Thursday, August 30, 2012


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

What do I know? I just take 'em. Evidently, this one is more popular than yesterday's.

I've been playing in the dirt today and will again tomorrow. I'm praying for rain so I can blog again with a clear conscience.

Don Brown
August 30, 2012

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Uncle Sam -- Creating Jobs

My brother said something, years ago, that stuck with me: If you want a problem solved -- instead of studied -- give it to the military. That thought ran through my head as I listened to a story on Talk of the Nation -- Science Friday. You'll have to listen (sorry, no transcript) but, trust me, it's well worth it.

Believe it or not, the story is about green energy. There's a competition between military base commanders to become the first "net zero energy base". You can listen to the details about how it started but it started at Ft. Bliss, TX. That's a base of 8,500 people. And it wants to be capable of operating "off the grid". Interesting. Give it a listen. (Click on the "Listen Now" button.)

All this remind me of a blog I read from Robert Reich a couple of years ago.

America’s Biggest Jobs Program — the U.S. Military

"Yet what’s really sacrosanct is the giant jobs program that’s justified by national security. National security is a cover for job security.

This is nuts.

Wouldn’t it be better to have a jobs program that created things we really need — like light-rail trains, better school facilities, public parks, water and sewer systems, and non-carbon energy sources — than things we don’t, like obsolete weapons systems?"

Oh well, at least somebody is creating "non-carbon energy sources". My point, much like the film maker's being interviewed on Science Friday, is that once you look past the labels -- tree hugger/climate-change denier -- we're really all after the same thing. It seems kind of crazy to route it through the military but okay. After all, the Interstate Highway System is actually the "National System of Interstate and Defense Highways". Whatever.

Don Brown
August 26, 2012

Friday, August 24, 2012

Krugman -- Fill in the Blank

I've run out of superlatives. Just when I think he can't get any better...

Galt, Gold and God

"And Mr. Ryan is one of those devotees (of Ayn Rand). True, in recent years, he has tried to downplay his Randism, calling it an “urban legend.” It’s not hard to see why: Rand’s fervent atheism — not to mention her declaration that “abortion is a moral right” — isn’t what the G.O.P. base wants to hear."

That's God and Galt in one paragraph. And then he takes on Gold. Just go read it.

Don Brown
August 24, 2012

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Disagreeing With Krugman

Yes, I have found an area in which I disagree with Paul Krugman. Once you pick yourself up off the floor, you can read this excerpt from his latest book; End This Depression Now!

"(President) Carter presided over the deregulation of the airlines, which transformed the way Americans traveled, the deregulation of trucking, which transformed the distribution of goods, and the deregulation of oil and natural gas. These measures, by the way, met with near-universal approval on the part of economists, then and now: there really wasn't and isn't a good reason for the government to be setting air fares or trucking rates, and increased competition in these industries led to widespread efficiency gains."

When I first read that, I thought, "How can he get that so wrong?" Once you start picking the statement apart, it's gets tougher and tougher to say he's "wrong". It's a lot easier to say I disagree with him. I'll just say he's the "first kind of wrong".

I believe there really is "a good reason for the government to be setting air fares". The first reason was safety. In case you've never heard me say it -- the day before deregulation, the FAA's regulations were the minimum requirements for respectable airlines. The day after deregulation, they became the maximum. It happened slowly, but it happened. And there was a price to be paid for deregulation. At least that is my belief. Accidents such as Eastern 855, Palm 90 (Air Florida) and Continental 1713 were due in part to the pressures of deregulation. But it isn't like those pressures didn't exist before deregulation.

American Airlines 191 Engine Separation

"The procedure recommended by McDonnell Douglas called for the engine to be removed from the pylon prior to detaching the pylon itself, but American Airlines, along with Continental Airlines and United Airlines, had begun to use a procedure that saved approximately 200 man-hours per aircraft and "more importantly from a safety standpoint, it would reduce the number of disconnects (of systems such as hydraulic and fuel lines, electrical cables, and wiring) from 72 to 27.""

Yes, that accident happened after deregulation but the procedure was developed before deregulation. I'm not a trained scholar but I do try to be thorough and fair when I research these things. Aviation safety has continued to improve since deregulation but it has always continued to improve, ever since man took flight. I don't believe deregulation contributed to that improvement. I believe the improvement came about despite deregulation.

My real disagreement with Krugman on this issue is the fact that I believe a stable industry with good-paying jobs and secure pensions is a very good reason indeed for the government to set airfares -- if that is what is needed. I don't really care if there have been any "efficiency gains" -- not at the cost that was paid. Whether or not you agree that deregulation cost a few hundred people their lives, it certainly cost thousands upon thousands their jobs, their lifestyles and their pensions. It has left us with a bankrupt industry that is universally hated by its customers.

It's a mystery to me why we tolerate this situation. Cheap airfares? You do realize that every major airline has gone bankrupt, right? I believe that situation could be the poster child for today's favorite buzzword -- "unsustainable". The jobs certainly aren't any better. How about the investors? Do any of you want to buy airline stock? Competition? You realize we've merged ourselves into three major carriers (five if you're generous) don't you ? If there is any economic good in any of this you'll have to point it out to me.

Now that I have that out of my system, I'm thoroughly enjoying Krugman's book. And just in case you didn't click on the link before, you might be interested in the pundit pummeling going on between Krugman and Niall Ferguson. Somehow, James Fallows has been dragged into it also. Boy, two days without the internet and I miss all the fireworks. I'll have to go catch up.

Don Brown
August 22, 2012

Friday, August 17, 2012

Blue Swans -- Pink Lake

Blue Swans -- Pink Lake by Get The Flick
Blue Swans -- Pink Lake, a photo by Get The Flick on Flickr.

Y'all might as well join in too. This one seems to have struck a chord with folks. Besides, I need a new one to tweet.

Don Brown
August 17, 2012

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Proud to Be An American

The only problem is, I don't see anything in this video that is American...except the American. Thai airport. French airplane. Arab airline.

We used to have the best airlines in the world. The tallest buildings. The best schools. The biggest factories. You might want to go back and watch that Sorkin-written rant I posted a few days ago again.

Watch Your Mouth

Don Brown
August 12, 2012

Friday, August 10, 2012

The Other Side

For the last 16 years, you've been hearing one side of the political spectrum. This is what the other side sounds like. I'll leave it up to you to decide which one sounds more like the truth -- and which side you should be on.

Drive For Profit Wreaks 'Days Of Destruction'

"Hedges describes places such as Pine Ridge, S.D.; Camden, N.J.; Welch, W.Va.; and Immokalee, Fla., as sacrifice zones, parts of the country where human beings and natural resources have been used and then abandoned, where wrenching change has spawned hopelessness, desperation and ravaged landscapes."

From the interview:

"HEDGES: Because I wanted to show what happens when human beings, communities, when the environment is all forced to prostrate itself before the marketplace. You know, this has become the ideology across the political spectrum, and the consequences - as you see, in all the places you just mentioned - in many other parts of the country are devastating. And essentially, we have undergone a kind of corporate coup d'etat in slow motion. There are very little impediments left against these corporate forces."

"HEDGES: You know, you mentioned, Neal, at the beginning, farms. I grew up in a farm community, and, you know, what happened to family farms, people who, generation after generation, had poured their sweat, their blood, their pride - everything into it and then were destroyed by agribusinesses with no protection. And, you know, and suicide was rife among farmers who finally went bankrupt.

You know, this is - this sort of untold story of unfettered corporate capitalism, which is super national, it owes no loyalty to the nation state. And, of course, as any small business owner will tell you, especially the ones who can no longer get credit from the banks, these people are no friends of the small entrepreneur."

Please, have a listen. Hear the passion. Check out the biography of Chris Hedges. If you like what you hear -- or just think it worth hearing -- share it with others.

Drive For Profit Wreaks 'Days Of Destruction'

One more quote. Just to get your attention.

"HEDGES: The American worker is told that he or she has to be competitive on the global marketplace, and that, in essence, means being competitive with prison labor in China or sweatshop workers in Bangladesh who make 22 cents an hour. The movements - especially the labor unions that once protected American workers - have been decimated and destroyed. And what's left of them within the public sector are being dismantled.

I live in New Jersey. Chris Christie is making war on not only the teachers union, but ultimately the police and fire unions, the Supreme Court decision, which severely weakened the public sector unions in California. These are the last sort of readouts of organized activity that once, you know, made the middle class possible, the eight-hour workday possible, you know, safety regulations. It's all vanished. And we are rapidly evolving into an oligarchic state."

Wow. Just wow.

Don Brown
August 10, 2012

He Should Try ERAM

Neal Conan is my all-time favorite host on NPR. He hosts Talk of the Nation. It's probably just luck of the draw -- his time slot coincided with a lot of my shifts as an air traffic controller. I'd listen to him on the drive back and forth from work. Anyway, I've come to have a deep respect for his intellect and skill as a radio host.

But about a month or so ago, I started noticing problems. There was a glitch in his speech pattern. There were pauses, hiccups and just a lot of bumps in the road. You don't realize how smooth he makes everything flow until he doesn't. It makes it more difficult to focus on the subject and you could tell it was really frustrating to Neal. Is he getting old and just slowing down? Nah, it's just his "new and improved" technology. His show has installed some new voice switching..I'm sorry...telephone switching system. It sounds like it's on a computer screen. Whatever it is, it isn't getting any better. Last week's show (I'm catching up on podcasts) had more "dead air" than any show I've ever heard him host.

So, if you're an air traffic controller and you're looking for a sympathetic journalist that can understand the human/machine interface problems that can arise in a new system, I think I've found your man. (The link will lead you to the audio if you'd like to listen. The real problems start around the 21 minute mark.)

The Best And Worst VP Candidates Of All Time

"CONAN: Let's see if we can go next to - oh, boy, I'm having trouble with this machine again today. I apologize. And we're just having a problem hanging up on people. That's normally not my problem."

For those that need a primer: ERAM

Don Brown
August 10, 2012

Thursday, August 09, 2012

Busy Boy

I put this link on my Facebook page the other day and it got quite a reaction. Sorry I've been so busy that I haven't gotten it up here sooner. Speaking of which, it's a Democrat day so I've got to run. Enjoy.

The Aviation Community Has Cancer

"My first exposure to the dark side of aviation was in Utah. We were flying around the Rocky Mountains hiking and camping and stopped in Utah Valley for fuel and a flight briefing. We used the self fuel and walked into the office in search of a briefing box or wifi. Upon opening the door we were greeted by Rush Limbaugh blasting throughout the entire building."

Don Brown
August 9, 2012

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Lord of the Rings

There are children in my house, watching the Lord of the Rings. Hopefully, they won't be as forgetful as we have been.

Don Brown
August 8, 2012

Monday, August 06, 2012

Introverts Unite! (and other oddities)

No, wait...

I'm becoming a big fan of TEDTalks. The one below struck a real cord with me -- I am an introvert and I would have been much more comfortable in my own skin if I'd known that a lot earlier. There are hundreds of other TEDTalks to choose from, so if you're not an introvert, there is still one that will interest you. Explore. I typed "air traffic control" in the search box. Now I'll have to write another blog post for this.)

Like so many times in my life, I feel like I'm late to this party. Of course, I don't like parties. I'm an introvert.

Speaking of jobs I am ill suited to perform, through some kind of serious flaw in our society's structure, I have been thrust into the chairmanship of my county's Democratic Party. Heaven help us. The reason I'm telling you is that I've created a blog and a Facebook page for it and guess who has to fill it with content? So, I haven't stopped writing -- I'm writing a lot -- it's just that I am writing some place different and for a different audience. I'll still post here. It's just that there are only so many hours in the day.

But if you are just a fan of my wit and brilliant writing style -- no matter what the subject -- then you are certainly welcome to read the blog. You can even "Like" the Facebook page. You can even send money. I'll have a PayPal link up sooner or later, but if I was you I'd put a $5 bill in an envelope and snail mail it. (The top item on the sidebar. $10, $20, $50 and $100 bills also accepted.) That way, you won't be on anybody's mailing list and you won't get any robo calls. Seriously, what kind of dummy gives their address to a political party? They'll keep pestering you for money and to attend meetings. The next thing you know you'll wind up running the thing. Oh, wait...

Yeah, I wouldn't even put a return address on it. That'll save me from having to write a "Thank You" note. And seeing as I can't afford to buy any "Thank You" cards's a win-win.

Now, if you think I sound uncomfortable asking for money, wait until you see my fellow introvert give this TEDTalk. If you extroverts would stand up and do these things we introverts wouldn't have to. Just sayin'...

Don Brown
August 6, 2012

Sunday, August 05, 2012

Close Enough

Close Enough by Get The Flick
Close Enough, a photo by Get The Flick on Flickr.

It's a good thing I never worked in the Tower. I would probably have been too distracted.

Don Brown
August 5, 2012

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Still Voting Republican?

I know some controllers that still vote Republican. As hard as it is to believe. I bet some are in South Carolina.

Jim DeMint: No More Appointees Until After Elections

"Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) believes that remaining executive branch appointees requiring Senate confirmation should be put off until after the elections, including the confirmation of Michael Huerta to head the Federal Aviation Administration."

Oh wait, it gets better.

"The appointment “would be through the Romney administration, so that gives Romney no ability to put the person he needs in place,” DeMint said.

He mentioned the labor contract with air traffic controllers union, which he believes the nation can’t afford.

“We’ve got a whole lot of modernizations and things that have to happen with FAA. The contracts they have now with the air traffic controllers, what these folks make in benefits, are not the kind of thing we can sustain,” DeMint said. “We have questions about the particular person, but ... we should not give anyone a five-year term at this point.”"

I hear Blakey is free. Y'all want her back again? I've got a picture somebody sent me in an email not long ago. I look at it whenever some demagogue like DeMint tells me we can't afford something.

I don't think I have to explain Davis-Montham Air Force Base to my readers. Click on the link if you aren't familiar with "The Boneyard" for billions upon billions of dollars worth of airplanes that -- somehow -- we could afford.

And just think, those B-2s -- at a billion dollars apiece -- will one day join them. Funny, how we can afford those.

Don Brown
August 1, 2012