Martian Hold-Em, the game sweeping the cosmos

Saturday, January 10th, 2004, 4:09 pm

As I previously announced, I’m running for President in 2004. In light of rumors that President Bush will announce plans for an idiotic and wasteful lunar base and manned mission to Mars, Hdouble asked me how many big bets per hour would it take to send a man to Mars. I sent back a typically smart-assed reply, to wit:

My fellow American (and, I hope, registered voter),

According to Gregg Easterbrook at The New Republic, a manned mission to Mars would cost about $28

billion just to get in the air. Getting the crew back and forth alive would cost somewhere around

$300 billion. As President, I will also propose a manned mission to Mars. My proposal cuts costs

dramatically by making this a suicide mission–the astronauts selected will have to fend for

themselves once they get to the Red Planet. These flyboys will be VERY motivated to make Mars

habitable for human, since they’ll snuff it if they don’t. This is the “compassionate

conservative” portion of my platform.

I don’t know how to fund this mission yet, but I’m trying to get an IPO going for a company I’m

going to call “”. Since these are the only two industries actually making money

on the Internet, I figure to make a killing on the Street. If that doesn’t work, I propose playing

some no-limit with the European Union, gambling with the federal budget against those

sausage-suckers and cheese-eaters. No way some Belgian is gonna beat an American at


Hey, if you’d like to volunteer for the mission to Mars let me know.

The Future President of the United States of America,

Mean Gene

Now, when I was a kid my I had my future all planned out–I’d study aeronautical engineering at the Air Force Academy, become a fighter pilot, and eventually join the astronaut program. I really, really wanted to be an astronaut. Then came that fateful day during the sixth grade, when I went in for our yearly eye exam and was told that my vision was 20-40 and I needed corrective glasses. Bye-bye Air Force Academy, bye-bye F-15, bye-bye outer space. I remember actually crying as I walked back to class, because I knew that, thanks to my very genetic makeup, I didn’t have The Right Stuff.

As time went by I learned that more than my eyesight precluded me from becoming a fighter jock. First of all, I’m not especially good at math. Not terrible, but anyone who voluntarily gets into an airplane I designed is probably wearing a bandanna with a Rising Sun symbol and preparing to scream “Banzai” as he crashes it into an American aircraft carrier. Then there’s the fact that I am flat-terrified of heights and of flying. I’ll fly, but I need five or six highballs and a couple muscle relaxants before I’ll released my death-grip on the seat. Then you throw in the fact that just about anyone can go into space these days, I mean they’re sending Senators up, so isn’t like you need special qualifications anymore.

But I’m still fascinated by space travel, and when I was watching the NOVA special about the Spirit rover I nearly started crying when they received confirmation that the Lander had survived. Makes you proud to be an American, or, indeed, a human being, that we can build something so sophisticated and send it 100 million miles to another planet, for crying out loud. Incredible.

As I looked at the photos Spirit sent back I realized that now isn’t the time to send a manned mission to Mars. Way too dangerous. Way too expensive. We need to figure out how to get stuff into space much more cheaply and safely, that’s what our space program should focus on. I mean, just look at those pictures, at that flat, inhospitable desert, nothing to see all the way to the horizon. Nothing but desert, in the middle of nowhere…

Oh. Oh yes. Oh YES. I know how to fund the first manned mission to Mars! And I know how to make the endeavor pay for itself! You guessed it–Mars is gonna be the new Vegas! Think about it–50 years ago the only difference between Vegas and Mars was that there’s a bit more oxygen in Nevada and it’s about 150 degrees warmer. And no one goes outside in Vegas, most visitors spend 95% of their time in the casino and go home with that froggy fluorescent-light pallor, not with a tan. So keeping people cooped up on Mars is no problem at all.

Vegas is the fastest-growing city in the country and one of the biggest tourist destinations in the world. Mars could be all that and more! Millions go to Vegas every year for gambling and adventure, right? Well, Mars gives you all that but more, exponentially so! The old-timers lament that the old Vegas is gone, that the seedy, honky-tonk atmosphere has been replaced by the overwhelming glamour of corporate gaming. Well, I can see Martian casinos as a HUGE opportunity for the 21st century Benny Binions who need to get out from under oppressive things like laws and law enforcement and take their shot at running not just the Biggest Game in Town, but in the SOLAR SYSTEM.

If I am elected President, I will make all contributions by casino and gaming establishments toward a manned Martian expedition tax-deductible. I will allow organized crime syndicates and drug cartels to pour the billions they have locked up in safe houses and buried in the rain forest into this mission, in exchange for my promise that gambling, prostitution, racketeering, and drug use will be totally legal on Mars. Anyone who wishes to go to Mars can either pay their own way or be comped by the new Martian casinos.

See, I also think of Mars as the new Australia. Back in the 1800’s Britain transported her most incorrigible criminals and whores and felons to ‘Stralia, and look what a raging success that was. Australia is a thriving nation with beautiful cities and a vibrant economy–and just about everyone there is about 2 generations removed from, well, scum (I mean no disrespect to my Aussie readers).

Of course, for the first 100 years or so Mars is gonna be a pretty rough place, very Wild West. Lots of violence, gangs fighting over turf, that sort of thing. But if that’s the price we have to pay for the biggest advance in human civilization since the Declaration of independence said that “All Men Are Created Equal”, I’m willing to pay that price. No one will be sent to Mars against his or her will. I want people on Mars who desperately want to be there–either to make a buck or to indulge their most base and animal needs. We can get these people off of the Earth, where they cause all sorts of trouble, and that’ll free up more capital for education and medicine and good stuff like that.

This is a win-win, my fellow Americans. Vote for Mean Gene, and I promise that your descendants will play poker on another planet.

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