Tagged: ‘Murica

Book Review – Decision Points by George W. Bush

I don’t normally wax political on my blog. I attempt to keep my political views out of my love of all that is geeky. This has been made more difficult of late with the current U.S. election cycle.

That said, I do enjoy reading history, both long past and more current. I hop from ancient history circa 500 BCE, to the history of Prussia beginning in 1500 CE, up to present times, and everything in between at a whim. Ancient Roman, and Viking history interest me most.

Recently I had the opportunity to visit the George W. Bush Presidential Library. Within I purchased a copy of George W. Bush’s book Decision Points, and began reading in ernest.

Erenest is a relative term when you have children. It took me the better part of 2-1/2 months to read.

George W. Bush is without a doubt one of the more controversial Presidents of our time. He has been criticized for everything from No Child Left Behind, to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He was far from perfect, as all human beings are. But, he is a man and leader I greatly respect, with all of his faults. I miss a president, like him, who not only preaches love of America, but lives it.

Decision Points itself is organized by topic, not chronology. Bush chose a series of major decisions in his life, and in his time as President, to discuss. From his decision to finally kick alcohol, to his decision to run for President of the United States of America. It is a deep insight into how he thought at the time, and why he acted as he did.

Once thing that stands out most in the book is his willingness to give credit where it’s due. He generally does not halt at party lines. Whether Democrat or Republican, Bush equally honors those that he worked with and helped him to make, what he sees, as a legislation and decisions that made for a better country, or that kept the country safer. At times he does talk about his work with the Republican Party and strategy meetings for elections. But more often than not he discusses striving to work with both sides of the aisle in congress to pass pass legislation, and to help Americans and others around the world.

He also does two things I see very few leaders these days do. First, he downplays the things he actually did himself. He gives short mention to his slipping past the media and visiting the troops in Iraq for Thanksgiving, or the fact that he cobbled together support from both parties for controversial legislation. Second, he openly admits his failures. I think this second one is more telling of the kind of person and leader George W. Bush is. Few of us, myself included, like to talk about and admit our glaring failures. I’m sure it was difficult for Bush to do the same. But he did in Decision Points. He admits them openly and without reserve. Where he failed spectacularly the reader gets the feeling that Bush is as hard on himself as the media and congress was.

Like I said, George W. Bush was far from perfect. There are things I disagreed with him on during his time in office. But he was also my Commander in Chief for the first part of my military career, and he loves the United States of America. He did good by the troops for the most part, and he backed his men and women 100%. He worked to make what he thought was a better, freer America. Though he was heavily criticized by all sides, he made the hard decisions and drove on to ensure America was more secure.

While reading I did poke holes in some of his reasoning. While he justifies the invasion of Iraq, he completely ignores the genocide of the South Sudanese at the same time. Though he defends bailing out banks and the auto industry, he says himself that companies should be able to fail as the free market and their own decisions see fit – instead Bush pushed to spend billions of dollars propping up failing companies instead of allowing true free market capitalism to reign and, while ripping that band aid off would have hurt, America would have been in a better position, in my opinion.

But he was POTUS at the time, and he was the one who had to make the decisions with the Congress he had to work with. I can arm-chair-politician all I want, President Bush was the “man in the arena.”

I thoroughly enjoyed Decision Points, and it will definitely be a book I reread in the future. I highly recommend this book to any who wish to have further understanding of the Bush presidency and that era of recent history.

Until next time!…

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My Plan for US Economic Recovery: Go To Space

So I’m jumping from one nerdish topic – bodybuilding to be a Warhammer 40k Space Marine – to another one: space exploration. My ADD is kicking in. Let’s ride this train! WOO!

Okay so hear me out.

The US is having a hell of a time getting back on its feet. Manufacturing inside the US is down, unemployment is high, we’re lagging the rest of the developed world in education.

That said, according to CNBC today, jobless claims are down and durable goods orders are up: http://www.cnbc.com/id/49549215

It’s my opinion that this slight drop in jobless claims and increase in durable goods orders will be short lived, especially if we trip off the fiscal cliff, cueing $1.2 Trillion worth of spending cuts over the next decade, and an increase in payroll taxes (http://www.cnbc.com/id/49464221/).

This is bad, m’kay?

So how do we beat this fiscal cliff? How do we cushion ourselves from our ultra-bipartisan government’s (Reactionary Right AND Radical Left all included) inability to come up with a budget?

Legalize and tax marijuana!

Wait, no, that’s not what this post is about . . . though I think, while I do not smoke weed, this would be an intelligent decision, and then the government and businesses could treat it like alcohol (don’t drive or operate heavy machinery or weapons when you’re high, no showing up to work high, etc.). Plus think of the money the government would make on taxing it!

But I digress.

Let’s go to space! Seriously!

Seriously . . .

Why space, though, you may ask? Well here is my five points of why encouraging space travel, exploration, and colonization would save the US, perhaps even the world. (But the US first. ‘Merica!)

1. Jobs

Want to create jobs? Going to space is the key! You need to design the space craft. You’ll need engineers and their staffs for that. Then you need to build the space ships. You’ll need laborers, welders, electricians, machinists, and other skilled and unskilled labor. Designing and assembling the engines for these things is a task in and of itself. You’ll need programmers and computer scientists to get the computers and systems in the ships working properly. You’ll need administrative staffs to manage all these people, their pay, and the contracts and purchases that support them. You’ll have to secure these manufacturing plants, so security personnel will need to be hired. You’re going to want to have a foothold in space, so you’ll need to build, launch, and assemble space stations – and you’ll need all the labor and support personnel for that, too.

Then you’ll need space ship and space station crews to man these ships and space stations you build. You’ll need pilots, technicians, mechanics, engineers, computer specialists, and scientists from several disciplines. They’ll need training, and you’ll need trainers to train them. They’ll need facilities to train at, and your daily operations will need facilities, which will require construction workers, facilities management personnel, IT personnel, and even janitors. If you want on-site catered meals you’ll have to hire those personnel, or contract those services out – either way, jobs are being made to fulfill this requirement.

Want to build moon habitats? Need personnel for that. Stuff to go to Mars? Even more people.

The list of positions and specialities is very broad and I’ve only barely touched on them. The point being: a lot of people are required to get all of this done. Jobs will be created.

And as people go to space, the amenities they love on Earth will be wanted in space, and so other companies will follow. I know I’d want my Starbucks in the morning before going to work on a space station or moon colony, and I’d want internet connectivity to stay up on my news (and LOLcats).

This leads me to my next point-

2. Increase in Wealth for the Middle Class

Here’s an economic plan we can truly believe in (I have zero trust in Obama and his administration; my political quip for this post).

The increase in specialized, high skill jobs will lead to greater wealth in the middle class. Going to be working around fuels and explosives? Or a nuclear power plant for the ship, station, or colony? There’s added pay for that. Just because people are in space doesn’t mean government regulations about work and pay go away.

This is where government SHOULD step in: ensure that workers are treated fairly and pay is equitable both on Earth and out in space.

And I’m sure the new space companies will pay hefty salaries and wages to those who train, certify, and qualify on all the areas these companies need to cover – certain welding certifications, training on certain equipment, experience in programming systems for air/space craft, etc.

Some companies may even pay applicants to learn a new skill and/or job. Of course, this may come with a five year contract with the company. But a five year contract, with benefits, and annual or semi-annual raises? Probably starting at or around $25 an hour? (That’s really good in Nebraska. If it’s not good where you’re from, think about an equivalent wage. $35/hour? $45/hour? More?) It sounds like a good deal to me.

I caveat this with: I don’t like unions, and the space industry should strive to keep them out of the industry, and to attract union members out of unions with better benefits, 401(K)’s, IRAs/Roth IRAs, and wages. Who needs a union or some government organization to tell us we need to take care of our people? Good sense, and maybe a single article from Harvard Business Review can do that a hundred times better.

3. Increase in STEM Education

All of these space companies are going to need well educated workers. We don’t need to go to India or China to get them. We can get them, right here, in the US. The drive to space will drive schools to make the shift to the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) disciplines we need. Where the schools fail, the space companies could make up the short-fall with their own programs.

“Corporate funded schools are evil!” you say.

Not really, says I.

This is another place where the government could do a lot of good: tax credits to companies that run STEM-focused (though not exclusively STEM, gotta get history, government, and economics in there, and what about art?) schools that are low tuition or free, and if there is a tuition then give out scholarships to students in low income/impoverished parts of the United States. Amazing! Tapping into the untapped resources that reside in our low income neighborhoods/Section 8 housing. There ARE kids in those areas that want to excell! This would give them that chance! How can Democrats and Republicans NOT agree on this? (I’m sure there’s a way . . . unfortunately.)

Companies could also work together to set up classes and courses to give quality education and certification to high school and college level students to fulfill needs. It could be extended on the job training (OJT) with pay raises and bonuses based on milestones met, or number of job areas mastered both on paper and with experience.

Just ideas. Lots of ideas.

4. Taxes: Defeating That Fiscal Cliff

And now for an area the government can truly play its part: taxes.

We wouldn’t want to tax these companies too much. They’d just be starting out, just beginning to take man to space and help rebuild the economy. And I’m all for low taxes to stimulate the economy. But taxes must be levelled, none the less.

The increase in the number of people paying payroll tax would fill the US coffers, along with the corporate taxes the organizations themselves would have to pay.

There would also be licenses. The government would be right in validating the companies that are building these things. I’m sure there are already regulations in place that determine what Space X, Armadillo Aerospace, Planetary Resources, and Bigelow Aerospace can and cannot do. This is an excellent place for government to be to ensure the safety of the workers, the general public, and the State(s)/country.

This does NOT mean the government decides it needs an influx of government workers. We’re supposed to be fighting the deficit, and by extension the fiscal cliff, not making it worse. I admit, a few, A FEW, government employees will need to be hired. It’s the nature of the beast. But not on the level that the government probably would hire.

“We need a thousand GS 12 and 13 level employees to oversee space!” They would scream.

Really? I mean . . . really!? No, no you don’t. *Rolls up a newspaper and hits the government on the nose with it.* That’s a bad government!

So the government would have to get a clue and be frugal about its hires, and allow the taxes that flow from these space companies to pile up. They would actually have to save money. They would be on an actual budget . . .

Craziness, I know.

5. Because It’s Cool and the U. S. of A. Rocks

Yes, this is really one of my legitimate points.

Going into space is awesome. Did you see the Space Jump the other day? You did? That’s awesome. Wouldn’t you like to do that? I DO! Wouldn’t you want to go to the Moon and Mars and explore places humans have never seen with their own eyes. I DO! Wouldn’t you want to see the Moon and Mars explored, colonized, and perhaps even terraformed?

I DO! I DO! I DO!

We all should. How cool would that be!? What an experience!

And we as Americans can do it. We have the ideas and innovation, the drive, and the vision to do it. We have the sheer number of people and resources to create these companies and put people into space. It is possible. It can be done. Just look at some of the companies out there: Space X, Armadillo Aerospace, Bigelow Aerospace, Planetary Resources, Virgin Galactic. I’m sure I’m forgetting a bunch.

People like John Carmack, Elon Musk, and Richard Bronson took the risk to go into space and succeeded. Sure, they could have failed, but they never would have known if they could or not if they didn’t try! (Yes, Sir Richard Bronson is British, but Virgin Galactics Space Port is here in the U.S. . . . ‘Mercia!)

Jersey Shore and Honey Boo Boo aside (WHY!?), the USofA is still great. We still have potential and we can still do amazing things. But we as Americans must stand up (off the couch) and take action.

Parting Thoughts

Writing this, I know I lack what I call for. I have no mechanical background. My STEM intelligence is low.

But I have the desire and drive to learn . . . and so far I’ve spent like $200 or more on rocketry books. Like one of my idols, John Carmack, I can teach myself. 🙂 And take some basic classes at the local community college.

My parting thought is that we are never too old to learn, and constant learning is part of constant self-improvement. And though I work hard to live by this principle purely for the sake of growing as an individual, in today’s world this is pretty much a requirement.

Until next time . . .