NEWS AND OPINION:
Weary of budget arguments and partisan discord? Consider talk of extraterrestrials, a topic which comes and goes in politics — a distraction or a joke to some, a serious concern or curiosity for others. Interest in ETs and UFOs got a boost Monday following the release of a new national survey from an academic source which normally focuses on voter sentiment and President Trump‘s favorability numbers.
“Are Americans poised for an alien invasion? Many Americans (68 percent) think there is intelligent life on other planets, up from 52 percent in 2005,” says a Marist Poll, which reveals that 59 percent of Republicans, 72 percent of independents and 69 percent of Democrats currently agree with this.
The poll said that three-fourths of those who believe in intelligent life elsewhere agree that “extraterrestrials are at least as intelligent as human beings” — including a plurality (46 percent) who think the intelligence of extraterrestrials exceeds that of the human race.
“But, are these otherworldly beings coming to get us? A majority (55 percent) say they will find us before we find them,” the poll analysis said — and there are more numbers in the Poll du Jour at column’s end.
These findings may not be quite as sensational as a startling account which went public two months ago. None other than The New York Times broke the story that the Pentagon had maintained a well-funded UFO research program formally titled Advanced Aviation Threat Identification Program. The Times account included verified video footage of a U.S. Navy fighter jet’s encounter with a most unusual aircraft.
“I have never seen anything in my life, in my history of flying that has the performance, the acceleration — keep in mind this thing had no wings,” retired Cmdr. David Fravor told ABC News in a follow-up interview — part of an avalanche of coverage which drew the interest of the White House press corps, obviously eager for a reaction from the president.
“This is about science and national security. If America doesn’t take the lead in answering these questions, others will,” tweeted former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who was, according to Politico, the point man behind the Pentagon program almost a decade ago. “The truth is out there. Seriously,” he said.
Mr. Reid’s plea appeals to passionate “disclosure” activists who pine for the federal government to reveal the facts about these matters. In a new analysis released last week, Stephen Bassett — a registered Washington lobbyist and persistent UFO researcher — raised the prospect that Russia President Vladimir Putin would be the “first disclosure president” to formally acknowledge an extraterrestrial presence on the planet.
The alien interest meter also shot up during the 2016 presidential campaign after Hillary Clinton revealed her interest in UFOs and off-planet visitors — an interest also shared by her longtime adviser John Podesta.
PORTRAIT OF THE OBAMA PORTRAITS
There hasn’t been so much attention paid to public art for a while. The two portraits of former President Barack Obama and former first lady Michelle Obama veered away from the traditions of official art and into concepts, culture, design and political statements, among other things. A few samples from the news media’s take:
“Obama portraits blend paint and politics, and fact and fiction” (New York Times); “Michelle Obama portrait faces brutal mockery, some praise after unveiling” (Fox News); “The Obamas’ portraits are not what you’d expect and that’s why they’re great” (Washington Post); “Ringing in a new era of presidential portraiture” (Artnet News); “Newspaper art critics rush to defend ‘rock-solid cool’ of Obama” (Newsbusters.org); “Fantasy and reality merge in portraits of Barack and Michelle Obama” (Forbes); “Why Michelle Obama’s portrait doesn’t need to look exactly like her” (CNN); “New controversy rages: Do official portraits look like the Obamas?” (HotAir.com)
TRAVELOGUE: RICK STEVES HAS A SAY
He is everyone’s favorite travel guru on PBS. On Tuesday, however, Rick Steves will be on Capitol Hill to back legislation to end federal marijuana prohibition, appearing in the company of both the Marijuana Policy Project and the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws before both House and Senate.
As always, such doings would amaze the old hippies of yore, who faced jail time for possession of marijuana. Time marches on, though.
“The House briefing was organized in cooperation with the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, a group of representatives from states that have made marijuana legal for adults and who support reforming federal marijuana laws,” the organizers advise, also noting that Mr. Steves was “a major proponent” behind a 2012 law passed by voters in his home state of Washington regarding regulation and taxation of marijuana.
MIKE LEE HAS A SAY
Also in the U.S. Capitol on Tuesday: Sen. Mike Lee will be on hand to launch The Quill Project — a new online research resource that offers the complete known records of the Constitutional Convention of 1787, which resulted in the current U.S. Constitution.
The new site requires “a minimum of technical knowledge,” so never fear.
It was developed by Oxford University’s Pembroke College and Utah Valley University’s Center for Constitutional Studies — and “dramatically changes access to and understanding of the deliberations behind the Constitution,” advise Nicholas Cole of Oxford, who created the platform, and Utah Valley President Matt Holland.
Find this new site at Quillproject.net.
POLL DU JOUR
• 68 percent of Americans believe there is intelligent life on other planets; 59 percent of Republicans, 72 percent of independents and 69 percent of Democrats agree.
• 55 percent overall think that “they will find us before we find them”; 53 percent of Republicans, 53 percent of independents and 55 percent of Democrats agree.
• 42 percent of registered voters think that life on other planets is more intelligent than human life on Earth; 44 percent of Republicans, 41 percent of independents and 43 percent of Democrats agree.
• 31 percent of voters think that life on other planets is about as intelligent as human life on Earth; 31 percent of Republicans, 35 percent of independents and 28 percent of Democrats agree.
• 13 percent overall think that life on other planets is less intelligent as human life on Earth; 14 percent of Republicans, 11 percent of independents and 15 percent of Democrats agree.
• 11 percent overall think that life on other planets “have already found us”; 11 percent of Republicans, 15 percent of independents and 8 percent of Democrats agree.
Source: A Marist College Poll of 1,033 U.S. adults conducted Jan. 29-31 and released Monday.
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