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Sickness

Max, 2011/04/30 

Andrew Sullivan, despite running a great blog with plenty of thoughtful commentary, often holds positions I disagree with vehemently. What I love, though, is that he publishes dissenting positions sent in by his readers that are often articulate and quite prescient. Here’s one disagreeing with Sullivan’s position on state lotteries:

You wrote, “No one is forced to play the lottery.” True. Nor is anyone ever forced to take that first hit of heroin. Direct narcotics sales by the government could go a long way toward resolving our state and federal budgetary issues – hell, you yourself support decriminalization of at least some drugs – so why not get the government involved in those businesses too?

As a former professional card counter (I’ve been turfed from over 100 casinos in 16 states and wrote a recent book on the subject), I know more than I wish I knew about the psyche of gamblers and the spirit in which gambling revenues are generated. The business is dirty almost beyond conception.

Yes, blackjack professionals get a tad bitter because we’re treated like criminals for the simple act of playing, with an objectionably high skill level, the sole beatable game. But when you find yourself surrounded by armed guards for the non-crime of gambling in a gambling hall, you begin to see that casino management has not even the least of shred of interest in a fair and balanced gaming environment. Their job is to beat fish out of the money, period.

And then you start looking around to the fish. You see the midnight zombies with their waning stores of cash and the anguish in their postures and faces. One way to get in trouble as a card counter is to inadvertently exchange one of these “ah-ha” smirks with the bosses when a compulsive sits down at the table. The bosses all know something about their little industry. They laugh about it – perhaps because to consider it seriously and with compassion would make them either crazy or out of a job. But spend the time in casinos that I’ve spent, observe the amazing frequency of clearly unhinged people steaming on, desperately toward ruin, with no one to help them – in fact with all their supposed buddies on the casino staff conspiring to assure their continued destructive behavior – and you won’t be able to help yourself. You’ll loathe this fucking industry.

Not to say that it ought to be outlawed. But when the Oregon state lottery is shown to derive over half its profits from a troubled minority of citizens spending $500 or more each month, when the government-run casinos in Ontario are shown to depend on gambling-related mental illness for fully a third of their revenues, I find it difficult to ignore that predation is essential to the industry.

And that’s why as a citizen I refuse to have any part of it. I don’t want my government turning fellow Americans into fish. Keep the industry private. Let the scum deal in scum.

This reminds me of a guy that I used to work with about 20 years ago when we were both ‘vacuum operators’ depositing thin films on glass used for laser manufacture. He was extremely high-strung, often manic and irritable. These were bad traits for our task because it required steady hands and intense focus for up to an entire 8 hour shift. The operator had to peer into the chamber manipulating a heat beam to essentially cook the material that was being evaporated in a steady and even pattern. One slip and the run was destroyed and you had to start over.

My co-worker was usually manic over his latest gambling exploits, or else extremely depressed and wanted to tear your head off. Once he told me, when I took over his shift, that he was heading off to Reno to hit it big. There was a gleam of confidence in his eye. I never saw him again. He failed to show up for work the next day and we later found out he’d driven his motorcycle off the road into a ravine on the way home from a presumably less than successful evening.

I’ve told my own, likely somewhat apocryphal story of my gambling history many times; how I invested a nickle in a gas station slot machine, got two nickles back, and immediately retired a winner, never to gamble again. This happened long before I met my unfortunate friend. I’ve also never bought a lottery ticket. I have the seed of many vices in my genes but fortunately not that one. Obviously, a huge percentage of the population does bear this affliction, and I pity them for it. I, like the dissenter above, loathe the pitiless pushers who expand this human misery for profit and agree government should have nothing to do with it.

Out, damn’d spot.

byronius, 2011/04/29 

It’s long been evident that whatever Republicans accuse others of doing, that’s what Republicans are doing. What are Republicans doing?

Death Panels. Destruction of the moral fabric of the nation. Lying and cheating and stealing and back-dealing, and longing for Power to Force Their Way Upon The World.

Axiomatic.

Kiss Me Kate!

SkyHarbor, 2011/04/28 

Of course, that musical was based on Bill Shakespeare’s comedic “The Taming of The Shrew”

The world gathers in London for a Royal Wedding… and I wish those kids WELL, what a strange life they’ve gotten themselves into!

Oddly, it is the Americans who have become so obsessed with this! Clearly, we’ve never really gotten over our obsession with ‘royalty’. William and Kate are a lovely couple to be sure… but what does it all mean?

What does Great Britain have? It is our Mother nation. For better and worse, we have a ‘special relationship’. “Never have two peoples been so divided by a common language” (Churchill?)

The closest we’ve come to ‘royalty’ was the ‘Camelot’ of Jack and Jackie Kennedy. And yet this nation was born to explicitly negate the concept of ‘royalty’. But we still yearn for it!

The ‘Royals’ provide a sense of stability. They have little actual power, and yet provoke reverence. I think England and indeed the world will profit somewhat from these kids… slowly ‘fading out’ of the ‘royal’ thing and into a more ‘people’ thing. I hope so.

Congratulations William and Katherine!

Twister!

SkyHarbor,  

America’s South just got CREAMED by an historic spate of tornadoes last night and this morning. The fatalities are around 300. THREE HUNDRED!

I’ve seen some small twisters in Arizona, but NOTHING like an EF-4 EF-5! Tornadoes that big simply OBLITERATE anything in their path… and today, northern Alabama got OBLITERATED.

There was plenty to go around… Mississippi, Georgia and even Tennessee ALSO got slammed.

To those flat-earthers who deny the down-side effects of global warming, well they are DEAD wrong. When we inject additional heat into the atmosphere, storms are ‘enhanced’ (eg: horrendous).

While I tend to denigrate the American South, NOBODY deserves THIS! When you hear a freight train coming through your living room, you KNOW there’s a serious problem!

I find it a bit specious to ask “have you ever seen a storm this bad?”… If they HAD, they’d be DEAD.

If you’ve ever seen a tornado like THIS… a MILE WIDE! My GOD!

Ice… it is sooo Cold!…

SkyHarbor,  

The Ice 9 effect:

As I had promised/threatened in the John Whitney: Matrix III posting, I’ve begun investigating the possibilities of animating some of my ‘functional geometry’ work… As it so turns, it CAN be done… albeit with freaking DAYS of computer number crunching!

Could it BE? Slicy Icy Rhomboids on Parade?

read more…

Ten Ways Cheney Can Kill You.

byronius, 2011/04/27 

Cheney!

Max was here to record last night, and we ended up in one of our standard conversational whorls, this one involving conflict and mediation, world war one death machines vs. meditation, etc. Max suggested that even though his body has left the New World, his spirit remains, and that my constant posts celebrating the machinery of mass death were objectionable, and not to be found on any of the more enlightened forums he’s now off dabbling in, looking for some sort of scottish spiritual surcease, blah blah blah whatever.

After he’d downed the last bottle of Maker’s Mark in an attempt to grow his testicles back (they’d apparently been meditated to berries) and sing the last chorus like the hyper-masculine planet his character calls for, his spiritual tone changed somewhat, and he told me a cautionary and whiskey-related story about someone who once woke up in his front yard in his underwear thirty minutes before his boss arrived to pick him up for work. I’m sure we all remember that guy.

And so, in support of such remasculinization, I remind Max that, while some inner spiritual balance is absolutely necessary, such activities do not prepare you in the event that you face The Dick, and his large bag of murderous tricks.

You’ll wish you had a big tank then, lemmetellya.

And of course I’m joking about the berry thing. MacKinnons have always been known for their overly large junk, and rumor has it that cutting it all off only makes it grow back even bigger, and so that’s not going to be a problem.

Badass.

byronius, 2011/04/26 

Crownie!

Everywhere this guy’s name is mentioned in the histories, he’s either beating back superior forces or organizing counter-attacks or penetrating deep into France. It reads like a sane Patton. If you know what I mean.

He was a monarchist-progressive, intelligent and far-seeing, a very strange, rare, and now disappeared breed. The Bavarians loved him, and even after Bavaria became a Republic, seventy percent of the population supported his return to the monarchy.

Rupprecht was born in Munich, the eldest son of Ludwig III, the last King of Bavaria, and of Archduchess Maria Theresia of Austria-Este, niece of Duke Francis V of Modena. He was the eldest of thirteen children. His early education from the age of seven was conducted by Freiherr Rolf Kreusser, an Anglo-Bavarian. In his youth, he spent considerable time at Schloß Leutstetten, Starnberg, and at the family’s villa near Lindau, Lake Constance, where he was able to develop a keen interest in sports. His education was traditional and conservative, but he became the first member of the royal house of Bavaria to spend time at a public school, when he was educated at the Maximilian-Gymnasium in Munich, where he spent four years. Apart from his schooling and his training in horse riding and dancing, he was also obliged to learn a trade. His choice fell to carpentry.

………………………..

He commanded the German Sixth Army at the outbreak of World War I in Lorraine. While part of the German army was participating in the Schlieffen plan, the Crown Prince led his troops on to the Battle of Lorraine. The appointment to command of the Sixth Army was as a result of his royalty, but the level of study he had performed before he took command was a factor behind his successful direction of the Sixth Army, and he proved to be a highly able commander.

Rupprecht achieved the rank of field marshal (Generalfeldmarschall) in July 1916 and assumed command of Army Group Rupprecht on 28 August that year, consisting of the 1st, 2nd, 6th and 7th Army. Rupprecht has been considered by some to be one of the best Royal commanders in the Imperial German Army of World War I, possibly even the only one to deserve his command.

………………..

He was never enticed to join the far right in Germany, despite Hitler’s attempts to win him over through Ernst Röhm and promises of royal restoration. Hitler confided in private to a personal dislike of the Crown Prince. The Crown Prince in turn confessed to King George V at a lunch in London in the summer of 1934 that he considered Hitler to be insane.

Rupprecht was forced into exile in Italy in December 1939 (the last straw being the confiscation of Schloß Leutstetten by the Nazis) where he stayed as a guest of King Victor Emmanuel, residing mostly in Florence. He and his family were barred from returning to Germany. He continued to harbor the idea of the restoration of the Bavarian monarchy, in a possible union with Austria as an independent Southern Germany. In a memorandum in May 1943, he voiced his opinion that Germany would be completely defeated in the war and hoped to spare the German people from the worst when the Nazi regime finally fell. He even mentioned his ambition for the German crown, which had been held by the House of Wittelsbach in the past.

…………………..

In October 1944, when Germany occupied Hungary, Rupprecht’s wife and children were captured, while he, still in Italy, evaded arrest. They were first imprisoned in the Sachsenhausen concentration camp at Oranienburg, Brandenburg. In April 1945 they were moved to the Dachau concentration camp, where they were liberated by the United States Army. Crown Princess Antoinette never recovered completely from the captivity, and died a few years later in Switzerland, having vowed never to return to Germany after her ordeal. She was buried in Rome but her heart was, complying with Wittelsbach tradition, enshrined in the Gnadenkapelle (Chapel of the Miraculous Image) at Altötting.

……………………

Upon his death in 1955 at Schloss Leutstetten at the age of eighty-six, he was treated like a deceased monarch, receiving a state funeral.

The Other Bavarian.

You know, not Bruno.

PS: I have trouble with the breed of sentimentality that would have someone cut out a dead woman’s heart and bury it elsewhere. WTF is that? Holy corpse-mutilation, Batman.

Monsters.

byronius, 2011/04/22 

The Mark V. The Renault F-17. St. Chamonds. Schneiders. Sturmpanzerwagen A-7 V Mephisto. The tanks of World War One fascinate me. Ernest Swinton, Jean-Baptiste Estienne, Winston Churchill, George Patton — these were the main characters at the very edge of a technological development that would affect modern warfare forever.

The sight of the British Matilda topping a trench was probably the most frightening thing a German soldier would ever see, a horror of technology that meant certain death. We see them as ungainly, ancient, and fragile, but to the WWI trench-bound, the first tanks were pure science fiction.

What was he thinking?

Max, 2011/04/21 

romney

Mitt Romney Haunted By Past Of Trying To Help Uninsured Sick People

BELMONT, MA—Though Mitt Romney is considered to be a frontrunner for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination, the national spotlight has forced him to repeatedly confront a major skeleton in his political closet: that as governor of Massachusetts he once tried to help poor, uninsured sick people.

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Will he recover from this unspeakable crime?

Blame It All On Mary Jane.

byronius, 2011/04/20 

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