Saturday, April 16, 2011

Governor Howard Dean in Idaho

Can you believe it, Howard Dean in Idaho, North Idaho, Worly? Well, it’s true, he was. There was a fund raising luncheon today, along with training for Democratic activists, at the Kootenai Tribal Casino in Worly, Idaho. It was well attended, all the tables were full, and I would say it was a great success.

I found Governor Dean to be a bit smaller than I imagined him to be, but a real down-to-earth person and a remarkable speaker. He spoke for a time and then fielded questions from the audience. I thought he was great, I suppose because he said all the things about the current Republican con job that I believe. He proved himself to be extremely well-informed about what was going on in Washington, answered all questions without hesitation and honestly, and was, I thought, inspiring. He renewed his call for grass-roots action, change from the bottom up, and above all, patience, pointing out that the goal might well be not just the next election but the one after that, and after that. He exposed the Republican nonsense for the nonsense it really is, and offered an optimistic assessment of what will probably happen. When asked why the White House appeared to be somewhat confused and disorganized at times during the first two years he politely and rather subtly suggested it was due to the staff Obama had around him during that time, a staff that has now been changed, he believes, for the better. He did not mention anyone by name but obviously had in mind Rahm Emanuel, who everyone believes stood in the way of his getting a position in the Obama administration. He spoke very highly of the new Chief of Staff, William Daley, and also of Ben Bernanke, even though they are not Democrats, saying they are both honest and competent people who can be trusted to keep their word. All in all it was a most worthwhile event.

As we were there an hour early I had an opportunity to look over the casino. I will sound like a genuine hick, I know, but I was absolutely astounded by this huge and, I thought, surreal experience. I have not been in either Reno or Las Vegas for sixty years so I had little idea of the scale of this casino movement. It’s true we have a casino right here in Bonners Ferry, The Kootenai Casino, but it is truly small potatoes compared with this Coeur d’Alene casino. It was amazing, there must be two or three acres covered with all kinds of machines designed to remove a certain portion of your money over time if you continue to play. These machines are now designed to spare you even having to pull a handle, you just sit there gently pushing buttons while being slowly and systematically divested of your money. Each machine has some kind of name, and flashes lights and spins around hypnotically (I guess) while people sit there sometimes by the hour in a vain attempt to get rich. I had been told there was poker and blackjack in addition to the machines but it turns out these games are played on machines as well (although they do offer a large screen with pictures of sexy dealers you can ogle). What impressed me the most was the fact that there are virtually no young people engaging in this foolhardy enterprise. The players are almost universally older people, I could only guess that the average age must be somewhere around sixty, perhaps even older. They come there sometimes from long distances to be fleeced and, indeed, are sometimes delivered there by the bus load, the drivers of which must be enacting the role of a Judas goat. I guess older people in our culture are bored and devoid of other ways to spend their time.

Most of the players I witnessed stopped momentarily for some kind of (expensive) fast food and then returned quickly to their ultimately futile play. There is a restaurant and a bar that I heard serve pretty pedestrian fare (this may be unfair as I did not eat or drink there). One might think that in a place that makes so much money they could afford ultra-gourmet dining, but, alas, that seems not to be the case (it certainly is not the case in our small version of a casino where the food is so pedestrian we refuse even to eat there). Of course there are enormous facilities for meetings and conventions as well as a truly outstanding golf course. The casino offers entertainment, bringing in well-known performers from time to time, and although I’m not certain I think they may also feature boxing matches. There is also a large hotel, and while the complex is already huge it is being expanded even further. I think that as such places go this is probably one of the biggest and best. I found it terribly depressing, smoke-filled, dark, crowded, and in general quite unpleasant. My feelings are obviously not shared by the hundreds of thousands of my peers who seem to enjoy this (to me) complete waste of time and money.

It completely mystifies me how it is that so many of my fellow Americans go out of their way to visit these places and sit for hours mindlessly in front of garish machines designed for no other purpose than to separate them from their money. Many of them actually claim to win, which occasionally they do, but if they keep playing which they all do, they inevitably lose. Personally I think it would be more interesting and entertaining to color the water in your toilet and flush your money down the drain. Don’t misunderstand, I am not opposed to gambling, not at all, but what goes on in these casinos is a far cry from gambling. Thank you Governor Dean, I learned a great deal today.

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