On State-Supported Gambling

What if I were to tell people that there was a state-supported, even state-funded, addiction in the United States?

Well, such is the case with gambling, at least in many states in the United States.

One of the popular suggestions these days, as a means of raising revenue, is to propose the building of casinos or other state-supported gambling. “They will help pay for making our schools better,” some of our politicians say. “They will pay for themselves and support the local economy.”[1]

So, how does state-supported gambling turn out? If you guessed “not well at all,” then you’d be correct. I can provide many examples, but I will highlight three in particular for the sake of brevity:

  1. For years, New York State has had off-track betting corporations (OTBs). They were created with the promise of reducing illegal betting while bringing in revenue. I don’t know if they reduced illegal betting, but OTBs failed so miserably at the revenue part that their financial conditions have worsened significantly, according to…the New York State Comptroller.[2] So much for revenue.
  2. Colorado casinos were also created with the promise of bringing in revenue. Well, that’s also not happening. Actually, Colorado casinos are reportedly “investing in themselves” in order to try and bring revenue.[3]
  3. On numerous occasions, California has endured budgetary woes. On many of those occasions, it was promised that some new revenue stream from gambling would help pay for the budget woes. However, on numerous occasions, expansions in gambling did not do what they promised to do—increase revenue.[4]

As a result of this state-supported gambling, we end up with a bunch of broken promises. But it’s more than broken promises. We end up with people, and entire families, broken because of the proliferation of gambling addiction as a result of these casinos and other gaming mechanisms. We end up with governments scrambling to find other means to raise revenue, since casinos don’t do that job. And we end up with an oversaturation of the gaming industry, which does nobody any favors and results in shuttered casinos.

Instead of state-supported gambling, I make two policy propositions. First, states should curtail further support of gambling, because the fiscal and social costs of gambling seem to outweigh any money it is supposed to bring in.[5] Second, states should support Gamblers Anonymous programs. Gambling is an addiction that must be taken seriously, and all of us, including governments, should act as such.

State hotlines for gambling addictions can be found here: https://www.verywellmind.com/usa-local-problem-gambling-hotlines-22031


[1] These are not the exact words of someone who has made a pro-casino argument, but I’ve heard similar sentiments expressed by pro-casino politicians in the past.

[2] https://www.osc.state.ny.us/localgov/pubs/research/otb0915.pdf

[3] https://www.cpr.org/2018/11/21/flat-revenues-and-tough-competition-the-tricky-hand-colorado-casinos-are-dealt/

[4] https://www.latimes.com/politics/la-pol-ca-road-map-california-gambling-betting-revenues-20190303-story.html

[5] I don’t recommend making gambling illegal, because then gambling would be unregulated and problematic in other ways. However, further heavy investment in casinos and the like should stop.

On Body Image Issues

After comedian Bill Maher made a call to bring back “fat-shaming”, or humiliating someone judged for being fat, I wanted to re-publish this post.

Anyone who looks at me for the first time will notice that my stomach…well…sticks out. I am overweight, and there is no doubt about that fact.

I will even admit that I’ve had my insecurities, at times, about the fact that I am overweight. Part of it is because of how I look, because honestly I often haven’t liked the look of my stomach sticking out. Part of it is the very legitimate concern that, because I’m overweight, I am at an increased risk for just about every health problem ranging from heart attacks to arthritis at an earlier age. And then part of it is that I feel like I’d be perceived of poorly because I look a little fat.

I think that these insecurities—insecurities which seem to be shared by many other people who’ve struggled with body image issues—need to be broken down for everyone’s sake:

The Idea that a Stomach Sticking Out (or Jiggly Arms or a Fat Neck) Looks Ugly

I could be wrong, but I think this message has been sent because the idealized bodies in our society are viewed as athletic men with six-pack bodies and women in fashion who wear size 0 clothing.  As such, many of us strive for that size 0 or that six-pack body. And I can’t lie—at times before, I have been envious of guys with six-back bodies from a looks standpoint.

For people who feel this pressure, you ARE beautiful. And I mean that. Just by virtue of the ways you can help people by using the body you have, you are beautiful. Whether you are of a healthy weight, overweight, or underweight, you are beautiful because you have a body that you can use to give smiles, help others in various ways, and make the world a better place.

Concerns about Being Overweight and Having Health Problems

We hear all the time about how overweight people are at risk for everything from arthritis to heart disease.  People of a healthy weight don’t need to tell those of us who aren’t about all of the potential health problems as if we’re ignorant; I, and many other overweight people, know and are aware of these issues.

At the same time, it’s also not healthy to be underweight. Being too underweight comes with health problems as well. Furthermore, taking measures too drastic to lose weight could result in anything from eating disorders to exercise addictions, which also are not healthy.

The bottom line is that, while it’s ideal for people like me to lose some weight, none of us should go to the other extreme and try so hard to lose weight that we create a new set of health issues.

Worries about Being Perceived of Poorly Because of Looking Overweight

Many of us, myself included, worry that, because we’re viewed as fat, we’ll be viewed as: a) lazy, b) not conscious of our health, c) couch potatoes, d) sloppy, e) not having the “right” kind of body to attract a significant other, or f) some or all of the above.

I do not belittle any of these insecurities because, quite frankly, I’ve experienced all of them! People who have no idea how many miles I like to walk when I relax in my free time have told me to “go to the gym,” and people who don’t know how hard I’ve worked to tweak my diet have questioned whether I care about my health, for example. And, as silly as this sounds, parts of me wondered at times in the past if my not having a girlfriend had to do with my not having the right physique.

If you experience any or all of these insecurities, too, my big encouragement is that we should not let ourselves be defined by how others view us, or how we think others view us. We should define ourselves in other ways, and hopefully ways that give us more fulfillment and happiness than stress and dismay.


While the individual insecurities are different, there’s one central theme with each insecurity. Namely, they all revolve around concerns that our bodies are not sufficient, that they are not “enough.” And that is a lie. Our bodies are enough. Believing anything short of that would be unjust to ourselves.

Picture of me
This was me at the International Young Leaders Assembly at the United Nations in Summer 2016. The body in the picture is capable of doing great things, and so are others’ bodies.

Cutting Civics from School Curricula: An Unjust Move

With the school year either coming up or starting in many states, kids are preparing to learn a multitude of subjects: history, English, Math, and Science, to name a few.

One subject will be noticeably absent for some kids: Civics.

Civics, which is defined as “a social science dealing with the rights and duties of citizens,”[1] can teach students about, among other things:

  1. The importance of voting;
  2. How to know who their representatives are;
  3. How they can be involved in the legislative process, by writing to their representatives about important issues (or calling their legislators);
  4. How people can use their representatives to solve a wide range of issues (provided the representative is responsive, of course);
  5. How to follow the affairs of the government in your city, state, and country.

Teaching kids about these things, and more, through a vibrant Civics curriculum, should be an absolute no-brainer. It promotes civic involvement and awareness of local affairs.

And yet, it seems like Civics education is often on the chopping block in school districts, states, and even federally.[2]

When these cuts come to fruition, what this means is that many kids will grow into adults who are in grave danger of lacking awareness of the full extent of their rights and duties as citizens, ranging from voting rights to the right they have to push their representatives on major issues.

In short, hyperbolic as this may sound to some, cutting Civics is a form of voter suppression and a form of weakening our democracy. After all, if kids aren’t taught about who their representatives are, how will they know to vote for (or against) their representatives when they are adults? If kids don’t know that they can write to their representatives, what will keep a representative from going against the will of their residents, whether that will is spoken or unspoken? If kids aren’t taught how to follow government affairs, how can they cast an informed ballot when they’re adults?

For those of us who think that voter suppression and disenfranchisement starts at the age of 18, when a citizen can vote, think again. It starts when kids are taught minimal or no Civics. However, my readers (or at least readers who live in the United States) can play a role in stopping this—if you ever hear your government, whether it be your school district, your city, your state, or your country, considering cuts to Civics programs, contact your representatives and make it known just how important Civics truly is.

Please note that I will not publish a post next Tuesday, as it will be the Tuesday after Labor Day.


[1] https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/civics

[2] Apparently, Civics was among Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’s proposed budget cuts. I don’t know if this proposal saw the light of day, but the fact that Civics is so frequently on the chopping block, even at the federal level, should alarm proponents of Civics education: https://www.washingtonpost.com/education/2019/04/03/special-olympics-funding-outcry-is-over-its-been-crickets-over-some-devoss-other-proposed-education-budget-cuts-think-civics-history-arts/?noredirect=on

Addressing What We Do with the “Championship” Merchandise from a Team That Loses

Ah yes…what a joy it is to see the team you root for get a championship. You can then spend all night cheering, then get merchandise the next morning saying that your team won the Super Bowl, World Series, Stanley Cup, etc. In fact, as I’m writing this, New England Patriots fans are probably still having fun buying merchandise saying that their team won the Super Bowl.

But what about the losing team?

Since there is such a desire to get merchandise to the players, coaches, and fans who won the championship in such short order, said merchandise is usually made, ahead of time, for both of the participants in the championship matchup. That way, all interested parties on the championship team can get their merchandise right after winning.

The “championship” merchandise of the losing team, on the other hand, goes to a different place. At least with many sports, the umbrella sports leagues work with organizations to make sure that the losing team’s merchandise can get to nations with people in need of clothing, such as places like Haiti after their catastrophic 2010 earthquake.[1]

On the surface, that sounds great: instead of destroying merchandise related to the losing team (which the National Football League apparently used to do), it’s repurposed for people in countries who really need the clothes, regardless of what those clothes say. And there’s no doubt that having these misprint clothes is way better than having no clothes at all.

That being said, there’s something off-putting about this practice. Namely, while this practice gives the appearance of helping those in most desperate need, this practice is also sending one or more of the following messages:

  1. “This stuff is not good enough for us; therefore, you can have it.”
  2. “We don’t want this stuff, so the poor people in poor countries must want this.”
  3. “We’ve taken what we wanted, so poor people can have the leftovers/what others didn’t want. Please take our unwanted garbage.”
  4. “People won’t know that the information is incorrect, and even if they did know, they wouldn’t care.”

None of the messages above are exactly positive ones, for sure. In fact, all of these messages revolve around a theme: that the developed United States, yet again, decides to use underdeveloped nations as a dumping ground for the “rubbish” that we don’t want.

So what should we do, then? For starters, we shouldn’t have misprint clothing exclusively go to developing nations (with the “correct” clothing only going to developed nations)—the benefits of the correct clothing and the burdens of misprint clothing should at the very least be shared. Additionally, it might be wise for these sports leagues to actually think about how they really want to sacrifice in order to help underdeveloped countries. Because let’s face it: sports leagues don’t sacrifice anything by giving away misprint championship merchandise to a place like Haiti—they don’t sacrifice any profits, they don’t sacrifice a portion or their fan base, and they don’t sacrifice on ticket prices, they don’t sacrifice anything else. However, using money and resources to make sure a child gets an education, gets health care, and gets food might sacrifice something monetarily, but would also do a ton of good.


[1] https://www.sbnation.com/college-football/2017/1/14/14272992/what-happens-to-losing-teams-championsip-shirts

Language and Sense of Belonging

One time, I was at a deli in Queens, New York. At that, I was at a deli where nearly all of the customers (me being the anomaly) speak Russian. Amid some confusion with another customer over who was at the front of the line to get served, I was told the following by the customer, while that person attempted (unsuccessfully) to skip me on line:
“You are in Russian grocery store. You must speak Russian.”

When I was told this by another customer, I felt awkward. I felt like I didn’t belong in there.

People may read this story and feel sorry for me. But please don’t feel sorry for me. Here’s why: what I experienced for ten seconds at a deli is what millions of people in America experience on a daily basis.

That mindset is in so many places. There are people in this United States, particularly on the far right, who want to deport immigrants who don’t learn English. Across the pond, in the United Kingdom, one of their recent prime ministers used threatening language about people in his country who were unable to speak English. A man at a Spanish restaurant in New York threatened to call ICE on people who were speaking Spanish.[1] The attitude that I experienced in that Russian deli is shockingly widespread when it comes to scenarios when we encounter people who don’t speak “our language.”

And if I felt awkward for being told that I didn’t belong in a Russian deli I could easily leave, imagine how much worse it must feel to be told that you don’t belong in the United States (or another country you’ve settled in), that you must leave or be deported because you don’t speak the “native language.” It would be an understatement to say that it must feel awkward, just as I felt awkward in that deli. No, it must hurt really, really badly.

So if we encounter someone who doesn’t speak “our language,” please try to understand that the person’s sense of belonging is already being challenged. We don’t need to (and we shouldn’t) challenge someone’s sense of belonging even further by saying that they’re not welcome simply because they don’t speak the language we speak. To the contrary, everyone, regardless of the language each person speaks, is part of our human family.


[1] I made a decision to not include links to any of these stories and mindsets because they do not deserve more of a platform than they are already getting.