Yesterday, at the annual iGaming North America Conference currently taking place in Las Vegas, Rich Muny from the Poker Players Alliance led a most enlightening panel discussion which included two of the game’s experts — David Sklansky and Mason Malmuth. Aside from being longtime players, both are perhaps best known as prolific authors via their association with the poker and strategy website TwoPlusTwo.com.
As the panel discussion neared a conclusion, I asked Sklansky what factors might contribute towards igniting another poker boom similar to what we experienced during 2003-2007. I also inquired as to whether a repeat of those golden years was even a remote possibility given the perfect storm of circumstances which must align in order to create a new popular phenomenon.
Sklansky, true to his reputation for thinking way beyond the usual parameters of expectation, noted that if scientific research could somehow prove a direct link between playing poker and preventing Alzheimer’s (and other diseases of dementia and mental deterioration), such news might trigger another tidal wave of enthusiasm for the game. Naturally, if a link was indeed established, such news would not just bring new people into poker rooms and cardrooms, and particularly more older players, it might even change the way we manage senior care. Such news would certainly have an impact on the study of geriatrics.
This year marks the 100th anniversary of the so-called “Armenian Genocide,” a bitter ethnic conflict which spiraled into a tragic course of events circa 1915, now widely recognized as “the first mass genocide in history.” 
Today, many activists, historians, and scholars go so far to compare what happened to the Armenians who were living in Eastern Turkey (sometimes referred to as Eastern Anatolia — then part of the Ottoman Empire which was dissolved after World War 1 and re-flagged as modern Turkey) as the first holocaust of the 20th Century. Purportedly, these crimes later became a model for the systematic slaughter committed some 25 years by Nazi Germany in what was plainly a state-sponsored endorsement and coordination of mass genocide.
There’s no debate that an astronomical number of Armenians died during this period of intense global conflict, perhaps as many as a million innocents, maybe even more. If many Armenian-based sources are to be believed, the actual number could be as high as 1.5 million. Moreover, there’s no dispute — even among contemporary Turkish authorities who state there was no such genocide and those of us sometimes labeled as “deniers” — that many terrible things happened during that time of war — including mass murder, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and other unfathomable forms of human cruelty. Turkey does indeed bear the responsibility for those deaths, and has largely acknowledged its disreputable role and collective national guilt in what happened.
Alas, the inherent horrors of war and all ethnic conflict is not in dispute, and cannot be. What is worth disputing, however, is the classification of what happened to Armenians during this period as a “genocide.” So, did the Turks commit mass genocide against the Armenians in 1915?
My assertion is — no.
Few politicians in the modern age ignite as much passion — pro and con — as Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Everyone in America seems to have already formed an opinion about her. Most negative perceptions are jaded by bogus allegations and wild exaggerations, groundless witch hunts dating back to the days when the Clintons were in Arkansas (which have repeatedly produced no tangible evidence of any wrongdoing), and misogynist double-standards for women candidates and office holders that simply don’t apply to men.
Given the intensity of the vitriol directed at her, Hillary Clinton isn’t just running with excess baggage. She’s carrying a suitcase factory loaded with boulders on her shoulders. If the hate factory that churned out lies and ran non-stop, 24/7 for the past seven years which waged so effectively against President Obama seemed ugly at times (proof: poll the number of idiot Americans who still think he’s a Muslim), just wait for a the 2016 campaign to begin. It’s going to get really ugly this time around.
Ireland is a country full of surprises.
What follows are ten things I learned about Ireland during my visit that surprised me most. Brace yourself. This isn’t a cheerful travelogue nor a tourist postcard:
1. Abortion is illegal.
Abortion is illegal in Ireland. The only exception to this national law is in cases which save the life of the mother. No exceptions. Severe birth defects, rape, incest — all of these deplorable circumstances require the mother to bear the child. I don’t know why I was shocked by this. After all, this is an overwhelmingly Catholic nation (although the church’s influence is clearly in decline — more on that to come). My presumption was that virtually all of Europe was intransigent when it comes down to a woman’s right to control their own bodies and make choices for themselves. It’s hard to believe this is one issue where the United States is actually ahead of places like Ireland, which continue to impose severely restrictive abortion laws.
Now, a few consequences of these restrictions. One does tend to see comparatively more public facilities around the country to care for those with the most deformities. Since many more children are born with defects, it becomes incumbent upon the state to care for them. Another consequence of the Republic of Ireland’s abortion restrictions is the booming medical market across the Irish Sea over in England, which is accessible via a few hours ferry ride. Thousands of Irish women travel to England each year to terminate pregnancies (England’s abortion laws are similar to the U.S.). Finally, Northern Ireland allows for abortion, provided certain medical criteria are met.
The bottom line is — Ireland is very much a 1950s nation on the controversial topic of a woman’s right to chose.
Most people have at least heard of Waterford Crystal. It’s the best crystal in the world and the ultimate symbol of both excellence and craftsmanship.
Excuse me while I Americanize my remarks here, but remember that glittery piece of glass held up by the college football national champion every year? That’s Waterford Crystal. Recall the Peoples’ Choice Awards? That’s Waterford Crystal. Visualize the winner of the Santa Anita Derby hoisting a trophy? That’s Waterford Crystal.
That doesn’t even begin to note all the awards and sporting competitions in Europe and the rest of the world which include a special-made prize crafted at the original factory of the Waterford name, located in (where else?) — Waterford, Ireland.
Nothing tops nature.
Not the Las Vegas Strip. Not the Manhattan skyline. No man-made object can possibly surpass the splendor of nature’s abundant power and beauty. Borrowing a famous line I once heard somewhere — You think a tall building is impressive? Try making a butterfly from scratch. You can’t.
I was introduced to the magic of gardens by two very special people about five years ago. Marieta and I traveled to London. However, we also spent a week wandering around in the English countryside, in Cornwall. We were the guests of some dear friends — Des Wilson (the poker author) and his lovely wife Jane.
One afternoon, Des and Jane took us out to an traditional English garden, which was more of a huge estate surrounded by thousands of unusual plants and animals. Once there, I couldn’t believe was I was seeing. One doesn’t associate England with being a nature’s paradise. But it was, and still is — at least when it comes to flora and fauna. There are dozens of gardens sprinkled throughout the entire country, all worth visiting, no doubt. Perhaps the best destination of all for greenery is the famous Key Gardens, located in south-central London.
This past week, Marieta and I were in Ireland. We noticed, much like neighboring England, Ireland is absolutely filled with gardens in just about every part of the country. These estates are usually free and open to the public.
The United States has a peculiar way of defending and promoting freedom and democracy abroad, particularly in the increasingly turbulent Middle East.
To illustrate American foreign policy’s glaring double standard, let us compare two predominantly Muslim, oil-rich nations. These two nations are treated markedly different by the United States and most of its closest allies.
First, we’re told “Nation A” is a friend and shares our common interests. What interests are those, exactly? We’ll get to that later. Nation A has been treated with fawning respect by administrations of both parties for more than a half century. The regime is afforded all the privileges of America’s full economic and military support. We’ve even gone to war to defend one of its neighboring monarchs from invasion. Nation A enjoys close diplomatic relations and has modernized its domestic infrastructure, in part because of generous trade agreements which benefit many U.S. companies. Nation A’s top leaders are frequently invited to the White House as welcome guests. Our leaders openly embrace them.
“Nation B” gets the opposite treatment. It’s looked upon as an outlaw regime by the United States. Nation B even classified as part of an “Axis of Evil” in the world. Its citizens suffer significant hardships because of harsh economic sanctions aimed against the country’s elected leadership. Yet, these policies have produced little or no tangible progress since implemented during the late 1970s. Nation B has no foreign mission nor diplomatic relations with the U.S. When its leaders have made overtures towards American officials, those initiatives were either ignored, or flat out rejected.
One would presume that Nation A and Nation B are quite different in politically and culturally. Well, indeed — they are different! But not in the ways you might expect:
Today’s highlight included a visit to the Cliffs of Moher, located along Ireland’s western coast, facing the Atlantic Ocean. If you were to scale the cliffs, dive into the ocean, and then begin swimming due southwest, well — the fall would most certainly kill you. But if you’re Superman and the fall didn’t instantly turn your torso into a life raft, then Atlantic City would be 3,200 miles across the water.
The Cliffs of Moher are one of Ireland’s most visited attractions, and it’s easy to see why. There are two ways to see the towering rocky ridge — either by sea or from high above overlooking the sea. We opted for the sea journey.
A ferry ride took us out, which lasted about 90 minutes. The total cost was 20 euros per person. I’d say the trip was well worth it.
Here are a few snapshots from the ocean, looking upward towards the cliffs.
What is it with some people?
Whenever I’m sitting in front of a platter of hot food, with a fork in one hand and a knife in the other, why do some people insist on telling me — a total stranger — their whole life story?
Shut up! Move away! Let me fucking eat!
For those of us of a certain age, raised on a steady diet of MTV (when music videos were played exclusively), many of us will remember U2’s huge breakthrough hit, “Pride in the Name of Love,” recorded in 1984 which came off The Unforgettable Fire album, a masterpiece.
That’s always been one of my favorite rock songs, written by Bono and intended as a tribute to the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Long before other musicians were winning Oscars for other anthems dedicated to MLK, U2 did their own salute, which certainly stands the test of time. Rolling Stone magazine routinely picks that as one of the greatest songs of all time, and rightfully so. Even if you weren’t around back then, you’ve probably still heard it.