Friday, January 2, 2009

Looking Back, looking forward.

All things considered 2008 has been a momentous year.

Gas:The year saw gas prices here in the States shoot up past the $4 a galleon for the first time ever. Rumors of an imminent economic collapse because of rising oil prices proved largely unfounded, as Americans began to change their habits to counter the rising oil prices. Here in the DC area the Metro reported increased ridership despite a raise in fares. The sudden rise in oil prices precipitated a financial crisis for Detroit’s Big Three, who had invested heavily in the high(in auto industry terms) profit-margin trucks and SUVS.

The rising gas prices turned out to be largely related to speculators, and the bubble popped along with the financial bubbles that created the current economic panic. Now the Big Three are in a strange position: With gas prices as low as, oh, when I was in high school, people are already returning to trucks and SUVs. Unfortunately the credit crunch is limiting new buyers, as is the rising unemployment. So while the Big 3’s Truck-lines are gaining in percentage of the market once again the actual market itself has shrunk.

Nationalization: This year has seen the partial nationalization of several financial institutions with the government buying, get this, non-voting shares. Privatized Profits, socialized losses. The system works.

The Big Three may be facing some kind of nationalization themselves, if they end up needing more money than anticipated from Uncle Sugar. No Chief Executive(not Bush, not Obama) in the middle of a recession is going to get the ball rolling on tossing 3 million jobs down the drain.

Defense: A pull-out plan has been established for Iraq, for Coalition troops to be out of the country by 2011. I would be very surprised if some of the major bases did not remain in US Custody, and a sizable residual force remained for the training of the IA and force protection of facilities there.

Meanwhile Afghanistan has shown an increase in violence, and already plans are in motion to begin shifting the troops taken from Iraq to Afghanistan.

In procurement, Northrup won(and then had the victory suspended) a contract to provide the USAF with tankers to replace it’s current aging fleet. The DoD is now planning on revisiting the tanker contract in 2012.

The Navy’s troubled DDG-1000 program has been limited to 2 hulls, and the USN will instead purchase another 11 Arleigh Burke class ships.

The Election: The election was one of the most changing in history, not the least because a black man with a foreign sounding name managed to win it. His victory was helped along by a economic meltdown, an unpopular war, and McCain not vetting Palin as nearly as much as he should have. For many it was a life-changing experience, for some the anti-Christ had came to power, and for others all you could do was wish Obama luck going into an administration where the times dictate you have to do better than just manning the bridge.

Myself: Finally came stumbling out of the Ring of Hell that is desktop support, moved on to being a “Field Engineer” on a another contract. I also returned to school(College) for the first time in 7 years, not counting classes I took in the Navy.

Predictions for 2009:

The Economy: Will continue to slide, no amount of money the Obama Administration will pump in will change that. It may be after 2010 when the economy starts to recovery.

NASA: Despite being the first “Nerd President”(collects comics, watches Star Trek) Obama has his sights set on NASA as a place to trim the fat. While the Bush Administration has resorted to printing money to stimulate the economy, Obama will likely make a pretense of “Getting the money from somewhere”, even if his economic team picks are similar to the team already in place. If Obama is smart he’ll shovel the paltry couple of billion into the Orion Project to keep our head above water, space-tech wise.

Defense: The pullout in Iraq will commence on schedule, and the augmentation of Afghanistan will continue. Obama has already indicated he’s at leats as Hawkish as the Bush Administration where Afghanistan is concerned, and will be authorizing cross-border raids into Pakistan.

Obama’s pick for energy secretary bodes well for our energy independence. Steven Chu is a Nobel Laureate who is an advocate for nuclear energy. Rather than continuing to do a circle-jerk about solar and wind, we may actually get some movement on the issue.

Myself: Currently spinning my wheels until the new GI Bill kicks in. Returning to college for the spring semester as I crawl my way up to a halfway decent GPA and college math level. I’m looking to go to a local 4-year college, but if I can get somewhere else(in, say, Texas) I’ll take it.

Also, I’m a bit disappointed in the lack of flying cars that 2009 has shown thus far.

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