Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Wanna save the planet? Then this job is for you!

Want to help keep Earth safe from aliens? (No, not the ones from Mexico! The ones from Outer Space!) Well, NASA has the job for you!

Yes, boys and girls, if you have always dreamed of protecting the Earth from nasty microbes -- or brain-eating space invaders -- the National Aeronautics and Space Administration has your dream job. (And you thought Men in Black was just a movie!)

While anyone, theoretically (well, anyone who is a U.S. citizen or "those who owe allegiance to the U.S."), can apply to be Planetary Protection Officer, if you want to save the planet, you need the right stuff.**

Specific technical requirements to be Planetary Protection Officer include:
1. Advanced knowledge of Planetary Protection, its requirements and mission categories. This includes demonstrated technical expertise to independently form technically sound judgments and evaluations in considerably complex situations. 
2. Demonstrated experience planning, executing, or overseeing elements of space programs of national significance. These elements include but are not limited to developing requirements, performing technical assessments, and preparing recommendations to leadership. 
3. Demonstrated skills in diplomacy that resulted in win-win solutions during extremely difficult and complex multilateral discussions. This includes building coalitions amongst organizations to achieve common goals.
[Regarding Requirement 3., I am assuming NASA wants candidates to have experience negotiating with aliens/alien governments. What a shame Sarek was a Vulcan. Though maybe Jonathan Archer or James T. Kirk is available.]

So if you like traveling to exotic places, are able to keep a secret, have x-ray vision, and can bend steel with your bare hands**, apply today! The planet needs you!

(Btw, the gig pays between $124,406 to $187,000, not too shabby. Though, on second thought, considering you may be keeping the planet safe from total annihilation, I think it's a bit low.)

* Or figure out how to get Congress to impeach Donald Trump.
** I made those last two up.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Now playing on WH TV: Throw Reince Priebus from the Train!

Breaking News: President* Donald Trump has fired White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, the former head of the Republican National Committee.

In a move that should surprise no one, Trump eighty-sixed Priebus barely 24 hours after new White House Communications Director (and aspiring wiseguy) Anthony "the Mooch" Scaramucci had accused Priebus of leaking information -- and I had suggested (on Facebook and Twitter) that the Scaramucci made-for-TV movie should be called Throw Reince Priebus from the Train**.

In Priebus's stead, Trump appointed John F. Kelly, a retired Marine four-star general currently serving as secretary of homeland security, breaking the news on Twitter a little before 5 p.m. ET.

On his Twitter feed, Trump thanked Priebus "for his service and dedication to his country" and said "We accomplished a lot together and I am proud of him!" He referred to Kelly as "a Great American" and "a true star" of his administration. Bookies are now taking bets as to how long Kelly will last before Trump fires him, or he resigns.

Which brings me to my next point: Anyone else think that Queen's "Another One Bites the Dust" should be the theme song of this administration, or that all the late-night talk shows should use it as background music whenever discussing a Trump resignation or firing?

Here's the Reince Priebus version***:

Reince walks warily through the West Wing
His chin pulled way down low
Ain't no sound but the sound of his feet
Scaramucci's ready to blow
Are you ready,
Are you ready for this?
Are you hanging on the edge of your seat?
Out of the Mooch the profanities rip
To the sound of the beat
Another one bites the dust
Another one bites the dust
And another one gone, and another one gone
Another one bites the dust
Hey, I'm gonna get you too
Another one bites the dust

*Every time I type that, another piece of me dies.
**For those too young, or too old, to get the reference.
***Future versions will be modified to include or feature the latest victim of Trump's wrath.

Friday, July 14, 2017

If the Trump family/administration was a 1960s sitcom...

If you were to compare the Trumps or the Trump administration to a 1960s sitcom or cartoon, which sitcom or cartoon characters would they be?

F Troop?

The Beverly Hillbillies?

Hogan's Heroes*?

The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show?

The Flintstones?

Leave your answer in the Comments section.

*And I'm not talking about the POWs.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Putting the screw back in corkscrew

This seemed an appropriate post for hump day.

Voila! The Costaud (or "beefy") corkscrew. No bottle can resist his charms!

The spouse and I happened upon this humorous -- yet fully functional -- utensil while in Italy (though M. Costaud appears to be French). And no, I did not buy one (for myself or my friends), though I deeply regret not doing so. But it was the first day of our trip, and I feared M. Costaud, who is rather large, would be too big to fit... in my suitcase.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Why Jon Ossoff (and the Democrats) will lose

Why do I think Jon Ossoff, the Democrat seeking to represent Georgia's 6th congressional district, will lose to Republican Karen Handel in today's special election, even though he's raised far more money and seems far more popular? Because Republicans vote and Democrats don't.

Obviously, Democrats vote, but their turnout is typically far lower than Republicans', especially in off-year elections. And the 6th has been a reliably Republican district since the late 1970s, when Newt Gingrich won -- and held onto the seat for 20 years (to be replaced by two more middle-aged white males).

And despite what they may say or write about a Republican candidate, when it comes down to a vote, Republicans almost always vote for the person with an R after his (or occasionally her) name. So it's doubtful that Ossoff will have managed to sway 15 or 10 percent of Republican voters to vote for him, even if they don't like Trump or Trumpcare/The American Health Care Act.

Moreover, Republican campaign strategists are very good at staying on message and getting Republicans to the polls. Their strategy: fear. Vote for the Democrat and you'll be paying higher taxes! (They'll grab your hard-earned money and give it to lazy minorities and illegal immigrants!) Vote for the Democrat and you'll be less safe (cause they'll take away your guns and will let criminals roam the streets)!

And despite plenty of proof to the contrary, the strategy always works. Just tell the people what they want to hear, even -- or especially -- if it's a bunch of lies. Because who's going to fact check? Most voters don't read anymore, let alone check the accuracy of what they're reading, especially on social media, or what they see on TV. And when faced with any facts that contradict their beliefs, they cling even harder to their beliefs. So it's really a no-lose situation for Republicans.

So what can Democrats do? I think part of the solution has to be going back to grass roots, old-fashioned campaigning, like what Ossoff's been doing -- and what Obama did in the 2008 presidential race. Going to lots of events that "real people," not just wealthy donors, attend. Going door to door, and/or to supermarkets, and the local car wash; attending sporting events at local high schools and colleges; holding town halls. And making people feel that you're listening to them.

Democrats also need to come up with some catchy soundbites, because when it comes down to it, people don't read or remember or really care about policy positions anymore. They want something short and pithy that you can put after a hashtag.

And Democrats need to register young people to vote and make sure they go to the polls on election day. Because the only real way to effect change is by voting.

Friday, June 16, 2017

The right to bear arms but not bare breasts

With the shooting of Congressman Steve Scalise at a baseball field in Alexandria, Virginia, getting so much coverage in the news this week, you may have missed another big story out of the greater D.C. area. I am, of course, referring to the ban against public nudity that the Ocean City (Maryland) Council passed in an emergency session last Saturday, putting an immediate stop to the threat that topless female sunbathers posed to our nation's, or at least Ocean City's, impressionable citizens.

The Washington Post, did not one but two stories on the ban, including this titillating expose titled "In Ocean City, Hooters, Thongs and Horror Over Topless Women on the Beach."

Yes, in 2017, in a country where there is currently close to a mass shooting per day, the right to bear arms is still considered sacred but the right to bare breasts is still considered sinful.

Except for those fembots in Austin Powers, I'm pretty sure no one, man or woman, has been killed or seriously injured by a female breast. Indeed, unlike guns, mammary glands nurture life, not destroy it.

But hey, I get the whole wanting to ban women (or certain women) from exposing their breasts in public thing. If I could, I would ban guys from wearing thongs at the beach and in public. (Seriously, no one wants to see your pale, flabby -- or tanned and hairy -- ass or your over-oiled beer belly hanging over that limp sack of flesh hanging between your legs.)

Getting back to Ocean City's topless bathing, or nudity, ban, though, it seems a wee bit hypocritical to shout about promoting "family values" when you've got a big ole Hooters on your boardwalk, as well as lewd t-shirts for sale and smoking and drinking in public going on (much of it underage). 

But that's America for you.  

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Are you + the U.S. better off than you were 4+ months ago (before Trump made America great)?

During the October 28, 1980, presidential debate between President Jimmy Carter and then presidential candidate Ronald Reagan, Reagan famously called on Americans to ask themselves:
'Are you better off now than you were four years ago? Is it easier for you to go and buy things in the stores than it was four years ago? Is there more or less unemployment in the country than there was four years ago? Is America as respected throughout the world as it was?'
It was a thought-provoking question. And the answer, or so it would appear from Reagan's victory, was "no."

I've been thinking a lot about that quote since Donald Trump took office, and promised to make America great again within 100 days.

So how is Trump doing? Are we (or you) better off than we/you were 4+ months ago?

Speaking personally, the answer is no.

Since Trump took office, our health insurance has gone way up. The value of our house has gone way down. I lost my main source of employment -- and have been unable to find a new one (or one that pays anywhere close to what I was earning, which wasn't much).

I worry about whether we and our children and grandchildren will have clean air to breathe and clean water to drink and whether the Earth will wind up looking like Venus. I worry about Trump starting a nuclear war. I worry about the rights of women and blacks/African Americans and other minorities. And I worry that if I go see a doctor or mental health professional about my anxiety our insurance premiums will skyrocket -- and mental healthcare isn't covered anyway.

As for Reagan's last question, "Is America as respected throughout the world as it was?" The short answer is, no, not even close. In fact, in just over four months, the United States has become the laughingstock of the world, thanks to Trump, who is a constant embarrassment on the world stage. And countries, including the UK (which has its own problems) and Canada, two of the United States's staunchest allies, are distancing themselves from Trump.

Regarding whether it's "easier for you to go and buy things in the store that it was four years ago," I don't have an answer.

And while technically the unemployment rate is low, and was low before Trump took office, I know a whole lot of people who have given up looking for full-time, or even part-time, work, or who found work but now make less money than they did four or 10 or 15 years ago. And I don't see this changing anytime soon, despite what Trump said or says. In fact, companies are continuing to automate and shift jobs out of the country -- and hiring fewer people to do more. And many people who do have jobs aren't paid a livable wage, which Trump and the Republicans don't see as a problem.

Sure, some people -- namely the very rich -- are better off, at least financially, than they were four months ago (thanks to a surging stock market and the rollback of certain regulations). But is America really better off? Are you?