Dispatches from the Creation Wars

Frist Officially Off the Deep End

I didn’t think i could get any angrier about the Republicans’ zeal to ban internet gambling; I was wrong. Now Bill Frist is trying to get that ban passed as part of a defense authorization bill so that it can’t be voted against:

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist is trying use a bill authorizing U.S. military operations, including in Iraq and Afghanistan, to prohibit people from using credit cards to settle Internet gambling debts.

Frist, R-Tenn., and his aides have been meeting with other lawmakers and officials in both the House and Senate to get the measure attached to a compromise Defense Department authorization bill, according to a Senate GOP leadership aide.


Mind you, he’s trying to attach this to a conference bill. When the House and the Senate pass different versions of the same bill, there’s a conference committee that meets to reconcile the two versions of the bill and come up with a compromise final version. In this case, neither of the versions passed by either chamber said anything at all about internet gambling (because, obviously, it’s a military authorization bill). Neither chamber voted for this. This is as sneaky and underhanded as politics gets.

He is trying to take away the rights of millions of Americans, and he doesn’t even have the balls to do it out in the open and accept the political consequences of it. If an anonymous Senate aide hadn’t blown the whistle, we would never have found out about it until after it was signed into law. All the more reason to pass the Read the Bills Act and require that the public be made aware of every single provision in the law before it gets voted on. And all the more reason to target the reelection campaigns of every single legislator that allows this to happen.

Comments

  1. #1 kehrsam
    September 14, 2006

    The Conference Report must be voted on in both chambers. And as “legislating in an Appropriations bill” is contrary to the rules (as well as logic; you authorize programs before funding them), there will exist a Point of Order against the gambling provision. Here’s where it will get interesting.

    The House will probably include a specific waiver to the PoO in the Rule for consideration of the Appropriations bill. Contact your local representative to vote against the Rule if it does so. If a PoO is upheld, then the language is stripped out of the bill.

    I never worked on the Senate side, so I’m not sure about their rules for this tye of PoO. Historically, it has been much harder to slip this sort of thing through the Senate, but with the Majority Leader as the Cheerleader-in-chief….

  2. #2 Treban
    September 14, 2006

    Are you implying he wasn’t off the deap end with his video diagnosis of Terry Schiavo? That alone should have put him over – even officialy. Frist is an absolute nut and I think he’s made that quite apparent already.

    That said this is absolutely appalling – even for this GOP.

  3. #3 steve s
    September 14, 2006

    Can you imagine the power the Read the Bills Act would give us? Given the thousands of law geeks out there?

  4. #4 Jeff Hebert
    September 14, 2006

    Kehrsam said:

    I never worked on the Senate side, so I’m not sure about their rules for this tye of PoO.

    I believe the Senate is well-versed in handling all kinds of poo, since they wade hip-deep in it year-round.

  5. #5 Ick of the East
    September 14, 2006

    Gosh Frist, you might tackle the problem at home first:

    http://www.tnlottery.com/

    That is, if you weren’t a slimy hypocrite.
    .

  6. #6 James Taylor
    September 14, 2006

    Frist makes me ashamed to be Tennessean.

  7. #7 Ramsey Wilson
    September 14, 2006

    Ed wrote:

    In this case, neither of the versions passed by either chamber said anything at all about internet gambling (because, obviously, it’s a military authorization bill). Neither chamber voted for this.

    While your overall, reasonable criticism of Frist’s tactics still stands, the House did pass a more “sweeping” bill in July by a vote of 317-93.

  8. #8 Salvador T. Cordova
    September 14, 2006

    Ed,

    I confess I’m a bit ambivalent to the internet issue, but I would tend to not want the government involved in any more regulation of what consenting parties agree to.

    The only time I like government involvement is to keep the games honest. I can tell you in brick and mortar casinos its comforting to know a government agency is keeping the casinos relatively honest (Gaming Control Commission). I recall at one blackjack table, the dealer would not touch the cards unless a customer was present as demonstration of casino transparency in transactions….

    But out of sincere curiosity, are there any measure of public opinion on the issue?

    1. against gambling
    2. against gambling but against governement regulation

    Or something like that. The only time I’d welcome government regulation is to keep the games honest.

    In Frist’s home state (Tennessee) there are lots of road signs advertising Mississipi casiono’s like Tunica.

    Is it really such a big election issue that Frist wants to get involved? I can’t tell. Lot’s of my familiy in Memphis Tennesee are church goers, vote for Frist and go down to Tunica MS to gamble periodically.

    Another thing is why sneak the Bill in? If one is lobbying for votes, even if the Bill fails, one has made a very public stand on a hot button issue.

    In sum, I just don’t get it. Perhaps for Frist there is:

    1. a strong anti-Gambling constituency in his state
    2. campaign money from brick and mortar casinos
    3. both 1 and 2

    I have attend a fairly large conservative evangelical church in Northern Virginia. I remember the pastor using a the WSOP as an example in his sermon. He was watching ESPN WSOP with eagerness. “In poker there is a time to go ‘all in’, that’s what we Christians ought to do in proclaiming Christ.”

    He mentioned to me privately some of the couples in his ministry had some private poker games. He seemed to delight in WSOP much like a football game…

    All this to say, I’m not convinced gaming is such a big taboo in our culture that politicians would rush to make it a big issue. I could of course be wrong, but on the scale of cultural issues, gaming does not rank anywhere near the alarm that the evangelical community might have over seeing a homosexual atheist in public office. Now that would freak them out. No kidding!

    Salvador

  9. #9 Ed Brayton
    September 14, 2006

    Sal wrote:

    The only time I like government involvement is to keep the games honest. I can tell you in brick and mortar casinos its comforting to know a government agency is keeping the casinos relatively honest (Gaming Control Commission).

    The problem is that this type of regulation forbids the kind of regulation you support (and I do too). If they would make it explicitly legal, then they could regulate it and players would be better protected.

  10. #10 Rich
    September 14, 2006

    Sal – Nice to see you on here.

  11. #11 James Taylor
    September 14, 2006

    Holy smokes Sal, I had no idea you had Memphis roots. You are correct in your assessment of local behaviors.

    Memphis had a chance to open up a river boat gambling operation, but nixed the local referendum. That is what bore Tunica in the first place. Had Memphians voted the other way, the Tunica casinos would not exist and millions of state tax dollars would not be given to Mississippi but to Tennessee instead. Our local constituency was very short sighted and as a result, it sends portions of its paychecks to Mississippi instead of investing in Tennessee. I do understand the sentiments that were raised during the referendums, but I think that the benefit would have far outweighed the cost. Considering in TN we do not have a state income tax and our schools are failing because we cannot fund them, an instate casino would have been far wiser to accept than to push much of our economy out of town. This once again highlights the difference in opinions the evangelicals hold verses the rest of us. They mounted a huge campaign to kill the referendum because they considered it an unmittigated sin to host a casino rather than engage in a cost benefit discussion about the local and statewide impact. The whole debate was messy. Of course, after Tunica grew up and started leeching vast monies away from our local community, the same people gave support to a state lottery.

  12. #12 James Taylor
    September 14, 2006

    Oh and our heath-care system is bankrupt too.

  13. #13 SLC
    September 14, 2006

    Actually, Frist is not running for reelection to the Senate. He is concentrating on a 2008 presidential run.

  14. #14 Keanus
    September 14, 2006

    If I remember correctly, Frist’s move on Internet gambling is at the behest of state lotteries who figure on losing lots of players to Internet gambling sites (where regulated or not, the odds are better for the players) unless they can get the Feds to block that move somehow. In other words, like most things political, the move has nothing to do with morals and everything to do with money. It’s just like Mississippi’s one time dry status in which each county sheriff controlled the supply of liquor and took a huge rake off. Remember in politics, hypocrisy is usually the first and best explanation. Sort of like a corollary of Occam’s Razor.

  15. #15 Salvador T. Cordova
    September 14, 2006

    In other words, like most things political, the move has nothing to do with morals and everything to do with money.

    Whoa!!!! I didn’t think of that. Heck, in light of that, lot’s of Tennesseens would probably have issue with Frist if he didn’t do something to protect the interest of state money.

    Of course, no politician in his right mind would publicly campaign that it’s to protect state lottery money. Noooo sir. They’d have to give it a veneer of some good excuse like “internet gambling ruins people’s lives”. That sounds so much more palatable.

    Salvador

  16. #16 Keanus
    September 14, 2006

    This is one point on which I can agree with Sal.

  17. #17 Salvador T. Cordova
    September 14, 2006

    Thanks Rich!

    James,

    Holy smokes Sal, I had no idea you had Memphis roots. You are correct in your assessment of local behaviors.

    Yep. My sister married some guy from Muskegon Michigan and they moved to Germantown where he worked for FedEx. Another relative is coupled with with a former Blackjack dealer from Sault Ste. Marie Michigan in Memphis.

    When I drive from Virginia to visit family, you can count on me being in Tunica too. :-)

    The food is really good in those casinos. I like the catfish at Fitzgeralds and the buffets at Sheraton and Grand Casino. Hollywood is really cool.

    I haven’t been at the Grand since May, I think of that beautiful place often, and I may visit in November. It’s nice to be able to play craps and blackjack for $3. In Atlantic City (near where I live) table minimums are $50 on Saturday night. A bit too rich for my blood.

    And if I may confess a little here, I’d hate to see these beautiful places go because of internet competition. I would bet every casino employee might get admonished to write their congressmen on the ills of internet gambling. lol!

    Sal

  18. #18 James Allen
    September 14, 2006

    Keanus,
    You’re absolutely right. The ban on Internet gambling has nothing to do with morality. It is all about protecting state lotteries and racetracks

  19. #19 Prup aka Jim Benton
    September 15, 2006

    Ed: The comment you made:
    “If they would make it explicitly legal, then they could regulate it”
    is true about ALL ‘vices as crimes.’ It is particularly important in drug matters, since almost all ‘drug-related crime’ comes from the fact that if you are a drug user, you can’t arrest a dealer for swindling you, if you are a drug dealer, you can’t call the cops to arrest and prosecute someone who robbed you, and if you are a robber, you know you won’t get busted by the cops for robbing a dealer. Throw in the increase in prices because of the increased risk of illegality — how many crimes are committed to get money to buy the equally addictive alcohol? (some yes, but not very many)

  20. #20 Ed Brayton
    September 15, 2006

    Prup-

    You don’t need to convince me. I’m for legalizing all “consensual crimes”.

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