Friday, August 17, 2018

What’s Funny

My brother sent me a link to Cracked’s blog post about conservative comedy, and it’s both funny and revealing.

A lot of people aren’t very familiar with conservative comedy. That’s because it’s usually indistinguishable from ordinary racism or belligerence, but there are conservatives out there trying to be funny. This is an article about how and why it never works. Conservative politics are fine for squeezing a couple extra years of activity out of an incurious elderly brain, but they’re not a great inspiration for art.

You don’t have to be a liberal to understand how comedy works, and there actually are some conservatives who are funny, but on the whole the idea of “conservative comedy” is an oxymoron.  That’s because to be truly funny you have to be able to laugh at yourself and your own faults, but more importantly, you have to grasp the fundamental concept that a lot of humor — especially stand-up — is based on punching up: mocking the powerful and doing it in a way that imparts some insight to human nature.  Based on the examples in this article, the stars of conservative comedy are incapable of grasping those two concepts.

In order to be truly funny, you have to be able to connect with your audience in a way that elicits empathy: they can identify with your situation.  That’s not too hard; a lot of righties feel a common bond.  However, they do it based on victimhood and without any sense of self-awareness.  They are looking for pity, not insight, or a reassurance that their grievances against the world (i.e. liberals) are valid and should be taken seriously.  But if you can’t laugh at yourself — or at least be self-deprecating — no one else is going to find you funny.  That’s how comics like Rodney Dangerfield and Lewis Black made their mark.  I have yet to hear a conservative comedian make a living out of laughing at himself or his fellow righties because they would take offense.  The biggest barrier to conservative comedy is their inability not just to make a joke, but to take one.

Punching up — attacking the powerful or those who take themselves too seriously — is classic comedy going all the way back to the Greeks, and it still works all the way from the Borscht Belt to urban slam.  It crosses all socio-economic barriers from the button-down white stiffness of Bob Newhart to the edginess of Chris Rock.  And of course the king of both punching up and mocking the unmockable is Mel Brooks.

Need I say more?

Warning Lights

I learned long ago not to ignore certain warning lights on the dashboard.  Last night the battery light came on while driving home from a car club meeting — ironically, the guest speaker was our trusty mechanic — so this morning the Mustang is going in to see what’s wrong with the electrical system.

Posting will resume when I get back from the shop.

Update: It’s probably the alternator.  I’ll know this afternoon.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

The Real Enemy Of The People

Editorial boards across the country and even overseas are joining the Boston Globe to speak out against Trump’s attacks on the media as, to quote Josef Stalin, “the enemy of the people.”  The Miami Herald, as a part of the McClatchy chain of papers, printed their thoughts.

No American president, or any city council member, for that matter, has ever unreservedly delighted in the way he or she was presented in the press. “I so appreciate the accuracy of their reporting on my perceived flaws!” said no official ever. “And good for them for holding me accountable.”

But President Donald Trump has veered into unfamiliar and perilous territory with his unceasing all-out assault on the free press and the First Amendment. Of course, the irony of Trump’s attacks on the “SICK!” and “very dishonest people” in “the fake media” he accuses of purveying, yes, “fake news” is that he himself is a product of the New York tabloids. He’s as savvy about manipulating his coverage as he is adept in undermining it.

But today the consequences of the president’s perpetual battle against journalists extend far beyond the Manhattan gossip pages. And the animus you see directed at CNN’s Jim Acosta isn’t just reserved for the White House press corps. Everywhere in the country, any matter that an official doesn’t want to talk about or that a reader doesn’t want to hear about is “fake news” now.

In our business, we know how much words matter. We know, too, that Trump’s references to us as the “enemy of the American People” are no less dangerous because they happen to be strategic. That is what Nazis called Jews. It’s how Joseph Stalin’s critics were marked for execution.

Every reporter who has ever covered a Trump rally knows the scratch of a threat that’s conveyed during that ritual moment when he aims the attention of the crowd to reporters, many of whom no longer stand in the press pen in the back for that reason.

And as real as the threat of physical violence is, especially after the murder of our colleagues in Annapolis, Maryland, Trump’s aggressive posture toward the First Amendment worries us even more.

That’s why nearly all of McClatchy’s 30 daily newspapers, which almost never speak with one voice, are doing so now. That’s why we’re joining with fellow journalists across the country in calling for an end to the president’s war of words against our free press.

It’s an affront to the U.S. Constitution when President Trump threatens to eliminate the First Amendment protections the Supreme Court has built into our nation’s libel laws — or when he suggests revoking the FCC licenses of broadcast news organizations whose reporting he doesn’t like.

The White House’s besmirching of journalists who are doing their jobs is dangerous to the public as well as to the press. It’s not just that we dislike being called “fake news.” That misnomer discredits facts and creates what Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway called “alternative facts,” making reasoned and informed debate basically impossible.

We all — as citizens — have a stake in this fight, and the battle lines seem pretty clear. If one first comes successfully for the press as an “enemy of the American People,” what stops someone for coming next for your friends? Your family? Or you?

Not even President Richard Nixon, whose original “enemies list” of the 20 private citizens he hoped to use his public office to “screw” included three journalists, tried to incite violence against reporters. While stewing privately about Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein as “enemies … trying to stick the knife right in our groin,” not even Nixon tagged the lot of us, Soviet-style, as “enemies of the people.” Nor did even he dare to take on the idea that our free press is worth protecting.

Donald Trump swore on Abraham Lincoln’s Bible to uphold the Constitution. And the First Amendment’s guarantee that “Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press” implies that no branch of government will do so.

That 44 percent of Republicans polled recently said Trump should have the autocrat’s power to shut down news outlets shows how successful his efforts have already been.

Like Nixon, Trump still pines for the kind of coverage his behavior makes impossible. But his place in history will be far less mixed than Nixon’s if he continues to menace James Madison’s best work.

Having worked, however briefly in the news business (nine months), I know all too well the pressure reporters are under to get the story, get it right, and make sure that it is reported as fairly and without bias as possible.  That’s all you can hope for, and there’s never time to sit back and try to spin it or slant it.  You ask questions, you do your research, and if someone tells you something, you check it out.  The people you report on may have an agenda, but the only one you have is to the truth as best you can find it.  In other words, it’s too hard to come up with “fake news;” getting the real news is hard enough, and anyone who voluntarily takes the low pay, the long hours, and the countless attempts to prove you wrong are truly dedicated to their mission.

Trump’s attacks on the press and the people who report the news stink of desperation and consciousness of guilt.  Granted, no one likes seeing their faults printed or being called out for falsehoods, but that’s human nature.  The true sign of maturity and of civilized society is the ability to either accept it, laugh it off, or make amends.

The real enemy of the people are those who would try to repress the true expression of the truth or the attempts to do so.

Purity Tests

One of the results of Tuesday’s primaries — and some others before — has been that the Republicans are being drawn in to nominating candidates who are true to the Trump brand and rejecting those who might have said an unkind word about him.

Case in point: former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s failed attempt to win the GOP nomination for his old job.  He lost, according to observers, because he had the nerve to criticize Trump for the Access Hollywood tape, calling him “unhinged and unfit.”  Apparently Minnesota Republicans are out to redefine “Minnesota nice” as smiling politely when they go to grab your genitalia.

Mr. Pawlenty isn’t the only one to find himself on the outs with the True Trumpers, and in several races around the country through the primary season we’ve seen Trump-endorsed candidates beat the more traditional faction.  Kansas could be on their way to having Kris Kobach, who never met an immigrant or a non-white voter he couldn’t demonize, and pick up a lucrative consulting fee in the process, elected governor, and the winds — at least in the tornado alley of GOP politics — are blowing from Trumpland.

A number of pundits are saying that this could be great news for the Democrats; the more Trumpistas the GOP runs the more the Blue Wave will become a tsunami and once and for all push those lemmings over the cliff and down onto the rocks of oblivion below.  And it could well happen; I’m pretty sure the good people of Virginia aren’t going to elect a white supremacist to the Senate, or any of the other alt-right candidates for Congress or local offices that have come slithering out from under their rocks now that we have a president who thinks home-grown Nazis can be very good people, too.  But I also remember the same assurances two years ago when a lot of people were sure that it would be a Democratic landslide and that Trump would be back to shilling his crap on QVC by January 2017.

There are a number of outside factors that on the surface have nothing whatsoever to do with the mid-terms: the outcome of the first Manafort trial, a report from the Mueller investigation, economic troubles from the tariff wars, and even more tell-alls from dismayed supporters.  But the fact that the GOP is handing the country some very clear choices in state and local elections will be the truest test of whether or not we’re going to be the ones to put an end to this calamity.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Red Menace

Via the Washington Post:

Florida’s governor this week made official what residents of southwest Florida already knew: The bloom of toxic algae that has darkened gulf waters is an emergency. The red tide has made breathing difficult for locals, scared away tourists, and strewn popular beaches with the stinking carcasses of fish, eels, porpoises, turtles, manatees and one 26-foot whale shark.

Gov. Rick Scott (R) late Monday declared a state of emergency in seven counties stretching from Tampa Bay south to the fringe of the Everglades. Scott promised $1.5 million in emergency funding.

The governor is facing Sen. Bill Nelson (D) this fall at the ballot box in a contest for the senate seat Nelson has held for three terms. Each man has accused the other of failing to tackle the red-tide calamity and the simultaneous bloom of a different type of algae that is clogging rivers and canals and putting a scum on top of Lake Okeechobee.

Citizens in retirement communities are reporting respiratory distress from the vapors of the microscopic red-tide organism called Karenia brevis. A recent study found a 50 percent spike in hospital visits due to respiratory problems during red-tide blooms.

The red tide has been gradually moving north, to the mouth of Tampa Bay, according to state tracking data. For many places, the daily reports continue to say “Water Color: Dark” and “Respiratory Irritation: Intense.” Worst of all are the reports that state “Dead Fish: Heavy.”

Gov. Scott blaming Sen. Nelson — a Democrat — for not doing anything about the problem is typical for a Trump-sucking windbag.  So far his response has been to blame someone else and ban the term “climate change” from the lexicon of official statements.

During Scott’s tenure, budgets for environmental agencies have been sharply reduced. The budget of the South Florida Water Management District, which oversees water issues from Orlando to Key West, was cut. Many of the more than 400 workers who lost their jobs in the $700 million cut were scientists and engineers whose jobs were to monitor pollution levels and algal blooms. Scott also abolished the Department of Community Affairs, which oversaw development in the state.

In the real world of sane politics and environmental responsibility, this disaster would doom Scott’s chances of winning any election.  But the odds are that it won’t make a difference in the campaign, and if he becomes a senator, Florida will truly be a red state.

Remarkable Restraint

Back in 1975 James Whitmore had a one-man show about President Truman called “Give’em Hell, Harry!” There’s a moment in the film where President Truman recalls an anecdote about his language:

Say, Rose, there’s a story going around about me these days. It says that some old party hen is supposed to have cornered Bess at some party, and said, “Mrs. Truman, isn’t there anything you can do to get the President to stop using the word ‘manure’?” And Bess is supposed to have replied, “It took me forty years to get him to use that word!”

That came to mind when reading that Trump referred to Omarosa Manigault Newman as “that dog.”  Given his attitude about women in general and African-American women in particular, I’m impressed that he didn’t come up with the more colorful and gender-specific term for “that dog.”

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

American Heritage

The op-ed in Politico by David S. Glosser has garnered attention not only because it calls out Stephen Miller, one of the architects of Trump’s cruel immigration policies as both a hypocrite and a betrayer to his family’s history, it points out that unlike the fears stoked by xenophobes and racists, immigrants came to America to make life better for themselves and their families.

Let me tell you a story about Stephen Miller and chain migration.

It begins at the turn of the 20th century, in a dirt-floor shack in the village of Antopol, a shtetl of subsistence farmers in what is now Belarus. Beset by violent anti-Jewish pogroms and forced childhood conscription in the Czar’s army, the patriarch of the shack, Wolf-Leib Glosser, fled a village where his forebears had lived for centuries and took his chances in America.

He set foot on Ellis Island on January 7, 1903, with $8 to his name. Though fluent in Polish, Russian and Yiddish, he understood no English. An elder son, Nathan, soon followed. By street corner peddling and sweatshop toil, Wolf-Leib and Nathan sent enough money home to pay off debts and buy the immediate family’s passage to America in 1906. That group included young Sam Glosser, who with his family settled in the western Pennsylvania city of Johnstown, a booming coal and steel town that was a magnet for other hardworking immigrants. The Glosser family quickly progressed from selling goods from a horse and wagon to owning a haberdashery in Johnstown run by Nathan and Wolf-Leib to a chain of supermarkets and discount department stores run by my grandfather, Sam, and the next generation of Glossers, including my dad, Izzy. It was big enough to be listed on the AMEX stock exchange and employed thousands of people over time. In the span of some 80 years and five decades, this family emerged from poverty in a hostile country to become a prosperous, educated clan of merchants, scholars, professionals, and, most important, American citizens.

What does this classically American tale have to do with Stephen Miller? Well, Izzy Glosser is his maternal grandfather, and Stephen’s mother, Miriam, is my sister.

I have watched with dismay and increasing horror as my nephew, an educated man who is well aware of his heritage, has become the architect of immigration policies that repudiate the very foundation of our family’s life in this country.

I shudder at the thought of what would have become of the Glossers had the same policies Stephen so coolly espouses— the travel ban, the radical decrease in refugees, the separation of children from their parents, and even talk of limiting citizenship for legal immigrants — been in effect when Wolf-Leib made his desperate bid for freedom. The Glossers came to the U.S. just a few years before the fear and prejudice of the “America first” nativists of the day closed U.S. borders to Jewish refugees. Had Wolf-Leib waited, his family likely would have been murdered by the Nazis along with all but seven of the 2,000 Jews who remained in Antopol. I would encourage Stephen to ask himself if the chanting, torch-bearing Nazis of Charlottesville, whose support his boss seems to court so cavalierly, do not envision a similar fate for him.

As Dr. Glosser notes, this is a classically American story of immigration and assimilation.  Change the country of origin to England or Wales and you have my own ancestry.  Ask your neighbor named Cramer or Hollenbeck or Shapiro or Perez or Yang their family history and it will probably sound a lot like the Glossers in macro: their ancestors — or maybe even their parents — came from someplace else.

There are four types of American ancestry: Native Americans, immigrants, refugees, or slaves (or a combination thereof).  And even the Native Americans will tell you they came from somewhere else back in the mists of time, either via the land bridge from Siberia or up from South America.

That’s what makes America America, and I’m not just talking about the United States.  The same stories are told in Canada, Mexico, throughout the Caribbean, and South America: everybody there came  from some other place to find a better life, to escape persecution, to do what human nature programs us to do: survive and thrive.  (And we also have a powerful curiosity to know where we came from.  Why else would millions of people pay $100 to spit in a tube and mail it off to Ancestry.com?)

America has been through these fits of xenophobia and paranoia about immigration throughout its history; excluding entire races and ethnic groups for the most hateful of reasons until, of course, they can find a use for them, be it a labor force to build the railroad, pick the lettuce, or build an atomic bomb.  We have, in the past, risen beyond the self-inflicted ignorance and hypocrisy, and we can do it again.  It’s the American way.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Insider Trading

I’m not going to read Omarosa Manigault Newman’s book on her life inside the Trump White House.  You can if you want to.

Books like that are meant to shock the reader and reveal the “true inside story,” but frankly if we’re talking about the Trump folks, all you have to do is listen to the news if you want shock, and it has nothing to do with tanning beds or Trump’s overt racism.  The way they’re dealing with voting rights, immigration, the environment, our allies, and trade is a lot more damning than what is revealed in a gossip’s tale.

Ms. Manigault Newman can write whatever she wants; it’s still a free country — for now.  And our capitalist system will reward her with its judgment through the sales of her tales; either they fly off the shelves or they’re on the $5 a copy table by Christmas.  But nothing she reveals will change anything in the Trump White House, so whatever her point was in writing it will be lost on the people she wrote about, and all we’ll be left with is that her name is the answer to a trivia question in a couple of years.

Frankly, if this book was researched, sourced, and reported to the level of something like that written by Woodward and Bernstein it still wouldn’t make a difference.  Trump and his minions will keep on doing what they do; shame and exposure actually energize them.  After all, if cabinet members and cronies can rip off the system and call in insider trading moves from the south lawn of the White House, what difference will the news that Trump uses the N-word make?

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Sunday Reading

This Is A Test — Elaina Plott in The Atlantic on gauging the GOP response to this weekend’s Nazi rallies.

This weekend, an untold number of white nationalists and their sympathizers will gather in Washington, D.C., to rally against, in their words, the “civil-rights abuses” they endured in Charlottesville, Virginia, exactly one year ago. The “Unite the Right” gathering will take place in Lafayette Park, just across from the White House. It will mark the anniversary of not only the group’s march through Charlottesville, tiki torches ablaze, but also the horrors that resulted from it, including the murder of 32-year-old Heather Heyer.

It also potentially marks a paradigmatic shift for the Republican Party. President Donald Trump responded in the dark aftermath of last year’s march not by emphatically denouncing the bigotry that sparked it, but by reminding Americans of the “very fine people on both sides.” Chief of Staff John Kelly may have hung his head as Trump delivered those remarks, but, like most officials in this administration, he never spoke out against them.

It is this fact and its consequences that bear considering throughout the demonstrations this weekend: whether, in today’s GOP, racism has been relegated to gaffe-like status—a political pitfall to navigate against, rather than a moral failing to wholly condemn.

I happened to be with an administration official this time last year, interviewing him for a story unrelated to Charlottesville. But the violent march naturally crept into our discussion, as both of our phones trilled with news of Trump’s press conference. I remember the official sighing deeply, shaking his head as he scanned the reports. Yet I’d learn moments later that this was not in opposition to the president’s comments themselves; rather, it was anxiety about how to contain the fallout. “Great, yet another distraction,” the official said. “The media will never let this one go.”

It was as though Trump had mistakenly defined his proposed corporate tax rate—not equivocated on the actions of white nationalists.

Republican leaders were careful to denounce the demonstrations in no uncertain terms. But they were also careful to avoid any mention of Trump, or avoid criticizing him directly. “We must be clear. White supremacy is repulsive,” House Speaker Paul Ryan tweeted. “This bigotry is counter to all this country stands for. There can be no moral ambiguity.” Echoed House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy: “Saturday’s violence and tragic loss of life was a direct consequence of the hateful rhetoric & action from white supremacists demonstrating.”

“We have to unequivocally say that the KKK and the white supremacists were wrong,” Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel told ABC’s David Muir at the time. She tried to spin Trump’s words: “The president was saying that people brought violence from both sides.”

My conversation with the administration official, and the response from GOP leaders, brought Trump’s immunity from reproach into sharp relief. There’s been a lot of talk about “red lines” in the last two years, which is to say musings about what, if anything, could cause the GOP to turn on Trump. This weekend’s Unite the Right rally offers occasion to consider many things, about where this country is and where it is going. But crucially, it offers a potent reminder of Trump’s seeming infallibility in all corners of his party.

Depending on Trump’s reaction to the rally this weekend, should he have one at all, Republican leaders may have a chance to rewrite the script. At the very least, perhaps they will take issue with the group’s namesake, and make clear that white supremacy does not, in fact, fit into their definition of “the Right.” Or perhaps they will stay silent, and take comfort in the fact that, in the Trump era, political consequences seem to only last for so long.

What Really Happened — Larry David (“Curb Your Enthusiasm”) has the straight poop on the meeting at Trump Tower.

Everybody wants to know what was said in that Trump Tower meeting with the Russians in June 2016. Well, other than the people in the room, I, Steven Yablonsky, alone know exactly what was said because I worked as a janitor in the building and was hiding in the closet recording all of it on my phone. As it happens, I was fired yesterday for not putting up the “wet floor” sign in the lobby, and a few people took a tumble, including Tiffany, so now I can finally reveal all.

Transcription:

Through a crack in the closet door, four Russians enter. They are Natalia Veselnitskaya, Rinat Akhmetshin, Irakly Kaveladze and Anatoli Samochornov. Already present are Donald Trump Jr., Paul Manafort, Jared Kushner and Rob Goldstone. They all say hello and introductions are made.

Rinat: Where shall we sit?

Don Jr.: Anywhere you’d like.

Rinat: You want big chair?

Don Jr.: You can have the big chair.

Rinat: Ah, I feel a little funny.

Natalia: Take big chair. Don Jr. say O.K.

Rinat: (sits) I like this. It sinks in. Might fall asleep.

Irakly: (pointing) Look at nice spread.

Jared: Help yourself to anything on the table.

Irakly: Is that tuna fish or chicken salad? Very hard to tell difference.

Rob: And they taste the same. That I don’t get.

(They all mutter in agreement. Why is that? One’s chicken, one’s fish.)

Manafort: O.K., shall we begin?

Natalia: We have very good dirt, as you say, on Clinton. You win election with this.

Manafort: Hold it, hold it. Wait a second. First off, that would be illegal. That would be conspiring with an enemy to commit election fraud.

Rinat: I thought that was what meeting about.

Natalia: Me too.

Don Jr.: What? Who told you that?

Rinat: What did you think it was about?

Don Jr.: I thought it was about adoption!

Rinat: Adoption?!

Manafort: Yes, adoption. We want you to rescind the ban. It’s taking a tremendous toll.

The Russians: (in unison) Ohh … well, this is big misunderstanding …

Jared: I’ll say.

Don Jr.: Can I have a word with my colleagues?

(The four Americans huddle up right in front of the closet door.)

Don Jr.: I think we should call the F.B.I.

Goldstone: Right now?

Don Jr.: Right now!

Jared: No, that’s crazy.

Don Jr.: We’re breaking the law, Jared!

Jared: No, we’re not. … What’s that word that starts with a “c”?

Goldstone: Constitution?

Manafort: Coffers?

Don Jr.: Conspiracy?

Jared: No … collusion! That’s legal! Is that a beauty? We’re not calling the F.B.I.!

Don Jr.: O.K., but my dad still might get in a lot of trouble for this.

Goldstone: I’m getting an Arnold Palmer.

Don Jr.: I don’t think there’s any lemonade.

Goldstone: Seriously?

(They return to their seats.)

Manafort: Sorry about the misunderstanding, but you see, there are thousands of families in America who are suffering because they’re unable to have children of their own. One of my dearest friends has no children. It’s been heartbreaking to watch them trying to adopt and come up empty.

Don Jr.: Do you have kids, Anatoli?

Anatoli: Yes, two beautiful daughters. The government take them for gymnastics.

Don Jr.: So you know how empty life is without them. I know relations between our great countries have been frayed. But that shouldn’t be what this is about. This should be about hardworking families who want to experience the joys of parenthood. Can’t you put yourself in their shoes? Can’t you … (begins to break down)

Manafort: Does anyone have a tissue?

Anatoli: Natalia, you have tissue in purse?

Natalia: Here, yes, of course. Don’t cry, Don Jr. Don’t cry.

Don Jr.: (bawling) Thank you. … I wanted to adopt a child from Cambodia, but Vanessa said no. It broke us up. … I’m sorry.

Natalia: I see how much this means to you. I will call President Putin to discuss. I am on your side.

Rinat: Me too.

Don Jr.: Thank you. This means the world to me. And you know who will be really happy about this? Dad. In fact, this whole meeting was his idea.

Natalia: Nice.

Rinat: And you’re sure you don’t want our information on Clinton? Election in bag.

Manafort: Oh, God, no. Please don’t bring that up again. You see, Rinat, this is America. We’re a democracy. Our elections are sacred. And when it comes right down to it, I’d rather lose than win by cheating.

Natalia: Understood. Our apologies. We will be in touch.

(They say their goodbyes and head out. As the door closes …)

Don Jr: I still think we should call the F.B.I.

Doonesbury — Show some backbone.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Friday, August 10, 2018

Space Farce

I’m sure there are legitimate reasons to want to come up with a way to protect our satellites and other space-borne entities, but this isn’t the way to do it.

Vice President Mike Pence promoted a proposed Space Command on Thursday as “an idea whose time has come” in comments at the Pentagon to unveil a few more details about President Trump’s plan to create another military force, this one for outer space, and for it to be in operation by 2020.

Mr. Trump’s space dreams still have to go through a divided Congress to come true, but initially reluctant Pentagon officials have lined up behind the proposal and now say that they will do what they can to bring it to fruition.

“The time has come to write the next great chapter in the history of our armed forces, to prepare for the next battlefield where America’s best and bravest will be called to deter and defeat a new generation of threats to our people, to our nation,” Mr. Pence told an audience at the Pentagon. He called for Congress to allocate an additional $8 billion for space security systems over the next five years.

Mr. Trump, for his part, posted on Twitter on Thursday: “Space Force all the way!”

And capping it off with a GOP fund-raising appeal by voting on the logo just makes it even sillier.

Aside from the fact that Congress would have to vote on it and that weaponizing outer space would violate a number of treaties that the U.S. has signed (not that that would stop Trump), it would be a lot easier and more efficient if they just let NASA and the United States Air Force do their job rather than start up a whole new branch of the military-industrial complex.

I’m pretty sure that this is just another “Oh, look at the kitty!” moment for Trump and his team.  The Mueller investigation is getting intense for them, Paul Manafort is in the dock, Democrats are building up for a blue wave in November, and congressmen and cabinet members are finding out that grifting has its downsides.  No wonder launching ourselves into outer space to take on the Romulans is sounding like a nice diversion.

But I don’t think this is what Sir Patrick Stewart had in mind when he signed up for a reboot of his role as Captain Jean-Luc Picard.

“Please don’t make it so.”

Thursday, August 9, 2018