I’m currently too physically and emotionally exhausted from work and other things to do this post justice, but I just had to get my two cents in while this story is still relatively hot, as is my ire. For those of you who didn’t hear about it, and I’m assuming most of you didn’t, fucking Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist snuck in the bill to make internet gambling illegal by attaching it to a completely unrelated Port Security bill which was up for a vote. Surely enough, this Port Security Act was passed by Congress in the wee hours of Friday night/Saturday morning. After all, who would vote against securing our ports, right? Naturally, President Bush intends to sign it so that pretty much seals the deal. There will be 270 days for the terms to be fully defined, but it is essentially now going to be a felony for US banks to transact with online gambling websites. You want to get money out of your online poker account? You better book a flight to the Isle of Man or someplace like that because you sure as hell are not going to be able to transfer funds or cash any check that the site would normally send you. This is the American political system at its absolute ugliest. By sneaking in this bill, it makes the religious right happy just in time for election season.
Furthermore, the Republicans were in such a mad rush to get this bill passed at all costs that they ended up doing it by including all kinds of wacked out exceptions. Horse racing? Exempt! State lotteries? Exempt! Fantasy Sports? Exempt! And the craziest one of all? Online gambling sites run by approved state-licensed casinos are… EXEMPT! Talk about a sweetheart deal for casino operators! Think it’s a coincidence that a $15 billion buyout offer for Harrah’s was announced on Monday and rumors abound that the bid will go higher? People saw this coming and see the future angle too. Besides the book evaluation of the current worth of the Harrah’s operations, think of the upside after the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 begins getting enforced. Harrah’s owns the WSOP which has enjoyed phenomenal growth due to the ever increasing number of participants qualifying online (like yours truly). So this law, under the guise of preserving morality or some other such nonsense, will actually eliminate all offshore competitors and create a protected environment for state-licensed casinos to monopolize the internet poker industry. Suddenly the only way for the average internet poker joe to qualify online for the WSOP main event will be to do it on the Harrah’s website. Think of the millions of internet poker players which currently divide their business amongst many different sites, all gravitating towards the tiny handful of sites owned by these American casinos. That my friends, is the kind of loophole it takes to get a bullshit law passed in this country. And even if you don’t give a damn about poker, sweetheart protectionist legislation or even conservative vs. liberal politics, there’s still one major underlying question that makes this whole legislation reek of shit- WHAT THE HELL DOES ONLINE GAMBLING HAVE TO DO WITH PORT SECURITY??!!
My favorite morning radio host Star (real name Troi Torain) of Power 105.1’s Star and Buc Wild show got fired today for comments he made on yesterday’s show directed towards DJ Envy of Hot 97. I actually stayed in my car after I got to work just to hear him finish his remarks because I just knew that he was heading towards dangerous waters. He basically said that he would do an R Kelly on Envy’s baby girl. There were also racial remarks used since Envy’s wife is part Asian. What I’m sure you won’t hear as this breaking news story makes its rounds is the context both of the show and those remarks in particular. Star’s M.O. is what he calls “objective hate”. While I can’t say I completely understand what that philosophy really entails, it’s something along the lines of encouraging the verbal expression of hate for the truth that it reveals. Supposedly it’s at that level of communication that more real and meaningful interactions can occur because those expressions of hate are closer to one’s true feelings. It’s certainly not my thing, but I respect the intelligence it takes to read and think and come up with one’s own philosophy like that. Now that’s the thing- despite it being on a hip hop station that plays what uptight conservatives would consider ignorant thug music, Star’s show was an intelligent one, meant for intelligent listeners. If you were ignorant, you would listen to the show and hear nothing but the racial epithets and inciteful comments and likely be blinded by your own rage. But if you were an intelligent listener capable of grasping the underlying content two levels deeper than the words themselves, you’d understand that he’s trying to incite those masses because that’s exactly what objective hate seeks to elicit.
This is the main difference between Star and the other controversial radio figures- Star has a structured philosophy and a path. There’s a point to it. It’s complex, but it’s there if you have the intellect to get it. Howard Stern? Pure shock jock for shock’s sake. No point to his schtick. Opie and Anthony? Same deal. Miss Jones on Hot 97? Who knows, I don’t listen to her. But they all seem to be on the airwaves aimlessly trying out ploys just to get attention. It would be an easy mistake for first time listeners to lump Star in with those other guys, because on the surface that’s just what he sounds like. It will certainly sound that way to people who only hear the sound bites that will get circulated with the news of his current firing. But does anyone really believe that Star would go and seek out a 4-year old girl in order to pee on her? Anybody?? I don’t for a second believe that Envy’s wife really believes it either despite her claims that she fears for her daughter’s safety and has hired additional security.
Do I think Star crossed the line? Sure I do. I don’t think children should ever be brought into the conflicts of adults. But that’s just where I draw my own personal line. But you know what? Some people take offense to others talking about their mothers. So should talking about someone’s mother on the radio be grounds for dismissal? If that’s where you draw your line, maybe you would feel that way. But my position is that you have no right trying to impose your line on me. Technically I’m sure there’s a possibility that what Star said could be considered a criminal threat and have legal ramifications. But if you’re going to take stuff out of context like that, you might as well bring Joe Torre up on charges for threatening to strangle Tanyon Sturtze after he made a bad throwing decision in a game last week. It’s nonsense. In context, what Star was really doing was responding to comments that Envy supposedly went to confront him in person down at the station but that Star just never showed up. Star said something to the effect of “Are you sure you were at the right building?” and then gave the address of the station. “I’m the easiest guy in the world to find.” He went on to say that apparently nobody witnessed Envy at the station, and not even anyone in Envy’s own posse could confirm that he really went there. Star was trying to prove that Envy was never there on the grounds that he didn’t have the cojones to do something like that. So Star decided to push the daughter button figuring that type of disrespect would put Envy into a man-up-or-shut-up situation. The comments crossed my line, sure, but what does my line have to do with anything. If any intellectually challenged listeners couldn’t understand what Star was doing, it should have been clear when he followed it up with “I’ve disrespected your seed. Now you have to call me, Dawg.” The point was to disrespect Envy in the deepest way possible, not to express his desire to piss on a little girl. But when the story of Star’s firing hits all the news wires tomorrow, this will not be apparent. At best they’ll portray him as some out of control radio guy just trying to be controversial and at worst, they will try to make you believe Star is a dangerous gun-toting pedophile.
The other stuff about the racial slurs are just silly. Star considers himself simply “a man of color” and refuses to define his identity by any race. Any and all races are fair game to be targeted on his show; that’s the objective part of objective hate. Look, I’m Chinese and I’m telling you that anybody getting all up in arms over lo mein comments in this day and age needs to get a grip on their sensitivity. And if your argument is that airing these slurs on the radio will encourage others to make similar comments, I hope you spend as much time instilling your children with quality values and the ability to think for themselves as you do in teaching them that every derogatory comment is a personal injustice that needs to be corrected by government intervention. Years ago, Star himself was strongly against the use of the N-word, regardless of whether it was being used between blacks or not. But what he observed back then was that people mainly either didn’t feel strongly about it or had no intention of changing. So that’s exactly why he throws it back in their faces today with an overuse of the word. One of the phrases he actually used to describe gangster rap was “bang bang shoot em up nigga die slow crap”. He did with the N-word what all rational intelligent people should do- he took a position, made some observations around it, learned from them and re-evaluated his position. No doubt that’s what he’ll do again now that Clear Channel has let him go. And to those of you who think DJ Envy wins this war because he hit Star in the wallet by getting him fired, I wouldn’t be too sure about that. I think there’s a strong possibility that Star’s contract with Clear Channel had some very specific clauses regarding exactly what Star should be compensated in an event like this. That was the reason it took so long to get him back on the air in NY; the contract had to be just right. I did mention that Star is an intelligent guy, didn’t I? In the meantime, it remains a sad irony that we will no longer get to hear the show whose motto was “The listener will not be denied”.
A few final thoughts on the aftermath of hurricane Katrina… First, I have to give kudos to FoxNews for their excellent coverage. They should win some kind of awards for it. Normally they are way to sensationalist for my taste, but for this tragedy, sensationalism was apparently exactly what was needed. The reporters on the ground, including Geraldo Rivera whom incidentally I have newfound respect for, all said things in exactly the way they needed to be said. Basically they were all pleading into the camera and basically saying “WTF??!!”. They were even getting pissed at Bill O’Reilly in the studio for asking them stupid questions trying to push the whole racism angle, while they only wanted to stick to the point of conveying the horrors on the ground in New Orleans while nobody comes to help. Kanye West is an idiot too, for spouting the “Bush doesn’t like black people” rhetoric on NBC during a fundraiser for hurricane relief. This is actually the 2nd time Kanye West has made it into my blog; the first time when he was an idiot spouting crap about my girl Gretchen Wilson not deserving the best new artist award even though her album outsold his. Gretchen forgave him after he apologized, but now we see that he’s just a dope through and through. But regardless of all that nonsense, to allow 6 days to pass before getting those poor people out of there is fucking ridiculous. I shudder to think at the lives that were needlessly lost due to the time it took to get aid out there and to ultimately extract the survivors from the Superdome and the Convention Center. It was inconceivable that that sort of thing could happen in the continental US. The ineptitude and lack of coordination was shameful and apalling. And you think those people in New Orleans aren’t strong and beautiful people despite their poverty? Did you see them getting airlifted out on day 6? They actually were still caring for the people that could not help themselves (regardless of race I might add) and they actually managed a few smiles at the troops and had a spark in their eyes despite having lived thru a veritable hell on earth. As Harry Connick Jr. said in an interview, “The people of New Orleans are freakishly strong”. My final words on the subject are this- if you haven’t donated to the Red Cross, get off your ass and do it, pretty please.
On a lighter note, I went to a minor league baseball game in Norwich, CT this Labor Day weekend. Norwich is now the Giant’s AA team, and they were playing the Blue Jays AA team. I really do love the park there. Great staff, quaint feel, good food (I had the fried dough with apple topping) and overall just a real good vibe. It was a good game too, with the home team coming from behind and scoring two runs to go ahead in the bottom of the 8th. Apparently they had no closer in the bullpen either, probably because he was called up since the Major League teams just expanded their rosters last week, but it didn’t matter, they still managed to hold them scoreless in the 9th for the win.
Looking forward to my Vegas/Denver trips. I’ll also get to see Carol G. in Denver who is one of my favorite former co-workers. Conveniently I’ll be arriving on her birthday, so I’ll be crashing in on her birthday dinner with her husband. How very nice of me! Speaking of Denver, Bob Denver, better known as Gilligan from Gilligan’s Island, died today at age 70. I actually didn’t even know he was still alive. C’mon admit it, you didn’t either.
With all the bomb stuff making news in London lately, it got me thinking that maybe there’s a better way to combat the ongoing threat of terrorism in our world today- Marketing. Why not contract every major marketing firm in the world to come up with global marketing campaigns aimed at eliminating terrorism? How they execute their campaigns is limited only by their own creativity, but hey, these firms are experts at eliciting behaviors. Have them do the market research to determine how to reach people before they can become indoctrinated by the terrorists. Maybe they can find a way to associate terrorism with something they consider to be bad. I think the oft-used term of “cowardly” to describe terrorist acts came about from exactly that sort of thinking, but hearing it come from the mouths of world leaders whom the terrorists do not respect and consider their enemies doesn’t exactly do anything to sway them. The message needs to be conveyed in whatever mediums will actually be heard by the potential future terrorists of the world, and it should not be tinged by Western association. Every great advertising campaign achieves it goal by tricking us into making subconscious associations. The goal is usually to elicit a specific human behavior, typically to get us to buy a product of some sort. The association is either some sort of positive feeling associated with the advertiser’s product, or a negative association with a competitor’s product. In the same way we need to figure out how to get into the minds of the young people in the terrorist hotbed countries and sway them into believing that terrorism is bad, cowardly, evil, or any other adjective that runs counter to the traits they hold dear. Don’t make it a pro-Western message because that will tip them off as to where the message is coming from and their minds will shut out the message. Just make it anti-terrorist.
All this takes is money and since we are one of the wealthiest countries in the world, that shouldn’t be a problem. And with so many of the world’s best marketing firms based in the US, we should either pass subsidy bills or at least tax breaks to benefit the firms that undertake such anti-terrorism campaigns. Yes this is propaganda of a sort, but my point is that dropping pamphlets on a country we have invaded is a pretty lame way to try to sway the minds of people in the Middle East. If we let some professional marketing firms take a crack at it, I’m sure we’d see something quite a bit more effective. This would not only reach out to the minds abroad but also to those terrorist sympathizers on our own shores, maybe even reaching people who are on US soil planning a future attack. I think it’s certainly an approach that deserves some consideration.
Spent Friday and Saturday at the Taj for the two Click2Asia poker tourneys. Busted out in the middle of the pack for both tourneys due to mildly impatient play. I say mildly only because had I not committed my stack when I did, I probably would have lasted only a few more hands before I would have been blinded and anted to death anyhow. But who knows, maybe those extra few hands would have presented me with a monster, so I have to look at it as if there was some room for improvement in my play. In any event, a couple of observations about the weekend… First, the Click2Asia tourneys are structured so that luck has a pretty big part in the outcome. Blinds increase very quickly and in mind blowing increments. There was a T25 ante by the end of the first hour. Typically the tourneys draw a lot of inexperienced players so there are a lot of players in every pot preflop. This is exactly the opposite of what you want. If you know the blinds are going to ramp up quickly, you’d like to play more aggressively and see more flops, but on the other hand, at a loose table, the optimum strategy is to tighten up. So basically, you have to resign yourself to making a move with your best hands and praying they hold up and get paid off. Tough to have your hands hold up when there’s always two or more people playing drawing hands against you.
As for the Taj itself, I was surprised by the range of skill in the dealers. There were two dealers who were excellent, and everyone else seemed clueless. One guy was laughably bad, trying to make up for his poor chip handling skills by dealing faster. Unfortunately his dexterity and hand eye coordination weren’t up to the task. He had multiple misdeals and at one point managed to nearly take out the eye of the player next to him when he was hurriedly trying to complete his shuffle and ended up losing control of the plastic cut card which went flying to his right. Other dealers were not hearing call vs. raise declarations, awarding pots to the wrong players and other miscellaneous goof ups. Good thing everybody at the table was honest or else a lot of fights could easily have broken out. Other problems at the Taj included dealers not showing up until half an hour after the tourney was scheduled to start, dealers not being equipped with dealer cards, pencils, and on day two, the dealer didn’t even have chips or cards. Laughably bad, but surprisingly, the vibe of the crowd was good enough that it was still an enjoyable time.
Which leads me to another realization. All my life I’ve always avoided the Asian scene because for the most part I’ve always looked at these groups of Asians that move in packs as a bit unseemly and almost embarrassed by how insular they keep themselves. That’s just not the way I grew up. But I think now that I’m older, I’m a little more tolerant of it all and I realize that even though they are still kind of clique-y, there’s good and bad people in the mix regardless, just like any other group. It didn’t bother me as much as it would have in years past seeing the crowd of Asians standing, sitting and squatting near the entrance to the Taj, smoking up storm and speaking all too loudly in their native tongues. This weekend I tried to appreciate the individuals within the groups rather than just being turned off by the groups themselves, and I had a surprisingly good time. Pleasant banter at the tables I played at along with chit chat with some of the cuties made it fun for all. It helped that we had some real bad poker players at some of our tables so we all had a ball making fun of them. I was actually pretty impressed by the play of some of the ladies in the tourney too. Sharp players who knew the math and knew when to go into academy award mode in order to milk the table for max chips when they had the nuts. It was a fun weekend and I’ll definitely go back for future Click2Asia tourneys, but it will be more for the fun of that casual relaxed poker scene than hopes of actually doing well in the tourney. That will all come down to dumb luck.