In the 2016 Presidential Election, Only One Choice About Who’ll Get Things Done

IndependenceDay

As it is Independence Day or the Fourth of July (however you might look at it or, as my British friends see it, Happy Treason Day), it is time to reflect on the 240th year of the United States of America’s existence. Through a multitude of wars – including one Civil War that threatened to rend the country irretrievably in two – disagreements about leadership, self-inflicted wounds that were corrected and some very dark patches of our history that somehow may still exist today, the U. S. has always been a country that strived to be, at minimum, a country for the people and, at maximum, a successful experiment in the respect of individual freedoms versus governmental controls. In November, the citizens of this country will decide the future of the U. S. and, through examination, there is only one choice to make…one that will be able to get things done.

To say that the 2016 Presidential campaign has been tumultuous to this point would be a grand understatement. Perhaps because of the interconnectivity of people around the world, there has been a great deal of interest generated by the candidates – and most of it not for good. For those of us who will actually choose the 45th President of the United States, we’ve been handed a cartload of rotting produce and we have to paw through it to see which item is the least spoiled and potentially acceptable. There was an old saying in my Marine platoon: “You don’t get to choose the army you go to war with, you go to war with the army you have.” Never has there been a truer statement for U. S. citizens.

Let’s take a look at arguably the top four candidates for the office of President of the United States (and, for the first time, I will do so without using slang names for one of the candidates):

HILLARY CLINTON

Hillary Clinton Begins Presidential Campaign In Iowa

Arguably one of the best prepared candidates that we’ve seen for the office. Can you name someone who sat at the right hand of arguably one of the greater President’s in the country’s history (husband Bill Clinton), was elected in a landslide to two terms in the U. S. Senate (from New York), was tapped as Secretary of State by the man who defeated her in the primary in 2008 (Barack Obama), whose own legacy has yet to be determined, and has championed the rights of women, children, the LGBT community and workers across the country? There is no one that is left in the campaign that can boast a resume such as this.

With this said, there are downsides to the former Secretary. For the past 30 years or so, there have been consistent investigations into activities that she, her husband or both of them have participated in, some with merit and other without. There have been instances where there was the appearance of impropriety (albeit none of it proved) and there have been missteps – to be honest, Clinton has more baggage than the Titanic. It was the esteemed philosopher Reagan, however, who is attributed with saying (this means he also may not have), “The person who agrees with you 80 percent of the time is a friend and an ally – not a 20 percent traitor.”

DONALD TRUMP

TrumpSmug

In what was viewed as potentially the longest of shots before the GOP primary, Trump was able to outlast a 17-person field (arguably filled with too many fringe candidates for any of those running to garner what could be called a moratorium of thought in the party) to be the presumptive Republican nominee. More because of his name recognition rather than anything that he actually did as a businessman, Trump has coddled together enough support that he (more than likely) will be the nominee for the Republican Party…this despite the factor that no one in the Republican Party can stand him.

From the start of his campaign, Trump has derided virtually every class of human being not only in the U. S. but also around the world. The policies he has presented, of which there are few, are so completely anti-U. S. that they would first off have a difficult time being passed by any sane government and secondly wouldn’t stand the test of the Constitution. We won’t even get into his continued usage of white supremacist Tweets, statements of support from nationalist group leaders that he has to be cajoled into refuting or has never rebuked, inability to understand the military, its usage, its components or the general laws of warfare and a general lack of intelligence, knowledge of geopolitical situations, racially tinged commentary or just general temperament and couth that he seems to have little ability to demonstrate. Misogyny, xenophobia, racism and so much more…it all has a home in the mind of Trump.

GARY JOHNSON

GaryJohnson

If there ever were a time for a third party candidate to emerge from the wilderness, it would be this campaign. Former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson is trying to be that “third choice” that would be able to throw a monkey wrench into the political system with the Libertarian Party. The Libertarians would seem to be a good choice for those disaffected with the current two-party system:  a political party that is socially liberal and fiscally conservative that believes in the U. S. citizen rather than the status quo.

Johnson, however, is far from Libertarian, I don’t care how many joints he smokes or edibles he partakes, Johnson was governor as a Republican and ran in the 2012 campaign for the GOP nomination. After being shunned there, he reinvented himself and was able to get the Libertarian Party to nominate him for President that same year. There is little to no evidence that he wouldn’t enact some of the draconian laws that he supported as a Republican, other than his word…in this day and age, that isn’t enough. Then there’s the way that the Libertarian Party has treated him, actually booing him during a Libertarian debate because he “wasn’t Libertarian enough.”

On that note, then there’s the party itself. The Libertarian Party advocates for as little government as possible, something that sounds great until it is actually employed (this was also the party the Koch Brothers originally got behind before realizing they needed to steal a real party to have any influence – hence, their move to the Republicans). Abolishing every federal government oversight organization – the Department of Education, Energy, and so forth – would not only decimate the country, it would allow for 50 different rules and regulations to be set across the U. S. The purpose of the federal government is to ensure that there is one set of rules for EVERYONE to play under, not the hodgepodge of beliefs that would explode (if you don’t believe me, just look at the question of women’s reproductive rights – you don’t think that would go to hell pretty quickly?). There is a need for a strong federal government and, while there are some changes that need to be made, it doesn’t require its dismantling.

JILL STEIN

JillStein

Dr. Jill Stein, an actual internal medicine doctor with a degree from Harvard Medical School (that snooty elitist!), is the nominee for the Green Party. An experienced campaigner who has been the candidate for the Governor of Massachusetts twice (among other elected offices), she earned almost 500,000 votes in 2012 for President, the most ever for a Green Party nominee. She left the practice of medicine when she felt she could do more in the political word for improving people’s lives through the quality of their local environment, hence her Green connections.

As a general rule, I don’t have an issue with the Green Party other than their myopic vision on the environment. Sometimes things have to be done in the world and it will have an impact on the environment, the key is to make as little an impact as possible. It’s not like we have other choices on places to live as homo sapiens and, as such, shouldn’t destroy the planet we live on, but that also doesn’t also mean that it is the ONLY topic of conversation or the overall guiding light of living.

With every bit of thought and analysis I’ve done, the only choice come this fall to be the 45th President of the United States is Hillary Clinton. If you are looking for a candidate with experience, she covers that mark. A candidate who will enact change without destroying the fabric of what the United States is, she’s the most logical choice (Trump? His OWN PARTY has said they will “keep him in line.”). Clinton has shown, through her past work, that she is a candidate who will be there for all people, not just one segment of the population (Clinton has a close challenge from Stein on this and, to a lesser degree, Johnson). Of these four choices, Clinton is the most logical, the sanest and the one who will be able to maintain the United States’ respected status in the world both diplomatically and otherwise.

 

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Rail Against a Theocratic Government? Start with The GOP’s Vision for the United States…

It wasn’t always this way. There was a time when the Republican Party was one that stood up for business interests, be they the street corner “mom and pop” shops or the monolithic companies such as General Motors or General Electric that employed thousands of workers. They stood for a strong defense, a military that was prepared to do battle anywhere but wasn’t wasted on piddling matters that weren’t of our nation’s interests. They also could, at one point in their history, be the spark of what were some of the great movements in the United States, changing what would be the course of our nation.

So what happened to the “Grand Old Party,” the GOP, the Republicans? Religion, and in particular the zealous “Religious Right” is what happened to them. (And this guy? Your guess is as good as mine…)

Over the past few weeks, a couple of states in this country – both with Republican leadership in their legislatures and Republican governors – have passed some of the most heinous laws this country has seen since the Jim Crow days following the close of the Civil War.

Bathroom

In North Carolina, Governor Pat McCrory (who has that same sheepish “look what I got away with” bullshit smirk that President George Bush [Bush II] had) signed into law HB 2, officially titled the “Public Facilities Privacy and Security Act.” Much like other Republican bullshit laws like the “Patriot Act” or the “Troubled Asset Relief Program,” HB 2 was a move by the GOP-led General Assembly to thwart an ordnance that was passed by the city of Charlotte – and only applicable in that city, it must be stated – that allowed for transgender persons to use the bathroom facilities of the sex that they identified with (as such, a man in the process of switching to being a female would use the ladies’ room and vice versa). Calling a special session of the General Assembly to Raleigh (at a minimum cost of $42,000 per day for a state currently running a budget deficit), the GOP felt this HAD to be addressed.

The law specifically outlawed transgendered people from using the restroom of their changed sex, saying that they had to use the facilities of the sex they were identified with on their birth certificate (which of these GOP assholes is going to be the guardian at the gate?). Not only was this an abomination, the General Assembly went further in stripping the rights from lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people (LGBT) from state anti-discrimination protections (although they were never mentioned in any discrimination laws previously), including job protection and housing requirements. Finally – and as a last “fuck you” to the people of North Carolina – the General Assembly made it law that no city can raise their minimum wage over what the state deems correct (this is irritating enough on its own).

North Carolina doesn’t take the prize for being the biggest bigots on the block, however. Mississippi voted through the “Religious Freedom Restoration Act (see what I mean about bullshit titling?),” through a bicameral system dominated by Republicans. In that act, the bill allows for the out-and-out discrimination against LGBT people by businesses based on religious reasons. The bill was signed into law by another Republican, Governor Phil Bryant, and is now in effect in the state.

TheProblem

Other states with Republicans running things have gotten wise and decided it wasn’t worth screwing up business dealings with other states for the potential to have such “religious freedom” laws on the books. Arizona, Georgia, Idaho, Maine and Ohio have decided that the ability to have businesses welcomed in the state, movies and television shows filmed inside their borders or athletic events contested in their arenas is better than being a social outcast. This is something that North Carolina is learning and Mississippi will probably be learning soon.

In North Carolina, the National Basketball Association is considering the removal of the 2017 NBA All-Star Game and the All-Star Game Weekend festivities from the city, with Basketball Hall of Fame member Charles Barkley seconding those statements. The NCAA is looking at its 2017 and 2018 college sports tournaments, which could host at least 20 games at venues in the state, and whether it will hold those games at those arenas. PayPal has decided against opening a global operations center in Charlotte over the passage of the law (which was to have provided 500 jobs) as Apple, IBM and Google have also lined up in opposition to the law. The streaming television provider Hulu pulled production of its pilot for a new show, Crushed, from the state and, on Friday, Rock & Roll Hall of Fame member Bruce Springsteen canceled a concert in Greensboro, citing the oppressive new law as the reason. All of these individual items could cost the state hundreds of millions of dollars in revenues and it is probably just the tip of the iceberg.

The Republican Party enjoys talking about how they dislike the theocratic government of Iran or the hideous atrocities that groups like ISIS inflict on their people in the name of religion, but let’s start with them as a zealous religious group that would look to install a theocratic reign of terror should they be allowed everything they would like to see installed (nullification of Roe v. Wade would just be the beginning). The different “religious freedom” laws are about as ludicrous as it gets as NO ONE is infringing on the freedom of ANY religion in this country. Last I checked, you could freely walk around the streets of Anywhere, USA, with a Bible, Book of Mormon, Qur’an or Torah without anyone accosting you. You can gather anywhere – a park, a home, a school or even an actual house of worship that isn’t taxed by said government – without the danger of having the government shut it down. You can even – shock of shocks – WEAR A PENDANT DECLARING YOUR FAITH openly in public. So quit with this bullshit of “religious freedom” and call it what it is – the new way of saying “racial or personal bigotry.”

Since the civil rights movement of the 1960s, the GOP has slowly been eaten away by the “religious right,” and it has been a slow process. It started against those who were “different” – minorities, gays (this was also the time of the Stonewall Riots in 1969), “foreigners” (screw the fact that many in this country were maybe one or two generations removed from being a foreigner themselves) or “hippies” who were against the Vietnam War. As the 70s came along, that “Religious Right” became capitalized as the GOP discovered that it was a sizeable force that presented several things that a political party likes – a solid voting bloc that won’t sway and, in most cases, quite affluent to be able to support the party financially.

That “Religious Right” became the “Moral Majority” that spewed its vile verbosity across the country in the 1980s, perpetuated by President Ronald Reagan and George Bush (Bush I). With such hucksters as Jim Bakker, Jerry Falwell, Oral Roberts (who once famously said that “God would call him home if he didn’t raise $6 million” in a certain time frame – when it didn’t happen, no one called him on his bullshit), Benny Hinn and others piping their drivel across cable networks, their power continued to grow (never mind that they couldn’t keep their privates in their pants if their lives depended on it). While it might seem it calmed in the 1990s, it only changed its face into the Neo-Conservatives.

ReligiousRight

Those “conservatives” (and I will use that term because there are SOME conservatives out there who are aghast that their GOP has been overrun by religious zealots) have destroyed what was once a party that did things, that tried to run a country. These “conservatives” now want to deny everyone anything (including gay marriage and any other rights), put Christianity as the only religion of the land and, in essence, become the same theocracy they say they preach against (they have their “perfect leader” in Rafael Eduardo Cruz). This isn’t a political party, this is a religious movement that is impersonating a political organization, not the Republican Party or GOP that was around after World War II.

Fortunately, the world is changing. There are fewer and fewer of these brain-dead religious zealots pandering to a close-minded bigoted electorate who still want to look in the bathrooms and bedrooms and keep an eye on what people do, but it isn’t dwindling quickly enough. It’s time to let the GOP know that their archaic social stances will keep them from ever being considered seriously as a political entity. Within a generation, either the GOP will have grudgingly entered the 21st century or they will have died a painful death (they may very well be in those death throes now). If it brings an end to this bigotry masquerading as “religious freedom,” then I’m all for it.

The Odious Remains of The GOP Presidential Carcass

When they reached their apex a few months ago, there were 17 different people that wanted the Republican Party nomination for President of the United States in 2016. This simply means that there were 17 warm bodies – although degree of warmth was questionable – because ideologically there wasn’t much difference. Even with former “Libertarian” Rand Paul, who danced closer to the far right wing of the Republican Party with the hope to do something his daddy Ron never could do – win the GOP nomination – they were all basically cut from the same cloth even if their gender was different.

TheWalkingDead

Everyone knew that it was unmanageable. Thus, the bodies began to pile up on the side of the road like an episode of The Walking Dead after Rick Grimes and his fellow survivors had battled through Atlanta. Before a single vote was even cast in the primaries, such party “luminaries” as former Texas Governor Rick Perry, current Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and former Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal ended their campaigns that were still virtually in their infancy (seriously, Walker’s candidacy was all of two months’ old). While the political zombies feasted on their decomposing flesh, South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham and former New York Governor George Pataki were both offed before a vote was cast.

What all these men had in common was they were the true epitome of “zombie” campaigns. For all practical purposes, they were only existing in name only as they drew little support from the voters and the “big money” donors didn’t exactly give them the time of day either. After the voting started, the candidates that decided to leave were among the living but became “zombies” soon after they drew no reaction from the populace.

Former Governor Mike Huckabee, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul and former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum all had the good sense to get out after Iowans basically ignored them and they were joined by (we’re not sure what she does) Carly Fiorina, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and former Virginia Governor Jim Gilmore (who received all of 12 VOTES – that’s people, folks, not delegates – in Iowa) a week later after the cold shoulder in New Hampshire’s primary. But the big stunner came this last weekend after the South Carolina primary concluded.

JebBushWIthdrawal

Long ago thought to be the lockdown “shoo-in” to be the nominee for the GOP in 2016, former Florida Governor Jeb! Bush instead proved to be the perfect illustration of how not to run a campaign. After being out of the bruising world of politics for over a decade (he last ran for office in 2003 for a second term as Governor of Florida), Bush was ill-prepared for the partisan world that politics has become today. To be honest, from the start he never looked as if he wanted to be President; he never actually took the gloves off and had to fight for a political position (hell, his last name is Bush and he probably has ridden that his entire political life). When he gave his withdrawal speech on Saturday night after drawing a dismal 8% of the vote in a state his family once dominated, he looked a beaten man, one that wanted to head back to the safety of a Board of Directors rather than the Oval Office.

You would think with the zombies chowing on the flesh on the sidelines (and, if you think about it, wouldn’t the world of The Walking Dead just be the most foul-smelling existence to be a part of?) that the odiferous scent would be left behind the five candidates that still stood and moved on. Instead, the odious remains of the GOP Presidential Carcass are at the same times worse smelling than the dozen people that are now but a memory. Yet one of these people, no matter how distasteful they may be, will emerge as the Republican nominee for President of the United States.

Let’s start with the next one that will be run down by the zombie hordes, Dr. Ben Carson. Carson is right now being kept in the race by those who want to keep Ted Cruz (we’ll get to him, have some patience) down. In essence, Carson carves away some evangelical votes that Cruz would normally get, something that happens when a man has a painting of himself with JESUS FREAKIN’ CHRIST in his home. Then again, Carson loses some of that evangelical vote if they’re Muslim because he believes that Islam “as a religion, is incompatible with the Constitution” and therefore anyone who is Muslim he would not “advocate for being in charge of the nation” (Carson would backtrack that statement faster than an NFL cornerback defending a Peyton Manning pass route).

But that isn’t even the most idiotic (and therefore odious) statement Carson’s ever made. In a speech several years ago, the good Doctor opined that the pyramids on the Plains of Giza in Egypt were there for the Bible’s Joseph “to store grain” instead of tombs for the pharaohs. Carson also suggested a theory about the spread of Ebola by constructing a massive conspiracy that someone could use urine as a biological weapon. Finally, there was his most recent Tweet that the biggest threat facing the United States at this time was immigration…hello, Doctor? Have you been watching the debates going on around you at all…you know, the one’s you’ve been standing there as a part of for the past few months? There’s a whole list of issues that you might have come up with other than one that has been trod so many times there’s literally wear marks on it. It appears that Dr. Carson may just be a brilliant neurosurgeon and a complete imbecile in other areas.

Then we have what many are calling the “last moderate Republican” left in the field, current Ohio Governor John Kasich. Throughout the GOP debates, Kasich has labeled himself as the choice for those who are looking for someone who will “work across the aisle,” a moderate who will listen and work with Democrats in Washington, D. C., simply because he has in the past. Kasich is quick to point out that, while in the House of Representatives from 1995 to 2001, he helped pass balanced budgets as first the ranking member of and then the Chairman of the House Budget Committee. Kasich notes that this was the last time that the budget was balanced on the federal level, something that is shockingly true in this campaign of lies.

Hiding behind this “moderate” demeanor, however, is a right-winger of the nth degree. His House voting record and that of his Ohio governorship (not to mention hosting a Fox News program between 2001 and 2007) demonstrates that Kasich is far from being a moderate Republican. This week, Kasich signed a bill to defund Planned Parenthood…not directly but “any organization that performs or promotes abortions.” That would prevent $1.3 million of Ohio funds from going to the organization, which would use those funds for HIV testing, health screening and domestic violence prevention (and for those of you assholes who say they can get that at the emergency room, why isn’t your ass there for your meds?). Furthermore, instead of prison reform, Kasich believes that there should be more “for-profit” prisons, just so we can see judges crookedly rig the system against the weakest members of society to turn a fucking buck for the state and the owners of the prisons. Finally, Ohio is one of the states with some of the most outlandish incidences of police abusing their authority in the nation – yet Kasich has done nothing about such occurrences.

TweedledeeTweedledum

Next we have Tweedledee and Tweedledum, and it really doesn’t matter which one you call what because they are virtually the same cartoon character. The twosome both currently reside in the Senate, Florida Senator Marco Rubio and Texas Senator Ted “Rafael” (yes, his real name) Cruz, and their paths to where they are now being virtually identical. Both were elected to the Senate with their eyes firmly affixed towards the Presidency rather than doing anything for their constituents; both are uncompromising bastards who would rather die on a mountaintop than intelligently discuss any logical solution to a problem (Cruz more so than Rubio) and both are religious ideologues that, if a Muslim…hell, if a Catholic… said half the shit they said (Cruz said “Glory be to God” upon winning Iowa; Rubio said he would base his decisions “on his faith first” and fuck the facts), they would be screaming religious zealotry. But there’s something far worse in their cabinets than this.

Both of these men are first generation Cuban-Americans (Donald Trump – yes, we’re getting to him – would say Cruz is something else), the proud offspring of their parents who came to the United States to give them a better life than the one they had under a Fidel Castro-led Cuba. Two men who have benefitted quite well from the system of life in these United States, worked hard and garnered an education…who, now that they have received every benefit of said system, are trying their damndest to make sure that someone else doesn’t repeat that performance, that there isn’t another occurrence where someone under similar circumstances to theirs would EVER see the chance to be…them.

This would be the utmost in hypocrisy, innuendo and outright falsification if it weren’t for the leader of the remaining clowns in the GOP car, billionaire Donald Trump. There is literally no way to begin to list the litany of falsehoods, bullshit, antagonistic jabs, attacks (both verbal and physical) and statements that he has offended virtually every person in the United States with, so let’s just start with his latest efforts. First there was Trump’s assertion – and his demon spawn Eric’s backup – that waterboarding was nothing that didn’t happen at a “college frat party” (note you don’t see either of these fucking bastards strapped to a board for a few hours of fun, do you?).

Then Trump tried to recount the discredited story of the famous General John Pershing during a campaign stop in South Carolina. According to the Orangutan Mutant, General Pershing supposedly executed 49 Muslims (it isn’t stated during which U. S. military action this occurred) with bullets dipped in pig’s blood, an obvious jab at the Islamic faith’s beliefs about pigs. All the stupid ass Trump managed to do was once again offend more than a billion people and an entire faith, which in this world today might be necessary to work with somewhere down the road.

It wouldn’t be so bad if this misogynous, xenophobic, race-baiting knuckle-dragger wasn’t leading the GOP Presidential race. But, then again…let’s look at the GOP that supports him.

In South Carolina, where he won a resounding victory, of those who support Trump:

70% believe the Confederate Flag should still fly over the South Carolina state capitol
38% wish the South had won the Civil War
80% support banning Muslims (ALL Muslims) from entering the United States
62% support a national database for Muslims in the U. S.
33% believe that Islam should be ILLEGAL in the U. S.
31% support banning LGBT people from entering the U. S.

I’m convinced that the GOP bottom-dwellers – who now seem to have taken over from those that have any semblance of sanity – have about as much couth as a gutter snipe and seemingly share part ownership of the same reptilian brain. Trump for months now has gotten away with every faux pas (once again, too numerous to mention) that, in the past, would not only have ended other people’s campaigns but any career in any legitimate pursuit they previously held. Are these people voting for Trump this stupid? (I’ll answer: yes.) Are these people this delusional (Once again: yes.). Are they this out-and-out racist? (I’ll say it…yes.)

The GOP could and should have stopped this when he opened his mouth with his announcement he was running. As soon as he ripped into Mexicans, the GOP could have said, “Thanks, but no thanks, you’re not running as a member of our party,” but the GOP realized that there’s about 40% of their party that are this ass-backward as those statistics above present and that they would agree with the spittle that Trump spews. It is truly a sad moment for a once proud party.

There are those that say they like Trump’s “honesty” and his non-PC approach to things. If these “supporters” were all fired up for honesty, then they wouldn’t be looking at Trump, who has to have a scorecard to keep track of the lies that he’s told. As to not being PC? I challenge Trump to take a stroll by himself – no bodyguards, no weapons – down some streets in this country and make the same statements he has used during this campaign…he’d be picking up his teeth from the street if he did, at the minimum.

So among five men cut from the same cloth as the twelve people who came before them, not a one is worth a damn. All they look to do is deny or take from the citizens of the United States (quick, name one thing they’re looking to do FOR the U. S. citizen? Can’t do it, can you, and don’t give me the bullshit about “making America great again,” “lowering the national debt” or “improving our military and their morale” because we know you shoveling horseshit). The odious remains of the GOP have the stench of the zombies that perished in the past on them, they just haven’t had the decency to go ahead and die just yet.

What’s the Problem with Gambling? The U. S. Was Built On It!

(Author’s note:  With the uproar over daily fantasy sports – or DFS – in the news right now, there are folks discussing the issue of gambling. This is something that I wrote slightly more than a year ago that is as true now as it was then.)

One of the best ways to learn about whatever country you live in is to take a lengthy drive. Last month, as part of a move from the Midwest to the East Coast, I sat behind the wheel of the family’s Mercedes-Benz and did just that, covering about 1000 miles along the way. When the only conversation that you can have in a sports car is the cat that is riding along with you (after the first ten minutes of meowing, they tend to go to sleep and, even if they are listening, aren’t exactly someone to bounce ideas off of), you have time to notice some of the oddities of the United States.

As I went by such strange things as the Creation Museum (would have loved a stop there for just the simple comedy), roadside vegetable sales and various Appalachian curios, one of the things that I noticed as the miles began to pile up was the roadside billboards that popped up as I drove. Easing out of Illinois into Indiana, I was hit with those billboards from many of the popular gaming destinations in the Hoosier State. A quick hit into Ohio saw those billboards change over to the new destinations that have been opened in Cincinnati. In Kentucky, the billboards changed over from casino gaming to racetracks and horse farms that promoted the Bluegrass State’s main industry. Even in Tennessee (where there isn’t a casino scene), the billboards promoting North Carolina’s Harrah’s Cherokee casino disturbed the natural beauty that the Great Smoky Mountains provided.

Mind you, it wasn’t just one billboard. There were more than a hundred of them, ticking down the miles until you reached the exit of said casino/racetrack/etc. It got my mind thinking (as my cat companion slumbered quietly in the passenger seat)…what’s the problem with gambling? The United States was (and is) built on it!

All you have to do to reach this conclusion is have a basic understanding of U. S. history. The very first gamble was performed from the European continent as several explorers including Leif Erickson in the 11th century and Christopher Columbus in the 15th century, decided that there was “something” where the sun was setting and (in Columbus’ case) that the earth just didn’t drop off into the Great Unknown. Erickson’s gamble was a bit bolder in that he bankrolled himself for the trip; Columbus, on the other hand, was able to get Spanish Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand II to pay for his trip (potentially the first act of “backing” in a gambling setting).

As the “New World” began to garner attention, even the bastions of religious piety showed they weren’t above taking a chance. England was the location for this as first the “Lost Colony” of Roanoke (the ultimate gamble as the residents “disappeared” in 1590) was settled. Following that, the Puritans – who were so religious they were considered more restrictive than the Church of England and whose very name means ‘against pleasure’ – rolled the dice and settled at Plymouth Colony in 1620.

By the end of the 17th century, the Colonies were thriving and so was gambling. Lotteries were the prevalent form of gambling (and were used to fund several prominent colleges such as Yale, Harvard and Princeton), but dice, cards and horse racing were also popular (even the more unpalatable gambling escapades as cockfighting and dogfighting had their audience). As the rumblings of revolution came to a head in the mid-18th century, our country’s Founding Fathers – most notably George Washington and Benjamin Franklin – enjoyed a good card game. Playing cards was so popular that the Stamp Act (one of the catapults for the American Revolution) included a clause that taxed every deck of cards.

After the Revolution, however, some of the old “puritanical” ideas began to set in. Gambling was banned in some of the fledgling states, but legal (and illegal) lotteries still flourished. The lotteries even came under attack, however, so that by the time of the Civil War, only three states permitted them. The “War Between The States” would prove to be the next catalyst for gambling in the United States.

Locked in a battle for the soul of the country, both Union and Confederate soldiers would pass the time playing poker (a recent immigrant to the United States through the port city of New Orleans) with their brothers in arms as they waited for the next wager for their lives. After the conclusion of the Civil War, that gambling mentality continues as citizens pushed westward and poker came along for the ride. Nearly every Western town could be found to have a casino (legal or otherwise), where a game of faro or poker would be ongoing, and the Mississippi River bustled with commerce and the “riverboat gamblers” that plied their trade on the paddleboats.

Although it was attempted many times, gambling still found a way around banishment. The actions of Prohibition in the early 20th century saw gambling and alcohol usage pushed underground and into the hands of organized crime. Laws to make gambling illegal in the Eastern part of the U. S. saw those organized crime figures move westward to Nevada and California, with the first casinos opened in 1931 as the Boulder Dam was being built near Las Vegas. Today, only two states (Hawaii and Utah) don’t have some sort of casino or card room in their jurisdictions.

Presidents of the United States have actively taken up the game of poker and, for some of them, been advocates for the game. Harry Truman’s “The Buck Stops Here” is directly related to his love of a game of poker. Richard Nixon allegedly financed his first political campaign with money won from playing Seven Card Stud. Even Barack Obama is thought to have an affinity for the game, playing in a weekly Senate poker game prior to entering the White House.

This is only looking at gambling as it relates to cards, dice, table games, etc. U. S. citizens have taken a gamble throughout the country’s history, dating from the Puritans to the signers of the Declaration of Independence (a bold gamble, you might say) to the westward expansion of the country into areas once thought to be foreboding and unsuitable for human habitat. Americans start businesses, sometimes failing but, most of the time, successful (Henry Ford, the Wright Brothers, the Rockefellers and Bill Gates (to name a few) ring any bells?). Americans gamble on innovations that have improved the world through industry, scientific discovery and even traveling to space. Even war, the most unfortunate invention of human society, has been impacted by American gambles.

Gambling is as inherent to the American persona as the flag, our National Anthem and our basic premise of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” Without that inner drive to take a risk, to take a chance on an unknown outcome, much of what the country has become today would have not been achieved, let alone even attempted. The United States – and much of the world, to be honest – always has to have those “dreamers,” “schemers” and gamblers to move society forward, otherwise we stagnate and, eventually, devolve.

So, as my drive ended by pulling up to our family’s new house, once again I’ll ask…why do we, not only as U. S. citizens but as an evolving species, have a problem with gambling?