mm092: Nuclear proliferation – The riddle of Iran – Economist.com

July 31, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

A week has passed since I found this analysis in The Economist, the best magazine on the planet, an eternity in the ‘Sphere, but this is too important to let go by.

The morass in Iraq has distracted us from the very real danger represented by a nuclear Iran…


Economist.com






Jul 19th 2007
From The Economist print edition

Iran’s leaders think a nuclear weapon could rejuvenate their tired revolution. How can they be stopped?

“THE Iranian regime is basically a messianic apocalyptic cult.” So says Israel’s once and perhaps future prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu. If he is right the world is teetering on the edge of a terrifying crisis.

While the world has been distracted by Iraq, Afghanistan and much else, Iran has been moving relentlessly closer to the point where it could build an atomic bomb. It has converted yellowcake into uranium hexafluoride gas. Now it is spinning the gas through thousands of centrifuges it has installed at the underground enrichment plant it built secretly in Natanz, south of Tehran. A common guess is that if it can run 3,000 centrifuges at high speed for a year, it will end up with enough fuel for its first bomb….

[Per L-HC’s reformed process, please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Economist.com

Shockingly, Iran has been lying to all of us. What can the civilized world do? Deal with Iran preemptively? As the Economist notes, such a preemptive strike from the US or Israel would have dire consequences:

Even if it delayed or stopped Iran’s nuclear programme, it would knock new holes in America’s relations with the Muslim world. And if only for the sake of their domestic political survival, Iran’s leaders would almost certainly hit back. Iran could fire hundreds of missiles at Israel, attack American forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, organise terrorist attacks in the West or choke off tanker traffic through the Strait of Hormuz, the world’s oil windpipe. How could any Western leader in his right mind risk initiating such a sequence of events?

The succinct answer of Senator John McCain is that although attacking Iran would be bad, an Iran with nuclear weapons would be worse. He is not alone: most of America’s presidential candidates would consider military force….

The Economist’s writer believes that a diplomatic solution is still possible:

Iran is obstinate, paranoid and ambitious. But it is also vulnerable. A young population with no memory of the revolution is desperate for jobs its leaders have failed to provide. Sanctions that cut off equipment for its decrepit oilfields or struck hard at the financial interests of the regime and its protectors in the Revolutionary Guards would have an immediate impact on its own assessment of the cost of its nuclear programme. That on its own is unlikely to change the regime’s mind. If at the same time Iran was offered a dignified ladder to climb down—above all a credible promise of an historic reconciliation with the United States—the troubled leadership of a tired revolution might just grab it. But time is short.

Copyright © 2007 The Economist Newspaper and The Economist Group. All rights reserved.

Economist.com

Sensible advice, and based on past performance, we can have no confidence whatsoever that the diplomatic all stars running our government have any clue how to resolve this issue with any positive outcome.

George, diplomacy is more than sending Condi on a flurry of pointless excursions.

But, no matter who becomes the next Cmdr-in-Chief, the Economist reminds us that this issue won’t wait until January 20, 2009.

Okay, I’m terrified.

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE


mm091: The Future of Internet Radio – John C. Dvorak

July 30, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

Written recently and not so regarding Pandora.com, MUDGE’s radio of choice these days. And, I do mean choice, since anytime I’m sitting at my home PC, I’m choosing what to listen to, sans annoying commercials, jingles or DJs.

Here’s one of my favorite reads: John Dvorak, a pioneer in the business of all things personally computational, an amazingly well-informed person, and who (and I say this in the most complimentary way) makes the average curmudgeon such as yours truly seem like a cock-eyed optimist.

He’s got this to say about Pandora and its ilk:

The Future of Internet Radio
07.17.07
Will the success of Web radio spell the end of traditional broadcast radio?

Dvorak

By John C. Dvorak

Over the past month or so, there has been a heated battle between the music industry and Internet radio about rights and fees. Actually, over the past decade, there has been nothing but trouble surrounding Internet radio. I think it’s one of the reasons that podcasting emerged as an alternative to Internet radio. Look closely at podcasting, however; with the exception of the advanced auto-download via RSS aspect, it’s actually just more Internet radio.

[Per L-HC’s reformed process, please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

The Future of Internet Radio – Columns by PC Magazine

Dvorak points out that Internet radio has manifest advantages over broadcast: reach, on demand, and best of all, low cost:

The death blow, though, always comes down to money. The expense of streaming over the Internet is a fraction of what transmitter-based broadcasting costs. There is no big antenna, no transmitters, no special studios. Nothing within reason can change this metric.

For these $500 ears (a sad story for another time), the sound of Pandora.com is nothing less than superb.

And, as I’ve said at the top: no jingles, no “SUNDAY! AY! ay!”, no 20-minute blocks of clatter and clutter, no drive-time shenanigans from weasels trying to be Howard Stern (sui generis, which Latin phrase in this context means, “top weasel”), just music (of the non-classical variety) that I like to listen to.

I love Pandora.com! Let’s hear it for internet radio!

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE

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mm090: The least bad plan for leaving Iraq. – By Fred Kaplan – Slate Magazine

July 30, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

So, guys, this one’s lost. My generation’s Vietnam, indeed.

What now? Here’s an interesting idea…

Defeat Without Disaster – The least bad plan for leaving Iraq.

By Fred Kaplan
Posted Friday, July 27, 2007, at 2:45 PM ET

Peter Galbraith’s article in the current New York Review of Books, “Iraq: The Way to Go,” is one of the most bracing essays written on the subject lately—a provocative but logical case for a U.S. withdrawal (though not a total withdrawal) that still manages to achieve a few of the war’s original goals.

I don’t agree with every plank of Galbraith’s proposal (more on that later), but anyone seeking a solution to this disaster needs at least to contend with his arguments.

[Per L-HC’s reformed process, please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

The least bad plan for leaving Iraq. – By Fred Kaplan – Slate Magazine

Kaplan reports that the main tenet of Peter Galbraith’s proposal is:

He has now abandoned his plan for a partitioned federation, regarding the southern two-thirds of Iraq—the areas dominated by Shiite and Sunni Arabs—as hopeless. Instead, he calls for withdrawing U.S. troops from those areas and redeploying some of them to the northern sector, in order to protect the Kurds.

The Kurds need and deserve our protection, especially if it’s true that the Turks are massing 140,000 troops on their border with “Kurdistan.”

Kaplan is unhappy that Galbraith has pretty much written off Arab Iraq as hurtling toward a “sectarian bloodbath.”

If defending Kurds takes our forces out of the path of that certain (and ongoing) Sunni-Shiite bloodbath, I’m liking that idea.

“Least bad” would save some U.S. lives and lots of body parts (the fewer new cases at Walter Reed, the better!).

Any of our vast field of presidential wannabees weigh in on this? Michael Bloomberg, what do you think?

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE


mm089: With Tools on Web, Amateurs Reshape Mapmaking – New York Times

July 29, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

Things I found on the way to finding other things…

The New York Times

July 27, 2007

nytmapping

With Tools on Web, Amateurs Reshape Mapmaking

By MIGUEL HELFT

SAN FRANCISCO, July 26 — On the Web, anyone can be a mapmaker.

With the help of simple tools introduced by Internet companies recently, millions of people are trying their hand at cartography, drawing on digital maps and annotating them with text, images, sound and videos.

In the process, they are reshaping the world of mapmaking and collectively creating a new kind of atlas that is likely to be both richer and messier than any other.

They are also turning the Web into a medium where maps will play a more central role in how information is organized and found.

Already there are maps of biodiesel fueling stations in New England, yarn stores in Illinois and hydrofoils around the world. Many maps depict current events, including the detours around a collapsed Bay Area freeway and the path of two whales that swam up the Sacramento River delta in May. …

Using new applications such as Google’s My Maps, and a startup called Platial, the Times reports that these annotations of existing maps are adding rich new layers of data to the way people understand their world.

“What is happening is the creation of this extremely detailed map of the world that is being created by all the people in the world,” said John V. Hanke, director of Google Maps and Google Earth. “The end result is that there will be a much richer description of the earth.”

Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company

With Tools on Web, Amateurs Reshape Mapmaking – New York Times

In this case, once again the web is changing the world, which is changing the web — a true virtuous cycle (a typical outcome from the Internet).

We see this phenomenon everywhere we look: another great example, last week’s YouTube Democratic presidential debate.

As they’ve always said, information is power. Imagine the leverage we’ll gain as we add so many new potential sources of information (OLPC from our previous post, mm088) in places that are presently under-represented in our (Western culture?) collective world view.

Our world will simultaneously grow larger, and smaller.

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE


mm088: Meet the XO – eWeek

July 28, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

Things I found on the way to finding other things…

We’ve been reading about the One Laptop Per Child initiative for some time now, and it’s utterly fascinating to see it closer to fruition, courtesy of eWeek. The story is lengthy and comprehensive and worthy of your time. Click any of the links to pursue this.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007 2:50 PM/EST

Meet the XO

Click here to see photos of the XO laptopThe OLPC's XO laptop

eWEEK’s Emerging Technology Looks at the OLPC’s XO laptop

See the XO’s Sugar Interface in Action. Get a first hand look at Sugar features such as the Mesh and see some of the applications bundled with the XO’s Linux-based operating system

The Hardware of the XO laptop – While at the OLPC offices we had the opportunity to get hands-on with the XO laptop

Podcast: The Tech of the XO Listen to a podcast of my interviews with OLPC CTO Mary Lou Jepsen and OLPC President Walter Bender.


One Laptop Per Child’s XO (commonly referred to as the $100 laptop) is designed to change the world by bringing computing resources to children in the developing world. But the many innovations in the XO may also end up changing the world of technology.

Emerging Technology – Desktops and Notebooks – Meet the XO

What a tremendous achievement it will be if OLPC can really deliver these status quo shattering machines at a status quo shattering price!

As a lugger of classic laptops (often two at a time), I am more anxious than most to see the technology transfer promised in eWeek’s analysis.

And as a concerned citizen of the planet, I am anxious to see this playground leveling and globally empowering device placed in millions (billions?) of deserving hands — the sooner the better.

Wow!

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE


WcW003: Sometimes, it’s all about teaching

July 28, 2007

wcw1_thumb1

Web Conferencing Week

As filled with unusualities as was last week, this past week… was not.

The main theme was teaching. We wrote about this facet of my career quite extensively in mm018 and I don’t feel compelled to rehash here. It’s a significant portion of my responsibilities here at HCA (Heart of Corporate America remember, not its real name).

And, like all things everywhere, it either dies or changes. I vote for change.

For more than a year, we’ve been attempting to turn over some of the basic courses to an expert in our division’s training department. To that end I’ve provided annotated course material, one on one instruction, the opportunity to practice. I am this good teacher, right?

It’s been a bust. Last year the explanation was that the designated person didn’t start that year with this goal in her list of goals, and thus was unable to devote the time and attention required to mastering the material.

This year began with this turnover on this person’s the goals list, but after a kick-off meeting in February, and prompt transmission of updated curriculum to answer some concerns, the person has simply not responded to my queries for nearly three months.

I’ve been teaching this material for so long I suppose I have underestimated its challenges. You simultaneously are teaching a collaboration tool while smoothly utilizing that tool to deliver the lessons. And in order to teach effectively, you are attempting to interact with your students using a very limited sensory array, just their voices and whatever of the conference’s tools they are able to begin to understand.

Pretty demanding, upon reflection, and I believe totally overwhelming for the training department’s MIA “expert.”

So, Plan B. Our vendor has a partnership with an organization in the UK that has produced some workmanlike Computer Based Training (CBT) modules that I’ve persuaded our department to purchase on an enterprise basis. These don’t provide the HCA-specific content that so richly fills my curriculum, but as our IT division’s underlying software philosophy is to customize purchased applications as little as possible, the generic CBT should be quite sufficient, at least for the basics.

The idea always was to remove some of the repetitive burden of teaching the “level 100” coursework (originally to a live instructor), leaving the advanced curriculum, as well as individualized instruction for higher level personnel to yours truly.

So, this week: mostly teaching. The scheduled three classes, two of them with that 3:00pm start time (to accommodate West Coast participants, a few of whom, I’m thankful to note, were present) that is supremely wearing on me, as this type of teaching seems to demand an energy level more difficult to tap 7½ hours into my business day.

The week’s one conference facilitation gig (my other public responsibility — and hey, it’s July!) turned out also to be about teaching, although that was not the intention of that meeting’s leader, nor mine.

Arrived at the designated conference room a few minutes earlier than the routine 30-minute lead time called for, to find a dark room, arranged poorly to accommodate my gear, and without a built in projector for the expected live audience, or a speakerphone for the conference.

Then the leader arrived, simultaneously with the caterer with a snack array (odd for an 11:00am meeting), which mystified that leader, who by the way arrived without a portable projector.

Her assistant apparently had misconstrued the purpose and intent of the meeting, which it turned out could have been much more conveniently conducted from the leader’s office, since there was no expected audience in the room; the presentation was meant to be transmitted solely to a conference room at a facility in Massachusetts.

Okay, so I walked down to the nearby Audio-Visual crew office, to request that a technician deliver and install a speakerphone (which had not been ordered by that assistant), and we determined that as it was just the presenter and me that we could forego a projector, and simply sit together at one of the 12 tables in the room and work off of my laptop.

So, with much conversation about the assistant’s misinterpretation of the leader’s instructions, which concluded with my promise to forward said person (a former student, who apparently assumed that she understood web conferencing because she took my course; well in her defense the two of us had lots of popcorn and canned soda available!) a document we created a couple of years ago and which is posted on our website titled “Successful Sametime Conferences,” a checklist which calls out key requirements like projectors and speakerphones.

But as we waited for the 11:00am conference start, the discussion turned to what she does: Corporate Learning and Development, and her group’s increasing need to respond to the globalization of our employer. It is a small measure of the silos permeating HCA that she had no idea of what I do (the teaching part I mean) or how I deliver it. And we’re both part of same broad corporate organization.

Meanwhile, we sat on the phone, and in the web conference, patiently awaiting our Massachusetts audience to join us. 11:00am goes by, 11:05, 11:10, nada.

She gets up and uses the house phone outside the room to contact a different assistant, who phoned back shortly thereafter to report that the HR manager at the other end who had requested the presentation, and had called more than once to confirm that it was on the schedule, had suddenly that morning decided that her team had higher priorities that day and had unilaterally canceled the session, apparently without notifying anyone outside of Massachusetts. Ouch.

And, while my direct customer is not the subject of this next Life Lesson, her customers certainly qualify:

lifelesson32

So, a lot of furor for nothing. But, a good outcome, selfishly for me, and perhaps for her organization, since I was told that I will be asked to an upcoming meeting of the Learning and Development management team to discuss my globe-spanning technology (and perhaps more?).

What on earth took them so long?

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE


mm087: You’re always hurt by the one you love…

July 27, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

Constant reader of this nanocorner of the ‘sphere hasn’t had a long time to make this a habit. mm001 dates all the way back to the first week of May.

Guess the point is, MUDGE is quite new to this blogging thing, quite low on the learning curve as it were, and quite surprised that anyone beyond a small coterie of similarly inclined hobbyists even were aware of the existence of Left-Handed Complement.

Today, however, I was called to account for what probably should be classified as a rookie mistake.

Received a polite letter from Salon.com, asking me to remove the article that I posted a couple of days ago, as its reprint in full represents a potential violation of copyright.

Hi there.

I’m Walter Thompson, director of marketing for Salon.com. It’s come to our attention that your site features the full text of at least one article originally published on Salon.com. The original article may be found here.

The article appears in full on your Web site here.

Although posting an excerpt of copyrighted material is acceptable, republishing a work in full that’s owned by another party is a copyright violation.  Please remove this material from your site at your earliest opportunity.

If you have any questions, please feel free to drop me a line.

Thanks,
— Walter.

Walter Thompson
Director, Marketing
Salon Media Group, Inc.
101 Spear Street
Suite 203
San Francisco, CA 94105
walter@salon.com <mailto:walter@salon.com>

Guess my wide readership (Lifetime: 1,178 hits overall as of 20:45pmCDT on 27-July-2007) is just too scary for Salon.com. And I hope I haven’t just compounded the violation by printing Walter’s letter in full!

But, MUDGE always intends to do the right thing, so here’s what mm084 looks like now, in part:

mm084fixed

Lesson learned.

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE

Technorati Tags: ,

mm086: Bloomberg Takes School Plan, and His Style, to Midwest – New York Times

July 26, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

Our busiest non-candidate takes his show on the road — and is a hit!

The New York Times

July 26, 2007

Bloomberg Takes School Plan, and His Style, to Midwest

By MICHAEL M. GRYNBAUM

ST. LOUIS, July 25 — What does the Midwestern voter think of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg? Perry Hines, for one, raised an arched brow.

“What is it? Is he a Democrat? Is he a Republican? Now he’s independent,” said Mr. Hines, 45, a retired marketing executive who heads the Indianapolis chapter of the National Urban League. “Outside of both coasts and outside the Beltway, that lack of conviction breeds suspicion.”

Mr. Hines was standing in a ballroom of the Renaissance Grand Hotel here on Wednesday, waiting for the mayor to speak at a lunch for regional Urban League leaders. The black leadership group’s annual conference, which began Wednesday, has become a required stop for presidential aspirants, at least six of whom plan to drop by this time.

But Mr. Hines said he was skeptical of the prospects of a politician who had not officially joined the current group of contenders.

“Some people call it pragmatic; I call it opportunistic,” he said of the mayor’s party switches. “The question for any voter — a Midwesterner who’s not a New Yorker — will be, ‘Well, what is he?’ ”

Mr. Bloomberg attempted an answer of sorts in a half-hour speech that urged national leaders to follow the methods he used to improve New York City’s public schools, like increasing teacher salaries, issuing grades for schools and instituting a corporate-style system of accountability.

“The federal government should commit to a significant increase in new federal funding, including for higher teacher salaries, but cities and states could only receive it if they began implementing the reforms I’ve outlined today,” the mayor said as more than 200 regional Urban League leaders dined on roast pork, salad and iced tea.

The mayor pitched the plan as a crucial step in alleviating racial inequality. “We can stop talking about closing the achievement gap between races and actually have them catch up,” the mayor said. “We can stop talking about the equal opportunity of the civil rights movement and actually make it a reality.”

The speech was, by many accounts, a hit. Mr. Bloomberg closed with a charge — “Let’s get to work” — and stepped offstage to a standing ovation as well-wishers lined up by his chair.

Christopher Washington, 41, a university administrator who directs the Urban League affiliate in Columbus, Ohio, said afterward that he agreed with the mayor’s message.

“We need to pay more for good teachers,” he said, adding that increasing incentives for teachers to improve performance “makes sense, and it goes against conventional wisdom.”

At a press conference afterward, Mr. Bloomberg again denied any presidential ambitions. “I am going to be the mayor of the city of New York, God willing, for the next two and a half years,” he said.

But asked what advice he would offer Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly, who recently hedged on running for mayor, Mr. Bloomberg gave a provocative response: “You never want to go through life saying I could have. I could have been a contender.”

A Quinnipiac University poll released on Wednesday showed that 73 percent of New Yorkers approve of Mr. Bloomberg’s work as mayor, with only 19 percent disapproving. More than half believe he is likely to seek the presidency; 34 percent said they would “definitely” or “probably” vote for him.

“He crosses all racial and ethnic lines,” said Maurice Carroll, who directs the poll. “It took New York a little while to get used to him. But they’re used to him now, and they think the rest of the nation could get used to him.”

And Mr. Bloomberg’s Midwestern cameo appearance may have won him at least one convert. Mr. Hines, the skeptic from Indianapolis, said after the speech: “I was very impressed. He hit a lot of the right notes.”

Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company

Bloomberg Takes School Plan, and His Style, to Midwest – New York Times

When it comes to urban schools, Bloomberg has credibility, and those regional Urban Leaguers believe him.

When it comes to the wretched state of our national knowledge quotient (per that Wired story a couple of posts ago), a guy who knows what buttons to push to create a transformation of schools whose condition most have written off, sounds like someone who needs a chance to work his plan on a larger scale.

Michael: tell us more!

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE


mm085: Danger In The Repair Shop

July 26, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

My habit is to enjoy Business Week at (my usually) solitary lunch break. Imagine my digestive condition after reading this:

Business Week Online

JULY 30, 2007
GLOBAL BUSINESS

Danger In The Repair Shop

FAA inspectors are warning about the risks of outsourcing maintenance

The global economy has given consumers a lot to worry about these days: lead-laced toy trains, tainted toothpaste and pet food, and counterfeit drugs. Now add this to your list of fears: commercial jetliners that are routinely repaired in maintenance shops around the world that the Federal Aviation Administration has neither the funds nor the staff to oversee properly.

No one seems more worried than some of the FAA’S 3,000 inspectors themselves. They are sounding the alarm that foreign maintenance shops receive inadequate oversight and have become a risk for shoddy work and counterfeit parts. In interviews and in recent congressional testimony, inspectors and their union representatives say they are able to scrutinize thoroughly the work of only a handful of the 698 overseas maintenance contractors licensed by the FAA.

These facilities are sometimes found to hire unskilled and untrained employees. Inspectors, moreover, don’t have any ability to oversee an unknown number of obscure maintenance shops that lack FAA certification.

Fears about the safety consequences of outsourcing maintenance have been around since at least 2001. Worries were heightened in 2003, when an Air Midwest commuter jet crashed, killing 21, following faulty work by a domestic maintenance subcontractor. Now those anxieties are on the rise again as major carriers, faced with soaring fuel prices and cutthroat competition, move more of their work overseas. In March, Delta Air Lines (DALRQ ) outsourced the maintenance of airframes on 12 Boeing (BA ) 767 aircraft to a Hong Kong company, part of a wider strategy of moving repair work overseas that the company says saves about $250 million annually.

Two years ago, United Airlines Inc. (UAUA ) outsourced its 777 maintenance to another Chinese company. Delta and United say overseas outsourcing is safe and the facilities they use meet FAA standards. “Safety is always our first priority,” says United Airlines spokeswoman Megan McCarthy. “We’re not worried about the quality of the work.”

Every major U.S. carrier, in fact, has outsourced repair work beyond U.S. borders. But the extent of such work is growing. The Transportation Dept. estimates U.S. airlines spent 64% of their maintenance budgets, or some $3.7 billion, at outsourced facilities last year, up from 37% in 1996. And with U.S. consumers ever more wary of tainted goods and services from China, the latest push could stir a fresh wave of anxiety.

Already, some legislators and safety advocates are warning that outsourcing repair work is a disaster waiting to happen. In an interview with BusinessWeek, Senator Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), who chaired a June Senate subcommittee hearing on foreign maintenance facilities, said she thinks “Americans would be shocked if they knew we have foreign repair stations that are not secure, employees without criminal background checks, and mechanics who are not qualified.”

According to some FAA inspectors, there’s plenty to worry about. In Taiwan, for instance, inspectors have been deeply troubled by what they observed over the course of the past two years at Chiang Kai-shek International Airport, where Boeing is modifying four 747 jumbo jets into extra-large cargo freighters. Inspectors say they found discarded B-747 parts, which they worried could wind up back in a commercial aircraft. As the old parts came off the planes–everything from aluminum panels to generators–they were dumped into unsecured bins, according to two inspectors who each shared their concerns separately with FAA inspector Linda Goodrich, a 23-year veteran of the agency and a senior member of the FAA inspectors’ union.

The repair shop, a unit of the Taipei-based Evergreen Group, a transportation conglomerate, is required to seal off the work area and destroy the parts, according to FAA regulations. Inspectors worry that any scavenger could grab the parts and resell them into the brisk market for counterfeit aircraft parts. The FAA itself has estimated that some 520,000 counterfeit parts make their way into planes each year. “These parts could be installed back on a passenger jet,” says Goodrich, who is based in Washington, D.C. “There’s no telling where these parts might show up or what could happen.”

Boeing Co. officials say the company followed FAA regulations and the parts in question have been destroyed. A senior Evergreen executive agrees that the work complied with FAA guidelines and that the parts were disposed of properly.

[Following publication of the story, Boeing officials conceded that FAA inspectors’ account was accurate. Boeing officials confirmed that two years ago parts taken from 747 jets were not identified, destroyed or disposed of properly. But as soon as the problems were identified, Boeing and Evergreen resolved them, said Boeing spokeswoman Mary Hanson. “Boeing did have some initial issues with scrap part identification and marking when it first started up the modification program in Taipei,” Hanson said. “Procedures to ensure proper part identification and marking were promptly put in place.” She said Boeing and Evergreen have since been in compliance with FAA rules.]

More broadly, the FAA disagrees strongly with its unions that foreign maintenance facilities pose a risk, citing the impressive safety record of U.S. carriers in recent years. James J. Ballough, FAA director for Flight Standards Service, says the agency visits each foreign repair station annually. “I am confident that we get a true picture of the compliance posture of those repair stations,” he says. “We have a great safety record.”

Some FAA inspectors, however, dispute the official line. They claim their biggest problem is simply getting the funds and clearance to travel to overseas sites. One inspector based in the Midwest says he is charged with inspecting dozens of facilities in Asia and Europe. But he’s able to visit only one or at most two such facilities a year, and then only briefly. “We’re not able to oversee the work to ensure it’s been done properly, whether they are properly using the tools, whether they have trained technicians,” says the inspector, who insisted on anonymity for fear of losing his job. “When such facilities were located in the U.S., we’d be in the shops every day.”

When inspectors do get overseas to observe the overhaul of, say, a jet engine, they say they find myriad problems, including faulty engine installations and improperly documented parts, a red flag for counterfeiting, according to Goodrich and several other FAA inspectors. Another common violation is not cleaning critical rotating parts before they’re inspected and checked for possible cracking. Such cracks, if undetected, could lead to an air disaster if the component fails, the inspectors say.

Such accounts are similar to testimony before Congress last month. “Our mechanics have found that aircraft returning from overseas flights had departed with obvious mechanical problems,” testified Robert Roach, vice-president of the International Association of Machinists, which represents many of the U.S.-based airline mechanics. The union opposes outsourcing and views it as a threat to its members’ jobs.

The ranks of FAA inspectors are likely to thin, not grow, as half of them are set to retire by 2010. But more inspectors wouldn’t help what is perhaps the most worrisome aspect of repair outsourcing: the hundreds of unlicensed maintenance subcontractors that operate completely below FAA radar. Licensed outsourcers often turn to these shops to save money, according to recent congressional testimony by Calvin L. Scovel III, the Inspector General for the Transportation Dept.

The IG testified that uncertified foreign repair stations have been performing maintenance that goes well beyond the simple oil changes and tire pressure checks previously thought to be taking place at these facilities. Instead, they’re repairing critical components, such as landing gear, and performing complete engine overhauls. The IG said that the FAA did not know the extent of maintenance performed at uncertified repair facilities, though he said the FAA is trying to find out.

And how do U.S. carriers follow up to ensure the work has been done? The IG said they rely mostly on telephone calls to the repair shops with which they’ve contracted.

By Stanley Holmes

Danger In The Repair Shop

So, once again the Republican stewards of our nation have screwed up yet another facet of the government that they have been trusted to oversee.

Why should any of us be surprised that the administration that has brought us the circus in Iraq, the post-Katrina catastrophe, and the threat to the Bill of Rights that is the Dept. of Homeland Security should have stumbled so badly managing airliner repairs?

In this case, the joke just might be on them — since you have to figure that the members of the plutocrat party spend more time traversing the airways than we serfs.

Meanwhile, MUDGE is not a frequent traveler by anyone’s standards. Of course, for the first time ever for this employer I am due to fly to Boston for a conference in 10 days. And of course, United is my employer’s preferred carrier.

Do you suppose my boss would allow me a few extra days so that I can make the drive?

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE

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mm084: Salon.com Technology | Food versus fools

July 25, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

Continuing our biofuel exploration of a few weeks ago, here’s a useful analysis found at Salon.com.

Salon.com Technology | Food versus fools

Article removed at the polite request of the copyright holder

As always, our elected officials have no idea of the positive value of global trade, unless their farming constituents’ interests are protected with tariffs.

If ethanol is a key to less dependence on those “friends” of ours in OPEC, then wouldn’t it be an intelligent step to acquire ethanol from the least expensive source?

And folks, the Democrats have just as sorry a history as Republicans when it comes to nationalistic protectionism.

Michael Bloomberg, you’ve declared yourself an independent, and you are no doubt one of the sharpest knives in the capitalist block — what’s your position on this issue?

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE