Monthly Archives: July 2018

8 Reasons YOU SHOULD BE AFRAID TO FLY

There are many reasons you should be afraid to fly. Here are the top 8.

A plane can drop from the sky like a rock. Jet aircraft weigh thousands of pounds. The only thing keeping the jet in the sky is the flow of the air over the top of the wings. This creates what is known as “lift”. In order to have lift a lot of things have to be just perfect. The plane has to have sufficient speed, the plane has to be positioned correctly and the flaps set correctly. If a pilot makes a mistake, lift can be lost and the plane simply falls from the sky. This is exactly what happened to Colgan Air Flight 3407 from Newark to Buffalo in 2009 which had so little air speed that it dropped like a rock and killed all  48 people on board. The pilot Marvin Resnlow and co-pilot Rebecca Shaw misread the signals from the  aircraft, took the wrong steps and lost lift. They were unfamiliar with the aircraft and did not know that the shaking of the control stick was the Bombardier Dash 8-Q400‘s stall warning. Neither knew what this signal meant and therefore did not increase air speed when required. Colgan Air gave Rebecca Shaw so little flight time each month that she had to work in a Starbucks the rest of the time just to be able to pay her rent.

Both doomed Colgan Air Flight 3407. Both were killed in the crash

Marvin Renslow & Rebecca Shaw, pilot & co-pilot of . Both doomed Colgan Air Flight 3407. Both were killed in the crash

Pilots don’t have as much flying experience as they used to. In the Golden Age of Pan Am & TWA, pilots had a huge number of flying hours. Virtually all commercial pilots were ex-military pilots with many many hours in the air. There were fewer pilots than today but each one was incredibly experienced.  Now airlines like to have as many pilots as possible and give each one as few flying hours as possible. This keeps salaries and benefits low. Even pilots coming in from the military don’t have as many flying hours as they used to. The military has cut back on flying time in order to save costs. Military pilots have been complaining abut this for at least a decade.

Flight from Colombia to New York ran out of fuel and crashed

Flight from Colombia to New York ran out of fuel and crashed

Planes carry dangerously low levels of fuel. Fuel is heavy and the heavier a plane is the more expensive it is to fly. Pilots don’t even talk about how many gallons of jet fuel they have. They always speak of it in terms of weight. The most cost-efficient thing for an airline is to have a plane arrive at its destination with almost no fuel left in the tanks. Even jets crossing the Atlantic or Pacific are only given the minimum fuel required to make the trip. However, there have been many instances where the calculations were wrong. Planes ran out of fuel and crashed as a result. Headwinds and air-traffic delays can add unanticipated hours the trip. In 1990, an Avianca Flight 52  from Bogota Colombia to New York’s JFK airport ran out of fuel on its final approach and this fully loaded 707 crashed. Think about that the next time you are in a jet endlessly circling an airport

The Sky has never been more crowed with air traffic. Population growth, cheap air fares and a booming economy have all led to a giant increase in air travel. The entire Northeast from New York to Boston is basically a traffic jam in the sky. This mathematically increases the probability that two planes will collide.

Cory Lidle

Cory Lidle

Air Traffic Control Systems are falling apart and antiquated. Every U.S. administration says it is going to allocate funds to totally replace aging computers, radar and radio systems that make up the air traffic control system. Then other priorities come along and the money never gets approved. Glitches in the system constantly cause delayed flights and near-accidents in the air. It is no longer a question of if people are going to die because of a breakdown of the air traffic control system. It is just a matter of when.

Cory Lidle plane crash

Cory Lidle plane crash

Amateur Pilots in congested air lanes are a danger to everyone. Letting amateur pilots fly Piper Cubs in the same air space and at the same airports  as Jumbo Jets is like letting a child ride a tricycle on the New Jersey Turnpike during rush hour.  In 2006, the baseball player Cory Lidle died when he crashed a small plane into the side of a building in Manhattan while taking a flying lesson. That’s right, he was taking a flying lesson and the instructor let him fly over the most densely populated city in the United States, at a level that was lower than the buildings. Because of that accident (in whcih the flight instructor, Tyler Stanger,  also died), planes are no longer permitted to fly over Manhattan. However, people sill fly little planes and take lessons in the crowded skies over the densely populated areas all around Manhattan. It is just a matter of time until an amateur in a small prop plane hits a 747 loaded with people.

Planes are too crowded to evacuate quickly in an emergency

Planes are too crowded to evacuate quickly in an emergency

Big Jets are too crowded to be safely evacuated in the event of an emergency. If a jet does make a crash landing, people need to get out fast, before smoke and fire engulf the plane. Every wasted second can cost a human life. However, modern jet designs have made it harder than ever to get people out quickly. Aisles are narrower and seats are closer together then ever before, making it hard for people to move. In addition, the overhead bins are full of luggage and do not lock during an emergency. In emergency evacuations people do not run out quickly. Instead, they fight for their carry-on luggage and clog the exits with their suitcases.

Osama Bin Laden, his step mother Sana Bin Laden, and the family private jet

Osama Bin Laden, his step mother Sana Bin Laden, and the family private jet

Terrorists can easily use private jet airports. This is an issue virtually unknown to the general flying public. If you fly from Newark, or Kennedy, or LaGuardia, you will be subjected to security screening worthy of anyone in a prison. However, just 20 miles away in Teterboro Airport, wealthy people walk onto private jets with no security check at all. They could be carrying guns, or even bombs and there is no security inspection of the passengers, their carry-on bags or their checked luggage. This is true at any of the U.S. airports exclusively handling private jets.

near miss incidents in the air are very common as the sky becomes more crowded

near miss incidents in the air are very common as the sky becomes more crowded

There is a real social class arrogance. Since a private jet can cost as much as $50 million, the assumption is that anyone that wealthy could not possibly be a terrorist. However, you can lease a private jet, or part of a private jet for rates that run as low as 2 or 3 times First Class airfare on commercial carriers. This then allows you full access to walk in and get on the jet with no security check. It is idiotic to assume that terrorists don’t have enough money to do this. Osama Bin Laden came from a very wealthy family that actually does own a private jet. Many terrorist organizations have millions of dollars in funding with more than enough money to get a private jet. These private jet airports have fences and maximum security to keep anyone from breaking in from the outside. However, a terrorist with  the money to lease or buy a jet can just drive through the main gate and be waived in as a full member of the club. If you think terrorist organizations have not already thought of this- think again. Ironically, Teterboro Airport is owned by the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey, which is the same entity that operates Newark Airport. They are giving body scans to old grandmas at Newark Airport, while 20 miles away in Teterboro terrorists can walk onto a private jet fully armed.

If we have made you scared to fly GOOD!. Nothing will change if the flying public continues to think flying is safe. The biggest problem is that the flying public has gotten the air travel system it deserves. Any time a choice needs to be made the general public just wants air travel cheaper and cheaper. As a consequence, we have a system with badly trained pilots, antiquated air traffic control systems, overcrowded planes and lax security. To make the air travel system truly safe is going to cost lots and lots and lots of money. Air travel needs to be much more expensive than it is, and the government needs to spend huge amounts of money fixing the entire system.  No one wants to hear this but it needs to be said. There also need to be regulations making airlines carry more fuel, increase aisle width and have devices that lock the luggage racks during emergencies. All of this will cost  millions, and airlines will have to raise ticket prices. There also needs to be a regulation requiring passenger screening for private jets, even if the people own the jets. Just being rich doesn’t make you automatically good.

Will any of the changes required to make air travel safer happen? We don’t think so. We just hope you remember this story the next time there is a major airplane disaster.

Secret City – An Australian Spy/Diplomatic Thriller

Secret City (now on Netflix) is a fascinating diplomatic/spy series filmed in Australia’s capital city of CanberraAnna Torv is journalist Harriet Dunkley, who is trying to find the truth in a complex web of lies involving escalating conflicts  between  China and The United States, with Australia caught in the middle.

Anna Torv is journalist Harriet Dunkley in "Secret City"

Anna Torv is journalist Harriet Dunkley in “Secret City”

It begins when  young Australian protestor Sabine Hobbs (wonderfully played by Alice Chaston) sets herself on fire in China to protest China’s treatment of Tibet. She does not die, and for some unknown reason, the Chinese make the political blunder of holding her prisoner instead of sending her back home to Australia. This sets off a wave of anti-Chinese demonstrations in Australia. The Americans intend to take full advantage of this and press the Australian Navy to join them in military exercises close to the Chinese coast.

Alice Chaston from Secret City

Alice Chaston from Secret City

Secret City is a fascinating look at the complexities of Australian politics, which most foreigners do not understand at all. Australia finds itself in an almost impossible situation. China is Australia’s largest trading partner, whereas The United States is Australia’s strongest military ally. The government of Australia wants to be friends with both, but is constantly being pressed to choose one side or the other.

Daniel Wylie as Defense Minister Mal Paxton in "Secret City"

Daniel Wylie as Defense Minister Mal Paxton in “Secret City”

Daniel Wylie is the new defense minister Mel Paxton. He is from the Labor Party and wants to keep Australia’s employment rate high and its defense spending low. The best way to do this is to maintain good relations with China. However, there are events in his past that make it possible he is actually being blackmailed into this stance by the Chinese.

Jacki Weaver in Secret City

Jacki Weaver in Secret City

Jacki Weaver is Attorney General Catriona Bailey. She wants maximum power for herself and a complete alliance with the Americans against the Chinese. Minister Bailey wants the country to enact something called the “Safe Australia Act”. This would give the Australian government the power to arrest any journalist who published something “not in the national interest”. Of course, she would have complete power to decide what is and is not in Australia’s “national interest”.

Damon Herriman & Anna Torv in Secret City

Damon Herriman & Anna Torv in Secret City

In the middle of all of this is political reporter Harriet Dunkley who in trying to discover the truth begins to realize that there might be no truth at all . Everyone she meets is lying to her. The only question is whose lies are doing the most harm.

Canberra Australia

Canberra Australia

Harriet’s personal life is as much a mess as her personal life. Her ex-husband Kim divorced her when he decided to go the trans-gender route and become a woman. Damon Herriman is perfect as Kim, who still cares deeply for Harriet and tries to protect her whenever possible. Kim is an Australian intelligence officer with access to most, but not all, of the city’s secrets. Even Kim never knows the whole truth.

In Secret City, Australia’s capital of Canberra is almost a character itself. For outsiders, Canberra is vastly different than the pictures one is normally used to seeing of Sydney.  Unlike Sydney, Canberra is cold and has a somewhat sterile quality. All of the buildings are new and spotlessly clean, but somehow seem lifeless and foreboding. Of course, Secret City filmed them this way to add to the tension,. However, it is quite effective.

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Boston-New York Hatred, the Sexy New York Mistress and Babe Ruth

The people of Boston and New York City have hated each other since the founding of The United States. In fact, Boston and New York hate each other because of the founding of the United States. The people of Boston wanted independence from the British, whereas most of the people of New York did not. The City of New York has always revolved around business and trade. This makes sense. It was founded as New Amsterdam by the Dutch, a culture that thrives on trade even today.

British General William Howe. The man who lost the Revolutionary War to the Americans

British General William Howe. The man who lost the Revolutionary War to the Americans

In 1776 New Yorkers had no interest in joining Bostonians in a revolt against America’s largest trading partner. The idea of losing lucrative export-import contracts horrified New York business tycoons. That is why New Yorkers welcomed with open arms the British Red Coats who arrived in the thousands to put down the upstart American Colonies.

One of the most welcoming New Yorkers was the beautiful, 25 year old  Mrs. Elizabeth Lloyd Loring.  She quickly became the mistress of British General Howe, the commander of all British forces in American. People in Boston spoke about Elizabeth Loring in terms too obscene to be printed here. However, in retrospect the American Patriots should have praised the sexual skills of Mrs. Loring. She is possibly the single individual most directly responsible for the British losing the American Revolution. Sadly there is no painting of Mrs. Loring.

Make no mistake about it. The Americans did not win the revolution, the British lost it. The British had superior land and naval forces, better training, better weapons, and plenty of money to buy food supplies, horses and anything else they required.

However, unlike the Americans, General William Howe took a gentleman’s approach to war. If not for that, the Americans would have lost the revolution in the first year. The first winter of the American Revolution, George Washington’s forces were totally defeated. They were nothing more than a disheveled mob of starving, cold men marching through New Jersey trying to get to Pennsylvania where they could hide.

General Howe’s officers begged him to lead a winter attack on Washington’s troops and wipe out the last of the American Army. Historians have no doubt that such an attack would have been successful and the American Revolution would have ended up as nothing more than a footnote in British history book.

However, General Howe had no intention of leaving the warm New York bed of Elisabeth Loring, in order to tramp through the frozen wilderness of New Jersey. Howe informed his shocked officers to return with their men to spend the winter in New York City. The pursuit of Washington could wait until Spring.

William Howe had no intention of ending the war too quickly. It never even occurred to him that it was possible to lose. He knew that he could crush the Americans whenever he desired. However, what he desired that Winter was to continue to be entertained day and night by the New York Loyalists, who patriotically supported the British king. General Howe controlled the money of an entire army, and could use it for whatever purchases he thought the army needed. New York business families fawned over Howe constantly, trying to win his favor for lucrative army contracts. Business families entertained Howe all day and Elizabeth Loring entertained him all night. While all this was going on, the people of Boston were having trouble enough  getting supplies and food due to the British blockade. No wonder the Bostonians hated the New Yorkers.

As the war dragged on, the American Patriot Francis Hopkinson (one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence) could not resist turning the Howe-Loring affair into what for the day was a scandalous poem. The author, Francis Hopkinson was the representative from New Jersey at the Continental Congress.

               “Sir William he, snug s a flea,

               Lay all this time a snoring,

               Nor dreamed of harm, as he lay warm,

               In bed with Mr. Loring.”

 You would think that when the American Patriots won the revolution after many years of fighting that Boston would finally have its revenge on New York. However, this was not to be.

When the Americans won the revolution, there was one final event that sealed forever the hatred of Bostonians towards New York. When the United States Constitution was finally ratified, the Capital of The United States became New York City (in 1789). Boston was not even considered.

Babe Ruth was a Boston Red Sox player until being traded to the New York Yankees in 1920

Babe Ruth was a Boston Red Sox player until being traded to the New York Yankees in 1920

This was not the last time New York City was to take something from Boston. In 1920, Boston Red Sox owner Harry Frazee traded Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees. Babe Ruth, of course, went on to become the greatest baseball player of a generation, and the Yankees won World Series after World Series. Not only did Harry Frazee trade Babe Ruth to New York, the trade took place because of New York. You see, Harry Frazee had no interest in baseball. His goal in life was to have a successful Broadway play. He was in love with the New York theater, Broadway and all the temptations of New York’s nightlife.

Boston Red Sox fans show what they think of the New York Yankees

Boston Red Sox fans show what they think of the New York Yankees

Harry Frazee thought of The Boston Red Sox as nothing more than a piggy bank to finance his Broadway musicals. Frazee sold Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees for $125,000 plus $300,000 in loans. This was was a incredible amount of money in 1920. Frazee spent all the money trying to come up with a hit Broadway show. Despite many attempts, Frazee never had a successful play in New York. The Boston Red Sox went 86 years after the Babe Ruth trade before Boston won a World Series. In that same period, The New York Yankees won 26 World Series.

So if you are ever in Boston and are stupid enough to wear a New York Yankees T-shirt, you may find some Southie screaming obscenities at you. Don’t take it personally. This is just part of a long American tradition.

 

French Fry Fun Facts for July 4th

Here are some fun facts about French Fries. What could be more American on July 4th?

  • The average American eats 14 pounds of French Fries per year. So if you are not eating that much someone else is eating more.
The Average American eats 14 pounds of French Fries per year

The Average American eats 14 pounds of French Fries per year

Thomas Jefferson once served French Fries at a White House diplomatic dinner.

Thomas Jefferson served French Fries at the White House.

Thomas Jefferson served French Fries at the White House.

  • Until 1930 Americans all referred to the food as “French Fried Potatoes”. Then people just started calling them “French Fries. No one knows why.
In the UK & Ireland, French Fries are Chips and Potato Chips are Crisps

In the UK & Ireland, French Fries are Chips and Potato Chips are Crisps

  • In many parts of the world French Fries are known as American Fries. Of course, in the United Kingdom and Ireland, people call them Chips. This continues to confuse American tourists who think people are talking about potato chips.  (Potato Chips are called Crisps).
1 of every 5 meals in American restaurants comes with French Fries

1 of every 5 meals in American restaurants comes with French Fries

  • One out of every 5 meals served in American restaurants has French Fries as a side dish.
  • French Fries come in varieties with and without the potato skins. The French Fries with the potato skins still on are actually better for you; since taking off the potato skin loses important vitamins. (Of course, if you think French Fries are a health food, you need to study up on nutrition.)
  • There are over 10,000 different varieties of potatoes, but almost all French Fries are made from the Russet Potato.

So enjoy America’s independence with some French Fries. If anyone criticizes your culinary choice, just tell them you are following in the tradition of Thomas Jefferson.

I IAGO – a novel about Shakespeare’s most fascinating villain

I IAGO by David Snodin is a novel about Shakespeare’s most fascinating villain, after the events of Othello. Iago was stabbed and imprisoned at the end of Othello, but he did not die.  The events in I Iago take place many years later when Iago is secretly  returned to Venice for questioning.

Shakespeare created many evil characters, but what makes Iago so interesting is the way in which Iago carried out his evil plans. Iago never acted directly. Instead, Iago was able to get inside other people’s heads and sow the suspicion, mistrust and hatred which eventually lead to violence. If Iago lived in modern times, he would no doubt be working   on the internet anonymously posting hate speech messages day and night just to see the results.

IAGO, a fascinating novel by David Snodin

IAGO, a fascinating novel by David Snodin

David Snodin’s Iago is a fascinating novel which give us a glimpse into every day life in Venice in 1520. Though Venice was supposedly an enlightened democracy, the class distinctions were rigidly enforced. Venice in 1520 was fantastically wealthy and prosperous, yet threatened on all sides by the Turks and the French. The Chief Inquisitor of Venice is both fascinated and frightened of Iago. Over the years the name Iago has become a rallying cry for those who would bring down the established order in Venice. The Inquisitor wants to find out how Iago is able to so thoroughly control other people.

Iago still fascinates people

Iago still fascinates people

Iago remains the complex villain of the story, while the hero is a young Venetian named Gentile Stornello. He is  from a low level but noble family, and is the cousin of the late Desdemona. Gentile is a well educated, likable boy of 15 whose only goal in life is to catch the eye of a beautiful girl he has seen around Venice.

William Shakespeare

William Shakespeare

Through a series of unfortunate events Gentile is falsely accused of murder, and is thrown into a cell with Iago. The tough and clever Iago decides to use Gentile to help him escape. Along the way, Iago becomes a sort of evil mentor to Gentile by teaching him all the underhanded, treacherous and violent ways for a man to get what he really wants from life.

David Snodin author of IAGO

David Snodin author of IAGO

I `Iago by David Snodin is a brilliantly written novel. It fleshed out the character and motivation of Iago, while still  remaining true to Shakespeare’s concept for the man.