Sunday, December 31, 2017

The Coming @$!*&$%!, 2018

Alternative Title:  What Good is a $1000 Bonus if you’ve Been Laid Off?

I really wasn’t sure what noun to use in place of the “@$!*&$%!” in the title.  Depression?  Collapse?  Armageddon?  Shitstorm??  I was looking for something that conveys a worrisome time – and this was when I was actually more optimistic about the upcoming year.

No, really.  I tried very hard to be optimistic, and in the short run, I suppose things are looking up.  We’re hoping 2018 is what 2017 was supposed to be – we sell the business, retire, build and then move into a new home.  And while it’s true that we’ve been looking forward to retirement for some time, recent events make it clear that once we hand off the business to a new owner, we damn well better retire because the job market ain’t lookin’ so hot.

Sure, sure, I know what you’re about to say – what about that “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act” that the GOP just passed.

Do not make me laugh.

I am currently reading Rise of the Robots by Martin Ford.  It’s scary stuff about how automation is not just making many blue collar jobs disappear, but as technology improves, it’s white collar, high tech, high-end jobs that are vanishing, too.  I’ve known about how automation can reshape an industry – as a former radio DJ, I realize that damn near everything today on-air is digital, including the jock.  Live DJ’s are as rare as 45s.  Or albums.  Or hell, CDs.

And who isn’t familiar with ATM’s?  Now just for cash – many race tracks have fewer ticket windows and more self-serve betting machines.  Casinos with poker rooms are replacing live dealers with automated tables.  Vending machines nowadays dispense all kinds of foods (hot, cold, frozen), and many non-food items.  Self-serve checkouts.  Self-serve ordering kiosks.  Roombas.  No people, no jobs…just machines.

You only need pick up a newspaper (where many articles are actually written by computers) and see where many companies (including ones bragging about handing out bonuses just recently after the aforementioned “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act”) are either laying off hundreds or thousands of workers, or planning to in the coming year.  There is even a website where you can learn all about new layoffs, all the time.  Layoffs in steel, healthcare, and, of course, manufacturing.   Ford, Microsoft, Boeing, GE, Kraft, AT&T, and Carrier - layoffs galore.  Not creating jobs – eliminating them.

This is nothing new.  Job creation ever since the Great Recession has been steady, but it’s mainly low-to-mid paying jobs in the service sector.  Few jobs in manufacturing.  This year, despite the self-congratulatory prose from Trump, looks to be the lowest year for new job creation since 2010.

BTW – very few products with any kind of “Trump” branding – ties, jewelry, water, vodka, suits, etc – is made in the USA.  Just sayin’ is all.

Combine automation with off-shoring, and it means fewer jobs for Americans.  And that’s the wave of the future.  Why would companies do this?  To make more money.  You can easily see that the future looks dim for everyone but the very rich, those already secure in their largess.  More and more jobs will become automated – skilled jobs, service jobs, tech jobs, white collar jobs, all sorts of jobs that can be handles by a robot or algorithm; not just the manufacturing section.  Of course, to implement more automation, corporations would need a very large infusion of cash.

Where, oh where, could they get such an infusion?  Why, the “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act,” of course.


Well, like I said, it’s nothing I have to worry about.  After all, I am looking forward to retirement, and as long as the GOP and Trump keep their grubby mitts off Social Security and Medicare, I am set for life.


Happy New Year, everyone.  Buckle up.

Friday, December 22, 2017

And Now Watch What Happens (Tax Reform Edition)

"...and they believed me when I said everyone benefits!"
This is one of those “though experiment” things that I like to do.  In this case, it’s to illustrate what’s REALLY going on with the so-called “Tax Cut and Jobs Act” a.k.a. “GOP Tax Heist.”  Trumpkins are already calling the largest tax modification in decades a, “boon to the economy” (even though it won’t take effect until 2018).  More sane Americans are calling it what it is – the scam of the Century (and remember that we’ve already had the BIG Bush tax giveaway to the rich earlier).

Corporate America is also reacting to the new tax laws – many big firms like AT&T, Comcast, Boeing, Wells Fargo, and others – are giving $1,000 bonuses and promising pay raises to their employees.  This is seen as a big deal, proof that the GOP knows what’s best for the economy.  In the case of AT&T, that’s a thousand bucks to more than 200,000 employees.  That would be a total handout of more than $200 million (200,000x1000).  Keep that in mind for a minute.

So here’s the thought experiment.  Say you’re about to come into some money.  With almost no strings attached.  It’s yours to keep, but…as you’re being given this money you are surrounded by your brother, sister, a couple of cousins, four neighbors, and a couple of school chums – ten people in total.   And that’s the only string – you have to give 10% of what you get to the others, to be divided up evenly (effectively 1% to each).  You keep 90% and give 10% to the others - or you can’t have any of it.

  • So if you get $10, you get $9 and they get $1 to split (10 cents each).  Big deal – you might just say, “forget it.”
  • If you get $1,000, you have to give them $100 ($10 each).  You still keep $900…yeah, maybe.
  • Say you get a million.  $900 grand for you, $100K for them ($10,000 each).  Sure, why not – you’ve still got life-changing money in $900,000.
  • Upping the ante one more time – you get $100 million.  Ten percent is $10 million, making everyone a millionaire, and you – you’re now part of the richest 1%.  You wouldn’t even have to think about it.  Give the 10% - hell, you could give a lot more – and you’re still rolling in more dough than 99% will ever see in a lifetime.

By the way – AT&T had a profit last year of $13 Billion.  And $200 million is just 1.5% of that. 

Oh, and did you know AT&T paid NO federal tax in 2011?  In fact, they received a refund of more than $400 million (they’ve paid modest federal taxes since then, but nowhere near their profits).  And it’s not surprising to learn that many other big firms pay little to nothing in taxes – in fact, some pay their CEO’s more than they pay in taxes.

Remind me – why are we giving these already-hugely-profitable and sitting-on-wads-of-cash corporations MORE money?  Oh, that’s right – to create jobs.

And how many CEO’s are talking about creating more jobs with their new found windfalls? Hahahahahahahahahahahahaha!  Unemployment is low, manufacturing jobs are going overseas (or to Mexico – see “Carrier”).   Just 14% of CEOs in a recent survey say they plan to sink money into capital investments that might create jobs.  You know damn well what the other 86% think about their government hand-out.  Even if they won’t say it.

Here’s the thing - to me, all of this bonus and pay hike talk is “nice” but it’s merely window dressing.  Public relations.  Propaganda, even.  You know right-wing groups plan to spend millions more to put lipstick on this pig put together a public relations campaign to make the new tax laws more “attractive.”  As of now, it’s one of the least popular tax CUTS in history – even more unpopular than some tax HIKES.

That sucks, bigly.

Face it - almost all that money is going to the richest corporations and the richest individuals.  Take Sheldon Adelson – please.  Seriously, with his tax SAVINGS, he could give every individual in America – every man, woman, and child – nearly fifty bucks (he’s saving more than $14 BILLION).  He and the big corporations have plenty of money to toss around like this...when J&J Plumbing and the local candy store start passing out bonuses and pay hikes, then I will believe that the tax plan is for everyone.   Until then, this is just enough chicken feed to keep people from really thinking about what a screw job this is gonna be.

PS:   Many of you know that I own a small business, and I've run my own numbers with the information that's been released on this tax plan.  There are no $1,000 bonuses planned for any of our staff, I can assure you - not because I don't want to, but the tax plan offers little incentive (and even less cash) to do this.  And I will hire more people when I need to because there are more people wanting to buy ice cream, not because I got a tax cut.  Besides, $900 will only go so far.

Sunday, October 1, 2017


This used to be a disc jockey's best friend.
Radio peeps will get the reference immediately (well, the ones older than 30); for those of you left wondering about the title and the pic – here’s the explanation (and how it relates to today’s post comes a bit later).  Back before everything went digital, radio jingles and commercials were recorded on these continuous loop cartridges, or “carts.”  The cart would be recorded with the ad AND a silent tone that told the cart when to stop once it played, essentially “re-cueing” itself to start all over again.

We’ve been re-cued.

Back in May I wrote about how we had a shitload of stuff going down.  Besides running the ice cream parlor for another year (that’s 17 now), we were also in the process of selling the business AND building a home on our retirement property in Warren.  The way things were supposed to play out, by now we’d have a buyer for the store and our home would be close to completion, and we’d be moving soon to start a new chapter in our lives.

Instead, we’re starting over from last year.

We did not sell the store…yet.  We’re pretty much back to where we were six months ago, except we have fewer folks interested and we’ve lost those six months (and a few dollars in legal fees).  We had a number of interested parties, and one in particular that had a keen interest, but...well, because of confidentiality rules and all, I can’t talk about it.  But nothing happened, essentially.

And that’s what happened with the new modular house…nothing.  Almost nothing, anyway.  While I can talk about this, I really don’t want to, as I still have a bad taste in my mouth.  We had drawings back in May and a schedule that tied in with our general contractor (doing work on the land, prep for the house, etc.), our solar contractor (to put rooftop solar system in place once the house was set), and the bank (which was to finance the whole shootin’ match for a bit until we sold the business to pay it all off).

What should have happened was blueprints, approval of same, loan, build, deliver, finish, solar, move in.  What did happen was…delay, delay, problem, delay, delay.  And all during the delay was the worst level of communication (or non-communication, if you will) that we’ve encountered in a professional capacity.  By August we had no faith that this project was EVER to be completed, and we’d missed all of our available windows for the contractor and the bank (the solar folks were behind so they didn’t mind the fact that we weren’t ready for them.  Or so they said.).

So we cancelled the house.  Given the fact that back in May I was already saying (in this blog) that “…deadlines come and go,” I shouldn’t be surprised that this fell apart.  Also, given that we didn’t sell the business and most likely will be running the store for at least part of 2018, I’m kinda glad this project is on hold for now.

We will build, but with a different company.  We’re doing some research now as to who and what, but we do know that the WHEN won’t be until we sell the store.  We’re moving forward with the sale – we’ve expanded our outreach (where we’re advertising it) and even though fall is the slow season for businesses like ours, we’re hopeful we’ll find a buyer.

It’s amazing that I can even use that word, “hopeful.”  September was a rough month for us – we ended our season a week early (ran out of ice cream sooner than we thought), but that was OK as we were near exhaustion and running on fumes.  THAT caught up with us – Mona got a horrible cold, as did I, and mine turned into bronchitis, so our annual clean up of the store once closed has been on hold for most of the month (we just got back into cleaning up last Friday).  We were also dealing with cutting our house contract (we lawyered up again, and he did the job), and wrapping up our dealings with the potential store buyer (and technically the lawyering is still going on a bit – one last piece of paper needed to say “sayonara” for good).

And the rest of the world seemed like it’s been re-cued, too.  We are still battling to keep the ACA from being overturned.  We’re still working in Pennsylvania and Michigan (and elsewhere) to make online gaming legal.  We’re still fighting for justice in so many damn places.  It can be terribly depressing to have to start over personally when so many other aspects of life are also ostensibly on hold, not progressing…stalled….stuck.

Nevertheless, we’re hitting “play” again.  The show must go on.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Why No, I Haven’t Written Much Lately

Yes, I’ve been busy.  I’m about to be even more so, as today marks the beginning of the summer tourist season.  Traditionally, I write a final pre-season post and say goodbye for the summer, so to speak.  Once the tourists are gone in September, I return with a flourish.  Since I started this post several weeks ago, it’s now turned into that post. 

Yeah, I haven’t written much lately.  It’s certainly not from a lack of material to write about.

For example, take President Trump.  Please.  There has been so much one could discuss.  I’ve considered it several times, but, just as I start up the ol’ laptop, another bombshell hits and attention is diverted to the chaos du jour. 

There are two reasons I don’t talk about Trump – one, many others do it far better and with more vitriol than I (see: “100 Days 100 Horrors” here), and more importantly, it’s preaching to the saved.  The 36% who still see him as Making America Great Again see nothing wrong here.  Two recent quotes (from Facebook comments) are telling:

“Trump has done more in his first three months than Obama did in eight years!”

“Never, never in my lifetime seen a President be scrutinized over every word he speaks, humiliated by the public, insulted, lied to…Every other President after they got in office were left alone…”

It’s just a different reality, I guess.  Oh, BTW, the election was six months ago and yes, we’re well over that.  What we’re not over is what’s going on now.  THAT’S what is pissing us off.  Just sayin’.  See “100 Days 100 Horrors” here.

Anyway, as the “well-oiled machine” turns into a “dumpster fire” into a “train wreck” and is now in “full-blown Hindenburg,” we’ll all wait to see what happens.  I know where my money is.  Hello, President Pence (ick).

I could be writing about the ongoing battle to restore online poker to its pre-Black Friday glory.  In 2013, three states legislated legal and regulated online gaming and poker.  And we still only have three states.  We push ahead and contact legislators in the various states that show interest in moving forward (California seems like a dream to us now), but…progress here is very, very slow.  There have been signs of life lately in PA and NY, but…well, we’ll see once summer is over.  Perhaps I will return to a much different online landscape.

And speaking of slow progress…the real reason I’ve written hardly at all.

I mentioned at the beginning of the year that I was optimistic about 2017, and that was because we had a lot going on.  That’s one reason there haven’t been many words scribed to this blog – we’ve been involved.  Running the business, selling the business, building a house – all of that at the same time.  It’s kept us very busy, but, sadly, there’s been little real progress.  Like watching glaciers melt.  We wanted to get a lot of the paperwork and decision making out of the way before we started the busy part of the tourist season.

Fat chance.

I realize designers and contractors and bankers are busy people, and they have many other things on their plate.  But the thing that gets me is that I never hear back from them when I ask a question or inquire as to the status of our project.  Deadlines come and go.  “Life stuff” comes up and gets in the way (some of it has been legit, so I am only half-complaining here). Remember how email and cellphones were supposed to speed things up and make communication fast and effortless?  Apparently that’s not true if you never look at your email and never answer your phone.  Who knew?

All I know is that the next person who tells me “I’ll have something to you by Friday” gets it right between the eyes.

But here’s the best part of all this – work, house, selling the biz – I write this knowing that it’s gonna get worse (busier) before it gets better, but I also know that most likely this will be the LAST TIME we do this.

We hope.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

The Descent of the Locusts

I am 64 and a half, almost exactly.  And I have a target on my back.  If you’ve already 65 and been through this, feel free to chuckle, reminisce, grab a beverage and go to the next item on your list.  But you youngsters (64 and under)…pay attention.

The target I speak of is actually a bit lower than that – say, about wallet-height.  Because in just three short months, I will be able to sign up for Medicare, which means that I will be “eligible” to spend a shitload of money on “supplemental insurance” to cover the gaps in the “insurance” that I supposedly have already paid for with payroll deductions over the course of the last 53 years (I started work at age 11).

I am a hot commodity, for sure.  So far, since the golden date (exactly 6 months before my birthday), I have averaged 5.2 calls per day, and 3 mailers.  It’s only gonna get worse from here.

Now, no one is trying to sell me anything.  They all say that.  Seriously.  I know the tell-tale sign of a predictive dialer – that empty sound when you answer the phone and say, “Hello?” and hear nothing for about seven seconds and then the unmistakable sound of a phone-bank in the background while “Sharon from XXX” comes on and mangles your name.  You tell them “Sorry, no solicitors,” and they ALWAYS say, “Mr. Eckenjer we’re not selling anything we just want to be sure you have all the information you need to make an informed choice regarding your Medicare options including Part D and Medigap coverage and did you know Mr. Essenkar that millions of Americans will not have enough to pay for even the simplest medical care that Medicare doesn’t provide for and with…”

Except what it sounds like is

Not selling anything.  Riiiiiiiiight.

They are persistent.  On the first day, we let messages go to the answering machine (as we were involved in the kitchen.  Making lunch…I’m 64, remember?).  One company called NINE times.  They are unflappable.  I told one guy he was the 19th caller in the last four days, and he said, “Well, let me hang up and call you right back so I can be caller number twenty.”  They are…a pain in the ass.

And when you tell them, “I’ve already taken care of this, thanks for calling,” they act like the Energizer bunny and keep…on…going.  Until you hang up, and even then, I’m not certain.

I am also pissed at the whole scheme of things, having to sign up for Part D insurance now even though I only have one very low-priced prescription. I am pissed because
(a)  Drug prices may rise (May?  Who the hell are we kidding?).
(b)  I might not only have one prescription in the future.  Mona has three, and she’s YOUNGER than I am and in better health overall.  Well, except for the drugs.
(c)  If I don’t sign up now, and decide to pick a plan later, I’ll be changed a penalty for EVERY MONTH I failed to sign up prior…for EVERY MONTH I decide to be on the plan.  If I live a long time (and I plan on it), I could pay another shitload of month just for the insurance to pay for the drugs I might take.
(d)  Marijuana isn’t covered.  Shit.

I might return to this topic at a later date.  Depends on whether the drugs kick in.

Saturday, April 1, 2017


Hey man, want some hippie lettuce?
In a shocking reveal today, casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson announced the disbandment of his Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling.  Adelson noted the continued closing of many poker rooms in Las Vegas as a sign that poker needed new blood, and stated, “There’s no better way to attract new players than to introduce them to the electronic felt.”  Adelson said he’ll make haste to get an online presence soon.

When asked if his Sands Corporation would look to buy or merge with one of the existing players like PokerStars, or built its own online site, Adelson startled reporters by revealing that they has already designed a new Internet gaming site.  It’s ready to launch “…just as soon as my buddy Trump signs a new Executive Order legalizing online poker in 49 of the 50 states.’  It appears that Utah will be the lone state where poker is NOT allowed, though the E.O. has a unique sub-clause that allows for the development of new, much-stronger networking of Internet wi-fi systems in Idaho.

When asked if his original “concern for the children,” one of his original driving factors for creating CSIG, Adelson scoffed.  “You know, eventually some 7-year-old is gonna find Dad’s iPhone and log in and start to play, but when the little punk gets his pocket jacks snapped and loses a wad, he’ll learn a valuable lesson.  That’s life.”

In a related statement, Miriam Adelson, Sheldon’s spouse, announced the closing of the Miriam & Sheldon G. Adelson Clinic for Drug Abuse in Tel Aviv, and the opening of a chain of “Uncle Shelly’s Weed ‘n’ Feed” stores in states where recreational marijuana is legal.  Adelson said he especially wants to set up shops in Nevada, where he sees a good fit with legal online poker and legal dope.  “Hey, it’s just the thing when you get your pocket jacks snapped.  Light up a doobie and rebuy.”

Adelson also noted that former right-hand man Andy Abboud is already scouting for “Weed ‘n’ Feed” locations in Las Vegas.  Adelson sent Abboud out about three weeks ago with a large bundle of cash and about 15 ½ pounds of sample product. “Strangely, Andy hasn’t checked in lately,” Adelson pondered. “Maybe he lost his cell phone again.”

Thursday, March 9, 2017

The Future of Online Poker – Four Years Later, Part Two

In my last post, I was talking about the future of online gambling.  I made heavy emphasis to Zynga and all of the other “social gaming” that takes place on laptops and mobile devices worldwide.  It’s a $3-billion-plus industry and growing…but it’s not the be-all and end-all of online gaming here in the US.  At least, I hope not.

I said in Part One that we need to look at England and I hinted at where else to look for something that will finally bring online gaming where it should be in the 21st Century – legal, available, regulated, and fun.

Why can’t we be like the English?  The link I referenced above (and here for you who are too lazy to scroll up) states that, in a recent survey, almost half of all respondents said they had gambled in some form or fashion in the last month.  More women are gambling than before, and in another survey, younger punters(18-24) showed an increase, too.  The report also cited an uptick in those gambling on a mobile device.  The UK has a very well regulated gaming industry, and that includes the online component.  All gambling is controlled by just ONE national commission, although there’s plenty of different ways to gamble, just like here in the US.

One of the most popular and long-running gambles are the football (soccer) pools.  As Wikipedia states, “The pools are typically cheap to enter, with the potential to win a very large sum of money.”  There are more than 1,000 betting shops in London alone, and the football betting market is estimated to be worth about 650 million pounds (about $800 million US).  Most Englanders love to gamble, and the government makes an effort to provide those who do with a safe and legal gaming environment.  Face it – gambling is accepted and ubiquitous in the UK.  And rightly so.

How so very different than here, where so-called “guardians of morality” protest lotteries as a “tax on the poor” and local casinos are “predatory.”  And we all know who decries online gaming as a scourge – “think of the children, click on a mouse and lose your house.”  That this hypocrite obtains his vast wealth from gambling – the very industry that he chastises in a different form – is repulsive.

Yes, it’s Sheldon Adelson I’m talking about.

Adelson may be the biggest hypocrite about gambling, but he’s certainly not alone, and that’s why the state of online gambling is where it is.  It seems that most who have a say in the matter know there’s an absolute shitpile of money that can be made – but no one wants to do much sharing.  So we putter along in dribs and drabs…a couple of states launch online casinos and poker rooms, and then Sheldon starts his CSIG.  Daily Fantasy Sports suddenly explode on the scene, and then just as suddenly they have their own “Black Friday.”  DFS is making a bit of a comeback, as many states are changing their laws to allow DFS; however, some other states are going in the other direction, prohibiting it just as they do other online gambling.

So is DFS the future of online gaming?  Well, not quite.  I alluded to this in my last post.  I said, “Look at the top left-corner of your PokerStars app.  That’s a clue…”  See it there – Fantasy Sports.  That’s the clue.  But it’s not DFS that will bring the USA in line with the UK and into a modern age where gambling is seen, like in England, as something completely natural, fun, AND legal.

It’s sports betting. 

Actually betting on the game, not some made-up lineup in a make-believe world.  If you’re a fan of Daily Fantasy Sports, well, that’s just great, but face it – DFS is a poor substitute for REAL sports wagering.  Kinda like Zynga is a poor substitute for PokerStars (the way it was, anyway).  DFS took off because it was available – the only thing going – the only game in town.  If you had a choice, would you spend your time and money coming up with fantasy drafts or just root, root, root for the home team…to cover the spread?  I thought so.

Again, look at the UK.  DraftKings and FanDuel are finally up and running as of last summer there, but they are a pale shadow to the amount of $$$ that goes into the traditional pools.  Google “DFS in UK” and you get a furniture store, not gambling.

There is some positive movement that maybe, just maybe, we’ll shuck our Victorian ways on this.  It’s no secret than NBA Commissioner Adam Silver is a proponent of betting on games.  He’s been consistent on this for the last few years.  Just last month MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said it was it's time for Major League Baseball to give "fresh consideration" to legalized sports betting.  It’s no secret that MLB, the NBA, NFL and NHL are all participating in advertising and sponsorships with Daily Fantasy Sports.  So is betting on games the next logical step?

The American Gaming Association thinks so.  They’ve called it a “perfect storm” and are lobbying Washington to make it happen.  They even think Donald Trump is the man to make it so, and he took a cautious approach to subject when asked about it on his Super Bowl Fox interview.

I’ve long said that once the NFL figures out how to get 3% of the take on sports betting, they’ll give it their stamp of approval.  Hell, if they get 3% of damn near anything they’re likely to say AOK.  It’s always about the money.

So while there’s some excitement in the online poker advocacy world that we might DOUBLE the number of states offering iPoker from three to six with NY, PA, and MI (and that’s only a hope, remember), that only leaves 44 more to go.  And you can play DFS in Utah (does Chaffetz know that?) – so let that be a beacon shining a bit of clarity as to what it’s gonna take to make online gambling a reality here.

This is how it will happen.  I don’t know how soon…it might be in the next four years, maybe not.  At some point, Americans will quit caring how other people spend their time and money and let that which is regulated and controlled be, even if they don’t wish to participate.  Tobacco.  Liquor.  Gambling.  Gay marriage.  Marijuana (getting there…and Utah might NOT be the last holdout).  Hard to fathom that of all of these, gambling is the last thing the Puritans hang on to.  But it’s not about what’s right and what’s not – it’s about the money.

Always has been.

Monday, March 6, 2017

The Future of Online Poker – Four Years Later, Part One

Four years ago I penned a 3-part series about the “State of Poker.”  Because I cross-post to Facebook, one of the articles popped up as a “memory” and I shared it over the weekend, saying
Consider Zynga and PokerStars, and ask yourself this - of those two, which one has made themselves look more like the other one? I was right four years ago.”

Well, partially right.

The rationale for such a series was that we were starting to see the first state-sanctioned Internet poker rooms approved for Delaware, New Jersey and Nevada.  It had been almost two years since “Black Friday,” and the initial wave of states moving forward with regulated online poker was seen by some, including me, as the “first step” in revitalizing what was a phenomenon of the digital felt.

The three parts – The Future (of Online Poker) Looks (1) Great, (2) Scary, and (3) Predictable described the scene as of four years ago.  No one could be absolutely sure what to expect – whereas in the Golden Age (seven years prior) PokerStars and Full Tilt has tens of thousands of players around the world at thousands of tables at every stakes imaginable, the three states no doubt would start much smaller.  They all had their handicaps, including the fact that every new online casino/poker room had to tie in with an existing casino in NV and NJ, a fact I decried at the time (what online casino needs 200 hotel rooms, anyway?).  But like all decisions political, it all came down to emoheneewhy – MONEY – and states took the richest (for them) path.  At the time, anyway.  Besides, we in the poker community thought thusly – as more states jump online, the poker boom will return, post-haste.

And then there was Sheldon. 

Seeing the return of online competition, Uncle Moneybags and his Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling was launched, with the intent of stopping and reversing the meager progress i-poker had made.   We’ve seen no reversal, but as for progress?

We still have three states online.  That’s all.

Sure, others have written bills and passed bills through one side of their legislatures or the other, but as of now, no other state has what NV, NJ, and DE has.  We might see Pennsylvania, or New York, or Michigan, or maybe one of the dark horse states like Massachusetts (or hell could freeze over and California could pass a bill).  We could also see another sneak attack in Washington and find that Congress has tacked on Sheldon’s RAWA or something like it in the middle of the night to a must-pass bill, or AG Sessions could undermine the DOJ’s 2011 ruling and reverse it, putting online poker in limbo…or worse.

And let me stop and correct myself.  No matter what Congress or Sessions does, online poker will continue.

Just not the consumer-protected, tax-revenued kind. 

Off-shore sites like America’s Cardroom and Full Flush (and others of their ilk) will continue, as will social sites with cashless (free) games like Zynga, WSOP, Governor of Poker, Jackpot Poker, etc.  And it’s Zynga and other social media games that I’d like to focus on here.  Because that’s (sadly) the future of online poker.  To a degree.

You see, people want entertainment.  Poker can be entertaining when you play for real money, and many (self included) believe this.  The idea that a cash game or tournament was a click away brought many basement/country club poker players to the electronic tables to play with (and largely, lose to) the sharks.  Black Friday took care of what remaining fish there were, leaving the sharks and larger fish to fend for themselves in the back-waters of off-shore sites.

But the fish “survived.”  A few took their “new found skills” to live poker rooms, where they experienced a new kind of thrill.  Most went to the cash-less games – some to ad-based sites like NLOP, but many flocked to free games like Zynga, the largest poker room in the world.

What is it about Zynga that attracts players?  It’s certainly not prize money – there isn’t any.  No real prizes, too – just bragging rights for a variety of “challenges” and “leagues” and other tests of skill that mimic other online games they offer like Diner Dash and Farmville.  And simple entertainment, of course.

That’s the key here – what many players in the “online poker boom era” sought was simple entertainment.  It was nothing to pop open the browser and spend a few minutes or a few hours playing poker.  With super-micro buy-ins, one didn’t spend much money, either.   So despite no new states getting on the online poker bandwagon, online poker continues to…exist.  I can’t really say “flourish” except you should know that Zynga made $741 MILLION last year, and makes roughly $28,606 PER DAY.  And it’s FREE.
Think about that.

Also know that other online freebies like Caesars Slots and MyVegas (MGM and Stations Casinos partner) are also making a buttload of money.  Overall, “social gambling” sites are an almost-THREE-BILLION-DOLLAR business. 

From FREE games.  You see that?  Certainly PokerStars does.

That’s what I meant when I implied that PokerStars looks more like Zynga now rather than the other way ‘round.  Since my original series four years ago, PokerStars has re-branded their free-social gaming site as “Jackpot Poker,” featuring many of the interactive bells and whistles found on Zynga and other play sites, plus gambling-type options like “Beat the Clock” and “Spin-n-Go.”  You can even buy play money from PokerStars, too (and you can now do it from the original application). 

So is THIS the future of gambling?  While states struggle to regulate online poker and other options like lotteries and casino games, millions of Americans spend their time (and money) at social gaming sites, as well as playing other games online like “Words with Friends” and, of course, all the eSports games in all of their genres.

We in the poker advocacy world can’t see why states don’t jump on the bandwagon.  Legislators worry about their revenues, and not wanting to have ANYTHING to do with taxes (like raising them), consider online gaming as a viable option.  And yet, after four years, there’s been no state to jump on that bandwagon.

That’s because it’s not about revenue.  Which is why we play for free – well, most of us do.  Who the hell buys chips, anyway?  OK, you know the answer to that.

So is social gaming the future?  Partly, but it’s not the catalyst that will bring American gaming into the 21st Century (and I have no idea what will bring Congress and State government leaders into this century, as their continued “gambling is evil” attitude gowns old with me).

The future of online gambling is elsewhere.  Look at England.  Look at the top left-corner of your PokerStars app.  That’s a clue, and I will expand on this in Part Two.

Monday, February 27, 2017

If It Were Up to Me…

And I love the Red, White, and Blue; just not in that order.
I did a thought experiment today; play along with me.  Let’s say I am the President of the United States.  No, not President Mike Exinger – I am Donald J. Trump.  Yeah, I’m President Trump, and if it were up to me, this is what I’d do.

I’m President.  Period.  I won the election.  Not so bigly like I’ve claimed, but I won.  I’ve got a compliant (that is to say, Republican) Congress, so I am pretty much guaranteed that my agenda is going to get a fair hearing and most likely I will be successful in implementing my programs.

So what’s the problem?  Well, I like attention, and I want to be seen favorably.  I certainly have my fans, but there are many who don’t care for me.  And that includes the press, which doesn’t help make me any new friends.

Of course, it’s not ALL of the press – I’d be nowhere without Fox News and many right-leaning media outlets (National Enquirer, Sheldon Adelson, Breitbart…you all know who you are).  But much of the “MSM” I consider to be the “enemy of the American people.”  Most particularly those members of the press we excluded from Friday’s gaggle.  They all have one thing in common – they’re all investigating and running stories about my “so-called” ties to Russia.

Funny thing is, the more I castigate the press, the worse I seem to be doing in those all important polls of my approval.  I did not see that coming.

So how can I win the public over and finally put the media in its place (the dumpster)?

Well, if it were up to me, I’d say “Let’s investigate me – fully.” 

No, really.  I’ve got nothing to hide, remember?  I am squeaky clean like a baby from its bath.  I’d haul out my tax returns, let them assign a Special Prosecutor, hold hearings with subpoena power – you name it.  Let them flail about trying to pin something on me – and come up empty.

Sure, Michael Flynn and Paul Manafort and Michael Cohen and Felix Sater may or may not have Russian connections, but that’s not ME.  I said I have no deals with Russia.  They don’t have anything on me – no secret recordings, no video, no loans, no Russian mafia, nada.  Investigate all you want, and when the smoke clears?  I am home free, and the American Press will have egg on their collective face.


Now the thing is, like I said, I have to be squeaky clean.  I really have to be in the clear, and that means I really can’t have any ties to Putin or Russia or the Russian mafia at all.  Nyet.  I mean, none.

Now, if it were up to me and I DID have ties to Moscow; maybe a loan or three, some previous nefarious communications, a night with a проститутка…what would I be doing about that? 

Pretty much this right now.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Believe it, or Don’t

You may have seen the news about a recent poll that purports to show that “Voters feel Trump administration more truthful than news media.”  Or something similar.  I realize that using the words “news,” “poll,” and “Trump” is bound to cause someone to yell “FAKE NEWS,” but bear with me.  Remember, I have a little history with polling (from my market research days), but the issues I have aren’t statistical.  That just means you should be able to follow along.

The poll was done by Emerson College, and there ARE a few statistical issues I could raise.  First, they didn’t ask “Who is more truthful…Media or Trump?”  What they did was ask separate questions about Trump, the news media, the Trump Administration, and others.  So there wasn’t any comparison like every headline I’ve seen so far makes it out to be.

Second, while it claims to be a “National” survey, the data doesn’t reflect a very even distribution.  Almost a third of all responses come from just THREE of the 50 states – New York, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts. Granted, Emerson is located in Massachusetts, and it IS a student poll, so maybe they were trying to save money.  I’m joking – I have no idea why this is.  There are other issues I have with the methodology (land-lines, weighing, etc.) – you can read about their methods here, though again, this isn’t my beef with the poll.

Big issue #1 is this – the gap between “Trusts Trump” and “Trusts Media” is very small – 49% versus 48%.  That’s smaller than the actual “plus or minus” accuracy (margin of error was +/-3.9%) quoted for the survey.  So in all likelihood, if you were saying STATISTICALLY if one was considered more trustworthy than the other, you’d be wrong.  Too close to tell.

What you CAN tell without any doubt is that there is a W-I-D-E gap in how Democrats and Republicans responded.  As you can imagine, Dems think the media more trustworthy than Trump and his administration, GOP voters think just the opposite.

And it’s not even close.  Here are the “crosstabs” from the survey:

Do you believe the Trump administration has been generally truthful or generally untruthful?


Do you believe the news media has been generally truthful or generally untruthful?


One more issue I have here about the survey, before we discuss – “news media” is an all-encompassing description.  It covers…well, a helluva lot of ground.  NPR, CBS, AP, Fox News, Huffington Press, NY Times, my local paper, etc.  That’s ALL “news media” and they are as different to me (and most likely, to most everyone) as night and day when it comes to truth.

And so there are two problems here.  One, the gap between Democrats and Republicans, and two, the definition of news media.  In short, had they asked the question(s) differently, they may have received a different perspective.

What if, instead of asking:
Do you believe the news media has been generally truthful or generally untruthful?

They asked:
Do you believe the news media YOU USE has been generally truthful or generally untruthful?

A follow-up question would have asked about WHAT SPECIFIC news media is used, of course.  But this is actually beside my point.

My point is this – now that the “results” of this poll are out, there are about 90gadzillion posts about it, all with the same MISLEADING headline that Trump (or Trump Administration) is more truthful than the news media.  Which isn’t the case, even according to this poll.  Naturally, Trump has already tweeted it, which is interesting because he told us we couldn’t trust polls or the news, and that’s what this is.

Oh, only if it’s favorable to him could we trust it?  Riiiiight.  Got it.

Colorful, but wrong as hell

This is wrong in so many ways, which brings me to the graphic shown above.  This is also making the rounds in social media, supposedly showing where on the LEFT-RIGHT axis certain media falls.  It also has a HIGH-LOW quality rating.

And while it looks impressive, it’s ONE GUY’S OPINION.  Well, maybe it’s ONE GUY’S OPINION of SOME OTHER GUY’S OPINION.  But there’s NO methodology shown, no information – just a graphic that people can point to and say, “See, all the networks are leftist.”  Which is just so much bullshit.  Of course, that’s MY opinion.

What’s also my opinion is that most people choose the media that reflects their own opinions.  Trump with a 90% “truthiness” rating from Republicans?  That makes sense.  They’ll believe just about ANYTHING he and his administration tell them.  At least, they have so far.  They don’t bother with fact checking and even looking at other sources just to see if maybe, just maybe, they’re not getting the real deal.  That’s why when pundits wonder what, if anything, Trump could say or do to make his fanbase squeal, I say “Nothing.”  He really could shoot someone in the middle of Fifth Avenue and it wouldn’t make a bit of difference to his base.

So…I really don’t see things getting better, communication-wise, in the near future.  The rallying cry of “FAKE NEWS” will be shrill, loud, and off-base. 

At least Saturday Night Live will have new material for the next four year.  If we last that long.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Just Four Days In...

Now THAT's Regressive.
I’ve stayed away from much political commentary for two reasons – one, we’ve been really busy with other projects (like getting the business ready to sell at the end of the year), and two, I promised the spousal unit.  She said, “There’s no use bitching about it now – wait until he’s actually President, and then see.”

OK, then.  Well, we’re four days in, and it’s going about as I figured.
  • There was a fairly uninspiring (and sparsely attended) inauguration.
  • Hats for the occasion, which promised to put America First with American jobs, were made in…not America (China, Vietnam and Bangladesh).
  • He borrowed Obama’s 2009 pic of the inaugural crowds for his own Twitter page.
  • He complained about the “underreporting” of the inaugural crowds at a surreal appearance at the CIA.
  • There was an even more surreal press briefing about the size of his…inaugural crowd.
  • On Sunday, more talk about how the press lied about the size of the crowd, with a special appearance of “alternative facts.”
  • He made an angry tweet or two, with one directed to America’s Enemy #1 – Saturday Night Live.
  • And another tweet with a spelling error, which was deleted (which might not be legal anymore since he’s now POTUS).
  • And he’s shut down the White House comments line. 
  • Thin-skinned?  Inside the White House it’s been leaked that all of the protests (there were many on Friday and Saturday) have left Trump “demoralized.”

Book frickin’ hoo.  Enough about the inauguration.  What about policy? Well, so far, he’s signed documents for…
  • A slash at ObamaCare.
  • Rollback of mortgage insurance discounts to first-time buyers.
  • A hiring freeze for government workers.
  • Withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which is kinda weird since we never formally signed on in the first place and the treaty was never going to pass the Senate any-hoo.
  • Reinstated the “Global Gag Rule,” a ban on recipients of U.S. foreign aid from promoting abortion as a method of family planning.
  • Reneging on his plans to disassociate himself with all of his business interests.
  • And just today he’s OK’d the Keystone and Dakota pipelines, placed a gag order on the EPA (communications and grants), and other departments (Interior, Ag, NIH, NNS) are being told “you’re next.”

  • Republicans are plotting their “repeal and replace-maybe-with-something” to the ACA (really, it’s the same thing as ObamaCare.  Really).
  • Along with Trump are planning new tax plans that shift taxes from corporations and onto…you. 
  • They’re getting ready to “Get U.S. Out – of the United Nations (THAT will make us soooooo popular overseas…well, in Russian at least). 
  • They’re devaluing National lands so they can give it away to special interests.
  • And there’s other “worthwhile legislation” that’s just been “sitting there” for the last eight years of Obama’s dictatorship, like considering silencers to be the same as long guns, and to add 9-months to a voter’s voting ability (OK, it really wants to claim that life begins at fertilization). 
  • And now, they want to gag the press.

Here’s what’s sad:  we’re spending more time complaining about whiny, bitchy Donnie and how he’s “demoralized” because not enough Americans love him enough, and not enough time on the very policies that he and the GOP are racing through to move America backwards.  We tend to argue politics as Democrats and Republicans, or conservatives and liberals, but it’s really more like Progressives vs. Regressives. 

Face it – the very slogan “Take Our Country BACK” actually means taking it BACKWARDS.  “Make America Great AGAIN” implies a return to a previous time.  I’m never sure whether they mean the 1950s, 1910s, or 1860s.  Some time long before women’s reproductive rights, civil rights, LGBT rights, restrictions on air pollution and water pollution and nasty regulations that give us safe meat, safety standards for automobiles, and heavy tax burdens for the wealthy. 

How does gutting the EPA make America great?  How does taking away rights and deporting families make America great?  Every policy that the bastards try to force on us needs to answer – HOW THE HELL DOES THIS MAKE AMERICA GREAT?

Move forward.  That’s Progress.  Progress is better.  Be Progressive.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Optimistic about 2017? Yup.

Lots of "good things" in there.
I know that sounds wild coming from me, considering all that 2016 has delivered, but give me a minute and I’ll explain exactly why I am optimistic about the coming year.

First, know that I originally planned to do a two-part post about 2017 – why I was pessimistic and then, following that, why I was optimistic.  The truth is, the things I am pessimistic about I have little “control” over, and frankly, I have better things to worry about. 

To briefly summarize, I am pessimistic mostly about things political, and being a progressive, why not?  It’s bad enough that we now have (Federally) a GOP majority on both houses, unfettered by a Democrat in the White House.  Early warning signs about slashed to social programs like Medicare, SNAP, and even the third rail (Social Security) should not give anyone a good feeling.  Add in the end of the ACA, the Consumer Protection Agency, Dodd-Frank, perhaps the EPA and massive changes to other Federal agencies (we’re looking at YOU, Education), and there’s little to say, “yippie” about.

I haven’t even begun to talk about the Orange Menace.  Perhaps THE MOST distrustable, lying, scheming, secretive, blowhard of a President-elect we’ve ever had.

And yet, he had his fans.  Millions of ‘em.  They are either looking forward to a new arms race, increased tensions among all Americans of all colors, creeds, and sexual persuasions…or they are ignorant of all of that.

That’s the thing I considered the worst part of next year – all of the folks out there (in America and on my Facebook page) that are actually OPTIMISTIC about all the things that might happen with a GOP majority and Trump in the Golden White House.  Bitching and moaning about it here would do little good – I’d be preaching to the saved or riling up those who think we have a new King.

So I’ve decided to skip all that, and that’s one reason I am optimistic about 2017.  For the things I CAN control are looking pretty darn good.+

You might be familiar with the “good things jar” concept.  You’re supposed to write down all the positive things that have happened to you all year long, and then, today, open up the jar and relive all the “good things” that have happened.  We use a cookie jar and the picture you see is the pile of all of our “good things.”

There are material items (we got a new stove and new dishwasher), things we had repaired, things we did (most proud of the fact that Mona got her book published, available exclusively at here), and other stuff that made 2016 a great year.  We had another successful business year at the ice cream parlor, we cleaned out the garage (mostly), there were donations to charities and to the local Goodwill (which helped clean out the garage), and so on.

We’ve done something like this for several years, though we’ve only used the jar for the last two or three (our memory was better when we were younger).  You’ve no doubt seen this suggested several places, and for a good reason:  it helps you to focus on what counts most.  What really matters is what YOU DO.  Not what you say you’re going to do.  Not what others do, or what they say.  What YOU DO.

This is why I am optimistic about 2017.  I’ve got lots to DO, and it’s all good.  It’s a big year for us – we plan on it being our last year running the ice cream parlor, so we’ll be in the process of both running it AND selling it.  We’re also expected to start the planning process on our retirement abode, in another town about two hours from here (closer to Portland).  That’s gonna be a first for us – a brand new home (with solar) – fun!  So it will be a busy and fulfilling time.

Plus, we have many projects planned similar to ones we did this year for 2017.  There’s more rooms to clean out, more donations to make, more things to buy (for the new place), more personal projects and goals.  Our new year is shaping up to be a busy year of change, revival, renewal, work, and a bit of fun.  We don’t plan on dwelling on that which we cannot control, or bitching about it (much).  Y’all know how I feel, and the ones that disagree and think that the new administration will make America “great” again – I hope you’re right but I feel you’re very wrong.

We’ll see, but frankly, I’ll be too busy to worry much about it.  Besides, if and when things go south, I will recall the words of my father the night Nixon resigned the Presidency...

“I didn’t vote for the sonovabitch, anyway.” *

* Sadly, this is true for the wrong reasons.  He voted for George Wallace in 1968, and didn’t vote at all in 1972.

Happy New Year!  May peace, prosperity, and good health be yours.