Opinions in the Shorts: Vol. 347

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Cheers to the first OITS of 2018. Hope the new year is off to a good start for you.

Our tradition is to have shredded pork roast and sauerkraut served over mashed potatoes as a New Year’s Day meal. Do you have any traditions to start the year?

My little corner of the world got it’s 300,000th visit sometime between 8-12 pm on New Years’ Eve. I didn’t see the rollover because we at a New Years Eve dance. Next milestone is the 2000th post (this one is #1990).

This weekend’s post will involve a challenge. HINT for advanced planning: A challenge to readers to use (in a comment) a word (in English) that has never appeared on this blog. 

For Netflix viewers looking for a simple, wholesome show, my wife loves Heartland, a Canadian-based show set in Alberta.

A tip of the cap to college football coach Scott Frost. His UCF team had a great season, then he accepted the head coach position at his alma mater (Nebraska). Unlike what most other coaches have done, Frost did two jobs – therefore, coached UCF in their bowl game – one of the biggest games in school history – and UCF won.

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Needing a gain of only 2 seats, Democrats are excited about the possibility of gaining control of the Senate with the November 2018 election. While Democrats are wistfully hopeful in about maybe 5 races currently held by Republicans, they face tough challenges to retain seats in 10 races. Bottom line: Odds may be better on the House side.

I wonder how much higher President Trump’s approval rating would be if he didn’t tweet.

Thanks to those who truly understood my crystal ball post about Trumpian Nostradamus (the previous post).

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To lead you into this week’s dose of satirical headlines, The Onion lists ways the world has changed since Donald Trump’s election.

Weekly Headlines from The Onion (combos welcome)
Starbucks unveils $7 wake-up slap
Earth’s successful completion of orbit around Sun inspires woman to reflect on eating habits
NASA celebrates 60th anniversary of launching first moon to orbit Earth
Man at center of political spectrum under impression he is less obnoxious
TJ Maxx recreates in-store shopping experience with new website that randomly scatters products all over the place

Interesting Reads (as a whole, a bit more relaxing than usual)
A transformation: Muslims and American culture
How not to be the Ugly American when travelling abroad
Reviewing a view of 2018 from 1968
Interesting findings from 2017
The most expensive mile of subway
The birth of Emojis
(Photos) BBC’s Best submitted photos of 2017

To kick off the 2018 OITS, here’s a 2017 Kennedy Center Honoree who delivered a great show back in the day. In the words of Garrison Keillor, Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.

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On a Congressional Budget

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The 114th US Congress (435 Representatives and 100 Senators) is now in session. With Republicans controlling both chambers, it will be interesting to see how their relationship with a Democratic president unfolds.

Republicans love to champion a decrease in spending – of course, they do so while protecting their sacred cows and attacking the Democratic sacred cows. To me, one way the Republicans can legitimize decreased spending and promote their smaller government mantra (plus gain favor with the public) is by significant decreasing funding of their own operation – the budget for operating Congress. (I know, fat chance of that.)

For those that don’t know, the cost of operating Congress is about $1.7 billion per year. In the chart below, I examine salaries, staffing, and office expenses for each office and the Congressional committees.

Note: For the ease of understanding and calculations, I rounded figures

Note: For the ease of understanding and calculations, I rounded figures

The savings represent over $54,000,000. On the other hand, it’s only 3% of the Congressional operating budget. Nonetheless, it’s a start, which means there is more room to cut even more.

Hey Congress, when you are done looking at yourself, reforming the procurement process can deliver mega-savings – but I know, you won’t do that either. OK – back to your sacred cows.

Opinions in the Shorts: Vol. 178

On Politics
Interesting to see that Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) now has concerns with the Affordable Care Act. By the way, he’s up for re-election in 2014.

The US Senate has me in a snit. The people elected these officials to debate and legislate – but not to determine the constitutionality or unconstitutionality of a law. Civics 101 says that’s the duty of the Supreme Court. Sure makes me wonder about the constitutionality of their action.

Polls show that people have a low opinion of Congress and they don’t trust Congress. Here’s one key question to ask each member: What are you going to do to change those perceptions?

The Onion offers tips to Congress on passing a gun control bill.

On This Week’s Headlines from The Onion

  • Excited man only 2 therapy sessions away from resolving issues
  • Couple making out at bus stop like its Paris
  • TV viewer relates to totally unbelievable character that could never exist in reality
  • Boss has deft touch for making employees feel like shit
  • An airport security pig finds concealed truffles
  • Justin Bieber fan jealous of Anne Frank

Interesting Reads
The rise in pseudo-academic conferences and journals
Moving Bridges by Sliding
Picking the Pope
Evolution and good science
When alcohol was medicine

Honorable Mention to those who missed it because this article received many comments last week: America is pooping wrong

On Potpourri
Time: The Musical – Act 2 was successful, so I proudly announce to hopefully premier Act 3 in mid-May.

Congratulations to Georgette for being the 25,000 comment.

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Strangely, there has been a recent rush on followers. Is this the forerunner to a something weird?

There will be a Saturday Morning Cartoon feature this weekend … and it will feature a cartoon icon.

Instead of some sort of entertainment to send you into the weekend, marvel at this animation by NASA of their Asteroid Retrieval Initiation. Thank you Alex for this great find, and I invite everyone to read Alex’s post on this venture.

Have a good weekend! In the words of Garrison Keillor, Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.