Tuesday, February 4, 2003

Fisking done right

Fisking is a bit like playing the violin. Done badly, it's tedious and annoying. Done right, it’s a pleasure to behold. Tim Blair does it right. Here’s a sample of him Fisking his favorite victim subject, Margot Kingston:

Grace believes many women feel as she does - desperate, helpless, and afraid to speak up because "they're not able to back it up with political analysis".

So they take off their clothes instead? What is this, some kind of elaborate blonde joke?

She says she's never done anything like this before, and the momentum her email has generated "thrills me but scares me as well". She's nervous about stripping off, as are most women who've agreed to come, and she asked me not to reveal the location of the protest for fear of unwanted onlookers.

It's a private protest. The most effective kind.

posted at 11:16 AM

Sacred white elephants in space
One sign that a government program has become a sacred white elephant is when it is above criticism. This is true of the current manned space program.

Instead of exploring the solar system and the cosmos, we are spending tens of billions of dollars on an unreliable space shuttle and “International Space Station” extravaganza of no real scientific merit. The space station exemplifies NASA in general -- it costs a fortune yet just travels around in circles going nowhere.

Meanwhile, real space exploration has come to a virtual standstill. An interplanetary probe costs less than a single shuttle launch and yet can add substantially to our knowledge. But the shuttle/space station program continues to suck funding away from real science and exploration.

Tom Tole’s has an excellent cartoon in today’s The Washington Post about the need to look at the underlying assumptions behind our current manned program, but rather than address his argument NASA's defenders treat any criticism of the current program as an outrage.

Not to pick on The Eleven Day Empire, but here’s an example:

…what he did today is to pull down his pants and piss all over the lives and sacrifice of seven brave men and women; over the hard work and grief of thousands of people who work for NASA; and over the hopes, aspirations and dreams of millions of people in this country and throughout the world.

That is utterly contemptible. It shows Toles to be a heartless, soulless, worthless fuck, a hateful jackal who knows how to do only one thing - smear feces on the wall as a cry for underserved attention from his betters.

If toles' superiors at the Post had the slightest sense of decency or propriety, they would fire Tomes immediately. To their shame, I don't really expect they will.

It’s high time that NASA’s mission was reevaluated and the agency geared away from the shuttle/space station and refocused on exploration and science. And that is in no way disrespecting the lives of the seven astronauts who perished with Columbia – unlike using their memory as a shield to protect NASA from rational oversight.

UPDATE: James DiBenedetto writes:

Just to clarify the comments on my site - I agree that NASA is currently doing is NOT the way to go about manned space flight. I do believe very strongly that we must continue manned space flight, because that is where our future lies, and until we get rational leadership that commits to a PROPER program for the colonization and exploitation of outer space, if our choice is a mismanaged, dead-end shuttle/station program or nothing, I'll take shuttle/station. A poor and dangerous human spaceflight program is better than no human spaceflight program. I know that can be argued, but that's where I stand.

But I do recognize there are other arguments; as I said in the post you cited: "As my comments of the past couple of days should prove, I feel very strongly about space exploration - and colonization - and I don't have a lot of use for the argument that we should turn our back on what I see as our future.

Even so, there are arguments to be made; I disagree utterly with them, but they certainly exist. But there is an appropriate time and place and manner to make those arguments."

It's not JUST Toles' view, it's the way it's expressed. I admit that I'm not a fan of editorial cartoonists generally, and Toles in particular. Bu I saw his column as not an exhortation to take a cold, rational look at our current program, but (1) an attack against ANY manned spaceflight (which may just be a misinterpretation due to my bias showing through, I'll admit), and (2) an obnoxious, poorly-timed, thoughtless and hurtful way to go about getting his point across.

And that's what I reacted so strongly to.

OBG responds:

My own view is that "a mismanaged, dead-end shuttle/station program" ultimately discredits the entire space program by creating a poor and reckless track record. Eventually even Congress is going to question why we're shooting $15 billion a year into space with little benefit. It becomes hard to argue with the "for the cost of a single shuttle mission we can (fill in your favorite social program here)."

NASA's been coasting for a long time and if they want to continue to fire the public's imagination then they need to drastically change their direction.

If the choice is spending $15 billion a year on the shuttle/space station or giving it the axe and spending the money elsewhere, I'd take the axe - and I'll bet that more and more people are coming around to that view.

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