Don’t miss the new episode of VICE on HBO, tonight at 11!
Who’s Getting Rich Off the Prison-Industrial Complex?
You likely already know how overcrowded and abusive the US prison system is, and you probably are also aware that the US has more people in prison than even China or Russia. In this age of privatization, of course, it’s also not surprising that many of the detention centers are not actually operated by the government, but by for-profit companies. So clearly, some people are making lots and lots of money off the booming business of keeping human beings in cages.
But who are these people?
Using NASDAQ data, I looked through the long list of investors in Corrections Corporation of America andGEO Group, the two biggest corporations that operate detention centers in the US, to find out who was cashing in the most on prisons. When we say “prison-industrial complex,” this is who we’re talking about.
The individual who’s invested the most in private prisons is Henri Wedell, who started serving on CCA’s board of directors in 2000, when the company was struggling with scandals related to prisoner abuse and mismanagement. He now owns more than 650,000 shares in the company, which is far more successful these days. Those shares are worth more than $25 million.
I called Wedell to ask him what it was like to make a fortune from the incarceration of others, and whether it bothered him to profit off a system that puts more people in prison than any other country in the world.
“America is the freest country in the world,” he told me. “America allows more freedom than any other country in the world, much more than Russia and a whole lot more than Scandinavia, where they really aren’t free. So offering all this freedom to society, there’ll be a certain number of people, more in this country than elsewhere, who take advantage of that freedom, abuse it, and end up in prison. That happens because we are so free in this country.”
Presumably, when he’s referring to all the freedom Americans have, he’s not including the 80,000 inmates in 60 prisons operated by CCA.
Toronto’s Rob Ford, the World’s Greatest Mayor, Smokes Crack
There came a point on Thursday afternoon—after learning that Toronto mayor Rob Ford had taken some time off from an important city-council meeting to wander around a parking lot sticking “Rob Ford” magnets to cars—that I figured it would be time to update you about the ongoing saga that is Robbie’s intoxicated reign over the Kingdom of Toronto. Way back when, before the already infamous crack-cocaine scandal of May 2013, the magnet controversy of 24 hours earlier didn’t seem so important. That is, of course, until Gawker broke the story that some guy, somewhere, has a video of King Robbie smoking crack from a glass pipe. And the footage is for sale. Until someone buys it, you can always watch the Taiwanese CGI reenactment.
Gawker—who have decided that this is not an “alleged” or “supposed” crack-smoking incident, given that they’ve got a graphic that reads “Toronto Mayor Rob Ford Smokes Crack” on their homepage—have caused a major firestorm for King Robbie the First in the City of Toronto. The Toronto Star, an ungrateful and petulant organization that is hell-bent on taking down the mayor, has viewed the tape “three times” but was clearly too cheap to buy it and stream it for the royal subjects of the Rob Ford empire. Plus, according to them, they saw this video on May 3. Why keep all this crack-smoking mayhem a secret? And what kind of incompetent blackmail-video salesman is behind this controversy? How can you mess up on monetizing such a golden piece of footage? One must assume they’re ready to let it go at fire-sale prices right now.
The Company Helping Movie Studios Sue You for Illegal Downloading Has Been Using Images Without Permission
As you may already know, Voltage Pictures, the company responsible for the movie The Hurt Locker, (as well as a million movies you’ve never heard of) is currently in court, attempting to get an Ontario-based internet service provider to release the names associated with over 1000 IP addresses that they claim belong to people who illegally downloaded their copyrighted material.
These IP addresses were gathered by an extraordinarily douchey company called Canipre, the only antipiracy enforcement firm currently offering services in Canada.
Canipre, as a company, offers to track down people who are illegally downloading copyrighted material from record companies and film studios. According to their website, they have issued more than 3,500,000 takedown notices, and their work has led to multimillion dollar damages awards, injunctions, seizure of assets, and even incarceration.
But it’s not like Canipre is doing this just to get rich. In a recent interview, Canipre’s managing director Barry Logan explained that it’s about much more than just money—he’s hoping to teach the Canadian public a moral lesson:
”[We want to] change social attitudes toward downloading. Many people know it is illegal but they continue to do it… Our collective goal is not to sue everybody… but to change the sense of entitlement that people have, regarding Internet-based theft of property.”
Here is a screenshot of the front page of the Canipre website as it appeared when I visited it this morning.
The image you see in the background is this self portrait, by Steve Houk.
I contacted Steve and asked if they had sought permission to use the picture. Steve said, “No. In no way have I authorized or licensed this image to anyone in any way.”
So, just to be clear: Canipre has written “they all know it’s wrong and they’re still doing it.” Referring to copyright theft. On top of an image that they are using without the permission of the copyright holder. On their official website.
What does “winning” the war in Afghanistan look like? It’s not good.
International Cyber Thieves Stole $40 Million from a Bank in 10 Hours
In December 2012, and again in February of this year, a couple of highly coordinated cyberattacks targeted two Middle Eastern banks—Oman’s Bank of Muscat and the United Arab Emirates’ Bank of Ras Al Khaimah—in a $45-million heist that evidently surprised the shit out of authorities and “impressed” cybercrime expertsworldwide. It was only announced late last week that the heist occurred, and it’s believed that operations in 27 countries led to the grand total of $45 million stolen. That said, arrests have only been made in the United States (one of the suspects was caught with an iPhone full of cash-filled selfies) and Germany—which is extra crazy because the authorities believe the ringleaders were working outside of the United States. So, where are the rest of these digital bank robbers and their ringleaders?
To make matters even more intense, news broke on Saturday morning that the man believed to be leading the American wing of this global-bank-robbing scheme was executed in the Dominican Republic in late April. It doesn’t take a massive stretch of the imagination to conclude that someone is trying to prevent the information that was swirling around in that man’s head—i.e., how these cyberbank robbers were able to steal so much money from the banking system, without causing any alarms that would freeze the tampered accounts they were using—from being spilled out into the hands of the authorities. When his body was found, there was $100,000 of cash in his residence, along with an assault rifle, telescopic sight, and three pistols.According to Reuters, the American operation alone, allegedly led by this dead man, netted $2.4 million in stolen cash, taken from over 3,000 ATMs, within ten hours. This part of the story alone can now be referred to simply as the second-largest bank robbery in New York’s history.
Interview with a Mexican Coke Dealer
Julián is a coke dealer. He’s 44. He’s been working Mexico City for two decades. He agreed to take us on a ride-along as he worked. The phone never stopped ringing, not for a minute.
VICE: You couldn’t see us yesterday because you had a really important poker game. How was it?
Julián: Great, man. I won. We split the pot. I got 1,000 pesos. It was relaxed. There was a tournament today, but I won’t be going.
Do you have contacts with the police or politicians?
Of course, with the AFI [Mexican FBI]. Everyone is well connected, and everyone is so full of bullshit—epecially over there in the organized crime and anti-kidnapping units. I take care of the heavyweights from the AFI. They send their bodyguards to me in armored cars and shit.
[At this point, Julián pulls up to a drugstore.]
You buying medicine?
No, just candy for my diabetes. Oh, yeah, I’m diabetic. If you do not complicate your existence, fuck, life is worth shit. I won’t be long, hang in there.
[Ten minutes later we are driving south of Mexico City.]
Julián: Look at that guy [pointing at a trannie]. Shit. It’s a shame he’s got an antenna.
Have you ever gotten a blowjob from one of them when you were really coked up and horny?
With hookers, of course. At my age, I can’t be judged if I do a guy or I don’t.
Cops’ Military Tools Aren’t Just for Catching Terrorists
above: A SWAT tank parked in the Boston Commons on April 16, 2013. Photo via Flickr user Vjeran Pavic
On April 19, a million Bostonians stayed locked down in their homes while 9,000 cops combed the metro area for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the surviving suspect in the marathon bombing. In Watertown, cops went door-to-door and removed homeowners at gunpoint before searching their houses. Tsarnaev was found in that town around 8 PM by the owner of the boat sitting in his backyard that the 19-year-old suspected terrorist had chosen as his hiding place.
The lockdown was something new. Not serial killers, not cop-killing cop Christopher Dorner’s LA rampage, not even 9/11 shut down a city like this. Still, Bostonians seemed fine with staying inside for the most part. Cops found their guy relatively quickly, and the city partied in the streets afterwards. During the manhunt, a tough-looking officer even brought two gallons of milk to a family with young children, serving as a perfect meme to refute any accusations of jackbooted thuggery. Even some normally anti-police libertarians urged restraint in reacting to the manhunt.
What shouldn’t go unmentioned, however, is that while the circumstances were unique, the military muscle displayed by law enforcement is hardly reserved for responding to rare acts of terrorism. Videos from the lockdown—particularly this piece of paranoia-porn, in which a SWAT team orders a family out of their home at gunpoint and one of the officers screams “get away from the window!” at the videographer—either look frightening or grimly necessary, according to your views. But haven’t we seen displays like this before?
Trash-Mouth Cinema Is Alive and Well in a Brazilian Prison
On February 25, 2013, federal police in Caxias do Sul, Brazil, arrested the director Sady Baby and his girlfriend, Patricia, at a routine traffic stop. Sady had been missing since 2008 when police accused him of hiring a minor, who was supposedly his daughter, to play a role in his latest movie, The Director’s Daughter.His arrest was a shock to many, not only because he had been missing for so long, but because there were rumors going around that he had committed suicide by throwing himself from a Uruguay River bridge.
Sady Baby is the stage name of Sady Plauth, the infamous actor and filmmaker who blew up during the decadent boca do lixo [“trash-mouth”] era of Brazilian cinema. The numerous low-budget productions from that time were almost entirely devoted to explicit sex, and Sady was at the forefront. In a twisted way, he represented an expression of Brazil’s deepest feelings. The best way I can describe the mantra of this movement is with a line from one of Sady’s films, Orgy Bus: “Working is for morons. If this country is fucked, then let’s fuck.” His work often pushed the boundaries of sexuality, exploring taboos and controversial subjects like zoophilia, rape, and necrophilia.
When I was around seven, I used to go to Balneario Camboriu in Santa Catarina for summer vacations with my family. Every day, at the edge of the beach, a guy with curly blond hair, a Viking hat, and a G-string thong would get on a megaphone and announce the beginning of an erotic play called Soltando a Franga, which, loosely translated, means “Release the Inhibitions.” Years later I realized that the strange man hosting sexy public theater on the beach was Sady Baby himself.
I wanted to speak to the father of Brazilian smut, so I visited Sady at the Caxias do Sul penitentiary.
Luana Scarlet holds a snake that will be shoved into one of the actors during Sexual Feelings of a Horse.
VICE: The majority of your work was done decades ago, but many of the themes remain taboo today. What’s the creative process surrounding work controversial enough to offend generations of people?
Sady Baby: I watched a lot of movies and always felt like something was missing. I noticed that everyone has a perversion, a fantasy, but they’re ashamed to expose it or talk about it. I started to put that in my work, and it went well. At the time people would stop me in the streets. Some would compliment me and others criticized me, but there has always been an audience for that, you know?
Did you know that you are something of a cult figure in pornography?
I had no idea.
Yes. A journalist in Sao Paulo is writing a book about my career. It will be released next year, but I never cared for any of that. I’m a simple guy. I’ve always respected people. One of the most important things to me is when someone stops me on the street and says, “Hey, I really like your work.”
I read somewhere that Gio Mendes is writing your biography and the title is Every Pussy Has a Price. Is that right?
Yeah, that’s right. But I don’t go anywhere with a title like that.
Sady doing sexy stuff with Marcia Scarpette near a waterfall in the city of Guararema.