Sad, sorry sit­u­a­tions

The Covington News - - Front page -

Tu­nica, MS — My wildest dreams of trav­el­ing the world to ex­otic lo­cales never in­cluded Tu­nica, Miss. But my wife, along with her mother and aunt, ac­cepted a free week’s trip to a re­sort, air­fare in­cluded. So here I am. Where, you may ask, is Tu­nica, Miss.? The map puts it 30 min­utes south­west of Mem­phis, Tenn. But the air­line flew di­rectly into Tu­nica, and the re­sort’s shut­tle whisked us straight to our ho­tel, so I haven’t seen any­thing that re­sem­bles a town at all.

In the mid­dle of what ap­pears to be nowhere are half a dozen ho­tels and casi­nos; the ho­tels are on solid land but the casi­nos, by law, are lo­cated on the wa­ters of the Mis­sis­sippi River.

It’s hot, hu­mid, and mos­quito-in­fested. And did I men­tion that it’s hot, hu­mid, and mos­quito-in­fested?

Per­son­ally, if given a choice, I’d never visit an­other casino. I’d rather watch the sun set over Yosemite Val­ley from In­spi­ra­tion Point, or swim in the glacier-fed Snake River in Idaho’s Hell’s Canyon. If I must sweat, give me the bleach­ers at a Braves game.

But as an old so­cial stud­ies teacher, I purely love casino sit­u­a­tions from a case-study per­spec­tive. It’s hard to beat watch­ing crowds on “the strip” in Las Ve­gas, or here in Tu­nica where the bet­tors form ba­si­cally a cap­tive au­di­ence in the mid­dle of nowhere.

Two old adages are at op­po­si­tion here: on the one hand, you don’t look a gift horse in the mouth; on the other hand, if some­thing ap­pears too good to be true, it usu­ally is.

There’s a rea­son the re­sorts are giv­ing away free trips, in­clud­ing air­fare. Due to the de­pressed econ­omy thin­ning crowds have di­min­ished casino cash flows. The crowds nowa­days are com­prised mostly of lower so­cio-eco­nomic folks who can af­ford such a ven­ture least. Gam­bling, you know, works in much the same way as a re­gres­sive tax. For the rich, sev­eral hun­dred dol­lars may be pocket change; for those from lower so­cio-eco­nomic lev­els sev­eral hun­dred dol­lars may con­sti­tute half a month’s salary. Al­though the per­cent­age of in­come spent is far greater for the poor, the very ones who can least af­ford the false hope that play­ing a penny slot ma­chine will con­vey them into mil­lion­aires reg­u­larly feed the one-armed ban­dits.

It’s a sad and sorry sit­u­a­tion, in­deed.

And casino slots are tighter than ever, mean­ing that they don’t pay off as much. So des­per­ate and de­spair­ing peo­ple sit be­fore the glit­tery de­vices and feed a week’s pay into them be­fore walk­ing away in even more despair.

But I did ex­pe­ri­ence two elec­tric, mem­o­rable mo­ments here in Tu­nica, how­ever. Last Wed­nes­day morn­ing, along with sev­eral dozen other folks, I watched on a big screen tele­vi­sion as Amer­ica beat Al­ge­ria in World Cup Soc­cer at lit­er­ally the last moment, 1-0. The room erupted as grown folks who didn’t even know each other high-five’d and hollered “USA! USA! USA!” as if they be­lieved soc­cer was any­thing other than a Com­mu­nist plot un­der­min­ing Amer­i­can foot­ball.

The other elec­tric, mem­o­rable moment came just a few hours later, when Gen­eral Stan­ley McChrys­tal re­signed com­mand of Amer­i­can forces in the AfPak War. McChrys­tal and his staff, in a re­cent Rolling Stone mag­a­zine ar­ti­cle, made dis­parag­ing re­marks about not only their com­man­der-in-chief, but also about the vice pres­i­dent and other mem­bers of Pres­i­dent Obama’s lead­er­ship team. McChrys­tal, sum­moned to the White House to ex­plain him­self, was sub­se­quently forced to re­sign.

Obama, upon tak­ing of­fice, had sacked for­mer AfPak com­man­der David Pe­traeus to el­e­vate his hand­picked man, McChrys­tal. Now Obama, com­man­derin-chief’s hat firmly in hand, has turned back to Pe­traeus and asked him to re­sume his for­mer post. Pe­traeus, a man who fainted re­cently in a brief­ing, ac­cepted. Obama’s top cheer­leader team, NBC, spec­u­lated Pe­traeus did so to pos­ture for even­tual chair­man­ship of the Joint Chiefs of Staff when that po­si­tion opens.

And it will open. It’s my take that Gen­eral McChrys­tal re­sorted to in­sub­or­di­nate re­marks just to get the war back on the front burner. Af­ter all, last De­cem­ber Obama promised 30,000 still un­re­al­ized ad­di­tional troops to McChrys­tal. It seems that no­body re­al­izes that Amer­ica is at war.

And that’s a sad and sorry sit­u­a­tion.

Speak­ing of which, oil con­tin­ues to fill the Gulf of Mex­ico. Obama and his crack lead­er­ship team wring their hands and prom­ise ret­ri­bu­tion as the worst en­vi­ron­men­tal dis­as­ter in our his­tory wors­ens.

Oh, and the White House Bud­get Di­rec­tor, Peter Orszag, re­signed last Wed­nes­day. The head of the Of­fice of Man­age­ment and Bud­get in­her­ited a $5.5 tril­lion na­tional debt which, in just 18 months on Pres­i­dent Obama’s watch, now stands at an un­be­liev­able $9 tril­lion.

Rats aban­don sink­ing ships, you know. It’s a sad and sorry sit­u­a­tion, in­deed.


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