Posts Tagged 'liberal'

I was told there’d be moon colonies

“Glow-in-the-Dark Plants are Highlight of International Space Station Science Briefing” reads my latest email alert from NASA.  And we’re de-funding this agency, why?

After decades of war and depression (the money kind), Americans needed something to rally around in the 1950s, and the answer was space flight (and polio vaccines). If for no other reason than to smite the Soviets, Americans enthusiastically pursued the once-impossible goal of flying to the moon. The moon moon, that everyone sees every night from everywhere around the world. People’s minds were literally (ok, maybe figuratively) blown forty years ago when man walked on the moon, which actually happened, despite what that guy who hangs around outside Union Station says. And on that day, our dreams of one day living on the moon–after we’d drained every last resource our planet had to offer and salted the earth for good measure–were born.

But those dreams were effectively dashed when President Obama’s budget came out on Monday. In it was a paltry (ok, ungainly in real-people terms, but we’re talking interstellar travel here) $6 billion over five years for NASA to oversee the development and construction of commercial space vehicles. For the first time since its inception, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration is taking a back seat, not the cutting edge, on space exploration.  

Of the many and varied programs the federal government takes my money away to fund, I object to NASA the least. I do admit, it’s odd that I am such an ardent supporter of one of the most massive bureaucracies our government has to offer. Even odder that the agency’s scaling-back was initiated not by a waste-conscious Republican (it was former president George W. Bush who challenged NASA to “gain a new foothold on the moon and to prepare for new journeys to the worlds beyond our own” in 2004 [and it was another Bush that said “The future lies in space travel”]) but a progressive Democrat. But space travel falls into one of those special categories, like national defense (and in fact, our research into space has regularly improved our defensive capabilities), that I believe are best suited to government spearheading.

First of all, barriers to entry into the space travel market are huge. Unlike air travel, which relied on a few physical principles and benefitted from the input of countless individual pioneers, the principles of space travel are prohibitively complex and expensive. What few commercial space travel outfits exist are funded by billionaires like Richard Branson, with little hope that small startups or even moderately sized aviation firms could join the fledgling industry at present. Deregulation that allowed for the birth of the commercial satellite industry was surely a step in the non-governmental direction, but while the technologies are in the same general ballpark, telecom satellites and trips to the moon are apples and oranges.

Second, privatization of space travel eliminates the patriotic component that drove scientific innovation in the first place. Government-sponsored projects aimed to beat the Ruskis, and the accountability for success was to the taxpayer, not private investors. If it turns into something like the military industrial complex, where private developers compete for government contracts and thus improve the overall quality and cost of each project, I would be on board. But if budget cuts prove to be the death knell to NASA, I fear for what private space travel will mean for scientific and public innovation.

Most importantly, and perhaps most morbidly, when things like space shuttles explode, it’s a big deal. Bigger than when planes crash, even though shuttles are generally smaller, because they’re hurtling in from outside Earth’s atmosphere and rain fire and debris across hundreds of square miles. These are national tragedies, and as a nation we come together and mourn, take stock of our losses, and fix what went wrong. Private companies are not beholden to the public trust, and so when things go catastrophically wrong, we would become that much more likely to suffer through coverups, finger pointing, and shady back-door transactions. To be sure, a government agency is far from immune to this sort of behavior, but there is inherently zero transparency and accountability in private firms. Look no further than Wall Street, circa September 2008, if you don’t believe me (not that I believe government intervention was the answer there, but the analogy is ripe).

When the Kanamits came and promised they were going “To Serve Man,” all the naive little 1960s high-trousered earth people destroyed their civil defenses and greeted their visitors with open arms. Then the aliens ate them. I can only hope this step towards commercial space exploration does not leave our government powerless in the face of competition, terrestrial or otherwise.

Why I need to get the hell out of DC

Politics.

No, I’m not going to leave the post at that, but I could, and wouldn’t be leaving too much more to the imagination.

The first, and perhaps most ironic, problem with my ever-intensifying hatred of politics is that politics occupies the vast majority of my job every day. It’s what we cover: the daily absurdities, the minute changes in polls and moods, the obscure politicians in obscure states whose success in their elections for some reason holds the key to the entire future of American politics, the charges and counter-charges and statements and counter-statements.

Five years ago if anyone had asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, there was a 99% chance I’d say something in politics. It was my trajectory. All of my friends, teachers, relatives knew that I was a government nerd, and my argumentative nature and contrarian style was suited for a life in politics. I studied Government in college, but after enduring the hatred of my peers in 2000 and the years following, I eschewed all but the most basic American Politics classes and concentrated instead on political theory.

In theory, politics is great. It’s human social interaction in its most raw, and simultaneously complex, form. Political theory is in part predictive–assuming a politician will (or should) behave or act a certain way based on their ideology–and in part reactive–ascribing schools of political thought to major events and government decisions in retrospect–and in whole it is a way of viewing and analyzing national and global governance patterns.

But in practice, politics is ugly, and on more occasions than none, painfully boring. At least seeing sausage get made is a little interesting, if gross. In order to do my job (and live with my roommates), I try not to care about liberal antics and conservative complaints. I try to divorce myself from my political beliefs, and not to get annoyed every time I see hypocrisy in action. But unfortunately, DC politics is just one massive game of Pin the Tail on the Hypocrite (so many of whom are Donkeys), an irksome cliche that holds so little relevance in the daily lives of those outside the beltway.

What it comes down to, why I need to leave DC, is simple, and admittedly childish: I’m tired of having my feelings hurt. The liberal bickering, haughty fingerpointing and name calling is hard to let roll of my back. It got so bad–as did the economy and perhaps the Obama agenda–that conservatives who found no support in the Republican party took to the streets. They started the Taxed Enough Already protests, marched on Washington, and ate out of the palm of Glenn Beck’s hand voiced their frustrations wherever they could. Conservatives don’t do that often. Liberals had a dozen “major” protests in DC in 2009, even after their No-More-Bush countdown reached zero on January 20th; conservatives had 2, and they became liberal enemy No. 1. John Kerry calls them “the far right wing, the out-of-state tea bagger crowd.” And the grassroots, on-the-ground marketing plan that got Barack Obama elected over an establishment Democrat (Hillary Clinton) was… neighbors knocking on each other’s doors to spread the good word?

I’m not part of the TEA Party movement. I’m a libertarian; we know that our ideals are frustratingly impossible to enact in the real world, so instead we talk political philosophy in our commiserable smoking circles and write blogs. I truly don’t know enough about their platform (see “hating politics,” above) to know whether they truly reflect my ideals or not. But to dismiss their ideas, passion, and ability to organize as an entity apart from the Republican Party (and you’re lying to yourself if you don’t think the GOP wishes it could rein in those TEA party folks and/or benefit from their fiery tenacity) as invalid is, unfortunately, liberal modus operandi: forcible tolerance of all ideas and ways of living, unless they run contrary to liberal ideas and ways of living.

The bulk of liberals might have reasonable ideals and good reasons for holding them. Many of the ones who are my friends certainly do. But the face liberals put forward is all too often that of the arrogant asshole, or snarky comedian from whom most liberals, despite their ministrations to the contrary, actually get their news.

For every Glenn Beck-tard who follows the TV host’s word as gospel there is a Jon Stewart worshiper who claims his jokes as their own “savvy” political observations. There are idiots on both sides, but forgive the Right if they don’t take every opportunity to publicly lampoon their liberal counterparts, use crass sexual jokes to describe opposing grassroots movements, or assume that their position is the default mood of the American people, and every view to the contrary is moot. Liberals actively hate me (even though traditionally I’m in the demographic they love), and I’m tired of it.

The grand scale of What DC Does matters. I would never suggest it didn’t. And perhaps if I got out of the bubble, I would appreciate it more. But I’d have to get out of the bubble to find out.

What an ass.


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