Wednesday, August 31, 2011

New Apostolic Reformation

Oy vey! Just when you think Christianity can’t get any stranger...

Don’t worry, Get the Flick isn’t going to become a religious discussion site. Although -- I have to admit -- I could spend weeks discussing this group, I’ll quote you what I think politically significant from this episode of NPR’s Fresh Air and I’ll leave you to explore the religious aspects on your own.

The Evangelicals Engaged In Spiritual Warfare

”An emerging Christian movement that seeks to take dominion over politics, business and culture in preparation for the end times and the return of Jesus is establishing a presence in American politics. The leaders are considered apostles and prophets, gifted by God for this role.

The international apostolic and prophetic movement was named the New Apostolic Reformation, or NAR, by its leading architect, C. Peter Wagner. My guest, Rachel Tabachnick, has been researching and writing about this movement. She says although the movement is larger than the network of apostles organized by Wagner, and not all those connected with the movement describe themselves as part of Wagner's NAR, the apostles and prophets of the movement have an identifiable ideology that separates them from other evangelicals.”

That sets the background for you. Keep in mind that this is an hour-long show that covers a lot of ground. I highly encourage you to listen to it for yourself. Now, for the names you’ll recognize;

”Two ministries in the movement planned and orchestrated Texas Gov. Rick Perry's recent prayer rally, where apostles and prophets from around the nation spoke or appeared onstage. The event was patterned after The Call, held at locations around the globe and led by Lou Engle, who has served in the Apostolic Council of Prophetic Elders of the NAR. Other NAR apostles endorsed Perry's event, including two who lead a 50-state "prayer warrior" network. Thomas Muthee, the Kenyan pastor who anointed Sarah Palin at the Wasilla Assembly of God Church in 2005, while praying for Jesus to protect her from the spirit of witchcraft, is also part of this movement.”

(Thomas Muthee prays over Sarah Palin)

That would be the current-Republican-front-runner-for-President-of-the-United-States Rick Perry and if-I-wasn’t-making-so-much-money-teasing-you-about-running-I-might-run-for-President Sarah Palin. That’s just to let you know that these people are serious -- and they have the money to make people take them seriously.

”GROSS: So we don't really know what Rick Perry's own beliefs are on these issues, but we do know that when he spoke at his prayer rally, he was surrounded on each side by two of the apostles. Tell us a little bit about those two apostles.

Ms. TABACHNICK: Well, one is an apostle, Alice Patterson. The other is a well-known African-American pastor, C.L. Jackson. Alice Patterson wrote a book, published last year, when she describes the journey that they have been with Perry since 2002.

And in this book, she explains that the Democratic Party is controlled by a demonic structure, and their mission was to travel around the state and to explain to African-American leaders why they should not be in the Democratic Party.

And on this journey with them was - and now I'm talking about Alice Patterson and C.L. Jackson, not Perry personally - but as they went around the state since 2002, they had with them David Barton.
And David Barton is well-known for his histories in which he claims that the founding fathers had no intention of separation of church and state. One of his early books was called "The Myth of Separation."”

So, the Democratic Party is controlled by a demonic structure. I guess that’s convenient if you’re a Republican. And it just so happens a religious group is going after the most stalwart of Democratic voters -- African Americans.

”GROSS: So when you say this event is intended to be spiritual warfare against the intent of Islam, are the organizers of this event publicly saying that?

Ms. TABACHNICK: Yes. And in fact another person who has been there preparing for this event is Retired Lieutenant General William Boykin who is now part of the Oak Initiative. He does not announce himself as an apostle but he's a part of this Oak Initiative which includes many of the leading apostles. And he has been going to Michigan and speaking about the nine principles of warfare. One of these principles is offense instead of defense, and he is advising people that they have to act to prevent mosques from being built before they are actually constructed.”

Some of you may remember General Boykin. He had an extraordinary career in the U.S. Military -- mostly in Special Operations. He rose to become Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence but his career ended on a sour note when he got into trouble for preaching in his uniform. And that’s the point I want to leave you with. If you’ll look -- if you’ll pay attention -- you’ll recognize a lot of these people from times past and their message will be familiar.

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

They are radicals and they are committed. They will not go away quietly. And if you don’t pay attention, they could wind up with an enormous amount of influence in your government.

Don Brown
August 31, 2011

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Take Heed

Controller, take heed. Lest they speak of thee.

Please notice that nowhere in this article is a programmer, engineer or bureaucrat held at fault. But pilots are.

AP IMPACT: Automation in the air dulls pilot skill

”Spurred in part by federal regulations that require greater reliance on computerized flying, the airline industry is suffering from "automation addiction," said Rory Kay, an airline captain and co-chairman of a Federal Aviation Administration committee on pilot training. "We're seeing a new breed of accident with these state-of-the art planes."”

Now there’s a catchy phrase you ought to learn: “automation addiction”.

”A draft FAA study found pilots sometimes "abdicate too much responsibility to automated systems." Because these systems are so integrated in today's planes, one malfunctioning piece of equipment or a single bad computer instruction can suddenly cascade into a series of other failures, unnerving pilots who have been trained to rely on the equipment.”

How about controllers? Have you been trained to “rely on the equipment”?

”The startled captain, who hadn't noticed the plane had slowed too much,...”

Go ahead, substitute “controller” for “pilot”.

The startled controller, who hadn't noticed the plane had slowed too much,... Do you think I’m making this stuff up? I read this just yesterday in Bob Poole’s rag (#86).

”Sometimes called “subliminal control,” it relies on a ground-based computer calculating minor speed adjustments, aimed at avoiding predicted conflicts, and sending the suggested change directly to the pilot via a digital datalink.”

You’ll appreciate the pretext of that. He’ll put it on the web sooner or later.

”One of the concerns I’ve heard for many years is that the productivity of air traffic control has been unchanged for decades. Today’s controller is responsible for essentially the same maximum number of aircraft as a controller 20 or 30 years ago. A basic premise of NextGen and SESAR is to change that, by means of automation of routine separations, under which the controller would evolve into more of a traffic manager and conflict resolver. ”

Let’s back up a second and substitute “pilot” for “controller”.

One of the concerns I’ve heard for many years is that the productivity of pilots has been unchanged for decades. Today’s pilot is responsible for essentially the same maximum number of airplanes as a pilot of 20 or 30 years ago. Am I making my point here?

(If you don’t know of Mr. Poole, you can start here. He’s mentioned regularly at Get the Flick.)

Let’s get back to the AP article. In reviewing a Turkish Airlines accident...

”Dutch investigators described the flight's three pilots' "automation surprise" when they discovered the plane was about to stall. They hadn't been closely monitoring the airspeed.”

Another phrase to remember -- “automation surprise”. I bet I don’t have to explain that to controllers. In reviewing an Air France accident...

”The co-pilot at the controls struggled to save the plane, but because he kept pointing the plane's nose up, he actually caused the stall instead of preventing it, experts said. Despite the bad airspeed information, which lasted for less than a minute, there was nothing to prevent the plane from continuing to fly if the pilot had followed the correct procedure for such circumstances,...”

Did you catch that? The copilot is at fault because the automation screwed up and the system insists that he rely on the automation until he no longer has the skills or experience to respond properly. The software engineer isn’t at fault. The regulation writer isn’t at fault. The airline bean counter that insists on “productivity” (you know Bob Poole isn’t going to be blamed) isn’t at fault. It’s the pilot’s fault. Just like it will be the controller’s fault when ERAM fails.

Pay attention. Wake up. Your job is being automated as we speak. And controllers -- people with the best of intentions -- are helping to make it happen. Good intentions are not enough. Controllers must insist on safety first. It’s your job. Nobody said it would make you popular.

Don Brown
August 30, 2011

(Added for emphasis, once time allowed.)

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Today’s Photo 8-28-11

Clear and a cool 58ºF this morning. You feel cooler just looking at it don’t you?

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

Don Brown
August 28, 2011

Friday, August 26, 2011

Earning Their Pay

I know that with Hurricane Irene’s approach to the East Coast of the United States, virtually everyone has an interest. How can we not? There are around 80 million people in it’s path, not to mention the nation’s capital and the world’s financial capital.

But I am was an air traffic controller after all, and as always, my thoughts turn to the job. When you hear a story that the Air Force is moving airplanes off the coast it probably barely registers. For controllers, it means it will be one busy day. All that traffic ( you can’t believe how many airplanes the Department of Defense has) is in addition to the regular traffic controllers work.

The real worry is after the hurricane. Airports are the first point of relief from outside the devastation. For my longtime readers, this isn’t your first rodeo. Others can take a walk down memory lane.

I could spend all day listing the FAA facilities at risk -- DCA, PHL, the Command Center, the Tech Center, JFK, LGA and dozens of other places. But the two places that have to be on the FAA’s priority list are N90 and ZNY -- New York TRACON and New York Center.

One look at a map explains the problem. “A” is the TRACON and B is the Center.

(From Google Maps)

As you can see from the map scale, both are only about 10 miles inland. And if the FAA should lose both of them...some other facility has to take over the airspace. Good luck with that.

Regardless, there will be air traffic controllers working the airspace. While others are putting their lives back together, controllers will be putting their lives and their families on hold. They’ll be earning their pay.

And they’ll “make it work”. Somehow. Someway. They will get the emergency relief into the area’s airports. Somehow. Someway. They always do.

FEMA - 18918 - Photograph by Michael Rieger taken on 09-01-2005 in Louisiana

Don Brown
August 26, 2011

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Personalize This

I don’t know if you’ve been keeping up with Krugman since he got back in the country but he’s been writing up a storm. There’s more to the world than Krugman’s blog...but he’s done it again. At least for me. And I bet for you.

That’s because I bet you have someone close to you that is unemployed. Or, at a minimum, underemployed. I want you to pick the person that is closest to you and personalize this big-picture message. Here’s Krugman:

Five Trillion Dollars

”2. The CBO also projects unemployment staying above 8 percent until late 2014 — again, with no clear explanation of why it should fall sharply in 2015. This translates into a human catastrophe for the long-term unemployed. It also says that there will be no good reason to raise interest rates for the foreseeable future.”

You see, that works for me but for some, all that just makes their eyes glaze over. So let’s personalize it. My son is going to graduate college this year. “Stephen, we can’t get you a job for three more years. You can come home and live until 2014. We’ll try to have something for you by then. I’m sorry Son, I know you want to get started on your life. But this is the best we can do. ”

Unemployed men queued outside a depression soup kitchen opened in Chicago by Al Capone, 02-1931 - NARA - 541927

Except, of course, it isn’t the best we can do. It’s just what we -- as a country -- have decided to do. As Krugman says;

”Surely it would have been worth making an extraordinary effort to avoid this outcome. In particular, an $800 billion stimulus, a significant fraction of which was stuff that would have happened anyway (like extending the patch on the alternative minimum tax) looks ludicrously underpowered. Yet policy has been timid and conventional.”

There are only two things missing -- two things we need -- to get out of this Great Recession.

Fdr delivers speech

Needed: Rooseveltian Resolve

Franklin D. Roosevelt was elected President of the United States in
1932 with the mandate to get the country out of the Depression. In the end,
the most effective actions he took were the same that Japan needs to take—- namely, rehabilitation of the banking system and devaluation of the currency to promote monetary easing. But Roosevelt’s specific policy actions were, I think, less important than his willingness to be aggressive and to experiment—-in short, to do whatever was necessary to get the country moving again. Many of his policies did not work as intended, but in the end FDR deserves great credit for having the courage to abandon failed paradigms and to do what needed to be done. ”

No, that wasn’t Krugman talking. Nor me. That was Ben Bernanke -- back before he was Chairman of the Federal Reserve.

(Now who do you think steered me towards that?)

But there is one other thing we need (and this is me doing the talking). We need you. We need you to be engaged. One of the reasons President Roosevelt was so effective was that he had the support of the people. President Obama needs the same. And just in case you think FDR had it easy, read this .pdf file.

” The Court-packing scheme of early 1937 nullified any postelection
honeymoon in Washington, if not across the country. It was followed by a legislative proposal to strengthen the presidency that appeared to
confirm Republicans’ charges that Roosevelt was preparing to install himself as a dictator. At about the same time, the economic recovery stalled and the “Roosevelt recession” began. Finally, Roosevelt’s failed effort to purge anti-New Deal congressional Democrats in the 1938 midterm election emboldened critics within his own party to launch a “no third term” movement for the 1940 Democratic nominating convention.”

I don’t think even today’s Republicans have accused Obama of trying to become a dictator. (Yeah, I knew that had to be wrong just as soon as I typed it.)

Call your Senators. Call your Congressman. Email them. Send letters. Send a fax. Keep it simple if you’d like. Jobs, jobs, jobs. And write the President. Tell him the same thing. Americans need jobs. And when he announces his plan, write him and tell him you’ll support him. It’s either that or you need to explain to your unemployed son/friend/relative that we’re doing our best -- even when you know we’re not.

Don Brown
August 25, 2011

The Angry Bureaucrat

I was going to reply to a couple of recent comments and when I went to do some research, I found this at The Angry Bureaucrat.

Why Balanced Budgets Are Stupid, for Both Governments and Families

”Because the Republicans seem keen on trying to keep this idea on life support, I thought I'd take a minute to explain why a balanced budget amendment is a terrible idea, both for the government and for a household (since Republicans [and, distressingly, Obama too, as of late] are such big fans of comparing government finances to household finances, even though the two have almost nothing in common).”

I liked that. I liked it a lot. So I kept reading and found this:

Cheaper-Than-Free Money: Why the U.S. Government Should Be Borrowing and Spending Even More, Not Less

”Why would I say that in the middle of a fight that has the Republicans and Democrats tripping over each other to see who can cut more government spending? Simple - the real interest rate on (some kinds of) government debt are currently negative:”

And I found this:

Pie Chart of the Day - What do the Unemployed Spend Their Time Doing?

”Most people who pay attention to what's going on know that the unemployment rate is high - just over 9% at the moment. In addition, another 16% of workers are underemployed - i.e. they are only working part-time when they'd like to be working full time. So, 25% of workers have a lot of time that they'd like to be working but aren't - what do all of these people spend their time doing?”

I’ve decided it would just be easier to add him to the blog roll. (My! I’m getting to be positively spontaneous aren’t I?)

Keep those cards and letters coming folks. The recommendations are always nice and even a negative comment will either inspire me to do better or...cause me to find a great new blog.

Don Brown
August 25, 2011

Big Idea Balk

Believe it or not, one of the blog ideas I was considering yesterday was making the case for Steve Jobs to retire. Yeah, I know, it’s self serving for me to say that now that he has resigned but (swear) the idea did flash through my head.

I always wonder what motivates a guy like that. I mean, what gets Warren Buffet up in the morning? Why does Bill Gates go to work? They’ve got more money than they could ever spend in ten lifetimes.

I think about that often so it isn’t too unusual for me to think of Steve Jobs. When the stock market was bouncing around this month, Apple -- at one point -- became worth more than Exxon to become the world’s richest corporation. Steve Jobs has been ill. And the old saying says, “Go out on top.” I thought it would be a good time to go. And lo and behold he has done it.

So, to get another big idea out before somebody else says it...

Here’s my stimulus project idea. Bury all the electrical/cable/phone lines. You know, anything that is run on a telephone pole.

Telephone pole, Westwood - - 1621213

I don’t have any economic reason -- although I’m sure I could make a compelling case. But the plain truth is that -- like all photographers -- I hate the ghastly things. Just another reason to love the English -- they hate them too.

Hey, these eyesores are in all 50 states, they’re in rural, suburban and urban areas, rich and poor areas’s an equal opportunity project. Not to mention, it sure beats digging a hole in the ground. Besides, maybe you could fill up the right of way with these things a 13 year-old kid dreamed up.

(Maybe Steve Jobs could work on the industrial design of these.)

Don Brown
August 25, 2011

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

“High Yield”?

I don’t think I’ve ever clicked on an internet ad in my life. Maybe one or two. At most. (I’m married to a world-class shopper so I don’t have to shop.) But, when I saw this one, I couldn’t resist.

I had to know. And yes, they are serious. They’re offering 1%. Deposit $10,000 (that’s ten thousand dollars) and a year later they’ll pay you $101. (According to their calculator.)

I can’t find any historical rates for the U.S. for all the advertisements (of course) but you can view some rates for Canada and the United Kingdom if you’re interested.

Just to be clear, I’m not trying to beat up on American Express. They’re a fine company as far as I’m concerned. I’m just trying to make the point that this isn’t your daddy’s recession.

Don Brown
August 24, 2011

“The Other 98%” Update

The guys I mentioned from Facebook the other day, The Other 98%, still don’t have a Wikipeida entry. But I did find this.

Marco Ceglie

”Marco Ceglie (b. 1973 in Livingston, New Jersey) is an American writer, producer, and freelance strategic media and messaging consultant.
He most recently co-founded the advocacy group The Other 98%, which made waves as an alternative to the Tea Party during their April 15, 2010 “anti-tax” rallies in Washington D.C. Ceglie countered the Tea Party again on August 28th, 2010, with his Celebrate The Dream project, which constructed a forty-foot art installation by the artist Michael Murphy. The exhibit honored Dr. Martin Luther King’s fight for social justice on the 47th anniversary of King’s “I have a dream” speech while countering Glenn Beck’s “Restoring Honor” rally at the Lincoln Memorial.”

It’s a somewhat lengthy entry for those that are interested. But any guy that helps create this video can’t be all bad.

Don Brown
August 24, 2011

Today’s Photo 8-24-11

It’s like September in August. Clear and somewhat cool (for August in Georgia). Whatever it is, I’ll take it over our normal August weather. Yes, the big, black dot in the water is the heron, at his normal perch.

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

Don Brown
August 24, 2011

Monday, August 22, 2011

Politics Trumps All

What is it going to take before Republicans listen to reason? You have to ask yourself now, what is their goal? A sound economy? Jobs? Reducing the debt? Whatever you think it is, you have to ask yourself why they won’t move forward.

You don’t have to believe me. You can believe The Economist. First, let’s look at their Wikipedia entry.

”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.”

All right, they’re English. So right off the bat they don’t have a Republican vs. Democratic slant.

”The Economist is characterised by some outsiders as a right wing publication.”

So, if anything, they have a conservative -- as opposed to liberal -- bias.

”It takes an editorial stance which is supportive of free trade, globalisation, government health and education spending[citation needed], 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.”

That gives you a feel for the publication. Now, let’s look at what they had to say in a recent article.

We just need some sort of sign

”You know, it's hard to be in a position of power at times like these. The stakes are high, and the path forward is uncertain. The thing is, markets are showing the way forward. The deeper the decline in Treasury yields, the clearer it is that markets are scared stiff about the growth outlook. And conveniently, governments can then borrow on incredible terms, using the proceeds to make overdue investments, thereby supporting growth in the short-term and the long-term! The American government can borrow at zero to negative cost at durations out to 10 years. There are always risks, to action and inaction alike, but as risks go, using cheap money to fix deteriorating infrastructure or provide health care to the unemployed or subsidise worker retraining or support research is an incredibly safe bet. In Britain, gilt yields have fallen to their lowest level since the Victorian era. As risks go, slightly easing the pace of fiscal austerity is an incredibly safe bet.”

Republicans ought to eat that up, right? ” are showing the way forward”. I mean, that fits the bill for their narrative doesn’t it? Follow “The Market” guys. Borrow at ”negative cost at durations out to 10 years” and ”fix deteriorating infrastructure”. I’m not going to push it. I’m not even going to suggest ”worker retraining”. Even though a “right wing” publication did. (By the way, I don’t know what a “gilt yield” is but evidently the world’s money is fleeing to the safety of the United Kingdom’s government too. You can follow the link from this article but suffice it to say they are at their lowest rate since 1896.)

”After years of this kind of thing, it's difficult to know what more to say. Markets and history alike are indicating the direction in which advanced economies are heading. We can't be completely certain about the nature of the recession and weak recovery, but we can be confident enough to know what general actions are necessary.”

For me, it’s coming down to this; If you don’t believe in the Keynesian economic model, then what’s your plan? The only large scale example we have is the recovery from World War II. Granted, that isn’t much. But what examples do the other folks -- the anti-Keynesians -- have? (Oddly enough, when I did a search on “anti-Keynesian”, I was returned to The Economist.)

For me, this comes closer to the real truth. From The New Republic in September of 2010.

Explaining GOP Anti-Keynesianism

”It's a fairly fringe view (anti-Keynesian), and one that has had little purchase in the GOP before 2009, and had essentially no support during the 2001 recession. But it's also worth noting that this view totally comports with the party's political interests. The largest factor in the party's political success in 2010 and 2012, by far, is the economy. republicans have no incentive to support policies that would stimulate growth. Now, they probably don't want to walk around thinking that their role is to deepen the recession. That's where the newly vogue anti-Keynesian policies come in. It provides a handy intellectual framework to justify self-serving behavior.”

(In case you don’t remember, Republicans were all about stimulus in 2001.)

And there you have it. Consciously or not, the Republican leaders have decided that their political future trumps the country’s future. The program that has the best chance of working -- massive stimulus in the form of government spending -- might get President Obama reelected. And we just can't have that.

You did notice the background on that video, right? Politics trumps all. Even when the fate of the world is at stake.

Don Brown
August 22, 2011

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Say Again? Again? Again?

How long do these guys have to be right before we pay attention? How long must they say the same thing again and again and again?

Robert Reich: Stock Tip: Be Worried. Workers are Consumers.

”Repeat after me: Workers are consumers. Consumers are workers.”

”Every CEO of every company that continues to squeeze payrolls (Verizon, are you listening? Ford?) needs to understand they’re shooting themselves in the feet. Where do they expect demand for their products and services to come from?

They’re doing the reverse of what Henry Ford did back in 1914 – paying his workers three times what the typical factory employee earned at the time. The Wall Street Journal called his action “an economic crime” but Ford knew it was a cunning business move. With higher wages, his workers became his customers, snapping up Model-Ts and generating huge profits.”

Ford Motor Company assembly line

Do you get it? Henry Ford (no friend of Labor) got it. Why can’t today’s knuckleheads? And speaking of The Wall Street Journal...

Paul Krugman: Fancy Theorists of the World Unite

”A number of people have pointed me to this remarkable editorial by Stephen Moore in the WSJ. What’s remarkable isn’t the views; it’s the all-out embrace of anti-intellectualism. It actually denounces “fancy theories” and rejects them because they “defy common sense”.”

A quick tangent. If you don’t recognize Stephen Moore’s name, you should read his Wikipedia entry.

”Stephen Moore is an American economic writer and policy analyst who founded and served as president of the Club for Growth from 1999 to 2004. He is currently a member of the Wall Street Journal editorial board and frequently opines on the pages of their op-ed section. Moore is known for advocating free-market policies and supply-side economics.”

A feared PAC, Heritage, Cato, Dick Armey, voodoo economics and the WSJ editorial board. This guy has more bad associations than any Republican could hope for. You’ll notice him a lot if you’ll remember his name.

Back to Krugman:

”Gosh, if that’s the way the right is going, the next thing you know they’ll reject the theory of evolution. Oh, wait.”

”I mean, common sense — or at least common sense as the WSJ sees it — would tell you that massive government borrowing would send interest rates soaring. And that’s certainly what the WSJ editorial page told its readers would happen. Only us fancy-schmancy Keynesians said otherwise; and here’s what actually happened:”

You’ll have to go to the entry to see the charts. But you might remember when I told you 3% interest on a 10 year T-bill was “cheap money” for us. It’s now down to 2%. 2.06% to be exact.

Still with Krugman: Awesome Wrongness

”OK, seriously: things are looking really terrible, And crucially, they’re looking terrible in the wrong way, at least if you wanted to believe that political and policy debate over the past year and a half made any sense at all. We’ve been utterly preoccupied with deficits, deficits, deficits...”

”And here we are, with markets now deeply worried not by deficits but by stalling growth, fearing not fiscal profligacy but fiscal austerity, and with interest rates at historic lows.

Instead of turning into Greece, we’ve turned into Japan, except much worse. And policy is replaying 1937.”

If you’re not familiar with it, 1937 is the year FDR was convinced to start worrying about the nation’s debt instead of worrying about the nation’s people -- worrying about the future instead of the present. We stopped spending and started paying down the debt. And went right back into a recession. See the “Recession in depression” tag below? That was 1937.

So, let’s check on my pet model -- history repeats itself. 1929 (Wall Street Crash) to 1937 (Recession in Depression) is 8 years. 2008 ( Wall Street Crash) to 2012 (Next year’s recession) is only 6 years. Hmmm. Could things be happening faster? Let’s hope not. After all, what we’re trying to avoid is that last entry on the chart above. There are worse things than a Depression.

By the way, do notice where the economy really took off. “U.S. rearmament begins in earnest”. Some of us call that “government spending by any other name...”. And the Great Depression wasn’t the only example of it working.

Don Brown
August 20, 2011

Friday, August 19, 2011

Speed Read 8-19-11

I’ve been having way too much fun, reading The Guardian this morning. The day is quickly closing and with it, the week. So, here is some reading for the weekend, without much commentary.

First, a story I never got to this week, from NPR’s Fresh Air.

Rating The Wall Street Ratings Agencies

”"The SEC had the job of figuring how much capital broker-dealers would have to set aside in order to remain safe," Partnoy says. "So they said, 'We're going to designate these [ratings] agencies ... to do our work for us. You go out and rate these bonds.' And more and more regulators [like the SEC] thought this was a good idea. ”

Deregulation? Privatization? And be sure to look for the bit about your pension fund and mutual fund have to invest in AAA.

The rest of the stories are from The Guardian.

Barack Obama is on course for a second term – against all the odds

”Well, yes, that's all true. And he has not been a particularly brave or effective president either. Democrat or Republican, I'd be pretty disappointed, too. But election campaigns are about choice of both candidate and their policies. So Obama's luck lies in the near-unbelievable fact that the Republicans look determined either to pick a loser or refuse to vote for someone who could win.”

It’s a good look at American national politics from the outside. Speaking of which...

US voters are not mad. Our stereotype of them is patronising and wrong

”America is a country of mad people governed by buffoons. That's the way a lot of Europeans are content to see it, no matter how much they love the US in other ways. A country of mad people because they are so religious, violent, overweight and in denial about things that look obvious from here but which the flag-wavers over there refuse to get.”

”Now, with 15 months to go before the next US presidential election, a spectre is haunting Europe. The spectre is the possibility Barack Obama might not be re-elected. In fact it's more than that. It's the sense, among a lot of Europeans and a lot of progressives – US ones too – that Obama wasn't as great as he seemed and that, as a result, he has allowed the mad people to get their act together again and prepare to elect another buffoon next November. Prejudices confirmed. Comfort zone resumed.”

It’s not so much a look at politicians as it is a look at the voters. Interesting stuff.

And last but not least, if you didn’t see it, another classic from the smartest man on TV.

Go read the comment section from wherever you saw the editorial from Warren Buffet in The New York Times. I want you to think of these people whenever you think of that Daily Show clip. And...whenever you vote.

Don Brown
August 19, 2011

Today’s Photo 8-19-11

Nice morning.

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

Don Brown
August 19, 2011

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Aircraft Porn? Ouija? What?

What the hell is aircraft porn? Honest to goodness. I’m sitting here playing with my new iPad (yeah, I know, the original air traffic Luddite) and I come across an article entitled Aircraft Porn. What? Okay, I guess you need to know how I got here. Well, at least I think you need to know...

An “early adopter” I am not. But despite what you might hear, I’m not against technology. So, I got an iPad. There are a bewildering number of things you can do with any computer and if you wander into The App Store, abandon all hope. While I’ve managed to dodge Angry Birds so far, I did download a program I’ve never heard of before. (Gasp! The Luddite experiments!) It’s called Flipboard. Near as I can tell, it’s a collection of content from other sources. You can pick what sources you want to “favorite” but the Flipboard staff will ease you towards their favorites too and I decided to let them. I needed to start reading some new things from new sources.

I guess you could call them digital editors of a digital magazine. I treat it like any other magazine -- I open it up and start flipping through it. That’s how I found this at Gizmodo.

Here’s What It Looks Like When a Drone Crashes into a C-130

Before you run off and look, the C-130 was hit by an RQ-7 drone and they didn’t supply a picture of that.

Shadow 200 UAV (2)

Now you can go look. (Hurry back.)

The FAA is going to have some kind of fun figuring out how to keep drones separated from the rest of the airplanes.

While I was there, I ran across the aircraft porn.

Just Looking at the Latest Aircraft Porn

”I'm hooked to the US Navy and US Air Force's Flickr feeds. Why, because they sometimes contain some incredibly beautiful and interesting images of planes in the field. You should check them out too.”

If you’re like me and didn’t know the Air Force and Navy had Flickr feeds...if you don’t know what Flickr is...go check out the page. I take it that “porn” is any visual medium that drives you to distraction. Airplane pictures fit for most of my readers.

And last but not least, one of my readers was kind enough to send me a link to a story on the Navy’s legendary ouija boards.

US Navy 110813-N-JO245-024 Lt. Cmdr Eric Harrington shows distinguished visitors from Vietnam the Ouija board in flight deck control aboard the air

Old-school 'Ouija Board' being phased out on Navy carriers

”One of the most low-tech pieces of equipment on one of the Navy’s most high-tech ships is being replaced.

The “Ouija Board,” which has tracked aircraft movement on aircraft carriers since World War II, is being phased out of the sea service in the name of technological development. ”

If this story interests you, be sure to read the comments section. Swear, I didn’t write them. I love my iPad but I’d rather bet my life on a ouija board -- or a flight progress strip.

Don Brown
August 18, 2011

On Military Retirement

A reader forwarded two stories to me, both of which are pertinent to my readers. First, I’m going to write to a group that doesn’t necessarily read this blog -- members of the military. I know there are some out there and I’m asking you and them to forward this to your friends that are making a career in the armed forces.

Here’s the background; A story that ran on CBS News.

Radical overhaul of military retirement eyed

”The proposal comes from an influential panel of military advisors called the Defense Business Board. Their plan, laid out in a 24-page presentation "Modernizing the Military Retirement System," would eliminate the familiar system under which anyone who serves 20 years is eligible for retirement at half their salary. Instead, they'd get a 401k-style plan with government contributions.”

First, for those that don’t read this blog, I was a civilian air traffic controller employed by the United States Department of Transportation -- Federal Aviation Administration. The most pertinent fact is that I was among the last to have a standard government pension -- CSRS. Shortly after I was hired, the Federal government started switching everyone over to FERS -- a 401k-type retirement. I do not care to get into the specifics of each program or a detailed comparison. I am not a retirement expert. I’m just an average guy that doesn’t want to think about money any more than I have to. And therein lies my advice.

Whatever anybody tells you, whatever promises are made, a 401k-type retirement isn’t worth what a standard civil service retirement -- a pension -- is worth. Don’t let Congress change your retirement plan. That’s my advice. Read on if you like.

It’s a given that FERS isn’t worth a CSRS retirement. The very fact that they are trying to change to a “cheaper” way of funding retirements tells you that. But that is only half the problem. FERS forces you to become an “investor”. Here’s a news flash. Not everyone is cut out to be an investor. That’s the reason the world is lousy with financial advisors.

You will be tempted to play around with your retirement. At the very least, you will be required to choose what type of funds (stocks, bonds or securities) you want your money in. Most of you aren’t qualified to do that. I know because most air traffic controllers aren’t qualified to make those decisions.

Look at it this way. Do you think a Wall Street trader could sail a destroyer without training? Do you think one could call in artillery fire? Do you think one could work an arrival push into LaGuardia? Of course not. But you’re supposed to figure out where to invest your money with no training. Even if you planned to put your money in nothing but the safest investments, you have to keep your eye on your money. Like a dog worrying over a bone. And as we all know now, your Triple-A portfolio can transform into a “toxic asset” when Wall Street decides to get too greedy.

On the other hand, if Uncle Sam looks after your retirement, it’s as safe as it can get. I’m about to show my other readers that it isn’t completely safe. It’s just as safe as anyone can make it. Trust me on this. There won’t be a Wall Street without a United States government. And you folks are the ones that ensure there will be a United States government. You deserve every penny you earn -- pay and retirement -- and all Americans know it.

Now, on to story #2 and my regular readers:

Postal Service proposes cutting 120,000 jobs, pulling out of health-care plan

This is from page #1 (emphasis added):

”For health insurance plans, the paper said, the Postal Service wanted to withdraw its 480,000 pensioners and 600,000 active employees from the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program “and place them in a new, Postal Service administered” program.”

This is from page #2:

”The USPS said it needs to reduce its workforce by 120,000 career positions by 2015, from a total of about 563,400, on top of the 100,000 it expects by attrition. Some of the 120,000 could come through buyouts and other programs, but a significant number would probably result from layoffs if Congress allows the agency to circumvent union contracts.”

I hope I have the attention of the air traffic control crowd now. Remember when Congress interfered with our contract? Successfully? Now they are going to come after the rest of government employees.

This is the position your profession holds whether you like it or not. You are the front line. That is the reality. If Republicans can take on the controllers and beat them, they can take on the rest of civil service. It was that way with PATCO. (Remember the 1970 newspaper image with the PATCO slowdown and the postal contract negotiations on the same page?) It’s that way today. You should know it. The rest of government employees should know it.

To steal a pertinent line; You can all hang together or you can all hang separately.

You must bear in mind that our current financial difficulties are temporary. This is the worst situation in 75 years. Don’t let Congress destroy our long-term institutions over a short-term problem. The Armed Forces and Post Office are older than any political party in America. If you’ll stand up and fight, they’ll be here long after the current political parties are gone.

Don Brown
August 18, 2011

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Today’s Photo 8-16-11

A beautiful morning. Doubly so for August in Georgia.

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

Don Brown
August 16, 2011

ERAM Update 8-16-11

The Google News alert on ERAM went off again last night. From Fierce Government IT:

ERAM plan shows deployment rate of 5 to 7 a year

”The Federal Aviation Administration plans to deploy a troubled software effort to its 20 air route traffic control centers at a rate of 5 to 7 a year through Sept. 30, 2014, according to a corrective action plan obtained by FierceGovernmentIT through a Freedom of Information Act request.”

Is it a bad sign when a news organization has to file a Freedom of Information Act request to get information about a multi-billion dollar NextGen program?

”The FAA, based on an October 2010 Mitre study (also obtained by FierceGovernmentIT through FOIA), recently estimated that ERAM will cost $330 million more than expected and not be fully deployed until the fall of 2014.”

I’m guessing it’s a bad sign. Especially when you have to file two FOIA requests. And I’m also guessing that $330 million will not begin to cover the cost overruns on ERAM.

Read the full story here.

If you ever want to read a summary of the ERAM program’s history, a small newspaper in Southern California has taken an interest in the program -- The Argonaut. They have a two-part story on their web site which is really a compilation of numerous sources including this blog, Fierce Government IT and Inspector General reports. It’s dense and complicated reading, but it’s all in one place and laid out in a logical fashion. That’s always a nice thing to have.

Here’s part one.

And part two.

Don Brown
August 16, 2011

Monday, August 15, 2011

The Other 98%

I’ve known about this group for less than an hour. But in that hour, I haven’t seen a thing I didn’t like and many things that I thought were awesome. Please, please, please let this be the real thing.

Speaking of which...(not suitable for kids.)

Here’s the web site. The Other 98%

Here’s their Facebook page.

If you know who the money behind the group is, I’d be interested in knowing. I’m hoping it is a union. But I don’t know and that is the only thing that is giving me pause at the moment.

Don Brown
August 15, 2011

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Tivo Alert 8-14-11

It’s like Christmas at Get the Flick. Fareed Zakaria -- of Global Public Square -- came up with the best Facebook headline I’ve ever seen:

GPS this Sunday: Krugman calls for space aliens to fix U.S. economy

You can’t top that. I don’t care who you are.

That’s this Sunday -- August 14th -- on CNN at 10AM and 1PM EST. Here’s the teaser.

Don Brown
August 13, 2011

Friday, August 12, 2011

Today’s Photo 8-12-11

I don’t know why we keep getting such nice sunrises in August...but who I’m I to argue?

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

Don Brown
August 12, 2011

Thursday, August 11, 2011

ERAM Update 8-11-11

ERAM is still in a holding pattern. As far as I can tell, nothing has changed. From Aviation Week:

More Schedule Challenges For ERAM

”The FAA’s two-week partial shutdown has jeopardized the timetable for introducing a new en route ATC system, a further blow to a crucial program that has already suffered major delays.”

I’ll limit my comment to one part;

”The union would not comment on the status of the program, although it had previously raised concerns about ERAM before it signed an agreement to become more involved in testing.”

That’s an odd position to take. But considering that NATCA’s official position on ERAM hasn’t been made public (at least anywhere I’ve seen), I guess I shouldn’t be surprised.

Don Brown
August 11, 2011

Fox & Fear

I told you just a few days ago that I’d started reading a new (to me) British newspaper The Guardian. I didn’t have to wait long for that to pay some dividends.

Roger Ailes and the rise of Fox News

Even Rupert Murdoch is afraid of Roger Ailes, the paranoid boss of Fox News. But 'the Chairman' is using his power to make Americans more rightwing, more ignorant and ever more terrified

Catchy title, huh? It’s not nearly as eloquent as the rest of the article.

”In place of the logo for Fox News was a beneficent visage: the face of the network's founder. The man known to his fiercest loyalists simply as "the Chairman" – Roger Ailes.

"It was as though we were looking at Mao," recalls Charlie Reina, a former Fox News producer. The Foxistas went wild.”

In case you’ve never heard of the “cult of personality”, you might want to check it out.

(BTW, if you’ve never heard the song “Cult of Personality”, you might want to check it out too. Let’s just say it will “expand your horizons”.)

”To watch even a day of Fox News – the anger, the bombast, the virulent paranoid streak, the unending appeals to white resentment, the reporting that is held to the same standard of evidence as a political campaign attack ad – is to see a refraction of its founder, one of the most skilled and fearsome operatives in the history of the Republican party.

I assume something different jumps out at everyone in a sentence that long. For me it was “white resentment”. That’s big down here in the Confederacy. I wish I could find a map of Fox News viewers. I would love to see the concentration of viewers in the South as compared to the rest of the country. Regardless, think about that “white resentment” remark and then think back to the early days of the Tea Party. (Please take the time to watch both videos at that link. They’re enlightening.) I can’t tell you the last time I saw a crowd this white.

Tea Party - Pennsylvania Avenue

Back to the article:

”And by incubating a host of potential Republican contenders on the Fox News payroll – including Sarah Palin, Mike Huckabee, Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum – Ailes seems determined to add a fifth presidential notch to his belt in 2012. "Everything Roger wanted to do when he started out in politics, he's now doing 24/7 with his network," says a former News Corp executive. "It's come full circle."”

Oh yeah, this article is worth your time. If you’re pressed for time and you’ve already read the Rolling Stone article about Roger Ailes, you can skip it. But do send it to your Fox-watching friends. I don’t mind them being right wing, but I don’t think anyone should be more ignorant and terrified.

Don Brown
August 11, 2011

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Abandon Hope

Abandon hope all ye who enter here.

In case you’re like me and you’ve never read Dante’s Divine Comedy, that quote is inscribed on the gates of Hell.

Gustave Doré - Dante Alighieri - Inferno - Plate 8 (Canto III - Abandon all hope ye who enter here)

Perhaps I’m being a little melodramatic. Perhaps not. If you’ll remember, my personal working model is that history repeats itself. I’m using the Great Depression as a model to understand the current Great Recession. And, as we all know, the Great Depression ended in World War II. I’m hoping and praying that the Great Recession doesn’t end the same way.

Last night, right before I went to bed, I read Robert Reich’s latest blog and I intended to use it as a starting point for my own ruminations. And, of course, Krugman beat me to it. And he also got to Stiglitz before I did. (How does he do it?) I occasionally check on other economists as a backstop to my love of all-things-Krugman and Stiglitz is usually the first one I check.

I read Stiglitz’s piece in The Moscow Times a couple of days ago but I’m leery of sending my readers to a Russian site. (Enter at your own risk. I’m betting the Russian dating sites are really dodgy.)

Anyway, Krugman has it all wrapped up in a neat package with a ribbon tied around it.

Dismal Thoughts

”The bad news is that policy makers almost everywhere have failed dismally, and seem determined not to take on board the lessons of experience, either historical or what we’ve learned the past few years.”

He goes on to quote Joseph Stiglitz:

”When the recession began there were many wise words about having learnt the lessons of both the Great Depression and Japan’s long malaise. Now we know we didn’t learn a thing.”

Then he quotes Robert Reich:

”So rather than fight for a bold jobs plan, the White House has apparently decided it’s politically wiser to continue fighting about the deficit.”

Krugman goes on to make his own points. I’ll go on and make mine.

The riots in Greece and England are connected to all this. Greece has had to impose budget “austerity” because of their budget problems. The United Kingdom actually voted for it. Prime Minister Gordon Brown and President Barack Obama joined hands to fight for a large stimulus package to bring the world out of recession. Obama was thwarted (in part) by the Republican Party. Gordon Brown was voted out of office and replaced by David Cameron. The Labor government was replaced by a Conservative government. And the Conservatives -- naturally -- chose austerity. In this case, “austerity” is a euphemism for “the rich stay rich and the poor get poorer."

In case you aren’t following, the United Kingdom decided to “cut spending” and work on decreasing their debt back in October of 2010. Just like we decided to do the same thing during the debt ceiling debate last week. So the United Kingdom is about a year (10 months) ahead of us with this economic policy. How’s that working out for them?

Police with riot shields in Lewisham, 2011

Do you think the view in Greece is any different?

Greek riot police 1

More importantly, how is all this working out for them economically?

U.K. Data Cast Doubt on Growth Hopes

”LONDON—Disappointing figures on U.K. exports and manufacturing output Tuesday raised further doubts about the government's growth strategy, which relies on these sectors powering an economic recovery in the coming months.”

Please note that I’m quoting from the Wall Street Journal. I’m biased, but I try to be fair. The UK’s economy is just limping along -- just like ours has except they are experiencing a lot more social pain. Does this sound like a road we want to go down?

But to top it all off, you have to understand this previous piece from Krugman. You see, we are not the United Kingdom and we sure as hell aren’t Greece. We are the United States of America and even after all the debt ceiling theatrics brought to us by the Tea Party players...foreign money is pouring into U.S. securities. Literally -- foreigners are paying us to borrow their money.

Free Money!

I’m not going to quote Krugman because sarcasm doesn’t translate well. You might find it confusing. To be honest, I’m scared I’m getting it wrong. We’re the ones that are borrowing the money. We’re supposed to pay them interest. Except, the chart is showing negative interest. Investors are paying the United States to keep their money safe.

Seriously, you have to look at the chart. The interest on a 5 year “loan” is minus 0.84%. The math hurts my head but I can understand the basic idea. In a normal world, we’d borrow $1,000 and have to pay back (say) $1,100 in 5 years. But nothing is normal. Right now, we “borrow” $1,000 and at the end of 5 years we only have to give them $900 back. (The math god says the real number -- $1,000 at -0.84 for 5 years +math caveats I don’t understand is $958 and change.)

It’s unreal. Except it is real. Look at this:

BNY Mellon imposes fee on rapidly growing deposits

”BNY Mellon said the fee would be imposed on big corporate and asset management clients that deposit more money than average, because it has been overwhelmed by deposits.”

Everybody knows that you deposit your money in a savings account and the bank pays you interest. Except now, this one is charging you to deposit your cash. I don’t want to go into more explanations, I just want to make my point. We aren’t in a normal time.

And if the economy of our time isn’t normal, why on earth would we expect normal solutions to work?

But President Obama embraced austerity with the debt-ceiling deal. And that is as “normal” as you can get. Politics as usual. And politics has once again triumphed over science and facts. If you think we can’t have riots in our streets over bad economic choices, you are wrong.

Shacks, put up by the Bonus Army on the Anacostia flats, Washington, DC, burning after the battle with the military, 193 - NARA - 531102

Speaking of Hell, has anybody asked the Texans and their ex-governor about global warming lately?

Don Brown
August 10, 2011

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Today’s Photo 8-9-11

Believe it or not, I almost forgot to show up. I know you’ll ooooh and aaaaah about this one but you’d kick me if you saw what I missed by being late.

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

Oh, and instead of my usual sunrise, this is the sunset from a few minutes ago.

Don Brown
August 9, 2011

Missing Mica

I missed all the fun with Chairman John Mica. And I’m really disappointed. I has so many plans. But I guess the world economy collapsing trumps messing around with Mica.

In case you missed the news in this article...

The FAA shutdown and the new rules of Washington

”Congressman John Mica, the Florida Republican blamed for single-handedly shutting down the Federal Aviation Administration, sounded like a beaten man when he called me Thursday evening.

The usually biting chairman of the House transportation committee spoke with remorse about the standoff, which put 74,000 people on furlough or out of work, delayed airport-safety projects and cost hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars.”

I don’t believe that for a second. Do you? Seriously, does this sound like John Mica?

”“I didn’t know it would cause this much consternation,” Mica said. “Now I’ve just got to get the broom and the shovel and clean up the mess.” Switching metaphors, he said he wanted “to unclog the toilet, but it backed up. So I don’t know what to do, what to say.””

He didn’t know that laying off 4,000 FAA employees and then going on vacation would cause a lot of “consternation”? Sure he did. He just thought he had a way to deflect the blame onto the Democrats. He was wrong. And I bet Chairman Mica knows exactly what he wants to do. I bet as soon as the heat is off, he’ll start doing it. Again.

But wait! There’s more!

”Mica started out with a sensible aim: He wanted to clean up years of messy funding for the FAA.”

No he didn’t. Come on, Dana. He’s toting the standard barge full of Republican anti-union legislation.

In his defense, Dana Milbank goes on to make those same points. And others. But John Mica isn’t the least bit concerned about “messy funding”. He’s concerned about putting the funding in the “right” hands.

This article is chock full of lines you need to read. You can believe most of Milbank’s. Don’t believe Mica’s for a second.

”“People don’t have to get so personal,” he said with a sigh. “A lot of people hate me now and think I’m the worst thing in the world for what I did.” It’s “this sort of gotcha,” he said, “that’s changed the dynamics of people working more effectively together.””

“Personal”? You go without a paycheck, Mr. Chairman, and see if you don’t take it personally. And we don’t just hate you “now”.

I’ll end with a “good job” to all those that called their Congressmen to pressure Mica into a settlement. See what happens when you stand up and fight? (Read the article. Even Mica was surprised.)

Don’t think for a minute that Mica wouldn’t have left the FAA’s employees twisting in the wind while he took a 5 week vacation. That’s the reason I had my favorite artist photoshop this for me.

I was going to start a “Where’s Mica” campaign. I have to admit, it wasn’t an original idea on my part. I found it while searching for a permanent solution to the Mica problem. I’ll save it for next time. Yes, there will be a next time. Count on it.

Don Brown
August 9, 2011

Monday, August 08, 2011


Are the guys at Wikipedia fast or what? The market hasn’t even been closed 30 minutes.

List of largest daily changes in the Dow Jones Industrial Average

The red circles are from today. Unfortunately, the yellow circles are from Thursday. And while I’m putting up pretty pictures, I might as well show you the one from Google Finance. It’s for a one month period, ending today.

Don Brown
August 8, 2011

Our Biggest Problem

It’s a little mental exercise I was running through this weekend; “The world’s financial system is falling apart. We have to finally makes some serious reforms. What is the one thing you would do to fix it?”

Our banks are “too big to fail”. America won’t be able straighten out its financial mess until we tackle the housing-market problem. I’m not sure I’ve ever mentioned high-frequency trading but that needs to stop. Today. It is madness.

”In high-frequency trading, programs analyze market data to capture trading opportunities that may open up for only a fraction of a second to several hours.”

US Navy 090526-N-6367N-042 Rear Adm. John Christenson, commander, Carrier Strike Group Twelve, and Lawrence Leibowitz, Group Executive Vice President, New York Stock Exchange Euronext, ring the bell to open the New York Stock E

If you’re trading stocks for a split second -- literally buying and then selling a stock in under a second, much less an hour -- then you are engaged in market manipulation and/or gambling. You are not an “investor” in any sense of the word.

All of those are big problems. But how do you fix them? What do you do first? And the point of this exercise is to make you focus on the core problems. As was demonstrated again during the debt ceiling debate, we can’t seem to focus on more than one thing at a time. So, what’s the “one thing” that we fix?

For me, it’s the Fairness Doctrine. Whabuddlebuddlewhacuddle-say what? You heard me. The Fairness Doctrine. First, a little background on the subject.

”The Fairness Doctrine was a policy of the United States Federal Communications Commission (FCC), introduced in 1949, that required the holders of broadcast licenses to both present controversial issues of public importance and to do so in a manner that was, in the Commission's view, honest, equitable and balanced. The doctrine was abolished in 1987.”


Those that can keep their dates straight already have some insight into the problem. The Fairness Doctrine was dropped during the Reagan Administration. But there is an even more compelling lesson -- an example -- as to the dangers of unrestrained propaganda. Rush Limbaugh.

”In 1984, Limbaugh returned to radio as a talk show host at KFBK in Sacramento, California, where he replaced Morton Downey, Jr. The repeal of the Fairness Doctrine—which had required that stations provide free air time for responses to any controversial opinions that were broadcast—by the FCC in 1987 meant stations could broadcast editorial commentary without having to present opposing views. Daniel Henninger wrote, in a Wall Street Journal editorial, "Ronald Reagan tore down this wall (the Fairness Doctrine) in 1987 ... and Rush Limbaugh was the first man to proclaim himself liberated from the East Germany of liberal media domination.”

This argument is nothing new. What is new is the mounting evidence of the damage being done. Reality and facts now have to compete with fantasy and fiction as equals. What is now becoming more evident than ever is the power that radio and television hold over people in comparison to print media. I can write something profound and it will be forgotten within a week because you are only going to read it once. But with radio and television, the people that run these media can make you remember -- if not believe -- almost anything.

“Tastes great! Less Filling!” “You deserve a break today.” “Can you hear me now?” “Fair & Balanced” “Obama was born in Kenya.”

There really isn’t any difference in those ideas. My generation was made to memorize the Gettysburg Address. “Four score and seven years ago”...something...something...something. Nobody made us memorize “Born to Be Wild”. But 40+ years later (that hurt didn’t it?) most of us still know the words while we couldn’t recite the Gettysburg Address is our lives depended upon it. (You can judge the relative value of those two on your own.) Repetition with the occasional reinforcement and the message gets across. And it sticks with you.

Obama was born in Kenya. Global warming is fake science. Lower taxes leads to more jobs.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t want to shut Rush up. I don’t even want to shut Glenn Beck up. I just want someone responsible to come in behind them and point out that these guys are entertainers and they’re slightly nuts. Speaking of nuts, do any of y’all remember J.B. Stoner? I thought about putting the video up (there is one) but it’s so offensive I can’t stand to do it.

J.B Stoner -- as big a racist as you can imagine -- would show up on the TV down here in Georgia when he’d run for office. And somebody with a bucket, broom and shovel would come right in behind him to clean up the mess. This station does not condone nor endorse this viewpoint but under the Fairness Doctrine, he has a right to be heard. Or something along those lines. J.B. Stoner had a God-given right to speak his mind in a public venue. We didn’t have to censor him. We just had to air a rational viewpoint next to his and everything took care of itself.

We don’t have to bring back the Fairness Doctrine as it was last used. (After all, some things have changed.) We just need to enact something like it. I bet you can guess who will fight it.

Like so many things in this vein, I was too chicken to jump into this fight on my own. It will never “sell” in this environment. (I’m watching the ticker as I’m typing this. The DJI just went below 11,000.) But as I was double checking to make sure Krugman was still the voice of sanity in America (he is), I checked to see what Martin Wolf had to say about our economy. Instead, I found this from him:

Seize the chance for media reform

”Intimidated children rounding on the playground bully – that is the spectacle in the UK since the News of the World phone-hacking scandal exploded. As one who has long believed that the influence of Rupert Murdoch on UK public life was quite intolerable, I am delighted to see this reversal of fortune. But rage is not enough. The UK must seize this chance to reconsider the structure and regulation of its media.”

If you’re interested in the subject, give Mr. Wolf’s article a read. Trust me, he’s more eloquent on the subject than I’ll ever be.

Don Brown
August 8, 2011