Monday, October 15, 2018

Week of 10/15/2018

Space Force: Trump Makes It Weird
As a student of history – and, really, we all should be – I often find it strange, and sometimes disturbing, that the best inventions come from the worst places.
Take, for instance, the highways.  Did you know that came about during the time of Nazi Germany?  Prior to the Autobahn in 1932, roads were designed primarily for people, horses, and horse-drawn carriages.  Bicycles and cars and trucks were considered secondary users.  An idea that actually started during Weimar Republic in Germany changed that.  But when Adolf Hitler and his nationalistic party took over, they quickly pounced on the idea, selling it as a way to enhance leisure for the masses, as well as provide work for a country still recovering from the Great Depression.  Then, after World War II, U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower saw the highways as something America should have.  And we have been stuck in them ever since.
Do you know what else came from Nazi Germany?  Volkswagen.  Yes, the German car maker took great pride in designing the “people’s car” for Hitler, something for the German public to own and also to drive around on those new highways.  Prior to this, cars were considered a luxury item.  Only one in fifty German households could afford one.  In 1934, Hitler ordered the creation of an affordable vehicle using a design from Ferdinand Porche (yes, *that* automaker) that would cost no more than the price of a motorcycle. 
Yes, the “VW Bug”, the “Beetle”, the “Love Bug”, the darling of hippies, was a Nazi invention. 
Strange, isn’t it?
Space travel is something that came from rocket technology developed from Nazi Germany.  While the rocket is actually a 13th Century Chinese invention, it was the V-2 Rocket, designed by Wernher Von Braun for Nazi Germany, that gave rise to the idea that we could use one to put ourselves into space.  Afterward, Von Braun was brought to America to work for the U.S. space program, which would later be assimilated into the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (aka NASA).
Think about that... our space program came from people that worked for Nazi Germany.
That brings us to the narcissist President Donald Trump and his whimsical concept of a “Space Force”.
When I first heard of narcissist Trump invoking the idea of a new branch of the military called the “Space Force”, I could not help but feel outrage and nausea.  I am a longtime fan of science fiction as well as a self-published fiction writer.  My first exposure to science fiction was the original broadcast of “Star Trek”.  When I think of people leading us towards the stars, I think about someone like President John F. Kennedy and his challenge to put a man on the moon by the end of the 1960’s. 
When narcissist Trump talks about space, though, I don’t think of “Star Trek” or even “Star Wars”, or, for that matter, even “Starship Troopers”.  Instead, I think of “Spaceballs”; with Trump as Emperor Skroob ordering Dark Helmet and a ship full of A-holes to steel oxygen from other worlds.  I don’t think of the guy who couldn’t run a casino or an airline or even a university, never mind sell vodka, golf balls, steak, or bottled water as someone who could have any kind of vision of space that wouldn’t end up as a whimsical farce.
And yet, it took a much smarter man than myself to remind me of the true history of America’s space program. 
Neil deGrasse Tyson, best-selling author and host of the new incarnation of “Cosmos”, has said that he doesn’t think that Trump’s “Space Force” idea is really bad or crazy.  He reminded us of our own space program, born from the Nazi V-2 rocket and the Cold War push for nuclear missiles and orbiting satellites.  In fact, his latest book reminds us of the importance of the military working with science to come up with some great things.  This includes the Internet, which is something I’ve been dabbling in even before the World Wide Web Consortium.
“Just because it came out of Trump’s mouth doesn’t mean it’s crazy,” Tyson told people recently.
And, I hate to say it, but he does have a point.
The idea of a formalized space agency, a branch of the military like the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines, is something that could have come from anyone.  If Tyson came up with it, nobody would ever think it would be “weird”.  If it came from the head of NASA, it wouldn’t be considered “weird”.  If Barack Obama came up with it, then nobody would say it was “weird”.  The GOP would hate it, just because, but they wouldn’t think it “weird”.  If George W. Bush came up with it, nobody would say it was “weird”.  They’d question if it was his own idea, but they wouldn’t dismiss it openly or think it being “weird”.
But let’s get brutally honest here... narcissist President Trump’s idea of a “Space Force” is weird, because it comes from Trump!  Trump, because of who he is and what he has done in the past, makes any idea seem weird!
This is a man who shows up at a meeting with the Central Intelligence Agency just hours after his inauguration with his own cheering team!  A man who lies with impunity and then doubles-down on his lies when exposed.  A self-promoting TV personality that thinks reality is whatever he says it is and has a cult following that will blindly agree with him.  Someone that has attacked allies and sucks up to tyrants.
Does that sound like an honest agent to you?  Someone that can support and help advance an idea that goes beyond his own self-serving interests?
As for the idea itself... a formalized branch of the military dedicated to space?  If there wasn’t a government agency already dedicated to space exploration, then, maybe I’d support the idea.  But we have NASA.  We have an agency that already does everything we expect for space exploration.  It’s not perfect, though.  It is badly underutilized.  Hell, we don’t have our own spaceships anymore!  (You can thank Bush Junior for that crappy decision.)  But, you know what?  We still have space telescopes and probes exploring the outer reaches.  We’re looking for the things out there that can hurt us.  You know, asteroids, space junk, comets, rogue planets, coronal mass ejections, maybe even a gamma ray burst.  Things that can literally wipe us out, regardless of our political affiliations.
What narcissist Trump’s idea of a “Space Force” would do, then, would to militarize NASA.  Instead of exploration, there would be space “defense”.  Instead of an emphasis on science, there would be an emphasis on space-soldiers and space weapons.  Yes, we’d get our space vehicles, but from the same contracting process that gives us fighter planes that nobody asked for.
Bear in mind that we have a president that does not respect science, actively demonizes science, and worships soldiers and military action.  Looking out for space threats?  Narcissist Trump is someone that would more likely use that technology to look down from space at what he deems to be his threats.  You know... the media.  Our allies.  Us. 
Why would I suspect that?  Because that’s what he’s already doing.
Ideas are sold or lost depending not only on how they are sold, but by whom.  You can have a really great idea, but if the person selling it is bad at it, or if they have any perceived self-serving intentions, then that idea will always be suspect.
And, by the way, it’s not just the Narcissist Donald Trump that has this problem.  Former Vice-President and wannabe-President Al Gore has that problem as well.  Yes, he does sound the alarm about global warming, but this is the same person that tried to take credit for inventing the Internet.  That hurt his future causes.  And given how the whole “carbon credit” thing has been badly abused, that also hurts the credibility of the idea.  Gore may have a good cause, but he should have let someone else sell it.
Yes, a space force would be a good idea to consider... if it was sold by someone other than a known self-promoting narcissist.  Otherwise, it’s just weird. 

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