The American Dilemma and How We Can Fix It

Posts tagged ‘Las Vegas’

GAMBLING WITH YOUR LIFE (PART ONE)

A  couple flew to Las Vegas to get married in one of the city’s many Wedding Chapels.  They were young, starry-eyed and deeply in love.  They were also prudent and had set a budget for the amount that they would spend on gambling while they were in town.

They enjoyed a marvelous wedding dinner at a five star restaurant and, afterward, before retiring for their wedding night, they decided to take the five hundred dollars that they had allocated for gambling and play some blackjack at their hotel’s casino.

Things didn’t go well.  The dealer refused to break and before long the wife had lost her entire stake and the husband was down to ten dollars.  Dismayed, they went up to their room and took solace and joy in each other’s company.

A few hours later, the husband found himself unable to sleep.  He kept replaying all the bad hands he had received at the blackjack table and felt sure that his luck was bound to change for the better.  So he got out of bed, told his bride that he would be back soon and took the ten dollars that remained, once again armed to do battle at the tables.

When he sat down in an open seat, he exchanged his ten dollars for two brown five dollar chips and put them both in the betting square in front of him.  His first hand, a winner – so he pressed his twenty dollars.  His second hand a blackjack, so he pressed his fifty dollars and let it all ride.  Another winner and another.  His little streak caused one of the floor men to come over to the table to make sure there were no shenanigans going on.

Certain that God was smiling on him, he risked his two hundred dollars on the next hand.  Another winner.  Soon the four hundred dollars became eight and then sixteen hundred.  Our newlywed was beside himself.

“If I just make one more hand I will have recovered the five hundred we lost, paid for our trip here and have something to put in the bank,” he thought to himself.  So he pushed out his entire stack.  At that point the dealer pointed out that the table carried a single bet limit of one thousand dollars.

The floor man in the pit had been watching the gambler’s run.  The player asked if he would raise the limit on the table.  After thinking for a moment, he agreed to increasing it to a five thousand dollar limit per bet.

The gambler put his sixteen hundred in the betting square and waited for his cards.  A pair of faces and the dealer showed a nine.  He tucked his cards under his bet and waited for the dealer to reveal his down card.  It was a ten and the dealer swiftly placed sixteen hundred in chips next to the original bet.

Our gambling friend was giddy with delight.  He knew that he couldn’t lose.  If he only won one more hand he and his bride could really start their new life together in style.  So he stacked up the thirty-two hundred he had for yet another last bet.

The cards were dealt.  Again he had a twenty.  The dealer showed a ten and had another one down.  Push.  The decks were spent and the dealer picked up the cards to shuffle as the gambler eagerly awaited his chance to cut them.  By this time a small cheering section had gathered around the table to watch his incredible and seemingly unbeatable streak.

The dealer presented him with the red cut card and he deftly sliced it into the two decks.  It felt like a good cut to him.  And the hand was dealt.

Once again, two picture cards for a twenty – and the dealer showed a six – the worst card for either a player or the house.  He was nearly counting the money as the dealer turned over his down card.  It was a three.

“Okay, get a ten,” he said to himself.  But the dealer drew a four for thirteen and had to hit again.  The next card was an ace for fourteen and then a deuce for sixteen.  “Hit a big one,” the gambler said out loud.  And the dealer took the next card.  It was a five to make a hand of twenty-one.

Stunned, the young man waited for the dealer to flip up his cards revealing the almost perfect twenty – and to put his thirty-two hundred dollars worth of chips in the dealer’s rack.

The crowd behind the player quickly dispersed and both the dealer and the floor man offered their condolences to the deflated gambler.  He was so light-headed, he barely heard them as he tried to gain the strength to rise from his seat and make his way to the bank of elevators that would take him to his room.

His wife was awake and as soon as he came in asked if he had any luck.

The young man said, “No, I couldn’t get any cards and I lost the last ten bucks.”

As you have probably heard, Las Vegas’ nickname is “Sin City”.  That moniker seems to me to be highly unfair and not truly descriptive of this little oasis in the desert, despite the fact that later this week we are hosting the annual “Adult Entertainment Expo” (a/k/a Porn Convention)..  So I am planning  on suggesting that we officially re-name ourselves, “The City With The Right Vision For The Future”.

As you probably know, Las Vegas has a number of establishments where you can gamble with your hard-earned savings, or for that matter with your EBT cards.  And making gambling available to one and all, irrespective of race, religion, creed or ability to pay your rent or mortgage or feed your children certainly makes us an inclusive dot on the map.

After many years of looking at people who gamble I notice several underlying threads that run through almost all of them.  Most are lazy and they want to get something for nothing – and if that isn’t an accurate reflection of the mindset sweeping the nation, I don’t know what is.  Given this mindset, you will not be surprised to learn that the residents of Las Vegas who cater to those “about to be fleeced” in a large majority belong to the Party of the People – the Democrats.

If you happen to be in Las Vegas at a convention or for a vacation and want to have a little entertainment with twenty dollars, you might enjoy your time playing some slots or some blackjack or by going to a movie.  You will probably get more bang for your buck at the BJ table than the movie – because at least you will have to use a little strategy and exercise your dormant brain cells to add up to “21”.  (Fortunately, Las Vegas casinos do allow the mathematically impaired the use of a calculator if necessary for the player to accomplish this feat).

Recently I have been playing in a twice-weekly blackjack tournament run by one of the casinos which is about a ten minute drive from my home.  Nothing big – $20 entry fee and a field of 96 players maximum.  I took a first and a fourth place in two of the tournaments out of the seven times I played – so I have enough in winnings to pay my entry fees for the balance of the year.

After playing in one tournament in which I was knocked out early I decided that I had a little time to play before going home to take Gracie to the dog park on our second excursion of the day, so I wandered over to one of the Blackjack tables that was open and sat down.  There was one other player at the table, an out of town visitor from San Diego who was sitting there with his wife watching him.

The dealer was in the process of shuffling the two decks as I took my seat, produced my player’s card (so that I can accrue “comps” at the casino based on my wagering) and exchanged my cash for chips.  It was not until the first hand was dealt that I realized the other player was a newcomer to the game.  He had one of those little “cheat sheet” cards that gave him the basic correct strategy to use in playing blackjack.  (The casinos allow  players to consult these cards).

I gave up playing blackjack as an income supplement a few years after I moved to town.  Part of the reason is that in blackjack, the actions of one player (good or bad) have repercussions on the entire table.  Taking a “bad hit” or failing to take a good one, affects the distribution of cards and it affects the results of everyone sitting at a table.

I compensated for that by playing late at night, generally head to head against the dealer.  But after awhile, coming home at four in the morning got stale and I decided I would be better off getting a good night’s rest and spending quality time with the dogs rather than sitting in a smoke-filled casino.  (The dogs agreed with my decision).

Now the reason I reference this new blackjack player is that he epitomizes the reasons that we have so many casinos in this town – all of which seem to be doing pretty well, despite the downtrodden economy and a bit of Obama-bashing a few years back.

Walking into a casino is not the place to get on-the-job training for learning how to gamble.  In all honesty, I was gratified that this young man had taken the time to purchase a card which provides the perfect basic strategy in playing the game.  He clung to this card as though it were his family Bible.

And then he received his hand.  A sixteen versus the dealer’s ten.  That card told him that he had to take a hit.  He looked it up on the card – but was hesitant to follow its advice.  Sixteen is a hand that frequently breaks.

So despite the fact that his card told him he should take a hit, he hesitated and asked the dealer what he thought.  The dealer (knowing the correct play and knowing what the card would advise) said, “What does your card say?”

“It says, hit it.”

At that point I chimed in.  I asked the young man, “Did you purchase that card?” – to which he answered that he had.  I then said to him, “I suspect you purchased that card because you are unsure how to play in certain situations – as in this one.  But if you bought it and don’t follow it’s proven advice, you have wasted whatever money you spent to buy it.”

The dealer, realizing that I was a player who knew the game, looked at me with a knowing glance for stating the obvious which was that the card was the result of looking at the outcomes of millions of hands dealt and reviewing the mathematically best choices for playing each of them.

The young man acquiesced to taking a card and received a ten.  Of course it busted his hand.  But the dealer turned up another ten – so he was doomed to lose this hand no matter what he did.  But the thought of that ten-busting hit lingered with him.

About fifteen minutes later he was dealt another sixteen.  Remembering what had happened the last time he had hit this hand, after looking several times at the card and hoping that the print on it had changed, he tucked his cards under his bet and refused to execute the proper strategy.  The dealer revealed his down card, a five and took a hit, getting a five to make a hand of twenty.

The young man would have had twenty-one and won the hand had he followed the proper procedure.  I had to stay on a nineteen so I also lost.  Looking at the next card which I was dealt, which would have been the dealer’s had the young man followed the rules, the dealer would have busted the previous hand and both of us would have been winners instead of losers.

Now the reason for my detailing this experience has nothing to do with this young man’s inexperience or failure to act correctly but it provides a setting and some background for the next post – which will be about how following rules that are well established and based on sound reason – can improve our efforts should we choose to gamble with our money – and, more importantly, should we choose to gamble with our lives.

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AMERICAN FIRSTS

If you’re anticipating a laundry list of things that Americans were first to achieve, like land on the moon, I am afraid you’re going to be disappointed.  See, I just wanted to suck you in with the title – and hope you’d keep reading.  (I might have a career in politics after all).

The American firsts to which I refer are actually things in which my now adopted state, Nevada are head and shoulders above all other forty-nine states.  (Or is that fifty-six, President Obama)?

Nevada is first in having the highest rate of unemployment of any state in the nation.  Nevada is also first in the percentage of our land area which is owned by the Federal government.  I am not suggesting that the amount of land ownership by the Feds correlates to the amount of unemployment – but now that I said that, I will have to think about it a little bit more.

With the Presidential election only days away and with the worst storm in decades hitting the Eastern seaboard, I don’t know if this story has made it into the national media but it is big news here in Nevada.

WE STRUCK OIL IN THEM THAR HILLS !!!

Or more correctly, an Irish oil exploration company which goes by the curious name of U. S. Oil & Gas has discovered oil.  A lot of oil.

The find is about 230 miles north northwest of Las Vegas in an area known as Hot Creek Valley.  Although U. S. Oil and Gas is being closemouthed about the extent of the discovery pending the drilling of more wells to confirm their geology reports, the claims which are coming out of the valley are mind-boggling.

Several independent geologists have asserted that the reservoir of oil would be bigger than the finds in Texas and bigger than all the proven reserves that are in Saudi Arabia – the world’s mot plentiful source of light sweet crude oil.

If that should be the case, this will mean that Nevada can move away from its near total dependence on casino gaming for revenue and will have a new source of income.  That will also mean that we should be able to lose our ranking as number one in the nation’s unemployed and be able to create good paying jobs for those who need them as happened in South Dakota with the Bakken discovery.

U. S. Oil and Gas leased 25,000 acres of land from the Bureau of Land Management.  That is the agency that is a part of the Department of the Interior and is responsible for overseeing 260 Million acres of land, primarily in twelve western states.  The agency also sells land to individuals and corporations from time to time.

Now what is most interesting, as I hear from a confidential but very reliable source, is that Senator Harry Reid (D-NV), the Majority Leader, recently acquired 2,500 acres of land from the BLM for himself – land which is a part of the oil field that U. S. Oil and Gas is currently working and evaluating.

It’s curious to me that  the good senator would have an interest in this particular acreage.  The landscape is barren, it is remote and other than being a great place to breed rattlesnakes, it’s only other potential is for oil and mineral discoveries.  Eureka!  Perhaps that’s what the senator had in mind with his acquisition.

That may not be totally fair.  With his predisposition toward green energy, having voted for the taxpayers to fund the failed Solyndra, perhaps he had a vision of creating a vast array of solar panels or windmills on the site of his newly acquired property.  Time alone will tell.

However, should the discovery prove to be as substantial as rumored, and should it later come to light that the Senate Majority Leader had “inside information” of which he took advantage and profited, it will be a scandal that will eclipse both Watergate and the Tea Pot Dome scandal of the Harding administration.

For the sake of those Nevadans who are actively seeking employment and are unable to find work and for the sake of all of us Americans so that we might obtain a new source of energy and reduce our dependence on foreign governments, I truly hope that this discovery pans out.

And to Sen. Harry Reid, all I can say at this point is, Mazel Tov.

AT A LOSS FOR WORDS

It’s seldom that I find myself at a loss for words.  But viewing the linked video prompted exactly that reaction. 

http://news.yahoo.com/video/health-15749655/man-to-hospital-after-heart-attack-grill-28339844.html

After watching it three times; the first to see what it was about; the second to see if what I thought I saw the first time was really there; the third to jolt myself out of the shock of seeing the first two plays, I had a few questions and would like to hear your thoughts …

By way of a preamble let me again say that I have always had to be careful of my food intake and have taken that as a personal responsibility.  I can put on a pound walking by a French patisserie.

I have followed a healthful discipline and diet for many years and feel better off and better about myself by making good food choices.  I’m sure that as a result I am healthier than I would be had I just given in to my food cravings.

By way of further disclaimer let me say that my essential libertarian philosophy calls for as little regulation by government as possible to maintain an orderly society – but it also allows for intervention when a person behaves irresponsibly and threatens others in that society through their dangerous behavior.

Question 1.  Suicide or attempted suicide are considered crimes in all fifty states.  Does eating yourself to death constitute suicide?

Question 2. If your answer to the first question is yes, what would you suggest that government do to help the overeater into changing his or her behavior?

Question 3. If a morbidly obese person wants to improve their life, do you feel a moral obligation to help that individual and contribute to the cost of their healthcare?

Question 4. If a morbidly obese person refuses to change their eating habits, do you have a moral obligation to contribute to that person’s cost of healthcare?

Question 5. You are a heart surgeon, the only one on duty.  You have two patients who are critical and require immediate attention.  The first is one of the people who was mentioned in the previous question who needs a triple by-pass.  The second is a new-born who has a congenital heart defect.  On which of these two patients would you operate?

I would sincerely like to hear your responses to these questions.  Feel free to answer any or all of them.

Oh, I have gone by The Heart Attack Grill which is on Las Vegas Blvd. in the downtown area.  If you’re coming to Las Vegas and would like the exact address I’d be happy to provide it to you.  But I’m sure that you’re smarter than that and like me, will just drive on by.

GOVERNMENT CAN FUND ITSELF

When I lived in Chicago I had several friends who were members of the city’s police force.  (I met them at the local deli where they regularly had lunch).

One day I asked one of them if it was true that the city had a “quota” for how many tickets each officer in traffic enforcement was required to write each month.  Despite the police department’s official statement that “no such quota system exists”, my friends admitted that there was indeed such an animal.  (As we became more PC, the “quota” was re-named an “index”.  But as the immortal bard said, “What’s in a name?”)

The city derived a lot of revenue from the issuance of these citations and the collection of the fines.

About two and a half years ago I wrote a letter to Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman.  We were in the throes of the recession and Obama-bashing.  The unemployment rate was rising as fast as the housing market was careening downward.  I offered a plan which could both provide employment and bring in a large amount of revenue to the city’s rapidly dwindling coffers.

While I didn’t expect to be featured on one of the nightly news shows as ‘the genius who saved Las Vegas” I did expect to receive a response from the good mayor.  None was ever forthcoming.  Maybe I’ll find the original and send it to his wife who succeeded him in that office.  (Massachusetts had the Kennedys, Chicago had the Daleys and we have the Goodmans).

The plan was simple and sound.  It addressed the disdain that most automobile and truck drivers have for obeying the posted speed limits within the city.  Here was a terrific source of new revenue for Las Vegas.  All the city had to do was to enforce the laws it had already created for the safety of its citizens!

I suggested that the city hire 120 people to be called, “Traffic Speed Enforcers”.  They would be paid a salary of $50,000 per year and be assigned in three shifts of 30 around the clock since Vegas is a 24/7 town.  The extra TSE’s would fill in for those who had days off, were sick or were on vacation.  Their sole empowerment would be to arrest drivers who were speeding.

We would need to purchase 100 vehicles (10 to be held in reserve for repairs) for the use of these TSE’s.  I estimated an inflated cost of $100,000 for the purchase of each of these.

We would modify the speeding ordinance so that apprehension by radar would result in a  MANDATORY fine:  from 6 – 10 miles above the limit – $25 a mile; 11 miles or more over the limit the fine would be $50 a mile.

I assumed that each TSE would actually work for six of his or her eight hour shift –giving them time to get to their street location, to return their vehicle to the garage and allowing for a meal, breaks and relief stops.  I also assumed that they should be able to write two tickets per hour – one low fine and one high fine.

Based on these reasonable assumptions, each of them would produce $4,200 a day in revenue for the city – or $378,000 a day for the three shifts.  That works out to $138 million a year.  But let’s say that much of that is uncollectable so we’ll call it $100 million a year. I think that’s reasonable.

After one year in effect, the city should show a net profit (after having fully paid for the vehicles, TSE salaries and a very generous allotment for gas, auto maintenance, insurance and “administration”) of at least $75 million dollars.  And all this paid for by people who are flagrant scoff-laws.

I see a hand in the audience.  Your question ma’am?

For those who didn’t hear the question the young lady asked let, me repeat it.

‘“Wouldn’t people stop speeding, thus reducing the income to the city?”

In answer to your question, if that did happen we would have hit THE JACKPOT!

We all would be rewarded by being safer when we drove.   Ultimately, the improved safety should translate into lower insurance rates for all Las Vegas drivers.  That would make Las Vegas a better place to live, work and drive.

Well that’s one example of how government can fund itself.

It’s a thought.

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