Saturday, May 24, 2008
Briar Patch Justice
Apologies for bloggish neglect of late -- Tbilisi does not believe in blogging. But I have pried a moment away from my khachapuri to send along an update on those federal obscenity charges aimed at a woman who placed sexually violent stories on the internet. Among the unusual features of this prosecution is that the charges -- which concerned adult obscenity only, even though some of the characters in her fictional tales were minors -- were aimed at text, mere words: there were no drawings or photos. A second unusual feature is that the defendant, who seems to have had a hard life, suffers from agoraphobia. This latter feature played a role in the resolution of the case, because she was in no condition to be coming to a courtroom for weeks on end. The woman has agreed to a settlement in which she pleads guilty and is sentenced to --- home confinement, to which her medical condition had essentially sentenced her long ago. A sad story all around, though not as sad as what might have happened with a full blown trial. And federal prosecutors have succeeded in cleaning up the internet through this fiendishly clever legal maneuvering. Of course, it has come at some cost: they may have momentarily averted their gaze from that dastardly Tommy Chong.
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
Making Self-Exclusion Work Better
While Vice Squad is a big proponent of the principle of vice self-exclusion programs, the practice in US casinos leaves much to be desired. It seems to be relatively easy, for instance, for some self-excluded gamblers to return to a casino without much hindrance. A check of IDs for all gamblers, or a more universal use of smart cards that hook into gambling machines, might help to make self-exclusion programs more reliable.
One of the standard features of a self-exclusion program is that someone who has volunteered to join the excluded ranks is removed from the list of those who are sent promotional material. This is another area of slippage between theory and practice, apparently. The Illinois Gaming Board is fining a casino $800,000 for not sealing off the self-excluded from marketing appeals. The same casino received a $600,000 fine for similar activities two years ago. I would think that these significant fines will concentrate casino minds on providing a more effective barrier between their promotions and self-excluded gamblers.
Saturday, May 17, 2008
Hey, I Am Not That Self-Exclusion Guy...
...I am a different self-exclusion guy. Recently, a man from Delaware wanted to remove himself from Atlantic City's gambling self-exclusion list, in part because he found that the privately-owned AC casinos also barred him from their establishments in other locales. There was a fair amount of media (and Vice Squad?) coverage of his case, which he lost, but the excluded gambler was identified only by his initials. It turns out that initials are not like fingerprints, one unique set per person. (Maybe fingerprints are not like fingerprints, either.) A man in Florida has same the initials as the fellow excluded from Atlantic City casinos -- and the Floridian is none too pleased about the publicity surrounding the case. Seems that people keep suspecting that he (the Florida man) is the current litigant -- though he is not. Those folks might be confused because, in addition to the eerie initial coincidence, the Florida man is a known gambler and a former self-excluder, having signed up for a one-year ban in 2003. How to end the confusion? The Florida man wants the court to release the full name of the litigant. But full names are not unique, either....
I like to think of myself as the Self-Exclusion Guy.
Sorry for disappearing under the blogoscope. My temporary relocation has made it hard to participate in Web 2.0.
Monday, May 12, 2008
Vice Squad Returns
Well, sort of returns. Vice Squad is now firmly settled in Tbilisi, after passing through the UK. The vice news there was that yet another head of government, this time Gordon Brown, joined a long, distinguished list of past potentates who made the mistake of convening an expert panel on marijuana policy. As usual, the experts reported back that mj should be essentially decriminalised, and as usual, the government immediately ignored the report -- this time even moving to increase penalties for marijuana possession. (That two years you could get for possession of a joint just wasn't sufficient, so Class B status was necessary to put potheads away for five years.)
London has a new mayor, and a new policy on its underground and bus system -- as of June 1, no more (legal) drinking on the Tube. Americans can file this one under "What, you mean you used to be able to drink openly on the Tube?" Speaking of the new mayor, he celebrated his swearing in by going to a casino. During the campaign, he was a bit wobbly on Britain's smoking ban, too.
Saturday, May 03, 2008
Beijing Bans Public Smoking
The ban applies to public buildings, but not to bars and restaurants -- those establishments must have no-smoking sections, however. There are apparently 100,000 current government employees who will be enlisted as enforcers, according to this BBC report, which also provides an interesting factoid: "For every three cigarettes lit worldwide, one is smoked in China." (I just lighted three cigarettes -- how does China know to have someone take a smoke?)
Vice Squad, indolent of late, is taking to the road for a couple of months. For the next week or so, blogging will be minimal, I fear. Perhaps I will light three more cigarettes to deal with my apprehension.
Thursday, May 01, 2008
The Poisoned Fruits of Comstockery
Anthony Comstock, licensed vice suppressor, would brag of the people he drove to suicide by prosecuting them for their First Amendment-protected activity. (Though it took a long time and much persecution for their activity to receive First Amendment protection.) Comstock's victims included Ida Craddock, whom he pursued Javert-like.
Our current Comstockery has claimed another victim, it seems, today. Comstock would be proud. This victim even was convicted in Comstock-fashion, for misusing the mails. Hers is the second needless death from this pointless prosecution of voluntary adult behavior. Madness envelops us.