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These are a Few of My Favorite Wines….

Posted by on Nov 23, 2017 in Blog, Book Reviews, Essays | 0 comments

 

 

[Sung to the melody of the timeless holiday classic from “The Sound of Music”]

Zinfandels and Cabernets,

Chenin Blancs and Burgandy….

Syrah and Shiraz,

Carmenere and Chianti….

Bourdeaux and Gamay, sign o’ the times,

These are a few of my favorite wines.

 

What if I were to plan a five-course meal for the holidays?  Of the many thousands of choices on the market from wineries all over the world, which wines would I chose to serve?

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Blaming MGM (Mandalay Bay) for the Las Vegas Shooting is Absurd

Posted by on Nov 21, 2017 in Blog, Essays, Las Vegas, Politics | 6 comments

 

 

My Thoughts on Victims and Survivors Suing Mandalay Bay: 

This lawsuit is absurd.  It has no merit whatsoever.  Hopefully, the legal case never reaches trial.  Hopefully, MGM and Live Nation refuse to settle out of court.  They did nothing wrong, and finding them guilty of any negligence sends the wrong message.  It also makes everyone’s lives more difficult and more expensive because, in the end, it’s we who end up paying the price.  We suffer the fallout.

 

It seems that everyone in America can sue anyone for any reason for any amount, no matter how frivolous the claim.

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Statute of Limitations

Posted by on Nov 15, 2017 in Blog, Book Reviews, Essays | 1 comment

 

 

Does sin have an expiration date?  Should the statute of limitations apply differently to sexual misconduct versus crimes against humanity?  Does justice hold a ticking stopwatch?

 

A candidate for the United States Senate is alleged to have committed multiple offenses of sexual assault nearly four decades ago.  Should his misdeeds from many years earlier be relevant today?

A middle-aged man committed a brutal murder 25 years ago.  He was convicted and served a long prison sentence.  He’s now free and hopes to rejoin society as a productive citizen.  Should we continue to hold his criminal record against him?

A 92-year-old senior citizen now living in Chile is identified as a notorious former Nazi, who actively participated in what’s known as The Final Solution.  Should the elderly man be arrested and tried for his participation in crimes against humanity?

From these real-life quandaries, we recognize that morality isn’t so much a line, but a matrix.

The common defense for Roy Moore, the current frontrunner in the U.S. Senate race in Alabama is that all five of his alleged incidents of sexual and personal misconduct (two against minors) happened so long ago that they’re no longer relevant.  Moore is 70 now and married.  When he was in his mid-30s and single, Moore liked the company of young girls, make that — very young girls.  However, there’s no record — at least not yet — of any recent transgressions.  Whether deserved or not, if we give Moore the benefit of the doubt that he’s led a scandal-free life since the early 1980s, should his clean record later override suspected crimes as a much younger man?

The floodgates have now opened up on a cultural epidemic of sexual misconduct in America.  Many men in positions of power — from movie stars to business executives to politicians — are now shuddering in the shadows at the prospect of things they did and said to subordinates, years ago.  The sexual misconduct dragnet has even dredged up tawdry accusations against Tom Hanks and George H.W. Bush, two public figures most of us agree would seem to be the least likely of sexual conquistadors.

It’s pretty clear Harvey Weinstein, Anthony Wiener, Bill O’Reilly, and others exposed as sexual predators weren’t just scumbags before who eventually grew out of a sick phase.  They’re scumbags now.  Their misdeeds happened recently and thus reflect poorly on the quality of their character today.  Perhaps these powerful men are morally redeemable and can make proper amends someday.  That remains to be seen.  However, our judgment must apply to what we know now, not what’s presumed might happen in the future.

Consider the case of Kevin Spacey.  He might have posed an excruciating predicament had his scandalous behavior been confined to a single drunken incident three decades earlier.  Some might have forgiven or at least been willing to forget one misdeed (Spacey allegedly hit on an underage boy in 1986).  Our mass indignation became far easier once we learned that Spacey has committed similar acts over the course of a lifetime.

While Spacey and others present no moral ambiguity, Hollywood has a disturbingly short memory when it comes to rectitude.  It holds grudges for less a time than most people elsewhere.  If anyone other than a supremely-talented film director had raped a 13-year-old girl, he would have been an eternal outcast.  But not Roman Polanski, who fled the United States, dodged justice, and continues to live unpunished as a fugitive.  Years after the statutory rape occurred, Polanski continues making movies to this day.  He was even awarded an Oscar in 2002.  Apparently, in Hollywood, the statute of limitations may as well be a parking meter.

Central to the question of forgiveness is accepting responsibility for one’s actions.  Several abusers who were called out by their victims have publicly apologized.  Whether sincere or merely the clever crafting of public relations spin (call me cynical — most of these apologies are nothing but the contrivances of sycophantic handlers working for powerful people who were caught), those who admit their wrongdoing are taking the right first step.  Time will probably heal most wounds.  Roman Polanski clearly shows, they will work again eventually.

I’ve had some interesting discussions with Facebook friends about crime and punishment.  At least one of these friends is a convicted felon (his identity won’t be revealed here).  He committed a serious crime when he was 20, and later served ten years in a state penitentiary.  Today, he’s a free man.  He’s working in an honest job and has even started a family.  But he continues to be stigmatized by his actions from many years ago.  To what extent should he be judged, if at all?

I think most of us will agree that a felon who has paid for his crime and has demonstrated genuine repentance for the suffering he caused deserves another chance.  In fact, someone who successfully overcomes a bad childhood, addiction, and a criminal past is even more worthy of our admiration for having conquered their personal demons.  Most of us were born lucky, with good parents and enjoyed a proper upbringing.  Those who change from bad people into good people merit an extra level of commendation.

But what about the most terrible crimes in history, most of which have gone unpunished?  Only a small fraction of those who carried out of the most brutal barbarism of the Third Reich have been tried and convicted.  Most escaped justice.  Many fled to safe havens, like counties in South America where their criminal pasts were either ignored or forgotten.

Only a small number of Nazi war criminals are still living, most aged in their 90s.  Is there really any point to hunting them down, rounding them up, and shaming old men hobbling on canes or puttied to wheelchairs?  What end is served?

This one is easy.  Criminals who escape justice must be pursued until the end of their miserable lives, and even beyond (dig up the bodies and remove them from privileged resting places, if necessary).  They should never be comfortable enough to feel they’ve gotten away with villainy.  Not only do the ghosts of their victims absolutely demand this.  Modern would-be despots must be dissuaded from carrying out similar misdeeds.  One of the most effective deterrents to another holocaust is the grisly image of the guilty hanging from a rope.

Justice must never be subject to any stopwatch.  There is no statute of limitations when it comes to sinners and sin.  However, we must also accept that those who genuinely seek redemption must be entitled to change into better people.  In fact, they must be encouraged to do so.  This decree has no religious overtone.  Justice and the opportunity for redemption, when deserved, are the fundamental covenants of humanism.

 

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My First Teaser Wheel of the Season: NFL Week #10 Picks

Posted by on Nov 11, 2017 in Blog, Essays | 0 comments

 

 

Nearly 20 years ago, I invented the teaser wheel.

Posted initially in an article at MadJackSports.com, I explained how teasing one NFL team with a large portion of the remaining board could result in a profitable and action-packed day.  For football gamblers who are adverse to risk and want action on multiple games, the teaser wheel is an ideal betting strategy.  Most bettors could certainly do a lot worse on their own randomly picking against the spread, or could even be assured of losing money if following the landmark of losers who sign up annually for the Westgate Superbook Contest, a group which collectively can’t even overcome the vig and have produced some weeks as low as 34 percent winners (all picks/all contest entrants).

The teaser wheel requires that we pick one NFL team and make that team the “hub.”  The “spokes” on the wheel are most of the remaining teams.  We will often have wagers on every NFL game.  Sometimes, we will bet both sides of a game, which gives us a 12-point middle.  When the final score lands in the middle, we win both sides.  This is the sweet spot of the teaser wheel.

I have refined the system over the years.  I tend to avoid teams where the line crosses the ZERO.  That’s because the added 6 points isn’t nearly as valuable (2/6 points are essentially worthless).  Since ties are quite rare in the NFL.  So, a game teased 6 points isn’t nearly as beneficial when the line moves from -3 to +3.  This is especially true since a line push (the final score lands right on 3) means “no action.”

Another problem with teaser wheels that didn’t used to be a problem is the higher vig.  Teasers used to be priced at -110.  Now, they are -120 at most places.  I have seen some sites with a -110 vig price, but ties lose.  This makes them good targets for situations where the game line is a half-point (since there can be no ties).  Honestly, betting the teaser wheel indiscriminately across the board and laying -120 is a losing proposition, even if we have confidence in our “hub” team.

Still, teaser wheels can still be profitable.  But we must apply them more sporadically, and be careful with the hub team.

A good example of a teaser disaster happened last week with Seattle’s disgraceful performance at home versus Washington.  A significant portion of the Redskins starters were on IR.  That didn’t matter.  The Seahwaks field goal kicker missed three very makeable kicks in the first half.  The running game took the afternoon off.  And the Seahawks vaulted defense decided that a football game is only 58 minutes long.  Seattle, teased from -7 to -1, lost 17-14.

What should have been a solid winning day at 3-1, instead turned into a loser at 2-2 and a net loss of -$270.  Still, my record shows 60 percent winners at the midway point of the season and 16.4 percent profit to the good.

On to this week’s games……

 

***********************************************************

2017 NFL REGULAR SEASON RESULTS

STARTING BANKROLL:  $10,000.

CURRENT BALANCE:  $11,640. (+$1,640)

OVERALL W-L RECORD:  30 wins / 20 loses / 1 push

Week #1 — 3 wins, 4 losses = net -$250

Week #2 — 1 win, 0 losses = net +$350

Week #3 — 7 wins, 2 losses = net +$1,070

Week #4 — 1 win, 1 loss = net -$20

Week #5 — 7 wins, 3 losses = net +$740

Week #6 — 2 wins, 2 losses = net -$40

Week #7 — 3 wins, 4 losses, 1 push = net -$280

Week #8 — 4 wins, 2 losses = net +$360

Week #9 — 2 wins, 2 losses = net -$270

**********************************************************

 

The “bet all the winless teams” angle continues to slide towards losing money.  System is now 5-7 for the season after San Francisco shit the bed last week.  Onlty two teams this still applies are San Francisco +2.5 and Cleveland +11.  I’m stepping off the train and jumping on a plane, instead.

There’s not as much handicapping with the teaser wheel, which will be my primary strategy this week.  The key game I’ve identified as the “make it or break it” situation is New England -7.5 playing at Denver.  The Patriots will be the hub team for the teaser wheel.

 

New England at Denver

I normally shy away from road favorites, especially of this size (NWE -7.5).  However, this is more of an against DEN play than a confidence wager in NWE.  I’ll explain why.  DEN may not have cratered yet.  The team is looking worse each week.  Expectations that DEN would somehow find other ways to win — improve the running game, defense step up, etc. — have faded as Broncos are currently on a 4-game losing streak during which a span they’ve been outscored by an average of 19 points per game.  DEN made the switch to Osweiler at QB hoping to desperately shake things up.  But that’s hasn’t stopped the hemorrhaging.  What’s really remarkable is how DEN defense continues to regress, surrendering an average of 25 PPG.  DEN looks like a team that’s given up on the season.  Meanwhile, NWE looks to have addressed most of their defensive issues from early in the season.  NWE playing much better now, winners of four straight games while allowing average of just 13 PPG in those contests.  Add NWE coming off the bye week and rested here, which gives coach Belichick extra prep time.  Belichick teams are 12-5 after a bye.  NWE swamped DEN in Denver last season by a final score of 16-3, and that was against a much better DEN team that was playing with confidence.  Now, DEN coming off a humiliation where they gave up 51 points to Philadelphia last week, and now must face Tom Brady and Co.  NWE is on a run of 11 straight road wins.  They are 8-2 the last ten contests when a road favorite.  This would typically be a good spot to play NWE anyway and lay the big number.  But the safer play here appears to be asking the hotter, far superior, better-coached team with a Hall of Fame quarterback against a throwaway bench rider to simply win the game by at least 2 points.  I’m picking NWE as the teaser wheel team, and using the Wong logic to pick up all the key numbers in lower scoring games — 7, 6, 4, and 3.  NWE is the hub of my first teaser wheel of the season.

[Note that I will grade all plays at -110, but ties lose.]

 

THIS WEEK’S PLAYS:  15 wagers

 

Teaser:  New England -1.5 / Washington +7.5 (Risking $220 to win $200)

WAS put up a surprisingly tough fight last week despite injuries….MIN will not be teased across the 0.  Looking for WAS to keep it close.

 

Teaser:  New England -1.5 / Green Bay +11.5 (Risking $220 to win $200)

GB is woeful on offense, but no way CHI should be laying double digits with that rookie QB.  CHI will try and run the hell out of the ball and rely on defense, so taking the generous points seems wise.

 

Teaser:  New England -1.5 / Pittsburgh -4 (Risking $220 to win $200)

Teaser:  New England -1.5 / Indianapolis +16 (Risking $220 to win $200)

Some concern number could land on a tie on both of these sides, but I’ll target a Steelers win by -5 to -15 for the money on both teams teased.

 

Teaser:  New England -1.5 / San Diego +11.5 (Risking $220 to win $200)

JAX favored by -5.5.  Solid defense for sure.  But SDI has enough talent to keep this within single digits.

 

Teaser:  New England -1.5 / Tampa Bay +8.5 (Risking $220 to win $200)

NYJ in the rare role of road favorite.  TB has looked awful but I’ll take them at home to put up enough fight versus NYJ offense that remains inconsistent.  We also get more than a TD with Bucs.

 

Teaser:  New England -1.5 / Buffalo +9 (Risking $220 to win $200)

Looks like the best play of the day for an upset.  NOR doesn’t play as well on road and BUF undefeated at home this season.  Refuse to tease NOR across the 0, but BUF teased to +9 is a gift.

 

Teaser:  New England -1.5 / Detroit -5 (Risking $220 to win $200)

Teaser:  New England -1.5 / Cleveland +17 (Risking $220 to win $200)

This is a “hold your nose” special.  CLE off the bye.  Let’s hope they show up for a change and keep this around a 10-point loss.

 

Teaser:  New England -1.5 / Houston +17.5 (Risking $220 to win $200)

Teaser:  New England -1.5 / LA Rams -5.5 (Risking $220 to win $200)

Rams laying reasonable number teased down to -5.5.  Taking HOU with Savage at QB is like lighting a match to money, but I’m counting on Texans to have enough fight to keep it reasonably close.  C’mon middle.

 

Teaser:  New England -1.5 / Dallas +9.5 (Risking $220 to win $200)

I hate teasing games with high totals played in domes.  Way too volatile.  However, DAL is probably the better team with ATL still having major question marks with its inconsistent offensive unit (Falcons not the same with Shannahan’s departure).  Even the DAL RB suspension makes me like the Cowboys, since they can plug in another starter and probably get decent yardage on the ground.

 

Teaser:  New England -1.5 / San Francisco +9.5 (Risking $220 to win $200)

My upset special.  SFO should get first win here.  NYG have won one game this season.  Hard to see how they blow out anyone with all the injuries and lack of team chemistry.  Give me the extra points with a home team that should be charged up with a new starting QB.  Give me the dog with a team coached by someone with job security, versus a coach likely to be fired soon.

 

Teaser:  New England -1.5 / Carolina -3 (Risking $220 to win $200)

Teaser:  New England -1.5 / Miami +15 (Risking $220 to win $200)

Don’t like these numbers since one of the teasers lands on 3 (remember — ties lose).  MIA also got throttled 40-0 last time they played a night game, so even getting +15 isn’t much comfort.  Risky play here, except both that defenses show occasional flashes, so hoping this is an ugly 6-7 point win by the home favorite Panthers.

 

Note:  I purposely skipped the CIN-TEN game.  I can’t tease TEN across the ZERO.  And CIN is absolute shit, even at +10.  They can’t get enough points to make me put my money in them.  Total pass on this game.

 

Good luck to all.

 

NOTE:  Check back for updates and possible added plays.

 

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Marijuana’s Impact on Las Vegas from a Non-User’s Perspective

Posted by on Nov 9, 2017 in Blog, Essays, Las Vegas, Politics | 1 comment

 

 

Now, four months into Nevada’s bold experiment with recreational marijuana use, all evidence indicates that critics of legalization were dead wrong about the presumed dangers they insisted would occur.

This isn’t the view of a biased, half-stoned, pot smoker.  It’s my sober opinion based on countless encounters with pot users who I’ve seen light up in public places, mostly using vaporizers.  “Vaping,” I believe it’s called.  Forgive me if I get some of the lingo wrong.  I’m not familiar with the mechanics of marijuana smoking nor do I know how to use one of those devices which resembles an electronic metal tube.  In fact, I’ve never smoked marijuana (or cannabis) in my life and have no plans to do so in the future.

I don’t like drugs.  But I don’t begrudge those who chose to imbibe in the milder stuff, provided they act responsibly.  Despite having no desire to partake, I strongly favor the legalization of recreational marijuana (and most other drugs, too).  Nonetheless, earlier this year when the law changed, no one knew what to expect once using marijuana became as convenient as buying a six-pack.  Frankly, given Las Vegas’ pervasive culture of quick and easy access to all forms of vice, things could have gone either way.

Critics warned that incidents of public disorder would worsen.  They claimed crime would increase.  They insisted recreational marijuana use would lead to a significant rise in the use of harder drugs, thus filling up emergency rooms and adding to the burdens of law enforcement.

Turns out, legalizing marijuana hasn’t made any of these problems worse.  In fact, pot may have actually helped to reduce some these problems.  In recent months, for instance, I’ve encountered fewer traffic accidents.  Data will ultimately determine if the rate of auto accidents has declined in Nevada since legalizing marijuana.  But based on personal experience, I’m willing to stand by the supposition that things are better now.

Why is this so?  My theory is as follows:  Since more people are now smoking marijuana than before, they’re also consuming less alcohol.  This shift in behavior would likely reduce the number of impaired drivers on the road.  Fewer impaired drivers means fewer accidents.

But doesn’t smoking pot impair driving?  I don’t think so.  Interestingly, I see drivers smoking pot all the time.  At stoplights, drivers frequently roll down their windows and release huge plumes of white smoke.  You can’t drive anywhere in the city and not witness this phenomenon.  When my windows are down and I’m sitting next to another vehicle with a driver who’s vaping, the odor is unmistakable.  It’s pot.  Yet, I’ve not seen any incidents where any pot-smoking driver appears to be driving unsafely.  Sure, it might happen occasionally.  I just haven’t seen it.

I don’t want to be accused of overstating things, but marijuana use appears to be happening almost everywhere around Las Vegas.  I’m astounded at how public this activity is and how few people (non-users) seem to care.  Pulling into some parking garages is like getting invited to a pot party.  Small groups of people are frequently seen standing around their cars, at all hours of the day and night, sometimes just sitting in their cars quietly as though huddled around a campfire, as clouds of smoke rise into the air.  It’s pervasive.

I’ve walked past these dens of pot smokers more times than I can count, frequently late at night after a long poker session.  I’ve never encountered a problem or felt unsafe.  Not once.

Downtown Las Vegas has become a melting pot of bikers, women with too many tattoos, budget-seeking tourists from the Midwest, and at least on weekends — about half the population of San Bernadino County.  It’s also become the city’s epicenter for marijuana use.  Locals and tourists alike carry vaping devices openly on city streets and inside many casinos, toking away.  Many different odors have come to be associated with marijuana products now, given there are so many different varieties.  I don’t know enough about it to describe the sensation, but the smell is distinctive and unmistakable.

Despite all the pot smoking within relatively confined spaces, I’ve seen no incidents of violence or disorder associated with its use.  To the contrary.  Smoking pot appears to make most users more mellow.  They don’t want to fight.  They want to chill, and maybe later — eat.  Moreover, smoking pot usually means there’s less drinking.  So, just like with driving, that would account for less public intoxication and violence.

Again, it may be too early to tell just yet, but crime has not increased in Las Vegas (obviously, the mass shooting isn’t taken into account here, but that had nothing to do with drug use).  Desperate dope addicts aren’t robbing and stealing in order to feed their addictions.  That appears to be yet another myth associated with legalizing marijuana — now disproven.  I expect we’ll eventually see better research on this which will settle the matter once and for all.

The only negative I’ve experienced with marijuana used so openly is a mildly annoying odor, at times.  If confined within a small space, the smell of smoke vapors can be pretty intense to a non-user.  But I’ve yet to encounter any of the discomforts associated with second-hand smoke — such as coughing and burning eyes.  Given the option of having a cigarette smoker VERSUS a pot smoker (vaping) right next to me, and I’ll gladly take the pot smoker.  In a heartbeat.  No discussion necessary.  Not even close.  Besides, the pot smoker probably won’t be much of a bother.

I can’t speak with any depth as to the economics of legalizing marijuana.  However, the state’s revenue from taxation will be huge.  Based on reports, including the conservative-leaning Las Vegas Review-Journal, local and state officials appear to be doing a remarkable job in policing the new industry, which remains scandal-free.  Even more compelling is the fact that hundreds (perhaps thousands) of new jobs have been created, many at legal dispensaries located all over town.  So, economically speaking, legalizing marijuana has been a good thing.  Just how good still remains to be seen.

Okay, so virtually all the short-term impacts of legalizing marijuana appear to be positive.  But what about the long-term?  Surely, we will pay a heavy price down the road, right?

We’ll eventually see.  If the critics are right (they’ve been wrong on every point, thus far); if marijuana proves to be a so-called “gateway drug” to harder stuff in the future, then Las Vegas will have some mighty big problems.  However, there’s no evidence yet that harder drug use has worsened in jurisdictions where pot has been legal for some time.  Other states (and countries) which liberalized their drug laws aren’t seeing any epidemics when it comes to overdosing and addiction.  In the end, legalization probably ends up saving more lives since those who do abuse drugs won’t be dissuaded against getting treatment because of fears of being charged with a crime.

Alas, the most serious drug epidemic in this country right now has nothing whatsoever to do with marijuana.  It has everything to do with a corrupt corporate capitalistic culture pushing the hell out of opioids in order to swell profits and make shareholders happy.  Las Vegas certainly has its share of victims who have become slaves to this opioid crisis.  Still, none of this has anything to do with marijuana.  America’s opioid addiction crisis has killed thousands.  But no one dies from smoking marijuana.  Let’s face it.  It’s big pharma’s bonus-driven corporate whores and overzealous marketing departments who are the most dangerous and destructive drug cartel in America.  Not pot people.

By and large, Las Vegas’ initial four months as a test case in the ongoing marijuana debate has produced a convincing case that this should be our national drug policy:  Total decriminalization of all marijuana-related products, sale, and use — in every state in America.  Imagine how that might free up our overburdened law enforcement and court system to tackle real crime instead of wasting precious resources busting pot smokers.

It’s clear.  Critics of drug legalization here in Las Vegas have been proven wrong.  Advocates were right.  So, let’s now listen to the people who got it right and start ignoring the people who always seem to get things wrong.  Let’s get wise and expand this smart and more economical approach towards marijuana to other places.

Here’s the final conclusion of someone who has no interest in smoking marijuana:  Legalizing recreational marijuana in Nevada was the right thing to do.

 

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