The American Dilemma and How We Can Fix It

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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.

GREEN ENERGY AND THE ATTROCITY IN UKRAINE

Yesterday President Obama took a break from fund raising (although he will resume his schedule for that purpose later in the week) to offer a statement on the downing of Malaysia Flight 17 over the Ukraine and wag his finger at those who are impeding the effort to provide the 298 victims and their families the dignity of closure.  The “speech” seemed perfunctory, devoid of either passion or real outrage which we all should feel about this act of terrorism. Of course, there wasn’t much outrage when President Putin acquired Crimea.

The president of the United States has not been alone in providing a muted response to what most believe was a tragedy that either was directly attributable to Vladimir Putin or at the least one in which he was a willing partner.  The leaders of Europe have been similarly silent.  It took a former head of state, Tony Blair of the UK to make a statement which accurately reflects the outrage that we all should feel.

It is neither surprising nor difficult to understand why Obama generally avoided facing the issue head on.  That is clearly his method of “non-operation.”  If he doesn’t acknowledge something he must believe either that it doesn’t exist, it’s someone else’s problem to deal with or it simply will go away.  If he doesn’t give much of a hoot about how black children are being murdered regularly in his home town of Chicago, why worry about a few hundred Europeans who were blown out of the sky somewhere in Europe?  But why the silence in Europe?  The simple answer is energy – and much of the European Union’s dependence on gas which flows abundantly from Russia and through Ukraine.

The Maastricht Treaty was signed by the members of the European Union in 1992.  The goal was to reduce dependency on carbon based fuels and to replace them with “green” fuels, purportedly to the benefit of the world’s ecology.  In the twenty-two years since its enactment, some progress has been made by the EU members to replace oil and gas with alternate fuel sources as the following chart shows:

 

The information contained in this chart is for the year ending in 2012.  The total estimated population of EU countries for that same period was approximately 505,000,000 – and the four largest countries by population, Germany, France, UK and Italy housed more than fifty-five percent of those people.  The four countries which achieved the best records of finding alternative sources of energy, Sweden, Latvia, Finland and Austria had approximately 26 million residents, representing a little more than five percent of the total population of EU countries.

Not surprisingly, the four most populated EU countries had average or below average rates of replacing carbon based fuels with alternate energy sources – suggesting that while developing renewable clean energy may be an admirable goal, this technology is still in its infancy and is unable to provide a sufficient replacement for our traditional fuels to large numbers of people.  That lesson is clearly lost on President Obama – but it is abundantly clear to Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany and the leaders of other countries which are dependent on petroleum products from Russia.  It’s difficult to negotiate with the loan shark who is holding your family hostage, threatening them with death, if you fail to make a payment.

In some respect, the seizure of Crimea and the murders of 298 plane passengers is partly the fault of the Obama administration’s focus on green energy – whatever the price in terms of increased energy costs to be passed along to consumers, the loss of jobs in the coal industry, the failure to enable the creation of new jobs with the Keystone Pipeline, the refusal to permit LNG processing plants by the EPA which could provide at least some replacement for Soviet fuels that could be shipped to Europe to reduce that continent’s dependence on Russian energy – well, the list goes on.

The president’s recent photo-op (which he has publicly said he hates doing) eating at a local restaurant, somehow brings an image of Wimpy to mind.

wimpy

 

“Where there is no vision, the people perish.” —Proverbs 29:18

HAPPY DAZE

One of the classic television programs which first aired in 1974 and ran for eleven seasons was “Happy Days.”  What a wonderful image of the America of the 1950’s and 1960’s.  The show explored the day to day lives of the Cunninghams, a typical middle class Milwaukee family and was upbeat, entertaining and extremely popular.

The members of the family were mom, dad, older brother, Richie and younger sister Joanie.  Some of the regulars were Richie’s two best friends and, of course, “the Fonz,” a high school dropout and greaser played by Henry Winkler who, in retirement, is now hawking reverse mortgages.

What a great show.  It was  fairly typical of the output of the time.  This was truly family entertainment – no oversight group needed to rate this or many of the other television programs which were aired on our few channels.  The entire family could watch this program without our parents’ being concerned that there might be violence, cursing, nudity or suggestive commercials.

My father could relate to the hard working Howard Cunningham who made his living as the proprietor of a hardware store.  In those days specialty stores such as his were the norm – places where you not only could buy what was necessary to complete your project but, if you were a little uncertain how to proceed building a birdhouse you could look to the store staff to help you out and give you directions.  We had not yet invented stores the size of football fields where the uninitiated can spend hours trying to find the aisle that has what they need or make the mistake of trying to track down an employee, all of whom seem to go on break together.

Mr. Cunningham did not have to deal with OSHA or any of the other alphabet agencies which had not yet been invented to tell him that the blades for his jigsaws were easily accessible to your average 16 year old and therefore he needed to build a glass, locked case for them so that the little tykes couldn’t accidentally slit their wrists.  No, he had only his common sense and his desire to build his business as a guide for how he laid out the merchandise in his store.

We might have been uninformed in the ‘50’s and ‘60’s but we weren’t complete dunderheads.  Even back then, those of us who were in elementary school were taught the facts about climate change.  I remember distinctly hearing from Mrs. Bounds, my third grade teacher, that it gets cold in the winter and gets warm in the summer.  At least it did in New York.  We did not attribute this to man’s interference with Mother Nature’s work.  She explained to us that the Earth followed an elliptical orbit and sometimes our planet was closer to the sun than at other times which accounted for the variance in temperatures.  Little did I suspect it was all those Nash Ramblers running around which were responsible for mucking up the works.

This evening in the esteemed halls of the United States Senate, a number of those august and most bloviating Democrat members will hold an “all-nighter” to raise the public’s awareness of the gravity of the climate change “issue.”  Personally, I believe that reruns of “Petticoat Junction” will probably command a broader and more informed audience than those busy speechifying.

But I wonder if those stalwarts of climate change are aware that just yesterday we once again resumed Daylight Saving Time – which, at least in theory is supposed to save energy.  (According to a number of studies it also has the unintended side-effect of causing an increase in the number of accidents by altering people’s sleep patterns).

So to the floor of the Senate will come those champions to talk about their favorite subject.  (Actually, almost anything but Obamacare, the IRS or Benghazi is currently on the list of favorite subjects).  But don’t they realize that if their theory is correct, they, in the very act of holding this consortium of the witless, will themselves be contributors to the very problem they rail against?  I mean after all, the lights in the Capitol which would normally be turned off will be on for this event.

Of course, there is a solution.  Let the senators hold their marathon in the dark – which is a comfortable and familiar place from which a good portion of their ideas already come.

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