Dispatches from the Creation Wars

This Must Stop

I am absolutely livid right now. Our Republican overlords last night slipped in a ban on all financial transactions that might be involved in internet gambling into a totally unrelated bill and got it slipped through.

Lawmakers stayed up late as well, making sure to throw our country back into the Dark Ages. It became apparent that Republicans spearheaded by Senator First would stop at nothing to prohibit Internet gambling. In a last ditch desperation move, the Senate majority leader was able to attach legislation to ban online gambling to a Port Security bill that had no correlation whatsoever with online betting. And it was automatically passed in the Senate without even a debate or a formal vote.

And naturally, it exempts those forms of gambling that already help government revenue:

To summarize what was passed, this bill is designed to prevent the use of payment instruments (credit cards, fund transfers, etc.) for certain forms of online gambling that are defined as “unlawful Internet gambling.” The bill requires financial institutions to identify and block payments related to so-called unlawful Internet gambling transactions. If there is a violation, the government may file a lawsuit (known as an injunction) to prevent or restrain the violation. The bill provides a special exemption for three types of Internet gambling: (1) horse racing under the Interstate Horseracing Act (IHA), so OTBs and account wagering systems can remain in business, (2) Indian gambling that takes place on a reservation or between two reservations; and (3) Internet gambling that occurs solely within a state’s own borders, referred to as Intra-state gambling.

Not only is the bill outrageous enough, the fact that it was slipped through attached to a totally unrelated bill makes it infinitely more outrageous. It is time to put a stop to this crap. Our leaders are destroying our rights and not even holding a public debate over it. It destroys all accountability in government. It is time to pass the Read the Bills Act. It’s also time to vote these bastards out of office, every single one of them.

This site reports that online gaming companies are preparing to file suit. In my view, that suit should absolutely succeed. Even if you apply a rational basis test, how can you seriously argue that the government has a legitimate interest in banning online gambling when the very billi that does so explicitly exempts several forms of it? On its face, the bill can’t possibly achieve its goal. It’s like arguing that a law against theft that exempts theft from certain groups from the law could be justified because the government has an interest in stopping theft. If that’s the case, then it should be universal. If theft is wrong, it’s wrong no matter who you steal from.

It also seems to me that because they snuck it through, in teh Senate at least, it undermines an argument for a compelling state interest. There is no legislative history, no findings of fact, no testimony they can cite to justify the bill in court (on the Senate side, at least).

You can see the full text of the bill here. The relevant portion begins on page 213 and is totally unrelated to port security. And here’s the AP report on the bill, which contains this little gem:

Democrats favored the bill, but said it failed to address rail and mass transit, other areas considered highly vulnerable to terrorist attack.

“The terrorist attacks on rail and transit systems in Spain, London and Mumbai (Bombay) should be enough evidence to convince the Republican-led Congress that U.S. rails are dangerously vulnerable,” said Sen. Joe Lieberman, D-Conn.

The bill was slow in reaching the House and Senate floors because lawmakers from both sides sought to attach their own favorite pieces of legislation to the ports measure because of the certainty it would reach the president’s desk.

In the end, the only major add-on was legislation to restrict Internet gambling. Also attached was a measure, pushed by Sen. David Vitter, R-La., to help communities lacking telecommunications infrastructure install sirens and other emergency alert systems…

Democrats, in a letter to House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Peter King, R-N.Y., who headed House-Senate negotiations on the bill, complained they were denied the right to offer amendments to restore rail security language contained in the original Senate bill.

This is how completely insane the Republican leadership is here: they refused to allow an amendment to beef up rail security along with port security, but they attached this totally unrelated amendment to it. And it passed 409-2, only Ed Markey and Jeff Flake voting against it. There was apparently no vote ever taken on the gambling portion itself, only on the overall bill.

And here’s the thing: I don’t for a moment believe that they give a damn about morality or about protecting state tax revenue from competition. This is purely a payoff to the brick and mortar casino interests, who paid the legislature to get rid of the competition. This is where the government acts as the equivalent of mafia hitmen, destroying the competition to protect the profits of their constituents. They pay Jack Abramoff and Ralph Reed millions to get rid of their competition for them. That is not what governments should be doing.

Comments

  1. #1 Left_Wing_Fox
    October 1, 2006

    Ok… what the fuck.

    The US has essentially declared the right of the president to interpret habeas corpus and the Geneva convention as he sees fit, and you’re livid that they snuck in a provision against GAMBLING?

    Meanwhile, the only major scandal that has managed to stick with the GOP hard enough for people on the right to hang their heads in shame is Mark Foley hitting on a 16-year old male page in e-mail.

    The United States is FUCKED. People ignore fundamental blows to our rights and sovereignty: the right to remain secure in our own homes, the right to a fair trial, the right to be secure in our persons, the ability to vote in a democracy. And the most the majority of us can muster is “Oh they couldn’t go THAT far, could they?” We’ve invaded a nation without just cause, abandoned a major city to revel in greed and wallow in blatant racism, raised corruption to an art form, raised eliminationist rhetoric to a more respected position than swearing, and kicked back the rights of every non-straight-white-christian-male in America.

    But mess with our fucking circuses, pal, and you’re DONE!

  2. #2 Ed Brayton
    October 1, 2006

    Perhaps you might read a bit further and note that I’m quite upset about both, not just the gambling ban. And no, the gambling ban is not just messing with our circuses, it’s denying our liberty.

  3. #3 Henry Neufeld
    October 1, 2006

    The US has essentially declared the right of the president to interpret habeas corpus and the Geneva convention as he sees fit, and you’re livid that they snuck in a provision against GAMBLING?

    I would suggest that the process here is more important than the particular issue. The procedure of attaching an amendment to an unrelated bill without debate is one that can and will be used to remove all those other freedoms that you mention.

    We need to work towards honesty in political debate. I don’t mean expecting all the politicians to be honest, but rather that we expect accurately titled bills (and media reports that apply an accurate title even if congress does not), accurately reported contents, legislators who do have to read what they vote on, and so forth.

    All of that is tough to do. An excellent first step would be to make sure that at least one house of congress changes parties. I don’t really like Democrats any more than Republicans. They just differ in how they want to erode our freedom. But keeping one party from control of the entire process will help block some things like this.

  4. #4 Ted
    October 1, 2006

    I agree with Left Wing Fox. The president now has no habeas corpus restrictions. If our news media won’t raise holy hell over that, we truly are fucked. This internet gambling (partial) ban won’t see barely a mention among the mainstream media.

    I completely agree this is outrageous. I can’t think of one public interest there might be to regulate online gambling or any other form of it, other than to enforce fair transactions. But on the list of things to be outraged about, this doesn’t surpass some other things that have been done by congress.

    That’s how far we’ve come. We have to prioritize our list of extremely outrageous government power grabs…

  5. #5 Julia
    October 1, 2006

    While I have no interest in gambling, internet or otherwise, and would really prefer that everyone else felt the same, that isn’t the point here. The ability to tack unrelated items onto important bills is seriously damaging to our country. A requirement to read and publicize each bill really isn’t enough. In our state, it’s required that each bill address a single specific issue only; I think we desperately need a similar requirement on the Federal level.

    There’s no either-or between being angry at the passage of this ban without public discussion and being angry about other issues. The ability to slide by legislation tacked onto a completely separate bill, in this case legislation that may be in part an attempt to reduce competition, is an important enabler of that corruption that Left_Wing_Fox rightly complains of.

  6. #6 Ed Brayton
    October 1, 2006

    The difference is that at least with the military commissions bill, it was done in broad daylight. They debated the issue and took a vote on it. That didn’t happen here. This violation of our liberty was done in secret, with virtually no press coverage at all. There was no vote taken on that provision, nor any debate about it, because Frist knew that if a vote was taken on it, it would fail. You’re damn right I’m outraged by that.

  7. #7 bigTom
    October 1, 2006

    Thanks, LeftWingFox, the threat to our fundamental freedoms is the important one here. Perhaps in less turbulent times we should discuss internet gambling (I’d prefer to restrict it as socialy damaging). Attaching unrelated items onto bills -usually Mom&Pop & Apple Pie bills that would be impossible to vote against, is a time honored -but very dishonest tactic. We should pursue it when(if) calmer times return.

  8. #8 Julia
    October 1, 2006

    Surely our right to have proposed laws debated in public and decided upon on their individual merits qualifies as one of our “fundamental freedoms.” We ought to be offering all support possible to “online gaming companies [who] are preparing to file suit.” These are people with money and determination. Everyone who values our fundamental freedoms ought to be looking for ways to use the involvement of these companies as an opportunity to establish the unacceptability of laws passed without public fore-knowledge and debate.

    One of the great weaknesses, I think, of liberal politics as compared to the politics of the far right, is a sort of either-or, let’s-wait-for-what-I-think-is-the-most-important-issue thinking. The far right has an encompassing vision, and uses every possible opportunity to draw in another segment of society in support of their goals. Here is an opportunity to get the support of big-money internet gambling in order to change the way issues can be tacked on to a completely different bill. If we sit around saying that gambling isn’t important enough to use as a focus for changing the way bills are passed, then we could miss a very significant opportunity.

    When there’s a chance for a coalition of interests to accomplish something in support of our freedom, we ought to take it.

  9. #9 tacitus
    October 1, 2006

    So why doesn’t the Republican government ban the online trading of uncovered stock options as well? They can be just as risky and addictive, if not more so, than online poker. I have personally lost a couple of thousand of dollars in a matter of days trading options. I was fortunate that those losses offset some earlier gains, but it left a mark. I haven’t traded options in over ten years.

    With today’s online brokerage accounts, you can setup sophisticated options trades and strategies in a matter of seconds, and unless you know exactly what you are doing, and have the discipline to bail before your losses mount, you will be played for a sucker every bit as much as if you are a fish at the online poker table. And, of course, if you have a margin account, you can gamble with options on borrowed money, making it doubly dangerous.

    The double-standards of the Republicans on this issue is breath-taking. The quicker we can throw them overboard the better. Ah wait, just over 4 weeks to election day — how convenient!

  10. #10 Matthew
    October 1, 2006

    I’m not crazy about the Read the Bills act because it seems rather unenforceable. Rather, I’d prefer a bill that somehow prevents attaching items that are unrelated to a bill’s essential purpose. I’m not sure how that could be done, but it’s what I would prefer to the bureaucratic creep of Read the Bills.

  11. #11 Julia
    October 1, 2006

    Matthew said, “I’d prefer a bill that somehow prevents attaching items that are unrelated to a bill’s essential purpose. I’m not sure how that could be done”

    Our state constitution contains the following sentence:

    “Every Act or resolution having the force of law shall relate to but one subject, and that shall be expressed in the title.”

    How would that do? Perhaps what we need is a movement to have that sentence (or a similar one) made law on the Federal level.

  12. #12 Left_Wing_Fox
    October 1, 2006

    Actually, I’d like to appologise for snapping like that. It’s been a bad week, both politically and personally. I know you fight the good fight on this, Ed.

    I agree with you on many of the points with this bill: It was passed in an underhanded manner, it serves no purpose but to score points for moral scolding and protecting the financial interests of Republican sponsors, and will simply drive those forms of illicit gambling underground where they can remain unregulated and risky in ways well beyond the accepted odds.

    But right now, it’s complaining about a patient’s obesity while trying to remove the bullet near the heart. The existance of gambling has both benefits and costs to society, and as far as I’m concerned, the legal state of gambling is nothing more than a policy argument as to how best to limit the negative consequences of that particular vice. Arguing that it’s a restriction on our natural freedoms to me feels like arguing that asbestos bans limit our natural freedom. To lump in the “right” to gamble with the rights of Habeas Corpas, The right to be secure in our own homes and the right to vote feels like it cheapens those core values.

  13. #13 PhysioProf
    October 1, 2006

    I agree that it is undesirable to have unrelated provisions snuck into bills like this.

    However, in relation to the constitutionality of the law, wouldn’t it probably be justifiable as an exercise of the power to regulate interstate commerce? And in relation to “rational basis” and “compelling state interest”, in order for those standards to even be implicated one would first have to establish a prima facie equal protection violation, and hence existence of a protected class whose rights are being differentially affected. It would probably be a stretch to claim that Internet gamblers are a protected class.

    Not that I think this restriction is a good idea, but I’m not so sure the constitutional arguments for its invalidity are strong.

  14. #14 Bruce Wilson
    October 1, 2006

    Well, this does not directly address the issue, but….

    Republicans in the US Senate seem very concerning about internet gambling, but they seem rather unconcerned about forced abortions and sex slavery in the Marianas Islands.

    http://www.talk2action.org/story/2006/9/30/135655/636/Front_Page/Christian_Right_Avoidance_Of_GOP_s_From_Abortion_and_Sex_Slavery_Scandal_Fuels_Dem_Attack_Ads

    My guess is that the GOP push against internet gambling is purely about $

  15. #15 Ed Brayton
    October 1, 2006

    Left Wing Fox wrote:

    The existance of gambling has both benefits and costs to society, and as far as I’m concerned, the legal state of gambling is nothing more than a policy argument as to how best to limit the negative consequences of that particular vice. Arguing that it’s a restriction on our natural freedoms to me feels like arguing that asbestos bans limit our natural freedom. To lump in the “right” to gamble with the rights of Habeas Corpas, The right to be secure in our own homes and the right to vote feels like it cheapens those core values.

    There is but a single core value, from which all others, including habeas corpus, are derived: self-ownership. That includes both the right to not be denied one’s freedom without due process, both procedural and substantive (habeas corpus, among other specific manifestations of this core value) and the right to live one’s life as one sees fit as long as one’s actions do not directly harm someone else against their will or deprive them of their self-ownership. Lots of actions that we have every right to do has some indirect result that may be seen as negative. For instance, you have the right to eat fatty foods and thus be unhealthy, but in doing so you may die early and cause distress to those who love you. But this is not a legitimate basis to violate your right to determine your own life. I just don’t think you can separate these things out.

    In fact, it sounds too much like the similar argument we hear from the right – “we’re fighting for our very existence against terrorists, and you’re worried about their civil liberties?” Well, yes. Because we either stand on principle and do so consistently, or we lose our ability to coherently base arguments on those principles. It’s the same reason why I argue so vehemently that those whose opinions I despise must also be free to express them, because if I don’t defend their right to do so I lose my ability to argue coherently for the same right to free expression. These principles are universal, and if we diminish them by denying them to others, they can no longer justify our own freedom.

  16. #16 Jim Anderson
    October 1, 2006

    Julia, my state (Washington) has a similar single-subject rule, in warmer language: “No bill shall embrace more than one subject, and that shall be expressed in the title.” I’m guessing it passes Constitutional muster.

    I suppose enterprising congressfolks would merely enact a “Bill Pertaining to Everything My Cronies Demand.”

  17. #17 Julia
    October 1, 2006

    ” suppose enterprising congressfolks would merely enact a ‘Bill Pertaining to Everything My Cronies Demand.'”

    Actually the “one subject” concept has stood up pretty well here, as opponents (of either party) of a particular proposal are quick to use it as a way to attack anything that can be attacked. For example, attempts to fund specific requests by several educational institutions here were, on the basis of the “one subject” restriction, legally removed from a more general bill to provide educational funding.

    It seems to me that a Federal version of this restriction could substantially reduce this business of sneaking past laws that would otherwise have gotten vigorous opposition if brought up for a separate vote.

    We can’t solve all problems in one stroke, so it seems to me to be extremely important to look for practical ways to solve one little problem at a time. It adds up. And if a change like this one can be made by supporting the complaints of internet gambling companies, I think that even those of us who would really prefer that organized gambling just go away ought to take advantage of the opportunity. After all, as Ed often makes clear, we can’t guarantee our own freedom unless we are willing to grant that same freedom to those whose ideas we don’t like.

  18. #18 DarkSyde
    October 1, 2006

    Good catch Ed! Tricksy lil neocons …

  19. #19 decrepitoldfool
    October 1, 2006

    I’d prefer a bill that somehow prevents attaching items that are unrelated to a bill’s essential purpose. I’m not sure how that could be done

    I agree about outrageously unrelated attachments, and have a suggestion: pass a single law that says one thing: laws passed as part of an unrelated package are hereby null and void.

    It’s like network rights: deny always trumps permit. At a single stroke, it rips the heart out of these dishonest attachments. “Sorry,” (says the defense attorney) “But the law under which you are perse – excuse me, prosecuting my client, was passed as an attachment to an entirely unrelated bill on terrorism and port security. According to the ‘force the congressroaches out into the light’ act of 2007, it is therefore invalid.”

  20. #20 Left_Wing_Fox
    October 2, 2006

    This is why I’m a liberal, and not a liberterian. “Self-ownership” is a lovely ideal. But to my mind, that’s an overly simplistic view that doesn’t hold up as you attempt to resolve issues of ownership and control at increasingly finer levels (i.e. the interaction between individuals of differing wealth, the interaction between corporations and individuals, interaction between church hierarchies and their memberships) The principal at stake in my mind is equality under the law, and equal access to the political system.

    Yes, individual self determination absolutely MUST be protected in a democracy. But to focus solely at the altar of the individual is to ignore or undermine the existence of the collective. Individual actions that are harmless and idiosyncratic become can become catastrophic or statistically stable in large groups. It’s the difference between the individual peeing into the Mississippi, and a city emptying it’s sewer untreated into the river.

    Let’s move away from gambling, since I agree with you on the bill, and look at something similar: seat belt laws. If there is a good reason NOT to wear a seat belt, I don’t know of it. Yet promotional campaigns to insure people wear seat-belts don’t have nearly the effect on seat-belt wearing numbers as a law mandating their use. So faced with an increased casualty rate from drivers who don’t wear seat-belts, states and communities have had to decide which is more important: the freedom of self-determination to drive, or the statistically significant number of people who will survive accidents because they were more afraid of getting a ticket than getting into an accident.

    The thing is, if you took two communities with identical constitutions, populations and laws, and the only change you made was the seatbelt law, it would have no effect on the ability of the people to have a role in politics. The ability to drive while wearing a seatbelt, or the ability to drive drunk, does not materially alter an individual’s ability to participate in the democratic process that CREATES those laws in the first place. To my mind that’s FUNDAMENTALLY different than The freedoms of speech, worship and free assembly, and the ability to be secure in one’s person from government intrusion. By removing those rights, you effectively strip the population from the ability to participate in the political process. Seat belt laws are reversible. You just need enough people to say “We don’t want this anymore”. When the ability to say ‘We don’t want this anymore” results in harassment, persecution or worse, summary detainment or torture, ; the ability for the people to participate in the system is destroyed, and is nearly impossible to reverse.

  21. #21 DuWayne
    October 2, 2006

    Left Wing Fox said –
    If there is a good reason NOT to wear a seat belt, I don’t know of it. Yet promotional campaigns to insure people wear seat-belts don’t have nearly the effect on seat-belt wearing numbers as a law mandating their use.

    Your right that there is no good reason not to wear a seatbelt. I won’t move a vehicle without everyone in it buckled up – period. I was like that before seat belt laws and will continue to do so if the laws get repealed. I would argue, so what? First, it is my right to be a moron and do moronic things. I don’t want my government deciding it has a compelling interest to stop me from doing things that are “bad” or “unsafe” for me. The same logic used to compel people, by law, to wear a seat belt can be used to make laws against smoking, drinking, obesity, rock climbing, extreme biking or anything else that signifigantly elevates risk to your health or safety.

    You know, it is important, critical even to fight to get our government out of the hands of these very frightening people. You are absolutely right about that. But we must also be mindfull of fighting these and any other laws passed to “protect us from ourselves.” Which is what laws against gambling, laws against prostitution, laws against “controlled” substances, laws requiring us ti wear seat belts or motor cycle helmets, laws against physician facilitated suicide, are all about. Where the hell do we draw the line? The logical progression of the Nany State, is to give up more and more freedoms. Why not allow the government to listen in on our phone calls, read our e-mails – big daddy government is just trying to keep us safe.

    You have to draw the line somewhere, I say it was crossed a long time ago. And just as critical as the larger battle for the very principles our nation was founded on, is the continuing battle to stop and reverse every assault on personal freedom and privacy. The two are not seperate battles, we have gotten where we are now by chipping away at our freedoms, even as we make strides in correcting old mistakes – such as homosexual rights, we regress. Paramilitary police forces are not a step in the right direction, yet they are supported by segments of both the right and the left in the mitaken notion that this keeps us safer. The police are encouraged to worry far more about their own asses than whether or not they are using excessive force for a given situation. I live in Portland OR, a very “liberal” enclave. The cops here really like to shoot people and they always come out clean in shootings. Some people don’t like it, myself included. But the people in power, who foster this environment, get re-elected – because people feel “safer” with law enforcement being so tough.

    The same mentality that allows everything I just mentioned to happen also allows the crimes of the bush regime to happen. It is that simple. We have been moving headlong in this direction for a long damned time – it could just as easily have happened with democrats – Clinton was trying to pass a slightly lighter version of the “patriot” act himself. He pushed the envelope too, he just didn’t make such a huge power grab. But he also didn’t have 9/11 – what if he had? We must push back against every damned bit of this very mentality. Should we have an expectation that our government will keep us reasonabley safe? Yes and they damn well can within the framework of the constitution.

  22. #22 Michael "Sotek" Ralston
    October 2, 2006

    My take on this:

    I disagree with the gambling bill, but merely as a policy disagreement – a moderately strong one, but still one I could accept. However, the method by which the gambling bill was passed is a grave threat, because that method can be used to do anything.

    That method needs to be stopped.

  23. #23 Ed Brayton
    October 2, 2006

    Left Wing Fox wrote:

    The principal at stake in my mind is equality under the law, and equal access to the political system.

    But I don’t see those things as being at odds with the principle of self-ownership at all.

    Let’s move away from gambling, since I agree with you on the bill, and look at something similar: seat belt laws. If there is a good reason NOT to wear a seat belt, I don’t know of it. Yet promotional campaigns to insure people wear seat-belts don’t have nearly the effect on seat-belt wearing numbers as a law mandating their use. So faced with an increased casualty rate from drivers who don’t wear seat-belts, states and communities have had to decide which is more important: the freedom of self-determination to drive, or the statistically significant number of people who will survive accidents because they were more afraid of getting a ticket than getting into an accident.

    The problem is that this is an illegitimate basis for using the power of government to coerce. The law should protect one from another, not from themselves. If I choose not to wear a seatbelt and I die, I take the consequences for that. Now, one could argue that my death affects others, and of course that is true, but it does not harm them against their will or deprive them of their own self-determination, and those are the proper basis for law. Once we go beyond that and begin to regulate personal choices based upon tenuous and indirect harm, there is no longer any limit on what the government may do. Virtually any intrusion could be justified on such a basis.

  24. #24 Left_Wing_Fox
    October 2, 2006

    Please name for me one nation that has turned into a dictatorship via the slippery slope of the “Nanny State”. I’m starting to believe this is merely a theoretical occurrence, much like the Domino Theory.

    To my knowledge, all communist nations became that way not through progression from a nanny state, but through violent revolution against a government that failed to provide for the people. The resulting government deals with economic equality over political equality, and thus no checks or balances exist to the resultant political system, leading naturally to unchecked political power. Fascist nations don’t dick around with the small erosions of human rights, they go stright for the BIG ones driven by fear and paranoia, where people are willing to give up their political power in favor of protections.

    Once we go beyond that and begin to regulate personal choices based upon tenuous and indirect harm, there is no longer any limit on what the government may do.

    The problem is that the above statement creates a conflict between the demarkation of where the metaphotical fist ends, and the metaphorical nose begins. What happens when we deal with collective situations where the actions of any individual are inconsequential, but the same action by a large group of people has a serious effect? Most environmental reulations deal with this. What harm is a single fish plucked from a river? That harm changes when you deal when you have a city worth of people eager to fish there, or a commercial level fishing operation. Same with global warming.

    Look at the issues mentioned as “protecting people from themselves”. Drugs, prostitution, gambling, and pornography all have effects upon a community as a whole that is greater than the sum of individual actions. Look at the difference between Times Square before and after Guliani’s vice regulations. Visit Las Vegas and head a few blocks off the strip towards the city, and the glitz and glamor of the strip hide a secondary economy of pawn shops built to support the bad habits of a predictable percentage of problem gamblers.

    Completely aside from whether any of use believe those changes were good and band, it’s undeniable that the choice between unregulated, regulated, restricted and banned activities have far-reaching effects on their communities. It matters whether the building down your street is a crack house, a hash bar, a tavern with VLTs, or an ice cream parlour. The chain of interactions between citizens have greater effects on the collective community. Because of this, I think it’s a legitimate argument for people to deal with through their government, and solve via legislation. It’s inarguable that such laws will affect people, and thus should not be enacted lightly, as bad laws are absolutly capable of restroying peopleslives and livlihoods. But they do not pose a threat to the democratic system of governance simply because they are based on a sense of overexhuberant altruism.

    And that’s the fundimental difference between dictatorship and democracy. The ability for the people collectively to decide what affects them, rather than an elite passing down decrees upon their subjects. As long as the people have control over the government, then the line of “Where does the nanny state end?” is “When we, the people affected by it, say it does.”

    The gambling bill is bad law, but in an of itself, it is not a threat to the republic. The method by which it was rammed through however, is absolutely a threat to the democratic system, and is absolutly indicitave of the dictatorial impulses that the current republican party has come to embrace.

  25. #25 DuWayne
    October 3, 2006

    To my knowledge, all communist nations became that way not through progression from a nanny state, but through violent revolution against a government that failed to provide for the people.

    Your point would be? I think your the first person to mention communism.

    Fascist nations don’t dick around with the small erosions of human rights, they go stright for the BIG ones driven by fear and paranoia, where people are willing to give up their political power in favor of protections.

    They cannot and don’t. It is a slow build up, in conjunction with the escalation of an external threat. As the threat worsens, so does the erosion of rights, until they are “forced” to pass some extreme series of laws removing the rest of the civil liberties left. This is all infused with nationalistic rhetoric, to make the population believe that these measures are critical to the preservation of their great nation.

    Look at the issues mentioned as “protecting people from themselves”. Drugs, prostitution, gambling, and pornography all have effects upon a community as a whole that is greater than the sum of individual actions. Look at the difference between Times Square before and after Guliani’s vice regulations. Visit Las Vegas and head a few blocks off the strip towards the city, and the glitz and glamor of the strip hide a secondary economy of pawn shops built to support the bad habits of a predictable percentage of problem gamblers.

    Which is why they should be legal, taxed and regulated. Regulated in part, to control the impact on society.

    But when it boils down to it I do not and will not quiver in fear, hoping the government will come save me. That is not what this country was founded on. The problem with the logic of, “it stops when we the affected say it does,” is that if you do not set a solid framework from which to function then we will have to be open to those laws changing with the whims of the majority. We, as a society, did not decide to end segragation. Nor did we decide to stop throwing homosexuals into prison or mental institutions. Neither did we decide to allow women the right to control their own bodies – nor should this be up to the people, if they choose to ignore the fundamental rights of any group. In the past it has happened – what makes you think it couldn’t happen again.

    To claim this doesn’t relate to the “bigger” problem of a republican regime, run amuck, is simply nieve. We have been moving in this direction for decades now. Terrorism was the catalyst, nothing more. They tried desperately to move in this direction to fight “the war on drugs,” but it wasn’t enough. Sure they militarised law enforcement on the local level, but they couldn’t work around our privacy rights and it was obvious that one simply could not actually claim war powers on the basis of the drug war. Further back you had attempts during the early stages of the cold war, with the “red scare,” to subvert our civil liberties.

    I am sorry you are afraid of living without the government telling you what is safe enough for you to be exposed to and enforcing that with law. Some of us are actually capable of making our own decisions. Some of us even want to decide we are going to do things that are bad for us. Some of us would even like to have the right to die in a manner of our choosing rather than suffer and waste away because of accident or extreme infirmary. In short, some of us don’t want a nanny state.

    Please name for me one nation that has turned into a dictatorship via the slippery slope of the “Nanny State”.

    There are a lot of European countries that are moving slowly in that very direction. When a government is allowed to restrict speech they are effectively restricting democracy. As a nation moves further into that direction they become more and more totalitarian. And I have, in fact, already named a country that has headed down that slippery slope into what you, yourself admit is virtualy a dictatorship, the U.S.

  26. #26 Ed Brayton
    October 3, 2006

    Left Wing Fox wrote:

    Please name for me one nation that has turned into a dictatorship via the slippery slope of the “Nanny State”. I’m starting to believe this is merely a theoretical occurrence, much like the Domino Theory.

    This is a straw man. I never claimed that we would turn into a dictatorship in this manner, nor do I need to. The problems of creeping paternalism are bad enough without labeling it dictatorship. But please bear in mind that I do not regard democratic decision making, in and of itself, to be any better than dictatorship or monarchy if it results in laws that violate our liberty. I simply dismiss the notion that a law is automatically just if it is arrived at via a democratic process. History proves beyond all doubt that democratically enacted laws can be every bit as oppressive as laws passed by divine creed or dictatorial decree. The standard by which I judge any law, whether passed democratically or declared dictatorially, is whether it protects liberty or diminishes it.

    What happens when we deal with collective situations where the actions of any individual are inconsequential, but the same action by a large group of people has a serious effect? Most environmental reulations deal with this. What harm is a single fish plucked from a river? That harm changes when you deal when you have a city worth of people eager to fish there, or a commercial level fishing operation. Same with global warming.

    I think there is actually a libertarian argument to be made for such regulation (I won’t bother to make it here and now, however). But I don’t think this really has much to do with the kinds of laws we’re discussing here. Remember, no one owns the fish or the ocean, they belong to all of us collectively; that is not the case with our own bodies.

    Look at the issues mentioned as “protecting people from themselves”. Drugs, prostitution, gambling, and pornography all have effects upon a community as a whole that is greater than the sum of individual actions. Look at the difference between Times Square before and after Guliani’s vice regulations. Visit Las Vegas and head a few blocks off the strip towards the city, and the glitz and glamor of the strip hide a secondary economy of pawn shops built to support the bad habits of a predictable percentage of problem gamblers.

    Completely aside from whether any of use believe those changes were good and band, it’s undeniable that the choice between unregulated, regulated, restricted and banned activities have far-reaching effects on their communities. It matters whether the building down your street is a crack house, a hash bar, a tavern with VLTs, or an ice cream parlour. The chain of interactions between citizens have greater effects on the collective community. Because of this, I think it’s a legitimate argument for people to deal with through their government, and solve via legislation. It’s inarguable that such laws will affect people, and thus should not be enacted lightly, as bad laws are absolutly capable of restroying peoples lives and livlihoods.

    But you’re missing the other side of that argument: prohibitions on those things also has effects that go far beyond the liberty of the individual being violated by them. Crack houses exist not because of drugs but because of drug prohibition; they would not exist if drugs were legalized. Prohibition of drugs causes more crime, not less. It causes gang wars over territory, it corrupts our system of law enforcement and it prevents effective treatment rather than encourages it. Prohibitions on prostitution are what allows violence against prostitutes to go unpunished; legalize it and you eliminate the seedy underworld it is now required to operate in along with most of the violence and corruption that goes with it.

    But there is still a larger problem here, which is that you are making an argument that can be used to justify all sorts of intrusions into our lives that you would undoubtedly consider oppressive. It’s the exact same argument that the religious right makes with regard to pornography, for example – that it has negative societal effects and therefore ought to be banned. They make a similar argument with respect to religion in schools – taking God out of schools leads to bad societal effects, therefore we should require prayer and bible reading in schools to counter this collective badness regardless of whether it impedes our individual rights. And because you accept the premise, you have no principled argument to make against these claims, only a practical one. You can argue that this particular intrusion is unjustified on practical grounds, but you can’t coherently argue that such intrusions should never be justified. You can’t attack them as oppressive, only as unwise. But clearly they are both oppressive and unwise.

  27. #27 DMC
    January 24, 2007

    So when are the democrats going to end the war?

    Prediction: never.

    In fact, the war will be slowly widened, troops increased, and the draft reinstated. Nuclear weapons will be used and the US of A will establish global dictatorhip.

    Imposed with iron will.

    Thats what the corpos want, and thats what the corpos are going to get.

    Both parties are in bed with them.

    So, bellyache all you want, its all over.

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