Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Limbo



Remember when (1 year and 3 days ago) we thought 3% was a low interest rate on a 10 year T-bill? Ahem...

TREASURIES-Benchmark 10-year Treasury yields touch record low

"Ten-year notes were trading 13/32 higher in price to yield 1.394 percent, which was a record low and down from 1.438 percent late Monday."

"Limbo low now!
How low, can you go?"


We're still on course. Full steam ahead.

Don Brown
July 25, 2012

3H Fishing

3H Fishing by Get The Flick
3H Fishing, a photo by Get The Flick on Flickr.

I guess this means I'm sticking with Nikon.

Don Brown
July 25, 2012

Monday, July 23, 2012

Watch Your Mouth



"We waged wars on poverty, not poor people."

A loyal reader sent this video clip to me. You may have seen it. I'm sure it's making the rounds. It's from a new series on HBO -- The Newsroom. I'll say it again -- it's HBO so there is strong language. But it's brilliant language. When I finished watching it, I tracked the video down and found out it came from HBO and then noticed it was written by Aaron Sorkin -- the genius that gave us the series The West Wing.





Two notes of interest (because, hey, it's me and I can't help myself):

1) The "war of poverty" was part of the Great Society program from Lyndon Johnson. I'll address the arguments about its failures on some other day. I think it important to remember its successes.

"In the decade following the 1964 introduction of the war on poverty, poverty rates in the U.S. dropped to their lowest level since comprehensive records began in 1958: from 17.3% in the year the Economic Opportunity Act was implemented to 11.1% in 1973. They have remained between 11 and 15.2% ever since."

2) My family bought the entire series of The West Wing on DVD as a Christmas present for me. We watch one episode a week. I am absolutely stunned and amazed at how relevant the series still is -- 13 years after it started. I mention it because I'm going to go out on a limb and say Aaron Sorkin still has that magic ability to grasp what is relevant to us in the long term. You might want to think on this clip a little harder. I don't want you to see this clip thirteen years from now and say "Oh, now I get it." I want you to get it now.

You might want to go back and watch it again. There are at least a dozen great lines in it. I hope you'll try to remember one or two.

"We aspired to intelligence. We didn't belittle it."

Don Brown
July 23, 2012

Friday, July 20, 2012

Now, Was That So Hard?

Now, Was That So Hard? by Get The Flick
Now, Was That So Hard?, a photo by Get The Flick on Flickr.

The guy at Nikon says my camera might be ready in a few days. Like, maybe, Monday. We'll see.

I feel better about it. For now.

Don Brown
July 20, 2012

Thursday, July 19, 2012

FAA History Lesson -- July 19, 1967



From the FAA Historical Chronology, 1926-1996

”Jul 19, 1967: A midair collision near Hendersonville, N.C., between a Piedmont Airlines Boeing 727 and a Cessna 310 killed all 82 people aboard the two aircraft. The fatalities included Secretary-designate of the Navy John T. McNaughton. The National Transportation Safety Board listed the probable cause as the Cessna's deviation from its Instrument Flight Rules (IFR) clearance. The Board could not specifically identify the reason for the Cessna’s deviation; however, it cited the "minimum control procedures” used by FAA in handling the Cessna as a contributory factor in the accident. The Board’s recommendations included improvements to the air traffic control system and more stringent requirements for IFR pilots, including an annual proficiency flight check. “

This is the way it happens. You don't expect it. You're just cruising along on autopilot and fate reaches out to remind you just how serious a business you're in. Pay attention. It's the price of your profession. You must be ever vigilant against an event like this.

I don't like to think about these things anymore. You must. It is your duty.

Don't become the generation that gets reminded as to why our industry puts so much effort into making sure another one never happens again.

Don Brown
July 19, 2012

Dear Nikon

Dear Nikon by Get The Flick
Dear Nikon, a photo by Get The Flick on Flickr.

You have been holding my camera hostage in your repair shop long enough. 41 days. I am out of patience with your company's lack of communication.

Don Brown
July 19, 2012

Monday, July 16, 2012

A Second Shower

A Second Shower by Get The Flick
A Second Shower, a photo by Get The Flick on Flickr.

Day 38 of my camera being held hostage by the Nikon repair shop. :(

Don Brown
July 16, 2012

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Friday, July 13, 2012

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Just in Case You Forgot



Rachel Maddow is brilliant.

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy



Don Brown
July 12, 2012

Nikon Nonsense



All non-camera people may disregard. If you never, ever plan to buy a camera again, this will be of no interest to you.

This is for the rest of the internet-connected world and photographers that may wonder if they are the only ones suffering through a "parts hold" from Nikon. You are not alone.

I shipped my Nikon D80 off to the Nikon repair shop in Melville, NY. I don't live anywhere near any camera repair shop so it's really not a bad option for me -- shipping it off to the "big shop". They received it on July 7, 2012 and everything was going fine until the the status of the repair got changed to "parts hold".

Now, believe it or not, I'm a pretty patient guy (for an ex-controller). I even tried to turn this lemon into lemonade. I figured if I was going to have to learn to use my point-and-shoot camera while the repairs were being done, I'd make it into a learning experience and let everyone follow along on Flickr. I made a sort of tutorial for point-and-shoot cameras. And what did I make it with? A Nikon of course (an L22 Nikon Coolpix). I'm a loyal customer kind of guy.

But I had no idea it would go on this long. And I had no idea how little information you can get out of Nikon about when to expect a repair to be completed.

I was all ready to be understanding and everything. I figured the tsunami that hit Japan might have wreaked havoc on their production and/or supply chain. But no excuses. Just apologies and a vague promise of "soon".

So, I've been without a "real" camera for one month and 9 days. And I have no idea how much longer it might be. Considering my last transaction with Nikon's repair shop -- where they kept my lens from 1-24-12 to 2-21-12 -- only to send it back with a note saying they could no longer find parts for it (it *is* an old lens) so they couldn't fix it...

I'm not exactly a satisfied customer. I am definitely not happy. And I'm wavering on the loyalty part. Canon users: Feel free to convert me. Or at least try.

Don Brown
July 12, 2012

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

I Hate Power Lines



I'm too busy to write this morning but James Fallows has plenty to say. (Currently, much of it about aviation.)

I hate power lines because I'm a photographer. You should hate them because storms damage them and cause power outages. A picture is worth a thousand words, blah, blah, go read James Fallows -- who has better words than I do anyway. I stole the picture from him. We can change our world for the better.



Don Brown
July 10, 2012

Saturday, July 07, 2012

Cockeyed Comparisons



As most of you know, I listen to the Marketplace podcast each morning.

After LIBOR scandal, London fears losing financial crown

"And London had been doing so well. The city had leapt ahead of New York as the leading financial center. Wall Street was hamstrung with regulations, like Sarbanes-Oxley and Dodd-Frank. London was free and easy.

But Ed Miliband says that's how we got into this mess. He's the leader of the Opposition Labour Party. He's the leader of the Opposition Labour Party.

Ed Miliband: “There's been a tendency in this country towards deregulation, light-touch regulation. It was wrong. It was wrong. And it's got to change for the future.”

Tighter regulation could now be on its way from the European Union. Economist Andrew Hilton says Britain's European partners have been trying to rein in London for years."


There’s a lesson in there about comparisons. Wall Street is “hamstrung” in comparison to London because of regulations. Bah! What it really means is that London’s financial industry is out of control. That’s the story. Their privateers have rigged the game. Just as Wall Street rigged it’s game -- and still does. (Side track: I haven’t mentioned student loans? I mentioned them somewhere. We’re giving 18-21 year olds $100,000 unsecured loans to go to college? Would you lend $100,000 to any 18 year old you know? Tell me that isn’t a scam just like “liar loans” in the mortgage industry.)

(Back on track) You’re seeing these same cockeyed comparisons in a number of areas. “Federal workers are overpaid”. No they’re not. A few short years ago they were underpaid (in formulated comparisons). Their salaries haven’t gone up dramatically. Private salaries have gone down dramatically. And Republicans want to use that fact to cut workers salaries. With the Supreme Court’s crazy Citizens United ruling, companies “and unions” are free to spend their money on political speech. You hear it all the time “and unions”, like there is some kind of equivalence there. There isn’t.

"The broadest classification of political donors separates them into business, labor, or ideological interests. Whatever slice you look at, business interests dominate, with an overall advantage over organized labor of about 15-to-1."

And that advantage grows every year as labor is beaten down. The point is that all these things are being used to sell a bankrupt and immoral narrative. And it’s no different than it was 79 years ago.

"Practices of the unscrupulous money changers stand indicted in the court of public opinion, rejected by the hearts and minds of men. True they have tried, but their efforts have been cast in the pattern of an outworn tradition. Faced by failure of credit they have proposed only the lending of more money. Stripped of the lure of profit by which to induce our people to follow their false leadership, they have resorted to exhortations, pleading tearfully for restored confidence.

They know only the rules of a generation of self-seekers. They have no vision, and when there is no vision the people perish. The money changers have fled from their high seats in the temple of our civilization. We may now restore that temple to the ancient truths. The measure of the restoration lies in the extent to which we apply social values more noble than mere monetary profit."


Do you see how true those words ring for our time?

"Practices of the unscrupulous money changers stand indicted in the court of public opinion..."

Day 14 Occupy Wall Street September 30 2011 Shankbone 47

"Stripped of the lure of profit by which to induce our people to follow their false leadership, they have resorted to exhortations, pleading tearfully for restored confidence."

Krugman: The Confidence Fairy Has Taken a Leave of Absence

”They know only the rules of a generation of self-seekers.”



And finally, there is guidance on where our future should lie.

"The measure of the restoration lies in the extent to which we apply social values more noble than mere monetary profit."

To translate it into modern-day terms, here’s a place you can start.

Human Development Index

”These were devised and launched by Pakistani economist Mahbub ul Haq in 1990 and had the explicit purpose "to shift the focus of development economics from national income accounting to people centered policies".”

Yes, I have been here before.

Don Brown
July 7, 2012

Friday, July 06, 2012

Parallels in Afghanistan



Here’s another story I listened to on NPR today.

Lessons For Afghanistan War From 'Little America’

"We see this today with the U.S. military, U.S. aid agencies, the international aid community hiring the few Afghans who possess language skills, who possess technical skills so then we look at the Afghan government ministries and say: Why can't they do a better job? Well, they don't have the people to do it. Where are those people? Oh, they're getting paid 10 times as much working for the U.N. or working for USAID."

How can we not recognize this problem in our own country?

U. S. Congressman -- $174,000 per year

Average U.S. CEO -- $9,600,000 per year

That’s over three times as much to be a CEO -- PLUS 9 MILLION DOLLARS (for the numerically challenged.)

Getting the Flick?

Don Brown
July 6, 2012

A Great Republican Idea



I know Republicans aren’t supposed to listen to National Public Radio but they had a story on the other day that every Republican should love.

Land-Grant Universities And Agriculture's Future

"One hundred fifty years ago, Abraham Lincoln signed a law that transformed agriculture and education, and transformed America along the way. Named after its congressional sponsor, the Morrill Act of 1862 directed the states to create institutions of higher learning for the study of agriculture and mechanics, and provided 30,000 acres of public land to each state for the purpose. These land-grant universities include MIT, Cornell, the California state universities and Texas A&M, among many others."

By the way, just in case you’re interested, the law -- The Morrill Land-Grant Acts -- was named for Justin Smith Morrill, a founder of the Republican Party from the unlikely state of Vermont. The law was only able to be passed after many Southern states had left the Union. They had been blocking it for 20 years. Does that sound familiar?

The next time you hear a modern-day Republican tell you that government can’t create jobs, tell them how Texas A&M got its start. And MIT.

Speaking of MIT -- The Massachusetts Institute of Technology -- do you controller types know about SAGE from Lincoln Labs? You might recognize that the government created a few jobs when they figured out how to wire multiple radar sites to a computer.

It’s nice to know where you’ve been. It helps you figure out where you can go. The Republican Party wasn’t always crazy. Really smart people used to run for Congress and work in government. We can make this country work well again. But first, we have to recognize that we need a good government for that to happen. And we won’t get there with the Republican simpletons’ slogan that government is bad and business is good.

Don Brown
July 6, 2012

Thursday, July 05, 2012

Barclays -- I’ve Heard That Name



Just in case the headlines are making you wonder where you’ve heard the name “Barclays” before...

Moody’s, S&P take step to downgrading Barclays but Fitch holds its view intact for now

"Two leading credit rating agencies took steps Thursday toward downgrading Barclays in the wake of a trading scandal that’s seen three senior officials, including chief executive Bob Diamond, hand in their resignations."

...You might want to go back in time and read this article

Thrift Savings Plan's Stock Funds Take a Hit

"A key part of yesterday's board meeting involved a presentation by executives from Barclays Global Investors, which has managed the TSP's investment funds for the past two decades. Those funds are part of a securities lending program that Barclays operates and that produces income for the TSP.

The Barclays executives assured the thrift board that TSP assets are protected if Barclays encounters problems with borrowers who cannot live up to their contractual obligations or default on loaned securities."


I’m not a banker or a pension fund manager so I’m not going to claim any detailed knowledge of the subject. But the legend of Willie Sutton still rings true even if the story isn’t: Willie robbed banks “because that’s where the money is.” Money is no longer in the banks. It’s in retirement funds.
It’s really simple. The modern-day Willie Suttons work in banks and the “shadow banks”. Wall Street. Hedge Funds. Whatever you want to call them. They stole your money. They stole everybody’s money. And until we start putting them in jail, they’ll keep stealing it. The problem of getting the money back is simple. You tax the people that stole it. You sure as hell don’t let them leave it to their kids and create another generation of silver-spoon physchos.

You can vote for a “revolution” in November or you can wait for the real deal to happen. That’s the lesson of history. That’s the genius of America. I highly recommend you take advantage of the former. History says you won’t like the later. Vote or Revolution. The choice is yours.

Don Brown
July 5, 2012

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Buy This Book



One of the guys that was writing for AVweb when I was, has a new book out. His name is Rick Durden and the book is The Thinking Pilot’s Flight Manual. I haven’t read it. And I’m not going to give you and song and dance about it. I just got an email from him that says pretty much what I’d say if I’d written a book -- I’ve written a book. Have a look.

I like him. He’s the writer that I enjoyed reading the most when I was with AVweb so I’m betting it’s good writing. I’m not a pilot -- so I won’t be able to judge that part -- but I wouldn’t hesitate to buy it for a pilot friend.

In short, Rick is one of the good guys. If you need an excuse to buy a book like this, now you have one. Thanks.

Don Brown
July 4, 2012

Monday, July 02, 2012

Escape From New York



Not to worry chil’ens. I have escaped from the clutches of those Yankees once again. On the trip in, some bridge got stuck in the up position on the Belt Parkway. A 2 and 1/2 hour trip turned into 4 and 1/2 hours. Oy! On the trip out, I decided to leave early, take the ferry to Connecticut and skip the city altogether. In case you didn’t know it, Con-Ed currently has locked out those bad old union guys to keep them from walking out during this heat wave. They have supervisors filling in. I thought it prudent to stay out of the city. The ferry ride was grand.

It was 107ºF while I was sitting in traffic in the Bronx. But that wasn’t anything compared to Winchester, Virginia. While waiting at the light to turn onto the interstate, the car’s thermometer said 110º. I believe that is the highest temperature I’ve ever been in my lifetime. And I grew up in Macon, GA. That’s saying something.

Regular blogging should resume about Thursday or so. I’ve finished Robert Caro’s The Passage of Power and now I’m almost done with Rachel Maddow’s Drift. I’m really enjoying it. And Rachel Maddow is really smart. And nice.

I’m beginning to suspect that the reason the Right hates on Rachel Maddow so much is the same reason they hate on Krugman so much -- because she’s right. For some reason, that does make people crazy.

Don Brown
July 2, 2012