Saturday, August 25, 2007

Gangs and Gambling

August 25, 2007, 10:30, 11:30 a.m.; August 26, 2007, 6:45 a.m.

Cribbing from the Crips? -- Facebook and Gang Signs

Thursday (August 23) I commented about the UI athletes' Facebook saga. Nicholas Johnson, "What Do Abu Ghraib and Athletes' Facebooks Have in Common?" in "Abu Ghraib, Rumsfeld, and Athletes' Facebook Photos," August 23, 2007.

Not only do athletes' Facebook entries include pictures with cash and alcohol, they also display their passion for good literature by presenting "favorite quotes," such as, "She can't say no if her mouth is taped shut."

But hand signs?

I'm pretty compulsive about reading the comments attached to these blog entries. They help to keep me honest, provide advice, and offer useful data and alternative points of view. From time to time I remind blog readers that some of the best stuff here is in the comments rather than the blog entries.

And this really turned out to be the case with that Facebook blog entry of mine -- though I didn't catch it myself. The comment read in its entirety,

Anonymous said...

Yeah, many of the college students drink. However, you have to examine the photos carefully to see what's going on.

Look at what the hands are doing. Look at the colors worn. You tell me if you see the same thing I see.

If the hand gestures and colors worn mean something, then this isn't normal student activity.
8/23/2007 03:58:00 PM
So, "colors"? "Hand gestures"? I was late with other obligations. I didn't follow up.

But a friend did, and here's what she referred me to:

New Jersey Office of the Attorney General, Juvenile Justice Commission, Gang Management Unit, Gang Awareness Guide: Recognize the Signs

Ask Images, "Crip Gang Hand Signs"

Harald Otto Schweizer, CSU-Fresno, Global Criminal Justice Links, "Gang Signs"
We're talking about what may be athletes' use of hand signals from the "Crips" gang. If you're not familiar with it, and its long-running battles with the "Bloods," here's what the New Jersey Attorney General's manual has to say:

Originally from Los Angeles, the Crips are an organization of aggressive and brutal gang members who are heavily involved in the drug trade. Throughout the 1980’s and 1990’s the Crips developed intricate networks and a respected reputation with other gangs across America. Crip gangs are well established across the United States.
Acknowledging that I know little to nothing about gangs, let alone their signs, let me reveal at the outset my uninformed guess that probably the UI football team does not have card-carrying members of the Crips gang on its roster. On the other hand, I am no more capable of proving that to be true than I am of proving the opposite; nor do I have the responsibility of a coach or athletic director for knowing it to be true.

Because I am personally aware of the consequences of the human capacity for rushing to, and expressing, defamatory conclusions on the basis of inadequate information, let me make sure to put the qualifiers on all this.

1. Gangs borrow colors and signs from other institutions. One gang, the Latin Kings, has black and gold as its colors, after all. If wearing black and gold was enough to make you a member of the Latin Kings there would be an awful lot of Iowa members on some Saturday fall afternoons in Iowa City. (Could that be why the Hawkeye athletic program is so popular in some quarters?) Another (not believed to have religious origins) uses a variation on the Star of David. One of the Crips' signs used by one of the athletes in a Facebook photo is a hand position also used in yoga. (Hey, how many friends do you have, like my source, who are experts in both gang signs and yoga postures?) Maybe our football coach is one of those coaches who are using yoga these days with various athletes, and that's where our football players got it.

2. Gangs change their signs from time to time -- usually just after adults have figured out what they are. This is, after all, a communications system designed to exclude us. Who knows if the Internet sources are accurate and up to date?

3. Non-gang members sometimes use gang signs to be cool, or funny. It's a matter of posing. Rappers use gang signs. The football players were probably just joking.

Following the uploading of this blog entry, there was another comment from Anonymous (my guess: probably the same Anonymous who put me on to this hand sign business in the first place) with sufficient additional detail -- and consistent with the online references linked above -- that I believe it warrants reproducing here:
Anonymous said...

Great of you to follow up the comments.

In those Hawkeye football pics, there are several gang signs.

The wrist watch may be gang related. The triangle on the face is a blood sign (dog).

The hand signs included 'E' (East Coast Bloods), the sign for Brim (a Blood gang), and and in the photo with all 3 players, Douglas is giving an obvious 'BL' (Bloods for Life).

The colors are significant too. Bowman wears red (not for NASCAR but for Blood). He wears a red bandana too.

Note the 'B' (Boston hat) B for Blood.

Further, the group called themselves the City Boys Inc. A drug dealing Detroit gang was called the Young Boys Inc. The Hawk players are from Detroit, probably a link there too.

Obviously these guys are not Bloods, but it is a bit disturbing.
8/25/2007 07:18:00 PM
My thanks to Anonymous for bringing all of this to my attention, that of other blog readers -- and any University administrators who might like to pursue this matter before a possible worst case scenario actually hits the mainstream media.

Betting on the Hawkeyes

When yesterday's Press-Citizen arrived it had stuck to the front of it one of those irritating advertising stickers. Why irritating? (1) Because page one ought to be reserved for news. There's no shortage of space for advertising inside. (2) Because it's not only a distraction, it also covers up whatever happens to be under the place it's arbitrarily affixed. (3) Once you remove it, with the underlying print stuck to its back it is, like a wad of chewing gum or pitch from a pine tree in the hand, not easy to dispose of.

Anyhow, yesterday's advertising sticker carried with it a bit of news. It read, in its entirety:

Park and Ride
Stop driving yourself crazy
with gameday parking!
Riverside Casino & Golf Resort to Kinnick Stadium!
Park & Ride starts the first home game of the season.
Round trip $10 for hotel guests, $20 for all others.
Call for time of departure - Toll Free 877.677.3456
RIVERSIDE
CASINO & GOLF RESORT
So, the partnership -- between the UI athletic program and the organized gambling industry -- continues.

Last year it involved advertising the gambling casino on the scoreboard, and a real deal for high rollers: flying them to the casino, putting them up in the hotel, transportation to and from the games, football tickets, seats in the skybox the casino bought from the UI -- where, of course, alcohol can be served -- and a return trip to gamble away whatever money they have left after, presumably, gambling on the outcome of the game. Never mind that what they are expected to leave behind at the casino is multiples of the cost of any services they receive.

This year's offer is, apparently, a joint marketing effort to increase ticket sales while extending gambling's allure to those failing to qualify as high rollers -- so long as they'll pay for the bus ride. (Though why anyone who could park within a couple blocks of the stadium for $20 or less would think it a bargain to drive, and be driven, some 60 miles or more of round trips for the same price is not immediately apparent.)

Morality, Money and Enthusiasm for the "Gambling Tax"

Both The Gazette and the Press-Citizen have had major stories about the gambling casino's first year. Gregg Hennigan, "The House is Winning; Riverside Casino Exceeds Expectations in its First Year," The Gazette, August 24, 2007, p. A1; Rachel Gallegos, "Riverside Casino: One Year Later; Win, Loss or Draw?; Residents Undecided About Casino's Effect on Area," Iowa City Press-Citizen, August 25, 2007, p. A1.

As regular readers of this blog have long since figured out, I'm not a big fan of gambling. Indeed, while I've often spent time observing the behavior of those in casinos (I was at Riverside last week) I've never left a nickel of my own behind.

My position would emphasize such things as that gambling (except, of course, for bingo) is opposed by most major religions. It was for years a federal crime, and outlawed in most of the 50 states including Iowa. Its externalities impose enormous social negatives on the communities where it is found. They include increases in domestic disturbances, alcoholism, crime, suicide, and bankruptcies. There are correlations between the number of casinos (how far a gambler needs to drive) and the numbers of problem, and addicted, gamblers; there's been a significant increase in gamblers seeking counseling since the Riverside Gambling Casino opened. There are also the direct economic costs of providing roads, water and sewer systems, and additional police (as in Riverside). I believe that position to be logically, internally consistent.

However, I will concede that the opposite is also logically, internally consistent. It would go something like this: archaeologists have demonstrated that humans have been gambling for thousands of years. While once illegal, it is no longer -- at least not for licensed casinos in Iowa. The law was changed by democratically elected representatives of a majority of the citizens who were no more subjected to campaign contributions and bribes than they are for any other legislation involving enormous economic stakes. While there are gambling addicts, they have treatment programs available. No one is compelled to enter a casino. Gambling, when engaged in for fun, with money one can afford to lose, is an individual citizen's voluntary marketplace decision regarding the expenditure of discretionary income spent for a form of entertainment. That kind of gambling does no (direct) harm to anyone. Why not permit it? (I may not hold this view, but it is at least internally logically consistent.)

Another often-overlooked advantage of gambling is its relation to prayer. As has been observed, "As long as there are algebra tests there will always be prayer in schools." It turns out that as the Powerball drawing for this evening has now reached $300 million, more and more potential players are turning to prayer as well as Powerball to assure their future. Adam Belz, "Millions of Reasons to Play -- and Pray," The Gazette, August 25, 2007, p. B1. I am sure that selecting the proper winner is a matter of great interest to God, whoever she may be, and that -- now that Mother Teresa has been revealed to have questioned her faith -- this will be the Lord's way of picking up a replacement adherent.

It is the third position that I find internally illogical and questionable. It is, "I am opposed to gambling because of all the harm it does to society and the costs it imposes. But because the casino makes little grants to various local projects and organizations I guess it's OK."

That's like saying, "Yes, I know that the sugared soft drinks in our high schools' vending machines contribute to our students obesity, diabetes, teeth and gum disease, but, gee, how else would we have been able to get the money to buy that wonderful scoreboard for the football field?" Or, "It would be disgraceful, and detract from the credibility of our professors' research, to name a college after a corporation. On the other hand, if the corporation would pay enough money, well, that would be different because, after all, 'revenue is needed.'"

In a society in which everything is for sale I guess I find it disturbing that ethics and morality are also on the auction block.

Another inconsistency I find is with those who fight "tax increases" tooth and nail and yet are even enthusiastic about what I call the "gambling tax." Why the "gambling tax"? Because citizens are bringing billions of dollars into Iowa's casinos, much of which stays there, and the community is getting back less than 10% of their losses in the form of these little community grants -- grants that contribute to the kinds of projects our tax dollars normally go to fund.

Whatever you may say about income, property, sales and FICA taxes, all of them (aside from what's paid out in corporate welfare and forfeited in TIFs) goes to government, its projects, and the employees necessary to carry them out. Most of the "gambling" tax goes to the organized gambling industry; only a little trickles down to the community.

It's kind of like "public financing of campaigns." We already have it. The public buys products at prices sufficiently inflated to cover the manufacturers' multi-million-dollar campaign "contributions," and then the corporation gets the credit for the money paid to the elected official. The pay back? Between 1000-to-one and 2000-to-one. Contribute a million dollars, you'll get back a billion dollars in the form of tax breaks, failure to enforce the antitrust laws, price supports, defense contracts, subsidies, access to public lands for oil or timber, earmarks, and in any other form the imagination of lobbyists can devise. Bottom line: We could have "public financing" because each of us contributes $2 into a campaign fund, or we could have "public financing" because each of us contributes an extra $2000 to the corporations we buy from -- following which they will pass along the $2 of our money and keep the rest. In either case it's "public financed campaigns."

Here again, there is another view about the "gambling tax" which I only came upon after writing this blog entry. I found it as a comment following the Press-Citizen's story about the Riverside casino this morning:

"Lotteries are how the poor people pay their share of the taxes." . . . At least you have a choice of paying a "volunteer tax." I have no choice in paying property tax, income tax, all the taxes on utilities and phone bills, and a host of other taxes imposed on citizens every day. . . . [A]t least when you gamble, you eventually see where some of that tax money is being spent, (Riverside) and you have fun while gambling.
So there you have it, as another blogger -- a very, very wealthy blogger -- puts it: "Fair and balanced. You decide."

# # #

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Great of you to follow up the comments.

In those Hawkeye football pics, there are several gang signs.

The wrist watch may be gang related. The triangle on the face is a blood sign (dog).

The hand signs included 'E' (East Coast Bloods), the sign for Brim (a Blood gang), and and in the photo with all 3 players, Douglas is giving an obvious 'BL' (Bloods for Life).

The colors are significant too. Bowman wears red (not for NASCAR but for Blood). He wears a red bandana too.

Note the 'B' (Boston hat) B for Blood.

Further, the group called themselves the City Boys Inc. A drug dealing Detroit gang was called the Young Boys Inc. The Hawk players are from Detroit, probably a link there too.

Obviously these guys are not Bloods, but it is a bit disturbing.

ankur said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Nick said...

FYI: This blog runs an open comments section. All comments related to blog entries have (so far) remained posted, regardless of how critical. Although I would prefer that those posting comments identify themselves, anonymous comments are also accepted.

The only limitation is that advertising posing as comments will be removed. That was why some of the comments posted here, containing links to gambling businesses, have been deleted. -- Nick

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