Monday, September 29, 2008

Party ! Party and party



But first, this word from our sponsors...

Okay, so I don’t have any sponsors. I do have a few links to Amazon though. And you’re not clicking on them. I try not to bug you about it and I try to make it as painless as possible. I haven’t even written any lengthy reviews of the last two books I’ve read.

Lies My Teacher Told Me was a good book. I just don’t think it was a great book. It should have been -- and many think it was. So might you. It was chock full of the tidbits of history I like and had some great overall themes in it. In other words, I’m at a loss as to why I didn’t like it more than I did. Let’s just put it down to “chemistry.”

As far as Jeff Sharlet’s book The Family, I don’t know what to think. I did enjoy it but more than a week later I’m still pondering over it. I think it’s an important book. It’s certainly generating a lot of interest. I’m not sure if I was confused by Mr. Sharlet’s writing style or if I lack sufficient education about religion in America.

The beginning of it reminded me of reading Charlie Wilson's War. It reads like over-the-top fiction -- but it’s true. The names you read in it are simply incredible. Senators, Congressmen, Presidents and various world leaders that you will recognize. It’s just hard to imagine the level of fundamentalism’s involvement in government that Mr. Sharlet depicts. Yet a quick check at Wikipedia lets you know that Mr. Sharlet is on to something and it is very real. Check it out for yourself: The Family organization. The National Prayer Breakfast. Even this little blurb from Wikipedia grabs attention.

”The Fellowship operates a retreat center as an "unofficial headquarters," at the end of Twenty-fourth Street North in Arlington, Va. Called "The Cedars," it was purchased in 1978 through donations from, among others, Tom Phillips, CEO of arms manufacturer Raytheon... “

You might not get it immediately but we’ll get back to Raytheon in a minute and you will.

Now, back to our program.

I went to another controller retirement party last night. It was a great party. “Doc” has done his time and he went out in style. I can tell you without the slightest doubt, the taxpayers got their money out of Doc. He was one of the best -- the kind of guy that makes you proud of the profession.

As always, I pick up the latest news at these events. It’s as bad as I feared. The rookies when I left less than two years ago are now the senior controllers on the team -- sometimes the senior controllers on the whole shift. The next generation of controllers will be left to find their own way, just as my generation did after the PATCO strike in 1981. The loss of “institutional memory” is incredible and just as tragic -- if slightly slower -- than it was in 1981.

In case there is any doubt in your mind, this tragedy has been brought to you courtesy of the Republican Party.

"Another reality in the post-9/11 growth of intelligence analysis capability is outsourcing. We have outsourced the management of billion-dollar technical collection programs, and we have contracted for intelligence analysts."

"In the area of analysis, the number of contractors also grew. Not satisfied with doubling the number of analysts at the CIA, the intelligence community turned to the private sector, or at least privately owned companies. Many of the companies involved, such as Lockheed Martin, earn almost all of their money by selling to governments."

"The result of all those decisions to take the easy way out and sign contracts is that we have created a two-tier system for intelligence analysis. For now, at least, the more experienced analysts are often in the profit-making firms, aspiring to be among the ranks of their highly paid bosses someday. And their highly paid bosses are motivated to persuade the intelligence agencies, where they once worked, of the continued need for their contracts. And many of the bosses in the intelligence agencies are thinking about what they will do when they have worked twenty years and can begin pulling down a government pension."

Is any of this sounding familiar to you ? Seriously, maybe just a little too familiar ?

If you didn’t catch Raytheon’s name in the link above, you can always try this one.

”A team led by Raytheon Technical Services Company (RTSC) LLC, a subsidiary of Raytheon Company, has received a 10-year contract to provide training support for Federal Aviation Administration air traffic controllers. The single contractor award is valued at $437 million for the five-year base period. The contract also has two options. If exercised, the first option is three years and the second option, two years. “

Oh, and all those quotes above about the contracting out of our intelligence services ? They’re from the book I’m reading now -- Your Government Failed You. If you’ll think back to the days right after 9/11 maybe you’ll recognize the phrase. It was uttered by the author of the book, Richard A. Clarke, at the 9/11 Commission hearings.

You might want to buy the book. I hear Raytheon is hiring but I don’t think I’ll be invited to that party.

Don Brown
September 29, 2008

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Global ATC



In case anyone wonders why I try to keep up with ATC in other countries and occasionally post a story about it...

Why Swanwick hit the headlines

It is possibly no surprise that when something goes wrong at the London Air Traffic Control Centre it inevitably hits the headlines.

“Richard Wright of Nats - the partially-privatised company that provides air traffic control to commercial flights in the UK's airspace - admits that Swanwick had a "difficult birth".

The centre opened six years after its planned commissioning date, in January 2002.

Nats says that the extensive delay was mainly due to problems with the software it chose to power its systems.

The plan was for Nats to use a package that was being developed as part of a huge upgrade of the US air traffic control network.

But this ran into problems - and the American project eventually collapsed. Richard Wright says this meant the software developers and Nats were left to continue alone.

Their role in picking up the pieces and bringing the software up to scratch "took much longer than planned," Mr Wright says.“


Don Brown
September 27, 2008

Friday, September 26, 2008

Clean Up On Aisle Eight



As the folks on Wall Street stare into the abyss, the folks in Washington try to figure out a way to clean up the mess. I realize that everyone in the Free World -- let’s just make that everyone -- is wondering, what do we do now ?

The air traffic control system doesn’t carry the same weight as the world’s economy but it is a significant endeavor nevertheless. Aviation and aerospace represent about nine percent of the U.S. GDP. Boeing is the largest exporter in the country. I thought while Washington is distracted by the financial crisis, I’d take a look at the aviation crisis and see how we might clean that up.

Unless I miss my guess, the “business is better”, “government is the problem”, “let’s contract out everything if we can’t privatize” era is over. Ronald Reagan’s "Government is not the solution to our problems; government is the problem" manta has turned into praying that government actually is the solution. What we need is competent government with a smart, professional civil service. We have our work cut out for us.

The first thing that needs to happen is that the leadership needs to set the tone.

”I think that one of the missions I have as president is to, not create a bigger government, but to restore some luster to the federal government. To recruit the best and the brightest, and to say that service in federal government is something that is critically important to the well-being of the American people, and by the way, to the well-being of the marketplace. “

That sounds about right to me.

In my mind, the government needs to go back to being the government. It doesn’t need to “act more like a business.” It needs to be the best government it can be. That -- above all -- will take competent government employees.

There will be no better time to find them. Because of Wall Street’s malfeasance and this Administration’s failure to govern, there will be a huge pool of talent looking for a good, stable job. That is, if the financial crisis is contained. Otherwise, there will be a horde looking for a job -- any job. One way or another, the talent is out there. All the next Administration has to do is get it in place.

Likewise, there is no better time to institute landing slot restrictions at all commercial airports. As my readers know, this is a key factor in my ideas on how to fix our aviation system. On a fundamental level, landing slot restrictions address the reality of limited capacity at airports. On a regulatory level, it provides the stability the market needs to allow airlines to prosper.

Now that regulation is no longer a dirty word, I would recommend we limit the scheduled commercial air traffic to the IFR arrival rate. Again, it’s a negotiable item but I assume the economy (and travel demand) will contract in the immediate future. In that “politics is the art of the possible”, it might be possible to get the tighter restrictions in place now. This is important for two reasons.

First, a major problem for the airline industry since deregulation is the level of destructive competition. Combined with the lack of slot restrictions, the most popular airports have been overwhelmed as airlines overschedule our major airports. There simply isn’t enough capacity (runways) to meet the demand at these critical airports. When we run out of room at these airports, it overwhelms the air traffic control system. The holding patterns fill up, clogging up the airspace used for enroute traffic and the whole thing snowballs. Departures are held on the ground at other airports to relieve the pressure and the whole system starts grinding to a halt. Despite the billions of dollars spent on “flow control”, the situation has only grown worse. That is because “flow control” doesn’t address the fundamental problem -- overscheduling at the busiest (most popular) airports.

The second reason for the tighter restrictions is the sorry state of the air traffic control system. The ATC system is near the breaking point. No one knows precisely where that point is -- we never will until it breaks -- but you’ll just have to trust me (and the people that work it) that it is. Hardware, software, maintenance, personnel -- there isn’t any good news at the FAA. We’ll get to the details momentarily. For now, it’s important to understand that the ATC system needs some breathing room. Slot restrictions will give it the room it needs to get some new people on board.

There is one other regulatory function that needs to be addressed before we get to the details at the FAA. The rules that govern the entry of new airlines into the system need tightening up. This is an area outside my expertise so I have to tread lightly. You cannot have a stable group of air carriers if they have to continuously fight off an unlimited number of cut-rate, start-up airlines. The idea is to regulate competition -- not destroy all competition. You want competition but you don’t want destructive competition -- which is what we’ve had since airline deregulation. That is why our airline industry has nearly been destroyed. Restricting access to the major airports (slot restrictions) might be enough to limit new entries into the market. But it might not. Further measures might be needed.

Let’s get down to the nitty-gritty. The FAA needs to take back many of the functions that it has contracted out. Training, maintenance and computer programming support.

The FAA is busy developing what will be the biggest computer program it has taken on in decades -- ERAM. Without a doubt, the FAA needs Lockheed Martin’s expertise in developing such a large and unique program. It is what happens afterwards that the FAA needs to concentrate on. The program is one-of-a-kind. The FAA is the sole customer. Even if Lockheed is successful in marketing portions of it to other countries, the FAA will still be a unique user. There is simply no other ATC system close to the FAA in sheer size.

The thing to remember is that the program ERAM is replacing is around 40 years old. Even if ERAM only lasts half that long, it is longer than Lockheed will be willing to support it without some truly outlandish incentives. We’ve seen this over and over again in the FAA. The FAA’s unique requirements -- including the long-term stability needed in the NAS -- are beyond what private industry can support. The day-to-day requirements of data systems support needs to be internalized to the FAA. The FAA needs to take responsibility for the institutional memory of its data system support. For those that remember the Data Systems Specialists, no further explanation is needed. They became the experts on the data systems and remained the experts long after the private contractors (IBM on the last system) had moved on.

Another area is training. The FAA needs to do virtually all air traffic control training in-house. The College Training Initiative school idea is a farce. There is really only one employer of air traffic controllers in the United States and that is Uncle Sam. The idea of having a college-like system for one occupation that only has one employer is ridiculous on its face. The FAA needs to scrap the program and go back to doing all its initial ATC training at their academy in Oklahoma City.

Controller training at the facilities needs to be brought back into the FAA. Currently, at the Centers, much of it is done by WCG -- Washington Consulting Group. This is another failed “business is better-they-can-do-it-cheaper” idea. What you have is a bunch of retired controllers -- rehired by a private contractor -- providing new controllers with training, and senior controllers with refresher training. As soon as a new piece of equipment is introduced on the control room floor -- say URET for instance -- you soon have retired controllers, that have never used a piece of equipment in real life, providing controllers that use it every, single day with refresher training. That too is a farce.

The need to return training to an internal function goes beyond that obvious flaw. The instructors need to have a stake in the system. If you use current, qualified controllers to provide the training -- controllers that will be working with the trainees -- you get what is commonly referred to as “buy in.” The instructors have a stake in the outcome. They know that in a few months time, when their instructor rotation is over, they will be returning to the control room floor where they will have to work with that trainee. They know that their career might depend on how well that trainee is able to do the job. It’s tends to improve “quality control.”

The last area I will address is the maintenance side of the FAA. There are many justifications for keeping maintenance of the FAA’s infrastructure in-house but none are more important -- or as intangible -- as the level of commitment and dedication the FAA’s technicians bring to the job. Being “in-house”, they see firsthand the troubles and dangers that come about when a system fails. They see the controllers sweating bullets when the radio or radar goes out. They see the chaos that erupts when a computer quits or the power fails. Even something as simple as talking shop with controllers on their breaks brings a deeper understanding of just how critical their job is. It not only brings a level of commitment to the job that a private contractor can’t match, it brings with it a sense of pride too. That commitment and sense of pride has real value. Do I need to remind you of the Southwest inspection scandal to convince you ?

I sense that the era of blind faith in the superiority of business is over. I hope so. Private industry certainly has its place in our society. But so too does government. Every citizen should want their government to be the best it can be. Demonizing the government will not make it better. Only hard work and constant vigilance will. Government needs to work and indiscriminate contracting out of government is a recipe for disaster. This experiment of contracting it out has failed and it is time to begin cleaning it up. Before our aviation system suffers the same fate as our financial system.

Don Brown
September 26, 2008

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Sleepy Head



I’m off to a late start today. Russ and Paul -- of The 25 Zulu Show kept me up past my bed time. In case you missed the radio show last night, you can download it from the archives at Gold Seal Live. Last night’s program isn’t up yet but I’m sure that it will be soon.

I think a good time was had by all. I certainly had one. The only time I found myself at a loss for words was when I found out my daughter was in the chat room. She’s up at Berry College, studying art, and it just wouldn’t compute that she was listening -- much less in the chat room. Oh well, she knows she’s daddy’s little girl anyway.

Coming back through Atlanta was probably the fastest trip I’ve made since I sold the Prelude 20 years ago, so I really didn’t get home that late. It was probably all the brush hauling I did yesterday that kept me in bed. Maybe I’m just getting old.

A quick check of the news hasn’t revealed anything that really interests me. The FAA wants to spend a boatload of money to put a “satellite-based”, “electronic mapping device” in airplanes so they don’t get lost on runways. I’m thinking it’s a lot of money (and a lot of words) for GPS but I finally figured out they aren’t talking about anything new -- they’re still talking about ADS-B. I still wonder why everyone doesn’t have GPS to use for navigating around the surface of large airports.

Delta and Northwest are still on course to merge. The FAA settled a case involving a mid air collision between two helicopters for $4.5 million. Bobby Sturgell is still the “acting” Administrator and the controllers still don’t have a contract.

In other words, aviation is holding its breath -- waiting to see if the financial world is going to collapse and wondering if we will survive the Bush Administration -- just like the rest of the world.

Don Brown
September 25, 2008

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

On the Radio



I’m off to the Gold Seal studio for tonight’s broadcast of The 25Zulu Show. Below are some links to some visual aids and reference materials...just in case they might prove useful.

Aeronautical Information Manual

ATC 7110.65

An ARTCC radar scope display



Be sure to tune in at 9 PM tonight.

Don Brown
September 24, 2008

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

I Told You the Kid Was Special




Scenes from the Military Town Airport




Don Brown
September 24, 2008

FAA History Lesson -- September 23 (08)



From the FAA Historical Chronology, 1926-1996...

”Sep 23, 1977: At the end of the 16-month trial of the Anglo-French Concorde supersonic transport at Dulles International Airport (see Feb 4, 1976), Secretary of Transportation Brock Adams announced proposed permanent rules for civil supersonic transport (SST) operations in the United States. Most of these related to the new noise restrictions adopted in 1977. Secretary Adams proposed to exempt the 16 Concordes manufactured before Jan 1, 1980, from retrofit requirements for older jet transports (see Dec 23, 1976), while requiring future SST's to meet all noise standards for newer subsonic aircraft (see Mar 3, 1977). In view of the exceptional loudness of the Concorde, however, the ban on Concorde operations between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m. was retained, as was the absolute prohibition on supersonic flight over land. In addition, the Concorde was granted permission to land at Washington, New York, and 11 other American cities.


These proposed regulations became final on Jul 31, 1978, after several more public hearings on the subject. At that time, FAA justified its "grandfather clause" for the first 16 Concordes by noting that they constituted the entire production run of the aircraft. (Because of its high fuel costs and limited payload, the Concorde had been purchased only by the state airlines of France and Britain.) FAA felt that modifications that would bring these aircraft into compliance with subsonic noise standards were neither technologically practicable nor economically reasonable. On the other hand, some restrictions on the Concorde were justified by thorough analysis of FAA test results on the plane's loudness, which showed that the perceived noise generated by a Concorde on its takeoff path was double that of a Boeing 707, four times that of a Boeing 747, and eight times that of a DC-10. FAA also reviewed a number of environmental concerns that had been expressed about SSTs, the most important of which was the fear that emission from SST engines might damage the ozone layer of the earth's atmosphere (see May 5, 1976). Citing a number of recent research studies, including one submitted by the National Academy of Sciences, FAA concluded that the possibility of such damage from the Concordes was too small to be an immediate concern. “


It’s funny how it all turns out. I wonder what kind of regulations we were planning on back when we thought the U.S. would have the first supersonic transport ?

”On Sep 23, 1969, Nixon announced that the SST development program would be continued because the project was essential to maintaining U.S. leadership in world air transport. The President requested Congress to appropriate $96 million during fiscal year 1970 ($662 million over a five year period, fiscal 1970 through fiscal 1974) to pursue the program. (See Oct 21, 1968, and Apr 6, 1970.)“

Do you see how much clearer it all becomes in hindsight ?

Don Brown
September 23, 2008

Monday, September 22, 2008

Aviation Talk Radio



I’ve been holding on to the news for a while to make sure the schedule didn’t change, but I guess it’s time to let you know. On this Wednesday, September 24th, I’ll be a guest on The Gold Seal Live radio show -- The 25Zulu Show -- at 9 PM. You can read all the details here.

Be sure to listen in on your computer.

Don Brown
September 22, 2008

Saturday, September 20, 2008

A Penguin Flies Into a Tower...



Since before Wednesday’s history lesson on Hurricane Hugo, I’ve been trying to get to this. The financial world’s crisis and politics keep getting in the way. There’s a new kid on the ATC blog block and I’ve decided to add him to my list of blogs.

I’ve had my eye on him for a while, waiting for him to conclude his ATC training. Unfortunately, in today’s FAA, those types of things have to be taken seriously. If he’s smart (and I think he’s very smart) he’ll leave the FAA bashing to us and stick to what he’s been doing so well.

As to what he’ s been doing -- he’s been blogging about ATC from the beginning of his career. From my days of writing for AVweb, I know how much pilots love the nitty-gritty details of air traffic control. You guys are going to love this blog. The best thing of all, this guy understands computer graphics. You’re going to notice a lot of visual similarities between our blogs. That would be me copying him. As they say, it is the sincerest form of flattery.

Without further ado, go check out The Flying Penguin. You’ll see why I wanted to mention him while I was talking about hurricanes and you can see what I mean about his talents with computer graphics. I suggest that you start at the very beginning and watch as this young controller grows.

That is the only caveat I’ll mention about The Flying Penguin. Pilots need to keep in mind that he is a young controller that he is still learning. He’ll make some mistakes. We all do. But that is part of what I think makes this site such a unique opportunity for pilots. You can start your “training” about ATC from the start and build on it piece by piece. I think you’ll really enjoy it.

A long time ago, a guy named Mike Busch gave me an opportunity to write for AVweb. It was the greatest learning experience of my career. The opportunity for The Flying Penguin -- and you -- is so much greater. I think he’s got something special. Give him a try and see what you think.

Don Brown
September 20, 2008

Friday, September 19, 2008

Killer Krugman



Sorry I’m running so far behind. Like everyone else, I’m just trying to keep up with the madness in the financial markets. It’s okay, Krugman is up to speed. Take him at his word in the lead-off sentence. Have a seat and read.

You might want to be seated before reading this.

Here’s what McCain has to say about the wonders of market-based health reform:

“Opening up the health insurance market to more vigorous nationwide competition, as we have done over the last decade in banking, would provide more choices of innovative products less burdened by the worst excesses of state-based regulation. “

So McCain, who now poses as the scourge of Wall Street, was praising financial deregulation like 10 seconds ago...


I’ve downloaded the .pdf file on Mr. Krugman’s blog to double check and sure enough...it’s a direct quote and in context. Seriously, click on the link above and read everything Krugman has to say on the subject.

And one quick point. One of my readers was kind enough to write today and say that he noticed the connection of deregulation in the banking system and deregulation in the aviation industry that I’ve been trying to highlight. The sad story at the FAA is just a microcosm of what has been happening throughout our government. The lack of regulation, the lack of enforcement, the lack of oversight. The only difference that I can see is that Wall Street doesn’t have any unions it can try to blame for its failure. Not to worry though, I’m sure they’ll find somebody to blame.

In case the point has escaped you -- or you’re just new to reading Get the Flick -- you can check it out for yourself. Here. Or here. Or even here.

Don Brown
September 19, 2008

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Same Song



Here we go again.

House Panel Investigates Eclipse Certification

” A congressional committee on Wednesday heard a litany of concerns about the FAA's oversight of the certification of the Eclipse very light jet, including a report that the FAA okayed the jet for a single pilot even though the FAA's Flight Standardization Board had determined that the aircraft required a two-pilot crew. The House Aviation Subcommittee heard from Calvin Scovel, the Inspector General for the Transportation Department, who said his investigation showed that FAA employees were given "marching orders" by management and a target date was set for the jet's certification. "It was a calendar-driven process ... with a predetermined outcome," he said.“

Honestly, it’s hard to even work up the effort to read through another blunder by the FAA...until you realize that it is this very same malfeasance -- lack of oversight and regulation -- that has led to the financial world unraveling.

Fed Offers $180 Billion for Ailing Money Markets

” Reflecting concerns about the health of the global financial system, the Federal Reserve and the world’s other major central banks significantly escalated their assistance to global markets on Thursday, making almost $200 billion available after bank lending came to a near halt and threatened the global economy. “

Don Brown
September 18, 2008

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

FAA History Lesson -- September 17 (08)



From the FAA Historical Chronology, 1926-1996...

”Sep 17, 1989: Hurricane Hugo slammed into the U.S. Virgin Islands before moving on to Puerto Rico and then South Carolina. Numerous FAA facilities in the storm's path suffered damage and service interruption. Destruction was especially heavy in the Virgin Islands, where two airport towers were badly damaged and a radar destroyed. Southern Region Headquarters took charge of the recovery effort, which included establishment of temporary mobile towers on the islands. The agency's DC-9 carried relief supplies to the Virgin Islands and evacuated four FAA employees and 35 dependents, as well as other Federal personnel and their families. Damage to FAA facilities on the mainland was less severe than in the Caribbean, although many employees suffered personal losses. Agency personnel established a relief fund to assist their coworkers affected by the storm. By the end of September most airports in the devastated areas had resumed operation. “

I’ve got you a little personal history to put with today’s entry. After Hugo slammed into the Virgin Islands, it made its way to Charleston, SC and tore it up too. I worked for NATCA’s Southern Region VP at the time -- Lee Riley -- and he had decided to leave town and get married (or something or other) that week. Anyway, I was in charge and Charleston's Facility Representative -- Rodeny Turner -- got word to me that they needed help.

Keep in mind, NATCA was about 2 years old at the time. That explains how I was left in charge of the Southern Region. There wasn’t much to be in charge of and we sure didn’t expect any emergency labor-managment relations to take place over the weekend. We didn’t think we would need to be hurricane responders either. It wasn’t exactly in the job description. Fate had other plans.

I called up Steve Bell and Ray Spickler -- NATCA’s President and VP (respectively) -- and said, “Send money.” They scraped together $2,500 dollars (they never said so but I believe it came out of their own pockets because NATCA didn’t have any) and wired it down to me. I grabbed my wife (bless her heart), threw a wad of cash at her as she walked into the grocery store and told her to spend it. Diapers, bottled water, canned food, first-aid kits, dog food, whatever she thought they might need. Last I saw she had two bag boys with the big sleds they use to restock the shelves, following her around the store and piling it up.

I went and rented a big truck, rented every generator I could afford and bought a few gas cans (and the gas) for each. We loaded it all up and two other NATCA members -- Terry Shell and Ken Cook -- drove it down to Charleston.

You might wonder why a union had to step up and throw together a relief effort. It’s simple. Because the FAA didn’t. They just insisted that we show up for work. It didn’t matter if you didn’t have any electricity or if you had a tree fall through the roof. It didn’t even matter if you had to wait 4 hours in line to get gas for your car. Just show up.

Don’t believe me ? Read this over at The FAA Follies.

NATCA still puts together relief efforts for controllers during hurricanes and other natural disasters. That’s how we knew ahead of everyone else that FEMA was a no show for Katrina. And it’s how we know there was no gas within 200 miles of Houston yesterday. I’ll bet the airplanes are still flying though. And I bet the controllers are still keeping them safe.

Don Brown
September 17, 2008

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Look Left



The links on the left side of the page are there for a reason. If only I had a tenth of the talent...

Robert Reich -- Why Wall Street is Melting Down, and What to Do About It

”It worked great as long as everyone kept trusting and the market kept roaring. But all it took was a few broken promises for the whole system to break down.

What to do? Not to socialize capitalism with bailouts and subsidies that put taxpayers at risk. If what's lacking is trust rather than capital, the most important steps policymakers can take are to rebuild trust. And the best way to rebuild trust is through regulations that require financial players to stand behind their promises and tell the truth, along with strict oversight to make sure they do.“


Garrison Keillor -- The Bums Try an End Run

” So the Republicans have decided to run against themselves. The bums have tiptoed out the back door and circled around to the front and started yelling, "Throw the bums out!" They've been running Washington like a well-oiled machine to the point of inviting lobbyists into the back rooms to write the legislation, and now they are anti-establishment reformers dedicated to delivering us from themselves. And Mayor Giuliani is an advocate for small-town America. Bravo.“

Go read ‘em.

Don Brown
September 16, 2008

Wall Street Question



Put your thinking cap on. There is going to be a strange question in a minute.

I want you to think about the accepted “wisdom” in America in regards to business and employment. The role of government as it relates to business. All of the jobs that we have lost overseas. Think about our friends at Wal-Mart. Trickle down economics. Government isn’t the solution -- it’s the problem. Business good -- government bad. And especially how those nasty unions and their greed drove all our good paying jobs -- auto manufacturing and steel -- overseas. Then I want you to ask yourself a question.

How many unions are there on Wall Street ?




Lehman Will File for Bankruptcy; Merrill to Be Sold

”But even as the fates of Lehman and Merrill hung in the balance, another crisis loomed as the insurance giant American International Group appeared to teeter. Staggered by losses stemming from the credit crisis, A.I.G. sought a $40 billion lifeline from the Federal Reserve, without which the company may have only days to survive.”

How many union workers do you think Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch and A.I.G have between them ? Any ?

Let me toss in something else while I’m here. Do you think it was red tape that caused their downfall ? Too much government regulation ? Sorry. I am sort of rubbing it in aren’t I ?

Here are a few words from Senator McCain.

“We must streamline our workforce, demand high standards of behavior, promote excellence at every level based on merit and accountability, and not let good workers be crippled by the fine print of the latest union contract…. “

I tried my best to provide that quote in context. But curiously, the speech where he said it has disappeared. The link from his web page below is blank.

Senator McCain Addresses The Oklahoma State Legislature on Government Reform

I got the link from Senator McCain’s web site here. You can see the link for yourself in the column on the left side of the page.

Have you had enough of the excuses and the lies ? Are you ready for a change ?



”It’s time we had a president who will stand up for working men and women by building an economy that rewards not just wealth, but work and the workers who create it. "

”That is the choice in this election. We can choose to remain on the path that has abandoned workers and gotten our economy in so much trouble, or we can reclaim the idea that in America, opportunity is open to anyone who’s willing to work for it. “

Senator Barack Obama
Labor Day Weekend
2008


(Video)

Don Brown
September 16, 2008

Monday, September 15, 2008

Correction On Wimpy



A few days ago, I quoted William F. Buckley where he called Mr. William Winpisinger a socialist. I made the assumption that it was just a label. An alert reader wrote me to say that Mr. Buckley was factually correct. Mr. Winpisinger was indeed a socialist. And what a socialist.

Mr. Winpisinger’s obituary in The New York Times is most enlightening.

William Winpisinger, 73, Machinists' Chief

December 13, 1997

“William W. Winpisinger, a fiery, left-leaning labor leader who battled management, politicians and sometimes his fellow unionists as president of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, died on Thursday at a hospital in Howard County, Md. He turned 73 on Wednesday and lived in Ellicott City, Md.”


”Mr. Winpisinger sometimes called himself ''a seat-of-the-pants socialist,'' and he spoke and acted accordingly. “

”He once described the United States as a ''corporate state'' in which entrenched financial and business interests were fleecing the honest workers. He called for a national takeover of railroads, airlines, banks, utilities and the oil industry. “

Considering today’s news, I guess we have a few more socialists among us. At least as far as banks are concerned.

Mr. Winpisinger was active in the Democratic Party, serving on its finance committee. But at heart, he remained a leftist.

''The labor movement is drifting to the right along with everybody else,'' he said in a 1977 interview. ''We have an obligation to stand fast against that.''

In 1981, he condemned the Federal Government's bailout of the Chrysler Corporation, calling it ''Government intervention, on the side of the employer, to an extreme degree.''

He viewed the ascendancy of Ronald Reagan with special distress.

''Never before has an Administration stacked a Labor Department so heavily against labor and so mightily in favor of management,'' he complained in 1982.


I may not agree with Mr. Winpisinger on everything but I think I would have liked him. Socialist or not.

”William Winpisinger, Wimpy to his friends, was born in Cleveland. He dropped out of high school and learned how to repair diesel engines in the Navy in World War II. He worked as an automobile mechanic in Cleveland after the war and became head of the machinists' local.

In 1958, he moved to Washington to organize truck and car mechanics nationwide and became machinists' union vice president nine years later.

As president, he tried to live up to his self-affixed ''socialist'' label, pushing successfully for the expansion of job safety, human rights and organizing programs.“


I appreciate it when my readers write me with a correction. Sometimes I even like it. And on a related note, I always answer my emails. There have been a few lately that have bounced back as undeliverable. If you wrote and didn’t hear back from me that is the only reason. I do have a file labeled “The Looney Bin” but thankfully, I haven’t had to put an email in it since I started Get the Flick.

Thank you all for reading and (occasionally) writing.

Don Brown
September 15, 2008

Sorry Charlie



If you followed yesterday’s link to eWeek you would have read a lot about the JPDO -- the Joint Program and Development Office.

The JPDO is one of those mega-committees in government that is supposed to coordinate all of the needs of all of the groups into a comprehensive plan. DOD, FAA, DOT, NASA, TSA -- all the government alphabet groups are on it and they’re supposed to move the National Air Transportation System into the future. The future of the moment is NextGen.

All this is only important for today in recognizing one name in the news -- Charlie Keegan.

If you keep up with the news, you probably saw this story too.

FAA Awards Air Traffic Control Optimum Training Solution Contract to Raytheon Team

But you may have been like me and skimmed through it fast enough to miss this tidbit.

"Our systematic approach to designing training solutions will help the FAA provide safe, uninterrupted travel for air travelers," said Raytheon Program Manager Charlie Keegan. "The training we will deliver to the FAA is built on more than 40 years of experience delivering a full range of training to the air traffic control community."

Those of us that worked in the FAA recognize Charlie’s name from his previous jobs in the FAA -- including his stint at the JPDO. Fortunately for you and me, an alert reader of Get the Flick noticed it.

Skimming is such a bad habit. In today’s world, with too much information to absorb, it’s just a fact of life I suppose. But did you notice this from that last link I just gave you ?

May  , 2005 Interview with JPDO Director Charlie Keegan(Extracted from Raytheon's Defender Magazine)

Considering Mr. Keegan’s new job, I bet the word “interview” takes on a whole new meaning for you.

You can dig a lot deeper if you’d like. Mr. Keegan is quite famous in the FAA. Here are just a few of my personal favorites;

It's a high-profile effort for an agency that has seen major modernization efforts fail before. Its evolutionary, one-step-at-a-time approach departs from previous plans—most notably the Advanced Automation System, an ambitious program to modernize systems throughout all air traffic control centers that was broken up into smaller projects in 1994, after six years and $1.5 billion of agency money. Keegan said the FAA has learned from past mistakes such as AAS, which he worked on as an air traffic specialist. This time around, officials have made a point of including controllers, ...“

”'Free Flight program, a high-profile effort to provide technologies to enable pilots to fly more direct and timesaving routes. The Free Flight experience helped him prepare for his new challenge, Keegan said. He learned that listening and providing candid feedback help ensure success—as does focusing on a clearly defined mission.“

I’m guessing I don’t need to explain to my regular readers how I feel about controllers being included in decisions, Free Flight and a clearly defined mission. Nor backdoor privatization.

Don Brown
September 15, 2008

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Spinning Out of Control



I don’t have time for lengthy analysis at the moment. But it’s Sunday -- and unless you work crazy hours like controllers do, you should.

Start with this article from eWeek

FAA's NextGen Air Trans System Planning Criticized

Remembering that just yesterday I said NextGen would cost $20 billion dollars...

”Projected to take until 2025 to complete and cost as much as $76 billion, the plan calls for precision satellite navigation; digital, networked communications; and an integrated aviation weather system in addition to improving ground infrastructure, aircraft technology and alternative fuels. “

...we’re now looking at $76 billion and despite the reference to “improving ground infrastructure” we’re still not talking about adding runways.

Be sure to look to the right side when you visit eWeek and notice the column that says “Most Read IT Infrastructure Stories in the Past 30 Days”. Today, #1 and #2 are both about the FAA.

When you get to the bottom of the story, you’ll read this.

”Rep. Mark Udall, D-Colo., chairman of the Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics, said in a statement, "America's aviation system is vital to the continued health of our economy and our competitiveness in the wider world beyond our shores, as well as being important to our quality of life. We need to ensure that we do all that is necessary to maintain its health."“

I hope when you get there, you’ll ask yourself the same question I asked myself; Who is going to operate all this fancy technology ? The FAA is talking about spending $76 billion dollars. They destroyed their workforce quibbling over a billion or two -- supposedly. I hope it dawns on you that it isn’t about the money. It’s about who gets the money.

Don Brown
September 14, 2008

Friday, September 12, 2008

India Gets It -- Now



This story is pretty self-explanatory. You’ll have to get past some of the nomenclature -- “hovering” means holding as an example. The message is pretty clear though:

While launching the system, the officials had said it would end congestion and increase efficiency in handling flight movements. But the officials at the Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport (CSIA) have now admitted that there is no improvement whatsoever in air traffic congestion. Hinting at the need of a parallel runway and taxiway, they said the problem will continue until infrastructure at the airport is improved. “

Even the name of the failed program ought to sound familiar enough to cause concern -- Performance-Based Navigation System.

It’s your $20 billion dollars the FAA wants to spend on NextGen. You might want to have a say about it before it gets spent. The message is simple. Tell them, “It’s the runways, Stupid.”

Don Brown
September 12, 2008

Thursday, September 11, 2008

A Failure of Policy



You might not see what I see in this story from The New York Times. You might see an isolated incident. Or it might fit with your idea on how the government really works. I see a failure of ideology -- a failure of policy.

Sex, Drug Use and Graft Cited in Interior Department

In my view, this is the key statement:

”Based in suburban Denver and modeled to operate like a private sector energy company,...“

In other words, the Minerals Management Service is operating as designed. As always, I think it worth your time to read the article, even if it does seem like the same old story. But just in case you don’t have time, here are some key points.

”...the Minerals Management Service, which collects about $10 billion in royalties annually and is one of the government’s largest sources of revenue other than taxes. “

”The reports portray a dysfunctional organization that has been riddled with conflicts of interest, unprofessional behavior and a free-for-all atmosphere for much of the Bush administration’s watch. “

”The investigation also concluded that several of the officials “frequently consumed alcohol at industry functions, had used cocaine and marijuana, and had sexual relationships with oil and gas company representatives.” “

”One of the reports says that the officials viewed themselves as exempt from those limits (government ethics rules), indulging themselves in the expense-account-fueled world of oil and gas executives. “

Businesses do it. When we ask that government run “ more like a business” why should we be surprised that government does the same things that businesses do ? I know what we say we want. I know that we all want government to be more efficient -- as businesses are alleged to be. There’s a flip side to that coin. To put it bluntly, it’s a lot easier to get people to be efficient when the rewards are booze, sex and dope. Not to mention money. And don’t forget, all those expensive “motivators” are just the cost of doing business. They just get tacked onto the cost. I bet a smart accountant has even figured out a way to claim they’re tax deductible.

Something to think about the next time you’re pumping gas into your car. It beats watching the numbers on the pump spin so fast that it makes you dizzy.

Business isn’t government and government isn’t business. At least it isn’t supposed to be. When we ask the regulators to act more like the regulated, we shouldn’t be surprised when regulators start breaking the regulations. You’re not surprised when a business breaks the regulations are you ?

It’s as simple as the old saying, “Be careful what you wish for.” We in the U.S.A. “wished for” a more efficient government and we allowed ourselves to believe that acting “more like a business” was the way to go. It has brought us to the brink of a financial disaster, another bailout that will cost -- not billions but -- trillions of taxpayer dollars to cover, a war fought by as many contractors (aka mercenaries) as government troops and an air traffic control system that gets closer to failure every day.

This policy didn’t didn’t start with the Bush Administration. The Bush Administration simply carried it to the extremes. You have the power to end it on November 4th. You can vote for the party that believes in Big Business and small government or you can vote for the party that believes in Government. You can vote Republican and tell yourself you’re voting for lower taxes. Just remember to factor in the cost of acting “ more like a business.

Don Brown
September 11, 2008

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

I Like It



Deprivatization -- I like the sound of that. I know Paul Krugman wasn’t writing about air traffic control...but he could have been.

The fact is that Fannie Mae was originally a government agency; it was privatized in 1968, not for any good economic reason, but to move its debt off the federal balance sheet (and Freddie was created 2 years later as a competitor.) Private ownership of Fannie and Freddie never made any real sense, and was always a crisis waiting to happen.“

I’m sure that it will be lost to history: There was a serious effort to privatize America’s air traffic control system. In the coming months, as the Bush Administration fades away, the accountants of history will move in to gather documents and files. The quest will begin again -- to document what will be taught in the history books in a few short decades.

In that mass of information, I doubt that there will be time to note the groups that kept us from making another monumental blunder of historic proportions. Let me note them here.

The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA)

The National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA)

Like any battle, it was a lot messier than any retelling can recount. But for now, the battle is done. Only tomorrow will tell if we engage again.

Don Brown
September 10, 2008

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Uppity Oops



I don’t usually bother my readers with local politics. Most of you aren’t from around here so it wouldn’t interest you. That still holds true so don’t start to worry -- I’m not starting a new trend here at Get the Flick.

Unfortunately, one of my representatives has gone and made himself famous -- nationally. Again. Congressman Lynn Westmoreland -- in what could have been a slip of the tongue -- referred to the Obamas as “uppity”. Everybody (including me) would have probably let that pass -- except for what Representative Westmoreland did next.

GOP Rep.: Obamas part of 'uppity' class

”"Uppity, you said?" he was asked.

"Yeah, uppity," Westmoreland replied.”


I’ve always been told that when you find yourself in a hole you should stop digging. Representative Westmoreland dug in even deeper. While the article in USA Today (linked above) tried to gloss it over, the editorial board blog at The New York Times offered the text of Westmoreland’s next statement.

”I’ve never heard that term used in a racially derogatory sense. It is important to note that the dictionary definition of ‘uppity’ is ‘affecting an air of inflated self-esteem — snobbish.’ That’s what we meant by uppity when we used it in the mill village where I grew up.“

Interesting. Congressman Westmoreland must have grown up in a mill village a lot different than the ones I’ve been in. And that’s real hard to do in that they all look just alike. My readers might remember that I’ve been in a few mill villages . And “uppity” was usually followed immediately by “the N word.”

I’m 8 years younger than Congressman Westmoreland. It hadn’t stopped when I was a kid in a mill village so I’m betting it hadn’t stopped 8 years before that. And, as we all know, it’s probably still happening today.

The cold, hard facts are that Congressman Westmoreland will probably survive this latest episode. The 3rd district of Georgia is so heavily Republican that he survived this classic episode with Stephen Colbert. (Note: the 3rd district was previously the 8th district.) Things probably haven’t changed that much in two years.

All the same, I’ll be voting for Stephen Camp. I’ve been to hear him speak and I liked what I heard. He’s articulate, educated and I like his stand on the issues. If you live down here, you might consider voting for him. If you don’t live down here but you’d like to help Mr. Camp -- donate money. Like everybody else, he has a place to do so on his web site and like everyone running for office, he needs money to run a winning campaign.

Don Brown
September 9, 2008

Monday, September 08, 2008

FAA History Lesson -- September 8 (08)



From the FAA Historical Chronology, 1926-1996...

”Sep 8, 1993: An administrative law judge recommended that DOT deny the application of Friendship Airlines, later renamed ATX, to operate as an air carrier. The company had been founded by former Texas Air chairman Frank Lorenzo. Although DOT ordered the judge to reopen hearings, he reconfirmed his recommendation on Dec 22. On Apr 5, 1994, DOT rejected the application, citing past safety and regulatory compliance problems experienced by airlines run by Lorenzo. “

While searching through Frank Lorenzo’s sordid past (again), I ran across an article from none other than William F. Buckley. For those not familiar with Mr. Buckley, he was an intellectual giant of the Conservative moment with an interesting history. He had the strangest speaking style and was most noted for sending people scurrying after their dictionaries, trying to decipher what he had said.

I thought I would provide some quotes from Mr. Buckley’s 1990 article -- with an eye on history.

” I wish there were an insurance policy one could take out in defense of capitalism. I could imagine that the premiums would have been oversubscribed to an Adam Smith Fund to Retire Frank Lorenzo. “

Adam Smith (and his “invisible hand”) is the most-favored economist of the Conservative movement. His masterpiece, The Wealth of Nations, was written in 1776 -- a very patriotic year.

” As it stands, Mr. Lorenzo is fetching between $14 and $18 per share of stock, which is about double what the stock is selling for. When this was pointed out to him, he remarked airily that Continental stockholders should have sold out a year or so ago. The moral would appear to be that a shareholder of a company run by Lorenzo should get rid of his stock as soon as possible. “

Hindsight, it appears, is 20-20 -- even in Mr. Buckley’s eyes.

”When he took over Continental, what he did was vacate company personnel contracts by the device of letting Continental go bankrupt-and then restoring it, contract free. That device is not in and of itself dishonorable, and the objective was to save the company and to put it back on a solid footing.“

An interesting idea of dishonor. Almost as interesting as the way Mr. Lorenzo broke contracts -- which could easily be defined as failure to honor your word.

”Eastern Air Lines, which Lorenzo purchased and attempted to rehabilitate, answered him by going on strike in the spring of 1989, a strike led by the machinists (who were then led by the labor-union version of a Frank Lorenzo, Mr. William Winpisinger, a socialist more concerned with the class struggle than with the fate of his union members). “

Ah, never mind the sins of Mr. Lorenzo. Mr. Winpisinger was a “socialist” (I’m betting he was actually a Democrat. Maybe even a Republican) which automatically makes him worse.

” Frank Lorenzo was not named by the Justice Department as one of the nine defendants in a lawsuit alleging that necessary maintenance on Eastern planes was signed off on but not performed. But assuming the complaint is not frivolous, under Frank Lorenzo one of the proudest airlines in U. S. history was prepared not only to humiliate and impoverish its workers, but to run the risk of killing its dwindling patrons. “

“...prepared not only to humiliate and impoverish its workers, but to run the risk of killing its dwindling patrons.“ That sounds awfully familiar to me. Does it sound familiar to you ? I wonder...what agency of the U.S. Government has cut its new worker's wages 30% and is driving its older workers out the door as fast as it can with its imposed work rules ? I know.

”It is a burden of the marketplace system that it is often practiced by men and women of low moral standards. “

Pity the poor marketplace. Can you spare a trillion or two to help it out ? I sure hope so. Mr. Lorenzo wasn’t the marketplace’s only problem child. It turns out, he was more like a role model.

Don Brown
September 8, 2008

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Delays Despite Their Worst Effort



There’s another article on the web that demonstrates the FAA’s continued failure. This one is from Aviation Week.

No Cap On Delays At NY Airports

”The on-time performance at New York area airports was essentially just as bad in July 2008 as in July 2007, in spite of all the efforts U.S. Transportation Dept. and FAA officials have been making to improve the summertime congestion and delay problems there, according to DOT figures released Sept. 3. “

“Federal officials have tried to improve the on-time performance at the airports this summer by imposing hourly caps on the number of flights at Kennedy and Newark during peak hours. It also promised to implement many airport and airspace operational improvements. “


I know you think it might be odd that I’m calling attention to the fact that slot restrictions have failed to control the delays in New York when I have touted slot restrictions as the solution to the delays. The difference lies in the quote above: “Federal officials have tried...” They haven’t really “tried”. They’ve just made it seem like they are trying.

As I’ve said before, until the slot restrictions are closer to the IFR (bad weather) rate than the VFR (good weather) rate, the delays will continue.

While researching this entry, I visited the FAA’s site on arrival rates that I’ve directed you to before. Lo and behold, the FAA has finally updated the site. Well, at least they’ve rearranged the deck chairs on the Titanic. The various arrival rate pages now use the abbreviation “IMC” and “VMC”.

To alleviate any confusion:

IFR = Instrument Flight Rules

Which is the same thing as:

IMC = Instrument Meteorological Conditions

VFR = Visual Flight Rules

Which is the same thing as:

VMC = Visual Meteorological Conditions

Low VMC means the weather is between VFR/VMC and IFR/IMC

Low IMC means the weather is so bad that some airplanes might not be able to see the airport and land. It just depends on the type of navigational equipment they have.

The arrival rate for LGA, using RWY 22 for arrival and RWY 13 for departures remains unchanged; 35-38 for instrument/IFR/IMC/Low IMC conditions.

Just in case you’d like to analyze it for yourself, the current page is still at the same location:

http://www.fly.faa.gov/Information/east/zny/lga/lga_aar.htm

If you failed to save the previous page (I did) you can still access it with the neat internet site -- WayBack Machine. It’s more internet magic. Just plug in the previous URL and it will show you previous versions of the web page. In case you don’t want to toy with it, just click here for the previous page on LGA’s Airport Arrival Rate. It’s a really neat trick.

I got so focused on New York that I forgot to save the data for Atlanta. WayBack Machine took care of that for me.

If you look at the current page for the Atlanta Airport Arrival Rate and the previous version, you’ll see that ATL’s (Atlanta) arrival rate has increased from a maximum of 96 arrivals per hour to a maximum of 126 arrivals per hour.

Going back to the Aviation Week article;

”Kennedy-based JetBlue ranked last among the majors at 64.6%. JetBlue vowed to all it can to improve, but also added, “The long-term solution to congestion in the Northeast is a modernized air traffic control system. We believe top priorities should be ATC efficiency and improvements to create increased capacity. We look forward to working with the FAA on operational enhancements at JFK, which we expect would enable us to improve our on-time performance overall.”“

Perhaps JetBlue would like to explain to you how the FAA’s air traffic control system can handle an increase of 30 arrivals per hour at Atlanta but JFK -- using the exact same ATC equipment -- can’t. It might have something to do with that brand-new fifth runway that Atlanta built.

Have I mentioned before that a runway can handle -- basically -- 60 operations per hour ? 30 arrivals and 30 departures. Yeah, I think I have.

It’s the runways, stupid.

Don Brown
September 6, 2008

Friday, September 05, 2008

New ! Improved !



And it will be here soon ! I hate these kinds of stories:

Safer Skies For The Flying Public: New Air Traffic Control System Model Will Track Variables Without Human Input

They always make it seem like the solution is right around the corner. It isn’t.

”"There is currently no unified decision-making framework for air traffic flow optimization," said Dr. Caramanis. "The complicated nature of the process, and the need to make quick adjustments when changes occur, will best be addressed with a mathematical model that combines theories and calculations from probability, statistics, optimization modeling, economics and game theory." “

Whatever.

My son is a brand-new freshman at Georgia Tech this year. Applied Mathematics. I picked him up the other day and brought him home for the weekend. On the ride back, I asked him if he was studying anything I would understand. He had a one-word answer, “No.” I knew he was right -- I haven’t understood anything he’s been doing in mathematics for a long time. But, of course, I made him tell me what he was doing anyway. Something about proving theorems with vectors. I “vectored” airplanes for 25 years and I didn’t understand the first thing he was talking about. And that’s first semester math -- “bonehead” math, to him.

I’m not about to argue math with Dr. Caramanis (University of Texas) or his colleagues at MIT. But the math that counts at an airport is so simple that even I can do it -- one airplane at a time on the runway. Until that changes, the maximum capacity of any runway never goes up.

"The idea is to have an overarching optimization model that allows balance and flexibility to the decisions being made so that we can successfully exploit whatever slack in the system we can," Caramanis said. "Our model will have autonomous re-configurability which is the ability to adapt to new information on its own."

Right. Good luck with that. Let us all know how it turns out.

I don’t know how much “safer” the good doctor’s work will make the skies. It might be a little hard to measure, in that the number of errors made today are already miniscule when compared to the number of operations. But seeing as the FAA is losing air traffic controllers so quickly -- you know, the ones that helped make the system as safe as it has been -- Dr. Caramanis and his colleagues at MIT might want to speed up their calculations. And the editors at Science Daily might want to tone down the rhetoric.

Don Brown
September 5, 2008

Thursday, September 04, 2008

He’s Not Done Yet



If you thought the Bush Administration learned anything from the Southwest Airlines inspection fiasco -- you were wrong. If you thought they were through dismantling the government -- you were wrong. If you thought the FAA was done with gleefully following orders from above -- you were wrong again.

The idea is to “starve the beast” and it is working. Because they want the idea to work -- as opposed to wanting the government to work.

”Jim Hall, a former National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) chairman and respected aviation-safety expert, criticizes the new approach.

"The federal government, because of shrinking resources, is turning over key parts of transportation-safety oversight" to private industry, said Hall in an interview.

"History tells us this could be a very dangerous path," Hall said. “


Cut funding -- “starve the beast” -- and you’re left with “shrinking resources.” That’s another euphemism for less people. If you don’t hire enough inspectors, you can’t do inspections. It would be politically unwise to say the FAA was no longer going to conduct inspections -- the FAA is required by law to ensure the safety of the system -- so you tell the American people that private industry will be conducting the inspections. That is a “very dangerous path” indeed.

It goes beyond the FAA abrogating their authority. If this plan is successfully implemented, the FAA will lose their technical ability to conduct inspections. The people with the technical knowledge needed to conduct an inspection will be gone. If this policy is a failure and the next Administration decides it needs to start doing inspections again, it will no longer have the technical expertise to do so.

It’s all part of the plan.

Read this excellent article from The Seattle Times:

FAA lets aerospace firms certify safety of their products

Don Brown
September 4, 2008

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

The Scorecard



For those that need a scorecard so they can tell who the players are and follow last night’s entry...here you go.

Tom Delay -- (aka “The Hammer”) is a former Congressman from Texas. He is, of course, a Republican. He was the House Majority Leader from 2003-2005. A former pest exterminator, he managed to attach his name to more scandals than I have time to talk about. The “K Street Project”, the Terri Schiavo fiasco, the Jack Abramoff Scandal and he is currently under indictment in Texas for money laundering and conspiracy to engage in money laundering. There is simply, just too much dirt to read. I’d love to know what this quote in Wikipedia is talking about...

In 1985, DeLay became a born-again Christian, and later gave up hard liquor. He has stated that he "was no longer committing adultery by [the time of] the impeachment trial" in 1998. “

...but I need to move on.

John Mica -- the House Representative of Florida’s 7th District. Mica is the former Chairman of the Subcommittee on Aviation which, of course, is where he came to my attention. He too is a Republican. You can stay right here at Get the Flick, type in Mica in the search box on the upper-left of the page and find out plenty about the Congressman, including his involvement in the FTI program and this quote about air traffic controllers:

"There's a lot of contract politics being played here," Mica said. "I know they're not happy, but we're going work with them. I don't have the option President Reagan had to fire all of them."

Lockheed Martin -- I assume you recognize the world’s largest defense contractor. You can read Wikipedia’s entry about the company or you can again search Get the Flick to read more about them. My main interest is that Lockheed won the contract for the FAA’s Flight Service Stations. In that they are so large, Lockheed is involved in numerous areas of aviation that are of interest -- including the ERAM program.

Assuming you are visiting the root page of Get the Flick, keep scrolling down to read the entry I put in just after midnight.

Don Brown
September 3, 2008

Christmas Comes Early



I cannot believe that my friend, John Carr, hasn’t got this on his web site -- The Main Bang -- yet. As he is fond of saying, this stuff just writes itself.

I was watching ABC News and I couldn’t believe it. It’s a good thing they have the video.

First, watch the Republican-Party-poster child, Tom Delay, party with his party.

Money Trail: He's Baaaack! Tom DeLay Hailed as GOP Hero

Then watch his buddy, Congressman John Mica, as he headbutts a cameraman.

And last, but not least, check out the party with Lockheed and “Hookers and Blow.”

No commentary needed tonight.

Don Brown
September 3, 2008

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

The Silent Voice of Labor



I searched in vain for words of meaning yesterday -- Labor Day. A voice of reason. A voice of passion. Barring that, even a voice of logic. I didn’t find one.

I did find one decent editorial from Linda Stamato;

Reflections on Labor Day: Work life in America.

Surely there would be a message from John Sweeny. Do you even know who he is ? Yesterday was Labor Day. Did you see the President of the AFL-CIO on TV ? Did you hear him on the radio ? I watched a lot of TV yesterday -- watching Hurricane Gustav as it made its way to New Orleans. I didn’t see Mr. Sweeny. Did you ? Did you hear any story about Labor on Labor Day ? I didn’t. Why not ?

Like so many jobs I took on in my union -- NATCA -- I guess I’ll have to take on this one too, in that no one else seems willing or able to do it. I don’t perceive myself as being particularly eloquent. I’m certainly not inspirational. But all the people that are seem to be preoccupied at the moment -- or silenced.

Who is Labor ? If you work for a living, you are. Chances are, you don’t belong to a union. Most people don’t. That doesn’t mean you aren’t Labor.

Once upon a time, we were all Labor. Go back in time as far as you need to in your mind to satisfy yourself that, once upon a time, all humans earned their living by the sweat of their brow. Most of us will come up with the image of a farmer. It was a simple life equation. You worked or you didn’t eat. The successful ones grew enough to eat with some left over to sell. If they were lucky enough to avoid a drought or a hailstorm -- or any other calamity for a few years -- they could accumulate some wealth. That allowed them to buy more land -- or to hire the ones that weren’t as successful, or just plain unlucky.

Nothing much has changed in the centuries since. The accumulation of wealth for some has been enormous. But most of us still labor for a living. Most of us don’t have employees. And most of us never will.

I hope that the advantage the successful/lucky hold over the unsuccessful/unlucky is obvious -- as obvious as how we define the roles in modern terms: Management and employee. The management has enough “food” to last several months, if not years. The employee does not. Men of goodwill can coexist in this situation. The employee is grateful to have a job and management benefits by adding to his wealth from the employee’s labor. However, people being people, conflicts will arise. It it here that the goodwill of the employee and management becomes critical. On the most fundamental level, it is also where greed enters the equation.

The employee wants more. The manager wants more. Humans want more. It is our nature. Reasonable people will recognize this and come to an acceptable compromise. If they don’t -- and it comes down to a conflict -- management has the upper hand.

This fundamental relationship has grown vastly more complicated as we have moved further and further away from the simple concept of “you don’t work -- you don’t eat.” Greed has become institutionalized in corporate profits. Whichever corporation can show the most profit -- the greediest one -- survives. No corporation demonstrates this trend better than Wal-Mart. It is well documented that a new local Wal-Mart drives out the “Mom and Pop” local retailers. What isn’t as understood is what it does to Labor -- you.

If you are fortunate enough to work for a company large enough to compete with Wal-Mart, your company has to hold its prices down too. As consumers, we like the sound of that -- low prices -- but your company nor Wal-Mart spends their millions of advertising dollars to promote the flip side of that coin -- low wages. All you hear on the TV and the radio is “low prices.” You will never hear a commercial from Wal-Mart -- or your company -- that touts “low wages.”

In a perfect world, this tremendous power of the corporations would be balanced by Government and/or Labor. We already know that the laborer alone does not have the power to confront the management. Without a union, he never will. That only leaves the Government to regulate the behavior of the corporation. If the Government won’t -- or becomes controlled by the corporation -- the corporation’s power is unchecked. You may think you work for a benevolent corporation run by reasonable men. Regardless, your corporation must compete with the Wal-Mart’s of the world. If they don’t successfully compete, the corporation will go out of business, taking your job with it.

Wal-Mart is the largest corporation in the world. Labor unions are legal in America. Wal-Mart doesn’t have a single union-represented store in America. Not even in New York, Chicago, California or any other place you might think is traditionally union. You’ve got to ask yourself if that is even probable -- much less possible -- legally.

Whatever you or your benevolent corporation might believe, you still have to compete. If suppressing union membership to keep wages low is the price of competing with Wal-Mart -- then your corporation will do it too. Or they will go out of business.

This is where you need to take your focus off of Wal-Mart and low wages. This is where you need to open your eyes and put on your thinking cap. If Corporation X is willing to break the law and no one -- including your Government -- is willing to hold them to account, they have an unfair, competitive advantage over corporations that abide by the law.

In this business model that rewards profits over conscience, profits determine the survivors. If you have to cheat to eat, you will. So will the corporations. The only thing that prevents cheating is the laws regulating commerce and the power of the Government to enforce those laws.

If you will look at the situation from this angle, deregulation takes on a whole new meaning. If you look at who has the power to control the Government -- and money equals power -- it is easy to recognize the danger.

If it is legal, your corporation will ship its jobs to China to compete. If legal, your corporation will cut your health care benefits to compete. If legal, your corporation will default on its pension plan to compete. It will suppress unions, refuse to pay overtime, hire illegal immigrants, pollute your environment, use lead paint on toys and kick you out of your house if that is what it takes to compete. It would sell its very soul to compete -- if it had one. It doesn’t.

Labelled by both contemporaries and historians as "the grandest society of merchants in the universe", the British East India Company would come to symbolize the dazzingly rich potential of the corporation, as well as new methods of business that could be both brutal and exploitive. “

More importantly, the East India Company demonstrated inherent flaws in the corporate form. The division between owners and managers in a joint-stock company, and the limited legal liability this division was based on, guaranteed that stockholders would be apathetic about a company's activities as long as the company continued to be profitable. “

The East India Company was formed in 1600. Effective controls over corporations -- regulations -- were eventually put into place. Labor unions were one check on corporate power (not until the late 1800s) but there is another -- written into the Constitution of the United States of America in 1776;

Amendment 1

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.


Those freedoms are all important but ask yourself a question; Which one is controlled by corporations ? I’ll go back to the beginning of this blog; "Did you hear any story about Labor on Labor Day ? Why not ?"

Hi there ! Welcome to Wal-Mart ! You either need to learn to say that -- with enthusiasm (I might add) or you need to learn to vote -- with enthusiasm.


Labor for Obama



Don Brown
September 2, 2008