As a U.S. resident for 42 years, and a resident of the Nation's Capital for 20 of those years, I'm used to seeing sausage being made.
When you live in DC, school field trips consist mostly of observing and interacting with the psychopaths who make our country's laws. Over the years I became acquainted with more than a few players in the federal government, and during that time I became utterly convinced that only people with real, diagnosable psychopathy could do what these people did.
To be a legislator, you really do have to put your own personal interests above and beyond millions of other human beings, and you have to be fully willing to watch them all suffer (and die in many cases) to further those interests. It is simply not possible to be a politician and to not be evil.
Then, of course, there is the blatant hypocrisy.
It probably comes as no great shock to learn that, once upon a time, I had friends who were into some -- how shall I say this diplomatically -- alternative endavors. I might have known a drug dealer here or a prostitute there, but I swear I never inhaled.
There are many stories I could tell about the proclivities of certain lawmakers and respected members of the national media. My favorite guy in town was a certain talk show host who used to have weekly dates with a friend of mine who went by the name 'Abigail'. He would insist that Abby bring marijuana and cocaine with her to every appointment, and he had a particular fetish where he would nurse on her breasts and call her "mommy". Publicly, this particular guy was religious and he was also rabidly anti-drug. If I have learned anything, it's that the biggest moral crusaders are always into the weirdest shit.
I obviously cannot get too detailed about my own experiences both first-hand and through hearsay because a) I can't prove anything and thus it would be slander and libel and b) I don't want to get Erik Scotted. It really wouldn't be that hard to pull it off.
"Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, Rex was known to talk about suicide often in his blog posts, and the Clark County Medical Examiner testified that he had lethal levels of xanax and morphine in his system while typing his angry missives, so he clearly had to be shot 5 times in the back to protect society at large."
"Justified, your honor, just because we support violent murderers by electing mob lawyers as our mayor doesn't mean that we will tolerate people who have taken prescription drugs."
I digress ...
Even though I've watched psychopaths abuse the stupid from a very early age, some laws still surprise me.
The Washington State Poker Ban of 2006 is one of these laws.
Because it is such blatant bullshit and so hypocritically gratuitous that I honestly couldn't believe that anyone would stand for it. Especially the people of the Pacific Northwest who tend to be slightly more intelligent and slightly less politically apathetic than the people of say, the southwestern United States.
Not only is the law itself a bad one, but the punishment for violating it is also draconian. The law bumps online poker in Washington from a misdemeanor to a Class C felony. This is the same category as child molestation, arson, and kidnapping. Clearly the law was a mistake. A clerical error. A temporary lapse in judgement brought on by lethal levels of xanax.
Fortunately, last month, there was hope that this travesty would be rectified.
For the past few years, The Poker Player's Alliance worked tirelessly to challenge the law to the Washington State Supreme Court, and honestly, I thought they would win when it got there. Why wouldn't I? After all, they had a very strong case. Since Washington did not even seek to regulate online poker, the ban seemed to fly in the face of the Commerce Clause which ensures equal protection for both in-state and out-of-state companies.
As it turns out, the court ruled, and they too sided with legislative idiocy.
On September 23, 2010, while ruling not to overturn the ban, the Washington State Supreme Court stated:
“It is not the role of the judiciary to second-guess the wisdom of the legislature, which enacted this ban. The court has no authority to conduct its own balancing of the pros and cons stemming from banning, regulating, or openly permitting internet gambling.”
After evaluating the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) and Wire Act of 1961, the Washington State Supreme Court asserted, “The statute prohibits internet gambling evenhandedly, regardless of whether the company running the website is located in or outside the state of Washington. The effects imposed on in-state and out-of-state entities engaging or that would engage in internet gambling are the same… The dormant Commerce Clause only prevents a state from discriminating based on whether the business is in-state or out-of-state.” Therefore, the Washington law does not discriminate against foreign and out-of-state online gambling interests.
“... Internet gambling introduces new ways to exacerbate these same threats to health, welfare, safety, and morals [as offline gambling]. Gambling addicts and underage gamblers have greater accessibility to online gambling – able to gamble from their homes immediately and on demand, at any time, on any day, unhindered by in-person regulatory measures. Concerns over ties to organized crime and money laundering are exacerbated where online gambling operations are not physically present in-state to be inspected for regulatory compliance.”
So much for that.
According to the court, disallowing online businesses that compete with local brick-and-mortar businesses is not a violation of the Commerce Clause, although I think it clearly is. It would be like outlawing mail order companies from delivering products to Washington State residents. Products that, when purchased locally are legal.
Also, the court ruled that gambling itself posed a threat to the health, welfare, safety, and morals of Washington residents ... but did not call for the prohibition of the state lottery or the proliferation of brick -and-mortar casinos in the state.
Because threats to your health, welfare, safety, and morals are acceptable when the government gets a cut.
When you consider what I told you at the beginning of this article, this part of the ruling really does make perfect sense. The logic of the court is extraordinarily consistent with psychopathy. "I will allow you to hurt yourself to benefit me, but I will not allow you to hurt yourself to benefit yourself or someone else."
Remember, the Washington State government heavily advertises its own lottery, and this is the same government which argues that such gambling is a threat to the health, welfare, safety, and morals of Washington residents.
Pure, unadulterated psychopathy. There is no other explanation.
So here I sit; in a state which could theoretically imprison me for playing a single hand of .50/1.00 No Limit, and a State Supreme Court that will cheer them on for doing so. After all, that single hand could exacerbate threats to my health, welfare, safety, and morals ... but contracting AIDS in a prison shower as penance would ostensibly boost character.
The one real chance at having that law overturned surprisingly failed, and it appears that the ban will remain in effect forever.
This is a shame.
For the most part, I like Washington State. It's not Utopia but it certainly beats the Mexico-lite, car rim-obsessed, "math is for fags" culture of the southwest USA.
With that being noted, it's extraordinarily disappointing that the legislature here is just as corrupt as elsewhere. I had never really paid close attention to Washington State politics until recently, but since the Pacific Northwest has always been somewhat of a nation unto itself, I had always ass/u/med that the government was held to a higher standard. As the geek and nerd capital of the world (and I say that in a good way), I figured that lawmakers here might have a slightly harder time bending the people of the state over and forking them in the brown eye.
I was wrong.
Getting screwed by the government and legislature is clearly a universal experience in the USA. You can run, but you cannot hide.
Of course, the question is: What now?
Should residents just give up the game? Risk it anyway? Cross state lines? Just suck it up and go to local casinos?
One guy who lives a couple of blocks away from me told me that he refuses to play in Washington casinos because of the online poker ban. When I asked him why, he said "They're the ones that are responsible for the state taking such a hard line against online poker, and I'm not going to support them with my dollars."
It's sound reasoning, and frankly, I don't know what to do.
There are a couple of cheap Holdem tournaments at the nearby Hawk's Prarie and Little Creek Casinos that I've been wanting to try, and I was even contemplating going to see Wayne Newton at Little Creek next month. My neighbor's words made sense, though. Since the Washington State legislature is doing the bidding of these brick-and-mortar joints, maybe the right thing to do is to make it backfire. Perhaps the gamblers of Washington should stop playing the lottery as well. If residents of Washington can put the hurt on the protected interests, then maybe, just maybe the legislature will see the downside to their ban. After all, money (or lack thereof) talks.
In the end, my guess is that typical voter apathy will reign supreme and gaming fans state-wide will simply reward the local casinos (and by proxy state coffers) with more revenue. If there is anything Americans are good it, it's feeding the mouth that bites them.
While the Poker Player's Alliance will continue to fight to have the law overturned, I can't help but be somewhat pessimistic about their chances. They are fighting a good fight, but sometimes you're just outmatched.
In the meantime, when it comes to poker, I think I'm going to take the "cross state lines" option. Sure, I could try and flaunt the Washington law like so many others by just going ahead and playing online anyway, but I'm not going to. The chances of getting caught are slim, but the risk/reward is just not worth it. All things considered, the company of hipsters is slightly better than sitting in a locked cage with some guy's dick up my ass.
Barring that, I may play a little bit here and there at the local joints, but this may be counter-productive to my own interests. I have to give the situation more thought.