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Posted by on Feb 19, 2020 in Blog, Essays, Politics | 2 comments

Updating My Nevada Caucus Vote (Three Days Away)

 

Bernie Sanders

 

UPDATING MY 2020 NEVADA CAUCUS VOTE

A week ago, my lean was 60-40 in favor of Amy Klobuchar over Bernie Sanders.  What I mean is — there was about a 60 percent chance I’d vote for Klobuchar and 40 percent chance I’d vote for Sanders.

Here were my thoughts at the time:  Announcing My Lean in the Nevada Democratic Caucus

Three days ago, my lean declined to 54-46 in favor of Klobuchar, based on her fumbling some major issues here in Nevada.

Here were my thoughts as to why Klobuchar lost some of my confidence.

After last night’s Town Hall (CNN) which featured both Sanders and Klobuchar onstage for an hour each, my lean has shifted again, to a razor-thin 51-49 margin with Klobuchar now perilously close to losing my vote.

Looking ahead, two more things will likely shape my final decision.

[1] Tonight’s debate is absolutely critical for Klobuchar. I have watched Sanders actually improve on the campaign stump in recent months. He seems to have more passion and energy than anyone could have expected for a 78-year-old candidate. I’ve also been impressed that he’s found a better way to explain his complex positions with some clarity. Klobuchar, on the other hand, remains a serious concern to me. I need to see something from her tonight that makes me confident she can front a national campaign in the fall against Trump, the nastiest possible adversary, and if not knock him out at least prove she belongs in the same ring. Klobuchar’s waffling Midwestern PTA meeting demeanor isn’t going to cut it at this point in the race, either tonight or in the future. I need to see some fire, without pandering to the usual Democratic establishment. That’s a huge turnoff, to me.

[2] I had three different people from the Bernie Sanders campaign personally reach out to me and invite me to be part of the media scrum who attends and covers his speech this Friday night at 7 pm in Las Vegas. I have met Sanders before, seen him speak, and was long-ago a fan way before he was known nationally (as an avowed socialist Senator). I don’t need to shake hands with Sanders or see him speak live to be starstruck. I already know and respect the man (and generally agree with 9/10 of his positions). Still, what impresses me is the small things; that Sanders’ campaign is so on top of the race that they would text me with invites to join the press pool and cover the candidate. That’s a well-oiled machine that can win an election.

Meanwhile, despite my professed public support for Klobuchar, including multiple tweets, several Facebook posts, and an article explaining my lean (which got several thousand hits), not a single person has reached out to me from the Klobuchar campaign, certainly not in any media capacity, and not even with an invite to come to see her speak. I realize Klobuchar’s campaign is still in the formative stage, but these little things at the grassroots level do matter.

Oh, but I did get several robocalls from Klobuchar, as well as Biden (more than anyone else), and various Democrats professing to endorse Biden. Sanders did not robocall me — that lone should tip the scale 3 points in his favor.

So, tonight’s debate will weigh heavily. I’ve given up on Klobuchar’s operation in Nevada so far as outreach. I don’t take that personally, but I do have to credit Sanders’ people for being far superior in terms of the ground game here in my state.

Meanwhile, all I see from Biden is cozying up to the big union and running a campaign through robocalls. As for Bloomberg, he’s just spewing money with ad buys. Buttigieg has my respect and has also done some solid groundwork in Nevada. Warren’s ground game is also very good, but her attempts to win my support through ads showing her working closely with “Dirty Harry” Reid were a huge turnoff. If a campaign is using that corrupt fossil to attract local votes, I’m totally repulsed by the campaign.

Current scorecard: Klobuchar 51-49 over Sanders (and subject to change). My vote takes place this Saturday.

Here’s a detailed account of what happened when I caucused here in Nevada back in 2016, in favor of Sanders.

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Posted by on Feb 17, 2020 in Blog, Essays, Movie Reviews | 0 comments

Parasite — A Short Move Review

 

Parasite-Movie

“PARASITE”

A Short Movie Review

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I made the mistake of seeing Parasite last night, a week after it won the Academy Award for Best Picture. All the accolades for the South Korean film catapulted my expectations to an unreachable height, no fault of Bong Joon-ho, who co-produced, wrote, and directed this gritty capper masterpiece.

My expectations were lifted even higher by the enthusiastic comments and recommendations of people I trust on social media and friends who I know have discernable taste in movies. Some of the posts on Facebook first brought Parasite to my attention a few months ago. I wish I had listened to their recommendation sooner.

Parasite is a well-crafted thriller, texturally engrossing, with heavy undertones of class struggle — the privileged versus the desperate. There are no “good guys” in the film. The story’s the thing.

I rate the first half of the movie as brilliant. A masterful black comedy set in Seoul, South Korea — but which could take place anywhere in post-modern urbania where gross inequities exist. The guilty pleasure of watching a mannerless viper’s nest of lowlifes-turned-con artists who methodically integrate a rich unsuspected family of victims with their own demons and secrets is shocking and often hilarious. The writer-director’s juxtaposition of tragedy and comedy is a marvel of perfectly paced moviemaking.

The second half of the film, when the mood turns considerably darker and more violent doesn’t match the brilliant set up. I also had some doubts as to believability towards the end of the movie. But these criticisms weren’t enough to dissuade me from saying it probably deserved the Best Picture Oscar.

I tend to like movies about con artists and scams. When they’re done right, they’re among the more enjoyable topics explored in cinema. Parasite will take its rightful place alongside films like The Sting, American Hustle, and others as a caper where we don’t know who to cheer for.

In the end, I suppose the lesson is — we’re all parasitic in one way or another.

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Posted by on Feb 17, 2020 in Blog, Essays, Politics | 10 comments

100 Years of Presidents — Ranked from Best to Worst

 

Presidents Day

 

ON PRESIDENTS DAY (FEBRUARY 17, 2020)
100 YEARS OF PRESIDENTS — RANKED

There have been 18 American presidents over the past century (1920-2020). Our presidents have served short terms (Ford-just 2.5 years) and much longer multiple terms (Roosevelt-13 years). Here’s my ranking from best to worst:

 

Franklin D. Roosevelt
— America’s greatest president since Abe Lincoln, and it’s not even close. Probably saved democracy both from collapse from within and by his steady leadership during WWII. Launched the New Deal, saved tens of millions from starving via govt, programs, began Social Security, mass civil works programs and government projects; repealed prohibition; inspired and lifted the nation during its worst economy in history

Dwight D. Eisenhower
— Centrist non-politician; great leader; and national father figure; always fair-minded. Slow on civil rights, but presided over the decade when the US was at its economic and global peak; warned future generations of the military-industrial complex and left office highly-respected by both parties

Lyndon B. Johnson
— America’s most liberal president on domestic policy; ambitious advocate for the Great Society; civil rights pioneer; far too many domestic accomplishments to name here–including the creation of Medicare, the “War on Poverty,” govt.-funded scientific research, education, gun control, expansion of immigration –but his legacy remains badly tainted by the drastic escalation in Vietnam.

Harry S. Truman
— Strong record as a Cold War warrior; common man approach to governing; what he lacked in charisma he made up for in honesty. Outstanding leadership in post-War Europe and Japan while holding a fragile situation together while the Cold War ramped up to dangerous levels

Barack Obama
— Inherited an economic disaster and helped to turn around the country; was a “first” in so many ways that inspired people all over the world; steady economic growth during every year while in office; health care bill passed; advanced gay rights and increased government protections; gets negative marks for lapses on civil liberties, use of drones, and poor use of diplomacy in some parts of the Middle East (Syria)

Woodrow Wilson
— Guided America through a tough period of growing pains; minimized US casualties during a global conflict; an idealistic visionary; scholarly; incapacitated in his final years

Gerald R. Ford
— Short tenure, but held the nation together after the worst constitutional crisis since the Civil War; didn’t have sufficient time to accomplish a lot, but generally gets high marks from historians (and was the target of TWO assassinations–poor Ford). Like seriously, who would want to kill Gerald Ford?

George H.W. Bush
— Received one of highest approval ratings in history during the late 80s, then a deep recession hit; receives positive marks on foreign policy following fall of USSR and building a coalition to counter the threat in Iraq

Ronald Reagan
— Inspiring; regal; ideological, and charismatic, but also tainted by arms-for-hostages scandal; criminal acts in Central America; begins to look worse as we distance ourselves from the “Greed Is Good” Reaganesque-’80s

Bill Clinton
— After failing to pass universal health care early in his first term, then governed as a centrist, with very strong economic numbers; presidency plagued by personal scandal, including impeachment; Not looking as good in retrospect

John F. Kennedy
— The most overrated president in American history, hands down. Witty and charismatic, for sure. But a disaster on foreign policy (failed Vienna talks, Cuba, Bay of Pigs, Berlin, escalation in Vietnam), completely silent on civil rights for more than two years while Black churches were being bombed, very average record on domestic economic policy; Final Assessment: all style but little substance

Richard M. Nixon
— Very mixed grade….extraordinary foreign policy achievements, but criminal conduct in Southeast Asia responsible for untold numbers of needless deaths in Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, and elsewhere; remarkably liberal on domestic policy, but destroyed by his own inner-demons revealed during the scandal of Watergate

Calvin Coolidge
— A big fat do-nothing free-market conservative who governed in the midst of prohibition, isolationism, neglectfully silent on the rising tide of racism and segregation; guilty for his Laissez-faire economic affairs

Jimmy Carter
— A good man but a bad president–or at least a weak and ineffective leader; he suffered devastating effects of the energy crisis, high inflation, the Iran hostage ordeal….but is also widely considered to be the best ex-President by many

Herbert Hoover
— Brilliant man who, based on other parts of his life, should have been one of America’s best presidents; but remained stubbornly wielded to conservative economic policies and small government, even after the ’29 stock market crash nearly destroyed the country; now looked upon as a complete failure

Warren G. Harding
— Dumb and dirty: Scandal-plagued failure of a president who was utterly neglectful of his duties while in office. He let the markets run wild, gave unnecessary tax cuts, championed America’s isolationism; slashed immigration; and hired corrupt cronies

George W. Bush
— Launched two pointless unwinnable wars in the Middle East, presided over deregulation and lack of proper government oversight of markets which resulted in the global economic collapse of 2008; legacy tainted by approval of torture, loss of civil liberties, and increased govt. surveillance

Donald J. Trump
— Inherited a strong economy and has been a disaster ever since; increased national debt–now a record high, repeated foreign policy disasters, unprecedented personal and cabinet scandals, record staff resignations-firing-criminality; impeachment and trial, intentional divisiveness, appalling ignorance, and unapologetic corruption. By comparison, Trump makes George W. Bush look like George Washington.

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Posted by on Feb 16, 2020 in Blog, Essays, General Poker, Las Vegas | 1 comment

Sahara Poker Room (Las Vegas): A Short Review

 

sahara-poker-room

 

SAHARA POKER ROOM (LAS VEGAS) —
A SHORT REVIEW

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Yesterday, I visited the new Sahara Poker Room, which opened the previous day. Sahara management’s bold decision to dedicate considerable space and cost to poker deserves praise. If you are a Las Vegas poker player (or a visitor), it seems to me this is the sort of thing that should be supported. At the least, the Sahara Poker Room deserves a visit.

This is the first poker room to open in Las Vegas in ten years. The Las Vegas poker market, which has been flat for quite a long time, has experienced consolidation. The biggest rooms have done fine. Meanwhile, several smaller rooms have been reduced in size or have closed.

Typically, a new poker room opening would not interest me. However, two key attributes attracted my attention.

First, this was my first visit to the new Sahara property since it was rebranded from the (previous) SLS Resort. That failed experiment turned into a half-billion-dollar disaster. Bringing back the classic Sahara name and updating the property is certain to jump-start enthusiasm for the northern area of The Strip, which has been a ghost town for anything north of the Wynn. Once some other properties in the area open up (namely Resorts World across the street), the Sahara should do quite well with both hotel stays and foot traffic.

Second, I’m a big fan of Steven Pique, who is hired as head of poker operations at the Sahara. I worked with Steven for years on the WSOP Circuit traveling around the country. He was always thoroughly professional and knowledgeable. His impact on the new room should be both immediate and long-lasting. I’m glad to support Steven, who deserves every bit of success.

So, what is it that’s special about the Sahara Poker Room. Here are a few observations:

1. Free parking and easy access from the garage. Other casinos charge for parking or require long walks. I was able to get into the parking garage easily (from both Paradise and Las Vegas Blvd.), park on the 4th Floor, and walk to the poker room within 5 minutes.

2. Comps are awarded at $2 per hour, which is a nice perk. Check with the room on exact hours, but during the day shift, the comp rate is $3 an hour.

3. I really like the giant screen television on the wall. Most poker rooms have TVs with sporting events high overhead. It’s not always easy to see the action. For those who enjoy playing poker while watching sports, the giant screen is an attraction (see photo). Whoever made that decision got it right.

4. While I was visiting, a player ordered food inside the room. Imagine that, a cart with a plate and silverware was wheeled up next to the player. So, instead of fast-food garbage brought to tableside, the Sahara offers real food with a wide range of menu items combined from several restaurants. I’m really big on food served at tableside, and this right up there with the Aria (best food service in the city) in terms of poker and dining options.

5. The room is new and will take a little while to develop a loyal fan base. However, I noted they’ve already spread Pot-Limit Omaha and are eager to expand to more games than just Hold’em. Talk to Steven or any of the managers, and I expect they’ll do everything possible to accommodate a request. Once again I stress, these are POKER people running the room, not flunkies assigned from other areas of the casino floor.

6. Tables and chairs are spacious and comfortable. I can’t stand cramped poker rooms where players are sardined into seats. This is common in Las Vegas, where players are treated like chattel. Smoking is banned, of course, and there were no signs of second-hand smoke.

7. The Sahara Poker Room initially was advertised to be a room that would close at 2 am. However, the first night one of the games lasted until 7 am the next morning. Steven noted that no poker game will ever be shut down. So, the room might close overnight during slower times midweek, but so long as a game is going, it will run as long as players want to play.

8. Not really poker-related, but I love the restaurants at Sahara. The steakhouse (Bazaar Meat by Jose Andres) is probably the best in the city. The Italian restaurant is also very good. There are also some burger places, including one inside the race and sportsbook. Again — this is another difference: Most sportsbooks don’t offer food. But Sahara has a full-scale restaurant inside the sportsbook (a carryover from SLS).

9. I love the location of the poker room. It’s right next to the casino floor, but still far enough away not to be bombarded with the noise from slot machines. It’s always a good indication as to how management feels about poker by the placement of a poker room, and it’s obvious this establishment is taking the game and its players seriously.

Let me be clear. I’m difficult to please. I’m opinioned. I don’t do fluff pieces. I blast failure. But I also praise commitment and effort. At the Sahara what I see is exactly that — commitment and effort.

I wish the new Sahara Poker Room well. They’ve spent serious money and have designed a beautiful room. If they build it, let’s hope they come. I recommend making a visit.

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Posted by on Feb 15, 2020 in Blog, Essays, Politics, What's Left | 1 comment

Updating My 2020 Nevada Caucus Vote

 

amy-klobuchar

 

UPDATING MY NEVADA CAUCUS VOTE (15 FEB.)

To use a sports analogy, I put her in the game, and she’s fumbled twice and thrown two interceptions. I’m looking over to the bench to see what”s available, and there sits BERNIE SANDERS.

Last week, I wrote and posted here and on Facebook for the first time about my lean in the 2020 Nevada Democratic Caucus.  I finally announced my support for a candidate.

Based on several factors and weighing the evidence, I calculated the percentage that I would vote for AMY KLOBUCHAR in next Saturday’s Nevada Democratic Caucus at 60 percent. BERNIE SANDERS stood at approximately a 40 percent chance. No other candidate was on my list of considerations.

Here’s an update:

I now assess my support for KLOBUCHAR at 53 percent. She dropped seven points. That means I still lean slightly to KLOBUCHAR over SANDERS in the race, but that lead is fragile and subject to change.

Four things have hurt my support for KLOBUCHAR, all within the last 48 hours:

(1) KLOBUCHAR’s appearance on Real Time With Bill Maher last night was a disaster. Actually, she did very well in the 14-minute sit-down interview with the host, for 12 minutes. Then, the final two minutes were a political train wreck.

Maher’s pet issue the past two weeks has been “what happens if Trump loses the election and refuses to concede — then what’s the plan?” He’s done entire monologues on this. Each candidate gets asked this question. It’s a tough question, but one that a presidential candidate must be anticipating if anyone on KLOBUCHAR’s staff was doing their job.

So, KLOBUCHAR was smiling and about to wrap up a successful appearance in front of likely the biggest audience of her career, 12 million mostly sympathetic Left-leaning viewers. Even Maher was practical about the race and seemed to lean to KLOBUCHAR. She was two minutes from the finish line.

Then came the question everyone in the audience was anticipating: “What will you do if…….”

KLOBUCHAR might as well have been a deer caught in the headlights. She paused and fumbled. In fairness, this wasn’t KLOBUCHAR’s fault. She doesn’t have time to watch Bill Maher on HBO. She’s kinda’ busy right now. But someone on her staff had to know that question was coming. Maher even prefaced the question with, “I ask this question of all the candidates….”

This is the job of advance people.  Researchers.  Campaign staff.  A competent manager.  They blew it.

Then, to make matters even worse, KLOBUCHAR gave the answer that made Maher cringe and the audience groan. Viewers of the show know exactly what I’m talking about. It’s was a disaster. Unfortunately, we couldn’t see the look on Maher’s face. He was bent over with his head tilted down towards his lap, his face covered by his hands as if to say. “OH NO!”

It could have been a great night for KLOBUCHAR. Instead, it was a disaster. Oh, and she also forgot the name of the President of Mexico, but I’ll cut her some slack there on a fatigue lapse of memory.

(2) Some of the comments posted in favor of SANDERS to my previous thread on Facebook did resonate with me. I do listen to reason and weigh the evidence.  If you don’t do this also then, excuse me, you might be in a cult.  I won’t call out anyone by name, as you know who you are when I responded to the posts on social media. However, one significant counterpoint that was made did neutralize one of my concerns about SANDERS.

I noted SANDERS winning the presidency in November would create an inevitable backlash in 2022 where Democrats would get hammered and probably lose the House and certainly lose the Senate.  That would set up another impasse, and the perception that Sanders was a bad choice and Democrats can’t govern.

Short version of this is, even a SANDERS victory could be perilous to the long-range goals of the Left (basically, wrong candidate at the wrong time). SANDERS’ backers noted that it doesn’t matter which Democrat wins the White House — the Republican slime machine will kick into high gear. Any Democrat will be called a “socialist.” It doesn’t matter if Bernie Sanders or Mike Bloomberg or Jimmy Carter is in the White House, the dirt-dumb simpletons who know nothing of political terminology will label anyone a socialist. So, SANDERS or whoever, it won’t matter. The 2022 prospects are the same. I hereby concede on this point.

(3) KLOBUCHAR supported last year’s anti-BDS bill which means she backs criminalizing American citizens’ criticism of Israel. This is totally unacceptable. It’s anti-free speech. The bill has to be unconstitutional. She was the only Senator to vote in favor of the anti-BDS bill, which is an AIPAC initiative. Whatever someone believes about the Israel-Palestine conflict, suppressing free speech is wrong. The ACLU is on our side of this, but unfortunately, the anti-BDS bill passed in the House and the Senate and is now in limbo as states and courts battle it out. I was not aware of KLOBUCHAR’s position on this and find her support to be very troubling.

(4) Here in Las Vegas, KLOBUCHAR gave two speeches (I saw clips on television) where she slams “socialism.” This isn’t a way to win my support. In fact, it’s repellant. I almost flipped against her on this issue alone.

If KLOBUCHAR wants to use the evils of “socialism” against her rivals, I’ll listen and be prepared to chalk up some of the rhetoric to political opportunism. But if she’s going to trash the core principle of government as an agent of social and economic justice (the essence of socialism), then I’m prepared to bolt from her campaign and march to BERNIE SANDERS. Anyone who uses socialism in the pejorative is an automatic strike-against with me.

My updated assessment — she’s on a serious tightrope with me right now, and the wind is blowing.

To use a better sports analogy, I put her in the game, and she’s fumbled twice and thrown two interceptions. I’m looking over to the bench to see what”s available, and there sits BERNIE SANDERS.

With seven days still to decide, I welcome input. If you don’t live in Nevada, consider me your proxy. Feel free to try and persuade me who I should support in the Nevada Caucus. I will post again if my opinion significantly changes.

Follow the latest dicussion on FACEBOOK.

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