Leave Us Alone!

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Words of Wisdom from Barney Frank

U.S. Rep. Barney Frank (D-Massachusetts) on internet gambling:
If an adult in this country, with his or her own money, wants to engage in an activity that harms no one, how dare we prohibit it because it doesn't add to the GDP or it has no macroeconomic benefit. Are we all to take home calculators and, until we have satisfied the gentleman from Iowa that we are being socially useful, we abstain from recreational activities that we choose?... People have said, What is the value of gambling ? Here is the value. Some human beings enjoy doing it. Shouldn't that be our principle? If individuals like doing something and they harm no one, we will allow them to do it, even if other people disapprove of what they do.

(quoted in Unclaimed Territory). Go here to read more from Glenn Greenwald on the GOP's war on the private sphere.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Vote Early and Vote Often

Here are pictures, front and back, of a card I received from the Clermont County Board of Elections. It includes helpful information, such as my polling place, the date of the election, and a reminder of the new requirement to bring identification to the polls.

There's just one problem. I don't live in Clermont County. I last voted there in May of 2001, over five years ago. I've been registered to vote in Cuyahoga County since August of 2001, shortly after I moved to Cuyahoga County. Here's a similar card I received a few weeks ago from the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections:

How many other Ohioans are receiving invitations to vote in two different counties? Don't you think that maybe our secretary of state should have done something about this? And now Secretary Blackwell wants to be our governor, so he can run the rest of Ohio's government the way he's run our elections for the past eight years.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Internet Gambling Update

In a last-minute, back-room deal, Congress sneaked provisions designed to make it harder for Americans to gamble on the internet into a port security bill, which passed last Friday night. The Poker Players Alliance's press release has more:
"This last minute deal reeks of political gamesmanship. The American people should be
outraged that Congress has hi-jacked a vital security bill with a poker prohibition that nearly three fourths of the country opposes," said Michael Bolcerek, president of the Poker Players Alliance, a grassroots advocacy organization of more than 110,000 poker enthusiasts. "Allowing this bill to become law, would run contrary to public opinion and would damage an already fractured relationship between government and the electorate. The millions of Americans who enjoy playing this great game will have the last voice in this debate come Election Day."

Bolcerek pointed to research which shows that 74 percent of Americans oppose federal
attempts to ban Internet poker.

The PPA also has a brief analysis of the legislation.

At Dispatches from the Culture Wars, Ed Brayton explains why the law will be ineffective:
You can transfer money to Neteller, either directly from your bank account with an online check or wire transfer, or with a credit card, and they will transfer it to the gaming site. If you want to cash out, they pay it in to your Neteller account and you can then transfer it to your bank.

How this new bill will affect Neteller is still up in the air. Neteller, like Paypal, facilitates exchanges for a wide range of things, not just online gaming sites. And because Neteller is an offshore company, located on the Isle of Man, there is no way for the banks or credit card companies to know which money sent to them is then sent on to a gambling site and which money is used for other, non-regulated purchases. The best case scenario is that the banks continue to transfer funds to such services for that reason; the worst case scenario is that they cut off all transfers to such services completely (or Neteller decides on its own that it better not accept transfers from American banks, as some online gambling sites have done).

But even if the worst case scenario comes true, will this really stop money from going to and from the gambling sites? Nope. What will happen is that people will have to transfer those funds to offshore banks in Canada, the Cayman Islands, or elsewhere. As long as there are millions of people wanting to transfer such funds, and willing to pay a 3% charge to do so, someone is going to facilitate those transactions. All this bill will do is force players to build one more intermediate step into the process: send money to an offshore account (such transfers are perfectly legal), then from those accounts to the gambling sites or to Neteller and then to the gambling sites.

At Hit and Run, Nick Gillespie writes:
Arguably the most idiotic element of the new legislation, which would clarify what has been a gray area for a very long period of time, is that everyone involved knows that it's only a matter of time before online gambling is made fully legal in the U.S. As Greg Beato wrote in our May issue, legalized gambling has already moved from the Vegas Strip to Main Street. The question isn't if online gambling will be allowed, only when.

I certainly hope Mr. Gillespie is right. In the meantime, this new law shows the contempt that the Republican-controlled Congress has for its constituents. Not only do the Republicans want your bank to babysit you on behalf of the government, they sneaked this legislation through the back door rather than put it to a full and open debate. As disappointing as congressional Democrats have been in recent weeks, I can't wait to vote a straight Democratic ticket this fall.

Operation Iraqi Freedom, Part XI

At Grylliade.org, Cicero Salad links to this column by Tom Curley of the Associated Press:
Bilal Hussein, an Iraqi photographer who helped the Associated Press win a Pulitzer Prize last year, is now in his sixth month in a U.S. Army prison in Iraq. He doesn't understand why he's there, and neither do his AP colleagues.

The Army says it thinks Bilal has too many contacts among insurgents. He has taken pictures the Army thinks could have been made only with the connivance of insurgents. So Bilal himself must be one, too, or at least a sympathizer.

It is a measure of just how dangerous and disorienting Iraq has become that suspicions such as these are considered adequate grounds for locking up a man and throwing away the key.

After more than five months of trying to bring Bilal's case into the daylight, AP is now convinced the Army doesn't care whether Bilal is or isn't an insurgent. The Army doesn't have to care. Bilal is off the street, and the military says it doesn't consider itself accountable to any judicial authority that could question his guilt.

But Bilal's incarceration delivers a further bonus. He is no longer free to circulate in his native Falluja or in Ramadi, taking photographs that coalition commanders would prefer not to see published.
(entire article here)

So now we're locking up journalists for taking pictures. Yep, freedom is on the march! How long before our government tries to pull that shit here?

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Jon Tester - My Kind of Democrat

At Freedom Democrats, Logan Ferree links to this account, by Gwen Florio of the Great Falls Tribune, of a recent U.S. senatorial debate in Montana. Here are a couple of quotes from state Senate President Jon Tester, who is challenging incumbent U.S. Senator Conrad Burns:
"I don't want to weaken the Patriot Act, I want to repeal it. What it does, it takes away your freedom ... and when you take away our freedoms, the terrorists have won," Tester said.

He came back to the subject near the end of the debate, when Burns tried to link him to New York Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer, who is, Burns said, pro-gun-control.

"With things like the Patriot Act," Tester said, "We'd damn well better keep our guns."
(entire article here)

Here's a statement from President Tester's website:
Jon Tester believes in freedom first. Under the PATRIOT Act, the FBI could obtain records on every video you ever rented and every book you ever checked out. They can obtain your bank statements and medical records; they can even keep tabs on our guns. What's worse is they can request this information for any reason at all, without your knowledge.

Tester believes we should be fighting terrorists, not invading the lives of innocent Americans. In Washington, Tester will fight for more human intelligence, a greater investment in our Special Forces, and closing backdoors to terrorism like the one left open by the Burns-Abramoff immigration policy in the Marianas Islands.

President Tester sounds like my kind of Democrat. I think he'll get some of the money I had intended to send to Sherrod Brown.

Operation Iraqi Freedom, Part X

At Ravings of a Feral Genius, Jennifer links to this BBC report:
Torture may be worse now in Iraq than under former leader Saddam Hussein, the UN's chief anti-torture expert says.

Manfred Nowak said the situation in Iraq was "out of control", with abuses being committed by security forces, militia groups and anti-US insurgents.

Bodies found in the Baghdad morgue "often bear signs of severe torture", said the human rights office of the UN Assistance Mission in Iraq in a report.

The wounds confirmed reports given by refugees from Iraq, Mr Nowak said.

(emphasis in original, entire article here)

Yep, freedom is on the march!

The Tools He Needs

Ever wonder how waterboarding works? At DavidCorn.com, Mr. Corn has a description and pictures of an actual waterboard. (link via The Audient Files) No, not one of our waterboards. The waterboard pictured here is in a former prison, now a museum, in Cambodia, and was operated by the Khmer Rouge. That's the company we're keeping now, thanks to Bush and 317 members of Congress, the fucking Khmer Rouge. God bless America.