Thursday, June 14, 2018

Deuce-Four wins again

This time it was the final winning hand in the WSOP "Millionaire Maker":

Monday, April 30, 2018

Some news about "TBC" Tony

Some of you have already heard that Tony was arrested and jailed yesterday. I learned of it from this tweet:

The blog post in question is here. This is its final paragraph:

The blog post was quickly followed by this explicit threat of suicide posted on Facebook:

It appears from the inmate info shown in the tweet above that he has his first hearing scheduled for Tuesday, May 1 (tomorrow as I write this). You can search Clark County inmate information here.

I think it's almost inevitable that the following information will come out publicly in the legal proceedings. After all, the police officers will have to explain what information they were acting on. So here it is: I'm the one that made the report. (Of course, others might have, too. I don't know.) I've been torn about saying this, because on the one hand I don't want to sound like I'm boasting (far from it), but on the other hand, when it becomes public, I don't want it to look like I was trying to conceal my actions, as if I'm ashamed of them. I'm not.

Here's the story:

Tony has made threats of both suicide and violence against others before, of varying degrees of vagueness. But if memory serves, they've always been accompanied by disclaimers along the lines of, "Of course I would never really do that," explaining that he's a coward at heart, and/or that he wouldn't want to go to hell. It weighed on me that there was no such disclaimer in either of yesterday's alarming communications. Maybe the omission was inadvertent, but it seemed that it might be significant. The line about getting his name on TV and in the newspapers also seemed to me like it added a new element of scariness and seriousness that I had not detected in his previous outbursts.

After stewing over Tony's blog post for an hour or so, I decided that I couldn't ignore it. Threatening to join the ranks of mass public killers is a line that one simply cannot cross. Much like threatening to kill the president or saying at the airport that you have a bomb in your suitcase, I think we have a collective social obligation not to wave off such communications, even when, as here, our hunch is that they will not be acted upon.

I decided to call security at the Hoover Dam Lodge, where I assumed Tony still was. I did that rather than calling police, reasoning that casino security are better than police at quietly taking somebody into a secure location. Put another way, there would be less chance of the encounter spiraling out of control into a police shooting or some other tragic, unintended, violent outcome. The security guy I talked to was well aware of who Tony was, and that he had been in house all weekend.

I read him the crucial sentences of the blog post, and answered a bunch of his questions: No, I didn't think Tony would actually carry out his threat--in fact, I thought it was only about a 1% chance that he would. No, I didn't think he had any weapons. That sort of thing.

He called me back a few minutes later, because he had been unable to find the blog post. I walked him through getting to it. In the meantime, I had seen the Facebook post about suicide, and passed that along. Hearing that, the man said he had to call 911, and hung up.

Some more time passed, and then I got a call from a Metro Police dispatcher, asking me to repeat the information, though she was focused entirely on the suicide threat, not the murder threat. She asked me to read the Facebook post to her while she transcribed it word for word. (I offered to email a link or screen capture, and she said they couldn't take information that way, which seemed strange and primitive to me.) I answered several more questions about what I knew about Tony's mental health, whether he used any drugs or alcohol, etc. That conversation was the last I heard until I saw John Mehaffey's tweet several hours later. I don't know what transpired in between.

I feel terrible about the trouble that Tony is in, even though I knew that something like that would be the nearly inevitable result of making that initial phone call. He doesn't need more issues on his plate to deal with.

I've looked briefly at the criminal statute under which he's being charged, and my first impression is that it doesn't fit very well with what actually happened. I think a good attorney could probably get him out of this with a guilty plea on some much lower misdemeanor charge and minimal or no jail time. But, of course, he'll be depending on a public defense attorney, and it's impossible to know how skilled, experienced, and overworked they might be.

I hope with all my might that the main outcome is Tony getting some court-ordered help, rather than left in a jail cell to get even angrier than he already is. I know Tony well enough to be able to guess that he will blame me for all of the fallout from this incident. I still consider him a friend, and hope that he will do the same, but it won't surprise me if I become persona non grata, either temporarily or permanently.

I weighed that consequence before making the report, but in the end decided that I just couldn't look the other way on this one, as I and so many others of his friends and followers have done previously. Maybe I'm wrong, but this one struck me as several notches of escalation beyond what I had seen and heard before. I'm not easily alarmed, but it alarmed me in a way that I don't recall feeling with his previous antics.

I suppose some readers will think I did the right thing, while others will think I was being petty or vindictive or grandstanding or dramatic or whatever. All I can tell you is that it felt awful to do, and still feels awful now. Not awful in the sense of being wrong, but awful in the sense of dreading the consequences but still feeling like it was what needed to be done. I can only imagine how terribly angry and miserable and scared Tony must be in jail today, and I hate that that is so, and that there's nothing I can do to make it any less terrible.

In life, as in poker, all we can do is make the best decision possible with imperfect information and imperfect judgment, then let the cards fall where they may.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Life update

I adopted a second cat. His name is Oliver. He's had a hard life. He was abandoned by persons unknown, and left to die--and he very nearly did. He has no teeth and no tail. But now he'll have enough love that it won't matter.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Confederate monuments

I can recall only one unexpected encounter with a Confederate monument.

In December 2015, Nina and I went for a hike in Pinnacle Park, near the town of Sylva, NC. Afterward, we decided to poke around the town and see what was there. We quickly found our way to what seemed to be the highest point: the courthouse. 

From the front of the building, there's a spectacular view down the main drag, with mountains in the background, as seen below. If I took a photo of that view, I didn't save it, but here's a good one: 


From behind, I thought that statue was probably a WWI soldier. I went down the steps far enough to see it from the front, and was surprised by what you can see in the photo below: "Our Heroes of the Confederacy." 

I'm no PC snowflake, but the statue and its engraving instantly made me feel, well, icky. The Confederacy was the enemy of everything I cherish, ideologically; it was awful in every conceivable way, from its conception to the moment it was destroyed. 

A speech that Frederick Douglass gave in 1878 sums up the matter more eloquently than I ever could: 
Nevertheless, we must not be asked to say that the South was right in the rebellion, or to say the North was wrong. We must not be asked to put no difference between those who fought for the Union and those who fought against it, or between loyalty and treason.... 
I admit that the South believed it was right, but the nature of things is not changed by belief. The Inquisition was not less a crime against humanity because it was believed right by the Holy Fathers.... 
It was a war of ideas, a battle of principles and ideas which united one section and divided the other; a war between the old and new, slavery and freedom, barbarism and civilization; between a government based upon the broadest and grandest declaration of human rights the world ever heard or read, and another pretended government, based upon an open, bold and shocking denial of all rights, except the right of the strongest.... 
There was a right side and a wrong side in the late war, which no sentiment ought to cause us to forget, and while to-day we should have malice toward none, and charity toward all, it is no part of our duty to confound right with wrong, or loyalty with treason.
(See here for the whole thing.) 

I am not in the "tear them all down" camp--especially when that is decided by mob rule rather than through the processes of representative democracy. But neither am I in the "we need to honor our heritage" camp. It is preposterous to worry that we will erase the Civil War, the Confederacy, and its important lessons from our collective conscious if all the flattering monuments were to be hit by wrecking balls. 

But I'm not sure that's the right approach, at least not across the board. 

One of the most interesting things I saw on my one and only trip to Santa Fe, New Mexico, was the city's central plaza. It is home to an obelisk monument erected in 1868:


The obelisk itself is forgettable, indistinguishable from a million others. But I was intrigued by the combination of the original inscription and the explanatory plaque added much, much later: 

(You will note that the word "savage" has been defaced out of the original, presumably after this plaque was added. This was vandalism, not an official act. I don't approve of it; your mileage may vary.) 

I like this general approach. It allows the visitor to see what was important to the people who erected the edifice, in their own words. But then it adds a modern comment, gently (perhaps too gently) expressing a collective, contemporary disavowal. 

Maybe the added plaque should go further, and express remorse over the entire genocidal enterprise, rather than being apologetic only for the use of two words that make those of modern sensibilities cringe. But my point is not that this one example is done exactly right; rather, I think the general approach is a worthy one, and it's one I don't recall having seen done anywhere else. 

I can imagine approving of a heroic-appearing Civil War monument, with its original inscription intact, but augmented by an updated perspective--one explaining that while we do not wish to erase the past, we also do not wish to condone or leave unchallenged the views that cloaked Confederate evil in the glory of a heroic public statue. It would not displease me one bit if some of Douglass's wonderful prose, such as that quoted above, made its way onto these new additions to the memorials. 

Those who built all these monuments did so in order to speak to people of the future. Fine, let them. We don't need to silence their voices in order to add our own.