May The Pre-Check Be With You

I’ve been on the road a lot lately, and I’ve encountered some long lines going through the TSA checkpoints.  They suck, frankly.  So I’ve thought about how to deal with the issue in the classic American fashion — by paying more money to avoid the lines.

That’s right:  I’ve decided to go over to the Dark Side of getting TSA PreCheck clearance.

IMG_7215So today, Kish and I stopped in one of those humble, entirely anonymous five-story office buildings that you find among the strip malls — the kind of generic space filled with plastic potted plants that probably is an incredibly depressing place to work — to go through the PreCheck clearance process.  After waiting for a while, we presented our passports, answered a few questions about our lack of felony convictions and general mental health, gave the government our fingerprints, and then paid $85 each for the privilege of avoiding the regular TSA lines and keeping our shoes on and fluids in our bags when we go through security.

In all, the actual interview process took about five minutes.  We’re supposed to get our TSA PreCheck numbers in a few weeks.

Interesting, isn’t it, that we pay the government $85 to collect our fingerprints and allow us to avoid lines that the government security procedures have created?  Nice work if you can get it!  I couldn’t find any information about how many people have coughed up the cash for PreCheck, but I imagine its a good moneymaker for the feds — and if it keeps me from standing forever in lines, listening to TSA personnel shouting at those in the queue to remove their laptops, place them in separate bins, etc., etc., the $85 is worth it.

The Force Is Strong

The new Star Wars trailer is out, and even though the release of the movie is two months away people are already buying tickets.  From a look at the trailer, I can see why:  Star Wars:  The Force Awakens looks pretty cool, and may well reinvigorate one of the greatest movie franchises ever.  Han Solo!  Leia!  Luke Skywalker!  Chewie!

As for me, the coolest thing in the trailer is the rolling ball robot with the unmoving head.  How do they do some of that stuff?

No Go Joe

Vice President Joe Biden announced yesterday that he won’t be running for President. His declaration of non-candidacy ended months of speculation, as well as the hope in some quarters that he might enter the race for the Democratic nomination as an alternative to Hillary Clinton.  Although Biden and his family apparently had decided they could commit to a campaign, after months of mourning the recent death of his son, he concluded that they simply did not have enough time to launch a successful bid.

I’m not quite sure why so many were urging Biden to run in the first place.  After all, he’s sought the Democratic nomination on multiple occasions in the past, without making much of a mark.  I suspect that the “second-string quarterback syndrome” was at play.  Any football fan knows that when the first-string QB is struggling, the back-up’s popularity skyrockets — because he’s not out on the field getting sacked and throwing picks.  With Hillary Clinton’s ever-shifting  approach to questions about her private email server, and Bernie Sanders widely seen as unelectable, Biden seemed like a viable alternative.

It’s interesting that so many people who were urging Biden to run, and so many pundits who wrote favorably of that possibility, focused on Biden’s enjoyment of campaigning, as opposed to his capabilities, judgment, decision-making, and other qualities that would come into play if he actually were elected.  The pro-Joe stories always seemed to strike the tone that Joe came across as a good guy who loved to press the flesh and eat corn dogs with the little guys out on the hustings.  Gaffe-prone, to be sure, but an ever-smiling, two-fisted Happy Warrior who could be friends with those across the aisle and whose politics were agreeable to the liberal/progressive base of the Democratic Party.

Of course, those articles drew a favorable contrast between Old Joe and Hillary Clinton, who is widely depicted as wooden, contrived, and joyless in her campaign appearances and willing to endure them only because they are a necessary path to her ultimate goal.  And Biden’s speech yesterday struck some of those same tones.  Without mentioning Clinton by name, he criticized those who characterized Republicans as “enemies” — as Clinton did in the recent Democratic candidate debate — rather than as “opponents.”

So now “Middle-Class Joe” is out, and Hillary remains in.  Today she’ll testify before the House Select Committee on Benghazi about her role in the September 11, 2012 attack on the U.S. installation in Benghazi, Libya that resulted in the death of the U.S. Ambassador and other Americans, and her public assertions in the aftermath of the attack.  With Biden out of the race, her performance today will get more attention than ever.