Category Archives: Social Commentary

The New Space Race

…is postponed until next year. This is interesting, politically:

In one corner, we have the SpaceX Crew Dragon, a successor to the original Dragon capsule it’s been using to deliver supplies to the ISS. The seven-seater vehicle appears to be quite the looker, with fairly large windows to give passengers a stunningly clear view of their journey — a feature you’d definitely appreciate if you were a paying customer. The company already has a solid idea of what to do with the capsule outside of its Commercial Crew responsibilities. In fact, it already sold two seats to take private citizens on a trip around the moon next year … but only if it has already started taking astronauts to the ISS for NASA.

A successful Falcon Heavy flight (hopefully next month) is a necessary, but not sufficient condition for SpaceX to attempt an Apollo 8 recreation (the fiftieth anniversary is almost exactly a year from now). If they do it before they’re flying commercial crew, it will have the appearance of not keeping their eyes on the ball for NASA’s needs. But NASA can control the schedule by throwing up impediments to first flight, and some at the agency might be motivated to see that happen, because it would be politically embarrassing to see a private company do an Apollo 8 re-enactment before the agency can with SLS, causing even more people to question the need for the latter. It will be an interesting year.

Oh, one other point. Amusing to see a woman journalist using the terms “manned” and “unmanned.” I personally try to only use those terms to describe historical events (e.g., Apollo). It appears that “crewed” and “uncrewed” are gaining acceptance, but there remain two problems with that. First, “crewed” sounds like “crude” when verbalized. Second, not everyone who flies will be crew. Maybe we need to start saying “humanned” spaceflight.

Merry Christmas

I want to wish the best of the season to all of my Christian readers. As my gift, here is Psalm 53, being sung to the Pope in Aramaic.

[Christmas-afternoon update]

Richard Fernandez has thoughts on the Left’s continually failed attempts to purge the holiday of its meaning:

“Happy Federal Holiday” is about as information empty as you can get and perhaps that is deliberate. It advances not just another phrase, but a completely different world view, a universe safely empty of everything but numbers on a calendar.

Eventually anyone indoctrinated in this tradition will find accounts of the Federal Holiday Truce of 1914 or “I’ll be Home for the Federal Holiday of 1943” hard to comprehend. Nor will they be able to understand why anyone in Mosul should want to observe the Federal Holiday of 2017. Yet how could it be otherwise? To understand history one has to understand why such events as Christmas are and you cannot do that in a meaning-free universe.

The effort to erase Christmas will probably fail for no other reason than that it meets a human need that a mechanical bureaucratic day off cannot fulfill. Humanity needs a time to mark the growth and change in the family, an occasion to renew hopes and put aside fears and a chance to remember something we once knew: that everything’s going to be alright in the end. It really will.

The best Christmas present I could get would be for the corrupt officials at the Obama Justice Department (including the IRS) to finally be confronted with actual justice in the New Year. And I continue to be very happy that She lost.

The Warlock Hunt

Claire Berlinski (who we almost got to have coffee with in Paris a year ago), on #MeToo and if it’s gone too far:

If you are reading this, it means I have found an outlet that has not just fired an editor for sexual harassment. This article circulated from publication to publication, like old-fashioned samizdat, and was rejected repeatedly with a sotto voce, “Don’t tell anyone. I agree with you. But no.” Friends have urged me not to publish it under my own name, vividly describing the mob that will tear me from limb to limb and leave the dingoes to pick over my flesh. It says something, doesn’t it, that I’ve been more hesitant to speak about this than I’ve been of getting on the wrong side of the mafia, al-Qaeda, or the Kremlin?

But speak I must. It now takes only one accusation to destroy a man’s life. Just one for him to be tried and sentenced in the court of public opinion, overnight costing him his livelihood and social respectability. We are on a frenzied extrajudicial warlock hunt that does not pause to parse the difference between rape and stupidity. The punishment for sexual harassment is so grave that clearly this crime—like any other serious crime—requires an unambiguous definition. We have nothing of the sort.

…In recent weeks, I’ve acquired new powers. I have cast my mind over the ways I could use them. I could now, on a whim, destroy the career of an Oxford don who at a drunken Christmas party danced with me, grabbed a handful of my bum, and slurred, “I’ve been dying to do this to Berlinski all term!” That is precisely what happened. I am telling the truth. I will be believed—as I should be.

But here is the thing. I did not freeze, nor was I terrified. I was amused and flattered and thought little of it. I knew full well he’d been dying to do that. Our tutorials—which took place one-on-one, with no chaperones—were livelier intellectually for that sublimated undercurrent. He was an Oxford don and so had power over me, sensu strictu. I was a 20-year-old undergraduate. But I also had power over him—power sufficient to cause a venerable don to make a perfect fool of himself at a Christmas party. Unsurprisingly, I loved having that power. But now I have too much power. I have the power to destroy someone whose tutorials were invaluable to me and shaped my entire intellectual life much for the better. This is a power I do not want and should not have.

Yup. Read the whole thing.

[Update a while later]

The wandering eye is just part of the human anatomy.

Yup. We can control our behavior and fidelity, but it’s really hard not to look.

Plus, the up side of office flirtation.

And so far, so good for Claire.

[Monday-morning update]

Are women really victims?

Feminists of my mother’s generation resisted furiously the claims that women were too timid, too fragile, too neurotic and too easily upset to function in the public sphere. They won this battle. Sisters began doing it for themselves. Women took their places alongside men in boardrooms and political arenas, on lecture hall podiums and in operating theatres, in courts of law and in armies.

This is currently under threat from a cultural shift within feminism which has shifted the aim from female empowerment to status-by-victimhood. It threatens to undo the progress made for women, valorise fragility, discourage resilience, weaponise victimhood and fatally undermine gender relations. It’s not good for women to be treated as fragile victims rather than competent actors in the public sphere. It’s not good for either sex for men to become afraid that talking to women, complimenting women, criticising women, flirting with women or touching women in friendly greeting could destroy their careers and reputations.

You don’t say. One of the women who tells their story is my friend Amy Alkon.

[Update a few minutes later]

Judith Curry relates her own experiences in the context of the climate debate:

If you see ‘misogyny’ everywhere (even from other females!), then perhaps you need to step back and reflect. What is being objected to is not your gender but your behavior: your attempt to gain fame and build a career based on ‘victim’ status, your unfounded attacks on serious and responsible scientists in your field, and your irrational statements and general intolerance of anyone who is not in your ‘club’. This negative reaction to your behavior is not sexual harassment (or any kind of harassment) or discrimination.
.
Climate science has developed a perverse incentive structure that seems to reward this kind of unethical, bullying behavior — and I’m seeing more and more female scientists taking full advantage of this.

Unfortunately true. There are a lot of women in space and tech that I follow on Twitter, but I avoid getting into political discussions with them.

[Tuesday-afternoon update]

Sarah Hoyt: The sexual-harassment frenzy is madness, and must stop.

[Bumped]

[Wednesday-morning update]

Can we be honest about women?

[Bumped again]

Meaningless Words

Thoughts from Sarah Hoyt on the ideological incoherence (and, as always, psychological projection) of the left:

All I was doing was pointing out he had no proof of his statement and in fact, there was plenty of proof to the contrary. Where it got interesting was his tactic in the argument. He started by calling me a snowflake and saying I was obviously hurt by what he said. I told him I wasn’t in the least hurt, just amused at his lack of reasoning, and furnished him with another half dozen names of great/rich writers. He tried to call me snowflake again, and then told me to go copulate with myself but in more common words. When that failed, he said he was deleting the thread because he’d obviously hurt people. Note that in none of this had he hurt me, not even with the profanity, nor had I or any of the people who agreed with me on that thread implied we were hurt. Somewhere between amused and appalled is not hurt.

I was discussing this argument with a friend later, and he said I was making the mistake of interpreting the words as words. Or of thinking any kind of thought was behind first calling me snowflake, and then saying he’d hurt people’s feelings.

He said that the whole thing was more a reaction on the level of “when I’m called snowflake it hurts me, so I’ll call her snowflake and that will hurt her” and when we didn’t cave to his argument, he couldn’t figure out how to get out of it other than apologizing for hurting our feelings.

He – he’s an academic – pointed out this is the whole point of post-modern analysis, be it of literature or society: words have no meaning and can be assigned arbitrary meanings according to the emotions they elicit.

He says that’s why the left is more and more resorting to shouting random slogans and words until it gets them the reaction they want. Not because they don’t know the meanings of words, but because they reject the idea that words have inherent meanings.

Like “pedophilia.” Or “liberal.”