Monday, November 30, 2009

Sarcasm’s Sting: Part II



Check it out. (Caution: language. Check speakers before playing.)

Don Brown
November 30, 2009

Sarcasm’s Sting



You see, this is the reason I read the Earth-Bound Misfit. Otherwise, I’d miss out on all the fun.




If anyone knows of a video about our socialist fire departments, please share. If it draws an analogy between being wheeled into the Emergency Room and being asked to sign your financial life away with signing your property away before the firemen will save your house, it’d be a bonus.

Don Brown
November 30, 2009

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Shot Who ? With What ?



I think I’ve mentioned I love Wikipedia. My wife wonders how I find these random stories. Well, it was right on the Wikipedia main page, under the “Did you know...” section. . (It probably won’t be by the time you read this.) Keep in mind, this is from a WWII naval battle.

”At a key moment in the fight, as Borie's port side crewmen were running out of 20 mm and small arms ammunition, two Germans broke from their protected position behind the bridge and approached the quad mount gun. A thrown sheath knife pierced a German crewman's abdomen and he fell overboard. Unable to bring his gun to bear, one of the 4 inch gun captains threw an empty 4 inch shell casing at the other German sailor, and successfully knocked him overboard as well. “

There’s more. A lot more. I didn’t even mention the Very pistol. Have a read.

The Final Battle of the USS Borie

Don Brown
November 29, 2009

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Saturday, November 28, 2009

I Thought the 60s Were Bad



I’ve been falling behind on my Time magazines. I picked one up today and it was a doozy. The cover was....

The Decade From Hell



I thought that was a little harsh. After all, the 60’s were bad. JFK, MLK and RFK were all assassinated. Vietnam. Crime nearly doubled. Riots. Kent State. The 1968 Democratic Convention and Riot. Nixon got elected in ‘69.

But as I started reading the piece I had to admit, Andy Serwer (the writer) had a point.

”Bookended by 9/11 at the start and a financial wipeout at the end, the first 10 years of this century will very likely go down as the most dispiriting and disillusioning decade Americans have lived through in the post–World War II era. “

About halfway through, it stuck me he could have just said that George W. Bush was President during most of it and made his point a whole lot faster. But he never said that. So, you might want to read his take on it all. I almost said “less-biased take” but I’m not sure that would be correct. Mr. Serwer is the managing editor of Fortune magazine. You’ll want to keep that in mind when he starts talking about unions.

Don Brown
November 28, 2009

Friday, November 27, 2009

Eyes Shut Tight



It won’t be too much longer before the light shines so brightly that we won’t be able to ignore it any longer. No matter how tightly we shut our eyes.

The rabid right has made me doubt my faith in America

”What troubles me about the US today in ways I never expected to witness in my lifetime is not Obama's failure to solve all its urgent problems in a year, or even four.

It is the scale of the irrational, emotional and, dare I add, ignorant, reaction his presidency has unleashed on the American right, some of it understandable in a fast-changing and confusing world, much of it ugly and increasingly violent in tone. “


Since I retired, I’ve found it enlightening to see how the rest of the world sees us Americans. I have the time to do it and the internet makes it easy. How the world sees us matters. If for no other reason than we want to borrow their money.

You might want to follow the link in the article to this article too.

UN meets homeless victims of American property dream

”There were not many people packed in to the Los Angeles "town hall" meeting who had heard of the foreign woman with the unfamiliar title who had come to listen to their tales of plight. But many took it as a good sign that she had worried the last American government enough for it to keep her out of the country.

Deanne Weakly was among the first to the microphone. The 51-year-old estate agent told how a couple of years ago she was pulling in $80,000 (£48,000) a year from commissions selling homes in LA's booming property market.

When the bottom fell out of the business with the foreclosure crisis, she lost her own house and ended up living on the streets in a city with more homeless than any other in America. She was sexually assaulted, harassed by the police and in despair. “


I’m not sure which we should fear the most -- the opinion of the rest of the world or the wrath of our own citizens. The gulf between the bailed-out billionaires and the unemployed sleeping on the sidewalk is grotesque -- considering we’re the richest country in the world. Don’t be surprised if the rest of the world is horrified. Don’t be surprised if our own citizens are revolted -- or revolt.

Don Brown
November 27, 2009

Ding ! Ding !



Does this ring a bell ?

Report: FAA endangered public at Newark airport

”In a Nov. 19 letter to White House counsel Gregory Craig, the Office of Special Counsel reported that it found "a substantial likelihood" that the actions of FAA officials constitute "gross mismanagement and a substantial and specific danger to public safety."

The letter stems from a whistle blower complaint filed last year by an air traffic controller that described safety issues with planes landing on intersecting runways at the Newark airport.“


I thought so.

Don Brown
November 27, 2009

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Thursday, November 26, 2009

Didn’t Feel a Thing



This is way outside my area of expertise. But it looks like somebody got cut by the light saber and they didn’t feel a thing...much less see it coming.

Lobbyists pushed off advisory panels

”Hundreds, if not thousands, of lobbyists are likely to be ejected from federal advisory panels as part of a little-noticed initiative by the Obama administration to curb K Street's influence in Washington, according to White House officials and lobbying experts. “

It’s been my experience that these little, obscure things -- done far from the limelight -- wind up having a big impact. But if you’ve read The Power Broker (as I’ve recommended) you already know these things.

(The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York is permanently displayed in the “carousel“ in the lower-left margin. For those that need a further hint, click here.)

Don Brown
November 26, 2009

I’m Thankful



I have more blessings in my life than you want to read about. So, let me stick to the one pertinent to the theme of this blog.

I’m thankful for a President that doesn’t think he needs to open up fictional “express lanes” for the Thanksgiving Day air traffic rush.

(Somebody forgot to clue Congressman Hodes in.)

Happy Thanksgiving, guys. Thanks to one and all for reading.

Don Brown
November 26, 2009

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Dead “Fed” Fraud ?



Mr. Sparkman’s (the census worker found hanging from a tree with the word “FED” scrawled across his chest) death has been ruled a suicide.



In other strange news, the silted delivery of that news on The Rachel Maddow Show was by none other than Howard Dean. He was the guest host for the show that night. For those that don’t know, Mr. Dean is the immediate-past chairman of the Democratic National Party.

I’m not sure what to think about this. Obviously, The Rachel Maddow Show isn’t unbiased (and never has been nor claimed to be that I know about) but this puts it into a whole different realm. Don’t get me wrong, I like Mr. Dean, but I’ll have to think about the implications of this. That should give Mr. Dean some time to work on his anchor skills. Mostly, I'm just surprised that my right-wing friends didn’t bring this to my attention with their usual outrage. Hmmm. Or maybe they consider this normal.

Don Brown
November 25, 2009

Monday, November 23, 2009

NYT vs. NYT



My regular readers know that I use The New York Times as a source on regular basis. It is, perhaps, the most frequently quoted source for me. (I don’t keep up with such things.) Yesterday was an example of why I read it and quote it.

Wave of Debt Payments Facing U.S. Government

My conservative friends (yes, I know you’re out there) should read that one. You would like it. The gist of it is that the United States of America is borrowing a really big pile of money that has to be paid back and these are all the things that might go wrong and we need to stop it.

But this morning -- in the very same paper -- Paul Krugman gets to lambast the central argument in yesterday’s front-page piece. He was a little subtle about it in his regular Monday-morning opinion piece. He was much more direct in his blog.

”Urg. Big piece on the front page saying that, on the one hand, some people say that we’re going to have a debt crisis any day now, while on the other hand … well, actually we never hear from the other side.

As Dean says, the numbers don’t fit the scare story — a decade from now interest payments will reach a level not seen since … 1992. And the market seems unworried, since long-term rates remain low.“


You could be cynical and say The New York Times is just covering all the bases. Or, you could believe that they actually are a first-rate newspaper that tries to provide information and balance. I choose to believe the latter. But not to worry. I’m still enough of a cynic to believe Krugman’s parting shot is correct.

”This suggests that James Kwak is right: a lot of this is about scaring the government into inaction on unemployment.“

Translation for the common man ? The Masters of the Universe say “eat cake”. There’s nothing wrong with the economy if you’re looking at it from the top down. The banks were rescued and the stock market is back up. All is well.

Don Brown
November 23, 2009

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Such Language



You see, it really doesn’t bother me when someone does a better job than me. It makes me try harder. So, I’m happy to have the competition. I like WWVB’s points better than my own. The title too.

HESSIANS AND WHORES, CONSULTANTS AND CONTRACTORS

It’s a little lengthy but it’s Sunday. You normal people have time to read it.

Don Brown
November 22, 2009

Lost in the Excitement



Two stories were lost in all the excitement of the FTI- inspired NADIN outage this week.

Lockheed announces FSS consolidations

”Beginning in February, Lockheed will close its locations in Columbia, Mo.; Honolulu, Hawaii; Kankakee, Ill.; Lansing, Mich.; Nashville, Tenn.; Seattle, Wash., and St. Petersburg, Fla.

This is the second consolidation effort since the company was awarded a contract in 2005 to provide flight services for the FAA. “


I’d love to quote some other source besides AOPA (AOPA supported this disaster) but the major media outlets totally ignored this news. Several local news outlets covered the story but it seems they lacked the knowledge necessary to challenge even the most outrageous statements by Lockheed.

”Corporate representative Jan Gottfredsen said the decision will affect 28 workers in Nashville and was made due to a 13 percent decrease in call volume to the flight services facilities. “

Call volume tends to decrease when you don’t answer the phone. Not to mention the inferior service tends to lose customers. (Remember, the following is from AOPA, the guys that supported contracting out this service to Lockheed.)

”June 6, 2007 — AOPA meets with DOT Inspector General Calvin Scovel and his staff office to once again detail member problems with the flight service station. For nearly two hours, AOPA laid out the problems with long hold times, dropped calls, lost flight plans, inexperienced briefers, and failure to supply critical information such as TFRs. AOPA also shared the results of a recent member AFSS survey. “

Moving on. The second story didn’t even make it into any media (as far as I can tell.) You can do your own search if you like. Search for ERAM -- En Route Automation Modernization. Of course, there may not be a story at all. It may have just been a coincidence that ERAM was being tested on the Wednesday night/Thursday morning mid shift and FTI brought down NADIN at 5 AM on Thursday morning.

Just because Salt Lake Center is where the ERAM installation is being tested doesn’t mean it has anything to do with the NADIN facility at Salt Lake failing. Seriously.

Yes, I am messing with the media. I don’t have any idea if one thing had anything to do with the other. But, even though I’m retired, I’m still plugged into the system enough to know I wasn’t the only one that wondered about it.

If ERAM has half the problems FTI has had, it will get really ugly. So far, things aren’t looking good. ERAM is enormously complex. Even with everybody fully committed to the program it would be one of the most difficult programs the FAA has ever undertaken.

But everyone isn’t on board. The last Administration -- Marion Blakey’s gang -- cut NATCA out of the program. I assume the current Administration is going to try and bring NATCA (and their member’s expertise) back on board. That will be interesting. I’m not sure which will be more difficult -- healing the damage Blakey inflicted on the controllers or making ERAM work. Too bad the FAA will have to do both. At the same time.

Don Brown
November 22, 2009

Saturday, November 21, 2009

I’ll Second That



I’m just echoing James Fallows’ advice to go read this piece by Elliot Gerson.

From Oxford to Wall Street

”For more than a century Rhodes scholars have left Oxford with virtually any job available to them. For much of this time, they have overwhelmingly chosen paths in scholarship, teaching, writing, medicine, scientific research, law, the military and public service. They have reached the highest levels in virtually all fields.

In the 1980s, however, the pattern of career choices began to change.“


Don Brown
November 21, 2009

Not That Naive



I’ve always been too naive as far as I’m concerned. For instance, this story from the current issue of The Atlantic shocked me.

”The plan was to send (bank loan) officers to guest-speak at church-sponsored “wealth-building seminars” like the ones Bowler attended, and dazzle the participants with the possibility of a new house. They would tell pastors that for every person who took out a mortgage, $350 would be donated to the church, or to a charity of the parishioner’s choice. “They wouldn’t say, ‘Hey, Mr. Minister. We want to give your people a bunch of subprime loans,” Jacobson told me. “They would say, ‘Your congregants will be homeowners! They will be able to live the American dream!’” “

I don’t want to go down this particular rabbit hole (click here for those that do) but I want to demonstrate that I’m not the kind of guy that looks for the worst in people. I’ve heard of preachers preying on their flock, of course. I just never thought an industry that depends on trust would actively promote preachers preying on their flock. Yep, I’m naive. But not that naive.

Take a look at this strange story.

Cambodia confirms takeover of air traffic company

”The Cambodian government on Friday confirmed its temporary takeover of management of the country's air traffic control company after one of its Thai employees was arrested last week on a spying charge.“

”A CATS (Thai-owned Cambodia Traffic Air Services) employee, Siwarak Chutipong, was arrested last week for allegedly passing secret information about Thaksin's flight schedule to the Thai Embassy. Thaksin is a fugitive on a Thai corruption charge. “

I don’t know anything about the current situation in Cambodia or Thailand. I do know that a lot of sensitive information flows through an air traffic control system. And we’re not just talking national security or government. A lot of sensitive personal and business information goes through the system. Everything from guys cheating on their wives to multi-billion-dollar-business deals. The guys in the Tower with the binoculars can see the leggy blonde getting in the Bonanza. The Center guys know that MegaCorp’s jet has made several trips to the Middle-of-Nowhere, Georgia and today, Developers-R-Us followed them in there.

I’m happy to report to you that never -- not once -- in my 25 year career was I offered a bribe for information like this. I suspect it’s because a lot of people wouldn’t know to ask. But still, it’s nice to know that if there is any corruption like this, it isn’t obvious.

Show of hands: How many think this would be the case if a private company was running the air traffic control system ? (See the $350 dollar “donations” above.)

And make no mistake about it. The potential exists. But in government hands, there is a system of checks and balances. It works. Even if it is political. Remember this ?

”The Texas Department of Public Safety has destroyed all the records, but the feds have copies. And they have tapes. Lots of tapes. Together, the records and tapes could become the basis of a federal investigation into whether the speaker of the Texas House and the Majority Leader of the US House of Representatives illegally pulled strings in Washington to track down a single Piper Cheyenne for political - not national security - purposes. “.

Back then “...the Majority Leader of the US House of Representatives “ would have been none other than Tom (aka “The Hammer”) Delay. The way a mention of Tom Delay’s name stirs my heart is second only to a mention of Newt Gingrich’s name. Anybody remember the party with “Hookers and Blow” -- and a guest appearance by John Mica? Hey, didn’t we just hear Congressman Mica’s name ? Yeah...we did. Ahhhhh, the good-old-days when the Republican Party elite were corrupting our government, religion and finances all at the same time.

Don Brown
November 21, 2009

It’s Bad Enough



I know what people think. I know they think we just go out of our way to make these things look bad. Things at the FAA just can’t be as bad as we make them out to be. You can tell yourself that -- but it doesn’t change reality.

Reality check: I’m just an old, retired controller (still young to the real retired world.) I get paid nothing to do this. I don’t work for anybody or represent any organization. I don’t even have any ambitions. There’s no job I’m angling for -- no position. Even if there was, they couldn’t pay me whatever it would take to get me to move. (I’m told every man has his price but I haven’t found mine yet.) I’d be the first to tell them -- I’m not worth that much.

I do feel a sense of duty to my country. And I do feel an obligation to the people that send me a retirement check every month -- the U.S. taxpayers.

Without further ado, here’s what fell into my lap this morning.

The Story Behind the FAA Flight-Plan System Crash

”When the router went offline, only the system maintainer—government telecommunications contractor Harris—knew that the backup card was not immediately available, and that one technician, who hadn't come to work yet that day, had the key to the storage closet where the part was kept.

So the FAA had to wait until this technician was able to come to the site in Salt Lake City to replace the faulty card inside the router, reconfigure the software, and get the communications backbone back up and running so that the nation's air traffic could get back to normal. “


(Emphasis added)

Let me pause here to make sure everyone fully understands this. At this 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year safety-critical government facility -- a place that has the ability to all but shut down the nation’s entire aviation system -- the key to the spare parts closet is in the possession of a private contractor that isn’t even present at the facility.

It’s bad enough. I can’t make that look any worse than it is.

”Before 2002, when the FAA contracted out the FTI system to Harris, the system was maintained by FAA telecom technicians on duty 24 hours per day.“

In other words, before 2002, this problem (if it had occurred at all) would have been fixed in minutes (instead of 4 hours) by the technicians that staffed the facility 24/7/365. And the key to the parts locker would have been at the facility instead of roaming around the countryside.

Okay, now it’s time to delve into the inside baseball. For a system that is so critical, where is the system redundancy ? There are two facilities (Salt Lake and Atlanta/Hampton) to handle the load. The design is for them to back each other up. One facility can handle the entire load should the other fail. What happened ?

”The FAA utilizes the NADIN (National Airspace Data Interchange Network) communications link for the flight-plan system. The two NADIN sites in Salt Lake City and Hampton, Ga.—along with including the 21 other FAA IT stations—no longer use a multipath communications backbone composed of many different redundant links.

As mandated by the Bush administration in 2001, all the communications links that previously were government-owned and maintained by FAA employees were contracted to Harris, under the $2.4 billion FTI contract. “


I’ll repeat myself -- It’s bad enough. I can’t make that look any worse than it is.

”...no longer use a multipath communications backbone composed of many different redundant links.“

We (and I do mean we) told you so.

Don Brown
November 21, 2009

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Friday, November 20, 2009

Broken Pieces of the Puzzle



I bet you came here today looking for an explanation of what went wrong yesterday. You’re going to get more than you bargained for.

First, the FAA’s statement:

”The failure was attributed to a software configuration problem within the FAA Telecommunications Infrastructure (FTI) in Salt Lake City.  As a result FAA services used primarily for traffic flow and flight planning were unavailable electronically. 

The National Airspace Data Interchange Network (NADIN), which processes flight planning, was affected because it relies on the FTI services.  During the outage air traffic controllers managed flight plan data manually and safely according to FAA contingency plans.“


I hope you heeded my previous advice.

”Speaking of radar outages, here are three letters for you to remember -- FTI. When the next major ATC outage occurs, those are the three letters to listen for -- FTI. It stands for Federal Telecommunications Infrastructure. “

In that same blog entry, I tell you to listen to PASS (Professional Aviation Safety Specialists, AFL-CIO). Is it live ot is it Memorex ?

”Despite a rosy picture painted Tuesday by the Federal Aviation Administration, the FAA Telecommunications Infrastructure (FTI) network is unreliable, lacking suitable backups, and continues to be a source of great frustration and deep concern for the FAA technicians and air traffic controllers who must deal with the fallout of the FAA’s decision to cut corners and costs on this project and run it on the razor’s edge despite a lengthy list of failures and outages.“

It’s Memorex. That wasn’t from yesterday, it was from April, 2008.

Here’s the PASS press release from yesterday.

”The Professional Aviation Safety Specialists, AFL-CIO (PASS), the union that represents Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) technicians, is extremely concerned about the resolution process in reaction to today's outage of the Federal Telecommunications Infrastructure (FTI). The outage occurred due to a corrupt router card for the FTI server at the Salt Lake Center in Utah and had a rippling effect that caused significant delays across the country.

FTI, which provides all telecommunications used to transfer critical data used by the FAA for air traffic control, is owned by Harris Corporation. As such, the system is not maintained by the FAA. When the outage occurred at the Salt Lake Center, Harris Corporation attempted to troubleshoot the problem remotely but eventually a Harris FTI technician had to be dispatched to the scene in order to fix the problem. In the end, it took four hours for Harris to rectify the situation.


(Emphasis added)

Please, I’m begging you. If you have the time, read the whole press release -- critically. It just keeps getting better and better (or worse and worse). Look for 4 letters -- ADS-B.

Here’s another piece for the technical aspects from Computerworld.

Okay, to sum it up. FTI corrupts a router at the Salt Lake NADIN facility that handles flight plans. FTI is a bad program from the start. NADIN is just old. The NADIN facility in Atlanta is supposed to back up the NADIN facility in Salt Lake. But to do that, FTI has to work. I haven’t seen an explanation of that missing link (literally) yet. But that is what FTI -- Federal Telecommunications Infrastructure -- does. It provides data communications. Without communications between the two NADIN facilities, the whole system breaks down.

FTI is run by Harris Corporation. You might remember they are wrapped up with our old friend Congressman John Mica. In other words, we told you so. At least as far back as 2007.

”“Despite the known safety-related problems directly attributed to the FTI program, Congressman John Mica was adamant then that the program should continue.” “

”This is such a “target-rich environment” I hardly know where to start. Seriously, you could spend all day just reading the links I found it ten minutes and you don’t have to take my word for it. Go to Google and type in “+FAA +FTI” (or just click on the link) and you can read all day. “

Make that two days now. And we haven’t even scratched the surface. It’s all connected. The politics, contracting out, lack of manpower, nonexistent redundancy, inadequate training and on and on and on. It isn’t just one piece of the puzzle that is broken. It’s a lot of pieces.

If you think the “I told you so”s are uncomfortable now...wait until somebody dies. In case you haven’t figure it out, that is how this all ends. That’s how it always ends. Somebody dies and we fix it. It doesn’t have to be that way. But that is the way it always is.

Don Brown
November 20, 2009

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Thursday, November 19, 2009

It’s NADIN



It’s NADIN. Again.

Don Brown
November 19, 2009

Final Warning



If you keep up with Paul Krugman’s blog, you’ve probably seen him quote Brad Delong. Just in case you didn’t click on the link he provided Wednesday, you might want to go back and look again.

From Krugman:

”Brad DeLong says that the loss of public trust due to the kid-gloves treatment of bankers has raised the probability of another Great Depression, because the public won’t support another round of bailouts even if it becomes desperately necessary. I agree — but I think the bigger cost is that we’ve greatly increased the chance of a Japanese-style lost decade, with I would now give roughly even odds of happening. Why? Because bank-friendly policies have squandered public trust in all government action: try talking to the general public about stimulus, and it’s all confounded in their minds with the deeply unpopular bailouts. “

From DeLong:

”For 2 1/4 years now I have been saying that there is no chance of a repeat of the Great Depression or anything like it--that we know what to do and how to do it and will do it if things turn south.

I don't think I can say that anymore. In my estimation the chances of another big downward shock to the U.S. economy--a shock that would carry us from the 1/3-of-a-Great-Depression we have now to 2/3 or more--are about 5%. And it now looks very much as if if such a shock hits the U.S. government will be unable to do a d----- thing about it. “


It keeps getting more interesting from there. This may well be your final warning on the subject. We humans rarely control events. We are usually controlled by them. When you start thinking about what kind of “shock” could hit us -- or the world -- it doesn’t take a lot of imagination to see how precarious our position is.

And it is mostly political. I’ll be honest. I can’t fathom it. I can’t understand how people can be so politically and financially blind to reality. America placed an enormous bet on finance as the economic engine instead of manufacturing. At the same time, we began a political reeducation that Wall Street wasn’t the villain that robbed our grandparents and created the Great Depression -- Wall Street was the way forward to the future. The road was going to be paved with 401k’s made of gold. Free markets = the Promised Land. (The religious imagery is intentional. I don’t believe any of this would have been possible without the support of the Religious Right.)

We are now stuck with a political stalemate. Half the country thinks I (and people like me) am the one that is politically and financially blind. And they are just as convinced of my blindness as I am of theirs. But as they said during the Bush years, “Elections have consequences”.

While I can’t grasp President Obama’s political strategy, I can see the consequences. I see his political opponents falling apart. Everyone thought the tea-bag guys had rocked the world this summer. There was lots of hand wringing. Reality ? The House passed a health care Bill. All were aghast that President Obama “declared war” on Fox News. Reality ? Yawn. And the latest ? Bowing in Japan. Vice-President Joe Biden appeared on The Daily Show this week. When he walked out, he and Jon Stewart bowed to each other. It was hilarious because the Republican right wing (the wing nuts that were running the country a year ago) has become a joke.

I see this and I recognize that the political strategy is working. Still, I sense danger. I feel that time is short. Perhaps my perspective is tainted by my being in the heartland of the hard cases -- here in the South.

Most of the people in America are too busy trying to keep their heads above water to pay attention to all these forces at play. Not to mention, it’s amazing how little of it you see on “normal” TV. They’re too busy covering whether to bow or not to bow in a country where everybody bows to each other. They don’t have time to explain that the financial industry took in 41% of the country’s domestic corporate profits -- much less what it means. (Why invest in a car-making plant when you can make more money by financing loans to buy cars ? Because it keeps you from becoming a banana republic.)

I’m not sure President Obama has time to win over the hearts and minds of the electorate with calm, educational speeches, a desire for bipartisanship and results. He may have to be a little more blunt. He might have to use a line like the one I read in Bad Money (by Kevin Phillips) last night, where Harry Truman called Republicans, “bloodsuckers with offices in Wall Street”. People down here understand blunt. For a lot of people, that is all they understand.

It might be time to turn the light saber on. (If you’re unfamiliar with that line, you’ll have to watch this video.)

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
David Plouffe
www.thedailyshow.com
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorHealth Care Crisis


Don Brown
November 19, 2009

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Laugh of the Day



I was watching The Daily Show last night. It’s the funniest thing I’ve seen all week. You don’t have to watch the whole thing. The first minute cracked me up.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Lou Dobbs
www.thedailyshow.com
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorHealth Care Crisis



Don Brown
November 19, 2009

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Hollowed Out



I remember back well before I retired, a friend of mine was on a detail at FAA Headquarters in Washington. She was amazed at the number of contractors there and went so far as to say, “There are more contractor badges there than government badges.” In other words, the contractors outnumbered the government employees inside a government agency’s headquarters.

Immediately, you recognize that there is something wrong with that, don’t you ? Still, it’s hard to verbalize it, to think it through and to name it. See if this video helps. And remember Marion Blakey -- the ex-FAA Administrator now working for an industry group -- while you’re listening.




Don Brown
November 18, 2009

Monday, November 16, 2009

WWVB -- Colbert on Rand



You’ve got to see it. WWVB posted the perfect video for the Robert Poole/Ayn Rand lovefest. It’s Stephen Colbert doing a “The Word” segment on Ayn Rand.

CONSIGNING AYN RAND TO THE DUSTBIN OF HISTORY

In “The Word” segment, look for the comment about actually making it through the book (Atlas Shrugged). I had to give that an “Amen !”. I made it through about 800 pages before I decided I just couldn’t take it anymore. And I’m the guy that read 3,000+ pages about LBJ.

Don Brown
November 16, 2009

Where’s the Hate ?



I just finished reading an opinion piece in the Washington Post. Something must be wrong. It made sense, it included Republicans, acting on a bipartisan measure, honoring a Republican and it wasn’t hateful at all. Can this really be Washington ?

Yes. It can.

ROTC for civilian service

”But inspiration is not enough. The military, after all, does not rely solely on patriotic feelings to build its force, and neither should the civilian parts of government. One of the most powerful incentives the military has is the Reserve Officers' Training Corps, which offers assistance to those seeking higher education. It's time for a civilian ROTC.

That's the idea of a bipartisan group of senators and House members, who are proposing to create a Roosevelt Scholars program, named after Teddy Roosevelt. Reps. David Price (D-N.C.) and Mike Castle (R-Del.) have introduced a bill in the House, and a similar measure is expected in the Senate this week from Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and George Voinovich (R-Ohio). “


Sign me up. What a breath of fresh air. The rest of the article is well worth reading.

Don Brown
November 16, 2009

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Welcome Aboard Comrade



They are wearing me down. I’m not sure I can treat these people seriously anymore. Perhaps I never should have. I’m sorry, but I can’t call this Wal-Street Journal headline even slightly better than propaganda. It’s just out and out propaganda.

Airlines Fight for Safety-Upgrade Funds

There’s no safety issue here (or in this story.) Marion Blakey can’t call this the safest period in aviation history as FAA Administrator and then turn around and ask for a handout on safety grounds as an industry shill. (Notice I don’t need two separate links to prove that statement. It’s available in one link. See what I mean about propaganda ?) Even reading the story, you can’t find the word “safety” until almost the end.

”The debate comes months after aviation industry officials failed to have air-traffic control issues included in sweeping federal economic-stimulus legislation. Since then, the industry coalition has sent letters to Capitol Hill, talked with Mr. Summers and enlisted the support of the FAA. It has argued that such assistance would produce tangible, near-term efficiency and safety benefits, long before the FAA's tentative 2018 deadline for widespread deployment. “

Even when safety is finally mentioned, it’s in the “and” category. They can’t say NextGen (that’s what we’re talking about here) will improve safety (because it won’t) so they toss in an “and” to include “efficiency”. I don’t know why. It doesn’t really help. The FAA and the airlines already used the saving-gas-on-direct-routes lie with URET. They “saved” themselves right into bankruptcy.

And then, at the very last, there is this “Hail Mary” pass on safety.

”David Traynham, another Boeing official, told an FAA safety conference in September: "We need to broaden our thinking about what constitutes" air-traffic control systems. "A lot of the [future] infrastructure," he said, "is going to be equipment in cockpits." “

I’m not sure that I can “broaden” my mind that much -- without it exploding. How am I supposed to consider an over-priced and under-needed black box in a private airliner as part of the publicly-funded air traffic control system ? And in case you’re confused, that is what all this is about.

The airlines want the Federal government to pay for the NextGen-required navigational equipment on their airplanes. They can’t afford to pay for it so they want you to buy it for them.

US Airways to U.S.: We can’t afford new traffic control

It’s more Lemon Socialism. Only worse. Even if NexGen paid off (and it won’t), the carnival barkers trying to sell you on this idea wouldn’t share the wealth with their workers. They’ll take their slightly-smaller-than-Wall-Street’s bonuses, pull the rip cord on their golden parachutes and leave the pilots, flight attendants and mechanics with nothing. No salaries, no jobs, no prospects and no pensions.

In case it hasn’t occurred to you, the biggest safety problem in aviation right now is the fatigued (not to mention demoralized) workers in the industry. You know, the pilots that commute all the way across the country because they can’t afford to move. The crazy hours. Falling asleep at the wheel. That kind of thing. If you -- the taxpayer -- want to spend some money on safety, you’d do a lot better by spending it on the people that are supposed to keep you safe.

Don Brown
November 16, 2009

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Happy to Help



When I stumbled upon a video of Robert Poole idolizing Ayn Rand, I knew just the man to send it to. But, in my humble opinion, I think WWVB should have linked to the explanation of “The Overton Window” at his own blog.

There aren’t many blogs (that I’m aware of anyway) where you’ll see Richard Bach, Whittaker Chambers and Cougars in one post. By the way, I loved the review of Ayn Rand’s works by Whittaker Chambers. The younger readers might want to read up on Mr. Chambers.

The world isn’t black and white. It’s complicated. It’s messy. You spend the first 12 years of school learning a simplistic view of history. You’ll spend a lifetime unlearning it.

Don Brown
November 16, 2009

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Zombie Story



The story that just...will...not...die.

Controllers Were Slow to Notify Defense Command of Errant Jet

”Air traffic control supervisors delayed nearly an hour in notifying Norad, the military air defense command, that a Northwest Airlines jetliner was not responding to radio calls, the head of the Federal Aviation Administration said Friday.“

I really wonder, in 2-3 months when the investigation is over, will the story gain any attention then ? When it counts ? I bet not.

Even Mr. Wald’s (the reporter of the story) attempt to explain the unexplainable sounds weak.

”The incident did not result in any damage or injury. But in a period of worry over distracted driving, it has attracted widespread public attention.“

Whatever. When the report comes out and we are reminded (again) that we don’t have an effective system for passing critical information like the fact an aircraft is NORDO -- everybody will yawn and the editors will give it a pass. Until we put two of them together that is. Everybody will care then.

It’s the age-old curse of the safety people. Nobody cares until it is too late. Or, as I used to say, it’s never a problem until it’s a problem. And then it’s really a problem.

CHI99IA100A

”The aircraft came within an estimated 1/2 mile horizontal and 0 feet vertical separation ... “

”ATC recognized that both airplanes were NORDO but were unable to reestablish radio....“

”...neither airplane was equipped with TCAS.“

Just a half mile and it could have really been a problem. A problem that we would have solved. For those that don’t know, the NTSB used this incident to push for the installment of TCAS on freighters. They -- not without cause -- thought it would add in another safety layer to the system. And in a way, it did. But TCAS isn’t perfect. The problem with NORDO is growing and the solution is found where the problem starts -- at the controller’s position.

I hate quoting myself but....

”No person, no machine -- no system -- is infallible. All of them have limitations. You can't continuously push a machine past it's limits and not expect it to fail. You can't give people an unusual amount of tasks to accomplish on a regular basis and not expect them to fail. We can't make an unlimited number of errors -- even small ones -- and not expect the system to fail. The FAA, in the training video, notes 11 separate "links" (or errors) in the chain of events. Each error was what we tend to think of as a "small" error. But as the magnitude of this event sinks in you realize that there isn't any such thing as a "small" error in this business.“

If we allow the number of NORDOs to increase -- or even remain the same -- without developing a better way of handling and reacting to the information, the system will fail.

Don Brown
November 14, 2009

Speaking of Krugman



A very short and succinct blog from Paul Krugman, clarifying what I was trying to convey yesterday.

It’s the stupidity economy

”The first-best answer — that is, the answer that economic models, like my old Japan’s trap analysis, suggest would be optimal — would be to credibly commit to higher inflation, so as to reduce real interest rates.“

”The second-best answer would be a really big fiscal expansion, sufficient to mostly close the output gap. “

”That’s why, at this point, I’m turning to what I understand perfectly well to be a third-best solution: subsidizing jobs and promoting work-sharing. “

Read the blog to fill in the gaps.

Don Brown
November 14, 2009

Friday, November 13, 2009

Ahead of the Curve



Krugman is always ahead of the curve. You can get onboard or you can just sit and watch.

Free to Lose

”We could, for example, have New-Deal-style employment programs. Perhaps such a thing is politically impossible now — Glenn Beck would describe anything like the Works Progress Administration as a plan to recruit pro-Obama brownshirts — but we should note, for the record, that at their peak, the W.P.A. and the Civilian Conservation Corps employed millions of Americans, at relatively low cost to the budget. “

Krugman has mentioned this a couple of times now. I’m sure it’s deliberate. The thing to note is that our problems -- the economy, health care, unemployment -- are solvable. Our problems have technical solutions. What we lack is political consensus to implement the solutions. If you aren’t communicating with your Congressmen, you aren’t helping.

If you’re keeping up, you should remember that Krugman basically wanted a stimulus double the size of what was approved. That is because he could see far enough into the future to recognize unemployment would be a problem.

”Just to be clear, I believe that a large enough conventional stimulus would do the trick. But since that doesn’t seem to be in the cards, we need to talk about cheaper alternatives that address the job problem directly. “

He called for a bigger stimulus at the start. He called for a second stimulus after the first passed but was too small. He’s now calling for direct action on the unemployment problem.

I read a first-hand account of the Depression the other day. I should have saved it. In short, the author talked about how people had their heads in the sand. Things really weren’t that bad in 1929 after the stock market crashed. Some had a tough time but not all. Things would get better in the Spring. Then it was things will get better in the Fall after the harvest. Things will be better next year -- in the Spring. Or the next. Or maybe the next.

What was really happening was that every day that passed made things just a little bit worse. A few more lost a job. A few more lost their homes. A few more got sick and couldn’t pay their rent. The Depression didn’t come on with a bang. It was a long, slow spiral into deeper and deeper despair.

History puts the start of the Great Depression in 1929. Look at when unemployment peaked.




The Great Recession started in 2008. It’s only 2009 (1930). Getting the flick ?

We’ve only stopped the free fall of the economy. (That was a major feat but it was only the start.) We haven’t fixed it yet. We have a lot of things to do but it’s hard to think of a more important task than putting people back to work. Otherwise, they’ll just sit at home, depressed and listening to the likes of Glenn Beck. Always remember that the real danger of the economic upheaval is the social upheaval that will follow if we don’t solve it. We don’t want a World War III.

Don Brown
November 13, 2009

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OutFoxed



Jon Stewart is still the smartest man on TV.

”Fox News: We Alter Reality. You Are Sold a Preconceived Narrative."


The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Sean Hannity Apologizes to Jon
www.thedailyshow.com
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorHealth Care Crisis


Don Brown
November 13, 2009

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Thursday, November 12, 2009

A Balance



I hope that you will see this item elsewhere in the news today. That means, somewhere in the mainstream, where John Q. Public sees it. It is a good, short summation of the airline industry from the Associated Press.

Unions prod Obama to fix ailing airline industry

”Airlines are offering the fewest seats to passengers, measured by available seats and distance traveled, in more than a decade. They have shed more than 158,000 full-time jobs since employment peaked in 2001 and lost an estimated $33 billion over the past decade. Thirteen airlines have filed for bankruptcy in the past two years. “

”A report last year by a government watchdog said nine large U.S. airlines farm out 70 percent of major maintenance. Overseas repair shops handled one-quarter of the work, challenging the ability of U.S. inspectors to determine whether it is done properly, the report said. “

”Major airlines have also farmed out short-haul trips to regional carriers, which now account for half of all domestic flights. Regional airlines often hire pilots with significantly less experience and pay lower wages than major airlines. Both issues have been raised in the National Transportation Safety Board's investigation of the crash of Continental Connection Flight 3407, which crashed near Buffalo, N.Y., in February, killing 50 people. The flight was operated for Continental by regional carrier Colgan Air Inc. of Manassas, Va.“

As the title of the piece says, unions are pushing for a solution.

”Ed Wytkind, the trades department's president, said the industry has become dysfunctional, and all involved are suffering. He said he'd like to see a blue-ribbon commission to recommend solutions.

"We can't keep doing things the exact same way and expect a better outcome," Wytkind said, adding that new regulation probably should be considered.“


I know that I won’t be on a panel, much less a blue-ribbon one. But I do have a solution to offer. You may have read it before.

The Solution is Slots (in 650 words or less)

”How about the dismal performance of the airline industry that is bleeding money -- even as it tries to nickel-and-dime its customers to death with charges for pillows, food and water ? Yes, appropriate slot restrictions will solve even that problem. If we limit the supply of landing slots at the nation’s busiest airports to a sustainable rate of air traffic -- sustainable even in typically poor weather -- the price of tickets will go up. “

Higher ticket prices are like higher taxes. Nobody wants to hear about them. In other words, no one wants to face reality. That’s the reason God made politicians. They'll lie to you as they do what needs to be done. Hey, it’s either that or we can continue to let a bankrupt business model torture its customers (if not kill them) while it driving worker’s pay down to minimum wage levels.

I think slots will be enough to bring some sanity to the industry. I think they will bring some stability to the industry. I think slots will allow airlines to return to profitability. I think they will prevent every guy with more money that brains from entering the industry and killing the existing airlines’ profits. In other words, I think limiting the number of landing slots at all commercial airports would be the only new regulation needed. I might be wrong. But I believe it’s the best place to start.

Regardless, I hope that you note this new initiative is brought to you by the unions. Unions, historically, have had power to keep businesses in check. Despite a 30 year war to destroy them, unions are still here. And here is proof that the message of the union busters is a lie. Unions don’t want businesses to fail. We want profitable businesses. We want them to thrive. That’s where our paychecks come from.

I wish Ed Wytkind and the AFL-CIO's Transportation Trades Department much success. I hope they can provide some balance to this “dysfunctional” industry.

Don Brown
November 12, 2009

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

GPS-induced Brain Rot



Focus.

”In June, Al Byrd’s three-bedroom home, built by his father on the western outskirts of Atlanta, was mistakenly torn down by a demolition company. “I said, ‘Don’t you have an address?’ ” a distraught Byrd later recounted. “He said, ‘Yes, my GPS coordinates led me right to this address here.’ ” “

Do I have your attention now ? Good. Read on.

I am, now, forever in debt to the Earth-Bound Misfit. Without her, I would have never heard of The Walrus and I would never have seen this article by Alex Hutchinson:

Global Impositioning Systems

It’s a lengthy article so instead of gushing about it, I’m just quoting some interesting parts. Find a few minutes to set aside and read the whole thing without distractions. It is well worth your time.

”The demonstrable benefits of GPS have, however, removed much of the incentive for the younger generation in Igloolik to undertake the arduous process of learning traditional navigation techniques. Elders worry about this loss of knowledge, for reasons that go beyond the cultural — a straight line across an empty icefield plotted by GPS doesn’t warn about the thin ice traditional trails would have skirted. Dead batteries and frozen screens, both common occurrences in the harsh Arctic conditions, would also be disastrous for anyone guided solely by technology. “

Paying attention young controllers and pilots ?

”Though the data can only be extrapolated so far, Lerch’s mouse studies suggest that human brains begin to reorganize very quickly in response to the way we use them. The implications of this concern Bohbot. She fears that overreliance on GPS, which demands a hyper-pure form of stimulus-response behaviour, will result in our using the spatial capabilities of the hippocampus less, and that it will in turn get smaller. Other studies have tied atrophy of the hippocampus to increased risk of dementia. “We can only draw an inference,” Bohbot acknowledges. “But there’s a logical conclusion that people could increase their risk of atrophy if they stop paying attention to where they are and where they go.” “

(Emphasis added -- just to get your attention. Yes, exercising the brain actually changes the brain. Read the article.)

”He often encounters people who believe they have terrible navigation skills but who turn out to perform perfectly well on his tests. It may be, for example, that their spouses always drive, so they have no reason to pay attention to their routes and consequently never know where they are. That’s an attention problem, not a navigation problem. “

I apologize to my wife. Now, go read the article.

Don Brown
November 11, 2009

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Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Chuck Lorre



You’ve seen these on TV. You’ve just never taken the time to read them. I loved this one.

Don Brown
November 10, 2009

Pull Away, Me Lads



I sure can make things complicated. I just wanted to share a story about a light sail with you and the next think I know I’m reading about Wales. Okay, first the light sail.

Setting Sail Into Space, Propelled by Sunshine


”About a year from now, if all goes well, a box about the size of a loaf of bread will pop out of a rocket some 500 miles above the Earth. There in the vacuum it will unfurl four triangular sails as shiny as moonlight and only barely more substantial. Then it will slowly rise on a sunbeam and move across the stars. “

I first read about light sails in a sci-fi book -- The Mote in God's Eye -- when I was a kid. (Great book, by the way.) To see them becoming real is exciting.

If you read the article, you’ll find out that it’s a private adventure. Sailing. Privateer. Now I’v got Roger McGuinn’s song in my head. It’s a disease I have. Say something (nearly anything) and it reminds me of a song. Just saying “Roger McGuinn” brings this song to mind. It’s not a party trick -- something to impress the crowd. It’s unbidden thoughts that have me humming a tune at inappropriate times. I hope you can see how this could get out of hand.

”Pull away me lads of the Cardiff Rose
And hoist the Jolly Roger “




Oh yeah, Cardiff is a town in Wales. A rose is just a rose. By any other name, just as sweet. Unless of course, you’re talking about a Compass Rose. Something pirates would find useful. Somebody make me stop.

Don Brown
November 10, 2009

Monday, November 09, 2009

Good Catch By E.J.



E.J. Dionne has a good story at the Washington Post. I didn’t hear about it anywhere else. You probably didn’t either.

On Election Day, a win for government

”Here's a story you may have missed because it flies in the face of the dreary conventional wisdom: When advocates of public programs take on the right-wing anti-government crowd directly, the government-haters lose. “

Don Brown
November 9, 2009

Short and Smart



I wonder if the non-writers can appreciate the brilliance of Paul Krugman. I mean, obviously he’s got it when it comes to economics. He’s got the Nobel to prove it. But as a writer ? I’d kill to be able to sum up an insightful observation, about an important subject, so succinctly.

Paranoia Strikes Deep

”What all this shows is that the G.O.P. has been taken over by the people it used to exploit. “

I could write three blogs -- right this second -- based on those 19 words. They would give you a deeper understanding of the subject. But it wouldn’t change the fact that one sentence captured it all.

Here, write your own blog.

1) Anti-Abortion: We support you by leaving town when you show up.

Bush Praises Anti-Abortion Rally

2) I’ve already written one on rednecks. I could write a dozen.

Redneck 101

3) The Psalm (127) last Sunday was about a “quiver full”. I almost wrote a blog about it then.

“Sons are indeed a heritage from the Lord,
   the fruit of the womb a reward.
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior
   are the sons of one’s youth.
Happy is the man who has
   his quiver full of them.
He shall not be put to shame
   when he speaks with his enemies in the gate. “


I bet there weren’t 10 people in the pews that have ever heard of these folks. But there are hundreds of groups like them, and -- overwhelmingly -- they vote Republican.

Quiverfull is a movement among conservative evangelical Christian couples chiefly in the United States, but with some adherents in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, England and elsewhere. Its viewpoint is to receive children eagerly as blessings from God, eschewing all forms of birth control, including natural family planning and sterilization. “

Read the Krugman article.

”Until recently, however, that catering mostly took the form of empty symbolism. Once elections were won, the issues that fired up the base almost always took a back seat to the economic concerns of the elite.“

The economic and political elite of the Republican party crashed and burned with Wall Street and “W”. Now the exploited are in charge of what’s left of the Party.

Don Brown
November 9, 2009

ITYS #500 -- 10%



Remember that I told you so ? Back in January ?

”Unemployment is currently 7.2%. Most projections expect it to reach 10%. During the Depression, unemployment hit 25%. That shouldn’t provide much comfort. The tipping point -- the point that seems to scare the experts -- is somewhere around 10% unemployment. I suspect that the various people doing these calculations know what they mean and can’t bear the thought of projecting 12% or 15% unemployment -- knowing what the consequences of those projections would mean. “

(Emphasis added)

Okay, we’re there. Unemployment officially reached 10%.

U.S. Unemployment Rate Hits 10.2%, Highest in 26 Years


”As the unemployment rate surged to 10.2 percent in October, reaching double digits for the first time in 26 years, it suddenly seemed possible that the nation might yet confront the worst joblessness since the Great Depression. “

If I could see this coming almost a year ago (mostly because I knew which people to read) you can bet your bottom dollar that every U.S. Congressman could see it coming. That is what makes them successful politicians -- their ability to tell which way the wind is blowing. If you accept that premise -- that Congress has access to better data and analysis than I do -- you have to ask yourself the question, “Why didn’t they do something about it ?” They’re not stupid. Not even the Republicans.

Which brings me to my main point. Not only did Congress not do anything substantial about the coming unemployment spike (they did extend unemployment benefits), the Republicans actually tried to prevent Congress from doing anything. You need to appreciate the cold political calculation taking place here and just how dangerous it is.

The Republican party prevented a larger stimulus from being passed. A stimulus bill that allowed such things as keeping people employed (think State-employed teachers, police, firemen, etc. if nothing else) and would have created more jobs. Most States can’t run deficits (by law) and are using the stimulus money to plug the huge holes in their budgets. Even with this money, the States are laying people off as their tax revenues decline because their citizens are not working -- they’re unemployed. So the States have no choice but to add fuel to this fire by adding their own employees to the ranks of the unemployed.

An employed citizen -- even one doing “make work” -- pays State and local taxes. An unemployed one doesn’t. He also sits at home and stews about it. He sits at home and thinks about how unfair it is that he -- a hard-working, honest American -- can’t find a job. It doesn’t take much imagination to see how this situation can breed anger and resentment. Serious anger and resentment. The kinds that leads to riots and civil unrest.

The Republicans have to know this. Unless you think they are stupid. Or insane. So, have they tried to alleviate this ? From what I’ve seen, they have actually promoted it. Tea Parties. Carrying guns to a town hall meeting. And now, this latest episode at the Capitol.

No one said freedom was pretty

”Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), who made her name suggesting that Barack Obama and other Democrats have "anti-American" views, appeared on Fox News on Friday night and urged Americans to come to Washington to protest: "We need to pay a house call on Nancy Pelosi and tell her what she can do with the Pelosi health-care plan."

They came as directed, about 5,000 tea-party regulars and antiabortion activists, to the West Lawn of the Capitol on Thursday for what Bachmann called a "Super Bowl of Freedom," sponsored by Republican members of Congress. And what a game it was.“


The whole ball of wax is there for you to see if you care to. The “Tea Party”, aka “Angry White Men”, aka "The Permanently Pissed Off", “sponsored by Republican members of Congress”, Fox News and Michele Bachmann. Heaven help us. The leadership of the Republican party actually jumped onto the crazy lady’s bandwagon. Seriously, Representative Michele Bachmann is nuts. Don’t take my word for it.

”Leading Republicans wince occasionally at her appearances on the floor and on television, but they also see her as someone with telegenic appeal who can energize conservatives and aggravate Democrats and they are not likely to rein her in. “

The country is sitting on a powder keg of unemployment and the Republicans want to strike a match. They are consciously using words like “revolution” and feeding the anger that exists in the country. These events could spin out of control. And they know it. It is a calculated position taken at great risk.

Two more things and I’ll let you go. First, take a look at the legend for the unemployment map.



Notice that it -- effectively -- doesn’t show unemployment rates above 10%. The darkest areas are “10.0 to 60.0” percent.

Second, if you think it’s just the Republicans that are making cold political calculations you aren’t paying attention. Take a look at this special report in The New York Times.

House Democrats Who Voted Against the Health Care Bill

”An overwhelming majority of the Democratic lawmakers who opposed the bill — 31 of the 39 — represent districts that were won by Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, in the 2008 presidential election, and a third of them were freshmen. “

Even in perilous times -- when political courage is needed -- the cold calculations of getting reelected are there for all to see. “We (Congress) don’t care what health care costs you, as long as it doesn’t cost us our jobs.” If only they cared as much about us losing our jobs as they do about losing theirs.

Don Brown
November 9, 2009

Friday, November 06, 2009

Thursday, November 05, 2009

More From the Usual Suspects



My readers know better, but Forbes’ readers don’t.

”Q: Didn't deregulation wreck the airline industry?

A: No, deregulation greatly benefited consumers. The problem is that government did not finish the job. “


You can just imagine where an article written by Steve Forces goes from there. (Hmmm, Grandfather’s money, Brooks School, Princeton, Run for President. Sounds like your typical magazine article writer.) Not to mention his lady co-author -- Elizabeth Ames. (A pearl necklace ? Really ?) These two are highly qualified to tell you everything the “consumer” needs to know about the airline industry, I’m sure. (And here I was thinking the National Airspace System was supposed to benefit the citizens.)

”As we have seen in the case of the financial crisis, people often blame problems on a lack of regulation when the real culprit is bad regulation. This is true of the problems plaguing the airline industry.“

(Focus Brown. Don’t let the billion-dollar-banker-bonus-”bad” regulations distract you.)

”These problems are usually blamed on airline deregulation. Writer Matthew Yglesias, a free-market critic,....“

Well, Matthew’s stock just shot up as far as I’m concerned. (You can check him out at Wikipedia for a slightly less-biased source that isn’t trying to redefine him.) (Oh yeah, I need to focus.)

”In most industries, the high-quality products usually offer the biggest profit margins, because they allow companies to charge more.“

What ? Huh ? Whatever. Airlines aren’t “most industries” so I won’t even try to figure that one out.

”Washington's deregulation of airlines is not responsible for today's poor service. The problems stem from the fact that--contrary to what is believed--the entire airline industry was not deregulated. Airports and air-traffic-control systems that are critical to smooth and efficient flying were left under the control of government. “

Here we go. We just didn’t go far enough in deregulating things. The bankers should have been able to get trillion dollar bonuses. Well, that was the argument just a few paragraphs back wasn’t it ?

If we’re talking about deregulating/privatizing/corporatizing air traffic control and airports it must be time for....wait for it....

”Writing in Regulation magazine, Robert Poole Jr. and Viggo Butler explain that government management of our airports and air-traffic-control systems has produced an antiquated, inefficient infrastructure unequipped to handle the explosion of air travel resulting from deregulation. “

Heeeeeerrrrre’s Bobby ! Hold the applause until he can get the “1950’s” line in.

”Poole and Butler say that the misery of today's air travel is largely caused by an air-traffic-control system that relies on outdated 1950s technology.“

“Thank you, folks. I’ll be here all week.”

There’s just one more thing I have to share with my readers. I really find it hard to believe that people -- supposedly smart business people, the kind you would expect to read Forbes -- would pay to be talked to like children. Look at this last line.

Real World Lesson
Government management, driven by politics and divorced from the realities of supply and demand, is not up to the task of managing the complex logistics of aviation infrastructure. “


Just in case you were too stupid to understand what Steve and Elizabeth were trying to tell you, let them spell it out for you: Government Bad -- Business Good. Their honest day’s work done, they retire to the parlor for tea.

Please go back and read some of Steve Forbes’ Wikipedia entry.

”...joined the board of directors of the health care industry funded advocacy organization FreedomWorks...

...member of the board of trustees of the Heritage Foundation....

...is shown Saturday mornings on Fox News Channel...

....joined Rudolph Giuliani's campaign for the 2008 presidential election....

...served as John McCain's Economic Adviser on Taxes....“


These are the people that support Robert Poole and his agenda. If you don’t know what FreedomWorks is, take a couple of minutes to find out and see who funds them. See if they are the kind of people you want dismantling your government. Again.

Don Brown
November 5, 2009