Dingus of the Week: The Billionaire Space Race


Hi! Welcome to the Weekly Dingus, my Friday newsletter, where I round up my internet reads, share a drink, and yell about a dingus. Is that dingus a politicianA boat in a canalMy dog? Or maybe it’s just pants. You can read about past weekly dinguses in the archives.

I am not sure if you are aware, but a few criminally wealthy men (Jeff Bezos, Richard Branson, and Elon Musk) got together and were like, “Remember during the Cold War when the U.S. and the Soviets competed to put men into space but then let their actual citizens die from hunger and disease and inequality? Let’s do that!”

Their timing could not have been more perfect, since they are all blasting off into space during a global extinction event that has killed and impoverished far more people than it needed to because of income inequality, a problem to which these men directly contribute. In fact, their entire system of wealth is based on paying workers low wages and otherwise exploiting them so they, the billionaires, can buy rockets and leave the mess of this planet behind.

The first problem with these billionaires’ space race is that they aren’t really going into space. They’re like, running to the edge of the atmosphere and then coming right on back home. The second problem is that even if they could actually penetrate deep space (which they can’t, because of performance issues), all of space could not contain the vastness of their egos.

I suppose you could argue that a space race promotes innovation. But we are literally already in space. We did it. These men aren’t doing anything new. They’re not even going to the moon. And whatever technology they do manage to innovate (if they do), they will own, and they will use it to get even more rich and profit off our poverty and inequality.

Or, as Luke Savage writes for Jacobin:

As temperatures scorch and billions remain unvaccinated more than a year into a global pandemic, Branson’s soaring declaration of radical possibility was thus the ultimate symbol of capitalist decadence in the neoliberal era — a phony futurist advertorial with all the trappings of a springtime orgy at the Palace of Versailles in 1789. 

Why a “springtime orgy,” Luke? I have so many questions. But back to the dingii at hand.

Remember when everyone got mad at Kodak Black for tossing $100,000 into the ocean? Well, at least he had the decency to be honest about what he was doing with his money instead of parading around behind some sort of mask of benevolence. I would probably have more respect for the Three Dingusteers if they just shot canisters of cash into the sky. Because that would be more honest about their intentions.

Also, please note that these billionaires have created empires that are trashing up the earth as they rocket themselves into space, leaving us, the poors, behind to clean up the mess. 

Like, we haven’t even had a woman as a president and the billionaires are looking at the flaming wreck of the earth and asking, “What if we do this but on another planet?”

Shannon Stirone made all my points, but way better, smarter, and a couple days before me in a story for The Atlantic, writing:

Leaving Earth right now isn’t just bad optics; it’s almost a scene out of a twisted B-list thriller: The world is drowning and scorching, and two of the wealthiest men decide to ... race in their private rocket ships to see who can get to space a few days before the other. If this were a movie, these men would be Gordon Gekko and Hal 9000—both venerated and hated. Maybe, I don’t know, delay the missions a bit until people around the world are no longer desperately waiting for vaccines to save them from a deadly virus.

Stirone mentions two (Bezos and Branson). I am mentioning three, because Musk is also in the race, just not on his own giant metal phallus.

The only people who are yeeting themselves out of situations correctly this week are the Texas Democrats who left the state with some Miller Lite to go hide out in D.C. until Texas could stop trying to limit voting rights.

P.S. Also, because there is always an Ashton Kutcher angle. Ashton Kutcher went on Cheddar (which is not an actual cheese, but is a confounding set of videos about “WHAT’S NEXT”) to say he had billionaire space tickets but gave them back because his wife was like, “You have kids, don’t go.” I don’t know what the point of that interview was except to point out that wherever there is a sketchy tech endeavor, there too is Ashton Kutcher. 

Also, I can’t imagine being a journalist and having on my show a person who set up Iowa’s governor with a for-profit COVID-19 testing scheme that is most likely very bad and not asking that person about it. Apparently, what’s next is not accountability.

What I Am Reading:

This week, I read a story about how the majority of men still don’t read books by women. In that article, the author mentioned Everything I Know About Love, by Dolly Alderton. So I bought the book and powered through it this week. It’s delightful and poignant. At first I was worried it was just another story about drinking in your 20s. In my 20s, I was painfully sober and a trad wife, so I have a hard time with those stories. But it’s really a book about friendship and seeking and it’s so wise and warm and sharp and wild.

Newsletter favorite Kelsey McKinney wrote in favor of gossip and wow, I love it so, so much.

Everything I thought was cool in high school was absolutely destroyed in one video.

Jillian Steinhauer wrote this beautiful essay on art and aging and race and bodies.

Allyson Felix is an Olympian who is helping other Olympic mothers pay for child care so they can compete, too, and I just hate this whole system, but I love her for trying to make it better.

Read this about white audiences and local newspapers and ask yourself once again why “diversity” in your town’s newspaper is relegated to the op-ed section. (And by the way, those “diverse” contributors aren’t being paid very well, if at all.) Actually, don’t ask yourself; ask your paper.

A reminder that Iowa’s governor continues to withhold information about the public health crisis.

And I wrote about how I am saying “No” this summer. And I wrote about bad men and forgiveness.

What I Am Drinking: 

A couple weeks ago, on the advice of Slate’s own Dear Prudence, Jenée Desmond-Harris, I ordered some Usual Wine. Usual wines have no added sugars and no added chemicals. And Jenée claimed they would be 100 percent hangover-free. Well, I’ve been cutting back on drinking, because in the pre-pandemic times, I never drank alone, so I’m working my way back to that. Also, I’ve been waking up early to do my training runs. Training for what, you ask? Well, I’m half-marathon training. Why? My friend Mike suggested it and I’m highly suggestible. I’m just happy he didn’t say, “Let’s do ritual goat sacrifices.” But if he had said that, my legs would be less sore.

The point being, I really didn’t think I’d be capable of getting to the hangover portion of drinking. Although I am creeping in on 40. It doesn’t take much.

So that’s where I was this week, until I had an extremely painful one-hour date on Wednesday night. You don’t need the entire context; you have to let me keep some of my business as my business, and I will not answer follow-ups. Just know this was a date number more-than-one-less-than-four. I showed up to the restaurant; he was late. When our food came, I told a story about a 98-year-old woman making me the worst meal of my life (ham salad and iced tea from a powder) and how I ate the entire thing because I loved her dearly and would never have insulted her. But thank god, she couldn’t see because I was almost choking. I thought it was a funny story about a woman I loved, who recently passed away and who had helped me with my book. 

That was not how the story was received. I spent the next 45 minutes listening to my date accuse me of being dishonest and saying how if I ever cooked for him (I assured him I wouldn’t), he’d be sure to tell me exactly what he thought about my food and how I could improve it and also if I looked ugly that day. I didn’t have cash; otherwise I would have bolted sooner. At first, the conversation was a conversation, but he loudly admonished me for speaking when he still had things to say. And to be fair, I am an interrupter. So I sat back, looked at the time, and didn’t speak for the next 15 minutes. Once the checks came, I told him to stop lecturing me. He got angry and said, “Noted.” It occurred to me that I had said something honest and he hadn’t liked it. But I didn’t point it out. We barely spoke after that except to murmur about the weather. On my drive home, the tornado sirens went off, alerting me to the fact that my dating life is a natural disaster. If men are single at my age, there is a good reason. If women are single at my age, those men are the reason.

So, at home, I opened up [redacted number] bottles of the Usual wine (the bottles are small, Mom!) and watched The Sopranos and fell asleep by 11. I woke up at 6:30am when my alarm went off without the slightest bit of grogginess or a hangover.

So, Dear Prudence wins this round.

This horrible date and my embarrassing life are *not* sponsored by Usual Wines.

Men Yell at Me is a newsletter about the places where our bodies and politics collide and yes, the occasional yelling man. Learn more about it and me (Lyz) here. You can sign up to receive the free weekly email, which includes interviews, essays, and original reporting. The Friday email is a weekly round-up of dinguses, drinks, and links. On Monday I have a subscribers-only open thread where we discuss politics and our bodies and more.