About Erik Dolson

Erik Dolson is a writer living in Oregon

The People He Trusts

By Erik Dolson

“The only people you can trust are those looking after their own interests,” Donnie Boastful thought as he looked for his tanning goggles. He wasn’t lonely, just without without friends. Even suckup Roger the Rock was reluctant to pick up the phone since he was on trial.

“Where’s my Roy Cohn?” Donnie wondered, as he often did.
He thought about calling Rudy the Rat, who had become something of a pet. But Rudy was spending so much time on TV contradicting himself that even Donnie couldn’t tell where he stood.

“By you,” Rudy told him when asked. Donnie liked that, though it made him a bit squeamish. But at least rats were better than dogs.

Donnie needed somebody else to help with this Ukraine project. That nasty woman, the ambassador to Ukraine, she was bad news. She had experience, training, and worst of all, ethics. She balked at trading weapons for Biden dirt. Rudy said he’d heard she wouldn’t play ball, so Donnie decided to give her a carreer change.

She didn’t get it. How do you clean up corruption if you can’t make a few payoffs?! That’s how it always worked in Donnie’s world. Dangle a promise and then screw the other guy. “Where is my Roy Cohn?” Donnie wondered again.

That guy “Rain Man,” might be good. Donnie could trust the Rain Man, he had hotels and plenty of money in Seattle, but like any goodfella, he wanted “more.” Donnie knew that a hint or two that he might buy or sell a few hotels, or refer a few good Russian “clients” looking for a way to make dark money bright green, would earn Rain Man’s loyalty.

And hey, if a deal didn’t work out, Donnie could say he didn’t like the Pacific Northwest, it rained too much, the people there didn’t like him and the feeling was mutual.

But Rain Man had coughed up a cool million for the inauguration, the biggest inauguration in the history of the world. As a small thank you, Donnie had made him “Ambassador to the European Union.” Rain Man didn’t have any experience, but Donnie knew that ambassadors didn’t do anything, not really. The European Union was close to Ukraine. Rain Man could just walk over the border and deliver a message.

Donnie wanted to send a message to Ukraine: Play ball with Donnie, find Biden dirt, and then you can come to the White House and Donnie would send his very own anti-tank weapons over so Ukraine could keep the Russians from taking the rest of the country.

That’s what his Roy Cohn would do.

Donnie worried for a minute if he should check in with Putin on that. Putin’s friends buy a lot of condos at inflated prices, and Putin owns a bit of Donnie debt he took off the hands of that German Bank. Maybe a call to his Kremlin Kompatriot might be a good idea, just to find out where things stand.

Donnie would use his iPhone, so those eavesdropping traitors at the NSA, CIA, and FBI wouldn’t be able to listen in.

Did Boeing eliminate sensor for profit?

By Erik Dolson

Last week it was reported that versions of the MCAS software on planes sold by Boeing to the military were required to have three angle of attack sensors installed. Planes sold by Boeing’s competitor, Airbus, also have three angle of attack sensors. Three sensors are designed to compensate if one should be damaged.

Two civilian Boeing planes that crashed earlier this year, killing 346 people, had only one angle of attack sensor with similar software. It is believed that faulty sensors indicated the planes were approaching a nose up stall, and triggered software that flew the planes into the ground.

Why did Boeing sell planes with only one sensor, when most experts say that “critical systems” need redundancy, and the airplane maker was clearly aware of this issue from their experience with the military?

One possible explanation is that Boeing expected customers to order the planes with the additional sensors as “options.” This strategy, employed often by automobile manufacturers, allows a car, for example, to be advertised at a low price and then be sold at a higher price if options are selected, and the options themselves can be sold at a higher margin.

According to the New York Times, options can add millions of dollars to the price of a plane.

So, a question to be asked is whether Boeing deleted one or two of the angle of attack sensors with the expectation of adding them back to planes at customer request and at a greater profit, or “gaming” the sales process.

If so, a follow-up question is where in the development process of the civilian 737 Maxx was that decision made, who made that decision, and who signed off on it.

Because it is hard to imagine engineers in a company that claims that “safety is our top priority” would have signed off on such an obvious problem.

The Boss

By Erik Dolson

“Boss!”
“Not now, Rat,” said Donnie Boastful. He was packing his briefcase with new golf balls to take to his course in Florida. Or New Jersey. He couldn’t remember.
“Do you have to call me that?” Rudy the Rat sighed.
“Nope,” Donnie Boastful said with a smirk. “But I like to. So I will. I’m president. I can do what I want.”
“You got that right, Boss,” said R the R. “But I got something else that you want.”
“Oh yeah?” Donnie was distracted choosing between a pink golf shirt or one that was creamsicle orange. To go with his new tan.
“You know I work with some Ukrainians, right?”
“Yeah, but I don’t like ‘em. They tried to help Hillary and they hurt … you know, that guy with the great suits … worked for us for about 10 minutes … I can’t remember his name though… maybe he worked for someone else. Hand me those socks, would ya?”
“Wow. These are nice!”
“I had them made from the wool of just-born lambs. They’re monogrammed before the lamb even comes out, so I won’t feel the thread.”
“Nice,” said Rudy the R. “His name was Manafort.”
“Who’s name?”
“Never mind. Anyways, I was talking to one of my “clients” in Ukraine, and he said he got him some dirt on Biden.”
“Slow Joe?!?”
“Sleepy Joe.”
“I want to change it.”
“You can’t. It works.”
“I’m president!”
“You is a TV star! They’re always right the first time.”
“Oh. Yeah. Ok.”
“ANYWAYS… my Ukrainian says Biden stopped an investigation into his son working for a corrupt oligarch!”
“So? What’s wrong with that? If Ivanka ever got in trouble, not that she would, or even could, I mean, if she wasn’t my daughter I’d…”
“BOSS! We can paint your opponent with this shit until the election! We’ll just say it’s corruption, don’t matter if it is or not. We just say it over and over and over and over and over and…”
“Rat!”
“Sorry boss.”
“Is it true? Can your guy be trusted?”
“Since when does that matter? He’s the guy Biden got fired for not going after corruption. We just say he got fired because he WAS going after corruption. After Biden’s son! Nobody’ll know the difference!”
“Hey, that’s pretty good.”
“My Ukrainian guy also said it was Hillary’s people who got the Ukrainians to spill the beans on Manafort. AND, get this, he says Ukrainians have Hillary’s email server!”
“Oooooohhh, I’d like to get my hands on that. The server, I mean, not…” Donnie Boastful shuddered. “Where’s Melania? You seen her? Feels like I haven’t seen her in years! Probably hanging out with son of hers.”
“Yours?”
“What are you sayin’ there, Rat?”
“Yirz. That’s the nickname of my Ukrainian guy. You want I should dig up some more on this?”
“The Ukraine’s just had an election, didn’t they? Elected some anti-corruption funny man or sumpthin’? That might make it tough to make up some dirt. We got any leverage?”
“The new guy they elected wants some weapons to defend his country against the Russians. We could maybe, you know, scratch his back if he’ll scratch ours.”
“Rat, you know I don’t like to be touched. You washed your hands before you touch my socks, right?”
“Always. In my line of work, especially for you, I have to wash my hands all the time.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Donnie Boastful asked.
“Just that you’re the cleanest president in the history of the world!” Rudy the Rat smiled, twitching at the same time.
“Universe. Cleanest in the history of the universe, even before that, before the universe had history, I was the cleanest!” said President Donnie Boastful.
“You bet you are,” said Rudy the R.
“What were you sayin’ about that Ukrainian guy? He is friends with Russians? So am I! Am I ever! You know how many apartments they bought from me? Paid a premium too, paid twice what they were worth if I didn’t tell anybody it was them or where they got the money.”
“No he’s afraid of the Russians. The Russians want his country.”
“Why doesn’t he just sell it to them? He could be a rich man. Not as rich as me, but … ”
“I don’t think you can sell a country anymore,” said Rudy the Rat.
“Oh yeah? I kinda had my eye on Greenland. Who owns Greenland, anyway?”

Boeing may be screwed

By Erik Dolson

Airplane manufacturer Boeing announced earlier this month that a safety committee had been formed on the board of directors after two crashes of the company’s 737 Max aircraft took 346 lives.

A safety committee! On the board! Thank god. Shareholders and passengers alike can fly much relieved.

I’d like to add a couple of other suggestions, distilled after talking to current and former Boeing employees over the last few months.

First, fire CEO and board chair Dennis Mullenburg. These tragedies occurred on his watch, and he lost all credibility while repeating the demonstrably false “safety is our top priority.” The crash of two 737 Max planes due to faulty software, faulty systems, and faulty processes made that claim absurd. Mullenburg is partly reponsible for the aggressive focus on profit that led to these tragedies.

Boeing exists to make a profit. Safety is central to that goal, but not the primary. Ask any employee who answers to a Boeing manager who himself or herself is under intense pressure to reduce costs on a regular basis.

The 737  Max was a bit of a kludge in the first place, an end run around regulations that would have required a completely new certification if Boeing had fielded an entirely new design. Recertification would have been expensive and caused delays, adding even more expense. So, Boeing told regulators and customers essentially that the 737 Max was “the plane you know and love, only better!”

But the company had installed new engines on the plane, and placed them farther forward. The engine pods cause lift when the nose of the plane is pointed up. The new location resulted in forces that pushed the nose up even further. This “divergent condition” can eventually cause a stall, and the airplane to fall out of the air.

Normally, a divergent condition is not allowed in passenger aircraft, which are supposed to return to a stable position if no forces are applied to the pilot’s controls. So Boeing came up with software that pushes the nose down when sensors indicate a stall is imminent.

It appears a sensor malfunctioned in the two planes that crashed. The airplane “thought” it was nearing a stall, and pushed the nose down. Pilots repeatedly tried to pull the nose up, but the planes were stronger and persisted, until they flew into the ground.

The central questions here are why didn’t Boeing catch this problem before people died, and can it be fixed?

I suggest that Boeing didn’t catch the problem because of the “culture” within the company. The end run around certification set the ball in motion. Constant pressure to cut costs and speed up development added momentum. So did the policy of not requiring and then informing airlines that pilots would need more training on the new systems.

These decisions were not the result of “safety is our number one priority.”

Can the planes be fixed? Certainly more sensors can be added (ONE!? Boeing allowed planes out the door with a single critical sensor!? There should have been three!). The software is being modified to give pilots more control.

The FAA in the United States may allow the 737 Max to fly again soon. After all, Boeing has a huge lobbying force in Washington D.C. Money matters.

However, transportation safety agencies in other countries may require that the plane not have a divergent condition at all, and/or that pilots be able to recover the plane from any flight situation with the software completely inoperable. Can the 737 Max do that?

Can the 737 Max recover from a near stall with the current engine design without software assistance? Can Boeing recover if only the FAA certifies the plane and it can’t fly in other countries? Would anyone fly on the plane?

The problems for the 737 Max go deeper than a software glitch, and the troubles at Boeing will not be fixed by adding a safety committee to the board of directors. At some point, the plane and the company may require a more significant change in design.

If not, I suggest that the entire Boeing board of directors and top management be on the plane as it goes through the more extreme flight tests. Then shareholders and passengers alike would be assured that the planes are as safe as they can be.

My fellow (Republican) Americans

I’d like to address the 18 percent of Republicans who now support impeachment of Donald Trump for high crimes and misdemeanors.

Thank you. For your courage, for your allegiance to America over a would-be tyrant, for believing that no man is above the law, thank you.

There are many places where you and I agree about policy. I’m no more a rabid liberal than you are a rabid Republican. One of the first things we can agree on is a recognition that the other loves this country. You have shown this to me, and I hope to show you as well.

Current immigration law needs reform, people should be able to refuse to bake a cake for any reason, and if you like your insurance, that is
your business.

But first, you and I and all the others who feel as we do, that the malignancy in the White House must be cut away, need to act. We need to write personal letters to other Republicans, we need to speak up at the cafe in the morning, at our service clubs, when with friends.

We need to let others who feel as we do know that they are not alone. Together, as Americans, we can do this, and prove to the world that American democracy is like no other in the world.

Rudy the Rat on “official business”

By Erik Dolson

So, Donnie Boastful tells Ukraine on the phone that it needs to play ball if it wants weapons to defend itself against further Russian aggression. Maybe he’s telling his Russian friends that now would be a good time to throw a little scare into Ukraine, ya know, just to soften them up a little.

The goodfellahs in Donnie Boastful’s not-quite-as-White-House scramble to bury the transcript of that phone call because it smells like a dead fish, it’s got high crimes and misdemeanors spread over it like rancid mayo‘d tuna oozed out from an overstuffed “All About Me” greed roll.

They code the transcript and hide it under the stack of “Classified – Security Clearance Required” papers that sit in the corner that Donnie needs to read to do his job but he never does, because he believes his job is to be DONNIE! and everything else is just a distraction.

So he then sends his personal lawyer — not State Department officials, not diplomats or ambassadors — his own lawyer, Rudy Raat Face, aka Rudy the Rat, to Spain to meet with Ukraine and discuss that little “favor” he referred to on the phone, you know, (whisper it) that Biden investigation…

And Rudy the Rat points out, again, that there’s people over in America that Donnie can tap to work on this end, the attorney general, in fact, Donnie Boastful calls him “My Attorney General” when he’s not calling him “My Bill Barr” when he’s not calling him “Billy the Bat” for the way he beat on that Meuller guy.

Donnie thinks it’s great having his very own attorney general that he doesn’t even have to pay! because Donnie Boastful thinks he’s the most important man in the history of history, and using the Justice Department to smear a political opponent is justified because what hurts Donnie hurts America, because America depends on Donnie, Donnie is America.

September 11

By Erik Dolson

I remember that devastating attack 18 years ago. No, not like it was yesterday, but I remember where I was and what I saw on that day, knowing then that our world had changed.

I remember the heroes, the firemen and cops, and the journalists. The best moment of the Bush presidency, when he said Americans should come together, not break apart. When Peter Jennings said what separates America from other countries is that we don’t blame groups for an act of their few.

I saw then too how the crisis would be used by those, primarily on the right, to sow fear and anger, because they can’t thrive on hope and optimism. They divide us to conquer, humanity be damned.

The man who would lead us but is morally insolvent and will never be a true leader, the promise of information which has become a weapon of mind control, a generation raised to believe history doesn’t matter, give me despair.

But then I again remember the heroes, and remember that America IS great, we CAN rediscover that a house divided will not stand, that what we do for one WILL benefit all, that self sacrifice is the mortar between the stones of America’s foundation, e pluribus unum, we can change the world.

Then I find hope.

Wrapping it up

By Erik Dolson

(Jacqulyn Mincheff at CRC. Photo by Keith Scott pnw-racing.com)

Weather for the Columbia River Classic car race in Portland was appropriately British. The event was paired with a large collection of Mini’s, MG’s, old Rovers, Jaguars, part of the All-British Field Meet. Dark gray clouds rolled over the city, threatening to dump rain by the barrel.

A lot of us in the big engine cars don’t like racing in the rain. Yes, we do know that the best racers shine brightest when the track is wet, but the risk / reward ratio for us is a little high with all that torque. It’s not like we’re 20 something and invincible, or racing on somebody else’s dollar. Plus, parts get tired over a season, and little things ignored tend to mount up. There are big races later in the fall, investments you have to prepare for.

Swede’s paddock wasn’t there, which meant that Falcon, Canuck, and BlueZen were out, either saving themselves for a national race in Texas or just done for the season.

Cowboy’s Corvette was without an engine, something locked up his sump pump at the last race in July and the engine was not back from the builder. Ceegar did not come down from Seattle, and there were rumors that he may be done, the fun gone out of racing because he was tired of being punished for things on the track he didn’t do, and tired of seeing others, meaning Team Cobra, not being punished for what they did.

I asked around. In fact, the Team Cobra driver, Snake, received a 13 month probation for aggressive driving from SOVREN during the Pacific Northwest Historics in Seattle, which was shared with groups that the Seattle organization affiliates with. If there is an infraction in that period of time, they will immediately be put on the trailer for that event and face further consequences.

This whole thing is a little weird, from my point of view. Ceegar and Snake have both ruffled feathers with their driving style, partly because they are the most aggressive drivers out there in our bush league racing. Certainly, Snake is the more aggressive of the two. The two best races I’ve ever run were against one of them or the other, and both times I came in second.

I really hope Ceegar comes back, and so does everybody else. I don’t think he knows how we value his contributions to the sport and to the charities we support. SOVREN has flowed millions of dollars to the Seattle Children’s Hospital, even before a $60 million bequest from the estate of Bruce Leven, a racer of legend known for his occasionally over the top aggressive racing. Leven hit every racer I know at least once, me twice. I probably deserved it.

Ceegar is more subtle, but very important to our dying sport. Plus, he’s fun.

I started at the back of the pack in the race late Saturday afternoon, because we missed the previous race altogether. Mule, my mechanic, had topped off my oil twice while preparing the car back at his shop, once more than needed.

Saturday morning, the overfill pushed at least a quart out and onto the nose of Mr. Polished’s Corvette right behind me, rude and dangerous. There wasn’t much time between the morning race and the first race on Saturday afternoon. We didn’t get the excess drained in time — Mule also works on the three Polished family Corvettes. To his credit, I suppose, Mule had warned me earlier in the season he might not be as available at the track as he used to be. I’m hoping that gig works out for him. On Saturday, it meant that we started last in the final race of the day.

Coming into Turn 7, in second gear and foot easing into the brakes, I was setting the car up for turn exit, at the limit of traction, ready to power down and run like hell to Turn 8.

Then YellowJacket went lifeless. She had popped out of gear into neutral, coasted into the turn with the engine at little more than idle.

At that point I stopped setting up to get through the turn, stepped on the clutch, shifted back into second (Yes, I could and probably should have just matched revs and pulled back on the stick, but I don’t like the sound it makes if that goes wrong), steered with one hand and tried to find the sweet place between traction, driving line, and acceleration.

In about a half second.

I didn’t quite make it. YellowJacket pushed right through the turn and out onto the grass, losing all the ground I’d gained coming up through the pack like a banshee with attitude, trying to catch Mr. Polished. I checked my mirrors, waited for a good moment of reentry. It was not fun, limping along with a transmission that randomly decided if it would stay in second gear. Aside from causing the one off-track excursion, there was a loss of the confidence needed to take things closer to the edge, which is where I like it.

And it was my fault, going for a few years on a crucial part which should be refreshed every year. I spent more on the failed weekend than I saved by putting off the rebuild.

I decided not to run on Sunday. Even though the weather cleared up for the morning race, a good portion of the field had gone home. Some friends, family really, were going through some personal turmoil. My head wasn’t into the game, and this is not a sport for the distracted.

So, I sat in the stands and enjoyed watching Ms. Polished win her first race of 2019, overwhelming a Porsche in the final two laps for an exciting and well deserved victory. For this weekend, at least, that was enough.

SVRA Portland Historics

By Erik Dolson

The SVRA race in Portland is already something of a blur. I should have taken notes, but sometimes life itself feels like driving through a rush hour on a six-lane highway capable of funneling cars at 70 o 80 miles an hour but regulated to 60, the shear volume of traffic reducing speeds to 30, then 20, then 10, and now zero, inching along,

Three in the lead. Photo by Austin Bradshaw, flyingbyephoto.com

unable to get off, unable to do anything besides sit there, barely moving and barely conscious except for awareness that hours of life are being lost that will never be regained.

I didn’t know then I was already showing symptoms of a bug that would dog me all weekend, and lay me low in five days. It didn’t affect my racing, I don’t think, just my attitude. Of course, I’ve always hated rush hour. Read more…

The wheel comes off.

This video, taken at the Pacific Northwest Historic Races earlier this month, would be hilarious, if it didn’t depict a life threatening situation for at least five people. The impatient should start at minute 6:30.

First is the driver of the Mustang, Bob Hooper. His wheel came off at the fastest part of the race course, and he was traveling well over 100 miles per hour.

Second are the people in the worker stand. To me, it looks like that wheel is headed right at them. But I think it bounced over them, instead. Thank you folks in white for being out there!

Third is the driver of the Jaguar from which this video was filmed, Gunter Pichler. All of a sudden there’s a wheel bouncing twenty or thirty feet in the air over his car, while the Mustang is going sideways through the gravel in front of him. He just down shifts and keeps driving. Thank you for sharing this, Gunter.

By the way, Hooper and friends went out on the course, found the wheel and axle some place in the weeds, repaired and bolted everything all back together and kept racing that weekend.

No wonder we love these people!