if a couple
kids were found with a little pot in their bags? Would that have justified this
operation? No. Even if you think underage marijuana use is a terrible thing, the
right approach is the one above -- deal with the students with whom you have
(what you consider) good reason to be suspicious.
Here's a sample from the Post and Courier article linked above:
"Shortly after Sam sat down in the cafeteria, a coach came up and told the students at his table to put their hands on the table. When the students asked why, they were told it was the principal's orders.
Then a police officer came over and bound Sam's hands behind his back with yellow restraints, took him into the hallway and told him to face the wall as a dog smelled his bag. He watched as his binders and folders were dumped out on the floor.
Then the principal, George McCrackin, patted him down, checked his shoes and took out his wallet, asking him where he got the approximately $100 he was carrying, Sam said. The student said he told McCrackin he had just gotten paid at his job at KFC.
'The people I hang out with are not drug dealers,' Sam said. 'We play basketball. We have nice clothes because we have jobs.'
Down the hall, Josh was standing with his friends when he heard a rustling and felt something hit him in the back. When he turned around, he said, he saw a police officer standing behind him with his gun drawn.
'He told me to get down on the ground,' said Josh, who then was instructed to put his hands behind his head and stay down.
Sam and Josh said that when the search was over, police told them that any innocent bystanders in the crowd should blame the search on the people bringing drugs to school. Then the students who had been bound were released and told to go to class."
Regulating Violent Porn
My post a few days ago at Crescat on the federal prosecution of producers
and distributors of pornography led to this post (and a plethora of
comments) at Alas, a blog. One of the comments, from Alegna of
Anomalous Allegories, informs us that depictions of violent sexual acts are
banned in Australia. You should also check out the comment by arbitrary
aardvark, whose e-mail motivated the original post.
Will Baude at Crescat Sententia offered some reasons not to ban violent pornography.
Here's a brief excerpt: "My worry is that by forcing a speaker or picture to explain
why it's 'deserving' of free speech protection, or why we should care about free
speech in the first place, we're missing the point of free speech."
I didn't declare a position in the original post, though my loyal reader will recognize
that I am unlikely to think that it is a good idea to put consenting adult producers
of violent pornography in prison. And I find Will's arguments to be persuasive. But
as John Stuart Mill noted, trade is a public act, and the public can control it even in
the absence of harm to others. (Sale of such porn could not be banned, however,
if to do so would effectively ban its consumption -- and it would.) For this Millian,
then, a strict but not prohibitory regime governing violent porn would be acceptable.
The regime might include advertising controls or even ad bans, and perhaps a more
rigorous system of ensuring that all participants are rational, consenting adults. And
we might want to adopt policies such as requisite waiting periods for performers that will
prove helpful to those whose decisions to take part might be rash or short-sighted, from
their own long-term point of view. Though here I am on particularly shaky ground....
Monday, November 10, 2003
(Almost) Free Money
The online version of the Chicago Tribune informs us that another
local law enforcement official has been arrested following a sting. Seems the
Chicago policeman and three accomplices allegedly tried to burglarize the
apartment of someone they thought was a drug dealer. "Police said they
suspect [the officer] and his accomplices had targeted drug dealers in the
past, and were investigating if the four suspects had committed other crimes."
Somehow I don't think that the following revelation in the Trib is
going to spur much future whistleblowing: "The alleged corruption came to light
after another officer notified the Chicago Police Department's Internal Affairs
division of a conversation he had with Freeman on Oct. 14, officials said." Was
this publicity deliberate?
As I have noted before (hmmm, not sure where--well, try here and here), the
undermining of the integrity of the police is one of the significant and generally
underappreciated costs of drug prohibition. Drug prohibition sets up this
immensely attractive prospect, both for officers and inner-city youth --
a prospect I liken to the legal notion of an attractive nuisance. Then when
some of them (foreseeably) succumb to the temptation, we castigate (and imprison)
them as corrupt cops or dangerous drug dealers. I am not saying that corrupt
officers and drug dealers are blameless, of course. And just because a law is
frequently broken doesn't mean it should be repealed. But I am suggesting that
we should economize on our demands upon probity in the face of huge temptations,
by eliminating those temptations when they are unnecessary. It is always helpful to
keep in mind the goal of drug prohibition: to render it somewhat more difficult for
some of our friends and neighbors to pursue their pleasure by consuming a
substance that they desire to consume. And for this noble end, we run non-stop
integrity tests upon police officers and inner-city youths.
Crack Cocaine and a Stillborn Fetus
Vice policy, alas, involves more than it share of unhappy and unsettling
stories. Mark Kleiman reports that last month the Supreme Court issued an
order denying the appeal of a South Carolina woman who was convicted
of homicide when her pregnancy of 8.5 months ended with a stillbirth,
and who tested positive for cocaine. The woman was given a 20-year
jail term, with 8 years suspended. A Christian Science Monitor story
(linked by Kleiman) on the court order can be found here.
The ingestion of any drug by a pregnant woman, including legal drugs like
alcohol and nicotine, generally is not a good thing for the fetus, and in
significant doses, is almost assuredly not a good thing. Perhaps surprisingly,
however, the evidence that there is substantial damage to a fetus from
maternal cocaine use is rather scanty. (Read Stanton Peele's summary here.)
Professor Kleiman notes: "...there is precisely no medical evidence that
maternal cocaine use can cause stillbirth."
From Security to Sex Offenses
Cook County Sheriff Michael Sheahan is continuing to ratchet up
enforcement against sex offenses. Last week he held a news conference
announcing the happy result that 113 of our friends and neighbors
had been arrested for attempting to purchase prostitution services.
Today we learn, via the Chicago Tribune (registration required), that
Sheriff Sheahan is setting up a new four-person unit to track down
sex offenders who have violated the law requiring them to register
with local police departments within ten days of being released from
prison. He also intends to press the Illinois state government to
make the sending of lewd pictures to minors a felony; apparently,
such transmissions currently constitute a misdemeanor offense. It
seems that Web cam transmissions are the chief target of the
attempt to upgrade the violation.
Where does the money come from for the Sheriff's new four-person
unit? Oh, this is a Cook County type of story. The County Board
President John Stroger had the temerity to turn down the Sheriff's
request for funding for 100 additional jail guards, and suggested that
the Sheriff undertake some staff trimming in these fiscally-straitened times.
Sheriff Sheahan responded by taking away four of the five (!) bodyguards
assigned to the Board President. The Trib article:
"On Sunday, a day before the next round of budget hearings, Sheahan
said he would use the savings from removal of Stroger's security
entourage to launch a new four-person unit that will track down outlaw
Sunday, November 09, 2003
Life is Elsewhere IV
My pleasant week of guest blogging at Crescat Sententia has come to an end,
so tomorrow I hope to resume what passes for normal blogging behavior
here at Vice Squad. In the meantime, feel free to check out my final
Crescat "contributions," this one on prosecuting pornographers and
this one on obesity policy.
Prostitution Reverse Sting
Week of guest blogging at Crescat has less than 24 hours to go. To mark the occasion, I just posted this story on Chicagoland anti-prostitution reverse sting operations.
Friday, November 07, 2003
"A Valuable Experience"
OK, I posted this under a different heading (and in slightly different form) a little
while ago on Crescat....but I am still outraged.
Friend of Vice Squad Michael Alexeev, an economics professor at Indiana University,
brings our attention to this uplifting tale, from Scotsman.com.
Here's the start of the article:
"Armed police stormed a high school and ordered children to the floor at gunpoint
so they could conduct a drugs search, it emerged today,
Officers ran into the South Carolina school, screaming at pupils to lie face down,
before rifling through their bags.
Students who did not do as they were told were handcuffed."
No drugs were found.
Another story on the incident, from the Charleston Post and Courier (registration
required) informs us that ...
"Fourteen officers and a police dog sealed off the main hallway Wednesday as
about 20 administrators and teachers helped steer other students away,
[Police Lt.] Aarons said. There were 107 students who happened to be in the
hallway at the time, he added.
Police told the students to sit on the floor and put their hands out,
[school principal] McCrackin said."
Principal McCrackin has no regrets, bless his heart, according to the
"He [McCrackin] said: 'I'm sure it was an inconvenience to those individuals
who were on that hallway. But I think there's a valuable experience there.'"
Perhaps Principal McCrackin should read up on just how much of an
inconvenience it can be when police undertake drug searches with drawn
weapons. He can take his pick from this list of drug war victims,
though perhaps he should look most carefully at the
Alberto Sepulveda case.
Thursday, November 06, 2003
Life is More-or-Less Elsewhere, Except for Shopaholics
Vice Squad's guest blogging at Crescat continues apace, with this
contribution concerning, yes, searches, this one involving roadblocks.
Over at Overlawyered, there's a post on how voluntary gambling
bans have proven at times to be porous, leading to, yes, lawsuits
from compulsive gamblers.
The post below is another one that I "guested" for CS (in a slightly different
form), entitled "Oniomania".....
....No, it has nothing to do with onions -- it's just a fancy word for "shopaholism,"
and the electronic edition of the Chicago Tribune has an article up (here,
registration required) about the affliction (without the nifty terminology, alas). A sample:
"Much like those addicted to drugs or alcohol, shopaholics experience withdrawal
symptoms such as irritability, depression and loss of control.
They also deny they have a problem, claiming it's normal to have 50 pairs of pants
in the closet with sales tags still attached. In addition, some shopaholics suffer
blackouts the way alcoholics do, [Indiana University addiction researcher Ruth] Engs
said. They will return home not remembering how much they bought or what's in
the shopping bags they carry.
And, as with other addictions, there may be an effort to conceal the problem."
In a Chicago case from a couple years back, Ms. Elizabeth Roach pleaded guilty to a
charge stemming from her embezzling more than $240,000 from her employer. The
embezzled money fueled shopping trips. The trial judge was more lenient to Ms. Roach
than the 12 to 18 months in prison (among other punishments) called for by federal
sentencing guidelines: along with a fine and restitution, he imposed six months of
home confinement and six weeks of work release rather than a prison term. The judge
noted that the embezzlement was motivated by compulsive shopping and depression.
The government appealed the downward departure from the sentencing guidelines,
and a three-judge federal appeals panel found the trial judge’s leniency misplaced
(in United States v. Roach (2002), 296 F.3d 565). They remanded the case back to the
original judge for resentencing; he reluctantly complied, ordering Ms. Roach to spend
12 months in prison, though that sentence is stayed pending appeal. Neither
depression nor oniomania was accepted by the appeals panel as a valid reason for
reducing penalties for embezzlement. A defendant would have even less hope for
leniency for embezzlement motivated by the need for money to feed a heroin or
cocaine addiction: the federal sentencing guidelines (U.S.S.G. § 5K2.13 available
here) explicitly note that, while significantly reduced mental capacity could justify
a "downward departure" from the prescribed punishment, this is not the case if
"the impairment was caused by the defendant’s voluntary use of drugs or other
Wednesday, November 05, 2003
Life is Elsewhere III
Hello Loyal Vice Squad Reader! Once again, I must apologize that my guest
blogging duties at Crescat Sententia this week have more-or-less substituted
for forays into Vice Squad. The latest offerings at that other venue concern
drug searches (again), and yes, still more on searches! I cannot explain
my new, Diogenes-like fascination with search.
Tuesday, November 04, 2003
Life is Elsewhere II
My guest blogging at Crescat Sententia this week has produced this post on
drug searches, this post on a recommended drug policy book, and another
post on the Illinois Lottery that I will reproduce below. (Oh no, do I own the
copyright or does Crescat? All those Crescat folks are going to be lawyers in
a few years, and then I will be doomed!).......
The Chicago Tribune reports today (registration required) that the state will award eight $25,000 prizes to lucky winners. How to compete for one of the prizes? Sorry, you have to be one of the 8,000 Illinois State Lottery retailers; further, you have to show up to one of two "brainstorming" sessions, the purpose of which is "to generate ideas about how to perk up interest in state-run games-of-chance that have seen flat or declining sales in recent years." With the prizes, lottery officials expect 600 retailers to show up for the deadly dull proceedings. Without the excitement of a prize drawing, approximately zero retailers would show -- oops, that's not what the lottery spokeswoman said. According to the article, she figures that 'People will come anyway, but I think it will be probably better attended with added incentives.' "Probably"? (Can you just show up, register for the drawing, and leave? Are your chances of winning affected by the quality of your contribution to the brainstorming? What if you have really bad ideas, like putting up billboards in poor neighborhoods claiming that the residents could move from their street to easy street by playing the lottery? What, the Illinois State Lottery already did that?)
Not to worry, citizens of Illinois, it's not as if the money could be put to a better purpose: "The awards will come from a pool of up to $20 million in unclaimed prize money that the state can use to either promote the lottery or bolster school funding."
I don't think much will come from these meetings, which motivates me to make a suggestion. Why not hold a lottery for people who show up for a meeting to discuss how the lottery retailers' brainstorming meetings can be improved? A meta-meta-lottery!
Citizens of Oceania
The FBI's arrest statistics for 2002 have recently been posted on Drug WarRant,
and once again, vice leads the day, with drug arrests at the top of the list
and drunk driving a close second. (There are lots of other alcohol-related
arrests, too; incidentally, though I favor (at a minimum) the decriminalization
of possession of small quantities of currently-illicit drugs, I believe that,
generally speaking, controls on alcohol in the US should be strengthened.)
But how does the FBI characterize the drug-related arrests? Perhaps as
"Drug-related arrests"? No. Perhaps as "Drug law violations"? No. In a
wonderful instance of persuasive definition, the FBI lists these arrests as
"Drug abuse violations." How is someone in possession of a little bit of
marijuana (the modal drug arrest) engaged in drug abuse? Maybe there
was a printing error (though it is not the first year that the FBI has
employed this usage): perhaps they meant to write "Drug law abuses."
Monday, November 03, 2003
Life is Elsewhere
I am afraid that my guest blogging duties at Crescat Sententia are coming at
the expense of Vice Squad entries. But if you click here, you can get
Vice Squadesque-commentary on harm reduction in Russia, while
clicking here will bring you a story of prosecuting Internet pornographers.
Sunday, November 02, 2003
Legalizing Brothel Prostitution
In recent days Vice Squad has noted debates about legalizing
prostitution in Las Vegas and Thailand. A Vice Squad reader
temporarily located in New Zealand kindly has sent along an e-mail
mentioning that New Zealand has recently decided to legalize
brothels. Prior to the June, 2003 Prostitution Reform Bill,
prostitution itself was legal in New Zealand, though soliciting
and brothels were illegal. (This is similar to the British regulatory
structure, I believe.) The new law permits legal brothels, and some
should be opening by the end of the year.
Belgium and Italy are also considering legalizing brothels, and some
Australian states have already done so, as the previous Heidi Fleiss
post suggested. The Netherlands, of course, also has legal brothels.
Guesting This Week
The good people at Crescat Sententia have invited Vice Squad to
contribute to their popular blog this week -- please drop in and
see what is brewing. I'll try to post a few things to Vice Squad,
too, just to ensure that I get no actual work accomplished.
Saturday, November 01, 2003
Heidi Fleiss on Legalizing Prostitution
In the September/October Legal Affairs, former Hollywood madam Heidi Fleiss
has this short essay (as told to Nadya Labi) entitled "In Defense of Prostitution."
Ms. Fleiss takes a pretty extreme view of the tradeoffs involved in legalizing
prostitution -- she thinks that there are no tradeoffs: "There is no downside
to legalising prostitution." She notes that the current (general) US policy of
criminalization makes prostitutes vulnerable to contractual breaches and
violence, because criminalization often precludes taking such issues to the
authorities. Fleiss also invokes a futility-style argument: "You can't
stop sex. And sex for money will happen no matter what. Why make it a
criminal experience?" (Vice Squad is skeptical about futility-style arguments in
general: you might not be able to stop sex, but you can alter its frequency and
the nature of harm through criminalization. It might not be a good idea to use
the criminal law as the chief method of regulating prostitution -- indeed, I think
that criminalizing adult prostitution is a policy error -- but it is not a futile
endeavor. And if I were to be so rash as to speculate upon motives, I might
suggest that most folks who argue against a policy proposal on futility grounds
actually oppose the proposal precisely because they fear that it would not be
Ms. Fleiss paints a pretty rosy picture of legalized prostitution, especially that
which takes place at the Melbourne, Australia brothel with which she has an
affiliation. A former prostitute herself, however, she does not suggest that
ambitious young woman should flock to the trade: "I wouldn't recommend
prostitution as a career because it doesn't have great long-term prospects.
Still, a woman should have the right to do what she wants with her body."