To legislate against the moral codes of one’s fellows…is to steal their moral codes, to suppress their characters. - R.M. MacIver
Three forays into the bizarre world inhabited by lawheads, and a little good news.
Imaginary Lines (July 7th, 2011)
As this article Grace showed me demonstrates, it’s not only people whom the government subjects to arcane and complex border-crossing regulations, then treats as violent criminals if the paperwork is improperly filled out:
A…supplier of guitar-making parts is ensnared in an international smuggling investigation after federal authorities seized 24 pallets of exotic wood…Luthiers Mercantile International, or LMI, imported the $200,000-worth of Indian rosewood and ebony to sell to Gibson…On Aug. 24, federal agents descended on a Nashville, Tenn., warehouse where LMI’s wood was waiting for Gibson to take possession. They seized the wood along with Gibson computer hard drives and guitars. [Federal officials claim] the wood was “unlawfully imported, purchased and received”…[but] LMI officials say minor paperwork mistakes by their import broker on a separate wood shipment led to the raid…Though LMI has imported rosewood from India for decades, the U.S. government is now saying that Indian rosewood fingerboards are an illegal export…
Many of Sonoma County’s estimated 100 luthiers, who depend on tropical exotic hardwoods that have particular resonant qualities, say their futures are at stake…[Tom] Ribbecke, whose guitars are displayed in the Smithsonian Museum…fears that if authorities decide some of [his stock] is illegal, they will take it. “The Lacey Act…makes all of our material that all of us have been saving and setting aside for our retirement illegal for us to own,” he said…Since 2008, the Lacey Act has made it illegal to bring wood into the United States that was exported illegally from a country of origin…but under World Trade Organization laws…what is legal in one country can appear illegal in another, based on differences in national tariff codes…
In other words, the government is fighting evil wood traffickers, working to rescue innocent boards from being enslaved in guitars, where they are sold to satisfy the sick desires of music lovers. Don’t you feel safer now?
J’accuse (July 21st, 2011)
As I said in my column of October 23rd, most politicians hire whores at least occasionally, therefore reports that any individual politician hired a whore do not constitute news. But this October 17th New York Post story on the continuing Dominique Strauss-Kahn hijinks has other features of interest, so I’ve edited it to remove colorful Post inanities like “bootyguard” and “serial sleazeball”:
A top French cop served as [Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s] personal pimp, organizing orgies for him in both France and New York…The new allegations came to light during an investigation into a ring of prostitutes that included underage teens…Sources…[said] that…DSK is among a group of politicians, lawyers and business leaders whose names were found in the ring’s “black book’’ of clients. The French cop, Jean-Christophe Lagarde, also allegedly escorted ladies of the evening all the way from the French city of Lille, where the ring was headquartered, to New York for DSK. Strauss-Kahn’s personal prostitutes were allegedly selected for him by a…procurer named Dominique “Dodo’’ Alderweireld, who…has since been arrested. Lawyer Frederique Beaulieu says Strauss-Kahn “is asking to be questioned to put an end to these insinuations and extrapolations”…but has not yet been contacted by police…Five men…have been arrested in France and charged with pimping…
Welcome to the Wonderland of legalization. Prostitution is legal in France, but “procuring, aiding or assisting” prostitutes is illegal, as is “living on the avails”. In other words, it’s OK to be a whore as long as you have no friends, family, employees, assistants, managers or other human contact other than customers. As soon as you move in with someone, tour with another girl, or pay someone to arrange travel or book appointments for you, your legal business is instantly transformed into a “ring”, your private affairs are a matter for police “investigation” and you are buried under an avalanche of dysphemisms.
Presumption of Guilt (July 29th, 2011)
How many of y’all enjoy shopping at used book or music stores, flea markets and the like? I sure do. But I’ll bet you didn’t know that every time you walk into such a place you might be surrounded by criminals so dangerous that, according to the Louisiana legislature, the need to catch them justifies outlawing an activity which is literally as old as civilization:
This summer…Louisiana passed a law that bans individuals and businesses from transacting in cash if they are considered a “secondhand dealer”…[which is defined as] “…Anyone, other than a non-profit entity, who buys, sells, trades in or otherwise acquires or disposes of junk or used or secondhand property more frequently than once per month from any other person, other than a non-profit entity…” The law then states that “A secondhand dealer shall not enter into any cash transactions in payment for the purchase of junk or used or secondhand property. Payment shall be made in the form of check, electronic transfers, or money order issued to the seller of the junk or used or secondhand property…” The broad scope of this definition can essentially encompass everyone; from your local flea market vendors and buyers to a housewife purchasing goods on ebay or craigslist, to a group of guys trading baseball cards…Louisiana [has] effectively banned its citizens from freely using United States legal tender.
The law goes further to require secondhand dealers to turn over…their business’ proprietary client information. For every transaction a secondhand dealer must obtain the seller’s personal information such as their name, address, driver’s license number and the license plate number of the vehicle in which the goods were delivered. They must also make a detailed description of the item(s) purchased and submit this with the personal identification information of every transaction to the local policing authorities through electronic daily reports. If a seller cannot or refuses to produce to the secondhand dealer any of the required forms of identification, the secondhand dealer is prohibited from completing the transaction…individuals and businesses are [thus] forced to report routine business activity to the police. Can law enforcement not accomplish its goal of identifying potential thieves and locating stolen items in a far less intrusive manner? And of course, there are already laws that prohibit stealing, buying or selling stolen goods, laws that require businesses to account for transactions and laws that penalize individuals and businesses that transact in stolen property. Why does…Louisiana…need…more laws infringing on personal privacy, liberties and freedom?…Interestingly enough, although Pawnshops are still required to obtain clients’ personal information and transmit their client database information to law enforcement, they are exempt from the restriction of cash payments. A jeweler next door to a pawnshop cannot offer clients the same payment method offered by its competing pawnshop neighbor…
The excuse used to justify this blatant tax grab and surveillance method was a recent increase in copper robberies. The pillage of cables for their copper always increases during periods of high metal prices and/or high unemployment, but somehow government has always managed to deal with it before without requiring merchants to record the license plate numbers of little old ladies trading in romance novels or university students selling CDs they’re tired of. But that’s because we used to have this thing called “presumption of innocence”; well, it was nice while it lasted.
Sea Change (November 4th, 2010)
My column of one year ago today discussed examples of the way that public opinion is slowly changing in our favor, and here’s a new one; on August 20th the 60-year-old Society for the Study of Social Problems adopted a resolution stating that it supports decriminalization:
WHEREAS the criminalization of prostitution and other forms of sex work negotiated between consenting adults perpetuates violence and social stigma against sex workers, including by law enforcement…WHEREAS the criminalization of prostitution and other forms of sex work denies sex workers basic human and civil rights, including healthcare and housing, extended to workers in other trades, occupations, callings, or professions; WHEREAS the decriminalization of prostitution would lead to safer working conditions and better health for both the worker and client, and allow workers to report nonconsensual activities to law enforcement without fear of being arrested…BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the SSSP supports: (1) bipartisan legislation to decriminalize prostitution (2) public education regarding the costs of policing sex workers and (3) normalization of the occupation.
You can read the full text at the link; it was written by Jenny Heineman, co-coordinator of SWOP Las Vegas, which was also honored by the SSSP at a banquet. This is a small change, but it has to start somewhere; the ACLU is pro-decriminalization as well (though they rarely say anything about it), and every professional organization we can win to the cause gives us that much more credibility in the eyes of the public and politicians.