American Airlines canceled about 1,000 flights today because of problems with wiring bundles in MD-80s.
If you're one of the folks who's sitting in a lounge somewhere, reading blogs and tweets (following is the polite thing to do, by the way), let me just tell you this cautionary tale.
Last November, I was flying an American MD-80 from LaGuardia to Dallas. I was sitting WAAAY in the back of the plane; kind of right next to the tail-mounted engines. Twenty minutes out of New York, lost in some nameless reverie (hi, Connie!), I heard, "BANG" and immediately experienced something I've never felt in hundreds of airline flights: an immediate, STEEP bank to the left.
"Whoa," I thought.
Immediately, the captain came on the P.A. It was clearly, quickly, that he thought he was on the intercom to flight attendants: "Damn, we've got a problem!"
Sitting next to the galley, I was next to the chief flight attendant as she jumped up and got on the intercom to inform the guy in the left seat that he'd just stained the linen of about 150 folks: simple message, "You're on the PA!!"
Captain then came back on, and, with Hollywood smooth captain-voice said, "This is Captain _______, we have lost our right engine and will be getting clearance to land at Washington Dulles Airport. There's no need for alarm; this plane is designed to fly with one engine and we practice this condition all the time."
All of which I knew to be true, thanks to my airplane expert-friend Barry.
Anyway, we landed in about 45 minutes and all was well. Except for the eight hours of delay in getting to Dallas, that is.
My point, there's an old saying among flight-vets that applies perfectly today: "It's better to be down here wishing you were up there than it is to be up there wishing you were down here."
I don't really do much politics here on the TrueTalk Blog. Leadership's more my thing.
But, the current events in Iraq caught my eye today, as the Iraqi government attempts to assert its leadership in a situation in which it's clearly overmatched.
We've all seen this. A leader is put in place as a puppet. Everyone knows s/he's a puppet, but we all nod and go, "harrumph, harrumph, yeah, that's the leader" when we all know perfectly well that the leader is somebody else behind the scenes. OK, most times, no problem.
Flash over to Iraq.
For the past year, we've watched as more US troops have stabilized Baghdad. Not much surprise there. You put 40,000 of the finest American service personnel in a city, they will establish order.
But, everybody involved knew it was a charade.
The only reason the surge had created the kind of widespread stability that we've seen is because we bought off this weasel, Muqtada al-Sadr.
We've heard this fellow described in lots of different ways over the past few years but one thing is clear: he's a leader. He has a substantial militia at his disposal and he knows how to leverage that street power into political advantage.
In the last 48 hours, the Iraqi government has decided to take al-Sadr on in Basra. That's not just a tactic, it's a change of leadership strategy. We're betting on al-Maliki to make this happen, with the help of a shitload of air cover. We'll see.
If this doesn't work, if Baghdad starts to blow up now, then we have to assume that the leaders of our efforts have not succeeded in their earnestly pursued goal of establishing local order.
There is no disgrace in that. Our leaders went into the situation knowing the odds of actually reversing the consequences of five years worth of decisions were very small, and did a terrific job trying to pull our bacon out of the fire.
Great example of leadership under General Petraeus.
At least two UCLA Medical Center employees will be fired for snooping on Britney Spears' medical records. The didn't get to the psych record, but the fact that they were looking at things they shouldn't have been is proof enough of the kind of madness that overtakes people in a celebrity-fueled culture. The distortive power of fame is so pervasive that it gets even the most level-headed people to act irresponsibly. Be careful what you wish for...
When the young woman who brings down the governor of New York has her own MySpace page on which she promotes her latest hip hop record, have we fallen asleep on some kind of surrealistic pillow and awakened in Alice's netherworld?
If you don't follow Tom Barnett (what?) here's his first thoughts about the implications of the Bhutto assassination. Bottom line: not much impact beyond the short-term instability, an opinion delivered with the very appropriate caveat:
Then again, Pakistan is a strange place that defies a lot of assumptions.
The NY Times reports today that October gambling receipts were up 19.8% at Las Vegas strip casinos, while receipts were flat, or down, at similar establishments in the Midwest, Gulf Coast and other parts of the country.
What part of "foreign money" don't you get? If you were flying in from Saigon, where would you rather stay, here, or here?
With the dollar trading like the peso (not that there's anything wrong with that!) many parts of America have become a high-end playground for Asians and Europeans (imaginary conversation at Tiffany's: "those guys over there are Russian gas futures traders, right? No, those big guys...").
But the homegrown players are, well, staying home.
When even middle class gamblers start cutting back, maybe we are headed for a recession.
Here's a story from today's NY Times that epitomizes the American dream. The parents of traumatized children, many the victims of civil wars in their home countries, have emigrated to Decatur, Georgia. A local elementary school is now a light of hope for 380 kids from 40 countries.
With all the electorally-charged talk about illegal immigration, it's stories like this one that can remind us that some of our fellow citizens truly get what this country is all about.
What do you do if you're Ben Bernanke? You replaced Alan Greenspan as Chairman of the Federal Reserve almost two years ago, but, come on, you're no Greenspan. I mean, he was a rock star? You? GarageBand aficionado, at best.
So, what do you do?
You drop the discount rate a half-point before the market opens today!
That oughta get their attention. This should be a wild day in the markets!