Monday, August 31, 2009

The First Rule of Blogging....

Kevin reminded me the other day that a decent blogger (which I am far from) will put up something--anything--every day. I found out long ago, that this whole blogging thingi is more work than it may seem. I like it, but I started this thing as a means to both craft my thoughts, and to develop the writing skills to be able to put those thoughts down intelligently on this cyber-paper. I have a long way to go on both fronts.

But in that vein, I present this....

I found this via a scroll through Sean Linnane, who has kindly added me to his blogroll. Sean Linnane is a contributor to Theo's place, who also added me to his blogroll a while back, and I suspect that Sean has taken many of Theo's links wholesale into his place. I check in with Theo every now and then...he has a snarky sense of humor which appeals to me, and he includes pictures of some very lovely ladies (which I can always look at). I think I achieved my place on Theo's blogroll through a comment I put onto one of his posts one day, but frankly, I don't think of myself as worthy. And I am certainly not worthy of Sean Linnane's link. He has a wonderful viewpoint, and I am humbled to be linked on his blog.

I really don't know much about Warren Zevon, other than he was a sort of edgy guy. His music didn't appeal to me much, but the performance of Roland is haunting. He knew he was sick, and Letterman offered him his stage for a last performance. I used to like to watch Letterman...his humor was wry and twisted like mine, but in the last couple of years, he has gone fully into the BDS, and has not found a way out. His jokes about Sarah Palin were unforgivable, and I am one of his former audience members. But I do give Letterman credit for hosting Zevon on this last night.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Fail Blog....

Funny stuff.....Isn't that an Obama sticker?

Friday, August 28, 2009

In yet another act of rank copying of some else's work.....

I present this, from Kevin over at The Smallest Minority. Can I say that I am rightly impressed that Kevin would remember and/or have a way of keeping track of a piece by Peggy Noonan from nearly 4 years ago, and be able bring it back into relevance today?

"...Do people fear the wheels are coming off the trolley? Is this fear widespread? A few weeks ago I was reading Christopher Lawford's lovely, candid and affectionate remembrance of growing up in a particular time and place with a particular family, the Kennedys, circa roughly 1950-2000. It's called "Symptoms of Withdrawal." At the end he quotes his Uncle Teddy. Christopher, Ted Kennedy and a few family members had gathered one night and were having a drink in Mr. Lawford's mother's apartment in Manhattan. Teddy was expansive. If he hadn't gone into politics he would have been an opera singer, he told them, and visited small Italian villages and had pasta every day for lunch. "Singing at la Scala in front of three thousand people throwing flowers at you. Then going out for dinner and having more pasta." Everyone was laughing. Then, writes Mr. Lawford, Teddy "took a long, slow gulp of his vodka and tonic, thought for a moment, and changed tack. 'I'm glad I'm not going to be around when you guys are my age.' I asked him why, and he said, 'Because when you guys are my age, the whole thing is going to fall apart.' "

Mr. Lawford continued, "The statement hung there, suspended in the realm of 'maybe we shouldn't go there.' Nobody wanted to touch it. After a few moments of heavy silence, my uncle moved on."

Lawford thought his uncle might be referring to their family--that it might "fall apart." But reading, one gets the strong impression Teddy Kennedy was not talking about his family but about . . . the whole ball of wax, the impossible nature of everything, the realities so daunting it seems the very system is off the tracks.

And--forgive me--I thought: If even Teddy knows . . ."

The Government Can...

Who said white guys can't dance?

h/t Blob.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

As I Mentioned....

....Here, I am (finally) reading Ayn Rand's classic Atlas Shrugged.

And as I threatened, I am beginning a
Quote-of-the-Day However-Often-I-Get-Around-To-It feature.

Page 383-384

"Whenever destroyers appear among men, they start by destroying money, for money is men's protection and the base of a moral existence. Destroyers seize gold and leave to its owners a counterfeit pile of paper. This kills all objective standards and delivers men into the arbitrary power of an arbitrary setter of values. Gold was an objective value, an equivalent of wealth produced. Paper is a mortgage on wealth that does not exist, backed by a gun aimed at those who are expected to produce it. Paper is a check drawn by the leagal looters upon an account which is not theirs: upon the virtue of the victims. Watch for the day when it bounces, marked: 'Account overdrawn.'"

Tuesday, August 25, 2009


...Gets a second term.

Anybody who has been paying attention wonders: Why?

Monday, August 24, 2009

Saturday, August 22, 2009

An interesting perspective....

I saw this first, I think, over at Gerard's place a while back, but then saw it again this morning at Innocent Bystanders.
I can't say I agree with everything he says, but it is refreshing to hear a guy from the typically lefty enviro-wacko wing speak rationally about what we're dealing with now, and how he sees the future.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Thoughts after a colonoscopy.....

I'll spare you the pictures.

Anyhoo, I've spent way more time in doctor's offices this month than I ever have.

Earlier this month, after having what I initially thought was a cracked tooth, I visited my dentist who diagnosed it as "pulpitis" (or something). He said that the discomfort I was having would dissipate. When it didn't, and I had to call in sick for a trip over a weekend, I then ended up in an urgent care office.

Here's what I learned about urgent care: They don't do anything. The doctor I saw was a Chinese guy who was very nice, but just said the obvious: I had an inflammation along the jawline. He gave me a shot of something and a prescription for penicillin.

With little else to do on Sunday except moan while I was in my recliner, I spent some time on the intertubes searching for stuff on what was bothering me. My self diagnosis: An inflamed sub-mandibular salivary gland.

Since nothing the urgent care guy had given me was giving me any relief, by Monday morning, I was in my family practioner's office. There I saw the nurse practioner and she agreed with my diagnosis. She prescribed a steroid and a holistic therapy (believe it or not: lemon juice) which immediately began to have their effect.

Problem solved.

Then came my colonoscopy. Actually, that's not right. Then came a head cold immediately prior to my colonoscopy. For those who've never had a colonoscopy, it is a two day process. There is a "prep day", then the procedure itself on the following day. The "prep day", naturally, consists of eating nothing but clear liquids and nuclear laxatives. And given the head cold that I was dealing with, I was feeling like crap while I was crapping my guts out.

The procedure itself is a snap. The anesthetic they use is wonderful. It acts immediately and leaves one with absolutely no memory of anything. I remember nothing between rolling onto my left side in the procedure room and the nurse offering me some apple juice in the recovery room.

And then today, I had another trip to the family practioner to deal with this head cold. The other PA gave me a nasal decongestant and suggested I keep up with the Mucinex.

But what I'm really writing about tonight are the personalities involved.

It has been my theory for some time now that those in the medical field find their specialties based on their personality types. Let me explain.....

I have two neighbors who are doctors. They're both nice enough, but very different. The one is kind of odd, though. He's kind of a fitness buff, which isn't all that strange, but he wears a "Bruce Jenner" haircut. He and his wife are also very Christian, which again isn't odd or objectionable, but they've raised their kids without cable TV or the internet (or at least that was the case when their kids were in high school). As a result, their kids are a little odd too (although, I guess anyone could make this claim about anyone's kids). Anyway, this guy is a pathologist, which as I understand it, means that he looks at biopsies and lab specimens and decides just exactly it is that is a concern. I don't think he has much personal contact with his patients, which fits with his personality.

The other neighbor is a much more friendly guy, and we're therefore a bit closer with them. Their kids are spread like ours are, boy-girl-girl, but a couple years younger. I used to be the patient of one of his partners, but because I've always viewed him as more of a friend than a doctor, and frankly, at times I've been suspicious of his common sense, I've never been one of his patients. Anyway, like I said, he's a nice guy, and it fits that he is a family practioner.

Although I can't say I know them personally, my family practioner, and his nurse practioners are pretty much the same...maybe not the smartest in the medical fields, but smart enough, and nice, open people.

My colo-rectal guy, on the other hand, is well-respected, but has almost no bedside manner. When I was wheeled into his procedure room the other day, he was at his desk dictating notes on his previous procedure into a little recorder device. He turned and nodded with a little wave to acknowledge my arrival, but other than that, I had no contact with him. He did explain what he found in my colonoscopy to WifeofAzlib, but even that was quick and cursory. He's technically proficient, but personality-wise, he's a loser. It fits that he has little to do with his patients.

So that's it...that's my theory. Maybe not original thought, but something anyway. Doctors end up in fields that fit their personalities as much as their skills.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

These things need to be said.....

Man carrying assault weapon attends Obama protest
  • No. It wasn't me. I wasn't even in the state, so don't blame/credit me.
  • No. An AR15 is not an "assault weapon".
  • Yes. I own an AR15. I'd like to own another--specifically, a M4 model. I also own other rifles, and those who do not understand guns might incorrectly consider some of them to be "assault weapons".
  • No. I have never gone to any public political protest or meeting with an AR15 or any other rifle.
  • Yes. There is nothing wrong with peacefully carrying a rifle in public. Even to a political protest. And even to a political protest when the President is in the state.
  • No. That's not saying that I would.
  • Yes. The hoplophobes will shriek to high heaven about this. They're good at that.
  • Yes. Openly, and peacefully carrying a rifle is no more threatening a political statement than carrying a sign.
  • Yes. Carrying a rifle is a good piece of political theater. Kinda like those big paper mâché heads, but something you can actually make use of later.
  • And finally, Yes, this kind of thing has both a good side and a bad side. Which side you see depends on the viewpoint you begin with.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Jumper Cables.....

So I did a little internet-shopping this morning.

No: Not shopping for internet; Shopping on the internet. But I digress.....

We had a little event last month that I am trying to prevent a repeat of: A dead battery on a 114° day and a faulty set of jumper cables.

When I bought the cables for WifeofAzlib's SUV, I knew they were OK, but given that she's always kept an AAA membership, I didn't opt for the best cables available. The cables were really a backstop for the AAA service.

However, when we came out of a movie on that 114° afternoon to find our dead SUV battery, and with AAA telling us to expect their truck in 45 minutes, the true price of those cheaper cables came into clarity.

So I spent a few minutes on Amazon this morning looking for a better set of jumper cables that we can both be more comfortable with in her SUV.

Here's what I bought....

Nice, right?

They're good, heavy-duty cables, made in America, and at what I thought was a decent price.

However, here's what sold me on these cables: The best product review of a set of jumper cables EVAH.....
I got these jumper cables and they fit perfectly onto my nipples. I walked around my house all night, and they didn't even slip off. They're very comfortable to sleep in as well. Highly recommended!

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Some Free Political Advice from a Rank Amateur Firefighter....

On That-Forum-That-Shall-Not-Be-Named, I left the following update to a post in a thread basically all about the Democrat's approach to their Health Care Townhalls....
One More Point: What gives you [my liberal opponent] the right to say that the dissent I might engage in today is not sincere, but masquerading as something else? You and Zero, and SanFranNan and all the rest are on the wrong track here. You are going out of your way to marginalize an entire segment of America. You and ACORN and the SEIU thugs may not believe it, but America, as a whole, is seriously unhappy about the course that Zero has set for us. The dissent we're seeing today is far wider and far deeper than any of the anti-war dissent of the Bush years. Look at any of the youtubes out there and what do you see? Middle-aged and older folks who haven't gotten off the couch in years! Zero had--as in the past tense of "have"--a mandate. Personally, I think he could have kept his agenda even with the horrible results that the Stimulus (sic) has brought. But instead, he had to lay down an offering at the altar of Gaia and push his Cap and Tax bill through the House (unread!), followed by this disastrous Health Care reform (again, unread!). The CBO says that Zero's budget deficits (which I will kindly link to rather than attach, again) are "unsustainable". They also say that his Health Care is similarly under water before it starts. That I will illustrate.....


The Chinese are at the end of their rope, and are beginning to pull on our leash. This is why Zero's flacks are having to answer the persistent questions of whether he will renege on his pledge of no tax increases for those earning less than $250k. Geez, [My opponent's name]. Chinese students openly laugh at his face. Can you imagine? There are two choices here: With the spending Zero has begun and has plans for, he can tax the crap out of the American taxpayer, or he can devalue the currency. And the Chinese, owning our debt measured in our currency, would much rather see the former than the later.

You know what, [My opponent's name]? Zero doesn't need any of this. He can ram through anything he wants tomorrow, if he likes. Call Nancy and Harry and tell them to give their guys an August vacation in a remote location. No Townhalls; No "tele-meetings"; No "One-on-One meetings"; Nothing. Just close down and when they come back in September, they can do anything. But that's not what he's doing. Rather than work with those who have serious, sincere differences with his views, he and Rahmbo immediately go for the Chicago Way...."If we get hit, we will punch back twice as hard,”.

Yeah, that's a great way to win friends and influence enemies.

Sorry for the length. I meant for this to be just a small update, but "one more point" became five or six. I got on a roll. Sue me.
Ok. With that as background, here is my free political advice.....

Zero and Rahmbo and my opponent share one thing: They are East Coast elites.

Which means that they live in urbanized, or at least much more densely populated areas than we do here in the West.....

Which means that all they know about forest fires is what they watch on TV......

Which means they don't know how to put one out.

The key to putting out a forest fire is to look at a fire and say: "This 100,000 acres is ablaze, but if I ever want to contain this, I need to set some backfires out in front of where the fire is now and let it burn itself out."

Zero's Health Care Reform is ablaze. He doesn't know it yet, but it's done. Gone. Smoke.

Everything he's done so far to put out the blaze only intensifies it. The D's believe that those who oppose their plan are "a mob" who are engaged in a "right-wing assault" and while displaying "swastikas". They try to pack the House with their toadies. They scream at their constituents for asking a question. They let loose their SEIU thugs. Their answer: Shut down the Townhalls. Phone it in. Call it a "Prayer Vigil" (points for originality, though). And all of that has just served to make people angrier.

Its as though he is intentionally behind the fire fanning the flames, rather than doing something to put this thing down.

Friday, August 07, 2009


For what it's worth, I live in what has to be one of the most reliably conservative congressional districts anywhere...Arizona Sixth.

I'm sure that, like all politicians, the Republicans who represent me are standing back and enjoying the show this month....were I in their position, I know I would.

That said, I am preparing letters this afternoon to Congressman Flake, and Senators McCain and Kyl on Health Care Reform, Cap and Trade, and their approach to our country between now and the mid-term elections.

I really, really like Jeff Flake. He's a Republican of the Goldwater-libertarian style, and I wish he could find a way to step into more national prominence. Kyl is one of the better Senators, but I do occasionally have my differences with him. McCain is McCain, and I've had many differences with him over the hears. He's certainly better than Obama, but not nearly good enough.

Anyhoo, if you're one of my few readers, I encourage you to join me in keeping up the pressure...even on those who don't need it.

Am I the only one who thinks that....

...When these guys call me part of "the Mob", that they are offering high praise?

Also, I've gotten out of the habit of reading Peggy Noonan--she's become a bit too squishy for me--but she is spot on with this column. I have a hard time believing that the internal polling operation that I imagine any political party to have, would so miss the pulse of America so badly on a topic like Zero's Health Care Reform (sic). They haven't prepared their Congresscritters at all for what they're facing, and for now, they're making worse.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Busy today.....

I spent far too long on the intertube machine yesterday, and got far too little done around the house...the grass and the weeds keep on growin' whether I attend to them or not. In addition to that, Daughter #2 is beginning to move into the dorm, and that requires some of my attention.

So, my presence here today will be light.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Manufactured Conspiracies....

A thought occured to me while watching Glenn Beck....

The Democrats are doing a kind of weird combination of back-pedalling and hard-selling at the same time regarding their failing Health Care Reform initiative.

Someone somewhere on the 'sphere mentioned the other day that Zero's Cash-for-Clunkers is turning out to be a self-induced Katrina.

Zero's press flack, Robert Gibbs, said that the folks who are angrily meeting with their Congresscritters during the August recess are displaying a "manufactured anger".

The DNC is out with their "Mob" youtube....

The thought that occurred to me is that, in 2009, calling your opposition an "Angry Mob", expressing a "manufactured anger" may come to be remembered as Hillary's complaint in 1998 that the Clintons were faced with what amounted to a "Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy".

I am honored..... have been selected as Kevin's Quote of the Day.

Kevin, this blog is a pale imitation of those from whom I learn so much about how the world works, thinks, and expresses those thoughts. I've learned so much from your much more capable thoughts, and the idea that you have included mine on your much better blog, deeply humbles me.

Thank you.

The Game We Now Play....

Somebody, a very clever somebody, has begun to put up these posters in the Los Angeles area.

Here is the NewsBusters article on the posters, complete with images of their location. I'm told that they've also appeared in Atlanta, and I have to guess they'll appear elsewhere.

The Left, being not used to this sort of thing, are not happy about it.

LA Weekly wonders why the noose is missing. The Village Voice says that this is more of a viral internet thingi, rather than something actually being pasted on walls (without wondering if the Right is a little more circumspect than the Left about Urban Art defacing someone else's property).

Big Hollywood notes the selective outrage, which I'd like to explore a bit further.

Firstly--the idea of placing these posters in public spaces.

It is important, I think, to remember that Shepard Fairey, the guy who created this iconic Obama image, also the Shepard Fairey who is responsible for these posters and stickers seen on lampposts and public spaces all over the country.

Fairey explicitly discusses this image and his philosphy of it's distribution in his "Manifesto". [Am I "PARANOID" or "CONSERVATIVE" or both? Does Fairey see a distinction?]

But let's look at a couple of other Fairey images....

Big Brother

Angela Davis

Edgy. Hip. Urban. Left.

But here are a couple of more political Fairey images.



And then there's this....

I guess I can't be sympathetic, either to the idea that political images don't belong on public property, or to the idea that this image of Obama is so unflattering as to be not fitting for public view, when these complaints come from the Left. You guys have started this method of public debate.

Now....what about Zero as The Joker. Is that fitting?

A Caveat: I haven't seen The Dark Knight. It was released right after Heath Ledger's unfortunate death, and the hype around his death drifted into the movie. I'll take that its a good movie, and I plan to see it (someday), but it was that hype that kept me from going when it was in release.

But, via a comment at HotAir, I was referred to this scene. [Sorry, embedding not available.]

Moreover, here is a segment of dialogue from The Dark Knight (via IrishSamurai in the previously noted HotAir thread)...

“Do I really look like a man with a plan, Harvey? I don’t have a plan. The mob has plans, the cops have plans. you know what I am, Harvey? I’m a dog chasing cars. I wouldn’t know what to do with one if I caught one. I just DO things. I’m a wrench in the gears. I HATE plans. Yours, theirs, everyone’s. Maroni has plans, Gordon has plans. Schemers trying to control their worlds. I am not a schemer. I show schemers how pathetic their attempts to control things really are. So when I say that what happened to you and your girlfriend wasn’t personal, you know I’M telling the truth”*Gives Dent Gun*”It’s a schemer who put you where you are. You were a schemer. You had plans. Look where it got you. I just did what I do best-I took your plan and turned it on itself. Look what I have done to this city with a few drums of gas and a couple bullets. Nobody panics when the expected people got killed. Nobody panics when things go according to plan, even if the plans are horrifying. If I tell the press that tomorrow a gangbanger will get shot, or a truckload of soldiers will get blown up, nobody panics. But when I say one little old mayor will die, everyone loses their minds!! Introduce a little anarchy, you upset the established order, and everything becomes chaos. I AM AN AGENT OF CHAOS. And you know the thing about chaos, Harvey. It’s fair.”
So now. Go back and read that again and tell yourself that it is Zero who is saying it.

Is it really such a stretch to see Zero as The Joker?

And then there's the issue of other images of right-wing politicians done as "art", (or whatever).

Jill Greenburg took this image of John McCain for The Atlantic Monthly....

....this became the cover photo.

Gerard, of course, did a wonderful job of illustrating this while issue.

And then there was the Halloween decoration in West Hollywood which included a Palin-mannequin hung in effigy.

So, are we to take that political art, when done from the Left, is thought-provoking (or whatever), but that when it is done from the Right, that it is unacceptably offensive? Really?

Lately, I have had a shift in my approach to politics.

I still appreciate the value of a well-crafted argument against one's political opponents. It still is very possible to debate politics and policy in a civil way.

However, it is also clear to me that the Left does not necessarily always bind itself to that idea. Many of the Left, have adopted some or all of Alinksky's Rules for Radicals.
Rules for Power Tactics:

1. Power is not only what you have but what the enemy thinks you have.
2. Never go outside the experience of your people.
3. Whenever possible, go outside of the experience of the enemy.
4. Make the enemy live up to their own book of rules.
5. Ridicule is man's most potent weapon.
6. A good tactic is one that your people enjoy.
7. A tactic that drags on too long becomes a drag.
8. Keep the pressure on with different tactics and actions, and utilize all events of the period for your purpose.
9. The threat is usually more terrifying than the thing itself.
10. The major premise for tactics is the development of operations that will maintain a constant pressure upon the opposition.
11. If you push a negative hard and deep enough, it will break through into its counterside.
12. The price of a successful attack is a constructive alternative.
13. Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.

Rules to test whether power tactics are ethical:

1. One's concern with the ethics of means and ends varies inversely with one's personal interest in the issue.
2. The judgment of the ethics of means is dependent upon the political position of those sitting in judgment.
3. In war the end justifies almost any means.
4. Judgment must be made in the context of the times in which the action occurred and not from any other chronological vantage point.
5. Concern with ethics increases with the number of means available and vice versa.
6. The less important the end to be desired, the more one can afford to engage in ethical evaluations of means.
7. Generally, success or failure is a mighty determinant of ethics.
8. The morality of means depends upon whether the means is being employed at a time of imminent defeat or imminent victory.
9. Any effective means is automatically judged by the opposition to be unethical.
10. You do what you can with what you have and clothe it in moral garments.
11. Goals must be phrased in general terms like "Liberty, Equality, Fraternity," "Of the Common Welfare," "Pursuit of Happiness," or "Bread and Peace."
I am having an increasingly difficult time in not seeing the value of these rules to the Right as well.

The Left may be learning that "What goes around, comes around".

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Some Thoughts On The Growing Discontent.....

Congressmen of all stripes, but most especially the Democrats and supporters of Zero's policies, are taking it on the chin right now during the August recess.

Health care is the topic today, but the general tone is all about the deficit, the Stimulus (sic) program that isn't working, the missing jobs, the stupid Cash-for-Clunkers program, etc. Instapundit, and Ace, and the guys at HotAir are just the start of the places where you can see videos of the flack that these Congresscritters are taking. I'm sure none of them thought they'd ever see the day when meeting their constituents became such a difficult chore. It's not going to get any easier. America is angry.

So, here's what I think must be happening behind the scenes.

Zero and the D leadership have to be desperately searching for a way to get out in front of this thing. Right now, I think that they believe their only hope for success for any Health Care proposal will be to water it down far past anything resembling anything they've talked about thus far. But that will only work until their liberal wing begins to rebel (they are already rumbling). He'll need to walk an awfully thin tightrope to make it work.

If I were an insider, here's what I'd be watching: When the second- and third-tier staffers begin to quit, we'll know that they sense that their ship is beginning to sink. The first-tier staff will have had enough invested with their guy and/or the party that they'll stick through till the end, but the lower staff will have more mobility, and may take advantage while they can.

Zero has bitten off way more than he can chew. He allowed SanFranNan and Dingy Harry to stuff every liberal pipedream into that Stimulus Package, and he, as the inexperienced executive that he is, is now stuck with it. His Cap-and-Tax is in trouble in the Senate, his Cash-for-Clunkers is becoming a self-made Katrina, and he's losing on the central plank of his domestic campaign agenda--health care reform. Chinese students openly laugh at his Treasury Secretary.

[None of this should be taken to mean that I think all would be peachy if we had a President McCain. It wouldn't. Our economic troubles were building for many years, and are systemic. No president could solve them. Zero has made things far worse than they need to be, but McCain wouldn't have been a walk in the park.]

Monday, August 03, 2009

Über Comment meant for FL 390....

My favorite story about DCA came on a flight I wasn't even flying.

At the time, I was based in DFW as a F/O on the Maddog. Our contract at the time required that to be paid for the trip, a F/O had to actually fly along on the trip when he was paired with a Line Check Airman who was giving an Initial Operating Experience to a new guy fresh out of school.

So, I got one of these trips, which included an overnight in DCA, and had to tag along for the entire trip. I brought along a big book, and planned on doing little more than the walk arounds for the two captains.

I was spending all the time except my walk arounds in a seat in the back. However, on the leg into DCA, the LCA asked me to come up to the cockpit to be a third set of eyes. No problem.

The airplane we picked up in DFW had some sort of issue with air conditioning smoke. [This usually comes off as much more dramatic than it really is. On the Maddog, there is a bottle which captures hydraulic fluid overflows. If not emptied regularly, this bottle will overflow into the intake for the A/C packs, and this causes smoke in the cabin. Don't mistake me--Smoke in the cabin is a big deal and you and I shouldn't assume that it's just a little whiff. But the maddog had a known problem with this issue (since solved).]

Right before pushback, we got the inevitable cabin smoke after the APU was started and the packs put on, and there was some guy up in 2C who was making a huge deal about it. I had picked him out a mile away....a big shot in a power suit, power tie, and a big briefcase headed to Washington. Right away he got really loud about how the smoke was keeping him from all this important legal work he was doing, and asking if was it cancerous, and what not. Putz. The smoke cleared, as it generally does, and the Flight Attendants did a really good job of calming this guy down. Off we went.

I forget the details now, but as I recall, runway 19 (which was then runway 18, IIRC) was NOTAMed to be closed at 10pm or so...right about our arrival time.

Anyway, as we got 150 miles or so out, we picked up the ATIS which had them landing on 18. Once we got over to approach control, they asked if we could land on 15. Our procedures don't allow 15 landings, so we said "no" (buildings in Rosslyn or some such thing). They then started vectoring us towards runway 1. And once on final for runway 1 and we were handed off to Tower, they cleared us to land on 33.

So, to sum up, in the span of about 12 minutes, we had had to think about landings on 4 of their 6 runways (the other two being completely out of the question).

And, as you've suggested, DCA isn't like anywhere else in the country. There's a restricted area just north of the airport, and they're serious about it. Violations are handed out there, and there is always the threat of those Secret Service missiles. They have very unique procedures there...I call it my "trick flying".

And, yeah, let's not forget, we had a brand new Captain in the left seat. Literally, this was his first post-school flight in the left seat.

That said, the LCA decided early on that he'd be the one flying into DCA. Good decision.

Anyhoo, once we finally did get onto the final for 33, the LCA landed with a perfect runway 33 landing...meaning he had the autobrakes set on Max, and he landed firmly....really firmly. [Runway 19 is too short for my taste, but runway 33 is even shorter.] The second the nosewheel got on the ground, he got right into the reverse thrust. It wasn't the most comfortable landing from the passengers point of view, but knowing what I knew, it was perfect.

Soooo, time marched on.

Four months later, I got a letter from the Chief Pilot asking me to come in and tell my story of what happened that night in DCA...a flight I was only on the jumpseat for.

It seemed as though one of our huge, big-time customers--the kind that know our system in and out because they fly millions of miles every year with us--was with this flight from start to finish. He had been on the flight coming in to DFW, where we picked up the plane.

And he didn't like anything that he'd seen.

I assumed right away that he was Mr. 2C Putz. Not so. It turns out he was some completely anonymous guy sitting in coach who didn't say boo to us one way or the other (not that he should).

Do everything right, under challenging conditions, and people will still complain.

Parenthetically, (and finally, in conclusion) I think one of the biggest mistakes we made after 9/11 was in not closing DCA. If you ask me, it is far too short for major airline operations, and is way, waaaay too close to Washington, DC.

9/11 was a good opportunity to turn DCA into what it really ought to be....

A train station.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Alternative Fuel Clunkers....

I'm going to go back and tell a story from 10 years ago....

May, 1999.
I had just upgraded to my first Captain's job, which, of course brought me a bigger paycheck than I had been getting as a First Officer. Also, I had been driving a 1983 GMC S-15, which looked a lot like this....

...except that it was a 4WD, and I had added a shell to the back. With the youngest of our three kids then almost 10 years old, I could only squeeze three of the five of us in the cab, and the motor was exceptionally underpowered. At that point, it was not much good for anything beyond an airport car, and even then, it wasn't that good. The air conditioner was shot and it didn't go into 4WD anymore.

It was time to upgrade my ride.

About this same time, Arizona was launching into an experiment with alternative fuels. The idea was to simultaneously clean the environment and wean some of the Arizona vehicles off foreign oil. But how to do this became the question.

Enter Jeff Groscost and the Alt Fuels industry.

Their idea was to both stimulate the demand for these vehicles and alt fuels as well as the supply of both.

To generate an instantaneous demand, here is my memory of what they proposed....
  • The idea was to have consumers buy a vehicle, and add an alternative fuel conversion to that. The state would then, depending on the emissions of the conversion, rebate between 30 and 50% of the total cost of the vehicle and the altfuel system.
  • Also, the cost of the altfuel system would be applied as a credit to one's income taxes.
  • There would be no state sales tax on the purchase.
  • Rather than being taxed as a function of the vehicle's value, an altfuel vehicle would have a flat VLT of $5 a year.
  • And you could drive around in the HOV lanes all day all by yourself.
In my case, I paid sticker price for my truck, a 2000 Chevy Silverado Z71 (more on this later)....$33,000 as I remember. To that I added a $8000 Compressed Natural Gas conversion, making the vehicle total $41,000.

But, if memory serves, I got back $17,000, making my effective cost $24,000 for what was then one of Chevy's top of the line trucks.

On the supply side, there were plans for similar stimuli. They had envisioned that gas stations would, with these incentives, install the additional plumbing and tanks to make supplies of alternative fuels (primarily CNG and propane) available to meet this new increased demand.

This was a great deal.

The problem being....I wasn't the only one who thought so.

The Legislature, when they proposed this program, thought that they'd have to rebate $3-4 million to fund this whole thing. When the governor's office looked at it, and she eventually signed it, they believed it was going to be more like $10 million.

They had to put the brakes on the program when it was clear that it was going to go past $600 million.

They over-stimulated demand and it was going to bankrupt the state. And here are a couple of related anecdotes from memory....
  • One lady bought a $17,000 Ford Fiesta. POS. To that she added a $33,000 fully electric conversion for the thing, in effect giving her a $50, 000 Ford Fiesta. One would think only a crazy person would buy such a thing. But, the electric conversion qualified her for a 50% rebate, plus the credit on her income taxes for the conversion cost. Fifty percent of her $50k gives her $25k back in her pocket, plus she got a credit for $33k. New car, plus cash back. Niiice.
  • One of the homebuilders on the Phoenix west side ordered 600 trucks under this program. He justified this by saying that he had a constant need for construction trucks. I happen to believe he was planning to put a new altfuel truck in the driveway of every house he sold, but that's just conjecture. In any event, 600 trucks is a large order.
Anyway, there was a huge, huge demand for getting in on this stimulus. On the weekend I bought my truck, there were no Chevy dealers with any Suburbans in the Phoenix metro area. In the fifth largest city in America, every dealer had sold every Suburban. Anybody who was anybody was trying to get in on this program. I was very lucky to find the truck that I ended up with. And when I did find my truck, the only way to get it was to pay sticker price for it. The dealers, knowing the rebate I'd be collecting, were in no mind to negotiate down on any vehicle on which I might put one of these conversions.

Some of this was due to the over stimulus, but another part of this was due to, frankly, fraud.

My neighbors--nice people, really--were one of those who bought a Suburban on this same weekend. And the CNG conversion they installed included a 3 gallon CNG tank.

Here's the thing about CNG....the amount you can get into the tank is inversely proportional to the temperature, and you can never fill the tank completely. I have a 9 gallon tank, and in the winter I can--maybe--get 7 gallons into it. In the summer, its less...usually a little over 6 gallons. And given the 15-17 mpg that I get with the fuel, this means that I have a range of 100-110 miles. Its not enough to start out on some great trip with, but certainly enough for around town. With a 3 gallon tank, you wouldn't have enough CNG to get home, much less anywhere else. There is a CNG fill station at the airport, and I generally fill up before I drive home.

And I haven't given up my unleaded is a bi-fuel truck. So when I can't get to a CNG station, any old unleaded station will do.

They had similarly generous plans for the supply side. My initial plan was to buy a home fill station. The natural gas which is compressed to become CNG is the same stuff that is delivered to your house. When it comes to your regulator, it is delivered at 30 psi or so. You really wouldn't want a leaking gas line at 30 psi in your house, so in addition to acting as a meter for your gas, the regulator serves to step that pressure down before it gets to your house. The gas to your house is delivered at 6-8 psi.

But my truck fills at 3600 psi. A home fill unit would essentially be a boost pump. It might take all night to fill up the tank, but who cares, really? The home fill unit would run another $6k or so, but again, they had plans to rebate most of this in a similar way to the demand stimuli.

So, why did I write all this?

I like my truck. Really. I do.

I like the CNG. I use it all the time. Its cheaper, performs about as well as unleaded, and I have the advantage of using the HOV lanes while emitting less pollutants.

But, I wouldn't do it again.

Here is what I've learned out of all this.....

Anytime a government has to offer an incentive for folks to do what they otherwise would not choose to do, then, in effect, what they're doing is saying that some folks will be taxed for the benefit of others. When the .gov gets in the business of incentivizing private decisions, they don't know what they're doing. A retailer knows how much he can discount his products. He knows that when he's planning a sale, he had better have a greater supply of whatever he's discounting. He knows that if his discount is too generous, he'll go broke, run out of supply or both.

The taxpayers of Arizona bought me a third of my truck. Nice if you can get it, but the state can't stay in business this way.

So, why is this relevant today?

Here's why....The Cash for Clunkers program is going broke. They overstimulated. They're having to add money to keep a program meant to last until October make it last beyond its first week.

In short, the is doing today what the Arizona did 10 years ago. For their own reasons, they believe they're smarter than the Invisible Hand, and it isn't working.