Category Archives: Gambling

Where I saw my first (and last) cockfight

cockfighting

 

This news today…

Cockfighting could be a felony in home of fighting Gamecocks

In a state where the flagship university’s mascot is a fighting gamecock, some legislators are trying to toughen the penalties for cockfighting, something that’s illegal in all 50 states.

But South Carolina is among nine states where the crime is only a misdemeanor, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Legislation considered Wednesday by a Senate panel would make second and subsequent convictions a felony, punishable by up to a $3,000 fine and five years in prison.

Animal-rights activists say cockfighting is cruel, a haven for gambling and drug use and desensitizes children who might watch it to violence. But game fowl breeders contend cockfighting is a centuries-old tradition that’s no more cruel than hunting sports, and that breeding the birds is a source of pride….

… reminded me of a old grainy photo I recently ran across while digitizing family pictures.

It’s not much to look at, not least because of its Polaroid-level quality. My mother was taking pictures around our house (actually, the spacious upstairs part of a duplex) where we lived in Guayaquil, Ecuador, from 1962-65. By the notes she wrote on the backs, she sent them to relatives in the States to show them where we lived.

This shot was apparently sort of an afterthought. It shows a scruffy vacant lot that could be seen, if you looked diagonally across a side street, from the back terraza of the apartment. On the back, she wrote:

This is an ugly vacant lot across from porch “B”. The trash man comes every day & if he has a lot of paper he burns it there.

You can barely see one of the dry mountains in the distance.

Not much to see, but whenever I read about the cockfighting issue in the paper, I think of that lot.

It was the only undeveloped lot within blocks of us, and therefore something of a magnet for my buddy Tony Wessler (an Air Force brat who lived about six blocks away) and me. We lived a fairly adventurous, Huck Finn life outdoors, since there was no television to speak of. There was little of nature there, as the houses didn’t have yards — just courtyards surrounding by walls that were only a yard or so from the houses. Tony and I would cross blocks by running along those walls and, where feasible, climbing from the walls to the flat concrete rooftops and running over the actual houses.

See that house to the left of the vacant lot? We almost got caught on that one. The roof was divided for some reason by a cement wall about three-feet high. Vaulting it, I banged my knee right on the funny bone and collapsed on the roof. The resident heard us and called out, “Who is that?” Fortunately, we managed to get over to the next roof before he caught us.

Anyway, unpaved ground was a rarity, and we liked this bit of it.

One day on that lot, we saw a tight circle of men gathered in excitement around some activity in the dusty middle. These were working-class men, not the sort who lived in this relatively affluent part of town. Maybe one was that trash man my mother mentioned. Others could have been the pushcart vendors who worked our neighborhood, calling out the varieties of bananas and other produce they sold.

We could barely make out what had them so excited, but we caught brief glimpses of the two gamecocks going at it while the men yelled, gesticulated and placed their bets.

We wanted to get a better look, but couldn’t.

I suppose this “desensitized” me as a child, because I don’t look back in horror. And the idea of chickens fighting doesn’t appall me the way, say, dogfighting does. Maybe because I have some empathy for those guys who didn’t have a whole lot of entertainment in their lives. Or maybe because daily, coming down Sunset between home and downtown, I find myself caught behind those miserable, smelly trucks carrying hundreds of filthy-looking white chickens on their way to the slaughter. Talk about desensitizing… giving a chicken a fighting chance seems less cruel by comparison.

And before you ask, no, I don’t eat chicken. I’m allergic to it. This horror is the fault of the rest of y’all, he said smugly…

Democrats walk back their awful casino proposal (a bit)

Two days ago, I said I hoped that when the SC House Democrats announced their legislative priorities on Tuesday, they would back away from their awful idea of legalizing casinos in order to pay for roads.

I didn’t have much confidence that they would, and I didn’t attend their presser.

But I’m pleased and surprised by the release they sent out after yesterday’s event. No, they didn’t abandon the idea. But it was no longer the first thing they mentioned on the topic of paying for roads, and the first thing was now the one rational way to do it — by raising the tax that is intended for that purpose, a tax that hasn’t been raised since 1987:

SC House Democrats Announce 2015 Legislative Agenda
Highlights include road funding, education funding reform, equal pay, redistricting reform
Columbia, SC – South Carolina House Democrats announced their legislative agenda for the 2015-16 session at a press conference at the state house on Tuesday. Led by Minority Leader Representative Todd Rutherford, Democrats first stressed the need to tackle road funding this session.
“House Democrats are endorsing an ‘all of the above’ approach to road funding this year,” said Democratic Leader Todd Rutherford (D-Richland). “The time to be picky about how we fund our roads is over. Simply put, we will not stand in the way of a gas tax increase, nor will we stand in the way of new revenue through casinos. The only thing we’ll stand in the way of is kicking the can down the road. We have to plug our $45 billion infrastructure deficit before a bridge collapses and people die.”
Democrats also called on the Governor and Republicans in the general assembly to withdraw their “embarrassing” appeal to the Supreme Court ruling over K-12 funding.
“For twenty years, Republicans have ignored the issue of education funding in South Carolina,” said Representative James Smith (D-Richland.) “Instead of fighting the Supreme Court ruling calling on us to address the inequalities in school funding, let’s actually roll up our sleeves and do it. We owe it to the students, parents, and teachers of South Carolina. “
Democrats also called on Governor Haley to negotiate a South Carolina-centered alternative to Medicaid Expansion with the federal government to allow us to bring our federal tax dollars back to the state.
“It makes zero sense to continue to refuse to accept our own tax dollars just so Governor Haley can thumb her nose at the President,” said Rep. Justin Bamberg (D-Bamberg). “Fourteen Republican Governors have now come out in support of some sort of Expansion alternative that they negotiated with the federal government. Why shouldn’t we do the same?”
The other issues Democrats will focus on this session include equal pay for female state employees. South Carolina is one of just four states in the nation without a equal pay law. Representative Leon Stavrinakis has proposed a bill that would ban gender pay discrimination among state employees. His bill was modeled after a Louisiana bill that passed an overwhelming Republican General Assembly and signed into law by conservative Republican Governor Bobby Jindal.
House Democrats also endorsed a plan to establish a living wage in South Carolina. Currently, South Carolina is one of just five states in the country without a state-mandated minimum wage law. Representative Gilda Cobb-Hunter’s proposal would set the wage at $10.10 per hour.
Democrats also pledged their support for ethics reform this session. Though they said any ethics reform should also include reforming the redistricting process in South Carolina. Their proposal would install an independent panel to draw district lines instead of partisan legislators. In 2014, 100% of all incumbent legislators were re-elected in the general election.
“District lines are purposely drawn by legislators in order to create a safer political environment for themselves and their political party,” said Rep. Laurie Funderburk (D-Kershaw), the author of the bill. “Gerrymandering has created a polarized legislature that seeks to root out moderates and replace them with politicians who only have to worry about winning their primaries. Reforming our redistricting process is critical to a more functional General Assembly and regaining the trust of the voters.”
####

Sure, I’d like to see them pick up the gas tax ball and run with it, but this indirect sort of endorsement at least marks progress.

Here’s hoping SC House Democrats’ priorities have improved over the last couple of weeks

I received this this morning:

SC House Democrats to Unveil Agenda and Discuss 2015 State of the State at Tuesday Press Conference
 
Columbia, SC – SC House Democrats, led by Minority Leader Todd Rutherford, will hold a press conference on Tuesday morning, January 20th, to unveil their 2015 legislative agenda and to discuss expectations for Governor Haley’s 2015 State of the State.
Who: SC House Democrats
What: Press Conference to Unveil 2015 Legislative Agenda and Discuss Governor Haley’s State of the State
When: Tuesday, January 20th – 11:45am
Where: SC State House – First Floor Lobby
For More Information please contact Tyler Jones at 843-732-2550 or tylerjonesmail@gmail.com
####

Here’s hoping that SC Democrats’ priorities have changed somewhat since they released them a couple of weeks ago. Particularly, I hope they’ve scrubbed the first one:

  1. 3127 – Allow gaming referendum to pay for roads (Rutherford)
  2. 3110 – High Quality Education for public schools (W. McLeod)
  3. 3140 – Legalization of Medical Marijuana for Patients (Rutherford)
  4. 3031 – Establish a state minimum wage (Cobb-Hunter)
  5. 3253 – Establish an equal pay law in South Carolina (Stavrinakis)
  6. 3174 – Comprehensive Ethics Reform (Tinkler)

I hope, I hope, I hope…

SC House Dems announce priorities, lose me on the 1st one

This just in from SC House Democrats:

SC House Democrats Announce Priorities for 2015-16 Legislative Session

Columbia, SC – South Carolina House Democrats released their legislative priorities for the 121st South Carolina General Assembly. Caucus priorities are centered on “Modernizing South Carolina for the 21st Century.” Over the next two years, House Democrats will focus on finding adequate and stable sources of revenue to fix our crumbling roads and bridges, reform the state’s K-12 Public Education funding system, providing affordable and accessible health care options, establishing a state minimum wage, increasing teacher pay, strengthening the state’s ethics laws, and a host of other challenges and issues important to all South Carolinians.

“House Republicans have now been in charge for twenty years; and on almost every single issue – employment, education, roads, healthcare – things have gotten demonstrably worse in South Carolina,” said House Democratic Leader Todd Rutherford of Columbia. “At some point Republicans have to realize that their agenda of abandoning our public schools, putting government in our bedrooms and doctor’s offices, and completely ignoring our state’s roads, simply isn’t working. House Democrats are prepared to make this session about new, innovative ways to specifically address our state’s problems and modernize South Carolina for the 21st Century.”

House Democrats have already pre-filed several pieces of legislation that address a number of our most critical challenges including:

  1. 3127 – Allow gaming referendum to pay for roads (Rutherford)
  2. 3110 – High Quality Education for public schools (W. McLeod)
  3. 3140 – Legalization of Medical Marijuana for Patients (Rutherford)
  4. 3031 – Establish a state minimum wage (Cobb-Hunter)
  5. 3253 – Establish an equal pay law in South Carolina (Stavrinakis)
  6. 3174 – Comprehensive Ethics Reform (Tinkler)

“House Republicans have spent three decades digging a very deep hole with their negligence and extreme ideology,” said Rutherford. “Now it’s time for them to stop digging. We must try something new, and we must do it quickly.”

House Democrats plan to unveil their legislative agenda the second week of the 2015 Session.

####

Of course, they lose me immediately on the very first proposal listed.

Really, Democrats? This is what you want the party of FDR and JFK to be known for in SC? A plan to introduce ANOTHER scheme to exploit human weakness, as an alternative to simply raising the tax that we already have in place to pay for roads? Really?

First the DOR breach, now this

My friend Paula Harper Bethea, who runs the state lottery, disclosed the following today to WLTX, which is billing this story as an exclusive:

Columbia, SC (WLTX) — News19 has learned SLED is investigating funds taken from at least one South Carolina Education Lottery account.

SCEL’s executive director Paula Harper Bethea, tells News19 that accounting discrepancies have been found and an investigation is underway.

Sources tell News19 the dollar amount is six figures. We’re told that the money has since been returned, but charges are still likely to be filed.

Bethea stressed to News19 that this involved the finance side of the lottery and that “at no time was the integrity or the security of the central gaming system or any of our games affected.”

SLED would only confirm that an investigation into the accounting discrepancies is underway and would not release any other information.

First somebody gets into our private data at DOR, now somebody (else?) gets into the lottery till. What next?

Danny Frazier n’a jamais sonné comme ça

If that headline makes no sense, blame Google Translate.

I got a new Twitter follower over the weekend, possibly because of what’s been in the news locally. The handle is @video_poker.

But it’s voice, shall we say, isn’t quite the one I’ve come to associate with video poker. Some recent Tweets:

If Jake Knotts and Sheriff Metts say they don’t know anything about this, I think everyone will believe them…

The tax on stupidity

I liked this analogy offered in a book review in The Wall Street Journal Thursday about why we so often call lotteries a "tax on stupidity:"

    'Imagine a standard NFL football field. Somewhere in the field, a student has placed a single, small, common variety of ant that she has marked with a spot of yellow paint. You walk onto the field, blindfolded, and push a pin into the ground. If your pin pierces the marked ant, you win. Otherwise you lose. Want to give it a go?"
    Thus did one mathematician describe the odds of winning a Powerball lottery. Is it any wonder that economists deride state-run lotteries as a tax on stupidity? Bad enough that the government is encouraging gambling; all the worse that it is encouraging such a bad bet.

You betcha.

And you thought Vegas couldn’t get any tackier…

I’ll give you a little rest from writing your own captions. Here’s a real-life photo and caption from AP. Leave it to an operation with Myrtle Beach ties to teach tacky to Las Vegas. Maybe this could be taken to the next level if they made a "reality" TV show about it, but that’s about the only way I can think of.

Hooters

Bartenders gather at the bar area for training at Hooters hotel-casino
in Las Vegas on Wednesday, Feb.1, 2006. Hooters’ first ever
hotel-casino, featuring 696 rooms and a 30,000 square foot casino with
more than 200 Hooters Girls, officially opens on Friday. (AP Photo/Jae
C. Hong)

A newspaper primer

When I saw this headline this morning, I thought, "What an opportunity! I can write a blog item extending and reinforcing the point about editorial independence that I made yesterday."

Basically, yesterday I had an exchange with a reader that gave me the opportunity to explain the separation between editorial and advertising. I would have mentioned that editorial is just as separate from news, but that wasn’t the subject at hand. Then, lo and behold, the newsroom provides a supreme example of that this morning.

But before I could sit down and write the item, I received this comment (see the second one) from someone else accusing us of "hypocrisy" because the newsroom doesn’t follow our editorial line.

Sheesh. You just can’t win. All right, here’s a primer on how this newspaper works:

News and editorial are as separate as advertising and editorial. When I see a headline I don’t like, I’ve got less ability to do anything about it than you, the reader. You can hoot and holler and write an angry letter. I turn away and tend to my own business, because I’m not supposed to influence, or even try to influence, news decisions.

Am I complaining about that? No. Because just as I don’t try to run their business, they don’t try to run mine.

I really don’t see why some readers have trouble understanding this. Most readers seem to think it would be awful for the news to be reported to fit our editorial position, and our most vehement critics are often those who believe that line is being crossed.

Yet now I have readers criticizing us because we DON’T cross that line, or the other line between us and advertising. Oh, well. I learned long ago that different people want different things from a newspaper.

Any other questions?

Fact gets in way of perfectly good post

A colleague points out a flaw of omission in my last posting, as follows:

She said that when the lottery was created — over our strenuous objections — we advocated that the authorizing legislation contain language that would prevent the state from doing what other states had done, which was to promote the lottery as a get-rich-quick scheme to an excessive degree. For instance, advertising in other states had portrayed people who studied and worked hard to make a living as saps, and lottery players as the smart ones who knew the way to fortune.

Well, I remembered that part. What I didn’t remember that in connection with the legislative restrictions that we advocated, the lottery operators also would be required to urge people to play "responsibly."

But here it is, clear as can be, in state law:

The commission must promote fair and responsible play, including
disclosure of the odds of winning, and must ensure that any advertising
used does not exhort the public to bet by misrepresenting, directly or
indirectly, a person’s chance of winning a prize.

Fact noted. So now I will make these two points:

  • First, if the only reason the lottery director is urging us to play "responsibly" is that the law requires him to, that means the situation is even more ironic, not less. Doesn’t it?
  • Second, I must apologize to Ernie Passailaigue if my previous words implied hypocrisy on his part. If he’s forced by law to say words that sound hypocritical, then he’s not the hypocrite, the state is.

But then, that was always the case. Ernie’s just a guy doing a job. The guilty party here has always been the state.

Har-de-har-har-HAR

Did you see this in today’s paper (scroll down to the second item)?

With the Powerball jackpot at $340 million,
the executive director of the state lottery is encouraging South
Carolinians to play the numbers responsibly.

Aw, man, I went and blew the joke! I should have set it up first, and then hit you with the punch line.

Oh, well. I guess I’ll have to face the fact that Ernie’s the comedian around here, not me. If it had been me, I would have come up with something lame about urging fish to do their best to stay dry, or curing alcoholism by urging drunks just to have one or two drinks when their jones is upon them. Neither of those works. I just don’t have Ernie’s timing, or exquisite sense of irony.

I love it when he brags about all the scholarship money the lottery provides — always neglecting to mention that Jim Hodges vetoed a bill that would have provided the scholarships without a lottery. (Why? Because he wanted a lottery. Why? Because he was assured that was his ticket to re-election. Worked really well, didn’t it? He’s gone, but we’re still stuck standing in line in convenience stores behind sad losers "playing responsibly.")

Of course, Ernie is a comedic midget compared to the genius who came up with calling the state-run numbers racket the "Education Lottery." That one makes us laugh until we cry, every time. People keep playing the "education" lottery, which means they never learn. If they did, no more lottery. That’s some catch, that Catch-22.