Poker Today,Alternative Media Tomorrow?
On Friday April 15th, the U.S. government showed again just how easily it can completely “shut down” any website it wants. By seizing a domain name, the Department of “Justice" can cut the public off from access to products, services or information in the blink of an eye. Case in point: Today, the DOJ seized FullTiltPoker.com, PokerStars.com and AbsolutePoker.com.
No doubt, everyone in America can rest more easily now knowing that that the government is “protecting them” from the unspeakable dangers of online gambling. (An "unspeakable danger" that nobody asked to be protected from. In fact, the legislation that made this possible was so unpopular that, after years of failing, Congress rammed it through under a PORT SECURITY bill!)
As a result of the government’s actions, these enormously popular multi-billion dollar companies, and the millions of customers they served, are now met with the DOJ message below when they try to access the former websites. (Note: The FBI / DOJ message has not propagated across all U.S. servers yet. The screencapture below was taken from megaproxy.com where the “shut down” of all sites is visible.)
I was asked earlier today: “What’s the story with the government seizing these gambling sites?” My reply, more or less, went like this:
No story really. It's just the government doing what it does. (Using its "regulatory power" to destroy businesses and people engaged in non-violent and voluntary activities while ignoring enormous REAL crimes. …Using its power to benefit the "few" at the expense of the many.)
Not to worry. After they're done destroying all the competition, they'll launch their own profitable "legal" online gambling sites. (Or, they'll dole out licenses to the well-connected for a nice fee and a slice of the action.) Either way, once they’re in a position to get their cut, the horrible "dangers of online gambling" will scarcely be heard of again.
Cynical? Yes. But sadly, it’s par for the course.
Now, the bigger problem is this: What happens when, instead of creating unasked-for and unwanted “internet gambling laws,” the government starts passing “unlawful news” or “unlicensed information” laws? Today they’re seizing and shutting down those evil poker players. Tomorrow, it could very well be the evil “alternative media” that’s “giving aid and comfort to the enemy.”
I regularly make backup copies of important documents, audio and video that I find online. Hopefully everyone else is doing this too.
UPDATE added 4/22/2011
Paraphrasing a challenge that was written about the article above:
"Unless you are worried about bank fraud, wire fraud, and money laundering, then there’s no connection here. Internet gambling was made illegal years ago and, using shady offshore practices, they bypassed these laws. Numerous felonies are not equivalent to what alternative media does. Can we stick to the real issues of oppressive overreaching government, and ratchet down the hysteria? Please. It diminishes the real infringements..."
I can understand this writer's position. On the surface, the infringement of poker players' rights seems like "small potatoes" against many of the other things that the government does. Also, it's easy for people to dismiss "infringements" that don't appear to affect them. His message provided a good opportunity to flesh out my argument a bit more. (That the government does whatever it wants and, more importantly, it always expands its abuses beyond the limits of most peoples' imagination.)
<<<Internet gambling was made illegal years ago...>>>
Exactly, it was "made illegal years ago" despite the fact that there was enormous opposition and nobody (except for some special interests) wanted the new "law."
The point of this article is to show how the government basically stomps on whoever it wants and couldn't care less about whether the people "do" or "don't" support what it's doing. (Again, this anti-gaming legislation was eventually attached to a "port security" bill to get it passed...after all; nobody can afford voting against "port security" in the post 9/11 world, right?)
Go back to when marijuana was still legal in this country. Try to explain to those people that the government, after enacting its "anti-pot laws," would (within a generation) be using SWAT teams to kick in peoples' doors, gun down their pets (or worse), confiscate cash and property (asset forfeiture) and throw people in prison for decades because of something they had been "allowed to use" within their lifetime.
Taking that a step further: If government “enforcers” are willing kick in your door and start shooting for something as ridiculous as marijuana, do you think they'll hesitate to do the same thing for "more serious crimes" that the government legislates into existence?
What the government did to the “online gaming industry” it can also do to the online “information” industry. New technologies always start out wide open, then gradually become more and more “regulated.” (Telephone, radio, TV, etc.) I believe that this seemingly unrelated poker story illustrates perfectly how power operates and I don’t think it’s a stretch to believe government would use some type of "event" to justify legislation that seizes / blocks websites that are deemed a threat to "national security." (Read that as: The "security" of the criminals who control the levers of power.)
As stated in the article above: I hope you back up at least some of the more important information you find online. Better safe than sorry. (Never know when one of your favorite sites will be reduced to a single DOJ message. Ask the millions of poker players who could access their account one day and then couldn’t the next.)
Joe Plummer is the author of "Dishonest Money: Financing the Road to Ruin and the webmaster for StopTheLie.com and www.HowToStopDrinking.org
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