Thursday, September 30, 2004
You may have already heard about it from D'Alliance or elsewhere, but there's a new blog, decrimwatch, which is "Keeping an eye on cannabis decriminalization news, particularly in Chicago."
The D'Alliance has also been tracking news concerning quite a variety of psychoactive substances lately, including alcohol, caffeine, and chocolate.
Leading Drug Warrior Admits Failure of Prohibition
US Congressman Mark Souder of Indiana takes a back seat to no one when it comes to fighting the war on drugs. But he knows a failed prohibition when he sees one, as reported in today's Chicago Tribune:
"The District of Columbia handgun ban has failed. It has failed miserably," said Rep. Mark Souder (R-Ind.), sponsor of the bill [to end Washington, DC's ban on handguns] that passed 250-171.DC's mayor and police chief are both strongly opposed to ending the handgun ban.
Voters in Indiana's Third District might want to take a look at Pete Guither's Voting Guide at Drug WarRant. What does Pete have to say about the congressional race between challenger Maria M. Parra and the incumbent, Rep. Souder?
This one is critical. Souder is the ultimate drug warrior and the author of the horrible provision that takes away financial aid to students who have made mistakes in the past and completed their penalties (while rapists and burglars are not so penalized). Souder is a bad guy with a lot of power. Congressman Souder is Chairman of the House Government Reform Subcommittee on Criminal Justice, Drug Policy, and Human Resources. The Subcommittee is responsible for authorizing legislation for the Office of National Drug Control Policy and its programs as well as general oversight for all U.S. government drug control efforts (including international and interdiction programs, law enforcement, and prevention and treatment initiatives). He's the wrong person to have in that position. While Maria Parra isn't the ideal drug policy reformer, removing Souder is of primary importance here.
Wednesday, September 29, 2004
Anti-Vice Zealots Enact a Ban
One thing about those Saudis, there are at least some demonstrated problems associated with camera cell phones. (Not so sure about stuffed toys, however.) It's pure zealotry when a ban gets enacted before there is any demonstrated problem. From the AP:
The Suffolk County [New York] Legislature unanimously approved what could be the first law in the country prohibiting a machine that allows users to inhale alcohol.Vertebrates, those Suffolk legislators. Well, heck, we should be happy, I suppose, that they didn't ban inhaling altogether. The bill is not yet a law, incidentally, until the County Executive leaves his mark on it.
The measure, approved by a 17-0 vote Tuesday, makes it illegal to sell, buy or use the alcohol without liquid _ or AWOL _ machine, which combines liquor with pressurized oxygen, turning it into a mist that can be inhaled through the nose or mouth.
The loyal Vice Squad reader will recall that we have long been of the opinion that adopting an alcohol inhaler ban would be to paint the lily.
What Could Be Next? Not Allowing Women to Drive?
Saudi Arabia has made it illegal to import, sell, or (apparently) possess camera cell phones. Why? They spread obscenity, of course.
Camera phones in places where people have an expectation of privacy are quite troubling, of course -- they have made a version of the mini cameras of spy-lore widely available -- and hence they frequently are banned in such places. But to make camera cell phones illegal throughout an entire country is, well, a much bigger step. There is hope (and precedent) that the ban will be forgotten:
"First they banned dolls, then they banned stuffed toys and now this. I don't know where all this will stop," said Turki, a 20-year-old student in Riyadh who did not want to give his full name and who owns a cell phone camera he bought locally.My stuffed toy comes with its own camera phone.
Last December, the Interior Ministry announced a ban on importing dolls and stuffed animals, and gave merchants three months to get rid of them.
Because of their popularity, the ban on camera cell phones could fizzle like a similar crackdown on satellite dish antennas. Several years ago, the government launched a halfhearted campaign to ban satellite dishes to placate ultra-religious factions opposed to Saudis watching foreign television channels that show unveiled women, and more.
Despite the ban, rooftops in every Saudi city are covered with them, and subscriptions to a variety of foreign channels are freely sold.
Tuesday, September 28, 2004
Close Your State's Budget Deficit
By banning smoking in prisons, of course. That's the step that California has taken:
The bill's author, Republican Assemblyman Tim Leslie, predicted the legislation would "drastically reduce" prison health care costs.Well, if your prisoners are fifty year olds who will be released in 5 years, the smoking ban might save on prisoner health care costs. (Maybe fire insurance costs will fall, too?) If they are lifers, their longer expected lifespan if they do indeed quit will tend to increase the prison costs covered by California taxpayers. And the state will also lose the excise tax collections from cigarette sales. All-in-all, this no-smoking policy for prisons is a hard sell as a taxpayer relief measure.
"The governor has put us on the road to saving taxpayer dollars and prisoners' lives," he said.
Thanks to a friend of Vice Squad for the pointer. Hey, isn't California the same state where the Capitol sustained water damage because of the governor's smoking tent?
Monday, September 27, 2004
Cocaine Banished From the Earth Forever...
...now that the US Coast Guard has seized 56,000 pounds of the stuff in two recent interdictions.
The prohibitionists seem to want to point to big seizures as evidence that their policy is working. What developments would constitute evidence that prohibition is a failure?
Crimes of Munich's Oktoberfest
(1) So far, security officials have seized 92,000 glasses that visitors have tried to heist as souvenirs.
(2) Mulled wine is being served (as a temporary measure), due to cold temperatures putting folks off of the main draw! Well, the cold is not putting too many folks off. After one week of the two-week event, the count stood at 1,800 liters of mulled wine, versus, uh, 2.3 million liters of beer. (So I guess a few Oktoberfest customers did not attempt to steal their glasses -- or didn't get caught.)
Both crime reports come from this Reuters article.
Anti-Obscenity Thugs Rampage in Kashmir
And they have the nerve to call themselves the Democratic Liberation Party. Here's an excerpt from this article:
SRINAGAR: Activists of a separatist political party went on a rampage in this summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir Saturday, smashing furniture and property of restaurants accusing them of spreading vulgarity.I guess they had to destroy the village to liberate it. Alas, I am afraid (based on what has been happening to alcohol sellers) that Iraq is being similarly liberated.
The activists said these restaurants had become centres of "obscenity and vulgarity" in Kashmir because they provided separate cabins for their clients.
Dozens of activists of the Democratic Liberation Party formed by Hashim Qureshi stormed some hotels and restaurants in the posh Regal Chowk, Gogjibagh and Rajbagh areas of Srinagar.
They smashed glass, destroyed furniture and even dragged out some restaurant owners and waiters, beating them severely. All this was done ostensibly in the name of checking obscenity and vulgarity.
Sunday, September 26, 2004
Avoiding Anti-Sex Shop Restrictions in NYC
While today's New York Times offers a story of internet-based tax evasion, tomorrow's Times contains another tale of getting around vice controls. Remember Mayor Guliani's sex-shop crackdown that is widely credited with cleaning up Times Square? Well, it hasn't been as successful in the rest of the Big Apple, apparently, especially in Greenwich Village:
The law was supposed to prevent the clustering of such businesses in most residential and commercial areas. But store operators have exploited a loophole in the law permitting businesses with at least 60 percent non-X-rated merchandise to operate outside so-called adult entertainment zones. These stores often put large racks of instructional golf videos and "Ozzie and Harriet" episodes, which stand gathering dust between racks and racks of pornographic movies.There is a current that runs through the article that goes much against my stomach, however. Specifically, while I am all for regulating legal vices, and even support some vice-business-specific regulations (including sin taxes), the article makes much of extremely selective enforcement of various city codes; further, this selective enforcement is presented in the article in a tone that I find to be approving (though maybe I am imagining this.) Here's one sample of the selective enforcement:
An amended law that would make it more difficult for X-rated businesses to thrive is locked in court battles, and in the meantime, the city is trying to enforce the existing law. The Bloomberg administration has greatly intensified its enforcement of every imaginable regulation against these stores - health code violations are written for lack of soap in bathrooms - and the Fire Department peppers the stores with tickets for having improper lighting on exit signs. "We want to pull every lever at our disposal," [the building inspector] said.And while lots of folks (both neighborhood residents and city officals, including the Mayor) who oppose these sex shops make their way into the story, the customers whose purchases support all of these stores don't merit any reportage.
Since Mr. Bloomberg took office, 450 store inspections have been completed, compared with 78 such inspections in 2001, said John Feinblatt, the city's criminal justice coordinator.
Speaking of avoiding vice control rules, economist Lynne Kiesling tells of how one winery avoids a ban on interstate shipping of wines directly to consumers. (Thanks to Ben Muse for the pointer.)
Avoiding Cigarette Excise Taxes Via the Internet
Today's New York Times includes this front page story on cigarette sales over the internet, and in particular, on those sales conducted from Native American reservations. Purchasers of cigarettes over the internet are legally liable to pay the relevant excise tax for the state in which they reside -- but this liability is not well enforced. The obligation to pay the taxes applies to purchases from Indian-operated businesses, too, if the buyer is not a tribe member. But the enforcement of excise tax collections from American Indian businesses is even more problematic, owing to the partial sovereignty of the tribes on the reservations. Not surprisingly, given the growth of the internet and the substantial increases in cigarette excises in many states, effectively untaxed sales from Indian-operated websites have been growing rapidly. The Times story centers on tobacco sales from the Seneca tribe, located in New York:
Yet sales from Indian reservations, particularly from the Seneca lands, clearly account for a big portion of the growing business. A study commissioned by the Seneca tribal government found that Seneca cigarette sales totaled $347 million last year. About 95 percent were sold via the Internet or phone; the balance was accounted for by sales from the smoke shops that dot Seneca lands.Generally, sin taxes can be a pretty potent element of vice policy, decreasing consumption while raising significant government revenue. But legislated vice taxes, like other taxes, have to be sensitive to the mechanisms of tax avoidance and evasion. The internet looks as if it has, for now at least, lowered the cost of evading cigarette taxes, which will make it hard for those jurisdictions with the highest excises to maintain their high rates. [Incidentally, a reminder that I am not a lawyer and you certainly should not rely upon any of the information or misinformation in Vice Squad. Further, purchases of untaxed cigarettes over the internet are not free of all risk that a tax collector will come calling. Some individuals, who perhaps did not even know that their low-priced internet cigarette purchases were officially taxable, have been rudely surprised upon receiving very hefty tax bills months later. A federal law requires that interstate sellers of cigarettes maintain a list of purchaser names and addresses, to facilitate tax collection.]
The Times article mentions a working paper on the internet as a mechanism for cigarette excise tax evasion, by economists Austan Goolsbee and Joel Slemrod. Their paper is available here.
Saturday, September 25, 2004
Hurricane Preparation: Bottled Water, Flashlights, Alcohol
Indian River County in Florida ordered alcohol and firearms stores to close when hurricane Frances swept through. Folks aren't going to get caught short this time, though, according to this article at TCPalm.com (registration required). Here's an excerpt:
[there were hundreds who] flocked to the ABC Fine Wine & Spirits liquor store in the Miracle Mile Plaza Friday to stock up on alcohol because the County Commission has banned the sales of alcohol and firearms, effective 8 p.m. today.
Indian River County's alcohol and firearms ban lasted almost two weeks after Hurricane Frances swept through the Treasure Coast. And with Hurricane Jeanne's winds expected to be stronger, many residents are not taking any chances when it comes to their favorite drinks.
"It is common to see sales of more than $100 from each customer. We are selling alcohol by the case," said Suzanne Savini, store manager at the liquor store. "We just got a shipment in (Friday morning) and people are buying just about everything."
Friday, September 24, 2004
Guatemala Wants One of Those Colombia-style deals
With Plan Colombia, the US has set an interesting precedent. If you are a major source country for currently illegal drugs, and are willing to play ball with us (or say that you are), we will give you and your military millions of dollars. Now Guatemala, already an anti-drug aid recipient, wants more; from this week's Drug War Chronicle:
Just days after once again being named to the State Department's list of major drug-producing or transiting countries, Guatemala called on the US to pay up if it wanted better results in the Central American nation long known as a major transshipment point for cocaine heading north from Colombia.
In remarks reported by the Chinese news agency Xinhua, Guatemalan President Oscar Berger said the US must provide more financial and material assistance if his country is to be more efficient in prosecuting drug traffickers. "Guatemala is and will continue being a good partner of the United States in the combat against drug-trafficking," Berger asserted. "Should the United States want more efficiency, then it ought to be a better partner. They have the resources and must strengthen the Guatemalan army with speedboats and helicopters," Berger said. "The only resources we count with in the combat against drug trafficking in Guatemala are ourselves," he added.
Crackdown on Commercial Sex in South Korea
Friend of Vice Squad Pak Shun Ng brings our attention to this article at the Straits Times Interactive (Singapore), detailing a recent police crackdown on prostitution in Korea. The police spokesperson actually seemed surprised that some of the sex workers were unhappy about the raids, perhaps because the crackdown is presumably motivated to help sex workers: "The owners and the women actually complained about losing their livelihood and they seemed serious about it," the spokesperson is quoted as saying. Meanwhile, the perhaps unrelated attempt by the US armed services to make it an offense for a soldier based overseas to patronize a prostitute is receiving mixed reviews within the ranks. No word on how this change in service regulations will affect any possible repeat of a Mustang Ranch promotion from the early 1990s, when unmarried Gulf War veterans were given free "parties" at the ranch.
Prostitutes and soccer don't go together in Guatemala
Prostitutes just don't get any breaks. According to Australia's The Age (registration required, or you can get there via Google without registration) a women's soccer team made up of prostitutes was ejected from a tournament in Guatemala. The team named the Stars of the Line was drawn from about 200 women working in the Guatemala City's red-light district called the Train Line. The soccer officials claimed that the team was ejected because of the foul language used by their fans. But the team captain, Valeria, was sure that they were thrown out simply because of their profession. "When they found out we were prostitutes, they tossed us out like cockroaches," she said. "It is really discrimination." BTW, it doesn't look like the Stars were particularly good at soccer. On Monday, they lost to Blue Devils, a team from an exclusive girls school (apparently, no relationship to Duke U) 5:2.
Thursday, September 23, 2004
Unneighborly Dispute about Smoking Sparks a Trial
He is a 72-year old retired professor. She is a 29-year old wife and mother of two children. In June, 2002, she moved into a condominium adjacent to his; they shared a front porch for a little more than a year. She would smoke on the front porch. He didn't like it. He kept a log of her smoking behavior -- it grew to 24 pages -- along with photos and other "evidence." He was described in court (by someone from the condo management agency) as a frequent complainer, one who was warned that harassing his neighbors was against the rules. Now a jury will decide whether she was tramping on his rights by smoking or whether he is a cringing weasel (er, perhaps that is not the precise legal terminology employed in the charge to the jury.) It is all taking place in Akron, Ohio. Read about it here and here (registration required).
In Tallinn, 'Brits are the new Finns'...
...at least according to Stella, a Tallinn resident quoted in this story in the Independent. Being called a new Finn, it turns out, is not necessarily a compliment. Here's Stella's remark, with slightly more context:
"The British come here because they think the booze is cheap and the women are too," says Stella. "They make too much noise and drive other people out of the bars. Brits are the new Finns."The linked article, as perhaps you have guessed, is about vice tourism, and in particular, how British stag parties are taking advantage of cheap airfares to convene in fellow EU-member Estonia. (To some extent, this represents a substitution from Prague, the standard continental destination spot for well-fueled Britons.) The vice tourists bring the usual array of alcohol-related public nuisances along with them.
1) Guess who's controversial again: Joe Camel. The article deals with a case related to the broader problem of using the first amendment to market cigarettes to children.
2) Here's an interesting story about challenges to DWI arrests in North Carolina, including an officer's negligence in asking the driver to remove his false teeth and a woman's inability to perform the "line test" effectively due to wearing stiletto heels. Defense attorney Bill Thomas had this to say: "I know that DWI is a hot political issue. But the public has to understand one important thing: The constitutional protections that follow us in our daily lives also apply to DWI cases. These protections are part of the fabric of our country. They are constitutional guarantees that ensure justice and freedom."
3) Unsurprisingly to regular Vice Squad readers, a new wave of Colombian drug lords is emerging. More surprising, perhaps, is a news story proclaiming this.
4) From the "other" Chicago paper is Mayor Daley's controversial new plan to ticket people caught with small amounts of marijuana, rather than court dates. The article is chock full of interesting data and statements...for brevity's sake I list two things that caught my eye.
- If a Chicago cop makes a bust for less than 30 grams of marijuana -- a misdemeanor under state law -- the case is usually prosecuted by an assistant state's attorney. ..Most of the cases are dismissed because an officer does not appear in court to testify about the arrest or a lab technician fails to show up to verify that the seized grassy substance was, in fact, marijuana, sources say.
Federal prosecutors rarely take such cases to court in Chicago...But prosecutors rarely take a case involving less than 100 kilograms -- 100,000 grams -- of marijuana.
- Donegan estimated Chicago could have collected at least $5 million in fines last year under his proposal...
"Most misdemeanor assistant state's attorneys have a difficult time justifying requiring a police officer and a lab tech to appear in court for the better part of an afternoon for $12 worth of weed. It just doesn't make sense," said one former misdemeanor prosecutor.
Wednesday, September 22, 2004
No (Or Few) US-Style, High-Payout Slot Machines for Britain
Britain continues to back away from some of the elements of its proposed gambling liberalisation plan of 2002. Today's casualty was high-payoff, electronically linked banks of slot machines, which are typical in US (and, apparently, continental European) casinos. The Culture Secretary now suggests limiting such slots in the UK to the few places that might construct large, Vegas-style casinos. This limitation is in line with the recommendation of a joint Lords/Commons committee, as noted in April by Vice Squad.
What Happens If Big Tobacco Loses the Federal Suit?
Forbes.com explains it all to you. Something along the lines of, firms go bankrupt, government becomes their steward, government raises tobacco taxes and incites more smuggling, government still makes a bundle by cutting advertising and collecting revenues from foreign sales.
Dog Bites Man
"Drinks industry rejects call for increased alcohol taxation" (Ireland)
The industry was responding to a just-released government report (available from this site) According to the press release: "...in 2003 alcohol consumption in Ireland showed a decline for the first time in over sixteen years, reducing consumption by 6% to 13.5 litres of pure alcohol. The key factor for this reduction was an increase in excise duty on spirits introduced in December 2002, as recommended in the Interim Report of 2002."
Tuesday, September 21, 2004
Sex, crime, and government student loans
Here is quite a story published in Oakland Tribune (linked to at Volokh Conspiracy earlier tonight) about a Stanford Law School grad who allegedly became a (very)high-priced call girl in order to pay off her Law School student loans. The government now wants to keep $61,000 seized from her. Somehow I doubt that this amount would go towards her loan repayment.
And You Thought That Gays in the Military was a Divisive Issue
Thousands of years of military tradition are at stake as the US considers rendering it verboten for troops stationed overseas to patronize prostitutes. The rationale is to avoid contributing to the trafficking of women for coerced prostitution: "Defense officials have drafted an amendment to the manual on courts-martial that would make it an offense for U.S. troops to use the services of prostitutes, said Charles Abell, a Pentagon undersecretary for personnel and readiness." A complementary policy underway in Korea is to make life on the base less dull: "That effort includes offering expanded evening and weekend education programs, band concerts, late-night sports leagues and expanded chaplains' activities."
Wow. I imagine that this proposed reform will garner quite a bit of discussion during the 60-day window for public comment.
Having recently watched Shakespeare's Measure For Measure at the reconstructed Globe, let me quote from it: Lechery "is well allied; but it is impossible to extirp it quite, friar, till eating and drinking be put down."
Televised Music Videos Targeted in India
And no, not for being derivative and dull. It's the obscenity, don't you know.
In the past, I have danced around the position that some obscenity control over broadcast television and radio is not clearly undesirable (did that make sense?), even as I object to the large ex post fines levied on the likes of CBS and Howard Stern in the absence of a clear standard.
Lazy Link-Based Post
(1) Baylen Linnekin at D'Alliance provides an update on the suggestion from a police sergeant that Chicago decriminalize possession of small quantities of pot. Seems that Mayor Daley supports the notion, arguing (as did the police officer) that the courts have effectively decriminalized anyway. But as all Chicagoans know, Mayor Daley's is just one voice in this debate, and he rarely is in a position to influence policy. Baylen also took kind notice of Vice Squad's b-day.
(2) Walter Olson at Overlawyered notes today's beginning of the federal trial seeking, oh, $280 billion from Big Tobacco. Walter and his co-blogger Ted Frank were inexplicably left out of Vice Squad's (admittedly partial) anniversary list of blogger buddies, but that oversight has been corrected.
(3) Radley Balko at The Agitator is on a vice policy roll. Here's Radley's synopsis of the remarks of one speaker at last week's pain treatment forum. (The comments section includes an offering from Drug WarRant's impresario Pete Guither.)
Monday, September 20, 2004
Belated Anniversary Greetings
It's the greetings that are belated, not the anniversary, which came right on time. While I was involved in intensive research overseas, Vice Squad passed its one-year marker. Thanks to my co-bloggers, Nikkie, Mike, Ryan, and even the elusive Bernard, for all their assistance in making Vice Squad the single most popular blog (er, at least among those with the initials V. S. -- hey, "Conspiracy" doesn't start with an S, does it?) Thanks also to many of our blogospheric buddies, including Crescat, Drug WarRant, Last One Speaks, D'Alliance, Mark Kleiman, Overlawyered, and The Agitator: almost all of the fun and instruction of this blogging gig comes from reading these and other blogs. And thanks also to that even more elusive creature, the loyal Vice Squad reader, whoever you are. [Oops, forgot to mention all the kind folks who have sent links to vice-related stories; these leads have been very useful for me, even when I didn't post about them. My gratitude goes out to your generosity.]
I thought about linking to the worst Vice Squad post of the previous year, but as you can imagine, it was a hard decision. (Incidentally, this is Vice Squad post number 794.) Please feel free to send nominations for "Worst Vice Squad Post" via e-mail. In the meantime, I will link to our 6-month post, which was better (and more timely) than this one...perhaps illustrative of a general decline in V.S. quality? Imagine what we will be like come March, 2005.
Nude Dancing and Lawrence
Friend of Vice Squad Will Baude at Crescat Sententia notes a potential conflict between the Supreme Court decisions in Barnes v. Glen Theatre and Lawrence v. Texas. Will asks, "does the government's ability to regulate purely consensual adult nudity in private places survive Lawrence?" Well, the moral rationale to control nude dancing, as Will notes, will have a tough time being sufficient, post-Lawrence, to justify controls. But I imagine that controls on the nude Hoosierdome gathering, or on strip clubs, can (and sometimes will) still be upheld, based on the "secondary effects" analysis that Justice Souter pointed to in Barnes and that Justice O'Connor employed in upholding restrictions on nude dancing in the (year) 2000 case of Erie v. Pap's A.M. That is, Justice O'Connor based her analysis on negative externalities, such as crime and "other secondary effects", that could follow from unregulated nude dancing. Does requiring that a dancer not be entirely nude actually reduce these negative externalities? Justice Scalia didn't think so, in a parenthetical comment in his opinion concurring with the judgment in Erie: "(I am highly skeptical, to tell the truth, that the addition of pasties and g-strings will at all reduce the tendency of establishments such as Kandyland to attract crime and prostitution, and hence to foster sexually transmitted disease.)"
Here's a previous Vice Squad post on the Erie case.
Return to a Changed Chicago?
Apologies to the loyal Vice Squad reader for my absence since Wednesday. I was in London for the changing of the Batman. (I think I read that somewhere but forget the source -- apologies to the unnamed lender.) But now I am back in Chicago, to find that a police sergeant, Tom Donegan, has publicly raised the possibility of no longer arresting people for possession of small quantities of marijuana. (Chicago Tribune article here, registration required.) This was the very change that much of the UK adopted when marijuana was reclassified last January. This suggestion is really a judge-led reform, in that the Sergeant has noted that judges routinely dismiss charges stemming from small pot possession arrests. And while it is usually legalizers who point to potential government revenues as a reason to end drug prohibition, in this case, Sergeant Donegan is noting that decriminalization could serve a similar end: "Donegan said assessing fines of $250 for possession of 10 grams or less would have raised $5 million for the city's coffers in 2003."
1) Check out Mark Kleiman's excellent post on drug policy.
2) A New York judge has ruled it is ok to be drunk or high while performing jury duty. She cited the 1987 Supreme Court case that ruled mind-altering substances could not be considered outside influences on jurors.
3) Rockport, MA (dry since 1856!) is considering lifting its ban on alcohol.
4) California is being sued by in-state racetrack owners, who say that the government gave special treatment to American Indian reservations in allowing more slot machines to be built there in exchange for $1 billion a year.
5) In Colombia, the largest pharmacy chain was shut down by police, who say that it was funded by money from drug traffickers. It entailed taking over 400 stores in 28 cities.
Wednesday, September 15, 2004
1) The last part of Nevada's first legal brothel was air-lifted out of its original location, taking its new place in the Wild Horse Adult Spa and Resort. [Update, September 20: Here's a previous Vice Squad post on the relocation of the Mustang physical plant. -- JL]
2) Paypal, the company that handles much of the online payments for eBay, is fining customers who use its service to purchase items related to gambling, pornography, or illegal prescription drugs. Such payments are already prohibited, but now a $500 fine is included.
3) A new study shows that elderly people who gamble are healthier than those who don't. Yale epidemiologist Rani Desai said this: "There's this whole concept of healthy aging - that folks who continue to remain engaged in activity, especially in the community and in social activities, stay healthier longer, so I think this is a reflection of that. It's not that gambling makes you healthy, it's that gamblers are healthier".
4) Here's a great story about how 2 underage Norwegians took advantage of expired beer to make a boatload of money off a local store. In other beer news, a study has shown that beer may be helpful for fighting heart disease and cancer, though it was funded by Guinness and Labatt.
Barbers, Doctors, Security Guards Targeted?
Vice Squad mentioned in August that sexual touching that does not involve intercourse seemed to fall outside of the anti-prostitution statute in South Dakota and some other states. This insufficient criminalization of voluntary adult activity could not be tolerated by the Sioux Falls City Council, who closed the "loophole" on Monday. I hope that they were a bit more specific than what this article reports: "An ordinance approved Monday night makes it illegal to touch someone in exchange for money." The state of South Dakota, you will be happy to learn, is looking to similarly extend its opportunities for imprisoning people later this fall.
In other news that will make you happy, blogging from me will be light or non-existent through Sunday, as my research requires me to travel.
For Whom the Belle Tolls
Belle de Jour, award-winning blogger, British call girl, and now book author, is leaving the active blogosphere. Vice Squad's sidebar will be diminished.
Commercial Sex in China
I just ran across a blog, andrésgentry :: water, that provides this remarkable, wide-ranging post exploring commercial sex in China. The author, Andrés Gentry, starts by recounting his efforts to survey the number of sex establishments in Zhangjiagang City, Yangshe Town, where he was living this spring:
Taking the survey was pretty depressing. A number of times, especially near the long-distance bus station where the streets are very narrow and the alley walls are about 10 feet from each other, the women would leave their workplaces and attempt to physically drag me back in with them. There was no way to avoid them when they impeded my path. I felt their nails through the sweatshirt I wore and had to shake their hands off with my elbow as I trudged on. The desperation of clinging to a stranger's elbow in the hope of selling your body should give pause to almost anyone looking at the sex industry.Such a short snippet, however, cannot do justice to the mass of information and multitude of insights in the original post. It is well worth a visit -- as is the dialogue in the comments section concerning some of the quantitative estimates in the post.
On any number of occasions I also saw policemen walking their beats in Yangshe's red light districts: a journalist could write a very interesting story figuring out whether these police are paid off, owners of some of the establishments, and/or involved in getting and keeping women in prostitution. It would also be quite interesting finding out who the women's patrons are: I would guess mainly CCP cadres and businessmen. While foreigners are often accused of introducing spiritual pollution to China, in Yangshe Town that is quite impossible: there are almost no foreigners there and of the four red light districts only that one near the Walking Street would see any foreigners.
Tuesday, September 14, 2004
Experienced Individual Agrees With Vice Squad!
Sure, he may have been under the influence of alcohol at the time, but still, we will take any and all allies. The issue is that darn alcohol inhaler, the one that some folks want to ban. Vice Squad has long maintained that the 20 minutes of inhalation that is required to consume (half) a shot of alcohol from the vaporizing machine is not conducive to the future popularity of alcohol inhaling. An article in Newsday offers a similar opinion, and this one is even informed:
"They shouldn't waste their breath trying to outlaw this machine," said Steve Baskinger, owner of Bask's Bar and Grill, in West Patterson, N.J. "You can't get drunk. You don't get anything from it. It takes 20 minutes to inhale a quarter of a shot."
The machine pumps pressurized oxygen through a hose over a small amount of liquor in a canister held by the customer, who sucks up the vapor.
Baskinger said he sent back his $3,695 machine on Monday, four days after it was delivered and he and his staff eagerly tried it out. "I'm a gadget guy, but you can't get excited about this thing," he said.
Berkeley Prostitution Ordinance
The initiative on the November ballot in Berkeley to "decriminalize" prostitution is the subject of an article in today's New York Times. (Thanks to friend of Vice Squad Bridget Butkevich for the pointer.) The drive for the initiative is being headed by Robin Few, a former prostitute:
Anger at the way prostitutes are treated moved Ms. Few, 45, to found an advocacy group, the Sex Workers Outreach Project. Joined by former and working prostitutes, Ms. Few hit the streets, this time to pass out leaflets, attend rallies and lobby legislators to support rights for prostitutes.Passage of the ordinance wouldn't actually decriminalize prostitution in Berkeley, as Vice Squad noted earlier (in March, and earlier this month), but it is envisioned as being part of a process that would lead to decriminalization at the statewide level.
Monday, September 13, 2004
Russia Limits Beer Ads on TV
Mike is in Moscow, so it has fallen to me to bring this BBC story to your attention -- thanks to a friend of Vice Squad for the pointer. A reported surge in youth drinking is motivating the beer ad clampdown:
The new law bans beer commercials from TV and radio between 7am and 10pm, and outlaws portrayals of people, animals or cartoon characters.The article asserts that beer consumption, on the rise in Russia, is not coming at the expense of vodka consumption; rather, they are said to go together. But that is not what the aggregate statistics indicate. (I will try to provide the actual stats and a source tomorrow, as they are not currently at my fingertips.) Vodka drinking has fallen considerably, while both beer and "other" (and in Russian circumstances, "other" can cover some surprising substances) have jumped in popularity among alcoholic beverages.
Nor can ads present beer drinking as likely to make anyone healthy, wealthy or sexy. A ban on posters near schools, gyms or cultural centres makes brewers' voluntary codes compulsory.
Incidentally, I was quite surprised last year when I found that at a nearby grocery store here in Chicago, I could purchase Baltica beer, from St. Petersburg.
Mustang Ranch Reconstructed
Mustang was the first legal brothel in Nevada in the 1970s. It was seized and closed by the feds in proceedings that were connected to the continued (illegal) involvement of its founder, a Brazilian-dwelling fugitive from US tax justice. Then, amazingly, it was sold on e-bay. The Mustang Ranch has now been physically moved to the grounds of another brothel, the Wild Horse Adult Resort & Spa.
Alexa Albert wrote a fine book based on her experiences as a researcher at Mustang.
Sunday, September 12, 2004
1) A gunfight in Mexico killed the head of a drug cartel and 2 others, while 5 of his attackers were killed by police officers.
2) Another case of crackdown on underage drinking- 42 teens associated with a Texas high school football team were apparently drinking in a teacher's house. They were fined $65 each. Now they are going after the adults, the police chief explained, to determine if they provided the alcohol to the teens.
3) Here is a story about a lawsuit against the in-car sobriety measurers. The man passed out after blowing into his ignition interlock and crashed his car.
4) And finally, a new story on one of Vice Squad's favorite historical curiosities: the Prohibtion Party. Only now there is a controversy over the present presidential candidate, and whether he is more interested in the goal of alcohol prohibtion or the goal of making really cool looking buttons. So the party has split, and Colorado will have 2 different Prohibtion candidates, the old guard and the young party upstarts. In 2000, the Prohibtion Party candidate, the same one since 1984 and who is running again this year, received 208 votes. There is a nice historical reprise of the ups and downs of the party, as well as some interesting rhetoric from party dissident Gene Amondson. "I'd rather have 100 Al Capones in every city than alcohol sold in every grocery store," he said. "During the 13 years of Prohibition the budget was balanced, prisons were emptied, mental institutions emptied and cirrhosis of the liver declined." For more, search Vice Squad archives for posts on Prohibition and the Anti-Saloon League.
Drug News at Crim Law
Primo criminal defense attorney Ken Lammers at Crim Law has a compendium of various recent, offbeat drug stories. Sad as they are, the sheer volume of these stories does make one think that surely there has to be a better approach.
That's always the call whenever there is a tragedy associated with one of our currently illegal vices. Here's a story out of Middlesex, Pennsylvania (not far from Harrisburg), where two suspected prostitutes were murdered in recent years and where a police corporal was arrested in a prostitution sting last November. The District Attorney is quoted as saying that "Prostitution is a dangerous, corrupting activity which can no longer be tolerated." But increasing enforcement, alas, is likely to make it more, not less dangerous. Now the DA is in an unenviable position, given the current rules against prostitution, so I don't want to criticize him; I imagine, though, that he doesn't really think that the failure to stamp out prostitution for thousands of years is due to a lack of enforcement.
Saturday, September 11, 2004
Search and Seizure, etc.
Pete Guither at Drug WarRant has up a couple of posts that point to developments that I would find depressing -- at least if it weren't for the fact that Pete and others on the sidebar are presenting the case against the prohibitionists so well. The first concerns a Utah case on whether the police, without a warrant, can swipe your doorknob with a cloth and then analyze the cloth for traces of drugs. The idea is that if traces are detected, the police could then use that "evidence" to support the probable cause necessary to obtain a warrant to search the house. Pete's analysis: "I lean to the notion that either the doorknob is private, in which case a warrant is needed to test it, or it's public, in which case there's no way to know who touched it and a positive test is not justification to search the house."
But mainly I want to second the final thought in Pete's post, namely, how did it come to such a pass, that many American citizens apparently approve of such methods? First we learned in a drug case that police can search our trash without a warrant, even though the personal nature of our trash hardly needs explicating -- though for an explication, one could start with Justice Brennan's dissent in the trash case: "Scrutiny of another's trash is contrary to commonly accepted notions of civilized behavior." And later, from the same dissent: "A single bag of trash testifies eloquently to the eating, reading, and recreational habits of the person who produced it. A search of trash, like a search of the bedroom, can relate intimate details about sexual practices, health, and personal hygiene. Like riffling through desk drawers or intercepting phone calls, rummaging through trash can divulge the target's financial and professional status, political affiliations and inclinations, private thoughts, personal relationships, and romantic interests." And now they want to scrutinize our doorknobs -- perhaps they are mad that they can't check out our interior temperatures. Anyway, I am rambling, but the problem here is the same old problem, that once you define some substance as evil, then almost any measure to combat it, no matter how tyrannous, seems to make sense, as long as it offers the remotest chance of decreasing the availability of the evil substance. So you will be willing to go through people's trash, scrape particles off their doorknobs, shoot down small planes, and of course, lock folks up for walking around with a little bit of the evil substance, even if they only intend to consume it themselves. As Clarence Darrow said (talking about an earlier prohibition), "The tyrant believes that if the laws do not fit the people then the people must be bent to fit the laws and forced to obey."
Pete's second post concerns a DEA exhibit that is breathtaking in its wrongheadedness.
The Lowdown on Alcohol Vaporizers...
...is provided by Amanda Schaffer in Slate. Here's a sample:
...intensive inhalation may be more likely to cause alcohol toxicity than binge drinking. This is because vaporized alcohol, as it enters the bloodstream directly from the lungs, is not subject to the protective effects of the digestive system—notably, the impulse to vomit. The machine is apparently calibrated with this danger in mind—using AWOL, it takes 20 minutes to inhale the equivalent of one shot—and the company's promotional materials recommend no more than two sessions, or two shots, in a 24-hour period. Nonetheless, an enthusiast who exceeded this limit or tinkered with the amount delivered by the device itself could no doubt raise her blood alcohol level very dramatically.My general feeling that this form of inhalation is a very unattractive manner of consuming alcohol remains unshaken.
Friday, September 10, 2004
India's Smoking Ban
Maybe everything has not gone smoothly with the introduction of the workplace smoking ban in Ireland, but India's public smoking ban probably has bragging rights when it comes to implementation problems. First there was the minor matter that a "public place" was undefined. Now, Delhi's failure to implement its portion of the ban has been made official. Sounds like the problem was that no one was actually given the authority to prosecute malefactors.
Adam Smith Censored? [Updated!]
[Warning: this post is off-topic (viceless)!] One of the links on our sidebar is to the blog of the Adam Smith Institute, a British thinktank that espouses free markets. They have a moderated comments section; you can post a comment, and if it passes muster, it will eventually appear. I have commented on a couple of prior posts, and my comments received the necessary imprimatur.
Yesterday I saw this post arguing against interest-rate ceilings. I sent a comment that pointed out the irony, in that Adam Smith himself favored interest rate ceilings! I included the relevant passage from Volume I, Book 2, Chapter 4 of the Wealth of Nations:
The legal rate...though it ought to be somewhat above, ought not to be much above the lowest market rate. If the legal rate of interest in Great Britain, for example, was fixed so high as eight or ten per cent. [when market rates are 3-4 per cent], the greater part of the money which was to be lent, would be lent to prodigals and projectors, who alone would be willing to give this high interest. Sober people, who will give for the use of money no more than a part of what they are likely to make by the use of it, would not venture into the competition. A great part of the capital of the country would thus be kept out of the hands which were most likely to make a profitable and advantageous use of it, and thrown into those which were most likely to waste and destroy it.Anyway, my comment has yet to be posted, of course. Surely ASI will want to remedy this extremely serious oversight, no? Remember what Adam said in The Theory of Moral Sentiments: "Society may subsist, though not in the most comfortable state, without beneficence; but the prevalence of injustice must utterly destroy it." [Update, September 16: Feeling a bit guilty for my snarky post. The ASI kindly sent along an e-mail explaining why the comment wasn't posted -- it was accidental -- even though they certainly didn't have to post the comment in any case and also didn't have to take the time to send an explanation. Good folks, those ASI-ers. It was me who was being unjust, and hence threatening societal destruction. Sorry.]
Substitution Effects Anyone?
How the Department of Health and Human Services is able to put a positive spin on their latest drug use survey is beyond me, yet they've done it.
Here's their big victory: A 5 percent decline in lifetime use of marijuana among American youth between the ages of 12 and 17.
What is buried at the end of the press release is that young adults (age 18-25) experienced a 15 percent increase in non-medical lifetime use of prescription drugs. So the government has succeeded in getting a few young people to quit using a mild, non-addictive psychoactive substance, and encouraged larger numbers to switch to much harsher, highly addictive substances including OxyContin, Vicodin, Lorcet, and Percocet. Further, inhalant use has increased for kids aged 16 and 17, while use of other drugs like LSD, heroin, and cocaine remained stable for the population as a whole.
Another statistic of note: about 77 percent of all Americans classified as being dependent on or abusing drugs and alcohol are employed. The report finds this fact horrifying. Rather than question some of their definitions of dependence and abuse, the HHS recommends more random drug testing in the work place, and more employer-sponsored treatment programs. No statistics are available for whether or not workers' "dependence" on a particular substance affects absenteeism.
Let's Ban Driver's Licenses
Teen driver's licenses are the new gateway drug, according to a recent article from Yahoo news. A study by the University of Missouri concluded that, "high school students are more likely to smoke, drink and use marijuana when they get their driver's license because they get more opportunities to be free of adult supervision."
This compelling proof of causation leads me to believe that no one should be allowed to get a driver's license. Ever. Now that we've identified the true roots of drug use, victory in the war on drugs is surely just a few months away.
Thursday, September 09, 2004
Irish Smoking Ban Reduces Cigarette Sales
Not only is the ban on workplace smoking in Ireland reducing sales of Guinness Stout, it is causing cigarette sales to fall, too. Since April, total cigarette sales in Ireland are down 7.5%, according to a leading producer. (The Irish smoking ban went into effect in late March.)
Police Nail Prostitution Suspect!
Almost literally, alas. One of the eight police cars that was chasing this (alleged) dangerous criminal yesterday morning around 10:15 in Indianapolis struck her, breaking her leg and ankle. (At least no one was killed.)
The criminalization of prostitution does not put prostitutes at risk only from the police, of course.
Wednesday, September 08, 2004
1) Gulp! A new book and TV series about U.N. peacekeeper vice is on the way.
2) Here's a story on a new college class being offered at various institutions: Gambling 101.
3) Colombia has plans on building a museum dedicated to illustrating the evils of drug trafficking.
4) A pint of beer for a pint of blood? Its true.
How Slot Machines Operate
In May, following a fine story in the New York Times Magazine, Vice Squad looked a little bit at the design of slot machines. The July, 2004 edition of the on-line Electronic Journal of Gambling Issues (it just changed its name from egambling) provides more details in an article titled "How do slot machines and other electronic gambling machines actually work?" It covers the pseudo random number generating processes, the myths that slots players cling to, and the addictive potential of slot machines, among other things. Here's a scenario that many slots players have reported. They play a given machine for an hour, without success, and then quit. Seconds after they leave, someone else walks up, and on the first play, wins a significant jackpot. It seems as if the original bettor would have won that jackpot if he or she had just played one more time. Turns out that reasoning is incorrect: "the RNG [Random Number Generator] runs continuously and a millisecond difference in the button press will lead to a different outcome."
Snus Loses a Round in the EU
Swedish Match, a leading producer of the smokeless tobacco product "snus," is trying to have snus legalized throughout the EU. (Right now, the only EU country where snus can legally be sold is Sweden.) Snus appears to be much less harmful than smoking, so smokers who switch to snus are probably enhancing their health, everything else equal. Norway's recent introduction of a New York City-style public smoking ban has apparently spurred snus use there, and Swedish Match undoubtedly sees increased demand throughout the EU as the result of smoking controls -- except for that darned ban! (Norway is not an EU member; snus is legal in Sweden because it negotiated an exception when it joined the EU in 1995.) The Swedish Match case before the European Court of Justice took a step back yesterday, however, when the Court's Advocate General issued a recommendation that the snus ban should not be overturned, at least until new EU legislation regarding snus is passed. Final word from the Court, however, is still a few months away. Here's the story, from EUobserver.com. Vice Squad has been following the snus saga in Europe and the US, most recently on August 9.
Tuesday, September 07, 2004
Chinese Penalties for Web Porn Purveyors
Tyler Cohen at Marginal Revolution points us to this story about potential life sentences in prison for people in China convicted of distributing pornography over the web. In the US, porn production probably wouldn't lead to anything longer than a 50 year sentence.
Amsterdam Cracks Down on Prostitution
Of course, what is left after the crackdown is still a lot more tolerant than what we have in the good ol' US of A. Amsterdam's experiment of toleration zones for street prostitution went by the boards at the end of 2003. Window prostitution in the red light district is still legit, however, as are brothels. The article, just published in Expatica, was written at the end of 2003, but it still provides a pretty good overview of some of the problems (and gains) associated with the streetwalking tolerance zones. (There's also this related story on the prostitution-related downfall of an Amsterdam alderman.) The loyal Vice Squad reader will recall Belle de Jour's criticism of streetwalking tolerance zones. Many cities in Britain are considering adopting prostitution tolerance zones; in Nottingham, the police authority chairman supports such designated zones, outside of the city.
The D'Alliance points to another Expatica vice story, this one about trying to crackdown on French drug tourists in Antwerp, a Belgian port city even more accessible than Rotterdam from France.
Smoking Ban Competition Has New Winner
Public smoking bans have forced smokers outside of bars and restaurants in Dublin and New York City. But that treatment, really, is too good for lovers of the noxious tobacco plant -- after all, we non-smokers still have to see these fuming cretins, and occasionally walk near them. Proximity to such pitch doth defile. Fortunately, the local council in an affluent Sydney neighborhood has stepped up to the challenge, by banning "smoking within 20m of al fresco dining areas on public land. The ban also extends to outdoor areas near entrances to public buildings and their balconies." They seem proud to think that they lead Australia, and perhaps the world, in their intolerance of public smoking, according to this article in Australia's Herald-Sun.
Monday, September 06, 2004
The British Gambling Boom
To complete today's gambling trifecta, here's a thoughtful article about the expansion of gambling in Scotland and the UK generally. The author, a gambler himself, is sympathetic to gambling, but he paints quite a portrait of the aftermath of both winning and losing sessions. He admits to ambivalence about the expansion of gambling:
Most visits, it’s a couple of hundred quid win or lose. Then it is about paying for my entertainment, with any winnings coming as a bonus. The problem is how easy it is for an enjoyable night to slide into a downward spiral of chasing losses and going on tilt.The author also provides a little history on the regulation of gambling in the UK, and he claims that the introduction of the British National Lottery a decade ago "helped make gambling respectable." His description of sociability within casinos mimics my own limited observation in this arena:
All that whooping and shouting around a craps table that goes on in American films looks very lively and exciting, but I've never seen anything like it in a British casino. Win or lose, a night at my local casino can be a joyless experience. A group of strangers having a good or bad run at a blackjack or roulette table might congratulate or commiserate with one another, but it's difficult to imagine a more hollow form of social intercourse.
Going with friends is pointless because essentially casino gambling is not a team sport. The restaurant and bar areas in any casino give everything a veneer of sociability but in the end it's all about the money. After all, who is really socialising at 5am on a Wednesday?
Is California the New Nevada?
In gambling terms, that is. According to this article (originally from the L.A. Times), some observers expect California's gambling revenue to grow markedly, possibly even exceeding Nevada's gambling take by the end of the decade. Right now, there are 60,000 slot machines in California, and 220,000 in Nevada, and Nevada also provides more gambling options: "Unlike Nevada, California does not allow sports books, craps or roulette, although tribes have devised card games that mimic the classic casino games."
The article also claims that the growth in gambling in California is in part a response to the adoption of property-tax limiting Proposition 13.
The Baffling Poker Craze
Washingtonpost.com (via MSNBC) has a great article on the amazing increase in poker playing, both the in-person and online varieties. (Shouldn't these poker aficionados all be blogging instead?) Here's an excerpt from the section devoted to online poker:
In a recent 24-hour period, about $124 million was wagered in more than 100 online poker rooms, according to PokerPulse.com, a Canadian company that tracks the industry.
At peak playing times, the largest site, www.partypoker.com, has had more than 50,000 people playing at more than 5,000 tables.
Dennis Boyko, who runs PokerPulse, said that last month online sites were pulling in $3.2 million a day through "rakes," which are small portions of every hand played, depending on how much is being bet.
That number is up from $300,000 per day in January 2003.
Sunday, September 05, 2004
Alcohol Prohibition Repeal in South Carolina
Today's Charlotte Observer has an interesting article by a historian about the months in 1933 between Congress voting for repeal of Prohibition and its ratification by the states. The end of Prohibition restored South Carolina's liquor control to the state's 1895 constitution, which allowed beer and wine but not liquor to be sold in taverns. Later, the state legislature passed a bill that allowed most adults over 21 to obtain a quart of whisky per month for medicinal purposes. (This law presumably would have been legitimate even had Prohibition remained in force, as medicinal alcohol was exempted.) South Carolina held an election on repeal of the national Prohibition, and repeal was defeated -- though shortly thereafter the requisite number of states did ratify repeal, ending Prohibition. One point that I find confusing about the article is the end, where it is suggested that repeal rendered the "quart per month" law moot. But as that was a state law, and repeal returned alcohol control to the states, I don't see why repeal would render the law moot.
South Carolina might alter its state constitution in the near future, to stop requiring the use of mini-bottles for liquor sales at bars. (The things that make it into a constitution, eh?)
Speaking of repeal of Prohibition, Professor Zywicki of the Volokh Conspiracy has concluded his "Wine Wars" series, with a flurry of posts (parts 12 through 17) this weekend. (Vice Squad has promoted Wine Wars in the past.) You will recall that Prof. Zywicki has been explaining why, in his view, the 21st Amendment that eliminated Prohibition does not empower states to discriminate against out-of-state alcohol distributors or manufacturers -- by his reckoning, states can choose highly restrictive alcohol regimes, but must apply them evenhandedly, to state and out-of-state sources alike. One problem with his view is that in a dissenting opinion in a 1987 case, Justice O'Connor (with Chief Justice Rehnquist joining) drew the conclusion that the 21st Amendment did indeed give the states essentially carte blanche to do as they please with respect to liquor regulation. The O'Connor opinion was largely based on the legislative history of the 21st Amendment, and Professor Zywicki's posts argue that any full and fair reading of that history does not support the O'Connor conclusion.
Saturday, September 04, 2004
1) Here is an article from the Washington Post about the stepping up of enforcement on Labor Day weekend drunk driving by using checkpoints.
2) Also from the Post is a story on the "DWI King" and his remarkable record at tracking down DWI offenders.
3) CBS faces a $550,000 indecency fine for the Super Bowl "wardrobe malfunction", the largest fine ever handed down by the Federal Communications Commission.
4) An Alabama obstetrician has started "Mothers Against Meth", a group to fight growing methamphetamine use across Appalachia. She also cites the increased effectiveness she has found in religious drug treatment centers, as opposed to secular ones.
5) Bad news for narcotic police: "super" coca plants that "are bigger, faster-growing, and produce more of the compund that gives cocaine its kick" may be appearing in Colombia. It is also more resistant to herbicide, if it exists, that is. [The super coca was covered last week by D'Alliance and others -- JL.] An interview with drug czar John Walters is cited where he notes that the price of cocaine is remainging constant, meaning that efforts to control tbe supply from Colombia seem to be failing. The AP story on the interview is here. Walters insists on "staying the course" on Operation Colombia and thanks narcotics agents: "You are making lives better for people who you will never meet."
There is an informative post in Slate on the qualities of different vodkas. Among other things, it describes the results of a tasting test of 11 different premium brands commonly available in the US. Swedish Absolut that I used to like didn't do too well. My current favorite, Three Olives made in England, was not tested. Nonetheless, I got some useful information from the post. Can't wait to verify at least some of the results. Perhaps Vice Squad can have its own test at some future date.
The Slate post also contains a link to a story about Russia's Yukos allegedly getting in some trouble in April 2004 for marketing vodka distilled from ... no, not oil, but hemp seeds. The vodka was made in the Czech Republic. The offense of the Yukos-owned gas station apparently was not the sale of the vodka itself, but the statement on the bottle's label that referred to the vodka being made from hemp. Such a statement appears to be against the Russian law on advertisement that prohibits promoting drug use. Well, Yukos probably wished this were its greatest problem.
Extrapolating Blood Alcohol Content Measurements
In many cases, a person arrested for drunk driving does not have his or her blood alcohol content (BAC) checked (at least by a certified tester) until well after the traffic stop. In the meantime, the body goes on metabolizing alcohol -- that is, the person sobers up a bit. What happens if a breathalyzer test is administered, say, two hours after the arrest, and the person records a BAC of .05? Is that enough evidence to convict him of DWI, given a per se standard of .08? Does .05 now imply .08 or above two hours ago?
It appears as if an appeals court ruling in North Carolina means that, in the Tar Heel state, the answer to that question is "yes" -- for legal purposes, alcohol decays at the rate of .0165 per hour. Here's the story, from the Winston-Salem Journal.
Globalisation of (and Crackdown on) Prostitution
A friend of Vice Squad sends along a pointer to this editorial in the September 2nd Economist. The article suggests that there is a tendency now for countries to adopt a harder line towards prostitution, and that the reason for this increased severity is the globalisation of prostitution:
...the free movement of labour is as controversial in the sex trade as in any other business. Wherever they work, foreign prostitutes are accused of driving down prices, touting "extra" services and consorting with organised criminal pimps who are often foreigners, too. The fact that a very small proportion of women are trafficked--forced into prostitution against their will--has been used to discredit all foreigners in the trade, and by extension (since many sellers of sex are indeed foreign) all prostitutes.I think that the Economist is right about how trafficking contributes to the further demonization of prostitution, but I am not so sure that the global tendency is towards harsher policies. Many places, from Thailand to the Czech Republic, from Taiwan to Las Vegas, have hosted serious debates about legalization in recent months. New Zealand and Australia are fairly recent adopters of legal brothels, and there does not appear to be any sentiment in Britain and Canada, where prostitution per se (as opposed to, for instance, solicitation or living off the proceeds) is not illegal, to increase the scope of criminalisation. The overall tendency, as I see it, is not so much towards increased or decreased severity overall, but towards reducing the harms suffered by prostitutes themselves. This can mean tolerance zones with social services provided (as in parts of the Netherlands, for instance), or legal brothels, or even the Swedish policy of criminalising the conduct of the sex buyer but not that of the sex seller.
Nevertheless, I second the Economist's longstanding position, that the private exchange of money for sex should not be a criminal matter -- though public manifestations of prostitution rightly can be controlled.
Friday, September 03, 2004
Due Process is Only for Those Who are Not Arrested
The city of Frederick, Maryland, has had such wonderful success with posting the pictures of those arrested -- not convicted, just arrested -- for prostitution-related offenses that it will expand its web-listing to drug arrestees! (Oddly, people who are arrested for crimes with actual victims, such as theft, appear to be exempt from Frederick's publicity machine.) There is no disclaimer on the website that these people have not been convicted, and are considered to be innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. (Other places that engage in such theatrics tend to include the disclaimer.) Of course, this measure must be purely informational, or to protect the public, because it would be unconstitutional to punish someone without due process of law. And what does Frederick's mayor say? "When asked if the project is meant to humiliate people, [the mayor] replied, 'Only for those who are arrested.'" And as we know, only guilty people are arrested. Here's the story, from the Baltimore Sun (registration required), and though I hesitate to add to this publicity, here's the Frederick website.
More Confusing Alcohol and Health News
This time, the word is that people in their 40s and 50s should drink alcohol, but not more than once per month, if they want to reduce their chances of suffering from mild mental impairment later in life.
The researchers, writing in the British Medical Journal, found those who drank no alcohol and those who drank frequently – several times a month – in mid-life were both twice as likely to have mild mental impairment in old age than those who drank infrequently – less than once a month.
Thursday, September 02, 2004
One Vice Issue Makes the Montana Ballot
Yesterday Vice Squad noted that the attempt to improve the moral environment in Montana via a ballot initiative to restrict sex-oriented businesses did not survive a court challenge. But another ballot measure, one to increase tobacco taxes, will go ahead, following a District court ruling on Tuesday:
Initiative 149, known as the tobacco tax ballot initiative, seeks to increase statewide tobacco taxes by 140 percent. Cigarette taxes would jump $1 a pack, from 70 cents to $1.70. The tax on snuff would increase from 35 cents to 85 cents an ounce and taxes on other tobacco products would increase from 25 percent to 50 percent of wholesale price.
Scotland to Mimic Ireland's Smoking Ban?
The First Minister of Scotland traveled to Dublin recently to look into the Irish smoking ban, which extends to restaurants and pubs. He liked what he saw, and declared that such a ban, for Scotland, would be "enforceable, practical and desirable." He has some work to do in convincing many Scots, however.
Guinness has seen a six percent decline in its sales in Ireland, with much of the fall blamed on the smoking ban.
Confessions of a New York Escort
That's the title of a new blog, generously brought to Vice Squad's attention by the proprietress -- who also had kind words for Vice Squad. Here's the beginning of the self-description:
I'm a twenty-something New York escort. I love Prada, Seven jeans, and Jimmy Choos. I'm also totally addicted to Starbucks' grande non-fat white mocha and working out.And here is one of the New York Escort's recent posts, concerning a polite recommendation from the Bangkok Mass Transit Authority that people refrain from having sex in the back of the busses.
So why am I writing this blog? I have an inner exhibitionist that just needs to be let out.
A friend of Vice Squad brings us our attention to this recent New York Times article concerning legal bookmakers in the UK and Ireland who accept "novelty" bets. So if you have deep insight into which Simpsons character will come out of the closet in January, you have the opportunity to earn a little money. Here's the start of the Times story, written by Lizette Alvarez:
LONDON, Aug. 30 - It took just 69 seconds for John Motson, the well-known BBC soccer commentator, to utter one of his notorious clichés - "these are nervous moments" - during the start of the England vs. Portugal match back in July.Later in the story is information about betting via interactive television, a practice that has become quite popular in the UK. And you might be surprised by the nature of some of the gambling:
With those words, bookmakers got walloped, paying out at least $36,000 to the 50 people who correctly wagered on the first cliché Mr. Motson would speak that evening on national television. The odds on that phrase started high at 40 to 1, behind "Captain Marvel," for the soccer star David Beckham, "dreaded penalties" and "boy wonder," a nod to Wayne Rooney, the tournament's top scorer.
Betting on a commentator's first cliché may seem a touch absurd to most people, even gamblers, but in Britain and Ireland it is, ahem, the tip of the iceberg.
Britain's largest satellite service, Sky, now offers a dedicated gambling channel called Avago (as in, have a go), where viewers can bet via their digital remote. Tune into Avago in the late morning and witness "Squeal of Fortune," a new show that features a farmhand surrounded by piglets inside a hay-covered pen. He kneels and, as the announcer builds suspense, he grabs a piglet and shows viewers its belly, which features a number from 1 to 9.
"Our pig handler is there," the announcer says, breathlessly. "He is diving in. There is no messing about. It's a No. 1. Confirmation. It's No. 1."
Viewers can also wager on a gerbil, which is spun around on a platform and then scurries off into one of eight surrounding gerbil houses. Bet on the right house, and win at "Gerbil Roulette."
Wednesday, September 01, 2004
Vice stuff on Volokh Conspiracy
Over the last two days, there have been some vice-related posts on Volokh Conspiracy. Most interesting, in an outrageous sort of way, was an excerpt from an August 29 Fox News interview with Dennis Hastert, where the Speaker was questioning whether George Soros’s money had come from “overseas or from drug groups…”
Today, there was a longer discussion of the same interview in Slate’s press box. I don’t know how we as society, and our Representatives, can tolerate this kind of behavior from the Speaker of the House. BTW, Hastert’s reasoning seemed to be that because Soros supports legalization of some illegal drugs, he must be sponsored by drug cartels. I would think that any reasonable person would conclude exactly the opposite, that is, as was noted on Volokh, the drug cartels would abhor legalization of drugs. Such legalization would almost surely result in lower prices of drugs and eliminate most of the rents that these cartels currently enjoy. If Hastert's reasoning in this interview was representative of his approach to legislation, God help us.
Another interesting item on Volokh Conspiracy had to do with the U.K.’s decision to prohibit Ford Motor Co.’s Land Rover commercials featuring a lady using a gun. The prohibition was in part in response to complaints from the public that these commercials glamorized the guns by making them look cool. Incidentally, the gun in the commercial was apparently a starter pistol.
Montana Moral Environment Imperiled
And once again, it was those liberal, activist judges -- this time, those on the Montana Supreme Court. The idea was to put a couple of pro-morality (er, anti-obscenity) measures on the ballot in November. A judge in February gave the go ahead, at which point those proposing the ordinances had 90 days to start collecting signatures. They chose not to do so, instead waiting for the Montana Supreme Court decision. But the Supremes said that because there had been no signature-gathering, there wasn't a legitimate legal controversy -- and this means, for some reason, that the measure cannot now appear on the November ballot. The ordinances were the brainchild of an organization that is very concerned with other people's morality; from the linked article:
One ordinance would restrict the distribution of obscene materials within Yellowstone County. The other would regulate sexually oriented businesses, such as bars that allow nude dancing.Help Our Moral Environment was in the news back in 2001, for opposing President Bush's selection of former Montana Governor Marc Racicot to head the Republican National Committee.
The possible ordinances were presented to the county commissioners last year by Dallas Erickson of Stevensville. He heads Help Our Moral Environment, a statewide organization that works to restrict sexually oriented businesses.
A Drunk Driving Accident in Nashville
A week ago or so Vice Squad mentioned, lightheartedly, an accident in rural Latvia in which both the driver of a horse and buggy and the driver of a car were drunk at the time of the crash. But no one was seriously hurt in that crash. In Nashville, Tennessee, a criminal trial will soon take place, and a civil suit has been filed, in another case of dual alcohol impairment -- but there was a very serious injury in the Nashville accident.
On July 9, a car hit a pedestrian who was crossing a street; the pedestrian suffered severe head trauma. The driver of the car was a sergeant with the Nashville Metro Police, and her blood-alcohol content was recorded at .16, twice the legal limit. She resigned from the police force last week. It appears, however, that her defense against a charge of vehicular assault will include the notion that the pedestrian was (somewhat?) at fault, because the pedestrian's blood-alcohol content was recorded at .10.
The family of the injured pedestrian has filed suit against both the driver and the bar that served alcohol to the driver.