Posts Tagged ‘Congress’

How to manufacture a controversy

There’s a whole lot of stupid involved with the government shutdown, but the story that just blows me away is the Vitter Amendment and the so-called “special treatment” that Congress is supposedly getting with regards to health insurance. If you want to hear a small part of why we are in the situation we are in, let’s go down the rabbit hole and try to figure this one out…

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Bravely tilting at windmills

There’s hardly much more to be said about the all-too-likely government shutdown, or the possibility of an even more terrifying default on our debt obligations. But even so, I firmly believe it’s a good idea to repeat this as often as possible so everybody understands it: Republicans in Congress are drawing their line in the sand, throwing thousands of government works temporarily out of work and threatening the entire world economy, not over a fiendish Democratic plan to confiscate all guns in the country, or to raise income tax rates to where they were in the 1960s, or to get involved in another costly war, or even a plan by President Obama to become dictator for life. No, they are fighting to the death over a plan to give poor people better access to health insurance.

And they are using the words of real heroes in the most offensive way possible to do it.

Delivering for voters

If Democrats aren’t providing voters with a great message, are they providing voters with something of substance? Good question. It usually helps your reelection chances if you can provide voters with accomplishments that make them want to vote for you again. What’s the Democratic majority’s track record when it comes to niceties that Congress has given voters? It’s not insubstantial, but not great.

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Political Poker

I don’t think President Obama, Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, or other Democratic leaders in Congress are poker players. I think they’d be much better politicians if they were. If they were regular poker players, they’d understand that Obama and Democrats are now “pot-committed”, and folding their hand is the worst mistake they can make. Sadly, early reaction from the election yesterday seems to indicate they are all too willing to get up and walk away, guaranteeing defeat.

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Online poker nonsense

Last week, the Minnesota Alcohol and Gambling Enforcement Division sent letters to 11 ISPs in the state asking them to block access to 200 online gambling website, citing a federal wire transfer law of dubious applicability to the Internet and the state’s ability to force ISPs to take this action. This is a terrible idea in so many ways it’s hard to count.

First, a bit of disclosure: I like playing poker. I’ve played poker both in real live ring games and online. I take issue with online poker being lumped in with other forms of “gambling”. Gambling at a casino means making a bet against the house, which has an edge that varies from the very small to the outrageously huge. There is little, if any, skill involved, and over the long run you are going to lose your money. Poker, on the other hand, does not pit a person against the house and its daunting advantage. Instead, it pits player against player, and the money you win comes directly from other people when you outmaneuver them. It is certainly possible to make a living by playing poker; skill is all that counts, the cards you get evening out for everybody in the long run. Online or in real life, the provider of the poker arena (the online software or the chips, dealer, table, cards, etc. in real life) just get a slice of the action for providing the service.

So if there’s any such thing as a truly “victimless crime”, online poker, where participants willingly win and lose their own money amongst themselves, has to be it. Wasting resources going after this activity seems like a case of misplaced priorities. However, that’s hardly the sole reason this is a bad move. More frightening is the state attempting to get ISPs to block whatever they believe to be “objectionable content” without demonstrating a clear public need for such a block. This proposal came out of the blue with no public input; surely a measure as drastic as blocking access to a large category of websites deserves some debate among the people.

Barney Frank, the Democrat from Massachusetts is proposing that the ban on online gambling be modified to undo the draconian change that was passed into law in 2006 almost completely under the radar (under a Republican Congress, to boot); I think such a change is long overdue. Should online gambling be regulated? Absolutely. But outright bans and witch hunts don’t accomplish much.

Jack Kemp dies

I read today that former Republican Congressman, presidential candidate, and vice-presidential nominee Jack Kemp died today. Although I am certainly no Republican, I did respect him as a person. He was wrong about supply-side economics, but unlike many Republicans today he was genuinely concerned about the plight of the poor and sought to bring everybody in this country into the debate. Instead of marginalizing and attacking groups like immigrants, for example, he sought solutions to the issues surrounding immigration.

With the national Republican party in complete disarray these days, they would be well-advised to take a look at people like Jack Kemp.

Edit: I just found (via Balloon Juice) this letter from Jack Kemp to his grandchildren after the election of Barack Obama. Can you imagine any other Republican in power writing this kind of letter?