Magazine August 10, 2009, Issue

Letters

Loose Facts, and Women 

David Pryce-Jones’s elegant essay “The Dark Lord” (July 6) provided a wealth of fascinating and disturbing insights into the character of Lord Byron. But Pryce-Jones is in error when he gives the title character of Mozart’s opera Don Giovanni credit for seducing “a thousand and three” Italian women. When Laporello, the Don’s servant, mockingly sets forth the catalogue of his master’s sexual conquests, the Don is credited with a mere “six hundred and forty” in sunny Italy; he scored “a thousand and three” times in Spain. My Italian ancestors would want it known that, while their women might be easy, they’re not that easy. They gladly offer the crown to Spain, just as Mozart intended. 

Joseph Barba

Pollock Pines, Calif.

Defending Space Exploration  

In your July 6 issue, John Derbyshire describes the 1969 moon landing as a “magnificent folly.” I take exception to describing Project Apollo as “folly.” 

Like Mr. Derbyshire, I have strong memories of the moon landing. Also like Mr. Derbyshire, I thought the world had changed forever. Yes, it was a naïve thought: Nothing followed but five more landings, followed by the deadly space shuttle and a space station to which we parade an endless line of women and men to do nothing more ground-breaking or edifying than study how their own bodies react to being in space. 

But the reason Apollo didn’t change the world may not have been that Apollo was pointless, but that by 1969 the world itself had so changed that Apollo could have no impact on it. A vast sociological chasm separated the moment when President Kennedy announced the goal of putting a man on the moon in 1961 from the moment it actually happened. Following, roughly, the Tet Offensive of 1968, a new America had been born; it was represented by youths who booed the announcement of the moon landing at a rock concert. 

A society that had not invested in self-loathing would have followed up the moon landing with a moon base, and with a manned mission to Mars, and in the process produced new knowledge, new technology, new resources, and — quite probably — extraordinary new wealth that would have made Bill Gates look middle-class. Instead, America turned away from all that. The proposal of Vice President Agnew’s task force, calling for a far-reaching manned space program to follow Apollo, was summarily dismissed. 

Perhaps having large government programs to send humans into space is not in keeping with conservative ideals of limited government. But then again, perhaps it is. Man’s history indicates that the government, even a limited government, has an important role to play in human exploration and discovery: Think of Christopher Columbus, the transcontinental railroad, and Lewis and Clark. 

Joe Cor

Warriors Mark, Penn.

John Derbyshire replies:  There is a case — a case I agree with — for modest federal support of scientific projects. In the case of Apollo, however, the expenditures were vastly greater, and the probability of benefits to the nation vastly less, than in any of the historical examples cited. Sorry, no sale.

Members of the National Review editorial and operational teams are included under the umbrella “NR Staff.”

In This Issue

Articles

Politics & Policy

Romney’s Folly

Amid negotiations with leading Democrats over health-care reform, Iowa senator Chuck Grassley, ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, commented, “The federal government is in the process of nationalizing banks, ...

Features

Books, Arts & Manners

Politics & Policy

The Deepest Roots

In numerous books over the years, conservatives have offered historical perspectives on conservatism, liberals on liberalism, and each on the other, crowding bestseller lists and remainder piles alike. The common ...

Sections

Politics & Policy

Target

Yesterday I was shuffling through a store And choosing several things I didn’t need –  Lipstick, conditioner, a candy bar, A gel pen, Tupperware, ceramic beads –  But at the orange cheese popcorn I ...
Happy Warrior

Spaghetti Spending

What’s the end game here? I suppose it’s conceivable that there are a few remaining suckers out there who still believe Barack Obama is the great post-partisan, fiscally responsible, pragmatic ...
Politics & Policy

Letters

Loose Facts, and Women  David Pryce-Jones’s elegant essay “The Dark Lord” (July 6) provided a wealth of fascinating and disturbing insights into the character of Lord Byron. But Pryce-Jones is in ...

Most Popular

Culture

On the Letter

I thought it right to congratulate John MacArthur and Harper’s magazine on putting together an open letter in defense of intellectual liberty — including the liberty to make mistakes -- as a necessary component of social justice. And further congrats on assembling its broad church of signatories. MacArthur ... Read More
Culture

On the Letter

I thought it right to congratulate John MacArthur and Harper’s magazine on putting together an open letter in defense of intellectual liberty — including the liberty to make mistakes -- as a necessary component of social justice. And further congrats on assembling its broad church of signatories. MacArthur ... Read More
Media

The Media’s War on Words

I recently ran across a piece in the Philadelphia Inquirer that lays out four racist words and phrases that should be banished from the English language. It begins like this: Editor’s note: Please be aware offensive terms are repeated here solely for the purpose of identifying and analyzing them honestly. ... Read More
Media

The Media’s War on Words

I recently ran across a piece in the Philadelphia Inquirer that lays out four racist words and phrases that should be banished from the English language. It begins like this: Editor’s note: Please be aware offensive terms are repeated here solely for the purpose of identifying and analyzing them honestly. ... Read More

Year Zero

Every cultural revolution starts at year zero, whether explicitly or implicitly. The French Revolution recalibrated the calendar to begin anew, and the genocidal Pol Pot declared his own Cambodian revolutionary ascension as the beginning of time. Somewhere after May 25, 2020, the death of George Floyd, while ... Read More

Year Zero

Every cultural revolution starts at year zero, whether explicitly or implicitly. The French Revolution recalibrated the calendar to begin anew, and the genocidal Pol Pot declared his own Cambodian revolutionary ascension as the beginning of time. Somewhere after May 25, 2020, the death of George Floyd, while ... Read More
U.S.

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We’re living in Groundhog Day. For the second time this year, COVID-19 is sweeping the country and we don’t have any great options for dealing with it. We didn’t squander the past four months, exactly, but we demonstrably failed to get to a place where we can enjoy an open society without the virus taking ... Read More
U.S.

COVID’s Comeback

We’re living in Groundhog Day. For the second time this year, COVID-19 is sweeping the country and we don’t have any great options for dealing with it. We didn’t squander the past four months, exactly, but we demonstrably failed to get to a place where we can enjoy an open society without the virus taking ... Read More