21st century Prohibition...

With all the garbage going on regarding the house legislation to prohibit "online gambling," I thought it would be most appropriate to give a "history lesson" regarding what happens when our government attempts to be our "moral guardian." The "you cannot possibly make prudent decisions, so we'll take away your choice and FORCE you to choose wisely" mindset a few select morons have is not working for the beer guy. That being said, let's take a walk back to the 1920's during the prohibition era, looking at what happened, why it happened, and what came about as a result... including possible/probable motives. Excuse in advance the fact that I am not a historian, nor a political commentator. I am, however, making efforts to make some sense out of the ridiculous parallels I am seeing today between prohibition of alcohol and attempted prohibition of gambling.

Prohibition of Alcohol

Prohibition of alcohol in the United States lasted from roughly 1920-1933. Prohibition was brought to you by the US Government via the 18th amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Prior to the 18th amendment, several states had drafted and implemented legislation prohibiting and banning use of alcohol within their states.

During WWI, paranoia began settling in, as many of the "concerned groups" (read: lobbyest for the "anti-saloon league) urged our government to look into several breweries, citing they were owned by "alien ememies" (read: "All germans are enemies and aliens, even Americans with German ancestery," according to this mindset). President Wilson signed an order allowing for a partial prohibition on Grain Alcohol in early 1918, to conserve it for supporting the war effort. This posture was declared and defended as a measure of war. Of course, anyone who disagreed was unpatriotic (read: distillers, saloon owners were OBVIOUSLY unpatriotic, as they were against measures that negatively impacted their bottom line).

You know what "they" say...

Some of the things that "they" say... or said, regarding alcohol, and encouraging prohibition.

Salvation Army General Evangeline Booth:"Drink has drained more blood, Hung more crepe, Sold more houses, Plunged more people into bankruptcy, Armed more villains, Slain more children, Snapped more wedding rings, Defiled more innocence, Blinded more eyes, Twisted more limbs, Dethroned more reason, Wrecked more manhood, Dishonored more womanhood, Broken more hearts, Blasted more lives, Driven more to suicide, andDug more graves than any other poisoned scourge that ever swept its death-dealing waves across the world. (Seldes, 1960, p. 106).

evangelist Billy Sunday:

"The rein of tears is over. The slums will soon be only a memory. We will turn our prisons into factories and our jails into storehouses and comcribs" (Asbury, 1968, pp. 144-145).

From "helping the war" to "moral guardianship

When straight up prohibition came about (the evil step-child of this "war act"), the 18th amendment banned the manufacturing of and sale of "intoxicating liquors," stopping short of possession, consumption, and transportation. Keep in mind, this only impacted liquor (the "hard stuff") and didn't yet focus on beer. Of course, our congress and their infinite wisdom decided to include beer and wine, as they pulled a Meriam Webster and "defined" "intoxicating liquors" to include any beverages containing more than .5% alcohol. Soon beer, wine, whiskey, gin, et al were no longer permitted to be "legally sold." This thing was snowballing.

As this "big bastard" was "growing legs," some "states were banning the sale of flasks, shakers, and other random "things" used to make drinks and/or consume alcohol. The original Congressional appropriation for enforcement was $5 million." A few years later, this number too snowballed, whereas "the government estimated enforcement would cost $300 million." (source: digitalhistory.uh.edu).

During this prohibition period, which started as a means to support war, and digressed into a moral battle, many a bootlegger and rum runner, speakeasy, and backyard "moonshiners" were created. "In 1927, there were twice the number of illegal speakesies as there were legal bards before prohibition." (source: digitalhistory.uh.edu). Organized crime was on the rise during this timeframe, as one can see, and was clearly profiting from said prohibition, when in fact the "evolution" of this "moral legislation" was meant to reduce crime.

Bring on the Repeal of Prohibition

In 1933, the 21st Amendment to the constitution was ratified, repealing prohibition and the 18th amendment. Reputable, tax paying, law abiding establishments were replaced by "criminal" organizations, who were now well to do fully thanks to our nanny state. And of course, our government saw the tax revenues as a great way to help fight the depression this country was in. So, of course, repealing and regulating was the OBVIOUS way to go.

The 21st amendment contained two important statements.

1. "The eighteenth article of amendment to the Constitution of the United States is hereby repealed." --- making it once again "legal" to consume, manufature, sell, and transport alcohol.

2. "The transportation or importation into any State, Territory, or Possession of the United States for delivery or use therein of intoxicating liquors, in violation of the laws thereof, is hereby prohibited."

Number two transferred power to regulate to the states, where it rightfully belonged, in my ever so humble opinion. The feds, of course, retained the rights to tax the hell out of it as it saw fit (no surprise here, but I won't complain).

How the hell does this relate to poker, specifically online poker?

"How does the ramblings on prohibition and alcohol relate to online poker," you ask? "You claim this is a poker blog, but yet, looking at your blogger name (imjusthere4thebeer) are you simply looking to talk "shop" as it relates to one of your hobbies?" There indeed is a huge parallel between the alcohol prohibiting writings above and the state of online poker today, as seen from a poker playing American's point of view.

Well, for starters, if you recall... prohibition of alcohol was spawned from both "concerned citizens" (the anti-saloon league, among others...) and "efforts to support the war" (WWI). It later "evolved" from supporting the war to "we don't want to give the "enemy" any profit (German breweries) and went from a potentially legitimate concern to a morally dictating political ploy (banning alcohol will reduce crime, reinforce family values, eliminate a good portion of corruption in our society, insert bullshit reasoning here, etc).

We have a similar "bullshit movement" being mustered up in the house of representatives right now regarding online poker. H.R. 4411 is trying to make a push to prohibit online gambling. Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R- VA) has pushed forth with the ""Internet Gambling Prohibition Act." In the senate, distinguished morons Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) and Mark Pryor (R-Ark.) are also pushing forth with a similar move. In a shocking move, a Democrat from Mass. comes forth and says what it perhaps the first thing a Mass. Rep has EVER said that makes sense on national/international policy, when the senior Democrat on the House Financial Services Committee, Massachusetts Democrat Barney Frank, came out against the House legislation saying "Adults are entitled to do with their money what they want to do," according to the Reuters news service.

First "these people" are saying that internet gambling plagues our society, citing it serves as a venue for laundering money, supports terrorism, and could be run out of the back of the van in some third world country, therefore it must be stopped! So, obviously this is a "war issue," right guys? Then they go on to say that internet gambling is too easy for our nation's young to get into, its not regulated, credit card debt massing into the tens of thousands of dollars can be run up (underagers are legally entitled to credit cards?), risks bankrupting our society (you mean we cannot run up debt like the government does?), and that "the only people who win are the casinos and bookmakers," (you should know, controlling the lottery and all).

Strangely enough, this bill aims to outlaw our citizen's rights to gamble online, yet it still allows us to gamble in places such as Vegas, Reno, Atlantic City, the riverboats, reservations, slot parlors, via the lottery, at racetracks, and via fantasy games.

Help me understand this, I'm kinda confused... gambling through technology (the internet) is wrong... brick and morter poker rooms, however is ok. How is this now? Oh yes, it must be because the casino operators have gone through an extensive background check... right? Oh wait a minute, can they not go through background checks for online poker rooms as well? hmmm... that can't be it. Could it be... that one can illegally fund other "things" through the online portal, but cannot happen live and in color? I guess they don't have high stakes heads up games capable of shifting money from one person to another in brick and mortor casinos. My bad, what was I thinking.

Is it because the "real" casinos have guards at all entrances dilligantly checking identifications both visually and through those thurrr technological card readers, which mind you are indeed connected to some sort of central databases, aren't they? Hmmm... that can't be it, as I am required to produce some sort of identification online as well in order to establish my identity and right to collect. Is it because "no one ever wins?" Geez... Chris Moneymaker didn't go from screenname to household name via pokerstars? Doyle Brunson didn't make his millions playing poker for a living? Wow, what a reality check.

Could it be... that the government is once again using "wartime efforts" to pass moral policy on the citizens of the United States? We could be on to something here... We've heard the propaganda regarding money laundering, funding terrorism, underagers, blah blah blah. The reality is, however, that the group of idiots proposing this bill are really trying to tell us how we can and cannot spend our money. Its crystal clear to me that this is a state issue, not a federal issue.

If my state wishes to tell me that I cannot gamble online, it may be their right. If the feds wish to regulate it and tax it, that may be their right. The feds, however, may not rightfully tell me that I cannot four table in my boxers in the comfort of my own home. While Al Gore may have "taken the initiative in inventing the internet," the WTO has ruled that the US Governement does not govern the internet. They lack the legal basis to enact a prohibition on me from gambling online. If they cannot legally prevent me from travelling to Atlantic City, or the cardroom across the state line, they cannot prevent me legally from playing online. If they block me from accessing gambling related sites, they're not only violating the right to free press, they're also no better than China, who regulates what kind of political information can be accessed by their citizens (how's that for propaganda, Bob... you support this prohibition, you're as communist as China).

If they attempt to outlaw online gambling, they're forcing their population "underground" to play in poker rooms which will be certain to be run by organized criminal outfits, rigged, and unbeatable - speakeasies of the 21st century, perhaps?

Here's an idea for my closing. How about taking measures to regulate it? Run background checks on the online casino operators, assist in having a system in place to ensure that underagers aren't getting involved here. Audit the books to ensure the cardrooms are fair to all. Tax them, tax us even. Do the right thing and embrace that which is. Put the choice to the states, to the people. Don't make the mistake of recreating the Prohibition Era of the 21st century.