February Word Challenge, Day 10

There will be no February 10 entry for the February Word Challenge, because that’s the day Ed Bryant died.

There are no words.

Poker Can Help the Economy

I got a note today from the Poker Player’s Alliance (of which I am a member), urging me to support legalization of online poker on Change.gov, the website that Obama’s administration is using to take the pulse of the American public on issues relating to government.

Okay, before anyone jumps on me for having my priorities out of whack, yes, I do think there are much higher priorities than legalizing online poker, namely ending the war in Iraq, closing Guantanamo Bay, fixing a drastically broken health care system, and bolstering an economy that’s currently flying without a net. However, legalizing and regulating online poker could conceivably have a positive effect on the economy.

Here’s what I had to say in the topic contents at Change.gov:

As an accomplished poker player himself, I hope that President Obama recognizes that online poker is more a game of skill than a game of luck, and that legalizing and regulating online poker is just one more way that people can infuse money into the flagging economy. Millions of Americans play online poker already, and the money that could be made from taxing those online games is a staggering amount.

As I write this on a Wednesday afternoon, just one of the online poker sites is hosting nearly 175,000 people on over 42,000 virtual tables. Imagine if those 42,000 tables were hosted by an American company and taxed at $1 (for round numbers), along with any other tables that are generated on that site each day. Then consider that numerous American companies would be in this business space and the number of Americans playing online poker would easily increase with the repeal of the UIGEA, and it’s easy to see how regulation and taxation of online poker could generate millions of dollars *per day* to benefit the economy.

Or, we could keep the current system, continue to force banks to reject transactions that they could be making money on, continue to stigmatize skillful online poker players while honoring much more random Internet gambling systems, and continue to encourage an offshore shadow industry with no oversight.

Sounds like a no-brainer to me.

What do you think?


Mr. Jdimytai Damour has been on my mind lately. If you don’t recognize the name, you might recognize his story. Damour was the 34 year old temporary worker assigned to the maintenance department of a Wal*Mart in Valley Stream, New York, who was trampled to death as a mob of bargain shoppers broke down the doors in their intense desire to nab the deep discounts on Black Friday.

Doorbusters, all right.

I still hear radio commercials using that term in regard to holiday discount sales. The latest one I heard was a J.C. Penney ad. Is the irony lost on them? How can they continue to use that term in the wake of the Valley Stream trampling?

Wal*Mart calls the day after Thanksgiving “the Blitz.” Blitz means “lightning” in German (cf. “Blitzkrieg,” or “lightning war.”) I suspect the Wal*Mart term doesn’t actually refer to the meteorological event, but to the store assault staged by buyers.

Why do companies use images of violence to promote holiday sales, especially during a time we are encouraged to show gratitude and respect to others? What do Wal*Mart and J.C. Penney expect when they use these terms? Is it fair to say that retailers foster feelings of competition and violence in their holiday advertising?

Where does the retailer’s responsibility end and the consumer’s responsibility begin? I’m sure no one in that mob went to Wal*Mart intending to trample anyone to death. Certainly, people need to accept personal responsibility for their actions, but in a mob mentality, self-preservation comes first, and conscious protection of others is secondary at best.

Of course, because it’s difficult (if not impossible) to determine who delivered the killing blow to Damour, so Wal*Mart will be left holding the bag. Don’t get me wrong, I think it would be appropriate for Wal*Mart to offer some kind of voluntary compensation to Damour’s family; the company certainly could have taken better security measures to protect employees and customers alike. But I don’t think Wal*Mart bears the full responsibility for Damour’s death.

Feel free to share any thoughts and opinions below. I’m curious to get other perspectives.

No Child Left Behind (unless we want them left behind)

Science Daily posted an article today about negative implications of the No Child Left Behind act as seen in the Texas school districts, the model on which NCLB is based. Here’s a pertinent quote from the article:

The study shows as schools came under the accountability system, which uses student test scores to rate schools and reward or discipline principals, massive numbers of students left the school system. The exit of low-achieving students created the appearance of rising test scores and of a narrowing of the achievement gap between white and minority students, thus increasing the schools’ ratings.

In other words, the more underachievers we force out of the school system, the better our test scores look.

Although I tend to be liberal in general, I also tend to support student testing and accountability of students in schools. However, when the laws start bending the curriculum so that teachers are forced to teach to the tests, or when some students feel they would rather drop out than complete their education in a hostile environment, something is wrong with the plan. Maybe that’s the cause of the trend I’ve seen in my son’s generation; young adults ask each other if they graduated, rather than when they graduated.

No Child Left Behind, my ass. More like No Under-Achievers Beyond This Point.

Douglas Bruce Incident (a.k.a. “Brucewatch”)

Note, 4/1/2008: Though this post was originally written on 1/15/08, Representative Douglas Bruce has continued to make headlines for his inappropriate behavior in the Colorado House, and I’ve continued to post links to the articles about him. Therefore, it seems appropriate to take this April Fool’s Day opportunity to rechristen this post “Brucewatch.”

Some of you may have heard about the Douglas Bruce incident that took place on the floor of the Colorado House yesterday. If not, here are some links to bring you up to speed.

Bruce Alive and Kicking in the House (dead link)
Bruce Kicks Photographer During House Prayer (dead link)
Bruce Would Not Discuss Kicking Photographer in News Conference
Douglas Bruce’s Official Website

Today, I read that the House Minority Leader Mike May (mike.may.house@state.co.us) and the Speaker of the House Andrew Romanoff (romanoff@coloradohouse.org), a Republican and a Democrat, have come together to launch an investigation into the incident.

House Panel to Investigate Lawmaker’s Kick at Photographer

Here is the text of an e-mail I just sent to both men. I hope those of you in Colorado will join me in these sentiments, no matter what your party affiliation may be.

Dear Mr. Romanoff and Mr. May,

I want to thank you for taking the initiative to investigate the actions of Douglas Bruce yesterday on the House floor. From all accounts, it was clearly a case of assault and intimidation, even if it didn’t result in significant injury. Coupled with Bruce’s insistence that he be sworn in during open session and his refusal to take his appointed seat in a timely manner, his actions make it clear that his priority is self-interest, rather than representing his constituents. His refusal to apologize for his inappropriate actions further cements this impression.

As I’ve heard others say, this is not a party issue, it is a human respect issue, and I commend you both for seeing beyond party lines to deal with the real issues.

In the end, I hope you find that the most appropriate action the House can take is expulsion. If this man resorts to violence as a first option — immediately after prayer, at that — he is not a man that I want in my state government.

Yours sincerely,

Stace Johnson
Federal Heights

Update 3:05 PM: I already received an e-mail acknowledgment from Mike May. The language in the e-mail seems fairly standard (i.e. a form letter), but I’m very pleased to have received acknowledgment at all in such a short time. Mr. May, thank you for your quick response!

Update 3:20 PM, 1/18/2008: The special committee investigating the actions of Douglas Bruce has recommended that Bruce be censured, and that he apologize to the full State House for his actions. So far, Bruce seems unrepentant, claiming that his heel kick was merely just shoving the photographer out of the way. Yeesh. Here’s the news update.

Update 1:20 PM, 1/20/2008: Bruce maintains that he did nothing wrong, and that merely “tapping” someone with the bottom of his shoe does not constitute a kick. Hmmm … Mr. Bruce, if you look at the video taken of you while you were performing the action, it appears that you not only tapped, but shoved (with your foot, i.e. kicked) the cameraman hard enough to make him lose his balance and knock over one of the cameras next to him. That seems like more than a “tap” to me, and yes, it does constitute assault (Simple assault, technically, a misdeameanor.) If you don’t know that, you shouldn’t be a lawmaker, Mr. Bruce. And if you can’t exert enough self-control to restrain yourself from committing a misdemeanor on the House floor, you should not be allowed in the House.

Update 9:10 PM, 1/23/2008: Lawmakers introduce an unprecedented resolution to censure Representative Bruce. It’s not expulsion, and it remains to be seen whether Bruce will have to stand on the House floor before his peers while the censure is delivered, but the Colorado House has never before resolved to censure a Representative, so it is a pretty strong punishment.

Update 4:38 PM, 1/24/2008: Bruce compares himself to Jimmy Stewart in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington during a rambling defensive speech after censure.

Update 4:51 PM, 2/15/2008: Keep it up, Bruce. Now he’s refusing to vote on health care resolutions and veterans’ rights issues, despite being a (now former) member of the State, Veterans, and Military Affairs Committee. See all that smoke behind you, Mr. Bruce? Those are the bridges you are burning, and if you keep being uncooperative as a representative of your constituency, you will have a short time in the Colorado House.

Update 9:50 AM, 2/21/2008: Under the microscope. Mr. Bruce submitted expense reports for the five days that he delayed taking office earlier this year. That’s $750. Fortunately, someone caught it, and he says it was a clerical error and will return the money. Why don’t I believe him? I would say this is a witch hunt, except that Mr. Bruce has clearly broken the rules repeatedly, and there’s documentation to back up the claims. I can’t imagine that he will hold office for long.

Update 10:11 PM, 4/1/2008: Dirty Campaigning at the Capitol. Today, Mr. Bruce decided to deliver fliers to his fellow Republicans in the Colorado House, attacking his opponent in this year’s Republican Primary. This brought yet another warning to Bruce from House Speaker Andrew Romanoff, who determined that the brash campaigning, while not necessarily against the rules of the legislature, was in poor taste. Seems consistent to me; I have yet to hear of Representative Bruce doing anything in good taste since he took his House seat.