URLs du Jour

2022-09-05

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

  • We're going somber for Labor Day. Jeff Jacoby has a powerful article memorializing an atrocity: The Munich massacre, 50 years on.

    FIFTY YEARS ago next week, Palestinian terrorists invaded the Olympic Games in Munich and murdered 11 Israeli athletes. It was the worst atrocity in Olympic history. Nearly as horrifying was the reaction of the International Olympic Committee and its execrable president, Avery Brundage, who announced, almost before the bodies of the victims had grown cold: "The games must go on."

    The 1972 Olympics were the first to be held in Germany since the infamous Berlin Games of 1936, which took place under Nazi supervision. The (West) German government was eager to show the world how much things had changed in 36 years — above all, that Germany was no longer to be associated with the totalitarian grimness of its past. To emphasize the ease and freedom of the new Germany, security was kept to a minimum. There was no hint of barbed wire, troops, or heavily armed police. So intent was the government on promoting the Munich Olympics as "the Carefree Games," that no one closely scrutinized identification badges. Access to the athletes' village was easily gained; anyone lacking an ID could simply climb the chain-link fence.

    Which is exactly what eight Black September terrorists from the Palestine Liberation Organization's Fatah faction did early on the morning of Tuesday, Sept. 5.

    Jacoby ably describes the horror of the invasion, the botched "rescue" attempt, and the years of IOC amnesia about the carnage. He goes on to note that "the terrorists who carried out the horror continue to be honored and celebrated by the Palestinian Authority."

    Not that it matters, but that amnesia was repeated in my local paper, Foster's Daily Democrat, back in 2016 when it published an op-ed from Robert Azzi which described a lot of Israeli Olympic history, but managed to avoid talking about 1972. It was one of the few times I successfully got my LTE response published.


  • Hydrogen molecules are small and tricky, especially when cold. If you've been paying attention, you know the Artemis I launch was scrubbed last Saturday. Eric Berger has been on the space beat at Ars Technica for a while; he has analysis you probably won't get from less techie news outlets: Years after shuttle, NASA rediscovers the perils of liquid hydrogen.

    America's space agency on Saturday sought to launch a rocket largely cobbled together from the space shuttle, which itself was designed and built more than four decades ago.

    As the space shuttle often was delayed due to technical problems, it therefore comes as scant surprise that the debut launch of NASA's Space Launch System rocket scrubbed a few hours before its launch window opened. The showstopper was an 8-inch diameter line carrying liquid hydrogen into the rocket. It sprang a persistent leak at the inlet, known as a quick-disconnect, leading on board the vehicle.

    Berger does a fine job of detailing the problems involved in getting a first-stage liquid hydrogen rocket to work without setting itself on fire. And you will not be surprised to learn the root cause is…

    In 2010, when Congress wrote the authorization bill for NASA that led to creation of the Space Launch System, it directed the agency to "utilize existing contracts, investments, workforce, industrial base, and capabilities from the Space Shuttle and Orion and Ares 1 projects, including ... existing United States propulsion systems, including liquid fuel engines, external tank or tank related capability, and solid rocket motor engines."

    Yes, when you have rockets designed by Congress, you can expect this sort of behavior.


  • Duelling semi-fascists. Kevin D. Williamson shakes his head in dismay, but not surprise: Biden Speech Imitates Trump Movement's Illiberalism.

    President Joe Biden, advocate of what he has the temerity to call the “Unity Agenda” — not a unity agenda, but the Unity Agenda, which says all you need to know about that — has given a stupid, irresponsible, and intentionally provocative speech in which he declared Donald Trump and his supporters a “clear and present danger” to the United States, having earlier described them as practitioners of “semi-fascism.”

    Of course the Trump movement is semi-fascist — and for many of its most enthusiastic foot-soldiers and lieutenants, you could strike the “semi” bit. You can run the fascism checklist: Nationalism? Check. Authoritarianism? Check. Cult of action? Check. Contempt for liberal norms, procedures, and institutions? Check. Propensity for political violence? Check. Anti-individualism? Check. The replacement of black shirts by red hats is only a matter of stagecraft, which presumably comes naturally to a super-virile he-man whose staff plays him showtunes from Cats and other Broadway shows to soothe him when he’s feeling a little verklempt.

    But, on the question of semi-fascism: J’accuse, Mr. President.

    Begin with President Biden’s irresponsible and foolish invocation of the phrase “clear and present danger,” which is not only the title of a Tom Clancy novel, but also a legal rationale — one invoked in order to permit the federal government to abrogate Americans’ civil rights in the face of a public emergency. It is a doctrine that has been cited in order to permit the state to imprison war protesters — and even war critics — or to arrest a man for making a speech at a political rally. The phrase “clear and present danger” comes to us from Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. and the Schenck decision, which also gave us that nonsense about “shouting ‘Fire!’ in a crowded theater.” In Schenck, war protesters were distributing flyers advising draftees of their options for resisting induction into the military, and for this they were jailed, ultimately with the blessing of the Supreme Court.

    It's NRPlus. I'd prefer that National Review didn't put all the good stuff behind a paywall, but it does, so do the right thing and sign up.


  • Fortunately, it doesn't require public health snoops. Jason Lee Steorts has a good suggestion for Republicans: Contact-Tracing Trump’s Auto-Coup Attempt. He tries to find a middle way in the (civil) disagreement between Kevin D. Williamson and Charles C. W. Cooke.

    My view is that to reject either party as a whole is too simple, but that it’s right to reject any candidate who can be “contact-traced” to Trump’s auto-coup attempt.

    I’m borrowing that figure of speech from Charlie’s most recent article in National Review magazine, in which he uses it to describe those who reject any politician who had anything to do with the Trump presidency in any way. I would not do that. I see Trump’s presidency as mixed — up until he lost the 2020 election. Before then, there were things I liked and others I disliked, but we were within the realm of what I’d call “normal politics.” And there are plenty of people who served in his administration or supported his legislative goals for whom I still feel a lot of respect.

    But I could never vote for a candidate who tried to help Trump steal the election, who defended Trump’s attempt to steal the election, who is now campaigning for anyone who did either of the first two things, and so on.

    Me neither. Hope our local version of Tracy Flick doesn't win the GOP primary:

    Well, yeah he did.


  • [Amazon Link, See Disclaimer] We have short memories. Phoebe Maltz Bovy traces The Origins of Woke.

    At a church book sale in my Toronto neighborhood, I found The Official Politically Correct Dictionary and Handbook, a bestseller by Henry Beard and Christopher Cerf first published 30 years ago. I always gravitate to books like this—first to see whether there is anything new in this world, and then to remind myself that the overly simplistic answer is no. (See also the 1995 compendium Debating Sexual Correctness. The #MeToo discourse existed prior to #MeToo.) It seems we’re living through a kind of 1990s revival—fueled, I suspect, by nostalgia for pre-Covid, pre-9/11, pre-internet times. Or maybe just by teenagers’ timeless desire to dress the way everyone did decades ago.

    The front cover of the dictionary shows a man, a woman, and a dog, each affixed with labels such as “hair disadvantaged” (he’s balding), “woman of noncolor” (she’s white), and “nonhuman animal companion” (it’s a shaggy dog). None of them, though especially the woman and the dog, would be out of place in a 2022 farmers market. (Again: cyclical fashions.)

    I'd forgotten about this classic (Amazon link up there on your right). I don't own it, but I do have 1994's Politically Correct Bedtime Stories and the sequel Once Upon A More Enlightened Time, both by James Finn Garner. He's still around.