On Christmas Eve 1968 three Americans became the first humans to visit another world. What they did to celebrate was unexpected and profound, and will be remembered throughout all human history. Genesis: the Story of Apollo 8, Robert Zimmerman's classic history of humanity's first journey to another world, tells that story, and it is now available as both an ebook and an audiobook, both with a foreword by Valerie Anders and a new introduction by Robert Zimmerman.
"Not simply about one mission, [Genesis] is also the history of America's quest for the moon... Zimmerman has done a masterful job of tying disparate events together into a solid account of one of America's greatest human triumphs." --San Antonio Express-News
Three stories today illustrate why the longer the government shutdown lasts, the more it will prove that almost every employee presently furloughed is entirely unneeded.
The first story is truly hilarious. Several “experts” lament the possibility that, because of the shutdown, some of NASA’s best scientists and engineers might leave the agency and get good jobs in the private sector. First of all, if they succeed in doing this all power to them. That’s what competition is all about. If they are that good and the private sector wants them, they should go.
Second, who says the private sector will want them? The article notes that the surge in commercial space now gives these employees options, but all those options are in the launch industry, and NASA’s track record there has been dismal, at best. Why would SpaceX want to hire an engineer who has been working on building a single manned Orion capsule for more than a decade, or the SLS rocket for even longer?
The second article illustrates how easy it would be to replace the National Park Service. If people care so much about these parks, they should volunteer to do something to keep them clean. I have already noted how the commercial vendors in the parks have begun paying for cleaning services formerly handled by the Park Service, but this responsibility can be picked up by the general public as well. (I speak from experience, as I spent my Sunday two weeks ago in a Forest Service cave, cleaning its formations of mud put there carelessly by visitors. Nor has this been the only time I have done this kind of volunteer work.)
The third article is an op-ed by an anonymous Trump official, describing quite accurately the uselessness of most government workers. (I consider this description accurate based on my own experience working in the government as well as almost all news stories I have read about government workers.)
The lapse in appropriations is more than a battle over a wall. It is an opportunity to strip wasteful government agencies for good.
On an average day roughly 15 percent of the employees around me are exceptional patriots serving their country. I wish I could give competitive salaries to them, and no one else. But 80 percent feel no pressure to produce results. If they don’t feel like doing what they are told, they don’t.
Why would they? We can’t fire them. They avoid attention, plan their weekend, schedule vacation, their second job, their next position, some do this in the same position for more than a decade.
They do nothing that warrants punishment and nothing of external value. That is their workday: errands for the sake of errands; administering, refining, following and collaborating on process. “Process is your friend” is what delusional civil servants tell themselves. Even senior officials must gain approval from every rank across their department, other agencies and work units for basic administrative chores.
Process is what we serve, process keeps us safe, process is our core value. It takes a lot of people to maintain the process. Process provides jobs. In fact, there are process experts and certified process managers who protect the process. Then there are the 5 percent with moxy (career managers). At any given time they can change, clarify or add to the process — even to distort or block policy counsel for the president.
Saboteurs peddling opinion as research, tasking their staff on pet projects or pitching wasteful grants to their friends. Most of my career colleagues actively work against the president’s agenda. This means I typically spend about 15 percent of my time on the president’s agenda and 85 percent of my time trying to stop sabotage, and we have no power to get rid of them. Until the shutdown.
Trump right now appears to be doing what I had hoped every previous Republican president had had the courage to do: Allow the shutdown to go on for as long as possible. Not only will it increase the chances Trump can get what he wants, he will clearly demonstrate the amount of waste that permeates our federal government.
We are now in the third week of my annual July fund-raiser for Behind the Black. My deep thanks to everyone who has so far donated or subscribed. The response this year has been wonderful.
We are not done yet. This monthly fund-raiser is now half over, and I am hoping the second half will result in as many donations as the first half did. If it does, I will remain free to continue my writing as I see fit, unblemished by the efforts of others to squelch my perspective in this increasingly intolerant world.
This year's fund-raising drive is also significant in that it celebrates the 10th anniversary of this website's founding. It is hard to believe, but I have been doing this for a full decade, during which I have written more than 22,000 posts, of which more than 1,000 were essays and almost 2,600 were evening pauses.
Therefore, I hope you will please consider donating to Behind the Black, by giving either a one-time contribution or a regular subscription, as outlined in the tip jar below. Your support will allow me to continue covering science and culture as I have for the past twenty years, independent and free from any outside influence.
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