right like this is exactly what we need.
us imagine the discussion: "Boys, the nation's
in massive reeling record-breaking debt and morale's
at an all-time low and disposable American soldiers
are dying brutal horrific deaths every day over
nothing at all except our greed and flagrant cronyism
and corporate petrochemical profiteering.
cities are gasping and health care is a joke and
we've mauled Medicare beyond recognition, and
we're plundering the living hell out of Social
Security, the last remaining stable and sound
fund left, to try and shore up our rapacious and
are no WMDs and our former allies openly resent
us and the poll ratings are slipping and the big
glops of warmongering lies are drying like blood
stains into a carpet. And it's an election year.
to be done? What could rally a wary country during
its time of humiliated need and force-fed ignorance?
What could turn this troubled nation around in
the face of oily corporate war and fiscal gluttony
and environmental savagery?
neato space stations on the moon, and sending
men to Mars, that's what!"
indeed. Leave it to BushCo to try and slap an
astronomically expensive, useless balm on the
nation's gaping wounds by vainly attempting to
recapture some of that droning faux-'50s and -'60s
nostalgia no one really asked for.
that time? The "greatest generation"? A time when
white-bread repressed often unhappily married
segregationist America gathered 'round the ol'
black-and-white to gaze in passionate wonder at
the images beamed back from the Apollo landings?
a time it was. Don't you want some of that sense
of desperate hopefulness back? Of course you do.
Got $500 billion to pay for it? Hey, that was
the cost estimate for a similar man-on-Mars scheme
when Dubya Sr. proposed it in 1989, just before
he was promptly laughed off the fiscal stage.
course, like every obscene BushCo proposal, there
was never a mention of how NASA could ever possibly
pay for such a venture, and no mention of how
BushCo could rape the Treasury that much further
to fund random exercises in ridiculous excess.
at it this way. Dubya will, by every account,
go down as the worst environmental president in
American history. He will also be remembered as
the most blindly warmongering president and the
least articulate president and the most corporate-shilling
president and the most flagrantly fraudulent and
borderline treasonous president.
hence, you can bet your big snakeskin Texas cowboy
boots he wants this "big ol' Mars thingy" to be
some sort of, you know, legacy. He wants his name
in the history books as the one who decided to
meet the little green men. He wants to stick a
flag in the rusty planet and claim it in the name
of, you know, Ronald Reagan.
from a man who never cared a whit for space exploration
in his entire spoon-fed career, a man who never
even once visited the famed Johnson Space Center
in Houston while serving as Texas governor. And
you just know half the impulse for this inane
new idea is so Shrub can get himself flown to
the space-shuttle launch pad and have his picture
taken in a shiny spacesuit. How cute.
got that reek. It's got that reek of typical macho
Republican election-year BS, the sort of hollow
grandiose chest thumping that stains so many BushCo
PR stunts, all war and guns and rockets and oil
and big slabs of chemically blasted hormone injected
semirancid Texas beef (hey, it's what's for dinner).
NASA is wonderful. Space exploration is magnificent
and essential and we learn enormous amounts about
ourselves in the process. The Spirit rover on
Mars right now? Breathtaking.
new technologies are developed during major NASA
missions, ideas that trickle down into the cultural
mainstream and make life, if not easier, then
at least more interesting, or lighter, or thinner,
or edible at temperatures down to minus 450 degrees
with a battery pack that lasts 127 hours and a
new infrared extrasensory ink that can be read
by blind comatose monkeys. Space is good.
look again. Our schools are desperate. The Wal-Mart/SUV
mentality is a national cancer. Basic services
nationwide are being starved and shut down as
cities scramble for fiscal scraps. John Ashcroft
still has a job.
national treasury has been looted and plundered
like never before in American history, toppling
from a record surplus to a record deficit in a
little over three years, with 3.1 million newly
unemployed Americans as a bitter kicker. That
tiny blip of an economic "recovery" you keep reading
about? Tell that to your unemployed neighbors.
it's just shy of appalling that BushCo is suddenly
all atwitter over a massive, impossible, ridiculously
expensive scheme to send a manned mission to Mars,
when any 5-year-old could come up with roughly
2,323 more vital and needful areas where such
huge sums of money could be spent. Can you think
of five, just off the top of your head, as you
step around that homeless person? Damn right you
we need to recall that sucker-punch $87 bil BushCo
reamed through Congress to help pay for our continued
occupation of Iraq, a nation that doesn't want
us and was never a threat to us and that is now
equaling Vietnam in costs, both fiscal and humanitarian?
Does Mars mean we get to bring our troops home
and save those budget-gutting billions and redirect
them toward something progressive? One guess.
we should just shrug it off. Just dismiss it as
yet another a silly exercise in political ego
and bogus machismo. After all, it's all about
big dumb gesture, all about trying to cover up
appalling atrocities and insulting policy in an
election year -- much like suddenly pretending
to care about immigrants, or health care, or gay
rights, when your party defines itself as the
world headquarters of homophobic pro-corporate
is what it boils down to, really: a big joke.
There will be no men on Mars in 2020. There will
be no massive, super-keen space station on the
moon anytime soon. Even BushCo's own financial
advisers openly cringe when the Mumbly One tosses
up such an obvious and impossibly costly PR stunt,
one so clearly designed to instill a false sense
of hope and "America rules!" faux patriotism in
a country heavily drugged on fear and false righteousness.
well and good, right? All just silly politics
as usual, really, just so much election-year flatulence
from the administration that brought you the New
is, until you realize who the joke is on.
Morford's Notes & Errata column appears every
Wednesday and Friday on SF Gate, unless it appears
on Tuesdays and Thursdays, which it never does.
He also writes the Morning Fix, a deeply skewed
thrice-weekly e-mail column and newsletter. Subscribe
Posted: January 16, 2004