The American Dilemma and How We Can Fix It

juwannadoright:

DUMB IS … WELL, DUMB

Originally posted on James' Funnies:

An ‘airport ticket agent’ offers some examples of why the US is in so much trouble !
7. A New York lawmaker, called and asked, “Do airlines put your physical description on your bag so they know whose luggage belongs to whom?” I said, “No . . . why do you ask?”
He replied, “Well, when I checked in with the airline, they put a tag on my luggage that said (FAT), and I’m overweight. I think that’s very rude ! “
After putting him on hold for a minute, while I looked into it, (I was dying laughing),
I came back and explained the city code for Fresno, Ca. is (FAT – Fresno Air Terminal), and the airline was just putting a destination tag on his luggage.
8. A Senator John Kerry aide called to inquire about a trip package to Hawaii. After going over all the cost info…

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Originally posted on ACT! for America Houston:

BY: Matthew Continetti

….The change in the manner in which the government treated Islamism was profound. “Whereas the 9/11 Commission report, published under the presidency of George W. Bush in July 2004 as a bipartisan product, had used the word Islam 322 times, Muslim 145 times, jihad 126 times, and jihadist 32 times,” Gorka writes, “the National Intelligence Strategy of the United States, issued by the Obama administration in August 2009, used the term Islam 0 times, Muslim 0 times, jihad 0 times.” The omission is stunning.

For Bush, terrorism consisted of immoral deeds committed by evil men animated by anti-Western ideology. Obama downplayed such judgmental language. He preferred an interpretation of terrorism as discrete acts of wrongdoing by extremists, driven by resentments and grievances such as the American failure to establish a Palestinian state, American support for secular Arab dictatorships, American forces in the Middle East, U.S. wars in Afghanistan…

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EBOLA AND MENTAL HEALTH

After my mother’s death, my Aunt Helene readily inserted herself as a surrogate.  I had always been very close to Mom’s younger sister and I welcomed her nurturing and support at both that difficult time and for many years afterward.  I never failed to call her weekly and always sent her a wonderful birthday present.  On her 70th birthday I hosted a party for her, her three children and their spouses at The Four Seasons for dinner – although I had to specify that they gave the guests menus without prices on them – as she would have gone into cardiac arrest if she saw the cost of the meal and would have opted for bread and a glass of water.  She was a very practical lady.

There was a one year period when I was a child when my aunt disappeared from the scene.  It’s as though she had been abducted by aliens and transported to a distant planetary system.  In fact, although my parents never told me what happened and I learned the truth many years later, she had been consigned and confined to Bellevue Hospital to be treated for what was diagnosed as schizophrenia.  This was in the late 1950’s.

The “modern medicine” of that day frequently addressed this psychological illness with what today we may consider to be a rather primitive treatment.  It  was known as “shock therapy.”  If you saw the first “Lethal Weapon” Mel Gibson movie, you may remember the scene where he is suspended by his hands from the ceiling and water is poured over him as his interrogator hits him with electrodes to force him to talk.  That’s “shock therapy.”  It’s apparently extremely painful.

Well, the medical practitioners at Bellevue pronounced my aunt “cured” after she had been confined there for a year and undergone that treatment twice a week during her interment.  She returned home to her family, but I could see that she had gotten much more docile, measuring every word and making sure never to offend anyone.  She had always been a very gentle person but her gentility had transmuted to an almost submissive meekness.  It was many years before she rediscovered some of her previous élan.  And discussing that one year was so painful that no one in the family dared speak of it or ask for details – until many years later when my aunt felt comfortable discussing it and brought it up herself.

Four years went by and Aunt Helene began experiencing the same symptoms she had exhibited before her commitment.  Many years later she confided in me that she would have committed suicide rather than repeat her “therapy” at Bellevue, which incidentally, was known as one of the premier psychiatric hospitals in the country.  Fortunately, she had found an osteopathic doctor and had been seeing him for several years.  She described her current symptoms and told him about her stint at Bellevue.  He told her that he had a theory but he would need to request her medical records from the hospital before he could confirm his belief.  While waiting for those records he ordered some blood work done so that he would have those results when he received her transcript from Bellevue.

Two weeks later he called my aunt with news – some bad, some good.  “Helene, you do have a medical condition – that’s the bad news.  The good news is it isn’t schizophrenia – it’s hypoglycemia.  You have low blood sugar, the reverse of diabetes.  And hypoglycemia manifests itself in many symptomatic ways that may look like schizophrenia.  We need to raise your blood sugar level which we probably can accomplish through diet – and you should be just fine.”  My aunt told me that when she hung up from that call she felt as though the weight of the world had been lifted from her shoulders.  And she dealt with her condition through dietary management until her death at the age of 85.  I still miss her as she was a wonderful lady.

The blood work that Dr. Castin had received from Bellevue Hospital showed the same low blood sugar levels five years earlier.  But none of the physicians there caught it.  So my aunt went through nearly one hundred unnecessary shock treatments which left deep psychological scars.  Well, we all know the old joke that if you’re on the operating table the one thing you don’t want to hear your surgeon say as you float off under the anesthesia is, “Oops.”

Ebola is a potentially fatal disease – the mortality rates ranging between 50 – 70% according to the World Health Organization.  Mostly it has been confined to large areas of west Africa.  Probably those mortality rates would be lower in countries with more advanced infrastructure and medical systems.  Both the flu and traffic accidents kills more people in the United States than have fallen to Ebola in Africa.

As much as man would like to think he is in complete control of his own destiny, what we used to refer to as Mother Nature has a vote in the conversation – and she sometimes holds a very strong hand.  We have seen devastating plagues afflict human populations several times in recent and past history.  And while it is probably true that we are better equipped today than in the Middle Ages when bubonic plague ravaged Europe, it would be pure hubris to believe that we are so wise and so well prepared that we are impervious to a potentially ruinous outbreak of something the old gal has cooked up for us.  Admitting that would be to take the first step toward truly preparing for the potential of just such an outbreak.  And therein lies the problem.

Repeatedly since the first Ebola victim came to America from Liberia and subsequently died in Dallas, we have been told that any “large scale” outbreak of the virus is unlikely.  While that sounds reassuring, I for one would like to know the definition of “large scale.”  Is that one hundred patients; one thousand or one million?  That would seem a germane question since we have now been informed by the CDC that we have five hospitals which are prepared to handle just such an outbreak should it occur.  What the CDC has neglected to tell us is that between all five of those hospitals, spread throughout the country, there are a total of eleven beds to accommodate those who might come to them with the infection.

The CDC and its head, Dr.Tom Frieden have not exactly been reassuring in the way in which they have handled the situation thus far.  Nurses’ union leaders are complaining that they not only have not been instructed in the protocols that should be implemented to insure their safety and the proper treatment of the patients entrusted to them, but that they do not have the appropriate equipment nor instruction in how to use it.  That is a bit chilling.

The president assured us that there was no chance that Ebola would make its way to the United States.  As of this writing, we now have four such cases, the latest being a returning doctor who is with Doctors Without Borders and lives in our most populous city, New York.  He is currently quarantined in Bellevue Hospital.

This evening, from that hospital, the mayor of NYC, Bill de Blasio and NY governor, Andrew Cuomo together with the physicians who head NYC’s and the state’s health services appeared together at a news conference to update and reassure the public about the most recent Ebola patient and any potential threats to the health of New Yorkers because of the exposure he may have had to others.  I was impressed with several things at that press gathering.

First, in the finest tradition of the White House, the scheduled press conference began late.  In fact it started nearly forty minutes late.  Simple common sense would suggest that if you’re dealing with a restive public who are concerned about a situation, delaying a scheduled press briefing is not the way to instill confidence.

Second, I was struck by the almost robotic monotone in which the public was updated on the latest Ebola patient by both the mayor, the governor and the female doctor who heads NYC’s health department.  I will give credit to the state’s chief physician.  He appeared definitely to have a pulse and seemed to engage actively and with interest in the topic at hand.  I don’t expect a Periclean speech from either our elected officials and certainly not from appointed bureaucrats, but a little bit of emotion would convey a sense of actual interest.

Third, we are asked to rely on our government’s public health officials and agencies to keep us safe from harm.  One of those on a Federal level would be Sylvia Burwell, the head of Health and Human Services.  You’ll remember that agency which formerly was headed by Kathleen Sibelius who brought us the Obamacare website roll out.  In his remarks, Governor Cuomo, never a candidate for a MENSA application, referred to Ms. Burwell as the head of Homeland Security – a post currently occupied by Jeh Johnson.  Forgive me but I’m not instilled with the warm glow of security when those who are supposed to be in charge don’t know where those with whom they may need to coordinate actually work.

If we accept, perhaps with a grain of salt, that Ebola is fortunately a hard virus to transmit from one person to another, that may give us some comfort.  But what is disturbing is the response from those within Federal agencies which seem at best, confused and unprepared.  That is not unlike this administration’s response to a host of other issues which have surfaced in the last six years.

There are threats which nature provides and which man has created.  The two terrorist attacks which have occurred in Canada, I use the term terrorists because Canada’s PM has done so being unafraid to call it as he sees it, are truly disturbing, especially in this context.  We have seen recent purported uses of mustard gas in Syria.  After 9/11 we had a mini crisis as we worried about the dissemination of anthrax.  And terrorists in Japan have used sarin gas to advance their agendas.

In view of the savage brutality of the Islamic extremists (terrorists), it is not beyond the realm of possibility to believe that if they view their mission as destroying the infidel by any means possible they would eagerly resort to the dissemination of chemical weapons within major U. S. or other western population centers without regard to the niceties of international conventions to the contrary.

I hope that our officials are correct and that any outbreak of Ebola in the U. S. will be limited in nature and that we may assist in eradicating it in west Africa.  But based on the response we’ve seen to date, to put all one’s faith in that outcome might cause a trained medical professional to question the state of our mental health.

What do Hong Kong and Ferguson, MO have in common?  Well, they’ve both been in the news as places where the residents have taken to the streets, protesting against government authorities.  And that’s where their similarity begins and ends.

Hong Kong and Ferguson are 7,934 air miles apart – or at least that was what I determined from a very neat program on the internet.  While I might not fully subscribe to the concept of global warming, I do have much greater faith in Al Gore’s other invention – the internet.  I do remember him saying that it was his creation.

Hong Kong has had a long and often rocky history.  Starting as little more than a local fishing village it became part of the Chinese empire.  Then the British took it over, elevating it to the status of Royal Crown Colony.  Finally, the English negotiated a lease with China and ceded it back to the PRC.  It purportedly holds a quasi-autonomous status.  And that is at the heart of the disturbances by protesters in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong ranks eleventh on the list of countries based on GDP per individual, just behind the United States.  By contrast, mainland China, despite the tremendous economic boom it has seen in the last twenty years ranks ninety-seventh.  That is, obviously, attributable in part to its massive population.  But not only does Hong Kong enjoy greater economic opportunity for its citizens – it offers far more personal freedom than those on the mainland enjoy.  The opportunity to earn more and live a better life is what the turmoil in Hong Kong is all about.

There is probably no mentally healthy person on the planet who wouldn’t want to live an easier, better life.  But there are challenges to achieving that goal.  While a person who has little financial expertise may have difficulty making wise investments which will help him or her achieve a more secure future, that person can get an education in finances or, lacking the desire or ability to do that, can higher an advisor who can guide him.  But the greatest threat to accumulating wealth is something over which none of us has control.  That grim reaper which rapes prosperity is government spending – or put in a one word explanation – taxes.  And it is those whom we elect to public office who determine out tax codes.

A few days ago, President Obama went on Al Sharpton’s radio show, (who knew he even had one) and made what is perhaps the most truthful statement he has uttered while either running for or during his time in office.  Obama, talking about those Democrat candidates in red states running for election to the Senate, all of whom has pretty much eschewed even knowing who he is, said (paraphrase),  “They all support me and my policies.  But they have to say or do what they have to say or do to get re-elected.  I don’t take their distancing themselves from me personally.”

I think all of us hope, perhaps even while believing otherwise, that we can rely on what a candidate promises.  We believe because we want to, that person X or Y will really bring a meaningful, positive change to government.  But the influence which most find once they get to Washington seems almost irresistible and if it doesn’t corrupt by the end of a person’s first term, by the second it seems that the allure of power is something which sweeps virtually all up in its web.  But those who believe in the political process and are hopelessly optimistic, continue to get involved in these contests as they present themselves, perhaps justifying years of disappointment with the thought that, “This time it may be different.”

Perhaps the fairly recent introduction of democratic elections is why those in Hong Kong have shown such ardent fervor in their rejection of the PRC’s position that they and they alone will determine for whom the people of Hong Kong should have the opportunity to vote.  The residents of Hong Kong realize that if they do not have the chance to elect people who share their personal and economic visions which have transformed this small island into a comparative paradise, they may lose what they have worked to achieve and their vision for an even better future will perish.  It is in free elections that they put their stock – even if cynics like myself – wonder if that is really the panacea which will deliver us from the bonds of turpitude and incompetence.

Returning to Ferguson, MO, the protests have been ongoing since Michael Brown’s death on August 9th.  Without trying to adjudicate this case as has been so completely done by the media, the primary cause which is advanced for these protests is that an unarmed black man was gunned down by a white police officer and was “executed.”  The underlying premise is that white policemen routinely feel it is within their purview to dispose of black males with impunity and that such acts are condoned generally by a racist society.

The predominantly black community of Ferguson has demanded that “justice be done,” which translates to “hang the white cop.”  But even though their approach to justice is not dissimilar from the mindset which motivated the Klan during its reign of terror, there is the undertow that even if Officer Wilson is put on trial, that trial is prejudiced to acquit him because justice for whites is far less just than it is for blacks, whites being generally acquitted because of their skin color and blacks being convicted because of theirs.

If we accept this view of the justice system, obviously there is little justice to be rendered for anyone whose skin color is black.  That leaves very few alternatives, one being either to move to another jurisdiction where justice is meted out more equitably; another country where justice is determined more fairly; or change those who are in control of the judicial system, replacing them with people who are more likely to treat everyone equally.  That can only come about through the ballot box – something that residents of Hong Kong seem to comprehend quite well.

Given the fact that most people don’t want to move unless they must, it seems natural that most people would gravitate to the third of the alternatives outlined above.  Yet in Ferguson, only eleven percent of the eligible electorate has even bothered to register to vote.  Several weeks ago there was a big news flash that the number of people in Ferguson who had registered, presumably because of the controversy generated by Michael Brown’s death, had swelled in number.  The Missouri Secretary of State later corrected that statement, citing the fact that they had looked at the wrong data base when they issued that announcement.  In fact, there were now still only 11.6% of the population in that city who had elected to exercise their right to the franchise.

If the citizens of Hong Kong are successful in their efforts to make their voices heard and have the opportunity freely to choose those who represent them, it will be to their credit.  And if the citizens of Ferguson continue to live under what they consider repressive and unfair conditions, they will have no one and nothing to blame but themselves and their own indifference.

WHITE PRIVILEGE

Now that the “War on Women” campaign has gotten somewhat haggard, the Democrats have found a new slogan and are actively campaigning on it.  That latest diatribe is “White Privilege.”  Presumably this is the reason that minorities (translation black Americans) are at the bottom of the socio-economic pile.  It seems only prudent that we should examine the issue and try to separate fact from fiction.

In one respect I have to say that I agree with the premise that it’s easier to make a go of it in America if you’re white.  It’s also easier to make it in Hollywood if you fit the stereotype that we have developed that describes a person as handsome or beautiful.  But the fact that you’re either white or beautiful or both hardly insures a successful and meaningful life.  Take a look at all the Hollywood celebrities, replete with success and adulation who have met untimely, early death, often because their success allowed them to develop habits which overwhelmed their ability to cope with their fame.

At the heart of the “White Privilege” scenario is the assumption that America only affords real opportunity to whites – and more specifically male whites.  They are the ones who are purportedly in control of the socio-economic structure and their ultimate goal is to maintain their power position on the totem pole of life, subjugating all who are not members of their exclusive club to a life of servitude, or at best, mediocrity if not downright poverty.  Well, it’s a theory.

The continuation of that theory is that the world would be a much better place were it not for those white men who have, through their philosophy caused events in history to transpire, which not only negatively have impacted people of color in the United States but worldwide.  Were it not for this self-aggrandizing view and execution of life, the world would be a wonderful Utopia.  Surely anyone with even the smallest modicum of historical perspective would reject this idea out of hand.

The current movement to sanitize the American conscience, promulgated as part of the ideology of the left by eradicating the NFL team name “Redskins” is an excellent example of how the manifesto of “White Privilege” exerts itself in a practical way.  To those enrolled in the movement, the Italian or German, Irish or Bohemian immigrant who came to this country at the turn of the 20th century and never set foot west of the Hudson River is still bound up in the collective “wrongdoings” of those who ventured west and encountered Cochise and Sitting Bull.  This narrative also conveniently overlooks the fact that in pre-Columbian America there were numerous conflicts between warring Native American tribes to which the white man simply wasn’t a party.  And many of those conflicts continued after the paleface got here and in which he played no part.

It is not altogether surprising that those who view history as beginning with the second Bush administration in 2000 have missed most of what has transpired since man began recording his activities on cave walls and papyrus.  And being able to sandwich thousands of years of man’s history into less than two decades serves the purpose well for those who are slow readers and for whom the outstanding literature may appear a bit overwhelming.  The interludes into “ancient history” since the founding of America is only something into which they delve in order to try to make their case.

But the real complaint of “White Privilege” has very little to do with the indigenous people who lived here before Europeans set foot on North America.  The actual focus is on black people and the circumstances under which they came here and in which they lived and now live.  The reason for that is quite simple.  They, unlike the descendants of the Cherokee, the Apache and the Zuni’s represent a very significant bloc of voters.  Sadly, black Americans do not have casinos to supplement their incomes.  And with an unemployment rate twice the national average, many are reliant on government for their subsistence.  That, of course, is a theory but one that I believe is plausible.

But let’s play a game of “What If.”  I used to amuse myself with this when I was a child and I still play that game today from time to time.  So, what if the indigenous tribes in Africa did not war against each other and enslave those whom they conquered; and what if Europeans didn’t buy those who were already enslaved and continue their condition, bringing them to the New World or predatorily subjugate additional black Africans to satisfy their manpower needs?  Since the theory of “White Privilege” also includes a component known as racism, America would have been an almost exclusively white society and would have had no reason to invite or encourage the immigration of blacks.  That a “civilized,” first world society would uniformly hold such a racist view is not surprising and we find an excellent example of a modern, industrialized society with just such an attitude towards exclusivity.  It’s name is Japan.

Given our scenario, those who came to the Caribbean, South and North America would have remained in Africa as would their descendants.  If we had an “inner city ghetto” it would be composed of people whose skin color was white.  So given the racism we’ve postulated, would those who grew up in Africa have had a better life than those whom the left purportedly advocates for in this country?  The answer is, probably not.

The quality of life for most blacks in Africa is something that our most despondent black American would immediately reject out of hand.  There is absolutely no measure whether in terms of life expectancy, economics or having access to conveniences which we take for granted by which the typical African black can compete with his American black counterpart.  The recent outbreak of Ebola in several African nations and their mortality rate is an excellent example of how much anyone in this country, irrespective of color, is advantaged over those blacks on most of the African continent.

While the left goes on about “White Privilege” it ignores one very important point in its railing against racism.  That is that, unlike their counterparts in Africa, American blacks have a modern infrastructure, access to education and health care and happen to live in a country where it is less important “what you look like” than it is “what you do with your life.”  It may be that some of us have a tougher row to hoe than others.  But nothing is impossible and people have overcome great challenges throughout mankind’s history.

Perhaps it’s time for those black Americans to get off the “rhetoric bandwagon,” take stock and then take steps to improve their situation.  No one ever said it was going to be easy.  But that statement applies to people of all colors.

THE FLOOD

In the small town of Crawfton the city fathers gathered together.  The alert that they were to be in the path of a torrential downpour during the next several days had come in from the National Weather Service and they were deciding the most appropriate action the town’s residents should take.  Finally, they decided the safest thing would be to ask all residents to evacuate to the high school which was on the town’s highest ground and they took steps to set up a shelter with food and bedding in the school’s gymnasium to accommodate them.  They, the town’s one policeman and the members of the volunteer fire department went door to door to warn the residents and help them move to their new temporary shelter.

It happened that the mayor knocked on the door of Elder Burt Timmons, one of the community’s most well respected residents.  Elder Timmons came to the door and invited the mayor in.  But the mayor, aware of the urgency of the situation declined and explained the situation at Timmons’ doorstep.

“Please gather what you will need for several days for you and your family and come over to the high school.  We would appreciate it if you would assist in volunteering to help organize the rescue effort when you’re there.   Perhaps your wife, Marcie could help the other women in the cafeteria and your kids could help supervise some of the younger children.”

“Well, Mayor,” Elder Timmons replied.  “Marcie and the children are visiting Marcie’s mother.  And I have faith in the Lord that he will spare me from any danger.  In fact, moving to the high school would, in my view, be a denial of that faith.  So I’m going to stay here and wait it out.”

Despite the mayor’s insistent pleas to reconsider, Elder Timmons remained adamant and the Mayor finally went on to his next call.

As predicted, two days later the skies darkened and the rain began falling.  The intensity of the storm increased and the volume of the downpour gained strength.  All of the town’s residents but for Elder Timmons were warm and safe in the school.  And as the water pooled up and grew higher, it began seeping into the Timmons home.

Undeterred by the rising water which ran freely on the first floor, Elder Timmons held to his faith and prayed for deliverance when Jimmy Anderson, a high school senior came by the house in his row boat.  He could see Timmons through the front window and yelled at him, “Elder Timmons.  Get in the boat.  I’ll row you over to the high school.”

But Timmons shouted back, “No need to worry Jimmy.  I have faith in the Lord and he will save me from any harm.  Thanks for stopping by.”  And Timmons returned to his prayers as Jimmy rowed away.

The following day the water had risen to the point that Elder Timmons had to abandon the first floor of his house, taking refuge on the second floor.  Jimmy’s father came by in the row boat and again offered to row him to the school.  But just as he had done the previous day, he declined the offer, citing his faith in God’s goodness and provision.

The water continued yet the next day and the second floor of the Timmons home was completely inundated from the deluge, forcing Elder Timmons to seek refuge on the roof of his home.  Although he was clad with a slicker, the torrential rain and the wind made its way into his clothing and he was feeling cold and wet, but his faith was unperturbed.  So when the FEMA helicopter flew over and threw down a ladder for him to climb, he refused their assistance.  Several hours later, the water engulfed his roof and Timmons was swept away.  He had never learned to swim and as a result drowned.

But Elder Timmons’ faith had not gone without its reward.  At his passing, Timmons’ soul was immediately taken to the pearly gates where St. Peter himself greeted him and then quickly ushered him in to see God himself.  One would have thought that with the promise of eternal happiness fulfilled, Timmons would have been overjoyed.  Yet he seemed downcast and troubled.  God saw that and asked him the source of this sullenness.

“Lord, You know that I’ve always been faithful to You since my baptism.  I’ve never broken one of your commandments or missed a Sunday service and tithed with joy.  Yet, in my most trying moment as I prayed to You to save me from the flood, You abandoned me.  I don’t understand how I might have done any more to keep to my faith and be deserving of Your compassion.”

“My son, you are mistaken,” God replied.  I sent you two row boats and a helicopter to rescue you.  What more did you expect of me?”

This old story reminds me a great deal of the 2014 election.  Sadly, the GOP has decided to take on the role of Elder Timmons.  At this point, we should not be wondering whether the Republicans are going to take control of the Senate but how much of a majority they will hold.  That is not the case and those of us who hope for positive change find ourselves with a nail biter that may not be resolved until January.

Potentate Obama handed the GOP the absolutely most convincing argument that he could (he was off teleprompter) when he said, “This election is about the Obama administration’s policies.”  Amen.  If you liked what you have seen over the past six years, and most Americans do not, then it is clear that you should go out and vote for the Democrat hack who is running for office.  If not, you should be calling your neighbors who feel as you do and urge them to get out and make a real change – a change for the better and one that is long overdue.

Elections are not won other than at the ballot box (and subsequently the counting of those votes in the canvass).  That fact is not lost on the Democrats.  That is the real reason for their opposing voter ID laws.  That is the reason for their supporting an open immigration policy.  That is something that is still not apparently clear enough to Reince Priebus and the Republican Party.  Otherwise, there would be a nationwide ad campaign that asked the following:

“Are you tired of hearing about a new scandal and example of incompetence every week?  Fast and Furious; Benghazi; the IRS; the NSA; the Veterans Administration; ISIS; and now the Ebola outbreak?  If so, we welcome you as a new or returning Republican voter.  It is time for a change – a change to get America back on track – a change for the better.  Vote Republican – and vote proudly.”

I wonder if there’s a job waiting for me at RNC headquarters?  I think I’ll wait to apply until after the flood waters have abated.

CALLING A SPADE A SPADE

 

There are those who claim that poker is a game of skill.  Usually, those are people who have just taken down a big pot or won a tournament.  There are those who claim that poker is a game of luck.  Usually, those are people who have just taken what is affectionately known in the poker world as a “bad beat.”  My personal view is that poker is a game of luck combined with an element of skill.  I base that on the fact that if poker were simply a game of skill, each of the sixty-five events at the World Series of Poker would see the same faces at the final table.  That is simply not the case.  Even the greatest marksman is not going to be able to show his stuff if he does not have a supply of bullets.

Back in the days when I played a great deal of live poker I noticed that there were certain days that I could do nothing wrong.  It was as though I were a magnet for the winning hand.  Sadly, those days were few and far between.  More often the rules of random mathematical probability held sway (whether poker is a game of luck, skill or a combination of the two, there is no question that it is a game based on math), and I would receive my share of good, bad and indifferent starting hands.  Then there were the times that I would sit at the table for hours without having a hand that had any high probability of being the best when then final card was dealt.  For some reason, those slumps seemed to last for an inordinately long period of time – once for over a month of daily play.

As I was in my “slump” period, I began wondering why I subjected myself to this sort of abuse.  Anyone who has experienced the phenomenon of consistently bad cards has probably asked the same question.  I was about four hours into the session and nothing had changed when I picked up my cards and saw the six of spades.  I slid the bottom card to the right, keeping my cards sequestered from the player to my left who had a habit of staring over to see if he could make out what I had been dealt when I saw the corner of the top card, a black ace, the ace of spades.  If you don’t play poker you might think this was a good hand – but it isn’t.  In fact, A – 6 is the worst holding with an ace that you can have.  The fact that it was suited only slightly improves the hand.  But as my stack of chips had dwindled through four hours of antes, I decided to play it anyway.  There were four callers so that gave my hand some improvement through what is known as “pot odds.”

The dealer removed the first card from the deck, placing it on the discard pile and turned over the first three cards of the hand, otherwise known as the “flop.”  Much to my delight, three spades came up, the queen, eight and deuce.  I had, at that moment, what is known as “the nuts,” in other words, the best hand that could be held at that particular stage of play.  I kept my poker face and showed no reaction to the cards on the table.  One of the players to my right made a moderate bet and three of us called.  I presumed he held a queen and was betting top pair.

The next card, the “turn” was dealt.  It was the seven of hearts.  Unless you were holding a seven or two of them, this didn’t improve anyone’s hand.  The original bettor made a more aggressive bet, which another player raised.  I figured the raiser either was holding a pair of sevens or a seven and another card that had already appeared on the board.  At that point, I called with all my remaining chips and the original bettor called.  Then the final card, the “river” was dealt.  It was the three of diamonds.  I had survived and my “nut flush” had finally broken my long run of terrible cards.

The first bettor turned over his cards, A – Q for a pair; the second player turned his cards up and, as expected had three sevens; and with glee I turned up my cards, only to discover that what I had taken for the ace of spades was in fact the ace of clubs.  I had mis-read my cards and had nothing.  So I picked myself up from my seat, went home and took a month long sabbatical from playing poker.  That improved my attitude – a great deal – if you’ll pardon the expression.

Was it wish fulfillment that I saw a spade where a club existed?  Was I simply tired and misread the card?  Perhaps it was some combination of the two.  But this episode reminded me of the turmoil in which we in the United States now find ourselves – primarily because we are being fed a line that says that a club is a spade – if it’s more opportune to call it that.  While some call that “political correctness” my name for this form of communication is deceit.

As I’ve gotten older I’ve used the term “senior moment” from time to time to explain why I lost my train of thought or forgot the reason that I went into the cupboard.  Fortunately, those moments are relatively rare and only affect me.  But there is a more pernicious lapse afoot that I have named “an Obama moment.”  Should you wonder what that is, here’s my definition:  Diddling around while a solvable problem festers into a crisis and then, finally, making the wrong decision on how to handle it.

During the past month or so I’ve begun many posts.  But almost as soon as I began, a new issue has arisen which distracted me from my original writing.  This is, clearly, a fast paced world and we no longer have to wait for the evening paper to find out what has been happening here and abroad.  While many hope for their five minutes of fame, that fame has now been reduced to the length of a nanosecond.  It’s almost as though there is a concerted conspiratorial effort to so overwhelm us with “news” that we are being distracted from what is really happening and what events are truly important.  As I am not a fan of “conspiracy theories” I dismiss that – with a modicum of reservation.  So what are the real “crises” that President Obama has allowed to reach their present state?  They are immigration; ISIS and Ebola – although I can’t blame him for inventing Ebola.  More importantly, might these three be potentially interconnected?

The vast majority of Americans support legal immigration and a path to citizenship for those who want to come here.  They also support our having borders that are secure.  While charges of “racism” are lobbed because the vast majority of illegals (or “undocumented people” per Ninny Pepperoni, a/k/a Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi), are of Mexican or Central American origin, there are documented cases of people from Iraq, Iran, Syria and other middle eastern countries where ISIS has grown exponentially, who have also made it across our southern border and were apprehended.  At least some of them were apprehended.

Virtually everyone who has seen the acts of terrorism which ISIS regularly employs would agree that it is an organization based on consummate evil – and something that the rest of us in the world who do not subscribe to its tenets – would be better off without.  Certainly those who have been victims would, if they were still with us, agree with that statement.

Yet while ISIS grows in size and controls a greater amount of territory almost on a daily basis, this administration and its supporters engage us in a debate about whether using the term “Islamic” is a term of racism.  It hardly seems like a worthwhile argument since ISIS or IS (or in the administration’s preferred variant ISIL) uses Islamic as the first word in its acronym.  While we engage in that meaningless discussion, we see the focus of the liberal left applauding the speech that high school dropout Leonardo DiCaprio gave as he waxed eloquently before the UN about the evils of climate change.  Unfortunately, Mr. DiCaprio and his cohorts in Hollywood would have little to fear from climate change as, if ISIS were to prevail in its objective of theocratic domination, they would be among the first to face the executioner’s sword.

Then, of course, we have the West African Ebola outbreak.  We should all feel reassured that the president went on record that no cases would be spawned here – other than the fact that we now hear there may be several people who are  currently under observation for the disease.  Politicians, and the rest of us for that matter, should refrain from using the words none or all, since one exception makes our statements incorrect.  But to the average Joe or Juwanna, making sweeping statements is very reassuring – until the exception manifests itself.

Now what do all three of these issues have in common?

We know that ISIS’ members are so fanatical that they are willing to sacrifice themselves for an assured place with Allah in the afterlife.  I applaud their devotion and wish them all a speedy trip.  One of the ways to make that dream a reality is dying while killing the infidel – namely any or all of the six plus billion people or so who do not subscribe to Islam – and, for that matter, many of their Islamic brethren who do not adhere to their exact interpretation of that faith.

Given the porosity of our borders, the ease of international air travel, what is to prevent these zealots from sending a contingent of their fellow jihadists to West Africa, purposely infecting themselves with Ebola and then travelling to the United States and dispersing among many of our cities?  Purportedly, we have five medical centers nationwide which are equipped to treat patients who are affected by the Ebola virus.  How would we handle hundreds or thousands or tens of thousands of such cases?  The answer is that we couldn’t.  And, sadly, that’s true no matter how much Obama, his cronies and supporters claim otherwise.

The nation has endured nearly six years of an administration that is either ineffectual, indifferent or incompetent.  It’s hard to imagine suffering through another two more years of the same.  Should President Obama decide that the greatest contribution he could make to the country is taking an early retirement and heading for the golf course, I’d be willing to chip in to help pay his greens fees.  And while gaffe stricken VP Biden doesn’t seem much of an improvement, at least he would provide us with a little comic relief.  And just about now, based on the pessimistic view most Americans hold of the future, we could all use a good laugh.

And that’s calling a spade a spade.

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