The Rabbi Speaks

about Helen Thomas:

I merely asked a question with a video camera to a columnist. She answered me with an opinion that was unacceptable not just to me but to former and current press secretaries, politicians, the president, her agent and a great many other people. Her freedom of speech was not stifled; on the contrary, it was respected.

She didn’t say that the blockade was unjust, or that aid was not getting to Gaza, or that there was a massacre on the high seas, or that East Jerusalem is occupied, or that the settlements are immoral . . . and get out and go back to West Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Haifa and Eilat. No. This was not the two-state solution. This was get the hell out and go back to the places of the final solution, Poland and Germany. The Jew has no connection with the land of Israel.

And why? Because, as Thomas went on to explain to me, “I’m from Arab descent.” That’s it? That’s all you got? Do we all travel with only our parents’ stereotypes to guide us, never going beyond them to get to a peaceful destination?

In the past weeks I have relived this moment over and over, on television and radio, in newspapers and blogs. I’ve listened to a constant stream of commentary. And my sharpest impression is this: Where before I saw a foggy anti-Israel, anti-Jewish link, it’s now clear. This feeling is not about statehood. It’s about an ingrown, organic hate. It’s a sentiment that bears no connection to history, dates, passages or verses. Erase the facts, the dates and the lore. Erase the Jew. Incredibly, even the Nazis said to the Jews, “Go home to Palestine.” But Thomas and a babbling stream in our world and country dictate to Jewish people to “go home to Poland and Germany.” Yeah, I said “oooh.”

I think that it’s theoretically possible to express the kind of hatred of Israel that many do and not be anti-semitic. But I don’t think it happens much in real life.

The other day Jim Davis asked me in comments why I (and the Tea Partiers) object to being called “racist” because we oppose President Obama’s policies (or “liberal” or “progressive” policies in general), when I’m willing to call people anti-semitic for their views about Israel.

Here’s the difference. I would be (and have been) criticizing those policies regardless of who was advocating them, or what color their skin is. I’m pretty sure that’s true of most of the Tea Partiers as well. The fact that a black man has ascended to the presidency doesn’t somehow magically and suddenly make such criticism racist.

Israel’s attackers, on the other hand, have a double standard. They attack it for things (e.g., abusing Arabs) that they completely ignore when other countries (notably Arab countries) do them on a much grander scale. They accuse it of war crimes when it takes greater pains, and greater risks to its own troops, than any nation in history, with the possible exception of the US, to minimize collateral civilian casualties. But these same hypocrites ignore or defend the real war crimes of the “Palestinians” — hiding weapons in hospitals and churches and mosques, sneaking through borders in ambulances, deliberately targeting children, fighting out of uniform, using their own women and children as human shields — while castigating Israel.

So yeah, sorry, I think there’s something else going on there. And Helen Thomas just made a massive Kinsleyan gaffe, and revealed what she (and many others) really think. Oooh, indeed.

[Update a couple minutes later]

I’ve observed this before, but leftists seem (unaccountably to me) to get their panties much more in a twist about human rights abuses when they’re cross race. Israel making Arabs second-class citizens? The horror! Saddam murdering thousands of his own people? Hey, it’s his business. Mao wiping out tens of millions of Chinese? No biggie, they’re his people. Gotta break some eggs to make the omelette, you know.

Another example was apartheid in South Africa. Not to defend it, but was it really that much worse than what Idi Amin or Mengistu were up to? Really?

[Update a few minutes later]

Well, Israel is going to partially lift the Gaza blockade. That won’t satisfy the critics, though. They won’t be happy until the weapons are flowing freely in. And probably not even then.

[Late evening update]

But there’s no anti-semitism involved:

Radicals, Islamists and Longshoremen blockade Israeli ship in Oakland.

And when someone compares the Israelis to Nazis, it can only be either anti-semitism or profound stupidity and ignorance, even when (or especially when) it’s a Nobel Prize winner. It’s been said before, but the Nobel Prize (in fields other than science) ain’t what it used to be. If it ever was…

[Tuesday morning update]

More useful thoughts
from (Christian) Mike Potemra:

…the support for Israel that is offered by me and like-minded people is based not on headline-devouring apocalypticism but on something perduring and eternal: a sense that the fate of the Jews implicates humanity, that a world that refuses to find a place for the Jews is engaged in a rejection of even more fundamental truths. This State of Israel is, yes, a state like all other states; that should go without saying. But how strange that, of all the 200 or so states-just-like-other-states in the world today, this one alone is treated increasingly as a pariah that’s on a deserved path to being wiped out.

I am not ashamed to say that some of my own support for Israel is based in religious motives, even if these motives are not those presented in caricature form by the cultured despisers. And I resent the caricature less than I otherwise would, because I view it as rooted in a deeper obtuseness, the one these despisers show in regard even to their own self-interest and to their own intellectual consistency. The only country in the region with liberal values — that lets, e.g., its religious minorities vote; that has, e.g., gay-pride parades — is the one they view as an embarrassment. This, again, is a level of obtuseness that cannot be explained on a purely rational basis.

It’s the oldest hatred in the world. Of course it’s not rational.



…and incompetence. Thoughts on the socialist program from Jerry Pournelle:

So the question becomes, is liberal socialist democracy evil or incompetent, or just plain wrong?

I think that this is a good example of (J. Porter) Clark’s Law. He came up with it for spammers, I think, but it applies here as well: “Any sufficiently advanced cluelessness is indistinguishable from malice.”

Oh, and I found this quite interesting. Jonah Goldberg, call your office:

If Liberal Democracy is a conspiracy, it hasn’t done much of a job of hiding its objectives. They’ve been clear since the days of Beatrice and Sydney Webb. So have their tactics: there is no enemy to the left. Solidarity forever. The union makes us strong. George Bernard Shaw was aware of Stalin’s starvation tactics and the Ukraine famine, but chose not to say anything about it because Solidarity was a guiding principle. So were many others, for the same reasons. Being a communist fellow traveler was quite fashionable among intellectuals. It took the Hitler Stalin Pact to break the subservience of American intellectuals to the Popular Front, and even then many stayed with the communists. Recall Fred Pohl: An intellectual friend, well known in science fiction circles of 1940, brought the news of the Fall of Paris to the Germans to Fred and other editors.

“He bought us wine, held up his glass, and proposed a toast: “To the liberation of the bourgeois capital by the people’s forces of socialism.” I drank his lousy wine. But it lay sour in my stomach while I brooded in my office all that day.”

Was that incompetence or malice? Was it incompetence or malice to drink the lousy wine and brood?

Well, they were national socialists. It said so right in their name. As noted, the Left and academia has rewritten history to pretend that they weren’t.

Space History Bleg

Does anyone have a reference that describes the decision to reduce the size of the Shuttle fleet from seven to five during the Carter administration, and Mondale’s role?

[Update late evening]

Thanks for all the inputs from all the commenters. I’m a little surprised, because my recollection (from the time — see, I’m such a fogie that I actually claim to remember such things) was that Mondale had reduced the fleet size by two in the late seventies. I apparently have some reading to do to get it right.

So Who Is The Liar?

John Kyl, or Barack Obama?

I know where I’d put my money. It’s pretty obvious that it’s the Democrats’ policy to keep the flow of immigrants over the border going, to provide pressure for amnesty. But it’s backfiring, as the polls indicate.

[Update early evening]

OK, the White House, in the form of Bill Burton, says that Kyl’s account is untrue. But Bill Burton wasn’t in the meeting, so how does he know?

Do you know what this reminds me of? It reminds me of the time that Bill Clinton didn’t deny (and never denied) raping Juanita Broaddrick, but sent out his lawyer (who presumably wasn’t at the event) to deny it.

As I said, I know where I’d put my money.

How, Not Where

Over at The Space Review today, Dan Lester says we won’t make any progress unless we end our Apollo-driven focus on destinations, and pay more attention to capabilities (as I’ve been preaching for years). I found this interesting:

…how do we get taxpayers to buy into that grand goal of being able to leave, which is a truly unarguable and completely unique justification for human spaceflight? It’s not a matter of just telling NASA to do it. The Space Act that defines the agency says nothing about species preservation, and actually doesn’t even say anything about human spaceflight!

I’m working on a book, and this is an excerpt from the first chapter, a history of the early years:

When it was first formed in 1958, nothing in the NASA charter required that the new agency do more [than the NACA], except to extend the process to space technology development.

And in fact, in light of that, it’s interesting to do something that few (including space enthusiasts) have ever done – to go back and read it. Note that it actually bears little resemblance to the agency that was suddenly morphed into the manned-space behemoth that it became in the wake of the decision to race the Soviets to the moon:

(a) The Congress hereby declares that it is the policy of the United States that activities in space should be devoted to peaceful purposes for the benefit of all mankind.
(b) The Congress declares that the general welfare and security of the United States require that adequate provision be made for aeronautical and space activities.
The Congress further declares that such activities shall be the responsibility of, and shall be directed by, a civilian agency exercising control over aeronautical and space activities sponsored by the United States, except that activities peculiar to or primarily associated with the development of weapons systems, military operations, or the defense of the United States (including the research and development necessary to make effective provision for the defense of the United States) shall be the responsibility of, and shall be directed by, the Department of Defense; and that determination as to which such agency has responsibility for and direction of any such activity shall be made by the President in conformity with section 2471(e).
(c)The Congress declares that the general welfare of the United States requires that the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (as established by title II of this Act) seek and encourage, to the maximum extent possible, the fullest commercial use of space.
(d) The aeronautical and space activities of the United States shall be conducted so as to contribute materially to one or more of the following objectives:
(1) The expansion of human knowledge of the Earth and of phenomena in the atmosphere and space;
(2) The improvement of the usefulness, performance, speed, safety, and efficiency of aeronautical and space vehicles;
(3) The development and operation of vehicles capable of carrying instruments, equipment, supplies, and living organisms through space;
(4) The establishment of long-range studies of the potential benefits to be gained from, the opportunities for, and the problems involved in the utilization of aeronautical and space activities for peaceful and scientific purposes;
(5) The preservation of the role of the United States as a leader in aeronautical and space science and technology and in the application thereof to the conduct of peaceful activities within and outside the atmosphere;
(6) The making available to agencies directly concerned with national defense of discoveries that have military value or significance, and the furnishing by such agencies, to the civilian agency established to direct and control nonmilitary aeronautical and space activities, of information as to discoveries which have value or significance to that agency;
(7) Cooperation by the United States with other nations and groups of nations in work done pursuant to this Act and in the peaceful application of the results thereof;
(8) The most effective utilization of the scientific and engineering resources of the United States, with close cooperation among all interested agencies of the United States in order to avoid unnecessary duplication of effort, facilities, and equipment; and
(9) The preservation of the United States preeminent position in aeronautics and space through research and technology development related to associated manufacturing processes.

The emphases are mine. Note that nothing whatsoever about Apollo either sought or encouraged to even a minimum extent, let alone the maximum one possible, commercial use of space.

Note also that while (d)(3) authorized the agency to “develop and operate” vehicles carrying “living organisms” (including humans) through space, it says nothing about how they get there. The development of the giant Saturn V was not driven by the NASA charter – it was driven by the need to kick up lunar dust before the Russians did. And take away that clause, and there is little difference between NASA’s charter and what its predecessor, the NACA, did, other than the addition of “space” to aeronautics. The 1961 Apollo decision, in a very profound way, perverted the original intent of the founding of the agency two years earlier. And it’s interesting to point out that the controversial policy change of the Obama administration in early 2010 – to have astronauts delivered to low earth orbit (LEO) on commercial launchers while NASA focused its resources on the “development and operation of vehicles capable of carrying instruments, equipment, supplies, and living organisms through space” is nothing more than returning the agency to its original charter of half a century before (and prior to the wrong turn taken with Apollo).

It could have continued on in the NACA model, with private industry developing space vehicles to provide services, for government or commercial markets, and the new agency providing it with the key basic technologies to make it successful. But that approach, while more in keeping with our nation’s successful history of affordable technology development, wouldn’t have achieved the president’s stated objective, or at least couldn’t be relied upon for it.

So with the new rush to get humans to the moon and back, decision makers relied on their own recent experience from the war, in which there had been a massive crash government effort funded by the taxpayer to achieve a critical national goal: the Manhattan Project to develop the atomic bomb. Given the perceived urgency of the space race in an existential Cold War, it seemed appropriate to set up a similar centralized command structure to achieve this new stretch technological objective. As a result, in essence, we established our own state socialist enterprise to compete with that of the Soviets.

We need to break out of that trap in which we’ve been stuck for the past half century.

Biting Commentary about Infinity…and Beyond!