By MARC MCDONALD
Welcome to another edition of Progressive Music Classics.
The tragic explosion of the Space Shuttle Challenger inspired many touching speeches, books and works of art, which paid tribute to the lives of the astronauts who died in that disaster in 1986.
But one work of art that took a different approach to the tragedy was Major Malfunction by the great Keith LeBlanc, who has often been associated with Britain's experimental/sound collage/dub label On-U Sound.
"Major Malfunction" was released not long after the Challenger tragedy. A major theme of On-U Sound productions is the scary implications of rampant, out-of-control technology. And although I may be wrong, my interpretation of this piece is that LeBlanc saw something in the Challenger disaster that was very sinister and yet undefined at that early date.
As it turns out, LeBlanc was correct in following his instincts. There was something very sinister about the Challenger disaster. However, it took many more years for the truth to start to emerge.
Although there is still a great deal we don't know about the Challenger disaster, it has since emerged that the Reagan administration had pushed to militarize the space shuttle program, with the result that NASA began to downplay safety issues.
That was the startling conclusion reached in the 2007 book, Challenger Revealed: An Insider's Account of How the Reagan Administration Caused the Greatest Tragedy of the Space Age by Richard C. Cook.
In the book, Cook reveals the bombshell that Reagan wanted Challenger to be launched against the experts' recommendations so he could speak with teacher Christine McAuliffe live during his State of the Union speech.
And who is Cook, you might ask? Is he some left-wing, conspiracy-pushing author with an axe to grind? No, actually, he was a respected lead resource analyst for NASA.
To me, the Challenger disaster sums up a great deal of the problems with the extremist modern-day Republican party. The modern-day GOP after all, despises all government programs, with the exception of "military" spending. While they're not championing massive trillion-dollar budgets for fat, greedy "defense" contractors, they're busy slashing budgets elsewhere.
In short, if it's not part of "military" spending, the GOP has no use for it.
And, additionally, since the GOP has so much contempt for non-military spending, they seek to slash all non-Pentagon spending to the bone. Note that this approach means that most budget-starved government programs tend to perform poorly under GOP rule. And the GOP even reaps a bonus from all this, as it confirms their self-fulfilling philosophy that "government is inefficient."
It's a win-win situation for the GOP and it's a sad characteristic of the American empire in decline.