One of the sites I visit pretty frequently is Jim Leitzel’s Vice Squad. The blurb on the site describes it as
Explorations of public policy concerning alcohol, nicotine, other drugs, prostitution, gambling, pornography, ….
Jim Leitzel is the Associate Director of Public Policy Studies (or something like that) at the University of Chicago. He’s an economist, but most of Vice Squad is not about the economic issues, and most of the posts are not very scholarly. Oh, Leitzel does get in the occasional lengthy post about the economics of vice, but most of the articles are stories and links to stories about governmental responses to vice.
Paul Mooney, a comedian and former writer for Richard Pryor said recently that he could tell the government wasn’t really serious about opposing gay marriage because they weren’t arresting people for engaging in it like they did interracial couples in the 60′s. Well, if that’s the criteria, I guess we had better sit up and listen – the government is taking gay marriage seriously. The District Attorney for Kingston, New York is now arresting people for performing same-sex marriage ceremonies, according to today’s Chicago Sun Times.
This last post was by Nikkie, one of several members of the Squad, which also includes Mike, Ryan, and Bernard. Actually, they don’t post very often; mostly, it’s Jim Leitzel’s blog. I haven’t seen enough material from any of the other bloggers to form an opinion. Leitzel, on the other hand, posts a lot. Because of his academic credentials, you might expect him to be dreary and pedantic. But when I think of his writing, the word that keeps coming to mind is snarky.
Having wasted $45,000 already in a star-crossed grand jury attempt to pin obscenity convictions on the owners of the Lion’s Den adult superstore, Dickinson County, Kansas, is back in court. This time it is the county prosecutor who is bringing the charges. (Hey, isn’t all this obscenity litigation diverting resources from some anti-evolution squabble?)…
Evolution Update: The Lion’s Den in Abilene, Kansas, used to be a Stuckey’s.
Of course, no blog on vice policy would be complete without mentioning the War On Drugs. In addition to occasionally announcing that the latest giant drug bust must surely mean a victory over illegal drugs, there’s also stuff like this:
(Incidentally, as the sting operations involved fake cocaine buys, seven of the officers were charged with “attempted possession of cocaine,” which carries a sentence of 5 to 40 years in prison and fines of up to $2 million, apparently – imagine what actual possession of cocaine could get you! And I suppose that this also means that somewhere there are workers whose job it is to manufacture fake cocaine. Maybe it is even a thriving business – “the Department of Labor reports that jobs in automobiles and steel production fell by 2.4% in the third quarter, but overall employment remained high, thanks to an 11% increase in jobs in the fake cocaine sector.” And just as cocaine comes in various qualities, I suppose fake cocaine does, as well. Imagine low quality fake cocaine, and the sales pitch: “Well, it’s true, it doesn’t really resemble cocaine very much – looks rather more like saltwater taffy – but if you squint, you might mistake it for real cocaine, or at least higher quality fake cocaine, and it is much cheaper than the higher quality fake coke.”)
Vice Squad is all-vice all-the-time, so they find a lot of the smaller stories as well:
[An] Associated Press story in today’s Chicago Tribune…concerns people who have a difficult time urinating into a cup on demand: “Their problem, a little-known phobia known as paruresis, or shy bladder syndrome, isn’t new. But the intensely personal malady is getting some unwelcome exposure, an unforeseen consequence of widespread workplace drug testing.” The Trib article tells the story of a man who was fired from his job at a Caterpillar plant in Georgia for his inability to produce a urine sample within the requisite three hours. This seems to me to be a very fair way for managers to implement downsizing.
Again, there’s that little bit of snark at the end.
Of course, drugs aren’t the only vice (Thank God, because I don’t do drugs):
According to [a] Reuters article, a Boise strip club uses an exception in the law to get around a ban on nude dancing. The city public nudity ban explicitly exempts activities with serious artistic merit. The idea was to ensure that art classes and stage productions would not be cited under the law. But what constitutes an art class, anyway?: “On what it calls Art Club Nights, the Erotic City strip club charges customers US$15 (8 pounds) for a sketch pad, pencil, and a chance to see completely naked women dancers.”
I’m hoping that if I continue to blog regularly and improve my writing skills, some day Jim Leitzel will invite me to join Vice Squad as a co-blogger. It’s not really that I want to share publishing space with these folks. I just figure they must throw some kick-ass parties.
Update: Arg. Jim Leitzel is even sneakier and more twisted than I imagined. He has thwarted my thinly-disguised attempt to get a return link by cleverly shutting down the Vice Squad blog.
Another Update: Vice Squad isn’t quite dead after all, although Jim Leitzel assures us “I Can Quit Whenever I Want…”
Leitzel also gives me that return link I was fishing for by posting an article about my review in which he questions my use of the word “snarky.” The truth is that although I’ve heard the word used a number of times, this is probably the first time I’ve ever tried to use it myself. It appears to be British slang that’s made it over here, and it has a variety of meanings. The one I meant is from urbandictionary.com:
(adjective) describes a witty mannerism, personality, or behavior that is a combination of sarcasm and cynicism. Usually accepted as a complimentary term. Snark is sometimes mistaken for a snotty or arrogant attitude.
Her snarky remarks had half the room on the floor laughing and the other half ready to walk out.