Monday, September 15, 2014

A.C., R.I.P.


In 1974 a referendum on legalized gambling failed to pass in New Jersey. Two years later it did. And the power brokers who were pushing for it then  would  have made sure it was on the ballot until it did pass. It was important, it was said, to add to the state’s coffers and  support new state initiatives and  education. Ah, education – the black hole of American politics. Thirty–eight years later, politicians  are still carping about the need for more funds for education.

The salty air was full of  promise of revitalizing Atlantic City. All those mom and pop businesses: shops, cafes and restaurants  that had been relegated to the dust heap of urban decay  would once again enjoy  a booming patronage. Never happened. Once  a casino was built it became an all-encompassing entity. All your needs could be obtained therein with a plethora of dining  options in the hotels themselves. Why would you want  your clientele  leaving  your premises for any reason while they still had two rubles left  in their pockets to lose. If anything,  gambling in Atlantic City spawned pawn shops and prostitution. And catered to the addictions of thrill seekers. And its fabled  Steel Pier, a family attraction for generations, was  dismembered. Why would you want kids distracting  from their parents' time on  the casino floor. Better to let the whippersnappers stay at home while mom and dad  thinned out their college funds.

Big players were offered comped rooms. How many times did I hear friends and acquaintances  boast of “being comped,” as if it was some endearing invitation from their friends at Caesars or Trump’s or Harrah’s or Resorts the first casino to open in 1978. “Being comped ,” to these slubs, carried James Bondian status but even Moneypenny would have seen through the subterfuge.

Then there were the senior bus rides from all over New Jersey, enticing senior citizens to enjoy  an exciting day away  from the doldrums of old age. With an added bonus of getting $25 in quarters  for the slots  and, in some cases,  a complementary free lunch. Coming up with activities where our seniors could blow their Social Security checks – now that’s community-minded altruism.

The final straw in the demise of paradise by the sea was a host  of casinos going down for the third time, drowning in an ocean of red ink,  especially the  two-year-old Revel, a  casino built  costing $2.4 billion. It  was  just sold  to  Florida's Polo North Country Club for $90 million and will be reborn, so a spokesman says, as a “mega casino,” pending court approval. The new owners  must still believe the adage that a fool and his money go separate ways. Or, as P.T. Barnum  once said, “There’s a sucker born every minute.”

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Substitution, Please


Another American journalist has reportedly been beheaded by another blood thirsty, ISIS jihadi. Early reports indicate it may be the same man who beheaded James Foley. I am curious as to how the Obama administration will spin and vacillate over this latest horror. We know how the president handled the last execution – a tepid speech followed by a round of golf. With nary a wince for  Mr.Foley’s parents.

These last few months have seemed to unravel any notion that we are safe and secure in America. The  southern border continues to spurt strangers with little or no documentation. Then there’s the thousands of Central American children who trekked north, many all alone. Some with diseases and other problems saddling border towns with  economic  hardship. In such a scenario are we being alarmist thinking that the very people who are murdering in the name of religion have found their way here as easily as unaccompanied children.

The international picture continues to be bleak. China and Russia continue their expansionist policies. Remember when both the Soviet Union and China accused the United States of being an imperial power? And there were plenty of voices  in this country who agreed with that assessment. That liberal argument  has collapsed under the weight of its own incredulity.

At least in those days, though, we had a cohesive foreign policy, presided over  by an engaged chief executive. Now our foreign policy seems to be formulated  on the fly by a host of incompetent advisors . Sometimes not. The president announced last week he has no strategy as of yet to deal with ISIS. Pronouncements like these should scare the hell out of all Americans. Just as the horrific images being splashed across social media of Steven Sotloff being murdered.

Mr.President  do something to assuage the grief of Mr. Sotloff’s  family. Do something to help the innocent people being herded into dead marches and  mass graves. If you’re not up to it; or have checked out like so many of your critics have said, then step down. Our constitution allows for the transfer of power when a president is incapacitated. For whatever reason we seem to have breached this territory. You’d have so much more free time for fund raising and socializing with your elitist friends. And, for golf of course.