Long time, no blog. I have my reasons and will address those in a post to come. In short, mental health can be a bitch.
Anyone who follows me on social media is aware that I’ve been intimately tuned to the 2016 US presidential election, which commences tomorrow. A variety of people, including my live-in girlfriend, friends, and acquaintances, have asked me why I care so much, why I waste so much energy on it, why don’t I use my time in some more productive way, etc. Here’s why:
The #1 reason is because I have legitimate fears for my future and that of my friends and family. Donald Trump is a monster. He’s the biggest threat to American democracy we have ever seen. Ever since last summer, when I heard he was running, laughed it off, and ended up laying a couple friends 100-1 against him winning the presidency (I bought out of these bets last December at 13-1. Then rebet the field vs Trump after Trump tapes came out laying 8-1.), I’ve been glued to everything Trump; probably more than most would consider healthy. I watched when media broke the news that Trump said John McCain wasn’t a war hero because he got captured and thought to myself, “Wow how could he say that? What an idiot! Guess that bet is a lock now!” To my shock and horror, Trump navigated past it relatively unfazed. He proceeded to do the same thing about a thousand more times over the last 15 months, insulting everyone who crossed him (and some who didn’t), fearmongering about rigged elections (voter fraud exists but is small scale and open to investigation), advocating for censorship of media pundits and internet posters who said mean things about him, promising to hire a special prosecutor to throw his opponent in jail, etc. etc. etc. I learned the truth about his business “successes” – long story short, if not for a complete lack of ethics and morality, with his business skillset he would have been broke 20+ years ago. He was smart enough to know that paying lawyers and accountants a lot of money meant they’d probably do a good job of settling his many court disputes and ensuring that he didn’t have to pay his fair share of taxes. Unfortunately picking foreign policy advisors and economic advisors is not so easy….
One of the most frustrating things of this election for me is the (IMO) level-1 thinking of many Trump voters. It goes something like this: “The Clintons are crooked, they’ve lined their pockets over the years and are evil people….I’d take anyone over them!” They’re not entirely wrong, and in a normal election year I’d agree entirely. But this time is different. Donald Trump is from the school of Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini, and Vladimir Putin (who he may in fact be working for, but I digress). Sure he hasn’t murdered 6 million Jews, but do you honestly think he wouldn’t if he had enough to gain from the transaction? I know my answer. I read a Danny Zuker (Modern Family writer who had an infamous Twitter war with The Donald) blog earlier and he put it in perspective (paraphrasing): “Hillary and GWB are awful, but they are awful within the typical range of awful politicians. Trump is in another stratosphere.” No, I’m not thrilled that my next president might continue to enrich herself and her family at taxpayers’ expense. But there is MUCH more at stake here.
To this point, Trump has followed the Putin playbook to a T. I started reading Winter is Coming by chess champion Garry Kasparov. While Kasparov is certainly more brilliant than I am, I feel like our thought processes have a lot in common. For those unfamiliar, Kasparov became the #1 chess player in the world in the 1980s (based out of the USSR), was on top of the game for 20 years, then retired in 2005 and has been an anti-Kremlin political activist ever since (even running against Putin’s crony Medvedev for prime minister in 2008, although Kasparov himself knew the Kremlin would never let him on the ballot – he was merely trying to raise awareness to Russian corruption). Putin was elected into office in 2000 after 8-9 years of Boris Yeltsin ruling a fragile democracy after the breakup of the Communist USSR. He campaigned on populist anger in much the same way Trump has. It’s now 2016, and Putin has totally destroyed democracy in Russia, effectively holding office the entire time and adapting the constitution so prime ministers can now serve two 6-year consecutive terms now (previously 2 4-year terms). He’s taken over their media entirely. He passed a law making peaceful protest a crime. He’s invaded Georgia and Ukraine and supported Assad’s murderous regime in Syria, and the west has frozen in shock, horror, and confusion on how to handle him.
Donald Trump talks very friendly about Vladimir Putin. He says he hopes they have a good working relationship. His original campaign manager, Paul Manafort, received $12m in unmarked payments from a Russian political party from 2007-12 (when this was revealed, he promptly resigned). Trump himself has done business in Russia, and Don Jr. was quoted as saying he traveled there 10 times in 2 years I think. Trump says similar things to Putin on stuff like restricting free speech, democracy being corrupt and rigged, need to focus on defeating terrorists, etc. All of this is completely fucking terrifying to me.
But why do I, Brian Hastings, care so much about all this? Surely there are plenty of others who are as horrified by Trump as I am but have spent way less time worrying about it. Well, my answer is that I see parallels between my place in the poker world and this election. I think my MA scandal and Hillary’s email scandal are similar – IMO both of us had no malicious intention when we did it (for me – I longed for the days of online poker but researched USA sites and decided I trusted none of them, plus when I tried moving to Canada I became very depressed for a variety of reasons; for her – she realized the government email server was clunky and knew she had a more effective option), but we failed to consider the drawbacks carefully enough (for me – I honestly didn’t realize that players with little-to-no playing history against me would feel so wronged. In their shoes I wouldn’t care, and when I did play online I assumed others were doing this. But that doesn’t make it right; for her – she didn’t realize how easily her private server could be compromised and jeopardize national security). Although I think I’m overall a much more moral person than her, I think we are both sorry for these mistakes and genuinely wish we hadn’t done them.
In the poker world, there are many Trumps. Some more well known than others. I’ve chosen to try to make my living in poker by busting my ass to keep up with modern theory and implementing it in whatever games others will let me play. Others in the industry make their livings by doing sleazy things like markup gouging, not paying debts, welching on bets, shutting others out of games to help their own bottom lines, angle shooting, outright cheating, you name it. The 16-year-old who was excited to get home and hop onto my computer has learned a lot of fucked up things about the poker industry along the way and been screwed over by a lot of people in it. It’s beyond the scope of this blog but many of you reading would be shocked and horrified if I outed the behavior of a number of players, including some big names.
So yeah, this election is personal for me. #ImWithHer because I fear for the future of our country if her fascist opponent wins. And for any Trump supporter who made it this far and is still voting for him, I’m happy to lay 1.1-1 or better in a HU poker freezeout with reasonable structure (or we can find some way to bet on full ring) in the game(s) of your choosing.