Is America Becoming a Third-World Country?

By | August 9, 2018 | 1 Comments

Amtrak train on northeast corridor nearly pulls apart at 125 miles per hour. News report, Feb. 6, 2018

Amtrak train hits parked freight train on same track, killing two and injuring 116. News report, Feb. 4, 2018

Amtrak train carrying Republican lawmakers crashes into truck, killing one. News report, Jan. 31, 2018

Amtrak train derails going 78 mph on 30 mph curve, killing three and injuring 62. News report, Dec. 18, 2017

Four serious accidents occurred to Amtrak passenger trains in less than two months. Amtrak is run by the U.S. Government. Are these accidents, which can happen anywhere by chance? Or are they symptoms of a general decline? Are they evidence that even high-tech equipment made in foreign countries requires well-trained and conscientious personnel to run and maintain it?

But wait, you object. What’s wrong with riding high-speed trains made in foreign countries? What’s wrong with driving German or Japanese cars, especially if they are made in American factories? What’s wrong with using computers and smart phones made in China? What’s wrong with opening our borders to a flood of unskilled workers? (Taking jobs meant for our working class? Never mind.) What’s wrong with having our technical questions answered by people in India? (Taking jobs meant for our middle class? No problem.)

I’ll tell you what’s wrong.

Earlier this year we spent 19 days without land-line phones or Internet. Apparently someone cut a cable. Perhaps it was cut by an undocumented worker, operating equipment he had not been adequately trained to operate, after failing to understand his instructions because of limited knowledge of English, and having been hired by a non-union contractor to build yet another high-rise in overcrowded Los Angeles, which already has too many people for its streets, its water supply, and its electrical grid.

Yes, that’s a run-on sentence. But how better to describe a run-on civilization, which already may have run on past its prime? And recently our land-line phones and Internet were out again, this time for only 2½ days. Oh, did I mention the 9-hour electrical outage, followed by a 4-hour outage? And the year still has five months to go.

We pay for two WiFi services, a DSL from ATT, and cable from Spectrum. So far, when one is down, the other is still up. So far. And each router has a battery backup in case of power failure. Living in the Third World can get expensive.

As I am writing this, one of our two Internet connections went down. Meanwhile, the power failed briefly at Dodger Stadium, causing the lights to go out during a game. Living in the Third World can get frustrating.

We are increasing the complexity of daily life with smart phones, tablets, smart TVs, computerized toasters, and self-driving cars that sometimes crash into large trucks. But we are also dumbing down the education of average young people. If they can’t read cursive writing, make change, or read analog clocks, how can they work at a bank, the post office, or many other jobs that pay a decent wage? And how will they compete with Chinese or Indian young people who receive decent educations?

We are outsourcing to foreign countries the production of the computers and chips that run nearly everything. That makes us vulnerable. An electromagnetic pulse (EMP) could render many of these chips useless. Or key computers could be disabled by a cyber attack.

But we need not imagine a terrorist attack. Consider how first responders depend on computerized communication systems. Consider what would happen if these systems went down, just when we need police, firefighters, or paramedics. This takes no imagination − it’s already happening.

Question: What do you get when you combine the following?

  1. Fragile, computerized equipment.
  2. Years of a sagging economy, only recently remedied, with budget cuts resulting in maintenance cuts.
  3. Emergency services, schools, and hospitals overwhelmed by immigrants, legal and illegal.
  4. Streets scarred by pot-holes, many due to careless patching of cuts made to update power and phone lines for new gizmos that nobody needs but everybody wants.
  5. The water supply barely adequate during a drought, while Democrat officials permit the building of new high-rises and encourage unlimited immigration.
  6. The power grid overwhelmed every summer, with blackouts and users urged to turn off appliances, while Democrat officials encourage unlimited immigration.
  7. Increased reliance on technology that is unreliable, even dangerous ‒ as witness self-driving cars that drive into obstacles rather than avoid them.
  8. Disparate ethnic and economic groups each pursuing its own interests, with little feeling of cohesion with other groups.

I’ll tell you what you get: You get Los Angeles. But you also get a preview of the rest of America in a few years. Unless, that is, we spend billions to refurbish our infrastructure, and unless we do something to control immigration.

We have become dependent on technology that is extremely useful but extremely vulnerable. It is vulnerable not just to enemy attack, but also to neglect. Neglect can be the result of carelessness. But it can also be the result of budget cuts brought on by a sluggish economy, and justified by high officials who were promoted not because of their competence, but because of their willingness to go along with whatever the politicians want. Then politicians can cut vital services − and leave intact unneeded construction projects that line the politicians’ pockets with graft.

And a politician is a politician, no matter whether he wears an Armani suit or a fire or police chief’s uniform − or for that matter, the uniform of a general or admiral. Keep that in mind when you see men with four stars on their shoulders, nodding approval to cuts in the defense budget.

Those responsible for essential functions − our military, our first responders, our hospitals, and our delivery systems for food and fuel − need to establish backup systems that can continue to function in the event of an EMP, a terrorist attack, or a natural disaster. Wise computer users back up their files and make hard copies of essential documents. Wise government officials ensure that there is reliable backup for our people. And wise voters elect wise officials.

Oh well, so much for that fantasy.

It is untrue that if current technology fails, we can fall back on the most recent prior technology:

● If the emergency dispatching system fails, there are no more red boxes on telephone poles. So how could we respond to fires?

● If the power grid goes down, we cannot pump gasoline or diesel fuel by hand. The old hand-powered pumps disappeared from service stations in the 1930s.

● If diesel locomotives fail because of lack of fuel or disabled engine-management chips, we cannot fall back on steam locomotives. They no longer exist, and even if they did, no one would remember how to run or maintain them. So how could food, fuel, and other necessities reach our cities?

● If cars and trucks fail because engine-management chips are disabled by an EMP, we cannot fall back on old cars and trucks with coil-and-distributor ignitions. There are too few of them.

● If the Internet fails because of accidental or intentional damage, we cannot fall back on snail-mail. Young people no longer read or write cursive. Besides, who will deliver the mail, when planes, trains, and trucks are disabled? We will have to rely on hand-carried messages.

● If much of our high-tech electronics fail, who will build new ones or repair the old ones? We outsourced manufacturing to China and tech advice to India. Most of us know only how to use the devices – and in many cases, barely even that.

Complex technological gizmos don’t make a First-World country. If they break down and we can’t fix them, they make a Third-World country with expensive trash.

The time may come when we will regard “high tech” as having rubber tires on our donkey carts. A paranoid delusion? A hysterical exaggeration? Or a projection of the line of decline we are currently on? Stay tuned.

And they call me a stupid ass

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