Something to look up to….

Atlantis landed very early July 21, 2011.  This is the end of the longest period of human space flight.  While the International Space Station still orbits, we have less control of our space transportation fortunes.  The landing of Atlantis was very uneventful, and for the most-part, quietly observed.  At the launch a few days ago, I provided a few memories from 30 years ago as the first Shuttle, Columbia, launched in 1981.  As the last mission lands for the last time, I can’t help but look at the present, and gaze to the future.  My memory was slightly flawed from those naive days in 1981.  I hope my view of the future is just as flawed and has some subtle, dare I say, pleasant, surprises.

It is fitting that the landing – the whole mission – of STS-135, went off without a hitch.  We got it right, just as the press, politicians, and much of the cynically vocal public have accused NASA of creating its own bloated problems.  NASA’s problem is that the vast majority of the time, we get it right…quietly.  When it goes wrong, or if people ask questions about why resources are necessary to get each detail right, then there are ignorant rants about waste.

I noted one person on Facebook this morning, paraphrasing an aerospace  periodical, sharing confidently that SpaceX was about to launch a mission later this year to the Space Station, achieving two milestones, docking with and resupplying the ISS in one fell swoop.  A fellow aerospace worker deadpanned that those in the know were just as confident that it wasn’t going to happen this year.  “If it was that easy, everyone would be doing it.”  It’s not.

As thousands of aerospace workers are turned loose, it will be interesting to see how they are absorbed into the workforce.  So far the word is that the petrochemical industry is waking up to the quality of the workforce.  In the wake of the BP oil spill last summer, many energy industry executives are scrambling to make prudent investments in maintenance, safety, and risk management.  The stories are trickling in about how veteran aerospace engineers, technicians and managers are making a positive impact bolstering the energy industry.  I’m not surprised.

NASA is trying to shift its resources to more fundamental investments in innovative space technology – automated exploration, advanced propulsion, efficient ground support processes.  It will take years to get practical results, but there will be something coming from it some day.  There are and will be too many creative, visionary, and stubborn people working on it.  I know the type….

The good news for my little institutional safety part of the NASA world is that when we wrestle with trying new stuff and tinkering with things that burn, go boom, or make sudden motions, there are challenges doing it in a way that doesn’t hurt people.  Keeping things from going boom, or more appropriately, avoiding the worst consequences when they do go boom, takes a lot of work from my folks.  We’ve got the hang of it, and we’re taking some prudent measures to avoid problems.  Been there…  Done that.

So, I guess it is fitting that, as the Atlantis mission came to a smooth conclusion, I was working on my new house this week.  We’ll be here for a while, so I might as well get the family comfortable.  We’ve got more work to do….  NASA has a lot of tinkering to do, much of it on the ground.  That’s where my job is….  Perhaps as my little girl gets going to school, we will have made some progress and we’ll be ready to go back up.  She will need something to look up to….  besides her daddy.

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Staying Awake for the First Flight

It was late night April 11, 1981.  I was working on some homework, probably calculus, perhaps circuit analysis.  I watched David Letterman.  I really liked Dave back then (and now).  An acerbic, anxious comedian trying to make a name for himself in late night TV.  I knew the new Space Shuttle was going to launch for the first time about 5:00 am the next morning.  Do I go to bed, or do I stay up the next few hours to watch the dawning of a new era of space travel?

Well, I don’t remember how the few hours till the launch were passed, but I did stay up until the wee hours to see that historic event.  A struggling mechanical engineering student was witnessing his professional calling.  I was amazed!  This was a winged craft strapped to enormous solid rockets and a bulbous white propellant tank.  How could it fly?  I remember the news commentators saying that it would be a swifter ascent than the slow majestic rise we were used to with Apollo.  They went to great detail to describe how the vehicle would jump off the pad and spin around to get in the right attitude for its journey to orbit.  It got off and up….

What do I remember most?  I remember the loss of Skylab.  It was to be the first remarkable mission of Columbia.  Rescue the fledgling space station and begin the next phase of a permanent presence in space.  Instead the 1981 launch of Columbia was two years too late.  Skylab plunged to its fiery death over Australia .

I remember the 1982 landing of STS-3 on the gypsum flats of Northrup Strip near the White Sands National Monument.  A perfect landing marred by a fierce white dust storm immediately after Columbia came to a safe stop.  Another TV viewing while continuing my college struggles.  But the dream of a career in space continued, even as I struggled to pass thermodynamics.

In 1985, the PBS series, “Nova”, explores the future of the space program.  I remember the narrator,  Martin Sheen, announcing that future DoD Space Shuttle missions would be launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.  I used that knowledge to show interest and enthusiasm later that year with a college recruiter, Bob Steele, with the Western Space and Missile Center at Vandenberg.  I would call Bob on at least two occasions after the interview.  Finally, in May, as graduation loomed, Bob called back.

July 8, 1985, was my report date with the Western Space and Missile Center.  A GS-7 General Engineer, starting salary $23, 170 per year.  There were several rotations in various organizations.  I remember aggravating table top reviews of the Operations and Maintenance Instruction (OMI) for activation of the Orbiter Lifting Frame to remove the orbiter from the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft for transport to the Orbiter Maintenance and Checkout Facility.  We were going to launch a Shuttle from California!!!

But then in January 1986, I heard someone say the Challenger blew up.  I returned to my boss’s office and on the TV was a horrifying replay of the Challenger accident.  But we’re going to launch Discovery!  There’s work to be done.  Months later the inevitable news filtered down.  The California plans had been abandoned.  No!  Can’t be true!  We’ve spent too much money and made too many plans!  I like living in California!

I remember a good friend, Lee Mountfort, calling from New Mexico.  He had left Vandenberg some months earlier.  “Do you want to work for NASA?” he asked.  Well, yeah!!!  But I insisted that I grew up in New Mexico, and there’s no NASA in New Mexico.  He begged to differ with me.  They need safety and quality engineers.  I visited the little town of Las Cruces.  The home of the dreaded Aggies of New Mexico State University.  The little White Sands Test Facility lacked the space operations discipline that I had cut my teeth on at Vandenberg.  But there was something about the possibilities, the need and yearning for growth  and organization.

I remember reaction control system thruster testing at Test Stand 401.  I remember what seemed like endless tinkering to perfect water flush techniques to remove iron nitrate build-up in RCS propellant valves.  I remember a trip to Aerojet in Sacramento to buy off the rebuild of our OMS qualification engine.  I remember late nights digging through OMS/RCS qualification test reports to index the test results at the component level.  I got my Snoopy doing that.

I remember waking up at 3:00 am to drive out in the pitch black night to prepare for the mere possibility that the Shuttle would land on the white gypsum of White Sands Space Harbor.  It never did again.  The dust storm of 1982 was just too much of a bad memory to the Shuttle Program.

I remember meeting Laurel Clark when she visited our facility.  When I told her I grew up in Albuquerque she told me she went to school at Monroe Junior High in Albuquerque in 1973.  She said it had been torn down.  I knew that because I was there too the last year it was open.  Laurel volunteered to me that it was a difficult time for her.  Her parent had split up and she had gone to a number of schools over the years travelling between her parents.  This was an astronaut who had succeeded despite challenges at home.  This was a real hero who had overcome adversity to achieve a dream.  Shortly after that in 2001 I got to introduce Laurel to a crowd of fellow employees.  I found her Monroe yearbook picture and shared it with the crowd….  along with my own.  It was easy to distinguish the two — a straight-laced, smart young lady and the disheveled delinquent.  She signed a picture for me saying, “There is life after junior high.”  Laurel Salton Clark died on her first flight aboard Columbia on February 1, 2003.

I’ve met several astronauts before and since Laurel.  She was the first one who struck me as a real person.  They all are, but she was the one who broke the mystique for me.  She also represented to me why we have to keep sending humans into space.  Their adventures are what kept me going to engineering classes when it would have been easier just to quit.  I still have the images burned into my brain of astronauts saluting the American flag on the Moon.  But more importantly, I remember Laurel dressed in her working mom scruffies needing a private place to change into her flight suit for another in a long line of public appearances.  Their adventures in space are our adventures….

Today, July 8, 2011, some 30 years and 3 months after my late night watching Letterman, and exactly 26 years to the day since I started my civil service career at Vandenberg, Atlantis flawlessly launched toward the International Space Station.  There are thousands of stories just like mine, and millions of stories about young people pursuing math, science and engineering because they saw people in their upbringing achieving incredible things, like astronauts, in science and technology fields.

As Atlantis makes its way to the International Space Station for the last time, the American public has to understand what July 8, 2011, represents.  And they can’t let it slip away.

A damn good reason to interrupt the Donald

It has taken a while to sink in…  I wasn’t sure what significance it really had in the end, so I wanted to think on it a while.

Do you remember what you were doing when bin Laden was killed?  I was watching “Celebrity Apprentice” waiting for some low-level Trump-induced drama to come to a head.  I don’t particularly like Donald Trump and I don’t particularly like the show, but there is some entertainment in observing how B-list celebrities put up with the contrived situations.  I take some of that back…  Marlee Matlin is a classy woman, and she is definitely still on the A-list.

As the network broke away and there was some guarded speculation that Osama had been located, I couldn’t help but think that our President had found the right moment to get back at Trump for inflaming the Birth Certificate crisis.  No doubt there was some obscure lead or tantalizingly close call involving the elusive terrorist.

But we got him.  It was real.  With al Qaeda acknowledging his death it was VERY real.  My first impressions were sinking in that this was a first class operation.  I will admit that I was very proud of how Obama had handled the planning, the decisions, and the implementation.  No consulting Pakistan or any other country, no hesitation to take him out, and no body to bury.  Just a watery grave, devoid of fanatical mourning, idolatry, or martyrdom.  While we had enough evidence to convince ourselves he was dead, there was no need to prove it to anybody else.  We knew he was dead….  More importantly, THEY knew he was dead.

Over the next few days I remembered how I felt when the World Trade Center was attacked.  Before Facebook and blogging I wrote down my thoughts in November 2001.

There is something very wrong with a world that produces people capable of believing their only choice is to systematically plan and execute suicidal terrorism.  Even the Japanese Kamikaze aimed at our aircraft carriers.  I don’t think the average American understands what we’re up against.  I don’t think they are all up for the discipline and sacrifice it will take to transform the world and still retain our dignity and respect as a caring nation.  So far, however, I have been impressed with the tact our government has taken.  We are after a defined target, for now.  We are going to extremes to separate the terrorist threat from the urge to condemn an entire regional culture.  Like with any war there are real motivations for the enemy.  Unfortunately, the only military threat they can prosecute is against innocent civilians.  

I would like to be in on the stoning of Osama bin Laden.  I only hope we can do something lasting to ensure he is not replaced with another impoverished Muslim with a hankerin’ to train pilots for one-way trips to Paradise.

To this day, I still have some of the cynicism I had back then about the American public’s commitment to the “War on Terror”.  Few people truly understand the commitment it has represented and the continuing commitment it requires.  Or at least they don’t openly talk about it.  Bush made mistakes prosecuting the war, but there was a true vision of transforming the Middle East over decades.

I will admit, however, that the commitment of our government has shown has been truly heartening.  Despite some dove-like posturing through the election and early in his term, President Obama has stayed the course, even in Iraq.  And his Nobel Prize winning cult of personality tour through the Middle East has succeeded in adding still another front against terror by inspiring the next generation of Muslims to take charge of their future.  That motivational element and Obama’s blitzkrieg success vanquishing bin Laden must represent a compellingly iconic figure to the uprising youth in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Syria, and even Iran.  It has impressed this Reaganite…

So, does this all transform my hope for peace throughout the world and confidence in our future?  Well, yeah….  OK.  There are still a few things I would change.  A strategy for space exploration perhaps…..  But that is a well worn story that is still being written.

Furlough Bucket List

As intransigent Congress members, White House staffers, and political pundits debate the merit, waste, and/or efficacy of federal spending, some 2 and half million federal workers will be pondering their compulsory free time.  There is still a chance that our elected officials will work something out, but it seems this time that there are bunches of folks on all sides of the fight just itchin’ to make a point….  So, we are making plans to be shut down for some indefinite period.

Way back in the late 20th century this furlough thing happened.  I remember it well.  The first shot was for a few days in November 1995, and then again for a longer second stint through the Christmas and New Year holiday season into 1996.  It wasn’t a very pleasant time.  At first it felt like a breather….  Not a restful vacation, but just some time to ponder what’s going on.  I remember being defiantly pissed on the first day.  I went and played 9 holes of golf on a sunny pleasant fall afternoon.  But by the time the holiday season got going, it was a frustrating, but subdued vigil.  Simply waiting for the stalemate to end.  Waiting for something to happen that you don’t have the power to resolve is a draining experience.

Essentially we were all unemployed, but still retaining the obligations and responsibilities that go with representing the US government.  I remember that Christmas visiting my ex-in-laws.  I was a walking representative of the federal government, consistently introduced by my ex-mother-in-law as an “unemployed NASA worker.”  There are just so many times you can feign a chuckle at that.  People would sympathize and ask thoughtful questions about how it’s going.  I would smile and say, “Well, we’re sure it will get worked out soon.”  It did…  But I had just made the last mortgage payment I could afford.

Working for the government, especially for NASA, you develop a level of dedication where you feel honored to contribute uncompensated effort to fulfill the mission.   In contrast, the last extended furlough felt like a prolonged dentist visit.  By association with the budget wrangling, we were made to feel wasteful and unnecessary.  And yet we were not fired or laid off….  We were in limbo.  Made to stand in place.  To add insult, we were later compensated for the forced time off.  “Gee, Dave,” you may exclaim….”You poor thing!!!”  It just didn’t feel right, and it was a detail you just didn’t want to admit to taxpayers.

This time is going to be different.  I can’t necessarily do anything to compel a budget agreement….  But I can make some decisions about how to use the time.  So, here is my Furlough Bucket List.  I can mix and match tasks to fit the length of the stalemate.

1.  Practice my sax.  Especially that tricky lick with the palm keys on “Le Jazz Hot”.

2.  Finish sanding and sealing the deck.

3.  The endless Jeep projects: carburetor, exhaust system, electronic ignition???

4.  Read….

5.  Train the bastard, Mishka!

6.  Wash dishes.  Wash clothes.  Vacuum frequently as instructed.

7.  Reorganize home office.

8.  Catch up on grading student homeworks and papers.

9.  Get back to the Rosetta Stone Russian!!!

10.  Take a breather…..

So, don’t be checking to see what I’ve done!!!  I will be productively unemployed…  Which means I get to decide what I’m  not going to do while I wait to find out when I go back to work.

Trying to figure things out without decimals

There have been a number of events, issues, conundrums, and frustrations throughout life, politics and work lately….  I have tried to figure it all out.  What’s wrong?  What’s right?  Is it just change?  Or is there something much more fundamental going on?

I recalled many periods of time during my career where the mission seemed unclear and the path forward seemed clogged.  These periods always seemed to be frustrating trips, but finite in their duration and effect…  We kept testing flight hardware.  We kept flying or getting back to flying shuttles.  We kept designing, redesigning, and then building the space station.

Other old hands told me of bleak periods after Apollo, where things were really slow.  A lot of folks found other work, chased their fanciful dreams of coffee shops, consulting, teaching, or just playing music or pursuing hobbies.  Still others gutted it out waiting for that multi-purpose space shuttle.  But all of them said they were confident that something else would come around.  It was just a question of how long it would take…  How long they were willing to wait…  What they were going to spend their time on while things got sorted out.

Our current clogged state of government seems particularly vexing in its duration, intensity and effect.  There are tugs of war going on not just with the federal budget, but with the very nature of what our space program is.  Is it different than those post-Apollo days?  Is it different than those post-shuttle catastrophes?  Is it different than designing and redesigning the space station?

It’s not just work….  I read recently about the Mississippi State Legislature voting about 10 years ago to remove decimals and fractions from the public school curriculum.  It is so absurd that I am skeptical if it is true.  I searched the net for a time to confirm  or deny, but I still haven’t found the smoking gun to settle the reality of this claim.  I suspect it is either a fanciful tale, or saner heads prevailed.  But more important is that it wouldn’t surprise me if it was true…  Why?  If it was even debated in Mississippi at all, it points to a level of ignorance that we can’t tolerate.

One of my neighbors has a huge collection of toys.  A Hummer, a Harley, a golf cart for his daughters to drive about the neighborhood, a very large SUV for his wife to do the family chores.  While I am sure she is a very good mother and works hard to care for her family, her labors are not compensated by a paycheck.   Every couple of weeks dad takes the family on long weekend camping trips in a very large and modern travel trailer.  He doesn’t seem to be the only “Jones” on the block with this kind of lifestyle.  He manages a flooring store.  I am not sure when he actually works.  Am I jealous of his toys or his free time??? Not really.   But I wonder if this is the American Dream and I am wondering what will perpetuate it…

Back to work I spent a frustratingly long meeting last week debating the various Powerpoint bullets necessary to tell the “budget story” in the right light to a very high official.  There were about 8 of us participating for the better part of 2 hours, looking at about 6 charts.  I had about a $200,000 interest in a multi-million dollar story.  I cared about that $200,000 and the people and work it represented.  But it was a painful realization that we were appealing to the limited attention, emotions and idiosyncrasies of one man.  It is a noble task to appeal to the logic, regulatory realities, and fiscal constraints at play….  But I can tell you without a lot of elaboration that none of those factors were focused on in this negotiation.  The reality was that the money was available and the requirements are undisputed.  We were negotiating with power.  And we had to cater to the idiosyncrasies.

Perhaps what is most responsible for prompting my rant today is a missive detailing the executive take aways delivered to our agency leadership.  The message that resonated was that these are tough times.  Yes, that is true.  Our guidance is to continue to leverage other resources and apply innovation even in the absence of clear mission definition or direction.  I will let that paraphrase speak for itself.  I will innovate.  I will tinker.  I will leverage.

It is tempting to go down a partisan political trail here, but I will honor my Hatch Act obligations. I can find lots of Tea Party inanities that resemble the ignorance of the fabled Mississippi decimal-banning legislation.  I can rant about liberal atrocities promulgated with or without the tacit approval of our president. This is not about partisan politics.  Nope…  Not gonna go there.

My point today is that I keep seeing signs that the American public, and more troubling, American government, is fatigued, even hostile to, the concept of complexity…of commitment.  We want comfort.  We want refuge.  We want entertainment.  We want our stuff and we want it now.  We’re not concerned about what it takes to build our stuff.  We are not concerned with what it takes to keep our nation strong, smart, and productive.  We are not concerned about what it takes to keep our world safe and secure.  We’re going camping….

So is this just the ranting of an old man who has lost his youthful enthusiasm for life and work?  Perhaps….  I recall that I was thinking just a few years ago that it would be great to push back to the moon before retiring.  Now we talk about some day decades away we might go to an asteroid….  Who’s idea is that?  What do we do when we get there?  Not near the resources available on the moon for continued exploration….  Returning to a lunar landscape — that we have since learned has water, methane, and raw materials for construction — represents a variety of possibilities.  Instead we look forward to leveraging resources and  applying innovation in the absence of clear mission direction.

I want to help fix things.  I want to make progress.  I want to follow an AMBITIOUS plan.  I want to get ‘er done!!!  But I am pretty damn sure we will need to use some fractions and decimals to get there.

Consultants need love too!!!

It occurred to me that my last post may have been slightly offensive to those hardworking consultants out there…  I know quite a few that are very forthright, honest, diligent and ingenious.  Jennifer and Cindy come to mind.  And at least Ward stuck it out for a while.

My sincerest apologies to many consultants…  Not all, but many.  After all, they have to do a good job otherwise they probably won’t find the next customer willing to pay them.  A great many consultants, like my ex-brother-in-law, have a very unique skill that just needs a few hours of specifically focused work to get things in place.

But policy consultants???  Nope…  No love…  Maybe we could talk about it….and keep talking about it…  then argue about it….  Then walk out in a huff until you find someone in power gullible enough to listen to you.

Where do these people come from?

I recently read about a key figure leaving the President’s administration.  I won’t name this person and I don’t want to get into specific politics here.  This is more about how ideas and personalities rise to the point that they shape the realities we all must work toward for at least 4-year periods of time that we know of as presidential terms…

The longer you are in federal service, and if you rise to a level that has at least a bit of influence, you come into contact with various public leaders that carry their philosophies, grudges, idiosyncracies, and agendas with them to VERY influential places.  These are the people often referred to as career senior executives.  Mostly these people have strong drive and many have some pretty strong egos.  If you are lucky, a good proportion of them don’t let their egos drive their most important decisions.  But egotistical or not, at least these folks have collected a lot of experience along the way that has some merit in shaping the future.

Then there are elected officials.  These are the folks that have all the ego and stamina to sustain themselves through successive elections, campaigns, fund-raisers, etc.  What makes them tick?  What makes them keep going?  Many are idealists, who care about the future of their constituents and have a passion for learning how to shape that future.  Others have the egos that drive them to crave adulation in the form of votes, media attention, and power.  Unfortunately, benevolent or not, that passionate pursuit of  elected office doesn’t often afford much time to learn the details of how things work.  Legal and management professionals most often pursue political glory.  They understand politics, they understand processes and laws, and they usually understand communication.  But technology, science, medicine, manufacturing???? That’s where the consultants come in….

I’ve had lots of experience with consultants.  I’ve seen the best of them in action.  I’ve seen how some of them get started.  I’ve seen some disappear into oblivion.  Unfortunately, many elected public figures are very dependent on consultants.  The higher you are in the political stratum this is particularly true.  It’s not that the politicians want to be dependent, it’s just that consultants are everywhere and their baubles are very shiny.  And politicians need to at least be perceived as understanding some of the most complex issues, concepts, and processes.

Let’s analyze the consultant.  There are big consulting firms and large lobbies.  Consulting firms and lobbyists are pretty much the same beast.  When it is a central mission they’re after, they are hired to deliver that message in timely, persistent, and compelling ways.  They are often led by very driven people with money and/or ideals propelling their zealotry.  But they need an army to hit all the places that decision-makers frequent — conferences, fund-raisers, town hall meetings, government procurement seminars, exclusive watering holes, country clubs, etc., etc., etc….

This brings me to how the big consulting firms recruit.  This is a time-tested formula I have witnessed and validated often.  They go to colleges looking for the brightest, shiniest, in-crowd, most appealing graduates.  Think the articulate cheerleader, the handsome football player (a skill position player), the suave fraternity president.  Even the bubbly sorority girl who gets an ‘A’ on her Cold War political science paper when she routinely confesses to me that she doesn’t understand geopolitics!!!  Uhhhh….. Just momentarily obsessing over a past injustice.  Anyway, the goal is to give these pretty, young prodigies a script they can internalize and deliver in a glib, confident manner.  If they are successful, they have mesmerized the most hardened bureaucrats because they sounded really good and looked even better.  If you’ve peppered them with enough reality and tough logical questions, they often wilt.  But then you have earned attention from one of the ideologues in the background.  Quite a bit less attractive, but particularly more substantive, the ideologues are still selling the same product.  But at least they still understand why they are selling it and they are masters at the deal.  This is the same tactic used to sell cars.

Now there is the INDEPENDENT consultant.  This is typically the brainiac that got great grades and routinely argued with his college professors.  After graduating at the top of his class, he gets a high-paying job with a think tank, the CIA, a Wall Street firm, IBM, or some exclusive software company.  After a short few years working horrendous hours, belittling his co-workers, and condescendingly dismissing his superiors, he decides he’s had enough of being a “team player”.  He is smarter and more ingenious than any of his so-called peers.  He will out-work all other competitors.  And his clients can’t help but succeed wildly if they will just sit down and listen to his wisdom.  He talks a good game and working up a frenzy, he leaves clients with a lot of data, narrative, and direction.  They are impressed because he sounded so smart and outlasted many of their hardest head cases.  Then he leaves and nobody quite understands all the stuff that he left behind.  The cycle continues because the independent consultant is good at finding people who know less than he does.  And he’s good at talking around all the latest problems that vex business, industry, government, and POLITICS.  The real downside is that he doesn’t have the patience to live with your organization and nobody likes working with him for long periods of time.  Many of these types ultimately find happiness railing against the establishment on the Internet.

So, what does this have to do with the Presidential aide who recently left the Administration???  Well, when I plug his name into Google, I find that his previous position was with a self-named consulting firm with average employment of 1, making an average annual income in the mid 5 figures.  His business specializes in technological innovation and commercialization.  Sounds an awful lot like an independent consultant.  And it sounds a lot like either he ran out of patience with the White House, or perhaps they ran out of patience with him.  I can definitely say that as a career government employee I am among the many who must figure out what to do with the stuff he left behind.

I am tempted to name the name, but as I consider the reaction, it occurs to me that this one person doesn’t really matter all that much.  Because there are scores of others just like him that are still working in our nation’s capital selling their stuff.  They are not the ones doing the work, nor will they be doing it in the future.  But we will be the ones cleaning it up in the long run.  Whether you are a Republican, Democrat, or Zebra-striped Libertarian, it all comes down to the quality and character of people you ask to help you.  Just please, please, please take a long time to consider what their qualifications are, what they’ve accomplished, and whether they will commit to stick it out with the people who will be left to do the work.