Saturday, November 17, 2007

This is great:

Sunday, November 11, 2007

About six months ago, I posted about a NewsHour debate moderated watched by Judy Woodruff, noting [savagely!] that "you can take the girl out of CNN, but you can't take the CNN out of the girl."

Well apparently she somehow missed that post, because a couple of weeks ago, Norman Podhoretz and Fareed Zakaria got together, and it was just as bad.

Dear Judy: you are the moderator. You are there to "moderate." Allowing one of your guests to say pretty much whatever he'd like is not moderating. It is watching. And it leads to conversations that would be far more at home on CNN or Fox than on the NewsHour:

NORMAN PODHORETZ: Well, I'll tell you why. First, I want to say that I think the attitude expressed by Fareed Zakaria represents an irresponsible complacency that I think is comparable to the denial in the early '30s of the intentions of Hitler that led to what Churchill called an unnecessary war involving millions and millions of deaths that might have been averted if the West had acted early enough.

FAREED ZAKARIA: Norman, perhaps instead of calling me names, you could just explain why the arguments are right or wrong. That would be just fine.

NORMAN PODHORETZ: Why can't the...

JUDY WOODRUFF: Let's let Mr. Podhoretz finish his point.

NORMAN PODHORETZ: Yes, I would appreciate being allowed to finish my point.
Because we wouldn't want to deprive the world of a pearl of wisdom like that.

(Relatedly, Josh Marshall had a similar reaction to Podhoretz, but didn't mention Woodruff. And that same day, Paul Krugman went up with a great Podhoretz takedown ("Do I have to point out that none of this makes a bit of sense?").)

TPMtv on the megalomania that is Rudy Giuliani.

There were plenty of people unhappy with Chuck Schumer this week, and I suppose on one level I'm one of them, but I have to admit that I find this persuasive:

Should we reject Judge Mukasey, President Bush has said he would install an acting, caretaker attorney general who could serve for the rest of his term without the advice and consent of the Senate. To accept such an unaccountable attorney general, I believe, would be to surrender the department to the extreme ideology of Vice President Dick Cheney and his chief of staff, David Addington. All the work we did to pressure Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to resign would be undone in a moment.
Mukasey's waffling on water-boarding is worrisome (and alliterative!), but I have little doubt that an unconfirmed temporary AG would be several orders of magnitude worse. The Bush administration's commitment to justice (not to mention Justice) is, to put it mildly, laughable. And as much as I hate to say it, the devil we kinda know might be significantly better than the devil we don't. So hesitantly, and with very little confidence, I'm going out on a limb: I'm with Schumer.

CBS News wants to sensationalize Protect Your Money!

That very same day, NASA also posted an online notice few people saw - seeking four-star hotel bids for its December awards, CBS News correspondent Sharyl Attkisson reports.

The awards are to honor workers who've contributed to flight safety. But it's not just a low-key dinner for a handful of the best and brightest.

Try five days and four nights at a luxury Florida hotel for 300 honorees and their guest. Fancy receptions and front-row tickets to the most exciting show in the space business, the shuttle launch.

All paid for by your tax dollars. ...

There's a reception to feed 750, with a "carving station with beef and turkey," coconut fried shrimp, spring rolls, shrimp wrapped with bacon, 5-6 desserts, antipasto plates to include assorted meats, cheeses, grilled vegetables and assorted marinated vegetables, breads.
[Emphasis in stupid original.] First off, even the byline is written like it's in a tabloid (I think Sharyl Attkisson may actually be Rita Skeeter). Second off, "shrimp wrapped with bacon"? "5-6 desserts"? "Assorted marinated vegetables"? Mon dieu! Where's Henry Waxman and his oversight committee when you need him?

I don't have the energy to really pick apart the stupidity of this story (except to say that the article reads an awful lot more like something you'd see coming out of a small-town affiliate than out of the network itself), so I'll toss it to this great Slashdot commenter (a NASA employee who has actually won the award in question), who does a pretty effective job of explaining why CBS is wrong:
They also made it out like some extravagant party - it really isn't. They pay for the flight (you have to cover your spouse, though), get you a hotel at the Day's Inn Cocoa Beach (or similar) for a few days, they drive you around on a tour, and feed you a few nice meals and let you meet some astronauts and agency officials.

While you may have some negative opinions about how well NASA is doing as an agency, we've got a lot of really outstanding line employees who do great work, and in any enterprise you need to reward that. When I got my SFA, I was 28 years old and had spent a year of 60+ hour weeks getting an avionics package on the Space Station working. I didn't get paid overtime for that...the SFA was a nice token from my management. Another guy on the trip won his for finding a problem that saved the government $12 million dollars. As a percentage of the overall workforce, very few people ever win this award (where I work, maybe 1 out of 50 has gotten this in the last 10 years, you have to do something exceptional). It's definitely worth the tax dollars that are spent on it - and I hope other federal agencies are using my tax dollars in similar ways.
Couldn't agree more.

As a bonus, here's a list of words in the CBS article that piss me off:
  • Luxury (thrice!)
  • Extravagant (also thrice! Once by crazy Tom Coburn, the absolute best possible person to go to for a quote for a story like this [Sharyl Attkisson presumably has him on speed dial])
  • Posh
  • Budget Blunder
  • Fancy
  • Frivolous

    To quote another Slashdot commenter, this is not about fiscal responsibility; this is about "look at those guys that have a great big party and you don't! They used your money for it!"

    Also, here's a quick hit from the end of the article that doesn't make much sense:
    What is the cost? Counting the reception ($64,000), dinner ($35,000), awards ($28,000), ground transportation (tour: $7,700; launch: $20,200), airfare ($105,000), hotel and food ($135,000 together), you’re talking $400,000 to $500,000.

    If you think that's pricey, consider this: the NASA holds its big awards every time there's a shuttle launch. December's extravaganza will be the third one in 2007. Honoring all those people is costing you about $4 million a year.
    For the record, I don't think "that's pricey." And I would be fine with spending $4 million a year to honor "all those people" (which accounts for something like one or two percent of the tens of thousands of people who work on the Shuttle program). But $500,000, three times a year, does not equal $4 million. I'm sure of it.