Wednesday, July 16, 2008

An ode to a nation that is gone

Once upon a time, there was a can-do nation that could do, like, anything. Its President said that a country which had never flown a man in space, which had no idea what it would take to send a man into space, would send a man to the moon within nine years... and made it happen.

It has been thirty-nine years since Apollo 11 lifted off for the Moon. On July 20, 1969, Neal Armstrong set foot on the moon and made the famous statement, "one small step for man, one giant leap for Mankind".

Thirty-nine years later, the United States no longer has the capability to send a man to the moon. It is not just a lack of desire. The sad thing is that we could not return to the moon today if we wanted to. We no longer have the expertise, the technology, or the industrial base to pull off something that big. Twenty years from now, we’re going to look up at the moon, and watch it twinkle as the first Moon city shines in the dark. And erected over that city will be a red flag with a large gold star and four smaller gold stars.

Sadly, can-do America is can’t-do America nowdays. Can’t provide health care for all its people. Can’t solve the problem of homeless junkies shooting up in public restrooms. Can’t built a replacement for the Space Shuttle before the last Shuttle is junked. Can’t find Osama bin Laden. Can’t solve the problem of people’s jobs getting exported overseas. Can’t. Can’t. Can’t. It’s damned depressing, to tell you the truth, to live in a country that’s so obviously over the hill. About the only thing the United States can do nowdays is build military hardware, but even that capability is decaying… the United States, for example, could not build a new M1A2 tank today even if it wanted to. The industrial capacity isn’t there anymore. The gas turbine engine used in the M1 isn’t made anymore. The tooling for the rest of the tank was sold to Egypt. Etc. We’re living on stored Cold War gear, and that gear is going to run out sooner or later, and then what?

Now preparing to greet our new Chinese overlords...
- Badtux the Depressed Penguin


  1. Badtux, I'd say you're starting to sound like your comment-curmudgeon BBC or some other sour old grump, except you're right.

    When I see stories like the one about how Seattle can't even provide public toilets for its citizenry, and other major cities are having similar problems I have to say "America, what's wrong?"

    Australia is far from a perfect country -- I've seen more human piss and vomit in the streets here than one would expect in a country that's not England -- but at least downtown Melbourne has lots of public loos. There are lots of dodgy people, and drug addicts are present, although not in the overwhelming numbers as there are in the U.S. But I can still duck into one of the pub-loos to drain the ol' lizard without flashing back to the Black Hole of Calcutta. (And they're way better than those squat toilets you still find in lots of places in France.)

    For the most part, people have enough sense not to foul their own fouling-nests, and the government has enough sense to realise that people are going to need to excrete, so if they don't have a legitimate place to do it, they'll let loose in the streets. Even more than the bloody drongos do now, that is.

    In so many ways, America has lost its knack. When I was growing up in the 60s, I was steeped in the national myth of the can-do country, the place of the shrewd Yankee trader, the "git 'er done" ethos (even if it was way before the time of Larry the Cable Guy.) And down here in the land of "No hurries, mate" I try to be the driven, competent Yank. I could be fooling myself, because I'm an over-inflated egomonkey, but at least I attempt to be a do-er, not a whinger.

    Then I look back at many Americans I know, including my own daughter. She's got lots of raw intelligence (she inherited my brain) but a self-indulged temprament (she inherited my ex-wife's emotions.) After her first year of university (she's 18 now) she decided that she'd rather give it a miss for a year to apprentice at a tattoo shop where she lives in Miami Beach. This is a girl who speaks Japanese and Spanish, and attended $15,000-a-year private high schools courtesy of the ex's rich Jewish family, and she wants to hang out with the dregs because it seems like more fun. (Fortunately my ex is so obnoxious to live with that daughter has decided to return to uni in the Northern Hemisphere fall just to get away from her, so there's a happy ending.)

    Ah well, Badtux, I'm fulminating. I'm on my third straight 10-hour midnight shift (they make us rotate onto a fortnight of graveyard duty every few months to share around the pain) and I'm cranky. Typing helps keep me awake.

    I just hope that the coming economic disaster shocks a critical mass of Americans back into sensibility and theyrecover the drive that the country had during WW II. But what worries me is that the spoiled, childish and violent nature of too many Americans will lead to epidemics of shootings and other social disruption that will rip the country apart. I will probably live long enough to see how it plays out.

  2. The problem is that we are laden with bad policies created by the GOP. In the recent past, when were we the most prosperous and happy? Why that would be the 1990's, AFTER 1992 in fact.

    The GOP creates public debt for short-term private gain by favored parties. They suck us dry of blood and treasure. They are destroying our nation. And McSame wants to continue these policies.

  3. I personally believe that Australians should shut their collective cakeholes about this topic, because by judging from your national media, there is a palpable glee about the demise of the Seppos and our national nightmare.

    And yes, we know that you do it.

  4. Anonny -- Good onya for knowing the slang word "seppo"! And thank you for your palpable suggestions. I shall take them under advisement!

    For what it's worth, Aussies tend to shut their "pie" holes. Pies are big here. Meat pies, not sweet pies. Round crusts filled with gristle and a viscous salty substance that would be gravy if fashioned by better hands. They're called "rat coffins" and other terms of endearment. They're great going down your piehole when you're drunk, and they frequently have a return ticket when you chunder. And let's not forget the Pies of the Australian Rules Football League, the team that everybody loves to hate. They're the Yankees of the AFL, Ano. I feel toward ya much the same way I feel about the Yankees, Anony-mate!

    Australian citizens are not generally gleeful about the impending implosion of America. They understand it will drag them down the rabbit hole too. I chortle more than Aussies (that's my evil side) because I'm not one. I'm just a septic tank Yank who got out when the getting was good. So with every stagger the U.S. takes toward the brink, I rub my evil-side hands and schaden-smirk, because it affirms that I was right. (Sorry, Badtux, but did I mention I had an evil side?)

  5. Yeah, America may be going down for the count...

    But if we ARE, it must be recorded for posterity that it was the CONSERVATIVES and the CORPORATISTS who led the way to America's downfall.

    Those 2 had help, for sure, but they joyously LED THE WAY.

    The lesson for *any country* is:



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