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Posted by on Aug 31, 2018 in Blog, Essays, What's Left | 2 comments

Emotional Rescue #5: Sarah Palin, Global Warming, and the Death of Excitement in Poker

 

 

Today is Friday, August 31st, 2018.  The scattershooting begins….

I.

Sen. John McCain’s memorial ceremony in Phoenix yesterday wasn’t just noteworthy for who was there.  It was as much a curiosity due to who didn’t show up — or wasn’t invited at all.

President Trump’s petty feuds with the late war hero who died last Saturday are well documented.  Instead of putting aside his political grievances — as so many others did when they honored McCain — instead, in typical toddler Trump fashion, the president made his feelings clear by what he didn’t say.  To quote the words of Shannon L. Adler:  “Often what people don’t say or leave out, tells the real story.”

Trump’s absence from the ceremony was probably a good thing.  Whatever the vindictiveness behind it from both parties, it turned out to be the right decision.  Rarely, if ever, would the solemn occasion of a man’s wake and funeral be aggravated by having the President of the United States in attendance.  But this was such an occasion.  No one wanted him there.

The far bigger surprise among those who were not present turned out to be Sarah Palin, the half-term, half-wit former governor of Alaska and McCain’s former running mate in the farcical 2008 presidential election.  In the decade that’s passed since the political debacle, the truth has slowly trickled out as to the perilous relationship between the two principles.  We’ve learned that McCain, at least initially, strongly opposed Palin being added to the ticket.  McCain instead wanted his close friend and Senate colleague, then-Democrat Joe Lieberman as his Vice President.  Had the McCain-Lieberman ticket happened, it would have been the first truly bipartisan candidacy in history (aside from George Washington).

As tensions mounted during that ill-fated 2008 Republican campaign, sometime in the midst of his run, McCain realized the grave error of his VP decision.  Hell, he’d almost have been better off picking a random name out of a phone book.  Selecting Palin as a prospective Vice President was like plucking the third person standing in line at a grocery store, brain buried in the latest issue of National Enquirer, and pushing a shopping cart packed with frozen pizza and pop tarts.

Still, no one can deny that history was made.  Given that Palin will always have a few Wiki paragraphs as the first woman ever on a Republican presidential ticket, it does seem odd that she wouldn’t be present at her facilitator’s funeral.  So then, why didn’t Palin attend?  The only reasonable conclusion for this glaring void on the official guest list is the McCain-Palin rift must have been far more bitter than anyone realized and perhaps even gotten personal.  Either that happened, or Palin found out about yesterday’s sale at Nieman-Marcus.  McCain, never one to mince words when talking in private, must have used some mightly colorful language behind the scenes when later discussing one of the worst mistakes ever in American electoral history.  I can only imagine the pure political poetry from his mouth.

Even in death, McCain’s political future looks brighter than Palin’s.

 

II.

Not nearly enough has been said recently about Climate Change/Global Warming and humankind’s ceaseless assault on the environment.

Incredible as it may sound, the future of the earth is playing second fiddle to just about everything else — from the latest White House scandal to the NFL’s National Anthem protests.  Right now, Katy Perry has 90 times the number of Twitter followers as Greenpeace.  Let that fucking sink in.

We’re approaching the end to yet another blazing summer of record heat throughout the Northern Hemisphere, an alarming number of out of control wildfires, and other climate-related abnormalities.  Oh, and hurricane season is right around the corner.  It seems, abnormalities have become the new normal.

Politically, this is dynamite.  And, it’s Democrats who need to be lighting the fuse.  Republicans have painted themselves into a dangerously self-defeating corner, indefensible by any measure, from which there’s no escape.  Trump and his Republican Party lapdogs continue to steadfastly deny the overwhelming science behind man-made climate change.   Virtually all Republicans are cozy with fossil fuel producers and conspiracy cranks who churn out crackpot “studies” like poisoned candy corn at Halloween.  While Americans are watching their homes go up in flames in the thousands caused by droughts, or see their neighborhoods submerged in stormwater after mass floods, a majority of good citizens are starting not only to believe climate change is a very real threat; these dangers may also harm them personally.  Hitting close to home does have a way of making people reexamine things and face facts.

The Trump Administration is clearly an enemy of the environment.  And given his proposals to open more public lands to “exploration,” Mother Nature will likely be shedding even more tears.  Trump and his cabinet appointees, some of whom have resigned in disgrace from corruption, look upon land, oceans, and resources to be plundered and profited from.  Fuck everyone else.  Fuck the future.  Grab all you can, now!

Republicans have even gone to great lengths to silence critics, many of whom are universally-respected scientists at the top of their fields.  They fear an open debate on climate change because they know they can’t win.  There’s way too much evidence against them, and it’s piling up fast.  Consider this data lifted from a recent column by New York Times columnist, Thomas L. Friedman, who writes in the voice of Mother Nature:

“How about I bake Europe, set the biggest wildfire California has ever seen and more active wildfires — 460 in one day — than British Columbia has ever seen, and also start the worst forest fires in decades in Sweden, even extending north of the Arctic Circle where temperatures this month reached 86 degrees.  Meanwhile, I’ll subject Japan to the heaviest rainfall it’s ever recorded, and then a couple weeks later the highest temperature it’s ever recorded — 106 degrees in Kumagaya, northwest of Tokyo.  And for a punctuation mark, I’ll break the heat record in Death Valley, reaching 127 degrees, and burn the worst drought in living memory into Eastern Australia, where the BBC last week quoted a dairy farmer as saying, “It’s gotten to the point where it’s cheaper to shoot your cows than it is to feed them…..Climate change makes the hots hotter, the wets wetter and the dries drier.”

[READ THE FULL COLUMN HERE]

It’s not enough to complain about the weather and sporadically talk about the environment.  For once, there is something we can do about it.  Progressives need to hang climate denial around the necks of Republicans up for re-election in 2018 and 2020 like a dirty diaper filled with baby shit.  And if necessary, rub their noses in it.  So, Republican climate deniers want us to ignore data showing that each of the past four years has been the hottest ever recorded?  Here — smell this.  It’s the stench of the earth under a broiler.

Protecting the earth from slow and steady extinction demands that we do far more than we’ve been doing.  This isn’t a time of politeness.  This isn’t a time of patience.  This is a time for action.

 

III.

Is poker dead?

It all depends on where you go and who you ask.

Clearly, more people are probably playing poker in casinos and cardrooms nationwide that at any time before.  I can’t cite any specific data from abroad, but international poker events also appear to be doing quite well.  However, much closer to home the news isn’t so good.  Las Vegas poker rooms continue closing at an alarming rate.  This week, the Treasure Island cardroom became the Strip’s latest casualty.  Three rooms have already shut down this year.

No one is interested much in poker anymore, at least from a spectator point of view.  As a televised attraction, as far as ratings go, the game is stuck somewhere between old reruns of Hill Street Blues and Match Game ’75.  Seriously, does anyone watch poker shows anymore?  Can anyone name who won last week’s big tournament on TV?  Unlike a decade ago when poker pros were treated like celebrities, aside from a few big names from the past, no one on the street can name a single poker player who’s famous.  Televised tournament poker has become as interesting as watching a bunch of people you don’t know sitting around playing keno.

Poker books might as well be video cassette tapes.  They aren’t selling.  After a flood of books on poker strategy hit the market a decade ago, pretty much all the game’s intellectual real estate was covered.  No one’s buying poker books anymore and so-called poker media is drying up, too.  From a publishing standpoint, poker has become bridge.

Many once-successful poker players are quitting the game, as well.  It’s just not worth the aggravation.  The swings can be severe.  Sponsorship money has all but dried up.  Corporate and television opportunities are extremely limited.  And the rising costs of travel and accommodation increasingly makes it difficult to tour as a poker pro anymore (unless independently wealthy).  Very few people are beating typical games anymore for any significant money.

The real problem for poker isn’t so much with the present, but the future.  Young people, especially those in their late teens and early twenties, have discovered other interests and passions, notably e-gaming.  When it comes to poker, this critical youth feeder market is evaporating fast.  It might already be tapped out.  While most forms of gambling continue declining in popularity, poker was once thought to be somewhat immune to general casino trends.  Now, it’s just as vulnerable to mass disinterest as everything else that’s inside a casino.  The novelty of poker has worn off.

What’s really hurt poker for many enthusiasts who otherwise might still be participating if the circumstances were right is that games are neither fun nor exciting anymore.  They aren’t fun to play.  They aren’t exciting to watch.  Sure, there are exceptions.  Instances like Englishman John Hesp’s deep run on the World Series of Poker Main Event last year, when he and everyone who watched had a blast.  But those moments are exceedingly rare.  Hesp, joyously having the time of his life while at the table playing for millions, didn’t just show us how magnificent he was as a poker attraction.  The sadder fact was he also revealed what a dull and dreadful lot the remainder of the community at large has become, by comparison to his enthusiasm.

Lookalike and soundalike poker pros have unwittingly joined the companies and corporations who really run the game and have squeezed the life out of poker as a spectator sport.  In desperation, High-Roller poker tournaments are now looked upon as a possible savior, since the televised lineup of players is somewhat predictable and big-name stars are featured.  But no one cares much about a group of guys swapping pieces and staking each other to play for phantom prize money.  Most of the time, it’s excruciating to watch.  The thrill is gone.

As for ways to make the game exciting again, both to watch and to play, poker might be drawing dead.

 

Until next time, thanks for reading.

__________

 

2 Comments

  1. Sen. John McCain’s 2008 running mate Sarah Palin and other members of the Arizona Republican’s failed presidential campaign were not invited to his funeral or other memorial services, according to multiple media reports.

  2. “Even in death, McCain’s political future looks brighter than Palin’s.”

    One of your best lines ever, Nolan! I’m still laughing out loud.

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