Friday, August 15, 2014

More on Newsweek (Goodman’s Addendum)

I see Leah McGrath Goodman has tried to write a response of sorts today taking into account some of the considerable blowback she received from her Newsweek article regarding online poker in the United States that first went online yesterday.

Goodman still doesn’t show evidence of being particularly well informed of the complicated history of online gambling legislation. Nor does she present herself as someone knowledgeable enough to discuss persuasively the current situation involving legal, regulated poker in the U.S. as it currently exists in Nevada, New Jersey, and Delaware, and as it is being tentatively discussed in a handful of other states.

The response follows her attempts to discuss her article on Twitter over the last couple of days, with many of her tweets being either snarky (see her exchange with BLUFF editor Lance Bradley in yesterday’s post) or condescending.

“Articles always contain only a small amount of the total research,” Goodman tweeted to one critic today. “Otherwise, they are books.” That is a point she tries to make in today’s addendum as well when insisting upon all of the wide-ranging research she did for her piece.

So glad to have this explained. Really, how could the rest of us -- mere mortals who don’t even write for Newsweek -- possibly understand the reporter’s process? No, it’s much too complicated for us.

Such applesauce.

In a few of those tweets yesterday Goodman brought up how one purpose of her article was to shed light on what she believed to be a usurping of the legislative process that resulted in legal, regulated online gambling coming to the U.S. She reiterated that purpose in her note today, saying that her article “sought to question the transparency of the legal process that allowed online gambling to be introduced in its latest incarnation.”

That issue is foregrounded during the early part of her article where she focuses on the memorandum written by Virginia Seitz during her tenure in the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel. Guided by a law professor’s interpretation and a Republican Congressman from Utah who seemed to influence much of her thinking about the entire subject, Goodman presents a case that the memo unduly influenced legal interpretations of the Wire Act going forward.

Seitz, of course, was only writing an opinion, not rewriting laws and forcing states to follow new guidelines regarding what they would and would not allow when it came to online gambling in their states. From there individual states’ legislators proposed laws, debated them openly, voted upon them, and in a few cases passed them. Goodman strangely insists that “legalizing online gambling should have been discussed first in an open forum, instead of behind closed doors,” but the fact is these laws were debated openly. No laws were passed by Virginia Seitz, and it’s goofily disingenous to suggest her memo somehow forced the states who have passed such legislation to have done so.

As I discussed yesterday, Goodman’s article goes on to note Seitz’s plan to return to Sidley Austin, the Chicago law firm where she previously worked, with some non-specific references to that firm’s possible interest in online gambling appearing to suggest -- preposterously -- Seitz had an ulterior motive when writing her opinion. Goodman adds a note that a spokeswoman from the firm “declined to discuss its work in the gambling niche, including whether it had ever worked with Rational Group, PokerStars, Full Tilt or Amaya” -- a transparent attempt to draw some sort of implied association via the denial.

In other words, many readers of the article who aren’t necessarily clear on how the legislative process actually works might well come away thinking that Seitz somehow all on her own engineered a stealthy plan to reintroduce online gambling in the U.S. so as to benefit herself, the law firm she plans to return to work for, and also President Obama (who also worked at Sidley Austin) who is likewise implicated indirectly by Goodman as perhaps enabling the engineering this terrible subversion of the legislative process.

It’s all nonsense. It’s also all woefully ironic in light of how the UIGEA -- the federal law that awkwardly attempted to close the long-before opened “floodgates” of unlicensed online gambling in the U.S. -- itself became law. Sneakily appended by then Senate Majority leader Bill Frist to an entirely unrelated bill regarding port security that was thought at the time to be “must pass” legislation, the UIGEA did in fact become law without adequate debate among the Congressmen who voted for it.

The UIGEA’s passage into law actually is an example of the legislative process being subverted -- an example of a single person, in fact, successfully skirting usual channels to sneak a law through that would subsequently affect the lives of millions. Virginia Seitz’s letter expressing an opinion about the Wire Act was not.

Leah McGrath Goodman’s article reminds me a great deal of a graduate student who has stumbled into an area outside his or her primary area of still-developing expertise, finds something intriguing that seems on the surface to represent an opportunity to pursue an original inquiry, then hastily produces an essay after an intense but unwittingly narrow investigation. It feels like a well-considered thesis to the writer, but all actual scholars actively working within that area instantly recognize the gaping holes in the resulting essay’s methodology and findings.

I could say more -- after all, I have been writing about this stuff here nonstop for over eight years. But this is just an article. It only represents a small part of my thinking when it comes to the many problems Goodman’s article presents to me. Otherwise it would be a book.

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