Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Pot meet kettle

On Outside the Lines yesterday, ESPN, investigating the Gilbert Arenas/Javaris Crittenton fight, took a serious look at the culture of gambling in the NBA, and whether or not gambling should be banned on team facilities (the fight in question, which lead to guns being drawn, was over a gambling debt from a poker game on the team plane). Bob Ley, the host, at one point asked "is gambling a part of the NBA culture?"

Well, duh! Gambling is a part of American culture. Look at our love affair with Las Vegas, the proliferation of Indian casinos, of how states use lotteries to prop up their budgets. We are a gambling obsessed nation.

And ESPN already knows this. In fact, they are so entwined with gambling that they really have no place investigating it. They are too big a part of it. The popularity of poker in America is driven primarily by ESPN's coverage of the World Series of Poker, to which they devote several hours of programing a week. They also cover fantasy sports, another form of gambling, make picks on games, and even discuss the spread in the NFL. If sports and gambling are inseparably linked in the United States then ESPN is a big reason why. And for them to question that, or to investigate gambling in the NBA, is hypocritical. They are too big a part of the issue to be objective. I have used the following line dozens of times before, but never was it more apropos:

I am shocked! Shocked! To discover there is gambling going on in this establishment!

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According to David Gibson in Politics Daily, Catholic Bishops have sent an open letter saying that passing health care reform is a moral imperative and that quality health care is a basic human right. They urged that politics be put aside and that health care reform be passed immediately. The language used by the bishops was castigating. Although they would be happy to see the current legislation pass, they go far beyond it. They advocate universal coverage, not the swiss-cheese coverage proposed in the House and Senate bills, as well as coverage for immigrants regardless of legal status, and while they don't want to see abortion covered they would be ready to compromise on that to get reform passed.

Their position is significant because the Church has long been one of the staunchest of allies for the republican party. The fact that Nancy Pelosi, John Keary, Chris Dodd and the late Ted Kennedy are or were all practicing Catholics aside, the Church has become the place in the conservative movement where intellect and spirituality meet. The Church has been the leader of of the pro-life movement since Roe v Wade was decided. Many prominent conservatives have converted to Catholicism in recent years, including Newt Gingrich, Laura Ingram, Robert Novak, Sam Brownback, Jeb Bush, Tony Snow, Lawrence Kudlow, and Robert Bork. The Supreme Court has been packed with Catholics, mostly in the hope of overturning Roe v. Wade. The Bishops have had a great deal of influence in American politics, more than is comfortable for many moderate Catholics or for Jeffersonian secularists. While their influence should not be overstated--they also oppose the death penalty, but have made no headway in persuading conservative politicians or justices to oppose it along with them--it is significant that the most prominent conservative intellectual body in America has come out strongly in favor of health care reform. If it swings just one or two votes in the senate it could be a game changer.

Though Maddow is probably right and the hope of republican votes is just a unicorn and farries fantasy.

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Last Thursday's Word segment on Colbert was the best ever!



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