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Friday, September 29, 2006

Learn and Earn Should Crash and Burn

- I'm pro-racing, so I guess that means I have to be pro-slots. It's sometimes an uncomfortable position. Slots have become little more than a convenient way for state governments to balance their budgets, and I have no argument with those who contend that the balancing is being done at least partially on the backs of those who can't afford it. Even those who argue for slots can usually come up with no better of a defense than 'people would gamble it away in [fill in the slots state] anyway.' What they'll say when every state in the union has it, I don't know.

But unfortunately, slots have also become a crutch for the racing industry; and a fragile one at that. More akin,really, to the spindly-looking legs that support our thoroughbred heroes. It's a road to riches that is destined to eventually come up snake eyes. However, tracks in the states that don't have them can't compete with the ones that do, or at least they'll be less able to do so as gambling continues to expand. So the beat goes on, and for any racing guy to oppose them is, well, downright anti-racing.

Ohio is a particularly ponderous case given the strong-arm tactics and downright sleaze and deception employed by the Learn and Earn group that is backing the slots referendum there. More than in any other state, they're attempting to conceal the millions that will be earned by casino companies behind a benevolent-sounding education campaign. Take a look at the peachy home page of their website, and try to find the word 'slots.' When you do, you'll read a familiar refrain:

Did you know that Ohio has lost billions of dollars in gaming revenue to our neighboring states? Learn & Earn will reclaim this money to invest in education and jobs here in Ohio!
Worse yet, and at the risk of sounding overdramatic, Learn & Earn's ballot initiative could help thwart the Democrats' bid to gain control of the Senate in the November elections. Ohio is one of the key seats that the Democrats must win in order to have any hope of gaining the six spots they need. Incumbant GOP Senator Mike DeWine is locked in a tight battle with the Democratic candidate, House Rep Sherrod Brown; the last poll I've seen is about dead even.

But now comes the expected development that conservative religious groups in Ohio will attempt to rally their constituents to defeat Issue 3, an effort the GOP will certainly get behind if they've not, in fact, already done so. And that's bad news. With many conservatives dispirited by the ongoing incompetence that the current administration has displayed in Iraq, and with issues such as gay marriage below the radar this year, any hot-button issue such as gambling that can be used to increase Republican turnout can not be good news for the Dems.

Senator DeWine joined most of his GOP colleagues in voting for the bill that gives the president broad powers to conduct trials of terrorism suspects and define what constitutes torture. (And to be fair, Rep. Brown voted in favor of the House version....he's one candidate that the GOP will not be able to attack on that basis.) The bill also denies terrorism suspects habeas corpus rights; that is, the right to challenge their detention in court. That's the part of the bill that I find particularly unconsciounable.

No one is saying that terrorists are entitled to the same legal rights as the rest of us, but we're not talking strictly about terrorists, but people suspected of terrorism. How anyone can talk about defending freedom and democracy, and at the same time support unlimited and unchallengeable incarceration of people merely suspected of a crime, even one as hideous as terrorism, I can't really fathom. Even some Republicans who voted for the measure expressed uneasiness about the provision, and acknowledged that it will likely be overturned by the Supreme Court. But the law was rushed through in order to give the GOP something, anything with which to produce misleading campaign commercials intended to make the Democrats seem "weak on terror."

Maher Arar is the Canadian citizen who was sent by U.S. officials to be tortured in Syria. Not only was he merely (and as it turned out, wrongly) suspected of ties to Al Qaeda, but Canadian officials informed the Americans before his rendition that the evidence was flimsy at best. But Mr. Arar actually got off lucky. Yeah, he spent 10 months in a coffin-size cell being beaten with electric cables. But at least he got out. Under this law, he could have been locked up in a jail cell indefinitely with no recourse at all.

1 Comment:

Anonymous said...

Absolutely dead-on right. No matter the cause, using deception and illicit means to get there (slots in Ohio, much needed $$$ for horsemen) can only spell disaster. The end NEVER justifies the means, and the Bush administration is a shining example of that (even if you take them at their word about the 'goals' they wish to accomplish...which I don't!)