Saturday, December 31, 2011

Thatcherism Under Review

Once again, I am fascinated by what I call recent history. I hope to go see the new movie on Margaret Thatcher -- The Iron Lady. I was reminded of it this morning, listening to Marketplace.

”Well in case you thought Hollywood was going to wrap up the year without releasing a biopic about a powerful British leader, check your local movie theater listings for today's opener: "The Iron Lady." It's about former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, played by Meryl Streep. The movie has gotten mixed reviews.

And so has the Iron Lady herself -- more than 20 years after leaving office. In the U.K., they're still arguing about the economic changes Margaret Thatcher brought.”

I’m somewhat taken aback by the debate that still rages about Thatcherism and Reaganism. Hopefully, we in the States can be a little more dispassionate about Thatcherism.

”Thatcherism claims to promote low inflation, the small state and free markets through tight control of the money supply, privatisation and constraints on the labour movement.“

Which one of those has helped out the world? Especially in light of our current economic situation? Labor is at its lowest level of power in a century. How has this helped you? Or anyone else? The big one, of course, is the “small state and free markets”. It’s just another way of saying “deregulation”.

In short, the union movement in the United Kingdom overreached and the voters put Margaret Thatcher in charge. She crushed the unions and without that restriction on their power, the corporations took off. They bought government entities -- taking public conveniences and making them profit centers. Come to think of it, a “public convenience” is not a bad way of thinking about a bank. And before your advertising-soaked brain screams “Capitalism!” you might want to ask yourself why a “private” entity has a government guarantee.

I think , if you look, you’ll find what I have found -- it didn’t work. I believe the financial system she left -- privatized and deregulated -- is a pretty glaring example. But you can look elsewhere and see the same thing.

Effects of privatisation

”Privatisation was supposed to bring improved customer service...”

”In practice, the average age of trains in the UK is no different to that under the last years of BR. (British Rail )”

”One of the principal expectations from privatisation was that the railway service could be delivered more efficiently in the private sector because of the profit motive. The expectation that there were considerable costs that could be slashed from the system was not fulfilled; new operators found that BR had already done much of what could be done to improve efficiency.”

”One of the benefits promoted for privatisation is that it would remove railways from short-term political control which damaged an industry like the railways, which had long-term investment requirements. This has not happened...”

I’m looking forward to seeing the movie. Maybe, in a few years, we’ll see one like it about Reagan. Let’s go back to that Marketplace story for the closing line.

”But that apparently did not endear her to most people here. A local paper asked its readers what they would like to see displayed at a prominent site in the town (Thatcher’s hometown): a bronze statue of Margaret Thatcher or an antique steamroller. Eighty-five percent voted for the steamroller.”

Don Brown
December 31, 2011

Today’s Photo 12-31-11

This -- as far as people on the East Coast are concerned -- is the middle of nowhere. Upson County, Georgia. Still, I had to use a long lens to crop out most of the lights, and iPhoto to retouch 5 other lights out of the picture.

In the words of Teddy Roosevelt; “The ages have been at work on it, and man can only mar it.”

He may have been talking about the Grand Canyon but the words are nearly universal. Oh well. We have to live someplace and we need light. I just wish we could all be a little more sensitive about “marring” the Earth.

© Don Brown 2011 (Click on the picture to enlarge)

And just because someone is dying to know these things...

Nikon D80 with a 80-200mm F2.8 Nikon lens
F8@6 seconds
Two Cokin Graduated Neutral Density filters (taking the sky down 4 stops in total.)
In addition, a happen accident. I was messing around photographing a building by the street light before dawn and accidentally left the “White Balance” on Tungsten. That made the valley fog slightly bluer.

Don Brown
December 31, 2011

Friday, December 30, 2011

Today’s Photo 12-30-11

Back home (thank the Lord.) Speaking of which, He had a wonderfully different palette for the sky this morning.

© Don Brown 2011 (Click on the picture to enlarge)

Don Brown
December 30, 2011

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Today’s Photo 12-29-11

It’s a tough job but somebody has to do it.

© Don Brown 2011 (Click on the picture to enlarge)

Don Brown
December 29, 2011

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Vacationing With the 1%

Well, to be fair, it’s probably more like the 10%. The top 1% of income earners is truly lofty territory. There’s enough wealth here to make me uncomfortable though. “Here” is Marco Island, Florida.

This is not my style. I’m pretty certain everyone knows I hate Florida’s geographical “challenges” (flat and tropical) but I don’t like the exclusivity of this place either. A lot of people do. I mean a lot of people. (Yes, I know know “a lot” and “exclusive” are mutually exclusive but it makes my point.) My county has about 60 people per square mile. This place has over 1,400. And their median income is twice what my county’s is.

You can take numbers like these and draw some bad conclusions if you wanted to mislead people that didn’t know better. For instance, you could say population density leads to wealth. Or you could say a lack of diversity leads to wealth. Marco is over 98% white. My county (as “redneck” a county as you could hope to find in Georgia) is “only” 83% white. We all know that half the statistics we hear are lies and the other half -- the half we like to believe -- are damn lies.

Krugman is real comfortable with numbers -- and statistics. He has several good blogs about recent numbers but my favorite doesn’t really have any numbers.

The Defeatism of Depression

”...Then came the approach of World War II, which finally induced an adequate-sized fiscal stimulus — and suddenly there were enough jobs, and all those unneeded and useless workers turned out to be quite productive, thank you.

There is nothing — nothing — in what we see suggesting that this current depression is more than a problem of inadequate demand. This could be turned around in months with the right policies. Our problem isn’t, ultimately, economic; it’s political, brought on by an elite that would rather cling to its prejudices than turn the nation around.”

Our salvation is within our grasp. All we have to do is reach out for it. The way to do that in a democracy is to vote. If you cast your vote for a “conservative” (think “fiscal conservative”) you are casting your vote for a Depression. Yes, that is over-simplified. But -- at the same time -- it’s just that simple. Sorry, I cannot remove life’s contradictions for you.

Some of you may remember way, way back that I put up a “place holder” for a graphic that intrigues me (endlessly).

The question I chew on these days is; “What are the people on the left side going to do for a living?” The lower-left quadrant probably won’t ever be “productive” members of our society -- with “productive” currently defined as “money making”. But if we -- as a society -- consign the entire left side of that bell curve (those with an IQ of less than 100) to the unemployment line we are setting ourselves a very difficult task. These people aren’t going to run the “high-tech” economy. They aren’t going to earn advanced degrees in college. You hear so much about what the “economy of the future” is going to be like. Well, I want to know what it is going to be for them. Because I don’t hear anyone talking about it. Not even Krugman.

This isn’t Lake Wobegon. All our children won’t be above average. And they will need jobs. These are honest and decent people -- as deserving as you and I of a safe, secure and rewarding life. What’s the plan? I don’t think anyone has one.

Don Brown
December 28, 2011

Monday, December 26, 2011

Today’s Photo 12-26-11

I guess it’s just a blue time of year.

© Don Brown 2011 (Click on the picture to enlarge)

Don Brown
December 26, 2011

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Today’s Photo 12-24-11

I think of it as a Christmas present from the swans. They did a fly-by this morning right as the sun was breaking the horizon. I picked this one because I like the way the shadow of the one one the right shows on the wing of the one on the left.

© Don Brown 2011 (Click on the picture to enlarge)

Don Brown
December 24, 2011

Friday, December 23, 2011

Making Government Look Bad

I’m just trying to catch up on some reading. From James Fallows. (The man must be able to blog in his sleep and/or write in the shower.)

The Nullification Chronicles Roll On

”- Similarly, the National Labor Relations Board will shortly be de facto "nullified," since Senate Republicans can block the appointment of members to vacant seats and therefore deny it a legal quorum to operate.

- Greg Sargent of the Washington Post explains again why obstructionism creates public hostility to both Democrats and Republicans, but eventually makes sense as a pure-political strategy for the GOP since a failure to govern inevitably weakens the incumbent president most of all. ”

Here’s the link to the mentioned Greg Sargent piece for the time challenged.

All this is nothing new but I’ll echo the sentiment that it’s nice to see others are catching on. Once you realize that Republicans don’t want the government to work -- the rich don’t want to pay taxes, corporations don’t want to be regulated -- it becomes a lot easier to understand their actions.

I’m stealing his idea (clink on his link) on the picture too. Senator John C. Calhoun from the Great State of South Carolina.

Don Brown
December 23, 2011

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Nailed It

Robert Reich -- the little man with the big mind -- nailed it. I need say nothing more.

Why the Republican Crackup is Bad For America

”As Michael Lind has noted, today’s Tea Party is less an ideological movement than the latest incarnation of an angry white minority – predominantly Southern, and mainly rural – that has repeatedly attacked American democracy in order to get its way.”

(Who is Michael Lind?)

”This isn’t to say all Tea Partiers are white, Southern or rural Republicans – only that these characteristics define the epicenter of Tea Party Land.”

”America has had a long history of white Southern radicals who will stop at nothing to get their way – seceding from the Union in 1861, refusing to obey Civil Rights legislation in the 1960s, shutting the government in 1995, and risking the full faith and credit of the United States in 2010.

Newt Gingrich’s recent assertion that public officials aren’t bound to follow the decisions of federal courts derives from the same tradition.”

Yes, I am a Southerner. Trust me when I tell you Professor Reich got all this exactly right. It’s important that people understand this cultural dynamic. Especially Southerners. The people shaping the Republican/Tea Party agenda are the same types that lead the South to embrace Jefferson Davis, George Wallace, Richard Nixon and George W. Bush. In short, they are driving the South to embrace another historical disaster -- Civil War, segregation, a political criminal, a war of “choice” -- brought on by another disastrous figure: Newt Gingrich.

Don Brown
December 21, 2011

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Contractor Nation -- Iraqi Style

Just one more sign. From Marketplace

U.S. troops quit Iraq, but large U.S. presence remains

”Mark Toner: An overall diplomatic presence in 2012 will be about 15,000 to 16,000.”

”And all but 2,000 of them will be contractors.”

”That miniature army will be operating on a shoestring. The State Department budget request for 2012 includes only around $5 billion for operations in Iraq -- a fraction of the $46 billion Harrison says we spent this year.

Dov Zakheim was an undersecretary of defense in the administration of George W. Bush. He wonders if that's enough for proper oversight.”

”One way State could do it? Hire more contractors to supervise all the other contractors.”

When we start talking about contracting out the Inspector General functions of the United States government?...We’re headed down the road to ruin. And make no mistake about it, all of it is to enrich the contractors -- not the workers. You may think you’re getting a deal -- a cushy job in retirement -- but you’re really just contributing to our demise as a people.

We (business owners) think we can get away with shifting training costs onto others (government/taxpayers). We think we can get away with paying others (citizens) less money and fewer benefits. We think we can get away with letting illegals pick our food for some wealthy land owner disguised as a “small” farmer.

We can’t. We are reaping what we have sowed right now. We cannot contract out our troubles. “Contractor” only changes the name of mercenaries and indentured servants. It does not change the function.

There is no justice without economic justice. And without justice, there is no peace. Beware.

Don Brown
December 20, 2011

Music and Memory

Well, there’s one way to find more time -- get up earlier. Odd thing about that, nobody demands much of your time before sunrise.

Speaking of which, I was listing to Talk of the Nation -- Science Friday yesterday before the sun came up. (Yes, I’m behind on podcasts too. Thanks for noticing.) The host -- Ira Flatow -- touched on a subject that is a constant source of fascination to me: Music and Memory.

Treating Stress, Speech Disorders With Music

The part that really struck me was the patients that couldn’t talk but could sing. They used Gabby Giffords as a current example of someone being treated with music. She was having difficulty talking -- just accessing words in her injured brain -- but she could sing her favorite songs.

My fascination with the subject is mentioned too: long-term memory. I can’t remember things I read yesterday, poems I was forced to memorize as a child or (for example) the frequency of the GVE sector. But I can remember the words to a song I haven’t heard in 30 years.

There might be something useful in that for people that have to memorize thousands of details in order to do their jobs. Just sayin’.

Don Brown
December 20, 2011

Monday, December 19, 2011

Today’s Photo 12-19-11

I still haven’t found any extra time. Sorry. And I can’t tell you it’s going to get any better until after Christmas.

I do still find time for pictures. I took one of these. The other was taken by a photographer-wanna-be that just showed up out of nowhere. Not bad for the first time behind a camera. I figure we might as well go ahead and get being published out of the way too. Merry Christmas.

© Don Brown 2011 (Click on the picture to enlarge)

© Don Brown 2011 (Click on the picture to enlarge)

Don Brown
December 19, 2011

Thursday, December 15, 2011

So Far Behind

Sorry for the lack of blogging. I’ve got a million excuses but it boils down to “I’m just too busy” and whining about it won’t catch me up or entertain/educate you.

The Iraq War is over. This won’t look good on the history pages. Our credibility has been damaged on a massive scale. We’ll try to weasel out of taking care of the wounded in less than a decade and we will be shocked -- shocked -- that the Iraqis don’t forget about their hundreds of thousands of dead in a generation. We have brought shame on ourselves.

I’m not sure we are done. Hopefully you noticed that everyone is unloading on Newt Gingrich. Terry Gross of Fresh Air is the best interviewer I know of. But even she was having a hard time maintaining her impartiality in this interview about Newt.

I’m going to give you a couple of excerpts and then leave. I still don’t have any time.

”TUMULTY: Jim Wright had written a book that was then being sold at events where he was speaking. And so there was a question of whether interest groups were buying this book just to essentially line Jim Wright's pockets. And it was interesting, too, because then Newt Gingrich himself had a very controversial book deal almost at the outset of his speakership.

GROSS: This was a $4.5 million book deal with a publishing house that was owned by Rupert Murdoch, who also owns - now owns Fox News.

TUMULTY: That's right, and it was, you know, it was a book deal that was brought together after he won the speakership. So it looked, very much, like somebody was trying to, you know, essentially pay him off.”


”GROSS: So two of people who - at least two of the people who were in on the coup, Dick Armey and John Boehner, are still, like, very powerful in politics now. Dick Armey runs one of the groups that funds the Tea Party, and John Boehner is the House speaker. So would you expect that they would be working against Newt Gingrich now?

TUMULTY: It is really interesting, because I have found so many people who were in Congress at the time are very uneasy about this surge that they are seeing on Newt Gingrich's part. I think that people in Washington who saw him in action are generally pretty uneasy.”

Yeah, Tom Delay (aka “The Hammer”) is mentioned too. In case you forgot, he’s in jail. You may also remember he tried to get the FAA to track down a plane load of Texas Democrats so he could force a vote on a redistricting plan.

There are no shortage of sordid stories to attach to Newt.

But there’s somebody I’m forgetting. I remember seeing a picture...

Don Brown
December 15, 2011

Today’s Photo 12-15-11

Most people don’t realize what a rare event this picture represents. Most of the time the sky is too bright to get any detail in the shoreline. In other words, the whole shoreline turns black. It’s either that or - to capture detail in the shoreline -- the sky gets washed out and appears completely white in a photograph.

There’s a new process digital photography has made possible (called HDR) to handle situations like this, but I rarely do any kind of post processing on my images. In truth, I don’t know how do to much post-processing. I don’t even own a copy of Photoshop. Anyway, this is what it looked like, straight out of the camera.

© Don Brown 2011 (Click on the picture to enlarge)

I don’t mean to criticize photo manipulation. I believe it’s an art form in itself. I just prefer taking pictures outside in the fresh air as to editing them indoors.

Don Brown
December 15, 2011

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Battle of Britain 2011

I’m not sure the Daily Mail would be my first choice as a news source but I do love the headline.

Now Germany bids to seize our skies as it puts in offer for air traffic control

”The Luftwaffe never managed it during the Second World War thanks to the heroism of The Few.

Now, seven decades on, Germany is once again plotting to take control of the skies over Britain… by the altogether more peaceful means of buying our air traffic control service.

This will be interesting.

Don Brown
December 14, 2011

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Today’s Photo 12-10-11

That’s right -- another vacation. I’m retired. Remember?

© Don Brown 2011 (Click on the picture to enlarge)

Don Brown
December 10, 2011

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

No Time for Times

No time to blog about it. Watch it. Learn.

Watch live streaming video from nytimesopinion at

Don Brown
December 7, 2011


As you may have noticed, the Administrator resigned before I could even finish writing the previous blog. This gives us a wonderful opportunity to ask ourselves: What changed? What will change in the future?

My dad gave me some wonderful advice shortly after I started working. “Anytime you think you’ve become important at work, imagine what will change if you don’t ever show up for work again tomorrow.” So, air-traffic-control friends, what changed at the FAA today when Randy Babbitt didn’t show up for work? Gettin’ the Flick?

Now keep your thinking cap on and head on over to the Praxis Foundation. Be sure to follow the links. Yes, some will hurt your head. And some will lead back here. But it’s worth it for the clarity of thought alone.

Radio Check, Ride Report, Best Interest

”Politically, NextGen/ERAM is too big too fail. Operationally and financially they need to pull the plug, because they overpromised and didn’t build in tolerance for initial failure.

ERAM is the dead elephant in the room, and it’s about to go the way of the Advanced Automation System (AAS)”

”In order to cost-justify NextGen, they’ve cooked the books on all the future budget plans. They won’t need as many controllers. They won’t need as many VORs, ILSs, etc. They won’t need as many terminal facilities (so they’ve stopped maintaining the roofs, btw). They won’t need technicians in the field. There’s a huge disconnect between their budget plans, their political agenda, and their operational commitments. Hello, More With Less 5.0”

See what I mean? Keep history in mind. ERAM is going to drag on and on and on. You can make a dead elephant walk if you spend enough money on it. Well, at least you can drag it from room to room and make it appear like it’s walking to those that aren’t paying attention.

Don Brown
December 7, 2011

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Arrested Development

So, yesterday I wrote about ERAM. With the news that Administrator Babbitt was arrested for drunk driving, no one is going to pay much attention to that story. So, what am I going to write about today? The Post Office. This probably won’t get much attention either. But I (obviously) think it should. Especially from the aviation crowd.

But first things first. I would like to extend my best wishes to Administrator Babbitt and his family. I realize this episode will probably be a career ender but there is no need to follow our baser instincts and be gleeful or sarcastic about it. It will be bad enough if it was just a one-time lapse in judgment. If Mr. Babbitt has a problem with alcohol, I hope he will get the help he needs. Many don’t. Which causes more social problems than if they do.

Now, on to the Post Office. First -- before we even get started -- remember aviation’s history with the Post Office.

”With initial help from the U.S. Army, the Post Office in 1918 initiated an intercity airmail route. The subsequent achievements of the Air Mail Service included the establishment of a transcontinental route and the development of airway lighting.

In 1925, the Airmail Act of 1925 authorized the Post Office to contract with private airlines to transport mail. The Airmail Act created American commercial aviation and several of today's airlines were formed to carry airmail in the late 1920s (including Trans World Airlines, Northwest Airlines, and United Airlines).”

Now, let’s go back even further to the late 1700s. Article 1, Section 8, Clause 7 of the United States Constitution to be exact.

”The Congress shall have power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common defence[note 1] and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;

To establish Post Offices and post Roads;”

In case it hasn’t dawned on you, the “post” and transportation go together. Because the first thing mankind needs to transport is not goods but news.

Pay attention to the debate. Pay particular attention to how the argument is framed. As long as the Post Office is framed as a business -- “the Post Office needs a new business model” -- the Post Office loses. And so do we. The Constitution doesn’t say anything about the Post Office making a profit. It doesn’t say anything about the Post Office being a business.

We simply must get away from this greed-induced profit obsessive-compulsive disorder and start talking about the common good. We can pay for a Post Office. We should pay for a Postal Service. Government should be a model employer that drives the price of labor up. Not another greed-based organization that casts its citizens aside in a headlong rush to the bottom of the barrel. The mail is a governmental function that binds the nation together. It isn’t a business. It’s much greater than any business. It should stay in the government and -- if we are smart -- we’d be willing to pay for it.

Don Brown
December 6, 2011

Today’s Photo 12-6-11

The weather report this morning was awful. All stations within a 100 miles were reporting low overcast. Not to mention, I could hear the last of the rain still dripping into the gutters. I went down to the lake anyway.

© Don Brown 2011 (Click on the picture to enlarge)

At this time of the year, the sun rises almost in line with the dam so that the most intense colors are away from the lake itself and over (or even behind) the dam -- where the power lines are. Not that the colors on the lake aren’t nice, mind you.

© Don Brown 2011 (Click on the picture to enlarge)

Don Brown
December 6, 2011

Monday, December 05, 2011

Clarifying Thoughts on ERAM

The longer I write a blog, the more I noticed I feel I must repeat myself.

”Before I close, I want to reiterate; ERAM has to work. If the FAA decided to scrap the whole thing tomorrow, they’d have to start over the very next day. It’s that important. It is a monumental undertaking. The pressure to keep this ball rolling is enormous. But so are the consequences if ERAM’s shortcomings cause an accident.”

There is no glee in my I-Told-You-So. I actually want ERAM to work. It must work. But shrouding it in secrecy won’t make it work. It is critical that the project remain in public view -- warts and all.

First, it is public funds that are paying for it. A lot of funds. And it’s going to get worse before it gets better. That calls for public accountability. Second, it’s important from a historical perspective. This won’t be the last time that we will have to overhaul the air traffic control system. It certainly isn’t the first. To avoid this current fiasco in the future, it is important for the Air Traffic Control world at large to understand what is happening. What we’ve done right. What we’ve done wrong. It can’t be limited to just a select few with inside knowledge.

Institutional memory shouldn’t be limited to a select few. It shouldn’t be made of rumors, half truths and legends. The truth is important.

It’s a sometimes-overwhelming urge of humans to cover up their mistakes. The aviation industry can’t allow it. I learned that when I was pumping gas into airplanes as a teenager. If you ding an airplane, you have to confess. You aren’t qualified to know if the damage could compromise flight safety. The pilot and/or a mechanic has to check it out. Lives are at stake.

Aviation safety depends on the truth. The whole truth. It’s just that simple. It’s just that hard.

Don Brown
December 5, 2011

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Did You Think I Wouldn’t Find Out?

You know the only ATC issue I’m really trying to keep up with these days. Did you think I wouldn’t notice? I do have access to NATCA’s BBS still. And despite the bureaucratic language of the report (a danger of working for the FAA I guess) I can still put “ERAM Failure” together with “IOA” and “canceled”. It took me a little digging to find out IAO stands for “Independent Operational Assessment”. But that’s the neat thing about digging, you’re always finding something new. It seems like a lot of problems are found during an IOA.

For the non-technical, non-controllers out there, the FAA’s lynchpin NextGen program -- ERAM -- suffered some sort of major failure at one of the test facilities (Salt Lake ARTCC.) That was just before Thanksgiving. And in that nobody conducts an “assessment” during a holiday...and I’d think an “assessment” of the this sort takes more than a day or two...I’m guessing -- just guessing mind you -- that the “failure” took place during the “assessment”. Which leads me to guess that the IOA was canceled because of the failure. In other words, ERAM flunked the test so the test was “canceled”.

That’s my best guess. Lets see if controllers are brave enough to confirm it.

Here are a few things to mull over in the meantime. I have a new number to attach to ERAM. I predict it will cost $20+ billion. The FAA says it’s a 2.1 billion dollar program. Based on history, I’m going to guess $21 billion. Billion-dollar software programs attract a lot of attention. If ERAM gets to $10 billion (and it will), they’ll write books about it. What are they going to say about you?

Do you think other people aren’t going to find out? Do you think all this won’t become public? Ask yourself a question: Will the actions you take today withstand public scrutiny tomorrow? When John Q. Public demands answers -- when they ask: “What did they know and when did they know it?” -- will you be able to answer in a forthright manner? The whole truth and nothing but the truth so help you God?

Let me remind you.

”If you don’t learn anything else from me you can take that last point to the bank. I’ve said it a dozen different ways, a dozen different times. A controller’s best interest is in protecting the Public’s best interest. It is a duty you should rank above the FAA and your coworkers. It isn’t always clear and it is rarely easy. But if you’re ever in any doubt about what course to follow -- and you will be -- follow that one. It’s as clear as “Safety Above All”. You’re a public employee, first and foremost. Keep that first and everything else will fall into place.”

Protecting the Public by keeping secrets is the CIA’s job. Controllers do have a national security role to play at times. This isn’t one of them. The only question to ask yourself is: Are you protecting the Public’s interest? Or your own?

Don Brown
December 5, 2011

Saturday, December 03, 2011

ERAM Roosting

Those ERAM chickens are coming home to roost. Once again, note that this was “thrown out” on “trash day”.

FAA Remains Quiet on Eram Budget Overruns, Delays

”Yet amid all the FAA exultation these days about NextGen at ATC conferences and in news releases and public statements by agency officials, Eram scarcely gets a mention. If the FAA were a sitcom, Eram would play the slightly crazy Uncle Edgar who gets hustled off to his room just before guests arrive, to be let out only after they’ve left.

That’s because Eram has become a serious embarrassment for the agency and, presumably, for Lockheed Martin, its builder.”

I know better than to count my chickens before they hatch, but I’ve noticed that ERAM has laid more than one egg. And judging from this story, I’m not the only “outsider” that has noticed. Something might hatch soon. Just sayin’...

Don Brown
December 3, 2011

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

It Worked Before

Okay we’re going to play that dumb little game where you complete the sentence.

If it worked before...___________.

That’s right, it will probably work again. Insert my standard lecture about how old sayings got to be old because they are true. And let’s move on. The reverse of that saying is that if it didn’t work before, it probably won’t work this time either. Okay, now all you airplane people stick around for a second and I’ll get back to you. First, we have to take a trip to England.

Those blessed with a memory longer than a month might remember that I chose the United Kingdom as my economic testing ground.

Krugman vs The United Kingdom

”The United Kingdom is acting early. No one really knows if it is right or wrong. We only have our opinions. I think it’s wrong. But if you think it’s the right thing to do for America -- cutting government spending and raising taxes to pay off the deficit -- you now have a test case to watch.”

If you don’t won’t to go back and read it, you need to know that was in June of 2010. Krugman updates us on the situation in his blog today.

Bleeding Britain

”And yet what’s happening in Britain now is that depressed estimates of long-run potential are being used to justify more austerity, which will depress the economy even further in the short run, leading to further depression of long-run potential, leading to …

It really is just like a medieval doctor bleeding his patient, observing that the patient is getting sicker, not better, and deciding that this calls for even more bleeding.”

In short, austerity (slashing spending) didn’t work. And it probably won’t work this time either.

Now, back to the airplane business. I’m guessing most of you heard that American -- the last of the non-bankrupt Mohicans -- declared bankruptcy yesterday. Now, keep in mind...if it didn’t work before, it probably won’t work this time and if it did work before, it will probably work again.

In Chapter 11, a Bid to Cut Costs at American Airlines

”After resisting for a decade, the parent company of American Airlines announced Tuesday that it would now follow a strategy that the rest of the industry chose long ago: filing for bankruptcy protection so it can shed debt, cut labor costs and find a way back to profitability.”

Now, how did that work for other airlines? That, of course, depends on who you are. If you’re an airline CEO, it works great. If you’re an airline employee, not so great. (Here’s where I caution you to read the story before you jump to conclusions. The resigning CEO at American -- Gerard Arpey -- is evidently a horse of a different color.)

”“This is not a defensive move, but an offensive bankruptcy where they go after their labor groups to reduce costs,” said Bob McAdoo, an airline analyst at Avondale Partners. “They have a great franchise and a lot of cash. They are not being forced into bankruptcy here. They have a problem with their cost structure that they want to tackle.””

So, we all know what this is about. It’s time to put the screws to the employees. It’s time for American Airline employees to join the race to the bottom of the barrel. Does anyone think that CEO pay (I’m sorry, compensation) will be cut? Don’t be ridiculous.

Now, let’s put CEO and employees aside. Has this play worked out for the airline business -- the stockholders? Just a quick look at the 10 year graph of stock prices for airlines shows the tale.

Airline stock anyone?

Okay, I think we’ve determined that the current model doesn’t work for hardly anyone. (Same song for the consumer trope. Consumers have to have a job before they can enjoy “cheap” airfares.) And yet, we -- like England’s bankers/politicians -- keep doing the same thing. If it didn’t work before, it probably won’t work this time.

On the other hand, we have seen what works before. Massive government spending of borrowed money got us out of the Great Depression. Regulation gave us a healthy, vibrant airline industry. We had new planes with well-paid employees. It wasn’t perfect. But it was better than this.

No one is saying we need to resurrect Franklin D. Roosevelt or William P. MacCracken. We can’t recreate the men or the times. We just need to acknowledge what has worked and what hasn’t. Deregulation hasn’t.

Don Brown
November 30, 2011

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Occupy America II


Don Brown
November 29, 2011

The Herman Cain Art Project

I heard this a few days ago and it just won’t leave me alone. Rachel Maddow makes a very compelling case that Herman Cain is having a great time at our expense. Call it what you will, I’ve never heard of anything as strange as quoting Pokemon and getting an economic plan from a video game (Sims) in a Presidential campaign.

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I have to agree with The Angry Bureaucrat, what must the rest of the world think of us -- the greatest empire in history? Unreal.

And as crazy as all this’s not nearly as crazy as Newt Gingrich.

I can only hope Jon Huntsman gets his 15 minutes of fame.

Don Brown
November 29, 2011

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Today’s Photo 11-27-11

Yeah, that will do.

© Don Brown 2011 (Click on the picture to enlarge)

If I had paid attention to the weather report I would have never gone out this morning. You’ve got to show up.

Don Brown
November 27, 2011

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Occupy America

No commentary necessary. Watch it.

Don Brown
November 22, 2011

Open the Express Lanes!

Uh oh. There’s bad weather brewing for the day-before-Thanksgiving travel.

Severe Storms May Disrupt New York Holiday Travel Into Tomorrow

”Heavy rains and strong winds are expected to sweep across New York City late today and tomorrow, which may hinder air traffic in one of the busiest travel periods of the year, according to the National Weather Service.”

Quick! Somebody tell President Obama about those holiday express lanes that President Bush invented.

Just in case you forgot. (I also took the time to find it in James Fallows’ archives.)

Pack plenty of food and water. I’m sure the airlines have their checkbooks ready. (Check out the stock photo used in the article. TW who? A Saab 340?)

Airline fined $900,000 for keeping anxious passengers waiting on tarmac more than 3 hours with no food or water

You might want to save the water bottles for later use. You know...for when it comes time to get rid of all that water you drank.

Don Brown
November 22, 2011

Bad Comparisons

Even as I write these words, I know I am headed down the wrong path. I have stumbled upon Wikipedia’s List of U.S. States by GDP and I am fascinated. I already knew about Wikipedia’s List of Countries by GDP. And, of course, I can’t help comparing the two. Which is probably wrong of me to do. But I can’t help myself.

For instance, if my State, Georgia (the U.S. Georgia, not the European Georgia) were a country we’d have an economy the size of Iran’s. Just think, Nathan Deal (Governor of Georgia) could cause as much commotion at the UN as Ahmadinejad. He could threaten to wipe Louisiana off the map. Because Louisiana’s economy is the size of Israel’s.

See, I told you I was going down the wrong road. I mean, if Louisiana had the influence in the U.S. Congress that Israel does, we could get New Orleans rebuilt.

You know how you’re always hearing that India is right behind China and poised to become a superpower? California’s economy is bigger than India’s. I say we cut California loose and let them become a superpower. Please notice I didn’t say that about Texas. Texans would take it seriously. And their economy is bigger than Australia’s. I can’t figure it all out. Canada’s economy is bigger than Australia’s and Russia’s. It’s only slightly smaller than India’s. But nobody talks about Canada becoming a superpower. Hey?

I have to be honest, I was shocked to find Georgia was the 11th largest economy in the United States. I don’t think of Georgia as a rich State. I doubt if you do either. But Massachusetts is 12th and we do think of them as a rich State. What gives? Is it the population differences? I don’t know.

But it does make me wonder about all the State’s Rights stuff. Down here, I know it’s a code for racism. But there are some people that legitimately believe that States should exercise more power. That the States should exert more independence from the Federal Government. If Georgia has an economy the size of Iran’s -- and we’re not spending our money developing and nuclear weapons capability -- you would think we’d be able to educate our kids. But no, we’re 48th in the States. Kentucky is 11th in education. And Kentucky has an economy the size of Romania’s.

Oh well, like I said, these are probably all bad comparisons anyway. I mean, after all, everybody is Europe is spooked because nobody is big enough to bail out Italy. California has an economy the size of Italy -- is functionally bankrupt -- and nobody over here seems worried about it. So it has to be a bad comparison. Right?

Don Brown
November 22, 2011

Saturday, November 19, 2011

It’s Not Going to Work

Doesn’t anybody in a position of authority remember the 1960s?

Maybe the folks in power need to talk to history professors more often than they talk to police chiefs. I know I’ve written about it before (but I can’t find it) -- during the last Depression, President Hoover sent in Dugout Doug and the Army to break up the Bonus Army camps. A year later -- when the protesters regrouped and reformed their camp -- FDR sent in his wife. (Non-original, I read it in a book. “Hoover sent in the Army. Roosevelt sent in Eleanor.)

I knew when the NYPD maced the women penned on the sidewalk that this movement was going to grow. The-powers-that-be need to be careful. There are a lot of war veterans coming home to unemployment. They’re going to be a little tougher to intimidate than late-teen college students.

Evidently, 84-year-old grandmothers aren’t push overs either.

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President Obama has a decision to make. Does he want to be Hoover or Roosevelt?

On another level, these images become iconic. Here are a couple of other images that come to mind. You might want to think about how the larger events turned out from an historical perspective.

The Tet Offensive -- South Vietnam

Kent State Shooting

Don Brown
November 19, 2011

ERAM Discussion Video

While I was messing with the NATCA video, I happened to notice the video of the ERAM panel discussion in Las Vegas, back in March 0f 2011. Some folks might want to watch it.

For the non-controllers, it’s dry as dust. It’s full of acronyms I don’t understand. There’s nothing exciting to see. But as reference material, as historical documentation, as enlightenment -- I think it is valuable.

I do have to mention one thing (okay two things) to note. First, notice that the guy that dominates the discussion -- the one that really seems to know what he is talking about -- has a handwritten name plate. Typical irony. (Yes, he’s NATCA.) Second, the white-haired guy in the background when Sean (from Memphis) asks his question is me.

Communicating for Safety will be in Atlanta this year. I will be there. You can be too.

Hey! I just had another thought. My friend Spike (aka Stephen Ramsden, aka “The Sun Guy”) is one of the people that makes these videos possible. Somewhere in the mountain of titles he has earned is the one that says member of the NATCA Communications Committee. I bet Spike will be at CFS too.

I like to point out the awesome talent that the FAA overlooks (if not outright rejects) whenever I can.

Don Brown
November 19, 2011

NATCA Guides You Home

Most of you will never have any idea how much a video like this means to someone like me. You see, over 25 years ago it was just me and a half dozen other guys sitting in somebody’s living room trying to figure out how to make things like this happen. Then we found out about some guys in Florida that were doing the same thing. And a couple of dozen in New York. And Boston. And Chicago. And Seattle. And L.A.

Next thing you know, we had a union. And people started paying dues. And ever so slowly (it seemed like at the time) we started getting things done. A few of us stuck our necks out, we spent some money we didn’t have to spend and lo-and-behold, other controllers started supporting what we were doing.

You have no idea what it was like to build a union as others watched theirs decline: To try and improve our corner of the government while others were trying to destroy it: To build a lasting career while others were saying careers -- good ones with security and benefits -- were a thing of the past.

And I hope you never do know.

(I give up. I can’t get the video to embed. Click on the link and click on the “play” arrow. Geez, why can’t people leave well enough alone?)

Don Brown
November 19, 2011

A Sunny Salute

Remember my friend that isn’t busy enough being an air traffic controller -- he has to run the world’s largest solar astronomy outreach program too? The program named for an air traffic controller? Come on, you know. The guy that wears the crazy Sun suit. Yeah, my friend “Spike”.

He had a picture published at National Geographic yesterday.

”A giant wall of heated gas rises from the sun's surface in a false-color photograph taken by solar observer Stephen Ramsden last Friday. ”

How awesome is that? The best way you can tell Stephen how awesome it is would be to go to his other site -- the solar photography site -- and click the button that says “Donate”. It takes money to haul all his gear to 70 elementary schools a year.

Don Brown
November 18, 2011

They Grow Up So Fast

Good Lord, remember when Delta Mike was the new kid on the block? Now he sounds as jaded as the rest of us.

Ignored on so many levels.

”I bet IBM would love to get their hands on a couple of billion dollars worth of taxpayer money to start working on a system they don't know how to create just yet, and I bet controllers will be ignored throughout most of the process. ”

(I’m not rewriting the rest. Sorry.)

Don Brown
November 17, 2011

Time “Challenged”

Mrs. Brown had knee surgery Monday.

All the leaves fell out of the trees on Tuesday.

Mrs. Brown came home on Wednesday. (She’s fine, thank you.)

I had a flat tire on Thursday.

Mrs. Brown started therapy (physical) on Friday.

Google decide to change Blogger somewhere in the middle of all that. I haven’t made a picture since Tuesday morning on my way to the hospital. Oh, woe is me.

I wonder how the poor cope. The only thing I lack at the moment is time. I have a very good life.

Don Brown
November 19, 2011

Friday, November 18, 2011

Technical Difficulties

Google has changed something on Blogger (the program I publish the blog with.) I'll get around to figuring it out what I'm doing wrong shortly. But today I'm jammed up. I'll get to it eventually.

Don Brown
November 18, 2011

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Okay, I Love My iPad Too

We’ve already established I’m not an “early adopter”. But for fellow slow learners, I feel compelled to say I love my iPad. I’ll be honest, I really didn’t “get it” when the thing came out. And I only got around to buying one because I haven’t bought a “smart” phone yet and...and I wanted a way to show folks my digital pictures. Sheeze.

But yesterday, while my wife was still in the hospital recovering from her knee surgery, there was a tornado warning. They had to pull all the patients out of their rooms (away from the windows) and shelter them in the hall. During all this, I was able to watch two separate radar feeds and post to Facebook all at the same time. While everyone around me was tapping on their tiny phones, I was reading, playing games and watching the weather. And the best thing about it to me? The battery seems to last forever. I know that’s just in comparison to laptop batteries but I used my iPad for around 12 hours yesterday and I still had 20+% battery power when I plugged it in for the night.

For a first-generation replacement of a laptop, it’s a wondrous device.

I had the same thought on the drive home from the hospital. If you had told anybody in 1975 that they would have a satellite navigation system steering them down the road while talking on two separate phones in their car, they would never have believed it. Forget the iPad and the TV screen in the back. It’s amazing how fast all this is happening.

Don’t get too smug about it. All this stuff hasn’t solved traffic jams. Just like NextGen won’t solve the overscheduling of runways.

Don Brown
November 17, 2011

Who? Us?

Everything I know about about geopolitical, strategic thinking I learned playing Risk. Which is to say, I don’t know much. But I know geography matters. Words might enable confusion. Maps bring clarity. At least for me.

A Marine Base for Australia Irritates China

”For China, the week’s developments could suggest both an economic and a military encirclement. ”

”The president said the moves were not intended to isolate China,...”

Just so you don’t have to look them up, the map markers are (starting from the south) Darwin, Australia, Taiwan, Okinawa and Yokosuka, Japan. I think the map makes it pretty obvious the strategic importance of, say, the Philippines. Or Vietnam.

It is only these geopolitical thoughts that keep me from writing a tirade about our continued involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan. I believe geopolitik is a game for big minds -- and ultimately a game for fools. One might call it “encirclement” -- others “containment”. (If you bother to follow that link, be sure to read the next section on Kissinger as well.) I call it trouble.

By the way, the map was drawn with the help of this site. It’s also worth noting the enormous distances. The line draw is almost 4,000 miles in length.

Don Brown
November 17, 2011

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Today’s Photo 11-15-11

This is probably as close as you’re going to get to a self portrait. This morning’s sunrise. (And, yes, it’s been a long day.)

© Don Brown 2011 (Click on the picture to enlarge)

Don Brown
November 15, 2011

1 Percent Speaks

This will look different. I'm attempting to write this on an iPad. One letter at a time.

Go read this from Marketplace:

If the 1% had less...

Don Brown
November 15, 2011

Monday, November 14, 2011

It’s a Time Shame

My long-time readers might remember that I’ve been reading Time magazine for over 25 years. Most of that time (if not all of it) I’ve been a subscriber. It’s an outstanding magazine, especially if you have the lifestyle of a controller, where you can’t catch the news every night at 6PM.

I recently bought an iPad and a friend told me that Time had a great ap for the iPad. I spent today reading the latest issue on my iPad and my friend was right -- the ap is well done.

I’d love to let you read the story I was reading, but Time has decided to hide all but the first few paragraphs of their stories behind the pay wall. That’s a shame. Because I can tell you about them but you can’t read them. And they really are worth reading.

The one in this issue was about how the military is being slowly segregated into their own society -- apart from the one they are sworn to defend. Great story. You can read mine for free. Theirs is much better -- better researched, investigated and written. It is much surer of itself than mine. I’ve got a bad feeling. They got actual reporting. But a lot of good it will do you if you can’t read it.

It’s like their graphics in last week’s issue. It blew away the myth that less regulations make for a better business environment. Great stuff to go along with Fareed Zakaria’s piece and the great work done by Rana Foroohar. But you’ll never get the insight the graphics provided because you can’t see them.

Well, unless you go to the public library and read them. Or maybe you can read a copy at your next dentist appointment. That business model worked for a lot a years -- a few bought the magazines and a lot of people got to read them. And as far as the advertisers are concerned -- the more the merrier. Subscription holders or not. It’s a shame Time can’t figure out how to make that business model work in the digital age.

Don Brown
November 14, 2011

Today’s Photo 11-14-11

Not that it’s that great of a photograph or just don’t see one of these everyday in Middle Georgia. From last night on the lake...

© Don Brown 2011 (Click on the picture to enlarge)

It’s an American White Pelican -- a mostly-Western-freshwater bird. Most of you will remember that there are swans on the lake. They didn’t take too kindly to this interloper. Here they are, all puffed up and in attack formation.

© Don Brown 2011 (Click on the picture to enlarge)

Last I saw of them, they were still chasing the pelican around the lake in the gathering dark. I didn’t get to go back to the lake this morning so I’m not sure we’ll ever know how this story turns out.

Don Brown
November 14, 2011

(A new first, the wi-fi provider at where I was stuck today had Blogger blocked so I couldn’t upload this blog. Hmmmm.)

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Today’s Photo 11-13-11

All you’ve got to do is show up.

© Don Brown 2011 (Click on the picture to enlarge)

Don Brown
November 13, 2011

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Today’s Photo 11-12-11

A little white-on-white for this morning’s picture.

© Don Brown 2011 (Click on the picture to enlarge)

Don Brown
November 12, 2011

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Hangnail in My Life

One of my sisters went to college in Nashville. She brought home an album (am I showing my age?) from some friends that were just starting out. (Hello? Music City.) I really liked that album a lot. It had one quirky/silly tune on it with a great line;

You’re the hangnail in my life, and I can’t bite you off.

Evidently, I’m not the only person that feels this way about Newton Leroy Gingrich. From Salon:

Newt Gingrich, book-shilling faux candidate, surges

”In last night’s hallucinatory GOP presidential debate, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich did his usual blustery free-associative word-barrage routine that for years convinced numerous reporters and pundits that he was somehow an intellectual statesman.”

And a little later...

”A book plug, an assertion of unparalleled expertise, and a hilarious proposal that makes no sense — all in one answer? He’s still got it.”

I can’t say as I’ve ever noticed Alex Pareene (the author) before but that’s a couple of great lines. You’ll have to go read the closing paragraph for yourself. And you’ll have to endure Newt Gingrich for a little longer. Even worse -- if his tactics catch on (Hello Herman Cain) -- you’ll have to endure a bunch of people (Sarah Palin) that became famous by running for President -- or just threatening to run. We used to think people like that were funny. Now, they just seem crazy.

Don Brown
November 10, 2011

Writing History -- Reagan

Immediately after Ronald Reagan’s presidency, the movers and shakers started trying to make Ronald Reagan a historical figure -- in a good way. Unfortunately for them, the truth always comes out. It may take a while. It may take a long while. But it always comes out.

Listening to Rachel Maddow this morning, I learned that the CIA had made videos to brief President Reagan. I, of course, wanted to know more.

The first video is to educate you on how The Great Communicator -- aka Ronald Reagan -- was briefed about national security and foreign affairs. (Sorry about the commercials but it’s CNN. What can you do?)

This video is fromYouTube and was one of the actual videos used to brief President Reagan. First, you can judge for yourself the level of sophistication (or lack thereof) used to reach the target audience. Second, if you have the time to watch all of it, you might wind up asking yourself why we decided to stay there after toppling the Taliban. No one has substantially changed Afghanistan in over 2,000 years. We won’t either.

If you’re young and wondering -- yes, the films do have a 1950’s propaganda feel to them. There was a brief shot of William Casey -- then Director of the CIA -- in the CNN story. If you don’t know about William Casey, you might want to learn a little about him. Some think Ronald Reagan wasn’t a very worldly, sophisticated man. Nobody thinks that about William Casey.

I can’t help but wonder if there is a PATCO video somewhere in the White House archives. I don’t suppose the CIA would be involved in that briefing, so probably not. Pity.

The more you learn about Reagan, the more he pales in comparison to a truly historical figure like George Washington. I know some might think this a small thing, but small things matter. Washington National Airport was renamed to honor Ronald Reagan. A few people saw the wisdom in keeping “Washington” in the name. I suggest it should be the name air traffic controllers continue to use to identify the airport -- “Washington National”. History has found George Washington worthy of memorializing. The jury is still out on Ronald Reagan.

Don Brown
November 10, 2011

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Two Thoughts on Taxes

Some might not like an argument about politics but, lately, I’ve been enjoying them. I learn from them. It’s helpful practice to sharpen my arguments. I really don’t consider them political arguments (I think of it as public policy) but most other people do. And in that our political positions seem to be so fixed these days, we might as well consider them political arguments. Whatever.

During one of these debates arguments, my conservative friend said that we (the United States) should lower our corporate tax rate. I asked what the current rate was -- 30 something percent. (35% is the highest rate.) I asked what was typical in other countries -- no idea. (They’re all over the place. And complex too [duh]. China is 25%, Germany 29.8%, Norway 28%, UK 20-26%, Hong Kong 16.5%. Hong Kong seems to hold some magical place in conservative dogma. I forget why.) I asked what we should lower our rate to -- no idea. I suggested 10%. That seemed agreeable to my friend.

But then I had a question. If we lower our corporate tax rate from 35% to just 10% -- in order to make the United States more “business friendly” and to promote growth -- will corporations then pay taxes? Come now. Everyone knows that GE didn’t pay any taxes last year (along with 30 others including Boeing.) GE’s tax department is legendary. If a corporation is paying 0%, does it really matter if the tax rate is 35% or 10%? I’m sure a tax lawyer will tell you it does. After all, his job depends on it.

From there the argument tacks into how complex tax laws are and that we should simplify them. I agree. Let’s start over. Let’s wipe the slate clean. My friend didn’t think I was doing a very good job of arguing. What’s to argue about? We all think that taxes should be fair, equitable and understandable. Supposed we wave our magic wand and do just that? The slate is wiped clean. You (that means you the reader) can implement whatever tax system you think fair. Poof! It is so.

What happens the next day? You and I both know that there will be a herd of K Street cows shoving their way to the feeding trough on Capitol Hill. And we shall just start the whole process over. Again.

Perhaps this sums it up best, of all the articles I’ve read for this blog.

Simplifying tax code? It's as easy as 1-2-3

”When the U.S. imposed a national income tax in 1913, the law enacting it covered 400 pages. Today, the U.S. Tax Code requires an estimated 15,000 pages spread across 20 volumes.

Amazing, considering that most of the additions of the past 90 years have been loopholes.”

Just how many of those loopholes did you go to Washington and lobby for? Don’t dismiss that question so lightly. I’ve been to Washington and lobbied Congress. NATCA even used to call it “Lobby Week” before they thought better of it. I lobbied for better air traffic controller training. More controllers. Better equipment. I (somewhat famously, in a safety-geeky way) gave a few Congressmen handmade controller pens. That’s not like handcrafted luxury. It’s like homemade-because-we-couldn’t-do-any-better pens. Our two-ended controller pencils (one end red, the other black) wouldn’t write on the new strips so I (and others) took to making our own pens. A 10-billion-dollar budget and controllers had to make their own pens. But I’m drifting off course...

I never lobbied for a tax break. How about you? I’m betting you haven’t. And even the tax loopholes breaks you think are for you (mortgage deductions anyone?) were most likely written for a corporation or industry (house building, mortgage lending, bankers).

The point is, taxes are one of those things that won’t stay fixed. It’s a constant process. And currently, the system is geared so that corporations have the upper hand in how that process works. Your average U.S. citizens didn’t make it “complicated”. Corporations and rich people made it complicated.

To recap, a high tax rate is contrivance if no one is paying it. Corporations can scream that they are taxed at 35% -- “We pay our fair share!” -- while they pocket the money flowing out of the loopholes. (That works for that infamous 90% personal tax rate Reagan used to complain about too, by the way.)

The tax laws are complicated because the people with power want them that way. Nothing being offered in the political realm these days will change that. And even if it is changed (through some miracle) it won’t stay changed.

Don Brown
November 9, 2011

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Today’s Photo 11-8-11

It’s a good thing I get to take pictures right at dawn. Otherwise, I don’t think I’d have time for it. Enjoy. The next three weeks are going to be busy. I’ll post when I can.

© Don Brown 2011 (Click on the picture to enlarge)

Don Brown
November 8, 2011

Monday, November 07, 2011

Power to the People

Pretty impressive for a bunch of homeless, radical, unemployed, lazy, pick-your-pejorative, do-nothing do-gooders. Powering “Occupy Wall Street” with bikes charging batteries. We wouldn’t want all that energy (pardon the pun), creativity and ingenuity put to work in our economy.

Stick around for Lemony Snicket. He’s pretty funny. Interesting too.

Don Brown
November 7, 2011

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Sunday, November 06, 2011

Intellectual Cat Fight

I just finally got around to watching last week’s episode of Global Public Square. If you want to see the core debate in America right now -- or if you just want to watch an intellectual cat fight -- this is the video to watch. (I don’t know what’s going on with CNN’s site. The video won’t display with Safari but it does with Firefox. If the video isn’t displayed below, click on the preceding link and read the transcript.)

I’ve read a few books by Niall Ferguson. I liked them all and found them very thought provoking. I have no idea when he turned into the guy that you see here. Perhaps it was when he joined the John McCain’s Presidential campaign. Perhaps it was when he got into an argument with Paul Krugman on economics. In hindsight, neither one of those moves looks very smart.

In short, Mr. Ferguson is a seemingly-good historian with a bad habit of arguing with liberal economists. (Jeffery Sachs is also an economist.) His final argument was somewhat ridiculous from my vantage point.

Niall Ferguson: Well, I'm sure the Chinese are listening to this debate with glee thinking, well, there are still academics in the west who think that the route to salvation is to expand the role of the state because that's certainly not what is happening in China. It is not what is happening in India. It is not what is happening in Brazil. The most dynamic economies in the world today are the ones which are promoting market reforms and reining in the rule of the state, which in those countries grew hypertrophically in the 20th century and that is a big problem in Jeff Sachs' argument.”

The Chinese -- the communists -- are becoming more successful because they are moving away from the extremes of communism. In the meantime, we embraced the extremes of capitalism. The Chinese have learned from their mistakes. The have left the ideological extremes of Mao and have embraced the practicality of capitalism. The jury is still out on us.

We know what works. President Franklin D. Roosevelt showed us the way by regulating capitalism. In doing so, he saved capitalism from itself. And it worked just fine until we started deregulating the banking industry in 1980.

If you look behind the curtain, the economies that are doing so well -- “the most dynamic economies” (Mr. Ferguson’s words) -- are the ones that are indeed “catching up” (Mr. Sachs’ words). They are the ones that were so far down they had no place to go but up. Fareed played right into this thought with the rest of the show about Argentina, and even with the weekly quiz that highlighted how fast Estonia was growing. Argentina was an economic basket case at the beginning of the century. And Estonia is one of Krugman’s poster-child economies.

The last word -- of course -- belonged to taxes. It takes money to run a government. I don’t know which the rich hate more -- paying taxes or knowing that those very taxes will be what pays to regulate their greed.

Don Brown
November 6, 2011