Wednesday, February 29, 2012

New Nukes

Due to circumstances beyond my control, I listened to Fresh Air this morning instead of Rachel Maddow. Once again, fate reaches out with her lovely fingers.

One Year Later, 'Inside Japan's Nuclear Meltdown'

”In the days after a tsunami crippled Japan's Fukushima power plant almost one year ago, a small group of engineers, soldiers and firemen risked their own lives to prevent a complete nuclear meltdown.

Investigative reporter Dan Edge wanted to find out what it was like for the workers who were inside the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant when the crisis began. His new “Frontline” documentary chronicles what happened to those plant engineers, as well as what happened to the small corps of workers who entered the power plant in the days after the disaster.”

I haven’t had a chance to watch the documentary but I fully intend to. I have a busy day ahead of me so listen if you like, and I’m sure NPR will direct you towards the documentary if you happen to be on your day off and have the time to watch it.

But just a quick note before I go. Georgia (actually The Southern Company) has decide to build two new nuclear plants at Vogtle.

NRC approves construction of new nuclear power reactors in Georgia

”The commission voted 4-1 in favor, with NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko casting the sole vote against granting the license. Jaczko said later that he wanted binding assurances that the new reactors would be modified to meet recommendations made by the agency’s task force on the disaster at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant last year.”

If you listen to the NPR story, be sure to note the details of the spent fuel rods and keep in mind that Atlanta is right at 250km from Vogtle. Charleston, SC is 200km and Charlotte, NC is 300km from Vogtle -- downwind.

Have a nice day.

Don Brown
February 29, 2012

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

First Bloom 2-28-12

First Bloom 2-28-12 by Get The Flick
First Bloom 2-28-12, a photo by Get The Flick on Flickr.

From Meadowlark Gardens, of course.

Partisan? I’ll Show You Partisan

So, yesterday being Monday and all, I went to read Krugman. Except, I’m now an iPhone owner. With fat fingers. And somehow I wound up on a Maureen Dowd editorial.

Ghastly Outdated Party

”IT’S finally sinking in.

Republicans are getting queasy at the gruesome sight of their party eating itself alive, savaging the brand in ways that will long resonate. ”

”The contenders in the Hester Prynne primaries are tripping over one another trying to be the most radical, unreasonable and insane candidate they can be. They pounce on any traces of sanity in the other candidates — be it humanity toward women, compassion toward immigrants or the willingness to make the rich pay a nickel more in taxes — and try to destroy them with it. ”

(I had to look it up too. Don’t feel bad. Hester Prynne -- The Scarlet Letter.)

”Republicans have a growing panic at the thought of going down the drain with a loser, missing their chance at capturing the Senate and giving back all those House seats won in 2010. More and more, they openly yearn for a fresh candidate, including Jeb Bush, who does, after all, have experience at shoplifting presidential victories at the last minute. ”

Now, there’s a partisan zinger if there ever was one.

”Santorum, whose name aptly comes from the same Latin root as sanctimonious, went on Glenn Beck’s Web-based show with his family and offered this lunacy: “I understand why Barack Obama wants to send every kid to college,” because colleges are “indoctrination mills” that “harm” the country. He evidently wants home university schooling, which will cut down on keggers. ”

You get the idea.

You can call Paul Krugman a partisan -- he calls himself a liberal right in the title of his blog -- The Conscience of a Liberal. But there is picking sides and then there is partisan.

I suspect the Republican partisans don’t fret too much about Maureen Dowd. I bet Krugman keeps them up at night. I bet he keeps some Democratic partisans up at night too.

Don Brown
February 28, 2012

Sky & Clouds 2-28-12

Sky & Clouds 2-28-12 by Get The Flick
Sky & Clouds 2-28-12, a photo by Get The Flick on Flickr.

Over the years I've learned to look for compositions in the sky. Just random cloud formations that I think will look interesting without any help from foreground subjects or silhouettes.

Monday, February 27, 2012

First Blush -- Meadowlark

Spring is on it's way at Meadowlark Gardens.

Nikon D80 -- Nikon 80-200mm F2.8

Before Sunrise

I need to do some thinking on effectiveness. In no particular order, this is what I’ve learned before sunrise this morning.

James Fallows took the time to say what I have been saying (mostly through Krugman’s work) -- that stupid economic policies should be obvious.

What Austerity Hath Wrought

”Some day people will look back in puzzlement at the prevailing U.S. mood of 2011, when in the face of the biggest job-loss collapse in two generations the prevailing rhetoric from Democrats and Republicans alike emphasized the need to cut public spending, now. (And, yes, it should have been seen as puzzling and self-destructive at the time.)”

”Austerity measures, in the middle of a collapsing private economy, make things worse, not better. This observation would be akin to "gravity pulls you down, not up" except that so many people seemed not to remember or believe it last year. (Viz: the whole debt ceiling train-wreck.)”

There are a couple of must-see graphs on the blog post.

Moving on (before I go into the I-told-you-so mode). I learned a little about the Federal Election Commission from Trevor Potter this morning. He was interviewed by Terry Gross on Fresh Air. (Fresh Air is a real “hit-or-miss” show for me. It’s either fascinating or boring. But Terry Gross is probably one of the best interviewers out there.)

Examining The SuperPAC With Colbert's Trevor Potter

”GROSS: So let's talk about where the FEC, the Federal Election Commission, comes in. You used to serve on the commission. Part of its job is to hold candidates and PACs accountable. How good of a job has it been doing?”

”POTTER: Well, it's had its critics for years. One of the reasons I joined the commission is that as a lawyer in private practice I was frustrated by the commission. I thought it wasn't being very effective or very efficient. And I thought, well, this is an opportunity to improve the way the agency operates.”

”There are three - effectively - Republicans, three Democrats on the commission. It takes four votes to do anything. And the three Republicans currently on the commission do not appear to believe that the commission should be a regulator of spending in elections. They are largely deregulatory in philosophy. They opposed or have criticized McCain-Feingold, the law that they're supposedly enforcing. And what we're seeing is a split on the commission between those commissioners who want to enforce the law and those who say it would be wrong to do so or that it would crimp speech.

The result of that is the commission is essentially now missing in action. It is not a watchdog because it's sitting there tied up, unable to move by this 3-3 deadlock in a whole range of important cases.”

But wait, there’s more. There are knots in their knots. Brought to you by (of course) the political party that specializes in knot making.

”POTTER: He nominated one person who then withdrew. They are no nominees now for any of the five seats that are supposed to be vacant. And therefore, Congress hasn't done anything because there's no one to do anything with.

The White House says privately that they haven't done anything because the Republicans' leadership on the Hill has not cooperated in helping them nominate names, identify Republicans who could serve. But either way, we have a deadlock on the commission, a deadlock in the nomination process between the White House and Congress, and a commission that is unable to function.

At the same time, the IRS, which could be dealing with these C4s and the disclosure issues we've been talking about - the political spending - has visibly done nothing. There is no sign that it is involved. In fact, they backed off recently when some of their agents - professional career people - were asking questions about C4s and their tax status and contributions to them, a number of Republican members of Congress objected and the IRS commissioner announced that it was all a mistake, they would no longer ask those questions of the C4s. So the IRS seems to be out of action, afraid, I think, of political controversy. That leaves the Justice Department.

There two problems with that. One is, of course, it's part of the Obama administration, so that anything it does runs the risk of being seen as political and anti-Republican. And the other problem is that its jurisdiction is only if there is an actual criminal act. The FEC is supposed to enforce the laws, unless the violation is so bad that it is what the legal standard is knowing and willful - that you knew you were breaking the law and you did it anyway. And in that case, the Justice Department has jurisdiction. So that's a much higher standard for them to get involved.”

I’m reminded of something I read or heard somewhere before, that the real corruption today is in making sure nothing gets done. The graft is already in place. The contractors are getting paid. The corporations have their tax loop holes and sweetheart contracts. The game is already rigged. The real corruption today is to make sure no one fixes anything.

To see what I mean you only have to keep listening to Terry just a little longer. For her next guest is James Bob, the lawyer that first represented Citizens United. He is also special counsel for the National Right to Life Committee and special counsel for Focus on the Family. Yeah.

There’s no transcript. You just have to listen. (Click on the “Listen to the Story” button.) He runs all over Terry Gross. He is evidently a very good lawyer and good at winning arguments. I guess the fact that it’s Lent is the reason I can’t get the idea, that Satan was really good at making an argument too, out of my head.

You really should give this interview your full attention. See if this is the kind of people you want running your government.

And just because I like to call attention to political low life when I run across it, if you have any extra time, check out the president of Citizens United -- David Bossie. You have to be a special breed of bottom feeder if Leroy Newton Gingrich wants you to resign.

Okay, I cheated. I learned that last bit (about Bossie) after the sun came up, while I was writing this blog post. You -- on the other hand -- were probably headed for work this morning (or just coming home) and want to relax and unwind in your precious free time, while I’m just getting cranked up.

Time is such a luxury. Thanks for spending some of yours reading my blog. I really try not to waste it. I have the time to follow all the links in whatever I’m reading. I realize that most people don’t.

These people are hurting your country. If you had time to research it, you could easily prove it to yourself. But you don’t. You’re too busy working, raising kids and just trying to live. I know it and they know it. Even that is part of the political calculation. The more overtime you work, the more you have to hustle and run around with your hair on fire, the less time you have to figure out the real reasons you and your wife both have to work to make ends meet.

You don’t even have time to go to a PTA meeting -- much less time to go to a county council meeting. And we wonder why our schools and government don’t work very well. Don’t worry, David Bossie, Floyd Brown and James Bob will take care of it for you. They have all the time in the world.

Yeah, it is kind of obvious when I put it that way isn’t it?

Don Brown
February 27, 2012

Friday, February 24, 2012

Bluer Than Blue

Bluer That Blue by Get The Flick
Bluer That Blue, a photo by Get The Flick on Flickr.

Oh yeah....

Regulate Sugar? What???

I just listened to this podcast from Science Friday and went from “this guy must be nuts” all the way to “Wow!” inside of 17 minutes. First, a couple of disclaimers: I am most definitely not a “foodie”. I agree with Paula Poundstone -- that PopTarts™ are nature’s perfect food. I’ve been known to call Pepsi™ the “nectar of the gods”. And you don’t want to know about the rest of my diet. If it doesn’t include meat, it ain’t a meal. ‘Nuff said.

Should Sugar Be Regulated Like Alcohol?

(Look at the top left of the page and click the little black triangle above the orange “XML” logo to listen. Science nerds. What can you say?)

So why did this podcast strike such a chord with me? Well, you’ll just have to listen (there’s no transcript) to find out but here’s a hint -- one tiny portion I’ll transcribe:

”...a little piece of evolutionary interest: We as human beings really only had sugar available to us one month a year. It was called harvest time. And, fruit would fall to the ground. We’d gorge on it. Consume it like crazy. That would increase our adiposity -- increase our fat stores -- very specifically. And then what would come after that? Four months of winter. No food at all. ”

I can’t remember discussing it specifically on this blog but I’m a big believer that we haven’t overcome a couple of million years of evolution with two thousand years of civilization. We’re just cavemen in faded blue jeans. So, nature gave us a way to pile on the weight right before going on a forced diet (aka winter). But, of course, now we can eat Ben & Jerry’s™ smothered in chocolate and butterscotch syrup every night of the year if we care to.

But enough about my dietary habits. I want you to think big. I’m mean really big. You’ll hear Michael Pollan’s name come up in this broadcast. I specifically want you to remember his piece "Farmer in Chief" -- that I’ve pointed you towards before.

”And it will generate tens of millions of new “green jobs,” which is precisely how we need to begin thinking of skilled solar farming: as a vital sector of the 21st-century post-fossil-fuel economy.””

Jobs. Solar farming (i.e. getting away from petroleum). Think of lower transportation costs for locally grown food. And then think even harder when you start hearing people complain about the high price of gas in the coming months.

Next, I want you to think about the cost of health care. Nationally. Don’t worry, you don’t have to think too hard about it. That’s why we have Krugman.

”The vast bulk of its (federal government) spending goes to the big five: Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, defense, and interest on the debt. ”

You’ll notice that two of those five are health care -- Medicare and Medicaid.

But when it comes to health care costs, this is what is important to understand.

Now and Later

”So America has a long-run budget problem. Dealing with this problem will require, first and foremost, a real effort to bring health costs under control — without that, nothing will work.”

For those that don’t read Krugman, you can’t pass off his words lightly. When he says “without that, nothing will work” he means just that -- nothing will work. More taxes, more spending cuts -- without controlling health costs -- our budget problems can’t be solved.

So, let’s sum it up.

1) Our industrialized food chain with sugar added into everything is causing us major heath problems.

2) The Great Recession has given us long-term unemployment and -- quite frankly -- our political leadership doesn’t have any answer to the problem.

3) Everybody (both sides of the political debate) agrees we can’t stay on this current path. Unemployment and health care costs have to be reined in.

Could the answer be as simple as regulating sugar? Could it be as simple as “Eat real food”? After all, it was public policy that created the industrialized food chain. Public policy can deindustrialize it. We can even farm in the cities, on vacant lots. We seem to have a ready-made supply of those right now too.

Think Big. Wouldn’t it beat all if doing the right thing turned out to be the right thing to do?

(Yes, you have to click on the links to understand it all. You have the whole weekend. Listen. Then read.)

Don Brown
February 24, 2011

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Corporate Tax Rate Thought

So, if we lower the corporate tax rate...

Obama Readies Plan to Cut Corporate Tax Rate

...will corporations start paying taxes?

The ‘Dirty 30’ Are the Top U.S. Companies That Managed to Pay No Taxes

I didn’t think so.

That is all. Next problem please.

Don Brown
February 23, 2012

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Lake

The Lake by Get The Flick
The Lake, a photo by Get The Flick on Flickr.

I thought some might like to see a plain shot of the lake during regular daylight. Well here you go. No filters, no nothing. Composition split right down the middle.

This Beautiful Moment

This Beautiful Moment by Get The Flick
This Beautiful Moment, a photo by Get The Flick on Flickr.

This is it. This makes the day for me. It is never the same. It is always changing. This moment -- this beautiful moment -- will never happen again. And as beautiful as it is...tomorrow holds the promise of being even better.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Austerity Doesn’t Work

If you’ve been paying attention, you know what is coming. Krugman has been working on it for weeks in his blog. His column today just sums it up.

Pain Without Gain

”Now the results are in — and they’re exactly what three generations’ worth of economic analysis and all the lessons of history should have told you would happen. The confidence fairy has failed to show up: none of the countries slashing spending have seen the predicted private-sector surge. Instead, the depressing effects of fiscal austerity have been reinforced by falling private spending.”

In short, we’ve made the situation worse by cutting our spending. We cut new construction so there are now no new construction jobs. And my favorite pet peeve -- unemployment was bad so we made it worse by unemploying teachers. We laid off thousands and thousands of teachers in an attempt to cut spending. Instead of saving us money, it just cost us more in unemployment and cost our kids a decent education in the process. There’s a term for it -- penny wise and pound foolish. (As I looked up a link to explain what that idiom meant, look what came up.)

”Education budget cuts are penny wise and pound foolish – public education is an investment in our future.”

Can there be a clearer sign from the internet gods that what we are doing is foolish?

Don Brown
February 20, 2012

Sunday, February 19, 2012

No Color Color 2-19-12

No Color Color 2-19-12 by Get The Flick
No Color Color 2-19-12, a photo by Get The Flick on Flickr.

I like Black & White but I've never taken the time to learn it. But occasionally, I see situation where there is no color, even though I'm shooting in color. It was like that tonight at the lake.

Maybe You’ll Listen Now?

I told you so. I’ve been telling you. Do you listen to me? No.

Economics is boring. Who cares about some Jewish guy that spouts a bunch of numbers in The New York Times says anyway?


Playboy logo Pictures, Images and Photos

PLAYBOY: How does this affect the American tradition of a strong middle class?

KRUGMAN: What we know is that the New Deal era produced a big leveling; it basically turned us into a middle-class country, and it stuck. The question is not why it happened but why it stuck. It was unions. The thing about unions is they don’t just negotiate higher wages for their members. They also have an effect on people who are not unionized. It’s probably true that the union movement was a big factor in our having a largely middle-class country. The destruction of unions outside the public sector is an important factor in our no longer being a middle-class country. People say, “Oh, we can’t maintain unions in the modern globalized economy.” But then you see advanced countries where it works—Canada has had some decline in unionization but nothing like ours. It was a political decision. The best generation of economic growth we’ve ever had was the 25 years or so after 1947, which was a period of high unionization and high marginal tax rates. This is just an excuse for what amounts to pushing down the standards of U.S. workers”

(Insert line about reading Playboy for the articles.) Try not to get distracted by the advertising.

Playboy Interview: Paul Krugman

Don Brown
February 19, 2012

Friday, February 17, 2012

Golden Rails

Golden Rails by Get The Flick
Golden Rails, a photo by Get The Flick on Flickr.

I went back to try and recreate the shot again. I selected F36 (the smallest aperture of the lens) to get the sunstar (and, of course, the depth of field). I hope the sunstar isn't too much of a cliche. A very, very slight crop to get rid of a hot spot.

Krugman Comes Through

If you follow Krugman’s blog, you know that he hasn’t had time to blog for a couple of days. But he still had the time to work on a problem I talked about the other day. To refresh your memory...

Spinning Machine

”In all the information -- this blizzard of bull chips -- I can’t find out what the unemployment rate would be if these 625,000 Americans had kept their jobs. And make no mistake about it, we could have kept them employed. As a matter of fact, it would probably have been cheaper to keep them employed. It certainly would have been more humane.

Class project -- Find out what our national unemployment rate would be if 625,000 people were still employed. The first one with the answer gets an honorable mention.”

In response to that Buffet Fan and The Angry Bureaucrat came up with some figures and I merged them to come up with 8% unemployment if we had keep our local and State workers employed.

Krugman, of course, came up with a better way to make the point.

Reversing Local Austerity

”So here’s my chart. It shows employment by state and local governments, which has fallen around half a million, with the majority of the cuts coming from education. Moreover, the baseline should not be zero; it should be normal growth, say along with population growth. So I’ve indicated what would have happened to state and local employment if it had grown at its usual rate of 1% a year:”

You will, of course, need to go to the piece to see the chart.

”This suggests to me that we could put well over a million people to work directly, and probably around 3 million once you take other effects into account, without any need to come up with new projects; just transfer enough money to state and local governments to let them return to doing the essential business of government, like educating our children.”

I hope you see the difference in calculations. I was thinking (and framing the argument) in terms of maintaining the status quo. Krugman is factoring in normal growth. The chart demonstrates what we tend to forget -- the Great Depression has been going on a long time. Even one or two percent starts adding up to big numbers over that much time.

Final point. Krugman can do this stuff when he’s pressed for time. I can think about it all day -- for several days -- and still not get it (completely) right.

Don Brown
February 17, 2012

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Get The Flick -- The Top Ten

I have to be the world’s worst at marking milestones. Seriously, if I’m supposed to write a blog about Valentine’s Day -- I remember the day after. I’m not much better about covering big news. The FAA finally got a real budget, and I haven’t said a thing about it yet. It’s big news.

But back to the task at hand. I was supposed to write this post on this blog’s 5th anniversary. That was five months ago. Then I told myself I’d write it as the two thousandth post. That was 18 posts ago. What can I say?

I originally conceived of the idea (top ten list) as a way for new folks to get up to speed on this blog (should they care to) by reading nothing but the best parts. Or at leas the popular ones. But I have other reasons, also. Which is why I’m listing them in reverse order...

#1) Air Traffic Safety vs. Capacity

I think the statue of limitations has run out on whoever was crazy enough to ask me to write this piece. Whoever is was, they worked for The New York Times editorial page. Yeah, I could’a been somebody.

It scared me to death. I sweated bullets writing this piece. I even had an English teacher check it for grammar -- that’s how nervous I was about it. (Grammar ain’t my strong suit.) Anyway, the whole point is that the effort -- the group effort -- shows in this post. It didn’t run in the Times but it has had four times as many “hits” as anything else on this blog. If you have to pick only one piece on this blog to read, this is the one.

#2) When Daddy Let Me Drive

I didn’t even write this one. You might think that hurts my ego-- that my second most popular blog entry wasn’t even written by me -- but not really. I learned a long time ago that life (sadly) isn’t all about me.

#3) Air Traffic for Dummies

It was my friend Fallows that made this one so popular when he quoted a piece of it in his blog. James Fallows has probably sent more traffic to this site than any other single person and I thank him for it. We “met” years ago, somewhere in cyberspace, as pilot (him) and controller (me). I had no idea how big he was in the world of journalism. I do now. But I’m still more impressed that he’s a first-class human -- a genuinely nice man -- than a world-class journalist.

#4) Christmas Comes Early

I have no idea why this post got so many hits. There isn’t much there except for links. But if you’ve forgotten just how slimy the Republicans got in 2008, it’s a good refresher course. Delay, Mica and (probably the real reason it was so popular) “Hookers and Blow” -- courtesy of Lockheed. (You’re beginning to understand the title now aren’t you?)

#5) So Reasonable

Ah, good old Robert Poole. I’ve got three newsletters from the Reason Foundation in my inbox from him that I won’t read because he raises my blood pressure back to air-traffic-control levels. In short, he wants to privatize the air traffic control system and anything else he can get his hands on. That and he’s wrong. But like all the other think-tank typers, he’s got a good gig and he’ll keep right on writing. (Side note and reminder to self. Disregard. I was mistaken in the original note.) Anyway, getting back to my blog, Poole brought a mathematician to a painting contest. You kind of have to read it for yourself.

#6) All’s Fair

This one is about people questioning NATCA’s tactics in drawing attention to the controller staffing shortage. People forget but there was a real staffing crisis. There still would be if not for the Great Recession. I was just reading that Chicago is short and -- on a related note -- traffic is at a decade low. Yet we still have delays in New York (and I’m stopping before I go on another tangent.)

#7) Next Newt

Do I need to say anything? Yes, I have a “thing” about Newton Leroy Gingrich. But you’ll be happy to know that the blog is more about the side of NextGen that actually has a chance of working -- instead of the part Newt wants to talk about.

8) URET -- A Dissenting View

If I got my pick, this is the one I’d have you read. And I bet a lot of new kids that have never known anything but working with URET would find it interesting and informative. Which -- in reality -- means it is way too technical for a general audience. Still, this is the kind of stuff I dedicated my professional life to. I’m proud that it made it into the top ten and I’m proud of John Carr for having the guts to publish it.

9) The Truth

This too is one of my favorites. There are a lot of human complexities that are hard to get to. Hard to describe. Hard to write about. I think I got pretty close with this one.

10) FAA History Lesson -- November 30

I haven’t a clue why this one made it into the top ten. I suspect I’ve linked to it in several other posts. The “history lessons” were pretty popular when I wrote them. I might revisit the format in the future.

Which brings me to the point I want to make in closing. I’m not a rock star in the blog world and I never will be. James Fallows can send more visitors to my site in a day than I normally get in a month. Six months. John Carr got more traffic at The Main Bang in a month than I got in a year. The FAA Follies got a lot more traffic than I ever got. And I don’t have a problem with any of that. As a matter of fact, it’s pretty much the way I think things should be.

But I’m still here. I don’t write for AVweb anymore. I most likely will never be asked to write an op-ed for The New York Times again. The reporters don’t call as often as they used to. Regardless, I hope to be around for another 5 years or 2,000 posts. As long as you keep reading, I’ll keep trying to write. Thanks for sticking with me all this time.

Don Brown
February 16, 2012

Spring Not Fall

Spring Not Fall by Get The Flick
Spring Not Fall, a photo by Get The Flick on Flickr.

Another rainy day so this is from the archives.

I took this in March of 2010. The maple buds are red which gives them a color rivaling the Fall leaves. As happens so many times, the geese just swan into my scenic shot.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Big Box Boomerang

I got this from a retired fellow union member. It’s brilliant. I’ve explained it to my children a hundred times. Now, whenever they come home with WalMart shopping bag, I just look at them and say, “Repeat after me; Hi there! Welcome to WalMart!”.

Personalize funny videos and birthday eCards at JibJab!

Don Brown
February 15, 2012

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

A History Lesson for Americans

If you don’t know this part of American history, it is vital that you learn it and understand it, so that you may understand today’s events. This is from an excerpt of a book discussed on NPR’s All Things Considered.

”Despite efforts made by William Randolph Hearst, Walter Lippmann, Bernard Baruch, and others to convince him of the necessity for a benevolent despot to seize control of the country, Franklin Delano Roosevelt was unswayed.

Hearst, the nation's most powerful publisher, went so far as to produce a Hollywood movie — “Gabriel Over the White House”, starring Walter Huston — to instruct both Roosevelt and the American public how to succumb to dictatorship. Even though Italy's Benito Mussolini and Fascism were enormously popular and highly regarded in America at the time, Roosevelt distrusted autocracy, did not believe that one could count on a benevolent dictator to remain so, and, especially, maintained an absolute commitment to the U.S. Constitution.”

It’s important to understand how shaken the people’s faith in America and Democracy was at the time. To use Krugman’s phrase, Very Serious People were searching for an alternative to capitalism and democracy -- both on the left (Communism) and right (Fascism). Those models had failed -- worldwide -- in the Great Depression. That desperation even included this;

When The Bankers Plotted To Overthrow FDR

"This is despotism, this is tyranny, this is the annihilation of liberty," one senator wrote to a colleague. "The ordinary American is thus reduced to the status of a robot. The president has not merely signed the death warrant of capitalism, but has ordained the mutilation of the Constitution, unless the friends of liberty, regardless of party, band themselves together to regain their lost freedom.”

What many refused to see then -- and now -- is how the President clung to the center while others called for wild swings to the left and right. You might think that the verbal attacks on the President are unprecedented. They are not.

Critics on the right worried that Roosevelt was a Communist, a socialist or the tool of a Jewish conspiracy. Critics on the left complained his policies didn't go far enough. Some of Roosevelt's opponents didn't stop at talk. Though it's barely remembered today, there was a genuine conspiracy to overthrow the president.

Sound familiar?

The President is a Jew Muslim.

Do you see how history repeats itself? Look for the next Mussolini in Greece. The people there are desperate for a way out of their crisis. Krugman has already warned us about Hungary. This is not over. Not by a long shot.

The more you know the more likely you are to keep your head when all about you are losing theirs.

Don Brown
February 14, 2012

Monday, February 13, 2012

Krugman Still Has It

You have to read Krugman’s newspaper column today. Just brilliant.

Severe Conservative Syndrome

Here’s a catchy sound bite:

”You may say that such conspiracy-theorizing is hardly unique to Mr. Santorum, but that’s the point: tinfoil hats have become a common, if not mandatory, G.O.P. fashion accessory.”

But the real brilliance is in his summation of events. If you’ve never tried to do this, you have no idea how difficult it is. And in this case, he makes it look effortless. Of course that is what happened. Anybody paying attention knows it is true. Yet no one (that I know of) has put it together so simply and in so few words;

”For decades the G.O.P. has won elections by appealing to social and racial divisions, only to turn after each victory to deregulation and tax cuts for the wealthy — a process that reached its epitome when George W. Bush won re-election by posing as America’s defender against gay married terrorists, then announced that he had a mandate to privatize Social Security.”

Brilliant. Just brilliant.

Don Brown
February 13, 2012

Contractor Catfight

I not going to waste a lot of time on this. I just found it amusing. Highly amusing. Charlie was head of JPDO for the FAA prior to moving to Raytheon.

Raytheon Executive Fined Over Affair Letter in $1 Billion Contract Lawsuit

”A Raytheon Co. executive was fined by a Washington court for failing to give opponents in a lawsuit a reprimand letter stemming from an affair with a subordinate while both worked at the Federal Aviation Administration.”

I didn’t follow this the first time through the article. There was an office romance at the FAA. Charlie/FAA got a reprimand for it. It’s germane to a lawsuit Charlie/Raytheon are in now and Charlie/Raytheon didn’t produce the reprimand. The court fined him for that. Moving on.

”For the past two years, Washington Consulting Group, or WCG, has argued that the relationship began at the FAA, and continued after Keegan left for Raytheon and Maureen Knopes, now Keegan’s wife, became responsible for a contracting program to train air traffic controllers. WCG had held the contract for more than 20 years until Raytheon won it in 2008.”


Yes, I have written about this before.

Don Brown
February 13, 2012

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Stacked Ties

Stacked Ties by Get The Flick
Stacked Ties, a photo by Get The Flick on Flickr.

While I was waiting for the light to get right for another shot, I noticed these railroad ties near where I had to park. What the heck.

Take a look around. I added a couple of more this evening.

Don Brown
February 12, 2012

Saturday, February 11, 2012

What About the Left Side?

Some of you may remember the IQ graph I use to sum up a concern about the future of our country.

I am happy to report that at least one other person in the media “gets it”. First, credit where credit is due. I heard about it on Talk of the Nation.

The Future Of America's Manufacturing Jobs

”And with every one of these major transformations, there were - there was a lot of creative destruction, there was a lot of old ways of making a living disappearing - we don't have blacksmiths and buggy repairmen anymore.

But there was something that came along that provided even more opportunity to the - to everybody, including the low-skilled. And that part is not happening now.”

That is Adam Davidson talking about the fact that we have nothing for “low-skilled” people to do in this country. To put it succinctly, everybody wants the workers on the right side of that IQ chart. But what about the people on the left side? What do they do for a living?

Mr. Davidson has written an article that at least touches on that subject in The Atlantic. And, wouldn’t you know it, it is set in my old stomping grounds.

Making It in America

”I had come to Greenville to better understand what, exactly, is happening to manufacturing in the United States, and what the future holds for people like Maddie—people who still make physical things for a living and, more broadly, people (as many as 40 million adults in the U.S.) who lack higher education, but are striving for a middle-class life. ”

Some of you may remember that half of my family came out of the textile mills in Greenville/Spartanburg, South Carolina and the other half off of a farm in South Georgia. I take the issue of upward mobility to heart. So I may be a little more interested in Mr. Davidson’s article than you but the whole country ought to be interested in this part;

”Those with the right ability and circumstances will, most likely, make the right adjustments, get the right skills, and eventually thrive. But I fear that those who are challenged now will only fall further behind. ”

Or, as he says in the Talk of the Nation interview;

”But it's just at this moment, it is - nobody knows, I've yet to find anybody who can tell me what is coming next for the low-skilled manufacturing worker that really can provide upward mobility, a long-term, you know, career-long economic opportunity.”

I almost agree with Mr. Davidson. Because I give this a lot of thought. The closest town to where I live right now (like much of the South) is suffering because this problem is so hard to solve. The textile mills left and the “unskilled” don’t have any jobs. I say I “almost” agree with him because there is one guy out there that does have an idea.

Farmer in Chief by Michael Pollan

”The revival of farming in America, which of course draws on the abiding cultural power of our agrarian heritage, will pay many political and economic dividends. It will lead to robust economic renewal in the countryside. And it will generate tens of millions of new “green jobs,” which is precisely how we need to begin thinking of skilled solar farming: as a vital sector of the 21st-century post-fossil-fuel economy.”

Why, yes, you did read about that idea here at Get the Flick. Thanks for noticing.

Don Brown
February 11, 2012

Propaganda Instead of Advertising

Attention Get the Flick readers. In the future, I will be replacing the word “advertising” with the word “propaganda” -- advertising propaganda -- in order to call your attention to my belief that Americans will believe anything they read, see or hear more than six times.

In case you haven’t noticed, people believe Facebook to be worth $100 billion. That is based entirely on selling advertising propaganda. Think about it. All their content comes from you and me -- conversations, pictures and links. All they sell is access to an audience for advertising propaganda. The people paying for access to this audience aren’t stupid. Advertising Propaganda works.

That is all.

Don Brown
February 11, 2012

Friday, February 10, 2012

Blue Brush

Blue Brush by Get The Flick
Blue Brush, a photo by Get The Flick on Flickr.

It was a dreary morning so I thought I'd "go with it" instead of fighting it. Let me know what you think.

A Political Settlement

I’ve been reading the nearly universal condemnation of the $25 billion bank settlement. (A typical reaction here.) After listening to Rachel Maddow this morning (the podcast), I feel a little better about it. Here’s the video. For more complete coverage, watch the one that comes up after this one too.

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After listening to it -- and feeling a little better about it -- it hit me that Rachel is a political animal. Yes, she had her own show. She’s a pundit/journalist (assuming you can actually mix those two.) But deep down, she’s a political junkie. I mean, after all, she has a Doctorate of Philosophy in politics from Oxford University. You don’t get any more political than that.

So, what are the politics of this? What is the long game? The banks have been “busted” and fined (it’s a pittance), so what comes next? Well, politically, the Presidential election comes next. Put your thinking cap on.

The Obama Administration now has the Sword of Damocles hanging over the heads of the bankers. First, the voters are going to ask themselves, do they want the Obama Administration to pursue the bankers or a Republican Administration? I think the general consensus is that a Republican President wouldn’t prosecute a Banker. Obama wins politically.

But wait a minute, why would the Bankers tolerate this? Won’t they do everything in their power to make sure Obama isn’t elected so that his Administration can’t prosecute them at a later date? Suppose they did throw all their money at the Republicans and Obama won anyway? That would be very, very bad for them.

It would look bad, too. Bankers are about as unpopular as you can get right now. Their “help” might wind up hurting a Republican nominee. Especially if that nominee was so rich he was a “1 percenter”. And considering the problems the Republicans are currently experiencing, it would be a bad bet. (Santorum? Really?) Obama may have just politically neutralized the four biggest banks in America.

But what do I know? I’m not a player. And I don’t have a doctorate in anything. That is what makes politics so addictive, though. Anybody could be right. You can make things so convoluted that no one will ever figure them out. Even a guy like Newt Gingrich can be right. Scary isn’t it?

Don Brown
February 10, 2012

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Black Dam

Black Dam by Get The Flick
Black Dam, a photo by Get The Flick on Flickr.

The spillway and road are lurking in the shadows on the right -- right where the sunrise colors are most intense. Fortunately, the camera can't see them and you get to enjoy another beautiful sunrise. I never get tired of them.

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Sunrise Sprinkles

Sunrise Sprinkles by Get The Flick
Sunrise Sprinkles, a photo by Get The Flick on Flickr.

Perhaps not the best sunrise I've ever seen, but probably the best one I've taken in the rain.

Monday, February 06, 2012

Podcast Potpourri

So, I had this dumb idea of saving a podcast on my iPhone for a friend that I knew would be interested in it. And then I thought of another friend when I heard the next podcast. And another. And then another. You get the idea.

Then it occurred to me that more than one person might be interested. And then I remembered I had a blog. One other thought and it’s away we go. Podcasts are like blogs -- once you find a couple you like, you wonder why you didn’t start listening to them sooner. (All of these can be heard on the radio, of course, should you have a job that lets you listen in real time.)

How The Glock Became America's Weapon Of Choice

I’m not a gun nut but found this story fascinating anyway. The story actually has something for everyone -- gun nuts, gun-control nuts, capitalists, rappers and ex-patrons of The Gold Club in Atlanta.

How 'Space Weather' Affects Planes And Power Grids

I’m guessing I really don’t have to sell this story to my audience. But this is the one that got me started with this dumb idea. I had just heard a briefing about this very subject at Communicating for Safety from some astronomy nut I know.

Defending Climate Science's Place In The Classroom

Remember the (ongoing) classroom battle about teaching evolution vs. creationism? Here we go again. Now it’s climate change/global warming.

”The National Center for Science Education has long defended educators' right to teach evolution in public schools. Now climate science too is under attack. NCSE executive director Eugenie Scott talks about how teachers and parents can fight the push to get climate change denial into the classroom.”

I believe we all know how I feel about Democracy vs. Theocracy. The petrochemical companies/countries don’t care as long as the money keeps rolling in. The evolution fight is just a convenient model for them.

”The commonality is that with the anti-evolution problem that we have been dealing with, yes, you're right, the ideology that motivates it is religious ideology. There's some religious ideology that motivates the anti-global warming group, but it's not really predominant.”

”You know, sometimes I think that the climate change issue, climate change education issue, is sort of where evolution was 25 years ago or 25, 30 years ago. And it took us awhile to gear up to us being, you know, NCSE, but the science community as well. Maybe we can get ahead of this one and it won't be quite as big a problem.”

Was The Stimulus Package 'Money Well Spent'?

This one starts out all wrong but works around to redeeming itself. I must say, I’m astounded by how much I’ve learned reading Krugman’s blog and how it influences what I hear in these podcasts . It’s a perplexing situation for someone like me that absolutely hated economics in college.

The takeaway is that the stimulus was too small but without it unemployment would have peaked at 12% instead of 10%. The politics and human foibles of the story are fascinating. You should give this one a listen.

Unlike the other podcast, I’m going to actually ask you to listen to this one. You’ll have to try to keep an open mind because this one will probably sting a little.

Legal Scholar: Jim Crow Still Exists In America

I’m serious about the open mind thing. Throughout this podcast another statistic I’d heard (yes, from another podcast) kept going through my mind -- crime is at an historically low level. That’s just my mind trying to rationalize and justify. Some of the statistics from this podcast are appalling.

”Today there are more African-Americans under correctional control, in prison or jail, on probation or parole, than were enslaved in 1850, a decade before the Civil War began.”

If nothing else, think of the money this costs our society. And when you think of money, you have to remember that -- in today’s contractor nation -- someone is making money off of this shameful statistic.

”You know, if we return to the rates of incarceration we had in the 1970s or the early 1980s, before the war on drugs, we would have to release four out of five people who are in prison today - four out of five. More than a million people employed by the criminal justice system would lose their jobs.

Most new prison construction has occurred in predominantly white rural communities, communities that are quite vulnerable economically and have often been sold on prisons as an answer to their economic woes. Very often these rural communities have been offered benefits of prisons that haven't really materialized, but nonetheless, those prisons across America, you know, would have to close down. Private prison companies listed on the New York Stock Exchange would be forced to watch their profits vanish.”

Speaking of shame in America, that brings me to this morning’s podcast.

The Inquisition: A Model For Modern Interrogators

”Murphy's new book God's Jury: The Inquisition and the Making of the Modern World traces the history of the Inquisitions — there were several — and draws parallels between some of the interrogation techniques used in previous centuries with the ones used today.

"A few years ago, the intelligence agencies had some transcripts released ... of interrogations that were done at Guantanamo, and the interrogations done by the Inquisition were surprisingly similar and just as detailed," he tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross. "[They were] virtually verbatim."”

God help us. In reviewing all this, I am stuck by how depressing it all is. That we can't be bothered to keep up with what is happening in our world (we’re too busy) much less the evils that are being committed in our name. And with all the billions upon billions of dollars spent in these stories, the most hopeful thing you’ll find in all this is some half-mad-controller-turned-astronomer turning kids into scientists with a telescope. The thought occurs to me that maybe -- just maybe -- we “normal” people don’t know what we’re doing.

Don Brown
February 6, 2012

Sunday, February 05, 2012

Saturday, February 04, 2012

Groundhog Day Too

Quick, tell me what year this headline is from:

N.Y. Airports Account for Half of All Flight Delays

That’s right, it could be from any year in the last 30 years. Groundhog Day. It is, of course, from this year. I read it right after I got back from Communicating for Safety -- listening to how much money and time and effort we could save if only we’d buy this particular snake oil or adopt this superior management technique (all on sale for only $19.99.)

I guess we should take a look at the story behind the headline above:

”And the delays persist, despite changes in procedures and schedules by the airlines, airports and Federal Aviation Administration over the years. (In the latest move, the F.A.A. last fall created new flight paths out of Kennedy to speed up departures.) Even a significant drop in the number of flights since the economy slowed has not helped much. Flight delays last year in New York were as bad as they were five years ago.”

I see some interesting parsing of numbers. Consider the next paragraph:

”In the first half of 2011, the region’s airspace — defined as the big three airports, plus Teterboro Airport in New Jersey, which caters to corporate jets, and Philadelphia International Airport — handled 12 percent of all domestic flights but accounted for nearly half of all delays in the nation. In the same period in 2005, they represented just a third of all delays, according to a report by the Government Accountability Office.”

Except on Tuesdays, subject to availability, tax and tags extra. I think I praise The New York Times enough that I can say the writing on this one is a little confusing. Mostly because it is quoting too many government statistics that are supposed to be confusing. Otherwise, John Q. Public would figure this all out. There are lots and lots of comparisons of apples and oranges here in this black and white medium. (Think on vs. orange in a B&W newspaper. Kind of spoils it when I explain it doesn’t it?)

Flight delays are always bad in New York. Even though the rest of the country is losing flights, New York is still overscheduled. Even if the New York metro area lost some flights to the recession it would still be overscheduled. It would have to lose a lot of flights to have a significant impact on delays.

There’s a perfect of example of this later in the article.

”In poor weather — the litmus test for any airport — O’Hare can land 84 planes an hour, compared with the 68 to 72 before the new runway.

On-time departures from O’Hare jumped to 77 percent in 2010 from 68 percent in 2008.”

There’s a lot to discover in those two lines -- if you know how to read them. I’m guessing a lot of Americans don’t. Even though Chicago added capacity (a runway), the airlines schedule more airplanes than even the expanded capacity can handle. The inference is that if we just build more runways (NIMBY) we’d cure our delays. We won’t. The airlines will just schedule more airplanes.

Can you see why I’m stuck on the Groundhog Day theme? I hope you can tell by the plethora of links -- I’ve said all this before. And yet, we still run around in circles chasing our tails. I heard an airline pilot talk about how one simple procedure has saved his company $120 million dollars. Wow! Shazam! Oh, wait a minute...his company went bankrupt anyway. And odds are, the corporation stole his pension while they were at it.

Do you have a couple of minutes to educate yourself? This video will sound like it’s off topic at the beginning, but I assure you, it’s dead center.

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The solution is really simple -- at least in concept: Regulation. If you want the “cheap” ticket of deregulation, you get the cheap job and bankrupt corporation that goes with it. If you want the cheap mortgage of a deregulated banking industry, you get the cheap job that goes with that too. Don’t forget, you got to bail out both of those industries with your cheap wages, cut benefits and stolen pension.

And you know what? You can’t solve this problem -- with effective regulation -- on the cheap. You’re going to have to pay some smart people to manage your country. Taxes are the price we pay for a civilized society. You have to choose. Cheap or civilized? You can’t have both. And it’s really simpler than that. If you keep choosing cheap, you’ll wind up losing everything -- your job, your pension, your home and even your country.

Don Brown
February 4, 2012

Forsaken Beauty

Forsaken Beauty by Get The Flick
Forsaken Beauty, a photo by Get The Flick on Flickr.

The photography gods are not smiling today. I could work around it if I had my favorite lens but it's still in the shop. So here's another one from the archives.

Thursday, February 02, 2012

CFS -- Groundhog Day

I just got home from Communicating for Safety and I’m trying to pull my thoughts together about it. And of course, today being February 2nd, the first thing that came to mind was the movie Groundhog Day. For those that don’t understand the cultural reference, visit here first.

First, the good news. There were even more people at this CFS than in Vegas. I was told twice as many (and it looked like it.) That is great. NATCA gets better and better with the presentation and it really makes me proud that they have done such a good job with it. I detect a more pronounced feeling of professionalism. I attribute it to the fact that so many of the new guys actually went to colleges that concentrate on aviation.

I must say that I’m feeling more and more disconnected from air traffic control. I still see many things that concern me but I have to express them as concepts rather than specifics. I can’t talk “Q routes” but I know they’re just the most recent incarnation of colored airways. At the Archie League Awards, I noted that one pilot was using a GPS with a dying battery and that, in another incident, no one else knew how to operate the GPS on a Cirrus when the pilot became incapacitated -- even though numerous pilots were available to help. We didn’t have those problems when we had a standardized system of VORs.

I still see the silliness of complexity for complexity’s sake. (That’s a nice translation for stupidity.) It took me a few minutes of searching but I was finally able to recall Exhibit A -- the National Reference System. It only took 2 seconds from there to find a report on it (a .pdf file). And of course, the first report said exactly what I expected. (I’ve been writing too long. I can find what I said about it but I know it’s out there somewhere.)

”Negative Aspects. The pilots we interviewed indicated that they restrict their usage of NRS waypoints to original flight planning only (i.e., a strategic use). They reported that using them tactically while enroute (such as for a diversion around weather), their workload could be come
quite high due to:

• increased frequency congestion (NRS waypoints take longer to verbalize than named waypoints)

• human working memory limitations (due to their structure, NRS waypoints create a greater demand on working memory than named waypoints do)

• lack of geographical knowledge about waypoint locations,

• lack of waypoint MFD display capabilities

• paper chart readability issues, and

• the increased potential for waypoint entry errors in the FMS. ”

That’s being kind. You ought to see what the controllers think about it. But somebody got a feather in their cap for dreaming it up and some contractor made another million doing work on it. Groundhog Day.

One thing that bothered me. NATCA (in toto) did a lot of enthusiastic clapping for DOT and FAA types. I’m really glad we’re all getting along. Seriously. But never forget that the same FAA guys that you applauded will turn on you the second their political bosses change. Barack Obama has been NATCA’s friend. Ray LaHood and Michael Huerta are not. Barack Obama might reluctantly turn on NATCA one day. If it happens -- or if President Obama isn’t reelected -- Ray LaHood and Michael Huerta won’t be reluctant. Secretary LaHood is a Republican. Acting Administrator Huerta is an FAA manager. Their stripes have not changed.

Okay, another thing bothered me. Acting Administrator Huerta took a lot of credit for doing what the FAA was, in reality, forced to do. Like more time between shifts for controllers and more rest for flight crews. If the public pressure hadn’t been so bad, the FAA would still be resistant to those changes. But that is standard operating procedure for the FAA. Groundhog Day.

So, this is where I find myself these days. I see more of the “bigger picture” because I no longer have a day-to-day view of the details. I look and sound like an old guy to the controllers that do have a day-to-day view of the details. And I remember what that view looked like to young controllers.

“That guy never even worked with narrow band radar. He doesn’t have a clue about what it’s like now.”

Groundhog Day.

Don Brown
Groundhog Day
February 2, 2012

Westin -- Inside Looking Up

My room was in the clouds so I went down to the lobby to take some pictures. Well, until they made me stop, anyway.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Atlanta Reflected

Atlanta Reflected by Get The Flick
Atlanta Reflected, a photo by Get The Flick on Flickr.

This is sunset. In a few more minutes it will be dawn and I'll be shooting more.