Right Wing Nut House



Filed under: The Rick Moran Show — Rick Moran @ 4:05 pm

You won’t want to miss tonight’s Rick Moran Show, one of the most popular conservative talk shows on Blog Talk Radio.

Tonight, I welcome Rich Baehr of the American Thinker and Jennifer Rubin of Commentary Magazine to look at the spate of polls out this week showing a decline across the board in the president’s numbers.

The show will air from 7:00 - 8:00 PM Central time. You can access the live stream here. A podcast will be available for streaming or download shortly after the end of the broadcast.

Click on the stream below and join in on what one wag called a “Wayne’s World for adults.”

The Chat Room will open around 15 minutes before the show opens,

Also, if you’d like to call in and put your two cents in, you can dial (718) 664-9764.

Listen to The Rick Moran Show on internet talk radio


Filed under: American Issues Project, health care reform — Rick Moran @ 10:40 am

My latest column at American Issues Project is up where I write about health care rationing.

A sample:

If one were to calculate the value of all the minerals and chemicals found in the human body, we’d be worth about $4.50 (add $3.50 for the 18 square feet of skin that holds it all together).

A paltry sum, to be sure. But there’s another way to calculate the worth of a human being. If one were to total up the value of all of our organs and other salable elements - what they’d fetch on the open market - our bodies would be worth considerably more. Our bone marrow alone would fetch $23 million. Our DNA would be worth a cool $9.7 million.

Our organs are pretty valuable too. Need a little extra cash? Selling your lung would net you a fast $116,000. Losing your heart would gain you $57,000.

Add it all up and you’d be quite a catch as a prospective mate. There’s $45 million in you just waiting to be mined, bottled, and sold, which is a nice number but probably won’t give you much comfort if you actually try to cash in while you’re still alive.

Then there’s another way to determine how much a human being is worth, coming soon to a hospital near you — the government way. Not surprisingly, the way the government will figure how much someone is worth is not by figuring the value of your limbs, or organs, or what Uncle Sam could get if they mined the potassium out of your carcass. They won’t calculate how much you have contributed to society in the past or how much you might contribute in the future.

And you can bet they won’t try to calculate how much you’re worth to you spouse, your kids, your family, your friends, or your community.

The government will determine how much a human being is worth by calculating how much of a drain on health care resources they will be.

Oh, but don’t worry. It will all be couched in nice, soothing language like “quality adjusted life years” or “comparative effectiveness research.” Anything but what it is; the government deciding which of us gets life saving or life extending treatment and which of us fails the tests.

Read this Eric Erickson article at Red State. These people are dead serious. I’m not sure about the cite from the bill being an accurate representation of what it is meant to be, but it matters little when creepy crawlers like Ezra Klein, Matt Yglesias, and “Utilitarian” philosopher Peter Singer are all inferring that their idea of rationing is determining if someone’s life is “worth it” when deciding whether to give life saving treatment.

There are monetary considerations (rationing) already used by insurance companies to determine some care options. But I’d rather have some green eyeshade guy working in the private sector worried about me or my family suing the crap out of his company making that choice rather than a “bureaucrat with a slide rule.”

As always, please read the whole thing.



Filed under: Science, Space — Rick Moran @ 9:51 am

It doesn’t seem like 40 years have passed since I sat in the cold living room of our family’s vacation house in northern Michigan watching Neil Armstrong take his step into eternal glory. Memory has a way of telescoping time, making distant events seem immediate and that’s how it is with me and Armstrong’s famous stroll on the surface of the moon.

We had been making the trip to Glen Lake for 6 summers in 1969. The huge, ramshackle old house we rented had a roof that leaked, a kitchen with 1920’s appliances, and no heat. With temps that could plunge into the 40’s at night in the middle of July, we made excellent use of a huge fireplace in the living room and an ancient oil burning heater. But everything about this house was big and the heater and fireplace combination only managed to make about half the living room a comfortable place to sit without a heavy sweater.

No matter. The fire was a treat for us greenhorns from suburbia. And since there was no phone and no TV the first 5 summers we made the 8 hour trip from the northwest suburbs of Chicago to Leelanau County, it really made us feel like we were “roughing it” in the north woods.

I can’t write about the moon landing without writing about Glen Lake. It was a magical place for us because so much of what we did and experienced was beyond the ken of our every day suburban lives. It was a place to test how grown up you could be - a huge attraction for pre teen boys. We learned how to sail, how to play bridge with the adults, drink coffee, smoke cigarettes (unbeknownst to my parents), make out with girls, and explore the pine forests of northern Michigan, pretending that our woodcraft was adequate to the challenge. It wasn’t but we got lucky and never had to pay for our stupidity.

We were already budding bibliophiles thanks to my father’s own love of books that drove him to build a library in our finished basement. But with no TV at Glen Lake, we devoured every book in sight. Over the years, books read by our older siblings were read by us the following year or two and in turn, read by our younger siblings down the line. We had one dog-eared copy of The Three Musketeers that was falling out of its spine, it was passed down to so many of us. (Did I mention there were 10 of us children?)

But the staple of every year’s vacation was reading the pulp fiction that we bought from the rack at Bauman’s Trading Post about two miles from our house. Bauman’s was a place for the ages. They featured a real soda fountain with malts, shakes, floats, cones - everything a growing boy needed to spoil his appetite for dinner. And in the back of the store, was beach reading material of the day; Jacqueline Suzanne, Arthur Hailey, and other potboilers for the grown ups.

And for the kids (and the young at heart) a marvelous collection of classic science fiction, horror, and adventure, including just about everything ever written by Edgar Rice Burroughs. It was here I fell in love with Tarzan, John Carter of Mars, the Pellucidar and Venus series, as well as Asimov, Clarke, Bradbury (The Martian Chronicles still thrills me to this day), Pohl, Sturgeon, and later, Frank Herbert’s Dune.

But that summer of 1969 was a little different. Joining us on our traditional 4 week trek beginning the Saturday after Independence Day was an extremely small TV set. It might have been 9″ or 12″ - I don’t recall. What I do remember is that you couldn’t get any station during the day.

Glen Lake is aptly named. It is surrounded by huge bluffs, and the TV’s small antennae wasn’t up to the task of bringing us a picture while the sun was up. This meant that we missed the actual landing on TV since that event occurred during the day. Fortunately, we were able to pick up a radio station that carried a live feed from Cape Kennedy from one of the networks and listened as Aldrin guided the LEM down to the surface of the moon.

My 81 year old grandfather, aunt, and uncle had made the trip from Chicago to visit us that year and that night, all of us gathered around the ridiculously small screen to watch man take his first steps on the moon. It struck all of us, I think, to see my grandfather witnessing an event that must have seemed almost like magic to him. He grew up in the era of horse and buggy, was a teenager when the Wright brothers flew, was a young man when Henry Ford began to mass produce cars, was in his 40’s when Lindbergh crossed the Atlantic, and a grandfather when the first jet airplane entered commercial service. We never did ask him what he was thinking as he watched what in his youth was thought impossible.

The TV picture was barely passable which made the crude, blurry images coming from the moon indecipherable for me. I saw a barely moving image that I now know was Armstrong but didn’t really see the pictures of Armstrong making that first step until I saw a replay of the event some time later. What was truly amazing was that about 15 minutes after Armstrong began his stroll on the lunar surface, I fell asleep. I guess I couldn’t see much anyway so why bother?

Except I had been looking forward to that broadcast since I was 7 years old. Almost since the time I could read, I was fascinated with space. One of the first books I can remember reading was an illustrated compilation of the planets and the sun. In a time before any probes had been sent to the planets, I knew that Venus was hot, Mars was cold, Saturn was beautiful, and that you couldn’t stand on the surface of Jupiter because the gravity would make you feel like you weighed 800 pounds (that part is a little hazy).

It was natural, then, that I would fall in love with NASA and the space program. I watched every Mercury liftoff, usually with my mother, who was much more afraid for the astronauts than I was. The Gemini and Apollo missions prior to the moon shot also held my close interest. By then, I could read anything printed in newspapers and magazines on the space program and gobbled up anything that came to my attention.

By the time 1969 rolled around, I was primed and ready. I probably could have written on the mission for almost any newspaper in that I knew as much about as it as most reporters covering it. I knew that the Saturn V booster weighed 6.5 million pounds and could lift 260,000 pounds into orbit. I knew it stood 363 feet in height and could generate nearly 7 million pounds of thrust at takeoff. I knew that it took 8 seconds for the rocket to build up enough thrust to lift the Apollo capsule off the launch pad.

The Saturn V remains one of the largest machines ever built by man and certainly the most powerful. With the capsule and crew module, it had more than a million parts - many of them redundant components in case of failure.

As I reflect back on it, my love of space exploration eventually led to amateur enthusiasms in other scientific fields from anthropology to zoology and everything in between. But as much as I am fascinated by the physical world on this planet and beyond, I never rose above the kind of general interest in scientific matters that has limited my knowledge to this day. Part of it is my atrocious math skills. Another problem is that I have a fairly undisciplined mind - a problem that does not lend itself to real scientific inquiry.

But that hasn’t stopped me from learning all I can about the universe and ultimately, given some thought to our place in it.

We are truly on an island in the cosmos - a safe haven that is, as far as we know, the only place where life has been nurtured and thrived (statistical probability of life elsewhere tell another story and most scientists believe before too long we will discover life fairly close by). It is extraordinarily humbling to contemplate just how big our universe truly is. The fact that the Hubble Space Telescope can image galaxies 14 billion light years from earth is incomprehensible. It’s not just the distance, of course, but the time that we glimpse with these images.

Looking at this picture is like looking through the portal of a time machine where we see galaxies that were already old nearly 10 billion years before our sun formed.

A hundred billion galaxies each with a couple of hundred billion stars should make you feel very small and very alone. But it doesn’t, does it? Perhaps we are incapable of grasping such immense emptiness - our minds possessing a fail safe device that stops us from going mad at the prospect of realizing just how little our lives matter when held up to the enormity of it all.

For people of faith, the emptiness is filled by the presence of an all knowing, all seeing deity. I am actually glad for those who enjoy that kind of certainty but for many of us - even believers who take a slightly different view of God and the cosmos - it is inadequate to the task of answering the fundamental questions of human existence; who are we and why are we here.

Is it enough to say that we are who we are because of evolution and the interaction of chemicals and electricity? Is it enough to say that the reason we are here is because this is where the random fluctuation of atoms from an exploding star that pushed a cloud of hydrogen gas into a ball to form the sun and the planets just happened to drop us?

Is there more to it than that?

When contemplating the relative eternity of the universe, such answers are inadequate indeed - even for an atheist. Is this all there is of existence? Are we, creatures formed of star stuff, condemned to wander the pathways of our mind seeking answers to the unanswerable? Is there nothing of the universe in us that we may, one day, be able to tap and glimpse ultimate truth?

The moon landing was an expression of that hunger to know, to understand, to seek out knowledge for the sheer joy of knowing. Eventually - if we can find a way to survive - we will step off this rocky mount and hurl ourselves into the void looking for some of the answers to those questions. We still may not find them. But we will surely discover something just as valuable; that trying to satisfy our insatiable need to learn new things will expand our consciousness and open new frontiers, the shape and scope of which we cannot even imagine today.



Filed under: Politics — Rick Moran @ 10:40 am

Some Freeper named Jim Robinson has an off the deep end post up at Free Republic that illustrates in a nutshell why no one is taking conservatism very seriously these days.

You have to read the whole thing to grasp the underlying hysteria, the exaggeration, the misperceptions, and the paranoia, but a few choice passages should suffice.

It is entitled “If we could get millions of Americans to march on Washington, what would we do?”

It cannot be denied that the central government has become destructive of our unalienable rights to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness and our rights to live free. The government is no longer responsive to we the People. They have stretched and shredded the constitution to the point that they have illegally seized for themselves virtually unlimited powers over the citizens and act as if we have no rights and no powers of our own. They are acting without our consent.

First, I could have lifted the exact same verbiage from any of 50 lefty blogs while Bush was in office. It was stupid then and it’s stupid now. Positing the idea that we are unfree or living under some kind of authoritarian regime is so far beyond the pale of rationality one wonders if this guy sits in the dark, cradling his gun, waiting for the secret police to bust down his door.

Gross exaggeration, hyperbolic, hysterical, paranoid, full of nonsensical statements that fly in the face of reality - and that’s just the second paragraph.

Our Founders established that when our government becomes destructive of our rights then it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

We have reached the point where the government’s long train of abuses and usurpations has achieved absolute Despotism, therefore it is our right, it is our duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for our future security.

Therefore, We the People of America choose to exercise our right to throw off and alter the abusive government by peacefully recalling and removing from office the President of the United States, the Vice President of the United States and all U.S. Senators and U.S. Representatives effective immediately.

Oooh goody! A revolution. Can I play too?

An interim provisional Chief Executive and congressional representatives will be established as follows:

The Secretary of State shall immediately assume the office of interim Chief Executive. The Chief Executive shall appoint and the interim Senate shall confirm an interim Vice President.

An immediate election shall be held within each state legislature to appoint two interim senators to represent each sovereign state.

A special election shall be held by all states within 30 days to elect interim members of the House of Representatives.

Elections for regular government offices shall be conducted in November, 2010 as previously scheduled, except that elections will be held for all elective offices, including President, Vice President and all U.S. Representatives. U.S. Senators will be elected per class schedule by the various state legislatures.

I suppose Obama, Biden, the cabinet, 100 senators and 435 Congressmen are just going to take one look at that million crazies this guy wants to bring to Washington and turn over the government to…who? Who is going to appoint this “Provisional Chief Executive?” No doubt Mr. Robinson who, as the leader of this revolt of patriots, will also be responsible for “convincing” our elected leaders to leave town.

No matter. Just what kind of government does this new Founding Fool want to establish?

The Constitution of the United States must be kept intact and must be adhered to and strictly followed by all government entities as originally intended.

As it was originally intended? Well, that solves the Obama problem. Mr. Robinson can sell him into slavery.

We must restore and reestablish the sovereignty of the people and the states and restore the constitutional balances between the central government, the various states and we the people. The constitution severely restricts government powers and guarantees unalienable freedom and Liberty to the people.

For an ignoramus, he actually got pretty close - to a third grade understanding of the Constitution. Perhaps defining “freedom and Liberty” might be a start so that we can figure out what’s “unalienable” in those vague concepts, as well as telling us how to “restore and reestablish” states rights and the “sovereignty” of the individual (which hasn’t gone anywhere as far as I can tell). But of course, that would require a mind not entranced with its own lunacy.

Then come the specifics: Repeal the 16th and 17th amendments, abolish the IRS (hooray!), transfer federal land, buildings, and military bases to control of the states, kill social security, get rid of abortion rights, the Fed,…

Well, you get the picture. He concludes with this ringing call for revolution:

Need lots of help with this document, folks. Please chime in. Would love to see a committee formed of members of every state to complete and finalize it. Then we should form and send delegates to a special national congress to work out the kinks and plan its presentation and execution.

This concept is an entirely peaceful altering of our despotic government per our unalienable right and duty. No where do I call for violence. The only force I call for is the force of numbers. We need millions of our citizens to sign on to this petition and execute its provisions. Will require millions to march on D.C. to block the government’s ability to do business as usual. This is our right and duty as Americans.

Yes, every American has a right to make an utter, complete ass of himself. That right is protected by the Constitution as surely as the right to sit in the dark with a gun waiting for Obama’s goose stepping brownshirts to arrest patriots like Mr. Robinson is guaranteed by that document.

The problem with all of this isn’t that the guy is a loon whose understanding of what America is all about is that of a 6 year old. The problem is in the comments to this post, as well as comments I’ve seen on just about every big conservative blog out there that support and mimic these extraordinarily idiotic and laughably exaggerated claims of what the government has been doing since Obama took office and how these actions affect our personal liberty.

There will always be a certain portion of both the right and left who are basically nuts. The hysterically exaggerated dangers of a Bush putsch were written about endlessly by the left for 8 years. Now it’s time for righty crazies to crawl out from under the rocks and dark places where they’ve been hiding to make conservatism look like an ideal home for kooks, paranoids, and other unbalanced denizens who inhabit a creepy reality of their own making that bears little resemblance to the real world.

Conservatives will laugh this kind of thing off as an aberration. But I am telling my fellow righties that we ignore this crap to the detriment of the rest of us who oppose the administration’s actions. With pop-cons like Hannity, Beck, Coulter, and other conservative celebrities mouthing some of this nonsense (while implying even worse) on a daily basis, more and more of the base are turning into unhinged, screaming maniacs who believe America is being “destroyed” by Obama and the liberals.

This screed is symptomatic of the sickness of thought and reason that afflicts many conservatives today - more than we are prepared to acknowledge and far more than one would normally expect from a philosophy that supposedly prides itself on prudence, rationality, and probity.

You can dismiss Robinson and his unhinged followers. But they aren’t going away and their influence can only grow if we ignore them.


Ooooh my bad. Jim Robinson isn’t just any ordinary schmuck. He is founder of Freeperland.

If I were to seriously analyze Robinson’s thoughts in that post, I would say that anyone who advocated the kinds of changes he does would make Obama look like a piker in the “change” department. Robinson’s ideas are beyond radical — they are ill-informed, impossible, and reactionary.

How reactionary? Robinson posits a government that does not return us to our constitutional roots but rather to a pre-constitutional system not unlike the Articles of Confederation. Anyone who can’t see that in all of his state’s rights bullshit doesn’t know much about history.

Someone should wake Mr. Robinson up and inform him that we are a continental, 21st century industrialized nation of 300 million people and not an 18th century agrarian coastal republic of 7 million.

Not that it would make much difference to Robinson. We have to revolt to ban abortion and toss out social security and the IRS.


Filed under: General, Government, Politics, health care reform — Rick Moran @ 8:09 am

This gorgon of a bill isn’t dead - not by a long shot. But it has been stalled by the inability of Democrats to come together and pass it.

Blue dogs are beginning to talk with Republicans about overhauling the entire bill. Liberals think it isn’t going far enough and will vote against any bill that doesn’t have a public option. Fiscally responsible members are terrified of adding to the deficit. And even the president has acknowledged that his deadline of getting it done before the August recess may be impossible.

I might add that there is precious little from the White House except speechmaking. This president apparently doesn’t know how to govern. He has handed responsibility for getting this bill passed to Pelosi and Reid while he stands on the sidelines kibitzing.

Bottom line: No one is in charge. Committee chairmen have their own ideas about what should be in the bill while Blue Dogs and liberals are rejecting their formulations and want to substitute massively.

Here’s Jennifer Rubin this morning in PJ Media:

“Back to the drawing board,” announced Democratic House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer on health care reform.  Indeed, it seems that in one short week, the single most important item on the president’s agenda is in need of some critical care.


The president rushed to the microphone on Friday afternoon to assure the country the patient was fine, just undergoing some expected surgery and far from terminal. Absent was any mention of his August deadline, however. He appeared miffed at “Washington” and the “24-hour news cycle.” He took no questions, likely because he had few answers to the hard queries. (Why is his own party in revolt? Why would he raise taxes on small businesses? Why don’t people like the idea of a “public option” as much as they did a few months ago?) Despite Obama’s lecture and show of bravado (”this is going to happen”), all signs pointed to the demise of the House Democrats’ trillion dollar, soak-the-rich public option scheme. And it is far from clear what replacement plan might be offered.

Revolts are breaking out all over the place and both Reid and Pelosi are incapable of putting out the fires. Again, it should be stressed that Democrats may be  waking up to the fact that they have a pretty damned ineffective president - one who doesn’t lead and is beginning to sound like something of a whiner.

Matt Welch and Nick Gillespie writing in the Washington Post , actually use the “C” word to describe Obama:

From a lousy cap-and-trade bill awaiting death in the Senate to a health-care reform agenda already weak in the knees to the failure of the stimulus to deliver promised jobs and economic activity, what once looked like a hope-tastic juggernaut is showing all the horsepower of a Chevy Cobalt. “Give it to me!” the president egged on a Michigan audience last week, pledging to “solve problems” and not “gripe” about the economic hand he was dealt.

Despite such bravura, Obama must be furtively reviewing the history of recent Democratic administrations for some kind of road map out of his post-100-days ditch.

So far, he seems to be skipping the chapter on Bill Clinton and his generally free-market economic policies and instead flipping back to the themes and comportment of Jimmy Carter. Like the 39th president, Obama has inherited an awful economy, dizzying budget deficits and a geopolitical situation as promising as Kim Jong Il’s health. Like Carter, Obama is smart, moralistic and enamored of alternative energy schemes that were nonstarters back when America’s best-known peanut farmer was installing solar panels at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. Like Carter, Obama faces as much effective opposition from his own party’s left wing as he does from an ardent but diminished GOP.

Carter never had a clue about how to govern in Washington and neither does Obama - something many of us warned about before the election. Anyone with an ounce of sense knew his grandiose promises about changing the way Washington does business were as empty as Harry Reid’s head. It wasn’t just his inexperience. It was his rhetoric being incapable of matching reality that was most telling.

And now, Obama has apparently dropped the idea of passing a health care bill before the August recess. What will emerge after Labor Day may be nothing like what is being talked about today - scaled back, no public option, a bigger small business exemption, and no real reform of Medicare. Instead, look for expanding Medicaid and S-Chip at the state level to cover the uninsured and perhaps some fiddling with Medicare payments.

In that form, it has a chance of passing with GOP help. But unless Obama can pull off a miracle, his big plans for health care reform are going to become as extinct as the dinosaurs.


Filed under: Blogging — Rick Moran @ 5:32 am

I love that line from Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. The context, in case you are unaware of this pop culture reference, is here.

No, I’m not going anywhere. But your generous donations will certainly allow me to buy a lot of fish — and pay off some bills as well. Not that I’m a big fish eater, mind you. Sue will tell you that I turn up my nose to just about any fish except catfish and Brook Trout. Bass is pretty good (if I catch it myself) and Lake Michigan Pike perch, prepared at some restaurants in Chicago, is divine.

But as a weekly or even monthly repast, I forgo the pleasure. I have, it pains me to say, rather ordinary taste in food - beef, pork, chicken, and pasta filling out the menu at the Moran manse for the most part.

I realize that limiting donations by going through PayPal prevented some of you from contributing. I fully understand, having heard many horror stories from people about their “Conflict Resolution Center.” If there is another online credit card acceptance company you prefer, please let me know.

And I also realize that these “Blog Blegs” get on some of your nerves. Perhaps I should have taken this gentleman’s advice and sold my positions on issues.

From the comments to my post asking for donations:

All I am willing to do is wish you luck.

You publish too many falsehoods for me to donate.

And the health care lies really piss me off as my family is in the pre existing condition category.

But I’ll make you a deal. Publish the truth about heath care reform and I’ll gladly donate.

I must say I was tempted to take the guy up on his bribe. And why stop there? I could have posted a list of issues along with the going rate for betraying my principles. Something like this:

Write nice things about President Obama - $500
Support Cap and Trade - $300
Support Government Financed Health Care - $250
Write nice things about Democrats - $200
Write nice things about liberals - $1,000,000

Hey! My principles don’t come cheap, ya know!

At any rate, thanks from the bottom of my heart for your generosity. Sue, who left June 27, won’t be back until after August 14th so the extra cash was desperately needed and most appreciated. It always amazes me how generous people are in this country - even when times are tough.

Thanks again.

Rick Moran



Filed under: History, Media, Politics — Rick Moran @ 11:00 am

As I have said many times over the nearly 5 years I’ve been blogging, I am not a journalist. I have no desire to be a journalist, to be thought of as a journalist, to think like a journalist, or ever become a journalist in the future.

It’s not that I hate journalists. With two brothers in the profession, I greatly admire their work and the work of many of their colleagues. I am perhaps a little more sensitive to the difficulties in bringing the news to the public than some, while a little harsher than others when laziness, or stupidity lead to erroneous or horribly biased stories.

I am a firm believer that much of what the right sees as bias in mainstream journalism is simple laziness on the part of reporters. It takes an effort to be as objective as possible and many journalists either fail to try or simply don’t want to be bothered with it. This is due to an underlying arrogance in many of the more prestigious newsrooms that feeds egos too full of self-importance to recognize how they are betraying their craft by allowing personal biases or animus to color the presentation of the news.

I believe that this explains why a solid, experienced journalist like Walter Cronkite, who passed away yesterday at the age of 92, may have become the “most trusted man in America” but who ultimately discarded his life’s work to become an arbiter rather than a purveyor of news.

The distinction is important. As Managing Editor at CBS, it was Cronkite who helped choose the stories, shaped them, had a big say in when they would be slotted on the newscast, and ultimately, used his on-air personae to impart an emotional context to what was being reported.

This, despite the fact that Cronkite was a newsman’s newsman. He worked in city newsrooms, and for the wire service UPI where he became a famous war correspondent, risking his life several times to get the story. When Ed Murrow called in 1950, Cronkite moved to the best news team on television and began anchoring important events like the political conventions. His coverage blew away NBC’s Huntley and Brinkley and he became a star.

Cronkite took over the anchor chair from Douglas Edwards in 1962 and the change from journalist to “Uncle Walter” was not immediate. But over the years, as TV news on the “Big Three” networks grew in importance, Cronkite’s editorial decisions - whether he intended to or not - not only shaped the nation’s agenda, but also subtly gave the news a “point of view.” Racism is bad. Viet Nam is wrong. The Space Program is good and can do nothing wrong.

We are used to this kind of “drama” today where the news perhaps doesn’t take sides overtly but nevertheless contains stories that through visuals and copy, impart the “correct” way for the audience to interpret the news. This is news as show biz not as political advocacy. In order to capture eyeballs for the 3 or 4 minutes most people will watch cable news at a time, editors spice the stories with built in conflict — good guys, bad guys, heroes, and villains. In many respects, they play to the ingrained biases of their audience rather than creating their own.

Print media isn’t much different. Except for the New York Times, which one can hardly make a case in defending their overt advocacy for liberals and Democrats, there is a better balance at many newspapers in reporting stories. But the way the story is usually told also contains many of the same elements of drama, and leading the reader by the nose to a particular conclusion. This makes for more interesting reading. It hardly makes for good journalism.

The tale told by two disasters reveals the difference between journalism and show biz. The reporting of the Kennedy assassination in 1963 and the coverage of Katrina in 2005 bookend two eras in journalism where the primary function of the reporter changed from news gatherer to newsmaker. With only phone lines that connected the country in 1963, the big three networks did as good a job as was possible in rounding up eyewitnesses, switching to their Dallas affiliate (where a young Dan Rather got noticed by CBS brass), running archival Kennedy footage, interviewing the rich and powerful in Washington and New York, doing the man in the street gig, and generally scrambling like hell to fill air time suddenly denuded of commercials.

It was hit and miss coverage - and it was riveting. The salient point was that the networks never lost sight of the story - Kennedy’s death. Sometimes it was trivial. At times, sublime. But the reporters and anchors allowed the natural drama of Kennedy’s death to drive coverage.

Contrast that with Katrina coverage in 2005. Despite satellites, cell phones, lightweight portable cameras, and a lot of “gee whiz” technology, what was the Katrina coverage about? What drove it?

It certainly wasn’t about the victims. It wasn’t about the effect of the storm on New Orleans. Nor was it about how the city was responding to the disaster.

The storyline of Katrina coverage - even on Fox News - was the lack of response by the Bush Administration. Every news item - from the rumors of babies being raped in the Superdome to the looting - was placed in the context of a Bush failure. Villains were made out of Director Brown and Bush. Heroes were made out of Mayor Nagin for his emoting on national television and sometimes the reporters themselves who never failed to pat their colleagues on the back for enduring such wretched working conditions.

The difference between the two eras in journalism were giants like Cronkite who created a whole new job for themselves; the National Sage. In this capacity, the anchors decided which stories were important, which should be ignored, and how to shape the news so that people were informed “the right way.” The key is that they took this responsibility on to themselves. While very cognizant of their influence, they sought to use it to promote their idea of the “greater good.” This was not done as overtly as it is today, but it had a greater impact because so many more people were watching.

It was perhaps the nature of the medium that this should have been so. But to have the kind of “news as drama” filter down to newspapers is one of the primary reasons for their decline today. People used to read newspapers to find out what was going on, not how to think of an issue. Perhaps they figure if they wanted that kind of news reporting, they may as well watch the cable nets. At least they have film and attractive people to read the news to them.

There is no denying Walter Cronkite was a great man. But for what he and others did to the craft of journalism, he should be criticized, not commended today.



Filed under: Blogging, Politics, health care reform — Rick Moran @ 8:39 am

When campaigning for president, Barack Obama went out of his way to reassure the American people that his health care plan wouldn’t require Americans who are happy with their insurance now, to give it up in favor of a government run insurance plan.

He was emphatic on this point, as his campaign website highlighted the promise: (PDF)

Q. I like my current insurance coverage. Will I have to change plans?

A. No, you will not have to change plans. For those who have insurance now, nothing will change under the Obama plan – except that you will pay less. Obama’s plan will save a typical family up to $2,500 on premiums by bringing the health care system into the 21st century: cutting waste, improving technology, expanding coverage to all Americans, and paying for some high-cost cases.

As recently as yesterday, he reiterated the promise:

At a rally in Holmdel, New Jersey, today, President Obama continued making a promise about health care reform that he has acknowledged isn’t literally true.

“Let me be exactly clear about what health care reform means to you,” the president told residents of the Garden State. “First of all, if you’ve got health insurance, you like your doctors, you like your plan, you can keep your doctor, you can keep your plan. Nobody is talking about taking that away from you.”

But last month, as the president acknowledged during a press conference, he doesn’t literally mean that you are guaranteed to be able to keep your health care plan, and your doctor, if and when health care reform passes.

“When I say ‘If you have your plan and you like it,… or you have a doctor and you like your doctor, that you don’t have to change plans,’” the president said after we asked him about this, “what I’m saying is the government is not going to make you change plans under health reform.”

Importantly, the government might create circumstances – say, a public health care option that is less expensive since profit is not a concern and overhead is lower – where you might find your business forcing you into that public plan.

This is not only misleading, it is an outright falsehood:

PRESIDENT Obama promises that “if you like your health plan, you can keep it,” even after he reforms our health-care system. That’s untrue. The bills now before Congress would force you to switch to a managed-care plan with limits on your access to specialists and tests.

Two main bills are being rushed through Congress with the goal of combining them into a finished product by August. Under either, a new government bureaucracy will select health plans that it considers in your best interest, and you will have to enroll in one of these “qualified plans.” If you now get your plan through work, your employer has a five-year “grace period” to switch you into a qualified plan. If you buy your own insurance, you’ll have less time.

And as soon as anything changes in your contract — such as a change in copays or deductibles, which many insurers change every year — you’ll have to move into a qualified plan instead (House bill, p. 16-17).

When you file your taxes, if you can’t prove to the IRS that you are in a qualified plan, you’ll be fined thousands of dollars — as much as the average cost of a health plan for your family size — and then automatically enrolled in a randomly selected plan (House bill, p. 167-168).

It’s one thing to require that people getting government assistance tolerate managed care, but the legislation limits you to a managed-care plan even if you and your employer are footing the bill (Senate bill, p. 57-58). The goal is to reduce everyone’s consumption of health care and to ensure that people have the same health-care experience, regardless of ability to pay.

One begins to wonder if the president and the Democrats are capable of telling the truth about anything. Their lies about cap and trade not costing jobs and not adding substantially to American’s energy bills is disproven by how the program works in Europe where thousands of dollars have been added to the household energy tab and millions of jobs have been lost with precious few “green jobs” created in their place.

And here we are being told that we shouldn’t even read this health care bill being crafted in secrecy (with precious little input from the White House), that we should just trust the Democrats and the president on this.

To Obama supporters, I have a question: If your man had run on the kind of health care bill emerging from Congress, do you think he would have been elected? If you think so, you are out of touch with ordinary Americans. Being forced into a government run insurance plan is not what the American people had in mind when they elected Barack Obama. They expected cheaper insurance with the same benefits - just as he promised. What they are going to get - much to their shock - is the prospect of losing benefits and paying more for their medical insurance once they are forced to choose among the several plans that will be offered by the government.

They also didn’t expect a massive addition to the federal budget. That CBO report will be ignored by Democrats despite the fact that it gives the lie to their claims that going the public route will save money.

The bills that are emerging from both the House and the Senate are too complex, too expensive, rely too much on pie in the sky forecasts of both participation and cost, and point the way to a system where the vast majority of Americans will have the bare minimum of coverage for as much or more money than they are spending now.

And despite what Obama and the Democrats say, this is not the only way to reform the health care industry. It is the most expensive, least efficient, and most liberal way to do it. But it is a lie to say there are no alternatives to these bills that are cheaper, more efficient in that they utilize resources more effectively (bigger bang for the buck), and would accomplish the same goals that Democrats claim they want to achieve.

After all, the Obama bill will not cover everyone. After 10 years there will still be 17 million people without health insurance. And certainly, there are better ways to pay for this than raising taxes on the middle class - which will be the only alternative once Democrats admit they were lying about the other revenue generators in the bill. Medicare savings of the size and scope being postulated have no realistic chance of being realized.

Soak the rich if you want. But that will only get you so far. To go the rest of the way and fund the entire measure, tax increases (they will be called “fees” and “surcharges”) will be necessary. Even that won’t be enough. The CBO estimate of a little over a trillion dollars may be wishful thinking. Others have figured the cost going over $1.5 trillion and beyond.

Name one entitlement program that has ever met budget expectations. There isn’t one - they have all been more expensive than anyone realized when they were created. Why should something as gargantuan as national health insurance be any different?

This is a disastrous measure that will suck the life out of our health care system while adding hundreds of billions to our deficit. And the helluva it is, the bill will pass based on lies and deceit of what it’s true costs are and what it will actually do for the average American.



Filed under: Politics, Science, Space — Rick Moran @ 11:10 am

I was planning on doing a grand retrospective for next Tuesday’s blog post on the 40th anniversary of the landing of Apollo 11 on the moon. I still may do something but Buzz Aldrin wrote a piece in the Washington Post today that demands a response and I will incorporate some of my thoughts on manned space flight.

Aldrin wants America to set its sights on Mars for the “next big thing” that NASA should accomplish. I would love for the US to mount a mission to the Red Planet, but I also love rationality and realism. Unfortunately, the two don’t mesh very well at this point for a wide variety of reasons, and it appears that calling for a manned mission to Mars and being thought of as a rational human being won’t happen for the foreseeable future.

Aldrin, in short, is full of it.

On the spring morning in 1927 when Charles Lindbergh set off alone across the Atlantic Ocean, only a handful of explorer-adventurers were capable of even attempting the feat. Many had tried before Lindbergh’s successful flight, but all had failed and many lost their lives in the process. Most people then thought transatlantic travel was an impossible dream. But 40 years later, 20,000 people a day were safely flying the same route that the “Lone Eagle” had voyaged. Transatlantic flight had become routine.

Comparing Lindbergh’s 29 hour flight across the Atlantic with “homesteading Mars” is bat sh*t loony. Even using our Moon program as a comparison is far off the mark. If we knew then what we know today about the extraordinary risks taken by NASA to beat the Russians to the moon - putting the lives of the astronauts in extreme danger - I doubt if public support for the Apollo program would have been maintained long enough to make it.

NASA engineers figured that the astronauts going on a mission to the moon had a one in five chance of dying. There were just too many things that could go wrong. Most worrisome was the lift off from the moon by the LEM. If the engine didn’t fire, the astronauts would have been stranded. There was no back-up to that engine.

But beyond the political calculations of pushing on despite the risks, there was the practical consideration that these missions to the moon were basically stunts. They served no scientific purpose save bringing back a few rocks for analysis. We ended up spending more than $120 billion in today’s dollars for a couple of TV shows.

Aldrin proposes a much different mission - infinitely more complicated, with risks that would make Apollo look like a walk in the park. They key is systems reliability and how to keep vital parts of the spacecraft and habitat on Mars from breaking down and killing everybody. The number of disasters that could befall a Mars mission are so numerous that the thought of insuring anyone who would volunteer for such a mission would give an actuarial a heart attack.

NASA can’t even get its act together to get back to the moon and Aldrin wants these same guys to plan for a mission to Mars? NASA did not invent the cost overrun but they have certainly perfected the practice. The Ares 1 booster that will carry the crew vehicle (a capsule not dissimilar to Apollo) named Orion into space was supposed to have been tested by now. In fact, it hasn’t even gotten off the drawing board. It’s costs have already risen from $28 billion to $40 billion - and it won’t become operational until at least 2015. With the Shuttles being retired next year, that leaves a 5 year gap in our capability to launch humans to the space station. We will be hitching rides with the Russians until then.

If Aldrin were advocating a Mars mission in 40 or 50 years, I would be more inclined to think well of him. Instead, he thinks we should concentrate on getting to Mars in the next two decades. It is one thing to be a “visionary” about going to Mars. But it is quite another to ignore the reality of NASA’s bungling when it comes to manned flight and the risks associated with traveling 40 million miles to satisfy our curiosity about whether there is any life on Mars.

How much would such a plan cost?

Instead, I propose a new Unified Space Vision, a plan to ensure American space leadership for the 21st century. It wouldn’t require building new rockets from scratch, as current plans do, and it would make maximum use of the capabilities we have without breaking the bank. It is a reasonable and affordable plan — if we again think in visionary terms.

On television and in movies, “Star Trek” showed what could be achieved when we dared to “boldly go where no man has gone before.” In real life, I’ve traveled that path, and I know that with the right goal and support from most Americans, we can boldly go, again.

How much, Buzz? No guess except it would be “reasonable and affordable.” Jesus! We can’t afford national health care but we can afford a trip to Mars? And I would love to hear Aldrin’s definition of “reasonable and affordable.” Even using rockets in our stable now (none capable of providing escape velocity for a manned spacecraft from earth’s gravitational field) and given NASA’s history, it is foolish to believe that the last estimate of designing a trip to Mars ($100 billion in 1991 although some peg the real number at closer to $400 billion) can be beaten by today’s ossified NASA bureaucracy.

And using Star Trek as an example of what humans are capable may excite a lot of geeks out there but as far as forming the basis for a rational examination of whether we should go to Mars, I would expect something a little more from a guy who walked on the moon.

Perhaps the biggest obstacle to overcome for a Mars mission would be the effect of space travel in Zero G on the human body. Almost immediately, the calcium in our bones starts to break down, our heart muscle weakens, other vital organs start to shut down, and our muscles begin to atrophy. Four to six hours of exercise a day helps some but on a very long duration flight, no one knows if the astronauts will ever be able to set foot on earth again. Can we solve a problem like that in two decades? Sure, if we want to spend the money. And Aldrin offers no compelling reason for that whatsoever.

Finally, it’s clear Aldrin knows little about what motivates the American people:

Mobilizing the space program to focus on a human colony on Mars while at the same time helping our international partners explore the moon on their own would galvanize public support for space exploration and provide a cause to inspire America’s young students. Mars exploration would renew our space industry by opening up technology development to all players, not just the traditional big aerospace contractors. If we avoided the pitfall of aiming solely for the moon, we could be on Mars by the 60th anniversary year of our Apollo 11 flight.

“Galvanize public support for space exploration?” What public? Which planet? The public has lost confidence in NASA and the thought of handing them a blank check to go to Mars is probably not uppermost in American’s minds.

And Aldrin is not much of a visionary if he is unaware that private, commercial spaceflight will soon supplant NASA as the primary way in which humans will go into space. By the end of the next decade, it is possible that some private company will have already gone to the moon in order to exploit some of its resources, beating NASA back there by a couple of years. But I think once private enterprise gets into the human space flight business, NASA will see the light and concentrate on what it is very good at; building robots to explore the universe. Their success in that field has been astonishing, adding immeasurably to our knowledge of the cosmos.

No, Buzz. Your ideas border on crackpot. Not because they would be technologically unfeasible but because in your dream world, the US government is as flush with cash as it was back in the 1960’s when the Apollo program thrilled us all with trips to the moon. The money isn’t there. The will isn’t there. And besides…

It’s not like Mars is going anywhere, right? It will still be there 50 years from now when Space, Inc. sends a mission to Mars to discover if it would be worth it to exploit the red planet for commercial reasons. This is what has driven exploration on earth. And it no doubt will drive exploration to the planets for the foreseeable future.



Filed under: Iran, Middle East, Politics — Rick Moran @ 9:37 am

We have heard this same tale for 3 years or more; Iran is just months away from having a workable bomb - if they chose to make one.

This time it’s German intelligence who is making the claim - a claim an official spokesman shot down almost immediately according to this Reuters article:

Germany’s foreign intelligence agency BND denied a report in a magazine on Wednesday that its experts believe Iran is capable of producing and testing an atomic bomb within six months. The report, in German weekly Stern, cited BND experts as saying Iran had mastered the enrichment technology necessary to make a bomb and had enough centrifuges to make weaponised uranium.

It quoted one expert at the agency as saying: “If they wanted to, they could detonate an atomic bomb in half a year’s time.”

But a BND spokesman said the article did not reflect the view of the agency, which is that Iran would not be able to produce an atomic bomb for years.

“We are talking about several years not several months,” the spokesman said.

Iran says its nuclear programme is for electricity generation to help it export more of its oil and gas, but Western countries suspect it of trying to make a nuclear bomb.

The U.N. Security Council has imposed three sets of sanctions on Tehran for defying its demands to suspend uranium enrichment.

Some analysts say Iran may be close to having the required material for producing a bomb, but most say the weaponisation process would then take one to two years due to technical and political hurdles.

That last is pure wishful thinking. It is more than possible Iran has a working bomb design, probably purchased from Pakistan’s “Father of the Atomic Bomb” A.Q. Khan whose black market nuclear shop helped North Korea, Libya, and other nation’s nuclear programs. Khan was a big supplier of technical knowledge to the Iranians as well as  hardware during the 1990’s and there are indications from a seized laptop and other documents that Iran does indeed possess a bomb design.

The real problem Iran has is in keeping the weaponization process secret. Right now, they have more than 100 lbs of enriched uranium. It is only enriched to a level of 5% which is suitable for nuclear reactors but far short of the 85-90% necessary for bomb making. The access they have granted the IAEA inspectors has been grudging but has been enough for the IAEA to be reasonably certain they are not enriching their uranium to bomb making levels - at least at facilities we are aware of.

Jeffrey Hart recently pointed out that Iran is in the process of speeding up the process of building and making operational centrifuges. I daresay that if they were contemplating making any deal at all with Obama, they might show a little good faith by slowing down or stopping the process of bringing those centrifuges online.Rather, this would seem to indicate a desire to push their program along faster - the ultimate goal of which is to install 50,000 centrifuges at their main enrichment plant at Nantanz.

This is still not evidence that Iran is building a bomb. But if they were contemplating such action, vastly increasing the number of working centrifuges would certainly help them along.

But there is one technical hurdle that Iran would need to overcome before becoming a significant threat; warhead design for their ever growing missile count. Most experts believe it will take at least two years for Iran to marry their bomb to one of their missiles - perhaps even longer given their inexperience in the field. But on the other hand, they don’t need a missile to explode the bomb which is probably small enough to fit in the trunk of a car. That kind of threat keeps Israeli leaders awake at night.

The CIA dismisses the notion of a secret military facility where the additional enrichment can take place but they too are guessing. Even the 2007 National Intelligence Estimate on Iran which stated that the mullahs abandoned their bomb program in 2003 acknowledged the existence of a secret military program until that date. It makes one wonder if such facilities could be reactivated and no one - including the IAEA - would be any the wiser.

The fact is, the entire reason for UN sanctions was that Iran has been less than forthcoming about many aspects of its nuclear program and the security council wants straight answers from the mullahs before they lift the milquetoast restrictions they’ve placed on the Iranian economy. Our intelligence people are still telling the president that Iran won’t have a bomb until 2015.

This won’t happen because Iran sees their nuclear program as a matter of national pride - as do most of the Iranian people. Even regime change might not stop the nuclear program in Iran which is something to contemplate before undertaking any such action.

It is extraordinarily doubtful the US will take any military action against Iran to prevent it from building a nuclear weapon. Meanwhile, almost the entire world agrees that a nuke in the hands of Iran would be very bad - bad for the region, bad for Israel, and bad for the west.

Obviously, Israel has not decided 100% to go after the nuclear infrastructure of Iran itself. They realize full well that any attack on Iran by them would be seen by the Iranians as an attack by the United States. And there is no doubt that US officials have been very blunt with the Israelis about our opposition to such an attack.

But if Prime Minister Netanyahu receives intelligence that indicates the Iranians are on the cusp of possessing a nuke, no consequences to the Israel-US relationship would stay his hand from launching a military operation. Otherwise, the kind of cloudy, dimly perceived intel that the Germans are leaking doesn’t change the situation at all. It certainly isn’t enough for the Israelis to act on which at this point, would seem to be all that matters when it comes to war and peace.

The German intel guess is probably right. But whether the Iranians can keep it secret if they choose to boost the enrichment of their uranium is another question.

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