Friday, September 30, 2011

Full of Baloney

I would really hate to be in Jon Stewart’s cross hairs. Especially if I’d done something so incredibly stupid, in such a cowardly way.

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If you’d like the straight-man take on all this, I’d recommend James Fallows -- here, here and here.

I hope you noticed the appearance of these guys on “The Street”.

Don Brown
September 30, 2011

A New Tag

I was reading Krugman (big duh) and decided I needed a new “tag” for the Republican Party/Party of the Rich/The Confederate Party.

Unrecoveries and the New Normal

”Larry Mishel has a very good piece systematically debunking the zombie claim that fears of regulation are holding back job creation. There is, literally, not a shred of evidence for this claim — not in the numbers, not in what businesses say. Yet it has been eagerly adopted not just by Republican politicians but by Chicago economists, Federal Reserve presidents, and more. I think the willingness of so many people to completely abandon any intellectual principles here, so that they can play for Team Republican — or maybe we should call that Team Oligarch — is part of what has me down these days.”

Some of you have a natural gift for language and probably don’t realize that there are those of us that don’t grasp the nuances of language so quickly. My wife looked an me like I was stupid the other day (okay, it actually isn’t that rare of an event) when it dawned on me that if you drop the “F” off of “Fowl” you are left with “Owl”. It’s really obvious -- I know -- but noticing it is altogether different. It amazes me how many people don’t notice the different colors and shades of light bulbs. Anyhow...

In recent times, the word “oligarch” has been used to describe the newly rich -- fabulously rich -- in Russia. It isn’t a term of endearment.

””The Guardian” described the oligarchs as "about as popular with your average Russian as a man idly burning bundles of £50s outside an orphanage”.”

And with that thought done...there’s another bit of language I want to talk about -- a billion. On occasion, I will be using “a thousand million” in place of a billion. That’s because I think we fail to grasp the enormity of the number. Let me rephrase; I think we fail to grasp the enormous power a billion -- one thousand million -- dollars gives an individual.

Most of us can grasp $1,000. Let’s say you’re walking down the street on your way to dinner with one thousand dollars in cash on you and a street urchin asks you for a dollar. It’s nothing to you. It’s a dollar. You spent more than that on parking. That’s like a politician asking a billionaire for a million-dollar campaign donation.

In that the legal limit for an individual is $2,500 -- it’s less than pocket change for our $1,000 is a billion analogy. The legal limit is a quarter of a cent. You can donate the legal limit to every single member of Congress (435 in the House, 100 in the Senate) for $1.34. You’d still have $998.66.

Do you think you’d miss less than 2 bucks if you had a thousand in your pocket? Do you understand why there are PACs and why the Citizens United case is so important? Do you understand how much influence and access you can gain for mere “pocket change”?

Some things haven’t changed.

(John D. Rockefeller handing out dimes)

Don Brown
September 30, 2011

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Check Your Primary

I have no idea why this thought hit me. Yet here it is.

Have any of you Center controllers checked your radar display for primary targets lately? Somebody has had to work an aircraft with a broken transponder. How is the primary radar working these days? Is anyone maintaining it?

I have no idea. I was just thinking, the radar techs must be getting fewer and further between. Did any of the new guys have a chance to learn how to maintain the primary portion of the radar sites before the old guys left? In typical FAA fashion, they started bleeding radar techs because everybody (well not everybody) thought primary radar was going to go the way of the typewriter. And then, of course, 9/11 happened and it dawned on everyone (including the DOD) that we might actually need the capability to track an aircraft that didn’t want to be tracked. (This site will take you to a level of geek that is beyond my comfort zone. You have been warned.)

But while you’re at it, take a look at the primary weather display. You know, the old “hash marks” for moderate rain and “H”s for heavy rain? Has anybody checked on that lately? Is it even still displayable? (Yes, I have been gone a while.) Don’t forget, the weather data from the ARSR is a lot closer to real time than NEXRAD/WARP.

If you’ve never read it, I believe an article I wrote for AVweb is still pertinent. Read it. You can always tell me if it isn’t.

Say Again? #71: Weather Radar

Don Brown
September 28, 2011

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Krugman Envy

I appreciate clarity of thought. I appreciate succinctness. I suppose because I don’t feel as if I possess either.

How does Krugman do this -- seemingly off the top of his head? This is his blog. It isn’t a column. It’s not like he doesn’t teach, travel all over the world, appear on dozens of TV shows and write two columns a week for the nation’s greatest newspaper. I feel so inadequate.

In responding to this quote from Thomas Friedman;

We know what to do — a Grand Bargain: short-term stimulus to ease us through this deleveraging process, debt restructuring in the housing market and long-term budget-cutting to put our fiscal house in order.

Krugman says:

That is, what Tom describes as the centrist position both parties know they should adopt, but refuse to do because of partisanship on both sides, is in fact the actually existing position of the Democratic party — a position that Republicans denounce as “socialist.”

I get this all the time from my Republican friends when I argue we need stimulus: “We have to pay down our debt”. That is true. But I always take it as a given -- a “big duh”. Of course we have to pay it down. The point is we don’t have to do it right this second.

Right now the house is on fire and we need to put out the fire. We’ll still owe the money we borrowed even if the house burns down. We need to save the house first and worry about paying the mortgage later.

Yes, it will be hard to win the fight to raise taxes when times are good again. Personally, I think that is what worries the Republicans the most about the future. When times are good and it’s time to act like adults, pay our debts and sock some money away...they’ll still want to cut taxes, fight any increase and refund any surplus the government might have. Just like George W. Bush did.

Don Brown
September 27, 2011

Trust Me, It’s You

From the smartest man on television.

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Don Brown
September 27, 2011

Saturday, September 24, 2011

No Interest, No Return

Hey boys and girls, remember when I thought 3% interest on a 10-year T-bill was low? Yeah, well I didn’t know anything.

(Chart from Bloomberg)

That’s a closing rate of 1.83% after going as low as 1.67%. You can get it right off of the U.S. Treasury’s page if you’d like.

I say again, I know just enough about this stuff to be dangerous. I don’t even like keeping up with money. I’m not an economist. I just listen to one who is.

Freudian Headlines

”...last year austerity fever swept through the ranks of Very Serious People like a dance craze, and that both policy makers and the media are having a hard time returning to reality.

Part of the problem is that they stuck their necks out so far on behalf of magical thinking. Now it’s difficult to back down without in effect conceding that they have no idea what they’re talking about, which happens to be the simple truth.”

Meh — And I Mean That

”OK, the Fed moved. It was a bit stronger than expected — and BB (Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke) and company stood up to the GOP.

But seriously, they’re trying to use a water pistol to stop a charging rhino.”

One Point Seven Seven

”That’s the current interest rate on 10-year US bonds.

Remember, back in 2009 there was a big debate between people like me, who said that we were in a liquidity trap and that interest rates would stay low as long as the economy was depressed, and people like the WSJ editorial page and Niall Ferguson, who said that government borrowing would bring on the bond vigilantes and send rates soaring.

How’s it going?”

As Krugman says (read his blog), this isn’t just an exercise in “I Told You So” (even if that is one of my favorite pastimes.) This is about extracting ourselves from this economic mess. It is about which path to follow. It’s about what works and what doesn’t.

The easiest way to tell -- and the most important factor in all this -- is the unemployed. How many are unemployed and how long have they been unemployed? I don’t even have to check the statistics (and I bet you don’t either.) I’ve got family and friends that have been unemployed for years. Not months -- but years. That means we’ve had years to figure this out. What works? What doesn’t?

Austerity -- paying down debt by cutting government spending -- does not work. It hasn’t worked in Greece, it hasn’t worked in Ireland, nor Spain, nor the United Kingdom. Remember, we’re watching the United Kingdom.

Weak U.K. Growth Underlines Case to Slow Down Budget Cuts, Balls Says

”The International Monetary Fund cut its 2011 and 2012 U.K. growth forecasts this week to 1.1 percent and 1.6 percent respectively, and the head of the government’s fiscal watchdog, the Office for Budget Responsibility, signaled he was likely to follow suit.

Bank of England officials are already considering restarting their bond-purchase program and the junior coalition partners, the Liberal Democrats, are discussing the need to speed up capital spending to boost flagging demand.”

If that sounds familiar, that’s because it is. The Conservatives (like our Republicans) want to pay down the debt and the Bank of England (their Central Bank like our Fed) is thinking of buying up bonds, trying to get the economy going. The difference is that the United Kingdom is not politically paralyzed like we are. Their parliamentary system of government allows the majority party to implement a plan (in this case austerity) over the objections of the minority party. And they have. And it isn’t working.

If you’re lucky like me and retired with a pension, or you still have a job, this slow passage of economic hard times might not seem as critical. If so, I don’t think you’re looking down the road far enough. Remember where we started -- with 10-year T-bills? That represents ten years of no (or little) growth. Your house doesn’t appreciate. Your 401k doesn’t grow. For ten years. No interest. No return. A “Lost Decade”. Gee, I wonder where I learned that term?

Don Brown
September 24, 2011

Friday, September 23, 2011

Republicans and Unions

This video clip should be on a continuous loop in every NATCA local’s office throughout the country.

Forget Rick Santorum. Listen to the question. Listen to the crowd.

If you’re an air traffic controller and you’re voting for a Republican -- any Republican -- I have to question your intelligence. If you’re a union member and you’re voting for a Republican, I question your sanity.

Some of you may not remember when Federal employees were paid less than comparable private industry workers, but I do. Some of you may not remember when Federal job benefits were less than comparable private industry benefits, but I do. The only thing that changed that equation for air traffic controllers was NATCA.

Don Brown
September 23, 2011

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Plumbing Politics

It’s finally raining. That means no pictures but I finally have time to write a blog (or two.) I started off this morning with Richard Adam’s blog at The Guardian where this story caught my eye.

LightSquared and Solyndra: double trouble for Obama

”One of the consequences of Republicans winning control of the House of Representatives was always going to be embarrassing probes by congressional committees. Now the results are starting to come out.”

That sparked a memory so I started digging into the intertubes. The first thing I found was easy (of course). From back in June of 2010:

Darrell Issa has eye on subpoena team

”Rep. Darrell Issa, the conservative firebrand whose specialty is lobbing corruption allegations at the Obama White House, is making plans to hire dozens of subpoena-wielding investigators if Republicans win the House this fall. ”

In other words, anybody that follows politics knows that investigations are coming. This isn’t about governing. This is about using government to engage in politics. I used to be naive about these things. That doesn’t mean you have to be. Anyone that was around when Clinton was President remembers how this game is played. Investigate. Anything. Something is bound to pay off. If nothing else, you’ll keep the White House busy and distracted.

Next stop was to find out where the story broke. I mean the Solyndra story of course. The LightSquared story started back in George W. Bush’s presidency. According to, the story broke on the Mark Levin radio show. I’m not going to link because it throws a couple of pop ups at you and because I just don’t like them. Feel free to Google it if you’d like. On to Mark Levin (at Wikipedia).

”Mark Reed Levin (born September 21, 1957) is a lawyer, author and the host of American syndicated radio show “The Mark Levin Show” who served in the Reagan administration. He is president of the Landmark Legal Foundation, has authored bestselling books and contributes commentary to various media outlets such as National Review Online where he is a currently credited author.”

”Levin began his broadcast career as a guest on conservative talk radio programs. For many years he was a frequent contributor of legal opinions to The Rush Limbaugh Show, ...”

”He was also a contributor to The Sean Hannity Show...”

I have no idea what will become of all this. I have no idea if there has been any wrongdoing on anybody’s part. I just know politics are at play.

I’ll leave you with one other piece of the puzzle. It never gets much attention because it isn’t exciting, but the Obama Administration has a reputation as being clean. The Republicans love to scream about how much money it has spent but -- so far -- there hasn’t been scandal.

You don’t have to take my word for it. I was reminded of it when I read something a friend sent me.

Never-Wrong Pundit Picks Obama to Win in 2012

”Lichtman developed his 13 Keys in 1981. They test the performance of the party that holds the presidency. If six or more of the 13 keys go against the party in power, then the opposing party wins.”

”9. Scandal: The incumbent administration is untainted by major scandal. “This administration has been squeaky clean. There’s nothing on scandal,” says Lichtman. Another Obama win.”

How often have you ever heard “squeaky clean” in reference to a politician?

Don Brown
September 21, 2011

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

I Wish I Had...

I really meant to have a blog written for yesterday. But my wife’s car battery died on Sunday so I spent the day getting her car overhauled. (It’s a long story -- and not a pleasant or interesting one.)

Anyway, I might be able to get one in today. We’ll see. In the meantime, I’ll steer you towards the new blog in my blog roll with the words...

I wish I had written this. Every, single word. Wow.

New Census Data Show Just How Screwed the US Middle Class Really Is

”The Census Bureau released a whole bunch of data on income in the US for 2010 last week. The picture is seriously bleak, especially for the middle and lower classes. Let me show you just how bleak, with a series of charts.”

Go read it. Every, single chart. Every, single word.

Now, I’ll see if I can’t get a decent picture to post this morning too. See you after dawn.

Don Brown
September 20, 2011

Friday, September 16, 2011

What’s Next? Staying Put?

Once again, I read so much that I can’t remember where I’ve read stuff. But I don’t want you to think I’m an original thinker. These two thought struck me almost at the same time the other day and I think (and can envision) that they might be connected.

The first thought is, what is next for driving the economy? Whatever I read before had Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher betting on the banking sector. In other words, “the Next Big Thing” would be the financial sector. Innovations in computational capabilities would give rise to new “financial instruments”. That probably sounded pretty cool in 1980. In 2010, derivatives, mortgage-backed securities and credit default swaps don’t sound quite as sexy. They just sound like greed spreading at warp speed. The clarity of hindsight is remarkable isn’t it? (If I’m going too fast for you, here’s a previous post -- with an original thinker -- to put you in the right frame of mind.)

We’ve been through farming, logging, mining, oil, manufacturing, chemicals, aviation and computing. What’s next? What’s the “Next Big Thing”?

I think President Obama is betting on “green energy”. It’s too soon to tell if that will pay off -- even if it looks a little less promising this week.

The other thought that hit me was a little more personal. I still want to move to the mountains (it’s a lifelong dream) but it seems to be getting tougher. You may have heard that the housing crisis is limiting mobility but it’s easier to understand when it’s personal.

I own my home free and clear, so whatever the true value of a home may be (housing prices have fallen sharply since the Great Recession started) these days I own one and that’s how I think about it. I need a one-for-one swap. Whether my house is worth $100,000, $200,000 or $300,000 isn’t relevant to my situation as long as the rest of the housing markets remain in their relative positions. I sell mine and buy one in the mountains. Except nothing is selling.

And that’s the rub, of course. I could buy one in the mountains (people are selling) but I’m not sure I could sell mine. And if I’m stuck with two houses for months and months while I’m paying a mortgage on one and the value of both houses continues to decline while that mortgage doesn’t... You get the picture. So, like millions of Americans right now, I don’t move.

I assume other people have other reasons but the fact remains that home “owners” can’t move. Even to take a new (and supposedly better paying) job. If you can’t sell your house you can’t afford to move. And that brings a whole new dynamic to America’s society.

I’ve moved so many times that I’ve lost count. And while there are still some places and some communities that seem stable, Americans are very much modern-day nomads. It is a rare, rare thing to meet a native Atlantan. The last time I was in Colorado there were jokes about so many refugees from California. The southern half of Florida has more Yankees than Southerners.

What if all that stops? Even if it only stops for a decade or two it will have significant implications. I had always planned to get the kids through school, retire and move to the mountains. As it turned out I retired, I’ve almost got the kids through school (HOPE scholarship in case you’re curious why we’re staying) and now it’s almost time to move. Except it’s not likely to happen now.

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

You might want to think about how this plays out for yourself. If you’ve always thought your skills were transferable...they might be but you might not be. If you lose your job it will be hard to sell your house to move to “where the jobs are”. If your neighborhood goes downhill -- if squatters move into the empty foreclosure down the block -- you can’t run away. And as soon as your boss realizes that you’re stuck he’ll try to take advantage of it. Of course, it probably won’t dawn on him he’s stuck too. You may not be able to move to a better job but neither can anyone move in to take your job. Unless, of course, they rent. Hmmm, might we become a nation of renters? Or might we set down roots? Might the town you live in become “your town”?

Instead of modern-day nomads seeking greener pastures, maybe we’ll become settlers that make a stand and make a place our own. Instead of running from our social problems maybe -- just maybe -- we’ll become a little more civic minded and fix them. Maybe.

Don Brown
September 16, 2011

Thursday, September 15, 2011

New Flash (Not) 9-15-11

Just more fuel on the fire.

Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Press Release

”WASHINGTON – Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman, ID-Conn., and Ranking Member Susan Collins, R-Me., Tuesday expressed shock that the Department of Homeland Security has more contractor employees than civilian employees.”

Shocked they are. Shocked!

Meanwhile, back in the FAA...

You may have missed this, from the Boston Globe a couple of weeks ago.

Air traffic errors climb
FAA, Raytheon controller training under scrutiny

(I’m skipping all the way down to the contractor part.)

”The Waltham company (Raytheon) is the subject of a $1 billion lawsuit from Washington Consulting Group Inc., which had been training air traffic controllers for the FAA since 1986. The company alleges Raytheon was awarded the contract after an improper bidding process, and jeopardized the safety of the aviation system by cutting corners in the training program.

“It is less safe flying in an airplane in our country now,’’ said Steven Thomas, an attorney representing Washington Consulting Group, which partnered with the security company Lockheed Martin Corp. on the bid.

Raytheon maintains the competition was managed fairly by the FAA. “WCG’s allegations are both frivolous and irresponsible,’’ spokesman Jonathan Kasle said in a statement to the Globe.”

Anyone from my generation with any brains knew training should never have been contracted out to start with. Maybe Senators Lieberman and Collins will run their findings over to Senators Rockefeller and Hutchinson and tell them the horse left the barn about 30 years ago.

For those just joining Get the Flick let me restate my beliefs about government service succinctly. The government needs good people working for it. The operative word being “for”. Those people should be employees of the People without the inherent conflict of serving the People and a corporation. What you have at the moment is legalized graft. Government extracts the money via taxes and corporations -- in the form of contractors -- use it for their own purposes. Usually that purpose involves making themselves very rich while bribing ex-government employees to come work for them and use their inside knowledge to win government contracts. Contracts that those very same same people might have written right before they retired.

Once you recognize the game, you see it being played everywhere in government. Government agencies get gutted or corrupted and private industry gets greedy -- and rich. Here’s a totally unrelated example I heard this morning on Marketplace’s podcast.

”ROETT: I think a large part is a matter of regulation. It's a matter of transparency. The United States went through a long period beginning in 2000/2001, basically tearing up the regulatory framework that had been put into the place: the Securities Exchange Commission was hollowed out basically. Not much responsibility on the part of the private commercial banks. ”

It’s epidemic. But now that people are realizing that even the spy business has been contracted out, they’re getting concerned about it. Clean up on aisle eight.

Don Brown
September 15, 2011

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Busy -- Contractors

It’s a busy day (for a retired guy) so you’ll have to fill in the blanks on your own.

Remember I’ve already written the name I wanted to give today’s blog.

Contractor Nation

Fittingly, that blog also keyed off of Rachel Maddow. You’ll have to bear with Rachel a couple of minutes as she sets the piece up. You’ll wonder what the battle scenes are about...until you see the contractors.

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

And -- Lo and Behold -- we find out that (SURPRISE!) contractors are more expensive than government employees.

Controllers, extrapolate to your jobs. Controllers working for contractors, ask yourself if you’re doing the right thing.

Don Brown
September 14, 2011

Monday, September 12, 2011

Dog Bites Economist

In case you haven’t noticed, my buddy Paul Krugman kicked over the Conservative anthill on 9/11. I haven’t bothered to read any of the words the hurt dogs are yelping about. I just plugged “Krugman” into Google and hit the news button. The first one up:

Rumsfeld cancels NYT subscription over ‘repugnant’ Krugman column

”“After reading Krugman’s repugnant piece on 9/11, I canceled my subscription to the New York Times this AM,” Rumsfeld’s office tweeted this morning.”

Let’s get distracted for a moment. First, it wasn’t a column. It was a blog. Krugman writes a column for The New York Times twice a week. Read by millions. He also writes a blog, virtually everyday. Read by (I suspect) somewhat fewer people. I doubt if one of them is Don Rumsfeld. Just as I seriously doubt if Don Rumsfeld “tweets”. I have no doubt his “office” does. But enough about the “snowflake” king. You can read about him on your own.

All you have to do is read Krugman’s blog for yourself and you can see the nuance that the publication above edits out. This charade has nothing to do with 9/11 and everything to do with the fact that Paul Krugman is one of the most effective critics of America’s rabid right wing. Never mind that he criticizes Obama, the European financial policy makers and basically any other “VSP” in the world that doesn’t make sense. (If you don’t read Krugman enough to know what a VSP is -- you don’t read Krugman enough.)

The right wing pack is just doing what it does. It’s no more news than “dog bites man”.

P.S. Okay, I find I have to explain the “hurt dog yelps first” reference. I thought it was a widely-used old saying. I guess not. When you have a crowd clamoring that they’re injured, it’s the one that “yelps first” that was really injured. The other noisemakers are just part of the pack and afraid they’ll get hurt too.

If Rumsfeld is the first “dog that yelped”, he’s the one stung by Krugman’s criticism.

Don Brown
September 12, 2011

Today’s Photo 9-12-11

I can’t explain why I like the blue one better. But the morning was pretty enough for two pictures and it’s my blog so I can post two (or three) pictures if a want. Besides, it’s been days since I had a decent sunrise and....

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

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

Don Brown
September 12, 2011

Sunday, September 11, 2011


It’s an odd thing. One of our nation’s darkest days was one of my profession’s finest hours. Even more unsettling for me personally, I was not at work. I was at home watching it on TV.

Looking back, what strikes me is the failure of machines, systems and institutions. With a budget of billions -- for decades -- the Department of Defense was shown to be a Department of War. America was defenseless. Airport security was shown to be the joke we all knew it was. Communications systems that were thought to be sophisticated turned out to be merely expensive -- and weak.

But what shows through most clearly is the triumph of people. Despite suffering the mental shock of the unimaginable, people rallied and performed. You’ll hear hundreds of their stories today. They faced a situation most had never dreamed of with the same human spirit that seems to be universal and ageless. I hope we learn to put more faith in our fellow man and less in our own creations.

Don Brown
September 11, 2011

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Information Overload 9-8-11

I really need to be working on my 9/11 piece (isn’t that required of everyone?) but instead I’ve been reading and listening to the news this morning. I doubt if you have time for it all, so just pick one.

First up, Bob Herbert steps up to the plate and says what no one else will say but everybody should. Knock it off with the tax cuts. We owe a lot of money. The only way to pay it back it to pay our taxes. But before you can hear it, you have to listen to Rachel telling us how we got here...with tax cuts. Trust me, you want to know who the chief tax cutter is working for now.

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

Up next, if you hate Michael Moore -- if you like Michael Moore -- you’ll want to read this article from The Guardian. There’s nothing people hate worse than hearing a truth they don’t want to hear. (see above)

Michael Moore: I was the most hated man in America

”When we got back to our home in northern Michigan, the local beautification committee had dumped three truckloads of horse manure waist-high in our driveway so that we wouldn't be able to enter our property – a property which, by the way, was freshly decorated with a dozen or so signs nailed to our trees: GET OUT! MOVE TO CUBA! COMMIE SCUM! TRAITOR! LEAVE NOW OR ELSE!”

Just in case you missed one of Michael’s movies...

And while you’re at The Guardian...Don’t look now but the United Kingdom’s Conservative government is about to privatize their National Health Service (NHS).

The end of the NHS as we know it

”The prime minister promised before the 2010 election not to introduce any "top-down reorganisations" of the NHS; to say he, Andrew Lansley and Nick Clegg lack an electoral mandate for the bill is an understatement. It is also an understatement to say that they have not told the truth about the bill's intentions, and that they have reduced Department of Health statements, such as its latest so-called MythBuster document, to a level of brazen mendacity that demeans a once great office of state.”

It’s a funny thing, no more than I keep up with U.K. politics, I remember David Cameron vigorously defending the NHS when we were having our debate on national health care. Ah yes, here you go. That’s from “B-Sky-B”, the service Rupert Murdoch was trying to take over completely (he already owns much of it) when the phone hacking scandal soured the deal.

You might want to pay attention to this case. Because, when the Republican Party says they aren’t going to do away with Medicare and Social Security, (remember Paul Ryan’s budget?) they’re lying to you.

Don Brown
September 8, 2011

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Of Course They Don’t

I don’t believe most of the American Public realizes that their government is failing by design. If it was a war we were talking about, it would be called treason. In that we’re not at war (uh, wait a minute...) it’s called “smaller government”. From Government Executive:

FAA falls down on workforce planning

”A Transportation Department inspector general report published last week found FAA's acquisition workforce does not have the skills or expertise to manage the agency's multibillion-dollar contracting budget. FAA's workforce plan does not address gaps in hiring and developing staff, nor does the agency follow established targets for balancing acquisition employees across programs, according to the audit.”

Well, if your goal is to rob the government blind, of course they don’t have an expert workforce. The experts are all supposed to be on the other side of the table -- the private side. I mean, if you’re in charge of the government and your political philosophy is that “private industry is better” it would be pretty silly to hire the best and brightest to be in government. You’d be fighting against your own political philosophy.

Think of it as a boxing match. If you want one guy to win (private industry), what better way to ensure that he wins than to become the manager of the other fighter (government) and sabotage his chances? Don’t train. Buy him inferior equipment. Let the other guy in on all his weaknesses.

If the government is supposed to negotiate with private industry and you hate government...why would you want government to win? I’ll never understand why even our simplest-minded citizens can’t understand this. As we contract out more and more of our government, private industry skims off more and more of our taxes.

Government isn’t supposed to win this fight. So we don’t hire enough people to oversee the increasing number of contracts and we don’t provide them with adequate training. Should a truly talented individual accidentally slip through the net, private industry can throw enough money at them to lure them away from government. And should the rare individual that can’t be bought rear their ugly head, we’ll take the teeth out of the whistleblower protections we used to have and run them out of government.

To be honest, I’m surprised we even have an Inspector General anymore. I guess appearance must be maintained.

Don Brown
September 7, 2011

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

A Dreary Slog

Rain. And more rain. Tropical Storm Lee is providing the much needed rain for my yard. Unfortunately I spent three days under it at the beach, only to have it follow me home. Sometimes, you just have to endure.

On the bright side, it provides me a lot of time to read. Even if the reading is a dreary slog. Yes, I know you see it coming. But trust me. It’s important. And if you don’t trust me, trust James Fallows.

'People Don't Realize How Fragile Democracy Really Is'

”Two days ago I mentioned the "Goodbye to All That" essay by Mike Lofgren, a respected (including by me) veteran Congressional staffer who had worked for Republican legislators on defense and budget issues for nearly 30 years.

If you have not read his essay yet, please read it now.  And then, please return!”

I followed his advice. You should too. It’s long, so I’ll be short. I won’t even ask you to return. At least not for the day, anyway. Here’s the tease.

Goodbye to All That: Reflections of a GOP Operative Who Left the Cult

”I left because I was appalled at the headlong rush of Republicans, like Gadarene swine, to embrace policies that are deeply damaging to this country's future; and contemptuous of the feckless, craven incompetence of Democrats in their half-hearted attempts to stop them. And, in truth, I left as an act of rational self-interest. Having gutted private-sector pensions and health benefits as a result of their embrace of outsourcing, union busting and "shareholder value," the GOP now thinks it is only fair that public-sector workers give up their pensions and benefits, too. Hence the intensification of the GOP's decades-long campaign of scorn against government workers. Under the circumstances, it is simply safer to be a current retiree rather than a prospective one.

If you think Paul Ryan and his Ayn Rand-worshipping colleagues aren't after your Social Security and Medicare, I am here to disabuse you of your naiveté.”

(Emphasis added)

Don Brown
September 6, 2011

Monday, September 05, 2011

Labor Day -- Labor Party

I’ve just finished my morning reading on this Labor Day and it’s all bad. If you’d like to join in on the Depression (Yes, a written double entendre. The joys of being an uneducated, amateur sans editor -- blogger.) I can’t think of a better place to start than a blog post entitled 1937.

Yes, I followed the links and read about Europe falling apart (all over again) in the Financial Times. For those new to Get the Flick, I am skipping down the lane to my own personal working model of the world’s current events -- that history repeats itself. And we are indeed repeating 1937. And 1938. And 1939. If our potential destination remains unclear to you, you need to remember what happened in 1939. (I’m going to assume you know what happened in 1941.) One mustn’t believe that all the actors get to play the same parts. In this reenactment, we (the U.S.) might be Germany. Or England. China might be Japan. Mexico might be Spain. Brazil might be America. I could go on but then I’d have to rename this blog entry. (Don’t think it hasn’t happened.)

Whenever I think of Labor Day, my thoughts turn to The Uprising of ‘34.

(This blog entry will point the curious in the right directions.) That film was such a shocker to me. That an entire culture -- the land of “Forget, Hell!” license plates -- could suppress such a significant event, so completely, doesn’t seem possible. But it happened.

The point is that masses of people can be stirred to action. For good or bad, they can and will be motivated at some point. Currently, 14 million Americans are unemployed. This a good place to insert one of my favorite old sayings (just ask the controllers at ZTL).

Idle Hands are the Devil’s Workshop

14 million is a lot of idle hands. Nothing good will come from allowing them to remain idle. I sincerely hope that President Obama will announce a plan to put them back to work. I’m with Robert Reich on this, start another CCC or WPA if we have to. But, at all costs, we need to find them something productive to do.

In that vein, I have an idea on how to motivate the Republican Party to compromise on the issue. If they reject whatever proposal President Obama makes on Thursday night, (and they will) I think he should ask the unemployed to come work for him. Not as President of the United States -- Congress has to fund that -- but as head of the Democratic Party.

Imagine if just half the unemployed volunteered for a political campaign. That would be 7 million campaign workers. Yeah, I know it presents all sorts of problems. But that’s the advantage of being a blogger -- I get to float “stupid” ideas.

Barring that, I think American Labor needs to explore creating a 3rd party. Think of it as the anti-Tea Party. (I guess that would make it a 4th party.) And conjuring up the Tea Party is intentional on my part. The consternation that the Tea Party causes the Republican Party Party of Big Business provides an endless source of amusement for the Democratic Party. They won’t be nearly as amused if they have to deal with the same problems. (Don't get excited Conservatives. Turn about is fair play.)

I don’t know about you but I’ve had enough of this. I would like to see a Party dedicated to the American worker. One that welcomes immigrants to our country of immigrants. One that makes the process legal and respectful. A Party that stands for equal rights, human dignity and a fair wage. A Party that puts people before corporations. A Party that believes in regulations for the sake of the common good. Clean air, clean water and a decent healthcare system for all. I would love to see a Party that believes life should be about more than work and profit. One that creates an economy where both parents don’t have to work. One that supports decent housing, public education and the arts. I would love to see a Party that recognizes you can’t be a great country with poor workers. One that recognizes you can’t be that shining city upon a hill without the muscle that builds it.

I want that Party to be the Democratic Party, Mr. President. And no one knows better, how hard the battle is, than Labor. We don’t want to stand alone. But if we are alone, we shall still stand.

Don Brown
September 5, 2011

Krugman -- Present and Past

While I think of something appropriate to say about Labor Day (I’m never on time with these sorts of things), you should take a look at Krugman’s column in The New York Times today.

The Fatal Distraction

”Friday brought two numbers that should have everyone in Washington saying, “My God, what have we done?”

One of these numbers was zero — the number of jobs created in August. The other was two — the interest rate on 10-year U.S. bonds, almost as low as this rate has ever gone. Taken together, these numbers almost scream that the inside-the-Beltway crowd has been worrying about the wrong things, and inflicting grievous harm as a result.”

But even more impressive, is an article he pointed us toward in his blog. It’s in Slate magazine.

Supply-Side Virus Strikes Again

”So why does the supply-side idea keep on resurfacing? Probably because of two key attributes that it shares with certain other doctrines, like belief in the gold standard: It appeals to the prejudices of extremely rich men, and it offers self-esteem to the intellectually insecure.

The support of rich men is not a small matter. Despite its centrality to political debate, economic research is a very low-budget affair. The entire annual economics budget at the National Science foundation is less than $20 million. What this means is that even a handful of wealthy cranks can support an impressive-looking array of think tanks, research institutes, foundations, and so on devoted to promoting an economic doctrine they like. (The role of a few key funders, like the Coors and Olin Foundations, in building an intellectual facade for late 20th-century conservatism is a story that somebody needs to write.)”

Sound familiar to you? But what’s embarrassing is that, while I am just catching on to all this, Krugman wrote this article fifteen years ago. This article spends time talking about Bob Dole running for President, for crying out loud. (A lot of my younger readers are now saying, “Bob who?”)

”And so it doesn't really matter whether supply-side economics makes any sense, or even whether it goes down to a crushing electoral defeat. The supply-siders will always have a safe haven in the world of Free Enterprise Institutes and Centers for the Study of Capitalism, outlets for their views in the pages of Forbes and the Wall Street Journal, and new recruits who never tire of saying the same things again and again. When I was younger I thought that ridicule could eventually bring the whole farce to an end, but now I know better. Presumably the pundits are right, and Dole's desperate ploy will fail. But while that will be the end of him, the supply-siders will be back.”

Read it.

Don Brown
September 5, 2011

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Today’s Photo 9-1-11

Headed out of town and the sunrise was duller than dirt. So let me do something different. We had a delayed birthday party for my favorite geek yesterday. This is the cake, purchased from Melanie’s Moments.

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

It was awesome. I’m not going to tell you how little it cost because you’d get mad. We told Melanie to raise her rates. Check her out before she catches on.

And for those that don’t watch Dr. Who, check out my other favorite geek’s page. Well, I guess you could check out Wikipedia for a real explanation.

Don Brown
September 1, 2011

P.S. I am not a tabletop photographer so I don’t want any snark about the photo.