Fourth Estate or Fourth Branch?

What better way to begin another embattled year for American journalism than reading James Risen’s Intercept account of how top editors at the New York Times dragged the polish off their shoes to delay publishing revelations about NSA domestic spying? It takes a long, long time to rise to that paper’s masthead–years of demonstrating what […]

Too Stupid for Words

With the end of another year in sight, this is traditionally a time to take stock. Fitting, then, that two news stories of the past week were about matters that defy commentary not because they are complex, but because they are too stupid for words. One, about the Pentagon having spent $22 million on “Advanced […]

Team B-

The proliferation of commercial satellites that take photos-for-sale of the Earth’s surface long ago spawned a small industry of shops that will study these pictures and tell you what they think is going on down there. Applications for agriculture, city planning, et cetera are obvious, but there is a lucrative subset of the business that […]

Big Apple Tales: On the Death of Gil Rogin, 1929-2017

The New York Times treated Gil Rogin to a hometown boy’s obit today, evidence of how glorious it was to be born in Brooklyn before WWII and then climb the golden ladder in Manhattan. It was his good fortune to sell funny innocuous stories to the New Yorker when its readership was still comprised mostly […]

Jawohl, Herr Leutnant Kelly!

Among the old Prussian Junkers, it was said that the human species began with the lieutenant. The status to appear at royal court functions, or Hoffahigkeit, began with that rank. Non-noble civil servants had to attain Class 4, equivalent to an assistant minister, to enjoy the same privilege. White House chief of staff John Kelly’s […]

Maginot Missile Defense

The most dangerous false sense of security is always the one embraced by the Commander-in-Chief. There is no engineering basis whatsoever for President Trump’s recent boast that American GMD (Ground-Based Midcourse Defense) interceptors have a 97% success rate. The Missile Defense Agency knows that–despite occasional chest-thumping before Congress. The Government Accountability Office knows that. And […]

Space Dust

Vice President Mike Pence held a steak dinner for the meat industry yesterday. Actually, it was a meeting of an archaic government committee (yawn, already) called the National Space Council, which was created during the era of Dwight Eisenhower, who soon wished to disband it. It’s had its ups and downs ever since, but you […]

Northrop Grumman Needs You

The citizens of Maryland can feel warm all over today knowing that Northrop Grumman, which panhandled more than $50 million in free money (sweetheart loans, tax credits) from the state’s coffers last year, just found $7.8 billion in cash to buy Orbital ATK. Every penny helps.

9/21: When the governor of Delaware, haven for more […]

UDMH! Secret Rocket Fuel!

The latest alarum from that Orthrus of interventionist reporting about North Korean missile capabilities, William Broad and David Sanger of the New York Times, concerns what they deem to be a “rare, potent” rocket fuel that “those who study the issue” believe should be kept out of that strange land or at least blown up […]

Chelsea Manning and Enola Gay

Harvard’s cowardly revocation of a Kennedy School fellowship offer to Chelsea Manning recalls another prominent lesson in where power resides when government and academic circles overlap. In 1995, when the Smithsonian Institution tried to mount a 50th anniversary exhibition at the Air and Space Museum about the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, daring to broach the […]