I haven't been following this story until now, but I'm actually glad Palfrey, the operator of a Washington, DC escort service, is coming out of the closet. She's also bringing the emperor's clothes with her: there's an incredible amount of hypocrisy in Washington, and Palfrey is going to reveal it. She's going to ruin a lot of lives. But it doesn't have to be this way.
Police officers and district attorneys have wide discretion on who is arrested and prosecuted for crimes. If Ms. Palfrey were operating in, say, San Francisco, it's unlikely she'd be charged. If she operated in France or certain counties in Las Vegas, she wouldn't be. The woman even filed IRS returns, which probably helped along her demise. But as it's illegal not to report illegal income, she was doing the more legal thing, according to our somewhat convoluted senses of what's illegal in this country. And if you had trouble parsing that sentence, it's not because you're stupid.
One of my current fetishes is BlogShares [ B$ for short :) ]. It's a game where one trades shares in a stock market, with blogs as the equivalent of publicly traded corporations. There are other commodities: Idea Commodities ("generated" by blogs); money (BlogShares dollars or "B$"), whuffie ("karma" and "sigma"), and lots of other little details. (By the way, as an independent aside, there is now real whuffie -- read Cory Doctorow's and Joseph Petviashvili's explanations. Way cool.) There are separate discussion fora, help, and a nice online community. There are also "Corporations" (independent of the conceit of blog as corporation). As with any community, some like to break the rules, so there's a BlogShares Securities & Exchange Commission to punish anyone who's a "Cheatypants."
As with most virtual communities, there's spillover into non-virtual life An intermediate case is the QuackTrack index, which is generated by the efforts of B$ players as they categorize blogs or mark them as inactive. Anyone can use QuackTrack to find blogs that get categorized under BlogShares. There's also fun in owning "shares" in some blogs. Some of you readers may find that I own shares in your blog; if you join and claim your blog, you get 1000 shares that are reserved for the owner, as well as B$500.00 to get you started. You may also be gifted with additional goodies by nice people (I was). Also, if you're a friend of mine and I own shares in one of your blogs, I'll give you half of what I own in it. :) It's free, but if you give them $15/year, you get to trade more, and get access to some extra, new features. You can even gamble (ok, not really, but you can throw away your hard-earned chips).
So my impetus for this post, besides chips from referrals, is more non-virtual spillover: there now seems to be a real value for chips (I think there have always been people who will pay money for game items, but this linking is more easily delineated). The B$ folks are trying to raise $6k for a new database box (they raise additional money by selling ads and the like). The fundraising effort seemed stalled. So, a player has started a game corporation that will give you 1000 chips if you give a real dollar to the database server fund via PayPal. There's also a market for trading chips and B$ currency; last I checked was when I sold 1000 chips to someone for B$5,000,000.00 per chip, but the price floats. Anyway, I guess that means $1 US ~= B$5,000,000,000.00. :) I'm kinda broke right now in real life, but I gave the fundraising game corporation about 1.6 billion B$ and 305 chips, which hopefully will translate to at least a pitiful 60 cents, or about .01% of what they need. :)