Month 2006 Ethics Dunces

Colin Cowherd

Colin Cowherd is an ESPN radio talk show host whose ethical sensitivities and sophistication are approximately those of the worst, dumbest, most offensive, preening, bullying jock any of us ever encountered in high school. This undoubtedly accounts for his success on the airwaves (there were a lot of those guys), but it also means that he habitually spouts unethical clap-trap to the very people who are most likely to accept it and who are, like him, in desperate need of a refresher course in how one tells right from wrong. Pointing this out to media blow-hards like Cowherd is futile, of course, but there are limits to what the Ethics Scoreboard can bear in silence.

On his morning call-in show "The Herd" (an appropriate label for his audience, given its tendency to second any opinion he offers no matter how ridiculous), Cowherd recently ranted against Congress' action passing legislation prohibiting the use of credit cards, checks and electronic fund transfers for online gambling. "With all the problems facing this country, this is the best they can do? Stopping internet gambling?" he screamed. "You know who's behind this, don't you? Las Vegas casinos! They can't stand seeing all those gambling dollars going overseas. I guess you'll be seeing a lot of Congressmen and Senators staying free at Caesar's. Can't get around to passing important legislation, but when it comes to this, Congress moves with lightning speed! You know it's about the fact that they can't collect taxes on this stuff, right? When Congress can't get its share of the cash, that always gets its attention."

Then, for the benefit of anyone who didn't have sufficient evidence to pronounce him a certifiable idiot, he suggested that gas prices were going down because of the approaching election. Hey Colin! It's getting cooler out too; do think maybe Bush is doing that to undermine Al Gore?

Cowherd's argument, if you can call it that, seems to be that because policing internet gambling isn't the top national policy priority, it shouldn't be policed at all.

Internet gambling, you see, is already illegal in the U.S., which is why it is run by off-shore companies. Not only does it allow commerce to go in and out of the country untaxed; it also violates existing state and federal laws. The gambling money that is taken out of the economy by these illegal bet poachers costs jobs, and the difficulty of tracing gambling winnings by users encourages tax evasion. Then there are the usual problems of under-aged betting and the spreading of gambling addiction. Internet gambling is illegal for very good reasons. Many of those reasons should be applied with more vigor to domestic gambling, but that's another matter.

If there are laws against a widespread practice, it is incumbent upon Congress to facilitate the enforcement of such laws. Obviously (to most people who are not part of "the Herd"), this is the right thing to do. If there are more crucial right things someone should be doing, it still doesn't make a less significant good action any less good. To even suggest that shows the ethical reasoning of a sea sponge. Taking strong action to stop illegal internet gambling in no way prevents Congress from addressing other, more pressing matters. The fact that the legislature is cowardly on passing immigration reform, dishonest in addressing lobbying abuses and unable to balance the budget is legitimate basis for criticism, but it cannot possibly diminish the validity of the needed measures Congress does manage to pass. This legislation was relatively easy. Why? Because it is obvious, effective, and right, and simply allows current laws to be enforced.

Casinos object to internet gambling, and should. They are legitimate businesses, regulated and taxed, and employ U.S. citizens. What is Cowherd suggesting, exactly? That they should sit quietly while off-shore companies violate U.S. law and profit by it at their expense?

Colin Cowherd really objects to any interference with online gambling at all, a craze greatly assisted by his employers, ESPN, when it started the barrage of mind-numbing cable poker shows. He doesn't care that it ruins lives, seduces kids, costs jobs, takes money out of the economy, and cheats the government out of taxes. It's fun, you see, like sex, getting drunk, getting stoned and driving over the speed limit. And like any seven year old, he gets mad when people stop his fun; the fact that there are good reasons don't enter into his reasoning.

Fortunately, no seven year-olds have call-in talk shows. A lot of Ethics Dunces do, however, and Colin Cowherd is undoubtedly one of them.




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