Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Texting While Flying

I like this.

Time Out - NextGen Ramblings

”1 - What is the last thing you want your bus driver/airline pilot/train engineer doing when you're sitting in the back with your life in their hands? Texting on the cell phone, right?”

I like the follow up post almost as much. Be sure to check out the comments section. Off you go now.

P.S. How many pilots thought I was going to scold you for texting while flying?

Don Brown
May 31, 2011

Monday, May 30, 2011


This is a most interesting hit piece on the head of Fox News -- Roger Ailes -- from Rolling Stone.

How Roger Ailes Built the Fox News Fear Factory

”The onetime Nixon operative has created the most profitable propaganda machine in history. Inside America's Unfair and Imbalanced Network”

Roger ailes november 30 2004 interview

I still struggle with the nastiness of all this. This piece offers no quarter. It shows no mercy. But neither does Roger Ailes. Is it right? Doubtful. Is it necessary? I don’t know. Is it truthful? I believe it is. The piece even addresses the issue I was struggling with the other day -- the “anti-Fox” channel -- MSNBC.

”The phenomenal political power and economic prowess of Fox News has inspired imitation. In recent years, MSNBC has tried to refashion itself as the anti-Fox, with a prime-time lineup stacked with liberal commentators. Such contortions, say media veterans, only strengthen Fox News, emboldening Ailes to tack even further to the right. “He can say, ‘I’m not doing anything anyone else isn’t doing – I’m just doing it on the other side of the fence,’” says Dan Rather.”

Everything below this is just a teaser for you. It’s a lengthy article (13 internet pages) so you’ll need to set some time aside to read the whole thing. (I just click on the “print” icon so I can read it on one page.)

”But Ailes couldn’t stay away from the theater of politics. In 1974, his notoriety from the Nixon campaign won him a job at Television News Incorporated, a new right-wing TV network that had launched under a deliberately misleading motto that Ailes would one day adopt as his own: "fair and balanced." TVN made no sense as a business. The project of archconservative brewing magnate Joseph Coors, the news service was designed to inject a far-right slant into local news broadcasts by providing news clips that stations could use without credit – and for a fraction of the true costs of production. Once the affiliates got hooked on the discounted clips, its president explained, TVN would "gradually, subtly, slowly" inject "our philosophy in the news.” The network was, in the words of a news director who quit in protest, a "propaganda machine."”

”But Ailes has not simply been content to shift the nature of journalism and direct the GOP’s message war. He has also turned Fox News into a political fundraising juggernaut. During her Senate race in Delaware, Tea Party darling Christine O’Donnell bragged, “I’ve got Sean Hannity in my back pocket, and I can go on his show and raise money.” Sharron Angle, the Tea Party candidate who tried to unseat Harry Reid in Nevada, praised Fox for letting her say on-air, “I need $25 from a million people – go to SharronAngle.com and send money.” Completing the Fox-GOP axis, Karl Rove has used his pulpit as a Fox News commentator to promote American Crossroads, a shadowy political group he founded, promising that the money it raised would be put “to good use to defeat Democrats who have supported the president’s agenda.””

”Fox News stands as the culmination of everything Ailes tried to do for Nixon back in 1968. He has created a vast stage set, designed to resemble an actual news network, that is literally hard-wired into the homes of millions of America’s most conservative voters. GOP candidates then use that forum to communicate directly to their base, bypassing the professional journalists Ailes once denounced as “matadors” who want to “tear down the social order” with their “elitist, horse-dung, socialist thinking.” Ironically, it is Ailes who has built the most formidable propaganda machine ever seen outside of the Communist bloc, pioneering a business model that effectively monetizes conservative politics through its relentless focus on the bottom line. "I’m not in politics," Ailes recently boasted. "I’m in ratings. We’re winning."”

Don Brown
May 30, 2011

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Grass Cutting and Podcasts

When did it get so dry? I was cutting the grass and listening to some podcasts on my iPod. Dust was flying everywhere -- but it just rained Thursday. Oh well.

First up was Marketplace. It was the first time I’ve heard Ky Ryssdal (the host) get a little testy.

It started with this bit from Felix Salmon of Reuters’:

On the slow GDP growth:

FELIX SALMON: We're not growing. We're not creating jobs. We're not having a vibrant recovery. Often, when you look at other countries, they tend to grow very fast after having a big economic drop, because people will just bounce back to where they were before. Doesn't seem to be happening here. In the real economy -- outside of Wall Street, which is making loads of money -- you know, there doesn't seem to be growth.”

It case you missed it, that ties in nicely with my last blog. You’ll have to listen to the podcast to hear Ky’s outburst about the debt ceiling while he was trying to separate Felix and Marketplace’s New York Bureau Chief, Heidi Moore.

Next up was Neal Conan with Talk of the Nation.

Audio Book Sales Climb In Spite Of Competition

I was interested in it because my father has some vision problems after suffering a stroke several years ago. But it ties in nicely with what I was saying about the voice inside your head a few blogs ago.

”Mr. GUIDALL: That's correct. And in people's heads, what happens is that there is a very specific relationship built with the listener, and often times you'll hear people say I want a book by George Guidall or Tom Stech Schulte or whoever their favorite narrator is because a bond has happened between this person bringing them some kind of emotional experience and the listener's empathy with that.”

It’s interesting to see how the one medium appeals to so many different people for so many different reasons. Give it a listen.

Finally, I got to Science Friday with Ira Flato. This show was President Kennedy's "Moon Speech" Turns 50. The money and the politics behind it all are fascinating. A dozen different thoughts for blogs hit me from this show alone.

But the thought that is most important for this moment is that this is the kind of programming that the Republican Party wants to cut. In case it hasn’t hit you, all three of these program are carried on National Public Radio. They’re on every day. Think about the quality of these three programs. Can you name me a television network or radio station that can compare? Fox? CNN? MSNBC? Not even close. And the Republicans want to kill it. The cold hard truth is “The Market” is incapable of producing this kind of quality. Perhaps that’s a bad choice of words. I’m sure for-profit companies could produce this kind of programming. The point is that they don’t. They chase profits. Conflict. Sensationalism. Sex. Scandal. These things are more profitable than Reason, Education, or Science.

Anyway, I thought I’d chase down a video of the speech. This one has a little bonus at the end.

If all that looks incredibly old to you, imagine 500 years from now when they’ll look as primitive as the Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria.

Don Brown
May 28, 2011

Krugman Twists the Knife

Sorry. But this was too good to pass up. I mean, you’ve got Krugman pitted against the 5-billion-dollar-a-year guy. It just doesn’t get any better.

Who You Gonna Bet On? An Update

”It’s not quite a year yet since Business Week ran a piece ridiculing my concerns about prolonged economic weakness, comparing it to the wisdom of John Paulson, who saw a boom — particularly in housing — just around the corner.”

You just know I had to click on the link.

Krugman or Paulson: Who You Gonna Bet On?

”July 1, 2010

History will show that the week before the nation's 234th birthday, Paul Krugman, Nobel Laureate and professor of economics at Princeton University, went all in on Keynesian orthodoxy. To regular readers of his column in The New York Times, this was not a surprise. Since the financial crisis began, Krugman has been adamant that the federal government must fearlessly run up deficits to compensate for weak private spending and keep the U.S. economy from death-spiraling into deflation.

Now his warnings have taken on an even more dire tone. The threat is not merely the dreaded "double dip." If the leaders of the developed world hold to pledges they made at the G-20 summit in Toronto and cut government spending, Krugman argues, we face nothing less than a "third depression"—perhaps not as singularly devastating as the Great Depression, which ripped the U.S. economy in half, but comparable to the Long Depression that followed the Panic of 1873, a grinding period of chronic social need and dissension.”

Now, before moving on, let’s just do a quick check of the headlines to see how the world’s economy is doing. You don’t even have to leave BusinessWeek.

World stocks shake off tepid US economic news

But perhaps you should so we can make this unbiased. From the Associated Press.

Economies around the world are growing more slowly

Moving on. One of the things I want you to notice is how the internet changes everything. There was almost a zero chance before the internet that anyone would ever go back and look at this article. But now, not only can you go back...everyone can go back and read it for themselves. And notice even more.

Now, back to BusinessWeek -- the Krugman vs. Paulson article.

”With the American taxpayer covering his downside, investing in U.S. financial institutions was easy pickings. Paulson's latest 13f filing with the Securities & Exchange Commission, which records his holdings as of Mar. 31, indicates nearly $2.995 billion of Bank of America common stock and $2.052 billion of Citigroup (C) common. Despite healthy advances from their spring 2009 lows, banks may have more room to run, particularly if Paulson is correct in the estimate he made to investors, according to The Wall Street Journal, that housing prices will rise as much as 10 percent next year.”

These graphs are as close as I can get the slider bar at Google Finance to land on March 2010 and go to the present.

Bank of America (BAC)

Citigroup (C)

US housing market still falling -- US property prices fell for the 57th consecutive month in March – and showed their biggest fall in three years, according to analysts at Zillow

Don’t turn off your brain. Look at those investments that Paulson made and predicted -- BAC, C and the housing market -- and keep in mind he still made $5 billion. He can be that wrong and still make $5 billion. You know the difference? He has “the American taxpayer covering his downside”. And BusinessWeek points it out with all the oblivious glee that only the banksters and their toadies can summon with 14 million Americans unemployed.

Speaking of which, the writer of the BusinessWeek article? Hugo Lindgren? Look who he works for now. With the internet, you can get a glimpse at inside baseball too.

Don Brown
May 28, 2011

Today’s Photo 5-28-11

A foggy-morning sunrise.

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

Don Brown
May 28, 2011

Friday, May 27, 2011

Creative Picture Usage

And they said I’d never be able to find a use for that picture of the buzzard.

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

Just in case you want to make your own -- Despair, Inc.

Don Brown
May 27, 2011

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Republicans -- NextGen

Watch. Listen to their words.

William F. Buckley -- ”George H. Nash, a historian of the modern American conservative movement, believed that Buckley was "arguably the most important public intellectual in the United States in the past half century... For an entire generation he was the preeminent voice of American conservatism and its first great ecumenical figure."”

Alan Greenspan

President Gerald Ford, Alan Greenspan and Ayn Rand

Republicans -- NextGen. Same as the OldGen.

Don Brown
May 26, 2011

Blogging With One Hand

It’s always something. My body continues to betray me. I sprained my right wrist in a most unmanly fashion. So, I suspect, I won’t be very longwinded these days.

Krugman. Yada, yada.

Third Depression Watch

”Neither the Long Depression of the 19th century nor the Great Depression of the 20th was an era of nonstop decline — on the contrary, both included periods when the economy grew. But these episodes of improvement were never enough to undo the damage from the initial slump, and were followed by relapses.

We are now, I fear, in the early stages of a third depression.”

That was written almost a year ago. Read. Krugman. “Lost Decade”. Yada, yada.

Don Brown
May 26, 2011

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Obama Market

Pardon me. I just needed to show a friend how the stock market looked since President Obama was elected.

Don Brown
May 25, 2011

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Political Earthquake

This is probably not a story you’re following but Rachel Maddow has been on it for awhile. And it happened. The dream came true.

Democrat Wins G.O.P. Seat; Rebuke Seen to Medicare Plan

”The results set off elation among Democrats and soul-searching among Republicans, who questioned whether the party should rethink its commitment to the Medicare plan, which appears to have become a liability as 2012 elections loom.”

Both sides will try to spin this to their advantage of course but the truth is that Republicans were trying to kill off Medicare and the Public figured it out. Now they are going to pay the price for it. This district (NY 26) has been in Republican hands forever. It happened less than an hour ago and already Google News has over 600 stories on it. It is big news.

This is the brutal truth from Paul Krugman.

”What I hope regular readers of this blog understand by now is that the Ryan plan is, in fact, a self-serving piece of junk. It doesn’t add up — in fact, it would probably make the deficit bigger not smaller. And far from representing some kind of sacrifice of political interests in the service of the greater good, it’s a right-wing wish-list on steroids: sharp tax cuts for corporations and the rich, savage cuts in aid to the poor, and a gratuitous privatization of Medicare. And again, it’s technically incompetent along the way.”

The best part of it all is that the Republican Party has been rebuked in an such an honest manner. This was their issue. They crowed about the Ryan budget for days when it came out -- before everyone figured it out would kill Medicare. They voted for it overwhelmingly. If anything, Democrats were slow to criticize it. This wasn’t political spin like “Death Panels”. This was the Republican Party being Republicans and the Public finally figured out what that meant. And best of all, people have taken to calling it “privatization” of Medicare.

”Pat Gillick, a Republican from East Amherst, who also cast a ballot for Ms. Hochul, said, “The privatization of Medicare scares me.””

I couldn’t be happier about it.

Don Brown
May 24, 2011

Robert Reich, Lockheed Martin and AIA

I’m guessing I don’t have to say another word to controllers. Let me get out of the way.

Why We Need to Rein In Government Contractors That Use Taxpayer Money for Political Advantage

”Lockheed Martin, the nation’s largest contractor, has already got more than $19 billion in federal contracts so far this year. But we know very little about Lockheed Martin’s political spending other than its Political Action Committee contributions. We don’t know how much money it gives to the Aerospace Industries Association to lobby for a bigger defense budget.”

(For the non-controllers, Aerospace Industries Association is where our former boss -- Marion Blakey -- went to work before immediately after she left the FAA.)

”We don’t even know how much Lockheed is giving the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to lobby against Obama’s proposed executive order requiring disclosure of its political activities.”

”It’s one of the most insidious conflicts of interest in American politics.

Now, in the wake of the grotesque Supreme Court decision, Citizens United vs. the Federal Election Commission, there’s no limit on what Lockheed can spend on politics.”

Go on. It’s okay. I know you want to read the whole thing. Just remember I’ve had the little giant in my blog roll forever. I might not be that smart, but I try to direct you to people who are.

P.S. Lest you forget, Lockheed Martin has the ERAM contract.

P.P.S. Take the time to email Professor Reich and say "Thank You". (There's a link on the page.) Trust me. Bloggers like that.

Don Brown
March 24, 2011

Monday, May 23, 2011

Rachel In My Head

Some of you may remember my review of the book Deer Hunting With Jesus. It was (and is) a great book if you want to understand rednecks.

One of the things Joe Bageant explained in the book was the power of radio -- especially talk radio. Many folks that work for a living (I mean really work) get to listen to the radio. Think of a factory worker with ear buds in, working a double shift, stamping out parts all day long. Think about the dull, mindless, grinding work of a factory and the ceaseless voice inside your head. As Bageant explains, you get to be friends with the voice inside your head for that many hours a day -- year after year. Limbaugh, Beck, Hannity, Savage.

I’m beginning to understand the power of that voice. As you all know, I get up almost every morning to take pictures of the sunrise. It can be pretty boring waiting for the sun to break through a hole on a cloudy day. And it’s so early that it’s too dark to read. So I started listening to Rachel Maddow’s podcast. And I like it.

First, there aren’t any commercials. That makes it worth it right there in my book. Sure, there are some times you miss having the video (you can download the video version if you so desire) but missing the commercials is a worthwhile tradeoff for me. Second, Rachel does a good job of covering the political stories. But she does have a definite spin. She works in every gay issue/angle she can. I can live with that. She is definitely a liberal. I like that. And she is incredibly smart. I really like that.

I do have some qualms about it all. The Rachel Maddow Show is not unbiased. I happen to like her bias (well, most of it anyway.) It is not “fair” nor is it “balanced”. The fact that I agree with her on so much does not change that.

It is, however, the world we find ourselves in these days. I believe abolishing the Fairness Doctrine was a mistake. But abolish it they did. And now -- at least politically -- it becomes a question of, “Do you remain balanced while the other side kicks your teeth in?”. The Rachel Maddow Show -- if not most of MSNBC -- has said “no”. I’m not comfortable with trying to sell that as a good idea.

Having said that, I see her influence in politics -- and me -- growing. For instance, Senator Ensign’s resignation barely registered on the regular news. And Senator Tom Coburn’s involvement even less so. But Senator Ensign got out just ahead of the subpoenas and Senator Coburn (aka “The Fixer”) is hoping it will all just go away. I don’t think Rachel Maddow will let it go, Senator Coburn.

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

Why yes, both of them were involved with “The Family” and lived at its C Street residence. Yes, that story tied in DOT Secretary Ray LaHood. Yes, I did tell you about “The Family” all the way back in 2008. Thanks for remembering.

Don Brown
May 23, 2011

Newt’s Bedside Manner

Okay, just one more and I’ll buckle down for some serious writing. Actually I’ve been doing some, just not for my blog. Sorry if you feel neglected.

Jack Ohman

Don Brown
May 23, 2011

Today’s Photo 5-23-11

A glorious sunrise. There are way too many to choose from so I’m sure some will wind up on Facebook (sooner or later.)

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

Don Brown
May 23, 2011

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Today’s Photo 5-19-11 (too)

Pretty nice sunset tonight.

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

Don Brown
May 19, 2011

Today’s Photo 5-19-11

It was hard to choose today. Nothing incredible, just a lot of nice shots.

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

P.S. It’s been a while since I added any pictures to my Facebook site. This morning was so varied, I decided to add four more pictures. Start here.

Don Brown
May 19, 2011

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

God Bless You, Newt

God does indeed work in mysterious ways. Newt Gingrich utters the truth (for once) and the entire Republican Party comes unglued.

From Meet the Press on Sunday, May 15th. (I always encourage you to click on the links...just be advised this page is an abomination. You have to go (almost) to the bottom of the page and click on “Show More Text” before you can get to this part. And endure even more ads. It’s no wonder nobody linked to it.)

”MR. GREGORY:  But not what Paul Ryan is suggesting, which is completely changing Medicare.

REP. GINGRICH:  I, I think that, I think, I think that that is too big a jump.  I think what you want to have is a system where people voluntarily migrate to better outcomes, better solutions, better options, not one where you suddenly impose upon the--I don't want to--I'm against Obamacare, which is imposing radical change, and I would be against a conservative imposing radical change.”

Newt also said (right before that):

”REP. GINGRICH:  I don't think right-wing social engineering is any more desirable than left-wing social engineering.  I don't think imposing radical change from the right or the left is a very good way for a free society to operate.”

As I was saying, this set off a firestorm inside the Party of Birthers, Deniers and Randiers. For a full explanation, I recommend this video (about 14 minutes) from the Rachel Maddow Show. Especially the last part of it when she interviews Chris Hayes. He gets to the heart of it. Every Republican in the House (except 4) voted for Ryan’s budget and they don’t need Newt pointing out the truth -- that they voted to kill Medicare.

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

If you would rather read, I’d recommend First Read from NBC News.

Newt’s tough day: Newt Gingrich’s honeymoon as an official presidential candidate lasted, well, just a few days.”

”*** The new conservative litmus test: Here’s a final point about Newt yesterday: It’s more evidence that if you criticize Ryan’s budget plan -- and, more importantly, its Medicare overhaul -- then you’re not considered a mainstream conservative Republican. Ryan’s budget plan has become the ultimate conservative litmus test. Who is happiest about this development? The folks in charge of the Obama re-elect…”

God bless you, Newt. We couldn’t have convinced so many people that the Republican Party has gone off the deep end without you.

Don Brown
May 18, 2011

Brazilian Mid-Air Collision Update

First the news from Aviation Week.

Legacy Pilots Guilty On 1 Count, Says Judge

”A Brazilian federal judge on May 16 sentenced two ExcelAire pilots to four years and four months of community service after finding the pilots guilty on one criminal charge stemming from the Sept. 29, 2006 midair collision of their Embraer Legacy 600 with a GOL Airlines Boeing 737.

The pilots, Joe Lepore and Jan Paladino, were found guilty of a failure to notice that their aircraft’s traffic collision alert and avoidance system was disengaged prior to the crash.”

For those that need to refresh their memories, we’re talking about the Mid-air collision involving GOL1907 over the Amazon in 2006.

Now, for the thinking.

Federal Aviation Administration -- Aircraft and Operator Requirements Solution Set Smart Sheet

Aircraft Separation

The successful implementation of trajectory-based operations will reduce the dependence of the NAS (National Airspace System) on surveillance.  Separation will typically be achieved by strategic separation of trajectory, rather than tactical separation through surveillance.  However, surveillance will continue to play an important role in monitoring compliance to trajectories, detecting blunders, and mitigating unexpected failures of aircraft or facilities.  In some instances, separation by the ANSP (Air Navigation Service Provider) will not be sufficient.  Such instances include closely-spaced parallel approaches, certain crossing traffic and climbing/passing traffic situations, along with operations outside controlled airspace.  In these instances, NextGen will include a transfer of separation responsibility to the flight crew, analogous to how responsibility is transferred in visual conditions today.”

(Emphasis added)

There are a hundred different things to think about here.

Precision caused collision?
Human Factors on warning that a switch (Transponder) is off?
How concerned should a pilot be about legal liability -- in a mid-air?
Will failure to maintain required separation result in enforcement action?

Have fun thinking.

Don Brown
May 18, 2011

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

I'm Guessing It Hasn't

Jeff Stahler

Not Yet Newt!

Geez Newt, don’t implode just yet. The fun has just started. You could be months of entertainment for Jon Stewart. We’re just getting warmed up.

Newt Gingrich's Flame-Out Says As Much About Campaigns As About The Former Speaker

”Gingrich, to be sure, has hardly made life easy for himself. His critique of House Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan's Medicare voucher plan was bound to irritate the conservative base, which is already convinced that the Wisconsin Republican's proposal wasn't getting a fair shake. His call for new, targeted spending measures to encourage economic savings and growth made for a screeching contrast with the party's austerity mindset.”

Dang Newt, you’re supposed to wait until you’ve won the Republican nomination before you run to the center. You have to kowtow to the kooks on the right (that you helped create) first, if you’re to have any chance of winning. Everybody knows that.

By the way, for those not paying attention, the Republican Party has managed to skewer itself with the House vote on the (mentioned) Paul Ryan budget.

House Passes Paul Ryan Budget Proposal in Partisan Vote

”The resolution passed 235-189, with no House Democrats supporting its passage. Just four House Republicans – Reps. Walter Jones, David McKinley, Ron Paul and Denny Rehberg – opposed the bill.”

Those four Republicans are the only four that will be halfway safe from the wrath of older voters (you know, the ones that vote) in the 2012 elections. Every other Republican House member voted to kill Medicare. I don’t think half of them realized it but in that they’re the ones always screaming about reading the Bills they vote on, they don’t have a leg to stand on. Republicans voted to kill Medicare and they’ll just have to live with the consequences. I prefer to say they voted to privatize Medicare (just like they did with Social Security) but it doesn’t garner nearly as much attention as when you say Republicans voted to kill Medicare. It’s kind of like when Republicans were shouting "Death Panels!". Except they were lying and the Democrats are telling the truth -- Ryan’s budget will end Medicare as we know it.

Newt isn’t stupid and he knows this. And if there’s one thing Newt is good at, it’s turning on a dime.

Gingrich’s Big Flip-Flop: Was For Insurance Mandate Before He Was Against It

”Newt Gingrich was for the individual mandate for health insurance before he was against it -– that was the impression given Monday in a John Kerry-esque video that the former House Speaker’s campaign staff hurriedly released to quell a firestorm of criticism about comments he made Sunday on "Meet the Press."”

Dang Newt, I didn’t think I’d ever link to a story from NewsMax. They hung John Kerry on you twice and they’re supposed to be on your side. Makes you wonder what people that aren’t on your side are saying doesn’t it? Wonder no more.

Newt Gingrich, demagogue and liar: Attacking the left didn't prepare him for a White House run

”Glenn Kessler, the mild-mannered reporter behind "The Fact Checker," had to use almost 2,000 words in the online version of his column to deal with just some of Gingrich's exaggerations - so many lies, so little newspaper space - and wound up awarding him Four Pinocchios.”

Dang Newt! How’s that for Fair & Balanced?

Don Brown
May 17, 2011

“Essential” Personnel

I’m not sure if it has become common knowledge yet. The tornado outbreak of April 28 was the largest outbreak in United States history. And it was way too close to home for me.

I’ve had a chance to get out and make some picture since then. A little crossroads near me -- named Rio -- was all but obliterated. I’ve never seen destruction like that in my life.

I’ve seen the aftermath of dozens of tornadoes over the years. I had one go less than 1 mile from my house one time. I was at Atlanta Center, working, when I heard one pass by. It broke a few trees and knocked down a fence. This isn’t the Great Plains. Tornadoes hop and skip over the hills here in Georgia. They might knock half a house down. The bad ones might knock down several houses. But the damage is usually no more than 100 yards wide and they don’t stay on the ground long. That’s the kind of tornadoes we get here in Georgia.

That wasn’t the kind that hit Rio. The odometer on the car measured the damage at just over a mile wide. Not “long” mind you -- it went for miles and miles (as I’ll show you) -- but “wide”. The path of the damage (if not the tornado itself ) was a mile across.

Here’s a picture from Rio.

Here’s a picture from the next town it hit -- Sunny Side.

Here’s a map showing the relationship between Rio (A) and Sunny Side (B).

The town just north of Sunny Side -- Hampton -- is the location of the Atlanta Air Route Traffic Control Center. Here’s a story from ABC News about what it was like working that night, from one of the “essential personnel” that stayed behind to control the air traffic.

Southern Tornadoes: How One Air Traffic Controller Led Planes to Safety as a Tornado Loomed Overhead

If I was a Congressman, I’d make the FAA show me their plans for replacing an air traffic facility every few years. I’d want to know how they were going to come up with 50 radar scopes, 100 radios, hundreds of computers, chairs and printers. Not to mention 50-100 controllers. Think about what they would do the next day if Atlanta Center got hit. The first thing they’d want to do is get the surviving controllers to other facilities that had taken over Atlanta’s airspace. They would want to fly them out -- with the airspace all but closed down. I bet you’re smart enough to foresee a lot of the problems. Think on it.

Don Brown
May 17, 2011

Today’s Photo 5-17-11

Summer reprieve. It was only 47º (8ºC) this morning. The air felt clean and refreshing. And it cooled off without the usual thunderstorms. Delightful.

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

Don Brown
May 17, 2011

Monday, May 16, 2011

No Newt (5-16-11)

I’ve got too many serious issues to write about to spend any time on the Newt. I’ll let the cartoon guys have their fun.

Dana Summers

Don Brown
May 16, 2011

Scovel Quote -- ERAM “In-Service Decision”

As an update to the “Key Log” post about ERAM, I decided to go back and get an exact quote for what I consider the key part of DOT Inspector General Calvin Scovel’s testimony in front of the Senate Appropriation Hearing on FY 2012 FAA Budget.

At the 80 minute mark:

”At times however, in our opinion, the Agency has been over eager -- a bit too quick -- to declare temporary victory in the face of some of the limited accomplishments that it has achieved. For instance the In-Service Decision actually was announced at the end of March but then quickly suspended in the face of protests from the NATCA representatives that Mr. Babbitt has mentioned and also from the independent, operating-assessment team that the Agency had commissioned to review ERAM fixes to date.”

Don Brown
May 16, 2011

Today’s Photo 5-16-11

A very nice way to start the week.

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

And yes, Virginia, I did see three swans the other morning. I assume I’ll be able to make a better picture, sooner or later, if they’ll stick around long enough.

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

Don Brown
May 16, 2011

Sunday, May 15, 2011

ERAM -- “Key Log” in FAA’s NextGen

I just finished watching the hearing on FY 2012 FAA Budget from the Senate Committee on Appropriations. The things I do for y’all. I’m not listening to it again. The tools for watching the video are awful so I’m not going to provide my commonly accurate quotes -- even though I am going to use quotation marks to signify the gist of what was said. Every time you pause the video, it restarts at the beginning. You can move the slider bar around but it’s a huge hassle. Okay, I’m done justifying how I’m handling this.

You can watch what you’d like, of course. The only two witnesses were FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt and Department of Transportation Inspector General Calvin Scovel. The prepared statements end -- and questions begin -- at the 43 minute mark. Most are boring. But if you have a pet issue in front of the FAA, that’s probably where you want to start. My pet issue is ERAM. That starts in earnest at the 75 minute mark.

Administrator Babbitt: “ERAM is more complex than people gave it credit.”

Maybe more complex than the people trying to sell it admitted. Controllers understand how complex it is. And how critical. I wrote this in 2007 -- when I first started discussing ERAM.

”And speaking of it’s route of flight, every change in the route of flight has to be communicated also. A deviation around weather, a change in speed, an equipment malfunction -- every little detail has to be passed to the next controller. That is what the ERAM software will do. And it has to happen in real time for thousands of flights. It is a complicated process that is beyond description.”

I really wish Administrator Babbitt well. We’re supposed to be on the same side. But obfuscation won’t get him out of the trouble he is currently in. Or should I say, NextGen/ERAM is in. And the FAA is obfuscating. Even Inspector General Scovel says so.

Speaking of which, pay attention when IG Scovel starts talking at 78:30. He says (again, paraphrasing), “Difficulties with ERAM will continue. Seattle and Salt Lake Centers were chosen as test facilities precisely because they are less complex. Installing ERAM at New York and Chicago Center will be more difficult. “

For a man not given to sounds bites, he gave a pretty good one. “NextGen has a log jam and ERAM is the key log.”

IG Scovel talked about SWIM too but I wasn’t as focused on it as I should have been.

Here was the really interesting part to me. In discussing the future of ERAM, IG Scovel got a little animated. “The Agency is too quick to declare temporary victory. For instance, their In-Service Decision was rapidly “suspended” in the face of protests from NATCA and an independent team the FAA put in place to evaluate ERAM.”

Now, I’ve got to do some explaining. I wrote the following when I got back from Communicating for Safety in Las Vegas back in March.

”The language the FAA is using is intentionally confusing but they are splitting hairs and proceeding with ERAM’s deployment. ERAM is not ready to be deployed. But yesterday, the FAA’s Chief Operating Officer, Hank Krakowski, signed off on turning ERAM on at Albuquerque (ZAQ), Minneapolis (ZMP) and Houston Centers (ZHU). ”

That decision by Krakowski was the “In-Service Decision” IG Scovel was referring to. The FAA said -- against all the evidence -- that they would proceed with turning ERAM on at ZAQ, ZMP and ZHU. That was when I hit the roof. And that is when the ERAM program went quiet. That forced me to be quiet too. I’ve got my suspicions about what is going on but I am way, way out on the edges of the information loop. If everybody in air traffic control stops talking, there is nothing for me to hear.

Again, I’m not reporter. And this silence of air traffic control is a mistake. But for the real reporters out there, you want a copy of that “In-Service Decision”. I think it’s code for “payday” but I can’t prove it. Now that DOT Inspector General Scovel has mentioned it, I can too. Be aware, as much as I respect IG Scovel -- I think he is incredibly knowlegable and well briefed -- I sense that he is holding back in his criticism of NextGen/ERAM too. Everybody involved knows that this program needs to work. We want it to work. It has to work.

Keep in mind that Hank Krakowski -- the guy that signed off on the “In Service Decision” -- has since resigned. This story is going to be a lot more important than a story about sleepy air traffic controllers. Speaking of which, a quick look at the dates might interest a skeptical person.

3-23-11 -- Story breaks about supervisor sleeping at DCA
3-24-11--- ERAM “In-Service Decision” meeting held
3-29-11 -- Hank Krakowski signs off on ERAM “In-Service Decision”
Date Unknown -- FAA “suspends” In-Service Decision.
4-14-11 -- Hank Krakowski resigns from FAA

Don Brown
May 15, 2011

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Recent History Lesson

While researching a future blog on ERAM, I came across a most interesting document. My Facebook fans know that I spent yesterday watching a Senate hearing. You can start adding 1+1 if you’d like. My regular readers know that the trash gets thrown out on Friday. I think I’ll wait until Monday to run the blog. Maybe Sunday night. We’ll see.

In the meantime, here’s something to browse.


MARCH 29, 2006

In case you don’t remember who was in charge of the “ONE HUNDRED NINTH CONGRESS”...

And a couple of acronym explanations to get you started:

JPDO -- “Joint Planning and Development Office
NGATS -- “Next Generation Air Transportation System” (aka NextGen)

Quotes that caught my attention...

” In 2003, the Congress created the Joint Planning and Development Office as part of the Vision 100--Century of Aviation Reauthorization Act. This committee played a leading role in creating the JPDO and charged it with coordinating the design, research and implementation of a new air traffic control system that will, in the next 20 years, triple our nation's current capacity”

”Answers to Post-Hearing Questions Responses by S. Michael Hudson, Chairman, Committee on Technology Pathways, Division on Engineering and Physical Sciences, National Research Council, The National Academies

Questions submitted by Representative Mark Udall

Q (question)5. What specific roles are human factors R&D and training playing in the design of the NGATS, and how important are they to the overall success of the NGATS?”

A(Answer)5. The committee felt that human factors research was very important to the NGATS. From the report: ...System designers must resist the temptation to provide more automated features and give more information to system operators just because they can; more automation does not always increase safety or reliability, and more information does not always improve situational awareness or operational decisions.''

”Questions submitted by Representative Jim Costa

Answers to Post-Hearing Questions Responses by David A. Dobbs, Assistant Inspector General for Aviation and Special Program Audits, U.S. Department of Transportation

Q1. Does the JPDO believe that the Next Generation Air Transportation
System (NGATS) will be able to handle three times today's traffic if
the Nation's major airports are not modernized as well?

A1. Without question, continued airport investments will be essential
to meet the forecasted demand for air travel. In fact, the JPDO has one
IPT focused specifically on airports. Also, NGATS as envisioned by the
JPDO takes other FAA plans such as the ``Flight Plan'' and `Operational Evolution Plan'' into consideration. Both plans emphasize the importance of continued airport development. The major thrust of NGATS is to use a combination of things--new automation, new procedures, better weather information, and advanced avionics--to meet the anticipated demand for air travel. We note that non-hub airports are also expected to play an important role in enhancing capacity.”

”Q3. Keeping in mind that nearly all of today's delays are due to
severe weather, runway limitations, and over scheduling: Is it reasonable for us to believe that the billions of dollars the JPDOs proposals are sure to cost in the implementation of the NGATS will solve the delay problems we already face today?

A3. While it is reasonable to believe that JPDO initiatives will help mitigate delays, it is hard to imagine that they can be totally eliminated.

... It is difficult, if not impossible, to determine if JPDO plans will be cost effective in meeting the delay problem because of the large number of unknowns. For example, it is unclear how much NGATS will cost. ”

” Answers to Post-Hearing Questions Responses by Gerald L. Dillingham, Director, Physical Infrastructure Issues, Government Accountability Office

Question submitted by Representative Sheila Jackson Lee

Q1. What is the reason for the lack of participation of the air
traffic controllers in the activities of the JPDO, and what is the
impact of their lack of participation?

A1. Our research showed that the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) initially assigned a controller to JPDO as part of its liaison program with the FAA. On June 28, 2005, FAA notified NATCA that it was terminating the liaison assignments effective July 29, 2005, citing budget constraints and the implementation of the ATO. The controller who had been acting as the liaison within JPDO's Agile Air Traffic System IPT was among the controllers who returned to his facility. Since that time, no active controller has participated in the NGATS planning effort of JPDO.

...In particular, the participation of current air traffic controllers is important because NGATS will likely involve major technological and operational changes that will affect their work. Our work on FAA's current air traffic control modernization program has shown that without early and continuing stakeholder input, costly rework and delays can occur late in system development."

There’s enough there to keep you busy all weekend. It’s hard for young people to appreciate history -- they’ve seen so little of it. Nothing stays a secret forever. Sooner or later, word slips out. Especially now, with the internet, if you want to find out what happened, you can. Things may not become common knowledge but they don’t remain secret.

Everything that is being done with ERAM right now is going to become public -- sooner or later. It’s something for you to keep in mind.

Don Brown
May 14, 2011

Today’s Photo 5-14-11

I knew there wasn’t any reason to go down to the lake this morning. The weatherman was reporting a solid overcast at 1,000 feet. Just another dreary, blue morning at the lake and I have a thousand pictures of those.

I went anyway. You can’t get lucky if you don’t show up. The “hole” lasted for about about 10 minutes.

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

And I know I didn’t see three giant, white swans swim off in the pre-dawn darkness. I know that because there aren’t any giant, white swans on the lake. I’ve been going down there for years and there never has been any. No, I didn’t get that lucky. I’ve got pictures of three white dots on the water. But I know they can’t be giant, white swans.

Don Brown
May 14, 2011

Friday, May 13, 2011

See Newt Run

I can’t believe he really did it. Game on.

Is He? Newt

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

I’ll save you the trouble, you don’t even have to go back. Here’s the Esquire article again (with some different quotes.)

Newt Gingrich: The Indispensable Republican

”And he did the same thing to her eighteen years later, with Callista Bisek, the young congressional aide who became his third wife. "I know. I asked him. He'd already asked her to marry him before he asked me for a divorce. Before he even asked."”

Let me guess, Newt Gingrich is going to walk the “redemption” path -- like every Southern politician before him that couldn’t stay on the straight and narrow. “Hallelujah, sweet Jesus, I’ve turned from my wicked ways and I’ve been saved!”

”He's the first person you've ever met who speaks in bullet points. In fact, he sometimes more resembles a collection of studied gestures than a mere mortal, so much so that he gives the impression that everything about him is calculated, including the impression that everything about him is calculated. Which can make him seem like a Big Thinker but also like a complete phony — an unsettling combination.”

I vote for “complete phony”.

”After the election of 1982, he recruited twelve disciples and named them the Conservative Opportunity Society. Then he took control of a much larger group called GOPAC and turned it into a giant recruitment-and-training operation, sending out a stream of audiotapes and videotapes to promote his slogans and strategies. He began comparing himself to Churchill, FDR, and Benjamin Franklin.

He became a master of wedge issues, calling Democrats unpatriotic, accusing them of sympathizing with communists, even blaming them for Woody Allen's affair with Soon-Yi and Susan Smith's murder of her children in South Carolina. To badger the moderates in his own party, he called Bob Dole the "tax collector for the welfare state" and threatened House Minority Leader Bob Michel of Illinois with extinction.”

If you don’t understand this about Newt, you don’t understand Newt. He thinks he has a date with destiny. He thinks he is going to be a “great man”. He’s not interested in anything but himself and his destiny. Trying to destroy Democrats isn’t what makes him dangerous. Destroying moderate Republicans is what made him dangerous. By destroying them, he destroyed political compromise.

Do you think the country is hopelessly divided? Well, meet the Divider. Read the article.

Don Brown
May 13, 2011

I’m Moving to Amsterdam

These people have the Flick. It was simple. They didn’t like the fact that their bailed-out banksters were getting bonuses so the people threatened to remove their money from the bank. But wait -- there’s more. Check out this article my brother pointed out.

Dutch bankers' bonuses axed by people power

”Britain has a rival when it comes to bashing bankers. After a furious row over pay packages at Amsterdam-based ING in which thousands of customers threatened to make mass withdrawals, the Netherlands is now vying for the title of Europe's most bonus-hating country.”

It’s brilliant. A bank run. Ask any banker -- a run scares them.

”Compared with the packages awarded to bankers in the US and UK, the Dutch bonuses were small potatoes. Jan Hommen, ING's chief executive, was due to receive a £1m bonus – a pittance when you consider that Stephen Hester, head of state-controlled RBS in the UK, is in line for up to £7.7m, Bob Diamond of Barclays is to collect as much as £6.5m, and some senior bankers at Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan are looking at windfalls of about £40m each.”

I love the fact the Dutch outrage trigger is so much lower than ours. They must not idolize money like we do.

”Politicians have voted to implement a 100% retrospective tax on all bonuses paid to executives at institutions that received state aid as a result of the financial crisis. In other words, no banker should get a bonus until the debt is cleared, and they should return payments made since 2008.”

Now we’re talking. No waiting for criminal prosecution. We want our money back and the Dutch know how to get it. No fuss, no muss.

”Van der Kolk's union is pushing for a law that would ensure that executive pay should never amount to more than 20 times the wage paid to the lowest-salaried employee. As for bonuses, the union feels payouts should not exceed 50% of a director's salary. Hommen's bonus was worth 92% of his €1.35m package.”

Look at that will you -- a union that acts like a union.

”The bankers' response that high remuneration is vital to retain talent and prevent Dutch financiers from defecting to overseas banks is given short shrift by Polhout. He says: "Let them go abroad if they don't like it her;, there are plenty of clever people who will take their place and work for less. Good riddance, as far as I am concerned."”

Hear, hear! It’s almost like they know firsthand that “high finance” does absolutely nothing for their economy. As a matter of fact, it’s harmful. You might remember, I pointed you towards this article three years ago.

”There is a considerable literature on these earlier illusions and declines. Reading it, one can argue that imperial Spain, maritime Holland and industrial Britain shared a half-dozen vulnerabilities as they peaked and declined: a sense of things no longer being on the right track, intolerant or missionary religion, military or imperial overreach, economic polarization, the rise of finance (displacing industry) and excessive debt. So too for today's United States.”
(Emphasis added. I’ll assume you noticed “Holland” in all that.)

Back to the Guardian article.

”Few doubt a critical factor behind ING's volte face was the boycott threatened by consumers.”

As always, when I read a good article, I encourage you to read the whole thing so you can pick up your own details.

Don Brown
May 13, 2011

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Today’s Photo 5-12-11

The muted colors of a sunrise in the summer.

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

Don Brown
May 12. 2011

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Leroy Boy, Is That You?

Will he? Won’t he? Who knows? No one knows the mind of Newton Leroy Gingrich. But this much is certain: If Newt announces he is running for President today, I will be on him like stink on a skunk. Just sayin’. I don’t care how many readers it costs me (or earns me.)

Why? Watch. Learn. Listen.

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

This is the kind of people Newt Gingrich empowers. Remember, I live in Georgia. Newt Gingrich was once my Congressman. Ralph Reed ran for Lieutenant Governor of Georgia. I’ve seen this operation firsthand. Half the people in Georgia get their politics from the pulpit. And instead of representing these God-fearing, hard-working people honestly, Gingrich and his kind abuse their trust and use the power entrusted to them for personal gain.

I won’t sit idly by and watch it happen again.

(By the way, if you remember the line from the song I used as a title, you’re old.)

Don Brown
May 11, 2011

ERAM Update 5-11-11

Just a quick update on the last incident. I had one person tell me that the computer glitch at Houston Center wasn’t ERAM. Interestingly, no one wrote to say what is was.

Like I said, quiet.

Don Brown

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

What’s American?

Pardon my absence. Life happened. I was listening to Marketplace about a week ago when Robert Reich touched on a subject I’ve discussed before -- what makes a company “American”? Can the moniker “American” even be valid when applied to a large corporation?

Corporate profits don't translate

”How can big American corporations be doing so well and the economy so badly? Because their sales are booming -- abroad. And they're adding new jobs where their sales are.”

”Almost half the sales of the S&P 500 are now overseas. The Commerce Department reports that in the past decade American multinationals have eliminated almost 3 million jobs in the U.S. while adding more than 2 million abroad.”

Now put you’re thinking cap on because Professor Reich doesn’t hit this idea real hard -- and I think he should.

”And why should big U.S. corporations whose sales and employees and even investors are becoming more and more global, be called "American" companies, anyway?

And finally, why should the Supreme Court give these big global companies First Amendment right to spend unlimited amounts of money on our elections?”

He is (of course) referring to the Citizens United case, where the Supreme Court said that “corporate funding of independent political broadcasts in candidate elections cannot be limited”. That’s bad enough on its own but think of it in the context of an “American” corporation that doesn’t even employ a majority of its workers in America. In other words, a corporation with a majority of its interests in a country other than America can spend an unlimited amount of funds influencing American elections.

If these corporations aren’t “American”, how can they have rights guaranteed by our Constitution (Free Speech) as if they are “Americans”. (This all makes you understand how dreadful the Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad Company decision really was.)

I’ve resisted the phrase for months and months. I can no longer resist; Government of the Corporation, by the Corporation and for the Corporation...

Don Brown
May 10, 2011

Thursday, May 05, 2011

“The Economist” on Economics

Every American taxpayer needs to read the article below from The Economist. First, for those not familiar with the publication, let’s look them up on Wikipedia.

”The Economist is an English-language weekly news and international affairs publication owned by The Economist Newspaper Ltd. and edited in offices in the City of Westminster, London, England.”

”It takes an editorial stance which is supportive of free trade and globalisation, along with the expansion of government health and education spending, as well as other, more limited forms of governmental intervention. It targets highly educated readers and claims an audience containing many influential executives and policy-makers”

”The publication belongs to The Economist Group, half of which is owned by the Financial Times, a subsidiary of Pearson PLC. A group of independent shareholders, including many members of the staff and the Rothschild banking family of England.”

Okay, that lets you know it’s coming from outside the U.S. and it is written by people in the financial industry. Next, the subject of the article is Representative Paul Ryan, the Republican Chairman of the House Budget Committee. Congressman Ryan has recently made himself famous by proposing a budget that will destroy Medicare as we know it. That has all blown up in his face, but that’s another story. This story is about economics.

(You know I’m going to tell you to read the whole thing so you can skip the quotes if you just go ahead and click on the link.) From The Economist:

Paul Ryan's roadmap to recession

”I was struck hearing all this, explained in this way. Adopting these policies would be nothing short of disastrous.”

”In other words, if Republicans had their druthers, they'd be free to enact a potentially destabilising—according to Mr Ryan's view of the economic situation—set of reforms. Only Democratic reluctance is sparing the economy this horror.”

”Mr Ryan's views are at odds with economic history and at odds with prevailing views of economic policy. They're untethered from economic reality.”

If you think that sounds damning without any context, you should read it in context. It’s even worse. Read the whole thing.

Anybody got any doubts about where I found it?

Don Brown
May 5, 2011

Where Did ERAM Go?

It’s quiet. Too quiet. There’s no way a program as large as ERAM -- a program with as many problems as ERAM -- can make so little noise unless all those involved want it that way.

As you may remember, the last time I visited the subject I thought the silence was due to the FAA Reauthorization Bill being in play. Maybe that was the right guess. I don’t know. It may still be a reason. I don’t know that for sure either. But if you’ll remember, one of the new facilities ERAM was being sent to was Houston Center (ZHU).

Houston computer glitch another blow to FAA

”A 90-minute computer glitch that halted and delayed air traffic across Central and Southeast Texas on Wednesday afternoon is the latest black eye for the Federal Aviation Administration...”

”The people who conduct the aircraft symphony above the clouds began seeing twin images around 4:40 p.m. when computers inside Houston's Air Route Traffic Control Center began showing actual flights along with identical entries.”

I know just enough about ERAM to be dangerous. I know that it uses a different radar tracking routine than the previous software. I know just enough about that to be suspicious about the above. It is well known that ERAM has “tracking issues”.

But here is what is really bothering me. You -- John Q. Public -- aren’t hearing any of this. It isn’t that the issue just isn’t on the front page -- it’s that the issue is being kept quiet. It isn’t hard to figure out. One month I’ve got dozens of people talking about ERAM and next month I’ve got nobody talking about it -- even though twice as many facilities are now supposed to have it.

And now, a word to many of my regular readers -- the insiders (if you will). This is not a plea for more information than you want to freely give. I’m not going to try and pry stuff out of you. I’m not a reporter. That’s not my job. I don’t make any money out of all this. So listen to me when I tell you this:

The lack of openness about ERAM (or any air traffic control safety issue) is a mistake. I don’t know the current logic being touted inside the FAA -- or NATCA -- but I still believe a controller’s best interest is protecting the Public’s interest. The young controllers might not be comfortable in making such a judgment. Rightfully so. But you older controllers shouldn’t be so reluctant. You are, after all, the experts. No one knows air traffic control better than you. No one else can know. Not managers, pilots or politicians. You’re the ones doing the job day in and day out. Protecting the Public is the duty of every civil servant.

There might be some odd circumstance where the Public’s interest is best served by silence. But I can’t imagine ERAM being one. Be very, very careful my friends. The FAA is not now, nor will it ever be, your friend -- or partner.

Don Brown
May 5, 2011

Today’s Photo 5-5-11

It’s been a week since I was able to get out and photograph the sunrise. It’s still as good as I remember.

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

Don Brown
May 5, 2011

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

The Scales of Death

Krugman had to go poke rednecks in the eye with a stick and one thing led to another. I wound up remembering a statistic and that led me to try and make my first-ever graph. Seriously, I’ve never used a spreadsheet much less tried to make a graph out of it. You’d be surprised how many “real world” skills pass controllers by. I never knew how to use a fax machine until I needed one for NATCA business. Controllers don’t have fax machines. We didn’t have personal computers at work either. Oh well, I’m getting far afield.

For a nation that fights so many wars, we know nothing of death. At least not the scale of it. We (rightfully) mourn those we have lost in wars. We honor them. But when it comes to suffering, as a nation, our losses -- as great as they are -- are incredibly small in scale.

The numbers used come from various sources (mostly Wikipedia) and aren’t meant to be scholarly. All of the numbers are military deaths in World War II except:

US All -- Total U.S. Military deaths in all conflicts since the Revolutionary War. (1,343,812)

Jews -- The number of Jews killed by Nazi Germany in The Holocaust (5.9 million)

I’m bound to anger someone with such a sensitive subject and if I have, I apologize. I don’t mean to anger anyone -- only educate. I’ve spent a lot of time this last week watching TV while I was sick. I love The History Channel and The Military Channel. And if an American wasn’t careful, one might think we won WWII all by ourselves. The Russians might be a little sensitive about that.

And that is my larger point. The rest of the world has a different view of war than America. Just from World War II alone the numbers are horrific. Take a look at this chart from Wikipedia. Scroll all the way down and look at the deaths in Yugoslavia -- 6.67% of the population. Russia lost almost 14%. America? Less than 1/3 of 1%.

Many Southerners are still emotionally invested in the American Civil War -- even 150 years later. Imagine how the rest of the world feels about much more recent wars. And if some Southerners get a little morally uncomfortable when they compare the causes behind our Civil War and World War II...??? Mission accomplished.

Don Brown
May 4, 2011

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Lame Line

I, of course, was wary of this amendment to the FAA Reauthorization Bill as soon as I saw a Republican offered it.

Writing safety rules could get tougher for FAA

”A bill providing authority for Federal Aviation Administration programs that the House passed in March contains an amendment sponsored by Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Pa. It would change the way the FAA goes about making regulations, including requiring an analysis of the effect proposed rules may have on the economy, private markets, productivity, employment and competitiveness.”

On the surface, it sounds like a Republican is legislating a bunch of red tape. Which, of course, is exactly what Representative Shuster is doing. It isn’t red tape for the industry to cut through. It’s red tape for the FAA to get entangled in before they can issue a new rule. Let’s call it preemptive deregulation.

I wasn’t real sure about it until I read this line.

”Urbanchuk and officials for the passenger, cargo and nonscheduled airline industries said the amendment is merely an attempt to put into law the intent of an executive order issued by President Barack Obama in January. That order directs all federal agencies to make sure that regulations aren't duplicative, that the public has opportunity to voice their concerns, that the best available means be used to quantify cost and that, where possible, agencies consider ways to reduce the burden of regulations.”

That line is so lame it’s hard to believe anyone would fall for it. Republicans -- at least not the current crop of Republicans -- aren’t going to do anything that codifies something President Obama has done. Somebody is just trying to prevent the FAA from issuing any new regulations.

Don Brown
May 3, 2011

Sleeping On the Job

Nope. It’s not what you think. I’m just being a smart aleck, trying to draw your attention to a news story. It’s a story with an unusual perspective -- a reporter reporting on the job of reporting. He just happened to fall asleep during the middle of a long day.

Through A New York Eye: A Bullet For Bin Laden

”My phone rings before official confirmation is broadcast to the world. It’s true. He’s dead and I need to be at work by 3 a.m. on a Sunday night, just enough time for a nap before a drive in the dark down to Manhattan. It doesn’t seem real. I sleep uneasily and wake minutes before the alarm goes off. I call to verify it is still happening, half expecting a false alarm, but it’s true. No dream. I drive in.”

There’s nothing for me to tie into my normal subjects. I just thought it was a piece worth drawing your attention to.

Don Brown
May 3, 2011

Monday, May 02, 2011

Bin Laden or Banksters?

Which do you think really threatened our country’s existence? I’ll concede the lack of moral equivalence. The banksters are not mass murderers. Thieves maybe, but not murderers.

But when you stand back and look at the impact, the differences are rather stark. I assume the banksters -- unlike Osama bin Laden -- are not trying to destroy America. I assume they’re smart enough not to kill the goose that lays the golden eggs. Just as I also assume they are greedy enough that their collective actions might anyway.

If you have a better explanation (than greed) for their actions, I’ll listen. I don’t know of any other way to explain Mr. Paulson. $3.7 billion wasn’t enough for one year? He had to go and make $5 billion? I don’t believe one man’s greed can destroy America. But I believe our collective greed can.

I finally got to watch the film Inside Job yesterday. I highly recommend it. It puts a lot of things in perspective as only a film can.

But here’s the gist of it -- the obvious lesson that your average everyman can take away from all this -- supplied by (who else?) Professor Krugman in his column from today.

Springtime for Bankers

”So what’s the solution? The answer is regulation that limits the frequency and size of financial crises, combined with rules that let the government strike a good deal when bailouts become necessary.

Remember, from the 1930s until the 1980s the United States managed to avoid large bailouts of financial institutions. The modern era of bailouts only began in the Reagan years, when politicians started dismantling 1930s-vintage regulation.”

For almost 50 years, we kept this beast bottled up. We can do it again. It won’t be easy. Banksters will not go gentle into that good night. But go they should.

I cannot rejoice in the death of a man -- no matter how evil. No matter how necessary his death. I’ll jump up and down for joy if we kill off the banksters. Not the men themselves -- but the system that created and empowered them. Wall Street should be regulated.

Don Brown
May 2, 2011