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A politics-free holiday

November 24, 2004 | 12:34 PM ET

Glenn Reynolds

Thanksgiving is tomorrow.  I'll be cooking a 21-lb. turkey and a leg of lamb, as my family and my wife's family join us for Thanksgiving.  I've been looking forward to it.

When I was a kid, Thanksgiving always seemed like a low-rent holiday:  No presents, just food.  Where's the fun in that?

Now it's one of my favorites.  Christmas, with all the gift-giving, is nice, but all the shopping, wrapping, and unwrapping is almost more pain than pleasure sometimes.  As I get older, what I enjoy more is the time with my family.  I don't think that makes me unusual.  As writes:

I love Christmastime, Chanuka etc. But Thanksgiving is as close as we get to a nationalist holiday in America (a country where nationalism as a concept doesn't really fit).  Thanksgiving's roots are pre-founding, which means it's not a political holiday in any conventional sense.  We are giving thanks for the soil, the land, for the gifts of providence which were bequeathed to us long before we figured out our political system.Moreover, because there are no gifts, the holiday isn't nearly so vulnerable to materialism and commercialism.  It's about things -- primarily family and private accomplishments and blessings -- that don't overlap very much with politics of any kind.  We are thankful for the truly important things: our children and their health, for our friends, for the things which make life rich and joyful.

Indeed.  Other people are reflecting on what they're thankful for, too.   has some thoughts, and a photo essay.  And columnist has Thanksgiving reminiscences inspired by his recent period on active duty in Iraq.

Enjoy your Thanksgiving, whatever you do.

November 23, 2004 | 9:22 PM ET

Dan Rather resigns

In the wake of over CBS's use of forged in an election-related story about President Bush's National Guard service, Dan Rather has .

It's not a complete resolution -- CBS promised that we'd get the results of an investigation into what went wrong in "weeks, not months."  But we're still waiting.  And some people are vocally unhappy.  Jim Geraghty :

I really want to see the results of that CBS internal investigation.There's no way CBS will face the music and admit that the "60 Minutes II" story was a cheap-shot, amateur, sloppy, partisan, nasty, half-witted bit of hackery and that the guys in pajamas ran rings around them.  If it was, they wouldn't be letting Rather stay on to keep doing "60 Minutes II" reports.And they wouldn't be delaying his "Evening News" departure until March.No, the arrogant suits at CBS are going to ignore the hard, accurate work of the blogs, the scolding from other media, the blatant culture of bias, cynicism, and disregard for the facts that has taken root in the news division.  To face the music would be too hard.

And writes:

Why on earth is Rather staying on full-time at Sixty Minutes, the show whose reputation he besmirched by rashness and partisanship?...A simple question: How can you rehire a man for Sixty Minutes when you haven't even published your own investigation into the journalistic meltdown that he presided over? Shouldn't you wait until you know what actually happened before you declare that someone will stay on full-time?  And how long does such an investigation take, for Pete's sake?

But :

This is a humiliating comedown for Rather.  Yes, it's a half-step.  It's CBS trying to finesse its way out from under a disgraceful fraud committed by the network's most high-profile employee, but it is still a major, major defeat for CBS, and a crushing blow to Dan Rather.  The CBS Evening News, even given plummeting ratings and a long slide in relevance, is still the crown jewel of CBS News. From its summit, Dan Rather has ruled the news division for a generation, effectively shaping a vast amount of the information that's broadcast over the network.He never--never--would have voluntarily given up that much power and prestige under pressure. No way in hell would Rather give his critics the satisfaction of seeing him removed from that chair if he had any prayer of holding on to it.The "this is no big deal" spin is a lie. The king is dead, and the blogosphere killed him.

The irony is that Rather's story, whether it was a case of fraud, or gullibility on CBS's part, was clearly designed to hurt President Bush's reelection chances.  Instead, the fallout over the bogus documents convinced many Americans that news media coverage was slanted against Bush, and for Kerry, causing them to view other stories skeptically.  In addition, the affair occupied the attention of news media and pundits to the point that it made it hard for Kerry to get his message out.  Kerry -- and Rather -- would have been much better off if CBS had played it straight.

There's a lesson in that.  But will Rather's successors learn it?

November 22, 2004 | 12:18 AM ET

Space tourism takes a step forward

After looking as if it had died until next year, new legislation designed to promote space tourism passed the House of Representatives late Friday afternoon.  My MSNBC colleague Alan Boyle, who has covered this story better than just about anyone, .  Now it goes to the Senate.

As Boyle notes, the biggest sticking point had to do with safety.  Backers of the bill wanted to allow would-be space tourists to take their risks, just as people do with dangerous sports such as rock climbing, mountain climbing, spelunking, wreck-diving, etc.  Opponents wanted the federal government to step in to protect people, as it does with commercial air travel today.

But what are the risks?  Alex Tabarrok last week that space tourism might well be too dangerous, looking back at the history of rocketry and concluding that launches are just too dangerous.  Then again, Tabarrok found a risk of one in ten thousand too dangerous.

This drew two responses.  Blogger looked at death rates for some popular mountain-climbing destinations and found them very high -- from 5-10% in climbing Mount Everest (which hundreds do) to over 26% (and in one case, 41%) for some more risky climbs.  Apparently, some people are willing to spend a lot of money to take a very high risk.  Space travel sounds a lot safer than that.

The other response was from , who observed that the past may not be the best guide to the future where rocketry is concerned:

Professor Tabarrok assumes that there are characteristics of spaceflight that render it intrinsically unsafe.  He also assumes that SpaceShipOne and its competitors are on a continuum with past efforts, and that their safety and cost can be extrapolated from those.These are not unreasonable assumptions, given the history of rocketry that he ably analyses and presents. Nonetheless, they are mistaken.

As Simberg notes, private spacecraft like Burt Rutan's SpaceShipOne are specifically designed to avoid the risks that earlier rockets posed, and those efforts appear to be successful.

I think that Simberg and Nishimura both make good points.  But, of course, the only way we'll learn is by giving this a try.  That's how we took aviation from an expensive and risky activity, mostly the province of governments, to a safe and reliable means of transport.  We learned by doing, even though the doing posed certain, though not entirely knowable, risks.  I'm glad that the House of Representatives saw the value in that, and I hope that the Senate will go along.