Signing Statements And Boiling Frogs

20 Jan 2007

So here I sit in Dublin, catching up on Christmas whiskey (thanks, hdouble) and Google reader after a long and trying week in the salt mines. and everything I read and hear from the states is upside-down, nonsensical. It snowed in Los Angeles this week while it was 70 degrees in New York last week. People are dying in attempts to win video game systems. Apple is making mobile phones. Doomsday clocks are getting moved. Democrats are daring to ask “omg!!!wtf?!?” and the feds appear to be starting after ewallet companies in an attempt to stop your evil poker habit, you evil sinner.

This government has been giving basic citizen rights the boiling frog treatment - eroding them bit by bit, piece by piece. A little warrantless wiretap here, a little mail opening there. Add a dash of intrusive but ineffective airport security, some cold war era “Do you have your papers?” questions at the border. Soon we’ll be making sure you speak the right language, transact in the correct currency with approved merchants using sanctioned methods, consume appropriate consumables in the correct quantities, and gamble, if you must, only on activities that have powerful political lobbies which have secured preferential moral and legislative consideration.

Americans have always believed we set the standard for human rights, liberty, freedom and opportunity in the world. but this is not the case. not anymore. we’ve allowed the current administration to lead us away from those concepts that we were always taught were so core as to be not up for debate. ingrained in our system. but here we are “debating” warrantless wiretapping, suspension of habeas corpus, judicial and congressional oversight. and you know about the signing statements, right?

Of course, those of us with an interest online poker have additional perspective on the issues of freedom and rights. as the ewallet companies react to the latest arrests, analysis of the future of the online business (and in many ways, the business of poker in general) is in full swing and reflects a variety of emotions - confusion, panic, dismissal, anger, defiance, resignation.

Me? I’m just tired. I’m tired of trying to make sense of a government policy that turns ordinary citizens enjoying a mentally stimulating and challenging game into potential criminals. I’m tired of the morality legislation game played by politicians trying to “resonate with the base”. I’m tired of those same politicians double-checking their lobbyist scorecard to see who is paying what to get which bill passed or killed. I’m tired of an American public that is all too happy to choose political sides and vilify the opposition at all costs, regardless of actual policy.

It’s strange to be here, in Ireland, as this Neteller situation unfolds. To be both outside the country and somewhat disconnected from the U.S., while at the same time being right in the middle of the action in my everyday life. Trying to explain the government policy to my Irish colleagues can be a challenge. Why is the U.S. uptight about this? Why is the U.S. uptight about so many things the U.S. is uptight about? How can other forms of gambling have carve-outs, but not poker? Etc, etc, etc. How does one answer these questions repeatedly without getting cynical?

In the end, while we’re all closely watching the ewallet situation, don’t lose sight of the bigger picture: the people and the system that brought it to you, you evil sinner.

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Franklin Henderson