Today’s Thoughts, December 28, 2013: The Apogee

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50 years ago, this is what America was capable of:

Every time I watch this, I almost weep. For the aborted future that might have been – that ought to have been.

And why was it aborted?

There are several reasons, but one stands out: The ascension of Mom Culture and the Safety Cult. Apollo was conceived and executed by men who – as Kennedy put it – chose to do so not because it was easy but because it was hard.

And damned risky.

Apollo, today, is inconceivable. Not because of the money. But because of the audacious, hell-for-leather risk of such a maniacal enterprise as placing men on the tip of a Saturn V rocket and catapulting them not merely into low earth orbit (the best the Space Pinto ever managed) but through the Van Allen Belt and onward, a quarter million miles through the empty vacuum of frigid space to the Moon and back. In a flimsy, foil-covered capsule with no margin for error, no safety net.

But with a world to gain – literally.

Moms would rather stay home. It’s safer there.

I was just a little kid when the last Saturn V lifted off. They are museum pieces now. But I grew up assuming that by the time I was in college, man would have already walked on Mars. It seemed as inevitable as the colonization of the New World after Columbus showed the way there.

Yet here I am, in middle age – and not even the Space Pinto’s flying anymore. The Chinese are just getting to where the United States’ space program (and the Soviet program) was circa 1966, when the first simple probes were landed on the Moon. By 2025 or so, they may just succeed in landing a man on the moon.

50 years after the last American walked on the Moon.

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  1. Today’s Ravings, December 30: The Perigee

    Life is not a football game. Trying to win people to the libertarian side. Rewarding those who tow the libertarian line. Those are not things to be encouraged. They are counter-productive.

    Choosing Sides – Larken Rose

    Sometimes I am #2. A person in pain. I’m unhappy with the way things are becoming more restrictive. If I spend too much time being #2, eventually I’ll end up being #4. A crappy person.

    That’s no way to be. Today, I’d like to acknowledge that most of us here are suffering from a perceived loss in freedom. I’ll try not to blame the victims. In a society where people are devolving and literally becoming pigs before our very eyes, it’s hard to see the humor and the lighter side of things. But you have to.

    Completely ignore the evil people.
    Don’t think about them.
    Don’t talk to them.
    Don’t write them.
    Don’t gossip about them.
    Don’t give them advice. They will never listen to your advice. It’s much better to be happy than to flush knotted up brown advice down a toilet that caused you agony to push out.

    How to Deal With Crappy People – James Altucher

    Is libertarianism merely about the non-aggression principle – thin. Or is it a wide ranging philosophy about social tolerance and economic harmonies among all of society – thick.

    Libertarianism through Thick and Thin

    – This has to be the perigee. Things are going to swing back to greater freedom any day now, right?

  2. Absolutely agree. There is a natural upper bound to how much mothering is needed. And how much safety. America is imposing a political reality at the expense of natural reality. A bubble of dystopic unreality every bit as alienating and incapacitating as the North Korean Juche bubble

    There’s an outside chance a 501 day manned Mars fly by will be launched and returned in 2018 by Dennis Tito’s foundation. And that two men and two women will be sent permanently to Mars in 2025 by Bas Lansdorp’s stichting. If either of those happen, we would have a new apogee.

    The Jiaolóng Hào deep sea mining sub might be the current apogee. It’s mission is finding riches on the deep ocean floor and extracting them for “the benefit of all mankind.”

    The Robex mission in 2017 to explore and exploit the arctic sea floor will be a close second. Should Planetary Resources successfully execute an asteroid mining mission, that too would contend for apogee status.

    Longer term, the deep sea missions represent 1/3 of the challenge of one day landing on Venus, where the surface air pressure is the same as the water pressure of the ocean at a 3,250 foot depth. An sulfuric acid atmosphere and an average temperature of 830 degrees being the other 2/3 of the Venusian challenge.
    – – – – –

    Hans Jenny – Cymatics

    Ancient Knowledge of Consciousness, Geometry, Cymatics, and the Illusion of Reality

    Nikola Tesla – The Apogee of an Individual Mind

  3. Actually, a lot of it has to do with money. Specifically, we pissed away all of our economic advantage we had in the 1960s by devaluing work and the dollar. Tax revenues continue to increase but what those dollars buy gets less and less over time.

    When Apollo 8 lifted off, the average income in the US was about $6500. Adjusting for inflation that’s about $45K in todays’ devalued dollars.

    But that is really only part of the story. In 1968 the “Gini coefficient” was 38.6, compared to a 46.9 value in 2010, according to this first page result web page:

    A lower Gini value means a wider distribution. A modest median income being earned by most of the population would lead to more tax revenue than a higher median income being earned by a lower percentage of the population. Also, recall that the highest tax rate was somewhere around 90%, although I doubt anyone actually paid that much. So even though there’s more dollars going into federal coffers today, as a percentage of the total number of dollars in existence I’m sure it’s much less.

    And let’s not forget just what the government was spending all this money on: major capital projects like highways and airports, Great society programs, and Vietnam. The Apollo program, while a large portion of the budget, was a small payoff to the military contractors who were getting beat up for supplying the weapons that could (and still can) destroy the planet in a matter of minutes.

    There was no way the level of government spending in the 1960s was sustainable, but because an entire generation had been brought up under the progressives and the great depression, they knew no other way. When the inevitable happened and the cycle turned in the 1970s, the answer was to destroy the currency and hope no one noticed. It wasn’t until the 1980s and policies first enacted by Carter and Reagan had an effect that government spending was bought under control. But by then it was too late. Today’s devalued currency and destruction of the middle class simply cannot support the government that put men on the moon.

    Sorry to shit on your point.

      • OK, I knew I walked into that one, but Carter appointed Paul Volcker as chairman of the FED. His actions created the conditions that helped Reagan get elected twice, and cleaned up the mess that Nixon’s closing of the gold window created.

        Reagan tried to cut spending and pushed through much needed income tax reforms that led to a huge increase in revenue, mostly through elimination of deductions. Of course he squandered that chance to pay down the national debt and instead went on a spending spree with Tip O’neil.

    • That’s an interesting take on it, Eric.

      I’m not an economist – and don’t have all the facts at hand – so I’m not sure what to make of the Gini value you reference.

      No question, the buying power of a dollar has been devalued massively.

      However, I’m pretty confident that the tax burden (cumulatively) on the middle class is proportionately higher today than it was back then. FICA alone has doubled since the 1980s, and taxes on real and personal property that were either or lower or nonexistent in the late 1960s are today pervasive and very high. There is also now-mandatory (and much more expensive than it once was) insurance – automobile and now “health.”

      And leaving aside money, I think it’s pretty clear that – generally – society today is obsessed with “risk” and “safety” to an extent that would have astonished the people of the late 1960s. Think of all those hard-drinking, chain-smoking men who ran Mission Control. Those alpha males have been replaced by the modern metrosexual male whose main object in life is to embrace diversity and never, ever, show initiative that involves deviating from whatever the orthodoxy du jour happens to be.

      America was a nation of doers, not talkers. We made things – today we buy things made by others.

      • I agree the tax burden on the (working) middle class IS out of proportion when compared to the rest of the population. However, I wanted to show that the percentage of the population that makes up the middle class has been steadily shrinking over the past few decades. Prior to my search for data to back up that assumption I came across that site and the Gini coefficient.

        If you have 10,000 people and you take $100 from each you get $1,000,000. If you have 5,000 people and you take $150 from each you end up with $750,000. Those 5,000 people have less take home pay but you’re still short $250K. And since it’s fairly easy to say that the majority the 5,000 people who aren’t in the working middle class didn’t move up to the upper class (indeed they are now retired and pulling their production out of the system), they’re likely drawing from the government and exacerbating the problem by demanding their “fair share,” which the government is happy to provide in devalued currency, and promises of better times down the road.

        We need to elect a few more pessimists.

        • It’s an interesting argument, Eric – and may well be correct.

          I think you’re right (based on the stats as I know them) that average income has been stagnant or declining for many years. But on the other hand, the population is now double what it was in the mid-late 1960s – so, more tax cows to milk. They may pay less per capita, but does the state take in more now than it did then?

          I think, certainly, we must also take into account the massive increase in “social spending” that began under LBJ and continues apace today. I recall reading that the Usual Suspects – Jesse Jackson, et al – were stamping their feet as Apollo 11 lifted off that money was being spent on that and not on them.

          To be clear: I’m not advocating spending other people’s money on either thing. But I do admit to the fact of tangible something having been achieved by the spending on Apollo… as opposed to the simple flushing down the toilet of vast resources on “the war on poverty,” etc.

          • eric, 1974 was the top year of earning power in the US. We’ve gone downhill ever since that time. Reagan, reign in spending, what a bad joke. Blame it on a democrat but it was the same crew back then who worked for first Nixon, the Ronnie and the subsequent Republicans since and have done a great job in destroying the wealth of this nation. I made about $600-700/wk back then, about the same thing that people with a “decent” job in this part of the country make now. Money has about 20% of the buying power it did then. How the fuck we ever lived through it though, without MADD, DARE and a cell phone I’ll never know. I’d forgotten how sweet life was back then, even had tanks full of bullfrogs before glyphosate killed them.


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