Monday, April 30, 2012

The Tragedy of Settling

This Great Depression doesn't have to be. This isn't "just the way it is". We don't have to "settle" for our government's response. There is a way out of it.

 My regular readers know that something from Krugman is bound to be in this blog -- and there will be. But first, let's talk about the tragedy of us -- you and me -- settling for the way things are right now. First, it might be easiest to see how this hurts yourself. Take me for example. I'm weathering this recession way better than most. But one look at my investments and I realize I'm not making any money. My stock portfolio is up 3%. And that's good compared to most other things. Anything that is reasonably safe is earning less than that.

ATT is paying 5% dividends
Southern Company is paying 4%.
CDs are paying 1%.

And that brings to mind people that are living off their investments. Their income has been flat for four years now. You just know many are eating into their capital. For those that are, they are slowly but surely going broke.

But that's not the real tragedy. The real tragedy is what this is doing to young people. They are "broke" already. Many graduated college with debt. Debt that charges interest rates far higher than they could get on their savings -- savings that they don't have. Old people understand how money works over time. We know how far behind the 8 ball this puts young people, even if they don't. Krugman understands it even better than you and I.

Wasting Our Minds

 "We’ve been hearing a lot about the war on women, which is real enough. But there’s also a war on the young, which is just as real even if it’s better disguised. And it’s doing immense harm, not just to the young, but to the nation’s future." 

"Unemployment among recent graduates has soared; so has part-time work, presumably reflecting the inability of graduates to find full-time jobs. Perhaps most telling, earnings have plunged even among those graduates working full time — a sign that many have been forced to take jobs that make no use of their education. College graduates, then, are taking it on the chin thanks to the weak economy. And research tells us that the price isn’t temporary: students who graduate into a bad economy never recover the lost ground. Instead, their earnings are depressed for life." 

All that is bad enough. Imagine how much worse it is for those without a college education. But the real tragedy is that it doesn't have to be this way. Our salvation is within our grasp. We have a road map. We have the history lesson of the Great Depression.

 I remember when Wall Street crashed. I remember the debate about whether we should react as FDR did in the Great Depression. I remember the dire warnings that we only had a single model -- the Great Depression -- to base our actions on and how risky a strategy that was. I thought the people making the argument had a point. Times have changed. The situation was different. Just because Roosevelt's response in 1933 worked doesn't mean it would work today.

But the flip side of that is that it did work. As so far, nothing else has. I say we try it again. I don't know what Krugman has to say about it -- but I will.

Paul Krugman's Prescription For A 'Depression'

But while I'm waiting to read his book, here are my ideas -- because we've waited long enough already. Restart the CCC . As I said before, I don't care if they just rake leaves. It's better than sitting at home on unemployment. Of course, we can do so much more. And we should.

Hire back all the teachers, policemen and firefighters that have been laid off. That alone would drive the unemployment rate back down to about 7%.

 Then I want the Federal Government to hire every kid that graduated from law school or with a degree in accounting in the last four years. Put them to work building a case against the banksters. When they're finished with that, put them to work writing the legislation to make sure it never happens again.

No, I'm not kidding. Nationalize the banks while we're at it. Clean them up, bust them up and sell them off. Forgive a few hundred thousand mortgages while we're at it. Hey, we can do a lot with $475 billion. That includes putting some people to work and forgiving (and/or refinancing) a few hundred thousand mortgages.

And if you can follow my way of thinking...I think it's time we treat the unemployment crisis in America like we treated the banking crisis of 2008 -- like the emergency it is. Seriously, we're willing to throw $700 billion at a few thousand banksters but we're not willing to do it for 12 million unemployed citizens? And if you think all this is a bunch populist pablum, you aren't paying attention. How do you think all this ends if we don't fix it?

By the way, if you're nodding in agreement that social unrest leads to people like Hitler rising to power but shaking your head that we shouldn't be borrowing the money to put people back to might want to think a little harder. Not only is putting people back to work cheaper, it's the right thing to do.

Don Brown
April 30, 2012

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Blue Sky Bobber

Blue Sky Bobber by Get The Flick
Blue Sky Bobber, a photo by Get The Flick on Flickr.

The great thing about:

1) Being an artist
2) Being retired
3) Being commercial free

I can choose something just because I like it.

Don Brown
April 28,

Friday, April 27, 2012

Read the Comments

Keep in mind that this is Government Executive that we're talking about .

Romney rips 'unfairness' of federal pay, benefits

""We will stop the unfairness of government workers getting better pay and benefits than the taxpayers they serve," Romney said."

Now, go read the comment section. The post currently in the #1 slot is from "FedUpWithTheGOP".

In other news, I assume you're following the Murdoch scandal. I think it may have reached the tipping point.

Rupert Murdoch may be a monster but David Cameron and co are far worse
"Blaming Murdoch for attempting to influence policy in his commercial favour is like disagreeing with gravity. He should be expected to behave like a rapacious corporate monster because that is what he is. Where people have a right to expect far more, however, is from those notionally elected to look after their interests".
But wait! There's more!
"(Incidentally, if Cameron still is nursing even the vaguest glow after his aggrandising visit to Washington, he may care to watch the clip of The Daily Show's Jon Stewart voicing incredulity that not only did the PM humbly call on Murdoch, but that the only way on to the old boy's yacht was a freebie trip in his son-in-law's plane. "In the States we're not even allowed to give congresspeople T-shirts and hats," Stewart marvelled, "and our country's corrupt as shit!")"
There's a few things on there I'll have to see if Google has an English to American translator. But speaking of Google, I can't thank them enough for making me change all my work habits. Labels, quotes, comments -- everything is different. Soldiering on...

Do you think that an investigative reporter could find a dozen controllers with hookers in a strange town? Just in case it didn't hit you, if the Secret Service can look bad in the press, so can controllers. "Hard partying" sounds vaguely familiar to me. Mind your Ps & Qs boys and girls.

Don Brown
April 27, 2011

P.S. If anybody knows where the spell checker is on this thing, leave me a comment. Ditto on how to start a paragraph in the HTML editor. Geez.

When You're Right

Let's set the stage. Remember this post?

"The United Kingdom is acting early. No one really knows if it is right or wrong. We only have our opinions. I think it’s wrong. But if you think it’s the right thing to do for America -- cutting government spending and raising taxes to pay off the deficit -- you now have a test case to watch."

I, of course, get all my economic ideas from Krugman. So, it is not I that is right. It is Krugman. (I just have the good sense to heed what he says.)

"When David Cameron became PM, and announced his austerity plans — buying completely into both the confidence fairy and the invisible bond vigilantes — many were the hosannas, from both sides of the Atlantic. Pundits here urged Obama to “do a Cameron”; Cameron and Osborne were the toast of Very Serious People everywhere.

Now Britain is officially in double-dip recession, and has achieved the remarkable feat of doing worse this time around than it did in the 1930s."

(Emphasis added)

I think it's one of the reasons I really like Krugman -- he lacks the "good manners" to remain quiet when he's right. He'll poke you in the eye with it.

Death of a Fairy Tale

"Or as I put it way back when, the idea was that the confidence fairy would come in and reward policy makers for their fiscal virtue. 

The good news is that many influential people are finally admitting that the confidence fairy was a myth. The bad news is that despite this admission there seems to be little prospect of a near-term course change either in Europe or here in America, where we never fully embraced the doctrine, but have, nonetheless, had de facto austerity in the form of huge spending and employment cuts at the state and local level."

If this subject interests you, you must read all of Krugman's blog entries from this week (be sure to look at the charts). He hasn't been showing much mercy to his critics or policy makers. Nor should he.

It isn't easy being right when the powers-that-be of the world are aligned against you. And I think it's actually prudent to remind citizens that the powers-that-be aren't always right.

"To wrap this up, NextGen is the FAA’s version of the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) -- better known as Star Wars. It’s an irresistible idea and $50 billion dollars is just the start. You might want to ask yourself the same question about SDI. Where is it ?"

Yes, I wrote that back in February 2008.

By the way, how's ERAM doing?

Transformational FAA modernization programs slipping schedule

In case you're wondering, it doesn't make me feel better. I suspect it's the same with Krugman. No one wants to see public policy fail. Watching the same mistakes being made over and over again is painful. But not nearly as painful as public policy failures are for our citizens. That is what is important.

Don Brown
April 27, 2012

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

I Ain't Happy

I've had to switch over to a new word processing program.  On my first blog with it, I log in and find Google has changed their blog interface -- Blogger.  

We all know how I love change.  Especially when it takes me twice as long to complete the same task as I was doing before.  But after I conquer the "learning curve" it will all be worth it, right?

Tell me many more airplanes an hour are we working into LGA than we were 20 years ago?  And delays have decreased by how much?  And we have how many airlines that saved so much on fuel that they didn't go bankrupt?  I forget.

I ain't happy.

Don Brown
April 25, 2012

Here He Comes

I got to hear Mitt Romney's speech on The Rachel Maddow Show (the podcast) this morning. Here he comes. And he's coming after you. (Video here if you want to watch.)

From The Guardian

"...we will stop the unfairness of requiring union workers to contribute to politicians not of their choosing; we will stop the unfairness of government workers getting better pay and benefits than the taxpayers they serve;..." 

I believe that statement refers to my core audience -- air traffic controllers. If you don't understand the political significance of unions to the Democratic Party, you should . It's money. (It's manpower too, but it's always about the money.) Trust me, the Republican Party understands this significance. That's the reason they want to take away your union. And if they can't do that, they'll try to take away your union's money.

  "...the unfairness of requiring union workers to contribute to politicians..."

 And if they can't do that, they'll take away your money.

"...we will stop the unfairness of government workers getting better pay..."

 Gettin' the Flick?

 I've told you this before . The Republican Party (and its corporate overlords) are coming after the last bastion of union workers -- government workers. Well-paid government union members are at the top of the heap now. It isn't that government workers have done so well. It's that private workers (and I emphasis "workers") have done so poorly. Corporations have broken most of their unions. They have driven down the wages of their workers. They have cut their workers benefits. The corporations have stopped paying pensions and made their workers do their own investing for retirement. (And then let Wall Street steal those funds I might add.) Now it's time to take on government employees to do the same to them.

 For a slightly different perspective, you might want to check out this episode of Marketplace. Then you had better wake up.

  "Many state-run retirement systems have been underfunded, but Adler says New York's is not one of them. It's actually in pretty good shape. But many politicians, including New York's Democratic governor, ran on a platform of pension reform, on "fiscal responsibility."

 If a Democrat running for governor is willing to use this as an issue -- even when it wasn't an issue -- unions have some serious political problems. Of course, you can sit home and ignore those problems. And watch the politicians take your pay. And your benefits. And your retirement. That's an option too.

Don Brown
April 25, 2012

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Whiter Shade of Pale

Whiter Shade of Pale by Get The Flick
Whiter Shade of Pale, a photo by Get The Flick on Flickr.

It was even better in person.

Don Brown
April 21, 2012

Striking Gold

Striking Gold by Get The Flick
Striking Gold, a photo by Get The Flick on Flickr.

After a few days of overcast skies and mist, I couldn't take it anymore. I had to go find some pictures.

Don Brown
April 21, 2012

Thursday, April 19, 2012


It’s just another tiny, tiny part of the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy. Yes, I know that the VRWC term has been derided and mocked. And I know that Big Business has been doing this same kind of stuff forever. The thing to understand is that it is a conspiracy -- in the true sense of the word.


1.the act of conspiring. evil, unlawful, treacherous, or surreptitious plan formulated in secret by two or more persons; plot.
3.a combination of persons for a secret, unlawful, or evil purpose: He joined the conspiracy to overthrow the government.
4.Law . an agreement by two or more persons to commit a crime, fraud, or other wrongful act.
5.any concurrence in action; combination in bringing about a given result.

It is vast.

American Legislative Exchange Council

”ALEC currently has more than 2,000 legislative members representing all 50 states, amounting to nearly one-third of all sitting legislators, as well as more than 85 members of Congress and 14 sitting or former governors who are considered "alumni". ALEC also claims approximately 300 corporate, foundation, and other private-sector members.”

And it is right-wing.

”ALEC was co-founded in 1973 by Paul Weyrich who also helped found other conservative organizations in the 1970s and 1980s including the Heritage Foundation, the Committee for the Survival of a Free Congress, the Moral Majority and the Council for National Policy.”

Paul Weyrich is a name that you see over and over again when you start looking into this stuff so you might want to take a look at his Wikipedia entry.

”In 1973, persuading Joseph Coors to put the money in, Weyrich and Edwin Feulner founded the Heritage Foundation as a think tank to counter liberal views on taxation and regulation, which they considered to be anti-business.”

I don’t drink Coors beer for a reason.

”The following year, again with support from Coors, Weyrich founded the Committee for the Survival of a Free Congress (CSFC), an organization that trained and mobilized conservative activists, recruited conservative candidates, and raised funds for conservative causes.

Under Weyrich, the CSFC proved highly innovative. It was among the first grassroots organizations to raise funds extensively through direct mail campaigns. It also was one of the first organizations to tap into evangelical Christian churches as places to recruit and cultivate activists and support for social conservative causes. In 1977, Weyrich co-founded Christian Voice with Robert Grant. Two years later, with Jerry Falwell, he founded the Moral Majority. Weyrich coined the phrase "Moral Majority".”

Where were we?

”Over the next two decades, Weyrich founded, co-founded, or held prominent roles in a number of other notable conservative organizations. Among them, he was founder of the American Legislative Exchange Council,...”

Oh yeah. Let’s get back to ALEC. You might want to look at its Private Enterprise Board. Wal-Mart, Kraft, Johnson & Johnson, UPS, Exxon. It goes on and on. Keep in mind, this isn’t the Chamber of Commerce we’re talking about. This is an organization formed by the guy that gave us the Moral Majority.

But what makes it a conspiracy -- in the true spirit of the word -- is the fact that ALEC was hidden from public view. Enter William Cronon.

”In the midst of protests surrounding Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker's in March 2011 Wisconsin Budget Repair Bill, William Cronon, a historian who teaches at the University of Wisconsin devoted the first post on his newly-established Scholar as Citizen blog to ALEC. He addressed the largely behind-the-scenes role of the ALEC in working for the passage of ideologically conservative legislation at the state level. William Cronon pointed out that neither the model legislation which ALEC produces, nor the list of elected officials who are members of ALEC are publicly available. This resulted in the issuing of a FOIA request by the Wisconsin Republican Party to obtain all e-mail from Cronon's university account relating to Republican topics; Paul Krugman and the American Historical Association defended Cronon's right to conduct public political research. They decried the action as an apparent attempt at intimidation.”

Yes, that would be the Republican Governor Scott Walker that tried to eliminate collective bargaining rights and sparked the massive protests in Wisconsin. And on a not unrelated note, the Republican National Committee Chairman -- Reince Priebus -- just happens to be from Wisconsin.

The reaction to all this unwanted attention is just what you would expect.

”On April 4, 2012 the political advocacy group Color of Change announced a call to boycott Coca-Cola due to its support of ALEC and their advocacy work that allegedly encourages voter suppression through voter ID laws. Within hours, Coca-Cola announced it was ending its relationship with ALEC in apparent response to the threatened boycott. Kraft Foods and Intuit dropped support for the group under apparent pressure. Additionally, Pepsi had quietly withdrawn its support of ALEC earlier in the year. On April 9th the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation also withdrew their support for ALEC. McDonald's severed ties with ALEC on April 10, 2012. On April 12, Reed Elsevier dropped ALEC and Wendy's said that it had done so at the end of 2011. Mars, Inc. has also dropped its membership with ALEC.”

These people haven’t gone away. They aren’t defeated. And the corporations are like cockroaches, they’ll just crawl into a different hole when you turn on the light. They’re still out there, buying politicians and influence.

You could change all this. You could do what you should do and become a good citizen -- go to your city/county council meetings. Read up on the political positions of the people for whom you are going to vote. But your employer probably has you running around with your hair on fire, just trying to make a living. Working overtime. Having to check your email on your own time. Taking work home with you. Trying to pay for private schools or buy an expensive house in the “good” school district because so many public schools have gone so far downhill because people don’t have time to go to PTA meetings, much less Board of Education meetings, and help keep up the public schools. Hey...wait a minute...

You could do the right thing. But even if you can’t, you can do better. I send money to Wikipedia. I don’t drink Coors beer. I send money to National Public Radio. I don’t shop at Wal Mart. I don’t vote Republican. Small acts add up.

For today, I’m going to take the time to link to a new blog -- Scholar as Citizen . Some crazy professor up in Wisconsin took the time to shine a spotlight on some conspiracy to influence our State legislatures. It’s amazing what that small act has accomplished.

Don Brown
April 19, 2012

Catch Scratch Fervor

They walk amongst us. Forget Ted. Take a good look at the crowd.

Think about where you’ve seen a crowd with that kind of look on its collective face before. Several occasions come to mind for me. None of them are good.

Don Brown
April 19, 2012

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Caro’s Power

I can hardly stand the wait. Robert Caro’s new book on Lyndon Johnson will be out soon. I won’t bore my long-time readers with getting the new readers up to speed. I’ll simply remind everybody that Robert Caro’s books are the best I’ve ever read. And I’m always reading a book.

There’s a story about the new book in The New York Times Magazine.

Robert Caro’s Big Dig

”Caro now finds Johnson more fascinating than ever, he told me, and added: “It’s not a question of liking or disliking him. I’m trying to explain how political power worked in America in the second half of the 20th century, and here’s a guy who understood power and used it in a way that no one ever had. In the getting of that power he’s ruthless — ruthless to a degree that surprised even me, who thought he knew something about ruthlessness. But he also means it when he says that all his life he wanted to help poor people and people of color, and you see him using the ruthlessness, the savagery for wonderful ends.”

There’s a story in Esquire and also one in The New Yorker. I don’t normally read books on what I consider the literary-highbrow list, but it appears that -- in this instance -- we’re on the same page.

Embrace your inner nerd. Start reading.

Don Brown
April 17, 2012

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Vote Your Wallet

If you haven’t read the post at The Angry Bureaucrat about Politify yet -- go there now.

Whom Does Your Wallet Say You Should Vote For? This Website Tells You!

$10,000 dollars ought to get your attention. Even the controllers that are dumb enough to vote Republican.

Oh, and for the skeptics like me.

Don Brown
April 14, 2012

Mad as Matt Taibbi

The only thing I can figure is that Matt Taibbi wants Bank of America to sue him so he can get some bankers to testify under oath...or depose them...or some kind of legal jujitsu. In this article in Rolling Stone he goes after Bank of America. With abandon.

Bank of America: Too Crooked to Fail

”It's been four years since the government, in the name of preventing a depression, saved this megabank from ruin by pumping $45 billion of taxpayer money into its arm. Since then, the Obama administration has looked the other way as the bank committed an astonishing variety of crimes – some elaborate and brilliant in their conception, some so crude that they'd be beneath your average street thug. Bank of America has systematically ripped off almost everyone with whom it has a significant business relationship, cheating investors, insurers, depositors, homeowners, shareholders, pensioners and taxpayers. It brought tens of thousands of Americans to foreclosure court using bogus, "robo-signed" evidence – a type of mass perjury that it helped pioneer. It hawked worthless mortgages to dozens of unions and state pension funds, draining them of hundreds of millions in value. And when it wasn't ripping off workers and pensioners, it was helping to push insurance giants like AMBAC into bankruptcy by fraudulently inducing them to spend hundreds of millions insuring those same worthless mortgages.”

I’m pretty sure that he accused Bank of America of about a dozen felonies in that one paragraph -- times 1,000. Either Bank of America sues him (and Rolling Stone) or...

Matt Taibbi has the goods on the Bank and they can’t sue him because it’s true.

Regardless, it’s a fascinating read. If for no other reason, Taibbi is a masterful writer and he turns on his talent -- full force -- to flail away at Bank of America. It’s long. So I’ll stop talking so you can start reading.

”In sum, Bank of America torched dozens of institutional investors with billions in worthless loans, repeatedly refused to abide by contractual obligations to buy them back, evaded hundreds of millions in local fees and taxes, pushed tens of thousands of people into foreclosure using phony documents, ignored multiple court orders to stop its illegal robo-signing, and exploited President Obama's signature mortgage-relief program. The bank fixed the bids on bonds for schools and cities and utilities all over America, and even conspired to try to game the game itself – by fixing global interest rates!

So what does the government do about a rogue firm like this, one that inflates market-wrecking bubbles, commits mass fraud and generally treats the law like its own personal urinal cake? Well, it goes without saying that you rescue that "admitted felon" at all costs – even if you have to spend billions in taxpayer money to do it.”

For the new folks, I agreed with Krugman -- over 3 years ago -- that we should have nationalized the banks.

Don Brown
April 14, 2012


A friend of mine complained that she couldn’t comment on my blog without a Google account. Huh???

I have no idea how that setting got checked on the administration page of this blog. It has been fixed. Comment away.

Be nice. Don’t make me go all EBM on you.

Don Brown
April 14, 2012

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The End of “The World”

Hopefully, it’s the beginning of the end of Rupert Murdoch and his influence in politics. This is a complicated story. You will need a full hour to watch it. My readers know that I don’t post things of this length often. This is special.

As you do watch it, please take note of the characters and themes I have tried to point out over the years. Margaret Thatcher -- Ronald Reagan’s buddy -- empowered Murdoch by loosening regulations. He used that power to further corrupt the government. He went to war with the unions. The story should be familiar to you by now.

Take special note of the role of The Guardian and The New York Times played. A gay member of Parliament. A solicitor with MS. And a lone reporter with courage. Time and time again it seems as if civilization depends upon the frailest of people and institutions.

Watch Murdoch's Scandal on PBS. See more from FRONTLINE.

Don Brown
April 10, 2012

Monday, April 09, 2012

Public Park Fees

On my journey out West I took increasing notice of the fees being charged to enter public parks. This is wrong. I haven’t fleshed out my arguments against it yet -- I haven’t done my research yet -- but I know in my bones that this -- charging for access to public parks -- is wrong.

Let me say right up front, I can afford them. This is not a financial issue for me. It’s the Average Joe I worry about. The average American trying to raise a family that needs a cheap vacation or day of recreation with his family. His taxes have already paid for the park -- and now we are going to nickel and dime him to death.

In New Mexico, it was around $5 to enter a State park. In Colorado, it was $7. When I tried to enter the Lake Pueblo State Park in Colorado -- a hour before dawn -- they wanted their money paid and warned of dire consequences if you didn’t display the decal on your windshield. The only problem? There was no one there (of course) and all the self-service envelopes (think about that, charging for self-service) were gone. No one to take my money and no way to prove that I had paid any money.

I didn’t say much about this during my trip until I got to the Rocky Mountain National Park. I had no idea. It was $20 to get into the park. It was only $30 to get into a couple of local tourist traps. But my taxes don’t pay for tourist traps. They do pay for the Rocky Mountain National Park.

In my youth, I watched as State parks were converted into parking pads for motor homes. I thought it was wrong. (Still do.) But I could still camp out for free -- or next to nothing. But $20 bucks to get into a National park?

On the way home, I reached my limit with this absurdity. It was in a Kansas State Park -- again, a hour before dawn. The price of admission was $3.75 (I think.) Again, no one is there. I’m trying to read and fill out the self-service envelope by my car headlights and it hit me. I don’t have any change. It’s 6 o’clock in the morning, in the middle of nowhere and I’m supposed to have change? It turns out I didn’t even have any small bills. I had a one dollar bill, no change and a bunch of twenties. Guess how much the State of Kansas got? (You’ll never catch me, Kansas.) Oh yeah, and the bathrooms were locked too.

Kudos to Alabama. $2 bucks on the “honor system”. No forms. No windshield stickers.

Don Brown
April 9, 2012

Saturday, April 07, 2012

Slow Learners

How many times are aviators going to subject themselves to the angst and suffering that comes from their failure to adhere to standard phraseology as a matter of habit? How many times must people like me write about it? For how many years?

Standard phraseology really isn’t that hard. At least in the sense that it isn’t hard for people with the intelligence to fly an airplane or control a section of airspace. If the truth be known, it’s mostly just considered “uncool”. Let me call a spade a spade. If you are one of these people, you are being stupid. If your ego is so big that sounding cool is more important than being correct, you are being stupid.

Now, if you’re a pilot or a controller, we’ve already determined that you’re at least moderately intelligent. So stop being stupid.

I want you to listen to this story. But first, pay attention to what I am saying. First, turn on the TV or some music to distract yourself. Or start a conversation with your spouse. Then I want you to click on the video link below. Then turn your computer around and listen to the story. No visuals. Just listen. I want you to hear the radio transmissions.

Air controller during emergency landing: 'I know that's BS'

Got the Flick now? How many of you pilot types have ever practiced saying the words MAYDAY, MAYDAY, MAYDAY out loud? Don’t you practice emergency procedures? Isn’t this part of the emergency procedures you are required to practice -- and demonstrate -- as a pilot?

If this pilot had said MAYDAY, MAYDAY, MAYDAY -- even at his 100 mph speech rate -- do you think we’d be dealing with another embarrassing story for our professions?

By the way, I know the answer to the questions I asked. I’ve watched airline pilots take their check rides. I’ve seen the multi-million dollar simulators. I listened to the lectures on how expensive it is to send pilots and instructors into these training scenarios -- thousands of dollars. I’d tell you how little attention is paid to phraseology but most of you know it as well -- if not better -- than I do.

Pay attention. Practice it. Say it with me. SLOWLY if you’re worried about panicking a controller. M-A-Y-D-A-Y...M-A-Y-D-A-Y...M-A-Y-D-A-Y. Sound like you’re bored because some stupid government bureaucrat is making you say it and you’re way too cool for this. The next time you walk in front of a mirror say it again -- M-A-Y-D-A-Y...M-A-Y-D-A-Y...M-A-Y-D-A-Y. Say it like Barney Fife. Say it like John Wayne. Say it in any voice you want. Just say it. And every time you’re in a simulator practicing emergency procedures -- say it. EVERY SINGLE TIME.

That way, when you need it -- we you’re having an actual emergency -- it will be there for you. And we won’t have to have this conversation. We’ll be talking about how you saved the day by getting the airplane on the ground without any injuries to your passengers instead of phraseology.

'I know that's BS'

”Only one of the 21 people on board the plane was taken to the hospital after the incident.”

”A passenger on flight 5912, Linda Irwin, says she saw smoke in the cabin during the landing, and said the pilot and co-pilot landed the plane extremely well, considering snowy conditions and smoke in the cockpit.

She also says the flight attendant remained calm during the evacuation from the front of the plane.”

By the way. Use your callsign too. Not half of it. All of it.

Don Brown
April 7, 2012

Friday, April 06, 2012

A Word About Rachel

I remember avoiding The Rachel Maddow Show. I believed the hype -- that she was just another talk-show shock jock -- the Left’s answer to Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck (remember him?), Laura Ingraham, ad nauseam. She is not. I find Rachel Maddow intelligent, thoughtful, respectful and -- importantly -- kind.

I listen to her show via podcast every morning. I’m glad that I do.

There are two other things I’d like to mention about her before I get to the important news. First, Rachel Maddow has a new book out called Drift: The Unmooring of American Military Power.

Drift: The Unmooring of American Military Power is a 2012 book by Rachel Maddow. Her first book, Drift explores the premise that the manner in which the United States goes to war has gradually become more secretive and less democratic. In Drift, Maddow examines how American declarations of war have incrementally shifted from being Congressionally approved to being centralized in the hands of the American President. The book's scope spans from the Vietnam War to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

It will debut in the #1 spot of The New York Times best-sellers list. (Video of the announcement.)

Secondly, Rachel was interviewed by my favorite interviewer -- Terry Gross, the host of Fresh Air. If you’d like to get a sense of Rachel Maddow as a person, I’d recommend you listen to the interview.

All this leads me to the reason for today’s blog. Rachel has a way of grabbing stories that no one else is talking about and covering them for days, weeks -- sometime months -- before anyone else starts talking about them. Such is the story of Benton Harbor, Michigan. I’ve been meaning to write about this for weeks. It’s finally time because the core issue is getting bigger.

Benton Harbor is on the “wrong side” of the river. It is almost 90% black. St. Joseph -- on the other side of the river -- is almost 90% white. The State of Michigan (then under a Democratic Governor) sent an Emergency Financial Manager to take over the town’s finances. Then the now-totally-Republican-controlled government of Michigan expanded the power of that manager. In effect, democracy has been suspended in Benton Harbor. (By the way, there’s a fancy golf course development involved in all this.)

Today, Rachel Maddow used the term “dictatorship” in conjunction with the State of Michigan. This is a story worth watching. The set up is a little slow -- it’s a complicated situation -- but stick with it. Seriously, 546 of the 566 Bills passed by the State of Michigan this year have been enacted under “emergency” procedures. The Democratic Representatives of Michigan are suing the Republicans. Stick with this one.

If you’ve ever wondered how democracy dies -- how a dictator comes to power -- this is how. There’s an emergency. There is always an “emergency” that requires we suspend our normal judgment, bow to necessity and hold our noses to fix this temporary “emergency”. The problem (of course) is that there really are emergencies to deal with in life. The trick is in knowing when they are real -- and knowing who we let deal with them. Watch. Decide.

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Don Brown
April 6, 2012

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Adventures With GPS

I drove to Denver, Colorado for NATCA’s convention. My wife flew out with friends. That meant that I was supposed to pick everybody up at the airport -- and their luggage. That meant that I had to take my wife’s minivan. Instead of my pickup truck. Driving through Kansas wearing a cowboy hat in a pickup truck is one thing. In a minivan -- another.

Anyway, my wife’s van has GPS. My truck does not. It was an interesting experience. I drove across the country without a map. That doesn’t seem real smart to me. I didn’t like the routes it picked so I was always telling it to go someplace I wasn’t really going to keep it off the Interstate. (Yes, I know about routing options.) And it has to be the world’s worst data entry interface. Yet, I used it while in motion. Repeatedly.

It sent me to the wrong place a few times. I should have known that “2” 11th Avenue was suspicious. Turned out the real address was (something like) 1234 and 1/2 (I kid you not) 11th Avenue. Yes, the people at the hotel front desk have heard this tale before.

The GPS on my iPhone has its own unique set of problems. I walked 10 blocks with a friend looking for the Breakfast Palace in Denver. The little blue dot (me) lined up perfectly with the little red pin (the Breakfast Palace.) Unfortunately, I was standing in front of a Firestone Service Center. My friend looked it up on his phone. It said the alleged Breakfast Palace was 7 miles away. Yet, the street address his phone gave was the very spot we were standing in.

Another friend went with me to shoot pictures in the morning. We, of course, used the GPS to guide us to our chosen location(s). I proved to myself that I could not drive, watch for traffic, carry on a conversation and follow the GPS directions.

After 2,500 miles of letting this thing mislead and distract me, I was still using it -- and still watching it -- even after I was in the very familiar territory near my home. “Look! I’m only 27 miles from my destination and I’ll be there in 34 minutes!”


It occurs to me that flying an airplane is less forgiving than driving a car down the road. And more difficult. GPS is not going to go away. This I know. We are going to learn a few more lessons the hard way I fear.

Don Brown
April 4, 2012

Fishing Season is Open

Fishing Season is Open by Get The Flick
Fishing Season is Open, a photo by Get The Flick on Flickr.

Yeah, yeah. I'm writing. Swear.

Don Brown
April 4, 2012

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

The Road to Jericho

The Road to Jericho by Get The Flick
The Road to Jericho, a photo by Get The Flick on Flickr.

Okay, I'm home. Writing will commence shortly. After I cut the grass. And practice for the Good Friday signing. And unpack. And finish my taxes.

There's always a price to pay for taking a vacation. But I had a good time.

Don Brown
April 3, 2012