Category Archives: Media Criticism

The Oral Arguments In The Mann Suit

On this day of Thanksgiving I am thankful for my excellent legal counsel:

The “question for the court,” Judge Ruiz summed up toward the end of arguments, is: “Could a jury look at this and determine that this is verifiable fraud?” Hopefully, the court will answer no, holding instead that such subjective and political questions are best arbitrated by the public and not by the legal system. If it does, Mann’s options will narrow dramatically. In the case of a dismissal, Mann would still technically be able to apply for en banc review, or even to petition the Supreme Court directly. The chances of either court’s electing to take up an appeal from him, however, seem slim. And rightly so. Mann is indulging here in a dangerous game — in a petty and quixotic attempt to recruit the nation’s courts to his side and to forestall any criticism of himself and his work. If the First Amendment is to be worth the paper it is written on, those courts should refuse to be co-opted. Rather, they should dismiss the case as soon as is possible, reminding us as they do that, in America, robust public debate is not actionable, but worthy of celebration instead.


And a very Happy Thanksgiving to all my readers.

That House Benghazi Report

Twenty ways the media completely misread it.

Shocking, I know.

[Update a few minutes later]

This is a key point for those who think the report “exonerates” the administration:

…if you were to ask people who aren’t reflexively defensive of President Obama (as the media tend to be) what their main concerns with Benghazi were two years ago, they’d probably say something along the lines of:

  • That we allowed an ambassador to be assassinated by Islamist militants in Libya.
  • That we didn’t quite seem as concerned as we should have been, as evidenced by our commander-in-chief heading off to a Vegas fundraiser hours after it happened and a general patience about seeking justice.
  • That we claimed that an attack on September 11 probably actually had something to do with a silly video and nothing to do with Al Qaeda.
  • That we officially told the world that “since our founding, the United States has been a nation that respects all faiths. We reject all efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others,” as President Obama said.
    That our Secretary of State said of a video made by an American that “We absolutely reject its content and message.”

  • That these statements were dangerously untrue. In America, you’re actually totally allowed to disparage any religion you want. (I myself have fun targeting Methodists.) (Sidenote, check out how our Secretary of State gave a rhetorical beatdown to the Nazis when they complained about a mock trial of Hitler held in Madison Square Gardens in 1934.)
  • That our media seemed more obsessed with covering for Obama than investigating what the heck happened that night.

Now, the report whitewashes, excuses or glosses over almost all of this and fails completely to get at any of the deeper and troubling questions about what’s wrong with our intel community. It only “debunks” claims if you think that bureaucratic ass-covering and rather strained justifications of what I would hope all Americans would agree was a clear intelligence failure count as “debunking.”


Obama’s Immigration Speech

It was blatherskite:

As an act of rare semantic derring-do, this was a towering achievement. As a political speech, I don’t think it was very effective. It puts one in mind of the debate in “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,” which ends when one side manages to prove that black is white — and gets themselves killed at the next pedestrian crosswalk.

To be honest, it’s not clear to me that the president was trying to be persuasive. He seemed, rather, to be triple-dog-daring Republicans to jump off the bridge with him, and if history is any guide, they will probably oblige. But there’s a real risk that Democrats will come to regret having the president jump first.

Reportedly some of them already are. He may have created a wedge issue for his own party.

Gruber The Grifter

Why you don’t want to let “intellectuals” anywhere near power:

Unfortunately, contemporary Washington is calibrated to defer to experts who defer to politicians, providing an intellectual Praetorian Guard for the constant growth of a leviathan. As Denver University professor David Ciepley noted, “Starting in the First World War, and much more so during the New Deal and World War II, American social scientists became part of the autonomous state themselves, helping staff the mushrooming government agencies.” The closer that intellectuals get to politicians, the more weaselly they usually become.

Playing off Mr. Gruber’s derision of average Americans, one wag suggested a new acronym — L.I.E. — for Low Information Experts. Mr. Gruber and many other professors have gotten rich by pretending that government is far more competent than it actually is. Economist Robert Skidelsky, writing about the history of modern socialism, observed that “the collectivist belief system existed independently of the facts of modern life.” The same is true of the academic cadre who profit by vindicating endless government interventions that breed chaos and dependency.

I’d like to think that people will take a lesson from this (particularly with regard to climate models), but history doesn’t make me hopeful.

SLS Engines

They still have no idea what they’re going to do after thye run out of SSMEs.

As I noted on Twitter:

[Afternoon update]

The Obstruction Of Justice At Justice

It was the administration that hacked Sharyl Atkisson’s computer:

How’s that grab you, champions of the fourth estate? The White House teamed up with the Attorney General to take out a troublesome reporter and gin up some dirty coverage for congressional investigators. A patently bogus claim of executive privilege was used to keep politically-damaging documents under wraps until the President was safely beyond the reach of irate voters. You’d have been totally cool with Richard Nixon doing something like this, right?

Sure, if he’d been a Democrat.

The Eric Cartman Presidency

Welcome to it:

In his attempt to troll the hard right, Obama has actually handed them a wonderful gift by killing comprehensive immigration reform dead. Legislative amnesty is finished, it’s done, it’s pining for the fjords. Conservative Republicans get to finally advance border and enforcement reforms without even dealing with those here illegally! It’s just what the Bob Goodlattes of the world have wanted to do all along: ditch the clunky amnesty tradeoffs and deal with citizenship issues last, only after securing the border. It’s the Republican establishment, consultant and donor classes, and the Chamber who are closest to the blast radius on this, turning anyone viewed as pro-amnesty toxic overnight. They will be viewed by the GOP base as supportive of the president’s overreach despite all denials (“I was in favor of what he did but not how he did it” is always a weak position), which will make for some very awkward defenses in the 2016 stakes.


The Grubergate Insider Problem

A long but useful essay from Megan McArdle.

We have a similar issue in the space industry. I see all the hype about the upcoming Orion flight, and as an industry analyst (though not quite an insider) I know that it’s nonsense, but it’s hard to get people to realize that NASA officials are often forced to dish nonsense to placate rent-seeking congresspeople; as outsiders, they are still in awe of the government agency that put men on the moon four-and-a-half decades ago.

There is also this:

…when I see journalists saying that Gruber’s revelations don’t matter because he’s just kind of awkwardly saying something that everyone knew, I get a little jittery. I am not “everyone,” and neither are any of those journalists. We’re a tiny group of people with strange preoccupations who get paid to spend our time understanding and explaining this stuff. The fact that we may have mentioned it once to our readers, in the 18th paragraph, does not mean that readers read it and understood what it meant. (In fact, if you actually interact with your readers, you’ll be astonished at how little they remember of what you told them, especially if you didn’t go out of your way to headline it. Their minds are already crammed full of information that they need to, you know, live their lives. So they tend to take away a few big bullet points, not the piddling details.)

I see the same thing when I argue with people on Twitter, or in comments — we often go around in circles because they seem to have forgotten some previous point I’d already made, or read what they wanted to read instead of what I actually wrote. The dismaying thing is that these are often people who love space, but they end up being cheerleaders for things (like SLS/Orion) that are roadblocks rather than enablers.

Those Back-To-Back Commercial Space Disasters

Frank Morring says they were coincidence, and that failure is inevitable. I made the same point at PJMedia last week:

…it is important to understand that there was absolutely no relationship between OSC’s and VG’s accidents, other than they were both commercial activities. It was pure coincidence that they happened within a span of three days. But in both cases, response was rapid.

Nonetheless, a lot of ignorant people will try to use these events to shut down commercial spaceflight.

Jonathan Turley

A rare thing: a Democrat with integrity:

It is a great honor to represent the House of Representatives. We are prepared to litigate this matter as far as necessary. The question presented by this lawsuit is whether we will live in a system of shared and equal powers, as required by our Constitution, or whether we will continue to see the rise of a dominant Executive with sweeping unilateral powers. That is a question worthy of review and resolution in our federal courts.


Time To Euthanize The Lame Duck

Over at Bloomberg View, Stephen Carter writes that it’s time for Congress to go home. I agree. As he notes, lame-duck sessions are an artifact of of transportation technology.

When the Constitution was first ratified, no one could travel faster than the pace of a horse, and it could take weeks to travel from the farthest reaches of the young nation to its capital. Even in 1932, the last time the end date of a session of congress was stipulated, in the 20th Amendment, the fastest safe means of travel was by train. It still took days to travel across the country.

But in the 21st century, with the jet age over half a century old, it is possible to get all the way from all the way even from Anchorage or Honolulu to Washington DC in a single day. There is no longer any excuse for Congress to last more than a week past an election. In fact, I would propose that it be dissolved on the Friday following.

Whether the new Congress was sworn in the following week, or waited until the current January date would be of little moment, as far as I’m concerned. The Founders didn’t require or expect Congress to be in permanent session, and the Republic would survive (and even benefit from) a couple of months without one, absent a national emergency such as the need for a declaration of war. But to maintain the current situation, in which people who had just been repudiated at the polls are allowed to continue to vote, is abhorrent to the very notion of representative democracy, and (as history has shown) a recipe for profound and damaging mischief.

Because the current dates are now established in the Constitution, changing them will require another amendment, and historically, amending the Constitution is difficult. But with Republicans controlling both houses of the Congress and so many state houses (and the president having no say in the matter), the time hasn’t been better in a while for doing amendments in general. Many will be difficult to get past the requisite number of states, but I’ve never heard any good argument for why a Congressional session should long survive an election, so I think amending the 20th Amendment may have good prospects. But if there is one, let’s hear it.