Thursday, March 26, 2015

RAWA Science vs. Science Fiction

I wanted to put my two cents in on Wednesday’s RAWA hearing in the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security and Investigations.  Though I missed it live, I read much of the testimony and the write-ups and the fact is that it came off pretty much as I expected.  Not hoped, but expected.

The tone was set when CSIG posted on their Facebook page, “Don't let anyone tell you there is technology that can make our homes safe.”  Of course, that’s not what happened yesterday, as we writers know the real secret to a successful story:

SHOW, don’t tell.  

The tech demo did exactly what CSIG feared it would - SHOW those in attendance exactly how real, live, legal online gambling works.  Really works, not some hypothetical kid in a commercial.

This is something that we in the poker/gaming-advocate world have to accept - there are some (looking at YOU, Chaffetz) that will go with the anecdotal over the proven fact just because it supports what they already believe.  Snowballs disprove Global Warming.  That kind of thinking.  Not deep at all.  On purpose.

Scare tactics (the bane of CSIG and those that fly their banner) work only on those who are ill-informed.  They might shout us down, but they can’t prevent the facts from getting out.  It’s our job to hammer away at those who ARE willing to listen.

We scored some points in the hearing, which is only Round One of what will be a long fight.  We know we’re making progress when CSIG has to warn off their minions not to “listen” to anyone who wants to tell them there’s technology that disproves all of their scary stories.  And now Chaffetz is co-opting the “States Rights” argument for his own use (saying his…er, Sheldon’s bull…er, bill actually protects States’ Rights). 

This is what they do.  They obfuscate and distort the facts. They use old and outdated (and disproved) studies.  They SCARE SCARE SCARE so that folks don’t pay attention to the truth.

Won’t work.

Remain vigilant and keep up the fight.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

The Sound Of Sheldon

This will never win a Grammy for Graham, but it might get him a few more dollars from Adelson
I mentioned in a Facebook post that I was working on this blog post, but the fact is I had to re-write the whole damn thing.  You see, I wanted to emphasize that although we in the poker world know a great deal about the upcoming hearings for HR 707 (RAWA), there’s no info coming from the other side.  Chaffetz has posted nothing on his website or FB page, Graham doesn’t even know HOW, and the Coalition to Stop Online Gambling had not acted, either.  Until today.

Suddenly they had a “contact” page that looks vaguely familiar.  Hell, face it – I think they’ve seen the power of our Daily Action Plans via the PPA and copied it.  In a belated effort to tweet and email the members of the Judiciary Committee before the hearing, they’ve taken a page from our playbook.  I, for one, will be interested to see how many folks participate.  BTW, you can use THEIR page to tweet a message of your own.  You can change their wording slightly to something more palatable. 

Here’s their tweet:
I urge you to support H.R. 707 to protect families like mine. This is about family rights. #stopnetgambling
Here’s mine:
I urge you to oppose H.R. 707. It does NOTHING to protect families like mine. This is about states’ rights. #OKnetgambling

Fun.  Oh, and be advised that some of the Twitter links open Facebook accounts and vise versa.  What, you expected these techno-illiterate clowns to get it right? Also fun is this – I really didn’t want to s***-can the album cover (some of my best work) and when someone mentioned “song parody” earlier today, well…I could hear Mr. Adelson belting out this classic. More slightly switching words, and voila!  Song parody.  Enjoy.

"The Sound Of Sheldon"

Hello Jason, my old friend,
I've come to give you dough again,
Because my vision is creepy,
We’ll try to pass my bill when they are sleepy,
And the money that was handed to your campaign
Still remains
Within my bank of money.

In restless dreams I walked with foes
Passing by the DC ho’s,
'Neath the halo of the street lamps,
I turned my nose up to the public tramps
When my eyes were stabbed by the flash of a modem light
That isn’t right…
It wants my bank of money.

And in the naked light I saw
Ten thousand people, maybe more.
People playing games with a mouse,
People gambling and not losing their house,
People safe and legal with regulation
What consternation!
It could take my bank of money.

"Fools," said I, "You do not know –
Online gambling really blows.
Hear my words that I might teach you.
Believe my lies that I might fool you."
But my words like Lindsey’s emails fell,
Oh hell.
There goes my bank of money.

And the people smiled and played
With the Internet god they made.
And the sign flashed out its warning
In the words that it was forming.
And the sign said, “The words of the prophets are written on PokerStars.”
I’d come this far,

And now I have no money.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015


  From ABC News.  Not Photoshopped.

Yes, it’s about poker.  Bear with me for a few.

I should have never written the previous two posts (about the politics of RAWA) because now I can’t stop thinking about politics in general, and that makes my head hurt.  What makes it hurt even more is the way we discuss the political process, if I even think the word “discuss” means anything like “civil discourse” or “polite dialogue.”

Which, nowadays, it doesn’t.  What transpires for the way we discuss politics is what I call “OUTRAGE DU JOUR.”

It seems we can’t discuss policy, but rather, we must argue over the fine points of some sort of scandal or gossip or outrage that may or may not involve something that may or may not be damaging to something or other that we all stand for.  And here’s the thing – the thing that somebody may or may not have done is a BIG DEAL.  Except when it isn’t.

The big topic for discussion lately has been the former Secretary of State’s emails.  Even though previous Secretaries of State (looking at you, Colin Powell) used the same system.  But it’s a big deal now, because WE WANT TO KNOW WHAT’S IN THOSE EMAILS.  Just like we did in 2007 when more than five million official White House emails were lost.  I remember the OUTRAGE back then…don’t you?

Of course you don’t.  Because there was no outrage.

Remember when we learned that Brian Williams fabricated his war story?  The media was all over it, and even on Facebook, I received at least a dozen different (and funny) pics of Williams “at the scene” – with the Rat Pack, with JFK, with Jesus, with the case of Star Trek, landing on the moon.  Google “Brian Williams lies” and see what you can get.

Now do it with “Bill O’Reilly lies.”  Different, huh?

Is it because we live in times where “reality TV” (which isn’t, really), is so popular?  Is it because our own lives are so mundane?  Is it because network media has to fill 24 hours with something to hold our interest and they think scandal is the only way to do it?
Yes, I'm a member.
Got a problem with that?

I don’t know, but I do know that the OUTRAGE DU JOUR meme is catching.  Here’s the cover of my most recent issue of AARP Bulletin.  Can’t just talk about issue important to seniors – gotta talk about OUTRAGE!  Which brings us to CSIG and Jason Chaffetz, who is leading barker in the House with Sheldon Adelson’s dog of a RAWA bill.

If you follow Jason’s Facebook page, you’ll note he’s not so hot on policy, but loves the OUTRAGE DU JOUR.  His oversight committee is always finding potential scandals – emails, improper payments, email, mismanagement, emails, ISIS, emails, etc.  Actually, many posts are a take from the ol’ CSIG playbook of fear and hypocrisy.

Speaking of which, that brings us to Chaffetz’s business card above.  Note his email.

And speaking of fear and hypocrisy, for the last several weeks we’ve been treated to OUTRAGE DU JOUR from Sheldon and Company about kids and gambling (not at the Sands, but potentially online), potential money laundering while gambling (not in Macau, but potentially online), and the usual crap. 
Latest crap from CSIG

And now, in a new twist, is the threat that a kid could use (somehow) a parent’s or sibling’s account and gamble.  Well, consider this - there is nothing stopping a child from taking Dad's keys and driving the car around the block - so is the answer to ban all cars?  Seriously, combine all this crap with their total lack of technological knowledge and desire to pander to their supporters neuroses, and it’s a wonder we haven’t buried this idea of banning ANYTHING on the Internet (or anything else these jokers come up with) a long time ago.

Lost in all of the OUTRAGE DU JOUR is common sense.  That’s why there is so much OUTRAGE.  These “powers that be” (and wanna be’s) do not want us to use common sense.

Or we would have voted their ass out long ago.

I promise, I will lay off the political rants.  They are bad for my blood pressure.  Thanks for reading.

Monday, March 9, 2015

More Politics of RAWA

Yes, this is the same pic as in yesterday's post.  It still rankles me.

This is kind of the Part One of yesterday's Part Two about Politics and RAWA.  What set me up to discuss the political nature of RAWA at all was the above quote from Andy “right-hand-man” Abboud and a recent story in CQ Roll Call about the scheduled (but never consummated) hearings set for last Thursday.  I normally consider politics in its truest definition:
  • Poly, meaning many, and
  • Ticks, meaning blood-sucking creatures.

I also believe that you judge a person by their deeds, not their words, but I remember what my High School English teacher said to a poorly grammaticalized short story: “Words mean things.”

Let’s start with Abboud’s words above.  They are almost beyond commenting on, so to speak.  Presumptuous, surely.  Insulting to the political process?  Doubly so.  Certainly, as pointed out, it’s not HIS LAW.  He’s paying the freight, but he is no more a lawmaker than I am.  His money is his influence, and that’s what is currently wrong with the political process (well, one thing).  And to immediately cut out a carve out without debate or discussion?  I have another word, and it also begins with the letter “P.”

Of course, to make his word become law requires lawmakers.  What a group he’s picked (and that last word rhymes with the “P” word I was thinking about).  Rep Jason Chaffetz, in his new role as Chairman of the House Oversight Committee, is trying to out Darrell Issa Darrell Issa.  Not a day goes by without Chaffetz foaming at the mouth, finding potential corruption or fighting voter-approved marijuana laws.  He’s been anti-gambling for a long time, so his sponsoring RAWA seems a natural fit.

And yet – in explaining his rationale for CQ Roll Call, he said little about the dangers of gambling.  And much more about his angle.

Chaffetz said in an interview Tuesday he would look to rally support for the bill in the hearing by making the case that the administration exceeded its executive authority, a theme that has resonated with his party's base on a range of other issues including immigration, labor issues and the environment.  "It will be helpful and a necessary part of moving the bill forward," Chaffetz said. 

And sending the bill to the House Judiciary is also a shrewd move, as the Chairman is Robert Goodlatte, author of the 2006 “Internet Gambling Prohibition Act” which was morphed along with another bill to what we know as UIGEA.  What Goodlatte had in his version was “controversial references” to the Wire Act, which were eventually dropped. 
It’s not just this, though.  Something about the "...making the case that the administration exceeded its executive authority" phrase rang a bell with me, and it makes even more sense to put RAWA in Goodlatte’s committee.  Back in June, Goodlatte claimed that “…the Supreme Court has ruled 13 times that Obama exceeded his constitutional authority.”  Of course, Goodlatte was a bit off base with his claim, but that won’t matter here.

What made me laugh (and then get mad) was Chaffetz’s explanation about the need for RAWA:

"If you want to change the law, you have to introduce a bill and go through regular order. You can't just issue a memo and fundamentally change the law," Chaffetz said. He said the memorandum containing the Justice Department ruling "opened up online gaming nationwide with no rules, no anything."  Chaffetz said the hearing would focus on the handling of the online gambling decision by the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel.

Of course, UIGEA was soooooooooo regular order.  And that’s what pisses me off (and worries me again), that the normal way “a bill becomes law” will get circumvented… AGAIN… and we’ll get screwed from our legal right to play poker… AGAIN.

So to repeat from yesterday’s post – it’s obvious that this is political theatre at its best/worst (bloodsucking and all), and that these guys will do ANYTHING to make RAWA the law of the land.  Especially going the UIGEA route – hide, sneak, jam, and run. 

We must be vigilant.

PS – I have yet to discuss Senator Lindsey "Do-as-I-say-not-as-I-email" Graham and his part in this, but until (and unless) he does his part in re-introducing RAWA in the Senate (and I think it’s 50/50 he does), I will save my scorn and ridicule until then.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

The Politics of RAWA

There are so many things wrong with this, it's not funny.  I will have more to say about it
another time, but I want to keep posting it so we never forget exactly who we're fighting...

First, this is not one of those political discussions where I take sides.  Lefty that I am, I realize that neither wing of our current Congress is particularly friendly to poker or gambling, but specific individuals are.  Concurrently, neither side is totally for RAWA or against it, as there are specific individuals with reasons pro or con.

The fact is that, like it or not, RAWA is a political action, and, as such, will go through the political process.  My purpose here is to bring certain issues to light, and, for fun, to discuss some of those issues while comparing HR 707 (Restore America’s Wire Act) to HR 4411 and HR 4777 of 2006 - the Internet Gambling Prohibition and Enforcement Act and the Internet Gambling Prohibition Act (which, as you know, were “blended” together (taking out, ironically, any reference to the original Wire Act) - into the Safe Port Act and came out as UIGEA.  And if you didn’t know, the whole horrid story can be found here.

First – RAWA currently has 14 cosponsors, including three Democrats.  IGPEA of 2006 also had three Dems, but a total of 35 cosponsors, and IGPA had a total of 146 cosponsors.  RAWA, in terms of cosponsorships, is a piker.

Next, RAWA had a scheduled hearing, but “because of a snowstorm” was cancelled.  IGPEA held no hearings, but was “reported by committee” to the House for consideration, as was IGPA.  It was in the House that HR 4411 (IGPEA) became House Resolution 907 for the purpose of…well, hell, read it:

That upon the adoption of this resolution it shall be in order without intervention of any point of order to consider in the House the bill (H.R. 4411) to prevent the use of certain payment instruments, credit cards, and fund transfers for unlawful Internet gambling, and for other purposes. In lieu of the amendments recommended by the Committees on Financial Services and the Judiciary now printed in the bill, the amendment in the nature of a substitute depicted in the Rules Committee Print dated July 5, 2006, shall be considered as adopted. The bill, as amended, shall be considered as read. The previous question shall be considered as ordered on the bill, as amended, and on any further amendment thereto to final passage without intervening motion except: (1) one hour of debate on the bill, as amended, equally divided among and controlled by the chairman and ranking minority member of the Committee on Financial Services and the chairman and ranking minority member of the Committee on the Judiciary; (2) the further amendment printed in the report of the Committee on Rules accompanying this resolution, if offered by Representative Berkley of Nevada or her designee, which shall be in order without intervention of any point of order or demand for division of the question, shall be considered as read, and shall be separately debatable for 20 minutes equally divided and controlled by the proponent and an opponent; and (3) one motion to recommit with or without instructions.

So it came to pass by vote, 313 to 97.  And there it died.  The Senate never took it up, and for all intents and purposes, gambling on the Internet was AOK.  Until the Safe Port Act, and Black Friday, and so on.

Want some more parallels?

James Leach of Iowa was HR 4411’s author.  He’s no longer in the House, but the author of HR 4777 (Leach’s bill but WITH the part about the Wire Act) is Bob Goodlatte…who just so happens to be the Chairman of the House Committee on the Judiciary, the very committee who planned to hear RAWA.

What seems likely to me that, hearing or not (or fair hearing or not), there is a good chance that RAWA will be “reported by committee” to the House for consideration just like in 2006.  From there?  The question is once again if the Senate will take up the ball and run with it.  Lindsey Graham says he will, and he has the “backing” (read: money) of King-maker Sheldon Adelson.  But two issues trouble me here:  one, while passing the House seems likely because of the Republican majority (despite those who recognize that the bill violates “states rights” sovereignty), the Senate is less so (even with Harry “Turncoat” Reid leading the Dems).  Two, Graham got Adelson’s blessing (and cash) for a potential Presidential run in 2016, but recent polls from his own home state of South Carolina show the majority DON’T want him.  How willing will Graham be to go to bat for Shelly when his own political future (outside of staying a Senator) is dim?

No, it is far more likely that if RAWA is to be the law of the land, it will happen the same way that UIGEA came to be.  That is, by sneaking it onto some “must-pass” legislation and calling for another “Midnight Drop” (last-minute rulemaking that binds the hands of an incoming administration). 

Of course, this time, we’ll be watching like a hawk.

Oh, yeah, one more thing – in the “Safe Port” act there is the following at the very end:
Sec 803 (b) - Internet gambling in or through foreign jurisdictions
The Secretary of the Treasury shall submit an annual report to the Congress on any deliberations between the United States and other countries on issues relating to Internet gambling.

Anybody seen that report?  Just askin’ is all.