Category Archives: Media Criticism

They’re Going To Kill More Astronauts!

And of course, NASA should be embarrassed, even ashamed of itself about it. That seems to be the subtext of this media roundup by Keith Cowing about the safety panel that reported yesterday on progress in getting Shuttle ready to start flying again.

Of course, as is often the case when it comes to space (and sadly, other) reporting, it’s the media who should be embarrassed. If they had had a little more technical competence at the time, they would have pointed out that some of the CAIB recommendations were technically unrealistic, and that Sean O’Keefe was foolish to pledge to meet them all. This was, in fact, the first point at which it was becoming clear that he was the wrong man in the job. He had no reputation for being technical, but one of four conditions must have applied:

  1. He didn’t know that the recommendations were impractical, but assumed that because they came from smart people, they must be, and made the pledge without consultation.
  2. He didn’t know, but asked some of his staff, and they told him they were.
  3. He didn’t know, but asked and was told they weren’t, but felt politically compelled to do so anyway.
  4. He knew himself and did it anyway for the same reason.

I’m not sure which of the four is worse–having an administrator who made the pledge cluelessly, or one who made it knowingly, perhaps because he thought that it was important to do so to maintain public support for the agency, in the face of apparent public anxiety over killing astronauts, who are apparently more precious and irreplaceable than babes in arms. I think that it was another symptom, like the misbegotten Hubble decision, of his inability to deal with tragedies occurring on his watch.

He was a good administrator for a pre-Columbia era, but not for a post-Columbia one. And the problem is that one never knows when one era can change to the next. In this case, it happened in a few brief minutes over the skies of Texas. He remained afterward for almost two years, which was far too long, but it was a difficult situation politically–forcing him out early would have made it appear that what happened was his fault, which it really wasn’t. I’m sure that he felt that he had to see the investigation through, and then oversee the beginning of the development of the president’s new policy.

In any event, I’m heartened to see that both the safety panel (consisting of astronauts) and the new administrator are being more realistic about this now, and press carping on the issue looks foolish to me.

[Update on Thursday morning–yes, I am busy…]

Professor Reynolds has some related thoughts.

They’re Going To Kill More Astronauts!

And of course, NASA should be embarrassed, even ashamed of itself about it. That seems to be the subtext of this media roundup by Keith Cowing about the safety panel that reported yesterday on progress in getting Shuttle ready to start flying again.

Of course, as is often the case when it comes to space (and sadly, other) reporting, it’s the media who should be embarrassed. If they had had a little more technical competence at the time, they would have pointed out that some of the CAIB recommendations were technically unrealistic, and that Sean O’Keefe was foolish to pledge to meet them all. This was, in fact, the first point at which it was becoming clear that he was the wrong man in the job. He had no reputation for being technical, but one of four conditions must have applied:

  1. He didn’t know that the recommendations were impractical, but assumed that because they came from smart people, they must be, and made the pledge without consultation.
  2. He didn’t know, but asked some of his staff, and they told him they were.
  3. He didn’t know, but asked and was told they weren’t, but felt politically compelled to do so anyway.
  4. He knew himself and did it anyway for the same reason.

I’m not sure which of the four is worse–having an administrator who made the pledge cluelessly, or one who made it knowingly, perhaps because he thought that it was important to do so to maintain public support for the agency, in the face of apparent public anxiety over killing astronauts, who are apparently more precious and irreplaceable than babes in arms. I think that it was another symptom, like the misbegotten Hubble decision, of his inability to deal with tragedies occurring on his watch.

He was a good administrator for a pre-Columbia era, but not for a post-Columbia one. And the problem is that one never knows when one era can change to the next. In this case, it happened in a few brief minutes over the skies of Texas. He remained afterward for almost two years, which was far too long, but it was a difficult situation politically–forcing him out early would have made it appear that what happened was his fault, which it really wasn’t. I’m sure that he felt that he had to see the investigation through, and then oversee the beginning of the development of the president’s new policy.

In any event, I’m heartened to see that both the safety panel (consisting of astronauts) and the new administrator are being more realistic about this now, and press carping on the issue looks foolish to me.

[Update on Thursday morning–yes, I am busy…]

Professor Reynolds has some related thoughts.

Editor Needed At AP

In this story about Howard Dean attacking Mitt Romney (that’s got to be good news for Romney), the reporter writes “Democratic Party Chairman Howard Dean accused Republican governors of towing the party line…”

A spell checker won’t catch that one. The word “towing” is spelled correctly. The problem is, it’s the wrong word.

Dogs And Cats Living Together

Susan Estrich is defending Fox News.

I’m hard-pressed to think of anybody who will tell you privately that in the midst of debates about such issues as Social Security and the deficits, it’s a good idea for the party leader to be turning himself into the issue by engaging in class and religious warfare.

This is precisely what congressional leaders and Dean agreed that Dean would not do when he became the chair of the party. He was supposed to leave the message to them. Having not done so, and having been criticized for it by two possible presidential candidates

Pet Peeve

Stephen Spruiell has an interesting story about how the Washington Post was used by on-line political operatives, and doesn’t seem to care.

What he doesn’t point out, though, and is an ongoing sign of the continued cluelessness of mainstream reporters, is that while the word “bloggers” is used throughout the saga, including one of the story headlines in the Post, there were no blogs involved. Free Republic is not a blog, any more than it was during Rathergate.

Well Deserved

Congratulations to Claudia Rossett. In a just world she’d win a Pulitzer, but I guess that’s reserved for the Walter Durantys of the world.

It’s too bad that more journalists don’t go after stories like this, but I guess massive corruption at the UN so that a brutal tyrant can continue to starve children and bribe countries to keep him in power isn’t as important as Tom Delay’s travel expenses, or Hootie Johnson’s golf memberships.