Category Archives: Popular Culture

Louise Mensch

Charles Cooke isn’t impressed. To say the least:

In a more sensible world, a woman such as Mensch would be running around a train station warning commuters about the spaceships in the lavatory car. In America, 2017, alas, she was first elevated to the head of a News Corp property and is now is at the heart of what has become a popular and widely read conspiracy movement, which not only indulges her endless flights of hallucinatory fancy but repeats and retweets them under the heady imprimatur of “reporting.” Along with Eric Garland, Claude Taylor, Andrew Laufer, and a few other sorry victims of early onset absurdity, Mensch provides hope and titillation to the illiterate and the credulous, more than 250,000 of whom have elected to follow her on Twitter.

In the course of her breakdown she has ensnared some of those you’d imagine she’d ensnare — Joy Reid is a fan, naturally, as are Ted Lieu and Keith Olbermann – but she has also managed to attract some of those you would not. To his intense discredit, Harvard Law’s Laurence Tribe has shared her material on more than one occasion, which should serve as a welcome reminder that brilliance in one’s field in no way guarantees the possession of common sense.

RTWT. Brutal.

Washington’s Dysfunction

One sentence explains it:

They didn’t think Trump could, or would, or should win, and so they dropped the health care and tax policy ball. Nor did the president’s mutability help things. It wasn’t clear whether Trump wanted full repeal of Obamacare with a replacement to come later, or repeal-and-replace with no gap, as he told 60 Minutes in November, or which taxes and regulations he wanted to keep, or how much he wanted to reform Medicaid. What matters to this president is the accomplishment, the signing ceremony, the trophy, the result. How he gets there, the details of legislation, are less important to him. That’s what he has Congress for.

A corollary to the widespread belief that Trump would lose was that criticizing him had no cost. Trump might have moved into first place in the national polling within a month of declaring his candidacy, he might have held that position throughout the entire primary with the brief exception of a few days in November 2015, but he was, to say the least, no ordinary frontrunner. Typically, party flacks shy away from offending frontrunners, lest they risk jobs in a possible administration. The party thus presents something like a united front, even if the primary is contested. Think of the Democrats in 2016.

But the Republicans last year were different. Trump was overthrowing both the party and conservative movement establishments, violating norms of discourse and behavior, altering the ideological composition of the GOP, and thriving amidst chaos, polarization, and conflict. Not only did he invite rebuke, he loved it, for it gave him the opportunity to separate himself from the Republican Party of the Bushes, Dole, McCain, and Romney. And since the operative assumption was that he would in no circumstances become president, GOP stalwarts zinged him with abandon, knowing they were not giving up the chance to be, say, assistant secretary for consular affairs.

Well, joke’s on us, because not only did Trump become president, he knows how to hold a grudge. The result is an understaffed administration. Cabinet agencies send the names of potential bureaucrats to the White House, and the names are rejected if they attacked or mocked the president on social media during the campaign. This is within Trump’s rights, of course. I wouldn’t hire someone who disliked me, either. (Let that be a warning to aspiring journalists.) My point is he would have a much larger talent pool to draw from had more people thought he was going to win.

Both the Republican and Democrat parties chose the form of their destructor.

[Update late morning]

The resistance that cried wolf:

CNN’s Jim Acosta is being hyperbolic when he says video of Sarah Huckabee Sanders has been “banned by the USA” and asks if it feels like America when the media is “openly” trashed or other, more conservative outlets get to ask questions instead of his.

It’s enough to make a person who would otherwise like to stand in journalistic solidarity with Acosta on these questions ask, “What about Spiro Agnew?” (Indeed, what about White House press secretaries under former Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush suggesting there be no live coverage of these briefings at all?)

The criticism some of us have of those who are obsessively anti-Trump isn’t that they are necessarily wrong about the president. I personally share many of their harsh assessments, especially of his fixation on petty feuds at a time of international peril, not to mention his overall temperament.

Yet they can also be almost naive in their evaluations of politicians and government pre-Trump, blind to how the governing class’ failures and character flaws made this presidency possible in the first place. Indeed, they often risk becoming the resistance that cried wolf.

Nothing Trump does wrong can be excused by pointing to the Clintons or others. We don’t want bad precedents to be set by the president or followed by future ones. What we should want is for all politicians to abide by the same set of rules — whether we like them or not.


A Trillion People In the Solar System

Jeff Bezos expanded on his space vision at Buzz’s gala in Florida:

Bezos rejects the common ‘Plan B’ argument in favor of human exploration; that one day the Earth is going to be destroyed, so we’d better find somewhere else to live.

“I hate that idea, and I find it very un-motivating,” said Bezos.

“We have sent robotic probes now to every planet in the solar system and, believe me, this is the best one – Earth is a gem, it’s incredible.”

He then went on to quote several Apollo astronauts about what they thought about Earth when they returned form the Moon, notably Apollo 14’s Alan Bean: ‘Since returning I have not complained about the weather one single time – I’m glad there is weather. I’ve not complained about traffic— I’m glad there are people around. Why do people complain about the Earth? We are living in the Garden of Eden.’

…For Bezos, colonising space is a more a simple necessity for continued life on Earth. The compound effect of the incremental increase in energy requirements will mean us having to cover every inch of Earth in solar cells, he said, while the solar system offers virtually unlimited energy resources.

“We can harvest resources from asteroids, from Near-Earth Objects, and harvest solar energy from a much broader surface area – and continue to do amazing things,” he said. The alternative, he said, was an era of stasis and stagnation on Earth, where we are forced to control population and limit energy usage per capita.

“I don’t think stasis is compatible with freedom or liberty, and I sure as hell think it’s going to be a very boring world – I want my grandchildren’s grandchildren to be in a world of pioneering, exploration and expansion throughout the solar system.”

He also suggested that exploration and colonisation of the solar system would make it possible to support one trillion people.

“Then we would have 1,000 Einstein’s and 1,000 Mozarts, how cool would that be?” he said.

“What’s holding us back from making that next step is that space travel is just too darned expensive because we throw the rockets away. We need to build reusable rockets and that’s what Blue Origin is dedicated to.”

Bezos’s vision is much more hopeful and expansive than Elon’s, which is more about fear (i.e., Plan B), and mostly constrained to a single planet (Mars). But I’m glad they’re both out there competing with each other to (finally) drive down the cost of access to space.

But I do criticize one aspect of the report:

Elon Musk’s SpaceX, based at Kennedy Space Centre’s Pad 39A where the Apollo missions launched from, is due to test its 229ft Falcon Heavy (FH) rocket this September. It will be the most powerful operational rocket in the world, though NASA’s Mars-focused SLS, at 365ft rocket, will takeover that mantle in 2028 or so.

The latter is not a reportable fact. I’d have written it as “though NASA hopes that its Mars-focused SLS, at 365ft rocket, will takeover that mantle in 2028 or so.” I think it’s a fantasy, if both Falcon Heavy (and maybe ITS) and New Glenn and New Armstrong are operational by then. The SLS jobs program will not survive that.

Trump And Russia

Yes, the benefit of the doubt is gone. And I agree with this:

Why on God’s good Earth would you defend any of this? Since I’ve been having this ridiculous argument all week, let me skip ahead. Yes, “Crooked Hillary,” Ted Kennedy, and a host of other liberals did bad things. Whether those bad things were analogous to this is highly debatable. But let’s just concede the point for argument’s sake. Let’s also accept the president’s grotesquely cynical and false claim that pretty much anyone in politics would have done the same thing and taken the meeting. (I for one am perfectly happy to concede that Sidney Blumenthal would happily have done equally sleazy things for his Queen-master. But I have every confidence that if some shady Russian cutouts approached, say, James Baker with a similar scheme to “incriminate” Michael Dukakis, he would become a helicopter of fists.)

But here’s the thing: Who gives a dirty rat’s ass? If you spent years — like I did, by the way — insisting that the Clintons were a corrupt affront to political decency, invoking their venal actions as a moral justification for Team Trump’s actions is the rhetorical equivalent of a remake of Waterworld set entirely in the main vat of a sewage-treatment plant, i.e., the intellectual Mother of Sh*t Shows. This is a point Ben Shapiro made well earlier this week (and which I’ve been writing about for two years now). If you want to make the case that Democrats or the media are hypocrites, whataboutism is perfectly valid (and quite fun). But if you want to say that it’s fine for Trump to do things you considered legally and morally outrageous when Hillary Clinton did them, you should either concede that you believe two wrongs make a right or you should apologize for being angry about what Clinton did. And you should be prepared to have no right to complain when the next Democrat gets into power and does the same thing.

When Trump does something good, I’ll praise him. When he does something stupid and dubious, I’ll call him on it. I am consistent in my insistence that public officials be held to the same standards as the rest of us.

I wouldn’t mind him being impeached and removed, or even prosecuted, but if either of those things happen, I’ll be incandescent in my outrage if the investigation against her is not renewed and finally done properly, so she can finally be accountable to the law. I’m still glad she lost, but I will not worship this gang of ethically challenged incompetents.

[Saturday-morning update]

Wow, the comments sections is under attack by an army of strawmen.

Here’s what I didn’t say and what I don’t believe. I don’t believe that he is plotting with Putin against the United States. I don’t believe that he’s Hitler. I don’t believe that he is plotting to undermine democracy. I don’t believe he should be impeached (yet). I don’t even believe that he committed a crime (at least with regard to the Russian stuff). If I were as under the sway of the media as some fools fantasize, I would believe all these things.

All I (and Jonah) said is that, for months, we’ve been told by Trump supporters that any suggestion that the campaign had colluded (that is, had meetings with them to discuss how they could help elect Trump) with the Russians was “fake news.” For months, given the absence of evidence, we have given them the benefit of the doubt, despite all of the smoke, and the continuing changing stories (sometimes daily, which continues even now, with the number of attendees at the meeting continuing to grow). So now we know that we can do so no longer on this particular issue. I don’t believe this because I’ve been brainwashed by the media. This is not a position I came to from Trump hatred (though I continue to find him loathesome). I came to this rational, objective position because Trump’s idiot namesake told me that he colluded with the Russians (albeit unsuccessfully in terms of getting the desired Hillary dirt), even if he didn’t use that word.

But apparently (as with Obama) no criticism, no matter how objective, no matter how fact based, of the God King will be brooked by his acolytes. I don’t suffer in any way from Trump derangement, but apparently many of both his opponents and his supporters clearly do.

[Late-morning update]

“This isn’t Watergate. This isn’t treason. And there’s still no smoking gun.”

Oops, guess I shouldn’t have noted this, because according to my brilliant commenters, I’ve been brainwashed by the media (which I in fact find even more despicable than Trump).

[Afternoon update]

BTW, this is why I don’t post about Trump all that much. It’s impossible to have a sane conversation about him with both his opponents and defenders.

[Sunday-morning update]

I see that Ken continues to insult my intelligence in comments because I had and continue to have the temerity to criticize his God King in any way.

The Sarah Palin Smear

Was the New York Times sloppy, malicious, or careless? I think they were reckless. I won’t discuss the interesting parallels to my own legal case.

[Update a couple minutes later]

I like this comment:

Any settlement must include an apology printed on the front page of the Sunday Times, in large, boldface font, above the fold, including the statement: “The New York Times hereby acknowledges that the editorial was written by dishonest, ignorant, malicious idiots who perfectly represent the quality and tenor of this publication in general.”

If I were her, that’s what I’d demand.