Saturday, October 31, 2009


Recently I took a trip back to Megalopolis, where I am "from."  Hard to say I live there, because right now I live in Hotville, where it is going up to 81 today.  On Halloween.  October 31.  I really like that.

Anyway, the only thing I actually like about airports is the little airport news stores.  I like them because when I travel I can justify the high cost of newspapers and magazines, which ordinarily chokes me.  

So I bought an Atlantic and an Economist.  They are the Eternal Optimist's favored travel magazines.  Now, if I could get the NY Times and National Review, together, I would do it every time.  But usually you can't get the National Review when you are in an Airport news store.  To which I say "shame on the little Airport news store."

Shame on them. Shame.

Normally I don't want to read the NYT without also attending to the National Review.  It is too much like carrying a 5 gallon jug in one hand all day.  It gets real painful and messes up your spine. But I got the NYT at the Airport news store anyway, just because I love to read the party line periodically so I know what I am supposed to think.  I spent a lot of years sitting in churches listening to sermons I did not agree with, so I am quite comfortable reading the NYT.

NYT - also known as the "Grey Lady" - had an interesting article on the Obama administration's assault on Fox News.  It seems the Grey Lady is discomfited by the assault.  Apparently the NYT is doing a little internal soul-searching about missing big stories that Fox grabbed and ran with.  Stories that cast the Obama Administration in an unfavorable light.

For instance, the story on Van Jones, Obama's "Green Czar," a Marxist who thinks George Bush planted bombs in the Twin Towers on 9-11 to start a war.  Obama since got rid of the guy, but my goodness, how did HE get past the background check, eh?  And how did the NYT miss this particular story (and others) until Fox ran it to death and the guy had to resign?  Anyway, the article was a good news story - man bites dog - unusual, illuminating and well written. 

The Atlantic had an even more interesting article on the culture war going on in epidemiologist circles over the government's swine flu vaccination program.  It seems a significant number of respected flu experts are complaining about the bad science underlying the government's push to vaccinate everyone against swine flu.  The rebel scientists are pointing out that there have never been rigorous double-blind studies that have proven that flu vaccines of any kind actually prevent illness and death from the flu.  In fact, there have been a number of well done studies that suggest that flu vaccine, unlike other vaccines, such as polio, measles, etc., is completely ineffective.

This dispute has provoked the usual politically correct reaction from the flu establishment, including ostracizing scientists who hold non-establishment views, declaring that opponents are endangering people's lives, and adopting the basic "we all know this is true so anyone who says otherwise is a nut" technique.  All of these reactions are also popular among global warming enthusiasts.  And in the Obama administration when dealing with Fox News.

As you may recall, I have been, in the past, reluctant to support the swine flu group-think frenzy.  I will not bore you with the details, but you can bore yourself.  The Atlantic article was thought provoking and well written. I think the article illustrated how wrong people are to think that the sciences, and scientists, offer us an escape from the squalid facts of our humanity.

Science is manned and womaned by scientists, all of whom are human and all of whom suffer in varying degrees from fear, cowardice, corrupt motives, a desire to be liked and respected, and all the other things that hobble politicians, journalists, lawyers and - yes it's true - even firemen, God bless their crazy heroic souls.

Mad scientist.

If you search for truth you must always carefully weigh the motives, prejudices and fruit of those competing for your attention.  So long as they are human, you have to be very careful evaluating what they say.  The Atlantic article was just reaffirmation of this basic, unfortunate, but very important truth.  It was another fine news story, grappling with current events, but also touching deeper, more lasting themes.

And then there was the Economist.  For those of you who have not read it, you are missing a great magazine that reports in detail on the whole world.  It is one great news story after another.  If you want to read interesting articles about America by non-Americans, this is the place.

Whenever I read the Economist I cannot help thinking about how bad Time magazine is.  It's just People with longer, more boring articles.  Time is the rag that trumpeted the New Ice Age story in June, 1974.  Yikes.  Some things you just can't forget.

For those of you who read and enjoy Time, please carefully consider your decision to read the next two paragraphs.  My wife loves "Copacabana," the Barry Manilow song. 


I love her dearly, but I don't make her listen to my views on Barry Manilow.  That would be wrong.  So if you don't want to read about how bad Time is, skip to the last paragraph.


Let me be clear: never, ever defend Time magazine to me.  It is mindless pabulum, and has been for years.  Puree the truth, push it through a liberal steel mesh strainer to remove even minute chunks of common sense, toss in lots of feel good Oprah drivel, and feed it through a straw to your toothless, lobotomized readers.

This is the Time formula.  It moves magazines.  It's also useful in the bathroom, during other movements. That's about all you can say for it.  If it went under we would all be better off, except for the poor souls who work there.  But I digress.


In sum then, I traveled, I read, I enjoyed.  I avoided Time, always a good thing.  I didn't even notice the lousy weather back in Megalopolis, where it was raining and cold, in preparation for more cold, freezing rain, sleet, slush, and snow.

That's early in the winter.  Then it deep freezes in late winter, so cold it can't snow, and the wind howls into your face and kills valuable lung tissue while you walk the block to work in your thermal jammies and gloves and Carhartt.  And all the while the sky is filled for 6 months with a filthy gray slate cloud cover that eventually convinces you the sun has died and God has deserted you.

Did I mention it is getting up to 81 degrees in Hotville?  And that I like it?  Now that's good news.

P.S. My lovely wife, Ms. Optimist, just handed me a letter from the Economist that says "Welcome - your subscription starts now." It was a surprise. What a sweet woman!