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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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Posted by on Feb 14, 2020 in Blog, Essays, Las Vegas, What's Left | 0 comments

Election 2020: My Experience in the Last Nevada Democratic Caucus (2016)

 

Nevada Democratic Caucus

 

Writer’s Note:  The 2020 Nevada Democratic Caucus is only a week away.  For those unfamiliar with how exactly a caucus works, here’s a detailed, and sometimes humorous account of my last experience, which happened four years ago.

 

The Self-Indulgent, Highly-Detailed, and Occasionally Funny Story of My Nevada Caucus Experience  in February 2016

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This past Saturday morning, I attended the Nevada State Democratic Party caucus for Precinct #6672, which covers The Lakes section of Greater Las Vegas.  I take great pride in boasting I reside in The Lakes.  That means we’re better than everybody else, except for those rich pricks that live in Anthem.

My precinct includes mostly single-family homes, plus some nice condos and a few apartment complexes in the area just north of Desert Inn and west of Durango.  For those unfamiliar with Las Vegas, that’s about 7 miles off the Strip, heading west towards Summerlin.

Democracy in action.

 

What’s a Caucus?

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A state caucus is a very different experience from attending either a primary or a general election.  Most of us have participated in both primaries and elections before, in which procedures are familiar:  (1) we check in with a poll worker, (2) enter a voting booth, and then (3) cast a ballot in secret.  On most occasions, voting takes no more than a few minutes if the line isn’t long.  However, caucuses take considerably longer than that and require much more of a commitment.  For this reason, caucuses don’t generate nearly the voter turnout as primaries and elections.  Good.  Keep out the doddering dimwit dirt-dumb masses.  They vote Republican, anyway.

About 80,000 Nevadans caucused this year, which was down from 117,000 the last time there was a real contest back in 2008.  Given the clear decline in statewide turnout, it’s becoming apparent that Barack Obama had a serious impact on overall enthusiasm when he initially ran back in 2008 which this year’s Democratic candidates are not matching.  That could spell trouble for the Democratic nominee, come November 2016. [EDITOR’S NOTE:  Wow, what I right or what?!?]

 

Pros and Cons

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Nevada’s state caucus has both pros and cons.  It brought both good news and bad news for those of us proud to call “the Silver State” our home.

It was good for us because we’re only the third state (on the Democratic side) to hold a primary/caucus.  That means our votes really matter this time, more than in past years, when we voted much later in the primaries, by the time the races had already been decided.  Nevada has a reputation (deserved somewhat) as a state that’s politically indifferent, apathetic even.  Accordingly, there were some valid concerns Nevadans might not be the best voting block to determine party nominees in the privileged spot of early primaries and caucuses.  Nevada’s reputation certainly isn’t enhanced any by its reputation where just about anything goes when it comes to vice.  Fortunately, holding this “first caucus in the West” may have turned a corner, symbolically speaking, as Nevada’s population increasingly becomes more diverse and representative of the nation as a whole.

As for the bad, caucuses can be intimidating for some voters, especially those who aren’t as involved in the political process or up to speed on the issues.  For one thing, participants are required to pledge their support for candidates publicly — in front of friends, neighbors, and others in their local community.  While many of us proudly wear out political stripes on our sleeves and have no hesitation supporting a candidate, others could be less enthusiastic about the process and even dissuaded from attending.

[Another quick note about caucuses:  As an activist, I prefer this option over simple voting because it weeds out some lightweights who aren’t as dedicated or informed (with exceptions — some voters may have legitimate conflicts with work, school, or family and cannot attend a process that takes a few hours).  The downside is losing all privacy in a caucus.  I have serious questions about the biggest unions in the state and membership which turned out heavily for Hillary Clinton.  Were some workers who caucused at polling places such as the big casinos intimidated from possibly supporting Bernie Sanders?  In response to criticism that a Saturday caucus would penalize lots of service industry employees who are at work during the busiest day of the week (many of whom are in unions that support Clinton), local Democratic Party officials set up caucuses as several casinos on The Strip.  That’s fine.  What’s troubling here is the potential for intimidation in a work environment when it comes to pledging public support for candidates.  How many union bosses were dutifully overseeing their flocks making sure their subordinates turned out for Clinton?  Yeah, those are sour grapes — but valid questions.]

 

Standing in Line

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Marieta and I arrived at about 10:45 am.  We heard people that would be allowed in at 11 am.  However, the doors were open and registration had already begun by the time we arrived.  Our precinct caucus was held at a local elementary school — MJ Christensen — who turns out is a local diamond merchant and jeweler.  Only in Las Vegas would you see a public school filled with impressionable children named after a diamond dealer, an end-of-the-line financial empire built on the backs of native Africans laboring away in dangerous mines for less than a dollar an hour and monopolistic practices of the global diamond market-based in Antwerp, which artificially creates the lunacy of allure for these buffed up coal deposits.

But, I digress.  We were discussing the caucus.  Here’s what you would expect to see:

IMAG1822

 

We waited about 10-15 minutes in line before finally clearing registration.  While standing in line, we were surprised to see volunteers from both the Clinton and Sanders campaigns actively engaging those of us waiting to reach the front in order to check-in.  They were polite.  Each volunteer tried to pass out stickers and buttons in support of their respective candidates.  I thought it somewhat odd that campaign workers are allowed to actively engage voters who wait in lines, but this was only a minor annoyance.

Once at the table, we weren’t asked to show any form of identification (voter ID laws are a controversial issue in many states).  Instead, we were asked various personal questions such as name, date of birth, address, and so forth and then once our identity was confirmed, each given a ballot.  The photo above shows the line at check-in, with perhaps 20-30 people lined out the door and standing outside.  Later on, I was told the line reached more than a hundred.

Surprisingly, our local school was the polling place for not just us, but eight precincts on the west side of Las Vegas.  So, the long line was somewhat misleading since it includes a much larger geographic area than I had initially realized.

After some confusion, we were shuffled into a first-grade classroom at the end of the hall.  This was to be the official “caucus” of Precinct #6672.

 

Back to School

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Here’s where the situation turned comical.

No one considered the quirky logistics of large numbers of adults crashing into a classroom tailored entirely for 7-year-olds.  All chairs and tables were tiny, made for little people, raised no more than a foot up off the floor.  Moreover, the seats were made of plastic for bodies that weighed perhaps 70-80 pounds.  Watching 200-plus pound adults, some of whom were over 6-feet-tall trying to scrunch into these uncomfortable chairs with our teeth pressed into hour knees was unbelievable, until we finally decided to grin and bear it….remember, this is basically what flying coach is like.  So, we dutifully took our seats and toughed it out.  Also, seeing lessons posted up on the wall about being good little boys and girls would prove useful once the political debate started.

IMAG1825

 

A Party Divided

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The gathering included some serious drama.

As I said before, we were among the first to arrive.  Once we entered the classroom, a pleasant young man asked us who we intended to support.  When we answered “Sanders,” he insisted that we sit on the opposite side of the room.  This seemed like a strange request since the 10 or so people already in the room had gathered around a large table and were talking like old friends.  It was an odd feeling that we were asked to sit elsewhere until we learned the Hillary Clinton supporters were to caucus over here, and we were supposed to gather over there.

There we went.

Five minutes later, I took a quick headcount and it was 11 lost souls on the side of the room for evil Clinton, versus just 3 with wisdom on the side of good and decency, hardly enough of a quorum to belt out a chorus of “The Internationale.”  I whispered over to Marieta that this was going to be a very long day, insisting that the demographics of clueless old people who tend to reside in The Lakes were within the Clinton sweet spot.  I feared this was a very bad early sign for Sanders in Nevada, even with the ridiculously small sample size.  I’m a fatalist, remember.

But then, the winds of change blew (hey, I’m trying to make this interesting — we’re caucusing inside a first-grade classroom, so cut me some slack….I’m building steam).  The Sanders supporters began to flow in, presumably done with morning Pilates and utterly famished by granola bars.  Perhaps they’d partied too long the previous night and were just waking up.  A few minutes later, it was 16 awful people for Clinton and 14 heroes for Sanders.  We’d closed the gap!  From that moment forward, each time a new person walked into the room, there was a real element of suspense.  With noon approaching and the deadline for new attendees, it was deadlocked even at 23 supporters each.  The drama rose faster than anatomy parts under Bill Clinton’s desk.

Then and there, I realized Sanders was — what we call in sports betting — a mortal lock.  This was the perfect microcosm of a caucus.  The older and more traditional types, the stubborn party loyalists, the old guard — they would mostly tend to arrive EARLIER.  Just like the 5 pm buffets all around town that are packed with blue hairs, Clinton’s loyalists had already shown up and blown their wad.  Sailors the first hour of shore leave.  The druggies, the radicals, and the intellectuals like me who stood with Sanders would stumble in, either lost or late.  Gee, I wish I could have made a bet on this.  I knew my instincts were correct.  We were a lock.

Then, an old bitch walked in and nearly blew it.  An old woman with white hair who looked like she died five years ago doddered in like she’d lost her Social Security check, and we knew instantly that Clinton had taken the lead.  Fuck.  Okay, so that’s me thinking to myself.  I didn’t say it too loud.  Then, a youngish girl with pink hair and a giant nose ring accompanied by a boyfriend with lots of tattoos came in just moments later, and I knew we were back on top.  Rescued.  25-24 for Sanders.  If the blue hair dies while in caucus, we might be 25-23.

Just as the official proceedings were about to begin, three more people popped into the room.  At that instant, there was a deafening silence as they waddled the carpet towards the chalkboard.  Conversations stopped in mid-sentence.  Arguments ended.  We all knew that whichever side of the room they sat on would tip the scales and determine the outcome of our precinct (or so, we thought — ass-ripping spoiler alert ahead).

The three older white angry-looking latecomers walked down the middle of the classroom, seemingly caught inside a parking garage forgetting what level their car was parked.  When the precinct captain finally asked “who” they were supporting, someone mumbled “Bernie,” and 25 people on my side the room suddenly burst into loud applause like the Broncos has just scored the winning touchdown and covered the point spread.  If I had a football, I would have spiked it over the American flag.

Democracy rules.

 

The Caucus Begins

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Oh, wait.  Before I tell the story about the actual caucus (you still with me?), first I have to rant.  Hide the children.  Lock way the knives.  This is going to be ugly.

I love that people are engaged and interested.  I really do.  It’s so Norman Rockwell.  It’s so America-like.  I’m interested in what common people think about the issues.  Sometimes.  Occasionally.  Okay well, never.  But, I digress once again.  Let me continue.

The gibberish that flowed of the mouths of some of these people were gut-busting, bat shit baffling!  One woman, a Clinton supporter, got into an argument with a Sanders supporter.  The woman barked, “I will never support Sanders!  I don’t want to work hard and just give it away to people who don’t want to work!”  I should have retorted with caucus instructions for the next Donald Trump rally taking place this Tuesday night because she must have either gotten lost or she’s clearly in the wrong political party: however, it took me a couple of minutes before I could regain my ability to speak.  She’s bitching about supporting “people who don’t want to work?”  That’s really her biggest issue?  That’s what bother her most — not wars, nor income inequality, nor health care, nor the environment, not any of the other 189 issues that are more important right now?

Fuuuuuuuuuuuccccccccccckkkkkkkk.

Another Clinton supporter brought up the subject of foreign policy.  Well, not those words, exactly.  More like, “Bernie won’t keep us safe!” or something that you might hear at from Ted Cruz.  Somehow, I resisted the temptation to scream out “REMEMBER BENGHAZI!!!!!!”  But that would have Tea-Partied me straight off to Cliven Bundy’s psych ward.

I realize there’s some obvious bias here which is juicy cannon fodder for the haters, but when I chose to, I can speak with some bona fide objectivity when it comes to political discourse.  Without exception, everyone on the Clinton side of the room, particularly those who spoke out were very traditional old-guard Democrats very much used to support the establishment.  It sort of reminded me of what Palm Beach County’s nursing homes must be like on bridge night.  Don’t misunderstand me, these were loyal Democrats.  But they were not voters who thought much about issues or even seemed to have much of a grasp of current affairs.  They were voting for Hillary because Madge and Betsy were doing the same thing and that was the norm.  They hadn’t had an original idea, nor an outside the box thought since trying to decipher the hidden lyrics to The Platters when they were teenagers.

Meanwhile, Sanders’ supporters were far more intellectual, clearly more widely read, talked in far greater detail with facts and statistics about real rather than imaginary issues, and were even in some instances still not fully sold on Sanders, but at least swayed enough by his message of change of political revolution that the idea seemed intriguing and worthy of supporting.  I often judge a person’s intelligence on civic matters and the prospect of wanting to get to know them better (politically speaking) based on whether or not they can see shortcomings within their own philosophical persuasion.  Those who acknowledge a wide spectrum of likes and dislikes and prove themselves capable of POLITICAL INTROSPECTION are far more credible than blind sycophants who fail to see any flaws in their own leanings and favored candidates.  Doubt, and even self-doubt, are virtues, in my political wheelhouse.  Blind faith is the elixir of stupidity, proof of a close mind that desperately needs lubrication.

Yeah, it’s a small sample size.  Many Clinton supporters are very bright people fully capable of arguing a compelling case, I agree.  However, none of them were present at Precinct #6672.

 

The Caucus Really Begins

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Sorry for the caucus prick tease.  Time for action.

A nice woman with a Clinton sticker on her shirt stood in front of the classroom and called the meeting to order.  The first matter of business was to select a caucus precinct captain.  The lady mentioned that she’d attended three training sessions and that was why she was heading up this meeting.  She asked for unanimous consent to be “elected” as captain or chairperson or whatever she wishes to call herself.  I figured this was not the time to throw down the gauntlet and draw a line in the sand, fearing turning the whole room against me, so I too meekly raised my hand and went along with the rest of the crowd, agreeing to vote in a Clinton supporter as our leader.

Next, the vice something or other, the assistant, the second in command was to be chosen.  One never knows if the chairperson might collapse before our very eyes and die on the spot, necessitating a chain of command where the precinct is rescued by a backup.  To ensure against this dire possibility, a young man wearing a Bernie t-shirt offered himself up as the Biden of the group and he too was voted in with unanimous consent.  Now, we were rolling.  Ten minutes into the official caucus, we’d established our leadership.  Had both the chairperson and assistant somehow been wiped out or become disposed of in some kind of disaster, one presumes our caucus would have been suspended since we didn’t have a contingency for a backup to the backup.  Sort of like Grand Poobah in The Mikado, I role I once played by the way.

After that, the lady took out a large manila-style envelope and asked for contributions.  She noted the State Democratic Party mandated that envelope be passed around the room in the event some idiot was gullible enough to donate money someone might be so delusional, they might be inclined to pull out a checkbook.  I saw one lady drop a twenty into the envelope as it was passed around the room.  Too bad that was after it had already passed through my hands — as I might have been tempted to pilfer the loot.

Next, we had to count the number of attendees in the room and determine if we had a quorum, whatever that meant.  We took a headcount, by rattling off numbers one at a time.  Surprisingly, we all discovered we could count to 53, but even with 53 witnesses that weren’t enough clear evidence of an exact count, and so we had to do it all over again.

Really.

So, we started again, this time counting ourselves as we raised our ballots.  One.  Two.  Three.  Four.  And so on.  Fittingly, this was a first-grade classroom.

 

The Vote

.

During the merry go-count-around, we discovered one person was visiting from out of town and had come in as an observer.  I have no idea how someone stumbled in off the street into a caucus (talk about a bad case of getting lost!), but this actually happened.  Since there’s apparently nothing at all to do in Las Vegas, this person declared she was visiting and did not intend to participate in the caucus.  I resisted the temptation to ask where she was headed off to next — the joys of an insurance seminar?

Next, we were shocked to discover two people had been sitting on the wrong side of the room.  When it finally came time to count heads and take ballots, two people in the Clinton camp professed the intended to vote for Sanders.  That created some confusion, but at least we didn’t have to recount the room again.  Turns out, Sanders ended up with 28 votes to 24 for Clinton.  Sanders was the winner!

Of course, one pass through wasn’t enough.  We each raised our ballots once again, one at a time, and (shocker!) the vote turned out the same.  28 to 24.  The Sanders side of the room erupted in applause while the Clinton camp appeared disappointed and dejected.  As I said, democracy works.  Kinda’.

IMAG1827

 

This is Ologharchy Democracy?

.

Turns out, our precinct was given 8 delegates to award proportionally, according to the vote (delegates to the county and state convention — not the national).  The chairperson pulled out a calculator and did the math according to her instructions.  Unfortunately, the 28-24 margin wasn’t within the formula to award delegates 5-3 in favor of Sanders.  Even though Clinton lost by 4 votes, the delegate allocation would be split evenly, 4-4.

Someone in our group protested.  Okay, that was me.  Then, another more vocal supporter stood up and demanded to know what it would take to get the delegates to swing 5-3 for Sanders.  Again, the calculator provided the answer.  The chairperson stated that if we could get ONE Clinton supporter to defect, that would tip the scales 5-3.  Since caucuses are different and give us that right, we pounced.

One of the Clinton supporters (to his credit) admitted he was unsure about supporting either candidate, but had made a rather quick decision to do what seemed safe.  The man, perhaps age 60 or so, dangled a carrot by stating he might be swayed to come over to the Bernie side.  That launched a remarkably interesting 15 minutes of dialogue which surprised even me.  The case for Bernie couldn’t have been argued any better than OJ’s lawyer, and I really thought we had a shot at swaying not just the weak link in the chain, but half the room.

Well, the man inexplicably became stubborn, unresponsive to logic and burrowed himself deeper into the Clinton camp like a fat tick on a farm mutt.  Had the ballot been secret, I’m sure he would have defected.  However, peer pressure can be a strong force — again — one of the problems with caucusing.

Final delegate count:  Sanders — 4, Clinton — 4.  

 

This Caucus is Adjourned!

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The final order of business was to select actual delegates to attend county-wide caucuses and register their votes.  Volunteers were taken.  I joined with Leon Trotsky and two others locked arm-in-arm as pledged delegates for Sanders, to be cast in Clark County sometime in April.  One guarantee:  At least I’ll have material for another column.

We departed and went off to lunch.  Even with the annoying quirks and time-wasting, I still felt satisfied with what I’d experienced.  I felt even better about Sanders’ chances of winning Nevada.  If he could carry my precinct, which probably has all of ONE Socialist actually living in the entire neighborhood, and few of the base demographic groups that tend to support Sanders strongest like students and free-spirited artists as you might see in other parts of town, surely he was pulling even bigger numbers elsewhere.  From my vantage point, the Sanders camp was representative of the heart and soul of the left, while Clinton attracted a far more traditional voter.  Then, I realized I’d forgotten about unions and the commotion that was probably taking place on The Strip, where turnout would probably be high since the caucuses were so convenient.

As I was enjoying the first part of my meal I checked my messages.  That’s when I lost my appetite.  Corky Parks, my fellow leftist comrade off of Facebook, messaged me and announced that NBC had called just Nevada for Clinton.  I wanted to punch the phone.

Fuck.

Democracy in action?  I guess I need to go back and repeat first-grade.

 

nolan-dalla

 

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