Archive for Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Kansas law aimed at gang crime signed

April 16, 2013


TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas prosecutors are receiving a new measure aimed at curbing gang activities by targeting higher-level individuals in the gangs.

Gov. Sam Brownback on Tuesday signed the Kansas Racketeering Influenced and Criminal Organization Act. It's patterned after similar federal RICO statutes aimed at organized crime.

Sen. Mike Peterson, a Wichita Republican, says the law gives law enforcement agencies and prosecutors the ability to target heads of gangs and charge them with criminal activities.

The law amends several definitions in state laws regarding who could be charged with crimes such as soliciting or coercing others to do illegal acts, human trafficking, drug distribution or extortion.

The law also changes criteria for determining which individuals who might be in criminal street gangs, including whom a person associates with and location.


Stuart Evans 1 year, 11 months ago

How many laws will need to be enacted to deal with the fallout created by our backwards drug laws? Gangs are a direct result of prohibition; legalize drugs, and gangs & cartels will fold. Additionally, we wouldn't need Sam's brand new pee law either.

Anthony Mall 1 year, 11 months ago

With your logic why have laws at all?? No cops, no govt, just your theory that the legalization of drugs will somehow stop gang activity...

jhawkinsf 1 year, 11 months ago

"legalize drugs, and gangs & cartels will fold." No, they will exist for the purposes of prostitution, gambling, extortion, etc. Of course, we could simply legalize those things, too. Opium parlors, with prostitutes and gambling, right next door to schools and parks. What could go wrong?

jafs 1 year, 11 months ago

We can legalize them, but still not have them next to schools and parks, through zoning regulations.

Then, all of those choices people make would be legal, and we could save an immense amount of money on enforcement.

In fact, we could tax it all, and make a pretty penny in taxes.

I think any consensual adult activity should be legal - what's the rationale for making some of them illegal?

jhawkinsf 1 year, 11 months ago

The rationale for making them illegal is that ultimately, we will pick up the costs. Unless you're willing to go all the way with your proposals. Let adults use drugs, and if they become addicted, screw 'em. When they become unemployed and homeless, screw 'em. When they become diseased, screw 'em. When they die in the streets, screw 'em. The same with prostitutes and gamblers.

It's the same rationale as seat belts and helmets. As long as it increases the risk that we as a society will wind up picking up the tab for those behaviors, then we as a society have a right to regulate or even criminalize those behaviors.

Are you willing to go all the way, Jafs? Are you willing to let people have both the right and responsibilities of their actions? Are you willing to let them and them only accept the consequences of their free choices?

jafs 1 year, 11 months ago

Well, then why are cigarettes and alcohol legal?

Or junk food?

Or having sex without condoms?


I am generally willing to let people make their own choices, and deal with the consequences of them. But I would also offer help to those wanting to make better choices, if that's hard to do.

Financially speaking, I think we'd wind up ahead to legalize everything, tax it, and then offer help to those that want it to quit various self-destructive habits. You know that folks in jail get free health care, paid for by us, right?

What to do about health care associated with drug addiction, prostitution, etc. isn't clear to me, but if they were legal, we could regulate them, and prevent some of the worst issues. That's what other countries do where prostitution is legal (and, I believe Nevada as well).

This way, we have the problem, the associated problems of gangs, crime and violence, the costs of catching, trying and incarcerating them, providing health care in jail, etc. all of which would vanish if the activities were legal. And, we have no revenue.

Did we spend more on alcohol related problems before or after Prohibition? I don't know the answer.

If legal, we would save all of the money we're spending on criminal justice issues, housing/health care in jails, etc. and we'd have tax revenue as well, to use on helpful programs if we wanted to do that.

The rationale for seat belt laws, for me, is that not using them puts others at risk. Helmet laws are different, and I'm not sure I support those. People have a right, in a free society, to make choices that are risky for themselves, in my view.

Your comment that we pick up the costs is odd - we're spending immense amounts of money on the "War on Drugs" now, and have been for some time. This choice isn't free for us.

jhawkinsf 1 year, 11 months ago

Because we as a society have said we're willing to live with those costs. The principle is the same. "WE" get to decide which costs we're willing to absorb and which ones we're not. "WE" get to decide what level of risk we're willing to assume. Whether that means Missouri thinks the risk of an un-helmeted motorcycle rider is too high while Kansas thinks otherwise, that just shows that different people can honestly disagree.

How about this for a compromise? We legalize drugs such as heroin, but in exchange, compel the user to purchase an insurance policy that would pay the true costs to society should that person become unable to support himself. That policy would be a several million dollar policy, as a guess and would cost the user a few hundred thousands of dollars to get. But then the costs would be borne by the user and society would then have no compelling reason to object to the use of those drugs.

Of course, that's a silly compromise, because no one would actually purchase such a policy. Rather than breaking drug laws, they would simply break laws requiring insurance and society would then again be on the hook for the true costs.

You didn't answer the question, Jafs, are you willing to go all the way and force them to accept the natural consequences of their actions?

Stuart Evans 1 year, 11 months ago

WE the people, in many states are saying that marijuana laws should be addressed, and are taking that initiative to clean up this mess that is leftover from prohibition. Yet, the US government wants to keep it under their thumb. Once you realize that the laws aren't about public safety or health, but are about political points and financial gain, then you'll finally see the rationale of ending prohibition forever. WE the people deserve to make our own choices.

jhawkinsf 1 year, 11 months ago

As I said, I have no problem with you making your own choices as long as you are willing to suffer the consequences. But as long as we have a system where the consequences of your decisions are then imposed on me, then it is appropriate for me to voice my concerns. And those concerns might include a prohibition. If you really want my voice silenced when it comes to your actions, then don't impose the consequences of your actions on me.

Stuart Evans 1 year, 11 months ago

I think that the facts of the matter will show that illicit drug use is far less dangerous than you're being led to believe. You should be far more concerned with legal pharmaceuticals, and the way those companies push their product on to society. Our children are stoned on Ritalin, and their mothers are stoned on Xanax, meanwhile dad is drunk, and everyone is addicted to caffeine. But our time is better spent worrying about the cost of a few heroin overdoses on society...

jhawkinsf 1 year, 11 months ago

When I began my reply, only the first sentence of your comment came up (maybe you edited it thereafter), so my response might not be exactly on topic.

So we save in criminal justice but spend on an expanded FDA. We save in law enforcement but spend on an expanded ATF (making sure all those taxes are paid). Or will that be the IRS? Either way, I'm not sure the savings will be there.

I really don't care that much which way we go. Just don't half-$ss it. Legalize it and let them suffer the consequences of their actions or criminalize it with us paying for that decision. But I would be opposed to a legalization with us then also picking up the tab for their decisions.

jafs 1 year, 11 months ago

But that's what we've got now, with alcohol, cigarettes, the other activities I've mentioned, and more.

Seems to me that if we take your view, we should make a lot more stuff illegal.

There's no reason to allow some, and disallow other activities which are risky or self destructive, if we're paying for the consequences.

You don't have to "force" people to accept "natural" consequences, you just have to allow them to do so. And, yes, I like those, because I think they're incentives to change one's behavior and make better decisions.

But, I'm not as punitive and judgmental as you seem to be - I don't want people to suffer.

jhawkinsf 1 year, 11 months ago

I might think we should make a lot more stuff illegal. Or we could go the other way and make a lot more stuff legal. There are plusses and minuses with both. That said, I realize I'm in a minority when it comes to this and I'm willing to live with the compromises we as a society have made. However, should we make a decision to move away from that which we've already decided, then I'd be in favor of moving either one way or the other. But not towards a system that allows more freedoms while simultaneously protecting people from the negative consequences of their actions at our expense.

jafs 1 year, 11 months ago

Other benefits to legalization are that we create a lot of new jobs, in the production, manufacturing, distribution and sale of drugs.

Also, there's the unmeasurable but certainly beneficial outcome of reducing gang violence, including the death of innocent bystanders.

Seems pretty clear to me that legalization has a better outcome, overall, including both financial and other considerations. That's why we repealed Prohibition.

jhawkinsf 1 year, 11 months ago

Cigarettes cost, what, $7.00/pack, I'm guessing. There is already a black market to avoid the taxes imposed on this legal product. Alcohol also. And of course, the true cost is nowhere near addressed in those taxes. If you legalize drugs and tax them at what their true costs are to society, including loss of productivity, health care related costs, driving accidents, etc. and assuming increased use of what will then be a legal product, and there is no reason to believe that a black market won't try to circumvent those costs. In fact, given that there is already an infrastructure that already does exactly that, I'd expect that black market to thrive.

I was listening to NPR yesterday and they said that 1.6% of on-line purchases have the appropriate taxes paid on them with fully 98.4% not paying taxes. Cheating on taxes has become America's favorite pastime. Over half of American's cheat on their income taxes (estimated). And your solution is to legalize drugs and tax them. As if there is any reason in the world to believe that that will be a successful strategy. I suspect a far more likely outcome will be an increase in usage once the stigma of "illegal" is removed while society winds up paying the costs anyway. So once we remove the taxes paying for whatever, treatment, education, treatment, more treatment, more treatment ... and we're left with what? More users. And instead of incarcerating people for drugs, we'll incarcerate the very same people for tax evasion.

jafs 1 year, 11 months ago

Well, I wouldn't tax them so much that we'd create that black market, which is definitely a concern.

You don't see a black market with alcohol, right? Instead, you see all of the benefits I've described.

We don't have to try to estimate the losses you mention and tax things high enough to cover all of them, because we're not paying for all of those with taxes.

And, you ignore all of the other benefits I've mentioned, like the increase in jobs, and the decrease in gang violence and associated loss of life.

Fundamentally, what we should have learned from Prohibition, but seem to have failed to learn is that making something like alcohol (or cigarettes, or other drugs) illegal doesn't stop people from using them, it just creates a lot of other problems to go along with that use.

Ironic, somehow, that you would use bad behavior regarding taxes as a reason to keep this stuff illegal. Instead of incarcerating people for tax evasion, we should simply fine them, and recover the money lost.

Incarceration, in my view, should be reserved for violent offenders.

jhawkinsf 1 year, 11 months ago

So we're going to have drug companies making meth, crack and heroin, and the FDA overseeing the process to guarantee quality, a system of distribution, then add taxes to pay for things like treatment and all this will be done in a way that is cost effective enough that a black market won't emerge. And if a black market does emerge to avoid all these costs, we won't punish them criminally, just fine them, with the creation of a whole new governmental bureaucracy to enforce these fines. This would be the same government that already fails to collect 98.6% of taxes owed on internet sales and currently has no enforcement mechanism.

I see a small fly in the ointment that is your plan.

jafs 1 year, 11 months ago

Just like alcohol - seems to work fine for that, I'd say. No black market, and all of the benefits I've suggested.

You mentioned tax evasion - fining those folks and recovering the money is far better than putting people in jail at our expense.

Where's the black market for alcohol and the associated criminality?

I know you're very cynical, but I don't share your views. If you want to believe that no improvement is possible, go ahead. But, you'll never convince me of that.

webmocker 1 year, 11 months ago

How thin can the column get in a reply to a reply to a reply . . . ?

Stuart Evans 1 year, 11 months ago

you do know that there are ways to regulate prostitution and gambling, right? Sure, legalizing drugs won't end all crime, but it will knock the profitability out of the business. Street crime is a direct result of prohibition. No black market, no associated criminal element; it really is that simple.

jhawkinsf 1 year, 11 months ago

Legalizing drugs will send the message that it's OK to use those drugs. If you're talking about a little weed, as is suggested in your name, that's one thing. If you're talking about heroin, crack and meth, then you'll be trading street crime for health care costs that will skyrocket. There will be lost productivity. And if you try to regulate it and tax it, people will simply break those laws (welcome back, gangs and street crime). The lives lost because people will be doing more will be more lives lost than are already destroyed, whether that's by way of drug abuse, incarceration, or street violence. Bottom line is this, trading one huge set of problems for another huge set of problems is not the same as solving that first set of problems.

Stuart Evans 1 year, 11 months ago

Heroin, crack & meth are definitely terrible drugs, and highly destructive when abused. But all of those drugs, or synthesized versions of them, are widely used in today's medicine. Additionally, these street versions are widely available, even with the draconian drug laws we have in place. So if massive criminalization of the American people hasn't worked to curb use, then maybe we should approach with a different tact for a while.
Now, just because something is legal, doesn't mean that everyone will run right out and get some; Cigarettes and chewing tobacco are both completely legal, and I want nothing to do with either. Further, studies show that in countries where the laws are more relaxed, drugs don't have the same allure to young people.
In the United States, all of the deaths from meth, cocaine, heroin, acid, ecstasy, and any other illegal substance you can imagine, come nowhere close to the havoc caused by the legal substances alcohol and tobacco.
The biggest set of problems this country faces from illegal drugs, is the judicial system, and the destruction it brings to every life it comes in contact with.

jafs 1 year, 11 months ago

Show me how that has happened with alcohol.

It's legal, regulated and taxed - we don't have a black market or associated criminality. We don't have people dying in the streets from gang shootings about alcohol. If there are health problems for people who abuse alcohol, that's unfortunate, but it's far better than innocent bystanders getting shot in drive by shootings.

I think you're confused about what the "problem" is here - in my view, people using drugs isn't the problem to be solved. The problem is the associated issues because they're illegal. This all happened before, with Prohibition.

jhawkinsf 1 year, 11 months ago

Several points. First, the taxes imposed on cigarettes and alcohol no where near addresses the true costs to society, most notably health care and loss of productivity. The same is true for other industries, such as industries that pollute. We as a society have made the decision that the true costs will be spread amongst us all, through other taxes. Imagine the response if we enacted policies where pollution would increase. Imagine if we enacted policies that would increase smoking or alcohol use. Those policy changes would increase the burden we all pay. And there is no doubt we would question the wisdom of enacting such policies.

I am of the opinion that with legalization of drugs like heroin, meth, crack, etc., there will be an increase in usage. With that increase will come increased health care costs. With that increase will come a decrease in productivity. And given that any tax imposed will likely not be able to cover the true costs of that, in fact any tax imposed won't come anywhere near covering the true costs, those costs will be passed on to the rest of us.

Jafs, to continue a thought on the thread that just got too thin, you say it is better to fine those who avoid taxes than to imprison them. I agree, in theory. Of course, there is no mechanism in place to enforce those fines, so as in the example I gave, 98.4% simply don't pay the tax nor are they fined. Perhaps we could expand the scope of the IRS to do that, but that would be at a substantial cost. So while your suggestion that we simply tax to cover the costs sounds good, right now, it's just not working.

The end result of your suggestions, and those of AreUNorml, are that there would be a decrease in the costs of the war on drugs and an increase in health care costs. Less people would be in jails and more in hospitals or treatment facilities. Less people dead as a result of gang activity and more dead from overdoses. That's a solution?

jafs 1 year, 11 months ago

Well, we'd have to look at some numbers, to see what the actual costs of health care that we're paying for with taxes are. And, "loss of productivity" doesn't really bother me that much. If an employee can't do their job, their employer can fire them.

Unless you think everybody's going to become hard core drug addicts, I don't think it's much of an issue.

We have enacted those policies, if your hunch is right, by legalizing both cigarettes and alcohol.

Taxes would involve all sorts, not just a tax on the sale of drugs - they would include all of the associated taxes on those in the production, distribution, as well as sale. So all of the new employees and businesses would be taxed - it would probably add up to quite a bit. And, we'd have all of those new jobs - don't we need jobs?

Well, yes, in order to enforce laws, by whatever means, we need to have adequate enforcement - that's true whether we put people in jail or fine them. I'd rather pay for enforcement of fines for non-payment of taxes than jail time.

Yes, all of that would be better - I'd rather have people in treatment facilities and hospitals than in jails. And, overdoses would be less of a problem, just as is true with alcohol, with regulation. It depends on what you think the problem is. Personally, if even one innocent bystander dies in a drive by shooting, it's too many for me. If people suffer because of their own choices, that's very different.

jhawkinsf 1 year, 11 months ago

Jafs, you consistently fail to take the next logical step. Loss of productivity doesn't bother you too much because an employer just fires them. Then what? Take the next step. Unemployment, welfare, training, treatment, subsidized housing or homelessness, a significant increase in the social safety net, crime, incarceration. Loss of productivity doesn't just end with one employer firing one employee. It leads to all sorts of things that are going to cost society a great deal of money. There goes the money you think you're saving by incarcerating people.

Do I think "everybody's" going to become a drug addict, certainly not. But I do think there will be an increase. Even if it's as small as 1%-2%, that's a lot. And not just in dollars and cents. But in lives ruined and families ruined. I'm not suggesting that isn't happening now with the failed war on drugs. I just don't think your proposals are any better.

If we increased the ability of government to enforce the tax laws, and increased education, and treatment and did all these things you so frequently propose and balance the budget as you again frequently propose, we may as well just send our entire paychecks to the government. And we'll do this because the war on drugs costs too much?

Jobs? Big pharma making meth, crack and heroin. With FDA oversight to ensure quality. We already have that with drugs that wind up on the black market being abused. Heck, big pharmaceutical companies might love your proposal since they make a fortune on what is already being done. This will be an opportunity to greatly expand their market. Another non-solution, if you ask me.

jafs 1 year, 11 months ago

Well, as I've often mentioned, I prefer programs to help people, rather than punishing them. So, I'd rather spend the money on treatment programs than jails, even if it's the same amount.

You're welcome to disagree with that - you seem to have a more punitive approach.

If you really believe everything you say about this, then you should be strenuously arguing for making cigarettes and alcohol illegal, since they have all of the effects you dislike. Why aren't you?

Could be big pharma, or we could have a lot of smaller businesses competing. As with wine, beer and harder liquor. We have a wide variety of producers, from small family businesses to large corporate ones. Why do you think big pharma would corner the market?

But, let's assume you're right - that's still a lot of jobs we don't have now, with all of those employees paying FICA, income taxes, etc. as well as the businesses paying some of those.

Balancing the budget is a challenge, but you're exaggerating beyond belief there. There's a bit of evidence showing that treatment programs for drugs are actually cheaper than incarceration. Are we spending more on alcohol related issues now than during Prohibition (adjusted for population size)?

If one sold drugs as we sell alcohol and cigarettes, there wouldn't be a "black market" - that occurs because it's illegal for certain drugs to be sold to certain people. I'm not sure why that's the case, actually. And, don't you think that we're better off with those drugs being legal and regulated than we'd be if they weren't?

We do need enforcement, and so we need politicians who want the government to do their job, rather than ones that don't - another reason to vote D. Government only works as well as those in it work, so we want people appointed to the FDA who will exercise appropriate oversight.

And, I'd regulate big pharma much more than we currently do, of course.

By the way, if you think that our current situation isn't great, what's your idea for an improvement?

jhawkinsf 1 year, 11 months ago

Another thing you're failing to see is that the most likely outcome of treatment is relapse. Yes, Jafs, the overwhelming majority of those who enter treatment relapse. If you listen to experts in the field and you believe in the disease model, they're written relapse into the disease. What they are saying is that they can't predict who will benefit from treatment and who will not. Typically, those who relapse will do so repeatedly. Imagine now if I wrote out a long sentence beginning with loss of productivity, loss of job, then all those things I mentioned above, then included relapse and then I repeated that sentence ten times. You'd certainly get tired of reading it. Well, I'm tired of paying for it, especially when I have to balance payments for education which I strongly agree with, payments for the social safety net, which I am only moderately in favor of, infrastructure, military, health care and on and on. Something's gotta give and maybe it's ten trips to rehab. That's not punitive, that reality. Would you decrease funding for schools for ten trips to rehab? Reduce infrastructure? Increase taxes for ten trips to rehab?

All of your proposals, Jafs, all of them, here and elsewhere, calls for bigger and bigger government. Fine. Where's the money coming from?

As far as alcohol and tobacco goes, I wouldn't mind at all if they were outlawed. But I know I'm in a minority there, so I'm not willing to hit my head against a wall. That said, I'd be more than fine if smokers and drinkers were charge much, much more in insurance to cover the true costs for their care. These one size fits all proposals for health care in the end will mean my insurance will be higher than need be to compensate for other people's poor choices. I've said repeatedly, if you don't want me sticking my nose in your business, stop sticking your hand in my wallet.

jafs 1 year, 11 months ago

And, if we put them in jail, then the most likely result is recidivism, especially if you're right about relapsing. When they get out and relapse, we'll catch, try and jail them again. And, in the meantime, we have all of the associated problems related to the illegality of drugs.

Either way, we're paying - you'd just rather pay for jail than treatment, I guess.

I'd say the costs of treatment are less than the costs of catching, trying and incarcerating them over and over again, so we'd save money my way. But we'd lose the satisfaction many get from punishing people - my guess is you don't want to give that up.

It's not at all true that all of my proposals call for bigger government - I'd shrink the defense department quite a bit, and also re-structure Medicare and SS, by means testing. So both of those reduce the size and spending of government.

But, you're not strongly advocating for it, as you should be, if you really believe what you say. That makes me question whether or not you really believe what you say, or whether you're just playing devil's advocate, or some other conversational game.

How about junk food? Let's outlaw that - we know it's not good for people, and we have an obesity epidemic in this country, along with all of the associated health care and other costs you mention. We could put you out of business, as a self professed "burger joint" owner.

I think outlawing things is entirely the wrong way to go - that should be clear. Education about health issues should be provided (perhaps by the seller of unhealthy things), and people should be free to make decisions (which means they may make bad ones). I think that your decision to work 80 hours a week isn't the healthiest or best decision, but it would never occur to me to make it illegal.

I agree about the one size fits all health insurance policies - I don't like them either. Partly for the reason you have, but also because higher health insurance costs would be a "natural consequence" that might incentivize people to make better choices.

You've said that you don't care that much about money, but almost all of your analysis seems to be about financial costs - do you ever analyze things using other criteria? I've mentioned innocent people dying in drive by shootings several times, and you never respond to it. Is that something we can put a numerical value on, that it's worth x dollars to prevent it, or costs us x dollars to allow it?

Tradways 1 year, 11 months ago

This law defines ALEC and the Koch Brothers perfectly. Especially the coercing others to do illegal acts part. Mr. Blowsalot sure has his mouth working overtime lately.

question4u 1 year, 11 months ago

Gang members must be feeling ambivalent about Brownback. On the one hand their leaders can be charged with racketeering, but on the other Brownback did just make it legal for them to carry switchblades.

Ken Lassman 1 year, 11 months ago

Care to take a look at a Chicago High School where the law cracked down on the gangs and locked up the leadership? Don't assume that what follows is going to be any better--in fact in this high school, things got considerably worse. I sincerely hope that this doesn't spread:

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