Colorado Springs corruption detectives sniff desperation of lottery ticket clerks

Colorado Lottery, don't forget to payYou’d think Colorado Springs’ many kleptocrats, considering our locale’s famously embarrassing lower than average IQ, must be stupid enough to get caught. Other than the odd treasurer with a gambling habit, law enforcement is not going after them. Instead, according to an article in today’s Gazette, local detectives are policing convenience store clerks, exposing the corruption of workers who have to tender anything over a five into a time-lock safe. A Colorado Lotto sting operation busted two out of twenty clerks surveyed this weekend who pretended their customers had losing tickets, and who later tried to redeem the tickets for themselves. One of the corrupted employees worked at the west side Farmcrest, now she’s on the lam, so I have a personal interest in calling the sweep an entrapment.

Obviously. In her shoes, a likely pretty awful daily grind, what might you have been tempted to do?

Here’s how it worked: the special Lotto detective, yeah, I carry a badge, hits random ticket outlets, equipped with a trick ticket which when fed into the Lotto equipment registers as a $100,000 winner. This is handed to each clerk under the pretext that the pretend-ticket-holder wants to know if his/her ticket is a winner. If it is, hurrays all around, the secret shopper leaves congratulated without further ado. If the clerk palms the ticket, inserts a bum ticket kept handy, and tells the mystery shopper theirs is a dud, the detective returns to the office to lay in wait for that clerk to visit in person to claim to the “prize”.

Now the story doesn’t say that particular clerks were targeted based on flagged irregularities, or for having redeemed a suspicious percentage of winning tickets, or for having entered the same non-winning ticket at repeated intervals during the same work shift. Actuarial predictors could probably narrow the hunt, but there the prey becomes perhaps too crafty. Instead the mystery shoppers cast a wide net, sweetened with a $100,000 lure.

You may think I’m too soft on a miscreant clerk betraying her fellow poverty-wage peers, those who tithe what they can’t afford for the regular vicarious, virtual delusion that any successive investment in the lottery could deliver them into riches. Perhaps it’s more obvious to her than to most that with lottery tickets the payoff is in holding the ticket, the dreams you entertain, before you confirm it’s very very unlikely to be worth more than nothing. Perhaps she knows the only way you’re going to quit the destructive habit is to lose the last umpteenth time. I know in Cripple Creek when I saw a slot machine paying out, or heard someone tell of returning from Las Vegas with a positive cash balance, I thought, oh no, that only encourages the idiots. Perhaps a lottery sales clerk gets to know her regular customers and knows how severely each cannot afford the deprivations which their gambling compels.

Of course the Lotto secret shopper is not going to be confused for a regular. But who knows what profile undercover officers project. Maybe they’re nasty customers, someone a clerk would hate to see win. I have no idea. Imagine you are that detective, eager to trip someone up, with the scruples of a condescending law enforcer who suspects all. I’ll bet you’d be as rude as your undercover video camera allows. If the clerk isn’t alerted by your undercover behavior, it might be the creepiness of your insincerity that prompts her to tell you your ticket is not a winner. Her disdain may even be compounded by the factor that you can’t even verify the ticket yourself at the DIY kiosks. On top of that you’re an asshole.

At the core, what you’ve done is dangle $100,000 in front of a clerk who earns minimum hourly wage, who’s not permitted to work more than 20 hours a week and thus has to hold two or three jobs, earning no overtime. You’ve targeted a person who is cannon fodder for armed robbery holdups, without cause. It’s a tribute to the average clerk’s honesty, or a sign of their heightened state of fright, that more do not fall to temptation.

The Colorado Lotto’s pretense for exemption from the state’s otherwise fairly puritanical isolation of gambling communities is that it’s tolerated because it funds Colorado’s park system. The contrivance of this Lotto police sting operation suggest the program also aims to supplement municipal and correctional system coffers.

You tell me whether publicizing such successful stings gives people more or less comfort in the lottery’s integrity. I’d be inclined to say no. If the Lotto really wanted, system safeguards could easily subvert the best efforts of dishonest clerks.

I draw consolation in thinking this entrapment scenario prompts an obvious defense for my poor Westside victim. She told the undercover shopper that the ticket was not a winner. In fact it was not a winning ticket, it was a fraud.

The gilded age and the police nightstick

Oscar of the Waldorf cookbookA legacy institution of the Gilded Age is the Waldorf=Astoria Hotel. Most of us only know it from the nutty salad, the mysterious Red Velvet Cake recipe, Thousand Island Dressing and Veal Oscar named for the famous maitre d’ hotel. I encountered the book of recipes collected by “Oscar of the Waldorf” and its cover illustration caught my eye. The coachman and carriage don’t look so opulent to us today, but do you recognize a timeless trapping of affluence? There’s nothing else in the picture but the policeman and his nightstick.

We almost dismiss the incongruity of the attendant police officer. That’s because he’s Officer Friendly to us, circa the 1950s egalitarian economic boom, earned post New Deal and post WWII, when law enforcement began to serve and protect the middle class share of the pie. Before those times, whose order did the police enforce?

Could the Waldorf diorama have featured some other occupation at the curb? A newsboy, a shoeshine, or a traffic director? If the cabbie is picking up late night revelers, why not depict a doorman or lamplighter?

If this scene did not include the policeman, he’d be missing.

The Gilded Age of the soaring wealth of bankers and industrialists, of the steel, coal, and rail robber barons, came at the expense of poverty wages for all the rest. The homeless of America’s eastern cities died in the streets, if they crossed the paths of the leisure class at all. As in London, where the bobbies were celebrated for carrying no guns, cops on the beat didn’t need more than a nightstick to beat back beggars and riffraff.

Just as in the Waldorf illustration, the policeman’s nightstick isn’t holstered, it is fingered idly like a baton. We’ve seen it in countless Chaplin, Keaton, and Keystone reels. The policeman’s baton might be carried idly, and animated mindlessly as a clerk might twirl a pencil, but the gyrations telegraphed a swinging function meant to be understood.

Today, a modern financial crisis has finally hit the post industrial era, and unemployment is taking a precipitous plunge. The repercussions for the American middle class are yet unclear to most, their comforts still too tangible to fathom gone. But our modern times have already seen the resurgence of the Rich And Famous, (to even beyond the lunge of our Super-Lotto winners, who always chose the sub-six-figure annuity). Exclusive cars, toy submarines and tickets into space cost multi-millions, but the rich have that money to burn. Common Americans have also watched the armoring of their police, using weapons which offend us, but which protect the security of institutional wealth. Para-military police forces are the natural escalation of the right-to-bear-arms arms-race, the equivalent of nightsticks to quell our social disquiet.

Already aren’t we seeing the police block the public’s way, lest we soil the red carpet of the well-heeled? Aren’t police blocking free speech in public spaces, when the monied media has decided it wants the backdrop to serve their message? Wait until we are gazing covetously upon the gilded extravagances, from the alley side of the gilded wrought iron gate.
guilded age of the nightstick
Wiki notes:
Thousand Island Dressing came to the Waldorf from the so-named Lake Ontario waterway where New York’s super rich had their summer homes. The $100 recipe for Red Velvet Cake was the urban myth which resurfaced as the $250 Neiman Marcus chocolate chip cookie.

The original Waldorf Hotel was built by an Astor whose middle name was Waldorf, next door to an aunt with whom he was feuding. Later another Astor convinced her to move uptown and replaced her home with a taller hotel named the Astoria. The two luxurious hotels hyphened via the Peacock Alley, inspiring the popular song “Meet me at the hyphen.” In 1931 the landmark was moved to accommodate the Empire State Building, and was purchased in 1949 by Conrad Hilton who added the double-hyphen flourish, completely in the spirit of gilded ornamentation.

In the best of election outcomes…

I’ve been fantasizing for decreasingly brief moments of late, about the outcome of this election. There’s still time to make a wish. Join me! It’s one thing to win the lotto, and another to have everyone win.

Let’s assume a Democratic landslide. It’s not improbable. In the wake of the Bush deluge, the economic and moral collapse of a once diffident cultural hegemony, in light of the investment bank highway robbery and the American legacy plunged into permanent war, couldn’t it be imagined that Americans might have wised up about Republicans? What are these Republicans after all but thieves? How can conservatism be taken to represent anything anymore but ignorant apologists for entrenched corruption?

I think it’s a lovely thought to imagine P.T. Barnum’s adage proving trump, that all Americans can’t stay fooled all the time. And so, what then? How to dispose of Republican stragglers intent on making a last stand with their authority?

We ride them out of town on a rail. Send them to Iraq with personal instructions to stand in for the boys coming home. Make them rebuild Iraq with their bare hands. Make them do, as we forced the Germans to do as we liberated Europe, to help clean the mass graves of the concentration camps. Grind their noses into their immoral mess. Hope they contract a conscience and die of it. That’s for starters.

The smug pencil pushers, GOP operatives who paid the lip service to tolerating torture, condoned what the other imbeciles about them didn’t realize was legislated against already in common law. My sympathies will run insufficient you dopey fiends.

Mine is a bloody fantasy. Blind complicity to mass murder, mass ignorance, mass apathy, amoral immorality, the norm slacker. No more.

It’s time for righteous indignation to stomp on the banal serial injustice minions. We don’t want them crowding our pursuit of happiness, constraining us with conservative red tape which is just administrativ-ese for chicken-shit cheese place-holding.

Republicans deserve foreshortened lives. Not the noose for most, of course, but a doctor’s prognosis that, by measure of how much life they’ve sucked out of other people, how much spirit they have wasted, how much suffering they have caused, how many rights they’ve denied, how much they’ve taken from others, that much should be debited from what they have been banking as their due for their patriotic allegiance.

An eye for an eye. A tooth for a denture denied to an uninsured American. That simple.

We used to damn just the Neocons, but they rode on the shoulders of the Republicans, among others. Isn’t it the hour of reckoning for the Red Blue Meanies?

Fantasy Option Two:
Speaking of Blue Meanies, What if the Republicans win next Tuesday? What then? Cancel the champagne, hold the tar and feathers.

If the Republicans and their anti-democry programs escape the tether of the public’s grasp, it’s curtains most certainly for the land of liberty. But as we fall into post-industrial decay, I wish this fate for the Dems. Every last ordinary registered Democrat must repudiate their pseudo-party. Make their representatives don the lapel pins of their masters. Democrat and Republican politicians are the same.

It pains me to imagine being told that the Republican machine wasn’t built in a day, that Democrats must knuckle down for the long haul to build a similar base. Quietly and patiently put their people into the right local offices, that they might too, someday, rig the election in the Democrats’ favor. But this begs a question the Dems will never resolve. Republicans from top to bottom are smug, selfish dogs. Unthinking brutes by definition. That’s what it takes to run a well-oiled graft machine. Look at your fellow Dems and tell me they will have the stamina and self-interest to work those lower echelons with dumb tenacity. Republicans have staffed the halls of bureaucracy because it suits their temperament. How is a do-gooder supposed to lie, cheat and steal, for a living, elbowing his fellow man?

Would Dominionists murder for Palin?

While we’ve been speculating whether lotto-winner candidate Sarah Palin measures up to big “C” Christian standards, lo, church ambitions of old step in. A minister friend of mine offered Ides of March for November and President-elect John McCain: Having a Christian Dominionist in line for the US presidency would mean curtains for the septuagenarian as soon as he’s sworn in. It doesn’t take Dan Brown to imagine religious zealots would stop at the proverbial nothing to raise one of their own to supreme power.

Whether syphilis takes John McCain or whether it’s Sarah’s poison lipstick, we’ll be Sieg Heiling President Palin, whose signing statements will be taken straight out of scripture. Then where will the poor world be? I’m thinking RBs. Revelations and nuclear bombs.

My friend envisions the remedy will be an urgent Palin impeachment leading to a Pelosi ascent. A circuitous Democratic Party re-coup to be sure, amidst global catastrophe from which it’s difficult to imagine our world will escape. No wonder the rich have privatized spaceship R&D.

Will a daughter’s second pregnancy obfuscate Governor Palin’s coverup?

Bristol Palin nurses Baby TrigThis story is not about the Palin daughter, it’s about VP candidate Sarah Palin.

Who was it that dragged young Bristol Palin’s private life into the political fray? The GOP would like to say it was Leftist bloggers. But who decided these not-ready-for- prime-time family foibles should face the scrutiny of an election podium?

A further preface: has a US public yet showed an interest in the real culpability of a politician?

Really, I’m not in the least prepared to allow the “left” to tell us what arguments should or shouldn’t be raised against Palin and the family members she drags into her schemes.

The Palin/McCain handlers think they’d averted a media firestorm by recasting the scandal as a simple teenage pregnancy. To counter accusations that VP candidate Sarah Palin lied about who mothered Baby Trig, they’ve announced that Bristol is NOW five-months pregnant. We’re supposed to do the math and conclude she couldn’t have birthed Baby Trig, when of course, there’s no corroborating testimony about Bristol’s condition, and there won’t be because inquests into the candidate’s children are off the table.

Redefining the Baby Trig news byte as a self-effacing confession about a pre-marital teenage pregnancy has so far shamed the critics. Even Obama is put in the position to be indignant for Bristol’s privacy. I’m amazed that the discourse has been about John McCain’s vetting process, instead of his good judgment of Sarah Palin’s character. Does a candidate pick a running mate based on their being impervious to scandal, or based on their capabilities as a partner?

A teenage pregnancy or two, a mother covering for her daughter, even pulling out all stops to help your sister in a custody battle with her ex, these are not uncommon predicaments for families anywhere. These things show Sarah Palin to be simply all too human. Being tempted to conceal your frailty is no great vanity either. But is succumbing to the common an indication of the strength of character required of a leader?

Going from junior college to council-person of a pop 7,000 person town to governor to potential President of the United States is a Heratio Alger story that feeds our American Dream. We all want to think we’re just one Lotto win away from riches. Of course, scratching a winning lottery number would qualify us for a life of leisure until the money’s gone. But some doddering Senator lifting us up from obscurity based on photogenic and possibly oratory skill can’t possibly qualify a person for a position of great responsibility and tact. In light of (just four days worth so far) of evidence to the contrary.

Is Bush problem drinking still a secret?

We learned only after Roosevelt’s presidency that he had to be propped-up for photo-ops because FDR was otherwise confined to a wheelchair. The American public learned only after Ronald Reagan retired that he suffered from Alzhemers for most of his second term. Once our decider idiot’s joyride is over, is there something it will then be safe then to tell us that Vladimir Putin already knows about George Bush Jr?
This way Mr Bush

We know he’s incurious, uneducated and inappropriate. We know he was an alcoholic and cocaine addict into his 40s, until he found religion before the campaign trail. Is it possible some of his down-home stupidity could be drink-fueled?

Bush at the swimming eventIn the alter-universe of the blogosphere, it’s being surmised that George W. was blotto at the Beijing Olympics. Here’s one of the pics floating that thesis.

Caucus surge for Obama 2004 speech

Give Barack Obama a trophy for his speechEverybody who is anybody I know showed up at last Tuesday’s DEM caucuses. I felt so bad for all of them, tuned in, activated, braced to make elections work this time. But to work for whom? Not them. We are indeed lemmings, our legs spinning, our arms waving, our faith unshakable because to not jump off the cliff would be to derail the train without the engineer and be left to organize a can of worms.

The media, the parties, everyone is in election year mode. Get Out the Vote, Be the Change, You Can’t Win if You Don’t Play, the candidates shaking themselves out like Lotto balls coming up the tube. Meanwhile we’ve got our heads down eagerly keeping the turkey cold for whoever gets Bingo. Perhaps our selfless trust in them will be reciprocated by an equal lack of self-interest on their part to help us. Do you think?

My local district caucus on the West Side was positively humming with enthusiasm. It could have been related to people thinking they might get to attend the Democratic National Convention in Denver, or even the State Convention to be held right here. But there also seemed to be an urgency about securing a nomination for Obama instead of for old Hillary.

Out with the old, in with change. Almost no one in my precinct wanted to speak in favor of Hillary, she had supporters but none that dared speak. The posters and endorsements were mostly for Obama, and the enforcement was heavy handed. One woman was told her Clinton posters were not needed in the caucus rooms because the posters there were already 50/50, when clearly they were not.

Another friend of mine in another precinct wanted to make a pitch for Clinton in hope of convincing just one person to tilt her way to reach the minimum required to earn one delegate. Otherwise the six individuals for Clinton would be thrown into the Obama majority. Thus instead of sending one delegate for Clinton against Obama’s seven, Obama would get them all. (It’s complicated the way I can’t explain it, isn’t it?) An Obama disciple approached her to explain that Obama was for uniting the party, not for dividing it, and what my friend was proposing was definitely divisive and not in keeping with the spirit of Obama. Her precinct chairman concurred and my friend was not allowed to speak. There was just that kind of fervor.

I was offered an Obama sticker which I declined. I explained that I wanted to remain undeclared, there were a few of us actually, because I thought we were being given no real alternative, certainly not relative to American war-making. The button giver sympathized with me, and offered instead that she liked the stand Obama had taken on the war in his speech before the Democratic National Convention in 2004. He spoke against the war there, and what he had said afforded her some hope.

I’d have to agree that Obama gave a great speech in ’04. Is that really going to be the basis for selecting him to be president? What has he done since, as a Senator or high-profile contender, all this time? Has he advanced, lobbied, spoken out, championed, appealed, endorsed, raised his voice about anything?!

If Obama’s speech was so convincing, why didn’t Democrats nominate him then and there for their candidate? I agree he was promising then! Now he is a confirmed professional campaigner. Not unlike… Bush! (This thread to be continued…)

What I take to be the lesson of DNC 2004 is to save the decision until all the really impressive orators have spoken, then pick one. Why tie ourselves to a nominee before all the suitors have made their overtures? Especially if we’re going to make our decision based on a speech. Let’s leave our options open. If we’d done that in 2004, we could have had Obama, and none too soon. Let’s do it this year and see who rises to the occasion. At every convention, there’s always a side player at liberty to offer a more interesting sermon.

At the 2006 state convention, soon-to-be-governor Ritter gave the worst speech I’d ever heard. I didn’t even have to close my eyes to wonder if he was a Republican, a Democrat or a Saturn dealer. It was the most bland claptrap, and he’s delivered precisely that in office. The same day, a would-be state representative spoke in amazingly blunt terms and brought down the house. Based on Obama logic, he should have been nominated for governor. I wish he had.

Who’s going to be the Obama of 2008? It wouldn’t have to be an unknown. As I remember, Dennis Kucinich gave an underrated speech at the last convention. Perhaps we should give him a chance to do it again. And he has credentials. Or Al Sharpton, or Jesse Jackson. Give Ron Paul or Ross Perot a turn at the podium as well. Based on one speech we can definitely feel optimism for any such candidacy.

Who is losing Pinon Canyon

Banner at corner of Nevada and DaleI caught a quick glimpse of this picture just inside a recent Indy, the issue about Piñon Canyon expansion, and quickly closed the paper. The banners and rebar in front of Toons are falling to disrepair, so I cringed to see what attention they’d drawn.

It turns out we’re seen as “concrete support for the ranchers” against military expansion in the region. Great! But the article was sneakily double edged. It made the case that “Colorado Springs is losing the battle for Piñon Canyon.” Colorado Springs as in big business interests maybe, not Colorado Springs representing the people here. They don’t want military expansion. How can you lose a battle you aren’t trying to win?

Colorado Springs has always been run roughshod by the military and land developers, but leaving out that distinction, the article presumes to be speaking for all of us. And warning us that we are losing. Do I lose the Lotto every time I don’t play it? I do not.

What makes the suggestion more subversive is that the Army and Colorado Springs Inc are not losing. As subsequent news reports have shown, the Army juggernaut continues. The Colorado legislation vote to deny funding to land use studies is a setback, not a defeat. The Army faces its usual foes, a populace who persists against them. But the sides are unequally matched, like corporations versus individuals. People have finite resources, finite energies to mobilize in the effort. The Army knows this, their spokesman all but spells it out at town hall forums, clearly an eerie psych-ops move to demoralize the opposition. Y’all have lives to get back to. [Resistance is futile.]

The ranchers of southeast Colorado have risen to the alarm cry that the Army is about to crush their land with its tanks. Putting out the message that the Army is losing ground is an attempt to send the crowd home. It is military propaganda.

Your own private post office

Have you seen the postal contract service centers cropping up at suburban strip malls? This is part of an ongoing congressional effort to privatize the entire USPS and divest it of the Postal Service Union. The Republicans want to convert the USPS civil service jobs into minimum wage jobs so that Republican contractors can pocket the savings. The new privatized post office jobs will provide no benefits, no security, no skills, and no upward mobility.

The national postal workers union has just signed a four year contract for its members, but feels their future is uncertain after that. Meanwhile it is responding to urban growth with outsourced contracts.

Do you think your experience at the post office will change if it’s staffed by unskilled workers watched over fast food restaurant type supervisors? The whole city loses with inferior services, but that’s not the worst of it. Fewer dollars into the labor pool means workers who have less to spend around town. A community of poverty wage workers can’t support anything more than cable, pizza and Lotto tickets. It perpetuates poverty which means less education, less productivity, lower expectations, more crime and richer Republicans in their gated communities.

Kerry 2004 deja vu

Speaking at IWY3 rally
Where are the Democrats on Anti-War? Why are they not standing at the forefront of this issue? The PPJPC held a well-attended Iraq War Year III rally in the park downtown and we saw not one politician in attendance.

Why do Democrats not recognize the visceral strength of the opposition to war? Americans may not vote in their own self interest for the simple matter of pride. Social issues are often too selfish for Americans to see themselves supporting. And the American Dream, if even just the Lotto, keeps Americans thinking about the interests of the priviledged as perhaps someday their own.

But the plight of the Iraqi people, a people we’ve terrorized and decimated, that’s a selfless cause. Americans join the world in their abject remorse for our actions. This is the issue which ignited the American populace in 2004. This is what can motivate the American voter again.

In my humble opinion, knowing nothing about politics, I’d like to suggest that the Democrats have not a chance in hell in the next election unless they differentiate themselves from the reigning asshole party.

It’ll be Kerry all over again. Except this time I don’t think anyone will get too excited at the prospect of electing someone who’ll merely betray us.

Is there any reason to believe that there is any difference between Republicans and Democrats in DC? You can’t get Democrats there to move for impeachment, for censure, to investigate anything, to repudiate the Patriot Act, or to end the illegal war in Iraq. What good would it do necessarily to send Washington more Democrats to supplement the morally retarded ones they have already?

I don’t think you’re likely to entice Americans to support a party of do-nothings, especially when those losers are looking more like cohorts of the Republican kleptocrats.

The National Dumbshit List

Our business card
The 2004 election provided an invaluable opportunity to identify the Republican support base. Progressive grassroots organizations were able to record which houses in their neighborhoods put up Bush/Cheney lawn signs. AMERICANS FOR ACCOUNTABILITY has solicited those names and addresses to gather into a national list. This information comprises not just who voted for Bush, but who was enthusiastic about the idea. Thus the National Dumbshit List!


The National Dumbshit List will be used to raise funds for anti-Republican causes such as education, health and the environment. The list will be sold to telemarketers, lotto commissioners, real estate speculators, military recruiters and others who thrive on exploiting the less intelligent. The draft board for example is looking for gung-ho Republican families with teenagers, as they are running fresh out.

The yard sign locations will be cross-referenced with County Clerk records to reveal accurate property owner names. Residences valued at over $750,000 will be footnoted because their owners may not have acted against their own self-interests in supporting Bush. But if not necessarily dumb, those Republicans were certainly shits.

If you suspect you may be included in the latter group and you do not feel that your name belongs on the shit list, you may rehearse the case you will have to make with your maker. It is our sincere hope that you can be reconsidered to have been merely a dumbshit.

Wasn’t there a hayseed comic, darlings of Republicans, who used to ask “where’s your sign?” Thank you to all Republicans who came through.

Reprinted from