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Posted by on Feb 22, 2020 in Blog, Essays, Politics | 1 comment

Caucus Cliffnotes (The Lakes/Las Vegas)

 

the lakes las vegas

CAUCUS CLIFFNOTES (THE LAKES/LAS VEGAS)

My Experience at the 2020 Nevada Caucus
(MJ Christensen Elementary School)
Saturday, 22 February 2020

My local caucus was held today at the MJ Christensen Elementary School. Only in Las Vegas will you see a kid’s school named after a diamond dealer.

Cliffnotes, as follows:

— 28 people showed up today at my local caucus, which was held from 12 noon to 2 pm. This number was added to the 40 who voted early. Hence, 68 persons voted in my precinct in the 2020 Democratic Caucus.

— The first alignment resulted in the following tally of votes (early votes plus those present):

32 Sanders
10 Warren
9 Buttigieg
8 Steyer
5 Biden
1 Klobuchar
1 Gabbard
2 Undecided

Viability required 15 percent of all precinct votes, meaning 11 was the magic number to be counted for delegates. This meant only Sanders was viable after the first round of voting.

— Next, each candidate’s representative (one person was selected from each group, which were gathered around tables) was given 1 minute to make a plea to get votes on the realignment (second round of voting). I was stunned at how articulate my neighbors were when speaking. Each person made a very good case for their candidate.

— Then, another vote was taken, which was called the realignment. This open ballot resulted in some surprising results as people moved around the classroom. The 28 persons who showed up were allowed to move. The other (early) votes were counted electronically on an iPad (as a second choice option on the ballot — it was entirely electronic):

39 Sanders
15 Warren
11 Steyer
5 Buttigieg
(I can’t remember the exact scrap count)

— This meant that three candidates were declared “viable,” meaning they would receive delegates. The math formula for allotment was as follows:

4 delegates for Sanders
2 delegates for Warren
2 delegates for Steyer

— There was some confusion about the non-11 count for some candidates. Obviously, only the persons who showed up were able to make an on-the-fly decision. Some votes ended up being wasted. That’s the benefit of actually attending a caucus versus doing the half-assed thing and voting early. While all voting is good, I also found the line to be much shorter today than expected. I waited only 20 minutes to register and the caucus took no longer than 90 minutes from start to finish. I also got to meet some of my neighbors, which was nice.

— I was asked to be a delegate for my candidate but declined. I preferred to give that seat to a Tulsi Gabbard backer who came to support my candidate and I befriended during the caucus. The young man was in his 20s and I thought it was far more important to let a younger person be engaged in the process rather than me, who has been in these battles before. Let others have fun.

Now, my major takeaways:

1. Sanders is a force and the clear frontrunner. My precinct went for Clinton in 2016, by about 55-45 margin. This time, the two progressive candidates took 75 percent of the vote. While 68 votes aren’t statistically significant, it’s not insignificant either. Apparently, Sanders will win Nevada easily statewide, showing this state is far more progressive than 4 or 8 years ago. This gives me great hope as to the future of the movement here and the energy of young people who are the driving force for progressive causes.

2. All the Sanders supporters were young, meaning under 40. Again, the future. Great demographics of progressive causes and democratic socialism. This is particularly satisfying in a city like money-obsessed Las Vegas, which isn’t exactly the epicenter of Leftist politics.

3. Biden’s turnout in my precinct was pathetic. It was shocking. Biden should perform well in my area, which is older, established, and above-average income. Apparently, Biden will do much better statewide, especially among minorities and the braindead union vote, but his showing in my area should be a serious cause for alarm.

4. Tom Steyer. Seriously? Wow. Steyer had a solid showing in my precinct and was well organized. Good spokespeople. Finishing third is quite a feat for Steyer, which won’t draw those numbers throughout Nevada, but who did gain some enthusiasm.

5. Pete Buttigieg got shafted. He was right there in votes close to Warren and Steyer but then collapsed in the realignment. I actually stopped the meeting at one point and spoke to make sure the Buttigieg people weren’t pissed and would leave thinking something was rigged. To go from nearly getting delegates to being shut out (by Steyer, no less) was a baffling outcome to all those in the room.

So, I ended up caucusing for Elizabeth Warren. Sanders has my heart on the issues. But Warren is the candidate best suited to win. I think she’s a longshot, of course. But I was proud to stand with her today.

Finally, I like caucusing. I much prefer having to take part in the political process rather than standing in line anonymously. I presume this is a minority viewpoint and caucusing will be a thing of the past, but I do like the old fashioned way of discussing and advocating for a party nominee.

I want to thank all those who read my earlier reports, commented, and even lobbied me to support their candidate. Please know that I took each instance of outreach very seriously. In fact, I was honored by your interest and swayed by your passions.

More to come, but that wraps up my report from The Lakes/Las Vegas.

FINAL FUNNY STORY: I’m not known in my community, but everyone sees me running each day, which I have been doing for the past seven years. While we were waiting during the caucus, an older woman came up to me. Marieta was sitting beside me. The woman, perhaps 70 and for Biden said, “I’ve never seen you before with your shirt on!” I looked at her and was like, “huh?” Marieta looked at her like she was crazy. Then, the lady mentioned she sees me running in warm months all the time and recognized me from the street. At least, that’s “our story” for now.

__________

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Posted by on Feb 16, 2020 in Blog, Essays, General Poker, Las Vegas | 1 comment

Sahara Poker Room (Las Vegas): A Short Review

 

sahara-poker-room

 

SAHARA POKER ROOM (LAS VEGAS) —
A SHORT REVIEW

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Yesterday, I visited the new Sahara Poker Room, which opened the previous day. Sahara management’s bold decision to dedicate considerable space and cost to poker deserves praise. If you are a Las Vegas poker player (or a visitor), it seems to me this is the sort of thing that should be supported. At the least, the Sahara Poker Room deserves a visit.

This is the first poker room to open in Las Vegas in ten years. The Las Vegas poker market, which has been flat for quite a long time, has experienced consolidation. The biggest rooms have done fine. Meanwhile, several smaller rooms have been reduced in size or have closed.

Typically, a new poker room opening would not interest me. However, two key attributes attracted my attention.

First, this was my first visit to the new Sahara property since it was rebranded from the (previous) SLS Resort. That failed experiment turned into a half-billion-dollar disaster. Bringing back the classic Sahara name and updating the property is certain to jump-start enthusiasm for the northern area of The Strip, which has been a ghost town for anything north of the Wynn. Once some other properties in the area open up (namely Resorts World across the street), the Sahara should do quite well with both hotel stays and foot traffic.

Second, I’m a big fan of Steven Pique, who is hired as head of poker operations at the Sahara. I worked with Steven for years on the WSOP Circuit traveling around the country. He was always thoroughly professional and knowledgeable. His impact on the new room should be both immediate and long-lasting. I’m glad to support Steven, who deserves every bit of success.

So, what is it that’s special about the Sahara Poker Room. Here are a few observations:

1. Free parking and easy access from the garage. Other casinos charge for parking or require long walks. I was able to get into the parking garage easily (from both Paradise and Las Vegas Blvd.), park on the 4th Floor, and walk to the poker room within 5 minutes.

2. Comps are awarded at $2 per hour, which is a nice perk. Check with the room on exact hours, but during the day shift, the comp rate is $3 an hour.

3. I really like the giant screen television on the wall. Most poker rooms have TVs with sporting events high overhead. It’s not always easy to see the action. For those who enjoy playing poker while watching sports, the giant screen is an attraction (see photo). Whoever made that decision got it right.

4. While I was visiting, a player ordered food inside the room. Imagine that, a cart with a plate and silverware was wheeled up next to the player. So, instead of fast-food garbage brought to tableside, the Sahara offers real food with a wide range of menu items combined from several restaurants. I’m really big on food served at tableside, and this right up there with the Aria (best food service in the city) in terms of poker and dining options.

5. The room is new and will take a little while to develop a loyal fan base. However, I noted they’ve already spread Pot-Limit Omaha and are eager to expand to more games than just Hold’em. Talk to Steven or any of the managers, and I expect they’ll do everything possible to accommodate a request. Once again I stress, these are POKER people running the room, not flunkies assigned from other areas of the casino floor.

6. Tables and chairs are spacious and comfortable. I can’t stand cramped poker rooms where players are sardined into seats. This is common in Las Vegas, where players are treated like chattel. Smoking is banned, of course, and there were no signs of second-hand smoke.

7. The Sahara Poker Room initially was advertised to be a room that would close at 2 am. However, the first night one of the games lasted until 7 am the next morning. Steven noted that no poker game will ever be shut down. So, the room might close overnight during slower times midweek, but so long as a game is going, it will run as long as players want to play.

8. Not really poker-related, but I love the restaurants at Sahara. The steakhouse (Bazaar Meat by Jose Andres) is probably the best in the city. The Italian restaurant is also very good. There are also some burger places, including one inside the race and sportsbook. Again — this is another difference: Most sportsbooks don’t offer food. But Sahara has a full-scale restaurant inside the sportsbook (a carryover from SLS).

9. I love the location of the poker room. It’s right next to the casino floor, but still far enough away not to be bombarded with the noise from slot machines. It’s always a good indication as to how management feels about poker by the placement of a poker room, and it’s obvious this establishment is taking the game and its players seriously.

Let me be clear. I’m difficult to please. I’m opinioned. I don’t do fluff pieces. I blast failure. But I also praise commitment and effort. At the Sahara what I see is exactly that — commitment and effort.

I wish the new Sahara Poker Room well. They’ve spent serious money and have designed a beautiful room. If they build it, let’s hope they come. I recommend making a visit.

__________

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Posted by on Feb 14, 2020 in Blog, Essays, Las Vegas, What's Left | 0 comments

Election 2020: My Experience in the Last Nevada Democratic Caucus (2016)

 

Nevada Democratic Caucus

 

Writer’s Note:  The 2020 Nevada Democratic Caucus is only a week away.  For those unfamiliar with how exactly a caucus works, here’s a detailed, and sometimes humorous account of my last experience, which happened four years ago.

 

The Self-Indulgent, Highly-Detailed, and Occasionally Funny Story of My Nevada Caucus Experience  in February 2016

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This past Saturday morning, I attended the Nevada State Democratic Party caucus for Precinct #6672, which covers The Lakes section of Greater Las Vegas.  I take great pride in boasting I reside in The Lakes.  That means we’re better than everybody else, except for those rich pricks that live in Anthem.

My precinct includes mostly single-family homes, plus some nice condos and a few apartment complexes in the area just north of Desert Inn and west of Durango.  For those unfamiliar with Las Vegas, that’s about 7 miles off the Strip, heading west towards Summerlin.

Democracy in action.

 

What’s a Caucus?

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A state caucus is a very different experience from attending either a primary or a general election.  Most of us have participated in both primaries and elections before, in which procedures are familiar:  (1) we check in with a poll worker, (2) enter a voting booth, and then (3) cast a ballot in secret.  On most occasions, voting takes no more than a few minutes if the line isn’t long.  However, caucuses take considerably longer than that and require much more of a commitment.  For this reason, caucuses don’t generate nearly the voter turnout as primaries and elections.  Good.  Keep out the doddering dimwit dirt-dumb masses.  They vote Republican, anyway.

About 80,000 Nevadans caucused this year, which was down from 117,000 the last time there was a real contest back in 2008.  Given the clear decline in statewide turnout, it’s becoming apparent that Barack Obama had a serious impact on overall enthusiasm when he initially ran back in 2008 which this year’s Democratic candidates are not matching.  That could spell trouble for the Democratic nominee, come November 2016. [EDITOR’S NOTE:  Wow, what I right or what?!?]

 

Pros and Cons

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Nevada’s state caucus has both pros and cons.  It brought both good news and bad news for those of us proud to call “the Silver State” our home.

It was good for us because we’re only the third state (on the Democratic side) to hold a primary/caucus.  That means our votes really matter this time, more than in past years, when we voted much later in the primaries, by the time the races had already been decided.  Nevada has a reputation (deserved somewhat) as a state that’s politically indifferent, apathetic even.  Accordingly, there were some valid concerns Nevadans might not be the best voting block to determine party nominees in the privileged spot of early primaries and caucuses.  Nevada’s reputation certainly isn’t enhanced any by its reputation where just about anything goes when it comes to vice.  Fortunately, holding this “first caucus in the West” may have turned a corner, symbolically speaking, as Nevada’s population increasingly becomes more diverse and representative of the nation as a whole.

As for the bad, caucuses can be intimidating for some voters, especially those who aren’t as involved in the political process or up to speed on the issues.  For one thing, participants are required to pledge their support for candidates publicly — in front of friends, neighbors, and others in their local community.  While many of us proudly wear out political stripes on our sleeves and have no hesitation supporting a candidate, others could be less enthusiastic about the process and even dissuaded from attending.

[Another quick note about caucuses:  As an activist, I prefer this option over simple voting because it weeds out some lightweights who aren’t as dedicated or informed (with exceptions — some voters may have legitimate conflicts with work, school, or family and cannot attend a process that takes a few hours).  The downside is losing all privacy in a caucus.  I have serious questions about the biggest unions in the state and membership which turned out heavily for Hillary Clinton.  Were some workers who caucused at polling places such as the big casinos intimidated from possibly supporting Bernie Sanders?  In response to criticism that a Saturday caucus would penalize lots of service industry employees who are at work during the busiest day of the week (many of whom are in unions that support Clinton), local Democratic Party officials set up caucuses as several casinos on The Strip.  That’s fine.  What’s troubling here is the potential for intimidation in a work environment when it comes to pledging public support for candidates.  How many union bosses were dutifully overseeing their flocks making sure their subordinates turned out for Clinton?  Yeah, those are sour grapes — but valid questions.]

 

Standing in Line

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Marieta and I arrived at about 10:45 am.  We heard people that would be allowed in at 11 am.  However, the doors were open and registration had already begun by the time we arrived.  Our precinct caucus was held at a local elementary school — MJ Christensen — who turns out is a local diamond merchant and jeweler.  Only in Las Vegas would you see a public school filled with impressionable children named after a diamond dealer, an end-of-the-line financial empire built on the backs of native Africans laboring away in dangerous mines for less than a dollar an hour and monopolistic practices of the global diamond market-based in Antwerp, which artificially creates the lunacy of allure for these buffed up coal deposits.

But, I digress.  We were discussing the caucus.  Here’s what you would expect to see:

IMAG1822

 

We waited about 10-15 minutes in line before finally clearing registration.  While standing in line, we were surprised to see volunteers from both the Clinton and Sanders campaigns actively engaging those of us waiting to reach the front in order to check-in.  They were polite.  Each volunteer tried to pass out stickers and buttons in support of their respective candidates.  I thought it somewhat odd that campaign workers are allowed to actively engage voters who wait in lines, but this was only a minor annoyance.

Once at the table, we weren’t asked to show any form of identification (voter ID laws are a controversial issue in many states).  Instead, we were asked various personal questions such as name, date of birth, address, and so forth and then once our identity was confirmed, each given a ballot.  The photo above shows the line at check-in, with perhaps 20-30 people lined out the door and standing outside.  Later on, I was told the line reached more than a hundred.

Surprisingly, our local school was the polling place for not just us, but eight precincts on the west side of Las Vegas.  So, the long line was somewhat misleading since it includes a much larger geographic area than I had initially realized.

After some confusion, we were shuffled into a first-grade classroom at the end of the hall.  This was to be the official “caucus” of Precinct #6672.

 

Back to School

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Here’s where the situation turned comical.

No one considered the quirky logistics of large numbers of adults crashing into a classroom tailored entirely for 7-year-olds.  All chairs and tables were tiny, made for little people, raised no more than a foot up off the floor.  Moreover, the seats were made of plastic for bodies that weighed perhaps 70-80 pounds.  Watching 200-plus pound adults, some of whom were over 6-feet-tall trying to scrunch into these uncomfortable chairs with our teeth pressed into hour knees was unbelievable, until we finally decided to grin and bear it….remember, this is basically what flying coach is like.  So, we dutifully took our seats and toughed it out.  Also, seeing lessons posted up on the wall about being good little boys and girls would prove useful once the political debate started.

IMAG1825

 

A Party Divided

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The gathering included some serious drama.

As I said before, we were among the first to arrive.  Once we entered the classroom, a pleasant young man asked us who we intended to support.  When we answered “Sanders,” he insisted that we sit on the opposite side of the room.  This seemed like a strange request since the 10 or so people already in the room had gathered around a large table and were talking like old friends.  It was an odd feeling that we were asked to sit elsewhere until we learned the Hillary Clinton supporters were to caucus over here, and we were supposed to gather over there.

There we went.

Five minutes later, I took a quick headcount and it was 11 lost souls on the side of the room for evil Clinton, versus just 3 with wisdom on the side of good and decency, hardly enough of a quorum to belt out a chorus of “The Internationale.”  I whispered over to Marieta that this was going to be a very long day, insisting that the demographics of clueless old people who tend to reside in The Lakes were within the Clinton sweet spot.  I feared this was a very bad early sign for Sanders in Nevada, even with the ridiculously small sample size.  I’m a fatalist, remember.

But then, the winds of change blew (hey, I’m trying to make this interesting — we’re caucusing inside a first-grade classroom, so cut me some slack….I’m building steam).  The Sanders supporters began to flow in, presumably done with morning Pilates and utterly famished by granola bars.  Perhaps they’d partied too long the previous night and were just waking up.  A few minutes later, it was 16 awful people for Clinton and 14 heroes for Sanders.  We’d closed the gap!  From that moment forward, each time a new person walked into the room, there was a real element of suspense.  With noon approaching and the deadline for new attendees, it was deadlocked even at 23 supporters each.  The drama rose faster than anatomy parts under Bill Clinton’s desk.

Then and there, I realized Sanders was — what we call in sports betting — a mortal lock.  This was the perfect microcosm of a caucus.  The older and more traditional types, the stubborn party loyalists, the old guard — they would mostly tend to arrive EARLIER.  Just like the 5 pm buffets all around town that are packed with blue hairs, Clinton’s loyalists had already shown up and blown their wad.  Sailors the first hour of shore leave.  The druggies, the radicals, and the intellectuals like me who stood with Sanders would stumble in, either lost or late.  Gee, I wish I could have made a bet on this.  I knew my instincts were correct.  We were a lock.

Then, an old bitch walked in and nearly blew it.  An old woman with white hair who looked like she died five years ago doddered in like she’d lost her Social Security check, and we knew instantly that Clinton had taken the lead.  Fuck.  Okay, so that’s me thinking to myself.  I didn’t say it too loud.  Then, a youngish girl with pink hair and a giant nose ring accompanied by a boyfriend with lots of tattoos came in just moments later, and I knew we were back on top.  Rescued.  25-24 for Sanders.  If the blue hair dies while in caucus, we might be 25-23.

Just as the official proceedings were about to begin, three more people popped into the room.  At that instant, there was a deafening silence as they waddled the carpet towards the chalkboard.  Conversations stopped in mid-sentence.  Arguments ended.  We all knew that whichever side of the room they sat on would tip the scales and determine the outcome of our precinct (or so, we thought — ass-ripping spoiler alert ahead).

The three older white angry-looking latecomers walked down the middle of the classroom, seemingly caught inside a parking garage forgetting what level their car was parked.  When the precinct captain finally asked “who” they were supporting, someone mumbled “Bernie,” and 25 people on my side the room suddenly burst into loud applause like the Broncos has just scored the winning touchdown and covered the point spread.  If I had a football, I would have spiked it over the American flag.

Democracy rules.

 

The Caucus Begins

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Oh, wait.  Before I tell the story about the actual caucus (you still with me?), first I have to rant.  Hide the children.  Lock way the knives.  This is going to be ugly.

I love that people are engaged and interested.  I really do.  It’s so Norman Rockwell.  It’s so America-like.  I’m interested in what common people think about the issues.  Sometimes.  Occasionally.  Okay well, never.  But, I digress once again.  Let me continue.

The gibberish that flowed of the mouths of some of these people were gut-busting, bat shit baffling!  One woman, a Clinton supporter, got into an argument with a Sanders supporter.  The woman barked, “I will never support Sanders!  I don’t want to work hard and just give it away to people who don’t want to work!”  I should have retorted with caucus instructions for the next Donald Trump rally taking place this Tuesday night because she must have either gotten lost or she’s clearly in the wrong political party: however, it took me a couple of minutes before I could regain my ability to speak.  She’s bitching about supporting “people who don’t want to work?”  That’s really her biggest issue?  That’s what bother her most — not wars, nor income inequality, nor health care, nor the environment, not any of the other 189 issues that are more important right now?

Fuuuuuuuuuuuccccccccccckkkkkkkk.

Another Clinton supporter brought up the subject of foreign policy.  Well, not those words, exactly.  More like, “Bernie won’t keep us safe!” or something that you might hear at from Ted Cruz.  Somehow, I resisted the temptation to scream out “REMEMBER BENGHAZI!!!!!!”  But that would have Tea-Partied me straight off to Cliven Bundy’s psych ward.

I realize there’s some obvious bias here which is juicy cannon fodder for the haters, but when I chose to, I can speak with some bona fide objectivity when it comes to political discourse.  Without exception, everyone on the Clinton side of the room, particularly those who spoke out were very traditional old-guard Democrats very much used to support the establishment.  It sort of reminded me of what Palm Beach County’s nursing homes must be like on bridge night.  Don’t misunderstand me, these were loyal Democrats.  But they were not voters who thought much about issues or even seemed to have much of a grasp of current affairs.  They were voting for Hillary because Madge and Betsy were doing the same thing and that was the norm.  They hadn’t had an original idea, nor an outside the box thought since trying to decipher the hidden lyrics to The Platters when they were teenagers.

Meanwhile, Sanders’ supporters were far more intellectual, clearly more widely read, talked in far greater detail with facts and statistics about real rather than imaginary issues, and were even in some instances still not fully sold on Sanders, but at least swayed enough by his message of change of political revolution that the idea seemed intriguing and worthy of supporting.  I often judge a person’s intelligence on civic matters and the prospect of wanting to get to know them better (politically speaking) based on whether or not they can see shortcomings within their own philosophical persuasion.  Those who acknowledge a wide spectrum of likes and dislikes and prove themselves capable of POLITICAL INTROSPECTION are far more credible than blind sycophants who fail to see any flaws in their own leanings and favored candidates.  Doubt, and even self-doubt, are virtues, in my political wheelhouse.  Blind faith is the elixir of stupidity, proof of a close mind that desperately needs lubrication.

Yeah, it’s a small sample size.  Many Clinton supporters are very bright people fully capable of arguing a compelling case, I agree.  However, none of them were present at Precinct #6672.

 

The Caucus Really Begins

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Sorry for the caucus prick tease.  Time for action.

A nice woman with a Clinton sticker on her shirt stood in front of the classroom and called the meeting to order.  The first matter of business was to select a caucus precinct captain.  The lady mentioned that she’d attended three training sessions and that was why she was heading up this meeting.  She asked for unanimous consent to be “elected” as captain or chairperson or whatever she wishes to call herself.  I figured this was not the time to throw down the gauntlet and draw a line in the sand, fearing turning the whole room against me, so I too meekly raised my hand and went along with the rest of the crowd, agreeing to vote in a Clinton supporter as our leader.

Next, the vice something or other, the assistant, the second in command was to be chosen.  One never knows if the chairperson might collapse before our very eyes and die on the spot, necessitating a chain of command where the precinct is rescued by a backup.  To ensure against this dire possibility, a young man wearing a Bernie t-shirt offered himself up as the Biden of the group and he too was voted in with unanimous consent.  Now, we were rolling.  Ten minutes into the official caucus, we’d established our leadership.  Had both the chairperson and assistant somehow been wiped out or become disposed of in some kind of disaster, one presumes our caucus would have been suspended since we didn’t have a contingency for a backup to the backup.  Sort of like Grand Poobah in The Mikado, I role I once played by the way.

After that, the lady took out a large manila-style envelope and asked for contributions.  She noted the State Democratic Party mandated that envelope be passed around the room in the event some idiot was gullible enough to donate money someone might be so delusional, they might be inclined to pull out a checkbook.  I saw one lady drop a twenty into the envelope as it was passed around the room.  Too bad that was after it had already passed through my hands — as I might have been tempted to pilfer the loot.

Next, we had to count the number of attendees in the room and determine if we had a quorum, whatever that meant.  We took a headcount, by rattling off numbers one at a time.  Surprisingly, we all discovered we could count to 53, but even with 53 witnesses that weren’t enough clear evidence of an exact count, and so we had to do it all over again.

Really.

So, we started again, this time counting ourselves as we raised our ballots.  One.  Two.  Three.  Four.  And so on.  Fittingly, this was a first-grade classroom.

 

The Vote

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During the merry go-count-around, we discovered one person was visiting from out of town and had come in as an observer.  I have no idea how someone stumbled in off the street into a caucus (talk about a bad case of getting lost!), but this actually happened.  Since there’s apparently nothing at all to do in Las Vegas, this person declared she was visiting and did not intend to participate in the caucus.  I resisted the temptation to ask where she was headed off to next — the joys of an insurance seminar?

Next, we were shocked to discover two people had been sitting on the wrong side of the room.  When it finally came time to count heads and take ballots, two people in the Clinton camp professed the intended to vote for Sanders.  That created some confusion, but at least we didn’t have to recount the room again.  Turns out, Sanders ended up with 28 votes to 24 for Clinton.  Sanders was the winner!

Of course, one pass through wasn’t enough.  We each raised our ballots once again, one at a time, and (shocker!) the vote turned out the same.  28 to 24.  The Sanders side of the room erupted in applause while the Clinton camp appeared disappointed and dejected.  As I said, democracy works.  Kinda’.

IMAG1827

 

This is Ologharchy Democracy?

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Turns out, our precinct was given 8 delegates to award proportionally, according to the vote (delegates to the county and state convention — not the national).  The chairperson pulled out a calculator and did the math according to her instructions.  Unfortunately, the 28-24 margin wasn’t within the formula to award delegates 5-3 in favor of Sanders.  Even though Clinton lost by 4 votes, the delegate allocation would be split evenly, 4-4.

Someone in our group protested.  Okay, that was me.  Then, another more vocal supporter stood up and demanded to know what it would take to get the delegates to swing 5-3 for Sanders.  Again, the calculator provided the answer.  The chairperson stated that if we could get ONE Clinton supporter to defect, that would tip the scales 5-3.  Since caucuses are different and give us that right, we pounced.

One of the Clinton supporters (to his credit) admitted he was unsure about supporting either candidate, but had made a rather quick decision to do what seemed safe.  The man, perhaps age 60 or so, dangled a carrot by stating he might be swayed to come over to the Bernie side.  That launched a remarkably interesting 15 minutes of dialogue which surprised even me.  The case for Bernie couldn’t have been argued any better than OJ’s lawyer, and I really thought we had a shot at swaying not just the weak link in the chain, but half the room.

Well, the man inexplicably became stubborn, unresponsive to logic and burrowed himself deeper into the Clinton camp like a fat tick on a farm mutt.  Had the ballot been secret, I’m sure he would have defected.  However, peer pressure can be a strong force — again — one of the problems with caucusing.

Final delegate count:  Sanders — 4, Clinton — 4.  

 

This Caucus is Adjourned!

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The final order of business was to select actual delegates to attend county-wide caucuses and register their votes.  Volunteers were taken.  I joined with Leon Trotsky and two others locked arm-in-arm as pledged delegates for Sanders, to be cast in Clark County sometime in April.  One guarantee:  At least I’ll have material for another column.

We departed and went off to lunch.  Even with the annoying quirks and time-wasting, I still felt satisfied with what I’d experienced.  I felt even better about Sanders’ chances of winning Nevada.  If he could carry my precinct, which probably has all of ONE Socialist actually living in the entire neighborhood, and few of the base demographic groups that tend to support Sanders strongest like students and free-spirited artists as you might see in other parts of town, surely he was pulling even bigger numbers elsewhere.  From my vantage point, the Sanders camp was representative of the heart and soul of the left, while Clinton attracted a far more traditional voter.  Then, I realized I’d forgotten about unions and the commotion that was probably taking place on The Strip, where turnout would probably be high since the caucuses were so convenient.

As I was enjoying the first part of my meal I checked my messages.  That’s when I lost my appetite.  Corky Parks, my fellow leftist comrade off of Facebook, messaged me and announced that NBC had called just Nevada for Clinton.  I wanted to punch the phone.

Fuck.

Democracy in action?  I guess I need to go back and repeat first-grade.

 

nolan-dalla

 

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Posted by on Feb 13, 2020 in Blog, Essays, Politics, What's Left | 2 comments

Announcing My Lean in the 2020 Nevada Democratic Caucus

TEN POINTS OF LIGHT

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I’m conflicted.

For the first time ever, I’m still somewhat uncertain as to who I will vote for in a major election.

With Nevada’s caucus now ten days away, however, I now have a lean. I am prepared to announce this preference in today’s column.  This is a fragile choice subject to change. I’m no longer on the fence, but the fence is still easily within reach. I never understood voters who said they made up their minds right before the election, in the past. Now, I’m part of that “semi-undecided” group.

[1]  First and foremost, my voting decision and activism are entirely predicated upon one thing. I’m only interested in removing the evils and dangers of Donald Trump and any other political leader associated with his toxicity. My ideology is totally irrelevant to the discussion. And since I’m an ideologue, this is a significant departure in practice for me, something that’s very difficult to do.

[2]  Every Republican — from the president down to local judges — must be defeated. Period. Exclamation point. Any candidate with an “R” next to their name is an automatic — FUCK NO. Indeed, I wish there was a “FUCK NO” box to check. I bring this up because the candidate at the top of the ticket has a huge impact on down-ballot races. The coattail effect will be huge in 2020 (i.e., there will be very little vote splitting, I believe). So, we need to get the top of the ticket right, by choosing the best candidate who will help the other races (which means keeping the House and perhaps even flipping the Senate).

[3]  I strongly supported Bernie Sanders in 2016. He’s the closest in philosophically to my own politics. However, I have several serious and justified concerns with Sanders. While he has done wonderful things to educate millions of Americans about (democratic) socialism and he has energized many young people, I fear he may tarnish the movement from this point forward. I would be thrilled to be wrong on this point. But I’m not wrong in having concerns. If Sanders loses in the general election, Republicans would certainly maintain control of the Senate (ensuring another six years of McConnell) and there’s even some chance Republicans might re-take the House. If this happens, the consequences for our country and democracy would be utterly catastrophic.

[4]  I’m glad Pete Buttigieg is in the race. He’s a fresh face. He articulates a centrist Democratic position, and I’m good with that politically speaking (though I don’t agree ideologically). His surprising success and national exposure will go a long way towards broader acceptance. I wish Buttigieg was running as a congressman, senator, or something other than an inconsequential mayor. I like having him as a choice, but don’t see any chance of supporting him at the caucus.

[5]  I might get sick if Joe Biden wins the Nevada caucus. He reminds me so much of Hillary Clinton’s failed 2016 campaign. If I thought Biden had any capacity whatsoever to re-energize his candidacy, I might be persuadable to supporting him or at least reserving judgment. But there’s nothing to jump-start here. He’s the old car battery that’s been sitting in the Dodge out in the driveway that hasn’t started in four years. Biden served his country well and is a good person. But he’s nearing his public service expiration date and would be a bad choice for the nomination. I can’t think of a single person excited about Biden’s candidacy. That said, given the dysfunction and corruption of the DNC and the role of superdelegates, I’m not sure he’s done quite yet.

[6]  Elizabeth Warren will drop out of the race after Super Tuesday, on March 3rd. It’s sad really. She’s had a good ground game here in Nevada set up for more than a year. There’s not a week that goes by that I don’t get a call or text from the Warren campaign asking me to come to see her speak or lend my support. I actually think Warren’s Nevada campaign has done a good job, and I have the frontline experience to say that. However, these first two primaries have been devastating and she won’t do well in South Carolina, either (which is next). I can’t see Warren finishing in the top three here, which is what it would take to get her back in the race.

[7]  I’m leaning towards supporting Amy Klobuchar in the Nevada caucus. I would measure this support at 60 percent certain. She’s more of a default choice at this point. She checks some key boxes — particularly on gender and being midwestern. I have some serious differences with Klobuchar on issues, but I’m willing to set those aside from pragmatism and practicality. Her third-place showing in NH was a breakout, and I really liked her speech afterward. That was the first time I’d seen Klobuchar catch any fire. I also like her personal story, which is now getting some press. She seems like the best chance to beat Trump at the moment, though I’m perhaps weighing the NH results too heavily.

[8]  Finally, all of this could change. I’m disgusted with the Culinary Union here in Las Vegas, which is demonstrably anti-Sanders. The disgraceful and corrupt practices of the Culinary Union in the 2016 race, rescuing Clinton’s campaign which was floundering, was scandalous. Right out of the old Chicago machine political playbook. Now, they’re trying to torpedo Sanders, astoundingly under the guise that universal health care (Sanders’ core issue) would disrupt the negotiated health care plans between casinos and their workers. In other words, “WE GOT OURS–SCREW EVERYBODY ELSE.” That’s the Culinary Union’s position. I’m generally a huge supporter of unions, but this backstabbing on universal health care smacks of perversion. Read on…..

[9]  If I arrive at my local caucus (The Lakes/ Las Vegas) and see the Culinary Union people there all wearing Amy Klobuchar t-shirts and marching around like Hillary Clinton’s failed flunky robots, I might bolt across the room and stand with the Sanders supporters in the caucus. I’m not sure how I will react. But I will have a very hard time standing with that union crowd against my ideological brethren. I hope it doesn’t come to this. I honestly don’t know what I’ll do.

[10]  If anything I’ve written causes you to rethink your position, then that’s good. I hope by sharing my own conflicts and decisions, this might help others going through the same thing. Thanks for reading.

VOTE BLUE!

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Posted by on Nov 5, 2019 in Blog, Las Vegas, Music and Concert Reviews | 2 comments

Willie Nelson (Concert Review)

 

 

Willie Nelson Concert Review (October 25, 2019 at The Venetian, Las Vegas)

 

No one can say for sure how many more Willie Nelson stage performances remain now that he’s weathered and wrinkled in the final twilight of an astounding musical journey that first began in 1956.

So, when the opportunity arose to go see the 86-year-old country music outlaw, I viewed my surprising good fortune at getting last-minute tickets not so much a passive performance but a personal pilgrimage.  This was the chance to revere and pay tribute.

Nelson is indeed on the road again, currently in the midst of his 2019 American Tour.  This latest show was held on Friday, October 25th, the first of a six-night engagement at The Venetian Theatre, in Las Vegas.

First and foremost, Nelson remains a uniquely gifted songwriter.  But he’s just as well known as a singer, guitarist, and stage performer.  And a film star.  And a political activist.  And so much, much more.

At a time when live musical authenticity has become exceedingly rare, it wouldn’t have mattered had Nelson taken the stage, forgotten some lyrics, and missed a few notes during the show which clocked in at a racy-fast one-hour and twenty minutes.  No one in the crowd of perhaps 1,800 witnesses arrived on this night expecting to see Shotgun Willie.  Instead, most of the sold-out crowd came to pay homage.  Many wanted to see Nelson a first, or one last time.

The show began promptly at 8 pm with a warm-up act — Tennessee Jet.  I knew nothing at all of Jet, who played an acoustic guitar solo for about 30 minutes, with no other musical accompaniment whatsoever.  This was a stripped down show to the very extreme, no doubt intended to create a mellow atmosphere for what was to come later.  Jet wasn’t going to be Garth Brooks.  This was a soft-spoken man on a stool, plucking notes, singing songs, and telling stories.  Jet was perfectly fine in this role, and just the right length of time as a warm up.

Following a short intermission and some sound adjustments, Willie Nelson entered from stage left to rousing applause.  He was joined by five other musicians.  Behind Nelson and his band, a giant red, white, and blue Texas State flag the size of an Olympic swimming pool served as the backdrop.  Two large in-house television screens provided excellent visuals for everyone in the house to watch Nelson, who would be the exclusive focal point for the remainder of the evening.

Immediately, Nelson took his guitar and launched into “Whiskey River,” a surprising breakout hit from 1972 when the singer initially transitioned from an awkward-looking, hopelessly out-of-place third-rate performer into a long-haired bandana-wearing hippie who no longer attempted to hide his twangy rough-sounding nasal-driven voice.  The rebellious honky-tonk tune brought the crowd to its feet, proving again that Nelson still has the ability to work a room, even in glitzy Las Vegas.

The tight set list included 17 songs, including a mix of new material, a few familiar hits, and (surprisingly) many songs by other fellow country legends.  Spontaneity wasn’t part of this act.  This was a meticulously-scripted show from start to finish, intended to deliver Nelson not so much as a nostalgia act, but an artist who very much remains at country music’s creative apex of past, present, and future.

“This one’s for Merle,” Nelson said to the audience as he gave a solo rendition of “Reasons to Quit,” the 1983 hit he co-wrote with Haggard who passed away a few years ago.  Nelson also paid tribute to the late Waylon Jennings, his fellow Texas outlaw.  Decked in a cowboy hat during the first third of the show, he also sang the old Hank Williams’ chestnut, “Hey, Hey, Good Lookin’.”

Nelson’s vocals were remarkably strong, especially for an octogenarian.  But it was Nelson supurb guitar work that was most impressive and the biggest stunner for those unfamiliar with Nelson’s pedigree and skills as an artist.  Strumming and plucking “Trigger,” his hopelessly faded and beat up wooden guitar that was the only personal belonging salvaged from a 1970 house fire that marked his final goodbye after struggling for years as a songwriter in Nashville, the braided troubadour proved his can still bend the strings and pick notes.  In fact, Nelson’s guitar work was, there’s no other word for it but — exceptional.  Many musical icons can rely on younger backup stage performers to carry the heavy load and fill in details during a performance.  Not Nelson.  He plucks and picks every single lead melody of the entire set himself, and his finger work on the frets could easily be seen on the giant screens.  This was truly amazing to watch.

Given Nelson’s surprising guitar prowess, one of the evening’s highlights was the show’s only instrumental number, “Stardust,” the title song off of his 1982 best-selling masterpiece that once showed an alternative side to Nelson’s songmanship.  However, Nelson’s finest moment came when he performed the crossover 1970 hit, “Yesterday When I Was Young,” written and sung by Roy Clark off his Shades of Country album.  When Nelson with his heavy nasal vibrato sang the song’s final stanza, one could have heard a pin drop:

There are so many songs in me that won't be sung
I feel the bitter taste of tears upon my tongue
The time has come for me to pay for
Yesterday, when I was young.

To say Nelson’s band was restrained would be an understatement.  His backing accompaniment had no drum kit, only brush sticks with a single snare.  One sideman played harmonica.  Another plucked a stand-up bass.  Someone else in the band played soft acoustics.  A big black grand piano took up much of the stage, but never overwhelmed Nelson, the clear frontman conducting the entire performance from beginning to end.  No doubt, the singer-songwriter who’s composed more than 1,000 tunes himself, including 40 top country hits, and knows a great many more classics committed to memory, took understandable comfort in having a small screen monitor directly beneath his feet teleprompting the lyrics.  However, it appeared Nelson didn’t need the visual crutch very often.   He didn’t miss a note, not a lyric.  May we all be so mentally astute when we reach his age.

For those expecting to see and hear more of Willie the unapologetic political and social activist who participated in countless progressive causes over the years, including the annual Farm Aid concert to help support America’s farmers, that particular silo didn’t make an appearance on this night.  His show was remarkably apolitical.  One suspects Nelson might be determined to keep some would-be critics at bay, by not speaking to the crowd about controversial topics, despite the great political and social divide throughout the country.  Alas, this was a moment of reflection and unity.

Forty minutes into the show, a large American flag was unfurled and replaced the Texas flag as the band’s backdrop.  Was this a statement?  Not sure what the point of this display was, perhaps to self-identify himself with Americana, or just to prove to his audience that pot-smoking liberals can be patriots, too.

The evening’s most amusing moment came in the 16th song of the set when Nelson, an avowed proponent of marijuana use and legalization, sang “Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die.”  Even though the song might not be as well known as his other hits, most of the crowd could be seen and heard singing the catchy chorus along with Nelson, everyone willing to enjoy the free-spirited celebration.

The show did have some gaps.  One major disappointment was Nelson not performing an encore.  After what turned out to be his final song, “Still Not Dead,” off the 2017 God’s Problem Child album, the band returned to the stage and it seemed Nelson would answer the standing ovation for an obligatory curtain call.  However, the auditorium lights then came on and the show was over.  It’s uncertain whether Nelson was simply fatigued, or the 10 pm hour right on the nose marked a preset termination time.  Given this was the first of six straight nights of shows — probably the former.  Nelson would be justified preserving his energy and voice, and no one in the crowd seemed to mind.  But for $120-a-seat tickets, one final song and a hearty farewell from the country icon would have been the perfect closer.  It was only a small blemish on an otherwise wonderful experience.

Curious to learn more, I discovered that Nelson has been forced to cancel some performances in recent months due to his tireless travel and associated bouts with fatigue.  Performances are likely to be inconsistent, from now on.  But at least a few things are certain:  Willie Nelson can still sing and perform just as well as during anytime in his illustrious career, and there won’t be many more chances again to see a legend of this stature who given us so many wonderful songs for more than 60 years and invented an entire genre of music.

You’d be “crazy” not to go and see Willie Nelson if and when you still can.

 

Note:  Thanks to Dan and Sharon Goldman for the show tickets.

 

 

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