Thursday, September 30, 2010

It’s Getting to Him

I think Robert Reich is getting close to the edge. I recognize the signs. Sometimes, the answer is blindingly obvious to just a few -- a few that just happen to be in the right place at the right time to see what needs to be done. Those that Fate chose.

They worked hard at their professions. They were prepared. But still, it was Fate that picked the crisis for which they were prepared.

Take Paul Krugman for example. He spent his academic career studying economies in crisis. Krugman literally wrote the book -- The Return of Depression Economics -- about economies in crisis. Please note he wrote it in 1999.

He would be brilliant regardless. He would probably still be writing a column for The New York Times. He would still be unbelievably successful. But Fate picked this time -- his time -- to have The Great Recession.

Robert Reich is in a similar position. A Professor of Public Policy. A former Secretary of Labor. He has the brains and the skills to be successful at any time in history. But at this moment in time, Fate has given him a special advantage. Take a look at this from his Wikipedia entry.

“In The Next American Frontier he blamed the nation's lagging economic growth on "paper entrepreneurialism" -- financial and legal gamesmanship that drained the economy of resources needed for better products and services.”

The Next American Frontier was written in 1983.

Considering that most of us are just coming to grips with the fact that Wall Street hasn’t been “creating wealth” for the last 30 years -- it’s only been draining it from the middle class and putting it in the hands of the new robber barons -- it’s pretty extraordinary that Robert Reich was writing about it almost 30 years ago.

30 years is a long time to be right. It’s a long time to fight the good fight and wait for others to see the light. It can make you nuts. It can make you want to scream. I’m so glad controllers get to retire early.

I don’t think the blog entry is up to his usual standards. He’s right of course. He is so right. But mostly, it’s revealing about how frustrated the professor is.

The President’s Backyard Discussion of the Economy (as It Could Be)

Don Brown
September 30, 2010

Today’s Photo 9-30-10

And to think I almost didn’t go out this morning. Hearing the sound of rain when you wake up is not a great motivator when you want to photograph the sunrise. You know what’s coming...

You can’t get lucky if you don’t show up.

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

There’s more on Facebook.

Don Brown
September 30, 2010

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

A Second Bill of Rights

Here’s a quote for you:

”“I can’t think of anything that’s been lost,” Mr. Ceragioli said.”

I can think of something. I saw it earlier in the article from The New York TImes.

Anger as a Private Company Takes Over Libraries

”“There’s this American flag, apple pie thing about libraries,” said Frank A. Pezzanite, the outsourcing company’s chief executive. He has pledged to save $1 million a year in Santa Clarita, mainly by cutting overhead and replacing unionized employees. “Somehow they have been put in the category of a sacred organization.””

But that is not all. The privateer isn’t done.

”While the company says it rehires many of the municipal librarians, they must be content with a 401(k) retirement fund and no pension.”

There are two things that are lost right there -- a union salary and a pension. Oh, and your soul. Maybe that isn’t worth much these days. After all, the privateer doesn’t seem to care if anyone notices his lying. Right before he tells us the “company says it rehires many of the municipal librarians” the privateer tells us...

”You can go to a library for 35 years and never have to do anything and then have your retirement. We’re not running our company that way. You come to us, you’re going to have to work.””

So, you can work for them if you’re terrified of losing your job. But not if you have the security of a union and a pension. With any security and dignity, you’re a slacker. But without it, you’re a good, “motivated” employee. I can only hope he gets the union he deserves.

Perhaps I’m overdoing it. I must admit that I watched Michael Moore’s movie “Capitalism: A Love Story” yesterday. Perhaps I’ve been overcome by his left-wing propaganda. But I did see something I’ve never seen before. From my favorite President no less.

”This Republic had its beginning, and grew to its present strength, under the protection of certain inalienable political rights—among them the right of free speech, free press, free worship, trial by jury, freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures. They were our rights to life and liberty.

As our Nation has grown in size and stature, however—as our industrial economy expanded—these political rights proved inadequate to assure us equality in the pursuit of happiness.

We have come to a clear realization of the fact that true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence. "Necessitous men are not free men." People who are hungry and out of a job are the stuff of which dictatorships are made.”

Those lines are from a State of the Union speech Franklin D. Roosevelt gave in January 1944. It continues below. President Roosevelt was sick and exhausted from his war-time trip to Cairo and Tehran. He gave this speech over the radio instead of in the Capitol. This last part -- where he enumerated his Second Bill of Rights was filmed. You can watch the video, or you can just read the text provided.

”In our day these economic truths have become accepted as self-evident. We have accepted, so to speak, a second Bill of Rights under which a new basis of security and prosperity can be established for all regardless of station, race, or creed.

Among these are:

The right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops or farms or mines of the Nation;

The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation;

The right of every farmer to raise and sell his products at a return which will give him and his family a decent living;

The right of every businessman, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies at home or abroad;

The right of every family to a decent home;

The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health;

The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment;

The right to a good education.

All of these rights spell security. And after this war is won we must be prepared to move forward, in the implementation of these rights, to new goals of human happiness and well-being.

America's own rightful place in the world depends in large part upon how fully these and similar rights have been carried into practice for our citizens. For unless there is security here at home there cannot be lasting peace in the world.”

In his film, Michael Moore mentions that victorious Americans -- veterans of Roosevelt Administrations -- helped write the new constitutions of the conquered Japanese and Germans. As I said earlier, Roosevelt’s speech is new information to me. Imagine my delight in seeing these words today -- the very next day.

”In Europe, citizens feel entitled to work - it is even written in the German Constitution.”

You can read the article it came from -- Derision amid divisions over labour

It is spot on -- and quite educational -- about the different way Americans and Germans view labor. Yet, when we think of the Germans, we don’t think of a bunch of slackers. We think of an industrious people. A people known for following rules -- an orderly society. Even now, they are held up as the model economy for the rest of Europe.

There are solutions to our current problems. There are other ways in which we can structure our society. We don’t have to live in fear -- fear of unemployment and destitution.

Don Brown
September 29, 2010

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Today’s Photo 9-28-10

Not a great sunrise this morning. But a great morning. It got down to 51 degrees (10.5C). I love it. It’s been a long time coming.

I think the geese like it too. There seems to be two flocks sharing the lake at the moment.

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

One flies off to the north and one flies to the west -- straight at me.

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

Don Brown
September 9, 2010

Monday, September 27, 2010

Mr. Murphy Scares Me More

There is an interesting little story in The New York Times that you might want to think about.

A Silent Attack, but Not a Subtle One

”Global alarm over the deadly computer worm has come many months after the program was suspected of stealthily entering an Iranian nuclear enrichment plant, perhaps carried on a U.S.B. memory drive containing the malware.

Computer security specialists have speculated that once inside the factory and within the software that controls equipment, the worm reprogrammed centrifuges made by a specific company, Siemens, to make them fail in a way that would be virtually undetectable. Whether the program achieved its goal is not known.”

The obvious air traffic control implications come towards the bottom of the piece.

”An even more remarkable set of events surrounded the 2007 Israeli Air Force attack on what was suspected of being a Syrian nuclear reactor under construction.

Accounts of the event initially indicated that sophisticated jamming technology had been used to blind the radar so Israeli aircraft went unnoticed. Last December, however, a report in an American technical publication, IEEE Spectrum, cited a European industry source as raising the possibility that the Israelis had used a built-in kill switch to shut down the radar.”

Once again, the words of a fictional engineer come to mind; “The more they over-think the plumbing...”

But all in all, Mr. Murphy still scares me more.

Don Brown
September 27, 2010

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Big Business as Big Brother

They are still at it. The Three Stooges of think tanks -- The Heritage Foundation, The Cato Institute and the American Enterprise Institute -- continue to beat the drum on lowering Federal salaries.

Federal pay called into question -- again

”During a panel discussion hosted by the right-leaning Heritage Foundation, analysts said federal workers' pay and benefits are more generous than those available in the private sector and should be brought in line with industry compensation. Government employees haven't felt the impact of the recession like the rest of the workforce, they said.”

What they didn’t say is that Federal employees haven’t suffered (as much as private industry workers) at the hands of the the Big Business Brothers and Republican Party that have engineered a decade of declining wages for most Americans.

The American dream is still alive, but in peril

”Most media outlets reporting on the U.S. Census incomes report last week focused on the deplorable fact that one in seven Americans — 43 million — lived below the poverty line in 2009.

But the Wall Street Journal had the right headline to explain the generalized experience of average Americans: “Lost Decade for Family Income.”

The median income of American families in 2009 was $49,777, below what it was in 1997.”

Need I point out that it’s pretty bad out there when I can shoot down the Heritage Foundation’s argument using a quote from the Wall Street Journal?

The Heritage Foundation and it’s buddies aren’t the least bit concerned about taxpayers, the Federal government or anybody else except the guys that pay their salaries -- Big Business. Right now, the Federal government is getting to where it is the employer it should be. The employer that sets the bar that others have to meet. Good salaries, good benefits and a good pension. What these Free Marketeers are really bellyaching about is the thing they have always told you was good for business -- competition. Big Business is having to compete with the Federal Government for skilled workers and they don’t like it. They only like competition when they can put their employees in competition with Chinese or Guatemalan peasants.

Workers need to take a pay cut to compete with the guys in China making $130 a month. And once they get American private industry worker’s wages down below Federal wages, Federal wages will need to come down. Once that is accomplished, private industry wages will need to go down to get below Federal wages. You get the picture. The only thing that ever needs to go up in their twisted world in management pay.

CEO Salaries: What is the Average Salary of a CEO?

”In 1970, CEO salary and bonus packages were typically about $700,000 - 25 times the average production worker salary; by 2000, CEO salaries had jumped to almost $2.2 million on average, 90 times the average salary of a worker, according to a 2004 study on CEO pay by Kevin J. Murphy and Jan Zabojnik. Toss in stock options and other benefits, and the salary of a CEO is nearly 500 times the average worker salary, the study says.”

Keep in mind, these are the guys that gave us The Great Recession. This is the cream of the crop. The smart guys. The ones that society rewards so richly because they are so talented. Remember how they told us it’d be nice to see a businessman -- George W. Bush -- in the White House? Enron. WorldCom. I don’t even have to insert another link for Lehman Brothers and Washington Mutual because they’re on the same page. AIG. Goldman Sachs. It all worked out pretty well for them. Even the “losers”.

Are you really going to vote for these guys in November? This is nothing new. Nothing -- absolutely nothing -- has changed. The Republican Party stands for big business. If they have to toss in a little racism, a little xenophobia or a little culture war to drum up the votes needed to win -- well, that’s just the price of doing business. Watch this.

Back to the original article.

”Federal workers likely weren't overpaid 20 years ago, said Chris Edwards, director of tax policy studies at the libertarian Cato Institute. Government always has employed lawyers, scientists and other highly paid professionals, yet trends show a dramatic rise in federal compensation in the last 10 years compared with the private sector, Edwards said. For example, federal pay has risen nearly 60 percent in the last decade, while private sector wages have increased 30 percent.”

Who the heck is Chris Edwards? It’s easy to find these things out with the internet.

Chris Edwards is the director of tax policy studies at the Cato Institute and a top expert on federal and state tax and budget issues. Before joining Cato in 2001, Edwards was senior economist on the congressional Joint Economic Committee examining tax, budget, and entrepreneurship issues. Previously, he was a consultant and manager with PricewaterhouseCoopers and an economist with the Tax Foundation. Edwards' articles on tax and budget policies have appeared in the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times, Investor's Business Daily, and other newspapers. He is the author of Downsizing the Federal Government and co-author of Global Tax Revolution. He holds a B.A. and M.A. in economics.”

Did you catch the blurb about the “Tax Foundation”? Let’s check it out.

The Tax Foundation is a Washington, D.C.-based think tank founded in 1937 that collects data and publishes research studies on tax policies at the federal and state levels. The group is most famous for its annual calculation of Tax Freedom Day for the United States, which it has produced since the early 1970s.”

Admit it, you always thought that “Tax Freedom Day” thing was cute, didn’t you? It’s okay, they’re paid to be cute. They are paid to make you think favorably of their agenda. Don’t be distracted. Look at the date. 1937. Do you remember what was happening in 1937? The Great Depression? Roosevelt was President?

Tax Foundation History

”The Tax Foundation was organized on December 5, 1937 in New York City by Alfred P. Sloan, Jr., Chairman of the General Motors Corporation; Donaldson Brown, GM Financial Vice President; William S. Farish, President of Standard Oil Company of New Jersey; and Lewis H. Brown, President of Johns-Manville Corporation, who later became the first Chairman of the Board of the Foundation. The stated goal of the organization was "to monitor the tax and spending policies of government agencies".”

Here’s the last Wikipedia entry I’ll give you today. I think you’ll be able to piece it all together for yourself.

UAW Growth in the 1930s

”The UAW rapidly found success in organizing with the sit-down strike — first in a General Motors plant in Atlanta, Georgia in 1936, and more famously in the Flint sit-down strike that began on December 29, 1936. That strike ended in February 1937 after Michigan's governor Frank Murphy played the role of mediator, negotiating recognition of the UAW by General Motors. The next month, auto workers at Chrysler won recognition of the UAW as their representative in a sit-down strike.”

Don Brown
September 25, 2010

What’s That Sound?

There’s not much I can add.


”The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating a near midair collision between a commercial jetliner and a small cargo aircraft that came within an estimated 50 to 100 feet of colliding near the Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport (MSP).”

”Neither pilot saw the other aircraft because they were in the clouds, although the captain of the US Airways flight reported hearing the Beech 99 pass nearby.”

Y’all be careful out there.

Don Brown
September 25, 2010

Friday, September 24, 2010

Go Rachel, Go

Do I know any controllers in Washington State? I think I do. How about Tennessee? I’m certain I know controllers in Tennessee. How about it Memphis? Are you paying attention in Nashville, Rodney? (Rodney always pays attention.) How about about you guys in Johnson City/Bristol/Kingsport -- good old Tri-Cities? Y’all payin’ attention?

You might recognize somebody in this clip.

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

I’m not done. I’m not here just to cheer on Rachel Maddow (or anyone else.) Nor Robert Reich. But Professor Reich has something to say too. First, let me ask a question. Who do you think invited Senator Corker to this meeting? I’m betting it wasn’t the UAW. I’m betting it was GM. Professor Reich has some choice words about GM’s actions on -- what I think is -- a related matter.

GM Has No Business Using Our Money On Campaign Contributions

”General Motors has given $90,500 to candidates in the current election cycle, according to the Federal Election Commission.

Hmmm? Last time I looked, you and I and every other U.S. taxpayer owned a majority of GM. That means some of the money we’re earning as GM owners is being used to influence how we vote in the upcoming mid-term election.”

How would you like to find out that GM is giving your money to Bob Corker so that he can try to lower the wages of union workers -- which has the effect of lowering all American’s wages? I’ll keep digging.

Here’s something that I’ve already found and it needs to be brought into the light. I, of course, looked up Senator Corker on Wikipedia. Let me remind the good folks from Tennessee of his Senate campaign.

”In October 2006, as polls indicated that Ford was maintaining a slight lead over Corker, - the Republican National Committee ran a television advertisement that would provoke a nationwide outcry. In the 30 second television advertisement, sound bites of numerous "people in the street" pronouncing Ford wrong for Tennessee were interspersed with two shots of a white woman animatedly recalling meeting Ford—who is African-American and who was unmarried at the time—at "the Playboy party". The ad concludes with this woman leeringly inviting Ford to phone her.”

It was so “tacky”, even Corker himself condemned the ad. After reaping the benefits from it, of course. Wikipedia even has the polling data so you can see what happened when the ad ran in the third and fourth week of October. You can even see a screen shot of the actress in the video.

I wonder if GM gave the Republican National Committee -- the people that paid for that ad -- any money? Our money?

Racism is still pretty pervasive in the South. Unions aren’t. Do you see how these two things are harmful to us? Do you see how these two issues are used by the Republican Party? Feel free to write me and tell me how racism has been good for the South. Or how the lack of unions has been good for the South.

Elections are coming up quickly. (You’ll have to wait until 2012 to get a chance to unseat Corker.) The choice couldn’t be any clearer.

Don Brown
September 24, 2010

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Where’s My Candy?

There seems to be this “narrative” (where’d that buzz word come from?) these days that rich people don’t know they’re rich. I’ve been resisting this trend. I didn’t point you towards DeLong through Krugman. But I couldn’t resist this clip from Jon Stewart.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Meet the Depressed
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorTea Party

It’s a strange world we live in -- where the rich feel like they’re victims. Brad DeLong does a good job of explaining the psychosis. Hopefully everyone that has time to read it, the ability to understand it and the the thousand dollar laptop (iPad, Droid, et al) to read it on will understand just how privileged we all are.

Don Brown
September 23, 2010

Addendum: Check out the Earth-bound Misfit for a opinion.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Poll at Krugman’s

As I was saying yesterday, I just don’t see the blowout people (mostly media) are talking about in the November election. Neither does Krugman.

Not Over

”Democrats could yet hold both houses of Congress, if they give voters reasons to believe that they stand for something. If they lose, the fault lies not in their stars, but in themselves.”

I don’t get to be in front of Krugman -- not even by a day -- very often. I thought I’d point it out while I had the chance. Be sure to take a look at the graph he has and notice the rapid improvement of the Democrat’s position in September. I’ll stick with my analysis: The Democrats might be unpopular because of the pain the country is suffering but the alternative -- a Tea Party dominated Republican Party -- looks plain scary. I can see the South voting for it for it, of course. I mean, after all, we elected Huey Long, Strom Thurmond, George Wallace and George W. Bush. I just can’t see the rest of the country doing so. American’s memories are short. But not that short.

Don Brown
September 22, 2010

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Awareness Not Maintained

I hate it when things slip my mind. I meant to tie this story into this morning’s rambling about the mid-air collision over the Hudson River. Oh well.

George Hicha, Teterboro's first air controller, dies

”Fresh out of the Marines 64 years ago, George Hicha was Teterboro Airport's first and only air traffic controller. He stood on the roof of the operations office from sunup to sundown, pointing a light gun to direct air traffic. Months went by before airport developer Fred Wehran hired six additional controllers to relieve the strain on Mr. Hicha.”

It’s a great piece. Check it out.

Don Brown
September 21, 2010

Well, They Fired Him

In case you weren’t keeping up, the FAA fired the lawyer, David Pardo. This is from the Project on Government Oversight’s web site.

Did Whistle-Blogging Contribute to Termination at the FAA?

”Can blogging get you fired? One now-former Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) attorney, who says he’s blown the whistle and is documenting retaliation on his blog, says the answer may be yes.

David Pardo, an attorney at the FAA, was fired yesterday, according to a post on Monday on his blog, FAA Lawyer Whistleblower.”

For those that haven’t heard of POGO, you can check them out on Wikipedia. I read the whole entry because...well..that’s what I do. I noticed it doesn’t say anything about their funding sources and I noticed this;

”POGO, along with several other public interest groups, has been involved in the investigation and trial of Scott Bloch, ex-head of the U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC). Bloch was accused by former OSC employees of ignoring and dismissing hundreds of whistleblower complaints, removing language guaranteeing protection against sexual orientation discrimination from OSC's website and official documents, and "relocating" several of his own employees who came forward with these allegations.[”

Some of you might remember Mr. Bloch. If you have a few moments, you might want to follow your instincts through a few links on the internet. That way, you can see just how corrupt the Bush Administration really was. His appointees not only regularly violated the spirit of the law but the letter of it also.

Stay tuned. We’ll see what happens under an Obama Administration.

Don Brown
September 21, 2010

The Darkness Before Dawn

Another dull sunrise this morning. It wasn’t without its charms. It’s just that none of them translate to film -- or electrons I guess it is in these digital days. You can feel Fall in the morning air -- even though it’s going to 93º (almost 34ºC) again today. I try to do a little bit of exercise (or clear some brush) while I await the sunrise and the cool air is a welcome relief over Summer’s swelter.

The herons are acting strange these days. It turns out there are at least three of them. Instead of being the sneaky, quiet creatures I’m use to, they have been croaking at each other and flying all around the lake. One even flew straight overhead this morning, long before there was enough light to photograph him. It looked like a pterodactyl in the amber sky. Which reminds me, does anyone else get that creepy feeling when a shadow passes overhead? To me, it’s an ancient feeling of dread -- as if, at some point in humankind, there was something terrible that came from the sky.

Before I went out this morning, I had time to read through the NTSB report about the mid-air collision over the Hudson River. That was depressing.

”The National Transportation Safety Board determines that the probable cause of this accident was (1) the inherent limitations of the see-and-avoid concept, which made it difficult for the airplane pilot to see the helicopter until the final seconds before the collision, and (2) the Teterboro Airport local controller’s nonpertinent telephone conversation, which distracted him from his air traffic control duties, including correcting the airplane pilot’s read back of the Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR) tower frequency and the timely transfer of communications for the accident airplane to the EWR tower.”

You can pick whichever link in the chain gets your motor running. There are plenty to go around. I like phraseology and communications. But it’s hard to get people to focus on something as natural as talking -- something as commonplace as a frequency change. However, if you’ll look back, you might be surprised how much trouble you can get into on a frequency change.

And so it goes in life. I was watching Fareed Zakaria on Sunday and his first comment was that TARP worked. Nobody likes the fact that it worked. It certainly wasn’t my idea. I would have nationalized the banks, split them up and sold them off. I still think that was a better idea. It doesn’t change the fact that TARP worked -- and for almost no money. It’s mostly been paid back already. George Bush and Barney Frank working together. No wonder no one is excited about it. But it worked.

Another unpopular (and possibly an even better) piece of legislation is the stimulus bill -- The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. If you don’t want to be totally surprised in the future, you might want to read this article from Time.

How the Stimulus Is Changing America

”Yes, the stimulus has cut taxes for 95% of working Americans, bailed out every state, hustled record amounts of unemployment benefits and other aid to struggling families and funded more than 100,000 projects to upgrade roads, subways, schools, airports, military bases and much more. But in the words of Vice President Joe Biden, Obama's effusive Recovery Act point man, "Now the fun stuff starts!" The "fun stuff," about one-sixth of the total cost, is an all-out effort to exploit the crisis to make green energy, green building and green transportation real; launch green manufacturing industries; computerize a pen-and-paper health system; promote data-driven school reforms; and ramp up the research of the future. ”

People want to call the stimulus package a failure and it hasn’t even ended yet. Again, I thought it should have been twice as big, but that doesn’t mean I was right. Unemployment is still too high. That doesn’t mean the stimulus was a failure.

It seems as if everybody and their brother believes the Democrats will get waxed in November. Maybe they will. History certainly tells us that they will lose seats in an off-year election. But I don’t see it. Granted, my track record on political elections is miserable. But still, have you looked at what the Democrats are up against?

Rand Paul? Blacks are equal except at the lunch counter? Joe Miller? Privatize Social Security after Americans just lost so much of their 401ks to the “private” market? While unemployment (what 401k?) is still almost 10%? Sharon Angle? She not only wants to privatize Social Security but Medicare too. Because your 401k didn’t take a big enough hit and health insurance is so affordable -- especially when you’re unemployed. Christine O'Donnell? Where do you start? No abortions. No exceptions. It only gets “wacky”(er) from there. If I was a cynical guy, I’d be making donations to the Tea Party. They are the Democrats best hope.

“Yeah but, Obama is so unpopular.” Yeah but, Obama ain’t running. Those other folks are.

It’s human nature to curse the darkness. But the dawn always comes. No matter how long or dark the night might seem, the dawn always comes.

Don Brown
September 21, 2010

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Today’s Photo 9-18-10

While I was away on vacation, some new grasses had a chance to grow by the lake. Two different views.

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

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

Don Brown
September 18, 2010

Fictional History

I was doing some reading on the flight back and forth to Hawaii. Over 9 hours out. Just over 8 hours back. That’s a lot of reading time. The good Lord knows you can’t sleep in the seat they give you. Well, at least those of us over 6 feet tall can’t sleep in them. Here’s an excerpt from the book I was reading:

He shook his weary head. “These are bad days for an economist, my friend. We have gone past the frontiers of theory. There is nothing left but one huge ugly fact.”

“Which is?”

“There is a debt of perhaps two trillion dollars out there, owed by governments to governments, by governments to banks, and there is not one chance in hell it can ever be paid back. There is not enough productive capacity in the world, plus enough raw materials, to provide maintenance of plant plus enough overage even to keep up with the mounting interest.”

“What happens? It gets written off?”

He looked at me with a pitying expression. “All the major world currencies will collapse. Trade will cease. Without trade, without the mechanical-scientific apparatus running, the planet won’t support its four billion people...."

Okay, there’s only so far you can go in an old book before a fact or figure gives it away. We’re past six billion people now. The quote is from a Travis McGee novel -- The Green Ripper by John D. McDonald. (That ought to bring back some memories for the old-timers.) It was published in 1979. For those that might be interested in the series, I’d suggest starting with the first book in the Travis McGee series -- The Deep Blue Good-by.

(If a tune comes to mind and it’s bugging you, click here and listen closely to the first line.)

Anyway, my point is that we’ve had gloom and doom forecasts before. For those that can’t remember, 1978 wasn’t such a great year. (The December 15th entry ought to interest you.) My grandfather remembered when people were worried about running out of firewood -- and laughed at those worried that we were running out of oil. Oh, and the book The Green Ripper was about a left-wing religious/terrorist cult. Economic hard times are nothing new. Neither are crazy people. We’ll survive. We’ll find new ways to heat our homes, travel and feed ourselves.

One constant did come to mind while I was crammed into the economy-class section; Airlines don’t make money. Oh, they pretend they do. Occasionally, they’ll even post a profit. But the government props them up. It always has. And it always will. From paying for the R&D, to subsidizing the industry to plain-old bailouts. I figure if it’s going to cost us anyway, we might as well be in comfortable seats and let the people working in the industry make a decent living. Oh, and let’s bring back the mechanic’s jobs from El Salvador or Mexico or where ever it was that we outsourced them.

These decisions are ours to make. We created the “Free Market”. We are not powerless. We can change the rules.

Don Brown
September 18, 2010

(Note: I knew there was something else I was supposed to do. Link added.)

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Today’s Photo 9-14-10


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

Hawaii is a very pretty place. The Hilton on Waikiki is a very nice hotel. It’s a very long airplane ride.

Don Brown
September 14, 2010

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Keeping Up?

I’m busy getting ready for the NATCA convention so I don’t have much time to write. I did have enough time to check in on David Pardo to see how he is doing.


”Read it again: an anonymous hotline at the FAA required its callers to leave their identifying information.”

Again, I can make no claims as to the validity of David’s claims. I don’t know him. I know nothing of his case.

I do know the FAA. I spent 25 years working for the Administration. I would love nothing better than to tell you what a fine, upstanding organization it is. And while it might make a mistake on occasion, the organization’s culture recognizes the errors of its ways quickly and makes all haste to rectify said errors.

But I can’t say that.

Don Brown
September 9, 2010

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Today’s Photo 9-8-10

It was a “fast” sunrise this morning. The clouds didn’t light up for very long. But it sure was nice while it lasted.

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

Don Brown
September 8, 2010

Sunday, September 05, 2010

A Lawyer?

I don’t know a thing about it yet, but this whistleblower case in the FAA sure has the potential to become interesting.

”I inform my then-supervisor, Anne Bechdolt, Acting Manager, Operations Law Branch, that I refuse to obey an order that would require me to violate the law...”

A few things to note:

1) A lawyer? Seriously? It’s one thing to mess with a controller that has to struggle to read the law and usually winds up having to hire a’s another thing entirely to have a guy in the position of whistleblower that starts out with a law degree.

” I attach a 129-page .pdf document that chronicles the history above.”

2) See what I mean? A controller can’t imagine 129 pages. A lawyer can crank that out before lunch.

3) If all this interests you, be sure to read the links. It will be much easier to understand.

4) It appears Mr. Pardo is motivated.

5) The internet continues to change everything.

Don Brown
September 5, 2010

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Today’s Photo 9-4-10

You’ve got to love it when the first cold front of the season comes through. A gorgeous morning.

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

More on Facebook.

Don Brown
September 4, 2010

Friday, September 03, 2010

Bravo II

I just saw that Robert Reich has an editorial in today’s New York Times. While the theme is the same as his blog entry, he (of course) saved some new phrases for the editorial. (Mr. Reich is a pretty savvy businessman. A blog, a book, an editorial, guest appearances on TV, etc., etc.)

How to End the Great Recession

”THIS promises to be the worst Labor Day in the memory of most Americans. Organized labor is down to about 7 percent of the private work force. Members of non-organized labor — most of the rest of us — are unemployed, underemployed or underwater.”

”THE Great Depression and its aftermath demonstrate that there is only one way back to full recovery: through more widely shared prosperity. In the 1930s, the American economy was completely restructured. New Deal measures — Social Security, a 40-hour work week with time-and-a-half overtime, unemployment insurance, the right to form unions and bargain collectively, the minimum wage — leveled the playing field.”

Did you catch that part about unions?

Lest it escape your notice, Robert Reich was the Secretary of Labor under President Clinton. That’s the difference between having a Democrat and a Republican as President. Have any of you younger controllers read up on Bush’s Secretary of Labor -- Elaine Chao?

”During Chao's tenure, Labor Department gave Congress inaccurate and unreliable numbers that understated the expense of contracting out its employees' work to private firms, according to a Government Accountability Office report issued on November 24, 2008.”

”A report by the United States House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform alleged that Chao and other White House officials campaigned for Republican candidates at taxpayer expense. The report describes this as a violation of the Hatch Act of 1939, which restricts the use of public funds for partisan gain, but no action was taken by any entity with responsibility for enforcing the Hatch Act.”

Contrast that with Secretary Reich.

”In 2008, Time Magazine named him one of the Ten Most Successful Cabinet Members of the century, and The Wall Street Journal placed him among America's Top Ten Business Thinkers.”

”During his tenure, he implemented the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), successfully promoted increasing the minimum wage, successfully lobbied to pass the School-to-Work Jobs Act, and launched a number of job training programs. At the same time, he lobbied Clinton to address bigger societal issues, countered Robert Rubin and others in the administration who wanted Clinton to pare his investment agenda, and pushed for improvement of conditions for those in poverty.”

Have any of you guys ever used the Family and Medical Leave Act? Yeah, I thought you might have.

Contract or “white book?” Republican or Democrat? In November you get to choose for the House and the Senate. Over.

Don Brown
September 3, 2010


From the big, little man -- Robert Reich;

”It is not that America is out of ideas. We know what to do. We need massive public spending on jobs (infrastructure, schools, parks, a new WPA) along with measures to widen the circle of prosperity so more Americans can share in the gains of growth (exempting the first $20K of income from payroll taxes and applying the payroll tax to incomes over $250K, for example).

The problem is lack of political will to do it. The naysayers, deficit hawks, government-haters and Social Darwinists who don’t have a clue what to do would rather do nothing. We are paralyzed.”

That needed to be said. The harsh words he has for President Obama need to be said too. The President needs to do his job. He needs to use the bully pulpit and lead. There is no other choice. The Senate won’t do it. The House won’t. And make no mistake, the House could. But it won’t.

The Republicans don’t even have a leader. McConnell? Boehner? They can say “Free Market” and “tax cut”. That’s the extent of their ideas. We can do nothing except bail out the big boys and we’ll stagnate for 10 years. We can cut taxes and the rich will get richer while a generation is lost to the soul-damaging effects of unemployment. We can tread water and pray we don’t wind up in another World War. Or we can act. We can lead. The greatest, richest and most powerful country the world has ever known can gather itself, put its people back to work and lead the world out of this calamity.

Yes, we may fail. Yes, we will have to pay taxes. But we can do it. And we can afford it.

”If there was ever a time for bold government action it is precisely now. Obama should be storming the country, demanding the largest responses to the jobs emergency in history. He and the Dems should be giving Republicans hell for their indifference to all this.”

The rest of Robert Reich’s words need to be said too. Enjoy the read.

The Great Jobs Depression Worsens, and the Choice Ahead Grows Starker

Don Brown
September 3, 2010

All Fall Down

As I hope I’ve made clear, I’m not any kind of expert in economics. It is simply something that caught my attention when I retired so I read a good bit about it. I think it is also clear that I’m a fan of Paul Krugman -- which is where I get most of my information.

Back in late June, Krugman had this to say about Ireland and its economic trouble.

A Terrible Ugliness Is Born

”That’s why the Irish debacle is so important. All that savage austerity was supposed to bring rewards; the conventional wisdom that this would happen is so strong that one often reads news reports claiming that it has, in fact, happened, that Ireland’s resolve has impressed and reassured the financial markets. But the reality is that nothing of the sort has taken place: virtuous, suffering Ireland is gaining nothing.”

There was a entry in the Economix blog on The New York Times that caught my attention. I think some of it is beyond my comprehension level -- but not all of it.

In Ireland, Dangers Still Loom

”Ireland had more prudent choices. It could have cut the budget deficit while also acknowledging insolvency and requiring creditors to share some of the burdens. But a strong lobby of real estate developers, the investors who bought banks’ bonds and politicians with links to the failed developments (and their bankers) prefer that taxpayers, rather than creditors, pay.”

If you don’t have time to read the whole entry, you should at least skip down to the last sentence.

Using my favorite (if crude) analogy, if 1929 = 2008, then we’re only in 1931. Beware.

”The Hoover Moratorium was a public statement issued by U.S. President Herbert Hoover on June 20, 1931 in order to deal with a very serious banking collapse in Central Europe that threatened to cause a worldwide financial melt-down.”

Don Brown
September 3, 2010

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Dilbert Works at the FAA

From a long-time reader

Be sure to look at the next one too.

Don Brown
September 2, 2010


No comment needed.

Don Brown
September 2, 2010

It All Makes Sense Now

My mind really doesn’t want to acknowledge what I know to be true these days. It just can’t be true. We don’t have this many idiots running around in America. We just can’t. I refuse to believe it.

Building a Nation of Know-Nothings

”It’s not just that 46 percent of Republicans believe the lie that Obama is a Muslim, or that 27 percent in the party doubt that the president of the United States is a citizen. But fully half of them believe falsely that the big bailout of banks and insurance companies under TARP was enacted by Obama, and not by President Bush.”

Almost half of the Republicans? After all this time? Still? I can’t believe it. But the article goes on to explain it.

”In the much-discussed Pew poll reporting the spike in ignorance, those who believe Obama to be Muslim say they got their information from the media. But no reputable news agency — that is, fact-based, one that corrects its errors quickly — has spread such inaccuracies.

So where is this “media?” Two sources, and they are — no surprise here — the usual suspects. The first, of course, is Rush Limbaugh,....”

He’s right about that not being a surprise. Speaking of which, it’s no surprise that he names Fox News as the second source. But still, when you add up all the readers and listeners, it’s hard to imagine that almost half of the Republicans in this country believe this nonsense. I just can’t believe it.

But that was before yesterday. When I was standing in the checkout line at the grocery store with my wife. You know where I’m going with this. You’re standing there bored, with nothing to do. You might as well look to see which actress is having the space alien’s love child.

Okay, now it’s all making sense. What’s really bad is that this Globe cover isn’t the one I saw. When I started looking for the cover, I ran into a bunch more.

Scary isn’t it?

And for my readers that truly have too much time on their hands, you ought to take a gander at who owns these trashy magazines and start clicking on the links.

Globe (tabloid)

”The newspaper, as well as most of its rivals, is now owned by American Media Inc.”

American Media (publisher)

Roger Altman, through Evercore Partners, bought a controlling stake in American Media in 1999.”


Don Brown
September 2, 2010

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Today’s Photo 9-1-10

Clear. Cool. Beautiful.

After weeks and weeks of heat, it was only 63º this morning. That’s still warm for me but -- everything being relative -- it felt marvelous. Sunrises are kind of simple without clouds. They’re still beautiful.

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

Don Brown
September 1, 2010

Jesus Just Left Chicago

Somebody said something the other day and it just hit me. So I decided to see if it was true.

Chicago to New Orleans, one way:

American Airlines:

(clip from Travelocity)


I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that an airliner -- even a regional jet -- costs more than a bus. And a pilot makes more than a bus driver (PLEASE! tell me that is still true). And that an airliner burns more fuel than a bus to get from ORD to MSY. Both hold approximately 50 people (bus and regional jet). So, can anybody explain to me how this makes economic sense?

I get that the airplane can do several trips a day. But still....

For those that don’t get the obscure cultural references (like the title), you have to know the songs.

(BTW, I had this all worked out in my head (thinking I was clever) before I realized that Krugman has been doing it for a week or more. Sad when an economist is more creative than you are.)

Don Brown
September 1, 2010