Thursday, June 30, 2011

Fear Marketeers

This got my attention when I heard it on Marketplace.

Financial advice from...Lindsay Lohan?

”So I guess it wasn’t too surprising to read this tweet today: “Have you guys seen food and gas prices lately? U.S. $ will soon be worthless if the Fed keeps printing money!”

Of COURSE the tweet was from…Lindsay Lohan. She later clarified to her two-million-plus followers that it was a sponsored tweet.”

I know this won’t surprise some, but I don’t have any idea who Lindsay Lohan is. The only thing I know about her is that she is famous (for unknown reasons) and she goes to jail a lot (which is the only time I hear her name.) What got my attention was why someone would pay to send this message to Ms. Lohan’s 2 million Twitter followers (who, I assume, are financially unsophisticated people.)

I had to go find that information on Mediaite.

Lawrence O’Donnell Reveals Lindsay Lohan’s Federal Reserve Tweet Was Paid For

”O’Donnell explained how the tweet got there– it was paid for by the National Inflation Association, a group that “pumps up tiny unknown stocks that deal with gold and silver.””

Frankly, I was surprised that it wasn’t somebody like Freedom Works.

Oh well. In case you missed it, it all reminded me of this blog post from Paul Krugman.

The Old Superstition

”And after surveying the wreckage all around him, he declares that the cause of the depression was excessive government intervention, and the remedy, the thing needed to restore that all-essential confidence was … drum roll .. a return to the gold standard.”

”I was originally going to end this post by saying something about stupidity, but that’s not right: the people at the BIS aren’t stupid. What’s going on here is something different and worse: we’re seeing the desire for conventional respectability outweighing the lessons of history; we’re seeing vague prejudice (prejudice that just so happens to serve the interests of rentiers) trumping analysis.”

How’s an economist supposed to compete with a carnival barker and a sideshow?

Don Brown
June 30, 2011

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Today’s Photo 6-29-11

The swans finally swam towards the Sun

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

Don Brown
June 29, 2011

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Today’s Photo 6-28-11

Awesome, awesome sunset.

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


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

Don Brown
June 28, 2011

Sunday, June 26, 2011

A Chink in Their Armor

Put your thinking cap on. You have to look below the surface. On Friday, I was telling you that James Fallows was convincing me I was wrong about the debt ceiling fight. Today, I hear this on Marketplace’s podcast from Friday.

President could make good on U.S. obligations

”KAI RYSSDAL: So we are, as of this Friday in late June, a bit more than five weeks away from the government hitting the debt limit -- $14.3 trillion and not a penny more. Conventional wisdom has it that when the Treasury can't borrow to pay our bills anymore, it'll be something close to economic Armageddon. But here's a not-unrelated thought. What if the debt ceiling isn't constitutional?”

It’s a compelling theory. Listen up.

”JOHN DIMSDALE Here's how the argument goes: When Congress passes spending bills, it knows there isn't enough cash to pay for it all. By approving those obligations anyway, Congress is implicitly committing the government to borrow the money to meet them. By later imposing a limit on borrowing -- which is what the debt ceiling is -- Congress is illegally counteracting its own laws.”

And then, of course, Kai (Marketplace’s host) brings in the experts to talk about it.

”NORMAN ORNSTEIN: Let's face it, the reality is having a separate vote on the debt ceiling makes no sense.

Norman Ornstein follows Congress and the executive branch for the American Enterprise Institute.

ORNSTEIN: The debt ceiling is a reflection of the debts that you have already incurred. And every time Congress passes a budget, it's obligating itself to future debts.”

Did you catch it? I was listening while I was cutting grass and I had to stop, rewind the iPod and listen again. The American Enterprise Institute is telling President Obama how to do an end run around the Republican-controlled House of Representatives.

I think my regular readers have the Flick when it comes to the AEI. For those that don’t:

”Some AEI scholars are considered to be some of the leading architects of the second Bush administration's public policy. More than twenty AEI scholars and fellows served either in a Bush administration policy post or on one of the government's many panels and commissions.”

For those that really want to delve into it (something I highly encourage) be sure to follow the links on Wikipedia. I suggest looking at AEI’s current and past president -- Arthur C. Brooks and Christopher DeMuth, respectively. DeMuth was Reagan’s “deregulation czar” and Brooks’ remarks on the Tea Party are priceless -- in that what AEI is doing is giving President Obama a way to cut the Tea Party off at the knees.

It’s the Tea Party’s boy -- Eric Cantor -- that walked away from the talks. He can’t (and won’t) make a deal to raise the debt limit. He’ll have to leave that to Bohner and the adult Republicans.

As I said yesterday, I believe “Frankenstein has lost control of his monster.”

Not to worry too much about all this. It’s only the world’s economy that hangs in the balance. But you can bet the folks at AEI are already thinking of a way to use this to undercut Obama at a later date. After we make sure the U.S. doesn’t default on its debt and spark at world-wide panic. Funny, I was just reading about that word -- Panic -- today.

”So as not to alarm the public, President Hoover chose his words carefully when he discussed the state of the economy in 1929. American economists and politicians had referred to previous economic downturns as "Panics," such as the "Panic of 1873" and the "Panic of 1893." Hoover, however, called this latest downturn a "Depression" rather than a "Panic," and the name stuck.”

I hope President Obama sees the chink in the Republican’s armor and takes the opportunity to drive home the point. The Big Business branch of the Republican Party just threw the Tea Party branch under the bus.

Don Brown
June 25, 2011

Saturday, June 25, 2011

R. Doug Wicker Makes Four

Another blogger weighs in on Marion Blakey’s award.

I’m Not Happy!

”You guys over at the NAA really didn’t know all this stuff before you even nominated Ms. Blakey for the Henderson Award?  Do you people have any idea how foolish you’re all looking right now to those of us in the know?”

While I don’t condone the attitude, Doug’s probably comes closer to reality in the ranks than mine. I’m trying to remain at least a little objective about it all (although it’s hard.) Being Administrator of the FAA is a tough job but it’s still a job. You’re either successful at it or not. And for the life of me, I can’t see how anyone would call Marion Blakey’s term successful -- much less extraordinarily so.

She barely has a record to note at the NTSB -- less than a year. Maybe she has had an extraordinary run at Aerospace Industries Association. But I don’t think so. Regardless, her association with AIA is, itself, problematic. (It’s a great link. Click on it.) As far as I can tell, there is no there there. Her actions in aviation have been “significant  and lasting” -- they just haven’t been “contributions”.

Don Brown
June 25, 2011

History Repeated

I decided to spend the day searching for little snippets of life during The Great Depression. See if anything sounds familiar.

The New Georgia Encyclopedia

The New Deal and Recovery

The New Deal's implementation in Georgia, however, was stalled by Governor Eugene Talmadge, who was elected in 1932 on a platform of cutting taxes and state services. He characterized Roosevelt and the New Deal as an outside intrusion into the state's local affairs and a "communistic experiment." He did everything he could (with some success) to slow the New Deal's arrival in the state. However, Talmadge did little to address the state's economic crisis,...”

The Great Depression in South Carolina

”The education system during the Great Depression was also affected.  Rural, southern, and black schools were already the most poorly funded and felt the effects the most.  By 1934 rural poverty had closed more than 20,000 schools. ”

”By the year 1932 charities in Columbia were serving more than seven hundred thousand free meals a year.  In rural South Carolina people were dying from hunger, and in Columbia (the State capitol) many were close to starvation.”

”As a result of the New Deal many South Carolinians were saved from starvation.  The school lunch program made a big difference for children whose families could not feed them everyday.  The Civilian Conservation Corps provided jobs for young men. ”

American History 102 (University of Wisconsin)

5. Lack of stock market regulation.
At this time, there were no effective legal guidelines on buying and selling stock. Free from such limitations, corporations began printing up more and more common stock. Many investors in the stock market practiced "buying on margin," that is, buying stock on credit. Confident that a given stock's value would rise, an investor put a down payment on the stock, expecting in a few months to pay off the balance of their initial investment while reaping a hefty profit. This investment strategy turned the stock market into a speculative pyramid game, in which most of the money invested in the market didn't actually exist.”

6. Psychology of consumption..
The Psychology of Consumption fed the optimism of investors and gave them unquestioning faith in prosperity. When the Crash did come, it was even more devastating because of this unquestioned faith.”

”Still, optimism persisted and many leaders declared that the worst was over....Such optimism, however, did not last long. Popular songs of the day mirrored the transition from optimism to despair. In 1930, people sang "Happy Days Are Here Again" and the national income dropped from $87 billion to $75 billion. In 1931, somewhat more dejectedly, people sang "I've Got Five Dollars" and the nation's income dropped to $59 billion. The song of 1932 was "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime," when the domestic economy fell to $42 billion. Eventually, the American economy bottomed out at $40 billion in 1933.”

”These stereotypes, many of which have become romanticized in popular culture, only depict the experience of a small number of the American people. The reality of long-term unemployment, the day-to-day despair, was much less dramatic, and thus more dismal. Two basic economic facts soured the lives of average Americans:

•1.Unemployment. In his inaugural address, Franklin D. Roosevelt recognized:

"Now let's be frank. You and I know that immediate relief of the unemployed is the immediate need of the hour."

2. Inability to sell goods and services. With so much of the work force unemployed, nobody had money to buy things.”

”Laying the Blame
The American public found the "Three B's" responsible for the Crash and the Depression:
1. Bankers
2. Brokers
3. Businessmen”

Starting to sound familiar yet? If all this interests you, take the time to follow the links. The next ones at the University of Wisconsin might be really interesting.

1. Unequal distribution of wealth and income.
2. Unequal distribution of corporate power.
3. Bad banking structure.
4. Foreign balance of payments.

History never ends. But this blog does. Enjoy.

”"It is my contention that no one should be allowed to write about FDR who did not experience that era. It really is one of those cases of you had to be there. Roosevelt may be a, but 60 years ago that myth looked more like hope. In his fireside chats, he turned our Philco radios into shrines, and when he said that America could not afford to live with one-third of a nation ill-housed and ill-fed, we thought he would do something about it. And he did"

(Daniel Schorr, "The FDR 'Myth': You Had To Be There," Christian Science Monitor, 25 October 1996, 19).”

Don Brown
June 25, 2011

It’s Futile (Funny. Maybe.)

You might as well laugh. And send it to your wife. She’ll find out anyway.

And that’s why you should learn to pick your battles.

”This morning I had a fight with Victor about towels. I can’t tell you the details because it wasn’t interesting enough to document at the time, but it was basically me telling Victor I needed to buy new bath towels, and Victor insisting that I NOT buy towels because I “just bought new towels“. Then I pointed out that the last towels I’d bought were hot pink beach towels, and he was all “EXACTLY” and then I hit my head against the wall for an hour.”

Where else would I find something like this? I found it at Just an Earth-bound Misfit, I.

Don Brown
June 25, 2011

Today’s Photo 6-25-11

A beautiful, across-the-sky sunrise this morning. This one is looking north.

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

Don Brown
June 25, 2011

Friday, June 24, 2011

Regulation Now?

Boy, you miss one day of podcasts and Paulson takes a bath. You remember Paulson, the $3.7 $5 billion-a-year hedge fund manager.

It turns out a sharper can be taken for a ride too.

Even hedge-fund stars stumble

”But this month he took a huge hit on an investment he made in a company called Sino-Forest. It is, as you might figure, a Chinese timber plantation company. There were warnings along the way that Sino-Forest wasn't what it seemed and Paulson did sell all his shares. But it may have been too late.”

The Chinese learn fast don’t they? I wonder how long it will take them to figure out they don’t want a bunch of crooks in charge of their economy? I wonder how long it will take us to learn it -- again? Anybody ready to regulate the banks yet? Again?

Don Brown
June 24, 2011

MartinLady Makes It Three

No, it isn’t just me. It seems to be pretty universal in the controller profession. Nobody thinks Marion Blakey deserves anything but “boos”.

Blakey – Blech!

”The woman had the opportunity to really earn the award that, for some reason unfathomable to me, the National Aeronautical Association (NAA) is planning to give her.  She could have gotten ahead of the retirements that any reasonable, thinking person could see coming (1981 + 25 = 2006), but instead she chose to take actions that would decimate the workforce, attempting to get the pay scales down to where private industry could earn big profits if they took over the NAS. ”

And here is one thought I think everyone should keep in mind.

”But what I really want to say isn’t family-friendly and would probably come across as ranting, so I’ll refrain from continuing further.”

Trust me. Controllers are holding back. I guess it’s out of respect for the National Aeronautic Association. We’re not real familiar with them but we assume they are a respected organization that has made some sort of error in judgment. If the controller profession thought for a second that anyone was honoring Blakey for what she did to our profession -- our comments wouldn’t be publishable in a regular newspaper.

Don Brown
June 24, 2011

What Fools These Mortals

James Fallows got my attention yesterday with the piece about the House Republicans.

Least Valuable Player: Rep. Eric Cantor

”I've complained in the past about Sen. Richard Shelby's willful veto of Peter Diamond's nomination as a Fed governor, and about Sen. Mitch McConnell's intentional stall of nominees across the board, as a passive-aggressive way to hamstring the Administration.

Both of them now give way to Rep. Eric Cantor, the House Majority Leader, who in walking out of the talks to avoid a default on U.S. debt gives as clear an example of petty-ambition-over-national-interest as we've seen in public life in quite a while.”

The less I say about Representative Cantor...oh, what the heck. I think he’s a weasel. He doesn’t interest me. What got my attention was a point Mr. Fallows made further into the blog entry.

”I am on the record, over the years, as a big believer in America's resilient powers. But there are mistakes so large that they can badly hurt even the United States. A petulant demonstration to the rest of the world that we can't meet the baseline obligation we expect of any two-bit duchy -- that it will face its financial problems and honor its sovereign debt -- would be a big, damaging step in the wrong direction. Good for John Boehner in recognizing that more than his own ambitions are at stake here. If the default actually comes, and markets panic, and interest rates for everything shoot up, keep the courageous Rep. Cantor in mind on that day.”

Mr. Fallows is, of course, talking about the insane Republican idea of not raising the debt limit and the U.S. Government defaulting on its debt. There is no other way to characterize that idea. It is Insane -- with a capital “I”. Crazy. Looney. Nutty. Stupid. Irrational. Idiotic. Insane. And if James Fallows thinks there is a possibility it could happen -- it could happen.

I didn’t think it could. I can’t remember if I wrote it or not (if I didn’t its only because I got distracted) but my idea was that Democrats shouldn’t lift a finger to help raise the debt limit in the House. In my mind, Big Business created this monster, let them rein it in. They’d blink. They’d rein in their toadies and the debt limit would be raised. What James Fallows is telling me is that Frankenstein has lost control of his monster.

He’s not alone. If you’ll remember, I wrote a blog about Fareed Zakaria’s piece in Time -- “How Today's Conservatism Lost Touch with Reality”. I just wasn’t prepared to take that title so literally.

If you need further evidence, you need look no further than my State -- Georgia.

Ga. puts probationers to work harvesting crops

”Republican Gov. Nathan Deal started the experiment after farmers publicly complained they couldn't find enough workers to harvest labor-intensive crops such as cucumbers and berries because Latino workers — including many illegal immigrants — refused to show up, even when offered one-time or weekly bonuses. One crew who previously worked for Mendez told him they wouldn't come to Georgia for fear of risking deportation.”

In case you haven’t seen this story, the State of Georgia is entirely controlled by Republicans -- Governor, House and Senate. They recently voted in an Arizona-styled illegal immigrant law. As intended the illegal immigrants disappeared. Now, the Republican-voting farmers of South Georgia have no one to pick their crops. Talk about losing touch with reality. It was politically stupid and -- when you think about what governments are supposed to do -- appallingly irresponsible. Rational people don’t jeopardize their food supply to score political points. But we can no longer assume that the people running our government are rational.

I can’t think of a scarier thought.

Don Brown
June 24, 2011

Praxis Makes It Two

The more I read this blog, the more I like it.

Marion Blakey and NAA’s Cliff Henderson Award : An Open Letter

”Dear Mr. Gaffney,
We were truly dismayed to read on AvWeb that the National Aeronautic Association has seen fit to recognize Marion Blakey as the recipient of NAA’s Cliff Henderson Award.”

Read it. Take a moment to spread the word. “Like” it, link it, Buzz it, and do whatever it is all the buttons at the bottom of this post do. Make your voice heard. Make the voice of our profession heard.

Don Brown
June 24, 2011

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Historical Turning Points

It is hard (most of the time) to recognize a historical turning point as you are living it. I certainly didn’t recognize a major one in my life -- the 1981 PATCO strike. Back then, strikes weren’t an uncommon event. Perhaps I was too young to recognize the significance of it at the time. I don’t think many did though. Certainly not the people I hung out with.

It was only later that the true significance of that strike became clear. By now, it should be obvious to everyone -- certainly to the group of people that read this blog anyway. I ran across another example of it today in the Atlantic.

Why IT Workers Should Unionize

”So why are tech nerds reluctant to organize? Maybe there's something inherent to computer programming that creates and reinforces ardent individualism. Or maybe the addictive appeal of completing intellectually challenging work on a daily basis is reward enough that compensation becomes an afterthought.

But technology workers' hesitance to unionize is not purely a reflection of their personalities, but also likely a consequence of the disregard for unions and technology in the era following the Air Traffic Controllers Strike of 1981.”

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read something like that in the last 25 years. But now, it’s different. We have reached one of those historical turning points I was talking about. And unlike the PATCO strike, this one is incredibly easy to see. I’m pretty sure that everyone in America recognizes The Great Recession is history -- big history.

It’s obvious that The Great Depression was big history. The Great Recession is the biggest thing since. And it ain’t over. But I sense even more is at work. Specifically, workers have come to recognize how neglected they have become. The statistics proving that are entering the mainstream of public debate. The economic inequality has become too great to ignore. While Big Business hoards $2 trillion in cash (over twice the amount of the stimulus package), the unemployed husband their savings -- assuming they have any left -- while their house depreciates in value -- assuming they haven’t already lost it in a foreclosure.

In short, there are at least 24 million or so workers out there right now that might start thinking unions aren’t such a bad thing after all. There’s even an IT worker at the Atlantic telling other IT workers they should join a union.

”If the air traffic controllers' strike was a failure of labor relations, it wasn't because of the unimportance of technical skills; it was the under-appreciation of them. Information technology workers tend to trivialize what they do -- out of humility or just to make complex tasks more approachable -- to the extent that they never speak up for themselves. They are more likely to complain about the user interface design on a software application than their own lot in life.

In a way, it's a very selfless worldview where rational accomplishment is a goal in and of itself, there's no need for power, and all anybody needs in life is access to information. But at a certain point, freedom of information can only go so far. Improving peoples' lives requires access to power, even if the bureaucratic processes involved in achieving that power are completely abhorrent to the independent computer programmer lifestyle.”

Pardon the pun but, people are going to have to deprogram themselves from all the propaganda they’ve been fed about unions for the last 30 years. Workers will have to band together if they have any hope of changing the current situation.

NATCA -- the National Air Traffic Controllers Association -- could be a leader in this effort. But it requires action. It requires commitment. And yes, it requires some bravery. Nothing will happen without preparation and sacrifice.

Currently, there are two targets of opportunity approaching.

The National Aeronautic Association is going to honor former FAA Administrator Marion Blakey. This is a woman whose only significant accomplishments were to implement a “B scale” for new controllers, cause thousands of senior controllers to retire and then jump ship to an industry group that she was supposed to be regulating.

In short, Marion Blakey was the epitome of the George W. Bush Administration -- which itself was the culmination of the policies of Ronald Reagan. NATCA should not let this take place without objecting. In my opinion, the louder they object the better.

The second event approaching is August 3, 2011 -- the 30 year anniversary of the PATCO strike. NATCA should use this event to highlight the suffering of America workers -- for 30 years -- after the crippling of Labor. We should state it plainly: Today’s economic conditions are a direct result of worker’s voices being drowned out in America’s rush to embrace the greed of unbridled capitalism. Our society idolized the Gordon Gekkos of this country while telling the workers that they weren’t smart enough, didn’t work hard enough or they just didn’t see “The Big Picture”.

America cannot succeed without its workers and its workers must have a seat at the bargaining table. We must control corporate greed and there is no better group to do that than organized labor. There must be a balance of power between Labor, Business and Government. Any two -- without the balance of the third -- becomes a conspiracy of power.

NATCA has the clout, intelligence and geographical reach to lead a resurgence of Labor. In other words, its members are well paid, smart and they cover the entire nation. You can do this. All it takes is willpower. You already have everything else you need. Why not start with IT workers? History awaits. Will you make it happen? Or just watch it happen?

(Note: For those that aren’t regular readers, I’m a retired member of NATCA and have been involved in the union since way before it was a union.)

Don Brown
June 22, 2011

Monday, June 20, 2011

Blakey Honored -- I Object

I could hardly believe my eyes as I read the news on AVweb.

Blakey To Get Top Aviation Award

”The sometimes-controversial former head of the FAA is getting one of aviation's most prestigious awards for her "significant and lasting contribution to the promotion and advancement of aviation and aerospace in the United States." Marion Blakey, who was FAA administrator from 2002 to 2007, will get the National Aeronautic Association's Cliff Henderson Trophy at NAA's final luncheon series meeting in Washington. The award is given annually to a living person whose "vision, leadership or skill" has promoted aviation.”

I have made no secret of my dislike for Marion Blakey. In my opinion, she’s nothing more than a political sycophant. Throughout her career, she’s taken whatever job her Republican sponsors have given her and implemented their political agenda.

Marion Blakey -- Prior US government service

”Blakey has held four previous Presidential appointments, two of which required Senate confirmation. From 1992 to 1993, Blakey served as administrator of the Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). As the nation's leading highway safety official, she was charged with reducing deaths, injuries, and economic losses resulting from motor vehicle crashes. Prior to her service at NHTSA, she held key positions at the United States Department of Commerce, the United States Department of Education, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the White House, and the United States Department of Transportation.”

For the National Aeronautic Association to present Marion Blakey an award, the purpose of which is to recognize people “whose vision, leadership or skill made a significant and lasting contribution to the promotion and advancement of aviation and aerospace in the United States”, is -- in my opinion -- a grave error in judgment and a disservice to the previous winners of the award.

But you don’t have to take my word for it. Let’s check with the FAA.

From the Update to FAA Historical Chronology: Civil Aviation and the Federal Government, 1926-1996 (This is a large .pdf file.)

“September 13, 2002: Marion C. Blakey was sworn in as the 15th Administrator of FAA.”

”January 21, 2004: Department of Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta announced a new order intended to reduce flight congestion and passenger inconvenience at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport. Under terms of the order signed by FAA administrator Marion Blakey, both American and United agreed to reduce their operations during the peak hours between 1 p.m. and 8 p.m. by five percent.”

Secretary Mineta, not Administrator Blakey. Give her credit if you wish.

”January 30, 2004: FAA Administrator Marion Blakey submitted a final proposal for the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) multi-unit contract, along with the union’s objections, to Congress seeking help in resolving the issue.”

Thinly disguised union busting.

”December 16, 2004: FAA Administrator Marion Blakey announced a revised presidential policy on the global positioning system (GPS).
...The policy directed the Departments of Defense and Transportation to ensure that GPS civil services exceed or at least be equivalent to services provided by the European Galileo system.”

Not exactly visionary.

”November 28, 2005: FAA Administrator Marion Blakey called for federal mediation to help the agency reach a voluntary contract agreement with the air traffic controllers union.”

More union busting. This time, she’s taking on the controllers themselves.

”July 18, 2006: FAA Administrator Marion Blakey and European Commission Vice President Jacques Barrot signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) that secured enhanced cooperation toward building a more efficient and seamless air traffic system between Europe and the United States. The MOU focused on building administrative bridges between the United States’ NextGen and the Commission’s Single European Sky Air Traffic Management Research (SESAR) airspace modernization programs”

You might want to check on how NextGen is doing these days, before you put that one in the “win” column.

”September 13, 2007: Marion Blakey left FAA after serving her five-year term. Robert Sturgell became acting administrator.”

I don’t know of anyone that wants to put Bobby Sturgell in the “win” column either.

So, except for approving a diesel airplane engine, a new airman certificate with some security features and a few memorandums of agreement with various other countries -- various odds and ends like that -- there you have Marion Blakey’s official FAA History. It boils down to two main themes:

1. Union busting
2. Promoting NextGen while using it as a vehicle to privatize the National Airspace System.

Again, you don’t have to believe me. You can read the FAA’s own history;

”August 30, 2007: FAA selected ITT Corporation as the prime contractor for the Automatic Dependent Surveillance — Broadcast (ADS-B) system. Under the terms of the approximately $1.8 billion contract, ITT would build the ADS-B ground stations and would own and operate the equipment. FAA would pay subscription charges to ITT for the transmission of ADS-B broadcasts to suitably equipped aircraft and air traffic control facilities.”

(Emphasis added)

And to be honest, contracting out the FAA was well under way before Marion Blakey got there so all you really have left is union busting. I’ve already covered that part for you -- here at Get the Flick.

”Your Federal Government reached a new low under George W. Bush with the hiring of one Joe Miniace. He was hired for one specific purpose -- to hurt the National Air Traffic Controllers Association. NATCA is the union that represents the nation’s air traffic controllers.”

Again, straight from the FAA’s mouth.

”May 4, 2005

WASHINGTON, DC — Administrator Marion C. Blakey today named Joseph Miniace as the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA’s) Deputy Assistant Administrator for Strategic Labor Management Relations. As a recognized expert in employee and management relations, Miniace will help advance the FAA’s strategic goal as a governmental leader in personnel and labor management.”

For those that don’t remember these things, or never knew them, you can read everything I’ve written about Marion Blakey on Get the Flick. I might as well link the ones on Joe Miniace too -- in that he was such an interesting character.

The only thing that distinguishes Marion Blakey’s career at the FAA is union busting. The only other possibility is her cheer leading for NextGen -- a program that has yet to realize any significant results and may yet fail to do so.

Specifically, Marion Blakey caused thousand of controllers to retire early with her imposed work rules. This, despite having the benefit of hindsight to see how devastating the PATCO strike was to the controller profession. Once again, the controller profession has lost most of its institutional memory and now must relearn all the old mistakes again. The cost is as incalculable as it was unnecessary. Just because it is hidden from the Public (and we all pray it stays that way) does not mean that it isn’t real. In fact, the lack of expertise and institutional memory may be the very thing that dooms NextGen to failure. Again, Marion Blakey had the benefit of hindsight -- the FAA’s AAS program -- and chose to ignore historical reality in favor of political ideology.

I hope I have made my case. I don’t believe Marion Blakey is the sort of individual an organization like the National Aeronautic Association would want to honor. I may be too late. I may not change anybody’s mind. But I object.

(You can object too.)

Don Brown
June 20, 2011

Today’s Photo 6-20-11

Not a dramatic sunrise but a very pretty one. It was surprisingly clear for a June morning in Georgia.

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

Don Brown
June 20, 2011

Friday, June 17, 2011

Hey! It Works!

Google News offers a service (I’m sure you’ve seen it) where you can “create an email alert” for whatever terms you used in a search. I created one for “+ERAM +FAA” -- about a month ago. I finally got a hit on it today -- the first one. (You don’t really need to bother clicking on the link unless you just want to see the Avionics Intelligence web site. I’m pretty sure it’s just the text of a speech from Randy Babbitt.


”One of the building blocks for NextGen is our En-Route Automation Modernization, or ERAM initiative.

This program has more than 1.4 million lines of code and its taking us from an antiquated system that looks like a patch-work quilt, to one that is more uniform and can display more information to controllers.

ERAM has not been without challenges. But I am confident in the waterfall schedule we have laid out.

We have it up and running now in Seattle and Salt Lake City.
ERAM has been running more than 230 consecutive days in Salt Lake City and more than 160 consecutive days in Seattle. Controllers are using it to control traffic.

We are collaborating with NATCA and our controllers and managers in the field something that was not adequately done at the outset of this effort. Were listening to the controllers and fixing the issues they have. And we expect to have initial operational capability at more centers this fall.”

That is all.

Don Brown
June 17, 2011

Librarians Guide Controllers

I’m in a I’ve-had-it-up-to-here mood. Three (wasted) years into the Great Recession and only now are people coming to the realization that it’s all about jobs, jobs, jobs. And the only entity that can create enough of them (at the moment) is government.

Meanwhile, corporations and right-wing zealots continue to push their agenda. Well, some librarians (and citizens) decided to push back. Don’t you wish people that cared about society were flooding the airwaves with their message instead of corporations and political zealots? You can get their attention. You can even have fun with it.

I don’t know if I’ve ever put this message out there before but you can bet I’m going to do it again. If young controllers knew what I know, they’d be beating down their Congressman’s door to get the old Civil Service Retirement System reinstated. Make it your goal -- before you have to retire. Don’t listen to the people that think they know how to invest go “blah, blah, blah”. The game is rigged. Just go ask the ones that thought they knew how to invest and found out they didn’t. Ask Bear Stearns. Oh yeah, that’s right. You can’t. They went bankrupt.

Which would you rather bet your retirement on -- Wall Street or the U.S. Government? It’s a no-brainer. And guess what? Your city, county and State government will be here long after some privatization huckster goes down in flames taking your library with it. After they personally get rich -- and screw all the employees -- of course.

Wake up. Fight back.

Don Brown
June 17, 2011

Today’s Photo 6-17-11

It was a really nice sunrise this morning. I whittled it down to the best 22 pictures and then I started throwing virtual darts. And then I said, “I haven’t had a vertical in a while.” Here you go.

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

Don Brown
June 17, 2011

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Forgiving Fareed

Last Monday -- not even a week ago -- I was giving Fareed Zakaria a hard time because he had Ann Coulter on this show -- Global Public Square. Ain’t it funny how it all works out? All is forgiven. Today, in Time magazine, Fareed delivers a devastating blow to the Conservatism of today’s America.

How Today's Conservatism Lost Touch with Reality

”Conservatives now espouse ideas drawn from abstract principles with little regard to the realities of America's present or past. This is a tragedy, because conservatism has an important role to play in modernizing the U.S.”

His article is all the more powerful because of his reasonable tone and his reputation for fairness.

”The U.S. is among the lowest taxed of the big industrial economies. So the case that America is grinding to a halt because of high taxation is not based on facts but is simply a theoretical assertion.”

”Many Republican businessmen have told me that the Obama Administration is the most hostile to business in 50 years. Really? More than that of Richard Nixon, who presided over tax rates that reached 70%, regulations that spanned whole industries, and who actually instituted price and wage controls?”

You’ve heard me talk about it numerous times here but this is a great example of the power of persuasion. The Republican Party and corporations, with their incessant media blitz, have convinced many Americans -- beyond the shadow of a doubt -- that all Democrats (especially that Socialist Obama) are hostile to businesses. Most can’t (or won’t) remember that Richard Nixon created the EPA. Check this out from Wikipedia;

”On July 9, 1970, citing rising concerns over environmental protection and conservation, President Richard Nixon transmitted Reorganization Plan No. 3 to the United States Congress by executive order, creating the EPA as a single, independent agency from a number of smaller arms of different federal agencies. Prior to the establishment of the EPA, the federal government was not structured to comprehensively regulate environmental pollutants.”

I could go on and on about this article but you need to read it for yourself. Send it to your friends. Especially your conservative friends.

”In fact, right now any discussion of government involvement in the economy — even to build vital infrastructure — is impossible because it is a cardinal tenet of the new conservatism that such involvement is always and forever bad. Meanwhile, across the globe, the world's fastest-growing economy, China, has managed to use government involvement to create growth and jobs for three decades. From Singapore to South Korea to Germany to Canada, evidence abounds that some strategic actions by the government can act as catalysts for free-market growth.”

Fareed is being civil but I’ve about lost all my civility on the subject. I can hear the rebuttals to this article now. But I’m convinced that any country in which Michele Bachmann can be considered a serious candidate for office -- much less President of the United States of America -- has already lost touch with reality.

Don Brown
June 16, 2011

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Political and Economic Insanity

As I’ve told you, I listen to the Talk of the Nation podcast on NPR.

From the June 13th’s show:

Two Years Post-Recession, Times Are Still Tough

”DAVID LEONHARDT of the New York Times joins us. He writes the Economic Scene column, for which he received the 2011 Pulitzer Prize.”

Great. I’ve never heard of him. I probably should have. I may have. But if I’ve ever read any of his stuff I don’t remember it.

Long, long interview during which I’m watering my flowers. (Note to Leonhardt: Speak up dude. I can’t even hear you over the hiss of the water hose, much less the diesel pickup going by.)

(Everything below is edited for my purposes. If you don’t trust me, listen to the interview yourself.)

”DAVID LEONHARDT -- I think policy did a very good job, first, in the late months of 2008, with the outgoing Bush administration responding seriously to the collapse of Lehman Brothers, and the Fed under Ben Bernanke, all the way through, responding very seriously, and the Democratic Congress in 2008.

And then you had President Obama and his team come in, and they responded very seriously and very aggressively, and so did the Fed - seriously, aggressively, creatively. Not everything they tried worked. But over the course of 2009, they really did arrest this terrible, terrible tailspin we were in. I mean, if you look at the data on things like stock prices, industrial production, global trade, it really did look like the beginning of the Great Depression.”

I concur (mostly).

”DAVID LEONHARDT -- In fact, it's sort of a shame the government isn't doing that. I mean, interest rates for the United States government are incredibly low right now. If you were going to look for the absolute ideal time to go out and, say, try to fix some of our roads and bridges, many of which are not in good shape, and you wanted to say, boy, I want to do this at a time when interest rates are relatively low and when there are a lot of construction workers who might be available to do it. This is that time.”

Sound familiar?

”CONAN: But that might sound like a stimulus.

LEONHARDT: Yes, I know. Stimulus has become a dirty word. So instead, we call it a jobs package. That is what people in Congress have done. I think stimulus actually has a very good record. The great example of not trying stimulus was, of course, President Hubert Hoover. That didn't turn out so well. The biggest stimulus program the United States has ever tried was the mobilization for World War II. That worked extremely well, even better than the things that Roosevelt put in place that did bring down the unemployment rate, as high as it had been.

As I mentioned earlier in this show, I think stimulus worked really well in 2009. The stimulus hasn't worked at all for the United Kingdom or Ireland - I mean austerity, the opposite of stimulus. And then when you saw the government kind of taking its foot off the stimulus accelerator in 2010, the economy weakened again. So stimulus isn't perfect. The bill that was passed in 2009 certainly wasn't perfect. But I think it made a big difference, and I think the problem now is that we don't have enough of that.”

How many times must it be said? How many different people must say it? Even Larry Summers is saying it now -- and I don’t even like Larry Summers. And still...

”CONAN: I think the president was in North Carolina talking about green jobs today, David Leonhardt, and - but I suspect Todd is also right. I don't see Congress or the president pushing for, and the Congress enacting a WPA.

LEONHARDT: Well, a WPA would have no chance in Congress. And Republicans have no interest in direct employment of people by the government. They believe government is too big right now. So you can then get into a debate, should the administration propose things that it knows have absolutely no chance of passing, for the sake of kind of starting a discussion, and moving the discussion. I don't know what the answer to that is. But Republicans have no interest in a WPA.”

Should the Administration propose ideas that will actually work even if Republicans have “no interest” in them? Seriously? Serious people can ask that question and not come up with an answer? Oh, that’s right, he’s a journalist and is bound by a code of ethics. (If only Fox was bound by the same code.) So let me answer. Yes. Make the Republicans defend their position. Let them vote against putting people back to work. That doesn’t sound like a bad political strategy -- even if it wasn’t backed up by a sound economic strategy.

Do you really think unemployed Republican voters would say, “No, I don’t want a government job (with benefits). I’ll just stay on the unemployment line.”?

Did that turn the light bulb on for you? An unemployed voter that got a job from a Democratic Administration? Nooooo, they wouldn’t be grateful. Naw, get serious. They wouldn’t suddenly think that government actually could create jobs -- especially if we were smart and made sure they were doing important jobs. They wouldn’t fall for it. They wouldn’t suddenly see that the Republican Party has been lying to them for 30+ years. Nope. It would never happen.

Gettin’ the Flick?

In order to regain (temporary) power, the Republican Party -- for the moment -- is willing to embrace political and economic insanity.

Don Brown
June 14, 2011

Today’s Photo 6-14-11

It’s amazingly difficult to get a photograph where all three swans look good at the same time.

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

Don Brown
June 14, 2011

Monday, June 13, 2011

ERAM Today


Don Brown
June 13, 2011

Fareed Fail

All my readers know I really like Fareed Zakaria and his Sunday show, Global Public Square. This week’s show was no exception -- with one exception.

“Fareed’s Take” was great. It was about unemployment being the key issue in solving our economic crisis. The show ended with an interview with Henry Kissinger and his 40-year involvement with China. Think about China 40 years ago and China today. That’s a heck of a trip. And Kissinger had a front-row seat.

As I was saying, great stuff. It’s normal for Fareed. That’s what makes his show so refreshing. That made Ann Coulter’s appearance all the more shocking. Yeah, Ann Coulter, the blonde bomb shill. For those unfamiliar with her, just look at the title of her books:

High Crimes and Misdemeanors: The Case Against Bill Clinton

Slander: Liberal Lies About the American Right

Treason: Liberal Treachery from the Cold War to the War on Terrorism

How to Talk to a Liberal (If You Must): The World According to Ann Coulter

Godless: The Church of Liberalism

If Democrats Had Any Brains, They'd Be Republicans

Demonic: How the Liberal Mob Is Endangering America

Ann Coulter is so bad she makes Newt Gingrich look good. Now that’s bad. And even worse, she gets cut up into little bitty pieces by Elliot Spitzer. You can watch it for yourself. (The panel starts at the 4:30 mark.)

Now, nobody is perfect. And everyone has a crazy idea or two. For instance, I’d love to see Elliot Spitzer as Chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission. I know it’s crazy but look at history. Roosevelt put Joe Kennedy in charge of the SEC with the famous thought that it “takes a crook to catch a crook.” There’s a lot of power in redemption. Can you imagine how motivated Spitzer would be if given a shot at redemption that big?

But putting Ann Coulter on your show is a serious error in judgment.

I’ll forgive Fareed. I’ll be watching again next week. Heck, I’d even forgive Spitzer. But I’ll have to go to church for a lot more Sundays before I forgive Ann Coulter. Either that or she’ll have to become a lot smarter.

Don Brown
June 13, 2011

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Church vs. State

The Archbishop of Canterbury wrote an article that made a big splash in the United Kingdom but has received virtually no coverage here in the United States. I thought it quite relevant. If you’ll remember, I’m a believer in history repeating itself. And we have some very recent history with the United Kingdom -- the friendship between President Ronald Reagan and Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. If you’ll remember, Lady Thatcher gave birth to privatization and her buddy Reagan liked it. They were also both big union busters and they promoted “casino capitalism”.

The Archbishop's article is kind of dense and I found it difficult reading. So you might just want to watch the video . Unless you’re up on the U.K. government, I’d watch the video anyway. For instance, I didn’t know the Archbishop was a member of the House of Lords.

Leader: The government needs to know how afraid people are

”I don't think that the government's commitment to localism and devolved power is simply a cynical walking-away from the problem. But I do think that there is confusion about the means that have to be willed in order to achieve the end. If civil society organisations are going to have to pick up responsibilities shed by government, the crucial questions are these.”

For Americans, think of George (the 1st) Bush’s “thousand points of light”. The government is asking the churches and charities to pick up its slack -- the government’s failure to take care of its poor. When you say that plainly, you begin to understand the Archbishop's concern. Not to be crass, but money doesn’t grow on trees, even for the Church of England. Taking care of the poor is an expensive business.

I was happy to see the argument taken to a moral ground too.

”This is not helped by a quiet resurgence of the seductive language of "deserving" and "undeserving" poor, nor by the steady pressure to increase what look like punitive responses to alleged abuses of the system. ”

For those with short memories, think of Ronald Reagan’s “welfare queens”. I am always jolted by this “blame the poor” play in politics. You’ve heard it recently in the financial collapse. It was caused by all those poor people taking out loans that they couldn’t afford. Yeah, all those folks raised in the ghetto that outsmarted all those Harvard and Yale-educated guys on Wall Street. Tricky devils. They’re so clever it makes you wonder why they’re still poor. (I’m assuming you didn’t fall for the lie that it’s actually comfortable being poor.)

I’ll have to find out more about the concept of “localism” before I can weigh in on one side or the other but let’s just say if the Conservatives in the U.K. are for it and the Archbishop is questioning it...I’m not looking forward to what Americans might do with it.

”I don't think that the government's commitment to localism and devolved power is simply a cynical walking-away from the problem. But I do think that there is confusion about the means that have to be willed in order to achieve the end. If civil society organisations are going to have to pick up responsibilities shed by government...”

Look east and keep a weather eye on the political horizon.

Don Brown
June 12, 2011

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Parting is Such Bittersweet Sorrow

Don’t worry, a Newt has more lives than a cat. Leroy will be back.

Gingrich presidential campaign implodes

”Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s presidential campaign imploded Thursday afternoon with his entire senior staff resigning en masse, according to multiple sources familiar with the moves.”

I’ll be honest, I thought it was a prank when I saw the headline. But I guess, seeing as it’s in the Washington Post, it’s real.

Don Brown
June 9, 2011

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Time Flies Even When You Aren’t Having Fun

There was a story on Marketplace’s podcast that gave me a new insight on the Great Recession. Perhaps it will for you too.

Halfway through a lost decade

”In theory the two measures should be the same. After all, every dollar you spend is a dollar of income to someone else. But in practice, measurements differ. Most economists are focused on the less informative measure. But the better data measuring total income show that the economy entered a recession in late 2006.

Today our Gross Domestic Product is only around the level it was at when the recession began. So if it feels like we've been in a downturn for a long time, you're right. It's been nearly five years.”

And as most of my readers know, I’ve been focused on the “lost decade” almost since I started reading Krugman. (That was way back in 2006.)

There is one other tidbit I want you to note in this piece:

”When the economy is this weak for this long, it's time for policymakers to abandon the fiction that a sick economy will heal itself.”

Not too long ago, I heard what sounded like a valid argument against Krugman’s suggestions from Larry Summers. In gist, it was that Paul Krugman was too quick to rush to extraordinary economic remedies instead of sticking with ordinary economic policies. The question you have to ask yourself now is, “Is this a normal economic event or an extraordinary one?” I think the answer is pretty obvious.

We -- as a nation -- are going to have to “do something” to get out of this mess. The economy will not cure itself. I submit, it (whatever “it” is) will have to be extraordinary. I can think of nothing more “ordinary” than the standard Republican pablum of less taxes, less regulation and less government.

The rub is, no one believes anything extraordinary (at least not in a good sense) is possible with today’s political deadlock. Everyone finds it easy to believe things could go wrong. And as we all know, confidence plays a large part in the economy. I guess that says all we need to know about our immediate future.

Don Brown
June 8, 2011

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Solar Something-or-other

Some of you might remember I have a friend that runs a solar education/outreach program. He and the rest of the solar astronomy world are in a tizzy because the sun had some type of spectacular eruption this morning. The video is pretty amazing.

For those that want to go geek, I’d recommend The site is slower than Christmas but you can classify your solar flares, radiation storms and Coronal mass ejections until your heart’s content.

Don Brown
June 7, 2011

Monday, June 06, 2011

Today’s Photo 6-6-11

Okay, I wasn’t expecting that. After a week of early-but-typical Georgia heat and haze, I wasn’t expecting such a nice sunrise.

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

Don Brown
June 6, 2011

Sunday, June 05, 2011

That Fellow Can Think

Oh to have an educated mind. Then, maybe, I could write like the folks at Praxis Foundation.

NextGen ATC and GPS: Questions about Investment, Exploitation, Obligation, Liability and Standing

”And there’s another thing: the radio signal from the satellite in orbit (20k miles up) to an airplane’s GPS receiver is pretty weak. That radio signal is not nearly as strong as a signal sent from a VOR. It becomes very important that nothing interfere with the faint GPS radio signal.”

I know all the General Aviation pilots have heard about LightSquared by now. You might want to read this blog.

Here’s my favorite thought:

”It’s interesting to note that DoD is not complaining.”

Go find your own. There are plenty to choose from.

Don Brown
June 5, 2011

Fareed Gets Religion

I was watching Fareed Zakaria on GPS today, right after church. Maybe that was the reason it seemed like a religious experience.

”In Washington, the battle over America's debt ceiling continues. But let me tell you about the real crisis we face in America (and Europe has its own version of this), a crisis that could cripple America's economy and its society and would make the debt problem much, much worse.

It is America's jobs crisis.”

Hallelujah! “Gets it” is probably too strong -- I think Fareed has always understood the problem-- but perhaps “gets on board” is a better phrase. It is way past time America put this problem front and center. It’s time we started putting the emphasis on the people instead of the money.

”If unemployment doesn't drop a great deal fast - and it shows no signs of doing this – problems proliferate in all directions”

Tell it brother! Some may not care that unemployment is a moral/social problem -- it’s a soul-crushing experience -- but the people that insist on concentrating on the money angle have to understand the problems massive unemployment creates.

”President Obama's budget assumes that the economy will create 20 million jobs over the next 10 years. That will be a dramatic acceleration. Over the past 10 years, it has produced only 1.7 million.

Congressman Paul Ryan's plan envisions unemployment dropping to 50-year lows to make his budget numbers work. That would require magic at this point. If you assume unemployment stays high, the deficit and debt become unimaginably higher in 10 years.”

If we don’t fix the unemployment problem, we can’t fix any of our other problems.

”So, what to do? Well, there are several things we could do to spur job creation.

...perhaps most urgently, (d) rebuild America's dilapidated infrastructure and put millions of people in the construction and housing industries back to work.”

That’s my favorite one. You can read (or listen) to the others ones for yourself.

The reason I’m so excited about all this is that it meshes so well with what Krugman has been saying for so long. As I alluded to earlier, I think Fareed has felt this way for some time but was reluctant to throw his weight behind a course of action because respected economists had varying opinions about it all.

I sense he has made up his mind.

”The official unemployment number does not include the millions who have stopped looking for work or are working part time. So, if you add these numbers together, the actual number of Americans without a real full-time job is closer to 24 million.

Everyone is expecting that the normal pattern of growth and job creation will start up soon, except that it hasn't.”

Amen brother.

Don Brown
June 5, 2011

Friday, June 03, 2011

A Useful Elephant

I love Jon Stewart.

Don Brown
June 3, 2011

KTYS 6-3-11

What can I say? It’s an acronym kind of day. I really wanted to put an ITYS (I Told You So) up there but it really wasn’t me. It was Krugman. Krugman Told You So. From today’s column:

The Mistake of 2010

"And the news has, indeed, been bad. As the stimulus has faded out, so have hopes of strong economic recovery. Yes, there has been some job creation — but at a pace barely keeping up with population growth. The percentage of American adults with jobs, which plunged between 2007 and 2009, has barely budged since then. And the latest numbers suggest that even this modest, inadequate job growth is sputtering out.

So, as I said, we have already repeated a version of the mistake of 1937, withdrawing fiscal support much too early and perpetuating high unemployment.

Yet worse things may soon happen."

It’s not too late. As Professor Krugman explains in the article, the United States (because it is perceived as the safest haven for money) is able to borrow money at unbelievably low rates -- currently 3%. People are throwing money at the U.S. Treasury. It’s vitally important you understand this. The Republicans/Conservatives/Free Marketeers keep telling you that interest rates are going to go up. They’ve been saying it. And they’ve been wrong for these two critical years.

We could have designed a stimulus package to put people back to work fixing our infrastructure. We could have put millions back to work. And in case you haven’t thought it out, labor is cheap right now too. Cheap money and cheap labor. And we make some desperately-needed repairs to our infrastructure. It wasn’t just a win-win, it was a win-win-win opportunity. Instead of hitting a home run, the Republican’s filibuster forced us to bunt -- a stimulus package that was too small to do the job and diluted with tax breaks. We’ve got 14 million people still out of work and the Republicans were complaining about reseeding the National Mall.

It’s not too late. We could still enact a new stimulus plan. Well, except that it’s politically impossible with the Republicans in control of the House. Currently, the Republicans are busy trying to ruin the credit of the United States by refusing to raise the debt limit. You need to think on that too. They want to take more money out of the economy (i.e. put more people out of work) by cutting spending. And if they don’t get their way, they’re threatening to default on our debt which will raise our borrowing costs --perhaps to disastrous levels. In other words, they are threatening to cause the very disaster they have been (falsely) warning you about for the last two years. It’s insane.

I know you’re busy trying to live your life but if you don’t know about the 1937 Recession -- the recession within the Depression -- you need to read up on it.

Don Brown
June 3, 2011

The Truth Hurts (TTH 1.0)

I’ve decided I need another acronym. One of the things you never think about until you do it...I can’t help but wonder how many duplicate titles I have now. I’ve been writing this blog for almost 5 years and I have over 1,700 posts. I’m not original enough to come up with 1,700 unique titles.

Moving on. I’ve been dragging my feet on writing this post about Gretchen Morgenson’s recent appearance on Fresh Air. She’s a well-respected finance journalist from The New York Times and she has a new book out about the history of the financial crisis of 2008. And she’s not saying what I want to hear.

”So that was an example of the kind of thing that Fannie Mae would do. Now, when I asked Mr. Frank about this, I asked him, did it have any impact on his approach to the company. You know, was it a conflict? Did he feel that it had been a conflicted, put him in a conflicted spot? And he said absolutely not, that he didn't really remember being interested or having much to do with the 1992 legislation.

But the record shows that he was very aggressive and really tough on those who were testifying in Congress about reining in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. He was very aggressive to, for instance, the head of the Congressional Budget Office at that time, who was trying to call for increased capital requirements and to call for a focus on safety and soundness at Fannie Mae, that Frank really took him apart in testimony.

DAVIES: Right, and you write there were a number of occasions on which he defended Fannie and their record of promoting home ownership but in the end had a different view of the company, right?

Ms. MORGENSON: Well, after the taxpayers had to take it over, he, you know, came around, finally. But by then it was too late. He said: Well, we should shut them down. But, you know, it really was far too late, and he had been such a vocal supporter for so long that it was sort of an odd turnabout.”

Like I said, the truth hurts. Usually, everybody.

”DAVIES: You know, there's a Republican narrative about the financial crisis, and it's essentially that it was driven by government meddling in the markets, specifically the insistence that we push home ownership into lower-income folks who really weren't financially ready for it, and that that was sort of the original sin and that Fannie Mae, you know, carried that program, Wall Street eventually got sucked in and accelerated it.

Folks will find some support for that point of view in your book, won't they?

Ms. MORGENSON: It's one element of it, I think, Dave. It is certainly not the whole story, because you certainly can't say that Wall Street was a passive player in this. You know, what I think is a way to - best way to describe this is that this was a public-private partnership that was embraced by all of these characters. And they wrapped themselves in the flag and made it seem that this was a win-win for everyone.

Now, if you had had regulators doing their job, and if you had had a tough overseer of Fannie Mae who made it increase its capital, who made the company take greater care with some of its loans that it - that it guaranteed or bought, then you wouldn't have had this problem. So you can't lay it simply at the feet of Fannie Mae, but you have to throw in all of these other characters that were acting in their own interests.”

It’s a great interview and I’d encourage you to listen to it or read it.

Don Brown
June 3, 2011

They’re Still At It

It starts at The Washington Times which, as my readers know, is a front/propaganda organization for Sun Myung Moon. That’s right, the “Moonies”.

77,000 federal workers paid more than governors

”More than 77,000 federal government employees throughout the country — including computer operators, more than 5,000 air traffic controllers, 22 librarians and one interior designer — earned more than the governors of the states in which they work.

The findings, from a Congressional Research Service report requested by Sen. Tom Coburn, Oklahoma Republican, were released at a time when public workers’ salaries and benefits are under scrutiny across the country as governments try to streamline.”

Then the Washington Post picks it up. Then I blog about it. And we’re off to the races. Which of course, is what Senator Tom Coburn wants. He wants people talking about anything but this:

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

I’m still trying to figure out how some controllers can vote Republican. I haven’t figured it out. Unless being anti-abortion is more important than being gainfully employed.

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

The abortion issue isn’t an issue for me per se. The culture wars are. And this is all about reviving the culture wars to provide the Republican Party the votes it needs to win an election. Killing the economy, unions and Medicare were losing issues for Republicans. Look for a return to the base -- gay bashing, guns and abortion. And, yes, you can look forward to more racism too.

The Party that wants you to vote to keep your guns will use your vote to kill your union. The Party that wants you to vote against abortion will use your vote to privatize Medicare. The Party that wants you to vote against gays will use your vote to ruin the economy (again.)

I’m reading a novel about World War I right now -- Ken Follett’s Fall of Giants. A passage from it really hit me.

”Like all great press men, he really believed the drivel he published. His talent was to express his readers’ most stupid and ignorant prejudices as if they made sense, so that the shameful seemed respectable. That was why they bought the paper.”

I live in the South where the business of making shameful racism seem respectable has a long and brilliant history. Don’t delude yourself into thinking it’s only a Southern issue and it’s only about blacks and whites. It’s about anybody that is different from “us”. Mexicans, Jews, Arabs, African’s -- anybody.

The shameful might seem respectable right now. But in the future, it always winds up looking stupid and ignorant.

Don Brown
June 3, 2011