Monthly Archives: October 2010

Bentley a patsy for gambling?

I’ll start by setting out my bias. I think gambling and the lottery, in Alabama, would be evil. Not because the bible says they are, but because they are one more method to extract money from the poor.
Sparks is unabashedly in favor of gambling; indeed, I have yet to figure out what he’ll do for four years if a gambling bill does not make it through the legislature.
So my question is, What about Bentley?
I hope I’m wrong, but I suspect gambling interests like him at least as much as they like Sparks. Cynically, I’m guessing that if there was any way to follow his PAC-convoluted money trail, we would see the proof.
Bentley’s oft-repeated line is that he personally opposes gambling, but thinks the people should have the opportunity to vote on it. Even that statement causes me some heartburn; we have voted on it, and we voted it down. Do we have to have another referendum every time a gambling interest asks for it?
But my big problem, and the reason I question Bentley’s sincerity on the issue, is how he says the referendum should be worded. He wants a yes-no vote on any form of gambling. By voting “no,” you’re voting against bingo cards at VFW and against fundraisers for crippled children. Vote “yes” and you approve the whole shebang, a VictoryLand in every county.
In an interview Monday, he tipped his hat even more. He said his understanding is that about 40 percent of Alabamians oppose all games of chance (including the old ladies with their bingo cards at a Catholic church). “That 40 percent should have a chance to vote, too,” he said in a masterpiece of misleading rhetoric.
To me, this means he is confident that 60 percent of the people would support gambling in his carefully worded referendum. And that’s even before a few million dollars gets spent showing grandma in handcuffs.
With a thin Republican gloss, Bentley’s approach is every bit as pro-gambling as is the more honest approach touted by Sparks.
I’m guessing the gambling interests are laughing out loud. Once they got Byrne out of the race, they knew they owned both candidates.
I can hope either federal indictments or a burst of legislative honesty hold gambling at bay. If it’s up to either candidate for governor, though, get ready for a casino near you.

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Fear of a new majority

I was rough on the tea party in today’s column, but the group is not unique.
Throughout its history, white America has won the battle over capitalism. Wealth has flowed to a smaller and smaller percentage of the population. Blacks and Hispanics have, by and large, been excluded from the wealth accumulation that is the American dream.
The amazing irony is that American capitalism has so effectively concentrated wealth into such a small sliver of the population that the privileged have handed over the keys to U.S. Democracy.
That’s where the fear comes in. Obama’s election in 2008 was the first indication that those sidelined by capitalism were beginning to realize they had the ability to control our government.
Health reform and proposed increases in taxation of the wealthy are a direct result.
White America won the capitalist battle, and it is terrified. It suddenly realizes it may have lost the war.

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Sparks takes 1/2 step in right direction

Everyone in Alabama — excluding those politicians who benefit from the status quo — knows we need immediate and profound ethics reform. One embarrassment after another has plagued our state, and the corruption will not end until we reform the ethics laws. Don’t hold your breath, though. Montgomery power brokers like Sens. Lowell Barron and Roger Bedford have too much to lose with change. So do numerous special interests — especially gambling — who depend on their power being anonymous to the public.

For that reason, The Daily has been pushing hard in recent weeks to get commitments from the two candidates for governor to make a change. Democratic Ron Sparks took a half step in the right direction while speaking in Decatur today.

He promised he would hold a special session on ethics reform if he wins the election.

The Daily’s effort has been for a special session because that’s the only way we can imagine anything happening. (See my Sunday column and our Monday editorial.) The attention of the state — and reporters from every media outlet in the state — will have to be focused on the legislature for anything to change.

Sparks’ commitment to a special session on ethics reform was only a half step because of his rather bizarre caveat: he wants a special session on gambling and the lottery, first.

I call this bizarre because the 11 recent indictments — and more probably are on there way — involved gambling. Even if one accepts Sparks’s proposition that taxed gambling would help the state, his suggestion that ethics reform come after a legislative consensus to allow gambling is odd. It is the gambling interests that have created the most ethical problems. We need to clean up corruption in the political system before we consider whether gambling is appropriate in Alabama.

A half step is better than no step at all, though. Let’s hope Bentley supports the idea of a special session before we take up gambling or any other issue.

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Filed under Alabama politics, Ethics, gambling