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August 13, 2011

Blogging After America Day Two
Chapter One - The New Rome [ArthurK]

Welcome to the second installment of Blogging After America. You may now don your sackcloths and ashes.

This first chapter looks at the loss of American Confidence.

Steyn has responded to a common complaint about America Alone - this book has lavish notes and almost all of them come with hyper-links. Now if he'd just put those 50 pages of notes on his web page I wouldn't have to type the urls...

Also, I'm being super-brief on many of these points. If I give one example, Steyn might have 4 or 5 in the book. So if you think a point is poorly supported - that's probably me being terse.


Unusually for a Steyn piece, I disagree with many of the examples he uses but I can't dispute his main point.

Page 25-28. Steyn isn't impressed with the technological advances available to the American family from 1950-2010 as compared to what happened from 1890-1950. Says that runaway statism has made us overcautious - it has blocked progress.

Musings. He doesn't appreciate what has happened from 1950-2010 because he has lived through so much of it. He should look at a BBC TV series "Electric Dreams". This show took a typical Brit household and replaced all the new stuff with 1979 technology. Then, each night, they updated the appliances and gadgets with next years stuff. The family had to adapt to it. They were dismayed by the early 80s gadgets! Considering that the average Brit house in 1979 was techologically 10-20 years behind an American house, this show is a good example of how far household technology has advanced from the 1950s to the 21st century.

And Steyn completely skipped smart cell phones. A smart phone with a net connection is insanely further advanced than a 1950s dial phone. It's almost like having your brain plugged into the World Mind.

P30 - Did Humanity reach it's peak by 1975? I think he's being a bit harsh. He's not giving enough weight to genetic engineering, biotech and such because they aren't as visible as Hoover Dam. He's not impressed by medical advances since the polio vaccine. He doesn't appreciate how cancers like leukemia have been more-or-less overcome over time by many 1 or 2% improvements in survival rate. Leukemia used to be a 100% death sentence - now most people survive but there was never one single breakthrough. It's very true that's we're less willing to try Big Things than before. Loss of confidence. The main theme of this chapter.

Musings. Aviation technology was spurred by competition during WW1 and WW2. Less competition means less progress. But that can't be blamed on lack of confidence. Manned space exploration was spurred by cold war competition. No cold war - manned space flight not such a high priority. The cold war didn't end until 1991 but NASA gave the Soviets such an asskicking that the Sovs gave up the big race by the early 1970s. Since then manned space flight has been cooperative and has had miserable progress. But that's due to lack of competition, not confidence.

P31 - Brings up the infamous muslim outreach NASA quote. I hadn't seen the full quote before - it's much worse than I thought. This is in the context of NASA,which once put a man on the moon in 8 years from the start date, not being able to do much now.

"One, he wanted me to help re-inspire children to want to get into science and math; he wanted me to expand our international relationships; and third, and perhaps foremost, he wanted me to find a way to reach out to the Muslim world and engage much more with dominantly Muslim nations to help them feel good about their historic contribution to science, math and engineering." - NASA Boss Bolden

P34 - "You will never see another Federal Dam". Another dispute. That's due more to all the prime dam sites in the US having already been exploited than a lack of confidence. But it's true that after the last Federal dam collapsed while it was being filled (Teton, 1975-76), it's been politically impossible to build another one. So there's some lack of confidence.

P36 - Do advances in virtual reality (all the neat internet stuff) mean we're abandoning real reality?

P38 - For many, Security trumps Freedom. Is Security pushing back Freedom all over the world? "An America running out of ideas eventually gives up on the American Idea."

P39 - Now Steyn is on fire. Gives the Prime Example of the loss of American Confidence. The hole in the ground 10 years later at the site of the World Trade Center. The Empire State Building was built in 18 months in the middle of a depression! The World's biggest skyscaper should have been built there by 2004. I recall arguments against that - they said "I'd be afraid to occupy such a prime target". Loss of Confidence! The Hole in the Ground may be best example of American Decline.

P43 - "...the country's economy, infrastructure, public schools, and political system have been allowed to deteriorate. The result has been diminished economic strength, a less vital democracy, and a mediocrity of spirit." - Gelb

Steyn finishes chapter one with "... a great power can survive a lot of things but not 'a mediocrity of spirit'" I can't argue with that!


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