On my long list of the last people I want to talk to over the telephone, receiving an unsolicited call from a telemarketer trying to pimp me “advance cremation arrangements” has to rank somewhere between the fake IRS agent with the indecipherable Nigerian accent threatening to imprison me, and a robocall from Republican Danny Tarkanian, who has lost eight straight political races in this state and runs for office every time there’s a full moon.
I don’t bother with answering the phone anymore. It’s always either an annoying salesman, a bill collector, or someone wanting something from me that I don’t have — like money. I don’t work a full-time job, so why bother reaching when the phone rings? Hell, even when I was working two jobs, I never answered the fucking phone. Hmm, maybe that’s why I don’t have a job anymore.
So last week, I opened up an envelope and there was a surprise inside. It was a check for $129.85. The check was made out to me, as in….
“Pay to: NOLAN DALLA….The sum of: ONE-HUNDRED TWENTY-NINE DOLLARS AND EIGHTY-FIVE CENTS.” Gee, I’m sure glad I didn’t toss that envelope without opening it. Usually, when mail comes and I don’t know where it’s from, I trash it — which may explain why the bill collectors phone so often.
The surprise check was a mystery. I didn’t understand why I was getting a payment for $129.85 from a company I’ve never heard of. Sometimes when you cash those things that come in the mail and don’t read the fine print, you later find out that you’ve just bought a timeshare. I did some deep investigating, which basically involved reading a letter tucked inside the envelope. The letter informed me this was a settlement from a class-action lawsuit. I guess my side won the legal case. Shit, I didn’t even get to testify. Please, put me on the witness stand. Surely, I can tearjerk them for at least another fifty.
Come to find out, some company that does cremations did something really, really bad, which is kinda’ twisted since their entire business model basically consists of baking dead people in a brick oven until they turn into jar of ashes. Apparently, some overly aggressive cremation telemarketers for a private entity called the Neptune Society [READ MORE HERE] violated the federal “Do Not Call” consumer protection act and agreed to pay out a $15 million settlement. My cut amounted to $129.85. Hell, I didn’t even know I was on the “Do Not Call” list. I don’t remember getting the phone call or filling out any paperwork.
No worries. I ran to the bank and cashed it immediately. The check cleared, which now means I get to keep my cable television package with HBO for at least another month.
Winning my class-action lawsuit got me to do some serious thinking. I even came up with an idea. Hopefully, some other cremators pitching their cremation stuff will give me a call at home. Hey, call me as often and as many times as possible. I’ll even pick up the phone. Football season’s right around the corner and I could sure use the money.
Should public figures, including people we despise, always be entitled to normal common courtesies? For example — what if the most offensive human being you can think of suddenly walked into your place of business? Would you serve him/her?
I’m torn down the middle by the Sarah Huckabee Sanders-Red Hen restaurant controversy.
In case you didn’t hear, President Trump’s federally-funded falsifier and simpleton stonewaller, otherwise known as Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, planned to dine out over the weekend at a posh restaurant in Virginia’s Shenandoah Mountains. When Sanders arrived, she was firmly but politely told she wasn’t welcome by the establishment. The Red Hen’s owner steadfastly refused to serve Sanders. The decision was based purely on politics. In other words, Sanders would have been welcome at the Red Hen had she been any lower-level employee, someone anonymous, or just about anyone else in the universe. She was refused service for one simple reason — because she holds a high-profile position in the Trump Administration, which is viewed by millions of Americans as the epitome of evil and incompetence.
I’ll veer around the legal debate and skip obvious comparisons to wedding cakes. Recall the recent Supreme Court decision which effectively now allows any business to openly discriminate against customers based on personal objections to their lifestyle (a gay couple was refused service at a bakery, leading to a lawsuit). It seems that if a bakery owner can tell someone to “leave” because of some confusion about where certain body parts belong, then a restaurant owner can say “goodbye” to someone who’s unremitting lies to the press and the public have turned the White House into a laughing stock that’s no longer funny.
Predictably, Trump supporters were outraged by what happened. Right-wing media bubbled over like an overflowing toilet. No one would even have even known about the isolated incident, except that Sanders blasted out the following tweet:
That’s one perspective. The other side had quite a different interpretation of events. The restaurant owner called the refusal to accommodate Sanders an act of civil disobedience. The owner-citizen had become so fed up with Sanders’ serial lies and constant deflection that he felt a moral obligation to take a stand given the unique opportunity presented when Sanders unexpectantly walked into his restaurant on Friday night.
Was Sanders treated unfairly?
How you answer is likely based on tribal reflexes rather than an objective evaluation of what refusing service to someone really means and most certainly ignores much broader and far more serious implications of carrying out such measures to the extreme. Not only is humiliating people wrong in most cases, disturbances of the kind could very likely result in an escalation of hostilities and open season in what’s become a culture war.
So, if lines are to be drawn, where should we draw them?
I think most will agree that just about everyone should be entitled to fair treatment. Otherwise, society can’t function. The Sanders controversy aside, I can’t imagine any successful business owner refusing to serve a customer based solely on politics. The reason for broad acceptance of differences and collective tolerance is simple: Banning a customer is bad for business.
We’re also likely to agree that public figures, including political leaders, should be treated with common courtesy in everyday life. This fundamental tenet is bipartisan. No matter what we may think of an elected (or appointed) public official, governing in a civil society demands some degree of decorum. People should enjoy the right to private time with their families and friends. They should be extended the same level of service and professional courtesies as any typical patron.
But wait. Are there limits to normal expectations of civility? We’re about to pressure test them, now.
What if you’re a restaurant owner and this man walks in and asks for a table?
That’s David Duke, a former Ku Klux Klan leader, an avowed White supremacist, and the former Republican gubernatorial candidate in Louisiana.
Would you allow him to dine at your place of business?
Proving this is a non-ideological exercise, instead, let’s suppose this man walks in and requests a table. Would you serve him?
That’s Louis Farrakhan, an anti-Semite, a Black Nationalist, and leader of the Nation of Islam.
Would you permit him to dine at your place of business?
Duke and Farrakhan may be on opposite sides of the political spectrum. But consistency rather than hypocrisy probably demands that your answers be the same. If you refuse to serve Duke, then you probably should also refuse to serve Farrakahn, and vice versa.
Here’s one more prospective “guest” to ponder:
That’s Martin Shkreli, the douchebag punk (and now a convicted felon) who bought a patent to a rare pharmaceutical drug prescribed as a matter of life and death for its patients and then hiked the drug’s cost 56 times the original price. A few years ago, Shkreli even “won” a poll asking “who’s the most hated man in America?” Obviously, that poll came out before Trump became a serious presidential candidate.
If you owned a restaurant and Shkreli walked in wanting a table, would you serve him?
What about Harvey Weinstein? What about Bill Cosby? What about the jackass who takes Safari selfies after shooting a giraffe? Would they be welcome at your place of business?
Indeed, there are many cretins, crooks, and con men who go through daily life unmolested in public places. There are countless racists and rapists who frequent fancy boutiques and upscale restaurants and receive impeccable treatment. There are some moral and ethical ambiguities at work here when we admonish a partisan political figure and then give a free pass to others who have committed well-documented disgusting acts.
Of course, doing nothing is always the easiest option. Non-confrontation is the easy way out. Ignoring the evil deeds of the wicked and overlooking the terrible harm they do — often at the expense of the helpless who have no power nor voice — is a natural human instinct. We’ve become subject to mass desensitization, to not only to our basic human responsibilities of decency but also willfully blind to awareness of misdeeds. Sometimes, scandal has even become a cause for celebration. We covet meeting anyone who’s famous — be they a mob boss or a Kardashian. O.J. Simpson can’t go out in public without being hounded by gawkers waving smartphones. Fact is — famous people never get turned away at restaurants. It doesn’t happen.
Except now, for Sarah Huckabee Sanders.
I do wish we could return to a much healthier and more productive time when political differences weren’t obstacles, but opportunities. Perhaps after the Trump nightmare ends, we can return to a culture of civility and cooperation. I hope it’s not too late.
Unfortunately, Trump and his supporters have gutted all the rules as to how the political game is played. Starting at the very top with a constant bombardment of impulsive tweets and petty personal attacks on just about everyone, from movie stars to Gold Star families, he and his sycophantic personality cult have annihilated the traditions of common civility. Defaming, dividing, and ultimately destroying all opposition is Trump’s modus operandi.
Call what happened at the Red Hen what it is — a small payback.
Those, like Sanders, who not only carry out acts which debase the culture and willfully deceive an entire nation must be subject to the consequences of what they are doing. Political protest isn’t pretty. It’s not polite. It’s not meant to be pretty and polite. Political protest, through peaceful acts of civil disobedience, is intended to entice a broader debate and inspire others to take similar action.
Let the civil disobedience begin. And let’s also remember — to keep things civil.
“I may be wrong. I may be standing in front of you in six months and say, ‘I was wrong.’ I don’t know if I’ll ever admit that, but I’ll find some kind of excuse.”
— President Donald Trump speaking at press conference in Singapore
Yeah, Trump really said that. “I’ll find some kind of excuse.”
Trump just got played like a clueless dope at the ring toss of a rigged carnival game. He blew his wad and ended up holding a stuffed teddy bear.
Just days after pissing off virtually all America’s longtime allies following the disastrously embarrassing G-7 summit, Trump’s monumental ineptitude was on full display, getting punked at every juncture by a murderous dictator lacking any social skills, an adversary with no previous experience whatsoever in international negotiations. The so-called great American dealmaker was out-dealt on every single significant policy issue.
Trump got Trumped. He behaved like a human wrecking ball who mistakenly pulled the wrong lever and knocked down his own house.
What did Trump and the United States get in return for concessions?
Answer: An empty, vaguely-worded 426-word “statement” with no specifics whatsoever addressing North Korea’s “denuclearization,” which was the entire purpose of the summit.
North Korea scored the following huge wins:
1. Kim Jong-un garnered rock-star treatment on the world stage for the first time and achieved superpower status for North Korea. Meanwhile, Trump flattered the murderous dictator with one of the worst human rights records in the world, who continues to imprison, torture, and starve hundreds of thousands of his own people. Trump did not say a word about human rights. Not one word. Major fail.
2. North Korea got the United States to cease all joint military exercises in South Korea, which was a major concession and huge victory for dictatorship. Meanwhile, South Korea was reportedly totally “blindsided” by this announcement. They were not consulted. Oh, and the Korean War is still apparently going on. Peace between the two adversarial Koreas wasn’t addressed.
3. The joint statement failed to address any kind of verification process, nor provided any timetable for “denuclearization” of the Korean Peninsula. Both leaders, who have yet to demonstrate any trustworthiness whatsoever on any personal or political issue, promised to work towards peace. How nice. Maybe at the next summit, Trump will buy Kim an ice cream cone. Two pals.
“I trust him,” Trump said, referring to Kim who has violated every single previous international agreement on nuclear weapons and testing.
Meanwhile, the United States got…..nothing. Zippo. Nada. Oh, Trump did get a handshake and a promise.
This wasn’t Nixon visiting China. This wasn’t the Detente of the 21st Century. This was a photo op ending with a scrap of paper signed by two men whose word means absolutely NOTHING.
The first World Cup match is over and done: North Korea wins 3-0.
Meanwhile, the American political Right, conservatives, and Trump sycophants guzzle more toxic Kool-Aid. The same crybabies who whined about the dangers of normalizing relations with Cuba (because that was an Obama thing) and tore up an effective (verifiably working) Iran nuclear agreement (that was an Obama thing, too) swallow Trump’s lies and fellate the hype.
Quoting Trump’s own hopelessly ill-prepared words at a post-summit press conference, six months from now when we evidence from clearly proves North Korea *still* has nuclear weapons and ICBMs capable of reaching the U.S. mainland, proving NOTHING was accomplished, perhaps Trump will “think of an excuse.”
No worries. Trump’s clueless cultists will believe anything they’re told. In this regard, Trump and Kim have so much in common.
1985: North Korea signs Nuclear NonProliferation Treaty 1992: North Korea signs historic agreement to halt nuclear program! (#1) 1994: North Korea signs historic agreement to halt nuclear program! (#2) 1999: North Korea signs historic agreement to end missile tests 2000: North Korea signs historic agreement to reunify Korea! Nobel Peace Prize is awarded 2005: North Korea declares support for “denuclearization” of Korean peninsula 2005: North Korea signs historic agreement to halt nuclear program and “denuclearize”! (#3) 2006: North Korea declares support for “denuclearization” of Korean peninsula 2006: North Korea again support for “denuclearization” of Korean peninsula 2007: North Korea signs historic agreement to halt nuclear program! (#4) 2007: N&S Korea sign agreement on reunification 2010: North Korea commits to ending Korean War 2010: North Korea announces commitment to “denuclearize” 2010: North Korea again announces commitment to “denuclearize” 2011: North Korea announces plan to halt nuclear and missile tests 2012: North Korea announces halt to nuclear program 2015: North Korea offers to halt nuclear tests 2016: North Korea again announces support for “denuclearization”
I recently went to dinner with poker legend Doyle Brunson.
Prior to this interview, which took place at Roma Deli in Las Vegas in May 2018, I asked Doyle to come up with a list of his “20 favorite westerns.”
Doyle couldn’t contain himself. He not only came up with 20 great westerns. He tripled the request and listed more than 60 favorites. Doyle probably could have listed at least 100 movies and talked about every single one of them. Most incredible, without any notes or references, even at age 84, Doyle was able to remember and recite intricate details about each movie and shared with us why each film on his list meant something special to him.
Here is PART 1 of the series, which ranks Doyle’ favorite movie westerns — numbers #31 through #60. The video clip runs about 20 minutes. CLICK LINK HERE
You can also see the list of Doyle’s favorite westerns ranked at the 5th Street Sports website.
Today, the United States Supreme Court struck down a federal law which prohibited most states from allowing legalized gambling on sporting events.
By a 6-3 vote, the high court’s ruling overturned the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA), which was a 1992 law that banned state-authorized sports gambling (aside from Nevada).
What does this ruling mean? Well, it’s really good news for sports gamblers. It’s even better news for many states and companies with the infrastructure to begin offering sports betting. And, it’s fabulous news for the State of New Jersey, and especially Atlantic City, which has experienced a steady decline in popularity as a recreational gambling destination over the last 20 years.
Here’s my list of the winners and losers in today’s historic decision which is expected to drastically alter the American sports gambling landscape.
Recreational Sports Gamblers — Amateur bettors will soon have the option of making a legal wager within a licensed and regulated environment. Recreational bettors who might previously have been skittish about placing a bet with an illegal bookie or depositing money into an offshore betting account, can now conveniently step up to the betting window at a local casino, place a wager, and expect to get paid quickly assuming the bet wins. For the first time, sports bettors will be respected as legitimate consumers. They will be entitled to the same protections as other citizens engaged in commercial transactions, rather than treated as outlaws.
Professional Sports Gamblers — There’s serious concern that some states might impose a so-called 1-percent “integrity fee” atop all sports wagers. This is potentially quite problematic given the narrow margins of profit for even the most successful sports handicappers. That said, as some states begin to legalize sports wagering, expect an increase in the overall betting handle. In the long term (as more populous states come on board), expect a substantial increase in sports wagering, leading to what’s known as “public money.” This means more casual wagering inside the overall betting pool, which typically translates into pointspreads that reflect mainstream biases. Sharps tend to take advantage of inflated lines and inaccurate perceptions about teams and players. In short, the more uninformed bettors there are in any market, the greater the advantages for the most skilled and disciplined bettors.
New Jersey/Atlantic City — As more states have legalized casino gambling, especially in the heavy-populated Northeast, Atlantic City’s market share of overall gaming revenues has declined substantially. One-third of Atlantic City’s casinos have shut down. Some casinos even declared bankruptcy. Now, given the Supreme Court landmark decision which gives New Jersey a green light to offer sports betting, expect a flow of traffic back towards the Jersey Shore, especially this coming fall when NFL games kick-off. For the first time in history, citizens within the Garden State (and from nearby states including Pennsylvania, New York, Maryland, Connecticut, and Virginia which are within driving distance) will be able to walk into casinos in New Jersey and legally bet on sporting events. The same holds true for Delaware, which will also get a boost from legalized sports gambling, particularly from heavily-populated surrounding states.
States (Education and Other Programs) — Most state budgets are desperate for tax revenue. This is why many states have legalized casino gambling over the past 25 years. Taxing gambling profits supports many vital state agencies and important programs, especially relating to education. Soon, states will reap additional revenues from taxes collected on profits from sports gambling. Accordingly, they won’t be as pressed to raise taxes elsewhere to maintain essential services and protections.
The NBA — Credit NBA Commissioner Adam Silver for being the first head of a major sports league to see the future and face obvious realities connected to the public interest in major sporting events. A few years ago, Silver announced his support for legalized sports gambling, including fully licensed and regulated wagering on NBA games. Silver clearly understands what drives fan interest at many sporting events. Rather than deny realities as all the other leagues have done for many decades, Silver and the NBA embraced the proposal of fans being able to bet on their games. Look for an uptick in interest in daily/nightly sporting events (NBA, NHL, MLB) since more fans will watch sporting events because of a personal financial interest in the outcome.
States’-Rights Advocates — “States’-rights” has been a pillar of conservative political philosophy for more than a century. However, as federal powers have gradually increased, states have seen their responsibilities reduced in some matters of governance. The high court’s decision reaffirms the rights of states to dictate their own policies on matters such as gambling, taxation, and morality. Instead of a blanket ban against sports betting (outside of Nevada), which had been the law of the land, each state now has the option to make their own laws, and establish their own regulatory and taxation framework.
Fantasy Sports Companies — Fantasy sports companies made a big splash a few years ago when they overreached and bombarded the networks with an annoying number of bad television commercials, initially leading to explosive growth, followed by a legal crackdown on their quasi-legal activities within some jurisdictions. With sports gambling soon becoming legal, fantasy sports companies — namely DraftKings/FanDuel — are perfectly positioned to transition into legal full-service sportsbooks. These companies also have existing deals with many professional sports teams. It remains to be seen exactly how they will shift operations into key states where the competition to run sports gambling operations will be intense. However, fantasy sports companies already have millions of customers in their databases and some measure of brand loyalty, which provides obvious strategic advantages.
Professional Sports Franchises — Let’s face it. There’s not much mainstream interest in a game between two losing teams with lots of bad players. But add the sizzle of gambling on the game, and suddenly, the matchup becomes exciting to watch for most viewers. Since team sports began, franchises have relied solely on their local fan bases for financial sustenance — in terms of ticket sales, merchandising, and revenues from television rights. Accordingly, many franchises have struggled. Some teams have moved to other cities hoping for greener pastures. Sports gambling is the great equalizer. It gives bad teams the potential to be watched and enjoyed with just as much enthusiasm as premier games. Television ratings will increase across the board on all sporting events connected to gambling. This means more revenues going to the teams and higher franchise values.
Sports Networks/News Sites/Media — Sports betting is largely predicated on access to reliable and up-to-date information. A broader sports gambling landscape means an increasing flow of traffic to networks, programs, news sites, and periodicals which provide subject matter primarily of interest to gamblers. Many sports fans won’t be content any longer with simple sports coverage or mundane personality-driven talk shows. Instead, they’ll be seeking out more hard data and breaking news which could impact the outcome of a game. Look for sports broadcasts to openly refer to spreads and totals for the first time, since a substantial percentage of viewers and listeners are focused on that element of coverage. Since a rising tide lifts all boats, more viewers watching games on television and clicking various websites translates into an increase in traffic and advertising revenues.
Offshore Sportsbooks — Sportsbooks located outside the United States, particularly those based in Central America and the Caribbean, have filled the void of the vast sports gambling appetite. Since most Americans can’t wager legally on sporting events, millions were forced to bet through illegal bookies and/or offshore. Now, as an increasing number of states are destined to offer their own legal sports betting markets, the demand for offshore sportsbooks will slowly decrease. Most offshore sportsbooks won’t able to compete with the convenience of local casinos and quick, reliable payouts much closer to home. Expect several smaller sportsbooks which rely heavily on the American market to go out of business, unless they offer reduced vig and other perks which appeal to most sports gamblers. By contrast, increased competition translates into more options and better value for most gamblers/consumers.
Anti-Gambling Crusaders (Religious Fundamentalists) — The religious right and behavioral moralists have been proven dead wrong on just about every gambling issue since casinos began sprouting up all over the country. Their dire warnings of increased crime and other ills supposedly associated with greater access to gambling were unfounded. Thoroughly discredited on the gambling issue (and just about every moral issue), anti-gambling crusaders have been debunked and defanged to the point of political and cultural irrelevance. As tens of millions of Americans wake up every Sunday morning, they won’t be attending church. They’ll be far more interested in wagering on the day’s football games. Stike another blow to the 19th Century puritans who have run out of arguments against legalized gambling and are being tossed onto the ash heap of history. Bury them. They’re done.
The NFL — The NFL remains the undisputed king when it comes to American sports gambling. Anticipated legalization in many states will come despite their vigorous objections, kicking and screaming against legalized gambling for decades. Over and over again, the NFL has repeatedly handled its public relations crisis horribly — whether it’s been player misbehavior/reinstatement, the CTE scandal, the National Anthem controversy, ripping off taxpayers to build new stadiums, and so forth. Here’s yet another black eye and kick in the ass to a league that remains absurdly popular despite gross mismanagement and outright hypocrisy.
The NCAA — The NCAA is the most corrupt organization in sports. It reaps obscene profits solely at the expense of student-athletes. It pays its fatcat commissioners, athletic directors, and shady bowl presidents absurd salaries while all the risks are taken by an uncompensated and often exploited labor force. It’s criminal what’s happening. Fortunately, the NCAA was dealt an embarrassing defeat and now must face the reality that millions of Americans will soon be betting on their games, whether they like it, or not. Hooray!
Winners and Losers?
Other Casino Games — Who wants to play keno or roulette when pretty soon you can walk into a casino and bet $20 on a ballgame, instead? Studies find that most gamblers, especially millennials, like to feel as though they have some measure of control over the outcome of a bet. Unlike most casino games where the action/results are random, sports betting will become an increasing attraction since the gambler’s decision matters. New sportsbooks could divert traffic flow from the casino floor. However, a strong case can be made that since sports betting will attract new customers to casinos, some gamblers will gravitate to games like keno, roulette, craps, blackjack, and the slots. Hence, legalized sports gambling appears to be an uncertain win-lose proposition for other casino games.
Illegal Bookmakers — At first glance, bookies might seem to be the biggest losers when sports gambling becomes legal. The reasons are obvious. Bettors won’t have to rely on the illegal gambling market if a viable legal option is accessible. Moreover, expect the heat to be turned up on illegal bookies since local law enforcement will be tasked with reducing the competition for gambling dollars. In the long run, however, bookies might actually enjoy a boost. Since most bookies extend credit to their customers, this presents a huge advantage. If the sports gambling market increases (and it will), gradually many new bettors will become enticed by betting on credit rather than fronting money. Hence, bookies might gain more customers. Bookies might also be able to take advantage of significant pointspread differences in various betting markets.
Online Gambling/Online Poker — Good News: Given that PASPA was declared unconstitutional, it’s now going to be next to impossible for the federal government to impose similar prohibitions against casino games and poker played online. This should finally once and for all kill various bills proposed in Congress which might have outlawed online poker (and gambling games). Bad News: Don’t expect online poker or gambling games to get any boost in traffic, however. In fact, interest and traffic could decline since gambling dollars will increasingly find their way into casino sportsbooks instead of in online poker accounts. There’s only so many gambling dollars in the market available and if New Jersey and other states open up their betting windows, some percentage of the money used to buy sports tickets will come from other gambling ventures — probably, online poker and casino games.