St. Francis of the slots

· Among the Barbarians

Our bay of St. Francis is primed to become the Monte Carlo of the West by the looks of all the recent casino proposals, a result of both intentional and unintended actions of legislators, disenfranchised tribes, and savvy money men who could smell the profits from three time zones away.
In effect, the Bureau of Indian Affairs in the Department of the Interior is running a tribal gaming franchise business that allows casino complexes to be plopped anywhere in the U.S. in what amounts to a tax-free zone. Not all tribal casinos are going to be huge or even profitable, however. The gold standard is a casino site in an urban area where the potential gamblers have easy access. But urban casinos have been few and far between until recently because most tribal lands are in rural areas.
That is changing in California. It began with a little noticed change to a 2000 federal spending bill in which Congressman George Miller retroactively reinstated tribal land status for a small disenfranchised Pomo group known as the Lytton Band. The land happened to be a few acres in the middle of San Pablo, a city on the perimeter of San Francisco Bay.
Enter the money men, the consultants, and a Bay Area cottage casino industry….It only makes sense when you know what the numbers are. According to the National Indian Gaming Commission (, in 2003 Indian gaming revenues were $16.7 billion from 330 gaming operations throughout the U.S. However, just 43 of these casino operations located in California account for $4.7 billion in revenues. Compare that to total Nevada state non-Indian gaming revenue of about $900 million (including Las Vegas casinos). In addition, there are new customer betting offers being given to new players, read more about this at this site.
With that kind of money in play it’s no wonder that high-powered Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff got a little greedy. Now being investigated by the Senate Indian Affairs Committtee, headed by Sen. John McCain, as well as a federal grand jury, Abramhoff and his partner Michael Scanlon–a former spokesman for Congressman Tom DeLay–have been accused of funneling much of the $66 million they charged Indian tribes for consulting services into slush funds benefiting conservative and Republican causes. (see Washington Post article from Nov. 8, 2004 by Thomas B. Edsall)
In California, tribal contributions to California political campaigns have become the subject of litigation. The question is whether tribal sovereignty trumps campaign contribution disclosure laws. The California case began when the Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) sued the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians, saying it was subject to the state’s Political Reform Act. The agency accused the tribe of failing to file semi-annual disclosure statements for more than $8.1 million in campaign contributions.
The Agua Caliente Band owns two casinos near Palm Springs. Though its located close enough to Los Angeles to be a popular weekend resort destination, it couldn’t be considered urban. The first truly urban casino on tribal land is yet to come. But when it does it’s likely to be a San Francisco Bay landmark.

Source from Giai ma giac mo

casino california

· Among the Barbarians

Source by
I blame Arnold. Well, why not. There really is nobody to blame but ourselves for the mess we’re in here. The casinos are coming to town whether we want them or not. Even online, casinos are everywhere, 666casinos offers real casino experience that let you play your favorite casino games online. A few people are going to make millions, perhaps half of them people of the First Nations, and the rest of us will be free to lose our millions in the rococco halls of the gambling malls. Uh, and we also lose our sovereignty. What?
In California, gambling of the Las Vegas type (slot machines) is only allowed on tribal land. Many tribes, however, lost their status over the decades and their reservation land. But new legislation in recent decades allowed tribes to re-establish their sovereign status via application to the Department of the Interior, Bureau of Indian Affairs–or BIA.
According to YeboYesCasino and their recent posts, the arrival of the best online slots craze in California, meant getting sovereign tribal status has suddenly become the hottest game in town.

Big money developers have gone looking for tribes to invest in–and tribes are looking for land to buy. In the San Francisco Bay Area alone there are as many as five proposed tribal gaming developments. Learn about other Keno variants and other great gambling tips.

These are huge Vegas-style entertainment/gaming/hotel facilities that have one purpose–to get you to pull the stick of a slot machine. As the odds are set, every dollar you plunk into the slot will earn the Tribes twenty cents (and the developer, and the consultants, and the casino management company and, oh I almost forgot, the politicians).
According to the California section of the magazine I’m reading, there’s nothing new about gambling or get rich quick developments.

What is new is that tribal land is being created within municipal boundaries. That is, the tribal property, once approved by the BIA, becomes a sovereign nation, even if it’s smack dab in the middle of Oakland. No permits, or zoning laws, or environmental impact reports, or tax remitances need apply. It’s a whole new world of urban planning and I got a taste of it last week at the Oakland City Council meeting….more to come.

Torture is bad

· Among the Barbarians, Democrats, Reform, Republicans

There. I’ve gone out on a limb and said it. I feel so brave.

Quoting from the Nielsen Haydens’ blog (Happy New Year):

Ogged of Unfogged:

[…T]his will become a “Democrats are soft and looking to score points” issue. I’ve given up. Complain, protest, organize and fund all you want; one more attack here and your neighbors will be lining up to torture somebody, anybody.

Ezra of Pandagon:

Unfogged is right; barring a miracle of competence and media responsibility, opposing torture will end up making the Democrats look like we get the vapors whenever the menfolk whip out the cigars and talk terrorism. Our press flacks are ineffective, our caucus can’t stick to a message, and we don’t have a party leader charged with articulating our position to the public.

Doesn’t matter. Torture just isn’t something you compromise on. I’m as coldly political as the next guy, but not torture. That’s not part of the country I grew up believing in.

Digby of Hullabaloo:

[T]he mere act of finally drawing that line in the sand, of saying “No More,” is the very thing that refutes the charge. It’s hemming and hawing and splitting the difference and “meeting halfway” and offering compromises on matters of principle that makes the charge of Democratic spinelessness believable. This isn’t about a special interest giving money or bending to the will of a powerful constituency. People can feel the difference. There is nothing weak about simply and forcefully standing up for what is right. […] I think it may just be a defining issue for Democrats.

It’s not that I believe that all Americans are horrified, or even a majority of Americans are horrified. Clearly, the dittoheads think it is just ducky. But that isn’t the point. Just because they aren’t horrified or even endorse it on some level doesn’t mean that they don’t know that it’s wrong. They do. And it is very uncomfortable to be put in the position of defending yourself when you know you are wrong. Even good people find ways, but it cuts a little piece out of their self-respect every time they do it.

Every person alive in America today grew up with the belief that torture is wrong. Popular culture, religion, folklore and every other form of cultural instruction for decades in this country has taught that it is wrong, from sermons and lectures to films about slavery to photographs of Auschwitz to crime shows about serial killers. [1] It is embedded in our consciousness. We teach our children that it is wrong to torture animals and other kids. We don’t say that there are exceptions for when the animals or kids are really, really bad. We have laws on the books that outright outlaw it. The words “cruel and unusual” are written into our constitution.

The problem is not that there isn’t a widely accepted admonition not to conduct torture, it’s that many people, as with all crimes, will choose to ignore the admonition under certain circumstances. However, that does not mean that they do not know that what they are doing is wrong. There is nothing surprising in that. It’s why we have laws.

The arguments for torture being raised by the right are rationalizations for what they know is immoral and illegal conduct. Their discomfort with the subject clearly indicates that they don’t really want to defend it. (Witness the pathetic dance that even that S&M freak Rush Limbaugh had to do after his comments were widely disseminated.) Will they admit that they know it’s wrong? Of course not. But when they take up their manly jihad and accuse the Democrats of being swooning schoolgirls they will also be forced to positively defend something that many of them know very well is indefensible. And every time they do that their credibility on values and morals is chipped away a little bit.

I don’t expect them to change their tune. Way too much of this comes from a defect in temperament and garden-variety racism and that’s not going to go away. But Democrats have to thicken their skins and be prepared for the usual attacks and insist over and over again that it is against the values and principles of the United States to torture people, period. It is not only right, it is smart.

As I wrote below, the opposition will bluster and fidget and scream bloody murder. But listen to the tenor of their arguments. [2] [The Wall Street Journal] rails against the “glib abuse of the word” as if they can run away from the issue by engaging in a game of semantics. They are reduced to claiming that unless we torture it will be unilateral disarmament. We, the most powerful military force the world has ever known, will be defeated by a bunch of third world religious misfits if we don’t engage in torturing suspects. Just who sounds weak?

[1] Maureen Dowd: “Before [Alberto Gonzales] helped President Bush circumvent the accords and reserve the right to do so ‘in this or future conflicts,’ you had to tune in to an old movie with Nazi generals or Vietcong guards if you wanted to see someone sneeringly shrug off the international treaty protecting prisoners from abuse. (‘You worthless running dog Chuck Norris! What do we care about your silly Geneva Conventions?’)”

[2] The Poor Man: “The point is this:
‘To protect subordinates should they be charged with torture, the memo advised that Mr. Bush issue a “presidential directive or other writing” that could serve as evidence, since authority to set aside the laws is “inherent in the president.”‘ Alberto Gonzales thinks that the Magna Carta is liberal pablum.”

the fish must pay

· Among the Barbarians

And so far, the fish owe the farmers of California $26 million for depriving them of their water rights during the drought years of 1992 to 1994, according to federal claims court judge,
John Paul Wiese .
Since fish don’t have bank accounts it’s the federal government that will have to pay. For depriving farmers of water that is delivered to them via a federally-owned viaduct system built with taxpayers’ dollars. The farmers belong to collectives known as Irrigation Districts that negotiate the price of water in contracts with the federal government.
Whose water is it? According to California law, the water belongs to the public, specifically the state Department of Water Resources which holds the rights to the water it diverts for farm and municipal use. Judge Wiese has ruled that the water not delivered to the farmers is, essentially, their property–and they, and not the fish, are the victims of a “taking.”
Oh, and it pretty much voids the Environmental Protection Act which allowed for the river water to go to the fish during those drought years. If you want to protect fish habitat (hint: its WATER), you’ll have to pay the farmers.
Of course, the federal government could challenge Judge Wiese’s ruling that it owes millions to farmers in California. House Resources Committee Chairman Richard W. Pombo (R-Calif.), however, has urged the administration not to do that. He’s with Judge Wiese, who said that “The federal government is certainly free to preserve the fish; it must simply pay for the water it takes to do so.”

gambling on your life

· Among the Barbarians

Now that the referendum on war and family values is behind us I think it’s time we turned our attention to the center ring in this American circus and take a look at how the Republicans are planning to dismantle our social safety net. I read a little article in the San Francisco Chronicle last Sunday that talked about how those Republican-vaunted health savings accounts are difficult to set up and hardly worth the trouble in a state like California that doesn’t give you a tax break for them. Considering how much those tax breaks could cost the state (about $25 million per year, according to the article), I’m not sure we want them.
But say you have no other way to get health insurance and you at least want federal tax break? Well, good luck. You’d probably be better off going to the race track or your friendly local casino than trying to find a bank or other financial institution that will set one up for you. Well, if you are going to a casino you might want as well visit UmBingo, a great casino that offers great reward that you can’t deny. I had to laugh at the article’s example (from something called Spidell’s California Taxletter – a year’s subscription is only $127) wherein our typical resident in need of health care insurance puts $2,000 into said “health savings account” (the maximum contribution allowed per year is $2,600) and the account “earns $250 per year” according to Spidell’s experts.
Ok. We can stop right there. $250 on $2,000? Where is this account – at the Bank of Halliburton? I’ll have you know my esteemed Washington Mutual “Preferred” Savings Account earns 1.37 percent at the moment – and that’s up from somewhere below 1 percent for most of the last year. That means that on $2,000 I earn $27. 40 over one year. Say this wonderous “health savings account” is allowed to be invested in the stock market. Then I might possibly earn $250, or I might lose the whole wad ala Bill Frist’s campaign fund.
Say I have no choice but to put $2,600 (the maximum, remember) into one of these accounts and get my federal tax break (say, for fun, it’s worth $100) and, at Mafia interest rates, garner an extra $250 over the year. That means I have paid out $2,600 and made $350. But does that pay my health insurance premium cost for the year? Well, in my own case those premiums (for my non-profit health care provider Kaiser) cost over $3,600 per year. And that’s with a high co-pay and no prescriptions.
You can see how excited I might be about the “invest-on-your-own social security account.”