Casino rebuttal and counter-rebuttal

Today I received an e-mail from Justin Higgins, a former blog author of  Right on the Right, which can be found in my blogroll sidebar under the heading of State of Ohio Blogger Alliance.   Mr.Higgins is also a contributor to Shots on the House.  Mr. Higgins is involved in internet outreach for the casino proponents, who call themselves “Ohio Jobs and Growth Plan” (a misnomer if I ever heard one, over-the-top propagandistic, but that’s a topic for a blog entry for some other day).

The State of Ohio Blogger Alliance is comprised of blogs that consider themselves politically right-of-center.  Buckeye RINO, this very blog, is also part of the State of Ohio Blogger Alliance.  As you can tell already, from the intro to this blog entry, there are differing opinions within the Alliance, and gambling is one of the issues that the SOB Alliance is divided on.  Most of those within the Alliance who favor casinos describe themselves as somewhat Libertarian in their social views.  The others on the right who favor casinos are more moderate.  I think there are valid reasons why, even from a Libertarian viewpoint, Ohio’s casino issues don’t pass muster (here’s an example from last year’s Issue 6).  As one can read in my right-hand sidebar, I’m neither Libertarian nor moderate.  I consider myself to be a conservative Republican, even though a few people label me as a RINO (don’t be fooled by this graph).  At any rate, I’ve been catching flak from some on my own side of the aisle for my opposition to gambling.  They don’t usually leave comments here on the blog, for all to see.  They usually just let me know of their disapproval through e-mail.  Mr. Higgins, though, intended this email to be part of the public discourse, so here it is:

_______________________________________

From: Justin Higgins <jhiggins@ohiojobsandgrowth.org>
To: williamsonworks@yahoo.com
Sent: Wednesday, August 5, 2009 10:35:23 AM
Subject: Touching Base from the Ohio Jobs & Growth Plan

Daniel,

I contacted you back in the spring and since then you’ve spoken to a couple folks from the Jobs & Growth Plan, including our spokesman. I just wanted to let you know that I’m going to be talking to bloggers and providing information from now until November and I’m available as a resource for information. We’re glad you’re writing about the issue and I wanted to contact you to provide some facts and thoughts that might answer some questions and stand contrary to a few of your arguments.

1)      First, in response to the notion that this is another deal that only benefits out-of-state gambling operators: Dan Gilbert employs Ohioans, contributes immensely to the Cleveland area, and has contributed immensely to Ohio’s economy. He employs over 2,000 Ohioans through a Quicken Loans web center in downtown Cleveland, a Fathead distribution center in Columbus, and his other Ohio ventures. He is a significant investor in the state.

2)      Also, in a similar manner, you wrote about the Monte Carlo scenario being different because outside money was flowing into Monaco. I think the missing piece of the puzzle that makes our proposal beneficial is that Indiana, Michigan, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, New York, and even Canada are Ohio’s “Monte Carlo’s”. They are the ones siphoning wealth and prospering while Ohio refuses to fight for the market share that is already being spent out of state and will be spent whether Ohio has casinos or not. It is estimated through the Ohio Jobs & Growth Plan that $1 billion in Ohio gambling dollars that are currently leaving the state will be repatriated.

3)      Also on the issue of “money leaving Ohio”, it’s not just about the management and companies owning the casino, but it is about the jobs and peripheral benefit the casinos will have on area businesses such as hotels and restaurants. The amendment requires the facilities to be $250 million investments at the minimum, so they will be first-class establishments.

4)      In response to your final argument about a free market for gambling in Ohio, it is a frustrating case of reality setting in. As Bob said, it is “impractical” to have 50 casinos operating in Ohio right now, not only from the business perspective but from the political perspective.

I am sure you will cover this issue more going forward, and I am available to answer your questions or provide you information by phone or e-mail.

Justin Higgins

The Ohio Jobs & Growth Plan

Jhiggins@ohiojobsandgrowth.org

614-563-5730

___________________________________________

I do have to concede one point to Mr. Higgins.  I thought I’d included all prior correspondence with Ohio Jobs and Growth in this post.  I took a look through my email inbox and found I’d overlooked a prior message from Mr. Higgins.  Here it is:


From: Justin Higgins <Jhiggins@ohiojobsandgrowth.org>
To: Daniel Williamson <williamsonworks@yahoo.com>
Sent: Thursday, May 28, 2009 6:56:08 AM
Subject: Introduction to Ohio Jobs & Growth Plan

Daniel,

First off, I want to introduce myself. My name is Justin Higgins and like you, I’m a blogger in Ohio. Recently however I’ve taken on a new role and I’m doing some internet outreach for the Ohio Jobs & Growth plan. I am not a spokesman, I’m just here to get you guys (good bloggers) in touch with folks and give you info on our proposal. Feel free to ask me any questions but treat anything I send as off-the-record unless noted otherwise (or unless a link to a story or official statement). Basically, I wanted to share some info about the plan. This plan will bring in 4 casinos and create roughly 20,000 jobs. It will generate the state over $650 million in tax revenues every year. I recall you writing that Ohioans oppose gambling, and while that’s true in the past, new polling data shows a shift. I’d direct you to the Vindicator for this- http://www.vindy.com/news/2009/may/09/ohio-poll-60-favor-casino-gambling/?newswatch

/A total of 60 percent of respondents said they favored making casino-style gambling legal in Ohio. /

/That result is comparable to past Ohio Polls but does not mean voters will back specific casino issues on the ballot, said Eric Rademacher, co-director of the institute./

/According to a release, “While the Ohio Poll has found in the past that a majority of Ohio adults approve of casino gambling in major cities near their home, the poll has also found election day voters unwilling to approve ballot issues that would lead to the legalization of gambling in the state. This has been reflected in election day outcomes over the past decade.”/

We believe a considerable amount of opposition to past proposals has more to do with the strength of those proposals. We believe this plan is the right plan at the right time for Ohio. Feel free to contact me with any questions or requests.

— Justin Higgins
Online Communications Specialist
Ohio Jobs & Growth Plan
Jhiggins@ohiojobsandgrowth.org
330-501-4466

___________________________________________________

OK.  I’m finished with concessions.  Now, onto my counterpoints to Mr. Higgins rebuttal.

To Mr. Higgins point number one:  There are many, many people who invest in Ohio, who employ people in Ohio, and who, themselves are Ohioans.  Mr. Gilbert is not an Ohioan, but he would get special rights under this proposed constitutional amendment that resident Ohio investors/employers would not be granted.

To Mr. Higgins point number two:   As for the casinos that exist in neighboring states, they cannibalize the assets of the populations of their own states more than they do Ohio’s.  This differs from Monte Carlo, because that casino was off-limits to Monaco’s citizenry.  Monaco was only gaining money from the casino.  They weren’t simultaneously losing money to the casino.  So there was an economic net gain from Monte Carlo.  The surrounding states don’t receive a net gain, and this post during last year’s issue 6 campaign explains some of the reasons why, from a microeconomics point of view (and I’ll be building on that theme in the near future).  I can’t help that those other states have casinos, as I’ve not been registered to vote in those states.  I CAN, however, strive to make a difference in Ohio, so that we don’t make the same mistakes that surrounding states have made (and casinos are mistakes, in my book).

To Mr. Higgins point number three:  Ohio gets the table scraps, while the out-of-state casino owners/operators pump their profits out of Ohio.  Ohioans might as well continue gambling at the out-of-state casinos.  Opening the casinos here only increases the cannibalization of Ohio’s population while sending the profits out to some of the exact same entities that own the out-of-state casinos.  If Ohio were to approve casinos, I’d rather that the casino owners making the profits were Ohioans, and if Dan Gilbert wants to get in on the action, he can work as a peon blackjack dealer and earn a fraction of those table scraps.  How’s that for turning your idea on it’s head?

To Mr. Higgins point number 4:  Thanks for pointing out that libertarians, who champion free enterprise, should not support the casino industry, where much marketplace intervention is required to keep the industry artificially sustained.  Also, thanks for pointing out that there are business realities and political realities, for casinos aren’t the utopias they are made out to be.  Among the political realities are the fact that we rely on government officials to be the gatekeepers of casino gambling, and that, since Ohio has had a recent history of corruption in government, politicians can’t be trusted as gatekeepers.  The pro-gambling lobby provides great temptations for ethically-challenged government officials.  Libertarians clamour for transparency and accountability.  Conversely, the gambling industry corrodes both transparency and accountability.   I’ll have much more to say about all of these points in the near future.

What’s an Iranian to do?

Bill Clinton returns from North Korea with two American reporters who’ve been released from captivity.  I’m happy that the two reporters are coming home safely.

But let’s not forget how well this plays out for Kim Jong-Il.  In another blog entry, about an underground nuclear test, I had this to say about North Korea:

“The brinksmanship games that North Korea plays only feed the mythology propagated throughout the North Korean populace.  The six-party talks are characterized in such a way that renowned nations such as South Korea, Japan, China, Russia, and the United States, all come crawling to North Korea on hands and knees begging for some small concessions.  Sometimes the North Koreans indulge the petty requests of those beggars, and sometimes not.  See how the current methods of dealing with North Korea only enable them?”

Did you notice how it appeared that the former President of the United States of America, Bill Clinton, came crawling  to North Korea on hands and knees begging for the release of the reporters?  This is fantastic propaganda for North Korea.  Kim Jong-Il gets to appear magnanimous in indulging Bill Clinton’s “petty” request, because the North Korean population has already been convinced that the two reporters were spies deserving of a harsh criminal sentence.  That Kim Jong-Il can just let the two “spies” walk away communicates to the North Koreans that they have no need to fear us and our trivial attempts at espionage, but that they are feared, even by the United States, who whimperingly must acknowledge that North Korea had the upper hand.

I don’t begrudge Clinton or Obama any bump in the polls that result from the good news of the reporters’ release.   However, what concessions did we gain from North Korea on other fronts?  We just singlehandedly helped the smooth transition of power from Kim Jong-Il to his successor, when a turbulent transition would have given us much more leverage.

The leverage we have lost is not just leverage with North Korea.  We continue to lose leverage all over the globe.

We’ve allowed the Russians to cavort with the Venezuelans, carrying out joint military exercises in our own hemisphere.  Did Kennedy allow the Russians to cavort with Cuba in our own hemisphere?  Did Reagan allow the Russians to cavort with Grenada in our own hemisphere?  Russian attack submarines are prowling the ocean close enough to our Eastern Seaboard that we’ve had to keep a close eye on them.  South Ossetia is attempting to make false claims again about being disturbed by Georgia, with Russian “peacekeepers” set to wreak havoc in Georgia all over again.  The Russians are toying with us.  Obama is Carter to them.

Mexican drug gangs have no respect for our borders, and take hostages with impunity both here and in Mexico.  Are our enforcement efforts against illegal immigration slackening?  Are we slackening in our interdiction of the drug trade?  Why do these Mexican thugs have no fear of us?  Why do they toy with us?

And what about Iran?  They have three Americans in custody now who hiked into their territory from the Kurdish-dominated region of Iraq.  Did we have grand goals in mind of what major concessions we might be able to leverage from Iran?  If so, have our goals now shrunk down to securing the release of three Americans?  Haven’t we played this game already?  Didn’t we just exert political capital to release an American journalist from Iran?  Today, we get release of two journalists from North Korea, with nothing else immediately gained on that front, and, for an encore, will we be groveling for the release of three more Americans from Iran?

How many people live in Israel that continue to be threatened by Iran’s provocations?  How many people live in America and in the West that may be drawn into warfare over Iran’s continued provocations?  How many people live in Iran who are threatened with surveillance, arrest, torture, and death because they voted for a reformist candidate who gave them hope of living in a nation that wasn’t going to continue the provocations that put Iran on a collision coarse with war against the West?  Are we going to let millions of people down by squandering our political capital on 3 captive Americans?

I had an internet chat with an Iranian many weeks ago.  The Iranian and I have had multiple online chats over time.  The Iranian has been alarmed by the warfare in Iraq and Afghanistan, both of which border Iran.  The Iranian wants peace.  The Iranian doesn’t want war to come to Iran the way it did to Iraq and Afghanistan.  The Iranian understood that the current government has been provoking the West.  The Iranian was ready to vote for a change of leadership.

During our chats, we’ve often been in disagreement with each other.  The Iranian had believed that the American journalist was, indeed, a spy, because a confession had been broadcast.  I disagreed.

I voted for John McCain.  The Iranian disagreed.  The Iranian was flabbergasted to learn of my vote for McCain.  The Iranian thought I should have voted for Barack Obama.  To the Iranian, McCain would surely plunge headlong into war with Iran, while Obama surely signaled that he would not do so, and that there would be peace for Iran once a new, reformist government was voted into office in Iran.

Very recently, for the first time since the Iranian elections, I had another chat with the Iranian.  This time, there was no disagreement.  I expressed my deepest sympathies as the Iranian told chilling tales of surveillance, of violence against those who wanted reform, of arrests, and of deaths while in government custody.  The Iranian sees that there was no intention on the part of the government to hold a fair election.  The Iranian sees that “confessions” of dastardly plots are coerced from fellow citizens who have done nothing wrong.  Every time the Iranian joins with others to take to the streets to  show support for reform, they are clamped down upon by the current government.  More terrifying than the clampdowns on assembling in the streets, though, are the interruptions in communications, with cell phone use interrupted, websites being blocked, even huge websites like Yahoo.  It’s terrifying because it demonstrates how much control the government has over everything.  The Iranian feels that leading a religion and simultaneously leading a nation are incompatible tasks.

What more can an ordinary Iranian citizen do to change the course of a nation?  It’s a question that was posed to me, but all I could do was listen and acknowledge.  I had no suggestion, and I find that heart-breaking.  I worry for the Iranian’s safety.

And so I wonder, with so much at stake in the world at large, will America be toyed with?  Will America enable these malevolent regimes?  Will Obama be content with the bump in popularity polls he gets from securing the release of captive Americans, while peace-loving Iranians die?

Will we see a revolving door of hostage crises, so that all we can do is tread water as we focus on releasing captives?  Will malevolent leaders ever get the message that America is a force to be reckoned with and we won’t be toyed with anymore?