Vice Squad
Tuesday, May 31, 2005
Vicewire, 5/31/2005

1) Here is a different type of "rehab" for drug and alcohol abuse: doing time in the pew rather than in jail.

2) A story about the inability of convicted prostitutes to teach in Oregon.

3) Reminiscent of the Opium Wars 150 years ago, China has put out an appeal to the public to help stop narcotics trafficking and abuse.

4) In other Oregonian news, the recent rejection of an off-reservation Indian Casino has some wondering if this of less off-reservation casinos trend is gaining momentum: "There are many members of Congress who are ... deeply concerned about the proliferation of off-reservation Indian gambling casinos" - Rep. David Wu, D-Ore.

Labels: , , , ,

Publicity Isn't Always a Good Thing

In April Vice Squad noted a detailed New York Post report on popular poker clubs in New York City. The publicity turned out to be a mixed blessing: two of the largest (presumably) clubs were raided late last week. The patrons had to give their names and (again, presumably) their chips to the police, but they were not arrested, as they had broken no laws. Employees and operators were less fortunate, however, as this article from the New York Daily News relates:
Vice cops raided the gambling parlor at 200 W. 72nd St. around 11 p.m [last Thursday night]. At almost the exact moment, more cops executed a search warrant at the Play Station at 6 W. 14th St., police said.

Cops seized about $100,000, along with a small amount of marijuana, and arrested 39 dealers, runners and managers. The clubs were owned by many of the same people, police said.

The suspects were charged with promoting gambling and possession of gambling devices, misdemeanors punishable by up to a year in jail.

Labels: , ,

Monday, May 30, 2005
Private Vice Controls: Happy Hour Restrictions in Britain

Vice purveyors often choose to institute voluntary regulations that go beyond their legal requirements. (Of course, these moves may not be entirely uncoerced; rather, their adoption might be intended to head off future legislation or litigation.) Last week, the British Beer and Pub Association adopted guidelines that limit most Happy Hour-style promotions. So, in more than half of British pubs, two-for-one offers, for instance, are no more.

Coincidentally, the move came just before a parliamentary debate on anti-social behavior. (Remember those ASBOs?) Somehow, the Association remembered to send a notice of its new policy to all the Members of Parliament.

In Scotland, the Association's move will likely be supplemented (and largely superseded) by a proposed parliamentary measure that will try to undermine Happy Hours by making them last for two days.

Vice Squad noted the Scottish plan in February, and most recently talked of voluntary vice regulation with respect to US liquor advertising.

Labels: , ,

Sunday, May 29, 2005
Be careful what you wish for

In an earlier brief post, I suggested that the Supreme Court decision (links to opinions are here; see also Jim's earlier post) that prohibited discrimination between in-state and out-of-state wineries with respect to direct shipments of wine was good news for wine drinkers. Alas, I was wrong. Perhaps I underestimated the power of the state wholesalers lobbies. There are, of course, two ways to eliminate disparities in the treatment of in-state and out-of-state wineries. One is to let everybody ship the stuff directly, the other is to prohibit direct shipments altogether. It appears that at least some of the states are taking the latter route. Things are moving in that direction in Michigan and, as I learned this morning, they have already arrived there in Indiana (see this column by Mike Leonard; paid subscription required).

Apparetnly, on May 20, the Indiana Alcohol and Tobacco Commission (ATC) issued a letter stating that in-state direct shipments of wine are considered to be Class A misdemeanor. ATC Chairman, David Heath, seems to have taken a line from Casablanca by appearing to be shocked by the discovery that gambling, ooops.. sorry, direct wine shipments have been taking place in Indiana. His letter to the wineries begins in this way, "It has come to our attention that wineries in Indiana may be engaged in selling wine by taking orders via Internet, mail, and/or telephone and directly shipping to the consumer's address." Of course, these shipments have been going on in Indiana for only 30 years. In fact, the initial lawsuit contained evidence about direct wine shipments in Indiana obtained from the official state website that describes Indiana wineries.

Incidentally, the legality of changing the rules by an ATC letter without going through a formal admninistrative process is questionable. So, perhaps this letter will be challenged and ATC will be forced to jump through some bureaucratic hoops first. But now I am not sure if it is such a good idea to press ATC to follow the rules. God knows what the regulators will come up with during the formal administrative process of revising their interpretation of the current Indiana law.

Labels: , ,

Friday, May 27, 2005
A Bali trip gone bad

An Australian woman has just been sentenced to 20 years in an Indonesian prison for smuggling about 4 kilos of marijuana into Bali. The judge said that Schapelle Corby was "legally and convincingly" guilty of smuggling. Ms. Corby has maintained her innocence. She says that the drugs were planted into her lugguage by the baggage hadlers who were trying to use her as a mule without her knowledge in a drug smuggling racket. Apparently, both the defense and the prosecution are going to appeal. The defense will appeal the guilty verdict while the prosecution will appeal the lightness of the sentence.

Each country is entitled to have it own laws, but c'mon, 20 years in prison? And apparently it could have been (and still can be) a life sentence or even the death penalty. Shouldn't somebody invade Indonesia to bring true democracy and reasonable laws there? And when they are at it, perhaps they could take care of California as well?

Labels: ,

Thursday, May 26, 2005
Vice is Elsewhere

Currently racing to get out of town, so I am afraid that blogging will be light or non-existent for a few days. One of the advantages of being part of a Squad, however, is that surely co-bloggers will step into the breach....


Wednesday, May 25, 2005
On Opium and Poppy-Seed Bagels

Daniel Engber at Slate explains how we get our legal supplies of opiates and poppy seeds. But don't try this at home:
It's against the law to grow opium poppies in the United States, although enforcement has been inconsistent in the case of small-time gardeners who grow them as ornamental flowers. According to the Controlled Substances Act, every part of the opium poppy except the seed is illegal, including the seed pods, but some companies do import dried seed pods for decorative purposes.


How to Imprison the Otherwise Unimprisonable: ASBOs in Britain

In US vice enforcement, if we want to punish someone without worrying about all those tiresome due process formalities, we use civil asset forfeiture. In Britain, they can go one better, by making prison part of the equation. The relevant device is the "Anti-Social Behavior Order," or ASBO. The idea is that you can be hauled before a magistrate in a civil proceeding, which lacks the same protections as a criminal court. For instance, hearsay evidence will be admissible. The behavior that is alleged needn't be criminal, if it is deemed to be anti-social. If you are issued an ASBO, you might be forbidden to engage in some activity for years, or to stay out of some part of town. If you disobey your ASBO, you can then be imprisoned. So, ASBOs are a wonderful device for throwing inconvenient people in prison for "offences" that themselves do not carry prison sentences.

Streetwalking (soliciting) in not an imprisonable offense in Britain (and prostitution per se is not illegal.) But ASBOs step into the breach, and now some alleged prostitutes face long jail terms. Today's Guardian has more. Here's the website of an anti-ASBO group, which provides some of the broad terminology designating anti-social behavior: "Asbos can be served against children over 10 years of age or against adults if they have behaved 'in an anti-social manner that caused or was likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress', and that the order is 'necessary to protect persons from further anti-social acts.'"

Libby at Last One Speaks recently provided a profile of civil asset forfeiture in the US. Incidentally, probation violations provide a somewhat similar route to imprisoning folks for minor drug crimes in the US: they aren't given a jail sentence for their possession arrest, but they then flunk a mandated drug test while on probation, triggering a spell in jail.

Labels: , ,

The Heroin Equivalent of the Red-Headed League

Chris Rock once said "Drug dealers don't sell drugs. Drugs sell themselves." So it should be no problem to distribute free heroin, right? Well, those who are organizing the Canadian experiment with heroin maintenance are finding out that if you impose enough conditions, it's hard even to give the stuff away:
Addicts must have been on heroin for at least five years, must have tried methadone twice without success -- and must be older than 25.

Also, the addict cannot currently be on methodone [sic]-- and cannot have a criminal record.
The researchers aim for 157 participants, but so far, have come up with only 21 eligibles.

Here's the original Red-Headed League.

Labels: , ,

Carceral Notebooks

Across the Midway here at the good ol' University of Chicago they have a new internet (and non-virtual, too) publication, Carceral Notebooks. has come to my rescue: carceral means "Of or belonging to a prison." But at least the initial issue gives one the impression that its main topic is....vice regulation. Articles on the control of gambling, sex, and drugs. Yea!

Labels: , , ,

Monday, May 23, 2005
Keystone Canine Cops

Can't really blame the dogs this time, though. Seems that they were trained to find, er, talcum powder. In Australia, a pouch of the powder was accidentally labelled as cocaine, and used in sniffer dog training. Yes, a dog "alert" now constitutes probable cause to search you for that fresh, just-showered feeling.

Thanks to a friend of Vice Squad for the pointer; I see that Ken at Crim Law was on top of this one, too.

Labels: , , ,

Jon Nelson on Advertising and Vice

Professor Nelson has been busy in recent years preparing tons on articles on the regulation of alcohol and tobacco advertising. He provides links here; look especially at the bottom of the page. Here's his recent encyclopedia article on advertising bans.

Postscipt: Professor Nelson has made an earlier appearance on Vice Squad.

Labels: ,

The Unfolding Afghan Anti-Opium Calamity

Recent events:

(1) "Last week, 11 Afghans working on a U.S.-sponsored project to encourage farmers not to grow poppies were killed in two attacks."

(2) Yesterday's New York Times reports on a leaked US internal memo, dated May 13, criticizing President Karzai for not doing enough to eradicate poppy production.

(3) On Sunday and Monday, an anti-drug operation in Afghanistan nets up to 15 arrests and more than, oh, 5 tons of opium.

And as Mark Kleiman notes, all of this anti-opium frenzy will not make much difference to the drug problem in the US.

Labels: , ,

Saturday, May 21, 2005
Italian Cigarette Sales Update

In January, Italy introduced a public smoking ban. Shortly thereafter, cigarette sales were claimed to have fallen by 19%, though Vice Squad, displaying its usual reserve, was suspicious of the depth of the decline. A recent update puts the sales decline at a more reasonable 9%. Still, as the linked article notes, if this holds up throughout the year, Italian cigarette sales will be at their lowest level for the past thirty years.

Labels: ,

What, No Guns Drawn?

A middle school in Pennsylvania was placed in "lockdown" at 2PM on Tuesday:
Students were kept in their classrooms while three dogs searched the building, looking for marijuana, cocaine, crack, amphetamines, heroin and ecstasy.
The dogs were claimed to have "alerted" on 31 lockers -- this school might be the very fulcrum of the global trade in illegal drugs. So the authorities padlocked the highly suspicious lockers (along with neighboring ones), then went about securing a search warrant. It isn't clear why they didn't follow their own policy and just open the lockers and look inside, but one gets the suspicion (or at least I get the suspicion) that they were hoping to lay some heavy criminal charges on the student druggies -- charges that might have been compromised by having school officials muck about in a bunch of lockers. Four hours later, the search warrant dutifully was issued and arrived -- dog sniffs establish probable cause, of course; come to think of it, not just probable cause, but near certain guilt. If it's a dog's alert versus some kid's word, or even my own eyes, I'll go with the dog every time. But before they executed the search pursuant to the warrant, they let the kids out of school -- hey, what sort of half-hearted "lockdown" was this? -- so that the youthful scholars could see whose lockers had fallen afoul of the canine coppers. Oh yeah, no drugs were found. Zero-for-thirty-one. Better days ahead, drug sniffing pooches. Naturally, officials, parents, and even some students, with some exceptions, are rushing to express their support for this first-rate operation. Among the exceptions, however, are some sensible police.

Add Mechanicsburg Area Middle School to the honor roll that includes such stalwarts as Stratford High and Milford High.

Thanks to Ken at Crim Law for the pointer; Ken got the word from Christopher Coyle.

Update: Though it is obvious, I just want to mention that the wrongheadedness of this operation is independent of the fact that no drugs were found (though that should be more reason to question the efficacy of dog sniffs); as in the other school cases, these over-the-top tactics wouldn't be salvaged by having a few illegal drugs show up in one or two lockers.

Labels: , , ,

Thursday, May 19, 2005
The Internet Wine Case

I finally got around to reading the opinions (available here) in the internet wine case. It was a close call. My untutored view is that the closest cases to this one, which occurred both pre-Prohibition and in the immediate aftermath of Prohibition, suggest that the discriminatory New York and Michigan laws should have been upheld. But the more recent cases that touched on the 21st Amendment, though by and large not as directly on-point as the earlier cases, suggest that the non-discrimination principle should apply despite the 21st Amendment. It was close for a reason.

At any rate, having read the opinions, I am not discouraged by the result. (I suppose I could have managed to think this through without reading the opinions, but somehow, I wasn't able to.) My general concern is that when other fundamental principles -- principles that I generally support, like free speech and free trade -- are allowed to trump vice policy, that we will end up with both an erosion of those principles and poor vice policy. But here, the overall alcohol regulatory policy of a state is not really at stake. The Court, by overturning controls that discriminate against producers in other states, does not (at least directly -- who knows what the future ramifications might be? --) limit the restrictiveness of any state's alcohol policy. The dormant Commerce Clause has here trumped some alcohol controls, but not an alcohol policy. That's fine by me -- not that anyone asked!

Labels: , , ,

Monday, May 16, 2005
Economists For Higher Alcohol Taxes

Nearly 60 US economists are in such sufficient agreement that they signed a petition to Congress calling for higher alcohol taxes. (The petition, a 3-page pdf file, is available here.) Besides supporting higher alcohol taxes in general, they also think that beer should not receive favorable tax treatment relative to wine or spirits, on a per-ounce of alcohol basis. The signatories include four Nobel Prize winners, and several leading vice policy researchers.

I support higher federal excise taxes on alcohol in the US; but I am less certain that spirits shouldn't be taxed more highly than wine or beer. Naturally fermented alcoholic beverages have been around since time immemorial, but distilled alcohol is a relatively recent phenomenon. I think that it is more dangerous than fermented products, and that stricter controls, possibly including higher taxes, are appropriate for the more-potent products. The fact that beer is the beverage of choice for youthful drinkers is in part a response to the lower taxes and less-strict controls, yes, but I am not sure that we want to implicitly encourage a substitution to hard liquor via a policy that treats beer, wine, and spirits identically.

Labels: ,

Alcohol Treatments Spreading Like...

...Kudzu. Yes, by taking a concentrated kudzu extract, heavy drinkers cut back their consumption, relative to those who took the placebo. They still drank, but somewhat less: "Study author Dr. Scott E. Lukas of McLean Hospital and Harvard Medical Center in Massachusetts explained that during the experiment, people drank their first beer right away, but were less likely to want more beer if they had taken kudzu the previous week."

I was mildly surprised at today's Supreme Court decision in the Internet Wine case. Probably not happily surprised -- even though I think that mail-order sales of wine direct to households should be legal -- as I am concerned about the eventual impact upon free trade or interstate commerce when these principles are used to trump the vice policy of individual states. But first I'll read the opinions, available here.

Labels: , , ,

Good news for wine drinkers

The Supreme Court ruled earlier today that the states cannot prohibit or severely limit direct wine shipmewnts from out-of-state wineries while permitting direct shipments from in-state establishments. I am certainly going to raise a glass of something made outside my homestate of Indiana tonight to celebrate. Cheers.

Labels: , ,

Sunday, May 15, 2005
Las Vegas at 100

Today Las Vegas is celebrating its centennial. Among the biggest features of its first 100 years was the shift, starting in the 1970s, from a mob-controlled-no-place-for-decent-Americans kind of resort to a family vacation spot:
Some observers attribute this newfound respectability to a general shift in attitudes of a more tolerant American public. Hal Rothman, professor of history at Nevada University and the author of Neon Metropolis, said: "Las Vegas used to be the place your pastor warned you against and your mother shook her finger at you if you mentioned its name, but these days people just go.

"The big story of the last 20 years has been gambling and gaming evolving into tourism and entertainment."

Around 38m visitors came to Las Vegas last year, spending $10bn in the casinos, but increasingly many are seeking out a different cultural experience, such as the flying acrobats of Cirque du Soleil or a Celine Dion concert.
But I would maintain that it wasn't an attitude shift that led to the mainstreaming of Las Vegas. Rather, it was a policy change: the Corporate Gaming Act of the late 1960s, which opened up casino operations to publicly-owned companies. Turns out that the mob, which was crucial when legitimate sources of capital were proscribed, proved no match for Wall Street.

Labels: , ,

A Vaccine For Smokers

Most adult smokers in the US report that they would like to quit, but the vast majority of attempts to quit fail. Some pharmaceutical agents, including non-smoking sources of nicotine like patches or gum, seem to be effective in helping some people give up smoking. But now progress is being made on a nicotine vaccine. Vaccinated people have compounds in their bloodstream that quickly bind to nicotine, hindering the transport of nicotine to the brain, and thereby removing the "reward" from smoking.

Last month, Vice Squad noted the progress of an alcohol vaccine. One of the concerns about the development of these vaccines is that parents or the government might force teenagers to undergo vaccination. See this earlier Vice Squad post for some other concerns.

Labels: , , ,

Friday, May 13, 2005
Did Closing Dance Bars Increase Prostitution?

Vice Squad has loosely been following the situation in the Indian state of Maharashtra, where authorities have been closing "dance bars," in which young women dance for tips from a male clientele. The main reason for the crackdown, it seems, is the belief that the bars are fronts for prostitution. But what happens when the bars are closed and the dancers lose their jobs? It may be that some of them then turn to prostitution to make ends meet.

Labels: , ,

Legal Developments Around Obscenity

Today we mine the point of view of the pornography industry on recent events, via the Adult Video News (not work-safe) website. First, there is the announcement last week of the formation of the US Justice Department's Obscenity Prosecution Task Force (noted earlier by Vice Squad.) Here's the press release from DOJ, and here's an excerpt from the AVN article on the new task force:
It is clear from the DOJ's statement that the Obscenity Prosecution Task Force will play the key Justice Department role in obscenity prosecution, since it has been given the power to draw on the expertise of several other DOJ divisions, including the Organized Crime and Racketeering Section, the Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section, the Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section, and CEOS’s High-Tech Investigative Unit.

Those last two notations suggest that adult material on the Internet will be one of the Task Force's top priorities, though the use of the Organized Crime and Racketeering and Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering sections portend a full-scale assault on adult manufacturers and distributors. It is, after all, through those two divisions that the DOJ prosecutors will be attempting to pay for their efforts through both the Racketeer-Influenced Corrupt Organizations (RICO) and obscenity forfeiture provisions of the law.
AVN also offers information and a critical perspective on an anti-obscenity bill in Ohio and Michigan bills that are intended to strengthen the regulation of adult video games.

Labels: , , ,

Thursday, May 12, 2005
The EU Pressure on Swedish Alcohol Controls

One of Vice Squad's favorite topics is how the EU's commitment to free trade is making it hard for EU member nations to maintain strict alcohol policies. The possibility of purchasing massive quantities of cheap alcohol abroad and importing it to some degree undermines a high-tax regime, for instance -- as Sweden is learning. The linked article also points out that EU trade policy has liberalized Sweden's alcohol advertising regulations:
Also last year, the EU ordered Sweden to lift its ban on alcohol advertising, which was deemed an unfair barrier to market entry. Before the ban was lifted, even Absolut Vodka, which is made in Sweden, was barred from placing its catchy ads in Swedish magazines.
Vice Squad likes to claim that allowing free trade, free speech, or antitrust policy to trump vice policy sows the seeds for undermining trade, speech, and antitrust, while simultaneously engendering less-than-optimal vice policies.

Labels: , , , , ,

Alcoholics Anonymous at 70

The BBC has an article today about Alcoholics Anonymous, founded in 1935. It offers a couple short paragraphs on three participants, a "regular," a "newcomer," and a "professional." Then there is a section on critics of AA, where Stanton Peele is quoted. One criticism that isn't mentioned is that there is, as far as I know, almost no serious statistical evidence that AA is more effective than other treatments for alcoholism, or than no intervention. Here's a paper that provides some evidence in support of weekly 12-step-style meetings, but the literature review is valuable in pointing out the paucity of other evidence.

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, May 11, 2005
Specialty Lottery Tickets

Interest in lotteries has a tendency to flatten out and even contract over time. As a result, lottery operators often look for new games or delivery systems or ad campaigns to boost demand. In the New York Times Magazine this week, Rob Walker tells of one such effort by the New York Lottery: a special Mother's Day lotto ticket. The $5 ticket is printed in the form of a Mother's Day card, and comes with its own envelope. Disappointed Mom's were reported to exclaim, "Junior, you know I prefer the Lucky 7's scratch-offs," as Western civilization concedes. Oh yeah, there are birthday-themed lottery games, too. Maybe they should try a fortune cookie version.

Walker notes that legal lotteries sold $48.8 billion worth of tickets during a recent 12-month period.

Labels: ,

Jack Cole on Undercover Drug Work, and Regret

That outrageous undercover operation at Milford High School in Ohio is still, shall we say, a bee in my bonnet. (Or it would be, if I had a bonnet.) Today I was reading "End Prohibition Now!", by former undercover narcotics officer (and now Executive Director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition) Jack Cole. In the previous Vice Squad post I expressed concern for the high school informant, who might one day recognize that her actions were perhaps not all that praiseworthy. Former officer Jack Cole learned this the hard way:
As we all know, when you fight a war you must have spies and so much more so in the war on drugs. The use and sale of illegal drugs are in effect victimless crimes; both the dealer and the user get something they want from the transaction. In the war on drugs the police undercover-operatives are the spies. A spy must necessarily be insinuated into the middle of a drug transaction if it is to be discovered and arrests are to be made. In the longest war this country has fought, spying was my job. For fourteen years of the more than three decades America has been fighting the drug war, I held that position. When I worked undercover I imagined I was a chameleon. As children, my friends and I had bought these little lizards at the circus. When we put them on our shirts, their skin changed to the color of the material - protectively blending in with their external environment for safety. Each time I met a new person the police targeted me against I became that chameleon. Changing everything but the color of my skin I quickly blended in with their environment and became exactly what they expected or wanted - easily gaining their trust. As an undercover agent my job was to do whatever was necessary to become each individual's best friend - his or her closest confidant - so I could betray them and send them to jail. And my job was to repeat that scenario with each new target: friendship - then betrayal - over and over again with hundreds and hundreds of individual human beings.

The main problem I experienced as an undercover agent was that I was never able to emotionally detach myself from the people whose lives I was affecting so dramatically; the vast majority of whom were non-violent offenders, their relatives and friends. When I posed as their confidant, for even a relatively short time, I was witness to their humanity as well as their faults. Instigating each person's ultimate arrest and imprisonment cost me something also. I am not a religious man but locked somewhere in my mind from my earliest childhood memories is the Golden Rule, as my mother taught it to me, "Do unto others as you would have others do unto you." Facing my quarries in court, testifying that all I had shared with them was lies and manipulation designed to enhance my ability to betray their trust, could in no way be interpreted as living by that rule. Why I chose to abandon my deepest belief is still something of a mystery to me but I know it had something to do with falsely agreeing that "The ends justify the means" - the golden rule as taught by many drug-warriors.

I would guess I took part in over a thousand arrests during the time I worked in narcotics. I don't know how many kids' lives I have ruined but I'm sure the count is huge. I was responsible for putting away young people in their formative years whose only "crime" was testing their newfound freedoms, "dipping and dabbing" in the illegal drugs so easily accessible in our culture.

Labels: , , ,

Tuesday, May 10, 2005
Prostitution in Germany

Wednesday'’s Christian Science Monitor brings an update on the situation with legal prostitution in Germany. The article notes that some of the recent concern with legal prostitution was sparked by the hyped-but-untrue story of a woman whose unemployment benefits were ended because of her refusal to take a job as a prostitute. But in any case, legality has been far from a panacea; for one, many prostitutes are not all that interested in becoming taxed and regulated, and others are not in the country legally. Though I favor some forms of legal prostitution, in general I would say that in those places where it exists, it has not been very successful at limiting illicit prostitution.

Nevertheless, the legal trade is pretty extensive in Germany:
An estimated 400,000 prostitutes work in Germany, and 1.2 million customers are said to use their services daily. Revenues are estimated at 6 billion euros every year - equivalent to those of companies like Porsche and Adidas...

In Stuttgart, where 2,700 prostitutes are registered, brothels now pay 15 euros or 25 euros per day, per prostitute, to financial authorities. The city of Cologne receives roughly 700,000 euros per month from the business. In Dortmund, owners of sex establishments have been creating contracts with prostitutes that offer benefits.

Labels: ,

Much Drink and Lechery

It turns out that the effects of drug taking depend quite a bit on what you think those effects will be. If people think that drinking alcohol will increase their interest in sex, then they will express a greater interest in sex when they think they are drinking alcohol -- –even when, unbeknownst to them, their drink is actually alcohol-free. The effects of drugs depend upon, in the famous trio of Norman Zinberg, "Drug, Set, and Setting." In other words, the effects of a drug depend upon the chemical properties of the drug, the mind set of the person consuming it, and the environment in which it is consumed.

The May, 2005 issue of Addiction contains "Automatic effects of alcohol cues on sexual attraction," an article by Ronald S. Friedman, Denis M. McCarthy, Jens Förster, and Markus Denzler. This paper takes the sexual interest and alcohol story even further. Instead of people mistakenly thinking that they are consuming alcohol, the subjects of the experiment were just shown some alcohol-related words. Further, they were shown the words in brief spurts, so brief that the words could not be consciously read and understood. Of course, a control group -- these were college males, incidentally -- were flashed non-alcohol words. (If I were not a college teacher I would here insert the following old joke: "The subjects of the experiment were college students, but the experimenters are thinking of repeating their study on human subjects.") Then they were asked to rate the attractiveness and the intelligence of young women whose pictures were shown to the subjects. (I suppose people do estimate the intelligence of strangers when shown a photo!?) Anyway, you shouldn't be surprised to learn that the fellows who were flashed the alcohol-related words found the young women to be more attractive, but not more intelligent, than did the control group. (The finding is a bit more complicated than I have let on, but I don't think that I have distorted it too badly.)

Labels: , ,

Monday, May 09, 2005
One Year of India's Public Smoking Ban

Yes folks, it was only one year ago when India's 150 million smokers were expected to douse their embers in public. The legislation also included some marketing controls and a ban on sales to minors. Implementation troubles quickly surfaced. After one year, it looks as if compliance with the billboard advertising controls exceeds compliance with the public smoking, sales-to-minors, and point-of-sale ads regulations.

Labels: ,

Off Topic: Adam Smith, Advisor on the Russian Transition

I finally posted a working paper on (Somehow, some other papers came to their attention but I had little to do with that.) It's just a short essay that looks at what Vice Squad hero Adam Smith (not to be confused with Vice Squad heroes J. S. Mill and Clarence Darrow) has to say about the ongoing Russian transition. I suspect that the essay isn't journal-appropriate, though it certainly runs counter to the stereotypical take on Smith's views. Anyway, please tell all your friends about this exciting new download opportunity.


Khat In Britain

The Somali expatriate community in Britain provides a sizeable market for imports of khat, according to this BBC story:
Around seven tonnes of khat leaves, which is an evergreen shrub which grows in mountainous areas across Africa, is estimated to be imported into the UK each week from Ethiopia, Yemen and Kenya.
Khat is legal in Britain, though illegal in the US and Canada. Here's a summary of the effects of khat consumption, taken from the linked BBC article:
It is a stimulant, making the user more alert and talkative
It is an appetite suppressor
If chewed over a few hours, it produces a state of calm
A chemical found in khat could boost the power of men's sperm
Long-term use can bring on insomnia, heart problems and sexual problems
Can bring on anxiety and aggression
Can bring on irritability, anger or violence
Excessive chewing can lead to sore mouths and infections
It can bring on depression
It is associated with mental health issues among users

Labels: ,

Sunday, May 08, 2005
Brazilian Officials Won't Condemn Prostitution

Brazil is proud of its anti-AIDS efforts among sex workers. To protect these efforts, the Brazilians turned down $40 million from the US Agency for International Development to combat AIDS, because receipt of the US money would require Brazilian officials to take a public stand expressing their opposition to prostitution. Voice of America has the story.

Labels: , ,

Saturday, May 07, 2005
Sex Worker Film and Arts Festival

Darn, I have just missed it. It turns out that the San Francisco's 4th Sex Worker Film and Arts Festival ended today. I learned about it this morning from our local newspaper, The Herald Times (subscription required) that talked about a "college of sorts," as they called it. The actual name is Whore College. It's a day of classes on sex worker techniques, self defence, marketings, etc. Sounds like useful stuff. Perhaps more useful than what I have just finished teaching this semester.

Labels: , ,

Friday, May 06, 2005
More Good News for Big Tobacco

Lawsuits by smokers seeking damages for adverse health impacts from Big Tobacco were unsuccessful for decades. Then came the Master Settlement Agreement with the state attorneys general in 1998, and the tide seemed to shift. Suddenly individual smokers were winning in some suits, and class-action suits progressed, too. Lately, however, it seems that the 180 degree turnaround might become a 360 degree one. Today's shot-in-the-arm for the tobacco giants is a federal appeals court ruling that precludes a national class action from forming in a New York case.

Public smoking bans remain hot political issues in many localities, however. Residents of Austin, Texas, will vote tomorrow on whether to extend their smoking ban to "bars, bowling alleys, and pool halls," while recently-dormant legislation on a workplace smoking ban for Vice Squad's own hometown of Chicago is now emerging from hibernation.

Labels: , , ,

More on US Obscenity

First, apologies for the lack of posting recently. This negligence has been characterized by many loyal Vice Squad readers as an "obscenity" in itself (and by many other readers as a "welcome relief.") Second, the Guardian recently offered this listing of recent US federal obscenity cases. The list of cases is incomplete, however, as the following excerpt from this story indicates:
Since 2001, 40 people and businesses have been convicted and 20 additional indictments are pending, said Andrew Oosterbaan, chief of the Justice Department's child exploitation and obscenity section. By comparison, there were four such prosecutions during the eight years of the Clinton administration, he said.
And once again, although I can find no mention of it at the Justice Department website, various anti-obscenity groups such as Concerned Women for America are praising the formation of an "Obscenity Prosecution Task Force" at the Department of Justice. Why are they always the first to know?

Labels: ,

Wednesday, May 04, 2005
Good Sense in Saline County

Recall that following a petition drive, a grand jury had been empanelled in Saline County, Kansas, to look into whether obscenity charges should be brought against two adult stores in the town of Salina. The fifteen-person jury, which could have met for 3 months, took less than a month to decide not to return indictments. The Kansas anti-obscenity activists first try to have charges filed by the County Attorney. If that fails -- as it has so far in Saline County -- they then use the petition/grand jury route. In neighboring Dickinson County, a similar petition drive hit a snag, but the County Attorney there stepped into the breach by filing charges.

Labels: ,

Tuesday, May 03, 2005
Mumbai Dancer Protest

There has been an attempt to close "dance bars" in the Indian state of Maharashtra. (Dance bars hire girls who, well, dance, while the male clientèle tosses currency in their direction. The state government thinks that the bars are fronts for prostitution, or crime incubators more generally.) Already some 1,500 dance bars have been closed, though the 700 bars in Mumbai (Bombay) have not yet met that fate. Despite an early judicial victory, the bars remain at risk. So some 10,000 dancers joined a street protest in Mumbai (Bombay), shouting "Save Our Jobs." It has been suggested that closing the bars would lead to more prostitution, as the dancers would look to alternative sources of income.

Labels: , , ,

Monday, May 02, 2005
Only Scylla Left to Negotiate

A would-be responsible alcohol retailer can face a dilemma. If its rivals compete on the basis of price, our responsible seller might have to, too, by running happy hours or other price promotions. Such marketing might incur the wrath of those concerned with binge drinking. But if our responsible seller attempts to join with its rivals in preventing price discounting, then it may violate the antitrust laws. Such a violation was alleged against alcohol sellers in Madison, Wisconsin, last March.

Today we learn from Walter Olson at Overlawyered that a judge threw out the private lawsuit, on the grounds that the collusion was foisted upon Madison's bar owners. So in this case, vice policy trumps anti-trust. Along with the WTO internet gambling ruling, in which vice policy trumped free trade, perhaps we are seeing a trend towards increased autonomy for vice policy. If so, California medical marijuana patients will have reason to celebrate, even as California winemakers should become increasingly concerned.

Labels: , , ,

The Alcohol Laffer Curve?

Louisiana's tax rate on wine is lower than that of any other state, and it has a pretty low tax rate on spirits, too. Nevertheless, "the Louisiana state government collected more taxes per resident on those products than 21 other states, according to a U.S. Census report recently released." Maybe those higher rates in other states entice folks to a bit more smuggling and moonshining, or, perhaps, folks in Louisiana make up for their low rates in volume. At any rate (!), the Louisiana state legislature is thinking about raising alcohol and tobacco taxes.

A drunk became known as a "wino" because tax rates on wine have traditionally been lower than on other forms of alcohol in the US. So the cheapest way to get drunk has often been to drink fortified wine.

Labels: ,

Powered by Blogger