Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Meghan McCain reacts to Arlen Spector's choice

John McCain's daughter Meghan posted the following message on Twitter yesterday:

I know its been a hard day for a lot of you but Arlen Spector has made a selfish choice. This can come back and be better than ever.

What Republican principle does making a selfish choice violate?

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Shocked, shocked to discover crooked gambling

If you had been thinking that the state-run lottery was a fair and honestly run game-of-chance in which your odds of winning were determined by the mathematical laws of probability then you may have been shocked by the news story in the Quad City Times this week that:

The state ombudsman issued a report Tuesday alleging Iowa Lottery officials have failed to adequately protect the enterprise’s customers from fraud and theft by retailers.

Iowa Citizens’ Aide/Ombudsman Bill Angrick said his review of three years’ worth of lottery investigations found numerous customer complaints where leads went unexplored and potential crimes were not pursued.

And, Angrick said in a 210-page report, even when the lottery substantiated complaints against retailers for fraud or theft, in many instances those retailers were not held accountable.

Read the entire article

Most people who were not born yesterday know how crooked gambling scams work, such as the street-corner 3 card monte huckster or the carnival side-show booth. These are games in which there are no winners other than the operators. Anyone appearing to win is either a hired shill who has won nothing other than their pre-agreed share of the take or a mark who has been allowed to win when the stakes are low in order to entice him/her into larger bets. Sometimes people are allowed to walk away from these crooked games winners when there are other potential marks standing around to see this and be drawn in.

If you had been thinking that the association between gambling and gangsters and crime was just a result of gambling being illegal and that a legal state-run lottery or state sanctioned and regulated casinos could be fair and honest then you have been naive. Gambling is a scam by its very nature. If you are involved in any way in gambling you are by necessity in one of two groups. You are either part of the group that organized and runs the game and is profiting from it or you are a mark, a victim, a loser. Proponents of state lotteries and state sanctioned casinos claim that the tax-payers and school-children of the state are part of the group that benefits from the gambling, but given gambling's tendency to turn everyone not actually running the game into marks and victims how likely do you think that is?

Some of the ways we have been made victims by legalized gambling have been argued in this blog previously. New jobs appear to have been created in the community by casinos but it turns out the jobs have merely shifted because jobs have been lost by other entertainment businesses closed because of competition from the casinos. Although gambling adds money to the state coffers there are large costs to the community when formerly law-abiding people become addicting to gambling and commit crimes, sometimes embezzling large amounts of money from PTAs, fire departments, etc. Now we have a report that legalized gambling is turning the retail stores that sell lottery tickets into crooks and thieves who defraud their customers. (The state's reluctance to investigate and punish this wrong-doing because the state is a partner in this scam reminds me of Catch 22 where people are being attacked and killed by a corporation that has been hired to strafe and bomb them and are told that that's good because they are stockholders in the corporation and are therefore profiting from the attack.) What other ways in which governments are corrupted and we are victimized by legalized gambling are yet to be revealed?

Friday, April 17, 2009

Republican patriotism

Daniel from Rockford wrote me to suggest a topic for this blog. I couldn't think of anything to add to what he wrote, so I will just let him speak:

Is there much that is less patriotic than to publicly avow secession from the Union? Well, now we have a pattern of secession talk from the center of the Republican party. The party’s V.P. candidate spoke at a meeting in her own home town that was advocating Alaska secession. Now, the Governor of Texas, Rick Perry, is making secessionist comments and then refusing to disavow the idea when questioned about the implication of what he has said.

The Republican party has made patriotism their badge of honor for many years now. Sadly, their idea of patriotism usually turned out to be the shallow lapel pin type symbolic patriotism. They stretched the truth whenever they made any claim to patriotic action as opposed to their usual patriotic speech and flag waving. For example, during the Reagan, Bush years they claimed that indulging in hedonistic capitalism was a patriotic act or then denied that social activism was patriotic. They sneered at Obama’s social activist background.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Obama passes test of foreign policy crisis

Congratulations to the Navy and to President Obama for the rescue of the ship's captain held by pirates. They negotiated and waited while that was the correct course of action and then took decisive and successful action when it was called for. President Obama early on gave authority for lethal action if and when it became appropriate to the navy and then allowed the professional military people on the scene to use their judgement. He was not bullied into intervening and forcing inappropriately premature action by right-wing criticism such as this on the national level and this from here in the Quad Cities.

How refreshing to have a president whose actions are not geared toward meaningless gestures and stage-managed photo-ops.

An economist's take on the GOP

Check out Nobel Laureate economist Paul Krugman's analysis of the positions and leadership of the Republican Party in his column in today's New York Times.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Mariana de la Torre

I blogged about a month ago about the sad story of Mariana de la Torre. Kuninori Takahashi (Kuni) is the Chicago Tribune photographer who upon hearing about Mariana's situation came to the hospital in Rock Island to meet her, decided he wanted to document her story and accompanied her on her trip from Illinois back to her home in Mexico to see her three young children before she died. Kuni has just completed and put on the web an audio slideshow telling her story. Watch it here.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

My mother

My 87 year old mother died Friday evening. The last few years of her life she was increasingly afflicted by dementia and so it was a long good-bye for my father, brothers, sisters-in-law, daughter, nieces, nephew, wife and me.

Here is a link to the obituary my brother wrote in the QCTimes on-line edition. The obituary also appeared in the Moline Dispatch (but I could not find it in the on-line edition of that paper) and the Chester (Illinois) Herald.

Here is a picture of her taken before her marriage and long before I was born so I have no actual memories of her looking that young and glamorous. But I would like to think of her as beautiful and care-free as she appears in this picture, forever young, and so I shall. I invite you to do so, also.