URLs du Jour

2021-03-29

[Amazon Link]

  • How To Wreck a Government Agency. I'm a small-government guy with a semi-soft spot for NASA. James B. Meigs at City Journal looks at the latest news on that front and it ain't good: Bill Nelson, Biden’s NASA Pick, Has Checkered Space-Policy History.

    In 1986, Bill Nelson got the extraordinary opportunity to fly on the Columbia space shuttle. As a congressman representing Florida’s Space Coast—and one who just happened to sit on the House committee overseeing the National Aeronautics and Space Administration budget—Nelson had a significant leg up on other contenders for the honor. Many NASA insiders felt that he had essentially strong-armed his way onto the flight. Nelson’s official title on the mission was “payload specialist,” but other members of the seven-person crew gave him a less flattering nickname: “Ballast.”

    Nelson was assigned to operate some of the hardware used to conduct the mission’s scientific experiments, but the earthbound scientists who’d designed those experiments didn’t want him “anywhere near their equipment,” astronaut Mike Mullane later revealed in a memoir. The researchers had spent months teaching the NASA astronauts how to run their experiments, Mullane recalled. They “had no desire to have a nontechnical politician step in at the last moment and screw things up.” For longtime NASA staffers, this is an all-too-familiar story. They’ve all had the experience of watching politicians step in to screw things up—and Bill Nelson has made a career of doing just that.

    Meigs describes Nelson's history of influencing NASA for the worse. He has an impressive history of being disastrously wrong about space.

    Fun fact: Nelson was born September 29, 1942. Which makes him older than Joe Biden, who was born November 20, 1942. Is that the guy you want as Chief Rocket Scientist?


  • White Guys: Not Quite As Dangerous As You've Heard. Megan McArdle works to combat a common slur: The numbers undercut myths about mass shootings and White men.

    Shortly after news broke of the mass shooting underway in Boulder, Colo., a familiar sequence began playing out on social media: condemning the White male entitlement assumed to fuel the majority of such attacks.

    “Extremely tired of people’s lives depending on whether a white man with an AR-15 is having a bad day,” tweeted Julie DiCaro of Deadspin.

    “It’s always an angry white man. Always,” wrote Hemal Jhaveri of USA Today. When the alleged perpetrator was apprehended, crime fiction author Don Winslow offered a mordant epigram:

    Description: ‘Police have taken him into custody’. Translation: He was white.

    Many tweets were deleted after it emerged that the suspect was Ahmad Al Aliwi Alissa, a 21-year old immigrant from Syria. (And Jhaveri was fired by USA Today on Friday.) This was not the first time that left-leaning Twitter prematurely blamed another sort of White man — you know, white supremacist, entitled, conservative, marinated in gun culture — for a massacre committed, in fact, by a different type of person.

    I like Don Winslow as a writer, but I thought his recent book The Border was wrecked by this sort of racial politics.

    Megan does a dive into the data, which I recommend. But to summarize: the brain-snakes that cause guys to go out and shoot a bunch of people they don't know are not disproportionately present in white guys. She concludes, wisely:

    We won’t advance the cause of racial justice by propagating false stereotypes about any group — even the majority. And we certainly won’t make much progress on mass shootings if we wrongly convince ourselves that an all-too-common national failing, afflicting Americans of all colors and creeds, is mostly the peculiar pathology of a single privileged class.

    "Indeed".


  • Not Even, Somewhat Surprisingly, at USA Today. Megan mentions Hemal Jhaveri. Paul Mirengoff says good riddance: Even wokeism isn’t an absolute defense for stupidity.

    You have to be pretty stupid to opine publicly about the race/ethnicity of a mass shooter before his race/ethnicity is known. You have to be very stupid to base such an opinion on the obviously false claim that mass shooters are “always” of a particular race/ethnicity. And you have to be world-class stupid to risk your professional career on such an assertion.

    But that’s what Hemal Jhaveri, then the “diversity and inclusion editor at USA Today Sports,” did following last week’s mass shooting in Colorado. She tweeted, “It’s always an angry white man [who does this]. Always.”

    As noted, she got fired. Mirengoff links to her response to that. Sample:

    I wish I were more surprised by it, but I’m not. Some part of me has been waiting for this to happen because I can’t do the work I do and write the columns I write without invoking the ire and anger of alt-right Twitter. There is always the threat that tweets which challenge white supremacy will be weaponized by bad faith actors. I had always hoped that when that moment inevitably came, USA TODAY would stand by me and my track record of speaking the truth about systemic racism.

    Man, how many racial-justice tropes can you invoke in a single paragraph? (And how easy is it to blame all criticism on alt-right white supremacists?)


  • [Amazon Link]
    Mine. I Think. That's What I've Heard, Anyway. At Cato's Regulation, David R. Henderson wonders: Whose Body Is It Anyway?. He's reviewing a 2019 book about tobacco regulation by Jacob Grier. (Amazon link at right.) Sample of the governmental hijinks:

    Although Grier is not an economist, he uses the public choice framework to explain why some cigar bars in Oregon (where he lives) are allowed and others are not. To be allowed to exist, cigar bars must document that they sold tobacco before 2006, don’t have more than 40 seats, must be licensed to sell liquor (not just beer and wine), and must have a humidor present. These rules, he notes, accomplish three goals: keep wealthier (and presumably more politically powerful) cigar smokers happy, allow a few businesses to stay in existence, and protect those businesses from other competition.

    Grier also tells the story of a hypocritical Washington, DC city councilman named Jack Evans, who voted in favor of the city’s smoking ban but pushed through an exception that accommodates a cigar dinner held by the Friendly Sons of Saint Patrick, a charitable and social organization to which Evans belongs. Evans’s razor‐​sharp logic for the exception? “To eliminate cigars would be ludicrous.”

    Libertarian critics of tough regulations often argue that they put us on a slippery slope to even more extreme regulations. Grier points out that the more extreme proponents of smoking regulations are doing this. He quotes one Vox writer’s proposal that indoor smoking be banned “everywhere — inside bars, restaurants, your home. Full stop” (italics in original). Grier responds, “The writers at Vox deserve a perverse sort of credit for gliding down the slippery slope that smoking ban opponents have long warned against.”

    I've never smoked or vaped, I'd prefer to avoid tobacco smoke, but I'm disgusted by the nanny-statism.


  • I'm Not A Virologist. But… Robert Redfield, who ran the CDC from 2018-2021 is. At the Federalist, Jordan Davidson notes what happens when Redfield went skeptical about the Bat Origin Theory of COVID-19: Corporate Factcheckers Help CCP Suppress Talk Of Wuhan Lab, COVID.

    Corporate media outlets are misconstruing former Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield’s theories about the origins of COVID-19 after he said he doesn’t believe the virus outbreak began with transmission from a bat.

    “I am of the point of view that I still think the most likely etiology of this pathogen in Wuhan was from a laboratory, you know, escaped,” Redfield told CNN in an interview. “Now, other people don’t believe that, that’s fine. Science will eventually figure it out. It’s not unusual for respiratory pathogens that are being worked on in the laboratory to infect the laboratory worker.”

    The Chinese Communist Party has worked strenuously to suppress discussion of and investigation into this possibility. Corporate media outlets assisted that effort by taking issue with Redfield’s comments and issuing misdirected “fact checks” of a Wuhan lab theory separate from the virologist’s initial suggestion.

    A lot of media can't seem (or don't want to) distinguish between the claim that (a) China produced COVID-19 intentionally as a bioweapon and (b) COVID-19 was accidentally released from a Chinese lab in Wuhan.

    I think (a) has been debunked. But (b) doesn't seem that unlikely, and all the furor that results when that possibility is floated doesn't make it less likely.


Last Modified 2021-06-22 7:32 AM EDT