A lot of people claiming to be veterans got all pissed off last week.
As they rightfully should have been. We all shouldve been óutraged that our federal government was shut down for 16 days.
Sadly, during an unsettling period of shouting and finger pointing, some of these presumably concerned citizens made total jackasses of themselves.
I’m talking about “protestors” who stormed our national parks and monuments, claiming that since these federal lands belonged “to the people” they were dutifully entitled to special access when the rest of us (mere humble civilians) were not.
Hey, I’m as thankful for the veterans as anyone, probably even more so, than most. But there’s a great deal of hypocrisy in who’s doing all the screaming and marching. A generation or two ago, it was the old baffled at the young taking to the streets with banners and chants. Now, it’s the reverse. Young people are asking themselves, “are our elders losing the minds?”
Consider the absured course of events. First, the Tea Party wing of the Republican Party wanted the government shut down. So, they finally got their wish. The government shut down. Then, they went out and protested the shut down. Qoud erat demonstrandum.
Among the constituencies with the most at stake in this nation’s ongoing health care debate are professional poker players.
Got your attention?
I suspect that few poker pros are following the current budget impasse that’s laced the federal government into a straightjacket. Fewer still likely have much of an opinion on what’s called “ObamaCare,” known officially as the Affordable Care Act (ACA). They’re far too busy conducting surgery on their opponents’ bankrolls.
But if anyone should care about this issue, it’s (American) professional poker players — the vast majority of whom are self-employed and therefore subject to many of the provisions of the ACA. Moreover, if the United States were to do what’s become plainly necessary — which is the implementation of universal health care coverage — most poker players, especially those who are older and more prone to health problems, would be among those who benefit the most.
Consider the outrageous, some insist prohibitive costs right now of purchasing private health insurance in America, especially if you’re self-employed. Talk about a disadvantaged class. Over the past decade, annual percentages of increase have far outpaced the standard inflation rate making the current system and trends unsustainable. Because health insurance has become so ridiculously expensive so quickly, many simply can no longer afford it. Predictably, millions of Americans have fallen through the cracks. The evidence on this is overwhelming — 48 million uninsured according to latest figures. I’ll bet the percentages of uninsured poker pros far outdistance the general population, which then makes us even more of a burden on the system. These health care statistics might be a bore, that is until the numbers begin to hit closer to home.
Las Vegas faces a serious crisis.
I’m not just talking about the local economy, where every street corner seems to attract someone holding a cardboard sign and more than 40 percent of homeowners are upside down on their mortgages.
I’m talking about water. More specifically, I’m talking about the increasing lack of it. After all, let’s remember — we live in a desert.
Evidence abounds on the water problem here in the West. The problem is getting worse. Next time you visit Lake Mead, take a look at the white “bathtub ring” surrounding the shores. That’s there the water level is supposed to be. A few months ago, there was an alarming report that Lake Mead (supplied by the Colorado River) has reached its lowest point since the 1930s, when it was created by the construction of Hoover Dam. At the rate things are going, in about twenty years Lake Mead is going to be a giant sandbox.
If this was 50 years ago, the problem wouldn’t be so serious. Back then, the population of Las Vegas was about 100,000. Water sources weren’t stressed out as much. Now, the valley’s population is 15 times that — about 1,500,000 — and it’s still growing. That’s more faucets, toilets, showers, swimming pools, lawns, gardens, restaurants, and golf courses than the sources available for replenishment.
This fact alone warrants a moratorium on all growth in the Las Vegas Valley. [SEE FOOTNOTE BELOW]
But there are other reasons, as well. Namely economic.
With all our guns, all our bombs, all our intelligence — are we actually any safer than the nations with essentially no security or national defense?
Did you ever stop and wonder why it’s so dangerous to be an American?
Think about it.
It’s not only dangerous to live and work abroad in many countries. It’s perhaps even more dangerous just to walk down the street in many parts of the United States.
What other first-world nation subjects most of its citizens to such everyday risks? What other nation has its embassies and consulates, presumably missions of goodwill, surrounded by U.S. Marines looking pretty much like armed camp, ostensibly for “protection?” [SEE FOOTNOTE BELOW] What other first-world nation has reduced many of its major cities to war zones, where violent crime and even murder has become a part of daily life?
The terrible irony of all this is that the United States spends the rest of the world into oblivion when it comes to national security and defense. With all our guns, all our bombs, all our intelligence — are we now really any safer than the nations with essentially no security or national defense? Where is it safer to live right now, America or Switzerland? What city would you feel safer in, Stockholm or Detroit? Where are you more likely to be shot, here or in Japan?
Is American intervention in Syria justified?
If so, what are the costs and consequences of taking military action?
How do these costs and consequences compare with the potential risks of non-intervention?
That’s what I’ll discuss in today’s column.
Progressives tend to speak in muted voices these days. Presumably, one of our own occupies the Oval Office, which draws less criticism. Partisanship instills trust in foreign policy decisions that deserves more intense scrutiny, especially when weighing the prospects of war. This is illogical and dangerous.
Based on his actions, does President Obama really deserve the benefit of our collective doubt more than anyone else? If so, why? What would progressives be saying right now if President Bush was the commander-in-chief rattling the defense establishment’s sabres, calling for an military attack on Syria? I suspect that answer is quite obvious. There would be riots in the streets.
Accordingly, we who tend to be the most suspicious about the reasons for waging war must be entirely consistent in both our evaluation of this President’s judgement and the very real prospect we’re about to engage in what amounts to a third military conflict (following Afghanistan and Iraq) that we can neither afford financially, nor benefit from in any way. As crass as that sounds, let’s not fool ourselves into believing there’s anything to gain by intervening in Syria. Call it what you want — an invasion, a liberation, or an occupation. It’s still going to cost money (and human lives) that we can ill afford to lose.