Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Works Every Time

It’s a funny (not funny-ha-ha) thing. If a Congressman gets involved in an aviation incident, it gets attention.

”The Federal Aviation Administration dispatched a safety review team to the Warrenton facility last month after a controller error resulted in a United Airlines flight narrowly missing a collision with a 22-seat Gulfstream business jet. One of the United passengers, Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner Jr. (R-Wis.), contacted the FAA..”

Rest assured Congressman, if you had been taken out on that one, you would be remembered a long time as the Congressman that changed air safety. Here, let me show you how it works, Congressman Sensenbrenner.

From the FAA Historical Chronology, 1926-1996

”May 6, 1935: A Transcontinental and Western Air (TWA) DC-2 crashed near Atlanta, Mo., killing five of the eight persons aboard. Senator Bronson M. Cutting (R-N.Mex.) was among the fatalities. A Bureau of Air Commerce report cited the accident’s causes as the U.S. Weather Bureau’s failure to predict hazardous weather and misjudgments by the pilot and TWA ground personnel. In June 1936, however, a committee chaired by Sen. Royal S. Copeland (D-N.Y.) issued a report alleging that the tragedy was caused by malfunctioning navigational aides and voicing other criticisms of the Bureau of Air Commerce. The controversy gave impetus to legislative efforts that eventuated in the Civil Aeronautics Act of 1938. (See Jun 23, 1938.) ”

Please note Congressman, that even with that high profile “push” it took three more years to get serious about aviation safety. I’d quote the entire history entry for the passage of the Civil Aeronautics Act of 1938 but it’s rather lengthy.

”To perform the quasi-legislative and quasi-judicial functions of safety and economic regulation, the law created a five-member entity designated the Civil Aeronautics Authority, the same term used to describe the agency as a whole. The law also established an Administrator of the Authority, who was independent of the five-member Authority and had responsibility for the executive and operational functions of the agency. Finally, an Air Safety Board of three members operated independently within the agency and had quasi-judicial powers for investigating accidents, determining their probable cause, and making recommendations for accident prevention.”

Where you can tell we really got serious as a nation was in the next history entry.

”Jun 30, 1938: During the fiscal year that ended this date, the Department of Commerce established teletype network Schedule B connecting airway traffic control centers with airway communication stations and with military airbases. By the end of the year this teletype network comprised approximately 10,000 miles of circuits. Prior to this time, the airway traffic control centers were served by only a party-
line telephone circuit connecting the center with the local airline radio ground stations, the control tower, and the Department of Commerce radio range stations. Control of airway traffic was limited to aircraft that
were in communication with the radio stations operating at the same location as the airway traffic control center.

Establishment of the Schedule B network permitted teletype transmission of flight data independently of the increasing load of weather data being transmitted on Schedule A circuits. It became apparent, however, that improved telephone communication was also needed for airway traffic control. By the end of fiscal 1940, the government had leased 1,760 miles of private-line telephone circuits connecting airway traffic control centers and other facilities. By 1942, there were 29,124 miles of these “interphone circuits” in operation. ”

And on and on it goes for 1938 and the next few years.

”Sep 27, 1938: The Civil Aeronautics Authority announced that President Roosevelt had approved its recommendation for the immediate construction of a close-in airport to serve the District of Columbia--the Washington National Airport... ”

”Dec 27, 1938: President Roosevelt announced an experimental Civilian Pilot Training Program...”

I can show you how all the same things happened in 1958 after all the mid-air collisions in the 1950s.

”Apr 21, 1958: An Air Force jet fighter collided with a United Air Lines DC-7 near Las Vegas, Nev., killing both occupants of the fighter and all 47 persons aboard the airliner. Another midair collision between a military jet and an airliner occurred on May 20 when a T-33 trainer and a Capital Airlines Viscount collided over Brunswick, Md. This second accident cost the lives of one of the two persons aboard the T-33 and all 11 aboard the Viscount. The twin tragedies spurred governmental action already underway to improve air traffic control and to establish a comprehensive Federal Aviation Agency. (See May 21 and May 28, 1958.) ”

(BTW, your fellow Congressman, James Oberstar, can quote you most of this stuff by heart. )

Did you notice the timing? In the middle of a Depression. They were building airports. And training pilots. I read too much Congressman. That’s how I came to read this just this morning.

”The Big Picture question really is why only a few of us appear to see the writing on the wall … that very soon, we’re again going to be short of qualified pilots not simply to teach people to fly, but with the commensurate skills to compete for professional pilot cockpit jobs coming down the road?”

Short of pilots. Short of airports. And we’re in a near-Depression. We don’t even have to reinvent the wheel, Congressman. We just need to get serious. Say...isn’t there an FAA Reauthorization Bill hanging around in Congress somewhere?

Any time you want to get serious about the National Airspace System, Congressman, you give me a call. I’ll help. I won’t even ask about that “(R)” that shows up next to your name all the time. Air safety is like that. It’s non-partisan.

Or you can wait for the next “big one”.

Don Brown
August 31, 2010

Today’s Photo 8-31-10

I could have had three cameras going and not have caught it all. A fantastic sunrise, from horizon to horizon.

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

There will be more on Facebook when I finish editing.

Don Brown
August 31, 2010

Monday, August 30, 2010

Today’s Photo 8-30-10

It’s getting there. A very nice sunrise and it felt good to boot. There was a refreshing breeze blowing across the lake and you could almost feel autumn approaching. I’m sure there are plenty of hot days yet to come but it felt great this morning.

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

There are more on Facebook.

Don Brown
August 30, 2010

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Today’s Photo 8-29-10

Yes, I’m still taking pictures. No, the weather is not cooperating. It’s cloudy and windy. But it beats being sunny and hot.

The Mandevilla on my back deck.

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

Don Brown
August 29, 2010

He Wrote That?

The FAA has a bad habit of striking a match when they smell gas. It is really hard to believe somebody that works for the FAA wrote down something like this. Let me explain.

Boston Tower is having problems with their radar system designed to track surface traffic at the airport. It keep generating false targets.

Logan Airport radar system gives false readings; pilots, controllers air concerns

”The radar system issues occasional false readings indicating that airport vehicles are crossing active runways. In some cases, controllers have had to order pilots to abort landings just before touchdown.

The risks are highest in stormy weather, when the system malfunctions most often, said Matt McCluskey, president of the Boston chapter of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association.”

Now, take note that Mr. McCluskey (the NATCA rep) “said” that.

Now, here comes the strange part. The FAA guy replied to the reporter with an e-mail.

”“FAA wants to make sure that not only will the transponders work properly but also not interfere with other operating systems used at an airport,” Peters wrote in an e-mail.”

So far, so good. But this next bit? Oh boy...

”“Getting a false target is a good thing because it makes the controller stop and take a hard look at the target,” Peters said. “It helps increase the controller’s situational awareness. We err on the side of safety. It is better for the system to alarm than not to alert the controller.””

It doesn’t say that was in an e-mail but it would be a logical assumption. I could understand if Mr. Peters uttered that statement when some reporter shoved a microphone in his face a badgered him for an answer. It would be a stupid answer but we humans say some stupid things when pressured. He almost makes a recovery with the last sentence.

”It is better for the system to alarm than not to alert the controller.”

Well, no, it isn’t. It’s better if the thing works. Correctly. Air traffic control worked for decades without these systems. These radar systems are supposed to enhance safety -- not maybe enhance safety. They are supposed to make a system that was safe even safer. Not provide a distraction and cause controllers to issue unnecessary instructions.

But what really gets your goat -- what really gets controllers seething -- is Mr. Peters’ statement that “Getting a false target is a good thing...”. As I said, if he uttered that under pressure, he’s just plain wrong. If he actually wrote it down in an e-mail, where he had time to think about it and choose his words carefully...heaven help us. A false target is never a good thing. Ever. It’s hard to imagine a controller even thinking it. For someone to flippantly write it down in an e-mail to minimize the FAA’s failings would be outrageous. Which, of course, is the reason controllers are outraged about the statement.

Look, I’ve been in front of a radar scope, controlling traffic when a false target popped up -- several times. Sometimes it is no big deal. The target is off all by itself and it just distracts you for a few seconds. Distractions are never a good thing but it’s not the worst thing in the world.

But sometimes, it happens right in front of another airplane. At the same altitude. And it looks like they are going to hit. You start to tell the other aircraft to make an emergency maneuver but it’s too late and you pray they miss. You pray hard. It’s the longest 6 seconds of your life. Your heart is filled with every drop of adrenaline your body can produce. You could pick up a car if you could move. But you can’t move. You have to sit still and watch the radar scope in case there is something else you can do.

Been there. Done that. The FAA doesn’t give you a T-shirt. The doctor gives you these little, tiny, white pills and you walk around like a zombie for three days while your wife prays your heart doesn’t explode. You don’t forget something like that. Even after 11 years.

Mr. Peters, you owe the controllers at Boston an apology. At a minimum.

The FAA owes the controllers at Boston -- and the flying public -- a radar system that works.

Don Brown
August 29, 2010

Saturday, August 28, 2010

And You Thought I Was a Pessimist

You should read Krugman’s blog today.

Failure To Rise

”This is going to be almost inconceivably ugly.”

The problem is (of course) that he has a long track record of being right.

Don Brown
August 28, 2010

Friday, August 27, 2010

It’s Still a Radar World

This might be another ITYS (I Told You So) moment but I can’t find it and I’m tired of looking. It’s nothing that every thinking person in aviation didn’t think about -- radars pick up moving objects.

Wind Turbine Projects Run Into Resistance

Moving turbine blades can be indistinguishable from airplanes on many radar systems, and they can even cause blackout zones in which planes disappear from radar entirely. Clusters of wind turbines, which can reach as high as 400 feet, look very similar to storm activity on weather radar, making it harder for air traffic controllers to give accurate weather information to pilots.

And, no, -- non-aviation types -- switching to GPS tracking (ADS-B) won’t change a thing. There’s still the weather radar problem (mentioned above) and more subtle things -- like tracking terrorists and drug smugglers.

”Although the military says no serious incidents have yet occurred because of the interference, the wind turbines pose an unacceptable risk to training, testing and national security...”

And while we’re here, you might find this one interesting too.

Navy Drone Violated Washington Airspace

”The skies over the nation’s capital are crowded with presidential aircraft, military flyovers and the Delta shuttle, but this month a strange new bird was briefly among them: a United States Navy drone that wandered into the restricted airspace around Washington before operators could stop it.”

Like we didn’t see that one coming. Geez. Just wait until one is involved in a mid-air collision. You might think it can’t happen. But it can. You probably didn’t think this could happen either.

Biplane, Remote-Control Plane Collide Over Brighton

Be sure to click on the video on that page. Some of you might not realize how big model airplanes are getting these days. Some are as big as drones. Mr. Murphy never runs short of creativity.

Don Brown
August 27, 2010

ITYS #507

And here it is.

Why Boehner’s Blaming Bureaucrats

”In an address billed as a major speech on economic policy, the House GOP leader yesterday (Tuesday) attributed our economic woes to the fact that “taxpayers are subsidizing the fattened salaries and pensions of federal bureaucrats who are out there right now making it harder to create private sector jobs.””

Not only did I tell you it was coming, I get extra Brownie points (you’ve got to admit that was cute) because the source of the story -- Robert Reich -- is in my blogroll.

I hope all you Republican-voting controllers are paying attention. This isn’t some backbencher Congressman talking. This is a guy that will likely be the next Speaker of the House if the Republicans regain the House in November’s elections. Part of his remarks (full text here):


By trying to build a recovery on government ‘stimulus’ spending – and failing – Washington has kept the private sector in bust while manufacturing a boom for the public sector.

Since February 2009, the private sector has lost millions of jobs while the federal government has grown by hundreds of thousands of workers.

We’ve seen not just more government jobs, but better-paying ones too. Federal employees now make on average more than double what private sector workers take in.

More appalling is the fact that this gap more than doubled in President Obama’s first year in office – during a time when millions of private sector workers either lost their jobs or agreed to take pay cuts just to keep the one they have.

It’s just nonsense to think that taxpayers are subsidizing the fattened salaries and pensions of federal bureaucrats who are out there right now making it harder to create private sector jobs.”

You can try to tell yourself that he isn’t talking about you -- but he is. I know you don’t think of yourselves as bureaucrats, but trust me, they do. I know you think you’re indispensable, but Ronald Reagan proved you aren’t. I know you don’t think they will cut your pay, but George W. Bush proved they would.

I know some of you genuinely believe that the pro-business, anti-government message of the Republican Party is the true path. History disagrees with you. In less than 30 years, Reaganism went from ideological triumph to an economic disaster.

-- "In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problems; government is the problem."

Ronald Reagan, Washington, DC, Jan. 20, 1981

--"I've abandoned free market principles to save the free market system."

George W. Bush, Washington, D.C., Dec. 16, 2008”

If you’ll dig for the details of history, you’ll see that the winners and losers aren’t so clear cut in real time. FDR was called a socialist in his day too. Today it is Glenn Beck’s turn for 15 minutes of fame. Back in the 30’s, it was Father Coughlin. If you haven’t heard of Father Coughlin, then -- hopefully -- I’ve made my point. The Tea Party may become as famous as Huey P. Long and his Share Our Wealth program. I’m betting they will be relegated to that locked trunk in the attic where we keep the really embarrassing memories -- like the German American Bund.

Republican air traffic controllers might think they are putting country before self. I know some that have genuinely believed that over the years. It’s a noble thought. It is also -- I believe -- incorrect. Cutting the ranks of government workers will not cure America’s ills. Cutting unemployment benefits won’t either. Cutting welfare didn’t cure our problems. Yet these are the policies presented by the Republican Party as solutions. They won’t work any better than their economic policies have worked. The “trickle down” never happened. Unregulated industries are unfolding disasters -- from the BP oil spill in the Gulf to the “liar loans” created by the financial industry.

Do the country a favor. At least consider the notion that what is good for you might be good for the country too. I believe a professional, competent, ethical government workforce is in the best interests of America. Ask yourself why John Boehner doesn’t. Cui bono? If not to your benefit and not to other American’s benefit, then whose? Who would benefit from a gutted civil service -- one unable to attract talented, dedicated Americans trying to serve their country? You need to answer that for yourself. I’ve already found my answer.

Don Brown
August 27, 2010

Thursday, August 26, 2010

I Was Wrong (Again)

You should really take the time to read the entire New Yorker article about the Koch brothers. I’ve never read an article that puts it all together like this one. (There’s an advantage to having 10 pages of space.)

And just to grab the aviation crowd’s attention (before they leave)...

David Koch was on USAir 1493. when it landed on the Metroliner at LAX in 1991. He was the only passenger in the first class section to survive. I’m sure he feels like the angels are on his side. Perhaps they are. But these people don’t sound like angels to me.


”The report showed that, from 2005 to 2008, the Kochs vastly outdid ExxonMobil in giving money to organizations fighting legislation related to climate change, underwriting a huge network of foundations, think tanks, and political front groups.”

”And she noted that Americans for Prosperity had provided Tea Party activists with lists of elected officials to target. She said of the Kochs, “They’re certainly our people. David’s the chairman of our board.”

”The Texas branch of Americans for Prosperity gave its Blogger of the Year Award to a young woman named Sibyl West. On June 14th, West, writing on her site, described Obama as the “cokehead in chief.” In an online thread, West speculated that the President was exhibiting symptoms of “demonic possession (aka schizophrenia, etc.).””

”In 1958, Fred Koch became one of the original members of the John Birch Society, the arch-conservative group known, in part, for a highly skeptical view of governance and for spreading fears of a Communist takeover.”

”Charles and David Koch were particularly influenced by the work of Friedrich von Hayek, the author of “The Road to Serfdom” (1944), which argued that centralized government planning led, inexorably, to totalitarianism.”

”After the 1980 election, Charles and David Koch receded from the public arena. But they poured more than a hundred million dollars into dozens of seemingly independent organizations.”

”In the nineteen-eighties, the Olin family, which owns a chemicals-and-manufacturing conglomerate, became known for funding right-leaning thinking in academia, particularly in law schools. And during the nineties Richard Mellon Scaife, a descendant of Andrew Mellon, spent millions attempting to discredit President Bill Clinton.”

The article even presents the rebuttal every Republican you know uses when confronted with this information.

”Of course, Democrats give money, too. Their most prominent donor, the financier George Soros, runs a foundation, the Open Society Institute, that has spent as much as a hundred million dollars a year in America.”

Continuing on with the Koch brothers...

”Among the institutions that they have subsidized are the Institute for Justice, which files lawsuits opposing state and federal regulations; the Institute for Humane Studies, which underwrites libertarian academics; and the Bill of Rights Institute, which promotes a conservative slant on the Constitution. Many of the organizations funded by the Kochs employ specialists who write position papers that are subsequently quoted by politicians and pundits.”

”In 1977, the Kochs provided the funds to launch the nation’s first libertarian think tank, the Cato Institute.”

”The Kochs have funded many sources of environmental skepticism, such as the Heritage Foundation, which has argued that “scientific facts gathered in the past 10 years do not support the notion of catastrophic human-made warming.””

”Financial records show that the Koch family foundations have contributed more than thirty million dollars to George Mason (University), much of which has gone to the Mercatus Center, a nonprofit organization. “It’s ground zero for deregulation policy in Washington,” Rob Stein, the Democratic strategist, said.”

”The group, Citizens for a Sound Economy, seemed like a grassroots movement, but according to the Center for Public Integrity it was sponsored principally by the Kochs, who provided $7.9 million between 1986 and 1993.”

”That year, internal rivalries at Citizens for a Sound Economy caused the organization to split apart. David Koch and Fink started a new group, Americans for Prosperity, and they hired Tim Phillips to run it. Phillips was a political veteran who had worked with Ralph Reed, the evangelical leader and Republican activist, co-founding Century Strategies, a campaign-consulting company that became notorious for its ties to the disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff.”

”Soon after Obama assumed office, Americans for Prosperity launched “Porkulus” rallies against Obama’s stimulus-spending measures. Then the Mercatus Center released a report claiming that stimulus funds had been directed disproportionately toward Democratic districts; eventually, the author was forced to correct the report, but not before Rush Limbaugh, citing the paper, had labelled Obama’s program “a slush fund,” and Fox News and other conservative outlets had echoed the sentiment.”

”Americans for Prosperity also created an offshoot, Patients United Now, which organized what Phillips has estimated to be more than three hundred rallies against health-care reform.”

”Americans for Prosperity has held at least eighty events targeting cap-and-trade legislation,...”

I’m exhausted and I haven’t even gotten to Grover Norquist yet. And I’m certain that Grover isn’t on the side of the angels. I know it doesn’t look like it, but I was trying to provide the briefest of quotes.

This article is awe inspiring as it tracks the Koch brother’s money through our political system. And it is “our” system. It isn’t theirs. They just act like it is. That’s what the financial power of a corporation will do for an individual. Find the time to read it.

P.S. I’ve just got to add this in. Reason has already put up a rebuttal.

”Full disclosure: David Koch has been on the board of trustees of Reason Foundation, the publisher of this website, for decades, and his name appears in the masthead of Reason magazine; I have also taught at various programs for the Institute for Humane Studies, which the Kochs fund, and will speak at an Americans for Prosperity event later this week.”

I know my readers are familiar with the Reason Foundation -- home of Mr. Privatize ATC, Robert Poole.

Don Brown
August 26, 2010

Not Coke -- Koch

I’m pretty sure I’ve told you about the Koch brothers before. Yep. I have. They supply the “wing” in the “vast, right-wing conspiracy”. It’s really no different than it ever has been throughout history. Rich people use their money to influence government.

The brothers made it onto The Rachel Maddow Show. For those that believe Ms. Maddow is too biased to be believable, you can read Jane Mayer’s piece in The New Yorker.

Covert Operations
The billionaire brothers who are waging a war against Obama.

”The Kochs are longtime libertarians who believe in drastically lower personal and corporate taxes, minimal social services for the needy, and much less oversight of industry—especially environmental regulation. These views dovetail with the brothers’ corporate interests. In a study released this spring, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst’s Political Economy Research Institute named Koch Industries one of the top ten air polluters in the United States. And Greenpeace issued a report identifying the company as a “kingpin of climate science denial.” The report showed that, from 2005 to 2008, the Kochs vastly outdid ExxonMobil in giving money to organizations fighting legislation related to climate change, underwriting a huge network of foundations, think tanks, and political front groups. Indeed, the brothers have funded opposition campaigns against so many Obama Administration policies—from health-care reform to the economic-stimulus program—that, in political circles, their ideological network is known as the Kochtopus.”

Be forewarned: This is The New Yorker. It’s a 10-page article. You’d might rather just watch Rachel.

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Don Brown
August 26, 2010

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Classic Comedy

I bet that this clip will be on half the blogs in America before the day is over. It would be even funnier if it wasn’t so true.

A quote that I read just yesterday, from Molly Ivins, seems appropriate.

”There are two kinds of humor. One kind that makes us chuckle about our foibles and our shared humanity -- like what Garrison Keillor does. The other kind holds people up to public contempt and ridicule -- that's what I do. Satire is traditionally the weapon of the powerless against the powerful. I only aim at the powerful. When satire is aimed at the powerless, it is not only cruel -- it's vulgar.”

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
The Parent Company Trap
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorTea Party

My money is on evil.

Don Brown
August 24, 2010

Monday, August 23, 2010


I should probably never read Molly Ivins and Paul Krugman back to back. Think about that clash of cultures. A down-home Texas funny-woman straight to a East coast, Ivy League economist.

A reader sent me a site full of Molly Ivins quotes (I’m still looking) to read and then I remembered it was Monday so Krugman had a new column out.

On second thought....

Instead of me waxing philosophical, suppose you give it a try. Here are four quotes to get you started.


”In the real world, there are only two ways to deal with corporate misbehavior: One is through government regulation and the other is by taking them to court. What has happened over 20 years of free-market proselytizing is that we have dangerously weakened both forms of restraint, first through the craze for "deregulation" and second through endless rounds of "tort reform," all of which have the effect of cutting off citizens' access to the courts. By legally bribing politicians with campaign contributions, the corporations have bought themselves immunity from lawsuits on many levels.”

Molly Ivins, Austin, Texas, July 25, 2002


”No, this has nothing to do with sound economic policy. Instead, as I said, it’s about a dysfunctional and corrupt political culture, in which Congress won’t take action to revive the economy, pleads poverty when it comes to protecting the jobs of schoolteachers and firefighters, but declares cost no object when it comes to sparing the already wealthy even the slightest financial inconvenience.”

Paul Krugman, The New York Times, August 23, 2010


"In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problems; government is the problem."

Ronald Reagan, Washington, DC, Jan. 20, 1981”


”"I've abandoned free market principles to save the free market system."

George W. Bush, Washington, D.C., Dec. 16, 2008

Don Brown
August 23, 2010

An Amendment To Your Routing...

I was reading a post by my friend Frank at N631S awhile back and it just won’t leave me alone.

Clearance Roulette (cont’d)

”The ATC computer seems to have trouble getting N631S and me a workable clearance for our Monday morning trips from DC to Connecticut. As usual, there's a back-story to the tale.

Early on, I would file something like:
POLLA V312 GOLDA V268 ENO V16 JFK V229 PUGGS at 7,000 feet.

I learned very quickly that I'd be required to descend to 5,000 feet approaching ENO if I wanted that routing. Period. And that was annoying because I'd just used all the AvGas needed to get up to 7,000 where the air was clear and the tailwind stronger.”

Frank flies the same trip over and over. And over. It ought to be the same route -- every single time -- and it ought to work. He should file it. And he should get “cleared as filed” -- every single time. (Except for weather problems of course.)

As almost every pilot (and every controller) knows, it doesn’t work that way. It could work that way (most of the time) but it doesn’t. And it hasn’t for years. Why? Inertia. “Not invented here” syndrome. Mostly, it doesn’t work that way because people have given up. The controllers in each facility know the routings for their facility. But the coordination between facilities is where the system falls apart. It shouldn’t. But it does.

So the routes that are in the computers (each Center has their own database of preferences) never change -- even when the procedures in another facility change. And so, we amend the same flights, over and over.

”About three minutes later, the Dover Approach controller was back with a routing change. He cleared me present position to ENO, thence V268 LEEAH V1 JFK, rest of route unchanged. Perfect.

But it seems like a lot of effort to do something that ought to be simple.”

Those three minutes are what slows down air traffic control. And we do it over and over and over and over and over. Here’s a news flash. ERAM won’t change it. GPS won’t change it. A new and improved computer system won’t change it. A new President and a new Congress won’t change it. A new Administrator won’t change it.

The only thing that will change it would be a commitment to excellence on the FAA’s part. By everybody. Everybody (pilots, controllers and staff) would have to know the rationale behind the routes and it would take lots and lots of education. It can be done. But it would take money. Anytime an airspace change was made it would have to be coordinated and communicated among all the parties. In other words --dull, dreary staff work. Lots of time. Lots of money. Lots of education in lots of briefings. Yes -- it is expensive.

And that’s the reason it never gets done. And it never will be. Because it’s a whole lot easier to tell ourselves that technology will change it. And nobody ever counts the cost of those three minutes wasted -- over and over and over and over and over -- thousands of times a day.

On a personal note, I know that a lot of people wish I would write more about these kind of details. Therein lies the problem. I don’t have access to the details anymore. Airspace changes. Routes change. And memories fade. I don’t know if GSP Approach still has to route every single low altitude en route aircraft around CLT Approach towards the GENOD intersection, then to BZM and then points East and Northeast. I bet they do. I bet half the controllers just stick them on a heading still. And aren’t happy about it. And I bet there still isn’t an airway around CLT Approach like I asked for 15 years ago.

But I don’t know.

(P.S. Just because I was doing some research... August 23rd fell on a Monday in 2004 also. Atlanta Center’s traffic count was 8,783 for that day. I have no idea what it is now. Or how they count it.)

Don Brown
August 23, 2010

Lobbying Lowdown

There was an unnoteworthy story waiting for me on Google News this morning.

Air traffic controllers spent $171K lobbying in 2Q

”The National Air Traffic Controllers Association spent $171,000 on federal government lobbying in the second quarter on issues including pay and funding for air traffic control and the Federal Aviation Administration.

The union for air traffic controllers also lobbied on the consolidation and realignment of air traffic control facilities. Besides Congress, the union lobbied the FAA, the Transportation Department and the White House.”

Perhaps “unnoteworthy” is a bit of an exaggeration. But I consider it “unnoteworthy” when compared to this:

Boeing spent $4.97M on lobbying in 2Q

”The lobbying bill for the April-June period was almost double the $2.6 million it spent during the same period last year and is up from the $4.06 million it spent in the 2010 first quarter.

Chicago-based Boeing has strong interests in both commercial aviation, which the government influences through the Federal Aviation Administration, as well as defense and space spending.”

Interesting. Let’s take some zeros off so the numbers will make sense (to me, at least.) NATCA spent $171 dollars. Boeing spent almost $5,000. Nearly 30 times as much. Lockheed spent over in $3,000 ($3.2 million) in the 4th quarter of last year.

Anytime anyone wants to outlaw lobbying, I don’t think unions will have too big of a problem with it. I know I won’t, anyway.

Don Brown
August 23, 2010

Sunday, August 22, 2010


Did you notice that Robert Reich wrote a blog about the same story I wrote about last Thursday? He knows more about it than I do. (No surprise is there?)

Corporate Rotten Eggs

”One especially rotten egg is Jack DeCoster, whose commercial egg agribusiness, which goes under the homey title “Wright County Egg,” headquartered in Galt, Iowa, sends eggs all over the country under many different brands. Those eggs have now laid low thousands of Americans with salmonella poisoning, and may well infect thousands more.”

That’s an interesting assertion -- when you consider liable laws. As far as I know, Robert Reich writes this blog on his own. There is no corporation behind him -- no newspaper’s legal department ready to defend him as “the price of doing business”.

”Thirteen years ago when I was Secretary of Labor, DeCoster agreed to pay a $2 million penalty (the most we could throw at him) for some of the most heinous workplace violations I’d seen. His workers had been forced to live in trailers infested with rats and handle manure and dead chickens with their bare hands. It was an agricultural sweatshop.

Several people in Maine told me the fine wouldn’t stop DeCoster. He’d just consider it a cost of doing business. ”

I think I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again. I don’t want to put all corporations out of business. I just want to put the crooks out of business. (I’ll still be eternally grateful if someone finds Molly Ivin’s quote on the subject and sends it to me.)

Don Brown
August 22, 2010

Today’s Photo 8-22-10


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

There’s more on Facebook.

Don Brown

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Google Recession

My brother showed me a neat trick with Google Maps this morning.

1) Go to Google Maps and pick an area -- say Atlanta.

2) At the top of the map is a button that says “More”. Scroll over that, a drop down box will display and the bottom entry should be “Real estate”. Check that box.

3) That should change the display in the window to the left of the map.

4) Check the “Foreclosure” button and uncheck the “For sale” button.

5) Explore

After you’ve played with that a while, read Krugman’s column from yesterday.

Appeasing the Bond Gods

”Late last year the conventional wisdom on economic policy took a hard right turn. Even though the world’s major economies had barely begun to recover, even though unemployment remained disastrously high across much of America and Europe, creating jobs was no longer on the agenda. Instead, we were told, governments had to turn all their attention to reducing budget deficits.”

Blend all this together and think on it for a minute, if you will.

Don Brown
August 21, 2010


Thursday, August 19, 2010

You Already Know the Details

Because you have heard the story so many times before.

Egg Recall Expanded After Salmonella Outbreak

”Federal regulators have grappled with the problem of salmonella in eggs since it first emerged in the 1980s. But proposals to improve regulations were largely unsuccessful until a year ago, when the Food and Drug Administration announced a new set of rules, which became effective on July 9.”

(Emphasis added)

”Mr. DeCoster is well known to federal regulators.”

”In 1997, one of his companies agreed to pay a $2 million fine...”

”In 2003, Mr. DeCoster pleaded guilty to charges of knowingly hiring immigrants...”

”Mr. DeCoster was also charged by Iowa authorities in the 1990s with violations of environmental rules governing hog manure runoff.”

Just another story to remember when “conservatives” tell you that we don’t need regulations and “The Market” (that magical, mystical creature) will regulate itself.

I must say that, once again, Michael Pollan’s masterpiece -- The Omnivore’s Dilemma -- comes to mind. (I really can’t believe I’ve never written a book review of it. How did I miss that?) Once again we see a flaw in the big, industrial food chain we’ve built to sustain ourselves. Where animals and plants once fed us in a centuries-old balance with each other, we have built a system of sickness. We fertilize our fields with petroleum products now instead of manure. The manure has become a toxic waste disposal problem on an industrial scale.

The irony of hiring illegal aliens to work our farms -- the very farms we Americans still romanticize -- and then blaming them for taking our jobs is rich indeed. I suspect there are millions of Americans that would enjoy making a living from their 40 acre farm. But American agriculture policy isn’t geared toward generating millions of jobs (any news about unemployment today?). It’s geared towards keeping prices down.

You Want Fries With That?

”The early 70’s marked the last time food prices in America had climbed high enough to generate political heat.”

“Recognizing the political peril of cranky consumers and restive farmers, President Nixon dispatched Butz to rejigger the American food system. The Sage of Purdue promptly loosened regulations, beat down trade rules and expanded subsidies. By 1976, when a racist joke he told on a plane cost him his job, Butz had largely succeeded in driving down the cost of food and vastly increasing the output of America’s farmers. Say what you will about the problems of a heavily subsidized industrial agriculture, the cost of food is no longer a political issue in the United States.”

I think that quote said something about regulations being loosened. The whole episode is a fascinating look at how government works -- and how we got to where we are. You can always look up these things on Wikipedia but Michael Pollan’s book will help you see the “Big Picture”.

Earl Butz

”...Butz revolutionized federal agricultural policy and reengineered many New Deal era farm support programs. His mantra to farmers was "get big or get out," and he urged farmers to plant commodity crops like corn "from fencerow to fencerow." These policy shifts coincided with the rise of major agribusiness corporations, and the declining financial stability of the small family farm.”

Don Brown
August 19, 2010


Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Today’s Photo 8-17-10

Another morning with no pictures. I decided I needed some motivation so I went digging through my portfolio. This is one of my favorite images from Meadowlark Gardens.

I had stopped to take a picture of a rose vine across the road. When I went to the other side of the truck to pull out the camera gear, I saw this picture, hiding behind a hedge.

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

Don Brown
August 17, 2010


FAA -- Failing Again and Again

I noticed the link to the GAO report in the Fierce Government IT story from the previous blog. In a moment of weakness, I clicked on it. It’s no wonder I spend so much time on politics and photography now.

”For example, FAA did not fully address human factors considerations in developing the En Route Automation Modernization (ERAM) system, which FAA plans to complete by 2010. According to the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA), air traffic controllers involved in initial operations capabilities tests at an air traffic control center in Salt Lake City have come across significant problems with using the system. According to NATCA, controllers have found the new formats cumbersome, confusing, and difficult to navigate, thus indicating that FAA did not adequately involve those who operate the system (controllers) in the early phases of system development.”

”FAA officials within the En Route Automation Modernization office agreed with NATCA’s views on the new system and added that the simulation capabilities of its Technical Center in Atlantic City, New Jersey, where the agency conducts human factors testing, were not robust enough to capture all of the problems subsequently identified by controllers.”

They agree with NATCA now, whereas, before (during W’s reign), they couldn’t agree with NATCA because NATCA was cut out of the loop.

”Similarly, as noted in a report we issued in 2005, FAA’s failure to provide adequate attention to human factors issues when implementing the Standard Terminal Automation Replacement System resulted in schedule slips and a significant cost increase of $500 million.”

Yes, it does sound depressingly familiar.

”However, once contracts are awarded, contractors are supposed to follow the contract specifications, which can include human factors system performance requirements. HFREG (Human Factors Research and Engineering Group) officials told us that in the past they collaborated with program office human factors coordinators to assess outside vendors’ compliance with human factors issues; they found that the contractors were not in compliance in all aspects, particularly human factors.”

Contract compliance isn’t a strong suit in the Federal government. The contractors like it that way.

”Furthermore, FAA’s post-implementation review of the Advanced Technologies and Oceanic Procedures system concluded that FAA and the contractors who developed the system did not, from a human factors perspective, develop the system to meet FAA’s needs. The post-implementation review recommended that for future systems, FAA should ensure that it articulates to contractors in unambiguous terms the human factors-related characteristics that the proposed system must meet.”

Oh, they will. In “unambiguous terms”. Of course, nobody will be able to enforce those terms. See above.

”FAA has not prioritized consistently staffing the top two leadership positions within FAA that are formally responsible for human factors R&D. Specifically, the Chief Systems Engineer for Human Factors position has been vacant since the previous chief retired in January 2010. Moreover, FAA did not assign a permanent program director of HFREG for 16 months, from January 2009 until FAA filled the position in June 2010.”

Nobody is really interested in providing the controllers the equipment they need. They are interested in selling the equipment they have. And if you’ll leave key positions vacant, you have effectively put the contractors in charge. In other words, it’s the same old stuff it’s been for the last 30 years. It’s just a different day.

I’m going back to taking pictures.

Don Brown
August 16, 2010


Monday, August 16, 2010

ERAM? Anyone?

It sure is quiet out there.

ERAM on Wikipedia

”Step 1: 2006 Replace the current En Route computer backup system with Enhanced Backup Surveillance.

Step 2: 2007 Provide controllers real-time electronic access to weather data, aeronautical data, air traffic control procedures documents, Notices to Airmen, pilot reports, and other information with the En Route Information Display System.

Step 3: 2009 Replace the current En Route Host computer air traffic control with a fully redundant, state of the art system that enables new capabilities and requires no stand-alone backup system.”

We’re rapidly approaching 2011.

GAO, DOT IG Concerned about FAA's NextGen
August 10, 2010

”The GAO noted that after limited simulation tests at the FAA Technical Center, the FAA formally accepted Eram from the contractor since the "equipment has performed to specification at all 20 sites." Unfortunately, ARTCC tests with real traffic were abandoned after more than 15,000 software issues arose, of which 1,400 are still unresolved, including 200 "critical" issues. Equally unfortunate, government acceptance means that the FAA will have to pay to fix every one of them, at a cost of $12 million per month, according to the DOT Inspector General.”

(Emphasis added)

GAO: FAA needs to think more human

”The Federal Aviation Administration did not fully think through "human factor" considerations when developing the En Route Automation Modernization system, for example, the GAO report finds. ”

Big duh. That would be because they were too busy trying to figure out how to replace the humans. Again.

”ERAM has experienced software-related problems and delays in its roll out; the FAA has said it is unlikely that all 20 ERAM systems will be fielded and operational by the original December 2010 deadline.”

Go back and read the Wikipedia entry again. See if you see any mention of 2010.

”Air traffic controllers involved in initial operations capabilities tests in the Salt Lake City center have said they found the system "cumbersome, confusing and difficult to navigate," the GAO report states.”

Like they say on the news, I guess we’ll just have to “leave it there”.

Don Brown
August 16, 2010


Today’s Photo 8-16-10

Last night’s sunset was a bust. As was this morning’s sunrise. But the good news is the geese are back. That’s the first time I’ve seen them in over a month. And the white (Little Blue) heron showed up too. Neither was close enough to even attempt a photo but it was nice to see them regardless.

I figured it was as good a time as any for another lesson in “idiot” cameras. Here are a couple of images from a Disney vacation earlier this year. Both are taken with my little point-n-shoot camera on a pre-sunrise walk around the grounds.

Turn off the flash. Find a solid object to brace the camera on. Shoot.

On this one, I braced the camera against another column. Notice that the camera is held vertically. Not only did it make for a better composition, it made it easier to hold the camera steady. (Think about it. It will come to you.)

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

On this one, I set the camera on a garbage can and used the self timer to trip the shutter. That way, I’m sure my shaky hands don’t blur the picture.

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

Don Brown
August 16, 2010

Friday, August 13, 2010

Hey! But I Just Got Here

I was asking some friends last night for reading suggestions -- columns or blogs -- and Andrea recommended Thomas Frank’s column at The Wall Street Journal -- The Tilting Yard. Not many people recommend the The Wall Street Journal to me. It just goes to show you that you never know.

So, anyway, I look it up online, start reading, and this is the first thing I see;

”This is my last weekly column for the Wall Street Journal...”

Just my luck. I think I would have liked reading him. Especially after I looked him up. (I knew the name sounded familiar.)

”His book “What's the Matter with Kansas?”, published in 2004, earned him nationwide and international recognition.”

That was one of the first books I read after I retired. It was one of my first lessons on how people are manipulated into voting against their own economic interests. In short, it’s okay if you drive us into poverty -- just as long as you outlaw abortion. The book was published in 2004. Guess what? Abortion is still legal. After eight years of President Bush -- six of which the Republicans controlled everything. As to the economy...well, you know how that has gone.

Just to let you know, The Wall Street Journal will let you read the column once but if you go to reload it, they’ll block access until you “upgrade”. Hey, it’s their web site. I’m pretty sure you can read the comments at will though. And to be honest, I found that to be the most interesting thing about the experience. (No reflection on Mr. Frank’s writing intended.) The WSJ’s readers -- one is to suppose the captains and future captains of industry -- don’t seem to like Mr. Frank much. I can’t imagine why.

The Economic Crisis: Lessons Unlearned

”As the right howled "socialism," President Obama took pains to demonstrate his loyalty to the exhausted free-market faith. On trade issues and matters of economic staffing, he loudly signalled continuity with the discredited past. On the all-important issue of regulatory misbehavior—a natural for good-government types—he has done virtually nothing.

The real audacity has all been on the other side. Many Republicans chose to respond to the crisis not by renouncing the consensus faith of the last 30 years but by doubling down on it, calling for more deregulation, more war on government.

That they have partially succeeded with such a strategy in these years of financial crisis, mine disasters, and oil spills is testimony to their political brilliance—and to Democratic dysfunction. As is the burgeoning populist movement that now stands beside the GOP, transforming anger over unemployment into anger over the auto bailout and the good pensions enjoyed by public workers.”

I think I’ll keep an ear out for Mr. Frank. I wouldn’t mind reading more from him.

Beginning in December 2010, Frank will write the monthly "Easy Chair" column for Harper's Magazine.”

Don Brown
August 13, 2010

Today’s Photo 8-13-10

You’ve probably heard me whine about contrails getting in the way of my pictures before. I had to work around one to get this picture last night.

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

My friend Stephen (aka “Spike”) has other problems to deal with in his solar astronomy photography. Have a look.

There’s more at his web site. There’s more of mine on Facebook. (Or will be as soon as I get to it.)

Don Brown
August 13, 2010


Thursday, August 12, 2010

Today’s Photo 8-12-10

Not bad. And a whole lot better than the sunrises I’ve seen lately.

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

For those with some free time and a clear sky, there will be a meteor shower tonight. Thanks for reminding me, Spike.

Don Brown
August 12, 2010


Is He? Newt

My thanks to long-time friend Todd for pointing out this Esquire article on Newt Gingrich.

Newt Gingrich: The Indispensable Republican

”In the twelve years since he resigned in defeat and disgrace, he has been carefully plotting his return to power. As 2012 approaches, he has raised as much money as all of his potential rivals combined and sits atop the polls for the Republican presidential nomination. But just who is Newton Leroy Gingrich, really? An epic and bizarre story of American power in an unsettled age.”

The article is lengthy. It is also fascinating. I was a long way into adulthood before I came to understand that the halls of power contain a fair number of people as flawed as Newt Gingrich. Well...okay. Maybe Newt takes the cake when it comes to flawed.

”"He was just full of hate and venom," says Beryl Anthony Jr., a Democratic congressman in those years. "He was driven mainly by trying to tear down the leadership and gain political power." "I've known Newt now for thirty years almost," says former congressman Mickey Edwards. "But I wouldn't be able to describe what his real principles are. I never felt that he had any sort of a real compass about what he believed except for the pursuit of power."

From that pursuit he would not be deterred. And so by the morning in the fall of 1994 that he gathered three hundred Republican candidates on the Capitol steps to announce his ingenious Contract with America, his transformation from fool to conqueror was complete. Newt Gingrich's ridiculous prophesies that he would change the world had come to pass.”

I’m not sure exactly what it is that sets me off about Newt. He was my Congressman for a short time when I was younger. But I wasn’t politically active then and didn’t pay much attention to him. I’m not a quick judge of character. My wife can size someone in minutes -- if not seconds. It takes me a long time -- if I even bother trying. But Newt sets me off. Believe it or not, I think it’s a simple as manners. He doesn’t have any. And he’s just plain mean.

Anyway, if he runs, I’ll do everything within my (very) limited power to make sure he loses. He’s bad news. He’s dangerous. I think incredibly dangerous. I can smell it.

”Ten years later, Gingrich has built an empire of wealth and influence by turning the fundraising scandals of his past inside out. His American Solutions for Winning the Future is a political-advocacy group similar to GOPAC or the PACs that support regular candidates like Sarah Palin or Mitt Romney, but with a twist: Regular PACs can't take corporate money or personal donations larger than $5,000. Instead, American Solutions is a "527" group, which can accept unlimited contributions as long as it doesn't promote the interests of a specific candidate. So Gingrich takes hundreds of thousands of dollars from coal and oil companies and spends it to fight energy regulations and promote conservative leaders at critical moments — as the archconservative Townhall.com observed, the "Drill Here, Drill Now, Pay Less" campaign he launched in the spring of 2008 was "likely the source of John McCain's miraculous rebound in the polls."”

And that is some powerful stink. It will become even more powerful. Newt is wrapped up with Citizens United -- the outfit that got the campaign finance laws overturned by the Supreme Court. That was the recent decision that opened up elections to unlimited spending by the entities that have unlimited funds -- like the coal and oil companies.

This is an article you need to read. And on the day Newt announces he’s running for President, you need to come back and read it again. I’ll remind you. Trust me.

Don Brown
August 12, 2010

For a Piece of Paper

All this is for a piece of paper to have a chance -- just a chance -- to get into subsidized housing. Imagine what it would look like if they were hungry.

Don Brown
August 12, 2010

Turn Out the Lights

The party’s over. You won’t believe the things that local governments are doing to cut expenses. Turning out lights, shortening school weeks, selling helicopters and canceling the bus service. The New York Times has an interesting article about it. But nothing caught my attention quite like Rachel Maddow when she said we were “unpaving the roads”. Unpaving the roads. Seriously. Take a look.

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Here’s the Wall Street Journal story about “unpaving” roads.

(Yes, the title is a song.)

Don Brown
August 12, 2010


Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Here It Comes

All Republican-voting controllers, please pay attention. (PLEASE -- feel free to mail this to them.) You are the next target. You had to see this coming, right? Somebody has to be the bad guy and now it’s your turn. Again.

Schoolteachers Driving Cadillacs

”Jonathan Chait Cohn tells us that public-sector employees are the new welfare queens. Quite: any time you try to talk about the fiscal plight of state and local government, you get spittle-flecked denunciations of unions and their crazy pay packages.”

For the young ones among you that don’t recognize the cultural reference -- “welfare queens” were the 1980s version of the boogeyman created by none other than the guy that busted PATCO. Yep. Ronald Reagan.

Krugman includes a link to The New Republic in his post and I want to make sure you visit it.

Why Public Employees Are the New Welfare Queens

”Conservatives say that excessive public employee pensions exemplify the greed of unions (which sought these generous benefits for public employees) and inefficiency of government (which agreed to pay them). If local and state governments are struggling financially, these conservatives say, they should figure out some way to reduce or revoke those promised benefits, rather than come to Washington and beg for help from the taxpayers.”

I’ve been hearing these noises from some of my conservative pilot friends for months so I knew the right-wing think tank echo machine was ginning up the issue. When I pointed out that I was one of those lazy, no count, union-member-public-employees I was assured they weren’t talking about me. They were talking about those lousy local and State government employees. Yeah. Right. Sure they are.

Don’t kid yourself kids. If they will lay off a school teacher...If they’ll cut the pension of a police officer...If they’ll cut the health benefits of a fireman...They won’t blink an eye about sticking it to a guy that works inside some dark building that most of the public doesn’t even know about.

So, you Republican-voting controllers, you can vote yourself out of a job, a pension and some benefits or you can wake up and smell the coffee. It really is up to you. I know who you are. You know I didn’t change your mind when I worked next to you every day and I probably won’t change your mind here. It’s up to you. But do me a favor, try to base your vote on some facts.

”And to the extent this gap exists, conservatives are surely right when they say that unions and government accommodation of them are the main reason. Unions represent around 37 percent of public sector workers, compared to 7 percent of private sector workers. Note that one of the few exceptions to the public-private compensation differential seems to be unionized industrial laborers, like the auto workers--and that, during last year’s debate over what to do with the auto industry, we were having a very similar conversation about the relatively rich benefits that members of the United Auto Workers were getting.

But ask yourself the same question you should have been asking then: To what extent is the problem that the retirement benefits for unionized public sector workers have become too generous? And to what extent is the problem that retirement benefits for everybody else have become too stingy?”

Think on it. You know the facts. You don’t have to look them up or have anybody interpret them for you.

I know what controllers made when I started working. I know what pilots made. Controllers aren’t making that much more. Pilots are making a whole lot less. Mechanics? What mechanics? We’ve outsourced them.

How about CEOs? How have they done? How many of them have been outsourced?

Farmers? Auto workers ? Butchers? Bakers? Candlestick makers? The Republican-voting controllers used to tell me that they would vote against their own interest for the good of the country. What good? If all the working people in the country are slowly-but-surely sliding downhill, tell me where the “good” is. These people are the country. Teachers, policemen, firemen, school children and their parents.

You tell me. Where is the good in harming these people?

Don Brown
August 11, 2010


Today’s Photo 8-11-10

In case you were wondering, the lake is still there. This is the best sunrise I’ve seen in a month. And that ain’t sayin’ much. I think I’ve mentioned that I hate summer.

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

Don Brown
August 11, 2010

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Mad Cow Maddow

So I’m sitting at the local Waffle House, getting my weekly fix of grits, and I decide to read the local rag’s editorial section. It’s always the same old thing, Obama is bad and tax cuts are great. This time, it was Bill O’Reilly’s turn to prove how bad Obama was for real America and he took the opportunity to demonstrate this by beating on Rachel Maddow and David Letterman.

Panic on the Left

"”But let's get back to Letterman. Speaking with a far left MSNBC News commentator on his program, Dave listened as she put forth the preposterous theory that Fox News wants to frighten white Americans by reporting negatively about black Americans. "Scaring white people is good politics on the conservative side of the spectrum and always has been. The idea is that you sort of rile up the white base to be afraid of another, to be afraid of immigrants, or scary black people ..."

Now, in the past paranoid, dishonest rants like that would have been dismissed as fringe speak. But not anymore. Without a shred of evidence, a guest on the David Letterman show, (who by the way gets trounced in the ratings by FNC every night), defines an entire news organization as a racist enterprise. And Dave goes along with the program adding: " these people are continuing to fan this flame and ... that is cancer.”

In that I listen to The Rachel Maddow Show podcast, I couldn’t wait to hear how this played out on her show. So I listened to the podcast while I watered my parched flowers and walked a mile in my neighborhood sauna (aka Georgia). Rachel didn’t disappoint but the show started out with something more important to me than watching Bill and Rachel ratchet up their ratings. (That is how this works you know.)

I wrote about this subject months ago. In that it was at the bottom of a lengthy post, I’ll just quote myself here.

”Now, pay attention class. The evil Obama/Democrat plot to ruin America proposed a 825 billion dollar Federal stimulus package. The heroic Republicans and patriotic Tea Party/Town Hall Crashers beat it back to $787 billion.

Pay attention now. This is critical. If your House Representative was a Republican, they voted against it. Not a single Republican voted for it in the House. If your Senator was a Republican (unless you live in Maine or Pennsylvania), they voted against it. Without the Democrats, there wouldn’t even be $787 billion for the States to use.

825-787 = 38 billion dollars the States didn’t get as stimulus.

$38 billion divided by the 50 States would equal (all things being equal) $760 million. Per State. Go back to the beginning. What was your State’s education-budget shortfall ? $300 million ? $760 million would cover that. And then some.”

Now, watch as Rachel Maddow shows you how all this has played out.

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

The stimulus money kept the teachers employed -- the “saved” part of all those “jobs saved or created” -- and when it runs out, the teachers will get laid off. And the students will suffer. And so will the economy. In other words, nobody wins. Except the Republican politicians. Because they will blame it on the Democrats. That brings us back to Bill O’Reilly’s column.

”For 18 months, the United States has been governed from the left and things are not going well. I'm sorry if this analysis might frighten some folks but when you spend a half trillion dollars trying to stimulate the economy and create just 600,000 jobs, well, people are going to notice.”

Do you see how this works now? No jobs “saved” mentioned. It’s just another twist on Republicans destroying the government and then turning around and saying, “See? We told you government doesn’t work.”

Now, as to Rachel Maddow’s response to Bill O’Reilly, all I can say is “Ouch!”. There’s no point in trying to paint this as anything but entertaining. Even if it’s really entertaining (and it is) it detracts from the important. Teachers are losing the jobs. Kids are losing their teachers. And the American economy is still in trouble.

Don Brown
August 10, 2010