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Arthur Schaper: Victimless Crimes in the Bay State

Friday, January 10, 2014

 

Victimless crimes make enough trouble without the government getting involved, believes Arthur Schaper.

Vices like smoking and gambling (and in a marginal sense, prostitution) are often termed “victimless” crimes by criminologists, since the individuals who engage in these activities do so willingly, despite the societal consequences of the behaviors, or the communal opprobrium attached to them. Despite the Puritan roots of the New England scene, smoking and gambling (and even the world's oldest profession) enjoy their place in the public square.

They have also faced (or embraced) state lawmakers’ attempts to regulate (or frustrate) their practice.

Pay up to light up

Let's talk about smoking.

Granted, this habit is not illegal, yet skirting the excise taxes on the product is a crime, and New England has some of the highest cigarette taxes in the United States. Massachusetts has the dubious distinction (or dysfunction) of the second highest in the country, going from $2.51 per pack to $3.51 in 2013.

Why raise the tax, you may ask?

Raise more revenue, and charge individuals for doing damage to their bodies, since with every chain smoker there is a never-ending chain of healthcare costs. The range of cancers which afflict smokers alone should discourage people from lighting up in the first place. Besides, smokers will not quit easily, and at least the state can take advantage of this sure source of revenue. Yet these financial forces to curb or change behavior never work. Whether they acknowledge it or not, the progressive powers that be in the Bay State (spiriting up the sentiments of their Puritan ancestors) insist on ignoring the bankrupt folly of human nature to change itself, at least by force.

Unintended consequences

Simply put, whenever Mommy, Daddy, or Big Brother Big Government says “No!” to any negative behavior or habit, one can rest assured that the very prohibition will transform into a more irresistible seduction. “Just Say No!” in the 1980s was a no-go then, just as the Prohibition Movement not only failed to drive down liquor sales, but actually fermented organized crime and corruption.

What have been the results of the cigarette taxes taking more? Never letting a crisis go to waste, Massachusetts’s Illegal Tobacco Commission discovered that the commonwealth was missing out on hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenue. Of course, besides the black market, there is “Smoke For Less and Die” New Hampshire and its much lower excise tax.

Breitbart also reported earlier this week that high taxes have created a lower, deeper black market for tobacco products. Focusing primarily on Highest Cig Tax New York, Mike Flynn revealed the obvious: people will find the best way to get the best product for the lesser price, even if it means breaking the law to do so. Based on results from a study by the RTI international non-profit research group, these cigarette taxes disproportionately hurt the poor and working class users, yet the same researchers suggested a “track and trace” program to wipe out the black market.

Instead of more government oversight, Beacon Hill should repeal the rising cigarette tax in a cloud of smoke, just as the pushed away the computer cloud levies last year.

Now about casinos...

Whether rolling the dice, counting the cards, or tipping your hand for the better team, gambling has gained a greater respectability, in spite of the connections with organized crime and higher levels of traffic/deviance associated with casinos. How did Worcesterites feel about a new gaming house in their city? GoLocal reported that they endorsed casino expansion in a non-binding referendum. But where are the casinos today? The city and the builders could not reach agreements on where to build and what benefits the casinos would ultimately bestow. Critics further alleged that Worcester gambling would have catered primarily to locals instead of bringing in national and international tourism. Most of all, activists opposed to the casinos brought up the long-term detriments resulting from gambling establishments, including the harm to local businesses catering to residents, who would have less discretionary income to spend.

In other words: sounded like a good gamble, but no one counted the chips before they were played.

Earlier this week, The New York Times (all the news that fits) assessed the grand government schemes of Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick and his Democratic card players, who had bet that more casinos would mean more jobs, tourism, and revenue. Two years ago, Beacon Hill headed the beckoning call of casinos, since Connecticut and even Rhode Island were enjoying tourist profits from their gaming. Like all government schemes, Massachusetts's casino plan sounded good in discussion, it looked good on paper, yet it came to no good in practice. “Let’s play the slots!” residents declared, “But not in my backyard!”

Conflicts of interest turned up between the Chairman of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission and Corporate leaders of selected gaming conglomerates. MGM and Wynn sought locales with higher socioeconomic metrics, yet residents in those same target regions more often resist casinos. The Mashpee Wampanoag tribe gained federal approval for casinos on their land, yet the future of gaming in Massachusetts may end with a 2014 voter-approved repeal.

Whatever one’s views, victimless crimes create more headaches for those who choose to indulge, yet only get worse when government gets involved.

 

Arthur Christopher Schaper is a teacher-turned-writer on topics both timeless and timely; political, cultural, and eternal. A life-long Southern California resident, Arthur currently lives in Torrance. Follow him on Twitter @ArthurCSchaper, reach him at [email protected], and read more at Schaper's Corner and As He Is, So Are We Ministries.

 

Related Slideshow: 13 Biggest Blunders of 2013

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#13

Pat's Towing

As GoLocalWorcester unveiled in 2012, Pat's Towing has been a lightning rod for controversy.  Between losing their AAA and City contracts... they still found their names in the complaint box.
 
But there’s thing one Pat’s Towing in Worcester never has trouble finding: controversy.
 
The Shrewsbury Street service center is back in the news after angry customer contacted GoLocal Worcester.
 
On Sunday night, Natasha Cormier had gone to pick her son up from a rehearsal at the Hanover Theater. Cormier, a single mother from Shrewsbury, has recently suffered medical troubles that have left her unable to walk anything but short, level distances. She had made the fateful decision to park in the lot of downtown’s Bancroft Commons, ten feet from the Hanover, for “less than ten minutes.” In that short time, her car was towed. But that’s just where her troubles began.
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#12

Daily Voice Closes

One of the new models for media that launched in Central Massachusetts is gone. http://www.golocalworcester.com/news/daily-voice-shutters-11-central-ma-local-news-sites/">The Daily Voice, the had raised over $18 million, but in March they closed their Central Mass sites, and in May filed for bankruptcy protection.
 
Visitors to many of the 11 Daily Voice local news sites in Central Mass were greeted with a new pop-up window this week, one thanking them for reading and their support and informing them that their communities will no longer be covered, at least not by the Daily Voice.
 
On the homepage of the company's central website, the column under the heading "Massachusetts" is now empty.
 
As of Monday morning, the Daily Voice sites for Auburn, Grafton, Leicester, Millbury, Milford, Northbridge, Northborough, Shrewsbury, Southborough, Upton and Westborough are no more.
 
According to one now-former Daily Voice reporter who asked to remain anonymous, he and six other reporters, one editor and three sales people only learned of the decision to close the Massachusetts sites during their weekly meeting on Monday morning, at which a couple representatives from the company's headquarters.
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#11

Rush Gaming 

Rush Gaming hired former city council members, a high-priced Boston PR-firm and rolled out glossy pictures of their proposed facility in Worcester. But the style over substance plan fell flat.
 
As GoLocalWorcester reported:
 
In the latest twist in the proposed slot parlor, the developer - Rush Gaming from Chicago, Illinois - has withdrawn its $240 million proposal.
 
Late today, Rush Gaming through its local affiliate Mass Gaming & Entertainment issued a joint announcement with the City of Worcester.
The proposal had been controversial from the beginning and faced a number of hurdles. The project on the positive side may have generated millions in construction, new revenue for the City of Worcester, and was claimed to potentially produce thousands of new jobs.
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#10

Joe Petty and the Bomber's Body

In one of the biggest embarrassments for the City of Worcester, the body of bomber #1 was taken from Boston and de facto dumped at a funeral home in Worcester. Worcester's Mayor Joe Petty was MIA on the issue and Worcester became the center of the world for new film crews for nearly a week.
 
The episode undid a decade of positive work in promoting tourism. It might have been a good idea for the Mayor to have told the Governor to take the body some where else.  Hard to believe Tom Menino allowing a the invert to have taken place.
 
Worcester Police announced Thursday that the body of Tamerlan Tsarnaev has been taken from the city -- and has been "entombed."
 
Tsarnaev's body had been at the Graham Putnam and Mahoney Funeral Home since May 3.
Police said that as a result of their public plea for assistance Wednesday, someone came forward with a burial site, that has not beed indentified.  
 
Statement on Worcester Police Department Facebook Page:
 
UPDATE: After The Chief's Public Appeal For A Resolution The Body Of Marathon Bombing Suspect Has Been Moved From Worcester And Entombed
As a result of our public appeal for help, a courageous and compassionate individual came forward to provide the assistance needed to properly bury the deceased. His body is no longer in the City of Worcester and is now entombed.
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#9

Missing Councilman

 
When GoLocalWorcester reported on the attendance of the Worcester City Council, one City Councilman stood out for missing nearly one-third of all the votes.
 
 
Worcester City Councilor Michael J. Germain was absent for 9 of 59 City Council meetings and missed more than 30% of the roll call votes since January 2012, an examination of the city's records show.
 
Germain, a retired insurance executive and head hockey coach at St. Peter-Marian Central Catholic High School in Worcester, was the most absent member of the City Council by a considerable factor, having missed 303 out of 941 roll call votes, according to agendas posted online by the city. In addition to missing 9 of the 59 meetings of the latest Council term beginning January, 2012 (up to June 18, 2013), Germain was also tardy for 12 additional meetings.
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#8

Bishop Drunk Driving

 
The Bishop of Worcester made a mistake by drinking and driving in Rhode Island, but he made his biggest blunder when he plead innocent when first charged. Ultimately, he plead out and lost his license for 6 months and paid $900 in court fees.
 
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#7

Drug Paraphernalia

 
Chief Gary Gemme has been under fire for the crime problem in Worcester, and sadly it took a local business man to bring it to the public's attention regarding a local gas station that is selling crack pipes and heroine bags. A bit of a blunder by Gemme.
 
 
A Worcester resident is calling for a boycott of SRK Mart Gas, accusing the Cambridge St. station of openly selling drug paraphernalia.
 
Sam Rosario, the owner of a local construction company, called for action after going public with photos he had taken at the gas station’s walk-up window, which displayed unmarked baggies containing glass vials and scouring pads. All of these items are scotch-taped to the front window at eye level, which Rosario describes as “crack pipes, heroine [sic] bags” and “coke spoons.” Beneath a separate photo of the gas station itself, posted on Rosario’s Facebook profile, a caption reads “Boycott this store!!”
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#6

Gomez and the Klan

Gabriel Gomez ran for the U.S. Senate seat as the Republican candidate seeking John Kerry's vacant seat. 

He travelled across the state seeking the support of moderate and conservatives members of his party.

Just a few days ago, he lashed out at two prominent conservative, grassroots organizers with a vicious attack.  It linked them to the Klu Klux Klan.

After numerous media inquiries, he issued an apology.  Both the attack and the apology were posted to Facebook.

As reported:

 

Former Republican candidate for U.S. Senate Gabriel Gomez attacked two prominent GOP activists on Facebook.
Gomez wrote a blistering attack on Rob Eno of the influential blog RedMassGroup and Worcester GOP official Chris Pinto.
 
Gomez alludes that they are involved with the Klu Klux Klan and "are an embarrassment to our civil society."
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#5

Cronut is a dosant by any other name

 
One of the biggest blunders started in New York City, but the roots to the blunder are right straight out of Central MA. 
 
The perpetrator of this blunder is no Worcesterite, but a self-proclaimed food innovator, Chef Dominique Ansel of SoHo. The New Yorker has claimed to invent, create and father the all so popular cronut. However, Ansel forgot one thing – it all started with a nice, smart young baker in Central MA.
 
 
In case you haven't heard, New York City has been buzzing about the latest dessert craze to hit the streets -- cronuts.
 
The croissant-donut hybrid has been wildly popular, with throngs of New Yorkers flocking to to SoHo baker Dominique Ansel’s eatery for the flaky fried concoction.
 
However, what many New Yorkers might not know -- but many Worcesterites already do -- is that Chef Alina Eisenhauer of Sweet has been making them for years as "dosants," stemming from a fateful night when she decided to toss leftover croissant dough into a deep fryer.
 
With Ansel currently embroiled in controversy trying to trademark the cronut creationn, GoLocal talked with Eisenhauer about how she came up with the idea, what she thinks of the NYC phenomenon, and how it's not even the favorite thing she makes.
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#4

Telegram – the paper no one seems to want

 
In August, it was reported that John Henry, owner of the Boston Red Sox had purchased the Boston Globe from the New York Times Company for $70 million dollars. In most of the reports, buried at the bottom of the article was a footnote that as part of the deal Henry also bought the Worcester Telegram, a direct mail program and half-ownership in the Metro.  
 
For months, Henry made no statement about the Telegram and never visited the paper, until one fateful late November day when Henry finally visited the paper to announce he was selling it.  One visit and done.
 
As GoLocalWorcester’s Pulitzer Prize winning reporter Dean Starkman wrote in his column:
 
That didn’t take long.
 
The Telegram & Gazette, a wallflower among New England newspapers that has suffered years of benign neglect by distant owners, seemed poised for a revival, after John Henry scooped it up as part of his landmark deal to buy the Boston Globe.
 
Now a month later, he’s putting it on the block.
In remarks to the newsroom, reported in that same Telegram & Gazette, Henry says he wants to sell to local ownership, if possible, and that if he can’t find a local buyer, he’ll keep the paper.
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#3

Crime – the Worcester black eye

 
Far and away, no issue raises the concerns of Worcester residents and businesses more than the crime problem in the city.
 
The combination of bad trends, a lot of personal property losses, and more importantly, violent crimes raise the concerns of citizens across Worcester.
 
Infuriating residents is the laissez-faire approach demonstrated by some City officials and Police Chief Gary Gemme.  The Chief seems oblivious to the issues.
 
 
The recent release of the FBI’s 2012 crime statistics would seem to confirm at least some local fears, or at least, keep the issue fresh on the minds of residents. They continue to show Worcester as a city where crime remains above national and state averages. Worcester ranks 7th in Massachusetts for violent crimes.
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#2

Worcester’s Own Weiner

 
John Fresolo, a low level Democratic State Rep from Worcester, made a name for himself with his Anthony Weiner impression.
 
 
Anthony Weiner became the butt of jokes across America not once, but twice, when the then-Congressman and then-mayoral candidate for NY was unveiled each time for tweeting pictures of his privates to young women that were not his wife.
 
Fresolo was brought before the House Ethics Committee and ultimately resigned his seat.
 
At least Fresolo, unlike Weiner, did not try to run for Mayor.
 
As GoLocalWorcester reported:
 
Massachusetts House Speaker Robert DeLeo has launched an investigation by the House Ethics Committee into "serious allegations" against a state representative, and sources have told GoLocalWorcester that the lawmaker in question is Worcester's own Rep. John Fresolo.
 
A statement released this week by DeLeo's office did not identify the legislator under investigation or the allegations against him or her, but two sources with knowledge of the situation, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that the allegations are against Fresolo and have to do with sexually explicit pictures of himself he loaded onto a State House computer. Both sources said the allegations originated from a female State House employee.
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#1

Health Code Regulators

 
Nothing was more disconcerting in 2013 for GoLocal's reporters and editors than the response by the Massachusetts’s Executive Office of Health and Human Services’ Public Affairs office when trying to help readers get critical information about the health conditions and safety of area restaurants. Reports of food-borne illnesses that were tied to food poisoning, reports linking improper food preparation with reported illnesses and deaths and annual reports from the municipalities relating to inspections that area required to be recorded per state law were not properly filed.
 
 
The staff at the Executive Office of Health and Human Services Public Affairs office could not have been less responsive. Refusing to answer phone call, missing deadlines of FOIA requests and in general not being aware of basic recording statutes.
 
Here is what GoLocalWorcester reported:
 
If you are looking for public information about health inspections in the Commonwealth don’t contact the Massachusetts’s Executive Office of Health and Human Services’ Public Affairs office.
 
State law requires the Executive Office’s public affairs group led by Alex Loftus to be the keeper of the information, but GoLocal editors and reporters repeated efforts to secure copies of basic reports in a timely manner proved futile.
 
 

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