Saturday, July 31, 2010

I Like This Guy

This is one of those things that may come back to bite me...but I like Congressman Anthony Weiner from New York. I’m providing a blurb from CBS News so you can check out the bigger story but THE story is that Congressman Wiener went ballistic on the Republicans voting against the bill for “procedural” reasons.

Anthony Weiner Erupts at Republicans for Rejecting 9/11 Responders Health Bill

”Most House Republicans on Thursday voted against a bill to provide $7.4 billion in aid to 9/11 first responders who became sick after the attacks. They complained that Democrats opted to bypass voting on amendments, opting instead for a process that sped up the vote but required a two-thirds majority.”

And here’s the video from YouTube:

As for the politics, I think Greg Sargent from The Washington Post has an excellent point.

”Whatever their substantive objections to each piece of legislation Republicans oppose, their larger game plan is to render government ineffective in order to deny Dems victores, create a sense that government is broken and has failed to deliver, stoke anti-incumbent fervor, and ensure that Dems bear the brunt of blame for government dysfunction.”

But I think his conclusion was wrong. I think Congressman Weiner did exactly the right thing. It’s about time a Democrat got mad and emotional about something. My head tells me I may be wrong. My gut says Weiner is right.

By the way, my decision is highly influenced by seeing Congressman Weiner on The Daily Show months ago.

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Don Brown
July 31, 2010


Did I Say Slots?

I just finished an excellent article that a friend and long-time reader sent me from the Wall Street Journal.

At JFK, More Flying, Less Waiting on the Tarmac

”Today, the long lines are gone thanks to a high-tech reservations system. Now, airlines file flight plans with the Federal Aviation Administration indicating what time they want to take off. A metering program compiles requests, and takeoffs are scheduled in 15-minute blocks of time. Airplanes don't leave the gate until their assigned time. And as a result, the conga line of 40 jets lined up at the end of a runway has been reduced to six to eight.”

This is going to read different ways to different groups so let me say a word to two of them. Controllers, I know a lot of you are thinking, “What’s the big deal? We’ve always known this.” Keep reading. This is the way things happen in the FAA, Government and a lot of life. This solution seemed obvious to me but I was a Center (Enroute) controller. (Yes, I know you forget. That’s the reason I remind you.) I’ll leave it to the Tower folks to say “I told you so”.

For the techno geeks that got excited when they read “high-tech”, keep reading. Just when it becomes obvious that the functions sound like something a controller would do, you find out two retired controllers are doing it. Real, live, human controllers. Contractors got their slice. Automation got its. Controllers lost a couple more jobs. Pay attention, there’s a lot to learn in this article. And it all started because....

”It was the four-month closing of JFK's longest runway that prompted a new approach. To avert chaos, the airport deployed a beefed-up scheduling system used to smooth operations during snowstorms.”

Yes, I said slots.

Don Brown
July 31, 2010


Hot Slots

You should probably know that a snag holding up FAA Reauthorization is a new fight over landing slots at Washington National. In that I’ve touted slots as the solution to many of the National Airspace System’s problems, I also want you to understand that any solution has its own problems.

Western lawmakers push for more long-distance flights from Reagan National

”The so-called perimeter rule, which bans most flights to destinations more than 1,250 miles from National, would be eased considerably. For the first time, regular nonstop air travel would expand from National to Los Angeles, San Francisco, Salt Lake City, Phoenix and other distant cities.”

Anytime anyone gives the reason for the perimeter rule they’re wrong. There are many reasons. The reasons to get rid of it are numerous and diverse also. I think the lesson at the moment is that the issue is huge with a large number of influential people. It’s big enough to block a Bill that is almost done.

Once you start looking, you can find stories on the subject all over -- here, here and here to get you started.

It isn’t hard to figure out that Congress has better things to fight over -- and that the same fight would occur at any airport with slots. Which is, I’m sure, the reason the CAB handled slots back during the regulation days.

Pick your poison. I still pick slots -- for keeping airplanes on time and safe.

Don Brown
July 31, 2010


Friday, July 30, 2010

He’s a Bad, Bad Man (or) He's a Black, Black Man

Sitting in the sports bar/restaurant last night, I found myself staring at a big screen TV which was playing (what else?) Fox News. The sound was muted so I was reading the crawler (or zipper, or whatever they call it) across the bottom. I pointed it out to my wife just so she would notice it too.

Republicans “very interested” in mid-term elections
Democrats not interested
50% disapprove of Obama’s handling of the economy
Only 23% approve of Obama’s handling of the economy
Obama Administration eases rules so FBI can look at your computer including your browser’s history without a warrant
FAA to close airspace along Hudson River...

“Wait a minute”, my wife says. “Obama left New York/New Jersey yesterday. He’s not going back again is he?”

....due to Clinton wedding...

You see? It doesn’t take long to figure out that everything is Obama’ fault. And if that doesn’t work, there is always a Clinton to blame.

This goes on all day long -- 24 hours a day -- 7 days a week. Don’t take my word for it. Watch it for yourself. It’s mind numbing. Or hilarious. Depending on how you look at it.

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Don Brown
July 30, 2010

Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Paperless Office

I’m still on vacation so I won’t be able to do the research I’d like to do on this but have a listen to the story I heard on the BBC radio.

BBC One Planet

Push the slider on the audio player up to the 15:00 mark and listen to the guy from Mircosoft tell you how we need paper. He has some unique thoughts on the subject. Well, perhaps “unique” isn’t the word I’m after. He finds better words than I do to express concepts that don’t lend themselves to words easily. Like when he talks about holding a book in your hand and knowing the totality of it. It’s the difference between holding CliffsNotes and War and Peace. It’s obvious. But it’s hard to explain.

The first thing that came to my mind was working a sector with 5 bays of strips. There are people that will never have that many airplanes pointed toward their sector. But trust me -- when it happens -- everybody in the room knows that sector is about to be in trouble. And they act accordingly.

Do you know what a URET sector looks like when 5 strip bays worth of airplanes due within 30 minutes? What does it look like to the guy sitting across the isle?

(For the uninitiated, 5 bays of strips is a ridiculous amount of strips on a radar sector. You don’t “work” it -- you get as many airplanes as you can away from the sector, stop departures or any number of things to get it down to a workable amount of airplanes.)

By the way, you might remember this quote:

” There were many extreme requirements, any one of which could undermine the successful implementation of a digital system. Here is a sample: ...replacing paper clearances with electronic notes, coupled with the complete removal of printers (the FAA was zealous about having a paperless system -- this system designed upon glaciers of paper). Deprived of old habits, the air traffic controllers would have no choice but to adopt new ones.“

Don Brown
July 29, 2010


Billionaire Bleating

I was reading Paul Krugman again. He nailed another “conservative”. Again. He makes it look effortless. Which makes you wonder why more people don’t do it.

Interestingly, Krugman hits two birds with one stone -- He chastises the Financial Times and he catches the editor-in-chief of U.S. News & World Report -- the author of the editorial -- in a...well...let’s call it an exaggeration.

Ma! He’s Looking At Me Funny!

”Kind of different, isn’t it? That’s only business-bashing if you believe that there’s no such thing as businesses who cut costs by ignoring the environmental impact of their activities, or take risks that end up endangering the financial system. If so, I wish I lived on your planet.

I think this is telling. This is the only actual example of Obama’s alleged demonization of business that Zuckerman offers — and it’s essentially a mini-Breitbart, a quote taken out of context to make it seem as if Obama was saying something he wasn’t. That’s typical of the whole argument.”

Now, Krugman doesn’t supply any information about Mort Zuckerman -- the author. I’ve already mentioned that he is the editor-in-chief of U.S. News & World Report. But what you should really know is that he’s a billionaire.

”Mortimer Benjamin "Mort" Zuckerman (born June 4, 1937)[1] is a Canadian-born American magazine editor, publisher, and real estate billionaire. He is a naturalized citizen of the United States.”

Most of you probably won’t read the Financial Times article Krugman quotes (most of the FT’s articles require you to register to view them) which is a shame. You could read this:

”Disillusion has spread to the Business Roundtable, the US Chamber of Commerce and the National Federation of Independent Business, which represents small businesses.”

When you write as much as I do, you learn just how confusing language can be. From that sentence above, you might think that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Federation of Independent Business were on the same page. In other words, it touches on one of my new themes -- “Ma and Pa” ain’t a corporation. Anyway, I decided to take a look at the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) and I found this guy:

William Dunkelberg is a big name in small business

I, of course, encourage you to read the whole thing but in that this blog is getting lengthy, let me focus on my main point.

”The National Federation of Independent Business approached him with a problem. The group was formed in the 1940s an an alternative to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which was dominated by big corporations.”

”"There's no evidence in my data of a credit freeze on Main Street," Dunkelberg said. "They can borrow money. They have no customers, and that's the bummer." The best plan, he believed, was for the government to somehow give people money to spend at local stores.”

I hope you see the themes of my blog tied into all this. Regulation by a good, professional government allows honest businesses to flourish. Deregulation surrenders to the crooks and the unscrupulous. Corporations -- because they are so efficient -- have their own propaganda machines. Their agendas aren’t necessarily good for America. The root of our economic crisis isn’t credit -- it’s that people don’t have jobs that pay well.

Oh, and by the way, Mort Zuckerman isn’t a conservative. He’s described as supporting Democratic politics. But he’s a Democrat second (or third or fourth). He’s a billionaire first.

Don Brown
July 29, 2010

Monday, July 26, 2010

Everybody Likes Ice Cream

Praxis Foundation -- I think -- is about “quality over quantity”. Have a read:

The Self-Licking Ice Cream Cone

By the way, I’m supposed to be on vacation. This is worth your time.

Don Brown
July 26, 2010


Saturday, July 24, 2010


Paul Krugman provides the counterpoint for today’s Republican talking point.

Addicted to Bush

”After the election, the G.O.P. did its best to shout down all talk about how we got into the mess we’re in, insisting that we needed to look forward, not back. And many in the news media played along, acting as if it was somehow uncouth for Democrats even to mention the Bush era and its legacy.”

You may not realize this is going on but it is quite real. I have been chastised twice this week -- by people not even remotely connected to each other -- for bringing up Bush in political discussions. ‘Tis the political season folks and the narrative is being set. The Bush Presidency is already on its way down to the bottom of the historical heap and the Republicans want to silence any reminder of it. If you bring it up, you’re unsophisticated. You don’t have anything to contribute to the debate about the future. You’re just like all the other people that don’t love America -- you’re more interested in politics and blame than making our country great again.

But Krugman is right. This isn’t about Bush. It’s about policy. And the truth is, Bush was Republican policy incarnate. He was as close as any individual can be (I’m sure it wasn’t close enough for some) and his policies failed. America’s reputation tanked on the world stage. And that was before we ruined the world’s economy with our deregulate-at-all-costs financial policy.

The Republicans would have you believe that Bush’s ideological impurities kept him from succeeding. That is because they need you to believe their policies could work. But the proof is right in front of us. Afghanistan. Iraq. The Great Recession.

Two things to think about on your own because I have to leave.

How does the Republican narrative become so cohesive, so often? I submit the answer is here in this hotel I’m in -- USA Today and Fox News. What’s on the TV in your hotel lobby?

How did we get from Dick Cheney’s famous utterance, “Reagan proved deficits don’t matter” to Mitch McConnell and 39 other Republican Senators all voting against extending unemployment benefits to our fellow citizens because they’re so worried about the debt?

Policy matters. So does your vote. Even the TV station that is playing in the lobby matters.

Don Brown
July 24, 2010


Friday, July 23, 2010

Today’s Photo 7-23-10

Another incredibly dull sunrise this morning. It wasn’t a total loss. At least the Great Blue Heron got to tease me again. He sits on an exposed stump in the shadows. About the time there is enough light so that I can notice him, I’ll switch lenses and put on the telephoto. Just about the time I get focused and figure out the right exposure, he flies off. He’s done it a half-dozen times.

Fortunately for you, my friend Tony had a new fly rod he wanted to test out last night. So he drug me back out into the heat and down to the lake about sunset.

© Don Brown 2010 (Click on the picture to enlarge)

I don’t know how many different ways I can say it. You can’t get lucky if you don’t show up. Thanks Tony.

© Don Brown 2010 (Click on the picture to enlarge)

More photos.

Don Brown
July 23, 2010

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Today’s Photo 7-22-10

Things were a little better for this morning’s sunrise. But I thought you might like this a little better.

© Don Brown 2010 (Click on the picture to enlarge)

If you don’t already have your peaches, it’s time. Oh, and the sunflowers are blooming too.

Don Brown
July 22, 2010

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Today’s Photo 7-20-10

The sunrise wasn’t any better today so you’re stuck with the fauna...

© Don Brown 2010 (Click on the picture to enlarge)

...and the flora.

© Don Brown 2010 (Click on the picture to enlarge)

For the photo folks and the curious, there are a couple more photos and the data on my Facebook page.

Don Brown
July 20, 2010

Monday, July 19, 2010

A True Public Servant

After reading this article in The Nation, I’m proud that I’ve had Robert Reich in my list of blogs from the beginning.

Unjust Spoils

”If nothing more is done, America's three-decade-long lurch toward widening inequality is an open invitation to a future demagogue who misconnects the dots, blaming immigrants, the poor, government, foreign nations, "socialists" or "intellectual elites" for the growing frustrations of the middle class. The major fault line in American politics will no longer be between Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives. It will be between the "establishment" and an increasingly mad-as-hell populace determined to "take back America" from them. When they understand where this is heading, powerful interests that have so far resisted reform may come to see that the alternative is far worse.”

I hope that you will heed his words of wisdom. They are a warning.

I recognize how much Robert Reich has shaped my own thoughts. I hope you will let him help shape yours. He not only has the gift of being able to think on a grand scale, he can put these grand ideas into words that are understandable. I’m not sure which is the rarer gift. I’m just glad he shares them with the rest of us.

Don Brown
July 19, 2010

(P.S. I got the article from Paul Cox. Yeah, that guy.)


Today’s Photo 7-19-10

That’s more like it.

© Don Brown 2010 (Click on the picture to enlarge)

It wasn’t the best, but it’s a whole lot better than what I’ve been getting. Here’s a second one to save you the trip to my Facebook page.

© Don Brown 2010 (Click on the picture to enlarge)

Again, it’s not killer but it’s interesting. Now, I’ve got to get busy writing. There’s something I want you to read but I’m not sure I can get it written before I have to drive downtown.

Don Brown
July 19, 2010

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Profit Above All

NATCA’s motto has been “Safety Above All” for as long as I can remember. That’s because I -- and a lot of other like-minded people -- made it that way. I’ve seen outsiders mock it, I’ve seen insiders “whatever” it and I’ve seen others dedicate their careers to it. Do you really think Lockheed Martin could “live it”?

How about ITT? Or Raytheon? Or any corporation? I’m not naive about this line of reasoning. I know what unions do. I know they have to deliver the goods to stay “in business”. (How’s that as an example of learned language use?) I know the good and the bad in unions. Just like I know the good and bad in government and in corporations. That is specific language use there -- corporations. There are major differences between corporations and the business owned by Mom and Pop -- no matter how hard advertisers propagandists try to conflate the two when advantageous. Mom and Pop -- the good, kind people that have lives and consciences -- won’t be running your ATC system. Corporations will (if the have their way).

Do you really think a corporation can have a motto of “Safety Above All”? I’m sure they could pay an advertising agency propagandists enough to sell it. But -- in the abstract -- is it believable? In the do-or-die world of corporations doesn’t the motto have to be “Profit Above All”?

I know some in the pro-business corporation crowd want to turn this argument around on unions. Okay. Unions have to deliver pay and benefits. That is what corporations would have you believe anyway. And to a very large degree, that is true. But you might have noticed that pay and benefits in government are pretty good. As a matter of fact, if you listen to corporations and their propagandists, government benefits are GREAT! I remember when they were rather dull. Pilots made 3 times what I made and the dentist’s receptionist said, “You need to get some better insurance”. Government employee compensation didn’t change that much. Corporation employee compensation did. Suddenly, government benefits look GREAT! And that was before your 401k (that was supposed to be better than your pension) tanked.

Everything is relative. If you want to see GREAT!, look at what CEOs make. (Please note: Mom and Pop don’t make that much.)

For all those returning to this page (from the above link) and thinking “propaganda”, I want you to think that even more. A lot more. Turn on your TV while you’re thinking. Notice what you are being sold and by whom. Not just during the commercials -- mind you -- but every minute the TV is on. “Beyond Petroleum”. “We Bring Good Things to Life”. “Fair and Balanced”. Mine starts with the programming guide. Today, DISH network wants me to watch “The Crazies”. And I just love it when my favorite characters use Apple computers. Take note. See how many times they show a union shouting (or even whispering) their message on a TV. Or Mom and Pop.

Believe it or not, all this was supposed to be a lead in to Martinlady’s newest post. She succeeded in getting me stirred up with this:

”All these rules aren’t to dumb it down to the lowest common human denominator – it’s to dumb it down to computer programming level and has the added benefit of forcing our new hires into a very simple, linear way of thinking.  Too bad no one on Industry’s side of the equation truly understands the danger of linear thinking in ATC. “

Sorry, I got carried away. You’ve got some more thinking to do.

Don Brown
July 18, 2010


Saturday, July 17, 2010

Today’s Photo 7-17-10

It was a beautiful morning. Well, as beautiful as you can expect for July in Georgia, anyway. All the elements were in place for a great sunrise. And it didn’t happen.

© Don Brown 2010 (Click on the picture to enlarge)

Seriously, I can’t explain why there was no color in the sunrise this morning. Color like this.

© Don Brown 2010 (Click on the picture to enlarge)

Everything was in place -- nice clouds, clear air, not much fog. I guess it will all have to remain a beautiful mystery.

Don Brown

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Wait’s Over

You’ll want to read this one. Trust me. Put your thinking cap on. Martinlady did.

”Line 1070:

Information exchange is more clearly targeted to the appropriate decision makers, reducing workload and unnecessary actions by those not affected. Machine-to-machine negotiation replaces labor-intensive, voice, or text-based processes.

“Translation: Watch everyone’s situational awareness decrease as we remove as much of the human element as we can…and as we sell everyone the equipment to send/receive those information exchanges.”

She can even interpret corporate claptrap.

Don Brown
July 15, 2010


Today’s Photo 7-15-10

I hope these guys were having more luck than I was.

© Don Brown 2010 (Click on the picture to enlarge)

The day started off with the sky looking like the beach. You know, those short cumulus cloud stacks that turn into thunderstorms when they heat up. Then I got a couple of contrails that made a great big “X” in the sky and that was all she wrote. After that, I was reduced to watching the bat skim the water, the dragonfly patrol his territory and listening to the crows yak at each other. There was a new player this morning. I heard a coyote yip and howl. That was followed by every dog within a mile barking back.

I’m looking forward to the end of the summer picture doldrums. If the lake can look this good in the Spring (yes, it’s a picture of the same spot in Spring) then I know Fall will be nice too.

© Don Brown 2010 (Click on the picture to enlarge)

Don Brown
July 15, 2010

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

And Then, Another

It looks like Martinlady got tired of waiting on the guys to get their act together.

Watching and Waiting

”For those in the Agency that are thinking “Controllers got a contract, money shut them up,” think again. I can’t speak for everyone else, but the past few years were exhausting for me and currently I’ve been watching and waiting. Watching Administrator Babbitt, giving him a chance to show us more than money…good faith bargaining, honest communications, some cleaning house that desperately needs done, living up to and by agreements. Waiting to see how some of this plays out; not just ERAM, ADS-B, NextGen or grievance resolutions, but altogether as a whole.”

I think there’s more to come. I guess we’ll have to do some watching and waiting ourselves. I bet we won’t have to wait long. Stay tuned.

Don Brown
July 13, 2010


Today’s Photo 7-13-10

It tried so hard to be a pretty sunrise. It just couldn’t make it. It’s okay. Summer can’t last forever. The air will get clear and fresh again. The geese will come back. The humidity will go away. It will cool down again, enough to where I feel like shooting something besides the sunrise. I promise. I’ve got more than enough pictures to last until then.

The first hay, from back in May

© Don Brown 2010 (Click on the picture to enlarge)

Don Brown
July 13, 2010

Identity Advertising

I’ve lectured controllers on this subject before (yes, I’m that kind of guy) so I have no compunction whatsoever about giving the same lecture to another group.

When you’re wearing your “team” logo, or put a union bumper sticker on your car, or have your own special license plate -- you’re advertising your group. For good or bad. You would do well to remember that. Especially if you’re in the field of public service. Like an air traffic controller. Or a teacher.

Racing through rush-hour traffic -- cutting people off -- when both of you have tags that scream EDUCATOR, does not endear you to the public. It makes them mad. That goes double if you’re driving a Mercedes.

I’m betting it was the foolish spouses of two dedicated public servants. Ladies, you might need to have a word with your husbands, because, I’m betting others aren’t nearly as gracious and charitable as I am.

Don Brown
July 13, 2010

Monday, July 12, 2010

It is Always Thus

I know that The New York Times printed this story because the Deepwater Horizon has everybody’s attention. My readers -- people in the aviation business -- will see the same cultural personalities of organizations at work that I did. There are those that have suffered through a horrendous accident and those that haven’t.

There are a lucky few that can learn from the misfortune of others. But most organizations (and people) have to learn the hard way. And if enough time passes, even an organization that learned the hard way will have to learn the lessons anew.

New Culture of Caution at Exxon After Valdez

”The accident, for which Exxon was found responsible, led to a profound rethinking of safety management at the company. Exxon developed a rigid system of rules for all its operations, from gas stations to offshore platforms, and it empowered everyone, even contractors, to speak up about safety problems.”

Don Brown
July 12, 2010


Sunday, July 11, 2010

Today’s Photo 7-11-10

Have I mentioned lately how much I hate summer? I hate heat like Yankees hate snow. I mean I really hate it. Thunderstorms at sunset are about the only cooling we get. But when we get them, there is usually fog the next morning.

Blue fog from yesterday.

© Don Brown 2010 (Click on the picture to enlarge)

I know it looks like the Moon but it is the Sun, barely making it through the fog this morning.

© Don Brown 2010 (Click on the picture to enlarge)

Don Brown
July 11, 2010

Friday, July 09, 2010

Can I Get a Job?

Hey! Maybe I could get hired and just commute to downtown like the rest of Metro Atlanta.

FAA, Georgia Tech to study potential effects of NextGen on pilots, controllers

”US FAA and Georgia Institute of Technology will research jointly the effects the NextGen ATC system will have on flight crew members and controllers with respect to the "increased sophistication on the flight deck."”

”It also will examine how flight crews and controllers interact with automation, investigating how the roles will "evolve" along with NextGen technology.”

All kidding aside, that actually sounds like it’s right up my alley. And this is how NextGen -- and other programs like it -- wind up winning support. You get sucked into them because that is where the money is. In other words, you do the work you always wanted to do -- designing the interface between man and machine -- you just tailor your work to fit the project. It’s the funding, stupid. The next thing you know, you support NextGen because it’s paying for work that is important to you -- and it supplies a paycheck.

Just another one of the reasons the goals of NextGen are so vague (.pdf file). It can be all things to all people.

”Our primary goal is to provide new capabilities that make air transportation safer and more reliable, improve the capacity of the National Airspace System (NAS) and reduce aviation’s impact on our environment.”

1)”...make air transportation safer”. Air transportation is already the safest mode of transportation ever devised by man. I’ll be the first to tell you that I’d like to make it safer (and it can be) but quantifying that will be tough.

2) ”... more reliable,...” That’s easy. Implement slot controls at all commercial airports. We’ve been down this road before. The MWAA still summed it up best. ”We believe that the limits on National need to remain close to that number in order to avoid the congestion and assure the reliability, particularly in poor weather, that we have come to value so much.“

3) “...improve the capacity...” . Build more runways. End of story. (Well, you have to have the gates and ramps to go with them.) 30,40 or 50 billion dollars worth of software and satellites not needed.

4) “...reduce aviation’s impact on our environment.” More runways. Slot controls. Regulate airline scheduling. That will diminish all the waiting -- in the air and on the ground -- that we currently suffer through. Millions of gallons of fuel wasted. Not to mention billions and billions of hours of lost productivity.

We don’t need $50 billion to change things. We just need to recognize the truth and act upon the facts.

I’m not getting that job am I?

Don Brown
July 9, 2010


Click on Krugman

The blog from today. Over on the right side of the page. The one that says, "Today In Instant Neener Neener".

Then you’ll have to click on and read (and least a paragraph or two) of the two business stories he directs you to. It’s worth it. Trust me. And in case you don’t remember, Paulson is the 3.7 billion dollar man I’ve discussed before.

Try to keep reading the Business Week article Krugman directs you to -- at least until you get to this part.

”Paulson wasn't buying banks because he liked their second-lien books; instead, he had grasped that the Swedish-style takeover Krugman advocated was not going to happen, and that a tacit federal backstopping of the banking industry took most of the risk out of going long.”

That’s right, you (the American taxpayer) are still providing the rich guys with a patsy.

Don Brown
July 9, 2010

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Paying Attention?

I really don’t think I need to say anything. Good luck figuring out the “English”. I think the message is clear though.

With the US trapped in depression, this really is starting to feel like 1932

”Let us be honest. The US is still trapped in depression a full 18 months into zero interest rates, quantitative easing (QE), and fiscal stimulus that has pushed the budget deficit above 10pc of GDP”

”On Friday, Jacques Cailloux from RBS put out a "double-dip alert" for Europe. "The risk is rising fast. Absent an effective policy intervention to tackle the debt crisis on the periphery over coming months, the European economy will double dip in 2011," he said.”

”Last week the Bank for International Settlements called for combined fiscal and monetary tightening, lending its great authority to the forces of debt-deflation and mass unemployment. If even the BIS has lost the plot, God help us.”

Indeed. If you don’t think the Federal Government should pull out all the stops -- come up with a stimulus package as big as we dare -- then you had better be ready for some pain. A lot of pain. As if 14 million unemployed wasn’t enough pain.

Don Brown
July 8, 2010

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Today’s Photo 7-7-10

All the times I’ve been down to the lake -- this is the first time I’ve ever seen this guy in the daylight. You can’t get lucky if you don’t show up.

© Don Brown 2010 (Click on the picture to enlarge)

Don Brown
July 7, 2010

Can You Empathize With Me?

I thought this was...well, creepy.

”Because more than any other callers they deal with here, health plan customers that Convergys surveyed say they don't think their insurance company cares about them, or about their health. So Convergys, being in the relationship biz, launched empathy workshops. They hired empathy coaches to roam the aisles and swoop down on agents when they flounder.“

Listen folks, your health care company really doesn’t care about you. And, without a doubt, the company they contract out the customer service to doesn’t care about you. “Empathy coaches” or no empathy coaches.


You really ought to listen to (or read) this entire story from Marketplace.

Don Brown
July 7, 2010

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Today’s Photo 7-6-10

6:02AM. The first photo of the day. The sunrise never got any better. Just brighter.

They can’t all be winners. But I’d rather see a bad one than not.

© Don Brown 2010 (Click on the picture to enlarge)

18mm F8@2.5 seconds

Don Brown
July 6, 2010

Oh Yeah...

Reference the Turkish Airlines 1951 Review

The most important one...

#3 Humans are lousy monitors.

Don Brown
July 6, 2010

Monday, July 05, 2010

Turkish Airlines 1951 Review

My “cousin” knows how motivate me. (If you don’t understand the inside reference you’re not supposed to.)

1) The “give” built into air traffic control systems isn’t there for efficiency purposes. In other words, my safety margin isn’t for your shortcut.

2) Automation is no substitution for thinking. As a matter of fact, it usually makes thinking harder.

The NTSB’s follow up (a .pdf file).

Don Brown
July 5, 2010

ITYS #506

Or maybe it should be “I Told You So” squared?

Near-collisions on rise in Washington area's skies amid influx of inexperienced controllers

”The number of times planes have come too close for comfort in the region in the past six months has surpassed the total of 18 the previous year. Nationwide, air traffic controllers committed 949 errors last year.”

Trust me, there were a lot more errors than that. Those are just the ones that got counted. But there are a lot scarier facts than that in this article.

”Forty-nine of the 177 controllers who handle in-flight traffic for the Washington region, the third-busiest airspace in the nation after New York and Los Angeles, have yet to be certified in all aspects of their job, according to the FAA.”

”In all four incidents the planes came so close that they merged into a single dot on the radar screens of the air traffic controllers based at the FAA's Potomac TRACON facility.”

I guess that’s enough to get you to read the article.

Let’s review. There is nothing you, the FAA, Congress, nor anyone can do about the underlying problem -- now. We tried to warn you. Nobody listened and the damage was done. Thousands of years of controller experience left the system.

The only thing to do now is to ameliorate the circumstances. Having 49 trainees in the Potomac Tracon at this late date is not the way to do it. It will take a lot of money, a lot of commitment and a lot of ingenuity. It hasn’t been done in the FAA before. That doesn’t mean no organization has been transformed before. Look at the Army post-Vietnam and then during the first Gulf War. That monumental change didn’t happen by itself. It will require a 180º shift in the FAA’s current (and long running) emphasis on technology. The emphasis has to shift to the people. That isn’t an anit-technology message. Look at the Army again. The technology is unbelievable. The people still come first.

I got this article from Peter Nesbitt. He’s still in the FAA and despite every reason to quit caring, it’s obvious he still does. He isn’t alone. The talent to do what needs to be done is still around. It always has been. The FAA’s management culture just keeps trying to crush it instead of using it.

Unfortunately, nobody that cares believes the FAA’s management wants to make the change. Which means we’ll just have to wait for the event that will change them. None of us are under any illusion that concern about the FAA will rise to the level needed to change it before disaster strikes. When it does strike, you can rest assured that I will be first in line to say “I told you so”. It won’t give me any pleasure -- it doesn’t now. But I will be sure -- then -- that I have your attention. And maybe -- just maybe -- somebody will listen.

Don Brown
July 5, 2010


Krugman Comes Out Swinging

I watched Krugman on “Global Public Square” yesterday (video). For whatever he may lack as a TV “presence” (he won the debate anyway), he more than makes it up as a writer. From today’s column:

Punishing the Jobless

”Yet the Senate went home for the holiday weekend without extending benefits. How was that possible?

The answer is that we’re facing a coalition of the heartless, the clueless and the confused.”

I would have added “the cowardly”. Some of you may think these Republican Senators are tough. They aren’t tough. If they were tough -- or even mavericks -- they could make an independent stand. If not on this issue then on any other issue. Pick an issue. Any issue. They can’t. They all fear for their political lives and won’t break “party discipline”. They aren’t “disciplined”. This isn’t the Army. They’re cowards. They’ve left the very people they are supposed to protect unemployed and impoverished.

”By the clueless I mean people like Sharron Angle, the Republican candidate for senator from Nevada, who has repeatedly insisted that the unemployed are deliberately choosing to stay jobless, so that they can keep collecting benefits. ”

I hear this line of argument often, here in the South. My standard retort is that the speaker (or even the head-nodding toady/thinker) should try being poor for a month and see how they like it. I’ve been “poor”. (And saying it always feels like a lie because there was always Mom and Dad to call if things got desperate. So let’s just say I’ve been without money before.) It wasn’t any fun. And $300 a week wasn’t going to make it any more fun even if I took a “vacation”.

I can hear it now...”But you worked your way out of it”. Please. Wake up and smell the coffee.

”But as you may have noticed, right now the economy isn’t booming — again, there are five unemployed workers for every job opening. Cutting off benefits to the unemployed will make them even more desperate for work — but they can’t take jobs that aren’t there.”

I know there are people out there that cheat the system. I know some people choose to be infuriated that there are people out there trying to cheat them out of their hard-earned money. That doesn’t change the fact that there are truly needy people -- good people caught up in bad times -- that deserve our help.

You should read this column of Krugman’s. It’s a keeper. Remember that we are -- by far -- the richest nation on Earth. We can afford to take care of our citizens. To do otherwise is cowardly and cruel. You can tell your Senator I said so.

Don Brown
July 5, 2010

Today’s Photo 7-5-10

I’ll skip the details on how I set my son’s car alarm off at 5:30AM. (Ouch!) On a holiday no less. (Ouch! Ouch!) That wasn't the only reason it was an interesting morning.

© Don Brown 2010 (Click on the picture to enlarge)

I didn’t know which picture I liked the most so I picked the first one. The horizon had a golden glow and the clouds were already tinged with magenta when I got there. But the range in the light (contrast, difference in brightness) was so great it wouldn’t translate into a picture. Believe me, I tried everything. The HDR guys would have had a field day. Oh well. I still manage to take some decent photographs without Photoshop.

Don Brown
July 5, 2010


Sunday, July 04, 2010

Today’s Photo 7-4-10

I saw the mist show up as blue on the review screen after I took the shot. I spent the rest of the morning trying to duplicate it. I couldn’t. Some things I just can’t explain.

It was a beautiful morning. Extraordinarily cool for this area of Georgia -- in July. 63 degrees (17C). Clear. Cool. Calm but not still. Just a breath of cool air. Beautiful. Have a nice holiday.

© Don Brown 2010 (Click on the picture to enlarge)

Don Brown
July 4., 2010

Friday, July 02, 2010

Write That Down #1

I thought of a new blog “template” I should have -- “Write That Down”. You know, for those times that you see something you know isn’t true but you’ll just have to wait for history to prove you right? “Somebody should write that down.”

”The FAA refers to its upgrading project for the nation's traffic control systems as "NextGen," and the agency believes it will help reduce flight delays by 21%, saving travelers from the frustrations seen at the busiest airports.”

I don’t know where MarketWatch got the number (21%) but I’m sure they didn’t just pull it out of thin air (unlike the FAA).

If you take the time to read the article, you might want to take the time to have some “fun with numbers”.

”Assuming ideal taxi conditions on the runway, the Chicago carrier saved over 500 gallons of fuel on a recent test flight with a Boeing 777 from O'Hare International to Frankfurt.

At recent market prices for jet fuel, that's a potential savings of about $1,200 for each one-way flight, or more than $400,000 for the year.”

Excuse me while I don’t get excited about 500 gallons on an airplane that holds at least 31,000 gallons. (Yeah, that is a lot of fuel to move 300-400 people.) What interested me was the $1,200 figure. I’ve never flown overseas so I don’t know what it costs. I was thinking that was about the price of a ticket from ORD to FRA. (Okay, I was wrong. It’s $1,472.20.) So, if United could sell just one extra ticket on each flight, that would be “more than $400,000 per year”. At “recent market prices for jet fuel” and “assuming ideal taxi conditions on the runway”.

By the way, using their own assumptions it takes at least $74,400 just to fill the airplane up with fuel. If I put $74 worth of gas in my truck (which I do on a regular basis), all this would be like saving 50 cents. And all it would take would be for the State, County and City governments to make all the traffic lights turn green just before I came through. Oh, and no speed limits below 45 mph.

I wonder what the FAA assumed to come up with the 21% figure?

Don Brown
July 2, 2010


Such a “Deal”

I guess $700 million is a big deal.

Booz Allen wins $700 million deal for FAA's NextGen

But I bet you can’t tell me what we just bought.

”The 10-year contract includes systems engineering, investment and business case analysis, planning, forecasting and financial management support services, according to a Booz Allen press release.”

I know you can do this kind of stuff for yourself but, seeing as I already have...

Brian M. Legan

Booz Allen Hamilton

”Booz Allen Hamilton is now majority owned by private equity firm The Carlyle Group...”

Don Brown
July 2, 2010


“W” Update

Just because...

Wikipedia has updated its "Historical rankings of Presidents of the United States" page.

Actually, I believe it just reflects the inclusion of the latest Siena 2010 Poll in the " Scholar survey results" page.

Be sure to check out your favorite President. My favorite President ranked first.

Don Brown
July 2, 2010

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Today’s Photo 7-1-10

Life keeps getting in the way of blogging -- and my photography. Fortunately, I have a lot of images stored away.

This is the image that got me back into photography again. I really don’t remember how it came about but I finally learned how to manipulate the exposure using the camera’s programming. And soon after that, I learned how to turn all the programming off and go back to making pictures. As I’ve said before, I knew how to take photographs already. For me, the key was in learning how to turn the computer off so I could concentrate on the art. Your milage may vary.

© Don Brown 2010 (Click on the picture to enlarge)

Don Brown
July 1, 2010