Category Archives: Media Criticism

Chanukah

A dangerous holiday:

For those liberals who believe that Jewish identity should be limited to donating to help Haiti, agitating for illegal aliens and promoting the environment; Chanukah is a threatening holiday. They have secularized it, dressed it up with teddy bears and toys, trimmed it with the ecology and civil rights of their new faith. Occasionally a Jewish liberal learns the history of it and writes an outraged essay about nationalism and militarism, but mostly they are content to bury it in the same dark cellar that they store the rest of the history of their people and the culture that they left behind.

Holidays aren’t mere parties, they are messages. Knots of time that we tie around the fingers of our lives so that we remember what our ancestors meant us to never forget. That they lived and died for a reason. The party is a celebration, but if we forget what it celebrates, then it becomes a celebration of celebration. A hollow and soulless festival of the self. The Maccabees fought because they believed they had something worth fighting for. Not for their possessions, but for their traditions, their families and their G-d. The celebration of Chanukah is not just how we remember them, but how we remember that we are called upon to keep their watch. To take up their banner and carry their sword.

History is a wheel and as it turns, we see the old continents of time rising again, events revisiting themselves as the patterns of the past become new again. Ancient battles become new wars. And old struggles have to be re-fought again until we finally get them right.

Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it.

Bush Versus Clinton

If that’s really the 2016 line up. I want them both to lose, badly. Get rid of this dynastical nonsense. It’s un-American. If some have a social need for royalty, let’s stick to Hollywood celebrities, not people who run the country. I agree with Glenn on this:

My concern is that the GOP’s donor class can only get interested in candidates that the GOP’s base finds unappealing, and vice versa.

It’s a big problem.

Hope And Change

An epitaph:

Such a climate should not have been unexpected, given that the Obamas entered the national scene with rhetoric and associations like “downright mean country,” “raise the bar,” “for the first time [i.e., when Obama was elected] . . . I’m really proud of my country,” Jeremiah Wright, “typical white person,” and the clingers speech. The natural result of all that was soon to be the stupidly acting Cambridge police; Trayvon Martin, the boy who looked like the son Obama never had; and slamming Ferguson at the U.N. — while black unemployment, graduation, illegitimacy, and crime rates were either unaffected by Obama’s presidency or grew worse despite his often racialized rhetoric. We now witness an entire grievance movement highlighted by a slogan — Hands up, don’t shoot — that is most certainly untrue.

The above symptomology is not a partisan tirade, given that the Americans who voted Obama into office twice, and ensured a Democratic Congress from 2006 to 2010, have now come to the same conclusion. The president’s approval ratings hover at 40 percent. Almost single-handedly, Obama has done to the Democratic party far more damage than Herbert Hoover did to the Republican brand. Not in 70 years have Democratic numbers in the Congress been so bleak. State legislatures and governorships are more Republican than at any time in a generation.

“Hope and change” was always an idiotic basis on which to vote for someone. He managed to get elected, twice, only by appealing to low-info types. But even they seem, finally, to be wising up.

Obama’s Executive Amnesty

Is he trying to lose the lawsuit over it?

Whenever I seek an explanation for Barack Obama’s behavior, Occam’s Razor would indicate incompetence and (as Mickey says) hubris, rather than clever Machiavellian intrigues.

[Late-morning update]

“Obama really needs to listen to others, because he really doesn’t understand politics.”

The things that Obama doesn’t understand would fill a large library.

[Update just before noon]

A court has found Obama’s amnesty order unconstitutional. Good.

NASA’s Drift

A $350M monument to it.

I talked to Farenthold about this a few months ago, but I actually see SLS/Orion as a bigger and more dangerous waste of funds, because unlike a test stand that will almost certainly never be used, they have the vague appearance of utility to those who don’t understand the program, and will be harder to kill.

Nice People

make the best Nazis.

Whenever I point out that Islam is a problematic ideology/religion, people say, “You bigot! I know many Muslims, and they’re very nice people!” Well, I also know many nice Muslims, and in fact most of them don’t necessarily agree with Al Qaeda or IS, but Al Qaeda and IS would (rightfully, in my opinion, though I’m no more of a Muslim scholar than Barack Obama) consider them apostates. The point is that most people are “nice” by nature, but that doesn’t prevent them from adhering to beliefs that aren’t very nice at all. I suspect that if you’d lived in Germany during the war, you’d have thought most Germans “nice,” except for that support-of-Hitler thing. Just don’t let them know you’re a Jew.

The Fatal Conceit

of Jonathan Gruber:

The Times reassuringly described Gruber as “the numbers wizard at MIT,” who has “spent decades modeling the intricacies of the health care ecosystem.” Gruber has “brought a level of science to an issue that would otherwise be just opinion.”

I might note that the Soviets used the term “science” for their own “scientific” planning commission. I drew little comfort from Professor Gruber’s scientific-planning credentials, especially when I learned “he’s the only person you can go to for that kind of thing.” Gruber, aided by his brilliant MIT graduate student assistants, is a one-man Gosplan, the name given to the Soviet Union’s state planning committee. That is not much of a recommendation. Science is better served by competing ideas not by a one-person monopoly.

Both Gruber and the USSR’s Gosplan planners believe their planning is “scientific” and executed by “the best of the best.” Both types of planning commissars suffer from F. A. Hayek’s “fatal conceit”—the belief that we can plan incredibly complex economic systems. As Hayek pointed out in his writings, such “scientific” plans inevitably fall apart under the weight of unintended consequences.

Actually, I’m not sure they’re all unintended.

Another Sat Fat Study

No, you don’t increase your saturated fat by eating saturated fat. It’s the carbs, stupid:

The fatty acid called palmitoleic acid, which is associated with “unhealthy metabolism of carbohydrates that can promote disease,” went down with low-carb diets and gradually increased as carbs were re-introduced, the study said.

An increase in this fatty acid indicates that a growing proportion of carbohydrates is being converted into fat instead of being burned by the body, the researchers said.

“When you consume a very low-carb diet your body preferentially burns saturated fat,” Volek said.

“We had people eat two times more saturated fat than they had been eating before entering the study, yet when we measured saturated fat in their blood, it went down in the majority of people,” he said.

The finding “challenges the conventional wisdom that has demonized saturated fat and extends our knowledge of why dietary saturated fat doesn’t correlate with disease,” Volek added.

You don’t say.

Also, how the mindless theory of calorie counting has harmed public health.

[Update a while later]

Nine lies about fat that have destroyed the world’s health.

Orion

I’m not as excited about this flight as NASA and its booster want me to be, certainly not enough to get up at 4 AM. It just passed apogee, and things seem to be going well.

Meanwhile, PBS (with Miles O’Brien, of course) is the only major network to look at the serious programmatic problems. Lori doesn’t hold back.

[Update a while later, as the post-flight presser is about to start]

The Empire strikes back, briefly, but it won’t last:

The Orion launch has been be a triumph of engineering, hiccups and delays aside. But the Empire may not love the sequel. SpaceX is planning a historic launch of its own next year – the rocket is called the Falcon Heavy. Yes, Musk named his rocket after the Millennium Falcon of Star Wars, and he promises it will take twice as much payload into space as the one Nasa launched on Friday, and at one-third the cost. So far his claims about SpaceX have come true, and soon he’ll be fighting, with the lobbyists and the politicians who play favorites, for satellite contracts worth hundreds of billions of dollars.

Combine that kind of force with Elon Musk’s capsule full of actual people returning to space – under a Nasa contract to deliver astronauts to the International Space Station – and you have a private startup that can beat Nasa or any other government agency back to the moon, if it so chooses.

And so far, it does seem to so choose, though Elon will try to skip the moon and go straight to Mars, unless someone pays him for a lunar mission.

[Update a few minutes later]

No Sarah Zhang, Orion is not the answer to our space stagnation, it’s a continuation of it.

[Saturday-morning update]

Lori on MSNBC.

Empty Integrity

Thoughts on a declining culture:

…it’s hard to find a children’s cartoon or movie that doesn’t tell kids that they need to look inside themselves for moral guidance. Indeed, there’s a riot of Rousseauian claptrap out there that says children are born with rightly ordered consciences. And why not? As Mr. Rogers told us, “You are the most important person in the whole wide world and you hardly even know you.” Hillary Clinton is even worse. In her book It Takes a Village, she claims that some of the best theologians she’s ever met have been five-year-olds (which might be true when compared with a certain homicidal Ukrainian priest).

Such saccharine codswallop overturns millennia of moral teaching. It takes the idea that we must apply reason to nature and our consciences in order to discover what is moral and replaces it with the idea that if it feels right, just do it, baby. Which, by the by, is exactly how Lex Luthor sees the world. Übermenschy passion is now everyone’s lodestar. As Reese Witherspoon says in Legally Blonde, “On our very first day at Harvard, a very wise professor quoted Aristotle: ‘The law is reason free from passion.’ Well, no offense to Aristotle, but in my three years at Harvard I have come to find that passion is a key ingredient to the study and practice of law — and of life.” Well, that solves that. Nietzsche-Witherspoon 1, Aristotle 0.

According to Nietzsche’s Thus Spoke Zarathustra, the death of God and the coming of the übermensch was going to require the new kind of inner-directed hero to become his own god. As a result, anything society did to inconvenience the heroic individual was morally suspect, a backdoor attempt by The Man to impose conformity. This is pretty much exactly what Robin Williams teaches in Dead Poets Society. But that ethos has traveled a long way from Mork. When Barack Obama was asked by a minister to define “sin,” he confidently answered that “sin” just means being “out of alignment with my values.” Taken literally, this would mean that Hannibal Lecter is being sinful when he abstains from human flesh in favor of a Waldorf salad. As you can see, when you take the modern definition of integrity all the way to the horizon, suddenly “integrity” can be understood only as a firm commitment to one’s own principles — because one’s own principles are the only legitimate principles. Heck, if you are a god, then doing what you want is God’s will.

This won’t end well.

The Elizabeth Lauten Nonsense

Dear Media: This is why everybody hates you:

There are many wonderful reporters. They work hard to get the story right and provide a valuable service to their readers and viewers. But we have a serious problem — and it’s a problem at the editor level at least as much as it’s a problem at the reporter level.

Republican media operative Rick Wilson went on a beautiful rant last night about this embarrassing Lauten debacle. You can read the whole thing here. This is edited down but he wrote, “Reporters and media folks wondering, ‘Why don’t people trust us?’… The last couple weeks should be clarifying for you… But the endless, agenda-driven games are repellent to readers/viewers. Your sins are of omission and commission both… You used to be able to claim news judgement and ignore stories you hated. You still do, but now people see it, and you loathe it… So you’ll do one piece on Gruber, then pretend you dug in hard. But god forbid a staffer dings the Obama kids. Then you flood the zone… You pick and choose when to provide context… I love pros in the business. Love them. And most of you ARE pros. Most of you DO work stories, look for interesting angles… But you tolerate (and your editors tolerate) a lot of outrageous, absurdly bad practices. Gruber? Unforgivable… the frustration Americans feel about media isn’t getting any less acute, and some introspection might go a long way…”

Indeed it would. There are some tenacious and wonderful reporters. But the overall picture in many newsrooms is getting worse. Under no circumstances should scarce newsroom resources be diverted from real stories onto fake ones that have already been covered more than a Beatles hit.

There is a huge liberal bias problem in the media (fun recent graph related to the problem here). Pretending it’s not there is not going to make it go away. But pointing out the problems year after year isn’t making things better. Some of the media behavior post-election seems more like a toddler temper tantrum than a dispassionate news judgment.

It’s ironic, when one recalls Peter Jennings (or Tom Brokaw, I forget exactly which) characterizing the 1994 vote that gave Republicans control of Congress for the first time in four decades as a “temper tantrum” on the part of the voters.

Obama’s Executive Amnesty

How to push back:

These two steps would have strong public backing. While a majority of Americans support a pathway to citizenship for those here illegally, 77 percent oppose making them “eligible for government benefits such as Social Security, food stamps and Medicaid before they become citizens.” And even those who believe illegal immigrants should be allowed to stay support the deportation of criminals such as child predators. Obama would have a very hard time explaining why he opposed the deportation of illegal immigrants convicted of, let’s say, a violent misdemeanor against a child or a misdemeanor involving child pornography.

Some will object that such a course rewards Obama’s lawless action. But it also has the benefit of affirming that those benefiting from Obama’s amnesty do not have the privileges of legal permanent residents or citizens. And it puts Obama on the defensive, while putting Republicans squarely on the side of the American people.

Which has always been the case.

Orion’s Mission

Paul Spudis deflates a lot of the hype about this week’s flight. The notion that this is a significant part of a Mars architecture is, and always has been, ludicrous.

[Update a while later]

Sorry, I’ve solved the problem of the missing link.

[Update a few minutes later]

More from Joel Achenbach:

You don’t need an advanced degree from MIT to grasp that this is a very stately, deliberate program, one free of the sin of haste and the vice of urgency.

Has there ever been a piece of human space hardware developed so slowly?

Or so expensively?

Serious question: Is it not a fact that Orion is the costliest capsule in human history?

Yes, it has lots of bells and whistles that the Apollo capsules lacked. This one has XM/Sirius radio built in, butt-warmers in the seats, four-way adjustable mirrors and Big-Gulp-sized cup-holders. It’s got a guest room, a fully stocked bar, a laundry room and 24-hour concierge service. It’s a really nice spaceship!

…Orion could, in theory, be used for such a mission, but it’s a single piece of what would be a complex array of technologies and hardware. Yes, a journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step, but only if you keep walking, and are seriously committed to the journey — no pretending or arm-waving allowed.

(I drive to the store and buy an onion. I drive home and cut it up and put it in a big pot on the stove and then go watch television. Someone asks me, “What are you doing?” and I answer, “I’m making gumbo.” And the someone says, “What about the garlic, the peppers, the celery, the fresh okra, the andouille sausage, the grilled chicken, the fish, the shrimp, those special blended peppers you always use, and the roux, not to mention the fresh French bread on the side?” I answer, “I can’t afford that right now.”)

Heh.