NEWS AND OPINION:
Those weary of politics as usual in the nation’s capital can consider this less-traveled road manned by one Stephen Bassett, a registered lobbyist and activist who has not given up his pursuit of aliens, as in the extraterrestrial variety. On Wednesday, Mr. Bassett heads to the National Press Club to make his case for “disclosure” — a formal acknowledgment by the U.S. government that it has withheld information for decades about the presence of the otherworldly set on these shores and elsewhere. He also seeks a congressional hearing on the “truth embargo,” and now says he has a variety of military and political witnesses “of rank and station” ready to testify.
Mr. Bassett has had a dress rehearsal of sorts. Last year, he staged his own public hearing on the extraterrestrial question, drawing 42 witnesses and a planning committee that included six former lawmakers. He sent a DVD of the event, also staged in the National Press Club, to all members of Congress that outlined concerns over secrecy and the possibility that unusual technology might be in the mix. Mr. Bassett also has filed several public petitions demanding disclosure through the White House’s “We the People” project. One is active, and another drew enough signatures to warrant an official response.
The White House office of science and technology advised in their answer: “The U.S. government has no evidence that any life exists outside our planet, or that an extraterrestrial presence has contacted or engaged any member of the human race. In addition, there is no credible information to suggest that any evidence is being hidden from the public’s eye. However, that doesn’t mean the subject of life outside our planet isn’t being discussed or explored.”
Indeed. There are discussions afoot. NASA and the Library of Congress have teamed up for a series of seminars on the topic of astrobiology — “the study of the origin, evolution, distribution, and future of life in the universe,” as defined by the space agency. Scheduled to begin in March, the three-part series convenes scientists, humanities scholars and writers from here and abroad to “promote reflection and dialogue on the possible implications of the search for life beyond our planet,” says Jane McAuliffe, director of the Library’s quite fabulous Kluge Center. The august group will get into religious and philosophical issues, among other things.
There’s some transparency, in the meantime. In 2011, the FBI released a limited number of documents online about UFO sightings and other events;the NSA also declassified similar historical information, placing it right alongside material related to POWs and the Kennedy assassination. This week, U.S Air Force declassified historic documents detailing UFO investigations and sightings from 1947-1969 also were made public online by enthusiast John Greenewald, who obtained them through a series of Freedom of Information requests.
HEADLINE OF NOTE
“The Islamic State plans TV channel, according to reports.”
— From Variety, the industry publication, which noted Tuesday: “The station, which if launched will take ISIS’ well-polished propaganda machine to an entirely new level, will feature round-the-clock news and commentary that supports its jihadist ideology.”
ON BORDER PATROL
Wednesday is a big day for immigration watchers. The House Homeland Security Committee marks up border legislation recently introduced by Rep. Michael T. McCaul, the panel chairman.
“When it comes to border security, the administration has failed. Failure is not an option on this issue, so Congress must lead. The Secure Our Borders First Act ensures a smart, safe and cost-effective border by building fencing where fencing is needed and allocating technology where technology is needed. It is the toughest border security bill ever before Congress, with real penalties for the administration for not doing their job,” says the Texas Republican.
Some observers are already fretting. Research from the Center for Immigration Studies says the legislation is an improvement but falls short — and “proposes to spend $10 billion of taxpayer money without ensuring that a single illegal alien will be sent home,” writes analyst Jessica Vaughn, who cites the “catch-and-release policies of the Obama administration” as resettling more than 100,000 illegal family and child arrivals from Central America, and “attracts more than 200,000 new overstayers every year.”
Ms. Vaughn adds, “Any infrastructure improvements, new strategies and better metrics are pointless. No new drones, surveillance or intelligence can be effective against illegal immigration as long as jobs, education, health care and amnesties remain available.” This lengthy analysis is available at CIS.org.
“As public perceptions of Barack Obama have changed over the course of his presidency, so too have the words used to describe him,” notes a survey by the Pew Research Center, which points out that “good” and “incompetent” were the most frequently cited terms used to describe Mr. Obama in the poll of 1,504 Americans released Tuesday.
And here are the top 25 of the lengthy list: Good or “good man” was No. 1, followed by incompetent, intelligent, dictator, honest, idiot/dumb/stupid, awesome, great, liar, arrogant, smart, trying/tried/tries, disappointing, failure, impressive, president, weak, competent, excellent, leader, liberal, OK, persistent, poor, ambitious.
The nation itself also has some mixed reviews, this according to a Wall Street Journal poll also released Tuesday. The most often cited words used to describe “the state of the nation today” are “divided,” followed by recovering, troubled, deteriorating, hopeful, broken and strong.
THE SNIPER PRESS
America is not done discussing “American Sniper,” the $105 million blockbuster from Clint Eastwood that has broken box office records and continues to spark heartland fervor and spirited press coverage.
A short review of the many headlines: “American Sniper envy now front and center” (Mediaite); “American Sniper helped at box office by conservatives” (New York Daily News); “Celebrities rally behind American Sniper” (Fox News); “American Sniper billboard defaced with word ‘Murder!’” (Los Angeles Times); “American Sniper: Political Rorschach test” (Daily Beast); “American Sniper scares liberal thought leaders” (Breitbart News); and “War as entertainment” (Baltimore Sun).
CLINTON THE MUSICAL
Yes, there’s a production called “Clinton the Musical” that debuted a few months ago at a New York theater festival. Now it is going off-Broadway. The $97 tickets went on sale Tuesday for an April debut, which could pose a peculiar dynamic for Hillary Rodham Clinton should she announce her intent to run for president about the same time.
“President William Jefferson Clinton behaved like two different people — one moment noble, the next naughty — that’s because he was! Clinton The Musical explores the two very different sides of the 42nd President of the United States: WJ, the wholesome, intelligent one, and Billy, the randy, charming one. With Hillary Rodham Clinton at their side, the two will handle issues from The White House to Whitewater, the sax to the sex, social security to social climbers, and in the process make history. Maybe,” say advance production notes.
POLL DU JOUR
• 89 percent of Americans say “Washington, D.C.” is out of touch with the rest of the country; 90 percent of Republicans, 93 percent of independents and 86 percent of Democrats agree.
• 85 percent overall say “people running the country” don’t care what happens to the public; 87 percent of Republicans, 88 percent of independents and 82 percent of Democrats agree.
• 81 percent overall say “the rich get richer and the poor poorer”; 64 percent of Republicans, 82 percent of independents and 91 percent of Democrats agree.
• 71 percent overall say “people with power” take advantage of the public; 65 percent of Republicans, 77 percent of independents and 69 percent of Democrats agree.
• 68 percent believe what they think “doesn’t count anymore”; 67 percent of Republicans, 74 percent of independents and 65 percent of Democrats agree.
Source: A Harris Poll of 2,276 U.S. adults conducted Nov. 12-17 and released Tuesday.
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