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Dictatorships and Double Standards: Bernie Sanders on Castro’s Cuba

Posted by on Mar 11, 2016 in Blog, Essays, Politics, What's Left | 3 comments

 

Cuban President Fidel Castro stands at Havana's Jose Marti airport after sending doctors and medical personnel to Armenia to treat earthquake victims in this May 10, 1978 file photo. Castro, who has not been seen in public for 16 months, suggested on December 17, 2007, that he might give up his formal leadership posts, the first time he has spoken of his possible retirement since he fell ill. REUTERS/Prensa Latina/Files (CUBA)

 

In the last Democratic presidential debate, candidate Bernie Sanders was asked about his views on Communism in Latin America.  He’s made controversial statements in the past perceived by some to be sympathetic towards Left-leaning authoritarian regimes, particularly Fidel Castro’s Cuba and the former Sandinista regime in Nicaragua.

The question directed at Sanders was pointed, but fair.  It was appropriate given the time and place.  The debate was held in Miami, home to a large number of Cuban-Americans, many of them the descendants of gangsters and thugs so-called “political refugees” who fled the island-nation soon after Fulgencio Batista’s corrupt and brutal dictatorship was toppled by Castro-led revolutionary forces on New Years Eve in 1958.

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Who Will Stand Up for Animals?

Posted by on Mar 9, 2016 in Blog, Essays, Politics | 6 comments

 

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On the scale of issues most important to voters, animal rights probably ranks somewhere near the bottom.

Animals don’t vote.  So why would our furry friends be a topic of political discussion?  Why would any candidate have a stated position on animals?  Answer:  Because it’s the right thing to do.

For me, one of the benchmarks of a person’s character is how they view and treat animals.  This viewpoint is non-negotiable.  I believe our treatment of animals represents the ultimate manifestation of human empathy.  There’s nothing tangible to gain from being kind to an animal, so kindness is truly an act of sincere compassion.  In fact, one could argue in a very primordial sense that animals fuel humankind’s most selfish needs and desires.  It’s even counter-intuitive to have affection for most animals.  After all, from our earliest times, animals have been used for transportation, strength, security, entertainment, and of course, food.  Many are a nuisance.  Some are even dangerous.  Advancing their rights generally requires severing that traditional relationship between man and beast and demands an adjustment of how we view other creatures.

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Remembering Sir George Martin (1926-2016)

Posted by on Mar 8, 2016 in Blog, Essays, Music and Concert Reviews | 0 comments

 

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I’m fascinated by the creative process.  Watching unfiltered talent in the raw and witnessing art evolve can be far more intriguing than sampling the perfectly-polished end product.  Sometimes, it’s just as interesting to watch the baker at work than to taste the cake.

Sir George Martin baked up and frosted as many rock n’ roll masterpieces as anyone else during the 1960’s, and that’s quite a statement given what a creative period that was in popular music.  As the longtime producer for The Beatles, Martin consistently infused the group with new sounds and unprecedented methods of instrumentation which had never been used before by pop musicians.  Some of the techniques would have been unthinkable were it not for The Beatles’ own curiosities matched with Martin as the perfect tutor of influence.  The lanky and straight-laced Martin looked more like a barrister than the megaphone for the counterculture.  Martin consistently pushed the Fab Four to new creative heights, obliterating old precedent with each new album release, which sometimes mystified the groups fans and risked proven commercial formulas.

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Dear Mexico: Please Accept Our Apology

Posted by on Mar 8, 2016 in Blog, Essays, Las Vegas, Politics, What's Left | 18 comments

 

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Given our treatment of them, Mexicans should despise Americans.

Think about it.  Put aside your gun for a moment, set down that can of Coors, and press the mute button on Duck Dynasty for the next five minutes.  I promise, no one’s going to run away with your precious prides and joys.  Now, let’s talk about something really important — our neighbors.

We treat Mexicans like shit.  We treat them like shit over here.  We treat them like shit over there.  We treat them like shit when we trample all over Tijuana on weekends and then vomit in the streets.  We treat them like shit when we bargain with the shopkeeper relying on that giant cruise ship you’ve stepped from for a couple of hours, hoping he sells enough knick-knacks to feed his family this week.  We treat the poor working-class peasants like shit.  Even a former Mexican president gets treated like shit.

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How Do You Pronounce “Nevada?”

Posted by on Mar 7, 2016 in Blog, Essays, Las Vegas, Travel | 3 comments

 

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Natives of Nevada, all five of them, appear to be consumed by an obsession.

The contend there’s just one legitimate pronunciation of our state’s name, which they insist is NE-VAD-EH.  That’s “VAD,” which rhymes with “bad.”  First, think of NE-BAD-EH.  Then, say NE-VAD-EH.

Nativists wince when we, the mass hordes of transplanted apostates, insist on calling this new domain NE-VOD-DUH.  Never mind that our “outsider” version seems far more correct and consistent, at least phonetically speaking.

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Driving Me Mad: Auto Racing is Not a Sport

Posted by on Mar 6, 2016 in Blog, Essays, Las Vegas, Rants and Raves | 12 comments

 

Auto-Racing

 

There’s an auto race happening in Las Vegas this weekend.

I hear that it’s a pretty big deal.  Something like 100,000 race car enthusiasts have rolled into town and pretty much transformed the city into Talladega West.  Full Confession:  I had to Google search the mecca of auto racing and someplace called “Talladega” came up instantly, which sure as shit doesn’t sound like it has many good French continental restaurants.

My casual and admittedly unscientific observation on Friday and Saturday night along The Strip revealed a disproportionately high percentage of mutton chops within this so-called auto racing demographic, including the women.  There was a desperate shortage of electric razors.  Confederate flags also seemed to be a popular fashion accessory.  The only perk which might have boosted race attendance higher would have been an impromptu appearance by Donald Trump railing against the Mexicans and Muslims, who are responsible for tearing down America and ruining the economy.  But last I saw, Trump busy attacking short people while bragging about his manhood.

I just don’t get it.  How can anyone claim auto racing is a “sport.”  Auto racing is a sport in the same manner a grown man talking to a sock puppet gets classified as “entertainment.”  I mean, one presumes this has to be classified somehow, so auto racing and Terry Fader somehow get grouped among legitimate family attractions.

Listen up redneck folk and liberal elitists, alike.  Wanna’ know what auto racing is?  It’s driving a fucking car.  It’s sitting in a seat and moving your hands a couple of inches back and forth.  There’s the added mechanical complication of pressing once’s foot onto a pedal.  That’s basically it.  Big deal.  I can do that.  You can do that.  A 16-year-old can do that.  A 95-year-old can do that.  Hell, animals have even been trained to drive a car.

If driving a car is a sport, then I’m Tom Brady (without the stigma of a cheating scandal, of course).  Let me put it in more simple terms:  Any activity that can be performed with an iPhone in one hand and a cold beer in the other, isn’t a sport.  Got it?

Let me tell you what is exciting about driving a car.  Last week, I blew out a front tire and then drove five miles to the auto place that sold me the tire, until so many sparks had flown that the rubber had burned clean off the rim.  Good thing the tire was still under warranty.  Otherwise, I might have had the tire repaired across the street from where it deflated.  A month earlier, a radiator exploded on me out in the middle of the desert.  I drove the car until smoke was pouring out the back end and the engine was pinging louder than a WW-2 submarine.  Now, that’s what I call excitement.  That’s a sport.  The prospect of a car leaving me stranded out in the middle of nowhere past midnight — that’s what I call action.

Before I went bonkers with the neck beard, which was more a manifestation of laziness as opposed to any conscious plan or personal decision, I frequently shaved while driving.  Last time I checked, there’s no actual law against this.  Later, I converted to an electric razor with the battery charger plugged into the ash tray because the shaving cream and blade got to be way too much of a mess.  So, what kind of “sport” allows you to participate in it while shaving?

Even in poker, you can’t do that.  You can’t shave at the poker table.  No wonder every young guy in poker wears a beard nowadays.

Let take this a step further.  Not that I’ve ever done what I’m about to suggest — but I’ve even heard that some people have engaged in sex while driving a car.  Really, it’s true.  Use your imagination.  I suppose the driver sits passively while the passenger does all “the work.”  Now, you’re going to have a really tough time convincing me there’s a sport you can engage in while receiving oral sex.  Then again, perhaps I’m naive.  Maybe I need to engage in more research (as the driver, of course).

Indeed, auto racing requires the same skill set performed by 200 million drivers here in America every day, unless you happen to live in New York City where the only drivers own taxis and they all have weird-sounding names from Pakistan that no one can pronounce.  Think of it this way:  A typical soccer mom barreling down I-70 in the passing lane with a minivan full of screaming kids is exerting the same mental and physical dexterity as the winner of this year’s Indianapolis 500, or the race happening this weekend in Las Vegas.  Only difference is, mom doesn’t have to pass a drug test, which is probably a good thing since that would probably be a close call given our national opioid epidemic.

Question is — why would anyone watch car racing?  A bigger question:  Why would anyone pay to watch car racing?  Finally, a bigger question, still:  Why would anyone travel to Las Vegas to pay money to witness the same view they’d see on any major expressway?  What’s interesting about a bunch of cars swirling around a track going in circles?  Horses running around the track in a circle?  Okay, I totally get that, especially if you’ve got money on the race and it’s the Kentucky Derby.  But who watches a scene that resembles every rush hour in every big city in America?  What next, a sport called “Traffic Jam on the Inner Beltway?”

If an auto race lasted a couple of minutes, I might be able to appreciate it.  But some of these car races last for hours, even days.  That’s right, days!  And these sickos just stare at the track as though something exciting’s about to happen.  Unless there’s a car crash and some part of a fiery fuselage flies into the crowd, the rest of the day seems pretty much like working at a gas station along the exit ramp.  Get a job at Chevron of that pops your jollies.

Auto racing sucks.  It’s not a sport.  It’s driving a car.

 

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Donald Trump Marginalizes, then Manipulates the Mainstream Media

Posted by on Mar 5, 2016 in Blog, Essays, Politics, What's Left | 1 comment

 

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No American president had a more strained relationship with the press than Richard Nixon.  Consumed by paranoia and stoked with bitterness, Nixon loathed the mainstream media.  He didn’t even bother trying to conceal this malice.  That was made abundantly self-evident by sharp words and contorted body language during his press conferences in front of cameras which gradually morphed into the twisted political degradation known as the Watergate cover up, ultimately leading to his downfall.

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Announcing: Poker for Hope Tournament (March 5th, Bally’s Las Vegas)

Posted by on Mar 1, 2016 in Blog, Essays, General Poker | 0 comments

 

Screenshot 2016-03-01 at 9.15.46 AM - Edited (1)

 

The third-annual “Poker for Hope” tournament takes place this Saturday night at Bally’s Las Vegas.  Action gets underway at 6 pm.

Founded in honor of Tia Palermo, who battled non-Hodgkins lymphoma for 11 years and and passed away in 2012 at age 48, all funds raised will go to the Tia’s Hope charity, which helps patients and their families stricken with this disease in education, emotional support, and direct financial assistance.  Read more about Tia and the foundation created in her name here:  TIA’S HOPE

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Ranking the Year’s Movies from Best to Worst (2016 Academy Awards)

Posted by on Feb 28, 2016 in Blog, Essays, Movie Reviews | 3 comments

 

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Today would normally be a self-absorbed exhibition of passion for the annual Academy Awards presentation, taking place this evening in Hollywood.

However, for the first time in a very long while, I haven’t seen enough of the movies and performances which were nominated in each of the major categories to provide a truly fair assessment.  So this year, I’m doing something different.

I went back and looked over all the films released in 2015 and made my own list from top to bottom of those movies I viewed on the big screen.  For those interested, here’s the complete catalog of every major film released last year:  CLICK HERE.

What follows are the movies I saw in theaters (I’m biased toward the theatrical experience — giving little or no merit to watching on later on video), ranked best to worst, along with my brief comments about each film.  I also included a list of movies which were purposely avoided, in addition to those I either missed or chose not to see for other reasons.  That way, readers will know I didn’t forget some films, only that I didn’t have time to see them all:

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Night of the Living Dead in Las Vegas (Part 2)

Posted by on Feb 27, 2016 in Blog, Essays, Personal | 1 comment

 

Scheinin.1.SBW12298.BP/Photo Brian Pobuda Deputy Medical Examiner Lisa Scheinin (right) documents her visual observations as she begins an autopsy during a recent shift at the Department of Coroner in Los Angeles.

 

We’re all going to die sometime — hopefully a long while from now and not in too much pain.

When that happens, someone we do not know, who we’ve likely never met before, will determine our cause of death.  The overwhelming majority of deaths in this country occur from sicknesses and other natural causes.  Some die from accidents.  Others are suicides.  However, some deaths arouse suspicions.  A small percentage even involve foul play — even murder.  That’s where the science of forensic pathology comes in.  These experts with strong stomachs and a formadible fortitude examine bodies, collect the evidence, and ultimately make determinations which can sometimes produce far broader implications, not just for survivors of the deceased, but for society, as well.

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