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December 11, 2005 - Is Bush Playing "Three Card Monte" with the Issues?

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World's Laziest Journalist

December 12, 2005

By Bob Patterson


After graduating from college, in the mid Sixties, the odds of achieving fame and fortune seemed like they would be better in New York City than in Scranton Pennsylvania, so efforts were made to find employment in the bigger city with more opportunity.


One of the first life-lessons that I learned there occurred when I happened upon a fellow who had set up a mini-gambling casino operation on a small metal folding table in the midst of a busy sidewalk.


He obviously was an amateur magician who had an exceptional amount of pride in his skill because he would shuffle three cards on the tray and then challenge the small audience that had gathered to bet on the location of the Ace of Spades.  Unbeknownst to the would-be entrepreneur, one corner of that particular card had been crimped and spotting that card would be as east as picking a naked person out in the crowd at Grand Central Station at rush hour.


The owner-operator of this miniature gambling establishment challenged me to bet on my ability to avoid being baffled by his lightening fast hands as they rearranged the cards.  Outwitting the poor fellow was just a matter of letting him make the moves and then pointing to the card with the corner tuned down.  It seemed to me that taking unfair advantage of the poor blighter (a word I leaned by reading the Peanuts comic strip) would be tantamount to cheating him out of some easy money.  In an effort to teach him an object lesson, I offered to wager a dollar, as a symbolic way of indicating it was not a challenge at all.  He scoffed loudly at my lack of self-confidence and my inability to make a bold statement by naming a large sum.  Immediately two other members of the audience offered to up the ante to twenty dollars each.


The proprietor of the small gambling establishment moved the three cards about with fast moves that would be the envy of an old West gunslinger.  When he had rearranged the cards to his satisfaction, one of the three had a corner turned down and fairly screamed "Here I am, come and get me!" 


"Where's the Ace of Spades," the soon-to-be-poorer master of ceremonies asked?


One of the betters pointed to the card with a dog-eared corner.  The card dealer challenged the smiling bettor: "Turn it over."  He did and it wasn't the Ace of Spades.  The proprietor of the "casino" flipped over one of the other cards to reveal the location of the Ace of Spades.  The astonished two gamblers gaped in quiet desperation.  In less than five minutes the owner-operator of the low overhead gambling "establishment" had collected forty dollars, which was not bad by the prevailing wage standards at that point in time. 


Later, I learned that it was an age-old con game called "three card monte," and it thrived on the willingness of the victims to profit by "outsmarting" the card shark.  The creased corner would incite their greed.  The real "magic" came into play when the dealer substituted another crimped corner card for the Ace of Spades and simultaneously changed to an Ace of Spades without the telltale dog-eared corner.  Doing those two substitutions while the "suckers" watched was the true exhibition of legerdemain skill.


You might think that eventually ever man, woman, and child that walks the sidewalks of New York would learn about the ruse and eventually it would disappear as the number of potential victims to be fleeced, diminished to zero - but thanks to a constant influx of out of town visitors and uniformed natives, it seems there is always plenty of "fresh meat" for the criminal element to exploit. 


So, if you go to "the Big Apple," beware of any aces with a telltale crease that seems to offer a quick chance to take some money away from an inept magician.  It's an old ploy, but it still works.


Recently, while listening to one of the conservative radio talk show hosts, I heard someone make a flip remark about how Dubya had glibly dismissed some objections to the war in Iraq by saying that the 2004 election had been a referendum on the reasons for and the conduct of the search by American troops for Weapons of Mass Destruction inside the borders of Iraq.  The aforementioned talker may have expressed it in slightly more flattering terms making it sound like the president had delineated that particular aspect of the November 2004 voting, and that any Democrat who didn't recall it was a victim of his own stupidity.


If folks thought that they were voting to deny queers the right to get married, they obviously hadn't had any personal experience with the game of chance based on the ability of some fellow to manipulate the card with the bent corner.  Oddly enough, folks who thought they were denying the gays the right to get married, might soon find that they actually were sanctioning a return to one aspect of family values called "shotgun weddings" because they might have inadvertently also been (unwittingly) approving a movement to invalidate (via the compliance of the Supreme Court) the Roe vs. Wade case which brought the option of abortion to the rescue of many couples in the last several years.  If that option is eliminated, the "shotgun wedding" will suddenly experience a resurgence in the Bush era social scene.


Don't you remember that when the election was over, he shrugged and abandoned the gay marriage issue by saying that it was now up to folks to work on the local level to get the lawmakers to pass any required legislation.  If you thought Dubya was going to do something about it, well, that's like focusing on the Ace of Spades with the bent corner.  A quick move that you didn't notice changed "gay marriage" into a "referendum on the war" and approval of "shotgun weddings."


Senator Mitch McConnell, earlier this year, made a comment that Bush's position on Social Security was like a game of three card monte.  Then Paul Krugman wrote a column that (essentially) seconded the motion.  Thinking back to the Sixties and that time I witnessed just how it works, I suddenly realized that it would be easy to write a column using that bit of chicanery as a metaphor for the Bush Junta's business as usual modus operandi. 


Dan Rather surely must know a sting similar to the pain felt by those two fellows who lost a "double sawbuck" on the sidewalks of New York, many years ago.  The way I see the events of the phony documents debacle, they seem similar to a variation of "three card monte."  What if the documents were manufactured by a clever fellow on the Bush team  (known for a penchant for deception) and delivered to someone who was an example of someone with a strong anti-Bush attitude.  That dupe, in turn, delivers it to a pro-Kerry advocated who is sure to bring it to the attention of Rather and his pit crew.  The journalists use the material to prove their contention that the president running for re-election was disingenuous about his service record.  The counterfeit documents (card with a crease in the corner) were quickly denounced as forgeries.  A blogger had access to the expertise about typography that the authentication experts didn't (the sucker turns over the card with a crease only to discover that it isn't the Ace of Spades) and suddenly the conservative talk show hosts are saying that the issue of Bush's service record is moot.


All that the forgeries proved was that those pieces of paper weren't relevant to the topic of Bush's qualifications to claim that he was the pilot of an interceptor jet airplane.  (Folks assigned to interceptor airplanes would never be assigned to overseas duty, where fighter aircraft were needed.)   Just ask any expert on the subject of logic.  The exposure of those phony scraps of paper (with creased corners?) was not proof that he had really been in the Champaign Unit.  It was a clever way to misdirect the voters attention and deal out some punishment to a journalist who should have spent more time authenticating the evidence, but it wasn't proof positive that the guy actually flew an F-102.  


(The film Bush's Brain features a similar example of misdirected attention that was allegedly used by the Bush team in a Texas election campaign many years ago, which is a way of saying those fellows knew a thing or two about making three card monte a profitable political gambit.)


The reports of black site prisons were false, until the stores were admitted to be true.


Torturing POW's is outlawed by the Geneva Accords, but the prisoners in the War on Terror, aren't combatants in an officially recognized military unit and therefore aren't protected by that bit of international agreement. 


Waterboarding is an unpleasant experience, but it isn't torture.


First there were WMD's then there weren't.


First there was no white phosphorous, then there was.


A famous football player was killed in action.  Then the story was changed to say he was killed by friendly fire.


Some Marines were killed on patrol.  Then the story was changed to say that they were at that location holding a promotion/awards ceremony.


Kerry is a flip-flopper.  Bush isn't.  (You can bet an election outcome on that one.)


With all the news coverage of 9/11, have you seen any feature stories about who was responsible for security at the World Trade Center?


It would seem that the old creased corner on the Ace of Spades can take many guises, but it still pays off.  The more things change, the more the old methods of fooling people remain the same. 


W. C. Fields has been quoted as saying - "Horse sense is what horses have that makes them not bet on people."


Now if the disk jockey will play the old Donovan song with the line about "First there is a mountain, then there is no mountain, then there is." (The song's official title is There Is A Mountain), we'll disappear outta here.  Until next week don't get caught doing anything that will have your spin wrangler doing an imitation of a dervish performing the sema ceremony.  Do we plan on having a good week?  You bet!





Copyright (including logo) 2005 - Robert Patterson

Email the author at worldslaziestjournalist@yahoo.com





Copyright 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
The inclusion of any text from others is quotation
for the purpose of illustration and commentary,
as permitted by the fair use doctrine of U.S. copyright law. 
See the Details page for the relevant citation.

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